Robin Williams

Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson

If you’re looking for some good movies to watch this three-day holiday weekend, I’d like to suggest a double shot of Paul Mazursky, the under-appreciated filmmaker who died Monday. A whole marathon of his work is in order, really, especially if you’ve never seen Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice or Harry and Tonto or Next Stop, Greenwich Village (come at least for Bill Murray’s first film appearance and a great early Christopher Walken) or An Unmarried Woman (a terrific feminist classic) or the crazy Alex in Wonderland (come at least for the Fellini scene). But two of my favorites are his big releases in the mid-80s, Moscow on the Hudson and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and I think they make a perfect double feature for Independence Day. First up is Moscow on the Hudson, which in early 1984 led the wave of comedies involving immigration and migration to New York City (see Crocodile Dundee, Coming to America, Splash, Muppets Take Manhattan, Jason Takes Manhattan, Short Circuit 2, Brother From Another Planet). Despite starring Robin Williams and being a fish out of water story, this isn’t quite a laugh out loud sorta movie. Mazursky takes the idea of defecting from the Soviet Union rather seriously, for a story that celebrates the American Dream less fantastically than most Hollywood features. We start out in Russia and see it as a relatively miserable place to live, yet it’s not depicted as a total nightmare. Nor is the United States presented as an absolute utopia. […]

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Lionsgate

Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) is an angry man. When it’s not subwoofers getting his goat it’s car alarms, ATM service fees and fat people. When it’s not 99-cent stores it’s hamsters, ass-crack fashion and God. Henry’s goat gets got a lot. Today is no different, but as one bad thing leads to the next they’re capped off by a visit to the doctor’s office where he discovers he has a brain aneurysm. Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis), flustered by his obvious rage at this latest slap in the face from the universe, accidentally on purpose tells him he only has ninety minutes to live. He leaves the office intent on making those minutes count by mending his relationship with his son, spending time with friends and fornicating with his wife, but circumstance and his ongoing anger issues keep getting in the way. Phil Alden Robinson (Sneakers) returns to the director’s chair after a twelve year absence with a film that isn’t quite worth the wait. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn is essentially a tale of redemption and second chances, but in order for either of those narrative paths to be effective audiences have to give a damn about the characters on them. That never quite happens here.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Boulevard, the fifth feature from director Dito Montiel, is an intimate character study. As such, it is but one among many. At festivals, in particular those with a bevy of American independent films, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an intimate character study. And so they try to differentiate themselves, sometimes through gimmicks and sometimes through good old-fashioned artistic vision. In the case of Boulevard the elevator pitch is this: Robin Williams is 60, married to a woman, and secretly gay. His name is Nolan and he has a well-paying but dull job in a small bank. Fair enough. The dramatic conflict, therefore, is his discovery and subsequent acceptance of his homosexuality. It is perhaps tiring at this point to see yet another movie in which being gay is the primary, driving narrative force. It is no longer as interesting as Love Is Strange, for example, a drama that gets to establish the sexual orientation of its characters in the first scene and then move on to subtler themes. There’s still some room left for a film like Boulevard to say something new and interesting, but not much.

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As we all know too well, Mrs. Doubtfire – the seminal Robin Williams-wearing-women’s-clothing comedy — has been officially given a sequel by Fox 2000. Both Williams and the original’s director, Chris Columbus, are on board in the same positions they held last time around. Screenwriter Bonnie Hunt, however, has been replaced with David Berenbaum, of Elf  fame (also Zoom, The Haunted Mansion and The Spiderwick Chronicles fame, which might seem a little less impressive). We all know the decades-later sequel drill. Some get angry, some get excited, some just shake their heads and mumble something cynical about the Hollywood system (For example: the various child actors from Mrs. Doubtfire). But Mrs. Doubtfire 2 isn’t like all the other sequels: it exists under special story circumstances. One can’t just re-womanize Robin Williams and call it a day, like you could with, say an Independence Day sequel (an off-brand Will Smith punches another alien, smirks, “Welcome to Earth… again!” and winks at the camera- cue fireworks and standing ovations).

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Mrs Featherbottom

No, I’m not thinking Doubtfire vs. Madea. Technically that would involve a man fighting a woman, as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire is Robin Williams playing a male character who dresses as an old lady while Mabel “Madea” Simmons is just Tyler Perry playing an old lady. It doesn’t sound like a fair battle. Obviously Madea would kick the fake nanny’s ass. But the synopsis I have in mind is similar for this Mrs. Doubtfire sequel that Fox 2000 has just announced with original director Chris Columbus and Williams both on board. It has to be an Expendables type movie, which means it’s not just Doubtfire 2 but an ensemble piece in which Williams as Daniel Hillard as Doubtfire is joined by Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey as Tootsie, Martin Lawrence as Malcolm Turner as “Big Momma,” David Cross as Tobias Funke as Mrs. Featherbottom, Miguel A. Nunez Jr. as Jamal Jeffries as Juwanna Mann, Harland Williams as Doofer as Roberta from Sorority Boys and Amanda Bynes as Viola Hastings as Sebastian from She’s the Man, and they’re on a mission to … whatever it doesn’t matter, just like an Expendables movie.  

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Robin Williams in Angriest Man in Brooklyn

You know that old saying “live each day as if it were your last”? While it’s supposed to be inspirational and designed to get you up off your butt and out into the world doing great things like traveling and confessing your love to your best friend, there’s also the view that it could be a terrifying and wholly negative statement. Living each day like it’s your last? That means you’re dying tomorrow. There’s so much you didn’t do! The Angriest Man in Brooklyn takes this concept and amplifies it times 100 by giving America’s wacky uncle Robin Williams only 90 minutes to live. What’s a guy to do when he’s only got an hour and a half to do everything he has left to get done? The trailer for the film attempts to explain how Williams is going to attempt such a feat, and why the poor man is in this situation in the first place. The film, a remake of the 1997 Israeli feature Mar Baum, is from Phil Alden Robinson, director of Sneakers (it should be noted that this is his first film in over 10 years since the fantastic  The Sum of All Fears), and paints Williams as the titular angry man, a brash and maniacal Brooklynite who can’t control his temper for even the slightest of inconveniences: red lights, subwoofers, greeting cards, cheap cologne and people passing out flyers. When Dr. Mila Kunis attempts to explain to him that he has a fatal brain aneurysm, that’s just another thorn in his […]

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romanek

Sy is a photo technician at a SavMart development center who has a fierce, almost reverent passion for what cameras can do. They can provide a window into someone else’s life. They can preserve everything we hold dear in two dimensions. They can capture a person. Played in One Hour Photo as a quiet force of nature by Robin Williams, Sy worships photography almost as fervently as he does the blissful life of the textbook suburban family that he plans on getting closer to. With a filmmaker as visually florid as Mark Romanek, you’d expect a more bombastic debut, but the acclaimed director approached his first feature with a simple, colorful elegance that suited its precise protagonist. Sy the photo guy would approve. A little over a decade later, the film is now available on Blu-ray — giving us a new opportunity to hold it up to the light box and try to find some sympathy for the devil on the other side of the camera. I spoke with Romanek to discuss that power, his education under Brian De Palma, and the rarest thing that happens when making a movie.

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Insomnia 2002 Movie

For a man who has 8 films under his belt as a director, it seems like Christopher Nolan has been in the movie world forever. His dominance of the 2000s was so thorough and immediate that it only seemed natural to include his name amongst the greats even with a relatively limited resume. Even so, whenever conversations of the director emerge, they seem to focus on his take on Batman, his exploration of magic and deception, the idea of memory loss and toying with narrative. The movie that’s notoriously missing is his sophomore feature, his first studio picture, Insomnia. The remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name starred Al Pacino as a LA detective brought to the no-horse town of Nightmute, Alaska during a time of year when the sun never sets. Brought in to help with a brutal homicide, Detective Dormer finds himself mentally unraveling after a foggy accident, many sunny nights without sleep and an internal investigation back home that threatens to end his career. It’s a strong crime film with outstanding performances that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten about in the wake of Batman, Bale and breaking into dreams. Insomnia is a movie worth a second look.

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Over Under - Large

Despite the fact that we’re getting pretty close to its 75 year anniversary, The Wizard of Oz is just as recognized and celebrated today as it’s ever been, and we’ll probably still be showing it to our kids another 75 years from now. There’s good reason for that. Its music is gorgeous and iconic, its cinematography is ageless, and its production design and in-living-color presentation must have been something to see back in 1939. But, in the grand scheme of things, is this really a movie that’s so great that we should still be treating it with so much reverence? Or has watching The Wizard of Oz simply become a tradition we mindlessly follow, like always eating a turkey on Thanksgiving or puking up green food coloring on St Patrick’s Day? Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook spins off of a legendary story, continues the tale of a handful of legendary characters, and was brought to us by maybe the most legendary director there’s ever been… but to say that it isn’t considered a legendary movie would be a pretty big understatement. It’s got a tone right in line with the best of Spielberg’s work, and it’s photographed just as beautifully as anything else he’s done, but ever since its release it has largely been considered a trifle, or even an annoyance. Critics have called Hook full of bad humor, overstuffed with exposition, and devoid of any of the magic of the original Peter Pan tale. Many consider it to be […]

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Monty Python

Monty Python veteran Terry Jones has co-written (with Gavin Scott) and will direct a Sci-Fi farce called Absolutely Anything that has been said might be the cause of a mini-Monty Python reunion. Unfortunately, all of the members of the Python crew are no longer with us, but news from Variety says that Jones’ new film is now looking like it will, in fact, manage to get back together at least most of the surviving members. In addition to his own involvement, Jones has already signed up John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin, and he’s currently negotiating with Eric Idle.

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Ben Affleck in Argo

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly thing that collects things about movies, television and other things. Lots of things in store for you tonight, including some more Dark Knight Rises things… We begin tonight with an image of Ben Affleck as a real life former CIA agent from the early 1980s in Argo. In a way that can only be from the 1980s, he also looks like a Die Hard villain. So much mulleted intensity.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in layers and layers of rain gear to brave the estrogen storm that comes with the showing of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I. After enduring that non-masterpiece, he dances down a few screening rooms to watch the new Happy Feet movie. Confounded by the gelatinous goop that masquerades as movies this weekend in American cinema, Kevin eventually curls up in a ball and softly weeps.

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The dancing, singing penguins of Happy Feet return for another dose of eco-themed animation in this sequel from George Miller, which proves two truisms. First, there’s still a lot of mileage in the spectacle of penguins tap, tap, tapping in unison and belting out cover songs. Second, this franchise is not the clarion call to action on climate change that it wants to be. The star of the first film, Mumble (Elijah Wood), is a father now, struggling to connect with his adolescent son Erik (Ava Acres), who feels misunderstood and marginalized because he can’t dance. For Erik, a surrogate role model of sorts emerges in The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), a flying penguin who preaches messages of empowerment. After a shifting glacier traps their community of emperor penguins in a vast valley, little Erik will need all the confidence he can muster when he, his dad, and two of his friends are called upon to save the day.

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The teenage years are a time in everyone’s life when their minds are fertile for the seeds of change. A new experience can completely change a teenager’s personality, reading a new book or watching a new movie can radically alter the way that they self-identify. Peter Weir’s 1989 boarding school drama Dead Poets Society is one of those new movie experiences that I’ve often seen held up as a life changing experience. Multiple times in my high school career the movie was shown to my class by teachers trying to inspire a love of learning in the students. I’ve met more than one person bold enough to show me their “Carpe Diem” tattoo, which is the movie’s big rallying cry. In general it just seems that there is something about this film that resonates strongly and sticks with a large portion of the people who see it. Daniel Petrie Jr.’s Toy Soldiers isn’t a movie that’s changed many lives. That’s okay though, I don’t think it was trying to. It’s mostly just an action movie. This one tells the story of a prestigious prep school being overtaken by a group of well-trained, well-armed terrorists, who then hold the student body hostage until the government meets their demands. It’s strange how little this movie is ever mentioned by anyone. It had a cast of young actors including Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, and Keith Coogan, that were all up-and-coming names back in 1991. It was an explosion packed story about terrorists and […]

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Editor’s Note: With Ashe taking a much needed vacation, we turn to the insightful talent of writer Maxwell Yezpitelok for this week’s list. Go read more of his work. But read this first. And then go check that stuff out. Woody Allen has to have one of the greatest casting directors in show business, if we overlook the fact that for some reason they keep casting short middle-aged Jewish guys opposite women like Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson and Charlize Theron. But seriously, look at all the big name stars that keep showing up in his movies, sometimes for the whole movie and sometimes for just a few seconds. In honor of that genius scene in Midnight in Paris where Adrien Brody completely kills it as Dali (only to never again), here are the greatest actor cameos in Allen’s forty-something films:

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While nudity is generally regarded as an awesome thing, the fact of the matter is that it’s just not necessary for a lot of movies. Enter the gratuitous nude scene, where an actress strips down to her birthday suit for reasons completely unrelated to the plot. Frequently, these roles are covered by B- and C-list stars who like to add an extra zero to their check in exchange for giving the movie-going audience a thrill. While many big name actresses refuse to do nudity — a totally respectable choice, don’t get me wrong — some change their minds when there’s a chance their career can benefit from it. When those women go for a gratuitous nude scene, it usually takes one of four forms:

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If you were hoping for a trailer that created a mass of internal conflict, how about animated penguin babies singing about bringing sexy back? Would that do it for you? If not, you’ve probably already got some serious internal conflict. Happy Feet Two bursts onto the scene with some rap, some dance pop, and an elephant-nosed seal that looks like a real-life Snuffaluffagus got converted to CGI. Heartwarming or truly, deeply terrifying? You be the judge:

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It’s been decades since the Pythons have been on the screen together, and even getting them all into the same room for an event has been a Herculean feat, but the group may come back together for Absolutely Anything – a movie written and directed by their very own Mr. Creosote, Terry Jones. John Oliver, comedian and writer for The Daily Show, is on tap to star in the film that sounds like the typical lunacy and lucidity of Jones. Apparently it features, “aliens, a goofy Brit, a talking dog and buckets of silliness.” It’s safe to assume that “buckets of silliness” is code for the buckets that contain Graham Chapman’s ashes.

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kevin-reportcard-header

Kevin Carr heads out to the movies this week, giving his take on Old Dogs and Ninja Assassin

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Fat Guys at the Movies

Kevin and Neil come to the Fat Guys table early this week for a special Thanksgiving episode of the show. They talk about what they plan to eat over the long holiday weekend and talk a little bit about movies. They euthanize Old Dogs and have an epic fat ninja smackdown over Ninja Assassin. Hi-ya!

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