Reasonably good news from Variety‘s Todd McCarthy in his just-up review of Ron Howard‘s Angels and Demons. One, this “cleverly produced” film is “less turgid and aggravating than its predecessor.” Two, “the climax, however far-fetched, is visually spectacular and dramatically both evenhanded and unexpected.” Three, Tom Hanks‘ Robert Langdon is fitter looking than he was in The DaVinci Code, and has changed hairdressers (i.e., no more DaVinci mullet). And four, Ewan McGregor‘s performance is “OK.”
Last Saturday night I caught a showing of Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Three Monkeys at the Cinema Village. As many have noted, it’s beautifully shot but slowly (some would say glacially) paced. I adore this Antonioni-esque quality but a 20something couple who sat in front of me started to get bored somewhere around the three-quarters mark and began to yappity-yap. Not whispering, which would have been bad enough, but actually talking.
I cut them a break at first, thinking they’d stop of their own accord — but they didn’t. So I signalled my irritation by coughing twice, which they ignored. Then I knocked on the back of the seat with my knuckles like I was knocking on a door — that shut them up for maybe two or three minutes, then they started in again. So I knocked on the back of the seat again. They finally stopped but it was touch and go for a good ten to twelve minutes.
If you’re bored with a film, the thing to do is leave. Nobody will fault you for that. But who sits there and chit-chats away and alienates anyone and everyone sitting nearby? In situations of this sort shouldn’t it be allowable to pour a soft drink over the head of a talker? Or…you know, down the back of their neck? You pretend that it’s an accident, of course, and offer to get them some paper towels.
“Perhaps Mike Tyson was fortunate to have avoided school and society, inasmuch as his grim early years were the only background that could have produced the inexorable force that he became,” writes New Yorker critic David Denby in his current review of James Toback‘s Tyson. “What this early life couldn’t do, however, was protect him from the many dangers outside the ring.
New Yorker illustration by Tom Bachtell.
“Without the guidance of Cus D’Amato (who died when Tyson was nineteen), he fell among idolaters and users, and blew tens of millions of dollars, as he admits, on houses, cars, clothes, girls, drugs, parties, every kind of excess, to the point where the man who was once the wealthiest fighter in history winds up beached (literally — Toback photographs him facing the sea), stranded amid debts and visits to rehab clinics.
“In that long descent, Tyson acted out his sense of worthlessness. If he cannot be king, he will be nothing; the middle, he says, doesn’t suit his temperament. What he offers Toback’s camera now is savagery recollected in tranquillity — the baddest man becalmed into a state of articulate self-awareness. That victory, at least, no one can take away from him.”
The Playlist‘s Rodrigo Perez has taken note of a 5.5 Jessica Biel interview by the Orlando Sentinel‘s Roger Moore in which she says that David O. Russell‘s Nailed, the financially-plagued Capitol Films production that went through at least four shutdowns last May and June, is an unfinished write-off. “I’m devastated that it’s not finished,” she said, “and who knows when it will be and will come out. I still have my fingers crossed that something good will come of it, that it will be finished.”
With Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies set to open July 1st, it’s not surprising that the high-profile Los Angeles Film Festival has arranged to screen it a few days prior. The 1930s high-def gangster flick will show as the fest’s Centerpiece premiere. The L.A. Film Festival runs from June 18th to 28th. Here‘s the lineup on PDF.
I’m very much at peace with never having listened to a single Jessica Simpson song, including “I Want To Love You Forever.” I didn’t mind her performance in The Dukes of Hazzard, but I didn’t think it was very good either. I really hate conservative-minded entertainers who talk about having conversations with God. Simpson has probably done as much to recruit Taliban followers as Sex and the City or the Charlie’s Angels movies. A lot of us believe that the world would be a better place if she’d never become famous for anything.
Why has Vanity Fair put her on the cover of its June issue? And run this story about her? And who wrote the copy that says she’s “fighting back against unflattering tabloid portrayals” — i.e., Vanity Fair-speak for the fact that Simpson became fat last year and that people took pictures of her. And who decided to describe the photos in the piece as Simpson “showing off her God-given assets”? The wearing of dresses is showing off assets?
My favorite Dom DeLuise moment — the funniest, I mean — is the most appalling in terms of homophobic attitudes. It’s the “French mistake” dance scene, of course, in Mel Brooks‘ Blazing Saddles (’74). “Wrong!!!….watch me faggot!…sounds like steam escaping.” Sorry but it’s funny. Brooks is the principal offender, of course — DeLuise just went with it. Brilliantly. His end came last night in Santa Barbara. He was 75. We all have the time that we have, and then we don’t.
I had a smooth and relaxing late-breakfast sitdown with Star Trek director JJ Abrams about two hours ago. We’ve been corresponding four or five years but had never met so it was cool to finally do so. My being a moderately big fan of the film (I gave it an HE grade of 8.7 or 8.8 last week) along with the softly-lighted setting of the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel only enhanced the vibe.
Abrams is full of pep and positivism, and about as sharp as they come. He’s almost certainly a as much of a compulsive work fiend as yours truly (if not more so) and is one of those guys who seem preternaturally skilled at being 100% present in the room — there’s no sense that he’s keeping a portion of himself hidden — and at the same time are expert at making conversational partners feel they’re being fully listened to and focused upon.
He had a typical Jewish breakfast (salmon, bagels, cream cheese) and I had the same typical WASP breakfast (scrambled eggs, rye toast, orange juice, bacon served as volcanic ash) that I’ve been eating since I was eight years old.
I conveyed my basic feelings about the film — that it’s a reboot to the Trek franchise in the same way that Casino Royale rebooted the 007 films, that it feels well-coiled and tightly constructed, and that it’s especially successful in the sense that it leaves you just a little bit hungry (as opposed to films that make you feel you’ve absorbed too much of them). His answers speak for themselves.
I asked if long-departed Paramount production chief Gail Berman in fact “came up with the idea of doing the Star Trek prequel now arriving in theaters,” as it said in a 5.4 Brooks Barnes N.Y. Times piece. Abrams basically said yes, she did come to him and proposed a new Star Trek film, and that he answered that he didn’t want to do Star Trek #11 and wanted to get back to basics with a reboot approach and that she said cool.
We also talked technology, travel (i.e., a Star Trek screening for troops in Kuwait), kids, health and so on. I was expecting no more than a 20-minute session after a negotiation with his tough assistant; we wound up talking for about 45 minutes.
That’s not just Tom Hanks with a worried look on his face — it’s also me. Or at least a portrait of how I’m feeling. The guys in red and gray tunics and hats are journalists and Sony publicists who may be harboring secret information about a screening this week of Angels and Demons. I’m worrying about other stuff besides (i.e., most of it having to do with pre-Cannes issues), but this, right now, is certainly front-and-center.
Ron Howard‘s film is opening stateside a week from Friday (i.e., on 5.15), and of course I leave for Cannes next Monday, 5.11, and the Manhattan all-media screening is on Wednesday, 5.13, so I need to see it this week. I can always catch it on 5.13 at a commercial theatre in Cannes, but it would be so much easier to just get it over with here. Preferably in the inner-sanctum comfort of the Sony screening room at Madison and 55th.
On a scale of one to ten, how cranked are Hollywood Elsewhere readers about lining up to see this? To what extent did The DaVinci Code burn the bridges of trust? We all know what Angels and Demons will almost certainly be. The clips make it obvious. And we all understand it’ll clean up like the first one did.
Dan Brown‘s Angels & Demons novel is about some kind of threat to the Catholic belief system from the Illuminati, one of the Vatican’s ancient adversaries, etc. Hank’s ‘symbologist’ Robert Langdon is hired by the Catholic higher-ups to sift through the clues left by the Illuminati to find the “ticking time-bomb” they’ve planted under Rome. The Illiuminati “have been dedicated since the time of Galileo to promoting the interests of science and condemning the blind faith of Catholicism,” the copy says. Sounds like a plan.
A guy sent me a script of Aaron Guzikowski‘s Prisoners, which is looking like another Christian Bale-Mark Wahlberg pairing. (Their first co-venture will be in David O. Russell‘s The Fighter.) The rumor mill says Bryan Singer, whose once-formidable rep has been diminished by Valkyrie and who naturally needs to restore face, is apparently considering a shot at directing.
Prisoners is a kidnapped-kids thriller — Taken meets Gone Baby Gone meets Se7en meets the ravenous hunger of producers and distributors looking for the next big thing. It’s about monsters in our midst in at least two senses of that term, and is very tightly assembled. Wahlberg will play Keller, a blue-collar dad turned vigilante pursuer when his daughter and a neighbor’s child disappear on the night of a Thanksgiving celebration. I’m given to understand that Bale will play Loki, a hotshot detective assigned to the case. It’s set in the Boston area.
The guy who sent it to me called it “a complete page turner…I haven’t read something so original or twisted in quite some time…the comparisons to Se7en are understandable…it’s a hell of a script…if Singer ends up directing as rumored, this thing could really be something special.” I’ve read about 50 or 60 pages worth this morning. It’s a taut and muscular genre piece but so far it’s given me a little too much deja vu. It’ll almost certainly satisfy along the lines of other thrillers in this vein unless the director (Singer or whomever) screws it up big-time.