"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blast from the Past: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Let's just call June 'Tom Hanks' month' because we've hit yet another anniversary celebration of his film with the eternal rom-com, Sleepless in Seattle.  Co-written and directed by the late Nora Ephron, the film cleverly refers to another romantic class, An Affair to Remember (1957), starring Cary Grant and  Deborah Kerr and features the Empire State building in a supporting role. The film became one of the best romances of the 90s.

On Christmas Eve, young Jonah Baldwin (Ross Malinger) calls up a radio call-in show to ask for a new wife for his widower dad Sam (Tom Hanks) unbeknownst to him.  Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) who lives on the other side of the country in Baltimore, happens to listen in and finds herself intrigued.

Impulsively and inspired by An Affair to Remember, she writes to Sam and Jonah telling them to meet her on top of the Empire State building on Valentine's Day.  Amongst the hundreds who write to the Baldwins, Jonah feels a kinship towards Annie and feels this is the one for his dad.  Sam, of course, doesn't know it yet and from thereon the film is delightful journey to the two lovers meeting atop, yes, the Empire State building.

The film is perennial favorite of mine and I usually watch it once a year at Christmas. The supporting cast is stellar and features director Rob Reiner, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman, Rosie O'Donnell and Hanks's real life wife,Rita Wilson.  And even though Hanks and Ryan are only in the film for about two minutes, those two minutes are absolute magic and crackling with their chemistry.  They only did three movies together (the hilarious Joe Versus the Volcano and the Sleepless in Seattle follow up by Ephron, Hanks, and Ryan in You've Got Mail) but it seems like much more because when they were together onscreen, you knew their characters were meant for each other.  Even after 20 years, you can fall in love again with the characters and unforgettable dialogues.  I know I will. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

EW's new Divergent stills

Entertainment Weekly has some exclusive new stills from the upcoming Divergent based on Veronica Roth's novel showing us actors Shailene Woodley and Theo James as the lead couple, Tris and Four.  We also get first looks at the supporting cast, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Tony Goldwyn and Jai Courtney.  The costumes and sets seems mostly minimalistic and opposite to that other dystopian thriller series, The Hunger Games.  However, the makers must surely be hoping that Tris becomes as much a household name as Katniss has.  The only major player who's missing from this first look? Kate Winslet's Jeanine Matthews, the Erudite leader who has a hidden agenda.  I suspect the filmmakers might reveal that information in the trailer whenever that debuts.  Divergent will release next March.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) prepare to jump off a moving train as part of a Dauntless initiation.

Tori (Maggie Q) is about to administer Tris' aptitude test.

Tris joins Dauntless.

Tris confronts Al (Christian Madsen).

Tris bonds with her instructor Four.

 Tris with her Dauntless friends Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes).

 Director Neil Burger on set with Jai Courtney as Eric and Theo James as Four

Tony Goldwyn plays Tris' father Andrew Prior.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Stills and Trailer from Disney's Frozen

Here's a very different kind of first trailer for Disney's Frozen featuring a tussle on ice between a talking snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) and a reindeer named Sven.  We do know however thanks to these new stills featured in USA Today that the film is based around a Hans Christian Anderson story featuring two sisters and a curse that dooms a kingdom to eternal winter.

Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) pursues her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) to bring her back home.

Mountaineer Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and Sven, his reindeer help out Anna in her mission.

Along the way, Anna meets the handsome Hans (voice of Santino Fontana).

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Frozen hits theaters this Thanksgiving.  What did you think of the teaser trailer?

Around the World in Posters: Gravity, Catching Fire, The Hobbit and more!

Richard Curtis' new love story About Time involves time travel.  I guessed that actually when I saw Rachel McAdams.  Either that or this film is about amnesia!

And the award for the poster most vying for an Oscar nomination goes to... The Butler.

 Ari Folman's The Congress looks seriously trippy as is evidenced in this French poster for the film. Can't wait to see this.  

I must say this is my favorite new poster artwork in a while for the indie Fruitvale Station that's winning raves wherever it goes.  Beautiful, quiet and poignant.  

Posters of The Hobbit, Gravity and Catching Fire after the cut...

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Top 5 Mel Brooks Movies

Yesterday, the American Film Institute (AFI) bestowed legendary filmmaker Mel Brooks, a true comic genius, with their highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement award. I adore his films and they never fail to cheer me up.  Brooks is one of only 11 people in the world who can claim the ownership of the prestigious EGOT (winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) awards which is oh, so coveted by many, many people including 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan.   It’s always a treat watching Brooks give interviews because nobody and I mean nobody tells a story quite like him.  Take a look:

This got me thinking about some of my favorite Mel Brooks films.  Here they are (in no particular order):

Young Frankenstein (1974): If you’ve never seen this film, then you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Gene Wilder plays the grandson of Frankenstein (“It’s Frankensteen”) who returns to the homestead with assistants Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr) and eventually recreates the legendary monster (Peter Boyle).  A black and white satirical homage to the monster flicks of the 1930s, the film also features great supporting performances from Cloris Leachman (her character, Frau Blucher is a highlight), Madeline Kahn and Gene Hackman (if you can recognize him).  The film has so many indelible moments, Wilder and Boyle performing their unforgettable song and dance routine on stage to Frankenstein questioning Igor about which brain they used to my favorite scene featuring a revolving secret door. It has me in stitches every time.


Spaceballs (1987): “May the Schwartz be with you.” If you know what these words mean, then congratulations, you are a Mel Brooks fan! This parody of Star Wars features memorable characters like Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), Barf (John Candy), Han Solo stand-in Lone Starr (Bill Pullman)and Pizza the Hutt, spaceships that go at ‘ludicrous speed’ and Mel Brooks himself in a double role as President Skroob and Yogurt (the gold-dusted version of Yoda).  It’s all silly fun but Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet stands out for me from the scenes of him playing with his action figures or when he's trying to watch the film to figure out what’s going to happen next and always fidgeting with his humongous helmet.   


History Of The World Part 1(1981): Folks, here’s a spoiler alert for you. There is no Part 2.  However, that is no deterrent for you not enjoying this cracker of a film which takes us through the Stone Age, the Roman Empire to the Spanish Inquisition (which comes with its own musical number) and the French Revolution.  We are shown glimpses of other important events, for instance, there were initially 15 commandants until Moses broke the other tablet.  The film contains many hilarious exchanges and dialogues like my personal favorites, ‘It’s good to be the king,’ ‘Oh, you are nuts. N-V-T-S, nuts!,’ and ‘Say when,’ ‘8:30’.  History of the World Part 1 has all of Brooks’ regular collaborators like Kahn, Leachman, Dom DeLuise and even actors like Gregory Hines in a prominent role and Orson Welles narrating the film.

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993): This spoof of previous Robin Hood features served as an introduction to Mel Brooks for me when I was in school and prodded me to go back and look up his filmography.  There was a time when my friends and I knew all the dialogues to this and I’m sure if I say something like, ‘I have a MOLE?’, they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Robin Hood, played by Cary Elwes, ‘can speak with an English accent’ and the Merry Men are also rappers in tights (hence the title).  You can spy a young Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo and some hysterical turns by Roger Rees as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Tracey Ullman as Latrine whose scenes together made me laugh so hard I cried.  

      The Producers (1968) and The Producers (2005): In any incarnation, this story is still comedic gold.  A Broadway producer (Zero Mostel) and his accountant (Gene Wilder) make the worst show in the history of the world, a musical on Hitler called Springtime for Hitler, knowing full well it will fail spectacularly and then take all the money to the bank.  But how then do little old ladies, a Swedish secretary named Ulla and a German playwright obsessed with his pet pigeons have to do with the film? You’ll have to see it to believe it.  Younger audiences of course know of The Producers because of the very successful production on Broadway with Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom which was later turned back into a movie.  Brace yourselves as you’re in for a crazy, funny and diabolical ride of a movie in which anything goes.


To Be Or Not To Be (1983): I don’t know why, but I adore this color remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 classic To Be or Not to Be.  Mel Brooks plays Federick Bronski, Polish actor who along with his wife, Anna Bronski (the sublime Anne Bancroft, also Brooks’ wife in real life) perform their revue show during World War II until the Nazis descend on Warsaw and they have to ‘act’ their way out of a tough situation.  Bronski fancies himself quite the actor and includes Hamlet’s famous soliloquy with the famous line, ‘To be or not to be…’ which receives an unwelcome interruption by Tim Matheson each time he tries to perform. This was one of the few times that Brooks and Bancroft acted together onscreen.  Veteran actor Charles Durning even received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role as Colonel Erhardt.

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