Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Flashback: Anthony Perkins on making Psycho with Alfred Hitchcock

As Fox Searchlight prepares to launch Hitchcock in this year's Oscar race with a world premiere screening at the AFI Fest, I thought it might be a good time to offer as prelude to the film -- which deals with the making of Psycho, and stars Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense -- this link to an interview I did years ago with Anthony Perkins (played in Hitchcock by James D'Arcy), who had some fascinating things to say about becoming Norman Bates.

Live from Fantastic Fest: It's Red Dawn

And guess what? The long-delayed remake doesn't suck. Seriously. You can read my Variety review here.

Samuel L. Jackson in Wake the F**k Up!!!!

Personally, I think this is Jackson's finest performance since Snakes on a Plane.

R.I.P.: Herbert Lom (1917-2012)

Most people remember Herbert Lom best as the ever-excitable, chronically frustrated Inspector Dreyfus opposite Peter Sellers' indefatigably klutzy Inspector Clouseau in Blake Edwards' Pink Panther movies. But I must confess that my most vivid impression of Lom as a screen actor was formed many decades ago, when, as a wide-eyed kid growing up in New Orleans, I saw the Czech-born, Brit-trained actor in the title role of Hammer Studios' 1962 remake of The Phantom of the Opera.

Lom's sympathetic portrayal of the acid-scarred outcast struck me as so affecting, so sympathetic, that I actually mailed a Christmas card to the guy in care of Universal (the film's U.S. distributor). Can you imagine my surprise and delight when, a few weeks later, I actually received a note signed by Lom himself, thanking me for the card? I was 11 or 12 at the time. It was like getting a personalized acknowledgment from God

Several years later, I was at a Hollywood event of some sort -- frankly, I don't recall precisely what it was -- when I had a fleeting close encounter with one of the guests: Herbert Lom. By that point, I was well into my 30s. But I turned into a kid all over again when I shook Lom's hand -- and gushed a thank-you for his long-ago thank-you card. To his credit, Lom didn't immediately call for aid from security personnel. Instead, he smiled -- indeed, he heartily laughed -- and spent a few minutes conversing with me about Phantom, the Pink Panther movies, and a few other notable films (including The Ladykillers, also with Sellers, and the original Gambit) he had done.

It's to my eternal regret that I never actually got to meet Lom's Phanton co-star, the late, great Michael Gough, another icon from my youth. But on this day when I celebrate the life of a splendid character who showed me such kindness, I marvel once again at the blessings I have received during my long career of getting paid to go to the movies.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Resident Evil: The Bottom of the Barrel

So far, I have received -- oh, I dunno, maybe a zillion retweets for this tongue-in-cheek Tweet: "Isn't it about time in the Resident Evil franchise for Alice to run into Abbott and Costello?" So I guess I'm not the only one who's run out of patience with this long-running sci-fi series. The latest installment -- Resident Evil: Retribution -- arguably is the least coherent and most enervating yet. (You can read my Variety review here.) Maybe the producers really should take a page from the old Universal horror flicks and team Alice with Kate Beckinsale as Selene of the Underworld movies for their next installment. It couldn't hurt.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A trailer for Innocence of Muslims. Yeah, that movie.

I keep waiting for the email or phone call from my editors at Variety: "Hey, Joe, thanks for covering 2016. Now we have another movie for you to review..." Because, hey, controversy is my middle name. Well, actually, Patrick is my middle name, and Michael is my Confirmation name. But controversy is hanging around in there someplace, I think.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Progress report from TIFF: Hello, I must be going

Hey, didn't I just get here? Then how come it's already time to start packing? Alas, it's no longer feasible, for various reasons, for me to stay until the very end of the Toronto Film Festival. I'll have a more detailed wrap-up to offer after I return to my H-Town home base. To tide over my readers (both of you) until then, here are links to my Variety reviews of Men at Lunch, Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp (pictured above) and The Tortoise, An Incarnation.

Recalling Michael Caine recalling 9/11

From a 2002 interview: Michael Caine is, by his own admission, “a news junkie,” the kind of compulsive who’ll reflexively tune his TV to CNN during any lull in a day’s activities. Which is why, on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, while he sat in his London home office, waiting for word from director Phillip Noyce about the previous evening’s New Jersey sneak preview of The Quiet American, he found himself transfixed by the aftermath of the first assault on the World Trade Center.

Then he saw the second plane’s approach.

“And my first reaction,” Caine recalls, “was, ‘Jesus, that’s quick.’ Because, you see, I thought it was one of those planes like they have in California that drop the powder on the forest fires. I thought that’s what this plane was for. And it had only been about a quarter of an hour or 18 minutes since the other plane had hit the building. So I thought, ‘Wow, They got that plane up there so fast, to drop powder on that fire.’

“But then it went straight into the tower.

“And at first, none of it registered. I felt like, OK, I’m not a moron – actually, I feel I’m quite bright. But I was sitting there, stunned, thinking something like, ‘What happened here? It didn’t drop any of that powder, did it?’ It was only about two seconds, I know, but it seemed to me like half an hour. And then I saw the flames – that big woosh! – come out of the building...”

The rest of the interview can be found here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

TIFF 2012: Ed Burns talks about The Fitzgerald Family Christmas

Veteran actor and indie filmmaker Ed Burns talks about his latest movie -- The Fitzgerald Family Christmas -- and the current state of indie film distribution in this interview I taped with him and long-time producer Aaron Lubin for Variety at the Toronto Film Festival. (Don't worry -- I don't actually appear on camera. In fact, you don't even hear me asking questions. Frankly, you'll just have to take my word that I had anything to do with this.)

Lifting Obama up where he belongs

You do realize, of course, that this instantly iconic image will loom large in each and every future biography and documentary about President Obama, regardless of the outcome of this year's election, right?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

At TIFF: Partying like it's 1999 (with Ice-T)

Have not been to a Toronto Film Festival post-screening party in... well, a long time. But I think I made up for it last night, hanging behind the velvet rope and getting close to the action with Ice-T. The highlight of the evening, of course, was when Ice-T blowtorched his way through an electrifying set just a few feet away from me. And I made an amazing discovery: Sometimes, pretty ladies like to party with older dudes. Let the good times roll, eh?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Live from TIFF 2012: Coke and condoms

Today, I found a bottle of Coca-Cola and a package of condoms in my 2012 Toronto Film Festival goodie bag. I'm grateful for both gifts -- honest! -- but I suspect only one will come in handy this year. BTW: I thought of joking about the goodie bag contents with the young lady -- actually, the very young lady -- who gave me the bag and my press credentials this afternoon. But I didn't, because (a) the volunteers at the TIFF press office are the salt of the earth, and I didn't want to make one of them feel uncomfortable, (b) thinking a creepy old man is coming on to you likely can make a very young woman feel very uncomfortable, and (c) hey, that's how rumors get started.

TIFF 2012 Wanna-See No. 3: Bad 25

Reason No. 1: It's a Spike Lee documentary about the classic Michael Jackson album. Reason No. 2: It's documentary about the classic Michael Jackson album directed by Spike Lee. Any questions?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A moment of Zen about reeling in the years (with Dennis Quaid)

Sign No. 2,347 that I am getting old: Back in the day, when Tough Enough was shooting in Big D while I was working for the Dallas Morning News, I talked with the late, great Warren Oates about his promising young co-star -- Dennis Quaid. This past weekend, I interviewed Vegas co-star Taylor Handley about what it was like to work with a seasoned veteran -- Dennis Quaid.

TIFF 2012 Wanna-See No. 2: Men at Lunch

Reason No. 1: Ever since I first glimpsed the above iconic photograph years ago, I've wondered: Geez, who were those guys? And what were they doing up there? Reason No. 2: Director Seán Ó Cualáin obviously had the same questions on his mind -- and discovered, while making Men at Lunch, that many of these dudes were Irish immigrants. Which, being an Irish immigrant's son, does not surprise me at all.

Monday, September 03, 2012

R.I.P.: Michael Clarke Duncan (1957-2012)

I had the pleasure to speak with Michael Clarke Duncan on a few occasions at junkets and film festivals – most recently two years ago at the Nashville Film Festival, where I served as host for an on-stage Q&A after the premiere of Black, White and Blues, an enjoyable indie dramedy later released in theaters and on DVD under the title Redemption Road. (That’s me on the far right, Duncan on the far left – and director Mario Van Peebles in the white hat – up there.) In person, he always struck me as a gregarious and good-humored fellow with a hearty laugh, an effortless charm and an engagingly self-deprecating sense of humor. And on the screen, I’m not sure that I ever saw him sound a false note, or make a wrong move, whether he was a hulking badass (Daredevil) or a saintly martyr (The Green Mile).

In Nashville, he only half-jokingly noted during our well-attended Q&A that, prior to Redemption Road, he had no desire – no desire at all, thank you very much – to ever wear a cowboy hat. Indeed, he agreed to don one in that film only because director Van Peebles convinced him that it was an essential part of his down-home character’s everyday wardrobe. Once he found one that fit, though, Duncan had to admit: He thought it looked pretty damn cool on him. And guess what? He was right. Check him out here:

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Now that Rev. Sun Myung Moon is gone, will we finally get Inchon on DVD?

With all due respect to the late newspaper mogul and Unification Church leader: Does the passing of  Rev. Sun Myung Moon mean we'll finally get to see the long-delayed DVD release of Inchon, the epic 1982 embarrassment that Moon co-financed, barely distributed -- and then withdrew from release 30 years ago?

(And before anyone asks: Yes, I saw it back in the day -- even wrote about it for The Houston Post, though I'm afraid I can't link to my review -- and, yes, it really was that bad.)

Mind you, I am not going to settle for some slapdash, half-assed release of the version that fleetingly appeared in theaters three decades ago. No, I want the full monty, the original cut of the ill-starred Korean War drama prepared by director Terence Young. (Yes, that Terence Young, the same filmmaker who directed Dr. No and From Russia With Love, the first two James Bond movies.) Not only do I want a special-feature documentary that will explain why Laurence Olivier chose to play Gen. Douglas MacArthur with the mannerisms and makeup of an aging drag queen. I want to see all that footage of the late, great David Janssen as a supporting character -- footage that, according to Hollywood legend, was deleted before Inchon hit theaters so that audiences couldn't tell how long the flick had remained on the shelf after shooting concluded. (Janssen died in 1980.)

Come to think of it, I also want to see the deleted footage of Rex Red -- yes, that Rex Reed -- who reportedly played an itinerant music critic pressed into service as a war correspondent after North Korean soldiers inconveniently move past the 38th Parallel in 1950. Again according to Hollywood legend, Reed was so embarrassed by the movie that he asked to be left on the cutting-room floor. Personally, I find this harder to believe than the Janssen story -- after all, we are talking about Rex Reed, the same dude who co-starred in Myra Breckenridge, and never asked to be deleted from that fiasco -- but who cares? If the footage still exists, let's dredge it up for the DVD. And the Blu-Ray, too, of course.

Mind you, not everyone was ashamed of his involvement in this legendary folly.

Back in 1989, while interviewing Ben Gazzara during the New York junket for Road House -- a movie that looks like freakin' Citizen Kane when compared to Inchon -- I delicately raised the issue of his earning an easy paycheck for appearing in Moon's mega-flop as a US Marine major who takes time out from cheating on his wife (Jacqueline Bisset) with a young South Korean cutie (Karen Kahn) to warn the folks in Seoul about the oncoming North Korean invasion. I half-expected Gazzara to defend his work in this debacle by insisting he did it only so he could afford to keep making no-budget indies with his buddy John Cassavetes. To his credit, though, Gazzara didn't take that easy route. Rather, he laughed heartily, and said, in effect, he wasn't the only whore working in that bordello.

"We didn't know there was Moonie money behind the film until we were six weeks into production,'' Gazzara said. “Actually, though, I guess it must have been fate that I be in that movie. I turned it down three times, until the producer told me Laurence Olivier was gonna be in it, playing Gen. Douglas MacArthur. And I thought to myself, ‘Well, why am I being such a purist? If Olivier's in it, why can't I?’

“And when we were filming, I met my wife, Elke. She's from Germany, and she was working as a model (in Korea) at the time. We've been together ever since.”

Proving once again that, yes, even a bad movie -- a really, really bad movie -- can have a happy ending.

Ben Gazzara and Jacqueline Bissett in Inchon

A monent of zen while viewing an existential cat

There are times when I watch a short as clever as this one -- winner of the Golden Kitty Award at the Internet Cat Film Festival hosted by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis -- and I can't help thinking: Next year, or the year after that, I'm probably going to be reviewing the first feature by the same director.

TIFF 2012 Wanna-See No. 1: Capital

Reason 1: It's directed by Costa-Gavras (whose classic Z, by the way, inspired another promising film that will be on view at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival). Reason 2: The tagline -- "We'll keep on robbing the poor to give to the rich" -- is well-nigh irresistible.

Barack Obama: "I Am A Huge Clint Eastwood Fan"

Once again, Barack Obama redefines the term "class act" while maintaining his sangfroid.

(Yeah, I know, it's pretentious to use a French term in this context. But I also know that just annoys the Obama-bashers even more, so I can't resist. It's even more fun than mentioning Journeys with George to a Bush hater.)