Hidden Netflix Gems – Everything Must Go

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Hollywood has a rich history of well-known comic actors taking on more serious and weighty roles, from Robin Williams to Ben Stiller to Jim Carrey, and now Will Ferrell, in what is probably his very best performance to date. Everything Must Go bears a strong resemblance to Stiller’s work in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg, or Adam Sandler‘s in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love, in its portrayal of a flawed but basically good-hearted man going through difficult times and coming out better for it. The difference between Ferrell and Sandler, of course, is that Ferrell’s comedies generally don’t suck.

Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who loses his job at the beginning of the film and, after an ill-advised revenge against his boss, Gary (Glenn Howerton), returns home to discover that his wife has left him. Not only that, she has locked him out of the house, frozen their joint bank account, and left all of his possessions out on the front lawn. Nick is understandably upset, and reacts in the defeated way that has apparently become his life’s standard recourse: he buys a lot of beer and camps out in his La-Z-Boy on the lawn for the night. In the morning, having exhausted his beer supply and unable to find his car keys, he borrows a bicycle from his twelve-year-old neighbor, Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and heads down to the convenience store for more beer while Kenny keeps an eye on his stuff.

Nick also befriends his new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a beautiful young photographer who has just moved by herself from New York, where her husband is wrapping things up at his company, planning to join her in Arizona as soon as possible. There are hints that their marriage is on the rocks, as when she tells Nick early on that her husband wants to name their unborn baby (with whom she is currently pregnant) Jack, after himself, a practice she thinks is “kind of ridiculous.” I found this especially ironic knowing that the excellent young actor who plays Kenny is in fact the son of the other Christopher Wallace, best known as The Notorious B.I.G. We also meet Nick’s friend and former Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Frank Garcia (Michael Pena), when he rescues Nick from arrest by virtue of the fact that Frank is himself a higher-ranking officer than the ones sent to Nick’s house on a complaint from his neighbors.

Frank allows Nick to remain living on his lawn for the next few days under the pretense that he is holding a yard sale; after that, if Nick can’t get himself together, Frank will have no choice but to take him to jail. Clearly, this is not a plot-driven film, but that is not to say it isn’t a very well-structured one; the yard sale provides the forward thrust for Nick’s attempt to get his life back on track, and subtle details pay off in unexpected ways throughout. It is to the great credit of first-time writer-director Dan Rush that the film never takes the easy or expected routes, and it also takes its time in developing its characters and their relationships, all of which are nuanced and believable. The approach is well-suited to the author of its source material, the great Raymond Carver, and the film finds a perfect balance between poignancy and humor, both of which are equally effective when employed.

  

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Surprise! It’s the return of the end of week movie news dump.

I thought I’d shock everyone and do a post that’s not built around a trailer — there’ll be time enough for that on the weekend.

* Tom Cruise may or may not be many things, but I’ve never really thought of him as a rocker. Yet, that’s exactly what he will be in the promised film version of “Rock of Ages.” I’ve long had mixed feelings about Cruise as an actor — he can be very good in some things and disastrous in others — and I have mixed feelings about this project, too. To be specific, I like good movie musicals but strongly dislike eighties hair bands and what some of us used to call “corporate rock.”

On the other hand, Mike Fleming touts Anne Hathaway, who I have few or no mixed feelings about, as a possible costar. I wonder what she’d look like as a glam rocker…

anne_hathaway

* A star has been set — or at least gotten to the serious negotiation stage — for the long discussed “Jack the Giant Killer” coming from Bryan Singer and his old screenwriting cohort, Christopher McQuarrie, writes Mike Fleming. He’s that kid who was so great in 2002’s “About a Boy” grown-up into 20-something Nicolas Hoult. Hoult has also appeared on the UK “Skins” and will be turning up in the upcoming “Mad Max” reboot/sequel or whatever.

Mike Fleming, however, is not correct when he describes the tale as a “scary” variation on “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It’s an entirely different, far less commonly told, fairy tale. As Wikipedia tells us:

Jack the Giant Killer is a British fairy tale about a plucky Cornish lad who slays a number of giants during King Arthur’s reign. The tale is characterized by violence, gore, and blood-letting.

No wonder they’re making a movie of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Midweek movie news

No promises we’ll have a Friday news dump this week, so you’d better enjoy this edition…

* Well, the big news tonight is most definitely the reorganization going over at the Warner Brothers megastudio. As far as I’m able to suss out, what this amounts to is a consolidation of power for CEO Jeff Bewkes. Reading Nikki Finke‘s current summary of the situation is a bit like reading a Television Without Pity post for a very complicated soap opera you’ve never seen, but Anne Thompson keeps it much, much simpler. On his way out exec Alan Horn is a good guy who Thompson believes was simply superfluous. Another case of a nice guy finishing last?

Warner-Bros

However, Nikki Finke does allude to a very crucial part of the Warners empire, and that’s DC Comics now being headed by the Warners minded and Finke approved Diane Nelson. As it happens, my deep, deep connections in the comics biz were e-mailing me news earlier today — which I was somewhat aware of but failed to properly cover earlier in the week — of an onging reorganization going on over there which certainly ties into the ongoing attempts at Warners to become more aggressive regarding comics adaptations along the lines of what Marvel Entertainment has been doing for some time — and also to try and avoid more flops like “Jonah Hex.”

There was even talk some talk of DC becoming entirely a West Coast operation, but that would be a major breach of publishing industry tradition with some actual problems involved and, in any case, thanks to FedEx and the ‘net, freelancers can live where they want now. Heidi MacDonald’s great comics blog The Beat has been covering this end of the story and you read about some of what’s going on here.

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Wednesday night at the movies

I’ll be taking tomorrow off, so this’ll have to hold you….

* Several blogs, including The Vulture, are commenting on Disney’s refusal to greenlight a sequel to the Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds hit comedy, “The Proposal.” Apparently, Disney is only interested in either franchise pictures with commercial spin off possibilities (i.e, toys and video games) or small-budget youth-themed films.

Ryan  Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in

* So, after everything we’ve seen from him over the last eleven years or so, I’m supposed to believe George Lucas getting more involved will improve the reportedly troubled “Red Tails”? I just hope he stays far, far away from the actors.

* The Playlist has a fascinating peak at an apparent early draft of P.T. Anderson’s not-about-Scientology screenplay.

* The late John Hughes will get a special Oscar tribute this year.

* Nikki Finke on the latest version of the often remade Wuthering Heights. They might as well just go all-out and make Heathcliff a vampire in this one, from the sound of it.

* The British trade, Screen Daily, is the latest pub to go behind a paywall. Anne Thompson has some salient thoughts.

* “American Pie 4” may come to us from the “Harold & Kumar” writers. “Middle-Aged Pie”? (H/t /Film.)

* Remember that wacky/fascinating rumored Lars von Trier/Martin Scorsese remake(s) of “Taxi Driver” rumor I mentioned a couple of days back? Not at all surprisingly, it was just a rumor.


Benecio del Toro chills out in
* Devin Faraci of CHUD provides a listen to that unused rock music score for “The Wolfman.” Yup, it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly have worked with a period horror film, but then I probably would have told Quentin Tarantino that using an eighties David Bowie song in a World War II movie wasn’t such a great idea, either.

Actually, much as I love “Inglourious Basterds,” I’m still not convinced about that particular touch.

  

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Sundance and stuff

* The Sundance Film Festival, easily the second most influential film festival in the world, both for better and for worse, unveiled its 2010 schedule this morning. Anne Thompson takes a close look at the impact of Jim Cooper, who is now running the festival after the departure of Geoff Gilmour. At the one and only Sundance I attended back in 2005, I heard a number of catty, though possibly not inaccurate, remarks to the effect that Gilmour had gone a bit Hollywood in a somewhat James Lipton-esque way. Apparently, things are changing and change is often a good thing.

* Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film is supposedly not about Scientology and, therefore, Philip Seymour Hoffman will not be playing a variation on L. Ron Hubbard. Still, sounds cool. Boy, I wish I had time to check out Anderson’s last film and huge creative departure, “There Will Be Blood,” a second time right now. Jason Zingale’s review might have been short of adoring, but that one has really stayed with me. P.T. Anderson might not be the second coming of Orson Welles, but then, Welles wasn’t exactly the second coming of John Ford either.

* Roman Polanski isn’t going to be set free this week, but he is going to the Milky Way — the name of his digs in the swanky Swiss ski resort town of Gstaad.

* Rupert Everett, who made a bit of history a decade or so back as the first borderline A-list actor to be openly gay, has warned younger actors not to follow suit in new book promo interview in The Guardian. Personally, I’d advise gay performers to take his words with a gigantic grain of salt. Everett is a first rate actor I always enjoy watching but he has, to put it kindly, a big mouth and has said many really questionable things over the years while also saying some really smart things. Not being gay or a famous thespian, I’m perhaps not qualified to judge, but being out sure hasn’t hurt Neil Patrick Harris any lately. I guess the real test will be if the highly accomplished ex-Doogie is  ever allowed to play a more or less serious romantic lead opposite a female.

Nikki Finke has the thoughts of “coming-out PR guru” Howard Bragman:

There may well have been other reasons Rupert didn’t become the leading man he imagined himself going to be. But this isn’t about your bank account. This is about your soul.

* Bloody Disgusting has word that the remake of Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds” is getting a change of directors and will be heading in a direction that will be, yes, more bloody and disgusting.

* In Michael Powell’s horror classic, “Peeping Tom,” a silent-film era cameraman is driven to become a serial killer by the bizarre, fear-inducing experiments performed on him as a child by his psychologist father. A linguist named d’Armond Speers might have been less cruel than the dad in the movie, but speaking only Klingon to his son for the first three years of his life seems like it’s taking some kind of risk. Fortunately, as passed along by Geoff Boucher, it appears the kid turned out normal, linguistically speaking, anyhow. That’s good. Still, I wonder what the word in Klingon is for “meshugeneh.”

fishermansworf1

  

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