I drove over to the serene Sunset Marquis yesterday afternoon for a quick chat with Pawel Pawlikowski, the Polish-born director of Ida (Music Box Films, 5.2), the austere, undeniably brilliant black-and-white drama that I saw and raved about at last January’s Sundance Film Festival. I only had 20 minutes with the guy so all we did was bat the ball around. Here’s the mp3 of our discussion. Pawlikowski has a cultivated, easy-going aura, like that of a laid-back jazz musician or art curator or novelist. He’s one of those European cool-cat types with a discreet eye for the ladies — you can see that in Ida and his earlier films, most notably Last Resort (’00), My Summer of Love (’04) and Woman in the Fifth (’11). And so we naturally discussed Ida’s quietly alluring lead actress, Agata Trzebuchowska, who is presently in school and is not, even after Ida, with any particular interest in an acting career. Until recently, that is, when a big-name director (whom Pawlikowski declined to name) asked her to audition for something. So maybe.
director & co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski
at rear outdoor restaurant attached to Sunset Marquis hotel — Wednesday, 4.23, 2:45 pm.
“The allegations against me are outrageous, vicious and completely false. I do not want these fictitious claims to divert ANY attention from X-Men: Days of Future Past. This fantastic film is a labor of love and one of the greatest experiences of my career. So, out of respect to all of the extraordinary contributions from the incredibly talented actors and crew involved, I’ve decided not to participate in the upcoming media events for the film. However, I promise when this situation is over, the facts will show this to be the sick, twisted shakedown it is. I want to thank fans, friends and family for all their amazing and overwhelming support.” — Bryan Singer in a statement released today about sexual-abuse allegations against Singer in a lawsuit filed last week.
I chuckled last week when I read a line from Deadline‘s Nancy Tartaglione stating that Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups is “not yet ready.” I responded that “if Cups is commercially released before the spring of 2015 I’ll be on the floor with amazement.” The flakiest, most whimsical director in the history of commercial cinema was shooting Cups two years ago, and with each new film he seems to need more and more time in post-production. Today Indiewire‘s Drew Taylor has reported about running into actress Isabel Lucas (costar of Tristan Patterson‘s Electra Slide, which is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival) and asked her about her costarring role in Knight of Cups. She’s only a costar, but she said that Cups “will be coming out next year.” The earliest unveiling would/could be at the Berlinale in February, but Cannes 2015 could also, of course, be a possible first-look venue. Although it’s conceivable that a release could follow a Berlinale showing in March or April, a more likely scenario, given that Malick doesn’t make summer fare, would be a commercial release sometime in the early to mid fall (or perhaps even during the holidays). That would clear the way for the release of Untitled Terrence Malick Project (formerly known as Lawless), which also shot in 2012, to come out sometime in 2016.
Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett during filming of Knight of Cups
Yesterday Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson reported (along with many others) on William Hurt‘s decision to quit his role as Gregg Allman in Randall Miller‘s as-yet unfinished Midnight Rider. Hurt apparently did so as a way of expressing revulsion at the bogus security arrangements that led to the 2.29.14 death of crew member Sarah Jones during the filming of a sequence on a train trestle. Hurt’s decision will almost certainly doom Miller’s film, which no one else seems to want to work on either.
And yet a portion of an email attributed to Hurt (re-printed in the L.A. Times and then by Robinson) has my attention. Here is Hurt’s version of what happened right before the tragedy:
“I said, ‘Sixty seconds is not enough time to get us off this bridge.’ There was a communal pause. No one backed me up. Then, we…just went ahead. I took off my shoes, got on the heavy metal hospital bed and began preparing. We didn’t have sixty seconds. We had less than thirty.”
So basically Hurt, who’s a centered, fair-minded guy (I talked to him at Sundance once), saw it was an obviously dicey situation and said so, and then put away his concerns when nobody backed him up. He stood up and spoke up, yes, but just as quickly folded his tent.
Imagine what could have happened if Hurt, the irreplacable star of the film, had said the following when nobody supported his view:
“Are you guys hearing me? A 60-second warning is fucking ridiculous. Somebody could get hurt. Somebody could fucking die, man! Randall…? Randall, why aren’t there guys with cell phones or walkie-talkies stationed two or three miles down the tracks to give us a warning? Are you trying to save money or what? Because I don’t want to be fucking dead. What if a freight train suddenly approaches going 60 mph? We’ll be fucked. Has anyone made any attempt to contact local railroad authorities and find when trains might be coming by? Has anyone made any attempt to protect the crew to any degree? At the every least you could tell two guys with cell phones right now to drive two or three miles in either direction and tell the 1st A.D. is a train is coming. We also need someone to see how deep the water is under the bridge. Because if a train suddenly comes along some of us might want to do a Butch-and-Sundance and jump over the side.”
Having the good sense to recognize and identify a dangerous situation doesn’t mean jack if you don’t have the cojones to be strong and stand your ground when you’re trying to warn your colleagues or your bosses or both. Especially if you’re a vital part of the team, as Hurt was.
I have a theory about why certain news anchors have prounounced Lupita Nyong’o‘s last name as Enn-yongo. I think it began 53 years ago when President Kennedy welcomed Ghana’s chief of state Kwame Nkrumah, whose last name Kennedy pronounced (apparently correctly) as “Enn-krumah.” I think that vocal impression (a clipped New England accent pronouncing an exotic African name) lingered in the back of people’s minds and perhaps was passed along to today’s newscasters by their parents. I don’t have any hard research to back this up, but this is a perfectly reasonable and plausible theory.
I think we’ve reached a kind of saturation point with this kind of thing. On top of which Forrest Gump lends itself a little too easily to an Anderson makeover. It’s time for Anderson parodists to think boldly and step out of the box. I would really and truly be supportive of a compressed Anderson version of Michael Mann‘s Heat. Think about that idea for ten seconds and your mind just takes off.
A producer friend told me yesterday she was unable to get tickets for a couple of films at COLCOA, or the City of Lights City of Angels Film Festival (4.21 thru 4.28), which is now in its 18th year. That turned a light on. I’ve been attending COLCOA for several years now without too much difficulty, but now demand is apparently surging. So I spoke late this afternoon with the fest’s executive producer & artistic director Francois Truffart to ask about this. He confirmed that yes, things are crowded and “we didn’t have this situation before…it’s very unanticipated for now.” But he stressed that while many seats are held for co-sponsoring guild members, that doesn’t mean last-minute seating is out of the question. Truffart stressed that “we don’t want people to feel discouraged.” Earlier today he told Screen International‘s Elbert Wyche that COLCOA “has a 20,000-seat capacity and [is] almost full…we are not able to accommodate every person that wants a ticket [but] every year we add new screenings. [And of course] we like to create this kind of demand for French cinema. We want people to go to the theatre to see the film or on VOD during the year.” Here’s an mp3 of my brief discussion with Truffart.
executive producer & artistic director Francois Truffart.
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 Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight 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 James‘ Life 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 Cassavetes‘ The Other Woman; Todd Haynes‘ Carol. (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)
Metaphors for the devolution and degradation of mainstream movie culture are tumbling out of the pipe today. A Parkes+MacDonald Mattel Barbie movie for Sony. A marshmallow peeps movie. A movie based on the “It’s a Small World” Disney ride“…good God! There’s no level to which the opportunists in this town will not stoop.
The grotesque cartoon art of Gahan Wilson has been lurking in a dark corner of my consciousness since…I forget. My exposure to Wilson began with I started flipping through issues of Playboy, which dates me, I realize. I never read up on the guy, much less chatted with him at some geek comic-cook convention, so I really wouldn’t mind seeing Born Dead, Still Weird when it surfaces on iTunes on 5.13.
Today’s Variety story about Paramount and MGM teaming on a theatrical remake of Ben-Hur is one thing, but agreeing to hire a known animal like Timur Bekmambetov to direct is…I don’t know how to react in a single phrase but “sick joke” is the first thing that came to mind. It’s not just that Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln — Vampire Hunter) is generally regarded as lacking in aesthetic couth. It’s the metaphor suggested by this unholy alliance. What this project symbolizes is present-day corporate Hollywood (even with the respectable John Ridley having co-authored the screenplay) getting up and lumbering over and dropping its pants and taking a giant smelly gooey brown dump on classic Hollywood history. How do you like that milkshake, o ye ghosts of William Wyler and Charlton Heston? Your Oscar-winning 1959 revenge flick is about to be re-interpreted and CG-ed to death by a Russian-born director who looks like a vodka-swilling garbageman who beats his wife. Which reminds me: Wyler’s chariot-race sequence can not and will not be improved upon because it was all shot live and 100% organically, and there’s no way in hell Bekmambetov can hope to replicate its impact, much less better it.
Yesterday’s Other Woman riff was mainly about how Nick Cassevetes‘ hit-and-miss film, although by no means on the level of Lubitsch or Wilder, was at least better (i.e., “not half bad”) than the dumbass downmarket girly-girl film that 20th Century Fox marketing has been selling. Variety‘s Justin Chang has ignored this discrepancy and just reviewed it head-on. Chang is less admiring than myself (okay, he’s 65% dismissive), but he also feels it’s an interesting mixed-bag.
“The Other Woman often feels stranded between gross-out comedy, romantic fantasy and distaff psychodrama in a way that compels fascination and impatience alike,” he says at mid-point. “The film’s structure and pacing feel haphazard at best, the musical choices clumsily tacked on, the raunchy elements weak and unnecessary. There are moments when Cassavetes seems to be operating on Hollywood-hack autopilot, and others when you can almost feel him nudging the production in the sort of rougher, more offbeat character-driven direction that his famous father, John, might well have encouraged. (more…)
For whatever reason I decided during Monday night’s screening of The Other Woman that costar Taylor Kinney (the co-lead on NBC’s Chicago Fire) is likable and cool. I’ll admit that this 32 year-old actor doesn’t seem all that deep or intriguing in this red-carpet interview clip (in which he oddly refuses to discuss what The Other Woman is about) but in the film he comes off as an entirely nice, decent, intelligent Irishman (i.e., an XY counter-balance to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau‘s flaming asshole). Some actors aren’t that Albert Einstein-y or Carl Sagan-ish on their own dime, but they deliver a steady, agreeable and positive vibe on-screen and that’s what counts in the end. He’s been romantically linked with Lady Gaga since 2011, but most showbiz relationship go south after 18 to 24 months so who knows if it’s still happening? Kinney had a minor costarring role in Zero Dark Thirty but I don’t remember him. I’m told he played a SEAL in Act Three.
Offering your confession to a Catholic priest inside a small, musty Catholic church on Magnolia…stoned. Talking about the Vietnam War while lifting weights at Muscle Beach on a Sunday afternoon…stoned. Watching the Dean Martin Show…stoned. Getting a ticket for straddling lanes on the Santa Monica Freeway…stoned. Sitting in a Venice high-school auditorium with your ex-wife at a Parent-Teacher’s Association meeting…stoned. Sitting in a really choice seat along the third-base line in Dodger Stadium during a night game…stoned. Eating tortilla chips and guacamole at El Cholo on a weeknight…stoned. Talking to a mechanic about your brakes at a garage on Santa Monica Blvd…stoned. Catching a flick at the Fox Venice on Lincoln Blvd…stoned. Going over your tax returns with your accountant…stoned. (Fan art lifted from Awards Daily, created by Alex Fellows.)
I’m half into catching tomorrow night’s screening of Marty Feldman‘s In God We Tru$t (’80) at the New Beverly Cinema. This will apparently be the first time it’s been seen anywhere in 34 years. (No domestic DVD although it’s available via a Region 2 disc.) Roger Ebert hated it and so did Universal, I’m told. “It infuriated Lew Wasserman when Marty used MCA in the same breath as KKK [while naming] powerful organizations in America,” a friend writes. “On top of which the studio was pressured to shelve the anti-religious satire due to all the organizations that Feldman called out by name, similar to what happened with Idiocracy. The movie never even got a network airing.”
Yesterday afternoon I expressed a combination of concern and confusion about Nick Cassevetes having directed The Other Woman (20th Century Fox, 4.25), which has been sold as a broad downmarket farce about three pissed-off ladies (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton) making a sociopathic philanderer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pay for his sins. It just seemed a little beneath the director of Alpha Dog, She’s So Lovely and The Notebook. What could this possibly do for his career? On top of which the views of a majority of Rotten Tomatoes Australian critics seemed to underline that the film had problems. But then I saw it last night at the Westwood premiere and realized that (a) I’d been flim-flammed by Fox marketing and (b) some of the Aussies had it wrong.
(l. to r.) The Other Woman
costars Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton prior to last night’s Westwood premiere screening.
Taken last night following The Other Woman
premiere at the Village.
I’m not doing cartwheels here but I am saying, no lie, that about 70% or 80% of The Other Woman isn’t half bad. I was expecting rank stupidity, but I mostly didn’t get that. It’s not a great film or on the level of Mike Nichols‘ Working Girl or anything, but it’s a lot better that the marketing has indicated. It’s a tiny bit spazzy and silly and predictable in spots — some of it doesn’t work as well as it could or should. But a lot of it is smart and loose and improv-y and on the low-key side. Dumb comedies sometimes piss me off, but not this one. Mann and Diaz and costar Taylor Kinney get into the spirit and carry it aloft and just about bring it home. Woman is almost never conventionally broad, certainly not in the painfully slapstick sense that I was dreading. Melissa Stack‘s screenplay is fast and clever. For me it was no-laugh-funny but a lot of people around me were chuckling and guffawing all the way through. (more…)
After nearly ten years of putting persons like myself through acute movie-watching hell, the dynamite writing-and-producing team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are splitting up as far as big-screen projects are concerned. A little more than a year ago I wrote the following in a piece called “Gain World, Lose Soul”: “One of the reasons for the ongoing demise of narrative movies, I believe, is that way, way too many big-studio scripts have been written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who are probably the most successful super-hacks around or are certainly among the most successful in this realm.
“But successfully churning out one highly efficient, mind-numbing screenplay after another (which is not easy…seriously, not everyone can do it), this malignant duo has probably ushered more despair into the hearts of not only rival screenwriters but untold millions of moviegoers…more than you or I could possibly calculate. It’s not that Kurtzman and Orci are bad guys in and of themselves, but they serve soul-less corporate mainstream packagers who pander solely and entirely to Joe Popcorn and Joe Download, and are therefore incurring mountains of ill will and bad karma. (more…)
It was President Ronald Reagan‘s decision to begin deregulating everything in the early ’80s that started the U.S. on the path to higher and higher debt levels, gradually transforming it into a South American dictatorship of, by and for the rich. The transition came to full fruition during the Dubya years, and things have not changed much under President Obama. And all the rightwing fellators of corporate chieftains (including the rural morons who support conservative causes for cultural reasons) love this state of affairs. Hence this N.Y. Times report about how the American middle-class is significantly worse off today than it was when Reagan came in:
“In 1980, the American rich and middle class and most of the poor had higher incomes than their counterparts almost anywhere in the world. But incomes for the middle class and poor in the United States have since been growing more slowly than elsewhere.
“Why? Among the reasons [is that] this country has lost its once-wide lead in educational attainment. Other countries have increased their workers’ skill levels more quickly, helping create well-paying jobs. The United States also tolerates more inequality: The minimum wage is lower here. Executives make more money. The government redistributes less of it. By 2010, the poor in several other countries had pulled ahead. And Canada’s median income had reached a virtual tie with that of the United States. Since 2010, other data suggest Canada has moved ahead.”
The boomers did it. The boomers and Wall Street and the radical right and Fox News and their idiotic hinterland following.
I’ve watched about 30 minutes’ worth of Heaven’s Gate: The Butcher’s Cut, a 108-minute re-cut by Mary Bernard (an apparent nom de plume of Steven Soderbergh) and I have to say it does feel more absorbing than Michael Cimino‘s original 219-minute cut. It really does. The hook goes in and it stays there. Soderbergh statement: “As a dedicated cinema fan, I was obsessed with Heaven’s Gate from the moment it was announced in early 1979, and unfortunately history has shown that on occasion a fan can become so obsessed they turn violent toward the object of their obsession, which is what happened to me during the holiday break of 2006.” Wait…Soderbergh has been sitting on this re-edited version of Gate for eight years?
Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, a dark-toned melodrama about a real-life murder that happened in Pennsylvania in the mid ’90s, was booked for a big premiere screening at AFIFest 2013 last November 8th, which would have launched it into Oscar-season contention. But that went south in late September when Miller and the film’s distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, cancelled the AFI booking and bumped the film into 2014. Now it’s been announced that Foxcatcher, which will compete at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, will open on November 14th. And how about a booking as the opening-night kickoff attraction of AFIFest 2014?
With the Cannes showing approaching I think it’s time for a new trailer, no? (more…)
I’m presuming there were two reasons for the British distributor of William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer wanting to sell it as Wages of Fear, to wit: (a) Sorcerer was always a bad title…a suicide title, really, as it obviously implied something scary and supernatural, especially coming from the director of The Exorcist, and (b) Sorcerer tanked in the U.S. soon after opening in June 1977 so the British distributor undoubtedly said, “What the hell, let’s try to sell it with the original Henri-George Clouzot title…maybe it’ll make a bit more money that way.” Friedkin’s Wages opened in England in February 1978.
When they think at all of John Milius‘s The Wind and the Lion (’75), people think of it as Sean Connery‘s film. A dashing, colorful Connery playing a real-life Moroccan warrior and strong man in a turban — Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli. Connery is always delightful, of course, but in my mind Wind is dominated by Brian Keith‘s performance as President Theodore Roosevelt. And now Milius’s film (his best by virtue of being the most directly expressive of his personal philosophy) is about to pop on Bluray via Warner Archive.
Earlier today a Facebook post announced that Kim’s Video (124 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009) will be closing soon. I just called a few minutes ago and one of the clerks said (a) the closing date will be 7.15 and (b) management is hunting around for another location. This is nothing short of devastating to me. Kim’s has always charged too much for Blurays but I love roaming the aisles and seeing what’s new. It’s my spiritual home away from home. Kim’s has Blurays or DVDs of every movie you’ve ever heard of and a lot that you haven’t. Their cult collection alone is worth regular visits, not to mention their Region 2 films. This is terrible news. An obvious devaluation of Lower East Side culture.
That classic 1971 American Tourister gorilla luggage commercial taught tens of millions of Americans a basic lesson about luggage at airports, which is that it’s going to get roughly thrown around. (The spot also said, quite obviously, that baggage handlers are unrefined types.) I therefore can’t fathom why anyone was shocked by that video of those two Air Canada guys throwing suitcases off the top of a landing gate…that’s totally normal. The two employees have been canned. Tony Montana: “You got to be kidding…five hundred? Who you think we are, baggage handlers? The going rate on a boat is a thousand a night, mang…you know that.”
I don’t get the relatively weak ratings (59% Rotten Tomatoes, 56% Metacritic) rating for John Turturro‘s Fading Gigolo (Millenium, opened on 4.18). It’s not great but it’s fine, and there’s just no reason to be brusque or dismissive. Last September I called it “a gentle, Brooklyn-based, light-touch, indie-romantic fable. It’s appealing in a kindly, burnished, old-fashioned way, and it happens in a realm entirely (and in some ways charmingly) of Turturro’s imagining. Eroticism, trust me, barely pokes through. The atmosphere is one of reverence, nostalgia, dignity, romance, class, compassion, tradition. The big standout element is gap-toothed Vanessa Paradis making her English-language debut.”
Then again what I’ve written above is a moot point as Fading Gigolo did pretty well last weekend. Audiences ignored naysaying critics as well as the general Woody Allen hate brigade. Here’s a piece by Deadline‘s Pete Hammond sussing out the numbers and the meaning of it all.
Update: Two Hollywood execs — Garth Ancier and David Newman — and a theme-park design guy, Gary Goddard, were named earlier today as defendants in new sex-abuse lawsuits announced by attorney Jeff Herman on behalf of Michael Egan. No offense but this isn’t the hot-news followup I was envisioning when Herman mentioned last week that more defendants would be named. Ancier, Newman and Goddard aren’t as well-known as Bryan Singer, whom Egan and Herman filed against last week in a civil action. They’re just not that “sexy” in a news sense. I’m just being honest.
The West Coast premiere of The Other Woman (20th Century Fox, 4.25) happens tonight in Westwood, and Hollywood Elsewhere will totally be there with bells, camera and notepad. An obviously broad sisterhood comedy (the term “sismance” doesn’t work at all) about taking revenge upon insensitive males, it’s been directed by Nick Cassevetes, produced by Julie Yorn and written by Melissa Stack. The Australian critics posting on Rotten Tomatoes are mostly negative (45%) — it might as well be faced. What I’d like to know is how does Cassevetes go from directing She’s So Lovely (’97), John Q (’02), The Notebook (’04) and the semi-respectable Alpha Dog (’06) to …uhm, this?
Last Wednesday evening 25 or 30 journos were shown five or six scenes from Matt Reeves‘ Dawn Of The Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox, 7.11). It was a chance to sample the quality of the visual effects, which of course are top-notch, as well as the performances from both the ape and human characters, which I was genuinely impressed by. It was also a chance to get an idea of what kind of film this might turn out to be.
The footage suggested that Dawn is going to be solid and sturdy, but I came away from Wednesday’s screening with a suspicion that it might be not be quite as good as 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was basically the story of how Andy Serkis‘s Ceasar got smarter and stronger and finally broke out of bondage with his fellow apes. It was all about individual story tension — about the sand pouring out of the glass and the audience wondering when things would finally snap and turn away from James Franco and in Ceasar’s direction.
Dawn seems less personal and more group-oriented. More about military and political tactics than individual direction. Speeches, declarations, taunts, lines in the sand. An ape army standing in opposition to an opposing army of humans. Families and alliances and group dynamics. (more…)
Last night’s reading of an early draft of Quentin Tarantino‘s Hateful Eight script was partly a gas and partly a downer. Was it worth the $200 bucks I paid to attend? Yeah, I think so. It was quite the novel theatrical event given the loose experimental vibe and the amusing spectacle of watching several top-dog actors having fun with a vulgar, rambunctious script. The “Tarantino superstars” (including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins and James Remar) had a good time and did themselves proud. And yes, Tarantino made it clear (as others have noted) that he’s currently revising the script and is therefore almost certainly interested in making a film version. He also stated that the finale performed last night is being scrapped and will never be heard from again.
But pretty much every account of last night’s performance has failed to say whether The Hateful Eight sounded good enough to be a decent movie. Let me state very clearly and without a shred of a doubt that it didn’t. It’s a fairly minor and almost dismissable thing — a colorful but basically mediocre Tarantino gabfest that mostly happens on a single interior set (i.e., Minnie’s Haberdashery, located somewhere near the Wyoming town of Red Rock during a fierce blizzard) and is basically about a gatherin’ of several tough, mangy hombres sitting around talkin’ and yappin’ and talkin’ and yappin’. And then, just to break up the monotony, doing a little more talkin’ and yappin’. Along with a little shootin’ and poison-coffee drinkin’ and brutally punchin’ out a female prisoner and a few dozen uses of the word “nigger” (par for the QT course) and swearin’ and fellatin’ and whatever else. (more…)
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 had 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 was 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 shooting twice was avoided. Here’s his “Soliloquy”, which I’ve always thought was one of his best-ever recordings ever in any capacity.