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Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep
Director: David Frankel

The Devil Wears Prada
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Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA stars two-time Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep as high-powered fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly. Anne Hathaway also stars, as Miranda's new assistant, a small-town girl in her first job out of college, trying to navigate a world she's only glimpsed in print - while surviving her impossibly demanding new boss.

Review: Everyone knows that Meryl Streep is the high priestess of drama, but she never gets enough credit for her comedy skills. That should change with The Devil Wears Prada, a sinfully funny, deliciously glossy take on the 2003 best seller by Lauren Weisberger, who denies writing it as a poison-pen letter to her former boss, Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The names have been changed, of course, to ward off lawsuits. Stepping up to the plate as imperious fashion editor Miranda Priestly, Streep knocks every laugh out of the park. More remarkably, she humanizes a character who was little more than a bitch in Manolos on the page.

The Devil Wears Prada
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Streep teams up hilariously with Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, the "smart fat girl" (she's a mere size 6) who applies for the job as Miranda's junior assistant at Runway magazine. Andy, a journalism major at Northwestern, had her eye on The New Yorker, but is told that if she can run the gantlet of Miranda for a year, there is no publishing Everest she can't climb. Before you can say "makeover,"Andy is transformed from a gawky giraffe into a swan who can trade up in lovers -- from sweet chef (Adrian Grenier) to literary stud (Simon Baker) -- and from cotton blends to chicest of Valentino, Chanel, Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Galliano and Prada. Guys who know squat about labels can take pleasure in the uberbabes wearing the threads.

Director David Frankel makes expert use of the light touch he brought to HBO's Entourage and Sex and the City. And screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna leeches out the book's malice in favor of wicked sass. Does the movie bite the fashion hand that feeds it? You bet. But it also pays due respect to the artful details turning the wheels of an industry that only seems frivolous. There's no doubt Andy learns much from watching Miranda at work, even with all the insults and fool's errands. The script tries to paint Miranda into a corner -- the lonely careerist who can't keep a husband or find personal happiness -- but Streep won't wallow in the cliches of victimhood. In a party of a movie, her performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force. comic and dramatic tour de force.

*PETER TRAVERS, Rolling Stone

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

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Captain Jack Is Back!

***Warning - Spoilers follow***

Pirates of the Caribbean

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Pirates of the Caribbean Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 9 out of 10

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow
Orlando Bloom as Will Turner
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones
Stellan Skarsgård as 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner
Jack Davenport as Commodore James Norrington
Kevin McNally as Joshamee Gibbs
Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma
Jonathan Pryce as Governor Weatherby Swann
Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti
Tom Hollander as Lord Cutler Beckett
Lee Arenberg as Pintel
David Bailie as Cotton
Anthony Patricio as Cannibal
Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa

If you liked the first film, then you should enjoy "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." A great performance by Johnny Depp and a great villain in Davy Jones make this a perfect summer popcorn flick.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is the sequel to the 2003 film "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

Sometime after the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow desperately looks for a special key. Little does his crew know, but Sparrow owes a debt to Davy Jones, the supernatural ruler of the seas. He's looking for the key as a way to get out of having to pay his debt. However, the crew figures out their predicament soon enough as the octopus-faced Jones and his creepy crew chase Sparrow down.

Davy Jones isn't the only one looking for our shady Captain. After having been arrested by the British government for aiding in the escape of Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are blackmailed into helping track down the Captain. Lord Cutler Beckett forces them to find Sparrow and obtain a magical compass from him in exchange for pardons. But who will find Sparrow first?

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.

Pirates of the Caribbean

What Worked:
Simply put, if you liked the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, you're probably going to enjoy the sequel. It has everything that made the first film so much fun. You have fantastic swordfights, creepy bad guys created with stunning special effects, romance, drama, comedy, and Captain Jack Sparrow in top form. (The first film is also required viewing. You won't follow what's going on in this sequel if you didn't see its predecessor.)

I've heard this referred to as "The Empire Strikes Back" of the "Pirates" series and that's a pretty accurate description. Captain Jack Sparrow has that rogue's charm like Han Solo, Will Turner is like Luke, and Elizabeth comes across a lot like Princess Leia. The heroes of both films separate and go on different adventures. And among other similarities, both movies end with big cliffhangers.

Another similarity is that both movies have a fantastic villain. Davy Jones is destined to be a classic movie bad guy. His look (and that of his henchmen) is utterly stunning. The special effects used for his tentacles are some of the best use of CGI that I've seen in a long time. Jones' tentacles twitch with his mood, he breathes pipe smoke out the sides of his face, and he looks like a true creature from the sea. He's also more than a two-dimensional bad guy. Once or twice you think he might actually relent and have a heart after all, then he does something truly brutal. Davy Jones ends up being one of the highlights of this summer's movies.

That being said, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is the true star of this film. Like in the first movie, he absolutely steals every scene he's in as the quirky pirate. I think this is the first time Depp has reprised a role from a previous film and I'm certainly glad he did. From the moment he appears on screen, it's like seeing an old friend again. This time around we get to see even more from him as he struggles between being a despicable pirate and a true hero while stumbling through scenery. This is really Sparrow's film and he doesn't disappoint.

The rest of the cast is good, but like in the previous film they're all in the shadow of Depp as Sparrow. Orlando Bloom gets a fair amount of action as Will Turner. His character also receives an interesting revelation that ups the stakes for him. Keira Knightley is stunning again as Elizabeth Swann. She goes on one particular tirade towards the end of the film that is quite funny, but her final darker moments in the film are what she'll really be remembered for. Stellan Skarsgård has a great cameo as 'Bootstrap' Bill Turner.

Pirates of the Caribbean

"Dead Man's Chest" also features that great mix of comedy and horror that makes these films such a fun thrill ride. In fact, the slapstick is amplified quite a bit this time around. A scene where the pirates face off with some cannibals (incorrectly placed in the Caribbean) features enough physical comedy to make the Three Stooges proud. But thanks to Depp's performance it all seems perfectly natural and you're willing to go along for the ride.

After leaving the music of the first film up to Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer jumps back into the spotlight for the sequel. He does a great job and creates an impressive score. Themes for the Kraken and Davy Jones particularly stand out, but the action scenes also feature great reprisals of the original themes.

On a final note, make sure you stay through the end of the film in order to see the final fate of one of the characters. You'll find it well worth staying for no matter how badly you have to go to the bathroom afterwards.

What Didn't Work:
I had no real problem with this film. It was funny, exciting, and a great movie-going experience. If anything, I only have nitpicks. While the vast majority of the effects looked fantastic, some of the Kraken effects weren't quite up to par. Some of the tentacles didn't look quite right while others looked very realistic. And unfortunately the cliffhanger ending is a little bit of a disappointment. The movie doesn't feel like it has any real closure and it ends on a bit of a down note. I also wish they had put a sneak preview of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at the end of this film. I wonder if people know there will be a third film coming next year.

The Bottom Line:
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is yet another great addition to the series. If you liked the first film, you'll enjoy this.

Pirates of the Caribbean


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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


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Most of us around here are quite looking forward to M. Night Shama-glock's fantasy drama LADY IN THE WATER so it was disconcerting to read this mostly negative review that the folks over at "Ain't It Cool News" recently posted. Granted, it's from a very early screening with the reviewer himself mentioning that the film ran way longer than it likely will for its theatrical release July 21st and had a lot of temporary music in place. As such, edits will be made, scenes will be rearranged, and appropriately emotionally engaging music will be added. However, it seems as if there are inherent flaws in the characters and story that may not necessarily be fixed with edits or scene rearrangement. In any case, it's a good read if you'd like to know more about the film. It's laced VERY heavily with SPOILERS so don't read past this first paragraph if you'd rather not be spoiled. If, on the other hand, you're a spoiler junkie looking for an M. Night Shams fix then strap that spoiler needle directly into your bloodstream over HERE.

"Lady in the Water" is prefaced by a caption that reads: "To my daughters, I will tell you this story one last time, then go to sleep." In the months since the first trailer for the film was attached to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," fans of Shyamalan's work have wondered what, exactly, he intends to mean by his tagline of "A Bedtime Story." Well, tonight in New York I viewed what was alleged to be "the first ever screening" of the film, and I can tell you this: He's not being cheeky. I wasn't counting, but the term "bedtime story" must be uttered at least one hundred times by one character or another over the course of the film. However, the film in its current state gives one the impression that as he sits by his daughters' bedside, they have fallen asleep after about fifteen minutes, while Shyamalan continues to ramble onward in an overcaffeinated stupor. For those fans of Shyamalan who were highly disappointed with "The Village," there is no respite to be found here, no return to form as an engineer of lean, mean thrillers with heart. One can only assume that "Lady in the Water's" runtime will be reduced drastically, but about a quarter of the way through the film's current two and a half hours, you'll hope Shyamalan's daughters wake up and kick their father out of the room.

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Following news that writer/director M. Night Shyamalan laid the smackdown on Disney in a whopping 278-page book entitled The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career, I'm a bit turned off from the dude. Look, we all know that working with a studio could, at times, be compared to smashing ones head against a brick wall over and over and over again, but why bitch about it this way? I understand slipping in a jab or two while promoting Lady in the Water, however, a 278-page book is taking things a bit too far. Perhaps we should change its name to read: The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Developed The Biggest Ego Known to Man.

That being said, an early review of Shyamalan's Lady in the Water has just popped up over on JoBlo. (And, from what I understand, this isn't another practical joke ... I hope.) Without giving too much away, let's just say they feel the film is one of Shyamalan's finest to date, going as far to say it's "the best film of its kind since The Princess Bride." Being a huge fan of The Princess Bride, that's a very bold statement and I sincerely hope Lady lives up to such praise. Seriously, I do. Even though I'm a bit peeved over this whole 278-page book thing, I do enjoy Shyamalan's work. He's a passionate filmmaker who delivers solid stories and wonderful performances. Could his departure from Disney turn out to be the best move Shyamalan ever makes? Well, that question will certainly be answered when Lady in the Water hits theaters on July 21.


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