Turner Classic Film Fest: A history of violence

I know, pretty dark headline for  a post about a really fun, glamor heavy film fest. All the more so because, at least for me, TCM  Fest is the kind of event that  can put you in a kind of steel bubble which the daily news can barely pierce. If another Cuban Missile Crisis happened during Comic-Con, what would happen? Maybe if it ended differently this time.

Indeed, even a momentous event  like the death of Osama Bin Laden could just barely penetrate TCM’s  mix of Hollywood fantasy and scholarship. For me, the news first came as I overheard another filmgoer during an intermission of “West Side Story,” which I had popped in on just to see how good the 70mm print was, say to another. “No, he’s really dead.” I figured it was another classic film star gone forever. George Chakiris, who played Sharks leader Bernardo, had introduced the screening, but how were Jets Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn doing?

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Weekend box office: “Tron: Legacy” leads a slow weekend; “How Do You Know” when you’ve made an expensive bomb? Not hard this weekend.

It came in at the top spot without  breaking a sweat, but if Disney was expecting “Tron: Legacy” to turn a cult-hit 1982 science fiction concept masquerading as a movie into an instant mega-franchise, they made a problematic bet. On the other hand, while it doesn’t explain the miserable performance of the latest from James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”), Nikki Finke points out that this is a weekend when an awful lot of people are busy traveling and shopping and movies tend to take a back-seat.

Tron: Legacy

So, that leaves it to the young fanboys to support something like “Tron.” They shelled out the money for those expensive 3D tickets and Anthony D’Alessandro says that 3D accounted for an unsurprising 82% of the tickets. This is not a movie you see for the story and characterization. The total estimated take for the Mouse House was $43.6 million according to Box Office Mojo, well short of the 50 million La Finke says they were hoping for. This includes a Friday morning 12:00 A.M. opening, by the way.

The #2 film this weekend was “Yogi Bear.” In its favor, it is a partially CGI animated family comedy. In its disfavor, it’s a cheap looking knock-off of a character that kids love and adults remember fondly — but rarely watch because, to an adult, those old Hanna-Barbara cartoons aren’t hugely funny. On the other hand, it’s always fun to say “pic-a-nic basket.” With unsurprisingly lousy reviews, the 3D film was able to get enough families in the door to earn an estimated $16.7 million for Warner Brothers.

In its second weekend, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” managed to keep its drop-off to 48.3% and earned an estimate of $12.4 million for Fox in the #3 spot. The $150 million film is benefiting from decent business overseas.

Going wide for the first time this week, “The Fighter” punched slightly above its weight and earned a very solid $12.2 million estimate. With a total so far of roughly $12.6 million, the award-contending David O. Russell crowd-pleaser has already won enough purses to get more than half its $25 million budget back. “Black Swan” which expanded much more modestly in terms of theater counts, also did extremely well with an estimated $8.3 million in the #7 spot, despite being in only about 1/3 as many theaters as most of its competition.

Jack Nicholson phones home in And then we get to “How Do You Know” — a movie I once had hopes for. Still, I knew something was up with word that it cost $120 million but, as I’ve joked before, couldn’t even afford to purchase the correct punctuation for its title. As Brooks is a more reliable Oscar nominee than a money maker and the movie is, after all, a romantic comedy and not an EFX showcase, this seemed weird. With poor reviews and no award nominations, this is a movie without a constituency other than whatever power the all-star cast led by Reese Witherspoon can muster. Jack Nicholson, in particular, is being accused of a phoned-in performance. At a salary of $12 million, that’s one expensive toll call.

  

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It’s your of end the week movie news non-filibuster

While Bernie Sanders did his thing on the floor of the senate today, Hollywood liberals, and a few conservatives too, we’re busy doing their thing so that the guys who owned all the studios would have all the more money to save from their big, big tax break. To wit…

* Robert Rodriguez and the other makers of  the modestly budgeted “Machete” got a nasty surprise from the Texas Film Commission, which appears to be reneging on $1.7 million in tax rebates. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, It has something to do with a law against providing the incentives to films portraying Texas and/or Texans negatively. Every film portrays people negatively. This reeks of political selectivity, probably related to the film’s deliberately nonpartisan lampooning of anti-immigrant hysteria and demagogic politicians. “Machete” goes out of its way to avoid naming the evil politician played by Robert De Niro as a member of either party, in fact.

If Texas doesn’t change it’s tune, and fast, I agree for once with the L.A. Times‘ Patrick Goldstein and seriously hope nobody from outside the state shoots a single foot of film in Texas until such time as the state seeks to elect non-mouthbreathers to statewide office. They have, indeed, fucked with the wrong Mexican.

Danny Trejo is

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Tuesday night trailer: Halle Berry goes full dissociative in “Frankie and Alice”

Members of the headshrinking community can’t even agree whether dissociative identity disorder, aka multiple personality, even exists, but it sure makes for award-winning drama. It got Joanne Woodward, with a little help from shrink Lee J. Cobb, an Oscar in Nunnally Johnson’s 1958 “The Three Faces of Eve.” It helped Sally Field, costarring with Ms. Woodward as Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, shed her “Flying Nun”/”Gidget” past with a nice shiny Emmy for 1976’s “Sybil.”

Now Halle Berry, or at least her producers, are apparently hoping for a bit more of that award-winning subject matter. This time there’s a racial twist and Stellan Skarsgard is probably just the right guy to step into the weighty shoes of the Woodward/Cobb role. Phylicia Rashad costars as Berry’s mom who, if “Frankie and Alice” runs true to form, will come in for most of the blame.

I might sound like I’m making snarky light of this as obvious Oscar bait. In a way I am, but I’m also entirely open to the possibility that, like “The Three Faces of Eve” and “Sybil” before it, “Frankie and Alice” will turn out to be a provocative, terrifically compelling drama with a first rate, if inevitably showy, lead performance. There are worse sub-sub-genres and the issue of ethnic identity and subtle self-hate is certainly not going away any time soon.

One interesting side note. Looking at the IMDb listing for this film, part of the original story credit — presumably the factual basis of the film — goes to the late Southern California-based psychologist Oscar Janiger. Janiger is best known noted for us his experimental use of LSD as a therapeutic tool during the late fifties and early sixties, with his most famous clients being Cary Grant and, a little less surprisingly, Jack Nicholson.

H/t /Film.

  

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A chat with Gale Anne Hurd, producer of “The Walking Dead”

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.

Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.

Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.

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I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.

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