Sunday, September 30, 2007
As seen in the picture above Tommy Lee Jones (alongside Susan Sarandon) stars in this film as a retired Military Policeman who wakes up one morning with a phone call from the Army who informs him that his son has been reported as absent without official leave (AWOL). After hanging up the phone he immediately directs his motives toward tracking down his son. As seen in the following clip he meets up with a detective at the police department, who is played by Charlize Theron, with the hope of utilizing ever resource possible to find his son.
One of the things that I found interesting about this film was reference made to the story of David and Goliath. In First Samuel, chapter 17 of the Bible the story of David and Goliath takes place in what has been recorded as the Valley of Elah. It was clear that the story of David correlates to the story in this film, since the characters are having to face the giant obstacles that are presented in their life. I am referring to several characters in this film who I had viewed as a modern David, since each of the characters had different obstacles they were up against as the story progressed. Some of the obstacles were emotional, others were institutional.
Taking a step back to review the film as a whole I thought it was excellently produced. Paul Haggis did a fine job pulling the information for the film from the true life story of Lanny Davis. There was an editorial article about Lanny Davis that was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Father of fallen hero rides a lonesome trail; by Joe Williams, September 28, 2007), and I found it to be an interesting supplemental read to the film. If you haven't seen the film yet I would recommend that you avoid reading the article since it contains a couple of potential spoilers. What I found interesting in the article was the clarification of story differences between the film's story line and the true life events. This film has simplified the motivation for some of the characters to a non-complex catalyst that serves as a reason for why they committed a harmful act against one of their best friends.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this film was the high quality job that each one of the actors have contributed to the film. Despite her relatively small role in the film I thought Susan Sarandon did an outstanding job as the wife of the character played by Tommy Lee Jones. I don't know the exact reason why she was attracted to this film, but the story line is excellent and it could also be perceived as an anti-war film (which she has clearly established her real life opinion to be a stance against the war). Personally, I didn't view this film as a political view against the war, but I watched it as a story of the mental and physical stress that our soldiers are being placed under that causes personal harm against them. Just like in Vietnam with the amount of soldiers who returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder, I wouldn't be surprised if the current war returns the same number of soldiers who have been diagnosed with the illness.
At the end of the film I was very satisfied with the how the story was handled. I didn't feel pressured by any hidden political agenda, and I was interested in the emotional immensity of what happened to those involved in the story. My final review rating for this film is a 9 out of 10.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Because of the overdone Italian-American mafia stories it's hard for anyone here in the U.S. to separate the terms "mafia" and "Italian" when they are talking about the famous film genre. Eastern Promises (2007) is a much needed break from a film genre that has found itself resting too comfortably in a niche that is in desperate need of revamping. I'm tired of seeing the steady flow of Italian mafia themed films that are being released at the rate that the production companies are producing them. I guess I'm either desperate for something new or this film was really that entertaining. This film centers on the Russian mafia in England, and not on the Italian mob in New York City. Two of the film's main characters, as picture above, are Kirill and Nikolai who are portrayed by Vincent Cassel and Viggo Mortensen.
The film was interesting enough to hold my attention from the beginning all the way through until the end. There are two things that were presented in the film that I would like to provide a note for in this review. I enjoyed the subtle, but still comprehensive hints in the story line that involve the character and plot development for the film. There is a plot twist in the film, which I promise not to divulge here, was casually brought up in scene within the last thirty minutes of the film. The viewer finds out some surprising information about one of the lead characters in the particular scene that I'm thinking about, but the twist doesn't draw any special attention to itself.
For me it is irritating to be forced into an "aha" moment with an overdriven musical score and grandiose cinematic shots all wrapped up with the over the top acting. I'm sure there are many of us who remember the classic Looney Toons cartoons that depict the group of bad guys hanging out in a shack surrounded by neon signs clearly pointing out the location of the villains. This is the same annoying trick that is used in the films that utilize the overdramatic tools of the cinematic narrative to draw the viewer's attention to the plot twist. I wish the film directors would stop doing this! The twist in this film was set with an even and menacing tone that was established very early in the film and the bright neon signs were thankfully left behind. The other subtle hints that I enjoyed in the film were the character development of Kirill, the son of the mafia boss. As the film progresses the viewer learns the Kirill is a lazy, gay drunk who has a difficulty time following the legendary footsteps of his father. After viewing the film with my brother we were discussing the issue that it may not have been entirely obvious to some members of the audience that Kirill is gay. I thought the character attribute was very well obvious. Since I was able to pull bits of information about him from several different scenes throughout the film.
Moving on from the previous points I've made I would like to mention a strong Viewer Beware for this movie. If you are not into watching violently graphic films, then I would recommend to skip this movie and move on to something that may be more suitable for your viewing pleasure. The film was given an R-rating for the scenes that include a close up shot of dead man's fingers being cut off with appear to be a device similar to pruning shears, and another scene involving a well choreographed fight scene in a sauna that ends in a guys eye being stabbed with a sharp knife like weapon. I'm sure you're cringing as you read the description of the scenes that I've just mentioned, and trust me when I claim that the visuals weren't very appetizing. Despite the visual horror that was depicted in the film I was still enthralled by the story and the characters.
There were several things that were done very well in this film including the cinematography, acting, and directing. The writing itself was well done since it was set in an already well-established mafia genre, but was able to still hold my interest. My final rating for this film boils down to a 7 out of 10.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
For those Americans who have some kind of background connection with the working class may easily understand the economic pains of downsizing within a company or industry. On the flip side to our blue collar style working dilemma there is the "evil enemy" known as the heads of corporation who are stereotypically seen as white guys sitting on their fat butt in a large corner office raking in the millions of dollars to make every decision possible to hurt the little guy on the bottom of the totem pole. But is this really the true story of the corporate world? I definitely don't have a definitive answer to why the laborers are losing their jobs as part of an economic downsizing. But I do know that this issue is a current event problem in the film industry. There are several film laborers who are protesting the lack of available work ever since the U.S. film production companies had hit the highway to save money on production costs by filming outside of the American borders. The economic penny pinching is leaving many of our American film production laborers left in the dust with the four little words left on their tongue: They took my job!
So, what are the production workers doing to solve this problem? They're taking it to the U.S. courts, of course. One particular group who holds a strong interest in this case would be the Film & Television Action Committee (FTAC Website), an organization that was created back in December of 1998 just for the purpose of keeping U.S. production jobs within the country's borders. On a visit to their website I discovered a nice little counter that states a running total of how much financial loss has been created due to foreign outsourcing. You can visit the interesting little counter by going to this page. When I visited this page at 3:35pm PST the year to date losses has been estimated at $7,330,605,029. According to the statement that has been associated with the running calculator, I'm blindly trusting that the algorithm is "Based upon prior year statistics published in the 2001 U.S. Dept. of Commerce report on Runaway Film and TV Production." Take a look at the red print above the calculator and you'll see the same phrase that I have just pasted in this entry, but I doubt that the information is accurate.
I never really considered writing anything on this topic before until I stumbled across an article that was posted on the Cinema Blend blog site (Canada Stealing US Film Jobs? by Stuart Wood; September 7, 2007). I was aware that the production companies have moved some of their projects across the border or to other foreign states so that the bottom dollar could be tightened up a little. But I think the matter is a give and take dilemma. Sure, it sucks for American who wants to maintain his sense of patriotism by purchasing a product that has the label "Made In America" stitched all over it, but the production companies may claim they can't afford the high financial costs to fulfill the patriotic dream. So, what is a film producer supposed to do? Compromise, of course!
James Cameron's famous shipwrecked love story Titanic (1997) was filmed at the 20th Century Fox studios down in Rosarito (Baja California Norte, Mexico).
So, does this stir up any anger for our fellow American workers because we lost some of our jobs to Mexico? You might want to read that question one more time. Yep, it's true that I used the word "some" instead of the word "all" in that question. It is a fact that the production company (20th Century Fox) was willing to compromise by filming in Mexico, but utilizing American actors to play the extras. I'm sure there are some people who are thinking that it should have been a simple decision to hire white people to play white passengers on a cruise ship that was set for sail from England. The point of this particular story is that it is possible, and has actually been proven, that production companies are still willing to hire American workers for the production of their films. In the meantime they still employ accountants who are always on the prowl for ways the company could save on money instead of lavishly spending it. It's seems like a contradictory statement, but film production companies want to save money, too. It's a business, and a good business knows how to wheel and deal.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The Contract (2006) is another example of one of those films that I have just described. John Cusack stars as a morally conscious father who, while on a camping trip with his son, crosses the path of a dying cop who was in the process of transporting a professional assassin played by Morgan Freeman. As a promise to the death wish of the cop Cusack's character upholds the responsibility to continue transporting Freeman's character until the authorities are able to arrive.
The story of the film depends heavily on the overly driven plot points that keep things progressing toward a logical and pleasant ending. In my viewpoint as the viewer I usually don't enjoy films that are plot driven, because there is very little reality built into the characters of the story. The primary characters are dragged along from plot point to point creating the scenario of the tail wagging the dog. Usually I'll overlook a plot driven film if there is some over powering quality that redeems the storyline from a ridiculously created writers block. For this particular film I thought the photography was the best attribute of the whole productions; some of the shots were outstandingly well done. But I still wouldn't think that the photography is stable and moving enough to redeem the film, because I was still focused on the poor character development.
Some of the lines that are spoken in the film don't even fit the type of logical pattern that I would think would be said in a comparable real life scenario. Upon the point in which dying officer asks Cusack's character to return the suspect to the proper authorities the son steps in with the suggestion that if the assassin escapes then he will intentionally return to kill both the father and the son before they are able to return to the comfort of their own home. If I was in a similar situation, by a far chance I would presume, then I doubt that I would be uttering those very same words. As the scene was progressing I had asked myself the question of logic. What if I were to ignore the morally conscious action of returning a captured assassin to the proper authorities? If I chose the alternative by allowing the bad guy to roam free would I truly believe that he would return with his henchman so that they could murder my father and myself? Reviewing the situation I would only think that my personal safety was endangered if I perceived the assassin to be a lunatic mass murder who appeared to be on par with Michael Meyers or Freddy Krueger.
My overall impression of the film leaves me to give it a rating of 5 out of 10. I'm being generous with the rating, because the cinematography was interesting enough to hold my attention and the acting was believable enough for me to at least watch the film all the way through until the end. However, I would recommend that you avoid watching this movie and spend your leisure time on one of the more entertaining films that I've mention at the start of this review.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Upon discovering about the renaming of the local pizzeria, the Reverend gave the production crew an hour notice to pack up and move out of the church that was being used by crew members as a mess hall. He was even nice enough to return the check the production company had written to the church for the use of the building. I heard the value of the check was estimated around $1,800, but I'm not entirely sure if that is an accurate estimate. Dane Cook was quoted in the Boston Herald article asking if Reverend Nardoianni knows how to forgive others and participate in a joke, but this is the part that I'll have to step in with my disagreement.
The Reverend has a right in our country to practice his religious and moral beliefs, and if he feels that others are making a joke at his expense on his property then the pranksters needed to be booted off the property. I'm not pointing the blaming finger at Dane Cook for saying or acting upon anything immoral, because he also has an entitled right to exercise his freedom of speech and to earn an income. But I think this incident is an issue of disrespect between two interacting adults. I think it was disrespectful of the production crew to be invited to utilize a church as a lunch room so that they could make a film poking fun at religion. I would have second thoughts about going over to a friend's house so that I can sit at his dining room table and crack jokes about his mom or some other personal matter. It was a disrespectful move, and should have been thought through a little bit more by the production company prior to booking the church as a venue.
Monday, September 17, 2007
This film was written and directed by Glenn Palmedo-Smith, a local San Diegan who lives about fifteen miles or so from where I live. I heard about his story when the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote on article about the film in their Sunday edition (Reel Intrigue, by John Wilkens; September 16, 2007). His film The Hungry Woman (2007) centers around a Hispanic woman and her brother who came to southern California looking for work. She ends up landing a job as a housekeeper for an American living in San Diego county.
The real life inspiration for the story came from the November 1992 story of Ian Spiro who lived with his family in Rancho Sante Fe with his wife and three kids who he had shot and killed. This wasn't the only infamous story that occurred in the quiet, unincorporated suburb of San Diego. Do you happen to remember a little quite group who referred to themselves as Heaven's Gate? That was another, but unrelated, event that took place in Rancho Sante Fe five years later.
For his film Glenn was intrigued with the story about the murders, but when he tried to sell it to a couple of film producers up in L.A. he was told it would only be able to sell as a television film of the week. Glenn didn't like that answer. After wallowing in a local San Diego bar he was given the right angle of inspiration that he needed. Who would have thought that the creative inspiration would have come from a guy that Glenn described as "kind of an old bum" (as quoted from the article printed in The Coast News; August 10, 2007). The older bar patron suggested that Glenn tells the story through the point of view of the Spiro's maid. Glenn proceeded to write and direct the film inspired by this new approach to a real life news story.
After reading the background history to the film, plus noting that a large portion of it was filmed at a piece of deserted property near my house, I am intrigued to go see the film. I even stumbled across a positive review of the film from the NAHJ Digital website (Fast Paced "Hungry Woman" Satisfies, by Chris Echeverry). The film is scheduled for a limited release on Wednesday, September 19th to be played on a total of five southern California screens, proceed by a release in five Mexican theaters on September 21st. For a list of theater locations you could visit the the theater listings page on the movie's website The Hungry Woman.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The relatively brief synopsis describes the Spanish language film Ladrón que roba a ladrón (2007) which has been distributed by Hollywood heavyweight Lionsgate Films. I watched this film with a large number of Spanish speakers who appeared to enjoy the film tremendously by the amount of laughs and interaction I overheard as the film progressed through it's storyline. Personally I enjoyed the film, despite the fact that my Spanish is severely limited to the use of commonly used, but very brief, phrases that kept me on par with the pace of subtitles that flew across the screen. This isn't my first foreign language film, I assure you, but subtitles never have deterred me from seeing a film with an interesting appeal.
In this film the two main characters Alejandro and Emilio, played by Fernando Colunga and Miguel Varoni, are attempting to give a former partner a moral lesson on why it's wrong to be robbing from the poor. To attempt to achieve such a lofty of stealing millions of dollars in broad daylight from the infomercial guru the pair enlists several immigrants, each one with a unique skill, to break into the vault at the guru's L.A. mansion during a festive honors award ceremony.
The film was produced very well with quite a few touches of humor littered throughout the story. The cast displayed a real sense of connection with each other on screen that served very well in portraying the teamwork the characters have developed to achieve their large scale goal.
I would definitely recommend this film to those out there who have enjoyed watching any of the Ocean's Eleven films. My rating for this film would strike around an 8 out of 10 points possible.
Friday, September 14, 2007
The correct answer to my trivial game would be James Mangold. He earned his first major screen credit in the late 1980s for adapting the famous epic novel Oliver Twist, penned by Charles Dickens, into a modern day story of a New York City orphan cat who becomes adopted by a rich family. It's an interesting connection to see that twenty years later the same creative author now sitting in the directors chair to produce a violent remake of a classic 1957 western film. The original film, also sharing the same title, starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin in the lead roles that were taken over by Russel Crowe and Christina Bale (pictured).
In recent years I was wondering if the classic western film was a dying genre in the film business. There are still plenty of western books being published every year, including reprints by classic western authors such as Zane Grey or Louis L'Amour. But I was the film industry was really forgetting about the interesting subject. After all the number of American westerns produced every year in our country has drastically decreased since the 1950s because of the change in the audience's taste in film entertainment. According to top grossing films from 1995 to 2007 (posted on the website The Numbers) the western genre hits spot number eleven with only twenty five films that earned at least $12 million or more at the box office. The detailed page on the website, found here, had to expand the genre's data as far back as the late 1970s to include the film The Frisco Kid (1979) just to have a complete list of the top twenty-five box office earnings.
Now after seeing the film this afternoon I begin to think that there is some hope for the genre itself. In my opinion, I don't think the genre has been obliterated, but rather the classic form that we may recognize from many decades ago has now evolved into a more modern form. I was fearing that the industry would continue to produce such lowest common denominator western films such as American Outlaws (2001), but they proved that it is possible to produce a couple of entertaining ones like 3:10 to Yuma (2007) and the Oscar award winning film Cold Mountain (2003). As you may have already guess by the last sentence that I enjoyed the film. I thought the screenplay was well written by the writing team. In fact, Halsted Welles was given a writing credit for both versions of the film (regardless if he did any actual contribution to the remake, I'm not entirely sure).
As I have already stated in this review that the remake was quite violent with the amount of graphic gun shot wounds that are displayed upon the screen. I highly doubt the western frontier was a clean and innocent lifestyle for everyone, and I doubt that when there was a presence of a gunfight that the victims fell to the ground with blots of ketchup on their shirt front.
My Final Word
I would only recommend this film to those who hold no prejudice toward films that contain violence and foul language in it. There are a couple of people who I know usually avoid the type of movies that are filled with excessive violence or cussing, but they mentioned after watching this film that it held their attention all the way through to the end. Personally I would give this film a high rating, maybe around an 8.5 out of 10 points.
Monday, September 10, 2007
During the class discussion there were a couple of key vocalists who held the belief that it is too soon for Hollywood to be releasing films about the fall of the twin towers. One of the students even explained that her uncle had died on 9/11 and she thought it wasn't appropriate to disrespect the victims by means of turning a profit. I tend to disagree by means of viewing the situation differently. I respect the student's concerns with a proper tribute for those who died in the event of what happened in New York, but I don't think Oliver Stone's primary objective was to make a film about the subject so that he could turn a quick dollar. His reputation has been built on making a statement (politically or otherwise) through the art of narrative storytelling. He is entitled to his political views just the same as the rest of us, but the it should be done tastefully. I had seen Stone's film while it was still playing in the theaters and I thought it was an interesting film.
When viewing the approach of producing films about the war or about the events in New York it would be nice to see the final production to serve as a tribute to the victims and survivors of the events with a certain amount of respect. Even after sixty plus years there are film companies who are producing films about World War 2. How many of us remember ever hearing any complaints from the surviving families of that war? Personally I haven't met anyone who was disgruntled over the disrespect of victims and survivors of WWII with the release of such films as Saving Private Ryan (1998), Jakob the Liar (1999), or Schindler's List (1993).
I am thinking that because 9/11 has been such a recent memory for our country that there are several survivors and family members who are still emotionally involved in what happened. These people deserve all the time they need to cope with the disaster and have the opportunity to move on in life. But what about the rest of the country who wasn't directly effected by the loss of a family member, friend, or co-worker? Personally I didn't know anyone who was in New York City at the time of the September incident. Also, I wasn't sent off to fight a battle in the Middle East like so many of our American soldiers were commissioned to do. There are many people in the same situation as I am who hold no direct connection to 9/11 or to the war in Iraq other than being a patriotic American. It is with the strong belief that I hold the position that tribute films should serve as a reminder to those people like myself who may easily forget the tragic events of our history. I'm not asking for the production companies to seek out a quick dollar, but to create a parable that can be our parable like reminder of what our country has survived.
This issue is definitely not a closed door yet. Oliver Stone plans on making a film about our country's invasion of Afghanistan in search of Osama bin Laden. According to an article from Variety (Stone, Par return to 9/11 trenches; October 15, 2006) the film will be partly based upon the memoir of CIA point man Gary Berntsen. The proposed title of the new film will be borrowed from the book's title, Jawbreaker. From some of the articles I've read about the film's production it wouldn't be a surprise to me if the production company was to anticipate a controversy to build as the planned 2009 release of the film approaches. But as the nature of previous Stone films have proven it won't be far fetched to believe that his productions are either innovative or intentional to spark such heated debates. Take a look at the controversy of his film JFK (1991) in regards to historians and several investigators who attempted to build theories upon how the assassination of President Kennedy was accomplished. Stone was accused of falsifying historical facts to prove his own theory of what took place.
Well, I didn't expect to focus so much of this article to Oliver Stone and his career, but he does provide an excellent example of being controversial with the production of political themed films. I thought his tribute to the September events was done tastefully, although it was toned down from his usual politically charged films.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Let me provide a list of villians and various characters that have appeared in the Batman comic book series that I would just love to see appear in a new Batman movie...
I'm sure there are several of you out there who could add a couple of names to the list. If you do have a favorite villian that I haven't listed, then go ahead and add a comment with your entry.
But in all reality there are some rumors already flying around about the third film in the Batman series being directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight). According to these rumors there isn't a single name on my list that will be expected to appear in the rumored, third film.
Shall I begin to discuss where I stumbled across the information? Check out Cinema Blend's original scoop on the story of Catwoman appearing in the third film, closely chased by the site's follow up story. Here's a quick snippet from both stories...
It may seem a little early to be worrying about a third Batman movie while the second one is still filming, but if Batman Begins has taught us anything about Christopher Nolan it’s that he plans ahead. Even more exciting than the idea that we may get the Joker in more than one movie is the identity of another villain who may be in Batman 3. According to our source, “it could also include a certain female feline as well.”
Well, we’re not the only ones receiving news about a possible Batman 3. Batman on Film has gotten word that Warner Brothers is scoping out a possible release date for a third Bat-flick: Winter 2009.
This tells me there will be a third film, but the villains are not a guaranteed list. If Christopher Nolan does swing toward including Catwoman in the third film of his trilogy I would have to agree with the statement from the blog entry on the Movie Blog website...
Oh my goodness I really hope this is just rumor. Adding yet another mainline villain to the Batman saga... especially one like Catwoman at this point, would be a tragic mistake in my opinion. If they are indeed setting up Two Face to be the big bad guy in part 3... and Joker is going to be back... then why on earth would you squeeze yet ANOTHER key character like Catwoman into the mix? It just makes no sense to me at all. On the other hand... maybe if you stuff Jessica Biel into that outfit.... ppprrrrrrr.
The reference to Jessica Biel in the cat suit would be best connected with the film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) that involves a scene involving her wearing such an a costume party. There are two things in that last blog post that I agree with in regards to a third film. First of all, I would prefer that the film would not include a villainous character that's already been done to death. Catwoman appeared several times in the Adam West television show, in the film Batman Returns (1992), and in the horrendously produced spin-off film Catwoman (2004). Please, kill the idea of having too many reoccurring characters. I will allow the exception of Harvey Dent (a.k.a. Two Face) to be worked on more, since he didn't really get the proper attention that he deserved in Batman and Robin (1997) as well as only appearing as his human counterpart (to the best of my knowledge) in the upcoming film The Dark Knight.
So, why should Hollywood spend millions of dollars repeating the storylines of the same old characters? I won't exactly know the answer to that question. But I do hope that they won't waste a tremendous amount of time focusing on the more popular characters when there is a huge library of other ones they could tap in to for a wider selection of potential blockbuster material.
Monday, September 3, 2007
From Rosario, the Prom, and the Week That Was.As he further explains in his blog entry that if an actor or actress is unavailable for a film role that was written for the person then the filmmakers would have to start searching for somebody else to fill in the position.
(August 8, 2007)
A few short weeks ago, in this Mtv.com interview, I was asked about Rosario Dawson’s involvement in our next flick, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”.
“I wrote it for Rosario Dawson,” I responded. “I’d be kind of flabbergasted if she didn’t do it.” Yesterday, Mtv.com ran this article, in which she was asked about her involvement in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”.
“It’s going to be a really interesting film. I don’t think I’m going to be a part of it. He wrote it for me, but I’m just signing on to do ("Eagle Eye") and that’s going to be shooting from November to March.” What can I say? It kinda sucks. And not inasmuch as “Jesus - we’ll never find another actress for this role!” It kinda sucks because, like I’ve said, I wrote the part with Rosario in mind/for Rosario to play.
After reading an article written by an established filmmaker such as Kevin Smith I began to wonder if there are any available statistics that can tell me the number of times a director or producer had to accommodate the production schedule around an actor's availability so that the "right person for the job" can portray a role, according to the writer in most cases, was written specifically for the actor.
How many times have you watched a film and observed that it was the perfect signature story or visual style of a particular filmmaker or actor? Have you ever watched a film about a character who is innocent, curious, or a driven adventurer and thought it was a character perfectly written for a Steven Spielberg film? Think along the lines of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) or Artificial Intellegience: A.I. (2001) and you may see my point about the signature touch of a gifted artist.
Now, back to the dilemma of miscasting by fault of scheduling conflicts. Just as I pointed out the example of Spielberg's unique talent for directing films involving adventurous characters, I think the same talent arises in the art of casting the right type of actors for certain types of roles. If you've ever seen the extremely unique (and talented) films that have been written by Charlie Kaufman than you may understand the amount of work that is involved to create a well written film. For two prime examples of his work I would like to refer you to two of his films: Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation. (2002).
When the writer claims he or she wrote a character specifically for a particular actor the person is usually writing to the capabilities and talents that the actor possesses. For example, why would a writer want to create a character who is a transvestite and then expect someone like Bruce Willis or Chuck Norris to play the role? Somehow there has been some success with films a couple of films about drag queens that were played by actors who are usually viewed as masculine men. Take a look at the performances by Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo in Too Wong Foo (1995) or the acting talents of Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994).
Now as Kevin Smith has mentioned in his blog entry that the ideal actor for a role in a film may not be the perfect timing for the actor to be hired for the job. At the time that he had published his entry he was wanting Rosario Dawson to play the lead female character in a script he had just finished writing. But due to the conflicts of scheduling between the production planning and Dawson's work schedule she wasn't available to hop on board and starting filming the movie for Kevin as soon as possible.
The issue of conflicting schedules could lead to one of three possible outcomes: (1) The role is filled in with another actor who takes the role to an award winning performance, or (2) it is performed by a person with equal talent and similar acting style in comparison with the person that was originally chosen for the role. The last possibility, which is also the most dangerous of all three outcomes, would be the mistake of miscasting the role to an actor who just can't produce the right kind of performance for the job. Who would have thought that Bruce Willis can successfully play such a seriously dramatic role in the 1999 hit The Sixth Sense and become a huge hit? Now I'm not sure how that film would have turned out if the role of Dr. Malcolm Crowe was given to someone such as rap artist Ice Cube, for example.
Creating a production schedule for a film can be a business gamble in many ways. Anyone who's ever held a management position that requires creating a weekly or monthly work schedule may know how stressful it can be to battle the daunting task. Now imagine being a film producer who is trying to coordinate the production schedule for a multi-million dollar film project and your key desire is to make sure that you have a schedule that allows you to utilize the talent of the best actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. Even if the most talented people are unavailable due to schedule conflicts then you, acting as a film producer, may have to settle for someone different who may not be of the same caliber of talent (i.e. the person may suck, but at least he or she is available for hire). This poses the risk of a final film that the audience just can't enjoy because it's not believable. I have had an extremely difficult time enjoying the Spiderman movies, because for me Tobey Maguire is not my ideal candidate for the lead role. I think Maguire's acting performances are rather flat and unbelievable, but for other film goers who are willing to slap down nearly $382 million dollars (estimated grand total for the combined box office sales just for the opening weekends for all three Spiderman films) than why should I be so concerned that the lead performance wasn't believable enough for my tastes?
Oh, well. I guess I can't have all my favorite actors win all the best parts.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I've been looking forward to this film from the moment I heard about it several months ago. After several decades of intense acting in the "underground" world of film (a.k.a. anything not mainstream Hollywood), Johnny Depp was able to break through to the general masses when he starred as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). I've been watching Depp's films from before Pirates ever hit the theaters. I must say that he's got a enormous gift of talent for acting.
Now, back to the Sweeney Todd film. The word on the street is that the MPAA has given the film an R-rating due to the amount of graphic violence that is presented on screen. Well, that rating should be a no duh. If anyone has read the synopsis of the story or has seen the theatrical show then it may be pretty clear that a story of a demon barber who goes on a murderous rampage while his landlord turns the victims into minced meat pies would not be a family friendly film. I applaud the idea of giving the film an adult oriented rating, but this may not slow down the massive amounts of teenagers who will be attracted to multiplexes for the movie. The film stars an A-list actor, seen by many women as an attractive guy; and it entails graphic violence, an appealing feature for teenagers who attract to slasher films like flies to garbage.
I'm not going to disbar myself from the list of movie goers who will be drawn to see this film. I've seen a taped performance of the stage version starring Angela Lansbury (of Murder, She Wrote fame) as the landlord with the delicious meat pies. I truly enjoyed the dark, sadistic humor that was mixed in with the storyline of the play. After seeing films like The Ninth Gate (1999) and From Hell (2001), I have complete confidence that Johnny Depp will be able to delve head first into the dark themes of Sweeney Todd and present a character that will be as remerkable as Captain Sparrow.
The latest news for the film's release date has been set for December 21, 2007. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like meat pies and murderous barbers.