Anytime Woody Allen releases a new film, moviegoers naturally debate where it ranks on his filmography. Is it a triumphant return to form like last year’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, or a dud like 2009’s WHATEVER WORKS? Is it a vibrant echo of his early masterpieces, or a dispiriting reminder that he’s now 76 and his best years may be behind him? There’s rarely a middle ground: It’s either Good Woody or Bad Woody.
Traditionally, January is the time when studios dump their loser movies into the recycling bin of the public’s consciousness, tossing ill-fated action flicks with monosyllabic actors or woebegone romantic comedies with badly matched C-listers into theaters because people are too cold to leave the house anyway.
By January, the Oscar rush has come and gone, and it’s the time to cut one’s losses and release some of those less golden efforts in hopes that they might find an audience despite it all, even if it’s just angry people who get off on yelling epithets at the screen to impress their passive-aggressive dates.
BEGINNERS is a fitting and exciting followup to Mike Mills’ feature debut THUMBSUCKER (2005), the story of Justin, a teenage boy struggling to make sense of the relationship between his mother and father, between his parents and himself and between himself and that confounding group, the other sex. Though it’s well known by now that BEGINNERS is largely autobiographical of the time in 2003 when Mills’ own mother died and his father revealed that he was gay, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) could very well be the grown up version of frustrated young Justin, if all his angsty teenage fire had died out by the time he was 38, that is.
Mike Mills, veteran music video director who turned feature film director in 2005 with THUMBSUCKER says he’s “a graphic designer as much as [he is] a filmmaker.” His latest project, BEGINNERS, may be, first and foremost, a film, but as someone who works across multiple mediums it’s accompanied by “a lot of stuff,” like copious amounts of scribbling, note-taking, journaling and drawing.
Set in Martha’s Vineyard and shot off the coast of northern Germany, all is grey and grim and perpetually drizzly in Roman Polanski’s latest directorial effort, THE GHOST WRITER. We never learn the name of The Ghost (Ewan McGregor), who’s hired to finish the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former British Prime Minister, after the first ghost writer is found washed up on the beach, the first in a series of suspicious events that seem to hover around Lang’s house like the dense cloud of fog outside.
The United States was never going to develop a force of psychic spies until they heard the Russians were, or at least that’s the jump in logic we must accept in order to believe THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. Enter Jeff Bridges, perfectly cast as Bill Django, equal parts military intelligence, paranormal researcher and daisy-wielding hippie. Django, armed only with several hemp necklaces and a long ponytail, is the commanding officer of The Earth Army, a select group of US soldiers whose specialties include yoga, remote viewing and the ability to stare a goat to death.
Directors Glenn Ficarra’s and John Requa’s I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, a film participating in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.
Meet John Requa & Glenn Ficarra directors of I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, an official selection in the Premiers Competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.