Mila Kunis (#110 of 9)

Live Wire: An Interview with The Comedy of Errors Star Hamish Linklater

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Live Wire: An Interview with <em>The Comedy of Errors</em> Star Hamish Linklater
Live Wire: An Interview with <em>The Comedy of Errors</em> Star Hamish Linklater

What kind of Hamish Linklater fan you are likely depends on what kind of entertainment you take in the most. If you're a TV buff, odds are you know him from The New Adventures of Old Christine, or maybe Gideon's Crossing. If you mainly watch films, you've surely seen his standout work in a range of projects, from Miranda July's The Future and the old cult flick Groove to Greta Gerwig's vehicle Lola Versus and this year's 42. Theater junkies know Linklater from his extensive work on stage, which dates all the way back to his childhood, when his mother, Kristin Linklater, a vocal technique teacher and current chair of the Acting Division at Columbia University, made him aware of the Bard almost immediately. Throughout his theater career, the 36-year-old has starred with the likes of the late Jill Clayburgh in Off Broadway productions, made his Broadway debut in 2011's Seminar with Alan Rickman and Jerry O'Connell, and made repeated returns to the Public's Shakespeare in the Park, appearing in 2009's Twelfth Night and 2010's The Merchant of Venice. This season, the actor returns to the outdoor venue in The Comedy of Errors, which reunites him with director Daniel Sullivan and his frequent co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Poster Lab Oz: The Great and Powerful

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Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and Powerful

A swirling storm is the proper framing device for Oz: The Great and Powerful's first poster, which heralds its film by tossing trademark elements into a kind of artful rinse cycle. Set for a 2013 release, this Sam-Raimi-helmed Wizard of Oz prequel appears devoid of Dorothy, yet packed with evidence of L. Frank Baum's brand.

Seeming both introductory and contradictory to its immortal predecessor, the movie tells of its titular wizard's rise as a magician and a man, promising an arc of self-discovery that doesn't quite jell with the arc of Frank Morgan's fraud behind the curtain. But, don't fret, kids: there'll still be a poppy field's worth of faithful stuff to keep you comfy, and it's presented here in a yin-yang approach that matches dark drama with glittering fantasy. The Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, a swarm of tornadoes, and one integral hot air balloon fill this well-executed design, teasing a new adventure with unmistakable imagery. In another poster, the title almost certainly would have been made more centrally visible, but in this case, it's hardly necessary. If the main man's mode of transportation doesn't wrangle fans, the gleam of all that Oz-ian architecture will, suggesting classic whimsy amid a tumultuous scene that also features some Avatar-esque landforms. The image invites viewers to return to a place they know while still being strangers in a strange land.

Oscar Prospects: Moneyball

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Oscar Prospects: Moneyball
Oscar Prospects: Moneyball

If ever there were a Brad Pitt performance worthy of awards talk, surely it's the actor's turn in the unexpectedly sophisticated Moneyball, a film that, among other things, boasts a gratifying display of movie-star maturation. Unaided by his legendary torso, or age makeup from a crackerjack team of digital artists (who, let's face it, were the true recipients of that 2008 nomination), Pitt settles oh-so-comfortably into the gently weathered skin of Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who led a pack of undervalued nobodies to almost-victory in the team's 2002 season. An overhyped star player turned bemused industry vet, Beane undoubtedly resonated with Pitt, who, unsurprisingly, holds a producing credit here, and fought through the film's multiple rewrites and director swaps. It's anyone's guess whether or not the character identification was more influential than, say, the humility of fatherhood or the at-long-last release from the shackles of heartthrobdom, but on screen, Pitt has never been more enjoyable or interesting to watch, those oft-accentuated, around-the-eye wrinkles emblematic of the rich nuances that have long been lacking in his work.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

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Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actress in a Supporting Role

At least three of the spots in Oscar's supporting actress category have been sewn up since the start of the awards season—one for triple-A method actress and Golden Globe-winner Melissa Leo in The Fighter, a second for her costar and possible Oscar-night spoiler Amy Adams, the around-the-way alpha to Leo's Medea-like omega, with Helena Bonham Carter happy to be riding shotgun for her piffle of a performance in The King's Speech, wondering if her winsome solicitation of Geoffrey Rush's services for her king of a husband, or her winsome intake of stammer-proofing breath, will constitute her likely nanosecond-length Oscar clip. By most accounts, True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld is also a lock, but like everyone else, we have to ask, “In which category?”

The Conversations: Darren Aronofsky Part II: Black Swan

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The Conversations: Darren Aronofsky Part II: Black Swan
The Conversations: Darren Aronofsky Part II: Black Swan

Ed Howard: Jason, you ended the first half of our conversation about Darren Aronofsky by wondering both where the director would go next after his first four films and which Aronofsky would be represented in Black Swan, his fifth feature. Throughout that exchange, we mostly divided Aronofsky's career in half, considering Pi and Requiem for a Dream as blunt, bleak rehearsals for the more fully realized explorations of thematically similar territory in The Fountain and The Wrestler. So I suppose it's appropriate that for the first half of Black Swan, I found myself thinking I was watching another Requiem for a Dream, while the second half ventured into the richer, deeper territory of Aronofsky's more recent career. It's appropriate, too, that the film itself is so concerned with halving and doubling, with mirrors and doppelgangers, built as it is around a production of the ballet Swan Lake in which the dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) is asked to play the dual role of the Swan Queen and her dark rival, the titular Black Swan.

It's a fascinating film, and especially so in the context of Aronofsky's career, because it feels like such a consolidation of everything he's been exploring and dealing with in his other work. I haven't read any reviews of Black Swan yet, but I feel pretty confident predicting that at least a few of them will call it “The Wrestler in ballet slippers,” or something similar, and they will be more or less accurate. As in The Wrestler and his other films, Aronofsky is exploring his protagonist's singleminded pursuit of her obsession, in this case Nina's pursuit of dancing perfection. As in The Wrestler, Aronofsky is recycling familiar cinematic clichés, drawing on the backstage movie's tropes of domineering mothers, neurotic stars, ambitious rivals, aging hasbeens, and predatory/sexual relationships between male directors and female performers. In working with these clichés, however, Aronofsky reinvests them with vitality and freshness through the raw intensity of his filmmaking.

Nina wants, desperately and obsessively, to be “perfect,” though the film itself eschews this purity for grime, chaos and fragmentation, mocking Nina's desire to be perfect by running her through an increasingly harrowing gauntlet of real and imagined trials and terrors. Black Swan begins in methodical, observational realism and slowly morphs, like a woman becoming a swan, into a psychological horror film, a dizzying fever dream that haunts the audience and the central character alike. I'm still wrestling with this dense film, and I'm sure we'll delve more into its substance and its connections to Aronofsky's oeuvre throughout this conversation. But one thing I'm already sure of is that I can't forget this film; it's provocative and viscerally exciting and visually compelling. I haven't totally resolved my feelings about this film or its effect on me, but I'm already sure that it has affected me.

Review: The Book of Eli

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Review: <em>The Book of Eli</em>
Review: <em>The Book of Eli</em>

There's a reason why superheroes were originally dismissed as naive power fantasies for impotent men. Several, actually, but one in particular comes to mind: Superheroes represent and reflect ideals that society at large usually considers to be outmoded or outdated. When they save people, they (should) do it out of pure selflessness—a utilitarian sense of necessity that goes well beyond individual needs. Eli (Denzel Washington, armed with an omnipresent wince and a squint) in The Book of Eli is a lousy superhero because screenwriter Gary Whitta and directors Allen and Albert Hughes make him more of a necessary evil than a truly good guy. He's born from a uniquely unsettling kind of cynicism, one that cloaks its misanthropy in the guise of holier-than-thou religious faith.

Eli is a compromised hero, one who assumes that, because the world is fallen, he's better than everybody else (because God told him so). He has no obligation to immediately share his wealth of divine wisdom, and though his mission is in fact to spread the word of God, he does it in such a way that one can't help but look askance at him. His faith is his strength, but it's a selfish kind of faith, one that places the prophet and the medium that it's communicated through before the essential lessons he's guarding. Trust me: I'm a Jew. I know things.

Lost in Adaptation: Max Payne

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Lost in Adaptation: Max Payne
Lost in Adaptation: Max Payne

We're introduced to Max Payne (Mark “Talks to Animals” Wahlberg) through disjointed jump-cuts, as he's gasping for air in a frozen river and grumbling,“I don't believe in life. I believe in pain. I believe in death.” Somewhere in the first 120-seconds, screenwriter Beau Thorne manages to completely and utterly deviate from a video game script by Sam Lake that followed traditional noir and graphic novel formats so completely (in structure and as storyboard) that to deviate from it seems insane.