I was starting to think John Hillcoat was allergic to fun.
While I admire Hillcoat's commitment to the grim aesthetic he's pursued over his last few films, "The Proposition" and especially "The Road" are punishing experiences for a viewer. Hillcoat seems to take some sort of pleasure in emotionally demolishing his audience, and he's seemed somewhat unwilling to even let in a little bit of light.
Now that we've got a trailer for "Lawless," his new film, I am more excited than I already was about seeing it at Cannes next month. This looks like a blast, and it may well end up being the most commercial thing he's ever done as a filmmaker.
I was starting to think John Hillcoat was allergic to fun.
I've seen the film twice now, and I'm going to do my best to avoid pointless hyperbole in reviewing this.
Short version: it's tremendous entertainment, confident and complete in a way that none of the Marvel movies so far have been, and I say that as someone who likes the Marvel movies in general. The company makes an incremental leap forward with this movie, and they've set the bar fairly high for themselves in the future. I am pleased and impressed and feel like this more than pays off any emotional investment I made in the movies as they were being released.
When discussing "The Avengers" as a film, though, there are several ways to approach it. You can look at it as a further evolution of what Joss Whedon does as a writer and director. You can review it based on its place in the Marvel canon overall. You can analyze how it fits into the overall genre of superhero films. I think the only way to place it in the correct context is to approach it from all of those directions, because the film seems to occupy a unique place in pop culture, and considering how big a commercial product it is, there's something sort of revolutionary about its very existence.
LAS VEGAS, NV - I drove four-and-a-half hours today to see a 75 minute movie.
I regret nothing.
The 11:00 PM screening of "The Dictator" started late, but the capacity audience seemed happy about it when Sacha Baron Cohen arrived in character as General Aladeen, the dictator of the small country of Wadiya, flanked by two armed guards and some preposterously hot bodyguards.
Evidently, Cohen made a similar appearance at the Caesars Palace Colliseum during the Paramount presentation earlier in the evening. I wasn't there to see that, and I'm leaving Vegas again fairly early tomorrow morning. I've got a lot to do this week in Los Angeles, and I figure we'll see much of this material soon anyway. But the chance to see the first finished screening of the latest collaboration between director Larry Charles and Cohen as a new outrageous, larger-than-life character seemed to justify a quick overnight trip.
Gina Carano may be joining Dwayne Johnson's team for "Fast Six."
In related news, "Fast Six" is going to be awwwwwwwwesome.
Perhaps the single thing I most regret about missing this year's ActionFest in Asheville, North Carolina, aside from not getting to spend time with my parents who live in Asheville, was that Gina Carano attended this year to pick up the "Chick" Norris award. I really dug "Haywire" when it came out earlier this year, and I just rewatched it when the Blu-ray was sent for review.
I also really liked "Fast Five," which I think is the single best distillation of what they've tried to do with the "Fast and the Furious" franchise overall. In particular, adding Dwayne Johnson in the Tommy Lee Jones/"Fugitive" role was a stroke of genius, and it brought a brand-new energy to the fifth film in the series.
When you're kicking off a new franchise, calling Charlie Kaufman seems to be as outside-the-box as Hollywood thinking could possibly be.
However, if you're a studio looking for underlying material to support a new franchise, buying a young-adult series set in a dystopian future is pretty much as by-the-book as Hollywood thinking gets.
So when Lionsgate buys the "Chaos Walking" series of books by Patrick Ness, it makes perfect sense. I'm sure as soon as they're done with "The Hunger Games," they're going to want another series to be ready and waiting. Now it looks like they've hired Kaufman to adapt at least the first book in the series, "The Knife Of Never Letting Go." While Kaufman doesn't immediately leap to mind as the sort of guy who writes big studio mainstream films, this might actually turn out to be a very canny fit of filmmaker and material.
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
File #4: "Thunderball"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Terence Young
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins and Jack Whittingham
Story by Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming
Produced by Kevin McClory and Stanley Sopel
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Sean Connery
Domino Derval / Claudine Auger
Largo / Adolfo Celi
Fiona / Luciana Paluzzi
Felix Leiter / Rik Van Nutter
Count Lippe / Guy Doleman
Patricia / Molly Peters
Paula / Martine Beswick
"M" / Bernard Lee
"Q" / Desmond Llewelyn
Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
Foreign Secretary / Roland Culver
Francois Derval/Angelo Palazzi / Paul Stassino
Pinder / Earl Cameron
Starting with that monogrammed "JB" on the side of a casket is a nice touch.
Bond's at the funeral of a man he wanted to kill, and he's upset he missed his opportunity. He watches the family drive away. But… wait… turns out the dude is posing as his own widow, and James follows him to the family home, then beats the ever-lovin' snot out of him. It's a vicious fight, ending with Bond strangling the guy to death with a fireplace poker. Bond makes his escape via jetpack in one of the great practical gags from the film series, and, using a car that appears to have been through Q branch, sprays down the guards chasing him, which leads into the underwater opening credit sequence, complete with Tom Jones theme song.
You've got a lot of options for what to watch and how, and we want to help you plan your weekend with a new column where we'll highlight three things you can see in theaters, three things you'll find streaming, and three titles new to home video. Appropriately enough, we call this The Weekend Watch.
It's the calm before the storm.
Right around the corner now, summer gets started. There's something happening every weekend from now until September. This is it. For me, the summer started about a week ago when I saw "The Avengers," and I'm hoping to be able to write about that soon. I'm going to be writing up this summer's movies as they start screening, and I'm also planning to write about the Alamo Drafthouse "Summer Of 1982" films all summer long. Add that to the ongoing "James Bond Declassified" series, and you're going to have quite the reading list here this season.
So what's opening this weekend, when all the studios are just getting ready, revving up, preparing to unleash the things they've got planned for us? What's streaming? What should you be finding on Blu-ray or DVD?
Yep. That sure does look like a Wes Anderson movie.
The entire line-up for Cannes that's been announced so far has me damn near giddy, and as soon as they announced that the opening night film was going to be Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," I made sure to book my travel so I'd be there for the kickoff.
I read about half this script, then stopped. Not because it was bad, but because of the exact opposite. I was having so much fun with it that I decided I'd rather just see it play out than read it and ruin it for myself. The worlds that Wes Anderson creates in his films are so specific and visual and all-encompassing that it's impossible to really "read" one of his films ahead of time. You have to see how the actors choose to inhabit the characters, and you have to see the details that he packs his frame with, and you have to hear the soundtracks he puts together.
I don't get it when people complain about the heightened reality that Anderson creates in his movies. It seems to me that if you don't like directors with a strong signature style, you just should skip their films, not complain that they are so specific. Anderson's absolutely got a signature that you can see as soon as something begins, and ever since "Bottle Rocket," he has been refining that style a little bit more with every movie.
Francis Lawrence has emerged as the favorite to replace Gary Ross as the director of "Catching Fire," the highly-anticipated sequel to "The Hunger Games," and according to a report just published in The Hollywood Reporter, he'll get his official offer to helm the movie this afternoon.
This has been a lightning-fast process, primarily because Lionsgate can't afford to waste any time. They have a specific timetable they have to meet if they plan to have Jennifer Lawrence done with shooting in time for her to make the jump to the sequel to "X-Men: First Class" that she is also committed to, and it sounds like Lionsgate ended up meeting with Lawrence and with Bennett Miller today.
As with the "Twilight" films, it seems like the studio is casting a wide net for what they're looking for in a director on this series, and none of the picks are what I would call typical action directors. While Lawrence made "Constantine" and "I Am Legend," his most recent film was "Water For Elephants," and in conversation with him, he's always seemed like a guy who had a pretty broad range of interests in terms of what he'd like to make.
I'm going to have the next "James Bond Declassified" for you tomorrow, covering "Thunderball," and in the meantime, I thought there were enough bits and pieces of James Bond news bouncing around out there that it was worth rounding them up in one place.
First and foremost, have you been reading Greg Ellwood's reports from the set of "Skyfall"? He just went to London, and it sounds like it was a great trip to Pinewood to see what Daniel Craig and crew are up to. If you'd like to get as close as possible to a set visit without leaving your house, there's a new video blog up featuring Sam Mendes and the Shanghai setting for some of the new film.
This seems to be the most active any James Bond film campaign has ever been in terms of offering up looks at the making of the film while they're still working. It's even unusual for a big film to allow people to write about a set visit a week after they were there. Normally those things are held for months. It signals a sort of confidence on the part of EON and Sony that the public is hungry for the return of Daniel Craig, and I think it's also due in part to this being the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first Bond film, "Dr. No."