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Tag Archive: Sunset Boulevard


Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies has just revealed the titles of 13 classic movies that will return to cinemas across the country during the yearlong 2018 TCM Big Screen Classics series.  They are (drumroll, please!):

January:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — “Badges? … I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”  John Huston directs Humphrey Bogart and father Walter Huston.  On the National Film Registry and *six* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

February:  The Philadelphia StoryGeorge Cukor directs Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart in the classic romance comedy.  On the National Film Registry and *seven* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

March:  VertigoJimmy Stewart and Kim Novak star in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best thrillers.   On the National Film Registry and *six* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

April:  Grease The favorite musical of the 1970s with the bestselling soundtrack.  On *seven* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

May:  Sunset BoulevardGet ready for your close-up!  Billy Wilder’s creepy noir mystery starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.  On the National Film Registry and *four* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

June:  The Producers — Mel Brooks directs Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, and Kenneth Mars in the classic comedy.  On the National Film Registry and *two* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

July:  Big — Okay, but I get to be on top.  Pull out your FAO Schwarz floor keyboard.  Penny Marshall directs Tom Hanks in the fantasy coming of age classic.  On *five* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

August: The Big Lebowski — The Coen Brothers direct Jeff “The Dude” Bridges and an all-star cast in the fan fave, cult classic, crime comedy.

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Cut Me In Ed McBain

Review by C.J. Bunce

Some writers know how to suck you right in from the first page.  Take the late author Evan Hunter aka Ed McBain.  In his 1953 novel The Proposition (published under another pseudonym, Hunt Collins) McBain gave his lead character Josh Blake a timeless voice that conjures a confident, put-upon literary agent melting in the sweltering summer city heat, trying to cut himself in on a big deal that will land him the good life–like a million dollar home and a big swimming pool.  Blake is like a mash-up between Jack Nicholson’s J.J. Gittes in Chinatown and Nicholson’s Will Randall in the film Wolf–written decades before either character was created.  Think Gittes because of the pulp noir mystery, and Randall because we’re maneuvering the politics of the literary world.

Why single out a 1950s crime mystery by Ed McBain?  Because the folks at Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime found this gem, and have released it this year for the first time in more than 60 years.  Originally published as The Proposition by Hunt Collins, it was later published as Hunt Collins’ Cut Me In–a great title that fits the story much better.  The new edition, labeled as a McBain novel, features a classic style pulp cover by Robert McGinnis with a dead ringer for Suzanne Somers.  She sits by the pool, the pool that is the target of Josh Blake’s affection.  So if you’re like this reader, you’re seeing Nicholson and Somers play out this great movie that never was.

The Proposition paperback

And you can read the first chapter of Cut Me In right now.  First, just the facts.

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Michael Keaton in Birdman

Review by C.J. Bunce

It always makes sense to be wary of movies that trickle out to the public in limited release.  If you’re not in the movie business, you may also want to be careful about seeing films about the movie business, especially shows about Broadway.  Sometimes knowing what is behind the stage door ruins the magic.  A Chorus Line, The Player, Barton Fink, are all about staging theater or film.  But it often seems like writers choose this topic as a crutch–these are the topics drama college professors praise, of characters full of angst, a script riddled with expletives and characters bantering long speeches full of dialogue and situations calculated to shock and surprise.  They hope the industry insiders will latch onto the movie even if the movie-going public could care less.  These movies come off as self-indulgent and trite, the stuff of drama school or Summer stock.  Birdman unfortunately is another one of those movies.

Michael Keaton plays an actor named Riggan.  You would never know Riggan was his name from watching Birdman as it sounds more like Reagan as uttered by the cast.  Riggan has some kind of schizophrenia, causing him to think he is being talked to by the Birdman, a costumed character Riggan played that once earned him fame.  There’s not enough of the Birdman in the film to understand whether Riggan simply has mental problems or he really has some magical power.  Or maybe it’s intended to be allegorical.  It’s hard to know.  Riggan is trying to produce and act in a play, doing something to get recognized, to make himself relevant, when in fact, he’s still a household name.

Keaton in Birdman

Behind Birdman is a variety of movie gimmicks, all arising out of an ambitious director.  Ambition is a great thing, to be certain.  Yet director Alejandro González Iñárritu throws too much at the audience at once, and although he is certainly getting noticed on the awards front, Birdman doesn’t have the balance to stand the test of time.  Slathered in tongue-in-cheek irony, Birdman relies on the misconception that Michael Keaton, who played Batman in real life, is a washed-up has-been who hasn’t had a good job in years and we will all have some nostalgic reaction to this.  (In fact, Keaton has hardly seen a year since he started in movies where he wasn’t in one film or another).

So the publicity folks want to spin this film as the next Sunset Boulevard, another story of a has-been actor struggling with self-worth.  It’s a mirror image of the New York film and theater industry looking back on itself.  A critique?  Poking fun?  Maybe actors care about that.  Maybe producers and movie moguls.  But why should audiences?  It just doesn’t come close to the subtlety and grand storytelling that made Sunset Boulevard so superb.

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Escape from Tomorrow movie poster

“Don’t mess with the Mouse,” is a maxim in American intellectual property law.  Ask any law professor.  Those who challenge Disney in court usually lose.  But the view that Disney can’t be beaten is part of the myth Disney has created itself, and the success of the critically acclaimed independent film Escape from Tomorrow is throwing movie watchers’ pre-conceived notions of Disney as sacrosanct out the window.  Escape from Tomorrow was filmed nearly entirely on location at Disney theme parks without the permission of Disney.  It turns out there’s nothing Disney can do about it.  The result is better than just a stunt project, but it has its misfires as much as it has its triumphs.

The talented Roy Abramsohn, mainly a character actor who has shown up in TV series from Charmed to Medium to Monk and Without a Trace as well as a recurring role on Weeds, takes on the lead role of Jim, a father and husband of the Clark Griswold variety on his last day of vacation at Epcot and Disney World, the celebrated “Happiest Place on Earth.”  Jim just learned he’s lost his job and is having one of those days where everything goes wrong.  But this is no National Lampoon’s comedy.  Jim is living out his own House of Horrors.

Abramsohn in Escape from Tomorrow

Structurally, the film is brilliantly executed for a first effort.  Were you to go back and look at THX-1138 and Duel and predict the future of its directors, no one could have predicted Star Wars or American Graffiti or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jaws.  Escape from Tomorrow is better than THX-1138, but not as compelling as Duel.  Does that mean we have a future genius on our hands?  Not likely, but it will make viewers take notice of the next projects of writer/director Randy Moore and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham.

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It’s like the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies said in their hit song:  It’s all been done before.

But of course it hasn’t.

We sometimes tell ourselves that when we run out of ideas.  But just as much as there are always going to be millions more stories for writers to tell, there are stories out there already created that are waiting to reach a new audience.  Stories we love, but stories that we’d really love to see transformed into another medium– onto the TV or silver screen.  These are the film adaptations.  And they are a key part of movies of any genre.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even has their own Oscar for adapted screenplay that often coincides with the Best Picture winner.

What are your favorite stories?  Have they all been made into movies?  Do you wish that any of them would be turned into a movie?  Do you wish most of them hadn’t been made into movies?  What stories would you like to see that have not yet been adapted to film?

You can adapt anything into a movie if you’re creative enough.  The biggest source for adaptations are books.  The result?  Some are good (Jaws, Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jurassic Park) and some bad (like every live action film based on Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel, who must be turning in his grave at what happened to his franchise after his death), or even hopelessly bad (like The da Vinci Code, which should probably not have merited a novel in the first place).   A painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer inspired a novel and then a film adaptation—The Girl with a Pearl Earring.  The movie Ever After takes a fairy tale and merges it with a painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of  Woman to create both a retelling and an alternate history of sorts, placing Leonardo himself in the middle of the fairy tale.

The Phantom of the Opera was turned from a theatrical musical into a movie (and even the reverse happens, as Sunset Boulevard went from film to musical).  The video games Tron, Doom, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider all have been adapted into movies (how about Pitfall?).  Even the Parker Brothers games Clue and the Milton Bradley game Battleship have been adapted into film (wouldn’t it be great to try again with the characters in Clue?).

Wait long enough and even classic TV gets made into movies, like The Dukes of Hazzard, The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, and the new Johnny Depp adaptation of Dark Shadows.  Last week the BBC reported that Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks is currently being made into a movie (and the album itself was even inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekhov), and the story of the song Amazing Grace (with Ioan Gruffudd and Benedict Cumberbatch) hit theaters only a few years ago.  Then there are adaptations of a writer’s angle on some famous or infamous figure in real life, like Schindler’s List—the biopic or historical adaptation is everywhere–but usually starts with the novel.  And even newspaper articles can end up as the original source for an award winning film, like All the President’s Men.  Certainly last but not least, comic books and graphic novels are the current rage, with movies adapted from Road to Perdition to Cowboys & Aliens to the soon to be released Avengers.

Source material for film adaptations is virtually unlimited.

We’ve asked our four borg.com writers not what the best adaptations are, but instead what are their picks for what should be the next adaptation from Hollywood.  What are the top 5-10 books, comic books, video games, or characters, etc. you’d like to see adapted into a movie—that haven’t been adapted yet?  We’ll start with Art Schmidt’s take on would-be adaptations tomorrow.

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