It’s easy to be skeptical about that Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes fluid exchange that’s supposedly happening, according to Cruise’s publicist (and sister) Lee Anne DeVette. My first instinct was to paraphrase Woody Allen and call it “a sham of a mockery of a mockery of a sham.” And I lurrrve Kyle Smith’s analysis of why it all seems like staged bullshit. Of course, people always hook up because they believe the other person will do something for their life or career, and Cruise and Holmes are naturally thinking along these lines. But I don’t believe it’s complete theatre. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but a person in a position to know once told me that the Tom-and-Nicole thing was fairly genuine…emotionally, anyway. You have to guard against being too cynical in this town, but I have to say I laughed out loud at that recent comment about that Cruise-Holmes appearance in Rome on Defamer, to wit: “Excuse us while we figure out a way to press our naked eyeballs onto the burners on the electric stove.”
There will be, it appears, at least a mild titillation factor for Stanley Kubrick fans in Brian Cook’s Color Me Kubrick. The story’s about a real-life guy named Alan Conway (John Malkovich) who went around London telling everyone he was Kubrick and getting away with it, to some extent…even though he didn’t look much like him. But the teaser on the film’s website (which has nothing on it except the teaser, which raises red flags right off the bat) feels a bit lame…it doesn’t say anything other than the fact that Conway pretended to be Kubrick, etc. And that Conway was gay. No twist, no angularity, no cushion shot of any kind. Something deep down is telling me the movie is underbaked. Maybe it’s the incest angle, since both Cook and screenwriter Anthony Frewin worked for Kubrick (Cook as an assistant director on Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut, Frewin as a personal assistant). The French trailer says it’ll open in France on 5.4.05, so I guess I’ll be able to take a train to Nice during the Cannes Film Festival and pay to see it in a regular theatre. If anyone in England has seen Kubrick or knows if it’ll be shown at a “market” screening on the rue d’Antibes, please let me know. I’d like these premonitions I’m feeling to be proved wrong.
Kevin Smith has seen Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and LOVES IT. (he’s posted an early review, with spoilers, on his website.) Can this really be? After Willow, Howard the Duck, and the atrocious last two Star Wars flicks, can Lucas really be poised for redemption? Part of me wants to believe. (“Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”) The rest of me remembers the unforgivable acting in “Attack of the Clones” and prepares for seppuku. I think fans should plan a massive Jonestown-like suicide party, just in case it does suck. Can you imagine the coverage of the line of stormtrooper corpses piled in front of the WRONG THEATER? Silent Bob’s review gives me hope, though. “You’re all clear, George! Now let’s blow this thing and go home.”
A few days ago a story about alleged right-wing disdain for Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox, 5.6) appeared in the London Times. **
The paper’s L.A. correspondent John Harlow reported that “Christian hostility” to the film (the righties don’t like it that some of the Crusaders are portrayed as selfish and “mean-spirited,” and they really don’t like it that Saladin, the Muslim military leader, is portrayed in “chivalrous” terms) may prove “damaging” at the box office.
Orlando Bloom during relatively early scene in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.
Harlow wrote that “a spate of hostile reviews are due to appear in the increasingly influential religious press this week [that] will urge America’s 80 million born-again believers to avoid the $130 million film.”
Trust me — the righties are loony. One of the things I admire about Kingdom of Heaven is that it doesn’t draw crude stereotypes and is fairly even-handed in its portrayals of Christians and Muslims. Christian foam-at-the-mouth views about this are agenda-driven and skewed.
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I wonder, in any case, if fans of The Passion of the Christ care all that much about the reputations of Christian Crusaders? As Revolution Pictures exec (and former 20th Century Fox distribution chief) Tom Sherak says, “That [Times] story is interesting but you know something? If people want to go to a movie, they’re going to go to it.”
And yet it’s significant, I feel, that the right-wing Christians vs. Kingdom of Heaven story is being seen as some kind of good thing. Controversy creates curiosity and leads to ticket sales, etc.
Others suspect it may be a case of too little, too late. The fact is that Ridley Scott’s big-budget epic — a beautifully made, epic-styled drama about the Muslim siege of the Christian-defended Jerusalem in the 12th Century — is looking to number-watchers and data crunchers like a passable performer, at best.
Before I get into this, let me say one thing: forget all this crap and just go. If you’re a fan of fine pageant-level filmmaking, Kingdom of Heaven is an essential. What do you care what others think?
That said, I think it’s fair to ask, as other journalists have done, whether Kingdom of Heaven will do better domestically than Hollywood’s last three historical battle epics — Alexander, King Arthur and The Alamo — which all turned out to be duds.
Especially considering that Heaven opens only a week from today (5.6) and research data suggests that average-viewer interest isn’t where it should be.
How many people really know what Kingdom of Heaven is about, given that the basic story comes off as a bit vague in the trailers?
How many people out there give that much of a toss about the Crusades, or have a clue what they were about?
How big of a mainstream draw is the film’s star, Orlando Bloom? He rules with 15 year-old girls but does he mean anything to the 25-and-over crowd?
Is Kingdom going to be a Troy-styled success, with modest returns in the U.S. but double-sized or better grosses overseas?
Bloom and Kingdom costar Eva Green.
Ask around and opinions vary. Some marketing executives are pessimistic or doubtful; others are uncertain or mildly positive.
A senior marketing executive based at a major studio said a couple of days ago that audience interest in Kingdom of Heaven is, according to tracking data, not that great.
“It’s hard to say what [Fox marketing] could be doing differently at this point,” he said. “But if I were handling this film, I would definitely be very nervous at this point. It’s a difficult story line to communicate…the biggest problem they have is communicating that. But it’s not over until it’s over.”
“I don’t have any delusion that this movie is going to be a colossal blockbuster, but you’ve got to watch the numbers every day,” a seasoned box-office analyst said Friday morning. “If the numbers don’t move after this weekend, they’re in trouble. If they do move, they’ll be fine.”
Two days ago an executive from a marketing boutique agency said, “What’s making me happy about Kingdom of Heaven is that it seems to have a solid older audience, which means it’s the kind of film that won’t drop a lot. People are going to go to it over a period of weeks, and interest among the four quadrants — young males and females and older males and older females — is averaging about 39, which is fairly good. So I don’t think you can count ’em out.”
“Right now, this movie is positioned somewhere in between where Gladiator, King Arthur, Troy and The Last Samurai were,” said Sherak. “This movie is really about Ridley Scott. The question is, will it have any heat going into the marketplace next week? It isn’t Gladiator, but right now the numbers are solid.”
A veteran marketing executive disagrees. He says the film “is an ill-conceived project and it stars Orlando who? Think of Master and Commander without Russell Crowe. The title is lousy, the ending doesn’t work, the creative materials don’t tell you anything, they don’t have an advance-review campaign underway, it sounds like a three-snore picture and I’m telling you that the Fox people are worried sick.”
It was suggested during research on this story that I examine “comparables” to get an idea how Kingdom of Heaven is doing compared to the awareness and interest levels in Gladiator, King Arthur, Troy and The Last Samurai one week before their respective openings.
The figures come from a private industry tracking service called Cinesys, which provides its data to clients through National Research Group (NRG).
Based on telephone polling, it measures levels of unaided awareness (i.e., people knowing about a film without being told what its title is), general awareness, definite interest, and whether or not seeing this or that film is a first-choice selection.
As of today (Friday, 4.29), one week before opening, Kingdom of Heaven‘s unaided awareness is at 4%, general awareness is at 65 %, definite interest is at 40 % and 7% of the respondents called it a first-choice selection.
A marketing guy says, “One week from the opening and a 7% first choice for a movie of this cost and stature is toilet time, no matter how you look at it.”
One week before its 7.7.04 opening, King Arthur‘s unaided awareness was 4%, general awareness was at 76%, definite interest was at 48%, and 6% called it a first-choice selection. I don’t have the whole spreadsheet before me, but the IMDB says that King Arthur took in just over $51 million domestic.
The next three films had big stars in the lead role, so take these comparisons with a grain of salt.
One week before its 5.14.04 opening, Troy‘s unaided awareness was 17%, general awareness was 84%, definite interest was at 59%, and 18% called it a first-choice selection. Troy took in $133 million in the U.S., but the foreign totals were at least double that.
One week before its 5.5.00 opening, Gladiator‘s unaided awareness was 6%, general awareness was 75%, definite interest was 44%, and first choice was at 13%. It ended up with about $187 million domestic and a very healthy overseas gross.
One week before its 12.5.03 opening, The Last Samurai‘s unaided awareness levels were at 9%, general awareness was 81%, definite interest levels were at 42%, and first choice was at 6%. It was a groaner, but it wound up making $111 million domestic.
One way to build up interest in a high-profile film is to run advance rave reviews from major critics or get Time or Newsweek to run a feature story a week or two out. This hasn’t happened.
A friend tells me he heard a Kingdom of Heaven radio ad this morning that used a plug from CNN talk-show host Larry King. If that isn’t a sign of trouble, I don’t know what would be.
I disagree with the marketing veteran’s notion that Kingdom of Heaven ‘s ending doesn’t work.
I’ll repeat what I said in my 4.18 column: “Has there ever been a big expensive film about warring armies in which one side didn’t triumph absolutely? In which the loser wasn’t totally beaten down and slaughtered?
“I felt amazed and lifted up when this didn’t manifest…when life and sanity, in effect, is chosen over death and fanaticism.
And I think Orlando Bloom acquits himself in the lead role. Grimy and unshaven, he stands up and shoulders his responsibility like a man.
In the previous piece I called Heaven “a textural masterpiece” and “a big-canvas historical drama that dares to be different. It’s a complex and unusual thing… and what got me is the beauty of the brushstrokes. That and the avoidance of the usual usual.”
I’m seeing it again tonight and I`m looking very much forward to this. I only wish more people felt the same way.
There’s some kind of confusion about whether Focus on the Family film critic Bob Waliszewski is leading some kind of San Juan Hill charge against Kingdom of Heaven. It’s been suggested by Fox publicity sources that John Harlow of the London Times may not have it right, but I’m not sure either way because I can’t reach him.
In any case Fox sent me a statement from Bob Smithouser, editor of a site called Plugged In, which casts doubt upon the Waliszewski angle:
“Due to one journalist’s recent misrepresentation of Bob Waliszewski’s comments regarding the new Ridley Scott film Kingdom of Heaven, some people have been misled to believe that Focus on the Family is rallying forces against the movie. That’s simply not true.”
“Mr. Scott’s film about the Crusades actually deserves credit for carefully avoiding the wholesale vilification of either Christians or Muslims. While people of faith may object to individual moments, statements or characters in Kingdom of Heaven, the movie is not extreme or malicious, and we are content to let it succeed or fail on its own merits.”
This has no bearing on the marketing data aspects of my lead article about Kingdom of Heaven. I could rewrite the damn thing and just cut out the right-wing stuff at the beginning, but it’s easier to do it this way…for now.
I absolutely swear to God there’s a great-looking Warner Home Video DVD of Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) hitting stores a week from Tuesday (5.10).
It has terrific monochrome values, I mean…sharp and super-clarified and almost color-like in their fullness.
There’s only one problem: WHV technicians have cropped the image too tightly and presented it in what looks to me like a 1.85 (or 1.78) to 1 aspect ratio, with too many hairdos and foreheads sliced into for no reason.
A Face in the Crowd was photographed by Harry Stradling, who started out in the 1920s, shot A Streetcar Named Desire and ended his career working on a string of ’60s Barbra Streisand movies, including Funny Girl and Hello Dolly.
An early scene from Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, presented with an overly severe aspect ratio (seemingly 1.85 to 1) on an upcoming (5.10) Warner Home Video DVD. Notice the top of the frame scissoring into Andy Griffith’s pompadour.
Trust me when I say that old-fashioned guys like Stradling never used the top of the frame to crop into people’s heads, unless there was an emotional or compositional point to be made by doing so.
DVDs of almost all non-Scope movies shot in the 1950s and ’60s should
be presented with 1.66 to 1 aspect ratios. I don’t care if the dp on a certain ’50s or ’60s film composed the shots with an expectation that 1.85 aperture plates would be used in theatres (because 1.85 was being used back then) — just use 1.66 and don’t think about it and don’t get creative and just shut up.
That is, except for special-dispensation films like Shane and Dr. Strangelove, which look much better when presented with a full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33 or 1.37 to 1.
MGM/UA Home Video’s DVD of John Frankenheimer’s The Train does it right. There’s a perfect sense of balance and proportion in every shot, and here are no scenes with anyone’s hair or forehead sliced into except when this kind of shot is appropriate and intended.
“Repeat after me, Kill Bill fans: Referentiality itself is not an intrinsic aesthetic value. Empty referentiality, going through the motions, doesn’t make a motion picture, give cinema the gift of sight….or insight.” So goes Ron Rosenbaum’s very astute piece about cheaply referential films in the 5.23.05 edition of the New York Observer. Quentin Tarantino’s martial-arts flick “was the perfect epitome of and metaphor for what I would like to call ‘The Cinema of Pretentious Stupidity,'” he continues. “The idea that ceaseless tedious references to obscure martial-arts movies known mainly by video-store geeks adds up to art. I’ve heard so many defenses of Kill Bill that depend on the apparently marvelous and unheard-of-before wonder of its referentiality. Dude, just because you make a reference — or many references — doesn’t make it meaningful or worth four hours of our time.”
On Tuesday afternon I saw a DVD of Paul Schrader’s Exorcist prequel flick, which has been titled as Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist. Warner Bros. will release it on May 20, and it’s about friggin’ time.
Do I have to recount the whole Exorcist mishegoss over the last two or three years? Are there people who haven’t read about Morgan Creek’s James Robinson shelving the Schrader because he felt it wasn’t scary or pea-soupy enough, and then hiring Renny Harlin to shoot a slicker, aimed-at-the-youth-market version, blah blah?
Stellan Skarsgard (r.), star of Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist, and costar Billy Crawford (l.) in burning demonic possession mode.
The story of the Schrader version, which was shot between late ’02 and early ’03, coming back from the dead and finding release is in this week’s Entertainment Weekly , in a “News and Notes” article by Missy Schwartz.
What I have to say may not muss your hair and knock you out of your chair, but it’s the truth. Schrader’s version is the better film.
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By that I mean smarter and more grounded and being actually about something. It’s one of Schrader’s most thematically satisfying films, and there’s a caring and compassionate tone in the third act that feels unusual coming from the writer of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Hardcore and American Gigolo.
Okay, it has a couple of lumpy elements (one or two CG shots that don’t quite cut it, a lead female performance by Clara Bellar that feels stiff and awkward), but nothing to throw you off the rails.
The Schrader isn’t as juiced as the Harlin and it doesn’t have Izabella Scorupco (who has, for me, a close-to-breathtaking shower scene in the latter), but the Schrader is so much fuller and richer and more rooted than the Harlin it’s not even funny. It’s an actual movie, as opposed to a thrill-ride reel.
And the star of both films, Stellan Skarsgard, delivers a tenderer, more expressive performance in the Schrader version. His acting actually left me feeling emotional allegiance and admiration for a Catholic priest character, which I frankly haven’t gotten from any theatre-viewed film since…well, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist .
When I see a priest in a movie, I usually think “pederast alert!” or “okay, here comes the obligatory guy-who-doesn’t-get-it” or something along these lines. Schrader’s film manages to punch through all this and come up with a real hero in Skarsgard’s Lankaster Merrin, a Dutch priest who will eventually grow old and turn into Max von Sydow and meet up with Linda Blair and die of a heart attack in her refrigerated bedroom.
I saw the Schrader after watching Harlin’s Exorcist The Beginning, which came out last August and hit the DVD shelves on 3.1.05. I never bothered to see the Harlin, and I probably wouldn’t have even rented it on DVD if it hadn’t been for the arrival of the Schrader.
I have to say that I half-liked the Harlin…at first. Because it’s so beautifully photographed (by the great Vittorio Storaro, who also shot the Schrader version) and because it has that expensive texture and accelerated rhythm and feeling of sublime polish that big-budget films always have because people are somehow comforted by them (as I was myself, to a limited extent).
But it gradually gets worse and worse (i.e., stupider, tackier, more desperate) and by the time it’s over it’s hard not to hate it.
The Harlin is a better cheap-high movie than the Schrader, granted, but in what kind of perverse universe do we applaud cheap highs?
If you go to the Schrader saying, “Okay, I want to see some really cool stuff I can talk about with my friends later on,” you may be disappointed. In fact, I was a tiny bit disappointed…at first. But it gets better and better, and by the time it’s in the home stretch it’s paying off on a fairly profound level.
There are loads of similarities between the two films, and a few key differences.
The Schrader takes place in 1947. The Harlin happens in 1949. Don’t ask why. Even Schrader, whom I spoke to this morning, says he doesn’t have a clue.
Both films are about how Merrin re-connects with his belief in God and the righteous scheme of things after losing faith in just about everything after enduring a horrible Sophie’s Choice-like incident during World War II.
A German officer (played by the same actor in both films) is threatening to kill a large group of Dutch villagers if someone doesn’t confess to killing of a German soldier. He orders Merrin, the local Catholic priest, to select the guilty party…only one person at first, and then, after Merrin initially refuses, ten.
Schrader’s film begins with this episode, and is much more psychologically intriguing (by the virtue of being better written) than it is in the Harlin film, which flashes back to this episode in piecemeal fashion.
The Harlin film is totally shameless in having the German officer shoot an innocent little girl in the head. The Schrader isn’t any less traumatic than Harlin’s version, but it doesn’t feel like it’s exploiting a terrible situation.
Establishing title card in the Harlin version…
..and in the Schrader film.
The main story line of both films is about Merrin facing fundamental evil during an archeological dig in Kenya, where an ancient cathedral is being excavated…along with some long-buried demonic forces.
This unholy emergence not only forces Merrin to eventually confront a living devil, but to rediscover his lost faith…mainly, obviously, because it’s the only weapon that will work.
The Schrader is much more layered and ambivalent in some ways about the way native Africans regard the emissaries of Christianity. Some characters feel that Christianity is a bringer of a kind of plague. There is one male character, embittered about losing his son, who picks up a framed painting of Jesus Christ at one point and smashes it on a desk and then throws it to the ground.
And yet the conclusion of Schrader’s film is one of the most spiritually centered I’ve ever seen. Skarsgard’s Merrin is standing tall and firm and fully resolved about who he is and what he needs to do as a priest in order to fight evil. Merrin is also a priest again at the end of Harlin’s film, but the undercurrent isn’t as strong.
There’s a female doctor in the Schrader film played by Pellar. The doctor in the Harlin version is played by Scorupco, perhaps not in a fully believable way (female doctors are rarely this attractive, in my experience) but she’s still a better actress that Pellar. And her slightly-older-fashion-model, eastern-European quality (she’s Polish-born) is highly stimulating.
The great Izabella Scorupco in Harlin’s Exorcist: The Beginning
Scorupco’s breasts are (or should be) objects of sincere religious worship. They require abasement and groveling on the church floor. They made me feel born again, or do I mean newly born? Harlin deserves full credit for getting her shower scene just right.
Gabriel Mann plays a young and ardent Catholic priest in the Schrader version, but he is replaced by a somewhat less passionate, altogether less reliable priest, played by James D’Arcy in the Harlin.
There’s a local native guy named Chuma (played by Andrew French in both) who is Merrin’s closest and frankest ally. He seems more of a typical secondary character in the Harlin film, and a more intriguing and layered fellow in the Schrader version.
The Harlin film has a young African boy of about nine or ten falling victim to demonic possession. The possession host in the Schrader is a 20-something character named Cheche, played by pop star Billy Crawford. Sickly and spindly at first, his demonic inhabiting doesn’t turn him into a Linda Blair-type monster but an androgynous-like Hindu God figure with his physical maladies gone and his personality warped by ego, ferocity and manipulation.
Painting of Satan as it appears on buried cathedral walls in Harlin’s version.
Billy Crawford in Satan mode in Schrader’s film.
This is far, far more interesting than the usual possessed by Beelzebub or the demon Pazuzu or Izusu crap in the Harlin version.
On the DVD I saw, the Schrader version looks like it was shot in 1.85 (i.e., standard Academy ratio) and the Harlin version is clearly framed in 2.35 to 1.
Schrader said that his version was actually shot in Univision, a system devised by Stroraro which has a wider aspect ratio than 1.85, and will be projected in theatres as Scope.
Schrader’s is more political than Harlin’s in the character of some British troops. They are portrayed as seriously belligerent pissers in his version but they barely figure in the Harlin film, except for the suicide of a certain officer character. (He shoots himself in the mouth in both films.)
Skarsgard seems to weigh a bit more in the Schrader version. He might be ten or fifteen pounds lighter in the Harlin film. His hair might be a touch blonder and he even seems a bit tanner.
Slightly fuller-faced Sarsgard as he appears in Schrader’s film…
..and as he appears in Harlin’s.
The pacing of the Schrader film has been slowed down. “I wanted to make it feel like an older film,” Schrader told me, “rather than follow the typical pace of another jacked-up, pumped-up horror film.”
Schrader was contractually obliged to keep his yap shut last year before the Harlin film opened, but the gloves are off now.
“I saw in the Harlin film every bad idea that I had fought off,” Schrader told me. “Every bad Jim Robinson idea that I rejected, re-surfaced in the Harlin film, so I think the issue of true authorship is pretty clear.”
Schrader’s film cost about $30 million; the Harlin cost another $50 million. The total domestic gross for the Harlin as of last November was about $42 million. I don’t know what it’s made worldwide and on DVD, but probably another $50 or $60 million, at least, and maybe a lot more.
Would the Schrader film have earned as much? I doubt it. It’s not a mass-audience film. But when it’s over, you know you’ve had some nutrition. The Harlin makes you feel like you’ve just wolfed down a Big Mac and some fries.
Dutch villager-killing German officer as he appears in Schrader’s film…
…and as he appears in Harlin’s version.
And of course, people like junk food. They know Big Macs are mostly chemicals and ground-up noses and ears and hooves and fatty sauces and most people don’t care. They just want the rush, and guys like James Robinson knows this.
By all means see the Schrader when it opens, but the more interesting thing to do is to watch these Exorcists prequels in tandem on DVD, like I did yesterday. Robinson and Warner Bros. should have put them both out simultaneously in theatres, a plan I suggested in this column on 8.11.04.
I quoted film critic and essayist David Thomson in that particular column. At one point he attempted a reading of why Schrader, who has never been and never will be a horror film kind of guy, took the deal to make the Exorcist prequel in the first place.
“There had to be an understanding on Paul’s point of view what a troubled route he was taking,” Thomson said. “He must have known what problems he was in, and I guess he took a gamble that they would argue it and change it a bit, and then let it go. I assumed he had made a bargain with himself that he could do [this film] to please himself and Morgan Creek at the same time.
Billy Crawford in third-act scene from Schrader’s Dominion.
“I don’t know why they hired him,” Thomson continued. “It must have been clear in the script there were not great torrents of vomit.” Thomson saw a version of Schrader’s cut early on, and said in the piece that it “didn’t really seem like a continuation of the Exorcist franchise, and to that extent one could foresee trouble. Schrader had made a film about spiritual isolation…a study in a crisis of faith.”
Except it’s not a troubling experience to watch. Okay, the first part is, a tiny bit, but you get past that soon enough, and then it gathers force and it ends like gangbusters.
Schrader’s film may not work for your 15 year-old son or nephew, but unlike 97% of the horror films cranked out these days, it has an actual undercurrent. It’s a film about a spiritual tug-of-war by a guy who has written and directed more films about spiritual (and often volatile) conflict than anyone else I can think of.
If you don’t believe me or you’re not sure, click on Schrader’s IMDB page and read his credits.
Design for Flying
We’ve all seen that Man of Steel get-up that Brandon Routh will be wearing in Bryan Singer’s currently-rolling Superman Returns (Warner Bros., 6.30.06). And Movie City News recently ran a photo created by some fanboy site with a more routinely designed outfit, which is obviously meant as a suggestion.
The message, which I sense is probably endorsed by a good number of those who are jazzed about the Superman mystique and are looking forward to the film, is that Singer not do to Superman what Joel Schumacher did to Batman with the ass closeups and those pointy nipples on the chest plate.
The Singer suit uses burgundy instead of traditional fire-engine red for the shorts, cape and boots, and has Routh wearing hot go-go dancer bikini briefs instead of the standard gym shorts that Chris Reeve used to tool around in.
The fanboy designer, whomever he or she is, will eventually learn to live with the burgundy, but he/she obviously doesn’t like that bikini shit. The alternate design is pure D.C. Comics and straight out of the 1930s (or 1950s, a la George Reeve). The fanboys can see what’s going down and…well, draw your own inferences.
Of course, the boat has sailed and whatever kind of Superman Routh is going to be (and whatever his suit may end up conveying), it’s a done deal and the fanboys will have to make their calls as they see ’em.
Singer gave the X-men movies a certain dimension, I think, by subtly portraying the sense of social apartness that mutants feel in terms that any socially aware gay guy could relate to. I’m not saying this was overt, but it was there.
Remember that hilarious Roger Avary riff that Quentin Tarantino acted in Sleep With Me about the subtext of Tom Cruise’s Maverick character in Top Gun? “Go the gay way, go the gay way…you can ride my tail,” etc.?
I used this to mess with Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson during a Crimson Tide junket interview about ten years ago. I told them, “Guys, you’re missing out on a whole marketing angle here. You should do an Advocate cover story and talk about the gay subtext in all your films, starting with the submarine in Crimson Tide.”
“Your source wasn’t lying about Monster-in-Law being a hit waiting to happen.
“Unless the anti-Lopez sentiment keeps the crowds away, it should be a hit. I saw it this morning, and the audience went nuts for Jane Fonda’s wonderfully whacked-out performance as Viola Fields, a Barbara Walters type who loses her grip when she’s replaced on her talk show, ‘Personal Intimacy,’ by a ditzy hottie.
“The movie seemed to strike an especially strong chord with women who might have endured similar situations in their own lives.
“Still reeling from her abrupt fall from grace, Viola freaks when her son, a doctor (Michael Vartan, whose role is so perfunctory we never really even learn what his specialty is), proposes to Charlie (Lopez), a dogwalker/yoga instructor/aspiring designer, who also works as a temp in a doctor’s office.
“Viola throws the couple an engagement party and invites numerous celebrities and diplomats, just so she can introduce her future daughter-in-law with ‘this is Charlie — she’s a temp!’
“For those in the audience who have fantasized about seeing J.Lo humiliated, insulted and hassled, most of the rest of the film is going to be a delight. Wanda Sykes also got more than a few laughs as Viola’s put-upon assistant, who is caught in the crossfire between Viola and Charlie.
“Monster-in-Law is not a comedy classic, but it’s good fun and an excellent reminder of how sharp and funny Fonda can be.” — James Sanford.
Why does everyone (myself included) keep running these breathless items about who might play James Bond when the series finally gets rolling again in ’06? The 007 franchise is a very dry and dusty mummy — it’s been completely dead in every way but financial for a long, long time. (I’m not one of those who feel that Goldeneye revived things.) And it’s obvious to me that the people making the calls about the 007 hiring (producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, and Bond franchise owners Sony Pictures) are erratic and all over the map in their “creative” lungings. In any event, the rumor is now that Pierce Brosnan will do it yet again. London’s Mirror ran a story today (Wednesday, 4.27) quoting Dame Judi Dench as saying: “Despite the fact that everyone on the face of the earth has been tested as his (Brosnan’s) possible replacement, he’ll be doing it again and it will be announced come summer.”
The word is good enough on
Monster-in-Law and New Line Cinema is confident enough that they’ve decided to sneak it on a fairly sizable (800 screens) nationwide basis on the weekend before the 5.13 opening. And the date, of course, will be Sunday, May 8th — Mother’s Day.
Socially, culturally, whatever…I think we have an unusual reaction kicking in with the coming of Warner Bros. and Joel Silver’s House of Wax. The big attraction-repulsion element, of course, is Paris Hilton’s costarring role. There are guys on message boards everywhere saying they’ll go to it only if she dies and some saying, “She dies? Thanks for ruining it!” and still others saying they won’t see it at all because she’s in it. Let’s get one thing straight. If you know anything about horror films, you know that lead actresses sometimes die, but suppporting actresses always die, so she’s toast and that’s it. The pleasure element, for me, is (a) how slowly and painfully will she die, (b) how long and how loud will she scream before she croaks, and (c) how naked does she get before it happens? If the answers to these questions are (a) very slowly and very painfully, (b) really loud and long and (c) fairly naked, I’m there. I mean, I’ll definitely go to the all-media.
A Lot Like Love has opened and people know what the shot is, so here’s my question. The movie takes place over a seven-year span during which Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet meet and clack against each other like billiard balls and bounce around and don’t get down to really being with (and for) each other until the end, which is naturally presumed to be now, i.e., sometime in ’05. The story begins, therefore, sometime in ’98. Much of A Lot Like Love happens in New York City, and one of Peet and Kutcher’s early scenes happens somewhere in the vicinity of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, and at night. Now, what visual image would immediately convey that this scene is in fact happening several years ago? Obviously, a shot of the World Trade Center towers, which could be easily CG’d into the Manhattan skyline. This wasn’t done, one assumes, due to some form of cowardice or trepidation. Director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) didn’t want to throw in a slight gulp-inducing visual cue into a vaguely escapist relationship comedy because he lacked the confidence, and was afraid a glimpse of the towers would somehow upset the vibe. Well, okay, it might have for a minute or two, but life is like that sometimes, and this doesn’t mean lovers don’t go right back to being in love and saying dopey things to each other five minutes later. This movie rests on the idea of Peet and Kutcher’s relationship beginning several years back, and if Cole wanted to avoid the issue I’m raising here he could have easily shot their outdoor Manhattan scenes in Grammercy Park or Yorkville or anywhere else besides the way-downtown area of Manhattan. I understand that comic farces can’t touch reality without shattering their chemistry, but A Lot Like Love pretends to be emotionally earnest and socially particular and down-to-earth. Not using the twin towers as a visual backdrop was, I feel, a profoundly chickenshit move on Cole’s (and Disney’s) part.
You might expect the idea of Michael Bay remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 The Birds, as reported on 4.26 by THR‘s Liza Foreman, to induce purist convulsions among people like myself. But taken as a whole (and I mean apart from the excellent bird-attack sequences and the “end of the world” scene in the Bodega Bay diner), The Birds has always been a flat and rather stodgy film, and it could use some jazzing up. No one expects an egoist like Michael Bay to do a Gus van Sant and try and visually recapture Hitch’s 42 year-old original, and it would be a total shocker if Bay were to ape Hitch’s discipline in very gradually building the suspense and intimations of the coming bird attacks. We all know he’s going to speed up the story (if he pays any attention at all to the Hitchcock film or the Daphne du Maurier short story it was partly based upon) and go right for the jugular and heap on the CGI and so on. But at least Bay won’t have the terminally glacial Tippi Hedren as his lead actress (watch the Birds DVD…her performance wasn’t that good to begin with, and it really doesn’t hold up by today’s standards). And unless he’s a total klutz, Bay will have to be better with child actors that Hitch was. With the exception of the young Vernonica Cartwright’s, every kid performance in The Birds is flat-out awful…squirm-inducing. My son and I were watching the DVD a couple of months ago, and we were laughing and hooting when those black crows attack the kids as they’re running from the schoolhouse. Their acting was so bad that we wanted them to die.
Arianna Huffington’s celebrity-fed political blog, to be called
www.huffingtonpost.com, debuts on Monday, May 9th…the week the Cannes Film Festival begins. And Andrew Breitbart, the former Drudge Report webmaster, is finally copping to officially being on the team. Among those expected to supply (mostly leftish) rants and musings are Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Walter Cronkite, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nora Ephron, Diane Keaton, etc. I’ve gotta say right off the top the site doesn’t sound like it’ll be quite smirky enough. I’d like to see more 40-and-under smarties like Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jay Mohr, Neil Labute, etc. GenX appeal-wise, one wise-ass Jay Mohr piece will be worth 20 by Diane Keaton or Vernon Jordan. Don’t make this too much of a boomer thing or the wired generation will wave it off.