I think it's kind of amazing that Todd Phillips is now the guy behind the biggest comedy franchise of all time.
Not because I don't think he's capable of it, but more because of the Todd Phillips I originally met many years ago at this point. The Phillips I got to know at first was so far outside the mainstream that even imagining him working on a studio comedy seemed unlikely.
What I find really impressive about the way he's managed his career is how he's kept his voice intact while working on bigger and bigger films. When I saw "Hated: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies," a deranged documentary about a deranged punk performer, I would have never guessed that director would go on to create a genuine box-office juggernaut. "Frat House," same thing. I think of the early work by him and by Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, guys who I always think of as part of that same initial creative moment, and they were all so far out that it really seems amazing to me.
I think it's kind of amazing that Todd Phillips is now the guy behind the biggest comedy franchise of all time.
Now this is more like it.
I saw a film at Sundance this year called "Toy's House," and I walked away smitten with the film's sense of time and place and with the wonderful young cast. Chris Galletta's script is smart and funny, and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts managed to make it all feel real, like something captured instead of something created.
The main trio of kids in the film, played by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and the one-of-a-kind Moises Arias, all do excellent work, and they get great support from an ensemble that includes Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Angela Trimbur, Kumail Nanjiani, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. You can read my full review from Sundance if you'd like.
As NetFlix was no doubt hoping, I recently started rewatching all the existing episodes of "Arrested Development," and I have found myself amazed by it all over again. The writing on the show is dazzlingly funny, dense and smart, and it still confuses me why people didn't pick up on what they were doing in a bigger way.
One of the things that really holds the show together is the work done by Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth. If you weren't a fan of the show, the premise is simple. The Bluth Family, headed by George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor), is a rich family who built their fortunes on bad behavior, and as the show begins, the Feds close in on George, forcing Michael to take over the business and somehow keep his family, full of truly terrible people, intact. Bateman's work in most shows would be the straight guy role, but he scores just as many giant laughs as any of the more colorful characters around him.
I'm guessing that most of the news breaks that happen regarding "Inherent Vice" will be through either Cigarettes & Red Vines, which has been the primary Paul Thomas Anderson fansite since they first went online, or The Wrap, which has been all over this film in the last few weeks.
Not long ago, C&RV were the first to report that Warner Bros. is fully financing the next film from the mercurial filmmaker, and that Robert Elswit is returning to shoot the film for PTA. The film, which is set to star Joaquin Phoenix, is an adaptation of a very wry, very funny novel by Thomas Pynchon about Doc Sportello, a private detective in Los Angeles in the '60s, and it looks like the director's putting together a fairly amazing ensemble for the movie.
In addition to Phoenix, the cast includes Owen Wilson as Coy Harlingen, a member of a surf band called The Boards and Benicio Del Toro as Sauncho Smilax, a lawyer who occasionally advises Doc, both according to reports on The Wrap. I love the notion of Del Toro playing a role that sounds like a twist on the part he played in "Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas," still one of my favorite things he's ever done.
Bumbledink Bandercoot. Butterscotch Humperdink. Bimblepimp Cummerbund. Once I start getting his name wrong, I find it very very hard to actually make myself say "Benedict Cumberbatch."
I'm guessing people are having less and less trouble with his name these days. He's gone from being a well-respected but still-lesser-known actor to being a guy who is being trusted to carry some serious weight in some very big movies. He's the bad guy in "Star Trek Into Darkness," opening this weekend, and much of the speculation about the film has focused on which role he's actually playing. Once the film's been out for a few days, we'll have a conversation here about the role he plays and how that fits into "Star Trek" history (or doesn't), but for now, I understand that not everyone knows, and they don't want to know until they see it in the film.
I am genuinely happy for Ken Jeong.
When I first saw him in "Knocked Up," I thought he was great, one of many scene-stealers in that movie. When I talked to Judd Apatow about him, he mentioned that Jeong was an actual doctor. At the time, I thought Judd meant that this was Ken's first time acting, that he was a doctor who they just met and thought was funny and then hired. Jeong was actually working in TV a full decade before that, though, while also having trained and worked as a doctor. He's a great example of a guy who kept his dream alive while also having this full-time professional life, and to see him find a niche where he's become a very in-demand comic character actor is just enjoyable. He deserves it.
After all, Ken Jeong will attack a role if you give him a chance. He doesn't phone it in. Say what you will about him as a performer, but that's a guy who will make gigantic choices and he'll throw himself into it, and there's no ego about things. Whatever's funny is funny. He doesn't care if he looks "cool." He cares about the laugh. He is merciless in his pursuit of it.
UPDATED: I've been informed that a batch of set photos appeared online over a week ago, and this is from that set of images. Collider ran a piece, for example, and a lot of the gossip sites appear to have picked it up. I confess that I don't pay attention to unofficial images all the time, and I missed this. Gilliam is not the source of the image, but was merely passing it along. The "news" here, then, is his appearance in the film, giving us a chance to round up what we know about it so far. Some of what we've got to say about the film is not general knowledge so far.
As usual, if you're obsessive about seeing every detail of something, finding a specialized fan site is going to be the best from-the-tap stream of info you'll get.
Now here's the original piece:
One of my favorite films from last year was "Cloud Atlas," and part of what I enjoyed about the film was seeing what happened when Andy and Lana Wachowski collided with Tom Tykwer. That's not a collaboration I would have ever demanded to see, but the results of it were very special, and I'm very glad it happened.
Today, Terry Gilliam posted a photo to his Facebook page showing two extras on the set of "Jupiter Ascending," the new science-fiction action film that the Wachowskis are filming, and he revealed that he'll be playing a bit part of some sort in the movie as well. While this isn't the same scale of collaboration as "Cloud Atlas," just knowing that Gilliam and the Wachowskis are in contact with one another makes me very happy.
Right now, "Jupiter Ascending" is an enigma for most people. The last two films by the Wachowskis have been large-scale experiments, and while I've enjoyed the films, I appreciate that they make very big movies that require very big budgets, and that doesn't happen forever if you can't make money for a studio. To some extent, it feels like "Jupiter Ascending" is a step back for them, a conscious decision to do something that is more like what people expect from them. Then again, I get the feeling after chatting with the Wachowskis last year that they are not terribly concerned about what people expect.
I am mesmerized by Zoe Saldana's "hot schoolmarm" thing that's going on in this interview. I'm not sure what she's wearing or what she's doing with her hair, but I definitely hear a Van Halen song when I look at her.
Saldana is currently Hollywood's busiest alien. She's about to start work on "Guardians Of The Galaxy," introducing her into the Marvel Universe, and James Cameron is supposedly still hard at work on the scripts for "Avatar 2" and "Avatar 3," which he hopes to shoot back to back starting sometime next year.
I'd love to know if she's already training to be able to pull off what sounds like some ground-breaking underwater motion-capture, because that's got to be a whole different level of physical challenge. And I'm curious if they'll be going the make-up route for "Guardians," or if that will be a largely digital performance, too.
"Pitch Black" was considered a problem by USA Films.
At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people have forgotten that USA Films even existed, but for a brief period of time, they were a major up-and-comer, an indie with eyes on the mainstream, and they probably reached the pinnacle of their visibility and acclaim when they made "Traffic." They couldn't sustain their momentum, though, and eventually, they had to close their doors.
My most noteworthy interaction with them came when I was still at Ain't It Cool News. Harry Knowles was in LA one week, and USA Films told us that they had a small film they didn't know what to do with, and they asked if we would want to take a look at it. We drove over to their screening room (which is now the Clarity Screening Room, probably the best place in LA to see a 3D print) and they showed us "Pitch Black," which we both loved. We ended up inviting the film to play at the first Butt-Numb-A-Thon in the middle of the night. They ended up sending us both the film and, despite the start time of 2:30 AM, Vin Diesel himself, and it turned into one of the first big highlights of that festival.
If you don't like surprises being ruined for you, definitely don't go read the cast listing for this film on the IMDb.
At this point, I suspect you know where you stand on this series. I find myself wildly impressed by what Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan have pulled off, reinventing a series that had limped to a stall before they signed on. Even more impressive, they did it by embracing the three radically different films that came before and they found a way to roll them all into an ongoing soap opera mythology, and with each new film, they seem to refine the formula even more.
In the last film, they introduced Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, an international lawman who was chasing Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his extended criminal family, and they basically came up with an excuse to turn the films into gigantic stunt-laden caper movies that turn into this sort of sustained rolling wave of automotive mayhem all over the world. At this point, the ensemble includes Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) who is also Dom's sister, Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Han "Seoul-Oh" (Sung Kang), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and the newest member of Hobbs' team, Riley (Gina Carano). In this film, they're all assembled to go head to head with Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a shadowy ex-military figure who has been running various jobs all over the world. Hobbs uses a photo taken during one of Shaw's jobs to bait the hook, since it reveals that one member of Shaw's team appears to be Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom's former girlfriend who was supposedly killed back in film number four, "Fast and Furious."