Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Friday Links - Happy Weekend!

- Russian Communist party members condemned the new Indiana Jones' film on Friday as crude anti-Soviet propaganda that distorted history and called for it to be banned from Russian screens. Something to think about when you're sitting in the theatre this weekend, with a tub of lard and sugar in your lap, watching the 4th installment of the Indiana Jones series.

- "The Americans are lazy, they're arrogant and too scared to do any deals. I tell them: get some balls, your companies are all going down the toilet, maybe now's the time to get some films before it all collapses." As the Cannes Film festival winds down, U.S. distributors have been rather passive in the acquisitions department, scaring others.

- A Pac-Man movie is in development! No, this isn't a joke! It sounds almost as ridiculous as a Tetris movie... oh wait, actually, there already is a Tetris movie on schedule.

- Why both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter TOTALLY SUCK! The war between old and new media content creators spills over into the film industry, as a crop of mostly young bloggers like myself, fight for respect!

- Catch up on the great ones at Senses Of Cinema's critical "Great Directors" series, a rather thoughtful online journal with lots of quality articles on many aspects of cinema.

- I will be seeing the film below tomorrow night at the ongoing African Film Festival here in New York. It's played at a number of international film festivals to mostly critical acclaim, and comes highly recommended from trusted sources. I'm looking forward to it, specifically because the filmmaker is Cameroonian, as am I. I'll post a review after I see it!

Sony Picture Classics Gets Tyson At Cannes

A few days ago I posted an entry detailing the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the James Toback directed Mike Tyson documentary at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where the former heavyweight boxing champ himself was present to enjoy the accolades first-hand. You can read that post HERE.

At the time, the film was without a distribution deal, or at least, none had been announced... until today!

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Sony Pictures Classics is in final negotiations for the documentary, which chronicles the "illustrious but often troubled life of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson," calling it "one of the most high-profile domestic pickups among the Festival de Cannes premieres."

I had no idea it was considered a high-profile affair!

Apparently, Toback, who self-funded the project, had a tentative distribution agreement with Yari Film Group which never materialized due to disagreements with the deal. According to the Reporter, "The director was determined to leave Cannes with a deal, he said, in order to showcase the film in the early fall festival circuit before a release timed around the November elections."

I'm wondering why he wants a release timed specifically around the November elections... guess we'll find out eventually, now that the film will see a theatrical release.

Watch Viola Davis And Andre Braugher On Monday Night!

If you live in New York City like I do, then you've probably seen the wealth of posters plastered in parts of Manhattan, advertising the upcoming A&E TV 2-night premiere event, beginning on Memorial Day, for a film called The Andromeda Strain, a sci-fi miniseries, based on Michael Crichton's 1969 novel of the same name, about a team of scientists who investigate a deadly disease of extraterrestrial origin.

As I walked through Grand Central Terminal today, down the wide path linking the Times Square shuttle platform and the 4/5/6 subway train lines, I couldn't help but notice the large posters covering almost every single wall I passed along the way, advertising the film, while showcasing it's diverse cast of characters - a cast that instantly got my attention, because it features two talented African American actors I always enjoy watching, but very rarely get to see perform - Viola Davis and Andre Braugher. And it is mostly thanks to those 2 names that I will be tuning in next week to watch the miniseries, as each is prominently featured.

The series is produced by the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony, responsible for more than a few critical and commercial studio successes over the last 30 years.

Made up of 2 two-hour episodes, it will premiere on Monday night, May 26th, at 9PM.

It's already been shown in the UK.

Check out the website HERE.

See the trailer and behind the scenes clips below.

Charles Burnett Directs Eriq La Salle And Cicely Tyson

With his Namibia epic behind him - a film that still is without an American distributor, and which I've heard mixed reviews about - Killer of Sheep director, Charles Burnett, has signed on to direct a film for the Hallmark cable TV channel, titled Relative Stranger.

The film stars former ER star Eriq La Salle, the timeless Cicely Tyson, and the usually dependable, Michael Beach.

In the Hallmark Channel original movie, La Salle plays an angry man who abandoned his wife, children and extended family six years ago. When his father dies, he returns to get what his dad left to him and reunites with his family in the process.

Tyson plays La Salle's mom, and Beach plays his brother.

Charles Burnett is directing from a script by Eric Haywood. Principal photography began this week and is targeted to premiere around the Christmas holidays.

In the meantime, check out the trailer below for Burnett's Namibia: The Struggle For Liberation, which stars Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly, amongst many others.

"W" - 2008's Sleeper?

Man, this is really shaping up to be a must see film for 2008!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Richard Dreyfuss is in final negotiations to play Vice President Dick Cheney in Oliver Stone's upcoming George W Bush pic, simply titled, W.

I previously posted a blog entry about the film over HERE and provided a glimpse of what some of the cast will look like in full make-up, over HERE.

Dreyfuss is yet another interesting casting selection by Stone - adding to an already brow-raising potpourri of stars attached to the film, including, Josh Brolin as George W, Elizabeth Banks as Laura, Thandie Newton (where has she been) as Condoleezza Rice, and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell.

Given the casting, as well as all I've read about Stone's possible caustic yet comical take on George W, I can't help but be giddy about what the end product is going to look, sound and feel like!

Looking forward to its fall release!


Thursday Linkage...

A few quick links to keep you busy in the meantime...

- MANOHLA DARGIS of the New York Times asks, "Is There A Real Woman In This Multiplex?", lamenting the lack of women in lead roles during Hollywood's summer blockbuster season.

- "I watch Clinton and feel kind of sorry for her and wonder, 'What are all these people telling her to run away for?'"Clint Eastwood Offers Pity For Hilary Clinton.

- IFC Films picks up 'Hunger' at Cannes... One of few films (if not the only one) directed by a black filmmaker, in competition at the festival. (Thanks to Sergio for the info).

- Reviews of Soderbergh's 4 1/2 hour biopic, Che, starring Benicio Del Toro, are coming in, after yesterday's screening at Cannes. VARIETY says it's not very good (Thanks to Sergio for the link); Cinematical says it's brilliant, and Benicio should win the Oscar for best actor next year.

- Indiana Jones 4 on Over 9,500 Screens!, set to break box office records.

- Jake Gyllenhaal crowned 'Prince of Persia' - a bit of casting news that's causing somewhat of a stir over the airwaves since Gyllenhaal isn't from the region (essentially modern day Iran!) nor does he look like he is. I suppose it'll be Gyllenhaal in "brown face," borrowing a page from the Angelina Jolie casting as Mariane Pearl.

More later...


Bollywood & Hollywood - A Fledgling Love Story

Interesting informative piece from the UK's Guardian, on Bollywood's aggressive global moves, with Hollywood at its side, thanks to the bottomless pockets of Indian billionaire, Anil Ambani, brother of Mukesh Ambani whom I profiled briefly on this blog, specifically concerning his $2 Billion pad (the most expensive home ever built to date) in Mumbai. You can re-read that blog entry HERE.

Anil Ambani and his Reliance Big Entertainment, the media arm of his Indian conglomerate, announced that the company would be funding and producing 10 Hollywood movies for a billion dollars! That's about $100 Million per movie!! Wow! The man isn't messing around is he?

Deals have apparently already been signed with the production companies of Hollywood stars like Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt.

The goal?

"The aim is to look at 30 film scripts under this deal over the next two years, out of which 10 will go to screen. This is just the beginning of our relationship with Hollywood... We are looking to make big-budget, live-action movies in Hollywood that make money for us... That will mean a different way of making movies... We want to make Hollywood movies that have a global audience. We are not inserting Bollywood into Hollywood just yet..." said, Rajesh Sawhney, the president of Reliance.

The move also opens the door for Indian directors to work in Hollywood!

I'm wondering if there's a lesson that can be learned here... I love the aggressiveness of this by Ambani. Granted he's obviously got the money, but some of "us" aren't doing too badly either. Ownership and control are key in this business, and by putting up the money to fund the agreement (as opposed to relying on the bank accounts of others - see Robert Johnson and Our Stories Films Inc), Ambani and his company will be able to retain ownership, control and thus influence, all things that one could say we are lacking within the realm of black cinema.

You can read the entire piece HERE, where you'll also learn about the 2 Will Smith flicks that will be funded and produced by another Indian media company!

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Wednesday Link City

- Spike Lee gets critical, ripping Coens for their treatment of death in their films, and Eastwood for his omission of black faces in his two Iwo Jima films - HERE and HERE.
- "It's too early to make a judgment call about Cannes' 61st, but no film is blowing audiences out of the water." - IndieWire claims no one is impressed by Cannes 2008 HERE.
- Be very afraid... comedian Eddie Griffin to get his own reality TV series on VH1 titled, Eddie Griffin Going For Broke. Given VH1's track record with reality tv shows (especially those with black faces), I have absolutely no hopes that this will do anything to turn the tide - more HERE.
- The world's "worst filmmaker" wants to make a film about the Janjaweed of Sudan - HERE.
- Somebody at Columbia Pictures must have been reading this blog because a Flash Gordon remake is in the works - HERE.
- From, 5 Upcoming Comic Book Movies That Must Be Stopped and why (John Singleton's Luke Cage is one of them) - HERE.
- World's richest man endorses Obama for president - HERE.
- Obama to Tennessee GOP: "Lay off my wife" - HERE.
- Why is Hillary still hanging on despite Obama's likely eventual win? She's posturing for the 2012 race - HERE.
- Microsoft CEO, Steve Balmer gets egged in Hungary - Video HERE.
- The worlds new tallest building - HERE.
- British medical professionals champion creation of human-animal embryos for disease research. Dr Moreau would be enthused - HERE.

And that's news to me...

Apple iTunes

Spike Talks About "Miracle" And M.J. Documentary

Today at the Cannes Film Festival, Spike Lee discussed his latest film, Miracle at St. Anna, with the press. Amongst several other topics, he mentioned his struggles in getting the film funded, stating that he had to finance the film with foreign money, since, apparently, there wasn't much interest from Hollywood studios, despite the fact that his last studio picture, Inside Man, was a box office success globally.

Read the press release below for more, and a teaser about an upcoming Michael Jordan documentary that Spike has in the works! Miracle at St. Anna hits theatres in October.


Director Spike Lee hit the Croisette Tuesday unveiling his latest project, "Miracle at St. Anna," based on a screenplay by James McBride, the author of the novel of the same name. The feature chronicles the story of four African-American soldiers who are members of the U.S. Army's all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" division that fought against the fascists and Nazis during World War II. Lee is in Cannes to sell international rights to the film, which Touchstone will release in the United States.

"It's faithful to historic fact, but a large part of the film is about faith and miracles," said Lee about the film. "It's a miracle this film was ever made and it's a miracle that I'm a filmmaker." Lee, who describes "Miracle at St. Anna" as an "Italian film" - 95% of the crew were Italian and most of the movie was shot in Tuscany and Rome - lamented the Hollywood process, saying he had to go outside the studios to get the movie filmed. "It was like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. My film 'Inside Man' made $300 million and I thought it would be easier to get money for my next film [laughs], but that didn't happen... So I was discouraged with the Hollywood system, and decided to go to Italy." He was then able to get financing for the $40 million project.

Lee added, "There will be subtitles. We won't have Nazis speaking English, and Italians will be speaking Italian." Asked if the film touches on the subject of the mistreatment of African-Americans in the U.S. military during WWII, Lee said the film is not primarily focused on troop segregation, but does broach the topic...

... Lee will return to the United States for his next project, which he quickly mentioned as the discussion was concluding in Cannes. "Here's a scoop for you, I'm doing a feature-length documentary on Michael Jordan. And I'll be back next year [with it] in Cannes if we get in. And even if we don't, I'll screen it anyway..."


Jean-Claude! What Have You Been Up To?

The Muscles from Brussels, AKA Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) has being virtually invisible since his glory days when films like Timecopwere box office hits, and American women melted in his presence, or at the sound of his "exotic" accent!

He's done several straight-to-video flicks since those days, none that I have seen, nor care to see, so you're probably wondering why I'm bothering to give the man screen space on this blog.

Well, JCVD has apparently resurfaced with what many are calling his most intriguing effort to date, and one that could resuscitate his once promising career - an action/comedy entitled, J.C.V.D. , starring JCVD as himself - as a washed-up 90s action star.

The synopsis: JCVD plays himself in this crime comedy that opens with the aging action star on the low end of his career, fighting a drug habit, his daughter's custody case and now a major P.R. problem -- for he's soon to find himself in the middle of a bank heist, with the world looking on and the Muscles From Brussels as the number one suspect.

The self-deprecating, yet also good-natured tone of the trailer below intrigues me somewhat. I admire any star (or former star) who's bold enough to make fun of/carricature themselves! Then again, maybe JCVD didn't really have much to lose anyway.

The film, J.C.V.D, will be released in parts of Europe, with no ETA on a USA release. It's being promoted heavily at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and from much of what I've read thus far, is creating mucho buzz!

Here's the international trailer...

Laurence Fishburne Is The Alchemist

I didn't know Laurence Fisburne previously owned the rights to adapt the bestselling novel, The Alchemist, for the screen, and has apparently been sitting on the project for several years! Why? Fishburne had funding for the film with money from Abu Dhabi business men and a Japanese media company called the Kadokawa Group (I didn't realize Fish had connections like that). However, the deal went sour thanks to disagreements over the script, which increased the film's budget to $100 million! I guess the financiers said, "no thanks Fish. Too much loot!"

Well... riding in on his pale white horse to save the day is none other than jolly Harvey Weinstein, who has reportedly purchased the rights to the book from Fishburne, for a tidy $3 million sum, and hired an Oscar-winning screenwriter to pen an adapted screenplay, scrapping the version Fishburne already has written.

However, Fishburne will still remain on the project as the director and producer, as well as star in the film! I haven't read The Alchemist, although I've heard lots of wonderful things from those I know who have; but given that the story is about a young Spaniard who embarks on a quest to find a hidden treasure within the Egyptian pyramids, I don't think Fishburne will be assuming the lead role. So what character will he play, while also producing and directing the film? I guess I should go read the book now!

Read the rest of the story at Variety Magazine.


Freeze That Poop!

Watching the news on TV, this rainy New York morning, and was tickled by a commercial for a product called Poop Freeze for pets! The name says it all, I think. Initially, I thought it was a spoof of some kind, but soon realized that it wasn't.

What is Poop Freeze for pets? What the hell do you think?

The prose on the product's website says the following: You love your pet, but the messes they leave behind can be such a hassle! With laws requiring you to pick up after your dog, don't you wish there was an easier, more efficient way? Introducing Poop-Freeze™, the amazing pet product that every pet owner should have! With this revolutionary formula, all you do is spray your pet’s mess, wait 10 seconds for it to freeze and then pick it up and throw it away! Bring it with you when you take your dog for a walk, or keep it under the sink for when your pet has an "accident" in your house...

Just frost and toss :o)

Want some Poop Freeze of your own? Go to and order yours today for just $9.99 plus $6.99 shipping and handling. AND, as a BONUS for ordering today, you’ll get a second can of Poop-Freeze™ plus the Poop-Freeze™ Carry Tote, to hold your can of Poop-Freeze™! The commercial I initially saw is also on the site!

What are you waiting for?

Will Smith Is Off To "The Sticks"

France's highest-grossing movie to date is getting an American remake courtesy of Mr. Will Smith.

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter...

Warner Bros. has purchased the rights to remake a film titled, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, or, in English, "Welcome to the Sticks," with Will's Overbrook Entertainment to produce, and of course, Will to star in.

The original French film follows a postal employee from the sunny south of France who gets an unwanted transfer to the rain-soaked north, known as "the sticks," where he eventually is won over by "the locals' warm-hearted ways and impenetrable dialect."

The film opened in France, in February this year, and has gone on to break box-office records in the country, grossing more than $180 million to date, in France alone, and is said to be on its way to overtaking Titanicto become the highest-grossing movie ever released in the country!!

Will Smith stars in 2 films this year, Hancock and Seven Pounds, summer and fall releases, respectively, with many expecting Seven Pounds to garner him another Oscar nomination. I suppose this will follow the latter, likely for a 2009 release.

Below is the trailer for the French film. It's in French, but I think based on the above brief synopsis, and the overall tone of the trailer below, one can get a good idea of what Will's remake might look and feel like.

'Indiana Jones' Cannes Reviews - A Winner?

Over the weekend, critics at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival got a first look at the surefire summer blockbuster, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the 4th installment of the series, directed by Mr Spielberg himself, and co-written by George Lucas, scheduled to hit theatres this Friday; and now early reviews from those critics who attended the Cannes screening are in. Overall, they are mostly positive, as expected. From all I read, the consensus seems to be that despite a few minor "defects," there's more than enough in the film to thrill the average popcorn muncher!

Here’s are some reviews I've read thus far, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Time magazine: “smart, robust, familiar.”
USA Today: “Even with the ponderous dialogue, it’s hard not to have fun on this adventure, and it’s good to see that Indy, though slightly weary, still has the goods.”
USA Today
Entertainment Weekly says Harrison Ford is “terrific — and re-energized” but adds that the film “threatens at times to crumble under the weight of all the impersonal zigging and zagging loaded on for the sake of special effects.”
Entertainment Weekly
Reuters: “Charmless.”
New York Post: “On a satisfaction scale, it lands squarely between ‘The Temple of Doom,’ and ‘The Last Crusade.’ ”
NY Post
Los Angeles Times: “It avoids being an anticlimax and is entertaining in its own right.”
LA Times

I plan to be there on Friday night with my $12, and will share my thoughts over the weekend!


Tyson At Cannes

I had no idea!

A documentary on former heavyweight boxing champ, Mike Tyson, premiered at the currently ongoing Cannes Film Festival, and the man himself was present for the screening, and press frenzy that followed.

The documentary was made by filmmaker, James Toback, responsible for some lesser known films like 1999's Black & White, and 1997's Two Girls and a Guy. He also wrote the screenplay for Bugsy, likely his most well-known film, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, although he didn't direct it.

Interestingly, Toback financed the Tyson film himself. Obviously he must have really wanted to make it. According to an interview with the L.A. Times, he said that he was compelled to do the film about a man he's known for 23 years because "there is an ongoing sense of drama about him. He is a man of contradictions and complexities, able to surprise you moment by moment... a balance of fragility and rage."

The reviews for the documentary since the screening at Cannes last week, have been all strong, from those I've read. According to the L.A. Times, Toback said he was taken aback by the intense crowd reaction to the film when it was screened at Cannes on Friday night, calling it an overwhelming spectacle.

From The Hollywood Reporter review of the film: Tyson found Islam in prison; and he's been through rehabilitation. Now, he says, his anger is directed only toward himself. "I'm not an animal anymore," he says in his high-pitched lisp staring at the camera through a dramatic Maori facial tattoo.

The film is to be released in later this year, although I couldn't find any info on who its distributor is.

Here's a video clip of Tyson at the Cannes reception on Friday night.

Apple iTunes