News & Notes Inside the Week in Film

The Weirdest Sequel Ever

Virginia City is one of the strangest sequels you’ll ever see.  Why?  Because it’s not actually a sequel.

Virginia_City_poster copyby Chris Neumer

I’m a big fan of actor Errol Flynn’s.  Growing up in the 80s, it might seem a tad surprising that I was weened on a steady diet of Flynn, Olivia de Haviland, Humphrey Bogart and Red Skelton, but since they were the actors that my dad grew up with, they were the actors that I grew up with.  And Flynn was unquestionably the best of the bunch.  Charismatic, impish and filled with panache, the quick-witted Flynn was like George Clooney, except more dashing.

I’ve been watching some of Flynn’s movies recently and, for the first time, saw Dodge City.*  His film Virginia City had always been a favorite of mine and I was curious to see whether Dodge City was anything like it.  Both were westerns and made about a year apart from one another, so it stood to reason that there might have been some overlap.  What I didn’t expect to see was that Virginia City was looked at as a sequel to Dodge City.  Again, looking at it now, it stands to reason that it was: it followed the same ____ City title creation as Dodge City, it had the same stars, co-stars and director.  Frankly, I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t connect the dots earlier.  However, that said, there’s a good reason why I didn’t.  Namely, Virginia City isn’t a sequel to Dodge City.

* As a word of warning, you only want to see early Flynn movies.  As he packs on years and pounds, his appeal lessens dramatically.  Had he been able to keep the weight off (and, I suppose, do so by keeping away from the bottle), he could have been a star well into his forties and fifties.  As it was, he didn’t get much beyond 33 before he started bloating up.

Yeah, it’s confusing.

In Dodge City, the movie that came first, Errol Flynn and his friends (Alan Hale and Guinn “Big Boy” Williams) are asked by a rich businessman to clean up Dodge City.  Dodge City is basically the 19th Century version of Mos Eisley.  The town is in desperate need of a sheriff who won’t back down from the ruffians who currently run things there.  Naturally, Flynn steps up and takes care of business.  As Dodge City is coming to a close, the rich businessman returns and mentions that he needs Flynn and friends to clean up another town that is worse off than Dodge City ever was.  That city?  Virginia City.  So Flynn and company pack up and ride off to Virginia City.  The movie ends with everyone in a covered wagon on their way to Virginia City.

A year later, Flynn, Hale, Williams and assorted other Dodge City cast members hit the big screen again in another movie directed by Michael Curtiz and again released by Warner Brothers called Virginia City.  Only Virginia City, while promoted as the follow up to Dodge City, wasn’t a sequel by any definition you want to use. Virginia City took place 8 years before Dodge City, Flynn, Hale and Williams all played different characters with different names in it and they changed their allegiance from Confederates to Yankees.

Despite the fact that nothing about Virginia City’s plot suggested it was a sequel to Dodge City, it was hard not to make that leap, especially given that the marketing efforts of Warner Brothers all but called Virginia City the sequel to Dodge City; I believe the official lingo was to call Virginia City the ‘follow up’ to Dodge City.  Given Flynn’s popularity and the box office success of Dodge City, the question shouldn’t be ‘Is Virginia City a sequel to Dodge City?’ but rather, ‘Why the hell didn’t Warner Brothers just make Virginia City the sequel to Dodge City?’

Summing up everything in a single sentence, I quote this from Virginia City’s wikipedia page.  It is, quite possibly, the best sentence I’ve ever read on wikipedia: “The movie was a follow up to Dodge City although it has entirely new characters and was not a sequel, predating it by eight years in historical time”.

It’s such a strange situation that it’s hard to even come up with a scenario in the present day that would be similar.  After entirely too much thought, the best I could come up with was this:At the end of Batman Begins, Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) hands Batman (Christian Bale) a card with the joker’s insignia on it.  Batman says that he’ll look into it and then swoops away.  Imagine that a year later, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman all returned to star in a movie that was directed by Christopher Nolan about crime fighter dressed up like a bat fighting the Joker that was marketed as the follow up to Batman Begins… except it wasn’t a sequel to Batman Begins.  It would be a completely independent movie with a completely different set of characters and it would take place before Batman Begins.

Confusing doesn’t begin to describe it.  And that’s precisely what makes Virginia City the most unusual sequel ever.


Whatever the Opposite of ‘Trolling’ is

It was reported recently that actor Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) doesn’t look the same as he did as a ten year old.  About that…

haleyby Chris Neumer

In the interest of drawing more page views or in the absence of actual news, news outlets will often run stories about celebrities with titles like, “She doesn’t look like this anymore” or “Julia Roberts wears the worst dress ever”.  In the case of the former, it’s always a ‘duh’ situation.  So that guy doesn’t look like he did twenty years ago?  Thank god I was sitting down for that revelation.  Whenever the reader sees the reveal, it’s invariably deflating.  You nod and think, “Yeah, I guess he doesn’t look the same.  Go figure.”  Frankly, I think it would be more interesting to see someone who does look the same as he/she did twenty years ago, but I digress.*

* As an aside, I think John C. McGinley has the world record in this department.  I don’t believe he aged from 1986 (Platoon) to 2005 (midway through Scrubs).  The lesson here is, of course, that having a mustache as a young man can really make you seem older.

So the headline of the article trumpeted that actor Haley Joel Osment didn’t look the same as he did in 1998 when he filmed The Sixth Sense.   Given that the movie was filmed 15 years ago (wow, we’re getting old) and that Osment was ten at the time, it seemed logical.  Then I saw the picture of Osment and was, naturally, disappointed.  Because he looks almost the same as he did in 1998.

And when I say that Osment looks almost identical to his The Sixth Sense self, I mean it.  It’s almost like someone took his young face and photoshopped it onto an adult’s body.  Sure he had a little stubble and was (probably) a bit taller, but it honestly looked as if someone has simply inflated the 1998 version of Osment.

But it probably makes for a much better headline than “Haley Joel Osment?  Yeah, he still looks like this.”


The Photo of the Week

Prep Work on Raiders of the Lost Ark

IndianaJonesDirector Steven Spielberg climbs onto a miniature set for Raiders of the Lost Ark and begins mapping out a shot.

One of the reasons that the special effects of the seventies and early eighties were so good was that filmmakers often employed miniatures to create the scenes and settings they wanted.  Since CGI was years off, everything had to be done practically (in camera).  And because of this, everything looked real.  Because it was real.  If you look at the Mines of Moria sequence in The Fellowship of the Ring, you’ll note that it looks spectacularly realistic.  Why?  Because they used a lot of miniatures to create the effects.


The 5 Things I Learned This Week

Fascinatingly true things to broaden your mind


1) The words ‘disc’ and ‘disk’ have different meanings.  A ‘disc’ refers to optical media while a ‘disk’ refers to magnetic media.

2) Michael J. Fox’s middle name is Andrew.  He didn’t want to use Michael A. Fox when registering with the Screen Actor’s Guild because he was afraid that people would think of the play on words: Michael’s a fox!

3) Richard Gere’s middle name is Tiffany.  Tiffany was his mother’s maiden name.

4) Prior to the widespread popularity of the automobile, whiplash was commonly referred to as “railroad spine”.

5) Actor Peter O’Toole only wears green socks.


This Week’s Stories

New Releases

The Conjuring

conjuring_ver2THE PLAYERS: Starring Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston; written by Chad and Carrie Hayes; directed by James Wan. Released by Warner Bros. Rated R.

THE PLOT: A new family moves into a house where a murder was committed years earlier.  The spirits of the victims are not thrilled at this.

+ I love me some Patrick Wilson.  He was fantastic in Angels in America, delightful in Watchmen and took his stylings to another level in The A Team.
+ I also love me some supernatural horror films with the spirits of the dead going on to possess the bodies of the living that are marketed as being based on a true story.
– This film feels like a collage of other recent Hollywood horror movies.  It features a family moving into a new house, the house being the site of a murder, a host of spirits intent on doing the family harm, something of a ‘found footage’ feel to it and action that seems to take place exclusively at night… in the cellar.  It’s hard to watch this movie and not constantly be reminded of other (occasionally better) movies.
– At a certain point, the psychology of movies like The Conjuring will have to be addressed.  How long would you put up with spirits causing trouble in your newly purchased home?  An hour?  Two?  I wake up on morning number one in my new house and see that my dog is dead and that something is pushing pictures off the walls and my family is leaving.  I don’t care if I have to move in with my parents, we’re out of there.  I certainly am not going to go on a business trip and leave my wife and daughters there alone rationalizing that it will probably be okay.  Director Joe Nicolosi got this in his parody movie trailer, Hell No.
+ Outside the confines of the actual quality of the movie, The Conjuring absolutely killed at the box office.  It had a budget of $20 million and pulled in nearly $140 million domestically and $300 million worldwide.  My only question is how the budget was $20 million.  I’d like to see that breakdown.

YES, IT’S TRUE: Actress Vera Farmiga has played characters with the last names of Jordan, Doren, Goran and (here) Warren.

The Internship

internship THE PLAYERS: Starring Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Rose Byrne; written by Vaughn and Jared Stern and directed by Shawn Levy. Released by 20th Century Fox. Rated PG-13.

THE PLOT: Two 40-somethings (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) lose their sales jobs and take an unpaid internship at Google.

– I despise almost every facet of The Internship.  It starts on a macro level–I cannot stand anything about the concept of this movie–and continues to a micro level–numerous scenes are rendered ridiculous by character traits that are almost unfathomable.
– The concept of pairing the geeky underdogs against the good looking cool kids has been a comedy staple since the mid-70s.  The impact of this formula is completely and totally lost in projects where being a geeky underdog would actually be of value… like if you were, say, interning at Google.  So, in The Internship, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play the geeky underdogs of the geeky underdog set.  By my math, this would mean that the two are legitimately cool (a negative times a negative makes a positive) or that they are almost offensively stupid (a negative plus a negative makes a bigger negative).  And while the latter is actually true, it doesn’t seem to be what director Shawn Levy is going for.  He wants you to cheer for Wilson and Vaughn as loveable underdogs.  Well, I have news, sometimes wanting something more doesn’t get it for you; sometimes, just sometimes, the more talented assholes win out.  Sadly, you will not learn this from The Internship.
– One problem I have with the slacker comedies of late is that the slackers are getting older and older.  It used to be that the geeky underdogs were young teens (The Bad News Bears), high school students (Caddyshack), college students (The Revenge of the Nerds) or young twenty-somethings (Stripes).  Every once in a while, there’d be an older slacker (Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School), but for the most part, the slackers were young.  With no new visible crop of slackers arriving in Hollywood–even Harold from Harold & Kumar is over 40–the older guys just keep on getting the slacker parts.  Hence, the 43-year old Vaughn and the 44-year old Wilson join forces to playing guys without a direction in life.  Guys in their mid-forties who don’t have a path aren’t loveable losers, they’re just pathetic.  As far as I can tell, the only discernible talent either man’s character has is an ability to smooth talk people.  And calling that a ‘talent’ is a bit of a stretch.

YES, IT’S TRUE: Owen Wilson’s ex-girlfriend, a fitness trainer who is married to another man, is pregnant with his child.

The New Releases were written by Chris Neumer