Trailer: “The Wilde Wedding” with Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close, and John Malkovich

Posted on August 17, 2017 at 8:00 am

This looks delightful!  And yes, that’s Patrick Stewart in a wig.

Now-retired film star Eve Wilde (Glenn Close) prepares for her wedding to husband number four, renowned English writer Harold Alcott (Patrick Stewart), after a whirlwind courtship. At her upstate New York home – in the presence of both Wilde’s first husband, celebrated stage actor Laurence Darling (John Malkovich), and their collective families (Minnie Driver, Jack Davenport, Yael Stone, Peter Facinelli, Noah Emmerich, Grace Van Patten) – the long summer weekend offers the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other a bit more intimately. As sexual sparks begin to fly, there are unforeseen consequences abound.

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Comedy Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Deepwater Horizon

Posted on September 29, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Copyright 2016 Lionsgate
Copyright 2016 Lionsgate
I’m a fan of director Peter Berg. His excellent “Friday Night Lights” film has been eclipsed by the popular television series it inspired. And I like the much-derided “Battleship,” which I thought was a great example of well-executed action movie, taking its entertainment value seriously without taking itself too seriously. His new “Deepwater Horizon,” based on the 2010 explosion and sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, shows his skill in cinematic storytelling and his gift for pacing and action. But it is curiously constructed, as though for a fictional story more along the lines of Bruce Willis fighting a meteor than a real-life environmental catastrophe that killed 11 people and spread an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It should be an action-movie version of “The Big Short.” Instead, it’s an updating of “The Towering Inferno,” meaning — spoiler alert — the bad guy is the one who tries to cut costs.

Berg and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand follow the established formula for action films. The first ten minutes make us fall in love with the hero, his adoring wife, and adorable child. That’s not hard to do. The hero is Mike Williams, Mark Wahlberg, his wife is Felicia (Kate Hudson), and their daughter happens to be working on a report for school about Daddy’s job, which gives us a chance to find out about some very technical stuff in very simple terms. Daddy works on an oil rig out in the middle of the Gulf that pumps up oil from under the ocean. “That oil is a monster like the dinosaurs it used to be. My daddy tames the dinosaurs.” And Mommy will miss him very much when he goes. They are adorable. Got it.

The next scene introduces us to hero number 2, the weary veteran who is all about competence and integrity, Captain Jimmy Harrell, superbly played by Hudson’s real-life dad, Kurt Russell. And then there are the guys in suits, who are all about making their numbers and therefore cutting the corners that the veterans knows are not there for show but are actually necessary. There’s a lot of jargon, but basically all you need to know is that the good guys understand that there may be a problem and the bad guys do not want to take the steps necessary to find or prevent it. And the good guys are really endearing, and therefore it all matters a lot.

And then it all starts to blow up, and we get to the real reason for the movie, which is the “who will get out of this and how will they do it?” part. This is where Berg’s strengths really show, as each of the set-pieces are thrillingly staged. He has an exceptional clarity in conveying a three-dimensional space on screen — actually, several of them in different locations — and balancing the urgency of the action with genuine emotion. We see how the people on board think through the problems, from the logistics and the mechanics to the choices based in morality and courage. Wahlberg is, as ever, just right to play the guy you’d like to have next door, a decent, hard-working, family-loving man with enormous capability and integrity. Here, as in their previous collaboration, “Lone Survivor,” Berg keeps the focus on the challenges faced by individuals who have little control over the monumental, life-or-death tasks they are assigned by people far away with little understanding of the consequences of their orders. That worked better in the earlier film, as the story of the soldier far from command has existential implications that are inherent and instantly recognized. Here, the action is disconnected from the consequences that a brief text coda before the credits cannot make up for.

Parents should know that the movie includes extensive peril and violence, with some disturbing images and characters injured and killed, some strong language, and sexual references and a situation.

Family discussion: Why do the people on the rig use the term “Mr.”? Who could have prevented the explosion?

If you like this, try: “The 33” and the documentary about Deepwater Horizon, “The Great Invisible”

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Action/Adventure Based on a true story

Penguins of Madagascar

Posted on November 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 26, 2014
Date Released to DVD: March 16, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00SK573RU

The most adorable characters from the first three animated “Madagascar” movies were the penguins, the seldom right but never in doubt leader Skipper (Tom McGrath), the often right but never listened to Kowalski (Chris Miller), the literally explosive Rico (Conrad Vernon), and the ever-loyal Private (Christopher Knights). They spun off into their own television series and now they star in their first feature film, a sublimely silly spy farce that has them globe-hopping through exotic locations with a cosmopolitan spy (Benedict Cumberbatch) in pursuit of a dastardly villain known as Dr. Octavious Brine, aka Dave (John Malkovich). It is one of the best family films of the year.

Copyright DreamWorks 2014
Copyright DreamWorks 2014

First, we get the origin story, hilariously narrated in the inimitable voice of director/documentarian Werner Herzog. It is Antarctica, and a film crew led by a cartoon Herzog (who did make a movie in Antarctica, “Encounters at the End of the World”) is there to shoot the march of the penguins. But Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico step out of line to rescue an egg that is rolling away, and the decision to think for themselves and to opt for adventure and loyalty to the team over tradition and instinct — plus a more-than-healthy dose of boundless confidence and optimism soon has them floating away from the frozen South Pole and on their way to uncharted lands, or lands uncharted by any penguins anyway. The egg they have saved finally hatches, and while they are a bit distressed to find that the miracle of birth is messier than they thought, they are charmed by the tiny hatchling and especially by the way they imprint on him as the only family he has ever known.

We next see the penguins years later, following the events of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. They are on a mission to break into that most impenetrable of fortresses, Fort Knox, repository of the US Government’s store of gold. But their goal is not what we might think. And the outcome is not what they expect. They are kidnapped by an enormous purple octopus, brilliantly animated, with every tentacle and crooked tooth creating comic menace. His human identity is Dr. Octavius Brine, well-known geneticist, aficionado of fine cheeses, and regular contributor to NPR pledge drives. But inside that lab coat is his real persona, the evil purple octopus named…Dave.

Yeah, I know, not too scary, right? And that is just one of the immense frustrations Dave has to confront, which is why he has created the green, ominously glowing Medusa serum. No one knows what it does, but it looks pretty evil.

It turns out someone has been tracking Dr. Brine. An international organization of crack spies called the North Wind, led by a wolf so deep undercover his name is classified (so the Penguins call him Classified) is trying to find him. The North Wind and the penguins stop in Venice, Rio, Shanghai (which the penguins think is Ireland) and other world capitals, sometimes working together, sometimes trying to beat each other to Dave and the Medusa serum. It turns out that Dave’s motive is one that will ring very true to kids, especially those with adorable younger siblings.

But of course, all of this is just an excuse for a never-ending stream of jokes. My favorite is Dave’s disastrously non-threatening Skype call as he tries to figure out how to transmit sound and picture at the same time. “It’s like trying to call my parents,” Classified says impatiently. The break-in at Fort Knox is very funny as the penguins roll over to camouflage themselves on a black and white striped floor. And a running joke featuring puns on celebrity names is delivered with such understated dry humor that it never loses its charm. If, as they say in the theater, dying is easy but comedy is hard, silly comedy may be the hardest of all, but here it is done to perfection, one more item to add to the thanks list on this holiday weekend.

Parents should know that this film has brief potty humor, and some comic peril and action (no one hurt).

Family discussion: Why was Dave so jealous of the penguins? Why didn’t Classified want the penguins to help him?

If you like this, try: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” and the television series “The Penguins of Madagascar”

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3D Animation Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For the Whole Family Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Spies Talking animals

Comic-Con 2014: Day One

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

copyright Nell Minow 2014
copyright Nell Minow 2014

Here’s what’s at Comic-Con, which means here’s what’s coming everywhere else: affordable 3D printers with hand-held scanners that transmit 360 degree images to your tablet or laptop instantly. GoPro cameras. Google glasses. Even Oculus Rift, the totally immersive virtual reality headset invented by a teenager and sold for $2 billion that is said to be a literal game-changer (its first commercial use will be in gaming) and could change everything from movies and television to medical imaging.

And, once again, even more fan involvement in everything, the line between creator and consumer of content almost dissolving completely. When you have your photo taken with an alien chasing you, you don’t just get a print-out. You are directed to a console so you can post it to all of your social media. The new Ships of the Line Star Trek calendar will have fan art as well as the official renderings. And the new USA television miniseries from “Heroes” helmer Tim Kring, “Dig,” starring Jason Isaacs, has a virtual scavenger hunt set up at Comic-Con. If you discover the rune-like symbol they have hidden all over the area, you post a photo to Snapchat with their hashtag, you can win a chance to chat with someone from the show.  And you can see prequel footage and engage with the writers via Wattpad.

I attended a press event featuring the people behind the new “Madagascar” animated series spin-off, “Penguins of Madagascar,” including writers/directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith (reuniting for the first time since “Antz”), Tom McGrath (director of the earlier films and voice of Skipper) and John Malkovich, who provides the voice of the villain, an evil octopus.  The film also features Benedict Cumberbatch as a dashing, James Bond-style secret agent.  It takes place just after the end of the last film (not the television series), as the penguins need some rest after the excitement of the circus adventure.  “What starts as a birthday romp turns into a world tour.”  Like the Bond films, they wanted to have a series of exciting locations.

McGrath says he always envisioned Robert Stack as the voice of Skipper, and tries to channel him when he performs the part.  I asked Malkovich what was fun about playing a bad guy.  He said that “this one is quite fun because he seems happy, he’s lazy, not particularly profound or remorseful, and that’s always a pleasure.”

“Dig” looks very impressive, and the chase scenes they showed us from the first episode really highlighted the locations in Jerusalem.  (They will continue filming in New Mexico.)  Isaac said he took the part because “I get to run around and pretend to be cooler, tougher, sexier, and smarter than I am.”  Anne Heche plays his boss (and sometimes more).  “We wanted to make it cinematic, multi-layered, epic,” said the cinematographer.  They used a 90-year-old lens to “embrace the golden light” in Jerusalem, and an up-to-the-minute lens for the “calmer, cooler, beautifully crisp” light of Norway to achieve the maximum contrast.  Because it is a limited “event” series, they know where it is going to end from the beginning, no “art of the stall.”  They warned us that no one in the series is what he or she seems and that we should “look out for the color red,” which is almost another character in the story.

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Behind the Scenes Festivals Television

RED 2

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Red-2-2013-1Catherine Zeta Jones seems to be making a habit of appearing in the dumbed-down sequels to big, all-star franchises.  First there was “Oceans 12,” and now there’s an utterly thankless role in “Red 2,” a stylish but empty follow-up to the original, based on the comic book about spies who are classified as “retired extremely dangerous.”

It was a lot of fun the first time around to see an over-the-hill-gang take on a spy story with an all-star cast that included Oscar-winners Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Richard Dreyfuss along with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker.  It was a lot of fun.  This one, not so much.

Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) takes over as director from Robert Schwentke (whose new action comedy, “RIPD,” is also being released this week).  Willis returns as Frank Moses, the once-top CIA operative with the American equivalent of a license to kill.  He is now living happily ever after with Sarah (Parker), the woman he met on the customer support line and sort of kidnapped in the first film.

Happily ever after is a little boring for both of them.  Shopping at Costco does not compare to the good old run-with-a-gun days.  When Marvin (Malkovich), somewhat paranoid following years of CIA-sponsored LSD experiments, shows up to tell them they are in danger, Frank and Sarah are almost relieved.  After all, she reminds him, he gets restless if he isn’t killing people (note: not saving the world — it is killing people he misses).

Parisot stages some nice fight scenes.  The bad guy points out that it’s seven to one and Frank is in handcuffs.  We know he will get out of it, but it is fun to see how he does it.  It would be more fun with less carnage.  Even if we were not living in a more sensitive time when it comes to the casual — even gleeful — treatment of senseless widespread slaughter, this would be over the top.  Almost as bad is the uselessness of another death that adds nothing to the story.

The plot is not much — there’s a MacGuffin thing that could destroy the world and our heroes have been framed so they are being pursued as they try to save the day.  Someone apparently did a Google search on what the best-protected international locations are and sent the RED team to break into them.

These always-watchable stars do their best.  Helen Mirren is clearly having a blast as a cheerful assassin with a freezer full of bodies, especially when she gets to pretend to be a madwoman who thinks she is a queen, the role Mirren has played many times.   Her “Hitchcock” costar Anthony Hopkins is a treat as a tweaked version of the fusty professor type he played in films like “Shadowlands.”  Willis and Parker have palpable chemistry, which makes it all the more disappointing that they are stuck with dreary jealousy banter.  Parisot tries to hide the script’s frequent sags with smartly-staged action scenes (the martial arts bouts with Byung-hun Lee, “G.I. Joe’s” Storm Shadow, are electrifying) and, less successfully, by having the characters chit-chat about relationship advice as they are chasing, shooting, and bombing.  The AARP-eligible cast still has it.  Next time, the MacGuffin they seek should be a better script.

Parents should know that this film includes constant action-style spy violence and peril with chases, crashes, explosions, guns, knives, martial arts, and a weapon of mass destruction. It has a casual attitude about a very large body count and a lot of property damage. There is also some strong language, drinking, drugs, and some sexual references.

Family discussion: What made some of the characters switch sides? What is the difference between following the rules and doing what is right?

If you like this, try: the original “Red” and “Hitchcock,” also starring Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Anthony Hopkins

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Action/Adventure Series/Sequel Spies
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