Thursday, August 27, 2009

25 + 3 - 10 = Nine

Well, it was inevitable that some songs had to go. This story from Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals led me to the Theatre Aficionado at Large, particularly to his discussion of the musical Nine. Now, my roommate and I knew something had to go, what with three songs being added to the already 25-strong score. And the choices are interesting.

First, I had been thinking only last week of the song "The Bells of St. Sebastien's", which I consider to be a very stage-bound number. I couldn't imagine how one would incorporate it within a film. Thankfully, it has been cut. Surely no one is mourning this. The music's pretty, but it is (for me) a very forgettable number).

The entire "Grand Canal" sequence, consisting of six songs, has also been cut. Again, I can understand this. It's a show-within-a-show deal, and since director Rob Marshall is already doing his A Song Is A Fantasy Sequence approach, this could be too literal. So...I guess they'll just do the dailies scene from 8 1/2. Which, again, makes more sense to me.

"Simple", sung by Claudia (Nicole Kidman), and "Be On Your Own", sung by Luisa (Marion Cotillard), have also been cut. Both immediately follow the "Grand Canal" sequence, so I guess with one gone the transition into the others would feel bizarre? Anyway, Luisa still gets a weepy ballad, this time with new song "Take It All". Hey, as long as Cotillard still gets all the screentime, I'm fine.

The fifth number cut is kind of surprising, kind of not. Look, I know Sophia Loren doesn't have the strongest voice in the world, and I know the song is for the greatest soprano in all the lands, but to cut the song "Nine" from a musical called Nine is odd. Anyway, a new song has been written for Ms. Loren, entitled "Guarda La Luna". I do feel she should get special treatment. Always.

(Which reminds me, I recently saw her in Altman's Ready to Wear, and while I do feel she was deserving of that Golden Globe nom, holy crap was Anouk Aimee amazing in this. And of course, Aimee played Luisa in the original 8 1/2. I'll have to talk about that later.)

In the meantime, Kate Hudson has gotten her own musical number called "Cinema Italiano", which I guess is that odd-looking bit in the trailer where Daniel Day-Lewis jizzes champagne everywhere.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dig the Threads

In this piece on Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeff Wells assures that The Weinstein Company's only hope at an Oscar nomination for Inglourious Basterds lies in Christoph Waltz's terrifying, amusing portrayal of Col. Hans Landa, aka The Jew Hunter. "Tarantino's screenplay hasn't a prayer of being nominated for Best Original Screenplay," he says, citing "that damn baseball-bat/brain-matter scene" as a major deterrent for the over-50 crowd. (Never mind that past Original Screenplay winners include Fargo (wood chipper), The Usual Suspects (opening and climax), and Tarantino's own Pulp Fiction (Phil Lamarr in the backseat of the car).)

Many HE readers call Wells crazy, of course, citing not only screenplay, but also Cinematography, Editing, and Production Design as sure contenders. Which is all well and good. Certainly, Tarantino's latest is a deserving nominee for all these categories. But I cannot believe that none of them have mentioned the one "technical" aspect of the movie that stands out above and beyond the rest:

Anna B. Sheppard, Costume Design

Melanie Laurent's red dress : 2009 :: Keira Knightley's green dress : 2007

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dead Presidents

Very successful purchase day at Best Buy. I took pics (because I am a proud papa), but it was with my cell and the ceiling light had to be on. Apologies in advance for out-of-focus shots and glares.

The box, pre-opening. So happy am I to have this at last.

Annnnnd that's what it looks like when you open it.

Two DVD's, a book, an envelope, and a folder. Sweet.

Two-disc JFK, starring Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, and Tommy Lee Jones in his Oscar-nominated role as Clay Shaw.

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings. Noice.

JFK book, featuring behind-the-scenes photos from the production.

Example: Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Sweet pics that came in an envelope. Clockwise from Top Left: Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald, Donald Sutherland as X, Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Bertram, Walter Matthau, the chick who plays Oswald's wife.

The reverse of each pic: photo of actual people that inspires their respective characters, plus bios. Which is, you know, great.

Folder with presidential seal.

In the folder: pics on the left, documents on the right.

Seven photos that came in the folder. There's at least twenty of these. It's awesome.

Also in folder: correspondence to and from Kennedy himself.

Also, two-disc Nixon. I feel so accomplished.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Avatar Trailer Released

We finally got our first look at James Cameron's purportedly "game-changing" sci-fi epic Avatar yesterday. Apple Trailers has it on their site, and you can go there (if you must) to see a nifty-looking but slightly disappointing collection of action sequences involving leftovers from the unseen kid's film Delgo...

...or you can pay for a ticket to Inglourious Basterds and see the trailer as it's meant to be seen: on a big-ass screen in a room full of movie fans. I did both and my reactions couldn't have been any more different. Intrigued by what I saw on the computer, goose-pimply by what I saw on the big screen.

Do yourself a favor and avoid watching this online. Cameron doesn't make movies for the small screen, he makes cinematic experiences. A modern-day Cecil B. DeMille or David Lean, if you will. To watch his vision on your puny laptop would be a great disservice to yourself and to the filmmaker. So I won't link to it, I won't post it. You have to see this in theaters. Besides, you'll get to see Quentin Tarantino's latest right after, and good GOD it's worth every penny.

And Now For Some Sad News....

I knew I shouldn't have jinxed it.

Not one week since my 24-hour reading of the source material, barely five days after my ecstatic post about the approaching release....

Shutter Island has been pushed to February 2010.

This sucks. Majorly. First, The Wolf Man is pushed back from November to February, now Shutter Island. And I've been in packed theaters when these trailers show. The reactions are the same: CAN'T. EFFING. WAIT.

People are eager to see these films, Paramount and Universal. Respect the audience.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shutter Island: The Novel

It took me twenty-four hours, but I finished Shutter Island. Great read. I never finish books in a day. This is only the third instance of such (the others being Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and Ian Fleming's Dr. No). It's one of those you cannot put down. After the first chapter (which is dull and expository), it just takes you by the shoulders and demands to be read.

This is what an ass-kicking looks like

Of course, it is also the subject of Martin Scorsese's latest film, to be released October 2nd.

A perfect release date, by the way. I remember last year being curiously short of horror films for October. Except for Saw XCIX, of course. Shutter Island, though, is pure William Castle. The role Ben Kingsley plays is so Vincent Price. And Max Von Sydow creeps me the hell out.


As far as Oscar goes, I ain't optimistic. This is pure genre, and we know the Academy prefers their movies to be feel-good indies and IMPORTANT dramas. Maybe in the acting categories? Certainly Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley have juicy stuff to work with.

As does the marketing team. Look at that!

Ah, but what use is speculating on a film that is still a month and a half away? (One month. And a half. So near, yet so far.) The book is phenomenal, a jaw-dropper. I cannot wait to see what Scorsese and his gang have done.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Casting Coup: Footloose

Maybe it's because I flove Kevin Bacon. Maybe it's because I did the show twice -- once in sixth grade, then again my senior year of high school. Maybe it's because I just really dig the music.

The fact is, the prospect of a Footloose remake had me excited. Zac Efron, who I admire and respect as a talented singer and charismatic actor (those who say differently: quit hating on the popular kids -- it's sad), was cast as Ren, and surely if anyone could take the reigns from Mr. Bacon, it was Troy Bolton. Kenny Ortega, who co-choreographed my second favorite movie-musical Xanadu, would be directing and choreographing. And it was to be a musical, which meant we would actually get the film version of the stage show, notable for making Ren's mom and the Reverend's wife into actual characters.

Then Zefron dropped out. And then it was announced that the songs would all be original, so this would not be a stage-to-screen adaptation. And I got sad.

I hadn't heard anything about it for a while, so I looked it up today. And realized that I really need to pay attention to all movie news. I had no idea the role of Ren was recast in May. Nor did I know that the role of Ariel, the love interest, had been cast in June. I could kick myself for being so out of the loop. Any later and I'd be Juno.


Who is He: The new kid in town who wants to dance...BUT DANCING'S A CRIME! In the musical version, he raps the law out of the legislature. Which is an interesting choice.

Originally played by: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The River Wild), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Apollo 13)

Kevin Bacon (Frost/Nixon, Mystic River)
Dance, Kev, dance!

Now played by:

Chace Crawford (TV's Gossip Girl, The Covenant)
We like Chace here at the SSR. But we also can't help but notice that he looks more or less like a taller Zac Efron. Playing it safe. Playing it pretty. I know he's a little older, but wouldn't Robert Hoffman be fun in this part? Hold that thought....

Who is She: The reverend's daughter. She's also a rebel! Look out for Miss Hot Pants, she's a live wire!

Originally played by: Golden Globe Winner for Best Ensemble (Short Cuts)

Lori Singer (The Falcon and the Snowman, Trouble in Mind)

Now played by:

Julianne Hough (TV's Dancing with the Stars)
Yes, so far Hough is best-known as one of the female dance partners on Dancing with the Stars. Don't worry, she's taking acting classes.

The film is slated for release June 10, 2010. And only two of the principals are cast. You know what's about to happen, right?

That's right. It's a dream cast for Footloose! CASTING COUP...ASSEMBLE!

Who is He: Oh, just the town bully. A roughneck among rednecks. Dates Ariel, but apparently he's all abusive. And stuff. In the MUSICAL (which they should totally do), he sings "The Girl Gets Around". You know the song?

"The girl gets around
She knows what she likes
I got what she needs
Just wait 'til tonight
We'll both make our move
Yeah, we'll cover some ground
The girl gets around, around, around, around, around, around
Good GOD, this girl gets around!"

Sex, sex, sex. My parents were right. My generation is definitely the more overtly sexual.

Originally played by:

Jim Youngs

My Choice:

Robert Hoffman (Step Up 2 the Streets, She's the Man)
Yes, he's almost thirty, but that doesn't stop Eric Christian Olsen from playing high schoolers. Come on. You know you want to see this. You're thinking..."YES! YES YES YES! YES YES YESYESYES! YES YES YES! YES! YES YES YES!"

Who is She: Ren's mother. That's all she is in the film. In the MUSICAL (man, I hope they decide to do that), she gets a duet with Vi about how she wants to speak her mind.

Originally played by: Frances Lee McCain

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (L.A. Confidential), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (L.A. Confidential), Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (L.A. Confidential), SAG Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (L.A. Confidential)

Kim Basinger (Batman, The Informers)
Okay, so this is funny. While browsing through movie news, I saw on IMDb's Footloose page the news item: "Basinger to play Zac Efron's Mom". And I thought to myself, "Curious." As it turns out, it's a different movie altogether, and is on IMDb's Footloose page because it mentions how Zac dropped out of the musical to do this movie, I think. Anyway, The idea of Basinger in this role just wouldn't leave me, and after discovering that she does, in fact, have a beautiful voice, I went with it. Much to my surprise. I'm not a huge Basinger fan, but somet hings just feel right. This is one of those times.

Who is She: Ariel's best friend. Loves the a-rhythmic Willard. Also sings a number of songs at random: "Somebody's Eyes", "Let's Hear It for the Boy", "Holding Out for a Hero". You know, the good stuff.

Originally played by: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (The Family Stone)

Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City, Girls Just Want to Have Fun)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Bobby)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sky High, Live Free or Die Hard)
Oh, man, I don't even know if she can sing. Maybe this wasn't the best choice. Except that she's really, really hot. And a good actress. Could she be too pretty? Maybe if they gave her glasses. That's movie shorthand for not pretty. Okay, I just looked it up -- she did Broadway musicals. She's in.

Who is He: Ren's friend in town, a guy who can't dance and appears to be reluctantly enamored of Rusty. He does love his Mama, though. At least, in the MUSICAL (hey, that'd be a good film, too!).

Originally played by: Golden Globe Winner for Best Ensemble (Short Cuts)

Chris Penn (Rush Hour, Corky Romano)

My Choice:

Chris Warren, Jr. (High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Love & Basketball)
Young, talented, and has yet to make a name for himself outside of the High School Musical series. And true, maybe playing a supporting role in a high school-set musical starring Zefron's older brother isn't the way to go. But, uh, still. You know.

Who is She: The reverend's much put-upon wife. She is the heart and conscious of the story, leading both daughter and husband to the correct path when they veer too far off. Best damn role in the movie, really. The one in the MUSICAL WHICH THEY SHOULD DO ain't shabby either.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actres (Radio Days), Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Bullets Over Broadway), SAG Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Bullets Over Broadway) and Best Ensemble (The Birdcage)

Dianne Wiest (Synecdoche, New York, Dan in Real Life)
Sometimes, I think I should've given Samantha Morton's spot at this year's Hollmann Awards to Dianne Wiest. But is that just, or just fanboyosity? Morton was pretty B.A. in that movie, after all.

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Transamerica), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress in a Drama (Transamerica), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress (Transamerica)

Felicity Huffman (Hackers, Magnolia)
Hardest role to cast, really. I wanted someone who could sing, though Vi only has one song, and it's not the most difficult piece in the world. I also wanted someone who could conceivably give birth to Julianne Hough. I went through many: Michelle Pfeiffer (too pretty), Patricia Clarkson (too sexy), Allison Janney (don't like her voice), Hope Davis (can she sing?), Embeth Davidtz (can she sing?). Last night, I went to bed thinking maybe Felicity could do it. But then this morning I thought maybe Marcia Gay Harden could do it, too. I submitted the problem to my roommate -- who, strangely enough, also suggested Michelle Pfeiffer and Embeth Davidtz, before I explained I had two finalists -- and we decided. It must be Felicity Huffman, who is pretty, but could convincingly play a small-town preacher's wife. Also, she sang back-up for Tina Turner once.

Who is He: Oh, the town may have a mayor (actually...does it?), but we know who's really in charge. Shaken by the death of his son, Shaw goes on a religious crusade, banning dance and secular music. In the MUSICAL, he gets most of the original songs, huge monologues set to music. I know: most solos are just that. But I mean...they really sound like a guy droning on while music plays. On the original cast album, at least. In both productions I was in, the reverend was perfect.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment)

John Lithgow (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Harry and the Hendersons)
And much as I would love to see him reprise this role, it being a rare, restrained performance, I sha'n't pollute this version with visions of the past.

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Actor (American Beauty) and Best Supporting Actor (The Usual Suspects), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actor (American Beauty), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Drama (American Beauty, The Shipping News), Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Beyond the Sea) and Best Supporting Actor (The Usual Suspects), SAG Award Winner for Best Actor (American Beauty) and Best Ensemble (American Beauty)

Kevin Spacey (Moon, L.A. Confidential)
Phenomenal actor. He can sing, he can do accents, he's a class act. Not even the great Maggie Smith has won every Oscar she's been nominated for. Kevin Spacey? Walk in the park.


Oh, if only they would get that cast to join Chace and Julianne. That's a movie I'd see in theaters twice. If it was the MUSICAL, I mean.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


When your taste in movies is as wide as mine, a weekend like this one is Heaven.

A midnight showing of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra? Hell yes I was there, and I am sorry to say that only my roommate and I could truly appreciate what was happening. It's a midnight screening, people! How can you not yell at the screen, applaud, laugh outrageously, exchange high-fives, etc.? Only stubborn buzzkills will find nothing enjoyable about Stephen Sommers' latest, greatest project.

Now, I am no die-hard Sommers fan. I like The Mummy and The Jungle Book, but The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing forever put me in the anti-Sommers camp, waiting for the day when he would be blacklisted in Hollywood. And when I heard he was at the helm for this, I knew this was a movie to avoid.

But something about the trailer and TV Spots got me. I think it was the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, or the participation of Dennis Quaid, or a leather-clad Sienna Miller. I don't know what happened, but I found myself eagerly anticipating this movie. And with Miller apologizing for the quality of the acting, I knew that I was in for a big-budget spiritual successor to The Informers and The Wicker Man. It just seemed so over-the-top already, and with a runtime of almost two hours, could this possibly be a hilariously self-serious bloated tragedy?

Imagine my surprise when I started tearing up at a particularly tender moment between Sienna Miller and Channing Tatum. Dammit! I had become emotionally involved!

The movie's great. It really is. I mean, if you're going in expecting L'ecclise -- or, if we're talking action flicks, Casino Royale -- be gone. This isn't for you joyless, too-serious types. This is for the rest of us that played with our toys and fell in love with explosions and tits and funny sidekicks that still got the girl and Dennis Quaid.

I know, I know. Too often we excuse bad acting and an incoherent plot with a mere, "Eh, it's just fun." People want more than just explosions and tits and funny sidekicks that still get the girl and Dennis Quaid. Well, let me assure you that the plot is, indeed, coherent. Even ingenious. The villains don't explain their evil scheme in its entirety, and it is us, the audience, that puts the pieces together. I mean, it's not exactly a mystery what the plot is, but the cliffhanger note that we're left on is pretty cool and feels like an astounding revelation. Sommers is that good -- even when revealing the predictable, he still makes me feel shocked.

The acting? Fits the tone. Everyone is in on the joke, and everyone plays it magnificently. Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are fantastic villains, clearly enjoying every minute that they're on screen. Dennis Quaid is suitably bad-ass and wise as the fatherly General Hawk. And damn it, I liked Marlon Wayans in this. I ACTUALLY LIKED HIM IN IT. Even Sienna Miller managed to do more than look beautiful, and Channing Tatum's humorless approach to the role of Duke was actually quite perfect. Still, top marks to Gordon-Levitt and, holy crap, Byung-hun Lee, who plays the ninja assassin Storm Shadow.

Oh, sure, the CG was awful. I don't if it was rushed or purposely cartoony or what, but it was just bad. And one of the final action sequences is a little incoherent. Two frustrating aspects, surely. Oh, and the last ten minutes plays a little like the finale of the first X-Men movie. But I still high-fived everyone around me when the credits rolled. In fact -- dare I say it? -- the tight script and great ensemble distracted me from these flaws.

There. It's out in the open now. It's a great script. But what else could I expect? True, Stuart Beattie wrote the dull 30 Days of Night, but co-writers David Elliot and Paul Lovett wrote Four Brothers. I love Four Brothers.

Hell, I love G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Apple trailers has the EXCLUSIVE trailer online, so watch the thing, goddammit!:

Oh, this looks so up my alley! I smell it right now. Meryl's the one to beat this year, surely. If it worked for the Keaton, why not La Streep? Oh, also? JOHN KRASINSKI. OH WHAT FUN!

UPDATE: And here it is:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Public Enemies

I can no longer keep silent about it. I was waiting for a third go-round before I wrote about it, but alas, that will probably never happen (in theatres, I mean). So, while I still have the desire, it is time to finally tell the world what I think.

Public Enemies effing rocks.

You probably figured that my sentiments were somewhere along those lines when you saw my Current Top Ten on the sidebar (updated monthly). But I cannot even stress to you how in love with this movie I am. Perhaps the evidence of my two ticket purchases within three days will be enough to convince you that this is a true must-see, a theatrical event that deserves to be known as one of the best films from the first half of 2009.

But people! Good people of the Silver Screening Room, let me warn you in advance that this is no popcorn movie. This is no shoot 'em up, close-calls, cat-and-mouse thriller. This is a deliberately-paced character study centering around John Dillinger.

It's a difficult role to pull of, certainly -- a sociopath that offers his coat to a bank clerk, a killer who sheds tears over his lady love. Johnny Depp's portrayal of this most infamous of criminals reminds me of a line from Jesus Christ Superstar: "He had that look you very rarely find/The haunting, hunted kind." And you can see it in Depp's eyes, even when Dillinger is reassuring Billie Frechette that no one can catch him. It's astounding what a mere tilt of the mouth or shift of the eyes can accomplish. And many will cry foul when I say this (most of my friends already have), but I think Dillinger is perhaps Depp's most accomplished role to date. It's certainly my favorite so far.

Of course, Depp has an astounding supporting cast to work with. Marion Cotillard is tops as Billie Frechette, Dillinger's main squeeze. Her accent only gets dicey in one scene, but as it's an absorbing interrogation scene that is at once appalling and masterfully done, it can be forgiven. Stephen Graham's Baby Face Nelson is a true force of nature -- he literally breezes in, fucks shit up, and is out before you know what hit you -- while Stephen Lang's veteran lawman-turned-FBI agent is awesome. If you want a match for Dillinger, look no further. Forget Christian Bale's stiff, embarrassing, forgettable Melvin Purvis (the film's only stumbling point, a disappointment from an actor I've long admired but seems determined this year to be unlikable); Lang's Charles Winstead is the real hero. Billy Crudup (J. Edgar Hoover), Jason Clarke (Dillinger's right-hand man), Branka Katic (the madam/Judas), and Peter Gerety (Dillinger's lawyer) all give brief but memorable turns (Katic and Clarke in particular).

Technically, I like it. The production design avoids gaudiness. Dante Spinotti's cinematography feels lived-in, real, has a "you're there" quality to it. Academy Award Winner Colleen Atwood strikes another homerun with the costumes, and for the first time I felt myself being more impressed with the men's clothes than with the women's 9surely that's how most people judge these, right?). And the sound, though muffled, worked for me. I liked how imperfect it was -- it gave a more documentary feel to the proceedings. And Elliot Goldenthal's score is perfect, appropriately reminiscent of the films of the time. Such a style should be more intrusive and bombastic, one would think, but damn if he doesn't make it work.

What Michael Mann has accomplished here is beauty. It does for gangster films what The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford did for Westerns, what Zodiac did for procedural thrillers. It takes an established genre and makes an elegiac, meditative masterpiece out of the conventions. Inspired.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mrs. C on McD's

Apparently, I could be having better fries? I dare not call shenanigans on the great Julia Child, so perhaps we should start a letter-writing campaign to McDonald's. Who's with me?