JIM'S MOVIE CHEAT SHEET - 21 April

Date

Jim Schembri

One last drink: Joe Pesci raises a laugh in GoodFellas, one of the many great films shot by cinematographer Michael ...

One last drink: Joe Pesci raises a laugh in GoodFellas, one of the many great films shot by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who passed away this week.

CHINA TO LIFT ANNUAL US MOVIE QUOTA

Whatever you think of US President Donald Trump - whose utterances are presently supporting an entire industry of late night talk show hosts - there's no doubting his deep love of, and fierce commitment to, American culture.

Thus on a recent visit to the US by China's premier Xi Jinping The Donald got them to lift the annual quota of Hollywood films allowed into the place.

Since 2012 the Chinese had been keeping the number of Hollywood films allowed into their ever-expanding network of multiplexes to 34, but they relented last year to allow 38 to help the make up for the soft performance of local fare, which the quota is designed to protect.

That figure, according to the South China Morning Post, is up for review this year, thanks to Trump's insistence. China is on track to overtake the US as the world's biggest movie market and the appetite for American films is only growing stronger.

By the way, the talks also included increases in sales of American beef - ending a ban that's been in place since 2003 - pork, soybean, oil and gas, along with a general move towards more American access to the huge Chinese market. These talks mark an easing of trade tensions, despite Trump's pre-election rhetoric, and The Donald has made clear that the more the Chinese control the international nuisance of North Korea, the better things will get.

Why mention all this? To underscore the point that movies are good for world peasce.

The closer the economic ties between the US and China, the better the cultural ties and the less room there will be for conflict. China loves American culture (just as Japan does) and the more of it they consume, along with all the other stuff, the more harmony in the world.

What's going on between China and America is a thinly veiled peace process, and movies are playing a part of it.

As a sweet side note, these trade talks weren't held at an official US government venue; they took place at Mar-a-lago, Trump's plush $2000-a-night estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Ironically, the place was built in the mid-1920s as a winter retreat for presidents, but there was too little interest. Trump bought the place in 1985 and is now using it as "the southern White House". It's fun to think of all that luxury oiling the wheels of international affairs.

 

SHIA HITS THE FROZEN WASTELAND

For the latest in a long series of eccentric art projects, our favourite eccentric American actor Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, etc) will lock himself away in a shack in Lapland, Norway and communicate via text with visitors to the Helsinki museum.

You might think Shia was just trying to escape the news that his war movie Man Down had sold three ticket in the UK, but his love of art projects runs parallel with his film work.

Earlier this year he ran an anti-Trump art show called He Will Not Divide Us in which people were invited to repeat the phrase on camera for as long as they liked. In New York poor Shia got arrested for assaulting a pro-Trump protester who had assaulted one of Shia's fans, and in Liverpool the show was shut sown after a day because his detractors tried breaking into the museum.

Back on the movie track, we can look forward to seeing what Shia does when he plays John McEnroe in the sports film Borg vs McEnroe, due out later this year. You can already see him in the role, can't you?

 

SLY vs WARNERS OVER DEMOLITION MAN DOUGH

Back in 1993 Sylvester Stallone co-starred with a young Sandra Bullock and a then-hot Wesley Snipes in a nifty sc-fi action comedy called Demolition Man. He played a cop that went into cryogenic freeze to pursue a criminal into the future.

Nearly 25 years after the film's release, Stallone began wondering where his cut from the film went and so began pursuing Warners. After an initial statement telling him the hit film was, in fact, in deficit, Stallone persisted and ended up getting a cheque for $US2.8 million.

Apparently infuriated by the offer of "go away" money, Sly has now redoubled his efforts to not only get a bigger share of the film's gross, but to expose "Hollywood accounting" for the greater good. See? He really is Rocky, isn't he?

BY THE WAY...

No word yet if Bullock or Snipes are planning to follow suit. The former is unlikely to need the cash. The latter, who spent three years in jail for tax fraud, could probably do with a little extra pocket change. Since his tax troubles began in 2005 Snipes has been knocking out straight-to-disk action pulp, and since leaving jail in 2013 he's only managed one major feature, Armed Response, which is yet to be released.

 

VALE MICHAEL BALLHAUS

One of the greats of American cinematography, Michael Ballhaus, has died, age 81.

Ballhaus was a regular collaborator with Martin Scorsese with whom he made: After Hours; The Color of Money; The Last Temptation of Christ; GoodFellas; The Age of Innocence; Gangs of New York; and The Departed.

His early career saw a deep involvement with German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He did four films with Mike Nichols: Working Girl; What Planet Are You From?; Primary Colours; and Postcards from the Edge.

Ballhaus proved his remarkable action chops with Wolfgang Petersen on Air Force One and Outbreak; he did two films with director Robert Redford; Quiz Show and The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Among his other notable credits are: Broadcast News; Dracula; Sleepers; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; and The Fabulous Baker Boys.

His famous tracking shot through the Copacabana nightclub in GoodFellas is a fitting signature for his incredible versatility and style.

 

FATE DRIVES TO THE TOP

Unsurprisingly, the carmageddon splendour of Fate and the Furious has hit #1 with a fury. Its local take thus far is $9.6 million on a super-wide release of 697 across two weekends while its global take of $553m since 14 April puts the film on track to set a new speed record for a billion. The Holocaust drama Denial (#11) took $135,116 on 41 while Frantz (#18) has taken $64,706 on 20

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