Last night I read a 2018 draft of Todd Phillips‘ Joker, written by Phillips and Scott Silver. It’s Scorsese-ish, all right — set in 1981 “Gotham,” tingling with echoes of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy with a little touch of Death Wish. The basic philosophy is “the world’s a venal, plundering place so who can blame Joaquin Pheonix for becoming a killer clown?” It’s a stand-alone but at the same time it definitely feeds into the Batman legend.
“As a woman unraveling while struggling to make sense of the deaths of her husband and son, Diane Kruger showed she could carry a movie in Fatih Akin‘s In the Fade. But she needs more textured material than she’s given in The Operative, a choppy espionage thriller.
“Pic casts Kruger as a Westerner making bold moves to disentangle herself and right a wrong after years of undercover Mossad activity, pulling in Martin Freeman as her former handler to help facilitate her exit. Writer-director Yuval Adler connects the dots of the convoluted plot with reasonable clarity, but The Operative only intermittently builds suspense.” — from David Rooney‘s Hollywood Reporter review.
Boilerplate: “The Inglourious Basterds actress plays an undercover Mossad agent who is sent to Tehran, Iran, where she masquerades as an English teacher in order to gather information about Iran’s secret nuclear program in this John le Carre-style spy thriller. Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Yuval Adler (Bethlehem), the psychological espionage thriller is based on the spy novel “The English Teacher” by former Israeli intelligence officer Yiftach Reicher Atir.
Six days ago Pure Cinema Podcast posted a nearly three-hour interview with Once Upon A Time in Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino. Fascinating stuff, good chatter, etc. But honestly? I’m a little miffed that Tarantino avoided mentioning the obvious Burt Reynolds similarity when describing Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Rick Dalton. I’m almost wondering if QT is dodging the Reynolds thing out of spite.
Dalton is Quentin’s character, obviously — a macho TV actor who found his initial footing in the late ’50s and early ’60s but has been struggling throughout the ’60s to land a decent role in a strong A-level movie. So he can compare Dalton to any fucking real-life actor he wants. But to sidestep Burt Reynolds, especially given the buddy-buddy relationship Dalton has with Brad Pitt‘s stuntman character Cliff Booth, is disingenuous. Fair is fair and upfront is upfront.
I not only explained but predicted it all on 4.14.19: “Tarantino will probably tap-dance or shilly-shally when some journalist asks him this point blank, but Dalton-Reynolds fits together perfectly. The 1969 career situations of DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton (struggling, pushing-40 TV actor) and Pitt’s Cliff Booth (Dalton’s same-aged stuntman-buddy) mirror that of Reynolds and stuntman pally Hal Needham. Fucking obvious. Okay, with a little Clint Eastwood thrown in.
“In ’69 Reynolds, who had been acting on TV since the late ’50s (when he was in his early 20s), was a steadily working but diminished ‘known quantity’ who was more or less poking along with B-level features like Sam Whiskey and 100 Rifles and short-lived TV series like Hawk and Dan August.
“Reynolds had been trying and trying but was unable, during the first year of the Nixon administration when he was 33 years old, to break through into the bucks-up realm of A-level features. And then, after 15 years in the business (when he was 20 or 21 he was told he couldn’t play a supporting role in Sayonara because he looked too much like Marlon Brando), Reynolds finally made it over the hump and became BURT REYNOLDS.
“He accomplished this with the one-two-three punch of (a) his breakthrough lead role (studly survivalist Lewis with the bow-and-arrow) in John Boorman‘s Deliverance (’72), (b) that Cosmopolitan centerfold and (c) becoming a talk-show star with his amusing, self-deprecating patter in chats with Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and David Frost.
“In the space of a few months Reynolds was no longer Mr. Semi-Obscuro but suddenly the cool guy whom everyone liked and admired.”
“He’s a bit like George Maharis, he’s a bit like Edd Byrnes, he’s a bit like Tab Hunter, he’s a bit like Fabian, he’s a bit like Vince Edwards. These are all guys that were handsome kind of he man…Ty Hardin, a certain kind of leading man that were handsome and most of them were kinda rugged. They spent their careers running pocket combs through their pompadours.
For what it’s worth, the snippets of Renee Zellweger‘s performance in this Judy trailer seem to have that certain snap-crackle-pop. No telling how the film will play, but Zellweger will probably land a Best Actress nomination. Performances of this type usually do. Rupert Goold and Tom Edge’s film will open on 9.27 via Roadside (a likely Toronto Film Festival headliner), and in England on 10.4.
Boilerplate: “An adaptation of the Olivier- and Tony-nominated Broadway play End of the Rainbow, Judy is about Garland’s last few months during a run of sell-out concerts at London’s Talk of the Town.”
I didn’t know or care much about personal problems, alcoholism and pharmaceutical abuse when I was a kid, but Judy Garland was the very first Hollywood star whom I associated with these issues. After seeing The Wizard of Oz at age seven or eight my mother (or was it my grandmother?) mentioned that Garland’s adult life was a mess. I never forgot that.
Garland had ten good years (mid ’30s to mid ’40s) before the gradual downswirl pattern (stress, anxiety, pills, self-esteem issues) kicked in. Garland was 31 when she made George Cukor‘s A Star Is Born, supposedly playing a fresh-faced ingenue but unvoidably looking like the battle-scarred showbiz veteran that she was. A barbituate overdose killed Garland at age 47, at which point she seemed 60 if a day.
Zellweger does all the singing, I’m told. I knew she could sing, of course, but sounding like Garland is another challenge.
Zellweger might be sufficient, good or great, but Anne Hathaway should have played Garland. She would’ve been perfect.
Liza Minnelli quote: “I just hope [the makers of this film] don’t do what they always do. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
I didn’t know Natalie Morales all that well before seeing Stuber last week. The viewing didn’t exactly broaden my Morales vistas. She plays the bright, somewhat frustrated daughter of Dave Bautista‘s bruiser cop — pretty much a rote, thankless role in a crudely written, brutally violent action comedy.
But I did come to know Morales in the below IMDB-produced video, in which the former Grinder and Parks and Recreation costar talks with real feeling about her worship of Buster Keaton. I had the same reaction to her words that I’ve had whenever I’ve seen a gifted but unlucky actor, a veteran of almost nothing but underwhelming films and TV shows, shine in a brilliant Broadway play.
“Aaaah, so that‘s who Morales is!”, I muttered to myself. “She not only gets Keaton but thinks her contemporaries need to wake up and shake off their resistance to watching classic black-and-white films.”
Stuber is Collateral reimagined and downgraded by opportunistic vulgarians. I’m speaking of director Michael Dowse, screenwriter Tripper Clancy and producers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley.
It contains a predictably amusing performance by Kumail Nanjiani as an overwhelmed, too-sensitive-for-his-own good Uber driver, but it’s basically Kumail transferring his wry stand-up schtick to an action realm. Bautista struck me as too thick and gorilla-like to occupy the classic Schwarzenegger realm. Otherwise the basic idea behind Stuber is to bash, bruise, bludgeon and brutalize while leaning heavily on the cops-vs.-drug-dealers handbook.
Stuber appropriates Collateral‘s story and theme — a wimpish cab driver grows into a man of some consequence through an experience with a lone-wolf client with a violent job — while turning the dial up to 11. Torrents of coarse dialogue, gratuitous face-poundings, cartoonishly over-the-top stunts.
Variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote that Stuber “embraces the real-world physics of gunplay, car crashes and hand-to-hand combat.” Bullshit! The Daffy Duck vs. Yosemite Sam world, he means.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »