Crime and punishment, Hollywood style

I’m going to defer this weekend’s box office preview for the morning because we have several fairly major breaking developments that probably shouldn’t wait. Guess who figures in the first item…

* In the case that director Marina Zenovich built in “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” — that the world-class director was both a criminal perpetrator and victim of legal malfeasance — one damning element was an interview with a former D.A. who was not supposed to have been involved in the case. As recounted by the L.A. Times’s Jack Leonard, David Wells said that he suggested to Judge Lawrence Rittenband that he could effectively sentence Polanski to jail time by ordering the accused director to undergo “diagnostic testing” in Chino State Prison, overruling the determination of a probation officer.

As described in the documentary this is, to say the least, outside the bounds of what is permitted in a situation like this. (In the context of the film it comes off as almost a petty vendetta.) Now, Wells claims that he lied. I’m not sure how to take that except that it’s never a good situation to be in when something you said may get you into trouble, and you suddenly claim that you were lying. At that point, you’re an admitted liar, the only question remaining is a matter of timing.

Roman Polanski, Douglas Dalton...and Neil Diamond?

At the same time, my own position on this case could be changing to the point where I may disagree with some of what I wrote in my review of the Zenovich film. I commend you to two extremely thoughtful posts on the matter: one by Anne Thompson (who also gets a huge h/t for this item) and the other by Karina Longworth. Karina’s take on the film was quite different from mine, but all of her points are at least valid and some may well be a lot more than that.

* A horrifying story I’d forgot all about reemerged today, as if to coincide with the Polanski matter. Roger Avary, who shared story credit and an Oscar with Quentin Tarantino on “Pulp Fiction,” co-wrote the screenplay for “Beowulf, and wrote and directed 1993’s “Killing Zoe” and the 2002 Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, “The Rules of Attraction” and also used to have a pretty lively blog, has been sentenced to a year in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

Although Avary previously argued he was not drunk at the time of the accident which killed one friend and severely injured another, his blood alcohol level was reportedly above the legal limit. (No stories I can find say by how much, though legally and morally, I’m not sure if it matters.) He was also reportedly driving over 100 miles per hour. I wouldn’t want to live with what he must have on his conscience. Use a designated driver, wait several hours, if need be, until you are completely sober, take a cab, drink at home, or don’t drink at all.

* On a vastly lighter note, Nikki Finke broke the news today that cinephile-bane Michael Bay will be back at the helm for “Transformers III” with a presumably chastened Megan Fox. In this case, the crime will be on the screen and the punishment will be endured by critics.

* Also another “toldja!” from the mighty Finke: Leo the MGM lion may be a shadow of his former, but he will live to roar another day.

  

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The Informers

Typically, when you hear about movies premiering at Sundance, it’s because the film in question was well received. Not so for Gregor Jordan’s “The Informers,” which was torn to pieces by online critics, many of whom went on to describe the film as one of the worst they’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t go that far, because while the movie may not exactly be good, there are quite a few noteworthy performances hidden within it. Based on a collection of short stories by Bret Easton Ellis, “The Informers” takes place in 1983 Los Angeles and follows a series of intertwining narratives about a drug-dealing college man (Jon Foster) who’s worried that his girlfriend (Amber Heard) is screwing his best friend (Austin Nichols); a big-time movie producer (Billy Bob Thornton) forced to choose between his ex-wife (Kim Basinger) and former fling (Winona Ryder); a neurotic loser (Brad Renfro) who receives an unwelcome visitor (Mickey Rourke); and an international rock star (Mel Raido) suffering yet another major meltdown.

Unfortunately, my favorite story in the book – one involving a vampire named Jamie – has been axed from the movie, and along with it, the satirical bite (no pun intended) that Ellis is famous for. Instead, Jordan plays the whole thing serious, and though it doesn’t really change the outcome of the stories, it does change the tone. The characters are essentially the same, however, and in some cases, are even given more depth thanks to the actors playing them. Foster, Nichols and Lou Taylor Pucci are all solid as the film’s emotionally detached hipsters (an Ellis trademark), while Brad Renfro turns in a great performance in his final role. It’s not enough to convince non-Ellis fans to see the film, but if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to check out Amber Heard in all her naked glory.

Click to buy “The Informers”

  

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