Weekly Trailer Round-Up: El Angel, UFO, Breaking and Exiting, The School, Running For Grace, The Immortal, White Fang


Here are some of the trailers that dropped last week.

First up, we have El Angel.  This fact-based Argentine film is about Carlos Robledo Puch, a youthful criminal whose crime spree both stunned Argentina and turned him into a celebrity in 1971.  El Angel premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and does not yet have an American release date.

Gilliam Anderson may be leaving The X-Files but, judging from this trailer for UFO, she’s not leaving the world of extraterrestrial conspiracy theories.  UFO was filmed in Cincinnati last December and is scheduled to be released sometime this year.

Breaking and Exiting is a comedy about a thief (Milo Gibson) who breaks into the home of a suicidal woman (Jordan Hinson) and who, according to the film’s imdb page, “decides to save her from herself.  Breaking and Exiting will be released on August 17th.

Am I the only one who can’t watch the trailer for The School without thinking of Silent Hill?  The School will be released, in Australia, on July 27th.

Co-starring Ryan Potter, Matt Dillon, and Jim Caviezel, Running For Grace is set in Hawaii in the 1920s and is about a forbidden love affair between a mixed race orphan and the daughter of a plantation owner.  Running For Grace will be released on August 1st.

As far as what’s happening in this trailer for The Immortal, your guess is as good as mine.  This is a Vietnamese film that does not appear to have a release date yet,

Finally, we have the latest version of Jack London’s classic novel, White Fang.  This animated adaptation is now streaming on Netflix.

A Movie A Day #217: Wyatt Earp (1994, directed by Lawrence Kasdan)


Once upon a time, there were two movies about the legendary Western lawman (or outlaw, depending on who is telling the story) Wyatt Earp.  One came out in 1993 and the other came out in 1994.

The 1993 movie was called Tombstone.  That is the one that starred Kurt Russell was Wyatt, with Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton in the roles of his brothers and Val Kilmer playing Doc Holliday.  Tombstone deals with the circumstances that led to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  “I’m your huckleberry,” Doc Holliday says right before his gunfight with Michael Biehn’s Johnny Ringo.  Tombstone is the movie that everyone remembers.

The 1994 movies was called Wyatt Earp.  This was a big budget extravaganza that was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starred Kevin Costner as Wyatt.  Dennis Quaid played Doc Holliday and supporting roles were played by almost everyone who was an active SAG member in 1994.  If they were not in Tombstone, they were probably in Wyatt Earp.  Gene Hackman, Michael Madsen, Tom Sizemore, Jeff Fahey, Mark Harmon, Annabeth Gish, Gene Hackman, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rossellini, JoBeth Williams, Mare Winningham, and many others all appeared as supporting characters in the (very) long story of Wyatt Earp’s life.

Of course, Wyatt Earp features the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral but it also deals with every other chapter of Earp’s life, including his multiple marriages, his career as a buffalo hunter, and his time as a gold prospector.  With a three-hour running time, there is little about Wyatt Earp’s life that is not included.  Unfortunately, with the exception of his time in Tomstone, Wyatt Earp’s life was not that interesting.  Neither was Kevin Costner’s performance.  Costner tried to channel Gary Cooper in his performance but Cooper would have known better than to have starred in a slowly paced, three-hour movie.  The film is so centered around Costner and his all-American persona that, with the exception of Dennis Quaid, the impressive cast is wasted in glorified cameos.  Wyatt Earp the movie tries to be an elegy for the old west but neither Wyatt Earp as a character nor Kevin Costner’s performance was strong enough to carry such heavy symbolism.  A good western should never be boring and that is a rule that Wyatt Earp breaks from the minute that Costner delivers his first line.

Costner was originally cast in Tombstone, just to leave the project so he could produce his own Wyatt Earp film.  As a big, Oscar-winnng star, Costner went as far as to try to have production of Tombstone canceled.  Ironically, Tombstone turned out to be the film that everyone remember while Wyatt Earp is the film that most people want to forget.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #99: Pay It Forward (dir by Mimi Leder)


Pay_it_forward_ver1Speaking of crappy films…

Listen, I’m not going to say too much about the 2000 film Pay It Forward because it’s such a terrible movie that I feel like writing too much about it would be like the equivalent of having sex in It Follows.  Seriously, you talk too much about Pay It Forward and you’ll end up with some sort of shape-shifting demon following you around, doing you favors and demanding that you do three more favors for three other people and then those people have to do three more favors and pretty soon, everyone in the world is doing favors for everyone and…

AGCK!

Okay, okay — I know that probably doesn’t sound too bad to some people.  “People being nice to each other!?  What could be wrong about that?”  Well, watch the damn film and find out.

In Pay it Forward, Haley Joel Osment plays a creepy little kid who basically “saves” the world.  At the end of the film, he’s violently murdered and the entire population of Las Vegas gathers outside of his house with candles.  His mother Helen Hunt is truly touched that everyone was so moved by Haley’s mission.  That said, if Haley had never decided that everyone should pay it forward, he probably wouldn’t be dead.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.

Before he died, Haley was challenged by his social studies teacher, Kevin Spacey.  Mr. Spacey challenged an entire class of 7th graders to come up with an idea that will change the world.  (Honestly, don’t 7th graders already have enough to deal with?)  Haley’s idea is that he’ll do a favor for three random people and then those three people will do three nice things for three people and then…

BLEH!  God, I hate this movie!

Anyway, Haley gives money to a homeless man and then that homeless man keeps a woman from committing suicide and then that woman does something nice for Angie Dickinson and then somehow, this all eventually leads to some rich guy giving Jay Mohr a car and telling him to “pay it foward.”

And Jay’s a reporter!

So, naturally, he starts to work his way backwards on the chain of good deeds.  Along the way, he meets a prison inmate who has been converted to Pay It Forwardism.  “This is going to change the world!” he tells Jay.  “I’m even getting the brothers in here in on it!”

By the way, there’s exactly one person of color in Pay It Forward and he’s a prison inmate who thinks that other inmates will want to do random favors for each other.

Oh, but Haley has to do two other favors!  So, he sets Helen Hunt up with Kevin Spacey and when he catches his teacher coming out his mom’s bedroom, Haley gets really, really excited and … well, it’s pretty creepy.

At first, Helen thinks that Kevin thinks that she’s not smart enough to date him.  When Helen asks him point blank if he thinks that she’s dumb, he responds by giving a really long monologue about the time that his father set him on fire.  Kevin does not mention what his father was attempting to pay forward…

And then Jay shows up in town and interviews Haley and oh my God, Haley’s going to change the world!  Yay!  But then Haley spends his third favor trying to protect a kid (played by Degrassi‘s Marc Donato) from some bullies and ends up getting stabbed to death.

But fear not!  Along with that candlelight vigil, we also hear an anchorwoman breathlessly reporting that there have been reports of “Pay it Forwardism” across the country.

Now, there’s a lot of negative things that I could say about Pay It Forward but … well, I kinda already did.  Pay It Forward pops up on TV a lot and there’s a lot of idiots who always get excited about it.

Here’s my fear concerning the whole Pay It Forward idea.  It seems like anybody can just do anything and then go, “Pay it forward,” and suddenly, you are obligated to go do three favors.  You may be running late.  You may have other things you need to do.  But no, you’ve been told to pay it forward and now, you have to!  Because of one creepy little kid who wanted his social studies teacher to have sex with his mom, you have now been inconvenienced.

There doesn’t seem to be any rule about how big of a favor anyone actually has to do before they can smugly order you to “Pay it forward.”  Think about this.  You’re trying to get a Coke from a vending machine but all of your dollars are all crumbled up and the machine won’t accept them.  You’re about to give up and go home when suddenly, a stranger walks up and deposits three quarters in the machine and punches a button.

He tosses you a grape drink.  You wanted a Coke but, because you’re nice and you think he was selflessly trying to help you out, you smile and say, “Thank you.”

“Pay it forward,” he replies before walking away.

Well, now, you’re screwed, aren’t you?

Now, suddenly, you have to go find three people who need a favor.  You didn’t want grape.  You wanted a Coke and, even if you had never gotten that Coke, it would not have been the end of the world.  But, because you were polite and said thank you, you are now obligated.

As you look for people to help, it occurs to you that stranger really didn’t care about whether you wanted a Coke.  What he cared about was completing his third favor so he could actually get on with his life.  So, no, he wasn’t trying to help you or trying to make the world a better place.  Instead, he was just trying to free himself of a nagging obligation.

So, after a long search, you’ve finally found your three strangers and you’ve done your three favors and you’re finally free of your obligation.  And then suddenly, another stranger runs up and tosses you the keys to one of those stupid looking Smart cars and yells, “Pay it forward!”

SERIOUSLY, IT NEVER ENDS!

Don’t tell me about paying it forward.

Just leave me alone and let me drink my damn Coke.

Review: The Count of Monte Cristo (dir. by Kevin Reynolds)


In what has become an unofficial ritual for myself whenever my birthday rolls around I always end up watching a film from 2002 that flew under the radar of most people. While it made modest box-office returns it wasn’t the head-turning blockbuster that some of its producers hoped it would turn out to be. It’s a romantic adventure piece by Kevin Reynolds and for readers of classic literature they’d recognize the title of the film, The Count of Monte Cristo. A film loosely based on the classic novel of adventure, revenge and redemption by French author Alexandre Dumas. The film ends up being a fun, thrilling throwback to films of an era which had marquee stars such as Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone.

The story is one known well enough. It’s a tale of a man, Edmond Dantès wrongly accussed of a capital crime and imprisoned in the Alcatraz-like prison Chateau d’If through the machinations of three individuals: his best friend Fernand Mondego, first mate Danglars and the ambitious deputy prosecutor Villefort. Dantès spends the next several years in Chateau d’If under the cruel and sadistic eyes of it’s warden, Armand Dorleac (played by Michael Wincott with his usual flair for sadism). It’s while Dantès  has started to contemplate suicide after rejecting God for the pain and suffering he has had to endure that he has a fortuitious meeting with another guest of Chateau d’If. It’s this relationship between Dantès and Abbé Faria (Richard Harris in the mentor role he had begun to play in his later years) which take up the bulk of the first third of the film.

Dantès tells him of the circumstances which led to his imprison in Chateau d’If and the thoughts of vengeance on those responsible for his predicament. Faria tries to turn him from his dark path, but seeing how determined his young friend seems on journeying down its twisted path he agrees to teach him how to become adept at being a noble, finances and in swordcraft in exchange for help in digging themselves out of their prison. Taking several more years to complete the education Dantès needs to exact his revenge it ends at the death of Faria and his mentor’s final gift to his student. The location of a treasure so vast that Dantès could retire to a life of peace and contemplation or fund his plans of vengeance.

The middle section of the film shows Dantès finding the treasure and remaking himself through his newfound wealth as the Count of Monte Cristo to better insinuate himself amongst the wealthy and noble-born his targets mingle in. With the help of a bandit whose life spares after a duel in Jacopo (Luis Guzman) the plans Dantès has worked on for years begin to bear fruit as he manipulates and fools Fernand, Villefort and Danglars into his confidence to better see to their downfall. It’s during this time he meets his former fiancee Mercedes (played by the ridiculously beautiful Dagmara Dominczyk), now Countess Mondego after being told of Edmond’s execution earlier in the film, and Fernand’s son Albert. The circumstances of how his former love having had a child and married to one of the men who had conspired against him brings a new complication to Dantès plans.

The last third of the film shows the culmination of Dantès and his elaborate plans to bring about the downfall of all those who had wronged him. While the plans, at times, strain the bonds of disbelief at actually having fooled and worked against his enemies the way the film makes the audience root for Dantès to succeed helps. This is a Dantès who comes off as noble despite being of commoner origins who we stand behind and support in his plans of vengeance. With the amount of wealth at his disposal it’s not too difficult to put oneself in the same shoes and not think of vengeance as well to strike a balance.

It’s a testament to the direction of filmmaker Kevin Reynolds that the film and it’s story never bogs down despite a story with many elaborate plots and secondary characters introduced midway. The fact that the film only borrows some of its complexity from an even more labyrinthine novel shows how the filmmakers actually had to simplify the story as to not make it so complex that it loses the bulk of its audience.

The Count of Monte Cristo also benefit from a strong cast led by Jim Caviezel in the titular role with Guy Pearce playing his former friend and betrayer Fernand Mondego and James Frain as the prosecutor Villefort. Caviezel plays his role as Dantès and as the Count of Monte Cristo as two different people with distinct personalities. There’s Dantès the earnest sailor who just wanted to get back to his love, Mercedes and then there’s the sophisticated and ruthless Count whose machinations would lead to the destruction of lives and reputations. It’s a mystery why Caviezel hasn’t become the star he surely was in the making and this film showed that he had the talent to become one of the industry’s new leading men. I blame Mel Gibson in casting him as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ for having put a curse on Caviezel.

Guy Pierce in the role of Fernand plays the conniving and remoreless villain role to the hilt. With an overbearing and effete noble bearing to his performance it was a character written to inspire hatred not just in its main protagonist but in the audience as well. Pearce knows what his roles represent and has fun playing up the role as main heavy.

Richard Harris as the priest Faria did his usual great work as the elder mentor to a younger man. It was a role he began to be known for starting with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator right up to his final mentor role as the wizard Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film franchise. It’s hard to explain to people that Harris was not always this wise and mentoring father figure, but one who played roles where he’d play womanizers, charming cads and roguish rebel.

The Count of Monte Cristo ended up being more fun than it should be with enough complexities in its storytelling that the film doesn’t dumb down too much the story it was adapted from. To be honest the only way one could truly adapt Dumas’ novel of revenge and redemption is through a long-form tv series. It is just that complex with so many characters that a film adaptation would just be too long or just unnecessarily crowded with characters the audience would care to know. It’s a good thing that the film by Kevin Reynolds was still able to keep to the spirit of the original source while whiling away the story down to its basic core.

It’s a film that plays like a throwback to the swashbuckling films from Hollywood of the 30’s and 40’s and it wouldn’t be too difficult to see Caviezel in the roles Errol Flynn once inhabited. There’s very little special effects in the film which adds more to this sense with swordfight scenes as expertly choreographed as any of the past. The Count of Monte Cristo, for some reason still unknown to me, continues to be the one thing that keeps airing on my birthday and the fact that it’s such a fun and thrilling film that I continue to watch it everytime my day of days roll around. Can’t wait for next year.