Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wednesday Grab Bag

A hopelessly lame poster, but the movie might be worth the price of admission for fans of action films...

Picture for a moment a successful movie director known for putting big budget action movies on screen that made lots of money for Hollywood – four of which grossed a cumulative total of more than $700 million worldwide against budgets adding up to $200 million and change. Whether you loved or hated Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, or Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, enough people bought tickets to earn half a billion dollars in net profits for the Hollywood system.*

You’d think a record like that would garner the man a certain degree of respect in this town, but there’s a giant stinking turd floating in this director’s otherwise profitable Hollywood punchbowl: Cutthroat Island, a pirate movie that cost nearly $100 million to make while bringing in only $10 million at the box office -- a flop of such magnitude that it’s now considered the biggest bomb in Hollywood history.**

When this movie came out in 1995, it smelled like like a bomb in the making to me – not because I knew anything about the story or director Renny Harlin, but simply because it was a pirate movie being released at Christmas. Who the hell wants to go see a goddamned pirate movie over the holidays – or anytime, really? Even back in the day when pirate movies were good they weren’t all that good.***

The stink of this bomb has lingered, forcing Renny Harlin to live and work under the dark cloud of epic failure ever since – which provides an interesting background to his latest cinematic effort, 5 Days of War, a drama set amid the chaos of the bloody invasion of Georgia (former member of the Soviet Union) by the Russian military in 2008. The trailer looks interesting, if somewhat predictable, and given Harlin’s resume, the movie probably work well as an action film, if nothing else. I'll say one thing -- the trailer looks infinitely better than the incredibly crappy poster above. If that poster was all I knew about "5 Days of War," I'd never go see the film -- it looks like something from a bad B movie in the 60's.

If that's the best this movie's marketing people can do, Renny Harlin better buckle up for another ride down the Hollywood toilet.

At any rate, the story of how the production came to be filmed on location in Georgia – with a name cast (including Val Kilmer and Andy Garcia, among others) who lived in a farmhouse sharing one bathroom for the duration of the shoot -- is fascinating, as is the recap of Harlin’s up-and-down career in his interview on this week’s podcast of KCRW’s The Business. In the digital age, they really don't make movies this way anymore, and Renny Harlin deserves some credit for pulling it off.

At barely twenty minutes, this one is worth a listen.


I heard a terrific interview this week with Margo Martindale on NPR's "Fresh Air." I first noticed her in the short-lived "The Riches," a flawed-but-gripping cable drama with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Pearl a few years ago, then couldn't take my eyes off her wonderfully repellant performance as The Worst Mother in the World in "Million Dollar Baby." Margo has been nominated for an Emmy for her spooky-good portrayal of Mags Bennett, the folksy-but-deadly matriarch of a back woods Kentucky family that lives way outside the law in the most recent season of "Justified." As always, she inhabited that role as if born to it.

The Emmys may be something of a trash award (although not nearly so lame as the pathetically hopeless Grammies), but they mean a lot to those who are nominated. Older, heavier actresses rarely get to shine in an Industry spotlight so focused on the young and sexy, and after hearing her story, I'm pulling for Margo to win.

This is a wonderful and surprising interview on so many levels. It's nearly forty minutes long, but that's a good thing -- and it's definitely worth the time.

Check it out. If there's an ounce of humanity in you, you won't be disappointed.

* All figures from the IMDB. I’ve seen none of these movies, and have no idea if they’re any good.

** Thus taking “Heaven’s Gate” and “Ishtar” off the hook.

*** The subsequent (and utterly astonishing to me) success of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series is yet another example of why I’m a juicer and not making big-buck decisions in the executive suites...

No comments: