Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
At the same time, Marvel finally confirms Diesel's 'Guardians' role
If you hire Vin Diesel, you might as well just get comfortable with the idea that he's going to share things on his Facebook page, and he's going to do it on his timetable. He likes to share. He shares a lot. And at this point, he's worth quoting as a source because whether his information is "officially" confirmed or not, it is eventually revealed as correct.
Good example: how long now has Vin been teasing the idea that he's contributing the voice of Groot? And now, Marvel has officially confirmed that he'll be playing the character, contributing some motion capture as well. The other big project he's got brewing, made only bigger by the unfortunate recent accidental death of co-star Paul Walker, is "Fast and Furious 7," and there has been much conversation for the last few weeks about the film's release date.
Originally set for July 11, 2014, the film shut down production so that everyone involved could deal with the impact of Walker's death. These weren't just films that paid lip service to the notion of family, but were actually made by a group of tight-knit people who had gone through so much together, and it must be incredibly difficult for them to have conversations about how to proceed finishing the movie.
They talk about mixing new and old cast to keep things exciting
Sequels are, despite their omnipresence in Hollywood, actually fairly difficult to get right, and within that broad statement, I would say that horror sequels are even harder to get right, while comedy sequels may be the hardest to pull off with any degree of success.
Why is that? What makes it so hard to go back to the well? After all, if you hire the same people, shouldn't you get the same results? If you hire Adam McKay to direct again and you've got Judd Apatow producing, and you've got the same whole cast in place, shouldn't you get the exact same thing?
That's sort of the challenge. With comedy, I feel like so much of the success of something comes from surprise. A big part of what makes me laugh is when someone has some unexpected way of expressing an idea or reacting to something we all recognize, and one of the reasons I feel like Adam McKay is perfectly built to actually make good comedy sequels is because even when he's playing with familiar characters, his brain is just plain wired different than most people. The way he approaches anything, any line of dialogue, is grounded in the unexpected.
Did Wally Pfister get more than just a cast from his time with Christopher Nolan?
The entire notion of the Singularity is fascinating, and I am doubly intrigued by the fears that the idea seems to instill in people. I think the idea of being able to leave your body behind and live "forever" in a digital form is an amazing notion, but for some reason, whenever Hollywood deals with a major technological jump forward, they almost always do it in a horror film first.
While I'm not sure I'd call "Transcendence" a horror film, it certainly looks like they're playing the notion of digital life as a terrifying prospect. The film is about a famous scientist of some sort, like a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, who is working on a process that will allow people to upload their consciousness when he is attacked and killed by someone looking to derail his research. In an effort to save his life, his wife uses his new process on him, and as his body dies, he makes the jump to a purely digital form.
At which point he appears to go crazy and try to take over the world.
Want to know how he fits into the plans for the mega-sequel?
We're about to start getting a flood of information on "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron" as they cast the remaining roles, and I'm curious to see how Marvel handles things. There are plenty of surprises left to be revealed, and major characters that haven't been mentioned at all yet in public, and I have no idea how they're going to reveal things. Will they say who they're casting these people to play, or are they going to be coy about it for as long as possible? And if they do try to play it low-key, how successful are they going to be?
For example, Latino Review just broke the news that Baron Von Strucker is going to be part of the film. In the Marvel comics, he's a leader of H.Y.D.R.A., which is sort of the evil version of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he's a particularly nasty ex-Nazi who has augmented himself to theoretically live forever. When David Goyer did that TV movie version of "Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D." with David Hasselhoff as the star, Baron Von Strucker was the bad guy. He also made frequent appearances in the animated series "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes." He has a long history of facing off against the Avengers in the comics, and it makes perfect sense that he'd make his way into the Marvel Movie Universe eventually.
So what is it with Dreamworks and long-lost parents?
First reaction: the new "How To Train Your Dragon 2" trailer looks great. I think this is going to be one of those situations where a first film was big but the sequel is GIGANTIC. I have a feeling kids are going to be ranting and raving and generally flipping out for this one, and on a big giant screen, I'll bet it looks amazing.
Second reaction: oh, so that's what it's about.
Third reaction: wait, what is it with Dreamworks and long-lost parents?
I thought "Kung-Fu Panda 2" took an interesting approach to dealing with the very real issues that arise with being adopted, particularly into a family that is in some significant external way different than your birth family. One of the few choices they made that really threw me was resolving the story the way they did and then adding on the post-credits scene where Po's real family is revealed suddenly to be alive. If sets up some big dynamics that the next film has to deal with, and i'm curious to see how they handle that. Here, though, we've got a different sort of parental reveal as Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) discovers an entire world he had no idea existed, and he reclaims something he thought he lost.
Turns out it wasn't as easy as slipping back into the outfits
Christina Applegate deserves credit for helping shape the character of Veronica Corningstone in the first "Anchorman." In the early drafts I read of the film, she was just as big a weirdo as any of the Action News team, and there was no real reason why her character ended up being the one to break the glass ceiling of San Diego local news.
Applegate was undervalued as a comic actor for the first leg of her career, no doubt because she was a blonde teenage girl and "Married: With Children" played up her hair-band-music-video-goddess appeal, but even on that show, she displayed positively deadly comic timing. Like Paul Rudd, she got reborn thanks to "Anchorman" showing off just how far out there she could push things, and in a film that was dominated by boys having a good time, she more than held her own.
When we spoke last weekend, she was both under the weather and missing her daughter, but I thought she was very frank when talking about how hard it was for her to get a handle on stepping back into the character for "Anchorman 2."
From microbudgets to megablockbusters, we've had a great year of movies
One of the things I've come to expect in the fifteen years I've been making top ten lists online is that every year, someone will argue with me about what it actually means to pick ten films to represent a year. Are these the "best" films of the year? Are they my "favorite" films of the year? Is there a difference between the two things as far as I'm concerned? Should there be? What movies qualify? What movies don't?
Since we've introduced letter grades here on HitFix, it also introduces the variable that people believe any film I give the highest rating automatically has a place on my personal end of the year list. I disagree, and the reasons I disagree probably say a lot about the way I view the discussion of film in general. A letter grade is, to my mind, a way of saying how well it feels like the film accomplished its particular goals. But there are times I might find that over the course a year, a B+ film becomes something that I watch repeatedly, that connects for me on all sorts of personal levels, and so that film ends up in my top ten, while a beautifully executed film that impresses me across the board might slide further down just because it's not something I find myself revisiting, no matter how well it works. The end of the year is not about me telling you, authoritatively, that there are only ten films that we are allowed to treat with respect and any argument is wrong. That's ridiculous. This is a time to share thoughts on the things we love, the things that matter to us about movies, and if you get upset about my list, then I would suggest you are reading into it a purpose that simply isn't there.
We 're exhausted from looking back, and we're only halfway through
Tomorrow night, I'll be posting my final top ten list for 2013. I've seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 new films this year, both theatrical releases and festival screenings, and picking ten that represent the full breadth of that year is flat-out impossible.
Even pushing the list out to 20 is incredibly difficult. Every single film on this list is a film that made my year better, more interesting, more entertaining, more surreal, or more hilarious. These are ten films that I would be proud to have on the top ten list, and that could easily have landed there in another year. And if pushed, I could come up with another ten on top of these two that were also equally good, including movies like Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," which is already in heavy rotation in my house thanks to the way my kids watch and rewatch the things they love the most, or movies like David O. Russell's "American Hustle," which I thought was beautifully performed and wickedly funny, or even films like Shane Caruth's ferociously independent vision "Upstream Color," a brain-bending game that turns out to be deeply emotional.
Guess who picked the Black Widow
This past weekend, I went to New York to sit down with the entire ensemble cast of "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," which seems fitting. I've had a long history not only with all the various players like Will Ferrell, David Koechner, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd, but also with "Anchorman" itself.
The first time I wrote about it, it wasn't even in production yet. It was a script that was in turnaround, and Dreamworks was trying to get rid of it, something that still confounds me now. You can read my set visit report for the first film from a full decade ago, and one of my favorite interviews I ran at Ain't It Cool was with Adam McKay, Ferrell, and Koechner in a room together. It was pure chaos, and I loved it.
When we sat down this time, there was a feeling of celebration. After all, the first film almost didn't happen, and now here they all are a decade later making a highly-anticipated sequel. It's got to be a great feeling, and I just wanted to play a little instead of digging for scoops or trying to get something deep out of them.
The long-rumored sequel takes a hard look at the face of modern news
Adam McKay might be one of the strangest guys making mainstream comedy right now, and one of the things that I dearly love about his work is that the more success he has, the weirder he allows himself to be. He and Will Ferrell have built a lovely filmography out of making a series of films together that seem to be divorcing themselves more completely from reality each time out.
As a result, when you look at "Anchorman" next to "Anchorman 2," you can see that there's been an evolution between the two, and how you feel about the film is going to depend largely on how you feel about a movie that doesn't seem terribly interested in any sort of traditional structure and that resolutely refuses to take anything seriously. Even when it seems like the movie is starting to tip into some weird maudlin territory regarding the relationship between Ron (Ferrell) and his young son Walter, it's all just a chance to rip on the Hollywood cliche of making comedies about how every working father is neglectful and stupid, especially ones that work hard at their jobs.