Versatile and prolific writer of novels, nonfiction and poetry who entered film as a protege of David O. Selznick in the early 1930s. Lewton went on to produce a number of stylish, low-budget horror f...
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Disney takes another whack at “Witch Mountain” having found success more than three decades ago with Escape to Witch Mountain and its sequel. Now the story has been contemporized and Bourne-ified to create what is essentially a nonstop breathless race across long winding roads and two worlds competing for superiority. As in the original two children with extraordinary powers seek to save Earth and their own planet from evil forces. They waste no time jumping into a hapless Las Vegas taxi driver’s cab ordering him to put the pedal to the metal. It soon becomes clear the secret to their quest lies somewhere in Witch Mountain a place where top-secret government activity has been going on for years. With their own alien military leaders in favor of a violent takeover and the U.S. leaders ready for confrontation these two teens Sara and Seth plus their cabbie Jack Bruno race against time to find a better solution for both of their worlds.
WHO’S IN IT?
Fast becoming Disney’s go-to guy Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as The Rock) follows up his hit football comedy The Game Plan with another family-oriented tale in which he again gets upstaged by kids. His Jack Bruno proves the perfect foil this time as he gets to be funny cynical commanding and heroic all in the course of about 97 minutes. As events careen out of his control Johnson grows increasingly exasperated and that’s part of the fun. As Sara a smart extraterrestrial teen Anna-Sophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) is ideally cast bringing a nice believability to the role without falling into stereotypes. Seth is well played but with one-note earnestness by Alexander Ludwig who still comes off a little too robotic at times. As an astrophysicist who gets caught up in the trio’s predicament Carla Gugino is a delight. Lead among the antagonists is Irish actor Ciaran Hinds who is properly mean and heartless when it comes to aliens of any stripe. Director Garry Marshall has an amusing cameo as a self-styled UFO expert and there are brief but welcome appearances by the all-grown-up Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the ‘70s incarnation of the alien kids in the earlier films. Richards’ face-to-face meeting with Robb is especially sweet.
The filmmakers wisely keep the retro tone of the book and earlier films while using state-of-the-art visual effects and movie magic. A lot of sci-fi movies have come along since Escape to Witch Mountain premiered in 1975 – see Star Wars Close Encounters and E.T. And while Witch Mountain circa 2009 won’t do anything to make us forget those classics it’s good fun -- like welcoming back an old friend.
There’s no complexity in sight and the story isn’t given a lot of time to breathe. We barely get to know Jack Bruno before the kids have hijacked his cab and the whirlwind begins. A little more exposition and plot development would have been welcomed for those with an attention span beyond two minutes.
There are lots of first-rate action set pieces including a collision with a train and a chase through a Vegas casino but the climactic spaceship battle can’t be topped. Kids are going to eat this sequence up.
After showing Jack her alien prowess for the first time by making various items in his cab float in mid-air Sara says “you humans don’t move objects because you don’t develop your full brain capacity”. Bruno replies “No I don’t do it because it’s kind of creepy.”
Maybe it was that live broadcast of "E.R." Or perhaps the save-the-world-from-nuclear-holocaust heroics in "The Peacemaker."
Whichever, big-screen George Clooney is set to produce a live small-screen staging of the Cold War drama "Fail Safe" on CBS on April 9. Based on the 1962 novel (released at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis), the story focuses on a man's Tom Clancy-style struggle to save the world from total annihilation. (Henry Fonda starred in the 1964 theatrical version.)
Clooney's production will emanate from two soundstages on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, Calif. It'll be broadcast in black-and-white -- the better to capture the mood of (yea!) bleak paranoia.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons") is close to inking a deal to direct the play. Clooney's "E.R." cohort Noah Wyle is said to be up for a key supporting role.
BURT THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Burt Reynolds is set to direct a low-budget remake of the 1945 Boris Karloff vampire flick "Isle of the Dead," today's Hollywood Reporter says.
The movie is the first of three RKO Radio Pictures titles scheduled to be remade for $10 million each. No word if producers will take a crack at the ultimate RKO title, "King Kong."
The original "Isle of the Dead" was one of several films Karloff made for producer Val Lewton in the 1940s. Directed by the late Mark Robson ("Valley of the Dolls"), the flick was the creepy tale of a bunch of quarantined folks on a Greek island -- one of whom is a suspected vampire.
FIRST THE EAGLES, NOW 'THE COMMITMENTS': The rag-tag Irish soul band of Alan Parker's 1991 film "The Commitments" is getting back together -- maybe.
Miramax Films has hired playwright Warren Leight (late of the Broadway hit "Side Man") to write the script for a sequel, The Associated Press says. Cathy Konrad ("Scream") will produce.
While the original film was produced by Beacon Communications, Miramax snapped up the sequel rights. No word if any of the film's original cast will be on board. Andrew Strong, who played the group's lead singer, went on to record several albums, while other members of the fictitious group formed a real-life band called The Committed.
Versatile and prolific writer of novels, nonfiction and poetry who entered film as a protege of David O. Selznick in the early 1930s. Lewton went on to produce a number of stylish, low-budget horror films for RKO, notably the atmospheric "Cat People" (1942), the engagingly macabre "I Walked With A Zombie" (1943) and the chilling "Bedlam" (1946).
Lucy Olga Lewton
died in 1908
married in 1929
changed family name to Lewton when she settled in the USA; died in 1967 at age 92