Set Visit Ringers

Set Visit Ringers (photo)

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Sometimes you just have to sit back and tip your hat to brilliant public relations. Today a whole rash of “Green Lantern” set visits were released on various movie news sites. These articles — I’ve got ten of them open in my web browser at the moment — all strike the exact same note: we are super excited for the “Green Lantern” movie but we can’t tell you why.

I understand the appeal of set visits. As a kid, they were always my favorite articles in movie magazines. I loved Premiere‘s long-running column of Hollywood production photos by David Strick. And the collection of green power rings on my desk suggests nobody is looking forward to a “Green Lantern” movie more than I am. I’m also under no illusions that set visits are anything other than publicity tools, even under optimal circumstances. But good set visit reports should pull back the curtain that shields us from how movies are made. We want to be tantalized, sure, but we also want to learn something, too.

That ethos is totally absent in these “Green Lantern” set visit pieces. No chance of getting behind the curtain here; the experience is more akin to listening to someone describe how cool a club is while you’re stuck waiting behind the velvet rope. At this point, Warner Bros. has barred the journalists who visited the “Green Lantern” set from revealing almost any of the specifics of what they saw. However they were either permitted or encouraged to publish these “previews” (a word that pops up again and again in the articles) voicing their enthusiasm for the project in the most general and non-specific ways possible. The results all look and sound almost identical: “We can’t reveal too much now,” and “we’re not allowed to tell you everything we saw” and “the studio’s not allowing us to go into too much detail about what we saw,” but nevertheless “I really couldn’t be more excited” and “all of my faith in the film has been restored,” and “this movie is going to look incredible on the big screen.”

In other words, all these writers are permitted to share is unsubstantiated enthusiasm. This has to be one of the most ingenious PR moves in Hollywood history. If you allow these journalists to share details of the production, you also allow for the possibility that readers might form their own potentially negative opinions (“I don’t care what he says, that sounds lame.”). By controlling their reports this way, what you’re left with are ten identical pieces of hype. The only reasonable response for a reader, besides jealousy of the authors, is excitement. You can’t question because there’s nothing to question.

For a far more interesting variation on the standard set visit article, check out filmmaker and critic Michael Tully’s recent series on Hammer to Nail about his trip to the set of David Gordon Green’s “Your Highness.” Tully provides plenty of the requisite “dirt” — details of the production, interviews with the cast and creators — but he also writes honestly about he felt traveling to Ireland on someone else’s dime to interview people he knows personally. It’s a good read; no question of journalistic ethics escapes his site.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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