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by Bill Gibron

12 Jun 2008

Steroids - the word alone strikes fear in the hearts of sports fans and athletes alike. Thirty years ago, the anabolic hormone replacement therapy was a common, under the counter practice. Everyone from bodybuilders to professional football players hit the ‘juice’ as a means of getting bigger, training harder, and repairing physical damage faster. Such notable superstars as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan admitted to using the substance to gain that all important competitive advantage over others. But somewhere along the last three decades, steroids stopped being subterranean cool. They went from an accepted unspoken supplement to international pariah. In his masterful, sly documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, former power lifter Chris Bell discusses when he thinks the perception changed, and how little change such renewed awareness has actually brought about.

Bell believes, rightfully or wrongfully, that steroids are immoral. It’s a lesson he learned from his mother, in conjunction with a clear ‘80s kid connection to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No”. When he learns that his brothers “Mad Dog” Mike and “Smelly” Mark both now use the drugs (as part of a desire to be professional athletes) he goes on a performance enhancement spiritual quest, debunking the myths surrounding the subject while uncovering the causes for its continued demonization. One fact that Bigger, Stronger, Faster (wonderfully subtitled “The Side Effects of Being American”) uncovers is that many of the claims about deaths from steroid use are wildly overstated. While the main medical opponent of the substance continues his rallying cry, two other physicians challenge the lack of actual empirical evidence.

That’s the key to understanding Bell’s position. There is lots of anecdotal ‘proof’ that steroids cause numerous, near fatal side effects, and when combined with other elements in an athlete’s strenuous course of preparation, they may (key word - MAY) hasten death. But it’s compelling to watch the film deconstruct Lyle Alzado’s claims that he died as a result of his 16 years of use (there was never an established link between his brain cancer and the drug) or question Donald Hooton on his conviction that steroids led to his son’s suicide. When confronted with other possibilities, the still grieving father reverts right back to rhetoric, restating a non-scientific link over and over. Bell makes it clear that changing one’s natural body chemistry is dangerous at the very least, but by the end of the film, he’s done a decent job of taking the skull off of steroids mass murderer crossbones. 

Sadly, most people will focus on the seemingly pro-steroid message presented here and avoid the more personal problems. It is clear, at least from a contextually lax cinematic standpoint, that Chris’ brother Mike is a mess. After his brief stint as a semi-recognizable wrestling toadie (never a star, but the go to guy when the main event needed a patsy), he seems a broken man. Unable to settle down and longing for a limelight he never really got, he becomes Bigger, Stronger, Faster‘s most fascinating ‘character’. When questioned about his dissatisfaction, he has no real reason for being so unsettled. Later, when it seems his desire to be ‘better than average’ may never work out, Chris again asks about why he can’t be happy just being who he is. The look on Mike’s confused face says it all.

Mark, at least, seems more levelheaded in his pursuit. Recognizing the need to use steroids to compete with others in the pumped up world of power lifting, he makes a fragile agreement with his wife. After one more competition, he will quit. The reason is simply - they want to try and have a second child. Of course, a casual question from Chris reveals that, as of now, the pact is merely temporary. There is a clear undercurrent of addiction at the center of Bigger, Stronger, Faster - both a physical need for users to continue gaining mass, and a psychological edge that’s hard to shake. When the conversation swings around to sports, the concept of fairness is tossed around quite a bit. It seems to circumvent any discussion about the eventual mental and physiological longing involved with prolonged use.

In fact, as the subtitle suggests, Americans are equally part of the performance enhancement junkie culture. Ben Johnson, the Canadian Olympic athlete who was stripped of his gold medal when it was discovered he tested positive for doping, continues to be denounced. But the second place finisher, Carl Lewis, was also found to be cheating…BEFORE the games had started. Yet his results were covered up by the United States so he could compete in Seoul for the Red, White, and Blue. Jose Canseco, the crackpot ‘roid head with a penchant for backing into the truth, is seen as a smarmy savior to a sport that had a future president backing its “chicks dig the long ball” belief system. From Congressmen who are unsure of the laws they supported to high minded pundits proclaiming a knowledge of a substance that few truly understand, Bell argues that, as long as dingers are heading out of ball parks and favored teams are taking home championships, there are not real victims - only victors.

Of course, all of this leads to the crux of Bell’s position - if steroids are so unproven, so contentious in what they can and cannot be linked to, why are they so stigmatized. Again, sportsmanship is brought up, as is that ever popular politicians’ lament of “for the sake of the children”. The filmmaker may not help his case with his Michael Moore meets Morgan Spurlock intrusive irony. When he asks a male model about steroid use, or a porn star about liquid Viagra shot straight into “the source”, we see the point he’s making in obvious, slightly overbearing obviousness. Similarly, the heart-to-hearts with his distraught mother (very religious, she thought she “raised” her boys to be better than this) have no real payoff, the pain shuttled aside for more shots of Arnold and Sly.

In the end, Bigger, Stronger, Faster is not out to compliment or condemn its subjects. All jocks and jocularity aside, there is a strong core element of cultural brainwashing at work within the revelations. It’s now men who suffer from body image issues, the notion that machismo (and resulting sexual attraction) comes only from six-pack abs and bulging pecs permeating the skivvy social structure. Bell himself admits that as the short, fat middle child, bodybuilding was a way of gaining a certain style of acceptance. Now, years later, when none of that really matters, the fascination with physicality remains. Whether it’s for looks or to be the last man standing, it’s clear that somewhere along its trip from tonic to toxin, steroids have been misunderstood. Bell’s documentary may not change that status, but if anyone wants to have a serious discussion about the entire supplement situation, this excellent film is a good place to start.

by Bill Gibron

12 Jun 2008

When Marvel made the decision to take over the “creative direction” of the big screen adaptations of their characters, geek nation remained skeptical. After all, just because the company knows comic books doesn’t mean it understands the cinematic translations of same. Luckily, Iron Man has quelled a great many of those fears. It stands as Summer 2008’s greatest surprise. Now, hot on the heels of that success comes the reboot of the Incredible Hulk. Yes, Ang Lee already made this movie five years ago, but none except a few clued in critics enjoyed its psychologically-oriented narrative. No, what devotees wanted was a big green giant (and accompanying action “smashing”) they could comprehend and champion. This time around, they more or less got their wish.

It’s been several years since Bruce Banner accidentally overdosed on gamma radiation, changing the entire genetic make-up of his body. Now, whenever he gets too excited, or angry, he turns into a monstrous behemoth, a creature capable of unbelievable strength and unconscionable violence. Just when he thinks he’s stumbled upon a possible cure, Army General Thaddeus Ross reenters his life. The man in charge of Banner’s initial experiments, he lost more than a potential weapon the day his subject went haywire. His daughter, the dedicated scientist Betty Ross, refuses to forgive him for what happened, and she’s now disowned him. When a Russian/English mercenary named Emil Blonsky decides to undergo a similar procedure, he doesn’t become the “ultimate solider”. Instead, he becomes an ‘abomination” that the ‘hulk’ must battle. 

It has to be said that one of the most “incredible” things about this so-called reinvention of the Hulk is how close it is to Ang Lee’s vision. Those who claim it far surpasses the 2003 original are merely applying their own form of aesthetic selective memory. Though Louis Leterrier has a limited pedigree as the creator of big time blockbuster fare, at least his time taking the Transporter franchise through the action genre motions means this version of the Marvel monster can really kick some butt. Sure, our French filmmaker is still enamored with a chaotic, quick cut style of cinema that renders carefully choreographed battles a blur, but there are moments in this movie where his constantly moving lens add authenticity to the otherwise fantastical elements. There is one sequence in particular where Hulk battles the military among the trees and grounds of a college campus. Here, Leterrier’s style clearly complements the ballistics.

The Incredible Hulk also gets an upgrade when it comes to casting. Edward Norton may not be everyone’s idea of a solid superhero, but he brings the right amount of humanity to the role. He manages to enrich even the most routine lines. Similarly, Liv Tyler trumps the zombie like zero that was Jennifer Connelly in Lee’s version. Sure, Betty is still reduced to emotional eye candy, standing by her shapeshifting man through thick…and thicker. But Tyler retains her dignity. Tim Roth’s arrival as the main villain, Emil Blonsky is okay, if nothing truly spectacular. After an opening sequence where he slaughters anything that moves, we never really experience his true evil. It’s just a given, considering the lengths he will go through to get to the Hulk. With William Hurt hilarious in a wry, smirk supporting moustache and Tim Blake Nelson as a helpful scientist with a secret agenda, this is a capable company of performers.

Still, there are parts of the script that can’t help but get in the way. If Banner says it once, he says the “weapons” line about 20 times. It’s as if Norton loved the idea of playing on the “military industrial complex” nature of the character and went overboard. Also, there’s no real backstory built in. The opening credits feature a recreated montage of material straight out of the old TV intro, but we never discover why Banner is in exile, how he has battled the armed forces to maintain his privacy, why Betty would be against his attempts at curing/helping his affliction, and how our hero could continue his research in what looks like one of the more squalid slums in Brazil. Between the initial encounter/take down with the factory worker bullies to the eventual arrival of superbeast Abomination, there’s a lot of interpersonal padding, material that seems mandated by Norton’s desire to tread as close to Ang territory without pissing off that other important Lee - Stan.

Still, when it settles into the standard comic book histrionics, when Hulk gathers all his might and lets out a bellow that raises the hairs on the back of your neck, this movie semi-satisfies. The CGI, used to render both the hero and the horror, looks surprisingly good, if still a little stiff. Unfortunately, no one is comfortable enough with the technology to allow for that all important full blown head on transformation money shot. There is an “almost” moment when Banner is undergoing the experimental treatment that may cure him, but Leterrier’s cutting countermands any awe. In fact, there is so much down to editorial earth control over the context that the cautiousness grows aggravating. We want to see Hulk live up to his past reputation and cause untold damage. Sadly, much of the ‘smashing’ comes a little too late.

There will be those who liken The Incredible Hulk to Marvel’s Iron Man and comment on how correct the decision to take control of their content really was. Granted, the comic company made many of the right decisions, especially when it came to allowing real actors and capable directors to helm their efforts. Yet before the accolades get too bulky, one thing is certain - this reimagining of the big green beast with unfathomable brute strength is not the success of his metal suited brethren. Depending on where Marvel goes from here, The Incredible Hulk will be viewed as either a decent, dependable hit, or a hint that things have yet to be perfected within the company’s still fresh business model. As usual, the box office will be the final determining factor.

by Bill Gibron

11 Jun 2008

Newsweek Magazine must still be smarting. Back in 2002, as Signs was gearing up for its box office assault, the publication called M. Night Shyamalan “The Next Spielberg”. Aside from the bald audacity of such a claim (is there ANYONE working in Hollywood who can truly stand toe to toe with the man responsible for so much masterful popcorn fare?), the Indian born filmmaker had only made three films previous. Sure, The Sixth Sense was very good, and Unbreakable perhaps even better, but even the writer/director dismissed his first feature film, Wide Awake, as a failure. Still, many found the periodical’s claim to have some minor merit. With what he had accomplished in such a short time, Shyamalan looked like the real deal.

Now he looks like garbage. The Happening, which hits theaters this weekend, is destined to go down as either the kitschiest camp trick ever played on an audience by a former A-list filmmaker, or the last gasp in a career downward spiral so massive that Trent Reznor would be jealous. It takes a bad b-movie ideal, dresses it up in fancy framing and composition, and asks us to believe in its Bert I. Gordon goofiness. Even worse, it doesn’t appear that Shyamalan is simply having a laugh. Pre-publicity has commented on how the director is excited to give fans his first “R-rated” horror film. In interviews, he seems to genuinely believe that this will be a solid scarefest. Clearly, Lady in the Water wasn’t the only delusion this non-autuer suffered from.

With a plot that’s premised on the end of the world, one would assume that Shyamalan’s vision of the Apocalypse would be a bit more - impressive? Having massive groups of people suddenly pause and play a fatal game of statues barely satisfies the genre mandates. We need to see social chaos, the breakdown of order, shock inducing spectacle, and the resulting death and destruction. Certainly we get some initial killings - the “virus” that attacks the Eastern seaboard of the US causes mass suicide - but aside from a sequence where a construction site becomes the place for a series of lemming-like leaps to the ground, all the throat cutting and wrist slashing seems anticlimactic and quite silly.

Even worse, Shyamalan goes with his ludicrous ideas and never once looks back. There are moments in this movie where characters are actually afraid of…wait for it…the wind. Not hurricane force gales mind you, or poison laden zephyrs. No, there is a calculated consensus on what is causing the “event” and so scientific theory (supported by Mark Walhberg’s high school teacher) maintains they make like scared rabbits whenever a light breeze blows by. In a narrative overloaded with seemingly unintentional laughs (our hero has a heart to heart with a plastic plant, The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” is channeled to prove someone’s “humanness”), Shyamalan saves the best/worst for last.

Betty Buckley, the brash Broadway diva who would be Patty LuPone if only she could muster up the same elephantine ego and sense of self, is a last act addition as a psychotic old lady loner who views the trio of survivors darkening her run down farmhouse door as nothing short of the Manson Family. She freaks out when they whisper behind her back (the subject of the conversation - how paranoid and peculiar she is) and ends up adding an American Gothic like gravitas to what is basically Food of the Gods for botanists. By the time our heroes head out into the open fields to face their hay fever styled fate, we are beside ourselves with laughter/spite. The tagged on ending in France only adds to our amuse/bemuse-ment.

Now, there are some who might suggest that this kind of material rarely succeeds. Trying to show how the standard human being buckles under pressure and predicates the destruction of its own existence en mass has forged some fine attempts (Stephen King’s Cell) and some abject failures (1985’s Warning Sign). Of course, you can extrapolate out the premise and come up with some clear cut classics. After all, everything from Night of the Living Dead to 28 Day Later is founded on the frightening prospect of people turning on each other - either for food or anger-inspired fun. True, The Happening is more about self-destruction, but there are still enough post-apocalyptic precepts involved in the story to suggest its placement within this category.

So within such a set up, why does The Happening stink so? Clearly, Shyamalan is one source of creative conjecture. We live in a hard-R macabre marketplace, so-called ‘torture porn’ teaching the fright fan that nothing satisfies like blood…and lots of it. Yet all the deaths in this movie are handled in an old fashioned, almost made-for-TV fashion. CSI offers visuals gorier than anything seen here (with the exception of a surreal man vs. lion showdown at the zoo). Even worse, Shyamalan forgets that threat is key to suspense. The characters must literally fear what will happen next - and we in turn must sympathize and identify with said sense of dread, less we disconnect from all the sequences of drawn out danger. The Happening, unfortunately, does none of this.

Oddly enough, this week also sees the release of the sensational indie effort The Signal. Unfairly slammed as being a rip-off of King’s aforementioned 2006 novel (anyone whose read the book and seen the film understand the glaring differences), this amazing movie, the work of three different directors, each one helming one act of the narrative, tells a tale of technology run amuck. When we first meet Mya, she is having an affair with Ben. He wants her to run away with him and escape her possessive husband. Typically, she can’t do that. So when she returns home to face his jealous accusations, it’s the standard post-modern kitchen sink dramatics - that is, until her spouse, Lewis, picks up a baseball bat and beats in the head of one of his friends. Soon, the whole city comes unglued, the citizenry randomly attacking and killing each other in extreme and very violent ways.

What we eventually learn is that a ‘signal’ buried inside all electronic appliances - TVs, phones, radios, etc. - is altering people’s brain chemistry. Tricking them into indulging in their worst, most primal desires, aggression and death rule the land. In the end, we follow Mya as she makes her way to a secret rendezvous, watch Ben as he tries to meet her, and see the cuckolded Lewis go on a rampage similar to such spree killing brethren as Jason Voorhees and Mike Myers. All the while, directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry mix enough humor and horror into the storyline to keep us laughing and leery, frequently at the same time. More importantly, they manage to out think and out imagine Shyamalan, someone noted for their thoughtfulness and inventiveness.

Indeed, The Signal slams The Happening down onto the ground and forces it to scream “Uncle”. Everything that Shyamalan gets wrong, Bruckner, Bush and Gentry absolutely excel at. Both movies take a similar narrative approach - tell a small story in such as way as to make it resonate within the larger scope of a Judgment Day dynamic. Each one uses a city setting to establish the terror, and then takes the concept inward. Each one features feuding couples (Walhberg and his woman - Zooey Deschanel - are having some minor marital strife) and both offer up innocent victims as fodder for mindless, murderous fiends.

So why does The Signal work whereas The Happening merely hobbles along? The answer starts in the realm of vision. Shyamalan may think he’s got a handle on his man vs. nature nuances, but to look at his film you’d never think the world was ending. It’s too bright and sunny, events occurring in open spaces with lots of light to illuminate the nonsense. It’s the reason the Buckley material stands out so. Even in a previous visit to an unoccupied home, our survivors appear dappled in well placed illumination. In Bruckner, Bush and Gentry’s world, everything turns tainted and dark. Hallways looks institutional and unkept, the streets of Atlanta (where the movie was made) as foreboding as any dystopian Hell.

Even better, our outsider filmmakers only had digital cameras and $50K to work with, so they had to be inventive in other areas. They use gallows humor and some surreal sequences of crackpot character interaction to soothe us over the rough spots. Shyamalan just manages to piss away over $57 million to make this future flop and everything about it feels redundant and forced. He’s not really doing anything different than what the makers of drive-in fare attempted back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Indeed, The Happening is one of those movies that goes a long, long, LONG way to achieve very, very little. At least The Signal sticks with its premise and doesn’t try to pontificate or change the dynamic into something akin to an environmentalist’s screed.

Yet it’s the notion of intent that probably best describes the reason for both film’s final assessment. Our trio, taken with the way in which humans act with their world wide wired habitat, never lets the populace off the hook. In The Signal, we are responsible for our technological addiction, and the fatal results of same. In The Happening, we appear as innocent victims to some incredibly cheesed off foliage. Clearly, based on how badly he bungles this film, M Night Shyamalan is not the next Spielberg. He’ll still work in today’s Hollywood, but whatever luster he had will be forever tarnished and severely tainted. Of course, he will probably consider himself a victim of a critical community incapable of containing its biased, jealousy based vitriol. In this case, the Fourth Estate is the least of his worries. Any audience member unlucky enough to see this movie may have their own Signal like reaction to what he has to offer.

by Bill Gibron

10 Jun 2008

Introspection is key to an artist’s imagination. Reflecting life is one thing. Inspecting the inner existence is an equally important facet. In essence, it’s the ultimate expression of self, a sense of what makes a mind tick, a brain bubble, and a thought process percolate. In film, some of our greatest directors have made masterworks out of the creative core concept. Fellini gave us 8&1/2. Woody Allen offered Stardust Memories. David Lynch divined Mulholland Dr.  And now Giuseppe Andrews steps behind his wholly independent lens to give us a take on cinema, karma, movie history, and Hollywood phonies. Oddly enough, he draws a very interesting conclusion - It’s All Not So Tragic.

For film historian Greg Connor, things haven’t been going well. He’s had mental problems ever since the day he ruined his chance at being a DVD commentator. During the featurette for a favorite noir classic, he committed an unspeakable, unnatural act. Now his shrink is suggesting he take a small vacation to get away from it all. Running out of gas, Connor comes across a fallen crossing guard, a psychotic with a pick axe, a young lady named Distosia, who is studying to be part of a cult, one of his favorite soap stars, and a young man he once photographed in the nude. All of this leads to a kind of psychotic breakdown where Connor’s sexual dysfunction manifests itself in more and more bizarre ways. Eventually, there’s nothing left to do but dance and sing. Besides, life’s not too bad when you think about it.

Like a fever dream infected with rabies, or a Tinsel Town satire slathered in scatology, It’s All Not So Tragic takes some getting used to. Not in a bad way, mind you, but unlike previous offerings from America’s trailer park Godard, this narrative is so knotty it tends to cannibalize and consumer itself. What begins as a simple road trip, a chance for one messed up man to escape the demons that force him onto the couch and into the bottle, turns into a freak show Ferris Wheel, the next turn of the tale offering up increasingly disconnected delirium. Naturally, sex plays a major part in the plotline, but this time around its more violent and ‘self abusive’. The end result is a film that challenges the conventions created by Andrews and his anarchic mobile hominess. Instead, we witness one man’s tenuous grip on reality slowly draining down his pants’ leg and into the sewer.

Of course, there are obvious targets. Daytime dramas get skewered as our hero sits back and enjoys a shower-oriented scene from his favorite serial As the World Spins. The writing and realization of this sequence is so spot on it mandates its own movie. Similarly, Andrews’ regular Marybeth Spychalski shows up as a brainwashed religious cult chick, clamoring for the very Scientology like “Wolancoism” belief system. Her conversations with star Miles David Dougal are classic in their crackpot philosophizing. Elsewhere, DVDs get a slamdance stake through their bonus feature hearts, our lead longing to be legitimized by placement as part of the format’s added content. Even soap box racers (and those put in charge of maintaining traffic safety for said cardboard cars) get skewered. Andrews is amazing in this way. Just when you think he’s covered all the narrative possibilities, he finds more fodder for his unsettled cinema.

Not so clear is the motivation behind the last act montages. Since he loves music as much as film (his CDs are well worth picking up - they contain a wealth of equally eccentric sonic sensationalism), Andrews presents a series of songs interspersed with a clown satisfying himself with a vacuum cleaner and a collection of seemingly unconnected clips. But deep thinking reveals some clues. Early on, it appears that every time something sinister is about to happen to our hero, someone appears from out of the blue and blows the threat away with a handgun. Naturally, it seems nonsensical at first, until you apply the motion picture standard by which violence - and most specifically, gun violence - solves most problems. In that regard, Connor’s various packing saviors appear practically sane. The sudden dive into song and dance could clearly be a reflection of the old school Hollywood-ism that any depressive down time can be “cured” with a little celluloid whimsy. Here Andrews’ amazing muse provides the perfect antidote to the main character’s descent into debauchery and delusion.

While star Dougal redefines the concept of a tour de force, the rest of the writer/director’s standard company gets reduced to extended cameos. The venerable Vietnam Ron plays an unhinged stalker, while Sir George Bigfoot travels around with a suitcase full of cockroaches. Guitar wizard Ed stands in for the dome doc, while Walt Dongo plays a pissed off member of the Walancoism sect. Noticeably absent this time around are Karen Bo Baron (star of Andrews’ masterful Orzo) and that queen of the ancient art of the flapjack dance, Elaine Bongos. Their peculiarly endearing presence is always missed. Thankfully, our filmmaker finds ways to substitute and persevere.

That he continues to grow as an artist is no surprise - true talent finds a way to flourish, instead of stagnating and straining - but how this amazing auteur channels his creativity is what continues to make his movies so amazing. Giuseppe Andrews has an oeuvre now that far surpasses many who maintain a place in the hallowed halls of cinema’s standard bearers. For what he’s done in expanding the realm of homemade moviemaking, for providing a voice to the disenfranchised and the routinely marginalized, for locating brilliance where others would see idiosyncrasy, hopelessness, and despair, he becomes the most independent of true icons. He also remains the most staunchly original voice working along the fringes of the artform today. It’s All Not So Tragic continues to prove his place among the true creative champions.

by Bill Gibron

9 Jun 2008

Universal Unveils Yet Another Inspirational Sports Film

According to the press release, The Express (coming 3 October) is “Based on the true story of college football hero Ernie Davis, the first African- American to win the Heisman Trophy. His fight for equality and respect forever changed the face of American sports, and his story continues to inspire new generations.”  The film will star Dennis Quaid and Rob Brown. Here are some early photos:

Weinsteins Wants You to Channel Your Inner Igor

In connection with their upcoming animated film, the Weinstein Company offers you the opportunity to put on your best “Igor” impression. Winners will have their voice added to the final film, expected sometime this fall. More information can be found here.

Disaster Movie gets a Pair of Teaser Posters
After consistently devaluing the big screen spoof with their increasingly sophomoric efforts, the writing/directing team of Jason Friedbeg and Aaron Seltzer are back with another parody. Oddly enough, they seem to be taking the genre right back to where it started - the Zucker/Abrams/Zucker classic Airplane!, which was, after all, a lampoon of disaster films.

Jumper to Become a Franchise - from IMDb
According to WENN and the Internet Movie Database, Actor Hayden Christensen is set to return to the developing Jumper franchise for a further two movies. The new DVD coming out today confirms the plans to create a trilogy for the solid sci-fi hit. According to the actor, “We’re talking about it. I know that they’re having those conversations, I hear about them. It was set up to become that - a trilogy - if it did well. And I think they’re happy with how it did so they want to make another one. But I don’t think they’re rushing to get into production.”

Sam Raimi Wants Spider-Man 4 - from IGN
Apparently, the stories about Raimi being less involved in the future of the Spider-man franchise were wrong, or maybe the director of the three previous popcorn smashes is indulging in a little wishful thinking. Whatever the case, you can read his thoughts about the fourth go round for the webslinger here.

MPAA Pulls Plug on Kevin Smith’s Porno Promo - from /Film
Just last week, we noted that the Clerks auteur had released a Red Band teaser for his upcoming comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Well, apparently Quick Stop Entertainment, Smith’s internet locale, didn’t get permission from the MPAA to “broadcast” such content across the web. The whole stink gets aired out over at

My Fair Lady Getting a Remake - from Variety
From the official press release:
Considering the talent involved the first time around, it seems hard to imagine that anyone would seriously consider remaking this Oscar winning effort. Still, producers Cameron Mackintosh and Duncan Kenworthy are convinced they can “update” the material by adding more of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion to Alan Jay Lerner’s musical book. Initial reports had Keira Knightley and Daniel Day Lewis as the new Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins, but with the There Will Be Blood star hopping projects for the big screen version of Nine, casting remains unclear. Read more here.

DiCaprio to Produce/Star in Atari Story - from
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Leonardo DiCaprio plans on bringing the story of ‘70/‘80s video game giant Atari to the big screen. Writers Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman hope the star will play Nolan Bushnell, engineering student and computer geek who went from fixing broken pinball machines to creating the company responsible for the first major arcade game - Pong. The rest of the story can be found here.

DVD releases of Note for 10 June
Be Kind Rewind
The Bucket List
Funny Games (2008)
Invisible Target - Read the SE&L Review Here
John Adams: The HBO Mini-Series
The Other Boleyn Girl
Witless Protection

Box Office Figures for Weekend of 6 June

#1 - Kung Fun Panda: $59.8 million
#2 - You Don’t Mess with the Zohan: $40.3 million
#3 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: $22.9 million
#4 - Sex and the City: $21.3 million
#5 - The Strangers: $9.2 million
#6 - Iron Man: $7.4 million
#7 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: $5.5 million
#8 - What Happens in Vegas: $3.4 million
#9 - Baby Mama: $2.2 million
#10 - Made of Honor: $2.0 million

Films Opening This Week:

General Release:
The Incredible Hulk - Bruce Banner searches for a cure to his raging inner ‘demon’ while the Army plots to use his power as a weapon. With Edward Norton and Tim Roth. Rated PG-13
The Happening - A sudden, unseen epidemic causes innocent citizens to kill themselves in startling violent ways. It’s up to the survivors to figure out why. From M. Night Shyamalan. Rated R

Quid Pro Quo - With comparisons to David Cronenberg’s Crash, a young reporter, paralyzed after an accident, discovers a subculture of fetishists. Rated R
Baghead - a group of independent filmmakers head out into the woods to brainstorm a script. They are instead terrorized by a stranger in a bag. Rated R

//Mixed media

The Hills Are Alive, But Nobody Else Is in 'The Happiness of the Katakuris'

// Short Ends and Leader

"Happiness of the Katakuris is one of Takashi Miike's oddest movies, and that's saying something.

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