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Some final thoughts about the TCM Classic Film Festival

It’s time for me to take a moment to reflect a bit on what I learned from my rather hectic but definitely fun and enlightening time at the TCM Fest.  As previously reported here and everywhere else, it turned out to be a fairly roaring success and is promised to be repeated next year in Hollywood.  Because of time constraints and because I wasn’t able to enjoy the truly titanic number of films seen by, say, a Dennis Cozzalio — currently working on a detailed and sure to be great summary of the event — I’m going to limit myself to a few random observations covering material I have not mentioned in prior TCM-centric posts. (Here, here, and here.) Naturally, it’ll still turn out to be much longer than I originally intended.

HCM-55-Grauman's-Chinese-Theater-(2)

Borgnine, Donen, Rainer

As someone with parents in their eighties and nineties, I’ve become especially interested lately in the way things work for people of a certain age. So it was with some some special interest that I listened to the words of 100 year-old thirties star Luise Rainer, 93 year-old star character actor Ernest Borgnine (“Marty,” “The Wild Bunch”), and 86 year-old directing great and one-time boy genius, Stanley Donen — best known for co-directing “Singin’ in the Rain” and other MGM musical classics with Gene Kelly but also an outstanding director in his own right of both musicals and “straight” films.

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What kind of director is best for a comic book movie?

I was reading a profile of Jon Favreau in the May issue of Maxim — I know, I don’t have a subscription anymore, it just keeps showing up in my mailbox — and I ran across an interesting bit where the head of Marvel Studios discusses why he tabbed Favreau (whose biggest directing credit to that point was Elf) to lead the way on Iron Man:

For years Marvel had been making left-field directing choices, tabbing Evil Dead‘s Sam Raimi to do Spider-Man and The Usual Suspects‘ Bryan Singer to lead the X-Men franchise. But Favreau still seemed like an odd selection to head the studio’s first tent-pole picture for its new alliance with Paramount. “We have the technicians who know how to blow up the cars,” says Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “What you want in a director isn’t necessarily technical expertise. It’s taste, and it’s tone, and Elf is a triumph of taste and tone. There’s a reason everyone watches it every Christmas.”

This strikes me as a great way to approach that decision. At the time, it was a little strange that they’d hire Favreau to direct Iron Man, but funny is funny, and a sense of humor is typically what makes a comic book adaptation great. Of course they can find someone to blow things up — why does the director need to be an expert in demolition?

Then I thought about a couple of comic book adaptations that were critically panned, and Daredevil and Ghost Rider immediately sprung to mind. It turns out they were both directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose first directing credit was Simon Birch (45% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes). (He also wrote Electra, by the way.)

Fantastic Four director Tim Story got the gig after finishing Barbershop and the Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon-vehicle Taxi. Joel Schumacher had a series of good dramatic credits (including St. Elmo’s Fire and Falling Down) before helming Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, though The Lost Boys did have a sense of humor, albeit eight years earlier.

On the flip side, Christopher Nolan got the keys to the Batman reboot after two good thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, while Guillermo del Toro got to direct the very funny Hellboy on the heels of Mimic and Blade 2.

The bottom line is that it’s probably better to hire someone who has proven that they can coax good performances and humor out of their actors on a smaller scale than hiring a director just because he knows how to blow stuff up.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Weekend box office preview: It’s a “Nightmare” all around

So, we have just two major releases this week and while one is hard-edged remake of a franchise-spawning eighties horror hit and the other is a purported family film, to me all signs this weekend in terms of major new releases (and one tiny release) scream: “Be afraid, be very afraid.” For the most part, the critics aren’t disagreeing.

For starters, we have “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which brings us Jackie Earle Haley in the role made famous by Robert Englund — the child-murderer of everyone’s dreams with the specially augmented fingers, Freddy Kruger. Now, as someone who is such a wuss that he was unable to get past the first twenty minutes or so of the original on VHS — that Wes Craven guy really knows how to scare people — I’m not really one to judge. However, the critics are thoroughly unimpressed with the new version directed by another music video alum, Samuel Bayer, granting it a dismal 11% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.

nightmare_on_elm_street01

Still, even if the original version is regarded as something of a classic today by critics, this movie has “critic proof” written all over it. Indeed, jolly Carl DiOrio, assures us that it’s “tracking” very well and will top the box office with “as much as” $30 million for Warner Brothers. He also gets a bit less jolly in his video this week and actually complains about the use of the word “reboot” to describe films like “Nightmare.” Well, considering that you’re starting over an existing franchise as if the original had never happened, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to call it. It’s not only a remake.

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“I cut myself shaving”

I couldn’t tell you how many comic stories I read back in the day featuring Jonah Hex, the slightly creepy and not-so-slightly disfigured DC comics gunslinger, but I can tell you they were the only western comics I ever read and I that I once liked some of them quite a bit. The only problem is that I can’t help staring at that little piece of skin-and-what-not that goes from the top to the bottom of his mouth. It never quite made anatomical sense to me. Besides, I can’t help but think it would devilish hard to eat with that thing. If I’d were Hex, I’d probably find a doc who wasn’t too stingy with the laudanum and ask him to remove the dang-blamed thing and just hope he was up to date on that newfangled Louis Pasteur sanitation stuff.

Anyhow, that’s just me. Below, we have the trailer for the film starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich. It comes via AICN’s Beeks, who is none too positive. At the same time, a good, silly B-picture can really be fun sometimes, so maybe this will be better than he thinks. It doesn’t look particularly witty, but it doesn’t look boring either. Who knew there were so many massive explosions in the era of western expansion? Hex is also the first western hero that I know of to have his own Q.

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Roger Ebert hates 3-D and thinks you should too

From his piece in Newsweek:

3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m closing my eyes and pretending that 3-D doesn’t exist. I am perfectly happy with cinema the way it is, especially now that I can watch feature films at home in high definition.

I’m almost 37, so am I at the point in my life when I stop embracing new technology just because I don’t want to adopt it? Or is this tech a waste of time? As always, the general public will ultimately be the judge. (Please choose wisely!)

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American Idol: no screaming here

It’s getting down to the wire on “American Idol,” to the point where it gets to be a bit unpredictable who might be sent home. I admitted yesterday that I had no idea who would be getting cut last night, and I was mildly surprised by the outcome. However, I did think this person was the worst of Tuesday night.

The show began with the first of many performances, as country superstars Rascal Flatts performed their new single, “Unstoppable.” I’ve never really understood why this band is so huge, and that was confirmed again last night….I don’t get the appeal. The song was pretty bad, too. But okay.

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A capery, spy-ey, hobbity, clashy, ghosty midweek movie news

A sprained ankle and other unexciting matters sidelined me yestereday, but now I can use my imposed semi-immobility for bloggy purposes.

* THR is claiming an exclusive that a date has finally been set for the two-part Peter Jackson/Guillermo del Toro collaboration, “The Hobbit.” (That’s with an assist from the late J.R.R. Tolkien, of course.) There was some apparent confusion earlier in the day, but it now looks like the two films will be released in Christmas of 2012 and 2013. That’s a year off from the original plan for the LOTR follow-up/prequel (though LOTR is technically the sequel here). Though this article doesn’t mention it, at least part of the problem was widely supposed to be the decline and fall of MGM.

* I’m not at all sure how the “poison pill” actually works but it appears that a decision by authorities up in British Columbia — which is, like, part of an entirely different country than ours and everything — will make it easier for Carl Icahn to attempt his hostile takeover of Lionsgate.

* Does anybody really want a “Clash of the Titans” sequel? Well, we’re getting one anyhow.

Clash of the Titans

* Bill Murray is apparently bound and determined to be the proverbial turd in the “Ghostbusters 3″ punchbowl. It wasn’t a punch I had my heart set on, in any case, much as I liked the first one.

* Just the day before yesterday I was part of a press round-table with the affable, stylish French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie,” “City of Lost Children”). Someone brought up his adapatation of the acclaimed, fantastical Booker Prize-winning novel, The Life of Pi, a project which the vagaries of movie-making had apparently forced him to give up on. Today, Anne Thompson brings word that it appears that the project has been picked up by another strong directorial hand, Ang Lee.  And, guess what, it’ll be 3-D. Lee’s one of the movies’ great humanists still working, so I’m sure the film won’t be overwhelmed by effects.

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The original “Robin’s Big Date”

Via Kevin Jagernauth at the Playlist, we learn that one of the skits for the upcoming, unnamed 17-director comedy anthology film is an expansion of the funny little film below from 2005, which comes as news to yours truly. “Robin’s Big Date” features Justin Long as a sensitive young Robin who has to put up with a supremely overbearing, bearded Batman (Sam Rockwell) who doesn’t seem to realize when he’s not wanted.

Especially with his outstanding work in “Moon” and the upcoming “Iron Man 2,” Rockwell is an actor who has really been growing on me a lot lately — I had previously found him a tad bland but I now see the error of my ways. His work here with Justin Long, also excellent, shows that his way with a comic scene is great stuff. Though I love that the updated version will include not only Rockwell and Long, but also writer-turned-actor Jon “I’m a PC” Hodgeman of “The Daily Show” as the Penguin, this nice little film is going to be hard to top. Enjoy.

Especially with his outstanding work in “Moon” and the upcoming “Iron Man 2,” Rockwell is an actor who has really been growing on me a lot lately — I had previously found him a tad bland but I now see the error of my ways. His work here with Justin Long, also excellent, shows that his way with a comic scene is nothing too new he already. Though I love that the updated version will include not only Rockwell and Long, but also writer-turned-actor Jon “I’m a PC” Hodgeman of “The Daily Show” as the Penguin, this nice little film is going to be hard to top. Enjoy.

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The Biggest Loser: time to break up the alliances

As this season’s “Biggest Loser” on NBC hurtles toward its conclusion, I think we can agree on two things. One, the season has dragged on to epic proportions. And two, the alliances of the yellow team and gray team have gotten a bit out of hand. With that, here is how it all went down last night……

The show began with a clip of last week’s elimination (Victoria) and then host Allison Sweeney telling Koli and Sunshine that everyone would be invited back in for an announcement. That is, that the remaining seven contestants would be headed to Texas this week to help train and educated a population that has the most obese citizens per capita. They would be interviewed on radio stations and then lead anyone who cared to participate in a 5K run at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. There were a few inspiring stories among those who came down, and maybe some inadvertent casting for next season.

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American Idol: uh-oh

I didn’t think I’d be writing about something like this in Season 9, but here it is. No one on last night’s “American Idol” gave a performance worthy of getting booted off the show. In fact, now more than ever, you could point to the judges’ save of big Michael Lynche a few weeks ago as being premature, because they surely are going to want that save back tonight. Why? Because everyone brought it last night, to the point that the judges and host Ryan Seacrest wondered out loud how anyone could be eliminated. But it has to happen. So let’s look at the way it all played out, and this week’s mentor was country superstar Shania Twain. You may remember Shania was one of the judges for this season’s initial auditions. Now she had the pleasure of watching the contestants perform her songs. Would they butcher those songs or make her proud? Let’s read on….

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