Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Help Crosses $100 Million Mark

The Help has joined that illustrious group of movies given the moniker blockbuster by crossing the $100 million plateau in box office sales.

Octavia Spencer in The Help

With the film’s August 30 showings, The Help crossed the coveted movie money-making mark and became a certified smash. Will this help Academy voters remember the film for Oscar nominations? Only time will tell. But, for now, DreamWorks and Participant Media can pop the champagne corks based solely on the film’s box office performance.

Many had wondered why the studio would not wait to debut the film until the fall, traditionally the time when Oscar bait films are released. Guess the news that it has become a $100 million movie squelches any question as to the film’s release timing.

Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett about a young journalist (Emma Stone) and her determination to get a book out on the market that documents the lives of the African American maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, The Help did have a built-in audience. Yet, that does not always guarantee box office success.

Footloose: Julianne Hough Sizzles in TV Spot

Are you ready to cut loose? The Footloose remake is almost upon us and to further whet your appetite for the October 14 release, Paramount has released a new 60 second TV spot that shows former Dancing with the Stars hoofer Julianne Hough doing her best Lori Singer.

Julianne Hough in Footloose

The new clip delves deeper into the film giving audiences scenes not yet shown to the public.

By now the story of Footloose is pretty much popular culture common knowledge. A hip teen moves into a small town from the big city only to discover that dancing and other music celebratory activities are strictly illegal.

Angelina Jolie: Directing Has Changed Her Acting Style

Where once she felt safe “hidden behind other people’s words,” now Angelina Jolie feels completely “exposed” as the writer and director of In the Land of Blood and Honey.

Angelina Jolie in Cannes

Jolie is making her directing and screenwriting debut with the romance set against the landscape of the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Knowing the U.N. humanitarian’s efforts in that war-torn region, it is easy to see how the film would touch the Oscar winner on so many levels.

After writing the script and knowing its personal power to her own soul, Jolie decided to take the plunge and make her directorial debut. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jolie even talked about how her love, Brad Pitt, thinks becoming director Jolie will affect her acting method.

“Brad thinks I’m going to be a nightmare. I had such a good experience, he thinks I’m going to be impatient with directors, which I already am,” Jolie said. “I get impatient with people working on a film that have their head in their hands like it’s the most complicated thing in the world.”

Given that it is her words and her vision completely on the screen for In the Land of Blood and Honey, there is nowhere to go but her when it comes to answering how it all plays out on screen. “Now it’s me talking,” she said. “You feel ridiculous if you get something wrong.”

Jolie’s directorial debut premieres in the U.S. on December 23.

The Double Trailer: Richard Gere, Martin Sheen Shine

The Double, for starters, has one incredible cast. From Richard Gere and Martin Sheen to Topher Grace, the acting chops are top notch — proof of which is on full display in the film’s new trailer.

Topher Grace and Richard Gere in The Double

The Double is the story of international espionage with Gere playing a retired spy who spent his career pursuing a Russian assassin. Once it was believed the killer was dead, Gere decided to retire.

Only, a few years later, Gere is pulled back into service by Sheen when the Russian assassin appears to have resurfaced on the streets of the U.S. with a murder that has all the signature attributes of the Russian killer.

Grace is a rookie agent who spent his training studying Gere’s methods of tracking down the infamous Russian assassin, so the two are paired and the thriller goes into high gear.


The Double Trailer

The Debt Movie Review: Crackling Cinema

The Debt is equal parts history lesson, terse thriller and a lesson in cross generational filmmaking by director John Madden.

Helen Mirren Kills in The Debt

The film features two sets of stars, one anchored in the 1960s and another in the late 1990s. In a case of performance squared at its best Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain share Rachel, Sam Worthington and Ciaran Hinds combine as David and Tom Wilkinson portrays Stephan in dual decades with Marton Csokas.

Mannerisms, speech cadence and characterization are all on the same page which is largely due to the directorial eminence of Madden. The Academy Award nominee for Shakespeare in Love weaves a web of deceit, heroism and history of a young nation born of survival from a madman’s will to annihilate.

After World War II came to a close, the Israeli version of the CIA, Mossad — the Israeli Secret Service — began its incarnation by traversing the globe in search of souls responsible on even the minutest of fronts for the extermination of over six million people.

The Debt Star Jessica Chastain

In The Debt, Mossad comes to life for the audience in East Berlin in the hands of Chastain’s Rachel, Worthington’s David and Csokas’ Stephan. The trio is in the Soviet occupied city to capture a Nazi criminal and bring him to justice in Israel.

Madden’s film lets the audience in on the basic details of what happened in East Berlin through the introduction scenes of the film rooted in the year 1997. Mirren is at a book launch luncheon and takes the stage to read pages from her daughter’s book that details her mother and two other agents’ patriotic producing mission at the close of World War II. The only problem is: Nothing is at it seems and that fact sends Mirren on a journey that is rooted in her personal destiny.

The Debt captures so much with so little of scope. One could see The Debt as a stage play. Credit to that fact has to go to the film’s screenwriters, Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan. Developing characters across decades while still keeping the audience firmly wrapped into the characters’ going ons in the present is a difficult task. Vaughn’s script intertwines the two stories allows Madden to masterfully move his film’s chess pieces. It is a priceless move when telling any thrilling story.

Sam Worthing and Jessica Chastain in The Debt

Showing the lengths with which a nation will go to achieve righteousness or even the subconscious feeling of justice is for this reviewer, what The Debt is at its heart. The film is a thriller. Madden’s movie also is a movie about love and how personal sacrifice can supplant lifelong passion. But, one image remains strong over the spectrum of visual mastery in The Debt. When Chastain, Worthington and Csokas walk off a military plane in a sun scorched Israeli landing strip to a heroes welcome, conflict overcomes the audience.

Why do these national heroes look so solemn?

The Debt is full of Jeopardy-type answers that lead all to that story-ending question. Therein lays the brilliance of The Debt. Mirren and company have crafted the rare film: One that entertains as it enlightens and enthralls.