June 29, 2007

On The To Do & To See List

Isn't there something terribly festive about a weekend just before a mid-week holiday? It's not like this weekend is anything special but next week is so abbreviated it makes you want to sing with joy. Also, the humidity broke in New York, so that's another reason today is happy day. Here's the Cinecultist's big no-holiday weekend plans:

- Watch the Netflixed DVD of Little Dieter Needs to Fly. CC saw Rescue Dawn recently which we thought was very disturbing and fucked-up-but-in-a-good-way. Now we need to know what Werner Herzog thought was the deal with Dieter before he learned the real deal about Dieter and made it into a movie with Christian Bale.

- Eat take-out and Tasti D-Lite. Summer makes us a little lazy on the cooking front and obsessed with low cal frozen treats that taste like fake mud pie.

- Relax by going to yoga class and getting a hot salt scrub at Bliss. Dry scaly skin begone thanks to lovely birthday gift certificates.

- Go to another New York Asian Film Festival screening. This one is of Getting Home which is from China and about peasants, if we recall correctly.

- Think about going to a screening of one of the Kino films at Lincoln Center which we recommended on Gothamist today.

- Potential Mitzvah: wander around in front of a theater playing Evening and try to persuade patrons not to spend their $11.75 on a ticket. Gawd, that movie blows and sucks, as Manohla Dargis more eloquently put it in her NYT review. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

- Maybe go to the Richard Serra exhibit. Maybe do a little shopping. Maybe take a nap. The possibilities are endless!

June 28, 2007

Humidity Addles The Cinecultist's Celebrity Sighting Skills

Jeez, it's really been disgustingly humid here in New York over the last few days. Last night, while noshing on a chicken sandwich and a banana on a nice metal step in front of the Tribeca Issey Miyake store before a screening* and trying not to get too overheated, who should we spy walking down the street but the thinking-girl crushes John Krasinski and Will Arnett. Cinecultist looked up, made brief eye contact with the quite tall "Jim" and then quickly glanced back at our sandwich. Damn our frizzy head and slightly damp pits!

As soon as the two were out of shouting distance, CC pulled out the phone to call Jen, aka the future Mrs. Krasinski.

Jen: Hello?
CC: Guess who I just saw walking down the street in Tribeca!? Your future husband! John Krasinski! And, uh, Mr. Amy Poehler, the guy who plays Gob on Arrested Development...
J: Will Arnett?
CC: Yeah, right. Sorry, I knew that. I was just was so excited about John.
J: That's so funny you saw them together because the one time I saw John Krasinski, he was also with Will Arnett. Maybe there's some secret relationship thing going on between them...

Now, Cinecultist is hardly the kind of site to be starting a filthy rumor about John and Will becoming the next Jake Gyllenhaal/Lance Armstrong pairing, so you can disregard that last comment from Jen. For our money, we think it's either that spot—we almost smacked into Jack White of The White Stripes coming out of that Jin Deli in 2003—or that we're on a tear to systematically celeb spot the entire cast of The Office. First was Rashida Jones outside of Town Hall before the Ben Gibbard show, and now this Halpert encounter. Hopefully Mindy Kaling is next. Her Kelly Kapoor is utterly side-splitting and we probably wouldn't be too tongue-tied to tell her so.

*In case you were wondering, CC saw Sunshine, Danny Boyle's newest and it was AWESOME. In the league of Aliens, 2001 and Solaris. For serious. More of a review to come.

June 27, 2007

Finally, A Good Remake Idea

ivornlodger1.jpgIf like the Cinecultist you've spent any time discussing the MacGuffin or have any fondness for the Fat Man, you'll be equally excited about this news. Sony Pictures will be remaking one of Alfred Hitchcock's first films made in his native Britain, the 1926 silent thriller The Lodger, to be set in modern day Los Angeles and directed by documentarian David Ondaatje, according to Reuters today.

jonathan-rhys-meyers-1.jpegThree keys to a great Lodger remake, in CC's opinion, are a strong script, understanding chiaroscuro and thoughtful casting. As for the later, might we suggest tapping into the androgynous, sexy qualities of the original actor Ivor Novello by casting Jonathan Rhys Meyers? After Match Point we know he can do "cold-hearted killer" as well as "surprisingly sympathetic sex machine." Plus, look at those lips! Not to mention the epic cheekbones. Sigh. We'd definitely pay $11 to see JRM as a modern day Jack the Ripper.

June 26, 2007

"The Vending Machine Says Hi"

The New York Asian Film Festival began this past weekend, and on Sunday night amidst the residual brouhaha of Pride weekend in the West Village, Cinecultist caught a screening of I'm A Cyborg But That's Okay at the IFC Center. We've been anticipating Park Chan-wook's newest as well as the sixth annual fest from the folks at Subway Cinema and for the most part neither parties disappointed. Complex visuals and kooky characters from Park? Check. High energy programmer Grady Hendrix acting delightfully spastic as he introduces the film and gives away free stuff? Double check.

Unfortunately I'm A Cyborg, while containing a lot of great moments (including the part where one of the characters utters that bizarre and hilarious line we used for the headline), isn't uniformly as compelling as some of Park's previous work. Set in a mental institution, the two main characters are Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim, who played one of the sisters from A Tale of Two Sisters) and Il-Sun (Rain, a HUGE Asian pop star), who fall for each other while trying to cope with their mental instability. Il-Sun believes he has the ability to steal people's character traits as well as their prized possessions while Young-goon thinks herself a cyborg and chats with inanimate objects in the hospital like the fluorescent lights and the aforementioned vending machine. Of course because she's animatronic, Young-goon believes she needs to be recharged with electricity rather than refueled with conventional food, a theory at odds with the standard practices of a hospital.

Like in his previous films, Park's movies really take off when he enters his characters' warped perspectives. The sequence where Young-goon becomes the cyborg and takes out all of the evil "white 'uns" holding her hostage with her automatic rifle fingers is spectacular. It's just that some of the internal logic of the crazy people was tough to parse. Psychosis isn't really the most light topic, nor the stuff of obvious romantic comedy, so there are times where the craziness seems tacked on and solvable. There seems to be something disingenuous about creating characters with debilitating phobias and then implying they could just "make themselves better" if they really wanted. While we'd never try to expect a Park Chan-wook to be "realistic," it's usually at least believable and consistently compelling. In that respect, I'm a Cyborg isn't as powerful as you'd hope.

The rest of our screening schedule for the fest: on Thursday Takashi Miike's Big Bang Love, Juvenile A which stars jail-bait handsome Ryuhei Matsuda and includes a Mayan pyramid, a Chinese movie (tangentially) recommended by Grady, Getting Home next Sunday, and then Hula Girls, which is always a crowd favorite according to our friend William, the following Monday.

We've also been toying with the idea of finally buying a DVD copy of The Taste of Tea, which CC saw at NYAFF a few years ago. However our poor, belabored credit card isn't quite buying our rationale about the importance of supporting good Asian cinema with our American dollars.

June 25, 2007

Dear Lord, It's Like Out of An Episode of Entourage

"Brett Ratner is set to direct Playboy, the Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment film about the life of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. Brian Grazer is producing," according to Variety. [via Defamer, who is positively gleeful in anticipation.]

P.S. Did you know that Brett Ratner has an official website which hosts a blog that monitors all of Brett's appearances in the media? He does.

Be A Part of Potter Mania

Are you a British kid between the ages of 15 and 18? Do you long to be in the movies and know a bit about the wizarding world invented by J.K. Rowling? Well, then get your butt down to the Earls Court Exhibition Center in London on July 1, this could be your chance to be a part of the Harry Potter legacy. Producers will be holding an open casting call for the roles of Tom Riddle and Lavender Brown in the next film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The parts of Luna Lovegood and Cho Chang in Order of the Phoenix were cast with an open call.

BTW, Cinecultist already has a plan to see a midnight screening of Order of the Phoenix with Matty and Zack on July 11. We have not however pre-ordered our copy of Deathly Hallows but we're intended to attend some sort of midnight release party on July 21. Hopefully the local guy who dresses as Dumbledore and rides a Segway will be out and about too. Now that's a Potter superfan.

Posted by karen at 3:27 PM | Harry Potter mania | Comments (1)

June 22, 2007

Claire Danes and Luke Wilson, Movie Quality Black Holes


Some of the worst movies we've seen lately have included The Wendell Baker Story (made in 2005 but only just recently released), You Kill Me (out this weekend), and Evening (on June 29). Hackneyed, tired, life-less and had the Cinecultist checking our watch about every 15 minutes. In attempts to put our finger on what sucked so hard about all three, Cinecultist has come to realize the blame should be laid at the doorsteps of Claire Danes and Luke Wilson. Are there two more affected and limp leading performers working today? Both actors had promise in the early part of their careers (see: My So Called Life/Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet and Rushmore/The Royal Tenenbaums), but then the quality of their stilted performances went seriously downhill to a level where they should practically be banished from Hollywood for crimes against the movie-going public. Alex and Emma? Mini's First Time? Brokedown Palace? Stage Beauty? And of course, their movie together, The Family Stone? Oh, the humanity!

Now if CC sees either of them in the cast line up for a new release, we just sigh a loud sigh of dejection knowing the movie will surely suck, even if it has loads of other stuff going for it. That's how strong the pull of Daines and Wilson's black hole o' talent. Light goes in there, but it never escapes. Please join Cinecultist in boycotting any of their further work in an attempts to free the silver screen from the tyrannous grip of their suckage. The world will thank you for it.

June 20, 2007

"Michael Moore is the Fox News of the Left."

Heh. The Gothamist commenters are having spirited fun regarding our post on Sicko today. The headline is a quote from one of the incendiary statements.

Here's a reprint of the review part of Cinecultist's post.

As for the quality of this new bit of agit-prop from the pudgy Michigander (which Gothamist caught last night at an advance press screening), it's a persuasive and disturbing two hours. Moore introduces us not only to a number of Americans screwed over by their lack of health care, but also interviews numerous health care industry employees disgusted by the business's practices. These stories from ordinary Americans are heart-wrenching, as is the footage Moore shot of very sick 9/11 volunteers finally getting the health care they desperately needed from the socialized medicine system in Cuba. Unfortunately like most Moore movies, the shocking state of America's relationship to its more disenfranchised residents is tempered by the ridiculousness of his on screen antics. Moore filming himself on a boat outside of Guantanamo Bay using a megaphone to try to get entrée into the holding center's medical facility is unnecessarily over the top, no matter how you feel about the issue of privatized heath care.

After the screening, CC walked out and took the subway with three of our esteemed friends/movie writing colleagues Nicolas Rapold (The Sun, Stop Smiling), Michael Joshua Rowin (L magazine) and Michael Koresky (Reverse Shot, Criterion Collection). (These dudes know about movies; they'd give CC a complex if we hadn't already survived the intellectual smack down of cinema studies grad school.) Rowin ranted, Koresky seemed bemused by the whole thing and Rapold looked positively ill. Cinecultist heartily looks forward to reading their fully formed opinions of the movie shortly.

June 19, 2007

To BitTorrent or Not To BitTorrent, That Is The Question

sicko_bigposter.jpgAs you surely have already heard on the Interweb, Michael Moore's newest documentary, Sicko, wherein the pudgy Michigander takes on the health care industry, has been leaked. Cinecultist has plans to see an advance press screening this evening and when we mentioned it to a coworker, he promptly IM'ed us a URL to download it. According to Brandweek, "One site, thepiratebay.org, lists at least roughly 2,000 downloads of the flick, and the Web site p2pnet.net, which tracks torrents, or P2P downloads, writes that the movie “is already thoroughly entrenched on the p2p networks.”

Not surprisingly, Moore has come out on the side of content sharing, as long as the folks passing his work around aren't making money from it. Or course, Lionsgate and Weinstein Co., the movie's distributors, may not be so happy with Moore's (public) live and let live attitude. It should be really interesting to see if the box office seems significantly lower than expected after the movie hits theaters on June 29. Or, on the flip side, if the increased internet buzz gets more butts into theaters, even if it is for a repeat viewing.

For CC, we'd much rather sit in a comfy theater seat watching a movie than be hunched over our laptop peering in on a free feed of potentially sketchy quality. Also, part of the fun of any movie, though particularly Moore's work, is being part of an enthusiastic audience. When we saw Fahrenheit 9/11 three years ago, it was a total event what with the highly vocal crowds and sold-out late night screenings. Frankly, seeing it with a press/industry crew for free tonight probably won't be as much fun as waiting in line late at night in the East Village in two weeks. Bear that in mind before you rush off to right-save-click.

June 18, 2007

Anyone Can Cook, Even a Rat Named Remy


On Saturday evening, Cinecultist caught a sneak preview screening of the new Pixar movie Ratatouille at the Union Square theater and was completely charmed by Brad Bird's newest flick. Bird and his team are geniuses. Seriously. Movie making magicians. With references to The Secret of Nimh, Willard and Rizzo the Rat's restaurant management technique in The Muppets Take Manhattan, the equal parts smart and sweet story was enough to make even this hardened New Yorker gaga for talking rodents. Oh, and the answer to the question everyone has asked regarding the Pixar track record: Ratatouille is leagues better than their last film Cars, even nearing the brilliance of The Incredibles.

The movie doesn't hit theaters for two more weeks (on June 29) but in the meantime whet your whistle with an extended clip from the official site as Remy the rat enters the restaurant kitchen for the first time to repair a botched soup. In this clip you can see two elements that we really loved in the movie. The way that it uses the character of Remy to evoke the magic of good cooking and the beauty of good eating. The choreographed moves of this tiny rat creating food in a people-sized kitchen in this scene looks almost like dancing. Also, the way the animators use facial expression and gesture throughout the movie as the humans and the animals try to communicate is really delightful. Just a tiny shrug from a modest cooking rat tells you so much about his character. Once again Bird et al. have created a fully formed, three dimensional animated universe and even after the credits began to roll Cinecultist didn't want to leave.

Posted by karen at 11:00 AM | Brad Bird, Pixar, Ratatouille | Comments (0)

June 15, 2007

Great Casting, Canned Laugh Track Not So Much

Cinecultist was excited to find some promo clips from the new Amy Sherman-Palladino series, The Return of Jezebel James with Parker Posey* and Lauren Ambrose. Watching all them on the official website, Cinecultist was buoyed by the ASP-ness of Posey and Ambrose's performances but the canned laugh track that seems to be a prereq for any show billed as a sitcom? Painful. We're keeping our fingers crossed for no clichéd lameness on this series. [via Jump Cuts]

*Not-so-confidential to Lisa: Posey's character is a children's book editor, how awesome is that? We'll expect a full review of believability once the show airs this fall on Fox.

Guess This Is The Kind of Stunt You Can Pull After You've Won Cannes

Director, fine artist, hotel interior designer and Jeff Bridges look-alike Julian Schnabel has unveiled the facade of his West Village town house and the sucker is hot damn pink.

As Andrew Berman, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s director told the Villager, “I don’t know for sure — but my fear is that this will be the color. I think virtually any other color would be more acceptable.”

But hey, Julian just won the best director prize at Cannes for his most recent movie Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), he's entitled to his hideous day glow effrontery, right? [via Curbed]

June 13, 2007

Chillax With A New Remake

According to Variety today, Regina King will be producing and starring in a remake of Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill. The movie will be updated to today and feature an African American cast. (Just as a reminder,
The Big Chill
is that '80s paean to baby boomer touchy-feely navel-gaving as a group of 30-something college friends get together for a funeral, reminisce about where it'd all gone wrong and boogie to Motown hits.)

A few actors Cinecultist hopes the producers and casting director are considering:
Sanaa Lathan
Omar Epps
Taye Diggs
Anika Noni Rose
Larenz Tate
Gabrielle Union
Mekhi Phifer

Movies with a very specific niche cast are so the new hottness and Cinecultist is psyched to see how this project develops.

Posted by karen at 2:12 PM | Regina King, remake | Comments (0)

Potable Quotables Courtesy of Tina Brown

Former Vanity Fair, New Yorker and Talk editor Tina Brown is everywhere these days promoting her new book on Princess Diana, The Diana Chronicles. After reading Gawker for as long as we have, it's hard to be a New York journalist and not be a little fascinated by this seemingly bat-shit insane brilliant lady. Also, she tells a great name-dropping anecdote, and Cinecultist knows from name-dropping anecdote tellers.

In this week's profile from New York magazine which we were reading during our commute this morning:

"Last week, [Brown] lost several pounds of her “book weight” at the southwest’s Golden Door spa, where she endured bone-cracking Thai massages, early-morning hikes, and upper-thigh-reducing exercise classes. “It’s high school for power women and rich wives,” she declares. “I bonded with the V.P. of Saks and Lauren Graham from The Gilmore Girls. At lunch, Lauren used to shout, ‘This is 350 calories? There’s nothing here! I demand a recount!’ ”

Heh. Lauren's so Lorelai, even without Amy Sherman-Palladino writing dialog for her.

CC also has the VF with the Diana book excerpt in it at home, but it's still in its plastic wrapping. Frankly, the amount of hype surrounding this issue is daunting, between Brown and the Bono edit job and the Africa topic and the über celebs gracing the cover in twos. It may seem weird to be intimidated by a lil' ol' glossy mag issue but there you are.

June 12, 2007

But They Were One of Those Cool, Un-Hollywood Couples...

A moment of silence please, for the marriage of actors Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney. If those two crazy kids couldn't make it work, then what's that to say about the chance for the rest of us?

Seattle International Film Festival Haikus

Poor Seattle Maggie. She's been so busy with her exciting Seattle life that she's barely had any time for movies at this year's Seattle International Film Festival, an event Cinecultist heartily enjoyed attending with her when we both resided in that rainy city. However, SM did catch a few things of note, mostly chosen by how little they anticipated they'd have to endure "standing in line and crowds and running to get seats," and she haiku reviewed them. Here's some of her syllable-counting brilliance.

Manufactured Landscapes
China is quite big
Destruction can be pretty
Sleepy but gorgeous

The King of Kong
Monkey named Donkey?
Battles with machine and man
Wide grins in the dark

The Last Winter
Nature bares her teeth
Don’t turn your back on that corpse!
Ron Perlman is hot

Big Rig
Truckers have hard lives
Asphalt string wraps the country
Doug Pray signed our stub

June 11, 2007

Items On the Cinecultist Mind

...CC was happy to contribute our $11 to the $37.1 million dollar take for Ocean's Thirteen this past weekend. The boys are back and the nose does play. Also, our love for the Cloon and the Pitt grew even deeper with this exchange in their Entertainment Weekly cover story interview.

You guys have been buddies for a while. When did you first meet?
CLOONEY: The baths.
PITT: On Pico Boulevard. That's right. I forgot about that.
CLOONEY: You wouldn't have recognized me with the leather hood on. [Laughs]
PITT: [Makes a disgusted face] I'm eating here.

...We enjoyed some brisket, sausage and sweet pickles at the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park on Saturday. Brisket outdoors is enough to put anyone in a satisfied summertime mood.

...We're still working on the New Yorker's summer fiction issue but are finding the cryptic summer movie personal essays by such literary stars at Dave Eggers, Miranda July and Jeffrey Eugenides odd but intriguing. Best line award so far goes to Gary Shteyngart for his recollection of ogling young Tahnee Welch in Cocoon: "The fact that my sexual awakening peripherally involved Steve Guttenberg I have gradually accepted."

...On two sad notes for world cinema, African director Ousmane Sembène and French actor Jean-Claude Brialy recently passed away. We added Xala, Black Girl, A Woman Is a Woman and Claire's Knee to our home viewing schedule in memoriam. [via John, thanks.]

...Season premiere of Big Love tonight! Backstabbing, freaky religious types and sexual secrets in suburbia, wahoo.

...Just in case you hadn't noticed, The Movie Binge crew is back to their glutenous summer viewing ways. Last week CC wrote a long rant about how much we hated Mr. Brooks. If we hadn't seen this movie for free at an advance screening, we'd be writing a threatening note to Kevin Costner demanding our admission plus pain and suffering back.