Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The Irish film Once, opening Friday, June 1, at the Ritz theaters, is a remarkable little film. A love story, and a loping musical featuring the songs of -- and starring -- Frames frontman Glen Hansard and the young Czech singer/songwriter, Marketa Irglova , the pic has been winning raves since it emerged from Sundance in January with the Audience Award and a Fox Searchlight distribution deal.

But while it's impossible not to recommend the film, written and directed by John Carney and shot on a shoestring in Dublin, there's a danger with all the heaping praise. Once is a low-key, modest affair, shot with hand-held digital cameras. The closest thing to a special effect is when Hansard, as a street busker who's falling for this smiling yet melancholy Prague girl, arches his eyebrows. Inevitably, as moviegoers read the gaga accolades in print and online, expectations are going to be running high. But Once is so shambling and unassuming -- it's the anti-Pirates of the Caribbean! -- that it's better to leave those expectations at home -- and just go, kick back and enjoy.

And then, afterwards, head to the pub for a nice pint.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Disney has been handing out letters at its advance screenings of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End entreating critics, journos and bloggers not to give away the myriad turns of events and character outcomes in its skull-and-crossbones franchise's third outing.

"We respectfully ask the following," writes the Disney publicity gang. "Please do not reveal the many plot resolutions that occur throughout the film... completing the characters' story lines....
"We would appreciate it if you would not reveal these details in your articles, on your program, online, on your blogs or in any other format. We hope you appreciate there are many Pirates fans who will enjoy their moviegoing experience so much more not knowing in advance the outcome of the many plot twists."

Believe me, there are enough plot resolutions and character story lines in the long and windy Pirates 3 to supply the next ten sequels and spinoffs. Who can follow 'em all? Plot twists? Characters? Keira Knightley in a funny hat? Who cares!

Friday, May 11, 2007


For most of its pre-screen life, The Ex, which stars Jason Bateman, Zach Braff and Amanda Peet and which opened Friday, May 11, was known as Fast Track. That's what the script (from the team of David Guion and Michael Handelman) was called; that's what the production was known as when director Jesse Peretz and his team were shooting in New York a year and a half ago; that was its title in the editing room, and in the marketing suites of the Weinstein Company. Until January.

"The movie almost came out a couple of months ago," reports Peretz, on the phone a few weeks back. "The Weinsteins changed their plans at the last minute, realizing that the idea of how they were marketing the movie wasn’t really true to what the movie really was. It was sort of stuck around this idea, with the original title being Fast Track, of it being this workplace comedy."

And while much of it is that -- Braff's character going to work for his father-in-law (Charles Grodin) in a New Age-y ad agency, and being sabotaged left and right by an exec played by Arrested Development's Bateman -- the crux of Peretz's comedy is the relationship between Braff and Peet, a couple with a baby, and Bateman, her former flame, still carrying a torch, madly.

"We weren’t doing ourselves justice, because it’s really much more of a kind of nasty love triangle comedy," says Peretz. "And also, we realized it would probably be a better draw in terms of getting people to actually come see the movie. So we decided to pull the plug on what was going to be a January release and give ourselves enough time to re-set up the movie, marketing it for what it really is. Hence the name change and everything. It was frustrating -- I was anxious to see it come out -- but in retrospect I'm glad."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

If you've seen Alfonso Cuaron's set-in-the-near-future thriller Children of Men, you'll remember the scene in which Clive Owen and the Girl That Can Save Humankind make their escape from a farmhouse, pursued by radical undergrounders, and jump-start a stalled car just in the nick of time.
And if you've seen Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's set-in-the-near-future thriller 28 Weeks Later..., you'll have noted a similar scene, in which the besieged Anglos, chased by viral maniacs across the desolate cityscape of a zombiefied London, make their escape -- by jump-starting a stalled car just in the nick of time.
And if you've seen 28 Weeks Later..., the dark, beautiful, scary-as-heck followup to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later..., you'll also have noted that an angry troop of human contagion are taken out -- de-limbed, decapitated, de-everythinged -- by the whirring blades of a helicopter, tilted frontward so the rotors become weapons. And if you've seen Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse installment, the zombie pastiche Planet Terror, you'll have observed the very same novel, bloody, use for a whirlibird. Yes, a killer 'copter.
"Of course, I've seen Children of Men. And yes, somebody told me about Planet Terror and the helicopter," says Fresnadillo, the Spanish director of the 28 sequel, on the phone the other day. "It is so funny. Sometimes ideas are in the air. And both are Latinio directors. My god, we are connected! We had an unconscious, imaginary mind meld!"

Friday, May 04, 2007


Curtis Hanson's Lucky You, with Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall, is set in Vegas, in the world of high-stakes poker, which means a lot of casino tables and chairs had to be filled. Along with squads of extras and real-life poker champs, those seats are occupied by a number of familiar-looking faces. One of the stranger mugs: Ken Davitian, better known to the world as Sacha Baron Cohen's portly, hirsute and scary naked sidekick Azamat Bagatov in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Happily, Davitian keeps his clothes on.

And yup, that lounge singer crooning "Dance Me To the End of Love" as Bana heads for the gambling tables early on in the pic: it's alterna-chanteuse and Billie Holiday-wannabe Madeleine Peyroux. Bana tosses Peyroux a suave, Bogie-like wave as he crosses the room.

If you're a kid and you're interested in films, filmmaking, music, broadcast journalism and recording -- and that's what, 99 per cent of the 10-to-18 crowd? -- then you may want to head over to 440 N. Broad Street this Sunday, May 5, for the Philadelphia Youth Film Festival. Philly moviemaker and hip hop entrepreneur Tim Greene will be on hand, among many, many other folk. The fest and its workshops are sponsored by the Philadelphia School District, the Greater Philadelphia Film Office and Scribe Video Center. Click here for info.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


The late, great singer/songwriter Tim Buckley -- father of the late, great singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley -- is the subject of My Fleeting House, a doc screening on Thursday, May 10, at the Tin Angel. It's got rare concert footage, including Buckley and band performing on 1960s TV shows (The Monkees, Steve Allen), plus interviews, plus great '60s-'70s hair and couture, plus -- most importantly -- the film offers a vivid reminder of how unique an artist, mixing folk, blues and jazz, that Buckley was. He died, at 28, of a drug overdose.
There are two screenings of the Rick Fuller-directed film, at 7:30 and 10 pm. It's free, but you have to RSVP. Call the Tin Angel at: 215.928.0978.