New gig, old gig: Steven Spielberg

Today we’re going to start what I think might be an occasional series of posts where I highlight a movie news story about someone’s new job — which is probably about half the movie news stories (when people aren’t merely “mulling,” “eying” or “circling” new jobs) — and then provide you with a clip of past work I deem somehow relevant.

Okay, so the news here is that Steven Spielberg is returning to directing science fiction with “Robopocalypse,” an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s recent novel written by “Buffy”-alum Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” the ever-delayed “The Cabin in the Woods”). Though I love science fiction, I’m much more a fan of Spielberg when he gets outside his old comfort zones on movies like “Munich,” “Catch Me If You Can,” even the sometimes-derided “Schindler’s List” and  “The Terminal.” Still, apart from the just about perfect “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — which is more fantasy than science fiction anyhow — his best, though still flawed, SF movie has to be “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Below, as Richard Dreyfuss and former French New Wave wunderkind François Truffaut look on, 1977’s cosmic equivalent to “Dueling Banjos.”

  

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It’s your Yom Kippur Friday movie news dump

Yom Kippur is the holiday where one abstains from worldly pleasures of all kinds, including eating and drinking, and reflects on spiritual and moral values, atoning for one’s sins, and becoming a better person. In other words, just another day in Hollywood!

*  The big news right now is the bombshell, but not unexpected, admission to the New York Times by Casey Affleck that “I’m Still Here” is a fictional film. Moreover, Affleck still may not have come completely clean because he stated that David Letterman wasn’t in on the truth during the notorious interview with star/co-conspirator Joaquin Phoenix. Via Company Town, we learn that Letterman writer Bill Scheft is comparing what went on to Andy Kaufman stunts and even took credit for one of the lines.

Joaquin Phoenix in A lot of people apparently think that Affleck, perhaps more than Phoenix, has some atoning to do, including Anne Thompson. I guess I can understand her frustration at being manipulated and lied to, but ultimately, it’s only a movie and we in the show biz press have all the credibility of car salesmen. Also it is, after all, a movie. From everything I’ve heard about the film, the far greater sin would have been if it had actually been real.

* Orthodox Jewish-bred Israeli-Brit Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be well on his way to a Shana Tova (good year). He’ll be moving into the world of “serious” acting in a planned biopic about the late multitalented Queen singer/songwriter/pianist Freddie Mercury to be written by the exceedingly busy docu-drama specialist Peter Morgan. I’ve read some ethnic quibbles somewhere (sorry, lost the link) since Mercury’s family hailed from parts of Asia. It seems to me the physical resemblance tells the tale and is no more offensive than the multi-ethnic Asian-Caucasian-Native American Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American teen in “Stand and Deliver,” despite having not a drop of Latino blood in his veins. All ethnicities are really ethnic mixes anyhow. I can’t count the number of times I assumed someone was Jewish only to find out they were actually a mix of other groups that just came out looking all Jewy or people who look Latino who are actually Eurasian, etc.

No one seems to know whether Cohen, who can sing a little, will sing his own part. Considering Mercury’s remarkable voice, I wouldn’t complain if they simply used the old recordings. If it was good enough for “The Jolson Story” it’s good enough for this.

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Midweek movie news, the Lamont Cranston and Kent Allard memorial edition

Comic-Con’s been over for a week and a half and the geek news is flying.

* Mike Fleming is claiming a Finke “Toldja!” for the news that Disney and “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski are going ahead with a film version of the comic book, “Oblivion.” I’m not familiar with the book so, should I be more excited about this than I am? Of course, having recently rewatched the original “Tron” I’m even less excited about his other movie. I’m sorry, but it’s got to be one of the thinnest excuses for a piece of entertainment I’ve ever seen. A few interesting visuals aside, it’s easily one of the weakest efforts Disney has ever been associated with as far as I can see. It’s lingering appeal is a complete mystery to me.

* As rumors of the day go, I find this one even less believable than most. That idea is that Quentin Tarantino may be “attached” to what had previously been Sam Raimi’s new version of William Gibson’s influential pulp character, the Shadow — who became best known via a popular thirties radio show starring a very young Orson Welles.  I’m a fan of the character and of Tarantino, so I certainly wouldn’t mind this being true. It just feels significantly off from Mr. Tarantino’s many obsessions, though considering his delving into thirties and forties cinema for “Inglourious Basterds,” you never know.

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“Let Me In” — the red band trailer

Don’t get too excited, it’ s just a touch more violent and scary than the green band trailer which has been circulating the last day or so. In fact, I swear I’ve seen green banders scarier and more violent than this.

In any case, assuming “Let Me In” doesn’t stray too far from the excellent prior film version of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, “Let the Right One In,” and it looks pretty similar, this will not be a mega-gorefest, at least save for a few very crucial moments. Take a look.

The general consensus on this is that it doesn’t look bad. It doesn’t, but will it justify its existence beyond being the movie that people who refuse to read subtitles will watch? Working with a script by the very talented TV veteran Drew Goddard on “Cloverfield,” director Matt Reeves left me partially cold. How much better — or worse — will he do with his script? Only one way to find out.

H/t Filmofilia.

  

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News flash from Hollywood — it’s raining!

We Southern Californian’s are easily freaked out by this occasional phenomenon where water inexplicably falls from the skies. It’s a good thing so many of us like to ski or snowboard up at Big Bear or Tahoe, or there’d be a vast wave of weather-related depression unsettling the entire area. Of course, those of us who live on hillsides have something to worry about, but since L.A.-area seasons are basically labeled as “fire” and “flood,” it’s not like this is a surprise. Still, a good chunk of the town is going off to Park City, Utah for Sundance and its sisters festivals, where you actually need boots and overcoats and stuff like that.

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And now, here’s the big movie news, assuming this half of the state doesn’t simply slide into the ocean or anything overnight.

* Jolly Carl DiOrio writes on THR’s Heat Vision blog that Warner Brothers is trying to decide whether or not to do a 3-D retrofit on Louis Leterrier’s upcoming version of “Clash of the Titans.” This 3-D madness for genre films has been spreading. Some months back, “The Cabin in the Woods,” a collaboration between TV cult king Joss Whedon and his one-time staff writer, Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield“), was delayed from February 2010 to January 2011 to three dimensionalize the meta-horror film — and perhaps help stabilize Universal’s depleted coffers by delaying the marketing costs for eleven months.

* Despite some of the setbacks the Weinstein Company has been suffering lately with a number of commercial disappointments and too few hits and some layoffs, they’re still bringing in new people for acquisitions prior to tomorrow’s Sundance kick-off, writes La Finke.

* Meanwhile, over at CinemaBlend, Josh Tyler contemplates the possible 3-D status of “Ghostbusters 3.”

Johnny Depp
* In case you haven’t heard it already, no, Johnny Depp will not be starring in Terry Gilliam’s upcoming second attempt at filming his “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

* The Oscar’s announced their nine film short list for the foreign language film category today. It’s basically a bunch of movies you have almost no chance of having seen, or even heard all that much about, if you’re not a pretty serious film festival goer — and Michael Haneke’s Golden Globe winning dark period drama, “The White Ribbon.” Even the folks at The Playlist had only seen “Ribbon” and were only familiar with a total of three of the films.

If an outstanding foreign film you’ve seen recently is not on the list and you’re wondering why, you can likely blame the extremely byzantine and highly politicized rules in this category, which involves countries selecting official entries, which often exclude seemingly obvious choices. Romania’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” was an extraordinary work that recently made it to the top of many Best Of lists for the entire past decade. It was not nominated last year, — along with two other widely acclaimed non-English-speaking movies of 2007, “Volver” and “Persepolis.” At least the latter film was nominated in the animation category.

  

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