It is entirely fine with me if I spend much of 2014 writing articles about a gun-toting space raccoon.
James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is not so much a radical reinvention of what Marvel Studios has been doing so far as it is a very smart way of them broadening their palette. In many ways, this is the same sort of heroic journey that their other characters have been on in film after film, but it takes place in a very different kind of world, and it brings in all sorts of new ideas that should give the entire Marvel movie universe a major shot in the arm.
The funny part of this trailer is that it's essentially the same as the footage that was shown at Comic-Con a mere ten days or so into the shoot. It's a lot slicker now, but everything up through the last big barrage of quick shots is cut the same, and the structure is identical.
It is entirely fine with me if I spend much of 2014 writing articles about a gun-toting space raccoon.
Now that my oldest son is getting more cognizant of what it is I do when I travel for business, there are some awkward conversations about why he can't just drop everything and come with me to do something that sounds like fun.
For example, he is currently exasperated with me because he isn't going to be allowed to join me in Austin, TX, for this year's SXSW Film Festival, where Rialto Pictures and Warner/Legendary are going to be presenting a special screening of the original 1954 Ishiro Honda film "Gojira," with director Gareth Edwards appearing afterwards for a Q&A that should also address this summer's remake of the film.
That's not actually technically accurate, though. I wouldn't call the new film a remake because, aside from the presence of the giant monster who breathes atomic fire, the two films really don't have much in common in terms of story. The new film tells its own story, and there's a lot more going on here than just one giant monster destroying things.
I am starting to suspect that dream projects should never be made. I know that sounds counter-intuitive and incredibly pessimistic. Hear me out.
Certainly, there are movies I love that very talented people have worked tirelessly to realize, and I would be devastated if those films did not exist. I get it. I love "Apocalypse Now." I love that it smells desperate and sweaty in a way precisely because of the insane demands the production made on everyone. I love that it was finished. I adore every flaw, every eccentricity. I love it. But it is also true that there are many dream films that have been made that have turned out to be mystifyingly bad, bad in a way that can only be personal, and while I can't imagine what might have started me thinking about this topic recently, I thought it would be worth looking back at what's happened when people have backed a vision and given it everything and stood back and looked at the end result and thought…
… we are in so much trouble.
Exhibit A for me on this list is always Barry Levinson's "Toys."
Last night, I finished reading "A Storm Of Swords" finally, and one of the real tensions of reading the series for me is that I have grown very fond of the cast of "Game Of Thrones," and they've demonstrated such a penchant for killing off characters that I spend pretty much the entire time I read each book clenched and worried now that I'm into material that has not already appeared on the show.
As of the end of the third season of the show, Jon Snow has become a fairly important character simply by virtue of outlasting so many of the other members of his family. Without revealing his fate moving forward, I can say that each and every cast member I've had a chance to chat with has turned out to be very grounded about being part of a phenomenon and I haven't run into anyone yet who has displayed any attitude at all about it. It seems to be a largely diva-free cast, which would seem to be essential if you're trying to pull off something as complicated and large-scale as "Game Of Thrones" on the sort of uber-demanding schedule and budget that they have.
Darn it, I'm getting excited.
Here's a case where I hope I enjoy the sequel more than the original, because I really, really like what we've been seeing so far from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Marc Webb's first film had a number of elements I wanted to like more, and it featured pretty much spot-on perfect casting for both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, but I just couldn't get past what felt like a very pedestrian script.
Over the last few days, several new featurettes appear to have popped up online, and while I tried to resist looking, I finally broke down and watched two new ones, and here's the takeaway: Webb's cranked up the action and the Spider-based character comedy in this one, and in both cases, that's exactly what I want.
It now appears that the first scene with Paul Giamatti as The Rhino is the opening of the film, with Peter Parker swinging into action as Spider-Man to try and stop a truck chase through the city at the exact moment that he's supposed to be at his high school graduation, where Gwen Stacy sits waiting for him. It looks like they've shot a ton of this as actual practical stunt work, and it certainly pays off in something that looks and feels more tactile. I love the gag in both of these where he grabs the truck driving by and whips out-of-frame. That is straight out of the comics in terms of attitude, and looks great. It feels like Webb is getting more and more comfortable with the visual end of things.
The first time I met Emily Browning was in an alley behind the original Alamo Drafthouse. She was sixteen at the time, playing younger for "Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events," and I was about to do a Q&A onstage at Butt-Numb-A-Thon with her and her co-star Liam Aiken. The two of them seemed a little bit overwhelmed from the trip in with the Paramount reps, and I think they were just about to kick off the international publicity jaunt for the film, something that was a different level of intensity that either of them had experienced before. We spent about ten minutes talking before we walked up the back stairs and onto the stage of the Drafthouse, and they both ended up doing great.
Browning was a seasoned pro by that point, though. She's been working in front of the camera since she was nine or ten years old on TV and in movies, and "Snicket" was the movie that was supposed to launch her to a new level of awareness. The film wasn't a monster hit, though, even with Paramount and Dreamworks pushing to try to make it into a "Harry Potter" style event. When I was chatting with her off-camera at the recent press day for Paul Anderson's "Pompeii," in which she plays the romantic lead opposite Kit Harrington, we talked about how they pretty much had to make the call the split second the first film came out to decide if they would make the rest of the books into films or not. Like "Potter," they would have had to shoot quickly to make sure the kids didn't age out of the series completely before they wrapped it up. It might have helped that they condensed three books from the series into that first film, but Brad Silberling's very stylized take on the books just didn't click with the mainstream, and it ended up being one of the one-and-done potential franchises that often happen.
The ultimate public reaction to "Guardians Of The Galaxy" has been the subject of no small amount of chatter in the HitFix offices, and at this point, it's safe to say I am in the "it's going to sneak up on people and be a huge event" camp.
Sure, it helps that I've been to the set and I've talked to the people who made it and I have a bunch of stuff I can't share yet that has me feeling this way.
But beyond that, I think the stuff Marvel has shared with the public so far has been really appealing, and this is still just the tip of the iceberg. Just a little while ago, USA TODAY put up their exclusive sneak peek piece, a precursor to this week's official release of the trailer, and all three of the images they put up are, in my opinion, very exciting.
Merchandising for movies can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, merchandising can be a way to help sell a film, and it can also give fans of a film something to have as a reminder or a piece of the movie. There was a time when merchandising only really existed after a film came out, or in some very special circumstances, it would happen simultaneous with a film's release.
There came a point, though, where merchandising became a given and things started coming out before the movie, and that leads to some very particular problems. I will never forget about a month before "Return Of The Jedi" came out, when I found the novelization in stores. I couldn't resist. I bought the book, and I decided to keep it without reading it until the moment I could see the film. My mom, though, didn't have any problem reading the book, which I didn't realize until we were in the car a few days later. I was talking about "Star Wars," which was pretty much true all day every day, and I mentioned how curious I was to find out who "the other" was that Yoda had referred to, and my mom answered, "That's Princess Leia. She's Luke's sister."
To say I was upset would be an understatement. She didn't seem to realize what she'd done, but I was inconsolable. Since then, spoiler culture has only gotten more and more complicated to navigate, and these days, there are land mines that audiences have to worry about, and this weekend, things got particularly ugly for fans of the Marvel movie universe when both a soundtrack listing and a photo of the toy line revealed one of the biggest spoilers for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
I'm not going to repeat the spoiler here. I'm genuinely frustrated that I learned it, and I'm especially irritated that I learned it the way I did. Fans of "Star Wars" dealt with something similar when the soundtrack listing for "The Phantom Menace" was released early and there was a track called "Qui-Gon's Funeral." The "Winter Soldier" thing isn't a character death, but it's something that I would imagine is a pretty major reveal, and now, if you want to avoid learning it early, you're going to have to spend every moment between now and April 4th being extra careful for fear someone will put it in a headline (like MTV Films did) or just drop the info in a forum (which seems to be happening repeatedly).
Consider yourself warned, and if you do know the spoiler, please don't repeat it in our comments section. I have to say… I suspected something like this was true, but I really wish I'd had a chance to have the full impact of the moment happen in the theater.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is in theaters April 4, 2014.
Wait… why would I cap off my Valentine's Day publishing with a review of a movie that played Sundance?
After all, it's a concert film, just Nick Offerman onstage by himself sharing his tips for delicious living, a sort of onscreen companion to his recent book, "Paddle Your Own Canoe." How could that possibly be appropriate for Valentine's Day?
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the film could easily be a vanity project. After all, Offerman is an actor, not a trained stand-up comic, and even for the best comedians, a full-length feature film can be difficult to make work. Offerman's an affable guy, and over the run of "Parks and Recreation," I've grown enormously fond of the way he can turn any scene into a gem, often wordlessly, and he's become an enormous asset to indie films who need someone who can come in and crush in just a few quick scenes.
Yesterday on Twitter, someone asked me the simple version of a larger point made in some angry e-mails about my "Winter's Tale" review. Several people accused me outright of simply hating magic and romance in movies, which is silly, and it was @SamShotFirst (Sam Van Haren) who asked me: "Just read your "Winter's Tale" review. What are some films you think handle magical realism well?"
I suggested that this is the sort of a question worth answering in an article, but offered one immediate example that came to mind. "Field Of Dreams."
Now, sure, part of the reason I'll accept "Field Of Dreams" is because they get the emotional side of things right. That's missing the bigger picture, though. The main reason it works is because first it feeds you just enough information to understand who everyone is. Then you introduce the first element of magic. We watch everyone react. We watch them puzzle it through. Then there's another element of magic. And they have to adjust again. And in each case, the moment where they have to adjust is playing honestly, because you have to acknowledge that something outside of the ordinary is happening. You can't shrug it off.