Sunday, June 26, 2005

Weekend Odds-n-ends

'On Golden Pond' to close due to Jones' illness
NEW YORK -- The Broadway revival of "On Golden Pond" will close Sunday because its star, James Earl Jones, who is recuperating from pneumonia, can't return to the production next week. "The entire 'On Golden Pond' family is heartbroken to close this production prematurely, and it's especially disappointing that James Earl Jones won't be with us for our final performances," said producer Jeffrey Finn in a statement Thursday. The statement said Jones' doctors had determined that "the seriousness of recuperating from pneumonia would prevent his return until sometime in August," adding that the actor is expected to make a full recovery during that time. EDITORS’ NOTE: GET WELL SOON MR. JONES!

Kong following Godzilla's sad claw prints?
I'm prepared to extend Peter Jackson a reasonable amount of slack for his upcoming King Kong remake, because he did such a fine job with The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

If anyone can pull off a successful retelling of a classic, Jackson can — even if no one was really clamouring for yet another version of the 1933 original.

But the hype for Jackson's King Kong, scheduled for a Dec. 14 release, is starting to take on the bilious shades of another monstrous project: the 1998 Godzilla travesty.

Remember all the "Size Matters" hoo-ha that preceded that disaster? For about a year before the film opened, we were inundated with billboard, poster and bus-shelter ads suggesting that the new Godzilla was going to be not just big in stature, but also in impact.

Then the movie opened to the sound of no hands clapping. Much was promised, and little was delivered. Godzilla sucked, plain and simple.

I'm starting to fear a similar misfire with King Kong, based on the overwhelming build-up and the underwhelming results we've seen to date. And it's not getting any better. EDITOR’S NOTE: SLOW NEWS DAY? WE’RE IN A PRE-NEWS NEWS CYCLE NOW?

On Monday, Universal Pictures and its TV affiliate NBC are rolling out something called a "roadblock" to promote the first trailer for the movie. At the stroke of 8:59 p.m., and for two minutes and 30 seconds of excitement thereafter, the trailer will be broadcast simultaneously on NBC, SCI FI, USA Network, Bravo!, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, Mun2 and Universal HD. The trailer will be offered in high-definition on NBC and Universal HD.

It will reach an estimated audience of 109 million across North America.

"This exciting and expansive campaign will allow us to stretch and realize the full promise of NBC Universal's formidable assets," boasted Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Universal Television Group, in a press statement. "This concerted push will create a buzz across the spectrum of our networks that will build through King Kong's much-anticipated release." EDITOR'S NOTE: WHY DO THESE GUYS EVEN BOTHER SPEAKING? THEY ALL SAY THE SAME NONSENSE PHRASES. AS I READ THEM, IT ALL BLURS INTO ONE BIG BS/PR BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH.

It all sounds terribly stimulating, except when you stop to think that Hollywood is using hype to promote more hype. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT A NEW CONCEPT? Remember when movie trailers just sort of popped up in theatres and on TV and caught you by surprise? And maybe even intrigued you enough to want to see the movie? EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO. TELL US A STORY, GRANDPA.

Now studios want us to plan our television viewing around their ads. If you're watching TV at 8:59 on Monday night, you'll have trouble escaping the Kong action. EDITOR'S NOTE: I WON'T BE HOME, SO I'LL RELY ON YOU DWEEBPALS TO CHECK IT OUT FOR ME!

If you're somehow not able to tune in, never fear. At 8:44 p.m. on the same day, the King Kong trailer will be available for viewing at, "the exclusive automotive promotional partner of King Kong." Get the joke, small cars and big apes? Genius stuff, just genius.

This will be immediately followed by the unveiling of the official King Kong website at, which will be loaded with all the usual gimcracks and geegaws.
The trailer is going to have to be pretty good to overcome the yawns elicited by the 10-second teaser that is already playing on the Internet, on such fan sites as and

The clip shows Naomi Watts, the Fay Wray of the remake, walking through a prehistoric jungle. She looks like she's about to be devoured by a hungry dinosaur, but suddenly something large and fuzzy stomps in to presumably save the day. It looks like a scene from the original Jurassic Park, or from any number of monster movies from years past. How very 20th-century.

Worse yet, the image of the new Kong makes the beast look like a cross between the Incredible Hulk, the Tasmanian Devil and Porky Pig. EDITOR’S NOTE: SO THIS IS A BAD THING?

A scan of a Topps trading card, part of a series that will be hustled to push the movie, is doing the Internet rounds. It shows an extreme close-up of a fanged Kong, looking more defeated than dangerous.

Is this what Jackson is giving us? Kong looks like a cartoon. I'm expecting Bugs Bunny to enter the frame to tweak the big lug's nose and go, "What's up, Doc?"


Ebert the star attraction in Hollywood ceremony
HOLLYWOOD -- For four decades, Roger Ebert's reviews have turned countless actors and filmmakers into stars. On Thursday, Hollywood returned the favor -- dedicating the 2,288th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Chicago Sun-Times' legendary film critic.
The occasion also marked another "first'' for Ebert, the nation's first Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic. According to the event's major-domo, Johnny Grant (known as the honorary "mayor of Hollywood"), Ebert's star is the first ever given to a critic.

"There are plenty of others out here with stars who have been criticized, but Roger's our first official critic,'' quipped Grant, joking that in the future, movie fans will now have the chance "to walk all over Roger" if they disagree with one of his reviews. EDITOR’S NOTE: IN ALL FAIRNESS, SHOULDN’T GENE SISKEL GET AN ADJOINING STAR, OR SOMETHING?

The star is next to the entrance of the classic El Capitan Theatre and directly across Hollywood Boulevard from the Kodak Theatre complex, site of the annual Academy Awards presentation.
Ebert's honor not only recognizes his enormous contributions to the world of cinema but also toasts the 30th anniversary of his groundbreaking television show, which was launched as "Siskel & Ebert" and continues today as "Ebert & Roeper," co-hosted with his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper.

'A truly liberalizing experience'

Before the unveiling of his star to the hundreds of fans and members of the media gathered on Hollywood Boulevard, Ebert stepped to the podium and thanked his wife, Chaz, other family members and a legion of Chicago friends who had traveled to Los Angeles for the ceremony. He then quickly explained the core reason that he cherished films and the art of cinema.

"When we are born, we are placed into a specific box, in a certain space and time,'' Ebert said. In his opinion, film is the one art form that most easily enables people to escape their own reality, "imagining what it is to live somebody else's life -- to be a different gender, live in a different time, to live in a different economic class.

"It is a truly liberalizing experience and makes people broader-minded as film makes it possible for them not to be just stuck being [themselves] day after day.'' EDITOR’S NOTE: BOY HOWDY, YEAH. I MEAN, I’D HATE TO BE STUCK BEING YOU DAY AFTER DAY! (GIGGLE. OR ME, FOR THAT MATTER).

Before unveiling his star and addressing the throng gathered on a picture-perfect, sunshine-splashed Hollywood day, Ebert himself was given a series of verbal "thumbs up" from an eclectic group of friends and colleagues.

Director Werner Herzog praised Ebert not only for helping launch his own career "but for making American audiences aware of the universal world of film and being the first to tell them about the cinema in Brazil, Germany, Iran, China, just to name a few.''

Chaz Ebert passionately extolled her husband as "my own shining star,'' calling him a "great man who has enormous intelligence, wit, humor, but most important a love for humanity, justice and people of every color of the rainbow," who has made audiences sensitive to the important issues of our day.

"While Roger has done so much for independent films, for small films," she said, "he also can appreciate studio films and big-budget movies.

"One day he'll be quoting Shakespeare, the next day it's all about 'Booty Call.' He truly is a critic who is of the people, by the people and for the people."

'He's never changed'

Two native Chicagoans -- actors Virginia Madsen and Joe Mantegna -- also were on hand for the star dedication. Both cited Ebert's dedication to discovering new talent, new filmmakers and new filmmaking techniques that make him special.

"Roger has been so instrumental in helping the world of independent filmmakers find an audience," said Madsen. "Filmmakers from all over the world anxiously await to hear what Roger thinks of their films. When [her Oscar-nominated] 'Sideways' was first shown in Toronto [at the annual film festival], he was immediately a big supporter -- and that helped build the momentum for that film."

Mantegna loves the fact that "Roger has never changed. I've known him for more than 30 years -- back when I was doing theater in Chicago. Not only did he see all the movies, but he also came to a lot of Chicago theater. He loves watching performances and trying to understand what goes into them.

"More importantly, he's never changed. He's the same guy he's always been. I think he's the most humble, brilliant guy I know.


Post a Comment

<< Home