As they shut down 'At The Mountains Of Madness,' what does it say about our business?
I just got off the phone with Harry Knowles a little while ago, and the good part of our conversation was hearing how spirited he seems on the eve of his release from the hospital after an extended stay as part of his recovery from major, potentially life-changing back surgery.
We had a major disagreement as we were talking, though, over something he just published in which he called out Universal as being "chickenshit" because they aren't going to make "At The Mountains Of Madness." That disagreement spilled over onto Twitter, and I think the easiest thing to do is explain myself clearly here because the situation Universal is in serves as a microcosm of where the entire industry is right now, and I can understand why it freaks Harry out and upsets him. It should. Things have probably never been worse, and to some extent, it's our fault.
Believe me... I ache to see that film. When you describe that movie to me, it sounds like something that someone put together especially to appeal to me. A $150 million horror film adapted from the work of H.P. Lovecraft without any compromise, produced by James Cameron, starring Ron Perlman and Tom Cruise, directed by Guillermo Del Toro? And I've read drafts of the script over time by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo, and they're awesome. If you don't know the book or if you're not familiar with Lovecraft, it's a sprawling tale of an expedition to the Arctic in search of signs of a lost civilization that predates man, and what happens when the people searching find something alive, something not remotely dead, something that is ready to reclaim the Earth as its own.
Plus where is Marvel headed after 'The Avengers' wraps up?
Shane Black. "Iron Man 3." Since the first moment those two names were connected, the question has been, "Will he write the film?"
And now, according to Ain't It Cool, we have an answer.
Shane Black appeared this weekend at the Omaha Film Festival, along with some other guests like Tom Elkins, Mauro Fiore, and Ted Griffin, and one of the people who was in the audience wrote in to AICN to talk about what Black revealed regarding "Iron Man 3."
Here's the paraphrased version of what they ran:
Shane Black is about to meet with Robert Downey Jr. this week in Los Angeles. They'll be discussing the story and Black will, indeed, be writing the film.
Marvel Studios wants to make sure this third film isn't just a retread of the first two. They want to make sure this next film doesn't just end up as another film about "two men in iron suits fighting each other," and I agree. I think that's a great impulse. Tony Stark's had a long history in print, and for the first two films to be so similar in shape is probably a mistake. If they're serious about taking the film in a Tom Clancy-like direction, with Iron Man fighting real-world villains, it's a cool direction to take the series. It sounds like after "The Avengers," Marvel's focusing on making movies that stand alone again, which is also a very strong impulse.
How many fairy tale movies and TV shows is the public really asking for?
Evidently, fairy tales are what you want right now, even if you don't know it yet.
Hollywood has decided, and you have no choice in the matter. You are going to be into fairy tales in the next few years, and you'd better love it, because there's more coming. However much you think there is, there's actually more.
I'm curious to see if there is really an appetite for this stuff, or if Hollywood's going to get halfway into this avalanche of titles and realize they dove off a cliff with no parachute. I get one part of the motivation here… you're dealing with stories that are public domain, so you get name recognition without having to pay anyone for the underlying rights. But this material is fairly unproven as a big-screen lure, and it seems risky to me to just go all in the way the studios are at the moment.
This past weekend, "Beastly" finally opened, a "Twilight"-inspired riff on the "Beauty and the Beast" story with Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer, and this coming weekend, "Red Riding Hood" starring Amanda Seyfried will open, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who, of course, directed the first "Twilight" movie.
The battle of the "Snow White" movies is, frankly, ridiculous. Relativity is making a Tarsem Singh version called "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White," with Julia Roberts playing the evil Queen, while Charlize Theron will play the role for "Snow White and the Huntsmen," with Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Viggo Mortensen as, presumably, the Huntsman, with Rupert Sanders directing for Universal. Disney's had a long in-development version called "Snow and the Seven" about Shaolin kung-fu monks, but that does not appear to be any closer to actually shooting at this point, even with Michael Arndt onboard as a screenwriter. Francis Lawrence and Natalie Portman have been attached at various points, but I'm not sure I see this one getting made after two other versions of the same basic material.
Rumors are, for now, just rumors, and the film continues development
I've seen a number of sites run the story today that started at i09 that says "At The Mountains Of Madness" has an official start date of June, and that Tom Cruise is finally confirmed for the film.
The i09 story quotes Don Murphy, although in a sort of indirect way, only quoting part of a sentence from him. So imagine my surprise when I e-mailed both Murphy and Del Toro this morning to congratulate them, only to hear back that they do not, in fact, have a start date.
Murphy's official statement to HitFix is as follows: "We are all trying to get Mountains up and running with Tom and Jim and everybody but no start date has been set AT ALL."
They've both responded to me at this point, and it's clear that this is not a news story yet. They are still working very hard on the film, and I'm itching to see what they've been up to in the development phase of things. Guillermo's been cooking this one for a long time now, and having James Cameron involved, a guy who is as dedicated to the art of world-building as any filmmaker I can think of, seems really exciting, especially in a post-"Avatar" world where he's once again proven just how reliable his commercial instincts are.
I wish this were happening in June. And who knows? That's still several months away, and maybe things come together soon and dates start to fall into place. But for now, both producer and director have emphatically and clearly explained that they do not have that start date. This is a development project, and one that I certainly pray gets the go-ahead.
The actor talks about his new action film in our recent interview
Aaron Eckhart is a good egg.
And he just happens to be having a great run of luck right now. His work in last year's amazing "Rabbit Hole" just destroyed me. As a father, imagining myself in his character's shoes in that movie was almost too much to take. And the way he navigated the performance without ever going for the easy beats, the cheap sympathy, was genuinely impressive.
I still remember the experience of seeing "In The Company Of Men" in the theater when it first came out and watching the way people reacted to him. It was a star-making performance, but as a world-class asshole, and I think there are people who simply assumed he had to be that guy.
Over time, what I've been impressed by is the solid matter-of-fact adulthood that Eckhart represents in an age where so many of our actors are boyish well into their 40s. Eckhart has never seemed like a boy. Not once. He's a throwback to an age where movie stars had some miles on them, where they were real men, and he brings that same quality to his work in the new film "Battle: Los Angeles," where he is the staff sergeant to a group of marines who find themselves navigating the mean streets of Santa Monica during a military emergency involving aliens from space.
The column returns after a long hiatus, and we explain why
Why do we share movies with our children?
It's a question worth asking as I finally return to this column. It's the question that originally motivated me to turn this into a regular feature on the site, but we've never actually discussed that idea head-on.
So why? What is it that I hope to accomplish by sharing movies with my little boys? I think for some people, maybe even many people, TV and movies are just placeholders, something to have on, and there's very little thought that goes into it. People seem to trust brand names and take the path of least resistance when it comes to picking what they show their kids. Anything Disney gets an automatic pass, and there are channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network that people seem happy to turn on and just trust without watching along with their kids.
And I've met people who are genuinely good-hearted about trying to mold their kids into carbon copies of themselves, tiny mirrors of their own taste. There's no malice in it, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not for me. I feel strongly that my job is to educate my kids about what images mean, to set a context for them so they can deal with what they watch, and to lay out a buffet of choices, then help them follow their own interests.
Plus more thoughts on whether it's right for kids or not
We went back for seconds.
It is unusual for me to see a movie twice before it opens, but in this case, I took Toshi, my five-year-old, with me to see the film before I went to the press junket, and we had a great evening out with it. With my younger son, Allen, he's never seen a film in the theater, and he turns three years old today, March 4. Ever since that first "Rango" trailer showed up online and he demanded to see it about 300 times in a weekend, I realized that we would have to make this his first film in the theater. Then I started hearing word that the film was "too weird" for littler kids, and I decided I needed to check it out first, with Toshi along as a sort of barometer.
It's funny, because Toshi is interested in monsters, so of course his little brother is interested in monsters, too. If Toshi watches a Godzilla film, then Allen has to see the Godzilla film. If Toshi gets to see the Lon Chaney "Wolf Man," then Allen gets to see it. And watching the two of them during these films, Toshi is the one who has to hide his eyes and who gets visibly nervous and who asked me to turn off "Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" 45 minutes in because it was too scary. Allen never averts his eyes. He never flinches. He leans in closer during the scary parts, and several times, I've seen him smack Toshi and yell "LOOK!" because Toshi was missing something cool.
We play a Dick-centric round of Movie God and talk Tarantino and Malick
It's not that it is difficult for me to put the podcast together after Scott and I record it, because it's not. All told, I'd guess it takes about 30 minutes to edit one of these after I record it. Start to finish.
The problem is setting aside the time to do it as other stories are breaking or deadlines hit or family demands arise. There are screenings to attend, things to write, and the podcast sometimes sits on my desktop, taunting me.
That's what happened this week. And I'm sorry. It's a good one. In particular, I really like the interview with Emily Blunt this week. She is effortlessly charming in conversation, and she really likes "The Adjustment Bureau," the new film she's in. You can tell. It's a very shaggy, amiable back and forth about fate and love and Dick and Damon, a potent cocktail to say the least.
In honor of the release of "The Adjustment Bureau," based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, my guest host Scott Swan and I played a particularly Dick-centric round of Movie God, and my guess is that some of you are going to be angry about the films we choose to keep or kill in the game this time around, and hopefully you'll be entertained by the way we tied each round of the game in to the week's theme.
We talk about training to fight and learning to dance
VANCOUVER - One of the things that became evident as we walked around the sets and production offices for Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" was the many different skill sets that each actress would have to draw on as they played each facet of their character.
There are three different levels of reality at work in the film, and the characters are slightly different in each level, refracted back through the imagination of Baby Doll (Emily Browning). As a result, finding something that united each version of the characters became very important to the girls in the movie.
For Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone), the thing that they focused on was their bond as sisters. In the film, Rocket was the one who ran away from home first, and Sweet Pea followed, determined to take care of her sister no matter what. And in each of the fantasy segments of the film, that same drive is present, and crucial.
When we sat down with the two of them, it was the day of Jena shooting her big musical number. And when I say that, I'm sure many of you reply, "Wait… musical number? They have MUSICAL NUMBERS?" One of the major sets I mentioned in my first set visit report was "The Theater," which is a gymnasium of sorts in the first level of reality and a giant plush theater in the second level. In that level, each of the girls working at the brothel has a personalized burlesque number that defines them, and they had to train just as hard for those sequences as they did for the action scenes. We'll get into that near the end of the conversation.
What role could both Jennifer Lawrence and Hailee Steinfeld play?
I feel bad about rushing this one, since it's the first time I've written about "Hunger Games" here on the site, but I promise this is a conversation that is just beginning.
When any series blows up and becomes a big buzz hit and gets purchased by Hollywood and suddenly seems to be everywhere, I do my best to read the source material so I can speak with some sort of knowledge about it. It's the least you can do when you're covering pop culture the way I do. And frequently, I find myself underwhelmed by whatever it is, as I did with "Twilight," for example, or irritated by the material or by some subtext or by the fanbase itself.
With "Hunger Games," you can count me in.
I think the books are very well-written, very smart, and the characters are worth investing in. When you look at the range of ages the producers are considering as they start casting, it makes sense, because Suzanne Collins hasn't really made things easy on the people making the films. Her lead character, Katniss Everdeen, is a sixteen year old with the maturity of someone in her mid-twenties but who physically could be mistaken for younger. And she's got to be physically striking, a romantic lead but not an obvious one, and capable of carrying an action film.
Yeah, good luck with that.