Film Fatale

Get Paranoid With the New INVASION

Nicole Kidman’s paranoia gets an aerobic workout in INVASION.

In this summer of sequels, threquels and remakes, one title is actually kind of intriguing: INVASION – yet another imaging of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
Though the new film has not been seen by critics (uh oh), the trailer is effectively unnerving, with nervous thoroughbred Nicole Kidman freaking out while her neighbors and friends become strangely emotionless. (Thank you, Jeremy Northam, for your suave Eurovillainy. Don’t trust that guy for a minute, Nicole.)
In the Sunday New York Times, Dennis Lim looks back a the various iterations of this marvelously paranoid tale, from the original Jack Finney novel (mid 1950s, naturally) to the Cold War paranoia Don Siegel film (1956), to the psychotherapy-cult weirdness of the 1978 of Philip Kaufman‘s 1978 update. Abel Ferrara‘s BODY SNATCHERS (1993), set on a military base in the American South, made the heroine into a moody teenager, was unsettling in a different way: she was trapped and powerless even before the pod people arrived.
Interesting, isn’t it, that Kidman already played a Cassandra in a remake of a paranoid thriller? The ill starred STEPFORD WIVES of a couple of years ago. To her credit, she was damn funny as a stressed out TV executive in that movie’s first 15 minutes. But STEPFORD, unlike INVASION, did not stand up to re-examination.

Add It Up: This NYTimes Residual Story Makes Zero Sense


Though I’ve done my fair share of entertainment business writing, I find it’s generally best to leave the dollars and cents reporting these to David Poland, or to link to Anne Thompson at Variety.
But a recent, jawdroppingly stupid story in the New York Times makes me break that rule.
Film business reporter Brooks Barnes, who comes to the Times from the Wall Street Journal (and therefore surely ought to know better) gives an update on the slurry of ongoing negotiations between the Writer Guild of America and the studios, and the fears of a strike in Hollywood.
One issue is how to allocate residual payments – the money paid to writers (and directors, actors and producers) when a film or TV title is re-shown or sold on DVD, television, the internet or on some new media yet to be invented. How do you value each new media platform as it becomes more or less popular?
Boring, complicated accounting stuff: but it’s how entertainers and variety acts make money on repeat performances, adaptations and sequels.
The New York Times’ Barnes doesn’t get this. He starts his story with an analogy only a studio accountant would make.

Jasper Johns isn’t paid based on the number of years his flag paintings remain popular attractions at museums. Rem Koolhaas doesn’t cash a check every time an architecture fan takes a trip to Seattle to see his space-age public library. So why should the writers, directors and actors responsible for box-office bombs like “Gigli” be able to pocket some cash every time somebody buys the DVD?
It’s a question that cuts to the heart of the biggest fight in Hollywood these days and sums up a fundamental choice the troubled entertainment industry needs to make: whether to cling to old blueprints for running the business or to draft a whole new set.

No. That’s not the question at all.

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Kid Movies That'll Warp Your Child's Mind

Perhaps in recognition of the release of STARDUST — a film with the most unsettling trailer I have seen since MAC & ME — celebrates the Trippiest Movies Ever Made For Children.
Exhibit A is the recently rereleased LABYRINTH (1986), with David Bowie as a Goblin King who kidnaps the baby brother of pre-teen Jennifer Connelly, sending her off on a journey through creepy Muppet-land. Oh, it’s weird. But Bowie cuts loose for a few amazing songs.

5 Things Jason BOURNE Can Kill You With

bournepost.jpgWarning: Don’t make this man turn around.

From the blog More Than Fine, enjoy — or fear — the Top Five Jason Bourne Improvised Weapons. Complete with video and photos.
1) A good book.
2) Kitchenware
3) Candle holder, brass
I haven’t had this much fun since I learned, in a self-defense class, how to disable an attacker with a rolled up copy of Allure magazine.

On Reinventing the Celebrity Interview

For most people, a celeb story in a magazine should be exactly as diverting and time-consuming as it will take for one’s toenails to dry at the manicurist.
In the Washington Post, film writer Ann Hornaday has a wide-ranging piece on why the art of the celebrity interview could use a makeover.
Oh, admit it–you still read them, no matter how bad, redundant and uninformative these celeb profiles are (that 5,000 word Esquire cover story of Angelina Jolie was a recent example of the self-serious, expanding gas to fill the space variety. Nice cover shot, though.

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Shake It For Director Paul "ShakyCam" Greengrass

bourne2.jpgMatt Damon, BOURNE to run.

In the Observer, here’s a profile of director Paul Greengrass — the man behind UNITED 93 and the two most recent BOURNE movies.
He’s not nearly as shaky as his camera.

From J. August, For August 31: THE NINES


In THE NINES, Ryan Reynolds practically forces the audience to stare at his extremely ripped torso muscles. Will this visual ordeal never end?
One film I didn’t get to see at Sundance 2007 was THE NINES, which gets a write up in Aug. 5 Sunday New York Times.
Screenwriter (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BIG FISH) turned writer/director John August — well known to bloggers as friendly and informative blogger — has created a “very meta” film about a man (Ryan Reynolds, gratuitiously shirtless, thank you, John August) trapped within a mysterious house of plots. Film plots, it seems.
In the Times piece, August, 37, discusses his successful career and writing a film about a writer. Not once is the movie ADAPTATION mentioned. But Fellini’s 8 1/2 is. Omigosh! John August confesses, “I’ve never seen 8 1/2.”
Man, you’ve got to get out of your house more often.

SUNSHINE Myth?: Space Survival Without Spacesuits?


Slate’s Explainer tackles a science/science fiction question that’s surely been nagging anyone who’s seen SUNSHINE:
Can an astronaut survive for even a few moments outside of a spacecraft without wearing a spacesuit? Without giving away too much of the plot, there’s a tense sequence in SUNSHINE, the new thriller from Danny Boyle, in which three crew members of a solar-bound craft end up outside of the ship with only one pressurized suit among them.
There’s a similarly horrific moment in EVENT HORIZON: the space rescue team’s youngest member, under the influence of a ghostly force, wanders into an airlock, seals himself in. And as his frantic crewmates race to save him from outside the ship, he opens the airlock.
Can’t trust those airlocks, can you?
The unsecured airlock in a sci fi movie is analogous to the French patio doors of slasher movies: highly freakin’ permeable. The devil can just walk right in without knocking.

More Manhattan CLOVERFIELD Debris: RadarOnline

From RadarOnline, some photos from the intriguing JJ Abrams movie CLOVERFIELD
Production crews made a convincing-looking overnight mess on Orchard and Stanton Streets in Lower Manhattan, but by morning the neighborhood had been restored to its usual state of overpriced grime and trendiness.

Visit THE PRISONER's Village


If you’ve seen just one episode of the classic British TV series THE PRISONER, you’ll recall the strange and captivating setting: an island where ex-spies are sent into forced retirement — forever.
“The Village,” where hero/show creatorPatrick McGoohan (“Number 6”) railed against his former employers, wasn’t a set — it’s Portmeirion, a real town in Wales, beloved of Travel sections and photographers for its mix of palm trees and Gothic, Jacobean, Mediterranean mysterioso architecture.
And you can go there. If you swim out too far, be careful. There’s no Rover to squash you and bring you back to shore.

Nerve Smacks the 10 Grossest Screen Kisses

An award is due to the people of Nerve’s film blog.
Bilge Ebiri and others reviewed (endured) revolting liplocks from such non romances as RETURN OF THE JEDI (Jabba the Hutt licks Leia), THE ELEPHANT MAN, and the PLANET OF THE APES remake to choose the most horrifying screen kisses.
The ickiest by far: what happened to Sharon Stone in THE SPECIALIST. Mauled by the male stars – Stallone, Eric Roberts and James Woods — she did her best to act aroused. It was sickening.



Witness to a child’s freakout: that was me, this weekend, when I took my seven year old nephew to see THE SIMPSONS MOVIE on Friday.
The boy is utterly traumatized. He got his first dose of apocalyptic horror in the form of the theatrical extended “making of” trailer for RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE. It’s possible that my nephew will never sleep again.
The movie, with its legions of desert-fried Undead, does look extremely cool — an update of the 1970s atomic horror/end days tales (PLANET OF THE APES, MAD MAX, THE OMEGA MAN) that RE-1 director Paul WS Anderson was raised on.
Star Milla Jovovich seems to relish the her role as a genetically enhanced MAD MAX-type heroine.
How scary does this movie look? Even the crew looks badass. In the behind the scenes interviews, producer Jeremy Bolt sounds like a normal British person, describing the effects, the locations, the new characters. But he looks like a shades- and Stetson-wearing, stubble-faced character out of THE WILD BUNCH.
This is what happens when men — and sequels — go to Mexico.
The theatrical trailer’s smashing. But I was left with this thought: Kids, if you don’t buy a ticket to RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, the makers of this movie might just ride out to your house, all Man With No Name/Sam Peckinpah– like, and shoot your parents.

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From Sunset Gun: JOSHUA and More Creepy Kids


My favorite Italian horror tot: Nicoletta Elmi
Manhattan real estate-and-parenthood horror gets a slick update in JOSHUA, an indie chiller whose effectiveness depends a great deal on how freaked out you are by kids. And the prospect of those little anklebiters running your life.
Jacob Kogan’s Joshua makes quite an impression as the perfect little piano-playing preppie. Sunset Gun’s Kim Morgan confesses an affection for filmdom’s creepy kiddies, and she’s compiled a chillingly illustrated all-star team.
But Kim! You forgot one weird little moppet. Remember the spooky red haired girl who appeared in many of Dario Argento’s movies, from DEEP RED to DEMONS? Sometimes freckle faced and cute. Sometimes a flame haired baby demon. That kid didn’t say much, but she had presence.
Nicoletta Elmi is her name — there are fan sites in Italian and English devoted to her.

Cloverfield->Cthulhu, Part 2


New York Magazine snarks on the B-movieish title for the J.J. Abrams movie: MONSTROUS.
Well, it’s easier to spell than CTHULHU.
Note the resemblance between Valentino Cthulhu (makes a lovely gift) and that red and black photo on the New York mag site.

THE BLOB Turns 50 at BlobFest

Before Steve McQueen was BULLITT, he was the teenage hero who kicked the — wherever the ass-parts were — on an undulating mass of outerspace menace in THE BLOB.
And that’s reason enough to scream for joy. Slate mag is goes to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania for the fiftieth anniversary festivities.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon