Saturday, June 11, 2005

It Came from Netflix: From Justin to Kelly

When Pip reviewed the film at the Jabootu site, I decided to give the film a look and see if I had anything to add. Well, not really, but I never let that stop me. (Please note I wrote this before I read her piece, so any common points are an indication of great minds thinking alike. Well, OK, more like 'one great mind, and Ken.'

To my surprise, From Justin to Kelly engendered a certain affection from me for about ten minutes. First, it really seem a modern version of one of those old Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies, not to mention stuff like Breakin’ from the ’80s. Second, although I’m not a huge fan of the genre, I like a good musical, and that breed has nearly disappeared from the screen. For some reason, people can watch robots and werewolves and whatever and not worry about it, but if somebody on screen breaks out in song, it sets off their ‘give me a break’ detector.

Sadly, my affection for the movie died a quick death. You expect films like this to be dumb, but not this dumb. Moreover, the last thing they should be is boring, and this film is boring in spades.

In my early, I’m-kind-of-digging-this phase, I liked the fact that the film wasn’t running away from being a musical. Songs comes fast and tedious (that’s one of the problems, ‘furious’ would have been a lot better) throughout, but I don’t think I have ever heard a more forgettable, lame collection of tunes in my life. Even the two cover songs, including the version of the Go-Gos “Vacation” that plays over the opening credits, have all the juice sucked out of them via low-energy arrangements. I’m not a fan of Xanadu or Grease, for instance (the latter a film I believe they tried to emulate here), but you listen to some of the songs and you can understand why they became big hits. There’s nothing remotely like that here.

For an 80 minute film, this proves a slog. There are way too many characters—both Justin (I guess the runner-up in the first American Idol) and Kelly (the winner of said event) come equipped with a pair of computer issued sidekicks. For Justin, this includes the inevitable Horndog and the equally inevitable Nerd. For Kelly, we’ll talking the inevitable Nice Black Girl and the inevitable Blonde Slut.

All of the above get musical numbers, which again are plentiful if entirely uninteresting. Now, I must stipulate that I have very little ear for music. I will say that Justin struck me as a very competent singer, but about what you’d expect from any average member of any average boy band. Kelly Crawford, however, really has pipes (at least as far as I can tell). By the end I was really resenting the fact that the movie provides her no chance to open up and sing a really fun, high-energy song. Instead, pining ballads are the order of the day.

Blah blah blah. The film is full of dubious comic relief caulking the spaces between the songs. Nerd is trying to actually meet NerdGirl, an Internet chat room flame of his. They keep missing each other by inches. It’s ‘funny.’ Horndog is supposedly this great capitalist, but his huge spring break parties among the thousands of party-hearty kids keep making him sums like a grand. Wow! Don’t spend it all in one place. Then, when he gloats about these giant sums, a Busty Cop keeps showing up to issue him citations, which eat up all the bread he just made.

It’s ‘funny.’

Girls, of course, can’t be played for comedy relief, so Nice Black Girl has an up and down romance with a Handsome Hispanic Local. Meanwhile, appallingly, Blonde Slut spends the entire movie attempting to sabotage the Love-at-First-Sight relationship of Justin and Kelly. This is the extraordinarily weak mechanism that is used to delay the two stars from getting together before the end of the movie. Unbelievably, Kelly instantly forgives her Iago-like friend after Blonde Slut makes a small gesture towards getting the two together.

There’s more, but it’s not worth getting into, and anyway, Pip has done that already. Hilariously, the whole thing ends up in a gigantic production number with hundreds of ‘dancers’ cutting a rug to “That’s the Way [Uh, Huh, Uh, Huh] I Like It,” which might well be the stupidest non-novelty song ever to become a hit. I was literally flabbergasted that that was the tune they decided to close their movie out with. I can only imagine that the final cut list was “That’s the Way [Uh, Huh, Uh, Huh] I Like It” and “Hot Blooded.” I’d like to think they considered “Convoy” too, but that was probably considered too highbrow a piece.

Moreover, they then proceed to suck all the cheesy life out of the song—which, let’s admit, is all it has going for it—with a whispering, low-tempo version of the tune. The film should have ended with a huge, high energy dance number like, well, “Fame” from Fame. Even the Breakin’ movies got that right. Instead, hundreds of people are indeed dancing away (sort of), but the relaxed arrangement of the song makes it like you’re watching the movie late at night and have the sound turned way down so as to not wake up your parents.

Part of this might be that I think they were going after twin audiences. I don’t know the demographics behind American Idol, but I know it gets what is now considered a huge audience. Therefore, I’m guessing there’s a goodly amount of older people who watch the show. With variety shows dead, you don’t really get much of a chance to just see people sing anymore.

If that’s the case, then I think they wanted to attract that same demographic to the movie (along with the kids), because it is innocuous beyond belief. Personally, a film that doesn’t emphasize sex is OK with me, but I’m hardly a part of that mass audience the film was presumably going after. Moreover, even I’ll admit that in this day and age, what with the WB and the Fox network, it’s pretty weird to make a sexless movie about young people at Spring Break.

So while there’s a constant amount of talking about ‘partying’ and ‘action,’ very little if at all of it appears to show up on the screen. Horndog does apparently nail a Swedish girl offscreen, as indicated by a few lines of dialogue and an exceedingly lame resultant ‘comedic’ plot thread. Nice Black Girl quite possibly sleeps with Handsome Hispanic guy, although they are quite coy about it. Blonde Slut is always putting it out there, but there’s no sign that she’s having any takers (uh, right). She’s apparently got quite an itch, but spends the entire movie trying to steal Justin, and thus doesn’t appear to get any.

Justin and Kelly, of course, are holding out for each other. For Kelly’s part, it’s because she’s Nobody’s Toy and a Nice Girl. She’ll give it up, but only to the man who gives her her props. She’s the one who inevitably protests the screen’s most G rated Whipped Cream bra contest ever (co-run by Justin over his objections, which of course she doesn’t know about). I guess this is meant to establish her feminist credentials, or some damn thing. Still, if you don’t dig that sort of action, Spring Break seems like a strange place to travel to. Good thing she didn’t see couples doing body shots, because her head would have likely exploded.

Meanwhile, they don’t want Justin to look like a loser, so he’s inevitably the highly successful party boy who’s finally tired of chasing skirt and now has found the One. Unlike the Nerd, he can get some. Unlike Horndog, he chooses not to. I guess that’s what makes it ‘romantic.’

What most kills the movie, even more than the incessantly boring song and dance numbers, is that it’s the very definition of what Roger Ebert dubbed an Idiot Movie. By that he meant a movie revolving around a plot device that can only be sustained if every single person in the movie is an idiot. Oddly, and presumably to allow for their zillions of duets, the feuding Justin and Kelly meet up constantly during the proceedings—pretty weird, given the presumed crowds and such—and yet never just say one of the several dozens sentences that would instantly lead to everything between them being cleared up.

Friday, June 10, 2005

It Came From the Long Box: X-Factor #4 May 1986 ($.75)


Other than during the seminal Claremont/Byrne run, during which in many ways the modern superhero comic came into its own, I’ve never been a gigantic fan of The X-Men. I like the early Lee/Kirby run, of course, because who doesn’t love all the early Lee/Kirby stuff? And the X-Men had plenty of good bad guys, including the Sentinels, the Blob, Unis the Untouchable, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and, of course, Magneto, perhaps the greatest villain in the Marvel stable, barring Dr. Doom.

Anyway, during the mid-80s the X-Men, the newer team with Wolverine et al, were Marvel’s hottest property. Soon a plethora of related titles were inaugurated, one of which was X-Factor. X-Factor reunited the members of the original X-Men, which wasn’t a half bad idea. However, if the issue I have before me is any indication, the execution was less than spectacular.

Frankly, I have only vague memories of this group. If I remember correctly, the original X-Men got back together for whatever reason and established a fake anti-mutant group called X-Factor for their cover, their real purpose being to protect mutants. Wait, can that be right? Because now it sounds really dumb.

We open mid-battle, with the then unfurred* Henry McCoy/The Beast leaping up to deliver a kick to the face of a generic two-story foe named Tower (who actually, it seems, can grow any size, from very small to very big). Since an on-running theme of the various X-Men comics was the regular humans fear of mutants, I found it funny that the battle was taking place in a crowded airport, with the X-Factor crew endangering hundreds of civilians with their antics. Despite this, the humans are portrayed as unthinking bigots, calling their supposed ‘protectors’ “muties” and “freaks” and other bad words.

[*Apparently this was a period during which he was de-furred before being re-furred some time down the line.]

Anyhoo, Tower gets away by shrinking (in a better book he would have been casually stepped on by somebody and killed), leaving the heroes to endure the catcalls of those they risked their lives to safeguard, blah blah. However, he is accosted by his putitive co-worker Frenzy (boy, what a nondescript rogue’s gallery).

Frenzy is a seven-foot tall imperious—which in comic book speak means she calls everyone ‘fool’—black woman with Bride of Frankenstein streaks in her corn-rowed hair. She wears a short leather dominatrix outfit that emphasizes her typically oversized cleavage. Yawn. She’s apparently superstrong and semi-invulnerable, blah blah. Apparently she’s a somewhat more powerful female analog to Luke Cage, but with really big boobs.

X-Factor actually runs a school for young mutants, carrying on the work of their mentor, Prof. Xavier. Jean Gray/Marvel Girl and Bobby Drake/Iceman are working with Rusty, a pyrokenetic kid, who is distracted when Scott Summers/Cyclops enters with a new student, a kid who looks like a Saucerman. This results in Rusty nearly charbroiling some of them, and Jean reams him out. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “Good work, Scott, for walking in the door in the middle of a potential lethal training session, you moron.”

After that I frankly got bored and starting skimming stuff, especially since a lot of it entailed the wearisome sort of soap opera material that helped keep me from being a huge X-Men fan in the first place. He loves her, but she loves him, and that girl loves the first guy, and so on. Yawn.

Eventually…and I mean eventually…Rusty runs away, and comes across Frenzy, who is trying to recruit him to join an apparentl second grade knock-off of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Then X-Factor shows up and there’s the standard throw-down. After she takes a bit of a beating, she tears down a building façade (!) to escape. (Which means that, yes, the above cover art in no way bears relation to the comic's actual content.) X-Factor takes Rusty back to their school, and tears are shed and Important Life Lessons learned and so forth.

The writing by Bob Layton is typically professional, as is the art by Keith Pollard and Joe Rubinstein, which has a sort of John Buscema meets Neal Adams feel. The book is by no way awful, but for the hardcore fan, it reads as distressingly ‘been there, done that.’


"Universal has just announced two fantastic DVD box sets both due out on September 6. “The Hammer Horror Series” will include BRIDES OF DRACULA (anamorphic 1.66:1), THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (anamorphic 1.85:1), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) (anamorphic 2.00:1), PARANOIAC (anamorphic 2.35:1) on disc one, and KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (anamorphic 1.85:1), NIGHTMARE (anamorphic 2.35:1), NIGHT CREATURES (anamorphic 2.00:1), and THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (anamorphic 1.85:1). The eight-title set will set you back a whopping $19.98 (Universal's pre-order price)! “The Bela Lugosi Collection” also pays tribute to Boris Karloff and includes THE BLACK CAT (1934) THE RAVEN, THE INVISIBLE RAY, MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE and BLACK FRIDAY all on one disc. All Lugosi titles are in their original full screen aspect ratio, and this set also retails for $19.98 (Universal's pre-order price). Thank you Universal!"

Wow! Universal has done this before, in terms of releasing large numbers of movies on extremely cheap two-disc set. These have usually been series; Abbott & Costello movies, Ma & Pa Kettle, the Airport films, etc.

Purists (and I'm close to being one myself) will no doubt kvetch that the films won't be afforded the presentation they could have been on separate discs, about a lack of extras, etc. And they'll be right. However, that only shows us how spoiled we've become by DVD. Here the average horror buff will about able to lay out probably less than $30 for both sets (assuming somebody sells it at a 25% discount, and chances are it will be available cheaper than that), and get 13 movies for that price.

And if the presentation is not as immaculate as what could possibly be delivered, they will all look much better than they possibly would have looked on VHS, and at (say) $15 a pop, the same collection separately would have cost about $200. Imagine what great cheap stock stuffers and b-day presents these will make.

As well, all these films have never been available on DVD before, and many of the Hammers have never even been released on VHS.

We'll feud in the future, but let's tip our hats to Universal today.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Not so Fantastic Four...

If there’s one film I should be excited about this summer, it’s Fantastic Four. I’m a Marvel kid from way back, and I’ve always gravitated to the team books more than the individual stars. (Aside from later off-brand characters like Luke Cage and Ghost Rider.)

I loved the Spider-Man movies, but if I saw a Fantastic Four movie made as well as those, well, my supreme pleasure could only be topped by an equally brilliant Avengers movie, one featuring the ‘real’ Avengers roster: Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. And yeah, any of the Henry Pym superhero identities and the Wasp, or Scarlet Witch, or whoever else. But definitely the big four.

However, the rights to the various classic Avengers are all owned by different studios, so that ain’t going to happen. Therefore, a great Fantastic Four movie is about as bee’s knees as it would get for me. We’re talking Great-American-Godzilla-Movie good, had there been such a thing.

However, the FF film has train wreck written all over it. It says something that the superhero movie I’m fervently awaiting is the DC universe’s Batman Begins.

If past comic book movies had taught us anything—and they apparently haven’t taught Hollywood much—it’s to get good directors who take the material seriously to make the movies. More than any other factor, the right director makes or breaks this kind of movie. This is also proved by non-comic book movies in the fantasy fields, as with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Let’s put it this way… Batman Returns, Tim Burton. Spider-Man & Spider-Man II, Sam Raimi. X-Men & X-Men 2, Bryan Singer. Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro.

Now this: Batman Forever, Joel Schumacher. Catwoman, Pitof. Daredevil, Mark Steven Johnson. Fantastic Four, Tim Story....

Who? Oh, the guy’s who’s biggest budgeted film prior to this $100 million plus production was Taxi with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon.

That Tim Story.

Of course, the real red flag about Story wasn’t that he hadn’t handled so large a budget before. Neither had any of the other, successful comic book directors I’ve listed. No, the actual concern is that all of the successful directors cited are, well, auteurs, if we’re to use that phrase. Each had made extremely good and, more importantly, idiosyncratic little movies before being handed the reins of their major buck superhero movies. Moreover, each had success in the horror and/or fantasy realm.

Story, meanwhile, has one decent if generic film (Barbershop) under his belt, and one roundly attacked action comedy (Taxi). Since Fantastic Four aims to be a lot more like the latter film—and many statements have been issued during the production process that a good deal of humor will be on display, although they retreated from them when fans got grumpy—well, there are reasons for trepidation.

The real warning sign, though, is the casting. Michael Chiklis, I admit, is a perfect actor to play Ben Grimm/The Thing. No problems there.

The problem is the rest of the foursome. Now, the reason you want a good director, as well as one that respects the material, is so they’ll know what they can change (because changes will occur when translating material from one medium to another), and more importantly, what not to change.

Take Spider-Man. Raimi went with the idea of making Spidey’s webs organic rather than technological, and that was fine. Moreover, instead of meeting Mary Jane Watson when they were both approaching twenty, they were next-door neighbors and best friends as kids. That worked too, and was justified in terms of telescoping some of the backstory stuff—whipped up over thousands of comics—to fit in a movie. The important thing is that the details were psychological right for the characters. That’s why they worked.

So the Cold War origin, which the four heading out into space in an unshielded spaceship in order to beat the Ruskies, obviously had to go. (Tying Dr. Doom’s origin directly to theirs, however, is too cute by half.)

The Fantastic Four, it is often noted, is the family as superhero team. That means that the character dynamics between the titular four characters are the single most important thing to get right. And…its pretty clear they won’t be.

Criticism erupted when Jessica Alba was announced to have been signed to play Sue. The most facile, albeit still understandable, complaint was that she wasn’t a blonde. (After all, the character has been around for forty years, and in a visual medium that has established her appearance. And it’s not like there are no blond actresses in Hollywood.) That problem was been solved, more or less, by dying Alba’s hair.

More problematic is what triggered my concerns. Alba has a history of playing sexpot, riot grrrrl-type ass kickers. That’s not Sue. In this day and age, she’s not going to be the flighty young thing who spends hours trying on wigs, as she was in the early comic books. However, I will cry if they turn her into yet another Xena/Dark Angel/Alias clone. Sue is…a girl. Maybe that’s unfashionable these days, and I don’t mean the character has to be weak and shriek at the sight of mice, but I just don’t want her to be someone who trash talks deadly supervillains and then takes delight in laying the smackdown on them. And given the trailer, and her featured confrontation with Dr. Doom, that seems to be where they are going.

What really concerns me that the ages of the characters are all wrong. Again, the character relationships are clearly established, and are the most important thing to respect. Therefore:

1) Reed (Mr. Fantastic) and Ben should be significantly older than Sue and Johnny, and have known each other since they were college roommates. Ben and Reed, functionally, are brothers. They should be somewhere in the 35-40 year-old range.

2) Sue should much younger, around 21. She should be drawn to Reed by his intelligence, maturity and gentle nature, while Reed, who is a classic techno-nerd who never has had much time for or success with women should be flabbergasted to learn that the young beauty is attracted to him.

3) Sue is also drawn to Reed because she and Johnny have had a touch childhood together, one more or less sans parents. (Another reason for her attraction to father figure Reed.) Johnny should be 16, (as he was in the comics, but at least still in his teens. He’s an often bratty kid, a typical adolescent. Sue has been forced to act more or less as his mother, a role she has thrust upon her before she was ready.

4) Johnny and Ben should have a bratty younger brother/gruff older brother or uncle relationship. Johnny is, figuratively as well as literally, a hothead, while the quick tempered Ben is easily provoked into lashing back. In the context of this, Reed has to act as a father annoyed by the antics of his ‘kids.’

The casting indicates that much, perhaps most, of this is going out the window. Chiklis is 42, so he’s fine. Reed’s portrayer, however, is Ioan Gruffodd, who’s ten years younger than Chiklis. That throws their whole relationship dynamic off. I’m not much for star casting, to the extent that this would be star casting, but Tim Robbins would have been a perfect Reed Richards.

Alba is 23, who she’s about right. However, actor Chris Evens (Johnny) is also 23 (and also not a blonde—and they aren’t even dying his hair). Even if he plays younger, he’s too old to be the sometimes bratty character Johnny should be and get away from it. Instead of being a often obnoxious kid, he’ll just be a juvenile dickwad. And again, his lack of an age differential with Sue is a major, major miscue.

The buzz on the film is increasingly dire, and indicates my central fear—that the movie is being directed by someone who doesn’t really ‘get’ the characters—is all to justified. Believe me, I would love to be proved wrong and to leave the theater with a silly grin on my face. But I really doubt it.

Everytime I think I'm out, they keep pullin' me back in...

"NBC has signed Kim Delaney, Beau Bridges and David Cubitt to star in 10.5: APOCALYSPE, the sequel to 10.5. Bridges is back as President Hollister, Cubitt returns as Dr. Jordan Fisher, and Delaney will reprise her role as seismologist Dr. Samantha Hill.

Frank Langella, Dean Cain, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Oliver Hudson, Carlos Bernard, Carly Pope and Tamara Hope, Melissa Sue Anderson and Barbara Eve Harris will also star.

APOCALYPSE will pick up in the aftermath of the original chain of events. Another round of quakes threaten to destroy North America. Delaney's character discovers that her father's earlier, discredited seismographic hypothesis may actually be correct and could portend greater doom.

Filming started last week in Montreal. The TV moview will air this fall."


Well, Fred Ward misses a paycheck, but he's probably better off. Certainly the additions of crap veterans Frank Langella and Dean Cain to the cast list indicate that this one won't be a marked improvement over its pregenitor.

Also, anyone who remembers my review of the first mini will remember that I harped on the disaster movie rule that "everyone's connected." Given the bit about the 'discredited theories' of Delaney's father, it doesn't look like anyone's decided to change things any.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hey, an item about a crap sequel instead of a crap remake!

Per Rotten Tomatoes:

"Yahoo! Movies reports that Molly Ringwald (For Keeps) is ready to consider a sequel to 1984's Sixteen Candles. No word yet as to whether writer/director John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Curly Sue) is involved in the reputed project, but the 37-year-old actress has claimed to have read (and enjoyed) a new screenplay."

I like how the article invokes the films For Keeps and Curly Sue as presumed prods to help us remember who these people are.

Piranha redux...

This seems the day for dubious remake news. Joe Dante's Piranha is getting yet another redo--it's already been remade once--at the hands of director Chuck Russell. They seem to be threatening (oh, goody) to employ, three guesses, CGI in this one: "We want to take people back to a horror classic which was an enormous success in its day but which will benefit from updated technology."

Yes, that will make it better.

There can only be like a million....

Speaking of series that won't die (see Pink Panther thread below), they are releasing something called Highlander: The Raven to DVD, which I guess was a TV spin-off of Highlander the TV show which was a spin-off of the original Highlander the Movie (which I didn't even like very much), and it's atrocious sequels, including the infamous Highlander: The Quickening.

Raven apparently starred ex-Miss America and Bill Clinton flingee Elizabeth Gracen as a no-doubt hot Immortal. I know that other Highlander show was big in Europe, leading me to suspect that this spin-off might have had racier material shot for the overseas countries. If so, I'd advise them to use that version in the DVD set, if they hope to get at all past the Highlander fan base.

Appallingly (a word I'm using too much today), when I went to the IMDB to check out the Raven, I saw that a supposed fifth (!) Highlander movie, again with Christopher Lambert, was supposedly in pre-production. Let's hope it's decapatated before it can reach movie theaters or, much more likely, home video.

Not so fast, not very furious...

Astoundingly, Universal has hired a director to make a third Fast and the Furious movie. I will admit that they went an intriguing route, hiring Korean filmmaker Justin Lin, director of the acclaimed violent noir policer Oldboy: "The story centers on an American drummed out of the U.S. because of his passion for street racing. He moves to Tokyo and soon learns about "drift racing," where cars accelerate into turns and then spin out of them, leading to hairpin, hair-raising races around city blocks. The youth runs afoul of the top drift racer."

OK, they are at least changing things around pretty good, like, well, a big location change. That's something. this completely necessary? And is the Fast and the Furious enough of a 'francise' after the second movie that this one wouldn't just be better off with an original title?

Talk about the Curse of the Pink Panther...

I was over at Joe Bannerman's (Opposable Thumbs) house last night, and he called up the trailer for the upcoming Pink Panther remake with Steve Martin stupidly attempting to fill the shoes of the immortal Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

Appallingly, the film looks worse than I thought it would, which is saying something. When you start with a roughly two-hour long movie and can't find one actually amusing gag to put in the trailer, you know you're in trouble. Instead, I was wincing at every single 'joke' the trailer served up, and depressed to see what appeared to be a CGI effect being used to realize a very unfunny looking spring-loaded badge gag. Good lord, people, it's 'physical' comedy. Rig up an actual prop, you morons.

Martin looks embarrassingly unfunny as Clouseau, with Kevin Kline similarly humiliating himself by attempting to replace Herbert Lom as Clouseau's boss, Dreyfus. Good idea, Mr. Kline. Your attempt to replace Ross Martin in Wild Wild West went so swimmingly, after all.

To make sure that people get when Martin is meant to be acting wacky, they have given him a straitlaced partner, played by Jean Reno. Both Joe and I instantly agreed that Reno would have, in fact, been a *much* better choice to play Clouseau, and Joe also had the extremely funny idea that if Martin was going to do Clouseau's comic book French accent, then the French Reno should affect a comic book American accent. I told him that in ten seconds he had thought of a funnier bit than the people given tens of millions of dollars to make this film did during its entire production cycle, and I expect I will be proven correct.

This series is harder to put down than a Romero horde of zombies, and about as fun to experience. Sellers [i]was[i/] Clouseau, and every attempt to work around him--Alan Arkin in 1968's Inspector Clouseau, 1982's Trail of the Pink Panther (deleted scenes of Sellers from previous films stitched together after his death), Ted Wass as an American Clouseau fill-in in 1983's Curse of the Pink Panther* and Roberto Benigni as 1993's Son of the Pink Panther--have sucked to an outrageous extent.

[*"Son of the Pink Panther" makes no sense, of course. Benigni was playing the son of Clouseau, of course, but Clouseau was not the 'Pink Panther.' The Pink Panther was a huge gem known for a flaw that resembled that animal. The gem featured in a number of the movies, but not more than half of them, and again, that title makes no sense in any case.]

Aside from Sellers, the other man responsible for the classic Pink Panther films--A Shot in the Dark is my favorite, a simply classic comedy--was director Blake Edwards. He was behind several of the above Sellers-less fiascos, and this one won't even have him on board. The director's main reason for getting this job, apparently, was that he had earlier directly Martin's mild and mildly successful remake of Cheaper by the Dozen.

[UPDATE] Sony/MGM has pushed the release date of the new Pink Panther to February, in order to "develop it's marketing effort." Hey, it's harder to market a self-evidentally unfunny piece o' crap. Of course, they are in one of those ludicrous stiff upper lip modes--"We love the movie" and "It's sure to become a bit tentpole francise for us!"--but you can't hide this one's smell.

Paramount taketh away, and it givith...

Paramount, having wisely cancelled it's proposed film version of The Watchmen (see below), has given the green light to Mission: Impossible 3. I have a lot more belief that they can pull off the latter than the former. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he's insanely focused on producing polished, well-made films, and has a better track record over the last ten years than about anyone else in Hollywood. According to what I've heard before--barring changes--J.J. Abrams, the guy behind TV's Alias, will write and direct this one.

Kong trailer...

Sci-fi nerds (like myself) will no doubt be excited to hear that the first trailer for this Christmas' King Kong redo by Peter Jackson will be shown before the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise War of the Worlds redo out at the end of this month.

Train wreck avoided...

Paramount has pulled the plug on its projected $100 million dollar adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel (one of the few of the breed to live up to that term) The Watchmen. I should be disappointed, but I'm relieved. A Hollywood that seems to have screwed the pooch on a comparatively straightforward piece like The Fantastic Four should in no way be entrusted with Moore's complex tale.