Does anyone really want to see a still from The Green Hornet here on the front page of The Daily Notebook for the next few days? I didn't think so. I thought we might prefer a shot of Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde instead. She turns 70 today and Marcus Hondro can hardly believe it: "Was Chinatown that long ago? Network and The Thomas Crown Affair?" Best wishes in German come from Susanne Ostwald (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) and Susan Vahabzadeh (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
In other news, SXSW Film 2011, which'll open on March 11 with Duncan Jones's Source Code, has announced that it's added six more films to the lineup. Five are world premieres, including Jodie Foster's The Beaver with Mel Gibson as a man who seems unable to reconnect with himself and his family "until a beaver hand puppet enters his life." Rodman Flender's Conan O'Brien Can't Stop documents last year's Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour. In Ti West's The Innkeepers, "the last two employees of the historic Yankee Pedlar Inn set out to prove that their place of business is as haunted as its reputation." Last May, Charles Webb reported on a visit to the set for Twitch.
With It's About You, first-time filmmakers Kurt and Ian Markus, a father and son team, have documented a swath of John Mellencamp's life on Super 8. Billy Corben's doc Square Grouper "paints a vivid portrait of Miami's pot smuggling culture in the 1970s and 1980s through three of the city's most colorful stories." The one new addition that's a North American rather than world premiere is Greg Mottola's Paul, featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost road-tripping and befriending an alien voiced by Seth Rogen. Which — sadly, we can delay no longer — leads us to…
This week Movieline announced that it's welcoming a new Chief Film Critic (a second one, that is, alongside Stephanie Zacharek): Elvis Mitchell, former critic for the New York Times and current host of KCRW's The Treatment. He probably would have preferred to kick off with a film other than The Green Hornet, which he rates a 4.5 on a scale of 10. "Seth Rogen as Britt Reid in a film directed by Michel Gondry sounded very promising," he writes. But "Hornet becomes that oddity — a film more fun to describe than to watch."
"The Green Hornet proves to be the sloppiest, most inept action franchise-launcher helmed by a frail visionary weirdo since Tim Burton's 1989 Batman," writes Vadim Rizov at GreenCine Daily. "At least on that production, Jack Nicholson ran interference for Burton, sparing him from the worst of Warner Bros' meddling. This is a film made by a director who is not allowed to be himself."
"The occasion of Michel Gondry's first 3D film should have been joyful," sighs the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "The handmade kookery of this director's movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) could have led us to expect almost anything: ideally, he would bypass the digital process, and perhaps do it by lowering papier mâché birds between the audience and the screen, while running personally into the auditorium and squawking. Sadly, it was not to be."
"[I]n The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up Rogen partnered with Steve Carell and Paul Rudd," notes IFC's Matt Singer. "In Pineapple Express, he worked with the versatile James Franco. In Green Hornet, Rogen the producer saddled Rogen the actor with Jay Chou, a handsome Taiwanese pop star with a limited grasp of English. That leaves us with a buddy film starring an exceptional improviser and a guy who can't improvise because he can't speak the language. No surprise, then, that Hornet and Kato's friendship, so central to the plot of the film, feel forced and uneven."
More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 2/5), Ty Burr (Boston Globe, 2/4), Ed Champion, Mike D'Angelo (Las Vegas Weekly), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 1/4), David Edelstein (New York), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Glenn Heath Jr (Slant, 1.5/4), J Hoberman (Voice), David Jenkins (Time Out London, 3/5), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 3/5), Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix, 2/4), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Keith Phipps (AV Club, C+), Jasper Rees (Arts Desk), AO Scott (New York Times), Dana Stevens (Slate), Drew Taylor (Playlist), Jim Tudor (Twitch), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 2/5) and Armond White (New York Press).
For Sight & Sound, Kim Newman tracks The Green Hornet's "journey from radio days to 21st-century big-screen vacuity." In the NYT, Franz Lidz traces the long, convoluted history behind that vacuity and Ronald Ahrens dwells a bit on the supercar, Black Beauty. Interviews with Gondry: Dan Kois (Vulture), Mike Ryan (Movieline) and Stephen Saito (IFC). At Cinematical, Todd Gilchrist has video interviews with Rogen, Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz.
"Like its glum antihero, A Somewhat Gentle Man takes a little time to find its feet," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT. "Until it does, you may struggle to care about Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård), a middle-aged murderer newly released from prison. Beefy and slow-moving, quiet and ponytailed, Ulrik seems content to observe freedom rather than embrace it. His former boss (a strutting Bjørn Floberg) expects him to kill the snitch who put him away for 12 years, but Ulrik is done with violence — or so he thinks."
"Director Hans Petter Moland and cinematographer Philip Øgaard bring an often pleasing palette of sub-Arctic light and backstreet grime to the slight doings, but few of writer Kim Fupz Aakeson's gags provoke more than a chuckle," finds Bill Weber in Slant. "A Somewhat Gentle Man wraps up with an unsurprising restoration of gangland and domestic order, but its makers don't break a sweat or any new ground in the process."
For Ella Taylor, writing at NPR, "sitting through this lamentable excuse for a movie was a lot like suffering through a long open-mic set at the Comedy Store — for the sake of a friend who has no idea how excruciatingly unfunny he is." More from Elvis Mitchell (Movieline, 7/10), Noel Murray (AV Club, B-), Michael Nordine (Reverse Shot), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Nick Pinkerton (Voice) and Justin Stewart (L). Interviews with Skarsgård: Sam Adams (AV Club), Aaron Hillis (GreenCine Daily) and Stephen Saito (IFC). Brandon Harris talks with Moland for Filmmaker.
"Miserablism runs rampant in Richard Levine's debut feature, Every Day, a so-painful-it's-funny comedy about the increasingly heavy pressures of modern-day middle-class existence." Glenn Heath Jr in Slant: "Family quarrels, job stresses, and pubescent burdens are the issues these characters spend ample silent moments suffering over, drilling a parents-as-buzz-kill motif into every scene."
"Missing the recital," sighs the AV Club's Scott Tobias. "Of all the clichés to suggest parents with their priorities out of whack, that one may be worse than excessive cell-phone use, because it isn't just a character detail, it's a whole scene. As a TV writer suffering through a midlife crisis in Every Day, Liev Schreiber misses his youngest son's violin recital while boinking a fellow scribe in her swimming pool, and that's all that needs to be said about the movie."
But for Melissa Anderson, writing in the Voice, "what distinguishes Levine's film from, say, last year's similarly themed (and irredeemable) Happy Tears is his cast — and not just reliable vets like Schreiber. Curly-haired dumpling Skyler Fortgang, as Jonah's younger brother, Ethan, offers much more than just wide-eyed cutes. But it's [Ezra] Miller, perfectly balancing teenage recalcitrance and vulnerability, who's the most exciting to watch: Following his debut in Afterschool and City Island, he's become one of the best adolescent actors working today."
More from Stephen Holden (NYT, where Brooks Barnes considers Eddie Izzard's performance as a character clearly based on Ryan Murphy, "the capricious television writer behind Glee and Nip/Tuck"), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 6/10) and Andrew Schenker (TONY, 2/5).
"It takes a special kind of mainstream mush to waste Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly and your money all at once," writes Jonathan Kiefer in the Faster Times. "Screenwriter Alan Loeb and director Ron Howard have found the formula. They've made a movie so totally and resolutely mediocre that it's almost impressive." But Glenn Kenny, writing for MSN Movies, finds it to be "a well-done dramatic comedy — heck, near-melodrama, even — about friendship and infidelity, and how, as it's put in a certain recovery program, we are only as sick as our secrets." More from Richard Corliss (Time), David Edelstein (New York), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 1/4), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 5/10), Paul Schrodt (Slant, 1/4), AO Scott (NYT), Eric D Snider (Cinematical) and Scott Tobias (AV Club, B-).
With Twelve Thirty, Jeff Lipsky "crafts an odd self-contained universe in which the characters' compulsive need to explain themselves or simply hold their interlocutor's attention stands in for the meaning of the words they actually say, resulting in a film more satisfying in occasional isolated moments than as a coherent dramatic entity," finds Andrew Schenker in the Voice. For the NYT's Stephen Holden, this is a film that "loves its characters and the actors who play them. A fearless, talented filmmaking auteur working on a limited budget, Mr Lipsky insists on doing it his way and letting the chips fall where they may. More power to him." More from Eric Kohn (indieWIRE). At the Angelika in New York.
"Burning Palms, Christopher B Landon's ambitious and effective debut feature, reveals in five vignettes the fragility and desperation that lurk beneath the surface of the lives of some anonymous LA residents," writes Kevin Thomas in the LAT. "Landon's sardonic view of human nature and deft filmmaking skills — plus a raft of sharp portrayals — keep the viewer from pondering the preposterousness of certain situations and instead encourages going along with the fun." More from Andrew Schenker (Slant, 0.5/4).
"The information presented in Werner Boote's Plastic Planet is so important that the documentary is a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in the staggering health costs of plastic to humans and the planet itself," writes Ernest Hardy in the Voice. "That's the upside. The downside is that Boote, a discount Michael Moore, showboats so gratingly for the camera and tries so hard to set up 'gotcha' moments for his slick corporate villains that he comes off worse than they do." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, B-), Andrew Schenker (Slant, 2/4), S James Snyder (TONY, 3/5) and James van Maanen.
"The only significantly false note in Breaking and Entering is its overly clever title, which doesn't give you much of a clue that it's a film about people obsessed with getting their names in the Guinness Book of World Records," notes Mike Hale in the NYT. "Otherwise, Benjamin Fingerhut's documentary is a brisk and absorbing tour of the human ego." More from Chuck Bowen (Slant, 2/4) and Michelle Orange (Voice). At Brooklyn's ReRun Gastropub Theater.
Lemmy, Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski's doc on Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, is opening at various spots throughout the country before rolling into New York next week. The official site's got all the details. Writing for Artforum, Andrew Hultkrans finds the film "amiable, humanizing" and notes that "Lemmy’s influence cuts across several (often incompatible) genres and generations of musicians, and his understated charisma and good-hearted nature make similar films about bigger acts (the Rolling Stones, say) seem like contrived exercises in cinematic fellatio."
IN THE UK
In Sight & Sound, Sam Davies finds Gasland, "a debut feature by its writer and director Josh Fox, arresting and at times terrifying. On the surface, a documentary about hydraulic fracture mining ('franking') — the technology that pumps enormous quantities of water and toxic chemicals deep underground to extract natural gas from massive subterranean shale beds — hardly screams watchability. But, with a remorselessness all the more powerful for its quiet unfussiness, Fox builds up a riveting portrait of near-apocalyptic environmental damage and a corporate mindset willing to ruin water sources irrevocably for the sake of a few years' profit."
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