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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
KYLE GALLNER, ALAN RITCHSON, BILLY ZANE AND SHAUN TOUB JOIN WRITER/DIRECTOR ERIC BRESS‘ GHOSTS OF WAR FOR MISCELLANEOUS ENTERTAINMENT
BRENTON THWAITES, THEO ROSSI, AND SKYLAR ASTIN WILL ALSO STAR; Principal Photography HAS COMMENCED
LOS ANGELES (March 28, 2017) ––Kyle Gallner (American Sniper, The Finest Hours), Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games), Billy Zane (Titanic, Tombstone) and Shaun Toub (Iron Man, “Homeland”) have joined the cast of Writer/Director Eric Bress’ supernatural psychological thriller Ghosts of War, alongside Brenton Thwaites (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Maleficent), Theo Rossi (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Luke Cage”), and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect 1 & 2). Principal photography has commenced in Bulgaria. Miscellaneous Entertainment’s D. Todd Shepherd, Shelley Madison, and Joe Simpson are producing and financing the project alongside Colleen Camp. Adrian Jayasinha will Executive Produce alongside Bernard Stewart, Billy Zane and Andrew Mann. Highland Film Group is handling international sales.
Ghosts of War follows five battle-hardened American soldiers assigned to hold a French Chateau near the end of World War II. Formerly occupied by the Nazi high command, this respite quickly descends into madness when they encounter a supernatural enemy far more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield. The five soldiers will be played by: Thwaites as Chris Goodson; Rossi as Kirk; Astin as Eugene; Gallner as Tappert; Ritchson as Butchie; and Zane in an undisclosed role. Toub will fill the role of Mr. Helwig.
Gallner currently stars as Hasil in the hit WGN series "Outsiders," with notable film credits including: American Sniper, The Finest Hours, Dear White People, and Beautiful Creatures. Ritchson has carved a space for himself on both the large and small screens in films such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and television series including: “Black Mirror,” and “Blue Mountain State.” Zane first appeared on the big screen in Back to the Future followed by the sequel Back to the Future Part II. His slate also includes: Titanic, Memphis Belle, Zoolander, and appearances in the television series‘ “Twin Peaks,” “Mad Dogs” and “Guilt.” Toub has received accolades for his film and television appearances including: the Iron Man franchise, Crash, War Dogs, The Last Airbender, “Homeland,” “Grimm” and many more.
Producer D. Todd Shepherd said: “Audiences continue to resonate with entertaining and socially relevant genre films. Eric is a master craftsman and has created some truly memorable characters. The addition of Kyle, Alan, Shaun and Billy to our exceptional acting ensemble will ensure Ghosts of War will be a stand out cinematic experience.”
Gallner is represented by UTA. Ritchson is represented by UTA and Industry Entertainment. Zane is represented by Underground. Toub is represented by Abrams Artists Agency
Miscellaneous Entertainment and Highland Film Group previously collaborated on the noir thriller Terminal starring Margot Robbie which is now in post-production.
About Miscellaneous Entertainment
Miscellaneous Entertainment focuses on the development, production, and finance of high-impact feature films. Most recently executive producing Taran Killam’s upcoming directorial debut Why We’re Killing Gunther, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the noir thriller Terminal, starring Margot Robbie, Mike Myers, and Simon Pegg, both set to be released in 2017, the company previously executive produced Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, and Robert Pattinson, Eduardo Sanchez’s found footage thriller Exists, and Parts Per Billion starring Josh Hartnett, Teresa Palmer, and Rosario Dawson.
About Highland Film Group
Led by Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier, Highland Film Group (HFG) is an independent worldwide sales, production and film financing company. HFG provides financing through a combination of pre-sales to help cover senior and subordinated debt, gap, tax credit, and facilitates capital for mezzanine and equity financing.
The Highland Film Group slate includes: Vaughn Stein’s Terminal starring Margot Robbie; Jon Avnet’s Three Christs of Ypsilanti starring Richard Gere, Julianna Margulies, Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins and Bradley Whitford; Lin Oeding’s thriller Braven starring Jason Momoa; Scott Mann’s Final Score starring Dave Bautista and Pierce Brosnan; and Osgood Perkins' The Blackcoat’s Daughter starring Emma Roberts for A24. The company recently acquired remake rights to The Crow and is planning a fall 2017 start.
"CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER" -- Gravitas Ventures Acquires Documentary With Tom Hanks, John Mayer, Sam Shepherd, and More
GRAVITAS VENTURES ACQUIRES ‘CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER’ DOCUMENTARY
TOM HANKS, JOHN MAYER, SAM SHEPARD AND MORE STAR IN THE CINEMATIC LOVE LETTER
Doc set as Cleveland International Film Festival opening night film Wednesday, March 29, 7pm.
CLEVELAND (March 28, 2017) — Gravitas Ventures has announced the acquisition of U.S. rights to California Typewriter, which is set to show tomorrow evening at Tower City Cinemas as the Opening Night Film of the 41st Cleveland International Film Festival. The critically acclaimed documentary launched at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival. It will open theatrically in Los Angeles, New York and a dozen additional markets in the late summer.
California Typewriter is named after one of the last remaining typewriter shops in Berkeley, Calif., which plays a major role in the film. Run by Herbert Permillion III and his family, the business is depicted trying to balance financial security with its decades-long passion for selling and restoring typewriters.
“The film was a real labor of love for everyone involved and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Gravitas and their team,” said Director Doug Nichol, who made the self-funded film over a period of five years.
With the rise of computers and smart phones, typewriters are teetering on the edge of obscurity — much to the chagrin of nearly everyone profiled in this emotionally moving and entertaining documentary. The film masterfully interweaves stories including artist Jeremy Mayer, whose “typewriter assemblage sculpture” uses typewriter parts to assemble intricate, human-like works of art, and expert Martin Howard, who's collected typewriters for nearly 30 years and is on a quest to add a legendary, rare Sholes and Glidden machine to a collection that holds typewriters dating all the way back to 1880.
Nuanced typewriter testimonials from super fans Tom Hanks (who has over 250 machines in his collection), musician John Mayer, playwright Sam Shepard and author David McCullough add incisive perspective. California Typewriter is a love letter to the enduring societal, historical, creative, and artistic value of these machines.
“In exploring the history and fondness people still carry for the typewriter, we are forced to confront an even larger question of how technology factors into our lives and what it’s pushing away,” stated Gravitas Founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher. “It is timely in this age of growth in tech to bring these thought provoking stories to the big screen.”
California Typewriter was directed by Doug Nichol (Sting: Ten Summoners Tales) who also photographed and edited the film. Nichol produced with John Benet (All God’s Children Can Dance). Executive Producers are Charlotte Chatton, James Redford (Paper Tigers) and Dana Schwartz (The United States of Detroit). The deal was negotiated by Nolan Gallagher for Gravitas and Kevin Iwashina and Zac Bright from Preferred Content on behalf of the filmmakers.
ABOUT GRAVITAS VENTURES
Gravitas Ventures is a leading all rights distributor of independent cinema. Founded in 2006, Gravitas connects independent filmmakers and producers with distribution opportunities across the globe. Working with more than 500 content partners, Gravitas Ventures has distributed thousands of films into over 100 million homes. Recent releases include Katie Holmes’ feature directorial debut, “All We Had,” Jonathan Hock’s “Fastball,” Colin Hanks’ “All Things Must Pass,” “Being Evel” from Academy Award® winning director Daniel Junge and producer Johnny Knoxville, “Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of,” and “For The Love of Spock” from Director Adam Nimoy.
For more information, please visit gravitasventures.com, and sign up for the e-newsletter, follow @GravitasVOD on Twitter and @gravitasventures on Instagram.
Monday, March 27, 2017
(NOTE: Arrow Films' dazzling new 4K restoration of DONNIE DARKO--both the 132-minute Director's Cut and the 113-minute Theatrical Cut--will begin theatrical showings on March 31st. You can read all about this right after the review.)
DONNIE DARKO (2001) is kind of like an ultra "Twilight Zone" episode by way of "The X-Files" as filtered through the mind of David Lynch and decorated by Tim Burton. With some Robert A. Heinlein, Clive Barker, and John Irving thrown into the mix as well. (The director has called it “The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick.")
And yet it's also its own unique, one-of-a-kind sort of funhouse mirror with all the giddy fear and dark exhilaration of a malfunctioning spook house ride.
Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, ZODIAC) gains our sympathy right away because he's a nice teenaged kid with a nice family, and he'd like to be a normal guy, but he isn't--I mean, really, really isn't--and he can't help it.
His befuddled psychiatrist (Katherine Ross) tells his parents he's schizophrenic. Sometimes he skips his meds. He knows he's "crazy", and that his attempts not to be are probably doomed.
So, occasionally, he just goes with the flow and sets the fires and vandalizes the things that the tall guy in the scary-looking bunny costume and mask tells him to do.
Why? Because the scary bunny, who goes by the name of Frank, is a time traveler, helping Donnie to fulfill his destiny and maintain the space-time continuum by influencing the lives of everyone around him in very fundamental ways before the world ends, which will occur at the end of the month on Halloween night.
The incredible event that sets all of this into motion occurs early in the film, after we've met Donnie and the other Darkos and things have settled down for the night, and suddenly, there's a tremendous crash that shakes the house like an earthquake.
That's the detached jet airplane engine demolishing Donnie's bedroom from above, mere minutes after he's been awakened and summoned safely out of the house by Frank.
For me, this weird and wonderful event is the sort of thing that just makes me fall in love with a movie right off the bat and stay with it every step of the way if it continues to be that wonderful, which DONNIE DARKO does the way a mindbending page-turner of a novel or comic book does.
Mary McDonnell (DANCES WITH WOLVES, INDEPENDENCE DAY, SCREAM 4, "Battlestar Galactica") and Holmes Osborne (THAT THING THAT YOU DO!, BRING IT ON, AFFLICTION) are ideal as Donnie's long-suffering but loving parents Rose and Eddie, and Gyllenhaal's real-life sister Maggie (THE DARK KNIGHT) is his sister Elizabeth. Their younger sister Samantha is played cutely by Daveigh Chase (AMERICAN ROMANCE, SPIRITED AWAY).
Executive producer Drew Barrymore makes a strong impression as Donnie's progressive, perceptive English teacher, Miss Pomeroy, whose methods will be called into question by stiff-assed fellow teacher Miss Farmer (Beth Grant, OPERATION: ENDGAME, SPEED), an emotionally backward harpy whose classes seem to consist solely of videotapes by New Age self-help guru Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze, ROADHOUSE, DIRTY DANCING, GHOST).
Other supporting players in this very interesting cast include Noah Wyle, Seth Rogan, James Duval (AMERICAN ROMANCE, THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND, INDEPENDENCE DAY), and Patience Cleveland (PSYCHO III) as Roberta Sparrow, aka "Grandma Death", a crazy old recluse who, it turns out, may know a thing or two about time travel herself.
High school life is a daily parade of the usual nerdy friends and scary bullies, as well as a pretty but troubled new student (Jena Malone as "Gretchen") who catches the eye of lonely but attractively enigmatic Donnie.
I tried the lonely but attractively enigmatic thing in high school but it never worked for me. It does, however, work for Donnie as he and Gretchen form a sympatico relationship that will become crucial in the scheme of things as time counts irrevocably down to Frank's mysterious end-of-world deadline.
As Donnie, Jake Gyllenhaal maintains just the right attitude throughout--bemused, puzzled, sad, resentful, fearful, and yet deeply intrigued by what's happening to him, because who knows? It just might be real.
Visually, DONNIE DARKO is an eye-pleasing, idealized evocation of everyday life, sort of an updated Kodachrome version of Capra's small town in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or the deceptive veneer of normalcy in Lynch's BLUE VELVET, all shot through with a warm nostalgia for the 80s. (Donnie takes Gretchen to see THE EVIL DEAD at the neighborhood bijou, while familiar 80s songs enhance the soundtrack.)
He also imbues the film with a sense of dark, magical fun that makes the serious aspects and underlying humanity of the story resonate even more.
This is exemplified by the loving but impishly humorous interactions between Donnie's parents, who sometimes act like a couple of kids, and between Donnie and his sisters. It's nice to see a functioning family unit in a movie these days, even though this family does have one huge dysfunction, which is Donnie.
It's been a while since I was this totally caught up in a film and entranced by it until the very last frame. DONNIE DARKO is like a big, juicy Tootsie Pop made of mystery and imagination, and you savor the act of seeing how many licks it takes to get to the chewy cult movie center.
Donnie Darko: English / USA / 113 min (theatrical) /
134 min (Director's Cut)
Here's our original coverage of the upcoming re-release:
Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko Returns to Theaters
Arrow Films Debuts 4K Restoration of Theatrical & Director's Cuts
Weeklong Runs in Los Angeles, New York and More
"Excitingly original indie vision" - Entertainment Weekly
"A mini-masterpiece" - Empire
Los Angeles, CA - Arrow Films has announced the March 31st domestic theatrical debut of the 4K restoration of Richard Kelly's cult hit Donnie Darko. Following a wildly successful re-release in the UK for its fifteenth anniversary, the film will return to theaters in cities across the United States. Fifteen years before "Stranger Things" combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Kelly set the template and the benchmark with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. The 4K restoration of Donnie Darko will premiere at the Vista in Los Angeles on March 30th, and officially open in Los Angeles at the Cinefamily and in New York at Metrograph on March 31st.
Described by director Richard Kelly as "The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick", Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast: pre-stardom Jake (Nightcrawler, Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals) and Maggie Gyllenhaal ("The Honourable Woman", The Dark Knight), Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Neon Demon), the late heartthrob Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing, Ghost), Drew Barrymore (E.T., "Grey Gardens", "Santa Clarita Diet") Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves, Passion Fish, "Battlestar Galactica") and Katharine Ross (The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives), and television favorite Noah Wyle ("ER", "Falling Skies") and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran.
The brand-new 4K restoration was produced by Arrow Films from the original camera negatives and supervised and approved by Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster. The 4K restoration premiered to a packed audience at the National Film Theatre in London on December 17th, 2016, with an introduction by Richard Kelly. A screening of the Director's Cut followed the next day. The re-release opened nationwide in the UK on December 23rd, eventually grossing £70,000.
Both the theatrical cut and the director's cut are being made available to venues via a partnership with Cartilage Films, and locations will vary.
Donnie Darko will also return for weeklong runs in Denver, Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Tempe, Tulsa and San Francisco on March 31st, and in El Paso, Portland and Detroit on April 7.
Special screenings include Jacksonville, Austin, Dallas, Honolulu, Lubbock, Baton Rouge, Sioux Falls, Oklahoma City, Tucson, Durham and Stamford throughout March and April. A full list of screenings is available at Cartilage Films.
March 31st Theatrical Release:
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Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank's maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum.
I'm not that big a fan of the endless parade of digital "cartoons" these days, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy an engaging and pleasantly-rendered romp like THE SWAN PRINCESS: ROYALLY UNDERCOVER (2017) when it comes my way.
Directed by former Disney animation director Richard Rich, it's the sixth direct-to-video sequel to his 1994 theatrical film THE SWAN PRINCESS which was done with old-school handpainted cel animation (which I sorely miss) as were the first three sequels.
The main characters of that film were a beautiful princess named Odette and a handsome prince named Derek. In the current sequels, they're older, married, and have an adopted daughter, Princess Alise.
She and her friend Lucas, a shy peasant boy living with his parents on a tulip farm, are the new focus of our attention as they have colorful adventures in and around their mythical kingdom. Here, they go undercover as spies to find out if ditzy Queen Uberta's dashing young suitor, a Count from a nearby kingdom, is really as nice as he seems or if he has ulterior motives that could threaten the entire kingdom and its royal family.
Alise and Lucas are the typical spunky, likable kids who get in and out of trouble by their own wits and also with the help of their talking animal friends. Their grown-up ally is a grandfatherly Lord Rogers, an inventor with a secret subterranean vault full of cool steampunk spy gadgets. He's sort of a Hans Conried type with the look of a sage old gentleman but the heart of a child, and he secretly loves the Queen.
Aside from some shots of him, the kids, and their animal friends wearing shades and walking in slo-mo RESERVOIR DOGS style (to accentuate the "spy" theme), there are refreshingly few "nudge-nudge" modern references barring a rather spectacular nod to GOLDENEYE in the pre-titles sequence.
Moreover, this film really is G-rated, with no smirky double-entendres or unwelcome sexual innuendos of the kind that crop up in much of the so-called "childrens" entertainment these days. Everything remains resolutely juvenile throughout--in a good way.
Adults should find it more than tolerable, especially in the second half when the kids infiltrate the Count's castle and all that spy stuff starts to pay off in a big way. Alise and Lucas encounter a number of bad guys and dangerous situations, and the action and suspense are pretty much nonstop.
At this point in the series, the songs (what few there are) aren't that special and there are no celebrity character voiceovers, but I doubt if kids will really mind all that much.
Characters are genuinely warm and caring toward each other, and the story puts forth various benevolent themes of togetherness, teamwork, and charity (a neighboring kingdom damaged by a flood receives emergency aid) in unobtrusive ways. "Don't trust kindly strangers bearing chocolate" is another subtle message.
The DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound in English and French, and Dolby Surround in Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, and Thai. Subtitles are available. In addition to several trailers for other Sony kids' films, there's a brief featurette with singer Macy Kate recording the end titles song.
Online comments from fans of the series indicate that some feel THE SWAN PRINCESS: ROYALLY UNDERCOVER is inferior to its predecessors. But it's such a colorful and brightly entertaining diversion that, not having seen any of the earlier ones, I found this sequel quite enjoyable.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Before, whenever I heard the name "Heidi", I thought of Shirley Temple being cute, or a children's book that I never read, or, most infamously, an American Football League game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets on November 17, 1968 which, during an intensely suspenseful fourth quarter, was suddenly interrupted by NBC for the premiere of a brand new "Heidi" TV-movie, causing frenzied football fans all along the East Coast to tear their hair out in utter, gibbering consternation.
But that was before. Now, having just seen the latest Swedish film adaptation of Johanna Spyri's 1881 children's book HEIDI (2015), not only has my perception of the story gone up considerably, but you might even call me a fan. At least, a fan of this wonderfully rendered and exquisitely produced version.
Anuk Steffen is disarmingly endearing in the title role as a young orphan girl pawned off on her gruff grandfather by an uncaring aunt. Grandfather is played by Bruno Ganz, known mainly these days as Adolf Hitler in DOWNFALL (2004) thanks to all those "Hitler Reacts" video memes on the internet.
The mountain sequences are dazzling with their beautiful locations and photography, whether during the lush green spring and summer or the frosty snow of winter. Heidi frolics almost as a feral child, accompanying her young friend Peter during his daily goatherding duties or just hanging out with and gradually humanizing the once misanthropic old man.
Her happiness is short-lived, however, when mercenary Aunt Dete (Anna Schinz) returns and takes her away to the city to live with a wealthy widower--and mostly absentee father--as a companion to his wheelchair-bound daughter, Klara (Isabelle Ottmann), an arrangment from which the unscrupulous aunt makes a tidy profit.
Thus, Heidi's dilemma is that she yearns to escape back to Grandfather and her beautiful mountaintop home but also dreads leaving poor Klara alone in her dreary, joyless existence.
Director Alain Gsponer (LIFE ACTUALLY) has a very nimble and imaginative style that adapts well to the various settings. The cinematography is consistently fine, as is the film's musical score.
While the Swiss Alps provide some incredible eye-candy, even the believably gritty city and village settings are impeccably rendered and totally convincing. The mansion scenes are suitably oppressive, sort of like a children's story as written by one of the Brontë sisters. I also sense something of a GREYSTOKE vibe at times, so jarring is Heidi's forced transition into so-called civilized life, with a bit of A LITTLE PRINCESS thrown in as well.
The cast are so good at their roles and the script so well-written that Heidi's story is effortlessly engaging from beginning to end. Her eventual reunion with Grandfather and her precious mountains delivers a well-earned emotional catharsis.
One of the film's main strengths is that it takes its story seriously--the drama and pathos are realistically handled, and lighthearted moments spring naturally from the situations without seeming forced or artificially cute.
The DVD from Omnibus Entertainment and Film Movement is in 2.40:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby surround sound. Dubbed English or original German with English subtitles are available. No extras.
I feel now as though I've been missing out on this story all these years, although I can't imagine it being presented in such a realistic and satisfying fashion as it is here. There's so much more to this version of HEIDI than its innocuous-sounding title might suggest, and it should please both children and the adults who watch it with them to an equal degree.
DVD Available exclusively at Walmart
DVD and Digital Debut: April 4, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers.
In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other.
WATCH THE TRAILER:
FIGHT FOR SPACE lands in theaters and on demand MAY 19
FEATURES: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Jim Lovell, Story Musgrave, Rick Tumlinson, James Muncy, Marcia S. Smith, Bill Nye, John Logsdon, Gene Kranz, Jeff Greason
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that NASA would send astronauts to the Moon by the end of the decade. The Space Race inspired an entire generation to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering, creating the technological boom of the 1990s.
As the balance of world power shifted, interest in space exploration declined and NASA became old news.
Fight for Space examines the past, present and future of the US Space Program through in-depth interviews with the world’s leading experts on space travel, including astronauts Jim Lovell & Story Musgrave, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, engineers, space industry entrepreneurs and others.
Restored film footage from the National Archives and years of historical research take you on an exciting journey from the beginning of NASA, into the future, re-awakening our sense of wonder, discovery and desire to reach for the stars.
WATCH THE TRAILER:
Pre-order the film from iTunes
Thursday, March 23, 2017
I only saw WON TON TON: THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD (Olive Films) once before, when me and the guys caught it during its initial run back in 1976, and we all hated it. Why? Because we were expecting something really wildly, wickedly funny and off-the-wall, like a Mel Brooks or Monty Python flick.
Well, this movie isn't like that. In fact, it seems to be willfully corny and sometimes gives the impression that it actually wants to be bad just to mess with us, although it doesn't really. And now that I'm an avowed bad movie fan, I find this irresistible and maybe even a little wonderful.
It certainly has a chipper enough attitude with its sunny early-Hollywood atmosphere, fast action, rapid-fire (and often dumb) comedy dialogue, and utter lack of seriousness even when Won is being led to the doggy gas chamber with none other than Andy Devine, as a priest, reading his last rites.
That's another thing about this movie--it is literally packed with guest star cameos. Like, dozens of them. The whole running time is a spot-the-stars thing where every bit part is a potential Old Hollywood has-been passing through.
Some get a bit of business with a few lines, such as the two surviving Ritz Brothers, while others flash by so briefly and thanklessly you're not even sure who you think you just saw. (Sadly, many of today's younger viewers will probably recognize only a small percentage of them.)
They include such Tinsel Town luminaries as Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Miller, Broderick Crawford, Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Merman, Cyd Charisse, Rhonda Fleming, Fritz Feld, Georgie Jessel, Virginia Mayo, Billy Barty, Peter Lawford, Sterling Holloway, Janet Blair, Fernando Lamas, Aldo Ray, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Huntz Hall, Stepin Fetchit, and many, many more. I even spotted an unbilled Toni Basil as Dean Stockwell's date at an award show.
One of the most unusual casting choices is Ron Liebman (NORMA RAE) as Rudy Montague, a Rudolph Valentino type who dresses in drag so that he can attend his own movies without getting mobbed since he's his own biggest fan.
The plot, if it matters, is about starving actress Estie Del Ruth (Madeline Kahn, BLAZING SADDLES, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN) and aspiring screenwriter Grayson Potchuck (Bruce Dern, THE COWBOYS, THE TRIP) both managing to break into silent pictures on the coatttails of a talented German Shepherd named Won Ton Ton, who loves Estie and does whatever she tells him to do.
This delights unscrupulous studio boss J.J. Fromberg (Art Carney, "The Honeymooners"), who sees big, fat dollar signs when Won's first picture is a smash. Estie has a harder time convincing him that she's actress material, however--in fact, after J.J. has her thrown off the lot, Potchuck must sneak her back in so that she can direct Won from behind the camera.
As per the usual "rise and fall and rise" Hollywood yarn which this movie spoofs, Won's success doesn't last and he eventually hits the skids. He ends up getting drunk in an alley with a homeless John Carradine and then, in one of the film's strangest sequences, unsuccessfully attempts various methods of doggy suicide.
As for the rest of the comedy, it's a real hit-and-miss affair. Some is just so loud and destructive that we can't help but laugh, or at least cringe, while other attempts, such as an old-fashioned piefight and various bits of traditional slapstick, simply lack the imagination, finesse, and timing of the original silent comedies they're imitating.
This isn't helped by the fact that director Michael Winner is hardly known for his comedy skills, having helmed such films as the DEATH WISH series (along with other Charles Bronson shoot-em-ups), THE BIG SLEEP, MURDER ON THE CAMPUS, et al.
Striving for a light touch, he often achieves a level of physical and verbal humor akin to a cheap Filmation cartoon, and tends to simply aim the camera at his myriad of actors in hopes that they'll just naturally be funny and charming.
And sometimes they are. It's hard to miss with Madeline Kahn and Bruce Dern as the leads (as unlikely as it sounds, perennial bad guy Bruce was funny when given a likably sleazy character to play) and supporting players such as Art Carney and Teri Garr (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS).
The setting is another plus, encompassing several Hollywood landmarks and an overall atmosphere of silent-film-era nostalgia that's vivid and colorful. (Vintage car buffs will love seeing the classic old models, and then cringe as they crash into each other.) Even the simulated silent movies we see during various premieres appear authentic, although much too aged-looking to have been newly filmed.
The DVD from Olive Films is in 1.78:1 widescreen with mono sound and optional English subtitles. No extras.
Those expecting excellence will be disappointed, as will those settling in for a total bad-movie bash. But those who set their sights in between and take the good with the bad--between which extremes this film fluctuates wildly--should find WON TON TON: THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD a passable time-waster at worst, and, at best, a cheerfully featherbrained and delightfully screwy sort of novelty artifact.
Order the Blu-ray or DVD from Olive Films
Karl Urban, Sofia Vergara, and Andy Garcia to Star in Revenge Thriller "BENT" From Academy Award® Winner Bobby Moresco
KARL URBAN, SOFIA VERGARA AND ANDY GARCIA TO STAR IN REVENGE THRILLER “BENT” FROM ACADEMY AWARD® WINNER BOBBY MORESCO
Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Media Group Producing with Joseph O’Donnell’s Deadly Codes Productions
March 23, 2017 – Karl Urban (“RED,” “Star Trek,” “Riddick”), multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family,” “Chef, “Machete Kills”) and Academy Award® nominee Andy Garcia (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “The Godfather: Part III”, “The Untouchables”) have signed on to star in the revenge thriller “Bent” for Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Media Group and Joseph O’Donnell’s Deadly Codes Productions.
Academy Award® winner Bobby Moresco (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”) will direct the film from a screenplay he wrote himself, based on characters created by Joseph O’Donnell.
Producers are Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi and Joseph O’Donnell.
“Bent” is a powerful action/suspense/thriller in the classic noir tradition. It’s the redemptive tale of Danny Gallagher (Karl Urban), a shamed and discredited narcotics detective who, upon his release from prison, makes plans to seek revenge on the accuser who framed him and killed his partner. In seeking out the truth of what happened the night his partner was killed, and he was framed, Gallagher investigates the mysterious car bomb murder of a local bookie’s sister. Gallagher soon discovers that the murder is connected to an elaborate conspiracy involving high-stakes treason with major international implications.
The story of the film examines the themes of loyalty and betrayal played out through the vast corruption of our most secret government agencies along with the compelling characters of society’s criminal underbelly. The story’s twists and turns force Gallagher to confront a ruthless, seductive government agent (Sofia Vergara), who may or may not be on his side; and his mentor Murtha (Andy Garcia), a retired cop, who’s fought corruption his entire career.
Producer Andrea Iervolino said, “’Bent’ delivers on the best of film noirs - a main character driven by revenge, who is forced to choose between the truth he knows, the evidence against that truth, and the woman he loves most in the world. Karl, Sofia and Andy are a powerful onscreen trio who have a rich story to work with, thanks to the brilliant story and characters created by Bobby and Joseph.”
Principal photography will commence this month in Rome, Italy.
Karl Urban is represented by UTA. Andy Garcia is represented by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Sofia Vergara is represented by UTA and management company Latin World Entertainment. Bobby Moresco is represented by ICM and Primary Wave Entertainment.
AMBI Group is a consortium of vertically integrated film development, production, finance and distribution companies wholly owned and operated by Andrea Iervolino and Monika Gomez del Campo Bacardi, Lady of Bayfield Hall, better known as “Monika Bacardi.”
AMBI has quickly emerged as one of the industry’s most prolific financing, production and sales companies with the capacity to develop, package, finance, produce and sell a broad array of films for worldwide distribution. Among the films on AMBI’s burgeoning film slate are the heist movie “Finding Steve McQueen,” starring Travis Fimmel, Rachael Taylor, William Fichtner and Forest Whitaker, which Mark Steven Johnson is directing; the Andrea Bocelli biopic “The Music of Silence”, directed by Oscar® nominated Michael Radford and starring Antonio Banderas, Toby Sebastian and Jordi Molla; a new Sarah Jessica Parker music-drama, James Franco’s post-apocalyptic thriller “Future World”, starring Milla Jovovich, Lucy Liu, Method Man, Suki Waterhouse, Snoop Dogg, and James Franco; the psychological thriller “Black Butterfly” starring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; a remake of Christopher Nolan’s iconic film “Memento”; “Lamborghini – The Legend,” a biopic on Lamborghini founder Ferruccio Lamborghini to be written by Bobby Moresco; the faith based children’s film “Beyond the Sun,” featuring His Holiness Pope Francis; the contemporary fairy tale “This Beautiful Fantastic” starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Wilkinson; James Franco’s “In Dubious Battle,” featuring an ensemble cast that includes Franco, Nat Wolff, Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston, Josh Hutcherson, Zach Braff and Sam Shepherd; the 3D, CGI animated family film “Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad” starring Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Heidi Klum, John Cleese, James Franco and Anjelica Huston; and the sci-fi thriller “Rupture” starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Chiklis and Peter Stormare.
In 2015, AMBI acquired the Exclusive Media Group film library, which includes an incredibly diverse portfolio of critical hits, commercial blockbusters and cult favorites such as “Begin Again,” “Cruel Intentions,” “Donnie Darko,” “End of Watch,” “Ides of March,” “Hit & Run,” “Memento,” “The Mexican,” “Parkland,” “Rush,” “Sliding Doors,” “Snitch,” “Undefeated” and “The Way Back,” to name a few. In addition to the library titles, AMBI now has the rights to a number of titles within EMG’s active movie development slate, as well as all sequel and remake rights to the popular EMG films.
Andrea Iervolino has produced, funded and distributed over 55 feature films including “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Humbling.” He is considered one of the youngest and most accomplished entrepreneurs in the Italian film industry and was the recipient of the coveted Mimmo Rotella Award for his contributions to the Italian cinema industry - presented to him at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, alongside fellow recipients Al Pacino and Barry Levinson. Iervolino most recently received the Honor of Recognition as Ambassador of Italian Cinema in the World at annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF).
Renowned for her passion of modern art and love of photography and movies, Monika Bacardi is a highly successful businesswoman who is now committed to producing films, through AMBI, on top of her numerous philanthropic activities.
For more information on AMBI please visit http://ambidistribution.com/