Saturday, May 31, 2014
Francois Truffaut, Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu & Richard Roud at 1980 New York Film Festival
(BTW: I am forever indebted to Philip Wuntch, my former colleague at the Dallas Morning News. Back in the day, Philip was the lead film critic and I was a lowly arts & entertainment staff writer. But he was impossibly decent to me, and signed off on my having some pretty sweet film-related assignments. Like... well, like covering the New York Film Festival.)
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Here's the trailer:
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Unfortunately, Maya Angelou never found time to direct more than one movie, despite the favorable Variety review I gave to her 1998 debut effort as a feature filmmaker, Down in the Delta.
Actually, I wasn't the only one who was impressed: Roger Ebert gave it a rave. Better still, he and Gene Siskel both gave it a thumbs-up on their TV show. (Take a look here -- their joint appraisal begins around the 4:15 mark.)
Despite all that praise, however, the late, great lady never made another movie. I guess she was too busy making history.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Ironically, I saw this trailer before the new Godzilla. Ironically, I say, because the special effects on view here -- particularly in the final seconds -- appear to be no better than the miniature work in Toho-produced Zilla Thrillers of the 1960s.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
During six decades of Japanese-produced low-tech monster mashes and made-in-America CGI-stuffed spectacles, Big G has remained au courant through the miracle of image makeovers. From nuclear-age nightmare to doting single parent, from freelance global defender to butt-kicking tag-team wrestler, he has evolved and developed, evincing a versatility that might make Meryl Streep turn green – or, perhaps more appropriately, charcoal gray – with envy.
In Godzilla, slated to open this weekend at theaters and drive-ins everywhere, The Original Gangsta Lizard has a bit less spring to his step, and a tad more spread to his waistline. But never mind: Even as he approaches eligibility for Social Security, Big G remains ever ready to rumble, and authoritatively defends his title as King of the Monsters in this terrifically exciting flick.
Of course, it helps that he has in his corner Gareth Edwards, a filmmaker who, suitably enough, first attracted attention with a 2010 movie titled Monsters. Edwards’ latest creature feature benefits greatly from the director’s ability to pull off a tricky balancing act: While ingeniously reimagining the legend, he also respectfully acknowledges the tradition. In short, he lets Godzilla be Godzilla.
The mythos began in 1954, when the Toho Company of Japan introduced Big G as Gojira, a rudely reawakened dinosaur who developed toxic halitosis and an extremely bad attitude after exposure to H-bomb testing in the South Pacific. (The plot device of mutation through radiation was profoundly impactful on Japanese moviegoers less than a decade after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) Growling and grouchy, the fire-breathing behemoth sauntered though Tokyo with a sumo-wrestler shamble while burning buildings, gobbling trains, stomping bit players, and generally making an epic nuisance of himself.
Two years later, legendary producer Joseph E. Levine and a group of associates renamed the movie and its eponymous star when they released Godzilla, King of the Monsters, a redubbed and re-edited version of picture designed for English-speaking audiences. Some of the Toho-produced footage was trimmed to allow for new scenes featuring Raymond Burr as a gravely serious journalist – named, no kidding, Steve Martin -- who provided the creature-feature equivalent of play-by-play commentary. (“A prehistoric monster just walked out of Tokyo Bay!” Geez, ya think?)
But none of these alterations dulled the movie's surprising power as a cautionary Cold War fable about the threat of nuclear annihilation. Keep messing with the forces of nature, Godzilla warned, and this could happen to you.
Nearly a decade after Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), the last "good guy" Z-movie, the bigwigs at Toho decided it was time to let Godzilla again be as nasty as he wanted to be. So they reintroduced him as a fire-breathing fiend in The Return of Godzilla (1984). Once again, a U.S. distributor hired Raymond Burr for an Americanized edition, Godzilla 1985. (Trivia note: A poster for this flick appeared prominently in Roger Ebert’s office during the intro for the syndicated Siskel & Ebert TV show.) Oddly enough, however, this retrofitted version was a box-office disappointment. Maybe U.S. audiences were uncomfortable with the idea of a bad-to-the-bone Big G. Or maybe they simply preferred to see Godzilla shooting hoops with Charles Barkley in TV ads.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Saturday, May 10, 2014
First, I gave my students an introductory lecture about Gareth Edwards' Monsters, duly noting that Edwards had gone on to direct the new Godzilla.
Then, after I screened Monsters, ace publicist Jennifer Kane visited the class to give students passes for a Godzilla screening, Godzilla Frisbees, Godzilla dogtags and Godzilla buttons.
And then I gave the final exam, a multiple-choice test. One question: What summer blockbuster was directed by the director of Monsters: X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or Godzilla?
And so help me God: A few students got the question wrong.
But here's the corker: I was wearing a freakin' Godzilla T-shirt the whole time. And I even showed them this video.
Maybe I'm not really cut out for this teaching stuff after all.
Sunday, May 04, 2014
As I have said before: Once his current gig ends in January 2017, Barack Obama should be able -- strictly on the strength of his White House Correspondents' Dinner performances -- to find steady work doing stand-up in Las Vegas. No kidding.