Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
A look back at one of the industry's best songwriters is poignant, powerful
Paul Williams is a survivor.
The notion that the greatest challenge he's overcome in his lifetime is himself is just one of the things that makes Steve Kessler's documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive" such a pleasure and a revelation. I've been familiar with the work of Paul Williams my whole life, and in many cases, I wasn't even aware when I was first introduced to his work that it was his.
When the Muppets sang "Movin' Right Along" or "The Rainbow Connection" in "The Muppet Movie," or when Jodie Foster sang "My Name Is Tallulah" in "Bugsy Malone," I didn't know who wrote those songs. I just knew that they were burned into my brain right away. When I heard Karen Carpenter sing "Rainy Days and Mondays" or "We've Only Just Begun" on the radio, I didn't even think of the songwriter. I just heard the story she was telling and the heartbreak that she wore like a badge.
We catch up with season one of HBO's amazing high fantasy hit
I've read the first book in George R.R. Martin's epic "A Song Of Ice and Fire" series, and I'm a fan of that book. I have heard a wide range of opinions about the rest of the series, and I've done my best to avoid spoilers, since I have the books here in the house and will read them at some point. I did not watch the HBO adaptation of the first book when it aired, so I've waited patiently for the Blu-ray release. I have a preference for powering through a full season of TV when I can, and I can't think of a show better suited for that sort of marathon viewing than this one.
When HBO decides to gamble on a show, they go big, and I respect that. "Game Of Thrones" is gorgeous, and it looks and sounds tremendous on Blu-ray. What makes the Blu-ray the ultimate edition, though, is the way they've taken full advantage of the interactive nature of the format to help viewers if they want help keeping track of the show's complex family politics. I think the show does a great job of explaining it all for you, but I understand that it's a dense bit of text overall, and the extra features here are outstanding. You can turn on a program guide that will work during the episodes, giving you facts and history and interconnections at moments you might need the prompt.
Without Spider-Man, why make a Venom film at all?
I have never understood this idea.
New Line was the first studio to option the rights to "Venom," and it's always confused me deeply to imagine a film in which you only have the Venom character without Spider-Man. Sony had to eventually buy the rights to the character so they could incorporate him into their "Spider-Man" series, and I would argue that their intense desire to force the fan-favorite character into the third film despite Sam Raimi's misgivings is one of the reasons that film does not work.
Raimi had no real desire to do anything with Venom, and I understand why. Venom is the sort of character that serves as a dividing line for comic book fans. I find that it's basically all about how old you were when they started publishing Venom stories. I was getting out of comic collecting right around the time the age of Todd McFarlane began, and I didn't really care for where the comic industry was heading at that time. I don't feel superior to fans who grew up with Venom as a cornerstone of what they loved about Spider-Man, though. I just don't agree with them.
One of the most ingenious short filmmakers today shares tricks of the trade
One day, the Edgerton brothers will rule Hollywood with an iron fist, and I for one welcome our new Edgerton overlords.
Joel Edgerton, of course, is working hard in front of the camera these days, and he's managed to finally make the jump to Hollywood leading man. I am enormously fond of the work he did last year in "Warrior," and while I didn't love everything about "Wish You Were Here" at Sundance, Edgerton is great in it. There's something about the new breed of Australian leading men that really sets them apart from the gym-trained oh-so-smooth LA brand of guy, something more genuine and rough-hewn. It's little wonder so many of them are making the jump to action hero these days.
The other Edgerton, though, is the one that needs to have his turn in the spotlight, and I am convinced that day is coming. His short film "Spider" is one of those that you never forget after you've seen it, and every single time I show it to people, I love watching them as they watch it. The same is true of his latest film "Bear," and I'm excited that it's screening at SXSW.
Two of the most memorable actors in the new epic adventure discuss their roles
By far, the two performances I think people will speak about most frequently when they discuss "John Carter" are given by Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins.
When I joined the cast at the Boulders resort in Carefree, Arizona, I started my day with an interview with Willem Dafoe. He was the first person from the film that I spoke to after our screening the night before, and he turned out to be a real pleasure. I've been watching and admiring his work since "To Live And Die In LA," and I think he's only gotten better with age. He is one of those actors who brings such a unique and intense presence to everything he does that it's a thrill to sit down with him finally. I only wish it could have been longer.
With Lynn Collins, I'll confess to being one of the people that was skeptical about the casting of her as Dejah Thoris when it was first announced. I only really knew her from "Wolverine," and that's a hard film for anyone to use as a calling card. In "John Carter," though, I think Collins proves herself to be a strong, sexy, and smart lead actress. She infuses the role with qualities that I'm not sure existed on the page, even in the Burroughs version, but that feel absolutely right.
We chat with the hero and the villain of this science-fantasy adventure
"John Carter" comes out this weekend, so you know what that means? If you answered "Lots of 'John Carter' interviews," then you win, and as your prize, you get… well, lots of "John Carter" interviews, actually.
What better way to kick off our coverage of the film than with John Carter himself? I went to Carefree, Arizona to not only see the film but to talk to the team who made it, and obviously, part of that day consisted of sitting down with Taylor Kitsch, on whose shoulders much of the film rests. This is a major year for Kitsch, and if anyone's being given a shot at new movie stardom this year, it's him. After all, he's the star of this, then he's the star of "Battleship," which will be one of the summer's biggest films in terms of scale if nothing else, and then later in the summer, he's one of the stars of Oliver Stone's adaptation of Don Winslow's "Savages." That's a pretty big line-up, and I'm curious to see where Kitsch stands at the end of the year.
Disney did more than just update the ride to make the ride brand-new again
I am not what you would call a Disney nerd. At least, not compared to the truly hardcore. However, I think it's safe to say that Disney's various parks have always been part of my life.
I grew up in Florida, and many of my formative memories come from time spent at Walt Disney World. I remember spending the Bicentennial there, I have crazy stories to tell about my Grad Nite, and I probably went to the park somewhere between 50 and 100 times between the ages of 3 and 20.
When I left Florida, I also left behind the Disney habit. I know adults who adore Disney and who spend a lot of time and money there each year, and I don't begrudge anyone the pure enjoyment of it. I admit I had a really snotty attitude about Disneyland when I moved to California, so that made it easy to break the habit. After all, you could take every square inch of the property in California and put it in the parking lot of Florida's Magic Kingdom. The scale of the Florida property is amazing, and that's what I was used to. Over time, I've come to really love Disneyland for the history and for the charm of the place. It's a very different experience than the Florida version, and I appreciate that.
The franchise is in good hands
Last week, the news broke that Jason Segel was not one of the writers hired to develop a sequel to "The Muppets."
True, it was his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller who was hired, but just the notion that Segel might not be a driving force on a sequel seemed to upset some people. I thought it was probably not as big a deal as it was made out to be, and I said so, but I thought it would make sense to talk directly to Segel about it.
So on Saturday, one of the two press days I was at was for "Jeff, Who Lives At Home," the marvelous new comedy from Jay and Mark Duplass, and one of the interviews I had scheduled was Jason Segel. Why not kick things off by asking him to directly address the situation?
"I did what I set out to do." That's really all the answer he needs to give, and I think it's important to note just how happy he is with the film and what a miracle the film is at all. There were many points during development when it easily could have died, and there were most likely points where Segel must have felt worn down by it. Even after they filmed it, when they were in post and I spoke to him about it on the set of "The Five-Year Engagement," he was cautiously optimistic, thinking that they'd done something he liked but still unsure what was going to happen with people accepting what they'd done.
Plus Will Smith takes to Yahoo! to explain the movie to fans
I don't think the new "Men In Black III" trailer looks any worse than many big anonymous blockbusters, but I'll be honest… word on this one has been troubling so far, and this new trailer doesn't really assuage those fears.
I've heard some remarkable figures tossed around as the final budget for this film, while I'm also hearing it runs under 90 minutes. I'd love to know if this is the new winner for "most expensive film per minute," but I'm guessing we'll never really get an official figure on how much it's going to cost Sony to get it into theaters. What I'm curious about is who the audience is. Sure, the first two films were blockbusters, but the second one was not particularly well-liked, and I haven't sensed any real anticipation from anyone I've spoken with.
A film that shouldn't work at all turns out to be a great spring surprise
There is no need for a "21 Jump Street" movie.
You could say that about much of what Hollywood makes these days, but I remember when the original TV show was on the air, and "21 Jump Street" was, at best, a sort of goofy early attempt by Fox to define itself as a network. It was most notable for being a launch pad for Johnny Depp, and I would argue that no one has spent the time since it went off the air mourning and praying for a resurrection.
What makes the new feature film version of the show, written by Michael Bacall and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, such a wonderful surprise is that it both overtly acknowledges how frequently awful it is for Hollywood to trade on shameless pre-packaged nostalgia while turning the original into something new with a voice all its own. The story was co-written by Bacall and Jonah Hill, and it acknowledges the absurdity of its own premise even as it leans full-tilt into that absurdity, making it work.