Friday, March 31, 2006
Does anyone want to see it?
I suppose, the same question could be asked of Basic Instinct 2 , which opens in theaters today. After all, it has been 14 years since audiences saw novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) manipulate the man in her life, while causing mayhem with an ice pick. After such a long period between films, the critical reaction to the new film is pretty negative (that's putting it nicely).
Witness the review round-up for the film, as posted on today's Studio Briefing, via The Internet Movie Database:
...Manohla Dargis in the New York Times lands a few particularly heavy [stones at the film]. She writes that it is "no surprise that Basic Instinct 2 ... is a disaster of the highest or perhaps lowest order. It is also no surprise that this joyless calculation ... is such a prime object lesson in the degradation that can face Hollywood actresses, especially those over 40. Acting always involves a degree of self-abasement, but just watching trash like this is degrading." The actress Dargis refers to is Sharon Stone, whom several critics single out for a particularly heavy bashing. For example, Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls her performance "quite terrible," then goes on: "Stone is betting that a 48-year-old woman can be as hot and dangerous as the 20-somethings the film industry is addicted to. Bully for her -- in theory. In practice, Stone appears to have had so much work done that her face resembles a tautly made bed, and her unchanging expression of smoldering arrogance seems less an acting decision and more the result of neurotoxins. The body may be willing but the flesh has been immobilized." Kyle Smith in the New York Post describes the movie as "Botoxic" (under a headline reading "Necromancing the Stone"), and concludes: "There are inflatable toys that are livelier than Stone, but how can you tell the difference? Basic Instinct 2 is not an erotic thriller. It's taxidermy." And Carina Chocana in the Los Angeles Times concludes her review of the movie this way: "Dead serious and stone idiotic, the only basic instinct in evidence here is desperation."
Given all of those negatives...You can imagine my surprise to find that EW film critic Owen Glieberman (a tough guy to please IMHO) gave the sequel a passing grade of B- in his review of the film.
Studio films have been released in the IMAX format in the past, but SR marks the first time that the unique look of IMAX will be combined with 3-D technology, by using a special 2-D conversion process.
"Releasing select sequences of 'Superman Returns' in IMAX 3D marks a groundbreaking moment in movies," said Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution at Warner Bros. Pictures. "This film is going to give fans an opportunity to be immersed in a major live-action motion picture like never before."
"The test scenes that have been converted into IMAX 3D look, sound and feel absolutely amazing," added Bryan Singer, director of Superman Returns. "The magic of IMAX 3D will envelop audiences in this story, enabling them to feel the emotion, drama and suspense in a completely new and unique way."
"We are delighted to partner with pioneering visionaries Bryan Singer and Warner Bros. Pictures to transform part of this highly anticipated release into An IMAX 3D Experience," said IMAX Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. "Today's announcement is a culmination of a great film, a great filmmaker, a great studio, and great technology - all working together to produce the most powerful and immersive cinematic experience available to moviegoers worldwide."
The announcement of an IMAX release for the film is no surprise, of course, and I have to admit the 3-D aspect sounds really cool.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Sony To Release Hi-Def Movies -- With No Players
In an announcement that left many analysts scratching their heads, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment President Benjamin Feingold announced Wednesday that the company will release its first batch of movies on high-definition Blu-ray discs on May 23 -- even though no players will be available at that time on which to play them. Sony has indicated that the first players may not be available until November. In an interview with Home Media Retailing, Feingold said, "We realize there may be some delays on the hardware side, but we are going to honor our commitment to release movies when we said we would." Questions immediately arose concerning what retailers will do with the disks when they receive them. Said Feingold: "There are two schools of thought: A dealer could have them for publicity purposes, to prime the market, or we can ship them later, when hardware is on the market. But the important point is, we can meet the date -- that's the key."
Talk about having "the cart before the horse" I love how Feingold used the term "some delays" while at the same time, he wants to "honor" his commitments...The spin zone indeed. He just wants make sure his company gets the better of their HD-DVD competition.
He confirmed, once again, the story for the sequel's story will focus on the second book in the series, A Dame To Kill For, but added:
"It jumps around a bit...but mostly it's one story, incorporating some short stories that weave in and out of that." Miller went on to reveal that his "Blue Eyes" short story might also be included in the sequel, as well as a new original story focusing on stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) after Det. Hartigan's (Bruce Willis) death.
He also had some interesting things to say about Hollywood:
"I was very, very fortunate," Miller said. "I won the lottery the first time out [referring to the first Sin City film] and got to do the movie it needed to be, a movie that knew what it was, and didn't have to go through the bureaucratic nonsense that most movies do."
So many movies are being made from graphic novels lately because "Hollywood sees us as a vital source of material," Miller said. The problem, though, is that Hollywood usually wants to tinker with the source material and make it "some vehicle with some star with a slapped-on happy ending because some focus group asked for it," he said.
And Miller, like his pulp characters, isn't about to let anyone sully his name. He's resolved not to let any of his other comics be adapted without him behind the camera. "I can't send my little baby down like Moses in the river and say goodbye to her," Miller said.
Unlike fellow comic book scribe Alan Moore, who wants nothing to do with films based on his books, I like the fact that Miller wants to be in the trenches, making sure he likes what he sees.
I'm torn on the whole "tinker" issue...Sometimes the story changes are OK and work out fine---ala' V For Vendetta, and sometimes they don't--Elektra.
I guess it really all depends on the team assembled, to make these films and what kind of changes they want to make. If they want to alter key elements that ultimately change the characters then I say "no way" . But if the movie retains the "feel" of the book, even with the changes then I'm with ya.
It's very difficult to squeeze a 12-part series, or decades worth of mythology, into a 2 hour film...
For the record, Miller seems pleased with the film version of his "300", even though he's not directing the film .
Read the entire MTV post here
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
James K. Wilcox of Sound and Vision Magazine has written a really great article called The Format War Goes Nuclear for its April '06 issue. The "Special Report" could not have come at a better time---Since both the HD and Blu-Ray DVD hardware are set to hit store shelves in the next few months. Click here to get all the facts you need, so that you can sift through all off the confusion, and make an informed choice when the time comes for you to decide. As for me, I'll have more to say about my preferred choice...soon...
Speaking of future battles, Ted Johnson of Variety writes about what's at stake for both 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. as they prepare to unleash dueling superhero summer blockbusters on the masses. Well, maybe "battle" was too strong a word to use, since X3 opens nearly a full month before Superman Returns does. There's room for both certainly, but since the studio suits always fret about the bottom line, they may see it as a battle. I suppose it will be interesting to see which Men In Tights flick had longer financial legs at the box office when the summer of '06 ends
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, The Watchmen tells the story of an alternate history, in which costumed crime fighters are real. The main focus of the plot is that of a homicide, and its subsequent aftermath. As the crime investigation begins, the origin and eventual decline of costumed heroes is recounted.
Published in the late 1980's by DC Comics, the story is another Alan Moore masterpiece. The idea for a film adaptation has been around since 1989, with a revolving door of directors and writers attached, never getting off the ground.
As a fan of Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake of '04, I couldn't be any more excited, than I already am, about the prospect of that man helming the film incarnation of Watchman. Before the movie can get going though, Zack is putting the finishing touches an another comic book movie...Frank Miller 's "300".
Given how Moore feels about Hollywood, and films based on his books, I doubt he'll endorse a Watchmen flick-no matter who calls the shots.
As expected, there will be both a "song" album, and a "score" album tie in.
Montgomery tells us what we can look forward to as far as the song album is concerned:
...Sound of Superman [is], an album featuring contributions from a host of Warped Tour faves. Jack's Mannequin, The Academy Is... and the The Receiving End Of Sirens are among the artists contributing songs to the album, which, in keeping with the spirit of most "inspired by" soundtracks, features a mix of new tunes and covers. Jack's Mannequin donate a new song, the piano-driven "Meet Me at My Window"; while TAI and the Receiving End went the covers route (both do versions of songs called "Superman," by '60s garage rockers The Clique and Stereophonics, respectively).
Click here to read more about the song album...
UPDATE 3-30-06: Here is the initial track list for "Sound of Superman" from Billboard.com
"Wish I Could Fly Like Superman" (the Kinks), the Sun
"Save Me," Maxeen CM8ShowAd ("Middle");
"Superman" (the Clique), the Academy Is...
"Meet Me at My Window,"Jack's Mannequin
"Sunshine Superman" (Donovan), the Films
"The Rescue," American Hi-Fi
"Waitin' For a Superman" (Flaming Lips), Nightmare Of You
"It's So Easy," Plain White T's
"My Hero" (Foo Fighters), Paramore
"Superman" (Stereophonics), The Receiving End Of Sirens
When I jumped over to composer John Ottman's official website for news on the score--this is what I found out:
March 26th, 2006 - Rhino Records will be releasing John's score to Superman Returns on June 27, 2006. Mark your calendars! John starts recording the score in two weeks...
The song album, also from Rhino Records, will hit stores on May 23rd 2006.
When I think of Superman...punk rock doesn't instantly spring to mind as a musical statement for the character. But hey, music for movies has changed quite a bit, since John Williams composed the score for the first film, in the 70's hasn't it? As for the score itself-- Ottman will be using elements of Williams' original themes for the new film.
I look forward to hearing how both albums turn out...
Monday, March 27, 2006
First, Ben Fritz writes about the current financial state of the movie biz with an eye toward the future in, Slump: The sequel?
While Michael Fleming tells us that the proposed Ocean's 11 sequel that I told you about (cleverly titled Ocean's 13) is indeed moving forward. Find out when filming is set to start, who's in, who's out and where the latest caper will take place by reading 'Ocean's' in motion at WB.
I just hope the third film in the series is better than Ocean's 12 turned out to be.
As for the new champ of "movieland"... According to Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray:
Drawing mostly adults, 'Inside Man' heisted an estimated $29 million, leading the weekend to a double-digit improvement over last year, while 'Stay Alive' out-gunned low expectations... [landing in 3rd place with a solid $11.2 Million Dollars worth of tickets sold]
Even though I thought V might be number one again this weekend, I am happy for star Denzel Washington and director Spike Lee, who make a great team. I haven't seen the film yet, but the trailer looks pretty intense, and the rest of the cast looks just awesome on paper.
You can read Gray's full analysis of all the weekend numbers here.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Some really sad news to start off a new week...
Director Richard Fleischer passed away on Saturday at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, located in Woodland Hills CA (a suburb of Los Angeles), of natural causes. He was 89 years old.
Given that Fleischer is the son of animation pioneer Max Fleischer ("Popeye" and Superman classic toons) and brother to actress/writer Ruth, it was almost a forgone conclusion that he would end up with a career in the entertainment industry.
His films ran the gamut, crossing many genres, all having his unique vision. The first of his films that I remember watching is the family classic Doctor Dolittle from 1967, then of course, a short time later, I saw 1966's groundbreaking Fantastic Voyage. Other genre highlights include 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and my personal fave Soylent Green from 1973. The DVD of that film has a great audio commentary with Fleischer and co-star Leigh Taylor-Young. He helmed the USA sequences for the WWII classic Tora! Tora! Tora! A decade later, in 1980, he took on The Jazz Singer remake. Before the decade would come to an end, he worked on the fantasy films Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja, as well Amityville III: The Demon.
O.K. so some of his later films may not have been movie classics, in the sense of how the word is defined, but his skills still served them quite well, ensuring they became guilty pleasures.
For more about Fleischer, be sure to read the AP obituary in Variety.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
The primary reason for any "Best" or "Worst" list is to stir up debate. As any list-maker already knows, for everyone who agrees with the choices, there are probably 5 folks who disagree with them.
Get a peek at the list here .
As far as I'm concerned there were some Notable Omissions that should have made the list. And if the website could include another 100 more--why couldn't the hard copy as well?
Gregory Peck's role as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird
Anthony Perkins as Noman Bates in Psycho
Tom Hanks as Andrew Becket in Philadelphia
Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in the original Basic Instinct
Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler
I realize a list like this is an exercise in subjectivity and that it had to end somewhere...but to not include the 5 others that I mentioned seems a real shame....
Friday, March 24, 2006
The movie tells the story of the 4th hijacked plane on 9/11/2001, that went down in a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania, short of the intended target. The passengers on that plane took matters into their own hands and sacrificed themselves for a greater good.
Like the film's teaser trailer, that first debuted in January, the full trailer stirred me up quite a bit. In fact, for me, this newest trailer only served to remind me that those who wish us harm, are not to be taken lightly.
After I watched the preview, I went on a couple of websites, where people can post comments about the film. I was surprised to find out that there are a lot of folks out there who still believe the official story of Flight 93 was fabricated by the government as part of a cover up...What a ridiculous notion. There is a verbal record of the event, thanks to the numerous cell phone calls, that were recorded by loved ones of passengers and crew. I find it hard to believe that the press would ever let the story go, if they thought there was even a whiff of some kind of cover up going on, especially while the 9-11 Commission hearings were in full swing. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, as for me I am not buying it that a conspiracy occurred.
Directed by Paul Greengrass, the film, is sure to have everyone talking, when its released on April 28th, 2006.
Watch the newest trailer for the film, and you can decide for yourself, what you think about it. I stand by my statement of January 7th:
As for whether or not it's too soon for films about the terrorist attacks...I say, enough time has passed, and we as a nation need to be reminded of what happened on that fateful day.
Besides the A&E Television Network already ran a telepic about Flight 93, in January of this year, that nobody complained about.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Diane Garrett writes:
...for films grossing more than $50 million at the domestic B.O. showed an 11% drop to 136 days (about 4½ months) in 2005, including all but one $50 million-plus film, "Syriana," whose DVD date has not been announced.
That drop outpaces the 4% domestic B.O. decline (or perhaps goes hand in hand with it) and comes after windows for similar movies held steady in 2004.
This trend is no surprise. Studios want to make as much cash as they can, and since the box office trend continues to be shaky (at least for now), the best way to recoup their loses is for a quick turnaround.
Theater owners balk at the faster timetable, because they believe the faster a film makes it to disc, it means that it's more likely that audiences will just wait and see a flick in their own home. While I'm sure that the faster DVD release schedule plays a part in the box office dip...it's not the main reason. I think the down turn has more to do with...
The advent of home theater systems-Who wants to go to the movies, when you can recreate the experience, in the comfort of your own home?
Which in turn means...
...No annoying commercials to sit through before the trailers start. If I wanted to see the latest ad for Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew, I would stay home and wait for 'em to flash across my TV screen. I think movie tickets are already high enough--I should not have to pay to watch any ads at the movies.
...I don't have to hear the ring tone of a person's cell phone because he or she forgot to turn it off.
...I don't have to hear parents hush the little ones cause they couldn't get a sitter.
I could go on...but you get the idea.
Don't fret theater owners. The news isn't all bad. Remember the film Bubble from a few months ago?
Magnolia Pictures tested the viability of simultaneous theatrical and DVD release with 'Bubble,' but the results have been inconclusive.
Who knows? Things may turn around soon. Superman Returns, Poseidon and X3 (among others) due in a few months, all have a lot of buzz around them. And just may help reverse things a bit. If that happens, I doubt theater owners will care when the DVDs come out, they will be too busy counting their larger returns.
To read the entire article, click here.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
By the time I heard about Alan Moore's landmark V For Vendetta, it had already been on the market for quite a while, and it was very hard to find. I was lucky enough though, that a very good friend of mine had a copy of the Vertigo graphic novel (a publishing imprint of DC Comics)...and I was also very lucky that he trusted me enough to put my grubby hands all over it...long enough to read the epic tale.
There's no question that Alan Moore is one of the best story-tellers that has ever worked in comics. His stories are always interesting and fun to read. No matter the subject, his ability to draw you in, and then keep you riveted with each turn of the page, is just amazing. V For Vendetta was no exception. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the book's artwork by David Lloyd and Tony Weare. Lloyd did a great job working with Moore to create a chilling vision of a very possible near future that leaped off the page, while Weare did a fine in maintaining the tone when he was tapped to lend a hand.
Like the book, the film is set in the futuristic world of a totalitarian Britain, telling the story of a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from the clutches of a life-and-death situation by a masked vigilante known only as "V" (Hugo Weaving). V is no ordinary vigilante though. He has the charismatic charm and class of 10 men, while at the same time, proving quite deadly with a sword, taking on Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) and his conformist policies. Before long, V urges his fellow citizens to rise up against the oppressive government. As Evey uncovers elements of V's cryptic past, she also discovers the truth about herself--and becomes his unlikely ally, as his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society, reaches its tense climax.
While nearly everyone in the press seems fixated on whether or not the film makes a direct statement against the West's policies on "The War On Terror", the first thing I worried about was whether or not the book would be translated well enough to make a good movie. Let's face it, if I have to plunk down some $7.50 to see a film, I wanna be entertained first and foremost. I'll ponder the Polly-Sci stuff later. Folks have to remember that the original story was written over 20 years ago, and at best, is still a cautionary tale about what could happen. Given the state of our world today, it's easy to draw modern comparisons, but we are not their yet (thank goodness). And while the filmmakers may have something against George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the way they govern... I was too focused on watching the film to concern myself about that and the "message".
First time director James McTeigue, along with writers Andy Wachowski &Larry Wachowski did the book justice. Some elements of the book were altered. But I think that had more to do with time constraints than any thing else.
For his part, Moore has disassociated himself from the movie, complaining the script was "imbecilic" and contained some pretty big plot holes. He also told Giant Magazine, he is bothered by the fact that the script defeats the primary theme of the original story, which was to place two political extremes (fascism and anarchism) against one another, while allowing readers to decide for themselves whether V was right in his actions or simply insane. He argues that this "little moral drama" has been reduced to debating "current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism". As per his wishes, Moore's name does not appear in the film's closing credits.
I am sorry that Moore isn't happy with the film, but as a fan of the book, I am quite pleased with the end result. While by no means a perfect film, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. For me, Weaving steals the show as the antagonist/hero V. He certainly brought the Guy Fawkes masked character to life in ways that I thought impossible. Even though we never see his real face, he was still able to covey his emotions using his distinct vocal talents. Wow! As Evey, our heroine, Portman redeemed her bad British accent throughout the film by taking it to the next level for the second half of the film. Strong support from Hurt, who also does the most with a very limited role, and the great Stephen Rea as Finch, adds to the film's dynamic mix.
I could have done without some of The Matrix Trilogy style bullet-like effect for V's swordplay though...that gets old...but hey, since McTeigue and the Wachowski boys had worked together on the Matrix films, they probably figured "why not"? It seemd like a pretty cheesy way to go...other than that the action is pretty cool.
V For Vendetta is a very entertaining movie. Plain and simple. Message or not, the film version works, even as one of the creative forces behind the original vision chooses to step away from it
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
...and you'll read all about the highly anticipated release of the video game based on The Godfather Trilogy. Find out why the stakes for Hollywood are so high as this game hits store shelves today.
...and you'll read about the current plans for the James Bond franchise post Casino Royale.
...and you'll be able to see the theatrical poster for Mission Impossible III.
...and you'll be able to get a sense for the new DVD formats and when they are set to take a bow. They will debut sooner than you think folks.
According to Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray:
'V for Vendetta' ruled the weekend with... $25.6 million - strong by genre standards - while 'She's the Man' mustered an okay debut (landing at #4 with $10.7 Million) and 'Find Me Guilty' (took the 18th spot with just $608 hundred thousand and change) was lost in limited release.
The complete report by Gray breaks down all of the numbers for you
It's nice to know, with my admission for a ticket on Friday, I helped to put V on top.
Helping the industry out of its box office slump... one film at a time.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Vicki Haddock writes that Ms Sheehan has kept herself very busy, making sure that her message is still being heard, using any and all forms of media she can:
... she will breakfast in Manhattan with actress Susan Sarandon, who is set to portray her in a biopic movie. A crew will film Sheehan for a weekly reality series on the Sundance Channel. Her letters to President Bush inspired "Peace Mom," a one-woman monologue show in London. A memoir is due to her publisher April 1.
While you can read the entire SFC article by clicking here...
I would just like to say that I have a great amount of empathy for any military family that has lost a loved one, during the war, but I can't quite get over the fact that she has met with the likes Hugo Chávez and calls President George W. Bush a worse terrorist than Osama bin Laden (she says she addressed the issue of Chavez' own human rights violations privately).
Statements like that go a bit far I admit that Bush has made some mistakes and is by no means perfect (who is?), but he is far from being anything like Bin Laden and never will be.
While I respect the message...I feel as though her actions and methods can sometimes cause more harm than good. It will be interesting to see if this latest blitz by Sheehan has the same effect as her first one did in 2005. Or will the message get muted by a public that grew weary of her.
I will say that Sarandon is the perfect casting choice to play Sheehan in the movie about her life.
Thank You To All Of Our Troops In IRAQ And All Around The World Who Continue To Fight The War On Terror. I Appreciate All Of Your Sacrifices
Sunday, March 19, 2006
In an effort to make sure it's not the former reason, here's the latest from the set, courtesy of Dark Horizons.
James Bond Hits Venice For Action
Saturday, March 18, 2006
-Hugo Weaving, who was such a big part of The Matrix Trilogy, steals the show as the antagonist/hero V. He certainly brought the masked character to life in ways that I thought impossible
-Despite the fact that during the film's opening hour, every time I saw Natalie Portman as Evey, our heroine, I couldn't help but think "bad British accent", I have to say that in the second half she kinda grew on me.
-Director James McTeigue, along with writers Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski did the original graphic novel justice with this movie. The brothers Wachowski went a long way to redeem themselves here after disappointing most of us with the last two Matrix movies.
-The action of the story was well staged but adding the bullet-like effect from the Matrix to them seemed a bit cheesy here. Couldn't they come up with another way to dramatize the swordplay?
That's it for now...more on the movie soon...
Friday, March 17, 2006
Quint from Aint It Cool News got to see it firsthand and posted a full report (BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!) on the "exclusive" sneak peek. I have to admit to getting a few goosebumps as I read the details...I know I'm a total geek fanboy...who just lost all credibility as an objective blogger...
Variety's Betsy Boyd reported on Wednesday that X-Men 3 star Hugh Jackman was honored at ShoWest as Male Performer of the Year. The article revealed:
...and he has a cameo in Bryan Singer's upcoming "Superman Returns," playing the Man of Steel's young dad in flashback mode
This had been originally denied by the actor, when word hit the net last year, that he had been spotted on set.
Speaking of awards, an unofficial website for Superman Returns star Brandon Routh, simply titled BrandonRouth.com has posted photos of the actor being honored as "Male Star Of Tomorrow" by ShoWest during the closing ceremonies.
The Motion Picture Association of America has given Superman Returns their PG-13 rating for "some intense action violence." According to early marketing materials from the studio. Of course with 3 and a half months to go until its release, that may change, but I highly doubt it..
Well, gotta go... I'm off to catch V for Vendetta, after I run some errands. I'll be sure and post a full review soon.
HAPPY ST.PATRICK'S DAY!!! MAY THE LUCK O' THE IRISH BE YOURS!!
Thursday, March 16, 2006
While I freely admit that I liked to watch the series as a kid, back in the day, I still have to ask "why?" As often happens, with projects like this, the film version rarely captures what made the program work in the first place. I have a feeling that this is gonna happen here as well. And as it turns out, one of the shows original cast members feels the same way I do about the remake, according to ABC NEWS.
Rapper/Actor Ice Cube (?!!) is set to play the title role of Mr Kotear.
I admit that a few films in this sub-genre have worked in the past, but as far as Kotter goes, I'm afraid I just don't see it. First Dallas, now this...Sheesh!!
Roger Friedman posted a great blurb on his FOXNews.com web page yesterday about the New York premiere of Sidney Lumet's latest film Find Me Guilty.
Maybe when you hear the name Vin Diesel, you think third-rate action star. Most of the films he’s been associated with — "The Fast and the Furious," "XXX," "The Pacifier" — are not exactly high-quality literature. They’re just throwaway fun.
All that changes this Friday with the release of Sidney Lumet’s "Find Me Guilty." Bob Yari Productions is opening this tasty New York mob drama on about 500 screens, so hurry and make sure you see it so you can say you got there first.
Lumet, who has nothing to prove, has a high standard from films like "Serpico," "Prince of the City," "The Verdict," "Q&A" and the classic "12 Angry Men."
"Find Me Guilty" manages to combine all the great moments of those films, and hits a groove that harkens back to the great "Playhouse 90" TV dramas of the late 1950s. It is just a beautifully done, gritty, realistic and captivating film that no one does anymore. It’s a real movie.
Diesel, who’s almost 39 in real life, plays the late Fat Jack DiNorscio, the real-life mobster who defended himself in the U.S.’s longest Mafia trial. When DiNorscio stood trial, he was in his 50s; he died last year at age 64. The case, with 20 mob defendants, lasted 21 months.
A member of the Lucchese crime family in New Jersey, Jackie, was already in prison on a 30-year sentence when he was indicted as part of this case. The feds offered him a sentence reduction if he’d rat out his pals. Instead, he joined them, and defended himself.
You can guess what happened. Without giving too much away, there is a happy ending — more or less.
Lumet’s cast is flawless; Ron Silver is the sympathetic judge in this massive case, Linus Roache is the prosecutor, Peter Dinklage is the attorney for the other defendants, one of whom is played by the marvelous Alex Rocco, who will always be remembered as "Mo Green" from "The Godfather."
Also featured are Anabella Sciorra, Raul Esparza and Richard Portnow. It’s like a "best of" New York actors.
And each one of them makes an unusual contribution: Dinklage ("The Station Agent"), for example, suffers from dwarfism, but his height is never mentioned in the film and you never think about it. He could be six feet tall. Roache ("Priest," "Wings of the Dove") is a highly regarded English actor, but you’d never know he wasn’t a New York Irishman after seeing him here. Ron Silver does his best work in years with a meaty performance.
Then there is the setting: Lumet is working in his favorite milieu, the courthouse, jail cell, etc. He’s also at the top of his long and fabled game. Working with his "100 Centre St." cinematographer Ron Fortunato, Lumet manages to recall and expand on his greatest scenes from "12 Angry Men" and his other courtroom classics.
I just loved the big panoramas of the defendants and their lawyers dining together, voting on courses of action to take, or simply arguing while the background TV set is to horse racing. You feel like you’re at the movies for a change.
And Lumet is also an expert at turning Diesel’s possibly unlikable mook Jack into an old-fashioned hero — something very "Marty," or "On the Waterfront." Vin Diesel — I mean, yeah, Vin Diesel — seems like he’s channeling Karl Malden, Ernest Borgnine and Marlon Brando all at once.
Last night’s premiere was held at the perfect spot, too — Gallagher’s Steak House on Broadway and West 52nd St. The crowd consisted of a lot of DiNorscio’s family and friends, all of whom loved the movie and were wide-eyed by Diesel’s performance.
"When I heard Vin Diesel was going to play Jackie," one woman said to the actor, "I said, Vin Diesel? Are you kidding? But you were great. He was great," she said to me.
The real Jackie’s oncologist introduced himself to Diesel.
"Jackie loved working with you on the movie," he said. "He knew you had it."
Vin hung out with a bunch of friends at Gallagher’s empty upstairs bar. He grew up in New York, the son of a black father and an Italian mother. His real name, which he doesn’t like to give away, is Mark Vincent. His production company is called One Race.
When he was starting out, he was a bouncer at iffy nightspots like Mars and The Tunnel. Lots of bad things happened in those places. That’s where he picked up the name Diesel.
Now he’s shaking his head. "I can’t believe what people are saying," he told me. "When I was making my movie" — a short film that he got into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival — "I used a book called 'Making Movies' by Sidney Lumet. (great book that I proudly have on my book shelf. Read it!)
"I’ll best that’s the first thing you told him when you met him," I said.
Mark Vincent Diesel, newly minted actor with real credentials, replied with a grin: "And he told me, get ready for the master class."
He gets an A
Sounds like another great Lumet film...
Finally, USA Today interviewed Superman Returns star, Brandon Routh, in which he talked about the special gift he received from the late Dana Reeve, while he was filming the movie in Australia last year:
Midway through the filming of Superman Returns, star Brandon Routh received an envelope in the mail. It contained two pendants and a letter. The pendants, each emblazoned with a red S, said simply, "Go Forward."
The note from Dana Reeve, the widow of Superman Christopher Reeve, said much the same thing.
"She said she thought I'd be a good Superman," says Routh, 26, best known for a guest role on Gilmore Girls. "She wished me luck. I can't tell you what that was like to get her blessing. I was nervous, because I had never heard from the family, and it's frightening trying to fill Christopher Reeve's shoes."
Go Forward Indeed...
For nearly a decade, ShoWest attendees have heard endless talk from studio reps and techies about the coming revolution in d-cinema. But with the Digital Cinema Initiative -- the multistudio joint venture set up to create a common technology standard -- having finished its work last year and integrators Christie/AIX and Technicolor already starting to roll out systems, everyone agrees that 2006 marks a sea change in the industry.
"This is the first year we're saying it is finally happening," boasted National Assn. of Theater Owners [President] John Fithian. "It's the biggest technological revolution in this business since the advent of sound."
But with digital cinema ready to go, there are new questions to consider:
Should exhibs go with the Texas Instruments-powered 2K projectors, which are tested and proven, or Sony's not-yet-deployed but higher-quality 4K projectors?
Should they sign up with Technicolor or Christie/AIX to install d-cinema systems, or put together a plan on their own, as AMC, Cinemark, Regal and others are doing?
Which of the many companies selling servers -- which store digital movie files at theaters -- should they pick?
On panels, in elaborate floor displays and in fancy suites, companies are putting the hard sell on the exhib community to start signing up. And they have all come to ShoWest with announcements they hope will make them stand out. AccessIT is raising $51 million more to fund the rollout plan of Christie/AIX, its joint venture with Christie; NEC and Barco have both been selected to provide projectors for Technicolor's beta test of digital cinema systems; Dolby is beta testing its servers at a handful of theaters along with ones it already installed as part of Disney's 3-D projection of "Chicken Little"; and Sony has finally unveiled a complete d-cinema system to work with its 4K projectors.
But beneath the hype, insiders admit there's still plenty of reason for caution. While DCI finished its work in August, some technical details are still being finalized. Most notably, a content protection standard called Cinelink 2 was just completed, and TI has to make new chips for projectors that can decode it. Those aren't expected to be ready for a month.
Also still to be finalized: which security system will be used on digital prints to prevent pirates from using camcorders and other means to get copies onto the Internet and bootlegged DVDs within hours of screenings.
Many in the industry are waiting to find out just what equipment will be considered up to snuff by the major studios. DCI in February contracted with the Fraunhofer Institute out of Germany to produce a certification test plan. But the org hasn't even announced how it will test equipment, let alone started to certify anything.
"Right now we are searching for things to point to prove we are DCI compliant," said Tim Partridge, senior veep of Dolby's digital cinema group.
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that everyone needs to take a deep breath, before making any quick decisions. The piracy problem that plagues the industry needs to be taken care of for sure. But it also sounds like there are too many smaller details that still need to be worked out too.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Now the "skin"-ny on another film set to debut in this month:
Basic Instinct 2 star Sharon Stone told the United Kingdom's Mirror newspaper:
"I was coming from a really kinky place. I wanted more nudity", telling producers of the sequel 'Let's go crazy!' So we took some things out of the film and a lot of the kinky stuff and sex went back in - you'll see it."
Whether this is just Stone hyping it up, or it makes any difference one way or another, only time will tell. I guess we'll find out on March 31st won't we? Click here to read more details of what Stone said.
I still can't believe Hollywood is actually moving forward with a film based on the night time soap Dallas--made popular in the 70's and 80's--but it seems they are. The folks at IGN Filmforce have posted all the latest casting news... if you're interested.
Exhibitors attending their annual ShoWest convention in Las Vegas on Tuesday were given a sneak preview of two key scenes from Paramount's Mission: Impossible III sequel, starring Tom Cruise and recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote). As reported by the Associated Press, one of the scenes includes a scene in which Hoffman's villainous character delivers a "chilling threat" to Cruise's. Do you have a wife, a girlfriend?'' Hoffman asks Cruise. "Because if you do, you know what I'm going to do next? I'm going to find her. I'm going to find her, and I'm going to hurt her. I'm going to make her bleed and call out your name. ...And then I'm going to kill you right in front of her." (courtesy of The Internet Movie Database's Movie & TV News that posted for today
Some sneak peek, most of the scene mentioned in the blurb, can already be seen in both the latest Mission: Impossible III trailer or the Superbowl TV ad from last month
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
According to Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray:
'Failure To Launch' succeeded beyond the industry's expectations, attracting an estimated $24.4 million, while remakes 'The Shaggy Dog' (2nd place with $16.3 Million in ticket sales) and 'The Hills Have Eyes' (in 3rd place, with $15.7 Million Dollars worth in ticket sales) lagged well behind...
I thought for sure that the cotton candy style romantic comedy would get trounced by the doggie remake or the horror flick. Then again, this isn't the first time I have been wrong when predicting a weekend box office champ.
You can read the full report for all the numbers and what they mean.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Personally, I will always remember her in 1985's Cocoon, in which she played Mary Luckett. In that sci-fi fantasy, she was part of a group of Florida seniors given the chance to live forever... Like most of the original cast, Stapleton would reprise her role for the sequel, Cocoon: The Return three years later.
She knocked my socks off in 1987's Nuts, playing Rose Kirk, mother to Barbra Streisand's character. Based on the stage play about a very dysfunctional family, the film packs quite the punch, in large part because of Stapleton's performance. I also liked her in the 1981 thriller The Fan as Belle, the personal assistant to a well known actress (Lauren Bacall) who's being stalked by an admirer. During that same year, she won an OSCAR for her role as Emma, in the period drama Reds.
Stapleton could hop from one genre to the next with ease, taking comedic roles, like those in the gangster farce Johnny Dangerously to Plaza Suite, which merged 2 different styles for one movie. She also appeared in many episodic TV shows and like"Car 54, Where Are You?" and tele-films, such as Letters from Frank. Heck, she even hosted "Saturday Night Live" once in its fourth season, how cool is that?
She will be missed that's for sure. For more about her life and long career, click here.
The next film for Crash director Paul Haggis is...
Given the current political climate, and Bush's low approval ratings at the moment, the project will probably be on the fast track.
The latest on The Da Vinci Code lawsuit, courtesy Bloomberg:
Dan Brown Defends `Da Vinci Code' in UK Plagiarism Lawsuit-calls plaintiff claims "astounding".
The first (and by far the best) actor to ever play James Bond on the silver screen, Sean Connery, is doing well, after having surgery, to remove a kidney tumor. So says the folks from Zap2it.com.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to one of my favorites in the movie biz...
A status report on Sin City 2, finds that production on the film is being delayed, according to Sci Fi Wire . The reason behind the move kind of took me by surprise. What do you think?
Also from that same source:
Writer/Director Joss Whedon lets us in on the current status of the Wonder Woman film--The script is almost done. If anyone can bring her mythology to the big screen...it's Whedon. After all, he created Buffy The Vampire Slayer, another great iconic heroine.
ShoWest starts today and runs through Thursday March 16th
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Dog Day Afternoon, made in 1975, stars Al Pacino as "Sonny", who along with "Sal" (the late great John Cazale ) stage the hold-up of a bank in Brooklyn, on a hot August afternoon with all sorts of unforeseen consequences. Based on real events that took place in 1972, the film is a real potboiler with a dynamic performance from Pacino.
Network, made in 1976, may be set inside a fictional television broadcast center, but a lot of the stuff that writer Paddy Chayefsky satirized about the industry in the film, has come to pass.
Faye Dunaway, whose character often butts heads with Max, played by William Holden are great together, of course, but it's Peter Finch as newsman Howard Beale who steals the show. As I watched the scene where Finch utters the now famous line, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!, I was amazed at how well the film holds up because of his work. Brilliant! Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty co-star
Both the Dog Day Afternoon two-disc special edition, and the Network two-disc special edition come with audio commentaries by Lumet, as well as extensive retrospective documentaries on each film. The extras go a long way to explain how each film was made. And although Lumet does have to repeat himself from the commentaries to the docs, it's not that big of a deal really.
Last summer's revelation that former number 2 man at the FBI Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' during the investigation of the Watergate break-in, doesn't diminish the impact of All the President's Men in the least. Now that everyone knows the last piece of the puzzle, for me, it makes things even more interesting to watch. Directed by the late Alan J. Pakula in 1976, just 4 years after infamous break-in took place, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford make a good team as Woodward and Bernstein. As reporters for The Washington Post, their dogged investigation would lead to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. The rest of the cast is superb. Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards as Editor Ben Bradlee, and Hal Holbrook as "deep throat" can't be beat.
Like the other DVD sets I've discussed in this post, the two-disc special edition for All The President's Men comes with an audio commentary, as well as extensive retrospective documentaries about the film and the history that surrounds it. While Redford's solo commentary isn't bad, I wish someone else who worked on the movie had joined in though, in the absence of Pakula (who sadly passed away in a 1998 car accident).
All three films are worth a look, as each one examines the social fabric of our society, and are deserving of a place in your film library. Theatrical trailers for each respective film are included in the extras as well.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Last week Entertainment Tonight had a report from the set, giving us our first "official" look at Daniel Craig, in action as the well known superspy. I saw the story, and things looked like they were going OK to me, but why not watch a few moments of online video from the story so that you can decide for yourself.
On the same day that ET ran their story, Ireland Online, published an interview with Graig, and it's obvious he's feeling some pressure in the role saying, "I never wanted to be Bond". I wonder what those calling for the boycott will make of that statement?
Since the CraigNotBond.com website hasn't been updated since March 6th, 3 days before the latest media coverage, those of us watching the action from the sidelines will have to wait and see how they feel about all this.
Meanwhile, Dark Horizons has posted new stills from the production, as well.
Isn't all this media hoopla fun?
Friday, March 10, 2006
While I eagerly await the release of the 2 disc director's cut of Crash in a few weeks, DVD Active has posted the cover art for the set.
But all is not rosy for the best picture winner of 2005. Reuters has a story about a fierce battle behind the scenes that's been brewing for quite a while. CRASH And Burn indeed.
Variety's Gabriel Snyder has a great article on all the money that's being spent to "tout titles", but also asks the key question, "...at what cost? Be sure to read Pic biz does the splits for the complete numbers crunch.
The March 17th 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly takes us through every aspect of last Sunday's Big Night--including the lead article by Dave Karger, while Missy Schwartz answers those Burning Questions about the ceremony that made us all scratch our heads, Joshua Rich has fun working out some OSCAR Math, all topped off by horror master Stephen King and his take on the whole thing in a column called, Crashing The Party.
As someone who has been labeled a "film geek" in my life, I really got a kick out of seeing the trailer for the film with the same name. The movie, which opens in theaters today, has gone under the radar. It's my hope that, after you see the preview, you'll do what I did. Visit the official site for more information.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who claim in their lawsuit that Dan Brown, stole the principal ideas for The Da Vinci Code from their book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, took a pummeling from the defense Tuesday. In London High Court, Baigent was forced to admit that parts of his written witness statement in which he accused Brown of lifting numerous ideas from his book were untrue. (For example, The Da Vinci Code contains no mention of the writers' theory that Christ did not die on the Cross and in fact faked his Crucifixion, a theory that the witness statement said formed part of Brown's narrative.) "I think my language was infelicitous, and I think I have to agree with you on that," Baigent told the court. "You could have told the truth, for instance," the attorney for Random House, Brown's publisher, replied. (The Baigent-Leigh book was also published by Random House.) Meanwhile the Christian Council of Korea has asked Sony to cancel the planned May release of The Da Vinci Code in that country. The council accused the filmmakers of disparaging "the divinity of Jesus Christ."
Based on this blurb, it sounds to me like this lawsuit is nothing more than sour grapes on the part of the plaintiffs, and things may not have a happy ending for them. Stay Tuned...
Just last week, it was reported that Superman Returns star, Brandon Routh will be in the spotlight at ShoWest during the event's closing ceremony. Now comes word that the film's director Bryan Singer will be there as well.
The ShoWest schedule on their website reveals that on Thursday March 16th at 2.30pm, Warner Bros. will be presenting various directors and their films... including Bryan Singer who will be presenting exclusive footage from "Superman Returns".
This news comes courtesy of Steve Younis from the Superman Homepage.
Considering that it's been quite a long time since anyone outside the cast and crew has seen any new footage from the film, and the next trailer isn't due until May, this is good news. You can bet that I will be keeping my eyes peeled for any news on this exclusive imagery. I just wonder how long it will stay "exclusive"?
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
When I stopped by the IGN Filmforce website a short time ago, their link to the trailer was working properly--but I can't make any promises that it will work for you. Given the problems of the last few days, and now the high traffic that is sure to follow, the site could go down again.
The footage itself is very minimal with a voice over by series star Sylvester Stallone, doing most of the work, waxing about what it takes to win and all that. The only thing you really see is Rocky's battered and beat up face. Kinda ho-hum if you ask me. The film is due to hit theaters in December of this year.
Read the original IGN Rocky teaser post by Stax when you click here.
headed back to the big screen for another run, now comes word from Variety's Diane Garrett that the current DVD sold some 17,500 copies in one day (Monday) following its big win Sunday night.
"Crash"... has sold about 4 million units to date. A double-disc director's cut is slated for release April 4.
The figure of 17,500 nearly doubles last week's pre-OSCAR win of 33,000 discs. Wow! When you stop and think about it though--it's not that much of a shock that something like this would happen. And, in fact, it's quite a shame really. All of those folks who just bought the single disc , (released six months ago) in order to jump on the bandwagon, will probably kick themselves when they see the 2 disc set on store shelves next month. I'm glad I waited to buy my copy.
Click here to read the entire article.
Famed photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks, who died yesterday at the age of 93, leaves behind a remarkable legacy.
He has been called "The Jackie Robinson of film", for successfully breaking down a color barrier of the movie industry, as the first African American to direct a major studio release. Indeed, The Learning Tree from 1969, was a true landmark for the medium. It was based on Parks' own autobiography, and told the story of what it was like growing in rural poverty. In fact, Parks not only directed the picture, he also wrote the screenplay, acted as its director of photography, and composed the film's score too. I watched the movie for the first time in film school and still marvel at what he was able to accomplish with that one film. He would go on to helm another benchmark movie, 1971's Shaft, which helped to initiate the blaxploitation genre. Shaft is memorable for many reasons, not the least of which is the OSCAR winning theme song by Isaac Hayes. Parks even had a cameo, in the 2000 Shaft remake, starring Samuel L. Jackson in the title role.
His career as a writer and photojournalist took him to even bigger heights. He has published several poems and memoirs. Working at LIFE Magazine, he spent 20 years as the publication's premiere photographer, and gave the world some wonderful American imagery, including his most famous pic called "American Gothic''.
For more on the man's amazing life click here.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Take a look and you can decide if I'm right, or just plain nuts. I cheered after seeing that actor Bill Duke has a role in the sequel! He totally rocks (I can't believe I just wrote that!!).
Some news on the aftermath of OSCAR '06
Variety's Gabriel Snyder and Dave McNary tell us that surprise best picture winner Crash is headed back to the big screen! Read all about it in their article "'Crash' rides Oscar's wave". Meanwhile, the trade paper's TV ratings guru Rick Kissell, lets us know that while the numbers for the telecast were off by some 8% over last year, he says things are better than we first thought in "Down But Not Dire".
I feel so much better knowing that all is not lost for the awards show...Whew! Big sigh of relief! Given how I felt about the show this year and most of the reviews, you would think the ratings slide would have been bigger...It doesn't matter that most of the general public didn't see the 5 best picture noms. The ceremony should still entertain, no mater what the size of the viewing audience is, right? If I invest 3 hours plus in a TV program of any kind--it had better be worth it--that's why you tune in...You can always find out who the winners are later...
Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray reports:
'Madea's Family Reunion' topped the weekend by default (with $16.6 Million in ticket sales) '16 Blocks,' ( which was expected to be first, came in 2nd with $11.8 Million) 'Ultraviolet,' (coming in 4th with just over $9 Million) 'Dave Chappelle's Block Party' (7th place with $6.2 Million) and 'Aquamarine' (5th place with $7.4 Million) floundered out of the gate...
Here's the complete report with all the info broken down for us.
I must say, I was a bit surprised that 16 Blocks didn't pull out the victory, settling for 2nd place instead. I also expected that Dave Chappelle's Block Party to do better, given how many legions of fans the guy has, thanks to his (almost) defunct TV show.