Thursday, August 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, August 21, 2014, 10:36 AM
'When the Game Stands Tall' (Photo via TriStar Pictures)

LOS ANGELES ( - The religion of high-school football commingles with plain old-fashioned religion in "When the Game Stands Tall," an inspirational sports drama (from Sony's in-house, faith-based label Affirm Films) that goes long on rectitudinous sermonizing but comes up short on gridiron thrills or genuine love for the game. Save for a couple of fine performances relegated to the sidelines, no one really brings their "A" game to this lazily executed late-summer programmer a "Friday Night Lights" for the Sunday School crowd graced by little of the storytelling craft and skillful emotional manipulation that have distinguished the recent wave of superior Disney sports pics. After an opening weekend that may see a bump from church group sales, expect "Game" to do most of its rushing and passing on home screens. 

Like most entries in this particular genre, "When the Game Stands Tall" traffics in the usual tropes of scrappy heroes and come-from-behind victories -- except that, in this case, the underdogs are more like alpha dogs, and they don't go from last to first so much as from first to second and back again. But then, there's more to life than just winning -- a mantra the movie announces with such frequency and fervor that if you don't leave the theater with it ringing in your head, you should head straight for the nearest ear doctor. When our story begins in the fall of 2003, the De La Salle High School Spartans of tree-lined Concord, CA are coming to the end of yet another undefeated season that has left them with the longest unbroken winning streak -- 151 games -- in American sports history. But dark clouds loom on the horizon: a large chunk of the team's starting lineup is due to graduate in the spring, and the underclassmen waiting to take their places seem to lack a certain team spirit.

"The streak was never our goal," says the Spartans' mild-mannered coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), a religious studies teacher at this private Catholic enclave who preaches the gospel of good sportsmanship (with a bit of Luke and Matthew thrown in for good measure) and rarely opens his mouth without some similarly honeyed homily dropping out of it. It's not giving much away to say that De La Salle's streak does come to an ignominious end, but not before good Coach L almost meets his maker thanks to a massive coronary (prefigured, in a mark of director Thomas Carter's ham-fisted style, by multiple close-ups of Coach's cigarette stash). 

POSTED: Thursday, August 21, 2014, 10:23 AM
'Sin City: A Dame to Kill for.' (Photo via Dimension Films)

LOS ANGELES ( - It may be in 3D this time around, but Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's monotone, monochrome comicbook universe feels flatter than ever in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Rare indeed is the movie that features this many bared breasts, pummeled crotches and severed noggins and still leaves you checking your watch every 10 minutes. But that's the dubious accomplishment of this visually arresting but grimly repetitive exercise in style, set against a sordid neo-noir landscape populated almost exclusively by tormented tough guys and femme-fatale fetish objects. Nearly a decade after the first "Sin City" grossed more than $158 million worldwide, it's doubtful whether the directors' overlapping fanbases can muster the same level of excitement for a picture about which the best one can really say is, "It sure beats 'The Spirit.' "

Set in motion not long after the 2005 release of "Sin City," but delayed following the commercial failure of Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse" (2007), this long-gestating sequel proudly announces itself, like the first film, as a work of slavish fidelity to its source. The full title is "Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," as if to reassure those pulp purists in the audience that nothing they see and hear, from the silky black-and-white images to the sub-Spillane hard-boiled dialogue, will deviate from the graphic novelist's original vision. Still, Miller has adapted his own work with a slightly freer hand this time: Two of the four twisted tales presented here were written specifically for the movie, though they're all of a narrative piece, revealing loose connections with each other as well as with the characters and events of the first film.

Some viewers may be a bit fuzzy on those earlier plot points, a possibility that the filmmakers seem to have taken into account. The opening vignette, adapted from Miller's short story "Just Another Saturday Night," begins in a haze of confusion: The hulking fighter known as Marv (once again played with an outsized schnoz and a smidgin of soul by Mickey Rourke) awakens somewhere near the Sin City projects, with no memory of how he got there. A few jolts of violence aside, this prologue mainly serves to reacquaint us with Miller and Rodriguez's high-contrast aesthetic -- a sophisticated merging of live-action and green screen in which shades of gray are offset by daubs of digital color, accentuating, say, the red light of a police car or the golden glow of a stripper's blonde wig. The story also re-establishes Marv as the most indelible fixture of this highly artificial world, even if Rourke's growling voiceover seems directed mainly at those viewers who found Christian Bale's Batman too comprehensible. If gravel could get lung cancer, it would sound like Marv.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 2:13 PM
Paul Rudd as 'Ant-Man' in Marvel's 'Ant-Man.' (Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

LOS ANGELES ( - With production underway on "Ant-Man" in San Francisco, Marvel Studios has released the first photo of Paul Rudd in character in the film. 

Rudd plays con-man Scott Lang who must help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his Ant-Man suit, which gives the ability to shrink in scale and increase his strength. Using the suit, the two plan to pull off a heist that will save the world.

Marvel started principal photography Aug. 19 in San Francisco with Peyton Reed at the helm. Much of the film will shoot in Atlanta.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:45 PM
INDIO, CA - APRIL 12: Rapper Kid Cudi performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

LOS ANGELES ( - Giovanni Ribisi, Ty Simpkins, Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi), Mark Feuerstein, Kevin Corrigan and Juno Temple have joined Bron Studios' drama "Meadowland." 

Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Elisabeth Moss and Natasha Lyonne have been previously announced for the project, the directorial debut of cinematographer Reed Morano from a screenplay by Chris Rossi. 

The film begins principal photography in New York City on Monday.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:26 PM
Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley in 'If I Stay.' (Photo via Warner Bros.)

LOS ANGELES ( - A horrific road accident leaves a teenage girl stranded between life and death in "If I Stay," a life-flashing-before-her-eyes melodrama that similarly hovers in a weird limbo between sensitivity and clumsiness. Out-of-body experiences and gooey romantic interludes aside, this adaptation of Gayle Forman's 2009 bestseller hinges on the sort of relatably horrific worst-nightmare scenario that naturally invites, and rewards, a certain level of viewer empathy. But while many in the audience may well find themselves getting misty-eyed as the screen fades to white and softly crooned rock tunes flood the soundtrack, the overall execution is so pedestrian that it's possible to feel more moved by the filmmakers' good intentions than by the actual emotional content onscreen. Warner Bros.' attempt to cash in on the current craze for mortality-obsessed YA material -- call it "The Fault in Our Cars" -- should enjoy decent B.O. staying power among the book's fans and beyond.

The "I" of the title is Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz), a lovely, kinda-shy high schooler and gifted cellist who lives in Oregon with her ultra-hip parents, Kat (Mireille Enos) and Denny (Joshua Leonard), and her cute little brother, Teddy (Jakob Davies). Mia is already in an anxious state of uncertainty when the movie opens, awaiting an acceptance letter from Juilliard that might determine the future of not only her career, but also her relationship with her up-and-coming rock-star boyfriend, Adam (Jamie Blackley). But a much more crucial decision awaits her after a family car ride turns deadly one snowy morning, and when Mia awakens sometime later by the side of the road, she sees her own unconscious body being strapped into an ambulance and transported to the hospital. 

Mia hasn't died; she's just fallen into a coma. Not all her family members are so lucky, though, in keeping with the emotional manipulation that comes with the territory, the truth about exactly who has and hasn't survived is deliberately withheld for maximum suspense and devastation. Invisible and inaudible to those around her, Mia's spirit wanders the hospital, eavesdropping on her loved ones as they try to cope and pray for her to make it through surgery. She contemplates her uncertain future and wonders whether she should even bother regaining consciousness. But she also reflects on her past, helpfully filled in by long flashbacks that show a young Mia (Gabrielle Cerys Haslett) falling in love with the cello, to the horrified amusement of her mom and especially her former punk-rocker dad. Years later, she'll fall in love with another talented musician, Adam, who hails from a very different world of bar gigs, road tours and whispers of a possible record deal -- a world that her parents, and even her Iggy Pop-loving brother, seem to know far better than she does.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:15 PM
Jung Ji-Hoon (left) and Bruce Willis (right) in 'The Prince.' (Photo via Lionsgate)

LOS ANGELES ( - Monday night's premiere of Lionsgate's "The Prince" at the Chinese evoked plenty of nostalgia for the old Westerns -- even though the story's set in modern-day New Orleans.

During the post-screening bash at the Hollywood Supper Club, director Brian A. Miller cited "The Searchers," "Unforgiven" and "Open Range" as influences in the tale of a retired assassin drawn back into the life when his daughter is kidnapped.

"All we lacked was cowboy hats and the swinging saloon doors," Miller noted.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:03 PM
A scene from 'Monument to Michael Jackson.' (Photo via Facebook)

LOS ANGELES ( - A mild-mannered dreamer's absurd plan to spur tourism in his dying village goes spectacularly awry in Darko Lungulov's "Monument to Michael Jackson," an endearing tragicomedy that mixes caustic Eastern European humor with sharp social commentary. In telling the story of one man who makes a sacrifice for his community, the Serbian writer-helmer stylizes his second feature (after 2009's "Here and There") as a Balkan Western of sorts, satirizing the moral malaise clouding postwar Serbia while also illustrating the country's problems with yet another generation of fanatical nationalists. Following the pic's Karlovy Vary premiere, additional fests will venerate this "Monument."

The action begins in a dusty, decrepit village in rural Serbia, circa 2009, where the local council finally gets around to removing a communist-era statue from the central square, leaving only an empty plinth. Although it is not stated outright, this is Lungulov's neat visual shorthand to indicate that while the WWII heroes of socialist Yugoslavia may no longer be politically correct, the not-so-distant civil wars that created a separate Serbia failed to supply new warriors to celebrate.

Across from the square works the protagonist, slightly pudgy local barber Marko (Boris Milivojevic), a poetic dreamer, whose flights of fancy once earned him the love of his life, Ljubinka (Natasa Tapuskovic, spunky). But Marko's perpetual optimism, seemingly ungrounded in their grim reality, led Ljubinka to leave him. More than anything, Marko longs to win her back.

POSTED: Friday, August 15, 2014, 3:48 PM
HOLLYWOOD - MAY 24: Original Z-Boys skater Jay Adams arrives at the Premiere of TriStar Pictures 'Lords Of Dogtown' at the Mann's Chinese Theater on May 24, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images).

Aug 15 ( - Jay Adams, the skater portrayed by Emile Hirsch in the 2005 film “Lords of Dogtown,” died Thursday of a heart attack, his manager told TheWrap on Friday. Adams was 53. 

Adams, born in Venice, Calif., had no history of heart trouble, his manager said.

Adams had been on a surfing vacation for the past few months in Mexico with his family. It was the first time the skater had been allowed out of the country for some time because of legal troubles. (Adams, who struggled with addiction but has been clean for years, had been in and out of prison on various charges.) 

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Consider our Movies blog your essential guide to new movies and classics, interviews with filmmakers and stars, news and views on the latest screen trends, reviews and the occasional rant.

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