Sex in cinema

Archana Ram at EW informs us that the latest bestseller to be the subject of a big-time Hollywood movie adapatation is the instructional tome, What to Expect When You’re Expecting that will become a sort of “Pregnancy, Actually” multi-story/multi-star film.

No wonder Hollywood’s interested. It’s a sequel.

  

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New gig, old gig: Liam Neeson

So, continuing the pattern of the post right below this one, the news that Mr. Neeson is stepping into the role left vacant in “The Hangover 2” by this week’s big Mel Gibson casting clusterfrack, gives us an opportunity to take a look at some scenes from one of Neeson’s very few comedies, 2003’s “Love, Actually.” Ironically, the humor is leavened by the sadness underlying the story about a man raising the son of his beloved deceased wife, a storyline made all the more poignant by tragic real events.

Anyhow, the chemistry between Neeson and young Thomas Sangster here is really nice. I think this is the only movie I’ve ever seen to give me actual father envy. I mean, who could be a cooler dad than Liam Neeson?

I believe the first part might be a deleted scene, but since I haven’t seen “Love, Actually” since it came out, I’m actually not sure. If anyone out there wants to enlighten us, feel free.

  

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Doctor Who 5.10 – Vincent and the Doctor

If somebody asked me to make a short list of my favorite writers and/or directors working today, Richard Curtis isn’t the first person who’d leap to mind. He might not even be the fifth. Despite that, I count myself as a big, big fan of his stuff, going all the way back to “Blackadder,” and right up to his most recent work, “Pirate Radio,” a movie which didn’t do well at the box office and got some fairly tepid reviews upon release. Like Curtis’s “Love Actually” before it, I suspect “Pirate Radio” (or “The Boat That Rocked,” for those of you in the U.K.) will go on to become a favorite of many, many people, because it’s an utterly charming, daffy piece of cinema that doesn’t want to do much more than entertain the hell out of you for a couple hours. And that it does. When it was announced that Curtis would be writing an episode for this season of “Doctor Who,” naturally I was interested in the prospect, but if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t expect all that much from it, and even less so once it came out that it would be about Vincent van Gogh.

For starters, Curtis has no track record writing science-fiction or fantasy (at least not the type one thinks of when bandying about such terms), and while it seemed gratifying to have such a high profile writer onboard, nothing in his works indicated that, with only 45 minutes to play, he’d likely create anything more than an amusing romp. Perhaps it was less Curtis himself, and more the new series having a pretty bad track record when it comes to tackling historical figures, regardless of who’s writing them. In fact, they typically seem to end up…amusing romps. Probably the best was the first one, “The Unquiet Dead,” which featured Charles Dickens, and from there they’ve kind of incrementally gone downhill. I didn’t think the formula could get much worse than “The Unicorn and the Wasp” with Agatha Christie, but along came “Victory of the Daleks” with Winston Churchill to prove me wrong. So imagine my surprise upon discovering that Curtis trashed my expectations by creating a deep, lovely, tortured thing of beauty that reduced me to tears. I have really got to start trusting this guy. His name is a stamp of quality no matter what “they” say.

(Editor’s note: I’ll second that, having interviewed Mr. Curtis in connection with the release of “Pirate Radio.” You can check out the conversation by clicking here.)

“Vincent and the Doctor” is the new standard by which these types of stories will, or at least should be measured. I have never quite understood the point of the Doctor meeting up with famous figures from the past only so that we can laugh at them and their quaint, backwards ways, all while cramming in little in-jokes that play off of what we know about these people from today’s perspective. Curtis presents us with a fictitious riff on van Gogh that lays waste to the previous approach. His story demands that we feel for van Gogh and his problems, which in turn gives the episode a gravitas that’s lacking in stuff like “The Shakespeare Code,” in which young Will was little more than a smarmy Casanova. Curtis comes from a place that has a huge amount of respect for this artist, as well as understanding that van Gogh’s troubled history was a big part of what made him the artist he was. Curtis also wisely avoids tackling the infamous ear-cutting incident, which is something a lesser writer would’ve worked into the story by having the alien lob it off or some such nonsense.

From the very first sequence, the reality of van Gogh (Tony Curran) painting “Wheatfield with Crows” is mixed with the fantastical element of the unknown in the field, disturbing the birds, and thus giving a reason for the crows in the painting in the first place. Quickly the action moves to the present at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and before you can say Bill Nighy, there he is, as Dr. Black. At first it seems a somewhat wasted cameo, but lucky for us Nighy returns before the episode is over. The Doctor has taken Amy to see the van Gogh exhibit at the museum. It seems he’s taken her numerous places since their last adventure, and he’s got a guilty conscience about the loss of Rory, who of course Amy no longer even remembers. The painting “The Church at Auvers” catches the Doctor’s eye, as there’s something in one of the church windows that he recognizes as “evil.” And so it’s off to 1890 to get to the bottom of it all.

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Happy (Fake) Presidents Day! – A Collection of U.S. Presidents from TV and Film

Once upon a time, the third Monday in February was designated as a day to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. These days, however, although it varies from state to state, it tends to be known less specifically as Presidents Day, which means that we can ostensibly celebrate everyone who’s ever been the President of the United States. Here at Premium Hollywood, we’d also like to extend that to those who’ve served as our nation’s commander-in-chief on television and the silver screen.

Now, granted, that’s a lot of people…more, in fact, than we could possibly give shout-outs to in a single piece. As such, we decided to pare it down to the same number of individuals as have held the highest office in our land since its inception. Forty-four folks is still nothing to sneeze at, but we’re betting that we’ll still end up having left out someone’s favorite son (or daughter). To paraphrase one of our real presidents, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. With that said, however, we still think we did a pretty solid job of picking the best candidates for the piece.

1. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews), “Idiocracy”: Why are we leading off with President Camacho? Because, really, when you’ve got a fake President on your list who’s also a porn superstar and a five-time ultimate smackdown wrestling champion, why in God’s name would you wait any longer than necessary to trumpet his inclusion? Clearly, this man is the fake President to end all fake Presidents, and he’s #1 with a bullet. It’s all going to be downhill from here.

2. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), “The American President”: President Shepherd is a widower who pursues a relationship with an attractive lobbyist — Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening — while at the same time attempting to win passage of a crime control bill. Although the film was mostly ignored by the Oscars, it racked up several Golden Globe nominations and has since found its way into the #75 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of America’s Greatest Love Stories. Plus, its screenwriter managed to find a good use for the excess material that he didn’t have room to fit into the script…but we’ll get to that in our next entry.

3. President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), “The West Wing”: Yes, if you hadn’t figured it out already, “The American President” was written by Aaron Sorkin, which is why you may notice a resemblance between the mannerisms of Presidents Shepherd and Bartlet. Ironically, though, Sorkin had originally envisioned the series as revolving so much around the White House senior staff that viewers would rarely, if ever, see the president. Instead, what the nation got was an idealized leader, one who – in A Novel Approach to Politics, by Douglas A. Van Belle and Kenneth M. Mash – is referred to as the “most popular Democratic president in recent memory.” The book was written pre-Obama, mind you, but we’re pretty sure the title still stands.

4. President William Harrison Mitchell (Kevin Kline), “Dave”: Given the vaguely “The Prince and the Pauper”-esque premise of the film, which involes a guy who makes a few bucks on the side as a Presidential impersonator being asked to play the part for real when the actual President suffers an incapacitating stroke, there was every reason to believe that “Dave” would’ve been a trifle at best, but between Kline’s imminent likability and a fantastic supporting cast (Sigourney Weaver as the First Lady, Ben Kingsley as the Vice President, Frank Langella as Chief of Staff, and Charles Grodin as Dave’s accountant buddy, Murray), it often comes close to – even though it doesn’t quite reach – the heights of “The American President.”

5 – 8. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), “Independence Day” / President Blake (Perry King) and President Becker (Kenneth Welsh), “The Day After Tomorrow” / President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), “2012”: As soon as you see the credit “directed by Roland Emmerich” on a disaster flick, you just know things are going to reach a point where the President of the United States is going to be brought into the discussion about whatever imminent danger may be about to thrust itself onto our planet.

There’s also a very good possibility that the ol’ rite of succession may come into play during the course of the film, such as it did in “The Day After Tomorrow,” when we lost President Blake after the blades of his helicopter froze. Say hello, President Becker! The same thing happened in “2012,” too, but we were so in awe of President Wilson’s selfless sacrifice – he stayed behind to help survivors in need, only to meet his death when the tidal wave struck the White House – that we’ve made an executive decision not to include Wilson’s successor, President Anheuser (Oliver Platt) in the list. Why? Because he’s a dick.

The definitive Emmerich-flick president, of course, is President Whitmore. During the course of “Independence Day,” he sees the White House blown up, loses his wife, fights off a psychic attack from an alien, and flies a goddamned jet fighter into battle to help save the day. Plus, he gives the most stirring speech this side of “Patton.” Hell, I’d vote for him.

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Celluloid Heroes: Best British Imports of the Decade

Foreign films made a big splash at the turn of the century, with many moviegoers finally realizing that subtitles weren’t so bad after all. Though a language barrier was never the reason the British film scene failed to take off, it really came into its own in the aughts with the introduction of new talent like Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, and Danny Boyle. As part of our look back at the movies of the 2000s, here’s a list of the best British imports of the decade. You’ll probably notice some similarities among many of the entries, but that’s just because when it came to delivering great genre films, the U.K. was king.

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10. “Son of Rambow”

Movies like “Son of Rambow” don’t get nearly as big of an audience as they deserve, which is a shame, since it’s one of the most wildy inventive family films I’ve seen in a long time. And who better to make a movie that incorporates animated doodles into its character’s imagination than the director-producer duo that created the wacky, stop-motion music video for Blur’s “Coffee and TV”? It’s a match made in heaven, though much of the film’s success is thanks to newcomers Bill Milner and Will Poulter, who give child actors a good name.

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9. “Billy Elliot”

Jamie Bell may be all grown up, but “Billy Elliot” remains the best thing he’s done. A classic feel-good movie featuring a great soundtrack, a funny and heartfelt script, and a memorable performance from Julie Walters as the title character’s chain-smoking ballet teacher, “Billy Elliot” was nominated for three Oscars and was eventually adapted for the stage (with music by Elton John, no less) where it went on to win ten Tony Awards. Still, for as much love as the Broadway musical has received during its five-year run, the movie version is still one of the most entertaining British films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

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8. “Sexy Beast”

Though it’s best remembered for Ben Kingsley’s riveting turn as Don Logan, a venomous, high-strung gangster who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, “Sexy Beast” is a smart and energetic crime drama that also happens to be pretty damn funny. Of course, most of that humor comes from Kingsley’s expletive-laced performance, and it’s a crime that he wasn’t rewarded with a nice, shiny Oscar. Still, even though the movie is essentially the Ben Kingsley Show, “Sexy Beast” served as a nice introduction to Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, and will likely go down as one of the better crime dramas of the decade.

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7. “RocknRolla”

Say what you will about Guy Ritchie, but his movies are an absolute blast to watch, and “RocknRolla” is easily his most mature film to date. Though he still seems to favor style over substance, the movie still succeeds thanks to an amusing story and lively ensemble cast led by Gerard Butler and Tom Wilkinson. Plus, that bizarre dance scene between Butler and Thandie Newton is one of the funniest WTF moments of the decade (not to mention their subsequent sex scene). Ritchie’s films may never receive the credit they deserve (he’ll forever be remembered as a Tarantino wannabe, even though QT himself has been accused of stealing several times over), but “RocknRolla” is what going to the movies is all about.

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