It’s the 3rd week into our annual pride month extravaganza, and this week we are double fisting it! First we take a double jump into the past, examining the life and times of 1970’s activist and first openly gay politician Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s 2008 film “Milk” Next up we jump back to the present by examining the film version of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages”. Was this film truly Built on Rock and Roll? or will it have us heading for a heartbreak? Finally we take a look at yet another remake as we strap ourselves into the memory blender of “Total Recall” Is this a total retelling or a total ripoff? Rob Zombie is finally making something other than a Horror film, Paul Verhoeven is gearing up to make a film about Christ, and Angelina Jolie gets in on the fairy tale action all this plus more on the 110th reel of COL Movies, ““Gunter glieben glauben globen”
The Past: Milk
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% Fresh; 84% Audience
Director: Gus Van Sant
Featuring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco,
- Matt Damon was originally cast as Dan White, but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts with Green Zone.
- Thousands of people agreed to take part in the film as extras for free.
- The filming location for Harvey Milk’s business, Castro Camera, was the real storefront where the actual business had once been. At the time of filming (mid-2008), it was a gift shop called “Given”; the film crew worked with the owner of the gift shop to recreate the look of Milk’s camera store inside the space and restored it to its 2008 appearance after filming.
- During a July 2008 interview with the Orange County Register about Pineapple Express, the interviewer told Seth Rogen and James Franco that he prepared for the interview by watching the classic stoner comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High the night before. When he asked Rogen and Franco if they prepared likewise before making Pineapple Express, Franco said he prepared by making out with Spicoli (a reference to his having shot Milk, in which he and Sean Penn play lovers).
- It was widely reported that while filming a scene at the old Castro Camera, some of the actors claimed that they saw a man come in and sit on a couch. After the scene was filmed, nobody else claimed to have seen the man, and the actors themselves went on to claim that it was perhaps the ghost of Harvey Milk.
- Director Gus Van Sant has been involved with the making of Harvey Milk projects for over fifteen years. For his unsuccessful attempt to film The Mayor of Castro Street (2011) in the early 1990s, many actors were under consideration for the role of Harvey Milk including Robin Williams, Richard Gere, Daniel Day-Lewis, and James Woods.
- Veteran police officer and actor Brian Danker, seen in this movie in his first speaking role in the homicide scene, actually served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 in the same unit as Dan White – the 173rd Airborne.
- During the filming of the scene in which Dan White’s son Charles is christened, the real Charles White was on the set.
- On Roger Ebert’s year-end list of the 20 best movies of 2008. Ebert did not rank his picks this year, opting instead for an alphabetical list. (He later said that Milk was the most deserving of all the Best Picture Oscar nominees.)
- On the American Film Institute’s year-end list of the 10 best movies of 2008 (this list is decided by a group of film scholars, journalists, and professionals, including Jeanine Basinger, Mark Harris, Elvis Mitchell, Daniel Petrie Jr., Richard Schickel, Robert Towne, and Leonard Maltin).
- Number 2 on Lisa Schwarzbaum’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine list of the 10 best movies of 2008.
- Number 9 on Owen Gleiberman’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine list of the 10 best movies of 2008.
- Sean Penn’s cosmetic transformation in the film included a prosthetic nose and teeth, contact lenses and a redesigned hairline. His makeup was done by Academy Award winner Stephan Dupuis.
- Actor Denis O’Hare who plays anti-gay Senator John Briggs in the film is in reality openly gay.
- The real Cleve Jones has a cameo in the film as Don Amador.
- The apartment that was used in the film is the real apartment Harvey Milk lived in on the Lower Haight in San Francisco.
- Scott Smith’s last name is never mentioned until the epilogue, and Jack Lira’s last name is only given in the credits.
- When Gus Van Sant was planning a biopic of Milk in the early 90’s he offered the part of Cleve Jones to River Phoenix, who he had just worked with on My Own Private Idaho.
- Sean Penn became only the ninth actor to win two Academy Awards for Best Actor after winning for this movie.
- Josh Brolin doesn’t appear until 45 minutes into the movie.
- The last public appearance of Harvey Milk’s life, two days before he was killed, was attending a San Francisco Opera performance of Puccini’s opera “Tosca” featuring the legendary Italian soprano Magda Olivero. Not only is this event depicted in the movie, but it was in honor of that appearance that the filmmakers chose to use “Tosca” for all the operatic music heard in the film.
- After his first kissing scene with James Franco, Sean Penn texted his ex-wife Madonna saying, “I just broke my cherry kissing a guy.” (Her texted response: “Congratulations.”)
- Bradley Cooper auditioned for the role of Scott Smith.
- Chris Evans auditioned for the role of Scott Smith, but lost out to James Franco.
- The movie starts out with Harvey talking into a tape recorder on November 18, 1978; that is the day that the Jonestown Massacre happened.
- During the sequence dealing with Proposition 6, one of Milk’s friends says “Even Reagan doesn’t support it.” Former Governor Ronald Reagan was so opposed to the measure that he publicly went against the Republican Party on the issue, even though he had been mentioned as a serious candidate for the Presidential election in 1980 and risked alienating his conservative support base. His support was given a great deal of credit for Proposition 6’s defeat and contributed to his growing national profile ahead of his two elections as President of the United States.
- Josh Brolin, who played Dan White, was welcomed by the gay community and given praise for portraying “The most hated man in San Francisco’s history”.
- Carol Ruth Silver: The real Carol Ruth Silver has a cameo in the film as Thelma.
- Dustin Lance Black: The screenwriter appears as one half of the couple that walks by the Castro camera shop after it’s closed, when Harvey Milk is inside and one of the men asks if Harvey was going to win this time.
- Tom Ammiano: The California Assemblyman and former San Francisco Supervisor plays himself. He was a founder in the No On 6 Campaign.
- At the end of the film, images of the actors costumed as their characters are replaced by photographs of the real people the actors portrayed. Many of these photos were taken by Daniel Nicoletta, who is the photographer played by Lucas Grabeel in the movie.
- Daniel Nicoletta: The real Danny Nicoletta has a cameo in the film as the person in Harvey Milk’s office before Milk gets assassinated by Dan White. In real life, Nicoletta was the last person to speak to Harvey Milk in his office at San Francisco City Hall, just before his assassination.
- Do we need a Harvey these days?
- Franco’s performance
- The “we are going to pull you out of the closet” agenda
- The Times of Harvey Milk
- Positives: Penn and the ensemble cast are amazing; A passionate history lesson; A master class in how a biopic should be done; The first solid film to discuss the gay rights movement
- Negatives: Undersells the importance of the title character; How dare Hollywood take 30 years to show this important figure in history
What We Learned:
- You can’t be both a political activist and a republican
- If your gonna get elected in San Francisco you need the Old Queen vote
- You have to give people a reason for optimism
- You cannot live on hope alone, but without hope life is not worth living.
Jeff: An extremely well done docudrama by Gus Van Sant with excellent performances all around. Definitely a must see for anyone.
Ray: I’m a bad gay for not really knowing the story of Harvey Milk prior to watching this film, but it is definitely a good film with some outstanding performances especially by Penn and Franco. I recommend everyone should watch this at least once.
Steve: While good, it dragged for me. I though Penn was awesome and I really felt for the struggle the whole group went through as they tried to make headway. I may not agree with all of Milk’s politics, but I appreciate that someone took a stand to try and make change.
The Present: Rock of Ages
Rotten Tomatoes: 41% Rotten; 64% Audience
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russel Brand, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Tom Cruise, Mary J Blige
- Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell were considered to play Dennis Dupree.
- Taylor Swift was considered to play Sherrie, but Julianne Hough was cast.
- Anne Hathaway and Amy Adams were offered the role of Constance, but both declined due conflicting schedule for a superhero film. Hathaway was busy shooting The Dark Knight Rises and Adams was shooting Man of Steel. Malin Akerman, who appeared in Watchmen, was ultimately cast.
- Gwyneth Paltrow and Olivia Wilde were considered for the role of Constance Sack before Malin Akerman was cast.
- Constantine Maroulis plays a record executive in this film. He originated the role of Drew Boley in the Broadway production and was nominated for the 2009 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance.
- The scene set under the Hollywood sign was actually shot on a garbage dump landfill in Pompano Beach, Florida.
- In the “song duel” outside the club, the anti-rock protesters, who are obviously modeled on the Parents’ Music Resource Center (the group who imposed the “Parental Advisory” warning stickers on recordings), sing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” In real life, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister was one of the PMRC’s most outspoken critics and testified against their proposals in the September 1985 Senate hearings.
- Eli Roth: the music video director for the Z Boyeezz’s music video.
- Kevin Cronin: lead singer of the band REO Speedwagon, singing “We Built This City” with the people supporting The Bourbon Room.
- Nuno Bettencourt: former guitarist/vocalist for the band Extreme (Who’s song “More Than Words” is featured in the film.), singing “We Built This City” with the supporters of The Bourbon Room.
- Debbie Gibson: in the crowd of Bourbon Room supporters singing “We Built This City”.
- Did it feel like they were cramming as much music in there just to do it?
- Emotional connections, or lack there of.
- Positives: Cruise has the outstanding performance of the movie; It’s just fun – don’t take it too seriously; The actors seem to be having a good time; The production value of the songs and situations is very good
- Negatives: Nothing more than movie star karaoke; Only keeps your toes tapping rather than bringing the audience to its feet; Takes itself too seriously when it should be poking fun at the cheesy excess of the 80s rocker lifestyle
What We Learned:
- Taxes are so un-rock and roll.
- You can’t trap a fire phoenix
- The devil’s not qualified to close vaginas.
- Concrete balls are very heavy
- Z is a very popular letter among 14 to 21 year olds
- No matter who’s singing it or why… Jefferson Starship is NOT ROCK AND ROLL.
Jeff: An extremely mediocre movie that is just fun to see reminiscing about the rock of the 1980s. Probably worth seeing for anyone who lived through the era and exposed to it via personally or through older siblings. Well done, but not good enough to say you have to see it at the theater.
Ray: Goes to show that no matter how hard your try (or don’t) good music (I’m a child of the 80’s) cannot save a horrible horrible movie. Mostly Hollow performances from the leads with the exception of Tom Cruise and a monkey. I would say avoid at all costs unless you watch it on netflix.
Steve: I think I would have preferred to see the play than the movie. It was cute, but I can see it more like a Rocky Horror sing-a-long type movie than a serious film. Baldwin should never be allowed to sing again. If you want to see it, just wait until it’s on video and sing along at your home.
The Future: Total Recall
Release: August 3rd, 2012
Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan Cranston
As the nation states Euromerica and New Shanghai vie for supremacy, a factory worker begins to suspect that he’s a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he’s on
Jeff: It looks kinda cool but not really thrilled to see it. I’d be okay to see it though, could be a nice comparison to the Arny version.
Ray: It’s starting to get some bad word of mouth on the net mainly due to the comparison trailer above, but I’m still pretty excited for this. I love Verhoeven though.. even cheesy horrible Verhoeven hopefully this film will do something to surprise me and keep me from comparing it to the original.
Steve: I just don’t know yet. I am very happy with the original and it’s cheesiness. Add in some bullet time and updated technology and that’s all I think that will be improved on the original.