Curious about where Sacha Baron Cohen, the Andy Kaufman-esque comedic genius behind Borat and Bruno, might set his satirical sights next? Wonder no more, as we now know the identity of his next character: climate change skeptic Lord Monckton.
On the morning of Feb. 28, 1958, a school bus carrying 48 elementary and high school students ran over an embankment and plunged into the Big Sandy River in Prestonsburg, Ky. Twenty-six kids and the bus’ driver lost their lives in the crash, forever altering the small, close-knit Floyd County town’s inhabitants.
Michael Crisp’s appropriately somber documentary, The Very Worst Thing, meticulously re-creates the events surrounding the accident via vintage radio recordings and photos and modern-day interviews with people — from a survivor of the accident to those who want to keep the victims’ legacy alive — connected to that day more than 50 years ago.
David Lynch once called Nicolas Cage ''the jazz musician of actors.'' So what happened, Nic? A quick glance at your recent movies includes stuff like Bangkok Dangerous, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Next, Ghost Rider and Wicker Man. That’s like Charlie Parker deciding to do Kenny G covers.
I came across this picture of Joaquin Phoenix today, which triggered a memory of my lone interaction with him. I ran into Phoenix at a film festival party a few years ago. I remember thinking at the time that no one could possibly be less suited for the intense Hollywood glare than this guy.
Lee Daniels’ Precious, which won audience awards at both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, has drawn largely positive reviews for its unblinking look at a 16-year-old black female dealing with myriad challenges, including but certainly not limited to a serious weight problem, a monstrous mother, an incestuous father and an ineffective school system.
Yet Precious also has its detractors, none more vociferous than The New York Press’ Armond White, a critic who has never shied away from airing his contrarian views.
The post-awards/pre-summer movie season trudges on with a curious collection of releases in a variety of genres: we’ve got another romantic comedy starring Jennifer "I Do Movies to Get a Boyfriend" Aniston (The Bounty Hunter), a futuristic thriller (Repo Men), a family-friendly teen thing (The Wimpy Kid Diaries) and even a 3-D IMAX documentary (Hubble).
We've got another thin week for new movie releases — unless you're excited about the latest Narnia film, which I'm not. Even the new Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie thriller — which I was initially eager to check out despite the warning sign its studio raised by not screening it in advance for critics — is getting thoroughly trashed by those unlucky enough to have seen it. That leaves Wild Target, another film its distributor (the indie outfit Freestyle) didn't screen in advance, as the lone possible saving grace. No pressure.
As a long time Thor fan, this movie has been on my calendar for months. Going into The Avengers I was excited but tried to keep my expectations from getting out of control. Fortunately, I didn’t need to do that because the movie is that good. A lot of that credit has to go to writer/director Joss Whedon. Some of you might recognize the name because he created the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
The movie could have fallen apart from the beginning with so many big characters — both figurative and literally speaking — on screen at once. With Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk taking part in the story, any number of things could have gone wrong. Characters could have been underutilized — having four strong stand alone characters could have made them feel not like a team at all — but in the span of just a few hours, Whedon and company have created a giant leap for comic book fans and movies.
Whedon was the right person for the job because, based on his past work, he knows how to generate great characterization and interaction. He knows how to tell a story through the characters and not through the special effects, which was needed in a situation like this. Whedon, the other writers and the actors were able to make these comic book characters more human, so to speak.
The interactions between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were some of the best moments in the movie. Some of my favorites were Stark poking Banner to see if he will Hulk up, Thor giving a great one-liner about his brother Loki and Stark verbally sparing with Loki toward the end of the movie.
The story is simple enough: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants to take over and rule Earth and the Avengers have to stop him. The major battle doesn’t take place until the end of the movie, but then again it does take up the final 30 minutes or so.
With Loki as the main villain in the movie it helps to have seen last year’s Thor. It isn’t a must to but it does help set up the relationship between Thor and Loki. Watching all of the individual movies helps with understanding some of the character traits in The Avengers, though the last the two Hulk films don’t really do much for the character except see him smash through tanks and cities.
While Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk are the main heroes, there is a strong supporting cast around them. Scarlett Johansson is Agent Romanoff/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner is Agent Barton/Hawkeye, both agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg returns as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson, and How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is Agent Hill. The guy who brings all of these characters together is Nick Furry, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Tom Hiddleston is terrific as Loki. He is sinister, brutal and devious — after all, he is the Norse god of mischief, deceit and lies. I hope he returns in some fashion in the next Thor movie or the next Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. is back to his witty, sarcastic ways and he has some of the best lines in the movie. Mark Ruffalo is able to finally bring some credit to the Bruce Banner/Hulk character.
The Avengers is a great way to kick off the summer movie season. It combines wonderful action sequences, well done comedy and heartfelt drama in the span of 142 minutes. Whedon was a perfect fit for this movie because he understands character and doesn’t rely on flashy explosions like some directors. If you like flashy explosions there are a decent amount in The Avengers but there is also some of the best character development/interaction I’ve seen in a Marvel movie.
The summer movie season is closing with a flurry: Recent weeks have given us such diverse, worthwhile fare as Funny People, The Girl from Monaco, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, (500) Days of Summer, Ponyo, District 9 and the best film of the year so far, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.