Interview with Tucker Tooley

This interview with the Co-Director of Relativity Media is an unusually candid tale of how his career as a producer dveloped in Hollywood. Tooley was instrumental turning the Relativity from a production company into a fully-fledged studio developing, producing, acquiring and distributing 8-10 films per year. During his tenure, Tooley has managed the creative team while overseeing the recent production of Immortals, the 3-D epic adventure from the producers of 300 and acclaimed director Tarsem Singh, who is also directing Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts. For anyone looking to “make it” in Hollywood, Tooley’s word of wisdom, “persistence” seems to be common. It reminded me of Julian Clarke, the editor who won an Oscar for his work on District 9. His advice to up and comers was to do as much work as you can, regardless of the pay. Also, the story of how Sam Worthington was living in his car before getting his big break by starring in the film Avatar is something of legend – although he was successful in Australia prior to his move to the States.

The interview is the latest in a string taken by ArcLight Cinemas, which in addition to providing a unique and better viewing experience – with assigned seating, less advertisements, disruptions – also has interviews with interesting people in the film business, sometimes after a screening.

Goon Film Review

Beat the winter blues (to a bloody pulp)

It’s cold season and I myself have been under the weather. For anyone suffering from the same wintry blues, doctors recommend lots of fluid, rest and vitamin-rich foods – and if you’re looking speed your recovery you can watch the film Goon, the minor-leauge hockey comedy will get your lungs going and loosen the phlegm in your bronchial tubes – though the cough-laughing might annoy the people around you. The benchmark for all hockey-related comedies is Slapshot, and you can think of Goon as a combination of said film and The Passion of the Christ. I would have said 300 but the beating, bludgeoning, slashing, etc. Sean William Scott’s character Doug Glatt endures is pure, bloody torture. Like our Lord and Saviour Dougie sacrifices himself willingly for the greater good, thereby setting an example. But the broken cheek bones and blood stained ice shouldn’t detract from the fact that this films is pretty funny – it’s not very intelligent humour but it has some dandy one-liners. Be it following a brutal rendition of the Canadian national anthem or a dust-up on the ice everyone has got a great quip. My favourite line: “If I want any lip from you I’ll rattle my zipper”, and my favourite sign held by a fan “Glatt is Hebrew for ‘Fuck You’”. It’s dirty, low-brow humour – but it’s also a good look into the the goon business in hockey – something that’s actually been a contentious issue the last few years in professional hockey. It’s got the laughs that The Love Guru should have had – but too many fucks, shits and simulated masturbation to be a Mike Myers film – okay his films have plenty of the latter. Liev Schreiber does a fantastic job and gives the film an interesting edge.

★★★★

4/5 stars

Intouchables Film Review

I’ll admit, when I first read the synopsis for this film warning signs starting flashing. The storyline, a poor immigrant from the Paris suburbs takes on a job caring for a wealthy quadriplegic – please. I do not want to see a preachy pity-parade with the standard bromance storyline. I should qualify that statement. I was imagining the typical bromance – I Love You, Man, The Green Hornet, Wedding Crashers, Dinner for Schmucks, etc. – you know, where the two buddies have a falling out but realize there are underlying reasons for their behaviour which they then confront and become great friends again – I imagined that, interspersed with sobby scenes of bleak lives in the ghetto or as being someone severely disabled, playing (or shredding) my heart strings like Eddie van Halen on an Eruption solo – all the while trying to make me laugh. But, at the insistence of colleagues, friends and a the general public at large – I gave it a shot, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It’s not preachy, it’s not sappy, it’s a break from the standard and just a high quality, enjoyable film – with plenty of laughs. Both of the main actors François Cluzet and Omar Sy are both well cast and play their roles convincingly, the story is that much more heartwarming due to the fact that’s it’s based on a true story. I shouldn’t have been so sceptical at the beginning, I don’t think that a film would become the second highest grossing film of all time in France if it were as bad as I’d imagined, but then again those Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer keep making movies (and money).

Dark Knight Rises Prologue & Recap

There is a lot of news coming out of Gotham city these days, even with the premiere more than 6 months away. Recently the prologue to The Dark Knight Rises was shown to journalists and bloggers, with reactions being mostly positive – which is impressive, considering director Christopher Nolan set the bar high, introducing Heath ledger in the bank robbery sequence that was used to promote The Dark Knight. Despite the superlatives (like jaw-dropping and mind-blowing), some did complain that the new bad-guy, Bane, was hard to understand. Bootlegs of the video are floating around the net but it is probably worth it to go and watch it on the big screen, you can see it as a preview to the new Mission: Impossible film. Here is a quick recap of the things that have come out over the passed weeks and months, thanks to interviews with Nolan and the media that has hounded the production team that has been everywhere from India to Scotland – did you know they have Gotham landmarks built in an old zeppelin hangar in the U.K.? Now you know. The story takes place eight years after the end of the last movie. Nolan tried to explain why, see if you can figure it out:

“But it’s not a great mystery — it’s the jumping-off point for the film — but it’s hard for me to articulate it. I think the mood at the beginning of the film will make a lot of sense. If I had to express it thematically, I think what we’re saying is that for Batman and Commissioner Gordon, there’s a big sacrifice, a big compromise, at the end of the ‘The Dark Knight’ and for that to mean something, that sacrifice has to work and Gotham has to get better in a sense. They have to achieve something for the ending of that film — and the feeling at the end of that film — to have validity. Their sacrifice has to have meaning and it takes time to establish that and to show that, and that’s the primary reason we did that. It’s a time period that is not so far ahead that we would have to do crazy makeup or anything — which I think would be distracting — but it gave them something to get their teeth into, particularly Christian in terms of [portraying] this guy who has been frozen in this moment in time with nowhere to go. He really has done an incredible job figuring out how to characterize that and express that.”

So that’s not exactly a synopsis in cleartext but it does provide insight into why Gordon was sick and in bed in the preview – and why Bale as Bruce Wayne looks a bit more haggard than any serious caped crimefighter should. We know from Liam Neeson, that his character makes an appearance in what we can expect is a flashback. We know that Christian Bale and Nolan won’t be doing another Batman film. In all it’s shaping up to be the epic end to a trilogy, there are many more details that have been released, regarding the appearance of certain actresses and what that might reveal about the plot, I’m purposefully avoiding them myself and I hate to speculate but judging by the poster and talk surrounding the film it seems unlikely that Bruce Wayne will carry on as the Caped Crusader, but that’s just speculation on my part.

Lament for a Wall Street Protest

Democracy in your Face - Pepperspray Wall Street Davis

Democracy in your face. Pepperspray at close range, protestors were then handcuffed and dragged away.

In the last couple of weeks, the Occupy Wall Street protests have been broken up in New York City and elsewhere – students in California braving batons and pepper spray in truly disturbing clashes with campus police. Despite their staying power – after almost two months the news media is tired of reporting on them – they didn’t really accomplish much, despite their creative consensus building and action committees. Nevertheless it’s still remarkable, and the results will hopefully be felt, come election time in the United States. Even since the 2008 financial crisis, plenty of work has been released dealing with the financial system, in all different kinds of media from film to literature. From the documentary Inside Job to the more recent film Margin Call, all laying bare the machinations of the financial system. There is plenty to protest about, the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, the billions in executive bonuses, but more importantly how Banks and other financial institutions privatize profit and socialize losses.

William D. Cohan wrote a book called Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World said in an interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show “I’m not a violent person [...] but I dodn’t understand why there hasn’t been protests in the street about Wall Street did here.” That comes form someone who worked on Wall Street for almost twenty years. While the immediate reaction was one of disgust the mobs didn’t come until recently, probably a combination of things but most immediately as a result of the U. S. reaching the debt ceiling. In the end people took to the streets, but it seemed they wanted to start society anew, reduce the role of government, but spread the wealth – that’s not going to fly. In the end they didn’t have a consistent message, they were just there, and now they’re gone. Polls showed that at the beginning, most Americans were behind the protestors, but as things dragged on support waned. The problem was, there was no clear message, what started as a protest against greed and corruption on Wall Street, turned into a free-for-all on the wealthy and government in general. I’m not saying they need a PR consultant to give them a slick slogan and talking points, but they do need a direction, some kind of goal.

It’s a crying shame, had they focussed on real, actionable change, they might have got something done – two concrete policy issues come to mind: financial reform and taxes. The promised changes in financial regulation have no teeth – Wall Street lobbyists are helping write it, and only a small portion of the promised reforms have actually been enacted, the rest hasn’t been written yet. With regards to taxes, the rich need to start carrying more of the tax burden, period. While concrete policy intiatives might be a little lame for the hemp-wearing drum-beating crowd, it might have had more of an effect.

New Bond Film Called Skyfall

Skyfall Bond Film At a press conference in London a lot of details for the new Bond film were confirmed. It will be the 23rd of the franchise and will mark the 50th anniversary of the series. The name of the new film – a poorly kept secret – will be Skyfall. Daniel Craig reprising the role of James Bond, Javier Bardem will play the villain while Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris will be the femmes fatale. There are a slew of other interesting actors joining the cast, including Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw. Judi Dench will be reprising the role of M (which wasn’t guaranteed). While the title was a well known fact, the rest of the story is being kept pretty quiet, while the general idea will be Bond’s loyalty to M being tested, the actors revealing little about their characters or the rest of the story – all that has been confirmed, is that it’s going to be a classic bond film, and it will have action in it. You might be thinking, “A Bond film with action? Get out of here,” and I’d indulge in your sarcasm, but the skepticism stems from the fact that Sam Mendes is directing – Sam Mendes of American Beauty fame. In any rate he confirmed the film will have action, and that action will take Bond from London, to the Highlands in Scotland, China and Istanbul. It’s been quite a gap since the last film but fans can now look forward to late October of 2012.

Skyfall, Craig, Marlohe, Harris

Bérénice Marlohe, Daniel Craig and Naomie Harris at the Press Conference in London

Best Poker Movies of the Last Decade (Or So)

If you browse around on the net and look for a list of the best poker movies, you’ll find that everyone has a different list. Most contain the classics like The Sting, The Cincinatti Kid and Maverick which are well-known. Those films and the others occupying the top ten are often a little dated, I was very surprised to see Rounders so low on so many people’s lists, in one case only receiving an honourable mention (take a hike). The film is a touchstone in the genre, for me at least. Perhaps it is a generational thing but that film is and was amongst my friends the most quoted at the table – the classic lines being “Sorry John, I don’t remember” after a player has folded and wants to know if you “had it” or of course there is “In my club, I will splash the pot whenever the fuck I please” in the requisite Russian accent. Casino Royale is second on my list and I was surprised to see it (or not see it) on other people’s lists. It plays a major role in the story of the first film of the Bond reboot and has incredibly high stakes, and plenty of twists and turns. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has to be up there as well, although there is little table action, poker is central to the story. I suppose the latter films don’t qualify as strict “poker films”, but if you take a look at the poker-centric flicks of late you get an idea as to why the top ten is so often dominated by older films. Lucky You came out in 2007 and starred Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore, it was a commercial disaster but garnered praise for it’s realistic depiction of the poker circuit. Similarly the film The Grand is a film touted by insiders but not popular among critics. The film Deal, starring Burt Reynolds and also featuring a number of real poker personalities was a flop. Often the game plays a supporting role in the overall plot, the title character in Michael Clayton goes gambling in the seedy New York underground; the story in the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin kicks off at a poker game as well – fine, hardly a poker movie but it shows that the card game is a fixture in popular culture and serves perhaps better in a supporting role in film. It all makes sense, a lot of people enjoy this game, it’s great amongst friends and some people even make a decent go of it online – I’ve heard stories of online players earning enough to live off, playing poker on PokerStars. Depending on your poker face you might find it easier or harder to bluff online, which is too bad because “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.”

The Thing 2011 – Preview to a Review

I’ve noticed a lot of trafic hitting the site for people looking for a review of this film, I haven’t seen it, because it doesn’t come out in Germany until the 17th of November – it opened a month ago in the U.S. Because I’m so excited for this film I had considered watching a bootleg copy, but the one being circulated on the net is awful. Instead I went with a film of a similar genre, Pandorum, and was pleased. But that doesn’t help anyone wanting to know if this film is any good, and to give you an idea, audiences seem to like it more than critics. Rotten Tomatoes users gave it 59% fresh rating – which is actually rotten – and IMDB is currently showing a 6.7 rating. It seems it doesn’t do a whole lot entirely different than the previous films, with a lack of genuine scares. We’ll have to wait and see.

Seth Meyer, Stephen Colbert, Lewis Black & Pulling Punches

Seth Meyer, Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black are all talented comedians who have hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Meyers most recently, in an article I stumbled upon, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s news leader, refers to the fact that when Colbert and Black hosted the event, the pulled punches to cater to their audience:

Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black are two of political comedy’s mightiest powerhouses. But when the popular jesters were summoned to stately affairs – the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner for Black in 2005 and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for Colbert in 2006 – they buckled, neutering their comedy to cater to the crowd.

Black admitted himself that he toned down his otherwise colourful language so not to offend the stately audience – he joked about it in his stand-up routine. So that’s fine, but the major issue is Colbert, who famously ridiculed the president and administration at the time, mercilessly. It became and internet sensation, but perhaps our friends at the SJ didn’t pick up on it because Bush’s act with Steve Bridges was more widely reported. In any event, you can’t accuse Colbert or Black of doing safe comedy, especially when one of them has the President seething.

Read This or You’ll Die

Bloggers or news people working in online media will know that having a striking title is important, when competing for the readers attention your title is often the teaser that gets the coveted click – or not. As a result, blog posts and new articles often make a profound statement – promising wild and or life-changing information presented in an easily digestible format. Some examples might be, “10 Reasons to Quit Your Job” or “Why I’m Dropping the iPhone, and Never Going Back”. Oh la la, do tell. These irresistible intros result in a lot of wasted time surfing the net and also a kind of arms race where mild or otherwise less interesting content is beefed up a bit. CNN does this. Anyone who has spent time on the couch channel surfing in the hours on the other side of prime time will be very familiar with this news organization. I was on their site and saw a video with the title “Lewis Black’s graphic on-set meltdown”, intrigued I continued to read the tagline, which read “Lewis Black stops his interview with HLN’s Joy Behar after becoming disgusted by the words across the screen.” Lewis Black is a very funny comedian known for his temper, it’s part of his act, so if this was true I was expecting a breakdown of Charlie Sheen proportions. But in the end, lewis Black was just making fun of the fact that the tagline at the bottom of th screen read “It’s Black Jack”, and how the cutesy subtitles aren’t funny, they’re just stupid. Even if you don’t know Lewis Black and his style you wouldn’t call his reaction a meltdown. Even their blog post writes about how it’s unaired footage, you can watch it here – but I wouldn’t. Now, you’re probably wondering how reading this will save your life, well for that you’ll have to tune in next week…