Friday, October 20, 2006
Well true-believers, it's kind of a hodge-podge entry today. I'm not doing one of my patented exhaustive essays (*A sigh of relief emanates from the peanut gallery*). No, rather I'm holding true to my promise last Friday of covering the new releases. I'll do that and then throw in a little bit of info about that troubling Live Free And Die Hard project. Seems, my earlier optimism over Jeffrey Wright is short-lived. I'll get to that in a bit, but first let's get to the new releases!!!
Now, the most exciting release this week (In my humble opinion) is Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. Nolan is a director I can trust. A real mensch as they say. This is a guy who knocked one out of the park on his first try and considered that a warm-up! Now, enough gushing like a school-girl, I'll stop spouting inane analogies and tell you why this guy deserves the benefit of the doubt about where your $8.50 belongs this weekend.
Let's hop in a time-machine and take a little trip back to 2000. A great year, it twas! A year in which X-Men re-energized the long dormant comic-book movie! A year in which Cameron Crowe stole our hearts and made us reach for the Kleenex with Almost Famous! It was also the year that gave us Dude, Where's Me Car?, a film that still inspires homicidal anger within me... It was also the year that young Mr. Nolan gave us the indie-masterpiece Memento. Now... If you haven't seen Memento stop reading this and run down to your local video store and rent it. It'll blow yer socks off! Okay... I SAID GO! Anyways, Nolan showed in his first film that this was a guy who was gonna be big! And he was... later! First, he put out Insomnia, with Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. It was a medium-sized hit, and a good movie, however it's sort of vanished into time. Nolan was back in 2005, though, silencing all doubts that there could be a Batman movie as good as Tim Burton's '89 film (Though, c'mon, will anyone EVER top the '66 Adam West one? I seriously doubt it. "Salt and corrosion! The two oldest enemies of the crime-fighter!" *Chuckles to self*). Yep, Batman Begins proved Nolan was here to stay! Now, he gives us The Prestige!
I can't tell you much about it, other than that it's about dueling magicians. That's really all I can get from the ads, which is great! I'm so tired of trailers giving everything away. They completely ruined the subtle element of surprise Scary Movie 3 was going for! Anyhoo, all the ladies will love this one! Hugh Jackman! Christian Bale! Michael Caine! David Bowie ("ZIGGY!")! All in period costume! The guys will have to settle for Scarlett Johansson (I know, I know, it's rough...). Plus, Nolan's promising tricks, turns and twists and the whole nine-yards! It looks great, sounds cool, and it'll be next ticket purchase.
Now, moving on to the next release, we have Flags Of Our Fathers, the story behind the Iwo Jima flag-raising. I think this one'll be damn nifty! First off, Clint Eastwood is on a real hot streak following Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Second, it's written my Paul Haggis, writer of Million Dollar Baby, and writer/director of last years Best Picture winner Crash. Now, that's a dynamic duo! Early word of mouth has been strong, if a little underwhelming. Unfortunately, ol' Spielberg had to make Saving Private Ryan in '98 and every war movie since has had to compete with it. I hear it's well acted (Apparently Ryan Phillippe and Adam Beach give career-best performances), and the war scenes are incredible. Guaranteed to be a very good movie, though a great one? You'll have to see for yourself. I definitely will be checking it out. The cool part is that if this one rocks, we get the companion film Letters From Iwo Jima (It tells the Japanese side of the story) in February.
By the way, sorry about the crappy pixilation on the poster for Flags. I couldn't find a half-decent usable one in all of cyberspace! Damn you Clint! Probably laughin' it up with that wacky orangutan of yours! Any Which Way You Can indeed...
Now... Where was I... Oh, right! New releases! Okay, this brings us to the final exciting release of the week. That's right folks; I'm talking about Marie Antoinette. You may have heard about it earlier in the year when it was booed at the Cannes film festival. I have a feeling that had more with the French's feelings about a revisionist portrait of their beloved monarch than over the quality of the film. Drector Sophia Coppola has a 50/50 score with me thus far. I really enjoyed Lost In Translation, but found The Virgin Suicides to be pretentious and dull. So, I'm eager to see where this one lands. I'm also interested in seeing how the two main leads handle themselves. Kirsten Dunst, when she's on top of her game, is among the best young actresses out there. The bigger curiosity, though, is Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman excels in playing loopy characters (Watch Rushmore or I Heart Huckabees to see what I mean!). This all makes Antoinette more interesting to me than I would have initially guessed. So, for all of you complaining about a lack of variety in movies nowadays, it's undoubtedly different from anything else currently playing...
Okay, there's your releases. I've made my calls; the rest is up to you to figure out how your hard-earned cash is spent! Just promise to rent Memento if you haven't seen it. You'll thank me later.
Okay, now to kill a rumor that I really had my hopes riding on... As you may recall in a past entry, Jeffrey Wright was scheduled to face off against John McClane in Live Free Or Die Hard (That's not the real poster. I just wanted to show some support to the fan who mocked up that nifty fake promo poster. Yep, someone with as much spare time as me! Represent!). Well, my initial shock proved correct. Jeffrey Wright will have nothing to do with this sagging franchise. Oh, Lenny Wiseman, what are you gonna do? Well, I'll tell you what he did! He cast his villain! So, now it looks like Timothy Olyphant (Scream 2, HBO's Deadwood, Go - Pictured below) will be matching wits with the famously dogged cop. Now, I think Olyphant is a fine choice. He ain't Wright (Pardon the pun), but he has a crazed energy that may pay off. He's also an actor who, I've long felt, is one break away from being BIG. So, Here! Here!, Mr. Beckinsale you've potentially done good. Oh, before I forget, on the less cool side (Bad Lenny!), he's hired Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sky High - Pictured below) to play McClane's daughter. I'm guessing that's the role that Britney was vying for so many moons ago... I'm iffy on teenage sidekicks and this one sorta concerns me... Consider this project up one point for the Olyphant casting and down a point for the teeny-bopper casting. So, we're pretty much back where we started.
Frankly though, I wish this franchise had just ended with Die Hard With A Vengeance. It proved to be a disappointment and I'm concerned this one will be too.
_____________________________________________________________________________________ Hey, just a quick shout out to a new trailer that looks promising. It's an atmospheric looking film noir called The Good German. If great cinematography isn't your bag, well look at the pedigree: directed by Steve Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean's 11 & 12) with George Clooney (Batman & Robin, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes), Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man films, Cider House Rules) and Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Lord Of The Rings). It looks groovy, so check out the trailer:
Okay folks, sorry for the insanely long entry. Patience testing, I know. Blame it on a Friday release schedule far more eventful than the norm!
Anyways, I'm off on a road trip with two buddies of mine. The mission: mischief! So hold on to your seatbelts cuz Clint, Clyde and I are going EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE!
Sing it if ya know it!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Now, I'm not just annoyed that Bruce Lee's being guided from the grave to the cinema by the man who has, at every turn, produced mediocre-to-crappy films. No, what I find extremely tiring is this popular trend of resurrecting long dead actors and putting them in films or commercials which, had they been alive, they would have seriously distanced themselves from. It used to be that when actors died, their filmographys were closed. Not the case anymore! God bless CGI!
The whole darn thing started a few years back. I don't know how many of you recall the infamous Diet Coke ad featuring Gene Kelly? It may have raised some ire, but nowhere near as much as the 1996 Fred Astaire Super Bowl commercial... The one where they altered footage from Royal Wedding to make it appear that Mr. Astaire was cutting the rug with a Dirt Devil vacuum? It was quite controversial at the time, raising great fury from a large number of film fans. Interestingly, sales on Dirt Devil's fell following the airing of the advertisement. You would think that would cause advertisers to realize the trend was a bad idea; however we would then be overestimating the intelligence of corporate advertising teams. No, the future brought us Lucille Ball shilling for Service Merchandise and Marilyn Monroe hawking cosmetics, just to name a few. Recently, Audrey Hepburn started dancing in Gap ads. It didn't stop in the ads though; soon they were popping up in films too!
A few years ago there was a pretty forgettable movie called Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. Visually, it was amazing. Story-wise, it was a big ol' bore. It starred Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and er... Sir Laurence Olivier. Yes, Mr. Olivier (left) decided (Well actually the guardians of his image decided) that the role of the maniacal Totenkopf would fit nicely into his already amazing filmography. It's too impressive to note two or three examples, so check it out at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000059/. What was supposed to be the big surprise of the movie was instead more of a "what the hell is this?" moment. The whole thing was done rather poorly, using CG-manipulated archival footage, showing Olivier on a blurry computer screen speaking lines that sounded strangely disconnected to each other. His forced participation in the film had no impact and made little sense.
Now, there is a grey area to this whole ridiculous trend. Nobody (including myself) was enraged by Marlon Brando reprising his role as Kal-el in Superman Returns, or a whole slew of people popping up in Forrest Gump. In my own opinion, what made these scenes acceptable was the fact that it didn't pervert the celebrity's images or force them into new roles in which they have little say. Brando's scenes were simply outtakes from his initial appearance in 1978's Superman: The Movie. They were respectful to the the original work and didn't alter the performance to fit something new. The same goes for the scenes with Forrest Gump. The celebrities were shown great respect and didn't have their images tarnished.
Now this brings us to Mr. Lee's role in Rob Cohen's future opus. Bruce Lee has never played the role that he will be portraying. They will be using technology to force a performance out of an actor no longer able to display proper emotions. It's creepy and strange. It also shows little respect from Lee's family. In an attempt for a cash grab they're dishonoring Lee's right to be left to rest. Now, I realize that Cohen (right) has an in with the family. He directed the acceptable biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story back in '93. It was decent, though took pretty serious liberties with the man's life (I doubt Lee fought as many ancient demons in real life...). So, I understand the family's willingness to trust him. That said, Cohen has proven himself to be a technically proficient hack. A director who can make films that look good, but are hollow exercises in shallow action. His biggest contribution to the industry has been making Paul Walker and Vin Diesel famous. Now, I've enjoyed some of Diesel and Walker's films, but they ain't exactly De Niro and Pacino... Closer to Lundgren and Guttenberg actually... (Come to think of it, what happened to Steve Guttenberg? I've always considered Short Circuit to be an underrated gem... "Johnny 5 is alive!") Anyways, back to Cohen. Now, certain director's may have the tact and talent to use some form of a Bruce Lee recreation (I'm not saying they should, mind you!), but this clown ain't one of them. Has the Lee family watched Stealth? Or what about The Skulls (Which co-starred Walker)? Yeegads!
I'm still going to consider Bruce Lee's final film to be Game Of Death. I don't care what perversion Cohen and his monkey-boys cook up in the lab; it won't be Lee in Rage & Fury. No, it'll merely be a special-effects creation on the same level as Dobby, Gollem, or Jar Jar Binks. It may look and sound the same, but the soul of the man is long gone and no empty effects exercise can fill in.
Mother of Pearl! You don't see many days with news as moronic as the above stories. I hope something big happens with Spiderman 3 or Iron Man in the near future cuz I'm tired of complaining...
Go out and rent a Guttenberg film and bring about some sort of Guttenberg resurgence. Maybe then I'll get my Short Circuit 3... Oh, Johnny 5, you card, you!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Today's kind of a slow news day. I wandered around my assorted entertainment news sites looking for something that would inspire another momentous blog entry. I had pretty much given up, but then I stumbled across a story over at www.ew.com. The article was in regard to the panic and apprehension surrounding Apocalypto, and Gibson's recent attempts to make amends for his late summer drunk-driving arrest and the anti-Semitic comments it inspired.
The story is another example of how a celebrity's dysfunction can be used as advertising. I have heard more about Mel's arrest and recent chat with Diane Sawyer than anything regarding Apocalpto. I 've read about all I can take of these arranged quick fixes that are supposed to convince me that "It's okay! He's cured now! You can see his movies again!" I'm sorry; Mel Gibson has had a long history of substance abuse. He also had an upbringing that pretty much guaranteed some racist leanings (Gibson's father is a known Holocaust-denier). He's going to be facing these problems for likely the rest of his life. Long-rooted dysfunctions take long periods of therapy and rehabilitation to overcome, even for movie stars. This is why I find it insulting to my intelligence that we're being bombarded with his quick-cures in an attempt to market something. I would have been interested in Apocalypto no matter what.
Now, I should make it clear that I don't condone Gibson's actions and can understand why people would be hurt by his words. But why is it only a concern when it's thrown in our face? Gibson's radical right leanings haven't been a secret to anyone for decades! Yet, as soon as it makes the national news it causes people to rise up in shock and boycott the star's films. People don't realize that stars are susceptible to the same flaws that everyone else is. They are just as likely to be screwed up, politically incorrect or troubled as the rest of us. Probably even more so, since they operate in cocoons, out of touch with the majority of society. Why do we judge the artist before the art?
Take a look at Vincent van Gogh. Most agree that he was pretty much a loon. He also created some of the most beloved (and valuable) art in the world. Now, in that case we can say that he wasn't appreciated until long after he expired. Okay, how about Michael Jackson? Now, he's always been crazy. His childhood pretty much ensured that. But does that mean we shouldn't buy copies of Thriller? Does that mean that anything he creates should be disregarded as the works of a disturbed individual? Hate to break it to ya; the majority of art is created by people who aren't quite all there. There is a strong correlation between artistic ability and irregular brain activity. We should remember that actors are included in this lot, no matter how perfect they seem on screen.
This summer I watched Mission: Impossible III fail to live up to expectations, despite the fact that it was one of the best popcorn flicks of the summer. Apparently the public JUST realized that Tom Cruise was "crazy"! Well, my sister and I had that realization around 1996. That didn't stop me from watching his films with an open mind, however. The man makes a lot of good movies. I don't really care if he has an unusual view of the world or a seemingly bizzare relationship if he makes movies that entertain me. Mel Gibson has created good movies for almost three decades. Are his future films suddenly not worth our time due to his political beliefs and behavior? Why is it that that Gibson is vilified, while Brad Pitt receives cheers of support for allegedly cheating on his wife? Why do Jack Nicholson or Colin Farrell get free passes for their famously promiscuous lifestyles? Yes, I realize the seriousness behind Gibson's statements, but why is it preferable from a moral standpoint to cheat on one's wife than drunkenly utter racist statements?
The biggest problem in all this is the media. Yeah, it's become a cliche to blame them, but let's face it: they love to create drama by poisoning the image of a particularly loved individual. Sadly, we love to listen. It makes me wonder if many of our greatest stars, notoriously flawed or troubled people like Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins or Anthony Quinn, would make the same impact today under the ever-present media eye and the public's eager willingness to judge others. I have my doubts. It's not enough to have talent; you also have to be willing to bury your flaws.
It has to be said that I greatly look forward to Apocalypto. I really admired Gibson's Passion Of The Christ and am eagerly awaiting his detailed account of Mayan life. I will also continue to see Gibson's future films. I hope those of you who read this are willing to watch Apocalypto, or Tom Cruise's next project, with an open mind. Do your best to ignore the stars' talk-show confessionals and concentrate on the reason they are famous in the first place. Just because you don't agree with them personally does not make their art dismissible. Remember that 50 years from now, it's the films that will be re-visited and remembered, not the personal drama.
Well, I wasn't going to put a B-story on today's entry, but there is a bit of info circulating about a project that is guaranteed to be a huge hit... Hugh Jackman, currently doing press for the nifty looking Prestige, has let it leak that the X-Men spin-off Wolverine is gonna be underway pretty darn soon. Jackman indicated that the Daniel Benioff (25th Hour, Troy) written script is "fantastic". No director announcement yet, but the film will be a prequel to the X-films and cover Wolverine's role in the Weapon-X program, as well as his relationship with the evil mutant Sabretooth. Rumors are circulating that Juggernaut, Lady Deathstrike and Silver Samurai may appear. I was a little disappointed with The Last Stand (Though it played much better on second viewing on DVD), but am excited by the prospect of this film. It's cool that Jackman wants to continue making films about the character and I hope we get some serious berserker moments.
Well, that's it on this end.... Oh, I forgot!...
...By the way, after realizing how lousy the title of my blog is, I've refined it! That's right! Gone are the days of the 20+ word title of which I can barely remember (I think "crazy" and "world" were in there...)! Now, it's plain 'ol Cam's Pop-Culture Episodes. Simple. To the point. Easy to relate to your friends *hint hint*. So yeah, not very exciting, but there ya go.
Exelsior! ...And whatnot...