Friday, July 13, 2007

Camera Obscura - 'Cloverfield' Clues; New 'Barbarella'; Steve Martin Goes Spy Thriller; Peckinpah

The real buzz getting ramped up from the 'Transformers' movie is the teaser trailer shown with it for a movie which is so far being called "Cloverfield", from producer J.J. Abrams. Much secrecy has surrounded the making of this relatively low-budget ($3 million) feature, so much that movie fans are wondering just what the heck it is about -- some claim it's a new take on 'Godzilla', but some tricky and puzzle-oriented web sites have been cropping up on the Web which seems to discount all that.
(NOTE: For the full and complete rundown on every aspect of "Cloverfield", go to this post and scroll down to the last item. Every "Cloverfield" detail is there.)

And Abrams loves to pose mysterious and convoluted plots ("Lost"). Some clues to the movie were offered via a website called Ethan Haas Was Right. (NOTE: Despite the report from Scott Weinberg, thie Haas webiste is about a videofame -- his error which I mentioned here, so not my error. For more info, go here.) You'll have to solve the little puzzle box on the site (really a sphere, not a box) and then you see a grainy, garbled transmission of some sorts. It seems to point to a movie more based in apocalyptic sci-fi and perhaps some kinda alien deal. Kudos to Abrams for providing yet another mystery for fans to ponder on and about.


Robert Rodriguez sure seems to be working hard at a host of new movies (he has announced he will make a feature version of the movie "Machete", which was one of the fake trailers in 'Grindhouse") and is now set to direct a new version of the old sci-fi movie "Barbarella". Rumors are swirling about who will have the the title role -- and now comes mention of Halle Berry in the part. The script is being made by the writers of the recent James Bond hit, "Casino Royale." As for me, I'm wondering who'll play the part of Duran Duran?


Comedian. writer and wild 'n crazy guy Steve Martin is turning his attention to a spy thriller, called "Traitor," based on a story he pitched a few years ago. Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce are set to star in the movie as undercover CIA and FBI agents chasing the same group of villains. DIrector Jeff Nachmanoff wrote the goofy-but-enjoyable "Day After Tomorrow" and is now working on a film adaptation of the video game Prince of Persia.


I watched a movie the other night which sent me time-traveling through movie experiences of the past and am compelled to write about it.

During summer vacations when I was a kid, my dad and I (sometimes my sister) always made time to check out a few movies. Since no theaters were close to our town, it was a huge treat to see a new movie on the big screen. I often wonder how my dad found some of the movies he took us to watch, but I think his guiding muse was The Western.

Back one hot summer day in Nashville, in the days when theaters were gigantic art-deco cathedrals of entertainment (and Nashville seemed to me to be a city crammed with such cathedrals), he picked a movie with Steve McQueen as a rodeo rider called "Junior Bonner." It was the first time I had ever seen a Sam Peckinpah movie, and it would be some years before I saw any other of his movies. Dad seldom talked much about the movies we saw but I do recall him saying after we left the movie "That was a great movie."

"Junior Bonner" is hardly typical of Peckinpah's violent Westerns, but it does focus on elements to be found in the best of his work: characters who seem to be lost in time and keenly aware the modern world has little, if any place, for them. The past and the future collide, but in this movie the story is told through the lives of a diverse family, some who live in the past and some who embrace the future, and all looking for a way to stay true to their dreams and each other. It's certainly a kinder-gentler Peckinpah, and one which expresses much love among the characters though not through words and speeches, but through their actions and the quiet power of Peckinpah's imagery.

The movie is a quiet and simple elegy to family and to the once rustic town of Prescott, Arizona. Several scenes were filmed in the Palace Bar - a rowdy saloon built in 1877 - which had been a regular home-away-from-home for such cowboy legends as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. By 1927, the town was termed The Cowboy Capital of the World, and boasts the oldest rodeo in America. Other bits of movie trivia in the film is that the dog Spike, owned by the senior Bonner (Robert Preston), was the 'grandson' of the dog from "Old Yeller".

Peckinpah knew all of these facts, but he folds them into a modern story as McQueen and his family likewise struggle to reconcile the past, the present and the future. Preston's character was once a major player in the rodeo world and he's looking for new frontiers, and McQueen is trying to regain his own confidence as a major player. His brother, played by Joe Don Baker, has been selling off the family farm by the acre to build trailer parks and even operates an Old West Gift Shop in his efforts to make the past into something more profitable. But no one in the story is portrayed as a bad guy - the empathy for the characters and the Bonner family gives the story a certain sweetness one seldom associates with Peckinpah.

Throughout the movie, Peckinpah shoots an almost documentary-style portrait of the town and it's people. He captures the world of the rodeo circuit to the point you can almost smell and touch it.

Movie critics at the time were not kind to the movie, complaining it lacked Peckinpah's violence (which the critics always demeaned anyway) and they seemed honestly perplexed at the character-based story and the humor of the film. There is a bar fight (at the Palace Saloon), which is very funny, especially when the bar band realizes they can calm the crowd down by playing the Star-Spangled Banner.

Knowing my dad's fondness for Westerns and cowboys, the tendency to wear cowboy hats and boots and western string ties, I am not surprised he liked the movie. What puzzles me to this day is just how he decided that Junior Bonner was a movie we wanted to see. Maybe it was the poster for the movie, with McQueen walking along carrying his saddle, with the tag line "The Last of His Kind."


  1. Cthulhu. It's Cthulhu, or I'll fucking punch J.J. Abrams in the neck.

  2. Hmmm....isn't J.J. Abrams doing the next Star Trek movie? Maybe that's the Cloverfield secret. [snicker]

  3. Tits - i'm with you. we could use a new and/or good Cthulhu movie. Can you videotape that neck-punch? That'd be aces!

    Christy - maybe it's a movie starring the cast of Lost and Alias along with Cap'n Kirk locked in a battle with Cthulhu!

  4. Cthulhu fhtagn!

    The Cloverfield trailer is the tits, I promise.

  5. Ron --

    what happens when Cthulhu turns into a search engine?

  6. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Actually the Ethan Haas site and the JJ Abrams movie have NOTHING to do with each other...

    From Ain't it Cool News:
    To be clear, all the Ethan Haas sites are interesting and well-coordinated, but none of them have anything to do with CLOVERFIELD. Instead, they are marketing for an upcoming game called ALPHA OMEGA by Mindstorm Labs. Cool stuff, but it’s not connected to the film at all. (From


    JJ Abrams has personally denied any links between the Ethan Haas sites and the movie

    If you want to visit a site actually related to the movie visit

    Maybe do a little more research next time?

  7. Anonymous --

    maybe actually read the links on this post?

    That's where you'll see it was Scott Weinberg on Rotten Tomatoes who said the Ethan Haas website was linked to Cloverfield. thus that's why i mentioned it.