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LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
- September 07, 2009
- Vol. 72
- No. 10
Picks and Pans: Movies
District 9's Sharlto Copley Beginner's Luck
Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Groff, Eugene Levy, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber | R |
As the saying goes, if you can remember Woodstock, you weren't there. Forty years later the same test applies to the lackluster Taking Woodstock, which fades from memory moments after you leave the theater. The comedy is based on the true story of Elliot Tiber (Martin). Stuck trying to make ends meet while running his Russian parents' fleabag Catskills motel for the summer, he decides to woo the large music festival that's looking for a home. He convinces his neighbor Max Yasgur (Levy) to rent out his 600-acre farmland for the gig, and soon the money—and the hippies—are rolling in.
Some of the preparations are amusing, but when the festival finally gets underway, director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) presents a neutered Woodstock that seems about as groundbreaking as a game of canasta. Lee's biggest mistake is in casting stand-up comic Martin, so inert onscreen that he often seems to disappear. He's outacted at every turn by a spry supporting cast, especially Staunton as his batty mom and Schreiber as a cross-dressing ex-Marine. But not even they can help Woodstock get its groovy back.
In fashion no one is more influential—or feared—than Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. This engaging film follows Wintour, who helped inspire The Devil Wears Prada's withering editor, as she prepares the fashion bible's top-selling September issue. She's fascinating, but the biggest revelation is Grace Coddington, Vogue's outspoken creative director. Between devising ingenious photo shoots and valiantly battling Wintour to keep them intact, she gives the film—and Vogue—its heart.
>Work it, girl. Liev Schreiber, 41, plays a tough transvestite in Taking Woodstock.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE IN DRAG? I became giddy in a strange way the moment I put on the dress. Vanity quickly set in, and I thought, "I wish my belly was flatter." But it's nice to hear I have nice legs.
DO YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH WOMEN NOW? I see what it's like to wear high heels. The shoes are awful and I have sympathy. But for a 6'3" man, to walk around in stilettos is nearly impossible!
HOW DID YOUR GIRLFRIEND, NAOMI WATTS, REACT? It flipped her out! She was in shock for 30 seconds. Then she started to crack jokes.
>• In the Twilight sequel, due Nov. 20, director Chris Weitz brings the undead royalty (including a scary Dakota Fanning) to life.
HOW DID YOU ENVISION THE VOLTURI? I think they're magnificently scary and at the same time very elegant, so that's how I wanted to portray them onscreen. I wanted to steer clear of any clichés—Dracula's castle sort of stuff. When you see their lair, it's actually quite classically beautiful.
THOSE RED EYES ARE CREEPY! They're all hand-painted contacts to match the particular eye shade of the actor. They're almost like praying mantis eyes. There's something terribly off-putting about it.
DAKOTA FANNING GETS TO BE BAD AS EVIL TORTURER JANE. I think she wanted to play an evil character for once. She's always kind of playing a very nice girl, and she is a very nice girl. There's no question that she is very strange and very spooky in this movie.
>Why does rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie love horror so much? "It's the only genre where the audience expects you to attack them with everything you've got," he says. "And still they scream for more." As his new chiller Halloween II hits theaters, Zombie shares the movies he turns to for a good, weird scare.
FREAKS 1932 Tod Browning's film is as shocking now as it was upon its initial release, mostly due to the fact that real freaks were used in the cast. A classic.
SPIDER BABY 1964 A sad Lon Chaney Jr. stars in one of his last films: a bizarre tale of cannibalistic children who age backward mentally, growing older and more murderous.
DERANGED 1974 Based very closely on the true story of real-life killer Ed Gein. [It's about] a lonely farmer who digs up [his mother's] body and takes her home. Fun for the whole family.
LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES 1974 Hammer Films meets chop-socky Hong Kong. Peter Cushing stars as Van Helsing in a wild tale of kung-fu experts and vampires.
DAWN OF THE DEAD 1978 The first and last word on zombie movies. The mind-blowing follow-up to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead—only this time in full, bloody color.
>In his first movie role, the South African, 35, scores summer's surprise science-fiction hit.
HE'S BEEN BEHIND THE SCENES Before acting in District 9, Copley worked behind the camera directing music videos and commercials. The movie's success "completely sideswiped me," he says. "I wouldn't have thought something so South African and so different could do really well."
NO AUDITION NECESSARY Director Neill Blomkamp cast his longtime pal after he improvised a scene. "Neill thought it would be a real fight to get me the part, but [Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson] said yes."
HE'S A FILM FANATIC One of his favorite actors? "Robin Williams. He's got real heart and depth."
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