I passed on seeing Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ Toy’s House at Sundance ’13 because it seemed, in my blithe ignorance, to resemble Lord of The Flies and I didn’t want that shit in my head. But then I met Vogt-Roberts at the Spirit Awards and he was cool. And then I saw this. Pic is now called The Kings of Summer (CBS Films, 5.31).
Approach the cinematic oeuvre of Louis Letterier with caution. To me he’s strictly a popcorn-level operator who makes escapist megaplex ghoulash. The Incredible Hulk (i.e., the one that came out in ’08 with Edward Norton) wasn’t half-bad, but Clash of the Titans (’10) was punishment. And my God, the paycheck vibe coming off these performers! Yes, of course — we all get paid and so what? But something about this particular group says “we are slick salesmen — pay us what we want and we’ll be in your movie.”
Hi, I’m Jesse Eisenberg. You may recall my intense, mercurial performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network but that was then and this is now. I agreed to make this film because I liked the script (by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt), but also, let’s face it, because they met my quote.
Hi, I’m Morgan Freeman and I’ll act in almost anything, even Olympus Has Fallen, as long as you pay me handsomely. All I care about is hanging out on the farm with my horses so nothing matters.
Hi, I’m Michael Caine, and if I have to explain that I’ll appear in almost anything (including Jaws 4: The Revenge) for the right price, you haven’t been paying attention.
Hi, I’m Woody Harrelson…hi, I’m Isla Fisher…hi, I’m Mark Ruffalo…and so on.
Summit/Lionsgate is releasing Now You See Me on 5.31.
Synopsis: “The Four Horsemen, a magic super-group led by the charismatic Michael Atlas (Eisenberg), perform a pair of high-tech magic shows, first astonishing audiences by robbing a bank on another continent, and then exposing a white-collar criminal and funneling his millions into the audience members’ bank accounts.
“FBI Special Agent Dylan Hobbs (Ruffalo) is determined to make the magicians pay for their crimes—and to stop them before they pull off what promises to be an even more audacious heist. But he’s forced to partner with Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent), an Interpol detective about whom he is instantly suspicious. Out of desperation he turns to Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), a famed magic debunker, who claims the bank heist was accomplished using disguises and video trickery.
“As pressure mounts and the world awaits the Horsemen’s spectacular final trick, Dylan and Alma race to find an answer. But it soon becomes painfully clear that staying one step ahead of these masters of illusion is beyond the skills of any one man—or woman.”
For some idiotic reason I paid close to $30 bucks for Criterion’s Bluray of The Blob (’58). It’s a decent low-budget monster flick, primitive and simple and appealing for that, but I felt seriously burned as I began watching it. The smooth saxophone riff during the opening credits is cool (written by Burt Bacharach and strongly reminiscent of Bill Justis‘s “Raunchy“, which was released a year before The Blob came out) but right away there’s trouble.
It’s not the action or the dialogue, but the hideous lighting on the actors’ faces in nocturnal close-ups and medium close-ups. The trouble isn’t the Bluray (typical Criterion work, smothered in grain…what else?) but the film itself. It’s the most ineptly lighted color motion picture I’ve ever seen in my life.
The Blob begins after dark in a woodsy area. No streetlamps, maybe a little moonlight. 27 year-old Steve McQueen (called “Steven” McQueen in the opening titles) is gently kissing his girlfriend, played by 24 year-old Aneta Cousault. They’re sitting in McQueen’s bright-blue convertible, and McQueen isn’t even trying for second base — his kiss is chaste and courtly, but she’s feeling betrayed and hurt and disappointed.
The look on Cousault’s face speaks volumes. It’s almost in the same realm as the look on Sen. Joseph McCarthy‘s face when he accused this or that lefty of Communist allegiances. You just want to get your hands inside my dress, Steve. I thought you cared for me. I thought you respected me. I thought you were nicer than that. But I’m not going to give you what you want, Steve. I’m not going to unzip your fly and bring you to ecstasy with the gentle caress of my fingers.
McQueen smiles and says he’s sorry, but in a way he’s lucky because one look at Cousalt tells you she’s never heard of any form of sexual activity other than the woman just lying there and waiting for the man to finish. Attempted teenaged intimacy used to be like this. So depressing. Thank God I grew up in one of the greatest nookie eras in world history, the Roman Empire included. But I’ve gotten off the subject.
The lighting in the opening scene and in every outdoor-nighttime scene in the entire film for that matter is terrible. The opening shot looks like McQueen and Cousault are sitting directly in front of 2000-lb. klieg light or a pair of truck headlights.
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and his dp, Thomas E. Spaulding, had surely heard of “day for night” but for whatever reason they just turned the lights on. Every night scene has been flood-lighted to death. When The Blob’s first victim, an old hermit (Olin Howland), steps out of his home at night he’s all lit up like New Year’s Eve. It’s all Howland can do to not squint from the glare.
And yet Yeaworth’s film is more watchable than Larry Hagman‘s Beware! The Blob (’72), which I saw and could barely stand when I watched it on YouTube the other day. And don’t even talk about the 1988 version — garbage.
Last night I went to a 10:35 pm showing of Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires (Weinstein Co.), which I’ve been praising up and down since catching it 10 and 1/2 months ago in Cannes. It was playing in a smaller Arclight theatre (#12) and there were 20 or 25 people in the seats, if that. I enjoyed it almost as much as that Cannes viewing. It was a tiny better in Cannes because I wasn’t expecting much and I didn’t know how good Chris O’Dowd would be. This time I was just looking for a nice repeat and I got that, but the first time is the charm.
The Sapphires is an Aboriginal Dreamgirls set in 1968, smaller-scaled and flavored/punctuated with rural Australia and war-torn Vietnam. Less flash and razzle-dazzle, no strobe lights and more emotionally restrained than Dreamgirls plus no Beyonce, Jamie Foxx or Eddie Murphy…but with the robust, note-perfect O’Dowd and ripe, live-wire performances from Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell — great singers, attractive and emotionally pronounced in every scene.
This is a smallish film with heart and charm and humor and rousing music, and yet The Sapphires made beans this weekend in four theatres ($40,9000 = $10 grand per screen or $3300 per theatre per day). I guess I knew this would happen but it still doesn’t feel right. The Weinsteiners know that a character-driven indie film about an Aborginal girl group isn’t hooky or flashy or oomphy enough for the megaplex popcorn-heads and so they’re starting out small, but…I don’t know but it feels a bit frustrating.
I know that the weekend’s biggest hit, Olympus Has Fallen (which took in 30 million and change in 3098 theatres), is one of the dumbest, cheesiest and most depressingly low-grade Die Hard flicks ever and the people who made and distributed it are popping the champagne. The book is called “When Good Things Happen To Bad People.”
Could it be that people are assuming the film might be about a lesbian singing group? Sapphire, sappho, etc. I’m just free-associating here.
From my Cannes Film Festival review: “A healthy portion is cool, snappy, rousing, well-cut and enormously likable. (And dancable.) That would be the first 40%, when the true-life tale of an Aboriginal Supremes-like group assembled and took shape in Australia in 1968. This 40-minute section, trust me, is definitely worth the price.
“But the main reason the film delivers overall is Chris O’Dowd‘s performance as Dave, a charmingly scuzzy boozer and Motown fanatic who steers the four girl singers (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell) away from country and towards soul music, and then takes them to Vietnam to entertain U.S. troops. Dowd’s manner and personality are a total kick — an absolute hands-down winner and the best reason to see The Sapphires, even when it turns sketchy in the last half or so.
“I was saying to myself during the first 10 or 15 minutes, ‘Whoa, this is pretty good…not as high-throttle razzmatzzy as Dreamgirls but I like it better.’ And then it kept on going and hitting the marks for the most part. Blair is a talented director who knows how to cut and groove and put on a show. [Even during the parts] when it’s not really working The Sapphires at least keeps the ball in the air with reasonable agility and sass. The analogy, come to think, isn’t really Dreamgirls as much as Hustle and Flow and The Commitments, at least during those first 40 minutes.
“The soul classics are delightful to savor throughout. The music put me in a good mood right away and kept me there.
“The script is by Aboriginal actor-writer Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson, and based on Brigg’s 2004 stage play, which was based on his mom’s true story (as the closing credits infom).”