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RIP Tony Curtis

Tony-Curtis-in-1957-006

It’s another one of those weeks and we’ve lost one of the last surviving greats of the tale end of Hollywood’s classic-era. Indeed, Tony Curtis was a kind of a bridge between the more traditionally manly film stars of the earlier classic era — Clark Gable, John Wayne, Bogart, Cagney — and the eternally young and slightly androgynous stars of today. I’d say it’s safe that say that there’s a bit of Tony in Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, and Colin Farrell, among many others.

It’s the nature of the actor to imitate and the nature of the movie star to be imitated. He was doubtlessly imitated by countless young men over the years who borrowed his handsome-man moves for personal use, but he also admitted to borrowing a lot of his movies from Cary Grant back when he was a kid from the Bronx named Bernie Schwartz. With a little help from Billy Wilder, he brought the entire matter full circle and, for once, completely lost his accent in “Some Like It Hot” — for me the best farce ever filmed in no small part because of the then-outrageous pre-post modern conceit of allowing an actor to perform a major part of his role overtly imitating another actor, still very much alive and working at the time. As far as I know, this wasn’t even dared again until Christian Slater spent “Heathers” imitating Jack Nicholson. It was good, but it was no “Some Like It Hot.”

Since I had to wait until later in the day to write this, there’s already a lot of online about Curtis — most of it collated over at Mubi – and there’ll be much more. I trust there’ll be more clips here like the one below over the weekend, and maybe a couple more observations about him here as well over the coming days, as well as the wonderfully inevitable 24 hour tribute to Curtis at TCM.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Hell’s Kitchen: who are these people?

Mrs. Mike made the comment last week that she thinks a couple of the “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants are “plants.” Meaning, the producers put them in there to say things and act a certain way. Well, after two weeks of this show (and a grueling four episodes I might add), I think I agree. Raj and Sabrina are just certified nuts….and neither appears to really know what they’re doing or know how to get along with people in the kitchen. But I digress…here is a brief recap of last night’s episodes:

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Trailer: “Skyline”

Now that Angelenos are getting our own “Law & Order” show and are coming out the other end of killer heat wave, I guess it makes sense that we get our first big movie alien invasion since, I think, the 1953 version of “War of the Worlds.”

This is supposedly a lowish budget affair and is impressive. I kind of dig the “District 9“-esque effects, and there are some decent low-budget actors here as well. Might not be bad.

H/t /Film.

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A Chat with Michael Rooker

To my knowledge, the adjective “Rooker-esque” has yet to take off in any significant fashion, but when Michael Rooker calls you and says that he’s in the midst of driving across the country to get to his next job…I don’t know, it just sounds like exactly the sort of thing you’d expect him to be doing. Although he’s played many a crazy mofo in his career as an actor, Rooker still manages to possess the sort of everyman quality that makes it very easy to accept that he’d take a pass on a plane ride in favor of spending a couple of days taking in the scenery on a cross-country drive. Premium Hollywood had the chance to chat with Rooker in conjunction with the release of his latest film, “Atlantis Down,” directed by Max Bartoli, but we also got a bit of insight into his character on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” learned about his experiences working on “Mallrats,” “Sea of Love,” and “Slither,” and heard him sing the praises of “JFK.”

Bullz-Eye: So how’s the drive going?

Michael Rooker: Actually, quite good. I’m in a little thunderstorm right now, but I’m just fine. I’m about to get back on the road and have a little chat with you.

BE: Where are you right now?

MR: I’m in Texas, near Odessa. I’m on the 20. I was on the 10, but then 10 and 20 split, and I’m heading basically up toward Dallas. Through Odessa and Midland, and then I’ll get into Fort Worth and Dallas.

BE: I told my wife there was something very Rooker-esque about that fact that you were on the road, driving to your next assignment.

MR: (Bursts out laughing) I do this all the time, and it’s kind of crazy, but I just do. My better half is sort of always wondering, “Why don’t you just fly?” But, you know, it’s nice and relaxing. It helps me get ready and prepare for the job, and then afterwards it helps me defrag on the way home.

BE: Sounds like the perfect combo.

MR: So far, so good. It’s worked thus far…and I’ve got about 280 thousand miles on my vehicle to prove it! (Laughs) I think by the end of this trip I’ll have another 10 thousand on it, so it ought to hit 290 thousand.

BE: I’ve got over 150 thousand on my Hyundai Elantra, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen half the things you have.

MR: (Laughs) Still, you guys must do some traveling, huh?

BE: Well, we did a lot more of it before our daughter got here.

MR: For sure, man!

BE: So how did you first get hooked up with “Atlantis Down”? Because I know it’s certainly a labor of love for these guys.

MR: Dude, this was, like, a last-minute phone call…for me, anyway. It was really quick. I was working on a movie, I think it was down in the Wilmington area, and I got the phone call. Then I got the script, and it was kind of cool. But it was really fast. But I just said, “Yeah, you know what, I’m here, I’m on the east coast, and I think I can do it.” I snagged a couple of friends, who read lines with me, and I drove up, did my role all in one day, and came back.

BE: Wow.

MR: (Laughs) It was really quick…and painless, really. It was just a very quick little job that was kind of crazy. I’ve never accomplished my entire role in one day before. It was nuts! I don’t want to do that too often, but it was a crazy experience, and I’m still friends with everyone involved, like Max. Like you said, the whole thing was a labor of love, and I was honored to be a part of it.

BE: Can you speak a little bit about your character in the film without giving too much away?

MR: Well, you know, my guy is… (Hesitates) I’m an alien. I’m an alien being that is having a joyous time playing around with these human creatures, basically. (Laughs) I don’t want to say too much more, so that’s kind of about it, really. I just give ‘em hell. I goof around with their brains and mess around with their thought patterns, what they think they see and what they don’t see. So it’s kind of freaky and weird for them. And, of course, for my character, I obviously didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so I just went and did it. I learned all the lines real quickly, and then I got there, and Max said, “Ah, forget about the lines. Just say what you would normally say.” And I’m, like, “What?” (Laughs) “Uh, okay, Max, okay…” So, basically, the entire role is improv. We improvised the whole piece. Having the lines as my base, I riffed on them and changed them, thought of new ways to say stuff, used new patterns of putting things together, and…we did it all in one night. It was crazy, dude. Crazy! I still don’t know how the hell we got it…

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RIP Arthur Penn

arthur penn

He wasn’t a young man, though he always seemed a lot younger than his age. So, it’s still a bit of a sad surprise to read that Arthur Penn, one of the most notable American directors of the sixties and seventies, has died at age 88.

There aren’t a lot of clear dividing lines in life, but as close as you can probably get to that in film history is that American movies made after 1967′s “Bonnie and Clyde” were most definitely different in any number of ways from movies made before it. Sure, there was the increased freedom with sexuality and violence, but there was also a looser and more European-inspired feeling in U.S. movies, for a time anyway. That’s not to say Penn was anything like a cinematic one-hit wonder. “The Miracle Worker,” “Little Big Man,” “Night Moves,” and “Mickey One,” at least were all remarkable and important films in their way. He was also, by the way, a major figure in the American theater and in the history of television as well.

I learned the sad news via the terrific blog, The Sheila Variations, and Sheila in turn led me to the very good and detailed obituary at the New York Times.

As always when a cinema great passes, there’s more from MUBI’s David Hudson. Also, I’ve got just a few videos after the flip.

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The Biggest Loser: no chance for skating

The producers of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” are not messing around this season. Any chance contestants thought they had to skate through for half the season are gone, and I gotta be honest–I like it. More on that in a bit.

But first, let’s start with the individuals at the ranch and realizing that Aaron, the 400 pound guy who lost the 500-step competition last week, was let in to the ranch by Bob Harper. Somehow the first part of the show was cut off on my DVR, but I’m so glad that they did this. They also had a soft spot for Elizabeth, who had collapsed during the competition last week. But the honeymoon was over in a hurry when they were escorted to the Biggest Loser gym. Bob and Jillian worked them over like crazy, and there was a lot of puking and passing out. 58 year old Tina fell off the treadmill and 54-year old Rick, who is a physical therapist, kept passing out.

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Because WW II is getting a bit old now…

The new trend is to rewrite it. Deadline’s Tim Adler featured another trailer, presumably for English audiences, for “Jackboots Over Whitehalll,” but this one explains what’s going on so that even we dumb Americans can understand it.

So, I understand that this is being touted as “Team America” meets “Inglourious Basterds.” I’d throw in “Robot Chicken” as well. Except, of course that all of those were funny. And while “Team America” and “Robot Chicken” revel in their primitive technology which often makes the jokes all the funnier, here, the characters seem completely inert. I’m frankly surprised this is getting a theatrical in the U.K. or any first world nation. I know British humor doesn’t always translate, even for someone like me who adores Monty Python and British cinema in general. This just looks kind of weak.

One fun casting note. The voice of Winston Churchill is provided by one of my favorite British character actors, Timothy Spall, who is also playing Churchill in “The King’s Speech,” which I highlighted yesterday.

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Sons of Anarchy 3.4 – Home

For the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed Jimmy O continuously lie to SAMCRO about the whereabouts of Cameron and Abel. Though it initially seemed like he was simply trying to protect the cause while he awaited their next move, it now appears that he isn’t very happy about Father Ashby’s decision to make Cameron’s death public and refuse to return Abel to his family. Jimmy warns Ashby that SAMCRO will eventually arrive in Belfast with guns blazing, but Ashby doesn’t want to use Abel as a bargaining chip, and he seems content to just see how things play out.

What Jimmy doesn’t realize is that this is all a ploy to get rid of him, as he’s recently been recruiting youngsters off the streets to join the IRA, and Ashby doesn’t approve. So if he can convince the Sons that it was Jimmy who’s been lying to them all along, then he may be able to get them to do his dirty work for him without marring their business relationship. He’s even instructed Maureen to contact Gemma and tell her that Abel is in Belfast, so he clearly wasn’t planning on keeping father and son apart forever.

sons_of_anarchy_3-4

And Jimmy is playing right into Ashby’s hands, calling Jax to inform him that Abel wasn’t with Cameron in Belfast and therefore must still be in Vancouver somewhere. That means that the Canadian adventure is still very much on, but first, Jax and Clay head up to Oregon to pick up Gemma, who’s busy preparing Nathan for his trip to the nursing home. And since just about everybody else is wanted by the police, Gemma asks Nathan to sign over his power of attorney to Tara so that she can tend to his affairs.

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First Blood for the Fall 2010 TV Season

“Lone Star,” we hardly knew ye…and we’ll never get to know ye: our ever-faithful friends at Fox have pulled the plug on the freshman series after a mere two episodes, slotting “Lie To Me” as its replacement starting next Monday.

One word, two hyphens, seven syllables: un-fucking-believable.

Except, of course, it really isn’t.

Even though I formally declared it to be the best drama of the fall season, I also made two separate proclamations within Bullz-Eye’s 2010 Fall TV Preview that there was little hope that the show would survive long enough to build an audience, let alone legitimately thrive:

*Critically, I feel like it’s tracking higher than anything else out there, but it’s a thinking man’s show and it’s on Fox. This is traditionally not a combination that equals ratings success…or a second season.”

*It’s an intriguing premise for a drama that takes a lot of interesting turns in its first hour, which is probably why it feels way more like an FX series than a Fox series. As such, it hasn’t much hope to make it to the end of the season, let alone beyond.”

You can’t say I didn’t call it. I just wish I hadn’t.

Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in a ballroom in Beverly Hills, listening to the head honchos at Fox talk about their enthusiasm for the series. Kevin Reilly praised creator Kyle Killen’s “singular voice and vision,” saying, “We could not be more impressed with him,” and when asked about the fact that “Lone Star” didn’t feel like a Fox series, Reilly was quick on the draw with a response:

“Well, I think it is a Fox show because I think it’s a noisy conceit. Although many of our biggest hits have had an action component, I mean, you certainly know as you break down our schedule over the years, there’s been plenty of big hits, from ‘Party of Five’ to ‘Ally McBeal.’ We can name many of them, particularly going on the comedy side. I don’t know how much action sustains ‘Glee.’ If you’re talking about just a level of octane, I think that there is a lot of octane in this concept because it is provocative. And it’s going to be provocative both in its central conceit and in terms of the character relationships that you see unfold. And I think they said it very well. It’s going to walk the line. This is not black or white. This is going to be an area of gray area and watching characters make decisions. And I think it’s going to keep people on their toes in terms of how the stories unfold, and that’s what’s going to be exciting about it.”

Hey, it sure kept me on my toes…for two episodes.

As ever, Fox, thanks for very, very little. Next time, maybe take some of that “American Idol” money you’re hoarding and give a show a chance to breathe, huh?

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A Chat with Robert Carlyle of “Stargate Universe”

To the world at large, Robert Carlyle is best known for his roles in “The Full Monty” and “Trainspotting,” though James Bond aficionados likely remember him more fondly for his villainous turn as Renard in “The World Is Not Enough.” Since 2009, however, sci-fi buffs have been thrilling to Carlyle’s work on “Stargate Universe,” where he plays the ever-scheming Dr. Nicholas Rush. Premium Hollywood had a chance to chat with Carlyle just as the series returns for its second season, and in addition to offering up a few ideas of what we can expect to see from Rush in the near future, he discussed his opportunity to direct an “SGU” episode, which actor on the show he’d like to work with more often, and what led him to venture away from motion pictures and take this gig in the first place.

Stay tuned for…

Premium Hollywood: Hello, Robert, how are you?

Robert Carlyle: Very well, thanks.

PH: It’s good to speak with you again. You and I chatted briefly a few years ago when you were at the TCA tour.

RC: Oh, right, okay!

PH: Well, you’ve been talking up Season 2 of “Stargate Universe” since Comic-Con in late July. You’ve got to be glad it’s finally here!

RC: Yeah! You know, it’s one of these things where suddenly it’s upon you! You get in the middle of it up there in Vancouver, and then it’s, like, “Okay, we’re on!” (Laughs)

PH: I’ve read some of the reports about your panel there. It sounded like you guys had a good time.

RC: Yes, absolutely! But, I mean, I enjoy everything about this. I really, really do love everything about this job. There’s nothing at all that’s upset me so far, or else I’d be gone. I wouldn’t be here. (Laughs) I’d be off doing something else. But this is all good .

PH: Do you enjoy the Comic-Con experience?

RC: Well, you know, you’re supposed to say that you don’t. Actors are supposed to say, “Nah, I hated it.” To be honest with ye, the first time ‘round, the first year, was a wee bit strange. It’s a strange, strange world. This time, I really enjoyed it. I really began to understand it a little bit more, what the convention’s about, and understanding that a lot of these people, the fans that come to these things, they meet each other at other conventions, and there’s kind of like a little community…and I felt kind of honored to be part of that this time. So I enjoyed it. I sat beside my wife one night, and the zombie parade came past…like, a thousand zombies came past the table. That’s not something you’re going to see every day, you know? (Laughs)

PH: Plus, you’ve got zombie street cred, thanks to “28 Weeks Later.”

RC: Well, you know something? I’m sitting there, I’ve got my shades on and my beard, but there were still zombies who stopped to shake my hand as they walked past. (Laughs) I thought, “My God, you’re real fans of that genre, aren’t ye?”

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