Supporting players gone wild in our unhinged interview
Even before I walked into the room to interview Cedric The Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson together, I could tell it was going to be a wild one.Â You could hear laughter all the way down the hall from where they were, and every interviewer who walked out seemed greatly entertained.
Even as I was settling in and they were retouching both of the actors with a bit of make-up, they were constantly taking shots back and forth at each other, and you could sense just how in tune they were.
Personally, I have ridiculous amounts of affection for Henson, who has been a welcome presence in film since I first noticed her in "Hustle & Flow."Â There's a warmth to the work she does onscreen that I find really appealing, and in person, she was just as charming.
Producer/writer Guillermo Del Toro serves up effective remake of '70s gem
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating n/a
There are so many movies that I saw when I was young that I have not seen since that I almost wonder if it's fair to say that I've seen them. I remember what I remember about them, but I also saw them at an age where my memory can't be completely trusted. I have my versions of those films bouncing around somewhere inside me, and I've learned over the years that if I particularly treasure something I saw when very young, it might not be a good idea to revisit it. There's a disappointment that kicks in when you realize a film just isn't what you remembered. It's happened to me many times, and the genre where it seems to be most true is horror.
What scared an eight-year-old me is not the same as what scares a forty-one-year-old me. I'm scared now by the idea of something happening to my children or my marriage or my health, of something going catastrophically wrong, of lingering pain. I'm scared of the basic things that keep many people up at night. I'm not scared of monsters or mysterious beasties. I remember that feeling, though, when I was young and afraid of things under my bed or in my closet, things with sharp teeth and rough hands. And there were movies I saw at that age with monsters I could barely look at, monsters that grew in my post-movie imagination, only half-seen when on-screen.
We talk action with one of the biggest directors in the genre
Michael Bay and I have a long and strange history together.
I've been a hard critic of his work over the years, but there are films of his I like, and films I don't. I think we've gradually reached a place where he knows that I walk into each of his movies open to the experience, and that in the end, I want to enjoy what I watch. I do not dismiss or dislike movies lightly. And, along those same lines, I do not just hand out knee-jerk praise.
As you'll see at the start of this interview, we both appreciate the other one's position on this, and I find it a pleasure to sit down with Bay even when I'm not a fan of his current film. When I did enjoy the film as much as I enjoyed "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," it just makes the conversation work even more. I saw Bay earlier this year at a preview event for "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" that was thrown specifically to show us some of the action and some of the early finished 3D shots, and he seemed genuinely curious about people's reaction to the first stuff we saw. The same was true in Moscow. He was excited to get the feedback and start talking about it.
Michael Bay delivers the best action of his career to close the trilogy
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating C+
Let's start with this: for the first time since "Avatar," I am going to recommend that you find the biggest and best 3D theater you can find and buy yourself a ticket, because "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon," especially seen in IMAX 3D, is an overwhelming sensory experience. The sound mix alone is more exciting than anything in the billion-dollar-bore of "Pirates 4." This is gigantic action we've never seen before, and Bay's reaction to shooting and cutting his film for 3D is to get better at what he does. It raised his game, and as a result, I feel like we just saw a dare thrown down by one of Hollywood's biggest action specialists: "Top this."
Just for reference, here are links to my reviews of "Transformers" and "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen." That should give you an idea of what I carried into the theater with me when I sat down to see the new film. And if you don't feel like reading both of those pieces, I'll sum it up quickly: I think the first film is a lot of fun, and I think the second film is a big mess with some remarkable visuals. They've both got their problems, with the second film basically serving to magnify all the first film's issues to a disturbing degree.
"Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" is easily the best film in the series, and there's a solid hour-long action sequence in Chicago that uses everything Bay's ever done before, but all blended into one exhausting push to save one girl in the midst of a war involving two planets. It's the personal story on an apocalyptic scale that Bay loves to try to tell, and that other guys like Emmerich and Cameron and even Spielberg love to do. And this is the best version of it that Bay's made so far.
One of the great character actors passes, and we remember his amazing career
Peter Falk was a giant.
Not in stature, of course. One of the things that made him interesting on film was his perpetually rumpled appearance, the way he looked like life had put its thumb on him at some point and pressed down hard. But in terms of the mark he left on television and film, he was a giant, and one clear sign of that is the way different age groups will mourn him for different films, and the way his career managed to change and mutate over the years, always for the best.
I am absolutely a fan of "Columbo," his best-known role. I own every single episode on DVD, and I watched them all again as Universal was putting them out. It's a formula show, no doubt, but I love the way the series would play with that formula, and I loved Falk. Watching him verbally spar with the smug bad guy each week, watching him lay out his nice, neat little verbal traps, that's one of the textbook definitions of comfort viewing. Sure, I knew where the show was going every week. Every single viewer did. But the pleasure came from watching Falk get there. It was about the details, the way he sketched in his home life through descriptions of Mrs. Columbo and the way he would always seem a little more scattered and frazzled than he really was. It was a charming show, and Falk was the reason it worked.
Chris Weitz returns to form with this LA spin on 'Bicycle Thieves'
- Critic's Rating A
- Readers' Rating n/a
I met Chris Weitz briefly over a decade ago when, after the "Detroit Rock City" premiere, he and his brother Paul gave Harry Knowles and I a ride to our hotel through Westwood. At that point, they were the "American Pie" guys and little else, and the years since have seen both of the Weitz brothers try many different things without really ever creating a singular identity for themselves as filmmakers.
For Chris, the high watermark so far has been "About A Boy," the 2002 film he made starring Hugh Grant and a young Nicolas Hoult. I love that film. I love the performances, and I especially love the way it seems to take its time and leave a lot of room for raw humanity, in no hurry to get to the clever concept or the big twist. It's a simple film, direct and real. Since then, "The Golden Compass" and "Twilight: New Moon" both felt like detours that did nothing for Weitz as a filmmaker, but I understand the freedom that a hit like "New Moon" buys for you as a director, and it looks to me like Weitz cashed that freedom in on his new film, and it may be the best choice he's ever made.
The head of Pixar is directing again, and we asked him why
John Lasseter has always been the face of Pixar for me.
I love that he's been so front-and-center since the early days of the company, and as we discuss in this interview, it's led to some interesting responses from children who now recognize Lasseter completely and immediately.
He's a busy man by any standards, and it felt to me like it was important to him to actually be hands-on and directing again, even if it's just one movie every decade or so. The world of "Cars" is probably the most personal of all the Pixar worlds, and so I set aside my skeptical adult screenwriter hat for a while and, instead of trying to put Lasseter on the defensive about the internal logic of the world, I decided just to try to understand his enthusiasm for the world and the characters.
How can one studio release both this and the 'John Carter' teaser poster?
When I wrote my piece last week about how mystifyingly bad the teaser poster for "John Carter" is, for some reason, it seemed to particularly upset George "Formerly Of Latino Review" Roush. He called me out about it on Twitter, and then wrote his own piece in which he savagely mocked me while completely missing the point of what I wrote.
I hadn't seen the new "Brave" poster when he brought it to my attention last night on Twitter, once again bringing up my reaction to "John Carter," and the fact that he would even compare the two points out just how much he missed the boat on what I said last week. The problem with the "John Carter" poster is that it says nothing about the film. At all. And even a teaser poster has an obligation to tease. Give me something. Mood. Setting. A look or a feel that suggests what I might be getting from your film. You have to assume with every single piece of marketing released for a film that someone who will see that trailer or poster or TV spot has no idea what your movie is, and that might be your only opportunity to make an impression on them. By that standard, "John Carter" is as complete a failure as I've seen from a teaser poster.
But "Brave"? Well, this is how you do it.
As fans of his work, we look at the filmmaker's return and what it means
The idea that Warren Beatty is writing, producing, starring in, and directing a film again makes me very happy.
And the idea that it's finally going to be his Howard Hughes movie? Well, color me ecstatic, because this one's been simmering for a while.
I'm not sure what place Warren Beatty holds in our pop culture at this point, if any. I think his place in film history is secure, no doubt about it. He's proven himself to be a gifted and smart collaborator many times over, and as we get closer to the release of his Howard Hughes film, we'll probably do a special series here at the blog to look back at Beatty's career and make the case for why he is one of the greats of his generation.
But in terms of modern current pop culture? If you were to ask 100 people under the age of 30 about Warren Beatty, what comes to mind for them? How well do they know his work, if at all? "Dick Tracy" was his last hit of any significance, and that was 21 years ago. His last film, "Town and Country," was an epic bomb, one of the most expensive money-losers ever made when you consider budget to return, and even that was a decade ago. How many teenagers today even remember that "Love Affair" or "Bulworth" or "Bugsy" came out? That's all that they could even have been aware of in their lifetime.
Well, actually, they're exhausted... so what's the opposite of animated?
He fixed me with a bleary gaze and, with surprising bluntness, replied, "We are both dead behind the eyes today."
Now, I certainly don't think things were as bad as that, but it's good to remember that there is a toll that these things can take on you when you're grinding out about 100 interviews a day for three days in a row sitting outside in the beginning heat of an LA summer. No matter how pampered you are by the studio that's hosting the event, when those interview lights are all directed at you all day long and you're doing your best to not look like they're sucking your very essence out of you, it can be real work.