Wednesday, June 30, 2010

REVIEW: Toy Story 3

No one needs me to tell them to see Toy Story 3. Even if I were still writing pre-release reviews, no one would need me to tell them to see Toy Story 3.

By now, with Pixar, the question has become not "Is it good" but "How good is it?" Having just seen the movie a second time, I find myself sighing with a happy sadness at how wonderfully this story has come to a close.

I won't waste space going into the plot. This is a movie in which the less you know about the story, the better it works. However, you should know that this is the darkest of the Toy Story movies - and perhaps even Pixar's darkest film of all. It's not that big a stretch to call it The Empire Strikes Back of animated movies. The ending may not be as harsh, but our pals go through some harrowing moments on their way there.

The sometimes foreboding tone may catch some viewers off guard. Toy Story 3 is less genteel than its warmer, fuzzier predecessors. I will argue, however, that this is appropriate to the story Pixar needs to tell. It's about growing and  putting the past behind you. For both the toys and their owner Andy, it's about coming to grips with an uncertain future and a bigger world that is often frightening. And for the toys in particular, it's about facing a kind of mortality. It's the question that was inevitable - what do they do once they've outlived their usefulness?

Perhaps I'm making it sound a bit "heavy." Make no mistake, there's still an abundance of fun to be found here. But one could fairly argue the story gets a little too downbeat. I wish the movie had spent more time with an adorable little girl named Bonnie who has an imagination at least as big as Andy's. Getting to know her toys better might have counterbalanced all the drama.

But even that excess is redeemed by moments of brilliance. Toy Story 3 offers many delightful homages to prison break movies, and the film has some wonderfully inventive fun finding out what happens when you take the potato out of Mr. Potato Head. The beginning of the movie also marvelously recalls the beginning of the original Toy Story. 

But is is the ending of this movie that makes it an instant classic, flaws and all. To complain too much about this movie is to split hairs. From the heart-stopping climax to the heart-filling denouement, the third act of Toy Story 3 is absolutely pitch perfect. It is as moving an ending to Toy Story 3 as the "Married Life" sequence was a beginning to Up. It's not the best movie of the trilogy - that distinction still belongs to Toy Story 2 - but it is the most surprising, and the most emotional movie of the bunch. I can't get it out of my head, or my heart.


Note: I've seen the film both in 2D and 3D. As was the case with Up and last year's Toy Story double feature, the 3D is effective but inessential. Director Lee Unkrich is on record is saying that it works either way. The choice - and the money - is yours.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

REVIEW: Knight and Day

I always thought the barrage of disdain directed at Tom Cruise was overwrought. Yes, the man said and did some very stupid things in recent years, but I didn't think he lost his judgment for what made a good film.

At least, not until I saw Knight and Day.

This lumbering mess of a movie steps wrong from the very first frame, and rarely steps right ever again. Watching the trailers, I had thought this action/romantic comedy would be told from the point of view of Cameron Diaz, playing a woman who unwittingly gets caught up in Cruise's spy world.

But no. Knight and Day begins with a shot of the back of Cruise's head. And my first thought was "What the hell?" That wouldn't have been so bad, except the movie switches its point of view about as often as it switches locations, which happens in every other scene. The film has no compass. It doesn't know whose story it should be telling, it isn't sure what tone to take (Mission Impossible? James Bond? Charade? True Lies?)  and it doesn't know what to make its characters think or feel with any kind of consistency. And the sum of all that is, it doesn't know how to be very entertaining. 

This was a real disappointment coming from director James Mangold, who is usually a solid craftsman with such strong films to his credit as Walk the Line and the 3:10 to Yuma remake. However, I'm forced to admit that on the evidence of this film, he's one of those directors who is only as good as his screenplay. And the screenplay for Knight and Day is the most witless one that Cruise has been attached to since Cocktail

It's not the stars' fault. Cruise works hard, as he always does, but he's not doing anything he hasn't done before. In this movie, he's coasting, however energetically. Diaz usually brings a fair amount of charm to her roles, but the script makes her character into such a dingbat, it's hard to sympathize with her. 

Worse yet, this is the kind of movie that thinks its viewers are such dingbats that it actually shows a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge - and then flashes the title "Brooklyn, New York" on the screen. (Facepalm.) Yes, the movie knows it's kinda stupid, but for it to think the audience is that dumb is unforgivable.

I'm still rooting for Cruise to fall back into the public's good graces, but to do that, he needs to take on less star vehicles in which he plays "Tom Cruise," and try more supporting roles that really test his mettle, like Magnolia. He also needs to avoid lame projects like Knight and Day. 


Disney, Buster, Davis and Crawford - together at last!

I had quite  a variety of retro moviegoing experiences this weekend, veering from two silent Buster Keaton comedies to the Grand Guignol/Grand Dame camp of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane to the fall and rise of the Mouse House.

It all started Friday night at Columbus' classic movie series at the grand Ohio Theatre. First up was a double feature of Keaton's Sherlock Jr. and Seven Chances.

I've always been more of a Chaplin man than a Keaton man, but there is simply no denying Keaton's inventive genius. Sherlock Jr., in which Buster plays a wanna-be detective and movie projectionist who literally stumbles into one of the movies at his theater. It's still absolutely dazzling 86 (!) years later - not to mention hilarious. You can even watch all 45 minutes of it here if you like.

Seven Chances isn't quite as good, since it's a little slower, but it's still extremely entertaining, particularly at the climax when an avalanche of rocks AND an avalanche of would-be brides threaten to overtake him.

Enhancing all of this was live organ accompaniment by the uber-talented Clark Wilson, who would make amusing musical choices (such as "We're in the Money" during the reading of a will) and even sound effects like a car horn. If you can ever go to a silent film with live musical accompaniment, DO IT - there's really nothing quite like it.

Sherlock Jr. A+/Seven Chances A-

After that, I stayed on to see the late show of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis bitchfest (or at least the one that made it to the screen). To give you some idea of just how nasty  it is, consider this: Crawford is the NICE one. Davis makes even Faye Dunaway's  caricature of Crawford in Mommie Dearest seem like Minnie Mouse by comparison.

I'd stop well short of calling it a great movie - there are too many "Why doesn't she just ..." moments for that. Still, I can see why it has its reputation as kind of a camp classic, and it is perversely enjoyable to see these two rumble. Now I think I'll put Hush ... Hush Sweet Charlotte (with Davis and Olivia de Havila, also directed by Robert Aldrich) in my Netflix queue.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: B+

Finally, I returned to Columbus the next day to see the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. This tells the story of Disney animation, from its low point in 1985 when The Black Cauldron was outgrossed by The Care Bears Movie, to the high commercial point of The Lion King in 1994. Being the Disney buff that I am, I only wished this were even longer with even more detail, but it does an excellent and even-handed job of telling this story fraught with wonder and drama. The archival footage, particularly relating to The Little Mermaid, is wonderful. It plays at the Landmark Gateway theater in Columbus through the July 4 weekend.  GRADE: A

Speaking of Disney, yes, I have seen Toy Story 3, but I want to wait to review it until I get another look at it. It takes some surprising turns (I think it plays better if you know going in that it's actually rather dark), but it's pretty much as wonderful as everyone says it is. Coming soon, to a movie blog near you ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

The movies that say Summer to me

Netflix's Facebook feed asked a fun question on Monday, the first day of summer: What's the first movie you think of when you think of summer?

For me, that would be George Lucas' American Graffiti, mainly for its evocative use of the Beach Boys' "All Summer Long" over the end credits.

Me being movie nutty, however, I never can leave any movie-related question, so let me toss out a few more, in no particular order.

Jaws - Of course - although not because it made me afraid to go into the water. I was afraid to go into the water anyway. Can't swim to this day.

Do the Right Thing - Spike Lee's seminal, searing drama about a hot day in Brooklyn (understatement)  is certainly one of the movies that best conveys a sense of heat - in more ways than one.

Lawrence of Arabia - Speaking of a sense of conveying heat ...

Miracle on 34th Street - I kid you not. Sure, it's a Christmas movie - but what many people don't know is that technically, it's a summer movie. It came out on May 2, 1947. True story.

Rear Window: Heat is an important factor in the story. Remember the shot of the thermometer and the sweat glistening on Jimmy Stewart's face?

Gunnison: It's about time you got married, before you turn into a lonesome and bitter old man. 
Jeff: Yeah, can't you just see me, rushing home to a hot apartment to listen to the automatic laundry and the electric dishwasher and the garbage disposal and the nagging wife... 

Gunnison: Jeff, wives don't nag anymore. They discuss. 

Jeff: Oh, is that so, is that so? Well, maybe in the high-rent district they discuss. In my neighborhood they still nag. 

What movies make you think of summer?  

PS - Lest anyone think I forgot one of my favorite movies from last year, 500 Days of Summer - it's totally cheating to pick a movie with the word "summer" in the title! ;)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Adults like animation? Who'd-a thunk it?

Normally by this time I would have written a review of Toy Story 3, but I am waiting so I can see it with my favorite young artist and her fine folks. Rarely has my patience been so steely. ;)

In the meantime, I came across this post on EW's Popwatch blog, in which writer Josh Young marvels at the fact that a showing of Toy Story 3 drew - GASP! - mostly adults!?!??!?!

Really? You're just NOW finding out that adults can enjoy animated movies without the company of a child, EW? I've been aware of this fact for decades. About as long as your magazine has been around, in fact.

And I'm not talking only about myself, an admitted sucker for animation. I was noticing that adults were attending animated movies as far back as Beauty and the Beast. I saw that movies 6 or 7 times in theaters and noticed a number of adult couples there without any kids in tow. It was a date movie for them. And this was 19 years ago

Granted, the always high quality of Pixar's productions probably has  increased adult willingness to view animated movies without kids. But this is hardly a new phenomenon. And Pixar isn't even the only party responsible for this. As Young does point out, the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Ponyo, etc.) have had an impact as well.

There's also something to be said for the fact that many people who saw the original Toy Story as kids in 1995 are flocking to the third chapter as well - they grew up along with Andy. In fact, the voice of Andy in all three movies, actor John Morris, is now a 25-year-old graduate of UCLA's Theater Arts program. (I hereby apologize for making some readers feel old.)

But really, anyone who has paid attention to Pixar knows the studio doesn't make films for children - they make films for everyone. If they made films solely for children, they wouldn't be nearly as successful as they are.

It is true that a lot of people tend to ghettoize animation as being "just for kids." I often hear fathers complain they don't get to see anything in the theaters except for "kids movies." If they're talking about crap like Marmaduke, I sympathize. If they're talking about Pixar, I don't feel sorry - and neither, I suspect, do the fathers.

Brad Bird, the writer-director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, once said in an interview (by EW, as it happens):

I can't tell you how many times somebody will come to me and say, ''My kids really love your work.'' And then you go, ''But you like it too, right?'' And they go, ''Oh, I love it.'' But they don't ever lead with that. It's like the kids are their beard to get them into the theater. Or people will say, ''I'm happy about this film because I have a 5-year-old.'' And I'm like, Well, congratulations, but I didn't make this for the 5-year-old. I made it for me, and I'm not 5. I can't think of one other art form that has its audience so narrowly defined. If you work in animation, people tell you, ''Oh, it must be wonderful to entertain children.'' Yes it is. But that's 10 percent of the audience I'm going for.
Yes, EW, adults can enjoy animated movies without kids - and it's time people stop being surprised by that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weekend viewing catch-up: Splice, Rain, Greek and more

After a few moribund weeks, my moviegoing habits roared back to life last weekend, even if the theatrical movies themselves didn't quite roar - well,except for one - at the very beginning.

On the big screen

Get him to the Greek: The latest product of the Judd Apatow machine turns out to be one of the weaker efforts. It's decent enough, with a few inspired routines. Russell Brand's gleeful and brave tastelessness makes him fun to watch, and Rose Byrne matches him so well as his female counterpoint rock star, I wished the movie had used her more. Unfortunately, the script is missing the heart that made Forgetting Sarah Marshall by the same director so winning. Jonah Hill is miscast as the straight man, and Elizabeth Moss, playing Hill's girl, is used even less well than Byrne . I laughed enough to recommend it slimly, but not enough to see it again. GRADE: B-

Singin' in the Rain: Caught this at Columbus' classic film series. How classic is this film? "Moses Supposes" got applause at my screening. "Moses Supposes!" To say nothing of the ageless "Make 'Em Laugh" or the title number. GRADE: A+

Splice: In a way, I can see why the mass audience rejected this eerie tale of science gone awry. The story of two maverick scientists who create sort of a female Frankenstein bites off more than it can chew thematically, making for some fuzzy character motivations. The movie also suffers from failure of tone in its last act, which resorts to conventional horror shocks. That's disappointing because most of the way, the film is quite effective, owing a great debt to the work of David Cronenberg, who knows a thing or two about gooey Canadian horror. Leads Adrien Brody and Sarah Polly work very well together. For those who like their sci-fi/horror offbeat, this one is worth a look, even if it's not as good as it could be. GRADE: B

On the small screen

New Moon: It's not quite so bad as many critics said it was. The basic story of vampires meeting werewolves work, even if it is old hat, and the performances are fine, but it's undone by Chris Weitz's overly showy direction, and by laughably lame dialogue that makes Avatar seem like the work of Billy Wilder. Note that I dispensed with that "Twilight saga" BS. GRADE: C

Make Way for Tomorrow: Criterion recently rescued this Leo McCarey picture from obscurity, and bless them for that. It's a wonderfully charming and heartbreaking tale about an elderly couple that's forced to separate and live with their children, who don't put much stock in their elders. If this movie had pointed things to say about the marginalizing of senior citizens in the 1930s, just imagine what it would say about the modern era. When McCarey won an Oscar for the much better known The Awful Truth, made the same year. he said, "Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture." I don't know about that, but I do know this is a gem worth discovering. GRADE: A

Picture This: Netlfix's Instant feed unearths another gem, this one a short but excellent documentary on the making of Peter Bogdanovich's classic The Last Picture Show. The film usurped the lives not only of the people who lived in Archer City, Texas, but of the people who made it. When director George Hickenlooper turns his cameras on the making of the sequel Texasville 20 years later, he finds some of the old wounds still remain. Hickenlooper co-directed Hearts of Darkness, the excellent look at the chaotic making of Apocalypse Now. Clearly, he has a knack for movies about movies. GRADE: A

Note: Toy Story 3 comes out this weekend. I am unsure when I will get to see it, but I promise you I will review it as soon as I can.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer fizzle/Blog fizzle

My apologies for not posting much of late. I've become the Interim Lifestyle editor at work, and I've been doing quite a lot of learning and juggling this this week. Hence, that leaves me with little opportunity to write a post of much length or coherence once I get home. 

It doesn't help that so far this is the most blah moviegoing summer I can remember. I haven't seen anything theatrically since Shrek Forever After, and that was more than two weeks ago - an eternity in my own little world. However, I do hope to see Get him to the Greek and Splice this weekend - and of course I will review Toy Story 3 at the earliest opportunity after it comes out June 18. (Paul McCartney's birthday, and Roger Ebert's too - the Pixar folks sure can pick em.) 

In the meantime I've been amused by all the hand-wringing and labored analysis over why this summer's box office is lagging. Uuuuuuuhhhmmmmm ... could it be the movies don't look that interesting? And if they don't look that interesting to me, imagine how they must look to Joe or Jane Average. One of my favorite film writers, Anne Thompson, cuts through the muck in this post.

Summer Fizzle: Audiences Avoid the Blahs, Inception Pops (Video Featurette) - Thompson on Hollywood

I'll be back as soon as my work schedule and brain power allows. 

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Oeuvres: Francis Ford Coppola

Since Coppola's latest film, Tetro arrived via Netflix, I decided to catch up on a couple more of his films that I hadn't seen: Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married. And since I did that, I decided to write this blog post. reviewing all of his films I'd watched. Here's a man with one of the most diverse - and frustrating -filmographies.

Finian's Rainbow: Not even the presence of Fred Astaire can rescue this mess of a film, made especially intolerable by Tommy Steele, playing the single  most annoying character in any movie musical. With misfires like this, Camelot and numerous others, it's no wonder musicals died in the late 60s. GRADE: D+

The Godfather: Absolutely deserves its reputation, even if I like Goodfelllas better as far as Mafia pics go. GRADE: A+

The Conversation: Gene Hackman delivers a masterful portrait of a lost soul as a surveillance expert who gets in way over his head, and Coppola masterfully builds tension in this paranoid thriller. And to my ears, this is the movie that most owes its success to its amazing sound design, created by the great Walter Murch. GRADE: A+

The Godfather Part II: I don't take the oft-held position that this film is superior to the original, but it's still excellent. It's even better in the Godfather Saga edit, which assembles the stories chronologically. Unfortunately, that version is not available on DVD.  Coppola was on a real roll here. GRADE: A+

Apocalypse Now: Flawed? Yes. Still a spellbinding, shattering experience like no other? Absolutely. It was so shattering in fact, that I still believe Coppola left a part of himself in the jungle, as he has not made a masterpiece since. The Redux version, though fascinating, drags too often, so it's worth an A-, but the original still rates an A+. (For more fascinating viewing, see Hearts of Darkness, one of the best filmmaking documentaries ever made.)

One from the Heart: Neither the horrendous misfire critics initially said it was, nor the misbegotten masterpiece revisionists have claimed, this ambitious musical stumbles as often as it impresses. I'd much rather see a film that suffers from trying too hard (which Coppola often does) than one that suffers because it doesn't try hard enough. GRADE:  B

The Outsiders: Visually powerful but dramatically uneven, the movie is most notable for kick-starting the careers of so many actors, including Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise. GRADE: B

Rumble Fish: Beautifully shot in black and white and well-acted by a great cast, but a bit too self-consciously pretentious to be fully effective. GRADE: B-

Captain EO: Minute for minute, I believe this 3D Michael Jackson extravaganza is still the most expensive movie ever made. Eat your heart out, James Cameron. Overwrought and dated, but fun. GRADE: B+

Peggy Sue Got Married: Kathleen Turner's strong performance overcomes a muddled script, and an awfully misguided performance by Coppola's nephew, Nicolas Cage, whose character might have actually been touching had he not sounded like he had clothespins pinching his testicles. GRADE: B

Tucker: The Man and his Dream: One of Coppola's better late-career efforts, aided by a great Jeff Bridges performance, and the subject of a derailed dreamer, with whom the director obviously identifies. GRADE: B+

New York Stories: Alas, Coppola's contribution to this omnibus film, "Life Without Zoe," is without much merit. Pretty but pointless. The Scorsese and Allen shorts far outshine it. GRADE: D+

The Godfather Part III: No, it's not nearly as good as the first two, but it's also not the lamentable misfire many make it out to be. It's still very powerful on the whole, even with Sofia Coppola's miscasting. GRADE: B+

Bram Stoker's Dracula: Worth it for the grandiose visuals, but not for the muddled story. And Coppola's gift for directing young actors thoroughly deserted him when it came to Keanu Reeves. GRADE: B-

Jack: Coppola's nadir. Not only is the film an unfunny spin on Big, but it bears none of  the director's hallmarks at all. It's hackwork that might as well have been directed by Dennis Dugan. GRADE: D

John Grisham's The Rainmaker: Not terribly memorable, but it was one of the better Grisham adaptations that were ubiquitous at the time. GRADE: B

Tetro: Coppola returns to form, making the sort of independent, offbeat film that his protege George Lucas has always said he wanted to make. It's not completely successful - I'm still reeling over the way Coppola stacks the deck a bit too high in the third act. Still, as so many Coppola films are, this one is about the trials and tribulations of a broken family - and it's beautifully filmed and performed. Even with the film's shortcomings, it thrilling to see Coppola reinvigorated. GRADE: A-

Friday, June 04, 2010

Those darned kids movies

After the weakest May in my moviegoing memory, the theaters come back to life with two films I plan to see this weekend - the Judd Apatow-produced Get Him to the Greek and the horror flick Splice, starring Sarah Polley, which means it will have some degree of intelligence.

There is one movie coming out this weekend, however, that I would never see - not even if I had a kid. And no, I don't mean Killers, although I wouldn't subject a kid to that either. I'm talking about Marmaduke.

I turned up my nose at the movie even before I saw one frame from it. I hate to pre-judge films, but the director's name alone was enough to make me roll over and play dead - it's Tom Dey, the hack behind films like Shanghai Noon and Failure to Launch, which are nondescript at best and unwatchable at worst.

Then I read the review by Christy Lemire, one of the film critics of the Associated Press. She describes one scene thusly:

We know we're in trouble early when Marmaduke (voiced byOwen Wilson) climbs into bed with his owners, Phil (Lee Pace) and Debbie (Judy Greer), and promptly passes gas, prompting one of many exasperated, sitcommy cries of "Marma-DUKE!"

I know, I know, kids think farts are funny. "Pull my finger" and all that. Har-de-har. But c'mon - when a movie fills the air with flatulence, it might as well be in Smell-O-Vision.  Fart jokes are a clear sign of a movie bereft of imagination. It's lazy writing that offers nothing to kids other than a cheap laugh that any fool could get with the old armpit routine. Raise your hand if you're sure.

What bothers me even more than the fart jokes are parents who take their children to any piece of junk movie with bright, pretty colors and people who fall over each other. Sure, the kid may like it. Young kids aren't very discriminating. But parents should be. It drives me up the wall when I hear some parent say "Well, it wasn't very good, but little Joey liked it."

So let me get this straight - it's OK for a movie to be lame as long as a kid likes it? What does that say about us as parents? Isn't that essentially the same principle as feeding kids a bag of cotton candy instead of even a pizza?

If/when I ever have kids, I don't intend to subject them to junk just so they'll be quiet for 90 minutes. That can be done just as easily with a quality movie. If I had a child now, I would tell him or her to wait a couple of weeks until Toy Story 3 comes out.

I know not every movie can be Pixar quality. But Bridge to Terabithia quality would be nice. Or even Diary of a Wimpy Kid quality. The latter may not offer much for adults, but it at least tries to have some imagination. I want a movie that would make my son or daughter draw pictures immediately after seeing it - not just make them laugh mindlessly.

Maybe that makes me a curmudgeon. And maybe this is all too easy for me to write, not having had to deal with the Puss in Boots "Pleeeeeeeeze?" expression, or, on the other end of the scale, the temper tantrum.  But I would want my kids to have the best, and that includes the movies they watch.

Lemire puts is beautifully at the end her review: "The 7-year-olds in the audience won't know or care. But they deserve better."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So who should helm The Hobbit?

So Guilliermo del Toro bailed on The Hobbit. So now the question becomes, who bails out the franchise and steps in to direct?

The logical alternate is, of course, Peter Jackson, and contrary to initial reports, Jackson has said he would direct in a pinch.

But what if Jackson doesn't feel the pinch? Who else could step in. I'll tackle some of the suggestions that have been bandied about.

In no particular order:

Christopher Nolan: I love his work, but his strength in the Batman movies has been his melding of the real with the fantastic. I'd love to see him try, but the whole Tolkienkein world seems too otherworldly to suit his style.

Tim Burton: He's undoubtedly at home in the fantasy realm, but his work has been uneven lately. I don't trust him, I'm sorry to say.

Paul Thomas Anderson: Hoo boy. This has to be a joke suggestion. His Hobbit would be something unique, no doubt, but it seems foolish to contemplate what clearly ain't gonna happen.

Alfonso Cuaron: Seems the most logical choice. He can clearly handle big-budget fantasy, as he proved with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, still the best film of that series to date. And since he and del Toro are simpatico, he might be easily persuaded.

Baz Luhurmann. WOW. The mind boggles. Tolkien by way of Moulin Rouge. Strongly doubt it will become reality, but the idea is tantalizing.

Ron Howard: Not as iffy an idea as some might think. Some say he has no distinct style. Those people don't pay close attention. Still, the last time he did a big fantasy, the result was the rather iffy Willow.

Steven Spielberg: Clearly, he could handle it, but clearly he wouldn't. Besides all that, his visual style seems too distinct for the world Jackson has already built. This just seems like the default choice for people who can't name any other director. Besides, Spielberg and Jackson are already collaborating on Tintin.

Ridley Scott: No. Robin Hood managed to be undercooked and overwrought at the same time. The man needs to recharge his batteries.

Neill Blomkamp: After Curaron, Jackson's protoge who made District 9 seems the next most logical choice. He's got skills. But is he ready to tackle a project this huge?

David Yates: I rather doubt he would go straight from wrapping two Potter films at once to two Tolkien films at once.

Pedro Almodovar:  Ay de mi. No es probable.

Kenneth Branagh: Interesting idea. I always thought he would do well with Potter. But he's busy with Thor.

Darren Aronofsky: VERY interesting idea! He's able to hop from genre to genre, going from the fantastic (The Fountain) to the gritty (The Wrestler). Still, Tolkien doesn't seem like his best fit.

Alex Proyas: Can create amazing images as evidenced by The Crow and Dark City. But then there was the ludicrous Knowing ...

 Wes Anderson: Too quirky.

James Camron: Nah. By now he prefers to make up his own worlds.

Sam Raimi: Raimi actually considered directing this, as I recall, but considering how much fun Drag Me to Hell was,  I still think it's best for him to regroup some more after losing Spidey.

Wolfgang Petersen:  Why not? He did a pretty good job with The Neverending Story.

Peter Weir: This is the suggestion I am most intrigued by. Weir's particular strength is immersing us in atmosphere, whether it be the artificial world of The Truman Show, the sea of Master and Commander, and the Amish of Witness. Still, somewhat like Nolan, he seems best at working with earthly worlds, not fantastical ones like Middle Earth.

Whom would you like to see direct The Hobbit? Can you suggest anyone I've not covered here?

Really pithy DVD reviews redux

Out today

Alice in Wonderland: This made more than $300 million. I have no idea why. Full review: GRADE: C

The Wolfman: Most critics said "Hi-ho silver, AWAY!" So I didn't bite.