“There are several problems with You, Me and Dupree, not least that there is no filmmaking to speak of, just a progression of competent- looking scenes in which the actors appear to have successfully hit their marks. The directors, the brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, have made a few other features, including Welcome to Collinwood, an unnecessary redo of Big Deal on Madonna Street that nonetheless looked like someone was paying attention to the lighting and how objects and bodies fit in the frame, which isn’t the case here.” — N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis in Friday’s edition.
I’ve given Michael Winterbottom several chances over the past ten years and I’ve never been that happy with anything he’s done…not really. I’ve therefore regrettably decided he’s the wrong guy to direct Angelina Jolie in that just-announced flick about the life and death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl,who was kidnapped and then beheaded in Karachi, Pakistan, in early 2002.
Winterbottom’s film will be an adaptation of a book by Pearl’s widow, Mariane Pearl (whom Jolie will potray) called “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl.” Brad Pitt will produce with Dede Gardner of Plan B and Andrew Eaton of Revolution Films.
I’ve been told by the Ivory Tower /Planet Zircon crowd that not liking Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story isn’t an option; I’m sorry but I found it passable at best, and finally tiresome. The Road to Guantanamo has parts that don’t ring true, and it’s one of those critically-hailed films that are less and less admirable the more you think about them. I found it infuriating that Winterbottom didn’t seem to want to know why those three guys decided to travel to Afghanistan right after 9/11 — it’s one of the all-time dumbest travel decisions ever made by anyone, ever. I was okay with 25 Hour Party People but I loathed 9 Songs and wasn’t that high on Code 46.
Winterbottom knows his way around and has sold the industry on his indie-political British down-and-dirty cred, but I’ve come to be convinced he’s not especially gifted. He won’t make a bad film of the Pearl book, but I swear to God and I’ll bet my life insurance he won’t make a great one or even an especially stirring one. It’ll just be good, not bad, an agreeable shoulder-shrugger, etc. At his very best, when he’s peaking, that’s the kind of film that Winterbottom makes, I know what I’m talking about. It’s probably too late for Pitt, Gardner and/or Eaton to somehow queer the Winterbottom deal, but maybe it isn’t.
How “The Diary of Anne Frank” evolved into Snakes on a Plane in one four-minute conversation: “I went nuts for ‘Anne Frank’, Don…it’s crying out to be made, by us…kind of like Schindler’s List meets Panic Room. One niggly little thing, though, and don’t panic, Don. The whole secret hideout thing feels a little stagnant…a little slow, a little stationary. But I have a solution…are you sitting down? We put ’em on a plane, Don….shoot it on the back lot…with snakes. And instead of a little Jewish girl being terrorized by snakes…” (Confession: YouTube video link appropriated from Nikki Finke‘s Deadline Hollywood Daily, which posted it two days ago.)
No slight to Marlon Brando‘s emoting in Sayonara, but Red Buttons — who died today at age 87 — was less actorish and affected in that film than Brando was (i.e., the Alabama accent and all). Button’s performance as Joe Kelly, the pissed-off Air Force grunt who defied military pressure to marry a Japanese woman (Miyoshi Umeki) only to join her in a suicide pact down the road, was the best work he ever did — frank, blunt, b.s-free. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for it. He also delivered a strong performance in Sydney Pollack ‘s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969). But almost everything else Buttons did besides these two felt either forced or cornball or over-sold.
The final season of The Sopranos (i.e., eight episodes) has been bumped from January to early March ’07 because of a knee operation that James Gandolfini will have sometime soon. The surgery alone would delayed the season only three or four weeks “but that would have put The Sopranos up against the football playoffs and the Super Bowl,” according to HBO honcho Chris Albrecht . The knee procedure is necessary because Gandolfini was recently knocked off his scooter in Manhattan collision with a taxi.
(This happened to me in Paris in the summer of ’03. I was on the back of a scooter that Jett was driving, and as we approached the Place Bastille Jett slammed on the brakes too hard and the bike hit the pavement with me on it. I was bruised pretty badly and gimping around for two or three weeks after that, but I eventually healed. If I’d gone to a local hospital with ample medical insurance on the day of the accident I would have been relentlessly subjected to the benefits of modern medicine at a cost of many thousands of Euros.)
“I know you’re all hoping that [more than one or two Sopranos characters will] die,” Albrecht told the Television Critics Association in Pasadena on Wednesday, but he gave assurances that viewers won’t be disappointed in this regard. “I know the story lines for the final eight, and I am absolutely positively certain that when the curtain comes down on [the final Sopranos], the vast, vast, vast majority of people will say it’s one of the great things of all time.” (Shouldn’t he have said “greatest,” as in “one of the greatest things of all time”?)
A possible reason for today’s You, Me and Dupree tracking uptick is a new TV ad that ran last weekend that uses this line of narration: “Last summer, he crashed weddings” — referring to Owen Wilson, of course, with a brief hit of Wedding Crashers footage — ” and this summer he’s crashing a marriage.” The coincidence is that Scott Foundas‘s Village Voice review, which was posted on 7.11, starts with this sentence: “Owen Wilson has moved up in the world: He’s gone from crashing weddings to crashing entire marriages.”
How many people saw that 30-minute pilot for Ben Stiller‘s Heat Vision and Jack seven years ago on Fox? Penned by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, it was about an astronaut named Jack Austin (Jack Black) and his pet motorcycle (voiced by Owen Wilson) hiding out from the dreaded Ron Silver — the actor playing himself as a dual-identity villain — and his evil NASA bosses.
Fox blew it off, but it’s pretty damn clever and funny….a satire of gimmick superpower shows in the vein of “Captain America”or “Knight Rider.” In any event, here it is on YouTube.
Kevin Smith has a certain perspective on the heat that M. Night Shyamalan has been getting lately for spilling every last intimate thought and hang-up and creative concern in Michael Bamberger’s The Man Who Heard Voices. Smith has been doing nearly the same thing, after all, by sharing his ups and downs and innermost whatevers on View Askew since the mid ’90s. So I asked him about the M. Night brouhaha at the Clerks 2 junket , and here’s what he said: “I think maybe there’s something to be said for [directors] staying under the radar. There are different rules for a guy like me given the kind of movies I’m making. My movies haven’t made over two billion dollars, and so when I talk about what’s been going on backstage people it doesn’t sound quite as whiney to people.”
A sudden extraordinary surge of interest in You, Me and Dupree is showing up in today’s tracking. From last Sunday’s polling to Wednesday’s (i.e., yesterday’s) , it went from 71 general awareness and 25 definite interest to 81 general and 37 definite — a big-ass jump. And it all happened last weekend. Surges like this are rare, and are usually due to a change in the TV ad campaign when they happen. This may be an aberration, or maybe it’s just more evidence that people don’t pay attention to upcoming films until they’re a week away from opening. So it’s looking for a half-decent Dupree opening, but more in the range of $15 million rather than $20 million. Maybe.
More old-media film critic cutbacks, this time in the Big D. The Dallas Observer‘s Robert Wilonsky is reporting that “Belo Corp. management has decided to ditch most, if not all, of the Dallas Morning News movie and television critics. Word of this stunning move toward scaling back the paper’s GuideLive arts staff comes weeks after it was announced that the News was offering what it called ‘voluntary severance’ in order to eliminate some 50 to 60 editorial positions at the paper.”
Here are the latest, up-to-the-minute Frat Pack standings as of 7.13.06: the King Shit title-holder is either Steve Carell, who has the best role of his career in Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight, 7.26), Vince Vaughn (as long as he doesn’t get too fat, and hats off if he takes that John O’Neill role in Against All Enemies), or Jack Black. Ben Stiller has been in a state of dormancy for so long I can’t remember when there was any serious heat on the guy (Dodgeball?) although he may be back on the horse with A Night in the Museum come December. Owen Wilson‘s marquee cred is about to take a big hit after people get a look at You, Me and Dupree this weekend…but he’ll bounce back. Luke Wilson‘s acting as a relaxed lowball smoothie in The Family Stone was a career breakthrough, but mellow-toned amiableness does not a frat packer make. Will Ferrell looked like toast last summer after the failure of Bewitched and especially after audiences were heard groaning when he first emerged from the shadows to begin his cameo in The Wedding Crashers, but now he’s (apparently) back with Talladega Nights (Columbia, 8.4) and Marc Forster’s reportedly impressive Stranger Than Fiction. Oh, and here’s a far less judgmental Frat Pack piece by USA Today‘s Susie Woz, a.k.a., Susan Wloszczyna.
This is old news to the graphic-novel community, but Rosario Dawson recited the basic promo drill the other day about “Occult Crimes Taskforce,” a just-published comic-book series in the vein of X Files and Men in Black (about “different creatures, different people and different things having to live with each other”) that’s about a new action-chick character (obviously the spittin’ image of Dawson) named Sophia Cruz.
“OCT” arrived in comic-book stores (like West Hollywood’s Golden Apple) this month, and Dawson will be hitting Comic Con late next week or so to promote it. She said at the Clerks 2 junket on Tuesday that Cruz is a vulnerable lady-with- a-gun-and-badge in the tradition of Jodie Foster‘s Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Naturally, a video game and a feature film version are in the works.