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The Jack Burton Way.

“John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is, in a lot of ways, a comedy, and its central joke — its only joke, really — was that Burton thinks he’s a swaggering hero, when in reality, he’s a sidekick at best and a well-meaning liability at worst. His friend Wang Chi is the movie’s real hero, and everyone but Burton seems to realize it. Burton slips, pratfalls, opens the wrong doors, drives into blind alleys, hits on Kim Cattrall at the worst possible moments…He’s a total boob.”

At Deadspin, Tom Breihan praises the “lunkheaded genius” of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. “The main reason the whole thing works is Russell, who gamely mugs his way through it…his idiocy is the engine that powers the whole thing.”

Grabthar’s Silver Hammer.

“Rockwell: I wanted to ennoble the coward archetype. I thought of the best cowards in cinematic history, like John Turturro in ‘Miller’s Crossing.’ When we did the shuttle scene I drank four cups of coffee and downed two Excedrin. I wanted to be so hyped that I would have a nervous breakdown on the shuttle.”

On the fifteenth anniversary of a certifiable comedy classic, MTV offers up an oral history of Galaxy Quest. “George Takei: [It's] a chillingly realistic documentary.”

How Alvy Became Harry.

“The decade that followed had been a weird one for the rom-com, which seemed to retreat from Annie Hall’s not-awful sexual politics all the way back to The Taming of the Shrew. In the 1980s, when a blonde woman and a not-blond man were onscreen together, the idea was usually that the woman needed some serious thawing out (as in TV’s Moonlighting and L.A. Law)…the genre needed a game-changer, and romantically and culturally, When Harry Met Sally… was it. If you want to know how we got from Annie Hall to Knocked Up, there’s only one route, and it’s through this movie.”

On the film’s 25th anniversary, Mark Harris revisits When Harry Met Sally… for Grantland. “It’s not Annie Hall, but a movie about people who have seen Annie Hall.”

The Maverick.

“I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: Be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth. I don’t have any theories about acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”

R.I.P. James Garner, 1928-2014. “Mr. Garner, a lifelong Democrat who was active in behalf of civil rights and environmental causes, always said he met his wife, the former Lois Clarke, in 1956 at a presidential campaign rally for Adlai Stevenson.”

Banding for the Brothers.

“The series follows eight characters around the world who, in the aftermath of a tragic death, find themselves linked to each other mentally and emotionally. They can not only see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, they have access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must they figure out what happened and why and what it means for the future of humanity, they must do so while being hunted by an organization out to capture, kill or vivisect them.”

Er, ok. The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski announce the cast of their new Netflix series, Sense 8, including Doona Bae of Cloud Atlas, Darryl Hannah, Naveen Andrews, Doctor Who‘s Freema Agyeman, and a bunch of relative unknowns (above).

In other notable casting news, the Wachowskis’ most recent leading man, Channing Tatum, has joined the cast of the Coens’ next, Hail Caesar — a project they’ve been circling since 2005 — along with Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes. (George Clooney and Josh Brolin are also attached.)

“Tatum’s role is described as a Gene Kelly-type star while Fiennes will play Laurence Lorenz, a studio director. Swinton…will play a powerful Hollywood gossip columnist. Clooney, we’re supposing, is playing Eddie Mannix, a fixer who works for the studios in the 1950s. But it could be Brolin.” Didn’t this used to be about Shakespeare in the ’20′s?

Guardians of the Force.


As Harrison Ford nurses a broken leg and Star Wars-minded folk digest the welcome news that Rian Johnson will be writing and directing Episode VIII, the original trilogy gets a new trailer in the style of Guardians of the Galaxy. Good time to be a SW fan.

More Criminal Intent.

“‘We’re incredibly proud to have an actor with the gravitas and versatility of Vincent joining “Marvel’s Daredevil” in such an integral role,’ said Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s Head of Television. ‘Wilson Fisk is an iconic villain whose cunning and power make him the dangerous equal of our hero.’”

After the abrupt and disappointing exit of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man (Buster Keaton haz a sad), Marvel restores a modicum of goodwill by casting Stardust and Boardwalk Empire‘s Charlie Cox as Matt Murdoch and thoroughly unique oddball Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin in their upcoming Daredevil TV show. Yeah, I’d watch it.

Midichlorians? Garmonbozia… | Leland ’14.


He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi. (Hey, it almost happened.) I’ll admit, the Sy Snootles gag cracked me up.

“You’ve been dead for around 25 years now.” Also in the Lynch department: For the new Blu-Ray collection Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (take my money!), David Lynch interviews the Palmer family, in character. The Leland/Ray Wise one is below. It’s, er, weird…but you already knew that.

12 Years a Sith | Brienne of Darth.

As shook the fandom interwebs ten days ago, the mostly male Star Wars VII cast gets a much-needed XX infusion with the additions of Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie (best known for 12 Years a Slave and Game of Thrones respectively) to the cast. Now we’re cooking — Please, JJ, don’t waste all this talent. (*cough Into Darkness.)

Space is a Flat Circle.


“We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.” Matthew McConaughey & co. set sail on an ocean of stars to find an uncorrupted planet in the first full trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, also with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, and David Oyelowo. (The teaser was here.)

Well I definitely agree with the sentiments being expressed, tho’ this trailer is a mite schmaltzy. Some observant commenters at Vulture noted that, given McConaughey’s insistence he will be returning (and I’m not sure how that’s going to work out given his apparent traveling at relativistic speeds), Jessica Chastain is probably the older version of Murphy the teenage redhead. Prompting someone else to say this: “In other words, they get older, he stays the same age.” Ten points for Gryffindor.

Conjurer of Nightmares.

“A thread running through Mr. Giger’s work was the uneasy meshing of machines and biology, in a highly idiosyncratic blend of science fiction and surrealism…He kept a notepad next to his bed so he could sketch the terrors that rocked his uneasy sleep — nightmarish forms that could as easily have lumbered from prehistory as arrived from Mars.”

R.I.P. Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, best known as the creator of the Lovecraftian Xenomorph from Alien (which, along with The Shining twins, Freddy Krueger, and the final shot from Carrie, is responsible for a goodly percentage of my nightmares over the years), 1940-2014. “My paintings seem to make the strongest impression on people who are, well, who are crazy. A good many people think as I do. If they like my work they are creative…or they are crazy.”

Batfleck Begins.

With production gearing up, Zack Snyder tweets out our first look at Ben Affleck as Batman, and it’s heavy on the Frank Miller. (Close-up below.) I wasn’t sold at all on Man of Steel, and I expect this second installment will be completely overstuffed. Still, that’s an impressive rendering of the Dark Knight, and no mistake.

Paths of Terry.

“Not quite an epiphany, but there was ‘Paths of Glory.’…It was two things: first here was technology that I’d never been aware of, the tracking shots through the trenches which of course I copied in ‘Brazil,’ but I’d never been aware of the camera before that film and the second thing was that you talk about injustice in the film, you could talk about big themes, ideas.”

As part of series over at IndieWire, Terry Gilliam discusses his life in eight movies. “That was my problem at a certain age…I still believed in movies in those days. I don’t anymore. Give me a drive-in now any day.”

Maximum Bob.

“You don’t end up with a face like this if you’re hard, do ya? This comes from having too much mouth and nothing to back it up with. The nose has been broken so many times.” R.I.P. Bob Hoskins, the tough guy with a heart of gold, 1942-2014.

Best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Long Good Friday, and Mona Lisa (also featuring a young Clarke Peters) stateside, Hoskins had a number of memorable supporting turns over the years — Pink’s manager in The Wall, J. Edgar Hoover in Nixon; Jet Li’s handler in Unleashed, and one of the two Central Services guys in Brazil — and was always a touch of class in a production, even in drek like Super Mario and Snow White and the Huntsman. He will be missed.

Return of the Force?

“‘We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.’”

The Star Wars Episode 7 cast is announced, and, give credit where due, this is pretty auspicious (although heavily male) bunch. Along with all of the original gang — minus Lando — and the previously-rumored Adam Driver, Episode VII also includes John Boyega (the break-out star of Attack the Block), Daisy Ridley (don’t know her), Oscar Isaac(!, a.k.a. King John/Llewyn Davis), Andy Serkis(!, mutant master of CGI), Domhnall Gleeson (increasingly ubiquitous son of Brendan, late of About Time and Anna Karenina), and the venerable Max Von Sydow(!!! Needs no introduction, and it is a rush in itself to see him get his place next to Cushing, Guinness, Jones, and Lee.)

With all the usual caveats — Into Darkness, lens flares, etc. etc. — that’s a damned exciting cast. (Ok, so was MacGregor, Neeson, Portman, Jackson, and Stamp fifteen years ago, but let’s not talk about that.) Now how ’bout getting Frances McDormand, Saiorse Ronan, Viola Davis or somesuch in for additional support?

Update: Could well be damage control, but late word is there’s more to come. “Several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that director J.J. Abrams has another substantial role to fill — and it’s a female part. No further details are known.”

Can It, Walter.


Found while digging up the Barton Fink trailer for the link below: A super-cut of large men howling in Coen movies. Note: There’s some grisly violence (and spoilers) from Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing included therein.

Gone with the Whiskey.

“The memo..[is] candid in its assessment of the writers’ strengths and weakness. Of William Faulkner, who had written a few screenplays in the early 1930s, the anonymous memo author notes that he was now living in Mississippi but ‘can fly anywhere in his own plane.’ On the downside, Faulkner was ‘not very reliable in his plane nor his habits.’”

But has he taken a stab at the rasslin’ form? Rebecca Onion of Slate birddogs this memo to David O. Selznick on possible Gone with the Wind screenwriters. The quip above reminded me of Mencken’s review of Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, from the dissertation: As good as Babbitexcept the last 30,000 words, which you wrote in a state of liquor.”

Stick the Landing.


The traditional superhero three-point-landing gets a supercut. If you haven’t broken your hand or legs on impact, remember to fling your head back for maximum cool.

Rogers for Roosevelt | Cap v. NSA.

“Steve Rogers doesn’t represent a genericized America but rather a very specific time and place – 1930’s New York City. We know he was born July 4, 1920 (not kidding about the 4th of July) to a working-class family of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York’s Lower East Side. This biographical detail has political meaning: given the era he was born in and his class and religious/ethnic background, there is no way in hell Steve Rogers didn’t grow up as a Democrat, and a New Deal Democrat at that, complete with a picture of FDR on the wall.”

At Lawyers, Guns, & Money, Steven Attewell reminds us that Captain America has always been an FDR progressive. “[U]nlike other patriotic superheroes (like Superman, for example), Captain America is meant to represent the America of the Four Freedoms, the Atlantic Charter, and the Second Bill of Rights – a particular progressive ideal.”

Which reminds me, I was glad to see Cap so obviously take arms against the post-9/11 GWOT surveillance/preemption apparatus in Captain America: The Winter Soldier a few weeks ago. CA:TWS is top-tier Marvel, right next to The Avengers and Iron Man, and an even better film than the quality first installment. I particularly enjoyed the second-act twists involving Operation Paperclip and a UNIVAC, and if nothing else, the movie has furnished us with another very funny meme in “Hail Hydra.”

That being said, the third act slips off the rails some — state-of-the-art aircraft carriers with easily penetrable overrides, ho-hum — and the death count here, while not as egregious as in Man of Steel, still veers well into the absurd. When it comes time to face Ultron, how ’bout going easy with those grenades, Cap.

Keep Your Two Dollars.

“So we’re all watching the Better Off Dead screening that night, and John walked out of the movie. About 20 minutes into it, he walked out, and he never came back. The next morning, he basically walked up to me and was like, ‘You know, you tricked me. Better Off Dead was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.’..And I said, ‘What happened?! What’s wrong?!’ And he just said that I sucked, and it was the worst thing he had ever seen, and that I had used him, and made a fool out of him, and all this other stuff.”

Upon the news that “Savage” Steve Holland is returning to filmmaking, this sad interview, in which Holland chronicles John Cusack’s bizarre reaction to Better Off Dead, has been making the rounds. Weird and frankly kinda depressing: Cusack is a guy who, for every High Fidelity or Being John Malkovich, has made a lot of crap over the years, and Better Off Dead is not at all a black mark on his resume.

His Body is a Cage.

“Since the turn of the century, Cage has made more good movies (and more interesting bad ones) than Johnny Depp, but somehow Depp remains One of Our Finest Actors and Cage is Grumpy Cat. He’s always been a fascinating actor whose greatest performances were riven with fascinating faults; now he’s been reduced to just those faults by a degraded cultural marketplace that can increasingly do nothing but point and say, LOL, fail. Cage deserves better.”

After reviewing the tapes from the last decade — I’d say Bad Lieutenant and The Wicker Man remain underrated and indefensible respectively — Grantland‘s Alex Pappedamas makes a case for the much-maligned Nicolas Cage. “As Ethan Hawke, who costarred with Cage in 2005’s Lord of War, put it…’He’s the only actor since Marlon Brando that’s actually done anything new with the art of acting; he’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours.’”

Pirates v. Papal.

“‘Dreadstar is one of the most important comics on the 1980s, paving the way for creators to control their own creations,’ said Gilmore. “‘After decades of Jim exercising that control and turning away countless Hollywood suitors, I’m excited he’s trusting me and J.C. to do it right.’”

Proving yet again that we live in the Golden Age of fanboydom, there’s apparently movement afoot to make a film out of Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar(!) Dreadstar — one-part Blake’s 7, one-part Conan, two-parts Star Wars — was one of my favorite comics as a kid, and the only one I remember writing a letter to, explaining my (wrong) theory about who the traitor on the team was.)

To be honest, even now in the midst of the comic-film invasion, it’s hard to imagine a Dreadstar movie making any bank — Hopefully Oedi brings in the kitteh-minded folk. But I would’ve said the same about Guardians of the Galaxy, so what do I know.

Immutantable Time.


The second trailer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is now online, starring both the original and First Class crew of mutants.

Hrm…I could still see this one going either way. Next to the Dark Phoenix saga, Days of Future Past is probably the quintessential X-Men tale, but this seems overstuffed, and screenwriter Simon Kinberg’s work on X3 does not inspire confidence.

Update: The third trailer has now dropped as well, along with this spiffy “25 Moments” sites chronicling the recent milestones in mutant history, a la Watchmen.

A-Hole With a Heart of Gold.

“Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle…He was a lucky man in every way.”

Character actor James Rebhorn, well-known for playing doctors, lawyers, and other sinister/officious/aggravated bureaucratic types, 1948-2014.

A Boy and His Dog.

Fortunately, Charlie Brown and Snoopy seem to be themselves in the first teaser for Steve Martino’s Peanuts, executive produced by Paul Feig of Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids. “[T]here’s a big effort to preserve Schulz’s ‘sweet optimism’…’Snoopy will not be rapping, no one will be twerking, we’re in good hands.’

I Checked Out Early.

As far as Wes Anderson films go, I really enjoyed Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom, and was indifferent-to-irritated by Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited. Count Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel among the latter bunch, sadly.

You know the drill by this point. This is yet another of Anderson’s precious dollhouse-and-train-set movies, a Tintin comic brought to life, with all of the usual twee affectations and tics we have come to expect. (If you thought Wes Anderson movies were too white before, this flick is so white it has a ski chase.) And for whatever reason, this time the wall-to-wall bric-a-brac aesthetic just did not connect for me.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Hotel is bereft of what is usually one of the sharpest arrows in Anderson’s quiver: There are no artfully placed pop songs anywhere in this movie, which, now I think on it, is one of the ways his films in the past have been best able to escape their elaborate artifice to establish real emotion or human connection.

But the other, bigger issue here is tone [mild spoilers to follow]: The Grand Budapest Hotel felt to me like it’s heedlessly skating along the surface of tragedy. Even notwithstanding a dead cat joke which put me in a foul temper (too soon), there are stabs at black humor here — chopped off fingers, a decapitation, prison shivvings — which jar with the movie’s antic frivolity, and suggest black humor really isn’t Anderson’s forte. He’s fine at creating one particular, immediately identifiable as “Andersonian” tone, but apparently not so great at modulating it.

Along those lines, not that you can’t or shouldn’t make a comedy about the horrors of World War II, but I found something off-putting about, say, the cutesy alternate-universe Gestapo banners (“ZZ”) fluttering all through the hotel while our heroes are engaged in their latest madcap Keystone Kops chase. I’ve been short of sleep this week, so it may just be that I wasn’t in the mood for it. Still, for me, The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t take.

The Oceans Below.

“The discovery indicates that more water can be found throughout the transition zone — the portion of the Earth’s mantle where the diamond originated. One percent might not seem like a lot but, according to Pearson, ‘when you realize how much ringwoodite there is, the transition zone could hold as much water as all the Earth’s oceans put together.’”

They dug too greedily and too deep…In a small Brazilian diamond, scientists find some potential evidence of vast reservoirs of water deep below the Earth’s surface (otherwise known as R’lyeh, where dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.) The Abyss pic above notwithstanding, “geologist Hans Keppler told Agence France-Presse that scientists should be cautious in concluding so much from such a small sample, and adds that it is likely the water is trapped in molecular form in certain rocks.” (Via High/LowIndustrial.)

Dames, Drives, Doubles, Dollheads.

In the trailer bin, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, and Powers Boothe return to old haunts in the trailer for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, now also with Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Stacy Keach, Ray Liotta and Jeremy Piven. I quite enjoyed the first one back in 2005, but it’s been awhile, and Miller’s only gotten crazier in the duration. We’ll see.

He wore a mask for all of one film — For his next trick, he (apparently) never gets out of the car: Tom Hardy goes for a portentous drive in the atmospheric trailer for Stephen Knight’s Locke, also with Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott (a.k.a. Sherlock‘s Moriarty), Ruth Wilson (Luther‘s Alice), Ben Daniels, and Alice Lowe. Yeah, ok.

In another moody one-man show of sorts, Jake Gyllenhaal has a bit of a doppelganger problem in this look at Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, also with Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini. Let’s just hope it doesn’t fly off the rails in the final act like Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal’s Prisoners.

And finally, tear off your own head: it’s a doll revolution: Domnhall Gleeson tries to grok his bandmate Michael Fassbender’s penchant for papier mache in the quirky trailer for Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, also with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, Carla Aza and Francois Civil. But will Fassbender go the full Dredd?

Put the Needle on the Record.

“What can I say? God bless Elliott Smith. We had been talking to him during the course of that film, and he was really struggling. I just feel lucky. Once again, I think it’s Wes’s ability to work with music in a sequence. It’s just so powerful and so touching and so sad and so beautiful.”

Vulture talks about the music choices in twelve iconic Anderson scenes with longtime Wes Anderson collaborator and music supervisor Randall Poster, including Richie’s bad day, above, also channeled by sad Kermit, below.

Ryan: Still Clownshoes.

“[S]everal economists and social scientists contacted on Monday had reactions ranging from bemusement to anger at Ryan’s report, claiming that he either misunderstood or misrepresented their research…The Columbia researchers found that, using their model of the SPM, the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012. Ryan only cites data from 1969 onward, ignoring a full 36 percent of the decline.”

Still Clownshoes: Republican Serious Person™ Paul Ryan’s attempt to get super-serial about policy research turns out disastrously, as multiple authors he cites in his new anti-War on Poverty screed say that he’s misrepresented their work. “In my experience, usually you use all of the available data. There’s no justification given. It’s unfortunate because it really understates the progress we’ve made in reducing poverty.”

The above pic of the learned statesman in question via Mansplaining Paul Ryan dot tumblr dot com. Also, I see Jonathan Chait has already gone there, but this is the obvious movie reference here:

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