Archive for the ‘Interviews/Articles’ Category

‘Toy Story 3’ best film of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Toys from "Toy Story 3" Donated toys, led by cowboy Woody, attempt an escape in “Toy Story 3.”

The movies of 2010 thrilled us, chilled us and nearly killed us.

From Harry Potter’s half-swan song to “Black Swan,” from deception to “Inception,” the year’s films provided critics with more than enough ammunition to fire off a top 10 list.

Here’s mine.

In the immortal words of Lucky Ned Pepper from “True Grit,” I don’t varnish my opinion.

1. “Toy Story 3” — I realize the uncoolest thing a film critic can do is name a Disney animated comedy as the best film of the year. And a second sequel, at that.

Fire me.

When I reflect on all the magical, powerful moments I witnessed at the movies in 2010, I always come back to this one: the scene where Buzz, Woody and the rest of their toy friends face death. In the terrifying and touching moments before they drop into that giant incinerator, they make their unspoken peace with each other and with their fates.

I argued then, and I argue now, that this scene represents the single greatest galvanizing moment in the history of animated features, save for the shooting death of Bambi’s mother in Disney’s 1942 classic. (Read more…)

The best and worst of movies in 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
2010 worst movie "Standing Ovation" This photo says it all: “Standing Ovation” is the year’s worst movie.

This passing year saw worthy remakes (“True Grit”) and unworthy retakes (“Nightmare on Elm Street”). It saw major talents plunge to career lows, including Kevin Smith (“Cop Out”) and Jackie Chan (“The Spy Next Door”). 3-D pictures didn’t get any help with the releases of “The Last Airbender,” “Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Nutcracker.”

But 2010 did see some of the best acting (especially in women’s roles) in recent memory, plus a return to daring, high-quality movie making.

Here, then, are some inklings of thoughts as we bid adieu to 2010.

Worst movie of 2010: Give this title of shame to “Standing Ovation,” a tweener musical produced by none other than actor James Brolin, aka Barbra Streisand’s main squeeze.

“Standing Ovation” is a spiritually bankrupt, morally skewed, ethically unhinged and emotionally vacant musical comedy about a group of tweenies who can’t act, sing or convincingly lip-sync.

Oh, still not convinced?

The movie also traffics in gay stereotypes and token black characters. It advocates cheating. It condones revenge. It pushes the idea that money not only can buy happiness, money is happiness.

Jack Abramoff might like it. (Read more…)

Dann Gire Crashes Dan Aykroyd’s Poster Party

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Dann and Dan on ‘Yogi’

DANN: I crashed Dan Aykroyd’s poster-signing party at Hollywood Blvd. and got a quick interview. (See the video)

‘Grease’ co-creator: No one got the ending

Friday, December 3rd, 2010
Jim Jacobs co-creator of "Grease" “Grease” co-creator Jim Jacobs

We’re sorry, Sandy.

All this time, we were completely wrong about you and the ending of your musical movie “Grease.”

We thought that when you doffed your sweet Sandra Dee persona, donned that black leather number and sucked down a cigarette, you transformed into a sweet tart for John Travolta.

“That isn’t what it is at all!” says the man who should know.

Born-and-bred Chicagoan Jim Jacobs wrote the original stage production of “Grease” with his partner, the late Warren Casey. I sat down with Jacobs on Tuesday morning for some coffee near his North-side condo.

“The point of the show is always missed by 99 percent of the critics all over the world, and by a lot of the actors as well,” Jacobs said.

So, what did it mean when Sandy went to the dark side of fashion?

“It was a poke!” Jacobs said. “A good old-fashioned razz against those … Hollywood movies that turned the main guy into a fine, upstanding citizen.” (Read more…)

Surely, Gire couldn’t forget meeting Leslie Nielsen

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Leslie Nielsen and Nicolette Sheridan from "Spy Hard" Leslie Nielsen hams it up with co-star Nicolette Sheridan during a 1996 appearance to plug the spoof “Spy Hard.”

I met Leslie Nielsen in 1988 when he came to Chicago to promote his comedy feature “Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad.”

“I love comedy!” he told me. “I love being an idiot!”

If you don’t believe that, Nielsen brought his own whoopie cushion to our interview. Talking to him went something like this:

“People have come up to me on the street and said, ‘Leslie, you’re pfffrooot! a sex symbol! But you can’t take that too seriously. You can’t get wrapped up in that pfffrooot! stuff!”

I remembered the theme song to his anthology TV series, Walt Disney’s “Swamp Fox,” and I faithfully sang it to him in his room at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He seemed to be impressed I knew the lyrics.

“I approached with great hesitation doing the role of Swamp Fox for Disney,” the then 62-year-old actor said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m an actor! I’m not going to wear that hat with a fox tail on it, parading around and doing kiddie stuff.’ Boy, I was so stupid in my attitude.

“Today there are so many people who remember ‘Swamp Fox.’ You see, as an actor, you never know what will remain, what sticks with people.”

Nielsen died Sunday night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from pneumonia. He was 84.

What will stick with people even more than “Swamp Fox” will be Nielsen’s late-in-life evolution from a serious actor into a comedy icon of the silver screen, starting in 1980 with his role in the disaster film spoof “Airplane!” followed by a TV series and movies starring Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin, the dumbest, luckiest cop to ever walk a Hollywood beat. (Read more…)

Dann chats with ‘Scott Pilgrim’ star Michael Cera, director Edgar Wright

Friday, August 13th, 2010
Michael Cera and Edgar Wright from "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" Actor Michael Cera, left, and director Edgar Wright get serious about their new movie “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

It’s Cera vs. Wright!

Michael Cera is the star of the new frenetic action movie/romance “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Edgar Wright directed it, along with two earlier comedies “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead.”

I sat down with both at Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel for a brief chat.

DG. Mr. Wright, what led you to decide to treat the numerous action scenes in “Scott Pilgrim” as if they were musical numbers?

EW. In the books, when Scott Pilgrim destroys opponents, they explode into coins, just like in a video game. The only way I could think of to make that work in a film was to play it like a musical. In the same way in musicals where people break into songs or dance, here they break into fights.

A big fight scene in a Hong Kong action film is like a dance number. I used that as a cue for a way to structure the film. A lot of recent action films, particularly the Bourne films, are going for this rough-and-tumble realism. This is much more choreographed and stylized. Choreographing this with actors is more like learning ballet than it is a rough-and-tumble fist fight.”

DG. Mr. Cera, did you ever imagine you’d be a super action hero in a movie one day?

MC. No, I never thought about it. It wasn’t something that I ever dreamed about or anything. Besides, this movie is a lot more than that. (Read more…)

Dann chats with ‘Splice’ director Vincenzo Natali

Friday, June 4th, 2010
Director Vincenzo Natali “Splice” Director Vincenzo Natali relaxes at Chicago’s Trump Towers between interviews for his new science-fiction horror tale.

Director a splice of life

Detroit-born Vincenzo Natali has directed four features so far, the last one being “Splice,” a science-fiction thriller that opens today.

The filmmaker now makes his home in Toronto, Canada. He recently came to Chicago’s Trump Towers to answer some questions about horror and human nature, and the scary subject of genetic splicing.

Q. “Splice” is about scientists – played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley – who genetically create a new life-form, which they debate whether should be killed or protected. How would you describe it?

A. I think it’s a creature film spliced with a relationship story. That is what always intrigued me about it. I wanted to make an intimate creature film, one that would explore the nuances between creator and creation. I hope it works for people. I’m a great lover of creature films. This is my love letter to creature movies. As someone who appreciates the genre, I thought it could be treated with a slightly more delicate and sophisticated hand.

Q. Any reactions from ethics or religious groups?

A. It’s a very loaded topic. Hopefully, the film isn’t clear about where it stands morally. It goes into some very gray territory. There are clearly some positive things to come out of this technology. And there are great dangers … I cowrote the script in consultation with a geneticist, and had a geneticist involved in the production of the film. They were very enthusiastic about the film. I haven’t heard from an ethics person or religious group. I’m not sure how they would feel about the movie. They might support it. (Read more…)

George Romero on making movies, monsters

Friday, May 28th, 2010
Filmmaker George Romero George Romero has firm ideas about what the undead should, and shouldn’t, do.

George Romero, the filmmaker who re-created the modern horror film with his 1968 renegade black-and-white classic “Night of the Living Dead,” has his fifth sequel, “Survival of the Dead,” opening tonight at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

Illness prevented Romero, 70, from flying into Chicago. So, we played a round of Seven Questions on the phone:

Q. What’s the best zombie movie you didn’t make?

A. Wow! This is out of the blue. I’ve never had the question before. Uh, the old, old ones. They’re the only ones I really love. “I Walked With a Zombie.” “White Zombie.” Those were the funnest things. I don’t know that anyone could do those movies again. They’ve become demystified.

Q. Should zombies be able to move like Michael Jordan in his prime, as they do in Zack Snyder’s remake of your sequel “Dawn of the Dead”?

A. Absolutely not. They’re dead! It’s as simple as that! In the remake of “Dawn,” I think he’s a good director and he did a good job with the action parts of the film. It’s not the kind of film I would have made. I thought it was more of a video game. No politics. No sort of social criticism or whatever. But, I mean what did they (zombies) do? Wake up and join a health club?

Even in “28 Days Later” or in “Zombieland,” they’re not really dead. They’ve got some kind of virus or something. I can sort of forgive them there, but if they’re dead, how can they run? I don’t get it.

Q. Why haven’t you ever put sex into your undead films? Even the 2006 second remake of “Night of the Living Dead” has sex and a naked woman in it. Why not your films?

A. I don’t know. It just doesn’t belong. People are too preoccupied with other things. People have told me that in a doomsday scenario, the first thing people will do is crawl into bed with each other. I don’t know. In these films, it just doesn’t seem to fit. (Read more…)

‘Hurt Locker’ earns best-picture Academy Award

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Greg Shapiro on Oscar night From left, screen writer Mark Boal, director Kathryn Bigelow and producer Greg Shapiro pose backstage with their Oscars for screen writing, directing and best movie for “The Hurt Locker.”

In an evening where all the winners pretty much lined up as expected, Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker” won the Best Picture statuette during the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

Bigelow made Academy Award history by becoming the first woman ever to receive the Oscar for best director. As expected, of course.

“There’s no way to describe it,” she said. “It’s the moment of a lifetime.”

“The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Oscars, and took home six.

As far as Chicago was concerned, the big news of the night came when Palatine High School alum and Columbia College graduate Mauro Fiore won the best cinematography Oscar for shooting the live-action portion of “Avatar,” James Cameron’s groundbreaking science-fiction adventure.

“Everybody, thank you very much,” Fiore said. “An incredible honor!”

Jeff Bridges won best actor as a boozed-out country-and-western singer in “Crazy Heart.” As expected.

“Thank you, Academy members!” he yelled to a standing ovation. “Mom and Dad! Look! Whoa-hoo! Thanks for turning me on to such a groovy profession!”

Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for best actress for her role as a tough, sexy steel magnolia in “The Blind Side.”

“Did I really win this, or did I just wear you all down?” she said.

“Avatar” won Oscars for visual effects, art decoration, cinematography, sound effects and sound mixing. (Read more…)

Dann pegs ‘Avatar,’ ‘Hurt Locker’ as best bets for the final Oscar cut

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Neytiri from "Avatar" Will “Avatar” go head-to-head against “The Hurt Locker” come Oscar night? Dann thinks so.

If things go down as I suspect they will at the 82nd annual Oscar nominations announcement Tuesday morning, it’ll be a battle of the ex-spouses as James Cameron’s science-fiction thriller “Avatar” goes head-to-head for best picture with Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker.”

Those are the two guaranteed leading contenders for the big enchilada.

What will win? “Avatar,” the highest-grossing movie in the history of Earth? Or “Hurt Locker,” the most acclaimed drama by major film critics organizations, such as Chicago’s?

We’ll see when ABC broadcasts the Oscars ceremony live on March 7.

Meanwhile, here are my predictions for the contenders for golden statutes in the top categories.

Best Picture: The can’t-miss nominees will be “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious” and “Up in the Air.”

As Oscar fans know, Academy bosses have mandated that 10 movies shall be nominated for best picture this year, in an attempt to pump interest in the static ceremony. This is hardly something new.

Ten best picture nominees were common during the ’30s and ’40s. The first Oscars only had three movies in contention for best picture. In 1935, there were 12 films nominated.

So, what will fill the remaining five slots Tuesday?

My guess: “A Serious Man,” “An Education,” “Invictus,” “Star Trek” and “Up,” the guaranteed winner in the animated feature category.

(Note: If Oscar voters see the wisdom in confining “Up” to the animation category, its slot will be filled by “A Single Man” or “District 9.”)

And if the popular over-the-top comedy “The Hangover” actually gets a nod, all bets are off at awards time. (Read more…)