Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tune in to TCM: Essentials, Jr.

Starting tomorrow night, Turner Classic Movies will reintroduce their Funday Night screenings as the newly christened Essentials, Jr. Abigail Breslin and Chris O'Donnell, stars of the upcoming feature film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, will host this summer long showcase of classic favorites fit for the whole family.

Films scheduled for every Sunday night this summer include such, well, essential viewing as the original Mutiny on the Bounty; Harvey; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Meet Me in St. Louis; a double feature of Sherlock Jr. and The Music Box; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; Roman Holiday; On the Town and Captains Courageous. The season kicks off with every horse lover's favorite, National Velvet, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney.

What a great way to introduce the young ones in your life to the joys of classic movies.

The Latest on TV: MTV Movie Awards

Hungry for some golden popcorn? Or perhaps some shameless self-promotion? The MTV Movie Awards, often described as the "anti-Oscars", will be presented tomorrow night on, naturally, MTV.

The two-hour special (preceded by a half hour red carpet special) will be hosted by The Love Guru himself, Mike Myers, who no doubt will be doing a lot of that shameless self-promotion.

In addition to awards such as "Best Kiss" and "Best Fight", those revered arbiters of cinematic excellence at MTV have decided to give Adam Sandler a lifetime achievement award. The only good thing about this news is that it pretty much means he won't be winning a golden popcorn for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry ... or we can at least hope.

Countdown to AFI's 10 Top 10: Mystery

"Where there is mystery,
it is generally suspected there must also be evil."
-- Lord Byron

Mystery is on the menu for the next course in our countdown to the American Film Institute's 10 Top 10, which means our top chef will be the master of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock. Nine of Hitch's greatest suspense thrillers are nominated, and all but Spellbound and Suspicion have appeared on previous AFI lists (mostly in 100 Thrills, naturally): Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Rebecca, To Catch a Thief and Vertigo, which could very well top this list considering its top ten placement in the last 100 Movies ranking.

Giving Hitchcock some strong competition is Chinatown, which tops the fifty nominees (see the comments section below for the full list) with five previous AFI listings. Joining Vertigo right behind it with four mentions each are In the Heat of the Night and The Maltese Falcon, the most likely to usurp the top spot from Hitch. Also fairing well on prior lists is The Third Man, with three listings (along with Rear Window and North by Northwest). Rounding out the list of previous AFI honorees are two-timer Blue Velvet, plus The Big Sleep, The Fugitive, Gaslight, Laura, The Postman Always Rings Twice, A Shot in the Dark, The Thin Man (the oldest film among the nominees) and The Usual Suspects, which may fare better here then in the gangster category, where it is also nominated.

Among the movies vying for a first time on the AFI short list is the questionable "mystery" The Big Lebowski, plus two AFI Award winners, Memento and Mulhulland Drive. Other contenders include And Then There Were None, Charade, The Conversation, Gosford Park, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Kiss Me Deadly, L.A. Confidential, Murder on the Orient Express, Sleuth and, the newest of the nominees, The Bourne Identity.

The mystery of which ten films will be chosen as the best of the genre will be solved June 17, when CBS airs the three hour television event, AFI's 10 Top 10.

Monthly Wallpaper - June 2008: Queer Cinema

Starting a new tradition, Movie Dearest will celebrate Gay Pride month every June with a special calendar wallpaper tribute to some of our favorite GLBT-themed movies of all time.

The 2008 edition features such classics of queer cinema as Beautiful Thing, The Times of Harvey Milk, Philadelphia, Boys Don't Cry, Personal Best, Gods and Monsters, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Latter Days, Trick, Bound, Transamerica, Desert Hearts, My Own Private Idaho, Longtime Companion and Making Love.

All you have to do is click on the picture above to enlarge it, then simply right click your mouse and select "Set as Background". (You can also save it to your computer and set it up from there if you prefer.) The size is 1024 x 768, but you can modify it if needed in your own photo-editing program.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Awards Watch: Broadway.com Audience Awards 2008

Young Frankenstein triumphed at the 9th Annual Broadway.com Audience Awards. The musical adaptation of the classic Mel Brooks comedy (which was more or less snubbed by the Tony Awards) was voted tops in five categories, including Favorite New Broadway Musical. Stars Roger Bart, Christopher Fitzgerald, Sutton Foster and Megan Mullally were also recognized.

Monty Python's Spamalot was voted Favorite Long-Running Broadway Show, while its stars Clay Aiken and Hannah Waddingham were named Favorite Replacements. Gypsy's Patti LuPone added two prizes to her ever-growing haul for this season, as Favorite Leading Actress and Favorite Diva Performance (naturally), and The Little Mermaid's Sierra Boggess was singled out as Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Female).

Other winners, who were voted on by readers of Broadway.com, include Tony nominees Patrick Stewart, Raúl Esparza, Laurence Fishburne and Lin-Manuel Miranda, plus Phylicia Rashad and the cast of Grease.

Out in Film: Cynthia Nixon

Today concludes our four part salute to the stars of Sex and the City as they are about to make the leap to the silver screen with their new movie, in theaters today.

Idol worship: Cynthia Nixon, actress.

- As the no-nonsense career gal Miranda Hobbs, she finally won a deserved Emmy Award (on her third try) in the show's final season. She was also nominated five times for the Golden Globe.

- Also on television, she co-starred in Robert Altman's Tanner '88 and guest-starred on everything from Law & Order and House to Murder She Wrote and Touched by an Angel. In 2005, she was nominated for an Emmy and a Globe for her performance as Eleanor Roosevelt in the TV movie Warm Springs.

- She made her film debut in Little Darlings, a.k.a. Sex and the City: The Training Bra Years. Other notable early film work includes The Prince of the City, I Am the Cheese, Amadeus, The Manhattan Project and Addams Family Values. Post-Sex, she has co-starred in Advice from a Caterpillar, The Out-of-Towners and Igby Goes Down.

- Her Broadway debut came with a revival of The Philadelphia Story; in 1984, she simultaneously appeared in two hit Broadway plays directed by Mike Nichols: The Real Thing and Hurlyburly. Subsequent stage work includes The Heidi Chronicles, Angels in America and Indiscretions, which earned her a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Play.

- She starred as "Mrs. Stephen Haines" in the 2001 revival of The Women, which later aired on PBS, and won the Tony Award as Best Actress for the drama Rabbit Hole in 2006.

Plan B for Plan 9

"Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives ..." and apparently get to see a so-called "serious" remake of Ed Wood's pièce de résistance, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Seriously.

Al Gore at the Opera

Well, if they can make 'em out of Star Wars and Jerry Springer, why not an Academy Award winning documentary about global warming? An operatic version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is currently being prepared for a production in Milan, Italy.

Expect lots of Sunday in the Park With George-style projections and excessive wailing.

Harvey Korman: 1927-2008

Harvey Korman, Emmy Award winning star of film and television, passed away yesterday at the age of 81.

Korman is best known for his work on the long-running comedy classic The Carol Burnett Show, for which he won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. Other memorable TV appearances include voicing the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones and playing several characters in the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978.

Film roles include the Mel Brooks' comedies Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, History of the World: Part 1 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, plus three Pink Panther movies and the family favorites Huckleberry Finn and Herbie Goes Bananas.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Latest in Theaters: The Joy of Sex

Indiana who? In case you didn't know, the Fabulous Four of Sex and the City are back and on the big screen this weekend. Also joining them in theaters starting tomorrow:
  • Savage Grace: Director Tom Kalin's first feature since Swoon stars Julianne Moore as Barbara Daly, famed socialite, incestuous mother and infamous murder victim ... at the hands of her gay son, Antony Baekeland.
  • The Strangers: Sexy Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler are a couple on vacation ... a vacation of terror (there seems to be a lot of that going around lately).
  • The Foot Fist Way: Comedy about a loser Tae Kwan Do instructor who makes a pilgrimage to see his martial arts star inspiration (not Chuck Norris, go figure) at a kung fu convention.
  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster*: Documentary filmmaker Chris Bell shines a light on the use of steroids in American sports. Check out the provocative trailer at the movie's official website.
Visit Fandango - Search movie showtimes and buy tickets!

Indiana Jones and the Imposing Chin

While it is not surprising that Disneyland would cash in on the phenomonal success of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with a slew of quickie "enhancements" to its Adventureland area, what is surprising is that they hired Bruce Campbell to play the intrepid adventurer ...? (Click on image for a closer look.)

Visit LaughingPlace.com for full coverage, including videos and pictures.

Potent Quotables: Catholic School Girls Edition

In an interview for Moviefone, Sex and the City movie director Michael Patrick King relates his favorite on-set anecdote:

"We were filming the Charlotte-Mr. Big scene, in front of the restaurant when she's very pregnant, and there was a fire drill in the Catholic high school across the street, and all the girls came pouring onto the street in their Catholic plaid uniforms, screaming, and running directly into the shot and going up to Mr. Big and going, "We love you!" And [Chris Noth] said, "Aren't you supposed to be in school?" And two girls said, "Abso-f***ing-lutely".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Women We Love: Sarah Jessica Parker

Today continues our four part salute to the stars of Sex and the City as they are about to make the leap to the silver screen with their new movie, in theaters May 30.

Object of our affection: Sarah Jessica Parker, actress/producer.

- As the center of the Sex universe, the Manolo Blahnik-wearing, Cosmopolitan-sipping, sex column-writing Carrie Bradshaw, she won four Golden Globes, three SAG Awards and an Emmy, plus additional trophies for her role as producer of the series.

- She paid her dues on Broadway as the "Tomorrow" belting title orphan in Annie. Later, she would star in revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (opposite her husband, Matthew Broderick) and Once Upon a Mattress.

- Her lead role in the short-lived but well-remembered TV sitcom Square Pegs led to such teen films as Footloose, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Flight of the Navigator.

- She graduated to adult, sexy roles with L.A. Story (as a typical L.A. girl named SanDeE*), followed by Honeymoon in Vegas, Miami Rhapsody and The First Wives Club. Other film appearances include such quirky fare as Hocus Pocus, Ed Wood and Mars Attacks!

- Post Sex, she has starred in State and Main, Strangers With Candy, The Family Stone, Failure to Launch and the recent Smart People. After this week's Sex movie, she'll appear in the big screen romantic comedy A Family Affair.

Oh, Kaye!

The Kid from Brooklyn: The Danny Kaye Musical begins previews tonight in Chicago in preparation for a June 7 to August 24 run.

The bio musical, which previously had successful productions in Los Angeles and Florida, features songs from the beloved comic actor's many films, including The Court Jester, White Christmas and Hans Christian Andersen.

Sawyer Says, Part 2

Attention all Lost-ies: be sure to watch tomorrow night's two-hour season finale, or you'll be makin' like Sawyer in this here video.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reverend's Reviews: Surfin' With the Gays

As GLBT-oriented movies proliferate, I am increasingly amused by how each new release seems to be termed "the gay (fill-in-the-blank) movie." For example, we've had "the gay slasher movie" (Hellbent), "the gay cowboy movie" (Brokeback Mountain), and "the gay soccer movie" (Eleven Men Out). While it can be edifying to hear of and watch gay takes on established genres, such terminology makes each film sound like not only the first but also the last of its kind!

Well, we can now add "the gay surfer movie," Shelter, to the list. It is being released on DVDthis week after a successful, if limited, theatrical run. The first project produced under here! Networks' Independent Film Initiative, Shelter has won numerous awards at various US film festivals.

Talented newcomer Trevor Wright plays Zach, a young aspiring artist living in San Pedro, California. As the responsible member of his dysfunctional family, he works in a local restaurant to support his ailing father and his young nephew. The latter is on the verge of being abandoned by Zach's older sister, Jeanne (a largely unsympathetic role well played by Tina Holmes), who is preparing to move to Oregon with her latest deadbeat boyfriend.

While taking an occasional, well-needed break from the pressures of his home life, Zach starts surfing with his best friend's older brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe, who has become both better looking and a better actor since he played the object of Sean Hayes' desire in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss). An openly gay writer, Shaun takes Zach under his wing in more ways than one, gradually helping Zach explore his budding sexuality.

Written and directed by Jonah Markowitz, Shelter is a better than average coming-of-age story. Though it is somewhat predictable and suffers at times from some rough editing transitions, likely due to budgetary constraints, it is honest and heartfelt. One can't help but be moved by the film's climax, wherein Zach, Shaun and Zach's nephew are realistically presented as a healthier and more loving family than most.

Rowe and Wright have a nice chemistry and laid-back rapport that makes Shelter perfect romantic viewing on a warm summer night. It may be the first "gay surfer movie" (no, Point Break doesn't count), but let's hope it isn't the last.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

The Latest on DVD: Faboo

Sweetie darling, if you must have absolutely every fabulous moment of Patsy and Edina's alcohol-soaked, drug-induced, Lacroix-clad adventures, then you absolutely must have Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Everything.

The new nine-disc box set includes all five series of the classic Britcom, plus the two Christmas specials and over two and half hours of bonus features. The whole shebang is packaged in a chic silver quilted photo journal with leopard print bookmark. Like I said, "faboo".

Click on the link above to buy from Amazon.com, and see the Latest on DVD widgets in the sidebar for more of this week's new releases on sale now.

A Musical Affair

The original Broadway cast album for the new musical A Catered Affairis available today. Featuring songs by John Bucchino, the cast includes Tony Award nominees Faith Prince and Tom Wopat, plus Harvey Fierstein (who also wrote the show's book), Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh.

Also available today: the cast album for the Tony nominated revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.Click on the links to purchase the new albums from Amazon.com.

Sydney Pollack: 1934-2008

Sydney Pollack, Academy Award-winning director, producer and actor, died Monday at the age of 73.

A filmmaker known for his skill with actors, Pollack not surprisingly started his career as an actor and was also well known for his many character parts in recent years, from Will and Grace (wherein he played Will's philandering father) to his most recent production, Michael Clayton. But it was directing that brought him his biggest acclaim; he helmed such classics as They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Jeremiah Johnson; The Way We Were; Three Days of the Condor; Absence of Malice; Tootsie and Out of Africa, which earned him his two Oscars, as both director and producer.

As producer, he also brought us such films as The Fabulous Baker Boys, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Sense and Sensibility, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Iris, The Quiet American, Cold Mountain and the recent Leatherheads, among many others. Onscreen, he had memorable turns in his own films (most memorably in Tootsie, as Dustin Hoffman's exasperated agent) and those of others, including Robert Altman's The Player, Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives and Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. His last screen appearance was in this spring's Made of Honor.

Reverend's Reviews: Indy Loses Faith -- But Gains Shia

As Jim Broadbent's Yale Dean says to Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones (Harrison Ford) early on in the latter's first big-screen outing in 19 years, "We're at the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them." I don't think Indy's creators (and, now, contemporaries) George Lucas and Steven Spielberg will agree with that assessment when it comes to the new movie's opening box office; their globetrotting archaeologist is clearly as popular and crowd-pleasing as ever. However, in comparing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with its 1980's predecessors, it becomes clear that, while Dr. Jones gains a couple of significant things, much has been taken from him.

Broadbent nicely acknowledges with his line above the death of Jones' father, charmingly played by Sean Connery in 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as the loss of Indy's fellow professor and friend Marcus Brody, played by the late Denholm Elliott in both Last Crusade and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Also, while his absence isn't addressed here, I missed Sallah, played so winningly by John Rhys-Davies in those same prior films. One character from Raiders who makes a most welcome return in the new movie is Marion Ravenwood, here re-christened Mary Williams due to an intervening marriage. Long lost like one of Indy's prized relics, Karen Allen looks great and brings much-needed energy to Crystal Skull after a dull first hour. I can't help but wonder, though, if Marion's re-appearance will be lost on younger viewers or anyone who hasn't seen Raiders.

Indy also gains a brash young sidekick, Mutt Williams, played by Shia LaBeouf in 1950's Marlon Brando mode. With both a switchblade and a comb always at the ready, LeBeouf makes a fine apparent successor to Ford. Speaking of Ford, he remains in great shape, both physically and dramatically. While he doesn't have as many comedic lines or moments as he did in the earlier movies, Ford brings an appropriate spirit of resignation/ surrender befitting his -- and his character's -- age.

Alas, from a creative standpoint Indy has lost more than he has gained in Crystal Skull. The adventurer has taken on some great nemeses, including Adolf Hitler, in the past. Hard as she tries, Cate Blanchett doesn't quite cut it as a wicked, black-haired Commie commanding a squad of Soviet soldiers in a quest for the film's title object. She is too mannered and never becomes as vicious as she ought. Additionally, her nearly flawless Russian accent dissolves into the Queen's English every time she says "Dr. Jones," which is frequently.

Then there is what I previously described as the film's dull first half. The Indiana Jones movies have never had to rely on dialogue, using it minimally in deference to magnificent action set pieces. There is simply too much dialogue and unnecessary exposition in his latest adventure, and most of it is in the initial hour. Indy was historically a man of few words, which was apparently lost on screenwriter David Koepp. He has given Indy an overabundance of words, which doesn't result in a dramatic gain.

But the most significant thing curiously deleted from the new movie is a sense of religious faith. Part of the appeal of the series to date was that, while he wasn't clearly or overtly religious himself, Indy's previous adventures centered on the hunt for religious artifacts: the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones (in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and the Holy Grail. In the process, Indy unwittingly became a savior figure, whether it was saving the world from Nazi tyranny, a remote Indian village's children, or his own father's life. Divine forces intervened and aided Indy, which Indy always noted and respected.

This is sadly absent from Crystal Skull, replaced with a dated Chariots of the Gods? scenario that ultimately credits beings from another dimension as having inspired the development of ancient South America and of modern technology. Or something like that. The film's climax is intellectually muddled and oddly reminiscent of the finale of 2001's The Mummy Returns, which was itself inspired by the earlier Indiana Jones movies.

All that being said, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an entertaining-enough way to spend a summer afternoon and, in Spielberg's hands, is more accomplished than most of what Hollywood is dishing out so far this season. I just wish Indy had been given more than what was taken from him.

UPDATE: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cinematic Crush: Jason Lewis

Crush object: Jason Lewis, actor/model.

- He is best known as the object of Samantha Jones' affection/lust, Absolut Hunk model Smith Jerrod on Sex and the City; he returns to the role this week when the Sex movie hits the big screen Friday.

- Soon after graduating college, his modeling career started in Paris and Milan for some of the biggest names in fashion, including Guess?, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.

- A guest shot on Beverly Hills, 90210 led to his Sex stint, which was followed by recurring roles on Charmed and Brothers and Sisters, wherein he played Kevin's closeted soap star boyfriend Chad Barry.

- Other film roles include Next Stop Wonderland, The Jacket, My Bollywood Bride and Mr. Brooks.

- Fans are rallying around him to play superhero Captain America in the upcoming movie adaptation of the long-running comic book.

Best of the Fests: Cannes Winners

The 2008 Cannes Film Festival came to a close yesterday, which means that prizes were handed out to a bunch of films that we all really haven't heard much about yet, let alone actually seen. Nevertheless, The Class (described as "an evocation of contemporary society as seen through a year's events in a Paris junior high school classroom") became the first French film in 20 years to win the big award, the Palme d'Or, while some recognizable names did take home some of the other honors given at the famed fest's 61st annual festivities.

Special Prizes went to Catherine Deneuve for A Christmas Tale and Clint Eastwood for Changeling, proving that even the French love their Clint (although I'm sure jury chairman Sean Penn had a say in the matter). Benicio del Toro won Best Actor for his title performance in Steven Soderbergh's Che, the four-hour epic biopic of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, best known around these parts as that guy in Evita.

Reel Thoughts: From Russia With Love

It was really nice of Steven Spielberg to provide me with my next Halloween costume! Cate Blanchett as Dr. Irina Spalko, in a gray jumpsuit and sleek black bob, is ready-made for drag impersonation, even without her "moose and squvirrel" Natasha accent! She’s just one reason to love the latest Indiana Jones chapter, but not the only one. Harrison Ford is virtually resuscitated as an actor by donning the fedora and whip, and I can just hear fiancée Calista Flockhart saying, "Honey, bring HIM to bed with you tonight!" Ford’s having a ball, and it’s great to see.

The story of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will not surprise anyone who grew up watching those cheesy "documentaries" like Chariot of the Gods?, which is emblematic of its not-very-challenging reach. Set in 1957, the film finds Indy an older but not much wiser professor who gets caught up in Commie hysteria when he is kidnapped by Russians and taken to Area 51 to help them steal a crystal skull with psychic properties. Blanchett’s Dr. Spalko is a fabulous but underdeveloped expert in mind control, and she is convinced that the skull holds the secret to a new level of warfare. Jones is also called upon to save an old friend by a young greaser named Mutt, played by it-boy Shia LaBeouf. The single-minded story takes them to South America where they seek out the fabled city of El Dorado and also Mutt’s missing mother, who ends up being a familiar face.

Crystal Skull is a fairly entertaining chapter in the saga, with funny and exciting action sequences, but like its star, it doesn’t strain itself too much. It’s great to see the old faces and achieve some closure to certain characters, but if you’re hoping for some unforgettable images like melting Nazis, pulsing hearts ripped from chests, or even a little Cole Porter crooned in Mandarin Chinese, you’ll be disappointed. The ending is a letdown, given the dramatic climaxes of the previous films, and Spielberg messes up by not using Blanchett and her character’s "powers" more. Still, it does have a warm, cozy coda that serves as a nice final image to the saga, and guess what, not an Ewok in sight!

UPDATE: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Dick Martin: 1922-2008

Dick Martin, the Emmy Award-winning television comic who was one half of the team that brought us Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, passed away Saturday at the age of 86.

Although he is best known for Laugh-In, the groundbreaking, swinging 60's comedy/variety show classic he created with Dan Rowan that proved to be a breeding ground of new stars (Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley) and popular catchphrases ("Sock it to me!", "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's", "You bet your sweet bippy"), Martin was also a frequent guest star on game shows and other variety series and a prolific television director, including The Bob Newhart Show and Showtime's early gay-themed sitcom, Brothers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tune in to TCM: Memorial Day

Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to the holiday honoring American servicemen and women tomorrow with a Memorial Day-long marathon of war- and peace-themed films.

Wings, the very first Academy Award-winning Best Picture, starts off the day, which also includes another Best Picture, The Best Years of Our Lives (starring Oscar winners Harold Russell and Fredric March, plus the always welcome Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright). Another home front drama, Since You Went Away (starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and an all-grown up Shirley Temple) will also screen, as well as the TCM premiere of The Eagle Has Landed, starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall.

Visit TCM.com for the full schedule and times.

Countdown to AFI's 10 Top 10: Sports

"It ain’t over 'til it's over."
-- Yogi Berra

Ladies and gentlemen, don your sports bras and jock straps, for we have now reached the point in our countdown to the American Film Institute's 10 Top 10s where the focus is on sports movies. These are the movies that depict the thrill of victory and/or the agony of defeat, where losers never quit and winners almost always win ... usually in slow motion while the orchestra swells.

Standing head and sweaty shoulders above all other contenders in this competition is Rocky, which lands a knock out with seven previous mentions on AFI lists past (which, by the way, places it in a tie for second overall with The Wizard of Oz; Casablanca is AFI's most honored film, appearing on eight of the ten lists so far). Needless to say, prospects are good that the ol' Italian Stallion will easily find himself the #1 choice this round as well. The only other movies to come close, with three previous mentions each, are two very different black and white biopics: the old-fashioned The Pride of the Yankees and the down and dirty Raging Bull.

The three films with two previous listings each -- Caddyshack, Field of Dreams and Jerry Maguire -- may find their (respective) comedy, fantasy and romance aspects playing against them in this particular match. Previous single list AFI honorees with stronger chances are Breaking Away, Bull Durham, Chariots of Fire, Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (the oldest film among the 50 nominees), Hoosiers, the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers, The Karate Kid, Knute Rockney - All American, A League of Their Own, National Velvet, Rudy and Seabiscuit. AFI list watchers will notice the abundance of movies (ten total) that placed on the 100 Cheers list, the group's 2006 countdown of the most inspirational movies of all time.

Before we get to the rookies, two movies -- Friday Night Lights and Million Dollar Baby -- were previously honored by the AFI with AFI Awards, which therefore may give them an edge in this round (both films, along with Miracle, were released in 2004, thereby making them the newest movies among the 50 nominees; see the comments section below for the full list). Which may not leave much of a chance for the remaining roster of hopefuls for this squad, but I will note such personal favorites as Angels in the Outfield, The Bad News Bears, Eight Men Out, The Great White Hope, Heart Like a Wheel, The Hustler (and its sequel, The Color of Money), The Natural, Somebody Up There Likes Me and the lesbian-themed Personal Best.

The ten films making up the winners circle in this particular match will be revealed on June 17, when CBS will air the three-hour special, AFI's 10 Top 10.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rent This Theater

The Tony Award winning musical sensation Rent is returning to movie theaters ... sort of. The final performance of the long-running Broadway show (scheduled for September 7) will be filmed for future screenings in movie theatres around the country.

Per Playbill.com: "The filming is part of a new business venture launched by Sony Pictures Releasing, which is entitled The Hot Ticket. The Hot Ticket, according to a press release, will "distribute event programming, including popular music concerts, the performing arts, and sporting events in high definition digital projection to select movie theaters nationwide."

Original and past cast members of the groundbreaking rock opera are expected to return for the final curtain as well. These special closing night extras will also be included in the "Hot Ticket" screenings.

Giving Props: The Ten Commandments

Attention heavy bidders: now you can own a piece of cinematic/ancient/biblical history when the original tablets held by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments will go up for auction this summer.

The props, one of four surviving sets, are expected to fetch upwards of $60,000 (or 6K per commandment).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Toon Talk: Whip Crackin’

Twenty-seven years ago, on movie screens all over the world, a hero was born, and his name was Indiana Jones. Inspired by the swashbuckling adventurers of the past, this hero was a classic in every sense of the word: honorable, intelligent, patriotic, even a little rough around the edges. As brought to life in the motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark by director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas and actor Harrison Ford, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. embodied heroism for many a moviegoer in the summer of 1981 … and beyond.

And although his follow up film adventures (his trip to the Temple of Doom in 1984, his so-called Last Crusade in 1989) may have failed to live up to the pure wonder and adrenalin of his first escapade (at least in my eyes), his stature as one of the great movie heroes has never wavered (he was even named the number two movie hero of all time in an American Film Institute poll in 2003). Through the years, a television series, comic books, video games and Disney theme park attractions have been added to the mix, and now, nineteen years after his last big screen adventure, the man with the whip is back in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (in theaters now).

Does the new film live up to the legacy of Raiders? Not quite, but it isn’t a poke in the eye like Lucas’ Star Wars prequels either. What it is is a fun thrill ride of a movie that only really jumps the tracks at its somewhat preposterous climax; but in the meantime, it delivers a rollicking cinematic adventure that should satisfy most fans who’ve been jonesing for this particular brand of Indy action for almost twenty years now.

Click here to continue reading my Toon Talk review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at LaughingPlace.com.

UPDATE: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.

Out in Film: Darren Star

Idol worship: Darren Star, writer/director/producer.

- He is the creator of three of our favorite TV obsessions: Beverly Hills, 90210; Melrose Place and Sex and the City.

- An Emmy winning producer for the latter, as well as the upcoming movie version (in theaters May 30).

- He has also given us such series as Central Park West, Grosse Point, Miss Match, Kitchen Confidential and the recent (and recently cancelled) Cashmere Mafia.

- In addition to writing and producing his series', he has also directed several episodes.

- Next up: the much-talked about 90210 update.

Game On!

The Last Starfighter, the "intergalactic musical" based on the 1984 sci fi movie favorite, will be presenting workshop presentations this weekend at the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington.

Visit Playbill.com for more information.

MD Poll: From Screen to Stage, Class of 2007-2008

With the 2007-2008 Broadway season now at its end (and the Tony Awards just around the corner), the latest MD Poll asks you to take a look at the six "screen to stage" productions that have trod the boards of the Great White Way over the past year and asks "which is your favorite?"

Five musicals (A Catered Affair, Cry-Baby, The Little Mermaid, Xanadu and Young Frankenstein) and one play (The 39 Steps) are in the running, so make your choice and place your vote in the poll located in the sidebar to your right. Results will be revealed in two weeks.

UPDATE: This polll is now closed. Click here for the results, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

MD Poll: Jonesin' for Action

The internet has virtually exploded over Indiana Jones this week (for example, check out all the posts tagged "Indy 2008" -- as in 2,008 posts -- on Cinematical alone), so it is no big surprise that the classic adventurer tops the latest MD Poll as your favorite action movie hero.

Harrison Ford's iconic Raider of the Lost Ark netted nearly one-quarter of the votes, with James Bond coming in a close second. Supercop John McClane and superspy Jason Bourne also placed in the double digits, while the low-tech ape-man Tarzan rounds out the top five.

See the comments section below for a complete rundown of the stats, and click here for the latest MD Poll.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Latest in Theaters: Not Just Indy

We'll have plenty of coverage of that certain movie with the excessively long title later this weekend, so in the meantime, here are a few other films in theaters this week that are also worth your attention:
  • A Jihad for Love: This acclaimed documentary from producer Sandi Simcha DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and writer/director Parvez Sharma tells the stories of lesbian and gay Muslims from around the world. Now playing in New York, visit the film's official website for future screenings and more information.
  • The Edge of Heaven: A lesbian couple is at the core of this Babel-like, international-set drama (which won the screenplay prize at last year's Cannes) from award-winning German director Fatih Akin.
  • The Children of Huang Shi: Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a reporter who leads a group of orphans on a thousand-mile journey through war torn China in this fact-based drama, co-starring Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh.
Visit Fandango - Search movie showtimes and buy tickets!

A Little Bit Country

From the creator of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas comes another countrified (if less bawdy) stage musical: Pure Country.

The new tuner, based on the 1992 movie starring George Strait and Lesley Ann Warren, is making its way to Broadway next season, starting off with a pair of workshops this week.

Best of the Fests: Blueprint

Opposites attract in Blueprint, Kirk Shannon-Butts' feature film debut screening today at the Cannes Film Festival.

Watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Women We Love: Kim Cattrall

Today continues our four part salute to the stars of Sex and the City as they are about to make the leap to the silver screen with their new movie, in theaters May 30.

Object of our affection: Kim Cattrall, actress.

- As the sexy Samantha Jones, she was a cougar before there was a name for it; for her vampish performance, she was nominated for the Emmy five times unsuccessfully, but she did take home a Golden Globe Award.

- Prior to her noted sexcapades, she guest-starred on everything from The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries to The Paper Chase to Charlie's Angels.

- She made her name on the big screen in such lowbrow comedies as Porky's and Police Academy before became a fanboy pin-up with Big Trouble in Little China, Mannequin and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (as a Vulcan, no less).

- Frankly, she's not known for her film choices, as her resume includes such notorious stinkers as The Bonfire of the Vanities, Baby Geniuses and Crossroads (as Britney Spears' mother, no less).

- Capitalizing on her Sex character, she wrote the sex manual Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm.

Bye Bye Betty

"All right ladies, it's time for some dodgeball!"

Our Ugly Betty (played by the always game America Ferrera) faces some big challenges in tomorrow night's season finale, including a Felicity-esque choice between her two suitors in the present and a Hairspray-esque game of dodgeball in the past.

And, as you may have heard, a certain Lindsay Lohan guest stars as a Mean Girl from Betty's high school days. But she isn't the only tabloid name to sign up for the second season closer, as Naomi Campbell also pops in for a little game of ... softball?

Immediately following Betty will be the two-hour season finale of Grey's Anatomy, which promises to feature a reunion between Meredith and Dr. McDreamy and a possible hook up between lady docs Hahn and Torres.

All Hail, Prince Jake

Jake Gyllenhaal is finally entering into the (potential) franchise business. He has been cast in the lead role of the big screen adaptation of the popular video game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

The fantasy adventure comes from Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, so expect lots of Pirates of the Caribbean-like, well, fantasy and adventure. Mike Newell, who tried his hand at such endeavors with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is set to direct the picture, due to start filming this summer.

Joining Jake will be newcomer Gemma Arterton, who will first be seen this fall opposite Daniel Craig in a little movie called Quantum of Solace.

UPDATE: Disney has pushed this back from a June 2009 release date to Memorial Day 2010.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poster Post: The Big Red One

Ron Perlman looks mighty fierce (as would be expected) in the first official poster art for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, in theaters July 11.

Picture Perfect

Ben Barnes, hot off the #1 movie of the weekend, will trade in his Prince Caspian armor for the dapper period garb of Dorian Gray in an upcoming adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This is, of course, not the first time Dorian has been dramatized on film; the character has appeared in over twenty film and television incarnations. Previous Dorians include Josh Duhamel, Stuart Townsend, Helmut Berger and Hurd Hatfield.

Return to Oz

Three of our favorite Aussies -- Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Baz Luhrmann -- team up for the upcoming epic Australia, in theaters November 14.

And if that line-up isn't enough to get set your pulse pounding, see the new trailer here.

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