All posts tagged: Robin Williams

THE BUTLER

Blu-ray Review: “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

Lee Daniels, the eclectic director whose previous films include the grim Oscar-winner, Precious, and the pulpy The Paperboy takes on the historical epic in his latest film. Lee Daniels’ The Butler, written by Danny Strong. It’s a noble film, one that shows the great steps taken to secure Civil Rights for African-Americans in the United States. While its intentions and heart are in the right place, with so much ground to cover (the 1950s through the ’80s), Lee Daniels’ The Butler feels rushed at times, clunky at others. Still, with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey at the fore, and a long list of cameos by some of our greatest actors, this is still a moving film, primarily because of Whitaker’s excellent performance. The film opens in 2009, with a retired old man names Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) waiting in the White House. Through voice over and flashback, he tells us his life story, starting in the 1920s Jim Crow south, where, as a boy, he was a field worker with his parents. In one afternoon, Cecil …

conjuring

10 Movies…That Are, Surprisingly, Based on True Stories (Like ‘The Conjuring’)

This week the “found footage”-style horror movie fades briefly and unexpectedly into oblivion like a spooky ghost girl in favor of The Conjuring, a horror movie with a traditional narrative form. Those found footage movies work so well because they introduce an extra, meta level of fear – this shit isn’t a movie…it’s real! And it looks real, because it looks like home video footage. The Conjuring, while a regular narrative-style film with a high budget and known actors like Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor, also boasts that real-life fear factor, as it is based on the accounts of the Peron family, who hired paranormal investigators to check out their supposedly haunted Rhode Island farmhouse. Believe of that what you will. But here are 10 other movies that, believe it or not, are also based on true stories…extensive artistic license notwithstanding. Up Close and Personal Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, of all people, wrote the screenplay, using as their source the book Golden Girl, the sad and salacious biography of NBC News anchor Jessica …

10 Movies…That Are Narrative Remakes of Documentaries

Kon-Tiki hits American theaters this week, months after it was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It’s a narrative retelling of Kon-Tiki, the 1951 Academy-Award winning documentary directed by Thor Heyerdahl about his voyage across the South Seas in a raft of his own creation. Here are some other compelling real-life stories caught on film…that were then scripted and remade. Rescue Dawn (2006) In 1997, Werner Herzog made Little Dieter Needs to Fly for German television, a documentary about a German-born American pilot named Dieter Dengler who was shot down and captured in the Vietnamese War but later successfully escaped. About a decade later, Herzog wrote and directed Rescue Dawn, based on the events of Dieter. Party Monster (2003) Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato produced and directed Party Monster: The Shockumentary in 1998, based on Disco Bloodbath by NYC club kid James St. James, which focuses on the life and murders of fellow club kid and horrifying sociopath Michael Alig. The duo remade it as a narrative film in 2003, with Seth Green and …

Extra Medium #2: The X-Men of Denny’s

Comics don’t stay in comics. For better or worse, most comics are produced in the hopes they will lead to films, cartoons, action figures, video games, backpacks, beach towels and bubble baths. Extra Medium is my column about all these things and more. During my handful of Limbo years between high school and college, Denny’s was the place to be; more specifically, the Denny’s on Western Ave. in Albany, NY. The Denny’s on Central Ave. was the rallying point if the one on Western was too crowded, and the Denny’s way out on Wolf Rd. – near the Albany Airport – was just barely acceptable  if all other hope was lost. Sadly, all of the local Denny’s except for the one on Wolf Rd. are all gone (or happily, depending on how you feel about saturated fats). We were too young to get in bars, and too old for the high school hangouts. Denny’s was open all night, it was cheap, and you could smoke. That’s all there was to it. This was around 1993-1994. …

Blu-ray Review: “Insomnia”

Its Blu-ray debut is timed to take advantage of the hubbub surrounding director Christopher Nolan’s latest film, but 2002’s Insomnia would make for a fine summer reissue even if Warner Bros. weren’t already pimping the highly anticipated Inception — to watch Al Pacino trudging around the Alaskan wilderness while you’re sweating through one of the hottest nights of the year is to be reminded that cooler winds will soon prevail. A remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film of the same name, Insomnia appears, on the surface, to be your standard crime thriller, transplanted to the icy tundra — as it opens, you’ve got a pair of LAPD detectives flying into a small Alaskan town to assist in a murder investigation. This is Nolan, though; even if what he’s showing you is exactly as it seems, you know there’s some rich subtext running beneath the frame. Here, it’s a subplot about an internal affairs investigation targeting the detectives, and the conflict that arises when one partner (Hap Eckhart, played by Martin Donovan) decides to cut a deal …

DVD review: Travolta and Williams are old and tired in “Old Dogs”

Old Dogs, the latest family comedy from Walt Disney Pictures, certainly lives up to its title. The jokes and situations are tired and have been seen hundreds of times in one form or another making this is one of the weakest films I’ve seen in a long time, especially coming from a major studio. The only laughs I got out of this movie came from the cameos by Justin Long and the small screen time allotted to the hyper talented Seth Green. If Disney wants to make a movie starring those two guys, I’d buy a ticket for it right away. Unfortunately, their leads are John Travolta and Robin Williams, trying to wring laughs out of a mediocre, cliched script, Travolta and Williams star as Charlie and Dan, lifelong best friends who run a sports marketing firm. On the eve of landing their biggest client ever, the two bachelors learn that Dan’s brief marriage to Kelly Preston’s Vicki resulted in twin children! After six years, Vicki comes to Dan for help: she’s about to go …

Bootleg City: Bob Marley in New York City, May ’76

I don’t know much about this Bob Marley character, but if his performance on the “Welcome to New York” bootleg is any indication, he was a real hack: a quarter of his set is devoted to covers of Eric Clapton (“I Shot the Sheriff”) and Johnny Nash (“Stir It Up”) songs, and he doesn’t even play his best number, the immortal classic “Red Red Wine.” When I discovered that he ripped off the theme to the Saturday-morning cartoon The Banana Splits for his song “Buffalo Soldier,” I was even more convinced he’s no “legend.” Not even his hilarious performance in the Robin Williams comedy Club Paradise could erase the damage that had been done. Speaking of TV theme songs and outright lies, I received an overwhelming response to my request for bootlegged TV themes last month. That is, if you count one response as overwhelming. This week, in addition to Mr. Marley and the Wailers’ concert, I offer you J.D. Souther’s first-season-only theme song for the Richard Lewis-Jamie Lee Curtis sitcom Anything But Love (1989-’92), …