We're in the movies! The Dallas Observer's downtown digs will become a makeshift film set courtesy of the crew of Tornado, a new noirish thriller starring James Spader, Eric Stoltz, Peter Strauss, and toothy '70s macho icon James Coburn.

"It's a blackmail mystery that takes place amongst a group of old friends in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma," says the film's director, Leslie Greif, co-creator of TV's "Walker, Texas Ranger." "Eric [Stoltz] plays a reporter who comes back to town after bumming around the country, gets mixed up with the wrong people, and gets into trouble. We don't want to say more than that because we don't want to give anything away."

The film is coproduced by Andy LaMarca, who recently produced Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. Shooting commences November 28 in various city locations and will move into the Observer's offices sometime in early January.

This past weekend, local filmmaker Derek Welch wrapped principal photography of his schlocky zombie biker flick Road Killers in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. He says the shoot came off fairly well, aside from being underfunded, overworked, and "up to our asses in mud at one point"--and a local newspaper printing a "zombies wanted" article, which caused hordes of locals to bombard the production offices (an abandoned Napa Auto Parts store) with phone calls and drop-ins. New Line films, a subsidiary of Turner Entertainment, has expressed interest in seeing a rough cut. The crew moves back to Dallas to shoot a few remaining sequences in two to three weeks.

One of the minor responsibilities of being a movie critic is helping fellow filmgoers remember pertinent aspects of movies--usually the title or who directed it or who starred in it. The following is a touchingly agonized voice mail message received October 31 from Chris Shull, a former Observer staffer who now serves as arts editor at The Met. Consider it the basis for an informal contest: the first three people who call Rushes at (214) 757-8440 with the correct answer will receive passes to an advance screening of The Professional. Leave your name and daytime phone number with your call; if you don't hear back from this writer, it's because three readers beat you to the punch. The following is an exact transcription:

Hey man, it's Chris Shull. It's straight up six on Monday. It's not important, but we were sitting over here trying to remember the name of this film. It's a remake of a classic film. It has Harrison Ford in it or Alec Baldwin in it, or someone who's kinda like that. There's a scene where there's a woman in a slip, a dress, and she says, "It's a Freudian slip. Get it? Get it?" And there's this novelist who, like, rips off his story from another writer...and there's a carousel, and...and...awwww, fuck! This film...It's like...awwww, I can't remember. It's like, from '87 or '88. It seems to me like there's a chase in the film...inside a theater, where...a nail gun gets shot off or something. It seems like it's a flashback type of film--it's all told in flashback. Anyway, give me a call if you want to jump into the fray.

--Matt Zoller Seitz


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