Gene Hackman

Superman 4

Often great movies come with great commentary tracks. Few things beat listening to filmmakers of masterpieces deconstruct their own films, offering insight into the genius that went into the process. However, some of the worst movies make spectacular commentaries as well. These commentaries give us a look into the delusional process of how an attempt to make fine art turned into some of the worst films in the history of time. Back in 1987, Christopher Reeve convinced Warner Bros. to help him revitalize the Superman franchise from the disappointing third film. He also wanted to bring a level of social responsibility by addressing the nuclear arms race at the height of the Cold War. The result was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a bargain-basement sequel that effectively killed the franchise for almost 20 years. In 2006, co-writer Mark Rosenthal recorded a commentary about the production of the film which is included in the Superman Motion Picture Anthology Blu-ray box set. Now, we get a look into the madness and some reasons why the final product was so terrible.

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youngfrankenstein-commentary1

Later this year, Mel Brooks’ brilliant homage to the Universal monster movies Young Frankenstein turns 40. Having spawned a successful Broadway musical and inspired countless other spoofs, this send-up of the original Frankenstein films remains the gold standard against which many comedies are judged. Rightfully so. If only Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer paid more attention to what makes it good, we wouldn’t be plagued by so many terrible spoofs out there now. The Blu-ray of Young Frankenstein features Brooks’ frank commentary of the film, examining the contributions of co-writer Gene Wilder as well as many fond memories of the cast – most of whom are no longer with us. Brooks may have changed direction from filmmaking to work on the Broadway stage in recent years, but his expertise at making a timeless comedy is detailed here.

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supermanii-commentary1

Any fan of the Superman movie series knows of the myriad problems experienced during the filming of Superman II. The most notable was the estranged relationship that director Richard Donner had with producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Donner’s plan was to film the first two movies simultaneously, but he was eventually dropped from the production and replaced with Richard Lester. In 2006, Warner Bros. worked with Donner to restore his own vision to Superman II, releasing his cut of the film. The result is an incomplete movie patched together from alternate takes and even some screen tests. However, as flawed as this cut of the film is, it is nice to see the original director get some closure in one of the original superhero movie franchises. Donner and his creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz lend their voices to the commentary on this film, which can be purchased separately or in the box set of Superman films available on DVD and Blu-ray. They offer a look into the overall production of the two films, rather than the restoration process.

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Over Under - Large

Since its original release in 1972, Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure has gained the reputation of being a modern classic. And, certainly, it’s widely considered as being one of the preeminent disaster movies of all time. Set on a retiring ocean liner making its last voyage, The Poseidon Adventure tells the story of a New Year’s Eve celebration that gets interrupted by the sinking of a ship. It’s got a pretty impressive upside down ballroom set, it prominently features the legendary Gene Hackman, and it tells a high stakes story of survival. So it’s not hard to see why people like it. But it’s also largely just a movie where a group of confused people stumble around in dirty access panels and anonymous hallways for much of its run time. Is it really so great that watching it should be a New Year’s Eve tradition like many have made it out to be? Especially when there are indisputable classics like The Apartment out there that also feature New Year’s Eve party scenes? James Cameron’s Titanic is a sappy, on-the-nose romance set against the maiden voyage (and sinking) of the infamous RMS Titanic. Upon its release in 1997, Titanic won basically every award that was given out, brought in every bit of spare cash that was sitting in anyone’s pocketbooks, and captured the attention of the media machine to the point that, by the time 1998 rolled around, the backlash for the film had almost reached the same levels of fervor […]

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French Connection Commentary

William Friedkin hasn’t always made odd films about strange characters who end up doing horrible things. He used to direct movies about little girls getting taken over by the Devil and edgy cops who crack down on drug rings. That latter part, The French Connection, is what we’re looking at this week, as it’s time to go back and listen to what the Killer Joe director had to say over one of his greatest films, a true classic with one of the greatest actors ever giving what is arguably – not very arguably, though – his finest performance. But we’re more interested in what the director of that film has to say about that actor, that greatest performance, and that damn car chase. Friedkin is known for giving great commentary, able to hold his own on a track with ample amounts of information, personal insight, and views on the art of filmmaking and the business of movies as a whole. Needless to say, we’re expecting a lot here, and Friedkin rarely ever disappoints. So strap in and check out all the wonderful things we learned listening to this commentary for The French Connection.

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Superman

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: Superman (1978) The Plot: Many light years away, the planet Krypton is doomed to explode, so the scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and his wife launch their infant child Kal-El into space to find safety on the distant planet Earth. The young child’s spaceship crashes in a Kansas field, and he’s taken in by the older couple Jonathan and Martha Kent. The Kents raise the boy, whom they name Clark, as their own. However, he knows he’s different from other people, possessing amazing and superhuman powers. After finding a link to his Kryptonian past, Clark goes on a twelve-year journey to discover his destiny. He moves to Metropolis to become the city’s hero known as Superman (Christopher Reeve), all the while living a double life as a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. Superman catches the eye of the fiendish criminal Lex Luthor who plans for the hero’s destruction so he doesn’t interfere with Luthor’s plot to make a fortune in real estate.

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The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson Commentary Track

Wes Anderson loves family dramas dressed as fantasies, and this notion is no less palpable with The Royal Tenenbaums, the film that essentially set him on the map. A lot of us remember finding Bottle Rocket in video stores or trekking out with friends to see Rushmore, but that was mostly because of Bill Murray. The Royal Tenenbaums was the movie that made people realize this voice in the world of independent film making had arrived. 11 years later, and Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, another light-hearted drama made to look like a fable, is upon us. However, we felt it was time to go back and see exactly what the writer/director had to say about his pinnacle film, The Royal Tenenbaums. There’s sure to be references of French movies and anecdotes about writing with Owen Wilson, but that’s the obvious stuff. We’ve got 28 more items beyond that. So help yourselves with what we learned from the commentary for The Royal Tenenbaums. Cue the Elliott Smith.

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Not much has been reported about The Descendants director Alexander Payne’s next film, Nebraska. So far the only info floating around the net about it has been a brief plot synopsis and some casting rumors. Last October, we reported on a rumor saying that Payne wants to shoot the movie in black and white, but the studio is requiring him to get a big name in the starring role if he’s going to take a chance on turning off mainstream audiences like that. There’s also some rumors that they’re looking at convincing Gene Hackman to star, but that’s probably a pipe dream. Now that The Descendants has come and gone, however, it’s probably getting to be time for Payne to hunker down and start work on this project in earnest; and ComingSoon sat the man down and had a chat with him about just that. Payne described Nebraska by saying, “It’s a father/son road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, but it gets waylaid at a crappy town in central Nebraska where the father grew up and where he has some old scores to settle.” He went on to explain, “It’s just a little comedy. It’s nothing fancy. Nothing too ambitious. It’s a nice little comedy.” That’s not exactly the most exciting way I’ve ever heard someone describe one of their movies. Payne’s talking to the movie press here, doesn’t he want to build up some buzz?

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Criterion Files

Part of me is in complete disbelief that the release date of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums will have been a decade ago next month. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I was sixteen years old, seeing it for the first time in a movie theater and spending my subsequent Christmas with The Ramones, Elliot Smith, and Nico playing on repeat in my car (two years later, after hearing of Smith’s death, my friends and I gathered together and watched Richie Tenenbaums’s (Luke Wilson) attempted suicide with new, disturbing poignancy). And ten years on, even after having seen it at least a dozen times, and armed with the annoying ability to know every beat and predict every line, something about Tenenbaums feels ageless and fresh at the same time. But when you look at the movie culture that came after Tenenbaums, the film’s age begins to take on its inevitable weight. Tenenbaums was Anderson’s first (and arguably only) real financial success. Previously, Anderson was perceived as an overlooked critical darling following Rushmore, a promising director that a great deal of Hollywood talent wanted to work with (which explains Tenenbaums’ excellent cast and, probably, its corresponding financial success). With this degree of mass exposure, other filmmakers followed suit, establishing what has since been known as the “Wes Anderson style,” which permeated critical and casual assessment of mainstream indies for the following decade and established a visual approach that’s been echoed in anything from Napoleon Dynamite to Garden State to less […]

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

Hoosiers is one of those films that somehow finds a way to strike a chord with nearly everyone who watches it. There are some movies that are just mainstream right down to their DNA. There’s this, there’s The Shawshank Redemption, maybe a Forrest Gump; they get mentioned as people’s favorite movies with far greater frequency than anything else. And I’m not talking about cinema buffs when I say people, I’m talking about your grandma, the guy who works on your car, the grandma that works on your car. You know, regular people.  Since it contains one of the big starring roles of Gene Hackman’s career and it was directed by David Anspaugh, who repeated his success at telling an Indiana sports tale with Rudy, that should probably come as no surprise. Disney is maybe the most mainstream production company in the movie business. From the very beginning they’ve focused on creating wholesome entertainment that the whole family can enjoy together.  In the early 90s one of those attempts at making movies for the whole family was Cool Runnings, a John Candy starring bobsled movie that most people might describe as a “guilty pleasure.” It gets lumped in with other 90s sports movies that Disney made like The Mighty Ducks and Air Bud, movies that you can look back at with nostalgia, but if you were to watch them today would look about as ridiculous as a team of Jamaicans showing up to the Winter Olympics with a bobsled.

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Alexander Payne’s next planned film, Nebraska, is about “a geriatric gin-hound of a dad who takes his estranged son with him from Montana to Publisher’s Clearing House headquarters, with a detour through Omaha, Nebraska, in order to claim his million-dollar sweepstakes prize.” Personally, I love Alexander Payne’s painfully realist aesthetic and pitch black humor, so this is a project that I’m interested in. When I hear that Payne wants to shoot the film in black and white, I get even more intrigued. Pre-production has already hit a snag, though. Apparently the studio will only let Payne film it in black and white if he gets a big name star to attach himself as the father. That might be a problem, except that we’re dealing with a director whose upcoming release The Descendants is doing well on the festival circuit, gathering some Oscar buzz, and improving his already well-respected position in the film industry. Surely he must have someone in mind for this role that he can convince to sign, right? Well, word has it that he has a few people on his short list, and any one of them would be awesome. The list reportedly consists of Robert Forster, Robert Duvall, and Jack Nicholson. Any of these actors would be great news in my mind, and Nicholson has already worked with Payne for About Schmidt, so that pairing isn’t unlikely at all.  There is, however, a fourth name on the list that’s really got me excited. Apparently Payne is looking to get the retired-from-acting […]

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; lords of the gridiron…or at least the waffle iron. Strap on your helmet and conceal any benefits you received from agents during college because you have just been drafted to the NFL; the Nefarious Film Lovers…League. Ok, so it’s the NFLL, shut up! Every week we tackle a bad movie to the roaring delight of over eight people. And we don’t just tackle the movie, we tackle it like we’re Ray Lewis with a playoff game on the line and the ref’s just been stricken with blindness. But then, just before the internet starts throwing penalty flags at us, we enter free agency, join up with the film, and use our unabashed love for it to help this underdog win a championship of warped film appreciation. Finally, after months of heated debate that ultimately muddied the issue and pushed us closer to the edge of complete anarchy…the NFL lockout is over. We can finally stop troubling ourselves with petty nuisances like defaulting on our national debts and get back to what really matters: overpaid sweaty guys knocking the snot out of each other. In honor of this jubilant occasion, I decided to run an all-out blitz on a film from  2000 whose premise eerily mirrors recent events. This week’s play: The Replacements

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The recent cinema of Wes Anderson and his occasional creative collaborator Noah Baumbach have encountered an interesting play with the ever-blurry line that retains an audience’s empathy for an unlikeable protagonist. This week, the Culture Warrior puts those protagonists in focus.

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