News releases, production info, reviews, trailers, buzz and comments about upcoming films condensed for insatiable movie appetites.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Beaver


In movie theatres on May 20, 2011.  Genre:  Comedy, Drama. Icon Entertainment International. Distributed by Summit Entertainment.


Walter (Mel Gibson) is a troubled father and husband and CEO of a stalling toy company, he’s clinically depressed. When he finds a Beaver glove puppet he starts to wear it without pause: he even adopts the beaver as a kind of avatar through which he carries out all of his communication.”



Stars:  Mel Gibson
           Jodie Foster
          Anton Yelchin

Director:  Jodie Foster

Writer:  Kyle Killen


The early buzz on The Beaver is actually very positive, with particular praise being sung for Gibson’s performance (it’s even been described as a career high for him). The fact that this is only Gibson’s second credited acting role in the last seven years (the first being in the 2010 revenge thriller Edge of Darkness) is certainly intriguing, and even more intriguing is the fact that he’s chosen such a self-deprecating role to showcase his acting talent – which is so rarely put on show these days.

Can the film do well at the box office, considering that Gibson’s recent antics put him on the public’s list of shame? I’d like to think that audiences could separate a film star’s on-screen performances from their real life (after all they are acting) but sadly that isn’t always the case.
As I said up top, The Beaver is one of the oddest films of the 2011 movie schedule but from the trailer and all the buzz surrounding the film I am very curious to see it. All today’s news means is that we’re going to have to wait a little longer than we thought before we can check it out.


Picture someone as a successful executive. Now imagine that same person has undergone a psychological crisis that is so traumatic that they cannot communicate normally.  That's the gist of The Beaver where Mel Gibson's character can only talk to others through an unusual medium, a beaver hand puppet.

This is a movie that should be seen for a number of reasons.  First, Mel Gibson was himself undergoing a meltdown of sorts in his personal life. The audiotapes of his rants against Oksana Grigorieva, his former paramour and mother of his eighth child, were widely publicized.  One can only listen in amazement as a man who is fabulously rich, adored by millions and millions of fans (or used to be) and multitalented could becomes so unhinged. This unfolding personal upheaval was occurring during the film's production. So the film may contain a sense of blurred reality.  Is this art imitating life or life imitating art?

Second, is Mel Gibson still a box office draw? Many found his tirade against Oksana Grigorieva and a drunken rant against "controlling Jews" a few years ago especially repugnant.  Can moviegoers forgive and forget or will they snub Mel's latest project directed by Jodie Foster? Ironically, if he injects even half of the personal turmoil that seems to be in his personal life into this character, he may deliver an Oscar winning performance. That remains, forgive the pun, to be seen.

Third, Jodie Foster, a long time friend of Gibson, took a huge gamble in using Gibson as the main character in the film. Given that Gibson has insulted so many, Foster put her head on the proverbial chopping block. Still, Mel Gibson has achieved world wide acclaim in the past.  If he pulls this one off Hollywood may forgive him. Because, it seems, no matter how egregious the sin, Hollywood always forgives if the bottom line is a healthy profit. And a healthy profit can only come from a well received movie at the box office.

Jodie Foster is no slouch either. A two time Academy Award winner for best actress in The Accused and more memorably as FBI agent Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Foster portrays Gibson's wife in The Beaver.  Given the electricity generated by both of these cinema titans and despite Gibson's colossal and multiple social blunders in recent years, I will hazard a guess that the film will succeed, in other words, it will have legs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II


In movie theatres on July 15, 2011. Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures.  Genre:  Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sequel, 3D.


The end begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione go back to Hogwarts to find and destroy Voldemort's final horcruxes, but when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.



Stars:  Daniel Radcliffe
          Emma Watson
          Rupert Grint 

Director:  David Yates

Writers:  J.K. Rowling
              Steve Kloves


The film that Harry Potter fans have been waiting for - and dreading - is approaching fast. On July 15, the final instalment in the Harry Potter series will be released, bringing an end to the action-packed saga that has gripped the world for over 15 years since J.K. Rowling's first novel was released.  A sneak peek at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, with a teaser trailer and the film's stars talking about what we can expect from the climactic film.
The final film will the see the much-anticipated battle between Harry Potter and his nemesis Lord Voldermort. In the featurette, Daniel Radcliffe says: 'Something's got to give. Harry is aware that the floodgates are open and that he is going to have to be the one that deals with Voldermort.
'The reason they're on this journey is much bigger than any one of them. It has to come to a head at some point,' he says. 'This is it, really. This is the end of the line,' Rupert Grint, who plays Harry sidekick Ron Weasley, adds.

After spending months searching the country for Voldermort's horcruxes - the source of his power and immortality - in order to defeat, Harry and his friends will eventually return to Hogwarts for the final showdown. The first Deathly Hallows ended with Harry, Hermione and Ron on a mission to find these objects, and becoming increasingly frustrated with their lack of progress.

In between quests for hidden horcruxes and duals with Lord Voldermort, Harry finds time for a little romance. The newly-released clip shows a lingering kiss between Harry and his love interest Ginny Weasley.  Fans of the book are also looking forward to the highly anticipated embrace between Hermione and Ron. Rupert Grint spoke about kissing his co-star, recently announced as the new face of Lancome, during promotion work for the last installment.


What can you say? The event of the year for fantasy film lovers is fast approaching.  Part II of the last film in the Harry Potter series is due to debut in July.  The renowned stories of Harry Potter and company growing up in troubled times in the wizard world have been, quite literally, entertaining the world since J.K. Rowling published the first Potter novel in 1977.  Since then over four hundred million copies in 67 languages have been sold almost as quickly as they were printed. As an aside, the very first printing of one thousand copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone printed by Bloomsbury Press in England are estimated to be worth $25,000 to $40,000 each.

Rowling follows the traditions of great storytellers such as Aesop by teaching lessons of life as well as telling a great tale.  Her superb lexicon of wizard gadgets and spells remind you of another great British story teller, J.R.R. Tolkien of Hobbit fame.  Both series of films were relatively faithful to their book's storylines.

From the release of the first Harry Potter film in 2001 to the present each movie has provided spectacular visuals of magicians and muggles (for those not in the know, muggles are non-magical characters.) Additionally, Rawlings presented a number of typical magical creatures-dragons and some not so typical critters-such as Hippogriffs, a kind of unicorn with the chest and head of an eagle.

The author has stated in a number of interviews that one of the principal themes of the Potter series was death and loss.  She was finishing her first Potter novel when her mother died.  Rowling has also stated that her mother's death had a profound effect on her and her writing.

Another interesting item is that Rowling's target audience/readers are the young.  And while there is certainly fantasy on the minds of young readers and movie goers who wish they had an invisibility cloak or a magic wand, she injects strong doses of reality when favorite characters are killed.  You could hear an audience moan when Albus Dumbledore, the revered headmaster at Hogwarts (the Harvard of wizard schools) is killed defending the school and his young charges.

Part II of this final episode should be every bit as exciting as the previous Potter movies.  Over the past ten years, audiences have watched the principal characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione grow from young children into adults.  I took my own young children to the theatre to see every Harry Potter film as they were released and watched them gaze at the screen in awe of their wizard heroes.  It makes me a little sad to see the characters all grown up. It reminds me that my children are adults now and I will have to wait for grandchildren to see that innocence again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Tree of Life


In theatres: May 27,2011. Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Rated PG-13. Genre: Drama.


The story of a Midwestern family in the 1950's. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.



Stars:  Brad Pitt
           Sean Penn
           Jessica Chastain

Producer:  Bill Pohlad

Director:  Terrence Malick

Writer:  Terrence Malick


It's not many film productions that consult with NASA as they're shooting. But then, not many film productions have Terrence Malick for a director.  As cinematographer Emanuel "Chivo" Lubezki tells it, the shoot for Malick's coming-of-age epic "The Tree of Life," starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, pretty much made up its own rules as it went along. Then it broke those too. "Once you think you got the formula, you realized there is no formula," Chivo told 24 Frames in an interview. "It's like no set I ever worked on."
 There are plenty of reasons why that's true. Besides the NASA factor -- Malick consulted with the space agency for footage of the cosmos and other grand imagery he used in the film -- there was the fact that he didn't shoot actors in a conventional way. Or, sometimes, at all.  Though most movies use what's known as "coverage" -- cameras stationed in different places, with the idea of conveying a scene as you might experience it in real life -- "Tree of Life" eschewed those conventions.

"So the actors are performing the dialogue, but Terry isn't interested in dialogue. So they're talking, and we're shooting a reflection or we're shooting the wind or we're shooting the frame of the window, and then we finally pan to them when they finish the dialogue," Chivo recalled.

The movie, which comes out in May, aims to tell of a spiritual journey using a sense of place, a long span of time and a set of striking elemental images -- and, oh yes, also is partly based on Malick's own life. The idea, say those who worked on it, was not so much to tell a story but to create a feeling.

"Photography is not used to illustrate dialogue or a performance," Chivo said." "We're using it to capture emotion so that the movie is very experiential. It's meant to trigger tons of memories, like a scent or a perfume."

And how did the performers react to all this unconventionality -- like, say, the fact that Malick wasn't always interested in what they had to say? "I think they thought we were insane," Chivo said. "Sean is a director, and I'm sure he wondered 'Is this method something I want to learn or is it something I never want to repeat?' For Brad I think it took him a couple of days or a week to get into the spirit."

Dede Gardner, Pitt's producing partner and a producer on the film, said a sense of elastic possibility is essential in making a movie like this as well as watching it. "One of the things you learn when you work with Terry is there isn't one interpretation," she said. "Life's experience is individualized, so why shouldn't a film be?"


Those who have children repeatedly make decisions and take actions that affect their children's lives.  Since we are imperfect creatures, we understandably make incorrect decisions or make demands on our children which they do not understand at the time. Since parents have, hopefully, more maturity than their youngsters, most anguish at how their words and actions will form or figuratively disfigure their children.

How children absorb, accept, reject or ignore parental guidance seems to be the thrust of reclusive director and screenwriter Terrance Malick's film.  In the film Tree of Life, Brad Pitt portrays a typical dad of the 1950's, seemingly self sufficient, all too well aware of the dangers life presents since he has lived through the war years. In the trailer Pitt appears as a tough-as-nails individual, who disparately tries to pass on those characteristics to his offspring.

The specifics are not really important, but one of his sons, Jack, undergoes a not atypical and lengthy phase of parental rejection.  As a result, he rebels against authority. The young Jack sees the world as most of us do at his age in monochrome black and white, with absolutely no clue about life.

Years pass, the son now approaching mid life finds his world a strange landscape lacking that something he can't define.  Jack's preconceived ideas have not survived the test of time.  The older son is portrayed by perennial sourpuss but wonderful actor Sean Penn.

Penn's character undergoes an apparent epiphany which many of us experience as we age.  That with time, we often begin to think and act as our parents once did. Not overnight, but subtly and imperceptibly over a span of decades.

The theme seems to echo what Will Durant penned in his ten volume tome The History of Civilization. " Our heroic rejection of the customs and morals of our tribe, upon our adolescent discovery of their relatively, betrays the immaturity of our minds. Given another decade we begin to understand that there may be more wisdom in the moral code of the group- the formulated experience of generations of the race- that can be explained in a college course."

This promises to be an emotional roller coaster of a movie well worth seeing.  Besides entertainment, it may also show us a little about ourselves.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Caves of Forgotten Dreams


Release date:  April 29, 2011.   Documentary.  History. 95 minutes.
Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting.


Chauvet Cave is exceptional – despite being recently discovered in 1994, it contains the world’s oldest rock art ever found. The Chauvet Cave is located near Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in the Ard├Ęche region of southern France, its chance discovery by a trio of speleologists revealed not only the fossilized remains of many animals, including some that are now extinct, but one of the most extensive Palaeolithic rock art galleries ever recorded.



Stars:   Werner Herzog
             Dominique Baffier
             Jean Clottes

Director:  Werner Herzog

Writers:  Werner Herzog
               Judith Thurman


Filmmaker Werner Herzog is well known for his ambitious movies. His latest project, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," may be his wildest film yet. The documentary, which hits theaters this spring, focuses on the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in France. The cave is tens of thousands of years old, and for many thousands of those years no human being knew about it. Three French explorers discovered the cave in 1994. So, what makes this cave worthy of a 3D documentary from one of the world's great filmmakers? For one, the cave contains amazing detailed drawings that defy explanation. Gizmodo explains: "The walls contain hundreds of animals—like the typical Paleolithic horses and bisons—but some of them are not supposed to be there, like lions, panthers, rhinos, and hyenas." Apparently, some of the paintings are of creatures that don't exist. For example, an animal that looks like a half-woman, half-bison.

 Gizmodo speculates that these artistic liberties may have something to do with the copious amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases in the cave. The theory is that hallucinations in the cave were common. To secure permission to film in what is inarguably a French national treasure, Herzog had to agree to bring just a few crew members with him and make sure everyone wore special suits and shoes the entire time so as not to disturb the find. Also, due to the high levels of carbon dioxide, Herzog and company could stay in the cave for only a few hours at a time. Safety first. The film was inspired by a 2008 New yorker article by Judith Thurman. Even though it's a documentary about a cave few people could pronounce let alone find on a map, the Web searches are soaring. Online lookups for the movie have spiked over 400% during the past week. Clearly, moviegoers are excited to join Herzog on his latest adventure. No special suit or shoes required.


The earth provided prehistoric man with a womb of sorts. Womb in the sense that caves provide warmth, shelter and protection as a mother does.  Archaeological investigation at numerous prehistoric cave sites have provided us with insight into ancient man's struggle for survival.

A significant number of these caves also show that man, at his earliest stages of development, enjoyed art in the form of cave paintings.  So it is ironic and fitting that one of the newest modern art forms, film, is capable of meticulously displaying perhaps one of man's oldest art forms.

Film director, writer, producer, actor and opera director Werner Herzog is considered by many to be the father of the New German Cinema. Francois Truffaut, himself a film legend, once remarked that Herzog was "the most important film director alive."

Werner Herzog has produced documentaries in scope, scale and diversity that is staggering. On location in the Amazon Rainforests of Peru, he unfolded a tragic and true story of a large, well equipped expeditionary force of conquistadors that literally disappeared searching for the fabled El Dorado in the film Aguirre, The Wrath of God.

And there is Encounters at the End of the World, where Herzog examines Antarctica. He gives us breathtaking views of the fauna and flora of the frozen continent. He also gets close and personal with the many scientists who are often imprisoned by the climate, but free to work on the cutting edge of science in that formidable land.

His Heart of Glass was about 18th Century Bavaria shot on location, of course. The oddity of this film is that all of the actors, save the antagonist, performed while under hypnosis. So most of the acting is quirky except for the antagonist's smooth performance. 

Documentaries do not have to be dull.  The "Earth" series, produced by BBC in two versions, one narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough and a twin narrated by Sigourney Weaver proved immensely popular, successful and quite educational. And the film The Madness of King George, a period piece from 18th Century England and the Regency Crisis of 1788, was not the usual cardboard stiff caricatures of the Royal Family. The film breathed life into the characters long since dead.

So Herzog, a Babe Ruth of filmdom, has made his newest project Cave of Forgotten Dreams. He captures artwork in the Chauvet-Pont-d'arc  Cave in southern France. The many paintings are estimated to be 30,000 to 32,000 years old. The cave and it's paintings were discovered in late December, 1994 less than two decades ago! This discovery will have significant applications in the study of art as well as in archaeology. How this treasure remained hidden and unspoiled for all these millennia is a mystery that hopefully will be revealed in what should be another jewel in Herzog's film crown.

Friday, February 25, 2011



In movie theatres April 15, 2011. Distributed by Dimension Films. Genres: Sequel, Thriller, Suspense, Horror. Scream 4 sees the return of the three main characters, along with a group of new stars.


SIDNEY PRESCOTT has been living the last few years of her life in relative silence. Now a guidance counselor for Woodsboro High School, her alma mater, she finally lives her life out of the media spotlight. But with the discovery of a murdered student, Sidney Prescott’s world will once again be ripped apart by the reemergence of Ghost Face.



Stars:  Neve Campbell
           Courteney Cox
           David Arquette

Producer: Michael Weinstein 

Director: Wes Craven

Writer:  Kevin Williamson


It was phenomenal! What can I say. This outshines the 3rd one easily. Definitely the bloodiest of all of them, but I feel like they’ll edit some of it down. An unrated DVD would be nice to have though. All the acting was superb. Not one flaw. The opening scene was hilarious and brutal. Definitely a lot of great Williamson writing. The characters all felt very genuine. Gale was back to her bitchy self, and had a bunch of great one-liners. The ending was insanity. Easily the best of all the series, in my opinion, anyways. The crowd experience was great, and everybody was totally into it. Cannot WAIT to see this in theaters come April. Hopefully they don’t change anything. Loved it loved it loved it.”


Please, somebody stab me!--Nope--done in Scream 1.  Ok, shoot me and stab me!--Nope--done in Scream 2. Well, how about shoot, stab and bludgeon me to death!--Nope-- that was Scream 3.  Let me ask you, is there really a plot for Scream 4?

If you are looking for a social metaphor for the sequence of the three movies, it is this:  Everyone connected to Woodsboro, California has serious mental problems. Nutballs all! For this college town there apparently is a total intellectual vacuum.  After years and years and agonizingly long years of repeated gruesome psycho murders in their small college community, how could the town, much less the college survive?  What degrees would be conferred? Mortuary discipline with emphasis on post mortem reconstruction from all that mayhem. There were so many town officials being killed off so often, who is left to run the town after a decade of murders? So many co-eds are killed that the college would have to offer, forgive the pun, cut rates in tuition to entice potential victims to the school and it's deadly courses and extracurricular activities.

You would think the plot would at least have an EPA representative in the film searching for a toxic waste dump. Why else would so many townspeople be turning into such savage killers in such a quaint town? Or why so many of the villagers are just too stupid not to move elsewhere?

The family dynamics in all the Scream movies have a brother, a mother, a sister, second cousins twice removed all involved with a passion in gruesome murders what would have made the Marquis de Sade proud--Yawn--boring.  Can't help not going back to the school where much of the violence takes place. Can you imagine the literature classes where yet another villain pens the lie:  How do I kill thee...  Let me count the ways...

Sorry to the fans of the series, but Scream 4 is going to be very predictable.  Someone with (again forgive the pun) an ax to grind, searches out the heroine in order to kill her for a perceived slight.  Woe be to anyone helping the heroine!

Hopefully the three main characters will be offed, so the writers and producers can search for fresh material to write and film.  I'm happy for everyone who made money on the first three films.  But a fourth in the series would be like watching Rocky XXXVIII.  How much drivel does Hollywood expect audiences to take?  Although I grant that long time fans are sure to see this latest installment, I still maintain that it will not have legs. We'll scream....see.

Saturday, February 19, 2011



In Movie Theaters: March 25, 2011. Distributed by: Truly Indie.  MPAA Rating:  PG.  Genre: Documentary. A look at the Vent Haven Convention, which bills itself as the ventriloquism capital of the world.


DUMSTRUCK takes us to the Vent Haven ConVENTion in Ft. Mitchell, KY—Ventriloquism Capital of the World—where Goffman discovers five extraordinary, real-life characters straight out of a Christopher Guest film. The ventriloquists’ career paths vary from one of bare subsistence to the meteoric rise of Terry Fator, who goes from struggling performer to million-dollar Vegas headliner during the making of the film.
“Goffman has made an artful film about the struggles and triumphs of unique brand of performers. He pulls you into their unusual, sort of absurd world and shows you an unexpectedly entertaining and touchingly human story,” said Kelly Sanders of Truly Indie. “We are delighted to help bring this film to a wider audience.”
Dumbstruck will begin its five-city debut with a premiere in front of Terry Fator’s home audience in Dallas on 3.26.2011, before expanding into New York, Los Angeles and other select markets.



Stars:  Bob Ashman,
          Maria Ashman,
          Willie Brown,
          Barry Burdette,

Producer:  Lindsay Goffman,

Director: Mark Goffman,


What works great in this documentary is how the film makers found people at different stages in the same hobby/career.  There is the 13-year old kid just starting out juxtaposed with the seasoned professional working on his first big Vegas act.  There's the former beauty queen (who did a ventriloquist act for the talent portions) looking to move beyond small-time gigs and land a job on a cruise ship, which is a very lofty goal considering the very small amount of job slots available.  And that is compared to the guy who has a sweet crusie ship gig, as well as other awesome paid jobs like flying out to Japan to teach a class, and has himself a nice ventriloquist career, but has to possibly pay for it all with his 25-year marriage, which is hurting due to his extensive amount of time "on the road"),  can't really be on the road if he's on cruise ships all the time).  And then there is the ventriloquist with no real professional aspirations outside of putting on little shows for kids and elderly folk and bringing a little bit of joy into other people's lives.


Whoa, back up!  Now and again something unusual appears on the radar screen that warrants another look.  So it is with Dumbstruck.  Its atypical subject certainly piques your interest about real people in roles playing themselves.

Vent Haven is a yearly convention of ventriloquists gathered from around the country.  I suspect these conventioneers range from the spectacularly talented to the dreadfully pathetic wannabe.  The film is supposed to follow five of the better hopefuls and takes occasional glances at a variety of others, an approach of the good, the bad and the ugly.

In all probability, the biggest fans of this film are likely to be mental health professionals, psychiatrists, sociologists and psychologists. They can dissect and analyze to their hearts content the limitless variety of characters, jokes and the performers themselves.

The current film teaser shows only three of the main performers who could not be more different.  First is an unusually tall, spinsterish fifty something lady.  She may not be much to look at, but her unscripted remarks are thoughtful and insightful.  She tells an unseen interviewer that being a technically proficient ventriloquist is the easiest part, anyone can do that.  But when she says you have to be funny to be successful, she is dead on target.

The second main performer is a former beauty queen who has an affinity for ventriloquism.  The third performer shown in the teaser is a precocious 10 year old who has performed since he was 5 years old.

Our psychological buffs will have a field day trying to discover why a particular puppet is developed by the performer. Those who have watched puppeteer ventriloquist Jeff Dunham perform realize the diverse range of alter egos Dunham has developed. There is the crotchety old man, a jalapeno pepper on a stick, a dead talking skeleton of a Muslim suicide bomber and a whimsical purple, wisecracking puppet.

Through these fanciful puppets, the ventriloquists may voice feelings and thoughts many would find offensive.  But the audiences who laugh at these tasteless but funny lines seem to find a way to vent by laughing.  The often tasteless jokes are the words of the puppet, not the puppeteer ventriloquist. The evidence shows that the audiences will forgive and praise the ventriloquist with approval and laughter. Too bad society can't laugh at itself instead of almost always trying to be politically correct, outraged and unhappy.  These ventriloquists and their humor can help lift us out of the collective dumps everyone seems to be in these days.