Previously a print journalist and red-carpet reporter, Ellen Kim was not allowed to watch a rated-R movie until she was 17 and had to get her Moonlighting episode recaps from her best friend on the playground. (If she tried to watch, her father would block the screen, yelling “MUSHY MUSHY!”) So Ellen spent her free time absorbing filmographies and factoids about the industry instead, and now pops in a DVD at least every other day in her vain effort to catch up (and keep up). If you are stumped on What Other Movie Was That Guy In while sitting in a theater, she’s a good person to be sitting next to (but don’t do it more than twice). Ellen can’t watch scenes in which someone is shaving or using bodily fluids as a comedic vehicle. She loves award shows, bloopers over end credits, the right-timed song, movie trailers that make you tear up, and “magic time.”
Paramount and 20th Century Fox announced today that James Cameron's Titanic will be re-released in 3D on April 6, 2012, to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the ship's sailing.
Like most of the world, I watched this back in 1997 in the theater (3rd row, it was pretty crowded even on a Monday night), and even in 2D I remember feeling like I was actually bobbing in the water with the passengers, out in the vast, pitch-black ocean. While Titanic has its many, many detractors, the conversion to 3D will be an intriguing one given that the only film that has made successful use of 3D since it hit the mainstream is Avatar, also directed by Cameron.
How will the epic scenes play out in 3D? The boarding of the ship, the submarine exploration, "I'm flying!" and of course, the entire last hour of the film. Would you watch it again in 3D? What other older films do you think might actually benefit from a 3D conversion? --Ellen
We here at Armchair Commentary have been closely watching the casting of The Hunger Games, the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestseller (which is as addictive as Twilight but much more guiltless). We've been waiting for the last piece of the main cast to be announced, and today it's here: Woody Harrelson will play Haymitch Abernathy, mentor and former champion of the Hunger Games, who is simultaneously cranky, kind, and drunk throughout the book. (Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Laurie had been mentioned in various fan polls as Haymitch possibilities)
So that rounds out most of the primary characters. Here's a rundown of who is who:
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence): The Oscar-nominated Lawrence (Winter's Bone, the upcoming X-Men: First Class) will play Katniss, who volunteers to take her sister's place in the Hunger Games, an annual fight-to-the-death tournament among teenagers in a dystopian future, organized by the oppressive government as a punishment for attempting a past uprising.
Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth): The star of The Last Song (with Miley Cyrus, also his offscreen ex) and brother of Thor Chris Hemsworth will play Katniss' best friend, who becomes part of her love triangle.
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson): Hutcherson (The Kids are All Right, Bridge to Terabithia) is the gentle baker who becomes Katniss' fellow District 12 representative in Hunger Games, as well as her love interest.
Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks): Banks plays Effie, the escort of the District 12 tributes, serving as publicist and spin doctor.
Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley): Bentley (American Beauty) will play the head Gamemaker, who designs the Hunger Games for maximum entertainment and bloody thrills.
Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci): The smooth TV personality interviews Katniss and the other tributes on air, coaching the tributes to their most positive public image.
Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) and Mrs. Everdeen (Paula Malcomson): Playing Katniss' young sister Prim is Willow Shields, a newcomer, while Malcomson, who'll play their mother, has appeared in Caprica, Sons of Anarchy, and The Event.
The rest of the tributes, including Glimmer and Foxface, have been cast with relative unknowns. You can find the full gallery of who's officially in at EW.com. What do you think of the cast so far? And who do you think should play the flamboyant costume designer, Cinna? --Ellen
If Hollywood has a BMOC, it's the vintage throwback that is George Clooney. And he's 50 today (Happy Birthday!). He's the quintessential movie star: An actor who exemplifies what famous people should really be doing with their influence (not just his numerous humanitarian efforts, but throwing his support behind the small projects), but also one who's humbly embraced his long road to stardom (no one has brought up his failed turn as Batman as much as he has). Plus, the man can wear a suit.
To celebrate we're taking a look at his five best performances to date (Not in order).
1). Dr. Doug Ross, ER (1994-1999): As the womanizing pediatrician who couldn't keep his %$@! together enough NOT to chew out/punch bad parents and always defied the administration, Clooney's role wasn't a groundbreaking one, but he infused it with so much humor and charm and dislikability (remember when he brought in the epileptic woman who OD'd in his bathroom after a one-night stand, and he didn't know her name?). That he found his happy ending, including a one-episode return in ER's final season, makes his one of the most satisfying arcs of the show. His cameo in Julianna Margulies' final episode is one of the show's best moments.
2). Jack Foley, Out of Sight (1998): This box-office failure is the best movie Jennifer Lopez has ever been in, one of the best Steven Soderbergh has ever directed, and the movie that should have made Clooney a movie star (that never actually happened with one movie, it kind of crept up on you by the time Ocean's Eleven came out). It also houses two of the sexiest film scenes ever (one is a conversation in the trunk of a car, one a bar conversation that intercuts with a winking striptease). If you have not seen it, watch it now (it recently came out on Blu-ray). Do not pass Go.
3). Danny Ocean, Ocean's Eleven (2001) and sequels: Clooney's chemistry with Brad Pitt is even better here than his chemistry with Julia Roberts. There's not much to write about. Most people have seen this movie. Most people have loved this movie, and Clooney in it. He's sly, he's slick, he's funny, he wears a lot of nice suits. He showed it was possible to cram a bunch of big actors into an ensemble movie and make it both entertaining *and* good (not like, in the case of Valentine's Day). 'Nuff said.
4). Michael Clayton, Michael Clayton (2007): True story: As big of a George Clooney fan as I am, I wasn't all that interested in seeing him play a lawyer in a case that involved chemicals and class-action suits (I felt like I had seen this movie before, when it was called Erin Brockovich, or lesser so, A Civil Action). Then I was on a long plane ride with the option of this movie or Eastern Promises. These were not edited for airplane viewing, so the opening scene of the latter (throats getting cut in a barber shop) and the knowledge that a naked knife fight was coming while little kids would be walking past my seat to use the restroom was enough for me to decide to watch Michael Clayton instead. (OK that story was longer than I envisioned). Anyway, Clooney was fantastic in this movie, as a lawyer trusted not for his integrity but for the way he can quietly make loose ends go away. Until he decides that's not what he wants. His facial expressions over the closing credits say everything without a word.
5). Ryan Bingham, Up In the Air (2009): Even though his Oscar was for Syriana, I pick this role because it resonated much more (he's commended for Syriana, which was a more challenging and daring role, but the movie's overall quality doesn't match it). You could argue that he isn't doing anything different, he excels at playing Cads who Can't Commit Until They Meet The Right Woman, and this movie plays to his strengths rather than challenging him to tackle something else. And this movie appears that way, but ultimately it's a depressing movie. It's not scenery-chewing enough to get all the notice, but those nuances are what make Clooney's acting so great in this one. If I were Randy Jackson from American Idol, I would say, "Dude, what I love about you is that you know who you are as an artist. But you can still take something that's up your alley and still make it your own. This could have been a safe choice for you, but we got a hot one right here, dawg! GEORGE IS IN IT TO WIN IT!"
Happy Star Wars day everybody! You know, May the 4th.... May the 4th Be With You... (May the Force Be With You) nyah nyah nyah.
Now that we've had some distance from the end of the saga, I'm rethinking how I feel about the six films in the saga in order. Most anybody with some iota of Star Wars passion wlll agree that Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) is the best, and A New Hope (Episode IV) is number 2, with The Phantom Menace (Episode I) and Attack of the Clones (Episode II) duking it out for the bottom. (We would be remiss not to mention that the entire saga is pre-orderable on Blu-ray, as well as Episodes I-III and Episodes IV-VI separately).
So where would you rank yours? Here's my stab:
1). The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V): There are many, many reasons why this dark second "original" chapter without a happy ending is the best of the bunch, not to mention possibly the best sequel of ALL TIME. Here are a few of them: Tauntauns; the battle on Hoth; the introduction of Yoda; the Han-Leia sparring/romance; "Do, or do not. There is no try"; the asteroid field; the light saber duel, and the MOTHER OF ALL PLOT TWISTS. It's actually the first one I ever saw (yes, I was late to the game) and decades later, still awe-inspiring. Shoot, I may have to watch it again when I get home.
2). Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV): Even if, it turns out, we live in a world where Han didn't shoot first (depending on which version you stick with), this is still awesome, even if Luke's whiny lines have accumulated more unintentional laughs over the years ("But I was going over to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters"). There are two very minor quibbles I have with how this movie held up: Knowing how it all turns out, the whole Luke-crushing-on-Leia thing is just gross now, and after all of Lucas' editing, he still hasn't excised that blooper with the Storm Trooper bonking his head in the doorway.
3). Return of the Jedi (Episode VI): This is a little controversial, because I know the anti-Ewok sentiment is huge, but I rank this above Episode III because there are so many cool things about this installment: The forest speeder chase, the final lightsaber duel, finally seeing what Anakin looks like, the Endor battle, the pit of Sarlaac battle, Jabba the Hut, the cool new green lightsaber... also, despite this being a sci-fi movie there was so much more emotion in this one. (If you doubt me, flash back to Natalie Portman crying in labor and Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader going "NOOOOOOO" in Episode III. Now you have a frame of reference.). Also, I just really liked Luke being more badass and zen than whiny and impudent. I also thought the Ewoks were cute. Yes, I'm a girl.
4). Revenge of the Sith (Episode III): This one is easy. There is no contest that Episode III is the best of the prequels, because that honor was not very hard to achieve. As a standalone film, it has its flaws ("Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo"). But the arc of the saga guaranteed this to be the best before it was even made, as well as the darkest: Anakin's even killing the wee Jedi, for crying out loud! I walked away from the theater feeling like I was more or less satisfied, but years later I'm not remembering as much of it even though I own it and have watched it several times. The awe-inspiring moments are few, and Anakin's turn to the Dark Side was never gradual nor plausible enough for me. I get it, the kid's mad about his mom, but still. (Side bonus: This one has Wookiees.)
5). The Phantom Menace (Episode I): This was really hard. This was like Sophie's Choice. Which was worse? Jar Jar (Ep. I) or frolicking in the grass (Ep. II)? That Padme's shirt can be nearly ripped off with one movement (Ep. II), or Jake Lloyd's "yippee!" (Ep. I)? Don't hold me to this choice 'cause it could change the next time you ask, but I think about Liam Neeson (more than usual), the desert pod race, the Darth Maul double lightsaber vs. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn duel (which years later, is still like, a top-two lightsaber duel), and some really remarkable visuals, and subtract Jar Jar Binks, the very strange accents done by nearly everyone including Amidala, the political parts of the plot I still cannot explain to anyone. Does this equal a positive integer? Sorta. Maybe a little. Barely.
6). Attack of the Clones (Episode II): I'm going to preface this by saying that I think Hayden Christensen can actually act (see: Shattered Glass, which he is fantastic in). I have this need to qualify him all the time because people will always judge him by Star Wars, unlike Natalie Portman, who was already established as a respectable actress and came out of this saga with her dignity intact. I will even find myself defending the movie Jumper, which was not good, but I find it watchable. BUT ANYWAYS... my point is, neither of them can act in this movie. Yes, this is a great disservice because of the writing being so bad. The directing (the romantic parts) is bad. There are some good action scenes in here, and I like the whole segment where Obi-Wan goes to the rainy planet (Seattle) and witnesses the clone army. (There is also a very good outtake with Jango Fett dancing with an umbrella/falling off the wing on the bonus features. The outtakes for this movie are overall much better than the other movies, so I guess that's a plus. Watch below.). I was sorely disappointed in the forbidden love story, and there was no plot. At the time I saw it in theaters I really liked Yoda unleashing the can of whoop-ass on Dooku, but now I find all that a little weird too. Maybe Yoda should have just stayed a puppet.
Anyway, that's my opinion. Would love to hear yours! -- Ellen
It feels like we've been blogging about Harry Potter movie trailers forever, but it's just occurred to me that this the LAST first trailer of a Harry Potter movie we are ever going to talk about. (And this is the only one in 3D.) This is the one everything has been building up to, and we can't believe it's almost over. --Ellen
Priest (dir. by Scott Charles Stewart): This much we can gather from the three trailers available for this movie. Paul Bettany, Hollywood's go-to Albino-Religious-Action Star (see The Da Vinci Code, Legion, this movie), belongs to an order of priests-slash-kickass-protectors battling vampires. He has a fellow priest buddy (Karl Urban) captured by the vampires and is now an evil vampire cowboy (already wondering if the trailers have revealed too much). Bettany's niece is kidnapped and so he goes out with a gun-toting guy in a bomber jacket (Cam Gigandet) and a fellow kickass priestess (Maggie Q) to rescue her, with an arsenal of cross daggers that do pretty cool things to these weird faceless vampire creatures. (Aside from Urban, the vampires don't appear to be the good-looking ones we know today). All the while Christopher Plummer, a head priest guy, insists nothing is wrong (clearly, he is also evil). (May 13)
The Help (dir. by Tate Taylor): Based on Kathryn Stockett's bestseller, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are perfectly cast as stoic Abilene and feisty Milly, two maids in 1960s Missipppi who dare to tell their stories of life as "the help" and the white women they work for. Emma Stone (Easy A) plays Skeeter, the aspiring journalist who compiles the interviews, and Bryce Dallas Howard is the villanous Hilly, who does her best to uphold segregation. Beloved novel-to-film adaptations have struggled in the last few years (Eat Pray Love, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), but relative unknown director Tate Taylor is getting his shot, and it's a big one. (Aug. 12)
Something Borrowed (dir. by Luke Greenfield): A popular chick-lit novel, this one by Emily Giffin, follows modest Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and glamorous Darcy (Kate Hudson), two lifelong best friends with a problem: Rachel's longtime crush Dex (Colin Egglesfield) is engaged to Darcy. Not just that, Rachel sleeps with Dex after one drunken birthday party. Nobody's really the victim here, but regardless of who's side you're on, note that Giffin wrote a follow-up novel, Something Blue, that tells some of the story (and what happens after) from Darcy's perspective. Just from the trailer, Egglesfield needs to turn up the charm a little bit to be worthy of all this feminine attention; John Krasinski (The Office) fills the Confidant role. (May 6) --Ellen
We took votes, we debated those votes, we butted heads. But in the end, all that's left standing is the Amazon.com Movies & TV editors' picks for the Best of 2011... So Far on DVD, Blu-ray, and Instant Video. (Applies to titles released between Jan. 1 and Apr. 30, 2011). Here's a peek at some of our picks:
Tangled(No. 9 for DVD, No. 6 for Blu-ray): Not everyone expected to be delighted by this hilarious take on Rapunzel, but thanks to great comic timing (courtesy of a horse and an oft-used cast-iron pan) and perfectly cast Mandy Moore as the voice of the captured princess who yearns to know what's outside her sheltered world/tower, Tangled became an indelible part of the Disney lore.
Mad Men: Season Four (No. 3 for DVD, No. 5 for Blu-ray): If there's a year this show deserves the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, it's this season. Jumping off from the previous season's game-changer, the AMC series has reinvigorated itself, and Jon Hamm does his finest acting yet as a man who sinks to his lowest of lows (yet) and makes baby steps toward respecting himself again. (Don't miss the standout episode of the season, "The Suitcase")
Inside Job (No. 8 for DVD): For anyone who knows nothing about economics or real estate, this a documentary that aims to spell out exactly how the financial crisis happened and who's to blame. For anyone who understands economics or real estate, it's like a horror film you can't believe is real.
Piranha 3D (No. 18 in Blu-ray): We're not all highbrow on this list (clearly). Alejandre Aja's remake of the Roger Corman B-movie made the list not just for its Blu-ray 3D effects (much to the chagrin of James Cameron, who decried that films like these are "not what we should be doing" with 3D) but because what it does--deliver cheesetastic gore to the max without pretending to be anything else--it does well.
and finally, our No. 1 pick on DVD and Blu-ray:
The Social Network: We over here think this film deserved Best Picture (Fincher, you wuz robbed!), but no one can argue is that its DVD and Blu-ray features are a Best in Class on how to use your medium. (Not that we considered The King's Speech small beans either; it also made the top 5 in DVD). But between the strength of the film itself; its commentaries by the cast, writer Aaron Sorkin, and director David Fincher; and its feature-length documentary (not to be missed, it's a must for all film buffs); this is the Best DVD or Blu-ray to come out in 2011... So far.
The fellas at Improv Everywhere are known for their great staged productions on subway cars (see the Star Wars one here) but their newest one took an unexpected turn when their Jar Jar Binks got beat up by three guys allegedly not in on the joke.
The video ends with a plea to find the thugs who did the beatdown, but the question here is: Isn't this April Fool's Day? Or just bad timing? You decide. --Ellen
While watching the bonus features for You Again (full disclosure, yes, I watched it, and yes I enjoyed it more than I thought) I came across this Funnyordie.com clip in which Kristen Bell gets into an ugly argument with her fellow cast members Betty White, Odette Yustman, and Sigourney Weaver. And while White has stolen the show in most everything she's been in lately, it's Weaver who easily takes this one. Watch her stare down Bell in a "who's the bigger star based on box office" standoff, and start shouting the names of all her financially successful films ("AVATAR! ALIEN! GHOSTBUSTERS!... WORKING GIRL!") and then get a little desperate ("TADPOLE! ... 1492: THE DISCOVERY! ... HEARTBREAKERS!... GALAXY QUEST!") but still finish off-screen long after she's left ("... AAAVATAAR!") --Ellen
It's the hottest casting call since Twilight and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: The movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, the bestselling young-adult trilogy, has cast its lead, according to The Wrap: Jennifer Lawrence (far left), the Oscar-nominated Winter's Bone star, who will also play a younger Mystique in the upcoming X-Men: First Class movie.
She wins the role over reported contenders (and fellow Oscar nominees) Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit (center) and Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine (near left). A number of other actresses, including Chloe Moretz, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Roberts, and Emily Browning were also reportedly under consideration.
The film will be directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) and written by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass).
Now comes the male lead of Peeta: The front-runner is rumored to be Alex Pettyfer (Beastly, I Am Number Four); EW.com recently held a readers' poll on who they preferred to play the main characters; they picked Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising) for Gale, Katniss' best friend/potential love interest; Hunter Parrish (Weeds) as Peeta (Parrish is also reportedly in contention); Hugh Laurie as Hunger Games mentor Haymitch; and Kristin Chenoweth as perky Games escort Effie.
Who would you cast and what do you think of Lawrence? While she physically doesn't look as much like Katniss as Steinfeld or some of the other contenders, there's no question she can act, and I'm curious to see what she does with it. Her chemistry with whoever they cast as Gale and Peeta will likely make or break this movie. --Ellen