6 items from 2007
Y Tu Mama Tambien co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna staged a gala dinner in Mexico City on Saturday night in an effort to raise funds and awareness about poverty and injustice in the country. The two actors and friends teamed up with rocker Peter Gabriel's Witness human rights organization and Mexico's Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights to stage the $300-a-head event. At a press conference before the gala, Bernal congratulated filmmakers for bringing light to terrible acts: "Documentaries show us the injustices in the country where we live, that this problem exists. We can't escape it." Luna and Garcia Bernal have launched a new production company, Canana, and plan to make a series of documentaries aimed at raising awareness about failures of the Mexican judicial system. »
Those who see Judd Apatow's name on the credits of "Superbad" might expect another comedy along the lines of his smash hits, "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin". This time, however, Apatow was the producer, not the writer or director, so expectations should be lowered.
His "Knocked Up" star, Seth Rogen, wrote the script with his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, when they were still young teenagers. Although the script undoubtedly was polished since then, it still has the juvenile, hermetic feel of early adolescent autobiography. The two main characters are even named Seth and Evan, and they are played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, respectively. The director, Greg Mottola, was responsible for a classy indie film of a decade ago, "The Daytrippers", and he brings some skill to the enterprise, as do the actors.
It's the script that brings the movie down. Guys who are the same age as the characters will whoop it up, but the film won't reach beyond that young male demographic, as "Knocked Up" and "Virgin" managed to do. Because it obviously was made on a low budget, "Superbad" will make money for Sony, but don't expect it to have much shelf life after the kids are back in school.
Like "American Graffiti" and "Dazed and Confused", the film all takes place during a single day and night. But it doesn't have the smarts or the depths of those ensemble comedies. Instead it centers on the simple notion of underage kids itching to get booze and have sex.
Seth and Evan, are nerds, but the joke is that they don't realize they're nerds -- or at least they won't admit it. The overweight Seth can't even keep pace with a one-legged boy in gym class, and the brainier Evan is so shy that he's almost invisible. Nevertheless, at Seth's prodding, they try to worm their way in with the popular crowd, and they almost succeed when their even geekier pal, Fogell (newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse), manages to nab a fake ID that should enable them to buy liquor for the cool kids' wild party. Needless to say, complications ensue.
Some of the patter is funny, but the movie lacks the clever plot developments and the character nuances of a classic like "American Graffiti". And it's missing the belly laughs of earlier raunchfests "American Pie" and "There's Something About Mary." The film never achieves a hilariously outrageous epiphany like the hair gel scene in "Mary" -- a scene that can turn a teen comedy into a legend.
The friendship of Seth and Evan has homoerotic undertones, and there's a funny scene where they declare their undying love for each other. But because this is an American movie, don't expect the frankness of Alfonso Cuaron's "Y Tu Mama Tambien", which took the close friendship of two horny teenage pals to its logical conclusion. In "Superbad", the lovefest between the best friends is strictly platonic, which makes it nonthreatening to the crowds at the multiplex.
A parallel plot concerns the misadventures of Fogell, who gets picked up by a couple of cops (Rogen, Bill Hader) and spends the night in their squad car. The byplay with the cops grows tiresome, but Mintz-Plasse is a major find, and he steals the movie as he etches a definitive portrait of a blithely self-confident dweeb.
Martha MacIsaac and Emma Stone as the girls who captivate Evan and Seth are appealing, but the female roles are woefully underwritten. "Superbad" is stuck in a state of male arrested development, just like the characters. The movie's low budget shows in rather primitive technical credits. The super-cheap "Superbad" will get laughs from undemanding kids, but it doesn't come close to transcending its dimwitted genre.
Director: Greg Mottola
Screenwriters/executive producers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Producers: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson
Director of photography: Russ Alsobrook
Production designer: Chris Spellman
Music: Lyle Workman
Co-producer: Dara Weintraub
Costume designer: Debra McGuire
Editor: William Kerr
Seth: Jonah Hill
Evan: Michael Cera
Fogell: Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Officer Michaels: Seth Rogen
Officer Slater: Bill Hader
Becca: Martha MacIsaac
Jules: Emma Stone
Francis: Joe Lo Truglio
Mark: Kevin Corrigan
Running time -- 112 minutes
MPAA rating: R
MEXICO CITY -- When Universal Pictures and its specialty division Focus Features International signed an ambitious five-film deal with Cha Cha Cha, the upstart shingle of helmers Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the groundbreaking venture allowed the partners to form a dream team of Mexican talent.
An expected payoff is already evident with the company's first project, Rudo y Cursi. Currently in production on Mexico's Pacific coast, the film's credits read like a who's who of contemporary Mexican cinema.
Cuaron, Del Toro and Inarritu, the so-called Three Amigos of a new wave of Mexican crossover hits, are co-producing the picture, which reunites Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, the stars of Cuaron's hit road movie Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Y Tu Mama scribe Carlos Cuaron, brother of Alfonso, wrote the script and is directing the film. Academy Award winner Eugenio Caballero is on board as production designer.
Carlos Cuaron describes the story as a love-hate relationship between two brothers who play professional soccer. In futbol-mad Mexico, a soccer-themed movie featuring two of Mexico's most bankable actors is almost a guaranteed hit.
NEW YORK -- There's friendship as well as national pride evident in the feature directorial debut of Mexican actor Diego Luna. This biographical documentary, not centering on the controversial Venezuelan president but rather famed Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez, was co-executive produced by Gael Garcia Bernal, Luna's co-star in Y Tu Mama Tambien. Chavez recently was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Luna's film is an appropriately modest, video-shot affair, chronicling its subject's rise from poverty to the top ranks of the boxing world, where he went on to set the record for winning the most title fights in history.
Although he well chronicles Chavez's lengthy career in which he fought in a variety of weight classes, the filmmaker concentrates on the personal aspects of his subject's often-troubled life and the complications that inevitably accompanied his hard-won fame and wealth. Besides the extensive footage of the fighter, there are filmed interviews with such central figures as Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya, Don King and others.
Among the topics dealt with at length are the collapse of Chavez's marriage and the deleterious effects it had on him; his troublesome relationship with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari; his controversial associations with well-known drug traffickers; and, after his own career eventually wound down, his current career management of his son, also a boxer.
Fairly crude in its visual and narrative styles, Chavez is nonetheless compelling viewing thanks to the fascination exerted by its charismatic central figure and the obvious passion and affection with which the filmmaker tackled the project.
NEW YORK -- John Lange has been promoted to executive vp and co-general sales manager at Picturehouse, the latest in a series of appointments and promotions at the New Line Cinema and HBO specialty division.
Lange will retain his co-general sales manager title alongside Bill Thompson. He will oversee all sales policies, including terms and settlements, and report to senior executive vp marketing and distribution Arthur Marblestone.
The executive joined Picturehouse when it formed in spring 2005 as senior vp and co-general sales manager. He was president of Lange & Associates division Lange Film Releasing.
Picturehouse president Bob Berney frequently worked with Lange's Illinois-based sales/distribution company during his previous positions at Newmarket Films and IFC Films. They collaborated on such films as Memento, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Whale Rider, Monster, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Passion of the Christ.
Director Alfonso Cuaron has two remarkable films on the Children of Men DVD -- the dystopian feature and a startling half-hour documentary that explores the macro-global issues raised by the movie.
The Possibility of Hope docu doesn't have much hope in it. Cuaron rounds up a half-dozen philosophers and futurists who see overpopulation, economic repression and global warming sending the planet into a new dark age. These guys make Al Gore look like a shiny-eyed optimist.
"It's not a matter of people surviving," scientist and philosopher James Lovelock says. "It's a matter of civilization surviving. ... It can easily degenerate into a dark age again. It's quite possible that will happen."
Writer-activist Naomi Klein says of global warming: "I wouldn't say human extinction. But a genocidal (outcome)."
The short is an unusual made-for-DVD extra because it doesn't exist to promote the film or exploit its thinkers' big-headline conclusions. This is grad school territory, where the first reference is to Hegel's metaphysics. The topic is no less than the fate of the human race.
The downtrodden future always seems to elude filmmakers, but many have tried, including the mighty Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange). Few of the films feel plausible, probably because the filmmakers overamped their visions. Children of Men succeeds by Cuaron's insistence that all scenes from his year 2027 "show me the reference in real life." The movie -- about a world where women have mysteriously become infertile -- was one of the best of last year, overlooked at the Oscars. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine star.
Children of Men looks suitably grim on Universal's single-disc release, with the grit, grain and grays of the film all intact. The 1.85 widescreen images are enhanced for 16x9 monitors. (There also is a full-screen version.) The front-centered audio is Dolby 5.1 only.
Other extras include an analysis of the film by philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who calls it, curiously, a remake of Cuaron's Y tu mama tambien; a trio of deleted scenes, including one in which Owen and Danny Huston wander nonchalantly among the great artworks of the lost civilization; a discussion of Cuaron's technique of long, "incredibly choreographed takes"; and a special-effects study of the film's miracle baby.
6 items from 2007
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