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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Now here’s a pic you don’t see every day…

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

It’s the “Megamind” cast! Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, a stand-up of Brad Pitt obscuring Jonah Hill at Comic-Con…

Photo: Alex Berliner

New Harry Potter trailer

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Get outta there!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

You’ll probably go your whole life without hearing someone tell you with great urgency to “GET OUT OF THERE!!!!!!” but it happens in the movies.

All the time.

“Kick-Ass” — WTF did she just say?!?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

From today’s Chicago Sun-Times:


Last Thursday night I was at a screening of “Kick-Ass,” a movie generating a considerable amount of controversy, with Roger Ebert calling it “morally reprehensible” and Leonard Maltin jokingly telling the Trib the movie signals “the destruction of civilization as we know it.”

Filmed in a frenetic style, “Kick-Ass” features an 11-year-old called “Hit Girl” who slices and dices and kicks and shoots the bad guys to pieces, all the while using language that would make Quentin Tarantino blush. (Or perhaps gush.)

I’ve seen more than a thousand movies in the last decade. Until “Kick-Ass,” I had not seen an 11-year-old use the c-word.

Late in the movie, there’s a scene in which Hit Girl and the title character are driving the car owned by Red Mist, who’s played by the kid who was McLovin’ in “Superbad,” and yes, I realize half of these names sound more like energy drinks or colognes than movie characters.

Anyway. The character of “Kick-Ass” has been bloodied, so he’s recovering in the passenger seat while Hit Girl is driving and they’re plotting their next move.

And that’s when the woman behind me at the screening said, “She’s driving! She’s way too young to be driving.”

So you didn’t say a word while Hit Girl was saying “m———–,” you didn’t utter a peep while Hit Girl was stabbing and crippling and killing one thug after another — but now that she’s driving you’re worried?

The headline on Mark Caro’s story in the Tribune read, “Is ‘Kick-Ass’ star a lil’ menace to society?”

“There was a kind of firewall between kids and violence, and that firewall is completely gone now,” film critic and author Neal Gabler tells Caro. “Kids sit around and kill people on video games.”

The Trib’s Michael Phillips “started hating this movie around the midpoint,” not so much for the language employed by Hit Girl as for “how stupidly relentless the gore is, from beginning to end.”

Gory, yes — but I found “Hit Girl” to be consistently entertaining, from the “real-world” set-up in which a high school kid with no superpowers whatsoever decides to try to become a superhero to the introduction of the Hit Girl character in a wickedly funny scene with her father (played by Nicolas Cage), through all the slam-bang action sequences.

Yes, “Kick-Ass” is relentlessly violent, but it’s framed and shot as a cinematic graphic novel, true to the style of the comic books that were created in tandem with the movie. (In fact, the back story of Hit Girl and her father is revealed as a character reads a comic book.) It feels hyperrealistic.

Many of the kills are executed, so to speak, in cartoonishly over-the-top fashion. The sequences in which Hit Girl whirls about, offing one mobster after another, are in quotes; they’re as stylized as the scene in “Kill Bill” where Uma Thurman’s Bride wipes out dozens of henchmen.

(Overall, “Kick-Ass” was actually received well by the critics, with a 78 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Box office was fairly soft: about $19.75 mil.)

Was I jolted by the sight of an 11-year-old girl using that language? Yes. Do I think most 11-year-old girls have heard those words, but know better than to actually say them? Yes again.

Chloe Grace Moretz, the actress who plays Hit Girl, is now 13. I met her in the WLS-AM studios last Friday as she was on a promotional tour for the movie. She seems like a nice kid. More self-possessed and confident than a lot of people twice her age — but that could be said of a lot of 13-year-olds these days.

“I would never in a million years say those words, because I was raised to believe cussing makes you sound like an unintelligent individual and I don’t want to sound like that,” said Moretz.

Note to self.

If the real issue here is the age of Hit Girl — well, this certainly isn’t the first time a child has been in a controversial, R-rated movie. Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” Jodie Foster as a hooker in “Taxi Driver,” young Natalie Portman learning the ways of the hit man in “The Professional,” Dakota Fanning as a rape victim in “Hounddog.” All of those films were set in much more realistic worlds than “Kick-Ass.” (And in the fantasy genre, remember Kirsten Dunst as a child bloodsucker in the R-rated “Interview with a Vampire”?)

As for how these movies affect the child actors: Jodie Foster starred in “Taxi Driver.” Lindsay Lohan starred in “The Parent Trap.” Natalie Portman starred in “The Professional.” Danny Bonaduce was in “The Patridge Family.” I rest my case.

Of course there are dozens of factors that contribute to a child actor’s maturation process, but the type of material one performs as an adolescent doesn’t seem to hold much influence.

On the 3D craze.

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Talking about the 3D ‘craze’ with Leonard Maltin and Steph and Matt, hosts of “Hollywood Dailies” on ReelzChannel.

The Hurt Locker. A+

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Here’s my review of “The Hurt Locker” from last summer…

“The Hurt Locker” A+


“The Hurt Locker” is a war film set in present-day Iraq, but it is not about the war in Iraq.

It is about the universal soldier who becomes addicted to war. It is about war as a drug. It is about a man who goes home and is utterly lost in the grocery store—-but completely comfortable dodging enemy fire and defusing bombs in brutal, hostile conditions.

It is a searing, unforgettable film filled with unbearably tense set pieces and first-rate performances.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (who was embedded with a U.S. bomb-disposal squad in Iraq in 2004) have fashioned a gritty, visceral slice of the insanely dangerous, day-to-day operations of a squad of American soldiers that are risking their lives as regularly as you and I take a three-day weekend. (And they know full well that a huge percentage of the civilians back home think they shouldn’t even be in Baghdad, or are completely indifferent to their mission.)

Bigelow veers close to glamorizing the bloodshed with her penchant for ear-splitting rock and roll and her admittedly impressive, slow-motion shots of explosions. But she also serves up horrific scenes of death and destruction that serve as a punch to the gut. Even if a soldier survives a war physically uninjured, he does not emerge intact.

We follow the day-to-day routines of an elite bomb squad that has 38 days left in their rotation. In the opening scene, where the squad uses a rolling ‘bot’ to sniff out a bomb on a busy street in Baghdad, we’re sure something won’t happen because of an element I don’t want to divulge here—-and yet it happens anyway. From that moment, Bigelow serves notice. We’re in for a hellacious ride.

Jeremy Renner isn’t 1/10th as famous as many of his peers, but he’s got much more of a star presence and better chops than just about any pretty boy actor you can think of. Renner commands the screen here in a performance worthy of a young Russell Crowe. His Sgt. James is a classic, conflicted, deeply flawed hero. Swaggering macho—-but not a caricature. Extremely good at what he does—-but the antithesis of the team player.

James has defused more than 800 bombs, and he keeps the switches in a box under his bed, noting that these cheap pieces of plastic and wire could have killed him in others in a heartbeat. At times his bravery crosses the line into death-wish territory—-but he’s not dead inside. He strikes up a friendship with an Iraqi boy, and he’s conflicted about the estranged wife and young son he’s left behind. (Evangeline Lilly from “Lost” has an effective cameo as the wife. We also get brief but memorable turns from Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes.)

The underrated Anthony Mackie is brilliant here as a hardened vet who has moments of intense doubt. Brian Geraghty has the Jeremy Davies thing down pat as a good-hearted but brittle soldier who has post-traumatic stress syndrome written all over his future. There isn’t a weak performance in this film.

Although it’s not quite in the same league as “Coming Home” and “The Deer Hunter,” this movie strikes similar themes about the huge chasm separating the maddening, adrenaline rush of the war experience and the beautiful banality of everyday home life. When a civilian sees a war veteran in a bar or on a bus in the States, and the vet is staring into space or acting strangely, we might think of him as cliche. Get over it, we think. When we see that veteran through Bigelow’s eyes, we’re amazed that anyone returning home from these experiences can achieve even moments of “normalcy.”

This is one of the best films of the year.

Interpretive dance time!

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Did we really get an Interpretive Dance tribute to “The Hurt Locker”? Good Lord, the people who put on these shows never learn. No matter how talented the performers, you cannot do an interpretive dance number for something like “The Hurt Locker” without inducing mass chortling. I wanted lyrics as well: “When the explosions come/it’s gonna be a shocker/if you don’t know the combination/to…The Hurt Locker!”

And now, the Medley of Dead People.

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

So they tried something new this year for the “In Memoriam” segment: James Taylor doing a lovely version of the Beatles’ “In My Life” as we saw montage of the recently departed, from Brittany Murphy to David Carradine to brilliant writers such as Horton Foote and Larry Gelbert and legendary directors such as Eric Rohmer.

Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer

Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy

Problem was, they once kept kept the mics open throughout the Kodak Theater, so we could hear the robust cheers for the better-known icons, and the woeful smattering of claps for behind-the-scenes talents and older character actors.

It’s just so unseemly. As I’ve said every year FOR A MILLION YEARS: Even in death, the star system is in place.

More awkward!

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Winner for Best Costume starts out by saying, “I already have two of these.”

Fine, then give this one back!

A Precious win.

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Congratulations to Mo’Nique for the expected win—-but I’m wondering why she believes her victory is evidence the Academy can reward performance over politics. What the hell does that mean? Doesn’t the Academy usually reward the performance?

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