Terminator Salvation — an update


There used to be an article on Terminator Salvation at this page on the Premiere website. But if you click on that link now, the website re-directs you to its home page. Hmmm. Fortunately, io9 has summarized and quoted what I presume are some of the better bits from that article — including what sounds like a significant spoiler or two. As always, read at your peril.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life — a review


Patti Smith: Dream of Life opened at the Granville theatre in Vancouver this weekend, and, knowing that my colleague David F. Dawes is something of a fan, I asked him if he would have any interest in reviewing it for this blog. He said he would, so voila:

PATTI SMITH is talking to a friend about a question she gets asked too often: “How does it feel to be a rock icon?”

“I think of Mount Rushmore,” she smiles.

The scene is from a film which is anything but carved in stone. Steven Sebring’s Patti Smith: Dream of Life is full of vitality, evincing a lively imagination worthy of its subject. It is an evocative and incisive portrait of a brilliant poet, ferocious vocalist, open spiritual seeker and rabble rouser of the first order.

Blessedly, there’s not one reference to ‘Godmother of Punk,’ a cliche frequently attached to Smith. The film does more than justice to the breadth of her art beyond rock ‘n roll, including her poetry and painting.

Sebring had an unprecedented opportunity to film Smith over an 11-year period, beginning in 1995. The result could have been far too disjointed. Instead, the director has skillfully distilled the footage into a series of vignettes — with scenes clustered around different concepts.

We see Patti’s meditations on the death of loved ones, such as husband Fred Sonic Smith and lover Robert Mapplethorpe; tributes to her influences, including William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg; her carefree interactions with her family; and her fiery peace activism. While some might find the combination of topics chaotic, the film holds together as a suitably many-faceted portrait of a complex personality.

Memorable sequences include: Patti goofing around on guitar with playwright Sam Shepard; Smith and a friend expressing shock and awe over a draconian invoice on a Prada bag; and her righteous outrage over the war in Iraq and other W. Bush misadventures.

The film’s style is by turns poetic, documentary and abstract. It is mostly black and white, with effective intrusions of colour. A few moments are confusing, showing people interacting with Smith without clarifying their relationship to her. But this occasional lack of concrete information also enhances the free-flowing evocation of an artist and her milieu; and continuity is provided by narration spoken by Smith.

Some sequences are simply riveting. At one point we see a series of colour close-ups of Smith passionately vocalizing in concert; however, we hear no vocals — but instead very intense, discordant instrumental music which perfectly evokes the expressions on the singer’s face.

Speaking of concert footage: there are some simply amazing sequences — handheld camera reflecting the energy of the musicians and fans, with Patti in your face, a force of nature unleashed.

Indeed, the film is appropriately permeated with Smith’s music — acoustic and electric songs, and poetry incantations. Highlights include ‘Rock N Roll Nigger,’ ‘Land,’ Ginsberg’s ‘Spell,’ and the harrowing ‘Radio Baghdad.’

As for Patti herself, she comes across as both intimidating and endearing — undeniably charismatic, gentle-hearted, opinionated, bursting with artistic and political passion.

Her spiritual side is mostly presented in a low-key fashion. She is shown occasionally wearing a cross. More significant is a sequence showing her wandering in the Middle East. A skillful montage combines images of Arabs in a mosque; Jews praying at the Wailing Wall; and Patti in an Orthodox church.

The most upfront portrayal of her spirituality occurs in the final credits, which features her reworking of a Psalm. Calling on “the Rock that is higher than I,” she sings “hear my cry, O Lord” in a heartfelt plea for aid.

Overall, Dream of Life is an outstanding debut for director Sebring. More importantly, it is a worthy tribute to one of the most phenomenal talents of our time.

John Barry turns 75. Variety pays homage.


I collect James Bond soundtracks. And the only piece I can play on the piano with two hands, from memory, is the ‘Two Socks’ theme from Dances with Wolves (1990).

So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m a John Barry fan.

So I cannot help but note that Variety magazine ran a bunch of articles on him and his music yesterday. Here they are:

– – –

Composer with the midas touch
John Barry turns 75 today. The composer of “Out of Africa,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Born Free,” “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Lion in Winter” — as well as such iconic James Bond themes as “Goldfinger,” “You Only Live Twice” and “Diamonds Are Forever” — is believed to be the sole Brit to have won as many as five Academy Awards.
True, he’s scored only three movies in the last 10 years (the last was “Enigma” in 2001), but he’s still waiting for another great one to come along. . . .
And what a history. No modern film composer has undergone as radical a musical transformation as Barry. Starting with the twangy guitar, rock ‘n’ roll sound of “Beat Girl” in 1960, he soon shifted into a pop-jazz-orchestral sound for the James Bond movies while simultaneously creating a quiet, brooding ambiance for such low-budget Brit films as “Seance on a Wet Afternoon.”
The period historical dramas of the ’60s and ’70s — “The Lion in Winter,” “The Last Valley,” “Mary, Queen of Scots” — demanded choirs singing texts in Latin, German and French. Eventually, Barry became Hollywood’s go-to composer for richly orchestrated, grandly romantic scores like “Somewhere in Time,” “Out of Africa” and “Dances With Wolves.” . . .

John Barry invented the spy movie score
Very few composers can be said to have created a new style of film music,” says David Arnold. “John Barry single-handedly created the spy genre.”
Arnold, who recently completed scoring “Quantum of Solace” (his fifth James Bond score), has a long way to go to catch up to Barry’s record of 11 complete 007 scores (not counting his arrangement of the original “James Bond Theme” for “Dr. No”).
Arnold admires Barry’s accomplishments — saluting them in his 1997 album “Shaken and Stirred” — and Arnold’s Bond scores, from “Tomorrow Never Dies” to “Die Another Day,” still draw on the musical ideas that accompanied 007’s earliest film adventures 40 years ago.
It was a combination of the time (the early ’60s), a collision of musical cultures (the end of the big-band era, the beginnings of rock) and the offbeat qualities of Ian Fleming’s creation that led to Barry’s unique mix of jazz, rock, pop and traditional orchestral writing. . . .

Collaboraters reflect on the composer
When Sydney Pollack started editing “Out of Africa,” he assembled a temporary score that consisted entirely of excerpts from earlier scores by John Barry: “Somewhere in Time,” “Robin and Marian,” even “Mary, Queen of Scots.”
“Barry’s scores were so clearly movie scores,” the late director told Variety in 2001. “His music was always very evocative. ‘The Last Valley’ (a Barry score from 1971) had a piece that gave me an idea how to put together the whole flying sequence, when Denys takes Karen out over Africa. It had a somber feeling that was achieved by using a chorus of male bass voices humming. It gave it a religious, liturgical feeling.”
Both Pollack and Barry won Oscars for their work on the film.
Pollack’s experience was not unique. Barry’s many collaborators over the years have talked about his dramatic instincts and his melodic sense. . . .

Barry succeeds in theater and TV
With five Oscars on his mantelpiece, it’s easy to forget that John Barry has enjoyed success in other musical realms, notably the London stage and in both American and British television.
In fact, a revival of Barry’s 1974 musical “Billy” is now in the discussion stages. Based on the play and film “Billy Liar,” about a daydreaming young Yorkshire clerk, it ran for three years on the West End and made a musical star of Michael Crawford. . . .

John Barry reflects on 10 of his scores
“Goldfinger” (1964) . . . “Born Free” (1966) . . . “The Lion in Winter” (1968) . . . “Midnight Cowboy” (1969) . . . “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) . . . “Somewhere in Time” (1980) . . . “Body Heat” (1981) . . . “The Cotton Club” (1984) . . . “Out of Africa” (1985) . . . “Dances With Wolves” (1990) . . .

Valkyrie and the Steve Taylor connection.

This new trailer for Valkyrie is much, much better than the one that came out a year ago. However, one line made me giggle, because it reminded me of a line from an old Steve Taylor song:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLTDHHWAt38]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

There’s a bit in the trailer where one guy says, “Any problem on Earth can be solved with the careful application of high explosives.” That sounds rather similar to a bit in one of Taylor’s more controversial songs, where — as seen in the music video below — the protagonist sings, “There ain’t nothing wrong with this country / That a few plastic explosives won’t cure.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76E7MJsYx1g]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Note: Those who dislike the song or miss the fact that it is intended as satire should read Taylor’s comments at the link above.

Newsbites: The no-particular-theme edition!

Just a few things that came up last night and this morning.

1. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has been tapped to write the script for a remake of Forbidden Planet (1956). So we’ve got this and the upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Are there any other remakes of 1950s robots-and-spaceships movies in the works? — Hollywood Reporter

2. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has been tapped to write Spider-Man 4. — Hollywood Reporter

3. Sony may step in and co-produce the Tintin movies with Paramount, now that Universal has backed out for financial reasons. Steven Spielberg, who is producing the films with Peter Jackson, apparently still hopes to start shooting the first film “as early as this year”, for release in 2010. However, because the franchise has been in limbo these last few weeks, Thomas Sangster will no longer be playing the lead role. — New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Anne Thompson

4. The “definitive edition” of The Passion of the Christ (2004) is coming to Blu-Ray in February. I wonder if this new edition will fix that typo. — High-Def Digest

5. Roger Ebert has published a new article on The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), excerpted from his new book Scorsese by Ebert. In it, he cites an influential essay on the film by my colleague Steven D. Greydanus, which I and one other critic also cited in our essays for the book Scandalizing Jesus?. — Roger Ebert

6. Allegedly, the kid who can see ghosts in The Sixth Sense (1999) was inspired by a real-life guy named Michael Jones, who is now 20 years old and has been featured in a couple of documentaries. — FilmStew.com

Two more movies not screened for critics.


It’s Halloween, so it must be horror-movie time — which often means snub-the-critics time. Last week, Saw V was released without being screened for critics in advance, just like some of its predecessors. And this week, it is The Haunting of Molly Hartley‘s turn to open without press screenings. Both films had night-before-release-date promo screenings in some markets, at least, but critics weren’t necessarily invited, and as always, for the purposes of the list I’m compiling, those don’t count.