The solution to Alex Kurtzman‘s The Mummy (Universal, 6.9) hit me this morning. Don’t use Tom Cruise — Cruise can’t be in a monster film as it degrades his brand, and Cruise vs. a female mummy is an oil-and-water cocktail if I’ve ever sipped one. Instead make it a crazy horror comedy in the vein of The Nice Guys. Or more specifically, The Mummy meets Hold That Ghost. Just pair Russell Crowe (who’s in the current version) with Ryan Gosling, and have them scramble and run around in a semi-slapstick, Abbott-and-Costello fashion. I would truly love to see something like this, just as I don’t feel much enthusiasm for The Mummy as presently constituted.
I’ve only seen two of the five significant films opening today — Lu Chuan‘s Born in China (Disney) and Terry George‘s The Promise (Open Road). Neither are “bad” — I certainly respect the effort that went into their assembly. But neither lit a fuse, much less a fire.
I had access to screenings of Ben Wheatley‘s Free Fire (A24) during the 2016 Toronto Film Festival as well as recent screenings here, but I didn’t want to sit through what appeared to be a “mayhem for mayhem’s sake” gun ballet exercise. Rotten Tomato and Metacritic ratings of 68% and 64%, respectively.
From my recent review of Born in China: “The same old Disney stew. Stunningly beautiful, drop-dead photography. Adorable animals (especially the monkeys). Folksy-kindly narration (voiced by John Krasinski) aimed at eight year olds. But with much of the sadness, harshness and occasional brutality of nature sidestepped or flat-out ignored. Because the kiddies have to be shielded from the realities. Raise them in McMansions, give them sedentary lives in front of screens, gently poison them with fast-food diets but never let them see what real life is really like. There’s plenty of time for that later. Keep them in fantasyland for as long as possible.”
I had a respectful “meh” reaction to The Promise when I caught it in Toronto 19 months ago. Apologies to George, whom I know personally, but I can at least clarify that “meh” doesn’t mean his film is a problem. It just didn’t rouse my soul. As others have noted, it’s a decent enough World War I-era drama that blends a romantic triangle with the Armenian genocide. Nicely captured by dp Javier Aguirresarobe. Right away you want Charlotte le Bon to end up with Oscar Isaac, portraying a medical student, rather than burly Christian Bale, as an American journalist.
“Bale isn’t the romantic type,” I said in a 9/16 trailer-reaction piece. “He’s always about his moods and his quirks, especially when he’s put on a little weight. I’m trying to think of an established star who’s more of a ‘doesn’t get the girl’ type. He’s about strangeness, weirdness, pot bellies, beards, temper tantrums, glaring expressions, etc.”
On 1.18.09 I described Doug Pray‘s Art & Copy, a tribute doc about legendary advertising guys, as “a little thin…a chapter-by-chapter history of the most admired ad campaigns of the last 45 or 50 years, each chapter with a flattering profile of the advertising exec (or execs) who dreamt each one up.”
I’m getting the same vibe from Matt Schrader‘s Score, which is being called “an insightful analysis of the art of film scoring, featuring in-depth interviews with some of the biggest composers in the business (John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Quincy Jones, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Rachel Portman).”
Score trailer summary: They’re all geniuses, they all love what they do, nobody’s a hack and the inspiration is always humming at peak levels. Oh, the rapture and ecstasy of being a movie-score composer!
“If the ending to [the 2016 presidential campaign] story were anything other than Donald Trump being elected president, Shattered would be an awesome comedy, like a Kafka novel — a lunatic bureaucracy devouring itself. But since the ending is the opposite of funny, it will likely be consumed as a cautionary tale. Shattered is what happens when political parties become too disconnected from their voters. Even if you think the election was stolen, any Democrat who reads this book will come away believing he or she belongs to a party stuck in a profound identity crisis. Trump or no Trump, the Democrats need therapy — and soon.” — from Matt Taibbi‘s Rolling Stone review of Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes‘ “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”
There’s a strictly enforced system in Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (’55). Old-school mummies kill their victims by strangling them, but whenever Klaris the mummy (Eddie Parker) comes up behind Lou Costello, he can only stand 12 inches behind him with his arms out. When Costello takes a step, Klaris takes a step…but he can’t strangle Costello. He’s only allowed to give him a mummy bear hug. Then again Klaris couldn’t be too toothless. I’m presuming that director Charles Lamont told Parker to make a scary noise every so often. Parker: “What kind of noise?” Lamont: “I don’t know. Some kind of growl.” Parker: “A Wolfman growl?” Lamont: “Of course not. A dead man’s growl..filtered through tana leaves, whatever…the roar of dessicated centuries and ancient pyramids and dry-mouth.” Parker: “Dessicated?” Lamont: “Just don’t sound like the Wolfman.” And so Parker came up with “yaaawwwhrrrrr!”
Under the mandate of General Efraín Ríos Montt, a notorious Guatamelan strongman who belongs in the company of Augusto Pinochet and Slobodan Milosevic, over 200 residents of Dos Erres — men, women, kids, elderly — were murdered on or about 12.6.82. The killers were an elite Guatamelan special forces unit, known as the Kaibiles. The killings were part of Montt’s scorched-earth policy, under which up to 200,000 indigenous and Mayan people died.
Wiki page excerpt: “[The Kaibiles] bashed the smallest children’s heads against walls and trees, and killed the older ones with hammer blows to the head. Their bodies were dumped in a well. The commandos interrogated the men and women one by one, then shot or bashed them with the hammer, and dumped them in the well. They raped women and girls, and ripped the fetuses out of pregnant women.”
Last night I caught a screening of Ryan Suffern‘s Finding Oscar (Film Rise, 4.21), a Steven Spielberg-sponsored doc about a long investigation of this notorious genocide. The invited crowd was obviously affected, impressed. So was I up to a point. It tells a horrific story but also an emotional one, and the combination works for the most part. But I was slightly bothered by Suffern’s emphasis on a humanistic, up-with-people, we-can-get-past-this approach.
Justice finally caught up with the bad guys 30 years later, but I didn’t want to be comforted or told “there, there.” I wanted, rather, to immerse myself in the details of this Central American horror. I wanted to sink into this realm and sort it all out like a special prosecutor. I wanted to channel the spirit of Jean-Louis Trintignant in Z.
Finding Oscar is not so much a detailed investigation of a massacre as an attempt to convey the emotions beneath it — the guilt shared by two older men who participated, the satisfaction and catharsis felt by investigators as they sifted through thousands of pieces of evidence over the years, and especially the emotions of two boys who escaped this slaughter and are now in their late 30s — Ramiro Cristales and particularly Oscar Ramirez, who now lives in Framingham, Massachusetts.
My just-arrived copy of the 2017 Elite Journalist Cannes Film Festival Instruction Manual says I need to see the following Directors Fortnight selections: (a) Claire Denis’ Un beau soleil intérieur with Juliette Binoche and Gerard Depardieu; (b) Cary Murnion‘s Bushwick (action thriller); (c) Geremy Jasper‘s Patti Cake$ (Sundance success d’estime, opening via FS on 7.17); (d) Sean Baker‘s The Florida Project (Tangerine followup, costarring Willem Dafoe); (e) Abel Ferrara‘s Alive in France (road trek doc); (f) Bruno Dumont‘s Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc; (g) Philippe Garrel‘s L’amant d’un jour (emotionally off-balance 20something woman discovers that her dad is fucking a woman her age); (h) Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra (follow-up to Mediterranea) and (i) Sharunas Bartas‘ Frost avec Vanessa Paradis.
In a 4.18 post titled “Last Days of Classic HE,” I mentioned a bothersome aspect of the redesign. The smartphone edition (different than the laptop version) will, I said, “be narrower than the wide-angle laptop version, which will result in some elements (like my headshot) being sliced off.” Yesterday (4.19) Toronto Star critic Peter Howell urged that I keep my mug on the smartphone version. “The vast majority of clicks these days come via smartphone, not laptops,” he reminded. “Hollywood Elsewhere is very much associated with your personality, and I think it would be a mistake to have your face clipped from the masthead for the mobile version.” I forwarded this to the tireless Sasha Stone, who’s handling the re-design. Late last night she sent along her solution — perfect!
Also: The redesign will definitely include a “Classic HE” sidebar (pear cake, “Loud Latinos“, cowboy hat, Oxford wifigate, Hispanic party elephant, HE vs. Jezebel, Paris, Hanoi/Vietnam, “What I’ve Learned“, neck wattle surgery, “Tale of Two Flophouses“, Schumergate, shrieking hyena laughter, etc.) along with a movie reviews sidebar.
Yesterday Nerdwriter posted an intelligent suggestion about how to fix Passengers, which popped on Bluray/streaming/DVD a month ago. Worth absorbing. He also offers a tip of the hat to David Ehrlich’s “Twilight Zone” suggestion, which Glenn Kenny characterized on 12.19.16 as “this movie could have been saved with a plot twist proving that the chick was as much of a shit as the dude.”
“When engineer Chris Pratt is aroused from hibernation aboard a massive star cruiser in the midst of a 120-year voyage to a planet called Homestead II, he realizes he’s been accidentally revived — the other 4999 passengers will be in hibernation for another 80 years. Faced with a life of absolute loneliness and certain to die before the ship arrives, Pratt decides to wake up journalist Jennifer Lawrence, whom he’s fallen in love with after watching her video profile and reading her articles. On one hand his loneliness problem is solved — on the other he’s a creep and a kind of murderer.
From a producer pal: “Did you know there’s a relatively new industry newsletter called The Ankler? It’s daily and is written by Richard Rushfield, formerly of Hitfix. And every day it has ‘The Daily Wells’, which slags you off. Just being a friend in case you haven’t heard.”
Ankler greeting: “Welcome to this Beta edition of Hollywood’s own up-and-coming daily newsletter. Here you’ll find your morning round-up and dissection of the day’s parade in the business, featuring news, gossip, amazing tidbits and fearless, pointed analysis. If you like or don’t like, or really hate what you see, let us know — firstname.lastname@example.org. And please, if you enjoy The Ankler pass this email on to your friends and colleagues!”
Apparently it’s some kind of subscription-only newsletter — i.e., no URL.
I’ve seen this footage so many times I feel as if I’ve seen Sofia Coppola’s feature-length version. It’ll play in Cannes, of course, and then open commercially on 6.23 via Focus Features. I have to really sit down and watch Don Siegel’s 1971 version sometime soon. I didn’t watch it all the way through the last time; I might have nodded off.