The Best Of TLR (1 of 5)
Today is a very special movie anniversary for me...that is celebrated with The Last Reel Post #4,000:
“This is no fantasy...”
I was 10 years old at the time...
It was August 23rd 1979, and as usual for that time of year the weather was very warm and humid. My Mom and Dad were busy working around the house. Four of my five siblings were out and about, doing the things that normal teenagers and young adults do. I decided to pass the time by playing a very long game of Monopoly with the one sister who was home . After she beat me, it was time to eat dinner. As we finished our meal, two of my brother’s buddies came by, for a visit. Even though he wasn’t home, his two pals as they often did, had decided to stick around for a little bit anyway. This visit allowed them to give me some of those old "Space: 1999" action figures and toys, which he was planning to do anyway. The duo said that they were going to the movies in town. Eventually, they invited my sister and me to come along. After getting permission and money from the folks, off we went...
Little did I know, this simple outing to the movies, would have such an affect on me and my future...
“You will believe...”
The only movie theater within walking distance from my home in Woodbury NJ., had only two screens, (yeah remember when movies only had 1 or 2 screens!) and was located right in the center of town. The Wood, (sadly, demolished in the mid-80's after the cineplex took over) on Broad Street, was what’s known in the business as, a second run theater. This is the last place where movies go before they show up on cable or in the video store. The fifteen minute trip ended and we arrived some twenty minutes before the 7:00 p.m. show time. The four of us sat three rows from the front. The screen looked very big to this 10 year old. In the center section, we took four seats on the right side of the row. I sat on the end. This was the first time I sat that close to the screen.
The movie I was about to see had originally been released on December 15 1978. It had been number one at the box office for eleven weeks in a row, garnered four Oscar nominations, and was a hit with the the critics and the public alike. A few moments later the theater went dark and the film began...
The movie I saw that night was...of course
There are many other films that have inspired me over the years. The list is long and varied. However, SUPERMAN was the very first film to have an impact on me, and the choices that I would make later in life. So that is why it is singled out here.
From the opening shots in black and white of a young boy reading a comic book, dissolving into one of the most memorable credit sequences ever filmed, to its epic story and great score, SUPERMAN had it all. A great cast, led by Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Christopher Reeve In fact, it is his performance as both the man of steel and his alter ego, Clark Kent, (Reeve later said that he modeled his Clark Kent after actor Cary Grant) that made it work. Under the fine direction of Richard Donner, the movie and its characters came alive...
“...the gift of flight”
When the movie ended, 2 hours and 23 minutes later, I thought WOW! As the four of us made our way back to my house, I was pumped up, and very excited!--And could not stop talking about it...When I finally made it home, I couldn’t wait to tell Mom and Dad all about it. It wasn’t just the movie that I wanted to talk about though. I wanted talk about everything that went into MAKING IT as well. I noticed a lot more about the movie than just the great script by writer Tom Mankiewicz. Examples of what else I noticed include: the cinematography (by the late Geoffrey Unsworth), the music (by John Williams), the set design (by the late John Barry), editing (by Stuart Baird), and on and on... The point is that I became interested in all areas of the film’s production. Even to this day, I still pay attention to the credits of films that I see. I remember telling my mom that night that I wanted to be a film director as an adult...
As a teenager, I went to the movies a lot, with family and friends. I was and still am the movie guy to those that know me..Trips to the bookstore back then meant getting my hands on any tome about movies and how they got made...
When it came time to pick a major in college--the choice was simple--Communications with a concentration in Film and TV production....
Since then I have made a few promotional films including one for my high school Alma mater--Profiles of interesting people that I thought could use the attention...The highlight among those films though was the completion of an indie short--that-thanks to the help of some very dedicated folks--is literally one experience I will never forget...And Like Superman--it will always be with me for the rest of my life Thanks always to MD for going above and beyond in making the Indie happen at all and to the rest of my cast/crew--It truly was the "The Best Of Times...."
I may not be a famous filmmaker--and that's OK--at least I can say I did it and my life is all the better for having reached for it...and I am content in my current career as a non film director
The important thing is... My affection for, and inspiration from the celluloid medium has never really left me--and I doubt it ever will really..In some ways, one could say, this blog would not exist without 1978's STM... and that trip to the center of town 30 years ago
Thank You Mr Donner For Making A 10 Year Old Boy Believe A Man Can Fly....And giving me a lifetime of movie memories...
This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my Mom, my niece Kayla and my lovely "B" I miss you every day...and I love you...
The Best Of TLR (2 of 5)
This Is One Of My Favorite Film Reviews That I Have Written Over The Years...
In early September, I went to the theater to see Rob Zombie's 2007 version of Halloween, and despite my reservations over the very notion of a remake of the 1978 classic--Not to mention a few controversies along the way--I wanted to give the film a fair shake...
Put simply--the update is a mess and really makes you appreciate the genius of John Carpenter and Debra Hill back in '78.
As a 10 year old child, Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) brutally kills his sister Judith (Hanna Hall) and his stepfather (William Forsythe). Shortly thereafter, young Michael is put in an asylum and placed under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).
Years later, the boy, now an emotionless catatonic man has escaped back to his hometown of Haddonfield to complete the murderous rampage. that began all of those years ago. Now, the adult Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is back, and his hometown is about to find out that there is no escape from pure evil.
One of the strengths of the Carpenter version of Halloween is its ability to scare viewers using suspense and shock-without having to depend on gore--to tell its story. While I realize Zombie wanted to make the 2007 flick as different as possible, having no desire to make a shot for shot retread, his film uses blood and gore to make up for the fact that his film is just NOT scary.
Even though Zombie keeps the framework of the story intact, he wastes golden chances to scare us--with the new stuff. As I feared, knowing too much of Myers' backstory just weighs everything down like an anchor. I wouldn't have minded spending 40 minutes learning how screwed up little Mikey's home life is....but frankly, as presented it's quite uninteresting.
The series already tried explaining the Shape's origin in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers with mixed results (see Halloween: Curse of Michael Myers, the Producers' Cut for more details). I agree with the Carpenter/Hill approach that "less is more"-allowing the audience to guess at the killers whys--rather than leading us there--keeping him a mythological figure or evil force--more or less...
Once the film moves into more familiar terrain though, most of that material is either dropped all together or truncated to get to its new conclusion
I actually feel bad for the cast of the movie. Everyone gives it their best shot, but thanks to bad writing by Zombie--most of the characters are given stiff and silly dialogue to utter--with the F-Word thrown in for good measure--a lot.
Many of the movie's great supporting players are wasted here. Dee Wallace, playing Mrs. Strode is introduced quickly and has only one really meaty scene after that... Danielle Harris (who is well known to the franchise faithful having played Jaime Lloyd in both Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5) plays Annie, fares a bit better with screen time but deserves better material.
When I first heard that Malcolm McDowell would be playing Dr Sam Loomis, as a fan of most of his work, I actually was pretty jazzed. It's a shame that his performance only serves to further exalt the way the late Donald Pleasence played the doc through 5 films. Sure, there was a touch of camp the way Pleasence did things, but it never got in the way of you totally buying into it full on. McDowell is not very subtle when chewing the scenery and serves as a major distraction.
Scout Taylor-Compton playing the pivitol role of Laurie Strode isn't given enough time for the part to make her the star that it made Jamie Lee Curtis almost 30 years ago.
Zombie turns the simple killer stalks babysitter premise into a bloody version of a daytime talk show or violent "After School Special"
Thank goodness, Halloween 2007 has no chance of ever becoming the true classic, that is the original
Zombie's Halloween II was even worse!!!
The Best Of TLR (3 of 5)
This one celebrates Star Trek's 40th--Looking at the first six films and how the fan film kept it going till J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof et al saved it for a third time with Star Trek 2009's great reboot...
In honor of today's big meal this post is rather stuffed (long)
Here now, is my eagerly awaited 40th anniversary tribute to the space odyssey known as Star Trek...
The first time I saw the crew of the starship U.S.S Enterprise in action was, appropriately enough, in a darkened movie theater--watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the winter of 1980.
In retrospect, the film is not the best cinematic effort in the franchise, but as a young boy, there was just enough to get me hooked...From the great opening battle sequence between the Klingons and the "destructive force" known as "V'ger" to seeing the ship warp through space for the first time, and composer Jerry Goldsmith's (1929-2004) awesome score, I was loving it...
From that point on, I watched every episode of the original series in syndication, taking it all in--the characters, the (cheesy) special effects and the underlying message of a hopeful future.
By the time Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came around 2 and a half years later, I had seen every episode dozens of times and was ready for a new adventure. What can I say? The film is hands down my favorite of the film series Ricardo Montalban reprising his role as the vengeful Kahn, who first appeared in the TV series episode called Space Seed (1967) is just the best...
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) resolved key plot points from the second film giving us a few more in the process--A very well done middle chapter of a three part story. Spock (Leonard Nimoy who also directed) is resurrected of course, but at a high price--the death of Kirk's (William Shatner) son David (Merritt Butrick 1959-1989), the destruction of the Enterprise, and the crew's Starfleet careers in doubt..
Two years later came Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home-The most financially successful and critically acclaimed Trek film so far...Lightened the mood of three's more somber tone as the crew travels back to the late 20th century to save mankind, our future and the Humpback Whale... The humor is situational rather than campy...
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier--Shatner directs as the crew (now on board the Enterprise A) finds Spock's half brother Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) who's on his own quest to find "God". Yikes! Still better than 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis with the The Next Generation crew which helped put the entire franchise on hiatus. Thanks a lot...
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)--As Dr. McCoy. my favorite original series character (DeForest Kelley 1920-1999) says in the film "What A Way To Finish" Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II,and IV) returns to co-write and direct the last film to feature the entire original series cast...As the Klingons start talking peace with the Federation. Sulu (George Takei) is promoted to Captain his own ship and the crew goes out on top.
There were of course 4 other films with the TNG cast....4 additional TV series spin offs: TNG, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (the most under appreciated member of the "family"), Voyager, and Enterprise--with a new film from J.J. Abrams on the way in 2008...in hopes of rebooting the stagnant franchise.
In the meantime, thanks to the Internet, some very special fans are keeping creator Gene Roddenberry's (1920-1991) vision of the future alive in the form of Fanfilms...
For the most part, these are well produced, serious explorations of the trek universe--complete with hand made costumes, props, special make-up and sets familiar to everyone. These films are available as free downloads at their respective websites. Trek's copyright owner Paramount Pictures is fine with all of this going on right in front of their noses---as long as nobody tries to make money off of them...
USS Exeter--takes place during the original series and centers around Captain Garrovick (James Culhane) and the crew of a constellation class starship...
Star Trek: Hidden Frontier--takes place during the 24th century. It is structured much the same way that DS9 is--Multiple story lines, multiple characters, and multiple starships intersect as the Federation goes to war. The actors may have to use folding chairs now and then and sit in front of a green screen for the interiors, but it's the stories that make it work...
By far the best of the lot though is Star Trek New Voyages which continues the original 5 year mission of Kirk and Co, as if NBC had not cancelled the show in 1969. Really great stuff! The cast captures the essence of their TV/movie counter parts to a tee--especially Jeff Quinn who plays Mr. Spock. Wow! The standing sets are near perfect replicas of those seen on the 60's series, designed by the late great Walter M. Jefferies. The crew wardrobe is fashioned after the work of William Ware Theiss. The non-Starfleet wardrobe is pattered after his designs as well. And of course, the theme music composed by Alexander Courage is woven in too. The effects are mind blowing and could easily stand up against anything being done elsewhere.
They've been covered in an article for Wired Magazine, Newsday, and for segments of G4 TVs Attack Of The Show. The latest webisode, titled "To Serve All My Days" features original series star Walter Koenig, reprising his role as Pavel Checkov, in a unique sci-fi twist. The story is penned by D.C. Fontana who wrote some of classic Trek's best episodes. "To Serve..." should be online, in it's entirety sometime over the holiday weekend. Rod Roddenberry, the son of Gene and Trek actress Majel Barrett even acts as a consultant for NV.
Next time on NV: George Takei has agreed to play his Star Trek character, Hikaru Sulu. Takei's character will age 30 years, with flowing hair and leather clothes, in "World Enough and Time," a 50-minute fan production being filmed at an old car dealership in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. James Cawley, a fan who lives in nearby Ticonderoga, has financed 15 years of such Star Trek episodes from his earnings as an Elvis impersonator and plays Capt. James T. Kirk in this episode. Cawley told the Associated Press that the episode will be released in March 2007...
And then there's the time spanning Star Trek: Of Gods and Men--a three part web based mini series, directed by Tim Russ, who played Tuvok on TV's Voyager--The first part's set to hit the web next week on December 1st. Many Trek alum appear in the project..
Here's an extended trailer for Of Gods And Men:
I can't believe how much Star Trek continues to endure..even with its uphill climb of late...Majel Barrett spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on the 40th anniversary of Trek's TV premiere...and that's how I'll end things today--The full interview can be found here...As Spock himself might say: Live Long And Prosper...And of course, I must also add...
Happy Thanksgiving 2006!!
The Best Of TLR (4 of 5)
A BIG star loses a fan
Unless you've been living under a rock since last Friday, it has been impossible to escape the Mel Gibson story, thanks to media saturation.
And while I understand the why the media ran with it....at first. Now though, I question the amount of coverage it's gotten, since the story broke....
Quite frankly, by Monday morning, I had already had enough of Mel-Gate--which is part of the reason--it's taken me this long to talk about it--what more could I possibly add to the proceedings that hasn't already been said?
First, let me say that, I think Gibson is a first class jerk for acting the way he did on the Pacific Coast Highway. 2 apologies later---alcohol or not, there's no excuse for such actions---I suspect there are plenty of folks out there (myself included), who now see his statements to ABC's Diane Sawyer, during a 2004 interview, in a whole new light.
AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutch, offers us the latest....
Mel Gibson now faces a legal battle in addition to the one to restore his public image.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged Gibson with driving under the influence of alcohol, having an elevated blood-alcohol level and an open container of liquor in his car when he was pulled over in Malibu last week.
If convicted, Gibson faces up to six months in jail, though first-time misdemeanor drunken driving offenders usually face minimal, if any, time behind bars. It's up to the judge to determine if Gibson would serve any time.
Prosecutors made no mention of Gibson's self-described "belligerent behavior" and "despicable" remarks in the complaint _ reportedly the unleashing of an anti-Semitic tirade.
"After evaluating all the evidence presented by the Sheriff's Department _ and they presented every scrap of evidence they had _ we evaluated carefully and felt the charges we filed were the appropriate charges in this case," said district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
Gibson's lawyer, Blair Berk, declined to comment, saying, "It is inappropriate to discuss the ongoing case." An attorney may appear in the actor's place during his Sept. 28 arraignment.
Arrested at 2:36 a.m. Friday after his Lexus was stopped for speeding, Gibson allegedly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
"He will be held accountable for his violations under the law," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said, adding that the charges "didn't surprise me."
In the aftermath of Gibson's arrest, his publicist, Alan Nierob, has said the actor-director was in an ongoing program for alcohol abuse before the arrest and has entered another, on an outpatient basis.
Gibson has apologized twice. In the latest he addressed the Jewish community, apologizing for his "vitriolic and harmful words."
According to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Sheriff's Department's report says Gibson told the arresting deputy: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked him, "Are you a Jew?"
Gibson, 50, has had a troubled relationship with Jewish organizations since his 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ," which some criticized for portraying Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus. Supporters say the movie merely followed the Gospel story.
Gibson's apologies weren't accepted by former TV producer Merv Adelson, who took out an ad in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times blasting movie studio heads for not strongly and publicly condemning the Oscar-winning actor-director.
"Let's make ourselves proud and NOT support this JERK in any way, just because he's a so called 'star,'" wrote Adelson, co-founder of Lorimar Productions, which produced such TV hits as "Eight is Enough" and "The Waltons."
A sheriff's spokesman's initial account of the arrest described it as occurring "without incident" and made no mention of Gibson's remarks, fueling claims of a cover-up after they came to light
In an interview with the Associated Press, Sheriff Baca maintained deputies made no attempts to cover up his comments.
"Those are completely false," Baca said while attending a congressional hearing in San Diego.
"The district attorney in his statement clearly verifies that all of the evidence _ including inappropriate remarks, hateful remarks, anti-Semitic remarks, including with the videotape along with the audiotape," is there.
Baca added that the deputy who stopped Gibson "had the full authority to not arrest him and just take him home."
"You know, if that were his option, if he chose that option, he would be within our policy. But he chose the arrest option, which to me, shows me he's doing a terrific job," Baca said.
As I said at the top, Gibson is a JERK and he's forever tarnished himself as far as I'm concerned. That said though, the media totally bloated the story... and made more out of it...The only reason we found out about the story at all is because he's famous. If I had made those horrid evil comments during a traffic stop, it would have remained a story for the local media...Maybe and not for very long at that. A private matter made public. You could put forth what ifs all day. What if he killed someone with the car?.....Given the current Mid-East crisis, should his raging anti-semitism be given more weight? The fact is he didn't kill anyone, and race hatred and bigotry is spewed out of some idiot's mouth in this nation every day. Just because someone famous said it, we should beat the story to death? It's ugly no matter who says it, poor schlub politician, or movie star. PERIOD.
The story doesn't impact me personally one bit, or the film industry all that much for that matter...Gibson is influential yes, but not to the medium as a whole. No one person is, when you stop and think about it. If he retired today, would they stop makiing films? Absolutely not. As for his career, Hollywood is a very forgiving town...Perhaps too forgiving.... Look at Director Roman Polanski...When everyone calms down---someone will choose to work with Gibson again. I maintain his new film, Apocalypto was troubled before the scandal broke....Forgiveness... How about Tom Cruise? Director Lee Tamahori? And why is that? $$$$$ is the driving force in the land of make believe. I have made the personal choice not to support Gibson, but that's me, and yet I'm not calling for a boycott.
Gibson indeed got special treatment from the cops when he got pulled over. His case, which comes up before a judge on September 28th, 2006, will surely be pleaded out...This is a surprise? This deserves my attention? For a solid week...? I think not. Especially when the outcome is pretty much a forgone conclusion.
Some have questioned my calling this case a "private" or "personal" matter---I still say it is. Report it, yes, but don't equate it as something bigger than what it is. A very rich egotist acting like a drunken fool. Just because he made The Passion of the Christ, and it made lots of money, doesn't mean his case should lead the nightly newscast or be the subject of too many posts on my blog.
Gibson received a plea bargin to stay out of jail...that time but has never been right since and continues to need career rehab....
The Best Of TLR (5 of 5)
Though Rare On This Blog--This is my favorite DVD Review
After a long wait of almost 30 years, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is finally here...
Before I get into the specifics about the DC--Some Background:
In the decade of the 1970's Superman The Movie and 80% of its sequel Superman II were shot simultaneously.
Originally conceived by director Richard Donner and writer Tom Mankiewicz as a two-part story...The 2 friends, along with a talented cast and crew of hundreds, set out to make us "believe a man can fly"....They succeeded beyond all measure.
As the release date for the first film loomed, it was decided to halt production on II, in favor of finishing the first part. Once that movie was in the can and in theaters , everyone would return to complete the rest of II..
However, by this point tensions between Donner and producers--Alexander Salkind, his son Ilya, and Pierre Spengler--were so bad that Donner was fired before he could finish part II. Director Richard Lester was brought in, to not only finish the film, but rework many scenes as well. This reboot was necessary in order for Lester to receive a director credit on the film...
I must admit, the first time I popped the Donner Cut of Superman II into the DVD player, I got a few goosebumps as things got under way....
The basic story of the film is the same as it is in theatrical version. It's the way Donner gets from points A to B and so on that's different...
Gone: The entire post credit Paris sequence in which a bomb, detonated in space by Superman (Christopher Reeve) releases the three villains from Krypton...Replaced with a scene from the first film of the Man Of Steel disposing of one of the missiles hijacked by Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman)--causing the trio's escape.
Gone: Scenes between Superman and his biological mother Lara (Susannah York) are replaced by scenes between Supes and his biological father Jor-El (Marlon Brando)
Margot Kidder) discovers Clark Kent is Superman with him tripping over a (pink) bareskin rug. Replaced with Lois pulling a gun on our hero--forcing him to reveal his secret...
The ultimate question of which version is better is a toughie though--Watching the Donner Cut made feel like kid again and that I had traveled back in time to some alternate reality--there's some really great stuff here...But I actually think the theatrical version paces better. I'm sure that Donner would have addressed this issue had he been allowed to finish the film...I know this may sound like a cop out--the 2 versions each have things that work in them and some things that don't.
For example, the Jor-El scenes are much more meaningful to me than the Lara theatrical stuff. It's the whole Father/Son dynamic. The whole Clark is Supes reveal put into motion by Lois is much stronger as well. The Phantom Zone villains seem a bit more menacing. The battle over Metropolis is more streamlined--Gone is Lester's campy schtick and sight gags in that sequence...
The biggest issues I had with the Donner Cut has to do with some of the editorial choices made: (Beware Spoilers!!)
DC producer Michael Thau and Donner chose to score this version by laying in music from the first film. While I love John Williams' work. I have to admit it was a bit of a distraction hearing music that fits the first movie so well, used for this cut. At times the score sounded out of place and disjointed I wish they could have found a way to use more of Ken Thorne's arrangements. I think that would have worked better.
The Donner Cut has Supes sleeping with Lois before he gives up his powers...While this solves a major plot issue I had with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns-- only till the end of the DC. Still, it begs the question, why does he need to give up his powers at all? If he can have his abilities and be with Lois anyway--Why bother asking for Dad's permission.
Folks have complained that the DC lifts the time travel ending of the first film--Supes turning back the world, to undo the damage done by the villains and to make Lois forget that Clark Kent is Supes. At face value, that criticism is a valid one. And indeed, Lester's Super smooch ending was considered as the ending for the DC, but remember, Donner never had the chance to finish II the way he had wanted or could have. Therefore, I can see them reusing the concept again, since Superman The Movie would have originally ended with the Zoners escape cliffhanger...I think using it to save Lois in One packs more of an emotional wallop though. I'm fine with our hero turning back the world again in lieu of using the kiss from Lester's cut
Given that, Superman does reverse time in this version though...Why does Clark go back to Ron's Diner to give Rocky (Pepper Martin) the bully a taste of his own medicine--if their fight never happened? Yes it's still funny but it makes no narrative sense.
All of that said, I am thankful for the chance to finally see this stuff, and that Donner is finally getting to close the book on a very painful chapter of his career. The DC, while far from perfect, is still a must see. After you see the DC you may never look Ar Superman II the same way again...
The bonus material on the DVD includes a touching intro from Donner, 8 minutes worth of deleted scenes, most of which, I've seen before in various TV cuts of the film. There's an alternate prison escape for Luthor though that's "new" and a lot of fun. Restoring The Vision is a 13 minute featurette that discusses the restoration process of Thau and his team.
The most worthwhile extra on the disc is the audio commentary from Donner and Mankiewicz.
It's obvious that Donner is still very hurt by what happened between him and the producers, The duo get pretty quiet whenever Lester's footage appears on screen to help fill in some of the gaps. Otherwise it's filled with some great production tid-bits Some of which are repeated from their 2001 track for the first film. Still, the track is solid
Donner says he was fired without reason. Ilya Salkind maintains in the audio commentary for the theatrical cut that Donner was invited to finish 2 but refused as long as "Spengler was still on the film"--via an interview in Variety. Assuming Salkind is telling the truth--why have Lester on the set to mediate during the first film (as stated on the other DVDs) if they weren't thinking of replacing Donner at some point --that was before the Variety story?
What a shame...
At least some of that "wrong" has now been put "right"
After this review posted I asked a pal of mine to offer up his take on the DC...