It seems that the phrase "makes me want to throw up" is all the rage. A few weeks ago, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that President John F. Kennedy's famous speech in which he assured the American public that he believed in a strict separation of church and state made him want to "throw up" because he believes religious beliefs should be central factors in governance. They say politics makes strange bedfellows, so you can now add actress Kate Winslet on to the list of those who have jumped on the vomit bandwagon. She says that she is so sick and tired of hearing Celine Dion's Oscar-winning song from Titanic, that each rendition makes her want to "throw up". Winslet wasn't knocking the song or the performer, but just says she's fed up with having it played every time she walks into a bar. Point taken, but can't people in public life find a classier way of referring to their frustrations?- Lee Pfeiffer For more click here
Having recently emerged from bankruptcy, MGM announced it has regained the rights to develop films under the legendary United Artists brand. The studio has also gained the rights to UA feature films made in recent years. The studio expects 21 Jump Street to be profitable but the company's highly-touted release of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo resulted in a modest loss despite having grossed $231 million to date. The studio is seeking better terms to develop sequels to the movie. It's a sign of insanity in the film industry when a movie can gross almost a quarter billion dollars and still lose money. For more click here
My friends find it ironic that, as someone who makes my living writing about movies, I actually go to very few theaters to see new releases. Unless a film motivates me enough to attend an advance screening, most of my movie-going experience is relegated to attending screenings of classic movies in art house venues where they are shown with proper reverence by a management that reveres the films. Why don't I enjoy seeing movies at my local neighborhood theater? For starters, while movie theaters have certainly become more grandiose and exotic, there has not necessarily been a corresponding respect for how movies themselves are shown. I've been to so many movies where films are shown out of focus or with the sound too low or too high, that it virtually guarantees I have to speak to management about making a correction. There's also an unwillingness to do something about audience members who blithely ignore those pre-screening ads begging them to turn off their cell phones and not talk during the showing. However, the main problem is inept presentation of the films themselves. Some years ago when the much-vaunted restoration of Gone With the Wind came to a state-of-the-art local theater in New Jersey, I brought my young daughter to see it for the first time. As the audience entered, the film was already playing because someone had started it at the wrong time. Despite complaints, management wouldn't start it again from the beginning. Thus, we were already into life at Tara before everyone had taken their seat. The film was murky and disappointing, and that probably wasn't the fault of the theater. However, the strand of hair that permeated every sequence of the movie certainly was. I went to management to complain and was told to see the "projectionist", who turned out to be a pimple-faced teenager who had to simultaneously run the popcorn stand. When I told him that there was a hair on the lens, he said that was the way the film was supposed to look because he had been told this was a very old movie. Ultimately, a small crowd of similarly disgusted audience members joined me and we convinced him to remove the hair from the lens, but in doing so, the film went out of focus and he wasn't quite sure how to fix it. At no time during this process, was the film actually stopped so God only knows how this looked from the standpoint of people who were still watching in the audience. After the problem was "fixed", the sound later fluctuated to the point you couldn't hear the dialogue well, which required another trip to the popcorn stand by angry movie fans who were now resembling the villagers who stormed Dr. Frankenstein's castle. Ultimately, everyone who complained received a complimentary pass to the theater, which was deemed the ultimate in wasted compensation. It's like complaining to the management of a restaurant that every menu item you tried was terrible and then getting a certificate for a free meal as compensation.
You might think that the digital age of film might alleviate such incidents. After all, digital projection guarantees a crisp, clear picture. However, as writer Will McKinley of the CineMentals web blog relates, a badly-run theater can still ruin the experience, as evidenced by his attending the recent TCM-sponsored digital restoration of Casablanca, coincidentally also shown in a New Jersey theater. (Hey, maybe it's just us residents of the Garden State who seem to be destined to suffer these fates.) Click here to read it and weep.
The Huffington Post provides an informative guide to some of the worst money-losers in Hollywood history. However, the list is far from complete. Films such as the remakes of Mutiny on the Bounty and Cleopatra almost sank their studios despite critical acclaim and grossing significant amounts at the box-office. This was due to extravagant production cost over-runs. The list also doesn't include such major musical bombs as Hello, Dolly! and Star! (Watch out for musicals with exclamation points in the title!) Nevertheless, such relatively recent bombs as Pluto Nash and Town & Country make the once disastrous grosses for Ishtar seem like the good old days when a major flop would be defined by losing "only" $41 million. For more click here
Actress Jessica Biel has been confirmed to play the role of another actress- Vera Miles- in Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins will portray the legendary director and Helen Mirren will play his wife, Alama. Vera Miles was the female lead in Psycho, playing the sister of Janet Leigh, who was stabbed to death in the cinema's most legendary murder sequence. For more click here
With some financial support from Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have acquired one of the pairs of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. The acquisition by the Academy ensures the precious film props will be safely protected and will allow A.M.P.A.S. to display them for movie fans to enjoy. There were actually four pairs of slippers used in the film. Click here for the fascinating background story about their individual fates.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park will be retroactively enhanced by 3-D technology and re-issued to theaters on July 19, 2013- approximately 20 years from the date of its original release. The film stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough and a whole lot of dinosaurs. Click here for a gallery of on-set photos from Spielberg movies.
Retro movie lovers may recall that, with the release of Dracula A.D. 1972, Hammer horror fans went ballistic, complaining that the campy film wasted the teaming of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Hold on to your fangs because another campy vampire movie set in 1972 is about to be unveiled and it looks truly awful. The much-anticipated Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big screen adaptation of the goth soap opera Dark Shadows looks like it was thrown together to make a few fast bucks. Cheesy CGI effects and yet another over-the-top performance by Depp combine to alienate die-hard fans of the TV series. The trailer plays like a sequel to Beetlejuice. There was a time when a Depp/Burton teaming was reason to anticipate an off-beat and exciting film (i.e. Sleepy Hollow). Sadly, those days appear to be gone, though hopefully like a vampire, they might be able to rise again if they actually concentrate on a worthy project. Click here for the trailer
Tom Cruise is in talks with director Clint Eastwood about playing the male lead in the remake of A Star is Born starring Beyonce. It apparently doesn't bother Cruise that he wasn't the director's first, second or even third choice for the role, having approached Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Leonardo DiCaprio previously. All declined the offer, a truly surprising development given Eastwood's status in the industry. Cruise has made a career comeback following years of middling successes and outright bombs. His latest Mission: Impossible movie is the highest grossing film of his career. This will be the fourth screen version of A Star is Born. For more click here
Woody Allen rarely appears in films that he doesn't direct but he's going to make an exception to star with John Turturro in the independent film Fading Gigolo. The movie is a sex comedy set in the New York Jewish Hasidic community with Turturro playing a male prostitute and Allen playing his pimp. This is so bizarre, it has to work. For more click here
The surviving members of The Monkees, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork, have announced they will not be attending Davy Jones' funeral in Florida this week. The reason given is that they didn't want to distract from the privacy of the event by causing a media sensation. The three say they may attend a future family memorial service in New York or Jones' native England. It's well known there were feuds among the group members even extending to reunions in recent years. However, taken at face value, Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork may well be looking out for the best interest of Jones' family. For more click here
Scarlett Johansson has been signed to play actress Janet Leigh in the forthcoming feature film Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, based on the 1960 film. Hitchcock eschewed the studios to finance the film himself, a bold decision that ended up paying off financially and artistically. Anthony Hopkins will play Hitchcock and Helen Mirren will portray his wife and collaborator, Alma. This is shaping up as something to get excited about! For more click here
A revealing report in the Independent sheds light on a bizarre facility operated in virtual secrecy by the British Film Institute- all with government grants financing the project. While many Americans decry government financing of virtually anything (until they need it themselves, that is), the British public isn't griping about a £22.5m expenditure to help preserve the core of the nation's film heritage. Over 400,000 canisters of rare movies, many of them from the silent era, are stored in a remote, dreary, super-secure facility that has been likened to a Bond villain's HQ. However, there is no megalomaniac planning to take over the world on the premises. The facility preserves the nation's rarest films, which we shot on nitrate stock- a highly combustible substance that is considered so dangerous to project that only one theater in the UK is approved to do so. One ill-fated attempt to project a rare Fred Astaire reel resulted in a potentially disastrous fire breaking out in the projection booth. In addition to feature films, the facility also preserves incredibly rare historical footage ranging from arctic expeditions to Queen Victoria's funeral. The BFIU is painstakingly working to transfer and preserve each of these films into safer mediums. For more click here