Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evisceration by Keyboard

I feel nothing for 'The Last Airbender'. Nothing at all. I watch the trailer and get zip -- although, in fairness, I don't believe I've watched a trailer for TLA all the way through.

The stills look silly. I can't remember if I've seen a poster. I haven't thought about the movie. I have a severe disconnect with this product.

There's also a deadness in blog coverage. I haven't read speculations, hopeful gushings, or breathless write-ups about plans of seeing this one. Nobody seems to hate it, love it, or...whatever.

Honestly, I wasn't even aware the movie opens this weekend. Does it really? It's as if it's slinking into theaters with martial arts stealth.

Reviews are rolling in and they're much worse than I expected.

Kenneth Turan goes with:

By specifically critical and broadly adult standards, this film is undoubtedly a disappointment, but it is disappointing in a way that its intended audience may not notice.

That's not so bad. Par for the course when dealing with most kids films, really.

Neil Miller at Filmschoolrejects goes with the mighty and pounding:

To the fans of the original series: I am offended on your behalf.

As you might imagine, the offense was committed by the director, M. Night Shyamalan, but that’s not where it ends. On the whole, Paramount’s The Last Airbender is perhaps the most well-rounded failure of 2010. Whether it’s the wooden performances of its young cast, the action sequences, the community theater-level dialog, the story’s pace or even James Newton Howard’s score, nothing works. It’s as if Shyamalan of 10 years ago is playing a sick joke on fans, a joke with no punch-line and no room for laughs. For anyone wondering if, like The Happening, it’s so bad that it’s funny — it’s not.

Nice. I like that. 'The most well-rounded failure'. Sweet.

Roger Ebert says:

"The Last Airbender" (PG, 103 minutes). An agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. Originally in 2D, retrofitted in fake 3D that makes this picture the dimmest I've seen in years. Bad casting, wooden dialogue, lousy special effects, incomprehensible plot, and boring, boring, boring. One-half of one star.

Agonizing in very category he can think of? Perhaps one of the more direct and pointed instances of evisceration by keyboard in recent memory.

A.O. Scott's intro put a smile on my face:

...there is a scene at the very end that gestures toward a sequel. After 94 minutes — was that all? I could have sworn it was days — of muddy 3-D imagery and muddled storytelling, the idea that this is just the first “Last Airbender” seems either delusionally optimistic or downright cruel.

That's good. Really.

But this! Oh, my! This is jaw-dropping:

An astute industry analyst of my acquaintance, who is 9 and an admirer of the Nickelodeon animated series on which the movie is based, offered a two-word diagnosis of its commercial prospects on the way out of the theater: “They’re screwed.”

!!!!!!!!!!! Holy freaking crap. A nine-year-old kid -- the very heart of the movie's targeted demo -- says 'They're screwed'. I love that. Love it. Screwed...

I really wonder whether M. Night Shyamalan can deliver another good movie. Or, if that's too much to ask, a movie which is bad by less than a whole bunch. I remember the joy and awe of seeing 'The Sixth Sense' those many years ago. I thought: Here's a moviemaker to watch. Here's someone who gets it. I simply could not wait for the next film from this mysterious looking master of storytelling.

That next movie was 'Unbreakable', which left me cold, but I held out hope. Following that came 'Signs' with its laughable story. (Why, again, would aliens who dissolve in water hide in [an irrigated] corn field on a planet more than half covered with oceans)? Then, in quick succession, came 'The Village', 'Lady in the Water', and 'The Happening' -- a one-two-three punch to the moviegoer's midsection, a trio of films which slice and dice intellect into bite-sized pieces -- three movies, each sillier in their plot contortions and more desperate to engage the audience than the last.

Now, these many years after the lush and layered beauty of 'The Sixth Sense', the man's name has become synonymous with, well, offensive dreck. Poor storytelling. Embarrassing movies with silky-smooth camera technique and plots that gleefully ignore fundamental logic. Twist endings for the addled of mind. Wicked bad press. And, worst of all, offensive dreck. Oh, sorry. Said that already. Guess I'm repeating myself.


That's one creepy still. Trailer for 'Paranormal Activity 2' is making the rounds. One bland title, though. Want to see.

Hollywood's Most Reliable Comic Actor

Kyle Smith has a problem with Tad Friend's New Yorker piece regarding Steve Carell and improv comedy, namely the following:

At the age of forty-seven, Carell has quietly become Hollywood’s most reliable comedy star. The studio comedies he has starred in—“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Evan Almighty,” “Get Smart,” and “Date Night”—have grossed at least a hundred and fifty million dollars apiece worldwide, and his fee has risen accordingly. It’s now an estimated fifteen million dollars.

Smith decimates the assertion, especially the characterization of 'Evan Almighty' as a success because it 'grossed at least a hundred and fifty million'. I'd agree. The movie had a huge production and marketing budget. $150m would not come close to paying for it. That 'Evan Almighty' took in around $170m doesn't change that.

However, I disagree with Smith when he says:

Steve Carell is not close to being "the most reliable" comedy star. Moreover, if he's an improv genius, then his scripts don't matter, right? So why were "Get Smart" and "Evan Almighty" so bad?

Smith asks: If Carell is an improv genius, why were 'Get Smart' and 'Evan Almighty' so bad?

'Get Smart' and 'Evan Almighty' may not have been blockbusters, but what bearing does that have in regard to Carell's ability as an improvisational artist?

Smith's logic is faulty, to say the least: No movie with an actor who is an improv genius will be bad and fail at the box office. (Therefore, if Carell was in fact an impov genius 'Get Smart' and Evan Almighty' would have made much more money). The obverse doesn't hold either: All movies with an actor who is a genius at improv will be good and succeed at the box office. (Which proves Carell is not an improv genius as the two films did not do so well).

The assertion that 'any movie with an actor who is good at improv does not need a script' is perhaps even more unsound.

As such, the suggestions that Carell is not an improvisational genius because one or two of his movies did not do so well at the box office, or, that the scripts for Carell's movies are superfluous because some scenes contain improvised material are not supported.

Carell is one of the most reliable comedians despite that certain movies by other comedians have had higher grosses. I'd posit Carell can be counted on to deliver a hit (or, in objective terms, a profitable movie), albeit one of more modest scale.

Tad Friend may not have been thinking in the most literal terms when he called Carell 'Hollywood’s most reliable comedy star', but you can't really hold that against him. 'Reliable' is a pretty subjective term. 'Most reliable' is still subjective. Just how do you measure reliability?

Friend's opinion certainly doesn't deserve the sarcastic thrashing Smith leveled, and, if such scrutiny is applied it should be supported by better logic. If Friend's contention had been that Carell's movies have taken more money than those of any other comic actor, perhaps Smith wouldn't look so bad. However, Friend did not say that in the excerpt provided.

Smith does a nice rundown of the box office takes from the movies of the other Kings of Comedy: Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn, and Jim Carrey. He may have gotten a little sidetracked, but his comparison is a fun read.

I'll get you started:

Carell's 'reliability" thus looks like this:

Date Night: $151 mil worldwide

Get Smart: $231

Dan in Real Life $68

Evan Almighty $173

40-Year-Old Virgin $177


How "reliable" does Carell look against other comedy stars?

Ben Stiller's last five studio movies grossed, worldwide:

Night at the Museum 2 $413 mil

Tropic Thunder $188

Heartbreak Kid $128

Night at the Museum $574

Meet the Fockers $517


That's more than double Carell's take.

NYP for the rest.

Poster Schmoster

The 'Dinner for Schmucks' promo team is having a bit of trouble connecting with the right energy for their poster. Finding the core, so to speak. The first attempt drew some criticism. I said:

...tries a little too hard. Rudd is a bit on-the-nose with the OMG thing -- we get it. Carell enthusiastically channels Jerry Lewis. Is that a good thing?

The guys at heyuguys thought:


The thought of seeing this poster in a public place makes me fear for the welfare of our citizens.

Meanwhile, over at MSN, the line was:

...I'm excited for this, even if the one sheet scares the crud out of me, and I'm going to be seeing this thing on busses and billboards above the Sizzler down the street from me for months.

Filmjunk chimed in:

Carell and Rudd look like pedophiles on the poster

The consensus seemed to be -- yikes!...pass. 'Scary'. I read that a few times.

Carell is frightening. Look at him. Would you want to pass that on the stairs? If stupid was a weapon his character would be dangerous. Your gaze locks on his googly-eyed grinning countenance as if he was a threat not to be taken lightly. Vapid, but dangerous. You want to look away but cannot. It's like the rest of the poster isn't even there -- doesn't exist. Disturbing.

So, possibly in response to the less than subtle commentary, Paramount was quick to release this version:

Yes. Much better. Not scary at all. Really. I mean that. Oh, and look -- Carell and Rudd have the same color eyes...

It just isn't working. Teaser-Trailer says:

Steve Carell looks like a rat on that poster of Dinner for Schmucks!

'Looks like a rat'. The star of the movie resembles a rodent. A big dumb scary rodent.

Way to go, guys. Recommend you put on a pot of coffee and get back to work. The release date has been pushed back a week,'ve got some time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I like 'Love Ranch'...No Matter What You Say

Pesci and Mirren may be laughing but the critics aren't. Melissa Anderson's review at Village Voice gets off to a tough start:

Helen Mirren married director Taylor Hackford in 1997; the two fell in love on the set of White Nights (1985), their first film together. Love Ranch, their second collaboration in 25 years, should be grounds for divorce.

Once going, Anderson doesn't stop:

Any performer, even a deity (and Dame) like Mirren, would struggle mightily to enliven a script this deadly. ...Hackford's pacing throughout is continuously off, with scenes extending several beats too long, his two leads adrift and bored.

Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune says:

Dame Helen Mirren as a tough-talking Nevada brothel madam? We like to think our finest screen performers can play anyone.

...This specific character, however, is nearly unplayably false, as written by Mark Jacobson and directed by Taylor Hackford (Mirren's husband).What could have been a juicy, pulpy noir, based loosely on the real-life 1976 Mustang Ranch love triangle involving Joe and Sally Conforte and Sally's boxer paramour, instead has the dramatic consistency of rice milk.

It's hard to fathom what Hackford had in mind half the time.

Hackford is taking a thrumming.

I don't care what they say. For some reason, don't ask what, I like this movie and will enjoy watching it. (Yes, even if it's kinda bad). Maybe it's the inimitable Helen Mirren, maybe it's the just-about-to-blow energy Joe Pesci is such a natural at portraying. Maybe, I just like movies about desert brothels. I don't know. But, I am looking forward to watching 'Love Ranch'.

I get the feeling the bad reviews will keep rolling out. They won't dampen my enthusiasm. They can't. I'm like a kid set on seeing the latest superhero action flick, the reviews be damned! This movie has cast a spell over me -- I shall watch it and I shall enjoy.

Scorsese Likes Grint

Apparently, Martin Scorsese is mulling over the idea of casting Rupert Grint as a bad guy. This from The Sun:

"I would be interested in working with him. I would have no issues in casting him as a gangster, he is a very talented young man."


"When Leo was in Titanic and Romeo And Juliet, nobody saw him becoming a bad ass in movies like The Departed."

Resident Evil Afterlife

I don't know why but I like this still. 'Afterlife' is looking better than earlier movies in the series.


New 'Rango' Trailer

Here's the new trailer for 'Rango'. Fun.

James Cameron is Number 3?

Here's the top ten from the Forbes Celebrity 100 List:

  1. Oprah Winfrey
  2. Beyonce Knowles
  3. James Cameron
  4. Lady Gaga
  5. Tiger Woods
  6. Britney Spears
  7. U2
  8. Sandra Bullock
  9. Johnny Depp
  10. Madonna

There are two notable things: Six of the ten are women, and, James Cameron comes in at number 3.

That there are six women is fine. Good. Perceptions are changing. That's wonderful. You go girl! But, what's Cameron doing at number 3? How is his celebrity comparable to that of Oprah or Sandra Bullock's? Oprah is all over TV all the time. 24/7 Oprah. Bullock wins an Oscar and dumps Jesse James (the divorce was finalized within the last few hours). She's been top-drawer news for months. Go Sandra! She gets 8th place?! And, James Cameron...made 'Avatar'.

What bearing does being the director of 'Avatar' have when it comes to general celebrity? Does the public -- the average Joe -- know or think about James Cameron the way they do Madonna or Lady Gaga? Even Johnny Depp seems to have a higher profile these days, and he placed a lowly 9th. Isn't Cameron's 'celebrity' more of a cinefile thing? Maybe it's because Cameron has been outspoken about the BP oil spill -- maybe that earned him the coveted #3 spot? Whatever the reason, it's kinda dumb.

If you asked a hundred people on the street who directed 'Avatar' how many would come back with a snappy answer? Out of the ones who got it right, how many would say something like, 'Wasn't it that guy? Cameron something'?

Conversely, if you asked the same group what movie made the most money how many would say, 'Oh! It was the one with all the blue people! What was that called? The one directed by that guy?'

I just don't see James Cameron as a mainstream celebrity. At the very least Tiger Woods should have placed higher. Everybody knows Woods' song and dance. Everybody. Even people who don't care. We've all been hit by the carpet-bombing media coverage about that guy -- whether we wanted to know the details (or see those pictures) or not. Woods got 5th...

James Cameron number 3? My day is ruined.

Trailers for Non-Existent 'Iron Sky' Used to Snag Financing

Wired is reporting that those great 'Iron Sky' trailers were for a movie that had not been shot and were only used to snag financing.

Thanks to a pair of knock-out fake trailers, a team of Finnish filmmakers will soon start shooting an outlandish sci-fi Nazi movie financed in part by fans who flipped over the clips.

The first teaser for Iron Sky, embedded below, has pulled more than 1.3 million YouTube views since its release two years ago. The follow-up clip (above), released last month, continued the momentum as the project’s website harvested micro-investments from 52 fans enticed by the spooky-sleek visuals.


Fan investments in Iron Sky were augmented by money from 12 traditional financiers, according to producer Tero Kaukomaa of Blind Spot Pictures. “If we are able to make money,” Kaukomaa said, “then the crowd who invested will make money, and if that happens, it will speed up the possibility to fund films totally with crowds.”

Smart. This picture has a built-in audience and is practically guaranteed to score at the box office. This technique could become the new way to judge whether a movie should be produced or not. If enough fans send in a dollar you make the movie. If not, you don't.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stallone on 'The Gullibles'

Michael Cieply spoke with Sylvester Stallone about 'The Expendables'. Sly says:

“You’re pretty well limited as to how gullible people are.”

No comment, I just wanted to post that. I'm not even quite sure what he's trying to say -- it's just too cute to ignore.

But, seriously. Stallone is 63? Wow. Look at that guy. He sneers like a man in his twenties.

Johnny Depp is Rango

Here's a character poster for 'Rango', voiced by Johnny Depp.

Angelina at Vanity Fair

Angelina Jolie tells Vanity Fair re: 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' sequel:

"We did ask somebody to look into Mr. & Mrs. to see if they could crack a sequel, but there wasn’t anything original."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Movies Cost So Much

'Inception' b-roll.


I continue to be fascinated by 'Cropsey'. Directed by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, the documentary is a stylized look at the case of the children who went missing from Staten Island neighborhoods around The Willowbrook Mental Institution in the late 80s.
Here's an excerpt from Michael Calleri's review:

The movie is called "Cropsey," and it's a flat-out frightening documentary that makes most fictional horror movies look like child's play. Directors Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman have cleverly figured out a way to take fact-based material and blend it into a form that makes it seem as if you're watching something that can't possibly be true. 

What happens in "Cropsey" is so challenging and creepy that when it ends, your mental footing may be so roiled that you may not want to leave the theater.

That's the way I feel after watching the trailer. I've seen so many horror movies. Usually, they're boring and predictable. At best they can shock you with amped-up music stings which underscore bland action -- like when a cat jumps out of the shadows. 'Cropsey', on the other hand, has a cold electricity. The imagery gets to me and the fact that it deals with actual events makes it all the more creepy.

In a year we get maybe one or two really engrossing documentaries like 'Cropsey'. 'March of the Penguins' comes to mind.  Despite being documentaries, these films are far more dramatic and compelling than most Hollywood features can dream of being.

Here's a trailer for 'Cropsey'.

'Inception' TV Spot

The latest 'Inception' TV spot with a few seconds of footage I haven't seen yet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

'Restrepo' Review

A.O. Scott on 'Restrepo':

What distinguishes “Restrepo” — which belongs with “The Hurt Locker” and “Gunner Palace” on the short shelf of essential 21st-century combat movies — is not only its uniquely intensive focus on a small group of men in a particular time and place, but also its relentless attention to the lethal difficulty of their work.

I love the feel of this doc. Can't wait to see it.

Pay Hulu, Watch (Internet) TV

Wired on the showdown between subscription Hulu and the rest of the movie delivery universe:

The stage is set for a showdown between television networks and cable/satellite TV services, thanks to the internet. It won’t happen overnight, but your monthly cable or satellite bill could eventually be replaced by a monthly bill from Hulu, an online service that streams TV shows on demand.

For $10 a month, viewers will reportedly have access to a wider selection of shows than the free, ad-supported version Hulu currently offers. The service would work on PCs and specialized devices such as the iPad, videogame consoles and set-top boxes.

Aw! They're Such Little Fockers!

This sort of looks like a 'teaser' poster.

Delivery due December twenty-two.

'Dinner for Schmucks' Poster

Here's the poster for 'Dinner for Schmucks' with Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Nice, bright, but tries a little too hard. Rudd is a bit on-the-nose with the OMG thing -- we get it. Carell enthusiastically channels Jerry Lewis. Is that a good thing?

Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) is so good, though. Here's hoping.

Guests arrive July 30.

'Grown Ups'

Here are four questions Rick Warner posts to help you decide if Adam Sandler's 'Grown Ups' is the crude comedy for you:

1) Do fart jokes crack you up?

2) Do you giggle uncontrollably when a fat woman falls face first into a cake?

3) When guys pee in a pool, does it make you laugh out loud?

4) Do you get hysterical when homely dudes ogle a beautiful girl’s derriere?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, “Grown Ups” is for you. If not, you’ll shake your head in disbelief at how this juvenile, brain-dead movie ever got made.

Warner also runs down the Oliver Stone doc about Hugo Chavez, ‘South of Border’.

'Cats and Dogs 2'

Bette Midler as Kitty Galore (Yes, we get the reference) in 'Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore'.

Also stars Paul Rodriguez, Joe Pantoliano, Nick Nolte, and Christina Applegate. The Sun has a featurette. Footage looks pretty rough -- seems like a straight to DVD sequel. Fun for kids, though.

Release July 30.

Paul McCartney as Frodo?

Graphic by Slate

One of the most surprising inclusions in Abby McGanney Nolan's list, The Worst Movies Never Made, for Slate is 'Lord of the Rings' starring -- are you ready? -- The Beatles:

It's widely known that the road to filming Lord of the Rings—first published in 1954—was nearly as long and torturous as Frodo's journey to Mount Doom. Early on, Tolkien stated a preference for the "vulgarization" of an animated version over the "sillification" of a dramatization. According to Roy Carr's The Beatles at the Movies, talks were once in the works for a Beatle-zation—with John Lennon wanting to play Gollum, Paul McCartney Frodo, George Harrison Gandalf, and Ringo Starr Sam. Collaborating with director John Boorman, screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg thought the Beatles should play the four hobbits (and agreed with McCartney that he would be the ideal Frodo).

Wow. I need a second to catch my breath. That would have been...words fail me.

The rest of the rundown makes a pretty good snack.

Who Wrote William Shakespeare's Plays?

The question is at the core of Roland Emmerich's new period-mystery, 'Anonymous': Did someone else write the works attributed to William Shakespeare?

'Anonymous' is a low-budget affair, $30 million being a low budget for Roland Emmerich, which stars Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere (who is considered by scholars to be the leading candidate as an alternate author of Shakespeare's plays), Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth, and Rafe Spall as The Bard.

Emmerich must have a passion for the mystery, if there is one. It's an issue with some weighty intrigue, to be sure. If a moviemaker like Emmerich is committed to the material enough to forgo end-of-the-world scenarios and over-the-top CGI, I have to see the result.

Filmstarts is running a feature on the production with making-of footage and some set stills.

Silly Toys From the Movies

Yes folks, it's James Bond's golden gun. Available from Factory Entertainment for only $449.

Also available are nifty 007 bullets and steel replicas of Jaws' teeth (the Bond character, not the shark).

Wired has details.

LAT Exodus

Mediabistro on the exodus at LAT:

In the last year they have lost Kate Aurthur to Daily Beast, Joseph Kapsch to Zap2it, Denise Martin to TVGuide, Richard Rushfield to Gawker, Tim Swanson to teaching, Rachel Abromwitz to a TV show, blogger Elizabeth Snead to Zap2it and this week it's Matea Gold. We also heard that photographer David Strick's contract was not renewed.

What's going on over there? "People are fleeing since Sallie Hofmeister took over," a former reporter said to us.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twilight Addiction

Christine Spines on the tragedy that is 'Twilight Addiction'.

"'Twilight' was always on my mind, to the point where I couldn't function."

For Sale: One Robot Arm, Slightly Burned

According to Suvudu, the original arm from 'Terminator' will be auctioned by Heritage Auction Galleries July 17.
Shay Austin, who was an Assistant Art Director on the movie. Austin apparently rescued it from the set after the film’s final explosion scene.
“I was there and after the explosion I ran up with the special effects crew to see what was left,” said Austin. “We started picking up the pieces and I picked up the arm. I stayed on the film until the very end including doing pick up shots. After that we wrapped quickly, and I had another job to go to, so I tossed the arm into a box with some other leftover props, and then into my storage. Because I liked the film so much I kept some of the pieces as my souvenirs. Now Heritage is selling them all.”
 Expected to bring $15,000.


Restrepo directors Sebastian Junger (from left) and Tim Hetherington.

NPR does a write-up:

Hetherington and Junger set out to create an overtly nonpolitical documentary, so that regardless of personal politics, audiences could see Restrepo and "digest what these men go through."

Here's a trailer.

Retired Extremely Dangerous

I think 'Red' may be the new model for action movies. A high-concept ensemble comedy action picture with actors of such caliber you can't take your eyes off the screen. May be the only thing that works anymore.

James Gandolfini's 1995 'Mint Julep' Finally Available

For fans of James Gandolfini, Rick Warner at Bloomberg reports that 'Mint Julep' (with Gandolfini and Angelica Torn) is finally available. The movie was shot in 1995 but post-production was stalled repeatedly due to money issues:

“We finished our first rough cut in 1998, but we kept running out of money so it sat around for a long time before we finished it.”

Written and directed by Kathy Fehl and Ian Teal, the movie was finally released in May of 2010 getting a run at Gerold Opera House in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. It's available on DVD at

'Mint Julep' was filmed after Gandolfini had a measure of success with 'Get Shorty', 'Terminal Velocity', and 'Crimson Tide'.

Also starring is David Morse, who had done a lot of TV and had 'Twelve Monkeys' and 'The Crossing Guard' under his belt at the time.

Probably worth a spin.

Helen Mirren Packs Heat in 'Red'

Ms. Mirren, would that be a fifty-cal you've got? Helen Mirren packs heat in 'Red' along with Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis. The action film is about former CIA operatives on the lam.

In theaters October 15. Looks phenomenal. Yahoo has a trailer.

'Tron Legacy' Poster

Poster for 'Tron Legacy'. Looks good. What language is 'Januar'?

Lousy American Movie Posters: Part III

Here's the UK poster for 'Knight and Day'.

Again, far better than the US version (below).

What the hell?

It's hard to believe the difference looking between the two. The UK version is elegant and has style. It holds promise of an intelligent exciting story with sexy leads that we can care about. Even the composition is nice -- it fills the frame corner-to-corner. The plain white background doesn't divert attention from the actors, which reinforces the impression that these two people by themselves are good enough reason to see the movie. Even the damn bike looks good.

This poster works. Being as objective as possible, pretend you haven't heard any of the flack this picture is taking, and look at the UK poster. If this one-sheet were the only thing informing your opinion, wouldn't you want to see 'Knight and Day'?

On the other hand, the American version is beyond silly. This thing is an affront. Confusing, unclear. The 60s psychedelic spatter backdrop has nothing to do with the subject, is extremely bold against a black background, and only serves to confuse the viewer. Cruise's knee is almost out of frame, while there is too much negative space behind Diaz.

The poster has Cruise's name first, but it's Diaz who is on the left side. The UK design is correct: Cruise's name on the left, Cruise on the left, Diaz's name on the right, Diaz on the right.

In the American poster, there is no chemistry between the leads (they don't even look at each other). She squats in a most unflattering posture looking like she is in pain -- no surprise as he has his boot heel under her ass. He faces away from her suggesting a distance, even alienation -- you can forget about sexual tension.

Are we so prudish that the suggestive position in the UK version can't be emulated in the American poster?

And, their expressions! What's that supposed to be? Is the material serious or parody? Is it a hard-core action flick or comedic romp. Or, is it schtick along the lines of Austin Powers. We can't tell. Their expressions are a blend of all these. I understand the movie has a mix of tone but the look on their faces is confusing. It's a bit embarrassing. Hard to look at. I don't think they knew what they were selling. By contrast, the expressions in the UK work-up are those of mature, healthy, smart people who, for reasons you must buy a ticket to discover, have found themselves in dire straits which require the use of forceful measures to diffuse. Who wouldn't want to see that?

They look like cool people in the UK poster -- people you might know or want to know. The American poster makes them look like game show hosts who wonder whether the contestant will take what he has already won and go home or RISK IT ALL FOR THE GRAND PRIZE!!!!! The only thing missing is the public service spiel: "How's My Acting? Call 1-800-BAD-ACTOR".

a) What the hell were the marketing people for 'Knight and Day' thinking? and b) Why the hell does Europe get more elegant, fun, and intelligent movie posters (for our own damn movies) than we do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Times Square Kiss

One of the most famous shots ever made, and a personal favorite. 'Times Square Kiss' by Alfred Eisenstaedt shot on VJ Day, August 14, 1945.

It's safe to say this is one of the shots that made me want to be a photographer.

KTLA reports the nurse in the photo has died:

LOS ANGELES -- The nurse who claimed to be at the center of the iconic " Times Square Kiss" World War II photo has died.

Edith Shain died Sunday at her Los Angeles home of liver cancer, according to her son, Robert. She was 91 years old.


"I went from Doctors Hospital to Times Square that day because the war was over, and where else does a New Yorker go?" she said in 2008, when she donned a white nurse's uniform again and was grand marshal of New York's Veterans Day parade. "And this guy grabbed me and we kissed, and then I turned one way and he turned the other. There was no way to know who he was, but I didn't mind because he was someone who had fought for me."

Upside Down Signage

Okay, here's a question. In the trailer for 'The Green Hornet', at the 9-second mark, why is the sign that says 'The Standard' upside down?

Otherwise, nice.

"Grace, Milly, Lucy...Child Soldiers"

The documentary 'Grace, Milly, Lucy...Child Soldiers' brings to light the story of girls who are kidnapped and forced to fight as soldiers in Uganda.

NPR's Neal Conan talks with Grace Akallo, a former child soldier, and the director Raymonde Provencher. Here is an excerpt:

In Uganda, a war has been raging for over 20 years, fought on one side by an army of children. The Lord's Resistance Army led by rebel chief Joseph Kony has abducted more than 30,000 children whom they torture, indoctrinate, rape and turn into killers. The Lord's Resistance Army is 80 percent children. Some 30 percent of those children are girls.

This week, a film describing their horrific experiences shows at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival in suburban Maryland. That festival runs all this week. The film is called "Grace, Milly, Lucy...Child Soldiers." One of its subjects, Grace Akallo, describes how the rebels came in the middle of the night to the convent where she went to school and divided the girls they'd captured into two groups. They freed 109 of the girls and kept 29, Grace among those left behind.

(Soundbite of movie, "Grace, Milly, Lucy...Child Soldiers")

Ms. GRACE AKALLO: And I remember thinking, I'm not going to stay here for another night. I'm not going to stay here for another day. I'm going to escape. I'm going to run away. But we're told if anyone of us tries to escape, the rest of the 29 would be killed.

Retro Expendables Poster

It's a cool idea. Make your poster look like a folded paper one from the 70s or 80s. I'll be looking for some 70s and 80s cliches from 'The Expendables'.

'Predators' International Trailer

Looking better all the time. Very nice.

Twi-Hards Stake Out Their Turf

'Twilight: Eclipse' fans campout for the movie's premiere in LA Thursday night.


One of the things I like best about movie blogging is wondering whether a given project will be good. Will the result work. 'Flipped' is just that type of product.

I like that Rob Reiner directs. A good choice for character-driven material. It's hard to guess what the result will be, though. An afterschool TV movie, or that rare non-superhero film that parents will take their kids to the theater to see.

The Conception of 'Inception' Sound

Wired Magazine talks with Richard King, who was the supervising sound editor on 'The Dark Knight' and is working with Christopher Nolan on sound design for 'Inception':

“Starting with real acoustics gets audiences to believe in what’s happening onscreen — even when it’s a complete illusion.”

There is audio from the train wreck scene from 'Inception' pictured.

First 'Inception' Review

Lou Lumenick, apparently, has an excerpt from Peter Travers' review of 'Inception'. It's also, apparently, the first review of the movie. Not on the RollingStone website yet, though:

"The mind-blowing movie event of the summer arrives just in time to hold back the flow of Hollywood sputum that's been sliming the multiplex.

...'Inception' glows with a blue-flame intensity all its own."

Head over to Lumenick's site for the rest.

Makes Bad Movies Good

Hollywood Roaster reports on the new FlickSwitch:

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers recently held a special press conference to unveil their response to slumping box office numbers.

New Platforms

Wired has a story on the distribution of DC Comics via the iPad. It can't be much longer before platforms like this will chip away even more business from movie theaters. I can see a time in the not-too-distant future when kids don't think of 'going to the movies' as much as 'downloading' or 'streaming' one.

If I had a comic book store I'd be worried. Why go to a store to buy a comic book when you can get one (that will never wear out or fade) on your iPad in a few seconds?

If I had a movie theater (chain) I'd be worried, too. DVDs were bad enough, but 'click and watch' is really bad for business.


Kim Masters with NPR re: star-driven movies:

Q: Now you said it's partly Tom Cruise, but also partly Hollywood?

Yes, because we haven't seen a major movie star work in a movie in a while. The summer got off to a horrible start.

...You know, we haven't seen a Russell Crowe movie work, or any of these go-to, bankable stars, and Hollywood doesn't know quite how to respond to that problem. What does that mean, when movie stars can't open movies?

Audio 3:48

Green Hornet Poster

'The Green Hornet' has a poster.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Conviction Poster

Conviction Movie Poster

Charlie Rose with Tilda Swinton

First interview is with Andrei Kostin. Tilda Swinton's segment starts at about the 29 minute mark.

"I Want to Enjoy the Movie When it Comes Out"

So. This guy, he wants to remain anonymous, found a copy of the script for 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' in a cafe in London but did not read it because he didn't want to spoil the movie.

He said, "I'm a big fan of the films, but I managed to resist the urge to have a read. I want to enjoy the movie when it comes out."

Scheduled for release summer of 2011.

So Much Hate

Critics have stampeded and are chasing down the hapless 'Knight and Day'.

A.O. Scott jumps on the bandwagon and posts an entertaining review that could just as easily be filed under 'vociferous complaint':

None of this would be objectionable if the director, James Mangold — who has acquitted himself admirably in such pictures as “Heavy,” “Cop Land,” “Walk the Line” and “3:10 to Yuma” — demonstrated any flair for silly, breakneck action choreography. Instead, the stars grimace (Mr. Cruise), screech (Ms. Diaz) and crack wise (both of them, gamely enunciating lines from a drab script by the first-timer Patrick O’Neill) in front of a green screen onto which computer-generated images have been slapped together with the meticulous care of a high school yearbook staff wielding Photoshop on deadline.

Ouch. (The above still does seems to support Scott's conclusion, though). Meanwhile, again at NYT, (director) James Mangold explains a scene from the movie.

Lou Lumenick calls it 'Mission: Implausible':

And it’s for no other plausible reason than he’s Tom Cruise, she’s Cameron Diaz and this is a big, dumb summer movie with no apparent ambition other than plugging a hole in a studio’s schedule because its faded star happened to be available for a few weeks.

and, keeps going with a blog entry entitled 'Flop Gun'. Apparently, one slash-and-burn piece didn't quite vent poor Lou's angst.

Jackie K. Cooper throws his hat in the ring:

This film is a letdown in a variety of areas the top one being in the performances of the two stars.

Ham-fisted at best Jackie, but we take your meaning. A bit clunky, but par for the course at HuffPo Entertainment. Your review gets two stars **

LAT has keeps things in perspective:

Fox is trying to make sure that "Knight and Day" doesn't come and go.

Brooks Barnes at Media Decoder says:

Services that track audience interest have shown moviegoer apathy about the picture.

As a result, Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind “Knight and Day,” has revved up its formidable marketing engines to full tilt, spending heavily on television ads and peppering the marketplace with sneak previews to boost word of mouth. It may be the first time a major summer blockbuster starring Mr. Cruise has resorted to “sneaks” to generate interest, giving you some idea of the desperation at hand here.

As if that weren't bad enough Barnes adds this bit of news:

The problem: “Knight and Day” doesn’t roll out internationally for another month due to the World Cup.

Colin Covert at The Miami Heralds takes the opportunity to run an extensive analysis of Cruise's career. He opens with:

The antic teen famous for dancing in his underpants has morphed into a middle-aged enigma notorious for jumping on Oprah's couch. Along the way he took control of United Artists (disastrously) and inspired Christian Bale's performance as the unhinged title character in "American Psycho."

Covert continues by breaking down Cruise's career into four parts:

The contender (1981-86)
Tom Terrific (1988-93)
Jumping the couch (1994-2007)
The rebuilding years (2008-??)

It's pretty good reading.

Poor Tom.

Fun New Toy

Here's a new still from 'The Green Hornet'. Actually, this is probably just a snapshot of Seth Rogen screwing around with a prop.

Goofy action hero... What's not to love?

The New Goofy Action Movie Guy

The trailer for 'The Green Hornet' has hit the web and its tone is taking a lot of people by surprise, even offending some. But I think they've hit the nail on the head. TGH is going for fun (almost silly) action with a goofy and likable hero, and Seth Rogen delivers. It's the right approach with the right lead. Look at those dirty boots. What kind of crimefighter gets dirty boots? The goofy kind played by a natural funny guy like Rogen.

If TGH had gone for a Bourne or Mission: Impossible feel with Rogen in the lead it would have made the same mistake 'Knight and Day' does trying to utilize a so very serious Tom Cruise in a comedic action farce. The lead simply wouldn't be acceptable and the resulting movie couldn't be taken seriously.

I like the clips I've seen from 'K&D', but the movie trips over its own feet because Cruise is just so out of place in this type material. He just isn't a comedian. He tries -- my does he try -- but the effort is obvious and it's hard not to roll your eyes.

Rogen's Britt Reid has a natural charm -- he could get huge yucks just by walking into a room. It's easy to root for him. Cruise's Roy Miller, on the other hand, pulls out all the stops to get you to like him, but it's hard to watch. You can't root for a guy that tries that hard.

TGH and K&D are the same product but one features a natural comedic talent looking to expand his career, while the other has a fish out of water striving mightily to be self-deprecating. The goofy action in 'The Green Hornet' is fun to watch and Rogen is endearing, while the same stuff in 'Knight and Day' is just weird and off-putting because Cruise can't sell it. Cruise doing schtick is just painful.

I'd go so far as to propose that, if K&D had a different lead, say Matt Damon making fun of Bourne, it would be a lot more fun to watch.

Cruise is trying to broaden his scope, and he would probably be great doing subtle comedy, but it might be better to let Les Grossman handle the over-the-top assignments. If he wants to diversify Cruise should try ensemble drama; 'Magnolia' was excellent. A string of smaller dramas would be a good thing, especially considering he is getting older.

There are rumblings 'The Green Hornet' is clanky and will not appeal to a broad fan base. I'll disagree. Looks like a winner and should be the start of a fun franchise.

'Knight and Day', on the other hand, doesn't look so good.

Monday, June 21, 2010


'Paperhouse' is a psychological-thriller about a girl, Anna, who is home with a fever. Her doctor makes house calls to treat her. When Anna (played by a haunting Charlotte Burke in her only major movie role) asks the doctor how her other patient, Marc, is doing, the doctor is shocked as she has not mentioned Marc before.

Anna knows about Marc through a psychic connection she has with him in her dreams. One day, Anna draws a house and that night, in her dreams, Marc is living in the house.

The story takes a psychological turn when Anna draws her father in the picture so that he might help Marc. She doesn't like the drawing so scratches it out. The result is that her father visits Anna and Marc in their house but appears as a horrible monster who attacks them.

The issues dealt with are the emotional pitfalls of the parent/child relationship when the parent is alcoholic. I saw the film when it came out in 1989 at an arthouse that played mostly foreign movies. It's stuck with me ever since.

Roger Ebert called it "a film in which every image has been distilled to the point of almost frightening simplicity".

'Paperhouse' seems fitting for a Hollywood remake, although it would be tough to find an actor as intense as Charlotte Burke.

If you haven't seen it I highly recommend 'Paperhouse'.

Flammable Water? Gasland on HBO

Gasland premieres tonight on HBO. Directed by Josh Fox, the doc won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance and runs down the damage done to the environment due to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) when drilling for natural gas.

This from Mike Hale's review at NYT:

Wherever he goes he finds flammable, foul-smelling water, sick people and animals, and families who no longer use their wells but truck in all their household water (usually bought at Wal-Mart).

NYT's Arts Beat blog has an interview and clip:

Q. What did you find?

A. When I first went to Dimock, which was the first stop in the film, my brain was blown apart. These people had no idea what was coming. They signed for very little money, in most cases around $25 an acre. They were told, “You know we’re probably not even going to drill. We don’t think there’s any gas here, so you might as well take this $500 for your 10 acres,” or whatever it was. So they were, like, “O.K.,” and then all of a sudden their whole town is upended and taken away from them. They have heavy metals in their water, flammable water, discolored water, water that wrecked washing machines. A woman named Norma Fiorentino, her water well exploded on New Year’s Day in 2009. When I arrived there in the beginning of February 2009, people were terrified.

This is from the NPR's Talk of the Nation interview:

The industry is not releasing what those chemical compositions are. They're saying it's like the special formula for Coca-Cola. But this is, you know, being injected underground and left there by the millions of gallons. And we know that most of the stuff is toxic: carcinogens, neurotoxins, other - endocrine disruptors, things that are - can - that can really be very harmful in small, small quantities.

Audio for that is here (14:12)

Alison Rose Levy does a write-up at Huffington:

When the Sundance award-winning film, Gasland, begins nationwide broadcast on HBO this Monday, the curtain will rise on Act II of the health tragedy wrought by the insurgent fossil fuel race to profit. This exquisitely crafted documentary feels like America's Nuremberg, as ordinary heartland citizens rise up to indict gas giants, who, they claim, have been on the loose since 2005, when former Vice-President Dick Cheney crafted the so-called Halliburton Loophole.

The Halliburton Loophole expressly exempts oil and gas companies, from customary safety measures, health safeguards, regulatory oversights, penalties and liabilities that most Americans assume are in place to protect citizens, health and resources.


Fracking drills deep into the earth to bring forth gas (and radiation) mixing nearly 600 toxic, proprietary chemicals with millions of gallons of public water.

...according to an Environmental Working Group report, one single well contains chemicals sufficient to "contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water."

When film-maker Josh Fox tracks the hundreds of truckloads used to convey the process into (and out of) a region, the numbers reveal that nearly half of these chemicals are left behind to evaporate into the air, and seep into wells, aquifers, streams, and creeks that flow into rivers. Due to the exemption from Superfund Cleanup, no remediation is required of drillers. 

Blog Archive