Faltering Mr. Ed

To begin his New Yorker review of Leaves of Grass, David Denby has written a diagnosis of what he believes has been wrong with the choices made star-producer Edward Norton. Not a question of talent but judgment, he’s saying. And yet he’s basically saying “move it or lose it.”

“Edward Norton is a good actor and a busy man — a citizen who concerns himself with solar energy, affordable housing, the Maasai wilderness, peace in the Middle East, the High Line, the fate of the Mets’ outfield, and heaven knows what else,” he writes. “But he’s not quite a movie star, or the actor he could be.


Leaves Gets Raked

At least 15 major critics and a few feature writers who’ve posted articles and reviews about Tim Blake Nelson‘s Leaves of Grass, a rowdy pot-dealing dramedy about twin brothers (both played by Ed Norton) with radically different attitudes, were surprised to learn today that First Look, the film’s distributor, has pulled the plug on a previously confirmed opening this Friday in New York and Dallas.

I’m told by 42West that “a buyer has stepped in and bought the film” with plans to give it a full-on release “sometime this summer.” A press release about this sudden turn of events will be released Thursday, the spokesperson said.

It’s still way curious for such a move to happen within days (hours almost) of a limited...

Tough Guys Don’t Dance

There’s a bothersome element in this trailer for The Expendables (Lionsgate, 8.13). I’m talking about Sylvester Stallone‘s cosmetic eye surgery. I’m particularly referring to one or two shots that suggest the use of eyeliner, which gives his appearance — be honest — a slight La Cage Aux Folles quality. Tell me this doesn’t undermine the machismo.

Poor Man’s 3-D

Last night’s 8pm curtain of American Idiot meant I couldn’t see all of the Clash of the Titans press screening, which began at 6 pm. But I was mainly interested in the quality of the faux-3D, which was finessed after the film was shot in regular 2D. I hate to drop a bomb but what I saw looked too dark. It might not have been intended to look this way, but it certainly did at last night’s showing. Which means, given typical theatrical standards, that it’s likely to be projected too darkly from Augusta to Anchorage starting on Friday.

Clash‘s 3-D doesn’t begin to approach Avatar‘s 3-D presentation levels, and that, in my book, constitutes a burn.

We all know that 3-D films have to be presented with higher-than-normal brightness levels to compensate for the darkening effect that 3-D glasses bring to...


Prior to last night’s performance of American Idiot at the St. James Theatre on West 44th — Tuesday, 3.30, 8:02 pm.

Chewed Up, Powered, Cranked

Complain all you want about the metaphor of blue-collar losers succumbing to nihilistic downswirl in American Idiot, the soon-to-open Green Day musical based on the 2004 album that Michael Mayer (partnering with songwriter/frontman Billie Joe Armstrong) has directed and co-authored. But you must acknowledge that the intense vigor, bullwhip discipline and visual-glam audacity that comprise the presentation of the show are knockout-level and totally top-tier.

American Idiot is something to argue about in terms of its vision and to perhaps feel irked by (a...

All But Toast

Westwood’s famous Village and Bruin theaters are being taken over by Regency as of 4.1, and Mann, their former owner/operator/whatever, is retreating like General Lee’s army. It’s clearly the end of an era for a once-dominant Southern California exhibition chain.

Not so long ago Mann had ten screens in Westwood — the Village, Bruin, Festival, Plaza, Regent, National, and a 4-plex. First the 4-plex went (it’s a Whole Foods now), and then the Regent was taken over by Landmark, and then Mann bailed on the Plaza and National (both have since been demolished), and then the Festival, which is now sitting vacant, collecting dust.

It’s also no secret that Mann has been slowly selling its theaters or closing them and yes, even Grauman’s (i.e., Mann’s) Chinese is up for sale.

More Cote d’Azur Guesswork

On 2.18 Screen Daily ran a Cannes 2010 spitball piece, speculating on several titles that seemed likely to play at the 63rd annual fest. Now the Indiewire team (Brian Brooks, Eugene Hernandez, Peter Knegt, Sophia Savage, Nigel Smith, Basil Tsiokos) has posted more or less the same deal, albeit with interesting additions.

Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins during filming of Woody Allen‘s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.

Their coolest speculative selection by far is Doug Liman‘s Fair Game, about the Valerie Plame-Joseph Wilson-Karl...

Fast Read

A copy of Scott Z. BurnsContagion — the basis of Steven Soderbergh‘s forthcoming deadly-virus movie for Warner Bros. — arrived a little while ago. I’ve had a chance to skim through it, and it’s scary, all right. Scary isn’t scary unless it’s believable, and this one is. The tone is urgent and tense. It feels like something in which the creepiness will leak through rather than slap you across the face.

The plot follows “an international team of doctors and scientists brought in by the Center for Disease Control after an outbreak of a deadly virus,” etc. Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence...

Master of Montage

It felt necessary to have the Bluray of Sergei Eisenstein‘s Battleship Potemkin sitting on my bookshelf. Knowing it’s there just feels right. Eisenstein is the father of Stanley Kubrick‘s visual sense, and both have strongly influenced my own sense of composition and framing when I’ve taken snaps and videos so Eisenstein feels like family.

I know it’ll be a struggle to persuade my two sons to watch BP. It’s hard enough to get them to watch anything in black-and-white.

Where’s The Caustic?

The DVD/Bluray of Sam Taylor Wood‘s Nowhere Boy will be purchasable on 5.10, but the Weinstein Co. is delaying its U.S. theatrical debut until 10.8 — six months hence. Here’s my review, posted concurrent with last fall’s London Film Festival premiere. I didn’t hear a peep out of anyone when it played Sundance 2010. “Nowhere Boy‘s somewhat feminized, all-he-needs-is-love story just didn’t turn me on,” I wrote. “I didn’t feel Lennon’s rock ‘n’ roll vitality and virility, and certainly not his rage.”

If You Can’t Rock Me

It’s obviously an excellent thing to support small local cinemas like the Regency Fairfax (as several Los Angeles demonstrators did last weekend, and like Karina Longworth did yesterday in her LA Weekly blog). But I’m no friend of the cause if projection and sound standards aren’t up to par.

My last time at the Fairfax was seeing the director’s cut of Ridley Scott‘s Kingdom of Heaven. The projection and sound were decent but not wonderful. I knew KOH would play somewhat better when...

“I’m The Guy!”

The new trailer for James Mangold‘s Knight and Day (20th Century Fox, 6.25) is suggesting that it may be a comedic Collateral. Tom Cruise‘s Milner (sardonic violent guy parachuting into the life of an average citizen) is Vincent again, and Cameron Diaz is Jamie Foxx‘s Max.

But will it pay off like Collateral? Will Milner prove to be an angel of salvation in disguise (as Vincent was for Max)? Which is to say, will Diaz’s June Havens...

Greatest Directing Lesson

Before he became a successful director, a friend asked the late Hal Ashby for a secret tip about how to get an actress to emotionally deliver in a restrained but full-on way. Ashby said, “Tell her to do a scene with every last thing she’s got — scream, cry, pound the floor, no holds barred, pull out the stops. And when she’s done doing that, say to her “okay, now do it again only this time give me nothing. Shut yourself down and be a zombie.” And the residue of the wild take will still be there, and the zombie take will be just right.”

“I Am Tired, I Am Weary”

Let me get this straight: The man who sang Heroin, Venus In Furs, Perfect Day, Sweet Jane, Dirty Blvd. and I’m Waitin’ For My Man, and who recorded Metal Machine Music, The Bells and Berlin, is hawking an iPhone app called “Lou Zoom.”

Oh, and incidentally: Death to AT&T.


Marshall Fine has called Tim Blake Nelson‘s Leaves of Grass a “textbook example of a promising movie that takes a wrong turn from which it never recovers. Starting well, building good will, assembling a solid farce framework, Nelson’s script suddenly abandons all the comedic promises it makes in the first half and turns into a blood-drenched and sadistic action film.

“It’s like grafting the last half of Death Wish on to a stoner comedy (which, come...


During intermission of the final performance of The Pride — 3.28, 8:35 pm.

Le Pain Quotidien on Hudson Street — 3.28. 6:05 pm.

New Cove Concerns?

20 days ago a Wall Street Journal article by Tokyo-based correspondent Yuka Hayashi reported that The Cove‘s capturing of the Best Feature Documentary Oscar “could give the film an audience its makers had wanted to reach: ordinary moviegoers in Japan. The movie has had only a single viewing, at the Tokyo International Film Festival [last] October, and hasn’t yet been distributed in commercial theaters in Japan because of objections from the town it features.”

It further reports that “Japanese theaters have stayed away from The Cove because of protest from Taiji, a fishing town of 3,800 people in Western Japan that bills itself as the ‘birthplace of Japan’s commercial whaling.’ The town’s officials requested the film’s Japanese distributor to drop it, saying it was...