Alec Baldwin

Blue Jasmine

The first thing you’re likely to hear from a fan of Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine, is that star Cate Blanchett is amazing (because she is) and that the perpetually Oscar-worthy actress turns in yet another Oscar-worthy performance in the auteur’s black as night comedy. The second thing you’re likely to hear from that same fan is that co-star Sally Hawkins is also amazing and that she proves herself adept at supporting the work Blanchett does while also imperceptibly straddling the line between comedy and drama with her own performance. Blue Jasmine, on a whole, lives and dies at the hand of its two central female performances – so it’s good news that Blanchett and Hawkins are both more than up to the task at hand, but it’s even better news that the film’s male-dominated supporting cast is also tremendous. A fairy tale about the 1%, Blue Jasmine sees Blanchett as the eponymous Jasmine, disgraced Park Ave. housewife and social gadfly, who decamps from Manhattan after her husband (Alec Baldwin) hits her with the one-two punch of “I’m leaving you for the nanny” (not even their nanny! Someone else’s nanny!) and “Also, I was running a Ponzi scheme and am now going to jail and, oops, now you’re impoverished.” Unskilled, mortified, and slipping into psychosis, Jasmine heads west to the only family she has left, her sister Ginger (Hawkins), who has more than enough problems of her own. The film unfolds thanks to a back-and-forth narrative that flits between […]

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seduced and abandoned 01

James Toback and Alec Baldwin‘s fascinating documentary Seduced and Abandoned opens with a quote from Orson Welles, which attests that 95% of the time and energy expended making a film is actually devoted to securing funds rather than, you know, actually making the film. Toback and Baldwin aim to put this to the test here in a film detailing their visit to last year’s Cannes Film Festival to try and sell a Last Tango in Paris-esque jaunt starring Baldwin (ostensibly, in the Brando role) and Neve Campbell. Toback and Baldwin both attest that what we’re watching is neither a full-out documentary or narrative feature, but rather a crude amalgam of the two. What is certain, however, is that it’s a downright hilarious subversion of the act of filmmaking itself. Toback was smart to choose Baldwin as his brother in arms, because the 30 Rock star consistently steals the show here, trading witticisms and razor-sharp, self-deprecating jibes with the acclaimed director.

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In the entertainment industry, a lot of women get forsaken in the public’s consciousness even before they reach middle age. In Chiemi Karasawa’s documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, the legendary Elaine Stritch celebrates her 88th birthday. And per one of her oft-performed Stephen Sondheim songs, “she’s still here.” The title of the doc is clearly a play on words – Stritch is hardly a fatalist, but instead she demands to be the center of attention, to be filmed. “Shot” in that way. The documentary follows Stritch as she gears up for her last tour as she battles the ravages of aging and diabetes. Karasawa paints a well-rounded portrait of Stritch here, because in addition to filming Stritch being her glorious brash self, Karasawa films her forgetting song lyrics, without her makeup, and dealing with her sobriety, among other things. Because of this multifaceted look at Stritch, the film succeeds in being enjoyable, especially since Stritch is such a magnetic presence on screen. There are also interviews with celebrity friends like her 30 Rock son Alec Baldwin (also Executive Producer), Tina Fey, John Turturro, James Gandolfini, and many others. However, Karasawa doesn’t take very many filmic risks that make it stand out from the rest of the pack, and that generic approach ultimately detracts somewhat from the film’s overall quality.

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30 Rock - Season 7

(Finale spoilers ahead…) What a touching final season 30 Rock had. Geeky, unlucky in love, “night cheese” adoring Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) married Criss Chros (James Marsden), then adopted two children; Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), the effervescent TV obsessed NBC page turned janitor, became president of the network; and finally, the flighty crew of ne’er-do-wells that Liz has been trying to rein in for the past seven years (Tracy, Jenna, Frank, and the rest) turned the tables on their boss and selflessly helped her out for once. Season seven was sentimental but it also managed to stay true to form, remaining weird and surreal right up until the last, perfectly odd seconds of its finale. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When the series finale — a two-parter — begins, Liz is looking far more domestic and calm than we’ve ever seen her. Production on her show, TGS, has been shut down, she’s a stay-at-home mom now, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself — she doesn’t have to deal with any more nonsense, she doesn’t have any more fires to put out.

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Peter Ramsey

Rise of The Guardians is a step forward for Dreamworks Animation in the way How to Train Your Dragon was. Both films tossed away the company’s signature pop culture references, gag-driven narratives, and all their other much-criticized characteristics. Guardians and Dragon have both created their own universes, and in an unexpected way. Rise of the Guardians director Peter Ramsey - who did storyboards for a few of our favorite movies – takes the world, the stakes, and all the famed holiday characters seriously. There is no place for self-referential jokes in this universe, which is what surprised Ramsey the most. We spoke to the director himself a few weeks ago, who discussed how story boarding is the best film school around, how he took a live-action approach to the film, and the joy world-building:

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Kenneth Branagh wants to hurt Jack Ryan

When news first broke that Paramount would be bringing Tom Clancy‘s adventurous accountant, Jack Ryan, back to the big screen few people were all that thrilled. The character’s three previous incarnations (across four films) struck some as a series of diminishing returns creatively and a box-office flat line. But hey, even Ben Affleck‘s turn in The Sum of All Fears collected just under $200 million worldwide, and Paramount isn’t stupid enough to let go of a built-in audience. As long ago as 2008 word was that Sam Raimi would be helming Ryan’s return, but news and interest seemed to dry up shortly thereafter. A year later Chris Pine enlisted for the lead role, but the film seemed no closer to production. Earlier this year though Kenneth Branagh tossed his hat into the ring and signed on to direct. Would that finally be enough to get this thing going? Per Variety, Branagh is moving forward and has even gone so far as casting the lead villain to play against Pine’s heroic CIA analyst. Following in a long-standing Hollywood tradition he’s gone ahead and hired a British thespian to play a Russian bad guy.

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Broadway shows haven’t always made the smoothest of transitions to the big-screen, but Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages delivers an adaptation that’s bizarre and its own sexually-suggestive summer feature: from showcasing star Tom Cruise’s bare ass to backing Cruise’s choice of venue for an out-there rendition of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Malin Akerman’s posterior – Shankman takes the material and stuffs as much as he can into it. These choices represent the work he hopes to keep making – distinctive and not what most would consider to be the norm, box office be damned. Shankman’s been enough of a commercial hitmaker throughout his career to earn the freedom to make those oddball choices, having cranked out a series of box-office success, from Bringing Down the House all the way to The Pacifier. As Shankman tells us, those gems are the type of learning experiences which led him to making Rock of Ages and Hairspray. Here’s what Adam Shankman had to say about the journey from Juilliard to Rock of Ages, how a work for hire can be more informative than a passion project, and highlighting how enthusiasm can make up for – or even overshadow – hard-won experience:

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Being a child of the ’80s and a pre-adolescent product of rock n’ roll’s most fashion-concerned era (you would, in no way, find pictures of me at age six with self-slit blue jeans) Rock of Ages should have been a warm-hearted nostalgia trip for me to a time where bad boys wore girl’s aerobic outfits underneath leather jackets with sapphires and rhinestones, girls had poodle ‘fros and chewed lots of bubble gum, and we both bonded over our love for all songs that just said rock a lot; and the more often the word was repeated in the song the more it was good. Having been adapted from a popular stage production, and helmed by a director who did a splendid job with Hairspray, I expected a tongue-in-cheek romp that would have me struggling to refrain from jumping out of my seat and throwing my fists in the air chanting that I wasn’t gonna take it. After about ten minutes I really was struggling to refrain from jumping out of my seat and throwing my fists, because I really wanted to stop taking it.

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Years before Woody Allen became basically the most prolific filmmaker to ever exist, he was making his way through the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedian, so he knows the art of crafting a joke, and he should have a good idea of how to best utilize the talents of those weird weekend warriors who travel from town to town projecting their neuroses onto random strangers in seedy nightclubs. That’s why it is so exciting that it’s just been announced that two of the most successful stand-up comedians of all time have signed on to be a part of his latest film. Woody’s new project doesn’t have a title yet, but what’s known about it is that it’s being filmed in New York and San Francisco over the summer. Also, we now know the names that make up its cast. In a press release put out earlier today ,it was announced that big names like Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett made the list, as well as some solid but lesser-known names like Michael Emerson, Sally Hawkins, and Peter Sarsgaard; but the most interesting part of the casting announcement was the inclusion of comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay.

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After taking the festival circuit by storm with his 2008 film, Lymelife, director Derick Martini became something of an indie darling. Now he’s back with his latest film, Hick, which tells the tale of a confused young girl running away from her deadbeat parents and learning about life on the road. The main attraction here is that said young girl is being played by Chloe Moretz, an actress who’s shown great potential up to this point, and is just chomping at the bit to get a meaty role to sink her teeth into, so she can really show what she can do. Whether or not Hick is the right platform for her will be a matter of opinion, but, as you can see from its new trailer, the film contains enough dark, dramatic material to give her range a showcase, no matter how you positively or negatively you respond to the absurd and traumatizing things you’ll experience.

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Woody Allen continues his European tour with his next film, To Rome With Love. This time around, the auteur appears to stick with the light fluffiness that made his Midnight in Paris such a delight to behold, but with a much deeper cast of characters to suit the film’s vignette style. The film’s synopsis tells us that it “is comprised of four separate vignettes and tells the story of a number of people in Italy—some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors—and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into.” Players in those various vignettes include Allen himself, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Robert Benigni, Judy Davis, Alison Pill, and Greta Gerwig. With the film’s first trailer, we get our first glimpse what we can expect from each section – Allen being neurotic (shock); a potential love triangle involving Eisenberg, Gerwig, and Page; a flimsy and flighty Cruz; and Benigni becoming famous for something. I can already guess which vignettes I’ll feel the most amore for – can you?

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There must be some people somewhere looking forward to this, but Rock of Ages looks like the grandiose celebration of all things shoulder padded and hairspray covered. It looks like the movie version of “Now! That’s What I Call Music Volume -14.” There was a reason that the empty decadence of 80s music took a boot to the face in the form of The Ramones and was finally left to bleed out by Nirvana, but there must be people somewhere anxious to relive acid washed days of yore. Adam Shankman takes a break from judging So You Think You Can Dance to direct this musical starring a bunch of one-liners from Alec Baldwin, the offensive-to-no-one Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise as Aldous Snow/Axl Rose (which is weird because Russell Brand is also in this thing), and the font from Rock Band. It’s a bunch of wealthy people playing karaoke. Check it out for yourself:

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Midnight in Paris is still out there making money and finding new audiences, so it’s less than surprising that Sony Pictures Classics has already picked up Woody Allen‘s follow-up film, Nero Fiddled, which was produced last year. According to Cinema Blend, the movie is described by Allen as a broad comedy with several overlapping stories. It stars Jesse “Woody Allen” Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni and Judy Davis. Woody Allen is also playing a role, but he lamented earlier in the year about not being able to play the romantic lead anymore. Which is ridiculous. Who wouldn’t want to see a hunky 76-year-old man embroil himself in the heart and loins of a gorgeous counterpart? Exactly. As long as it takes place in Rome, it’ll be romantic. I’m pretty sure that’s even where we get the word. So if you were at all worried that you’d go a year without hearing from the workhorse of filmmaking, fear not! More Allen is on the way. Just try not to loudly pontificate about the meaning of his work while waiting in line at the cinema.  

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UPDATED: Hello, musical theatrics! Director Adam Shankman‘s take on Broadway hit Rock of Ages will undoubtedly be slick, highly produced, loud, melodramatic, and positively crammed with toe-tapping song-and-dance numbers (did you see Hairspray?) – essentially, it’s a film that will likely upset fans of the stage musical while also becoming a big commercial hit with a bizarre kitsch sensibility. That’s not just me guessing – that’s information hardily reinforced by the film’s first trailer. The film stars Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Ackerman, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston (really?!), Alec Baldwin, and Tom Cruise as (very different) people who populate and influence Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip music scene in the 1980′s. Hough and Boneta are trying to make it, Cruise already has, Zeta-Jones scream-sings a lot, that old story. The film is set to a cadre of ’80s classic jams, including Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, and Whitesnake. If you’ve yet to grow out of your big-haired, leather-clad rocker glory days, this is the film for you. Weirdly enough, despite Cruise (and his hair and his hips) being the marquee name on this film, we don’t get a whole lot of him until the last half of the trailer. And then we don’t get so much of him and his character, Stacee Jaxx, as we get some random groupie and her boobs. Bravo to everyone. Get your hairspray ready and check out […]

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Criterion Files

Part of me is in complete disbelief that the release date of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums will have been a decade ago next month. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I was sixteen years old, seeing it for the first time in a movie theater and spending my subsequent Christmas with The Ramones, Elliot Smith, and Nico playing on repeat in my car (two years later, after hearing of Smith’s death, my friends and I gathered together and watched Richie Tenenbaums’s (Luke Wilson) attempted suicide with new, disturbing poignancy). And ten years on, even after having seen it at least a dozen times, and armed with the annoying ability to know every beat and predict every line, something about Tenenbaums feels ageless and fresh at the same time. But when you look at the movie culture that came after Tenenbaums, the film’s age begins to take on its inevitable weight. Tenenbaums was Anderson’s first (and arguably only) real financial success. Previously, Anderson was perceived as an overlooked critical darling following Rushmore, a promising director that a great deal of Hollywood talent wanted to work with (which explains Tenenbaums’ excellent cast and, probably, its corresponding financial success). With this degree of mass exposure, other filmmakers followed suit, establishing what has since been known as the “Wes Anderson style,” which permeated critical and casual assessment of mainstream indies for the following decade and established a visual approach that’s been echoed in anything from Napoleon Dynamite to Garden State to less […]

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When Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin teamed up to host the 2010 Academy Awards, they had an easy chemistry and were generally pretty charming, but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire with a mind-blowing show. But then James Franco and Anne Hathaway teamed up to host the 2011 Awards and suddenly Baldwin and Martin look like geniuses. Because of this, and because of their continued chemistry on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, Adam Shankman (the guy who produced Baldwin and Martin’s Oscar telecast) is trying to put together a movie starring the duo. It’s said to still be in the early stages of development, but it would be a comedy that borrows elements from movies like Trading Places and Grumpy Old Men. I guess that means Baldwin and Martin are now considered old guys. Sorry about your luck, gentlemen.

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Boiling Point

Alec Baldwin is in the news again and it’s not for winning an award or doing worthwhile. No, like most times this Baldwin has been in the news the past five years, it’s because he’s being a baby. The horrid wrong that set him off this time? A most likely poorly written joke for the Emmys was cut, a joke that would have cut at Rupert Murdoch. Baby Baldwin is using his twitter privileges again to air his thoughts, complaining about Fox killing what he thought was the funniest joke – and insisting that his pre-taped segment not air. Fox agreed, and re-shot the sequence with Leonard Nimoy. This in and of itself isn’t totally rageworthy, but it does set me over the edge because I’m collectively tired of seeing Alec Baldwin bitching on the internet – and having people still love him.

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That Thing You Do! is the kind of movie only a man with a particular amount of clout can get made. An off-beat comedy about a fake rock band from the ’60s starring a bunch of unknowns and unfamiliar songs to boot? Maybe if it was a comic book first. But thank the powers that be for Tom Hanks and his odd sensibilities. He may be a two-time Oscar winner and an impassioned producer of WWII serialized dramas, but when it came to his directorial debut, the end product was something closer to his Bosom Buddies/The Man with One Red Shoe days. When That Thing You Do! hit theaters it bombed, barely making back its budget and putting Hanks’s directing career in question. Not even Tom Freakin’ Hanks could get his passion project to play with audiences. That very well could have been the end of the actor behind the camera. But lo and behold, a decade and a half later, Hanks returns this weekend with another oddball flick, Larry Crowne. Whether the new comedy (sporting plenty of familiar faces) can counter-program Transformers 3 and survive the competitive summer isn’t the point — we should be happy enough he made something. With Larry Crowne, Hanks has succeeded in doing what so few of his actor-turned-director friends have managed: to make a second movie. Here are a few thespians who took the plunge into filmmaking, only to return to their day jobs after one outing.

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Even though Woody Allen’s latest film Midnight in Paris is still doing gangbusters in theaters, it’s time to start talking about his next project. I mean, the guy does one of these things a year, there’s no time to sit back and soak up any success. His next film, The Bop Decameron, sees him continuing his tour of Europe by filming in Rome. Makes sense, seeing as ever since he stopped filming in New York City we’ve already gotten movies from him set in England, Spain, and France. Why wouldn’t Italy be next on the itinerary? The films location isn’t the thing worth talking about though. What’s really newsworthy is that earlier today Allen made a show of announcing the official cast. His first announcement was that he himself would be returning to acting for this one, something we haven’t seen him do for half a decade, since 2006’s Scoop. The rest of the casting news is that The Bop Decameron will star, alphabetically, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Page. There are just too many actors I love, especially young actors, in that list to even begin dissecting why this is an awesome cast. I’ll just say I’m gushing at the thought of hearing Eisenberg deliver Woody dialogue and leave it at that. In addition to these names, Allen also says that the film will co-star Antonio Albanese, Fabio Armiliata, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ornella Muti, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill, Riccardo Scamarcio and […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up that’s a little tired, a little wired and it thinks it deserves a little appreciation around here! Alright, so that’s the insomnia talking. For now, lets just do the news like we always do, shall we? The headline photo of the night is a shot of two morons Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin in Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages, a film that will combine major Hollywood names with an infamously terrible director and a slew of over-the-top musical numbers. It’s so ridiculous that it just might work. But probably not.

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