Sneak Peeks

A few of this fall’s pictures catch my interest, judging by the trailers.

I’m looking forward to seeing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s (MGM) remake of the original Fame (1980), sampled here. The new Fame (Sept. 25) looks youthful, vibrant and I like Kelsey Grammer in just about anything. Also of interest are two Sandra Bullock films, and hopefully she’s on a roll after the enjoyable The Proposal: Warner Brothers’ The Blind Side (Nov. 20), which looks like a sentimental family sports movie based on a true story, and the romantic comedy All About Steve (Sept. 4), though it stars an actor who usually appears in total trash, so proceed with caution.

Several film trailers are less than impressive, including Chicago director Rob Marshall’s highly anticipated musical Nine, which, like his mixed Memoirs of a Geisha, looks terrific but also looks like it may lack a compelling story. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt looks awful, like a wannabe Jagged Edge with bad actors, and it looks like nothing interesting happens in the screen adaptation for Where the Wild Things Are, which feels as dull as a folk music festival or a guitar mass.

Topping my must-see list is what may be the season’s most heroic motion picture, Fox Searchlight’s Amelia (Oct. 23), starring Hilary Swank as pilot Amelia Earhart. Ms. Swank is an excellent actress and the film looks as if it’s a lush, stunning, and unapologetically larger than life spectacle. Amelia, scored by Gabriel Yared (The Lives of Others), is directed by Mira Nair and also stars Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere.

Obama to Address Congress on “Health Care Reform”

President Barack Obama will pitch his plan for government-controlled medicine in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 9, during prime time, according to various news reports. Look for outright lies and deception from this president on this catastrophic legislation. Like Bush pushing Medicare drug subsidies through Congress, by one vote after time on the clock had expired, President Obama will do anything to force this morally bankrupt idea into law.

Pop Music: Whitney Houston’s ‘I Look to You’

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Buy the CD

The most anticipated comeback album (I Look to You by Whitney Houston) in recent memory is a good effort.

Available through iTunes and on compact disc (CD), I Look to You, which I reviewed on CD, is neither terrible nor terrific and it is definitely worth a listen. The troubled singer’s previous work includes a multitude of inspirational songs, such as “The Greatest Love of All” (her bestselling cover of the song from the biographical film, The Greatest, about boxer Muhammad Ali) and other megahits. This 11-song collection, with mid-range ballads, light rhythm and blues and a softer, less manic vocal style, is a realistic start. She sounds like a damaged pop star who is learning to crawl all over again. I am cheering for her success.

Welcome back, Whitney.

Is Marvel Comics Deal the End of Walt’s Disney?

Disney Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Iger, briefly profiled in Newsweek in this gushing piece, announced yesterday that the Walt Disney Studios is acquiring the lucrative new Hollywood mini-studio Marvel Comics (Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men) for $ 4 billion. Marvel’s a solid player with potential and Disney is one of the best studios and both have their own relatively consistent brands.

What does one add to the other in creative terms? Disney’s driving philosophy had been, until recently, an American, which is to say benign, sense of life expressed with positive characters in story-driven material, whether in a theme park (Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure) or in a movie. Marvel’s brand of comic book characters is rooted in marginally heroic, or at least not completely anti-heroic, cartoon figures (The Incredible Hulk) with broad appeal. Both derive success from plots that seem to attract general audiences.

Unlike Pixar Animation Studios, which Disney also acquired under Mr. Iger, Marvel’s catalog does not possess a quality that can easily or identifiably be assimilated into Disney’s wholesome, family entertainment. Sure, the Marvel pictures are noticeably less cynical than the competition, but that’s not saying much. This move further dilutes the Disney brand and may make the studio more relevant in the short term at the expense of being markedly less original in the long term. It has been 15 years since The Lion King, 20 years since The Little Mermaid, and 65 years since Disney released the classic Dumbo in movie theaters. I doubt that the un-Disneylike Enchanted, Pixar’s middling Up, or anything with Hannah Montana will be remembered with as much affection. While Marvel makes good popcorn movies, their stories hardly express childlike wonder, adventure, and innocence, something Disney used to imagine and reimagine in timeless tales. Besides, with politically correct Disney’s ban on smoking in movies, it’s hard to imagine Iron Man’s alter ego, Tony Stark, lighting up the occasional cigar, which raises the question of whether this hyped deal may end up as a lose-lose proposition that signals the end of the legendary Walt’s creative influence in an age of dying Americanism.

Dominick Dunne, 1925-2009

Writer Dominick Dunne, a voice of reason, particularly during the outrageous trial of the Butcher of Brentwood, O.J. Simpson, died yesterday. Mr. Dunne was a Hollywood studio executive, author of The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and he was the survivor of a murder victim (his daughter, Dominique). His articles were published in the insufferably trendy Vanity Fair but he is best remembered by this writer for his unwavering sense of justice and his cogent reports from the Los Angeles courtroom calling out a monster that was literally getting away with murder.