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Thursday, July 26, 2007

What I'm Watching, What I am Reading

What I'm Watching
Entourage Season IV. Yes!
Borat - Funny but remarkably uneven. Way overhyped, i thought. Brilliant performances, though. But like the show, kind of a one joke wonder. And the producer's body, I just didnt need to see that. Ugh.
William Castle's Homicidal -Dated psycho ripoff from the master showman. And I didnt even figure it out.
Friday After Next. It is what it is. Has some good stuff. Katt Williams with the pliers is a funny bit.
Battle for Shaker Heights. Say whatcha want, I liked it. I liked the script a bunch.
For Your Consideration. Good, though felt like it coulda been better than good. Some very funny stuff, tho.
Biggie and Tupac. Great, spooky doco. Check it out.

What I am Reading
Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico). Pretty interesting so far.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I am so connected

I have internet at home (well, LA hovel home) again. For about a week or so, I’ve had no connection. And before that, I had a connection but my ill-tempered and short for this world Ibook wasn’t connecting because of some new security issue. Then the artist formerly known as roommate disconnected the service from our place and I was without internet, even just as I was discovered a way to fix the security issue, on my own, technical wizard that I am (NOT!).

After some bandying about, and figuring that no 22 year old rocker was going to step forward to get internet service in their name, I signed up for it. And for some reason, it took until today for AT and T to turn that damn signal on. What a wait. I’d taken to spending long hours in starbucks and Cheebo (which is nice anyway, much better than Starbucks, which can be Freakbucks depending when you go). I’ve stopped by Jay’s and even parked outside the Slamdance office to use their internet. On a Sunday. In the heat.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve been let our of prison, because I finally (for the moment at least) have working internet. It wasn’t working all day, for some reason. The reason why it wasn’t is that one of the rockers, a none-too-bright one, couldn’t figure out that to make it work, you need to plug the DSL line into the socket that says DSL, and the phone line into the socket that says Phone. She thought the opposite. Clever girl.

But I’m on now. I’m downloading the latest Entourage. I am checking baseball scores. I may just surf all nite.

(Less) Grumpy

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cheebo Blogging: Not Just an Indulgence

(Blogging from the Sunset Blvd restaurant Cheebo, a local favorite. Great salsa).

So a lot of the time, movie stars having rock bands are simple indulgences. A lot of the time, but not all of the time.

I went to hang with my friend Lev and his friend Paul last nite in Santa Monica. Paul is a pretty well known character actor – can play basically anything. He directed a great play in LA this past winter (does LA have a winter?) and he was the studio boss on Entourage last season, the one that booted Adrien Grenier from Aquaman. Anyway, so we hung at Lobster on the Santa Monica pier for a few hours (they have surprisingly amazing food, including kobe beef that was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a long time, for a restaurant that looks like a tourist trap) and then headed to a little benefit in Culver City for the Actor’s Gang, which is some kind of LA-based actors group doing theater.

We got there and paid our ten dollar suggested donation (fyi, donations in LA don’t seem to be suggested, even if they say so, its just an LA way of smilingly asking for money for a ticket, like when a studio exec smiles at your great idea before calling security?). Anyway, we got inside and found seats, and I hear Kate Nelligan and some chubby short dude do some covers of Jefferson Airplane tunes. They seemed to be having a great time, but it wasn’t exactly Grace Slick. Not should it have to be, and they just seemed to be having fun.

But Tim Robbins was lurking stage left. Don’t know if you’ve ever met him, I have a few times, or at least seen him up close, including at Liberty Studios when he was regearsing for the Henry Bean movie, Noise, he shot last year. Anyway, he is tall, like college basketball player tall. And he’s also in Bull Durham, which I love but which is neither here nor there. And he’s grooving off stage, listening.

I walked out after the mini-set of Jeff. Airplan, and then I hear the band start up again. And so when I walk back into this hundred seat theater, Tim Robbins and a band are playing. And I’ll tell you…

He’s pretty damn good. He did a few songs, including some Dylan and some Bob Roberts stuff (for the young and unitiated, Bob Roberts was a movie Robbins did fairly way back about a musician turned presidential candidate who was basically a phony). And he did Jersey Girl, a Springsteen anthem. And all the little actress girls in the Gang got up on stage and grooved like they were from Jersey. It was a lot of fun, he had quite the onstage presence, great delivery and a good voice. The band was tight.

So its not always an indulgence.

I had fun, thanks for asking.

Grumps.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mel's Doing Great



Mel Gibson, on vacation in Costa Rica. Go Mel.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dumbfounded

I was on Myspace just now. Yes just now. Really, i just clicked over. (Thats not funny).

Anyway, there was a link for Drama film, and an url pointing to amazon.com. And some generic tag like, see the amazing gripping thriller. So i clicked it, curious what it was for.

I was directed to amazon, to the page for a movie that was shot in Bulgaria several years ago. I recall being in Bulgaria recording the score for My Brother (no I didnt record it myself, we have people for that, and they are paid less in Bulgaria, and are generally better looking, but thats neither here nor there. They walk more. They also smoke. They tend to be thinner, but probably get lung cancer. Like Israelis.)

Anyway, the excellent (formerly excellent?) director Bruce Beresford was directing John Cusack and Morgan Freeman in a thriller. I dont remember if it had a title back then, but the title of the DVD release is The Contract. Yeah, you heard me, the DVD release. As in, straight-to, do not pass go, do not collect box office rentals.

Beresford is an excellent director responsible for good movies in a number of genres. He's best known for Driving Miss Daisy, but also did the excellent, Black Robe, and Tender Mercies, and Breaker Morant. And here he is working with two very good (if not great) actors. The movie, how little could it have cost Avi Lerner and company in Bulgaria? 15 million? 12 million?

I haven't heard anything about it one way or another, quality wise. I have often wondered what happened to it, because I remember talking quite a bit about it when I was there. It was just after the Millenium (Avi Lerner's company) Brian DiPalma production with Scarlet Johnassen and Hilary Swank, another movie I haven't seen. Anyway, I guess I am surprises that a movie with that quality of talent couldn't even get theatrically released. Especially because its a thriller with a name cast, and even if it was terrible, it probably woulda raked in some money anyway.

My guess it that either (1) some theatrical rights situation is preventing it, or more likely (2) the movie is bad, there is limited upside to releasing it theatrically, and Millenium has already recouped the entire budget of the movie because THEY SOLD IT BEFORE THEY MADE IT. And thus, they have very little incentive to see it through, especially if the talent has disavowed it because of a lack of quality. If they arent gonna stomp for it, then in fairness to these gods of direct to video, the Nu Image/Millenium boys, maybe its the right move. Its just hard to image that it could be that bad. How many bad movies have Freeman and Cusack made? Not many. None jump to mind.

I suppose that may be exactly why they might choose not to promote this one, although thats completely speculation on my part.

Historic/What I am Watching/Reading

I cannot believe it. My internet wireless connection went down for no reason yesterday. Absolutely, worked one moment, dead the next. And with my busy social life out here (NOT), it sucked pretty bad. I tried everything, including endless searching on the net while physically plugged into the router in the main house.

After almost a full day of on and off searching, I found a Mac helpsite that gave some suggestions for fixing this problem (with the particular error message I was getting- it seems that macs, while they dont get viruses, have other sorts of problems that people often randomly experience and post about online - thats been the case whenever I've had a Mac problem).

Anyway, finally, i followed these steps, trial and error style, and I am wirelessly connected to the internet again. I am a little incredulous, because I am not particularly technical. And I am having some problems with the safari browser, which wont let me connect to certain sites because of security concerns. Blogspot, included, I am posting using Camino.

But Im back, in any case, and pretty damn excited about it . Can you tell?

Anyway, here I am.

What I am Watching: Lords of Dogtown, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Office Season 1, Search and Destroy (someone should have destroyed the DVD before I watched it).

What I am Reading: Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes by famed sales agent John Pierson. A fun read but probably only for those in the biz.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

ON THE CHEAP IN LALA LAND

So there are some very nice things about LA and the LA lifestyle that I am coming to learn. One of the foremost is the utter cheapness of living here, and the selection of things to do on the cheap.

I went hiking last week. It was a mere ten minute drive from my place. Now, I am not comparing the hiking to being up in the Adirondacks in New York, which are bucolic and lovely. The trail was a little dry and dusty, and you’re never really that far from feeling like your in a city. But still, the occasional porn star down from the valley hiking there helps make up the difference.

COST: One buck parking fee. You can’t even get on the train in NY for that. Not even close.

I went to a jazz series opening at the Hollywood Bowl with some friends last Wednesday. And while there are certainly seats that are more expensive, the general admission seats for this concert, featuring Queen Latifah (who was excellent) and a ten piece Jazz ensemble, were very comfortable and allowed us, once we’d moved off center, to spread out and have a picnic with the wine and food we were permitted to bring into the place. So a nite out with music and a picnic.

COST: $12 bucks for the seat and seventy five cents? for a seat cushion. BYOB.

Similarly, last nite, much of the same crew from the concert went to the Hollywood Forever cemetery screening. Basically, you queue up outside on the grass for an hour or so, then they let everyone in to place, and you stake a claim with your blanket, food, booze, etc. on the grass opposite the white wall of a very conveniently placed mausoleum, which is right opposite Hitchcock’s tomb. (Incidentally, they began this series with Vertigo, which to me is a little weird, but Hitch probably would have dug it). They project the movie on the side of the mausoleum and voila. Between seven and when it gets dark, you basically sit there and listen to a DJ spin. Last week, when the movie was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, they spun eighties music, and Amy Heckerling was there for the show. (No word on Sean Penn). Since the movie was Milos Forman’s amazing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, they spun mostly older seventies hippie tunes. And everyone gets a little loaded while waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie to start, which made it a little weird because while the movie is inspirational, it had the effect of making some Angelinos laugh an inappropriate moments.

Movie Aside: So many years later, Cuckoo’s Nest stands up. In the wake of the torture of prisoners in Cuba, the movie is extremely timely. It also doesn’t have a false note, pulls no punches, has a great score and incredible acting. Its basically perfect, and I have a suspicion that it would play pretty well if released theatrically now. If I can make one movie nearly that good in my career, well, that’s a career. Fucking amazing, and I’ve seen it half a dozen times or more.

Anyway, so we sat there, watched a great movie (and they have a good project and great sound system), and chilled. Of course, there is all the waiting but that can be fun. I ran into (well, she spotted me somehow in the crowd) Jen Getzinger, who was Darren Aronofsky’s script supervisor and then on Sex in the City for years, before attending AFI. She was with her producers, and we chatted a bit. It was nice seeing her unexpectedly like that.


COST: $10 (a suggested donation, but not really the vibe I got when we walked up – you gotta pay).

I drank a little too much and have a bit of a headache today. But it was another fun time, and far preferable to hanging in a stuffy bar.

Grumpster

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Michael Bay States His Position

This was posted by Transformers director Michael Bay on his website, and captured before he took it down shortly thereafter, having thought better of sharing. We bring it to ya, you can't take it back. Sorry Mike.

LET'S GET SOME FACTS STRAIGHT
06/29/2007 11:20 PM
The movie is over.
Wow that was a hard one, but I must tell you it was so much fun. The most difficult actors I’ve ever worked with, besides Bruce Willis, are Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. They took every single one of my days for a year. But they are well worth the work. I’ve just traveled 36,000 miles around the world (in two weeks) and had the most amazing premiere at the Taormina film festival in an ancient, Greek-built theatre that existed well before the birth of Christ. I loved seeing the reactions to the film from so many different cultures. This movie really travels around the world. I’m so excited for everyone to see it. Thanks to all you that supported me on this film.
Just so I set the story straight, my budget started at $145 Million, it crept to $150 and some change – I’m very proud of that – the fact that we are half the cost of all these other summer blockbusters. I see people doubt that out on the net, but anyone want to challenge me I’ll put a ten thousand dollar bet down on the table right now.
Even when the studio tried to ship me out to Canada or shoot down with Aussies - I looked but I knew we were dead up there. I needed my crew that I have been loyal to for years, they are the best in the world. Besides I believe American movies that portray America, should be made in America. I cut my fee 30% so I could make this at home. I knew this was right for the movie so I asked the other producers to join – Ian and Lorenzo did, and the two others (that came attached to the project) Tom Desanto and Don Murphy did not. That was my introduction to them – they did not want any part of their fee going to make a better movie. Things like that don’t usually sit well with me.
Now that the movie is done I get strange questions from the press. Like 'how did Tom control the set'? What? 'How did Tom and Don control you?' What the fuck. 'How was it working with Tom and Don who knew Transformers so well?' 'We heard Tom wrote the story – he had a 90 page treatment, right?' Okay stop. Let me take you back in time. Tom and Don are very nice guys, but let’s get some facts straight.
Tom had one creative meeting with me for one hour and ten minutes to be exact about a year ago. He told he was the ├╝ber fan boy and was going to protect me from the minefields. The type of minefields on the Net like 'Damn you Michael Bay' 'You wrecked my childhood Michael Bay' and other various web death threats I received. Tom proceeded to tell me how much he had problems with the robot designs and script issues. I realized he was worlds apart in my vision. I said thank you very much, and then showed him my office door - I never really spoke to him again other then to mutter hello. He would occasionally come to the set with guests like it was some theme park. I never spoke creatively with Don. I read his notes kind of trashing the script and making me and the writers feel like a big shit pile. But during production Don was nice to me, he knew I was not going to talk creative with him.
One day not too long ago, the writers of our movie Alex and Bob called me in a panic saying all of a sudden after the movie was almost finished in post that Tom was applying for writer's or story credit. I was appalled because neither the writer’s nor I ever saw any treatment. Well, he applied for credit, but the Writer’s Guild shot him down, denied him.
But what made my blood curl was something that was on the Net with Tom at the Saturn awards on IESB.net where they interviewed him about the movie – a movie I might add he had not seen yet. He acted very much like he did. Check it out as he vamps through the questions, and how Hugo put his 'thumb print on it'. Give me a break, the guy was lying through his teeth - he had seen nada, nothing, until the press screening.
So that’s the real truth, I had to say it, cause I'm tired of answering these questions.
What these guys did do was stuck with a ‘silly toy movie’ and pushed it around town and kept the faith after everyone turned them down, always with the hope that maybe someone somewhere would make it. Now I commend them on that. Hats off to them, but trying to taking creative credit in the press let me just say it – irks me. Too many credits are given to too many people who had nothing to do with the movie. Hell, even investment bankers with not the slightest idea of how to make a movie all of a sudden are big producers in town.
I guess that’s how it goes in Hollywood.
Michael Bay

Insurgents - Variety Review

The Insurgents
By LISA NESSELSON

A Slamdance Media Group release, in conjunction with Allumination FilmWorks, of a Revel Films production, in association with Angel Baby Entertainment and Full Glass Films. (International sales: Revel Films, New York.) Produced by Greg Segal, John Gallagher, Elana Pianko, Stan Erdreich, Mike Parness. Directed, written by Scott Dacko;

With: John Shea, Henry Simmons, Juliette Marquis, Michael Mosley, Mary Stuart Masterson.

A brain-teaser that tosses ideologies in a narrative blender alternately set to "certainty" and "ambiguity," "The Insurgents" makes the most of its compact cast of attractive thesps and low budget to examine the inner workings of a domestic terror cell. Anybody wondering how homegrown terrorism against a U.S. target could ever seem like a good idea will find somewhat stagey but consistently engaging food for thought here. Fests and civics classes should investigate.
As a citizen's response to post-9/11 doubts, scripter-helmer Scott Dacko's debut film is sometimes clunky in execution but always lively on an intellectual level. Script has something for everyone, whether you think the Chicago 7 were swell guys or you see no real reason not to wipe rogue nations off the map.

Talky but intriguing pic bounces back and forth in time, reconstructing the lead-up to an all-American bomb plot implemented by a disabled Iraq vet, a resourceful ex-prostitute and an ex-con country boy. Disgruntled protags follow the self-righteous leadership of a charismatic professional author and lecturer.

At pic's outset, clean-cut Southern-accented James (Michael Mosley) addresses the camera with a defiant rant marbled with eloquent references to dying for a cause, prefaced by, "If you're watching this, I guess I'm dead."

Ten or so title cards situate the action at between "three years ago" and "yesterday" but in non-chronological order, keeping viewers on their toes.

For example, "6 months ago" James came to the rescue of foxy, self-reliant Hana (Juliette Marquis) in a bar, after which they became a couple.

Two years before meeting suave but impotent ex-Marine and Iraq vet, Marcus (Henry Simmons), Hana was befriended by polemical author Robert (John Shea) who holds cozy salons for folks unsatisfied with the status quo.

Set piece devoted to the Unified Theory of Sept. 11, 2001 is an entertaining if chilling roundup of all the square pegs that don't fit in round holes pertaining to that day's terror attacks.

"The remarkable thing about 9/11 isn't how many people died -- it's how many lived," is one assertion.

"Why do conspiracies always have to be vast? Two people can be a conspiracy," offers one character. And, oh yeah, "The founding fathers were insurgents."

By the time the title card reads "Yesterday," suspense is white hot. Who really recruited who and for what?

Production values are sufficient on limited funds.

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Learan Kahanov; editor, Bob Reitano; music, Ben Butler, Mario Grigorov; production designer, John El Manahi; art director, Patrick McGowan; costume designer, Dara Ettinger; sound, Stephen Barden, Brian Miklas; casting, Adrienne Stern. Reviewed at Avignon Film Festival -- competing, June 23, 2007. Running time: 83 MIN.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fear And Loathing Review

Sometimes you see a movie and it doesn’t resonate properly the first time. Maybe it’s the depth of your experience, or lack thereof. Maybe its something else, like there are layers of subtext. In the case of my initial reaction to Terry Gilliam’s adaption of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I think the cause was different. For whatever reason, when I first turned it on, watching it on DVD when it was released, I didn’t make it past the first twenty minutes. And I love Terry Gilliam, always have. I think, though, that when I saw one of my favorite books on screen, from one of my favorite directors, it set my expectations for comedy so high that what I saw in the first twenty minutes was quite disappointing. I was watching at a friend’s place, we turned it off, and I never bought or rented it afterward.

Well, its years later, now, and I’ve had the chance to see this brilliant movie. I think the first twenty minutes is kind of the orientation period. It’s the elevator ride down. I stopped the movie before I had a chance to acclimate to its vision, to embrace what Gilliam was trying to do with the book. The way that a world is created is undeniable, and even after watching just the first bit made me realize that he had done that, but to write it off as a terrific failure, one that was brave and masterful and just didn’t work.

But I had to give it another chance. I mean, this is Terry Gilliam. Brazil, Terry Gilliam. With Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. And I am glad to report that it was my short attention span, my ADD, whatever, that led me not to recognize the brilliance in the vision and the humor that resounds throughout. Its just that he doesn’t explain his vision, the background of the characters and their real-life behavior; he just asks you to hold on to the back bumper until youre running faster than you ever have, at the same speed as the car.

The casting is brilliant, with great cameos up and down, including Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Ellen Barkin, Chris Meloni (great as Sven, the Hotel Clerk), Gary Busey (may I have a kiss before you go?), Viggo Mortensen, Cameron Diaz, Penn Jillette, Harry Dean Stanton and a bunch of others. The photography completes the trippy atmosphere, as does the use of the rear projection in driving scenes. And Del Toro is a great foil to Depp, whose movie it is and who carries the movie with his performance and voiceover and complete dedication to his homage to Hunter S. Thompson (who appears in a flashback).

Watch it. Own it. Live it (well, probably not, you’ll get arrested). And try the Land Crab.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Airplane Bloggin’: Back to LALA land edition

Grabbed my first flight to LA after restfully (somewhat) spending the entire month of June in NYC. I had traveled back for the PictureStart Film Festival in late May, and I had actually intended to make my way back west by mid-June. But mid-June turned to late June and then, with airline ticket prices skyrocketing, to early July. And when I say early, I mean early, as I took another redeye inverse, a plane leaving NY damn early and getting into LA before 10AM. Redeye inverse, just made it up. Like it, feel free to use it.

LA is a source of ambivalence for me. I like LA. I like the weather. I certainly don’t mind a day of driving from meeting to meeting, grabbing coffees in between. I don’t mind being in a car alone (the anti-social part of me (is there any other part) likes that quite a bit).

But my apartment in LA, how shall we say, SUCKS. It’s been a little bit of a disaster all along. Its primary draws are that its well located, has off street parking, and is cheap. Readers may recall that when I moved into it, the room I had lacked walls., Yes, wall. I”ve since put up walls at moderate expense, but they were necessary so that I didn’t have to listen to the god-awful music the guy who shared the bungalow played. And he didn’t have to listen to me snore.

Rather uncermemoniously, this fellow, who was the one who convinced me to rent half the bungalow and join his band of merry thieves (I chose to simply cohabitate, anti-social being that I am), has moved out. With all the rest of his crew. When he told me he was leaving, I tried to find another tenant to replace him, choosing to choose my poison. But he never responded to the person I chose, so that they could see the place, and now one of the hipsters in the main house picked his replacement. So, I am going back to a bungalow with a roommate Ive never met. Hes supposedly quiet, and my format roommate was no joy, being noisy, home all the time, and kind of a slob, so perhaps it wont be that bad, We shall see. But to say that I don’t have some degree of trepidation would be a lie.

I also don’t really have much of a friend base in LA. That accounts for evenings in the bungalow on a regular basis. Which would be OK, except the bungalow is not exactly the Pierre. And I don’t have much STUFF there. I have some clothes, a few DVDs, and no cable television. So passing the time takes some time. I usually am multitasking at home, working on the computer while writing emails or reading or whatever. The TV is on, often playing a movie I’ve already seen (its kind of like playing music for me). I cannot do that in LA, with no cable. I have a few DVDs, and that’s where it is. Its not optimal.

But its work, and the friend situation is getting better (oh, woe is me). And things are progressing, which makes me feel good. Both Digger and Slaughter appear to be almost fully sewn in by now, and that’s the main reason I am out here.

I hate flying too, did I mention that? We’re over Colarado. A few hours to go.

See ya there.

Grumpy