Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
The big-screen revival of the show feels like no time has passed
AUSTIN - It was smack dab in the middle of last year's SXSW festival that "Veronica Mars" made news with their massively successful Kickstarter campaign, so it seems only right that they would bring the film to premiere at the festival this year. As someone who enjoyed the show enormously while it was on the air, I am relieved to report that the film felt to me like it successfully recaptured the spirit of the show's first season. My only question at this point is how it will work for audiences who didn't see the show, which, based on the ratings, would seem to be pretty much everyone.
In the series, Veronica was a typical 15-year-old girl living in Neptune, California, a small community with a pronounced class struggle going on, until her best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried) was murdered. Veronica's father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) was Neptune's sheriff, and when he became convinced that Lilly's billionaire father was the murderer, it ended up ruining his reputation. Someone else was arrested and convicted, and Keith ended up opening a private investigator's office. Veronica's mother left, and Veronica ended up channeling all of her private pain into working for her father and, on the side, working to solve Lilly's murder. The entire first season of the series dealt with that one story arc, and week to week, Veronica also got involved in cases that centered on her high school peers. It was a winning formula, with a very sharp verbal sense of humor and a willingness to tackle some ugly, difficult topics in the process like date rape, steroid abuse, alcoholism, and the death of the middle class.
Chalk this up as another successful actor-turned director
AUSTIN - Jason Bateman has spent most of his life in front of the camera, and like many actors, he finally reached a point where he wanted to make a film of his own. Working from a wicked script by Andrew Dodge, he's made a film that gives him one of the best starring roles he's ever had, and it feels like even though this was written by someone else, it perfectly suits the comic sensibilities he's displayed as long as he's been working.
When Bateman was young, he had a knack for playing awful people who still somehow managed to be charming. Even though he was only on 21 episodes of "Silver Spoons," that was enough for me to identify him as someone worth watching. He and I are roughly the same age, and I liked that he had such a serene confidence about being a splendid asshole onscreen. Like Michael J. Fox, Bateman had a sense of natural comic timing that was equal to or better than any of his adult co-stars. It seemed like TV was where he worked most often, and as he got older, his attempts to cross over to film were largely unsuccessful.
Well, we're a long way from "Teen Wolf Too."
Favs returns to his indie roots with his best film in years
AUSTIN - The Jon Favreau who wrote and directed "Chef" is the same Jon Favreau who helped create "Swingers" and "Made," the same guy who brought a distinctly independent voice to "Iron Man," the same guy who gave "Elf" such an unexpectedly big heart, and the same guy who seemed almost completely submerged in the giant studio product of "Cowboys and Aliens." I have no doubt you'll see plenty of people attempting to turn "Chef" into Favreau's autobiographical reaction to his own career, and while I think there are some valid and interesting parallels, I also think it would be both cheap and easy to assume that this is simply some knee-jerk cry of "But I'm really an ARRRRRRRTIST!"
"Chef" is a deceptively simple film. Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a chef who works for an upscale Los Angeles restaurant. Anointed a decade earlier as a promising young chef by a restaurant critic (Oliver Platt) in Miami, Carl has settled into a routine, cooking the same food every day, serving a menu he doesn't really believe in, and little by little, it's killing him. His job has already cost him his wife Inez (Sophia Vergera) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), and it feels like Carl barely exiss away from the kitchen. When the same critic who first helped make his reputation reviews the restaurant and delivers what feels like a very personal and pointed savaging, Carl melts down, and he finds himself out of work.
How much subtext is too much?
When I was a kid and Saturday morning was still appointment viewing for me with hours and hours of cartoons on all three networks, I would frequently get up before the sun was even up. I'd get myself a giant bowl of whatever sugary cereal was my poison of choice at the time and plant myself in front of the set so that I had control over whatever was going to be watched well before my sister woke up. There were many weeks where I was up and ready to go before the networks even began their programming, and by default, I would put on the only cartoons playing at that hour, a giant re-run block of "Rocky & Bullwinkle."
At the time, I didn't fully appreciate the lunacy of the Jay Ward productions, and it was only as I got older that I began to understand the silly word play and the gleeful demolition of storytelling cliche that were the cornerstones of all of the different cartoons that existed under that broader umbrella. I grew to particularly enjoy the absurdist take on history that was represented by the "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" cartoons, and when DreamWorks Animation announced a feature film version a few years ago, I hoped they would honor the spirit of the original.
She seems well aware of what she's done
On the day I was scheduled to talk to both Lena Headey and Eva Green about their work in "300: Rise Of An Empire," there was also a morning screening of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman." Both of my sons were eager to see that, and that meant they would need to come to the interviews with me as well. As a result, they got a chance to meet Green, and by the time we walked out of that room, both of them had grown full beards and their voices had dropped an octave.
Green gives off a powerful feminine vibe in person, and seems well aware of the effect she has on people. It's interesting how similar the roles are that she played in "Dark Shadows" and in "300," right down to a scene that happens in both films. It wouldn't surprise me if she got cast in "300" specifically because of "Dark Shadows." In both cases, she seems to be having the most fun of anyone in the films, taking full advantage of the opportunities presented on the page, and it's exciting because it suggests that we may start seeing more of her in films now that directors have these great examples of what she's capable of doing.
We've got the details on where and when for you
If you're going to be in Austin this coming weekend, what do you have planned for Saturday night?
Keep in mind that the city is going to positively brimming over with options, since it'll be smack dab in the middle of the opening weekend mayhem for SXSW, and as always, it's also spring break for UT and it's a party city to begin with.
I'd like to invite you to take a chance and try to win VIP passes to a party that HitFix is happy to be co-presenting this year. We're taking over Red 7 in downtown and transforming it into the Titty Twister to help celebrate the launch of both the El Rey Network and their first original series, "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series."
Week by week, this show is getting weirder, and that makes us happy
That "previously on" montage did a nice job of reminding us exactly which of the story threads are going to be important tonight, the most immediate being Skye's gunshot injury in the final moments of the last episode we saw before they took the long mid-season break.
May's not much for Miranda rights, is she?
When they made the "big reveal" several episodes back about what had happened to Coulson in Tahiti, it felt anti-climactic. Basically, it seemed like the explanation was "When they needed to save Coulson, they just operated on him even more. They used more surgery." It was a nonsensical image. But as soon as Coulson started to mention the idea of taking Skye to see the same medical team that worked on him, it became clear that they aren't done giving us the details of Tahiti, and I realized I was genuinely curious to see how they would fill in more information, and whether it would help me accept the explanation more.
Oh, yeah, she plays good guys, too
Lena Headey has had a very fruitful run as a horrible, horrible person for the last few years. Images of Queen Cersei and Ma-Ma from "Game Of Thrones" and "Dredd" had all but crowded out the impression she made in the original "300" as Queen Gorgo.
Sitting down with her at the recent press day for "300: Rise Of An Empire," I was struck by how easily she's built a reputation for herself as a powerful on-screen figure. My oldest son is currently obsessed with all things related to "The Terminator," despite the fact that he hasn't seen any of the films yet. He listens to the scores for the first two films, he's read every word of a Cinefex issue released when "Terminator 2" came out, and he has several Terminator toys that he considers prized possessions. When he realized that Headey was one of the actors who has played Sarah Connor, he just about lost his mind.
And in the end, which cut works better?
The term "director's cut" has been abused to the point of meaninglessness in the age of special edition DVDs, and it is easy for the consumer to eventually tune out any mention of a "new" version of a film, sure they're only going to see a few small differences after sitting through something they have, for the most part, already seen and fully digested.
That is not the case with the R-rated cut of "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" that is in theaters at the moment. This may well set the new standard for just how different an alternative cut of a film can be, and it's a fascinating exercise in how just a few choices can make the difference between two different ratings and, in a world where studios are spending tens of millions of dollars to market a film, the economic success or failure of a movie.
Ralph Fiennes has never been better
Wes Anderson has settled into his identity as a filmmaker, and by now, you probably have a pretty fair idea what you think of his voice and his general storytelling style. That's true of a lot of filmmakers, and even within that basic identity they create, there tend to be films that are more or less successful overall, films that feel like they represent the very best of what someone does. It is safe to say that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is one of those breakthrough moments, a movie that is so beautifully realized from start to finish that I almost doubted myself on the way home. Could I really have enjoyed that film that much?
A Russian nesting-doll of a movie, this is a story within a story within a story within a story for much of its running time, with additional layers either peeled back or laid on top at various points, and there's a real beauty to the way Anderson structures everything. Without giving away all the wonderful layers to the game he's playing, it's safe to say that "The Grand Budapest Hotel" tells the story of how Gustave H., the concierge of the Grand Budapest, ends up mentoring Zero Moustafa, a lobby boy who is there when war finally ruins the world in which the Grand Budapest exists. It is a love story, a heist movie, a farce, a prison break mission movie, and a sort of beautiful ode to a time that has passed, and it juggles all these disparate threads in a way that is breathtaking and elegant.