I would be the first to admit that this job comes with some pretty great built-in perks.
For the most part, those perks mean nothing to me. When it comes to meeting people, there's a momentary pleasure if their work is important to me, but I've met so many people at this point that I can't really claim that it's a thrill. But for my sons, there is still something magical about getting to meet the people they watch on a movie screen, especially if it's a movie that means something special to them.
I've written at length in my Film Nerd 2.0 series about the movies that have become signposts in the relationship I'm building with my sons and in the relationship that they're building with the outside world. These movies we screen are more than just a way to pass a few hours at a time. These movies are their cultural education, and the movies they really love end up getting spun over and over.
I'm not the only one who can pass along a movie to the boys, of course. Their mother has her own list of significant films that she wants to share with them. In one case, there's a film that she has probably seen a hundred times that she has very successfully passed along, and I think it is safe to say that Toshi is a full-blown fan of the movie "Grease." When he had just learned to walk and he was still months away from anything resembling real conversational speech, his mom would turn on "Grease," and Toshi would spend the entire movie up in front of the TV, dancing along to every musical number.
I would be the first to admit that this job comes with some pretty great built-in perks.
I am never playing poker with Danny McBride.
I was just in New Orleans for a quick visit to the set of "End Of The World," a truly deranged comedy written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and while I was there, I saw Danny, and we talked for a moment about the final season of "Eastbound and Down." At that point, nothing he said or did indicated that he was considering returning for another season, and I walked away secure in the knowledge that I had said goodbye to Kenny Powers.
But that just plain isn't true, is it?
This morning, because of yesterday's announcement that there will be another season of the show, I got on the phone to talk to Danny again and to ask him what motivated the decision. Also, I just plain wanted to yell at him for playing coy less than 15 days ago, which made him laugh and laugh.
"Yeah, it looks like the fans are going to get a bonus round with Kenny Powers," he said, entertained at my obvious exasperation.
I told him that when I was being sent episodes of season three by HBO and I put up reviews of what I kept calling "the final season," HBO repeatedly asked me to de-emphasize that idea, that they were keeping all options open, and that they wanted more from the guys.
One of things I was sorry to have missed at CinemaCon this spring was the Paramount presentation for "Jack Reacher," if only because I wanted to see for myself what's being done with one of my favorite ongoing characters in current fiction.
After all, I've written several times already about my hesitations involving Tom Cruise playing the role of Jack Reacher. First and foremost, he's just plain physically wrong for the character as he exists in the books. Reacher is an ape, a huge guy, well over six feet tall, and in almost every book that Lee Child has written about him, there's at least one moment where Reacher's size plays a part in the handling of a situation. I spent at least a year stumping for Dwayne Johnson to play the part, and I think Joseph Manganiello would also have made a logical and interesting choice.
But let's set aside questions of scale. Can Tom Cruise step in and play the character anyway? Based on the trailer that Paramount released today, I think that question no longer matters, because whatever the movie is… and it could end up being a lot of fun… it's not the Jack Reacher that exists on the page. Two minutes of footage proved conclusively that they've refigured the character so much that it's just not the same thing anymore. This is "Tom Cruise, moral crusader with a hot car," and I have ever confidence the film will be entertaining.
If physical media is dead, why does this fall look so good on Blu-ray?
I hate the way the industry is rushing to try to convince people that they don't need physical media anymore because of the magic of streaming video, especially since they just finished trying to convince everyone that they needed to upgrade to Blu-ray. The reason the market is weaker than it was at the height of the DVD craze is because the studios are confusing consumers with mixed messages, and they still haven't managed to convince the general consumer that they need to upgrade simply for sound and picture reasons.
Even so, I think the rush to pronounce the format obsolete is premature. I remember Hercules The Strong getting angry at me for calling HD-DVD and Blu-ray "Laserdisc 2000," basically accusing it of being little more than a niche market. Don't get me wrong… I loved laserdisc, and I didn't mind that it was aimed more at the film freak than the casual viewer, but now it feels like it's not enough for the format to cater directly to the dedicated collector. Either it becomes the cash cow that DVD was for a few years, or the industry is going to get impatient and kill it.
A few weeks ago, I published a piece about the book "Savages" by Don Winslow, the inspiration for Oliver Stone's new film that arrives in theaters next week, and I said in that piece that I hoped his sensibilities would mesh with the material in a way that provoked great work from this long-dormant giant.
While I don't think "Savages" represents the very best that Stone has ever committed to film, I also think he's a different guy, looking at something that he would have shot one way in 1995, and he's reacting to it in a different way. Stone reveals himself in the one major choice where the film is different than the book, and in what has to be the most shocking thing Stone could add to his repertoire, he's gone every so slightly gooey. He loves these dumb, lucky, beautiful kids, and he's rooting for them every step of the way.
Stone hasn't always loved the losers he has immortalized, but he has been fascinated by them. When you look at "Salvador" or "Platoon" or "Born On The Fourth Of July" or "JFK," these lead characters are men who are pushed to some moral breaking point, some character defining extreme, and they all crumble before they rebound, if they rebound at all. Jim Garrison is the "hero" of Stone's "JFK," which is sort of radical in the very notion because Garrison's legacy is a whole lot of failure and conjecture, a rabbit hole of crazy that may well obfuscate some genuine truth that he helped uncover as well. Who knows? Who can know at this point? Stone loves Garrison and sees him as a hero not because he accomplished anything but because, no matter what anyone else or common sense said, he tried. And that, more than anything, is what Stone respects and idealizes. That determination in the face of everything.
Is it okay if I just pretend Comic-Con is already over and start focusing on Fantastic Fest instead?
With the announcement today that Fantastic Fest 2012 will kick off with their opening night premiere of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie," I think it's time to officially start getting excited. I've heard some of the other titles that are confirmed or rumored for this year's line-up, and it's looking like Fantastic Fest is packed this year. There will be both big and small premieres, and the line-up could end up being one of the strongest since the festival began.
I'm amazed at the way Tim League and his programming team have turned Fantastic Fest into a major part of the film year. League takes chances, and more often than not, they pay off. At a time when the home video market is supposedly retracting, getting even smaller, League is just starting to build out a library of his own curated titles with the Drafthouse Films Blu-rays and DVDs. He started a distribution company when no one else would step up and release "Four Lions," and he's already managed to help one foreign title, "Bullhead," get an Oscar nomination while also helping coordinate the first title that Drafthouse Films has been involved in from start to finish. During SXSW this year, we figured out that he was also opening four new businesses, and of course, he's also juggling the pressures of new fatherhood.
This looks awesome.
I've seen many kung-fu films with the RZA in attendance at the various Quentin Tarantino film festivals, so there's something that feels completely organic and normal about RZA finally making his directorial debut with a movie that looks like a non-stop totally mad mash-up of genres and styles.
I love it when someone gets a chance to indulge their passions like this. Good or bad, the films that come from this kind of madness are films that are deeply felt, films that someone cares about. When "Kill Bill Vol. 1" came out, the thing that struck me first about it was just how much joy there was in each and every fight scene. You could almost hear Tarantino standing behind the camera, cackling after every moment, after every stunt that went right, after every gushing blood geyser.
There's that same sense of giddy abandon in the footage we see in this first red-banded trailer for "The Man With The Iron Fist," and I'm so happy to see Russell Crowe in the middle of this madness. I like him a lot on film, but I haven't really loved the choices he's made in recent years. I wish he could have more fun, and that's what this looks like… fun. Big silly crazy bloody fun.
Last year, I was interviewing Joe Cornish about "Attack The Block," and I asked him about the premise for the "Ant-Man' script he's been writing with Edgar Wright. Years ago, I'd heard their basic hook into the film, and I asked Cornish if that was still true.
There was a long silence from his end of the phone, and he finally replied, "I'm surprised you know that." From the rest of our conversation, it was evident that they want to keep that story hook under wraps, and at this point, he and Edgar have so much time and energy invested in the picture that I hope no one spoils it for them.
It is hard to keep a secret, though, especially on something as highly-anticipated as this, and now The Hollywood Reporter says Edgar just wrapped production on a test reel for the film, designed to demonstrate how he'll handle the character and his powers visually. We wrote today about one of the things Marvel may have planned for their Hall H panel on Saturday the 14th, but if they decided to show some test footage of Ant-Man that day as well, I expect they'd have to pass out a change of pants to everyone in the room.
Marvel Studios seems to enjoy the game of Comic-Con each year. True, they sat out last year's event in order to focus on D23, but the year before, their big end-of-the-panel reveal was when they brought all the members of The Avengers out on stage at the same time for the first time. It was a big moment for Hall H, and it's the sort of thing studios try to create, a "moment" that really pops.
A few weeks ago, Latino Review reported that "Black Panther" is a priority title for Marvel Studios, and they theorized at that point that "Panther" might be the mystery 2014 title that the company hadn't announced yet. Today, they are stating emphatically that "Guardians Of The Galaxy" will be the title that Marvel announces at Comic-Con, and if they're right, did they just steal Marvel's thunder?
If you're talking about risks for the studio, this would represent one of the biggest they've taken so far, and I'm excited to see them step outside the safety zone of the established name-brands they've been using so far. After all, industry types were convinced that "Thor" was too obscure a name for the mainstream, and he's way more visible in the media landscape than "Guardians Of The Galaxy."
Okay, it's official… the summer of 2012 is not what I thought it was going to be at all, and I'm enjoying the near complete sense of surprise, week after week, film after film. At the start of this week, I had three films scheduled, and the one I felt most excited about seeing, the one that seemed like the safest bet of the bunch was "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Now, on the far side of the three of them, "Spider-Man" is the one that disappointed me, and both Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" have proven to be far more interesting than they seemed in basic pitch form. There's something wonderful about being kept off-balance in the middle of a season where each week brings something that seems almost pre-digested thanks to hype and expectation. Aside from knowing the general backstory that Channing Tatum used to work as a stripper and that's where the material began, I knew next to nothing about "Magic Mike," and so while I'm not sure how they're selling the movie, they've got something really charming and smart here, and it deserves to be one of Soderbergh's biggest hits in years.
One of the things that makes him such an interesting filmmaker, even when he isn't completely on his game, is his willingness to try anything, work in any genre, tell any story. Our film industry puts people into very narrow boxes as soon as they can, and it can be impossible for people to work outside of that very narrow definition of their talents. Soderbergh seems like he's managed to figure out how to do some of everything, keeping it exciting because we can't possibly anticipate his next move if he can't.