Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

Latest Posts

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Sep 14, 2006
by Philip Wuntch [The Dallas Morning News]

ALL THE KING’S MEN
New version of Robert Penn Warren’s novel about a Huey Long-type politico has a powerful cast, including Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and Patricia Clarkson. Penn’s southern drawl is an earful.


+ + +


JACKASS: NUMBER TWO
The original gang, including Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius, are with us once again.


 


+ + +


JET LI’S FEARLESS
Jet Li plays martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia, who overcame tragic odds to become China’s greatest fighter at the turn of the 20th century.


+ + +


FLYBOYS
James Franco and Jean Reno are among the stars in this tale of the Lafayette Escadrille, the first fighter pilots.


 



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2006


Famed French filmmaker Luc Besson announced Monday 11, September that, after the release of his latest directorial effort, the live action and CG animated Arthur and the Minimoys (set for a 12 January release in the U.S.), he is leaving the industry to concentrate on “charity” work. It’s a semi-stunning announcement from a fairly prolific artist. Aside from the ten films he’s helmed over his career (which he lovingly refers to as his “babies”) Besson has been a major figure in International cinema. He has written scripts for such high profile action series as the Taxi films, the Transporter and it’s sequel, and two of Jet Li’s most popular efforts, Kiss of the Dragon (2001) and Danny the Dog (2005) – later retitled Unleashed. Yet its as a producer where the 46 year old has truly thrived, guiding dozens of films through their creation. Without him, such efforts as District B13 (2004), Guy Ritchie’s Revolver (2005) and the stellar slasher update Haute Tension (2003) may never have been made.


Now this announcement is really nothing new. As a matter of fact, it was sort of expected. Besson has been very vocal in interviews and comments about leaving the director’s chair after his 10th film, and apparently he is holding steadfast in this decision. Still, he does have his creative fingers in many motion picture pies. So unless this retirement includes his efforts behind a typewriter or managing a production’s bottom line, Besson will remain a very viable force behind the scenes of modern moviemaking. With that settled, the concern then becomes what we as an audience will fail to see with his departure. In essence the issue becomes what has Besson really given cinema that will be missed once he’s gone. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like very much, at least upon a fleeting first glance.


With rare exceptions, Besson’s films exist in a weird world made up of stunt work, speculation, and shootouts. Of the ten ‘children’ born in the 25 years of creating his filmic family, only three - The Big Blue, Atlantis and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc - could be classified as defying the Besson basics. Two (Blue, Atlantis) are clearly based in his childhood love of the sea (Besson was raised by scuba diving instructor parents). The last, his interpretation of Saint Joan, was a far more personal undertaking for his then wife Milla Jovovich. The rest of his films – The Last Battle (1983), Subway (1985), Le Femme Nikita (1990), Leon/The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997), Angel-A (2005) and next year’s Arthur – all maintain an awkward balance between fantasy and reality, using clear genre ideals to modify standard human stories. Some of these yarns - Element, in particular – were written while he was still a teenager, and often show their obvious adolescent ideas about heroism, love and the pathway to progress. 


There is one thing that’s certain, however; all of Besson’s films have a strong visual component. You can’t look at something like Le Femme Nikita or Leon and not be startled by the way in which this director’s camera moves. Sure, he can be too tricky and twee (Angel-A and Subway suffer from some of his more obvious cinematic tricks) and he frequently overloads the frame with more compositional elements than are necessary for the narrative. Sure, it’s an amazing looking moment when Jovovich’s character in Element stands on the ledge of a building overlooking a frighteningly futuristic New York City, but the density of the visuals actually detract from the moment. It’s hard to appreciate the scope of something when you’ve purposely rendered it infinite. Similarly, Besson believes in a primordial kind of plotting, a storyline that strongly follows a good vs. evil dynamic while sprinkling in a little eccentricity and character quirks along the way. There are always heroes and villains in a Besson film, though sometimes who’s who can be confusing and unclear. Yet thanks to their pure kinetic power, their daunting desire to light up the screen with their spectacle, a movie by Luc Besson gets a lot of logistical leeway. We appreciate the effort more than the effect.


But the fact of the matter remains, will anyone other than the Besson nation really care if this French fantasist hangs up his chapeau – at least for the time being? If Stephen Spielberg had stopped creating after a mere ten films, we would never have had Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, or Munich. In the case of Martin Scorsese, we’d have never seen The King of Comedy, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas or Casino. Perhaps it’s a clear case of a filmmaker knowing his limits. Besson must sense his stylistic and substantive aspects are restricted by his areas of interest, and there’s no branching out into other forms of filmmaking. He’s become known for his hyperactive action set pieces and frequently ingenious flights of fancy. After conquering the family film (the trailer for Arthur looks interesting, to say the least) Besson must believe there is nothing left to try. And as long as he can add to the steady stream of writing/producing credits, he will almost always be around.


So don’t mourn the loss of another “visionary” filmmaker – celebrate the fact that Besson knew better than to overstay his already waning welcome. Angel-A barely got distribution in the US, and without the standard CGI stunt casting (Snoop Dogg, David Bowie and Madonna are part of the English-speaking cast) it’s hard to know if the Weinstein Company would have picked up the Minimoys film for US distribution. When filmgoers are demanding remastered DVD versions of your earlier films over the delivery of something new – as is the case with Element and Leon – perhaps its time to pack your bags. Whether or not he ever really does focus on community work with kids as he says, Besson will best be remembered as a French firebrand who carved a special niche out of a tired Tinsel Town tenet. In this case, parting is not such sweet sorrow – it seems like the logical thing to do.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2006

I had a strange thought when I was in that purgatory known as the Duane Reade checkout line. Desperately trying to distract myself from the (intentional?) inefficiency of the clerks and the customers who were too busy sending out text messages on their phones to have their wallets out, even though they had been in line as long as I had, I was contemplating the DVD rack (who is buying DVDs on impulse in the drugstore? Who sees Stuck on You—with that dynamic comedy duo, Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear—for $11.99 and thinks, Hey, you know what, I could use a laugh or two!) and the paperbacks, which included The Lovely Bones, the out-of-nowhere publishing sensation of a few years ago. But rather than presume that was a reason for not reading it, as I had when I first heard buzz about it, it suddenly seemed like a good reason to give it a try. Of course, pigs will be flying over the frozen lakes in hell when I read The Lovely Bones, but I was nonetheless surprised by the shift in what my immediate reaction to seeing it was. And the change seems related to shifts in the availability of cultural product. It has never been easier to immerse oneself in recondite obscurities—whether these be pop singles from Cambodia or Turkmenistan documentariesor 18th century novels once preserved only in Ivy League libraries (but now scanned into archive.org for anyone’s perusal). It’s not in any way hard to circumvent mainstream entertainment—it may be that only those with limited resources or experience (teenagers) think that it is and thus overvalue the distinctive appeal of obscure esoterica. What is hard is capturing the attention of a huge number of people, particularly when so many things are competing for that attention all the time, constantly, even when people are in drugstore lines. When a book or a song or whatever achieves that sudden ubiquity unexpectedly, that seems to warrant some kind of notice; certainly that’s a rarer phenomenon than discovering something no one’s ever heard of. i could go to the free pile and grad a dozen CDs if I were interested in that.


So perhaps the more evident the long tail becomes, the more strange and singular big hits seem. And it seems we gain nothing in terms of reputation by veiling ourselves in obscure curiosities anymore—we all have to try a little bit harder now if we are setting out to impress people.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

From Rockstar Games: “Rockstar Games is proud to announce Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. Developed by Rockstar Leeds in conjunction with series creators Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories will be available exclusively on the PSP™ system in North America on October 31th, 2006 and Europe on October 20th, 2006. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a new game in the Grand Theft Auto series with an entirely new storyline, new missions and gameplay that brings an unprecedented experience to mobile gaming. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories features the interactive, open environment of Vice City with professional voice talent, a diverse soundtrack and high production values that have become trademarks of this landmark series.”



Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Sep 13, 2006

After beating up on Dangermouse for his White Album mashup, the same major label is going after another DJ for crimes against perceived copyright and profits.  Clayton Count’s Sgt Petsound’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a combo of the Fabs’ ‘67 platter and the Beach Boys’ album that influenced it: see the P2PNet story for details.  Even though Count never sold this item or meant to make a profit (like Mouse’s album, it was meant to show off his skills), the big corporate baddie obviously wants to make an example out of him.  Wonder what Paul, Ringo and Yoko think of this and if they’re happy that this being done…  Oh well, at least you can sleep securely tonight knowing that EMI is protecting your children from errant DJs.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.