This Universal late-summer release (8.2) looks like reasonably efficient escapism. My only concern that the last U.S.-made film by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur was Contraband, which was my idea of dogshit. Denzel Washington is looking a little slimmer than he did in his last four or five films, which is good. He was looking pretty blimpy in Flight. Note: I posted this hours ago and for whatever reason it vanished.
We’ve never technically met but we did a phoner while you were cutting Casino. It was for an Entertaiment Weekly piece I was working on about a restoration of The Wild Bunch. This is the same email I’ve sent you via the Film Foundation email address. I’m double-posting out of concern that it might not get through with your editing of Wolf of Wall Street demanding all your time and attention.
You may not have heard about the great Shane Bluray brouhaha by now so I’ll just summarize. Warner Home Video has licensed the rights from Paramount for a Shane Bluray that was prepared by George Stevens, Jr. and, I’m told, the folks at Technicolor. As you probably know Shane was shot by George Stevens and dp Loyal Griggs between July and mid-October 1951 with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. And yet I’ve been told by Stevens, Jr. that the WHV Bluray will present his father’s film at a 1.66:1, which Stevens Jr. was apparently asked to compose by Paramount Home Video execs.
Stevens, Jr. has been very exacting, he told me, in making sure that the 1.66:1 compositions do not compromise his father’s classic film, and that given a choice between presenting a 1.37 Shane with big black bars on either side of the image and a 1.66 Shane with slender borders on either side he believes that the latter will be commercially preferable. He also said he’s confident that his father would be pleased with the 1.66 version.
I’m sorry but Stevens Sr. and Griggs shot Shane in 1.37 and that’s the end of it — there can be no other consideration. Stevens Jr. told me that a 1.37 “Academy ratio” version was also prepared for Bluray. If WHV wants to release the Shane Bluray at an alternative 1.66 aspect ratio for commercial purposes, fine, but out of respect for the vision of Stevens Sr. and Griggs they need to make the 1.37 version available via Warner Archives. If you review the comments about this issue on Home Theatre Forum you’ll see that the overwhelming majority agree that both versions of Shane need to be made available.
Respected archivist Bob Furmanek has written on HTF that Shane “was clearly composed for 1.37:1. I prefer to see it in that ratio. I feel that is how it should be seen.” And restoration guru Robert Harris says on HTF that “while I would love to also see the film in 1.37…hopefully, a dual format release can occur, as the data would have been completed both ways.”
I’m assuming that you agree with the 1.37 crowd, and am also hoping that perhaps you could make your opinion known. Anything you could do, say or write would, one assumes, greatly influence WHV’s decision regarding the 1.37 version being made available down the road. Many thanks and best of luck with Wolf of Wall Street.
Jeffrey Wells, HE
p.s.: Here’s a link with two HE articles about the Shane dust-up.
When guys start getting domestic with a live-in girlfriend or wife or a steady lady food always plays a big part in their life together and is often a major emotional expression of her part. (Unless he’s the big foodie.) Constant access to delicious meals and snacks is one of life’s genuine priveleges and pleasures, and a really nice way of showing and accepting love. But I’ve come to believe that many women have an under-agenda in constantly serving great meals, and that is to put weight on their significant others.
I’m not saying that foodie women are consciously plotting or scheming to fatten up their boyfriends and husbands. They’re first and foremost showing love and being creative and spreading warm vibes and doing a really nice thing. But beyond all that I believe they’re at least secretly or subliminally at peace with their boyfriends of husbands putting on a few pounds because a slightly heavier man is a little less attractive to other women. They know that guys with a bulky or beefy look are in effect communicating to women on the prowl that they’re in some kind of committed relationship and not available, or are a little lazy with the workouts and perhaps are not as rugged and disciplined as they could be.
I know that it’s very hard to maintain a strict diet if you’re going out with a woman who’s a high-end foodie. They don’t quit with offerings of this or that hors d’eouvre or snack or dessert, and you find yourself politely saying “no, thanks but it looks great” over and over and over and over again. They’re relentless and one way or another you wind up eating a bit more and looking like a beefalo if you’re not careful. Women are generally not your friend when you’re trying to slim down and/or stay trim.
Trailers From Hell’s Larry Laraszewski sent along his piece on Hannibal Brooks (’69), a Michael J Pollard-Oliver Reed elephant flick. Directed and produced by Michael Winner and co-written by Winner, Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement. But what got me was an earlier Karaszewski piece on John Frankenheimer‘s All Fall Down (’62), which is available from Warner Archives and Amazon Instant Video.
Channing Tatum’s agent to Paramount: “The only way he’s in G.I. Joe: Retaliation is if he gets killed within 20 minutes.” Paramount to Tatum’s agent: “20 minutes? We were thinking more like 35 or 40. A supporting role, not a cameo.” Tatum’s agent: “Dead in 20 or we walk.”Paramount: “We might go for 30. C’mon, dude — we’re paying a lot of money here.” Tatum’s agent: “Would you like me to make it 15?.”
I wasn’t invited to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount figured why bother?) but if I had been I would have passed. I won’t pay to see it this weekend and I won’t see it on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu down the road. If three guys dressed in black suits came to my door and said “get dressed — we’re taking you right now to the Grove to see G.I. Joe: Retaliation” I would say “eff you, I’m not going anywhere” and they would say “you’re going — do you want us to bodily carry you into the theatre and strap you down?” To which I would say “will you take money to go away?” If they agreed to leave me alone for $30 I would pay them. I think I would go as high as $50. If they insisted on $100 I’d probably submit and suffer through the damn thing. Assholes.
Assembling a top-grade team doesn’t mean the film will be any kind of great shakes. Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Wrong Man (1956), a moderately interesting but mostly dull and plodding procedural, is but one example. Hitch directing a script co-written by the great Maxwell Anderson. A stellar cast topped by Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle and Harold J. Stone. Shot by the esteemed Robert Burks, edited by George Tomasini and scored by Bernard Herrmann. And audiences went “wait…what?”
Today’s Hollywood Elsewhere assignment is to name other duds or under-performers on which on the very best people worked — the most talented, the highest paid, the most respected. All that potential and swagger and….phfffft.
The great Richard Griffiths, known to the popcorn-eating masses as mean Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films but whom I loved for his legendary History Boys performance as Hector the lecherous professor (which I saw in New York in ’06), has died at age 65.
He died of complications following heart surgery, but let’s face it — he died from the backwash of being too fat. But what an aroma of engagement and crackling intelligence he had (or seemed to have). What a wonderfully alert and alive and richly educated mind, or at least what a splendid ability he had to convey this in various performances.
“During a performance of The History Boys, Griffiths became so annoyed at a man in the audience whose mobile phone rang repeatedly through the play that Griffiths stopped acting after the sixth time and ordered the man out of the theatre. At a later date, Griffiths asked a member of the audience to leave a performance of Heroes after her phone rang three times. This interruption of a performance because of audience distraction happened no fewer than three times in his career.”
The basic thrust of this 3.28 Hollywood Reporter story by Hal Espen and Borys Kit is that Ain’t It Cool News is no longer the big-cheese website it was in the late ’90s and early aughts, at least as far as ad revenue is concerned. The shocker is that last July AICN honcho Harry Knowles found himself in big trouble with the IRS, owing $300 grand in back taxes. Harry gradually managed to get himself out of dutch (glad to hear it), but he’s still scrambling as we speak.
All to say that the bearded, overweight, medically afflicted editor/columnist is no King of the Mountain in today’s realm. But I guess we’ve all known that for years. The curious thing, I’m told by a source, is that the business manager who got Knowles into tax trouble, Roland De Noie, is still in Harry’s employ.
“It was July 2012, and Harry Knowles was working up a sweat,” the story begins. “Eighteen months earlier, the creator-owner-figurehead of Ain’t It Cool News collapsed and had back surgery to treat the effects of spinal stenosis, a chronic condition stemming in part from a 1996 fall that left him intermittently reliant on a wheelchair. So now he was walking on a treadmill at a clinic near his Austin home as part of his physical therapy.
“His phone rang. Still trudging, Knowles answered. It was Roland De Noie, his business manager.
“‘I really f—ed up,’ said De Noie in a panic. ‘It’s all my fault.’ He had discovered that Ain’t It Cool News — the website Knowles started in his Texas bedroom that grew to be the scourge of Hollywood, redefined the nature and pace of entertainment journalism and turned an overweight, ginger-haired self-diagnosed movie nerd into the face of a geek nation on the rise — owed about $300,000 in unpaid taxes.
“While Ain’t It Cool News had been making $700,000 a year in gross advertising revenue at its height in the early- to mid-2000s, that had dipped to the low-six figures by 2012. The business had no cash reserves and no way to pay the bills. Its bank account had been seized. ‘We’re not going to be able to get out of this one,’ said De Noie.”
It used to be that mass-market CG fantasy-action flicks would open in the U.S followed by overseas engagements a month or two later. These days it’s fairly common for U.S. and foreign openings to happen concurrently. Which makes it unusual for Jeff Wadlow and Matthew Vaughn‘s Kick Ass 2 (Universal) to open on July 19 in the U.K. followed by an 8.16 debut stateside. By the time it opens here it will have been internet-ted to death.
It looks and feels like a sequel that isn’t as good as the original, and I didn’t even like the original that much. Well, I guess it was okay. I certainly loved Chloe Moretz, you bet — she was the thing to see.
But I’ll say it again: cool as Moretz was in Kick-Ass, that final fight scene in which she decked several big bad guys just wasn’t believable. I don’t care how skilled she is at martial arts — she’s not big enough to fight full-sized men.
Are you going to tell me that if Moretz were to meet Universal marketing honcho Michael Moses in a ring that she’d put him on the canvas? Think about that.
Here’s how I put it on 8.24.10 in a piece called “Girls Can’t Deck Me“:
“An 8.21 Denver Post article about films starring female action heroines underlines a basic fact — women are simply not big or strong enough to defeat most male opponents in hand-to-hand combat. They can wound or cripple but they cannot kick real-life butt unless their male opponent is some Woody Allen– or Arnold Stang-sized guy. Even larger-proportioned women just don’t have that upper-body-weight advantage.
“Which means that it’s doubly ludicrous to see slender, smallish women like Angelina Jolie and Chloe Moretz deliver serious ass-stompings to male opponents, some of whom are bigger and brawnier with gorilla-sized arms, legs and feet.
“There are dozens of ways female action stars can go bad-ass in movies (cops, assassins, soldiers, spies, MOSSAD agents, CIA agents, homicide detectives) but they really aren’t that good at beating up most guys — not in real life, they’re not. And if you ask any guy out there the suspension-of-disbelief required to buy into this is just too much to ask for. The knock-downs that Salt‘s Jolie and Kick-Ass‘s Moretz have handed out (among others) are pure hokum.
“Does this mean they’ll eventually cease? Laughed off the screen by popular demand? Of course not. I went with Salt because it was so well put together, so as long as there’s a clever director at work these films will seem semi-palatable. On top of which they seem to fulfill a fantasy. Women enjoy female action stars demonstrating physical superiority over male opponents…right? And so these kick-butt sequences will continue to happen in the same way every superhero gets to jump off buildings and ignore gravity.
“Action has been ruined by the mid’ 90s Hong Kong influence and CGI, but no one seems to care all that much.
With Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond The Pines (Focus, 3.29) opening tomorrow, here’s a re-posting of my 9.8.12 review: “This is basically an upstate New York crime story about fathers and sons. It’s also about cigarettes, bank hold-ups, motorcycles, travelling carnivals, amger, nobody having enough money, bullheadedness and the general malaise that comes from living in the pure hell and suffocation of Schenectady and surrounding environs. I’ve been up there and it’s an awful Siberian hell so don’t tell me.
“It’s also about men and their lame cock-of-the-walk issues in Cianfranceville, or the Land of the Constant Macho Strut and the Eternally Burning Cigarette, and if you can swallow or suck this in, fine…but I couldn’t.
“Boiled down, Pines is about the conflicted, problematic, sociopathic or otherwise questionable tendencies of two fathers (Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper) and how their sons (Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, respectively) are all but doomed to inherit and melodramatically carry on that legacy and that burden, so finally and irrevocably that their mothers (respectively played by Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne) might as well be living-room furniture, and the influence of schools, community values and/or stepfathers matter not.
“If you can roll with this world-of-Cianfrance view — i.e., wives and mothers are good for sex and breeding and cleaning and making meals and running errands and occasional guilt-tripping but when it comes to the issue of a son’s character and destiny, it’s almost entirely about dad — you might be able to roll with The Place Beyond The Pines.
“But I wasn’t able to. I respect Cianfrance’s ambition in telling an epic, three-act, multi-generational tale that spans 15-plus years, but I don’t respect or believe what he’s selling.
“Except for the bank-robbing and road-chase sequences I didn’t believe a single moment in this film.
“You can’t have Gosling play a simple-dick man of few words who entertains audiences with his talent as a motorcycle rider and then turns to bank-robbing on the side — that’s way too close to his stunt-driving, getaway-car character in Drive.
“Plus I don’t respond well to movies with female-voiced choral music (a device that suggests that a caring, all-seeing God is watching over us) on the soundtrack plus other musical implications of doom and heavyosity.
(l. to r.) De Haan, Cooper, Mendes, Gosling and Cianfrance before Toronto Fiim Festival screening.
“Plus I hate movies about blue-collar knockabouts and greasy low-lifes and teenage louts who constantly smoke cigarettes. The more a character smokes cigarettes the dumber and more doomed and less engaging he or she is — that’s the rule. If you’re writing or directing a film and you want the audience to believe that a character is an all-but-completely worthless scoundrel or sociopath whom they should not care shit about, have that character smoke cigarettes in every damn scene.
“The principal theme of The Place Beyond The Pines is the following: “Dads Are Just About Everything and Mothers Don’t Matter Much, but Cigarettes Sure Run A Close Second!”
“In short, I thought the movie was unreal, oppressive, dramatically forced bullshit, although it receives a shot in the arm from Dane DeHaan (In Treatment), who looks like a mixed reincarnation of Leonardo DiCaprio and Benicio del Toro as they were in the mid ’90s, although he’s a lot shorter (5’7″).
“I also felt that Mendes and Byrne are too hot to live in Schenectady. Beauty almost always migrates to the big cities where the power and the security lie, and in my experience the women who reside in blue-collar hell holes like Schenectady are far less attractive as a rule. There’s a certain genetic look to the men and women of Upper New York State, and they aren’t the kind of people who pose for magazine covers or star in reality shows.”
Hollywood Elsewhere is hereby the official non-official newsblaster for all generic reports about the filming of George Clooney‘s Monuments Men in Berlin. HE’s coverage will come to a splendid, jaw-dropping climax when I visit the MM set in Germany’s Harz mountains sometime around May 5th, give or take.