Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gandalf Returns

As expected, Ian McKellen will reprise his Academy Award nominated role of Gandalf in the upcoming Guillermo del Toro helmed big screen version of The Hobbit.

Women We Love: Gwyneth Paltrow

Object of our affection: Gwyneth Paltrow, actress.

- She won an Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and even an MTV Movie Award for her role as the cross-dressing actress who put Shakespeare in Love.

- Prior to that triumph, she played the ill-fated wife in Seven and the Jane Austen matchmaker in Emma, winning a Satellite Award for the latter.

- She has starred in everything from thrillers (A Perfect Murder, The Talented Mr. Ripley) to comedies (The Royal Tenenbaums, Shallow Hal) to biopics (Sylvia, Infamous, Running With Scissors).

- Following the London production of Proof, she reprised her performance in the movie version, receiving a Golden Globe nomination.

- She takes on the "Lois Lane" role in this week's Iron Man, playing Virginia "Pepper" Pots.

From Stage to (Small) Screen

The MTV presentation of the Broadway musical Legally Blonde was nominated for two Daytime Emmy nominations today, including Outstanding Special Class Special. Isn't that special?

In more From Screen to Stage news of the day:
- Speaking of Legally Blonde, Kate Rockwell, an alumni of Grease: You're the One That I Want, will join the cast as a sorority sister next month.
- Raúl Esparza will star in the Steve Martin role in an upcoming workshop of the Broadway bound stage musical version of Leap of Faith. Film director Taylor Hackford is at the helm of the new tuner, which features songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, currently represented on the Great White Way with Disney's The Little Mermaid.
- Speaking of Disney, the French production of The Lion King (known as Le Roi Lion) was named Best Musical at the recent Moliere Awards, the French version of the Tonys.
- Good news for "fanadus": original Xanadu cast members Kerry Butler, Cheyenne Jackson, Tony Roberts, Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa have all renewed their contracts with the show through next January.
- And this last show has nothing to do with movies -- unless you count The Last King of Scotland -- but it does have the best title ever.

UPDATE: Cheyenne Jackson will be leaving Xanadu ... but just for the month of July so he can play "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo" in the Encores! Summer Stars production of Damn Yankeess. Jane Krakowski (as Lola) and Sean Hayes (as the devilish Mr. Applegate) also star.

Movie Music: Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust

Kerry Butler, one of our favorite Broadway babes (Hairspray, Xanadu), is releasing her very first solo album May 13. Titled Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust,the new disc will feature music from the Disney songbook, including some rare and/or never recorded toon tunes.

In addition to the usual (has there ever been a Disney cover album without "When You Wish Upon a Star"?), Kerry will croon "This Only Happens in the Movies", a song written by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater for Who Discovered Roger Rabbit (the never made prequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and "Call Me a Princess", a deleted song from Aladdin by Menken and Howard Ashman (previously only available in demo form).

Speaking of Ashman, the album will close out with his beautiful anthem to lost innocence, "Disneyland", which he and Marvin Hamlisch wrote for the Broadway musical version of Smile.

UPDATE: Head over to for an interview with Kerry Butler about her first album and her own Disney obsessions.

Click here to pre-order Faith, Trust and Pixie Dustfrom

Love is a Many-Gendered Thing

If you (like me) were wondering what happened after the last chocolate was handed out on LOGO's Transamerican Love Story, then star Calpernia Addams has the answers for you in a recent article for The Advocate.

However, being a true Southern lady, she is a bit coy, saying only "I'm looking forward to seeing what might develop in "real life" with Shawn", the bachelor she chose in the finale. More interesting is the possibility of a second season of the groundbreaking dating show ... may I suggest casting Jim Howley, the transsexual writer who "came in third" this season, as the star, providing another point of view of transgender dating.

One thing is for sure: if they bring back the usually hilarious Alec Mapa as host, let him do his thing. As Callie mentions in the article, most of his funny stuff was relegated to the show's website. Maybe that footage will be included on a future DVD release?

Monthly Wallpaper - May 2008: Action Heroes

With the action-packed summer movie season almost upon us, what better way to celebrate then with the month of May's calendar wallpaper dedicated to our favorite movie action heroes.

We'll get down and dirty with Harry and mad with Max, from the classic adventures of Tarzan, Zorro and Robin Hood to modern men of action like McClane, Bourne and Rambo, from the wild west of the Ringo Kid and Butch and Sundance to the gladiatorial arenas of Spartacus and Maximus to the mean streets of Shaft and Bullitt. And let's not forget the two masters of the genre, a certain Dr. Jones and Bond ... James Bond.

Just click on the picture above to enlarge it to its 1024 x 768 size, then right click your mouse and select "Set as Background", and you're all set. If you want, you can also save it to your computer and set it up from there, or modify the size in your own photo-editing program if needed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Poster Post: Three Faces of "Knight"

More cool poster art for The Dark Knight, in theaters July 18.

First Look: The Sleestaks

The old school Saturday morning creepshows known as the Sleestaks are back for the upcoming movie version of Land of the Lost.

Considering the "hero" of the movie is played by Will Ferrell, I think I'll be rooting for these guys.

The Latest on DVD: The Big Gay DVDs

On the heels of its recent season finale comes The Big Gay Sketch Show - The Complete Unrated Second Seasonon DVD. In addition to all eight episodes (now uncensored), a bonus disc includes bonus sketches, interviews with the cast, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more. Also available: The Big Gay Sketch Show - The Complete Unrated First Season.

Click on the links above to buy from See the sidebar widgets for more of this week's new releases on DVD.

And speaking of Big Gay things, LOGO tonight will air a special episode of the Show that promises to feature "clips highlighting favorite characters". Let's hope it's better then that Big Straight fiasco of a few weeks back.

Film Art: Très Magnifique

Caricature art by Pete Emslie of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in the Academy Award-winning An American in Paris, posted in recognition of tonight's world premiere of The Gershwins' An American in Paris, the stage musical adaptation of the classic movie musical.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Toon Talk: Summer Nights

Since Jaws and Star Wars and the dawn of the "Summer Movie" just over thirty years ago, film studios know that when the sun is high and the kids are out of school, all they want is something to do; if they are entertained in the process, all the better. And what better way to have fun then to sit in an air conditioned theater and watch the latest blockbuster with all your friends.

Which explains the steady stream of superheroes, sequels and superhero sequels that strike when the summer season surfaces, see? Si.

Click here to continue reading Kirby's Toon Talk preview of this summer's new movies at

Cinematic Crush: Robert Downey Jr.

Crush object: Robert Downey Jr., actor.

- A one season stint on Saturday Night Live and small parts in Weird Science and Back to School led to leading roles in The Pick-Up Artist and his breakthrough movie, Less Then Zero, wherein he played a drug addicted rich kid.

- More dramatic and comedic performances followed with True Believer, Chances Are, Air America and Soapdish, but he was able to combine both genres with his Academy Award nominated performance as Charlie Chaplin.

- Alternating between strong lead roles and memorable supporting turns, he has since starred in such films as Short Cuts; Natural Born Killers; Richard III; Home for the Holidays; Restoration; Wonder Boys; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Good Night, and Good Luck; A Scanner Darkly and Zodiac.

- He won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy nomination for his career-revitalizing role on Ally McBeal.

- Already this year he co-starred in Charlie Bartlett, and will star in two of the most anticipated movies of the summer: the superhero adventure Iron Man and the action comedy Tropic Thunder.

Awards Watch: Drama Desk

The next step on the road to the Tony Awards was taken today, with the announcement of the nominations for the 53rd Annual Drama Desk Awards. Leading the pack with 12 nods is A Catered Affair, the new musical based on the classic Bette Davis movie The Catered Affair. In addition to a Best Musical nod, librettist Harvey Fierstein and actors Faith Prince, Tom Wopat and Leslie Kritzer were also nominated.

Other screen-to-stage favorites with multiple nominations include Young Frankenstein with eight, The 39 Steps and The Little Mermaid with three each, and the Dearie Award-winning Xanadu with six, including Best Musical and acting nods for Cheyenne Jackson and Mary Testa. Playwright Edward Albee, celebrating his 80th year, will also be honored with a special lifetime achievement award.

The Drama Desk, an organization of theatre critics, writers and editors that honors excellence in all areas of New York theatre (Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and not-for-profit), will present their awards May 18 at Lincoln Center. For a quick look at the nominees, see the comments section below.

It's a Disney World After All

The beloved Disney institution "it's a small world" officially opens today in Hong Kong Disneyland, with a twist. Joining the over 200 familiar Audio-Animatronic dolls are 38 Disney characters, such as Stitch, pictured above in the Hawaiian scene. Each of the new characters, who will reside in their "native lands" in the attraction (for example, Aladdin and Jasmine in the Middle Eastern section), is designed in the classic Mary Blair style to match the surrounding figures.

Word has also leaked that the Disney characters will be added to the original ride, which debuted at the New York World's Fair in 1964 before permanently relocating to Disneyland shortly afterwards. This has, of course, sent serious Disneyphiles into a tizzy all over the internet, prompting impassioned letters from both sides of the issue, first from the Blair family, and then from (quite unprecedented) Disney itself, by way of studio historian Dave Smith.

Personally, I'm not against the idea in theory (I love seeing the characters in "their countries" at Epcot), but the purist in me wishes they would leave the true "original" ride as is, and maybe just add on a "Disney character section". Or better yet, just add the characters in at the other American park, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, which pales in comparison to the original any way. However, at present, there appears to be no plans to change the ride at either its Florida location or in Paris and Tokyo.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Awards Watch: GLAAD LA

Television favorites Brothers & Sisters, Ugly Betty and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List were honored "for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community" at the 19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles last night. It is the second year in a row that Brothers and Betty won in their respective categories.

Also recognized for their contributions to visibility and equality were Janet Jackson, Rufus Wainwright and the late Herb Ritts.

He Will Rock You

Classic characters revisited, the inspiring nature of collaborative art, the Gay Men's Chorus of Tucson, Elisabeth Shue as Elisabeth Shue ... what more could you want from a movie?

Watch and find out: the (slightly NSFW for language) trailer for Andrew Fleming's Hamlet 2. The "Melancholy Dane" returns August 22.

No Deal for Star Wars Fans

As if The Star Wars Holiday Special, Han shooting first and Jar Jar Binks wasn't proof enough, this should unquestionably prove that George Lucas has lost it. Or, he's just in it for the money. Or both.

Tomorrow night, NBC will air a "special Star Wars edition" of their (inexplicable) hit game show Deal or No Deal. Chewbacca, R2-D2 and Darth Vader (stepping in for "the banker") will join host Howie Mandel and those briefcase-toting models, who will be all decked out in Princess Leia slave gear (naturally).

And though it is safe to assume that it is not Peter Mayhew or Kenny Baker (get well soon, R2!) in the costumes above, "special guest star" Carrie Fisher has no where to hide. Not sure why she would do this; if anything, it sounds more like something Mark Hamill would do ...

Memo from Movie Dearest: 100,000 and Counting

In the wee small hours of this morning, Movie Dearest welcomed its 100,000 visitor. It sure is nice to know that we have so many fans ... and at just over nine months old!

I want to thank all of you who have become regular readers, and hope that any new ones stick around as well. An exciting summer movie season is almost upon us, and with our very own "men on film" on the beat, we'll be sure to have all it all covered. In the meantime, I will be bringing you my own Toon Talk summer movie preview to you in the next day or so, as well as special summer movie-themed editions of our popular profile series', Cinematic Crushes, Women We Love and Out in Film, all throughout the coming months.

Until then, here's to another 100,000!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Countdown to AFI's 10 Top 10: Fantasy

"Still round the corner there may wait,
a new road or a secret gate."
-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Giant apes, talking pigs, flying nannies, sword-fighting skeletons ... these are among the many fantastic elements that make up the next genre in the Movie Dearest countdown to AFI's Ten Top 10: fantasy.

Ranging from 1924's The Thief of Bagdad to 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the fifty films nominated (see the comments section below for the full list) range from the obviously fantastical (anything based on Greek mythology) to more subtle variations on the theme (Being John Malkovich, The Purple Rose of Cairo). Fitting into the former category is the original King Kong, while the holiday perennial It's a Wonderful Life covers the latter; both are strong frontrunners for this top ten due to the fact that they have both been honored by the AFI five times in past 100 Years ... 100 Movies lists. But topping them both, with seven previous mentions, is a sure thing: The Wizard of Oz.

The other multiple honorees from the past countdowns are more recent: Field of Dreams and Ghost, plus The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (representing the entire trilogy), which placed in last year's top movies list and also won an AFI Award; Spider-Man 2 is the only other nominee that also won the annual award. Single list honorees also nominated this go round include Babe, Batman, Beetlejuice, Big, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Groundhog Day, Harvey, Mary Poppins, Miracle on 34th Street, The Princess Bride, Superman and Topper.

It is most likely that the final ten will be culled from these past honorees, but don't count out some potential first-timers, such as Brazil, Jason and the Argonauts, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter, here represented by The Prisoner of Azkaban.

The results will be revealed when AFI's 10 Top 10 airs on CBS on June 17.

Poster Post: Gotham Burns

The incendiary final poster art for this summer's The Dark Knight.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out in Film: Neil Patrick Harris

Idol worship: Neil Patrick Harris, actor.

- He first gained fame as the prepubescent prodigy Doogie Howser, M.D., a role that won him three Young Artist Awards and a Golden Globe nomination.

- Guest spots on Blossom; Roseanne; Quantum Leap; Murder, She Wrote and Will and Grace followed. He has also lent his voice to several animated series, voicing such famous superhero characters as Spider-Man and The Flash.

- For his feature film debut in Clara's Heart, he received his second Golden Globe nod. He has also appeared in Starship Troopers and The Next Best Thing.

- His first stage role was in a school production of The Wizard of Oz ... as Toto. On Broadway, he has starred in the musicals Rent, Cabaret and Assassins and played Toby in a televised concert version of Sweeney Todd.

- He currently co-stars on How I Met Your Mother, in his Emmy nominated role as the womanizing Barney Stinson, and can be seen on the big screen this weekend in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, reprising the heterosexualized alternate universe version of himself that he first played in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.

Film Art: Fish Tales

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has released the latest stunning image from her "Disney Dream Portrait Series": Julianne Moore as Ariel, the Little Mermaid herself. Joining her in the foreground is world champion swimmer Michael Phelps.

Plant Food for Thought

Here it is Arbor Day, and I have nothing to plant ... except this list of "The Top 20 Pop Culture Plants", courtesy of Retro Crush.

The list includes those creepy apple trees from The Wizard of Oz, Ents, the killer tomatoes, Swamp Thing, Triffids, the Whomping Willow and, of course, Little Shop of Horrors' Audrey II.

What's missing? Well, how about James Arness as a walking carrot from space in The Thing from Another World? And don't forget the Katharine Hepburn tree from that infamous Barbara Walters interview.

MD Poll: Ready for Betty

Ugly Betty is back, so it's time for you to pick your favorite characters from the Dearie Award-winning comedy in this week's MD Poll. And don't worry if you can't pick between the fabulous fashionista Wilhelmina Slater or her ever-faithful assistant Marc St. James, as we've split the cast in half along gender lines, since there are way too many great characters to choose from on this show.

So be sure to vote in both polls, located in the sidebar at right, and tune in right here in two weeks to see the results.

UPDATE: This poll is now closed. Click here for the results, and here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

MD Poll: Desperate Measures

Proving that perfectionism does pay off, Bree Van De Kamp Hodge (played to, well, perfection by Marcia Cross) was easily voted the favorite of the Desperate Housewives in the latest MD Poll, with over one-third of the votes. (Boy, first the Founders' Day Award and now this; Bree has had quite the week.)

As for the Desperate husbands, the race was a little tighter, but hunky new hubby Mike Delfino (James Denton), Wisteria Lane's resident plumber, was able to wrench (ouch) away victory in the end.

See the comments section below for the full stats, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Change of Hobbit

Good news for the future of Middle Earth: Guillermo del Toro is officially the director of the upcoming feature film adaptation of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel The Hobbit.

Del Toro, who will be represented in theaters later this summer with Hellboy II: The Golden Army, will reportedly move to New Zealand for four years to work on the epic fantasy, as well as a planned sequel that will bridge the story of The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Peter Jackson, who won three Oscars for writing, directing and producing The Return of the King, will still be aboard to produce the two new films.

The Latest in Theaters: Flying High

Spring is just about sprung, so before the summer movie season begins with Iron (Man) force next week, here are this week's latest releases:
  • Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: John Cho and Kal Penn's lovable stoners are back for more high times, along with an image-skewering Neil Patrick Harris.
  • Baby Mama: Tina Fey wants a baby but can't; enter Amy Poehler as a crass surrogate. Greg Kinnear, Maura Tierney and Sigourney Weaver co-star in this new laffer.
  • Deception: Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams star in this racy thriller about sex, lies and murder.
  • Then She Found Me: If you've been wondering what Helen Hunt has been up to lately (and really, who hasn't), well, this is it: she not only stars in but also directs this dramedy. Bette Midler, Colin Firth and Matthew Broderick co-star.
  • And finally -- Rogue: Because the world needs more movies about giant man-eating crocodiles. Especially if the man being eaten is Michael Vartan.
Also opening this week in limited release: Four Minutes and A Plumm Summer. Click on the links to read what our own Chris Carpenter had to say about them in his latest Reverend's Reviews.

UPDATE: Despite the presence of NPH, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is this year's Wild Hogs, per

Visit Fandango - Search movie showtimes and buy tickets.

Tune in to TCM: The Catered Affair

Harvey Fierstein, currently on Broadway in the stage musical adaptation of this film, says it best (by way of Entertainment Weekly):

"Bette Davis considered her performance, as a Bronx housewife who insists on giving her daughter a big wedding whether the girl wants it or not, one of her career best. What more do you want?

Well, let me tell you what more The Catered Affair offers: there's a beautifully modulated dramatic acting job by Debbie Reynolds, proving she could do more than sing in the rain. There's a brilliantly funny turn by Barry Fitzgerald as a lovable, hard-drinking bachelor uncle. And it's all topped off by an Ernest Borgnine performance that's equal to anything he did in Marty.

And let's not forget the writing. The original play was scribed by Paddy ''I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore'' Chayefsky. And the MGM adaptation was penned by no less than Gore (Myra Breckinridge) Vidal. How do you like them credentials?

No wonder I've loved this movie since first seeing it as a kid. I've loved this movie so long and so well that I went out, bought the rights, and have now turned it into a Broadway musical ... I even reimagined the confirmed-bachelor-uncle role for myself so that I could be part of the musical fun. But if you want to see this story you've got to come see the show -- because the movie still isn't available on DVD!"

Or -- you can watch it tomorrow on Turner Classic Movies at 12:30 PM EST.


Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma takes a look back at the merchandise for John Carpenter's The Thing and wonders, "what were they thinking?"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Women We Love: Una O'Connor

Movie Dearest concludes the month long look at our favorite classic character actresses.

Object of our affection: Una O'Connor, actress.

- The prolific character actress of stage and screen found her first success in both with her breakthrough role as a dowdy domestic in Noel Coward's Cavalcade.

- She often played hysterical women, such as in James Whales' The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein; her performances left audiences in hysterics as well.

- Of her many film appearances, many have gone on to become classics, including The Barretts of Wimpole Street, David Copperfield, The Informer, Rose-Marie, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, Random Harvest, The Canterville Ghost, Christmas in Connecticut and The Bells of St. Mary's.

- Later in her career, she moved on to the new medium of television, performing in the usual dramatic omnibuses of the day.

- She ended her career as she began, with an unforgettable role on both stage and screen, in Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution.

Best of the Fests: Tribeca 2008

The 2008 Tribeca Film Festival began today, and while high profile studio movies have been chosen to open (Baby Mama) and close (Speed Racer) the festivities, we're most anxious to hear the reactions to Savage Grace, director Tom Kalin's first feature since that classic of "New Queer Cinema", Swoon.

Described as a "twisted true-life" story, Julianne Moore stars as Barbara Daly Baekeland, who married into wealth and had a son, Antony Baekeland, with whom she had a most unusual relationship involving sex and knives. Needless to say, it all did not end well, and was quite a scandal at the time.

The drama (watch the trailer here), which also stars Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Dillane, will have its premiere April 26 at the festival, which continues through May 4.

Awards Watch: Drama League

More theater awards as the Broadway season approaches its end: nominees for the 2007-2008 Drama League Awards were recently announced.

Among the nominations are such screen-to-stage faves as A Bronx Tale, A Catered Affair, Die Mommie Die!, Cry-Baby, The Little Mermaid, The Ritz, The 39 Steps, Xanadu and Young Frankenstein.

The 74th Annual Drama League Awards will be revealed May 16.

Easy as ABC

ABC will be overtaking the "Must-See TV" banner for Thursday nights starting tomorrow with the post-strike returns of three of our favorites. To celebrate, it's time for ABC Thursday Night Funnies!:

Reverend's Reviews: Froggy Doo, Where Are You?

Between the late 1920's and early 1980's, many young readers spent their summer vacations and other free time enthralled by the exploits of a slew of fictional teenaged detectives. Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe Hardy (a.k.a. the Hardy Boys), Trixie Belden, Ken Holt and Judy Bolton were more than characters on a page. They became cultural role models thanks to their intelligence, maturity, impeccable ethics, dedication to friends and family, and courage in solving mysteries that stymied the adults in their respective communities.

The charming A Plumm Summer aims to re-capture the spirit of those adolescent super-sleuths. What makes the movie even more unique, however, is that it is inspired in part by true events that took place in Montana in 1968. Locals were stunned when Froggy Doo, a wisecracking puppet and star of his own children's television show, was kidnapped during a live performance in front of hundreds of his kid-fans. The kidnapping was even reported at the time on the Huntley-Brinkley Report primetime news show.

Director and co-writer Caroline Zelder craftily yet sensitively adapted this unusual story as the basis of Plumm. Zelder and co-writers T. J. Lynch and Frank Antonelli spin an entertaining detective yarn, with 13-year old Elliott Plumm (Chris J. Kelly) and his younger brother Rocky (the delightful Owen Pearce) hot on the trail of Froggy Doo. They are joined in their pursuit by new neighbor Haley (Morgan Flynn), who happens to be a Trixie Belden fan.

Among the list of suspects are Froggy Doo's handler, Happy Herb (Henry Winkler), Herb's possibly unhappy wife (Brenda Strong, the narrator of TV's Desperate Housewives), and even Elliott and Rocky's alcoholic father, Mick (William Baldwin). Others in the strong supporting cast are Peter Scolari (of Bosom Buddies fame) as an FBI agent assigned to the kidnapping case by J. Edgar Hoover himself, and Jeff Daniels as the film's narrator.

Funny and nostalgic, A Plumm Summer (which opens this Friday) will prove particularly satisfying to those kids -- young or old, gay or straight -- who continue to honor those literary teen detectives of yesteryear.

UPDATE: A Plumm Summer is now available on DVDfrom

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Poster Post: Don't Touch the Hair

Turner Classic Movies celebrates their "Star of the Month", Hedy Lamarr, this Thursday with the Cecil B. DeMille epic retelling of the Samson and Delilah story. A buff Victor Mature co-stars as the hirsute hero.

Broadway Billys

Meet three stars of tomorrow: Trent Kowalik, David Alvarez and Kiril Kulish. The trio of triple threats will rotate through the title role in the eagerly awaited Broadway debut of the London stage hit Billy Elliot.

The triple casting, which took nearly three years of scouting and auditions, is due to the physical and vocal demands of the production. James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower, who originated the role of Billy in the West End, shared the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2006.

Based on the movie of the same name, the musical will be directed by Stephen Daldry (who received an Oscar nomination for the original film) and features music by Elton John. Billy Elliot will begin previews October 1 at the Imperial Theatre, followed by the official opening on November 13.

The Latest on DVD: The Other Hoff

Philip Seymour Hoffman had a great year in 2007. In addition to the critically acclaimed Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (released on DVDlast week), he won an Indie Spirit Award for The Savagesand was nominated for an Oscar for Charlie Wilson's War.

The former is a black comedy about an estranged brother (Hoffman) and sister (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney) who come together to take care of their dying father (Philip Bosco), while the latter is Mike Nichols' political satire about a Texas congressman (Tom Hanks) who, along with a wealthy socialite (Julia Roberts) and a portly CIA agent (Hoffman, natch), funds the Afghan war against the Soviet Union.

Click on the above links to purchase the DVDs from For more of this week's new releases, see the Latest on DVD widgets in the sidebar.

Awards Watch: Outer Critics Circle

The stage musical version of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein leads the recently announced Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations with ten nods, including Outstanding New Broadway Musical. Joining it in that category are three other movie-based musicals: A Catered Affair, Cry-Baby and Xanadu. And yet another film-inspired show, The 39 Steps, is up for Outstanding New Broadway Play.

The group, which consists of writers "covering New York theatre for out-of town newspapers, national publications and other media beyond Broadway", will announce the winners May 12, followed by an awards celebration dinner May 22 at the famed Sardi's Restaurant.

For a quick look at the nominees, see the comments section below.

Reel Thoughts: School Daze

It’s a sad comment when a serious-minded film harkens back to last year’s horrible Sandra Bullock stink bomb, Premonition, but The Life Before Her Eyes does just that. Despite stellar performances from everyone in the cast, confident direction by Vadim Perelman, and beautiful cinematography, Life (in theaters now) is a long lead-up to a colossal cheat that utterly ruins all that came before it.

Evan Rachel Wood and Uma Thurman both play Diana, a high school girl who survived a horrifying school shooting and, fifteen years later, must deal with the guilt of having lived when others died. Wood and Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon’s daughter) are wonderful as polar opposites -- the bad slutty girl and the good Christian girl -- and their friendship grounds the film for most of its length. Thurman is given the harder role of playing a shell-shocked mother trying to make it past the worst kind of anniversary. Despite having the life she always wanted, with a handsome older husband and adorable child, Diana can’t forget that she heard the school shooter say he was coming to school with a gun ... and didn’t say anything.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the story’s ruminations on the choices we make and how people change from their "young and wild" days, but only when I thought it was leading to a satisfying ending. Unfortunately, Perelman rewards your attentiveness with a slap to your face, one that starts to sting more the longer you reflect on what it does to the mystery you invested so much time in unraveling. I’m also bothered by the fact that we know what Thurman looked like at Wood’s age, and the latter actress would not have grown into the former.

Perelman’s The House of Sand and Fog was a much better film, and this one certainly looks gorgeous, but coming on the heels of the Virginia Tech and Columbine shooting anniversaries, The Life Before Her Eyes is more like The Tacky House of Smoke and Mirrors.

UPDATE: The Life Before Her Eyes is now available on DVDfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cinematic Crush: Ewan McGregor

Crush object: Ewan McGregor, actor.

- Following the sleeper hit Shallow Grave, he really broke out with his leading role as Renton in the indie classic Trainspotting; supporting turns in Emma and Little Voice added to his fame.

- He became known for his fearless -- and often full frontal -- performances in The Pillow Book, Velvet Goldmine and Young Adam.

- Blockbuster stardom came when he was cast as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels and the musical hit Moulin Rouge!, resulting in a Golden Globe nomination for the latter.

- Other notable films he has starred in include Black Hawk Down, Down With Love, Big Fish, The Island, Miss Potter, Cassandra's Dream and the animated features Robots and Valiant.

- He stars opposite Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams in this week's sex thriller Deception and is slated to appear as the object of Jim Carrey's affection in next year's I Love You Phillip Morris.