Monthly Archives: September 2010

Tony Curtis, dead at 85

Matt

If you’re on the cover of The Beatle’s album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” then you’re bigger than Jesus.

Tony Curtis is nestled into the second row along with 19th century British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe, H. G. Wells and Karl Marx.

Curtis died Thursday at the age of 85, leaving behind a legendary career and personal life.

Famous for his thick Bronx accent and good looks, Tony Curtis’ career is the stuff of legend. He had more than 130 films on his resume, including classics like Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus,” his crossdressing role in “Some Like it Hot,” and his Oscar-nominated performance in 1958’s “The Defiant Ones.”

One of my favorite interviews with Tony Curtis was a very honest and candid look at the actor by Roger Ebert in 1985 at Cannes Film Festival, where even in his 50s he shouts to a girl below passing his hotel room on the street to come up, and she does.

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in New York to poor Hungarian immigrants on June 3, 1925. He quit school to join the navy during World War II, serving on a submarine tender, and pursued acting after his discharge. He was a notorious lady’s man, and was married six times. His first wife was actress Janet Leigh, famous for the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic “Psycho.” They had two children, actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis.

He was an alcoholic and drug user, and had two stints at the Betty Ford Clinic. While fighting his various addictions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis still managed to work, mostly in television. He’s one of the few remaining from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his films will live on. We’ll remember him more for his fantastic films that his wild life.

Blacula

Highly sophisticated African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) gets bitten by Count Dracula, and his fate is sealed forevermore as a vampire. Two centuries later, Mamuwalde is unwittingly transported to modern-day Los Angeles, where his bloodletting soon brings new meaning the city’s nickname — City of Angels! This 1970s blaxploitation flick is something you can really, uh, sink your teeth into.

Victor
Rating: 7 out of 10

Waitress: Hi! What’ll you have?
Mamuwalde: Make it a Bloody Mary.

American International’s producer Samuel Z. Arkoff’s title character of Blacula gets an animated, funky, cool and pretty inventive Saul Bass-like title opening sequence. The opening comes after, just like the Bond films do, a sort of intro of how Blacula came to be. Played rather effectively by the deep voiced, classically trained thespian William Marshall,  Prince Mamuwalde is running an errand for his country to the racist pig Count Dracula to oppose the slave trade with his Princess wife, Luva. Offended by this proposal Dracula takes action and curses Mamuwalde to an eternity of hunger and desire for human blood by making him a funky-ass Vampire. Little did Drac know, though, that Mamuwalde would reawaken in the glory days of the 1970’s ready to party, suck some blood and get down!

All derision about the potential campiness of Blacula aside, this film is actually enjoyable on a couple levels. First and foremost is the dignified Marshall who plays the African Vampire Prince very straight. When he is angered or scared or even saddened by the events surrounding him you really feel it and he emotes very well. It is his voice that carries the entire performance and he commands every scene he is in. One scene in a loud club stands out when he is annoyed and bothered by extra dinner guests and having his picture taken he turns very animalistic and scares the pants off the viewer. This film, for a blaxplotation classic, does have enough creepiness and good scares for a mainstream horror audience and upon watching it again I became engrossed by the few tense moments and well done stunt work in the climax of the film which included a well staged vampire confrontation scene. I almost forgot I was watching a campy B movie.

Don’t get me wrong,though. There are so many social no-no’s and stereotypes here to cringe and just laugh at despite the attempt to set the story with an anti-slavery theme. There’s the jive-talking, hustling, club gigolo named Skillet, a scantily dressed nightclub photographer, a fast talking female cabbie who loves to run down strange caped men, a straight-laced white cop, two homosexual interior decorators and even a Gladys Knight and the Pips knock off funk band to please the club goers at Blacula’s fave drinking joint. So in the end Marshall glues together this camp classic with his charismatic performance and the rest is just cheesy, exploitative funky 70’s horror with some unintentionally comedic dialog to go with it. You can’t take just one bite.

Star Wars saga to be re-re-released… in 3D

Matt

There is now a terrible divide in me. One of my greatest loves, Star Wars, is meeting one of my greatest annoyances… 3D.

Star Wars creator George Lucas, never one to be shy from whoring his creation for a buck, will be releasing the entire Star Wars saga in 3D in 2012, according to a story by Hollywood Reporter. According to the report, the films would be released in order, starting with Episode I, “The Phantom Menace” working through “Return of the Jedi.”

I can understand how Lucas would want to release these, since he’s only worth $3 billion. Poor guy! However, I’m not sure how to feel about this. The last re-release in 1997 had some unneeded and corny scenes, like the Cantina musical number that felt forced.  I have to say, though, that it was thrilling to see them on the big screen. The only one I remember seeing in the theater is “Return of the Jedi.” The rest were made before I was born, so I never got the theater experience and I was very glad I did.

However, I hate 3D. There is nothing added by 3D’s very flawed technology and it’s clear Lucas is cashing in on the trend. We’re seeing a dearth of 3D films released, and none are good; for example, “Piranha 3-D” “Yogi Bear” “The Smurfs” and “Clash of the Titans.” The only decent 3D flick this past year was “Avatar.”

I can’t see how Star Wars in 3D will be that much improved — if at all. I have to imagine they will have to do some digital tinkering to add some lightsaber moments that weren’t in the original. When I see those familiar goldenrod words scrolling across a star-flecked sky in 3D, I may be 10 years old again, or I may just be pissed at myself that I spent ten more dollars to see Star Wars. I can tell you I’m definitely NOT going to see “The Phantom Menace” again.

Captain America set photos released

Matt

Who doesn’t love watching Nazis get beat up? It’s one of the classic themes of comic books and action movie, from Hellboy to Indiana Jones and way back to Captain America.

Click photo to enlarge

I’m a huge fan of the Iron Man movies, and I’m a comic book fan in general. I love the Hellboy movies and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are excellent. Christopher Reeves in the original Superman still stands as one of the best of the genre.

Click photo to enlarge

Granted, there are far more bad comic book movies than good, like Daredevil, and Judge Dread. I’m like most movie goers when I approach comic book movies with a deep breath of skepticism. I’m not getting giddy over the Thor movie due out next year and I’m not overly excited about “Captain America: The First Avenger,” or The Avengers movie due out in 2012 — featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor.

Not sure if this is Chris Evans. May be a flashback to an earlier Captain America or a stunt man. Click photo to enlarge

Some images leaked today from the set and I’m going to and be optimistic. It looks like director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Jumanji) is taking the story back to its roots and starting it in World War II. So far, the images show a retro Cap’, which I like the looks of. “Dick Tracy” was very successful in being a retro comic film. Chris Evans (Fantastic 4, Scott Pilgrim Verse the World) looks like he fits the part of Steve Rogers, the man who takes a super-soldier serum and becomes Captain America.

There’s a couple of corny Nazi motorcycles in these pictures, though, that look more like plastic toys than period WWII cycles and a weird submarine, so it’s a mixed bag. What do you expect from a guy who dresses in a masked red, white and blue outfit? Check out the photos and let me know what you think.


A Captain America submarine - Click photo to enlarge

You can watch the original 1979 Captain America made-for-TV trailer here. I recommend watching. It’s pretty hilarious.


Evans as Steve Rogers from the set of Captain America: The First Avenger - Click to enlarge

The White Ribbon

At a rural school in northern Germany in 1913, a form of ritual punishment has major consequences for students and faculty. But the practice may have bigger repercussions on the German school system — and maybe even on the growth of fascism. Celebrated Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke helms this Golden Globe-winning drama.

Matt
Rating: 3 out of 10

If there was some extra white ribbon, I’d use it to hang myself.

This is one of those typical German films — dark to the core, ambivalent in its story telling, and full of itself. I’d say there’s little redeeming value in “The White Ribbon” and I found it to be not only drab, but boring without point. In fact, I can barely tell you what it’s about in a nutshell, and didn’t even get it all when watching — and I speak German!

This film is made by celebrated director Michael Haneke, who won the coveted Golden Palm Award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. In 2005, he won best director and his first Golden Palm at Cannes for “Hidden.” “The White Ribbon” got a slew of awards from film festivals around the globe. Roger Ebert is one of my heroes, but he’s one of the critics who got caught up in what this movie is to critics rather than the public. He gave this film 4 out of 4 stars.

I’ll try to sum it up like this: it’s a depressing movie where a lot of dark characters have a lot of bad things happen, there’s no conclusion, and nothing to keep you engaged as an audience member. This movie doesn’t even have color!

Darren Aronofsky rumored as director of next Superman

Matt

Darren Aronofsky has been tied to a remake of “Robocop,” the cult sci-fi movie of the 80s, but today news hit that the celebrated director is attached to a reboot of the Superman film franchise, according to the L.A. Times.

I’ve got a lot of faith in this film because Christopher Nolan, who directed Inception and Memento, is producing and will have his hand in writing the script. Before Superman, Nolan also resurrected the Batman franchise with “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” which was one of our favorite films of the decade.

There have been a few directors rumored to take the chair. Most recently Ben Affleck, who directed the recent hit “The Town,” was tabbed but Reuters is reporting he’s backed out of the project. I think Aronosfki would be a better choice than Affleck, who has only directed two films. Granted “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone” were both excellent, but Affleck’s only comic book film was “Daredevil,” a complete and total failure.

Aronofski has some serious directing chops. Movies like “The Fountain” Requiem For a Dream” and “The Wrestler,” which is one of my favorite films ever. He also won best director at Sundance Film Festival for “Pi” and the grand jury prize for best picture. His latest film, “Black Swan,” is already getting critical acclaim.

I’m pretty stoked about a reboot, not just because Nolan is attached, but because I was a little disappointed by the last one, 2006’s “Superman Returns,” directed by Bryan Singer. It’s not that it was bad, it was fun and enjoyable. But it was like a cover song. You can try and make it as close to the original as possible, but it’s never as good as the original. I think Nolan and Aronofsky could take Superman to new places.

The Virginity Hit

The quest — losing one’s virginity — is an ancient one, but the tools used to document it are distinctly modern in this mockumentary about a young man’s endeavors to “close the deal,” as his buddies (and documentarians) so charmingly put it. When Matt’s untimely breakup with a girlfriend throws a monkey wrench into his plans, his friends urge him to continue the mission anyway — with them along to film the adventures. Directed by Huck Botko (Mail Order Wife).

Kyle
Rating: 8 out of 10

I went into this expecting to be a raunchy teen comedy — and that’s exactly what I got, and then some. I don’t mean for that statement to sound negative, I just knew after watching the preview this was going to be a different and very raunchy comedy. The film accurately depicts how teens view and joke around about sex nowadays. Hearing insults like “dick hole” and colorful comments like, “Tell her you want to fuck the taste out of her mouth,” it was like watching my friends and I when we were in high school.

Aside from the hilarious dialogue, I think the most entertainment I got from the film was what the main character, Matt, kept getting himself into while trying to lose his virginity. If I had to go on this sexually frustrating journey, I would’ve given up less than halfway. The situations, though a bit unbelievable when put altogether, definitely present some of what people in 2010 are dealing with in relationships, and not just virgins.

The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the heavy and obvious use of product placement. I think I saw almost every Apple product on the market, not to mention the alcohol brands and Gatorade. I think doing so made it a little more apparent that this really wasn’t a documentary about a kid trying to lose his virginity. All in all, I thought it was executed very well and the hand-held style fit perfectly.