Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
First time as a filmmaker since 1996... will the wait be worth it?
Oh, this makes me happy.
When Tom Hanks wrote and directed "That Thing You Do!" in 1996, the film came out and vanished pretty quickly, and it seemed to me at the time that the perception of the film was that it was a failure. That blew my mind, because I thought the film was well-observed, smartly-directed, and filled with a genuine joy. It absolutely seemed to be an extension of the public persona of Tom Hanks, and if I'd been writing for a website at the time, I would have named it to my year-end lists and advocated for it tirelessly.
It's been 14 years since it came out, and it looks like Hanks is finally ready to give writing and directing another chance.
Proving twice in one day that Nikki Finke was wise to hire him for Deadline, Michael Fleming broke the story that Hanks is writing, directing, and starring in "Larry Thorne," a film that Fleming describes thusly:
"I’m told that Hanks will play the title character, a man forced to reinvent himself and find a new career as he navigates the second act of his life."
Sounds like a film that is very much of the moment, and I trust Hanks to do something special with it. He's such a smart guy, and there such a huge wellspring of decency in his work and in his personality that I am curious to see what that synopsis really means. Julia Roberts is now onboard as well to play the female lead in the film, and based on their chemistry in "Charlie Wilson's War," I'm curious.
Classic film makes its first major digital age appearance at home
It's funny... when I started prepping this article this morning, I thought this would be the big film nerd news of the day.
It should excite anyone who loves classic Hollywood, though, since "The African Queen" has long been one of the highest-profile titles to never get a release on DVD or BluRay. The film is one of the most beloved in the careers of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, and one of those films that has always been beloved, that always shows up in conversations about the golden age of studio filmmaking.
Although I'm not a big fan of treating any list as sacrosanct, the AFI 100 serves as a general list of films that are mainstream and well-regarded, and of the 100 titles on that list, only one was yet to make an appearance on
What's really exciting to me is that Paramount Home Entertainment seems to have followed the lead of Warner Bros. in how they've been handling some of their classics like "Wizard Of Oz" and "Gone With The Wind," and they've gone the distance to produce a 4K transfer under the direct supervision of Jack Cardiff. That's important because the original film poses a number of challenges in terms of visual presentation. It was a Technicolor film that was shot on soundstages and on location, and there have always been notable differences between the two when looking at earlier transfers on VHS or TV. It seems like this is finally an opportunity to fine-tune the transfer into something that really glows.
Director Sam Raimi and rest of the cast will not return
Update 3:30 PM PST: Here's the official word from Sony, confirming the story:
Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010) -- Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012.
Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager dealing with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.
The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.
“A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots and we look forward to working once again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Plus a CGI Chaplin and Oliver Stone's 'secret history'
Welcome to The Morning Read.
What a weekend. I should just get a room at the Four Seasons year round at this point. It'd be easier. Still, I can't complain when I end up sitting across from Harrison Ford and Dennis Quaid chatting. We'll have those interviews and more up next week for you, as well as reviews of "Legion," "Extraordinary Measures," and "The Book Of Eli," even as I find myself neckdeep in Sundance prep.
Lots of good stuff online this weekend to read, although it seems like a lot of you were back in theaters seeing "Avatar" again. Why not combine the two experiences and read the script, which Fox has made officially available online?
There's little doubt that "Avatar" has got execs at every single studio talking about how they can make their own SF epics or 3D spectacles, but another of the side effects of the film's success is the potential retrofitting of many older films into 3D, something that's been discussed for many years but that now seems to be a fait accompli. After all, for a studio, it's the difference between committing $120 million to a new film or $10 million to a company to retrofit a film. About four years ago, I saw a demo of one version of the process at Lightstorm's screening room, where Jon Landau was showing off clips from several older films that had been put together as proof of concept. We saw clips from "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope," "Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones," and "The Two Towers," to name a few. Different things impressed me about each of the clips we saw.
A legendary Dennis Hopper performance arrives for the first time on DVD
You can't really make an argument for Philippe Mora as a great filmmaker, but I might be able to make the argument that he's not a terrible filmmaker. If I was only judging films like his "Howling" sequels or "Communion" or "Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills," it would be easy to dismiss him completely. But there have been some bright spots on his filmography like the early documentary, "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" or this movie, "Mad Dog Morgan," which has never been released properly in the US until now.
My interest in this film was piqued when it was featured in "Not Quite Hollywood," that amazing documentary about the Australian exploitation industry. In particular, they highlight a fire stunt in the film that almost killed Grant Page, one of the legendary Aussie stuntmen, and they talk about Dennis Hopper's legendary bad behavior while shooting the film. I can understand that... Hopper is one of those great '70s bad boys who left a swath of wild stories everywhere he went, and when you've got footage of a Grant Page stunt going wrong, you show it. But it didn't really make a case for the film itself, and unil now, there's been no way for us to judge it ourselves.
Troma's in the middle of releasing a line of catalog titles they're calling "Tromasterpieces," and the result is we're seeing films like "Combat Shock" and "The Last Horror Film" and this one, films that have been sitting on a shelf forever, and I'm glad for the opportunity. In this case, the film is worth releasing, worth rediscovering. It's not great, but it's got a lot to recommend it, and it may well represent the best thing Mora's ever done as a filmmaker.
Michael Douglas takes a backseat to terrible writing and cheesy directing
My first film this year was, for obvious reasons, "2010: The Year We Make Contact," and when I was looking through the stack of "next things to watch" on my desk, I realized that I had the latest Peter Hyams film here as well, and I decided that while I was on a pro-Hyams kick, I should give it a watch.
Ouch. That'll teach me.
Hyams is both writer and director this time out, and if there's even been a clearer indicator of how mired he is in the '80s, I'm unaware of it. And, yes, I liked many of the movies of the '80s, but I'm not nostalgic for them. Watching "Beyond A Reasonable Doubt," I know why. Remember when every thriller that starred Michael Douglas was a giant A-list event? Well, those days have passed, and now you get a movie where Douglas is supposedly the bad guy, but barely shows up in 15 minutes of film altogether. Instead, Jesse Metcalf is the lead of the movie, with Amber Tamblyn as the female lead, and Douglas serving a role more akin to the shark from "Jaws" popping up a few times to remind you of the threat.
I've never seen the original version of this film (yes, it's yet another remake) from the '50s, but I can see how this material might work better as a film noir, and in an age where people's faith in the law was more absolute, a story like this might really pack a punch. But these days? Corruption is so commonplace, so expected at this point, that it all just lays there. I don't buy the plot mechanics as being remotely possible, so nothing else matters. It's not like the film has characters to fall back on. Instead, it's all just going through the motions, right down to a couple of ridiculous overdone car chases that strain credulity past the breaking point.
Warner Archive releases a long-lost Roddenberry pilot
No, I have not abandoned my plan to write up everything I see this year. I'm just off to a slow start for the year. I saw two films yesterday that I can't write up because of embargo, "Creation" and "Legion" (yes, it was a very Paul Bettany Friday), but I've got a few titles to catch up on, and I'm watching a triple feature tonight while I do some other work, so I'll have plenty to share this weekend.
I love the Warner Archives program. I think it's a precursor to what studios will eventually offer via subscription once we've all got crazy fat broadband pipes into the house. It really shouldn't be considered a shock that some titles aren't considered "commercial" enough to get a regular DVD release, complete with marketing costs, but that doesn't mean those titles should remain lost in home video limbo forever. Even if they're not great films, the curiosity factor makes some of them worth seeing.
In this case, I've been curious about "Genesis II," a failed Gene Roddenberry pilot, since I read an article about it in Starlog magazine about a thousand years ago. Alex Cord stars as Dylan Hunt, a scientist who is part of a NASA program to perfect suspended animation for astronauts on long-distance interstellar exploration. As the head of the program, he decides to test it on himself (because I'm sure that's NASA protocol) and, unsurprisingly, it goes badly. So badly that whe he wakes up, it's hundreds of years later and civilization as he knows it has collapsed completely.
Plus: James Cameron wants to bomb Japan and Disney goes 3D at home, too
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Wow, the schedule's starting to get complicated already, and we're still about two weeks away from the start of Sundance. I'm going to have to give up sleeping this year, I think. You don't need that, do you?
Over at CHUD, Devin Faraci broke the news that Scott Frank's proposed reboot of the "Planet Of The Apes" franchise, tentatively titled "Caesar," has been tabled. That is a shame, because I think what Frank was planning sounded fascinating, and if you want to know what might have been, read Devin's initial report from a while ago. But I'm not surprised. There hasn't really been much of a regime change since the last "Planet Of The Apes" by Tim Burton, and you saw what sort of empty, stupid spectacle that was. Why would they suddenly grow some taste and decide to make a smart and thoughtful movie using the "Apes" characters? Frank's film sounded expensive and dark and idea-driven. My hope now is that some other studio lets Scott Frank write and direct a big movie, because he's proven himself as both writer and director at this point, and the process he's been through for the last few years has gotten him comfortable with the idea of working on a mega-budget FX film. One of the smartest dudes in town is all dressed up with no place to go. Let's not leave him that way, eh?
Plus we'll tell you where you can see it starting February 12
I missed this one at SXSW and Toronto, which seems to be a mantra of mine no matter how many films I see at these festivals, but I'm very interested. I thought Keven McAlester's last film "You're Gonna Miss Me" was sort of awesome, a look at rock icon Roky Erickson and his long struggle with mental illness. And there's no doubt that the subject matter of people who are wrapped up in the world of "Dungeons & Dragons" is potentially ripe for the right filmmaker. I'm curious about tone and about how much respect he does or doesn't pay to these people, and now, thanks to Amazon VOD as well as iTunes and Netflix, I'm going to get my chance to find out.
Check out this description:
"From award-winning filmmaker Keven McAlester (“You’re Gonna Miss Me”) comes this acclaimed documentary about the lives of ordinary Americans who are consumed and obsessed by the legendary game “Dungeons & Dragons.” An evil drow elf is displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A sanitation worker lures friends into a “Sphere of Annihilation.” A failed super-villain starts a cable-access show involving ninjas, puppets, and a cooking segment. These are the characters, real and imagined, of Keven McAlester’s documentary, a selection of the Toronto and SXSW Film Festivals.
Low-budget '60s horror proves ideas don't cost a thing
Welcome to The Motion/Captured Must-See Project.
I started this last year, and it got side-tracked as the end of the year came hurtling towards me.
I haven't abandoned it, though, and starting now, and continuing this year, we're going to make this an every Thursday part of the blog. I decided to do the first 26 entries on the list as an alphabetical A-Z run, and so today, we continue that. Once I reach "Z," though, we'll be opening it up to whatever I consider appropriate. Sometimes it'll be themed to things happening in pop culure, sometimes it'll just be something on my mind, but each and every week, I hope to write about a film I consider an essential part of the education of any true film freak.
One of the sad things about the Academy's decision to move the honorary awards to a separate ceremony is that most of America has no idea that Roger Corman is now an Oscar winner. And as far as I'm concerned, it's long overdue. Corman's impact on American cinema is impossible to estimate, but if you erased every person he ever helped get started in this industry, the last 40 years of film would look totally different. Like many people, I was shocked byhow dismissive much of the reaction to the award was in print and online, and I was particularly struck by just how wrong Eric Snider's complete dismissal of Corman was, but his opinion is probably closer to what the general public feels when they hear the name, if they know who he is at all.