They said that? — Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse TysonThe line I’m drawing is that there are religions and belief systems, and objective truths. And if we’re going to govern a country, we need to base that governance on objective truths — not your personal belief system.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson on religious belief and its role in government

Courtesy Paramount Studios

Will new Scientology doc affect Tom Cruise’s new “Mission: Impossible?”

Short answer. No. The “does it look like it will suck?” factor will hurt it more.

But you didn’t come here for short answers, did you?

An article in “International Business Times” does the fear monger thing. The article (reposted by Raw Story here) implies that the revelations about all the crooked shit the Church of Scientology does as revealed in the HBO-aired documentary “Going Clear” will affect audience opinion on Cruise.

Therefore, his new movie “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” won’t do well and Cruise will have to worry about his career.

He’s worrying about his career? Maybe future jobs, but it’s not like the residuals from his prior works don’t leave him a millionaire a million times over. I wish I had to “worry about my career” like that!

But I digress.

The article states that his last “M:I” movie, “Ghost Protocol” did well, but his subsequent movies did not.

Let’s look at those movies.

“Oblivion.” “Jack Reacher.” “Rock of Ages.” “Edge of Tomorrow.” True, none of them did the usual Cruise over-$100-million box office.

“Oblivion” pretty much sucked.

Musicals like “Rock of Ages” are always a hard sell, and that really wasn’t a “Tom Cruise” movie, so I don’t hold that against him.

“Edge of Tomorrow?” Let’s talk about the title. It had nothing to do with the content of the movie. It was so bad, Warner Bros. retconned the title to “Live. Die. Repeat.” That just shows that the studio had no idea how to market the movie, which means no one knew what to expect.

Subsequently, nobody went to see what even Rotten Tomatoes calls “certified fresh” with a 90%. The much-loved (I hated it) “Guardians of the Galaxy” only got a 91%.

Full disclosure: I didn’t see “Reacher,” but the advertising didn’t make it look like anything I needed to rush out and see anyway. Still grossed $80 million, which puts it on par with Liam Neeson’s “Taken 3,” a sequel in a highly popular franchise and not an original IP like “Reacher.”

BTW — original IPs are a MUCH harder sell, even if they’re based on popular books. Unless you put the “Marvel” logo in front of it, I guess.

“Reacher” nearly tripled Neeson’s “A Walk Among the Tombstones” B/O, and that film only kinda sucked.

Granted, Neeson doesn’t have Scientology rumors against him. But I’d argue that the world outside of the movie matters little in this fickle America we live in. What does matter is if the movie is marketed correctly and if it follows two basic maxims — “Do. Not.  Suck.” and “Give them what they want.”

In the summer, American audiences want action, adventure, big explosions, pretty faces and maybe, if the filmmakers get around to it, a decent plot. And don’t be preachy or show me any negative things ’bout ‘Merica.

Here’s the trailer for “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation.” What do you think about the “suck” potential? I think it looks more exciting than the last three James Bond movies.

But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Al Pacino as Scarface

Universal announces a new writer on “Scarface” remake

Back in July of 2012, Universal announced plans to remake “Scarface.”

Recently, they revealed that writers Paul Attanasio (“Donnie Brasco”) and David Ayer (“Training Day”) gave it a shot, and now Jonathan Herman (“Straight Outta Compton”) is at bat.

Before you get your Spider-Man Underoos in a bunch about yet another remake, as I explained in my previous post on “Scarface,” it’s possible to make a remake that’s not only good but has a life of its own.

For those of you who didn’t catch the previous article, here’s the gist.

Why De Palma’s “Scarface” works as a remake

The Brian De Palma-directed “Scarface” is a remake of the 1932 Paul Muni-starring vehicle of the same name.

I’ll wait for you non-movie buffs to digest that.

De Palma’s “Scarface” works because it utilized the core parts of the original film, but placed it squarely in (for then) modern times in a new setting.

How to make a good (third) “Scarface”

Though it is sad Hollywood is going down the well-trodden remake path again, it is possible to take a story like “Scarface” and give it an original sheen.

The producers of the new version must remember the rags-to-riches tale, utilize set pieces from the original films, and give it a modern take based on something relevant to today’s audiences.

The video game genre has already proven the validity of the technique. Take the “Grand Theft Auto” series from Rockstar Games. The breakout title, “GTA III,” turned on the story of a New York criminal. Sequels included a Russian-ish mobster, a Los Angeles-styled gangsta and, ironically, a flashback to the streets of Miami/ Vice City that played like “Scarface.”

All the same basic story of small guy rises through crime, but the variety of settings and ethnicities keeps things interesting.

Keeping with the criminal theme, the new “Scarface” could find itself in the world of the Mexican drug cartels. Picture the flash of the Mexican underworld, with a young man rising in the corrupt world of the illegal marijuana, immigration and the gun trades.

Give Robert Rodriguez the camera with a Quentin Tarantino script and let them loose.

The tale could also flow from the favelas of Brazil, where cocaine is still in high demand as an import and the glitz of Rio de Janeiro provides a backdrop as exciting as Tony Montana’s Miami. Check out this trailer for “Elite Squad” to see how well that could work (sorry it’s only in SD).

The story could also take us to the streets of Hong Kong, where the Triads provide all the civil liberties the Chinese government seeks to deny the people. It’d be just like Prohibition in America with a Communist slant. Plus, there’s the chance to provide a John Woo throwback.

What Universal decided (so far)

These are but a few off the cuff examples of setting and situation for a “Scarface” remake.  Since I wrote this article back in 2012, Universal has revealed their plans to set this third “Scarface” in Los Angeles, following a Mexican immigrant and his rise within the drug world.

So, I sorta nailed it, huh? That’s what happens when I think out loud.

For more on the new “Scarface,” check out this article at Collider.

For those interested, here’s the trailer for the original “Scarface.”

Maroon 5 covers Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”

image from Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video

Courtesy Nothing/ Interscope

I wish this were an “April Fool,” but it’s not.

Now I liked “Songs About Jane” by Maroon 5. Good, soul-full stuff with a few nice guitar licks. I even liked some of their newer stuff like “Payphone” and “Moves Like Jagger” (mainly because of Christina Aguilera, for her limited role).

But there are some things you just shouldn’t do. Throwing Adam Levine’s high-pitched voice on the much darker song “Closer” is one of them. I mean, in this version (from unknown source), the band does a serviceable job. But it’s a “uh… don’t do that again” moment.

It is nice to know, however, the musical tastes among bands. Who would have thought these pop rockers would dig Nine Inch Nails?

I can only hope that Adam’s love of NIN rubs off on Christina and she covers “The Wretched.” I’ve had dreams that my Valentina Lorena inspiration would do something like that. Keep it dark, but with a female voice.


But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Here’s the clip of Maroon 5 covering “Closer.” What say you?

De Palma’s “Scarface” shows how to do a remake correctly

Al PAcino as Scarface

Courtesy Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures has announced a new writer for the second remake of the 1932 Paul Muni gangster film “Scarface.”

“Second remake?” you say? “There was a ‘Scarface’ before Al Pacino?”

Yes and yes.

De Palma’s Miami-set, cocaine cowboy version of “Scarface” starred Al Pacino in a tour de force performance as Cuban refugee-turned-gangster Tony “Scarface” Montana.

It is also an outstanding example of “if you have to remake a movie, this is how you do it correctly.”

The original “Scarface”

In the original “Scarface,” stared Muni played Tony “Scarface” Camonte, a low-level mobster in Prohibition era Chicago. Like Pacino’s Montana, Camonte was a wild card hedonist with a violent streak. He always had something to prove, but always knew when to be loyal.

Camonte and Montana both also knew when to cast loyalty aside for something they wanted, particularly when that something was a woman.

De Palma and Stone create the remake

De Palma turned to screenwriter Oliver Stone to pen the remake. (Yes, THAT Oliver Stone, the one who would go on to win a Directing Oscar for “Platoon.”) Stone had already won an Oscar for screenwriting (“Midnight Express”), so the guy was a proven talent even then.

Stone took several key elements from the original film almost verbatim, including the following: Camonte’s first meet and relationship with the boss’s girl Poppy; Camonte’s bizarre obsession with his sister; Camonte’s friendship with his right-hand man and that man’s subsequent death for marrying Camonte’s sister; Camonte’s clever phone call during a meeting with his boss that reveals the boss’s assassination attempt; a climax with Camonte taking on a horde of enemies.

Lifting scenes as Stone did is inevitable with a remake. You don’t want to veer too far from the source material for fear of alienating the original audience. But you can’t simply do a shot-for-shot movie. You’ll lose the spirit of what made the original great (looking at you Gus Van Sant).

The dangers with remakes

Brian De Palma, director "Scarface"

Courtesy Universal Pictures

The filmmaker who sticks too closely to the original also risks creating a film relevant to an older generation but not relevant to their present audience.

Worse, some remakes lift scenes but add material that changes the tone of the original. This goes to the generational audience appeal. You’ve got old gen material conflicting with the new gen additions, creating a disjointed movie that drowns under its own weight.

This is where Stone and De Palma’s genius gets full applause.

The duo moved their Tony’s drama from the played out streets of 1930s Chicago to the newly minted drug wars in Miami, Florida. This gave the dual big bang of a setting untapped and overused by Hollywood while maintaining the “Wild West gangsters” motif of the original film.

Making a remake is tricky business, but De Palma and Stone pulled it off with aplomb.

For an interesting take, watch the new “Scarface” Blu-ray in U-Control mode. You’ll get a picture-in-picture comparison of scenes between the two versions of “Scarface.” The limited edition steel case edition also comes with a DVD copy of the original 1932 film.

For more on the new writer and Universal’s thoughts on the new movie, check out Collider. Though I don’t agree with their notion that De Palma’s “Scarface” “really isn’t all that good.” That’s just me thinking out loud.

Here’s the trailer for the original “Scarface.”

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor for “Batman v Superman”

Courtesy Entertainment Weekly and Warner Bros

Courtesy Entertainment Weekly and Warner Bros

Thanks to “Entertainment Weekly,” we have our first look at Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor for the upcoming “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

He’s bald. Like the character. Big deal. There’s a picture of him with hair, just so you can tell.

The movie hits March 25, 2016 because they were too scared to release it head-to-head against “Captain America: Civil War.” No details on plot except, well, see the title.

It stars Henry “Neck Breaker” Cavill as Superman, Ben “Please forget ‘Daredevil'” Affleck as Batman, Gal “I couldn’t act worth a damn in the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies so yeah, why not play a cultural icon?” Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jason Momo as Poseidon — er, the dwarf version of Aquaman.

Yes, they’re actually doing Aquaman.