Sean’s Best & Worst of ’01

In order of importance….

BESTMementoAmelieIn The BedroomMoulin RougeHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneSpy KidsA Beautiful MindAliShrekThe ScoreWORSTKeep in mind, I managed to avoid TOMCATS, DRIVEN, GLITTER and SAY IT ISN’T SO, but here it goes…John Carpenter’s Ghosts of MarsFreddy Got FingeredHead Over HeelsSweet NovemberScary Movie 2Hardball3,000 Miles To GracelandJoe DirtSugar & SpiceDr. Doolittle 2

Ali – Will’s KO Performance

Appropriately enough, Michael Mann’s “”Ali”” begins with a song – an old-school celebratory hip-shaker that writhes with pain as it riles the crowd. The musical prologue zips us through the early years of world championship boxer Muhammad Ali (Will Smith), a kinetic figure both inside and out of the world of sports, and sets the tone for Mann’s work. It just doesn’t linger too long, for as relevant as the past may appear to be, we don’t have time for it here.

Instead, Mann’s cinematic book report only dissects a decade in the legendary boxer’s life, though the time frame chosen reflects most of the champ’s highs and lows. Beginning with his first world title fight against champion Sonny Liston (Michael Bentt), “”Ali”” meanders its way through matches, failed marriages and government crackdowns until we reach the “”Rumble in the Jungle”” in 1974. The screenplay, from a story by Gregory Allen Howard, focuses primarily on two facets of Ali’s life – his religion and his sport – and relays them to us via the boxer’s relationships with two strong men: Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles) and Howard Cosell (Jon Voight). How they met or became so close is left to our imaginations, though Ali’s respect for them is evident. The relationship with Cosell, a bond of mutual respect that fueled an on-air promotional circus from time to time, deserves its own movie – and the wonderful Voight would have to resume the role. Here, it is left in the shadows too often.””Ali,”” however, does pack plenty of punches, most notably the mesmerizing turn by Smith. Older colleagues I watched the film with had difficulties seeing Ali in Smith, and understandably so. The man himself was so charismatic, so alive – a tough act to follow. Mann’s film, and Smith’s performance, must compete with the collective memories of boxing fans, as well as the highlight reels and outtakes shown year-round on ESPN. They display the real Ali – floating, stinging, and constantly singing his own praises. But I did see more than a few traces of Ali in Smith, and I learned more about both men as a result of the actor’s resounding performance. While Mann makes surface glances over the life of a prominant figure without exploring too deeply, Smith provides the man with passion, pain, extreme confidence, and even fear (look for it when Ali faces the juggernaut of George Foreman in Africa). I enjoyed Mann’s approach to the boxing matches, which resonate with stunning clarity and originality. Directors have filmed the boxing ring in various ways, some effective and some off-kilter. Mann brings a fresh outlook by alienating the sound in the ring, muting the crowd and amplifying the grunts, groans and sighs uttered by the feuding warriors. When contrasted with Mann’s pre-boxing shots, brimming with endless chatter, verbal jabs and taunting, the matches pack that much stronger of a punch. But in the ring, it’s business. In the ring, it’s put up, as well as shut up. But once again, the director needs an editor. With “”Heat”” and “”The Insider,”” Mann has earned his reputation for lengthy prose, and “”Ali”” certainly goes the distance. At just under three hours, the film stutter steps, bobs and weaves for 9 solid rounds, but tires just when the knockout punch should have been delivered. By the famed “”Rumble In The Jungle,”” a benchmark battle between an exonerated Ali and the relentless Foreman, the length and reptitiveness of the material was felt. Another press conference became another sideshow, and another pretty face (Michael Michele, this time) once again signified the boxer’s cheating heart. Everything that could have been said about the champ had been said by then, and said well. Ali, the film reminds us, fought beyond 1974, losing and regaining his title three more times. Though humbled by Parkinson’s disease, Ali was even able to attend the premiere of his own film, a true triumph. Grade: BBy Sean O’ConnellDec. 24, 2001

DVD “”Special Editions”” in Danger

Variety is reporting that with the rising costs of DVD Special Features, Studios may just abandon them together.According to Variety,Many video vets believe such extra material could start to disappear thanks to escalating costs and demands by talent and guilds. Studios are balking at new fees for script use and star participation, even as overall DVD sales surge and consumersembrace “special edition” packages.

Variety’s sister publication Video Premieres reports this month that Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid $75,000 for audio commentary and other input on Artisan’s recent “Total Recall” disc. And while that may be a pittance compared with the $30million he’s set to earn for “Terminator 3,” it exceeds the entire production budget for all extra material on many special editions.Until recently, directors and others have mostly agreed to sit at no charge for DVD interviews or commentaries to help promote the movie or for purely nostalgic or personal interests.Lately, though, producers and studios are reporting an increasing number of demands for payment by stars for audio commentaries and interviews. At least two commanded payments of $10,000each for one recent DVD release.This year’s Writers Guild of America pact withproducers and studios. It calls for a mandatory $5,000 fee paid to writers for every movie released on DVD — $250,000 has been collected since May — and requires that the writer be included in some fashion in any special edition featuring thedirector.Concerned about varying fees attached to ever-changing definitions of what constitutes a promotional extension of a movie vs. a newly produced program, several studios, including MGM and Universal, are ordering producers to limit documentaries to 30 minutes or less. New restrictions from the music industry haveeliminated alternate audio tracks for the isolated film score. Others argue that talent should consider DVD extras a form of promotion, not unlike a talk show appearance. Some believe that unless the talent or extra element is crucial to the DVD, studios will simply eliminate those features in favor of less costly or troublesome ones. Indeed, studios don’t lack for filler material. They can always lard discs with extras that don’t require new production, such as trailers, interviews from electronic press kits and behind-the-scenes TVfeaturettes. Which basically translates into, special feature DVDs will consists of those cheesy HBO making of specials and a few trailers if we’re “”lucky””.Canned material is already starting to dominate DVDs, such as Universal’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” That disc became one of the fastest-selling DVDs ever without an audio commentary and few exclusive bonuses. Yeah and that was such a “”fantastic”” disk.So what have we learned here kiddies? That all it takes is for one greedy, overpaid, sob, to f*** it up for the rest of us.

Lord Of the Rings – Takes in 18 Million

Despite its three-hour length and dark themes, New Line Cinema’s PG-13 epic “”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”” racked up $18.2 million in its Wednesday domestic bow.In 13 overseas territories, including the U.K., France and Germany, the film collected $11.5 million in its first day.The domestic start puts the pic on track to become the biggest December opener in history. Most industryites foresee a five-day total in the $70 million-$80 million range.

Pic, which opened Tuesday at midnight to sold-out theaters across the country, is playing on 5,700 screens and 3,359 theaters, with a strong average of $5,104 per engagement.Better than expected””These numbers well exceed our expectations,”” said New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman. The studio had estimated a $10 million take per day, or roughly $60 million for the Wednesday-Sunday frame.Warner Bros.’ “”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,”” the corporate cousin to which “”Rings”” often is compared, grossed $23 million on its first Friday in release on the way to a record $90.3 million three-day bow. “”Harry”” opened on an unprecedented 8,000-plus screens and a record 3,672 theaters.This story comes from Variety.

New Spiderman Trailer – God NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

The new Spiderman Trailer is now on line and we have it! My first impressions are, god no!!! This proves my point that Tobey Maguire is a horrible pick to play spidey. And the rest of the cast doesn’t look like good choices to me either, except for Willem Dafoe, he looks perfect as Norman Osborn, just how I imagined he’d look.If this trailer is any indication, and God I hope not, this movie will be a huge disappointment. This film is looking more and more like the old 70’s series, only “”beefed”” up.The CGI effects just look strange to me, and the rest of the actual set designs, look way to glossy and pretty, i.e.: fake. I mean it looks more like Metropolis would look and not New York City – which, hello is where Spiderman lives.I was a loyal and devoted comic book collector for over 10 years (From the late 70’s to the early 90’s) and have all the pivotal Spiderman issues, including the Black Cat saga, the first apearance of The Punisher, The Original Gwen Stacey death issue, etc., so I would classify myself as a Spiderman Fan Girl (or at least a former one) .Watching this trailer is making me feel as though I’m reliving the whole Spiderman Clones saga all over again. The heartbreak I felt reading that series, is the same I’m starting to feel whenever I discover something new about this movie. Let’s all hope the film winds up being better than the trailer!!!!Here’s your link. Spiderman Trailer

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