Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's a Disaster, all right

In the not-so-grand tradition of Date Movie and Meet the Spartans -- we now have Disaster Movie, yet another frantically unfunny free-form farce from the unfortunately prolific writing-directing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. You can read my Variety review here. But that's not my last word on the subject.

As I have posted elsewhere: This is something you might file under "Stuff I Wouldn’t Dare Make Up." I went to a midnight screening late Thursday/early Friday for Disaster Movie – and I actually was the only person in the theater. At least, that was the case for about 30 or so minutes into the movie. At the 30-minute mark, I noticed a young guy wandering in. (Can’t tell you his age for certain – it was, well, dark.) I thought this was kinda-sorta weird – remember, we’re talking close to 12:40 am at this point – but I figured, what the hell, maybe he just ducked in after seeing another movie in another auditorium of the megaplex. He sat down a few rows ahead of me. But after about five or so minutes, he stood up and… and… well, I am not 100 percent sure about this, but I think he took a leak. Really. Right there in the freakin’ auditorium. On the floor. And then, he left.

Now, as I said, I’m not absolutely certain that’s what the guy did – I sure as hell didn’t walk over to where he had been sitting to check for a puddle of piss – but that’s what it looked like to me sitting behind him. And I have to say, all I could think was: Wow! What a review!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If you like Spaghetti Westerns...

Maybe you'll enjoy the first-ever "Kimchi Western" -- Kim Jee-woon's The Good, The Bad and The Weird, an epic South Korean production described by one critic as a wild and woolly mix "of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, George Miller’s apocalyptic road movies and a frantic brand of comedy that’s quintessentially Korean..." It won't open until 2009 in the USA, but it's a gala presentation at this year's prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. So I hope to give you a report after I catch a TIFF screening next week. In the meantime, here is what the original South Korean trailer looks like.

Summer b.o. report: Good news, Bat news, worse news

John Horn crunches the numbers, and finds that while Paramount was the most consistently successful studio overall, Warner Bros. can claim bragging rights for the summer's -- and perhaps the year's -- biggest hit. Trouble is, WB also released Speed Racer. "The studio and partner Village Roadshow spent a quarter of a billion dollars making and marketing the anime-inspired kids' movie worldwide," Horn notes, "but it grossed just $43.9 million, and barely any more overseas. A lot of Dark Knight profits will be sucked into that abyss." Ouch.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Prequels

You can read my Variety reviews of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning and The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. Or not. Either way, consider this: I used to think I had a great scam going by getting paid to go to the movies. But now I get paid just for sitting on my couch and watching made-for-video movies on DVD. Is this a great country, or what?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The dream is alive


Andrew Sullivan, a Brit-born conservative commentator I respect and quite often agree with, is all wrong, I think, when he dismisses this video as Hollywood celebrities "feeling good about themselves." To me, it's all about keeping the dream alive. If Sullivan had been here in 1968, I suspect, he would know better.

Just how damn rich is John McCain?


According to Keith Olbermann -- at, roughly, the 2:11 point in this clip -- looks like McCain is rich enough to hire Bruce Wayne's butler. Maybe that's why he accepted only SAG scale for appearing in Wedding Crashers.

A film critic looks at 56

Another birthday, another reminder of just how ancient I am becoming. Today, I turn 56. Consider: I am now a year older than Humphrey Bogart was when he played Lt. Comdr. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. (Worse, I’m roughly the same age he was when he freakin' died.) I am four years older than Walter Brennan was when he played Old Man Clanton in My Darling Clementine, and John Wayne was when he starred in Rio Bravo. I am six years older than Claude Rains was when he co-starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I am thirteen years older than Lee Marvin was when he took command of The Dirty Dozen. When I consider how old I used to think those guys looked in those movies….

All of which may explain why I was so happy last night when my son introduced me to Sake bombs.

Newspapers can be saved

From Advertising Age: "[T]he doomsayers still can be proved wrong. U.S. newspapers could be fixed if they could just be pried from the hands of those who milk them for short-term gain and are either woefully ignorant of where readers are going or miserably negligent in terms of investing in that future."

Cruel, but fair

If you thought my review of The Longshots was harsh -- wait until you read this one.

Star power at the DNC

From the L.A. Times: "For every Democratic delegate who is bound for the convention in Denver, desperate to influence the platform committee, there are plenty more looking for the best entertainment acts and the hottest parties -- and they'll have plenty of choices. As the politics have drained from our national conventions, high-level socializing, entertainment (with a purpose) and a chance to brush elbows with celebrities have become the real action at the quadrennial get-togethers. From studio heads to character actors, Hollywood's most devoted politicos have revised their vacation plans to make a place for the convention, with its myriad sideshows and soirées. There may be more SAG cards in Denver next week than in Hollywood."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Longshots

Whatever marquee allure Ice Cube established in the family-entertainment market with Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet? will be sorely tested by The Longshots, an inspirational sports drama that, although "inspired by a true story," unwinds like the most formulaic of fiction. A surprisingly tepid directorial effort by Limp Bizkit nu-metal rocker Fred Durst, the movie seldom deviates from the genre-cliche playbook while recounting the plucky efforts of a small-town 11-year-old (Keke Palmer of Aleekah and the Bee) who's coached by her uncle (Cube) to become the first girl to compete in the Pop Warner national football championship. You can read my Variety review here.

Clunky Clone Wars

David Cox of The Guardian insightfully acknowledges the "biggest single influence on attitudes to war and peace during the last few decades" -- George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy. But that's really just a warm-up to his takedown of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Money quote: "The Star Wars prequel series was but an enfeebled shadow of the original trilogy. Nonetheless, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is far, far worse. The grungy realism that changed the coinage of celluloid sci-fi has disappeared; in its place, we are offered the flat gloss of a bad comic-book. Drained of wit, charm or intelligence, (un)animated avatars of what were once, figuratively as well as literally, flesh-and-blood characters drag their way through an opaque and tedious farrago, uttering lines that would disgrace a speak-your-weight machine. As such, they are incapable of inspiring anything in anyone." Ouch. (Hat-tip to Garth Jowett.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinng comes to Toronto

The folks at the Toronto Film Festival have announced the balance of the lineup at the prestigious exposition's 2008 edition. And one of the gala offerings will be: Singh is Kinng. Good choice.

Now THIS is a birthday present!

The first gift I've received for my 56th birthday -- coming Friday, whether I want to acknowledge it or not -- is a thoughtfully selected book: The autobiography of the late, great Hazel Court, for whom I continue to harbor a deep and abiding lust. Many thanks to a dear friend and colleague who knows what floats my boat.

And BTW: Speaking of cleavage...

Monday, August 18, 2008

The continuing demassification of mass media (or, Where have all the viewers gone?)

They're popping champagne corks and slapping high-fives over at NBC today, celebrating Nielsen reports that Day Nine of the network's Beijing Olympics overage -- featuring, of course, the amazing triumph of Michael Phelps -- was NBC's most-watched Saturday night prime-time broadcast in 18 years, averaging 31.1 million U.S. viewers.

All of which sounds pretty dang impressive, until you consider: The last time NBC drew so many people to a prime-time Saturday telecast, viewers tuned in to see nothing more phenomenal than Empty Nest. That's right: Back in 1990, a broadcast television network could count on drawing more than 30 million viewers -- 31.4 million, to be precise -- to a routine episode of a no-better-than-average sitcom on a Saturday night. Those were the days, my friend. They thought they'd never end. But...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Script Girl's greatest hits


Gone on vacation, but not forgotten by her fans, the curvaceous commentator offers a few blasts from her past.

Singh is Kinng

Maybe I have a pretty healthy ego -- actually, maybe an unhealthy ego -- but I can't help wondering whether the New York Times finally got around to reviewing Singh is King on Friday (even though it opened in NY on Aug. 8, the same day it opened here in Houston) only because my review of it appeared in Variety.

The funny thing is, the NY Times already had the scoop on the movie -- in its Media & Advertising section -- last month. But, obviously, the folks there over in Arts & Entertainment didn't think it was worth reviewing. Until a week later after it opened.

And I can't help wondering if, as more Bollywood movies transcend the niche-theater ghetto in the US and slip into mainstream megaplexes -- there will be more coverage of these movies in mainstream media.

BTW: True story: I saw Singh is Kinng last weekend at Houston's AMC Studio 30 -- where it played in one of the megaplex's larger auditoriums. And there was a more-than-respectable crowd there. As I left after the screening, a 40-something lady (there with her male significant other) noticed me -- yeah, I guess I kinda-sorta stood out because I was the only non-Indian in the house -- and asked: "Do you speak the language?" And I laughed, then replied: "No. But, hey, film is the universal language, right?" And she laughed. And nodded in agreement.

As Francois Truffaut once noted: "Cinema is king!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Galloping soon to a theater near you

I viewed a rough cut of Appaloosa about a month ago, prior to interviewing Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris for the next issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine (on sale -- hint, hint! - Sept. 2 at fine newsstands everywhere). The Warners publicists asked me not to comment on the film itself until closer to its world premiere next month at the Toronto Film Festival, so I can't tell you how good it is, and how terrific Mortensen and Harris (and Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons) are in the lead roles, and how it's an even better Western than last year's 3:10 to Yuma remake. But, hey, I can direct you to a trailer, right here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tightrope

Filmmaker James Marsh celebrates obsession in Man on Wire, his award-winning documentary about Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the New York Trade Center. It's a gripping account of a real-life, stranger-than-fiction drama, an exhilarating story that's all the more fascinating because, even though we may know how it will end, Marsh still manages to spring several surprises.

And the biggest surprise, perhaps, is what he chooses not to tell us.

You can read my Houston Chronicle interview with Marsh here.

Well, there goes the election

Uh-oh. Wait until McCain's people get hold of this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Now playing at a video store near you

Hey, look, more than most people, I can well appreciate what it's like to take a gig just to pay your IRS tab. But, geez, did Wesley Snipes -- a damn fine actor, especially in indie movies like The Waterdance and the under-appreciated ZigZag -- really need to do another direct-to-DVD movie like The Art of War II: Betrayal? You can read my Variety review here.

The big bugs are back

If you loved Starship Troopers -- well, I'm not so sure you should admit that. But chances are good that you will at least like Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. You can read my Variety review here.

Music. Drama. Dance. Romance. And Snoop Dogg.

Direct from Bollywood: Singh is Kinng has everything you could possibly want from a musical-romantic-comedy-drama-spectacle inspired by Frank Capra. Here is my Variety review. And check out the music video with Snoop Dogg (yes, that Snoop Dogg):

Sunday, August 10, 2008

R.I.P.: Bernie Mac (1957-2008)

Oddly enough, I did not know Bernie Mac had ever been a stand-up comic when I first noticed him – and praised him -- as first-rate character actor in The Players Club. Imagine my surprise when I saw Spike Lee’s The Kings of Comedy -- and laughed my fool head off. He was a very funny man, and I suspect he would have given us even more cause to laugh had the Grim Reaper not intervened. To pay him the highest compliment I am capable of bestowing: He left this world a much better place than it would have been had he’d never been it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Slight Beer

Country music star Toby Keith hit a few sour notes in his first star vehicle, 2006's Burning Bridges. Unfortunately, his second film, Beer for My Horses, is even worse. It's opening today in "limited" theatrical release. But, really, some releases can't be limited enough. You can read my Variety review here. (And by the way: I mean no disrespect to Wal-Mart, OK?)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sorry, haters: Paris Hilton memorized her entire monologue

At least, that's what the Associated Press is reporting about her genius career move. Good for her. At this rate, she will so totally live down The Hottie and the Nottie.

Script Girl


She's witty and wacky, insightful and snarky. And, of course, she's smokin' hot, and she knows it. But be forewarned: She's also highly addictive.

The few. The proud. The chosen. The critics.

The 2009 edition of Leonard Maltin' s Movie Guide is now on sale at fine bookstores everywhere. And while it's always an invaluable resource, this year's edition is even better than usual because... because... well, hell, because I am one of the handpicked contributing editors who contributed mini-reviews (all of them, of course, personally approved by Mr. Maltin himself). You can order the book here. And remember: This book -- much like mine -- is the perfect present for any movie buff on your gift-giving list. And if you buy both of them? Well, it's like Peter Falk says in Wings of Desire: "If you do it together, it's fantastic."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hey, who needs Werner Herzog when you have Richard Harris, a killer whale and huge hunks of Styrofoam?

As maverick moviemaker Werner Herzog braves the elements in Antarctica for Encounters at the End of the World, he adds to the accumulation of movies — comedies and dramas, cartoons and documentaries — that have sought intelligent life (and box-office success) at the North and South Poles. You can read my Houston Chronicle piece about some of those earlier efforts here.