Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Thursday's Top 5 News Items

Forty-Minutes Added to ‘Once Upon a Time In America’ Bluray

After thirty years, one of the most maligned, butchered, and massacred masterpieces in film history will finally be fully-fully-fully restored to the director’s original vision.  

Director Sergio Leone’s original cut of “Once Upon a Time In America” was 269 minutes long (4 hours, 29 minutes). To satisfy the film’s distributors he cut out 40 minutes and delivered a 229-minute cut (3 hours, 49 minutes). For the domestic release, Warner Brothers butchered the film. Unsurprisingly, their 139-minute cut (2 hours, 19 minutes) bombed at the box office and for a time Leone’s last film (he died in 1989) had a “Heaven’s Gate” stench about it.

This all came to an end after the 229-minute version received a home video release. Anyone with one eye could see that Leone’s epic tale of friendship, greed, betrayal, and lost innocence among a gang of friends who rise to the top of New York’s organized crime world was one of the greatest films of its time, if not all time.

At last we are going to be able to see the 269-minute version, which Warners is releasing on Bluray sometime this fall.

I am not someone who automatically assumes that longer is better or even that the director’s original vision is the best. The extended cut of Leone’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is inferior to the original cut and it infuriates me that I can’t purchase (that I know of) the theatrical cut on Bluray. Same with “Dances with Wolves.” Last I checked, you can only purchase the “Directors Cut” on Bluray, which is 56-minutes longer than the 180-minute Oscar-winning version, and nowhere near as good.

I haven’t even bothered to see Richard Donner’s extended cuts of “Lethal Weapon 1 & 2.” Why not just touch up the Mona Lisa?

Regardless, I am dying to see the 269-minute version of “Once Upon a Time In America.” It is hard to see how a perfect movie could get perfecter, but you never know.

BoxOffice.Com Predicts ‘Fault In Our Stars’ Murders Tom Cruise

BoxOffice.Com predicts the $12 million teen romance “The Fault In Our Stars” will bludgeon Tom Cruise’s $178 million sci-fi epic “Edge of Tomorrow” by a margin of $49 million to $30 million.

Both films have earned solid reviews, especially “Edge of Tomorrow,” which sits at 91% fresh. “The Fault In Our Stars” scored a 76% fresh. The New York Post’s Kyle Smith, a friend of mine, a great writer, and a critic I rarely agree with, gave “Fault” a mixed review.

The plan is to definitely see “Edge” tonight and post my review in the morning. “Fault” may need to wait. The showings aren’t timed in a way that make both a sure thing.  

It makes me more than a little ill to know that if Cruise tanks this weekend, it’s only going to add to his career troubles, which stinks when you realize he’s one of our few remaining movie stars and one who is still making grown-up movies.

Andrew Romano at the Daily Beast agrees but believes Cruise can revive his career by taking the same chances he did with “Magnolia” and “Born On the 4th of July.” The flaw in Romano’s thinking is that it was Cruise’s massive popularity at the time that got those movies made in the first place. Today, domestically, his films are topping out below $100 million. Unless he chose something low-budget (as opposed to mid-budget), I’m not sure Cruise is in a position to make a dream come true for an Oliver Stone or Paul Thomas Anderson.

As far as going low-budget, the era of movie stars shifting their careers into another gear through a low-budget indie ended a decade ago. That genre is spent. All the iconoclasm that exploded in the nineties has turned into a parody of itself.  You also risk the humiliation of the film never seeing distribution or going direct-to-video. Trust me, you would be amazed at the number of films with Big Stars that never see the light of day.

Another reason I would like to see Cruise succeed is the injustice of his downfall. He didn’t have it coming. A lot of stars did and do. Not Cruise.

“Edge” director Doug Liman also needs a hit. He’s been dry since 2005’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”  His career, however, I could not care less about.

Appreciate Liam Neeson and Vin Diesel While We Have Them

Vin Diesel turns 47 this year, Liam Neeson turns 62. These guys aren’t going to be around forever, which means that neither are the kinds of B-level, genre action films they make. Sure, someone might come along and take their place, but you can’t count on that. In this era of inter-changeable Channing Tatums and James Francos and Justin Timberlakes, which one in middle age would be believable as The Guy Who Can Kick Everyone’s Ass In the Room.


If you want to write off “Riddick” and “Unknown,” feel free. But I for one am grateful that these kinds of films are getting made, even if they don’t all rise to a certain level.

In the 80’s, we had Bruce, Harrison, Sly, Chuck, and Arnold — which was great. Back then, though, what  I was most grateful for was that Charles Bronson was still making films. Some good. Some bad. Some great. Some okay. But I saw and relished every minute of every one. The clock was ticking.  Consciously living through and appreciating an era in real time is so much better than realizing it’s over and wishing you hadn’t taken it for granted.

I guess that’s true for everything, not just movies.

Morgan Freeman: Race Has Nothing to do with Income Inequality

Morgan Freeman sees himself and CNN’s Don Lemon as proof that race has nothing to do with income inequality.

Lemon then pretends he’s reluctant to talk race, which is objectively false and likely him just sucking up to Freeman. Lemon is obsessed with talking about issues surrounding race and sexuality because he is obsessed with making everything about himself.

“If you talk about it, it exists,” Freeman said. “It’s not like it exists and we refuse to talk about it. Making it a bigger issue than it needs to be is the problem here.”

Freeman must look at his own success and have the humility to say, “If I can do it, why can’t anyone?”

Someone who thinks like that will naturally tire of hearing whatever someone else’s excuse is for failure. Freeman spent part of his childhood in the segregated South, spent four years in the military, and success came late in his chosen profession. 

Freeman was in his mid-thirties when “The Electric Company” hired him as Easy Reader. When that gig ended, Freeman was 40. He would be 50 before finally hitting it big as the menacing pimp Fast Black in 1987’s “Street Smart.”

Freeman has made comments like this before. I know he accused the Tea Party of racism a few years ago. But he has also been critical of Black History Month: “Black history is American history … which month is white history month” and thinks that one way to end racism is to stop talking about it. 

Amen. But with Don Lemon out there, that will never happen. Ever.

‘Deadliest Catch’: Real Men Doing Masculine Things Still a Big Hit

Meterosexuals and nerds might still rule at the movies, but they are losing the battle for television.

The so-called phenom shows, “Walking Dead,” “Justified,” “Mad Men,” “24,” and “Breaking Bad,” all feature strong masculine men in the leads. This is especially true in the world of reality TV, where the working-class hero has made a major comeback this decade on dozens of popular shows. 

In its tenth season, “Deadliest Catch” is still one of the biggest hits on television, especially in the all-important 18-49 and 25-54 demos.

We’re not losing all the culture wars.


Quick Hits:

The Top 10 Classic Rock Artists Who Would’ve Had Horrible Twitter Feeds

Dear Celebrities, That’s Enough With The Apologies!

25 Worst Movie Songs Ever

‘Breaking Bad’ Prequel ‘Better Call Saul’: ‘AfterMASH’ or ‘Frasier’?

Jimmy Savile Abused at Least 500 Children


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Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC