Saturday, March 10, 2007
Must See Movie: South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s horror film “The Host”
The best time at the movies belongs to director Bong Joon-ho and his South Korean horror film “The Host,” a clever hybrid of monster scares, foreign-language drama and world politics. On one level, “The Host” is the tale of a lazy dad and his splintered Seoul family who come together to save his young daughter from a beast in the Han River. Horror fans will focus on the fast-paced scares as the monster sprints across the riverbank in search of victims to gobble. Audiences normally uninterested in monster movies will be amazed by the intelligence in Bong’s storytelling, a film that is as much about the reach of the U.S. military, terrorism and political activism as any slimy creature. Between the shrieks, Bong has something serious to say with “The Host.”
"The Host" premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and opened in major cities on March 9. Magnolia Pictures will open it in art house theaters across America throughout March and April.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Give the usher a scorecard — preview audience gets review of Terrence Howard’s ‘Pride’ before the film starts
The usher at a recent Cincinnati preview screening of “Pride,” the feel-good drama about a Philadelphia swim coach (Terrence Howard, pictured in the photo) who trains and inspires a group of inner-city youths to the championships, gave all the expected pre-show introductions.
“Turn off your cell phones and pagers or put them on vibrate so not to disturb your neighbors,” she said, raising her voice in order to be heard by the anxious crowd.
What came next was completely unexpected.
“Oh, and enjoy the movie. It’s a pretty good one.”
The audience laughed at her honesty. If she had to anything to say about “Pride,” shouldn’t she have called it the best movie of the year, or at least a really good one? Later, the crowd laughed at co-star Bernie Mac’s frequent scenes of comic relief.
Interested in my thoughts? Well, let me gather them and comment on Howard’s performance closer to the film’s March 23 opening. Let’s just say I don’t see eye-to-eye with the opinionated usher.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The Leap: Indie filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish make a successful jump to studio movies with ‘The Astronaut Farmer’
Filmmaking brothers Mark and Michael Polish (L-R Michael Polish, Mark Polish and cameraman M. David Mullen on location)knew nothing of working with a production designer when they left behind the independent film world for the Warner Bros. family adventure “The Astronaut Farmer.” What makes the Brothers Polish’s leap into studio moviemaking, complete with a treasure chest of technical resources, so successful is how they blend their quirky sense of storytelling with child-friendly fantasy and feel-good sentimentality.
Billy Bob Thornton stars as Charles Farmer, a former Air Force pilot who has dedicated his life to building a rocket at his Texas farm and piloting it into space. Finally, he’s found an eccentric character equal to his own oddball personality. Virginia Madsen brims with easygoing charm as his wife Audie. Tim Blake Nelson is aw-shucks brilliant as a small-town lawyer helping Farmer fight against government officials who want to prevent his rocket flight.
Michael Polish makes the larger leap since he’s the one in the director’s chair, although Mark Polish is in front of the camera as one of the FBI Agents watching Farmer.
“The Astronaut Farmer” is as beautiful to watch as earlier Polish brothers films, their 1999 debut drama “Twin Falls Idaho” and subsequent films “Jackpot” and “Northfork.” More importantly, their thumb prints, their distinct way of looking at the world and telling stories, remains intact.
The Polish brothers are authors of the book “The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking,” a manifesto for self-produced moviemaking. But their next production is the sci-fi drama “I.D.,” another big-budget studio movie. Looks like they may need to write a new chapter to their book, explaining how one can remain creatively independent within the studio system without being Martin Scorsese or Clint Eastwood.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Goodbye Premiere Magazine
True sadness is what I remember feeling when the American Film Institute stopped publishing “American Film Magazine” close to twenty years ago. I remain biased towards “American Film” because the magazine represented my growth from a kid who waited excitedly in line for “The Empire Strikes Back” to a college-bound teenager experiencing the joys of foreign-language cinema, documentaries, classics and the avant-garde, basically, the other side of cinema. Of course, one still retains their love for Hollywood blockbusters — yes, I’m very much looking forward to “Spider-Man 3” — which is why I feel sad about the magazine rack demise of “Premiere,” announced Monday by its publisher Hachette Filipachi (Foreign editions of ‘Premiere” will remain operating). I have always considered the evolution of an American movie buff to be something like this: Grow up watching Disney movies and blockbuster adventures; seek out and embrace art-house fare; then, sneak back to the multiplexes and contemplate “Pirates of the Caribbean’s” Captain Jack as a symbol of pansexual freedom.
“Premiere,” the April issue will be its last, was a voice that understood the childlike fan inside many serious-minded moviegoers.
New Technology prevents the “Premiere” brand from closing completely. The magazine will survive as “Premiere.com” and “Premiere Mobile,” another reasons for film buffs to remain glued to their laptops.