The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26 in Park City, Utah.
The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26 in Park City, Utah.
Early in "Oldboy," Spike Lee's "reinterpretation" -- the director prefers that word to "remake" -- of South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook's violent revenge classic, a crass and drunken ad executive played by Josh Brolin stumbles past a sign outside a storefront that reads: "Guns Don't Kill -- People Do."
Perhaps Brolin also should have lurched past a hardware store. Before "Oldboy" is over, guns have killed people, but not as many and not as memorably as have been killed by a hammer, as Lee recreates -- and extends -- the original film's most famous set piece, a lengthy action scene in which the angry hero, armed with a common if lethal hand tool, single-handedly dispatches a battalion of thugs. (The violence is a wry joke, as a character who spends much of the first part of the film getting hammered later proves himself so adept at hammering.)
Lee's "Oldboy" arrives, coincidentally, on almost the exact 10th anniversary of the debut of its predecessor, which opened on Nov. 21, 2003, in South Korea. Artful, inventive, highly stylized, kind of nutty and sometimes gruesome (the hero eats a live octopus in a sushi bar), the first "Oldboy" was awarded the Grand Prix (second prize, more or less) at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival (the jury, unsurprisingly, was headed by Quentin Tarantino); it's now regarded by many as a masterpiece. (It's one of the movies cited for its significance in the final episode of Irish critic Mark Cousins' epic 15-hour documentary, "The Story of Film: An Odyssey.")
Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes' gospel musical provides the inspiration if not the content for "Black Nativity," talented director Kasi Lemmons' sincere if muddled bid for an uplifting -- and seasonal -- family-friendly hit.
More like a siren's song than a wolf's lament, Allen Ginsberg's epic poem "Howl" continues to lure filmmakers to their dooms on its wordy, mythic shores.
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked," Ginsberg wrote. And so it came to pass that six decades later some of the best actors of our generation are starved for direction, occasionally hysterical and sometimes even naked in "Kill Your Darlings," the latest failed attempt to capture, distill and reflect the energy and invention of the Best Generation writers in a motion-picture format.
Charming yet tough and not blinkered by its own good intentions, "Philomena" is an ideal vehicle for the beloved Judi Dench from a somewhat unlikely source: It was co-scripted and co-produced by its co-star, the typically acid Steve Coogan, for his Baby Cow Productions company, which specializes in smart British TV comedy.
The kid in the photo above, at top, with his hand raised? That's rising young English actor Asa Butterfield, the star of Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," as Ender Wiggin in the science-fiction space-war film "Ender's Game."
The young woman seated below him is Hailee Steinfeld, who was Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers' version of "True Grit" and Juliet in the recent movie adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet." The kid on the right, meanwhile, is Aramis Knight, a longtime child actor, with credits that include episodes of "Dexter" and "General Hosptal."
And the guy on the left? That's teenaged Suraj Partha from Memphis, a movie newcomer who hopes his supporting role in "Ender's Game" will kickstart his incipient entertainment career.
You can get a better look at Suraj in the picture above, taken by his father, Memphis doctor Ranganathan Parthasarathy, at the Oct. 28 premiere of "Ender's Game" in Hollywood, where Suraj hung out on the red carpet with co-star Sir Ben Kingsley, among others. And if you want to read more about Suraj, my full story about him is here.
Like J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" saga, "The Hunger Games" is an entirely legitimate phenomenon. It was not force-fed to teenagers by being attached to some presold commodity. Rather, "The Hunger Games" earned its gargantuan pop-culture status mostly through the word-of-mouth recommendations of impressed and shaken young readers (and many adults), who embraced Suzanne Collins' first novel, published in 2008, for its strong emotions and high stakes. Young people often suspect the adult world is conspiring against them. What more potent affirmation of this idea could there be than in the portrayal of a future nation that requires citizens between the ages of 12 and 18 to hunt and kill each other for the entertainment of the establishment?
Like J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" saga, "The Hunger Games" is an entirely legitimate phenomenon.
It was not force-fed to teenagers by being attached to some presold commodity. Rather, "The Hunger Games" earned its gargantuan pop-culture status mostly through the word-of-mouth recommendations of impressed and shaken young readers (and many adults), who embraced Suzanne Collins' first novel, published in 2008, for its strong emotions and high stakes.
Young people often suspect the adult world is conspiring against them. What more potent affirmation of this idea could there be than in the portrayal of a future nation that requires citizens between the ages of 12 and 18 to hunt and kill each other for the entertainment of the establishment?
"Dallas Buyers Club" opens with the sound of huffing and puffing, which accompanies a shaky camera shot through the slats of a bull pen into the busy rodeo arena beyond.
We assume we are sharing the point of view of an impatient bull, but we quickly learn the snorting noises and unsteady visuals belong to cocky Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), sexually exerting himself with a pair of rodeo groupies.
When Woodroof emerges into the light, it's a shock. The typically robust McConaughey looks ghastly, almost skeletal. The bones of his skull seem to be pushing through the skin of his face, held back only by the weight of a thick black mustache and the cowboy hat perched on his shaggy head.
McConaughey's unhealthy skinniness is, of course, the point. "Dallas Buyers Club" is the more or less true story of a homophobic, coke-snorting, hard-partying ladies' man who became a champion of affordable and easy access to health care for AIDS patients after he tested positive for HIV in 1985.
Mike Newell, director of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," reunites several cast members from that 2005 film for an adaptation of a work by an author who may have been England's most popular writer in the pre-J.K. Rowling era.