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Hidden Netflix Gems – Ladybug Ladybug

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug feels dated in many ways, and not just because it is in black & white; it is a quintessential Cold War paranoia movie, from the era of Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the only film of its era to make the threat of nuclear annihilation the subject of comedy. While those films are revered to this day, Ladybug Ladybug has fallen unfairly by the wayside, though its unique approach and hypnotic style are definitely worthy of viewing by a modern audience.

Written by Perry’s wife and frequent collaborator, Eleanor Perry, from a story by Lois Dickert, Ladybug Ladybug‘s title comes from the children’s rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home / Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” Based on a real incident, the film examines the course of events following a nuclear attack alarm at a small town elementary school. The alarm is a “code yellow,” which translates to “nuclear attack imminent within an hour.” After some panicked deliberation, the school’s principal, Mr. Calkins (William Daniels), decides to heed the alarm and send the children home. After this, the film follows one particular group of children as they are escorted home along a country road by a teacher, Mrs. Andrews (Nancy Marchand, best known as Tony’s vindictive mother, Livia, on The Sopranos).

We also see several of the schoolchildren camped out in the bomb shelter owned by one of their families, playing the waiting game and gradually evolving into their own small version of society. The way in which they instinctively form hierarchies and begin to govern themselves when left to their own devices recalls William Golding’s brilliant 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, though the savagery portrayed in that book is given far less time to flourish here. Instead of hunting and killing one another, these children discuss their situation with a rationality nowhere to be found in the adult world of Strangelove, for example. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the children take a vote on whether or not war should be allowed; they all vote against it before concluding that nobody will listen to children.

It’s not all polite discussion, though, as the inherent selfishness of human nature comes out in the children’s refusal to allow their fellow student, Sarah (Marilyn Rogers), into the bomb shelter, claiming there is simply not enough room. The result of this, though ambiguous, implies great tragedy for Sarah, and this tragic ambiguity extends to the film’s ending. Though its political import is a bit heavy-handed, as a narrative conclusion it is striking, poignant and memorable, all adjectives that could be applied to the film as a whole.

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It’s quite possibly the last end of the week movie news dump of 2010!

Things are supposed to quiet down as far as big movie news is concerned for the next couple of weeks, so enjoy these little draps and drabs of movie news from the last week while you can…

* It’s not quite on the level of finding a mysterious monolith on the moon but it comes close. AICN has it that EFX pioneer genius Douglas Trumbull has said that 17 minutes of lost outtakes from Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001: A Space Odyssey” have been found in a salt mine in Kansas. It’s important to remember this story, such as it is, originates from a message board and perhaps isn’t the best sourced item to ever hit the ‘nets. But what better place to store outtakes than a salt mine in Kansas? A pepper mill in Encino?

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* Since the story’s been out since the beginning of the week, by now you’ve no doubt heard the news that Jon Favreau has walked away from “Iron Man 3″ in what we’re being assured was an entirely amicable split motivated primarily by his desire to make the Disneyland themed “Magic Kingdom.” As a lifelong Southern Californian and a current resident in good standing of the city of Anaheim, I love the Happiest Place on Earth as much as the next guy. However, as the premise for a movie, I’m hugely skeptical and wondering just what it is that is getting people of the caliber of Favreau and Guillermo del Toro on board with this these theme-parked based projects. (I’m much less skeptical of the Fincher “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” because, well, it’s based on a beloved book of my childhood as well as a pretty cool Disney flick, not a ride.)

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Directors Hall of Fame movie moments #2: “Paths of Glory”

Another scene honoring an inductee into Bullz-Eye’s Director’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2010, this time looking at my one of my choices for Stanley Kubrick‘s greatest films, 1957′s “Paths of Glory.” One of the greatest visceral depictions of the horror of war ever made.

A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. — Stanley Kubrick

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An end of week movie news dump for one weird and deadly week

It was thundering and lightning today briefly, unusual in Southern California, where we like our rain nice and quiet. Actually, it barely rained at all, which made if feel weirder. Of course, the really weird thing was all the people who died that you’ve been reading about here and we actually left out a few, including the guy who said this…

Anyhow, here are a few more items from this long, strange week of movie news.

* My reaction to the planned 3-D versions of the all six “Star Wars” movies? Let’s just say at first I thought I was reading the Onion, and then the Movie Hell Times.

* As much as I complain about the way Comicon has gone, taking it out of San Diego would only make it worse and even more impersonal. I never really thought it was going to move, but I’m glad I can be sure about that now. I know this is a controversial statement, but I’m going to go out on a limb: San Diego is nice.

* Even though I admit to not knowing the property all that well, I have a hard time imaging Ron Howard pulling off something like the proposed mega movie/TV adaptation of Stephen King’s massive “The Dark Tower” series. The memoir “My Stroke of Insight” with, perhaps, Jodie Foster in the lead seems much more up his alley. I’m all for people getting out of their comfort zones, but sometimes we have comfort zones for a reason.

* Regular readers here know I’m no gorehound, but a PG-13 “Alien” prequel makes as much sense as an R-rated “Mary Poppins” reboot.

* The late Stanley Kubrick’s attempts to forever suppress his first film have, it seems, come to naught. The semi-legendary “Fear and Desire” has been found in a film lab in Puerto Rico and will be making it’s way to DVD. I’ve seen Kubrick’s little known second film, “Killer’s Kiss” and I’m here to tell you, don’t get too excited. It’s gorgeous but, in terms of storytelling, as dull as dishwater. Kubrick’s career as a film great probably started with his third film, the noir-heist classic “The Killing.”

* The foreign language category for the Oscars has been supremely screwed up for decades because the Academy allows each nation to submit one film, and just one film, for consideration. No surprise that the choices tend to be heavily politicized. It’s only October and we already have two controversies.

* I think’s it’s an enormous stretch to characterize “Cast Away” as a classic, as Mike Fleming seems to think. I also think “Back to the Future” is fun but, well, not a classic either. Robert Zemeckis returning to the world of live action and time travel, and thereby having less time for creepy motion-capture, is nevertheless probably a good thing.

* A bit of inside-baseball. Executive Bob Berney caused quite a ruckus with his sudden departure from indie Apparition earlier this year. His new gig, which seems like it’s seeking to help fill the huge gap in middle-brow low-to-mid budget films, interests me.

* A Beach Boys jukebox musical seems to be in all of our futures. I love musicals and I love about half of the Beach Boys catalogue, but the jukeboxers annoy me. I’d almost rather watch this.

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It’s a brand new week and never too early for movie news!

* Sofia Coppola’s latest, “Somewhere,” won the highly prized Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The problem, if there is one, is that she is a current friend and former flame of Jury President Quentin Tarantino. I have to admit that I had forgotten they’d ever been a “thing,” but many do remember and there’s been some grumbling to the effect that the movie isn’t all that “fucking great.” It ain’t the crime of the century, but I guess Tarantino should have recused himself. Speaking for myself only, I find that I tend to be either more harsh or more enthusiastic about friends’ work.  As for Monte Hellman, Tarantino’s hardly alone in praising the maverick writer and director.

* Someone took Stanley Kubrick’s ultimate trip with way too much chemical enhancement over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have a story about that I’ll tell you sometime. In the meantime, protective measures may be in order.

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* So, if Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro are going to be in a film by Martin Scorsese, naturally it’s called “The Irishman.” Daniel Day Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, and Pierce Brosnan need to make a film called “The Italian” with Neil Jordan directing.

* Good. L.A. needs all the love letters, cinematic and otherwise, it can get. Naturally, all the lead actors are from foreign lands (Christopher Plummer is Canadian, but he feels like he’s from actual overseas), though I’m not sure about the characters. One of the things I loved about “A Single Man” was the way it depicted the European’s love affair with a town that U.S. natives mostly don’t seem to get.

* Woody Allen has stepped in to a long-running rumor-created fracas. France’s acting first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, apparently did just fine in “Midnight in Paris.”

Mickey Rourke scares small children * Mickey Rourke’s latest gig appears to be playing notorious mob killer Richard “the Ice Man” Kuklinski. I think this is a close to making a true family film as Rourke may ever get, next to “Iron Man 2.” The man’s face doesn’t only scare small children, it scares me.

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Latest “Twilight Saga” installment to eclipse “The Last Airbender” (updated)

If you’re the kind of person who lives or dies by box office news and, if so, you have my deepest sympathies,  this weekend’s box-office is already partially old news. As I write this late Thursday night, we know that Summit’s “The Twlight Saga: Eclipse” has already raked in a massive $68.5 million, though that’s actually a bit less than the prior installment got on its first weekday release. Nevertheless, its very mixed reviews are actually an improvement on  the poor critical performance of the last entry and there’s general agreement that, whatever else may be the case, this is the most action-packed installment so far. Decent word of mouth could give it a boost.

Ah, the eternal choice: lycanthrope or bloodsucking parasite?

In any case the $150 million or more total for the vampire romance’s first five days that jolly Carl DiOrio has confidently predicted seems like a good guess, especially with Nikki Finke‘s report of a promotional strategy involving 20 cast members fanning out across the country to intro the movie in area theaters.  This can’t hurt. Go to any revival screening in L.A. at a venue like the American Cinematheque or the L.A. County Museum of Art, and you’ll be lucky to see a half-full house. Advertise that a famed cast member will be speaking, and you often get sell outs. Never underestimate the appeal of a live celebrity appearance. If it works with film snobs, it’ll squeeze some more repeat viewings from the Twi-hards.

There’s actually another new genre film debuting this week. It’s the more kid-and-geek-male friendly, PG-rated “The Last Airbender” from M. Night Shameicantspellhisname. The Indian-American director has been pilloried by Asian groups for casting the tale, adopted from an animated series with a definite Asian flavor, with primarily white actors. It’s also been a long time since he’s had a hit, or even a movie that anybody liked much. It gets worse because “Airbender” is getting some of worst reviews of the year, with critics like our own Jason Zingale taking a moment to criticize the film’s retrofitted 3-D as even worse than the film as a whole. Even so, the martial arts fantasy got off to a decent start at midnight screenings Thursday morning with $3 million in the coffer for Paramount.

The Last AirbenderStill, if word gets out that this film is the stinker it sounds like, rather than the franchise-starter it’s supposed to be, it could do very disappointing business. With a $145 million budget, that’s not good tidings for the director or the studio. On the other hand, fans of the animated series could pull the film towards a solid, but certainly hugely distant, second. In any case, it seems clear that the massive and assuredly leggy success of “Toy Story 3” will be nipping at its heels. One thing is certain: the film originally titled “Avatar: The Last Airbender” will not be emulating its former namesake commercially over the long haul.

Among other limited releases this week, we have “Love Ranch,” which is the first film starring Helen Mirren to be directed by her husband, Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “An Officer and a Gentleman”). Sadly, it’s getting very bad reviews. That is not good for a limited release, even if Joe Pesci is also in the cast. Amazing that a film about murder and legalized prostitution in Nevada is considered dull, but making movies is an uncertain business. Right?

“The Killer Inside Me” starring Casey Affleck as a brutally psychopathic cop is dividing critics in the kind of way that indicates it’s either an honorable near-miss or a cult film in the making. The adaptation of the pulp novel by novelist and Stanley Kubrick screenwriter Jim Thompson, which has a couple of scenes of very brutal and graphic violence that have generated a ton of ink and bloggy pixels, though its admirers tell us there’s lot more to the movie that that, will be expanding significantly from four to seventeen screens this weekend as per Box Office Mojo’s theater counts,. If you want to see it in a theater, I suggest you do so quickly. I don’t think all that many people are in the mood for this kind of thing right now.

UPDATE: Nikki Finke has the Thursday box office which indicates both “Eclipse” and “Airbender” are on track for their respective expected strong performances. Still, I’m curious to see if word of mouth catches up with the latter.

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Stanley Kubrick vs. Martin Scorsese — it’s a bloody battle

This hypnotic video mash-up of the two titans of the last cinematic half-century reminds us that the art thing can be a bloody business and it’s probably best not to watch this in front of the kids or your vegan coworkers. I’ve seen almost all of these movies, most of them more than once or several times, and it even surprised me how vicious some of those moments can be. They can be pretty beautiful, of course. There’s also a spoiler for “The Departed” lurking in there for those who haven’t seen it yet.

As to who “wins,” that’s clearly not the intention of Leandro Copperfield (if that really is his name). It’s like a battle between fire and ice; which would win that battle?

Kubrick vs Scorsese from Leandro Copperfield on Vimeo.

H/t…actually, I lost my link with where I first saw this. It’s been making the blogs for several days now.

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Trailer time — “The Killer Inside Me” (updated)

It’s a bit glib, but it’s fairly safe to say that Jim Thompson was probably the most hard-boiled among the better known hard-boiled writers of the mid 20th century. The new film version of his best known novel proved his work still has the capacity to shock thirty-three years after his death. At Sundance and elsewhere, “The Killer Inside Me,” directed by the very prolific Michael Winterbottom (“A Mighty Heart,” “The Road to Guantanamo”), inspired praise and walks out, particularly for some reportedly extremely rough and bloody scenes of violence perpetrated by Casey Affleck as the brutally sociopathic lead character against costars Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson. Being green band, this trailer merely implies the brutality, of course, but I don’t think it hides from it, either. This really does look like a likely career breakthrough role for Affleck.

This is far from the first time Thompson’s work has been on the screen. Stanley Kubrick was famously impressed with The Killer Inside Me, which came out in 1952. Thompson wound up working on two Kubrick classics, “The Killing” and “Paths of Glory,” but his cult fame had to wait until after his death  in 1977, the year after the first film version of The Killer Inside Me was released to not much interest.

This time, though, that’s looking to be a very different story. Other notable Thompson adaptations include Stephen Frears’ memorable “The Grifters” with John Cusack, Angelica Huston, and Annette Bening from 1990, “The Getaway” (filmed by Sam Peckinpah in 1972 and Roger Donaldson in 1994), and Betrand Tavernier’s haunting 1981 “Coup de Torchon.” None of those were what you’d call family films, but it’s safe to say that this will be by far the most controversial of the bunch.

UPDATE: I just stumbled over an earlier European trailer which is really interesting and a bit more blackly comic. It’s courtesy of a 5/5/10 post made by Simon Dang at the Playlist. Dang also offers that the he thinks the violence has been played up perhaps a bit more than is the case — and this wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. In any event, the other trailer is after the flip.

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Midweek movie news

It’s quite late, or quite early, here on the west coast, so this edition will be swift.

* Captain America has got his girlfriend, and I’ve never heard of her! However, those of you who keep up with your TV may know Hayley Atwell, who’ll be playing Peggy Carter, Cap’s WWII era love interest. Among other shows, she was featured on the not-so well received AMC redo of “The Prisoner.”

* The folks over at Dreamworks have been busy beavers. First, they began the roll out of their “Kung Fu Panda” “virtual theme park” — basically a collection of Panda-based games for kids. Also, their gearing up for the May release “Shrek Forever After.” Today, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) confab about, naturally, 3-D conversions on the first three “Shrek” productions and how they won’t suck like certain live-action 3-D conversions.

Still, there was a fly in the family-friendly ointment, and that was a photo spread that’s coming out in the glossy Vman Magazine that apparently caused some unhappiness at Dreamworks Animation. I could explain why, and you may definitely read the Paul Bond’s THR article about it. On the other hand, I don’t have to tell you how many words a picture is worth.

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Avatar-mania, Oscar possibilities, the Obamas’ guest list, and cinegeeks bossing Stephen King around

I had a nasty case of food poisoning yesterday. Not that you care, but a lot has been happening while I spent a day catatonic before TCM and IFC.

* There’s a new “interactive” trailer for “Avatar” that you can download if you don’t mind also downloading some new Adobe software (at least I had to on the computer I’m using right now). The reason “interactive” is in quotes is that the only thing unusual about this longer trailer is that it pauses and allows you to watch additional short promotional films based around the various characters and some of the hardware, etc. It also allows you to buy tickets early.

I’m not sure what “interactive” really means because just about everything is interactive to some degree and this does not particularly impress me as anything new or different. Maybe we can think of a new buzzword.

Avatar movie image (3)

* And’s that’s not all. Anne Thompson has the scoop that “Avatar” may premiere at Harry Knowles’ annual, 24-hour invitation-only Butt-Numb-A-Thon despite some issues between Knowles and Fox. Also, you’ve probably heard about/seen this already, but the movie and writer-director James Cameron got the “60 Minutes” treatment Sunday night. Nothing earth shattering in the arguably slightly puffy Morley Safer piece, though it’s nice to hear Cameron admit that when it comes right down to it, amazing CGI/3-D or not, it all comes down to the story and what’s happening in the actors’ eyes. On the other hand, I really don’t need or want to see 3-D news stories. Will I will wind up doing so anyway?

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