Everybody likes Morgan Freeman.
There aren't many actors you can say that about, but I honestly don't think I've ever had a conversation with someone where Freeman's name came up and someone said, "Oh, I can't stand him." That's kind of amazing. It's a testament to the fundamental honesty of what Freeman does on-camera, and the way he's picked and chosen roles over the last twenty-plus years.
He's one of those guys who worked for a long time in what must have felt like relative obscurity, one of his best-known roles being an ensemble part on "The Electric Company." All of that changed when "Street Smart" hit, and suddenly Hollywood figured out how great he was. Suddenly, he started getting the types of roles he deserved. Suddenly he was front and center in a number of big films, including the Oscar-winning smash hit "Driving Miss Daisy" and the Oscar-winning genre-defining Clint Eastwood film "Unforgiven."
Thanks to his distinctive voice and his warm, authoritative diction, Freeman's become the king of the voice-over work, and no one has made better use of that than Frank Darabont did in "The Shawshank Redemption," a film that seems to become more beloved with each passing year. I've spoken with him once or twice in the past, and he's always been cordial and engaging.
Everybody likes Morgan Freeman.
What better way could there be for Wesley Snipes to celebrate his release from federal prison than signing up to co-star in 'The Expendables 3'?
And what better way could there be to learn the news than a middle-of-the-night Tweet by Sylvester Stallone himself?
Wesley Snipes has been out of circulation for a while, of course, and any time someone comes out of prison, it's a gamble about whether or not they're going to be able to pick up where they left off, and in entrainment, it seems like it's even more of a gamble. Sure, there are stories like Johnny Cash, and the public loves to forgive people they like, but I'm not sure Wesley Snipes was particularly beloved when he went into prison in the first place. He had burned a lot of bridges in the industry, and he wasn't exactly toplining giant studio movies anymore.
I'm curious to see what happens with "Catching Fire." Lionsgate did a very good job selling "The Hunger Games" to an audience much broader than just fans of the book, and while I was very fond of the film, it was not universally beloved. They may have shifted filmmakers, with Francis Lawrence stepping in for Gary Ross as director this time, but they're still facing a bit of an uphill battle in convincing the skeptical that they're going to like this second film more than the first one.
For fans of the Suzanne Collins series, I would imagine they're already totally onboard and excited and this trailer isn't about selling them on the film so much as it is a chance to see what choices have been made and how the new cast members look as they join the ensemble. What a difference a year has made in the life and the awareness level of Jennifer Lawrence. Last year when the first film came out, she was a promising young actress whose best known role was in a tiny indie film that made far more noise on the awards circuit than it did at the box-office.
General Zod is coming, and we may be in trouble.
While it hasn't exactly been kept on the level of a state secret, Warner Bros. has played coy when addressing the idea of whether or not Michael Shannon was cast as Zod for Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel," which arrives in theaters this summer. Shannon confirmed it early on in a few interviews, but the studio kept quiet on the matter.
That all changes this week as the film's campaign kicks into a new gear, and part of that push is going to involve setting up Zod as the film's primary villain. Step one? Zod must watch a lot of pro-wrestling or a lot of Christopher Nolan Batman films because he's playing heel in a 30 second video that was posted to Facebook today. In it, there's a very Joker/Bane vibe as he lays out a demand for Earth. He wants Kal-El to be handed over, and he makes it clear that there will be consequences if his request is denied.
I was working at a movie theater in Florida when Michael Mann's "Manhunter" opened. It was released with no fanfare, and it was a non-event at the box-office. I was in high school at the time, and I would make an effort to see everything that played at our theater. I had no idea what to expect from "Manhunter," and Mann's name was not on my radar in the same way that it is today.
As a result, I walked in cold and walked out positively flattened by what I saw. I went out afterwards and I went to a bookstore and I got a copy of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. I saw the film at least two or three more times in the fourteen days we played it, and I told several friends about it, taking them back to see it with me. When Silence Of The Lambs was released, it was already on my radar, and the news that Gene Hackman had optioned the rights and planned to make a film out of it only made it more attractive. I read it as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and once again, I found myself captivated by the story being told. I loved the book, and I was bummed when Hackman dropped out of making it. When the film finally did come out, I was immediately a fan, amazed that I could handle two very different interpretations of Hannibal Lecter.
After seeing his work in "42" playing sports icon Jackie Robinson, I went to the IMDb to look him up, afraid I'd see that I somehow missed this guy. And while I'm pretty sure I've seen him onscreen before, it's safe to say that "42" is the biggest showcase he's had as a performer so far. For most audiences, "42" is going to be their introduction to him. And whatever you think of the film, it's safe to say that Boseman gives a charismatic central performance that should put him on the map for casting directors everywhere.
Stepping into the shoes of a giant is never easy, and one of the hardest things about doing a biopic is finding someone who can suggest the greatness that makes the subject worth talking about in the first place. With Jackie Robinson, you have a double challenge, because you have to not only somehow capture the enormous charisma that made him such a perfect candidate for mainstream integration but also do a credible job of suggesting the physical gifts that made Jackie such a joy to watch when he was on the field.
The most common criticism leveled against "The Hangover Part II," and accurately in my opinion, was that the sequel basically just served as a remake of the original film in a new geographic setting.
To some degree, I felt like Todd Phillips, who hasn't really been in the franchise business until now, was making a joke about the essential nature of sequels. Any time you're following up a massive success, you have all sorts of expectations you're dealing with as the filmmakers. If you do something that's too close to the original, you get nailed for it. If you do something that's not like the original at all, you get nailed for it. It's a no-win situation creatively, and then if you do manage to pull it off, expectations get even more outrageous and difficult for the next one.
There's a new Internet-only trailer for "The Hangover Part III," and right away, it looks like they've made some steps forward with the characters, and it also feels like they're acknowledging that the second film was perhaps too much of the same. This time, instead of throwing another destination event that leads to a crazy and forgotten bachelor party, it looks like the film starts with Alan (Zach Galifianakis) at a low point, and after a disastrous funeral for his father, his friends step in to try and get him some help.
It's a big summer for superhero films. There is no film more important to the overall success of a studio's longterm plans than "Man Of Steel" is for Warner Bros, though. Marvel could survive it if "Iron Man 3" didn't work, and Fox has certainly weathered a terrible "Wolverine" movie already. For Warner, though, everything they have planned in the near-future depends on them proving that they can get their most significant icon right. Warner needs you to believe a man can fly.
The good news is that early buzz from people who have seen the film is very enthusiastic. It sounds like they've managed to ground Superman in the real world while also making sure that he does indeed feel… well, super. When we get 74 different superhero films every year, it's not easy to make us feel a sense of wonder anymore. It's a character thing more than it's about the effects at this point, and certainly everything we're hearing from Zack Snyder and David Goyer and Christopher Nolan sounds like they're at least starting with the right ideas.
We have become a baseball family.
When you have kids, you end up building a fair amount of your schedule around the various interests that they pursue, and baseball has become a major part of Toshi's life each year. He's a natural, and we've tried other sports before settling on baseball. The football parents were a nightmare, the basketball league was a mess, and tae kwon do mainly just made Toshi cry. But the little league that we found in our area is outstanding, well-organized, well-managed, and the kids and the parents that we've met as a result of being part of baseball have been an amazing addition to our lives.
One of the things that I find most enjoyable about the league is the inclusiveness. There are girls on their team, and every ethnic and cultural background seems very well-represented, and the kids don't seem to notice because that's simply how their world looks. That's what they were born into, that's normal to them, and the reason it's remarkable to me is because I know that's not what it looked like when I was younger. I was a kid of the '70s, and I thought of my childhood as a particularly permissive time. By the point I was aware of things, there was a rough hewn push towards equality. It may not have been perfectly executed, and if you look at a film like the original "Bad News Bears," much of the cultural attitude at that moment was defined by the frictions that still existed and the desire to move past them.
"I'm talking to Harrison Ford."
It is impossible for someone raised when I was as a movie fan to sit across from the man who played Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard in the span of three years and not spend most of that conversation screaming that one thing inside my head, over and over and over.
"I'm talking to Harrison Ford."
For me, it was the one-two punch of "Witness" and "The Mosquito Coast" that finally made me feel that there was no more essential or interesting American movie star. Those two collaborations with Peter Weir tapped into what it is that makes his earlier iconic hero roles so compelling. There is an anger, an intelligence that regards others with a healthy suspicion, an emotional distance… all of that is layered in there under his comic timing and his exceptional sense of physical comedy. He makes attitude look easy when he plays a big swaggering lead, but when he plays human beings with weaknesses, Ford started to look like a guy who would go raw and real and make choices that no one else made. That's what I look for most in any actor. I want to see them making choices that surprise and illuminate and that make me respond on an involuntary level, and watching him navigate the tricky moral waters of "Witness" or give voice to the cracked paternal logic of "The Mosquito Coast," he felt to me like a guy who dug deep.