It’s another end of week movie news dump

It’s oh so tempting to slack off with more trailers and videos, but a few items too interesting to ignore…

* Regular readers, both of you, may remember a number of interview pieces here and elsewhere by me dealing with a film called “Middle Men.” Well, my interview with the film’s producer and presumed model for the lead character, Christopher Mallick, has become a lot more interesting over the last few days. It has drawn some unusually strong comments from netizens, and not for no reason. The Wrap’s Johnnie L. Roberts sums up how funds deposited by Mallick’s current company, ePassporte, have been effectively frozen — leaving some people truly in the lurch — and also that this isn’t the first arguably suspicious crisis that Mallick has weathered.

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I will say that if you have over $240,000 pre-loaded on a card which I gather is mainly for use on porn sites these days (not online poker as I once assumed) — I’m no one to judge on this matter, but I think you’ve got a bit of a problem.

* A much more positive story, especially for hardcore movie fans, is Roger Ebert’s announcement that he is returning the format he and Gene Siskel perfected back to its original PBS home, with a few interesting new twists including the presence of the one of the universe’s more photogenic of cinephile bloggers, Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun, alongside headliners Christy Lemire and Elvis Mitchell, Omar Moore and Ebert himself.  Nikki Finke, via TV Deadliner Nellie Andreeva, provides the turd in the punchbowl. (Please, Mr. Mitchell — don’t give Ms. Finke the pleasure of a “Toldja!” here.)

* Speaking of the amazing Mr. Ebert, be sure to check out his TIFF swag.

* William Monahan, who did such a great job turning the engaging-but-slender Hong Kong thriller, “Infernal Affairs,” into a full-bodied near masterpiece for Martin Scorsese in “The Departedwill be working with “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski on something called “Oblivion” for Disney.

* Alamo Drafthouse will be getting into the film distribution game with a bang in more senses than one with their release of the ingenious, ultra-dark British comedy, “Four Lions,” which really does do for terrorism what “In the Loop” did for needless wars. A parking snafu created by the organizers of the Los Angeles Film Festival caused me to be 20 minutes later for the screening but, even so, I can’t imagine that the film will be anything less than one of the year’s best, even if its premise scares many away.

  

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RIP Corey Haim

It’s tempting at a time like this to pontificate (I just discarded a paragraph where I did just that). Honestly, though, I really don’t have a clue what happened to Corey Haim, who will forever be known as one of the stars of “The Lost Boys,” one of the “The Two Coreys” and one half of a Hollywood punchline, and why he died from what appear to be drug-related causes at 38.

All I can do is wonder what it must be like to get singled out at age 16 for a bit of praise on television by one of the nation’s two top-film critics, and then a few years later to be frequently name-checked in an insulting way by, seemingly, everyone; to get referenced in a hit song, ironically by a band that’s also in danger of becoming something of a footnote;  and, of course, to find yourself trading on your own embarrassing form of celebrity. It certainly can’t make getting off drugs any easier, but then we all have problems, right? Also, I can’t lie and tell you he had the stuff to be another Montgomery Clift, though, looking at his credits, he worked more than most of us remember.

Anyhow, because it’s the thing to do, here is Corey Haim in his moment of glory.

  

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Two thumbs up for Roger Ebert

I was really mad at myself for allowing myself to miss today’s “Oprah” segment with Roger Ebert, the first time he’s been interviewed for television since a series of extremely difficult surgeries following his successful cancer treatment left him unable to eat, drink, or talk. It’s also where he debuted — only briefly — his new computerized voice based on recordings of his voice taken from DVD commentaries.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to piece together a lot of via the excerpts at sites like the Huffington Post and this somewhat out of synch, undoubtedly sketchy video on YouTube where, at least for the time being, you can see a good chunk of the interview with Ebert and his obviously beyond devoted wife, Chazz.  There, my friends, is a real love story.

However, in all the talk about Ebert, his wisdom and good humor in the face of a fate none of us would want, the man who thinks more clearly than almost any of us about what movies really are, might get a little bit lost. Below, as time started to run out for his days of ordinary speech, he discusses his approach to criticism, “two thumbs up” and why he and Gene Siskel trademarked the phrase, and the ultimate futility of having to assign numeric ratings to movies.

  

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Hollywood manages its baser instincts (updated)

Yes, it seems to be a day when we’re avoiding the worst that the film biz has to offer. Take that Sammy Glick! Maybe.

* Notorious screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who brought the world such morality plays as “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls,” is handling the kind of character/person you’d never expect him to write about, or meet. A virgin. Apparently the once severely overpaid, self-aggrandizing writer not exactly known for any particular virtues of any particular sort became a born-again Catholic following a bout with cancer. Naturally, a recent memoir tells of his conversion.

* I’ve never watched the most recent iteration of “At the Movies,” but I’m happy to say that the next version will be hosted by the New York Times‘ A.O. “Tony” Scott and the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. They had both been my favorite subs for the still-going-strong but voiceless Roger Ebert during the final days of the old show’s run, and having them both return gives me a small but solid happy. These guys know movies and should be worthy successors to Mr. Ebert and the late Gene Siskel. I’ll be tuning in.

UPDATE: Glenn Kenny weighs in on “when good things happen to good film critics.” He also has something to say about the predecessors…and one of their daddies. It’s critical go-time. A humorous must for fans of critic-on-critic pugilism and praise.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Roger Ebert remembers Gene Siskel

Like many fans of the movies, I grew up watching Siskel and Ebert each week. Friday was the tenth anniversary of Gene Siskel’s death, and Roger Ebert wrote a moving tribute remembering his former partner.

Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don’t want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn’t think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford’s husband, and he said, “You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you’re the older brother.”

Once Gene and I were involved in a joint appearance with another Chicago media couple, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. It was a tribute to us or a tribute to them, I can’t remember. They were pioneers of free-form radio. Gene and I were known for our rages against each other, and Steve and Garry were remarkable for their accord. They gave us advice about how to work together as a successful team. The reason I remember that is because soon afterward Steve and Garry had an angry public falling-out that has lasted until this day.

Gene, Thea Flaum and I during an early taping

Gene and I would never, ever, have had that happen to us. Unthinkable. In my darkest and moodiest hours, when all my competitiveness and resentment and indignation were at a roiling boil, I never considered it. I know Gene never did either. We were linked in a bond beyond all disputing. “You may be an asshole,” Gene would say, “but you’re my asshole.” If we were fighting–get out of the room. But if we were teamed up against a common target, we were fatal. When we were on his show, Howard Stern never knew what hit him. He picked on one of us, and we were both at his throat. [see YouTube below]

We both thought of ourselves as full-service, one-stop film critics. We didn’t see why the other one was quite necessary. We had been linked in a Faustian television format that brought us success at the price of autonomy. No sooner had I expressed a verdict on a movie, my verdict, than here came Siskel with the arrogance to say I was wrong, or, for that matter, the condescension to agree with me. It really felt like that. It was not an act. When we disagreed, there was incredulity; when we agreed, there was a kind of relief. In the television biz, they talk about “chemistry.” Not a thought was given to our chemistry. We just had it, because from the day the Chicago Tribune made Gene its film critic, we were professional enemies. We never had a single meaningful conversation before we started to work on our TV program. Alone together in an elevator, we would study the numbers changing above the door.

Making this rivalry even worse was the tension of our early tapings. It would take eight hours to get one show in the can, with breaks for lunch, dinner and fights. I would break down, or he would break down, or one of us would do something different and throw the other off, or the accumulating angst would make our exchanges seem simply bizarre. There are many witnesses to the terror of those days. Only when we threw away our clipboards and 3×5 cards did we get anything done; we finally started ad-libbing and the show begin to work. We found we could tape a show in under an hour.

The entire tribute is worth a read.

  

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