Category Archives: Movies

CONTEST: Body of Lies Washington, DC Screening Announcement!

Spend the night with Leonardo and Russell Crowe as EclipseMagazine.com and Warner Brothers team up to bring you the Washington, DC Screening of Body of Lies. The Screening will be held Tuesday, October 7, 2008 (that’s tomorrow night!) at Gallery Place in DC. I’m working with Warners on automating our contests, so we’re testing out this cool new system. To get your tickets, CLICK HERE!!! and enter the code ECLP9886.  This movie looks amazingly good so go, enter the code, download your pass, it’s that simple.

bodyoflies 

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best man U.S. Intelligence has on the ground, in places where human life is worth no more than the information it can get you.  In operations that take him around the globe from the Middle East to Washington, Ferris’s next breath often depends on the voice at the other end of a secure phone line – CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe).  Waging war from a laptop in the suburbs, Hoffman is on the trail of an emerging terrorist leader who has orchestrated a campaign of bombings while eluding the most sophisticated intelligence network in the world.  To lure the terrorist out into the open, Ferris will have to penetrate his murky world, but the closer he gets to the target, the more he discovers that trust is both a dangerous commodity and the only one that will get him out alive.

The film stars Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("Blood Diamond," "The Aviator," "The Departed"), Oscar winner Russell Crowe ("Gladiator," "A Beautiful Mind"), Mark Strong ("Stardust"), Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani ("M for Mother"), Oscar Isaac ("The Nativity Story") and Simon McBurney ("The Golden Compass").

"Body of Lies" is directed by Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down," "Gladiator") from a screenplay by Oscar winner William Monahan ("The Departed") based on the novel by former Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.  Donald De Line ("The Italian Job") and Ridley Scott are the producers, with Michael Costigan ("American Gangster," "Brokeback Mountain") and Charles J.D. Schlissel ("The Prestige") serving as executive producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team is led by cinematographer Alexander Witt ("American Gangster"), Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max ("American Gangster," "Gladiator") Oscar-winning editor Pietro Scalia ("Black Hawk Down"), and Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates ("Gladiator").  Marc Streitenfeld ("Kingdom of Heaven") composed the score.

Opening nationwide on October 10, 2008, "Body of Lies" will be distributed by Warner Bros Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.  The film has been rated "R" by the MPAA for "strong violence, including some torture, and language throughout."

MOVIE REVIEW: Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Kids’ Flick Is Smart Enough For Parents to Enjoy!

You’ve probably seen the trailers with the ancient Aztec ruins and the Esther Williams-like production number performed by Chihuahuas. The movie lacks the production number but the ruins play a crucial part in the proceedings. What’s really surprising is that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a kids’ flick that will entertain the kids but has some gags that will work only for the parents.

beverlyhillschihuahua_poster2

Chloe [voiced by Drew Barrymore] is the queen of the Beverly Hills canine scene. Spoiled rotten by her owner, Vivian [Jamie Lee Curtis], Chloe is shallow, selfish and haughty – not to mention rude to Papi [George Lopez], the landscaper’s Chihuahua who loves her. That all changes when Vivian heads off to Europe for ten days, leaving Chloe in the irresponsible hands of her niece, Rachel [Piper Perabo] – who heads off to Mexico to party, dragging Chloe along.

More concerned about partying and meeting guys, Rachel lets Chloe get away from her and the poor thing is dognapped for a floating illegal dogfight enterprise. Because this is a Disney film, the dogfight never happens as Delgado [Andy Garcia], a noble German Shepherd, rescues her just before her opponent, a vicious Doberman named Diablo [Edward James Olmos] can rip her to shreds. The rest of the film is the story of Chloe and her new friend try to get her home – all the while Rachel, Papi and his owner, Sam [Manolo Cordona] are looking for them.

Director Raja Gosnell [Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months] keeps the pace up, giving the film the feel of a romantic farce. The voice cast is extremely good [big names are joined by animation veterans like Grey DeLisle], though Cheech Marin does a little scene stealing voicing a rat con artist who works with a dim iguana. While the film is mostly light and frothy – darkening only for brief periods [and kids love a good scare, so it’s not an issue] – it is not unintelligent. The characters are well [and sometimes cleverly] drawn and the relationships that form along the way feel very natural.

Off course, we’re taking about a talking animals film [though the animals are only understood by each other], and no one does them better than Disney. The CG work that makes the animals appear to be speaking is very good, and the practical effects are right up there, as well.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua may not quite be inspired, but it is definitely good fun – good enough to not embarrass the parents whose kids drag them along to see it.

Final Grade: B

DVD REVIEW: Iron Man Ultimate 2-Disc Edition Flies High!

In my review of Iron Man during its theatrical run, after noting that the film worked mainly because of its honouring the source material from the Marvel comics, I wrapped up with:

“While the action scenes aren’t as accomplished as something by Michael Bay, they come off better because director Jon Favreau understands that it’s the characters that make everything else in the film work. He keeps the pace high enough to prevent lessening of interest and knows how to make the film’s effects serve the story. This is a film with surprising wit and genuine intelligence.”

Iron Man Box Art

Repeated screenings [twice more in the theater and twice more on DVD] convince me that I was remiss in grading the film a mere A-. Considering that the film’s only real flaw is that the big fight scene between Iron Monger and Iron Man is a bit clunky [which, when you think about it, is appropriate for the big, clumsy looking Iron Monger], and considering that the film translates extremely well from big screen to small, I have to revise that upwards.

Then there are the multitudinous features. How many are there? Check this out: Disc One: Eleven Deleted and/or Extended Scenes; Iron Man Adventures Teaser; Disc Two: I Am Iron Man [Seven Featurettes Documenting the Making if Iron Man: The Journey Begins; The Suit That Makes The Iron Man; Walk of Destruction; Grounded In Reality; Beneath the Armor; It’s All In The Details; A Good Story Well Told]; The Invincible Iron Man [Six Featurettes Covering the History of Iron Man In Comics: Origins; Friends and Foes; The Definitive Iron Man; Demon In a Bottle; Extremis and Beyond; Ultimate Iron Man]; Robert Downey’s Screen Test; The Actor’s Process [Downey, Jeff Bridges and Jon Favreau figure out a scene]; The Onion: Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer To Be Adapted Into full-Length Film; Galleries: Concept Art [Environments: Afghan Cave, Stark Estate, Stark Garage, Stark Industries; Characters: Iron Man, Iron Monger, Tony Stark]; Tech; Unit Photography, and Posters. There is no commentary track and that costs the Features grade.

The DVD’s menus are patterned after the 3D Hologram effects in the film and are both really cool and easy to navigate. The DVD comes in a standard box inside an embossed card stock slip cover.

Grade: Iron Man – A

Grade: Features – B+

Final Grade: A

MOVIE NEWS: The Secret Life of Bees

Last week our own Tiffany did a series of great interviews with the amazing cast of The Secret Life of Bees. Those interviews will be posted over the next few days. But coincidently the folks at Oprah sent over this trailer.  Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo will sit down with Oprah to discuss the film and answer viewer questions.  Alicia Keys will close out the show with her hit song “Superwoman”! To think, Tiffany sat down with them before Oprah.  This eppy airs this Thursday.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Miracle at St. Anna: Great Moments Do Not a Movie Make!

Spike Lee’s latest joint, Miracle at St. Anna, has a number of incredibly good moments. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole sucks big. The film, which is intended to show how black soldiers figured in World War II [and every war the U.S. has fought], has several plot threads and character arcs – enough to fuel two – or even three – sleek, ninety minute films that could make his point with benefit of sledgehammers or piledrivers.

Miracle at St. Anna

Of course, Lee has never been known for his subtlety, but sitting through Miracle at St. Anna is somewhat akin to being hammered by a sack of flying mallets. The plot twists and turn are many and varied [there’s even a flashback in the middle of a flashback], but just in case that’s not enough, we get three different tones for each piece of this unnecessarily large puzzle. The one main theme – the treatment of blacks, even in the armed forces – is hammered home time and again. If the Buffalo Soldiers aren’t been treated like imbeciles by their prejudiced commanding officer, they’re commenting on how they’re being treated like real people by the citizens of the Italian village where they spend a few days hiding from the Nazis.

Then there’s the shining hypocrisy of a character called Axis Sally [Alexandra Maria Lara] – a version of the infamous Tokyo Rose, only she aims to sew dissension among the Buffalo Soldiers so that they will turn on their white officers and join the Nazis – who would kill them outright. You need a major appliance to cut the irony – it’s that thick.

The only really compelling arc in the film is the bond that develops between the somewhat slow Private Samuel Train [Omar Benson Miller] and an orphaned Italian boy named Angelo [Matteo Sciabordi]. The two mange to figure out a way to communicate the basics, and give each other strength.

An arc that’s meant to be compelling is the triangle developed between a village woman, Renata [Valentina Cervi], Private Hector Negron [Laz Alonzo], who is falling in love with her, and Sgt. Bishop Cummings [Michael Ealy], who just wants to get in her pants. It is clichéd and trite and again, badly handled. And let’s not forget the framing device for the film, in which the postal employee kills a customer – it was in the trailers, and in the actual film, it’s just preposterous.

At two hours and forty minutes, Miracle at St. Anna is more enervating than inspiring. I can’t put it any more plainly than that.

Final Grade: D

MOVIE REVIEW: Eagle Eye Combines Hi-Tech and SF to Create Effective Thriller!

Eagle Eye marks the fourth time Shia LeBeouf has worked on a Steven Spielberg production, and the second time that he’s worked with both Spielberg and director D.J. Caruso – and the triple team may well be turning into one of modern cinema’s most potent.

Labeouf & Monaghan

Eagle Eye is a techno-thriller that comes across as a twisted tale that might make Tom Clancy duck for cover. It opens with a missile launch intended to take out a major terrorist – a launch that is undertaken with only a 51% chance of the target being correctly identified. From there we move into the life of Jerry Shaw [LaBeouf], who seems to be a typical, ambition-free slacker, watching him at work as a “copy associate” for Kinko’s-like copy shop; fleecing a few friends in a poker game, and attending the funeral of his identical twin brother.

The next part of the film is pretty much what we got in the trailer: Jerry finding a lot of money in his account and a lot of weapons components in his living room: the warning call and his being taken in by the FBI – introducing us to Special Agent Thomas Morgan [Billy Bob Thornton] – and his escape by incredible means and ultimately, his teaming up with Rachel Holliman [Monaghan], whose participation in what follows is coerced by threats to her son. From there, we do, eventually, learn the identity of the mysterious female voice that can call them even from pay phones, or a cell phone belonging to the napping guy across from Shaw on a train.

Part of the reason that Eagle Eye works is that a lot of it [but not all, as you’ll see when you learn the identity of the mystery woman] is technically feasible right now. The film hooks us with what’s possible then draws into the realms of the definitely not yet real. The transition is smooth and the shocking reveal of the source of the voice, and the over-the-top plot that follows, zip by quickly enough that we buy them in the context of the film. The way all the various parts of the film connect may be a bit of a stretch, but the sheer fun of the film supersedes that.

LaBeouf does a good job as slacker Jerry; Thornton keeps Agent Morgan from being just another federal grunt, and Rosario Dawson simmers as an Air force investigator looking into the death of Jerry’s brother – though Monaghan is barely adequate as Rachel.

Michael Chiklis gets the role of the Secretary of Defence Callister – a role that leads everyone to the key plot point of the film: the identity of the mysterious female voice that hounds Jerry and Rachel – and the voice’s grandiose plans.

The special effects are very good and the CGI have enough weight that we buy them even if they are used to create something that is way over the edge of the possible. There may be a nod to societal commentary in the way that various devices [security cameras, traffic cameras and cell phones among them] are used to shred the duo’s privacy, but it’s a surface thing that comes as the by-product of a thriller that aims more toward entertaining than saying stuff.

Final Grade: B

MOVIE NEWS: New Projects from Affleck, Kidman & Spade

Lots of interesting projects are in the works for some of Hollywood’s big names and we’ve got the lowdown on several of them.

Funny man David Spade is set to star in a new comedy feature titled Divorced Guys. The movie from Wind Dancer Films and executive produced by Matt Williams and Judd Payne and written by Fred Wolf centers around a group of divorced men who take a road trip to figure out why their marriages fell apart. No production date has been given as of yet.

20th Century Fox has announced that the lovely and talented Nicole Kidman is attached to star and produce in their newest action/adventure movie The Eighth Wonder. The film, which is being penned by Simon Kinberg who also wrote the scripts for The X-Men: Last Stand and Jumper, centers on an archeological discovery that triggers a globe-spanning race.

Warner Bros has tapped into actor/director/writer Ben Affleck for their new project titled The Town. Affleck, who will be stepping in to do a rewrite of a recent draft done by Peter Craig is also set to direct and star in an adaptation of the Chuck Hogan novel The Prince of Thieves, which will be set in Boston.

MOVIE REVIEW: IGOR: Inspired Idea – Utterly Inadequate Film!

In the land of Malaria, things have changed since it was a sunny, happy place. Constant cloud cover and rain have ruined it for agriculture, so the king has decreed that the best way to survive is to develop an economy based on the creation of evil science. The country’s best mad scientists compete in an “Evil Science Fair” – and the king charges the rest of the world a [you should pardon the expression] king’s ransom to not use it.

The Triumvarate of Terror

Each mad scientist has an Igor – a hunchbacked assistant to gather materials and pull the power switch to put the finishing touches on their evil experiments. The film is built on the idea that one of these Igors [voiced by John Cusack] wants to be the scientist, not the Igor. When his master, Dr. Glickenstein [John Cleese] dies during the creation of a new weapon, Igor seizes his chance. With the aid [?] of his previous inventions – Scamper [Steve Buscemi], a suicidal immortal rabbit, and Brain [Sean Hayes], a robot with a brain in a jar – he decides to create life.

The idea of an Igor supplanting his mad scientist and succeeding is a good one, so it’s really a shame that this beautifully designed film [looking like some mad hybrid of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas and a Tex Avery cartoon] is virtually humor-free. Even Jennifer Coolidge’s assortment of scientists’ girlfriends and Eddie Izzard’s unscrupulous Dr. Schadenfreude [who’s won seventeen Fairs by stealing the best efforts of his competitors – and delights in the misery of others] somehow fail to… ummm… come to life.

The animation, from design on, is extremely good, but in light of the paucity of laughs and any real sense of danger, it simply isn’t enough to recommend the film. In short, Igor could’ve used a lot more madness.

Final Grade: D

MOVIE REVIEW: Ghost Town: Gervais Displays Surprising Range!

Bertram Pincus [Ricky Gervais] is a solitary man, rude and generally misanthropic, he lives alone and has a job [he’s a dentist] where he can make sure his patients don’t to him. He even has his office literally a few yards from he works so he can avoid as many people as possible – until he goes in for a routine colonoscopy. After the procedure, he finds himself being assailed by the ghosts of people who had unfinished business when they died – the most insistent of whom, Frank Herlihy [Greg Kinnear], believes that his unfinished business is to prevent his widow, Gwen [Tea Leoni], from marrying a “scumbag lawyer.” Problems arise when Pincus manages to weasel his way into her life via the manner in which an important mummified Egyptian died, and he gets the opportunity to meet Gwen’s finance´.

ghost town poster

Ghost Town reminded of the superb Truly, Madly, Deeply, though it’s a good deal more superficial. David Koepp and John Kamps’ script works best when director Koepp allows the rhythms of the dialogue to dictate the pacing and when he leads Gervais into some genuinely poignant moments of revelation – regarding himself and how much he’s been missing while he wastes his life. There are moments where the film verges on maudlin, but Koepp manages to walk that line reasonably well throughout.

It’s not a surprise that Gervais made me laugh here. What is a surprise is the deftness with which he handles the poignant moments mentioned above. Both work because he has terrific chemistry with both Kinnear and Leoni. Kinnear plays Frank as a seeming good guy with a surface smarm but takes it to a level where it masks a smarmy guy who projects a superficial good guy over his smarm, but beneath an equally superficial level of smarm [please don’t ask me to say that again…]. Leoni, who has always had terrific comic chops, matched Gervais mood for mood – and she matches his banter equally well.

There’s a scene where Pincus goes off on politically incorrect riff on the Chinese that really isn’t funny, but because Gwen thinks he’s joking, and laughs, it becomes a far more disarming scene than it might have been. Gervais and Leoni work this potentially awkward scene in such a way that we believe because they’ve established their odd rapport from early on. In the end, it’s the chemistry between Gervais and Leoni – and the way they play off each other – that raises Ghost town above the average romantic dramedy – supernatural or otherwise.

Final Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: Burn After Reading: The Coen Brothers Rip Spy Thrillers!

When alcoholic CIA analyst Osborne Cox [John Malkovich] refuses to accept a demotion because of his drinking problem and quits, he sets in motion a series of events that enmesh a number of not terribly bright characters in what could safely be called an anti-thriller thriller. When the notes on his memoir are accidentally left behind in a gym, they fall into the hands of gym employees Chad [Brad Pitt] and Linda [Frances McDormand] whose attempt to return them is mistaken for an attempted at blackmail.

Chad's discovery

Even though the files are worthless, Chad and Linda somehow get the Russians to show some interest – thoroughly confusing Ozzie’s former colleagues [David Rasche and his boss, J.K. Simmons]. At the same time, a federal marshal named Harry [George Clooney] is having affairs behind his children’s books author wife [Elizabeth Marvel] with Osborne’s wife [Tilda Swinton].

As the mistakes pile up, the CIA boss becomes so exasperated that he orders his subordinate to “Come back when this makes sense!” Alas, for them, it never will. In fact, it probably won’t for any of the characters – though one of them comes out of the whole thing less badly than the others.

All the elements of a Coen Brothers film are present in Burn After Reading. Odd angles [especially low-angles]? Check! Character arcs that bend and twist back on themselves? Check! Dialogue that stays with you after you’ve left the theater? Check! Unexpected moments of violence? Check! Expected moments of violence? Nope! If you’ve ever watched early Coen Brothers movies like Blood Simple and Raising Arizona, much of Burn After Reading will resonate with you. It’s that kind of film. If not, you might wonder if there’s anything actually going on in it.

Although none of the characters is terribly smart, some [especially Pitt’s Chad] project  a kind of endearingly dim earnestness, which allows us to actually become involved in the movie. And some characters – like J.K. Simmons’ CIA boss – are there mostly to serve up unexpectedly humorous reactions. There’s even enough paranoia to give the humor even more of an edge – as Hitchcock once said, when a character notes, in the first act, that he’s never had to discharge his weapon, he had better do so in the third. The Coen Brothers use that device deftly enough that we don’t believe it when it happens because it’s simultaneously tragic and hilarious. Even the Fugs’ song over the closing credits works to the film’s advantage. After No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading comes across as the Coen Brothers’ version of a romp. For the most part, it works.

Final Grade: B+