Randoms

Simulated Return of CinemaScope 55

A few weeks ago Fox restoration guru Schawn Belston told me that the Blurays of Carousel and The King and I inside the forthcoming Rodgers & Hammerstein Bluray set (Fox Home Video, 4.29) were sourced from the original widescreen CinemaScope 55 elements, which means richer, extra-sharp quality. Both films were shot with the larger-negative process (roughly analogous to VistaVision but with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, qnd “a picture four times the size of 35mm CinemaScope“) but both were reduced down to 35mm anamorphic film for theatrical projection. So not even the big-city roadshow engagements of these films presented the large-format benefits of the process — every print was reduced down to 35mm. At least Belston’s decision to draw from the original 55mm negative for the Blurays will provide a taste of what these two films might have looked like if Fox has decided against the down-rezzing.

By the way: Frank Sinatra was originally cast as Billy Bigelow in the Henry King film, but he walked off the set when told he’d have to shoot each scene twice a la Oklahoma! (which shot in 35mm and Todd AO). This makes no sense at all, of course, as King shot only one version in CinemaScope 55mm. The explanation is that right after Sinatra bolted, Carousel producers found a way to film the scene once on 55mm and then transfer it onto 35mm, so no shooting everything twice. Here’s his “Soliloquy”, which I’ve always thought was one of his best-ever recordings ever in any capacity. (more…)

Working On It

I attended last night’s reading of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight at the Ace Hotel theatre in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve been trying to post a reaction piece for a while now but interruptions keep happening. I’ll get it up sometime this afternoon. I’ll also have a considered reaction to last Wednesday’s 20th Century Fox screening of footage from Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes (7.11.14). Just get off my back, don’t rush me, etc.

Dark Subject, Pretty Music

I’ve always liked Hugo Freidhofer‘s lush but sturdy score for Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks (’60). You could argue that it sounds a little too comforting — too romantic and swoony, too conventionally orchestrated — for a film about betrayal, revenge and the fundamental duplicity and untrustworthiness of humans. But I think it works because of this lack of thematic coordination. The movie is frank and blunt and unforgiving for the most part, but Freidhofer’s music is the refuge. Listen to the main-title track — it’s a skillful piece of schmaltzy persuasion and really quite sublime if you accept it on its own terms. The gig happened because Brando liked Friedhofer’s score for The Young Lions (’58) and, I would presume, The Best Years of Our Lives (’46), which is probably his best-known work. The man had soul. It always came through.

God Came In Third

I should try to open my heart and pay to see Randal Wallace‘s Heaven is For Real, which has pulled down $28.5 million since opening last Wednesday. But I’m very reluctant and I probably won’t. In part because the 53% Rotten Tomatoes rating obviously indicates a degree of mediocrity. I also find the Christian belief that you can get into Heaven only by accepting Jesus as your one true savior (sorry, Muslims, Taoists, Buddhists and Satan-worshippers!) to be completely descpicable and ridiculous, and donating $15 to the cause would give me indigestion, I think. Compassionate liberal Christians are cool but conservative hinterland Christians are, I believe, clueless phonies and sanctimonious prigs whose core values and loyalties are aligned with whitebread Republicanism, and that makes them pretty close to vile in my book.

Not to mention the above still of Kelly Reilly beaming gentle love into the eyes of her young son Colton (played by Connor Corum)…I’m sorry but I can’t stand the idea of watching a film that pushes this kind of treacly family sentimentality. But I suppose it’s possible there are spiritual values in this film that might be worth pondering, and that I’m not giving the damn thing a chance because of my profound loathing of rightwing Christians, whose beliefs and lifestyles would make Yeshua retch if he ever re-appeared and saw what had been created in His name.

I would be honestly surprised if any HE regulars paid to see Heaven Is For Real but if they have and would like to share, please do. (more…)

Shake The Tree, Find More Twinks

An industry friend who’s spoken to a couple of attorneys about Michael Egan‘s sex-abuse lawsuit against X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer has been told that the case is weak or, to put it more bluntly, “shit.” The 15-year delay in filing. Egan’s 2000 lawsuit that didn’t mention Singer. Singer’s contention that he was absorbed in pre-production in Toronto in the early fall of 1999, which is when the alleged abuse happened in Oahu at the Mitchell resort. Not to mention the ability of Singer and his attorney Marty Singer to spend their opponents to death with delays and motions and whatnot. Not to mention attorney Singer’s announced intention to countersue.

My friend suspects that the reason Egan’s attorney Jeff Herman staged a press conference two days ago (i.e., Thursday) was that he was looking to “shake the tree” in hopes of getting “more plaintiffs” — i.e., twinks who may or may not have “been” with Singer under similar circumstances — to come forward. Egan joined by a fresh twink means a stronger case against Singer; Egan plus two or three twinks means an even stronger case, and so on. Herman said Thursday that Egan’s lawsuit is the first of several that will be released next week in hopes of ending “pedophile rings” he said exist in Hollywood. “Hollywood’s got a problem,” he said at the press conference. “Since filing this lawsuit yesterday, I’ve heard from many people who allege that as children in Hollywood, they’ve been abused.”

Don’t Mess With The Dardennes

It is an understatement to say that Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes, directors of Two Days and One Night, enjoy emeritus kiss-ass status at the Cannes Film Festival. After they finish a new movie, it (a) always plays in competition and (b) is almost always praised by kowtowing Cannes critics as being a quiet little masterpiece. The only negative thing you’re allowed to say about a Dardennes film is that it’s “minor,” as I said three years ago about The Kid With The Bike. I would go so far as to say the Dardennes are almost feared in a certain way. I’m not calling them the Sonny and Michael Corleone of Belgian directors, but if you mention their names a kind of hush falls over the room.


Exclu : la bande-annonce de «Deux jours, une… by Telerama_BA (more…)

Depp Alone Puts No Butts In Seats

The total tanking of Wally Pfister‘s Transcendence ($4.8 million Friday earnings plus C+ Cinemascore rating = a likely $11.5 million dollar weekend) is the second huge flop in a row for Johnny Depp in the wake of The Lone Ranger. Depp himself didn’t flop, of course — the movie did. For the 17th or 18th time, nobody is hot to see a Johnny Depp film on the strength of his name. He’s obviously been lucky and is financially loaded beyond belief, but on his own terms he’s just another engaging middle-aged actor with offbeat tastes. He’s never been a money machine in and of himself.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Presumed High-Pedigree: Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. Jean Marc Vallee's Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jeff NicholsMidnight Special, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Michel Hazanavicius' The Search; Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Chidren; Phillip Noyce's The Giver, Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep); Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner. (19).

Special Wackadoodle: Nobody knows if Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups or the "intersecting love triangles" Austin-based film (formerly known as Lawless) will be unveiled this year, or perhaps one this year and the other in 2015. The flaky, hermit-like Malick usually requires a minimum of two years to edit his films, but he might need three.

Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Jason Bateman's Bad Words, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood, Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. (6)

Respected Festival Leftovers: John Curran's Tracks (Mia Wasikowska-Adam Driver Australian trek film); Steve JamesLife Itself.

Respectable Second Tier: Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys, Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project; Steven Knight's Locke, Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love, Tate Taylor's Get On Up (Chadwick Bozeman as James Brown); David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars, Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent de Van Nuys, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth, Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, David Dobkin's The Judge, Untitled Cameron Crowe, Ama Asante's Belle, Craig Gillespie‘s Million Dollar Arm, Richard Shephard‘s Dom Hemingway, Nick CassavetesThe Other Woman; Todd HaynesCarol. (24)

Possible Cannes 2014 Highlights: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman [see above]. Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman [see above], Fatih Akin's The Cut, Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room, Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria, Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Hibernation, Dardennes brothers' Two Days, One Night, Laurent Cantet's Retour a Ithaque, Michel Hazanavicius' The Search [also among Respectable Second Tier]. (10)

Third Tier (i.e., Possibly Respectable Megaplex Movies): Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Wally Pfister's Transcendence, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview, David Ayers' Fury, Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Joe Carnahan‘s Stretch, Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day (beware-of-Reitman factor), Luc Besson‘s Lucy (probable crap), David Michod's The Rover, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s Jupiter Ascending, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus, Ryan Gosling‘s How To Catch A Monster (aesthetic judgment in question after starring in The Place Beyond The Pines, The Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives). (16)

 

Endings Are Half The Game

Four and a half months after the 7.1.09 opening of Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies, I reminded everyone about how brilliantly it ends. I just found a new YouTube clip today and it still delivers. Excerpt: “Say what you want about Public Enemies, but the finale — the one-on-one between Marion Cotillard‘s Billie Frechette and Stephen Lang‘s Charles Winstead, a brief jailhouse conversation that ended with the words ‘Bye-bye, Blackbird’ — was the most penetrating of 2009. The best, the most memorable, the most oddly affecting.” Lang is the guy — he says every word with precisely the right tone and emphasis. If he’d delivered with just a little bit less or more, the scene wouldn’t have worked half as well.

Redband Repeat

“Anyone who’s read HE for any length of time knows I genuinely admire comedies that I call no-laugh funny — i.e., consistently clever, amusing and witty but never quite eliciting actual laughter. Nicholas Stoller‘s Neighbors (Universal, 5.9.14) is not that — it’s heh-heh funny. I was never that giddy or tickled but I never felt bored or irritated or disengaged. I got ten or twelve heh-hehs out of it, and the rest is at least fast, punchy and lewd. It’s not exactly a routine culture clash comedy but the basic set-up — a 30ish couple with a baby (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) vs. a party-animal college fraternity (Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) that moves in next door — is familiar. But Neighbors is agreeably tight and vigorous and scattershot, and Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien‘s script (augmented, I’m sure, by nonstop improv) is a cut or two above. A likely hit.” — filed from Cinemacon in Las Vegas on 3.26.

Not Getting Scarjo Thing

Media people…okay, magazine editors have decided that Scarlett Johansson is extra-double-happening right now and so she’s on two big covers because…why again? Because of her tough-as-nails but not exactly earth-shattering supporting performance as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Because certain people are convinced she’ll be the absolute shit in Luc Besson‘s Lucy? Because she played a predatory, black-wigged alien picking up Scottish hitchhikers in Under The Skin, which nearly everyone agrees is a fairly rough sit? Because she played an argumentative zoo-keeper in We Bought A Zoo? Let me explain something: Scarlett Johansson has been acting in films for 20 years (her first film was Rob Reiner‘s North) and she’s delivered exactly one classic performance — as Samantha the software program in Spike Jonze‘s Her. And she was very, very good in Lost in Translation and Match Point, and she was better than-half-decent in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I’m just not getting the hey-hey-ho. Which is another way of saying I’m not experiencing the requisite libidinal stirrings.

 

Twinky Dink

Recent comments on Queerty, a tabloidy gay gossip website, about the Bryan Singer-Michael Egan scandal are probably somewhat indicative of under-40 gay community sentiment. So rather than listen to me, a lifelong straight guy who finds Egan’s stories about having been repeatedly and forcibly violated a bit questionable, consider the responses to today’s (4.18) Queerty story about Singer and director Roland Emmerich having thrown huge “twink” parties (along with a photo of Singer and a young blond kid). These guys obviously have a degree of insight and perspective that straights can’t have.

And before reading some of the comments (or all of them if you click on the page), consider the odd-sounding headline (odd in the sense that the implied offense and unsympathetic judgment doesn’t seem to fit a gay-friendly publication) and imagine the laughter if a scandal sheet had published a story in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s about Hugh Hefner‘s wild Playboy mansion orgies and all the pot, booze, ‘ludes and cocaine that were consumed and how Hef’s obsession for young nubile women is no secret. (more…)

“Let’s Try That Uhgain…”

Scott Eyman‘s “John Wayne: The Life and Legend” has put me in a receptive frame of mind. This 1969 interview with Duke is from Peter Bogdanovich‘s Directed by John Ford (’71). I succumbed to Wayne’s charm when I first saw this way back when. 1969 was right on the girth cusp for The Duke. He allowed himself to get pretty bulky after this. (Was it Ford or Howard Hawks who complained said that Wayne had gotten too fat in his later years?) The image and sound quality are much better on the Directed by John Ford DVD, of course, that they are here. (The French guy who edited this YouTube assemblage is a talentless amateur, of course — he can’t cut worth a damn.)

Judge Mullet For Yourself

In a 1.21.14 Sundance Film Festival review, I confessed to bailing on Jim Mickle‘s Cold in July and that much of my inability to stay with it was due to a hair-styling decision by Mickle. “The part I saw felt like a Jim Thompson melodrama mixed with the kind of low-rent VOD film that throws in a totally unexpected third-act-plot-twist because viewers won’t expect it,” I said. “I’d read the reviews, I knew what was coming…later. But the main issue (and I’m not saying this just to sound eccentric or obstinate) is Mickle’s decision to have his lead actor, Michael C. Hall, wear a mullet.

“My heart sank when I saw it. A brick wall. I tried to get past it but I couldn’t. I should have just walked out when I saw the damn thing but I stupidly hung in there. (more…)

The Damned

Yesterday a Daily Mail piece about columnist Baz Bamigboye visiting the set of Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth (’15) appeared. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard portray Mr. and Mrs. M with Sean Harris, Paddy Considine, Elizabeth Debicki and David Thewlis costarring. I’ve seen my share of Macbeths (including the notoriously panned 1980 Peter O’Toole stage version at the Old Vic), and my hands-down, all-time favorite is Roman Polanski‘s 1971 film version with Jon Finch in the title role.

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Nobody’s Had A Shower In Weeks

If you speak ‘strine, you’d be pronouncing David Michod‘s The Rover (due to play the Cannes Film Festival’s midnight section) as “the Rohvah!” Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Anthony Hayes, Gillian Jones. Michod quote: “You put cars in the desert in Australia and people are going to think of Mad Max, And with all due respect to that film — and I stress that — I think The Rover is going to be way more chillingly authentic and menacing.” RPatz looks better with longer hair.

Harmonic Convergence

Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys (Warner Bros., 6.20) is going to be at least half-decent. It’s obviously going to play it right down the middle and maybe feel a little old-fashioned, but that’s appropriate in this context. John Lloyd Young‘s voice is dead-on but couldn’t they find a guy who actually looks like Frankie Valli? (Young looks like a thin Bruno Kirby.) The Four Seasons delivered an Italian-American New York area “doo-wop,” also known among hardcore aficionados as “wop rock.” (Perhaps the most classic manifestation being The Tokens‘ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”) Everyone thinks doo-wop peaked in the mid to late ’50s, but the Four Seasons didn’t even begin to be famous until 1962. My favorite FS tune was always “Candy Girl.”

“Overly Safe,” “Lame,” “Short on Surprises”

I was put down earlier today by HE contrarians for saying I felt “a tiny bit gloomy about the just-announced selections for 2014 Cannes Film Festival” and for wondering “where’s the No Country for Old Men-level rocket fuel?” But many others have expressed similar views, to go by Justin Chang‘s Variety piece (posted at 1:58 pm) called “Cannes: Looking Past the Hype and Hate.” Excerpts: (a) “Some festgoers, surveying the actual lineup today with a mild sense of deflation, even disappointment, can too often lapse into a posture of whiny, disgruntled self-entitlement when our anticipated favorites don’t materialize when and where we want them to”; (b) “Annoyed by what we’re not getting, we sure as hell aren’t going to be excited about what we are getting; (c) “One of the more general complaints you’re likely to hear over the next few weeks about Thierry Fremaux’s latest lineup is that it’s overly safe and short on surprises: What, Mike Leigh again? Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg again? Naomi Kawase again?”; and (d) “It strikes me as…premature to be criticizing programming decisions and dismissing films sight unseen — not that it hasn’t stopped some from piling on the criticism, declaring this year’s lineup ‘pathetic‘ or ‘lame and limp-wristed,’ to name some of the choice adjectives that have been thrown around this morning on Twitter.”

Show Them The Money

This TMZ video shows Bryan Singer’s accuser Michael Egan and attorney Jeff Herman during today’s press conference in Beverly Hills. Egan said his mother reported the sexual abuse allegations to the LAPD in 2000, but they were ignored. He thereafter “buried it within me as deep as I possibly could,” he said, and that the reason he didn’t file a lawsuit until yesterday (i.e., for a period approaching 15 years) is because he “had a problem with drinking” until 2012, and that he found the resolve to file the lawsuit after going through trauma therapy over the last 11 months. Herman said the timing of the lawsuit had nothing to do with the release of Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox, 5.23), but was mandated by a 4.24 statute of limitations cutoff date in Hawaii.
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20th Century Fox spokesperson Chris Petrikin has stated the following on behalf the studio: “These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum. This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.”

Singer Lawsuit Is Shakedown

In a civil lawsuit filed yesterday (4.16) in Hawaii, Bryan Singer, the 49 year-old director of X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox, 5.20.14) was accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old lad in 1999 and forcing him to take cocaine and basically using him like a chicken hawk. The plaintiff, Michael F. Egan III of Nevada, is now 31 years old. His attorney is Jeff Herman, who has handled many other sexual-abuse cases.

This is obviously a shakedown operation, pure and simple. Egan and Herman want Singer’s money — that’s all that’s going on here.

They apparently timed the lawsuit to coincide with the upcoming release of X-Men: Days of Future Past in order to gain leverage and maximize the pressure.

You could call this the second major attempt to shake down Singer over alleged inappropriate liberties taken with younger males. Remember the Apt Pupil “boys in the shower” brouhaha? Here’s a link to Mark Ebner’s New Times piece about that.

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Don’t Bring Me Down

I feel a tiny bit gloomy about the just-announced selections for 2014 Cannes Film Festival. As my eyes scanned the list I was saying to myself “okay, some of these sound pretty good but where are the high-octane blowout titles? Where’s the No Country for Old Men-level rocket fuel?” At best this is going to be a mildly good festival. I don’t feel bummed exactly — don’t get me wrong. There are obviously some intriguing choices (like Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Winter Sleep) and some titles yet to be announced, but I’d be lying if I said I’m in a state of mild tumescence or Brian Wilson-styled excitation.

I stayed up until 2 am this morning to file, exhausted, but they didn’t start on time (i.e., at 11 am in Paris). So I took a 15-minute nap on the couch and they still hadn’t begun the press conference at 2:15 am (11:15 am in Paris) so the hell with it. And now I’m up again and reading the rundown and going “Uhm, okay…all right…wait, is that all there is?”

No big surprises, no major lightning bolts, all expected choices and no big strutting dogs with the absence of Paul Thomas Andersen‘s Inherent Vice and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman. And no films that seem assured of being in the award-season conversation except for Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher (i.e., Steve Carrell‘s lead performance) and possibly Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Search (a remake of Fred Zinneman‘s same-titled 1948 film, set in war-torn Chechnya and costarring Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening). (more…)

Knee Deep In Gore

Will 42 year-old Eli Roth ever attempt anything other than “ironic” exploitation fare about blood and organs and disembowelings? Of course not. Before he made The Green Inferno Roth hadn’t directed a film since ’07, but he seems perfectly happy being the Herschel Gordon Lewis of the 21st Century. (If he wanted to climb out of the genre dungeon he’d have made his move by now.) Compared to Roth, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, who share his enthusiasm for grindhouse genre wallowing, are Samuel Fuller and David Lean.

We’ve been down this jungle trail before. The holy grail of cannibal movies, of course, is Ruggero Deodato‘s Cannibal Holocaust (’80). For what it’s worth I was totally down with Jonathan Hensleigh’s Welcome to the Jungle (’07).

Here’s a fanboy review of Green Inferno.

Salon Editors Can’t Be Bothered?

Allen Barra‘s 4.13 Salon review of Scott Eyman‘s “John Wayne: The Life and Legend” has at least two glaring factual errors. He writes that (a) The Petrified Forest, in which Humphrey Bogart launched his career as the fearsome Duke Mantee, was released in 1941 when it opened on 2.6.36, and (b) that The Big Trail, the 1930 Raoul Walsh western in which Wayne had his first major starring role, was in “Technicolor.” (It isn’t.) You’re obviously stuck with your errors in a print publication, but an online publication can correct wrongos immediately and repeatedly. (I post corrections almost every day.) Barr’s piece was posted last Sunday morning around 9 am, and yet as of right now — Wednesday, 4.16, at 3 pm — the errors are still in the article. What kind of bullshit absentee editing system does Salon have in place? If you want to acknowledge the errors, fine, but fix them. And not within days but hours if not minutes.

Riding The Tiger’s Back

The interesting thing about some of Tom Junod‘s more colorful observations about Tom Hardy in the current Esquire (i.e., that he’s emotionally intense, has “taken swings at directors” and duked it out with Shia LaBeouf, that Mad Max: Fury Road costar Charlize Theron found him “weird and scary and wanted him kept away from her”) is that he radiates a Zen-like calm in Locke. The film “mostly works because of Steven Knight’s superior script and Hardy’s quiet, authoritative, carefully phrased performance…his best yet, I feel,” I wrote on 4.8. I ran into Hardy two or three years ago at the Four Seasons — he’s not a day-at-the-beach type but he’s no bullshitter and is basically cool.

Heaven Will Be Profitable

Why is it that I find the the Heaven-accepting, death-defying premise of Warren Beatty‘s Heaven Can Wait deeply moving (especially the final scene inside the L.A. Coliseum), but the idea of watching Randall Wallace‘s Heaven Is For Real (Sony, 4.16) completely repulsive? Not just because of the loony-visions aspect (i.e., Jesus riding on a rainbow-colored horse), but because Gregg Kinnear‘s way of speaking to his on-screen son, played by Connor Corum, is horribly cloying and patronizing. (Never talk down to young kids — I always spoke to mine as if they were 30.) And Corum’s acting is quite grating. The trailer clips are oppressive enough — I can’t imagine sitting through the entire 100 minutes.

The film is based on Todd Burpo‘s 2010 book “Heaven Is For Real,” about a near-death death experience by his four year-old son Colton in which he visited a realm that he believed was “heaven.” Colton apparently claimed “that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.” Just reading that makes me quite angry. Seeing it in a film would be torture. Despite a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Heaven Is For Real is expected to do very well commercially.

Trust and Lies

Right now the three Rotten Tomato reviews of Paul Haggis‘s Third Person are strongly negative, but a 9.10.13 review by Variety’s Peter Debruge differed: “With segments set in Paris, Rome and New York, this tony contempo romance serves as a Crash course in complex modern relationships, focusing primarily on issues of guilt and trust as they relate to love. Though virtually every twist on this emotional roller coaster feels preordained by its architect, [Haggis] leaves certain mysteries for the audience to interpret, making for a more open-ended and mature work all around. It’s hearty fare by arthouse standards, and should perform well with thinking auds the world over, boosted by a starry cast.”

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Chinatown, Ex-Wife, Kids, Lesbians, etc.

There’s only thing that seems ill-considered about Cedric Klapisch‘s Chinese Puzzle (Cohen Media Group, 5.16) is the title. Yes, it’s largely set in Manhattan’s Chinatown and involves a somewhat puzzling tangle of relationships centering around a French writer in his late 30s (Romain Duris), but the title doesn’t even hint at the buoyant spirit and mood of the trailer. It hasn’t caught major festival heat so far, but it’s well liked. It played the London Film Festival last October. Positive reviews have surfaced in Australia, where it opens later this week. It’ll play at L.A.’s COLCOA Festival. I’m seeing it tomorrow morning at 10 am, and I hate attending screenings at that hour.

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“You Know What…?”

Women commonly say “you know what?” before declaring they’ve had it with you because you’ve crossed some kind of rhetorical or behavioral line. They’ll say it before deciding to terminate a conversation or a relationship or whatever. “You know what? We’re finished talking” or “You know what? I don’t think this is going to work out”…that line of country. I recall producer Stacy Sher saying this to me in the mid or late ’90s when I got a little too pushy during a phone interview. I’m mentioning this phrase because I’ve never once heard a guy, straight or gay, say “you know what?” This is strictly a female expression. There are very few that are exclusive to one gender or another, but “you know what?” is apparently one of them. Unless someone has different information.

Intriguing Fatih Akin Hearsay

In response to yesterday’s mystifying news about German director Fatih Akin having withdrawn The Cut, which had been submitted to the festival, for vague “personal reasons,” a reputable distribution source offers the following: “This is totally unconfirmed and 200 percent hearsay, but word has it Akin pulled out of Cannes because Thierry Fremaux wouldn’t offer him a definite slot in the competition, but wanted him in Un Certain Regard with a chance of being upgraded to competition if some other title wouldn’t come through. Akin felt shortchanged and didn’t want to go along with that plan.”

The source suggests that Fremaux’s alleged decision to include Christian Petzold‘s Phoenix as a competition title was behind the Cut snub, and therefore a factor in Akin’s withdrawal.

“It is considered a certainty — at least here in the German industry — that Christian Petzold‘s Phoenix, a drama starring Barbara‘s Nina Hoss, will screen in competition — everything else would be a big surprise (which apparently was the reason he didn’t even submit Phoenix to the Berlinale). Petzold (Barbara‘s director) is held in the highest regard among French cinephiles. Given Cannes’ problematic relationship with German cinema in the past, Fremaux probably didn’t want to have two German titles in competition. But that’s total conjecture on my part.” (more…)