What a fine year it has been for movie delays. Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, originally slated for November 15, was almost bumped to 2014 before landing on Christmas Day. Spike Lee's Oldboy remake slid from this Friday to Thanksgiving. Steve Carell and Channing Tatum's Foxcatcher moved to 2014; so did Nicole Kidman's Grace of Monaco and Robert Rodriguez's Sin City sequel, the latter by nearly a year. Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard's The Immigrant once seemed poised for this year; now, not so much. Pixar delayedThe Good Dinosaur to 2015, meaning next year will be the studio's first without a movie since 2005.
In any movie where there's a group of people who have to get a job done by working together and utilizing all their different skills and strengths, I always feel the most kinship with the expert/professor character. So The Monuments Men looks great to me, because its entire dirty dozen is made up of experts/professors. (Although I'm gonna make a wild guess that Bob Balaban is the most experty of all the professors; that just seems like his thing.) Art historians don't get nearly enough chances to be action heroes in American cinema, and I'm glad George Clooney is righting that wrong.
Whatever Sandra Bullock's doing, she should keep it up. Get stuck in space again! Play an even more bumbling FBI agent! Adopt two illiterate black football players! We don't care. We might just watch her do anything, including star in another movie with Bradley Cooper, maybe even if it's as rotten as All About Steve. That movie was released in 2009, a year that ranks among the best a movie star has ever had. The Proposal and The Blind Side were such enormous and enormously different hits (broad sex comedy; family tearjerker) that Hollywood could only bow down the next year and give her the Best Actress Oscar instead of giving it to Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, or Gabby Sidibe.
By a wide margin, Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, which stars Bullock as a doctor on a botched NASA mission, is North America's no. 1 movie right now. It also features George Clooney, once again making Clooneyness seem like the easiest possible state of being. But the film is Bullock maximus. She's in nearly every shot and is the movie's (admittedly bogus) emotional center. The movie's an experience, and Sandra Bullock is built into nearly every molecule of the spectacle.
This fourth quarter of 2013 has been been filled with a number of public celebrity beefs, less notable for existing and more for how odd the participants have been. Coming off the end of summer's Kendrick vs. all '80s baby rappers verse, suddenly we were living in a world where Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel were trading jabs and "Sinead O'Connor vs. Miley Cyrus" was a topical sentence describing an event that people cared about.
Not only are these all great occurrences, they're a great setup for the latest public feud: astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson vs. the critically acclaimed film Gravity.
Gravity, simply put, kicked ass. It's Alfonso Cuarón's second-biggest opening, and the man directed a Harry Potter movie. It's the largest October opening ever, and, per Forbes, "among the top-ten live-action debuts of all-time for a completely original film (above Ted’s $54 million and behind Valentine's Day’s $56 million debut)." Wonderfully enough, it's also the best opener for both its lovable stars: George Clooney can now move past Batman & Robin’s $42 million debut, and Sandra Bullock beat her new personal best set just a few months ago with The Heat. Great news for everyone who likes movies, movie stars, and Children of Men.
Most people come to Toronto looking for the best the movies can do. Many films will reach for greatness. Few will attain it. Then there are movies that don't even reach. They're armless! This year one of those movies asks you to believe Kate Winslet as a shut-in single mother who comes out of her shell after Josh Brolin escapes from prison and holds her and her son hostage in their New England house. He's not really holding them hostage. And they're not hostages for long. He's doing home repairs and fixing the car and, in one of the most ludicrous moments I've seen in any movie in many years, showing mother and son how to make a pie. Everybody's hands mix the peach filling. There are more loving shots of that pie cooking in the oven than there are of Winslet.
This movie's a drama called Labor Day. It opens Christmas Day and is based on a highly implausible 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, whose memories of her affair with J.D. Salinger give the execrable new documentary about Salinger its only drama. And the screenwriter and director is Jason Reitman, and wherever he seemed to be headed after Up in the Air and Young Adult, it's a shame to see him responsible for a movie so flavorless and that makes so little sense. This is the kind of movie that requires a lot of people — Tobey Maguire, Brooke Smith, James Van Der Beek — to ignore common sense.
It's been a tough year for sci-fi movie fans. Oblivion was little more than a really (really) gorgeous photo shoot from Dwell 2077, Elysium was fatally irradiated by its own social commentary, and Pacific Rim was fun, but your 7-year-old cousin probably appreciated it on a deeper level than you could. Which is why Alfonso Cuaron's long-awaited Gravity probably has an unfair amount of pressure on it. What are the odds it could meet the demands of a rabid, notoriously cranky genre fan base? Oh, did you not read the part about how confirmed genius Alfonso Cuaron made this movie?
Here are some other confirmed facts and strong, fact-like opinions from those lucky enough to lay eyes on it first, so you can whip yourself into a sufficiently rabid frenzy before the film's October 4 premiere:
It isn't three hours long, for those of you who might have a thing that day.
Was the ahistorical irreverence of Inglourious Basterds not quite cheeky enough for you? Good news, then: George Clooney would like to take you back to WWII and show you a rollicking good time. The flick is Monuments Men, the latest writer/director/star turn for Georgey, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to his Ocean's Eleven days: Once again, our man has to devilishly charm his way into a crew, and then manipulate that crew into doing the impossible. (Joining old friend Matt Damon in the entourage are some cultishly beloved favorites: John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, and George Clooney's mustache.) The big difference is that, this time, they're not revenge-heisting casinos, but saving priceless works of art from Hitler's minions. And while it's based on real events (as outlined in Robert M. Edsel's The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History) one does get the sense that, in real life, maybe avoiding death at the hands of Nazis wasn't quite as much fun?
George Clooney & Eva Longoria: "Back in March — while he was still dating Stacy Keibler, 33 — Clooney, 52, connected with Eva Longoria, 38, in Berlin." Oh shit! "George told her that he was still with Stacy, but had plans to break up with her — and was interested in being with Eva. Then he pursued Eva with texts and calls, though they never hooked up."
Alfonso Cuarón knows a thing or two about dramatic single-take shots: his last film, 2006's Children of Men, was chock-full of haunting unbroken action. And now that he's making his long-anticipated return, with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space-exploration disaster Gravity, it only makes sense that he'll give us a trailer offering some more of the same. While the first teaser for the movie hopped all around in traditional kinetic trailer style, this new one bores down on the one bit of action, running us through two minutes of straight interstellar catastrophe. Um, someone should go get Bullock? But first, explain why Cuarón held out on us for so long!
George Clooney & Stacy Keibler's "Months Without Sex" Before the Breakup: When Keibler and "George Clooney, 52, split, they hadn't had sex in months. He's been in Europe and she's in L.A., and they haven't seen each other in a long time. Some girls would be OK with that and just be happy dating George, but not her." Well, what's in it for her, besides lots of publicity? Stacy pretended she was cool with things being casual, but "held out hope she'd be the one to tame the famous bachelor." When his two-year dating limit ran out, she was toast. "She knew he wasn't looking to get married. But there was always that fantasy that he would commit. Sadly, it just ran its course."
Twenty years ago this week, a movie called The Firm was released. It starred the biggest movie star on the planet, Tom Cruise; was directed by a celebrated industry veteran, Sydney Pollack; and went on to gross more than $158 million in America, the fourth-highest total of 1993. Less than six months later, a movie called The Pelican Brief, adapted from a novel by the same author as The Firm — the former Mississippi criminal attorney turned yarn-spinner John Grisham — went on to earn $100 million. It was also directed by a respected veteran of '70s cinema, Alan J. Pakula. These movies won no major awards and were only mildly regarded critically. But they made bundles of money and left an unlikely imprint on the town. Along with a few important forebears, notably 1990's Presumed Innocent, their success ramped up a persistent trend in Hollywood: the rise of the legal thriller. Today, that subgenre has almost completely disappeared from the movies.
Yesterday’s most notable click-bait, the double bacon cheeseburger on the hook, was a story about George Clooney’s balls. In 2008, Clooney joked to Esquire that he had gotten “the new thing in Hollywood — ball ironing” in response to a previous sarcastic remark he’d made about getting his eyes done, which was garbled in translation and wound up making the tabloid rounds in Italy as fact. One of the weird parts of this story is that he repeated the joke to Italy’s Max magazine this January, again insisting that "many people in Hollywood have done it"; the other weird part, of course, is the procedure itself actually exists, and employs lasers to fix discolorations, zap skin tags, and provide “overall tightening to the external skin. You know where …” with a cost of $575. It’s a shame Nurse Jamie, talking head and ball-smoothing guru, and the folks at Beauty Park don’t throw in tattoos of mean faces and beards à la Dave Chappelle for an extra fee, because if you’re the kind of blingy eccentric (and, apparently there are many of you, storming the laser centers in droves like Randy Marsh with a wheelbarrow) who’d undergo a painful voluntary procedure on your family jewels, you might as well go big or go home.
We're now waist-deep in awards season, and the Grantland staff would like to take this opportunity to remind all the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Collar nominees out there that should they have to step up to that podium and take that mic on national television, they owe it to themselves to study up beforehand and see how the pros handle it. Here are our favorite awards show acceptance (and unacceptance) speeches from all corners of the entertainment world.
A breakdown of Linda Stasi’s New York Post review of the second season of Girls: 3 out of 4 stars for the “grittiness” and “reality”; 14 out of 4 stars for the “gorgeous,” “breathtakingly beautiful” Marnie; 1 out of 4 for the “ugly” anal sex, sheets, and studio apartments; and zero stars for Lena Dunham’s “blobby body.” She dwells on that last one quite a bit: Dunham’s “giant thighs,” “sloppy backside,” and “small breasts” are so offensive to Stasi that she implies that pretty ladies should hide their men from those evil, exhibitionist “blobbies” who aim to snatch them from our beautiful 400-thread-count sheets in the night. Jenni Konner, Girls’s executive producer (and recent HP podcast guest), responds “That that woman got to the age she's at and still feels like there are rules about what kind of body you can show is sad for her.” Meanwhile: Kelly Osbourne claimed to have been body-slammed by Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, while Gaga fired back with an open letter accusing Osbourne of “making jokes about artists and celebrities as if we are zoo animals” instead of human animals wearing steaks for hats. Move right along. Nothing to see here.