Friday, May 21, 2010

“Movie Review: Crowe’s ‘Robin Hood’ takes a violent turn - Santa Maria Times” plus 3 more

“Movie Review: Crowe’s ‘Robin Hood’ takes a violent turn - Santa Maria Times” plus 3 more

Movie Review: Crowe’s ‘Robin Hood’ takes a violent turn - Santa Maria Times

Posted: 21 May 2010 02:28 AM PDT

Director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe have worked several times together. Starting with the Oscar-winner "Gladiator" in 2000, through "Body of Lies" in 2008, the two have made some good and diverse films.

Their latest collaboration, "Robin Hood," takes the pair back to some familiar territory. Less swashbuckling than most takes on the legend of Robin of the Hood, this film is grimier, darker and more violent.

Taking place before the popular legend really begins, "Robin Hood" starts at the end of the Crusades of King Richard the Lionhearted and ends before the Sheriff of Nottingham gets involved.

After the king is killed in battle, his weaker brother John is crowned. John (Oscar Isaac) is a selfish tyrant who wants to tax his subjects beyond reason in order to re-fill the coffers left dry by Lionheart's quests.

This type of role is usually a thankless one. Being a treacherous, power hungry weakling is not easy to portray, but Isaac does well in the part.

Helping with the new king's cause is Godfrey, played with his usual creepiness and danger by go-to villain Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes" 2009). Godfrey has the king's trust, but has a much deeper secret and agenda.

Crowe is Robin Longstride, who takes the identity of a knight, Robert Loxley, in order to get back to England from the Crusades.

He is accompanied by his soon-to-be merry men — Little John (Kevin Durand), Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes) and Allen A'Dayle (Alan Doyle) — all accomplished archers.

The trio are not merry, as usually portrayed in Robin Hood stories. They are real and somewhat dangerous, although a few times they are able to let loose and enjoy life. I found that aspect to be charming, coming from these ruffians.

Returning to Loxley's home of Nottingham, the group meets Friar Tuck (Mark Addy).

Addy is amusing as the new friar and bee keeper, with a passion for alcohol made from his honey.

Longstride meets up with Loxley's blind father, Sir Walter, played well by Max Von Sydow, and Loxley's widow Marion (Cate Blanchett). Longstride then becomes quite involved with the Loxleys and the village, which drives the action.

Crowe is his usual brooding self and it works within the conflict of his character's troubles. Longstride has a high moral compass and Crowe is able to convey that well.

His hesitant romance with Marion is well played as well. Blanchett is very good as the strong and solid Marion.

An impending invasion by France directs the action, as Robin and his mates join the rest of England in defense of their country.

Reading some history on this production, I found it interesting that the original premise of the film was to be about the Sheriff of Nottingham. But over time the focus went back on Robin Hood. In this film, the sheriff, as played by Matthew Macfadyen, is a minor role and he is not a strong person.

The action is quite exciting, but there are too many clichés in several of the battle scenes. The primitive warfare is brutal as one might see in "Braveheart" or again in "Gladiator." But there is nothing new. In fact there is one battle scene reminiscent of a D-Day war film.

The film is longer than it needs to be, and there was not a lot of emotion conveyed. There was something big missing that I could not put a finger on, but at the end, I was not satisfied.

"Robin Hood"

Rated: PG-13 for violence, including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content

Score: B - on the Brad-O-Meter

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Manly Movies, Chick Flicks, Adventures and Comedies Come to the Big ... - The Ledger

Posted: 21 May 2010 01:52 AM PDT

More and more, summer means familiar names and faces, some from movies you recently saw ("The Twilight Saga: New Moon") and others from long-ago favorites like "The Karate Kid," being remade with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, and 1978's "Grease," being re-released with added sing-along subtitles.

Even "Robin Hood" is a remake of sorts.

As always, testosterone-fueled action flicks and comedies dominate the summer pack: Christopher Nolan's enigmatic "Inception" and Will Forte's "MacGruber" (based on his "Saturday Night Live" skits) will top many dudes' must-see lists. But there's also an unusual mommy-track of movies, including two artificial-insemination comedies ("The Switch" and "The Kids Are All Right") and "Babies".

Here are the must-see movies of the summer, from family fare to more grown-up pleasures - and probably some guilty ones as well.ACTION, ADVENTURE AND FANTASY:IRON MAN 2 (opened May 7): Robert Downey Jr. returns as good-guy munitions dealer Tony Stark, whose now-public identity as Iron Man is causing some problems.

ROBIN HOOD (opened May 14): Ridley Scott's film features Russell Crowe as the medieval freedom fighter and Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (May 28): Showing off the pectorals we didn't know he had, Jake Gyllenhaal lands the lead in this big-budget action-adventure about a young prince who must protect a mystical dagger. Based on the popular video game.

THE A-TEAM (June 11): The lighthearted action series comes to the big screen with Liam Neeson as Special Forces team leader Hannibal Smith, Bradley Cooper as pretty-boy Templeton "Faceman" Peck and Sharlto Copley.

JONAH HEX (June 18): Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich mix it up in a supernatural Western. Adapted from the graphic novel by pulp maestros Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor ("Crank").

KNIGHT AND DAY (June 25): This action-comedy almost starred Gerard Butler, Adam Sandler or even Chris Tucker, but Tom Cruise landed the role of a slippery secret agent on a dubious mission. That's Cameron Diaz clinging to the back of his motorcycle.

THE LAST AIRBENDER (July 2): M. Night Shyamalan writes, directs and produces this fantasy film based on the Nickelodeon series. Like "Clash of the Titans" and the upcoming "The Green Hornet," it's getting an after-the-fact 3-D makeover.

INCEPTION (July 16): Warner Bros. is being stingy with plot details, and the trippy trailer - full of tilting floors and midair fisticuffs provides no answers. But some tidbits have leaked out: Leonardo DiCaprio plays a corporate spy who steals dreams, and director Christopher Nolan is comparing it to "The Matrix." With Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine.

SALT (July 23): Filmed partly on Long Island, this espionage thriller stars Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. With Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor.COMEDY:JUST WRIGHT (opened May 14): Queen Latifah's a physical therapist named Leslie Wright, rapper Common's a hunky NBA All-Star; Paula Patton makes it a love triangle.

MACGRUBER (opens today): Will Forte's split-second "Saturday Night Live" skits, which spoof the improbable action-series "MacGyver," have spawned an entire movie. Look for Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer and two "MacGruber" veterans, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.

GROWN UPS (June 25): Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin James play childhood friends who reunite with their families in tow. Sandler cowrites; Dennis Dugan ("You Don't Mess With the Zohan") directs.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (July 23): The annual Dinner for Extraordinary People is actually a cruel joke: Who can bring the biggest loser? A successful businessman (Paul Rudd) thinks he's found a winner (Steve Carell).

THE OTHER GUYS (Aug. 6): Will Ferrell plays a gun-shy forensic accountant reluctantly assigned to a tough-guy partner (Mark Wahlberg). Also with Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan and Dwayne Johnson. Directed and co-written by Adam McKay ("Step Brothers").

FOR THE FAMILY:SHREK FOREVER AFTER (opens today): The fourth and reportedly final installment in the animated "Shrek" franchise finds the green ogre in midlife crisis and longing for his carefree days. As the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for. With the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas.

TOY STORY 3 (June 18): It's been 15 years since the original, and little Andy is heading to college. After Woody, Buzz and the toy gang are donated to a chaotic day care center, they plan their escape. Look for some new characters, including Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) and Barbie's Ken (Michael Keaton).

DESPICABLE ME (July 9): This computer-animated comedy features Steve Carell as the voice of Gru, a second-fiddle supervillain constantly outsmarted by snotty young Vector (Jason Segel). The voice cast includes Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride and Julie Andrews.

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (July 16): Named after the famous segment from Disney's "Fantasia," this action film stars Nicolas Cage as a wizard who arrives in Manhattan and recruits a local college student (Jay Baruchel) to battle a nefarious villain (Alfred Molina). Look for an update on the magical-mop sequence.

RAMONA AND BEEZUS (July 23): Two adventure-prone sisters (newcomer Joey King and Disney Channel veteran Selena Gomez) embark on a mission to save their family's home. It's the first feature-film based on Beverly Cleary's enduring children's book series, which launched in 1968 with "Ramona the Pest."TEENS AND TWEENS:THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (June 30): Another "Twilight" film, another director - this time it's David Slade, whose edgy indie drama "Hard Candy" helped launch Ellen Page's career. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner continue their supernatural love triangle.

BEASTLY (July 30): Cute, popular Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) crosses Goth-girl Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) and finds himself transformed into a gruesome creature who must learn the true meaning of love. Also with Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris.

CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (July 30): The struggle for control of planet Earth continues in this sequel to the 2001 comedy.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Aug. 13): Indie darling Michael Cera stars as a rock-band bassist who falls for rollerblading Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). His challenge: to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Based on the comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley.MOVIES FOR MOMS:THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (July 7): Two teens (Mia Wasikowska of "Alice in Wonderland" and Josh Hutcherson of "Cirque du Freak") track down the sperm donor who sired them. Their lesbian parents, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, aren't thrilled. Co-written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko ("Laurel Canyon").

THE SWITCH (Aug. 20): A single gal (Jennifer Aniston) gets pregnant, thanks to a charming donor (Patrick Wilson). Or so she thinks. With Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis.SEQUELS, REMAKES AND SPINOFFS:SEX AND THE CITY 2 (May 27): When Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and new hubby Mr. Big (Chris Noth) hit a rough patch, she bumps into an alluring old flame. Which one? Hint: He's played by John Corbett. With Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (June 4): Russell Brand reprises his "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" role as a dissolute rocker; Jonah Hill plays his hapless handler. Look for Sean Combs as a record mogul.

THE KARATE KID (June 11): This overhaul of the 1984 crowd-pleaser replaces Ralph Macchio with tweener Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada) and puts Jackie Chan in the sensei role originated by Pat Morita. Despite the film's title, it's China and kung fu.

GREASE SING-ALONG (July TBD): Not quite a remake, but not merely a reissue: It's the 1978 musical "Grease," starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, with on-screen lyrics to encourage audience participation. Could be the summer's most cost-effective profit-maker.

NANNY McPHEE AND THE BIG BANG (Aug. 20): Emma Thompson is back as a nanny with magical, if unorthodox, child-rearing methods. Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as a mother managing her brood while dad is away at war. With Rhys Ifans and Maggie Smith.

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'MacGruber' tries to overcome stigma of SNL movies - Reno Gazette

Posted: 21 May 2010 01:38 AM PDT

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"Some people have already developed opinions one way or another about 'SNL' movies," Forte said. "I hope they give it a chance."

One thing going for it: "MacGruber," the film, doesn't feel like a 90-minute sketch. Forte and company expanded the story into an '80s action-film parody. MacGruber never leaves his red Miata without his car stereo, on which he blasts Toto and Mr. Mister.

"People seem to want to throw this into this 'SNL' bag, which is great if they're talking about 'Blues Brothers' or 'Wayne's World,' but might not be great if they're talking about other movies," said Forte. "We never were looking at this as an 'SNL' movie, we were just looking at this as a movie."

They kept "the character and the clothes and the attitude and nothing else," Forte said.

"From a very early point in the writing process, we realized that if we just went for 90 minutes doing the sketch over and over again, people would get sick of it after about 90 seconds," he says.

Though Forte, a former writer for the "Late Show with David Letterman" and "3rd Rock from the Sun," temporarily succeeded Will Ferrell in playing former President George W. Bush, his contributions since joining the show in 2002 have generally leaned away from the topical and toward the absurd.

One of his early characters was Tim Calhoun, an exceedingly soft-spoken and wooden politician. In one memorable sketch, he played the ponytailed lead singer of a morning talk show house band, leading them from soothing sounds to -- after downing a bottle of whiskey -- a primal jam, screaming, "Go Thunderbird Spirit!"

That odd sense of humor transfers to the R-rated "MacGruber." But the "SNL" process, which goes from a pitch meeting to a table-read to dress rehearsal before airing live, is constantly formed through feedback and audience reception.

Former "SNL" cast member Chris Kattan, who played characters like Mango and Mr. Peepers, also had a surreal quality on the show. Like Forte, he came up through the Groundlings, the Los Angeles improv comedy troupe.

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Movie review: Kites (original version) - Pegasus News

Posted: 20 May 2010 10:10 PM PDT

Oh, the melodrama! Oh, the titillation! Oh, the romance novel cover art set pieces!

The press notes for Kites refer to the film, directed and co-written by Bollywood filmmaker Anurag Basu, as "impossible to categorize" -- a statement I find impossible to disagree with.

The ambitious rollout plans for this, ah, melodramatic Bollywood romantic western musical actioner (pause for breath) include the release of two edits of the film: the original 130-minute version (upon which this review is based), and -- opening a week later, in different markets -- a Brett Ratner-edited "remix" cut down to 90 minutes. (For that pesky MTV generation, one presumes, with their shorter attention spans.)

Kites is certainly beautiful to look at: set in Las Vegas and Mexico, much of the filming was done in and around Santa Fe -- a region boasting an astonishing variety of colorful terrain. Above and beyond the scenic backgrounds, the film's stars are jaw-droppingly lovely, and I'll even include lead actor Hrithik Roshan (as Jay) in that categorization: he's a hazel-eyed hunk with a million kilowatt smile and abs you could grate cheese on. (As you'll discover when he takes off his shirt. Which he does rather frequently, it turns out.)

The two female leads are equally aesthetic: Kangana Ranaut, as Gina, has the kind of legs a feller could stare at for hours, if he hadn't anything better to do (and who does?); while Linda/Natasha (played by Uruguayan Babe-with-a-capital-B Bárbara Mori) is entirely believable as the sort of woman one might be induced to write bad checks for. Or perhaps even worse.

Annoyingly (from the standpoint of monolinguists), the dialog in Kites transitions back and forth from Hindi to Spanish to English willy-nilly and seemingly at random: often, two characters will begin a conversation by speaking one language and end it in another. Trying to keep up can be downright dizzying, even with subtitles.

The story couldn't be simpler (Yeah, RIGHT.): Ambitious, self-centered Indian hustler (Jay) charms his way into the heart of Gina, the daughter of a powerful Las Vegas casino owner (Kabir Bedi, as Bob). Invited to Bob's rococo-opulent home for the engagement party of Gina's ruthless, power-crazed brother Tony (Nicholas Brown), Jay is astonished to find that Natasha, Tony's betrothed, is none other than "Linda," who he fake-married a while back so she could obtain a green card.

Jay got paid for the marriage in hard American cash, but beyond the business deal he found himself uncharacteristically attracted to Linda (perhaps because she's so damn BEAUTIFUL!). Now, on the cusp of Jay's growing attachment to Gina and Natasha's engagement to Tony, Jay belatedly realizes she (Linda/Natasha) is the gal for him. And thus is set in motion an unstoppable bullet train of betrayal, revenge, and yearning loins that will lead to the dissolution of Jay's (and Natasha's) plans for living the life of wealth and leisure. (Though it will not, sadly, lead to any loin-joining.)

The film's action includes sequences reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever, The Godfather, Once Upon a Time in the West, Smokey and the Bandit (ref. police cars crashing extravagantly), Singing in the Rain (ref. singing -- and dancing! -- in the rain), and Ghost. Colors, characters, emotions, and acting are hyper-saturated through it all, with music running the gamut from dreamy, romantic vocals to beat-driven, pulse-pounding instrumentals. You might say there's a general lack of subtlety across the board.

The upside to all this is that it's difficult to be bored by the outrageous spectacle happening onscreen -- oftentimes I found myself slack-jawed in astonishment at the filmmakers' naive audacity.

Kind of refreshing, really.

THE FILM'S ONLY REFERENCE TO ACTUAL KITES: "Someone else always holds the strings." - introductory narration

MY KIND OF STORE: "Money can buy happiness -- if you know where to shop." - Bob's chauffeur, Jamaal (Yuri Suri)

THAT AND A FIVER WILL GET YOU A GRANDE: "Tony has money and power -- but we have love!" - Linda

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