Friday, August 31, 2007

Death Sentence

Sometimes I take too long to get to the meat of my reviews, forcing my readers to plow through several paragraphs until they discover my true feelings about a film. Let me save you the trouble this time around.

Avoid Death Sentence like the plague.

Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is a mild-mannered everyman — an insurance executive who spends his days at work analyzing risk portfolios and his nights at home with his beautiful wife and two teenaged sons. When his eldest son is brutally murdered as part of a gang initiation, something inside Bacon snaps. While his quest for retribution comes away with its pound of flesh, it also takes everything Nick loves down with it.

Death Sentence is a wildly over-directed film from James Wan (Saw), who has never in his life heard of the words subtlety or restraint. The film relies on blatant melodrama when it should settle on cold, hard understatement. I couldn’t help imagining, in the first act, before it really went off the rails, what this film might have looked like in the hands of another, far more insightful and self-composed director such as Mystic River's Clint Eastwood.

The dialogue is embarrassingly ghastly; the is score overwrought; the soundtrack is something from a bad "Dawson's Creek" episode; the look of the film, with its soft, bleached frame and diffused cinematography doesn’t feel retro or daring — it just looks like rubbish. Perhaps most surprising of all, Kevin Bacon, a great actor by anyone’s estimation, turns in his worst performance in memory.

The audience laughed at so many points during the film (none of them points the filmmakers intended) that if one didn’t know better, one might think Death Sentence was a comedy.

The one single bright moment in this film is the inclusion of John Goodman as a gunslinger from whom Hume buys the weaponry with which to enact his revenge. Rest assured, though Hume is so inept when buying the guns that he doesn’t seem to know which end to point at the enemy, he is transformed into a badass simply by reading a few manuals — and, of course, shaving his head.

In the final act, as Bacon, now a black-clad death angel, uses his bullets to tear the limbs from his family's killers, Death Sentence begins to resemble the sort of grindhouse film Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino attempted to evoke earlier in the summer. It all ends (blessedly) with a rip off of Scorsese's magnificent Taxi Driver.

Revenge films seem to be all the rage these days. Next week Jodie Foster's The Brave One opens with a surprisingly similar storyline. Death Sentence pretends to be a fable about the dangers of reciprocity. It purports to be a moral commentary on reprisal and its ability to turn on and destroy all who touch it — those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Some have seen in it a cautionary tale about America's post-9/11 need for retribution. Sure, and Saw was an alarm bell against the inadequacies of the health care system.

Death Sentence is a laughably bad exercise in the pornography of sadism and the American appetite which voraciously consumes it. The only death sentence here is your price of admission. Do yourself and this film a favor. Put it out of its misery.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Telluride announces schedule

Andy Wineke (lucky SOB) is on his way to cover the Telluride Film Festival. Look for his reports Sunday in Metro and then a wrapup in Life next week.

The schedule is always kept under wraps until the Thursday of the festival, and I just got the press release.

I'm not yet sure of all the celebs who'll attend.

We know Daniel Day-Lewis will be there because he's one of the tributees.

Other possible guests: Todd McCarthy, who's unspooling his new film; Sean Penn, who's premiering a film he wrote and directed and Nichole Kidman's in a film -- maybe she'll show.

Wineke (SOB) will keep us up on all the star-sightings and amazing movies.

Here's the full press release from the festival officials:


A record breaking 33 new features, 15 revivals and restoration programs, three tributes, 16 new shorts, three panel discussions and six conversations make up the 2007 program

Telluride, CO (August 30, 2007) - The Telluride Film Festival (August 31-September 3), presented by the National Film Preserve and Apple, announces its program for the 34th Telluride Film Festival. Celebrating the best in film, past, present and future, from all around the globe, the Festival kicks off another exciting weekend packed with tributes, features, documentaries, shorts, conversations and panel discussions. The Festival opens Friday, August 31 and runs through Monday, September 3.

The Festival will pay tribute to three film luminaries including Daniel Day-Lewis, who captivated filmgoers with his performances in ROOM WITH A VIEW, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING and GANGS OF NEW YORK, and will be seen next in his much-anticipated role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s version of Upton Sinclair’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD; three-time Academy Award® winning composer Michel Legrand, whose film FIVE DAYS IN JUNE and THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT, for which he composed the original music, will both play at the Festival as part of Legrand’s tribute; and world renowned Indian director Shyam Benegal will accept the third of the Festival’s Silver Medallions while Festivalgoers are treated to three of his past works: ANKUR, BHUMIKA and ZUBEIDAA

The 34th Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following new feature films and documentaries:

· Todd McCarthy’s PIERRE RISSIENT: MAN OF CINEMA about the influential publicist, sometime film distributor and film buff who discovered talent such as Jane Campion and Abbas Kiarostami.

· Lee Chang-dong’s SECRET SUNSHINE stars Jeon Do-yeon, winner of the Best Actress prize at Cannes, as a young woman trying to adjust to a new life with her young son amidst tragedy.

· WHO IS NORMAN LLOYD?, Matthew Sussman’s biography tracing actor/director Norman Lloyd’s 70 years as an entertainer.

· RAILS AND TIES, Alison Eastwood’s directorial debut, stars Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden in a story about two families in physical, emotional and psychological collision.

· Julian Schnabel’s THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY turns Ronald Harwood’s adaptation of ELLE France’s editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby’s best-selling memoir into a celebration of his hero’s two remaining assets: imagination and memory. The film, which won Schnabel the best director prize at Cannes, stars Mathieu Amalric, Marie Josée Croze, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Consigny and Max von Sydow.

· Winner of Cannes’ Palme d’Or, writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s film, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, set in the final year of Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania, depicts the horrors of the Securitate and the brutality of its methods used. Starring Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu.

· In Eran Kolirin’s THE BAND’S VISIT, the Alexandrian Police Orchestra, comprised of eight or nine slightly bewildered Egyptian policeman, head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to find themselves lost in a foreign city. Starring Ronit Elkabetz, three-time winner of the Israeli “Oscar.”

· A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, Wayne Wang’s adaptation of stories by young writer Yiyun Li, explores the cultural differences between China and America while a father (Henry O) travels to Spokane to visit his daughter.

· Stefan Ruzowitzky’s (THE INHERITORS, TFF 1998) THE COUNTERFEITERS is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history set up by the Nazis in 1936.

· PERSEPOLIS, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud’s adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic novel by the same name, is a gripping, bittersweet and surprisingly funny female coming-of-age tale. Catherine Deneuve, Sean Penn, Gena Rowlands and Iggy Pop provide voice support.

· WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER?, David Nicholl’s adaptation of poet-novelist Blake Morrison’s memoir directed by Anand Tucker (HILARY AND JACKIE, SHOPGIRL), tells the story of a son's conflicting memories of his dying father. Starring Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent.

· I’M NOT THERE, Todd Haynes’s (FAR FROM HEAVEN) essay-poem on the life of Bob Dylan, where seven characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work, features an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Ben Wishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, Heath Ledger, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

· In TERROR’S ADVOCATE, Telluride veteran Barbet Schroeder (OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS, TFF 2000; REVERSAL OF FURTUNE, TFF 1990; IDI AMIN DADA, TFF 1974) documents the story of the controversial French lawyer Jacques Vergès, a former Free French Forces guerrilla who defended unpopular figures such as Carlos the Jackal and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

· INTO THE WILD, writer-director Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction tale of Chris McCandless’s (Emile Hirsch) solo journey into Alaska’s most remote wilderness.

· JAR CITY, adapted from one of Arnaldur Indridason’s best selling detective-novel series by writer-director Baltasar Kormákur, is a police thriller set in contemporary Iceland starring Ingvar Sigurdsson.

· JELLYFISH, co-directed by popular Israeli novelist Etgar Keret and his wife, screenwriter Shira Geffen, who won Cannes’ Camera d’Or for their film, follows three women through their lives in Tel Aviv. Stars Sarah Adler, Ma-nenita De Latorre and Noa Knoller.

· In writer-director Li Yang’s BLIND MOUNTAIN, the promise of a decent paying job lures a woman to a desolate farming village in Northern China only to find out she’s essentially been sold in to slavery.

· BRICK LANE, Sarah Gavron’s adaptation of Monica Ali’s controversial Booker Prize-winning novel, follows Nazneen (Satish Kaushik) from her impoverished life in Bangladesh to post-9/11 London, where she struggles to make sense of her life.

· Oscar-winning Kevin Macdonald returns to Telluride (LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, TFF 2006; TOUCHING THE VOID, TFF 2003; FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER, TFF 2000) with MY ENEMY’S ENEMY, a documentary that tracks Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, a.k.a. the Butcher of Lyon.

· CARGO 200, Aleksei Balabanov’s (THE WAR, TFF 2002) controversial film set in 1984 ravaged industrialized Russia offers a detailed portrait of the Soviet Union in its death throes.

· MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, from writer-director Noah Baumbach, tells the story of Margot (Nicole Kidman), who tries to stop the wedding of her sister Pauline (1993 TFF Tributee Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the less-than-impressive Malcolm (Jack Black). Ciarán Hinds and John Turturro round out the ensemble cast.

· In ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Werner Herzog explores the vast empty splendor of Antarctica and, along with the physicists, biologists and volcanologists he interviews, tries to extract meaning from this desolate place.

· WIND MAN, Khuat Akhmetov’s striking second feature centers around a struggling town in post-Soviet Kazakhstan visited by a mysterious, aging, sickly man with wings and the gift of flight.

· In JOURNEY WITH PETER SELLARS, Mark Kidel travels the globe with Sellars (TFF Guest Director, 1999) to reveal the inner life of a true visionary.

· STEEP!, writer-director Mark Obenhaus’s extreme skiing documentary features ski legends Stefano de Benedetti, Glen Plake, Doug Coombs and Seth Morrison.

Along with featuring some of today’s best contemporary filmmakers, the Festival pays tribute to the classic films and filmmakers of yesterday: Pordenone presents a George Eastman House restoration of King Vidor’s silent film, THE BIG PARADE, with a live musical performance by Gabriel Thibaudeau; BOUND BY CHASTITY RULES by Korean director Shin Sang-ok; PEOPLE ON SUNDAY, recently restored by the Netherlands Film Museum, co-directed by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer from a script by Billy Wilder and Kurt and Robert Siodmark, with a live performance from the Mont Alto Orchestra performing its original score; and Richard Lester’s newly restored and digitally remastered HELP!.

The 34th Telluride Film Festival’s Guest Director Edith R. Kramer, world renowned film programmer and retired Senior Film Curator and Director of the Pacific Film Archive (PFA) at University of California, Berkeley, presents five additional archival programs: GEORGE KUCHAR, MOVIEMAKER, a collection of the director’s work on 8mm preservation prints from the Anthology Film Archives; Marco Ferreri’s DILLINGER IS DEAD; Teuvo Tulio’s THE WAY YOU WANTED ME with the Finnish Film Archive’s preservation print; Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat’s MILLIONS LIKE US restored from its original camera negative by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive; and Paul Fejos’s MARIE, A HUNGARIAN LEGEND.

Backlot, Telluride’s intimate new screening room and film showcase features ten films about films:

· A LUCKY ADVENTURER OF KOREAN FILM: Director Shin Sang-ok, about the kidnapping and imprisonment of Sang-ok and his wife, actress Choi Eun-hie. Directed by Lee Sung-soo.

· BERGMAN ISLAND: Ingmar Bergman on Faro Island, Cinema & Life, features clips from behind-the-scenes footage from THE SEVENTH SEAL, THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY and PERSONA. Directed by Marie Nyrerod.

· CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY, about British-born author Christopher Isherwood and his unconventional relationship with Don Bachardy. Directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara.

· THE DAWN OF SOUND: How Movies Learned to Talk, Warner Brothers presentation of the history of cinema’s sound pioneers.

· ESTRELLAS, a story about Julio Arrieta and the unemployed extras, actors and crews he hires on South American productions. Directed by Federico León and Marcos Martínez.

· FOR THE LOVE OF MOVIES: The Story of American Film Criticism, featuring interviews from J. Hoberman, Elvis Mitchell, David D’Arcy, John Powers, Roger Ebert, Richard Schickel and many more. Directed by Gerald Peary.

· HATS OFF, follows the day-to-day life of Mimi Weddell, a 92 year old actress living in New York City. Directed by Jyll Johnstone.

· MAN IN THE SHADOWS: VAL LEWTON, Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones celebrate Lewton, his key team and their films.

· MAURICE PIALAT: LOVE EXISTS, a tribute to the late Pialat. Directed by Anne-Marie Faux and Jean-Pierre Devillers.

· THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG, a restoration of the original from 1906. By John, Charles and Nevin Tait.

Also in the Backlot lobby, attendees will be able to view a collection on loan from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences entitled, “Erich von Stroheim: A Life Discovered,” a photography exhibit including family photographs, handwritten documents and correspondence to demonstrate the fantasies, fictions and obsessions that would later play out in von Stroheim’s films, along with the stills from the films themselves.

TFF’s annual Medallion Award, which honors the passionate heroes of cinema including writers, historians and other film lovers, will go to Leonard Maltin, writer of the annual Movie Guide and numerous other publiciations, producer, teacher and movie fan. Maltin will present REDISCOVERING VITAPHONE, a selection of rare and delightful Vitaphone short subjects.

Rounding out the Festival’s program is the SHOWcase for shorts, seven short films chosen to precede selected feature films; Filmmakers of Tomorrow featuring three shorts programs by emerging filmmakers, one of which includes eight shorts from Mexico including some produced by Telluride alumni Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Ganzález Iñárritu; six conversations featuring interviews between Festival guests; three free panel discussions open to the public; and two student programs: Student Symposium, which provides 50 graduate and undergraduate students with a weekend-long immersion in cinema, and the City Lights Project that provides 15 high school students and five teachers from three divergent schools the opportunity to participate in a concentrated program of screenings and discussions.

The 34th Festival poster was designed by German-born, Oakland-based Mark Stock, whose work can be found in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art (New York and San Francisco), The Library of Congress and The National Gallery.

The 2007 Telluride Film Festival’s major sponsors include Apple (presenting sponsor), Starz (lead sponsor), Pine Ridge Napa Valley Wines, Telluride Mountain Village, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Microsoft, Heineken, Subaru, TCM, NBC Universal, Panasonic, Dolby, Variety, Kodak, Entertainment Weekly and, National Endowment for the Arts, Sony, Cornerstone, Wright Group, Boston Light and Sound and Telluride Foundation.

The Festival’s program will be posted in its entirety on Friday, August 31 at 11:00 am PST. Visit:

Film stills available for download online at:

*Please note photo credit information if applicable.

About the Telluride Film Festival

Co-founded in 1974 by Tom Luddy, James Card and Bill and Stella Pence, the Telluride Film Festival is a four-day, international educational event celebrating the art of film, nestled in the tiny mountain village of Telluride, Colorado. The festival exists to provide the opportunity for lovers and creators of cinema to come together, see and discuss the most interesting film work of the past and the present. Festival headquarters are in Berkeley, California.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who's the best covert operative?

Bourne vs. Bond. I was having a discussion on KVOR on Friday about which is super-covert operative is better... and which movies are better.

I think the Bourne franchise has such visceral thrills, each chase and fight scene so well constructed, that it pushed Bond to be more real.

"Casino Royale" owes as much to Bourne - for upping the ante - as it does to actor Daniel Craig and director Martin Campbell.

That said, Bond will be the one with the legs. "Bourne Ultimatum" wrapped up the Bourne saga with a nice ribbon. I don't think I need to see another Bourne movie.

Bond is another story. I'm looking forward to the next Bond, and I'm thinking Craig can carry the martini for another four or five films.

I was a big fan of Craig's. He brought a rawness to the part.

But I can't help but wonder ... if this was the beginning of Bond's career as a 00 agent, how many years in charm school does he need before he becomes Sean Connery?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cell phone call --- D'oh!

OK, it's annoying when somebody in the movie theater forgets to turn off their cell phone. It's even more annoying when they run outside the theater so they can answer it.

But during my recent viewing of "The Simpsons," some bozo actually answered his phone and continued a loud conversation....

"Yeah, I'm at 'The Simpson's.' .... So, how are you doing."

Soon the boos drowned out the conversation.

The best retort to one of these knuckleheads I'd heard in this situation was somebody who shouted: "CAN'T TALK RIGHT NOW... I'M AT THE FREAKIN' MOVIE THEATER!!!!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Eddie Murphy coming to Denver

Just got word from the Associated Press that the new Eddie Murphy movie “NowhereLand” is scheduled to shoot in Denver starting in October.
“This will be the largest production in Colorado in several
years and we hope this is a sign of good things to come for our
film industry,” Gov. Bill Ritter said Wednesday in a statement
issued through the Colorado Film Commission.
“We are thrilled the Mile High City will be a backdrop for this
high visibility production,” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper added.
Murphy’s character is described as a financial executive whose
career is spiraling downward, but who finds solutions to his
problems in the imaginary world of his daughter.