May 2010 - Posts

Guillermo del Toro can't wrest the Rings from Gollum-esque creditors.

History teaches us to be very skeptical of filmmakers who change their plans because of "scheduling conflicts." Earlier this month, for instance, Sharlto Copley left the upcoming film "I Am Number Four" because of "scheduling conflicts" caused by "The A-Team" press tour. But according to Film Drunk, that was merely a cover for the real reason: a classic case of the old "creative differences." Turns out "Number Four" director D.J. Caruso refused to allow Copley to wear the prosthetic nose and fake ears he desired to play his alien character. Hence Copley is out and Timothy Olyphant is in. Still, some scheduling conflicts aren't just publicist code for "the director wouldn't him let him wear cool alien makeup." After working on the project for two years, writer/director Guillermo del Toro announced in a statement over the weekend on the Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.Net that he was leaving the planned two-film adaptation...

A selected history of Larry King cameos.

Larry King has been in the news (well, "the news") lately because of speculation his CNN contract won't be renewed next year, taking him off the air at age 77. Even if King -- whose famously non-confrontational, no-preparation approach to interviewing has inexplicably given him a lengthy career -- will no longer be gracing the small screen, his legacy on the big screen will live on. King is a well-known film buff of sorts, whose place as the king of cameos is undeniable. Here are seven of his appearances throughout the year as King's societal prominence kept changing."Ghost Busters" (1984) King's cinematic debut came pre-CNN, back when he was the New York-based host of talk radio about everything and nothing in particular. In "Ghost Busters," he's part of a montage of media coverage for crew, who are fodder for everything from the Atlantic to USA Today. King, as it happened,...

Move over Canada, New York Street is back.

It's not that Canada isn't a real place. It's just that when it pops up on-screen, it frequently isn't "Canada": it's a stand in for some generic American big city, being filmed in for tax purposes. Toronto is where Harold and Kumar began their trek to White Castle and Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey played out their subtle flirtations in "How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days." And, of course, Patrick Bateman may have lived and worked in Bret Easton Ellis' New York, but he was actually working in Toronto's TD Center, which actually does look New York-y (the architect built a near-identical building for Seagram's in New York). In Montreal, there was "Gothika" and "Punisher: War Zone" (standing in for Baltimore more or less plausibly). Though Hollywood productions are always willing to go and shoot wherever the best tax breaks and incentives are, right now Canada is hot...

"Killers" and why you should always screen movies for critics.

The press kits given to critics to accompany the movie they're reviewing are, for obvious reasons, not given to hard truths. They tell us how much everyone enjoyed working with each other, how proud they are of the final film, and generally how well everything's worked out -- predictable, harmless stuff. But once in a while one will go out of their way to make an extra-foolish statement that seriously shatters credulity, like last year's "My Sister's Keeper" (the Cameron Diaz weepy about a terminally ill little girl) kit, which testified that "In films as disparate as 'John Q,' 'Alpha Dog' and 'The Notebook,'" director Nick Cassavetes "has investigated the nuances of the human condition, the nature of love and free will and human dignity." This is not how most people think about "The Notebook." Generally, though, such statements are avoided for films that aren't screened in advance for critics...

Dennis Hopper, true independent.

At the risk of being tacky to bring up Dennis Hopper's personal travails late in life, as they unfortunately will be alongside the glowing career retrospectives now that he finally succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 74, it's worth mentioning that he wouldn't let his weakened state keep him from being a daring rabble-rouser until the very end. Although Hopper's long battle with disease robbed us of one of cinema's great rebels too soon, it also allowed for moving considerations of his work while he was still alive as the New York Times' Manohla Dargis and Matt Zoller Seitz did of both his work as a director right here for IFC.com and his career as a whole for Moving Image Source around the time he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Hopper's speech for the occasion can be found here.) Of course, Hopper...

What 3D movies really need are more dance numbers.

Good news, technology boosters and fans of progressive cinema: the UK has finally stopped paying attention to trifling matters like who's in charge of the country and gotten around to producing their first 3D film. If even the title "Streetdance 3D" sounds suspiciously like the upcoming "Step Up 3-D," well... watching the trailer below won't disabuse you from that notion. They just got the number in on the first try. (Another original American music product co-opted by our villainous ex-colonial masters!) It's not terribly surprising that the British film industry -- which doesn't have nearly as much money to throw around as Hollywood -- would take this long to produce a 3D film. 3D is fast becoming the industrial standard for mega-expensive blockbusters -- something confirmed by the bizarre fact that a Tim Burton film has now made $1 billion -- but the UK isn't in the business of producing...

50 Cent, serious actor.

More so than many rappers, 50 Cent has made a good-faith, surprisingly sustained attempt to transform himself into a legitimate actor, working at a steady clip despite overwhelming critical disregard. The performer -- ever the intelligent businessman, he of the Vitamin Water brand and MSNBC appearances -- appears to understand that the shelf life of hip-hop artists can be limited, something he's learned with his own increasingly declining record sales (better than that of most, but still on the downswing). His latest effort, though, is supremely hardcore: losing 54 pounds to realistically portray an emaciated cancer patient in "Things Fall Apart," a drama he co-wrote, set to be directed by Mario Van Peebles. This means he can now forever be linked with Christian Bale and "Hunger"'s Michael Fassbender, not a grouping I would have expected. 50's filmography can make your head spin, his choices an apparent elaborate non sequitur. It's...

The cruel comedy of audition tapes.

Poor Chris Klein. It's bad enough that the guy has been reduced to appearing in stuff like "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li." Now, he has to deal with the fact that late last week someone leaked a tape of his failed audition for the movie version of "Mamma Mia!" online. After some awkward small talk, Klein says, "Let's go, shall we? Before I embarrass myself further," then proceeds to embarrass himself further and farther and more intensely than most of us will ever do in our lives. For three-and-a-half excruciating minutes, Klein absolutely butchers ABBA's "Lay All Your Love On Me." Flat notes, vocal cracks, intense stares to camera, eyebrows that defy logic and gravity by refusing to go down -- it's beyond terrible; it's guy-on-"American Idol"-who-can't-sing-but-who-gets-to-audition-for-the-judges-so-Simon-can-make-fun-of-him terrible. Good sport that he is, Klein has made his own self-deprecating response video, in which he flunks auditions for "Twilight," "Dreamgirls,"...

The secret cinephilia of Ken Kwapis, director of "Dunston Checks In."

The news that "Dilbert" is poised to become a live-action movie didn't exactly set the internet on fire with glee. Nor did the news that Ken Kwapis is going to direct it. Because of his resume -- which includes Faye Dunaway-vs.-a-chimp flick "Dunston Checks In," the Robin Williams vehicle "License To Wed" and, most recently, "He's Just Not That Into You" -- he's generally slotted, if not in the uber-hack category, among the ranks of insignificant directors. Given his track record, this seems fair. The important word here is "seems." I'm not about to mount a defense of "Dunston" (which even the child target audience could tell was bad). But I am going to offer one for "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," the adaptation of the YA novel that Kwapis took to screen in 2005. It wasn't a movie I sought out: I was dragged there on a date,...

Real estate bargains: the Amityville house of horror.

Has life been a little dull of late? Are the days too long, hot and uneventful? Do you long for the kind of excitement that can only come when you're being pelted with green slime and crucifixes are revolving? Do you feel like relocating to Long Island? You're in luck: the original "Amityville Horror" house is up for sale; it's been remodeled, and for $1.15 million it can be yours. Act now! Five years ago, Manohla Dargis noted in a review of "Dark Water" that it was essentially "a horror movie about being shut out of the Manhattan real estate market"; Jennifer Connelly's trouble starts when she has to move to (oh no!) Roosevelt Island. At least she didn't have to move into The Dakota -- where Mia Farrow got satanically impregnated in "Rosemary's Baby," uneasily foreshadowing John Lennon being gunned down there 12 years later. There's something about the...

James Cameron says "Stay in school."

Here's a weird blast from the past: a video of James Cameron visiting the late Jaime Escalante's classroom in 1989, after production on "The Abyss" had wrapped. Escalante -- the subject of the prototypical inspirational-teacher movie "Stand And Deliver" -- had a PBS show called "Futures," and Cameron showed up to talk about moving immense amounts of water, cubic measurements and how the industry he works in is all about science and technology. Yes, kids, do your physics homework, and someday you too can make "Terminator 2." What's interesting is how normal Cameron seems before he became king of the world and gained permission to grow his hair as terrifyingly long as he felt like: if(document.getElementById("objbe172cf595dd489bb92984bd84bbd6bc")) document.getElementById("objbe172cf595dd489bb92984bd84bbd6bc").setAttribute("flashvars", "file=29c03d8eb95a4c2886a6fbb64f869dea&permalink="+encodeURIComponent(location.href)); if(document.getElementById("embbe172cf595dd489bb92984bd84bbd6bc")) document.getElementById("embbe172cf595dd489bb92984bd84bbd6bc").setAttribute("flashvars", "file=29c03d8eb95a4c2886a6fbb64f869dea&permalink="+encodeURIComponent(location.href)); Seeing "The Abyss" as a kid, the same summer I first saw "Lawrence of Arabia," I was blown away -- I didn't know movies could be so big. That...

Bros icing bros: the movie.

Bros Icing Bros is the latest ubiquitous internet meme -- if you're not yet familiar, it involves people forcing each other to drink the revolting sorta-alcoholic beverage Smirnoff Ice, sometimes at risk to their jobs or personal safety. Here's a primer. A man named Joshua Heller is proposing a vérité documentary on the subject, and even though he's joking, I'm going to take him at face value. The word "vérité" has frequently been abused and attacked; never, though, has it really been taken at such value. The whole idea of "vérité" has been subject to attack and dispute from its inception. (For instance, the Wikipedia entry cites both Harmony Korine and Michael Moore, neither of whom come even close to "relaying the facts," at least on purpose.) Nonetheless, it's true that few people have tried to sum up the collective zeitgeist of any country through a documentary. You'd think that...

The disingenuousness of Jafar Panahi's right-wing advocates.

It is very, very good news that Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is out of jail, and equally good news that Godfrey Cheshire (who knows way more about Iranian cinema than almost anyone) has weighed in on the matter at Salon. The most heartening part of his piece? A quote from Jamsheed Akrami, a film professor in contact with Panahi and family, who thinks the Iranian regime might be so embarrassed he "wouldn't be surprised if there is no trial at all." Of course, many Iranians are in jail without the advantage of being globally famous. But it's something. The taking up of Panahi's cause by the right wing entertainment site Big Hollywood was unlikely but welcome, a rare case of a website that doesn't hesitate to basically label everyone "leftist propaganda" doing something constructive. But they're doing it for the wrong reasons. And now that Panahi's free, this is a...

Disc Covering: "Dolan's Cadillac."

I find the world of direct-to-DVD movies totally fascinating. You walk into a video store, confident in your knowledge of the current cinema landscape, and suddenly you discover a Morgan Freeman movie you've never heard of before in your entire life. It's hard to imagine why a movie starring Freeman, Antonio Banderas and Radha Mitchell by the director of "Deep Impact" can't get a theatrical release. Sure, it could be a real stinker, but c'mon -- real stinkers get exhibited on thousands of screens across the country every single day of the year. (My hypothetical example, by the way, isn't hypothetical: it's "The Code," or at least that's the name it's rented under at my local video store. IMDb lists it as "Thick as Thieves." Let's call that BAD SIGN THAT YOUR MOVIE IS GOING STRAIGHT TO DVD #1: Multiple Titles.) Still, there's no denying that direct-to-DVD stigma exists, and...

Where our greatest actresses fit in at the multiplex and at the arthouse.

Shortly after the Cannes awards were over, the London Times' Kate Muir sat down with Best Actress winner Juliette Binoche to conduct an interesting interview. Muir makes the observation that Binoche "is one of the few actors to cross, undamaged, from mainstream to arthouse and back." That's a select club -- one whose female population might be argued to include Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton and few others. That cluster doesn't have much in common, except that all were big stars of the past decade without big hits. Watts and Moore can be a little more hit-or-miss with the scripts they choose, while Swinton isn't as well-known, which gives her more liberty to dip into both paycheck supporting roles ("The Chronicles of Narnia") and hardcore arthouse exercises ("The Man From London"). Penelope Cruz has more charisma than chops, but she's never boring to watch. Regardless,...
More Posts Next page »