Eccentric Notions

“This is not very complicated. It really isn’t. It’s prophesied in the Bible and the Bible says that before the beginning of the tribulation which will be in the end times, which I have no doubt we are living in…so therefore [the rapture] could happen tomorrow…the church is going to be called home and caught up in the air and taken to heaven and that’s what this movie’s about.” — Left Behind producer and co-writer Paul Lalonde, explaining the gist of the drama, which Samuel Goldwyn Films will open theatrically on 10.3.

So now we have two rapture/end times dramas to grapple with, both dealing with the sudden disappearance of millions — Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta‘s The Leftovers (HBO, 6.29) and Left Behind, in which poor Nicolas Cage stars. What a humiliation to go from being a legendary, envelope-pushing eccentric in the ’80s and ’90s to acting in…I shouldn’t judge, should I? The fair-minded thing would be to not process Left Behind as Christian ideological dreck mixed with disaster-movie spectacle and…you know, give it a fair shake. But of course it almost certainly is Christian dreck mixed with disaster tropes. What else to expect from a producer-writer who’s openly trying to spread Christian gospel through movies? (more…)

Falling Down

I had never seen this infamous Dick Cavett Show episode (aired on 9.18.70) until a half-hour ago. Honestly. Wow. Shitfaced behavior is often hilarious to other drunks, isn’t it? The idea that these three gifted, accomplished, hard-working guys somehow convinced themselves that vomiting the least intriguing aspects of their personalities onto Cavett’s gray shag carpet…the mind reels.

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Alamo Follow-Up

Yesterday I posted a piece about (a) the photo-chemical elements of the 202-minute, 70mm roadshow version of John Wayne‘s The Alamo being all but half-ruined, and (b) rights-holder MGM refusing to allow a crowd-funding effort to pay for a 70mm-quality restoration because it’ll make them look like pikers. The piece was called “Alamo‘s Loss Is MGM’s Shame.”

In response to an email about this issue, MGM Senior VP for Library Rights Management Trish Francis issued this statement: “I have spoken with our Technical Services staff who assured me that the film is not in danger of being lost. They proactively and routinely monitor and assess the condition of the various elements of all of MGM’s films and take steps as needed to protect and preserve them. The film is a valuable part of film history and naturally want to protect it. I will mention [the] concerns to the appropriate people.”

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“Subversion” Around The Corner

There are two stand-out pull quotes from Kate Aurthur‘s Buzzfeed piece (“No One Really Wants A Nikki Finke Comeback,” 5.30) about the apparent return of Nikki Finke. Her new website will allegedly launch on Monday, 6.2. The quotes are from Finke’s competitors so naturally they’re less than admiring. Quote #1: “She’s powerless at this point. She doesn’t have the work ethic or clout to be able to do what she did years earlier. Quote #2: ““There is an ecosystem in this world that she disrupts and tries to disrupt. In her heyday, she was able to move the news cycle. Toward the end, she was lazy and only doing box office — she was gone before she was gone.” Finke is apparently intending to ignore or declare invalid the part of her contract with Penske Media Corporation, which bought Finke’s Deadline Hollywood in 2009, that forbids her from competing with Deadline before 2016. I’d be lying if I said I’m not interested and intending to read whatever Finke posts, but what are some of the reactions among HE readers?

Kubrick Moon Fraud

Yesterday I popped for a pair of tickets to an upcoming Black List Live! performance of Stephany Folsom’s 1969: A Space Odyssey, Or How Kubrick Learned to Stop Worrying and Land on the Moon, a 2013 Black List script. The reading, which Folsom is directing, will happen on Saturday, 6.14.14 at the historic Los Angeles Theatre. The script is about a White House Public Affairs assistant (Kathryn Hahn) who hires Stanley Kubrick (Jared Harris) to stage a fake moon landing in the event that disaster befalls the Apollo 11 mission. Thomas Sadoski and Shannon Woodward will costar.

Looks Dicey, Actually Cool

Parisian car drivers never bully scooter drivers or treat them inconsiderately in any way. Not in my experience, at least. As in Rome, nobody really follows any traffic law except for stopping at red lights. Nobody pays attention to lanes. Well, a bit but not really. You can do what you want as long as you don’t drive like an idiot. Everyone is watching everyone else and small-fry scooters are offered the exact same measure of respect that cars and buses and taxis get. Everyone seems committed to getting along and keeping things cool. I’m sure Paris has its share of clueless assholes whose driving tendencies make things difficult for everyone else, but I haven’t run into a single one yet.


On top of relaxing the Cockatoo diet, I’ve also had two or three cans of Lemon Diet Coke, which disappeared from American shelves a decade or so ago.

Edge Satisfaction

Doug Liman‘s Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros., 6.6), which I saw last night at a public-access sneak at the Pathe Wepler in Place Clichy, is an A-level, full-throttle, brain-tease-y sci-fi thriller and (don’t take this the wrong way) a videogame movie of the highest order. I realize, obviously, that “videogame movie” is a perjorative but this pleasure puppy knows how to smarten the material and make it seem…well, a bit deeper than it actually is. It’s basically about failing and learning, failing and learning, failing and learning a bit more. It’s Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers meets Playstation 4. And it’s not overlong or draggy or anything but super-efficient. It’s over before you know it.

The film, written by Chris McQuarrie and the Butterworth brothers (Jez and John-Henry), is about a military campaign to defeat a massive alien invasion of Europe that is much more dominating than anything Nazi Germany managed. (Next Friday’s opening day is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.) The alien army is composed of “mimics,” which are mechanical spider-octopus monsters that number in the hundreds of thousands and are controlled…is this a spoiler?…by a big, glowing, spherical, electric-blue super-brain called “Omega.”

The hook is that three players — Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt on the weapons-bearing, combat-ready, above-the-title side, plus a nerdy, exposition-providing scientist played by Noah Taylor — are part of a continual time-repeat cycle. (I’m not going to explain how or why.) And throughout the film they’re faced with a series of formidable (i.e., scary as shit) combat challenges and obstructions that can and do result in getting “killed” over and over but instantly reborn each time. This allows them to learn from mistakes and possibly even win if — big “if” — he/she can get past these hurdles and zero in on the Big Target (i.e, “Omega”), which is roughly analogous to the “sum of all intelligence” Mr. Fishbowl guy in William Cameron MenziesInvaders From Mars.

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You Keep Her

I saw David Schecter‘s Life of Crime, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s “The Switch,” at last September’s Toronto Film Festival. Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes, Mos Def, Will Forte, Mark Boone, Jr. It doesn’t quite match the enjoyment of reading the book, but it’s a decent stab at capturing Leonard’s low-key vibe and no-big-hurry pacing. That said it’s a bit too glum of heart. It needs to be a little less loser-ish, a little more bouncy…something. The basic plot is similar to Ruthless People (’85) — rich woman kidnapped by loser felons but delighted husband won’t play the ransom, etc. Even though the movie poster is vaguely similar to the hardback book jacket of “The Switch,” shapely gams sticking out of a trunk of a car is a very un-Leonard-like thing. Vegas showgirl gams at that. Of course, gams sticking out of anything is a pitch to the none-too-brights of both genders but particularly to Aniston fans (i.e., older unmarried single women who read supermarket tabloids). But then Leonard’s characters are often none-too-bright themselves so there’s your symmetry.

Dust on McFarlane’s Boots

I’ve been picking up serious hate and loathing vibes among reactions to Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal, 5.30). It’s early-ish (9 am in New York) so very few ticket-buyers have seen it, but when they do could I get a few reactions? Among critics the main beef seems to be that it’s just not clever or funny enough, certainly not on a Blazing Saddles level. A bit simplistic, I realize, but that’s what I’m reading.

Blather

David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars is playing locally, and I, being a fan, wouldn’t mind seeing it again. I was amused when Stars screenwriter Bruce Wagner claimed during the Cannes Film Festival that Evan Bird‘s Benjie Weiss character, a poisonous 13 year-old superstar who immediately summons thoughts of Justin Beiber, wasn’t written or cast with Beiber in mind. A friend told me he ran into Beiber at the AMFAR during the festival. He said he didn’t ask about the Cronenberg film because such a question would have seemed rude given that Wagner had stuck to the party line, etc. “Oh, please!,” I replied. Never trust the artist — trust the tale.

Harvey Torch

If I was the sort of person who uses postage stamps even occasionally, I would own a book of Harvey Milk stamps. Definitely. The Times of Harvey Milk made me a lifelong admirer of the late San Francisco supervisor. I’ve watched it a good six or seven times at least. In any case I’m appalled by current attempts by the American Family Association to persuade the USPS to discontinue selling the stamp by goading anti-gay bigots into refusing to accept mail with the Harvey stamp (or something like that). The AFA is a right-wing hate group — the same kind of people who were behind the 1978 Briggs initiative, which sought to keep gay people from teaching at schools, and which Milk campaigned against and helped to defeat.

Dust To Dust

Have you ever seen The Indian Fighter, a 1955 Kirk Douglas actioner directed by Andre De Toth and co-written by Ben Hecht? I didn’t think so. Have you ever heard of it? There’s no reason you should have. Why should succeeding generations pay the slightest attention to a film made on auto-pilot? By people who wanted only a commercial success and not much else? Don’t kid yourself — the fate of The Indian Fighter awaits 80% to 90% of the films that have opened in the 21st Century. Deep down producers and directors know it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents, which is why some of them occasionally try to make films that try to sink into people’s souls on some level. Because they want future generations (including their own descendants) to speak about them with affection or at least respect. It’s about legacy. What are the Indian Fighter-level films that have opened (or are due to open) in 2014? X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent, 22 Jump Street, etc. A special Indian Fighter Lifetime Achievement Award should be given Liam “paycheck” Neeson (except, possibly, for Martin Scorsese‘s Silence and A Walk Among The Tombstones).

Alamo‘s Loss is MGM’s Shame

Restoration guru Robert Harris recently stated that in terms of a potential decent-quality restoration, the photo-chemical elements of the 202-minute, 70mm roadshow version of John Wayne‘s The Alamo (’60) are all but half-ruined. He’s told Digital Bits editor Bill Hunt that “[even] if a last-ditch restoration were started today, the best that could be achieved would be to return the film to perhaps 60% of its former glory,” Hunt writes. “But 60%, while disappointing, is certainly better than nothing.”

Is The Alamo a great film? No, but it’s a pretty good one — watchable, sturdily performed and generally well-constructed. In my view the fact that it was shot on 70mm mandates a proper preservation. But a petty Catch-22 imposed by rights holder MGM is standing in the way. They won’t fund a restoration on their own (okay, fine) but they won’t allow a crowd-funding effort either because it’ll make them look like pikers.

“There is no restoration effort at this time,” Harris has said on Home Theatre Forum. “Which means that there may never be a restoration effort. Several people have raised the concept of going to outside sources for funding [but] MGM has no interest in the concept, even if the film is lost. It appears that MGM has chosen to allow the film to die, as no immediate action will be taken with elements just one stage above that of industrial waste.” (more…)

Go Easy For Now

Obviously Liam P. Neeson was cast to play Matt Scudder, a tough guy with a guilty past, in Scott Frank‘s adaptation of A Walk Among The Tombstones (Universal, 9.19) , because of his swaggering middle-aged badass rep. But something about this trailer is telling me not to use the word “paycheck.” I may be naive to presume this, but this one seems a tad less opportunistic than the others.

Basic Boob Compromise

The N.Y. Post‘s Emily Smith is reporting that the below poster for the Weinstein/Dimension’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (8.22) was “disapproved by the MPAA ‘for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.’ Dimension declined to comment but it is believed execs are working on a compromise with the MPAA.”

To Have and Have Not

I’m not approaching Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer with an attitude. Seething class warfare on Runaway Train sounds like a great concept. But Joon-Ho’s Mother struck me as a little too Brian DePalma-esque, and I’m a bit afraid of that flourishy, operatic style. “There’s no doubting that Bong Joon Ho is a DePalma devotee in the same way that DePalma was a Hitchcock acolyte in the ’70s and ’80s,” I wrote five years ago. “Mother was by far the most interesting sit because of his immaculate and exacting composition of each and every element — deliberately unnatural, conspicuously acted, very much a director’s film.” Joon-ho himself has proudly declared that DePalma is a major inspiration. In my book that means “caveat emptor.”

Creep

Where will Ukranian celebrity prankster-masher Vitalii Sediuk, who accosted Brad Pitt Wednesday night at the Malificent premiere, end up in life? What’s the difference between guys like Sediuk and Travis Bickel? Obsessive celebrity stalkers who want nothing more than to brush up against the famous, and in so doing perhaps acquire a little fame for themselves? We’re talking about a culture of instant ADD pestilence that’s manifesting more and more. Sediuk, 25, is reportedly the guy who attempted to kiss Will Smith at the Russian premiere of Men in Black III and hid under America Ferrera‘s dress at the How to Train Your Dragon 2 premiere in Cannes.