I can’t find a stand-out money quote, but Peter Rainer‘s Bloomberg.com piece about Richard Dreyfuss is well phrased and fully felt. Four months from turning 60, Dreyfuss used to be an essential player who was sent all the best scripts early on. He deserves a lot better than what he’s getting today. I’m sure he was glad to be hired to play a loaded gay guy in The Poseidon Adventure, but it felt to me like a minor insult.
For some unfathomable, better-left-unexplored reason I went to an L.A. Film Festival screening a few hours ago of a newly colorized version of 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), which will come out on DVD on 7.31.07. I came out with the bitter knowledge that I’d just pissed away 90 minutes of my time on this planet because I liked the movie when I was a kid (i.e., when I had no taste) and because I was curious how good or bad this newly colorized verison might be.
The colorizing, personally supervised by stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, looks like an attempt to imitate over-saturated 1950s-style color and as such isn’t half bad, but of course all colorizing makeovers are bad regardless of the care and skill involved. (The upside is that the DVD will reportedly include the original black-and-white version in both 1.33 to and 1.85.)
The film itself gets more ludicrous each time I watch it. It’s hard to know where to begin because every single aspect of this film is amateurishly, sometimes comically “off” in one way or another. I can only surmise that the director, Nathan Juran, was some kind of shameless, talentless, low-budget monster-movie stooge.
Each and every line of Christopher Knopf and Robert Creighton Williams‘ dialogue is somewhere between painful and inept. Each and every actor (William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, Tito Vuolo, et. al.) seems to doing parodies of clueless, stiff-necked 1950s-style line deliveries. The creature — an ugly green reptile with big whiskers and the arms and torso of a gay body builder down at Gold’s Gym– has no genitalia or waste-disposal orifices. Taylor’s character (i.e, “almost a doctor”) runs down a dirt road in Sicily to attend to an emergency situation wearing black high heels. An American child actor (Bart Braverman) pretends to be a Sicilian kid by imitating Robert Blake‘s Mexican lottery salesboy accent in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
William Hopper, Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause
And one thing about the colorizing is plain stupid. Hopper, the son of columnist Hedda Hopper, had prematurely white-gray hair in the ’50s and never attempted to hide this. It’s unmistakably gray (mixed in with some black) in his performance as Natalie Wood’s pissy dad in Rebel Without a Cause, and yet the 20 Million Miles to Earth colorizing team decided to make his hair light-brown sandy. Not quite on the level of some technician’s decision in the mid ’90s to make Frank Sinatra‘s eyes brown in a colorized version of Suddenly! (1954), but pretty close.
Whoa, whoa…the iPhone doesn’t have a replacable battery? N.Y. Times “Talking Business ” columnist Joe Nocera was jerked awake by the following passage in David Pogue‘s early-bird review of the device, to wit: “Apple says the [iPhone] battery starts to lose capacity after 300 to 400 charges. Eventually, you’ll have to send the phone to Apple for battery replacement, much as you do now with an iPod, for a fee.”
“That couldn’t be, could it?,” the mind-boggled Nocera asks. “Did Apple really expect people to mail their iPhones to Apple HQ and wait for the company to return it with a new battery? It was bad enough that the company did that with the iPod — but a cellphone? Cellphones have become a critical part of daily life, something we can barely do without for an hour, much less days at a time. Surely, Mr. Jobs realized that.
“When you do what I do for a living, this sort of question is usually pretty easy to clear up. You ring up a company spokesman, and get an answer. But at Apple, where according to Silicon Valley lore even the janitors have to sign nondisclosure agreements, there is no such thing as a straightforward answer. There is only spin.
“‘Apple will service every battery that needs to be replaced in an environmentally friendly matter,’ said Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman. He went on: ‘With up to 8 hours of talk time, 6 hours of Internet use, 7 hours of video playback or 24 hours of audio playback and more than 10 days of standby time, iPhone’s battery life is longer than any other smartphone.’
“This response didn’t even attempt to answer the question I’d asked him, which was how Apple planned to service its batteries. But never mind. This is another Apple innovation: the robotic spokesman, who says only what he’s been programmed to say.
With Apple taking the position that the battery replacement issue was not something it needed to share with reporters — much less buyers of the iPhone — I went elsewhere in search of answers. I talked to design experts, battery wonks, technology geeks, and Mr. Mossberg of The Journal, the dean of technology reviewers.
“One thing I wanted to know was why Apple had made a cellphone without a removable battery in the first place; it seemed like such an extreme act of consumer unfriendliness. If the iPod was any guide, batteries were inevitably going to run down. With most cellphones, when the battery has problems, you take it to a store, buy a new battery, let the salesman pop it in, and start using it again. Why wasn’t Apple willing to do that?
“It is about assured obsolescence,” said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, a technology consulting firm. “That is why they don’t have a replaceable battery in the iPod. But the problem here is that the iPhone will run out of battery life before the two-year service contract runs out.”
Two particular-interest quotes are contained in Michael Ceiply and Mark Landler‘s N.Y. Times piece (Saturday, 6.30) about the standoff/ contretemps between Tom Cruise and German military officials over their opposition to Cruise playing Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the German Army officer who led a plot to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944, in Bryan Singer‘s soon-to-shoot Valkyrie.
Quote #1 is from German journalist Josef Joffe: “Stauffenberg for Germans is like Jefferson and Lincoln, motherhood, and apple pie all rolled into one. Germany is a country of established churches, and so Scientology is viewed as a cult and, worse, totalitarian and exploitative. A professing Scientologist in the role of Stauffenberg is like casting Judas as Jesus. It is secular blasphemy.”
Quote #2 is Singer saying “frankly, I was not aware of the issue of Scientology here in Germany.” What’s the point of saying this, even if it’s true? It makes Singer look clueless, which is he’s never been and never will be. Official German animus towards Scientology has been a fairly well-reported position for several years. Here’s a January 2002 BBC report stating that Cruise “has been lobbying officials in Germany over the country’s strong stance against Scientology.” It’s not credible of Singer or any purportedly aware industry person to claim ignorance of this issue, particularly one who’s about to make a film with Cruise in Germany.
Ratatouille, the weekend’s #1 film, is projected to tally $48,406,000, having earned $16,075,000 on Friday. Yes, that makes it the softest Pixar opening since 1988’s A Bug’s Life, but that’s to be expected with such a relatively exotic and sophisticated subject (the travails of a French rat who wants to be a chef). But it’s going to show legs once people see it and talk it up.
Live Free or Die Hard did a little over $10 million last night — figure $30.8 million for the weekend and a five-day cume of $45.8 milliion — hjgher than expected.
Evan Almighty will do $15,947, 000, which is a 49% drop from last weekend. It cost $200 million-plus and it’s not going to make $100 million at this rate. The likelihood is that it’ll come in closer to $80 or $85 million all in.
1408 will earn $11 million this weekend, down 40% from last weekend’s debut. Not bad
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer will end up with $8,188,000 — why do people keep going to this thing? Knocked Up will come in sixth with $7,450,000. Oceans 13 is seventh with a projected $5,995,000. Pirates 3 will be eighth with $4,775,000. Evening will be ninth with $3,918,000 and $4000 a print — not going anywhere.
Sicko is tenth with a projected $3,916,000, or .just under 9000 a print. I’m told that the Weinsteiners were looking for $6 or $7 million. They just need to build this thing and circulate the word.
The second week of A Mighty Heart will bring it about $1,607,000, off 55% La Vie en Rose is still doing pretty well with over $7 million now — good for subtitled film You Kill Me did about 156,000 last night.
“The studios are so dependent on pre-existing brands, they’re not allowing anything new into the pipeline. They want to know what was the video game or what was the comic book. It’s shortsighted. But what’s being missed is the next generation of new stuff. Because nostalgia is creative death.” — Transformers producer Tom DeSanto, speaking to N.Y. Times reporter David Halbfinger.
Halbfinger mentions that DeSanto’s partner, Don Murphy, is “widely reviled by executives at Paramount and DreamWorks for allowing his personal website (donmurphy.net) to be used by Transformers fans to attack the two studios, and the movie√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s lead producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, in vicious personal terms. (They called him Scorponok, after one of the evil robot characters in the movie.)”
Here’s a portion of a poem that an anonymous poster left on Murphy’s site last March:
“The film is what it is and that’s all that it is
Most trufans will want to take a long whiz
And though valiant and Brave Tom Ian and Don slaved
Fact is Goodman gave the keys to the Kingdom to Bayed.
“If you hate the dumb story
And realize the characters are a worry
And wonder how Bay could screwup so bad
Remember the missive that Sugarboy brought you
It wasn’t just Michael but Goodman too!”
Timothy Gray‘s potential-Oscar-nomination piece for Variety (dated 6.28) starts off by naming three Best Actress favorites — Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, Julie Christie in Away From Her and Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart.
I fear that number is going to be narrowed down to two. We all know when a picture dies a quick box-office death the high-calibre performances in it tend to droop in estimation, so as unfair as it may sound I wouldn’t be surprised if Jolie (who gives her best performance ever as Heart‘s Marianne Pearl) falls off the list by Labor Day.
I’m not getting any kind of reading about how the other Iraq-Afghanistan movies are going to play, but if “quality of performance” were the only criteria (it never is, of course) Charlize Theron will be right in there for her single-mother/hardnose cop role in Paul Haggis‘s In The Valley of Elah. It’s not her film — the deed of possession belongs to Tommy Lee Jones — but she delivers a good deal more in the way of believable bite and conviction in Elah than she did in North Country.
I don’t know if things will also fall into place for Susan Sarandon as a Best Supporting Actress contender for her Elah peformance as Jones’ wife. But they could. Sarandon has three or four scenes, at most, but in one she lets go with a blast of radiant anger that takes your breath away. Such that it’s hard not to think of her in this light.
ABC-TV critic Joel Siegel has left the earth — dead from cancer at 63. Tough break, sad news, nice guy (if a little too nice to too many movies), too soon. Condolences to friends, family, colleagues. The last time Siegel was on my radar screen was when he got into that snarl with Kevin Smith over Siegel walking out on Clerks 2. I could mention this and that but let’s let it go for now.
I can’t write about this until tomorrow, but the hype has turned out to be absolutely true — Stephen Walker‘s Young@Heart is the reigning heart movie of the LA. Film Festival (and in both senses of the term, delivering both warmth and sadness) and will be a guaranteed winner when it goes out commercially.
And sooner or later, trust me, it will do that. If it comes out later this year, it’s almost guaranteed to end up as one of the five nominees for Best Feature Documentary. I’m serious. It’s not a “great” documentary, but it touches you big-time.
I’m just going run John Anderson‘s Variety review for now (it went up last night), and put something up myself over the weekend.
“Viewers have seen a lot of rock ‘n’ rollers onstage carrying bottles, but they’re not usually full of oxygen,” John begins. “Of course, the average age of most rock groups isn’t 80, as it is for the subjects of Young@Heart, an irresistibly joyous, tearful and, most importantly, musical doc about a band of senior pop singers whose repertoire includes ‘Golden Years, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ Theatrical odds may be long, but no one would exit this British TV production feeling they’d wasted their money.
“The narration, by director Stephen Walker, suggests an NPR feature, and the episodic structure is pretty pat — several members of the Young@Heart chorus are picked out for closer study during the six-week lead-up to their annual public performance. But the performers are all charmers, singing or just speaking their way through music by Radiohead, Jimi Hendrix, the Clash and James Brown.
“When asked, those performers admit a preference for classical music, but when they attack a song like the Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated,’ they do so with passion. Gusto. They throw away their walkers.
“Where Young@Heart goes totally right is its inclusion of special music videos directed by the film’s producer, Sally George, which feature the aforementioned Ramones song as well as Talking Heads’ ‘Road to Nowhere.’ The very image of these aging headbangers in an MTV format is funny and melancholy — two members die during the final week before the big show, and membership is euphemistically said to be ‘in flux.’
“But their humor is so genuine and their enthusiasm so infectious, it would seem impossible for an aud not to be swept away — especially when, following the death of one member, the group sings ‘Forever Young’ at a prison near their base in Northhampton, Mass.
“The leader of the group is the much younger Bob Cilian, who’s a “taskmaster,” as one member puts it. Cilian gets frustrated during the weeks-long rehearsals of the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Yes We Can Can,’ the song’s 70-odd ‘cans’ confusing the group (and at least one viewer). Eventually, though, most of the kinks are worked out.
“Production values are fine, if not spectacular, but applying a high gloss to Young@Heart wouldn’t make sense, anyway.”
I saw Michael Bay‘s Transformers (Dreamamount, 7.2) at 10 pm last night in that big spiffy theatre on the Paramount lot — the one with really superb sound and projection quality that was built in ’97 or thereabouts. Movies are always presented at their very best in this theatre. I was beaming start to finish as I watched a digitally-projected Zodiac there last March. So on a high-quality projection level at least, I was honestly looking forward to seeing Bay’s latest, even if it is about Mustangs and boom-boxes and helicopters turning into giant robots.
So it came as a surprise to realize that aside from the spectacular CG footage, Transformers doesn’t look all that good. The color has a rote, clammy, flatly-lit quality that suggests it was shot too fast to allow the dp to deliver anything more. If you’re into the pleasures of blue-chip action cinematography (my favorites include Paul Cameron‘s work in Gone in Sixty Seconds and David Tattersall‘s in Con Air), forget Transformers. It’s not in the least bit luscious or painterly or anything along these lines.
Bay obviously knows how to make films look first-rate, but he handed the dp reins to Mitchell Amundsen, who’d done nothing but second-unit action-flick photography before this. Obviously he wanted a guy who would just do as he was told.
The cutting style of Transformers is, for me, too fast and raggedy and fragmented to provide any kind of gripping-narrative effect. Even some of the standard insert shots (like an early one of President George Bush‘s red-socked feet) look inferior. There’s a lot of backstory and a lot to explain, but the film lurches and leaps from setting to setting at too breathless and spazzy a pace.
I know, I know…I’m not rolling with it because I’m not in my 20s and didn’t play with Transformer toys when I was a kid in the late ’80s or early ’90s, right? I used to buy the action figures for Jett and Dylan when they were five, six and seven years old. I’ve lived through it; I remember it well.
I quite liked the opening action scene (set in Qatar) in the beginning — it’s a lot of fun. Jett, who stayed all the way through the 140-whatever minute length, says the big Optimus Prime vs. Megatron showdown in downtown LA definitely kicks ass. This element alone will do it for the target audience. The theatre last night was filled with under-30s. I could tell they didn’t give a damn about anything as long as Bay was delivering the metallic bonks and thonks and heavy crunches.
There’s some simple-dick dialogue in this thing that would choke a horse (including a couple of astoundingly stupid Optimus Prime lines about the internet and E-Bay), but who’s going to care aside from guys like myself?
I can’t talk about the performances (I could only feel sympathy for Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight, Anthony Edwards, etc.) or the theme or the plot particulars because it’s all chemically-treated milkshake crap flying in your face. The bottom line is that I can’t deal with an action movie that doesn’t at least look cool — cool between the CG spectacle shotts, I mean — and so I left the film in my head before I finally did the Big Bold Thing and walked out at the 90-minute mark.
Transformers is going to put big money in a lot of pockets, but Michael Bay is digging himself deeper and deeper into that Michael Bay hole that he needs to climb out of. Are you reading this, Bay-o? You’re obviously a very skilled guy and you’re having fun with the logistics and of course you’re getting rich, but you’re going to hate, hate, hate yourself by the time you’re 55 if you don’t start making movies with a semblance of a soul. Jacob Marley’s ghost said it to Ebenezer Scrooger — save yourself!
As I came out of the theatre producer Tom DeSanto was standing in the lobby. “Hey, Jeff!” he said aloud. I just waved and half-smiled and said “hey!” and kept walking. It was embarassing, but what was I going to say?
I’ve tried to play this brand-new Lions for Lambs trailer six times (it’s currently an AOL Moviefone exclusive) and the hell with it. I have a perfectly functioning laptop with Windows XP and all the major media players and no time at all for trailers that don’t play free and easy. I saw the green MPAA logo, a silent MGM lion and then nothing…and then I heard the lion and then Tom Cruise saying a line and then nothing. So I went back and tried to play it twice more and it failed both times.
Gut reactions from the priveleged who are able to play it?
The waiting-in-line-at-the-Grove-to-pick-up- an-I-Phone-on-opening-day story turned out to be a dud. Not that many bodies, no shoving or pushing or raucousness of any kind, nobody shouting “open the doors!” Just 70 or 80 nice people sitting on the curb and on fold-up chairs, waiting patiently under the hot early-morning sun and…you know, quietly shooting the shit or reading or checking e-mails on their I-Books or soon-to-be-yesterday’s-news handhelds
A couple of TV news guys and two or three Apple flunkies were standing around outside the door. I was doing the same and asking myself, “Why did I come here?” It was nothing….a big zero.
The first I-Phone hounds arrived last night but were told to leave by Grove security. The second wave arrived at 5 a.m. but were also told to leave. A uniformed security guy told me the line was permitted to form at 6:30 pm. At first people weren’t permitted to unfold and sit on their lawn chairs…but then Grove security backed off and said “okay.” Grove security also passed out free loaner umbrellas and bottles of Smart water to any “waiter” than wanted either one.