Steven Spielberg… Daniel Day-Lewis… you gentlemen have your work cut out for you. Fair warning.
Common sense may tell you otherwise, but the rumors are true. There is indeed a movie called "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter." It is a real thing that really exists. I have seen it. And even now, almost two days later, I find it hard to believe that really happened. Timur Bekmambetov has made a fever dream that plays like the supercharged imagination of a 21st Century XBOX junkie raised on 20th Century pop culture, jacked up on Mountain Dew and ADD medications, asleep during a lecture about Abe Lincoln in history class, dreaming this crazy alternate history and getting some real biography mixed up with the most hilariously insane gore and action you'll see in any studio effort this summer. It is deranged. And I am here to testify that I laughed from beginning to end and had more fun than should be allowed in public.
It's the sort of film that I want to own because there are about five scenes I want to slow down and take apart just to figure out what Bekmambetov actually did. He is a madman. He has a remarkable sense of how to destroy time so he can capture some hyperexaggerated burst of violence. He has a great knack for geography and composition that has never been better indulged than it is here, and all the technical acumen he's been picking up on his last few films, including "Wanted," pay off here with a liquid reality that he is in complete control of, start to finish, in a way that is truly impressive.
Steven Spielberg… Daniel Day-Lewis… you gentlemen have your work cut out for you. Fair warning.
With the news today that Andrew Sarris has passed away, it seems like a fair moment to reflect on the state of film criticism in general. After all, it was Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael who I would argue made film criticism into a free-standing art form worth practicing with the work they did during the '60s and '70s. I grew up reading both of them, and while I wouldn't say either of them had a direct influence on my voice, they both taught me that it is important to have a voice and to understand why you react the way you do to a movie.
Here's the thing… I don't think real criticism should serve as a consumer reports piece, because I don't think it can. I don't believe I can tell you whether or not a movie is worth your time and money. Instead, what I can do is try to describe a film, examine how it accomplishes its goals or doesn't, and set it into a context regarding genre, subject matter, thematic content, or filmmaker's career. My job, if I do it properly, is to write a piece that stands as a separate experience from the film itself, something that should read the same a decade from now as it does this week. Anyone who presumes to be able to tell their entire readership "You will like this" or "You will hate this" does not think very much of their readership. I know that you guys have a wide range of perspectives, and no two of us have identical taste. Sarris, like Kael, was one of those critics whose work remains a pleasure to read now because he was willing to dig deep into a piece of material, and his command of language allowed him to craft compelling reads, week after week, piece after piece.
Every couple of weeks, I get an e-mail asking me if I can send someone a copy of the "Jurassic Park 4" script that was co-written by John Sayles and William Monahan, and every time, I have to write back to explain to the person that I never had a digital copy of it. Sure, Sayles accused me in print of hacking Steven Spielberg's personal computer to steal the file, but that just suggests to me that Sayles has little or no idea just how many people have their hands on a script over the course of the development process.
One of the reasons so many people remain so curious about that proposed version of the sequel is because of just how crazy it sounded. I still wish Universal had gone ahead and made it, because even if it turned out to be completely insane, it would have been the sort of insane that you can't stop watching, sort of like this summer's "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter." There are some films that you can't believe exist, even after you see them, and I think it's safe to assume that "Jurassic Park 4" had the potential to be one of those films.
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 look at Don Winslow's "Savages," a crime novel that is the inspiration for Oliver Stone's new film.
Chon and Ben are friends. They grow marijuana. No, scratch that. They grow the very best marijuana. They have a successful distribution network that has made them both very comfortable. Ben travels the world doing philanthropic work that makes him feel good about how he earns his money. Chon stays at home and tends to the nastier details of their trade. It's a pretty great arrangement.
And then there's O. She's the girl who loves them both. They share her in every way. Sometimes in explicit detail.
When the Baja Cartel decides to expand its reach into Southern California, they put pressure on Chon and Ben to join them and allow them to take over operations. All they want is for the guys to keep growing. Ben and Chon try to quit the business, at which point the Baja Cartel kidnaps O.
Paul Verhoeven is determined to make a film about Jesus Christ.
In related news, Paul Verhoeven is determined to get himself shot by someone who can't handle any discussion of Jesus as anything less than the literal Son Of God.
While I love "Robocop" dearly, I am convinced that Paul Verhoeven ruined his career by making that film. Before that, he was an interesting, provocative European director whose sensibilities were resolutely art-house. Anyone who has ever spoken to Verhoeven can testify to his keen intellect and his almost innate desire to push buttons. I think that's the way he attacks any subject. He loves to ask questions because he is fascinated by human behavior, particularly at the polar extremes of good and bad.
His Hollywood career has seemed like one long misuse of his talents, and it's been painful watching him try to turn garbage like "Basic Instinct" or "The Hollow Man" into something worth his time and his skill. At least with "Black Book," it seemed like he was working on material with some weight to it again. It was a huge step in the right direction.
There's a new trailer for "The Watch" online today, and it appears to have originated from India.
So far, the domestic campaign for the film has mainly emphasized a certain attitude, setting up Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade as suburban guys who seem to be taking an unreasonable degree of pleasure from working as part of a neighborhood watch. In the second trailer, Fox finally revealed the science-fiction elements on the film's premise, but it's still more about attitude than what actually happens.
The international trailer is much more focused in selling the film and the characters. Ben Stiller is Evan, the guy who is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too involved in community activities, and he's the one who organizes the Neighborhood Watch in the first place. The other three are all volunteers, and they don't start the film as close friends.
Vince Vaughn appears to have found a perfect vehicle for his particular brand of motor-mouthed eccentricity as Bob. Jonah Hill's Franklin is a guy who wanted to join the police department but failed the qualifications in pretty much every way possible. Ayoade's Jamarcus seems to be hoping that Neighborhood Watch work will lead directly to a letter from Penthouse Forum. Just knowing that much about the three of them already gives me a better idea of what to expect from the four of them bouncing off of each other.
There is never going to be an easy date for Warner Bros. to release "Cloud Atlas."
Some movies are simply challenges, no matter what. That doesn't make them bad films, and it doesn't make them good films. It just means they are hard to sell to an audience. When you have to cut a 30-second commercial that conveys the main idea or appeal of a film, that is a very difficult thing on certain movies.
Warner Bros. digs "Cloud Atlas." I feel fairly safe in saying so. They know what movie they've got, and they know what sort of challenge is ahead, and so declaring a release date is step one in setting the table for the eventual release of the film.
It helps when you have Tom Hanks and Halle Berry starring in your movie, especially when you can advertise that each of them ends up playing a variety of different roles in the film. And when the supporting cast includes Jim Broadbent, also playing multiple parts, Hugo Weaving reteaming with his "Matrix" directors, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and younger familiar faces like Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and James D'Arcy, you've got enough leeway that you can let a relatively unknown actress, internationally speaking, like Doona Bae star in the film in one of the main key roles.
Okay, now I fully believe that Paul Thomas Anderson is a sadist.
How else do you explain his decision to start dropping these tantalizing clues about his new film "The Master" when we've still got months and months until we actually see the thing?
"Why all the skulking and sneaking?"
When I was at Cannes, the first teaser was released, and that night, I went to the presentation that the Weinstein Company held, where they showed us a much longer trailer. I transcribed that entire footage reel in the article I published that night, and this new trailer features some of that material as well as footage that wasn't part of it at all. This new stuff makes a really strong case for this as something special, and I find myself excited because of how much it looks like it fits with Anderson's other films, about unconventional groups that form around charismatic centers, about these charming monsters. And if that's what Hoffman's playing, that sounds like it's going to fit him like a glove.
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #6: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Peter Hunt
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum
Produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / George Lazenby
Countess Tracy di Vicenzo / Diana Rigg
Ernst Stavro Blofeld / Telly Savalas
Marc-Ange Draco / Gabriele Ferzetti
Irma Bunt / Ilse Steppat
Sir Hilary Bray / George Baker
Grunther / Yuri Borienko
Shaun Campbell / Bernard Horsfall
M / Bernard Lee
Q / Desmond Llewellyn
Miss Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
Ruby / Angela Scoular
Full Orchestra Sting. The familiar "DAH-DAH, dah! DAH-DAH, dah! DAH DAH DAH DAH!"
HARRY SALTZMAN and ALBERT R. BROCCOLI Present
Then the rest of the theme kicks in, swinging and a little bit tweaked, like it's being played on a Moog harpsichord. Lazenby walks in and the gun barrel follows, taking his time, and when he turns suddenly to fire, he drops to one knee. It's him making that moment his with a new move.
Here's how you know "Twilight" is a giant pop culture phenomenon: even the denial of a story about the series becomes a headline across the entire Internet.
Bloody-Disgusting ran a story over the weekend saying that Lionsgate has begun having internal conversations about the idea of rebooting "Twilight." Considering they haven't even released "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II" yet, it seems premature to start having these conversations, but that would suggest that there is some sense of logic or rational behavior that drives the decision-making process in Hollywood. Lionsgate has denied the report, of course, but it makes sense.
Here's the cold hard truth. "Twilight" is giant business, and one of the reasons Summit was such an attractive purchase for Lionsgate this past January is because they own the "Twilight" franchise. While Open Road Films certainly hopes to have a success on the same scale with their upcoming adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel "The Host," my guess is that lightning will not be striking twice. With nothing else to sell, Meyer has pretty much reached the end of her commercial lifespan unless she finds a new way to exploit Edward, Bella, Jacob and the rest.