Somewhere today, the Hughes Brothers are very, very sad.
As unlikely as it sounds, they once claimed that a big-screen version of "Little House On The Prairie" was one of the projects they most wanted to make. They grew up watching the show, and they felt a real love for the material.
As equally unlikely as it sounds, the director of "Your Highness," "Pineapple Express," and "George Washington" is now the man who will bring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the big-screen, with a script by Abi Morgan, best known for the Fassbender-f**king-everything-that-moves drama "Shame."
I think it's a no-brainer for some studio to develop this material again. After all, the books by Wilder were the inspiration for the TV series that ran from 1974-1983, but I would hardly call the show a faithful adaptation. The books are an industry unto themselves, and the eight books published while Wilder was alive were just the starting point. There were at least four books published posthumously based on her writing, and a number of other series that built off of what she wrote, eventually chronicling something like five generations of her family, from their time in Scotland to the age of her daughter living in San Francisco. Her personal papers have been combed through repeatedly by scholars and writers, and there's plenty of material for the filmmakers to use when they sit down to decide what story they're telling.
Somewhere today, the Hughes Brothers are very, very sad.
This is about as good a choice as anyone could have hoped for, and I am completely and utterly excited about "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" now.
Matt Reeves is one of those filmmakers who is going to have a long and interesting career, a smart guy who makes smart choices, and signing on to replace Rupert Wyatt for the second film in the newly-rebooted "Apes" franchise is a very smart choice. The first film was plagued by bad buzz pretty much all the way up to the moment it was actually released, and then it turned out to be so much smarter and more interesting than expected. Andy Serkis is already set to return to star again as Caesar, the ape whose evolution kicked off an uprising at the end of the first film, and the script for the sequel was written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who co-wrote the first one, with newer revisions being handled by the uber-smart Scott Burns, whose work with Soderbergh has been so compelling so far.
"I miss 'Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare.'"
"Your life is 'Call Of Duty' now. And it sucks."
The original "Red Dawn" was released in 1984, and as much as any film of that decade, it is a product of its times. I was 14 that year, and like most school-aged kids, I had been completely and utterly indoctrinated to be terrified of the Russians. "Red Dawn" played expertly on that fear, and it helped that John Milius, the film's co-writer and director, is a glorious war-monger, a man who loves the way conflict defines a person. The movie featured a cast of some of the best-known young actors in the '80s, including Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey, and even if you were able to avoid the film's politics, it worked as an action film. There was something about the film's invasion scenario that struck a very deep chord with young viewers at the time, and for many of them, it remains a nostalgic favorite.
If you were a fan of "The Amazing Spider-Man," then you're probably pretty excited about the official news today that Marc Webb is now officially onboard to return for "The Amazing Spider-Man" sequel, along with Andrew Garfield.
The press release sent out this morning by Columbia Pictures also confirmed that Andrew Garfield will return as Peter Parker and Spider-Man and Emma Stone is in talks right now to come back as Gwen Stacy. I don't think anyone should be particularly shocked by any of this news. The first movie did very well, so of course they're bringing back as many of the creative elements as they can.
James Vanderbilt wrote the first draft of the script, with revisions by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, and so far, we have no concrete information about what they'll be doing in the film. If they announce the Green Goblin as the villain for this one, then it's pretty much a sure bet we can start preparing our farewells for Stone.
I think the "Paranormal Activity" series is fun. Not great. Not important. Not a redefining series of genre films. But fun. 2007's "Paranormal Activity" did not pick up a distributor right away, and it didn't hit theaters until September 2009, with Paramount treating it almost as an experiment. It caught fire and it quickly became evident that the studio was going to want a follow-up. Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the original, stepped into a more supervisory position, and as he started branching out with projects like "The River" and the still-unreleased "Area 51," he helped other people build out the mythology that he started.
Tod Williams directed the sequel, and Michael R. Perry and Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst all contributed to the script. It expanded the world a bit and started to try to make sense of what happened to Katie (Katie Featherston) and Michah (Micah Sloat) in the first film. It carefully built the big set pieces so it leaned on the exact same sort of scares that the first film did, but with a baby right there in the middle of things. The film ended with an upsetting cliffhanger of sorts with Katie making off with young Hunter (William Juan Pietro), and part three went back in time to the '80s to show Katie and her sister Kristi as kids, bringing in co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman to work with with Christopher Landon, who returned as the sole writer this time. I think the last fifteen minutes or so of "Paranormal Activity 3" is the scariest sustained sequence in any of the movies, and I thought it set up a really interesting broader canvass for the films. When I saw that Joost and Schulman were coming back to direct the fourth film, I thought the movie was in great hands, and I was excited to see what they came up with.
I am 100% convinced that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to be one of the biggest working movie stars of his generation.
He may not be there quite yet, but he's been acting since a very young age, and by now, it's clear that he's got charisma in spades and that he makes really great choices as an actor. That's both onscreen and offscreen, as it doesn't matter if you're giving the best performance in the world if it's in a movie that no one ends up seeing. He's certainly bet on some very small films like "Hesher" and "Mysterious Skin" and, of course, "Brick," but he's also been able to work in films that made much larger commercial splashes like "Inception" and "G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra" and, of course, "The Dark Knight Rises."
It feels to me like "Looper" lands right in the middle between those two extremes. It's a studio release, but it's a film that feels intensely personal. It's a science-fiction film with some really remarkable moments of effects flourishes, but only in very specific moments and in service to the stories. It's a huge film in terms of ideas, but it's also very small-scale in terms of how many characters are involved. Much of the success (or failure, I suppose, depending on how you react to it) of the film is due to the confident and controlled lead performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
I have no doubt that when Dimension kicks into overdrive to sell you "Aftershock" sometime in 2013, you're going to see Eli Roth's name used a whole lot. I understand it, too. Roth has been enormously good at turning his name into a brand, something that a certain group of young filmmakers have developed as an important skill set in the 21st century. After all, he's served as "Eli Roth presents" on several films, and he's part of the new Vegas venture, The Goretorium, which is a year-round horror-themed experience. The last feature film that Eli directed was in 2004, though, so when you see critics and marketing that will fall over themselves to heap both the flaws and the merits of "Aftershock" at his feet, that's because the branding worked, not because he's genuinely the key architect of this particular movie.
This is very much a collaboration, though, between Eli and Nicolas Lopez, a Chilean filmmaker who has had a fascinating career of ups and downs so far. His first film in 2004, "Promedio Rojo," is a rowdy teenage sex comedy, brash and funny and raw, and it got him some international attention. That led to the production of "Santos," his second film, which is a big sprawling glorious mess of a film, a narrative that ran away from him, filled with all sorts of big imagination. It was much too expensive for the sort of specialty niche film that it was, and it set him back a bit. It consumed four full years of his life, and I think it's not the film he set out to make.
Ben Wheatley has quietly turned into one of the most interesting voices in English film right now, a guy who seems fairly adept at bending his personal storytelling style to the material he's shooting instead of imposing one voice on everything he does. He is sly, with a jet black sense of humor, and he seems to take great pleasure from pushing his audiences to deeply uncomfortable places.
His breakthrough film was "Down Terrace," and I remember how excited Tim League was about that film. It's a very small-scale, well-observed film about a family scratching out a low-level criminal existence, and I liked it a lot. His next film, the genre-bending "Kill List," absolutely flattened me when I saw it at SXSW, and I felt like it marked a real step forward by him. With his third film, "Sightseers," he's made what could be his first cross-over hit, a film that still plays dark and that surrenders none of his personal voice, but that is universal in a way that "Kill List" was never going to be. It is little wonder it found a place in the Fantastic Fest 2012 line-up as Tuesday night's first secret screening.
Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) have fallen in love, and they've decided to take a trip together. Chris has a caravan that he's decked out for the trip, and Tina's as excited as she could possibly be. She's been living with her demanding, angry mother her whole life and she's reached a point where she can't imagine doing it any longer. Chris isn't just a possible romance, he's an escape from a life that has become insufferable to her. She's got the trip idealized in her head before she even leaves the house, and if Wheatley just wanted to tell a story about how real life rarely meets our expectations, that could be potent material. He's got something much more sinister in mind, though, and we get hints of it from the early part of the film when we see hints of Chris's temper, particularly in response to what he sees as the coarse and the rude.
The last time I saw Johnny Simmons and Mae Whitman in the same place at the same time, it was on the Toronto set of "Scott Pilgrim Versus The World." I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to see members of that cast colliding over and over in the future, and that it's going to remain a very dear memory for them.
This time, we were in Toronto to discuss the new movie "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," and they had three of the young actors who make up the ensemble grouped together for the chat, including Whitman and Simmons. I didn't meet Ezra Miller in Cannes when "We Need To Talk About Kevin" was playing there, and I'll admit that after I saw that film, I thought Hollywood was going to typecast him because of how completely effective he was in the part.
Instead, I think this film will introduce him to a much broader audience, and I think it's going to have a long shelf life. While I may not have known the book, I've come to realize that there's a big audience out there who read and really enjoyed the book, and it's important to them. This isn't just another teen movie to them. The book's characters are significant because they recognize themselves in them.
Pierce Gagnon is not a name most people know at this point, but after they see "Looper," it is a name they'll want to learn. Gagnon positively steals the film out from under the already-outstanding adult cast that includes Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Garret Dillahunt, and Emily Blunt, who plays Sara, mother to Gagnon's character, Cid.
Gagnon was five years old when they shot his part in the film, and it's an amazing performance for an actor of any age. I think Rian Johnson and his cast did something very special in capturing his work, and that was one of the things I really wanted to discuss with her when we sat down during Toronto.
It feels like I interview Blunt about four times a year now, which is a perfectly lovely arrangement as far as I'm concerned. She's a smart performer, and she's been making great choices for the last few years, starring in a number of films that I've enjoyed, racking up one strong performance after another.