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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Rainy days and movieland Mondays… (Updated)

…Can really get you down. Especially if you’re a deposed big time executive.

* Marc Shmuger and David Linde are both now former honchos at Universal. As reported in the show biz paper of record, having a far better and busier Monday are Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley, from the marketing and distribution departments respectively. As for the why, I’m sure it can mostly be summed by a number of fairly expensive/high profile box office disappointments/flops including “Duplicity,” “Funny People,” “State of Play,” and the one that got almost no respect from anyone (except Roger Ebert), “Land of the Lost.”

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Still, you can trust Nikki Finke to find a more down and dirty side (Shmuger was “‘The Schmuck'”! Poor Linde was “collateral damage”) while Anne Thompson provides her usual sober assessment and notes that the real killer might have been the lack of any apparent “tentpoles” coming any time soon.

* On a similar note, the Rich Ross ascension at Disney is starting to look like a sure thing amidst an overall shake-up — or at least that’s what they’re saying today at Variety. We’re told to expect “a greater emphasis on tentpoles and family fare.” Not a surprise…gotta have them tentpoles.

UPDATE: Ross’s promotion is official. Anne Thompson has the press release.

* Nikki Finke also has an item to gladden the heart of our own Chris Glotfelty. “Paranormal Activity” has had what the Finke terms “freakishly good” business with $15,000 per screening averages (matching the amount I’m seeing reported as the film’s budget…very spooky!) in a special midnight-only engagement in 33 cities Thursday through Saturday, which means some theaters were making those numbers not only at midnight but even on a day when most people had work/classes the next morning. The film will be expanding into a regular release in 40 cities on Friday.

After reading a few reviews and seeing some comments online in addition to what Chris wrote, I have to say that in the wake of so-called “torture porn” and considering that filmic horror has, long ago, sometimes gone to places so horrible and extreme an awful lot of us won’t even consider following (and I don’t just mean silly gorephobics like me), it’s nice to see you can still scare an audience, including hardy souls like Chris (and supposedly Steven Spielberg), to death with not much more than a big, slow build-up and some very inexpensive atmosphere and basic special effects. Is it possible that our filmgoing innocence still lingers?

* Work on the “Arrested Development” movie continues. Yay.

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