Playing for Keeps Review… (a.k.a. my Open Letter to Gerry Butler)

[sigh] I didn’t really want to write this letter. Not only because I had done it once before when The Bounty Hunter came out, but I was quite anticipating Playing For Keeps for a while. I was thrilled when I got and advanced screening invite on the same day as The Hobbit (yay!) right before I left for vacation.

I saw The Hobbit first which I loved, and a few hours later, I went to another cinema to see Playing For Keeps with my girlfriend Becky (aka PrairieGirl). I really wanted to LOVE this movie and I thought the premise had potential. I mean Butler was [seemingly] perfect as a former soccer star (with his Scottish brogue intact), starring as a former player of his beloved Celtics no less. I’ve seen him in a soccer movie before (the based-on-a-true-story Games of Our Lives and also those Soccer Aid Charity Match), so he’s very believable in that role.

Alas, I’d have to agree with the Rotten Tomatoes summary:

Witless, unfocused, and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com.

PFK_RTscore

Actually, the weekend I checked the RT score, it was at a woeful 0% and you know what, I really can’t disagree with that. It’s truly one of the WORST movies I’ve ever come across and to add to the sting, GB didn’t just star in this movie, he also produced this stinker (yikes!!). In the trailer post, I had hoped that it would at least be a feel-good dramedy this Winter, alas, it barely even give us that! It’s even more discombobulating that actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and the affable Judy Greer agreed to do such an embarrassingly-thankless roles. Forget one-dimensional, yes there’s that, but mostly, their characters are just bizarre, disturbing and cringe-worthy!

I’d like to recall my letter to him I wrote in March of 2010, clearly he did NOT read it…

Please don’t waste your talent on sub-par scripts, especially those that require you to be a neanderthal/ chauvinistic/ boorish/ obnoxious (and in the case of The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, all of the above). I’m inclined to say ‘get off the rom-com’ trail, but to be fair, I quite enjoyed P.S. I Love You and your ‘Gerry’ character is both charming and sexy, a perfect combination of being manly and hopelessly-romantic at the same time. What I do want to say is, stay away from bad scripts! It doesn’t matter what genre, a bad script is a bad script, and it’s just not going to help your career.

Well, suffice to say I just can’t be a GB fan anymore. Consider this my goodbye letter Mr. Butler…

Dear Gerry,

I can’t believe it’s been nearly an entire decade since I saw you in The Phantom of the Opera. It still remains one of my favorite musicals and my favorite roles you’ve done to this day. It’s a testament of the quality of your role choices lately that when I was about to update my list of Favorite GB roles for your birthday, I was quite stumped. So I kept my original list which includes one of your finest performance to date, that is in Dear Frankie, as I didn’t really think your recent performances in the past two years wowed me enough to replace any of them on that list.

PFKposter

It’s quite astounding that the movie itself could actually be worse than this poster!

Now, let me just speak for a moment of my monumental disappointment with your recent dramedy Playing For Keeps. Well, I was expecting some drama and comedy but got neither! Let me start with your performance. I don’t know if you’re trying to be understated and cool, but it came across as lethargic to me. Yes I get it, your character is down-on-his-luck as George had squandered his good fortune as a soccer star and now he could barely able to pay rent as he dreamed on being a sportscaster. George had good intentions, wanting to reconnect with his  young son, and preferably rekindle his romance with his ex-wife. It’s all [potentially] heartwarming stuff, except that the relationship with his oh-so-adorable kid was hugely overshadowed by all that creepy soccer moms lusting over him. There’s nothing fun or amusing in any of George’s encounters with any of these women, and it didn’t help that George (nor you playing the role) seemed to have much fun doing the scenes either. Don’t even get me started with the predictable ending, which you could’ve surmised from the trailer. Now, there have been some movies that I still appreciate despite the predictability factor because the journey was worthwhile, but in this case of PFK, the journey was so excruciating that it was like being kicked whilst you’re down!

I must’ve gained an extra wrinkle on my face from cringing so much during the entire movie! There’s not even a moment of sincerity I could find, or even to relate to, the whole time I kept wondering just what the heck was Gabriel Muccino trying to do with this movie, what Robbie Fox was trying to say with this script, and most of all, how did this kind of movie ever got greenlit?? There’s no depth whatsoever in any of the characters, not even George himself on whom the whole story hinges on. Poorly-conceived plot is just putting it mildly, I think the only word that came to mind about PFK is ill-advised. It’s everything that’s wrong about Hollywood’s rom-coms… and sadly Gerry, you’ve been in more than your fair share in them. I mean heck, even Matthew McConaughey had been off the rom-com trails and has since garnered some kudos for his recent performances.

Going back to those favorite roles once again, three of the movies I listed (Dear Frankie, BBC’s The Jury and PS I Love You), and I should also mention your excellent performance Coriolanus, you had a supporting role in them. You didn’t carry the movie but yet your presence was a highlight. It made me think that perhaps you should take a well-deserved break and take a good long look at your career so far. It might be a good idea to seek out supporting roles (no I’m not talking about a stint in something so far-off like Movie 43), I’m talking about a small but important supporting roles in a quality project. It’d be nice if it’s with an acclaimed director, but so long as it’s got a strong script, that’s all that matters. Forget the pay check, I’m guessing you’ve made enough to last a couple of centuries. If you truly care about acting, don’t you want to be remembered for the craft of your work? Perhaps your entourage/groupies tell you that you’re a star and you must always play the lead. Well, as your [former] fan, let me tell you that it’s far more gratifying to see an actor in a good performance in a brief screen time than seeing him/her in an awful one scene after scene.

As I said in your Birthday post, I still think you’re a talented and capable actor. I just can’t fathom your role choices, especially now that you actually have the opportunity to seek out good ones with your own production company. Please don’t let the disappointment of the marketing of Machine Gun Preacher give you an excuse to forgo strong characters. Granted not everybody loved the film, but you did your best with the role and the story of Sam Childers was inspiring, so I’m glad you did that film and I was happy to recommend it. I could even enjoy a so-so movie like Chasing Mavericks because at least I could see the value of the story and I appreciate the dedication you did for the role, even to the point of almost dying in a surfing accident. Roles like George on the other hand, just left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Pardon my harsh letter but I feel that things need to be said for my own sake, as I don’t think you’d care to read it and your still-ardent fans probably would just brush me off. I do hope that your recent flops would be an eye-opener for you and hopefully you have the humility to take a look at what you have become. Everyone needs a ‘wake up call’ once in a while and perhaps you’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too long.

Best Wishes,

ruth m.


Well, it feels good to get it off my chest. Don’t cry for Gerry Butler, folks, I’m sure he’s still got a legion of fans ready to defend him :D

So that’s one crush I’m saying good bye to after all these years. Whilst we’re on the topic, which of your movie crush disappointed you this past year?

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Most Anticipated 2012 Movies – Part I

Well, we’ve said so long to 2011 and it’s time to say hello to 2012.

It’s been quite a year at the movies but if all the trailers released around the holiday tell you at all, 2012 is going to be quite a fantastic year, especially to superhero movie fans like yours truly. But instead of posting a long, exhaustive list, I’m going to split this anticipated list into four parts, one for every quarter.

The lull after the holiday is customary so the list for late Winter and Spring movies are quite short, and some of these are actually already in my list from last year! So anyway, here are a list of movies that I’m hoping to catch between the months of January – March (release dates are for USA – info from IMDb):

  • Coriolanus (January 20)
    A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.

    I can’t believe I still have not seen this film yet but I’ve blogged about this numerous times, here and here, and posted the trailer here. I sure hope this’ll play in my city soon enough or I’ll be going mad!

    Updated 1/12 – check out this clip of the start of the big fight scene between Coriolanus and Aufidius:

    ….

  • The Raven (March 9)
    A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, in which the poet pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer’s stories.

    Ever since I saw the panel at Comic-con and saw the trailer below, I’m quite intrigued. Plus it’s got Luke Evans, one of the up-and-coming Brits on my watch.

    ……
  • Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (March 9)
    A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.


    The title caught my attention right away, and the plot is definitely intriguing. I love Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor is always watchable. Plus, it’s directed by Lasee Hallström who did the delightful Chocolat.
    … 
  • Playing the Field (March 9)
    A former professional athlete with a weak past tries to redeem himself by coaching his son’s soccer team, only to find himself unable to resist when in scoring position with his players’ restless and gorgeous moms.

    Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about my boy Gerry Butler amidst my Gregory Peck mania, ahah. He’s got a few movies I’m looking forward to this year, and the first one is this soccer comedy. Yes I know he doesn’t have a good track record on rom-coms but this premise is quite promising and just check out the female cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, and Judi Greer.

    I’ve posted some behind-the-scenes pictures a while ago, but these had just been released last December. I certainly can’t wait to see these two wildly attractive people on-screen together. I’ll be sure to post the trailer as it becomes available.


  • The Hunger Games (March 23)
    Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.

    I wasn’t initially interested in seeing this one but out curiosity I got the first book and now I’m hooked. I think Jennifer Lawrence is quite talented and very watchable, and I’m curious the other, equally hunky Hemsworth brother Liam on screen for the first time. I sure hope the film lives up to the book! Check out the trailer below if you haven’t already:

    sss.

  • The Deep Blue Sea (March 30)
    The wife of a British Judge is caught in a self-destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.

    In case you didn’t already know, I have a bit of a crush on Tom Hiddleston! Yes he’s Loki from Thor and the arch nemesis of The Avengers folks. But ever since seeing him in Midnight in Paris and then War Horse, he’s officially one of my favorite new Brits :D So the main draw of this movie is him naturally, but I also like Rachel Weisz and the story reminds me a bit of The English Patient… I have a penchant for tragic love stories.

Well, those are my anticipated list for the next three months. What are yours?

CORIOLANUS official poster and report from Empire’s BIG SCREEN event

One of the biggest movie event in the UK just wrapped up last week. My friends Scott Lawlor and Claire Packer were lucky enough to attend the festivities. Click on the link to their respective blogs to read their reports of the event.

Now, one of the panels was Lionsgate Studio, presenting a bunch of movies including Coriolanus. I asked Claire to give me a report on it and she kindly obliged. So here it is below:

From boxing brothers to the legendary Sigmund Freud, the films showcased at the Lionsgate panel at Empire Presents… BIG SCREEN were a very mixed bag. Held at the O2 in London, BIG SCREEN was a three-day event giving film fans the opportunity to see new films, meet the stars and take part in all manner of film-related things. During the event I had my picture taken with C-3PO and R2D2 as well as taking part in a Padawan training session!

But, back to Lionsgate. Included in the trailers and extended footage were Abduction, 50/50, A Dangerous Method, Warrior and Coriolanus. Starring three of my favourite actors, I am very much looking forward to A Dangerous Method. Viggo Mortensen takes on the role of Sigmund Freud while Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung. Keira Knightley plays Sabina, a young woman rumoured to be having an affair with Jung.

Before I put up the report for Coriolanus, first check out the newly-released official poster (literally just hours ago):

Whoa, I guess we definitely can expect tons of mano-a-mano scenes between these two intensely macho Brits… like this bloody knife fight perhaps? I must say I’m a bit nervous about all the gruesome violence that will no doubt fill this film… but I’m still looking forward to it nonetheless.

Ok, back to Claire’s report:

Coriolanus is one to look out for, too. Starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, it is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Three lengthy clips from the film were shown at BIG SCREEN. The first one showed some intense scenes of Fiennes – who takes on the titular role – and the army quelling a group of rioting civilians. The second clip showed Fiennes squaring up against his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The final clip saw Fiennes receive the honour of the name ‘Coriolanus’. Among the assembled dignitaries are his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and wife (Jessica Chastain).

Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia

What I failed to mention is that in each of the clips the characters were using Shakespeare’s original words – quite surreal considering it is set in modern day Rome. With this in mind, I would suggest reading up on what Coriolanus is about. I’m an English graduate but have always struggled with understanding Shakespeare!

Apart from the fact that Fiennes was in each one, each clip had something else in common: a sense of brooding and unease. To be honest, I’m not sure how easy it will be to watch – it does hold an R rating. The riot scene was very graphic and in the clip where he square up against Tullus, Fiennes’ shaven head was covered in blood – no doubt someone else’s.

With an all-star cast, Coriolanus is definitely one to keep your eye on. It’ll be out 2nd December 2011 in the USA and 20th January 2012 in the UK.

Report by Claire Packer – Follow Claire on Twitter


Well again thank you Claire for the awesome report! I can’t wait to see this even more now.

So what do you think of Coriolanus and the new poster? Share your thoughts below.

THIS JUST IN! ‘Coriolanus’ Trailer starring Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler

WAHOO!! What have we got here! I’ve been waiting for this movie from Fall of 2009 when Gerard Butler was first cast, and finally today we’ve got a trailer! I’ve blogged about it many times before, and even posted some behind-the-scenes pics from Serbia, as well as a guest review from BERLINALE earlier this year.

CORIOLANUS is a modern retelling of a Shakespeare political play, Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in the title role as the banished hero of Rome who allies with a sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city. The rest of the cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt and Jessica Chastain from a script by John Logan (Gladiator, Last Samurai, The Aviator).

So I won’t keep you waiting any longer, take a look:

WOW, that was intense!! I guess from some of the movie stills I saw months ago, I knew it’s going to be pretty bloody, and it’s quite eerie to watch given what’s been going on in England. I am so stoked to see this, and I expect great performances from everyone involved. “Coriolanus is grown from man… to dragon.” Yikes, that’s about sums up just the extend of Coriolanus’ lunacy that even his mother has no choice but disowns him.

Just a bit of trivia, though it’s one of the least known work from Shakespeare, both Fiennes and Butler have played Coriolanus on stage before, though this time Butler will be playing the nemesis. Fiennes’ decision to set it in contemporary setting but use the classic dialog is going to be interesting to see. It’s perhaps not the most ‘accessible’ films but given the stellar cast and the relevant subject matter, this is definitely one to watch for the big screen!  I hope this will be playing near me come December 2nd, 2011.


Well, what do you think, folks? Intrigued?

Everyone’s a Critic: Reviews of Coriolanus (2011) and Laura (1944)

Welcome to another edition of Everyone’s a Critic! Today we’ve got two special reviews from two different genres, one is a Shakespearean modern adaptation, straight from its BERLINALE premiere (thank you Vanessa, you lucky gal!) and the other an Otto Preminger’s acclaimed classic noir (Preminger was nominated for Best Director Oscar for this film). In regards to Coriolanus, you’ve probably read some of the more positive reviews I posted here, but my friend has quite a different impression about it. Anyway, read on:

CORIOLANUS (2011) – Berlinale Film Festival review

– by Vanessa Weinert of TheMovieNess

A modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus, this film is set in the Rome of today. It is not the beautiful Rome that is usually seen in movies, but rather the run down parts of the city where broken houses are plastered with graffiti. Grain is sparse and “the people” are on the streets protesting. Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, who also directed this film) is supposed to be the hero of this city but he despises the people. After long demonstrations, he is banished from Rome and finds refuge with his mortal enemy (Gerard Butler) who he fought with, almost to the death, only months earlier.

It is not surprising that this is one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays. The story is all about war and politics, not people. It is also difficult to get involved with any of the characters: Coriolanus is extremely unlikable, his wife and son are weak and boring, his mother too dominant and controlling and his mortal enemy becomes his close friend without a moments hesitation. This leaves us with “the people” but they are too easily manipulated to be taken seriously.

The mix of the modern setting and the old language didn’t work for me in this movie. I think a total adaptation would have been better. There is a huge focus on media. Cell phones and cameras are constantly seen in shots which seems unnecessary. We get that it’s not 400 B.C. It also felt strange seeing Coriolanus being banished from Rome because that just wouldn’t happen today.

Usually I think Ralph Fiennes is a terrific actor but apparently he needs and outside perspective and directing himself was a bad idea. He is giving a theater performance which just looks over the top and silly on screen. What we end up with are two hours of rage and arrogance, which gets boring pretty quickly. Butler has a surprisingly small role in this movie. He looks amazing (of course) and doesn’t overact like Fiennes does, but he is also in a constant state of fury. Overall there is just too much rage in this film.

With a cast like this it is pretty difficult to make a bad movie but Fiennes unfortunately managed to do so. As much as I wanted to like Coriolanus, it didn’t grab my attention at all. The only reason why anyone should see this movie is Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as Coriolanus’ mother. She brings some beautiful moments into this otherwise dull movie. I am not surprised that plenty of people left the cinema throughout the screening.

2 out of 5 reels


LAURA (1944)

by Vince Caro

I had recently watched Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island – with Leonardo DiCaprio (playing a federal marshal) as a somewhat cheap imitation of Dana Andrews’ famous role of detective McPherson down to the faux New England accent and authoritarian scowl. But in sharp contrast to Dicaprio, Andrews could look relaxed even in the tensest of moments (with the help of a little hand held game). While Shutter Island is a respectable technicolor homage to 40s film noir, I couldn’t help but go back to Otto Preminger’s classic whodunit in all it’s black and white glory.

Laura is unique in that it starts off with the title character already dead – murdered in her apartment by an unknown intruder. The film opens with David Raksin’s haunting and memorable score and we see our first glimpse of the beautiful Laura Hunt (played by the stunning Gene Tierney) – a vanity portrait as the main credits roll. In classic noir fashion, we hear the narration of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb in an Oscar-nominated performance) setting the tone – announcing Laura has just been murdered and he feels to be the “only human being left in New York”. Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is investigating the murder with a slight suspicion of everyone within Laura’s circle. This includes fiancée Shelby Carpenter (nicely played by Vincent Price) as the disreputable playboy engaged to Laura.

The film begins to gather steam as Waldo offers McPherson recollections of how he and Laura met. These scenes are shown in vivid but dreamlike flashbacks. We see Laura as a young gentle ad artist, who charms Waldo out of his cruel and arrogant demeanor. In effect, McPherson paints a portrait of Laura in his mind – a beautiful, doe-eyed, naïve girl and begins to fall for her. He obsessively continues the investigation until a bizarre twist turns the whole case upside-down.

Dana Andrews & Vincent Price

In almost Rebecca-like fashion, the charms of the deceased Laura Hunt go way beyond the grave. The difference here is that Preminger leaves nothing to the imagination, instead serving us the picturesque Tierney, who I’m convinced is one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace the screen. It is Tierney that keeps us involved in the picture and Webb providing its weight and legitimacy with his high-brow, curmudgeon and darkly humorous performance. Andrews is our everyman in this picture – hard-nosed, blue-collar and an outsider, somebody we would hope Laura would fall for in the real world. With that said, DiCaprio’s emulation of McPherson is honorable, but I can’t see Laura Hunt falling for it. Too much color perhaps?

4.5 out of 5 reels


Any thoughts about either or both of these films? Do share ‘em below in the comments.

Photo Updates to Coriolanus & The Expendables

Woot, woot! What have we got here? Back in early May, I posted some photos of the Ralph Fiennes’ modern-day Coriolanus adaptation with the cast on the set in Serbia. Well, thanks to Collider.com, we’ve got some new stills from the movie.

Photos courtesy of KinoGallery.com

More stills available at the KinoGallery.com site

In the second pic, we have a glimpse of Brian Cox as Menenius, a slick politician (well, is there any other kind?) and Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia (Coriolanus’ mother). Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd is back to familiar territory after winning some kudos for The Hurt Locker, that last photo is definitely reminiscent of that movie.

In early May, a writer of The Guardian was on the set to observe the shoot and interview the actor/director Fiennes. The article states that Coriolanus has been described as Shakespeare’s least sympathetic tragic hero. Banished from Rome, he turns renegade and joins with Aufidius to march on the city, and that fact is actually what draws him in. “I kind of like his unlikability,” Fiennes says. On Butler’s casting, Fiennes said he wanted an actor with physical charisma. Someone the audience would believe as a contender. “People need to think he can win. Is Aufidius going to beat the s*** out of Coriolanus?”

Judging from this on-set knife fight still below, looks like this is going to be one gritty and bloody adaptation… not to mention explosive!

Writer Andreas Wiseman also posted his on-set experience and experience in the 30Ninjas blog. Looks like they’re going to use the Shakesperean words/dialog a la Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Sweeeet!

Coriolanus: “I’ll fight with none but thee, for I do hate thee.”

Aufidius responds with equal disdain: “We hate alike.”


Speaking of gritty and bloody, not much else conjures up such thought than The Expendables. Most of you probably have seen the poster I posted here, and now we’ve got the one featuring the full main cast. Funny how they start with a bald dude and ends with a bald dude :)

In case you’re at all interested about the plot:

THE EXPENDABLES is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator.  Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal.  With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge – one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers. (per IMDb)

Looks like Sly pulls all the stops in the action stuff and the level of brute force one can jam into one movie. And if this photo of Jason Statham below is any indication, preposterous action sequences should be the order of the day!

How does one even get up ther … oh, never mind, just BRING. IT. ON!

The Expendables is out August 13.

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: On the set of Coriolanus in Serbia

Thanks to GBGals via Twitter, we’ve got some cool on-set pics of the Ralph Fiennes-directed Coriolanus in Serbia.

GB and Minister Sutanovac

Here’s an excerpt from this online forum (translated from a Serbian news outlet) on the on-set visit of Serbia’s Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac on April 28:

“I am very pleased that we have helped take this movie, which promotes Serbia,” said Minister Sutanovac, and he expressed hope that Coriolanus achieved notable success in film festivals around the world. He noted that the Ministry of Defense in recent years helped in the implementation of a number of film projects in Serbia and will do so in the future. “This is the promotion of the whole country, and all that is good for Serbia, it is good for the Army. We believe that such activities, inter alia, contribute to the promotion of military call and we are extremely pleased that participate in them.”

The shooting that day took place at the Military Museum in Belgrade.

Click to view larger versions

As I’ve mentioned in my previous postCoriolanus is Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut in which he’d play the title role and Butler is playing his arch enemy Tullus Aufidius. You can see GB in his military uniform, looks like he’s got his Leonidas’ buff physique back! :)

So, why Serbia? Well, just last month, Fiennes has this to say (via 30Ninjas blog): “Serbia and Belgrade work for us creatively and financially. It’s been a challenging film to raise money for and there were obviously business interests to consider as we wanted to make a film of some scale. The shooting costs in Serbia are comparatively low and we’ve had considerable assistance and support from the Belgrade authorities. A key location, for example, is the Serbian parliament and its main Senate chamber.

But more importantly than that is Serbia’s grittiness – the bruised battered quality of some of the locations. There are great contrasts in Belgrade between weary Austro-Hungarian architecture, the old communist style and early 20th century neo-classicism.”

Last month, the action flicks-focused blog also posted these two pics of Ralph in full military gear directing the movie.

Fiennes' dual roles as actor & director

The shot below involved tracking the angry crowd as they marched toward the vast grain depositories, carrying protest banners, anti-Coriolanus flags, pots pans and improvised weapons. On arriving at the heavily policed entry gates they beat their weapons on the rusted steel and started chanting: BREAD, BREAD, BREAD! The cry surged through the crowd.

These definitely conjures up images of The Hurt Locker (which Fiennes had a cameo role), though I think the only similarity is that it shares the same cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd.

This modern-day retelling of the Shakespearean play is shaping up real nice. With a cast that also include Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave and a script by John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), it’s poised to be a powerful indie flick to be reckoned with. Can’t wait to see the trailer soon!

Anticipated Flix Updates: The Expendables’ new poster & Coriolanus’ Concept Art

The Expendables

Normally this isn’t my go-to genre, but hey I did grow up with 80s and 90s action flicks starring most of actors that make up the cast. I first heard about it earlier this year that I just had to blog about it, and now a new poster’s been released that is as clever as it is bad ass!! In fact, my husband quipped that it should’ve been called that. It’s one of the best looking poster I’ve seen in a while, it’s like the butterfly of death that you can’t take your eyes off. I like the tagline, too, it fits the visual perfectly. It’s brutally simple, in your face, subtlety be damned – which is what could be said about the movie.

Click poster for a larger version

Lionsgate also released the official plot details: The Expendables is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren’t quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger, the men struggle with an even tougher challenge – one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers. (more official synopsis on SlashFilm)

I don’t see Arnie Schwarzenegger’s name on the poster, but Petter Sciretta of Slash Film saw the trailer at ShoWest Cinema Expo and has this to say: “It was incredibly cool, showcased all the big action star names that pack the cast. It even shows a clip from the scene with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, which drew huge cheers from the crowd. If I have any complaint it is that the trailer was lighter on action than I would have expected.”

So I guess the Governator will be making a cameo? We’ll see if the trailer – and the flick itself for that matter – will be as awesome as the poster. I just might see this one on opening night come August 13.

….

Coriolanus

Even as a fan of Gerry Butler, ‘psyched’ isn’t a word I’d use to describe my reaction to The Bounty Hunter‘s release. The single-digit Tomato-meter doesn’t help matter, it actually confirms my dread after seeing the trailer a few months back. The only thing the two leads should be relentlessly hunting down is a decent script, oh and a new agent while they’re at it! Alas, I’m actually going to see it tonight as my friend and I have planned this weeks ago (I’m not backing out, Prairiegirl!), if anything it’s ample material for an amusing review.

Enough about that one, there is a silver lining in Butler’s career – whom even Roger Ebert calls “… a hunk who can also act” in his double-thumbsdown review. One of them is Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut Coriolanus. I just found out via Twitter there’s a new blog dedicated for the film version of Shakespeare’s political tale, started by Fiennes’ personal friend.

Here’s what the British thespian (who’ll direct and star in the movie) revealed about the project:

“When I performed it theatrically, I knew there were nuances and visual aspects that could emerge more strongly on film. I want to bring out the biting political nature of the piece, and the story’s great panoramic potential. The People, for example, play such a leading role in Coriolanus. It’s hard to capture that sense of a clamoring multitude in the theater… It never left me that I wanted to see this play on film.”

As for his rationale for opting to make it contemporary, instead of the swords & sandal version:

Coriolanus is a strong, complicated, gritty piece,” Ralph explained. “I thought about whether it should be Roman with swords and sandals, or even 19th century. But ultimately, I believed it had to be set in today’s world. It should have a high momentum and earn its ability to suddenly be still for one or two key moments when the human element has to have space to breathe.”

Thanks to GB.net, I was able to view these hi-res concept arts and on-location photos in Serbia. Click the photo for a larger version.

Coriolanus Concept Art

Set location in Serbia

Film shoots already begun yesterday (March 17) in Belgrade. Can’t hardly wait for this one!

Chat-Worthy Upcoming Flix: ‘Coriolanus’, Nolan’s Superman/Batman & ‘Jane Eyre’ remake

CORIOLANUS

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve sort of aspire to be a casting agent. One of my casting wish is to have my fave actor Gerard Butler to co-star with fellow Scottish actor Brian Cox. The multi-award winning actor is known for his villainous roles in Troy, Bourne Supremacy and X-Men 2, and he’s the first actor to play the role of Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann’s Manhunter. Well, talk about wish granted! William Hurt’s apparently no longer attached to this project as previously reported, and Cox is his replacement! He joins another esteemed thespian Vanessa Redgrave, who just co-starred with him in the TV project The Day of the Triffid.

To refresh your memory, Coriolanus is Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut in which he’d play the lead role and Butler is playing his arch enemy Tullus Aufidius. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Fiennes cast actors with theater background for this Shakespearean political tale. Coincidentally, Butler’s professional acting debut was playing the title Coriolanus, and his other stage work was Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer with Rachel Weisz.

Empire reports that shooting will start on location in Belgrade starting St. Patrick’s Day next week, and this is the most intriguing part: “… we’re told that the story will take place in a contemporary setting, so don’t expect togas.” Well, as much as I love to see ‘em showing off their legs, I’m kinda digging the modern flair of this, a la Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo + Juliet.  In any case, we know the cast is impressive, but looks like Fiennes’ rounded up some stellar crews as well. The script is penned by John Logan (Gladiator, The Last Samurai, The Aviator), and he’s also got cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and sound mixer Ray Beckett, who are fresh out of their BAFTA and Oscar win for The Hurt Locker.

I hope this is just one of many more ‘meatier’ roles to come for Gerard, and by that I don’t mean showing off his abs … though if that’s the case here, who am I to complain? :)

Nolan speaks on Batman/Superman combo project


Wow, not a week goes by about some kind of news on the two DC comic superheroes, with Christopher Nolan at the center of it all. Last month I blogged about the British auteur’ involvement as a mentor in the next Superman movie. Now the man himself is working every fanboy/girl in a tizzy with a spatter of updates on the two highly-anticipated projects.

As found in the L.A. Times Hero Complex Blog (who sat down with the director over tea in his Hollywood home), these words coming from his mouth is enough to wet my appetite: “It’s very exciting; we have a fantastic story” – referring to the indestructible Man of Steel, the biggest kahuna of all superhero. Interestingly enough, the idea came about during Batman’s relative standstill. Apparently not one to twiddle his thumb, writer David Goyer (chief collaborator on Nolan’s two Batman films) came up with his dream vision of the Kryptonian hero:

“He basically told me, ‘I have this thought about how you would approach Superman,’” Nolan recalled. “I immediately got it, loved it and thought: That is a way of approaching the story I’ve never seen before that makes it incredibly exciting. I wanted to get Emma and I involved in shepherding the project right away and getting it to the studio and getting it going in an exciting way.”

But since a director hasn’t been secured yet, and casting is probably going to take an even more arduous process, this project still seems so far away in our horizon, so I just don’t want to get too fired up. Batman 3 is probably a ‘closer’ prospect, but even that Nolan still won’t confirm his directorial involvement. It is interesting, as the reporter points out, ‘how inspirations originate.’ Notice how Nolan’s Batman films have such a spectacular cast? I mean he’s got the likes of Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles. Well, that idea came from Donner’s Superman:

“I went to the studio with the analogy of ‘I want to cast the way they did in 1978 with ‘Superman,”’ where they had [Marlon] Brando and Glenn Ford and Ned Beatty and all these fantastic actors in even small parts, which was an exotic idea for a superhero movie at the time. It really paid off too. As a kid watching ‘Superman,’ it seemed enormous and I realized later by looking at it that a lot of that was actually the casting, just having these incredibly talented people and these characterizations. And Marlon Brando is the first guy up playing Superman’s dad. It’s incredible.”

Despite his coy attitude, my hunch is that Nolan will indeed helm this project, so I guess we can expect the same kind of caliber ensemble in the third Batman installment. He did confirmed that his brother Jonathan is writing the script (another reason to think he won’t let someone else direct it): “My brother is writing a script for me and we’ll wait to see how it turns out…. He’s struggling to put it together into the epic story that you want it to be.”

As The Dark Knight ends with the caped crusader being a hunted fugitive, it’d be nice to see the third as a ‘closure’ to Nolan’s Batman franchise, so I really appreciate his answer to the ‘What happens next?’ question: “Without getting into specifics, the key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story,” he said. “And in viewing it as the finishing of a story rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story.”

I’m not particularly concerned about who’ll be the villains and all that, I think that just comes naturally with a great storyline. Besides, any great director would (or should) know how rudimentary it is to get the villain right in such a franchise, as you can see in casting Heath Ledger as the Joker, arguably the best superhero villain we’ve seen to date. That is why I’m confident that Nolan won’t go the ‘circus freak’ route with the villains as Joel Schumacher did. It might work in the comic book world, but it just comes across very silly to the point of obnoxious in the movie adaptation. One thing for sure though, don’t count on Mr. Freeze making an appearance as long as Nolan’s involved. Bravo!

A ‘darker’ Jane Eyre? Yes, please!

Fukunaga

As a huge fan of the Charlotte Brontë’s gothic tale, I was so psyched to hear that Michael Fassbender’s been cast as Rochester, especially since I was rather dismayed to hear the Wuthering Heights’ remake is getting Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick (ugh!). Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska also seems to be a fitting choice as the petite yet indomitable young governess. Both actors are definitely on the rise, and apparently so is the director.

Cary Fukunaga is a 33-year-old director of Japanese/Swedish descent whose highly-acclaimed writing/directing debut Sin Nombre won directing award at Sundance last year, as well as other nods from various film festivals. On top on such credence, Jane Eyre is one of his favorite films. Movieline asked if he’s “.. daunted by remaking one of his favorite films? Not quite, Fukunaga said.”

“The Orson Welles-Joan Fontaine version was of an era. You wouldn’t make a film like that anymore. I’m a stickler for raw authenticity, so I’ve spent a lot of time rereading the book and trying to feel out what Charlotte Brontë was feeling when she was writing it. That sort of spookiness that plagues the entire story…there’s been something like 24 adaptations, and it’s very rare that you see those sorts of darker sides. They treat it like it’s just a period romance, and I think it’s much more than that.”

I really like what I’m hearing here. It’s definitely more than just a period romance. The essence of the Jane Eyre story is gothic and dark, so I’m intrigued by how Fukunaga will tackle that aspect. You probably already know that I love Timothy Dalton’s portrayal as Rochester in BBC’s 1983 version, but the entire production left so much to be desired. It’s got some gothic undercurrents but it’s just lacking something overall that I hope to see in this version. At least they seem to get the casting right. I can see Fassbender bring out that mercurial mood and volatility of the Byronic hero. The rest of the cast is shaping up nicely, too. Here’s some detailed info on who’s playing what (courtesy of Filmstage):

Dame Judi Dench will play Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper of Thornfield Manor who hires Jane, and disproves of Jane’s relationship with Rochester. One of my fave young thespian Jamie Bell (Defiance, Billy Elliot) will play St. John, a young clergyman who helps Jane in a time of need, and turns out to be connected to her by blood. Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, An Education) will play Mrs. Reed, Jane’s terrible aunt, who terrorizes and abuses Jane as a orphaned child.

In any case, not that there’s a correlation, but the last time a director of Asian descent (Ang Lee) tackle a literary classic, the result was the much beloved – and one of my fave movies of all time – Sense & Sensibility. I absolutely can’t wait for this movie, but looks like it won’t be out until 2011.

Gerard Butler joined Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus

Woo hoo, this totally made my week! Ok, so it’s almost Friday which in and of itself is a very good thing but when I saw this on IMDb mid morning Thursday, I almost jumped out of my seat! Just yesterday I was desperately hoping for him NOT to go the graphic novel route, but actually do something small and poignant. Well, wish granted!

For GB fans, we know what CoriolayoungGBnus means to him. It’s the first acting gig he’s ever got after he was fired just one week shy of becoming a lawyer. He’s told this story numerous times in interviews, including just yesterday to Baltimore WJZ, how actor Steven Berkoff  — who later became his co-star in Attila — let him audition despite his zero acting experience. If I remember correctly, he also told Jay Leno that his performance was rather over-the-top, but he impressed Berkoff enough that he actually got the part! This pic I found on Flickr looks like a scan from the actual program from the London play, click for a larger version with his short bio.

Ain’t it cool‘s ‘Quint’ was actually on the phone with the actor himself who confirmed his involvement in Ralph Fiennes’ directing debut:

It looks like I might be doing Coriolanus, the Shakespeare play, the movie version… the adaptation of. Ralph Fiennes will be directing and playing Coriolanus, and I’d be playing Tullus Aufidius his nemesis!

Quint added this bit of info: “Of course he said “nemesis” with the evil voice on, which made it sound even more badass.” Ha! That sounds like GB all right.

Here’s a brief summary of Shakespeare’s least-produced play:
Coriolanus is a powerful political drama about a Roman general whose arrogance leads to his own destruction. Caius Martius earned the name Coriolanus when he defeated the Volscians, led by Tullus Aufidius, in the Italian city of Corioles. Coriolanus was never a man for the people, which propelled the Roman citizens — under the influence of two conniving tribunes — to drive him into exile. It’s then that he turned to his former nemesis Aufidius out of vengeance and contempt for his own people. Though they consider each other blood enemies, Coriolanus actually respected Aufidius and regarded him as equal in martial nobility (this kind of reminds me of Attila the Hun’s relationship with Roman general Flavius Aetius).

So basically, Coriolanus is like an antihero, I mean he’s obviously arrogant and treacherous, not to mention his Oedipus complex toward his manipulative mother, Volumnia. I can’t wait to see Fiennes going toe-to-toe against Butler, clad in Roman garb and bellowing Shakespeare. William Hurt and Vanessa Redgrave have been cast, and the screenplay will be penned by John Logan (Gladiator, The Last Samurai, Sweeney Todd). Wow, this is what I’m talking about, Gerry. I’m psyched to see him surround himself with such thespians! Though I may not be as harsh as this article about putting GB on movie star probation, I must admit I wasn’t too keen on his role choices of late. So this is definitely a good step in the right direction.