Friday, September 30, 2022

A Wicked Sigourney Weaver Elevates The Light Comic Addiction Drama, THE GOOD HOUSE

Now playing at a indie arthouse or multiplex (mostly multiplexes) near you:

THE GOOD HOUSE
(Dir. Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky, 2022)


New England realtor Hildy Good is a very familiar character. As portrayed by a wickedly sardonic Sigourney Weaver, she could be a younger third wheel to Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s Grace and Frankie, as she also had a homosexual hubby for decades, with her denial over her excessive drinking likewise being par for the course (“I was born three drinks short of comfortable, that’s all,” she confides).

The 72-year old Weaver breaks the fourth wall to bring us into her world, in which she drives around the fictional seaside town of Wendover, Massachusetts (looks exactly like MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) stressing about her struggling real estate agency, schmoozing with potential clients, and pretending that she’s living a sober life after an intervention from her constantly fretting family.

But Hildy has been enjoying multiple glasses of wine in cozy night hangs with her friend Rebecca (Morena Baccarin), who is having a secret affair with a local psychiatrist friend of Hildy’s (Rob Delaney). Our lush of a lead is also having romantic thoughts about an old flame named Frank, played by a crusty Kevin Kline, who previously starred with Weaver in DAVE (1993), and the ICE STORM. Kline’s scruffy construction contractor character is a welcome sight right off the bat, essentially summoning an older version of his persona in THE BIG CHILL as he dances to the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” at the gas pump.

After telling us that “Thanksgiving is a lot to ask of a sober person,” Weaver’s Hildy sneeks vodka throughout the holiday dinner evening with her ex-husband (David Rasche), her daughters (Rebecca Henderson and Molly Brown), but the evening goes by without incident, charmingly even, until her shaky drive home, that we learn the next day she blacked out on.

Another thing about Hildy is that she’s a descendant of the Salem witches, and has slight psychic abilities, but this isn’t a fleshed out element, and only serves for a connection in the third act conflict involving a missing child. Considering all of Hildy’s issues, intertwining a tinge of the supernatural in her milieu seems a bit silly, but perhaps it had more meaning in Ann Leary’s original novel.

The love story between Hildy and Frank injects some kooky charm into the proceedings as Weaver and Kline have a cute, lived-in chemistry, but their romance, or fling, seems more like a subplot, or sideline that could’ve been cut, and not affected the rest of the narrative much.

There’s enough juiciness in its wit and warmth to recommend THE GOOD HOUSE, but its real merit is in what Weaver brings to it. It’s surprising that the iconic actress has never won the Oscar in her career over half a century, especially as she’s won nearly every other award (Golden Globes, BAFTA, Screen Actors, even a Grammy). This film, even if it doesn’t make much of a splash, could lead to her fourth Academy Award nomination when her peers give their For Your Consideration screener of it a whirl. 

Deserving nomination or not, Weaver, with just a little help from an in-his-aging-element Kline, and a capable but unspectacular supporting cast, elevates this light comic addiction drama with her “Yankee stiff upper lip,” as Frank calls it. 

As I’m a former drinker, Hildy’s brand of denial hit home for me with cringy moments like of the secret drinking during Thanksgiving scene, and I so hated that I related to her lying exchanges with concerned friends and family, but by the end, I was content with my time with the actress/character, and didn’t mind that the mechanics of the movie that houses her weren’t up to her scale.

More later...

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

CONFESS, FLETCH: Jon Hamm’s Fletch Chases Chevy’s Lazily


CONFESS, FLETCH (Dir. Greg Mottola, 2022)



After decades in development hell, investigative journalist Irwin M. Fletcher returns to the big screen, albeit in a limited release that will largely not be noticed. For those not in the know, Fletch is a character created by Gregory Mcdonald for a series of popular comic mystery novels that kicked off in the mid ‘70s, and is best known from his incarnation as Chevy Chase in two movies in the ‘80s - one a comedy classic, FLETCH (1985); the other, FLETCH LIVES (1989) not so much.

 

For the last three decades, the concept of rebooting FLETCH has come and gone a bunch of times. From all accounts, it began with Kevin Smith in the late ‘90s planning a project dubbed SON OF FLETCH, which would’ve involved Chase, but that fell through when Chase was an asshole to Smith or something. Then the project later became FLETCH WON, based on the tenth book in the series, and names like Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, and Jason Lee (Smith’s choice) were batted around. 

 

That’s how it would go – every now and then, word would spread about a FLETCH reboot, some names like Zack Braff (yeah, right), John Krasinski, Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis, and even Dave Chappelle are thrown around, then the project disappears. But out of the blue last summer, a trailer appeared featuring Jon Hamm of Don Draper/Mad Men fame smarming his way through some decent one-liners in a new comic thriller, and 33 years later, Fletch lives again.

 

But is Fletch really such an iconic character that needed resurrecting? His detached, above-it-all master of the sarcastic arts demeanor has been done to death by dozens of comic actors in countless comedies – it was an archetype long before Fletch came around, but Chase’s straddling of the line between being a witty, yet edgy charmer, or being an sexist, inappropriate asshole has branded the role. I’m not saying that Fletch as a character concept is problematically out-of-date, just that his persona just isn’t that appealing or funny as Mottola’s film thinks he is. 

 

This is despite a valiant effort by Hamm to fill Chase’s shoes. In the film’s first moments, we watch our the preppy-attired Laker’s fan enter a luxury apartment in Boston to find a woman’s dead body lying on the carpet. This cold opening, involving Fletch trading forgettable banter with police detectives played by the slightly embarrassed looking actress, Ayden Mayeri, and The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr., sets the movie’s stylishly lackadaisical tone. When Fletch que the film’s title card with the line “I’m an open book,” it doesn’t have any impact or sense of any excitement – it’s almost as if the film wants us to react to it with a “meh.”

From there we are taken into a plot concerning the kidnapped father of Fletch’s girlfriend Angela Di Grassi (Lorenza Izzo), with the ransom being a Picasso painting worth millions. While a suspect for murder, and switching identities more often than his underwear (not really, but that was the tagline on the original’s poster), Fletch does his unctuous, self-amused thing in talky set-pieces engaging quest stars like Kyle MacLachlan as a snooty germaphobe art dealer who has a cringy EDM dance scene, Annie Mumolo as a flighty free-spirited trainwreck of a neighbor (the film’s oddest scene tone-wise); most embarrassingly, Marcia Gay Harden as the horny cliché of an Italian Countess; but most thankfully, Hamm’s Mad Men co-star John Slattery as Fletch’s former editor for a welcome newsroom, and drink at a bar bit cameo.

The stakes with the stolen art, the murder mystery, whatever, feel so low that it’s hard to care or remember details while the movie rolls on. In Ritchie’s first FLETCH, the premise was simple but had teeth, and the film lived from quotable quip to quip (the Onion even once satirized its reputation with “Area Insurance Salesman Celebrates 14th Year of Quoting Fletch), but here, the lines are so-so, with maybe every fourth or fifth one being slightly chuckle-worthy, and the whole vibe, and energy doesn’t seem to even try to gel.

I still like the idea of Hamm as Fletch, and feel that there could’ve been something more here if there was more of a spark or fresh take on the material as the 1976 novel it came from was an acclaimed award winner, and could’ve served for a weightier adaptation. I bet director, and co-writer Mottola, and first-time screenwriter Zev Borow’s script could’ve gotten there in a few drafts.

While this is a certainly a sturdier, and better crafted film than Chase’s last turn as Fletch was given, that lame film actually had more laughs. CONFESS, FLETCH is a half-assed reboot that probably would’ve been better as a Hulu series or on some such platform as Fletch just doesn’t feel like it could or should be a cinematic deal these days. This type of snarky storytelling with its lazy plotting, light twists, and jaded jokery is the stuff of television anyway.

And that’s where you can find Hamm’s first foray as FLETCH - on a bunch of streaming services (Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, etc.) now for $19.99, then next month on Showtime (premieres on Oct. 28, 2022) for whatever that service costs. I’d suggest putting it on the Underhill’s bill. 

More later...

Thursday, September 22, 2022

MOONAGE DAYDREAM: A Sensory Overload Of A Bowie Biodoc Blast

Now playing at indie theaters, multiplexes, and, with hope, an IMAX near you:

MOONAGE DAYDREAM
(Dir. Brett Morgen, 2022)



It’s fitting that preceding this film’s IMAX presentation, one has to wade through a bunch of trailers for upcoming sci-fi-themed blockbuster wannabes because Brent Morgen’s David Bowie biodoc (of sorts) epic posits its subject as an alien visitor who came and conquered our planet way back when.

 

Of course, that’s the premise of Bowie’s iconic 1971 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and it’s a great starting off point for this artsy AF two hour and 15 minute sensory overload of footage (both classic archival, and never-seen-before film and video), photographs, drawings, paintings, unpublished writings, interview clips, and every possible Bowie-related scrap of material imaginable.

 

Morgen, previously responsible for such top notch docs as THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, and KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK, sculpts a thriving portrait that captures Bowie’s career in an dazzling fever dream of a driving narrative that beautifully bathes the audiences in its immersive, non-stop imagery. It’s like the psychedelic sequence climax in 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY became this Bowie movie, if you can go with that – I sure can.

 

In its opening set-up, we hear the voice of intellectual television personality Dick Cavett give the then up and coming glam rock star a colossal build-up intro on his 1974 talk show: “Rumors and questions have arisen about David, such as who is he, what is he, where did he come from, is he a creature of a foreign power, is he a creep, is he dangerous, is he smart, dumb, nice to his parents, real, a put-on, crazy, sane, man, woman, robot, what is this?” Whether or not Morgen’s 

 

Cavett, and a few other interviewer’s voices can be heard throughout the film, but it’s largely Bowie’s own softly spoken tones that take us through his journey or journeys as each incarnation whether it be Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, Halloween Jack, or even the mainstream ’80s era “Let’s Dance” dude has his own intertwined path. Speaking of “Let’s Dance” – it’s far from my favorite Bowie, but cut to Morgen’s expertly edited montage of choreographed dance bits spanning our beloved entertainer’s career, it’s a joyous delight.

 

One framing device involves video of a bleached blonde Bowie from around the shooting of Nagisa Ôshima’s MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE in Java, in Indonesia in the early ‘80s. We witness a demure superstar-in-hiding casually walking around his hotel, and surrounding town, and get a sense of him as the genuinely open-minded, and curious chap that can make a big splash when he wants in an explosion of make-up, costuming, and ultra flashy theatrics, but somehow doesn’t come off pretentious when he tries to explain his artistic intents.

 

As for the music itself, Bowie’s incredible back catalog is well represented with booming live footage from familiar sources such as D.A. Pennebaker’s ZIGGY STARDUST concert doc (1973), Alan Yentob’s BBC doc, Cracked Actor; various music videos, and TV appearances in which such classics as “All the Young Dudes” (a hit he wrote for Mott the Hoople, but Bowie would reclaim live), “Life on Mars,” “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” and dozens of other crowd-pleasers are delivered in all their popping glory which kept my head bobbing throughout.

 

A powerful highlight for me was Bowie’s belting out a definitive rendition of his 1977 near standard “Heroes” to a mesmerized stadium of crazed fans on the Isolar II: 1978 World Tour. It’s a piece of grainy, dark film, but the clarity of Bowie’s tour de force performance is stunning, while the song passionately churns forward.

 

MOONAGE DAYDREAM obviously isn’t a conventional, straight forward documentary so don’t go looking for defined dates, details, or the chronological context - it does adhere somewhat to a timeline, but skips around within various eras - that other such films will provide. I consider it to be a living, breathing collage of the best bits of Bowie’s Sound+Vision manifesto that might bombard non believers, but will undoubtably satisfy long-time disciples, and bring new converts into the fold.

 

Having listened to Bowie for decades, and having had the immense pleasure of seen him live twice (in 1990, and 1995), I can attest that Morgen has amassed a spectacular sensory-overload of a portrait of an artist in his many primes. See it on the biggest screen you can, while you can, and let the children boogie.

 

More later...

Thursday, September 15, 2022

CLERKS III Is For The Hardcore, While The Rest Of Us Will Cringe Hard


CLERKS III (Dir. Kevin Smith, 2022)


“Whatcha looking at? That’s how we did it in the ‘90s, son!” yells Jason Mewes through his creepily perfect white AF teeth in what feels like his 1000th performance as the obnoxious drug-dealer Jay early on in the third installment of Kevin Smith’s CLERKS, releasing this week through Fathom Events (Sept. 13-18).

 

Thing is, everything in this, maybe the most unnecessary sequel in the history of unnecessary sequels, is how Smith did it in the ‘90s. Smith’s filmmaking skills have barely progressed from 29 years ago, nor has his dialogue which revels in the same old scatological concerns designed for teenaged senses of humor, and we’re just yet again given characters going through the get-your-shit-together motions with a lazy, yet good natured run through skit-like scenes.

 

These characters, our returning leads Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) begin the trilogy finale where they left off in CLERKS II, working at the QuickStop, bitching about pop culture, and passing time playing hockey on the roof with what looks like the cast of Smith’s AMC show, Comic Book Men. In the 15 years since the second one, Dante’s wife Becky (Rosario Dawson) has passed along with their unborn daughter so there’s that potential emotional element.

 

In the middle of a sloppy religious discussion (including a “Bourne Nativity” trailer joke), Randal suffers a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital where he’s operated on by Amy Sedaris as a wise-cracking doctor. While recovering, Randal has the impulse to find his purpose in making the movie of his life, a movie about a guy who works in a convenience store with “all of the shit you and I have said sitting at this counter, they’re all scenes now,” as he tells a skeptical Dante.

 

Obviously, the low concept premise is that Randal is going to make the original movie CLERKS, so the film goes all meta with bits that recreate the making of the 1994 production but with Randal in the Director’s chair (Smith’s Silent Bob serves as the cinematographer). Meanwhile, a long grief-stricken Dante visits his wife’s grave for a pep-talking cameo by Dawson, which triggers major O’Halloran crying action, the waterworks of which flow through a lot more of the movie than a CLERKS sequel should allow.

 

Speaking of cameos, we’ve got a slew with the obligatory wacky auditions sequence in which the immortal CLERKS line “I’m not even supposed to be here today,” and then other random movie lines are spouted by slumming-it celebrities Fred Armisen, Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Freddie Prinze Jr., with an appearance by longtime Smith crony, Ben Affleck, who always pops up in every View Askewverse entry, to do some lines from MEET THE PARENTS for some reason.    

 

When Marilyn Ghigliotti returns as Dante’s ex-girlfriend, Veronica, from the original, she is seen shooting her scene as her 61-year old self, but Randal’s film captures her and O’Halloran in their grainy black and white youth in, of course, footage from CLERKS. Other bit players from CLERKS show for similar b & w scene recreations, and it’s a cute conceit, not without its charms, but it can’t help from feeling icky in an overly sentimental, self-celebratory way.


Dante really nails it when he says Randal’s film project will “cinematically suck his own dick,” so at least Smith is up front with this self love intent. And maybe all this revisionism its so that Silent Bob can now be skinny in his redone part as Smith hasn’t been too fat to fly Southwest in a long while.

 

The third act involves more trouble in bromance land as Dante and Randal get into a climatic argument about their strained friendship, and this results in another epiphany for about the real subject of Randal’s CLERKS redux. This is all very talky material which mostly rolls along, but there’s a tone deaf and forced feeling to interactions when other people enter the main duo’s frame.

 

That aside, the ginormously overriding issue with CLERKS III is how achingly unfunny it is. The overly hip talk falls flat, lame one-liner after another, and every attempt at gags, like a subplot about QuickStop co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman, an unfortunate holdover from CLERKS II) selling Christ-themed crypto-kite NFTs, just resulted in some of the biggest cringes I’ve experienced in my entire movie-watching history.

 

However, if CLERKS is a favorite movie of yours, then this style of fan service might just be your thing. I enjoyed the amusingly raw 1994 original, and a few of Smith’s other films over the years, but I don’t have the emotional connection needed for this final (I hope) hang with the convenience store crew to resonate. The fates of Anderson, who largely doesn’t have a film career apart from his work as Randal in this franchise, and O’Halloran as these supposedly lovable losers just doesn’t hold much weight for me these days, especially with the lack of genuine laughs. 

 

But while I found CLERKS III to be an ultra cringe-fest of masturbatory movie-making, the one endearing takeaway I can gather is that at least Kevin Smith never forgets who his friends are.


More later...

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Rialto’s Goodbye Marquee And Their Cryptic Current Status


I’m finally getting around to posting my video of the last marquee change at the Rialto Theatre in Raleigh, NC, when it closed at the end of last month (August 28). In it, you can see Ambassador Entertainment principle, Bill Peebles, put up the last letters for the Rialto’s message to moviegoers: “THATS ALL FOLKS…UNTIL.”


The event also served as a retirement party for Peebles, where it was good to see some of my fellow co-workers from the past (I’ve worked for Ambassador Entertainment since 2009).


So that was the end of the AE era of the Rialto, and at that time there was no news of a possible buyer, or any word on the building’s fate, but right now the marquee reads:



I’ve inquired to the Rialto’s General Manager, Wes Farrell, who can be seen handing the letters for the marquee in the video above, about the meaning of the marquee (it has obvious connotations, sure) and have so far received no comment. But it is indeed intriguing.

 


One last shot for now:



More later...

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Heist Drama BREAKING Isn't BAD, Just Only Intermittently Compelling

Now playing in the Triangle at multiplexes and maybe an indie theater or two:

BREAKING
(Dir. Abi Damaris Corbin, 2022)


In this moody one-man heist melodrama, John Boyega, best known for being given little to do in the recent spate of STAR WARS sequels, is put in the familiar position of an average man who walks into a bank with a note to give to a teller that triggers a series of troubled events. A hostage situation, a squad of eager-to shoot cops outside, and a media circus exploiting the whole scene – all the things that are making multiple critics call this “a modern-day DOG DAY AFTERNOON” – are such well worn elements that it’s nearly impossible for the viewer to not have déjà vu, but Abi Damaris Corbin’s first solo film as director has an undeniable earnest emotional pull in its best moments.

Sadly, the best moments in this based-on-a-true-story don’t add up to a fully engaging experience, despite the invested acting by both Boyega as Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley, and the late Michael Kenneth Brown as the hostage negotiator, Eli Bernard. 

The narrative of the Marine, whose real intention when taking over the Wells Fargo Banks in Marietta, Georgia in 2017 by threat of a C-4 explosive in his backpack was getting the attention of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) because he hadn’t received his disability payment, is only intermittently compelling. 

The heartfelt phone conversations between the intense Boyega, who well portrays Easley’s paranoid and possibly schizophrenic mindstate, and the brotherly concerned yet still easy going Brown are the film’s strongest strand, but there is too much drawn out and wasted space surrounding their exchanges.

I’m reminded by another movie, actually called THE NEGOTIATOR, with a similar premise that starred Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey. I can’t find the review, but I remember one critic gave it two stars and said that it was one star for each actor. If I were a star-branding film scribe, I’d be tempted to do that, but I would perhaps award another star and a half for the film’s crisp editing, tense tone, and the solid work done by the women on the sidelines like Nicole Beharie as the frazzled, yet keeping-it-cool bank manager, Selenis Leyva as a scared AF teller, and Olivia Washington as Easley’s ex-wife. London Covington as Easley’s kid Kiah is also effective in her teary close-ups.

With its uninspired title, and spare narrative, BREAKING fails to give Easley’s story the power it needs to really move audiences, but the performances and the well-worn formula may still be entertaining enough to justify a matinee ticket. It’s possible that the movie is unsatisfying because what went down with Easley (captured in Aaron Gells’ 2018 article They Didn't Have to Kill Him for Task & Purpose that the film is based on) is definitively unsatisfying. Maybe as earnest, well-meaning, and noble an effort as they can muster, there’s still no way getting around that.

More later...

Monday, August 15, 2022

It’s Starting To Sink In: Raleigh’s Historic Rialto Theatre Closes on August 27


T
wo weeks ago, it was announced that Bill Peebles, the owner of the Rialto Theatre in Raleigh, was retiring, and that the historic venue would be closing on August 27. Perhaps because I’ve been in denial, I haven’t posted anything about it until now, but I’ve got to face that this place that I’ve had a connection to for decades will soon be another abandoned building, represented by yet another empty marquee.

The first movie I ever attended at the Rialto was in 1984 - a revival showing of THE MALTESE FALCON, the John Huston-directed, Humphrey Bogart-headed 1941 classic, that may have been a part of the long-running Cinema Inc. series. In 2020, the film was again shown as part of the Monday at the Movies series, and I felt like I had come full circle in at least one of my big screen journeys. 

The Rialto’s demise also heralds the demise of Peebles’ local-based company, Ambassador Entertainment, which previously owned Six Forks Cinemas (closed in 2020), Mission Valley Cinemas (closed in 2019), and the Colony Theater (closed in 2015). Ambassador also operated the Studio I & II (1987-2000), and the still-open, (but with different owners), Lumina Theatres in Chapel Hill.

In 2009, shortly after moving to Raleigh, I started working at the Colony Theater, and in 2011, started picking up shifts at the Rialto, which I’ve worked at until now.



Tonight, I’ll be working for the Rialto’s screening of Luc Beeson’s 1997 sci-fi cult classic, THE FIFTH ELEMENT ($5, 7pm), and am looking forward to staying and watching the film as I haven’t seen it in ages. I’m hoping that there will be a good turnout for this show as it could be the last ever Monday at the Movies event at the Rialto – unless, you know, some savior swoops in sometime soon.

 

“The Rialto Theatre may close – maybe?” was the headline of Peebles’ announcement email, obviously highlighting the theater’s uncertain future. Of course, we hope that somebody will save the place – buy it, and breathe new life into the joint, but we’ll just have to deal with it being out of commission for a bit. 

 

Like I hate driving by the Colony, or Mission Valley, which have had no new businesses take up their space in the years since they’ve shut down, I’m going to hate seeing a lifeless Rialto with an empty marquee in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s hoping that won’t come anywhere close to being a permanent prospect.

 

In addition to THE FIFTH ELEMENT event tonight, here is what’s scheduled for the Rialto’s final screenings:

 

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING screens on August 16, 17, and 18 at 7 pm.

 

MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS opens on Friday, August 19, and shows at 1pm and 7pm, then on August 20, and 21, at 2pm, 4:30, and 7pm, and on August 22-24 at 7 pm.

 

Special screening of SONS OF MEZCAL (2021 documentary): August 25, 6:30pm ($10).

 

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (the final showings of the mighty cult classic that the Rialto has shown since the ‘80s): August 26, 7pm, 10pm, and midnight ($7).

 

LASER THEATRE: BANANAS – 7pm, 8:30pm, and 10pm ($15). 


More later...

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

For the Record, My First Big Screen Viewings Of The Top Directors

On Twitter last weekend, many folks in my feed were posting their responses to the above tweet. Film-minded folks were recalling the first films by the most notable movie makers, and it was fun to see how the titles would often reveal the age range of the participants. 

 

For posterity, I’m sharing my answers in my tweet here with some notes below:

 


Some notes: The first two films I saw at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Chapel Hill. I saw many crucial movie in my youth at the Carolina, which closed in the summer of 2005 (MARCH OF THE PENGUINS was the last film shown there). RUSHMORE I saw at another long closed venue, the Janus Theater in Greensboro; with BOOGIE NIGHTS and THE GAME at a few unmemorable multiplexes * also in Greensboro. Finally, DO THE RIGHT THING I saw twice in the summer of 1989 – first at the Ram Theater in Chapel Hill, and secondly at the Center Theatre 4 in Durham – both of which have also shut down long ago.

 

*One of these is still operating as the AMC Classic in Greensboro – the only theater that still exists of all the ones I’ve mentioned.


More later...

Monday, August 01, 2022

Remember When Mike Myers Was Gonna Play Keith Moon? No? Well, For A Long Ass Time That Was A Thing

  

B
ack in 2002 (yes, this is another “20 years ago” post), it was announced that former SNL cast member, and WAYNE’S WORLD/AUSTIN POWERS superstar, Mike Myers, might step into the shoes of the legendary drummer for the Who, Keith Moon, for a biopic entitled SEE ME FEEL ME: KEITH MOON NAKED FOR YOUR PLEASURE.

From the pages of Entertainment Weekly (Gary Susman, July 9, 2002):

“Having played Austin Powers in three movies, including this month’s upcoming ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember,’ Mike Myers may be ready to play another relic of swinging ‘60s London: Keith Moon, the founding drummer for the Who. ‘I have talked to Roger Daltrey about the possibility of a film,’ Myers tells the Associated Press. ‘I think Keith Moon was a fascinating character.’ For his part, lead singer Daltrey has long wanted to make a film about his late colleague, who was as famous for smashing hotel rooms as for smashing his drum kit at the end of Who concerts. ‘Mike is a genius. I can really see him as Keith. He’s amazing when you meet him, so clever,’ Daltrey tells AP.”

 

At the time, Myers was 39, six years older than Moon was when he died from a massive overdose in 1978. The age difference didn’t raise many eyebrows as it seemed an inspired choice that had a good chance of working, but apparently the project got stuck in development hell as the news faded, and a few years passed. 

 

In 2005, plans for the biopic, with Myers attached, and Daltrey as producer, resurfaced. But another name was being batted around in consideration for the role – Jason Schwarztman, best known for his work with Wes Anderson, and as an drummer (Phantom Planet, Coconut Records). 



It’s true Schwartzman has the look, but could he handle the accent duties as well as Myers? Probably not, producer Daltrey probably thought, as Myers continued being the #1 choice for the iconic part.

But nothing happened with the proposed production, and more years passed. By the time it reared it’s mop-haired head again in 2014, Myers’ age appropriateness for the part couldn’t so easily be ignored. Co-producer Nigel Sinclair justified the casting to Hollywood.com; “Mike looks very young and Keith, of course, looked much older than he was.”

And, yet again, another younger actor was cited as being interested in portraying Moon - Jeremy Piven. I’m glad this idea has been long abandoned, because, well, look at him – that would be likely be a miscasting mess.


Talk of Myers as Moon would come up here and there over the years since, but that’s all it was – talk. As late as last year, there were reports that Myers was still in the running, but he’s now 59 years old, and that ship should’ve sailed a long time ago. The film, which has an IMDb page with little to no information about the production, apparently still seems to be in the works, but no name has been attached for the looney lead.

Now titled THE REAL ME, the film aims to join in the musical biopic trend boosted by such successes as BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and ROCKETMAN. Earlier this year, Manori Ravindran reported in Varity that the movie has “Moon’s former band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend on board as executive producers. The pic is directed by Paul Whittington (The Crown, White House Farm) with a script from prolific British screenwriter Jeff Pope, who was Oscar-nominated for PHILOMENA.”

So for two decades, the premise of Myers as Moon has come and gone over and over, but it looks like it’s finally been put to bed. I was reminded of all this casting activity he other night when I was watching Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s 2014 vampire mockumentary, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, and noted that actor Jonathan Brough had an uncanny resemblance to Moon in the very funny feature. His rough, rowdy demeanor is Moon-esque as well, so I think he’d be a great choice for THE REAL ME.



On the subject of age, Brugh’s Wikipedia page has no info on his birthday so it’s unknown old he is, which may be because he really is a vampire and it’s a cover-up. Whatever the case, I bet he could crush it as Moon. Otherwise, a hungry unknown who’s got the chops would be a great idea. It could be a star-making tour de force in the right hands.

 

Still, Myers’ Moon is an epic could-have-been that’s fun to speculate about. Perhaps, like he was used as a record executive in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, he could cameo in a minor yet juicy sideline part as a Moon overseer or some such. Yeah, that would be groovy, baby. And after that Austin Powers callback, I’ll show myself the door.


More later...

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

20 Years Ago Today: I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART: A FILM ABOUT WILCO Hit The Big Screen


On this date in 2002, Sam Jones’ I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART: A FILM ABOUT WILCO was released in theaters. It came on the heels of the release of Wilco’s fourth studio album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which became a major story in the music business (and for fans) when the band was dropped from Reprise after turning in the album, multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett was unceremoniously dropped from the band, and Wilco found a new home with Nonesuch Records. Much of this activity was captured by Jones’ 16mm black and white camera in over 86 hours of footage, and then edited down to a mostly crisp 96 minutes that gave insights into Wilco’s creative process, and personal interaction, as well as presenting a bunch of killer live performances. Since I saw it in the summer of ’02 at the Varsity Theater in downtown Chapel Hill, it’s been one of my all-time favorite rock docs ever.


As this was back in the day with a much sparer internet, news of what your favorite band was up to could come rather slowly, but word was out in mid 2001 that Wilco’s much anticipated album, which had been set for a September 11 release (that’s right) was rejected by their label, and that both Bennett, and drummer Ken Coomer were now out of the band, so fans like me were clamoring to hear the record at the heart of this turmoil. Before Wilco themselves started streaming it for free, I found it somewhere online (can’t remember where) and it immediately became an all-time favorite record. It and Bob Dylan’s Love & Theft (which actually was released on 9/11/01) were my go-to albums for a long ass time, and still hit my turntable regularly.

The news that a film was being made about the sessions and album release aftermath was also in the mix as Jones was streaming unedited footage on his site (which is long gone) throughout late 2001-mid 2002. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was finally released on April 23, 2002, an anniversary which celebrated around that date by Wilco with shows in New York and Chicago, and will be further commemorated with several different box set collections being released in September, but since the film itself hasn’t gotten much notice lately, I thought a timely look back was in order.

From the press kit for I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART (2002)

I rewatched I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART again last night for the first time in I don’t know how long, and found it to be a little more rough, and disjointed than I remembered, but still a solidly structured narrative about a band and an industry in flux. Many critics were on the money hailing its cutting depiction of art versus commerce as the film begins with the band deep into sessions for YHF, and feeling like Reprise has got their backs. 

After footage of Wilco front man, Jeff Tweedy, laying down a vocal track for “Poor Places,” and a lovely credit sequence featuring Chicago as shot through the rain-covered windows of an automobile in motion set to an acoustic demo of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” we see the band rehearse and work on material at their Loft studio. The movie began shooting on the first day that drummer Glenn Kotche officially joined the band so that’s pretty damn notable.

We watch as Tweedy and Bennett talk up their situation with Bennett even saying, “I know it’s cool to bitch about your record label, but, I mean, they’re letting us make a record in our loft, and they haven’t heard a word of it. They’re giving us $85,000, and they haven’t heard a word of it.” As I wrote in Wilcopedia, “Like many of the multi-instrumentalist’s statements during the first half of the film, these words come back to bite Bennett’s ass in the second half.

But before we get to the central conflict, Jones gives us great, grainy footage of work-in-progress portions of the aforementioned “Poor Places,” “Ashes of American Flags,” and a fuzzy workout on “Kamera” (referred to as the “Troggs version in the DVD commentary.” There’s also some superb DONT LOOK BACK-esque excerpts (including “Via Chicago,” “Laminated Cat,” and “Sunken Treasure”) from a Tweedy solo show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

Now let’s dive into the stand-out scene in the – the argument between Tweedy and Bennett that foreshadowed the end of their relationship as collaborators and band members. This is an excerpt from my book of how it went down:

“Wilco reconvene at Chicago Recording Company Studios (aka CRC), where noted cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm is seen working out his part for ‘Reservations.’ There then follows a sequence of shots from the mixing board during work on ‘I’m The Man Who Loves You,’ which are used largely to set up the first event of friction in the film.


That would be the clash between Bennett and Tweedy, described in the commentary as the lowest moment in the making of the record, over the crucial edit between ‘Ashes of American Flags’ and ‘Heavy Metal Drummer.’Bennett keeps over-explaining his position about how to handle the mix while Tweedy tries and fails to be the peacemaker. It’s an incredibly awkward and painful scene that foreshadows Bennett’s dismissal from the band, and considering all that Bennett brought to Wilco during a key period in their career, it’s a shame that he’ll be largely remembered for this tense, awkward moment.

During a gig with his musical partner Edward Burch at the Local 506 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2002 not long after the release of the documentary, Bennett said from the stage, ‘I’m not an asshole, despite what you’ve seen at the movies.’ Meanwhile, while recording their commentary for the DVD, the other members of Wilco found the scene so hard to watch that they left the room while it played, leaving Jones to do his best to give some insight into what happened. They return after the worst of the scene has gone by—just in time for the bit where a migraine-suffering Tweedy goes into a restroom to throw up (filmed by Jones over the top of the stall).”

Following that, Wilco continues to hone the YHF material, with live performances at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and Bennett’s last live show with the band, which takes place at Petrillo Music Shell in Chicago on July 4, 2001. 

Jay Bennett waves goodbye after his last show with Wilco, Chicago 7/4/01.

The next thing we know, Bennett is out of the band, and Reprise has let them know that if they don’t change the album they should take it elsewhere. We witness Wilco’s manager Tony Margherita bitch on the phone about the situation, while rock critics Greg Kot, who wrote the first book about the band, 2003’s Wilco: Learning How to Die; and Rolling Stone’s David bitch about the sad state of the music biz in the early aughts.

The film’s musical climax is a blistering version of “Monday” from the aforementioned Fillmore concert. Interestingly, “Monday” was one of Bennett’s favorite songs to play live, and Tweedy and Company performed live it in tribute to him when he passed in 2009. The film then closes with the song that Wilco would often use to open their shows around this time, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s ‘Pure Imagination,’ from the soundtrack to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, as we see the four members of Wilco—Bach, Kotche, Stirratt, and Tweedy—walking around a Chicago lakefront with the skyline behind them and their now brighter future in front of them.

In 2015, Tweedy discussed the doc at a special screening of one of his favorite films, Chris Smith’s AMERICAN MOVIE (1999) with the Modern School of Film’s Robert Milazzo at the Carolina Theater in Durham.

Tweedy: “I haven’t seen it in a long time, but there were a lot of moments watching that movie, well, there were a lot of moments during the filming of that movie where, uh, the first time there was an observing ego in the room – the camera…”

Milazzo: “Camera – you do such a beautiful song called ‘Kamera,’ which speaks to that…

Tweedy: “It just felt like, I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to put myself outside of myself enough to see what a camera might be seeing. And so there were a lot of moments during the process of making that record where I was like ‘oh, no – oh, no, that’s what the camera is seeing.’ Obviously, this is not – our relationship with Jay (Bennett) for example was made painfully obvious that there was a big problem in the way we were interacting, the way he was interacting with the band. And it’s really sad that it took a camera to do that or that we weren’t together enough, or grown up enough as people to see that without a camera.”

Sadly, I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART isn’t as easily available as it should be these days. It’s not streaming on any of the majors – Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple, etc. – and the DVD is out of print with used copies being pretty pricey, but it can be found, broken up into segments on Youtube. It was long available on Vimeo for rent and purchase, but has been recently removed.

The day before the anniversary of the retail release of YHF back in April, Wilco was photographed at the offices of Criterion, which may be a sign of an upcoming re-issue of the DVD (with hope a Blu ray edition) of the doc.


This would be fantastic for Criterion to add this film to their esteemed Collection. If you don’t know Criterion, they put out deluxe, often definitive editions of movies, and while the original had an extra disc of excellent material, fans know that there was a lot of stuff (the aforementioned 86 hours) Jones shot for the film (Jay Bennett said “We gave him three movies. It should’ve been a box set”), and this would be a great way for that stuff to see the light of day. 

I wrote to suggestions@criterion.com to request it, and hope my fellow fans will do the same. It ideally would help get it streaming again on their channel too.

So Happy 20th Anniversary to I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART. Here’s hoping more folks, whether hardcore or casual Wilco fans, will give it a watch in tribute.


More later…

Monday, July 25, 2022

Dope Encounters Of The NOPE Kind

Now playing at a multiplex near everybody:


NOPE (Dir. Jordan Peele, 2022)


Jordan Peele is on a roll.


While his second feature, US (2019), didn’t reach the heights of his 2017 directorial debut, GET OUT (a modern masterpiece in my book or on this blog), it was still an effectively creepy experience, and now he’s back with NOPE, the must-see movie of the summer. 

 

Fresh off of his Best Picture win for JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, Daniel Kaluuya stars as OJ Haywood, a Hollywood horse wrangler, who inherits a ranch out in the desert hills of Agua Dulce when his father, Otis (Keith David), dies from a freak accident involving a nickel falling from the sky. Co-starring is Keke Parker as OJ’s sister, Emerald (Em for short), who is a snappy, quick-talking ball of energy compared to her soft spoken, somewhat muddled brother. 

 

The solidly-acted, and appealing duo do business selling horses to neighbor Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a former child actor who owns an old west town theme park called “Jupiter’s Claim.” Jupe has a disturbing back story, which is hinted in a cryptic flashback at the film’s beginning, in which he was traumatized by a chimpanzee actor going berserk on the set of a ‘90s sitcom, Gordy’s Home. Yeun’s cowboy-garbed character exploits this event with a room of memorabilia connected to his office, which he charges people to see (one couple traveled from overseas to spend the night there). 

 

Odd occurrences, which OJ dubs “bad miracles,” clue our leads into an alien presence in the sky with a familiar sight in the history of alien invasion cinema, a silver saucer gliding through the clouds, along with the power outages, and the looming infiltration from the heavens above that recall CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, THE ARRIVAL, and better such likewise, but lesser fair like SIGNS. 

 

In the mix is Angel (Brandon Perea), a bleach-blond tech salesguy from Fry’s Electronics who gets caught up in OJ and Em’s scheme to capture the alien on film when they buy a bunch of camera equipment to set up around their ranch, and Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), a gruff-voiced cinematographer, who our leads recruit to get “the impossible shot” of the UFO. Wincott’s unsettling recitation of Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” in a down-time kitchen scene is one of many nice, nervy touches throughout.

 

NOPE is broken up into well contained chapters, each a name of a non-human element of the film, the horses, “Ghost,” “Lucky,” and “Clover,” then the concluding segment, “Jean Jacket,” which is what OJ calls our outer space attackers, whose ship we see abduct 40 Jupiter’s Claim attendees in quite a stirring sequence.

 

While it may be a bit slow (but not boring) to get going, and has some awkward pacing, NOPE pops with wit, scares, well-crafted character activity, inspired story beat action, and visuals that often reach poetry – the film’s real-life director of photography, Hoyte van Hoytema (best known for his work with Christopher Nolan), definitely deserves an Oscar nom for what’s up on screen here.

 

I would normally not use the word “dope,” but it rhymes, I’m trying to be hip with the kids, and it definitely applies. NOPE joins Daniel Kwan’s EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE on my list of the best films of the year so far, and it’s arguably an instant classic. Writer/director Peele’s passion for film, constructing layered thematic concepts, and just plain putting people in compelling, surreal scenarios is a thing to behold in his excellent third horror, or more accurately dark suspense spectacle. 


This guy’s career is gonna be a blast to follow.


More later...

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Cinematic Running Gag: See You Next Wednesday


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

SCHLOCK (Dir. John Landis, 1973)

KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (Dir. John Landis, 1977)


THE BLUES BROTHERS (Dir. John Landis, 1980)


AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (Dir. John Landis, 1981)


TRADING PLACES (Dir. John Landis, 1983)

INTO THE NIGHT (Dir. John Landis, 1985)


SPIES LIKE US (Dir. John Landis, 1985)

AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (Co-Dir. John Landis, 1987)

COMING TO AMERICA (Dir. John Landis, 1988)

INNOCENT BLOOD (Dir. John Landis, 1992)

THE STUPIDS (Dir. John Landis, 1996)


More later...