Like the part of Cannes you don’t usually hear about, the American Film Market is the largely unglamorous event held every year in L.A. where film buyers and distributors from across the globe come to put the business back in show business, looking at the latest Sofia Coppola film in the same way they look as “The Whiffler,” a comedy about a ‘roided up whiffleball player — that is, as products.
Beginning tomorrow, films like Coppola’s “Somewhere” will be debuting at AFM, as will Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg” and a host of other attention-worthy endeavors, like the latest from “Teeth” director Mitchell Lichtenstein, “Happy Tears”; the Tribeca fave “The Eclipse”; and two personal highlights of mine from Toronto — the Tilda Swinton melodrama “I Am Love” and Fatih Akin’s “Soul Kitchen.”
But it’s the weird stuff that makes markets so fun. A few I picked out from the AFM catalog:
Uwe Boll gets serious.
As pointed out by Cinematical, the prolific director of video game adaptations has no less than three films at AFM, including the execrable “Rampage” and the Lauren Holly-Luke Perry apocalyptic thriller “The Final Storm.” But the film sure to draw the most curiosity is “Darfur,” starring Billy Zane, Edward Furlong and Boll staple Matt Frewer as American journalists grappling with whether to put down their pens to get involved in the Sudanese conflict. Alas, chances are it won’t be snapped up for U.S. distribution in time for Oscar consideration.
Billy Zane is a triple threat.
Besides “Darfur,” the former “Phantom” star is as ubiquitous here as George Clooney was in Toronto, with the supernatural thriller “Magic Man” (which one IMDb commenter described not so charitably by saying, “Hocus Pocus! You just lost 80 minutes of your life”) and “The Gold Retrievers,” a family film with Steve Guttenberg.
Odd couples abound.
Did you ever think Michael Madsen and Natasha Lyonne would share the screen? Well, meet “Outrage,” a thriller where Lyonne unwittingly takes shelter in the hunting lodge of Madsen’s ex-military sniper. Or how about Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and ’90s teen heartthrob Andrew Keegan as a newfangled Crockett and Tubbs in “Kill Speed,” described as “a high-octane, youth-oriented, ‘Top Gun’ meets ‘Fast & Furious’ tale about best friends who fly home-built, high-tech planes to deliver Mexican-manufactured crystal-meth throughout rural California in order to fund their Hollywood lifestyle.” Throw in Tom Arnold and Greg Grunberg and I’m sold.
As for the old Crockett…
Well, Don Johnson is the lone American starring in the Norwegian comedy “Long Flat Balls II,” directed by sequelizer extraordinaire Harald Zwart, of “Pink Panther 2” fame. In it, he plays a U.S. admiral who meets up with six average Joes pulled into military service for the Norwegian National Guard and hijinks ensue.
Did no one learn from “Street Fighter”?
Even with Guillermo del Toro fave Luke Goss starring as Fox, it’s a bit surprising that the fighting game “Tekken” is being adapted into a feature film. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who’s been down this road before as Shang Tsung in 1995’s “Mortal Kombat,” co-stars in the film about the King of Iron Fist tournament, which, coming from the same writer that gave us “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever” and “The Marine,” doesn’t give me high hopes that it’ll be a film that will buck the trend of bad video game adaptations.
Finally, there is the “Repo Man” sequel.
Alex Cox’s all-green-screen semi-follow-up to his 1984 cult classic, “Repo Chick,” is also out there in the market, looking for a distributor. Please, someone, pick it up. It’s timely.
[Photo: “Darfur,” Boll KG, 2009]