Father Geek here along with Robert Bernocchi, Grozilla and others to bring you our current Euro-AICN column for this Monday, but as usual I have some info that was sent directly to ol' Geek Headquarters here in Austin, Texas...
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I thought you'd be interested to know that I'm just back from a wonderful week in London, where we spent the better part of Thursday and Friday of last week at the Harryhausen's and got some terrific stuff from Ray for "THE 8th WONDER." Both Ray and Diana couldn't have been sweeter, or more hospitable. On Friday, they served a lovely dinner with a very tasty dish that had big chunks of turkey in it, so my two man camera crew from LA (identical twin brothers that Ray seemed to get a big kick out of... Just what was Diana lacing our tea with?!) did get to have a little bit of a Thanksgiving tradition even abroad.
Again, Ray gave us some wonderful moments (he's the one who prompted RKO to pull the "historical" Denham footage of the real ape from the vaults for research, while working on "Mighty Joe Young"... which, of course, leads to the discovery that every last frame of film and every bit of documentation has mysteriously disappeared.)
Just visiting Ray's home was of course marvelous and it was astonishing to see many of his treasures. My favorite may have been the original preproduction sketches from "Creation," which I was very surprised to note had some colored pencil tinting in the green of the foliage, etc. Ray's enthusiasm for all things Kong was just as strong as I imagine it must first have been when he got "stepped on" by the Brobdingnagian ape and it made the entire shoot just so much fun for me.
Given that our original London trip for Ray's on-camera was to have been on September 11th and we, of course, found ourselves grounded by the attacks and hence had rescheduled for this past week, it's good to know that even terrorist attacks can't stop a good documentary...
Now we're regaining the momentum and we've got our shoots with the Professor of Anatomy of Western University (who does the forensic examination of the ape's remains and talks about the remarkable characteristics of this unique species) and the real beginnings of our shoot coming up in the next few weeks.
That teaser above is for a monumental work slated for the big screen in the near future, and Father Geek can hardly wait to feast his eyes on the long lost footage these guys are assembling for our education and enjoyment. Now here's this bit...
Beware possible spoilers in the next item...
Just wanted to contribute a little to your site with a review for the new Vincent Cassel / Monica Bellucci movie, which I saw last night in my home country (Italy) and I gather will get to the USA only later. Point is, maybe you're interested in what an European viewer thinks of these "new French action" genre.
First of all: the feeling you get from LPDL (Le pact du lups, which seems to be the original title) is that the old gang from Rivers of Purple (or whatever the English title for "I fiumi di porpora" was, the Alps thriller with Jean Reno of yesteryear) got together again to speculate on the success of the former movie. You get the Cassel/Bellucci family, the same stuntmen and fight coreographer, about every French actor you can think of except Depardieu and Reno, same editor... and this is somewhat suspicious.
Then there's the plot. Without getting too many spoilers in, it does scream "Hey, you Yankees! Look here at how European and so terribly postmodern-cool are we!". This might be marginally better than the former French attitude of "Hey, fuck off everyone! We're French and we don't care shit if you get any of our selfreferential innuendos", but if you can't stand overblown egoes you'd really better skip this film. Also, be warned that the setting and the characters are what you'd expect to see in a period French movie... if you weren't French or European at all - it feels like Disneyland, where they have to cram every single clichÃ© in a given shot in order to force down ignorant (no offense meant) throats the illusion of realism.
The actors: there's Cassel, who's obviously a real-life major asshole and is typecast as such. There's Monica Bellucci, who's prime cut meat as always, but couldn't act if her life depended on this (picture this: her lines in Italian sound Godzilla-like dubbed even if she's actually Italian-born! I even got to think that going to bed with her must be deadly boring... an inflatable doll looks more lively). There's the leading man - surprise! It's not Cassel! - who's somehow the Euro version of a young Mel Gibson. There's a large number of very incompetent and annoying side characters. And - brace for it - there's Mark Dacascos, your best loved Crying Freeman!!!
Now. Let's take a breath here. Mark Dacascos is a really great guy, but he happens to be a martial artist born in Ohau. And the movie is set in renaissance France.
Do you begin to sense a disturbance in the Force?
In fact, there it is. LPDL is a martial arts movie! Seriously.
Half of the movie is about people doing flying kicks, screaming and grunting. And with "postmodern" Tekken-style editing. You get it all: stop frames, flash forwards, nanosecond editing, circular dollies... but generally done wrong - like you don't see hits connect, or the action making any sense at all. And there's at least one "villain" who gets killed five or six times - lack of stuntmen?
"But if that's a period-fu movie," I hear you thinking, "then the whole story..."
YES! Here it comes... the whole movie is summarized like this: "a self-deluded French guy reads a lot of (bad) mangas and comes up with Versailles no Bara (aka Lady Oscar) Vs. Hokuto no Ken (aka Fist of the North Star)".
So now you know the horrible truth. This is really nothing you want to watch, unless you grew up watching '80s animes and you wish to laugh at the expenses of the horrendous mix-up they made of this movie. If the latter is your case, you'll enjoy it quite a lot - for the same reasons you can enjoy ID4 if you did watch lots of '50s invasion movies. But ID4 was a straight joke - these guys think they're doing "serious art" here.
Well, that's enough of Father Geek, here's Robert and his staff from Rome, Italy...
Hi people. A very interesting week for me: I’ve seen four movies previews (probably many of you had already the chance to take a look at these titles): The Man Who Wasn’t There (very near to be a masterwork), Rock Star (passable), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (which was an incredible disappointment) and Atlantis (in Italy it will be the christmas disney movie, while Monsters Inc. will be released on the less favorable month of march. I’ve some problem to understand the Buena Vista’s decisions…).
Unfortunately, I have to begin with very sad news. Danilo Donati, one of the best costume designer ever, has passed away. He was currently working on Roberto Benigni's latest opus, Pinocchio.
He was a monument in the history of italian cinema, having worked with directors as Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Mario Monicelli, Paolo Pietrangeli and Franco Zeffirelli. He received two academy awards in his career, for his great work on Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Federico Fellini’s Casanova (1976).
He, as some journalist pointed out, was able to make the dreams come true. We’ll miss him.
Before starting with our regular Monday column, just a little suggestion to New York cinephiles. On december, 7th, at the NY Expo, will be presented Shame’s Photos, one of the most interesting animated short of the latest years and a very serious candidate for the upcoming Academy Awards. The director, Daniele Lunghini, will introduce his work personally.
If you can’t be in New York, you can see the short by clicking here: Do It Now Its just toooooo Cooooool!
And now, some news from our regular corrispondent Ratbert
UK actors union Equity will allow work to go ahead on the next James Bond film despite the planned actors strike. Members of Equity have been urged not to sign up for work which begins on or after December 1.
But Equity has reached a deal with Bond producers Eon to allow filming on the new movie to go ahead as planned.
Actors want to renegotiate a deal which gives them a flat fee in advance when their films are shown on television or sold for home viewing on video or DVD.
A spokesman for Equity told said that members are in favour of resolving the conflict using something similar to the Eon deal.
Gillian Anderson is to direct her first film when she leaves The X-Files. Anderson has bought the film rights to the novel Speed Of Light with her own money. She will make the film when she has finished work on The X-Files' ninth series.
The novel revolves around a young man who lives with his sister in law, and has become an obsessive-compulsive recluse after being brought up by a father who was shellshocked after surviving Auschwitz. The man is slowly brought out of his shell by a Latino housekeeper who, to his surprise, has a lot in common with him.
"When I picked up this book and started reading the poetry of the words, I found myself trying to visualise where the camera should be, the colours of the characters, the texture of the shots. It felt so intimate and natural, like I wrote it myself. I took the steps to option it, something I'd never done before. It's a beautiful piece that needs to see the light of day and hopefully I can do it justice."
Winchester Entertainment has announced a partnership with David Baddiel to develop a range of new British comedy films. The company will invest £150,000 in the development of up to 15 pitches, from which three scripts will be commissioned for films.
Winchester's chief executive Gary Smith and Mr Baddiel will be joint executive producers of all films resulting from the co-production deal. Each film will have a budget of between £3 million and £5 million, and the first will go into production next autumn. Production funding will come from pre-sales of each film, private equity and gap financing.
The deal will see writer and comedian Mr Baddiel sourcing movie ideas from comedians and writers before they are developed into scripts by Winchester and Avalon Motion Pictures.
Mr Smith says: "'There is a wealth of excellent British comedy talent out there that is never given the chance to succeed. "It's all part of an overall strategy at Winchester to take greater control over the creative process aimed at ensuring the best films possible are delivered to the film-going public, whilst keeping risks low."
On EmpireOnline you can find some interesting tidbits, as:
Ali's World premiere in London... Click here for the knockout punch
Samuel L Jackson admires Halle Berry's breasts... Click here for the full picture
Christopher Lee prefers Lucas to Jackson... Go Here to find out why
Here we are with another fine reportage from our French guy, Grozilla, telling us about a Festival in Nantes:
Here's another tale of miscommunication.
Till last monday stood the Festival des 3 continents in Nantes. It's a very good festival, always in advance on cinephilic tastes. The Jalladeau brothers who manage this event have done so much for the french press and for the audience to discover brillant filmakers from Iran, Africa or Asia. This year aside from Malaisian and kirghize cinema panoramas, a tribute to Kathy Jurado, another to Nour-el-cherif, was scheduled aside from the competition a wu xia pian retrospective. Good prints of rare films (The Magnificent Trio - Chang Cheh - 1966, Dragon Gate Inn - King Hu - 1967, The New One Armed Swordsman - Chang Cheh - 1967 , Golden Swallow - Chang Cheh 1968, Mad, Mad, Mad Sword - Wang Tianlin - , Cold Blade - Chu Yuan - 1970 , The Sword - Patrick Tam - 1972, The Butterfly Murders - Tsui Hark - 1979, The Enigmatic Case - Du Qifeng - 1980, Romance Of Book And Sword - Ann Hui - , The Blade - Tsui Hark - 1996).
The trouble is the PR of this festival didn't notify anybody that some guests were attending. Among them: Chang Cheh (who eventually didn't come) and... WANG YU! Yes, the legend from kung fu movies, the guy with the flynig guillotine! And NO publicity around this man coming! As a result: so far the published press coverings of this festival are all about the competition but ab-so-lu-te-ly no word about the Wu xia pian retro or Wang Yu.
What a shame!
I also regret that the Festival d'automne didn't do much buzz about their very interesting cinÃ©ma selection who's dedicated this year to asian cinematographies less famous than Hong Kong, China or Japan. Since 14th Nov to 5 Dec, in L''Arlequin theater, people can see films from Philippines, Singapour, Indonesia, Thailand and discover filmakers like Garin Nugroho, Marselli Sumarno, Teguh Karya, Asoka Handagama Lester James Peries, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Nonzee Nimibutr, Viet Linh, Pham Loc, Pham Ki Nam, Eric Khoo U-Wei Hajishaari, Peque Gallaga, Mario O'Hara, Jeffrey Jeturian, Gery De Leon.
Some films screened there are truly wonderful like 12 storeys, 6ixtynine, or Nang Nak, one of the most beautiful ghost stories seen those last years.. Too bad, this retrospective seemed to stand in the shadows of anonymacy...
has some information about Liam Neeson latest project Prison Fish and an interview with one of the most acclaimed actors worldwide, Gabriel Byrne, who talks about the rumours surrounding Star Wars - Episode III.
Liam Neeson has taken on a new role as a businessman who kills another man while drunk.
Liam who is now 49 is being lined up to play Jimmy A Learner in a gritty new movie called Prison Fish.
The story is based on a flashy phone executive called Learner who ended up in a tough Nevada jail after killing a man while on a boozy bender in Las Vegas. He was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter in 1997.
The film is based on the man's life inside the tough prison where Learner puts his corporate skills to fit in with prison culture.
Renee Russo is the favorite to play Neeson's wife while Mary McCormack will play his mistress.
Gabriel Byrne interview
Gabriel Byrne spoke exclusively to ShowBizIreland.com in his native Dublin over the weekend about the rumors of his role in the third part of the Star Wars prequel.
So has George Lucas come knocking on the door of the star of The Usual Suspects?
"Yes, they have been talking to me. But, that has been for years now. I swear I just say to them 'call me when they are ready.' Because they get into all this secrecy which is what they do. I don't know anything about it at the moment. These people who are into Star Wars keep saying to me 'your in the new Star Wars movie.'"
And what is the current situation with Star Wars?
"They have approached me and they are talking about it but nothing is definite yet. I think the way George Lucas works is not the usual way where they have a script then they offer you a role. I think the develop characters around particular people as far as I know. They have not said anything to me about what role I would play."
What have you been working on recently?
"I have been doing a picture with Ray Finnes in Canada with David Cronenberg the director, called Spider. It is a film about madness and murder."
And what is next for you?
"I go back to New York then finish this film in Toronto and then Christmas. Next year I have two projects, one in Australia and maybe one in London. I think that will be it for next year. I can't tell you which projects cause I haven't signed the contract so I can't."
That's all for today, see you next week