Thursday, November 17, 2011

Latest 'Twilight' flick is twisted but well-made

As vampire-human weddings go, Bella's is a success.
First off, none of the guests is eaten, so that's a plus.
Sure, there's some tension between the werewolves and the bloodsuckers, but what wedding doesn't have that?

Like most brides-to-be, Bella has some jitters. The night before the big event, she has a nightmare about mutilated corpses piled before the altar. Par for the course.

Well, par for the course for a "Twilight" movie. The whole vampire thing has been around so long now this stuff is starting to seem normal.

There are a few reasons "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" is probably the best of the "Twilight" films. First off, something happens, and that helps.

The first two films in the series moved like sludge, just like the source material. The last, "Eclipse," picked up the pace. This one does as well. It's not just a lot of mooning and swooning about with vamps and dog-people and unrequited love.

Love gets requited this time. And then things get pretty grimly unquiet.
Another reason "Part 1" works is that prestige director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls," "Kinsey," "Gods and Monsters") has been brought in to finish off the series. Condon isn't a horror guy, or a 'tween guy, or even a romance guy.

He's a movie guy, and he streamlines and sanitizes the first half of Stephanie Meyer's final vamp novel to good effect. This film may be the most gruesome of the series, but it could have been a lot worse.

We start off with the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart) to Edward (Robert Pattinson) and it's to Condon's great credit that he doesn't drag this flowery occasion on too long.

There's a big cake, some new vampire cousins get introduced (see you next movie), and Bella's teen friends get to cameo (you can almost see the relief on "Up in the Air" Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick's face as she near fulfills her contract in a minor role).

Then it's off to a romantic honeymoon. On a private island off the coast of Rio, of course. Vampires spare no expense.

It is here that the deed alluded to, worried over, whispered about and teased at for three movies (that have earned more than $1.5 billion) is finally done, albeit with much breaking of furniture.

And even though there are approximately 500 gazillion copies of "Breaking Dawn" in print, that is where this plot summary must conclude. Suffice to say that Bella pays a price for daring to engage in carnal pleasure. Remember that, 'tweensters: Romance good, sex bad.

That somewhat twisted perspective made "Breaking Dawn" the most controversial of the "Twilight" books. It's a bit hard and somewhat scary to try to figure out what Meyer was trying to say with all this. And the pointedly creepy turn here may keep "Breaking Dawn" from breaking quite as big commercially.

It must be stated that all of this is a lot incongruous nonsense. What happens to the clothes werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) keeps bursting out of, and how does he find new clothes so easily? How come there are all these super-strong vampire-werewolf rumbles but nobody ever gets hurt? And don't vampires ever change hairstyles?

None of that matters. It's a "Twilight" movie. Romance, blood, battles and demons obviously trump common sense any day. Fans, enjoy. Newbies, beware.

Movies, Opera Reveal The Strength Of Intuition

Every time I drive past the marquee at the Lark Theater, I’m tickled by the lineup for this weekend. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane; George Clooney as a presidential contender; plus a special appearance by Gandhi. It’s very guy-centric, this lineup, but still … sports, politics and money, with music for one of the 20th century’s most renowned figures by today’s most famous composer—what a mix!

Moneyball, of course, stars Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who, using computer analysis to draft players, put together a team of contenders in 2002. Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald calls it a “triumph of culturally relevant filmmaking.” Roger Ebert says the film is about “the war between intuition and statistics.”

That phrase certainly applies to The Ides of March, in which Ryan Gosling’s idealistic staffer gets a crash course in yucky real-life politics while on the campaign trail.
But who would have thought the term would suit the latest offering in the Live at the Met series as well? Satyagraya — the name alone informs you this isn’t an opera by Handel or Verdi. Nope, it’s by Philip Glass, arguably the only living composer the general audience has heard of (for, say, the soundtrack for Mishima or Koyaanisqatsi, or maybe for Glass’s first opera, Einstein at the Beach. This one, which premiered in 1980, is his second). As usual, Glass makes heavy use of arpeggios and repetition to create a hallucinatory spell, and much of the music is gorgeous. 

There’s no straightforward plot or chronology here; we’re shown episodes from Gandhi’s years in South Africa, when he was a young lawyer protesting British injustice, as moments in time. Unlike traditional opera, this is sung in Sanskrit — the language of the Bhagavad Gita, on which the text is based — and instead of supertitles, isolated words and lines are projected onto the set or props. And the staging is wonderful. The set is a semicircular wall covered in what looks like corrugated metal, in front of which we see oversized puppets and fanciful props, aerialists and stilt walkers, in addition to the well-reviewed singers. 

The opera portrays the passing of the legacy of nonviolence from Tolstoy through Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. — a topic discussed as recently as today at the Occupy sites. We’d all like to see a better means of achieving political ends — surely we all feel there must be a better way. With its message of pacifism, you might call Satyagraya the triumph of intuition over statistics.

IF YOU GO: Nov. 19 and 20, Satyagraha; through Nov. 22, Moneyball and The Ides of March, Lark Theater, 549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 924-5111;

Blu-ray Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

We are most definitely a Harry Potter family. My children have literally grown up on the books and the movies, and a new release has always been an event in our household. Even with my kids packed away at university, opening weekend of the latest Harry Potter movie has meant a trek down the road to the local IMAX to see the movie as it’s meant to be seen—big and dynamic.
Warner Home Video has now released on Blu-ray, the final installment of the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. Spoiled as I am, having seen most of the series in IMAX, I hoped to be wowed by the Blu-ray release, and I was not disappointed. The film looks gorgeous in Blu-ray, a feast for the eyes and ears, with special features galore. It is, as Ron Weasley might say, “Simply brilliant!” But be sure to pick it up before December 29, when all Harry Potter movies now in Blu-ray or DVD release come off the shelf and go into moratorium for an undisclosed time period.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 literally picks up where Part 1 left off. There’s no recap, no flashbacks; it just starts. When I saw the movie in its theatrical release, it had been a couple of months since I'd seen Part 1, and it took a few minutes (well, more than a few) to adjust my brain for context and settle into the Part 2 (after all, it had been a months-long intermission). Anyway, my advice is to watch Part 1 before watching Part 2.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) preparing to finally confront Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and defeat him. The trio must locate and destroy all seven of Voldemort's Horcruxes, which contain pieces of his soul. That is the only way to destroy him for eternity, and unless they destroy all seven, Voldemort will continue to be invicible. It is a suicide mission, says Dumbledore’s brother tells the three friends. But when has that ever stopped Harry, Hermione and Ron?

Hugo: Film Review

A passionate brief for film preservation wrapped in a fanciful tale of childhood intrigue and adventure, Hugo dazzlingly conjoins the earliest days of cinema with the very latest big-screen technology. At once Martin Scorsese's least characteristic film and his most deeply felt, this opulent adaptation of Brian Selznick's extensively illustrated novel is ostensibly a children's and family film, albeit one that will play best to sophisticated kids and culturally inclined adults. Paramount has no choice but to go for broke by selling this most ingenious of 3D movies to the widest possible public, hoping that critical acclaim and novelty value will pique the curiosity of all audiences. All the same, it remains something of a tricky proposition commercially.

Like so many of the most popular and enduring fictions centered on children, from Dickens to Harry Potter, this one is about orphans and castoffs, kids who must scheme, fight and resist authority to make their way in life. With exceptional imagination, first Selznick and now Scorsese and scenaristJohn Logan have found a way to connect their resourceful leading characters with one of the great early figures of cinema, Georges Melies, most famous as the originator of the science fiction film with his 1902 A Trip to the Moon and, perhaps more significantly, the first man to recognize the connection between the cinema and dreams.
In an incidental moment that alone justifies the entire recent resurgence of 3D, Scorsese recreates the legendary presentation of the Lumiere brothers' 1897 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, at which audiences flinched in horror as a train filmed coming into a station appeared to be headed right at them, in a way that astonishingly captures the reaction the brief clip was described as having created. For anyone remotely interested in film history, Hugo must be seen in 3D if only for this interlude, which the director and cinematographer Robert Richardson have pulled off through an impeccably precise combination of framing and timing.
The richness of detail and evident care that has been extended to all aspects of the production are of a sort possible only when a top director has a free hand to do everything he or she feels is necessary to entirely fulfill a project's ambitions. As has been seen all too many times, this sort of carte blanche has its pitfalls in indulgence, extravagance and waste. In this case, however, the obvious expenditures of time, care and money would seem to have been devoted to matters directly connected to Scorsese's overriding obsessions with film — the particulars of its creation, manner of presentation, the nature of the people who make it, its importance to the inner lives of those who love it and preservation both of film itself and the reputations of its practitioners.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Melissa Rosenberg Talks The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

The wait is finally over for those fans dying to see the latest romantic entanglements between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), her vampire fiance Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and third wheel out, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 hits theaters this Friday, November 18th.

To celebrate this release, we caught up with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who has penned all five of the Twilight movies for the big scren. She takes us behind-the-scenes, and offers a look at the process behind bringing Stephenie Meyer's popular novel series to life.

Here is our conversation.
What sort of challenges did you face in adapting this particular chapter of the Twilight Saga? It contains some pretty crazy stuff...Or did you just leave all of that in there, and let director Bill Condon sort it out?
Melissa Rosenberg: The crazy stuff wasn't the hard part. This is a very different story than the first three. This is a very grown up story. It is dealing with very complex emotions and themes. You really have to dig deeper when you are dealing with that particular world. The crazy stuff came as a relief. I was like, "Oh, good! Now I get to do some whacked out birthing scene!" It's the human part, the character part, that I worked really hard on. How I approach it was...How I approach every action scene, or wild scene like the birth...Once you get to actually shooting it, they are going to be relying on the stunt coordinator and the EFX team. All of that. What was important to me, and why I will choreograph certain things on the page...I understand specific choreography won't wind up on film...Probably not...The reason I do that is so that the story of the action is clear. What the character action of the drama is supposed to be. The action of the scene. In this particular case, let's say, with the birth...I approached that the way the book does. From Bella's point of view. Then, from there, it is up to Bill Condon to deliver that scene on screen. He, of course, was involved in every aspect of everything. He has to deliver on what is in the script. "Here you go, Bill! Go have fun!"

As a forty year old man, I'm not going to yell in the isles the moment Jacob rips off his shirt. But I might shout a quiet "Yah!" When Charlie pops the top on one of those tasty Rainier beers. That is perfect casting. And Rainier has been there since day one. It's survived so many directorial changes as this franchise has gone on. Was Rainier written into the script? Or was that just good casting on Catherine Hardwicke's part?
Melissa Rosenberg: In the book, Charlie is quite the beer drinker. That element goes way back. But the Rainier is a direct production choice. And that probably came from Billy Burke saying, "Hey, I need a beer, here!" I didn't write that into the script.

Going back to Jacob ripping off his shirt. In the theater, this one scene is deafening. How choreographed are those moments. How calculated is that moment where one of the characters goes topless, eliciting this loud response from, not just the young women in the audience, but also the moms and the gay men?

Melissa Rosenberg: The shirt removal is something that I do write into the script. A steamy look from Edward? Not necessarily. For me, it's not about playing to the audience. It's about bringing the characters to a certain apex. It's about following the emotional journey. Its not, to me, about these moments where the audience is going to scream. I know they're going to scream. But it's not about achieving that reaction. It's about the feelings this story is delivering.

Was it more or less challenging for you to take this one book and turn it into two movies, as to what you've previously done in making just one movie per book?

Melissa Rosenberg: Definitely more challenging. Particularly with this first movie. Part 1. It is such a small movie. It is more akin to the first Twilight, than the other two. The second half has a lot more action. There is a lot more going on. This one posed a challenge in that it's about the internal workings of a marriage, really. It becomes, very much, a character drama that turns into a horror story. That was definitely a challenge.

How did you find the break in the two movies?

Melissa Rosenberg: It was a natural, organic break, that cam mid-section. When you read the book, it seems natural. The first part being where she's a newlywed, and we deal with the pregnancy. The second part is about her being a vampire and a parent. This is a natural breaking point, really. When you first read the book, you hit upon that. You can see that. I think we all felt that way. We played with it a little bit, we tried pushing it into the first act of the second movie. We wanted to see if that played. Ultimately, we didn't like it. So we did what we did.

As you wrote each new screenplay for the five films, did you take into consideration that the audience is growing up along with these characters?

Melissa Rosenberg: Honestly, I don't write to an audience. I have never tried that. The minute you write to an audience, you've lost them. Its as though you are pandering to them. Thinking that you are speaking to them. On all of these, for me, it has been about the characters and telling an authentic story. It is about a vampire. But it resonates, and it's a compelling story. I think that starts with Stephenie Meyer. She has hit a chord with people. Then we follow that. The books have been doing this long before there was a film audience. We have to follow that, too, you know what I mean?

When you sit down to write a Twilight screenplay, do you need to be in the rainy, cold mindset of the North West? To get in the mood? Or is it all sunshine and beaches as to where you actually sit down and write these movies?

Melissa Rosenberg: (Laughs) Hardly. I have a very strict regiment of showing up at my desk at a certain hour with my cup of green tea. It is very quite. I don't like having a lot of atmosphere around. But what I get into rather than the environment that the characters are in, is...I get into the character's minds. That is as easily as intense, to get into this mindsets, as well as this setting...

Normal Theater: Are ‘art films’ really over our heads?

The term “art film” is a crazy word for films that are made outside the blockbuster machine: No giant budget, no major marketing campaign under every rock, not too many giant stars (although some big stars have been known to do art films for the experience), and no big release.
Most art films do not make it to your local megaplex. Instead, you see the latest blockbuster playing in four auditoriums and the other latest blockbuster occupying the other six. Art films are relegated to independent theaters and cinemas, those places that show all those weird films – foreign, strange, things no one has heard of – yes, the Normal Theater is one of those.
And, if you’re one of those people who don’t go to movies merely because they don’t show at the megaplex, I can assure you you’re missing out on some of the more unique and possibly best movies out there.
Throughout the history of films, there have been certain directors who personify the art film. Sadly, we have lost many more great directors than we have gained in the past 20 years, but some remain active, and occasionally make a film to remind us that film is an art form as well as an entertainment.
Terrence Malick is one of those directors. His signature work always features sweeping outdoors vistas where humans represent only a fraction of the meaning of the scene, and there is an autobiographical element to every film Malick directs. His body of work includes “Badlands,” “Days of Heaven,” and “The Thin Red Line.”
Note that nothing here in his award-inspiring best titles has come out within the last decade, which brings me to a very important question: Are legendary art film directors really relevant in today’s movie entertainment biz?
A bit earlier this year, Malick came out with the film “The Tree of Life,” a character study of a 1950s family living in a small Texas town.
A simple enough theme that could be approached in many ways, Malick here approaches it through the eyes of the eldest boy, who has to come to terms with life’s ups and downs – like we all do. This film is then the story of all of our lives, of life in general, and, aw shucks, of the universal concept of life. That’s what art film directors do to simple subjects – they take them out of their simple zone then attempt to reel them in so we can leave the cinema feeling enriched, enlightened, either floating out on a much higher plain, or confused and headed to the closest coffee shop for discussion and clarification.
I think this is why most people don’t go to art films. Film as entertainment doesn’t require discussion, or deep thought. You sit, you watch, it’s over and you go home. But an “art” film scares some people into thinking that they need to take notes, that they somehow don’t have the capacity to understand an art film, and that, if they talk to anyone about it, they will appear, well, not brainy.
Aw come on! Films are stories – like those you can read at a library – you don’t want to read the same one over and over again. Blockbuster films cover a narrow category of themes. Art films tell a variety of stories. Where would libraries be if we only had mindless blockbuster books? Where would music be if we only had one style to listen to? Without the “art film” it would be a dull world. We need art film directors who can show us other dimensions that give us something else to ponder. It’s not all about blue people, explosions and giant alien monsters.
Come see “The Tree of Life” at the Normal Theater this weekend, Thursday through Sunday at 7 p.m. each evening. It’s an “art film” in the truest sense.

Michelle Williams: I'm reinventing my 'Wizard of Oz' character

In preparing to play Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Williams pored over research, watching the tragic icon’s  cinematic oeuvre and sifting through a stack of biographies.

Williams’ latest role as Glinda the Good Witch in Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz,” however, required far less prep work, the actress said. For starters, she was much more familiar with the source material.

“I’ve already watched the ‘Wizard of Oz’ a lot, because it’s one of my daughter’s favorites,” Williams said during a recent trip to Los Angeles to discuss “My Week With Marilyn,” which opens here Wednesday. “But Sam didn’t want to be bound to Glinda of old, anyway. He wanted a fresh take on it.”

Raimi’s “Oz: The Great & Powerful” centers on a Kansas con man (James Franco) who seeks fame and fortune in Oz. That plan is quickly derailed when he arrives in the mysterious land and encounters three witches (Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis).

Williams said she was attracted to playing an earlier incarnation of Glinda, one who is still discovering the true extent of her powers.

“In the ‘Wizard of Oz’ film we all know and love, she’s omniscient and doesn’t have a lot of human qualities,” the 31-year-old explained. “She’s not fully realized in that way -- she’s not a dimensional person. That’s where she ends up, and my Glinda is where she’s starting out.”

Williams has been juggling her promotional responsibilities for “Marilyn” while shooting “Oz." At the AFI Fest premiere of the film in Hollywood this month, she walked the red carpet and then hopped back on a plane to “Oz’s” Michigan set for a 4 a.m. call time.

She said the sleep deprivation has been worth it, in part because of the positive effect the shooting experience had had on 6-year-old daughter Matilda, Williams' child with the late Heath Ledger.

“It’s been such an amazing move for us as a family. It’s a really happy place to go to work and a happy place for her to come visit,” Williams said. “Often -- the ‘Marilyn’ sets and the ‘Blue Valentine’ sets -- they aren’t really ideal places for children. She can still come visit, but she can’t really get comfortable and hang out for a while. This really integrates my life and my work in a great way."
For more with Williams, check out Sunday's Calendar section, where a profile of the actress will appear.

BioShock creator feels no pressure to make a movie

t’s been over a year since our last update on the BioShock movie, and the latest word seems to indicate that the project could be in limbo — but for good reason.
Industry Gamers spoke to Irrational Games’ creative director, Ken Levine, to get a status update on the adaptation, and learned that fans probably shouldn’t hold their breath to see Big Daddy smash his way onto the big screen.
“We got very close to having it get made – we had a deal in place and a director,” he said. “But for us there’s no burning [desire] to have a movie made just to get it made. For us and for Take-Two, it’s really got to be something that will a) give the fans something that they want, and b) for those who don’t know BioShock, really introduce them to something that is consistent with the game, and is it going to be a good representation of the game.”
Originally tagged as a directorial project for Pirates of the Caribbean filmmaker Gore Verbinski, Verbinski subsequently left the director’s chair and moved to producer. Juan Carlo Fresnadillo was then attached to direct, but after progress stalled out during budget talks, updates have been few and far between.
Given the series’ reliance on an undersea setting, complicated set pieces, and characters like the monstrous Big Daddy, the cost of bringing BioShock to the big screen has been a major concern throughout development.
“There are differences between games and movies, no doubt, but the movie has to draw from the same DNA in terms of the world and the story beats,” said Levine. “But you know, we don’t have a need to get it made.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FIRST TRAILER: Kristen Stewart v Charlize Theron in scary Snow White and The Huntsman

Forget Breaking Dawn for just a moment, and turn your heads towards 2012's epic new action-adventure blockbuster series set to take its place.
Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron breathe new life into the classic tale of Snow White inSnow White and The Huntsman, and we've got your first look at the movie now.
The one-minute and 40-second teaser trailer offers a tantalising trip into a dark, twisted fairytale, with a very different Snow White to the one we know from Disney movies.
She's a tough-girl fighter, with the Evil Queen (Theron) wanting to eat her heart, and the Huntsman (Hemsworth) out to protect her from evil.
Snow White and The Huntsman is out June 21, 2012.

Jaws Re-imagined, in Trailer Form

Movie trailers can be an enjoyable appetizer before the main feature, an infuriating obstacle when you pop in a Blu-ray or a montage of spoilers in the shape of an advertisement. They can also be just plain inexplicable. Last month we were reminded at how deceptive movie trailers can be when a woman filed a lawsuit because the Drive trailer misled her into expecting more of a Vin Diesel action spectacle.

All of this is a testament to the power of the film editor to create many different things from the same raw material, an ability put on display at the Association of Independent Creative Editors' trailer editing event, Camp Kuleshov. AICE assistant editors were given an assignment: to take footage from one or all of three films (Jaws, What About Bob, and Lost In Translation) and cut together a 90 second trailer for an entirely new one.

The contest takes its name from Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov, who edited a shot of an actor looking into the camera together with a shot of a plate of soup. He then took another print of the exact same shot of the actor and put it together with a shot of a little girl. He did this a third time, with a shot of a little girl's coffin. Each time, even though the actor's expression bore no relationship to the juxtaposed scenes, audiences reacted to each as if the actor were expressing the appropriate emotion (hunger, affection, grief). Kuleshov had an airtight case for the power of editing in the construction of film meaning. This demonstration of the Kuleshov effect by Alfred Hitchcok is our favorite of the many you can find on YouTube.

The winners of Camp Kuleshov Chicago were announced last week, and we cannot argue with the judges. Michael Lippert's Learning to Stand (kind of like Splash, only with a shark instead of a mermaid, and Bill Murray rather than Daryl Hannah) and 2nd runner-up Aaron Porzel's Were-shark, a b-movie style monster movie, are creative and convincing. But Caleb Helper's winning entry, Shark Song, where Jaws has been turned completely on its head, becoming a Disneyfied, feel-good movie about "A man, a shark, and their song," made us cackle with laughter. We can't embed the video, but recommend recommend you trade 90 seconds for a laugh or two by checking it out.

Kristen Stewart Offered Lead Female Role In Akir

I don't know if you heard about this, but there is a movie called Twilight - Breaking Dawn: Part 1 coming out this weekend. All kidding aside, though, Twilight really has taken over the news in the past couple weeks, and that even includes movies outside of the franchise. Just last week we saw the first trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman, a movie starring Kristen Stewart, and earlier today Disney sent out some parody posters for The Muppets mocking the vampire romance by featuring characters like "Bella Swine," "Vamphibian," and "WereRowlf." Now even casting news is being affected by the fall blockbuster.

According to Twitch, Stewart, who is actually still in production on Snow White and the Huntsman, has been offered the lead female role of Kei in the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed, live-action, English-language remake of Akira. While the offer was made, the article doesn't say if Stewart has entered negotiations for the part. The actress is just the latest rumored for a part in the movie, as other reports have linked Garrett Hedlund, Gary Oldman, and Helena Bonham Carter to the project. In the story Kei is the romantic interest of Kaneda (the lead character that Hedlund has been linked to) and a member of an underground terrorist group. Set to take place in a futuristic New York City instead of Tokyo, the plot of the film centers on the leader of a motorcycle gang who works to help save his friend with psychokinetic powers from the government. 

While I know fans of the 1988 anime aren't exactly thrilled with the fact that this project exists, what do you think about Stewart playing Kei? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


Corman and Shout! Factory have done it again, and this time it’s too hot to handle!  On October 25th a triple feature DVD box set entitled LETHAL LADIES was released by Shout! Factory, and it includes three Corman-produced cult classics T.N.T JACKSON (1974), FIRECRACKER (1981), and my personal favorite of the three: TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1977).  
TOO HOT TO HANDLE stars the tough-talking, waifish, blonde beauty Cheri Caffaro (you may remember her from other exploitation favorites such as the GINGER series and/or SAVAGE SISTERS).  Caffaro is Samantha Fox, a contract killer who accepts a mission to kill a group of gangsters in the Philippines.  Problems arise for the young beauty when she falls for a Manila-based detective who is investigating the murders she committed.  
Director of TOO HOT TO HANDLE, Don Schain, was actually married to Caffaro at the time and he also directed her in GINGER (1971), GIRLS ARE FOR LOVING (1972), and THE ABDUCTORS (1973). Cheri divorced Schain and eventually remarried (she is still married today, and a very happy woman, I might add).  Schain is now a major producer for the Disney Channel, of all things.  Even odder, he was the head producer on HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006).  It is a common thread in exploitation films that the directors receive all the praise while the actresses receive very little money and are quickly typecast in their careers, making it extremely difficult to move outside of exploitation/genre films into roles that are well respected and high paying. Caffaro grew vastly tired of the Hollywood business early in her career, fed up with type-casting and the reputation she carried with her after starring in films that had her fist-fighting in bikinis and getting down n’ dirty with male and female co-stars onscreen.
After the re-release of the GINGER series (which was considered part of the porno-chic movement in New York City in the early 70s along with Damiano’s DEEP THROAT even though GINGER is not pornographic), exploitation fans yearned for more Caffaro, but there was little to be found. For years, Caffaro’s fans thought she had disappeared off the face of the planet, some even believed her to be dead. Caffaro’s co-star in THE ABDUCTORS, Jeramie Dreyfuss, believed Caffaro had been murdered, and she was almost certain she had read an obituary in the New York Times. 
Caffaro wasn’t aware of her new found cult popularity, and her other films were not as readily available.  Now for the first time, TOO HOT TO HANDLE is ready and waiting for your home television screen and Ms. Caffaro is back in business!  Only this time - instead of B-movies - Caffaro is into BEE-keeping, raising money for her honey bee charity, and maintaining her brand new Cheri Caffaro website.
I had the lucky pleasure of meeting with Ms. Caffaro at Fred 62 in Los Angeles, California in July.  She is as sharp as a tack and she tells the most fabulous stories with great detail. As we ate and chatted together, I knew how lucky I was to be speaking with Caffaro – she has given few interviews since she left the business, and she agreed to speak to me after receiving a recommendation from a close friend, and the fact that I was a woman.  Cheri holds women in a very high regard, she told FANGORIA: “I wanted women to love the characters I played in films so I consciously chose strong female roles. I also performed my own stunts and advocated martial arts for women.  My role as Samantha Fox in TOO HOT TO HANDLE is just one example of that.”  Caffaro also had a role behind the scenes as a wardrobe coordinator; she picked many of the outfits in TOO HOT TO HANDLE out herself.  
Filming TOO HOT TO HANDLE in the Phillipines was an experience that Caffaro loved; she had worked on SAVAGE SISTERS (1974) in Manila as well and enjoyed every minute of it.  Caffaro: “I loved shooting there, it was fun, very different and unusual.  There was a dictatorship government at the time, which was strange being born and raised in the United States myself.  I really loved working there, though.  You had to have a good sense of humor to shoot a film there, you had to be really laid back; it was so hot on most days.  It could be as hot as 120 degrees!  It was a completely different experience shooting in the Philippines and everyone onset became really closely knit.”
Today, Caffaro prefers a quieter life, but she is using her cult popularity to help create awareness for her favorite species: honey bees.  She told me, “Well, I have two websites, and Hollywood Honey.  My website serves a very important purpose.  I’m selling a lot of my memorabilia and autographs, pictures, etc.  The money goes to WWW.HOLLYWOODHONEY.ORG.  Hollywood Honey is a company I started to encourage, enlighten, and educate people about the honeybee.  I’ve become a beekeeper and it’s important to me to raise consciousness about the importance of the honeybee and colony collapse disorder (a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North American since the late 2006s).  We lost 40% of the bee population all over the world.  This is a disaster because bees pollinate agricultural crops all over the world.  Hollywood Honey is for people of all ages, people can donate to the project, and they can adopt a bee. My husband and I have a lot of experience and we have incredible observatories my husband built here at our home; you are even able to adopt a honeybee and we will send adoption papers.  The bees give us amazing things – flowers, food, fruits, and honey.  Nothing is better than natural honey products. It seems unusual to go from Ginger to honey – but when I put it that way, it really seems fitting, doesn’t it?  I’ve gone from B-movies to beekeeping!”
Although Caffaro herself disappeared for many years (albeit she did a brief voice gig for the cartoon Extreme Ghostbusters in 1997), she is back in full force pursuing her new passion, as well as writing and working with a few film ideas on the side.  Cheri Caffaro is as busy as the bees in her yard – and she’s definitely too hot to handle!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New 'The Walking Dead' episode tonight

Check out the AMC The Walking Dead website for some very cool walking dead webisodes.
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Check out my review about the new documentary (now on DVD) about The Return of the Living Dead movies. It's called 'More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead'. A great way to spend a few hours with some older zombies.
AMC is channel 52 on COX Cable in Las Vegas.

Now that we've digested last weeks episode in which Glenn almost gets eaten by a most disgusting walker. It's time to think of tonight's episode. But first, lets reminisce about Glenn losing his Maggie. OK, that's enough, just had to put it out there.
Still from last years world wide zombie
invasion before season 1 started
Speaking of having sex...Lori Grimes seems to be 'with child' but who is the daddy? It might be a certain young deputy sheriff who left Lori's husband, Rick, his best friend, in a hospital full of zombies. OR, it could be Rick's.
Shane is still really 'iffy' about his murder of Otis. One wonders how long it will be before a walker comes up to the house, a walker named Otis, who was shot in the leg. Up jumps the devil then...Shane.
The little clip of tonight's episode on the AMC site  has Glenn discussing his escapades with Maggie to Dale. He also questions Dale regarding if women's monthly cycles really do synchronize. Just for the record there is no study that has shown this to be true.

Jason Statham ‘Safe’ Movie Trailer Hits Looking Dangerous

There’s something about Jason Statham that nearly all audiences love. He’s the guy most guys wanna hang with and some want to do more with him, and he’s one of the ideal guys that women like watching in action, along with most guys too. His latest film ‘Safe‘ feels like we’ve seen him do this in ‘The Transporter’, but this is one of those rare actors who has an onscreen charisma that helps even his lesser films watchable. Statham’s a smart one in that his not so good films happen less frequently as he’s usually getting into the bigger better films like ‘The Expendables’ which shows he’s being more careful with his choices than some other Hollywood action stars like Stallone. At least Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson were smart enough to get back to what they do best…plus they’ll be including Statham in the Fast franchise. His quick comments should be fun to watch against Vin Diesel’s.
I’m sure some of your are gonna ask why didn’t I mention Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, well that’s because they’re in another film similarly titled called ‘Safe House‘ which is a little similar in story, except Ryan gets to protect Denzel…which seems like quite the stretch.
Safe Movie Synopsis
A second-rate cage fighter on the mixed martial arts circuit, Luke Wright lives a numbing life of routine beatings and chump change… until the day he blows a rigged fight. Wanting to make an example of him, the Russian Mafia murders his family and banishes him from his life forever, leaving Luke to wander the streets of New York destitute, haunted by guilt, and tormented by the knowledge that he will always be watched, and anyone he develops a relationship with will also be killed. But when he witnesses a frightened twelve-year-old Chinese girl, Mei, being pursued by the same gangsters who killed his wife, Luke impulsively jumps to action — and straight into the heart of a deadly high-stakes war. Mei, he discovers, is no ordinary girl, but an orphaned math prodigy forced to work for the Triads as a “counter.” He discovers she holds in her memory a priceless numerical code that the Triads, the Russian mob and a corrupt faction of the NYPD will kill for. Realizing he’s the only person Mei can trust, Luke tears a swath through the city’s brutal underworld to save an innocent girl’s life — …and perhaps even redeem his own.
Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, Danny Hoch, James Hong and directed by Boaz Yakin.
As the synopsis shows, it’s not the most original movie idea, but Statham does great in these films where he’s up against the wall with a bunch of bad men wanting to keep pressing him up against it tighter. Trailers so so, but I’m sure they’ll get better as the film comes closer to its due date which is March 2, 2012.