Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tiny Bubble

Today's Hollywood Reporter has a great article by Gregg Kilday that leads with why theater owners are "thrilled" that Steven Soderbergh's film Bubble (which I first talked about in a post on January 22nd did so poorly on its opening weekend and then goes further into the controversy--giving both sides a chance to spin for their perspective sides

The dismal debut of Steven Soderbergh's experimental film "Bubble" has sparked a gleeful response from the nation's theater owners, who were less than enthused about its simultaneous release in both theaters and on cable.

In an unusual comment on the fortunes of a specific film, National Association of Theater Owners president and CEO John Fithian issued a statement Sunday saying "the movie has performed very poorly" and that despite media attention surrounding the film's experimental release strategy that "generated tens of millions of dollars in free publicity ... it failed in theaters."

The movie, released through billionaire Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment, earned just $70,664 from 32 theaters during its first weekend.

"Yes, we wish the theatrical performance was higher, but the film experienced an increase in box office sales from Friday through the rest of the weekend, so we feel there was positive word-of-mouth for the film," countered Todd Wagner, who is partnered with Cuban in 2929.

A murder mystery set in a small-town toy factory, the 73-minute movie was cast with non-actors, though Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman in a positive review noted their performances were "powerful enough to shame many of the performances in Hollywood movies." Overall, reviews were generally underwhelming.

Wagner estimated that the film, budgeted at $1.6 million, will generate $5 million in revenue from various sources. 2929's HDNet FIlms cable channel paid $250,000 to license two airings of the film Friday, and 100,000 copies of the DVD, which goes on sale Tuesday, have been shipped to retailers.

With Hollywood suffering a box office slump, some studio executives have proposed reducing the window between a film's release in cinemas and on video. Theater owners want no part of such a strategy since it would likely encourage even more people to watch movies at home than at the multiplex.

"It's important to note that this movie was designed for a niche audience," Wagner said. "Going in, we knew we had a very atypical film for the marketplace, and the day-and-date strategy provided an economic framework that let us take a chance on a unique, challenging and exceptional film and make it profitable."

Fithian argued, "We're always looking for ways to improve the moviegoing experience, but the parts of the system that aren't broken -- such as staggered release -- don't need to be fixed."

Eamonn Bowles, co-founder of Magnolia Pictures, 2929's distribution arm, said he was eyeing a similar bow in May for "One Last Thing... ," director Alex Steyermark's comic account of a teenage boy, dying of cancer, whose final wish is to meet a supermodel. The HDNet Films production, whose cast includes Michael Angarano , Cynthia Nixon and Gina Gershon, debuted {last} September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

While I can see why theater owners may want to say "I told you so" here, I would hardly claim total victory, just yet. I personally think that this cinema "tussle" is far from over.

The Donner Party/Lots Of Sequel Talk

The website IGN recently posted an interview with director Richard Donner--conducted by Jeff Otto. The conversation reveals that Donner isn't involved in putting together the recently announced "Director's cut" of Superman II that I talked about last Friday.

Here's the exchange:

Donner: They're doing it {a Director's Cut of Supes II}. I'm not doing it. They're doing it. Michael Thau, who used to be my assistant and is a good little editor - [said that] there were so many requests to Warner Brothers to see my cut that he went to them and they authorized it. He's been working for about four or five months now getting all the negatives and cuts out of England. A lot of it's been destroyed, a lot of it wasn't kept. But everything that he was able to [get], he said it will probably be about 70 percent my footage.

Q: So the rest will be footage Lester shot?

Donner: Yeah. I don't even want to see it until it comes out.

Q: But you do want to see it?

Donner: Oh, s**t yeah! But I don't want to cut it. I mean, I'm too far away from it now.

I'm a bit disappointed that Donner chose not to be directly involved in the edit of the new cut of the film. Considering how he was treated by the producers...But I am happy that he supports the project and that he can't wait to see it. Neither can I Dick, Neither can I...

Meanwhile, Dark Horizons has a status report on several key sequels, that are on tap from "The Dream Factory". The stuff about the Batman Begins sequel is the most interesting of all the talk going on right now.

It's An Honor Just being Nominated

At 5:30 A.M PST this morning, the nominations for the 78th Annual Academy Awards were announced. Academy President Sid Ganis and Oscar winning actress Mira Sorvino were on hand to do the deed.

As someone who has been rooting for CRASH all "award season" long, I was happy to see it get six nods, including one for Best Supporting Actor Matt Dillon , Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.

I was also surprised at how well things turned out for Munich ...still getting recognized with a Best Picture nom, while not having any acting nominations.

Kudos to film score composer John Williams for getting 2 nominations this year in the Best Original Score category. Congrats to screenwriter Josh Olson and actor William Hurt for getting recognized for their work on A History Of Violence in the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor categories. I'm also glad that Batman Begins Cinematographer Wally Pfister made the cut, to give the film some recognition. Hmm...At one time talked about as a possibility for a Best Picture nod, King Kong, fell flat, only getting 4 technical nominations, tying box office rival The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Of course, the film everyone will talking about though, is Brokeback Mountain, with 8 nominations--the most for any film in 2005.

I will have more to say about the OSCARS and the nominees in the weeks to come...The 78th Annual Academy Award will be broadcast live on Sunday March 5th 2006 on ABC.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Honor Role

The never ending battle for box office saw two newcomers, not only trounce last week's number one film, but they both did better than analysts had predicted.

Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray puts it this way in his latest report:

"Family comedy was the order of the weekend as BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE 2 ($28 Million) and Nanny McPhee ($14.1 Million) dominated with stronger-than-expected bows, while Bubble fizzled (earning $72 Thousand) with its simultaneous release in theaters, on DVD and on TV..."

To be fair, Bubble is only playing in 32 theaters across the nation, thanks to a theater chain imposed boycott of the film. Given that limitation, I thought it did quite well all things considered.

As it turned out, I watched a lot more of the 12th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards than I had planned on. Here's a list of all of last night's winners. The best part of the evening was watching the cast of CRASH, (my pick for the best film of '05) beat out some pretty high profile competition, to walk away with the Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture award. Yahoo!! The presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to a Hollywood legend, former child star Shirley Temple , was pretty cool too.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Day Of Reckoning

The teaser trailer for The Omen 666 has hit the internet. The film, which opens on June 6th 2006, (how clever those marketing folks from Fox are--tying the release date to the 666 reference, I say sarcastically) is a remake of 1976's The Omen.

The original is a classic that starred Hollywood legend Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. Directed by Richard Donner, the film works on so many levels, that despite its age still holds up very well by today's standards. I realize that the studio is hoping to start a new franchise and that remakes are all the rage right now in "The Land Of Make Believe", but I wonder why the needed to do the film at all. Remakes, especially in the horror genre, are very hard to pull off. Sometimes they come out very well..., but for every Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), we get 2 duds like the new version of The Amityville Horror, The Haunting from 1999, and (haven't seen it yet but heard from 5 different people that it's pretty bad) The Fog (2005) .

As a preview, The Omen 666 trailer, is effective...as long as I put the original film out of my head. Some classic films should be left alone, and in my opinion, The Omen belonged in that category. The man behind the remake, John Moore, has a lot to live up to.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Coming Soon To A TV Near You

Dark Horizons Garth Franklin reported yesterday that:

"Director Doug Liman is bringing [last summer's] Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie action-comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith to television in the form of a series on NBC. Liman confirms a nationwide search will be launched to fill the roles played by Pitt and Jolie - a married couple who are surprised to learn they both lead secret lives as paid assassins".

Despite all of the rumors, which turned out to be true, that swirled around the film at the time of its release, I enjoyed the movie very much. Of course the chemistry between Brad and Angelina on screen was undeniable and spilled over into real life... I highly recommend the film to anyone who hasn't yet seen it. It's a fine and fluffy Popcorn flick.

In order for the premise to work on a weekly basis though, the chemistry between the two leads has to, in some way, be even stronger than it was in the film, or it will fall flat. It will be interesting to see if Liman can pull this one off.

On an unrelated subject:

Don't forget that the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air tomorrow night, January 29th on both TBS. and TNT at 8:00 PM. While I might check it out once or twice, during the telecast, my attention will likely wander away...

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Adventure Continues...Again

There's been internet chatter about it for months...Speculation has now ended...Superman Homepage has posted exclusive news that will send fans of Superman-The Movie into orbit...

In conjunction with the release of Superman Returns, the studio is going to re-release the first 4 films in the series and 1984's Supergirl on DVD. On the surface, the news may seem ho-hum, but anyone who read the review I posted of the first film, already knows how I feel about the movie. While I admit that that the last 2 films in the series were missing "the magic" of the original, and Supergirl has its share of faults, what happened to director Richard Donner while he was finishing Superman II was a "crime".

You can imagine how excited I got when I read the news that the footage Donner shot for Supes II (about 70%-80% of the film) before he was fired and replaced, will be part of the new DVD! Here's what the film's Executive Producer Ilya Salkind had to say about the release in the interview conducted by Barry M. Freiman for the Superman Homepage website:

"Scenes shot by fired director Richard Donner..., including all of Brando's work for the second film, may finally see the light of day. "There will be a Donner cut [of "Superman II"] from what I hear," Salkind said. "There will apparently be an original cut with the original music and more stuff."

Whether the extra footage will be presented as an alternative version of the film or included as a supplement has not yet been determined.

For those of us who already knew the complete back story of the first two Man Of Steel flicks, this is great news, and something we have waited a long time to see. I don't know if I will be buying all five of these films But one things for sure...The Special Edition of Superman II is a must own and the fanboy in me can't wait...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Deal And The Latest "Dance"Card

As everyone knows by now, a deal has been struck for the Disney Company to buy Pixar Animation Studios, for $7.4 billion dollars. The 2 studios have been working together since Toy Story, the first ever, full length CGI animated film. Until this announcement was made earlier this week--things had been strained between the two companies, with their partnership set to end following the release of the forthcoming Cars on June 9th, 2006. All is well in the mouse house now though and all involved hope to live happily ever after. Since the duo have been making films together for over a decade already--it's status quo for you and me. But I do think this is a good fit though. Things are just more "official" now. The deal makes Apple's head honcho Steve Jobs the largest shareholder of Disney stock. He must have a bigger smile on his face now than Mickey Mouse ever had.

The Sundance Film Festival continues in Utah. Here are the latest studio/film acquisitions. I'm really curious to see what Right At Your Door is all about. The premise sounds very interesting...It stars the lovely and talented Mary McCormack...And I'm always pulling for a first time director to make good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

RIP Chris Penn (1962-2006)*

Actor Chris Penn, younger brother to OSCAR winner Sean Penn, has been found dead in his Santa Monica California home. An autopsy to determine the cause of death found there were no signs of foul play, further tests are pending, police officials said. He was 43 years old *(some bio data has his age at 40).

Despite following in his more well known brother's footsteps, Chris was still able to carve out quite a film career all his own. One that was filled with many memorable roles. His appearances in Rumble Fish, Footloose, Rush Hour and my favorite Quentin Tarantino-directed flick, Reservoir Dogs, are among his best work, in the more than 50 films he had done

His latest film, The Darwin Awards, is still set to premiere tonight at the Sundance Film Festival.

A talented character actor cut down in his prime...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Do A little Song, Do A Little "Dance"

As most of you probably know by now, the 2006 Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. Started by actor/director Robert Redford in 1981, the annual event has become a highlight for the entire film industry.

It's not just a place to showcase an independent film, or to be seen seen schmoozing away, but it's also the place where deals are made that could help put a filmmaker on the map.

The distribution "war" over the festival's hot property Little Miss Sunshine seems to be over, with Fox Searchlight Pictures coming out on top. The comedy from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris had already been making noise, thanks to the casting of recent Golden Globe winner, Steve Carell. He has a busy year ahead of him and demand for him continues to rise exponentially.

We will see how "Sunshine" plays out and whether it lives up to the hype...

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Lull

I just read a column posted yesterday by Variety head honcho and co-host of AMC TV's Sunday Morning Shootout, Peter Bart, that I think accurately describes the mood of the film studios today.

The editorial states the following:

"The major media companies are significantly reducing their financial commitment to the motion picture sector."

Which in turn means:

"Substantially fewer films will be produced over the next year or two. And a significant portion of the production costs of the reduced slate will be borne by hedge funds and other investment groups."

Like any business, there are always periods of boon, as well as "lulls". I would agree with that assessment--but only in part. The movie industry may be in a "theatrical" slump, but I would like to point out that studios are still making plenty of Cah--Ching, thanks, to a still strong home video market, despite a slight dip last year over 2004's numbers. How the showdown between dueling formats Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will affect all of this "Chatter", it's still too early to say, but I have a feeling the current woes of the studios will be short lived...

Here's something they can do in the meantime--MAKE BETTER MOVIES AND PEOPLE WILL COME BACK .

A Numbers Game

The weekend box office numbers had the sequel Underworld: Evolution take the top spot with $27.6 Million bucks in ticket sales. Last weeks winner, Hoodwinked, fell to second place with just over $11.1 Million

Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray has the complete lowdown on all of the latest numbers in his latest report, including a surge for Brokeback Mountain. Now in wide release, the film made $7.8 Million over the weekend as it holds the #5 spot. It will be interesting to see how the controversial film will do in the long run--even with the possibility of an OSCAR surge just around the corner.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bursting The Bubble

Director Steven Soderbergh has made some theater owners very unhappy over his latest film. At a time when theater attendance continues to slide, and the window between a movie's initial release and its home video debut is growing ever shorter, they need all the help they can get to bring folks in. Soderbergh is putting the industry on its ear with his latest project--Bubble will hit theaters and cable TV via Pay Per View at the same time, while its DVD premiere will happen within days of the theatrical release, on January 31st 2006.

An article published in USA TODAY, by Gary Gentile, spells it out:

"The country's largest theater chains are snubbing the film because they object to it being sold on DVD and shown on cable TV the same day it debuts in a handful of theaters owned by the same company that produced the movie. "

They see this potential trend as a real threat to their bottom line. Although Bubble isn't the first film to take this route---Now everyone is paying attention.

If I were a theater owner, I would watch with great interest what happens here, but I would hardly hit "the panic button" just yet. Bubble is a small film. If they start doing this with the "bigger" movies"--that's the time to panic.

Having said that...as a fan of Soderbergh's I can't wait to rent the DVD. Bubble hits everywhere this Friday

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Skipping Across The Pond

Here is my review of Into The Blue, released on DVD on December 26, 2005.

John Stockwell has had an interesting career in Hollywood. He spent the 80's as an actor, appearing in films like Christine, Losin' It, and of his small but key role as "Cougar" in Top Gun. While at same time he could also be seen on the small screen in tele-films, such as, Billionaire Boys Club and "North and South". As time passed though, he has gotten away from acting, turning his attention to directing and producing instead...

Into The Blue follows Jared (Paul Walker), a frustrated treasure hunter, who is still looking to find his fortune. His girlfriend Sam (Jessica Alba) is supportive, but has a more level head about the whole thing. The chance discovery of some once-buried riches from a legendary shipwreck on the ocean floor also leads them to the wreckage of a small airplane filled with a mega-stash of cocaine. Jared's best pal Bryce (Scott Caan), and his latest girlfriend Amanda (Ashley Scott), convince him to use the drugs to pay for the raising of the ship, things get complicated (not really). That happens (not really) when some nasty drug dealers come calling for their merchandise. All bets are off.

Stockwell must really like to direct films with scantily clad actors playing in water--Blue Crush and Crazy/Beautiful also had their fair share of both. While the scenery of the film is indeed very nice to look at, as a thriller things are pretty generic here. Matt Johnson's script is filled with groan inducing dialogue. Take this line uttered by Sam: "I believe in you more then the profit of any treasure", ugh!! The story's BIG MYSTERY is not that much of a surprise, and if you are paying attention, you should figure it out fairly quickly. For their part, Alba and Walker, do have some chemistry and try really hard to make it work. It's not enough...The action is OK, but the film also grinds to a halt at times, taking forever...Clearly not as much fun as it should have been.

The extras on the disc include a commentary track from Stockwell, and despite my murky feelings about the film, I have to say, it's a solid track Most of the info he talks about will hold your interest. Diving Deeper Into the Blue is your standard glossy EPK-style featurette and includes plenty of film clips inter cut with chatter about the production from Stockwell, Alba, Walker, Scott ET AL, A set of 10 deleted scenes, available with or without comment from Stockwell. Most of the scenes really don't add much--save for an alternate open that has Jared rescue a boy at sea. It's well staged... There are three screen tests clips, as well, featuring some of the cast and a boatload of trailers for other studio releases to top things off.

While I can look at Alba in a bikini all day long...I have to say that Into The Blue isn't as much fun as (what is clearly designed as) a guilty pleasure should be

Friday, January 20, 2006

You Want BIG?

The cover story for the January 27th 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly is all about the "big events" of the year. Highlighting the most eagerly anticipated releases in movies, TV, music, and books, are all found in an article compiled by various writers on the mag.

The timing of this "events calendar", if you will, seems like it's a bit late, if you ask me. Just how many previews of the year's major flicks can there be? The magazine has already done a few articles or blurbs on the likes of The Da Vinci Code, X3, Mission Impossible 3, Superman Returns, Miami Vice, James Bond #21-Casino Royale with a new actor taking the role, and Poseidon among others. I certainly have written about them for this Blog. That's sorta the point...the majors have been covered...Everywhere before this issue came out. A weekly mag having a preview of the year, nearly a month into it no less, seems like an idea whose time came and went. You know all of the biggies will be getting their own cover story on the eve of their release as well.

The article and chart with 2005's 100 top grossing films is more of a story...especially since turkeys like the remake of The Fog and Elektra made enough money to even make the list. I guess 2005 was a really bad year for the domestic box office. Perhaps much worse than everyone thought.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Caught In The Web

Dark Horizons (along with just about every other online media outlet that covers the film industry) posted the news that actress Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director/actor Ron Howard, is slated to join the cast of Spider-Man 3, playing the love of Peter Parker's life--Gwen Stacey.

Anyone familiar with the Marvel Comics mythology of the wall crawler knows how important she is to the story. As someone who knows the back story, I have been wondering how (if at all) franchise director Sam Raimi, would work her in to the ongoing storyline of the movies.

I have only seen her in The Village, from a couple of years ago. Let's just say the movie isn't one of my favorites and leave it at that. She is teaming, once again, with M. Night Shyamalan ( he made the aforementioned Village) this year for Lady In The Water. She certainly looks the part of Gwen...If given a good script, I am sure she'll be able to pull it off.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Too Little Too Late?

Just as the race for Oscar gold begins to heat up in Hollywood, it seems that there's a "controversy" brewing at one of the studios, over 2 of its films.

The Drudge Report's latest headline story claims that the suits at Universal Pictures prefer Brokeback Mountain over Munich to win the top prize as this year's best picture.

The story, posted by Drudge himself, asserts through an unnamed source, that Steven Spielberg feels that his film Munich, has been all but "neglected" by the studio, in terms of marketing and publicity.

Assuming the story is true, I think Spielberg has to bear some of the responsibility for any lack of publicity for the film, particularly in the run-up to its release. He is the one who decided that their would be very little press done for the film, not the studio. By contrast, those responsible for Brokeback Mountain, have been everywhere talking it up. Besides, Spielberg has more control over the movies he makes, than probably any other director in the biz. Just look at how he "tells" the broadcast networks how his flicks, like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List will be broadcast commercial free and unedited. No other filmmaker can do that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Go Figure

Just as I was about to settle in for the evening, I received the following email update from Box Office Mojo with the following statement:

"With $16.9 million each, Glory Road squeaked ahead of Hoodwinked in a tight race for the top spot that perked up an otherwise ho-hum holiday weekend."

Earlier in the day, the two films had their positions flipped...You can read about the reason behind the adjustment and compare it to what I posted earlier

In this instance, the lesson learned is "Don't count your tickets until their all in", something the studios are famous for, as they fight for the bragging rights to be number 1

Race Results

The winner of this weekend's box office derby, (extended by one day in observance of the Martin Luther King JR. holiday) yielded quite a surprise for folks who prognosticate about such things, according to Box Office Mojo.

Brandon Gray reports that while the numbers were lackluster (my word not his) overall, the CGI animated retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Hoodwinked pulled out a slim victory over the inspirational sports drama Glory Road with $16.6 million in sales. While "Road" managed to come in second with just .2 million less at $16.4 in sales.

Meanwhile, during the commercial breaks for part 2 of 24's two-night season premiere, I took a peek at last night's Golden Globe Awards telecast. What I saw of the ceremony though...it seemed to be a real snoozer...Nothing really stood out. It seems that I'm not the only one who felt that way about the show either. I did watch Sir Anthony Hopkins accept this year's Cecil B. DeMille award, and for me, that was the highlight. As far as who won what, there were no real upsets in the film categories as far as I can tell. Brokeback Mountain nabbed 4 awards, Felicity Huffman won for her role in the gender-bending TransAmerica and George Clooney picked up an award for his acting in Syriana. Since the Best Film categories are split in two (Best Drama and Best Musical Or Comedy) for the Globes, it will be interesting to see what films get squeezed out and which will make the cut at OSCAR Nomination time.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Conquering The Universe

Moving on after the Chicago Bears heart-breaking 21-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers in yesterday's NFC Divisional Playoff Game has been tough...But I am trying...In that spirit... Dark Horizons has posted the 2006 film slate for Universal Pictures. Here's a handful of movies that caught my attention on the list:

The Good Shepherd has one of the greatest actors of our age, Robert De Niro, pulling double duty as both director and star. Hellion sounds like an intriguing premise for a film. It will be interesting to see if star Josh Holloway, from TV's hit series Lost can carry a major motion picture. Director Brian De Palma comes out of a 4 year "hiatus" to helm The Black Dahlia, a film that examines the real-life murder mystery of a Hollywood starlet in 1947. The movie stars another "Josh" as in Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank and is based on author James Ellroy's novel about the case. An animated feature of Curious George, the popular children's character with his own series of books. It's a good thing that Michael Mann (I) is directing the big screen adaptation of his stylish television drama of the 80's, Miami Vice, so that the chances that it wont be a bomb, are that much better. Take a look at the trailer and see what you think. Southland Tales caught my eye, because of who's involved, rather than the plot description. I enjoyed Richard Kelly's time bending film Donnie Darko quite a lot, and as a fan of TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer (where my "crush" on actress Sarah Michelle Gellar got started) I'm interested in anything she appears in. I have my doubts about The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Ho-Hum...And then of course there's the all important Flight 93, which I discussed in the post called "Are We Ready...?"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Any Given Sunday

I would love to post a review of some recent DVD rental, an in depth expose about some injustice in the movie biz, the latest news items, the weekend box office numbers or some film related diddy--but not today...

My favorite football team, the Chicago Bears - 2005 NFC North Division Champions, by the way, are playing against the Carolina Panthers , for the right to advance in the football playoffs and possibly go to Superbowl 40 in Detroit on Febuary 5th 2006. I have waited 20 years for da'Bears to make it this far in the post season...It's kickoff time on Fox...And then after the game I will be watching the season premiere of the very cinema-like drama called 24.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

RIP Shelly Winters (1920-2006)

Actress Shelley Winters passed away early this morning, due to complications from a heart attack, she had last month. The Hollywood legend was 85 years old.

As a child of the 70's, I will never forget her as Belle Rosen in the original version of The Poseidon Adventure--a disaster movie that defined the genre. She won one of her 2 Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress in the landmark film A Patch of Blue. I always liked her no nonsense and very outspoken view of Tinseltown. Winters allowed both her brassy and vulnerable sides to come through on a dime. In the 90's she had a recurring role as Nana Mary on the sitcom Roseanne and she was perfect. Ms. Winters will be missed but far from forgotten.

For more about her life, and stellar career, click here

All In Favor--Say "Eye"

As promised, here are my thoughts on last year's Red Eye, from director Wes Craven.

I had every intention of seeing Red Eye in theaters, last summer, but fate had other plans...The film's recent release on DVD meant that it would be atop my rental list for sure.

Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) hates to fly, never the less, she must take a quick night flight to Miami. Upon boarding the plane, Lisa's fear of flying are put to rest, when she is seated next to Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a charming well dressed man with whom she shared a drink--and perhaps some not so subtle flirtation--in the airport terminal. Shortly after takeoff, Jackson drops his seemingly benign facade and menacingly reveals the real reason he's on board: he is a key operative in a plot to kill the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security--and Lisa is the key to the plan's success. If she refuses to cooperate, her father Joe (Brian Cox) will be killed by an assassin waiting on orders from Jackson. Trapped within the confines of a jet at 30,000 feet, Lisa has nowhere to go and no way to get help for her or her dad.

Even though I am a fan of the thriller genre, and most of Craven's work, my main reason to see the film in the first place was because of Murphy. He made quite an impression with his work in films like 28 Days Later and Batman Begins, and has proven that he makes a great villain. He doesn't disappoint here either. The character (an obvious play on the name "Jack The Ripper") he plays is quite creepy and menacing enough to make it work. McAdams ( The Notebook) works very well off of Murphy as part damsel in distress/take charge heroine. It was wise of Craven and writer Carl Ellsworth to keep the film "flying" at a break neck pace for this, as it only serves to heighten the urgency and tension even more (and make you all but ignore a few minor plot holes) . First and foremost though, a thriller's primary function is to thrill, right?...

The DVD extras include a fine audio commentary with Craven, his longtime Producer Marianne Maddalena and Editor Patrick Lussier. The track is very enjoyable and informative, taking the viewer through the entire process. It's engaging, enthusiastic and entertaining--a rare DVD commentary that is all those things. A rather long (for what it is) gag reel results in a few yuks, but it's of the "watch it once" variety There are a pair of fairly brief, pretty "fluffy" promotional featurettes: a typical "making of" and "Wes Craven: A New Kind of Thriller" that profiles him in relation to the film. A few promo spots for other titles top off the bonus features.

Red Eye makes for a nice thriller, that owes a bit to director Alfred Hitchcock - The Master of Suspense, as he was clearly an inspiration. As long as you can check your brain for a few leaps in logic--you won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Oscar Buzzzz

The January 20th 2006 of Entertainment Weekly touts that The Oscar Race has begun (that's not entirely true, in my opinion, it really started just seconds after the Golden Globe nominations were announced last month).

EW's Dave Karger interviews George Clooney, whom the magazine calls "Oscar's Triple Threat" for his work directing/co-writing Good Night, And Good Luck, and acting in Syriana. I'm not a fan of Clooney, by any means, but I would be foolish not to recognize that his chances at being a "golden boy" are pretty good. I just hope all of this buzz doesn't go to his head.

The Oscar coverage also includes "25 movies to see before Oscar night" and predictions of the nominees (which will be announced soon) The predicting of the nominees in the major categories seems pretty easy this year if you ask me. Predicting the Winners before the March 5th telecast will be a bit tougher.

Meanwhile, The Golden Globes will be awarded live Monday January 16th 2006 on NBC at 8:00 P.M.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Swimming With The Fishes

In 1978, director Joe Dante helmed the B-grade style horror film, Piranha. When I first saw the movie as pre-teen, I thought it was fun, but was really just riding on the coat tails of Jaws and its sequel. But as I got a little older, (and wiser) I began to see the film in a different context, and appreciate it on its own merits. By the time I got to college, pursuing a degree in filmmaking, I thought of Piranha as one of my favorite films of the genre.

As the protege of Roger Corman, a true master in terms of the B-horror movie, Dante captured the spirit of such classics as The Wasp Woman, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Not of This Earth, and The Terror (to name a few) with great style. The F/X may seem a bit dated by today's CGI heavy standards but the movie holds up very well just the same. There's plenty of heebie-jeebie to be had.

Director Chuck Russell, who aside from his action films, like Eraser and The Scorpion King, is also known for the 1988 remake of the 50's B-grade horror classic The Blob, is at it again. This time he has set his sights to revisit Piranha with a remake sometime this year, as reported last week by Variety.

While topping the original will be a tough road to travel, I have to admit, I'm more than a little curious to see where this project goes. Borrowing a phrase: Stay Tuned

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Odds And Ends

The People Have Spoken

The The People's Choice Awards for 2005 were handed out last night on CBS. I didn't watch any of the ceremony though. I was too busy enjoying 2 all new episodes of Scrubs instead and then decided to watch a few episodes of the original version of The Twilight Zone on DVD, rather than tune in late. For a list of the winners in the film categories (as well as the others), click here.

Who knew that Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge Of The Sith could be classified as a drama? I sure don't think of it that way. But okaaay...

Sequel Squawk

Dark Horizons has posted a few news items with info on several film franchises. We can expect a second visit to the Hostel, another Narnia, and a third Fast And The Furious, among others.

Coming Attractions On The Last Reel

I'm working on DVD reviews of Red Eye and Into The Blue. Watch for them to appear soon

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

May I Help You?

Most moviegoers either love or hate the work of director Kevin Smith--there's virtually no middle ground. I am one of those who enjoy his work very much. Given that, I am looking forward to his latest film...Clerks 2.

As someone who spent time toiling away working for various retail outlets for a few years, I really identified with the original from '94 and its characters and situations. As a member of Generation X, the film highlighted some of the cold realities that I faced back then in a humorous way. Smith has posted the teaser trailer for the sequel, that gives us a first glimpse of what to expect from the film when it opens later this year. I can't wait.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nose To Nose

The National Society Of Film Critics have chosen Bennett Miller's biopic Copote as the best film of 2005.

In a real squeaker, the film, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the infamous author of In Cold Blood, which was adapted for the big screen in 1967, beat out David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence by just one vote. This was the closest vote in the 40 year history of the panel.

Wow! Before the results were announced, I expected either Munich or Brokeback Mountain to take top honors...Given all of the attention both films are getting. Kudos to A History Of Violence (a true "Dark Horse") for making such a strong showing...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Becoming Hostel

Brandon Gray, of Box Office Mojo has posted the preliminary numbers for this week's derby at the box office. After a few weeks going toe to toe for number one, both The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and King Kong were knocked out by the new horror flick from Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) called Hostel. With an estimated $20,100,000, the film easily ran away with the lead.

I have yet to see the movie, but by most of the accounts that I have heard about, it's a pretty gruesome flick. I am fan of the genre, so checking it out (probably as a rental) is a no brainier. Narnia comes in second with just under $15.5 million, while Kong rounds out the top three with some $12.5 million.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Are We Ready...?

During a commercial break of the NFC Wild Card football game, between the Washington Redskins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I watched online, the teaser trailer for Flight 93- a movie that recounts 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 took matters into their own hands and sacrificed themselves for a greater good.

The trailer is quite simple, yet it managed to stir me up, and the viewing was more emotional than I thought it would be. Hearing recreations of the scenario as they play out certainly is...something. Directed by Paul Greengrass, the film, is sure to have everyone talking, when its released on April 28th, 2006.

Director Oliver Stone is also making a film about 2 New Jersey Port Authority workers, who were trapped beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center collapse on that day. His film is set to open in the Fall.

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.

From The "Mouse House"

Dark Horizons has posted the 2006 slate for Walt Disney Pictures:

I can't wait for Pirates Of The Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest. The first film in the series was a lot of fun and very well made. Based on the popular theme park ride of the same name, as long as the script for this sequel is good, everything else should fall into place nicely. Actor Tim Allen has a Disney double feature this year--a remake of The Shaggy Dog from 1959. The trailer for the new version looks decent enough. And then later in the year he's back for the third Santa Clause film. Cars brings screen legend Paul Newman back to the movies, while Glory Road and Goal! (delayed from last year), are this year's "feel good" sports films from the mouse house. Eight Below is based on a true story of survival in the Antarctic, and Annapolis is the backdrop for yet another inspirational tale. But the biggest question of the slate? Can actor/director Mel Gibson make as much of a splash with Apocalypto as he did with The Passion of the Christ ? And will it be as controversial?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Guide To The Guilds

The Director's Guild Of America has announced their 2005 nominees for Best Director Of The Year:

Bennett Miller for Capote

Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain

Paul Haggis for Crash (read my review here)

George Clooney for Good Night, And Good Luck

Steven Spielberg for Munich

Even if I had seen all of the 5 nominated films on the list, I still would want to see Haggis pull an upset as the underdog, among them. Crash is an excellent movie that deserves all of the attention it can get.

The Writers Guild Of America has announced their 2005 nominations for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay:

Original Screenplay

Cinderella Man - screenplay by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman, with a story by Hollingsworth

Crash-screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, story by Haggis

The 40 Year Old Virgin-written by Judd Apatow & Steve Carell

Good Night, and Good Luck.-written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov

The Squid and the Whale-written by Noah Baumbach

Adapted Screenplay

Brokeback Mountain-screenplay by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, based on the short story by Annie Proulx

Capote - screenplay by Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke

The Constant Gardener- screenplay by Jeffrey Caine, based on the novel by John le Carre

A History of Violence - screenplay by Josh Olson, based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke

Syriana - written by Stephen Gaghan, the book "See No Evil" by Robert Baer

In the Original Screenplay category, I was pleased to see that they mixed it up a bit, by including Virgin, among the heavier dramas that usually populate the list every year. In the Adapted Screenplay category, A History of Violence as a graphic novel is a great read--I have yet to see the film and how well it translated on film though. The honor will most likely go to one of the other, more "mainstream" efforts on the list.

The Screen Actors Guild announced their 2005 nominees as well...

The SAG awards honor work in both film and television. Here is a list of film actors nominated:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Russell Crowe / CINDERELLA MAN – Jim Braddock (Universal Pictures)

Philip Seymour Hoffman / CAPOTE – Truman Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)

Heath Ledger / BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Ennis Del Mar (Focus Features)

Joaquin Phoenix / WALK THE LINE – John R. Cash (20th Century Fox)

David Strathairn / GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. – Edward R. Murrow (Warner Independent Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Judi Dench / MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS – Mrs. Laura Henderson (The Weinstein Company)

Felicity Huffman / TRANSAMERICA – Bree (The Weinstein Company)

Charlize Theron / NORTH COUNTRY – Josey Aimes (Warner Bros.)

Reese Witherspoon / WALK THE LINE – June Carter (20th Century Fox)

Ziyi Zhang / MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA – Sayuri (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Don Cheadle / CRASH – Graham (Lions Gate Films)

George Clooney / SYRIANA – Bob Barnes (Warner Bros.)

Matt Dillon / CRASH – Officer Ryan (Lions Gate Films)

Paul Giamatti / CINDERELLA MAN – Joe Gould (Universal Pictures)

Jake Gyllenhaal / BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Jack Twist (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams / JUNEBUG – Ashley (Sony Pictures Classics)

Catherine Keener/ CAPOTE – Nelle Harper Lee (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)

Frances McDormand / NORTH COUNTRY – Glory (Warner Bros.)

Rachel Weisz / THE CONSTANT GARDENER – Tessa Quayle (Focus Features)

Michelle Williams / BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Alma (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


CAPOTE (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)

CRASH (Lions Gate Films)

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. (Warner Independent Pictures)

HUSTLE & FLOW (Paramount Classics)

No real surprises here...except that Chris “Ludacris” Bridges made the list twice in the best film cast category, for both Crash and Hustle & Flow. Now that's quite a feat.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And The OSCAR Host Is...

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced in a press release that Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, will emcee this year's telecast on March 5th 2006.

While I'm not a regular viewer of his regular TV gig, I think Stewart is very funny, and makes for an inspired choice. He does have his work cut out for him though...following in the footsteps of Billy Crystal and the greatest Oscar host of all time...the legendary Johnny Carson.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Are You Feeling Blu (Ray)?

The next "battle" of the format war is here--The details courtesy of IMDB's Studio Briefing from today:

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Tuesday announced the first 20 titles that it will release in high definition for its Blu-ray Disc system. They will be released as soon as the first Blu-ray players hit the market in the spring. Among the titles are The Fifth Element, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Desperado, For a Few Dollars More, The Guns of Navarone, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, Kung Fu Hustle, The Last Waltz, Legends of the Fall, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Robocop, Sense and Sensibility, Stealth, Species, SWAT and XXX. The company also said that, in the future, it plans to release high-definition versions of all movies being put out on conventional DVD. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment said today that it, too, plans to release 20 films in the Blu-ray format this spring. The films, it said, will include Fantastic Four, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Behind Enemy Lines, Kiss of the Dragon and Ice Age. In a statement company president Mike Dunn said, "The release of our films on Blu-ray will provide consumers with in-home entertainment beyond anything they have imagined."
Dunn's statement...Hype or Reality? Only time will tell...

Ocean Breeze Or Ill Wind..?

Variety is reporting that plans are underway for a third Ocean's 11 film in this heist-themed franchise.

I really liked the the first movie, from 2001, which captured the "spirit" of the original film from 1960, that starred every body's favorite swingers--The Rat Pack. The follow up--Ocean's 12 , from 2004, wasn't nearly as much fun. Given that, it will be interesting to see if...1) all of the cast returns for a third time. And 2) if the premise can be given a "fresh coat of paint" to justify a third go round.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Getting Off "Cheap"

Brandon Gray, of Box Office Mojo has posted the latest numbers in the ongoing derby between the current players jockeying for the coveted top film in the land. Over the extended holiday weekend that ended yesterday, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe edged out King Kong by a mere $1.2 million. The two epic fantasy films have been running neck and neck for the past 3 weeks or so.

Meanwhile, my final movie-going experience of 2005 turned out to be Cheaper By The Dozen 2, a better than expected follow-up to the 2003 remake of the original film from 1950. The sequel brings back Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and the rest of the "Baker Clan" as they take one last family vacation together before a few of the older birds leave the nest. When a rival family, led by Eugene Levy, makes an issue of the Baker's parenting skills, this means war...The film is lightweight fluff that has oodles of charm and fun--despite a predictable-sit-com like script. Hunt gets off the film's funniest lines, as Levy and Martin are in charge of pulling off the physical comedy.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Preview Of Super Set Visits...And A Warning

As I recover from an all too short, but still great trip to visit friends in Boston to ring in the new year, it appears that I'm not the only one who has been traveling...

Back in August, Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons was granted "unprecedented access" on the Superman Returns set, during a multi-day visit. Throughout the first half of 2006, Franklin will document his trip with a series of reports. You can read his preview of the trip here.

Other online media outlets that were also granted visitation access to the production last Summer include:

*Superhero Hype!
*Comic Book Resources
*IGN Filmforce

I will be providing my own commentary on all of this coverage for the film as events warrant.

And...The Movie Reporter has posted MAJOR SPOILERS from a "reliable source" about the plot of Superman Returns. CONSIDER YOURELF WARNED...