Monday, August 07, 2006
Fried Worms Comes to the Big Screen
Every October, I venture to southern Vermont (in the Bennington, Arlington, Manchester range) for a couple of days to commune with nature: I watch the leaves turn colors; breathe deeply the fresh mountain air; do some hiking, antique hunting, and never fail to visit the Norman Rockwell exhibit (located in an old church on historic Route 7A in Arlington). At this point, I know the exhibit like the back of my hand, I've seen it so many times. It's always a thrill to meet actual Norman Rockwell models from the town. Of particular interest is a small showcase -- tucked away in one of the rooms at the back of the old church -- focusing on the work of Rockwell's children. There, behind the glass is a copy of How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. While, perhaps, not as famous as his father's Saturday Evening Post covers (many for which he served as a model), this book for young readers has become a classic in its own right. Now, more than 30 years after it was first published, the book has finally been adapted into a live action feature. (It was first filmed in 1985 as an animated TV movie.) It will be interesting to see how the filmmakers have chosen to update the story and the attitudes of its characters. At the time it was published, the book was credited with attracting many unwilling young readers (especially boys) due to its obvious gross out factor. One wonders, after all these years, if the thought of eating worms is still enough of a curiosity for younger audiences to flock to the film. My guess is...yes.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Not "Home Alone" Anymore
In 1990, at the age of 10, Macaulay Culkin became the number one child star in the world, acting in the Christmas themed, smash hit slapstick comedy Home Alone. That movie led to roles in Uncle Buck, Richie Rich, My Girl, The Pagemaster, The Nutcracker and The Good Son. Now, at 26, and after a short break from filmmaking, Culkin has made a reputation of seeking out semi-controversial independent projects such as Party Monster and Saved! It's a smart move on his part, to shed his child star persona by embracing these non-commercial projects. (A similar strategy also revived the careers of John Travolta and Bruce Willis. Can anyone say Pulp Fiction?) Even though, it's been 16 years since Home Alone, I'm sure Culkin's latest announcement will still have some of his older fans slapping their cheeks and yelling "AAAAhhh!" Sex and Breakfast focuses on a couple struggling with their sex life, who -- on the advise of their therapist -- indulge in group sex. I can't wait! I like what Culkin is quoted in Variety as saying about the film: "It's really about the pressure that leads them to experiment, the anticipation leading up to the event, and then the fallout." Or, in other words, "Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it." (Director Stanley Kubrick attempted, less than successfully, to explore similar themes in his final film Eyes Wide Shut,) If Sex and Breakfast is able to capture this often unspoken emotional aspect of male and female relationships, in an honest manner, it should make for a very interesting film indeed. I agree with what Culkin said in the interview. The power of this film will come from being able to capture what a couple thinks it wants and needs versus what it really wants and needs.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Attention Mr. Gibson: Rob Schneider Doesn't Like You, But Hollywood Billboard Owners Seem To
Look out! Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo himself, Rob Schneider has lobbed the first public attack on Mel Gibson for his drunken tirade against Jews. Rob Schneider? Is Gibson supposed to be shaking in his boots here? Schneider is the first actor to publicly announce he will never work with Mel Gibson. Hmmm? I'm wondering. Was this ever going to be an issue anyway? Not only did the actor say he would never act in a Mel Gibson-directed film, he also said he would never cast Gibson in any films he directs (unless his financial backers feel differently, he added). Again, was this something that would ever happen? The open letter, which Schneider advertised in the Hollywood trade paper Variety does seem a bit tongue-in-cheek. It says, in part, "I, Rob Schneider, a 1/2 Jew, pledge from this day forth to never work with Mel Gibson-actor-director-producer-and anti-Semite." Schneider's letter goes on to say, even if he were offered the lead role in Passion of The Christ 2, or a "juicy voice-over role in [Gibson's] new flick Apocalypto and spoke ancient Mayan," he would still turn them down. Okay. Schneider has spoken. Mel Gibson take heed. Meanwhile, Gibson, may appear to have more supporters in Hollywood than some realized. Apparently, an anti-Gibson billboard campaign has not been successful in getting off the ground. Reportedly, once the owners of the outdoor media space being sought realize the content of the billboard, they turn it down. If this is the best Hollywood has to offer in response to Gibson's remarks, I'm gonna stick to my initial prediction that Gibson's near-future fortunes will rise or fall on the merits of Apocalypto and not his drunken statements.
Friday, August 04, 2006
The Lost Art of Movie Posters
As I have said before, I love movie poster art, of all types. In so many cases (often in horror and fantasy genres), these images have become as iconographic and recognizable as the films they represented. E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Jaws, and Halloween come immediately to mind. And while it may descend quickly from the boxoffice charts, I must say that the most inventive poster I have seen in years is for the film The Descent. It's the story of a group of women on a caving expedition that goes horribly wrong. The poster uses the body forms of these women to create a glowing skull. If you don't check out the movie, you should at least check out this poster. It's really a work of art.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Left and Right
Here's an interesting item brought to my attention by regular "Movies on My Mind" reader/commentator "Silberg." It seems that after having been accepted into Michael Moore's fledgling Michigan-based Traverse City Film Festival Film Festival, Magnolia Films, the distributors of the Tribeca darling Jesus Camp, a documentary about Christian camps, wanted the film pulled from the festival for fear that any association with the Oscar-winning documentarian would cause the core audience for Jesus Camp to reject it. Wow! Doesn't sound like Magnolia Films has much faith in its Christian target audience! So, I guess what I am to conclude from this is the fact that a "Left" leaning festival accepting a straightforward "Right" leaning film is a bad thing? That's ironic, because I would think it was a good thing given that, perhaps, people with a particular view might be willing to at least consider a different point of view. Isn't that called tolerance? But Magnolia Films does not seem interested in tolerance, or for that matter, it would seem, a broader audience. Does Magnolia Films believe that polarizing an audience is the way to big dollars? Wouldn't the film, in fact, make more money if it could reach Muslims and Jews who were also interested (even if simply out of mere curiosity) in seeing it? What about lapsed Christians? (There's a huge audience not being tapped.) Was the investment in this film made on the basis that it would play to core audiences only, make back its money, and be done? I didn't realize Christians hated Michael Moore. But I guess the larger question here is not WWJD? but rather WWTCAJCD? (What would the campers at Jesus Camp do?)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
And a Child Shall Save Them...
The soon-to-open Zoom is the latest example of "children as superhero" films that seem to have exploded in popularity ever since the success of Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids in 2001. Of course the concept of the smarter-than-their-age, resourceful youngsters is not a new concept. The Little Rascals were having adventures as far back as the 20s. The Goonies did the same in the 80s. But those children, while resourceful, were not, per se, superheroes. Starting with Spy Kids in 2001 and evidenced, not only in the Spy Kids sequels Island of Lost Souls (2002) and Game Over (2003), but also in Agent Cody Banks (2003), SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004), Thunderbirds (2004), The Incredibles (2004), The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl (2005), Sky High (2005), and now Zoom -- in movies these days, children are simply saving the world! But why now? Well, for one thing, movies on the whole appeal to younger and younger audiences. Plus a generation has grown up on being able to play the kinds of video games where you become the hero. When I was growing up, we had pinball and Blip! Children are also more media savvy these days. Part of the appeal of Spider-Man when he was first created was that HE was a teenager himself, a point made in Spider-Man 2 when the people he rescues on a runaway train see how young he is, as his mask is lost in the rescue. We have an eternal optimism about children. They will make the world better than we left it for them, is the hope. These movies reflect that hope. The audience for many traditional superheroes have grown older. Today, movies encourage children to look no further than the mirror to see the next superhero -- see it in themselves.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Batman Begins (Again)
Essentially confirming that Christopher Nolan's take on the Batman legend, Batman Begins, has truly started the film franchise anew, it was just announced that Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger (of Brokeback Mountain fame) has been cast to play The Joker, opposite Christian Bale's Batman in what will be a remake of the original Tim Burton film entitled The Dark Knight. The Burton film was to have taken its cues from the Frank Miller graphic novel back in 1989, but instead went off in the direction of its quirky director. Nolan has claimed the Batman franchise as his own, after Joel Schumacher's attempts at the legend nearly finished off the series. Although Ledger, like Jack Nicholson and Caesar Romero before him, does not seem The Joker type physically, I have no doubt, in the hands of Nolan, The Dark Knight will deliver the goods.