The word “lyrical” is often used to describe the film compositions of Thomas Newman, whose work is as diverse as it accomplished. Anyone who has done the music for Cinderella Man AND The Lost Boys has some serious geek cred, and Newman gives the movies he writes for a heartfelt center and a distinctive tone. His score for Wall-E will likely be another highlight of a distinguished career. Lets take a look at his accomplishments thus far.
Best Known For: American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, Cinderella Man, Little Women, Erin Brokovich, Angels in America, Jarhead and The Horse Whisperer.
Sadly, we lost one of the great ones yesterday, a warm, extraordinarily talented and accomplished filmmaker and actor in Sydney Pollack.
Following a solid career as a theater and television actor (including parts on Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone), Pollack became an ambitious film director who was always attentive to his actors and picked projects that were diverse, large scale and layered in their portrayals of human nature. While they had big name actors in the leads, his early films were anything but fluffy star vehicles: They Shoot Horses Don’t They (starring Jane Fonda), Jeremiah Johnson (starring Robert Redford), The Yakuza (starring Robert Mitchum), Three Days of Condor (starring Redford and Faye Dunaway), Absence of Malice (starring Paul Newman), and The Electric Horseman (starring Redford and Fonda) were all richly acted, socially relevant, mature and smartly directed films. The only blemishes on his early track record were The Way We Were (starring Redford and Barbara Streisand), which many tossed off as fluff, despite being a huge hit and Bobby Deerfield, a race car drama that it’s star, Al Pacino, has said was something of a miscalculation.
Dave's Note: This was supposed to go up in March, but I slacked and lost track of it.
It’s been exactly one year since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made their return to the big screen after a 14-year absence. The question on every Shell Head’s mind: when can we expect the sequel, or, more to the point, are we getting a sequel at all? Following a big weekend opening of $24 million, executive producer Harvey Weinstein famously declared, “Cowabunga dudes! It’s sequel time!” The enthusiasm didn’t last, however, when the movie dropped 62% the following weekend and ended up grossing just $54 million domestically (and a little more than that worldwide). Considering the film cost $35 million to make, the result was a minor hit and a success as a DVD item, but the push for a sequel has yet to take place. Director Kevin Munroe has moved on and is planning another CGI film, called Gatchaman, and there is no TMNT 2 currently being developed at The Weinstein Company or Warner Brothers.
From the oft-heard complaints you hear from Trekkies about the fourth, fifth and ninth Star Trek films, you’d think we Spock-eared, Klingon-spouting fanboys (and girls) had no sense of humor. I’m referring to the “too much humor” issue that is both an asset and a burden to the longstanding (and still going) Star Trek film franchise. Honestly, when you have classically trained actors standing around in heavy make-up, give deadly-serious monologues about what is “logical” and, in order to stage a shaking starship, stumble wildly around the “bridge”, dashes of humor are more than welcome.
This month marks 20 years since the theatrical release of Willow, the fantasy written and produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard. When it was revealed that the film was being made, many believed that the title was the codename for a new Star Wars movie (sadly, they had to wait 10 more years for another Star Wars episode). Instead, we have Lucas’ obvious attempt at creating a fantasy film series on the level of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, crossed with the blue print of Star Wars, and a dash of the Old Testament. Willow was intended as a starter film, the equivalent of The Hobbit, with three bigger, more elaborate films to follow. Lucas’ hopes of putting Star Wars to rest for a while and expanding into another genre were thwarted when Willow was only a mid-sized box office hit and, while a money-maker, a minor disappointment (the three installments that were to follow were released as books, Shadow Moon, Shadow Dawn and Shadow Star, written by Lucas and X-men writer Chris Claremont). On video, however, the film became a huge cult film and is now rightfully considered one of the finest American fantasy films ever made.
While much of the Denver Marriot blanketed the sci-fi and fantasy-heavy genre celebration, the far right wing of the hotel, draped by dark clouds and ominous sparrows circling, was the base of the relatively new (11-years old) Horrorfest. What was initially a small addition is now a big event that is properly referred to as “a convention within a convention”. The Horrorfest has various panels, screenings, off-the-wall events and a focus on new, never-before-seen, independently made horror films. Of the handful of films that were showcased (not only screened, but had the actors and filmmakers present), Dave and I had the chance to catch Attitude for Destruction, Summer School, The Misled Romance of Cannibal Girl and Incest Boy (yes, you read that right) and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulem. Here’s a brief rundown of these four (all of which have found future DVD distribution): (more…)
What most believed would be the highlight and centerpiece of the entire weekend convention ended up being an uneven exhibit of footage from Get Smart and Speed Racer. The short version is that the Get Smart footage and presentation was sensational, while the Speed Racer platform was a dud.
The Warner Brothers movie presentation began with an extended clip from Get Smart- the footage began with a brief showcase of the film’s buddy team, played by Nate Torrence and Masi Oka and continued with the film’s entire airplane sequence. I won’t spoil a moment of this sequence, but will only say that the lengthy set piece featured Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway and absolutely brought the house down. Not since Starfest got an extended first look at the cafeteria scene from Spider-man have I heard an audience go this nuts for an exclusive, never-before-seen series of clips. We got impressive wallops of action and comedy and a few people around me were laughing so hard, I became afraid for their long-term health. Following the hearty applause, the lights went up and Oka and Torrence took the stage. Their Q&A was delightfully odd and unpredictable- while Oka got the expected round of Heroes questions and Torrence had some “great working with Steve Carrell” tidbits, they were both at their best when they boggled the audience by showing their close friendship with off-the-wall displays of affection (lots of hand grasping and one of them even got down on one knee to proclaim their love for the other). Torrence’s jovial demeanor was a fun contrast to Oka’s focused seriousness (which should play well in the movie, as well). O
nce they left the stage, it no longer became a question of whether Get Smart or The Love Guru would own their summer movie weekend (my advice to the Love Guru camp- you should consider pushing your movie back to Spring of ’09, at the earliest). Get Smart looks more like True Lies than Starsky and Hutch and will probably hit big.
Audience goodwill was high after Oka and Torrence left the stage. The lights dimmed once again and Kevin, the fearless, ageless and unflappable Starfest MC, announced we were about to see some Speed Racer footage. Well, it was the exact same 4-minute trailer that hit the web last week and you could feel the disappointment in the crowd. The lights came up, end of panel. No one from the movie came (not even that king of cool and promotional workhorse himself, Joel Silver). To say the least, following an enormously successful panel on Get Smart with the terribly underwhelming Speed Racer footage was akin to leaving a fantastic office party, getting on the elevator and finding it getting stuck mid-floor with a fellow passenger experiancing bad gas. If anyone at Starfest wasn’t excited about Speed Racer before, that panel isn’t going to change their minds.
Overall, no one who was there will likely forget the Get Smart footage and Q&A…and no one who was there will remember or care about the Speed Racer trailer.
The late Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) has composed (and conducted) some of the all-time most beautiful, exciting, versatile and haunting volumes of film music and is unquestionably one of the masters of the art form. He first gained notoriety for composing music for various episodes of The Twilight Zone (though not the famous title theme) and would became so sought after by directors and well known with audiences, even some of the scores he created that were rejected are now well regarded cult albums. Here’s a brief overview of a remarkable career.
Big is a film that surprised audiences when it premiered 20 years ago and, even today, the movie takes you off guard in unexpected ways.
In 1988, Big was opening at the tail end of a movie year that saw three other films with “body-swapping” gimmicks: Like Father, Like Son (a dreadful farce with Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore hamming it up), 18 Again! (with George Burns and Charlie Schlatter of tv’s Ferris Bueller), and Vice Versa (a not-bad comedy with Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold giving good performances). Only Like Father, Like Son was a hit (a year later, Dream a Little Dream, with Jason Robards swapping souls with Corey Feldman, saw a mercifully brief run in theaters). The problem with these witless concoctions is they gave older actors an excuse to broadly impersonate a clueless child and young actors an opportunity to broadly mimic adult authority figures. The original Freaky Friday did this better 10 years earlier and all of the four previously mentioned films didn’t look beyond the surface of its gimmick.
In one night, the trailers to two of the most curiously anticipated films of the year unveil to varying responses. I wrote “curiously anticipated”, because most seem to want a glimpse at “The Incredible Hulk” and “Lost Boys- The Tribe” simply to asses how good or bad they may turn out. The former is a lavish redux of a would-be comic book movie franchise that never went past one movie, as the mild box office and audience displeasure with “Hulk” put the brakes on the series in 2003. The latter is a long-dreamed of sequel to a mid-size 1987 horror film that, over time, has proved to be both influential and widely loved. Instant response on the Internet has been mixed-to-negative for both of these trailers, though, in all fairness, both of these could turn out to be really good, right? As a big fan of The Incredible Hulk (both the comic book character and Ang Lee’s mixed but daring film) and “The Lost Boys”, here’s a brief recap of what we saw. (more…)