Thursday, June 12, 2008


Released: June 13, 2008
Reviewed: June 13, 2008
Rated: F
Please, a moment of silence for M. Night Shyamalan’s career. Though the priest has been tweaking his eulogy through a string of the director’s recent works –Signs, The Village and the tragically awful Lady in the Water- he can officially commence with the funeral now. The Happening is a disaster.

Actually, its dreary premise –some mysterious airborne agent leaves people in the Northeast with a short-circuited brain that makes them suicidal- is kooky but tolerable. And its stars -Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel play a couple going through marital woes- are respectable. Sadly, everything else about the film is put together with the intricacy of toilet paper from Dollar General.

The weird happenings start in Central Park, but they blow their way over to Philly in a hurry. Those fortunate to get on the first train out of town do just that. Of course, Elliot (Wahlberg), his wife, good friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter find a seat. The Harrisburg-bound locomotive loses communication and is forced to stop in some small town off the map. The scared many gather at a diner. When word gets to them that the terrorist gas, nuclear exhaust, plant toxin or whatever it may be is headed their way, everyone scatters for their cars… Wait, cars?! Weren’t they just on a train? How in the hell could Elliot’s crew be the only ones left in the parking lot? Oh, c’mon, M. Night. You gotta come better than that, homie.

And if that weren’t skin irritating enough, Elliot manages a wardrobe change halfway in, even though he’s been running through grassy Pennsylvania fields all day without anything resembling luggage by his side. Logic, be damned!

The notes say this movie was filmed in 44 days. Any half-witted filmgoer will insist that one of the 4s has to be a typo. There’s just no other way that a big-budgeted production could end up feeling like a Tales From The Crypt episode if it were given the proper parameters to work in.

Beyond those inexcusable sequential missteps, Shyamalan also fails to enthrall creatively. Scenes where the infected kill themselves are gratuitously stupid, not genuinely scary. When the camera does that M. Night trademarked follow-the-beaded-eyes thing, there’s rarely anything work caring about at the other end. And those slick endings dude is known for? Maaaaan, Titanic has a more complex finish.

But hey, at least there’s a lot of blood in Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature. Ironically though, nothing dies more spectacularly over the course of this flop than the odds of M. Night ever shaking the one-trick pony tag attached to his name.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yes, the late Sydney Pollack's legacy should probably begin with him directing Tootsie and Out of Africa. But on a personal level, the fact that he produced two of my favorite films -Sliding Doors and Catch a Fire- resonates even more powerfully. And honestly, I'll never forget his dead-on portrayal of firm shot-caller Marty Bach in 2007's finest film Michael Clayton either.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Yep, that's Robert Downey Jr. in blackface. No, Al Sharpton has not already purchased his tickets off Fandango.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Iron Man

Released: May 2, 2008
Reviewed: May 2, 2008
Rated: B+

Spider-Man was beautifully shot. Batman Begins had texture and depth. This joint has those qualities, too, but its shining feature lies in its wit. While some of that credit should go the way of writers who’ve added a quip here and there over the Marvel Comic-based flick’s decade-long development, most of it needs to be handed to the man behind the mask, Robert Downey Jr. For the talented actor to pull off Tony Stark, zillionaire weapons designer and head of Stark Industries, Downey Jr. had to embody everything about the man- his vices, his eccentricities, his controversial headlines, his… Wait, that is Robert Downey Jr.

From the opening scene, he’s in full garb. Three American soldiers and Stark are riding in a humvee in the bowels of an Afghani desert. The trooper driving the vehicle starts talking. Stark nearly drops his drink –Yep, he’s drinking! In a humvee! In an Afghanistan war zone!- because he never realizes the heavily-draped soldier is actually a woman. The laugh only lasts a split second because the convoy is ambushed.

When Stark wakes from his near-death experience, he’s in a cave with an Afghani doctor who’s built some sort of contraption in Tony’s chest to keep all the shrapnel from the attack from getting into his bloodstream. The thing doesn’t really make sense, but it does look kinda cool protruding from his breastplate. Oh, and one other thing: There’s this menacing terrorist leader with a Stark Industries-issued gun to Tony’s head, demanding the engineering genius build him one of Stark’s prized Jericho missiles in a week. From a cave! With scrap parts! Stark builds something alright; unfortunately, for the rogue outfit, the something resembles Voltron more than a scud. Needless to say, the man of iron escapes evil’s clasp and returns a changed man to a feverish American press, a caring secretary (Gwyneth Paltrow), a crazy, gadget-filled house and a discontent business partner, Obadiah (Jeff Bridges).

Marvel fanatics won’t be the only ones to tell that something about Obadiah isn’t right. But director Jon Favreau (Elf) doesn’t try to make the whole hero/villain thing terribly complex. He’d much rather spend the allotted budget showing off new Audis and Verizon phones and hilariously chronicle the trials of building a sleeker Iron Man. And trust, you’d much rather watch Stark soar 60,000 feet up or fight a bizzaro iron thingie in the L.A. streets that Obie’s henchmen have assembled.

Terrence Howard plays a decorated military friend of Stark’s. Early on, he’s more of a father-like chaperon than anything else. By film’s end, Tony needs no guidance. He’s dumped the guns-for-economic-gain approach and the Maxim girls. He’s a compassionate superhero. With flaws! And the summer movie season is all the safer because of it.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Common talks his spring movie Street Kings and his summer album Invincible Summer.

Common lives a double life. For the past 10 years in the recording studio, the conscious Chicago MC has gushed about black love and an inner-city resurgence on superb albums like One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Be and Finding Forever. For the past few years on the big screen, however, the artisan has walked in the shoes of hitmen (Smokin’ Aces) and hustlers-in-training (American Gangster). Keeping the theme of uplifting musician by day and down low parasite at night, Common is back in theatres this month as a crocked cop in the violent L.A.P.D. drama Street Kings. But rest easy, hip hop fans. Rashied “Common” Lynn hasn’t altogether abandoned the cause. As he’ll detail in just a bit, a new album is on the way and it promises to be a fun, uplifting summer number— perfect to balance out things for when he starts shooting up the projector again in the June blockbuster Wanted.

How’d you get attached to this bloody picture?
My agent told me about the script. I read the script and then he said I could go ahead and audition. I went to audition at [director] David Ayers’ office. I remember the lights had went out that day. It was some type of blackout. I went in there and just gave it my all. We got a good call back that said, “Hey, you got the part.” It was a great experience. I love the process of auditioning because it’s such a humbling experience.

What’s your motivation for wanting to get into acting?
I wanted to express myself in a new way artistically, and it had to be something that I was passionate about, too. I took some acting courses, some classes, and I was so enthused about it. I feel like, “Man, I can’t wait to go to the next acting class.” I was discovering a lot of things about myself. I mean, I am discovering a lot of things through the process of acting. I’ve since come to find out you discover a lot of things about other people as you take on these characters. You learn more about people. Also you just learn more information. If you’re taking on a character of being a pastor, you’re going to have to learn about being in the pulpit and learn more about the Bible. You take on these things while you’re researching. I love to learn, so I think that helps me as far as being passionate.

You played a hitman in your last movie, so what are you learning?
That it’s fun. Nah, I guess I’m learning that the things that you do do not denote you as being all bad. Just because in Smokin’ Aces I played Sir Ivy, who was this right-hand man to a hustler –he was a hustler himself- he wasn’t just a bad person. I guess what I’m discovering is that everybody has good and bad in them. I could play a pastor and within that character there still might be some lust going on. He still may be doing dirty things within the church. It’s good and bad in all people. Some people’s background and what they’ve been exposed to is why they end up being in those [unfortunate] situations. As Coates in Street Kings, I went to Compton and I went to Watts. I discovered a new part of L.A. that I felt was necessary for me to know because when I come here, I’m around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood area. I need to see the grit and I needed to feel the ghetto and another soul of this city. It was important for me to see that. That research helps me in understanding people. Like I said, it allows you not to judge when you see somebody. You try to come to more of an understanding.

What was that first Compton and Watts experience like?
One of the times I drove through it was a police assignment ‘cuz I was learning more about being a police officer and deputy sheriff. I was driving through and a lot of the cats [in the neighborhood] were like, “Hey, that look like Common right there!” I was hoping they didn’t think I was like a police informant or something. Anyway, you go to observe and try not to make specimens out of the people. It’s people that are living this life. I try to look at each aspect of the ghetto because the ghetto has beauty to it, too. It’s a certain village atmosphere. It’s tribal and it’s community still. You try to look at those things and acknowledge the positives and negatives. That’s pretty much what I did. I didn’t actually go get an apartment. But I did what I call “touch down” with the people.

Common, what’s interesting is how on the screen you’re primarily these bad asses, but on your CDs you’re one of the most likeable cats in the worlds. You like walking both sides?
When I first began acting, I would tell my teacher that I wanted to do some dark roles. I’m always viewed as the poet, conscious, loving guy. That’s who I am. That’s the core of me. But there are some darker things that I felt could be expressed. It also gave me the opportunity to be an actor, to take on a role that was different from me. When you’re playing yourself, you don’t get acknowledged. For me, as an artist, I feel it’s more challenging to be an actor that takes on roles that really become a character who does things different from who I am. I’ve done some of these dark characters. I’m looking forward to doing something like playing a priest or a banker. I have had guns in most of my films. This is total opposite of Common.

What are you playing in Wanted as the Gunsmith?
The Gunsmith, as much as “gun” is in his name, is more of a peaceful, calm spirit. He’s more of a Buddha-like person in a certain way. He’s a part of a fraternity that are assassins. These assassins issue out fate. They tell us who we’re supposed to go take out. It’s the will of fate. It’s not like a bad thing that these assassins are doing. The Gunsmith is the calm spirit of that team that actually trains everybody with their weapons.

The movie looks wild.
Man, I’m really excited about that movie. It looks like something I’ve never seen before—from the storyline to the way it looks and the effects that it has. Also, just the diversity of the cast [is amazing]. You hit every facet. There’s Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, James McAvoy, Common. All of these different genres. And if I could say humbly, I think they chose some good people to be a part of it. I’ve only seen the first 20 minutes of the film and I’m like, “Man, I can’t believe I’m a part of this.” I’m excited about it. We just did some re-shoots the other day. Even James was talking to me like, “Man, I think this is a good movie.” I could tell he’s critical about things.

You’ve been around some serious Oscar power: Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and here with Forest Whitaker. What has that been like?
All I can do is smile. Like you said, working with Oscar winners is kinda like a dream in a way. To sit across the table and do a scene with Denzel Washington and to go and do a re-shoot with Morgan Freeman [is amazing]. It’s funny ‘cuz in one of the scenes I was driving and he was in the backseat. So, it was a reverse of Driving Miss Daisy. I was “Driving Mr. Freeman.” I didn’t get to tell him that. I forgot. But I’ll tell him sooner than later. I’m just enthused. I want to surround myself with that type of talent ‘cuz that will help me to grow. That’s the pedigree of artists that I wanna work with. I feel like, me as a musician, I set a certain tone and certain integrity of the way I wanna put art out. I wanna do the same thing as an actor.

You working on the next album after Finding Forever?
Yeah, the new album is called Invincible Summer. It will be out in the later part of June. The music sounds new. It’s really developing. I’m really happy about it. It feels good. It’s not really heavy. The Neptunes are producing a lot of it. Also a producer named Mr. DJ [is on the project]. He did a lot of work with Outkast. He did “Bombs Over Bahgdad” and “Ms. Jackson.” These cats are really giving me some new, fresh sounds. I’m taking it somewhere vocally that I haven’t been before. I’m enthused. I’m really excited. I think it’ll be a great summer album. I wanna make people smile and enjoy life. As much as I wanna make them think, it’s important that they smile, too.

So, there will be a couple of club tracks in there?
When I went on the Kanye West “Glow in the Dark” tour in Europe, I was overseas and just saw people partying overseas. Seeing the music that they were partying to was just a good feeling. I was like, “Wait, none of my sons are being played over here!” What am I missing in my music repertoire? You never stray away from [positive] music. You always need music that’s uplifting and conscious, but you also sometimes wanna relax and party. At a party, you might not wanna hear those things at that time.

Common, why didn’t you mention Kanye’s name as a producer for this new CD?
With Kanye, point blank, I’m on G.O.O.D. Music [Records]. We’re always going to collaborate. If he’s not producing it, he’s gonna executive produce it and say, “Yo, Rash, we need to do these things with it.” He’ll always be a part of it, but right now he’s focusing on getting his tour together, this “Glow in the Dark” tour. I always go with the flow of things. This is what I’m doing for this album. On the next album, Kanye and I will be working on it with some other new artists. But I think this will give it something fresh and it’ll give it more spice when Kanye and I get back together. Who knows? He may do something for this album, too, because I’m not finished.

How do you even have time to make music?
Right now, I’m just focusing on the movies. I love music. God willing, I feel like I could do that for the rest of my life. I would be in a jazz club-like setting but it would be hip hop. Movies are something I focus on. I just look for the right next project. I audition and focus on that. The music comes so naturally after that. When I’m working on something else, the music becomes freer. When I’m expressing myself artistically over here, it allows me to not put as much pressure on the music. It’s not my only source of income. It’s not my only creative outlet.

What are your thoughts about artists who strictly record for the purpose of selling ringtones?
For me, a lot of rappers have come from places where they didn’t get to appreciate the artform. They didn’t feel hip hop when it was just so pure and it was like a thing of just fun. It wasn’t about business. Now they approach hip hop from a business perspective. It’s much more than that. You gotta let the art be the art and let the business take care of that afterward. Of course, I’m not one who approaches music and goes into the studio saying, “I’m going to make this so it can be a corporate song. This is going to make this person’s ringtone.” I’m not really a supporter of that, but if a person chooses to do it and that’s what they want their career to be, that’s for them. I’m thinking more from a longer term and just being an artist and an actor.

Do people know that you write children’s books?
Nah, they don’t.

Where did that come from?
I have a daughter that’s 10 years old. Also, I love the effect that music and art has on the children. I love the results of seeing children singing songs, knowing that it really influences them and impacts their lives. I was like, “Man, let me do these children’s books that I feel could be in a language and be something they would be interested in.” I also felt like children’s books would be lessons that adults could get. I was taking stories that could be adult stories, but putting them in children’s form. [I did] love lessons, lessons about not losing yourself in love. But I put it in a children’s story. That’s something that I gotta be reminded of sometimes.

Are you actually doing the long-rumored Justice League of America movie?
I can’t really talk about that situation, to be honest. I wish I could but I can’t.

That sounds like a possibility if you can’t talk about it…
[Common raises his brow] You’re intelligent.

You can talk about the Common Ground Foundation, right?
Hip hop is definitely a great communicator of art. Kids respond to hip hop. I respond to hip hop. Nationalities just respond to hip hop all over the world. When you say hip hop, it’s not only music; it’s a culture. We use all these attractive things about hip hop to educate the youth. Our premise is to empower them, to teach them about health, self-love, educate them academically and just [teach] them about community and entrepreneurship. Some of the ways we do that is through hip hop. They create their own videos, expressive ways for them to do it. My children’s books, I think, can teach them, too. Actually, some music that hip hop artists do are ways of teaching. I’ve learned a lot through artists like KRS-One and Rakim.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Released- March 21, 2008
Reviewed- March 21, 2008
Rated- B+

There are prejudices amidst all the nationalities. In some circles, dark-skinned blacks have a history with light-skinned blacks. Poorer whites haven’t always seen eye to eye with wealthy whites. And according to this amazing family drama, some Mexico-born Hispanics have issues with U.S.-born Hispanics. Marta (America Ferrera) is a cash-strapped college student from the States who hustles up tuition money by transporting illegals into California via a secret compartment in her minivan. When she approaches a fellow trafficker about her services, the Mexican lady is offended and accuses Marta of thinking she’s better than the natives. Marta shamefully leaves, only to be later approached by Carlitos (an unforgettable Adrian Alonso), a boy of about 10 determined to get to his mother in Los Angeles. Poor economics are the only reason son and mother aren’t united. As a housekeeper in L.A., Rosario (Kate del Castillo) is able to send money to Carlitos so he can have birthday parties and some semblance of a decent childhood. But when the kid’s grandmother dies, nice sneakers can’t even keep Carlitos from risking life (Marta’s smuggling ploy is a disaster) and limb (run-in with junkies; runs from the INS) to get to his mom’s arms.

Mostly a sparkling display of love’s true force, Director Patricia Riggen’s film also serves as a bit of social commentary aimed at arrogant xenophobes who denounce immigrants but have nothing but devotion for “foreigners” like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Superman. You’ll laugh during the lighter moments. You’ll cry at others. But ultimately you’ll realize that under the same circumstances, you’d probably do the same things to unite your own family. -DW

Monday, March 17, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008


Released- March 7, 2008
Reviewed- March 7, 2008
Rated- C-

Even with a college education, this one might throw you for a loop. First off, why in the name of all things scholastic is this movie called College Road Trip when it carries a 'G' rating and has more Disney-like antics than back-to-back episodes of That's So Raven? And really, what's with Martin Lawrence and Kym Whitley being a couple? Their marriage is about as believable as Martin allowing his own science lab-obsessed son and pet pig to run through the house like his character does here. But now that I'm thinking about it, the pesky porker may have been the best thing about the whole far-out romp. Don't get me wrong. The movie's lead, Raven-Symone, is her usually-cute, mature-beyond-her-years self. It's just that the material she's been asked to work with never had a chance of earning a passing grade.

Lawrence, who works the overprotective father role to decent results, wants his daughter to attend Northwestern University in neighboring Chicago. Like any independence-seeking teen, Raven (whose drivers license actually says 22 years old) would rather study law at Georgetown in Washington D.C. They ultimately visit both. Unfortunately for them, the road between the esteemed institutions is paved with a freak car accident, a runaway pig and a slumber party invasion from Martin. Trust me, it's ALL unfortunate for the viewer. Had this menially funny movie been more appropriately named, say, Middle School Musical, it may have all made better sense. -DW

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Music to Our Eyes

Got two interesting emails about exciting movies officially in development. The films just happen to be about two of my favorite musicians ever, Bob Marley and the Notorious B.I.G. The Weinstein Company has acquired the movie rights to develop, produce and distribute the first ever biopic about the iconic Jamaican performer. The feature, which doesn't have a start-filming or release date as of yet, will be based on the 2004 book No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley, which was written by Marley's widow, Rita.

Notorious, the long-discussed picture about the late NYC rapper the Notorious B.I.G., has finally found its lead. The young man who will step into Biggie Smalls' shoes is Brooklyn native Jamal "Gravy" Woolard (pictured). But Woolard isn't the only one stepping into imposing shadows in this George Tillman-directed feature. Angela Bassett is set to play B.I.G.'s mom, Vonetta Wallace. Derek Luke is going to be Sean "Puffy" Combs. Anthony Mackie will portray Biggie's friend-turned-foe Tupac Shakur. Filming will start on March 24. Notorious is scheduled for a January '09 release.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Country For Gold Men

Though I could really care less about how Nicole Kidman looks on the red carpet, I annually find myself glued to the tube when the Academy Awards come on. Who minds if it's nearly four hours long? (Wait, don't answer that...) With the writers strike threatening like a thunder cloud, the damn thing almost got washed away. It kinda felt like my duty to halfway laugh at host Jon Stewart's jokes during this 80th edition. While figuring out if Stewart's "Hadolf Tilbert" bit was more funny or tacky, I noticed these 10 other things:

1. Asking Marketa Irglova (above), writer/singer of the Oscar-winning number from Once, to come back on stage because she wasn't given ample time to make her acceptance speech was one of the classiest moves I've ever seen on television.

2. And speaking of time, it's just not fair that some people get 5 seconds (Best Animated Short- Peter & the Wolf) and others get nearly 5 minutes (Best Animated Feature- Ratatouille). Sure, more folks wanna hear what actor Daniel Day-Lewis has to say than the gal who did the set decorations for Swenney Todd. But fair is only fair. The folks behind the scene spend hundreds of hours making sure these flicks look/sound/feel good for us. This is pretty much the only night that their faces are ever seen. Academy, show some love by muzzling Bill Conti's band a bit.

3. Though Day-Lewis (who's absolutely haunting in There Will Be Blood) and No Country For Old Men's Javier Bardem (ditto) were as close to guarantees as to be had on the night, the two men still stood at the podium with modesty and a sense of surprise in their voice. No wonder they received the two highest male acting awards!

4. Did Atonement win anything?! I can't comment much on the picture because I never saw it, but who in the world nominated that movie for the big prizes? None of the entertainment mags said it had a shot. None of my friends or colleagues in journalism had much positive to say about it. None of the unscientific visitor polls thought it deserved to win. Odd, odd, odd.

5. Tilda Swinton won a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as a spinning PR head for a corrupt company in Michael Clayton. She was solid but she was easily the third most memorable person in that movie. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson deserved wins more.

6. Seeing Owen Wilson on stage was a pleasant surprise.

7. Watching Norbit go home with nothing was not.

8. I'm still amazed Ruby Dee was nominated for her itsy bitsy time in American Gangster.

9. I still can't believe the creepy guy (Paul Dano) from There Will Be Blood wasn't.

10. I'm embarrassed not to have seen any of the movies nominated for Best Documentary Feature. I promise that Spoiler Room will have reviews for Sicko, War/Dance or Taxi to the Dark Side before it's all said and done though.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Released- February 8, 2008
Reviewed- February 8, 2008
Rated- C+

The biggest roadblock in Malcolm D. Lee’s prodigal son comedy is, well, Malcolm D. Lee. What the usually-sharp director (The Best Man, Roll Bounce) begins as a decent laugher about talk show host R.J. Stevens (Martin Lawrence) reluctantly coming home for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration, still trips into the same slapstick-heavy silliness of Norbit. That didn’t have to be the case.

Truthfully, R.J.’s awkward-child-turned-big-time-star story was funny enough. He’s milking this black Dr. Phil thing to perfection. He’s got a smart, loving son and he’s engaged to a reality show stunner (Joy Bryant) that’s higher maintenance than the Biltmore Estate. Martin’s plenty talented to make it all gut-busting and ring halfway believable, too. So, when R.J. packs up the Louis Vuitton bags for his first weekend in Dry Springs in nine years, you’re ready for the trip, too.

Why the unwillingness to go home from RJ’s end? Three words: crazy ass family. If you had an oversized sheriff brother (Michael Clarke Duncan), a mess-startin’ cousin (Mo’Nique) and another hilarious relative who’d steal the thin mints out the Girl Scouts basket (Mike Epps), you’d probably be hesitant to uproot that side of the family tree yourself. But none of them are even R.J.’s biggest problem. That would be another character, the super-competitive Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who also happens to be all hugged up at the picnic table with R.J.’s –Actually, in this neck of the woods, Stevens goes by “Roscoe”- longtime crush (Nicole Ari Parker).

With all of this potential hilariousness sitting at the script’s disposal, you’d think Lee would have enough to make for an hour and a half romp in the Georgia clay. But somehow the man who brought the world Undercover Brother cheapens the jokes with a damn skunk attack, sex-crazed dogs and a sophomoric fighting sequence between Mo’ and Martin that we all could’ve done just fine without. Though these are the only instances of letdown in an otherwise-pleasing family comedy, they are moments that simply come at the wrong times. Lee, don’t get us wrong. We’ll still recommend this visit down to the Jenkins’ place, but we do so with the promise that everyone’s on the first plane back to responsible filmmaking in the morning. -DW

Friday, February 1, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008


Released- January 18, 2008
Reviewed- January 18, 2008
Rated- B
Everyone’s gathered for Rob’s surprise going-away party. Lily (Jessica Lucas, the cutest in the bunch of relative newbies) is there. Rob’s (Michael Stahl-David) brother, Jason (Mike Vogel), is there. Hud (T.J. Miller), Rob’s best friend and the guy chronicling the night behind a camcorder, is there. Other well wishers who’ve come to bid ado to their pal before he leaves for a job in Japan are just having a grand ol’ time. Beth (Odette Yustman), Rob’s secret crush, also shows up. Only she brings some dude with her.

Hud and Jason try to offer their boy some support, but before they can get to the heart of the… Boom! There’s a huge explosion. People scramble to the roof to see what all the commotion is about. A bellow of smoke engulfs a skyscraper off in the distance. Is it 9/11 all over again? Bang! Another Manhattan-rattling blast. This time folks scamper to the streets. Hud’s still holding the camcorder, capturing every stumble and jerk for you in the theatre. Out of nowhere, the Statue of Liberty’s head comes hurling down the block. This moment is over-the-top and out-of-this-world, all in the same gasp. Clearly, this ain’t the work of Bin Laden. This is something that’s been hiding and feels its time to strike humans is right now. The masses, scurrying to get off the island, pack the Brooklyn Bridge. Either the shear weight of escapees topples the landmark or the thing terrorizing the city makes it crumble. Whatever the cause, Jason and countless others die in the carnage.

If you haven’t gotten nauseous with all the screams and the screen’s incessant jittering by this point, you probably won’t. And that’s good news because you’ll need all of your bodily facilities in working order for this movie. Instances of fear, humor and angst sometimes happen within seconds of each other. Emotionally, this ride is a lot. Like World Trade Center, Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project all spliced into a single, action-packed flick, Cloverfield works a number on your every neuron. Romantics will feel for Rob’s selfless quest to find Beth alive in her destroyed apartment. Sci-fi nuts will go ape shit over the monster thingie knocking over 200-story buildings like Jenga blocks. Cinematography buffs will probably construct a shrine in honor of director Matt Reeves and producer J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) for their stunning, headache-inducing visuals.

This gloomy movie initially got pub for its grassroots internet marketing. It’ll earn a spot on the shelf next to other well-done apocalyptic fare of late like The Mist and I Am Legend for its dark, can’t-look-away tone. If what Hollywood says in pictures like Cloverfield is true, the end may actually be near. Get on your knees. Read Nostradamus. Say some Hail Marys. Do whatever it is you gotta do for a peace of mind. For this one, you’ll just want to make sure to have some buttered popcorn beside you while you’re doing it. -DW

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I had the pleasure of interviewing the late Heath Ledger this past November. Here's that story...

It takes a special kind of actor to willingly step into as bizarre a role as the one of Robbie, one of six incarnations of music legend Bob Dylan in the trippy new flick I’m Not There. But let Heath Ledger tell it, saying yes to Todd Haynes’ movie was nothing. Good director. Good part. When do we start? Such a response shouldn’t be shocking from the Australian hunk though. Over his impressive 15-year career, Heath’s boldly portrayed a gay (Brokeback Mountain), a straight shooter (The Patriot) and a crooked lover (Casanova), all in convincing fashion. Next summer he’s upping the ante big time and going after Gotham City as The Dark Knight’s Joker. As for now, he’s with us, shedding some light on being Bob, being Batman’s nemesis and being a daddy.

A lot of younger audiences today aren’t as aware of Bob Dylan as their parent’s generation. Do you feel an audience needs a certain awareness of Dylan in order to understand I’m Not There?
I don’t think you need to be a Dylan genius in order to appreciate it. As a story, as a film, the experience of it, ‘cause it is a film, it is a movie. It’s not a quiz, there’s no Q & A afterwards. Quite frankly I think the less you know the better off you’re going to be because you’re not going to be straining yourself to try to digest every single line of dialogue. You’re just gonna strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Your character “Robbie” represents Bob’s tumultuous personal life. What did you discover about the man himself in preparing for this role?
About “Robbie” or about Bob?

About Bob.
Umm, I dunno, because essentially Todd kind of dissected Bob and I was like an amputated limb, so I was just concentrating on one arm of Bob Dylan. Likewise Todd dissected the script too and handed us little short films, and we just concentrated on our individual stories. I tend to feel that the story of my character and Charlotte’s (Gainsbourg) character lives with him and the circumstances of the era represented more a portrait of Dylan than perhaps the individual. I dunno, at the end of the day I read the books, I watched the documentaries, my catalogue of Dylan’s music was expanded, but the beauty of Todd’s film is I can’t tell you that I know anything more about Bob Dylan than you do. I think that’s beautiful, that Todd attempted to respectfully preserve Bob Dylan’s mystique, and has respectfully kept him in the shadows still.

How has music affected your life?
Oh gosh. Where do I start? Music? On so many levels, it has affected my life and still continues to. One example, to me, singer/songwriters, poets, Dylan or whoever, to me it’s such a pure expression or song from the soul and it deeply connects to mine. It has always been the key to kind of unlock or enable me to express anger or pains of any sort. So, it’s always been a wonderful excuse for me to express creatively and personally.

When you’re playing an iconic figure like Dylan or, say, the Joker, is it helpful to go back and read all of the past stuff and look at all of the past stuff based on that character?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think it’s necessary and I think it’s unnecessary. We can prepare. We can over prepare. We can under prepare. It’s all just to feed our superstitious needs and to comfort ourselves. At the end of the day, you usually just have an understanding about what it is you’re going to do. It’s innately it’s kind of embedded somewhere inside. I was definitely a fan of Dylan. Dylan was definitely someone I had felt I had scheduled somewhere in the future down the line to become obsessed by. I do become obsessed by people, musicians and artists. But I think Todd prematurely invited me into that experience on this film. And the Joker, yeah, I was definitely a fan of what Jack Nicholson did and the world Tim Burton created. I can tell you now that if Tim Burton was directing The Dark Knight and he came and asked me to play the Joker, I’d say, No. You couldn’t reproduce what Jack did. The reason why I confidently stepped in those shoes was when Chris [Nolan, The Dark Knight director] asked me, I had seen Batman Begins and I knew the world that he created. I also knew that there was a different angle to be taken. That’s why I did it.

Heath, as a dad, how do you relate to this role?
The same as if I wasn’t a dad. (Pause) No, okay. I guess just like anyone in this industry, like yourselves or the crews on movies, it’s a fairly Gypsy-esque lifestyle. I can certainly relate to that, struggling to keep a consistency with family life (Heath has a child with Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams) and your social life and your professional life. It’s both an annoyance and also an addiction. I can definitely relate to it. I didn’t agree with Robbie and a lot of his actions and his words, it’s not my job to agree, but I can try to relate and understand.


Released- January 18, 2008
Reviewed- January 18, 2008
Rated- B
If a chick flick befalls on the masses and nobody (not even the guys) is disappointed, does it still make for a chick flick? Fellas secure in their manhood asked a similarly profound question after enjoying 50 First Dates and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. This latest manhood-questioning laugher has lots in common with those female-friendly films besides numbers in the name. Star Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up) walks that likeable walk Kate Hudson and Drew Barrymore have become famous for. And while you’d happily take any of them to mom’s house for dinner, none are of that drop-dead gorgeous mold Hollywood loves so. This time around Heigl is the super-organized, hopeless romantic Jane, a CEO’s assistant at an REI-like outfitter. She’s got the hots for her eco-cutie of a boss (Edward Burns) but like with most things in her life, can’t find the guts to say how she feels. One night at a party, however, the perfect moment presents itself. Jane’s dream guy is at the bar. She takes a deep breath and walks in his direction. Just as she’s making her final approach, Jane’s visiting sister (Malin Akerman) swoops in and beats her to the hunk. On the outside, Jane appears happy for the couple’s courtship and fast engagement, but deep down she’s torn apart by it all. Still, like any good sis, she plans the wedding’s every detail, from the cake to the toasts. Amazingly, 26 times before, she’s been asked to do the same thing for friends. (Two of those occasions happen on the same night in the movie; watching Heigl hightail it to both on-screen is a blast.) James Marsden plays Kevin, a New York Journal weddings section writer assigned to do a story on the upcoming nuptials. He’s a marriage-hating cynic, but he’s got sparkling eyes and a decent reason for being so gloom. Kevin and Jane are worlds apart on matters of the heart, but you just know director Anne Fletcher’s gonna come up with cute ways to have their Rolodexes meet. Chuckle-inducing lines are showered about Aline Brosh McKenna’s (The Devil Wears Prada) script. Pacing is fluid and upbeat. Men will have so much fun that, by the time the last bride makes her predictable walk down the aisle, they’ll need a Kleenex or two—not to collect their joyous tears but to shield the approving smiles on their faces from their significant others. -DW