It’s easy to be skeptical about that Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes fluid exchange that’s supposedly happening, according to Cruise’s publicist (and sister) Lee Anne DeVette. My first instinct was to paraphrase Woody Allen and call it “a sham of a mockery of a mockery of a sham.” And I lurrrve Kyle Smith’s analysis of why it all seems like staged bullshit. Of course, people always hook up because they believe the other person will do something for their life or career, and Cruise and Holmes are naturally thinking along these lines. But I don’t believe it’s complete theatre. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but a person in a position to know once told me that the Tom-and-Nicole thing was fairly genuine…emotionally, anyway. You have to guard against being too cynical...Read More »
There will be, it appears, at least a mild titillation factor for Stanley Kubrick fans in Brian Cook’s Color Me Kubrick. The story’s about a real-life guy named Alan Conway (John Malkovich) who went around London telling everyone he was Kubrick and getting away with it, to some extent…even though he didn’t look much like him. But the teaser on the film’s website (which has nothing on it except the teaser, which raises red flags right off the bat) feels a bit lame…it doesn’t say anything other than the fact that Conway pretended to be Kubrick, etc. And that Conway was gay. No twist, no angularity, no cushion shot of any kind. Something deep down is telling me the movie is underbaked. Maybe it’s the incest angle, since both Cook and screenwriter Anthony Frewin worked for Kubrick (Cook as an assistant...Read More »
Kevin Smith has seen Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and LOVES IT. (he’s posted an early review, with spoilers, on his website.) Can this really be? After Willow, Howard the Duck, and the atrocious last two Star Wars flicks, can Lucas really be poised for redemption? Part of me wants to believe. (“Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”) The rest of me remembers the unforgivable acting in “Attack of the Clones” and prepares for seppuku. I think fans should plan a massive Jonestown-like suicide party, just in case it does suck. Can you imagine the coverage of the line of stormtrooper corpses piled in front of the WRONG THEATER? Silent Bob’s review gives me hope, though. “You’re all clear, George! Now let’s blow this thing and go home.”Read More »
A few days ago a story about alleged
right-wing disdain for Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of
Heaven (20th Century Fox, 5.6) appeared in the London
The paper’s L.A. correspondent John Harlow reported that “Christian hostility” to the film (the righties don’t like it that some of the Crusaders are portrayed as selfish and “mean-spirited,” and they really don’t like it that Saladin, the Muslim military leader, is portrayed in “chivalrous” terms) may prove “damaging” at the box office.
Orlando Bloom during relatively early scene in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.
Harlow wrote that “a spate of hostile reviews are due to appear in the...Read More »
“Repeat after me, Kill Bill fans: Referentiality itself is not an intrinsic aesthetic value. Empty referentiality, going through the motions, doesn’t make a motion picture, give cinema the gift of sight….or insight.” So goes Ron Rosenbaum’s very astute piece about cheaply referential films in the 5.23.05 edition of the New York Observer. Quentin Tarantino’s martial-arts flick “was the perfect epitome of and metaphor for what I would like to call ‘The Cinema of Pretentious Stupidity,’” he continues. “The idea that ceaseless tedious references to obscure martial-arts movies known mainly by video-store geeks adds up to art. I’ve heard so many defenses of Kill Bill that depend on the apparently marvelous and unheard-of-before wonder of its referentiality. Dude, just because you make a reference — or many references — doesn’t make it meaningful or worth four hours of our time.”Read More »
On Tuesday afternon I saw a DVD of Paul Schrader’s
Exorcist prequel flick, which has been titled as
Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist. Warner Bros. will
release it on May 20, and it’s about friggin’ time.
Do I have to recount the whole Exorcist mishegoss over the last two or three years? Are there people who haven’t read about Morgan Creek’s James Robinson shelving the Schrader because he felt it wasn’t scary or pea-soupy enough, and then hiring Renny Harlin to shoot a slicker, aimed-at-the-youth-market version, blah blah?
Stellan Skarsgard (r.), star of Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist, and costar Billy Crawford (l.) in burning demonic possession mode.
The story of the Schrader version, which was shot between late ’02 and early ’03, coming back from the dead and finding release...Read More »
Why does everyone (myself included) keep running these breathless items about who might play James Bond when the series finally gets rolling again in ’06? The 007 franchise is a very dry and dusty mummy — it’s been completely dead in every way but financial for a long, long time. (I’m not one of those who feel that Goldeneye revived things.) And it’s obvious to me that the people making the calls about the 007 hiring (producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, and Bond franchise owners Sony Pictures) are erratic and all over the map in their “creative” lungings. In any event, the rumor is now that Pierce Brosnan will do it yet again. London’s Mirror ran a story today (Wednesday, 4.27) quoting Dame Judi Dench as saying: “Despite the fact that everyone on the face of the earth has been tested as his (Brosnan’s) possible replacement, he’ll be doing it again and it will be announced come summer.”Read More »
Socially, culturally, whatever…I think we have an unusual reaction kicking in with the coming of Warner Bros. and Joel Silver’s House of Wax. The big attraction-repulsion element, of course, is Paris Hilton’s costarring role. There are guys on message boards everywhere saying they’ll go to it only if she dies and some saying, “She dies? Thanks for ruining it!” and still others saying they won’t see it at all because she’s in it. Let’s get one thing straight. If you know anything about horror films, you know that lead actresses sometimes die, but suppporting actresses always die, so she’s toast and that’s it. The pleasure element, for me, is (a) how slowly and painfully will she die, (b) how long and how loud will she scream before she croaks, and (c) how naked does she get before it happens? If the answers to these questions are (a) very slowly and very painfully, (b) really loud and long and (c) fairly naked, I’m there. I mean, I’ll definitely go to the all-media.Read More »
A Lot Like Love has opened and people know what the shot is, so here’s my question. The movie takes place over a seven-year span during which Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet meet and clack against each other like billiard balls and bounce around and don’t get down to really being with (and for) each other until the end, which is naturally presumed to be now, i.e., sometime in ’05. The story begins, therefore, sometime in ’98. Much of A Lot Like Love happens in New York City, and one of Peet and Kutcher’s early scenes happens somewhere in the vicinity of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, and at night. Now, what visual image would immediately convey that this scene is in fact happening several years ago? Obviously, a shot of the World Trade Center towers, which could be easily CG’d into the Manhattan skyline. This wasn’t done, one assumes, due to some form...Read More »
You might expect the idea of Michael Bay remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 The Birds, as reported on 4.26 by THR‘s Liza Foreman, to induce purist convulsions among people like myself. But taken as a whole (and I mean apart from the excellent bird-attack sequences and the “end of the world” scene in the Bodega Bay diner), The Birds has always been a flat and rather stodgy film, and it could use some jazzing up. No one expects an egoist like Michael Bay to do a Gus van Sant and try and visually recapture Hitch’s 42 year-old original, and it would be a total shocker if Bay were to ape Hitch’s discipline in very gradually building the suspense and intimations of the coming bird attacks. We all know he’s going to speed up the story (if he pays any attention at all to the Hitchcock film or the Daphne du Maurier short...Read More »
Arianna Huffington’s celebrity-fed political blog, to be called
www.huffingtonpost.com, debuts on Monday, May 9th…the week the Cannes Film Festival begins. And Andrew Breitbart, the former Drudge Report webmaster, is finally copping to officially being on the team. Among those expected to supply (mostly leftish) rants and musings are Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Walter Cronkite, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nora Ephron, Diane Keaton, etc. I’ve gotta say right off the top the site doesn’t sound like it’ll be quite smirky enough. I’d like to see more 40-and-under smarties like Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jay Mohr, Neil Labute, etc. GenX appeal-wise, one wise-ass Jay Mohr piece will be worth 20 by Diane Keaton or Vernon Jordan. Don’t make this too much of a boomer thing or the wired generation will wave it off.
Heads Will Roll
The stand-out thing about The Ax, the new Costa-Gavras
satire that opened the San Francisco Film Festival on Thursday
night (4.23), isn’t that it’s utterly black. That’s obvious and
easily digestible from the get-go. We’re used to this, in any
The money element for me — the selling point — is that it’s so bracingly dry. And tightly plotted and suspenseful. And the fact that it never quite tips into being a reassuring “comedy.”
The Ax director and co-writer Costa-Gavras, producer (and wife) Michele Ray-Gavras during reception at home of Frederic Desagneaux — Friday, 4.22.05, 7:10 pm.
That in itself means a lot of people are going to find it a little too cool for their liking. This would be short-sighted of them, of course, because what Costa-Gavras has accomplished here is a...Read More »
In a current USA Today story, reporter Anthony Breznican asks whether or not Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2oth Century Fox, 5.6) will save the big-budget historical epic genre. Breznican’s piece suggests that since the expensive battle flicks Troy, Alexander, King Arthur and The Alamo were “all casualties of middling U.S. ticket sales,” that a similar fate may await Scott’s $130 million film about the Crusades. Scott replies that a film’s emotional content is more important than spectacle or battles, and that this is provides in the relationship between Kingdom‘s Orlando Bloom and Eva Green. I’m personally more in agreement with Kingdom screenwriter William Monahan’s view that “the problem’s not epics… there’s a problem with people who don’t know how to...Read More »
I’ve been told that Monster in Law (New Line, 5.13), the Jane Fonda vs. Jennifer Lopez marital comedy, is a hit. The numbers are said to be good (in the mid ’80s or thereabouts), the script works, and apparently the benefit is more J. Fo’s than J. Lo’s. (“Lopez is good but Fonda is terrific,” is how it was put to me.) I don’t know what the dollar projection would be, but I’m hearing it’s definitely some kind of cash cow. An even bigger hit for New Line is David Dobkin’s The Wedding Crashers, the Owen Wilson-Vince Caughan comedy that opens on 7.15. The numbers for this one are through the roof (higher than Monster-in-Law‘s, which probably means somewhere in the ’90s), which seems to indicate a likely haul of $100 million or higher. And there may be a third New Line winner in the Tony Scott actioner Domino (8.19), which I’ve been hearing promising things about since last December. (Richard Kelly’s script is the shit.) If there’s research on this one, it hasn’t been shared.Read More »
How many coming-to-America immigrant movies have I seen that
have put the hook in? Not that many. Up until two days ago I would
have said I’m not a huge fan of this genre, if you can call it
that. People uprooted, struggling, adversity, etc. I’ve got enough
I remember liking Elia Kazan’s America, America (1963), about a young Greek guy (based upon Kazan’s uncle) making his way to these shores. And the young Vito Corleone, Robert De Niro, life-in-Little- Italy sections of The Godfather, Part II. And I’ll never forget Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth (1993), about a young Vietnamese woman going through all kinds of pain on her way to the States. It was hell to sit through, I mean.
Damien Nguyen, Thi Kim Xuan Chau, Bai Ling aboard freighter in Hans Petter Moland’s The...
I realize this makes me sound like Sydney Skolsky, but I’m hearing excellent things about March of the Penguins, a French film said to have drop-dead beautiful photography. The director-cowriter is a guy named Luc Jacquet, and it’s about a flock of emperor penguins on their annual trek across Antarctic and all the classic life rituals and survival challenges they go through. A critic friend who’s seen it says this Warner Independent release “will do for those tuxedoed Antarctic dwellers what Winged Migration did for birds in flight.” The version that’s been screened so far has the original schlocky French soundtrack (my friend says parts of it “sound like Bjork gone Muzak, along with character voices for Mommy, Daddy and Baby penguin”), which is being trashed. Hipper sounds are being put in its place along with “a natural-science narration.” (I’m not supposed to reveal the name of the big-name actor who will read it). Pic will open on 6.24.05 in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and D.C., and expand in mid-July.Read More »
Deserving of special attention at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, I’m hearing, will be James Marsh’s The King, which stars an English-speaking Gael Garcia Bernal as a discharged Navy guy who comes home to Corpus Christi, Texas, and resolves some long-buried family issues. Marsh co-authored the screenplay with Milo Addica (Birth, Monster’s Ball), whose work I’ve come to admire. The film will be one of the Un Certain Regard attractions. William Hurt, Laura Harring, Paul Dano and Pell James costar. Marsh’s last feature was the startling Wisconsin Death Trip (1999).Read More »
Excellent news that Adam Curtis’s The Power of Nightmares, which I wrote about after receiving a muddy-looking tape of it from Telluride Film Festival honcho Tom Luddy last December, is going to have a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Luddy was behind this, of course. He lobbied Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux along with Fremaux’s good friend Michael Fitzgerald. Director Bernard Tavernier lobbied for the film also. Curtis’ three-hour doc contends that the anti-western terrorists and the neo-con hardliners in the George W. Bush White House are two peas in a fundamentalist pod, and that they seem to be almost made for each other in an odd way, and they need each other’s hatred to fuel their respective power bases but are, in fact, almost identical in their purist fervor, and are pretty much cut from the same philosophical cloth.Read More »
In addition to making this site’s machinery chug along, I’m also a filmmaker. No, I’m not plugging anything. But I am in a bit of a bind. If anyone who reads this knows someone who can answer a question about Final Cut Pro exporting audio to OMF, please click on my name and get in touch.Read More »
With weeks of Schiavo ’05, the Pope Deathwatch, and now Papal Idol, it’s been a sickeningly religious year so far. When you factor in “The Passion of The Christ“, President Bush, and the gay marriage brouhaha, we’re drowning in zealots. I imagine this will translate into some more “Left Behind” movies, and more flicks geared to the hopelessly faithful. Some might lament the faith-ization of movies, but I argue that American movies are already imbued with a thick religious vibe. The bad guys always lose, good guys win via a deus ex machina, order is restored, Allah hu Ackbar. Ever notice that the bad guys, if really evil, are never allowed to live? The hero defeats him in a one-on-one battle, then refuses to stoop to his level, and lets him live. The bad guy wrestles a gun from a hapless cop, and then the hero is allowed to kill in self-defense. How convenient. And how Old Testament. Real evil lives on, has civil rights, and gets parole in 20-25 years.Read More »
There are many, I presume, who will agree with my praise of that killer suspense sequence at the end of Act Two in Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter, but now I know New Yorker critic Anthony Lane is one of them. Here’s the passage from Lane’s current review: “Still, to be fair, there is one part of The Interpreter that would, without question, have earned [Alfred Hitchcock's] smile. All the characters are in different places — one agent is following Silvia, another is tailing a Matoban suspect, and Woods and Keller are in a booby-trapped room. (Catherine Keener, by far the driest deliverer of lines in the movie, looks up at an overhead light strung with explosives and says, ‘Now, that’s just rude.’ Imagine Celeste Holm packing heat, and you’re there.)...Read More »
Investigative sleuth Mark Ebner spent some time last week hanging with the “Minutemen” in and around Tombstone, Arizona. The Minutemen are a bunch of volunteer border patrol shmoes trying to stop the flow of illegals over the border from Mexico. Ebner’s report will appear in the Globe sometime next week. (There’s no URL link to the story.) Of course, there’s a journey-of-discovery love story in the basic situation, in the vein of Tony Richardson’s The Border (’82). One of the militamen — an unhappy married guy, no kids — falls in love with a Mexican girl with a baby, and ultimately decides to betray the Minuteman ethos in order to help this girl get started in the States and provide a decent future for her son.Read More »
“Wow…real diamonds. They must be worth their weight in gold.” — Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane Kowalczyk upon receiving a gift of a diamond bracelet in Billy Wilder’s and I.A.L. Diamond’s Some Like It Hot.Read More »
Considering the Smiths
Things seem to be happening between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
these days. Stories about recent time spent together (shared
vacations, swanky hotel rooms, etc.) have been inside all the
supermarket tabs, including Us magazine. And the evidence
seems conclusive. **
Question is, what effect will these tabloid shenanigans have on the fortunes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (20th Century Fox, 6.10), an obviously pumped-up, very expensive action comedy from director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Go ) in which they play married-to-each-other professional assassins?
Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie in Doug Liman’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Liman is one of the best 40-and-under directors out there right now. I talk with him from time to time. He told me last January during the Sundance Film Festival that...Read More »
Danish director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) was all set to start shooting the high-profile World War II drama Good in Berlin, starring Hugh Jackman as a literature professor seduced by the Nazi propaganda, when she apparently suffered some nasty accident and had to drop out. Looks like instead she’ll segue into directing the semi-biographical Erik Nietzsche: The Early Years, surrounding the misadventures of a rebellious film student. And who was it that had the Danish cinematic community in stitches with his pseudonymous screenplay? You guessed it: Lars von Trier. But why did the director give away such a small personal screenplay? “It’s a self-centred, vanity project” he told ScreenDaily.com. “[Scherfig] can give the main character a little love and some understanding.” But if von Trier feels he was unable to do this himself as a director, does this prove once and for all that he’s a sadist, or a masochist? — Nic KockumRead More »
After Return of the Jedi, George Lucas had a chance to enter the pantheon of great human storytellers. Go ahead, laugh…but his Star Wars movies brought him to the edge of greatness. After his first three, all he had to do was a great followup trilogy. Had he blown us away with Episodes I – III, he would have joined…brace yourselves… Shakespeare, Kurosawa, the Brothers Grimm, and the others in the Hall of Stories. His influence on movies and marketing is not in dispute. I’m saying his stories themselves were good, and had potential to be great. His characters, their universe, the backstory…they bored into our minds until they became archetype. Jedi-ism is even a recognized religion in some places. He was right there and he blew it. Like the Wachowski brothers, he had a chance to make something great…bigger than...Read More »
This sounds a bit sappy coming from me, but warmest, cutest and most irresistably affecting film I’ve seen this year? Marilyn Agrelo’s Mad Hot Ballroom, hands down. I can’t imagine this professionally shot, superbly edited documentary not ending up as one of the five nominees for a Best Feature Documentary Oscar…but it’s early yet. (Honestly? I think it’s going to win.) I showed it to my UCLA Sneak Preview class a few weeks back and the mostly older crowd melted in their seats. It recently played the Cleveland Film Festival and the Chicago Documentary Film Festival and picked up audience awards at both. New Yorkers should try to catch the big outdoor screening in Battery Park on 4.24 being organized by the Tribeca Film Festival.Read More »
Anyone stuck for a place to crash during the Cannes Film Festival needs to drop me a line. There’s room for at least one and maybe even two in the large apartment I’ll be staying in, which is near the eastern side of the Croisette. And the price is right.Read More »
I was in my local Pavillions last night and as I was standing at the checkout stand I saw I don’t know many cereal boxes with promotional plugs for Stars Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. This is standard marketing for a big tentpole movie aimed at kids, but right away I could feel the irritation starting. Then I went home and watched the new trailer again (see? the cereal boxes worked!) and re-connected with my old feelings about this series. Trailers always tend to emphasize the familiar, but this one, to me, seems to promise that Revenge of the Sith will be absolutely no different and all of a tonal piece with the previous two Star Warsfilms…same pacing, same tone, same constricted dialogue, etc. George Lucas has been saying this is a much heavier film and don’t take the kids, etc., but unless he had some kind of secret DNA or personality transplant...Read More »