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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Universal declares war on theaters — Tower Heist’ goes video on demand

    Posted: 06 Oct 2011 04:49 AM PDT

    What will exhibitors do about “Tower Heist,” now that the Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy/Tea Leoni/Gabourey Sidibe/Michael Pena/Matthew Broderick/Alan Alda/ and everybody else caper comedy is going to be offered as a $60 video on demand selection from Comcast cable in Atlanta and Portland?

    The studios have been throwing exhibitors under one bus after another for years — shortening the release window for films going to DVD, demanding, then getting digital conversion, 3D digital conversion.

    But this hits them right in the vitals. For $60, people can watch this movie, build buzz or kill buzz about it, before it even hits a theater. Since theater owners have threatened to boycott films and entire studios before when things like this turn up, I wouldn’t be shocked if they did so again. Will they go after Universal?

    Pull the plug on “Johnny English,” for instance? A single major chain shutting down Universal over a minor release like that one would send a message.  What will Regal/AMC/Cinemark/Carmike/Cobb do? They’re all major players in Atlanta. That’s what I’d do, in their shoes. Punch their lights out over a weak release in their lineup and see if they blink. They’re not the James Bond/Harry Potter/Batman/Pixar studio. Remind them of that.  This VOD wrinkle in the release strategy could be deadly to theaters.

    The fact that the price is too high and the trial markets onto two in number doesn’t change the fact that this is the writing on the wall. It’s the studios saying, “If we can get out of the business of supplying theaters with movies, make our money from home video, we will. As fast as we can make the transition.” Just like that, a 120 year old film exhibition business model is given its final kick to the curb.

    Charles Napier: 1936-2011

    Posted: 06 Oct 2011 04:22 AM PDT

    Lest his life and career get lost in the tributes to the visionary Steve Jobs, let’s remember that a very good character actor died Wednesday as well.

    I first noticed the chiseled features of Charles Napier when he played that hippie on “Star Trek,” singing about “goin’ to Eden.”

    He turned up in the films of Jonathan Demme (in “Philadelphia,” a cop victim of Hannibal on “Silence of the Lambs”) and “Miami Blues,” as well as “The Blues Brothers” (he ran the redneck bar that was their first reunited gig) and scores of other films and TV shows.

    The last thing most of us saw him in was “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” A big, brawny man, his features were virtually a parody of “Hollywood hunk,” very lifeguard-ish. That made him right for many a tough guy role in comedies, many a square-jawed general or cop.

    An Army vet, friend of Nicholson and Hunter S. Thompson and a man with a sense of humor about himself, Napier died Wednesday in California, with the cause of death of unknown at the moment.

    Steve Jobs bio pic? With an ‘authorized biography’ on the way, maybe

    Posted: 06 Oct 2011 03:54 AM PDT

    With a new Steve Jobs biography, an “authorized” (meaning if had his full or close to full cooperation) one, due out in November, speculates that Hollywood should/must be abuzz with plans to option it and turn his life into a bio pic, a “Social Network” for Apple’s now-deceased icon.
    “Social Network” wasn’t based on an authorized biography. Those books often skim over the dirty details, the unflattering stuff, just to maintain access. Read the recent Walt Disney biographies and guess which one had the Disney estate’s blessings and access. The one that doesn’t dwell on his union busting and other unpleasant manias.
    Not that Walter Isaacson’s book won’t be a great foundation on which to build future books and even films on Jobs. Sight unseen, that’s a safe bet.

    Who could play Jobs on the big screen? Figure an actor in his early 30s, young enough to go back to Apple’s origins, old enough to age into his long battle with cancer. Any candidates? My wife offers Jason Schwartzman. Bingo. Anybody else strike you as on the money?

    Movie Preview: The Adventures of Tintin, trailer 2

    Posted: 06 Oct 2011 03:42 AM PDT

    I like the comparisons floating around the net, that this is the Indiana Jones movie Spielberg SHOULD have made.

    Tall ships, ancient propeller planes, an intrepid reporter, a cute dog, a quest. “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” is, of course, a holiday movie, with loads of A-list voice talent in its motion capture cast.

    Movie Review: ‘The Ides of March’

    Posted: 05 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

    Stephen Myers knows his boss’s talking points so well he can stand in for him, reciting them as technicians adjust the lights for the next presidential debate.

    “My religion, what I believe in, is called the Constitution of the United States of America.”

    Myers (Ryan Gosling) knows the line because he’s heard it a hundred times before, because he believes it and believes in the man who says it, his presidential candidate-boss, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).

    “The Ides of March,” George Clooney’s latest civics lesson as actor and director, is a down and dirty politics-behind-closed-doors tale. It’s about a campaign professional (Gosling) letting his idealism get in the way of his professionalism. And it’s about disillusionment, ugly pragmatism, back-room deals and maneuvering in this mass media/social media/no secrets age.

    Clooney plays a candidate about to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination. He needs the support of a key senator (Jeffrey Wright) who is angling for a political payoff. He needs all the cunning that his campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can manage, because Governor Morris makes a big deal out of not making “those sorts of deals.” And he needs the loyalty and idealism of Myers, a media mastermind who has brought him so close to his goal.

    But Myers is distracted. First, there’s the nagging New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei)

    Her: “You’ve really drunk the Kool-Aid.”

    Him: “It tastes delicious.”

    Her: “He will let you down. He’s a politician. You used to know that before you got all goose-bumpy.”

    Myers is distracted by the to0-cute/way-too-forward intern (Evan Rachel Wood).

    And he’s letting the other guy’s campaign manager get into his head. That manager is played by Paul Giamatti with a sinister, knowing sneer — “You’re working for the wrong man.”

    “The Ides of March,” based on Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North” (named for a Washington subway stop), veers from high-minded political theater to cheap political melodrama. But a cast littered with this many Oscar winners, all in support of a less-self-conscious-than-usual Ryan Gosling, could never go far wrong.

    The film boasts a script of pithy political banter and sexy “drinks after work” bar banter.

    “This is the Big Leagues, man. If you make a mistake, you lose the right to play.”

    Giamatti and Hoffman are beautifully matched opponents, balancing the picture the way the on-the-make Wood and the on-the-job Tomei do in female supporting roles.

    And Clooney, cool, collected, committed and above it all, makes the perfect candidate. He and Gosling are matched as the smart, never-let-them-see-you-sweat set, as opposed to the seething-sweating Giamatti and Hoffman.

    “Ides of March” has a good script, not a great one. So it isn’t a great film. But it is a smart and high-minded one, wonderfully cast, with understated direction. Clooney is good enough in the lead to stir talk of a political future. But he’s good enough behind the camera to make one hope that he’ll commit to doing more of that, instead.

    MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language

    Cast: Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei

    Credits: Directed by George Clooney, written by Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, based on a play by Willimon. A Columbia Pictures release.

    Running time: 1:41

    Movie Review: ‘Restless’

    Posted: 05 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

    Gus Van Sant’s “Restless” is predicated on an old movie truism — the quirkiest romances begin at funerals.

    That’s where Enoch (Henry Hopper) meets Annabell (Mia Wasikowska). He’s a morbidly curious funeral-crashing teenager who lives in a rundown mansion, wears black clothes from another era and plays “Battleship” with the ghost of a Kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase).

    Naturally, Annabell, who tells him she volunteers in a local hospital, is drawn to him. She wants to tag along to the funerals. And when she bails Enoch out of a tight spot with a funeral director, she’s in. But we think that funeral director is right on the money.

    “Either you are the world’s unluckiest boy, or a sick prankster!”

    Thus, does an odd and oddly touching romance begin, a film that pays faint tribute to the ’70s death-obsessed dark comedy “Harold & Maude,” but one which grasps the doomed nature of all love affairs, even among the young.

    You have to get past the names of the characters. Really, Enoch Brae and Annabell Cotton? Did Flannery O’Connor write this? Actually, actor-turned-writer Jason Lew did, with fond memories of that 1970s funeral romance classic “Harold & Maude.”

    It helps to not dwell on Enoch’s home life, or wardrobe. Teenagers drawing chalk outlines of themselves like murder victims? Adorable. The whole bickering with Hiroshi, the kamikaze pilot over life, love and “Battleship” is just too cute.

    “I saw a Mitsubishi car today,” Hiroshi says.

    “So what?”

    “I used to fly a Mitsubishi.”

    “You used to CRASH Mitsubishis.”

    “Only one.”

    What Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”) was going for in this latest tale of out-of-step, brooding teens, is a romantic fable. We peel back layers of each character and find their motivations.

    Annabell is bothered when Enoch keeps calling patients in her hospital “cancer kids” instead of “kids with cancer.”  Enoch is pointlessly cruel to the aunt (Jane Adams) who takes care of him. And Annabell’s family is leery of the weird kid she’s spending too much time with.

    Wasikowska gives Annabell a lovely fatalism and curiosity. And Hopper, son of the late actor Dennis Hopper, transcends the posing cliche this character could have been, making Enoch an angry kid just figuring things out, working through some issues and avoiding dealing with the BIG THING that’s bothering him.

    “Restless” is far more precious than profound. But that takes little away from this soulful teenage exploration of love, life and death.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality

    Cast: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Jane Adams

    Credits: Directed by Gus Van Sant, written by Jason Lew. A Sony Classics release.

    Running time: 1:31

    Movie Review: ‘Real Steel’

    Posted: 05 Oct 2011 08:58 AM PDT

    “Real Steel” is “Transformers” meets “The Champ,” a cute, occasionally sentimental father-son bonding picture with Rock’Em Sock’Em boxing robots as its backdrop.

    And if that doesn’t scare you off, by all means, read on. It is science fiction and it does star Hugh Jackman, after all. And there’s a little more beneath the surface than just the crowd-pleasing fights.

    In the post “BattleBots” near future, boxing has faded away. What gets the blood-lust up in a crowd, at county fairs, in underground fight clubs or on TV, is the see two boxing robots tear each other to pieces in the ring.

    Charlie (Jackman) is an ex-fighter who travels the backroads, putting his late model robot into fights with bulls, other robots, all comers. And since the robot has seen better days and Charlie is a born loser, he’s always losing and always slipping out of town without paying off his bets. And he’s always slipping back into his ex-girlfriend’s (Evangeline Lilly) run-down boxing gym/robot parts shop to start over.

    “You’ve been working with those robots so long you’ve become one.”

    She’s being prophetic. Charlie is so hard up for cash that when he learns he has a son from a long-ago relationship and that the boy’s mother has died, he sells custody of the kid to the woman’s sister (Hope Davis). Actually, to her husband (James Reborn). But the deal is Charlie keeps the kid for the summer so’s the rich folks can go on their European vacation in peace.

    “You sold me?” the kid (Dakota Goyo) yells.

    “Sounds worse than it is.”

    With that cash and that fresh-mouthed kid, Charlie buys back into the game and heads back on the road. The kid finds his own junked sparring ‘bot. And as their mechanical alter egos fight in abandoned warehouses and meet colorful characters like the promoter Finn (Anthony Mackie, classing up the joint), maybe their luck will change.

    “Real Steel” bears little resemblance to “Steel,” the Richard Matheson story it’s based on, or the classic “Twilight Zone” episode that hewed close to that story. That was about a broken down, desperate ex-boxer who dresses up like his busted robot and gets into the ring to battle a machine just to save his skin, a real man showing his mettle, as it were. If they’d married that story to “The Champ,” they would have had a real weeper.

    “No, pa, DON’T get in the ring with that machine! He’ll KILLya!”

    What director Shawn “Night at the Museum” Levy went for instead was a toy tie-in, an overlong movie that takes on some of the grimy veneer and colorful characters of a “boxing picture,” sanitizing it for children. “Let’s get it on like ping pong!”

    Jackman gamely does his best,  Levy keeps the kid just shy of insufferable and just this side of kid-appropriate in his behavior and language. And the fights, better animated than those far sillier “Transformers” movies, do have a visceral feel to them. You could totally see boxing going this “BattleBots” route and people signing up for pay-per-view bouts that pit unfeeling, speechless machines against each other in fights to the death, even betting on the outcome.

    It might be cheaper, though, just to buy a Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots set.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language

    Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie

    Credits: Directed by Shawn Levy, written by John Gatins, Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven, based on the Richard Matheson story “Steel.” A DreamWorks release. Running time: 2:04

    Surprise! Disney will turn 4 more classics into 3D ‘toons

    Posted: 05 Oct 2011 06:31 AM PDT

    Shocking news out of Mouse House. Just shocking.

    After making $80 million or so in the re-issue of “The Lion King” in 3D, Disney has announced that it will spend the cash and convert four more titles from its back catalog into 3D films, to be re-released in 2012-2013.

    “”The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” from the last classic animation revival at Disney, will be polished up. And “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo,” two Pixar titles, will earn the treatment as well.

    So animators and people at adept at cleaning up and converting cartoons are stepping into a growth industry. Original content creators in animation? Jobs are still hard to come by.

    Will these four movies do “Lion King” business? Maybe not. Our kids saw them on DVD ad nauseum, over the years. But if you can milk $30-60 million out of them in theaters and get all that extra exposure before a new BluRay edition is issued, it seems like a winning strategy.

    Danger Mouse, the Movie? ‘Rome’ to be turned into major motion you-know-what

    Posted: 05 Oct 2011 05:18 AM PDT

    Danger Mouse’s “Rome” concept album will be turned into a movie, Variety reports.

    The influential alt rock/hip hop producer and star (Gnarls Barkley, etc.)

    The new in stores five years in the making “Rome” album was inspired by Spaghetti Westerns. And as we’ve seen with Quentin Tarantino, Spaghetti Westerns are in right now.