Friday, May 19, 2006

Camera Obscura - A New Western and A Classic Turkey

Got a peek at some new movies, some not so new, and what??? The French don't like little Ronnie Howard's version of "DaVinci Code"? Yeah, like that will affect the ticket sales the first weekend. Also, Mr. Spielberg wants you to show off your filmmaking skills for a new "reality" show. Oh, and I'll be guest blogging at Nashville Is Talking this weekend, so be sure to come visit!

Wonder why it is that most of us film critics love the Western? Without Clint Eastwood though, can't say many filmmakers try the genre anymore - I said filmmakers not Kevin Costner.

Punk rock legend and now screenwriter Nick Cave has a new Australian western opening today called "Proposition" that is a grim and violent tale of moral wastelands and stars Guy Pearce and Danny Huston (yes, that Huston family) and follows the Sam Peckinpah style for Westerns. The story is set in the 19th century Australian outback as three deadly brothers run from the law and challenge each. Though likely to find a more welcome home on the Cult Movie Trail, you can read more about this feature here, which also has a preview of the movie.

You've got a directing call on "The Lot", which has the unlikely team of Steve Spielberg and Mark Burnett offering a $1 million development deal at DreamWorks. Contestants will have to make short films which please judges and viewers to win. Apply online at The

I had a most enjoyable time with the comedy-action-adventure "The Brothers Grimm" by Terry Gilliam starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. If you don't know, long before it was all Disneyfied, folk tales collected by these brothers shaped the creations of childhood stories from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White and far beyond. Monica Bellucci has the juicy part of the evil witch, evoking decades of Disney animation.

This movie is a great blending of fact, fantasy and history more in line with Gilliam's earlier work, like "Time Bandits", so if you liked that one - this will be most welcome. It's a phantasmagoria ride thru the con game of storytelling, myth, politics and innocence lost. And true to Gilliam's style, the movie was haunted with problems and delays but the end result was most fine. I particularly liked how Heath and Matt both kept skidding through the mud and rain - what's a Gilliam film without mud and rain??

I watched a real gem of a movie this week, haven't seen it in years. It was too hip for the room when it came out in 1971, and still has yet to find a DVD or VHS release, so look for it on cable - definitely worth the search.

"Cold Turkey" is a brilliant satire on America by writer/director Norman Lear and includes a great Randy Newman tune, "He Gives Us All His Love", which frames the movie perfectly. The story is about a giant tobacco corporation which decides to offer any town that can quit smoking for 30 days $25 million - thinking it's an impossible task. The lure of money is too great for Eagle Rock, Iowa and that premise is just a springboard for a stabbing satire on small towns, industry, television and personal politics.

Made in the days just after cigarette ads were banned on TV, it has a low-key comedy all-star lineup. Bob Newhart gets the role of the evil tobacco PR man who concocts the scheme, Dick Van Dyke as the self-righteous preacher who craves a better life and the best use ever on camera of comedy legends Bob and Ray, who blast the media impersonating Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Paul Harvey and many more.

I fell in love with the movie when I saw it decades ago and it remains all it's teeth and bite decades later.

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