Hi folks. After a two-week hiatus your favorite weekly column/columnist is back. You know you missed me. Well, enough niceties. Lets get right into things with what I watched last week.

WHAT DID GALLAGHER WATCH LAST WEEK?

The Last King of Scotland

This is one I've been wanting to see ever since it was first released, mainly because everyone and their dog couldn't stop raving about Forest Whitaker's performance from the day it opened until he received his Best Actor Oscar. Is the hype warranted? Abso-frickin-lutely, folks! Whitaker gives the performance of a lifetime here, an absolutely mesmerizing turn as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He deserved every single award he received for this performance (which was many) and, since his performance was basically the ONLY thing I had heard about this movie, I wasn't expecting much else from the rest of the movie, and was pleasantly surprised there as well. We get a great performance from James McAvoy, as the Scotish doctor Nick Garrigan who strikes up a peculiar relationship with the warlord, and I was also surprised to see Gillian "Scully" Anderson here, although in a very small role as a missionary/doctor. We get a very thorough script from Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, based off Giles Foden's book, and Kevin McDonald's direction works nicely as well. For a movie that I only heard about because of its lead actor, it's quite a thoroughly well-done movie and a must-see for more than Mr. Whitaker's incredible performance. 4.5 stars out of 5

The Illusionist

This is probably the fourth or fifth or maybe sixth time I've seen this in the two months since I first watched this extraordinary film. Naturally, it was something I had wanted to see in the theater, but couldn't due to the cinematic abyss that is my locale, and when a bunch of friends started raving about it once it hit DVD/Netflix, I had to check it out for myself. From that point forward, I've been doing nothing but raving about it to anyone who will listen, because this is an astounding film, especially considering its writer-director had only done one movie prior to this one! Writer-director Neil Burger puts on just as good a show as his stars Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell and Paul Giamatti, all of whom perform superbly. Burger's script is filled with intrigue, taut pacing and an intricate structure, while his direction harkens back to the period in which it was set, using some old-time transition methods to bring us closer to the time frame of the piece. This is about as flawless a film I've seen in a few years, folks, and one that you just can't miss. Period. 5 stars out of 5

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

I just can't help it, folks. I friggin love Tenacious D. Jack Black and Kyle Gass' "band" have given us some great songs (as well as transitional phrases for SportsCenter highlights...) and now they're taking their act to the silver screen in a humorous, presumably fictional tale of how they first met and journeyed to greatness by pursuing the infamous Pick of Destiny. No, the acting isn't that great and the film relies heavily on a barrage of weed, dick and fart jokes, many of which fail. You'll probably be surprised at the number of cameos here as well from the likes of Ben Stiller (who executive produced), Tim Robbins, Amy Poehler, Colin Hanks, Amy Adams along with musicians Meat Loaf, Ronnie James Dio and Dave Grohl, who plays Satan. What really makes the movie work is Tenacious D's music throughout the movie, which eerily accentuates their material here. One part in particular, with the song "Storm the Gates," where the song actually describes what Jack Black is doing, hilariously, is worth the price of rental or purchase alone. It's a guilty pleasure flick, folks. It won't win any awards and you won't cry at the end, but it's pretty damn entertaining. 3.5 stars out of 5

NOTABLES

"Some of the Dark Knight To Be Shot in IMAX" - Monday, May 28:

Some groundbreaking stuff here, as this will be the first live-action feature to be partially filmed with IMAX cameras, the result of which will merge the 35mm and IMAX formats. Director Christopher Nolan will only be filming four segments of his film in this 15/70 format, but this should kick MAJOR arse next summer, folks. While it's become almost common practice to remaster popular films for the huge IMAX format, like this film's predecessor Batman Begins and others, this will be the first to give us a glimpse of IMAX filming technology on a standard silver screen. I wonder how many of the Michael Bay's and Stephen Sommers' of the directing world are kicking theirselves for not thinking of this first. I personally can't flippin wait! Best News of the Week Nominee.

"John Woo to Direct Ninja Gold" - Tuesday, May 29:

The only thing that I don't like about this project is the title. Other than that, this sounds pretty damn sweet, folks. Obviously, a ninja project with John Woo will open some eyes, and this one has mine wide open. The story involves a ninja who descends from a long line of ninjas, who tries to cope with and adapt to the modern-day covert warfare. This is a really slick premise here, developed by Woo and a vidgame creator Warren Spector, along with longtime Woo partner Terrence Chang. A ninja fighting his way through the 21st Century? Sign me up!! Best News of the Week Nominee.

"Chris Weitz Is Directing Elric" - Tuesday, May 29:

We might have to wait until the end of the year before properly gauging this news. Chris Weitz and his brother Paul Weitz have a filmography full of comedy and drama with such movies like American Pie, About a Boy, American Dreamz and In Good Company. This December we'll see if Chris can tackle this fantasy genre when the anticipated The Golden Compass is released, the first adaptation of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials novel trilogy. I think it's safe to say that that movie's success might very well determine the fate of this one. With the HUGE cast and the pedigree of the novels, I'd be surprised if The Golden Compass fails, but stranger things have happened... like Paris Hilton going to jail. Who knew. But, all this aside, this sounds like a great new project for the Brothers Weitz and hopefully they can turn it into a fantastic success. Best News of the Week Nominee.

"The Teen Titans Are Coming to a Theater Near You!" - Wednesday, May 30:

OK, I'm not a comic book guru or even a regular reader of them, or even an animation guru/regular watcher, but I recently reviewed a Teen Titans DVD and the only character that is the same, apparently, is Robin. Perhaps the new characters were part of the "revamping" but who knows. It wasn't that good of a DVD, but it wasn't a big theatrical production, so I'd have to imagine that it would be torqued up a bit for the theater... shouldn't I? It says they will focus on their college years... which wouldn't make them "teen" titans then, would it? I just don't know about this, folks. We dont' get any word here if it will be live-action or animated/CGI, and I suppose that will be a big factor in which side of the fence I come down off of for this one. But, for now, I just can't get too pumped about this. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Haylie Duff to Star in Legacy" - Thursday, May 31:

It's becoming clear that Napoleon Dynamite was just a huge fluke... for Haylie Duff anyway. After appearing in that breakout hit, she's been just terrible at picking projects, with a few bombs under her belt since then and one soon-to-be-bomb in her The I Scream Man project with Crispin Glover. Yeah. Well, at least she's consistent, picking this one next, a dopey sorority murder mystery. Blah. Look, Summer, just because 7th Heaven is done with, doesn't mean you have to get busy snapping up some of the worst-sounding projects around. You can always, you know, try picking something that doesn't sound so, like, moronic. Worst News of the Week Nominee.

"Denise Richards to Lead A Beautiful Life" - Thursday, May 31:

This is one of the oddest casts I've ever seen assembled. Never mind the fact that Denise Richards is toplining here for the first time in ages, but look at this supporting cast: Jesse Garcia, Dana Delany, Debi Mazar and Michael Madsen. I'm a huge fan of Madsen, but I doubt I will be a fan of this flick. The only thing we get here is that Richards will play an exotic dancer in a character-driven piece set in Los Angeles. Hmm. Sounds like something that was released awhile ago, that ruined the careers of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and Elizabeth Berkley... You know, starts with an S, ends with howgirls... I hope the same isn't the case here, but only for Madsen's sake, but still, this sounds dreadful. Worst News of the Week.

BOX OFFICE CORNER

Well, the pirates box office ship didn't necessarily sink in their second weekend, but lets just say they sprung a pretty damn big leak. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End stayed atop the box office heap this weekend, taking in $44.2 million this weekend, dropping a hefty 61.5% from its massive $114.7 million opening weekend. The Johnny Depp flick now stands at $217.5 million overall from its 11 days in release, still well short of its mammoth $300 million production budget. The third trilogy-completer this opening summer month of May, it fell in line with the first two, Spider-Man 3 and Shrek the Third, each suffering substantial second-weekend dropoffs with Spidey dropping 61.5% and Shrek falling 56.4% in their second weekends, respectively. Perhaps everyone and their dogs saw them the first weekend. Perhaps they just weren't as good as everyone expected...

One of the newcomers was likely a big reason for the Pirates huge slide. Knocked Up, Judd Apatow's follow-up to his highly successful directorial debut breakthrough, The 40 Year Old Virgin, took in some solid business in its opening weekend. It came in second behind the pirates, taking in an impressive $30.6 million in its opening weekend. It received a decent, but much lower rollout than the pirates, at 2,871 theaters, but it actually outperformed those scurvy swashbucklers in per-screen average, taking in $10,690 per screen compared to the pirates $10,134 per-screen average. The Knocked Up crew scored some huge reviews with critics across the country, nabbing an incredibly impressive 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, in what must have been the first movie all summer that the critics collectively loved. They also actually have a profit to show for their efforts after the just the first weekend as well, coming from a meager $30 million budget. With some uncertainty in next week's releases, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see a paltry 30% decrease for Apatow, Rogen, Heigl and Co. next weekend.

Also opening this weekend was Mr. Brooks, with Kevin Costner going all baddie on us, which took in just over $10 million, good for 5th place. It received a modest rollout of 2,453 theaters and took in an equally modest per-screen average of $4,083. The good news for this flick? It only cost $20 million to make. Gracie, the kind-of biopic of Elizabeth Shue's soccer days, came in 7th with $1.3 million and had the insanely unique distinction of having the per-screen average EXACTLY equal its theater count, with 1,164 theaters/dollars per-screen. Weird. And finally, in some personally depressing news, Day Watch didn't make much of a smash in its limited opening release. It took in $46,730 from just 5 theaters, for a decent $9,346 per-screen average. While it received a positve reception from critics (71% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), it didn't make a huge dent at the box office, and I'm hoping and praying that it will still expand to my neck of the Midwest, although I doubt it, sadly...

GOING LIVE

Balls of Fury: (BallsOfFury.com)

Unfortunately, all we really get on this site is the hilarious trailer. There is a "team message" that encourages you to join the "Balls of Justice," which you can do by supplying your email address, and which will give you exclusive content and info and other crap. If you haven't seen the super-funny trailer, though, this site is worth a visit. Hopefully there will be more on this site before the movie opens on August 31.

The Heartbreak Kid: (HeartbreakKidMovie.com)

Dammit. Another teaser. All we get here is the trailer and below that is a cast/crew list and synopsis and the release date. Blah! OK, the trailer is worth checking out so, like the last site, if you haven't seen the trailer, go watch it and then leave, because there is nothing else. The Heartbreak Kid opens on October 5.

Interview: (InterviewTheFilm.com)

Holy balls, folks. A site with MORE than just the trailer! The trailer is here, of course, and it is FANTASTIC, but there is more to the site. We get a wonderful Synopsis, thorough bios of the Cast; all two of them (Steve Buscemi, who also co-writes and directs, and Sienna Miller), a note on Buscemi's directing experience in Director, a decent Gallery of images, some decent Links, Showtimes and Reviews are coming soon. The last thing we get here is a rather interesting link called Triple Theo. Apparently Interview is the first film to be completed in this project, which are all remakes of Dutch-language films from Theo van Gogh, the great-grandson of Vincent van Gogh's brother, Theo, and who was murdered almost three years ago, apparently motivated by "political and religious intolerance." Before his death, van Gogh wanted to remake three of his films and set them all in New York City, using a minimalistic approach to filmmaking, and after his death, van Gogh's crew came to New York to shop his vision around. This film marks the first of this unique trilogy, with films helmed by Stanley Tucci and John Turturro to round it out. There is some very interesting stuff on this Triple Theo, along with the rest of this site. Both the site AND the movie look to be well worth a look-see. Interview opens on July 13, in New York and Los Angeles.

TRAILER PARK

Sicko

Ready for some medical feathers to be ruffled? Here comes Michael Moore with another hard-hitting, sort of anti-Bush documentary. It almost makes you wonder if Moore is going to have anything to do if a Democrat takes over the White House next year... Anyway, Sicko delves into the American health care situation in the same fashion as his previous documentaries: on the attack and encouraging controversy. You've likely heard of this movie already because of the American government investigating the legalities of Moore's little boat trip to the American base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba to get some 9/11 relief workers free medical care. This one should open some eyes and get people talking the same way his previous documentaries have. Sicko opens on June 29.

September Dawn

Damn, this looks really interesting, folks. Don't confuse this with Rescue Dawn, though, because you'll end up seeing an ENTIRELY different movie. This one is based on a true story from September 11... 1857, with the massacre of 120 men, women and children that was covered up by a religious icon. We get a stellar main cast of Jon Voight and Terrence Stamp and this just looks too intriguing to pass up, folks. September Dawn opens on June 22.

I Know Who Killed Me

Maybe Lindsay Lohan can act after all, folks. This is her most compelling and intriguing role to date and, from the looks of this trailer, she pulls it off wonderfully. Lohan plays a girl named Aubrey, suburbanite teenage daughter of affluent parents. She's popular and has a boyfriend, but there seems to be another side to her that she never quite reveals. Then she's kidnapped and mutilated, barely surviving her encounter... but waking up as Dakota, not Aubrey. From there it looks like we get a nice twisty little tale of deception and intrigue and something that might get Lindsay Lohan some positive headlines, for a change. I Know Who Killed Me opens on July 27.

BEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

I'm going with John Woo's new ninja flick for my Best News of the Week. I keep picturing those scenes that they have in a lot of movies when someone is new to New York City. They have that one face focused on in the big sidewalk crowd, or the high-angle 360-degree shots of that face looking around Times Square. Yeah, the stuff they did in Borat, and in many others. Now, imagine that face being a flippin' NINJA! Some cops roll up on him and he slices them up and bam. A lone ninja versus the modern world of surveilance and communication, AND directed by John Woo to boot! OK, it probably won't go like that, but the ninja vs. the modern world thing is pretty damn cool, I think. Put this on the fast track, please!

WORST NEWS OF THE WEEK

It was a tough call for this one, but I'm going with Denise Richards going all Showgirls on us for my Worst News of the Week. OK, seriously. Does this really sound any different from Showgirls from the little info we've been given here? What's funny about all this, is that I'm reading Joe Eszterhas's memoir right now, Hollywood Animal... Anyway, with this already-failed story and just weirdo cast in place, I think the only thing that might save this movie is the possibility of Denise Richards baring her assets... throughout the entire runtime.

That's all for this week. Surf on by next week for more box office goodies, new official websites for upcoming flicks, new trailers and, of course, the best and worst news of the week. Take care folks and, always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time... it probably isn't free. Gallagher out!

Cinemark Movie Club