It is still very strange to me that Sarah Silverman is now officially a Disney character.
Sure, she's playing a character named Vanellope von Schweetz, but those pipes could only belong to one person, and it's kind of remarkable that this sort of big pop cartoon would provide the actress with the opportunity to do some of the most nuanced work she's done on film so far.
There's something wonderful about the way kids get to know performers like Silverman or Patton Oswalt or Jack McBrayer or John C. Reilly or Sarah Vowell from these smart, engaging animated stories where they play outrageous characters who are grounded and humanized by that voice work. Silverman perfectly expresses the bruised heart of the "glitch" who Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) meets when he sneaks into the game "Sugar Rush."
It is still very strange to me that Sarah Silverman is now officially a Disney character.
I'll have a review of Barry Levinson's new film "The Bay" later today for you. First, though, I thought I'd share a couple of images of the Isopods, the creatures that are the primary threat in the movie.
When Levinson was first approached by the producers, they wanted him to make a documentary about the way Chesapeake Bay is dying. While he decided against doing the documentary because he saw one that he felt did a solid job of covering the topic, the more he read, the more fascinated he became by just how the bay is dying and why.
In particular, he was horrified by what he learned about isopods, and if you want to crank up the nightmares, just run a Google image search for "isopods." Specifically "giant isopods." Some of those actual images made their way into "The Bay," and at the Q&A after we saw the film, one of the audience members asked Levinson how much they had to exaggerate the isopods. "We didn't," Levinson said. "Those Google images you see are real."
One of the first reactions yesterday across the Internet was rejoicing about the Disney/Lucasfilm deal because fans immediately assumed that Disney would make all their dreams come true of a Blu-ray release for the unaltered original 1977 version of "A New Hope."
Well, don't hold your breath.
Home video rights are a tricky thing, and in this case, fans can be forgiven for their immediate assumption. After all, Disney bought Lucasfilm, right? The problem is that there are existent deals in place concerning the first six films and the "Clone Wars" television series that aren't going to suddenly change just because of this sale. Those obligations are going to be playing themselves out for several years to come.
In the case of the "Star Wars" movies, the earliest Disney would have a chance to release anything would be in the year 2020, and even then, they aren't going to have the rights to "A New Hope," which remain with Fox permanently. Now, sure, companies can work out deals to release movies that other studios made. The new James Bond box set, for example, is a Fox release even though MGM is the studio that has made those movies and Sony is currently releasing the new titles. And the Alfred Hitchcock box that just came out from Universal features several Paramount and MGM titles as well. It's certainly not unheard of, and I'm sure Disney would love to work it out.
Disney now owns the Muppets, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. In breaking news, they are currently in negotiation with my parents to buy the rest of my childhood for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
And we don't get the first new "Star Wars" film until 2015, eh? Guess I'm going to have to start exercising and eating right after all.
First, I think it's a safe bet that all of your poring over your "Star Wars" expanded universe novels to figure out if he's doing the Thrawn movies or the New Jedi Order series can relax. They won't be adapting books. They mentioned today that Lucas has written treatments for three new films, and there is no way he's going to let those films say "based on a story by Timothy Zahn". Those stories exist, fans are able to enjoy them now, and simply translating them to the screen is a losing proposition on all sides. The general public has no investment in those books, and for filmmakers who become involved with the series moving forward, there's no up side to simply adapting someone else's "Star Wars" story when there is almost limitless room to invent new stories that take place in that universe and even in that continuity.
What is a Disney movie these days?
I know what an animated Disney film was, brand-wise, when I was a kid. And when Disney reinvented themselves in the post-"Black Cauldron" world as a musical fairy tale factory, that was also a brand that was easy to identify.
But today, Walt Disney Feature Animation has perhaps the most tenuous grasp on identity that I've ever seen from them. Part of that has to do with all the competition that exists today from Blue Sky Studios and Sony Animation and DreamWorks Animation… basically a bunch of companies that have gotten very good at making movies that play to the audience that was at one point the sole domain of Disney. Then, of course, there's the in-house issue of Pixar Animation, a powerhouse team of storytellers who have arguably out-Disney'd Disney for the past fifteen years. It's hard to be the top dog when you no longer are the first pick for animators looking for work, and these days, filmmakers who want to work in animation are probably looking to Pixar the signpost for what it is they want to do.
Film companies continue to push for new ways to reach out to audiences as they figure out when it's okay to start hyping a film. Summer 2013 movies are already starting to stake their claims and premiere imagery and set visit glimpses and posters. 20th Century Fox has a pretty big stake in "The Wolverine" working, and one of the first big moments for them came last week when Empire magazine revealed some of what James Mangold told them for their upcoming story. We wrote about that piece, which included a new image of Wolverine with his bone claws extended, last week, and it seemed like one more promising detail in what is shaping up as a very promising entry in the long-running "X-Men" franchise.
Today, James Mangold and Hugh Jackman spoke directly to fans around the world who tuned in for a live online chat that YouTube streamed from Sydney. It sounds like more and more journalists are arriving in Sydney today for further press events in the days ahead, and according to Mangold and Jackman, they're only a few weeks away from wrapping the film. I'm guessing there's got to be a trailer soon at this rate. They've described the film, and now it's time to let people know what it's going to look like in motion, what that world is that they're talking about. When Mangold references both "The Bicentennial Man" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales" as thematic touchstones, it's probably safe to assume this isn't just going to be another standard-issue superhero movie.
I recently learned that I was the only person living in my house, out of six of us, who had seen "The Princess Bride."
I found this revelation to be completely inconceivable.
The only reason it came up was because I was sent the 25th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray to prepare for a conversation with Cary Elwes. It's not like I needed the reminder of the film, since it's been one of those movies I've seen dozens of times since release, and each time, I am struck anew by just what a miracle it is. It doesn't really feel like any other movie, and while I've spoken to both screenwriter William Goldman (who adapted it from his tremendous novel) and director Rob Reiner about it in the past, I'll take any opportunity to chat about it with people who worked on it.
When I spoke to Elwes, it was by phone, and he was in an airport sitting under what sounded like the loudest speaker in human history, with a long garbled announcement blaring every three or four minutes. He seemed chagrined by the situation, but absolutely unflappable in how pleased he was to be talking about "The Princess Bride." The sheer hideousness of the situation only made Elwes seem more likable.
Denzel Washington has been working for so long now that he's sort of an institution, one of those performers who is both movie star and actor. I think there is a clear distinction between those two things, and there are movie stars who never really push themselves out of their comfort zones, just as there are great actors who don't possess whatever that particular charisma is that makes someone iconic. Washington is capable of disappearing into a character, but he's also one of those guys who financiers love because he's been such a reliable box-office sensation over the years.
"Flight," the new film by Robert Zemeckis, calls on both sides of Denzel's personality. It's the story of a guy who is capable of exceptional things who is also a high-functioning alcoholic and drug abuser, and his character is a hard person to like. Denzel's charisma helps with that, and he manages to show you how this guy is able to coast on charm even as he burns his life down. If he wasn't such a movie star, I'm not sure you'd have any sympathy for him, but if he wasn't such a good actor, I don't think that slow crumble of addiction would feel as authentic and unapologetic as it does. It's the sort of work that reminds you just how good someone can be.
"Cloud Atlas," ultimately, is a love story. Or more accurately, it's three love stories told over the span of hundreds and hundreds of years. The overarching couple whose story drives the entire film is played in various forms by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, but they certainly aren't the only thing about the film that is affecting.
Jim Sturgess is taking some serious heat right now for the prosthetic make-up he wears in one of the film's shorelines, where he appears as Chang, the agent tasked with liberating both the mind and the body of Sonmi 451, a service clone in Neo Seoul played by Doona Bae. Their story is perhaps my favorite thing about the movie, and I wanted to talk to them about creating the very delicate rapport their characters share in the film as well as her reaction to seeing him in his make-up for the first time.
It feels like things are coming up Bond right now, and the news that John Logan has signed on to write two back-to-back Bond films that tell one complete story is incredibly exciting.
When you see "Skyfall," you'll see how carefully they have set up the James Bond series moving forward and how several elements that were previously missing in the series have now been dropped in. One thing I liked a lot about "Casino Royale" and "Quantum Of Solace" as a double-feature was the idea that they were both about a shadowy enemy organization that Bond was going to start dismantling piece by piece. That story thread appears to have been dropped almost completely in "Skyfall," and that is one of the few things about the film that saddens me. With the work that "Skyfall" does to set all of Bond's support system in place, though, it makes me wonder if they're planning to get back to it.