Friday, June 29, 2007

R.I.P.: Joel Siegel (1943-2007)

The long-time film critic for Good Morning, America has departed for that Great Screening Room in the Sky. I wonder if Kevin Smith will have anything to say about his demise?

Where for art thou, Optimus Prime?

Anthony Breznican of USA Today takes a look at Transformers, and discerns a touch of Shakespeare. Hey, look, I'm sure people have earned master's degrees with even daffier theses.

Michael Caine and Sean Connery: Geriatric Gangstas?

I laughed until Monster energy drink sprayed out of my nose.

Inconvenient truths

Eric Alterman flames the self-satisfied Mainstream Media types who continually condescend to the star of this year's Oscar-winning Best Documentary. (OK, I admit, it's a stretch, but this is a movie blog, after all, so I had to find some way to rationalize my linking to it.) This is, hands down, the best piece I've ever read on the subject. You might consider forwarding it to people (especially self-satisfied MSM types and their Internet counterparts) who repeatedly take cheap shots at the man who won the popular vote in the 2000 Presidential election. Let them know that you see through their game, and you are not amused.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Saddest. President. Ever.

Now tell the truth: If you saw a scene like this in a movie, wouldn't you expect to hear violins? (Hat tip to Talking Points Memo.) I mean, jeepers, I don't recall ever seeing Jimmy Carter looking this sad. The guy looks like he just heard that his dog died... after being accidentally shot by Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Justice is served

It's a beautiful summer day. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Citizen Kane is still No. 1. Paris Hilton is free. And the showboating prosecutor who hounded her is under investigation for ethics violations. Life is good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Don't write those obits for film critics just yet

From my Variety colleague Anne Thompson: "Wasn't film criticism supposed to be irrelevant? On the way out? When it comes to mainstream Hollywood tentpoles, maybe. But talk to filmmakers, no matter what their stripe, and all the talk of new media fades fast. They want the same things indies wanted a few decades ago: reviews from established critics.

"The Web has affected the film biz in many subtle ways, but it hasn't yet replaced the branding that occurs via theatrical booking and critical reviews. A local movie critic with a following drives people to see indie movies in a way that nothing else does -- at least so far."

Maybe what we need is more local movie critics... who write for their own websites?

Andy Griffith: Hot property

Thanks to Waitress, critics and audiences are rediscovering Andy Griffith. So maybe he'll finally get that Oscar nomination he deserved for A Face in the Crowd? (Come to think of it, he should have received a nod for Hearts of the West as well.)

Cats That Look Like Hitler

Maybe it's just me, but I think this one looks more like Bruno Ganz.

OK, this is more like it. There are even more "Kitlers" at No, I'm not making this up.

Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads?

From Crooks and Liars: When actual Pentagon research programs start to resemble the fevered fantasies of Dr. Evil, you know you're living in an age when it's hard to top reality with parody.

'Indiana Jones' redux

From Lucasfilm Ltd.: "For the first time since 1989, Harrison Ford dons the familiar costume on Thursday, June 21, 2007, as the upcoming Indiana Jones adventure begins production under the direction of Steven Spielberg. The new Indiana Jones movie is set in the 1950s and stars Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent. The Lucasfilm Ltd. production will be released by Paramount Pictures worldwide on May 22, 2008. Photo by Steven Spielberg."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

First word on 'Transformers'

From Variety: "If it's true that there's an 8-year-old boy inside every man, Transformers is just the ticket to bring the kid out. Big, loud and full of testosterone-fueled car fantasies, Michael Bay's actioner hits a new peak for CGI work, showcasing spectacular chases and animated transformation sequences seamlessly blended into live-action surroundings. There's no longer any question whether special effects can be made more realistic: The issue is whether disposable actors can be trained to play better with bluescreens."

More AFI post mortem

Roger Ebert weighs in on the AFI's new 100 Years... 100 Movies list here, and he's much more eloquent and insightful than I could be because -- well, because he's Roger Freakin' Ebert. My favorite passage (because it rings so true for me as a college professor as well as a film critic):

"New films become old films so fast. Raging Bull came out 27 years ago. It's older than Casablanca (No. 3) was when I became a film critic. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, more than 50 percent of moviegoers are under 27. They are going to find movies on this list that were made before their grandparents were born -- and, if judging by the kids I saw Buster Keaton's The General (No. 18) with, they might love them.

"Ah, but there's the problem: Will they find out about them? Too many younger moviegoers are wasting their precious adolescence frying their brains with vomitoriums posing as slasher movies. A list like the AFI's can do some good... To take a hypothetical possibility, if you were to see all 100 films on the AFI list, by the end of that experience, you would no longer desire to see a Dead Teenager Movie."

The Associated Press offers some interesting factoids about the new list here, and recalls the original 1998 line-up here.

As for me, I'm still mulling over something M. Night Shyamalan said about The Sixth Sense (No. 89 on the new AFI list) during Wednesday's telecast countdown. Specifically, Shyamalan noted that his movie benefited from great timing, in that it was released before the proliferation of movie blogs on the Internet. If it were released today, he said, Sixth Sense (and, I would add, The Crying Game) likely would suffer because too many blockheads would be posting spoilers on websites. Well, OK, he didn't use the word "blockheads." But I would.

And speaking of spoilers: Didn't the AFI do its own sort of spoiling by airing clips that revealed the climaxes of The Searchers and Citizen Kane?

Back in the saddle again

From the L.A. Times: "If you think of Gene Autry as just that guy on a horse playing guitar and singing, an impressive new exhibition at the Autry National Center's Museum of the American West is determined to change your mind.

"Imposingly titled Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007, this show, which opens Friday in Griffith Park and runs through Jan. 13, reveals Autry as someone who accomplished so much in so many areas it practically makes your head spin. It's no wonder that close friend and co-star Smiley Burnette said, 'Whenever the wolf came to the door, Autry ended up with a fur coat.'"

But wait, there's more: The legacy of America's favorite singing cowboy survives and thrives on new and newly reissued CDs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Worst Movies Ever - response to SchulteFiaja

Well, of course, if you're going to delve into the really bad, Manos: Hand of Fate certainly does have to figure into the mix.

The Worst Movies Ever - Part 2

And sometimes, some things are worse than bad.

The Worst Movies Ever

To paraphrase Huey Lewis: Sometimes, bad really is just bad.

Still No. 1: 'Citizen Kane'

Take two: Nearly ten years after the AFI's first 100 Years... 100 Movies countdown, Vertigo (No. 9) and Raging Bull (No. 4) managed to collect enough votes to displace The Graduate (No. 17 now, No. 7 then) and On the Waterfront (No. 19 now, No. 8 then) for ranking in the Top Ten of the new Top 100. But Citizen Kane remains -- as before, and very likely forever -- No. 1. And, hey, you'll get no argument from me over that.

Other titles in the upper echelon: The Godfather (No. 2 now, No. 3 then), Casablanca (No. 3/No. 2), Singin' in the Rain (No. 5/No. 10), Gone with the Wind (No. 6/No. 4), Lawrence of Arabia (No. 7/No. 5), Schindler's List (No. 8/No. 9) and The Wizard of Oz (No. 10/No. 6). Safe titles? Maybe. Great titles? Definitely.

David Germain of The Associated Press compares and contrasts the 1998 and 2007 lists here.


OK, I'm about midway through the new AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies countdown, and I have just one major beef: The Lord of the Rings is No. 50? What a cop-out! I mean, come on, let's be specific, folks: All three films? (Then it would be 102 Films, wouldn't it?) Or just one of the trilogy? And if the latter -- which one?

R.I.P.: Antonio Aguilar (1919-2007)

The Associated Press reports: Mexican mariachi singer and actor Antonio Aguilar, who recorded more than 150 albums and began his acting career during Mexico's "Golden Era" of cinema, has died in Mexico City after a long fight with pneumonia. He was 88.

Born in the northern state of Zacatecas, Aguilar recorded with his traditional mariachi group for 50 years and sold more than 25 million records. His hit songs include "Triste Recuerdo," "Albur de Amor," "Gabino Barrera" and "Puno de Tierra." He appeared in 167 films, including The Undefeated starring John Wayne. In 2000, he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Hollywood makes strange bedfellows

Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum and the producer of The Passion of the Christ may be teaming up to make a movie.

Revenge is sweet, or: There's really something to see on besides hot babes. Really. No kidding.

From Twelve classic scenes of kicking ass, taking names and kicking even more ass. Naturally, such a cavalcade would not be complete without Charles Bronson.

Preview of dying attractions?

Glad to see the L.A. Times pondering the question I raised elsewhere a few days ago:

"Warner Bros., the studio behind the Harry Potter blockbusters, could find itself in an awkward position when author J.K. Rowling lets the black cat out of the bag next month about the ultimate fate of her characters.

"Ten days after the fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, hits theaters July 11, the world will know what happens to the bespectacled boy wizard and the rest of his Hogwarts gang with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling's seventh and final book in the series.

"Last year Rowling revealed in interviews that she would kill off two characters and that one character 'got a reprieve,' never acknowledging whether Harry is among them... But there are two Harry Potter [movie] sequels to go over the next three years. Could knowing how it all ends dissuade moviegoers from turning out to see them?"

Hop fast or 'Die Hard'

Before racing off to catch the latest adventure of reluctant hero John McClane, you might want to see how bunnies do it. No, not how they do that. How they do this.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Trailer alert: '3:10 to Yuma'

If you're a Western fan, this should be very encouraging: An exciting trailer for 3:10 to Yuma, with Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Peter Fonda riding hard and shooting straight for director James Mangold. Hey, I'm ready to saddle up and gallop over to the megaplex for this one.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

LOL at 'DOA'

DOA: Dead or Alive was inspired by a videogame and...

(Excuse me while I laugh uncontrollably at the absurdity of using the word "inspired" in that context... Just a minute... Just a minute... OK, I'm fine now.)

And as you might expect, narrative complexities and subtle character nuances are not its strong suits. On the other hand, as I acknowledge in my Variety review, if you show up with sufficiently lowered expectations, you can enjoy the flick as an exuberantly trashy trifle, the sort of nonstop, wire-worked kung-foolishness in which increasingly elaborate set pieces are interrupted only sporadically by something resembling a storyline. Credit director Corey Yuen for staging such show-stopping spectacles as a babe-versus-babe blade battle in a bamboo forest where gravity is just a sometime thing, and an against-all-odds swordfight on an outdoor stairway that looks like a collaboration between Gene Kelly and Bruce Lee. Another highlight: Two bikini-clad cuties in a slow-mo smack-off on a rain-swept beach, suggesting what might happen if a fight broke out during a location shoot for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

So there you have it: Big swords, cool fights, scorchin' chicks. If it's a hot night, and the theater's air-conditioned, what the hell...

'Four' is the new No. 1

Nikki Finke: Never underestimate the appeal of a comic-book movie.

Friday, June 15, 2007

George Clooney: Action hero

Unlike some of the snootier types here in the blogosphere, I’m not ashamed to say that I shop at Wal-Mart. Indeed, I even have a Wal-Mart credit card (though maybe not for long, if I keep forgetting to mail my monthly payments on time). And I’m positively addicted to trolling the bargain bins and display shelves at various superstores for great deals on marked-down DVDs.

All of which is explains why, while in a Wal Mart today, I happened upon a sale on “action-packed movies” that were “specially priced” – i.e., $4.88 each -- just in time for Father’s Day gift-giving. So I picked up a Two-Disc Special Edition of The Wild Bunch – for my money, still one of the greatest Westerns ever made – and Green Street Hooligans, a gritty Brit football drama directed by Lexi Alexander, the most babe-o-licious filmmaker this side of Mira Nair.

But here’s the inexplicable part: On the same shelf, I also found – and later purchased – a copy of George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, a movie that, truth to tell, I’ve never really considered “action-packed.” Nor, for that matter, would I use that term to describe Syriana, the flick for which Clooney won his Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. And yet, there it was, in the Father's Day display alongside the other bargain-priced, “action-packed” items. Maybe because of all the explosions and assassinations?

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you look like a Mounds

While keeping abreast of current trends in reality TV, I found this titillating news item.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Fantastic' fun

Justin Chang notes in Variety: "At a time when tortured superheroes like Spider-Man, Superman and Batman would benefit from some serious psychotherapy, it's almost refreshing to see a comicbook caper as blithe, weightless and cheerfully dumb as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Faithfully mining one of the Marvel franchise's more intriguing mythologies, the sequel proves every bit as disposable as its predecessor, with even less character definition and several tons more poundage in the f/x department. Original grossed a surprising $330 million worldwide, and Silver Surfer should ride a heady wave of fan nostalgia and an audience-friendly PG rating to similarly golden returns."

Better still: It's only 91 minutes long. Speaking as someone who thought the previous Fantastic Four flick wasn't half-bad, I'm actually looking forward to flaming on with this one.

On the other hand: I'm sure at least one critic wishes he hadn't been so eager to see the movie.

So goes Spielberg, so goes Hollywood (and the rest of the country)?

Steven Spielberg is backing Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Which, according to the Los Angeles Times, is the equivalent of an anointment: "The Academy Award winner's support is considered the industry's Holy Grail; not only does Spielberg's name resonate in Hollywood's plushest power suites where his movie grosses are admired, but also in middle America, where he is seen as one of the most esteemed directors." Gosh, Spielberg is a political kingmaker. Who knew?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Round midnight

Guess where I'm going to be at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Oh, go ahead: Guess.

Just in time for Father's Day

You can make a donation to a good cause in your Dad's name. (Of course, you should also buy him a drink or three, and tell him you love him. It's his day, remember?)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

R.I.P.: Mr. Wizard, a.k.a. Don Herbert (1917-2007)

For geeks of a certain age -- and, yes, I proudly include myself in that number -- the passing of baby-boomer icon Don Herbert is bad, sad news. I can't help but suspect that at least two generations of sci-fi writers and moviemakers were at least partly influenced by his kid-friendly televised science lessons. Gosh, Mr. Wizard -- thanks.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Who is this guy?

And can he start making movies soon? Like, tomorrow?

'Killer of Sheep'

Charles Burnett's little-seen, much admired Killer of Sheep is finally getting some limited theatrical play -- thirty years after Burnett filmed the gritty indie drama as his UCLA graduate thesis project. Currently on view in Nashville at the Belcourt Theatre, Sheep next will graze at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, at 7 pm June 15-16 and 22-23. MFAH film goddess Marian Luntz speaks with Henry Gayle Sanders, the Houston-born star of the film, here. And the multitalented Eric Harrison interviews Sanders and Burnett in the Sunday Houston Chronicle.

BTW: Do not -- repeat, do not -- confuse Burnett's film with an upcoming New Zealand import.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Top 10 Reasons Why 'Hostel 2' (Reportedly) 'Under-Performed' On Opening Weekend

10. Too many potential ticket buyers glued to their TV sets for MSNBC updates on Paris Hilton.

9. Half the people who saw the first Hostel thought it blew chunks, and were damned if they’d pay good money to see a sequel.

8. Bloodthirsty geeks who groove on simulated violence are still traumatized by simulated childbirth in Knocked Up.

7. Two words: Surf’s Up.

6. “Wait a minute! You mean that skank from Welcome to the Dollhouse is the one who’s naked? No way, dude.” (View expressed is not necessarily that of this blog’s host.)

5. Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Michael “Mad Dog” Medved didn’t receive word in time that they were supposed to trash it on the air.

4. Under-age horror fans actually bought tickets to Ocean’s 13, then sneaked into auditoriums where Hostel 2 was playing.

3. David Poland and Jeffrey Wells whacked it. What possible chance could it have after that?

2. Pirate-copied DVDs were available weeks ago at truck stops, convenience stores, porn video shops and other places known to be frequented by hard-core gore fans.


1. Too many guys figured they’d never get laid if they brought a date to it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

And now, another episode of 'Stuff I Wouldn't Dare Make Up'

I never thought I would say this, but I actually felt sorry for Paris Hilton today. Chalk up to parental instincts, or natural-born contrariness, but I think she was hammered a tad too hard by folks who wanted to make an "example" of her.

But dig this: You see that photo of her weeping in the back of a police car? Well, as Andrew Sullivan reports on The Daily Dish, it was taken by Nick Ut. Thirty-five years ago today, Ut took a very different photo of a crying female.

Don't mess with Texas (if you want Texas money for your movie)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed into law a $22-million bill that would provide major financial incentives to producers who shoot film projects in the Lone Star state. But there's a catch: The bill includes a provision that allows film grants to be denied "because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion." Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't help suspecting that, by the standards set by the lawmakers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lone Star and The Last Picture Show would be considered highly "inappropriate."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Speaking of movies based on dolls.. er, sorry, I mean, action figures...

Along with the upcoming Transformers movie and the just-announced ThunderCats feature, there's a new and presumably improved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe film on the drawing board. I would understand if the producers decide that, this time, they should cast someone a tad bit more expressive than Dolph Lundgren in the lead role. But I think it would be way cool if they'd let Frank Langella reprise his performance as Skeletor (one of the few saving graces in the 1987 Masters of the Universe flick). I mean, what else could Langella do as a follow-up to playing Richard Nixon, right? And come to think of it, Meg Foster hasn't been up to much lately -- so maybe she could take another shot at playing Evil-Lyn?

But if you want to find out what happens to action figures after their stardom fades, look here. Warning: It's not a pretty picture.

Thundercats, ho!

OK, I was kinda-sorta joking a few days ago when I wrote about wanting to see a ThunderCats movie. But you know what they say: Be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Spike strikes again

First, there was talk of An Inconvenient Truth II. Now it appears Spike Lee is preparing a follow-up to When the Levees Broke. Unfortunately, in both cases, sequels aren't merely justified, they're necessary.

Does this mean 'Knocked Up' will air uncut on network TV?

When it comes to regulating "obscenity" on broadcast television, a federal appeals court has told the FCC to, er, get lost. Blame it all on George Bush and Dick Cheney. No, really.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It's bean fun this week for Hugh Grant

From the Associated Press: "The actor won't be prosecuted for allegedly hurling baked beans at a photographer, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said Friday." Well, good. I mean, it's not like he solicited the photographer for sex or anything, right?

A big b.o. hit a-birthing?

According to Nikki Finke, early reports indicate Knocked Up might gross as much as $30 million during its opening weekend.

And it's all because of my review, right?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Viewer alert: 'Comanche Station'

The final collaboration of Western icon Randolph Scott and maverick moviemaker Budd Boetticher is a rousingly two-fisted Western drama with an affectingly melancholy aftertaste. Jefferson Cody (Scott), obsessed with finding the wife who was kidnapped by Comanches more than a decade earlier, barters with Indians for the release of another white woman (Nancy Gates), the wife of a man who has posted a huge reward for her dead-or-alive return. Hearty outlaw Ben Lane (Claude Akins) tries to muscle in on the transition, but Cody won't be dissuaded from competing his chivalrous task. He remains true to himself, even though his noble gesture brings him no nearer a closure. Indeed, the ending suggests he will never stop searching. Which, of course, makes him the quintessential Budd Boetticher hero.

Comanche Station can be viewed at 5:05 and 11:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, June 3, on Encore Westerns.

It was 40 years ago today...

Thanks to iPods, TiVo and other dubious miracles of modern technology, many moviegoers are content to wait before sampling even the biggest summer blockbusters. But when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 40 years ago today, millions of my generation came together as one to simultaneously experience the sound of innovation. The No. 1 album of all time can still dazzle fans -- and even impress the uninitiated -- according to Rafer Guzman of Newsday (even though Jon Wiener claims only one cut on the classic LP has an undiminished impact to astonish).

And if you've always wanted to know what those lyrics really mean, check this out.