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.
The biggest test for 3D post-conversion is about to happen
The first call I had to make when I read the news that "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace" now has a release date of February 10, 2012, was my co-writer Scott Swan, who is the purest "Star Wars" fan I know.
Sure enough, he was excited to hear that this is the official kick-off date for what we already knew was coming, a film-by-film re-release of the entire "Star Wars" saga for 3D screens. The thing is, if they were releasing the films in their original theatrical order, I would wait and show Toshi the movies in the theater for the first time. But since they're starting with "The Phantom Menace," I'm going to break down and show him the films on Blu-ray this fall instead, in the order I prefer.
It's funny… with "Star Wars," no matter what you write or what you say, there will immediately be someone who wants to argue the point with you. That's where we've ended up with the series. They are little more than fodder for nerd arguments at this point. I'm amazed at people who walk around ready to immediately spew venom at every mention of the prequels, as if it's a fresh wound that has never healed, and who still insist that the films in some way robbed them of something. The anger, the rage… it's almost terrifying to even mention the series in certain company because of just how violent the reaction can be.
A nostalgic look at the post college 'quarter-life' crisis
The 'quarter life crisis,' or the period of crippling doubt about ones life choices that many of us have in our mid 20's is a phenomenon rarely focused on in cinema. Sure, Hollywood loves teen angst of both the John Hughes and Wes Craven variety, and the baby boomers make sure we live their never ending mid-life crisis through Woody Allen and… well anything with Kevin Costner in it. So it's a treat to see the subject of post-college anxiety broached in the period comedy set in the 80s that is "Take Me Home Tonight."
I got to sit down with producer/star Topher Grace and costar/bombshell Teresa Palmer a few weeks back. I was running late that day and didn't have a chance to put on a cheesy 80's costume the press people were providing and Topher may have been a little perturbed at me for not playing along. Or perhaps I simply felt his nervousness about the film, as he's been shepherding this movie since long before it wrapped filming in 2007. (It was apparently kept on the shelf because of the copious cocaine use that simply could not be cut out without decimating the film.)
The film is a very solid comedy, reminiscent of Linklaters' "Dazed and Confused" which Grace references as an inspiration for this project which the two stars seemed very eager to talk about. Poor Teresa Palmer was born in 1986 and so didn't 'get' to live the time period, and I do not feel bad for her at all. As a gen X'er, I do remember the 80s and I certainly don't miss them, but a nostalgic look back like "Take Me Home Tonight" won't hurt anyone.
Watch the interview embedded above and you can check out "Take Me Home Tonight" when it hits theaters this Friday, March 4th in theaters everywhere.
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Wiig's co-writer describes the film's autobiographical origins and praises Apatow's involvement
THOUSAND OAKS - If you look at one scene in the trailer for the new comedy "Bridesmaids," you'll see Annie Mumolo for a quick moment. Mumolo is the co-writer of the film, and she's the longtime creative collaborator of Kristen Wiig. Since Wiig is playing a character named Annie in the film, it would seem logical to ask the two of them, when we sat down on the set of the film, how much of it was based in autobiography.
Mumolo replied, "We originally got the idea after I was in a series of, like, 20 weddings." Wiig laughed, and from the quick look Mumolo gave her, I'm guessing there were a lot of dark laughs shared during that time period, and that the script has been a comic exorcism of sorts for Mumolo.
We found ourselves seated across a ballroom table from Wiig and Mumolo in a room at the Sherwood Country Club at the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley, on a hot July night, with tons of extras waiting outside for a night shoot. It was a small group of journalists, and we spoke with pretty much everyone between set-ups on a scene in which Annie (Wiig) speaks with her friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) in the front driveway of the country club.
Mumolo confessed that being in that many weddings in a short period of time had a cumulative impact on her, and not a good one. She said it was important that she write a film about the real dynamics between women, and about the impact of things like getting an invite for a wonderful sounding wedding she couldn't afford to go to, and how demoralizing that was.
Plus more clips and a new trailer for the film that's getting some strong buzz
I missed a screening last week of "The Lincoln Lawyer," and based on the surprised word of mouth I've heard from the people who went to see it, I should be sorry about that.
Michael Connelly is a great crime writer, and it's a good sign that he's been actively involved in the promotion of the film so far. He and Matthew McConaughey both hosted the screening last week, and I would have liked to have spoken with him about how this one came together. He's one of those guys who should be a bigger commodity for movies than he is, and if this one works, maybe it'll kick loose the logjam finally.
Devin Faraci seemed shocked to like the film as much as he did. That's interesting, because Devin tends to reject formula in an almost reflexive way, so I'm guessing this works based on casting. In addition to McConaughey, the cast includes Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, John Leguizamo, William Macy, Bryan Cranston, Shea Whigham, Michael Pena, and Margarita Levieva. That's a promising line-up, and in Connelly's fiction, he writes great supporting characters, so hopefully everybody's got something great to do in the film.
We've got a number of new clips for the film loaded into our media player right now, which you can see here, and we've also got two new stills that are exclusive to the site. First up is McConaughey as Mick Haller, sitting opposite Ted Minton, played by Josh Lucas:
Teaming up the 'Toy Story' boys in live-action could be a bonanza for the studio
Well, this immediately turns this into a big deal for Disney, and may finally get the film out of development and onto screens.
Since the release of "Pirates Of The Caribbean," you'd better believe that Disney has been developing more films based on their theme park attractions, and that they've been trying to figure out the next one. With the news that Tom Hanks and Tim Allen may team up for a live-action "Jungle Cruise," Disney can finally pull the trigger on this one.
There are still stumbling blocks ahead for the picture, not the least of which is finding a director, but I have a feeling that a cast like that means you'll have a director signed on immediately. The script is currently in progress with Roger S.H. Schulman writing with David Hoberman and Todd LIeberman producing.
What a dream for Disney, eh? They get all the promotional power of teaming Buzz and Woody again, but with the hook that it's in live-action, and they get to exploit another of their own pre-existing properties again in the process. The question, of course, is whether or not they can capture the sort of magic with this that they lucked into on the first "Pirates," and the key is creating an iconic character to drop into the familiar setting of the ride. Or, in this case, two characters.
One of Brazil's most successful filmmakers may take the Hollywood plunge
This is a fairly unexpected bit of news, but I have to say… I like it.
Jose Padilha is a very smart filmmaker, and in Brazil, he's been responsible for two gigantic monster commercial hits, "Elite Squad" and "Elite Squad 2," and the sequel is actually the biggest movie of all time in that country. I can see why, too. The first film was pretty much a straight action movie about Captain Nascimento, who is assigned to try and clean up or at least contain the favelas of Rio before the Pope visits the country. He's given carte blanche to do it any way he can, and in the first film, he is an unrelenting badass.
In the second film, though, Padilha turned everything inside out, and Nascimento, played by Wagner Moura, goes after the crooked politicians and corrupt policemen who keep Rio so divided, and watching him work his way up the ladder of corruption was a cathartic release for Brazilian audiences. They'd never seen anything like it, and to actually watch a policeman stomp a politician into the dirt was unheard of.
In a way, Padilha's in the exact right place to pick up the challenge thrown down by Paul Verhoeven on the original "Robocop." In addition to his "Elite Squad" films, he's also a strong documentarian, and his films all have a political point of view. The fact that he can also handle unhinged action sequences and strong character material makes him a pretty solid package all the way around, and his sensibilities seem to me to be a nice match for where Verhoeven was as a filmmaker when he was given his opportunity to make "Robocop."
Reeves and a mostly Japanese cast tackle a Japanese Legend
Have you, like many folks, been wandering around in a daze, lost and confused because there hasn't been a big budget Keanu Reeves vehicle in theaters since the remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still?" Well fear not, Universal Pictures has announced that shooting will commence on "47 Ronin" a Japanese Action thriller based on the folk tale "The 47 Samurai." For this first time in our lives we will get to experience Keanu in 3D. Consider your Keanu related prayers answered.
The film is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch, the man behind the beautiful and surreal short film "The Gift," and stars Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai,) Kiu Shibasaki (One Missed Call,) Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer,) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel.) The Script is written by Chris Morgan(Wanted) and Hossein Amini (Drive.) The director or Photography will be the John Mathieson who shot "Gladiator." Considering the talent and talk of "stunning landscapes" and "enormous battles" in the press release, I believe they are going for "epic" here.
In the first in a series, we try to get our heads around what Zack Snyder's making
VANCOUVER - Walking through the various sets and art departments and rehearsal spaces in use for the movie "Sucker Punch," Deb Snyder giving us the majority of the tour with well-orchestrated appearances from the various department heads and director Zack Snyder himself, one thing quickly became apparent to me: no matter how hard they all tried to explain the film to me, this was not going to be a movie that would ever be easily summed up.
I've known Zack Snyder since the post-production period on "300," when I visited his offices in Burbank to watch some early footage that he'd finished, and he has always struck me as a guy who finds it frankly amazing that he gets to do what he does for a studio with some real muscle behind him helping him realize his imagination. As we looked at some of the first finished scene from that film, I laughed several times, incredulous at what I was seeing, and the more I reacted, the more animated Zack got talking about how and why he used the various tricks in his bag.
For "Watchmen," I visited the Vancouver sets that were built for the film, and it remains one of the most impressive physical builds I've ever seen. I got the feeling that was an important part of the publicity for that film after all the press about the greenscreens on "300," the way they built that world in a computer. And walking around those sets with Snyder, as he basically described the way they took the inside of Dave Gibbons' head and turned it into a physical location that was several square city blocks wide, what I felt was his strongest attribute came into focus: his total immersion in whatever it is he's making.
Is it a Western? Is it 'Chinatown'? Is it for kids? Does it matter?
"Rango" is one of those films that I love simply because it exists.
The fact that Gore Verbinski took all the box-office clout he earned directing the mega-blockbuster "Pirates Of The Caribbean" trilogy and used it to make a spaghetti western about a domesticated chameleon who ends up alone in the desert, animated completely by a company that has never made a full-length animated film… that is so totally preposterous that I feel like it's this great magical little accident, worth extra scrutiny right away.
The good news is that, for the most part, "Rango" is a wild and witty race through a variety of genre conventions, twisted through the filter of a bunch of strange-looking anthropomorphic animals running a riff on "Chinatown." Yes, that's right. It's "Chinatown." For kids. With animals. In the old west.
There's a sophisticated silliness to what Verbinski and ILM have accomplished here, and the mix of slapstick with nimble verbal wit with designs by Crash McCreery, unchained after years of bringing some of the best-known fantastic creatures in pop cinema to life, is almost intoxicating. "Rango" feels unhinged at its best moments, like anything might happen, and it's liberating to see such talented people running so absolutely off the rails.
I mean that as a good thing, by the way.