Open Mic

July 2013

The Must-See Movie of the Summer -- and You've Gotta See It in a Theater, Because It's Got the Best Use of 3-D We've Ever Seen (Sorry, Mr. Cameron). But It's Really Tough to Find in Your Neighborhood Theater. How You Can Help

Chuck Ross Posted July 26, 2013 at 2:38 AM

I just saw a most wonderful, upbeat summer movie about approaching the early-autumn of our years, a must-see buddy movie that, upon initial viewing, I thought was a spectacular all-wet extravaganza. Having seen it again a day later, I’ll borrow some Australian rhyming slang as this septic tank says you have to have a good Captain Cook at two china plates with lots of comic cuts and Niagara Falls. (Translation: This Yank says you have to have a good look at two (Aussie) mates with lots of guts and balls.)

Here’s the premise of the movie. For four months, two aging, world-class Australian surfers -- who are also best friends -- search out waves off the coast of Australia that have never been surfed. Monster waves. Like up to 45 feet tall. And you usually only get these giant waves during the winter storm months, which down-under is May through August.

The movie is called “Storm Surfers 3D,” and it’s got the most spectacular use of 3D I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of movies in 3D, everything from “Avatar” to “How to Train Your Dragon,” from “Coraline” to “House of Wax” to a bunch of IMAX science and nature movies.

What is so special and spectacular about the 3D in “Storm Surfers,” is that, first of all, it’s nature-made, and in the service of a documentary. The film-makers used 26 3D cameras, and, like James Cameron and his team did on “Avatar,” a lot of the cameras and rigs had to be specially invented for this picture.

Thus you feel that you’re standing next to these guys, dropping down off a monstrous 30-foot wall of water, or enveloped in a curl’s tunnel. You feel you’ve got to hold your breath as you wipe out and are flailing head-over-heels, underwater, as tons of water pound you relentlessly.

In other words, it’s the most stunning, immersive 3D I’ve ever seen. It’s dazzling and almost exhausting. After each screening I’d almost swear my hair was not only wet, but had that most agreeable scent of salt water.

But this movie is far more than just two guys -- and you -- surfing monster waves, a most impressive feat in itself.

Like one of my favorite movies that I saw last year, the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” “Storm Surfers” tells a terrific story.

The story in “Storm Surfers” is about how we handle getting older. I remember my grandmother once telling me, when she was in her early 80s, that she still felt like a 17-year-old inside. Her biggest frustration, she added, was that physically her body wasn’t cooperating.

That issue is talked about a lot by the two best buddies in “Storm Surfers,” Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones. Carroll, a two-time surfing world champion, says in the film that in a few months he’ll be 50. Clark-Jones is a few years behind him. Not only is big-wave surfing physically demanding, it’s mentally demanding as well, as both men struggle to keep the mental alacrity they had 20 years earlier. Sure, there is no substitute for experience, but there’s also no substitute for youth.

“Storm Surfers” is also about figuring out how to follow your dreams of youth when you’ve now got serious responsibilities, like a wife and kids. Especially when what Carroll and Clark-Jones do for a living is so increasingly dangerous as they grow older.

Another fascinating aspect of “Storm Surfers” is how a third member of the Carroll and Clark-Jones team, Ben Matson, tracks down and finds the monster waves they surf during the winter storms.

I hope I’ve convinced you that this is one fantastic movie and that it must be seen in 3D on the big screen. Trust me, it’s an experience you won’t quickly forget.

The problem is that “Storm Surfers 3D” is almost impossible to find on the big screen. That’s because a decision was made that the showing of the film in the U.S. would be done day-and-date with theaters and with pay-per-view on numerous TV outlets. But if you don’t see this film on the big screen, in 3D, you’re robbing yourself of three/fourths of the exhilarating, breathtaking fun of seeing this movie.

Many theater chains won’t show a movie that doesn’t give them a protective window. I was lucky enough to see the film here in Los Angeles during this past week at the Chinese 6 multiplex on Hollywood Boulevard, an independent movie house owned by TCL, a major company in China known for making TV sets. But the last day “Storm Surfers 3D” was playing there was yesterday, Thursday, July 25, 2013.

However, if you live in L.A., you’ll have another chance to see “Storm Surfers 3D” at the Aero theater in Santa Monica tomorrow, Saturday, July 27, at 4 p.m. I understand that it’s an added screening because the film played there last Saturday and sold out. Go and make it sellout again and then tell your friends they have to see the movie, and have to see it in 3D on a movie theater’s big screen. With any luck, the Aero will keep playing it.

On Aug. 6 “Storm Surfers” will be released on DVD.

But what needs to happen is that the movie needs a serious chance to be seen in theaters across the country.

Some major company -- how about the Discovery Channel -- needs to get involved and get this documentary out into theaters. Or perhaps the National Geographic Channel can lend a hand -- they are co-owned by Fox Cable Networks, which is a sibling of a movie studio. Given the muscle of the right TV marketing campaign, I am convinced that if enough people see this movie in theaters, word-of-mouth will eventually take care of the rest.

Here’s another idea. Mark Cuban owns the Landmark Theatre chain. Perhaps Landmark can make an effort to keep this movie in the theaters.

Movie maker Stanley Kubrick once said about the big screen, “It’s a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.”

I hope someone can get “Storm Surfers 3D” back in theaters. Seeing it on DVD, or on pay-per-view, even on the biggest TVs, it’s still a good film. But put it up on the big screen, in 3D, it’s a magical, truly unforgettable experience.

'Mad Men's' Jon Hamm Takes a Walk on the Lighter Side

Hillary Atkin Posted July 16, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Those who have followed Jon Hamm’s career closely over the past few years will know that in addition to the tall, dark, handsome, brilliant, broody and deceptive character of Don Draper that he plays on "Mad Men," Hamm has a light, goofy and quick-witted side as well.

Those qualities will come to the fore as Hamm takes on a new gig, hosting the 2013 ESPY Awards on ESPN Wednesday night -- his first time emceeing an awards show.

Yes, he's hosted "Saturday Night Live" three times and appeared on multiple occasions in episodes that highlighted his comedy chops -- in skits like “Jon Hamm’s John Ham” and, of course, spoofs on his lead role in AMC's “Mad Men.” He’s also been Emmy-nominated three times for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for his appearances on "30 Rock.” And then there was the uncredited bad boyfriend role in 2011's smash comedy hit "Bridesmaids.”

But Hamm says none of that experience was real prep for the 21st edition of the ESPYs. “It's a challenge. It's not like hosting ‘SNL.’ It's a whole different skill set. But I've never had a problem standing up and making a fool of myself," says the actor, who counts himself as a huge sports fan, starting with his well-known support of his hometown baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hamm talked about the upcoming awards show in a conference call with reporters last week, with the ESPYs' executive producer Maura Mandt also on the call.

Hamm says his connection with sports goes back to when he was a high school athlete in St. Louis, lettering in football, baseball and swimming. But he says there was no danger of his progressing as a professional in any of those endeavors.

"I have a lot of good memories and am still friends with a lot of the guys from then," he says, noting that his school's curriculum encouraged students to be active. "I think it's important for young kids to get out and move around. I loved it."

One of the things Hamm says he appreciates about the ESPY Awards is that it recognizes many sports and not just the big four. While he's been in production in Atlanta on a baseball-themed film called “Million Dollar Arm,” in which he co-stars with Bill Paxton, he's been working with writers on material for his role as host.

"Jon is a perfect fit," says Mandt. "He is a die-hard, authentic sports fan who appreciates the achievements in sports. And he's proved his comic chops. It's a tough job for anyone to fill.”

ESPYs, which are voted on by fans, will be awarded in 35 categories including best male and female athlete, best championship performance, best upset, best game, best comeback, best team, best manager/coach and sport-specific awards for hockey, baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis and auto racing.

“The main thing is to celebrate these incredible things they’ve done," says Hamm of the people who will be taking home the statuettes. "I look at other hosts, and the best ones keep it moving, and keep it light. It's not going to be the Jon Hamm show, nor should it be. Those are my marching orders."

Obviously Hamm is no stranger to award shows -- from a seat in the audience. He’s been a bridesmaid many times at the Emmys since 2008, while taking home hardware at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, TCA and SAG for playing Don Draper on AMC’s acclaimed drama, recently named one of the top 10 television shows of all time by the Writers Guild of America and Entertainment Weekly.

Having been around that block many times, Hamm has honed his strategy, and philosophy. "If you’re nominated, you want to get past your category, then you can relax. If you don't win, you want it to go fast because there are usually fun parties afterward. You don’t want to forget you are there to celebrate achievements of peers and their good job. It’s nice to see people celebrated."

The ESPYs take place at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre and air on ESPN July 17 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

More Than Meets the Eye in New FX Drama

Hillary Atkin Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Two cops. Two cultures. Two countries. Two movie stars. A rogue reporter. A mysterious killer -- and a string of unsolved murders. It's an equation that looks to equal a hit for FX.

“The Bridge,” starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir and premiering tonight, July 10, 2013, at 10 p.m., is sure to take its place amongst the quality new crop of hour-long dramas on television, including FX’s own “The Americans, ”Starz’s “Magic City” and Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “Homeland,” to which “The Bridge” is connected by way of executive producer Meredith Stiehm.

Stiehm, formerly an EP and writer on “Homeland,” adapted “The Bridge” for American television with writer/producer Elwood Reid. The present-day crime thriller is set on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso/Juarez and is based on “Bron,” an international hit series that was set on the Sweden-Denmark border.

No spoilers here, but the first episode kicks off with a dramatic power outage at the border crossing known as the Bridge of the Americas and then the revelation of a gruesome crime involving an anti-immigration judge, and an apparent contamination of the crime scene. These elements lead Kruger’s character, El Paso police detective Sonya Cross, to cross swords and badges with her counterpart from the Chihuahua state police, Bichir’s Marco Ruiz.

“The Bridge” takes viewers on a journey that not only illuminates the cultural differences between law enforcement entities, but also reveals the challenges each faces investigating a multifaceted case on both sides of the border that pulls them into a milieu of illegal immigration, prostitution, drug trafficking and an avalanche of violence against young women, based on real events.

For Kruger, who has starred in films including "Troy" and "Inglourious Basterds,” the complexity of Cross’s character is what drew her to her first television series lead role. Cross has Asperger’s syndrome, which fuels her candid and sometimes off-putting personality as she strives for the truth while strictly obeying police protocol.

"I had never really had a desire to play a cop. I'm not really the gun-toting type of person,” says Kruger. "Sonya’s character is just so different and cool and a real challenge, because Asperger’s is much more subtle than a severe version or a case of autism. That's what drew me initially to the project, because yes, she has this condition, yet she is so different in her job because she has this ability to focus and to really look at things from a different point of view, and that was really interesting to me.”

Kruger says everything about Asperger’s was new to her and she did research that made her realize how daunting the challenge was. The network hired someone with the syndrome to work with her, which she says has been key to her performance.

"He's on the set every day when I work, and I've spent more time with him in the past four months than I have with my partner, because I have so many questions and I'm just observing him," says Kruger. "I'm also asking him some pretty uncomfortable questions. And his willingness to be my partner in this has made a big difference. I sleep easier at night knowing that he watches over everything I do."

Still, the producers decided early on that Sonya’s condition would not be labeled because they didn't want it to be her defining character trait.

"I think that was so brave because [in the first episode] she's so odd that you really don't know what it is that's off," Kruger says. “I think it will be great for the next 13 episodes to get to see her nuance and her layers and to understand a lot of her back story that has made her the person she is today.”

Bichir’s character, Ruiz, who must navigate the slippery slope of Mexican police politics and practices, is compelling in his own right. As the series opens, he has recently undergone a vasectomy and is in pain, to the point where he has trouble sitting down, much to Cross’s annoyance -- which she makes clear in no uncertain terms.

With subplots involving Ruiz’s family, including a son who is being wooed into the drug trade, a wealthy rancher’s widow pulled into intrigue about his past dealings and a cub reporter out to make a name for herself with an investigative report on anchor babies, not to mention the evilly charismatic killer, viewers will have no trouble sitting down for “The Bridge.”

Later this summer, the series will be dubbed in Spanish and aired on MundoFox.