This blog is moving

Movers  Effective today, the Reeling blog will be moving to new digs at I will no longer be posting any updates here, although the blog archives will remain intact, for posterity's sake.

The new site has a much snazzier design and feel, and although it doesn't look like a traditional blog, I'm going to maintain it the same way I've maintained this page - although I'll have to be more disciplined and post more often, because the big bosses are watching now.

I hope you'll come check out the new site and register (it takes two seconds) so you can leave comments, which I really appreciate. The more feedback I receive from you, the more I am motivated to write. See you there!

Tilda Swinton talks ''I Am Love''

Here is my story about Tilda Swinton's collaboration with director Luca Guadagnino on the making of the awesome I Am Love, which opens Friday. I really like the way the story looks on the front of today's Tropical Life section, which was designed by Juan Lopez.


The 14th American Black Film Festival kicks off tomorrow

Idris Elba, aka Stringer Bell from HBO's The Wire, is scheduled to attend Wednesday's screening of Takers at the Colony Theater on South Beach, which will kick off this year's American Black Film Festival.


Other celebrity guests include Spike Lee, who will conduct a master class on directing, and Precious director Lee Daniels, who will receive a career tribute.

Check out my story on this year's festival here. For more information on the festival, including a complete schedule and ticket prices, visit

Catch Springsteen on the big screen this weekend

The three-hour concert film Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: London Calling Live in Hyde Park comes out on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday. But if you want to see the show on a screen worthy of Springsteen's music, the Cosford Cinema is screening a 90-minute version of the concert this weekend in HD.


The movie will be shown tonight at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Go here for ticket info and directions to the theater. Here's the setlist:

London Calling
She’s The One
Outlaw Pete
Working On a Dream
Born To Run
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
American Land
Glory Days
Dancing In The Dark
Waitin’ On a Sunny Day

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are coming to town

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz will be in Miami on Friday to do press for Knight and Day, which opens in theaters on Wednesday. I'm seeing the movie tonight, but I won't interviewing either of them, since the fabulous pair is only talking to TV press (and select outlets, at that).


On Monday, I'll be interviewing director James Mangold, whom I've talked to before and whose work I enjoy. But it's hard to write a story about a movie built around two megastars without a single quote from either of them. I spoke to Cruise in 2008 for Valkyrie and we had a great interview - he stayed on the phone with me for an extra 10 minutes just talking about Stanley Kubrick and his work methods - but I was denied this time. Sorry, but no.

I suppose the logic is that Knight and Day isn't aimed at newspaper readers (just Playboy subscribers), although stories keep popping up about how distributor 20th Century Fox is worried about the lack of awareness around the big-budget film.Public sneak previews have been set up for Saturday night, so the studio definitely isn't hiding the movie. But it seems odd that Cruise and Diaz are coming here on a publicity blitz and can't spare 10 minutes for a story about their film.

Anyways, local paparazzi should get their game face on tomorrow if they hope to land any snaps of the actors, who will do their best to slip in and out of town undetected. I could tell you which hotel they'll be working out of, but then I'd have to kill you. Actually, I don't really know, although I could make a pretty good guess. But I'm not invited, so it doesn't matter.

Miami Film Festival seeks a new director - again

Updated 4:40 p.m. Thursday

For the fifth time in 10 years, the Miami International Film Festival is seeking a new director.

Tiziana Finzi, who had served as artistic director since 2009, will not return for a third year. Miami Dade College, which presents the festival, declined to renew her contract, which expires June 30.

Finzi, who had recently attended the Tribeca and Cannes festivals, said she learned of the decision Wednesday via a telephone call from George Andrews, MDC's Chief of Staff.

"I don't understand what happened," Finzi said from Italy. "He just said 'I would like to tell you that your contract is not being renewed, good luck and ciao.' I don't know if something within the festival is changing, but I don't think it was personal, because everyone at the college was very nice to me."

Finzi said she offered to renegotiate the terms of her contract when she returns to Miami on June 22. But she said Andrews told her "there was nothing to talk about." MDC administrators declined to comment.

Finzi's programming had veered toward the daring and experimental, although her choices also included such crowd-pleasers as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes.

Tiziana Finzi (above, right) with director Abel Ferrara at the Gusman during the 2009 festival. 

In March, she told The Miami Herald that "a festival director needs at least three years in order to really connect with and educate their audience. This is my second, and hopefully I will get a third."

Finzi's departure is one of several staffing changes. Vivian Donnell Rodriguez, MDC's director of cultural affairs, who had managed the festival's administrative operations for the last three years, retired in May. Valeria Sorrentino, assistant director for programming and events, has accepted a position with the Rio International Film Festival.

This year's festival operated under a $1.6 million budget, screened 115 feature-length and short films and drew 65,000 admissions. College representatives issued a statement promising the festival would return as scheduled next year and that staff changes will not "affect the operations nor the status of the festival in any way ... This transition also provides the college an opportunity to assess the operations and implementation of the festival to ensure the beloved cultural event is the very best it can be."

Shia LaBeouf admits the last ''Indiana Jones'' movie was a dog

During a session of interviews at the Cannes Film Festival to promote Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, actor Shia LaBeouf told the Los Angeles Times that even though Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull grossed nearly $800 million worldwide, he's well aware the movie far fell short of its precursors.

"You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven [Spielberg, who directed]," LaBeouf told the paper. "But the actor's job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn't do it. So that's my fault. Simple."


LaBeouf said he wasn't the only cast member who felt the movie was a disappointment. "We [Harrison Ford and LaBeouf] had major discussions. He wasn't happy with it either. Look, the movie could have been updated. There was a reason it wasn't universally accepted."

As to whether his frankness will get him in trouble with Spielberg, who has cast him in several films (and is executive producer on the Transformers franchise): "I'll probably get a call. But he needs to hear this. I love him. I love Steven. I have a relationship with Steven that supersedes our business work. And believe me, I talk to him often enough to know that I'm not out of line. And I would never disrespect the man. I think he's a genius, and he's given me my whole life. He's done so much great work that there's no need for him to feel vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball you drop the ball."

LaBeouf's honesty is refreshing - and somewhat shocking in an era when no one ever admits one of their previous box office hits was not all it could have been. Now if only Michael Bay would man up and admit Armageddon and Bad Boys 2 have been major contributors to the decline of modern civilization, global literacy and simple human decency, that would be real progress.

Roman Polanski accused of sex with a minor for a second time

People magazine is reporting that Charlotte Lewis, a British actress who appeared in Roman Polanski's 1986 flop Pirates, held a press conference today alleging the director "forced himself" on her when she was 16 years old in a Paris apartment.

300_lewis_polanski_lr_051410  "[Polanski] sexually abused me in the worst possible way when I was just 16," Lewis, 42, announced to the press in the Los Angeles office of her attorney. "He knew [how old I was] when he met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris. He took advantage of me and I have lived with the effects of his behavior ever since it occurred. I've traveled to the U.S. at my own expense to make sure that justice is finally done and that Mr. Polanski gets what he deserves. All I want is justice."

Polanski, whose most recent film, The Ghost Writer, was released in February, is currently under house arrest in Switzerland fighting extradition efforts by L.A. authorities. Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.

In response to the new charges, Polanski's lawyer issued the following statement: "We don't have any information about statements made at a Gloria Allred press conference today, but we do know that the District Attorney continues to refuse to provide the Swiss government with accurate and complete information relevant to the extradition issue."

The zombie epidemic finally reaches Cuba

Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin, who many of us in the office suspect of being a zombie, alerted me to this story in Variety that claims filming is set to begin in September on Cuba's first-ever zombie movie.

Filmmaker Alejandro Brugues (Personal Belongings) will direct Juan of the Dead, about a Havana slacker who makes a nice little business hiring himself out to people who need to dispose of their relatives after the dead start to rise from their graves on the island. The movie is budgeted at $2.7 million, which is the Cuban equivalent of a Transformers picture. 


Brugues told Variety more than half of the budget is coming from Spain and that the film is not a political satire, even though the Cuban government initially dismisses the zombie epidemic as the work of dissidents.

Although vampires far outnumber zombies at the movies these days, the undead refuse to lay down for good. George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead is due in theaters next month (alas, it is easily his worst zombie picture to date - worse than Diary of the Dead) and Hollywood continues to circle Max Brooks' novel World War Z, which I believe could result in the greatest zombie movie ever, if done properly.

But the idea of Cuban zombies is rife with possibilities. For example, will the undead still crave pastelitos and plantains to go with their human entrails? Will the zombies be limited to how many people they can eat per day by their libretas? And just how old is Glenn Garvin, anyway?

Stephen King's ''The Dark Tower'' to become a film trilogy - and a TV series, too

I've been a faithful Stephen King reader since the age of 12, when I first read The Shining. I've read every book he's ever published since, good and bad, with the exception of his seven-volume magnum opus The Dark Tower. I enjoyed the first three books in the series, but when I got to the fourth installment, Wizard and Glass, and realized it was going to be a 750-page flashback, I set it aside and never got around to finishing it.


But now that is reporting The Dark Tower is going to be made into a film trilogy and an eventual spin-off TV series, I'm going to start again from the beginning and give the books another try. The first three novels were fantasy adventures stuffed with action and suspense and tinged with horror - a natural fit, in other words, for the movies. The character of Roland Deschain, the gunslinger on a quest for the eponymous tower, would also make a great, stoic hero. 

The only thing that is keeping my excitement in check is that the trilogy will be directed by Ron Howard and written by Akiva Goldsman. I've never been a fan of either man's work, and with the exception of Cinderella Man, I haven't liked the films they've made together (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons). But what I've read of The Dark Tower would be pretty hard to mess up on film. King has already done the hard work: Howard and Goldsman just have to follow his template and the trilogy should be a knockout.

Talisman  I still wish someone like Spielberg was tackling this, though. Oh, how I'd love to see a Spielberg adaptation of The Talisman!

Miami filmmaker Ali Codina wins big at Tribeca

Monica & David, a documentary about a couple with Down syndrome directed by Miami homegirl Ali Codina, won the Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday. The award carries a $25,000 prize.

In honoring the film, the jury stated "Monica & David takes an incredibly intimate situation and beautifully translates it in a way that makes you think about your own life. It's a clear and observant look at a family and the purity of love, fueled by an organic sense of the sadness, joy and everyday humor that fill this epic journey that is life."


Codina (pictured above, left, with her film's co-stars) previously worked as a programmer for the Miami International Film Festival and had spent the last few years working on the movie. HBO has already bought the rights to the film, which will air in October. A Miami premiere is tentatively scheduled for September. Congrats, Ali!

Youth in Revolt: The Making of ''Kick-Ass''

This story ran in Sunday's Herald, but I am reposting it here for posterity's sake, since stories on the main site sometimes disappear forever.


The controversy around Kick-Ass began with the film's R-rated trailer, which hit the Internet in December and showed a masked little girl shooting grown men in the face and using a certain four-letter word most adults rarely utter.

The trailer turns out to have been just a small taste of the deeply subversive movie. Kick-Ass, which opens Friday, is about ordinary kids who don homemade costumes and venture out to fight crime, just like superheroes in comic books. The only difference is that teenager Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson), the film's eponymous hero, has no superpowers whatsoever. The first time he squares off against bad guys, he is stabbed in the stomach, hit by a car and spends months in the hospital recuperating.

That scene is the first of many in which Kick-Ass upends everything you knew about comic-book superheroes, who traditionally triumph over villains by taking the high road. Realism trounces fantasy. Being on the side of the good and lawful just isn't enough: You need a machine gun or a shotgun or at least a sword or two to make a difference.

``Someone asked me `Is this movie a spoof? Is this a parody? What is this?' '' says director Matthew Vaughn, who raised the movie's budget (estimated at around $35 million) through private investors after every Hollywood studio turned him down. ``And I said `This is a post-modern love letter to comic books and superhero films.' I just felt like comic-book movies were getting a bit generic and stale, and it was time to do something fresh -- but, at the same time, not throw the baby out with the bath water.''


One of the major differences between Kick-Ass and traditional comic-book movies such as Iron Man or Spider-Man is that the filmmakers did not have to figure out how to make their characters relatable to the present day. The film was shot while writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr. worked on the books, and the last installment of the eight-issue series was published in January.

Millar, a chief writer for Marvel Comics who is known for hyper-violent, aggressive books, pitched the idea behind Kick-Ass to Vaughn before a single panel had been drawn (one of Millar's previous series, Wanted, had been turned into a big-budget Angelina Jolie film in 2008).

Markmillar  ``This is the first comic book adapted in the last couple of decades that is first-generation,'' Millar says. ``Even Watchmen was 23 years old when it got turned into a film. The comic book is of the now, which is part of the reason why the movie feels so fresh and daring.''

Millar says one of his creative inspirations was a documentary interview with Quentin Tarantino in which he praised the 1931 classic Frankenstein.

``Tarantino was talking about how when that movie is funny, it's really funny, and when it's scary, it's really scary. He did the same thing in Pulp Fiction, when you're laughing at John Travolta and Samuel Jackson chatting in the car, and suddenly his gun goes off and the guy's brains are splattered all over the back seat. I always try to do that with my comics, too. You only have 22 pages to tell your story, so every line has to mean something. You try to get the maximum emotion out of every bit of your construct.''

But although Kick-Ass was a hit in print, the comic was not universally beloved.

``The book sold a lot, but a lot of people complained about it,'' says Michael Avila, a contributor for and who specializes in pop culture. ``Millar comes up with great ideas and gets the attitude just right, but the downside is you don't always like his characters. That's why Kick-Ass is one of the few comic-book movies that actually improves on the book. The movie does to the comic book what Francis Ford Coppola did to Mario Puzo's The Godfather.''

The script for Kick-Ass, written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, differs from the comic in small but critical ways. For example, the character of Big Daddy, a masked vigilante who raises his 11-year-old daughter Mindy to become a ruthless crime fighter named Hit Girl, is somewhat twisted and deranged on the page. In the film, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) is still nuts, but his relationship with his daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) is tender and touching. Yes, he gives her a butterfly knife as a birthday present and teaches her how to use riot gear by shooting her in the chest. But they are hugely likable psychos, in a Bruce Wayne kind of way.


Although Hit Girl is a supporting character in Kick-Ass, she has, because of her age, become the film's breakout persona -- and the magnet for much of its controversy. Children will automatically be drawn to her, but the R-rated movie is not kid friendly, one of the key reasons Hollywood studios initially passed on the project.

``Matthew and I were very keen to avoid any sense of deliberately provoking or shocking the audience,'' says Goldman, who previously collaborated with Vaughn on the much-gentler 2007 fantasy Stardust. ``One thing that kept coming up in our conversations is how young Hit Girl is. But it's precisely her age that makes her such a fascinating character.

``For me, as a female screenwriter, I found the idea absolutely exhilarating: Here is a strong, female anti-hero, but she's not sexualized,'' Goldman says. ``She's not there for guys to get their rocks off. She's genuinely dangerous. It was never our intention to shock people by having a kid killing people. If anything, we toned certain things down from the comics. But this was never meant to be a movie for children.''

For Vaughn, the main appeal of Kick-Ass was in taking familiar comic-book tropes and placing them in a realistic setting, then standing back to see what happened.

``There isn't a single thing in this movie that couldn't happen in real life,'' Vaughn says. ``That was my rule. All the costumes were made of materials that could be bought on the Internet. Big Daddy's costume is made up of French riot-police gear. You can go online, search for jet packs and find a guy in Mexico who makes them. You can buy the bloody thing online! When it came to Hit Girl, I told the fight choreographers I wasn't interested in going too over the top. With a few things she does, they said `Look, there's only a one-in-a-thousand chance this could actually happen if we did it for real.' But that was good enough for me, because there is still some reality to it.''


The strict adherence to realism inevitably drew an R-rating, because teenagers swear, they occasionally do drugs, and if they leaped off a roof wearing a cape and thinking they could fly, they would plummet and land in a bloody heap.

When Spider-Man or Superman dispatched muggers or drug dealers, they usually delivered them to the authorities, bruised but alive. In Kick-Ass, the heroes quickly discover the only way to stop the guy coming at you with a gun is to shoot first.

``I've always thought there was a very thin line between bravery and stupidity,'' Vaughn says. ``Depending on how you look at it, those soldiers in World War I climbing over the trench and running toward the machine guns were very brave but also very stupid. That's also what Kick-Ass is: He's brave in one way and stupid in another. He's also naive and optimistic. It takes a little bit of all of that for heroes to be created.

``To show that, though, you have to go all the way. I've always felt movies should be either PG or R. PG-13 is this sort of no-man's land. Films can imply some pretty horrible violence without showing it. I think The Dark Knight was darker and more violent than Kick-Ass in a psychological sense. When the Joker started playing with his knife, it made you look away from the screen. In Kick-Ass, you're laughing at the violence and enjoying it for its silliness. You're not thinking ``Eeww! That's disgusting!' ''

The primary challenge facing Kick-Ass now is to reach the adult audience that will best savor its humorous exploration of the nature of heroism. The ordinary moviegoer who isn't plugged into the comic-book world and just glances at the film's poster in a theater lobby could dismiss it as a picture for 12-year-olds. But its wry sense of humor and cheerfully gory violence is intended for a more-mature, sophisticated palate.

Romita, the famed comic-book artist who drew the Kick-Ass series (and served as a consultant on the film), admits that blood is a selling point of either incarnation of the story.


``We went a lot further in the comic than we did in the film,'' Romita says. ``I'm getting older, and I'm raising my son, so I understand the questions the movie raises. At what point are we going too far? Conservatives say the bar has been raised too high, and society is falling apart because we have no morals. Liberals say let's progress naturally and be the arbiter of our own affections and let the individual be the bar. I think both sides are right.''

Despite the marketing challenges, Kick-Ass generated a bidding war after Vaughn previewed some footage at last summer's San Diego Comic-Con, with many of the bidders the same people who had originally turned the film down. Lionsgate was the eventual victor.

``I never really sat down in a room and discussed the project with anyone, because they all said no right away,'' Vaughn says. ``The violence and Hit Girl were always concerns. What made me laugh is that after the studios saw the film, they were all like `God, we want more Hit Girl!' I'm so glad they all said no the first time around, because I don't think the movie would have turned out as well without that.''

Kick-Ass opens Friday, April 16 in South Florida.


Some critics really, really hate ''Kick-Ass''

Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, a cheerfully gory comedy about comic-book obsessed teens who decide to become superheroes, won't open in the U.S. until next Friday. But the movie is already playing in Australia, where several family groups and at least one critic has taken mortal offense to the R-rated film's sense of humor.

Richard Wilkins, the entertainment editor for the Aussie TV channel Nine Network News, has gone ballistic on the film. "I can't possibly encourage you to go and see this overhyped, inappropriate sensationalism that glamourises kids with guns," Wilkins said. "I just think it is wrong ... so wrong."


"The film is inappropriate — it's excessively violent and there's nothing particularly clever about it," Wilkins said, adding there was no way he'd let his 14 year-old son watch it. "I don't want him seeing kids with guns and knives, killing people randomly and hearing young children say the sort of language they use in the movie."

I've written a big story on Kick-Ass running in Sunday's paper that addresses the inevitable controversy that will greet the film (I will post it onto the blog over the weekend). But the short version is: The movie is rated R for good reason. And compared to the violence in other R-rated films such as Repo Men, Kick-Ass is as offensive as Toy Story.

LayerCakeBluray  At the end of my interview with director Vaughn, I told him how much I appreciated his 2004 debut Layer Cake, a fantastic action picture starring a pre-007 Daniel Craig as a cocaine dealer trying to retire. Layer Cake is one of those movies that never found the audience it deserved, but Vaughn told me he's already mulling a follow-up.

"I've had an idea of doing a sequel set in Miami. I always thought it would be amazing if Daniel Craig showed up there to take on the Miami drug underworld."

Cast Al Pacino as the baddie and you've got yourself a smash hit.




TV's ''Glee'' to invade movie theaters - for one night only

Glee TV show

People who like the Fox TV hit Glee tend to really, really like it. The show's "Too Big To Miss" spring premiere episode will air on Tuesday, April 13. But if you can't wait that long, and would like to watch the show in a theater filled with other Gleeheads, you can attend a one-time theatrical screening of the episode at the AMC Aventura theater at 7 p.m. April 8. Tickets cost $15, but all the proceeds will benefit the Grammy in the Schools music education program for young people, so you'll be contributing to a good cause. Go here to buy your ticket.

Kevin Smith declares war on movie critics

I've interviewed filmmaker Kevin Smith numerous times, in person and via telephone, and he's always been terrific - disarmingly funny, uncommonly forthcoming, self-deprecating and highly intelligent. But I'm not entirely surprised that Smith is claiming that after the critical reception his last movie, Cop Out, received, he's considering not screening his films in advance for critics anymore and making them buy a ticket like everyone else.


I first interviewed Smith for Dogma when it played the Toronto Film Festival in 1999. I wrote a feature story about the movie and the controversy that surrounded its release. Then, a week later, I wrote a two-and-a-half star review. I next spoke to Smith for a feature story about Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, then gave the movie two stars. Smith called me out on his message board when that review ran, accusing me of pretending to have liked his movie when we spoke in person, then turning around and stabbing him in the back.

This is the thing: I learned very early in my career (when I was very young and green and interviewed Michael J. Fox about For Love or Money, and asked him point-blank if he was disappointed in the finished film) that you simply don't tell actors and filmmakers you didn't blindly love their movie. It's rude, it puts them in an impossible position, and what are they supposed to say?

After Smith publicly stated he felt I had betrayed him (I've searched but I can't find his post online anymore), I decided I would never again write a feature story about a movie I didn't genuinely like. Since then, my mantra to publicists who pitch me interviews has been "I need to see the movie first." If I don't like the film, I turn down the interview. I did this a couple of weeks ago, when I was offered an interview with John Cusack for Hot Tub Time Machine. I've never spoken to him and was very interested. Then I saw the movie and politely declined.


The next time I interviewed Smith - for Jersey Girl, a movie I really enjoy and think was unfairly trampled by the Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck affair - the first thing we spoke about was his reaction to my negative review of Jay and Silent Bob. In my defense, I explained that I had wanted to interview him, even though I hadn't loved his movie, and dwelled on the positive during our chat out of respect. He argued that he came away from the interview believing I thought Jay and Silent Bob was funny, and he felt like a chump when he read my review. I can understand that.

The difference between Smith and, say, Michael Bay or Martin Scorsese, is that Smith still reads his reviews and cares about them, even though he's at a point in his career when you'd think he would be beyond that. He is, at heart, very much the ordinary guy he puts forward on his website and on his podcasts. That's what makes him such a great interview subject, and that's why he takes negative reviews so personally.

Smith is blaming critics for not taking Cop Out on its own terms - a silly buddy comedy - but he's not acknowledging the reality: The movie just wasn't funny. Despite all the drug references in his films, Smith always claimed to never partake of narcotics, until he started habitually smoking weed during the making of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which was a perfect marriage of his vulgar humor and his romantic sensibility. Maybe all the pot-smoking has made him paranoid, but I'm disappointed in Smith's newfound attitude toward critics. I'm also baffled as to why he's taking the reviews of his most impersonal film to date so personally, I really want to see Red State, his next film (a horror picture!) and I'd love to talk to him about it, too - if it's good. Put down the pipe and nut up, Kevin. Sheesh.

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