Tumescent film blogger Harry Knowles has a bit of a scoop from when he sat down to talk to Shane Black, occasionally brilliant genre screenwriter ("Lethal Weapon," "The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Last Action Hero") and writer-director of the underrated gem "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (seriously -- we just watched this again the other night). It seems that Black has recently been hired
by the omnipresent production duo of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Star Trek," "The Proposal," pretty much every movie in the next five years) to write a new version of pulp action icon Doc Savage.
Update: Collider says they have it on good authority that Orci and Kurtzman are not the producers here. We're inclined to believe them if only because we really don't care for those two.
Doc Savage was a pulp fiction hero, appearing in books, comics, radio programs, magazines and movies. He was created by publisher Henry Ralson and editor John L Nanovic, but is most famously known by the works brought to life by writer Lester Dent. Savage is a nearly superman renaissance man (he's a scientist, adventurer, etc.) who always finds himself in outlandish situations.
His most famous cinematic incarnation so far was in George Pal's 1975 camp romp "Doc Savage: Man of Bronze" (we recently watched this again thanks to the wonderful Warner Bros. Archive and boy is it lousy). There was talk in the late 1990's of a new Doc Savage movie, to be produced by the "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (yeah we went there) duo of Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role (no, really). Schwarzenegger's desire to ruin California as the great state's governor ultimately killed the project.
Shane Black confirmed that the movie would be period, set in the 1930's. Harry Knowles, of course, gushed about this fan boyish detail, but we can't help but remind Knowles of the number of fantastical period action movies, based on pulp fiction heroes, that have failed both critically and commercially -- "The Rocketeer," "The Shadow," "The Phantom," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," the list goes on and on and fucking on. Maybe Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" will turn that around, but we're doubtful.
If anybody does have the chutzpah to bring this property to life with the right mix of brains and brawn, it's Black and his co-conspirators. [AICN] - Drew Taylor
Tumescent film blogger Harry Knowles has a bit of a scoop from when he sat down to talk to Shane Black, occasionally brilliant genre screenwriter ("Lethal Weapon," "The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Last Action Hero") and writer-director of the underrated gem "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (seriously -- we just watched this again the other night). It seems that Black has recently been hired
We don't put much stock frankly, into this new rumor making the rounds that says Leonard DiCaprio and BFF Tobey Maguire will star in a remake of Carol Reed's British noir-classic, "The Third Man," which is evidently being written by "Eastern Promises" screenwriter Steven Knight.
"The Third Man" is an all-timer and pitted real-life pals Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten against each other in a thriller about a man who visits Vienna for a job on the behest of a best friend, only to find that the buddy was killed under mysterious circumstances upon his arrival.
So yeah, we don't buy it, but hey, we're in the mood for making fun photoshop graphics tonight, so why not. Update: Also, note: The Criterion Collection no longer has the rights to "Third Man," on regular DVD and Blu-Ray and the discs have gone out of print, effective immediately. Scoop 'em up while you can now because the studio version obviously will not be as lovingly rendered.
The trades are really playing catch up today. Earlier today 007 star Daniel Craig was asked on camera in New York outside his play "A Steady Rain" (co-starring Hugh Jackman) when the next Bond movie — dubbed "Bond 23" for now, because of its edition # in the series — would be happening. Craig responded that the movie would begin filming at "the end of next year."
And in fact, the trades are essentially acting as bloggers now and making a report about this exact same quote and occurrence, but of course, not linking anyone. We always thought the trade boycott was rather silly because Variety and THR would actually confirm rumors or advance the story with new news as most good news outlets did at the time, which was always fair game to move forward, but this is just slightly odd and probably going to ruffle some of the thin-skinned feathers out there.
Considering the names we've heard of late — name brand directors and writers from both sides of the Atlantic that are in soft talks or consideration — we could really advance this story ourselves. But then someone would get rather pissed at us and then well, that's that. The Broccoli family — Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, along with wife Dane and children Michael and Barbara, aka the producing dynasty behind all these films — are definitely sniffing around, so shooting end of year makes sense.
Decisions could be made in the next several months or very shortly. We'll see.
George Miller Says 'Mad Max 4' Set To Go Into Production In Australia Next Year; Casting Not Nailed Down Yet - Sam Worthington Latest Rumor
The trades are getting in on the "Mad Max 4" action that's been buzzing around the Internets, but they're not delivering much of what can't already be found.
Earlier this week E! Online reported that Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy ("Bronson," Nolan's "Inception") were two of 'Mad Max' trilogy director George Miller's favored choices to play Max (now not a role for Mel Gibson who's apparently too old) and a female protagonist.
This ran contrary to reports a few months ago that said "The Hurt Locker" star Jeremy Renner was in talks with Miller about appearing in the film, but then again, whether he was ever tapped for the lead role was only speculation.
So "Mad Max: Fury Road" as it was once called. Back on track?
According to the Brisbane Times that has an interview with Miller, the film is set to begin production in Australia next year and the director tried to ward off the casting news flying around the web.
"I'm still in the middle of casting, despite all the stuff we see on the net and so on. I don't even know who the final cast will be," he told reporters at a press conference in Sydney on Saturday.
Note the words though, that's not a full-on denial of Hardy or Theron, but more of an honest statement that he hasn't decided who his principal leads are. This probably means he is considering the two, but perhaps is still thinking about Jeremy Renner as well (and probably other names), who isn't a huge name, but compared to Hardy, is still rather a larger star at this point (though yes, that's very relative too).
The report says the 'Fury Road' script is done but presumably very revised since the version that was set to go into production in 2003, but was canned because of the impending Iraq war (the film was going to shoot in the Middle East), because the Times says the story will "modernize the franchise and take it in a new direction."
An ABC Australia report mentions Aussie actor Sam Worthington and that he's rumored to star (then again, with Worthington being hot in the action world these days, they'll mention him in connection with almost any project out there).
Apparently some of the shoot will take place in New South Wales. "The Mad Max films are iconic and the latest instalment Fury Road will be made right here in NSW," State premier Nathan Rees told Australian branch of ABC noting the film will become an important boost for the local economy and film industry. "In the hands of director George Miller, we will see one of the largest and most ambitious live action films ever made in Australia."
Does that mean Rees knows anything about the film's scope? Or have Miller and his producers presumably just approached his office? Probably the latter, but you'd think in this economy, a 'Mad Max 4' without Mel Gibson would still be a somewhat scaled-back affair. Then again, if they did nab Worthington, he did basically star in "Terminator Salvation" and that thing wasn't cheap.
Not that anyone doubts it at this point (or at least shouldn't), but we were one of the first sites (if not the first), to call out Lukas Haas' participation, via the original trailer, in Christopher Nolan's "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio and an all-star supporting cast (Haas is also a longtime pal of DiCaprio's who hung out with him in their early bratpack days after he became huge with "Titanic").
But this is clearly Haas standing next to DiCaprio in a set photo via Nolan Fans. So yeah, in case you had any doubts.
What else? Cillian Murphy just recently said, "[Nolan] showed me the whole script. It’s very very complex and amazing. I’m hugely excited for next year when it comes out,” which sort of indicates that not all of the cast has been able to read the entire screenplay? Nolan is very secretive about this one. “It’s conceptual. It doesn’t fit into any genre,” Murphy added. “There are elements of different types of things in it but it is all from Chris’ imagination. I’ve never read anything close to it before.”
Nolan Fans also have new shots of Ellen Page, all buttoned up in a suit whereas all previous photos of the actress have shown her dressed down. She's supposed to play DiCaprio's assistant in the film and he's supposed to be some sort of CEO type, so presumably this means she goes on some sort of wild adventure with him and they're finally getting around to shooting the earlier scenes where she has to look all professional and done up. Stands to reason, no? The Daily Mail also has some shots of DiCaprio sitting on a ledge yelling at his wife in the film Marion Cotillard (is that right? it's been a while since we followed the particulars). The DailyMail also says the plot centers on a businessman embroiled in a blackmail scandal which jives with the alleged script details that were revealed months back (think that's when it reached a noisy, fever pitch and we just tuned out, or we only skimmed it cause we didn't actually want to spoil it all for ourselves; and actually now that we've re-skimmed it, this scene with DiCaprio on the ledge might be part of a key spoiler in the film).
"Inception" is still scheduled to hit theaters July 16, 2010. Btw, is this a photo of Page all pissed off and DiCaprio and Nolan having a laugh at her expense? Pretty amusing.
It's Friday, so there's nothing like discussing porn...and early retirement. Yes, Steven Soderbergh still insists he's getting out of the game and soon. Don't like it? Tough, he basically says he's done enough in his lifetime, which is true considering his prodigious output. Soderbergh says he'll retire in less than four years.
Does that mean, "Knockout," "Liberace," "Cleo," the 2nd Spalding Gray doc, maybe another lo-fi Magnet film, and one more maybe if we're lucky?
"I just feel that this is a young person’s game, and I don’t want to be doing this when I’m 50. By then I’ll have made 20-something movies, and that’s a lot,” he told the London Times Online. So, does that mean he’ll be retiring in the next four years? “Oh, I think before that,” he says. Surely he can’t be serious. A workaholic and consummate movie-maker at the height of his powers, with Clooney, the cream of Hollywood, at his feet?The ever-candid filmmaker also calls his herculean "Che"epic, “a mistake from day one.” If you say so Steven. We still love it.
“It’s funny, but every time I say I’m trying to wind things down, people get really angry. ‘Why are you saying that? Stop saying that!’ But look, if I decide I want to do something else I am allowed to do just that.” He gives a perplexed shrug and says: “It’s my life, after all!”
He also love his skin flix (he discusses this often in his "Getting Away With It" book) and will leave a hotel if they don't have pay-per-view porn.
“I was in a hotel in Anaheim about five years ago, and after checking in I literally went down to the front desk and said, ‘I don’t understand, there’s no pay-per-view porn!’ I called my producer and said, ‘I can’t take this, I’m checking out’. And I went to the hotel across the road. I think it should be in the bill of rights — when you’re travelling, access to pornography should be the number three thing on the list after clean towels and 24-hour room service.” He rolls his eyes upwards, to indicate the hotel rooms above, and sighs, “They don’t have it here!”Maybe he can try and rival Andrew Blake's arty work after he finishes his film career? We can only hope he sticks around in at least some capacity.
Seth Rogen has revealed that "Terminator 2" star Ed Furlong has joined the cast of "The Green Hornet."
Doing what? What's his role? "That I can't reveal," Rogen told Show Patrol. Perhaps mounting a small comeback, considering "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" was in 1991 and Furlong has barely had a noticeable turn since (and has really been nothing more than tabloid fodder for drug problems and weight gain ever since).
Rogen says he know that some people are rooting against 'Hornet' and feels the pressure.
"I will blame [Michel] Gondry if it sucks though," he joked. "I take a huge amount of the pressure. I understand that it's my face on it when it comes out even if it sucks for another reason people will blame me. That's why I have to be so involved to try to make sure that it doesn't suck. I've been talking about this movie for years, and if it sucks no one will be more disappointed than me, believe me."
How did Canadian metal band Anvil end up in the movie? Easy, any Canadian growing up in the '80s at least heard of them. "Well, as a Canadian hard rock fan, I actually have known about Anvil for many, many years. We needed a band for a scene in the movie and Gondry was like, 'How about Anvil?' and we asked them and they said yes."
Joe Carnahan we
hate are disappointed with you and evidently you're a filmmaker of diminishing returns. "Narc" was a promising debut that was so good Tom Cruise noticed (maybe that's where it all went wrong). "Smokin' Aces" was loved by fanboys, but is generic gun-crazy '90s Altman-Tarantino-like spawns that should have died long ago (it's sort of akin to 5th generation grunge bands whose key influence is Candlebox).
Carnahan did have some interesting, redeemable projects on the table, "Killing Pablo," "White Jazz" the uneccesary remake of Otto Preminger's classic, "Bunny Lake Is Missing," but what do we get? Now there's an adaptation of the "The A-Team"? We still can't believe this actually happened and was greenlit. It feels like a bad dream and we're getting flashbacks to the 1999 "The Mod Squad" (one of the worst TV-to-film adaptations ever). People question — for example — whether people really care or are actively seeking films adaptations like "The Green Hornet" or "Machete," but even those seem 100x more interesting than "A-Team."
Ok, the cast includes Bradley "I'll Try and Star In Any Tentpole I Can" Cooper (playing Faceman for those that remember the '80s TV show), Sharlto Copley (of "District 9" playing 'Howling Mad' Murdock), Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson ('B.A.' Baracus), Jessica Biel and Liam Neeson, who we thought we had a little bit more respect for and was above looking like a caricature as he does above.
We're sure the nerds are all over this. Count us out. Also, note. The original "A-Team" was never a good show. Or ok, in fact it was... if and when you were eight years old at the time.
Some of our younger readers may not remember a time when the Internet wasn't delivered with blazing broadband speed, or offered the kinds of services we now take for granted. For us oldtimers, when we first logged onto the Internet, it was largely BBS groups and Freenets and as a whole, the online world was more or less like a giant message board. Back in those days, 56k dialup speeds were coveted, and we logged in to check our email to the glorious squall of connection noise and blinking lights on our modems.
In those days, it was hard to imagine the kind of online world we have now where our lives - everything from shopping to watching TV to organizing social activities - are funneled through an ethernet cable. Well, way back in those early days of the Internet, one person did envision the Internet as a place that would become inseparable from our daily lives. His name was Josh Harris - "the greatest Internet pioneer you've never heard of" - and he was one of the early dot com success stories whose ascent into fame and fortune was quick, while his crash into irrelevancy was even faster.
Ondi Timonen ("Dig!") first met Josh Harris in the mid '90s, when after becoming a multimillionaire with his company Jupiter Communications, he launched Pseudo.com, an Internet television company founded years before broadband would even become available. While Harris was a successful and powerful media figure, we was drawn into New York's modern art circle and quickly began throwing legendary parties which not only attracted all kinds of media artists and performers, but allowed the introverted Harris to be the center of their world. Harris even created an alter ego, Luvvy, a demented clown that soon consumed him. He would attend meetings and greet clients in character much to the dismay of his colleagues. Bored with Pseudo.com, Harris left to focus on another ahead-of-the-curve media project that would be the start of his downfall.
Dubbed Quiet, Harris' pre-millennial project found him creating an underground hotel in Manhattan where participants would be allowed to stay for free - with all their necessities including food taken care of - in exchange for being filmed 24/7, completing a rigorous personality survey and allowing themselves to be subject to Stasi like "interviews" (Harris even hired former FBI interrogators in order to break subjects down). Moreover, each participant would a TV in their "pod" (sleeping area) that would allow them to tune in to any other camera in the hotel. The project became a sensation, with the one hundred spaces filling up quickly.
Once the project began, in early December 1999 it quickly became clear that the event was nothing more than a plaything for Harris, who, while a participant himself, seemed to revel in making decisions behind the curtain that would increase the sex and drama occurring within the confines of Quiet. If anything came out of Quiet, it was the knowledge people's inhibitions in close quarters will eventually fall away even if they are on camera. Sex, nudity and violence became de rigeur in the space, and you didn't even have to leave your "pod" (the term used for the individual living areas) to tune in.
While the project was shut down by police, by then, Harris was already bored, but energized by what he learned at Quiet, moved on to his next big idea, We Live In Public. What he realized years before network CEOs would figure it out, is that people love reality programming. With We Live In Public, Harris and his girlfriend Tanya Corrin wired very square inch of their house and put their entire life online, and launched a website where people could log in, watch and chat. But what Harris didn't bank on was, just like Jon & Kate, once the relationship was ending, audiences were initially thrilled to have an insider's look and input into what was happening, but quickly disappeared once Corrin left the house. With this project dead, and teetering on bankruptcy, Harris then promptly disappeared.
Timonen, who has the unique position of sitting on ten years worth of compiled footage, paints a compelling portrait of a man whose genius preceded development as well as his own common sense. Harris comes off as a man continually trying to find his place in the world, but crippled by his need to be center of attention. As a cautionary tale about the continual technological creep into our every day lives, the film is slightly less successful, as it uses to the worst case examples to make its case. Whether or not we like it, the Internet is here to stay and it requires a balance between one's online and real life in order to remain healthy and happy, and we think that's something most people can agree on. Of course, too much of anything is a bad thing, but the film is far too vague in this area to make a real point.
Overall, Timonen's film is highly enjoyable, if somewhat conventional, and true to her musical roots, its scored wall-to-wall with great tunes. In particular, there is great montage during the Quiet segment set to a Sigur Ros song, and we would love to mention some of the other carefully placed tracks but as of press time, we couldn't obtain a list of the songs used from the film's publicists. And while the filmmakers are hoping for an Oscar nod (we viewed them film as part of their historic, online Academy screening), which we think isn't out of the question, we don't think it's the best documentary we've seen this year as "The Cove" is going to be pretty hard to beat. [B]
Amanda Seyfried Says She Won't Do 'Mamma Mia 2' Without ABBA Music (Who Already Said They Won't Do It)
Previously on "Mamma Mia 2" Watch (you know you check in all the time as we do), members of Swedish pop group ABBA, said they would not be involved with a sequel because they do not intend to license ABBA's catalog for any further films.
Obviously, worried beyond belief to the point that we could no longer sleep at night, we suggested some musical alternates so the picture could move forward (Neil Diamond, Madonna, Elton John).
But now star Amanda Seyfried (who is a cute as a peach, but unfortunately sported that obnoxious spray-coated bronzer tan in the movie) says she thinks they'll cave?
"I know it's still going to be Abba music, because what else would it be. Come on, I wouldn't do Mamma Mia 2 without Benny and Bjorn," she told the BBC. Uhh, ABBA for whatever reason are pretty strict about their rules and have turned down several lucrative offers to tour, including one in 2000 that was estimated worth around a billion dollars.
"I've been talking to some insiders and [the sequel is] not something that they haven't been working on. I don't actually know anything other than that."
Love that double negative, Amanda. So there you have it. If ABBA sticks to their word (which they generally do) and "Mamma Mia 2" still goes forward, will Seyfried bail? Will you care?
Shitty Bootleg Version Of 'Avatar' Trailer Arrives; Reveals Socio-Political Ideas Of Removing
Transients Indigenous People
Get it while it's hot. It's the bootleg, "Avatar" trailer.
Surely this clip will get yanked soon and then a real version won't be far behind, but for those that can't wait, here's the hand-held version from the audience starring the blue furry "Thundercats" of Pandora (aka Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and more as "Delgo"-like Na'vi creatures). 3D proselytizers Marketsaw have these two new photos too.
Seems like Giovanni Ribisi plays the heavy in the film, much like Paul Reiser's Carter Burke character in "Aliens," he's the suit that wants the Na'vi gone so they can rape the planet for all it's preciously bodily fluids, errr, crystal blue gray thingies that "sell for $20 million a kilo." The James Horner score is way overwrought and over-the-top (does someone get married in this thing and then get carried across the thresh hold on a big ocean liner?), there's plenty of cliches and silly platitudes ("we're not in Kansas anymore," "All I ever wanted was a single thing worth fighting for") and wooden dialogue readings. "They have an indigenous population called the Na'vi [peers down at script]... they are very hard to kill."
Vampires are all the rage these days. Between "True Blood" and the unstoppable "Twilight" franchise, it seems like everyone is rushing out to capitalize on the bloodsucker craze (is The CW's hastily put together "Vampire Diaries" even on the air anymore?)
When Universal optioned "Cirque du Freak," the first in a 10 book (!) series from Irish author Darren Shan, they must have thought they hit pay dirt. Not only would the film appeal to fans of vampires and horror movies, but with its teen-centric cast and fantasy elements, they probably thought they could tap into the "Harry Potter" market too.
Wrong on both counts.
The newly re-titled "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" (which is a combination of the titles of the first and second books in the series - thanks Google!) is absolutely dreadful and won't appeal to either crowd, really. It's not scary or sexy enough to get the vampire fans going, and they'll be put off by the goofy childishness of the plot. Meanwhile, fans of "Harry Potter" aren't going to necessarily get down with all the ghoulishness either. It's a movie made for no one, trying to appeal to everyone.
"The Vampire's Assistant" starts out with a wonderful title sequence (the score was done by "Hedwig & the Angry Inch's" Stephen Trask, and it's mostly brilliant when it doesn't fall into sub-Danny Elfman theatrics), followed by us meeting the wooden main human characters - Darren (the robotic Chris Massoglia) and Steve (a slightly more personable Josh Hutcherson). Darren is the good kid that doesn't do anything wrong, but feels pressured to be a square by his equally square parents. Steve is a bad influence, obsessed with horror movie stuff like vampires and getting Darren into trouble.
One night they are invited to the titular freak show, and are dazzled by the array of grotesqueries on display. At this point in the movie, you might be thinking "Hey, this could be fun." After all, a misshapen and monolithic Ken Wanatabe shows up as a character named Mr. Tall. And during the show, a surprising number of strong character actors are trotted out, each with an intriguing deformity/ability, among them Salma Hayek as a bearded lady (who is also psychic, or something); Orlando Jones as Alexander Ribs (a man with no midsection); Jane Krakowski as Corma Limbs (she can regrow body parts); "Almost Famous'" Patrick Fugit as a lizard man; Frankie Faison as Twobellies (he can swallow anything!); and "Flight of the Conchords'" Kristen Schaal as a woman with huge teeth who can bite stuff in half. (Effects man Tom Woodruff, Jr. too shows up as a Wolfman, in one of the most startlingly bizarre creature designs we've seen in a while.)
Then the main event takes the stage - John C. Reilly as Crepsley, a vampire who has control of a mutant spider. You see Darren loves spiders, so he sneaks backstage after the show to steal the vampire's spider (not a great idea). While back there, he sees his headstrong friend Steve confronts Crepsley, asking him to be turned into a vampire. Crepsley refuses and Steve vows revenge.
A bunch of boring stuff happens, and Darren is forced to become a half-vampire to save his friend Steve. (We're still not really sure what "half-vampire" means, but it made us think of "The Lost Boys," which only made us wish we were at home, watching "The Lost Boys.")
So now Crepsley is young Darren's mentor in the ways of vampirism and freakishness. And all those interesting side characters, with all their color and abilities, they're just pushed to the background. Literally. Most of the supporting cast probably has less than five words. And this is to say nothing of Willem Dafoe, who shows up in kabuki makeup as some kind of vampire dignitary, and disappears just as quickly.
John C. Reilly has always had a nimble comic ability, and occasionally he gets to shine in that capacity (he has a great speech when he first comes out to meet the small town audience that has gathered for the freak show), but with his doughy face and nice guy demeanor, he's not particularly threatening. And he's no Obi-Wan Kenobi, either. His attempts at paternal guidance and mentorship come off as weird and ironic, lacking the necessary emotional punch.
As the movie progresses there are badguys (including Broadway actor Michael Cerveris as the globular Mr. Tiny) and lots of talk about destinies and prophecies and the war between vampires, who are more or less cuddly and the "vampanese" (ugh) who are killers. This kind of destiny nonsense is such a burden to these kinds of movies. It's confusing and unnecessary and seems placed there the assumption that there will be nine more movies (SPOILER ALERT: there won't be). The overall effect is that the movie feels like a television pilot that's so bad we have no interest in seeing the series.
The characters are largely one dimension, the lead kids are atrocious, the digital effects work is poorly conceptualized (one of the vampire's abilities is to "flit" - which is to say run really quickly, which somehow equals trailing a rainbow of chunky colors behind you), and the movie is just flat. For a movie about freaks, its colorless and drab, boring to its core. This could have been a kind of post-millennial "Lost Boys," but there's not underlying theme, and the movie is saddled with a PG-13 rating, so the catharsis of the kill is left as yet another bloodless whimper. [D] — Drew Taylor
We've covered all these films at least once, so we're gonna try and keep it brief (plus, to be frank, we're a few days behind on our reviews), but Monday at the LFF saw showings of Jane Campion's comeback movie "Bright Star," "Micmacs," from "Amelie" helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant."
"The Informant" opened in the States almost two months ago, so it's old news for most of you, but we fall right between our most positive review of the movie, and the more guarded verdict of our editor-in-chief: the film plays like gangbusters, with a hugely enjoyable central performance from Matt Damon (who really does get better and better with each role), and Soderbergh's unusual casting choices pay off: the highlights in a very strong ensemble include Melanie Lynskey, also great in "Up in the Air," Scott Bakula and Joel McHale. Some critics have lamented the choice to make the film a comedy, rather than a straight drama, but in our opinion, it packs a bit more of a punch in its final act than some critics have acknowledged, and, while it doesn't rank with the likes of "Out of Sight," it's perhaps Soderbergh's most generally satisfying work since the first "Ocean's Eleven." (We love "Che," but it's not for everyone...) But, being a conscientious movie lover, you know all this already... [A-]
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs," feels like a strangely Soderberghian picture — more than any other movie, it reminded us of the "Ocean's" franchise. Having moved towards weightier territory a few years back with "A Very Long Engagement" to mixed results (we're actually fond of that movie, and think it's underrated), Jeunet has gone in the other direction this time. The movie tells the story of a video clerk (played by French superstar Dany Boon), who is struck by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting, and teams with an oddball crew to take down a pair of arms companies. Despite flirting with more serious subject matter, the movie ultimately plays out as a blend of "Ocean's Eleven" and the early sections of "Amelie," particularly when Audrey Tautou takes revenge on the megalomanical greengrocer.
Jeunet isn't staying completely still, creatively — much of the film relies on near-silent comedy, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, and particularly Jacques Tati movies such as "Mr. Hulot's Holiday." It's perhaps the director's most accessible work to date — it proved a real crowd-pleaser at the screening we attended, and, with the right marketing, should prove a sizeable cross-over hit when Sony Pictures Classics releases it next year. The visuals are, as ever, gorgeous (although we'd like the director to break out of his trademark red-and-green color scheme), and it's perfectly enjoyable, despite a few slip ups (the romantic lead, a contortionist, is rather miscast, and simply doesn't have the acting chops to play with the rest of the cast), but we hoped for something more substantial from Jeunet, particularly considering the more serious subject matter — the flippant nature in which it's dealt is, frankly, a little distasteful. [B-]
We had very high hopes for "Bright Star," and for the most part, they were fulfilled. It undoubtedly provides breakout roles for Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw, who both fulfill the promise they've held in the last few years — Cornish surpasses her excellent performance in "Somersault," as Keats' lover Fanny Brawne* , and Whishaw, who's always seemed somewhat awkward on the big screen, despite some excellent stage work, is a revelation, grounding his portrayal of poet John Keats beautifully. And it's certainly the best film of director Jane Campion's career. When it works, it carries a sensuality and a delicacy that keeps it apart from most of its contemporaries. As a film about an artist, it does absolute justice to Keats' poetry (he's our favorite of the romantic poets, so we're pretty harsh judges), using the work like some filmmakers use pop songs, but never making the poet out to be an untouchable genius — it's honest and shrewd about the artistic process.
The film seems flushed with the promise of youth — indeed, many of Campion's collaborators, including 25 year old composer Mark Bradshaw, and DoP Greig Fraser, are making their feature debuts, but contribute world-class work. However, as far as we were concerned, it doesn't quite hold together: the narrative starts to go around in circles at about the halfway mark, and becomes a sort of "Twilight" for English Literature graduates - lots of moping and sighing, without a great deal of actual drama. Some of the supporting performances are either underwritten (Kerry Fox has almost nothing to play with as Fanny Brawne's mother, and Thomas Sangster ("Love Actually") has barely any lines), or miscast — Paul Schneider gives 75% of a tremendous performance, but is let down by a deeply wavering Scottish accent.
All in all, we liked "Bright Star" a great deal, and it packs a real emotional punch. With a little tightening in the second act, it could have been a classic, it's as vibrant and alive a costume drama as we've seen since Joe Wright's undervalued "Pride and Prejudice" and the E-I-C was a huge fan when he saw it in Cannes, so it's worth seeing either way. [B+]
* Full disclosure: an ex-girlfriend, and good friend, of this writer is the great-great-great-grandaughter of Fanny Brawne, and served as a consultant on the movie .
Some of us are relatively big fans of filmmaker Billy Ray (not Cyrus). And one thing's for sure — as a director he's got a knack for dramatizing real life events in ways that don't seem hokey or TV movie-ish. His previous films as a writer-director were the strong drama "Shattered Glass" (the story of disgraced New Republic fraud Stephen Glass) and the woefully underappreciated spy movie "Breach" (about the plot to ensnare FBI double agent Robert Hanssen). He seems to be continuing this trend, and has just signed on to direct Columbia's Somali pirate drama, based on a forthcoming memoir by Richard Phillips, the captain who was held captive by the pirates, none of whom were Johnny Depp.
Heavyweights Michael De Luca (who used to run New Line Cinema in its heyday), Dana Brunetti and Scott Rudin will be producing (the three gents producing Fincher's Facebook movie).
If there's anyone who can bring this to the screen with a compelling mix of fact and fiction, then it's Billy Ray. (Seriously, put "Breach" on your Netflix list now.) He also has a talent for getting superb performances out of awful young actors, like Hayden Christensen (aka Mannequin Skywalker) for "Shattered Glass" and Ryan Phillippe for "Breach." Are we thinking maybe Zac Efron as one of the SEALS?
In addition, Billy Ray's lucrative moonlighting gig as a writer of above-average genre movies (like this spring's "State of Play"), continues to prosper — he's got "Motorcade" (about an assault on the President's motorcade) coming up for Dream Works, as well as an adaptation of the popular kill 'em all videogame "Gears of War" for awful director Len Wiseman and Warner Bros. — Drew Taylor
Following last week’s big box-office for a widely varied selection of new films, another diverse crop shows up this week and should keep the box-office hot into Halloween. Looking to kick "Where the Wild Things Are" from its throne are several films aimed at a younger audience from animated action to grisly horror, the young set has many options, almost all of them unappealing and cynical-looking. "Wild Things" hopefully will have the staying power to keep kids hopeful and joyous, but it's not likely going to reign at the top of the box-office charts again.
In Wide Release: The only movie opening for level-headed adults this weekend is Mira Nair’s Amelia Earhart biopic simply titled “Amelia.” Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank portrays the legendary and mysterious aviation icon with supporting turns from Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor, all of them presumably looking to clear some space on the awards mantle. We posted our review the other day, finding the film to be largely unremarkable and short on zest. If you are really hungry for intelligent adult drama, there are much more interesting things still playing in art-houses across the country. “Amelia" is currently only 23% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a 48 score from Metacritic.
While his younger brother Chris is putting the finishing touches on next month's "New Moon," big brother Paul Weitz unleashes his own blood-sucking saga "The Vampire's Assistant." Like "Twilight" and HBO's "True Blood," the film is based on a saga of books, in this case the "Cirque du Freak" series. This one has been sending mixed messages for a while in its marketing campaign, we really aren't certain whether it is a comedy or a horror flick, but we do know that it is aimed squarely at teenage girls (surprise, surprise). John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Chris Massaglia, and Ken Watanabe star and hopefully will make this thing somewhat tolerable. The film has a 23% fresh rating from RT and a 43 score from Metacritic. Be careful.
Originally debuting in a Japanese manga, "Astro Boy" finally makes his way to the big screen. Director David Bowers ("Flushed Away") brings the iconic character to life with what looks to be animated action galore, hopefully as young-male centered antidote to all this romantic vampiring going around. Coming at the heels of "Wild Things," "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," and the "Toy Story" 3D re-release, this one is going to have to work really hard to lure parents into theaters. With an excellent voice cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy and Freddy Highmore there should at least be some worthwhile performances. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 62% fresh, while it currently has a score of 59 from Metacritic.
Also making it into cinemas this week in very wide release is freakin' "Saw VI." We don't really know anyone who goes to see these movies, but they keep opening reliably around 30 million each year. The costs are kept to a minimum, so these films are hugely profitable. Who can blame a little cash-grabbing in the current economic climate? Just don't expect us to be there this weekend. The Kevin Greutart-directed film isn't screening for critics, so there isn't a lot RT or Metacritic can tell us at this point.
In Limited Release: The moment you've all been waiting for since the polarizing premiere at Cannes, Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" opens this weekend. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem DaFoe, grieving their dead child by relocating to a secluded forest where things go from bad to worse. We've had many reviews of the film, from the self-proclaimed "best director in the world" on this site, calling it "an exorcism of foulness and unmitigated hatred" after seeing it at Cannes and most recently the "ultimate art as therapy." However you feel about it, the film is certainly worth seeing and deserving of your support, as filmmaking is rarely this daring. Predictably divisive, "Antichrist" is 51% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and has a 46 score from Metacritic.
After a bit of an absence, Uma Thurman returns to the screen in the comedy "Motherhood." Director Katherine Diekmann's film follows one day in the life of Thurman's character Eliza as she tries to decide what motherhood really means to her. We're hoping the presence of an actor of Thurman's caliber can elevate what looks to be "Lifetime" network-ready material. Anthony Edwards, Minny Driver, and Samantha Bee co-star in the film which has a 33% fresh rating from RT and a 46 score from Metacritic.
"(Untitled)" is director Jonathan Parker's ("Bartleby") new film, a satire of the contemporary art world. Adam Goldberg plays a aggravatingly avant-garde modern composer who falls for his painter brother's (Eion Bailey) love interest played by Marley Shelton. We just saw the movie and found it a decent little indie with small aims. Currently the film is 43% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with Metacritic not registering enough reviews at this time.
Also in limited release this week Tony Jaa returns to the role that made him an international star in "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning." This time the Thai martial-arts king directs the prequel, which finds Jaa on a warpath to avenge the death of his nobleman father. The original "Ong Bak" was great, kinetic fun, so hopefully this will be on par. RT has it at 53% fresh while Metacritic gives it a 57 score.
Also of interest to serious film geeks, Peter Greenaway's new documentary "Rembrandt's J'accuse." Greenaway, who once studied to be a painter, examines Rembrandt's most famous painting "The Night Watch," uncovering its mysteries and possibly giving insight into the demise of the legendary artist himself. Greenaway doesn't make films often, and this one looks personal and fascinating, we can't wait to see it. The film is currently 100% fresh on RT with an 80 score on Metacritic. Lastly, Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo's "Night And Day" limps into limited release. We received no screening invite and realized it was opening in New York just yesterday. Someone give some sarcastic applause to the PR people that dumped this one into theaters. Total shame.
"District 9" director Neill Blomkamp has set up his next picture, a sci-fi film naturally, but it won't be a sequel to his unexpected summer blockbuster and details are scarce. However, instead of going with a big studio, Blomkamp is going with indie financiers Media Rights Capital.
Production on the untitled film is set to begin in the middle of 2010. Sounds like Blomkamp didn't want to deal with the suits again. "MRC is letting me make the film I want to make, and that is by far the most important thing here," Blomkamp told Variety.
"The film will hopefully be commercial, but it is very much a singular film, (one) that comes directly from me." That's sort of code for: it's commercial, but not as commercial as some would like, which is more than fine with us.
Was the "Pirates 4," aka "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," coming summer 2011 a premature announcement or have things changed since then? "I understand that there was an announcement that there was going to be a fourth, and now I've been told since that that was not a reliable announcement," Bill Nighy who plays the evil Squid Guy (or whatever his toy tie-in name is) told Sci-Fi wire. Rob Marshall ("Chicago") was in talks to take over for Gore "extra nacho cheese" Verbinski (who dropped out a while ago), but that was so long ago, it's probably safe to assume that part of the problem is that a director hasn't been found yet (not to mention Johnny Depp's recent reticence after a Disney honcho he was loyal to got the ax).
Nighy says he thinks there eventually will be a fourth film given the trilogy's massive success, but also said producer Jerry Bruckheimer wasn't in a huge rush either. For the record, we like Bill Nighy, but when he plays villains, he's generally a sour-faced one-note baddie and it's kind of tiresome.
Hot screenwriter du jour Laeta Kalogridis ("Shutter Island") has been tapped to adapt a live-action version of the popular, Japanese manga futuristic police thriller, "Ghost In The Shell," for Dreamworks. The "Shutter Island," twist is still a silly dealbreak for us, frankly, but Kalogridis' script was a taut page-turner up until that point (and she's just sticking to what Lehane wrote), so she's probably the right person for the job.
Actor Dylan Baker has apparently confirmed his appearance in the next" Spider-Man 4" movie as Dr. Curt Connors, but it's unclear if Connors will finally morph into the villain The Lizard as most fans are hoping he will.
In an appearance on Baltimore WJX (via Cinematical) Gerard Butler (who many have noted lately needs a new agent) revealed his next project will be a "passion" one: Ralph Fiennes' take on William Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" co-starring William Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Chastain. Fiennes will be performing double duty, playing the lead as well as directing.
Recently, some excitement centered on the Marvel project "Thor" when it was rumored that Jude Law and Robert De Niro were up for roles in the comics adaptation.
The rumor stemmed from quotes in a German issue of GQ that were passed on second hand to AICN. Allegedly, actor Matthias Schweighöfer ("Valkyrie," "Red Baron"), who was auditioning for a role in the film (and likely just blew his chances) said that Robert DeNiro and Jude Law had joined the cast of Kenneth Branagh's adaptation.
Now with a name like GossipCop, they might not be the greatest source in the world (though actually, their whole deal is debunking fake rumors so maybe this fits), but this site says they reached out to Jude Law's representatives who said the rumors of his appearance in the picture were "untrue." The publication also says upon further digging it appears that DeNiro won't be in the picture either.
Rumor quashed? We never really did buy it in the first place, so we're more than happy to believe this was all just B.S.
It might be too late now considering it leaked everywhere, but Spike Jonze's short, "We Were Once A Fairytale" starring Kanye West will be available for purchase starting next Tuesday (October 26) on iTunes.
Jonze admits the leak caught him off guard. “This is the first time it’s happened to me,” he told the NYTimes. “And it is a weird feeling, like, ‘Wait a second — I wasn’t ready to put that out! That’s mine. Uh, no, I guess it’s not mine anymore.’ ”
Will the short — which features a rodent creature that kills itself with a nice and a drunken, arrogant West in an L.A. nightclub — sell on iTunes now? “I like the idea of trying to put it out on iTunes as an experiment in, can you make a short film yourself, put it out for sale? It’s an experiment to see if that is feasible.” But now, he said, “I don’t actually know if that makes any business sense at all, because once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
Jonze is still unsure what his post-"Where The Wild Things" project will be and says he's taking a break.
Took 'em long enough. On Thursday American authorities formally submitted their request to extradite filmmaker Roman Polanski who fled the U.S. in 1978 before sentencing was to occur on a unlawful sex crime case.
Polanski has been in a Swiss prison since September 26 when was apprehended at a Zurich film festival where he was to receive a Lifetime Achievement award.
Paperwork now filed, next steps are the Swiss justice ministry reviewing the petition and then making a decision. Polanski will have the chance to appeal if their ruling is not in his favor and his attorneys estimate he could be waiting in jail for six months or more.
According to recent email documents obtained by the AP, U.S. authorities were closely monitoring Polanski's whereabouts and almost attempted to nab him three days before his film festival appearance in Austria. They ultimately decided against filing a warrant for him in that country when they found themselves unsure if an extradition process from Austrian official would be as easy or accommodating. [Reuters/NYTimes]
- With his scripts for "Tropic Thunder" and next year's "Iron Man 2", actor Justin Theroux has started to move behind the scenes, and he's now going into producing. The "Mullholland Drive" star is developing "Air Guitar," a comedy set in the world of competitive air guitar shows from writers Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger ("Just Shoot Me"). The film is a remake of the 2006 documentary "Air Guitar Nation."
- Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison will star in the UK/New Zealand co-production "Tracker," a period thriller, to be directed by Ian Sharp. Winstone will play a Boer war veteran on a manhunt for a Maoiri sailor who has apparently killed a British soldier. Shooting starts in New Zealand next week.
- The Fox Animation movie "Rio," from director Carlos Saldanha ("Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"), about a macaw who travels from Minnesota to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, now has a cast. Anne Hathaway, Rodrigo Santoro ("300") and Neil Patrick Harris, who definitely seems to be having a moment right now, have all joined the cast, in unknown roles (we're guessing that maybe Patrick Harris will play the lead character, described as "nerdy" by The Hollywood Reporter).
- Another actor-turned-director, Peter Paige ("Queer as Folk") will direct the gay rights drama "Sex Crime Panic," based on Neil Miller's book, subtitled "A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s." The project, compared to "Capote" and "Milk," looks at the incarceration of a group of gay men in a mental hospital, and will shoot next year.
- British director Dominic Murphy, behind the Sundance hit "White Lightnin'," is developing a number of follow-ups to that film, including a story about the Bronte sisters, and "Jesus Christ Airways," a film set in the Biafran war in Nigeria in the 1960s. Interestingly, he's also planning on adapting Iain M. Banks' short story "A Gift From The Culture," the first time Banks' complex/impenetrable sci-fi universe has been seen on screen.
- Sam Raimi's Ghost House seem to be insisting on producing a sequel to the fairly mediocre "30 Days of Night." Ben Ketai, who directed "Blood Trails," the web series that backed up the release of the original film, will helm "30 Days of Night: Dark Days," with a C-list cast including Harold Perrineau ("Lost"), Rhys Coiro ("Entourage"), Diora Baird (the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" prequel, half-naked appearances in lad magazines), Kiele Sanchez ("A Perfect Getaway") and Mia Kirshner ("The Black Dahlia"). We're pretty sure it's going direct-to-DVD, but we suppose there's a slim chance it'll hit theaters.