Tag Archives: Robin Williams

Noel

This movie’s got more Oscar winners and nominees than most, so I can’t quite figure out how I’ve never heard of this movie before. Alan Arkin plays a creepy cashier who’s obsessed with Paul Walker, who plays a cop who’s crazy-jealous over his super hot girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, who thinks she may be pregnant with her crazy-jealous boyfriend’s baby and she’s feeling so insecure she confides in a lonely woman played by Susan Sarandon, who’s completely alone for the holidays other than her comatose mother and a complete stranger she meets while visiting another patient, played by Robin Williams, who’s an ex-priest having a crisis of faith.

penelope_cruz_noel_still_2004_OGXxLss.sizedThis holiday movie has something for everyone: spirituality, homophobia, reincarnation, crippling depression, dead babies, and more. But in its heart of hearts it’s really just about a bunch of people who don’t want to end up alone – on Christmas, on their deathbeds, in the world just generally. Some of us feel encumbered by all our obligations to friends and family over the holidays but others are completely bankrupt when it comes to people who care, and for them, the holidays can be really, really hard.

If you’re one of those people, maybe opt for something a little more cheerful. And if you’re already feeling cheerful, why bring a good mood down? This is possibly just too depressing for Christmas fare, and that’s not even counting the fact that it stars two men now dead in real life, one of whom also expires on camera. It’s a real corker! Contrived doesn’t begin to cover it; Noel is a stocking full of sadness hung by the chimney with despair. But it does have Penelope Cruz dancing around in lingerie, so.

 

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Contract Negotiations

The rich and famous are rich and famous for a reason – their unreasonable demands. Turns out actors are not immune. The following are actual clauses found in movie contracts.

Samuel L. Jackson has it in his contract that he gets a break during filming to play golf twice a week. Priorities!

The late Garry Marshall was so close to Hector Elizondo that he put a clause in his contracts stipulating that the actor was guaranteed a role in all Marshall films. Elizondo never knew about the clause but obviously benefitted, appearing in all of Marshall’s films, up until the director’s death last year.

Steve McQueen had a crazy grudge against Paul Newman. When the two starred in The poster_0Towering Inferno in 1974, McQueen demanded that he not only have top billing, but also the exact same pay as Newman—and the EXACT SAME number of lines, which seems like a pretty shitty way to write a script. The two fought it out about the top billing and eventually producers settled on a compromise for the poster: McQueen’s name is first, but Newman’s name, while second, is slightly higher up. Also the picture of McQueen is on the left, but Newman’s picture is again slightly higher up. This coined the term ‘diagonal billing’ because you know movie stars have egos and this shit definitely has come up again.

While working on (the now defunct) Eloise in Paris in 2010, Uma Thurman insisted on receiving heavy discounts if she decided to buy any clothes and\or wigs used during the shoot. Also, “no other cast member [may] receive more favorable dressing rooms.”

Roger Moore asked for and received “unlimited” Montecristo cigars on his James Bond films – I mean, what better way to get into character?

Will Ferrell, who takes pride in being an ass, demanded the following:

1 Electric three-wheel mobility scooter
1 headset microphone (Janet Jackson style)
1 flight of stairs on wheels
1 fake tree on wheels
1 rainbow (can be painted on canvas) on wheels
Guinness beer
Smart Water or Fiji Water
Coke, Diet Coke, 7Up
Raw roasted almonds
Protein bars: Peanut butter chocolate Zone Bars, Peanut Butter Power Bars

Just the necessities, obviously!

Will Smith had a two-and-a-half million dollar trailer built for himself. His contract makes sure the trailer has a spot on every movie set. It sits on 22 wheels, has 14 televisions, and $30,000 worth of leather upholstery. It has a full kitchen with over $$100,000 worth of granite countertops. It has sliding doors like the Star Trek Enterprise, which lead to a wardrobe room. It has pistons that allow it to transform to have a second story, which houses a screening room for watching dailies. There’s a shower in a $25,000 bathroom that has a magic glass door, which can go between opaque and transparent with the push of a button. Sean and I saw this monstrosity on the streets of Manhattan while he was filming MIB3, and you bet the locals were complaining about its size and its generally fucking up traffic, and blocking out sunlight in the surrounding apartments.  Charming?

Lindsey Lohan, known for being oh-so modest, demanded a private jet with a hairstylist, a makeup artist, and a manicurist onboard. She also insisted on a 1-year Russian visa, a Ritz-Carlton penthouse suite, and a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, and that was just to appear on a talk show. I think she may be overestimated her cachet.

While filming Gravity in Surrey, George Clooney insisted on a custom-made beach hut complete with hot tub, private landscaped garden, and basketball court built next to his trailer. He let production pick up the £100,000 tab while making $20M for the movie. Life is fair!

Tom Cruise’s “thing” is as weird as he is: thongs. He’s got thongs written into every contract – up to 50 of them per movie since he only wears them once. He feels they’re imperative for shooting action scenes, keeping him loose and unrestricted. I have a feeling that my underwear is not what’s holding me back. I also doubt the thongs are helping him out all that much, but it’s a nice justification for your fetish, isn’t it?

But just to leave you with something positive, not all contract riders are inspired by selfish greed. Robin Williams always wrote in his contract that on every film he made, production had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. Remember that next time you watch one of his old gems.

Night At The Museum: Something About A Tomb

Wow did this suck balls. Like, no redeeming factors to report at all. The effects are brazenly shoddy. Embarrassing. Was this movie shot entirely in front of a green screen? Is there even a museum in New York?

My problem is, I don’t like Ben Stiller. My other problem is, Ben Stiller likes Ben Stiller. So much so that he conferred upon himself another character, just so he can have the pleasure of interacting with himself, green screen on green screen on green screen. Is nothing sacred?museum

I love Rebel Wilson but she’s falling into the Melissa McCarthy trap here – genuinely funny women that are reduced to one-note obnoxious roles that wear thin quickly. Not quite as thin as Ben Stiller as a caveman (haven’t we seen that before?), but still. She was wasted. But this movie wasted actors like it was going out of style (and if this is indeed the third and final chapter, then I guess it is) – Ben Kingsley! Hugh Jackman! Ricky Gervais! And y’all know that I love Steve Coogan but for the love of monkeys, throw the man a bone. He and Owen Wilson and floundering with oodles of screen time but nary a point. I felt bad for them.museum3

There was a single workable joke in the whole entire thing:

Ben Kingsley (as an Egyptian pharaoh) to Ben Stiller, half-Jewish: “I love Jews! We owned 40 000 of them. They were very happy. Always singing with the candles.”

Ben Stiller: “Yeah, they really weren’t happy. They left. Spent 40 years in the desert trying to escape. We have dinner once a year to talk about it.”

So now that I’ve ruined the one funny bit for you, you don’t have to watch it.

You’re welcome!

Best Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

TMPIt’s Thursday again and you know what that means – this week we’re being asked to list our favourite live-action fairy tale adaptations. Not such an easy feat for some of the Assholes, but we’re giving it a go! Thanks, Wanderer, for your inspired themes.

 

Jay

It’s probably telling that though we owned copies of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, I was never a very Princess-oriented little girl. Even as a kid, I preferred darker stories, and so my go-to fairy tale was always and still is Labyrinth.

I’m sure you know it: it’s about a teenaged girl (Jennifer Connolly) who makes a stupid wish that actually makes her baby brother disappear. Realizing her mistake, she has to win her brother back from the Goblin King by solving his labyrinth in just 15 hours. This movie combines two labyrinth-2_1389186934things that are so awesome I might call them otherworldly, and putting them together just multiplies their effect. First, David Bowie as the Goblin King: absolute perfection. To this day you couldn’t cast it better. The hair, the pants, the eyebrows! Second, Jim Henson. He brings some fairly complex puppets into the mix, some inspired by the genius work of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Henson surrounds Bowie with a cast of Goth Muppets that create this hyper-real fever dream. The story’s fairytale roots stoke the fires of Jim Henson’s imagination beautifully, and we’re absorbed and suspended into a world where anything can happen.

For my second pick, I’m going with Penelope. Penelope is lovely girl (Christina Ricci) from a wealthy family who was born with the face of a pig. The pig-face is the result of a curse put on her family by a witch in retaliation for their rejection of a  house maid turned away when a penelopemember of the house impregnates her. Generations later, Penelope bears the brunt of her family’s indiscretion. To break the curse, Penelope must find “one of her own” to love her. Her suitors (including a roguish James McAvoy), however, may be more interested in her money than in true love. The movie gives life to the other side of the tale, a modern girl born only to be hidden away in shame, and what that has meant in terms of self-worth. I think it’s also an interesting example of how, with a little suspension of disbelief, we can invest in a fairy tale without a lot of big-budget effects and other trappings familiar to the genre. The fairy tale is made much more accessible and relatable on this plane.

I’ve been waffling over this third pick for a while. I felt like maybe I should go with a more classic adaptation, but damn it to hell, I’m going with a Cinderella story because it’s one that’s been told more than 700 times, in many different ways, all around the world. We just saw Disney’s live-pretty-woman-GCaction effort last night (quite good), but the one that will still stands out to me is Pretty Woman. It’s actually a pretty faithful adaptation, if a little modernized: a young woman with no family is forced into a life of hard work (prostitution, if you will). She meets a handsome prince (or millionaire businessman) and they start to fall in love, but she’s not from his world, so neither of them thinks the love with last. However, with the help of a fairy godmother (called Visa) she is magically transformed. But the prince must love her for who she really is, so she feels, and he follows, searching her out on her turf, his heart (and possibly other organs) swollen with love. And because this is a fairy tale, the ho and the ethically-questionable businessman live happily ever after. We assume.

Matt

If you joined us last Thursday, you might have noticed that I gave Luc a bit of a hard time about his lack of interest in black and white movies made after (or even before) 1970. Well, I’m hoping he loves live-action fairy tale adaptations because I can’t seem to find the same level of enthusiasm this week. It’s not that I object on principle. I don’t see any reason why stories that have so often inspired such great animated films can’t be reimagined as great live-action ones, especially with less pressure to conform their content to a G rating. Maybe because we can’t bring ourselves to set aside our cynicism for even two hours without the obviously manufactured world of animation but it’s a lot harder to believe in magic when it is Elle Fanning- not Sleeping Beauty- who can only be woken by True Love’s Kiss and almost every recent film in this sub-genre is almost embarrassing to watch. Still, after thinking about it all week, I have managed to come up with 3 worthy exceptions especially when allowing myself a little leeway with the rules.

Babe- When I say that Babe is one of my favourite films of the 90’s, I don’t mean “favourite babe-james-cromwellfamily movies”. I don’t know if it can be called a fairy tale under the strictest definition but it seems to think of itself as one. There may not be any fairy godmothers, pixie dust, or spells, but there are singing mice, scheming cats, an unlikely hero with the most innocent of hearts, and one of the most genuinely magical experiences of its decade.

 

Hook-  Steven Spielberg makes my list two weeks in a row. Technically more a Peter Pan sequel than a peter Pan adaptation, Spielberg’s 1991 film is one of his most underappreciated. Now a cynical corporate lawyer who hates flying, Peter Pan (Robin Williams) is all grown up and has literally Hook-1forgotten about Neverland. With the help of Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts), he must learn to fly again to save his young kids who have kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) who is still holding a grudge. Hook makes great use of almost every one of Williams’ many talents and Hoffman is brilliantly cast and will likely put Garrett Hedlund to shame in this summer’s Pan.

Into the WoodsSome of the most memorable fairy tale characters of all time meet in the intothewoodswoods in last year’s extremely entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical. The stories take on a darker tone than we might be used to but the spirit of the stories survive.

 

 

Sean:

The Princess Bride: the best of the best. This is a fairy tale that a teenage boy could not only princess_brideenjoy and relate to, but could talk about with other teenage boys. The Princess Bride is endlessly quotable, sincere but not serious, and effortlessly original while remaining true to the essence of a fairy tale. I still love this movie and I expect it will be one that continues to be discovered and enjoyed for as long as we watch movies.
wizard-of-oz-original1The Wizard of Oz – this is a timeless movie that still holds up. Even the changing technical limits of the day add something to the movie, being in black and white initially, with colour then appearing once Dorothy gets to Oz. It’s so well done, the songs are catchy, the characters are memorable, and the big reveal at the end is one of the best twists ever. One of my favourite parts about the movie is that even after the curtain is pulled back, everyone still gets to live happily ever after, the very definition of a fairy tale.
Cinderella (2015) – we just saw this last night and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. rs_1024x759-141119042502-1024_Cinderella-JR-111914No surprises, no changes, no updates to the classic Disney tale, and that’s probably for the best. It was the definition of a fairy tale made into a live action movie, line for line, shot for shot, and mouse/horse for mouse/horse. At our screening, all the little (and some not-so-little) girls in their princess costumes clearly loved this movie and I could see exactly why they did. I would have said Cinderella is this year’s Frozen except that this year’s Frozen is going to be Frozen Fever, the short accompanying Cinderella, which made a little girl in the theatre gleefully exclaim, “Look at those dresses!”

License to Wed

I know that watching movies sometimes involves a certain about of suspended disbelief, but this movie would require a lobotomy.

Robin Williams plays Reverend Frank, the man in charge of preparing Sadie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (John Krasinski) for holy matrimony. Ben wanted to elope to the Caribbean, but Sadie’s always dreamed of getting married in the family church, and to do so, they have to pass Reverend Frank’s marriage prep course.

Now, let’s take a minute to appreciate the absurdity of an unmarried man assuming any kind of authority on the subject. I mean, really. But Reverend Frank’s particular brand of marriage counselling is made just for movies. It involves ridiculous group activities and the deliberate baiting of in-laws. This is why we say in my business that no counselling is preferable to pastoral counselling. They don’t know what they’re doing, they push the god agenda above anything sane or healthy, and they’re grossly unqualified. Frank is all of these, yet the Sadie blindly accepts everything he says, because he’s her beloved minister. And that might be fine if this was a satire, but it’s not. It’s just a vehicle for Robin Williams to shock and awe – say all the naughty things that a man of the cloth most definitely should not. Sadie doesn’t blink an eye when he bugs their apartment, asks her what she likes in bed, has her drive into traffic blind-folded. Nope, just normal pre-wedding stuff, nothing to see here!

Are there a couple of chuckles to be had? Sure there are. It’s Robin Williams. But to be honest, it looks like a much better time in the blooper reels than in the film itself. On the plus side, the last 20 minutes of the film are a commercial for the Sandals resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, so at least everyone got tan while making this piece of crap (the same one that Michael Scott visited in The Office; there are 4 series regulars in this film, and director Ken Kwapis directed several episodes). I am 100% certain that John Krasinski hates that this is on his resume, and he regrets even more saying “Do you wanna walk the midget?” It may have been 2007, but that was never okay.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

Henry (Robin Williams) is angry. Crazy angry. Sitting in his car he can think of no better way to pass the time than ranting. Henry hates a lot of things. Henry rants away his commute until something he can REALLY get angry about happens – he hits a cab. Then he really unleashes.

hero_AngriestManinBrooklyn-2014-1A precautionary trip to the hospital reveals a problem that his doctor hadn’t told him about yet: brain aneurysm. Yikes. But his usual doctor’s out on vacation so Dr. Sharon (Mila Kunis) fills in, but she’s not exactly having a great day either. How bad is this brain aneurysm? It’s pretty bad. Like, 90 minutes to live bad.

What would you do if you had 90 minutes left to live? For most of us, it would be squeezing the last drops out of joy out of life, phoning loved ones, making sure people know how we feel. For Henry, who has destroyed his marriage and is estranged from his son, this is about to be a difficult 90 minutes.

It’s an interesting concept that fails in execution. I never believed Henry. Henry’s anger was out of control and over the top. Robin Williams does a untitledterrific stand-up rant so I know he’s capable of playing a deeply disturbed individual. However, ever time Henry got going, I was always expecting it to end up somewhere funny. It was just too much to be taken straight. The writing is really weak – Henry’s anger just doesn’t seem genuine. Tonally, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn flops around like a fish out of water, gasping for a last breath.

It turns out that Henry has some good reasons for being angry, and these 90 minutes would have been better spent redemptively.  The closest he comes is in remarking that his tombstone will read 1951-2014, and that the dash is where it’s at: a true but oft-repeated sentiment. Sadly, this would be Robin Williams’ last movie. I hate to see his brilliant career end on this note. I’m also sad to report that his own tombstone reads 1951-2014. I hope he lived his dash to its fullest. As for this movie which lacks the language to efficiently say “don’t waste the time you have”, I can only caution you to include this movie in the waste of time column. Life is too precious for bad movies.

 

 

What Dreams May Come

What a fucking movie, eh?

Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) dies in a car accident and wakes up in an afterlife of his own making. The world he constructs is based on his wife Annie’s painting; everything is made of gobs of paint that squish beneath his feet as he walks and explode with colour when he grabs them. An old friend, Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), appears as his spirit guide, though he looks much younger than Chris remembers. It takes a little getting used to, but it starts to feel like home, especially when he reconnects with his children, who died years previously. The only thing missing is his precious Annie, but Chris finds out that the two will never be reunited. Annie committed suicide – she’s in hell, and there’s no coming back from hell. But Chris tries anyway, because heaven isn’t heaven without her.

What Dreams May Come is preachy even if you believe in this stuff, and if you don’t, well, it’s a hard message to swallow. We never get a glimpse of God yet we’re left wondering what kind of deity would kill all of Annie’s loved ones – her husband and both her children, in two separate accidents – and then judge her when the pain is just too much. It seems monstrous and unfair and is even harder to watch in light of Robin Williams’ own suicide.

PIX-1-WhatDreamsMayCome_1But visually – well, even now, 20 years on, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen. While the heaven-scapes are vivid and sometimes downright magical, it may be the visions of hell that haunt you. Robin Williams tiptoes through a carpet of faces – anguished people buried up to their necks, barely more than the holes necessary for breathing left exposed. The faces are pale and full of yearning. It’s awful – and it’s really awful when there’s nowhere for him to walk but over them.

Colours can be quite dominant – a blue tree a sad link to Chris’s past, the bright yellow of an eternal sunset, the red flames of hell. What Dreams May Come was one of only a few films shot on Fuji Velvia (RVM) film stock. Velvia is a type of film used most frequently for still photography of landscapes and other subjects because of its very high color saturation. It is only rarely employed for cinematography, usually when special effects are required – and boy were they! But these shocks of colour always mean something, whether in the afterlife, of simply through a flashback.

The “painted world” sequence is glorious. By building upon computer software developed by technical advisor Pierre Jasmin, a team devised a method of applying paint strokes to moving images captured on film so portions of the movie look like a three-dimensional moving painting. There are brush strokes that looks like you could reach out and touch them – and your hands would come away wet if you did. Live-action scenes were turned into living paintings with the optical flow technique, by which you track every single pixel in a moving image – in the end, it amounts to a layering of perhaps 10 different depths onto one image. See below for a comparison, before and after the effect is added to a scene:

PIX-7-WhatDreamsMayCome_7a1.jpg

PIX-8-WhatDreamsMayCome_7b.jpg

This film was both breath-taking and ground-breaking; many of the programs used had to be written specifically for the film. One of the most moving images is of a particular tree that almost serves as a connection between the soul mates, though one is living and the other dead.

PIX-4-WhatDreamsMayCome_4.jpg

Rendered using L-System software, a program for defining the algorithmic development of plants and branching structures, the tree was designed with thousands of branches and 500,000 leaves, all of which are blown off and scattered in the wind. It is spectacular and heart breaking to see.

 

What Dreams May Come won the 1999 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.