It was 30 years ago today, sadly

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. It was a bummer at the time and it’s depressing even now. In any case, it’s an opportune time to present a clip of Lennon and his little back-up band performing one of his most underrated songs.

Keeping up my Bob Dylan theme from yesterday, it’s worth noting that this was famously Lennon’s effort at writing a Dylan song. Of course, it came out a Lennon song, but that’s kind of the point.

Also, I never fail to marvel at how well these musical sequences from 1965’s “Help” — a movie that on the whole didn’t hang together at all well — were shot by the great director, Richard Lester. It’s a just about perfect sequence in my view. Coincidentally, MUBI pointed the way to this Look Magazine interview from the set of Lennon’s one and only solo starring role, also with Lester, “How I Won the War” from 1967. It was obviously hot on the heels of the “bigger than Jesus” craziness, so there’s the inevitable discussion of religion and spirituality.

Perhaps Leonard Gross thought he was just penning the usual cliches we writers write about controversial and talented creators when he wrote the following. Still, his wrap-up turned out to be a lot more right than he probably realized.

The hysteria that surrounds him can no longer disguise the presence of a mind. His ideas are still rough, but his instincts are good and his talent, extraordinary. You may love him, you may loath him, but this you should know: As performer, composer, writer or talker, he’ll be around for a long, long time.

  

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Movie news for a no longer new week

A few items of note…

* Back in 1939, Hollywood’s best-paid screenwriter, Preston Sturges, sold his screwball political satire, “The Great McGinty,” to Paramount for the grand sum of $10.00 on condition that he also be allowed to direct the movie. (I think he might have gotten a buck for the actual directing gig.) To this day, writers often take a pay cut for the privilege of becoming what Sturges used to call “a prince of the blood.”

Today, Mike Fleming reports that writer Dan Fogelman may be about to be paid in the neighborhood of $3 million to direct his first feature. “Imagine” is set to star Steve Carrell and will pair him with an older actor –presumably an aging superstar — who will be playing his extremely absentee rock musician dad who discovers a letter from John Lennon and decides to actually meet his now-middle-aged son for the first time.

lennon-rolls-royce-almeria

* My colleague Will Harris forwarded me a press release with some exciting news for serious movie fans and fans of serious movies. Screenwriter and director Paul Schrader, still best known as the writer of “Taxi Driver,” but also a fascinating director in his own right with credits ranging from “American Gigolo” and “Cat People,” to “Mishima” and “Auto Focus” is poised to come back with “The Jesuit.” The deal for closed at the ongoing American Film Market, still underway in Santa Monica, and is set to star Willem Dafoe, Michelle Rodriguez, and Paz Vega. It’s a revenge film and, between that title and the Calvinist-raised Schrader’s well known inclinations from past films, you can hope for more than just a bit of spirituality meshing with the blood, guts, and sexuality. The Playlist has more.

* The Playlist also passes along the news that Christopher Doyle, an Australian-born cinematographer who made his name doing absolutely stunning work in Hong Kong for Wong Kai-Wai and others, is going to be making his first film in 3D. That should be interesting.

* From “True Blood” werewolf to Superman? Is it a Great Dane? Is it a lycanthrope? No, it’s Joe Manganiello.

* Hot on the heels of producing “Paranormal Activity 2” and wrapping “Area 51” the very shrewd Oren Peli is going back to the roots of American horror with a film loosely based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe.

* Screenwriter John August responds to a less than intelligent quote attributed to Jessica Alba.

* No, Ahmet Zappa and Michael Wilson aren’t writing “Tiki Room: The Movie” but an Polynesian tale that was inspired by the Tiki Room. I don’t care, as long as the birds sing words and the flowers croon.

  

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Weekend box office: “The Social Network” wins the popularity contest a second time

There weren’t a lot of big surprises this weekend. As I guessed might happen on Thursday, the rather run-of-the-mill competition from “Life As We Know It” and “Secretariat” was not enough to surpass the second week showing of the Oscar-trending drama from director David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, one of the very few writers around that audiences might actually know.

According to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart, “The Social Network” earned an estimate of $15.5 million. It’s also worth nothing that it’s actually in a few hundred fewer theaters than either of the new films it’s competing against. It’s healthy per screen average of $5,594 makes the fiscal victory, modest as it is, a bit sweeter. It’s week 2 drop was modest as well, just 30.9%. Those Academy Award legs may already be showing.

Speaking of the competition, the strangely premised “Life As We Know It” came in second with an estimate of over $14.6 million. Tween girls and degenerate gamblers apparently didn’t come through that much for their favorite animal, so “Secretariat,” about the Triple Crown winning horse of the early seventies, merely didn’t win or place, but it did show with an estimate of $12.6 million.

The 3D bump, and a truly idiotic publicity stunt, failed director Wes Craven’s return to the dead teenager genre. “My Soul to Take” set a new record low for 3D movies with an estimate of only a bit over $6.9 million, in fifth place behind Zack Snyder’s surprisingly leggy owl animated movie that I don’t feel like typing the name of right now.

It's Kind of a Funny StoryThe semi-limited release of the dramedy with indie roots, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” did lackluster business to match its unexciting reviews — a disappointment given the track record of directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.  It generated only an estimate of $2 million and change in 742 theaters.

Among truly limited releases, the winner this week in terms of per-screen averages was Charles Ferguson’s Wall Street/fiscal collapse documentary, “Inside Job” which earned a bullish estimate of $21,000 per screen in two theaters. Shock value at one remove, however, was not enough for the remake of the ultra-controversial “video nasty,” “I Spit On Your Grave” which earned only an estimated $33,000 from 12 screens. “Tamara Drewe,” which you’ll be reading about here some more this week, did respectable business with $19,000 from four arthouse screens in L.A. and New York.

Doing strong business this week was the young John Lennon biopic, “Nowhere Boy,” and a movie I failed to mention last time. “Stone” with Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro, which premiered in six theaters. Yes, Ed Norton and Robert DeNiro’s new movie was in only six theaters this weekend.

And, finally, a quick housekeeping note. Columbus Day isn’t exactly a major holiday in Southern California, unless you work for the Post Office or a library — I don’t remember ever even getting a day off from school for it — and it’s certainly only a box office footnote in the movie business. Nevertheless, I need a breather while I catch up on other matters. So, while all the usual wackiness here at Premium Hollywood will continue from my highly esteemed colleagues, I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break tomorrow and probably Tuesday.

  

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Happy belated cine-birthday Mr. Lennon, where ever you are (updated)

I’m off by one day, but I thought I’d still celebrate the 70th birthday of John Lennon with a couple of his best songs as depicted in “Yellow Submarine.” For starters, the highly underrated “Hey Bulldog”

[UPDATE: If this segment isn’t familiar to you — it wasn’t to me — that’s because, according to Wikipedia, it was cut from the original American theatrical release and only restored in 1999 re-release.]

A lot of people used to make fun of the deliberate naivete of this classic tune, but it just gets more moving every year. I think its appropriate that this contains subtitles in “the language of love.”

After the flip…as far as I know, they never played in movie theaters, but I’ve got what I think are cinematically definitive versions of both of these classic Lennon/Beatles tunes.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Weekend box office: Can a horsey biopic or a darkly premised romcom disconnect “The Social Network”?

Personally, I would think that, if only because of the eternal fascination of tween girls for all things equine, “Secretariat,” about the seventies triple-crown winner, would be the more likely film to unseat the early Oscar favorite from writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher, “The Social Network.” However, jolly Carl DiOrio (whose background music on his video has become distractingly un-jolly) thinks not, while L.A. Times box office guru Ben Fritz projects a possible $15 million photo-finish between it and “Life As We Know It,” a poorly reviewed rom-com with a bizarre and unlikely premise — Kathryn Heigel and Josh Duhamel hate each other but are somehow saddled with the custody of their dead best friends’ children without their prior consent and, naturally, fall in comedic love.

Kathryn Heigl and Josh Duhamel experience

For its part, “Secretariat” is getting decent, but not too excited reviews. From Randall Wallace, a director with a style that is both big “c” and small “c” conservative and written by Mike Rich of “Finding Forrester” and “Radio,” the tone is definitely old school and inspirational. There’s an audience for that. Perhaps reading more than is there because of Wallace’s past films, Andrew O’Hehir of Salon both praised and damned the film politically, only to be slammed in turn by a liberal of a less snarky nature, Roger Ebert, who writes that “Secretariat was not a Christian.”

On the other hand, the week’s other new release, “My Soul to Take” marks the return of Wes Craven to the slasher horror genre after five years with a 3-D entry that DiOrio thinks has a shot at “the mid-teen millions.” The movie is being sequestered from critics and sure sounds like a retread of past dead teenager films. On the other hand, even as a squeamish guy who will never, ever see his “Last House on the Left” or “The Hills Have Eyes,” I’ve always admired Craven — I’ve been able to make it through a few of his films — and he was nice to me and some other geeks when I met him as a teenager. I won’t be mad if it does better than expected.

Zach Galifianakis in In limited release are far more movies than I have time to talk about tonight adequately, but I’ll mention a few anyway.  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is actually not such a limited release, as its being opening in 742 theater nationwide. It a dramedy featuring the underrated Zach Galifianakis from the team that made the highly acclaimed indie dramas “Sugar” and “Half-Nelson,” that is dividing critics to some extent, with my colleague Jason Zingale being not too impressed.

We also have some potential Oscar material with the young John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” and potential retching material with the remake of the ultra-controversial grindhouse torturific horror rape-revenge legend, “I Spit On Your Grave” (also on my “never, ever see list”). “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” is an Anglo-Indian production being touted as a combination of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Finally, I wish I could say better things than I did in my review of the latest from my favorite non-auteur living director, Stephen Frears, “Tamara Drewe” but ex-Bond-girl star Gemma Aterton is definitely worth a look.

Gemma Aterton in

  

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