Everything Old is … Still Kinda Old, Actually

Oh, shut the hell up about the ChiantiOh, Friday. How I love you, with your relaxing lack of deadlines, because I spent all of Thursday working to meet them …

Factory Girl“: Sienna Miller is Edie Sedgwick, and Guy Pearce her pale little artist friend, and George Hickenlooper is out of his depth as a filmmaker. The sets and costumes are great, but nothing happens inside that perfectly re-created frame; it’s less a movie than a series of mod dresses strung out on a clothesline.

Hannibal Rising“: Just weeks after “Perfume”, here’s another movie built about an intense, thin European fellow who has the unfortunate habit of killing people. At least this one is well-groomed. It’s entirely unnecessary from start to finish, but you know it’ll open at number one. How critic-proof is it? Read this.

The Lives of Others“: After months of raves on the festival circuit, and that much-deserved Oscar nomination Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s excellent, excellent movie finally gets the chance to make a little money. And the first person who says he doesn’t like subtitles gets a smack in the mouth.

Norbit“: Monstrous fat women, simpering weak men and elderly, obnoxious Chinese caricatures: This is what Eddie Murphy thinks is funny. It’ll probably make a fortune, but in a just and decent world, it would be chased out of theaters by angry mobs.

Sk8 Life“: Local director S. Wyeth Clarkson (“Deadend.com”) makes another run at quasi-verite digital introspection, this time among some skate punks in Vancouver. The camerawork is pretty good. The acting? Not so much.

Heavenly God! Heavenly God!

If they're not enjoying themselves, how can we?

And I thought the root canal left a bad taste in my mouth.

What are the procedural rules on the Academy rescinding an Oscar nomination? Have the final ballots come back yet?

Maybe this is the thing that tips the vote to Wahlberg in “The Departed” … which, curiously, would have been a perfect role for Eddie Murphy about 15 years ago.

Space Wants Filling

I may be less floppy than you'd expect, but I remain rather charmingMy new gig at Sympatico/MSN requires me to write two longish pieces every week — one about whatever’s arriving on DVD, and another about whatever’s arriving in theaters.

In the industry, this kind of article is called a “thumbsucker”, referring to the art of mulling over of something trivial. And I have no illusions about what I do — everything I write about is ultimately trivial. We’re not curing cancer here. We’re not even curing scabies.

Coming up with 104 interesting pieces a year is a little intimidating. But I get a little shot of hope when I stumble across something like Shinan Govani’s piece in today’s Post about Hugh Grant’s hair. Or, more specifically, Hugh Grant’s hair in “Music and Lyrics”.

Now, this is a thumbsucker. It’s not a review of the movie (though Shinan does come up with a pull-quote — “It’s positively pee-in-your-pants!” — that’s as alluring as it is unusable), it’s a review of an actor’s head.

Shinan spends hundreds of words on the evolution of Grant’s coiffure through the past decade, invoking such icons as Cary Grant, John Wayne and Gertrude Stein — sorta — and even takes a languid detour to evaluate the current state of the actor’s chest.

(Grant’s character is a survivor of an ’80s pop duo whose solo career flamed out while his partner’s soared — basically, Andrew Ridgeley –which accounts for his deflopped hairstyle and dissolute physique.)

I’m not bringing this up to make fun of Shinan, by the way. He’s very, very good at what he does, and I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to fill a fixed space every day.

I mean, does anybody remember my “Big Picture” column in GTA Today / Metro Today / Metro, where I had to spotlight a different movie every day? That turned into a real challenge after about six months, and it ran for nearly three years.

But articles like this one give me hope: If Shinan can get 500 words out of Hugh Grant’s hair, then surely I can pull 800 words out of the movie in which the hair is featured.

So: How many words are in this post?

The Return of the King

Home again, home again, giggity gig!As some of you probably know, I launched this blog on the day of my last Starweek column. And I’ve been trying to find a new home for my particular brand of comprehensive home-video coverage ever since.

Turns out nine months is a pretty good gestation time.

As of today, I’ll be writing on DVDs for Sympatico/MSN, discussing the latest new releases, special editions, reissues, high-def titles, whatever comes along. You can find the first column here.

(Don’t bookmark the link just yet; it’s specific to this week’s column. I’m told there’ll be a fixed index page off the “DVD” tab in the Entertainment section; when that goes live, I’ll include it in my link list over to the right.)

And this isn’t just a DVD gig. I’ll be offering commentary on new theatrical releases every Friday, too; this week, in honor of “Hannibal Rising”, I’ll be looking at the interesting new phenomenon of cinematic brand extensions. You know, “Rocky Balboa“, “Van Wilder 2: The One That Doesn’t Even Have Van Wilder In It” … stuff like that.

You’ll be able to find it in the spotlight box on the Sympatico/MSN home page as well, and it’ll eventually turn up in my link list.

Damn, it’s good to be back.

Message Received

What the hell happened to me?… and the message is, if you build an effective ad campaign around a cheesy horror movie, people will go to see it even if it’s absolutely awful.

“The Messengers” took the number one spot at the North American box-office this weekend, despite being so laughably bad at the horror-movie stuff that the guy from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is the scariest thing in it. Word of mouth didn’t kill it on Friday night; the reviews, which didn’t start to appear until Saturday because Sony didn’t screen the film for the press, barely dented its insidious momentum.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; the same combination of critical avoidance and aggressive TV spottery dragged “Epic Movie” to the top only last week.

Honestly, though, I thought horror fans were more discerning. Didn’t they just shun “The Hitcher”? And wasn’t that supposed to be a good sign?

People, people. I can’t help you if you don’t let me in.

Red vs. Blue

Dead or alive, you are coming with meEngadget reports that the first Neilsen VideoScan numbers for 2007 are coming in, and Blu-ray software is outselling HD-DVD software two to one.

Yeah, it looks like a rout, but I’d raise a couple of cautionary points.

First, the data isn’t title-specific, leaving us no idea whether a given dual-format release — say, Paramount’s “World Trade Center” or Warner’s “Lady in the Water” — is moving two Blu-ray editions for every HD-DVD sold.

And it follows that, if said date isn’t title-specific, then the sheer number of available Blu-ray titles would naturally lead to disproportionate sales when compared to HD-DVD, since HD-DVD only has Warner and Universal supporting its platform, while every studio but Universal is releasing titles to Blu-ray. There’s simply more Blu-ray available to be bought. (And Fox is releasing “The Marine” next week! Dudes!)

What the numbers do seem to imply is that the release of the moderately priced, Blu-ray capable PlayStation 3 has had precisely the effect that Sony expected it would — people are using it to watch high-definition movies as well as play games. And they’re not just upconverting their standard DVDs with it; they’re buying Blu-ray discs specifically for HD playback.

Christmas = PS3s. PS3s = Blu-ray sales. Blu-ray sales = eventual format domination. I’m not sure how underpants fit into it, but I probably just forgot to carry the three.

Oh, and if you want a peek into the die-hard, frothing mind of the early adopter, read the comments on the Engadget piece. It’s a lot more fun if you read them aloud in the voice of this guy.

Still Around

Stop me before I giggle againFormalized grieving is a strange thing. Thus, I will avoid it entirely and just talk about this week’s movies, specifically:

Because I Said So“: I like Diane Keaton a lot, I really do. But she has to stop making terrible movies in which she plays neurotic harridans who interfere in their daughters’ romantic lives, and in the process discover their own sensuality. I know, I know … as bad as it was, “Something’s Gotta Give” got her an Oscar nomination. This one won’t. On the other hand, former pop tart Mandy Moore turns out to be a surprisingly natural screen presence. But she’ll be just as good in her next picture.

The Italian“: A Russian movie about a cute little orphan boy who goes in search of the mother he’s never known, just as he’s about to be shipped out to a life of cappucinos, Vespas and post-Berlusconi corruption investigations? The combination would usually send me screaming out of the theater, but somehow director Andrei Kravchuk and screenwriter Andrei Romanov make it work, even if the second half isn’t quite as strong as the first. I have the sinking feeling Roberto Benigni is going to try to remake this with himself as the five-year-old orphan, so see the original before his mark is upon it.

“The Messengers”: Screened really, really late — like, 9:30 pm on Thursday — so Metro won’t have my review until Monday, but that’s okay … it’ll probably take me a couple of days to come up with something, anything, to say about the Pang Brothers’ inane venture into American cinema, in which Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and Kristin Stewart buy a creepy old farmhouse and get stalked by a sound mix for 98 minutes. Plus, John Corbett gives the performance of his career as a shotgun-toting farmhand, even if he doesn’t know he’s doing it. Or possibly because of that.

Partition“: Vic Sarin’s clumsy attempt to turn the political and religious upheaval of 1947 India into a crowd-pleasing romantic melodrama along the lines of “The English Patient” or “Titanic” forgets one important thing: Neither of those films was shot on a shoestring in Vancouver. Also, both of those movies had directors capable of, you know, directing. Of course, neither of those films tried to sell Kristin Kreuk as a Pakistani Muslim, either.

Sur la Trace d’Igor Rizzi“: I gave Noel Mitrani’s oddball comedy-drama — which stars Laurent Lucas as a washed-up soccer star moping around Montreal who takes a job as a contract killer despite having not the first idea as to how one goes about whacking people — a pat on the head when it played TIFF last fall; if you were intrigued, but couldn’t make it to the screening, it’s at the Royal all week.

Regular posting will resume shortly, I promise.

Suffering

So I says to Edith, I says ...Just checking in quickly before the funeral, but I do want to point to a couple of new reviews, just in case you were feeling masochistic about seeing a movie tonight:

Blood and Chocolate“: An American werewolf — sorry, loup-garou — in Romania finds herself awfully conflicted when she falls in love with a rather lunkheaded human, despite all those warnings about how humans are bad, mmkay? If you thought the “Underworld” films were lame and underdeveloped, imagine how bad they’d be without the vampires and the guns. Oh, and the budget. And what the hell is Agnes Bruckner doing in a crappy project like this?

Epic Movie“: The guys who made “Date Movie” are back, and their success has emboldened them distressingly — this one’s even sloppier and more base than the last one, just throwing a bunch of really obvious references and parodies at the screen until there’s enough footage to constitute a feature. (Barely: It’s maybe 80 minutes long.) But this word, “satire” … I do not think it means what you think it means. And yes, I know it made all the money this weekend, but I don’t care. Some people can’t be saved.

Hey, here’s a thought: If you haven’t seen “The Departed” yet, why not see that tonight? It’s really good.

My other other gig.