Friday, December 2, 2011

PlayStation Brings Movies Home

From creative agency Studio Output and prodco Marshmallow Laser Factory comes a new round of online spots promoting Sony’s “PlayStation@Store,” an online service where PlayStation Network subscribers can rent the latest blockbuster movies in HD starting at $1.99.
The above Tron-themed short finds Joe Everydude settling in for a night of movies with his PlayStation 3 (we assume that he canceled his Netflix subscription in protest of the recent price-hike fiasco). Suddenly, with the aid of a watermelon and a group of mysterious people in white body suits, Mr. Everydude finds his bare-looking living room transformed into a virtual world of glowing motorcycles and Jeff Bridges.
In the announce, we were told that the shorts contain, “No post production, no SFX!” (minus, of course, the obvious uses of SFX). One interesting detail about the films is that they were shot using PlayStation’s own “Move Controller” and “EyeToy” technology. View two more shorts, one an homage to Transformers and the other to Pirates of the Caribbean, and more instances of people in white body suits engaging in celebratory dancing, after the jump.

Amanda Seyfried to debut latest film at Sundance

William H Macy, Helen Hunt and Amanda Seyfried are among the stars with movies which will be premiered at next year's Sundance Film Festival.
Macy and Hunt will debut their latest film, The Surrogate, about a man, who decides he no longer wants to be a virgin and hires a sex surrogate.
Seyfried stars alongside Michael Cera and Jason Ritter in The End Of Love.
The 11-day Utah event is widely regarded as the world's foremost showcase for independent film.
There are 16 films in competition for US dramatic film competition, whose past winners include Winter's Bone, Precious and Frozen River - and another 16 for the documentary category.
Overall, more than 4,000 films from around the world were submitted to the festival this year. But the final selection features only a few household names - amid a line-up peppered with newcomers.
Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute, said: "We are, and always have been, a festival about the film-makers.
"So what are they doing? What are they saying? They are making statements about the changing world we are living in.
"Some are straight-forward, some novel and some offbeat but always interesting. One can never predict. We know only at the end, and I love that."
John Cooper, director of the festival, said this year film-makers have been forced to be "more resourceful and truly independent in their approaches to filmmaking" because of the economic crisis.
The US documentary competition includes films about renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, and another on performance artists Marina Abramović.
Other documentaries include The House I Live In, about drug abuse in America, and The Invisible War, which looks at the exploration of rape in the US military.

Around Town: Superman flies again and the New Wave returns

A Francois Truffaut retrospective, an animation festival and a screening of 1978’s “Superman” are among this week’s highlights.
The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre celebrates the legacy of one of the founders of France’s New Wave cinema, Francois Truffaut, who died at the age of 52 in 1984. “The Film Lover: A Francois Truffaut Retrospective” commences Friday evening with his first feature film, 1959’s “The 400 Blows,” his critically acclaimed autobiographical drama about a troubled young boy, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud in a stunning performance). The second feature is Truffaut’s third entry in the Antoine Doinel series, the 1968 romantic comedy “Stolen Kisses,” with Leaud and Delphine Seyrig.
Truffaut pays homage to one of his icons, Alfred Hitchcock, in his 1968 mystery thriller “The Bride Wore Black,” starring Jeanne Moreau in the title role, which screens Saturday. Also on tap is his 1962 masterwork, “Jules and Jim” with Moreau and Oskar Werner. The retrospective concludes Sunday with his 1960 film noir, “Shoot the Piano Player” with Charles Aznavour, and 1980’s World War II drama “The Last Metro,” with Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve.
Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre gets highly animated this week. The “Animation Breakdown” begins with “An Evening With Don Hertzfeldt” on Thursday, featuring the L.A. premiere of his latest animated short, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” The filmmaker will be appearing in person. On Friday, Cinefamily shines the spotlight on Polish animation with several shorts by noted animators including an exclusive presentation of the Brothers Quays’ latest film, “Maska.” Saturday afternoon’s offering is a sneak preview of Pixar’s newest short film, “La Luna,” six months before its theatrical release. Later in the afternoon, Cinefamily presents a cast and crew reunion of the Cartoon Network series “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New on DVD: In stores next week

(2011, Universal; 118 minutes) Without any doubt the most cockamamie plot I’ve witnessed in many a moon. The aliens are throwbacks to classic Bug-Eyed Monsters. I liked the Western material more than the aliens, but then that’s the way I am. As preposterous money-makers go, it’s wildly inventive. Rated PG-13. (Roger Ebert)
‘The Debt’★★½
(2011, Miramax; 112 minutes) A celebrated 1965 raid by three agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, is celebrated by the publication of a book in 1997, unfortunately just as new facts are emerging. A good cast, but the older and younger versions of the characters don’t match up well, and the plot loses its way. Rated R. (Ebert)
‘Friends With Benefits’★★★
(2011, Screen Gems; 109 minutes) Follows rom-com formulas as if directed on autopilot, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. Mila Kunis plays Jamie, an executive headhunter in New York City. Justin Timberlake plays Dylan, the hot shot behind a popular website. They agree to have sex without emotional attachment, and you know how well that works. But they’re both the real thing when it comes to light comedy. Not a great movie, but I enjoyed them in it. Rated R. (Ebert)
‘The Hangover Part II’★★
(2011, Warner; 101 minutes) Not merely a sequel to the 2009 hit, but literally a remake, with the same story transported laterally from Las Vegas to Bangkok. This time Stu (Ed Helms) is the groom to be, and his buddies (Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha and Zach Galifianakis) are in the wedding party. Galifianakis has many of the best moments, but the film plays like some kind of a test of how much raunch a weekend movie crowd can tolerate. Rated R. (Ebert)

Harvey Weinstein talks Oscars, Michelle Williams and the charm of “My Week With Marilyn” – AWARDS ALLEY “Pulp Fiction.” “The English Patient.” “Good Will Hunting.” “Shakespeare in Love.” “Chicago.” “The Aviator.” “Gangs of New York.” “The Reader.” “The King’s Speech.”

For decades, Harvey Weinstein’s name has been synonymous with the Academy Awards, and his influential fingerprints have been all over the Oscar season. Weinstein annually produces, distributes, supports and guides quality films from the silver screen to the Oscar podium. And while Weinstein has earned a reputation as being a master of the awards campaign, he’s also (first and foremost) a movie lover with an appreciation for our industry’s rich history.

That passion is on display in Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” and Simon Curtis’ “My Week With Marilyn,” two films distributed by The Weinstein Company that are being touted for Oscar consideration this season.

Weinstein spoke with the day after both pictures generated even more awards buzz with multiple Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations and big wins through the New York Film Critics Circle. And while “The Artist” and “Marilyn” are just starting to reach wider audiences, Weinstein still has Meryl Streep’s “The Iron Lady” on the horizon, meaning his Oscar season just now is starting to heat up. It was a pleasure speaking with Harvey Weinstein about moviemaking, Marilyn Monroe, the Oscar momentum generated by his films, and his love for films about the creative process. Here’s Harvey Weinstein: You have said in interviews how much you respect Marilyn Monroe, and how her remarkable life was an inspiration for you to support “My Week With Marilyn.” Yet Eddie Redmayne’s eager character, Colin, and his enthusiasm for the movie industry reminded me of you. I’m wondering how much that character served as a hook for you, as well.

Harvey Weinstein: I think that was the hook for me, Sean, for getting me into the story. The idea that there was this 23-year-old boy with his first job on the set of a movie, and he’s working for Laurence Olivier, directing Marilyn Monroe, and Marilyn Monroe’s husband, Arthur Miller, has a fight with her on their honeymoon, walks out, the boy’s there to comfort her, and little by little a romance ensues … that is everybody who ever was male and grew up in the movie business, that was our fantasy. And the romance is sweet. She says to him, “I’m 30 years old. I’ve been married three times. I haven’t had a date since I was 16.” And he’s a young boy who wants to court her and take her out on a date. She thinks she can live with him, and he can take her out of the viper’s nest that is Hollywood. It’s a true story, and it’s just one of those charming slices of life.

New photos of Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman released

Movie fans in Scottsdale are waiting to see Anne Hathaway on the big screen in The Dark Knight Rises. The actress is taking on Catwoman in the film, but she is making news for her personal life this week. On Tuesday, Movieline reported the actress was engaged to her boyfriend of three years, Adam Shulman. Celeb Buzz also shared a number of new photos of the couple together. Check out the new photos here.
Production on The Dark Knight Rises just wrapped earlier this month, so the actress is now enjoying a bit of a break before beginning work on another project. Christian Bale, the man behind Batman in this final installment of Christopher Nolan's trilogy, had nothing but praise for Hathaway and her performance as Catwoman in the film. He said the following about her, according to First Showing:
"I'm terrible at auditions, so I'm very impressed when somebody really seems to acquire an ownership of a character without having worked on it or prepared for some amount of time. I saw that in Anne\. When Chris watched the screen test, he agreed that Anne did a wonderful job. In many ways, she has the hardest job. There are a number of people who feel that the Catwoman role has been defined previously. So, I always saw Anne's role as being the toughest job of any of us."
Earlier this summer, some fans were upset about the choice of costume for Hathaway's character. However, that buzz died down as the production continued and more was seen. Fans are still buzzing about the release of this film on social media though. One fan said the following on Twitter recently

American Masculinity, Shown in All Its Angst

On Monday night, when Natalie Portman helped introduce the first-ever tie for best feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, she noted that the winners, “Beginners” and “The Tree of Life,” took on the big ideas: “love, death, human connection.” She could’ve added: boyhood, fatherhood and how to look good in a suit. Both “Beginners,” an indie, multigenerational romance from the director Mike Mills, and “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick’s sweeping ode to Americana (and earth), are wide shots at the notion of American masculinity, as it is and was.

Many of the films that have begun to rack up statuettes and nominations on the sometimes gilded, sometimes barbed path to the Oscars (the Gothams traditionally start off the campaigning in New York) deal with the existential crises of men. There are real-life figures grappling with their place in history (Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role of Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar”), fictional figures contending with the weight of their cultural forebears (Owen Wilson as a dissatisfied screenwriter in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”) or classic archetypes facing an uncertain future (the silent screen actor at the advent of sound in “The Artist”). Guyish morality (and mortality) tales like “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne’s bittersweet family drama, and “50/50,” a comic bromance about a young man with cancer, have been rewarded with good notices from critics and precursor trophy givers, like the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Other Oscar watchers, like Sasha Stone at Awards Daily, have noted that there’s a preponderance of struggling (but hot) single fathers in this year’s crop of hopefuls: the “sexiest men alive” troika of George Clooney in “The Descendants,” who describes himself as the “backup parent” to two daughters; Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” who tries to fit his child into his shuffling career as general manager of the Oakland A’s; and Matt Damon as the economically floundering but devoted dad in “We Bought a Zoo.” Even the nameless hipster-lust object played by Ryan Gosling in “Drive,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish ode to Los Angeles noir, becomes a father figure to a neighbor’s little boy. In “The Artist,” which received top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle on Tuesday, the dapper French leading man Jean Dujardin doesn’t have a kid, but he does have a scene-stealing little dog. (For movie stars, even retro ones, that’s responsibility enough.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Best Lothario Films: Eight Movie Womanizers

The movies are full of bed-hopping men — think of Humphrey Bogart's serial flirtations inThe Big Sleep (1946) and Richard Roundtree laying his way uptown and down in Shaft(1971). But in Steve McQueen's Shame, womanizing is not just an outgrowth of the plot — it is the plot. And it's just the latest example of a subgenre we'll call the Lothario film. Particularly plentiful in the wake of the sexual revolution, Lothario films are the pictures that deal with men tripped up on their own swinging dicks. Here are fond memories of our favorite dicks and the collateral damage they left in their wakes.
Alfie (1966) — Director: Lewis Gilbert; Lothario: Michael Caine. In the year of Blow-Up, as David Hemmings wrestled with models in hip Notting Hill, Alfie offered a look at sex among the working class in a resolutely unsexy, swinging London. Wearing a slack expression and reciting his nihilist philosophy to the camera in h-dropped Cockney, Michael Caine's Alfie is perhaps the most boorish womanizer on this list: lofty and bullying with his mistresses, depending on his stallion-like physical presence alone to keep him satisfied. Featuring a dismal illegal abortion scene, it's a time capsule of the moment just before sex and consequences were parted.
Play Misty for Me (1971) — Director: Clint Eastwood; Lothario: Clint Eastwood.Eastwood has produced a long line of out-of-wedlock children and films since '71; this was the first of the latter. Misty examines the hazards of free love, with Eastwood playing a DJ whose on-air whisper keeps the sheets hot at his Carmel-by-the-Sea bachelor pad, until one casual lay (Jessica Walter) first refuses to take the hint and then comes back with a knife. A "Hell hath no fury" film that inverts assumptions about masculine predators and feminine victims.
Shampoo (1975) — Director: Hal Ashby; Lothario: Warren Beatty. Beatty co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Towne and, bouncing between L.A. trysts on his motorcycle, starred as hairdresser George Roundy. The opposite of aggressive bluster, Beatty's reserved, shy, withholding performance is a lovely tiptoe approach — his whisper is what draws the women closer. If George is ultimately as fleeting and impossible to hold as the Santa Ana wind, he is also granted a measure of heroism amid a rising tide of materialism: "I don't fuck for money. I do it for fun."
The Pick-up Artist (1987) — Director: James Toback; Lothario: Robert Downey Jr.Toback's own trawling has been widely rumored — in a 1989 foldout chart in Spy, and the pages of Gawker besides. Otherwise, he is probably best known as the director of Fingersand as the wingman to pal Warren Beatty, this film's shadow producer, who once summed up his might-as-well-ask seducer's credo thusly: "You get slapped a lot, but you get fucked a lot too." Pick-up Artist doubles-down on the playing-the-odds metaphor, with a spaniel-eyed Robert Downey (before he had his gap-teeth closed and when there was still a vulnerability beneath the glibness) as the skirt-chaser who reinvents himself for every new pick-up.
Boomerang (1992) — Director: Reginald Hudlin; Lothario: Eddie Murphy. Playing an infamous Manhattanite lady-killer, Eddie Murphy is too eager to have the audience on his side to make Boomerang's player-who-gets-played comeuppance plot go, but on the way to wholesome yawn Halle Berry, he passes through quite a menagerie of actresses, including mewling senior Eartha Kitt, finishing-school freak Robin Givens, and Amazonian Grace Jones.
Deconstructing Harry (1997) — Director: Woody Allen; Lothario: Woody Allen and loads of alter egos. You need only look at Liam Neeson's spooked "What have I gotten myself into?" expression in every scene in Husbands and Wives (1992) to realize there is a world of darkness on the fringes of every Allen comedy, and most of it is blackly disgorged here. Allen's Harry Block, a philandering novelist who shtups­ his sister-in-law and fashions a book from it, is his most unpleasant alter ego, with the film an erotomaniac's self-revelation to rival Robert Crumb's My Troubles With Women.
Auto Focus (2002) — Director: Paul Schrader; Lothario: Greg Kinnear. This film is a love story of a sort, about the symbiotic ante-upping relationship that develops between A/V geek John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) and Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), who embark together on an odyssey of amateur porn and group gropes that ends only when Crane turns up in a Scottsdale motel room, bludgeoned to death with a tripod. Saddled with a laughable formal "hook" — as Crane's life goes out of control, so does the camera-work —Auto Focus works best as outright farce of sexual desperation, as in the scene of increasingly spooked-looking Crane switching a bar TV set to Heroes — like Sutherland's Casanova imitating his own flyleaf portrait — when he's doing his evening's cruising.
Sideways (2004) — Director: Alexander Payne; Lothario: Thomas Haden Church. A dialogue between fidelity and inconsequentiality, connoisseurship and appetite, Sideways's two poles are represented by Paul Giamatti's Miles and Thomas Haden Church's aging soap-opera stud, Jack. "There are some things that I have to do that you don't understand," Jack says in a voice that speaks of surrendered self-control and the dilemma of a sex drive without a brake. The guy can't help it.

‘Men In Black 3′ Launches Viral Site Plus New Posters

Men In Black 3‘ isn’t the biggest anticipated movie for Summer 2012, but they’re trying to get the marketing campaign spinning with a new viral site plus a couple cool looking posters below.

I thought ‘Men In Black 2‘ pretty much sucked and was a little surprised when news hit way back when that there would be a third entry in the franchise. The first one was funny as hell and really good…it’s too bad they couldn’t have just let things be. But when a movie makes major bucks, those studios are bound and determined to rape it of its essence and basically turn a pure innocent into a bleeding harlot. Nice visual, I know, but man, when will Hollywood ever learn?

Granted, it’s got a killer cast with Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Bill Hader, Jemaine, Clment and Michael Stuhlbarg along with returning stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. If you recall, we reported back in February about another setback on the film when the script needed more tweaking. Then last April, ‘Men In Black 3′ confirmed that it was back filming again. We kept hearing about all the onset diva squabbled (including director Sonnenfeld), but that’s to be expected with all the heavies involved in this franchise. So here’s two of the latest posters that have surfaced for the film below.

If you haven’t noticed that the viral website address is hidden among all those MIB3′s on the poster, here’s a closer look at their viral site which is just another Facebook page which then leads you to Sony’s site for ‘Men In Black 3‘. After all that work of creating that cool little name ‘The Men In Blacksuits Are Real’, it’s kinda disappointing that there wasn’t much creativity put into site. Those little bits alone tell us much of what to expect for ‘Men In Black 3′ which opens May 25, 2012.

I think we’re all more excited about ‘The Avengers‘ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘, but this is something to take those cousins you don’t really like to hang out with too rather than having to spend a day talking to them about topics you just don’t give a crap about.

‘One Day,’ ‘30 Minutes or Less,’ ‘Seven Days in Utopia’

There’s a wide mix of films and TV shows being released on DVD this week.
• “One Day,” Grade A-minus: Screenwriter David Nicholls has adapted his novel about Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway), a pair of college students who spend graduation night together. That sets the mile marker for them as we peek in on their lives on that same day over the next 20 years. As with real life, the day can be monumental or it can be uneventful.
It’s been a long time since a movie has celebrated the joy of love and ached with its pain as brilliantly as “One Day.” Director Lone Scherfig has woven tiny threads of life into a story that’s as funny as it is heartbreaking.
Big or small, Scherfig holds our attention through beautiful camera work and standout performances in these life snapshots.
• “30 Minutes or Less,” Grade C-plus: A pizza delivery guy ends up with a bomb strapped to his chest and an order to rob a bank. The fast-paced buddy comedy works best when it focuses on the central players. Sadly, that focus gets shattered by the latest version of feces in a punch bowl.
The name pretty much sums it up. There’s about “30 Minutes or Less” of comedy in this film.
• “Snowmen,” Grade C-minus: Playing the cancer card — especially with children — is risky because there’s an automatic sympathy that kicks in, which means the story has to be strong enough to warrant the emotional investment. The “Snowmen” script by director/writer Robert Kirbyson doesn’t have such power.
The film banks on the kind of emotional cues that make Hallmark and Lifetime movies so popular: hope, determination, spunk, regrets and acceptance.
• “Seven Days In Utopia,” Grade B-minus: Based on David L. Cook’s novel, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia,” the movie follows Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) as he finally reaches the goal his father has pushed him to obtain: a chance to play professional golf. His debut is a disaster, so he escapes from the spotlight in the sleepy town of Utopia. The film also stars Robert Duvall.
Despite its flaws, “Seven Days in Utopia’ has a good heart. It’s not a hole-in-one, but it certainly plays up to par with similar movies such as “Facing the Giants.”
Also on DVD this week
“Smallville: The Complete Tenth Season”: The final season of the super TV series.
“Hot in Cleveland: Season Two”: Includes 22 episodes of the cable comedy.
“Our Idiot Brother”: Paul Rudd plays a sibling who disrupts the lives of his three sisters.
“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”: A relaxing weekend goes bad because of misunderstandings.
“30 Rock: Season 5”: Tina Feycq stars.
“The Girls Next Door: The Complete Series”: Includes all of the episodes of the E! Playboy series.
“Dinosaur Train: T-Rex Tales”: Features nine fun and educational journeys.
“Another Earth”: Two people start a relationship on the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth.
“Mission: Impossible — The ‘88 TV Season”: Peter Graves reprises his role of Jim Phelps.
“NFL: Green Bay Packers The Road to XLV”: A look at the team’s championship drive.
“The Wave”: An instructor’s efforts to explain totalitarianism goes wrong.
“Vampires”: A mocumentary about a Belgian clan of vampires.
“Kidnapped”: Masked men take a family hostage.
“The Future”: A couple’s lives are changed by a stray cat.
“It’s Always Christmas With You”: New holiday offering from The Wiggles.
“5 Days of War”: Film based on true events of a journalist, his cameraman and a local woman caught behind enemy lines during the war between Russia and the Georgian Republic.
“Look: Season 1”: Cable series told through security camera footage.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus Looks Like the Mass Effect Movie

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly rounds-up the biggest summer films of 2012, among which is the much anticipated Prometheus from director Ridley Scott.

Take a look at the pictures from the set and tell us what videogame they remind you of.

It's uncanny. If I wasn't following the project closely and just saw the pictures I would assume that these were from the set of the Mass Effect movie (which is not an entirely bad idea as far as videogame movies go).

Check out the rest of the pictures with a Mass Effect vibe on /Film.

Of course, Alien and Blade Runner (also directed by Ridley Scott) have had a huge influence on videogames, as you can tell by playing anything from Metroid, to Halo, to the upcoming Prey 2. So it's a little bit like Scott is borrowing from a videogame that has borrowed from his films. However, it's most likely that the similarities are coincidental.

Prometheus will be the first science fiction film Ridley Scott has directed since 1982's Blade Runner, and Scott has indicated that it is a kind of prequel to the Alien series by way of the famous Space Jockey. And if that wasn't exciting enough, Scott has also recently talked about his plans for a new Blade Runner film.

George Lucas's Latest Marin Movie Factory

Filmmaker George Lucas wants everybody to see his movies, but not where they're made.
The "Star Wars" creator's latest plan for moviemaking magic is also an architectural treat: a "three-story digital technology fortress" on the site of the former Grady Ranch in a secluded part of Lucas Valley in Marin County, Calif.,according to the Marin Independent Journal.
Lucas proposes to build on-site a 263,000-square foot building, where 340 employees — and actors and guests — will be able to avail themselves of film stages, screening rooms, a cafe, a day car, a gym, sleeping quarters and underground parking for 202 cars and 24 bicycles.
All this will be hidden from view by a man-made knoll.
Nine bridges to span Miller, Grady and Landmark creeks will be built, and there's also a plan to dig a cave in which Lucas can age the wine culled from his nearby vineyards.
The building will look similar to either the Mission-style St. Vincent's School for Boys or the Casa Grande at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, depending on who you ask.
The 187-acre project is not far away from Lucas's existing facilities at the 2,500-acre Skywalker Ranch.
The plan seems destined for approval, according to reports: a less-intensive plan was already green-lighted by Marin County officials, the newspaper reported. This one will go through the public process next year.
While there's certainly a similarity, George Lucas's name is not literally on Lucas Valley: the area is named for a 19th-century rancher, not the director.

Movie of Turow's latest legal thriller raises a few objections

Those who remember Harrison Ford's portrayal of prosecutor Rusty Sabich will find different shadings in Bill Pullman's version, two decades later, of this leading man of American crime fiction.

In the new, TV movie version of "Innocent," Scott Turow's 2010 sequel to his 1987 blockbuster "Presumed Innocent," Sabich, now an appellate judge, has a couple of extra decades of compromise on his shoulders, the biggest being his continued cohabitation with wife Barbara.

But he has the same basic problem to confront: The author, in a kind of crime-fiction double jeopardy, has contrived to again get his antihero charged with murdering a woman very close to him. Kindle County — a place similar to Cook County, where Turow still supplements his career as a novelist with a side job as a partner in a downtown Chicago law firm — is apparently no place for a quiet courtroom life.

Ford's Sabich, in the 1990 Alan J. Pakula film, was a brooding, heavy, fundamentally masculine presence. Pullman's is a little more cerebral, more reserved, hiding his feelings, and possibly his wounds, behind a steady half-smile that could be seen as cocky or protective.

But both editions of Sabich manage to make you think the man may have enough darkness in him to have done exactly the horrific thing he is charged with, even as you know this would violate most rules of popular storytelling.

While the contrasts between two fine actors are interesting, Pullman, alas, is in a film that doesn't carry the same weight. The first in a new mystery movie franchise for TNT, which already runs several series about the law ("The Closer," "Rizzoli & Isles," even "Law & Order" reruns), "Scott Turow's Innocent" follows the outlines of the novel but never quite achieves the sense of moment of either its source material or its big-screen predecessor.

This happens despite a stellar cast that also includes Marcia Gay Harden as the bipolar Barbara Sabich, Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") as Sabich nemesis Tommy Molto, now Kindle County's chief prosecuting attorney, and Alfred Molina as Rusty's defense attorney and friend, Sandy Stern.

We open on the scene that sets everything in motion: Rusty Sabich at the bedside of his deceased wife, where, we learn, he will leave her for 24 hours before calling authorities. Before the toxicology comes in and Molto and an eager young assistant get on the case, it is ruled a heart attack.

Meanwhile, in flashback, we see the new contours of Rusty's life. His adult son Nat (Callard Harris), after some trouble getting his life in order, is following his father into the law. Sabich has an infatuated law clerk (Mariana Klaveno from "True Blood") about to move into her first private-practice job.

And Rusty and Barbara had stayed together despite what they learned about one another at the time of the events in "Presumed Innocent," including Rusty's trial on charges of murdering a colleague and ex-lover.
"Sixty," Sabich says, "is a tough age to reach knowing that love is for other people."

The pleasures of Turow's novels come from his careful, complex plotting, insight into the law and the people who shape it, and graceful, almost formal writing style. Sex, in his world, carries heavy consequences, and resolutions are rarely tidy or what they at first seem. Like John le Carre's spy novels, these are crime stories for people whose reading interests run deeper than mass-market paperbacks.

"Innocent" was a worthy addition to North Shore resident Turow's body of work, all the more so for revisiting characters who resonated so powerfully with readers in their first appearance but whose passions have been replaced, mostly, by regrets and an awareness of life's ambiguities.

Sabich was compelling then because he was never a completely sympathetic character. And in "Innocent," his decision to stay married for, in his mind, his easily bruised son and wife could also be read as a choice made mostly to protect his public reputation. Which he then threatens to destroy with another, hastier choice.

But where "Presumed Innocent" had the classic components of cinematic murder stories — lurid sex, a femme fatale, a jealous spouse, rope — the sequel hinges more on things that are better explained in print: drug interactions, Barbara's computer expertise, the self-recrimination of an intelligent man knowingly repeating a history that almost got him condemned.

And writer/director Mike Robe, who has directed for TV two other Turow novels, "The Burden of Proof" (1992) and "Reversible Errors" (2004), doesn't offer much beyond what the author has put on the page — and often feels hurried to get that much in.

It is competently, professionally done, as you would expect from a man who has directed dozens of TV movies. The story is satisfying, an intellectual cut above many TV mysteries. And a cast like this will always be worth watching.

But you want something more, even allowing for the constricted budget of the smaller screen: sharper visuals, perhaps; a soundtrack that isn't so insistent on shaping your emotions; a TV-reporter character who isn't so noticably unlike any real TV reporter; reaction shots that aren't presented in the cinematic equivalent of yellow highlighter.

Above all, what you want is an interpretation of the novel, rather than merely a rendering, and a restoration of the soulfulness that makes it special.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Terry Gilliam, the heir of Fellini and the enemy of God?

The late Ted Demme once approached Terry Gilliam and asked for the secret of his cinema sorcery. Demme wanted to know how the director of “Brazil,” “Twelve Monkeys” and “The Fisher King” approached those magical transition moments in his movies where reality lurches and gives way to fantasy swirl and fever dream. The elder director, with a toothy grin, explained that he just wasn’t qualified to answer because, well, he wouldn’t know reality if he saw it.
“I never quite understand what the real world is,” Gilliam said during a recent visit to Los Angeles. “I told Ted I shoot reality and fantasy the same way because it’s all the same to me. I don’t know how to distinguish between the two, they flow into each other all the time. That’s the autobiographical part in my movies…in Hollywood, everyone takes characters and puts them into action sequences where they are threatened by outside forces, but to me the threat is your own perception of the world.”
Slippery magic, grim humor and one-man rebellions are trademarks of Gilliam’s films and, with appropriate blur, they are also trademarks of his career, which has been defined by masterpiece moments and years of misadventure. The director turned 71 this week and, a few days before that, he was presented with a Federico Fellini Foundation award for a movie career that began when he co-directed 1974′s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ with fellow Python troupe member Terry Jones. Gilliam’s latest screen credit is “The Wholly Family,” a short film he made in Naples that was screened this month in Santa Monica by the American Cinematheque, and at the event Gilliam acknowledged that his feature-film future is cloudy because of the financing challenges that face a maverick with a  reputation for hard luck and an even harder head.
“The heir of Fellini and the enemy of God. I like that, I’m going to use that,” Gilliam said of his new career motto. And, truthfully, it does seem the filmmaker has been tested and taunted by the heavens and (far further south) by Hollywood.
His battle with Universal chief Sid Sheinberg over 1985′s “Brazil” is now the stuff of legend; the director bought a full-page ad in Variety pressuring the studio not to re-edit the film to give it a happy ending and he won his way only after staging private “rogue” screenings  for members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., which led to the group naming the original version the year’s best picture.  Then there were the months and years consumed by projects that never got off the ground at all (“Time Bandits 2,”  an adaptation of “A Tale of Two Cities”) or took flight with other filmmakers (the “Harry Potter” films, “Watchmen”) or hang in a savage state of limbo (“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” began filming in 2000 and never came close to finishing, but Gilliam hopes still to revive it).