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Friday, January 31, 2014
MCWEENY ON 'CASUALTIES OF WAR'
EXAMINES THE FILM SCENE-BY-SCENE AS PART OF "MOVIE REHAB" SERIES
Drew McWeeny's Movie Rehab series examines Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War as a movie that got "lost in the tidal wave of Vietnam films in the late '80s." McWeeny goes through the film scene-by-scene, and says that David Rabe's screenplay "is beautifully structured, and far more than 'just' another movie about Vietnam."

After looking at the tunnel scene near the beginning of the film, McWeeny delves into the contrasting acting styles of Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn:

"One of the main reactions I heard from people who dismissed Casualties Of War during its theatrical run in August of 1989 was that they didn't want to watch Michael J. Fox in a Vietnam film, that they simply didn't believe he was right to be a soldier. Even then, I didn't buy that as a legitimate gripe. First, Fox is a good actor, and always has been. Second, Vietnam wasn't a particularly picky war in terms of who the Army was willing to send over, and if a guy like Fox had enlisted or been drafted, they would have sent him happily. I think De Palma and Rabe get the racial balance right in the film, and beyond that, I think it's a nice cross-section of types so that when things go south… and they do… it's not just an either/or situation between Eriksson and Meserve. The acting styles of Sean Penn circa-1989 and Michael J. Fox circa ever couldn't be more different, and I like that friction that seems to exist between them. There's this huge macho swinging dick energy that Penn gives off where he basically tries to annihilate Fox through sheer force of personality alone. The Fox casting not only is not a problem for me, it's one of the things I love about the film the most. I was thrilled that he decided to try and stretch and ended up working with one of my favorite filmmakers at the time, and I thought it paid off in a genuine tension onscreen."

McWeeny doesn't seem to be a fan of the "director's cut" version of the film, for which De Palma restored the scenes he'd reluctantly cut from Casualties for its initial release, and also doesn't think the ending works. "The rest of the movie feels anti-climactic, honestly," McWeeny writes, "including an interrogation scene with two guys questioning Eriksson exhaustively, trying to pick holes in his story that was added to the director's cut of the film that is the only DVD currently available. The courtroom scenes at the end are necessary, but it's the least interesting stretch of the film. The one great beat is watching the four of them march out of the court martial, and Meserve leans in to whisper something to Eriksson and then --

"--- and then comes the unfortunate coda, where De Palma reaches for some profound beat between Eriksson waking up on the train and following the girl out to return a scarf to her. It's supposed to offer him some sort of closure, but it doesn't work as a moment at all. I think sometimes an ending like this can deflate a film, and in the case of Casualties, it's hard to deny that things end with a fizzle. There's something very odd about the way De Palma dubbed Amy Irving's voice over the English dialogue by Thuy Thu Le, and the dialogue she has is corn of an almost preposterous degree."


Posted by Geoff at 1:22 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 1:23 AM CST
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Thursday, January 30, 2014
MASTER'S WEEKEND IN ICELAND
THREE DE PALMA FILMS: 'DRESSED TO KILL', 'SCARFACE', 'BLOW OUT'
Bíó Paradís in Reykjavik, Iceland, will screen a "Master's Weekend" trio of Brian De Palma films this weekend, all from the early 1980s: Dressed To Kill on Friday (January 31st), Scarface on Saturday (Feb. 1st), and Blow Out on Sunday (Feb. 2nd). The series has been programmed by Svartir Sunnudagar. We really like the artwork (at left) they put together to promote it.
(Thanks to Arni!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:11 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 11:15 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
'OUR HEROES' DIRECTOR LOVES MASKS, 'PHANTOM'
"A LOT OF FILMS THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH CINEMA FEATURED MASKS"


The title of David Perrault's wrestling noir Our Heroes Died Tonight is, according to AFI, an obscure reference to Robert Wise's The Set-Up, which was released in France under the title Our Heroes Won Tonight. Perrault tells Twitch's Ben Croll that the idea for Our Heroes originated from a picture he saw. "Masks always fascinated me," he explains to Croll. "They fired up my imagination, made me think about identity, and as a director, I simply found them visually interesting. Somehow, a lot of films that made me fall in love with cinema featured masks as well. Films like Phantom of the Paradise, Halloween, Eyes Wide Shut. I ate it up.

"So I stumbled on this picture where you saw a masked wrestler, sitting at a zinc bar in a typically Parisian bistro, sipping his red wine with a straw, and it blew me away. It looked like something out of a superhero movie directed by Jean Pierre Melville. As if a comic book character had ended up in a film noir. And that's it; I knew there was a film, so I started writing the script."


Posted by Geoff at 1:03 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Posted by Geoff at 9:56 PM CST
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Monday, January 27, 2014
PAUL WILLIAMS TALKS 'PHANTOM' POST-GRAMMYS
TELLS PRESS THAT DAFT PUNK & DEL TORO COLLABS ARE DIRECT RESULT OF 'PHANTOM'


Daft Punk's Random Access Memories won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year last night, and "the robots" left it to their collaborators Paul Williams and Nile Rodgers to speak in acceptance of the award (Pharrell Williams had already spoken on the robots' behalf for two other awards they had won earlier for the song Get Lucky). You can watch video of Williams' speech below.

Meanwhile, in the video above, at a press conference backstage following the ceremony, Williams is asked by a journalist if he ever spoke with Daft Punk about Phantom Of The Paradise. "You know, it’s interesting," Williams replies. "In 1974 I made a movie with Brian De Palma called Phantom Of The Paradise that nobody went to see in this country. [Laughing] I made movies and albums that even my family didn’t go to or buy, you know. But through the years there have been some people that have kind of discovered Phantom Of The Paradise. Two of the collaborations that I’m working on right now are direct results of Phantom Of The Paradise. One is the guys in Daft Punk saw Phantom Of The Paradise twenty times, and they loved the movie. I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth with Guillermo del Toro, and my whole relationship with Guillermo del Toro is based on his love for Phantom Of The Paradise. I’m writing that with Gustavo Santaolalla, who’s a brilliant, brilliant composer from Argentina. Yeah, my life’s pretty good right now, you know? My life’s pretty good right now. Thank you."

As reported earlier this month, Arrow Video's upcoming Blu-ray of Phantom Of The Paradise will include a 72-minute segment in which Guillermo del Toro interviews Paul Williams about the movie.


Posted by Geoff at 10:38 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 10:43 PM CST
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Posted by Geoff at 7:44 PM CST
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ANOTHER 'STAR WARS'-ERA PHOTO


The photo above was posted two days ago on the Twitter page of StarWars7783. The photo was taken in late 1979, and everybody looks pretty happy. Seated at the table (or squatting), from left to right, are Marcia Lucas, actress Verna Bloom, George Lucas, screenwriter Jay Cocks, and Nancy Allen. Standing from left to right are Paul Hirsch, Brian De Palma, and Paul Hirsch's wife, Jane.
(Thanks to Nancy Allen for filling in the gaps for us, and thanks also to Romain!)

Posted by Geoff at 1:51 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 1, 2014 1:33 AM CST
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Sunday, January 26, 2014
KOEPP'S CORNER: 'JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT'
CHANNELS 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE', 'CARLITO'S WAY'


Writing about Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, South Philly Review's Kurt Osenlund states that "Branagh’s approach helps at virtually every turn, from getting us through verbose debriefing scenes that might bog down the pace to de-cluttering Jack’s relationship to Cathy, who’s uncannily understanding of her partner’s secrecy, then brought into the fold for a remarkable con sequence (Branagh channels Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible, and that’s a huge compliment). Car chases are swift and compelling, scam specifics are choreographed with great sleekness, and in moments that need to underscore Jack’s dueling competence and inexperience, Pine delivers as a leading man."

And it turns out there is a good reason Branagh's film might channel De Palma's Mission: Impossible, because David Koepp was a key screenwriter on both projects. But the route taken by the Jack Ryan screenplay is an interesting one. Once upon a time, Adam Cozad wrote a spec script titled Dubai that made the Black List of best unproduced screenplays in 2007. Paramount (home of the Mission: Impossible franchise), looking to reboot a Jack Ryan franchise, bought Dubai and hired Anthony Peckham to rework it, and the title changed to Moscow, with Cozad doing another rewrite after Peckham. Interestingly, at that point, Paramount talked to Steven Zallian (who had worked with De Palma on the initial structure of Mission: Impossible) about working on the Moscow script, but he passed, and they then hired Koepp, who took over with gusto, working on it for well over a year with Branagh at the helm (Jack Bender had been the director initially attached in the early stages of the project).

I saw Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit yesterday, and liked it quite a bit. Branagh gives a terrifically strong performance as the Russian villain, there are some nicely-shot sequences, and the story is compelling enough, even with a typical time-bomb ending. Aside from the M:I-style con sequence mentioned above, I noticed a bit of dialogue that seems to echo De Palma's Carlito's Way, which was also written by Koepp. In Carlito's Way, after their little "boat ride," Carlito angrilly gives Kleinfeld some advice: "You ain’t a lawyer no more, Dave. You’re a gangster now. You’re on the other side. Whole new ball game. You can’t learn about it at school, and you can’t have a late start."

We posted last week some quotes from Kevin Costner about taking on the "Sean Connery mentor role" in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. In the film, after Jack Ryan has a deadly run-in with a baddie out to kill him, Costner's shadowy CIA agent tells him, "You're not just an analyst anymore. You're operational now." That clip is below:


Posted by Geoff at 11:14 AM CST
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Saturday, January 25, 2014
IF 33 FAMOUS MOVIES WERE MADE INTO TRILOGIES
AT CRACKED.COM



(Thanks to James!)

Posted by Geoff at 10:22 AM CST
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Friday, January 24, 2014
'24 EXPOSURES' - VAGUE ECHOES OF 'BLOW OUT'
ALSO HAS "DISORIENTING FAKEOUT" THAT IS "AS GRACEFUL AS DE PALMA"
Joe Swanberg shot 24 Exposures prior to last year's Drinking Buddies, but it is being released in theaters and VOD today. The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein says that while Swanberg "is on to something" in 24 Exposures, "unfortunately, this would-be erotic thriller is just too unfocused and slapdash to satisfy its promise. With vague echoes of such art-meets-murder films as Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up and Brian De Palma's Blow Out, Swanberg attempts to provoke and grip. But he fails on both counts in telling this tale of Billy (Adam Wingard), a 'personal fetish photographer' whose violence-laced work begins to parallel a murder being investigated by a depressed cop (Simon Barrett)."

The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl also finds the film's thriller/horror elements disappointing, and criticizes Swanberg's seeming use of nudity for nudity's sake. "Nobody's arguing that nudity precludes the possibility of serious artistic intent," states Scherstuhl, "except maybe those dopes who complain that the flesh bared on Girls doesn't seem to be there to inspire masturbation. 24 Exposures, on the other hand, seems crafted for viewers to watch with their hands in their pants. Yes, as the horny photographer and his girlfriend (Caroline White) hook up with their models, there are clever feints toward parody and criticism of godawful erotic thrillers, but the point of the many nude scenes never feels like anything more than the nudity. Swanberg has made an inspiring career out of rejecting the aesthetic crimes of Hollywood. It's dispiriting, then, that he so doggedly indulges in its tradition of male gazing. This is strict T&A, in a literal sense — just tits and ass, often gamely fondled.

"It's cheerful T&A, at least, and the women are allowed to be chatty, likable people, their characters always eager participants in their fetishization. If there's any artistic breakthrough it's in Swanberg's reclamation of the humanity of softcore, a project he's verged upon before: The women who get naked are the kind these indie filmmakers happen to know and like, a different set than the ones usually hired for movie erotica. Expect bobs, pores, nerves, and an affable freshness, and none of the steely, professional determination of the starlets of the Cinemax circuit. And don't expect to watch these women (all white) suffer acts of violence — there's none of that feeling, familiar from too many horror flicks, that at some level the filmmakers enjoy seeing women suffer.

"Granted, the female cast here all poses for Billy's crime-scene photo shoots, which involve ripped bras and tights, bathtubs of stage blood, and Laura Palmer–style corpse makeup. Since this is also something of a (gentle, self-referential, dissatisfying by design) horror film, those scenes of play-acted murder get juxtaposed against one that's meant to be real in the movie's story. It's a disorienting fakeout, as graceful as De Palma, and perhaps something of a commentary on the aestheticized sexual brutality of CSIs, SVUs, and every Shannon Tweed vehicle, but the deepest the movie digs into it is Billy admitting that he doesn't want to think too hard about what gets him off. (That could be the movie's thesis statement.)"

CraveOnline's Brian Formo adds that "there is a great Brian De Palma film within 24 Exposures. It is also filled with some perfectly framed De Palma moments: peering at women through blinds, sterile unfulfilling design of homes and offices, a third act that reveals that it never knew where to go with the narrative and explains it away in very writer-ly fashion."


Posted by Geoff at 1:51 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 25, 2014 11:01 AM CST
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