At Least See The Beginning

I saw Sam Raimi‘s Oz The Great and Powerful tonight on the Disney lot, but the invite came with my pledge to not review it until Friday, March 8th, or opening day. Anyway Oz screened in the main Disney theatre with grade-A 3D projection, and when it ended around 9:20-something a review by Variety‘s Justin Chang had posted. Plus five reviews are now up on Rotten Tomatoes so all bets are off, it would seem. But I’ll hold for now.

Chang is calling Oz diverting family fare with a few portions that connect, but he’s mainly saying that it’s composed of...

Crazy Kinky

If I were you I’d copy and paste the names of all the Metacritic reviewers who’ve given Park Chan-wook‘s Stoker a 70% or better. Then I’d do the same with the Rotten Tomatoes reviewers who gave it a thumbs-up. And then arrange their last names alphabetically and print the list and tape it to your refrigerator door or…whatever, paste it on your Notes app on your iPhone.

Because anyone who gives any kind of pass to Stoker is either smoking something or eating something they shouldn’t or I-don’t-know-what. Either they have a liking for the kind of oppressively flamboyant style that screams “oppressively flamboyant style!”, or they’ve decided that directors who present characters who wallow in cruel or deeply perverse behavior are themselves deliciously...

Young Americans

The first time I noticed a historical adventure-romance in which the lead male character (and only the lead male character) spoke in a glib and casual modern-American manner was Richard Donner‘s Ladyhawke (’85). The critically-despised Warner Bros release was set in 12th Century Europe and Matthew Broderick — 22 or 23 at the time of filming — played Phillippe Gaston, a ne’er-do-well who used the attitude and idioms of Ferris Bueller.

The idea, obviously, was to make 1985...

Richard Parker Did Not Brighten My Day

I haven’t written until now about the financial convulsions hitting the visual effects industry because I have mixed feelings. I feel badly for any reputable VFX company that’s getting shafted by the Hollywood big-boy fraternity. But on the other hand (and I realize how twisted this sounds on a practical, fair-minded level) I hate conspicuous CG, and therefore feel only a certain kind of sporadic, case-by-case-basis love for those technicians who deliver more subtle work. Either way the CG...

More Sourcing, Legwork, Detail Required

I’d love to read a longish, fully-sourced, deep-drill article about why Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln failed to win Best Picture, but Melena Ryzik‘s 2.27 Oscar aftermath piece in the N.Y. Times only scratches the surface.

Key passage: “This season, insiders said, the team behind Lincoln — executives at DreamWorks and Disney — overcampaigned, leaving voters with the unpleasant feeling that they were being force-fed a highly burnished history lesson. ‘It was a good movie, not sliced bread,’ one veteran awards watcher...

March, No Feast, Has Two Winners

I haven’t seen many March films, but the good ones seem few and far between. By my yardstick the two best will emerge at the end of the month. Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires (Weinstein Co., 3.22) is a partial knockout, but entirely worth seeing for Chris Dowd‘s landmark performance as a road manager who’s also a major Motown fanatic. If you’re a fan of The Shining, Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237 (IFC Films, 3.29) is the shit, a hoot, a trip — the smartest and sharpest film of the month. And no, the trailers haven’t done it justice

3.1: Ixnay on Stoker and the reviews for Jack the Giant Slayer haven’t been good. I still haven’t seen The Sweeney. If anything, Kim Nguyen‘s

Farrell’s Trajectory

In his swaggering party-boy period Colin Farrell played leads in glossy, well-funded mainstream films from ’03 to ’06 (Daredevil, Phone Booth, The Recruit, S.W.A.T., Alexander, the intelligent and historically atmospheric Terrence Malick flick The New World and Michael Mann‘s fumey, aromatic Miami Vice). Then he checked into rehab in December 2005 and switched to character roles in smaller, smarter, indie-ish films (Ask the Dust, Cassandra’s Dream, Pride and Glory, In Bruges, Ondine, Triage, Crazy Heart, The Way Back).

And then in ’10 Farrell changed course again and started doing violence-flavored material (London Boulevard, Horrible Bosses, Fright Night, Total Recall, Dead...

Lose The Tonnage

N.Y. Times political pulse-taker and numbers guy Nate Silver is reporting that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is on the outs with the wacked-out Republican right (i.e., the party of corporate elites, angry old white guys and Tea Party yokels) due to his being perceived as too moderate.

That right there tells you he has a better-than-decent shot at becoming the 2016 Republican candidate for president because — hello? — he could actually win. He’s a real-deal, hot-dog-eating man of the people and not a country-club phony like Mitt Romney.

But the metaphor that goes along with being dangerously obese means he can’t run if he doesn’t drop at...

Adieu & Farewell

The great classical pianist Van Cliburn has passed at age 78. The man had a cavernous soul and miraculous fingers. He had a distinguished and fulfilling run, peaking at age 23 when he won a Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and soon after landing on the cover of Time magazine on 5.19.58. So he peaked 55 years ago but at least he peaked. Very few of us get to the stand on top of the highest mountain.

From Joe Leydon‘s Moving Picture Blog: “I met the late, great Van Cliburn only once, decades ago, during my days at The...

The Mild and the Maligned

I for one am totally past the traumatic 2012 Oscar battles and into the present, but to hear it from TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, the year-long “season” was interesting and certainly change-ridden at times, but altogether civil and mild-mannered. The Best Picture race was described six days ago by Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone in much more dramatic terms. She and Pond experienced the same basic saga on a story-by-story basis, and yet their impressions diverged.

I feel a greater kinship with Sasha’s version, no offense.

Consider Pond’s recap of the journey of Silver Linings...

The Hand

Yesterday producer Glenn Zoller, an always thoughtful and generous fellow, sent me a short called Valibation, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) and produced by Ken Franchi.

Valibation is pretty good — well acted and professionally produced with a certain visual discipline — and in some ways is very good, but it runs 21 minutes. Short films should not run longer than 14 minutes, and if you can bring them in at 10 or 12 minutes, so much the better. I...

Special Corner of Hell

There are three kinds of pain-in-the-ass parking-lot drivers out there. I hate them with every drop of blood in my heart, and I’m just trying to decide which is the worst.

Is it (a) the person who eases into a space and yet doesn’t turn their car off for some reason and just sits there idling, which indicates to others that he/she may be pulling out and which sometimes creates parking-lot jams because people stop and wait when they see a car just sitting there with the effing tail lights on? These stationary idlers are perfectly aware of the trouble they’re creating, and they do it anyway.

Is it (b) the person who walks up to their car, gets in, turns it on and does absolutely dead fricking nothing for two, three or four minutes? Just sitting there endlessly, pondering life and death and the whereabouts of Godot as they try to remember if they need to buy more cat litter?

Or is it (c) the person who parks in a space and...

Mr. Bill

I ran into producer, director, actor and one-time legendary resturateur Tony Bill at JJ AbramsIrish shindig last week. I reminded him that we’d done an interview in New York in ’82 when he was promoting Six Weeks, a Dudley Moore-Mary Tyler Moore drama that Bill was hired to direct more or less at the last minute. In any event I felt a nice easy vibe, and this led to my calling the next day and suggesting a little phoner. We got around to it a day or two ago — here’s the mp3.

Studio-Think Dungeon

Fee-fi-fo-fum, this fairy-tale retread is pretty dumb,” says Variety‘s Justin Chang about Bryan Singer‘s Jack the Giant Slayer (Warner Bros., 3.1). What happened to the Bryan Singer of yore…the hip clever guy who made The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil and Valkyrie even? God help us but this is the world in which we live right now — a world in which the only films that seem to get funded are (a) aimed at the submental, milkshake-slurping family trade and (b) aren’t in the least bit “execution dependent.”

“Feeding the recent appetite for revisionist screen fantasies (Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Once...

Battle of Besieged White House Flicks

Everyone knows by now that Antoine Fuqua‘s Olympus Has Fallen (Film District, 3.22) and Roland Emmerich‘s White House Down (Sony, 6.28) are both basically Die Hard in the White House (with supplemental action scenes happening in and around Washington, D.C.). Fuqua’s version opens three and a half weeks hence as well as three months prior to White House Down, which obviously gives it an edge. The New York press junket happens in 11 days.

For all I know Fuqua’s version is the one to see. To be fair, his reputation is actually pretty decent as far as ensemble action pieces (Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest) are concerned. But it seems as...