We're going to see Luke Skywalker again… right?
I'm not sure how old you were in 1999, but for those of us who were first generation "Star Wars" kids, there has never been anything like it in terms of hype. The crazy part is that a good 50% of the hype had nothing to do with the studio and everything to do with our own expectations and a powerful sense of nostalgia. By the time "The Phantom Menace" opened, I'm convinced that even the single greatest movie ever made would have been a disappointment simply because of the weight of expectation.
One thing that made it hard to accept the prequels as real "Star Wars" films was the lack of familiar faces. Sure, the characters were related to other characters or they were younger versions, but for the most part, you're talking about a brand-new cast, and one of the basic mandates of a sequel is giving the audience more of the thing they've already enjoyed. As a result, there is a chance that all of that crushing, vocal "Phantom Menace" frenzy is just going to look like a warm-up to the deafening buzz as we build to the release of a true sequel to the original trilogy, complete with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and, yes, Han Solo.
We're going to see Luke Skywalker again… right?
The first time I remember seeing John C. Reilly was in Brian De Palma's film "Casualties Of War," and right away, he seemed fully defined. That's a movie full of big performances, with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox going head to head, and even so, Reilly stood out as Hatch, a giant man-child who seemed to follow whoever was the biggest alpha male regardless of the direction of his own moral compass. It was a great introduction to the particular skill set of this actor, and in the years since, he has re-confirmed his gifts over and over again.
One of my favorite moments in his career was when he suddenly revealed, after breaking hearts for so many years, that he is also hilarious. I should have known that innately, though. You look at his work in "Boogie Nights," which is as crushingly sad a film as I can name, and it's tempered with some great comedy, especially between him and Mark Walhberg.
I'm not sure he can bluff at poker, but when it comes to diplomatically not answering a direct question, Bruce Greenwood can hang with the best of them.
I've interviewed him before, I've watched him work on sets, and I've had the opportunity a few times to just chat with him informally. He strikes me as really down-to-earth, a decent guy who projects a certain kind of charisma. There's a reason he got tapped to play JFK in "Seven Days," and there's a reason JJ Abrams cast him as Commander Pike, who had such a great couple of scenes with Chris Pine as Kirk in "Star Trek."
I wanted to find a more graceful segue into "Star Trek Into Darkness," next year's sequel, than you'll see in this interview. It's because everything at the "Flight" press day was running off-schedule, and midway through this interview, the count went from "three minutes left" to "wrap it up" in what felt like about 45 seconds. When we wrapped, I wasn't satisfied with the answer I got from him on-camera, so I tried another tactic.
"So, listen… I talked to JJ Abrams, and he told me to tell you that it's okay to tell me everything."
He smiled. "I doubt that."
I think it's time we face the inevitable.
They will be making "Expendables" movies for the next 20 years. At least. It's one of those things where now that it exists, I can't imagine it took this long for it to exist. It's a pretty much effortless franchise. There's no formal reason why any actor who is part of the series now has to stay part of the series forever. I have a feeling Chuck Norris was in for just the second one, and we'll never see him again.
Today's big news gives the third "Expendables" movie a huge boost, since Nicolas Cage is joining the movie. Or at least, Sylvester Stallone says he's joining it. Stallone has certainly reached out to the fans before, most notably through the various Ain't It Cool articles he participated in, and he likes that interaction. He likes reaching out to the fanbase and hearing directly from them about what they like and what they don't.
"Forty can suck my d**k!"
With that emphatic birthday-morning proclamation, Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" kicks off a rude, rowdy, occasionally brutal look at aging, marriage, family, and love, and while it may be the most personal thing he's ever made, it is also the most universal. It would be hard to not recognize yourself in some part of this film, and while your specifics may not exactly match what you see onscreen, this is as honest and observational as mainstream comedy gets these days.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) were first featured as supporting players in Apatow's "Knocked Up," and they stole pretty much every moment they were in. Part of what made them fascinating was how much further Apatow let their arguments go than what we're used to seeing in films where we're worried about "liking" the leads. They didn't have to carry the film, and so Apatow seemed free to push things with them as much as possible. Now that they are the leads, I was worried he would defang them, but if anything, moving them to the center of the film gives him more room to paint a painfully accurate picture of just how hard it can be to hold things together.
Guillermo Del Toro is occasionally accused by fans of committing to way too many projects, more than he can ever possibly make. It helps if you understand that he knows full well that not all of those projects will ever happen. One of the things you have to do if you're a working director is develop a ton of projects at all times, because for every seven or eight films you develop, maybe one of them will actually make it in front of the camera. No one knows the pains of the development process as well as Del Toro, and he has become very canny about how he spearheads a dozen different things at a time so that he never finds himself without an active possible film when he finishes something else.
We talked earlier this week about why he took the job as a creative consultant at Dreamworks Animation, and how he's taken a very hands-on approach to his work there while also approaching the entire situation as a student, someone who wants to learn. I have a feeling we'll see an era of Guillermo animated films at some point, but for now, he's still happy to be a sounding board, a sort of idea factory for other artists to bounce off of. He giving most of his attention right now to "Pacific Rim," his giant-scale live-action monster movie coming out next summer, and early word from inside Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures has been incredibly effusive and passionate. It sounds like he's done something special, and there's one particular sequence in the film that Guillermo already describes as "the best scene I've ever done."
I sincerely regret not going back to the House Of Blues last week after my interviews with the cast and the crew of "The Man With The Iron Fists" to see the RZA perform. It was an invite offered to all of the press who worked that day, and it would have been great to see him play some of the tracks from the preposterously fun soundtrack album, but I couldn't make it work.
Even so, I got to sit down with him and with Eli Roth and talk to the two of them about what went into the making of this big, gorgeous, super-sincere tribute to the films that have informed the RZA's aesthetic for as long as he's been a working artist. They were in a great rowdy mood, the result of finally completing what has been a major part of the RZA's life for several years now and an ambition for years before that.
I would not say I know the RZA, but I've sure seen a lot of kung-fu movies with him over the years. He was a regular at the Tarantino festivals in Austin, and perhaps the most insane, over-the-top, how-the-hell-does-this-exist kung-fu film I've ever seen with an audience was one of those screenings where he was right there with the rest of us, freaking out at every single great moment in "A Fistful Of Talons," including what may well be the craziest ending I've ever seen in a film.
That's not an exaggeration, either. The ending of that movie is one of the few things I've ever seen in a theater that made me leap to my feet, as if I were physically involved in what I was watching. It is sheer madness, and the audacity and the unashamed uber-violence… that all played into what an amazing shared moment it was. That seemed to be one of Quentin's goals as a festival programmer, that group experience, and perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to "The Man With The Iron Fists," which is a passion project directed by the RZA and co-written by him with Eli Roth, is that it feels like the sort of film that would play at a Tarantino fest, something he found on a shelf that no one else had ever seen, and it manages to pull off its ambitious goals without winking at the audience or becoming a mere post-modern exercise.
I just published my interview with Sarah Silverman and talked about how strange a fit that seems to be at first, the gleefully filthy stand-up and the biggest family brand in the world, but it really works. She gives a lovely performance in the film. And it's a nice reminder that it's not wise to prejudge what someone can or can't do as an actor.
When Jamie Foxx was cast in "Django Unchained," I had a hard time picturing it. I think he's a very modern presence and some people simply don't strike me as period actors, as people we'd believe in certain other contexts. The early footage and trailers for "Django Unchained" make me think I was wrong in my knee-jerk reaction, and I am now fervently hoping he pulls it off and does something wonderful. He's certainly got the right script and the right cast surrounding him.
And while I didn't love "The Amazing Spider-Man," I think the team that's in place could easily improve from the first film to the second one. Raimi had a learning curve on his "Spider-Man" movies, so Webb could easily do the same thing. The success of a superhero movie, at least creatively, depends in large part on who they pick as the villain. And while Jamie Foxx isn't the guy I would think of first as Electro, it sounds like that is the role he's in negotiations to play.
It is still very strange to me that Sarah Silverman is now officially a Disney character.
Sure, she's playing a character named Vanellope von Schweetz, but those pipes could only belong to one person, and it's kind of remarkable that this sort of big pop cartoon would provide the actress with the opportunity to do some of the most nuanced work she's done on film so far.
There's something wonderful about the way kids get to know performers like Silverman or Patton Oswalt or Jack McBrayer or John C. Reilly or Sarah Vowell from these smart, engaging animated stories where they play outrageous characters who are grounded and humanized by that voice work. Silverman perfectly expresses the bruised heart of the "glitch" who Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) meets when he sneaks into the game "Sugar Rush."