Walk Hard — might it be too irreverent?

Anne Thompson of Variety says the trailer below for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story — a Judd Apatow-produced parody of recent biopics like Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005) — “sank like a stone” when it premiered at Comic-Con last month.

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As a parody of a particular kind of movie genre, I think this film may have its merits, based on what we see here. But many of these scenes are based directly on scenes from Walk the Line that revolved around the intensely personal pain that drove Johnny Cash for much if not all of his life… and when I remember how respectful, if not reverent, everyone was towards Cash on the junket for that film, which came out only two years after he died… Well, “blasphemy” might be a strong word for what this trailer does, but I imagine some of his fans might feel that way.

Let’s put it this way. It is one thing for This Is Spinal Tap (1984) to have gags about drummers choking to death on their vomit — a fate that has, sadly, befallen more than one rock star — or for The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) to parody nearly every aspect of the Beatles’ public persona once they put themselves on the world stage. (In that case, George Harrison actually gave the parody his imprimatur by playing a small part in the film.)

But Walk Hard tries to milk laughs from things that took place before Cash offered up his life for public consumption, such as the fact that his brother died when they were both still children, or the fact that Cash’s father resented him for being the son that lived. Heck, I’m even a little uncomfortable with the way the film tries to milk laughs from the collapse of Cash’s first marriage (though I do love the punchline that follows “I do believe in you…”).

Even though these aspects of Johnny Cash’s life were dramatized in a major, popular, Oscar-winning movie, they still feel somehow private, almost confessional. They were entrusted to us. And I don’t know if it’s possible to mock the movie version of those private things without mocking the private things themselves.

Juggling to the Beatles — unbelievable!

Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with movies, but this is too awesome.

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Kidman: Golden Compass isn’t “anti-Catholic”

From Entertainment Weekly‘s fall movies preview and the blurb therein on The Golden Compass:

”It follows the novel as closely as it can,” promises Daniel Craig, who grew an un-Bondlike beard to play Lord Asriel, Lyra’s explorer uncle, ”but there’s still a lot missing. That’s always the case when you adapt a book into a movie. You have to focus more on the storytelling.” Conspicuously absent, for instance, is any reference to Catholicism; instead, the malevolent organization that snatches children to surgically remove their souls is referred to in the movie only as the Magisterium. ”It has been watered down a little,” admits Nicole Kidman, who stars as the icily evil Mrs. Coulter. Not that she’s complaining. Quite the contrary. ”I was raised Catholic,” she says. ”The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn’t be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.” She wouldn’t be able to do any possible sequels, either, but Kidman and Craig have both signed on for two.

Nothing particularly new here, though this is the first time I have come across Kidman referring to her own Catholicism; prior to this, I knew of Kidman’s Catholic roots mainly because the Aussie priest who officiated at her wedding to Keith Urban last year told reporters that Kidman had made a “spiritual homecoming”.

I wonder if Kidman read the original books before signing on to do the sequels, which, at least in novel form, make the anti-religious aspects more explicit. She couldn’t have read the screenplays for the sequels, since last I heard, they were still being written.

A Body Snatchers movie without pod people?

The New York Times had an item on the various versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers last week, before the newest one, The Invasion, had been screened for the press. Near the end of the article, Oliver Hirschbiegel, the original director of the newest film, “offered a few details” about the film. Among them:

There is also more exposition. And in a modification that for some will verge on sacrilege, there are no pods. “It would be too campy,” he said. “Audiences are too cynical.”

The plot is set in motion by a space shuttle crash. It releases microorganisms that, he said, “can remodel our genetic structure. So it has to do with these tiny spores. We did the research, and we know it’s possible.”

Pods would be “too campy”? Funny, the pods in the previous three films didn’t seem campy when I watched them earlier this week (though in the case of the original 1956 film, you do have to make a few allowances — not that many, but a few — for the special effects of that time; fortunately, the actors do sell those scenes).

One of the reasons the pods work so well in the earlier films is because they are so creepy and mysterious. We don’t know entirely how it is that they do what they do; all we see is the results. But the new film, with its “research” and “exposition”, tries to make everything explicable — and as a result, it devotes too much of its dialogue to pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.

In my own review, I called it “overly technical dialogue”, while other critics have called it “incomprehensible, 30-second bursts” of speech (Chris Knight) and “dialogue that can hardly be spoken” (Roger Ebert). Meanwhile, Rick Groen sympathizes with . . .

. . . poor Jeffrey Wright, whose sole function is to serve as Exposition Man, there to advance the lumbering plot by babbling scientific jargon at a breakneck pace. Be sure to catch him during the tacked-on and absurdly bright ending, when his words defy belief but his speedy delivery shatters the sound barrier. Jeffrey seems in an awful rush to get out of the picture, and who can blame him.

So would the pods really have been all that much worse? I mean, it sounds like moviegoers still found much to be “cynical” about.

And that’s before we get into the various ways that eliminating the pods from the story undermines the tension and suspense. For starters, it was very clear in the earlier films that there was simply No Going Back if a person fell to the pods: The original person died, and the pod took his or her place. But in the new film, people merely undergo a biochemical change, and once the film raises the possibility of a cure… Well, that changes things considerably.

The Last Invasion — the reviews are up!

My review of The Invasion is now up at CT Movies, as is my review of The Last Legion.

Several decades of female Hollywood stars.

Several sites have embedded or linked to this video already, but it’s so good that I might as well post it here too:

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