October 18, 2013

DONUT SHOWDOWN Is An Awesome Competition Show About Donuts

I was recently informed by a good friend who knows me well of a newish show on the Cooking Channel called DONUT SHOWDOWN. It's actually a Canadian show in which a bunch of "donut chefs" come on and compete in the somewhat redonkculous manner that has become common on these crazy cooking shows (see CUPCAKE WARS).  But still, it was very entertaining to watch the finalists try to create the ulimate Japanese themed donuts. Wait--what? Let's just say rice and donuts are not two great tastes that go great together!

The show was so absurd that at times it played almost like a comic parody of a cooking show, ala SNL. This was not hard to do as when you take something like donuts dead seriously--it's just going to be funny when you start talking about the texture or mouth feel of a donut. The real revelation of the show was one of the contestants, Dan Dunbar who was not only super-cute but made some killer donuts.  He happened to be from Brooklyn too where, along with business partner Patrick Holliwell, he runs a vegan donut shop in Bushwick called Dun-Well Donuts. How is it I did not hear of this artisanal donut wonderland? Oh yeah--it is vegan. But I'm willing to give it a shot as many are calling it the best donut in the city, including the NY Daily News. Maybe even this weekend as i'm sure they've got a killer apple cider flavor just for fall.

October 16, 2013

Neil Patrick Harris Is Hedwig!

After singing and dancing up a storm at awards show telecasts, Neil Patrick Harris will finally have a Broadway show of his own. He is starring in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, which will make it to the Great White Way finally after a years-long off-broadway run, a feature film and countless productions around the world. The glittery/glam poster for the new show was released today and posted over on the Hollywood Reporter's website.

I saw the original show three times, with the show's writer/co-creator John Cameron Mitchell playing the lead and then Michael Cerveris and finally Matt McGrath. I even saw the show's first "workshop" production which happened at the infamous Squeezebox night at Don Hill's, where John took the stage in that feathered wig and started telling stories about being a East German/cross-dressing/babysitter. At the time, it was all kind of amazing, strangely funny, and somewhat baffling but when the band kicked in, Hedwig truly rocked and the crowd really roared.

Anyway, I'm excited to see NPH take on this iconic role and bring his own spin to this now-legendary larger-than-life character. And also to see director Michael Mayer, known for his work on SPRING AWAKENING and the TV show SMASH!, breathe new life into this classic show and score. Hedwig takes her wig off the shelf and takes the stage at the Belasco on March 29, 2014.

October 14, 2013

SNL Throws A Popular "Boy Dance Party"

Lately, it seems that the best material on SNL is often the pre-taped sketches. Last week, they did one of the more daring satirical pieces about the Republican party shutdown of the government with Miley Cyrus as Michelle Bachman. It was seriously out there--and almost reminded me of the edgy material from the show's original run back in the '70s. This week, they kept things a little bit lighter but it was just as funny with a sketch about a "Boy Dance Party" which happens in secret after the wives and GF's leave their men behind to watch football.

Taran Killam killed it with some awesome dance moves, particularly the "shake that sack" move. He is the go-to hot guy on the show these days, sporting some serious guns. Oh--and there's also Bruce Willis doing his best to keep up with the boys as well. Good stuff.

October 9, 2013

What's Scarier Than POLTERGEIST? A POLTERGEIST Remake Of Course

Everything old is remade again lately in H'wood and now supernatural horror classic POLTERGEIST is getting the treatment. This movie is so iconic it would seem hard to do a remake but it hasn't stopped new versions of movies like CARRIE, which is due out later this month.

Some interesting details have emerged though; the script is by a New York playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire, who specializes in plays about lost children (at least his play and then film RABBIT HOLE is about this topic). On the casting front, indie favorites Sam Rockwell and Jane Adams have major roles as the dad and a parapsychologist. And there is also a GHOST HUNTERS-type character from a reality TV show who is exploring the spirits that take over the new families' home. No word on whether the house is in a subdivision that was built over a graveyard.  :)

There is one thing that probably won't be in the movie--the TV static which is the entryway for the ghosts. TV static as it appears in the original film doesn't really exist anymore because broadcast TV's don't turn off at a certain hour at night. Remarkable to think that was actually a thing back in the day. But now, TV is 24/7 on broadcast, cable, online, your phone, etc. I imagine, to a younger person the scene of the TV static might even be somewhat confusing but back then it was super creepy. The original scared the bejeesus out of me as it cleverly took the mundane households items (like a TV, or a clown doll, or a piece of leftover meat in the fridge) and turned them into supernatural things.

So I'm skeptical if they can scare things up in the same way the second time around but we'll see. POLTERGEIST redux will likely hit theaters late next year.

October 8, 2013

Daniel Radcliffe Is Always Smoking And Apologizing

This Sunday's TIMES magazine had a lengthy profile of former HARRY POTTER star and now (literally) indie darling Daniel Radcliffe. This week the film KILL YOUR DARLINGS (directed by my colleague and fellow NYU grad John Krokidas) features Radcliffe as he makes quite a break with his wizardly past by playing gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg. This piece, however, is not the usual celebrity fluff. The writer Susan Dominus had some serious access to Radcliffe who seemed unguarded in speaking with her about the challenges of international, inescapable Beatles-style fame at the ripe old age of 23. Apparently, he feels an intense need to apologize to many fans he meets, in fear of not coming across as a nice guy. It's sweet and almost a little sad, realizing how intensely he cares about how each one of his fans personally perceive him.

Radcliffe also comes off as extremely ambitious as well (given the spate of unusual projects he's taken on since retiring his wand), as well as being quite smart, somewhat geeky, and a big NFL fan(!). He is also very open about how he drank too much for a few years and even showed up on set drunk for one of the Potter films. The tales of his drinking at pubs are all the more remarkable in that he wasn't hounded by tabloids and didn't become a Lindsay-style child star train-wreck. He has since quit drinking but does smoke quite a bit--so much so that that was the number one reason he moved out of his parents home at age 17.

Radcliffe has been an outspoken and impressive ally of the LGBT community, supporting one of my favorite charities the Trevor Project. And in this article he again makes a wonderful yet simple statement about how he doesn't understand all the fuss regarding his current role in DARLINGS. "I honestly don't know what the big deal is," he says, adding that "people have been having gay sex for as long as they’ve been having straight sex, period." Nicely put. All in all, this profile is a great read in that not only do you get a nice long peek into his fishbowl-like life, you actually get to know him a little bit more, rather than just getting the usual PR lines standard in a piece like this.

October 3, 2013

Controversial French Film STRANGER BY THE LAKE At The NY Film Fest

On Monday, I went to the New York Film Festival and saw a new French film which had debuted to much acclaim and controversy at Cannes earlier this year entitled STRANGER BY THE LAKE.  The film, set at an idyllic lake in the country which is a gay male cruising ground, is about desire and death. It's gorgeously shot and includes some controversial man-on-man action which goes about as all the way as I've seen in a conventional narrative film. But to call this a conventional narrative film is to miss the filmmakers' point as well. There is a dreamlike and somewhat surreal quality to the proceedings and the disturbing plot as it unfolds. It has been called a gay Hitchock film and likened to REAR WINDOW, two comparisons which are apt.

Anyway, it was great to see the film on the big screen at Alice Tully hall and even greater to get to hear director Alain Guiraudie talk about the film afterwards, via a translator, at a lengthy Q/A. He really made the translator work as he gave incredibly in-depth answers to simple questions, adding insight to his process as a filmmaker and what the film means to him.  This is one of those movies that, whether you love it or hate it, its images and scenes will likely stick with you long after the film is over. That's because what he is doing is pure cinema--visceral, visual storytelling that, while at times highly erotic, is also thought provoking in that it willfully breaks many conventions of standard filmmaking. Some of those breaks can be frustrating while others can be shocking.

Due to the film's explicit nature and lots of male nudity, it was a tough sell for distributors, especially in the notoriously puritanical US theatrical market. Naked women having sex = NC-17. Naked men having sex = don't even bother. So Strand Releasing, the distributor of my earlier films, acquired the title and will release it here unrated in early 2014--starting with a run at Lincoln Center in January. You will probably be able to see if online at some point but it's definitely worth seeking it out in a theatre.

October 1, 2013

Disney Encourages Second-Screening At LITTLE MERMAID Re-Release

Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID is currently re-released in theatres as part of an advance promotion for the film's ultimate release in October on Blu-Ray DVD. To get people excited and hopefully generate some additional traffic to the theatres, Disney told people to bring their iPads for a "second screening" experience in which a live app plays during the movie and kids or adults can play along on their devices. 

I'm all for re-releasing classic films but this second-screen approach is ridiculous. There are enough problems with adults using their devices in movie theatres these day so to encourage children to do so it only going to cause trouble down the line. Disney says this is a special one-time only event, but what happens when the next Disney movie comes out and that same five-year old wants to bring their iPad? Children will start to think it's perfectly normal to watch an iPad and/or iPhone while watching a movie. Not only is it not normal, it's rude to other people in the theatre not to mention distracting to the viewer/use themself. 

There has been some uproar over this risky bit of marketing, most notably from Andrew Wallenstein VARIETY'S digital editor who admits this idea turns him into a Luddite. And, in checking the weekly box office, the re-release is not even listed in the top 100 grosses so that may be a sign the experiment was a big flop. Let's hope so--when you go to the movies, you should be there to watch a movie. And maybe eat some popcorn. If you wanna second screen in the privacy of your own home, go for it--I often do (depending on how good the show or film is!). But the movies should really be free from this sort of digital distraction.