Just Another Reason Why He is the King of Hollywood

Recently my wife purchased the DVD "Something's Gotta Give", and while I wasn't jubilant I did want to see the movie, but for one reason.


After these years Nicholson has transcended the title "actor" and has become instantly iconic in most roles. Granted this one isn't as complex as he was in say "As Good as it Gets", but you feel you have to watch Jack on screen in every role simply by rote. He's a fixture, he's a man's man, and he still has the chops.

While "Something's" primarily a female targeted romance picture that is only because Jack chose to step aside when the time called for it and allowed the actresses to grab the heft of the script. The reason I even bring all this up is that in passing (technically, "in cleaning") I came to discover that the disc featured a pair of audio commentaries, one involving Nicholson sitting in with director Nancy Myers.

Listening to this master wax theoretic on the craft he's known for is enjoyable, but the best part comes very early, in the scene where he is initially driving into the Hamptons. He's smoking a cigar with Amanda Peete's character in the passenger seat, and Jack reveals a technique when he explains he was unhappy with the way the lightning made his neck look so he had the cigar to block the camera.

MYERS: I remember how many cigars you smoked that day.

NICHOLSON: Not enough.

A Look Into the Life of a Film Critic, or, "Did Anyone Really Ask for This?"

Last night I was having a talk with someone I had just met, and when it came out that I was a film reviewer I got this response: "Wow, you must get to see some really great movies!" Because I am polite I didn't laugh out loud. The truth of the matter is that quite the opposite is true. Rarely do I get to sit in on a well crafted cinematic effort, but this is not a complaint as most of the time I actively seek out the detritus of Hollywood and elsewhere.

While the occasional first-run movie falls into my lap and I get the chance to review it on Film Threat, the wide majority of the movies I critique come from other sources. Independant features and film festival features are some of the most fertile territories that I tread, but this can be a hit or miss proposition. While I desire the indie segment and savor the talent and guts that often is behind a film like this getting made, just as often you can sit through a completely misguided attempt.

Take my recent trip to Sundance where I experienced the broadest spectrum of quality in a concentrated time frame. One film from Italy, "Three Step Dancing", had me wondering why it was selected, as well as why it was even made. The worst of the lot was "Harry and Max", which if you dare to read the review will reveal that it centered upon incestuous homosexual pedophilia.

This movie made me hate.

Another area I've been known to frequent is the often aberrant sector of direct-to-rental releases. These are the films that for any number of reasons never got released into theaters and find their debut to the public taking place on the Blockbuster Video shelf. These can either be festival hopefuls that never found distribution, or lavishly produced pictures that turned out so wrong the studio decided to cut its losses and dump it into home theater, or even those films produced on the cheap with the express purpose of turning a quick dollar in the rental market. In most of these cases the quality is nonexistent; this is not a place to enter into lightly.

My last stream of product comes via the web site itself, a source that I simply will call The Box. Every two months or so I will put the word out to my editor and soon in the mail I will receive a parcel from them containing up to 2 dozen tapes and DVDs. Film Threat, and our publisher Chris Gore, has a high degree of admiration in the indie film community. This was evident when walking Main Street in Park City behind Chris as he was perpetually confronted by those who recognized him.

Even at our festival last year I experienced this effect. I was sitting with a cameraman/producer friend of mine who came in from upstate and we met a woman doing PR for one of the films entered. I explained how I wouldn't have the chance to see the film and asked if a screener copy was available. She scoffed at me, using a patronizing tone to lecture me on the risk of piracy. I shrugged at her and simply told her I had hoped to post a review of it on Film Threat. The woman's eyes snapped wide and in the next 5 minutes she returned to our table three times to explain that she had spoken with the director, then to deliver a press kit, and finally to hand me a copy of the film. My friend marveled at this display and remarked that if I tried I could be a real asshole with this power. (I thanked him for suggesting I wasn't currently an asshole.)

So back to The Box. Because of this clout the offices of the web site get besieged with unsolicited copies of movies from hopeful film makers looking for a break. I once saw a picture of their room where mail bins and five feet tall piles of tapes and discs were stored. This was only what they average on a monthly basis. When I put in for my next delivery they take a snow shovel and scoop up part of the pile and ship it my way. The best way to describe the overall quality of these attempts is that my dog will not go near The Box when it comes in. Daunting is but one word to use when delving into the contents.


The Rance id

It was near the start of this space that I came across another contributor in the blogosphere hiding behind the sobriquet of Rance. He/she purported to be a star of obscure fame and used the blog to expound on issues they normally wouldn't have the freedom to discuss.

It was a fun read for a time, for even while you thought it was a scam it was that small grain of possibility that made it addictive enough to come back, even if you thought you were probably being played. But over time the lack of true heft to the postings began to ironically weigh down the proceedings, and interest began to wane for me. Then there was the moment I felt certain it was an all out ruse: Rance was unclear on the location of Spago! The Masked Star claimed to be mistaken due to his being unaffected by such things as when they closed one of Puck's places, but if Rance is the mover Rance claims to be there should be an agent around to keep this kind of information at the fore. I subsequently moved on.

Then suddenly Rance became a hot topic in the linked realm. Everyone it seemed was speculating who was the true identity behind the Oz like visage, with naming the luminary becoming the new parlor game of the ethernet. Guesses ranged from all around, with names such as Owen Wilson or George Clooney being alluded. Defamer had an interesting bit that inferred it could be the devilish Sr. Affleck, based on a puzzle that might have incorporated a tattoo he is adorned with. But I seem to recall that tatt was seen in a Rolling Stone article and therefore common knowledge, i.e. not so revelatory.

Last week Reuters jumped onto the bandwagon and jumped the shark at the same time when they published an extensive interview with the nebulous star. This mercifully could bring about the end.

And if not maybe the Museum of Hoaxes can. In a compelling and detailed account they seem to have tracked down Rance's trail to that of a political cartoonist and former European minor league baseball player named Keith Thompson. I hope they are correct,if for no other reason than to make the rest of the world look like simps.

He Was in "Gigli" So Why Not The Food Network?

When it comes to unhinged and downright curious screen actors I defy you to name one more obtuse than Christopher Walken. No matter the movie, and no matter the role, you cannot help but watch him when he is on camera. Between that warbling diction and the thousand-peyote-button stare you get mesmorized against your will.Walken has become an icon even though he largely plays himself in every role, but it is the way he plays with his image and what that image brings to his portrayal that makes him work. Think of his character, the duplicitous father Frank Abignale in "Catch Me if You Can, who would have merely been a pathetic grifter in the hands of any other actor.

The New York Times Magazine has a four page article on Walken that is well worth the registration to read. In the opening paragraph alone they offer a scenario that would be impossible to avoid should it come to fruition:
For years, the painter and director Julian Schnabel, a longtime friend of Walken's, has urged the actor to be the host of his own cooking show. This could be more captivating than his turn as a loopy dancer in a music video.
''The danger for me is, it could be popular,'' Walken says. ''I've tried to have some prestige as an actor, then I'd be the guy with the cooking show.'' This is the same guy who appeared in "Kangaroo Jack" not to mention a David Spade movie, "Joe Dirt"--a cooking show would be a step up.

But there are more nuggets to be found in this piece. He mentions a time where he tried out a personal therapist who worked out of her home--
''She had all these pots and pans and dishes piled everywhere. She was dirty, dirty. I thought, How am I going to take advice from someone like that? Not surprisingly it didn't take. "That was the end of my shrinkage. Maybe if she had been clean and nice I'd still be in therapy.'' This makes for a nice read to kick off the week.


Another Divorce Where the Kids Will Suffer

After a long bout of speculation early this year Pixar Animation decided to sever its relationship with Disney and either partner with a new studio or simply strike out on its own. This surprised few people as Pixar's magic has been the sole dose of quality in an otherwise unspectacular field of animation releases from Disney. From a negotiation standpoint this has left Pixar sitting pretty, but Disney may be trying to get a small dose of revenge.

Michael Eisner this past week confirmed that the House of Mouse is planing to release a series of sequels based on their past Pixar successes, sequels being something of a cash cow in recent years. With a new release looming on the horizon
Pixar CEO Steve Jobs was underwhelmed to hear of Disney's move.
"We feel sick about Disney doing sequels because if you look at the quality of their sequels ... it's been pretty embarrassing."
That may not be the only thing to cause the gritting of teeth. The arrangement stipulates that, despite having written the stories and created those characters, Pixar will only receive 8% of the royalties from any such title.


Indie Angst is a Guy Thing

Here is an object lesson from the indie world. Guy Pearce stunned a crowd during a press stop for his latest release "A Slipping Down Life" when he referred to one of the film's executive producers with an unclinical term for the female anatomy (the same word Larry David ended up printing in an obituary when he misspelled "aunt" on "Curb Your Enthusiasm".) The reason behind the less-than-dashing and more-than-vitriolic apellativewas the rather troubled history behind the film's eventual release after being recognized as a quality film festival selection.

"Slipping" was initially a featured selection in the 1999 Sundance Film Festival but after generating some distributer interest the executive producer--there were two, and everyone seems mum on indentifying who is the culprit--took controll of the picture and re-edited it for commercial value. The stars and director balked at backing the movie at that point and it grew mold awaiting a deal. Said producer eventually defaulted on payment and a bank took the reigns, eventually selling the rights, and the original cut, to Lion's Gate Films.

Now with the cast and crew back on board the movie is getting the proper push. It expands this week from 5 to 6 screens. So much for Sundance momentum.

Michael Jackson--VARIETY Headline Writer

We can only hope that someone at Variety lost their job over this
misstep. Of course if
Paul Newman elects to sue all damages will go to charity.

IDP in Beef With MTV Over Fast-Food Movie

This past week I've been talking with distributor IDP Distribution before getting shut-out of acquiring "Supersize Me" at our theater. IDP has been busy with a wrestling match with MTV over running commercials for the movie.

The film is expanding to nearly 150 theaters this week and is doing quite well on a per-screen average, grossing over $3 million so far, which is rather huge for an indie documentary. With the growth of screens IDP was vying for some national exposure on the music channel, but the reasons for the lack of spots running is hard to glean with both sides pointing fingers. IDP contends that MTV was worried the commercials would upset their cash cow of fast-food advertisers. They also say they were told that edits had to be made to the spots if they were going to run on the network.

MTV responded by saying that they "suggested" changes be made, but in the end agreed to run the commercials. Rather than running the ads, says the network, IDP elected to issue press releases. (Natch, this is what's referred to as free publicity.) IDP then states they were never informed of the approval and that MTV only made that announcement once the press release went out.

MTV answered with "No way!!", IDP issued a statement saying, "You totally did!", then MTV released an official comment of "Fine, what-ever". The IDP press office responded with "MTV is completely Durst.", and the network went on the record saying "You are SO not running your ads here!"

One of the reasons MTV purportedly wanted to edit the commercial was a shot of director Morgan Spurlock getting physically sick while eating burgers. Because MTV has such high standards against such content. Or else Steve-O has a contractual stipulation that only he can instigate reverse peristalsis on camera.


Something to Make Israelis Grateful Towards the Palastinians

And, because of a ban, they figured this out without seeing "Body of Evidence".

On the heels of Brittany's laughable "Onyx Hotel" tour her vulgarian idol Madonna is hitting the road with her own traveling circus, "The Who Asked For It?" tour. Or rather, she's calling it the "Re-Invention Tour", which may be her most honest appraisal of her career. She's also experiencing numerous snags, a-la Ms. Spears.

On her second stop in L.A. she had to cancel due to a stomach flu. Then word came that she was cancelling 3 stops in Israel after she received credible death threats from Palestinian terrorists. A source from the Madonna camp said, "She thought she was being targeted because of her Jewish Kabbalah religion."
You know, because when we think of Madonna we think of a deeply religious woman.

This same source tried to explain the Hamas hatred. But this group were threatening her (sic) because she represents many things they hate about the West. Tough to gripe about that reasoning. Her filmography--from "Shanghai Surprise" to her most recent wreckage, "Swept Away" is enough to have her dragged into the International Court in The Hague.


Now Your Cargo Shorts Will Need Another Pocket for the Remote

Right after the United Nations stepped in to bring an end to the hostilities of Battle Bots comes a movie to once again bring divisiveness to the arena of automatons. July 16 will see the release of the film "I, Robot", (Flash intensive) a story in which a mechanized serf is accused of murder, a violation of Isaac Asimov's 3 laws of robots. I never gave these laws much weight. When you have kids who can program a computer to mail them updates every time a photographer gets a picture of Brittany Spears falling out of her dress what is to keep someone from sending a robot out to dispose of that neighbor who runs his leaf blower at 7:00 in the morning on Saturday?)

Fox has come up with a unique marketing ploy to push the Will Smith film. They have people walking about with T-shirts implanted with an 11 inch television monitor and speakers. The idea, hatched by a San Francisco ad firm called Brand Marketers, involves having hired hands--referred to as "brand Ambassadors"--walk around clusters of people in malls and comic book conventions while the movie trailer plays on their shirts. I would guess that there are limitations to prospective hirees. After all if you have an "ambassador" who is, shall we say, particularly enhanced or endowed their physique would throw off the aspect ratio. Unless you want the anamorphic effect.


At Cannes That's a Rappes

I honestly had no intention of including yet another Michael Moore reference in this space but then the Jury of the Cannes Festival went ahead and granted the corpulent chronographer the coveted Palme d'Or, so I have to at least give him passing mention.

The amusing part in all of this is that in accepting the award Moore mentioned that he had no intention of having politics be his motivator and wanted to concentrate on film making. "If I wanted to make a political speech, I'd run for office. I'm a filmmaker, and I wanted to make a movie for people to go see it." Then he expressed his wishes for the film to get a quick release and the put out on DVD before the November election. Because it is not political, you see.

Quentin got his opinion heard on the jury as "Old Boy", the violent Asian film took second place, which in Cannes is the Grand Prize. Go figure.


Danny Ocean on the Other Side of the Pond

George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh teamed a few years for the hyper-slick heist remake of "Ocean's 11" and delivered a great picture. Sure it was a big puffy meringue of a movie, but it dodged being a stupid and bloated affair by sporting a decent script and packing the cast with varied professionals who had fun giving solid performances.

The success of the movie would certainly cause a studio to salivate at the promise of a sequel, but the difficulty of bringing the 12 principals back for a redux is eased by the fact that Clooney and Soderbergh's production company Section 8 are behind this, and the entire crew wants to work together again. This time the effort takes place in Europe with them hitting 3 major cities. A new poster has just come out, looking very close in style to their original, indicating a continuation of the same quality.

One piece of originality in marketing involves the European backdrop. The film is actually working with a team on the Formula-1 circuit, acting as primary sponsor for one of the Jaguar racers. Their debut is this weekend in Monaco.


A Hop,Skip, and a Jump-Cut Gets Vincent Gallo Distribution

Everyone pretty much agreed last year's Cannes Festival stank like a chunk of Brie left out in the sun on the Riviera. Evidence of this was that the biggest story to come out of the fiasco surrounded Vincent Gallo and his disastrous film, "The Brown Bunny",starring himself and Chloe Sevigny.

After, and often during viewings, audiences railed against the atrocity on film, and the usually unhinged Gallo was especially charged up as a result.

He raged that the film wasn't finished yet (begging the question "Why submit it then?"--or better yet, "Why accept it in the festival then?")The best result of the whole affair was a protracted feud that evolved between Gallo and Roger Ebert,(shown here doing his best Tom Wolfe impression on the Croisette.) Many people here in the States expressed regret that they would miss out on this event--people like myself who delight in viewing a cinematic train wreck. Then something happened.

Gallo brought his rotten-tailed film to the Toronto FF and the trimmed down version received--well, a different response. Phrases like "It provoked only mild backlash" and, "It received a far less incendiary reception and reaction" were regarded as raves. But those of us hoping to see it deflated slightly at the idea of a reworked and watchable version. Now word is out that independent distributor Wellspring will bring it into theaters this fall with a home release slated for next year. We can only hope they are brave enough to provide the original cut among the DVD extras. Vincent I'm sure will nix that idea, however.


From Alexandras to Z-Channel

I didn't want to be like every other blog on the planet and give a link to the photo of John Kerry's daughter in the gossamer evening gown. But I will anyway. The thing I have to question--apart from "What the hell does this have to do with John Kerry's campaign?"--is how can anyone position this as a mistake? Most reports detail how the bright lights accidently made Alexandra's assets shine through, but she is a film director--ergo, she should be well versed in the science of lighting and the effects it has on wardrobe. Of course it could also mean she isn't that sharp of a director.

For me however all of this attention is misdirected, so to speak, as the young Ms. Kerry is not the only film maker named Alexandra we should pay attention to in France. Alexandra Cassavetes--known as Xan--is the daughter of indie legend John and she doesn't make short films like the Senatorial progeny. She has entered a feature length documentary, "Z Channel:A Magnificent Obsession", and I might even add that she would be the preferrable choice to be seen in transluscent trappings. The Z Channel was a pay movie channel available in select portions of LosAngeles during the 70's and 80's. It enjoyed a cult following for years as the channel's film loving programmer played what one fan described as a daily film festival.

The documentary is receiving plenty of attention at Cannes and the hope is that it will play the American Festival circut, and I'll lobby our director--who is in Cannes--to bring it in to our festival this year. The only question is that it was financed by IFC Films and they may choose to play it as an original programming selection.


Quentin Crackles on Croisette

They had to know this was going to happen. Cannes has reached its halfway point and one item has dominated headlines thus far: Jury President Quentin Tarantino.

His opening Fest speech was subdued--for Quentin--as he mugged and behaved in his hyperkinetic fashion. But then he ramped up the amp during the Jury Press conference when he and fellow juror Tilda Swinton got into a verbal dust-up over Hollywood movies. She decryed the industrialization of cinema and he asked of her why so many Brits dart off for Beverly Hills the moment they make some serious coin in their career.

Tarantino's "Kill Bill Pt.2" was also released at Cannes to rave audiences, leading many to speculate that the ultra-violent Korean entry "Old Boy" could appeal enough to Quentin to win the Palme d'Or. If that is not enough activirt he has told the press about an upcoming biker picture he is set to make with Michael Madsen and , and he reiterated his wish to direct a James Bond flick. Finally he had the press all a flitter when they revealed he was sharing a suite with fellow auteur Sofia Coppola. (Their kid would surely be somebody who belongs behindthe camera.

No matter your opinion on the guy you have to give him credit for making Cannes something to pay attention to this year


Prediction from the Cinematic Seer Comes True!

It was days ago that The Mother Scratcher made this bold prediction:
Things you can count on the next 12 days--French critics and press doing backflips over Michael Moore's trashing of America

Well yesterday the vaticination bore out when Moore received a lengthy standing ovation following the screening of his anti-Bush polemic "Fahrenheit 9/11". Yes, this Pavlovian response was pretty much a guarantee, but this blog will still lay claim to the credit. After all, we were willing to go ahead and put it in writing.

Over the weekend was another occurrence we could have called--Moore taking to the streets alongside the striking French film workers. Mike gave a speech where he proclaimed,
A job is a human right, a living wage is a human right. This is a human right.
The distinction here is that Moore was not marching with mill workers and pipe-fitters who were hoping for a raise to afford better clothes for their kids. These are entertainment employees, many of them actors, who are upset that their "right" to work 3 months and get paid for the entire year was being limited. They were mad at the government though so Moore felt right at home. For a guy who always looks cranky while in the States he is grinning like a 6 year old while in Europe.

And this makes sense. It was reported that his film "Bowling for Columbine" made $120 million, but less than $22 mill of that was from American theaters.


John May be Forced to Water Down His Movie

The Sultan of Trash, John Waters, has a new experience to contend with. His upcoming picture, "A Dirty Shame" has just been given the "NC-17" tag from the MPAA. The movie is about a Baltimore woman, played by Tracy Ullman, who suffers a concussion and is transformed into a sex addict.

With all the controversey Waters has stirred up in the past--especially fave actor Divine gormandizing on offal--it seems amazing he has never garnered such a harsh rating, but the relatively new "NC-17" tag came about once Waters turned towards releasing more mainstream fare. After all, who would have thought a Waters film would have ever been brought to the stage?

Treatment Engine Pt.2

A semi-irregular assessment of proof that there are new ideas in Hollywood based on some of the scripts recently purchased in Dreantown, USA.

Robbin Hoodz-- With his movie career in stasis--and no new episodes of ABC's The Mole on the horizon--Stephen Baldwin is looking to move behind the camera--or more accurately, he thankfully won't be in front of the camera. Odd that he dreams up a tale of a Mexican-American "skating protege'" who has a scheme to save the skateboard park where he skates. Baldwin to direct. But first he is looking for a co-writer to craft a script.

Door to Door--Brittany Spears is pegged to produce and star in this follow up to "Crossroads", which was about a young girl who takes to the road to become a famous singer. This is about a young girl who takes to the road to become a famous actress, so it is completely different. The girl starts dating a movie star, but rather than getting her a role in his films he gets her a job as a door person at a nightclub. This ends up being her path to stardom. Like the predecessor this too will come via MTV Films.

The Man Who Kept Secrets--Here is one to get excited about. The script is based on a Vanity Fair article about Hollywood lawyer Sidney Korshak. Produced by Robert "the Kid" Evens and Brian Grazer, William Friedkin is set to direct, with venomous penman James Ellroy writing. Try to keep me away.

Brat Farrar--Toss this log into the Affleck chipper. Live Planet picked up this script about the antics of a wealthy family battling over the father's inheritence. Ben's bud Chris Moore is among the producers.

Mexican Rodeo-- Since I can't do better, here's the actual description: A talented Rodeo Clown is thrown off the Circuit after the President of the Rodeo gets tired of his arrogant antics. Alienated from all the luxuries and friends he once knew, his life falls apart. Facing jail time after making some bad decisions, he flees to Mexico, where he meets up with a kindred spirit, an old bull fighter, who helps the ex-rodeo clown to realize his true calling as a Matador. They left off the tag line, "Based on the play by William Shakespeare."

3 Day Test--Though listed as a comedy this sounds horrific. An acoountant loses his mind 3 days before Christmas and torments his family. Now the horror: It is written and to be produced by Corbin Bernsen, and is set to star 13 assorted soap opera stars. Be very afraid.

Runner Up--A contestant from a beauty pagant is sentenced to community service. Her solution is to stage a pagant inside a women's prison. Single Cell Productions bought this script which means Michael Stipe is producer. Yes,that Michael Stipe.


Scattershot Entries

Much to discuss and yet nothing warranted a post unto itself. Thus, a buffet of blogosphere bunkum.

Dunkin Donuts Is Next: The documentary "Super Size Me" gets its national release today, expanding to 113 screens, and you can follow along with director Morgan Spurlock as he plugs his film. As of now I hear there is no screening scheduled in Florida so we here at the theater are looking into bringing it in.

Proof There is a God--And He Punishes: The most uncalled for sequel...EVER! Word escaped that for reasons nobody can fathom a sequel is slated for "Deuce Bigalow: Male Giggalo". As if you needed evidence of this being a disaster a list of insurrections already promised is offered: Rob Schneider will both reprise and co-write the script, the director Mike Bigelow will make his debut after being a commercial lenser, and it will co-star box office poison Eddie Griffin. You know, in other countries this is considered a war crime.

Can't Miss the Single Entendre: There has been an upheaval about the Olsen Twins appearing in a new "Got Milk" ad, specifically what those moustaches could be interpreted as representing, now that they are nearly 18. My outrage is more esoteric. Who does Ashley think she is fooling wearing a shirt with the Velvet Underground's Warhol Album cover? Lou Reed has Honda Scooters that are older than the twins.

Still Too Classy an Event for Him:Tom Green, who has made a career out of killing his career, has seen himself marginalized as much as he can be in movies. He is hosting a show celebrating movie trailers.


Catch it if You Cannes

Today is the start of the world's most prestigious and nebulous film event, The Cannes Film Festival. Basically the streets in France will be lined with thousands of film lovers who have absolutely no chance of seeing a film. Things you can count on the next 12 days:

* French critics and press doing backflips over Michael Moore's trashing of America.

* Quentin Tarantino behaving like an audio-visual geek amped up on Red Bull.

* Members of the foreign press straining all lines of convention to justify a story that requires shooting footage at a topless beach.

There has been a great deal of hand wringing in France that the film employees of that country are going to stage a bit of a protest over their cut in government benefits. It seems for years France has supported the arts by literally supporting their artists. There has long been a program whereby workers in films and other performance arts could actually work a fraction of the year and collect unemployment for the duration.

Now that program is to be overhauled because of rampant abuse and the largesse is being trimmed severely, although severe is up for interpretation. Talk to a twenty-something thespian working three jobs in L.A. while hoping to land a speaking part in a Viagra commercial and see how much sympathy you get from him.

A Call for Films That Kick Butts

Touching on an issue that is significant to me.
There are hearings taking place in the hallowed halls of D.C. this week to look into a social scourge. In the wake of the indecency controversies in television and radio recently Washington is tackling another serious issue that plays out on screen:SMOKING.

Apparently responding to hordes of consumer advocacy groups--or some crank in his basement with a fax machine--Congressional hearing were held to look into the possibility of designating a film depicting smokers as "Rated R".
The quotes from "experts" tells the story.

Senator John Ensign from Nevada asked this of Jack Valenti: Why is it OK to modify it for nudity, for language, but it's not OK to modify it for tobacco? Apparenty Ensign equates cigarettes and guns in the same level.
Unfortunately, the current movie rating system does not protect children from seeing their favourite actors and actresses smoking in movies," Cheryl Healton, president of the anti-tobacco group American Legacy Foundation, said in a statement.
Note the not too subtle implication that it should "protect" the children from "seeing" pictures.

A few things. Can you not still see smokers on television programs? So something that belongs in an "R" rated movie is fine for prime time. Also, if my daughter is walking down the street and sees a violent act, or even two people engaged in sex, that is against the law. Her viewing a cigar smoker in a public locale is perfectly legal. So far.
There is another can of worms regarding classic movies. Imagine the idiocy of "Casablanca" becoming off limits to young-uns because Bogey sparked a nail. You also have to include music videos with role models who are consuming legal substances, (at least on screen). And what about those instances where cartoons have characters enjoying a fat roll?


Skirts Are The New Codpiece

Don't get me wrong, I like self confidence as much as any other testosterone choked trog. But Brad Pitt may be a little caught up in his assuredness with the upcoming epic "Troy". In discussing the historical film he declares that it will be the catalyst in a fashion movement--men wearing skirts.

Pitt declares that "Men will be wearing skirts by next summer." To paraphrase that great thinker Arthur Bach: They'd have to be real big men. Pitt's prognostication however won't stand up to introspection. Look at some recent examples of men waging fierce battle in knee-length fashions--Oscar winners both--and no subsequent haberdasher shift was trumpeted in Esquire. In fact, if seeing these movies inspired donning a tartan ensemble the public reaction would certainly mean you would want to also imitate defense strategies that were featured.

Going on a limb I'll state there are truly only two instances where pulling on such an outfit is permissible. One, you are of Scottish decent and are attending a wedding or wake concerning said clan. Second, you are at an outlandish bacchanal and said skirt is fashioned from grass. Otherwise you can end up looking a tad out of style.


The Spidey That Came in From The Cold

Outrage swirled around major league baseball last week. Was it steroid engorged players? Profligate pricing policies around the ballparks? Pitchers committing attempted assault with a slider? No, furor grew out of the sport's leaders giving in to advertising greed for the upcoming "Spiderman 2".

In a multi-million dollar agreement baseball stadiums will be adorned with numerous insignia from the movie, but what really tore it for baseball purists was the idea that an advertisement would appear on the bases as well. This I had much curiosity about, because essentially the target demographic were positional
players and those hitters with a decent batting average who would reach base. (Derek Jeter probably won't hear about this movie.)

I love the idea of people talking about how advertising will somehow sully the game of baseball. Players even shook their heads at the owner's greed, while wearing free cleats from Nike, for which they receive a check. Explain how a sticker on the hot corner at Quaalcom Park during a Nextel "Call to the bullpen" following a "This Bud's for You!" home run which is being replayed on the Coca-Cola Jumbotron.

Things could have been even worse actually. One of the ideas proposed by Sony, (the company releasing the film) was to change the safety netting behind home plate into a spider's web with the logo present. Now that might have been cool. Sammy Sosa fouls one straight back and the ball sticks right there on the web, with a local actor in the Spidey costume who has to climb up and retrieve it. Now I guess we'll have to watch the game.


Ducka You Head, Lollobrigida

With a war raging in the Gulf and the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing the Canadian Parliment was tackling the tough issues--how to pronounce the name of an Italian septugenarian actress. Not properly schooled on the intricacies of North-of-the-border politics I can only speculate what the hell parliment members were doing discussing Gina Lollobrigida.

Apparently one member "accused" a former minister of "rubbing shoulders with aging Italian sex kitten Gina Lollobreegeeda." One of the ministers called him an "idiot" because of the mispronunciation, and then the accuser apologized for offending "the aging sex kitten community," in the most sincere of tones. I'm going to go on a limb here and declare that once you cross the 3/4 century mark you may still be considered a beauty, but you should forfeit the right to be declared a sex-kitten. My take.

I look forward to the day my child can open a news paper and see an exchange like this in our own Congress:

Trent Lott III: I am dismayed to find I have seen reports that the former director of the Dept. of Transportation was seen on the town with that movie star minx DEM-y Moore while her husband Haley Joel Osmet was in California accepting his Oscar!

Tom Daschle Jr: Lott you imbecile! It's pronounced Dem-EE!

Lott III: I'm sorry if I offended the surgically augmented senescent stripper community."

Nah, it must be a Canadian thing.


A Day To Doff the Britches and Knickers

I still haven't recovered from Cinco de Mayo and now I am forced to drop trou?

Finally a holiday I can get behind. Today is National No Pants Day, a time of year where people can stage their own boxer rebellion, sporting events see more fan adulation than usual, and email boxes may be filled with web cam images of defrocked lovers from states away. I make a pledge that I might participate in this event when I begin to see appropriate participation from all ranges of the social fabric.

As we all know however these events normally mean we get treated to those we would rather see wearing more clothes, not less.


Big Deal, Today is 5 of May

For reasons only the gurus at Corona and Tostitos can explain millions of American xenophobes will take this day to embrace the culture of another country. More accurately, they will take the occasion of a barely understood holiday from South-of-the-Border to ingest copious amounts of tequila, further depleting the dwindling agave harvest. I'm not close to being Mexican and I still resent the eradication of national fauna in order to guild the vaults of Sammy Hagar.

It might not be a bad idea to avoid streets choked with collegians polluted with Dos Equis and secretaries made amorous by 3-for-1 margaritas. You can go two routes. There is the Orson Welles classic "Touch of Evil". Just don't giggle at Chuck Heston in the role of Ramon Miguel Vargas. If you want spicy you could go with "Y tu Mama Tambien" Stylish action more your speed, pick one of the Robert Rodriguez trilogy. Personally I say go with a great story of unrequited love, "Like Water for Chocolate". The book was infinitely better than "Bridges of Madison County", (but so are the Yellow Pages) and the film is beautifully shot while staying faithful to the story.


How Bond Gets The Women--Hint: It Ain't the Tux

Scandalous was the word years back when it was announced that ultra-spy and alpha-male role model James Bond was ditching his Aston Martins and was set to drive a BMW in the newer action epics. Sure they are great to sport around in, especially when outfitted with the Non-factory options courtesy of Q, but a new survey proves that the real reason behind the Bavarian selection is that it draws the women.

The laugher of this study is that at the bottom of the list was Porsche. Some may argue this to be due to the abscense of a backseat worthy of some rest stop action, but I offer that this supports the theory that drivers of these cars are engaged in a desperate act of compensation. You have to love that these lonely hearts would have been seeing more attention if they had saved money and bought a Volkswagen.

This information also may throw a new angle on the sweepstakes to replace Brosnan as Bond. The star of "Croupier", Clive Owen was among the first names to be mentioned as the new Bond, and as you may recall he played the the title role of "The Hire", the stylish collection of short films by...BMW Films. At least we know that if Clive does not get the role he will still get the lady.


Entreaty for Elephant's Emotional Easement

As if the end of "Sex and the City" wasn't hard enough on the girls, a pair of elephants from an LA zoo have been seperated and now a judge is stepping in to determine if this bond breaking isn't causing depression in an African elephant named Ruby at the Knoxville zoo. Ruby was brought in as part of a breeding program but she has not been as amorous as officials had hoped (That's Cattral with the esplendido). I could have told them that--when you come between your woman and her best friend she will resent you for it. Easily the best line is this quote from a Humane Society spokesperson:

"As far as I'm concerned, it's the first time in America that we've had a Superior Court judge bend over backwards to see if an elephant is happy." (What is the opposite of writer's block, when you have so much you can say that nothing can get out?)

As an attempt to alleviate the stress I posit that they smear some peanut butter on a remote and see if Ruby could be consoled with a feature that has a comedian in it, like Dennis Leary, or maybe Bill Murray.

If that fails I say get her liquored up. I doubt you could afford enough Cosmopolitans to lift the spirits of a 5 ton leviathon, but you could start with a 6-pachadyrm of beer. (Shut-up, like you could resist using that line.) I know just the brand they can use. You need to be careful of the amounts however, as bad things can happen when they get drunk.

The natural question of course is what does an inebriated elephant see when it hallucinates?


The Cheesecake Factor

Bettie Page has to be considered the quintessential pin-up model in this country. She had huge popularity in the tight-sphincter era of the 1950's but she may be even more popular these days. Bettie broke barriers, incurred the wrath of congress, and appeared in and on everything from magazines, movies, album covers, and adolescent imagination.

She inspires many to emulate her today, including a new generation of performers (and their movie), including the reigning queen, Dita VonTeese. I like Bettie for the sheer volume of undergarments she incorporated in her voluminous portfolios. Garters and stockings were a given, but there was all manner of lingere', gloves, diaphanous delicates, and yes corsets as well.

Work is underway to make a feature film about the photogenic poser and you have to feel good that Gretchen Mol is picked for the lead. I first noticed her as Matt Damon's arm candy in the excellent "Rounders", and lately she has been a key player for Neil LaBute. It will be interesting to see how the flaxen femme appears as the raven-haired model.


SE7EN, Coming Out

All right, it is already released, but the title wouldn't have sounded as good. After some searching I finally wrangled a copy of the new Platinum Edition of "SE7EN" and I am still pouring through the myriad options. This is an edition for film obsessives like myself, but if you have even a passing interest in movies beyond something to occupy yourself while eating popcorn you should grab this 2 disc set.

David Fincher became a star director as a result of this effort, and for good reason. While Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt both do excellent work it is clear the star of this show is Fincher. From his visuals to the intricately staged sets it is a film to absorb with repeat viewings.

"SE7EN" is the kind of movie that begs to be fetishized and this package provides the goods for forensic viewing. There are four full-length commentary tracks: One with the stars, the second has a large number of the production staff, the third has the cinematography team, and the last has the sound technicians, with Fincher sitting in on all four tracks. There is also an exploration of the revolutionary title sequence and a detailed account of the creation of John Doe's obsessive notebook's.

This is as close as I get to slobbering fanboy adulation with a movie. I've had to towel off the drool on the remote a few times already. There is set to be a sequel--"SE7EN2" if you can believe it. Freeman is back, Fincher is a maybe, and Ted Griffin who wrote "Ocean's Eleven" is behind the story. I'll reserve judgement while not getting my hopes up.


The Big Bunny is Back

There is no set formula for creating a cult movie, but you can positively say the movie "Donnie Darko" fits the definition. Originally appearing at Sundance in 2001 it was released later that year and took in only half a million at the gate. However it found new life on DVD, grossing $10 million on disc as well as achieving that primary cult signifier by becoming ensconced in the midnight movie schedule in some of the bigger cities.

New Market Films is planning to bring "Darko" back to the bigger screens with a platformed rerelease. Starting next month at the Seattle Film Festival it will roll out from there. To get a feel for the movie (if not an idea) check out the film's immersive web site--only if you have the time and patience.


God Save the Script

When I first heard the news I cringed at the thought, but when I saw the source I blanched at the reality. The autobiography of John Lydon--better known as Johnny Rotten--titled "No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs" is, according to the Sex Pistols frontman, set for the screen. But that is not the stunner.

The name that springs up to play Rotten on camera--Justin Timberlake. As stunning as the idea of an industry hellspawn from a boy band playing a key figure in the anti-establishment iconic band even more surprising is that this idea comes from Lydon himself! And someone please explain this tidbit to me please:
he (Timberlake) agreed to play the former Sex Pistol as long as Rotten stays away from the set.
Because Justin is such a serious thespian? At this point I'm guessing that this is all a load of bullocks and Johnny is pulling off another one of his swindles.

Take my advice: if Justin gets anywhere near a Rotten leather jacket turn away and settle for the Julien Temple documentary "The Filth and the Fury".


School of Hard Knoxville

I could never be a studio exec who greenlights films. Drop two pitches for comic book scripts on my desk and I would have opted for the guy who has his entire life uprooted and becomes an unrepentantly violent vigilante over the tale of Nazis who bring one of Lucifer's spawn to this Earth to win WW2 only to see him shave off his horns and use his cement hand to battle crime. Yet "Hellboy" has done admirably at the cinema while "The Punisher" has dropped 60% of its BO take in week two. Both however will be hard pressed to make back their budgets.

Not a comic fan myself the one graphic novel I was taken with--primarily due to my prediliction for things Polynesian--is called "Hawaiian Dick". Not a super-hero account this is more of a noir detective procedural set in the 50th state, replete with tikis in many of the panels. How could I not like it? Well word has come down that a script has been optioned based on the series and the lead is set for Johnny Knoxville.

New Line will be producing and they will soon be saying Aloha to a nice piece of money. We will have to see if that means hello or goodbye.


Staying In a Comfortable Hilton

The vacuous parasitic existence of Paris Hilton is exceeded only by the bizarre insistance of the media to treat her slavishly in coverage. For someone named after the City of lights she appears about as bright as a 3 watt bulb, and considering she has done little more than gorging on her trust-fund teat her popularity is approaching near Faustian levels. Nary a week goes by without some entertainment dispensary spewing party coverage, rumors, or photos surrounding this societal placebo. The fact however remains--She Has Not Done a Damned Thing!

In the next few months there will be two new attempts at bringing Paris legitamacy--one she sanctions and one which she does not, yet both will surely embarass. On May 11th a direct-to-video horror offering will hit the stores, entitled "Nine Lives". While earning no more than 10 minutes of screen time the marketers cleverly have her positioned front and center on the cover over the no-name co-stars. Word is that the movie had a lone appearance in a theater at a 2002 London horror festival and was greeted with yawns.

This meek effort will certainly become eclipsed by the news that her infamous online sex video will become available for purchase in stores with a new director's cut, with extended footage. June 15 is the street date for--get your cringe ready--"One Night in Paris". Maybe we'll get to find out some of the unanswered questions of the initial release. For instance, who was on the phone that she elected to answer in mid-romp?

For those who want to get in touch with their inner Rick Salomon you can proudly boast about your excursions with this uber-trendy T-Shirt. Just be ready for offers from pale looking nervous guys wearing Batman pins and Kevin Smith hats.


Dead Poets Leave Society.

The temptation has always been there for film makers to dramatize the lives, and the deaths, of poets becuase their lives and deaths are often, well, so damned dramatic. Now we even have proof that poets tend to check out before their reservation is up. There is a paradox for studios to wrestle with however, in that with most cases the lives of the writer was often more entertaining than the works, and this manages to keep a wider audience at bay.

Last year's "Sylvia" had Gyneth in the lead but let's face it, Ms. Plath's outlook (we'll call it somber) obviously kept marketing wags from convincingly calling the film the "Feel-good story of the season." Cuban Poet Reinaldo Arenas as well met an early exit, but even though "Before Night Falls" made a name for Javier Bardem the film didn't make much money. "The Hours" could be pointed to as an exception here, except that the perishing Virginia Woolf was a novelist, but Ed Harris played a dying poet opposite Meryl Streep, so maybe it counts.

I wonder if the reason that poets are thought to die younger is due to rap musicians who were gunned down being included in the study. I base this on no proof, I should add. One thing to worry about is this could be dire news for fans of the buxom bard Jewel. I'd hate to think of the bestselling poetess being brought down in her prime, preventing us from enjoying such imagery in passages like “And So to Receive You”:

My breasts are twin moons/two pillows/for your whiskered cheek/a harbor for your teeth/and tongue.

It would be a loss indeed.


Tru-ly Disturbing Fans

By pure happenstance while researching on the web I ventured into that dark realm of compulsive internet fandom. While I always have been aware that the fractionally unbalanced can take on added significance via their modems, it may still surprise you to see the behavior firsthand. The web is a great clearing house of opportunity for those people who harbor a more than healthy interest in the luminaries of our world. Electronic shrines can be erected and like-minded obsessives can congregate to bask in the collective glow of anonymity. I stumbled upon such a place and wanted to shine a light on those who have a rather longing glance towards the actress Eliza Dushku.

Dushku leapt into our thoughts as the teenaged daughter of Arnold in "True Lies", made numerous appearances in features, and cemented her iconic status with shut-ins when she was a cast member on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Currently she stars in the prime-time effort "Tru Calling". Her approachable charisma and fetching looks easily put her in the affectionate cross-hairs. The study today is on an Eliza Dushku message board that boasts no less than 13 subjects to which the infatuated can contribute, and where the benign web design frees up the fan to reveal their Tru selves. Surprisingly the site even encourages the deviant to open up to the crowd.

Under the forum title TESTIMONIALS the sub-heading reads: "Have you met/stalked Eliza? Share your adventurous tales with every other jealous person on the forum..." This nicely addresses both those who stalk and those who envy those with the pro-active adoration. In that particular thread fans detail their brushes with fame.
A fan going by Snaglefunk responds to the notion of a face-to-face. “Dear God, I can only hope that someday it will happen. Maybe one day when I'm a rockstar.”
Less optimistic was Sacnite, who theorizes, “I believe that nobody has had the happiness of seeing in person Eliza.” For me this paints a rather lonesome existence for the young woman. It also poses a most difficult challenge for cinematographers.
Vanboy posts that Dushku lives in his building, and the responses to this news vary, from being called a “liar”, to a veiled suggestion that he should get onto her balcony to get photos, to another poster wanting to come and stay with him.
When the question of renting availability at the complex was asked another member gave a revelatory answer to the state of potential lessees: “There may be a mad rush and fight for the place to rent may end in violence (sic).
Surferstud1313 gives his account of meeting Eliza in a nightclub: “She was very down to earth out to have a good time and dance and defineatly get her drink on”. This everywoman report prodded another poster to admit they “will remain a loyal supporter for many, many decades to come.” Eliza, there are two words for this—job security. Or maybe—home security.

Kudas has his own encounter to detail, about a time that he crowded in with autograph lemmings and how he played the hero by lending Dushku his notebook for her to use so that she could sign her name for the masses. As touching as his brief meeting was, (she twice gave him an “intoxicating smile”) I’m not so sure it needed to be exposited with more than 700 words, but when he entitles this as a “Magical Encounter” it was bound to be loquacious.

For more off kilter commentary we turn to the POSTS TO ELIZA forum, where the hopeful can write a memo directly to the star--yet the host provides a caveat—“Note: It is highly unlikely Eliza will read your posts.” Undeterred there are plenty of passionate passages. Faith 881 implores ”I want to meet you cuz i like you very much you are my idol and i like you to read this plz i live in ELPASO TEXAS.” Not content Faith 881 continues in another post titled “Your Cool: “i just whant to said that you are cool and that i watch tur calling and tha is cool to and you cool in buffy tvs as faith and you are my idol.” Not to be overly critical, sweetie, but if you want to get the attention of your idol you may want to re-register at your EL PASO HIGH SCHOOL real soon.
Klevis, addressing Dushku's lineage, has a rather curious declaration to make. “hi you probably cannot speak any albanian and you probably dont want to learn but i would reccomend it because at the end of the day you are albanian.” This may call for a new song from The Vapors.
Another with the intriguing name fitnessbuff4 tries to draw the star’s attention with a post titled “Hmmmm…” but I think he blows his chances. “Eliza' you dont know me, but...I bet you would like to...heh...j/k...(where's my needle?) PSSSSsssss...(scuse me) had to pop my head!” Ummmm...moving on--
TicklerJay asks something we’d all like to know, “Hey Eliza I was just wondering if your feet are ticklish? I have seen your feet and I think they look great”.
In another section Kudas, the notebook savior, reveals he has come as close to the stalker title as any, haunting the set of “Tru-Calling”, but with good intentions. "When they start filming agaiin, I'm going to start hanging out around the set. Surely someone will realize what a perfect match Eliza and I are. Then I shall be cast as the newly hired buff guy”. A viable plan, sure, but I would not let on that you are the same guy who refers to her on the boards as “The Spicy Dorito”. It might keep you from getting your own trailer.
Now I know I run the risk of sounding like the very subjects of this piece, but I’m going to go out on a limb. I would like to send my own message to the star of Tru Calling, and the upcoming “The Kiss”. Consider this my attempt to contact the starlet, my bold attempt to reach her directly with a message of warmth and affection.

Dear Eliza,
I wish you the best on your television show and hope you have many more seasons in which we may be able to enjoy you in our homes. If there is any hope at all that you get this message while staying in Vancouver to film your program there is one thing I am dying to say to you—
Please, change your address.


He Was Also Unbelievable In "The Negotiator"

It was a tough weekend for Kevin Spacey First, he called the police in London to inform them that he had been mugged and roughed up in a section of town near the theater where he is serving as director. However after a few days of contemplation he went back to police to let them in on the fact that he was weaving a story not quite to the level of Verbal Kint. His new explanation to what happened was he was a victim of theft.

Turns out Keyser Soze was duped by a simple scam--or as Spacey described it, "Such a good con." The complex graft involved a young kid wanting to borrow his cell phone for an emergency and then bolting with the Nokia. The injuries were incurred when Kevin tried to give chase and tripped over his pet, knocking himself around. Kevin then says he was "taken by the oldest con going." On this I have to quibble. I'm sure, for instance, that they were playing 3-card-monty in Times Square long before cell phones were around.

The police meanwhile were at least a little curious why it was Spacey found himself in this section of London known as a cruising point for gays. His answer--"My doggy had to go." What, What?
Now for some time speculation has swirled around Spacey's sexual preference, fueled in part by his refusal to acknowledge one way or the other. If I may weigh in on the subject, the homosexual cruising park not withstanding, I suggest few if any hetero men--and most retrosexuals even--would use the term "doggie" to refer to their pet. Few would even have a mutt small enough to be classified in such a manner. My 2 cents.


"Why Can't I Get My Coffee Today?"

If anyone is planning on having lunch today at any one of the numerous homogenized American Bistro Eateries with a possesive apostrophe in its name you should be ready. The lounge and booths are bound to be choked with clutches of skirted professionals who are trading stories of their oppressive and incompetent boss.

Today is Administrative Professionals Day--or Secretary's Day, or Administrative Assistants Day, or Exceptional Assistants Day. You may want to check with your office manager to clarify the job title du-jour before you dart out to hallmark for the appropriate card and mylar balloon, or any other trinket based on how much of an ogre you have been as an employer. Rest assured you better do something or you will find phone calls dropping out of sight and caustic comments littering the coffee station on anonymous post-it notes.

To be sure somewhere you will find "Working Girl" playing on television today, but that's an easy way out. Only slightly less obvious would be "Secretary", though I'm not so sure the ladies will flock to such a title. I would go the equal-opportunity angle from the indie realm, choosing one of two titles with males in the assistant position. "New Suit" would fill the empowerment angle, showing an assistant who dupes Hollywood. But if your boss is a real ass you should go for "Swimming with Sharks". You'll feel better at some point in the movie, but only after learning you don't have to be in the water to get bitten.


Self-Aggrandizing, Gratuitous, or Auto-Lauditory: You Decide

On the front page of Film Threat today my dormant column entitled Milk Carton Cinema gets reinvigorated with a long-winded treatise on the film "Krippendorf's Tribe". It is a heartwarming and touching experience for all and I recomend it to any person looking for a feel-good moment of treacle. I'm talking about my column--the movie blows walnuts.

For the uninitiated or those with carpal tunnel who can't close this page, Milk Carton Cinema is a deep exploration into movies that came into theaters with a huge push from the studio and was essentially ignored by the general public and evoporated off screens in no time at all. I attempt to unearth the reasons and machinations behind these movies which were given every opportunity to succeed yet never came close, with the intention that studios may learn from these failures and in the end provide a higher quality form of entertainment. No, I don't pretend to have all the answers...that is why I used the word "attempt".

Thumb Your Way to Urbana Iliinois

Starting Wednesday and running through the weekend Roger Ebert will stage his sixth Overlooked Film Festival, Roger's annual collection of films released with minimum attention or not properly picked up for distribution. My temptation here is to weigh in with my own recommendations, but considering that this is an event staged by the nation's eminent film reviewer I'll demure my opinion.

The most visible name on the list would be "Tarnation", which made a big impact at Sundance in 2003. "People I KNow" is a wholly original indie with Al PAcino playing a freelance PR rep with an unspiraling life. One title I will point to is "Tully" and that is due to the fact that it was initially distributed on a small scale by Small Planet Pictures, a local outfit I have come to know.


Life Imitating Art

Last week in Las Vegas The Bellagio Hotel and Casino found itself in a suspiciously familiar situation last week when it fell dark for a few days. When Clooney and his minions hit 3 casinos in one night this was his modus.

Even funnier was an early report that speculated the cause of the blackout was a truck ramming into power lines in the area. This followed the plot line of the original when Sinitra had his lads execute a similar method.


I Pedaphilia Pain

Get ready, there is about to be an onslaught. June 13 of this year the Olsen twins--Mary-Kate, and that evil one, Ashley--will turn 18 years old, and there will be a testosterone overload in the media. A similar occurance happened a few years back when Anna Kournikova became legal. Suddenly every Sports Center host and sports radio DJ had her name mentioned and her images referenced with abandon. Expect double the hype when Olsen and her doppleganger turn legal.

This never addressed fact indicates that there is a wellspring of unhealthy obsession with underage sylphs in this society. Clearly these men have been leering at the nyphets in their youth and see the 18th year as a way of justifying their youngblood lust. Richard Roeper, one of the thumbs of "At the Movies" at least expresses his feeling uncomfortable with this adolescent infatuation in this month's Esquire Magazine titled "The Jailbait Dilemma". He discusses various young actresses that he encounters on screen and in interviews and the squirm-worthy feeling that they are positioned as sexy. He mentions a Q & A he did with young Ms. Duff where at certain angles she appeared like a 30 year old divorce'. This is where the line blurs, between the depravity of a libidinous adult audience and those who are cultivating the public image of these girls. The build up behind the Olsens indicates there may be guilty parties on both sides of the coin being dropped into the peep show slot. Already people are taking an unhealthy facination with these twin ingenue millionaires, and it will only get worse.

Though far from AARP age, I don't see this as a sexually healthy attitude. Can it be that 38 year old women are not sexy, or sexual? Do no men obsess over females who are exploring in their later years? (Besides you Kutcher, put your hand down.) I'm sorry, but I'd take a Diane Lane over any baby-sitting club member, but that's why I'm not living in Hollywood I guess.


"Reschedule Larry King, and get me Paul Mitchell on the Phone!"

This night tens of millions of Americans, (including my own wife) are glued to "Must See TV" because they must see the conclusion of "The Apprentice". For weeks avaricious social climbers lay their dignity prostrate before a bizarrely coiffed captain of industry in the hopes of becoming his close personal lackey. You may in fact have fallen prey to this guilty pleasure, but do not feel guilty, this is actually a great lesson in economics. Or office politics, at least.

The disturbing aspect of this is not only the fact that a soulless capitalist is allowed to once again rise to heights in the public consciousness, but also that Nubian succubus Omarosa managed to delve her poisonous character into the hearts of viewers everywhere. For the past few weeks this was a nation that concertedly announced "That Omarosa is a total C***!"

Personally I haven't see one episode. I have however appropriated the termination method of "The Donald" in my everyday life. Like when the woman at the doughnut shop botches my order I point at her with a bent hand and jut it towards her as I snap off a "You're Fired!" It gets me curious looks but inside I feel warm and satisfied. I also can't get too critical of the viewing public. When it comes to a predatory boss who terrorizes his charge and requires supplicant behavior I guess I know what the appeal is.


Edgy, Controversial--But No One Says Talented

World famous actress and occassional troubador Britany Spears is set to further emulate her idol Madonna by releasing a video so controversial in nature you will completely over look the horrid quality of her music.

Her upcoming single "Everytime" will have a video that depicts Spears in a scene of catharsis for many in the audience: she will commit suicide in the video. Reputedly her label, Jive Records, is excited at the project, with someone inside the company calling it "edgy".

Edgy, despite the fact that the David LaChapelle video visits the breakup of Britany with Justin Timberlake, leading to her lying lifeless in a tub. And Timberlake's role is going to be played by the completely un-edgy charisma vacum, Stephan Dorff. Dorff, star of memory defying titles like "Space Truckers" and "Fear Dot Com" in role of boy-band fly-guy Timberlake may provoke the unthinkable--people turning their heads away and actually listening to Spear's music.


Disney's "Alamo" Begs for Amnesia

You had to know this movie was going to tank hard, based on nothing more than the premiere fiesta hosted by Disney. 1,500 people came to the invite only event at the Historical landmark, dozens of party tents, stars showing up in Stetsons, a 3-block-long carpet for the luminaries to stroll, miles of cable for a 50 speaker sound system, and a culminating fireworks show. Oh yeah, this movie must really blow.

And blow it did. Sporting a bloated budget and the big-studio marketing push, nearly $140 was put behind a film that didn't come close to a $10 million opening weekend. This is the kind of failure that gets Wall Street to notice. So dismal is the ledger entry that it has rekindled talk surrounding the Comcast attempt to buy Disney a short time ago. But the laughable conclusion is that while the string of movie failings for the House of Mouse has possibly made it more affordable to a take over, Comcast my simply walk away from a losing enterprise it once coveted.

The failure of "The Alamo" does manage one bit of positive news--its underscores the ludicrous nature of the hyper-liberal hand-wringing that normally gets provoked by historical epics. I for one was not surprised to read that Mexicans were rather in a fit over the movie, but the reasons had me scratching my head. If I'm reading this AP story correctly Mexican residents are not upset at a stilted film portrayal, but rather the movie actually displayed events that happened. It looks to me that they expected this to be "only" about the Alamo massacre, and they are dissapointed that the defeat of Mexican troops at the Battle of San Jacinto was shown at the end of the movie. I would tend to think this was a crucial addendum, given the traditional "Remember the Alamo" was employed here, and the fact that San Jacinto was played out just one month after the titular story.

More comical to me is a column written by Oscar Villalon in the San Francisco Chronical, who is in a lather because of the numerous atrocities against Mexican-Americans not displayed on screen. While I feel for the guy's personal angst, it is misdirected here. He wants to address items like the activities of the Texas Rangers who wiped out a number of hispanics in violent sweeps through the state. He also wants mention made that the first move towards desegregation in schools involved Mexican students in San Diego.

These are important issues to be sure, but any writer would have a difficult time working them into a story that took place around 80-100 years previous. Tough to segue from a a dusty battle scene in the 1830's to a courtroom in 1931. If I could offer advice to Mr. Villalon, and any others bent out of shape by a movie of sort it is to remember--it's a Disney movie! Mel Gibson addressed this misguided angst years ago when people were miffed at the historical innacurracies in the animated "Pocahantos". He pointed out that the film also had animals communicating with humans: so much for the importance of accuracy in entertainment.


10 Years Later They Dance Alone

How cool is it to be ahead of the curve? Granted in my case it was maybe by a month at best, but still, I feel on the cutting edge. Some weeks back, in an effort to add to the film schedule at the theater I contacted Pete Baxter, co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival. Knowing they have a slate of films that tour around and beyond the nation I inquired into bringing a few Slamdance titles to our venue.

Pete was all for it, offering me 2 titles, and come April 24 we'll be showing the first of their films, "Faster", a documentary covering the Moto GP racing bike series. The doc is narrarated by Ewan McGregor, himself a motorcycle devotee.

It turns out that as I was calling Pete had in the works a plan to branch out into film distribution from the Slamdance offices. "Faster" and another title we are mulling, "Better Housekeeping" are two of the first films the new division will be distributing. The downside is that Baxter is stepping down from the position of the director of the Slamdance Festival in Park City.


Marketing Genius: A DVD Player for the Amish

I have to admit that on the surface it may sound like an alternative, but under deeper introspection it makes no damn sense at all. RCA is going to be selling a DVD player that will have the technology to skip over violent scenes, sexual content, and even offensive language. It used to be that you had to go to Blockbuster Video to watch movies that were sanitized for your protection, but now we will have the ability to bypass the middle man.

Of course the obvious has to be stated here. Those who may become offended by the list of grievances filtered out by this machine are likely to harbor no interest in a film with said content in the plot. But just supposing that is the case the end result will be a 90 minute feature reduced to little more than an extended trailer. Take as an example, Diane Lane in "Unfaithful" (purely an arbitrary pick). You will be looking at roughly a 60 min. soap opera without the back story. Tarentino's "(Censored) Bill" will be about ten minutes of homage montages. "(Censored) In the City" episodes? Five minutes of Manolo Blahnik talk.

For years Blockbuster Video has come under fire for editing the sexual content in the movies they offer up to the general public and I am here to tell you it is plain untrue. I have even spoken with a man who works as an editor at the corporate headquarters and he assured me that in 17 years of working for them nobody at Blockbuster has altered a motion picture.
Sure, they refuse to rent or sell films with an NC-17 rating, and they have insisted on studios to cut some questionable material or they will not carry a particular title, but they have never altered the movies. This is particularly hard on independant films--which have a tendency to take on NC-17 or "unrated" status.
A flow chart may help explain.

Blockbuster is owned by---->Viacom.
A subsidiary of Viacom is----> Paramount Pictures.
Paramount is a member of----> The Motion Picture Association of America.
The MPAA is the governing body which oversees---->the movie ratings board.

More than a few times it has been stated that the MPAA is more lenient with the studio movies than they are with independants, because they know that exhibitors and rental companies like Blockbuster are reticent to become involved with "adult" oriented material. Ergo they look out for themselves and the indies get emblazoned with the scarlet A.