Home / News Bites Part II: Roger Ebert on Critics, Hammer’s New Film, AMC and Hounddog, Depp and Burton, I Am Legend Sequel

News Bites Part II: Roger Ebert on Critics, Hammer’s New Film, AMC and Hounddog, Depp and Burton, I Am Legend Sequel

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As I always try to look for some new way to expand my offerings, I have decided to keep an eye out across the world of entertainment news and try my hand at news reporting/commentary on stories that catch my eye. Obviously, I cannot cover everything, nor will I be able to cover most of it, or much of it at all. What I will do is catch whatever I can as I can and hope that it delivers something new to you.

Roger Ebert on the Critic's Purpose

Not really a news piece, but Roger Ebert posted a column called "'Critic' is a four-letter word". It is a fantastic piece that anyone who aspires to be a critic, thinks they are a critic, or wants to get into writing should read. It offers insight into how Mr. Ebert approaches the job, where he gets his inspiration, and how important the job can be to the art world.

In the column he references the great critic speech at the end of Ratatouille, using it to point out the importance of seeing and defending the "new." I found this to be a telling portion of the article. Think about it. Many think that critics only exist to tear films down and/or to promote an elitist agenda. I do not doubt that this may be true in some cases, but it is far from the whole truth.

I wonder how many great films, creators, performers would have slipped by unnoticed if not for the critic. Critics take their accumulated experience and use it to help recognize what is good, what is not, and offer their educated opinion on it. This includes new voices, things that are different, and things that push boundaries in the medium. The critic also has the ability to explain their positions, not allowing themselves to be content with saying "I like it" or "It's terrible." That is no way to go about forming an opinion. On top of that, reading critics and their thoughts will help the non-critic get in touch with why they like or dislike something, making them confront themselves and formulate taste.

I can only hope to be the tiniest bit like Mr. Ebert. The man is a treasure. Do yourself a favor, go read his column and then stick around to read some of his reviews.

Hammer Films Begins Production on The Wake Wood

Yes, you read that headline correctly. You did see the words "hammer" and "films" placed together in the context of a new film production. The news is being reported over at Bloody Disgusting that Hammer Films has commenced production on a new original film called The Wake Wood.

Fans of the horror genre should be familiar with Hammer Films. Now, I freely admit that my knowledge of Hammer's history is shoddy at best and non-existent at worst. What I do know is that they have been a highly influential studio for decades. Through the 1960s and 1970s they produced some absolutely classic horror films, many starring legends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Their films included fresh takes on the classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein, not to mention such oddities as The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Simply put, if you like horror, you owe it to yourself to get some Hammer films in your collection.

wakewoodNow, this production start is notable because there has not been a Hammer film released since To the Devil a Daughter back in 1976. It will be interesting to see if this new film will be able to capture the feel of classic Hammer.

The Wake Wood is based on an original screenplay by David Keating and Brendan McCarthy. It concerns a couple (a vet and a pharmacist) grieving the loss of their 9-year-old daughter to a vicious dog attack. They move to a small town where they learn that an ancient pagan ritual can give them three more days with their daughter.

This idea seems to be right for the Hammer banner, with potential for visceral scenes mixed with a healthy dose of psychological horror. The decision to move forward with the ritual cannot be an easy one, not to mention what happens at the end of the third day?

I have to say that I am eagerly awaiting this film, although I am not sure if it is the idea of it or the Hammer banner that has me more excited.

AMC Pulls Hounddog

It is being reported at IMDb.com that Dakota Fanning's latest film, Hounddog, has been pulled from AMC-owned theaters. The removal of the film from the chain's schedule came as a result of mounting pressure from family values groups.

Last year, when the film debuted, it was widely reported that there was a scene in the film that depicted Fanning's character being raped. Rape is obviously a touchy subject and an important issue that must be dealt with. It also appears that the very inclusion of such a scene is sure to send certain groups into an absolute frenzy. The outcry began last year, when the film was originally slated to open, and time has not lessened the blow.

I have not seen the film so I cannot comment directly on the scene nor how it is dealt with within the context of the movie. I also suspect that the same may be said about those protesting the film's release. It seems that whenever anything like this comes up, protests sprout up based on what people have heard rather than what they have seen. It is a shame that people are not allowed to make up their own minds rather than having these watchdog groups step in and make the decision for them.

Director Deborah Kampmeier said this in an interview with WENN: "I feel a lot of compassion towards these people that are so angry about the film. Rape is a really tough subject and the film deals with issues that are really painful to look at and I think that a lot of people don't have the support in their life to look at their own lives; to look at their own pain. Instead they're facing their pain and projecting their anger and their fear onto my film. A lot of agendas are being projected off this film that have nothing to do with the film and they're being projected onto it by people who haven't actually seen the film. It's too bad."

For what it's worth, the film does look interesting despite the lukewarm reception from critics, including a two star review from Roger Ebert. While he may not particularly care for the film, he does applaud the performance of young Dakota Fanning: "(she) handles a painful and complex role with such assurance that she reminds me of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver."

The film also has the support of at least one organization. The women's group NOW believes it is an important film and has urged its supporters to go and see the film for themselves.

Depp + Burton = Mad Hatter

Coming Soon is reporting that the rumors were true. Tim Burton's next film, Alice in Wonderland, will feature Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Almost seems like a foregone conclusion, right?

A few weeks ago it was being reported that Depp was going to be cast in the film; although, at that point it was nothing more than a rumor. Even though it was a rumor, it seemed a natural fit. Pretty much any time a Burton film is announced, Depp is going to be wedged in there somewhere.

Now, taking a look at the project as a whole, I see something that could definitely be fascinating. Lewis Carroll's tale has a distinctly dark side to it, considerably darker than was seen in the classic Disney animation. With Tim Burton's goth, dark, odd, quirky, pick-your-adjective visions, it seems like a perfect fit between material and director. Of course, it also seems to put a stake into the long brewing American McGee's Alice project that has been rumored for so long (with Sarah Michelle Gellar attached to the title role).

I love Burton's films (Sweeney Todd was my top film for 2008) and I love Johnny Depp; these two have yet to let me down and I do not think it will begin here.

The film is going to be shot with a mix of live action and motion capture, a la Beowulf. I have not seen any dates yet for start of production.

Will Smith to Star in I Am Legend Sequel

I guess it was just a matter of time before Warner Brothers figured out a way to do it. Any movie that makes a good deal of money becomes a prime candidate for being tagged with the word "franchise." Considering the huge success of I Am Legend, it was no secret that a sequel was wanted. The big question was how to do it, considering Will Smith's character was killed at in the first film. Well, Bloody Disgusting is reporting that a prequel will be made and will keep Smith in the lead role.

In addition to the return of Will Smith, director Francis Lawrence is also returning to sit in the director's chair. Akiva Goldsman will be among the producers, and the screenplay will be penned by D.B. Weiss, whose debut screenplay is in the process of being produced now.

The story will be a prequel that chronicles the final days in New York City prior to the release of the apocalyptic virus. Am I interested in seeing this? Sure; however, I am not sure it will be any good. I mean, we already know that Smith's Robert Neville is doomed, and he is not quite the titular legend until the second film. Frankly, I am having trouble cracking through the idea to find a compelling story underneath. I guess that's why I'm not a screenwriter.

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About Draven99

  • Brad Laidman

    I love Ebert – he’s got some biases that I understand, but he’s always got his heart in the right place and he’s always eloquent.

    Don’t ever expect Roger to give a bad review to Spike Lee or Martin Scorcese, but I can live with that.

    It’s interesting because I live in Cleveland and spent all morning reading about how the Cleveland Plain Dealer took their expert classical music critic off of his beat after 16 years for being too negative toward the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Great piece by Ebert. Thanks for providing that, Chris. I’m really enjoying your news bites. Cool stuff!

  • Thanks Jordan, just trying to expand what little I can offer. Sometimes these things are just great reads (not my comments, the original columns), and I just love Ebert, the guy is above all else a fan of movies. Not many “get it” the way he gets it.