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Ok, maybe this’ll be a regular feature, maybe not. I’m writing up my Forgetting Sarah Marshall review now, and I started writing about how excited I am for Kristen Bell’s upcoming movies, as listed on imdb. Writing and writing. So I decided to make it a separate post. The normal caveats apply about imdb’s often spotty description of movies in production, though I’ve tried to verify info as best I can.

Fanboys: (Official MySpace site) You may have read about how this movie has gone through Weinstein developmental hell. Script rewrites, major plot points edited out, release dates announced, pushed back, and removed, the director replaced and then brought back. Obviously, all of these things do not bode well for the movie. But when you have a movie about devoted Star Wars fans going to Skywalker Ranch to grab an advance copy of Phantom Menace, and a cast of not only Ms. Bell, but Jay Baruchel (Undeclared, Knocked Up, starring role in I’m Reed Fish (OK, maybe that one is just for me)), Chris Marquette (Eli from The Girl Next Door), Dan Fogler (Good Luck Chuck and Balls of Fury…um…he might be the exception here), Seth Rogen, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner, Danny Trejo, Christopher McDonald, and Billy Dee Williams, well, that’s a movie we deserve to get a chance to see.

Serious Moonlight: No, not the David Bowie tour. Serious Moonlight was written by Adrienne Shelly, and tragically, it likely is the last we’ll have from her. The Grouches weren’t too keen on Waitress, but that won’t dampen my enthusiasm for this movie, which doesn’t appear to have a release date, but is listed as in post-production. Cheryl Hines is making her feature film directorial debut. The movie is apparently about a woman (Meg Ryan) who ties her cheating husband (I assume Timothy Hutton here) to the toilet. Unfortunately, their house is then burglarized. I assume hilarity ensures. It is unclear what role Kristen Bell plays (the mistress, maybe?). And Justin Long is also in it (one of the burglars?). As a fan of each of these actors (Sue me.) I’ve got pretty high hopes for some sort of wacky comedy.

When in Rome: No, not the Olsen twins movie, and not the group who sang “The Promise” (second time I reference that song on this blog!). When in Rome, listed as filming, is a romcom about a girl (Kristen Bell), who goes to Rome for her sister’s wedding, grabs some coins out of a fountain, and apparently along with finding the male lead (Josh Duhamel), the coins also make several suitors relentlessly pursue Ms. Bell. Also in the cast, possibly as suitors, are: Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Danny DeVito, and Dax Shepard. Um, wow. I mean, yeah, I’d argue Josh Duhamel is the right choice there, but geez. Angelica Huston is in it as well. The film was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who has a mixed resume. He wrote and directed Simon Birch, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider. He also wrote Grumpy Old Men and Jack Frost. David Diamond (The Family Man, Evolution), and David Weissman (same) co-wrote.

Finally, Antique. The movie is listed as in pre-production, and Bell is listed as rumored (here’s a site which confirms). Antique seems to be your standard indie ensemble film, to broadly generalize. Kristen Bell somehow befriends a homeless man who changes her life. Also in the movie: Anne Archer, Lolita Davidovich, Rachael Leigh Cook (wow, it has been almost a decade since She’s All That), and someone named Kevin Zegers, who was in Air Bud AND MVP: Most Valuable Primate. Oh, and that homeless man? William H. Macy! Sign me up. The movie was written and directed by Renji Philip, this appears to be his first full-length movie. The link given on imdb says that filming was supposed to happen in April 2007. In that article, the director compares the film to Magnolia and Crash (presumably without the sucking part).

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Congratulations to The Golden Grouches as this weekend we crossed 10,000 hits since we got this here thing rolling. Just wanted to say thanks to anyone who has stopped by. Also to LeeLee Sobieski, since searches for her have given us about a tenth of our hits. And a big shoutout to my fellow Grouches. Guys, John’s posts clearly show that compared to mine, your posts look like Pulitizer material. So keep ’em coming.

Oscar season is fast approaching, and I think I speak for all of us in saying that we hope to build on our efforts from last year. The first step was establishing we could see all the nominees. The next step is to translate that experience into something meaningful, while still being fun. We’ll brainstorm ways to make that happen, but suggestions are always welcome.

Here’s to good movies, good posts, and good times.

In an article on Portfolio.com, Felix Salmon writes:

McKenzie did a fair amount of real-world research on the popcorn front, and his most important finding (as far as I’m concerned) is that if you’re in a cinema which gives you a choice between buying a medium bag of popcorn and a large tub of popcorn, there’s a greater-than-50% chance that the medium bag will actually contain more popcorn than the large tub.

He’s talking about Richard McKenzie’s book Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, And Other Pricing Puzzles. Part of the reason for the disparity, apparently, is that many places allow free refills for the large popcorn. (Tip o’ the hat to Marginal Revolution).

OK, I’m gonna describe a movie, you tell me the title. Ready? An attached songwriter meets up with female musician. They have a whirlwind relationship, she writes his lyrics, and they end up in a recording studio. Sorry John, not Once. Wanna play again? An 80s star, played by a romcom vet (who does well with the ladies), is commissioned to write a song that can propel him back to glory. But to do so, he needs the help of a female lyricist, played by a baby-faced romcom vet, who he somewhat reluctantly falls for in the weekend they have to write the song and record a demo. Apologies, Brian, but I’m not talking about Music and Lyrics.

No, as Adam surely figured out from this post’s title (’cause he’s smart like that) I’m referring to Face the Music. No, I hadn’t heard of it either. But dangerous things happen when you are at your family’s house, it is midnight, and you are scrolling through the free movies on InDemand.

Face the Music was apparently released in 1993, possibly only in France. Facts are sparse. I don’t believe it is on DVD. The film stars Patrick Dempsey as the songwriter who found Molly Ringwald singing in a Parisian nightclub. He wrote music for her lyrics, creating a smash hit. As they receive some nebulous award, he proposes to her, they get married, but it doesn’t last long, due partly to differences over her singing career (which he tries to thwart), and they lose track of each other. Fast forward a few years, and a noted movie producer manages to get them to agree to write a song together for his movie. It has to be done in a weekend, so Molly has to head to this countryside development Patrick Dempsey owns. With the fiancee he’s supposed to marry in a few weeks (she refuses to let him play music and instead forces him into a career as a real estate developer, just in case you can’t see where this is going).
Read the rest of this entry »

The best films for me to write about are the ones I’m ambivalent about. I feel the need to do justice to the good ones and the bad ones need explanations as to why they were so bad. And then there are those like The Kite Runner which just didn’t click but I didn’t hate. The one adjective I would attribute to it is “interesting.” For a film that was going more for emotion and melodrama, interesting is probably a failure. I was supposed to get caught up in main character Amir’s turmoil, guilt, and redemption, but I was more into seeing what Kabul looked like during various eras. I had a lot more fun learning about the Afghan culture and the time period than caring about the characters’ fates.

Basically, Amir is best friends with his servant’s son, Hassan. There are chasms of race and class between them that rear their ugly heads when an assault occurs, followed by a betrayal. A decade later Amir returns to Afghanistan to atone. The book is regarded as a modern literary masterpiece, but the movie met with mixed reviews and it sounds like it doesn’t really do the book justice.

After the movie struggled, it ended up with just one Oscar nomination, for Original Score. I’d listened to the soundtrack before and enjoyed its Afghan influences. The actual score has some of that, but is mostly the annoying Twangy Indie Guitar Music (or maybe it’s an Afghan version of the guitar). This is a trend that is really beginning to get to me. Honestly, the film is not particularly well-acted or directed. The only standout is Iranian actor Homayoun Ershadi as Amir’s caring but somewhat troubled father.

I didn’t really dislike The Kite Runner, but it didn’t come together well and grab me. Its track record seems to suggest it might not for you either.

Something about Grace Is Gone caught my eye a few months before its release. I guess it was before it became apparent that most of these Iraq movies were going to be critical and box office bombs. I’m also something of a sucker for a well-made tearjerker, plus John Cusack is all-around pretty terrific. Alas, Grace went nowhere during the Oscar season despite buzz for Cusack. It made it to a grand total of 7 theaters in December for just two weekends before disappearing (it then reappeared for two weekends in late January). But even after it bombed it continued to haunt me. Our local arthouse had its poster up well into the spring. It became a recurring theme at Golden Grouches screenings to laugh at how often we’d see the trailer long after it exited theaters.

Finally, finally I was able to see it once it came out on DVD and get that monkey off my back. It’s not superb, but it is better than many of the other War on Terror films that came out in late 2007 like In the Valley of Elah and Rendition. It keeps the story narrowly focused on Cusack’s Stanley Phillips, a man who loses his soldier wife in Iraq. There are no flashbacks, mysteries, or battle sequences- just a solid dose of understated anguish. Faced with telling his two daughters of their mother’s death, he cracks and instead takes them on an impromptu road trip to a Disney World-style resort in Florida.

Yes the tears flowed a little throughout, but there’s a line between earned emotion and manipulation and Grace Is Gone likes to meander back and forth across the line. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, we’re five months into 2008 and no top ten lists for 2007 have appeared on Golden Grouches. I could say I was making sure to catch up on all the films I missed but, while that was indeed my intention, that would be a lie. I’ve had the same three DVD’s from Blockbuster for over a month now. I think we were all sort of done with movies after seeing so many in such a short period and then we entered the dead zone of spring where there was very little of quality released (though I have seen several excellent 2008 films, some of which may appear in my top 10 of 2008 due to be released sometime in 2012). Jared’s been doing his thing but the Oscar part of this Oscar blog has been dormant, understandably.

But not writing a damn thing for this column has meant that it’s been brewing in my ol’ mind grapes for many months. 2007 was a pretty terrific year for film. For our little Oscar project I really only saw a couple movies that I truly disliked; even the underwhelming ones like Atonement were still fairly good. It was a bad year for blockbusters, but the movies that were meant to be good were indeed usually very, very good. That said, it was a year heavy on the “very good” but light on the “brilliant.” Top-heavy but not tip-top-heavy. I can’t help but compare to 2006, the era of this site’s genesis and the start of the lunchroom and barstool conversations between the four of us. Overall quality was much higher in 2007 than 2006, but I don’t think anything came close to touching the best of 2006. I’m going to note some really great films but none beat out my fave five from 2006 of The Departed, United 93, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Prestige. Several of those films I could even attach the M-word to: I recently re-watched Children of Men and realized I was watching a masterpiece.

2006 found its stride with some weighty films, such as the string of anti-fascist successes (Pan’s Labyrinth, Children of Men, Catch a Fire, V For Vendetta) but 2007’s Iraq/terrorism dramas tended to flop and instead it was a year with great light-hearted fare.

As of this writing I have seen 91 movies released in 2007. The top 11%:

1. Knocked Up. I’m a little surprised that my favorite movie as of June was still my favorite movie 6 months later, but I choose to view that as a testament to Knocked Up’s quality. It’s hilarious, it’s touching, it’s gross, it’s heart-warming. You can read my tome of a post to see my full thoughts, but suffice it to say I found a lot of truth amongst the pot jokes and some sharp points on maturity, commitment, and marriage. I truly cared about the characters and their relationships and I really dug Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd as Katherine Heigl’s sister and brother-in-law. It made me laugh and it made me smile. (Also, the pot jokes are funny.) Read the rest of this entry »

(I saw the director’s cut, for those keeping track at home.) Back to back Ridley Scott pictures, and both receive one star. Hm. I haven’t seen enough of his movies to comment, I suppose.

I must admit, I came into this movie with relatively high expectations. Deservedly so, I think. #99 on imdb.com, based on a Philip K. Dick story, starring Harrison Ford. Those are pretty valid reasons to look forward to a movie.

But then I fell asleep. A lot. I’d tried watching the movie twice on TV, fell asleep both times. And three separate times watching the Netflixed DVD until I managed to struggle through it. I think I gave the movie a fair shake. The problem, as may be obvious, is that NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS STUPID MOVIE. I’m firmly convinced that anyone touting Blade Runner as a classic scifi movie (or 2001, for that matter) doesn’t actually like science fiction. Because, yes, there are some cool futuristic effects and depictions, but I kinda expect my scifi to have a storyline. I’m picky like that.

So there are replicants, they look and act like humans, but are more badass. And have a three year shelf life. Banned from the planet, a few make it back, and Harrison Ford is the only one who can hunt them down. The only way to determine a replicant, of course, is through a standardized test. This movie brought to you by ETS! Anyway, Harrison Ford has to eliminate the five or so replicants before they cause a ruckus. Except he’s really terrible at his job. He’s only responsible for killing like two of them.

And that’s basically the movie, save for some Coke ads and Sean Young looking sad. There isn’t even really much scifi psychobabble. Just…nothing. Except lots and lots of boredom.

I will say that the supporting cast is pretty awesome. Well, the major supporting players, like Rutger Hauer and M. Emmet Walsh aren’t bad. But the crew under them are great. William Sanderson (E.B. from Deadwood) does what he does best. And his toys may be the highlight of the movie. Daryl Hannah is rather alluring and (spoiler alert) has the best death scene of the movie. James Hong (token Asian guy in like everything) makes what would be a dreadful scene almost tolerable. And Edward James Olmos, though woefully underused, shows Harrison Ford what it means to be badass.

Ford, by the way, is rather wimpy, I thought. That’s not entirely his fault, as his character doesn’t really get to do much (as I might have mentioned once or twice). Ford is a tremendous action-adventure star, if not the best, but Blade Runner overmatches him. He needs something against which to act, specifically as an almost outmatched sheepish hero, and I don’t just mean the terrorists in Air Force One. He works in, say, Sabrina, because he can still do his uncomfortable laughter, still be in his element in situations where by all rights he shouldn’t be.

Granted, it doesn’t help that Sean Young never got the memo the replicant she was playing was supposed to act like a human being. She’s nice to look at, though.

(Spoiler alert) I don’t really understand the controversy over whether Deckard is a replicant or not. The movie doesn’t really address it. I wish it would have, that might have been a little intriguing. As it is, I don’t care what Scott said or didn’t say, there’s no point in hoping the movie delivers.

Obviously people like this movie. I can’t understand why. Unless they enjoyed the movie’s all natural sleep-inducing effects. There’s an interesting idea in there (obviously, Philip K. Dick wrote it), but Scott and screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Peoples just mangle things. The concept of replicants is definitely thought-provoking (hence their appearance again and again in scifi) but Blade Runner chooses to do nothing more than present them as an idea, as opposed to taking the concept anywhere meaningful.

Trailer after the jump. It does a fair job summarizing the boredom that is Blade Runner. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the fun things about Netflix (and having a ridiculously long queue) is that I’ll receive movies, but have absolutely no clue why I put them on my queue. Such is the case with The Duellists. It was the first film Ridley Scott directed, but that wouldn’t be a reason. It stars Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine, who are cool, but I don’t think that would be enough. The movie was written by Gerald Vaughn-Hughes, but I’ve never seen anything by him, and it is based on a story by Joseph Conrad, who is cool. The Duellists is about two soldiers in Napoleon’s army who fight a series of duels. Which is kinda badass-sounding. So maybe that did the trick?

Anyway, I instantly regretted the pick. I say “instantly”, because for some reason, my DVD player didn’t sync up the sound and video. Making the opening swordfight rather bizarre. Fortunately I had my 360. Or I should say “unfortunately.” Because, wow, what a terrible movie.

I mentioned that the movie was about Keitel and Carradine dueling, yes? Well, that’s pretty much all there is to the movie. They don’t have a good reason for fighting. They don’t see each other for years, but when they happen upon each other, time for another duel. Sort of like Peter Griffin fighting that chicken. Only worse. In between duels, well, I’m not sure they got around to deciding what would happen between duels. Which was a mistake, in my humble opinion. There’s a few vague subplots involving women, I suppose. But they are beyond thin. And the ending, well, I suppose the fits the rest of the movie. In that it is pointless, unsatisfying, and pretty much stupid.

OK, the movie wasn’t entirely bad. The moustaches were pretty amazing. Also, Keitel’s character is the special kind of dementedly driven than only Keitel can conjure. I would not want to be alone in a room with that man. Albert Finney is in the movie. And for a brief second so is the guy who plays Hastings on A&E’s Poirot. So that’s something. Also, someone named Tom Conti who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for a movie called Reuben, Reuben. I can’t believe I’m not making that up. The duels themselves are generally awkward, though there’s one that is kinda cool.

Please don’t see this movie. Read a book. Play outside. See a different movie. Poke yourself in the eye with a fork.

Trailer after the jump. It does a fair job describing the vapidity that is The Duellists. Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to check out the 2008 Movie Awards Liveblog.

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