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AICN And HitFix Present Film Rehabilitation Night At The New Beverly! ISHTAR And JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO! April 1st and 2nd!

"Dustin... when the press has a contract out, they have a contract out." - Jimmy Breslin

"There was almost no review that didn't in the first paragraph deal with the cost of the movie. That was an eye-opener - about the business, and the relationship of the entertainment press to business. ISHTAR is a very good, not very big, comedy made by a brilliant woman. And I think it's funny." - Warren Beatty

"If all of the people who hate ISHTAR had seen it, I would be a rich woman today." - Elaine May

By the time ISHTAR reached theaters on May 15, 1987, the hit had already been carried out. It was a debacle, they said; a vanity project ill-tailored to the comedic talents of its two notoriously mercurial movie stars; a bloated, lumbering indictment of all that was wrong with Hollywood during the Reagan era. $50 million for a glorified Hope-and-Crosby road picture? From the witty and urbane Elaine May? Nothing about this picture made a lick of sense. So the critics pilloried it, sternly warning audiences that to buy a ticket to this dreck was to be complicit in the death of art. Even Roger Ebert, enemy of box office reporting, couldn't tap out his half-star excoriation without citing the budget overruns (though I'm sure Beatty was pleased that he waited until the second paragraph to address it). Miraculously, ISHTAR narrowly won its opening weekend at the box office (barely edging out the low-budget horror flick, THE GATE), but the oppressive negativity and influx of hyped-up, critic-proof summer movies like BEVERLY HILLS COP II quickly overwhelmed it. By June, the film had stalled out with a paltry gross of $13 million domestic. And a new synonym for "flop" was born. Years later, when the budget for WATERWORLD sailed north of $150 million, the press, suspecting a new all-time stinker, dubbed it "Fishtar". They were off on WATERWORLD (it grossed $275 million worldwide, did well in subsequent revenue windows, and launched a Universal Studios theme park attraction), and they were shamefully wrong about ISHTAR. But if you're hoping to disprove the conventional wisdom regarding the latter, you've got your work cut out: it's infrequently shown on cable and has never been released to DVD in the U.S - which is astounding when you consider that HOWARD THE DUCK, HUDSON HAWK, and the 219-minute "Director's Cut" of HEAVEN'S GATE are all readily available. Why has Sony kept the film off the market? From a purely business perspective, it's infamous, it's got two popular stars, and David Putnam, the former studio head who reportedly badmouthed ISHTAR pre-release to spite Warren Beatty, is long gone. If Sony can handle the ignominy of belching up LEONARD PART 6 (which upset ISHTAR for the Worst Picture Razzie in 1987), they can surely stand by ISHTAR. Until they do, those of us who unapologetically adore ISHTAR will have to make our case in the theater - and I can think of no better venue at which to voice this vigorous defense than The New Beverly. So if you're a friend of ISHTAR, or one of the unconverted, I implore you to join me on April 1st and 2nd for a special screening of this unjustly maligned classic. And just to make it worth your while (as well as your $7), we'll be following it up with John Patrick Shanley's JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, another wonderful film that was panned for, of all things, not behaving like a studio-financed comedy should (as Shanley noted in our interview last January, he threw off critics and audiences by indulging in long-playing master shots - such temerity!). I cannot promise that we will have any special guests at this event, but I think the movies are singular enough to justify your presence - especially if you've never seen them. Edgar Wright screened ISHTAR during his New Beverly festival a couple of years ago, and the response was incredible (despite the fact that it fired up at 1 AM after a double feature of BUGSY MALONE and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE). And we know Dustin Hoffman's a fan. Also, May took part in a "Film Comment Selects" showing back in '06, and, if nothing else, it produced this dazzling Q&A with her old partner-in-repartee Mike Nichols. As for JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, I haven't seen it in a theater since high school, and can't wait to see this gorgeously shot (by Stephen Goldblatt) widescreen film on the big screen again. Would it be cool to have some company? Absolutely. But I'll be just as happy to watch these films with AICN readers as I would with... you know. Just in case you need the extra incentive: I will be handing out a few prizes at both screenings. I will also be missing a nationally televised Cleveland Cavaliers game on April 2nd to hang with you gods among insects, so sacrifices are being made here. But telling the truth can be dangerous business. Honest and popular don't go hand-in-hand. And if you say you can play the accordion... motherfucker, bring it! That'd be some splendid pre-film music. I'll be back later this week with essays on both films. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • March 23, 2009, 8:25 p.m. CST

    Joe vs. The Volcano is a Good Movie

    by Autodidact


  • March 23, 2009, 8:28 p.m. CST

    I May Sing Dust Off The Lyric Baritone...

    by mrbeaks

    ... for film number two. Just sayin'.

  • March 23, 2009, 8:38 p.m. CST

    "Clothes Make the Man" Mr. Beaks...

    by Bones

    I love "Joe Vs. the Volcano". It is my favorite of the three onscreen parings of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and a witty throwback to romantic comedies of Yore. And Ossie Davis is just God in this film. And Lloyd Bridges. And Robert Stack. And Abe Vigoda and Nathan Lane as Polynesian-Jewish decendants on the Island of the Mighty Woo.<p> And wherever we go, we are bringing this luggage...

  • March 23, 2009, 8:44 p.m. CST

    I havent been to the new beverly in a few years

    by LeviDTinker

    But I will be there on the April 1st. nice to see there ticket prices have not gone up since i was last there i want to say for a hitchcock double feature of North by Northwest and Birds

  • March 23, 2009, 9:07 p.m. CST

    May you live to be a thousand years old, sir...

    by Dasinfogod

    Barry McGovern gave what is perhaps the single greatest (and understated) comedic performance of the 1990s as the Luggage Salesman in JOE VS. THE VOLCANO. Meticulously etched (every syllable of Shanley's dialogue comes across as measured, thoughtful and borderline poetic) and wonderfully played by McGovern, Hanks' reaction line of, "I'll take four of them," seemed a genuine reaction of awe and wonder captured on film as he stood before this Irish master of the stage. If I were to ever meet Hanks, I'd ask him what is was like to work with McGovern...

  • March 23, 2009, 9:42 p.m. CST

    The Gate was a fucked up movie

    by Nobody_Touches_Buddy_Revell

  • March 23, 2009, 10:05 p.m. CST

    I saw both in the theatre...

    by robotdevil

    Joe vs. the Volcano is a good movie. Ishtar was total shitbomb.... the idea that it got some kind of raw deal is idiotic. The movie sucked taint.

  • March 23, 2009, 10:06 p.m. CST

    I don't know...

    by wampa 1

    ...but it sure smells good!

  • March 23, 2009, 11:04 p.m. CST

    what does Mr. Beaks look like?

    by The Amazing G


  • March 23, 2009, 11:05 p.m. CST

    I'm not arguing that with you.

    by JediRob

    I'm not arguing that with you.

  • March 23, 2009, 11:07 p.m. CST

    I saw LEONARD PART 6 once....

    by The Amazing G

    it truly is Godawful

  • March 23, 2009, 11:14 p.m. CST

    by cathartist


  • March 23, 2009, 11:49 p.m. CST

    Joe Vs. The Volcano

    by CrapHole

    "May you live to be a thousand years old, sir." - I have found a way to incorporate this quote into my daily life.

  • March 24, 2009, 12:19 a.m. CST

    Joe Versus The Volcano

    by jdhasson

    is called Joe Versus the Volcano.

  • March 24, 2009, 12:36 a.m. CST

    Joe vs The Volcano is Hanks third best movie

    by Xiphos_2

    Behind Volunteers in second place and, of course, in first place the epic Bachelor Party. Every other role of his was well, not all that good, to very bland.<p> Special mention for Tom Hanks wig in The DaVinci Code. It was the fourth best acting gig on his resume.

  • March 24, 2009, 12:52 a.m. CST

    Hey how about a shout out to Jonathan Rosenbaum

    by Jeff_Fries

    considering that he's been championing the movie and its director ever since it was released. It seems like he mentions it on an annual basis.

  • March 24, 2009, 1:05 a.m. CST

    Rosenbaum's On The Side Of The Angels

    by mrbeaks

    For his defense of ISHTAR *and* the entire filmography of Joe Dante.

  • March 24, 2009, 1:07 a.m. CST

    Beaks have to disagree with you

    by Bloo

    HUDSON HAWK is an awesome surrel movie, how can you love Joe vs the volcano (which is awesome) and dog on The Hawk for shame<P>I've only ever seen bits and piees of ISHTAR so I can't be a judge of it's quality

  • March 24, 2009, 1:11 a.m. CST


    by mrbeaks

    And admire HEAVEN'S GATE. Just throwing those titles out there as notorious flops.

  • March 24, 2009, 1:56 a.m. CST

    I love Hudson Hawk, too

    by Unfilmable_Blue_Dong

    You know what would be a great thing if you could pull it off? An AICN shoutcast channel that played movies handpicked by the AICN staff. I know nothing about the legalities or the technicalities, but I'm sure someone else here would have a clue.<p> I would really love to watch an AICN channel in my winamp.

  • March 24, 2009, 2:22 a.m. CST

    Joe vs. the Volcano was ahead of its time...

    by BadMrWonka

    not hugely ahead, mind you, but a little. when I saw Grosse Point Blank, I thought of Joe...fondly...

  • March 24, 2009, 2:39 a.m. CST

    Joe Versus The Volcano is AWESOME

    by polyh3dron

    I saw it in the theater as a kid and was MESMORIZED by it. Joe and his brain cloud. SO awesome.

  • March 24, 2009, 2:50 a.m. CST

    gotcha Beaks

    by Bloo

    I totally misunderstood what you said. It's funny I've showed Hudson Hawk to friends of mine in their late teens early 20s who have no experience no baggage and they love it

  • March 24, 2009, 3:11 a.m. CST

    Ishtar on Watch Instantly

    by hulots

    Ishtar is available via Netflix's watch instantly (though not on DVD) if you're so inclined. Saw it a few weeks ago and agree with Nathan Rabin of the Onion's "My Year in Flops" that the movie is a "Secret Success." At least the first 20 minutes or so anyway. Gotta love the blind camel, "smuck", and all the wonderfully awful songs by Paul Williams...

  • March 24, 2009, 5:10 a.m. CST

    May JOE live to be a 1000 years old...

    by Six Demon Bag

    the MOST underrated film in Hanks' career, back when he wasnt really tryin for the oscar bait, that and BURBS rocks!!! BTW i saw BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES again recently not as bad as i remeber being told...granted not a great adaption thaough.

  • March 24, 2009, 5:22 a.m. CST

    Mr Beaks, while we're talking Joe Dante

    by Paulseta

    I will go head to head with anyone anytime to defend Explorers. That movie was one the absolute best 80s "kids and special effects" blockbusters... hands down.<P> Man, I love that film so much that I have considered splicing in the "missing scene" from my PAL VHS UK widescreen video with the US DVD print to get the most complete version...<P> And I would eat a bowl of Warren Beaty's earwax to get an official release of Jerry Goldsmith's complete score to it.<P> As for humor? The fake B movie playing at the drive in has some of my all time favorite gags, like Piccardo looking at his watch and saying "now is the time for destruction", or "he was like a father to me... do you understand?" and the girl saying "he *was* my father", and the two making out while the ship explodes and the dead father is lying there. <p> All that in a tiny subplot. Perfect movie.

  • March 24, 2009, 5:57 a.m. CST

    hey Paulseta

    by The Amazing G

    I love Explorers too, re-watched it not too long ago as a matter of fact

  • March 24, 2009, 6:32 a.m. CST

    Joe vs The Volcano is GENIUS.

    by DocPazuzu

    "Thank you, God... Thank you for my life. I forgot how big you are." <p> What an awesome movie. So many amazing peripheral characters, like the Luggage Salesman and Ossie Davis's limo driver. <p> Oh, and MR. WATURI FOR THE FUCKING WIN!! <p> "I know he can GET the job, but can he DO the job? I'm not ARGUING that with you!" <p> I'll defend Joe until my dying day. Waterworld too, but that's another matter entirely.

  • March 24, 2009, 8:48 a.m. CST

    Joe Vs. and The Burbs

    by Jor-El23

    Are definitely two of Hanks finest films...if I was ever lucky enough to meet Tom Hanks, I'd probably spent the entire time talking about those two movies.

  • March 24, 2009, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Good stuff :) Cant make it but I love the passion to defend

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    Im hoping in time people will realise what a brave and bold film Revolver is lol

  • March 24, 2009, 1:28 p.m. CST

    Turner and Hooch is pretty damn good as well

    by Six Demon Bag

  • March 24, 2009, 2:06 p.m. CST


    by mrbeaks

    Todd Gilchrist screened that recently at the New Bev. I think Dante came out for it, too. Personally, I'd love to do MATINEE or INNERSPACE

  • March 24, 2009, 3:18 p.m. CST

    Joe Dante was the 80's

    by Samuel Fulmer

    He put out a lot of great stuff then.

  • March 24, 2009, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Give me "bad" comdey Hanks over

    by Samuel Fulmer

    Da Vinic Code Hanks. At least those "bad" movies are enjoyable.

  • March 24, 2009, 4:29 p.m. CST

    Remember Hanks saying on Letterman...

    by SK229

    that he wishes his career could be remembered as, "He did that baseball movie with the girls, a sleeper hit, then he went on to do Philadelphia, Gump, etcc., but when you see The Man with One Red Shoe on cable at 2am seemingly every week, you know it's not going down like that." <p>I remember thinking, what a fucking idiot... is he seriously ignoring the CLASSIC comedy work he's done over the past ten years that GOT him to this point? The ONLY Hanks movies I'll truly remember are 1) The Burbs, favorite, hands down 2) Bachelor Party - a fun sense of fucking unbridled debauchery 3) Turner and Hooch - can't help it, always been a dog lover and it's the best movie with a dog as a co-star, imho, 4) Volunteers - nuff said... and maybe, just maybe 5) Saving Private Ryan... for that first 30 minutes which have very little to do with Hanks as an actor. Special mention for Catch Me If You Can which I only saw recently for the first time and loved, but I'm not sure how it will stack up. I'll also remember what an awesome job he did hosing that SNL 15th anniversary special. Oh, and all the times he hosted in the 80's - "Is Sony guuuuuts, sony guts!" and Mr. Short Term Memory... those classics. Also loved when he was the 'roadie' on Wayne's World when Aerosmith was on. "Check 1, check 2, sybilance, sybilance..." <p>It always amazes me which films actors like to think people will remember them for and the DRECK that they take seriously but which everyone else is like, WTF? DaVinci Code is probably a good example of that, although it is kind of campy fun... only Hanks is serious, isn't he? <p>Never seen Joe vs. The Volcano, but now I'm dying to see it... didn't know it had a cult following. Also just moved to L.A. from Jersey, and heading to The New Beverly for the first time this weekend (or is it the Aero... or the Egyptian?) for Lawrence of Arabia.

  • March 24, 2009, 4:55 p.m. CST

    Ishtar is out on DVD in the UK

    by jimmythesaint

    And only costs a few quid. Anamorphic widescreen and all.

  • March 24, 2009, 4:58 p.m. CST


    by Bones

    Man--I loved that movie when I was 13. 20 years ago, in high school, I found a cassette tape of Jerry Goldsmith's score in a cheap bin at Musicland at the Mall. For $3.00!<p> Needless to say, I listened the hell out of that tape and when Varese Sarabande finally released it on CD when I was in College, I snagged it there as well.<p> On of Goldsmith's most enjoyable soundtracks--and he is my favorite film composer!

  • March 24, 2009, 6:04 p.m. CST

    fucking love Joe

    by BillboeFett

    the quirkiness, Meg Ryan playing 3 different roles, Ossie Davis as a class act, Tom hank's transformation, the brain cloud, the hue changes from blue to green to orange, the beautiful score, the playfulness of it. The movie reminds you to feel alive and enjoy life. "I'm not arguing that with you"

  • March 24, 2009, 6:15 p.m. CST

    They need to release "The Gate" on DVD1

    by Raymar

  • March 24, 2009, 7:07 p.m. CST

    I honestly thought.....


    "Joe Versus the Volcano" was a documentary. I always enjoyed this Tom Hanks guy. I was happy to see a dude who wasn't an actor get work after this awesome, gritty, true to my life documentary. Seriously though, it took the apocalypse of the dead in U.K. to show Shaun what true love is. Why are they remaking "FootLoose"? How is that a good idea? In any way? Is Kenny Loggins still alive? Make it stop. Please. Please. I liked the original "Ishtar" with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

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  • March 25, 2009, 6:18 a.m. CST

    The Burbs

    by Autodidact

    This is one of those movies, like My Blue Heaven, that used to come on "pay TV" all the time as a kid, and I could just never get into it. I guess I should rent it at some point to see what all the fuss was about.

  • March 25, 2009, 11:01 a.m. CST

    I really love The Gate

    by CuervoJones

    And "I, Madman" is gold. Man, that director made two great movies. Ishtar is a boring one.

  • March 25, 2009, 5:09 p.m. CST

    The Money Pit

    by Little Beavis

    I as well have stood up for Joe vs the Volcano for YEARS... BUT, as far as Hanks' films go, THE MONEY PIT OWNS ALL YOUR BITCH ASSES!!! You know it to be true...

  • March 26, 2009, 3:11 p.m. CST

    That scene in Volcano with the flickering flourescent

    by skimn

    light and Dan Hedya repeating that same question (What WAS that?)over and over and over in the phone.

  • March 26, 2009, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Ah thank you IMDB

    by skimn

    "But can he do the job. I know he can get the job but can he DO the job? I'm NOT arguing that with you. I'm not arguing that with YOU. I'm not ARGUING that with you. I'm not ARGUING that with you Harry! Harry... Harry... Yeah Harry... but can he DO the job. I know he can GET the job but can he do the job?"

  • March 26, 2009, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Joe Versus The Volcano

    by Jinxo

    Back when I was in college I decided that once a week, no matter what, I'd go see a movie. If I had to go alone, fine. If there was nothing out I was dying to see I'd pick something at random. The idea was to just try anything and everything including stuff I normally wouldn't. Saw Joe Versus The Volcano as a random choice and thought it was just so brilliant. Just so good. Somebody above mentioned the, "Thank you God for my life," part. My favorite part of that is that he doesn't quite say, "I forgot how big you are," but instead just gets so overwhelmed and says, "I forgot... how BIG..." I love that. You feel the big. And it makes it bigger... like, God, the world, the universe, life... So good.<br><br> And with all the performances, don't forget Abe Vigoda as the island native's religious leader. "You love him? You loe her? You're married."

  • March 27, 2009, 5:36 p.m. CST

    As a luggage problem...

    by webbish6

    Joe Versus the Volcano is my favorite movie of all time. I think at the time it came out, the critics were crawling all over Hanks for trying to do "serious" acting (see: Punchline) and that he should just stick to comedy. Geniuses! Anyway, anyone who has not seen Joe Versus the Volcano should see it immediately. It is a life-saving film. It used to be my "test" film for boys who dated me.

  • March 27, 2009, 7:48 p.m. CST


    by Jinxo

    Actually watched the Siskel and Ebert review online and while Ebert liked it (Siskel did not) they both seemed to have totally missed the point of the movie, talking about it as a romantic comedy/fantasy. It is those things but only seeing it on that level... they missed the point. They missed what it was trying to say and the levels it was trying to work on. Siskel said, "Like the limo driver who helps Joe. He was a good character and they just let him go. They should have made him a guide for Joe on hos journey like the butler in Arthur." ?!?!? No. This is not a standard "heroes journey" deal with a young hero who has a mentor who guides him for most of the story and falls away only before the end. This is fantasy but very real world. If you are taking life changing steps more than likely you won't have someone who will be going through that with you. Other people got their own lives going on. So maybe you'll find people along your way who are willing to help you out at that specific point - driving you around, helping you shop - but that's all they're gonna do: help at that point and wish you good luck as you move. They're not going to go with you because they've got their own life.<br><br> Actually was frustrating to watch. Like the blind man grabbing the elephant by the trunk and saying, "Don't care for snakes," totally misunderstanding what he was touching.

  • March 28, 2009, 1:24 p.m. CST

    critics are a detriment to art

    by antonphd

    in a addition to being leeches and whores

  • March 28, 2009, 1:25 p.m. CST


    by antonphd

    well said

  • March 28, 2009, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Mori, I say this to you as a friend.

    by VolitaleMix

    There comes a time in every man's life when he has to go out into the world on his own. We all feel bad that you have become a complete failure at your new website and all, but sometimes you just have to succeed or fail on your own. <p> What you are doing is basically being a 40 year old man who is constantly running back to Mom and Dad begging for help because he is such a loser. Cut the fucking umbilical cord, man! You won't be able to run to Daddy Harry forever, so you might as well just suck it up and start being a man now. <p> You have already become the laughing stock of the entire internet, don't keep making it worse for yourself with these pathetic begging antics. <p> You need to figure out that no one is ever going to respect you while you keep cowering at your little nose in the air, pinkies in the air, lame, phony website. As long as you keep thinking you are something special and try to pretend you are something you're not, you will continue to FAIL. <p> You better figure it out quick, because there will come a time when you will cry out for help, and we will all look at you and

  • March 30, 2009, 1:20 a.m. CST


    by Mel Garga

    I absolutely love Joe Versus the Volcano. Hanks and Ryan are hilarious but it's the bit parts that make this one a classic for me. McGovern tapping his fingertips together and pondering the appropriate luggage for Joe. "A real journey." Plus, Ossie Davis, Lloyd Bridges, Dan Hedaya....and that's before they get to the island. One of my favorite endings as well.