29 January 2008

Sean Young Replaced With Replicant At DGA Ceremony

Well, okay, not really…but what possible explanation can there be? This is Sean Young, after all—Rachel, the impossibly beautiful Replicant with no-known-life-span who bewitched “cold fish” Rick Deckard and teenage sci-fi buffs like me who preferred Young’s effortless, Old Hollywood smolder to Reagan-era bimbettes like Loni Anderson and Susan Anton.

Of course, I’m conveniently forgetting that Young has already debased herself publicly on more than one occasion—her costumed bid to win the role of Catwoman (watch it here), her alleged threats to James Woods (mutilated dolls?), --so it shouldn’t come as any surprise. But I just bought the long-awaited collectors’ set of Blade Runner, and just saw the “Director’s Cut” in theatres in late fall, so I’m perhaps still longing the days where I associated Young with not only Scott’s masterpiece but for her memorable turns in comedies like Ivan Reitman’s Stripes and Young Doctors In Love (still Gary Marshall’s best movie…) and her appearance as Freman Chani in David Lynch's underappreciated Dune.

Seems Young had a few too many (that, or she’s just nuts) at the recent Directors’s Guild Of America awards (what the hell was she doing there in the first place?) and decided to abuse everyone who took to the stage, even yelling at a clip of George Clooney. She hurled insults in French at actress Marie Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), and then disrupted Julian Schnabel’s nomination speech, yelling at the director of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly to “get on with it”, eventually parading around the table with her fur coat on, prompting Schnabel to remark “why don’t you have another cocktail?” But before she could offer another booze-soaked retort in either French or English, security guards forcibly removed the 48-year old actress from the premises.

Read about the whole sorry mess here at Cinematical. And Julie Chen, who was there, mentioned the actress by name on last night’s David Letterman. The Tyrell Corporation can implant memories, but can they remove them? Man, to extinguish this, I’m gonna have to put Blade Runner—any version!--on continuous loop...

25 January 2008

Rambo: A Handy Guide To Unhinged Mayhem

Boy, when I'm 61, I hope I've outgrown the need to maim various foreign nogoodnicks while grunting platitudes like "Live for nothin', die for somethin'" (the current Rambo), or even better, "The world don't meetcha half way" (the classic Over The Top). No matter, Stallone felt the need to don the headband and the hair helmet for the fourth time (discounting the fine animated series), and for those of you who haven't kept up on the series since its last entry (almost 20 years ago), Slashfilm has provided a comprehensive chart chronicling the Vietnam vet's assorted picaresque adventures. I'll make every effort to catch Sly's latest allegory this weekend...because if I don't, the terrorists have won.

Steve Coogan's "Dr. Terrible's House Of Horrible"

I thought Edgar Wright's mock-trailer Don't was the unheralded highlight of Grindhouse (more in-jokes in a minute-and-a-half than a film buff could hope for), but I was surprised to learn that he wasn't the first to parody Milton Subotsky's notorious Amicus Productions ("The Studio That Dripped Blood!") and their unique brand of then-"modern" British horror (most of which was based on American comic books!).

My friend Chris F. just turned me on to Dr. Terrible's House Of Horrible (2001), a short-lived BBC series starring the great Steve Coogan that-- somehow--I missed out on completely. Conceived by creator Graham Duff as a spoof of Tales From The Crypt-type anthologies, each week showcased a riff on a particular British horror icon--Hammer Studios, Amicus, Tigon, even the salacious shockers of Pete "Frightmare/House Of Whipcord" Walker (what, no Norman J. Warren?)!

A DVD is available from the UK, but it's a pricey import. So here's a list available now on You Tube.

Abrams' Magical Mystery Box

To tide you over until this week's return of Lost, here's a very informative (and entertaining) lecture by co-creator J.J. Abrams on the importance of "mystery" in the arts (and in life), and why he's been obsessed with boxes-literally and metaphorically--his whole life.

Good stuff from TED, courtesy of JWT. Check it out here.

22 January 2008

Heath Ledger: 1979-2008

Cripes, what a waste. It's always a tragedy when someone's life is over before they're even 30, when they leave a child fatherless, and when in terms of their craft, are actually good. Here was a brave young actor maturing into an eclectic career that could've rivaled that of Johnny Depp.

I couldn't believe it when at, about 4 PM today, a coworker told me that Ledger was found dead in New York of a possible drug overdose. Within a few hours, rumours abounded of suicide. As of this writing, there's been no official statement, other than his masseuse found him dead in a Soho apartment.
He had recently become separated from actress Michelle Williams, whom he'd met on the set of Brokeback Mountain.

I was largely indifferent to Ledger during the early part of his career, but I had enjoyed him in Brian Hegeland's delightfully anachronistic A Knight's Tale. By the time I'd seen his breakout turn in Brokeback, the Ang Lee drama had already become the subject of too many trite, Morning Zoo punchlines, with many uninformed and amateur evaluations of Hedger's performance as nothing more than series of grunts and shuffles. I was surprised, then, to find that he entirely made the film for me, with his embodiment of Ennis' Cronenbergian war-within-himself tragic and moving and welcomely underplayed and thus entirely deserving of his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

Time will hopefully be kinder to his unjustly-dismissed role as one of The Brothers Grimm (Gilliam's breezy, imaginative, slapstick hoot) opposite Matt Damon, and he was also memorable as one of the many Bob Dylan incarnations in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. He won acclaim for his turn in last year's gritty drama Candy as a drug addict--a part of his legacy that as details surface could become all the more bittersweet.

Canoe reports that during an interview with Ledger during the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival to promote Candy, he confessed "I had no real desire to play a junkie", and had autographed for a passing fan: "don't do drugs."

Of course, the Bat-fan in me was thrilled to learn that Ledger had been cast as The Joker in Christopher Nolan's upcoming sequel The Dark Knight--I expected nothing less than a dazzling, unconventional interpretation of this iconic character and the footage unveiled this past Xmas season confirmed my highest of fanboy hopes. It's a pity that the role that will win him his largest following will be branded with such senseless loss.

As Entertainment Weekly put it in their 2007 review, these days it sucks to be a celebrity. Whereas once the public regarded Hollywood as an enviable Dream Factory, these days its more akin to a Roman Coliseum where scandals and downward spirals are celebrated with such smug vigour and sanctimonious armchair moralizing that can only be extinguished by some poor bastard's death--yes, even a rich and famous one--before moving on to the next lame Leno punchline. If the perils of Spears, Lohan, Wilson, and Downey Jr. have taught us anything, it's a reinforcement of the Jack Chick-worthy mantra that fame can buy you not only the best things in the world, but the worst things, too.

Mind you, if Ledger's death is ultimately ruled a suicide, then I'll be tempted to climb on board with those who have likely already dismissed him as a vain, shallow showbiz brat who got what he deserved. Don't misunderstand me--he took the coward's way out, which his two-year-old daughter Matilda Rose most certainly did not deserve--but it's a terrible thing that for all of his acclaim, he found himself in a situation where he'd not only die young, but alone.

In show business, actors are commodities, and since Ledger is due to be packaged as a plastic action figure next summer, I hope we can hold out on our harsh judgements for a little while longer and not forget that he was a human being first. And just 28...

Romero's "Diary Of The Dead" Gets A Release Date

I dug Cloverfield, but the finest shakey-cam/faux verite horror film is still George A. Romero's Diary Of The Dead (sorry, Blair Witches). This fifth official entry into the apocalyptic zombie saga that began with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead is a sort-of reboot of the franchise, restaging the early days of the undead infestation as captured by Citizen Journalist's news reports, camera phones, webcasts, etc. It's a breathtaking experiment--at 67, Romero can still outscare the youngsters who rip him off at every turn. Diary has just played to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance coverage at David Hudson's essential film site Green Cine Daily quotes my review from last year's TIFF, which you can read in its entirety here.
The Weinstein Company will release Diary Of The Dead on Feb. 15, 2008.

"Hedges Against The Night": King On The Today Show

Stephen King's new novel, Duma Key, is available today and the early notices have been surprisingly kind--have the lit-snobs finally come around?! Although set outside of Maine for a change, the tale contains King's usual obsessions (dead people...walkin' around) and a touch of autobiography (the lead character is an artistic type who survives a debilitating accident) and I'm thrilled to learn that it celebrates drawing as a cathartic and healing force (to help one craft hedges against the night--love that).

Here's a link to King's appearance on The Today Show (thanks to Lilja's Library).

20 January 2008

American Monster Invasions: An Interactive Guide

Think our Eastern neighbours have got the market cornered on giant monster attacks? From The Colossal Beast to the Graboids, from the 50 Foot Woman to the oversized rabbits from Night Of The Lepus, and recent attacks by creatures from The Mist and this weekend's Cloverfield crustacean thingie, the Land Of The Free has 'em beat on repeat business from gargantuan behemoths with a callous disregard for property and human life.

Check out The National Post's fun (and very complete--remember Evolution? Teenagers From Outer Space?) interactive map here.

14 January 2008

Roger Avary Arrested on Manslaughter, DUI

What is it with Hollywood types who insist on driving drunk?--Gibson, Sutherland, Lohan--it's a bloody epidemic and I'm sometimes glad my career has failed enough so that I don't start my day with a commute along Mulholland. Look, I'm not one who takes pleasure in bashing celebrities--not everyone in show business is vain and pampered and awarded money for nothing, and from my experience toiling in the trenches I figure that most people who achieve a degree of success in the cut-throat business of Hollywood worked hard to get there. But this drunk-driving bullsh*t?--no excuses.

So sad--no, make that maddening--news comes today that the otherwise talented Roger Avary, the Oscar-winning co-author of Pulp Fiction and the current CG-epic Beowulf, has been arrested for drunk driving accident that seriously injured his wife and killed a passenger. The fool is currently out on $50,000 bail.

This, while others in the Writers Guild Of America are on strike for a few measly extra bucks for DVD and download royalties, which presumably they wouldn't spend on booze.

Here's the story, courtesy of Cinematical.

13 January 2008

So Much For The "Home Office" In Lower Economy...

Politicians aren't exactly renowned for their wit, and most attempts to appear "hip"come off as downright embarrassing (remember Stockwell Day in that wetsuit? Or John Kerry's claim that he "identified" with Eminem's rage?). Up here, it's usually the token Rick Mercer appearance and that's it. So props must be given to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald, who made a spirited and clever attempt to woo David Letterman to his loverly province when the Late Show icon expressed an interesting in visiting during his interview with actress/Maritimer Ellen Page.

Dave apparently turned down the invite--at least for the time being--but you can still write Letterman's producers at this email address and maybe he'll come around. In the meantime, check out Macdonald's highly entertaining video pitch here.

Here's the Top 10 List--the results of a CBC radio listener contest, which is pretty damned funny:

Premier Rodney MacDonald's Top 10 list of reasons why late-night talk-show host David Letterman should visit Nova Scotia:

10. Nowhere near Thunder Bay, Ont., so you won't be harassed by locals constantly requesting, "Tell Paul I said, 'Hi.' "
9. Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport No. 1 in passenger satisfaction. Customs staff give famed 10-finger pat-downs.
8. Chance to establish a new home office in Balls Creek.
7. Triple-bypass surgeries are free for everyone.
6. No matter where you are in Nova Scotia, you're within 30 minutes of the sea. Thirty-five if it's rush hour.
5. You can make a blueberry grunt.
4. Mug for the camera at the roadside sign for Shag Harbour.
3. You haven't lived until you've camped on the world-famous Cabot Trail and been chased by a love-struck moose.
2. Two words - Lockeport grease pole.
1. Nova Scotia's political leader plays the fiddle - top that, Mike Huckabee.

11 January 2008

Remembering TIFF Founder Dusty Cohl

Long-time TIFF supporters like yours truly are mourning the passing of Dusty (Murray) Cohl, who died earlier today at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital. Cohl was one of the founding fathers of the original Toronto "Festival Of Festivals", which began modestly in 1976 and eventually grew to become the Toronto International Film Festival, now acknowledged to be the most important cinematic spectacle in the world outside of Cannes. In addition to a successful career as a lawyer and concert promoter with his cousin Michael, in 2003, Cohl was given the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor.

Roger Ebert, one of the festival's initial big-time enthusiasts and a fixture of Cohl's annual Floating Film Festival, has penned a fitting obit which you can read here.

King's "Duma Key" Trailer

Can books have "trailers"--like movies? Guess so--in fact, one of my earliest professional illustration jobs was creating a storyboard for a commercial to announce John Irving's then-upcoming A Prayer For Owen Meany (for which I had to draw an anatomically-correct armadillo from memory...).

Stephen King's new novel Duma Key is due in just two weeks and his official site has a snazzy grabber of a trailer that should give you some idea of what you're in for should you choose to indulge, and really...why wouldn't you?

Check it out here.

RIP "Vampira"

One of horror and "b" cinema's true icons has passed away at the age of 86: "Vampira", aka Maila Nurmi, is best known to legions of film buffs as the 50s TV horror hostess who inspired Elvira, Morticia Adams, and that goth chick in your class--but even more so as the cool ghoul (with a 17 inch waist!) who stole the show from Tor Johnson and Dudley Manlove in Ed Wood Jr.'s immortal inept classic Plan 9 From Outer Space (she was portrayed by Tim Burton's ex-girlfriend and one-time Mapplethorpe model Lisa Marie in the excellent biopic Ed Wood).

Check out Tim Lucas' typically-insightful obit here at VideoWatchblog, or better yet, track down last year's documentary "Vampira: The Movie" for more on her amazing life.

09 January 2008

Now That Phil Spector's In Jail, You Can Ruin "The Beatles"!

For reasons I can't imagine, someone who goes by the handle "beatlepuzzle" has isolated vocal and music tracks from The Beatles' 1967 classic album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and has uploaded them so those of you so inclined can feel what it's like to be George Martin--minus the talent, acclaim, and millions.

I'm sure the eventual results won't be any worse than the 1978 film "adaptation" of the album featuring The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, and George Burns as "Mr. Kite" (wonder if Eddie Izzard studied his performance for his own turn in Across The Universe?...).

Read all about it here, courtesy of Cory Doctorow at boingboing.

(and to clarify, I do prefer Spector's controversial take on "Let It Be" to the supposedly "improved" McCartney-supervised version of a few years back...)

02 January 2008

Chimps Use Spears To Kill Prey--Look Out World Economic Forum!

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, arguably the most prophetic film since either Blade Runner or Flesh Gordon Vs. The Cosmic Cheerleaders, presumed that Caesar and his simian bruthas and sistahs would take over the world in 1991 (just after New York City became a maximum security prison and a good decade before the moon left earth's orbit due to nuclear sabotage).

So what's a few years? Remember--sci-fi movies missed the Internet completely...

Last December, I posted an article from Canoe that told of a test concocted by Japanese scientists in which chimps beat a group of American co-ed idiots in a simple numeric exercise.

Now, it seems that scientists are amazed by the discovery that chimps in Senegal are fashioning spears out of sticks and branches to kill small mammals for food!

Read the article from Current Biology (!!!) here (via Wired), which should help you prepare for the inevitable day where you will be forced to bow before your simian master.

And for fun, here's some great John Severin art from Cracked Magazine's parody of the short-lived Planet Of The Apes TV series.