A roundtable chat with Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman of “Barney’s Version”

A Brit who’s been successfully playing Americans for decades and a charmingly laid back Canadian with a definite air of California dude-ism about him, actors Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman might seem like a somewhat random pairing. Even in the new film version of the late novelist Mordecai Richler’s tragicomic swan song, “Barney’s Version,” their characters make for some pretty strange bedfellows. On the other hand “Driver and Speedman” does sound like the title of a late seventies cop show.

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Ms. Driver portrays the second Mrs. Panofsky, an otherwise unnamed Jewish Canadian princess who marries the very flawed Montreal TV producer Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti, who picked up a Golden Globe for the part Sunday night), only to find her new husband oddly distant, starting on the very day of their wedding. That’s because that’s also the day Barney meets – and goes completely nutso over – the woman who will eventually become Mrs. Panofsky #3 (Rosamund Pike). In Mrs. Panofsky’s corner: her outspoken ex-crooked policeman father-in-law (Dustin Hoffman), who speaks approvingly of her “nice rack.”

Speedman, for his part, is Barney’s multiple drug using novelist pal, Boogie. Best known for handsome-guy roles in the “Underworld” films opposite Kate Beckinsale and as the male lead in “Felicity” opposite Keri Russell, Speedman’s Bernard “Boogie” Moscovitch is a frequently charming rascal/jerkwad who both fails and assists his best friend in rather spectacular fashion, eventually starting a chain of events that may or may not lead to his murder by Barney.

Speedman entered the room first in typically low-key fashion, acting every bit the likable thirty-something surfer dude or ski-bum he could easily be cast as. Ms. Driver followed along, making a flirtatious joke about Speedman’s good looks and generally providing jovial company for a room full of entertainment writers one Beverly Hills winter’s day.

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Underworld / Underworld: Evolution

Here’s a pair of movies that are so relentlessly tedious in their presentation that it only makes perfect Hollywood sense that a franchise was born out of the simple notion that vampires and werewolves would make a kick ass combo if they were beating the crap out of one another. Admittedly, the idea has a sort of kitschy appeal on paper; in practice, however, it leads to one repetitive fight scene after another, broken up by some of the absolute worst dialogue to be heard coming out of center channels in years. There isn’t an insightful or clever word uttered from even a single fanged mouth, which is a huge shame when you’ve got fantastic actors like Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi and Michael Sheen thrown into the mix. There’s also Scott Speedman as the male protagonist, who is the blandest leading man ever to stream through a movie projector, and yet the dialogue manages to sound quite right as it tumbles from his lips (go figure). The real star of the “Underworld” movies, however, is Kate Beckinsale’s ass covered in tight black leather, since it’s the only thing that you can’t take your eyes off of during the proceedings. That ass will unfortunately be absent from the upcoming prequel, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (probably to be replaced by Rhona Mitra’s posterior, and all things considered, that isn’t such a terrible trade-off). If someone is going to drag you kicking and screaming to what’s sure to be yet another misfire, you might impress them by beefing up on your “Underworld” history by picking up this affordably priced repackaging of previous releases (or, alternatively, use your experience with the set as the reason you don’t want to go).

Click to buy ” Underworld / Underworld: Evolution”

  

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