The Mountain Between Us

You know that snooty, fake, half-pouty smile an airline employee gives you right before they tell you the bad news?

Ben and Alex are both trying to get home – he’s got an important surgery to perform in the morning, and she’s got a wedding to attend (her own). The snow says no. The goddamn airline employees deploy their sorry-not-sorry smiles. So Ben and Alex, 620x349strangers in an airport, devise their own workaround: they’ll hire a small plane to get ahead of the storm and deliver them to their destination. But as you can probably guess, this was not the cleverest of plans. Their plane goes down, and thanks to some handy plot devices, no one even knows where they are. Help isn’t coming. They can either stay where they are and starve\freeze to death, or they make the mountain their bitch.

I read and enjoyed the book and then I watched the movie and didn’t quite know what to make of it. This is a story of survival. Of two strangers becoming dependent on each other, knowing they will most likely die and having to make really tough decisions together. Kate Winslet is good and Idris Elba is good but together they have the chemistry of two half-wilted house plants. The movie takes an against-all-odds story and turns it into romantic schmaltz, but these two characters (and these two actors) don’t pull it off – and it’s an insult to humanity anyway. I mean, yes, IF I have to get into a horrific plane crash where my injuries make it difficult to escape but do not in any way mar my perfect looks, I HOPE it’s with Idris Elba and I HOPE we fall in love despite the fact that I have a perfectly good husband at home and I obviously haven’t shaved my legs in days or weeks or months or whatever. I’m just saying it’s not exactly probable.

The film isn’t a complete waste of time because it is Kate and Idris and even when they’re at their worst they aren’t half bad. And there’s a lot of frozen Canadian landscapes to keep your eyes busy and your mind hopefully engaged elsewhere, because if you stop to think about this plot for even a second, it all turns to mush.

 

 

 

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El Camino Christmas

El-Camino-Christmas-featureI count Die Hards 1 and 2 as two of my favourite Christmas movies, so I’ve seen a hostage situation or two play out on-screen during the holiday season. But El Camino Christmas proves that not all hostage situations are created equal, mainly because not all cops are Bruce Willis. Some cops are Dax Shepard or worse, drunken Vincent D’Onofrio (who is either a very good actor or has a serious alcohol problem, or maybe both). El Camino Christmas is the opposite of a how-to hostage negotiation video, as things start bad and somehow get worse.

With Dax Shepard involved with the film, I expected some dumb comedy but El Camino Christmas seems to not even be trying to be funny. And if it was trying, well, it failed miserably.

On the “plus” side, if you have been suffering from Tim Allen or Jessica Alba withdrawal, El Camino Christmas will give you a shot of both. Neither needed to be here but they both showed up anyway for a little Christmas green. Really, why not say yes, when Netflix is throwing money at everyone else?

Some of those other Netflix originals have been pretty good but El Camino Christmas is not even middling.  It’s a totally predictable, cliched, and boring film.  It’s not the least bit entertaining, not even unintentionally. There is really nothing to recommend about El Camino Christmas. It is bleaker than a stocking full of coal, so just watch those Die Hards again instead. Especially if you can catch the dubbed for TV versions for the true holiday experience. Yippie-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!

The Worst Thing on Netflix

There’s good stuff on Netflix, and plenty of bad, and then there’s the stuff that only Sean could find during his endless scrolling – find, and watch. What he subjects me to on Netflix could probably be defined as spousal abuse, and there’s no better evidence than Pup Star: Better 2gether.

Now, as the rest of you can probably guess from the “clever” use of the number 2 in the word together, this is a sequel. Have we seen the first? No we have not. Did we even know that a first one exited? No we did not. Did we start with the first? Of course we did not: we jumped right in to the complex world building of the Pup Star universe and took our chances.

Tiny is an adorable little Yorkie who apparently in a previous film, won the hearts of MV5BZTk4MjMwNWEtMmVhNy00YTdmLWIzNmYtNWE5MDU5OGNmYWU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDQ0MDI4OA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_America and the Pup Star singing competition. This film she’ll have to defend her championship BUT some gangsters are getting in her way! They dognap Tiny and replace her with a street-smart rapping Yorkie who looks identical, called Scrappy. Scrappy says “yo yo yo” a lot, usually in front of “rap lyrics” that sounds like they’re being read directly from a Hallmark card. But anyway, Scrappy’s a ringer who will pose as Tiny only to throw the competition at the last minute. Meanwhile, Scrappy gets pretty comfy cozy in Tiny’s lavish lifestyle, and Tiny makes some new friends hanging with Scrappy’s rap crew.

This is NOT a cartoon, folks. They’re real dogs with moving lips superimposed onto their faces. They speak English and are understood by humans. There are dog characters with racially-based personalities and names like Guido and Rasta. There’s a disconcerting amount of human-based slapstick. And there’s a very confusing ‘cameo’ by Dave Coulier. I found I could only take the nonsense for a max of about 10 minutes at a time so we actually watched this movie over a series of 7-10 nights, over a period of maybe 2 months.

Why though? Especially when we have our very own cute and cuddly Yorkie at home.

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That’s Fudgie. He was a unicorn for Halloween. He’s an amazing dancer.

 

 

What’s the worst thing you’ve been duped into watching?

A Christmas Prince

This movie is so fabulously, unashamedly horrible I want to go into an eggnog-induced coma after slitting the throats of all involved with reindeer antlers and mistletoe whittled down to shivs.

It is EVERYTHING you know it will be, every damn cliche in exactly the right order. An American editor-wannabe-journalist for an unimportant magazine is for some 7ab3c50a33e196331a602d78c376a5996e35266breason sent to a fake European country for her first big assignment to cover some royal crisis. Last year on Christmas the king died, leaving his throne vacant. It should rightfully go to his son, who never wanted it. He’s spent the last year being a shitty playboy millennial across the globe and but he’s only got until Christmas this year to claim the throne or risk it going to his cousin, who actually wants the job and only seems to be marginally less a dick than Prince Richard.

Meanwhile, Amber’s big, serious journalist tactic is to lie her way into the palace and pose as a tutor to Richard bratty little disabled sister and then surreptitiously take pictures of the royal family with her iphone while wearing Converse to prove she’s quirky AND relatable AND out of her depth! And she’s accident prone, the plight of all beautiful heroines because it’s the only flaw that doesn’t cause ugliness. Of course she falls for the Prince because not only is he blandly white boy handsome, he’s also kind to orphans! But her lies are quickly snowballing and she’s also not very good at her job so her cover could be blown any day now – especially with a conniving Lady Something or Other trying to make sure she’s the next crown Princess, no matter which dude becomes King.

I know you’re wondering this so let me get it out of the way: YES, there’s a makeover. Yes there are horses. Yes there’s a cookie baking montage.

So get your ass in gear, A Christmas Prince isn’t going to watch itself! Then come back here and use the comments section to roast, roast, roast.

A Tribute to Sean(s) on his Birthday

Today is Sean’s birthday and since I prefer giving experiences to things, we’re in New Orleans, toasting his encroaching death. As if this spectacular city isn’t enough, we’re also here to see Sean’s favourite team defeat the local Pelicans. We’ve seen the Golden State Warriors play numerous times over the years, not bad for people who live 2900 miles away, though never, oddly enough, in the golden state itself, though we have been there, for my birthday. Last year we celebrated Sean’s birthday in Hawaii, and the year before that in Whistler, and before that I honestly can’t even remember, which is embarrassing. Mexico, maybe?

Anyway, since I praised the virtues of his particular vintage last year, I thought this year we could celebrate with a tribute to all the famous Seans worthy of the name. Sean is an Irish name of course, and my Sean will be horrified to know it’s derived from the French, Jean, or John as we know him in English. The meaning of the name Sean is ‘Irish God is gracious, or gift from God’, and I’m not even rolling my eyes as I type that (oh wait yes I am).

Sean Bean: Sean has always had an affinity for this guy and I’ve always been suspicious of the fact that his name doesn’t rhyme. Today I’m downright 9992b72c6cacfa598de9845a090eb2c168900a2774a8b5b1cb6aa069ed0727fddisappointed to learn that Sean is just some Hollywood affectation and that his legal name at birth was merely Shaun. He’s an imposter! But he’s been in lots of the exact kinds of shitty movies that my Sean adores – The Lord of the Rings, for example, which inspired a gag in The Martian that my Sean laughed heartily at while simultaneously half-heartedly explaining it to me and basically telling me to never mind. But basically Sean Bean is the guy who dies a lot – tied with Bela Lugosi, with about 0.32 deaths per film. Although, I find it noteworthy that he’s also the guy who (in real life) marries a lot – 5 times so far!

Sean Astin: Fun fact: Bean and Astin have matching tattoos – the number 9 in honour of their being one of the original nine companions of the Fellowship of the Ring. For pretend. So far it seems that Seans are quite nerdy. The good news is he’s a Sean for real (although he was born with the last name Duke, being Patty Duke’s illegitimate son, later adopted by her then-husband John Astin) which is a relief because we wouldn’t want our Sean to have to reconsider his stance on The Goonies after all these years. And what better way to rock the 80s vibe than to cast Sean Astin as the goofy stepdad in Stranger Things? Very glad to see him pop up there, and kind of horrified about the rest.

Sean Young: Another imposter of sorts – Sean is a middle name and Mary is her actual given name. Good grief! No doubt she wangled her way into young Sean’s heart by appearing in Stripes, and then Blade Runner (and is credited in Villeneuve’s sequel as an acting coach to the new Rachel) but Sean Young also has a long history gal_cw_sean-young (1)of batshit crazy. Her role in Wall Street was drastically reduced over clashing repeatedly with Oliver Stone. She was sued by James Woods for harassment, and is said to have left a disfigured doll on his doorstep. She lost a role in Tim Burton’s Batman when she broke her arm during rehearsals and tried to win the role of Catwoman with a homemade costume and the stalking of Burton and Micheal Keaton. She also lost a role in Dick Tracy, this time, she claims, because she rebuffed Warren Beatty. Lately she’s been relegated to soap operas and reality TV (she was first to be voted off skating with the stars) so this is one Sean who isn’t living up to the name.

Sean Penn: A legit Sean but also a somewhat nutty one, he’s credited with popularizing the word dude thanks to Fast Times at Ridgemont High and he’s appointed himself ambassador to everywhere, visiting Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Haiti, even New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and while his diplomacy may be doing some good, he’s not exactly diplomatic. He got in trouble with the UK when he appeared to take Argentina’s side in the Faulkland Islands debate, and he shocked the world by declaring Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez his friend – and condemning those who call him dictator. And of course he’s in hot water with Mexico for his secretive El Chapo interview. That would be enough for 5 political careers, and let’s remember that his actual career is actor – he’s been in 50 movies and earned 2 Oscars.

Sean Gunn: To understand the core difference between Sean and I, all you need to download (2)know is that for me, Sean Gunn is that guy from Gilmore Girls, and for Sean, he’s part of the Marvel universe. His brother is film maker James Gunn, and when James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, needed a stand-in for the part of the wily racoon Rocket, he called up his little brother Sean. It was Sean who wore the green suit and did all the hard work, and Bradley Cooper who gets all the credit for having voiced him. Luckily, Sean also won the part of Kraglin, Yondu’s second in command, so he isn’t left out.

Sean Baker: Just a small word about a newish director we’ve come to really admire. We discovered him only recently, with Tangerine, a movie strikingly different and incredibly moving. Baker has a knack for presenting the real underbelly of life in a way that’s both authentic and hopeful. He explores that even further with The Florida Project. Whereas Tangerine charms you, sits in your lap and purrs in your ear, The Florida Project takes you by the hand, asks you to become a part of it. It’s very effective film making, and he’s an invigorating director to watch.

Sean Connery: I’ve saved the best for last. This Sean is Scottish of course, and proud of it. He joined the Royal Navy and was a bodybuilder in his youth – he even had the offer to play soccer professionally but understood that he’d have a longer career in acting, and boy was he right. Ian Fleming was originally unconvinced about Connery playing Bond, thinking him too rough and muscular, but was so persuaded by Dr. No he actually changed Bond’s background to reflect Connery’s. But Connery himself was never sure about succumbing to a franchise and eventually grew bored – his 1QcjG02s6ZQG6TdOUS3xmywclose friend Michael Caine knew better than to even mention it at the time. Despite saying ‘never again’ (ring any bells, Daniel Craig?), he came back for one more, wryly titled Never Say Never Again – and he had his wrist broken by a fight choreographer named Steven Seagal. His career spanned much more than just James Bond but here’s a little tidbit for you: he could have joined the Sean club in the Lord of the Ring series and turned down 15% of global receipts to play Gandalf (which would have netted something like $400M). The one thing he can’t do is accents, and oddly enough, neither can my Sean. Well that’s not entirely true, it’s just that no matter what accent Sean is attempting, he always sounds like Penelope Cruz. Connery is happily retired these days, so we salute him, and his impressive movie catalogue.

Happy birthday to my Sean, a Sean among Seans.

 

 

 

Nicolas Cage: Man of Mystery

So, Nicolas Cage. How to talk about Hollywood’s favourite nut job? I’ve never been on the Cage train myself, he always rubbed me the wrong way, like an overzealous hairy uncle that I just don’t trust. But it’s less fun dislike him now that everyone else does too. The poor guy just unraveled. His movies all flopped at the same time, his money ran out, and it turns out that money and success really were the only things hiding his extremely bizarre personality from the rest of the world. He’s the kind of guy who, when his cat accidentally gets high on shrooms, does them too, to keep him company (yes, that really happened). When playing a traumatized vet in Birdy, he had a dentist pull teeth without anesthetic so he could “understand real pain” because a) dental procedures are comparable to the horrors of war and b) he’s such a bad actor that he couldn’t just pretend to be in pain. He diets according to sex, and not the way you’re thinking: he only eats animals whose mating he finds “dignified” like birds and fish. If he finds their sex to be unattractive, he can’t bear to eat their meat. He once woke up to discover a man, completely naked except for Cage’s leather jacket, sitting on the foot of his bed eating a Fudgesicle. And of course, he spends money like a legit crazy person. He owns or has owned: albino king cobras (yes, plural), a t-rex skull (he outbid Leo fair and square!), a pet octopus that helped him with his acting, a private island next door to Johnny Depp’s private island (sounds like a bad neighbourhood already), and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini.

But that’s not all. As you may have heard, Sean and I are in New Orleans this week and Nicolas Cage has some pretty infamous ties to the town. Of course, owing the IRS $6.6 million in back taxes meant some of his properties needed to be sold, and those included his New Orleans real estate. One of those houses was a murder mansion. It was once home to Madame LaLaurie, a wealthy socialite who tortured and 7adb4-cage_lalaurie_picsmurdered her household slaves in the 1800s. She was discovered in 1834 when rescuers responding to a fire at the home found bound slaves in the attic who showed marks of someone having been cruelly tortured over a long period of time – I’m talking people hanging by the neck, mutilated, limbs stretch or torn right off. The fire was later confessed to have been started by the cook, chained to the oven by a chain around her ankle, in a suicide attempt. Outraged, a New Orleans mob stormed the house but LaLaurie fled to the safety of France. If that sounds at all familiar, you may have seen Kathy Bates play a fictionalized version of her on American Horror Story. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead slaves, including a young girl who fell to her death fleeing LaLaurie’s whip and was buried in the back yard. It may not be a place you’d choose to lay your head for the night, but Nicolas Cage plunked down $3.45M for it.

The second home is much less spectacular in reputation but quite delightful for fa740-cage_prytania_picsliving in it, I would think. At 13 000 square feet in the prestigious garden district, it was once owned by the catholic church, who took to calling it the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. And then Anne Rice owned it. And then Nicolas Cage, possibly for the nights when sleeping in the blood-soaked house mentioned above got too intense. It’s nice to have an unhaunted backup house just in case. It was actually rumoured that he and his family actually lived in the house next door to this one, and thus owned three properties, because sometimes two is not enough. At any rate, “economic difficulties” led to their sale\foreclosure and now he owns no homes in New Orleans but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a place to rest his weary bones.

Just as his homes were being sold, he was busy purchasing a cemetery plot. And not just any cemetery, but New Orleans’ most famous one St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It’s home to the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who is said to haunt it. Because the water table is so high in New Orleans, the tombs are all above ground, and leave it to Nicolas Cage to take advantage: he’s built himself a pyramid tomb that reads Omni img_4195-nicholas-cage-tomb-omnia-ab-uno-everything-from-one-1024x768Ab Uno, Latin for Everything From One. Now, it’s entirely possible that the IRS just can’t foreclose on a tomb. And some New Orleans locals think it’s also possible that the pyramid is stuffed to the gills with cash. The rest of us just wonder whether the pyramid is a tribute to his role in National Treasure, whether the dollar bill has a secret map that would unlock its door, or whether he’s just mixed up in some Illuminati shit. And maybe, just maybe, his flamboyant, 9 foot tall pyramid mausoleum is where he’ll regenerate his immortal self. Some of the locals aren’t too crazy about this eye sore in their historic cemetery, but female tourists have embraced it – literally, leaving lipstick kisses on its walls. To find out if I’ll do the same, why not follow our travel adventures on Twitter – @assholemovies.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin Button was born a little boy who looked like an old man; baby Benjamin suffered from old age ailments. He had a disease that made him age backwards. His mom dies in childbirth and his dad abandons him post haste, so little Benny Button is left on the stoop of a nursing home to be raised by the good-hearted Queenie. Benjamin first meets the love of his life, Daisy, when they are 7 years old. She’s a little ballerina, but he’s a wizened old man in a wheel chair. They’ll meet on and off again throughout all the years of his life, and make a little family when they overlap in middle age, but it doesn’t last long. So when Daisy’s on her death bed she tells this story in its entirety to her daughter Caroline, who learns for the first time who her father was.

MV5BMTI1MjY5MzY4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU1OTUxMg@@._V1_The film was among the first to film in New Orleans after Katrina, enticed by tax savings that made up a good chunk of their budget. Director David Fincher praised the city’s rehab efforts and filmed in both rural and urban settings. The film pays tribute to Katrina by having the flood threaten just as Daisy lays dying.

Someone’s been wanting to make some version of this film since before I was born. In the mid-80s, Frank Oz was sough to direct, with Martin Short as its possible star. Later, Spielberg was keen to direct, and Tom Cruise slated to star. Then Ron Howard thought he might have a go, with John Travolta in the lead. Can you picture any of those?

Brad Pitt could spend upwards of 5 hours a day in the makeup chair. Even so, they had to resort to hiring child actors to portray the younger-looking versions of Benjamin – not because the makeup and effects teams couldn’t handle it, but simply because the budget was totally depleted. Cate Blanchett plays Daisy and had some young actors to cover her character as a child as well – including a very young Elle Fanning. Julia Ormand plays their daughter Caroline, but her younger self is covered by none other than 2 year old Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

Since Sean and I are in New Orleans at the moment, we may swing by the Nolan house at 2707 Coliseum St., where lots of the filming took place, in virtually every room of the house. With 6 bedrooms, it was home to 3 generations of Nolans, one of whom played a doctor in the film. Fincher knew he wanted this particular house, benjamin-button-house.jpgwhich would serve to ground the fantasy, but it wasn’t an easy get. The owner had evacuated for Katrina, and had refused every previous request by movie crews. She turned down Fincher too – twice. Fincher combed over 300 other locations and ruled out every one. Finally the owner relented, and she moved into a condo so her home could be made to fit the period. She never did move back in: she evacuated again when hurricane Gustav threatened, and while away she passed, without ever seeing the movie filmed in her home of over 60 years.

 

 

 

If you want to keep up with our New Orleans exploration, visit us on Twitter @assholemovies

A Streetcar Named Desire

How can we spend a week in New Orleans without mentioning this film? Well here’s how: though it’s set in New Orleans, it sure wasn’t filmed there! Well, okay, maybe for a tiny moment’s worth of movie at the train station, but the rest was all Hollywood studios, as was common back then. And the eponymous Desire streetcar line had been dissolved into buses, but the city was able to lend the production a car for the opening sequence when Blanche first arrives in New Orleans.

a-streetcar-named-desire-stellaShe’d been a school teacher back home but moves to New Orleans to move in with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley when creditors take over the family home. She’s horrified to find them living in a grungy little apartment, and even more horrified to find that Stanley is no gentleman. They butt heads right away, and not only is their relationship antagonistic, but she destabilizes an already volatile situation between husband and wife.

Vivien Leigh (Blanche) and Marlon Brando (Stanley) are held tight by the camera, close shots that increase the claustrophobia – so too do the walls that are closing in, literally – the set was built so the little apartment’s dimensions could become littler over time. Their closing in reflect’s Blanche’s deteriorating mental state.

Based on the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire was edited dramatically to pass the censor’s scruples. There may not be much authentic New 81Qk8T3NWHL._SY450_.jpgOrleans in the picture, but it does have a ground-breaking jazz sound track that gives us the city’s flavour and soul. Streetcar has become an important moment in American cinema, with great performances from iconic stars, and it’s given us more than one enduring catchphrase, although its most famous, simply “Stelllllla!” meets the bare minimum for a catchphrase – it’s really more about how Brando said it. Could say anything, really, and we’d pay attention.

Fun fact: Marlon Brando has appeared in our travel series before: he appeared in Last Tango in Paris, which we reviewed while in – that’s right – Paris.

Another fun fact: t-shirts didn’t come fitted like that back in the day. The wardrobe department shrunk it on purpose, and then stitched it up the back. 😉

The Princess and the Frog

As a young girl, Tiana loved making gumbo with her father, and the two dreamed of opening up a restaurant together. Even after he passes away, she keeps the dream alive, though she doesn’t have the means to make it come true. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen is in town, setting all young hearts aflutter. Unbeknownst to them, the prince is actually broke and needs to marry a wealthy socialite to keep up his lifestyle. Both of our leads are in desperate situations that cause them to act rashly. Naveen strikes a deal with a voodoo doctor, who transforms him into a frog, and thinking that her magical kiss will transform him back, Tiana does so – only it turns her into a frog as well!

Then the adventure really begins, and they traverse New Orleans, befriending MV5BMjE2OTg0NDk2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTUwMjIyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1723,1000_AL_a trumpet-playing alligator and a Cajun firefly along the way. You may have heard that Sean and I are in New Orleans at the moment and time will tell what sort of friends we’ll make – but you can keep in touch on Twitter – @assholemovies.

The Mama Odie character was inspired and by the famed New Orleans storyteller Coleen Salley, even down to her voice. Coleen consulted with the director several times, but never lived to see the completed movie. Her name is mentioned in the credits. Dr. Facilier, the bad voodoo doctor, also takes sinpiration from New Orleans trandition: he looks just like the voodoo god of magic, ancestor-worship, and death, Baron Samedi. The trumpet blowing alligator is named Louis in honour of – you guessed it – Louis Armstrong. Another alligator, a hungry one who tries to eat our heroes, is named Marlon, after Brando star of A Streetcar Named Desire. Marlon is voiced by New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and even uses his signature catchphrase “Bam!”

Alicia Keys and Tyra Banks both lobbied personally for the part of Tiana. Beyonce was considered but refused to audition (I mean, really). Instead it went to Anika Noni Rose who was relatively unknown to those outside Broadway audiences. She was 41 when she gave voice a 19 year old.

Tiana was of course the first black Disney princess, and though it was about damn time, it wasn’t without controversy. First, Disney had to change the film’s title. Originally called The Frog Princess, the Internet informed them how terribly this sounded, and The Princess and The Frog was born. And Tiana too was renamed – originally she went by Maddy, which the peoples thought sounded too much like Mammy. Because of Disney’s history of being 99% white and 1% ugly stereotype, it’s only natural that this film was experienced under a microscope. And it’s kind of too bad that our first African-American princess spends most of the film as a frog instead of, you know, a black princess.

But it does get to splash the fun, colourful New Orleans as a background, from city scenes to the bayou. And directors Rom Clements and John Musker did some good while they were in town, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

If we’re in the neighbourhood, we may just pop into Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Leah Chase is the inspiration for Tiana. Known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, she’s cooked for the likes of Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Ray Charles, and Barack Obama. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was one of the only public places where mixed race 28-leah-chase-obama.w710.h473.2xgroups could meet, so it became home Civil Rights meetings, even though it was illegal.  Leah is also a patron of the arts, and her restaurant was once considered New Orleans’ best collection of African American art. Dooky”s reopened after Katrina but now operates under limited hours, a decision Leah’s family has made since the 94 year old woman still works as the head chef during its opening hours. Yes, you read that right. Forget Disney princesses: Leah is a formidable woman, and Tiana should be so lucky.

Interview with the Vampire

It’s that time of year again: Sean and I have fled cold, snowy Ottawa to celebrate his birthday in warmer or at least more exotic climes. Last year we were in Hawaii but this year we’ve set our sights on New Orleans, so you can count on the next several reviews carrying on in that theme.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles came out in 1994, which means it may be older than some of you. Based on the best selling novel by Anne Rice, herself a New Orleans native.

So the premise is this: a reporter (Christian Slater) is interviewing a 200 year old vampire, Louis (Brad Pitt). He was formerly a plantation owner who lost his wife in childbirth, which threw him into a depression. This is when he met a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise), who turned him and taught him vampire ways.

Tom Cruise was not supposed to have been cast; when Rice wrote it in 1976, she had  Rutger Hauer in mind. The book was optioned a few years later with John Travolta attached but a glut of other vampire movies (Dracula, Nosferatu the Vampyre, and Love at First Bite, all in 1979) put the project on pause. When the wheels started turning again, Travolta was deemed too old. Rice met with Tom Hanks instead, but interview-with-the-vampire-kirsten-dunst-brad-pitt-hughe turned it down for Forrest Gump. Daniel Day-Lewis was cast but then dropped out just weeks before filming. Then it was offered to Johnny Depp, who turned it down. And finally it went to Tom Cruise, which made Anne Rice livid, certain he could not handle the part. Of Cruise’s casting, she said “it’s so bizarre; it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work” and “the worst crime in the name of casting since The Bonfire of the Vanities.” Rice recused herself from the production but when she eventually forced herself to watch it, she was so impressed by Cruise’s performance that she wrote him a letter of apology.

Jeremy Irons had also turned down the part because he didn’t want to spend hours in the makeup chair again, and he wasn’t wrong. The vampire makeup took hours to do, in part because the actors were required to hang upside down for up to 30 minutes at a time, allowing the blood to rush into their faces, making veins bulge out. The makeup artists would then trace the veins to create the vampire’s look. But then the blood would disperse and the process would have to be repeated several times. To keep the vampire look secret, Tom Cruise ordered the set to be completely private, necessitating tunnels to be built to shuttle the stars to and from the set.

Makeup is not the only reason Brad Pitt was completely miserable on the set and tried his darndest to get out of the contract. He also hated his costumes and coloured contacts, but most of all he hated playing second fiddle to Tom Cruise – ahem – both on and off the set.

Christina Ricci, Julia Stiles, Evan Rachel Wood, and Natalie Portman all tried out for the part of Claudia but it was a young Kirsten Dunst who won the role. She had her first on-screen kiss in the film – her 12 year old self to Brad Pitt’s 30 years. She wasn’t even allowed to watch the film when it came out; it was R-rated, and her parents thought her too young.

Speaking of age discrepancies, there was also a height discrepancy, and it forced Tom Cruise to act atop crates to try to appear level with the other vampires. Cruise has said that he watched videos of lions eating zebras to prepare for the role. In unrelated news: Tom Cruise is a strange man.

Christian Slater took over the role of Malloy upon the death of River Phoenix. In his honour, Slater donated his salary to two of Phoenix’s favourite charities. The film has a dedication to him at the end of the credits.

Rice was originally worried that the movie would never get made because the novel contained allusions to a possible sexual relationship between Lestat and Louis. Not only was she prepared to write this out of the script completely, for a while she even turned the part of Louis into a woman, and had Cher in mind to play her. Ultimately the two roles remained male, and Cruise and Pitt earned a Razzie for worst screen couple. Conversely, the movie was also nominated for two Oscars, but lost those – Best Art/Set Direction went to The Madness of King George, and Best Original Score went to The Lion King. Cher had actually written a song for the movie, called Lovers Forever, but because of that dicey word Lovers, it was rejected – but eventually appeared on an album of hers in 2013!

The film supposedly inspired a real life crime shortly after the film’s release. On November 17, 1994, Daniel Sterling and his girlfriend Lisa Stellwagen watched the film together. The next day, Sterling stabbed Stellwagen seven times in her chest and back and sucked the blood from her wounds. Stellwagen survived the multiple stab wounds and Sterling was arrested. He claimed the film influenced his plan but the jury convicted him of attempted first-degree murder, among several other charges.

Lots of the 1700s vampire stuff was filmed in and around New Orleans. River scenes were fudged by removing modern items like the Greater New Orleans Bridge and surrounding radio towers in post-production. The Old Coliseum Theatre was used for on-location shooting but sadly burned down in 2006 so Sean and I won’t be able to visit. The city and the businesses were quite cooperative to the film crew – they agreed to turn out their lights for the duration of the filming to preserve the illusion of the film’s time period.

You may recall that the film ends up in San Francisco, where Malloy drives across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sean and I are not visiting that esteemed city this trip but we have before, and reviewed the movies to prove it. The crew received permission to shut down 2 lanes of traffic on that bridge, which is reportedly very hard to get.

 

Have you ever been to New Orleans? What are your favourite spots? Any favourite movies set in the city? Predictions as to what I’ll review next? Be sure to check our Twitter feed for updates from the city – @assholemovies