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Inquirer Daily News

Archive: January, 2012

POSTED: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 1:41 PM

SAG awards for "The Help" and stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer bring the movie that much closer to an Oscar, reviving arguments about whether the movie is a step forward or backward for African-Americans in cinema.

Screenwriter James McBride posted this on Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule website. We're running it as an oped, but in case you missed it...

I wonder if it comes down to a question of variety. If there more movies like "Red Tails" or "Pariah" (exec produced by Lee) featuring more African Americans in a much broader range of roles, maybe the award-season notoriety for "The Help" wouldn't stick out so much. 

POSTED: Monday, January 30, 2012, 1:13 PM

"The Grey" won the weekend with $20 million, good news for this original outside-the-system actioner, good news for Liam Neeson, who apparently owns the winter.

"Red Tails" dipped 44 percent -- it's hanging in there, no word yet from George Lucas on whether the numbers warrant expanding to a trilogy. He has two prospective Tuskegee Airman movies (leading up to the war, after the war) in development.

Katherine Heigl's "One for the Money," made $11 million, about a million of which (estimated by BO MOJO) came from Groupon buyers. About 20 million received a Groupon blast last week.

POSTED: Friday, January 27, 2012, 9:45 AM

Here's a piece about the Dept. of Energy finally getting around to building an atomic laser, nearly a century after it turned up in "Flash Gordon." Now they just have to keep Buster Crabbe from disabling it. This was the plot of every "Flash Gordon" short. How did he do it? Because Ming built an atomic death ray and then assigned two guys with spears to guard it.

Speaking of Ming -- was the 70s reboot Max Von Sydow's greatest role? The Academy is finally getting around to honoring him.

And speaking of nostalgia, here's a funny mash-up of movies re-imagined with different casts, represented by vintage posters.  My favorite: Frank Zappa in "The Big Lebowski." 

POSTED: Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 10:09 AM

Variety has posted a comprehensive snub story, including most of the usual suspects -- Fassbender, DiCaprio, Theron, Albert Brooks, etc.

But the big omissions are the blockbuster movies the new expanded Best Picture category was designed to include -- the "Harry Potter" finale being the obvious example. Fans had hoped for a "Lord of the Rings; Return of the King" type nomination, a way to recognize the achievement of the entire franchise. It didn't happen.

Instead the leading nominess are "Hugo" and "The Artist," which together have scraped up about $60 million at the box office. "Potter" made a billion or so around the world. And it was a pretty good movie -- it would have nothing to be ashamed of had it won a spot on a best picture roster that includes "The Help" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

POSTED: Monday, January 23, 2012, 11:04 AM

"Underworld Awakening" won the weekend, but George Lucas Tuskegee Airmen movie "Red Tails" came in a ahead of projections to open at $19 million.

Good numbers against tough competition -- six of the top ten movies are action pictures. The crowded field hurt "Haywire," the movie that was to have made a movie star of MMA's Gina Carano. Who's the genius who thought it was a good idea to open "Haywire" opposite an established, female-anchored action feature like "Underworld?" Many critics liked "Haywire,"  but audiences gave in a "D" rating on Cinemascore. This was predictable. As I noted in Friday's review, it billed itself as an action movie, and contained little actual fighting. Also, Carano fans who've made her an online pin-up girl were no doubt displeased to see how consistently clothed she was.

More tough-gal cinema on the way this week -- Katherine Heigl as a bounty hunter in "One for the Money," which at this point appears to be opening without an advanced review screening. Also this week: "A Separation," from Iran, recent winner of Golden Globe for best foreign language film, "The Grey" featuring Liam Neeson fighting wolves, "Man on a Ledge" (don't watch the TV ad, it gives everything away), "Miss Bala," and "Pina 3D."

POSTED: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 2:08 PM

The Oscar nominations are out Tuesday, and Harvey Weinstein (known to Meryl Streep as "The Punisher") is expecting a load of them for "The Artist," and so is expanding the movie's local footprint to 18 local as of Friday 1-20.

BTW -- Zhang Yimou's Nanking drama "Flowers of War," starring Christian Bale, will not play the art house circuit. It opens at the Riverview, The Cinemark Camden/Somerdale, and the AMC Neshaminy.

POSTED: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 12:05 PM

 I got a call today from Bertram Levy, a lifelong Philadelphian who during WWII was one of the Tuskegee Airman, a unit celebrated in the new movie “Red Tails.”  I’d been trying to contact some of the local airmen for a story running tomorrow. The story had already been filed by the time he called, but I wanted to pass along his insights and experience.
 Like a many African American men who volunteered to train at Tuskegee for the chance to fly combat missions, Levy underwent extensive training a several locations, and didn’t finish until the war was over.
He completed his single engine training in time to prepare for deployment to Europe, but like a lot of guys, was channeled to bomber training -- the Army Air Corps had more volunteers than it knew what to do with, he said, and kept re-training them for different assignments.
When his bomber training was finally finished, he awaited a deployment that never came.
 The war was winding down, he said, and the Air Corps wasn’t crazy about the idea of adding a B-17 bomber group to the famed Red Tail fighter squadrons proving their mettle in Europe.
“They weren’t about to turn us loose over there in an aircraft with a cannon in the nose, dropping bombs all over the place,” laughed Levy, who was an improbably wonderful sense of humor about his experiences in a segregated Army.
Levy returned to Philadelphia after the war to sell insurance and real estate, but remained affiliated with the Army, splitting time between active duty and reserves. After president Truman desgregated the military, Levy helped integrate several army units, and in the private sector was one of the first 3 black members of the Phildelphia Board of Realtors, where he was a member for 53 years.
 He retired from the Army with the rank of Major, and is glad he stick with military.
“I get a little love from Uncle Sam every month.”
Levy attended the local "Red Tails" premiere this week, and gives it a big thumbs up.  

POSTED: Monday, January 16, 2012, 9:32 AM

Mark Wahlberg's "Contraband" put up a nice number $24 million to beat, somewhat unexpectedly, the 3D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" ($18 million). 

BO MOJO reports "The Iron Lady" did well in an expanded run, and may benefit from Meryl Streep's Golden Globe win. "Carnage," not so well in a wider release. I guess couples on a night out did not want to see a movie about couples arguing about their crappy marriages. 

Opening this week: "Red Tails," about the Tuskegee Airmen, Steven Soderbergh's actioner "Haywire," "Underworld Awakening," and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

About this blog
Gary Thompson is the Daily News film critic. Reach Gary at thompsg@phillynews.com.

Gary Thompson Daily News Film Critic
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