Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Reel 20: BOOGIE NIGHTS


 “I got a feeling that behind those jeans is something wonderful just waiting to get out.”



This month marks the 20th anniversary of Paul Thomas Anderson’s BOOGIE NIGHTS.

The second feature film from then-27 year-old Paul Thomas Anderson, the rags-to-riches tale set in the back drop of the 1970’s adult film industry was a 1997 box office hit, critical smash, awards gobbler, and would be hailed as the best film about the 1970’s since the 1970’s. Less about porn and more about the need to belong and the unbridled passion for filmmaking, BOOGIE NIGHTS told the story of a young, well-endowed busboy named Eddie, who is recruited into the porn industry by celebrated filmmaker Jack Horner. Eddie changes his name to Dirk Diggler, and what follows is an arms-up roller coaster ride…as Dirk rises, falls, and rises again during one of the wildest and craziest time periods in America.

The film was based on a “mockumentary” short-film that Anderson created while he was still in high school called THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY, which was in part based on a 1981 documentary about real-life porn-star John C. Holmes. Anderson re-wrote his idea into a feature length script, and set out to make it after his first feature, HARD EIGHT. Initially, he wanted to make an NC-17 rated film, but when the film’s producers stood firm on an R rating, Anderson accepted that as a challenge.

The role of Dirk would go to Mark Wahlberg, who at the time had come to fame as the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg of the boy-band New Kids on the Block, and his own eventual act, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He had only five films under his belt when Anderson cast him. The role of Jack Horner would go to 70’s sex symbol Burt Reynolds (how apt), and the rest of the impressive cast would include Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

BOOGIE NIGHTS would embrace the style and substance of the 1970’s, and would be backed by popular rock hits from the time period. Hits from Marvin Gaye, the Commodores, Night Ranger, and The Beach Boys would be used to great effect and give the film a distinct personality.

The film would premier at the Toronto International Film Festival to acclaim, and would eventually be a box office hit and one of the best reviewed films of the year. Burt Reynolds would win a Golden Globe for his performance and would be nominated for an Oscar. Julianne Moore would earn six awards and nominations.

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BOOGIE NIGHTS is a film which unfairly gets dismissed by mainstream movie audiences simply because it takes place in the porn industry. Once we get past that taboo subject, there is a story to be told which echoes a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy; it’s a story of a boy finding his way, losing it, and coming out the better. At the beginning of the film, the adult movie business is one that is nearly considered legit; shot on film and played in theatres. By the end, the business moves to videotape and out of movie-houses, and on that journey Paul Thomas Anderson takes his characters through it all. The film recaptures the death of not only mainstream porn but the 1970’s as well, as it came crashing down in a painful age of transition.

BOOGIE NIGHTS was a major stepping stone for Anderson and his cast. It was the film that got Mark Wahlberg noticed as a legitimate actor, gave Burt Reynolds a fresh start, and gave Anderson the weight he needed to film his eventual masterpiece, THERE WILL BE BLOOD a decade later. Phillip Seymour Hoffman would re-team with Anderson for THE MASTER in 2012 and earn an Oscar nomination, and the way the music was used in BOOGIE NIGHTS would inspire future filmmakers for two decades; right up to James Gunn and his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films. In 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson delivered a galactic-sized film with endearing messages for any one of us who has dared to dream, and that is a story that can never be dismissed.

“Everyone is blessed with one special thing…”








Monday, September 18, 2017

A Reel Opinion: The People Have Spoken



This past weekend, Darren Aronofsky’s thinking-man’s horror-thriller MOTHER! opened to reviews ranging from mixed to excellent (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), and while some critics hailed it as a masterpiece, audiences were less enthusiastic with many leaving the theatre scratching their heads. The confusion over the movie was quantified by CinemaScore, the un-official official exit-poll survey, in which audiences gave MOTHER! a score of “F”.

For many film reviewers, including this Blogger, that low score doesn’t come as a big surprise; not because MOTHER! is a bad film (it certainly is not), but because of its vagueness, and horrific scenes,  it is one of those movies that is very hard to digest, understand, or just plain make heads-or-tails out of. It’s not the most accessible film, and even admirers of it would probably admit that it wouldn’t be one of the first movies to pull off the shelf on a Saturday night.

The most troubling thing about the low score is how Hollywood will react, or over-react. Hollywood values art, but they value dollars more…and if an artful, thinking-man’s horror film can’t impress audiences or make good box office (MOTHER! only pulled in $3 million), then studios would likely go back to their safe zone; which means more sequels and remakes.

Hollywood and audiences have a circle-of-life thing going on; people show what they prefer to see, so Hollywood feeds them just that. It’s basic supply-and-demand, and right now audiences may be changing for the worse. The film-going crowd which grew up the 1970’s and 1980’s on mega-hits like STAR WARS, E.T., and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK are now in their 40’s and 50’s, and may not be going to the theatre as much as when they were younger. That makes way for the new generation, which thanks to the internet, have become spoiled by having everything at their fingertips; entertainment provided by way of seven-second videos. It’s what this Blogger has been calling Generation YouTube, and they are the ones who will give art films like MOTHER! an “F” while showing up in droves for a fifth TRANSFORMERS film.

Hollywood has a problem; either cater to what people want, which means dollars, or take risks on films like MOTHER! which can go either way. One of the most common complaints about the movies these days is that there isn’t nearly enough original material, but exactly who is at fault for that is the real question.




Friday, September 15, 2017

A Reel Review: MOTHER!



Darren Aronofsky has always been one of those filmmakers unafraid to challenge his audience; not just because his storytelling can be vague and his characters walking the line of sanity, but because he tends to make things really uncomfortable to watch. With MOTHER!, he quickly establishes a comfort zone for his main character, disrupts it, and then amps up the uneasiness to the point where all we can do is squirm.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband Him (Javier Bardem) are living together in an isolated house. While Mother works to restore their home, Him, a former famous poet, struggles to find any creativity. They are visited by Man (Ed Harris) and his wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), who exhibit bizarre behavior. Seeking to spark his creativity, Him invites the new couple to stay with them, much to the dismay of Mother.

The early goings of MOTHER! does fine work in establishing the comfort zone of our main character played by Jennifer Lawrence (no names are given in the film). She is shy and timid, and loves her husband to the point where she has given her entire life to Him. She labors on the house to the point where she has a spiritual connection to it, even to the point where she has visions of the house’s beating heart.

Once the new couple arrives, Mother the character is immediately put into a tough spot. She wants her loving husband to recapture his lost creativity, but at the same time is very uncomfortable with the new couple stomping around her beloved house, breaking drinking glasses, and (god forbid), smoking cigarettes. One tragic event leads to another, and that uncomfortableness that Mother is feeling (which does reach the audience as well) escalates bit by bit. Some shocking and revolting things happen, and Mother gets put into situations which are very hard to watch.

Darren Aronofsky, ever the poet himself, doesn’t quite want his audience to turn away completely, so there is a mystery going on at the same time that is too good to close our eyes to. There are questions to be answered such as the role of the mysterious couple, if Him really loves his wife, and what secrets the house actually holds; not to mention the characters’ names. There is an air of creepiness going on, and Aronofsky goes into some places that other directors would never even write down.

While the uncomfortableness, creepiness, and scares get amped up to turbo mode, Aronofsky is also putting together a dark, yet beautiful looking film. The house itself has a personality to the point where it’s a character in the film, and lets us explore every nook of it. Aronofsky also brings in themes of the dangers of celebrity, and uses some clever Biblical metaphors in subtle doses. There is so much going on in the film that it demands a second viewing.

Acting is superb. Jennifer Lawrence gives a career-best performance; going through all sorts of horror and grief and doubt, and when things really get nuts we really feel for the character. Javier Bardem is also great, as is Ed Harris. Michelle Pfeiffer shows that she can still be beautiful and dangerous on screen, and the film also has a few other surprise cameos which are handled beautifully.

The horror of the third and final act is a glorious bloody affair, and all the metaphors that Aronofsky had been playing with comes together nicely, topped off with one of the most heartbreaking lines of dialogue ever written. There still may be questions lingering by the time the credits roll, but it’s clear that MOTHER! itself is one large metaphor for something bigger, and nothing in the film should be taken literally. With this film, audiences will either stagger out of the theatre in awe or in a state of shock, having met or failed the challenge thrown down by one of our most talented and visionary filmmakers.

BOTTOM LINE: See it


Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Reel 25: THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS


“The frontier moves with the sun and pushes the Red Man of these wilderness forests in front of it until one day there will be nowhere left. Then our race will be no more, or be not us.”


This month marks the 25th anniversary of Michael Mann’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.

Mann’s 1992 film, which was met with universal praise and commercial success, was based on the 1826 novel of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper, which was set in 1757 during the French-Indian War and detailed the exploits of the daughters of a British general and their travels with Native Americans across the upper New York wilderness.

The novel was first adapted to a film in 1936 by George B. Seitz and was a modest success. Mann, who was directing his first film since his MANHUNTER in 1986, based his new version of the story more on the 1936 film than the novel.

The film was packed with iconic and nearly grand characters who were required to fight, run, and be a part of the wilderness. For the important role of Hawkeye, Mann cast Daniel Day-Lewis, who was coming off his first Oscar win for Best Actor for his performance in MY LEFT FOOT (1989). Lewis, ever the committed method actor, went deep into character research by going through rigorious weight training, and learned to live off the land and forest by hunting and fishing. He learned how to skin animals, carve a canoe, and carried a long rifle at all times, even when he wasn’t in front of the camera.

Lewis’ castmates would include Madeline Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington. Although the film took place in upstate New York, filming took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, along with other locations across the state. The score was provided by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, with the main theme taken from the tune The Gael by Scottish songwriter Dougie MacLean.

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS opened at no. 1 at the box office in September of 1992, and would finish as the 17th highest grossing film of the year. It would receive critical acclaim and would win one Oscar for Best Sound.
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THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS may fall under the description of historical drama, but it is a film which accomplishes a lot; it is an adventure and a romance, done with a touch of swashbuckling that was perhaps inspired by the 1936 film. Deeper than style, it boldly yet subtly tackles the thinking of the times, such as the arrogance of the old, domineering British Empire, the struggles of 17th century women, and the plight of the vanishing Native Americans; all told with a hanging melancholy for the unexplored wilderness at the time…destined for obliteration. As a historical piece, it is a tight glimpse at early America during the Revolutionary War days, and the often overlooked happenings of the French-Indian War. With basic storytelling set in the backdrop of wilderness, war, and blood, Michael Mann taps into primal feelings in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, striking a fine balance between being epic and intimate. It is a unique departure for Mann who has spent most of his career doing cops-and-robbers movies, and it stands out as his most emotionally driven. And after 25 years, it’s themes on war, class distinction, and empty promises ring hard in today’s world.  For this Blogger, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is Michael Mann’s finest work.

“The whole world’s on fire, isn’t it?”




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reel Facts & Opinions: Return of the JJ




Ever since the famed, and at-the-time dormant STAR WARS franchise restarted its engines in 2012, any news related to the beloved series of films tends to stop the rotation of the galaxy, and today was one of those days.


Just before the lunch hour, Lucasfilm and parent company Disney announced that JJ Abrams would be returning to the franchise; officially named as the director of the as-yet-untitled EPISODE IX, set for release in December of 2019. This will be Abrams’ second trip into the STAR WARS universe, having helmed the franchise-jumpstarter THE FORCE AWAKENS (EPISODE VII) in 2015.

The news comes on the heels of a slightly dark time for Disney and Lucasfilm, who have been having a unstable time with some of their directors. Abrams is coming in as a replacement for Colin Trevorrow, who was the original director for EPISODE IX before being fired by Lucasfilm president and STAR WARS overseer Kathleen Kennedy. Trevorrow’s dismissal was chalked up to the young director being “uncooperative”, and scripting issues. Trevorrow’s firing was just a few months after the directing duo of Lord & Miller were jettisoned from the Han Solo spinoff film (read more on that HERE), and with two notable firings of personnel in key positions, one had to wonder what was going on behind the controls of STAR WARS.

With Abrams, Lucasfilm and Disney seem to be going back to what they know works. THE FORCE AWAKENS can be described as nothing other than a success, having broken several box office records, received rave reviews from critics, and earned five Oscar Nominations. Abrams also has proven to be capable of working under the massive pressures and oversight from Disney and Lucasfilm; something that the three fired directors seemingly couldn’t do.

This Blogger is thrilled and over the moon on this announcement. THE FORCE AWAKENS was not only a triumph, but it returned the old energy, spirit, whimsy, and fun to the franchise that had been lacking for well over a decade. While the main business of THE FORCE AWAKENS may have been spent moving characters around like chess pieces, those new characters became instant icons, and it set the stage for a lot more to come. Much like the perfect meetings of characters in the STAR WARS films which seem by chance, but are perhaps willed by the Force, JJ Abrams and EPISODE IX have a bright horizon ahead of them.


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JJ Abrams’ other directing credits include STAR TREK (2009), SUPER 8 (2011), and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006).






Friday, September 8, 2017

A Reel Review: IT




Horror movies can often get away with a lot. Their primary goal, of course, is to scare us (or as Steven Spielberg once said, send the popcorn flying), and as long as that is done, any horror flick can earn a pass no matter what is done with the story or characters. A really good horror film makes the fear seem real; something natural or primal. But a great horror movie not only scares us deeply, but provides a layer of depth to make us care about the characters who are dealing with the terror, and the material provided by Stephen King’s novel IT offers the opportunity to accomplish just that.

In the small town of Derry, Maine in the late 1980’s, a string of missing children are tied to the lurking creature Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard), who terrorizes the town every 27 years by making everyone face their deepest fears. After Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) has his little brother disappear, he and his gang of friends (Jack Dylan Grazer, Stanley Uris, and Finn Wolfhard), set out to unravel the mystery, and pick up new friends along the way, including Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and new kid in town Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor).

After a terrifying opening sequence which has Pennywise abducting Bill’s little brother, IT settles into a slow build of establishing its characters and surroundings. Beginning with the little town of Derry, where missing children and disasters seem as commonplace as taking a trip to the store. Moving on to the main characters, there is terrific work done in setting up the kids’ personalities and backstories. Each one of them has a story to tell, and while the early goings of the film spends a lot of time getting the gang together and moving the chess pieces where they need to be, it ultimately pays off.

The characters are established well enough where we root for, and feel for each one of them, but IT falls short in developing Pennywise to the same degree. Hints are dropped here and there as to where the hell he (it) came from and why he does what he does, and we expect a real reveal at the end, but that reveal never comes and is clearly being saved for the next film. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it does contribute to the troublesome final act (more on that it in a bit).

IT at its core is a horror movie, and it delivers. Director Andres Muschietti unleashes Pennywise in small doses at first, and then lets him go with his foot on the gas. The horror sequences in which Pennywise scares the kids shitless all have their distinct traits (feeding on everyone’s individual fears), and the scenes are absolutely relentless. Just when we think things would let up or the scene would end, it just keeps on going to un-nerving degrees. There is some great practical work done here as well, especially a scene where gallons upon gallons of blood are thrown on a character.

Muschietti in the meantime shows us an absolutely beautiful film in all of its horrific glory. Every shot is meticulously framed, and the lighting schemes are stunning. Set design is awesome; everything from an abandoned house to Pennywise’s lair is awesome in a spooky way. Pacing is brisk and there are no dull or boring moments at all. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is fantastic.

Acting is very good. Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan) is fascinating as Pennywise, and the bastard does a little trick in which his two eyes go in different directions. Chilling to the bone. The kids are all great together and their banter is reminiscent of some of the great pre-teen movies of the 1980’s. The standouts are Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis who have the most heavy lifting to do. Nicholas Hamilton nearly steals the show as the leader of a bully gang who is as sadistic as Pennywise. The only minor issue in the acting is that the kids often blurt out their lines way too fast, making it tough to keep up with them or understand them.

The finale, and final fight the kids have against Pennywise relies way too much on shaky-cam and CGI, and in the last 15 minutes it seems like Muschietti loses all the fine discipline he displayed in the first 95% of the movie. The final solution to the threat seems to be stumbled upon by accident, and all the homework the kids did on Pennywise does not pay off. It’s a minor gripe in a movie that’s perfect up until then, and when the credits roll there’s a definite shrug to be had. There’s a lot that seems to be punted down the road for the next film, and perhaps after that things will make better sense. But until then, this first chapter does indeed make the popcorn fly, and finds time to tell a good story.

BOTTOM LINE: See it


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need to Know About IT



This weekend, the much anticipated (and perhaps dreaded) second Stephen King adaptation of 2017 arrives in theatres, when New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures releases IT. Here is a preview and everything you need to know about this supernatural horror film.

What is IT all about? – IT is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by famous author Stephen King, in which seven children are terrorized by a spectral clown named Pennywise while facing their own personal demons. The film is the first of an intended duology (that’s two films) to adapt the novel in full.

Who is behind this? – IT is directed by Andy Muschietti, who brought us the 2013 horror hit-film MAMA. The script has three credited screenwriters, with the most notable name being Cary Fukunaga, who has credits ranging from JANE EYRE (2011), BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015), and the first season of TV’s TRUE DETECTIVE.

Who are the actors? – The central role of Pennywise was originally given to actor Will Poulter, who had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Bill Skarsgard, son of Stellan, has stepped in. His recent notable role came earlier this year in ATOMIC BLONDE. The rest of the young cast includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, and Jack Dylan Grazer.

Random Facts – Cary Fukunuga was originally slated to direct the film, but stepped out due to conflicts with New Line over budget * This is the second time IT has been brought to the screen, with the first being a 1990 made-for-tv mini-series * Other actors considered for the role of Pennywise included Mark Rylance, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, and Tilda Swinton * The costume of Pennywise the clown was inspired by the clothing of style of the Renaissance * The score is composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, who was co-nominated for a Golden Globe for his work on HIDDEN FIGURES * In scenes where Pennywise’s eyes look in two different directions, CGI was intended to be used, but Skarsgaard demonstrated that he could do it on his own * The directing duo of the Duffer Brothers were interested in directing IT, but were overlooked for not being established enough; they made the Neflix smash-hit STRANGER THINGS instead * The number 27 is a number that is often associated with the story; this film-version of IT will be released 27 years after the TV version *

What to expect – Looking at history first, Stephen King’s novels have proven to be all over the map of quality when they are brought to the big screen. They have ranged from absolute greatness (THE SHINING, STAND BY ME), to utter garbage (this year’s THE DARK TOWER). The long-running success of the novel, and the respect that the old TV version still holds speaks volumes of the strength of the source material, so all of this falls on the shoulders of the filmmakers. Director Andy Muschietti has proven that he can bring the scares in the past, but the real question is if he can go deeper than just making people jump out of their seats. New Line and Warner Bros. have a reputation for too much meddling in their recent history, with some success and outright strike-outs, so the recipe here can be very good or very bad. The source material itself goes into some pretty dark places, so the film has the potential to be scary, shocking, and haunting us long after the credits roll. But as we all know, potential is one thing, execution is another. IT could go either way.

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IT arrives September 8th.






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2017 - Episode IV



September means the heat of the Summer gives way to the glorious winds of Fall, and with it comes the faint whisperings of Oscar Season. Here are the notable releases for the month of September as 2017 enters its final quarter.

“It” all starts with…

IT – One of Stephen King’s most famous books about a group of children terrorized by a ghostly clown comes to the big screen for the first time. It is directed by Andres Muschietti, who helmed the horror hit MAMA in 2013.

TULIP FEVER - Alicia Vikander (EX MACHINA) and Dane DeHaan (THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) get caught up in a love affair during the 17th century Tulip Mania economic collapse. Directed by Justin Chadwick (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL), and co-stars Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis, and Cara Delevinge.

GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS - Seann William Scott reprises his GOON role in this sequel to the 2011 ice hockey cult-favorite. 

THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM – This British horror-thriller is adapted from the novel of the same name, in which a series of murders in Victorian London may be committed by a legendary creature from dark times. It stars Bill Nighy (SHAWN OF THE DEAD), Olivia Cooke, and Eddie Marsan.

HOME AGAIN – In this romantic comedy, Reese Witherspoon plays a single mom who allows three young men to move in with her. Co-stars Michael Sheen, Lake Bell, and Candice Bergen.

MOTHER! – Visionary director Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) returns with this psychological horror film in which a couple has their lives disrupted by the arrival of another couple. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN – Based on the novel of the same name, Michael Keaton plays a Cold War veteran who trains a new black ops recruit. Co-stars Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch.

WOODSHOCK – Kirsten Dunst plays a grieving woman who begins to cope by discovering a new drug.

BRAD’S STATUS – In this comedy, Ben Stiller plays a successful career-man who begins to compare his life to his four college friends. Co-stars Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Jenna Fischer. It is written and directed by Mike White (SCHOOL OF ROCK).

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE – The much anticipated sequel to the 2014 spy-comedy smash-hit. Matthew Vaughn (STARDUST) returns to direct, and his mighty cast includes Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and a few other surprises.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES – The famed tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs comes to the big screen, with Emma Stone (LA LA LAND) playing King, and Steve Carell (FOXCATCHER) as Riggs. It co-stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Sarah Silverman. It is helmed by the directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who brought us LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE in 2006.

STRONGER – Every Fall, Jake Gyllenhaal seems to show up with a powerhouse performance film, and 2017 is no different. In this true-story drama, he plays a survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombing who loses his legs.

AMERICAN MADE – Based on a true story, this biographical drama has Tom Cruise playing a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler for the Cartel. It is directed by Doug Liman (EDGE OF TOMORROW), and co-stars Domhnall Gleeson (THE FORCE AWAKENS).

FLATLINERS – Not a remake but a sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, in which medical students conduct experiments with near-death experiences. It is directed by Niels Arden Oplev, who brought us the Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO in 2009. It stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Kiefer Sutherland as his character from the ’90 film.

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Next month, Reel Speak previews the month of October.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Tobe Hooper 1943 - 2017



Director Tobe Hooper has passed away at 74.

Mostly known for his 1974 horror-film classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, William Tobe Hooper was born in Austin, Texas and gained an interest in filmmaking while using his father’s 8mm camera, and would take classes in radio, film, and television at the University of Texas Austin.

After spending time as a college professor and documentary cameraman in the 1960’s, he would enter the film world in 1969 with his first feature, EGGSHELLS, followed closely by THE SONG IS LOVE the same year. But it was in 1974 when he would make his biggest hit while changing the horror genre forever with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Loosely based on the actions of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, who killed and sewed clothing out of his victim’s skin, the film and its main villain, the horrific Leatherface, would set the template for modern horror that is still followed today. Hooper would revisit the material with a sequel in 1986.


In 1982 he would make another memorable entry into the horror genre when he collaborated with Steven Spielberg to create the haunted house thriller POLTERGEIST. By tapping into a basic family dynamic, the film brought the terror into people’s living rooms, and just as Spielberg’s JAWS had scared people of the water, POLTERGEIST generated a primal fear of leaving televisions on at night.


His other notable films would include LIFEFORCE (1985), INVADERS FROM MARS (1986), NIGHT TERRORS (1993), and THE MANGIER (1995). For television he would adapt the well-regarded Stephen King novel SALEMS LOT in 1979, and would direct episodes in AMAZING STORIES, THE EQUALIZER, FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, DARK SKIES, and TAKEN.

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As a wee-lad in the 1980’s, this Blogger’s introduction to Tobe Hooper would come via a new cable outlet called HBO, which would run POLTERGEIST several times a week. Despite being a scary movie, it somehow became a family favorite; striking that perfect balance of staying real-world while supernatural stuff was going on. Years later, when this Blogger would eventually come around to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, it was clear just how influential the film was in modern horror. It was real-world stuff with everyday people, and from Ridley Scott to Rob Zombie, the basic plotting clearly inspired the genre well into the 2000’s. Tobe Hooper may never have won an Oscar, and his name may not be recalled among the directing heavyweights in history, but his contribution to the genre that he loved can never be measured.








Monday, August 21, 2017

Jerry Lewis 1926 - 2017




Jerry Lewis; actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and humanitarian…has passed away at 91.

A natural at comedy and slapstick, he was born Joseph Levitch in Newark New Jersey, and already had a productive and successful career in stage and radio when he made a seamless transition to film in 1949 with MY FRIEND IRMA, which he filmed with his comedy partner Dean Martin. After their well-publicized split, Lewis went on to a solo career on the big screen, starring in over 45 films over five decades. His noteworthy roles included (but certainly not limited to) FUNNY BONES (1995), MR. SATURDAY NIGHT (1992), THE PATSY (1964), and IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963). He would star in Martin Scorsese’s THE KING OF COMEDY in 1982 alongside Robert DeNiro and would be nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. His final big-screen appearance was in MAX ROSE in 2016.

Behind the camera, he would write and direct CRACKING UP (1983), THE FAMILY JEWELS (1965), and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). In 1972 he would direct the controversial and still unreleased THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, in which he played a circus clown imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II tasked with leading children to the gas chambers. The film has been left unfinished and Lewis has kept the material under tight lock and key, adding to his own legend.

Off the screen, he was one of the most successful philanthropists of all time raising over $2 billion dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for his annual telethon which he hosted for over 40 years. In 2009, the Academy recognized him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

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Jerry Lewis was not a direct influence on this Blogger growing up, as the man had already been around a long time by the 1970’s, and his legend was already cemented at that point. Over the years, this Blogger developed a deep appreciation for his comedic talents; his loose slapstick performances had an element of unpredictability which made his so fun to watch. In front of the camera and behind it, Jerry Lewis had a firm commitment to entertainment, and he may very well be one of the last great entertainers of our time. As the next generation of comedians and filmmakers rises, there is no better starting point than the life and career of Jerry Lewis.