I have to say this is looking a little bit more like "Die Hard" now.
I still think it's just plain weird to have built a franchise around John McClane, but I get the reason that most fans want more of something they like. McClane's great in the first film for two totally different reasons. First, he's great because he's a normal person who has to figure out how to stay alive and save his wife against armed, organized overwhelming odds, and that resourcefulness and fortitude make him heroic. Second, he's great because he knows exactly how to mouth off in a way that makes Hans Gruber mental, and that is just plain fun to watch.
That sense of "wrong place, wrong time" is a big part of that first film, and it's one of the things that makes McClane a real hero. He's not doing a specific job he's being paid to do. He just ended up in a position to be the one person who can disrupt this thing that's happening, and so he does it. The idea of him being trapped inside the building with the thieves was definitely one of the things that was most vigorously imitated by others, enough that you could pitch a movie as "'Die Hard' in a fill-in-the-blank" game of "Mad Libs" for years afterwards, but I don't think the contained space is what people who go see "Die Hard" sequels want.
I have to say this is looking a little bit more like "Die Hard" now.
The last time I spoke with Susan Sarandon, the Wachowskis came up in conversation. I still get a kick out of walking into a room and seeing Sarandon, ready to talk. As long as I've been a movie fan, I've been a fan of her movies, and she's had such a great, fascinating evolution as a performer. This time, as I was settling in, I asked her about her recent experience working with Mike Tully on a ping-pong themed movie, and it's true… you mention ping-pong, and she just lights up. I know Mike from various events like Sundance, where I've seen him both as a journalist and as a filmmaker (his "Septien" is pretty grand), and a trip to Ireland to see the cast and crew of "Your Highness" at work, and I was really pleased to hear how enthusiastic Sarandon was about the experience she just had with him. This is a dream project for Mike, and it's great to see that it's important to her, too.
Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, is someone I don't think I've ever spoken with before, and I didn't even think about that before I walked into the room. As I settled in and spoke with her, I looked over at him and was surprised to be suddenly anxious. "OH WOW THAT'S HUGO WEAVING!" is what I was saying inside, because he is so unmistakable, so iconic over the last 20 years. At this point, his work as Agent Smith or as Elrond or in "Priscilla" is so resolutely a part of the cinema landscape that it's hard to imagine movies without him. He's one of those guys, one of those great actors who also found just the right projects with just the right parts to allow them to do something permanent. When you look back at this era of commercial filmmaking, there's Hugo Weaving, smack dab in the middle of it.
A James Bond movie is a mirror.
When I watch one Bond movie by itself, I can watch it as a movie by itself, but when I'm watching all of them in a row, it is like having a mirror that works almost like a time machine, that takes me back to a very specific year for each of the films. You look at the Connery films, and the attitudes to spying, the color palette, the new relaxed sexuality and the tongue in cheek violence… it's all so very early '60s, so very British explosion, and that's one of the reasons I love those movies. That's my particular aesthetic preference. The movies in the transition years, like "Diamonds Are Forever" or "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," show the way pop culture was evolving, and as much as the movies imitated, they also innovated. It was like a feedback loop.
The Moore movies became more overt about it as they tried to fine-tune the formula. "The Spy Who Loved Me" was the height of the disco era, the year of "Star Wars," and "Moonraker" was made not only after "Star Wars" but also after "Battlestar Galactica," and it seems to reflect what was going on in television as well as in movies. "For Your Eyes Only" is a reinvention, and that was the early '80s, a chance to reinvent pop culture in the Reagan era. And as that era curdled, so did the series, with "Octopussy" and "A View To A Kill" offering up bloated attitude and diminishing returns.
I am, quite frankly, surprised by this announcement.
It's a pleasant surprise. I'm more than happy for James Cameron to make whatever he wants, and adding another film to his development slate can only be a good thing. But a little while ago, he basically announced that he was done developing new properties and claimed that he was in the "Avatar" business exclusively.
My guess is now that he's deep into the nuts and bolts part of actually writing those sequels and preparing for the sure-to-be-crushing experience of doing part two and part three as one giant production, he's realizing that maybe he doesn't want to spend the entire rest of his life just doing stories about Pandora. While I agree with him that he's created this fictional planet where he can pretty much tell any story and metaphorically tackle any topic, I also look forward to seeing him try something different because I think he remains exciting and intriguing no matter what the subject matter.
It seems like the conversation about race in "Cloud Atlas" is heating up in this last week pre-release, and I imagine once people see the film, that conversation will continue. I think there are a number of potent, interesting ideas to grapple with once you've seen the movie, but unsurprisingly, some people have stopped at "Hey, those people are wearing make-up to look like a different race" and that's all that they see when they look at the movie.
Last night, I got into a fairly spirited back and forth with Walter Chaw, a smart and passionate writer, in which he was adamant about calling the film "yellowface." While he's technically correct that there are indeed white actors playing Asian roles in the film, what I kept trying to engage him on was the notion that the film has so many other racial ideas in the mix and so much more identity remixing going on that reducing the film to "yellowface" as if that's the driving idea behind the make-up seems inflammatory to me. After all, in this same film, we've got Doona Bae as a young girl in the American south during the 1800s and Halle Berry playing a white German Jew, complete with a nude scene, and we've got men playing women and women playing men and Keith David playing Korean and on and on.
"Heroes… there is no such thing."
Grammatically, that's a bit of a nightmare, but the sentiment seems clear. Ben Kingsley's Mandarin makes his debut for the non-Comic Con crowd in the first trailer for "Iron Man 3," and as much as it looks like an Iron Man movie and a Marvel movie, it also truly looks like a Shane Black movie.
And that is a very good thing, indeed.
One of the things you have to do in an ongoing series about a superhero, especially one who positively lives and breathes ego the way Tony Stark does, is find new and organic ways to knock him down and take away that confidence. Watching my wife's face tonight when I showed her the trailer, it's obvious that her investment in Pepper Potts and Tony as a couple is so strong that seeing the two of them thrown when his house explodes had her automatically upset and involved.
I'm going to be curious to see how much "This Is 40" resembles the screenplay that Universal just posted online in PDF format this weekend.
If you do decide to read the script, released as part of Universal's awards push for the film, it's interesting how strongly the voices of his actors are already embedded in the script. I can clearly hear Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, and even Maude and Iris Apatow in the characters that Judd's written for them. And while I like the script quite a bit, it's telling that the sequence I saw them shoot when I visited the set does not appear to be in that script anywhere. Then again the photo I put on this article comes word-for-word from the script, and on the page, it feels like the sort of thing you'll swear was improvised. That's sort of the magic of the Apatow process.
I have a feeling this week's trailer is only going to leave us with more questions, and honestly, this far out from release, that's all I want from "Iron Man 3."
This is the week where the hype campaign kicks off in earnest. I thought they made a tremendous showing at Comic-Con, and the trailer will most likely be a shorter edited version of what we saw there, which promised a Tony Stark under stress and a Ben Kingsley Mandarin. Entertainment Weekly has a shot of Kingsley's face today along with some hints about the character, part of the barrage of new images popping up in places like USA Today and Facebook. Tonight/tomorrow morning is the arrival of the trailer, this morning was the one-sheet, and in the meantime, I need to know if we've got it all figured out as to which character we're seeing in one of the new publicity shots.
I remember when the character was photographed on-set this summer. James Badge Dale, who has such a great and memorable scene in "Flight" this month, is onboard to play a character named Eric Savin who comic fans also know as "The Iron Patriot." Many people saw those photos and immediately figured that had to be Dale in the armor, and that had to be the Iron Patriot.
One week until "Cloud Atlas" lands in theaters, and I still have no idea what the general public is going to make of it.
They seem to be getting the word out, and it's certainly a hard film to describe to someone who doesn't know the book and who doesn't automatically get excited when they hear who made the film. It helps that they have Tom Hanks attached, although I do wonder if he means the same thing to young audiences that he does to the over-30 crowd these days.
One thing that will help make people curious is by talking about the way the recognizable cast vanish into the various characters they play over the course of the film, and that's something the ads seem to be emphasizing. I thought it was pretty great that Hanks slipped into character on "Good Morning America" and almost immediately dropped an f-bomb. I'll have some video interviews with the cast going up next week, including one with Hanks, and one of the things I discussed with him is how people expecting a "regular" Tom Hanks film are going to be flabbergasted when they see some of what he does in the film.
Let's be honest before we begin: whoever directs this film is walking into a situation where they are going to be in service of someone else's vision, and that vision is going to consist of dozens of people's visions, all of them combined into whatever that script ends up being. Before they have a director set, they're going to have a script that they are committed to, that they've paid for quite dearly at this point, and that director is going to have to be willing to make that movie.
There are names that people always like to throw out for everything, names that are preposterous because they just aren't going to do it. Instead of picking non-starters today like Terry Gilliam (no studio on Earth is pulling the trigger on a $150 million film with Gilliam at the helm), Lana and Andy Wachowski (they're not interested and would much rather focus on their own material), or even Steven Spielberg (not gonna happen), we're going to name ten artists we would like to see given free reign to make the material whatever they want to make it.
Some of these names you might expect based on my reviews and reportage over the years. Some of them you might not expect at all or even agree with. But all of these are people whose "Justice League" would get us in a theater opening weekend. Let's see how many of these names you like, and who I'm overlooking, both of which I'll expect plenty of in the comments section below.