RIP Dino De Laurentiis

Another link to cinema’s past has left us with the passing of the legendary Italian and eventually American producer at age 91. A truly old school style movie mogul with all the good and bad that went with that, creatively speaking, Dino De Laurentiis was instrumental in launching the worldwide vogue for European cinema, particularly in his partnership with fellow powerhouse producer Carlo Ponti and ultimate Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

During a period I personally consider Fellini’s creative prime, De Laurentiis co-produced two of the director’s most powerful films, the classic tearjerker “La Strada” with Anthony Quinn and the great Giulietta Masina, and “Nights of Cabiria” also with Masina, a great tragicomedy and a huge personal favorite of mine. He also produced two now somewhat obscure adaptations, a version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with Audrey Hepburn and “Ulysses.” Fortunately, the latter was not an adaptation of the James Joyce stream-of-consciousness meganovel, but Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and starred Kirk Douglas in the heroic title role.

No snob, De Laurentiis had a gift for commingling arthouse fare, quality middlebrow entertainment, and complete schlock — some of it fun, some it merely schlocky. Geeks cried foul when he eschewed stop-motion for an unworkable animatronic monstrosity and, mostly, Rick Baker in a monkey suit for his silly mega-blockbuster remake attempt, “King Kong,” but that movie was a classic when compared to something like the hugely regrettable killer-whale flick “Orca.”

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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 1

Welcome back, my friends, to the experience that has been lovingly described as being “like the Bataan death march, but with cocktails.” I speak, of course, of the Television Critics Association press tour…but, then, if you’re a regular reader of Premium Hollywood, then you already know that I visit California twice a year – first in January, then in July – in order to get the details on what new programs the broadcast and cable networks will be bringing you over the course of the next six months. Myself and my TV critic peers will be spending the better part of the next two weeks in a big ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, watching and listening as the casts and creators of the various new series trot onto the stage, answer our questions and address our issues, and make room for the next series. Then, at the end of most evenings, there’s a big party with most of the folks we’ve seen during the course of the day, and we get the opportunity to chat one on one with as many of them as we can wrangle. Oh, sure, there are free drinks to be had, but when you’re trying to play the part of a proper journalist, you can’t indulge but so much…well, not ’til you’ve gotten all of your interviews, anyway.

Fortunately, the first day of the Summer 2010 TCA Press Tour started slowly, providing visits to the sets of a few series, a trip around the Warner Brothers studio lot, a ride on the latest addition to the Universal Studios tour, and – to ease us in slowly – only two proper panels. We did, however, get a few Q&A ops while at the various sets, some of which were decidedly more impressive than others.

“Desperate Housewives” set visit

Having never watched a complete episode of “Desperate Housewives (I rather expect I’d like it, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to play catch-up at this point), I had no personal investment in visiting the set for Wisteria Lane, but when you’re a heterosexual male and you’re presented with the opportunity to stand within a few feet of Eva Longoria Parker, you don’t turn it down.

Unfortunately, it took us for-freaking-ever to finally make our way to the set, as our bus driver apparently had no clue as to its whereabouts, aside from the fact that it was located somewhere on the Universal Studios lot. As a result, instead of getting to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the set before beginning our interaction with series creator Marc Cherry and members of the show’s cast (Longoria Parker, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and new addition Vanessa Williams), I got off the bus and barely had a chance to grab a cup of coffee and a bagel before the proceedings had begun.

Cherry and the cast appeared, cheerily greeted the assembled critics and thanked us for coming to the set, then split the group, with Huffman and Williams setting up camp in one house and Cherry, Cross, and Longoria Parker in another. Even if Eva hadn’t been in the mix, I knew from previous TCA experience that Cherry is always entertaining, so I followed him and his Housewives inside to hear what they had to tell us about the upcoming season of the show. At first, Eva was going to speak to what we could expect from Gabrielle’s storylines this year, but she stumbled almost immediately, admitting that she couldn’t remember what Cherry had told her she could say and what she couldn’t.

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Stop me before I summarize the movie news again

It’s like a disease, I tell ya’…

* THR’s Borys Kit has the shortlist of actors being considered for the new Marc Webb “Spiderman” and, not surprisingly given Webb’s good taste in actors, they’re a pretty strong bunch, with the biggest name being the one-time “Billy Elliot” and the Tintin to be, Jamie Bell.

Megan Fox* Much as I am not a fan (I’m not sure who is, exactly), it was once tempting to think that maybe Michael Bay was perhaps showing good judgment by letting Megan Fox go from the next “Transformers” flick. If Jeff Schneider at the Wrap has his facts right, however, it might just be another reason to think even less of him and also, maybe, to worry about her. And is it really possible that the earlier reports were part of a bluff, which Fox has now called? Oy. H/t The Playlist.

* More from Borys Kit. I’ve written about Carl Erik Rinsch a couple of times here. He’s a very interesting commercial director who’s a protegee of Ridley Scott and who has an arresting visual style of his own. Now, it appears possible that his first feature film could be that new version of “Logan’s Run,” which maybe someone other than me remembers was actually based on a book — way better than the lame seventies movie, if my teenage opinions can be trusted — written in 1967 by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Rinsch definitely has a feel for science-fiction, I think.

* The Frairs Club’s next roastee will be one Quentin Tarantino. Expect cursing, but perhaps better written than usual. Lots of geek and pot-smoking jokes too, no doubt.

* If  you’re a killer, but forget you’re a killer, are you still a killer? And if you remember, can you start over and drop your bad habit? Those are the questions that appear to be the topic of “Jack,” which John Cusack has just signed on to. No word on who’ll be playing his no doubt brilliant and beautiful, yet vulnerable, doctor.

* Steve Carrell playing the big-in-the-Philippines songwriter of “We Built This City”? Works for me.

* Speaking of signing on, the new editorial director of THR aka The Hollywood Reporter is the former editor-in-chief of Us Weekly. Anne Thompson wonders just how complete a shift to celebrity journalism this might mean for the venerable trade pub, which may not really be a trade for very much longer if her pessimistic/realistic guess is right.

* Ever wondered why the residents of Skull Island bothered to put a Kong-sized door in that giant wall meant to keep the big ape out? Greg Ferrera has a theory.

* I didn’t even know this was happening, but the John Williams Blogathon is under-way at Edward Copeland’s place, celebrating easily the most famous film composer of our era. Yes, his work on “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” etc. is pretty great, but there’s he’s got more musical quivers in his bow than you might think.

  

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Okay, so it’s not a major TV series finale…

…And there’s absolutely no doubt that the most important documentary to debut at this year’s just wrapped Cannes Film Festival was Charles Ferguson’s Wall Street/Washington expose, “Inside Job.” Nevertheless, this film geek can’t resist running the trailer for what sounds like a perfectly great documentary about one of the greatest men to ever hold the title “Cameraman.”

What can you say about the man who shot several of the most dazzling, visually groundbreaking films every made, including the ultimate ballet film, “The Red Shoes” and whose resume also includes “Rambo: First Blood 2”?

David Hudson had the scoop and gets a mega h/t for the trailer on this. Just a little bit more of the work of Jack Cardiff after the flip.

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RIP Frank Frazetta (update 2x)

It’s just one of those days. Frank Frazetta has passed on at age 82. He was key artist in the fantasy and science fiction field who, in his own way, had a major impact on the movie world. Though he was primarily known as the painter whose work graced the covers of books by Conan, the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and Tarzan/John Carter of Mars author Edgar Rice Burroughs, he also worked in comics, movie posters, and record album covers, primarily heavy metal. His work doubtlessly influenced its share of film imagery as well. (Princess Leia’s outfit while being held captive by Jabba the Hutt comes immediately to mind.)

Anyhow, below are some random movie-related works by Frazetta, starting with this very Frazetta poster for a Clint Eastwood actioner many would rather forget but I remember fairly fondly. (Of course, I was 15 or so when I saw it.)

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Much more after the flip.

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