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EASTERN PROMISES (2007) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 1:54pm

Following the recent successes, SPIDER and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, director David Cronenberg has quickly turned into a filmmaker whose next film is a cause for excitement. Not quite on the same level as his past two productions, EASTERN PROMISES is still a compelling thriller that peers into the underworld of the Russian mob in London. Cronenberg's HISTORY OF VIOLENCE star Viggo Mortensen deserves an Oscar nomination as the lead in a cast full of excellent performances.

A 14-year-old prostitute dies during childbirth. Midwife Anna (Naomi Watts, KING KONG) finds the girl's diary, which is written in Russian, and makes an effort to get it translated, so that she can find the girl's family. She eventually follows a business card found in the girl's journal for a private Russian restaurant, where she meets the owner Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl, SHINE), who claims he does not know the girl, but offers to translate the diary for her. In meeting Semyon, she meets his drunk and leering son Kirill (Vincent Cassel, IRREVERSIBLE) and the stoic driver Nikolai (Mortensen), who we soon learn are involved in the bloody murder that starts off the picture.

Blogs

THE BRAVE ONE (2007) (***)

Director Neil Jordon (THE CRYING GAME), along with top-notched performances from Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard, takes many of the conventions of the revenge thriller and weaves them into a sad reflection on lose and violence. The emotional honesty for 99% of the running time moves the viewer over the contrivances. When the build up began for the final revenge shootout, I wasn't rooting for the vigilante; I was scared for her, because her anger had now clouded her good judgment.

Erica Bain (Foster) is a radio talk show host, who tries to capture the sounds and sense of New York City. She is about to marry doctor David Kirmani (Naveen Andrews, TV's LOST) until they are attacked viciously by three men during a walk in Central Park one night, leaving her in a coma and her fiancé dead. After her recovery, Erica has a hard time adjusting to her old life. After a long period isolated in her house, she wills herself to leave, buying a gun for protection. Then late one night, Erica gets in the middle of an act of violence, leading to her shooting a man. From this point forward, she unconsciously then consciously goes looking for violent confrontations. Detective Mercer (Howard, HUSTLE & FLOW) is a lonely cop, who is frustrated with a system that lets criminals go free. He is assigned to catch the new vigilante killer plaguing the streets of NYC. A twist of fate brings Erica and Detective Mercer together. They form a friendship, but will it last once he begins to suspect her?

Blogs

The Legend of the Archive

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 10:08pm

Wow the last time I had a chance to post new items into the archive was April. With the addition of This Weekend's Film Festival, new old reviews from past editions of my old e-mail newsletter have been slowing getting online. Part of the delay in catching up with the older reviews is that I'm fleshing out some of the shorter items. With some it's easy, especially for films I really liked. For the middle ground films, it's tough to remember what I actually thought, because the film has slipped from my mind. Anyway, here's an eclectic mix of the remaining films from the September 16, 2004 edition of my newsletter. Hey, even if you were one of the lucky few to have read them the first time around, they've been upgraded. Consider them the director's cut.

Blogs

BLADES OF GLORY (2007) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:26pm

Though it may be more developed than TALLEDEGA NIGHTS, BLADES OF GLORY starts out like a mid-level speed skater, but ultimately limps across the finish line by embracing clichés instead of cutting them down. There are laughs to be had and far less awkwardly unfunny moments as star Will Ferrell's previous sports spoof, but it never takes its premise further than some PG-13 potty humor.

Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) are the premiere male figure skaters in the world. However, their personalities are like fire and ice. Michaels is a sex-addicted bad boy loner while MacElroy is an effeminate lyrical performer. After tying at a championship event, the rivals get into a brawl on the medals stand, which leads to their lifetime ban from their division. However, after their lives have fallen apart, they discover a loophole — they can skate in the pairs division. MacElroy's former coach (Craig T. Nelson, TV's COACH) convinces the former rivals to team up, forming the first male figure skating partnership. This infuriates brother-sister champs Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenburg (Will Arnett, TV's ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT & Amy Poehler, MEAN GIRLS). After MacElroy develops a crush on their younger sister Katie (Jenna Fischer, TV's THE OFFICE), the Van Waldenburgs plot to rip Jimmy and Chazz's partnership apart.

Blogs

The Importance of PLAY

This week has been dedicated to painting...and some real progress has been made with two paintings finished this week...so far.
With that said, I have been receiving a bunch emails about character design and construction.

With character design one of the most important elements is PLAY.

Ward Kimball once told me he did about 300 designs to get Jimminy Cricket...The character began very much as an insect and worked it's way to the little dude with the tophat.

Here are few fun sketches I found as I was going through some drawings...these are play sketches with no particular purpose in mind except to just play with some character ideas.

Blogs

12 AND HOLDING (2006) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 3:12pm

This sad inspection of how death affects children and adults alike is painful, humorous and, at times, melodramatic, but always insightful when looking at how profoundly the actions of parents change their children. Director Michael Cuesta and writer Anthony Cipriano have crafted a look at how tragedy at a young age can sometimes cause arrested development, while never falling into the common pitfalls of films that deal with children by surrounding them with cookie cutter adults. In covering the lives of three friends, the filmmakers understand that there are more influences in their lives than just each other.

Jacob and Rudy Carges (both played by Conor Donovon, THE DEPARTED) are twin brothers, however Jacob was born with a large pink birthmark over one side of his face. When we first meet the brothers, Jacob is hiding behind his new hockey mask as the duo fends off their treehouse from bullies. Their best friends are the bold Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA) and the overweight Leonard (Jesse Camacho, TV's RUDY: THE RUDY GIULIANI STORY). When a tragic accident leads to the death of Ruby, each of the three children handles it differently, confronting their fears in various ways.

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Contemplates 9/11

With the sixth anniversary of 9/11 this week, like many others, I felt it's a fitting time to contemplate the many issues and feelings that surround that terrible day. In choosing films for This Weekend's Film Festival's lineup, I specifically stayed away from films that have politicized the attacks. I truly believe in the age-old words of wisdom that if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. It's equally true that one needs to know their enemy in order to defeat them. The films I have collected deal with various aspects of topics that connect directly with September 11th, including the Taliban, terrorism and the lives lost as well as those who survived. In only five films, there is no way to cover the many aspects of what 9/11 means to everyone. So I've decided to use a collection of films that deal with terrorism and then the events of 9/11 as captured on film.

Blogs

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2007) (****)

As PAN'S LABYRINTH was picking by Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Cinematography and Makeup, it surprised some when Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's first feature film walked away with the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. More traditional Oscar fare than Guillermo del Toro's breathtaking fantasy, THE LIVES OF OTHERS has the intelligence and emotion of great drama, but the urgency of a top-notched political thriller. Set a few years before the Berlin Wall fell, the film investigates the overreaching practice of the East German government to spy on its citizens.

Top spy Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe, FUNNY GAMES) tells his superior Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur, AMEN) that he suspects famed playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, BLAKC BOOK) of subversive actions. Corrupt minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme, DOWNFALL) has a vendetta against outspoken artists and desperately wants to find anything that can bring Dreyman down. So Wiesler is called on to lead a day-and-night spy operation on the devoted socialist Dreyman and his girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck, THE GOOD SHEPHERD), a highly admired stage actress. Dreyman's friend Paul Hauser (Hans-Uwe Bauer, GOOD BYE LENIN!) is quite outspoken against the practices of the Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi, especially in light of the blacklisting of their friend Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), a once famed stage director who hasn't been allowed to work in nearly 10 years. A tragedy finally motivates Dreyman to speak out against the lies of the Stasi in an expose article to be smuggled into West Germany and printed in a magazine there.

Blogs

INSIDE DEEP THROAT (2005) (***)

Mega-producer Brian Grazer, who is best known for being Ron Howard's producer, made some ripples in Hollywood when he announced that he was producing a NC-17 documentary on the influences of the porno flick, DEEP THROAT. Instead of being a truly provocative expose of the history of porn, the film from directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato ends up being something that would be a good extra for the next anniversary DVD edition of the infamous porn film. So to answer the question that everyone will want to know going in — yes, there is pornographic content in this film. For the most part it's nothing more gratuitous than anything on late night Cinemax. What earns the film the NC-17 is a clip of the act that earned the film it's name and made its star Linda Lovelace a porn legend.

Blogs

SHUT UP & SING (2006) (****)

In 2003, the Dixie Chicks were country music princesses. They were at the top of the charts and their concerts were selling out arenas around the globe. Then, when the U.S. was on the brink of invading Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines made the statement that they were ashamed that President George W. Bush was from Texas. This began a fervor, which this great documentary intricately documents, making it one the best rock docs ever made.

Part of the backlash from the statement started with country music stations banning their songs, spurred by calls from irate fans. Some stations even sponsored promotions for former fans to bring in their Dixie Chicks CDs to have them run over by a steam shovel. Alienated from their Red State base, the threesome, which also includes sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maquire, had to work on reaching out to new fans. We watch as they prepare for the U.S. leg of their world tour post incident, record their next two albums and strategize on how to handle the predicament and how it has changed their image.

Blogs

ROMPER STOMPER (1992) (***1/2)

Named by THE TIMES OF LONDON as one of the most controversial films of all time, ROMPER STOMPER is everything AMERICAN HISTORY X wished it were. In not making a movie "about" skinheads, director/writer Geoffrey Wright makes the best movie about skinheads. We are put directly inside an Australian white supremacist gang and the film only gives us a troubled outsider as our in-route into the story. It's unflinching about the violent lifestyle of skinhead gangs and never forces characters to have epiphanies where they learn that racism is bad.

Hando (Russell Crowe, 3:10 TO YUMA), leader of the skinhead gang, is enraged by the growing number of Vietnamese immigrants buying property around his neighborhood. Along with his quiet right hand man, Davey (Daniel Pollock), and the rest of the thugs, he brutalizes a trio of Vietnamese skateboarders, which includes Tiger (Tony Lee), a young man who vows revenge. At the local bar one night, Hondo sets his eyes on Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie, TV's THE 4400), a trouble epileptic girl, who has some serious daddy issues. The gang's violent attacks on the Vietnamese will have their repercussions, leading to more and more desperate actions.

Blogs

3:10 TO YUMA (2007) (***1/2)

WALK THE LINE director James Mangold does with 3:10 TO YUMA what all good remakes do — use the original's strengths as a basis while fleshing out the weak moments. The 1957 original is a minor Western classic. However, while not perfect, the remake is a superior film. This is done by giving more depth and sublty to the characters and pumping up the excitement level in good ways. The addition of two of today's premiere actors — Russell Crowe and Christian Bale — as well as a star making performance by Ben Foster, does not hurt either.

Dan Evans (Bale, BATMAN BEGINS) lost a leg in the Civil War. Now he's struggling to keep food on the table and pay off his debts. His son William (Logan Lerman, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT) resents the fact that his father doesn't charge after the men sent to burn down their barn. One day while tending the cows, they witness ruthless outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe, CINDERELLA MAN), along with his bloodthirsty sidekick Charlie Prince (Ben Foster, BANG, BANG, YOU'RE DEAD), use their cattle as a blockade in a robbery of the stagecoach. After Wade and his gang leave Evans and his sons without horses, they help the injured stagecoach driver Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda, EASY RIDER) and end up finding their horses on the road to town where Wade promised they would be. Desperate for money, Evans helps capture Wade and joins railroad manager Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD), Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk, I, ROBOT) and hired thug Tucker (Kevin Durand, WILD HOGS) on a mission to deliver Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates The Western Code of Justice

In general I love Westerns. They often work as simple morality tales, but the more ambitious ones serve as metaphors for the era in America in which they were made. With the excellent remake of 3:10 TO YUMA coming to theaters this Friday, this seems like a great week to dedicate This Weekend's Film Festival to the Western.

Often referred to as the "dead" genre, Westerns were once the most popular form of film in the U.S. Many were just escapist fun, but the truly great ones took on a grander scale. The good and the bad in the genre did often have one thing in common — characters who live by a strict code of honor. Or in some cases found one. In the new YUMA, Christian Bale's character has a strong sense of duty to what is right… and so does Russell Crowe's killer in a way. So I've chosen a selection of five great Westerns that feature characters with a unique sense of justice. So saddle up for a lineup worth your weight in gold.

Blogs

3:10 TO YUMA (1957) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 5, 2007 at 9:30pm

This minor Western classic has a similar vibe to another famed Western, HIGH NOON. One man stands against the urging of everyone to do what is right. The chief difference between this film and the Gary Cooper classic is the presence of the charming killer played by Glenn Ford.

Dan Evans (Van Heflin, SHANE) is a rancher whose farm is suffering under a two-year draught. His wife Alice (Leora Dana, POLLYANNA) worries that they won't survive the year in the desert. One day with his two sons, Dan finds outlaw Ben Wade (Ford, THE BIG HEAT) using his cattle as a blockade in a stagecoach robbery. Later Dan reluctantly lures Wade into capture and aids the stage line owner Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt, KID GALAHAD) in taking the bandit to Contention City to put him on the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Blogs

THE HEART OF THE GAME (2006) (***1/2)

It is hard to review or even watch this film without the memory of HOOP DREAMS coming to mind. Where that groundbreaking documentary blazed trails in uncovering the inner city push for children to strive for NBA stardom as the way out of poverty, this film has shades of that larger social issue, but mainly serves as a look at one coach and one great player and what happens along the way as they strive to win a state championship. My memories of HOOP DREAMS always fall back to the people and their struggles while HEART OF THE GAME just plays out like a great sports flick.

Bill Resler takes over the girls' team at Roosevelt High School with the plan to run the full court press the whole game. He trains the players to be in better shape than their opponents. In his first season, he wins coach of the year, leading the girls to an undefeated season. At this time, Darnellia Russell was making waves across town playing ball in junior high. With pressure from her family, the tough-minded and confident African-American girl decides to travel across Seattle to attend the majority white Roosevelt in an effort to receive a better education.

Blogs

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) (***1/2)

I have a fascination with carnivals and circuses. Many filmmakers have as well Fellini, Bergman both made films set in the circus. So when I first read about this long forgotten film noir gem, I was hooked by the combination of a dark seedy crime story set in the carnival world. Surprisingly what I got was more than that — a thoughtful drama on the psychic con game.

Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power, THE MARK OF ZORRO) is a streetwise hustler who finds a home working as the talker at a carnival. He warms the crowd for low rent psychic Zeena Krumbein (Joan Blondell, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN), who use to be in the big time until her partner/husband Pete (Ian Keith, QUEEN CHRISTINA) became lost in the bottle. Zeena and Pete's legendary act was based on an intricate code, which allowed one person in the crowd to hold up objects obtained from the spectators and relate covertly what they were to the blindfolded "psychic" on stage. The code is worth a fortune and Stanton works his charms on Zeena to learn it. Now with the code, Stanton teams with the beautiful carnie girl Molly (Coleen Gray, RED RIVER) to go legit on the nightclub scene. But as his career skyrockets, Stanton gets greedy and hooks up with the cool and beautiful psychiatrist Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker, CALL NORTHSIDE 777) to turn his mentalist act into a medium.

Blogs

Cowchip-munks?

By Joe Strike | Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:52am

Just saw a teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action/cgi Chipmunks feature. Excuse me while I blow my brains out in car...

Is there some way we can get the Geneva Convention to outlaw these god-awful, gag-(not the funny kind)-inducing grotesqueries? Garfield, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed...

They were all Oscar contenders (for Best Pic period, not just Best Animated) compared to this, this - eugggghhhhh, is the best I can describe it. It's not just that the sole gag in the trailer (an homage to Pink Flamingos?) revolves around Alvin eating one of Theodore's turds to convince Dave Seville (Jason 'uh-oh I picked a stinker this time' Lee) it was only a raisin; (I guess kid movie farts were just a gateway drug to flat-out coprophilia) it's not just that the 'munks are life-size in the sense of REAL LIFE-sized chipmunks, thus losing the characters' kid/adult size relationships and turning them into pettable pets; no, it's that....

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Horror That Was Good the First Time Around

With Rob Zombie's remake of HALLOWEEN hitting theaters this weekend, I felt a proper theme for This Weekend's Film Festival, in light of the many horror remakes in the past few years, would be to look at the originals that we good the first time around. In doing so, I'm not making a judgment on Mr. Zombie's film, because I have not seen it. However, it's hard for me to see how you can improve on John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, which is one of the all time best horror films. I tried to pick films that cover a wide breath of what kinds of horror is being remade and address how it's being remade. I thought about doing a compare and contrast lineup, but rethought that idea wanting to save viewers from wanting to gouge their eyes out or wanting to gouge my eyes out for recommending them watch such gruesome and horribly remade films. Here is a weekend of chills for you that for some may require three days of watching the TV through the spaces between fingers.

Blogs

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) (***1/2)

Noel Coward adapts his own stageplay into a screenplay, which was brought to the screen by director David Lean before the famed helmer went on to make classic Dickens adaptations and widescreen epics such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. However, Lean started his career with this great light entertainment. With witty dialogue and that effortless British suave demeanor, BLITHE SPIRIT floats across the screen like a smooth waltz.

In researching his next book that features a homicidal medium, Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison, UNFAITHFULLY YOURS), along with his wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) and their friends Dr. George and Violet Bradman (Hugh Wakefield, 1934's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH & Joyce Carey, IN WHICH WE SERVE), hold a séance with the genuinely loony Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford, MURDER AHOY). After some seemingly sketchy hocus-pocus, everyone believes Arcati to be a charlatan except for Charles, who begins hearing and seeing the ghost of his dead wife Elvira (Kay Hammond). At first Ruth believes Charles is playing with her then she believes he has gone cuckoo, but a floating vase of flowers convinces her that there is now one too many wives in the Condomine household. And so does the wisecracking Elvira. In trying to solve the situation, the help of Madame Arcati and the Condomine's shy maid Edith (Jacqueline Clarke) will be needed.

Blogs

Anticipation - a different twist

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/8lRz3Oaw9T8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

This recent video is a natural demo for ANTICIPATION...well not really, but it's a cool trick my son, Matt came up with...

I added some animation and a short video of the individual drawings- just for the heck of it!

Keep in mind, ANTICIPATION accomplishes:

1. An anticipation the audience with you...

2. An anticipation prepares the audience...

3. An anticipation helps build momentum for an action or movement...

Remember: most movements should begin with an anticipation...

For more info go to:

Blogs

DISTURBIA (2007) (***)

This modern REAR WINDOW riff with high-tech gadgets is tightly written for two acts shying away from typical teen movie boo moments and illogical twists in exchange for old-fashioned thrills. Lead Shia LaBeouf (HOLES) has this entire film for himself and sets himself up to become a real star. He has an effortless charm that puts him in the ranks with Tom Hanks. Even when the movie begins to spell things out for the illiterate film viewer, we like LaBeouf's character enough that we still care about what he cares about.

After a recent tragedy, 17-year-old Kale (LaBeouf) becomes a troubled young man, which leads to another violent outburst that lands him under house arrest. His mother Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss, THE MATRIX) cuts off his Xbox Live and iTunes, leaving him very bored confined in his house. So he starts spying on the neighbors, especially his pretty new neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer, THE GRUDGE 2) and the creepy Mr. Turner (David Morse, THE GREEN MILE). When signs start piling up that might link Turner to a recent murder, Kale, his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo, ROCKET SCIENCE) and Julie begin to stake out the man, which becomes more and more dangerous at every turn.

Blogs

TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY (2006) (**1/2)

I haven't loved any of Will Farrell's film where he's starred, but I have enjoyed everyone that I've seen. Ferrell is one of the funniest men working in films currently. He has great timing and delivery. That's what makes TALLADEGA NIGHTS the most disappointing film he has made. A major part of the disappointment comes from the hints of greatest that lie everywhere, which are never carried out to their full potential rather replaced by lazy improv.

From a very young age, Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) wanted to "go fast." When he gets his first shot on the NASCAR circuit, he makes a big impression. He, along with his best friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly, BOOGIE NIGHTS), quickly raises the ranks of pro racing. He gains the American Dream — fame, money, a hot wife. He becomes obsessed with being #1, due to his deadbeat father's statement — If you ain't first, you're last. Then the dumb, cocky racer meets his toughest challenge — Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen, BORAT), a gay, French, Formula One racer who Bobby's team owner Larry Dennit Jr. (Greg Germann, TV's ALLY MCBEAL) wants to make the next face of NASCAR. After a crash during his first race against Girard, Bobby fears racing again and soon loses everything in his life.

Blogs

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (2007) (***1/2)

With 18 seasons behind them on TV, The Simpsons have moved from "what is wrong with America" to an American icon. The show is now the longest running sitcom in U.S. TV history with no end in sight. Now the adventures of everyone's favorite dysfunctional family have been transported to the big screen. The canvas of the story is bigger, but it's still THE SIMPSONS with a colossal mess-up by Homer as the center of the story.

Homer (Dan Castellaneta, who also voices Barney, Grampa, Krusty) adopts a pig, but really doesn't know how to care for it. With Harry Plotter (that's the pig's second name) grabbing his attention, Bart (Nancy Cartwright, who also voices Ralph, Nelson) wishes he had a father who actually paid attention to him, leading him to bond with uber-good-doer Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer, THIS IS SPINAL TAP). When Marge (Julie Karvner) tells Homer to get rid of the silo of pig waste in the backyard, Homer cuts corners in an effort to get free donuts and dumps the silo in Springfield Lake, which pushes the already putrid waters over the edge. This spurs EPA head Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE) to convince President Arnold Schwarzenegger (Shearer) to put a dome around the town of Springfield and plan to turn it into the new Grand Canyon. So in an effort to save himself and his family from an angry mob of Springfield townfolk, Homer packs up Marge, Bart, Lisa (Yeardley Smith, AS GOOD AS IT GETS) and baby Maggie (Cartwright) and heads off to Alaska. But as things get worse in Springfield, can Marge motivate Homer to become a hero?

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Rising Star Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Because I was out of town last week, traveling to the lovely Yosemite National Park, celebrating the impending nuptials of my good friend, This Weekend Film Festival took a brief hiatus. Because I just know you were sitting around the house, completely clueless on what to watch, I have a great lineup this week. With THE LOOKOUT arriving on DVD last week, I felt This Weekend's Film Festival should showcase the work of rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. THE LOOKOUT is one of the absolutely best films of 2007. Gordon-Levitt's starring role in the ingenious thriller BRICK made it one of the best films of last year. His work in great films like MYSTERIOUS SKIN and even weak films like HAVOC have continuously proven his status as one of the premiere actors of his generation. Who would have thought that he would grow so much from his roles on 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN or 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU?

Blogs

STARDUST (2007) (***1/2)

Based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, STARDUST is a humorous fairy tale in the vein of THE PRINCESS BRIDE. It might not be as witty or funny as Rob Reiner's classic, but it is vastly entertaining and the grand romance is so charming that even if we kind of know where the story is going, it doesn't matter, because we want to see it go there. Filled with aging witches, cross-dressing pirates, ghostly princes and blimp-powered air ships, this is one of the most fun films of the summer.

Tristan (Charlie Cox, 2004's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE) is in love with the town beauty Victoria (Sienna Miller, FACTORY GIRL), who promises to marry him instead of the rich Humphrey (Henry Cavill, I CAPTURE THE CASTLE) if he brings her back a fallen star within a week. Tristan uses a magic candle from his mother and ends up right were the star landed. However, it turns out that the star is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes, ROMEO + JULIET). Tristan promises to give Yvaine his magic candle to get her back home if she travels to see Victoria with him. So this starts their journey, which is nothing but smooth.

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