Monday, November 10, 2008

Holiday Movie Preview: Part 2

Concluding my two day preview. Amazingly, a few of these are not about Nazis.THE READER – One of the six Kate Winslet movies out this season. This one is about the Holocaust.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – After THE READER Kate decided to do something frothy. So she took this trifle about a crumbling doomed marriage. With Leo DeCaprio. What would have happened if he hadn’t drowned in THE TITANIC.

CADILLAC RECORDS -- Story of Chess Records, famous R&B and Blues label of the 50s. Beyonce as Etta James. Younger audiences won’t know who Etta James is. Older audiences won’t know who Beyonce is. Age groups in the middle will be watching QUANTUM OF SOLACE for the third time.

THE WRESTLER – Mickey Rourke is supposed to be amazing in this drama. There goes Will Smith’s Oscar again.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a couple but as she grows older he gets younger. It’s the love affair every “cougar” has longed for.

DEFIANCE – Three Jewish brothers evading Nazis while protecting other Jews. Certainly a Christmas Day alternative.

BEDTIME STORIES – Adam Sandler in a feel-good CGI effects-loaded holiday movie for the whole family! Filled with wonder and magic and that shit.

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX – CGI mice are the new CGI penguins. Matthew Broderick voices the lead mouse. Written by Gary Ross who scripted SEABISCUIT and was always frustrated that he couldn’t make the horse talk.

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH – NY Times reporter Judith Miller’s story. If you're saying "Who?" that could be a problem for the film's prospects.

GOOD – Viggo Mortensen struggles with whether to become a Nazi. Gee, I didn’t realize folks back then had a choice.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – Remake of that 50s B-movie classic. To recreate the cheesy acting of the period they cast Keanu Reeves in the title role.

FROST/NIXON -- Film version of the play of the television show. Back in the 70s David Frost had a sit-down with former President Richard Nixon. Today’s equivalent would be Nicole Richie interviewing George Bush.

GRAN TORINO – Clint Eastwood continues to direct a movie a month. He has an open slot in March if you want to submit your screenplays. But he also stars in this one so I’ll see you there the first day.

MARLEY & ME – Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, and a cute dog. I’m sure critic Jeffrey Lyons will be wagging his tail at this one.

YES MAN – LIAR LIAR but this time Jim Carrey only says yes instead of lying. But it’s Jim Carrey so it makes no difference really.

LAST CHANCE HARVEY – Dustin Hoffman & Emma Thompson as two lonely souls who fall in love. Date movie for the Motion Picture Country Home.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR – Cartoon about the Lebanon War of the early 80s. I wonder if the weapons were all Acme Rocket Launchers.

35 comments:

gottacook said...

Sorry I can't offer a funny comment - I know Richard Yates' novel Revolutionary Road, and it's ultimately depressing as hell (shot through with moments of levity) and absolutely beautifully told. (Kirkus review at amazon.uk says the writing "is like dark chocolate - bitterly sweet, tragedy tinged with delicious dark humour." That's about right.)

I know that on the basis of past work, Sam Mendes would seem the ideal director for a movie of Revolutionary Road, but even so I'm worried. The story's climax is so much entwined with its historical era that today's audiences may not be able to relate, or worse, will think they're supposed to relate to it in terms of present-day politics. Still, I'll probably see it (on DVD).

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Mickey Rourke is supposed to be amazing in this drama."

Which just means he showed up on time, bathed, and didn't hit anyone.

"To recreate the cheesy acting of the period they cast Keanu Reeves in the title role."

That's a TERRIBLE thing to say about cheesy 50s movie acting, and I speak as a former cheesy 50s movie actress myself. Gort the Robot can act rings around Keanu Reeves, and smells better than Mickey Rourke.

Thank God it's FROST NIXON, because DEFROST NIXON would be the horror movie of the century.

gottacook said...

"DEFROST NIXON" - thanks, I laughed out loud.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a couple but as she grows older he gets younger.

Fortunately, like the Bourne movies, they kept only the absolutely necessary elements and dumped the rest. I read the short story two weekends ago after becoming hooked on the trailer for this, and David Fincher and others made the right decision. There is no way a faithful film version of that story would have worked.

msw said...

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – Remake of that 50s B-movie classic. To recreate the cheesy acting of the period they cast Keanu Reeves in the title role.

What, as the Earth?

Tallulah Morehead said...

I assumed he was playing the "Day," as he could never stand still long enough to play the earth.

Of course, it would have to be an overcast day, as he's not bright enough to play a sunny day.

Sebastian said...

What is it with Hollywood and the Nazis?

I mean count the movies and you get about 20% Nazi flicks. Are you guys that obsessed with swastikas?

It really starts to bore me and is another reason I don't got to the movies anymore. When you read the two preview posts you get the feeling that you have already seen these movies. And not once but a couple of times.

I had a solid 9 years of "you are guilty"-nazi history in school, I honestly don't get a kick out of watching it on the big screen over and over and over again, especially because it really loses its impact after a while. And that bothers me.

sephim said...

Sebastian, nine years? I have to admit that I'm a little vague concerning these "Nazis".

Apparently they did some terrible things, but I have no idea what exactly they were.

Arthur07 said...

Frost/Nixon - who would have figured that 1) the two most renown Presidents are Republicans, by "renown" I mean they form an industry that keeps reappearing in everything from cartoons (futurama especially for Nixon, but Lincoln as well appears everywhere in AdultSwim land) to operas, movies and so on

2) and in that regard, that it would be Nixon would would be the one president to compete with Lincoln.

I find it odd I can choose to go see the "Frost/Nixon" play up the street, or the movie. So afer Nixon in China, and Frost/Nixon, what's next...

Tom Quigley said...

Sebastian said...

"What is it with Hollywood and the Nazis?"

I would imagine in the case of VALKERIE, somewhere in Tom Cruise's L. Ron Hubbard mentality, it's an allegory for his perceived persecution of his "religion" by the outside world...

Anonymous said...

Gee, I don't know, just a guess, but I've got a feeling Hollywood's "sudden" "brave" decision to produce more stories about World War II and Nazis will continue for a while.

It's a solid "when in doubt" ploy that's been consistently used, to the point "Nazis" are almost the equivalent of "Vampires" (just look at Tom Cruise's career). Both aresupposed to promise a built-in audience...

I wouldn't be surprised if decades ago Aurora models wanted to put out a "Nazi" soldier alongside their popular "Wolfman", "Frankenstein", "Creature" etc... But Universal wasn't doing any serious Nazi-themed films back then, so...

jbryant said...

It's "Valkyrie" by the way, gang.

As for "Hollywood and the Nazis," well, come on. We're talking World War II, not the Hatfields and McCoys. The studios started churning out films about the conflict from its earliest days. From a human drama standpoint, WWII was the gift that kept on giving. It has inspired countless writers and filmmakers, whether through personal experience, family history or via the work of other writers and filmmakers. Naturally, such films are held till year's end for awards consideration, having little potential for "Feelgood Hit of the Summer" status. So maybe this time of year they seem to be more ubiquitous than they actually are.

anonymous: Maybe Aurora could've made a model of Cedric Hardwicke's Gestapo head in 1942's "Invisible Agent," an entertaining adventure in which invisible man Jon Hall infiltrates Nazi Germany to gather intelligence for the Allies. With Peter Lorre as a Japanese (!) agent.

Kirk Jusko said...

Nothing cheesy about Patricia Neal's performance in the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. If anything, she overacts. Over-method acts. Sam Jaffe's pretty good, too. He's overacting, but in a watch-me-steal-this-scene-right-from-under-that-damn-alien's-nose kind of way. As for Mike Rennie's final speech, it won't make anyone forget Jimmy Stewart in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, but I guess if it did, THAT would be over-acting.

One last thought. Francis Bavier's small role. Think Aunt Bee, with Joe McCarthy as a nephew.

Sebastian said...

You know, 9 schoolyears, in which 90% of all history lessons were about Nazi Germany and why we, as a people, are guilty. From 5th to 13th grade. With a little bit of medieval german history on the side. I learned more about the world in geography than in my history lessons. At least at one point I know the names of all 50 US states and all major Russian rivers - whatever that was good for.

But to give you a little freshup about the Nazis, they came into total power in 1933 during the "Machtergreifung" ("takeover") and it all ended, of course, 12 years later.

So in the end I didn't have to endure it quite as long as the people who were actually there but it isn't like there weren't enough documentaries on TV all the time reminding me why this once once a great nation... at least that what it looks like in all those Time Life documentaries, which annoy me to no end.

KEN LEVINE said...

Sebastian,

No, there are not enough documentaries. The world should never never forget.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I think most young people these days have only a vauge idea of who and what the Nazis were. A little reminder every now and then isn't a bad idea. The Nazis also serve as an apt allegory for $cientology. Adolph Hitler/L. Ron Hubbard-same number of syllables, last name starts with H. Nazis had the Gestapo, Scientology had the Guardians. Both leaders had books that were insane, unreadable gobbledegook--Mien Kampf and Dianetics. Both abused drugs. Both died as recluses.

D. McEwan said...

Yeah, ain't it awful how we descendants of the people who fought the Nazis, and the descendants of the people slaughtered by the Nazis, won't let it go? Jeeze Louise, it's all blood under the bridge.

Funny how when one country goes nuts and kills hundreds of millions of people, that ones who survived just won't let it go.

After all, it all ended in 1945.

Except for the families torn apart, haunted forever by the images of their parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and cousins roasting in the ovens. Except for the kids who never knew their fathers because they died with Nazi bullets in their heads on fields somewhere in Europe. Except for the fortunes and art works and possessions all stolen and never recovered.

Hitler died 63 years ago. It's over. Of course, a lot of his followers escaped, and turned up from time to time in South America, and even in North America, living under new names, their crimes unpunished. but they all became upstanding citizens, and never committed any new crimes.

Tell a Jewish woman walking down the sidewalk in Manhattan in the 1980s who suddenly recognizes the man who tortured her in a concentration camp, who is living under a fake name a scant few blocks away, that it ended in 1945.

And then there's the lovely legacy of skinheads and neo-Nazis, as the venom of Hitler lives on. The good he did (None) is interred with his bones, but his evil lives on after him, to mangle Shakespeare rather badly. It's been less than a month since a Neo-Nazi skinhead plot (An admittedly inept one) to assassinate Barack Obama was uncovered and stopped.

It ain't over till it's over, as a great man once said, so it ain't over yet. It was the central event of the 20th Century. It continues to reverberate.

And when a boob like Melanie Griffith can (as she did a few years ago, after doing a Nazi movie) publicly say that prior to making that movie, she'd never heard of the Holocaust before (To her credit, when she did hear of it, she thought it was just AWFUL!), we haven't kept it remembered enough. (Tippi, did you teach your kid ANYTHING? Feeding big kitties is nice and all, but your child is embarrassingly ignorant.)

As for Hollywood, it always needs villains, and Nazis make great villains.

I'm afraid that "Get over it already." isn't really the right message as regards the Nazis.

JBryant, INVISIBLE AGENT is hardly Peter Lorre's only turn as a Japanese. (And he steals the movie. The only reason to sit through INVISIBLE AGENT is to watch Lorre.) There's also his 8 Mr. Moto movies. As a kid I thought all Japanese people were Hungarians with odd eye make-up.

Kirk Jusko said...

I originally just wanted to comment on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but all the Nazi stuff got me thinking, especially the comparisons to Scientology, which I know is big in LA, but non-existent everywhere else. First, whatever the number of syllables in his name, L. Ron Hubbard didn't end up shooting himself in a bunker. He died of old age, so he's got that in common with Eisenhower, Bradley, etc. Second, suppose Tom Cruise had been a shill for Nazism back in the 30s? Hitler would have ended up retiring on his paper hanger pension.

D. McEwan said...

Oh, and Arthur07, the reason Nixon lives on in the culture so much is the same reason Hitler does; he was just so appalling, the anti-Lincoln. Nixon's contradictions continue to fascinate. I've felt for 14 years that April 22, Nixon's deathday, should be made a national holiday.

I never thought to live to see a worse president than Nixon, but I did.

kenworshipper said...

Another thing: the Nazis had the uniforms to die for. Um, that didn't come out right.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

I find it odd I can choose to go see the "Frost/Nixon" play up the street, or the movie. So afer Nixon in China, and Frost/Nixon, what's next...

Watergate: The Musical

jbryant said...

d.: Can't believe I forgot Lorre's Mr. Moto. I still haven't seen any of those films, but I'm well aware of them, so there's no excuse.

sebastian: I do sympathize with you, but I guess I can understand the German education system erring on the side of caution on this issue. Its hard to overstate the horror of those times.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Kirk, Hubbard MAY have died of old age, but there are some rumors he might have been helped along via a palace coup. We'll probably never know for sure. He did die with anti-pyschotic drugs in his system, which is a great thing to happen to a guy who ranted against drugs (even legal ones) and psychiatrists.

D. McEwan said...

JB, The Mr. Moto films can all be Netflixed. The earlier ones are a bit better than, but not substanitally different from, your standard Charlie Chan whodunits of the period. The later ones are just tired hack work. Their sole appeal, though it is a big appeal, is Peter Lorre's performances. He is young, thin, insinuating, and sly. Moto is a master of disguise and judo, so Lorre's stunt double is always tossing larger people all over the place, while Lorre gets to wear a variety of silly make ups and outfits.

I recently read an EXCELLENT, lengthy biography of Peter Lorre, titled THE LOST ONE, and he really hated doing the Motos, which, despite their success, rather typed an already-too-typed actor, and limited further how Hollywood would cast him.

I'm a huge admirer of Peter Lorre.

jbryant said...

d: Oh, I forgot about that Lorre bio. I need to seek that out. He was indeed fantastic, from the stunning intensity of his early work like "M" to the amusing, semi-improvised loopiness of his late roles for Roger Corman ("The Raven," "Comedy of Terrors"). I'd really like to get another look at "The Face Behind the Mask," a favorite from my younger years.

Kirk Jusko said...

As far as Peter Lorre goes, don't forget Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. It's a lot better than the remake, mainly because of Lorre's performance. In fact, I can't even remember who played the actor in the remake (as I'm sitting in front of a computer, I could easily google and find out, but that's not the point.)

D. McEwan said...

It's THE LOST ONE, A LIFE OF PETER LORRE by Stephen D. Youngkin, written in German, English language edition published by the University Press of Kentucky. You can order it from Amazon. It's very rich, detailed, and thorough. Published in 2005, it's still officially in print. In fact I saw a copy at a BORDERS Book store just last week.

Creepiest detail? In 1977, Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers, attempted to abduct Catherine Lorre, Peter's only child. He changed his mind when he recognized her as the daughter of his "Hero". (She does look rather a lot like her dad, and not unlike Christina Ricci.)

D. McEwan said...

Both versions of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH have virtues. I think the remake is actually better. Lorre's performance is certainly what is best about the original (Which I have on DVD), but the remake is an overall better film. Sir Bernard Miles wasn't exactly a compromise choice for the new villain.

Lorre married his first wife, Celia Lovsky, on a lunch break from MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. In the book the wedding photo shows him in the make up and wig for MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, with the scar and the white streak.

He had a background in Improvisational theater (Along with being "Bertolt Brecht's favorite actor". Brecht wrote A MAN'S A MAN for him.), which is why he was always so funny in those later Roger Corman flicks. Richard Matheson says Lorre wsa the only actor who could throw out all of the dialogue Matheson wrote for him without Matheson resenting it, because what Lorre improvised was always better.

thesharkguys said...

'Feel good' and 'Adam Sandler' generally don't go together, with the possible exception of "I feel good that the new Adam Sandler movie tanked, as gosh is he untalented"

Megalion said...

That's unfair to Adam. I really enjoyed his dramatic turns in Spanglish and Reign Over Me.

Megalion said...

argh my response was directed at thesharkguys, not Ken

Kirk Jusko said...

I just read on Wickapedia that Peter Lorre could barely speak English when he did THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. He spoke the part phoenetically (My apologies if that word's spelled wrong. Blogger's got a spell-check for the blogs, why not one for the comments?)

However he talked, it's those creepy clos-ups of his face I remember best.

D. McEwan said...

When Peter Lorre met with Hitchcock for the first time, Lorre said he only knew "Yes" and "No," so he said "Yes" to everything Hitchcock said, because saying "No" would require explaining why he said "No." He was cast for his face and for his performance in M.

Since Lorre was fluent in French (and German and Hungarian), during the filming, Joan Harrison translated Hitchcock's directions to Lorre in French. Meanwhile, Lorre hired a private tutor, and by the end of the shoot, he had learned English. He was a remarkable man.

Kirk Jusko said...

Regarding Peter Lorre and comedy, there's an episode of the early '60s show Route 66 that you just have to see. Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr, all playing themselves, stay at a motel on that fabled byway. Chaney, disguised as the Wolf Man, is chasing a bunch of terrified, young women around the lobby, when one of them runs right into Mr Lorre's path. Now, unlike Chaney, he's not in any sort of disguise (though he's associated with horror, I don't think he ever played an actual monster, in the supernatural sense of the word), but it doesn't matter. One look at Lorre, and the young lady passes out cold.

Lorre looks at Lon Chaney Jr and says,

"I think I've just been insulted."

Hilarious!

D. McEwan said...

I have that episode, "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing," on video tape. It's famous as the last time Karloff put on the Frankenstein Monster make-up, and the last time Chaney wore his wolf-man make up. (Although the wolf man make up looks a bit different than it did when he wore it in the movies.), and the only time Chaney wore an approximation of his father's Quasimodo make up.

They do get a lot of milage out of Lorre just being scary as is. Martita Hunt, whose horror career was pretty much limited to playing a vampire's mother in Hammer's BRIDES OF DRACULA, but who is well-rememebred as David Lean's Miss Havisham, is also exploited for her spookiness.

I don't know if it is avalable comemrcially. I taped it off a cable broadcast about 15 years ago.