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MOVIE REVIEW: Bunraku

Not every cool idea is necessarily a great idea, and that’s never more apparent than in director Guy Moshe’s genre mash-up, “Bunraku.” Set during a post-nuclear future where guns have been banned but swords, knives and pretty much anything else with a sharp edge is still fair game, the film takes place in a neon-drenched city controlled by a warrior named Nicola (Ron Perlman) and his gang of killers. When two drifters (Josh Hartnett and Japanese pop star Gackt) arrive in town with their own reasons for wanting to take down the tyrannical crime boss, they serendipitously cross paths at a local bar and decide to team up to increase their chances. But before they can get their shot at Nicola, the warriors must first face off against all nine of his elite assassins.

The first thing you’ll notice about “Bunraku” is that it has a very distinct visual style that falls somewhere between the graphic novel aesthetic of “Sin City” and a children’s pop-up book; not all that surprising considering the film’s title is a reference to a form of Japanese puppet theater. The action sequences are also fun to watch and benefit from the film’s unique look, but unfortunately, they never amount to more than a series of flashy distractions to hide the fact that there isn’t much of a story. And when Moshe does try to slow things down in order to develop his characters, he’s forced to rely on some dreadful dialogue that not even reliable actors like Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd and Demi Moore can improve. The best you could say about “Bunraku” is that it would make for an entertaining late night movie when nothing else is on TV, because this self-serving piece of fanboy drivel is not even close to being as good as it pretends to be.

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

When Conan O’Brien was unexpectedly removed as host of “The Tonight Show” after less than a year on the job, the comedian’s much-publicized departure led to a number of protests across the country organized by his army of supporters. Legally prohibited to appear on television, radio or the internet for six months following his final show on NBC, O’Brien hit the road on a 32-city music-and-comedy tour to keep himself busy in the interim. But after watching this revealing documentary by director Rodman Flender about O’Brien’s time on the road, any sympathy you might have had for him is quickly erased upon learning that he’s actually kind of a dick.

Though O’Brien deserves a lot of credit for allowing this version of himself to even be shown, the documentary is a pretty eye-opening experience that showcases the attention-hungry performer at his absolute worst. He may not have been in the right head space at the time, but that’s no excuse for mistreating your personal assistant, your writing staff, and perhaps most importantly, your fans. Throughout the film’s 89-minute runtime, O’Brien complains incessantly about having to schmooze at after parties and attend meet and greets with VIP fans that paid extra for the opportunity, and yet despite all the whining, he continues to do more than he’s asked because he’s so addicted to performing. In that respect, Flender’s doc is a success, but while most people will be expecting the funny man-child they see on TV, the Conan O’Brien represented here is little more than a broken man desperate to be the center of attention. And no matter how refreshing that honesty may be, it’s not very entertaining.

Click to buy “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”

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100 Greatest Shut Ups in Movies

This mashup has some great “shut up” scenes from some of your favorite films.

Hat tip: The Dish

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Trend Alert: Vintage Accessories

Style is a strange, unique entity. While new styles are introduced to the mainstream on a regular basis, many old styles continuously cycle in and out of popularity with each generation. Currently, vintage clothing and accessories are making a comeback, and celebrities are not afraid to show off their unique take on this fashion. Since celebrities play such a strong role in dictating what is popular and what is not, vintage fashion has caught on like wildfire among the masses.

There are many ways in which people find vintage clothing that their favorite celebrities are wearing. Below are a few of the most popular methods that people go through to find vintage clothing and accessories:
-Purchasing vintage clothing on eBay from various private sellers and retailers.
-Purchasing directly from vintage clothing designers.
-Locating vintage clothing at thrift stores and other second-hand sources.

If you are unsure about exactly how good the vintage style can look, keep an eye on the following celebrities to see them rock vintage clothing and accessories.

1. Zooey Deschanel

Zooey.

Zooey Deschanel is an actress who has a cult-like following. She generally plays supporting roles in the various movies she appears in. Her seemingly eccentric array of character portrayals is reflected in her fashion. She enjoys sporting various implementations of vintage style in the form of dresses and skirts that exhibit a kind of hippie theme. Additionally, she will occasionally add in a bandana or headband that assists in tying everything together.

2. Emma Watson

Emma Watson.

Emma Watson is among one of the most sought after actresses since her role as a main character in the Harry Potter films. She has since moved on to appear in various films that have kept her career steadily moving forward. When she is not working on her career or school, she can often be seen at various award shows showcasing her elegant take on the vintage style. Emma enjoys wearing dazzling vintage style dresses that many people relate to the glamorous attire of 1950s Hollywood.

3. Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore.

Drew Barrymore has been a Hollywood starlet for well over 20 years. When she is not lighting up the silver screen with her contagious smile, she enjoys showing off her taste in vintage fashion. Drew generally focuses more on vintage accessories over outfits. However, she has been known to sport the occasional eye-popping vintage dress through her various public appearances. One particular instance consisted of her wearing a $25 vintage dress from a thrift store that many people assumed was a designer style.

Celebrities have always influenced what is popular and what is not due to how often they are in the limelight. As more celebrities continue to sport vintage styling elements with their outfits, we can expect to see an even sharper increase of vintage clothing making a move into the mainstream fashion industry over the coming years.

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A short chat with Ryan Gosling of “Drive”

No disrespect to Keri Russell or Justin Timberlake, but Ryan Gosling is easily the most powerfully versatile actor to emerge from that thespian crucible we call the Mickey Mouse Club. He’s done very well playing relatively straightforward leads in “Fracture” and the chick-flick phenom, “The Notebook,” but the 30-year-old Canadian with an oddly urban accent has specialized in playing a wide variety of oddballs and doing it better than anyone of his generation. Right now, he can be seen going way into the violent dark side of life with the rather remarkable thriller, “Drive.” From Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, it’s a fascinating blend of 70s/80s aesthetics, true romance and deliberately ugly brutality. Describing his attraction to the film, Gosling says, “I’ve always wanted to be in a violent John Hughes movie. I always thought that if ‘Pretty in Pink’ had a head smashing, it’d be perfect.”

He was more serious than you might think when he said that. And so it went as a very interesting Mr. Gosling spoke with Bullz-Eye and other journos about his latest film. Check out a sample of the roundtable discussion below and then head over to Bullz-Eye to read the full interview.

On his unusual relationship with violent cinema and on being a head-smashing “superhero.”

When I was a little kid, when I first saw “First Blood,” it put a spell on me. I thought I was Rambo; I even thought my face felt like Sylvester Stallone’s face when I touched it. I went to school the next day. I put steak knives in my Fisher Price Houdini kit, and I took ‘em, and I threw them at all the kids at recess. I got suspended, rightfully so, and I’m sorry and I learned my lesson and I never did anything like that again. But my parents said, “This guy can’t watch movies, or violent movies anyways.” They put me on a leash and I could only watch Bible. National Geographic movies, and black and white comedies, Abbott and Costello…

I understand the effect that movies can have on you, and the kind of spell that they can cast on you. When I first read this script, I felt like this is a guy who’s just seen too many movies. He’s going around acting like he’s the hero of his own action movie. I wanted to play a superhero, but all the good ones are taken. I thought, “Well, I can create my own, potentially.”

On working with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known previously for such hyperviolent slices of cinema as the acclaimed “Bronson” starring Tom Hardy and the Danish “Pusher” trilogy.

Look, ever since Nicolas was a little boy, his mother has been telling him he’s a genius and everything he did was genius. Even when he was watching “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” while he ate his cereal before he went to elementary school in the morning. Obsessively, she believed he was a genius. I think that, you get told that enough, eventually it becomes true. I’m not sure that he really started out as one, but I do believe he’s become one.

He is a very unfiltered filmmaker. He just makes what he wants to see. If it’s boring to him, he won’t shoot it. He fetishizes things, in a way… He sexualizes things because he can’t maybe be as sexual as he’d want to be [because he's married]. He talks about filmmaking a lot like having sex. It has to arouse him and has to be sexually interesting to him, even if it’s a pair of gloves or where you hand is in the frame. It has to literally turn him on.

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Steven Bauer talks “Scarface” and more

Actor Steven Bauer is the sort of down-to-earth guy who’s willing to come right out and tell an interviewer that, overall, his career in Hollywood has been “kind of… a little iffy,” so it really does the heart good to see him currently experiencing a bit of an upswing in his success. If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad” – and, really, why wouldn’t you be? – then you saw him make the first of his two appearances on the show this season, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect: between those episodes lies the Blu-ray release of “Scarface,” where Bauer ably held his own against Al Pacino with his performance as Tony Montana’s brother from another mother, Manny Ribero. Although we only had a short time to talk, Bullz-Eye still managed to get Bauer’s recollections of working on both of these projects.

Check out a sample of our chat with him below and then head over to Bullz-Eye for the full interview.

Bullz-Eye: With “Scarface,” my understanding is that it was a combination of your very authentic Cuban background and your audition that helped you get the part. How did you prepare for the audition?

Steven Bauer: Wow, it was… I’ll tell you what: it was pretty daunting at the time. What I did was… y’know, I read the script, I knew the script and I understood it, knowing that I had very little in common with this character of Manny. Fortunately, I’d met guys like that, so I had something to draw upon. Because I’m the antithesis of Manny. Well, I was then. I probably became more and more like Manny as I got older. (Laughs) But at 24 years old, I was more like Justin Bieber than Manny Ribera! But I had seen those guys, y’know, growing up in Miami. I’d seen guys who were that way, and that’s really what I drew upon. Also, it was the sensibilities of the Cuban who has lost his homeland and is really sort of adrift in the world and looking for any harbor. Landing in the United States is the opportunity to do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be.

BE: Talking about your inherent Cuban-ness, did it ever give you pause at all that so many non-Cuban actors were selected to play Cubans in the film?

SB: Not at all. Will, honestly, it was an amazing coming together of actors, and I for one… well, first of all, who am I to judge? (Laughs) But secondly, there was no room for judgment, because the actors that they chose, beginning with Bob Loggia as Frank Lopez. He did his own work, he did his own research, and he came up with a totally original Cuban character that… I recognized him immediately. He’s that guy who laughs at his own jokes. He’s a big blowhard, y’know? It was a fantastic character that he created. And then Murray Abraham created that weasel of a man, Omar. And the other guys who weren’t Cuban, the guy who played the Bolivian – God rest his soul, Paul Shenar, who passed away years ago – he was fantastic. And he had no knowledge of any Bolivian. But he did tremendous research. And when you look at the whole canvas of the actors that were chosen, they’re all stars. They’re all beautiful, amazing artists. Michelle Pfeiffer, in her second film role ever, she created this beautiful, beautiful character, this haunted girl who’s just completely lost and attached to this power, to this man, and then attaches himself to the other man as soon as he gets the power. And again, the actors who were playing Cubans, they were all… the ones who were playing the important roles in the film, they all did amazing, amazing work. I always, always defend it.

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Bullz-Eye chats with the men of “Warrior”

MMA fans can finally relax. “Warrior” is the first film to come out of Hollywood that treats mixed martial arts seriously and with the respect that the sport’s advocates insist it deserves. A populist family-centric tale in the spirit of the early “Rocky” films and innumerable kitchen sink melodramas, “Warrior” brings together likely superstars-to-be Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as long-estranged Pittsburgh brothers Tommy and Brendan Conlon. The pair starts out working their respective ways through the world of ultimate fighting for very different reasons. With inexorable movie logic, they end up facing off with a boatload of money and their souls as the purse. In between them is Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon, the formerly abusive, recovering alcoholic father neither can forgive.

Director/co-writer Gavin O’Connor and stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte all had plenty to say to Bullz-Eye and others regarding “Warrior” and their respective careers at a recent press day. Check out a sample of the interview below and then read the full transcript over at Bullz-Eye.

Director Gavin O’Connor on an early test screening of his theoretically very macho movie, which was delayed by over a year of intense post-production work.

The reaction was great in the room. I met [with executives] in the conference room of the studio and the first thing they said to me when I sat down, they said, “You made a chick flick.” Our highest scores – we got in the 90s – were with women, both above 25 and below 25. It was a shocker. I think women are pulled into the emotionality of the story… The movie isn’t about fighting. Even when you get to the fighting, it’s not about that. I call the movie “an intervention in a cage.” That’s what it’s driving towards. One brother saves the other brother’s life by beating the hell out of him.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton on the training required to play two bulked-up, yet highly agile, behemoths.

TH: We’d do two hours boxing, two hours Muay Thai, two hours Jiu-Jitsu, two hours choreography. Then, we’d all go and eat pulled pork and baked beans – you can never get enough jokes about pulled pork – then we’d go back and we’d do two hours weightlifting. Then, we’d go to bed and get up and do it all again, for about seven or eight weeks.

JE: I think by the time we were doing the fighting in the stadium we were being brought chicken and broccoli every three hours. Then, a protein shake in between. We were eating constantly. It seeped into our lives a little bit. We both still watch [MMA]. You’re still training for other reasons. I do a little bit of fight training, but not as intensely as that. I don’t think I could do that forever. I’ve got respect for the fighters who do that on a constant basis.

TH: We ate a lot of chickens. Normally, the job is about managing other people’s insecurities. Interdepartmental issues, trying to get your point across to somebody. Three weeks into a project you start to realize that you’re panicking, and who isn’t? But when you haven’t eaten any carbs you start to not really hear people, or care. And you’re built like a brick shithouse, and there are tears. And you can’t kick off and have a tantrum in this situation because you are surrounded by real fighters.

Nick Nolte on why his character is repeatedly seen listening to an audiobook of a certain weighty American literary classic in “Warrior.”

A lot of people have said, “Why ‘Moby Dick’?” What does [Captain Ahab] do? [Ahab] goes after a white whale, obsessed. He ignores his crew. He ignores their safety. And, eventually, he gets impaled on the white whale. That’s the same thing Conlon does. He ignores his family, he ignores everything, and he impales himself on alcohol. At first I didn’t understand why he was listening to “Moby Dick,” but as we went along, I began to. You know, it’s a big book. I mean, I read it. It was a long read. Then, when he gets drunk, it’s not violence that comes out of him, it’s the problem.

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Perfect Host

David Hyde Pierce may be best known for his role as Niles Crane on the hit comedy series, “Frasier,” but it only makes his performance in this darkly comical indie gem from writer/director Nick Tomnay that much more effective. The film stars Clayne Crawford as John Taylor, a career criminal who robs a bank and then cons his way into the home of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) under the pretense that they share a fellow acquaintance. Ever the consummate host, Warwick invites John to stay as a guest of his dinner party, completely unaware that he’s on the run from the police. But when his secret is revealed and he tries to bully Warwick into being his hostage, the tables are turned on John when he discovers that Warwick isn’t exactly who he appears to be.

A psychological thriller where nothing is as it seems, “The Perfect Host” may have more twists and turns than you would expect given the film’s seemingly straightforward plot, but most of them work surprisingly well without feeling cheap or contrived. Though the ending isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks due to the events that precede it, the performances are strong enough to keep you engaged throughout its taut 93-minute runtime. Crawford holds his own as the bank robber who becomes more of a victim with each passing scene, but it’s Pierce who steals the show as the title character – a human onion that slowly peels back the layers of his not-so-normal psyche much to John’s terror. Those only familiar with Pierce’s work on “Frasier” will definitely be in for a pleasant surprise, because the role allows the actor to step out of his comfort zone and have some fun, and it’s exactly this casting against type that makes the movie so entertaining.

Click to buy “The Perfect Host”

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MOVIE REVIEW: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Many people have praised “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” as the long-awaited comeback of legendary director Tsui Hark when in fact it’s just another example of everything that’s wrong with Asian cinema. It’s way too long and feels even longer, the plot is incomprehensible at times, and the tone is all over the place. This is a movie that has its hands in some many different genres (from wu xia, to supernatural thriller, to detective story, and historical epic) that it never really creates its own identity.

Set in the late 7th Century on the eve of the coronation of China’s first female emperor, the film follows renowned detective Dee Renjie (Andy Lau) as he’s called into action to solve a mystery involving the deaths of several of the empress’ most trusted officials. The men have all been killed by spontaneously bursting into flames, and though some believe it’s the work of divine intervention, Detective Dee knows that there’s someone of flesh and blood behind the murders. But in order to crack the case, Dee teams up with the empress’ favorite enforcer (Bingbing Li) and an albino official (Chao Deng) to help with investigation, neither of whom he trusts.

Though he’s been referred to as the Asian equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, Detective Dee’s first cinematic adventure isn’t nearly as entertaining as it should be. The potential was certainly there (especially with a great actor like Andy Lau in the lead role), but the film is sorely lacking the wit and complexity that’s made Holmes such an engaging character for all these years. When Lau gets the chance to inject a little humor into the story, it’s actually quite fun, but Hark abandons that comedic tone early on and the movie never really recovers from it. Add to that some surprisingly dull action sequences and subpar special effects, and “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” fails to be anything more than another great concept thwarted by an industry that favors quantity over quality.

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