DVD: Kung Fu Hustle

Photo: Kung Fu Hustle

What would the late Bruce Lee have to say about Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle? “It’s no Enter The Dragon.” Maybe not, but KFH manages to hold its own – so well, in fact, that it received 26 nominations (including a Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film) and 17 awards at a slew of international film festivals when it was released in 2004. Set in 1940s Shanghai, KFH is the story of Sing (Chow), a pitiable would-be gangster with high hopes of joining the city’s most notorious crew, Axe Gang. But a series of events find Sing going toe-to-toe with the powerful gang, leading the unlikely hero to discover his inner kung fu master. If you think Drunken Master beats Rush Hour any day of the week, then Kung Fu Hustle is like the Jackie Chan movie you’ve been waiting for, sans Jackie Chan. Check out the DVD before KFH 2 rolls out in ‘08.


Movie: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

When the fine print in his insurance plan prevents New York firefighter and widower Larry Valentine (played by Hitch’s Kevin James) from naming his own kids as beneficiaries, he and his best friend Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) devise a foolproof plan to get around the technicality: They tie the knot, claiming to be gay domestic partners. So far, so good, until a suspicious official starts snooping around, and Chuck and Larry’s personal life is suddenly front-page news. Enter Jessica Biel, the firecracker lawyer who feels so comfortable around her gay client Chuck–who is of course actually straight and single–she doesn’t think twice about getting undressed in front of him or making sure he knows first, uh, hand that she doesn’t have breast implants. A bit of a hokey premise to be sure, but everything Adam Sandler touches turns to gold, and Kevin James’s ass is no exception.

YRB Magazine Interview: Knocked Up‘s Jason Segel and Jonah Hill

Image courtesy of NBC Universal

Knocked Up is about a guy [Ben], played by Seth Rogen, who is starting a website, is kind of a slacker, who goes out to a bar one night and is lucky enough to end up back home with Katherine Heigl’s character [Alison], and what should have been nothing but a one night stand, next thing you know she’s knocked up. So it’s the story of the two of them coming to terms with the fact that they’re sorta stuck together,” says actor Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), who, along with Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Martin Starr, plays one of Ben’s four roommates in this summer’s Knocked Up.

Jonah Hill offers a somewhat different take on the movie. “The plot is basically like Letters from Iwo Jima. We actually ripped off the same plot, and we just added a few ‘fucks’ every now and then,” he jokes, when asked whether there is more to the story than the title and movie trailer suggest. But Jason and Jonah (whose characters also happen to be named Jason and Jonah) do agree that what makes Knocked Up work so well is largely writer/director Judd Apatow’s approach to movie-making. Both have worked with Apatow before (Jonah had a small but memorable role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Jason starred in Apatow’s television cult classic Freaks and Geeks, among other things) and credit the success of his films with the fact that he trusts his actors enough to let them improvise. Continue reading

Movie: Spider-Man 3


This spring, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) returns in the third installment of Spider-Man. In the new flick, Spidey’s suit suddenly turns black, augmenting his existing powers and drawing out a more sinister side focused on retribution and vengeance. As he struggles to resist the power of the black suit and remain on the side of good, he must also throw down with two of his most dangerous opponents, Sandman and Venom. Can Peter overcome the forces of evil that threaten to pull him away from his family and his dreamgirl, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), or will he hold it down and regulate on his enemies? Since this is Hollywood (and since we’re not retarded), we already know the answer, but with Tobey Maguire dancing around in a glorified leotard, Spider-Man 3 is like watching a demented version of Billy Elliot with high-budget special effects and action sequences. In other words, it’s worth it.

Movie: Evan Almighty

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

We first met Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) in 2003’s Bruce Almighty, in which he played Bruce’s (Jim Carrey) office rival at a local Buffalo, N.Y., television station. When Bruce lost his job to Evan, he blamed God, prompting the Almighty Himself to come down from the heavens to teach Bruce a lesson. Now, Evan is a United States congressman, and he’s about to get his very own visit from God (Morgan Freeman). And what does God want with Evan, pray tell? It’s pretty standard, really; He wants Evan to build an ark in anticipation of a great flood and He won’t take no for an answer. Thus it is that Evan becomes the modern counterpart to Noah, as he sets about building an arc, much to the dismay of his wife and kids. Co-starring John Goodman, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Jonah Hill (Knocked Up; The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms (not to mention a variety of elephants, giraffes and other members of the animal kingdom), Evan Almighty is laugh-out-loud funny, which is certainly the best thing the Bible has done for us lately.

Live From Springfield: The Simpsons Movie

Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

If you don’t like The Simpsons, there is something very, very wrong with you, and you ought to consult a doctor immediately. Medical conditions notwithstanding, if you do nothing else this summer, you must go see The Simpsons Movie. Nerds have Star Trek and cool nerds have Star Wars, but the one thing we can all agree on is our common love and appreciation for The Simpsons. In the movie, Homer is charged with saving the world from an impending disaster that he is responsible for having created in the first place. Sounds like a classic in the making.

Movie: Fanastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben are as fantastic as ever in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the latest installment of the Marvel Comics-inspired films. In the sequel, the astronauts-turned-superheroes must face-off with a new enemy: the evil, intergalactic Silver Surfer, who has touched down on Earth with the intention of destroying the planet and anyone that stands in his way. As in the first film, expect some fancy, hi-tech special effects and a few hours of entertainment, but don’t lose too much sleep wondering whether the Silver Surfer will succeed in his efforts or whether the Fantastic Four will prevail and save the world. Something tells us they will.

Movie: Live Free or Die Hard

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

After Sylvester Stallone brought retro back with last year’s Rocky Balboa, this summer, Bruce Willis, 52, is back as Average Joe-turned-hero John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard. In this, the fourth Die Hard flick, the plot has been updated to accommodate a post- 9/11 world, and focuses on a terrorist group that is using the Internet to wage war against the United States. Live Free or Die Hard boasts the same entertainment value of the first three Die Hard movies, but with better technology and action sequences. In short, failure to go see Live Free or Die Hard would be downright unpatriotic – and these days, that’s enough to land you an open-ended stay at Guantanamo.


Movie: Smokin’ Aces

Common and Jeremy Piven in Smokin' Aces (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Simply put, Smokin’ Aces is Pulp Fiction meets Saving Private Ryan – if the objective hadn’t been so much rescuing Private Ryan as it was tracking down and killing him. With an A-List cast, Smokin’ Aces features excellent performances by Ryan Reynolds (yes, we are as surprised as you to see Van Wilder coming into his own), Jeremy Piven (as Buddy “Aces” Israel, the powder-nosed, Vegas illusionist with a $1 million bounty on his head), Ray Liotta, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman (who has a small but ingenious role), and even a cameo by Lost’s Matthew Fox. The long list of characters and complex web of relationships á la The Usual Suspects might seem confusing at first, but before you realize that you’re not totally sure what’s going on, the movie is over and it all makes sense. With everything you could possibly want – violence, drugs, hookers and mobsters – we venture to say Smokin’ Aces is one of the best movies we’ve seen all year.


DVD: The Messengers


Although this horror flick didn’t break any records when it was released in early 2007, The Messengers did hold down the top spot at the box office over Superbowl weekend and was generally popular among horror fans. The movie (which stars Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and Kristen Stewart) tells the story of the Solomon family, and the events that transpire after forces of darkness begin to infiltrate their formerly tranquil North Dakota farm. Bonus footage on the DVD includes the standard featurette on the making of the film, interactive commentary with the actors and so on. And don’t be skeptical about the film’s fright factor just because it’s rated PG-13; kid-approved movies are allowed to be terrifying – they just can’t contain excessive nudity or profanity. Which totally makes perfect sense.

Video: David O. Russell’s On-Set Meltdown

"I may heart Huckabees, but I hate you."

In a video clip that was recently made public, director David O. Russell decides he’s had just about enough lip from actress Lily Tomlin on the set of the 2004 film I Heart Huckabees. He seems to think she is incompetent and unappreciative of all his directorial help. But perhaps David is the one who needs help – help remembering to yell “cut” before commencing with a screaming rampage that involves the use of words that rhyme with ‘bundt’.

Coincidence? I think not.


Movie: 28 Weeks Later

Photo courtesy of Fox Atomic

The sequel to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later picks up six months after a deadly, blood borne virus was released from a London laboratory, devastating the city and transforming those infected into ferocious, murderous predators. Now, the U.S. Army has come to restore order, claiming to have eradicated the virus, but as the surviving refugees begin to return to the city it seems the nightmare has only just begun. A new cast of characters is led by Rose Byrne (Star Wars Episode II; Troy, Damages) and although 28 Weeks Later may seem like little more than a vaguely altered version of the first film, the story carries over quite well and suspense levels remain high. Don’t be surprised if this one sticks with you after you leave the theater, but be sure to remain seated until the final credits role – you wouldn’t want to miss another famous alternate ending.

Interview: Director Wes Craven

Photo by Carly Feingold / Courtesy of Fox Atomic

Believe it or not, Wes Craven made quite a few movies before Scream (“You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?!” jokes Wes), including the original versions of The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes 2 in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We recently caught up with Wes to discuss his latest film–a remake of The Hills Have Eyes 2–and his approach to scary movies.

JG: What is required to make a good horror film? Do you just need to have a morbid imagination to make a movie like Hills?
WC: I don’t really have to have a morbid imagination these days – I just have to read the newspaper… It’s basically doing something that’s intriguing to you at the moment that you find frightening. Not that there’s Hills Have Eyes people running around in the United States. But if you nudge that just a bit, you can understand what it’s like, say, for an American soldier in Afghanistan, encountering people that will literally skin you alive or cut your head off in the middle of the mountains. The Hills’ underlying concept is, ‘What do Westerners do when they confront people who would like to kill them, and follow none of the rules they were trained to fight by?’ What does that do to your own sense of personal confidence and morality?  Continue reading

Movie: Rescue Dawn

Photo courtesy of Gibraltar Films

This April, Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins) stars in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn as U.S. Fighter pilot Dieter Dangler, whose plane is shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. He is soon captured and subjected to extensive torture – as is the audience, during a difficult first hour that is virtually free of any dialogue whatsoever. The second half of this docu-drama focuses on Dieter’s stay in a prison camp — along with fellow POWs Gene (Jeremy Davies) and Duane (Steve Zahn) — where he devises and ultimately executes a complex escape plan. Rescue Dawn is not a Bruce Willis-style action flick, and it does not even begin to achieve the magnificence of its predecessors, Vietnam classics such as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now. Bale, Zahn and Davies all give excellent performances against a visually stunning backdrop, but in every other sense Rescue Dawn simply comes up short.WWW.GIBRALTARFILMS.COM


Movie: The Kingdom

Photo by Frank Connor courtesy of Universal Pictures

Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, Friday Night Lights) directs an A-list cast that features Jamie Foxx, Academy Award-winner Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jeremy Piven and Jason Bateman in the upcoming dramatic thriller, The Kingdom. After a terrorist attack on Americans working in Saudi Arabia, a team of government agents led by Agent Ronald Fleury (Foxx) is dispatched to Riyadh and charged with the task of thwarting a second attack that is being planned by the same extremist group. In a race against the clock, the Feds must penetrate the terrorist cell and capture the group’s leader before it’s too late. Outsiders in a foreign land with foreign customs, Fleury and his team must complete their mission as they face off with hostile insurgents, uncooperative local officials, and a complex web of corrupt and powerful individuals who actively fund terrorism. The agents catch a much needed break when a Saudi police captain turns out to be a critical ally, leading them directly to the man responsible for masterminding the attacks. But will they be able to take down the terrorist network and stop the next attack before it’s too late? You’ll have to wait and see. The Kingdom hits theaters nationwide on 4/20.