Warren William, Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, plus Eddie Cantor meets the Goldwyn Girls in early Technicolor!
"Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 6" (Warner Archive) and "Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 7" (Warner Archive) continue to showcase the best, sauciest, and most surprising films made before the Production Code forced Hollywood to clean up the screen. At their best, or at least their most memorable, they flaunted the sexual play of unmarried couples (and worse, the affairs of married characters with other partners), the flagrant boozing at the height of prohibition, and the thrill of bad behavior, which it presented without the requisite lessons learned. And in this case, they saved the best for last. Or at least for seventh.
"Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 7" (Warner Archive) is the collection I've been waiting for. It features two of my favorite pre-code discoveries, "Skyscraper Souls" (1932) and "Employees' Entrance" (1933), both starring Warren William in his silver fox phase: the big business tycoon who's a shark at work and a wolf with the women, putting the moves on the youngest and prettiest girls around. This is the era of kept women and philandering men and these films revel in his alpha male aggressiveness in the boardroom and on the prowl.
"Skyscraper Souls," directed by Edgar Selwyn, stars William as a New York banker and corporate gambler whose financial empire is centered in his beloved 100-story skyscraper (a phallic tower of his power just two stories shy of the Empire State Building), where he not only works but lives in a penthouse apartment. Maureen O'Sullivan is the fresh young beauty he picks out of the secretarial pool to replace his longtime mistress (Verree Teasdale), who is also his personal assistant. He juggles finances the same way he does women, and isn't above lying in either arena, which is why the bank examiners are looking into a dubious loan he made to himself to finance the building.
The pre-code era was famed for its films that pushed the envelope of sex with racy suggestiveness and "Skyscraper Souls" just oozes with lust and overflows with affairs, but the mercenary business dealings are just as forbidden here. William is a depression-era Gordon Gekko obsessed with building his own empire at any cost. O'Sullivan came to the film fresh from "Tarzan the Ape Man" and her wardrobe is almost as skimpy in a couple of scenes here. But she's no simple innocent sullied, despite William's predatory pressure. Everyone is compromised here.
"Employees' Entrance" (1933) is a perfect companion piece. This one, directed by Roy Del Roy, is set in a metropolitan department store with William playing the manager in the same corporate captain manner -- "My code is smash… or be smashed!" he tells the board of directors, and he follows through with a ruthless business code that allows no sentiment -- and Loretta Young as the comely model that he dallies with but refuses to commit to. The store is his true mistress and his life. Wallace Ford is the ambitious young clerk with bright ideas who is also wooing Young while William grooms him in his own image. The film packs a lot of conflict and bad behavior (not to mention a stock market crash and a suicide) in 75 minutes. William is both hero and villain, ruining businesses and lives as he cancels contracts and fires employees when they fail to live up to his standards, and he is suave yet ferocious in the part.
The documentary examines Julian Assange, his controversial website, and incarcerated soldier Bradley Manning who supplied the site with thousands of classified documents
Filmed with the startling immediacy of unfolding history, Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney’s “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” details the creation of Julian Assange’s website which facilitated the largest security breach in U.S. history. Hailed by some as a free-speech hero and derided by others as a traitor and terrorist, the enigmatic Assange’s rise and fall are paralleled with the story of PFC Bradley Manning, the troubled young soldier who downloaded and made available to WikiLeaks an enormous cache of classified documents from U.S. military and diplomatic servers, revealing the behind-the-scenes workings of our government’s international diplomacy and military strategy. Since June of last year Assange has avoided extradition by holing up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been grated diplomatic asylum. Manning was arrested in May 2010 and is in prison awaiting trial for 22 counts against the U.S. government, including aiding the enemy. Gibney’s documentary is a riveting, multi-layered tale about transparency in the information age and our ever-elusive search for the truth.
MSN Movies: I can’t believe how many of your documentaries I’ve seen in the past few months: “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, “Magic Trip” about Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters on their 1964 cross-country bus trip, and “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.” I assume going from one radically different topic to another keeps things very interesting!
Alex Gibney: Yes, and sometimes it’s my salvation because you can get your head so far into something and start to lose perspective. But all of my films have odd schedules. Some can go off the rails at times—you won’t hear anything about them for years and then suddenly they’re back, like the one I’m working on right now about Lance Armstrong.
I know there’s an eternal debate about the objectivity of documentarians. As I watched this film it sure didn't seem like you had any kind of preconceived agenda. I found myself wildly changing my opinions about both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning throughout the film. Was that your experience as you were making it?
Absolutely! I came into this film thinking it was a David and Goliath story about a very potent character who was holding powerful governments and corporations to account. It became very interesting to me to see how dangerous it is to imagine that any of your heroes are without fault!
Yes, it was fascinating to see how the lure of fame and worldwide acclaim seemed to affect Assange.
I think that when you become convinced that your mission is right, and this was certainly true in my film about the Catholic Church, you suddenly feel like you’re entitled to bend the rules, to behave in ways that you would decry in others.
Many of your films are topical, but the players in this one are so hotly debated and in the news that it must have seemed like you were walking into a minefield at times. Did that make it harder to get people to talk to you?
Yes, it did, and unfortunately I came upon Julian Assange at a time when he had already become famous and kind of written a narrative for himself that was set in stone. So it became more difficult now that he was this celebrity figure instead of someone who was willing to reflect honestly about his own conflicts and foibles.
Maybe one day he’ll be more open to that. Did you try to get Hillary Clinton to speak on camera or anyone from the State Department?
I didn’t. Well, we sent out some official requests but we didn’t anticipate that they would talk to us about these cases.
Right. And, frankly, we all know what her official line would have been.
In a way that’s part of the problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where people in positions of power could actually speak honestly? Part of it is our fault, because when they do speak honestly, we jump up and down and scream, “Oh, you said that! Gotcha!” But another part of the problem is the role of press agents and publicists. Everybody wants to control their spin, and frankly, I think that’s what happened with Julian. Suddenly, he wasn’t so interested in conveying the truth as he was in staying on message, as a politician would do. He ultimately became the politician he would have otherwise detested.
Watching that footage of that video from Baghdad that you show of the civilians being killed by our forces is absolutely horrifying. When I saw that, I found myself thinking, “Damn right this kind of stuff should be released!” and I was totally in the WikiLeaks camp. And then in other instances, I get why our government would so vigorously object. Even though this information is already out there, I can’t imagine that the State Department is going to love this film.
No, they won’t. But it’s interesting—in many ways even the State Department has come around. There was a quote by Hillary Clinton in David Sanger’s recent book about drones where she basically said there was a very positive aspect to the whole WikiLeaks thing in the sense that it caused a lot of change that they never would have predicted. I think even the State Department concedes that there was no real lasting damage done.
For me, the most unsympathetic character in the film is computer hacker Adrian Lamo, Bradley Manning’s online “friend” who blew the whistle on him. Do you ever feel protective of your interview subjects? Do you worry how certain people like Lamo are going to come across in the film?
The Wolfpack is back for one last adventure in mayhem
It was strange being at Caesar’s Palace to talk to cast members of “The Hangover, Part III.” When the first “Hangover” movie premiered in June 2009, nobody had ever heard of the Wolfpack or witnessed the crazy antics of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stuart (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Much of the action of the first film took place at that luxury hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The next film in the trilogy bypassed Las Vegas for Thailand where the gang, accompanied by the hapless Doug (Justin Bartha) and the lunatic Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), got into major trouble yet again. In the third and final film in writer/director Todd Phillip’s raunchy trilogy, “The Hangover, Part III,” the Wolfpack returns to Caesars’s Palace for an appropriately raucous conclusion. But these days, the real Caesar’s Palace is full of signs of the series' success: movie-themed slot machines, Wolfpack t-shirts and visors, whole souvenir shops dedicated to the films’ outrageous shenanigans. Not to mention the groan-producing tourists who daily ask at the front desk, “This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace, is it?”
The first two films in the franchise have already earned more than a billion dollars worldwide. The new critic-proof film promises to add significantly to that jackpot. I spoke with several of the film's stars, including Heather Graham who played Jade, the sweet stripper who was briefly married to Stu in the first film and is back to bid her old buddies a fond farewell. In the new film, Phil, Stu, and Doug hold an intervention for struggling Alan, who finally agrees to go to rehab only if his friends drive him there. But, oops, the guys don’t quite make it to their intended destination. Leslie Chow has escaped from prison in Bangkok and some shady dealings he had with a notorious mobster (John Goodman) set events in motion that cause our friends to make a madcap detour to Sin City where they end up at their old Caesar's Palace haunting grounds.
Since it’s the final outing, I asked the cast what they’ll miss most about playing these characters. You can see their answers (after the break) including Heather Graham’s interesting speculation on how Jade may find financial success in the years to come.
Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara deliver
While a quick sketch of David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" might make it sound like the sort of film most mainstream audiences would go for in a big way - Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star as Bonnie and Clyde outlaw types who eventually get caught, sending one to jail and one to live without the other - the Sundance hit is a highly meditative, deeply beautiful drama that will likely divide audiences who wander in to see it expecting something simple.
It was also one of the most impressive films to debut at the festival this year.
Affleck and Mara star as Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, a couple on the run after a really ill-fated crime spree that leaves one person dead and one person injured. While engaged in a shootout with local police, Ruth ends up putting a bullet in an officer (Ben Foster), a crime that Bob takes the blame for, landing him an extended prison sentence.
Guilty but free, Ruth waits for Bob's return as she also tries to raise their young daughter, born when her pop was already in the big house. Bob does eventually get free, but circumstances have changed - many of them thanks to Foster's cop, who is still around (and getting closer to Ruth by the year). Sound like a standard drama with a love triangle? It's not, and it's all the better for it.
The film's first trailer is a uniquely well-made one, as its slow pace, beautiful photography, and sudden bang-bang-shoot-em-up style quite effectively mirrors the look and feel of the final film. It's a rare bit of marketing, a really truthful one, because if you like this trailer, you'll love this film. That's not something you read every day. Check out the first trailer for "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," thanks to The Film Stage, after the break.
She joins Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, and Adam Driver
Move aside, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber
The concert film has been back on the rise in a big way lately, with full-scale concert features chronicling such young-skewing talents as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, the cast of "Glee," and Katy Perry taking over movie theaters everywhere (and guaranteeing that audiences don't need to set foot into an arena to hear the ear-splitting screams of adolescent fans). But what about music fans who aren't into the dulcet tones of the pre-pubescent?
Not to worry, as Metallica has something completely different planned for their fans with their new concert film, "Metallica Through the Never." Not just a 3D IMAX concert film, not just a look inside Metallica's most ambitious tour yet, not just an ear-blasting and eyeball-bursting musical outing, "Metallica Through the Never" also blends a narrative section into its groundbreaking take on the "concert film."
Even better? The narrative portion of the film also stars one of Hollywood's genuine rising stars, Dane DeHaan ("Chronicle," "The Place Beyond the Pines," the upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"). DeHaan stars as Trip, a roadie for the band who is dispatched on an "urgent mission" to pick up a mysterious package in the middle of the band's show. Trip's night takes a turn when he's hit by an out of control driver, but things only get much worse (and much more weird) when he emerges from his totaled van to find himself in the middle of a full-on riot. Oh, and there's also a masked guy on horseback who seems to have it in for the police, the rioters, and Trip.
Basically, it's wild, and so is this first trailer for the film.
Check out the rockin' first trailer for "Metallica Through the Never" below!