It isn’t news to anyone that I am a very big John Carpenter fan and one of the best films in his filmography, “Starman,” is adored by many Sci Fi / John Carpenter / Jeff Bridges fans and I recently came across a great piece written by the late Roger Ebert that I wanted to share with you all. It was written back in 1984.
It is a great article and full of amazing info, insight and background regarding both the approach and style behind the role that landed Jeff Bridges an Oscar Nomination that year. Ebert provides an interesting perspective in the article and it is a wonderful look into what made Director John Carpenter and Actor Jeff Bridges tick for this Sci Fi Romance that was easily one of the best films of 1984. Enjoy and feel free to discuss any memories or feedback regarding the movie and / or Bridges and Carpenter. Thanks!
The “Starman” Page over at IMDB:
Here is the Article from Roger Ebert:
When director John Carpenter saw the script of “Starman” for the first time, it looked to him like a special-effects movie, and he thought that was the wrong idea. He was more interested in remaking “It Happened One Night,” with an extraterrestrial man in the Claudette Colbert role.
“The screenplay described the special effects in minute detail, but they seemed to be afraid of the story,” Carpenter said. “I saw it as the story of two people on the road, learning to deal with each other. They had Starman flying around like Superman. And they were utterly obsessed with how he looked. There was all this emphasis on the big transformation scene, where he turns from an alien into the clone of a human being. But how he looks while he transforms is just hardware; it has nothing to do with the story.”
By the time Carpenter came aboard about a year ago, “Starman” had been in various stages of production for four years. According to Hollywood folklore, this was the movie Columbia decided to make instead of “E. T.,” which went to Universal instead: Some hapless executive had decided “E. T.” was only a children’s picture, while “Starman,” which opened here Friday, was sort of the same story for adults.
The executive might have been right about the second part of that theory. “Starman” is one of those rare science-fiction movies with genuine emotional content. By the end of the film, when a woman from Earth and a creature from space look into each other’s eyes and smile, there is something of the same warmth and heart that “E. T.” projected.
There is, however, one very basic difference between the two movies. The challenge in “E. T.” was to make an alien seem human. The challenge in “Starman” is to make a human seem alien. When we first see the alien, it is a glowing ball of pure energy, floating out of a wrecked spacecraft somewhere in Wisconsin, and drifting into the living room of a young widow’s home. The creature sees a photograph of the widow’s late husband, does a quick three-dimensional scan, analyzes a lock of hair for genetic information, and generates itself into a human clone – a dead-ringer for the dead man.
In this form, which it will retain for the rest of the movie, the starman reminds the woman so sharply of her husband that she is at first terrified, then hostile, and only gradually accepting. That process of emotional accommodation could easily have seemed ridiculous, but not in “Starman,” where Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges manage to create one of the year’s warmest love stories in the unlikely setting of an s-f movie. (That’s especially ironic for Allen, whose previous movie, the dreary “Until September,” was supposed to be a genuine human romance, and failed abysmally despite Paris as a backdrop.)
“Jeff Bridges and I did a lot of talking about how the starman should look and move and behave,” Carpenter said. “He looks like a human but, intelligent as he is, he’s had no experience in living inside this human life form. He walks and talks strangely. His head movements are birdlike. We never wanted him to become completely human – and even at the end of the film, after he’s had some practice at being a human, there’s still something a little strange about him. Jeff took some real chances in playing the role. There was always the question of whether he was going too far or not far enough. A lot of actors would have been afraid of looking ridiculous, but sometimes, after we’d shot a scene, Jeff would offer to do it again, just a little more strangely.”
After the starman lands in Wisconsin (his craft was shot down by the Air Force), he enlists the widow to drive him to Arizona, where he has a rendezvous with his mother ship at the Great Meteor Crater. It’s at this point that movie buffs will begin to recognize aspects not only of “It Happened One Night,” but also of “They Live by Night,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Badlands” and the whole genre of road movies.
The formula remains pretty constant: Man and woman hit the road, pursued by authorities of an uncomprehending, hostile society. At first, they are suspicious of each other, but trust gradually builds into love. The moment of truth arrives in a final confrontation between the refugees and society. There are even some more-or-less obligatory scenes, including the stop at a roadside diner. (Bridges, ordering alien food in a strange land, turns this scene into a quiet extraterrestrial homage to Jack Nicholson’s classic chicken-salad scene in “Five Easy Pieces.”)
“The story here is a whole lot more important than the science fiction,” Carpenter said. “We reduced the s-f down to almost a magical fairy tale.” That would continue a tendency in his work that you could see last Christmas in “Christine,” the whimsical, terrifying movie about a used car with a mind of its own.
Carpenter has worked within the thriller and supernatural genres for most of his career, but he often seems to be testing their boundaries. After his early “Assault on Precinct 13,” a superior police movie shot on a midget budget, his first big hit was the classic thriller “Halloween” (1978), in which an escaped killer turned into an indestructible engine of violence. Then he made such slick thrillers as “The Fog,” “Escape from New York,” “The Thing” and “Christine.” In all of those films, special effects had at least equal importance with character; “Starman” clearly contains Carpenter’s most three-dimensional people, even if one of them is from another world. Although there’s a tendency to think of the movie as a fairly small one by Carpenter’s standards – after all, it’s basically about two people in a car, and this is the man who used special effects to make Manhattan into a prison city of the future – Carpenter told me it was a giant logistical job.
“We had 150 people moving across the country in trucks and vans,” he said. “The low point was shooting only at night for six weeks. We used 16 helicopters for the scene at the Great Meteor Crater. We used nine simultaneous camera setups for some of the explosions. We had 70 or 80 extras in some of the scenes. This picture probably could have been done on a low budget, shooting around L.A., but the story is about how Starman falls in love as much with Earth as he does with her. We wanted to show the whole sweep of the countryside. Towns, fields, rain, sunrises – a planet seen by eyes that have never seen it before.”
If that was the case, then the character played by Karen Allen is a woman seen by eyes that had never seen one before. Carpenter said he saw Allen through fresh eyes himself: “From ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ I got a very definite impression that she was strong, self-willed, with a sort of cute sexuality, I was unprepared for the effect she had when I saw her in person. She is beautiful. I softened her hair from the way she looked in ‘Raiders.’ I gave her a curl, a permanent, to frame those beautiful eyes, and she’s gorgeous in this movie.”
That left the tricky problem of casting the starman. “If you used a Hollywood star, a Stallone or a Richard Gere, the audience would have hooted,” Carpenter said. “Jeff Bridges is able to disappear into his roles. He’s elusive. He looks like he could be a house painter from Wisconsin. And he’s not afraid to make a complete fool of himself, which is a special kind of courage for an actor.”
Carpenter himself, for that matter, looks like he could be a house painter from Wisconsin. He was wearing a VistaVision sweatshirt, slacks and a pair of sneakers, and he looked more like a scruffy film student than a Hollywood director. He recently became a father for the first time; he and his wife, actress Adrienne Barbeau, have a 7-month-old son named John Cody, who was born in the middle of a tornado in Tennessee during the filming of “Starman.”
“When I was going to film school,” he said, “what I wanted to be was a commercial filmmaker in Hollywood – that’s where I feel I can tell stories. I knew in my heart I could do anything. Musicals, gangster movies, Westerns, love stories. Having grown up on the movies, the only question was: Would they offer me those kinds of projects?”
“Starman” is Carpenter’s first love story, of sorts, unless you include the rosy early days of the love affair with Christine the car. Now he’s working on a project named “Chickenhawk,” about helicopter pilots in Vietnam, drawing from his own experience as a licensed helicopter pilot.
That led inevitably to my next question, about the charges facing director John Landisin connection with the helicopter crash that killed three people during the shooting of “Twilight Zone.” Carpenter said he didn’t want to comment, apart from observing that a pilot is the unquestioned captain of his ship, with the absolute right to refuse orders he believes are unsafe. “A lot of laymen think it’s safe for a helicopter to hover at low altitudes,” he said. “It isn’t.”
- Roger Ebert / 1984
Hello, gang! Vic here with some more titles out on Netflix that are currently available for Early December. Hope you all find something worthy to check out. Some titles will be available in “Super HD” for those who have a hi def TV and High Speed Internet. If you find anything notable while browsing that I may have missed, just give me a holler and I will add to the list!
A Werewolf Boy 2012
Dances with Wolves 1999
The Tower 2012
Zombie Hunter 2013
Black Sunday 1977
Thanks for stopping by gang! I hope you all find something you may enjoy or love! Until next time, keep streaming!
Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison.
Directed by Michael Mann
By now, I’m sure, most of those who are reading this know the harried and controversial history (and the plot) of Paramount’s “The Keep” which was released in 1983. It was the old studio vs the director type of greek tragedy that always ends in bitterness and the singular vision of the director left in ruins. For the most part the film is loathed by many and marginally liked by those fringe curiosity seekers of edgy or artsy cinema. I feel that most believe that the movie is just a failure on so many levels.
One being, the way the film renders the novel impotent. Fans of the book (like myself) don’t see eye to eye with the way the movie turned out. So, then we have the solid polarizing views. I, though, do like some things but just barely. I suppose the imagery and score are the reasons why I re-visit this movie from time to time, making it a true guilty pleasure on my end.
Michael Mann’s film adaptation of the stellar historical horror / fantasy novel, “The Keep” is one hell of a curious piece of cinema. It is a weird concoction of beautiful, melodic imagery, ethereal and moody music but it’s brought down by heavy handed performances, choppy editing and muddy dialogue. The film has a funky avant garde vibe, made evident through long and Kubrick-esque shots, but Mann’s execution and vision is constantly at odds in this movie. In some parts it is held together by frayed seams. Other parts are curiously complex to look at always skirting the periphery of the strange, queer and the in- distinct.
He quite, at times, tests our patience with this film. The movie’s opening consists of an attachment of German soldiers in a convoy approaching “The Keep.” Here, Mann stretches time and unfolds the proceedings with slow and deliberate tracking shots along with several cuts from truck wheels to rain swept villagers to Sgt. Woermann’s (Jurgen Prochnow) piercing blue eyes. All the while he un-spools the strangely inappropriate but atmospheric score by Tangerine Dream (Legend, Firestarter) ever so slowly. Mann’s sensibility is to immerse us into this fantasy with an art house horror approach. Most of the time it doesn’t work, unfortunately.
Through-out the movie there would be a fascinating visual sequence followed by a boring or pedestrian exchange between characters. Or vice versa. Then the way the film is so dark and lazily cut together does not help either. Mann’s palette is dull at times but then he surprises us with beautifully composed shots of the surrounding landscape just outside of the keep or of the fog filled dirt roads of the nearby Romanian village. Mann’s characters (with the exception of Prochnow and Gabriel Byrne as Major Kaempffer) are ultimately bland and sometimes approach camp with the help of some very confusing dialogue and motivations but the movie follows F. Paul Wilson’s novel in spirit. Somewhat.
Wilson’s book is about two ancient and opposing forces (it was veiled thinly as a vampire story) where Mann’s movie is about a type of Golem (though that is not really what he is) that is unleashed by German soldiers and cannot leave The Keep. The book and novel explore themes of genocide, deception, faith, ancient forces, politics and love of course but it is all done with incredible detail by Wilson in his book and Mann seems a bit too hung up on aesthetics to make an lasting impression. But I love the imagery and I love how the film wants to be an art house vision of dread and terror.
I commend Mann most of the time for creating a very (though rubbery and hokey looking) different type of monster here that harks back to the terrible creatures that haunted castles in the old creature features of the 1940′s. He isn’t the traditional vampire of lore (as he tells Ian McKellen), like the novel suggests, he is actually a force that feeds on despair, fear and evil like a leech.
The creature uses deception to get what he wants, warning Cuza of someone who may come for him and prevent him from leaving The Keep. He even has a cool deep voice that is quite chilling. Prof. Cuza and the beast (or ghost ), Rasalom, conspire to eradicate the Germans starting at the keep and ending with the death of Hitler. Even the very talented and young looking McKellen, here, overacts and succeeds in chewing the scenery with glee.
Rasalom (or Molasar) helps Prof Cuza (McKellen) to get rid of the SS nazi regiment he considers “intruders” and as he does he further helps feed Rasalom’s hunger. Tearing the throats of the infidels is not quite enough. I also appreciated the way Mann’s makes the characters pretty clear cut and dry. The film has a wonderful graphic novel vibe to it and it has a dark sensibility but the story leaves just way too much unanswered. It remains too enigmatic and further creates a chasm resulting in our inability to even care for (though we love to see how Byrne’s Kaempffer gets his comeuppance) these mystical entities. Not even a young and buffed Scott Glenn (Silence of the Lambs) can successfully establish what the hell his “Glaeken” character really is. A shame.
But, all in all I know the film is quite uneven, cliche and really strange. It’s a tough film to get to really like because of the spotty editing, a score that does not seem to fit, a cheap looking monster (I liked him better as a smoke creature) and some shitty performances in parts. The film does have it’s share of love, though.
On You Tube the movie has quite a following of people who are very appreciative of the upload even though we may never see that elusive director’s cut from Mann, who has disowned the film. The movie isn’t even that historically accurate but it is curious, engaging and compelling for some reason. Mann’s movie has some very fascinating images and sequences and I find that every time I watch it, I want a different film to emerge but to no avail. Oh well, like I said, it’s a true guilty pleasure in every respect for me.
You can watch the Full Movie below:
Based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s best seller comes this shocking thriller starring Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin. As John F. Kennedy (Lowe) rises to become U.S. president, a former Marine grows disillusioned with America. When their paths ultimately cross, the course of history is changed forever as seen in this mesmerizing film about the assassination of JFK — and its chilling aftermath.
Directed by Nelson McCormick
“Killing Kennedy” is an intriguing, compelling and strongly acted 90 minute docu-drama about the history of both Lee Harvey Oswald and President John F. Kennedy leading up to that fateful day in November of 1963. The film, directed by the ever busy TV director Nelson McCormick (Longmire, The Stepfather, Touch), was produced by Scott Free productions and aired on National Geographic earlier this month. The movie stars Rob Lowe (Salem’s Lot) as JFK, Will Rothhar (CSI, Battle: Los Angeles) as Lee Harvey Oswald. The movie is based on the novel by Bill O’ Reilly and Martin Dugard.
The movie utilizes the strong cast to incredible effect. McCormick directs his actors with an amazing precision and it is the one thing in the film that is a solid constant. McCormick and writers O’Reilly and Kelly Masterson (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) tell the tale of these 2 iconic men in a linear and parallel timeline. What is refreshing about this production is that the story deviatesi (or maybe shuns?) the wild and kooky theorizing in order to provide a more straight forward version using facts and archival info to inform us. It is earnest in it’s depictions of how Oswald and JFK are fated to have their destinies intertwine in history.
The movie, in fact, (with it’s beautifully lush tones for the sequences with JFK and the harsh blues and shadows for Oswald’s) is a traditional drama about isolation, warped ideologies, political theater and tragedy. McCormick’s film is robust with short vignettes about the 4 years prior to JFK’s murder, often switching from Oswald to JFK during this period. Rothhar’s Oswald is incredible to watch. Oswald, here, is fanatical, un-appreciative, paranoid and a completely evil figure with nary a shade of grey in the the whole scheme. Rothhar makes Oswald a nervous, impulsive and duplicitous type will great skill. Oswald is always obsessive, misconceived and angry. Rothhar allows Oswald to grow during the movie into a indecisive sociopath who cannot maintain any semblance of a normal life because of his edgy and frustrated ideologies.
Rob Lowe’s JFK is a different matter altogether. As you watch the film unfold, one comes to the conclusion that Oswald is the meat and potatoes of the movie. Much more time is spent on watching the life of Oswald, his wife and children, unravel around them. We are witness to many of the pivotal moments that Oswald was a part of like his defection to Russia, his return to the states and various interviews with the CIA and FBI. As almost the anti-thesis. JFK’s dramatic re-creations are like small doses of history and drama together in the mix. The movie follows the book closely with small insights into the pain, drive and convictions of JFK. Lowe does an amazing job here, adding levels of complexities and melodrama. We watch him as he gets his daily pain and steroid injections for his back, all the while trying to solve a crisis regarding the Russians.
And while “Thirteen Days” is the seminal film to watch about the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Killing Kennedy” does a fine job covering the event that defined JFK’s term in office. As we peek ever more into his life we that he plays with his children, campaigns and even consoles Jackie after her latest miscarriage. Lowe’s JFK is an emotionally earnest but quiet lamb amongst wolves. While the details of these scenarios (especially the political showmanship) are a bit glossed over, we still get accurate and believable moments of clarity which makes the film even more enjoyable and informative. Lowe holds his own here despite being overshadowed by others in the cast. He nails JFK brilliantly. Accent, mannerisms and even in looks.
Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald is probably the strongest performance in the film next to Rothhar’s. She is emotionally charged and remains a tragic figure of sorts while she tries to understand Lee Harvey and why he does the things he does. Trachtenberg adds depth to Marina, who in so many other films is reduced to a background character. Here, she is a larger player in the history that unfolds. Her portrayal gets better and better the more she has to fight with herself to remain a caring mother and dutiful wife to Oswald. One particular scene that impressed me was how she had to admit to the FBI that Oswald did indeed own a rifle and had to lead them to the garage. In this moment of clarity for Marina, Trachtenberg floored me with her incredibly powerful achievement in that scene as she realizes the truth.
Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie is also wonderful to watch as she is almost in the same boat with Marina while dealing with her tribulations backing JFK all the while having to turn a blind eye (we don’t really know if this happened or not) to JFK’s indiscretion with women. One that even had ties to a Mob boss. She is quite capable and carries the elegance and maturity of Jackie very well. One scene, where she refuses to take off the blood spattered pink dress is an emotional powder keg of a scene and Goodwin manages to knock it out of the park.
Jack Noseworthy (U-571, Breakdown, Event Horizon) as Booby Kennedy is fantastic. His reaction to hearing about his brother’s death raised the hairs on my arms. Noseworthy’s Bobby is a protective and handsome person and he gives Bobby a powerful essence that even JFK reveres in this movie. But in the end, it is Oswald’s show and when Jack Ruby (Casey Siemaszko) shows up we know Oswald’s end is near and the film deftly handles the aftermath, (including the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit by Oswald) confusion and mayhem that the assassination created and spurred. McCormick uses real life news breaks, interviews and footage to blend in well with the re-creations. The film is a point by point narrative that reveals people, places and things with great respect and force. For a 90 minute film, I was very surprised how much was covered and how dramatic and captivating “Killing Kennedy” was.
It is not a movie for conspiracy theory pundits but for those who feel that a simpler drama unfolded all those years ago that was more or less a black and white affair. The film feels much like a companion piece to The Warren Commission’s opus at times but it is not such a bad thing. And whether or not you agree with any of it, “Killing Kennedy” is worth your time for the strength of the narrative and the incredibly dynamic performances. Recommended!
Hi everyone! Vic here with some more titles out on Netflix that are currently available for Late November. Hope you all find something worthy to check out. Some titles will be available in “Super HD” for those who have a hi def TV and High Speed Internet. If you find anything notable while browsing that I may have missed, just give me a holler and I will add to the list!
The Iceman 2013
Robin Hood 1973
Red Dawn 2012
Crystal Fairy 2013
My Week with Marilyn 2011
Killing Season 2013
Thanks for stopping by gang! I hope you all find something you may enjoy or love! Until next time, keep streaming!
7 out of 10
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Director Vincenzo Natali (Splice) this go around, supplies supernatural horror fans with an atmospheric, interesting and capable little story in ‘Haunter.” Abigail Breslin (Signs, The Call) stars as a rebellious, spunky but distressed teen named Lisa who is enduring some strange goings on in her home. She lives with her younger brother Robbie (Peter DaCunha) and her parents, Carol (Michelle Nolden) and Bruce (Peter Outerbridge). She experiences peculiar and repetitive occurrences in her home that seem to involve the same weird day being repeated over and over again like some spiritual version of “Groundhog Day.” She appears to be the only one who notices something is amiss in the house which always seems to be shut off from the rest of the world by a perpetual fog bank. This prevents them from ever leaving. It seems that they are all somewhat isolated and with this, Natali sets up the film as a bit of a psychological story.
Lisa seems “intuitive” or pretty susceptible to what is going on in the house. She knows point by point what will transpire everyday much to the shock and dismay of her parents who seem quite unnerved by her behavior. They can tell she is disturbed somehow but cannot get her to truly talk about her issues. Lisa, in turn, rebels more but when things in the routine start to change, it urges Lisa into suspecting something deeper is afoot. Natali’s film gains some momentum as Lisa feels strange presences, sees thing move about, hears music and even discovers a small door behind the washing machine (she seems to always be doing the laundry). The door, obviously, holds some secrets and and leads to a passageway where Lisa discovers a slew of small and very old possessions like watches and timepieces.
Lisa discovers other things as well like killing jars, old newspapers and curios. When the strange appearance of “The Pale Man,” played by Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, The Tall Man), occurs, Lisa begins to suspect he may have some information about whether or not the home may be occupied by ghosts or spirits. He is not very approachable at first but he lets out some morsels of info to Lisa about not “listening to what the spirit or spirits have to say.” Lisa, without the help of her parents (her Father remains disturbed and distracted by fervently attempting to fix their automobile), continues to dig deeper and eventually it appears that she is being contacted by another girl her age who may be trying to reach her or warn her about her experiences. Or is it a cry for help?
Breslin, right off of her convincing and entertaining performance in “The Call,” gives a remarkable performance here as well. She is sincere and exceptionally passionate. She also walks a fine line, that in inferior hands, would have been bombastic and trite. She emotes with her eyes and her gestures and mannerisms are conservative and executed properly. She is the reason the film works and she holds he picture together well. Not that it needs to be saved from anything that would pigeon hole it as a routine thriller. Quite the contrary. The movie, in Natali’s capable hands is a decent entry in the genre. But it isn’t even really a horror picture, though.
The film, if I had to find fault, is not terribly scary. It is, though, compelling and refreshing. The movie has mood, grim atmosphere but what works is the well written family dynamics and the way the story connects the past, present and future. As Lisa unravels the mystery and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit, the movie stays quite grounded. Natali handles the layers of the story and the movie with the help of an eerie score and jarring but inventive photography by Jon Joffin (The Andromeda Strain). Outerbridge and Nolden as Lisa’s parents are honest, warm and sincere. Outerbridge manages to shake up the film a bit as he becomes unhinged about his vehicle.
As the film wraps up we find out even more about McHattie’s “Pale Man” and his involvement in the whole affair which makes for a very interesting and nifty twist in the movie. McHattie manages to creep us out but remains enigmatic and mysterious through out the picture. By the very end some horror conventions take over but not to any long lasting ill effect. All being said, this small movie (which may have benefited from a wider release but I am just guessing) has enough chills and spookiness to recommend.
It isn’t flashy and does not loudly cram scare tactics down our throat. If Natali’s intention was to scare us, then he didn’t live up to it here, unfortunately. But no loss. “Haunter” is nifty, tight and solid. It may not be a film that warrants many re-watches but it’s claustrophobic, moody and has some nice surprises in it. Breslin’s remarkable work is the foundation which makes Natali’s film work so well. Enjoy!