Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

‘Godzilla’ Hopes to Scale $65 Million Debut


$65 million?

That seems awfully low. Maybe my own excitement is coloring my judgment.

If no one monkeys my wrench or ointments my fly, I’ll be seeing this tonight.


Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hardy Tackle All the Politically Correct Precious Spots

Oscar-winning director Katherine Bigelow has signed on to adapt “The True American,” a non-fiction story set in Texas. Thomas Hardy will star.


If Bigelow isn’t trying to apologize for telling the truth in “Zero Dark Thirty” about how water-boarding was necessary to finding Osama bin Laden, she can elevate this to something above what it sounds like: “Crash” meets “The Chamber.”

As is though… Yikes. Have you been vaccinated against politically correct overload? Get this

Anand Giridharadas wrote the newly published nonfiction book, which is set in Texas in the days following the September 11 attacks. Self-styled “Arab slayer” Mark Stroman murdered two immigrants, but a third man survived being shot in the head during the spree: Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant and Bangladesh Air Force veteran, who was working at a Dallas-area convenience store as he established himself in America and worked to have his attacker spared from execution.

Bigelow has been a top-shelf director for three decades, and while I thought her Oscar-winner, “The Hurt Locker,” was way overrated, “Zero Dark Thirty” is exceptional. If anyone can lift this story above its built-in precious pretensions, she can. But still… Really, it’s just a little to g**damn precious.

Yes, it’s a true story. But there are all kinds of true stories out there. It’s Hollywood’s (and the media’s)  choice of which true stories to tell that is revealing. I shouldn’t complain, though, I have a Bluray screener of Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor” sitting right here.

Come on, though, you can’t read that paragraph without getting a little precious on you. Seriously, you don’t feel a little closer to diabetes after reading words like Muslim, immigrant, death penalty, and Texas?


New Shia-Free ‘Transformers 4’ Trailer

How much better does Michael Bay’s franchise look now that Shia Le-What’s-His-Name is out?

The difference, at least for me, is night and day. Granted, the Shia trilogy made $2.6 billion and I personally enjoyed the first and third entries (the second is one of the worst movies ever made). But having a grown-up like Wahlberg as the lead gives the comforting sense that something horribly wrong has finally been repaired.

From this new trailer, though, it looks a though I’m still going to have trouble telling the difference between the Transformers and the Decepticons, especially when they fight.

“Transformers: The Age of Extinction” opens June 27.


Mourning ‘The Sopranos’ … Again

While waiting for a bunch of series to build-up their latest seasons in the DVR (“The Following,” “Bates Motel,” “The Americans,” etc.), the wife and I plunged back into “The Sopranos,” a world we never fail to get lost in. Two or three episodes a night, a few nights a week.

In the mid-aughts, there were lots of complaints that the later seasons didn’t match the quality of the first two or three. I have to disagree. I find myself more and more absorbed as the story rolls on. By the time the show ends, I’m so absorbed I end up cycling through a kind of mourning process. Not for the characters, who I end up loathing, but for the show itself.  


There is plenty of legitimate controversy about the series finale, the black-out and all that. Before I get to that, what I love is where we leave the characters:

I love that A.J. is in the film business. Obviously, at this point, like his old man, A.J. is a full-blown sociopath, which means he will either soar in Hollywood (if he gains ambition) or fail and end up living with Carmela forever as he cycles in and out of psyche wards until he finally dismembers a hooker. He’s way too selfish to do us all a favor and make a serious attempt at suicide.

Meadow is more civilized than her soulless brother but just as lost. She’s going to marry a mobster’s son and rationalize becoming a mob lawyer based on things she really cares nothing about: civil rights and racial persecution. The precious Italian princess will convince herself that she’s a good and righteous person while living in a gilded cage of her own making with a husband who will inevitably cheat on her. Like her mother, she will come to accept the infidelity while raising a couple of spoiled sociopaths of her own.

Paulie Walnuts is Paulie Walnuts. He’s a captain now and will probably die in a cursed way like every other captain of that crew.

Silvio Dante is in a coma he’ll never come out of. Depending on his insurance coverage, he’ll either waste away into nothing or Gabrielle will pull the plug.

Junior’s body will quickly wither away like his mind already has. Then he will wake up in Hell.

Janice will find another man to glom on to. But die like Junior and her mother: insane, destitute, bitter and alone.

I want to believe that without the influence of Tony, and having cycled through his mid-life crisis, that Artie Bucco is going to be okay. I especially hope he comes to appreciate how lucky he is to be married to the beautiful, smart, and decent Charmaine — one of the few characters (maybe the only one) who never once gave in to the diseased world around her.

Carmela, the most loathsome creature in the series, will at least land on her feet. Unlike Angie Bumpensaro (Big Pussy’s wife) and Ginni Sacrimoni (Johnny Sack’s wife), Carmela isn’t financially devastated by the death of her husband. She put away some of her own money and taught herself how to manipulate the real estate business. She’ll get over Tony’s murder pretty quick and seek out that wallpaper hanger. He’ll wisely turn her down and she’ll live a life of using men for her own ambitions and protecting her hideous children from the consequences of their actions.

As she proved with the way she fired Tony as a patient, and throughout the series, Jennifer Melfi will go on being a terrible, enabling psychiatrist (like a majority of the others). She’s probably five years away from giving in to her drinking problem.


As for Tony, he got what he deserved — whacked. Right along with Melfi, we finally woke up to the fact that it was all an act; Tony was never going to redeem himself. He was always a sociopath, and like Melfi we deluded ourselves into believing different as a way to justify our fascination with the man and his depraved world. By the series end, Tony had become the villain — a loathsome, prideful creature who had lost almost all self-control. Thank God he’s dead.

As far as the controversial blackout ending… I don’t think there’s any doubt Tony is dead. The blackout is Tony’s point of view. He was about to again look at the bell over the door when everything went black.  There’s just no question, the guy in the Member’s Only jacket came out of the restroom and blew Tony’s sick brains out.

I don’t hate the blackout. It’s a not a George Lucas-level mistake. I get what creator David Chase was striving for. I just don’t like it. After 6.5 seasons and almost nine years, you want something a little more satisfying.

Had Chase cut to black for thirty seconds and then jumped ahead a year for a short sequence showing  how the family had moved on after Tony’s death, that would have been pretty perfect.

Overall, I think the series is a brutal condemnation of materialism, especially here in America, where we have everything and the corrosive  effect of this on too many is a deadening of the soul. Struggle, striving, goals, adversity and hardship give purpose and build character.

This land of too much plenty, helicopter parents, play dates, 200 cable channels, a lack of discipline being labeled as diseases, and the boredom that comes with it all coming too easy has bred its own disease: narcissism.

At one point, Melfi says to Tony what I think is the theme of the series; words to the effect of, “Here in America, we’ve conquered the basics needs of shelter and food. Now we can concentrate on ourselves.”

She say it like it’s a good thing.

It is not.


Vudu Introduces Opportunities For Users To Share Movies And TV Shows

Walmart’s Vudu is a wonderful invention. One option is to buy digital copies of movies and store them in Vudu’s cloud, which allows you to access your collection anywhere. What’s especially sweet is that a lot of DVDs and Blurays now come with free digital copies you can store in Vudu’s cloud just cuz.


A great Vudu feature is that for a small fee of $2.00 per, you can convert almost any DVD or Bluray to digital for cloud storage. Better still, it’s only $1.00 if you do ten or more at a time. Depending on the size of your collection, this is a pretty cheap way to have a back-up copies should anything happen to the physical disc.

My favorite feature, though, allows me to convert my DVDs to HD for $2.50 a piece (if you do 10 or more at a time). Not everything converts. There are licensing issues, apparently. But $2.50 a pop is more than worth it and obviously much cheaper than purchasing a new Bluray copy.

Using the Roku, I blow these Vudu-stored films up through a hi-def projector and onto my 17′ x 8′ screen and they look fabulous. No issues whatsoever. Some look as good as Bluray. Some don’t, but are close enough.

Through Vudu, I have also found HD copies of favorites like “The Stone Killer” and “Charley Varrick” that aren’t even available on Bluray.

Anyway, the news today is that Vudu will now allow you to share your collection with as many as five people:

 Invitees in the “Share My Movies by Vudu” initiative have to create an account with Vudu, which is free, or link the Walmart service to their existing UltraViolet digital lockers. Then they get to see or download whatever’s in the inviter’s library — including select DVDs added via Vudu’s Disc to Digital service. “We know you’ve spent a significant amount of money and time building your collection and have plenty more films to add to it,” Vudu Senior Director Amit Balan says in a blog post. “Share My Movies by Vudu is another way we’re helping you get the most out of your collection.”

You can share your collection now, but that means giving others your password.

As much as anyone, I love holding a physical movie and the fancier the packaging the better. Vudu allows you to have it both ways for a reasonable price.


Quick Hits

“For A Few Dollars More” Chosen As Closing Film At Cannes

Casey Kasem Found in Washington State

Ever Wonder What Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Subscribers Watch? Take A Look

Neil Patrick Harris says he was offered The Late Show

The 5 Star Wars Films That Should be in Development


Home Video News

20th Century Fox Press Release:

The Man With No Name Trilogy on Blu-ray June 3

The Sergio Leone “Spaghetti Westerns” did not simply add a new chapter to the genre…they reinvented it. From his shockingly violent and stylized breakthrough, A Fistful Of Dollars, to the film Quentin Tarantino calls “the best-directed movie of all time,” The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Leone’s vision elevated Westerns to an entirely new art form. This definitive Leone collection of the most ambitious and influential Westerns ever made includes more than five hours of special features that uncover buried gold in these gritty classics – plus a NEWLY REMASTERED version of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Also from 20th Century-Fox: 15 New Titles Released in Archive Collection

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is committed to bringing classic films from the studio’s vault into the homes of film aficionados and collectors with its Fox Cinema Archives collection. We aim to provide the best home entertainment experience possible for titles released under the Fox Cinema Archives banner, but are often limited to the film’s available source material.

The following 15 films will be available for purchase on DVD beginning today through June 17.

Springtime In The Rockies (1942), 90 min.

Two Broadway dance partners rekindle their romance in a series of comic misunderstandings set in the Canadian Rockies.  Betty Grable, John Payne, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero star in this 1942 classic.

Chad Hanna (1940), 88 min.

Chad Hanna, a farm boy from upstate New York, joins a traveling circus in the 1840s. Along the way he falls for a bare-back rider and – in the end – saves the circus from financial ruin. Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamoure and Linda Darnell star in this film.


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