Los Angeles Film Festival Recap: The Movies, part 2

Following on from last night’s post, here are some more reactions to the movies I saw at the recently wrapped Los Angeles Film Festival…

Johan Hill in * “Cyrus” — This played early in the festival and was pretty much concurrent with it’s opening in theaters. I’ve already said in passing elsewhere that I enjoyed the film quite a bit despite some flaws and, by now, you’ve probably heard something about this oddball romantic comedy of gently Oedipal horrors. It first came  up on my radar some time ago when I interviewed Mark Duplass, one half of the directing Duplass Brothers.

About the worst thing I can say about “Cyrus” is that, unlike the similarly improvised film Mark stars in, “Humpday,” which also involved a woman caught between two problematic men, the female role here is relatively under-developed. The fact that that movie was written and directed by a woman, Lynn Shelton, is, I’m sure, not entirely coincidental.

There’s also been something of a cinephile backlash to the Duplass’s camera work, among other issues, which may interest you wonks. You can read about that via Glenn Kenny, Bill Ryan (my further thoughts are in comments at his place) and Jim Emerson.

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Midweek movie news, and then…

After tonight, I’ll be taking a break from the daily blogging grind for just a bit. That means I’ll be out completely for a couple of days at least and then you may see a post here and there and then, suddenly, I’ll be back like I was never gone in the first place, probably towards the tail end of the month. So, this will have to hold you for a little while.

* As of tonight, corporate raider Carl Icahn appears to be a majority stockholder in Lionsgate.

* I’ve never been a fan of the seventies movie of the silly seventies film version of “Logan’s Run,” but with Carl Erik Rinsch directing, my interest in the new film perked up considerably. Now, Alex Garland — who wrote and produced the not-entirely-unrelated upcoming version of “Never Let Me Go” which I discussed yesterday — has jumped on board, making it even more interesting. Better, they’re approaching it as a new version of the book, not a remake of the film. In the 1976 film, by the way, no one in the futuristic society was permitted to live past 30. In the novel, it was 21.

* Sam Raimi has been confirmed as the director of “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Apparently Robert Downey, Jr., who just formed a new company with his producer wife, Susan Downey, is the most likely Oz at this point.

* Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific interview with one of the best, Isabella Rossellini. Easily one of the most fascinating  actresses of the last thirty years or so, with quite a backstory behind her. Don’t miss it.

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*Though Ms. Rossellini seems perfectly at home in a very humorous way with her fifty-something status, that is not really always the case for actresses. This month’s conversation between Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard at the House Next Door underlines that point as the cinephile thinkers discuss two of Hollywood’s greatest show-biz based films, “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve,” both released in 1950 and both dealing with actresses who struggling with this whole passage of time thing.

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Monday movie news

The movie side of the show biz world might not have anything of the magnitude of the big news from Team Coco to talk about today, but there’s plenty of interesting borderline-almost-news to mention in an ironic way…

* I don’t know whether there’s some sort of game of managing expectations going on or if interest really is limited to younger males and no one else, but I’m starting to hear rumblings that “Kick-Ass” is not expected to kick ass do hugely well at the box office this Friday. If so, then Matthew Vaughn has got to be one of the least lucky talented mainstream directors ever after generating so much excitement with his film, at least in the fanboy realms.

Kick-Ass

My main rumbling comes via this Playlist piece which alleges that nothing has been done to expand the interest in the film beyond those who’ve never heard of the comic book.  Literally speaking, that’s not true because I’d never heard of the comic book before hearing about Vaughn’s film of it, though I am certainly a member of the Geek American community. The main thrust of the piece itself is actually on the possibly stronger hopes for “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” which, as a commenter offers, does seem to have more cross-gender appeal. It also has a well known star and the comic genius Edgar Wright going for it. We’ll see.

In any case, Vaughn appears to be doing what all prudent directors do before their next big film comes out, lining up the next gig just in case the current film really does tank. This story is a glorified rumor, but it does look possible that Vaughn’s next gig might involve a gangster/science fiction vampire comic book written by, of all people, controversial English talk show host and film geek, Jonathan Ross who is leaving the BBC because of a scandal caused, I kid you not, by tasteless prank phone calls. Here, he’d get a promotion. In any case, I’ll always remember him for “The Incredibly Strange Film Show.”

* Never fear, however, “Iron Man 2” will be here in 26 days. Of course it’ll do ridiculously well, but I remember some naysayers just before the first movie came out. Seems all those good reviews were a bit worrisome and even smart people like Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, if memory serves, were worried the movie was a little too good to make monster bucks.

Myrna Loy* The biggest news in my personal movie world is word via the Los Angeles Times of the resurrection of the statue that classic-era superstar Myrna Loy (“The Thin Man,” “The Best Years of Our Lives”) posed for when she was just a young student and which graced the front of my alma mater for decades. As the News Editor of the Venice High Oarsman (“Rowing, Not Drifting”) back in the pre-pre-pre-pre MySpace era, I was on the Myrna-vandalism beat. This gladdens my heart. A picture, however, would have been nice. Maybe I’ll get to work on that a bit later.

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Fat Tuesday at the movies

Do the bon temps actually roulez in Hollywood? It’s more like they just kind of unspool.

* My good friend, Zayne Reeves, was kind enough to make sure I didn’t miss this rather extraordinary Esquire piece by Chris Jones on Roger Ebert’s current life. I’ve been spending my share of time around illness myself over the last several weeks and I can’t think of a more quietly, beautifully sane way of dealing with the strange cards life can deal us. Though I’m just one among very, very many he’s shared kind words with, I’ve always felt lucky for the very brief e-mail correspondences I’ve had with Roger over the years, Now I feel luckier.

* Reviews of the fourth Martin Scorsese film to star Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” are starting to trickle out. Glenn Kenny has a good one. “Good” both as in “positive” and also as in “worth your time reading.”

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* Doug Liman will be directing a film about the 1971 Attica prison riot/revolt/uprising, now best remembered by film lovers as the chant from “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s a story he has a personal connection with through his late father, attorney Arthur Liman. Nevertheless, the director of “Go,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Bourne Identity” seems to be moving in a sort of John Frankenheimer-esque direction overall, too.

* Speaking of the man who yelled “Attica! Attica!,” Al Pacino has stepped into a part recently vacated by Robert De Niro. You just can’t seem to keep those two guys apart for very long.

* Nikki Finke is having a very fat Tuesday indeed. Earlier today she reported on Carl Icahn trying to snap up Lionsgate for himself and a deal between Warner Brothers and video kiosk powerhouse Redbox, not to mention the news that the Oscars this year may not be including the original artists in the Best Song category.

There’s still more; a 3-D movie based on Erector Sets. Sure, why not. Next up: “Slinky 3-D,” I’m sure. Now, if they really want to get a rise out of the family audience, they might consider adopting Mickey Spillane’s novel, The Erection Set. From the description I just linked to, it would really be something in three-dimensions.

* Writer-director Paul Feig is reteaming with his old “Freaks and Geeks” colleague, Judd Apatow, for a film starring and cowritten by Dave Medsker’s-ultra-fave, Kristen Wiig writes Borys Kit. Let’s hope it’s better than a typical SNL skit these days.

* I started with Roger Ebert and I’ll end with an item via his must-read Twitter-feed: the Film Preservation Blogathon being organized by my old Chicago-based cinephile blogging mate, Marilyn Ferdinand. If you care about movies, this is the place. It’s also a fundraiser (a first for a blogathon, as far as I can remember) so if the idea of losing a film — any film — forever bugs you as it should, considering donating. You can do worse than starting with this post by Ferdy’s partner in good works, the Self-Styled Siren aka Farran Nehme. And, courtesy of another cinephile colleague from the days when I had time to blog about old movies all the live-long day, Greg Ferrera, we conclude with….a commercial.

  

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Tuesday night at the movies

A busy day in tinseltown, but I’ve got to keep things brief tonight.

Spiderman* Nikki Finke is breaking the story that “Spiderman 4” is on hold due to script problems. In other words, Sam Raimi supposedly “hates” the screenplay a large of number of screenwriting cooks have been preparing.  The latest to get his hands on the script is screenwriting standby Alvin Sargent, who worked at the past two Spidey movies and is, at 82, probably by far the most senior fellow writing comic book movies these days. And, oh yeah, it might be in 3-D.

* In another scoop for the Finkster, she reports that underage It-boy Taylor Lautner is Hollywood best compensated teen and now being paid “per ab,” though he apparently has half an ab. I wonder if I get figure out a way to get paid per nose hair.

* Anne Thompson reports that Sam Mendes is “in talks” to direct the next James Bond movie. This would be a major change of pace for the director best known for the Oscar-winning, cinephile-derided, “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition,” whose attempt at an indie dramedy, “Away We Go,” failed to set the world on fire last year.

* T-Bone Burnett, a superb musician and record producer who has found his greatest fame working on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and pretty much every major film with a country music/Americana aspect to it, tells Kim Masters a moving story about how the late musician Stephen Brutan influenced the filming of “Crazy Heart” with Jeff Bridges.

* And how can we get through a day without mentioning “Avatar“? If you’ve been wondering how the Na’vi nasty is done, you’ll get some “soft R” clues, I’m guessing, on the special edition DVD. That’s the word from Huffington Post. I guess we’ll have to wait longer to have 3-D big screen alien-sex.

* On a vastly more serious “Avatar” related note, the Washington Post reports that James Cameron is openly considering making a hard-hitting film about nuclear weapons and traveled to Japan — the only country to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons — to start researching it last month. This is the kind of film you can make with a major studio after you have the kind of monster hit Cameron appears to have on his hands.

As for the research, not all of us are able to talk to survivors of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — I actually have, in another life, and consider myself lucky for having done so. If you’ve never read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, however, you should. The world might not be under constant threat of annihilation as it was up from the fifities to the late eighties, but nuclear weapons remain a serious threat. ‘Still, I’m sure Fox would be just as happy if Cameron decided to make “True Lies II.”

* It’s a big day for octogenarians breaking stereotypes just a bit. Christopher Lee is continuing his exploration of “orchestral metal.” I hope you enjoy his new direction.

* The Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye gang is quickly dividing into Blu-Ray “haves” and “have nots.” For the benefit of the “haves,” (a group that does not include me) Glenn Kenny recounts his favorite BR discs of 2009.

  

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