I'm not supposed to say anything nice about this film.
That's the message that has been sent loud and clear ever since the first trailer for the movie arrived online. Based on the fervent hatred that has been poured onto the film, it seems that all online film writers are old-school Three Stooges aficionados, and the Stooges have evidently moved into that part of pop culture that is so revered, so sacred, that absolutely nothing new can be done with them at the risk of sacrilege.
I would certainly count myself among the Stooge faithful. My college roommate and I had a Stooges poster hanging in our dorm room. I've memorized many of their sorts through sheer osmosis over the years. Whenever I'm lost in some out-of-the-way place, I refer to it as "Goslow" instead of "BFE" or any of the other popular alternatives as a nod to a terrible, terrible joke from one of their films. I spent countless afternoons growing up watching their films on TV, and when SPHE started putting out collections of their short films, I eagerly purchased every single one.
I'm not supposed to say anything nice about this film.
When Robert Rodriguez appeared at Comic-Con this summer, he made several major announcements, but did so to a room that had largely emptied out at the start of his presentation. Part of that was the fact that Rodriguez did not reveal ahead of time what projects he might discuss, and the other part was that people simply don't believe half of the announcements he makes at this point.
In particular, I saw profound skepticism from people when I wrote up the panel and mentioned that Rodriguez said he was close to moving forward on a "Sin City" sequel. In August, we ran the news that William Monahan was going to be doing the final rewrite on the film, and once again, there was widespread skepticism.
Well, looks like that last draft paid off, because "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" is finally gearing up for production, with an announcement today from Rodriguez's new company, Quick Draw Productions, financial partner AR Films, and Dimension, who will distribute. Even though today's press release says that "details of the film's story have been kept tightly under wraps," we did get some clues from Rodriguez at Comic-Con.
All I need to know about "Gravity" to be excited about seeing it later this year is that it's the latest film from director Alfonso Cuaron.
However, based on details that emerged online today, my interest level has skyrocketed, and it sounds like something very special is in store for us when the film does finally arrive in theaters. It also sounds like next year I should do my best to attend the 5D | FLUX conference at USC, where Chris deFaria spoke about "Gravity" and confirmed some of the things I've been hearing about the film since it began production last year.
The screenplay, by Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron, and Rodrigo Garcia, deals with how a team tries to survive when a missile is fired at a satellite while they're all at the International Space Station, and the explosion creates a chain reaction of debris moving at 30,000 kph, threatening their ability to ever make their way back to Earth. On the title page, the film is described as "a space suspense in 3D," and it sounds like technology was on their mind from the moment they started work on the film.
When you write about entertainment all day every day, you tend to get caught up in minutiae, and it leads to editorial decisions I would call questionable. When you're writing breathless headlines about Pez dispensers, you may be working too hard to find relevance in the irrelevant. Getting hung up on the micro often prevents us from focusing on the macro, but I'd like to take the opportunity to take a step back from time to time to examine 'The Bigger Picture.'
Short version: don't expect Warner Bros. to produce Mel Gibson's film about the Maccabees any time soon.
When Mel Gibson first announced his intentions to make a film telling the story of the Jewish rebel army that existed around 160 BC, it seemed like it fit well into the larger arc of his career and his fascination with doing films set in a historically violent era featuring the characters speaking in accurate-to-the-age-and-region languages, something that has been a big part of his directing career. It also sounded like it was going to be a hugely controversial project for reasons that would be obvious to anyone aware of Gibson's ongoing tabloid troubles.
Part of me just wants to run this as a straight transcript and only identify both interviewer and subject by first name, because it would be completely confusing and awesome. That's just me being glad to meet another Drew, though, because there aren't that many of us.
My first chat with Drew Goddard, director of this week's "Cabin In The Woods," took place in Austin when we did the live-cast chat with him and Joss Whedon together. Then at the start of this week, he called for a follow-up conversation. The last few days, reviews have really started rolling in, and while you've got some people taking pretty hardline positions against the film (Rex Reed's review is almost comically inaccurate, suggesting Rex dozed his way through, inventing connective tissue that says a lot about the Freudian dreamscape between his ears), for the most part, people seem to be engaged by the crazy puzzle-box deathtrap that Goddard built. I'm certainly a fan. I asked how he's feeling about the response so far.
"The only sad part is that I realize it's never going to be this good again in my career," he laughed. "I couldn't have asked for better reactions. It's beyond my wildest dreams."
Last week, I drove to Santa Monica to sit for interviews that may or may not be used on the DVD/Blu-ray release of "The Hunger Games," and part of the interview dealt with the contributions that Gary Ross made to the film.
One of the things that people overlook when talking about Ross leaving the film is that he didn't just direct it. Billy Ray was the first screenwriter on the film, and then Suzanne Collins sat down with Ross and the two of them did the final passes together. Ross has his fingerprints all over that first film, and in addition to helping decide what sort of choices they had to make in adapting it from page to screen, he also put together the cast. As much as anyone, he's got to be credited with helping Jennifer Lawrence define her interpretation of Katniss Everdeen, which seems to be the one thing even the film's strongest detractors agree works in this first film.
Now there's the official word that Gary Ross is off of "Catching Fire," and so the first topic of conversation becomes "Who do you hire to direct it?" More than that, though, I think there's an important question here for filmmakers who might get into the franchise business with Lionsgate/Summit in the future. Based on the way they've handled business on the "Twilight" series and the decision they've made to move forward without Ross on this series, why would anyone ever expect to direct more than one film in a successful franchise for them again?
With the way Hollywood churns through material these days, we thought it was worth taking a look at the various sources they're pulling from and discussing what they might make from these books, games, TV shows, or whatever else they use. For today's column, we're looking forward to 2013, when Tim Burton may be directing Jane Goldman's adaptation of "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children."
This book by Ransom Riggs falls under the preposterously broad umbrella of "young adult fiction," but trying to shoehorn this into the same genre as "Twilight" or "The Hunger Games" seems ridiculous. This book was built around some real photos that Riggs collected over the years, a narrative that built upon these images, and which plays as a sort of melancholy fantasy about a young man who is launched into a creepy investigation upon the death of his beloved and eccentric grandfather.
When Jacob goes to the Welsh island where his grandfather once lived, trying to figure out how much of what he was told by the old man was invention and how much was true, he comes across the remains of an old house that apparently was an orphanage of sorts before a bomb destroyed it in WWII.
After the events of the last few weeks, I'm wrestling with the knowledge that "Eastbound and Down" may well be finished forever next Sunday night.
If you haven't seen the show this season, then this post probably isn't for you. There's no way to talk about what's happened and what might happen on Sunday without spoiling things, and this has been a season full of major moments. What's strange is how completely it felt like they wrapped things up in the penultimate episode this past week. It was such a triumphant note to reach for Kenny Powers that I feel like they're setting him up, and for the first time in the series, I actually am invested in seeing Kenny succeed. He's never going to be a great person, but at this moment in the series, he's as close as he's ever going to get, and I wish there was a pause button I could hit to keep him from screwing it up.
Every year, there are choices I make about what I do or don't attend, about which trips I do or don't take, and it is inevitable that every year, I have regrets that are part of that process. Unfortunately, this year, it appears that ActionFest is going to end up as a regret for me, because when it happens in Asheville, North Carolina, over the upcoming weekend, I'll be here in Los Angeles instead.
I was at the first ActionFest, but I haven't been able to make it back since, and that's a real shame. They're working to establish this festival's identity, and each year, I get the feeling that it's coming into focus a little more. Festival director Colin Geddes, the maniac behind Toronto's Midnight Madness selections every year, has been working hard to turn ActionFest into a genuine destination, packed with guests and with a line-up of films that should leave Asheville audiences bruised and bloodied in the best possible way.
I know I'm going to be sending my parents, who live in Asheville, a list of movies they should try and catch while they're playing, and I hope the festival does well this year so that I can attend it again next year. If you're anywhere near Asheville, let me recommend that you give it a try, because it seems like they've really gone over the top to try to put something special together this year.
I love "Mary Poppins."
Later this year, we're going to be tackling the film as part of Film Nerd 2.0, and I look forward to sharing it with the kids for the first time. When they're a little older, I'll introduce them to the books by P.L. Travers, which I think are wonderful in their own right, although very different.
Presumably at some point after that, I'll share the film "Saving Mr. Banks" with them and we can talk about the way the two Mary Poppins that they'll know, from the films and the books, are very different characters in important ways, and how it's a case of Hollywood making the film they wanted to make, despite the author's wishes. I would not want the P.L Travers approved "Mary Poppins" if it meant I couldn't also have the Julie Andrews version.
I say that as someone who was raised with that film as part of their vocabulary, though, and I would imagine I might have felt different if I was the author. The film "Saving Mr. Banks" is set to tell the story of how Walt Disney personally spent 14 years trying to get Travers to give him the rights so he could make the film, and according to Variety, both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are onboard as Disney and Travers.