Frank Pierson was the model of what I think of as the serious professional screenwriter.
In addition to crafting work that will remain fresh and relevant as long as we are watching movies, he was also heavily involved in the industry as the President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for many years and President of the Writers Guild Of America for many years as well. His career as a writer began on TV in the '60s and ended on TV with his work on "Mad Men," an experience that no doubt drew on his work as an advertising copywriter during the '50s. In between, he wrote some indelible, amazing movies, and he leaves behind a filmography that any writer would be proud to claim.
I never got a chance to meet Pierson, and it's a shame. I would have loved to have spent an afternoon discussing "Cat Ballou," "Cool Hand Luke," "The Anderson Tapes," "Dog Day Afternoon," the nightmare of working with Streisand on "A Star Is Born," or his last produced screenplay, the adaptation of "Presumed Innocent." Pierson had a sober, adult approach to character and narrative, and one of the things that distinguishes his work is that it all seems to have a respect for the audience, treating them as if they can handle complex ideas and difficult emotions.
Frank Pierson was the model of what I think of as the serious professional screenwriter.
Warner Bros. is in a no-win situation on this one.
Almost as soon as executives awoke on Friday morning, Warner began asking theaters to remove all of the current trailers for "Gangster Squad" from theaters since one of the key images from those trailers is a shootout inside a movie theater. Warner Bros. felt that it would be insensitive to leave the ads in general circulation right now, and the decision seems like the right one to make the morning after something as horrible and senseless as the Aurora, CO shootings.
Now comes word that Warner Bros. plans to remove the sequence from the movie completely. Looking at the original trailers, the scene appeared to take place in the Chinese Theater, where armed men standing behind the screen open fire with machine guns, marching through the ragged holes in the screen while firing into the audience. It's a stylish image, and looked like it was executed well.
The studio had just started early screenings of the movie, and they seemed happy with it. The movie is still planned for a September 7th release, which means they'll have to scramble to get the reshoots finished, especially since it's supposed to be a fairly major sequence that comes near the end of the movie.
There is no bigger question for kids as they watch a film, particularly one that exposes them to an adult world they have no personal experience of so far. And once they start asking "Why?", it opens up a potential snowstorm of follow-ups. One of the most important things in any screening I have for the kids is the conversations that show me what they've taken from what they've just watched.
My oldest son, Toshiro, just recently turned seven. I know that when I think back to childhood, everything before seven is fuzzy, select images or impressions, but starting at the age of seven, I have a distinct recollection of things. I can tell you details about things that happened to me that year, places where I saw certain films, events that happened to me or to my friends. It feels in hindsight like seven was the age where everything clicked and turned on and I became a "real" person.
And in the summer of 1977, I was all about "Star Wars."
I'll say this much for the initial teaser trailer for Zack Snyder's upcoming "Man Of Steel"… they made a big choice, and they went with it. I'm just not sure that choice was the right one in terms of reintroducing this iconic character to mainstream audiences.
One thing this campaign appears to be selling is reverence, and while I certainly appreciate that Zack Snyder is careful to play into the classic notions of what a character looks like and does when he adapts something, I think reverence is exactly what did not work about "Superman Returns." That movie was so busy tiptoeing around the fondness people have for Richard Donner's original film that it felt like it had no pulse at all. If this movie's going to work, it's going to have to have a life of its own.
It's also a dangerous first trailer because it is distinctly possible audiences won't know what they're looking at. The distinctive "S" logo shows up at the end of the trailer, sure, but to tease your giant-budget reboot of the single most important superhero character you own with a trailer that spends most of its time showing a bearded dude working on a fishing boat and a little boy running around the yard of his house seems a little odd.
SAN DIEGO - The first sign attendees had that Warner Bros. had something special planned for their Comic-Con 2012 panel came at the start of the event when the curtains at the front of the room rolled back, wider than normal, revealing two extra screens that extended out from the front screen, creating a sort of Cinerama effect, with both side panels featuring graphics designed to evoke the world of "Pacific Rim."
Of course, that wouldn't have been the first thought for many people in the room, since "Pacific Rim" is still a year away and before Saturday's presentation, very little was known about the film. Last year, Guillermo Del Toro came to tell fans that they could expect a movie about "giant f**king monsters against giant f**king robots," but since then, there's been almost nothing revealed in public.
I visited the set for the film, and at that point, I realized just what sort of scale Guillermo's trying for with the movie, and I was curious to see what sort of showing they'd make with 7000 people who walked in cold.
It's safe to say the response was enthusiastic.
No matter how good the eventual film is, people are going to categorize the notion of Andrew Stanton returning to Pixar to direct a sequel to "Finding Nemo" as a retreat of sorts on the heels of the commercial drubbing of "John Carter."
It's a tough move for Stanton no matter what he does. I have no doubt at all that the reports are correct in saying that Stanton brought Disney a pitch that they loved. I think of about 870 million reasons Disney would be pre-disposed to loving any story idea they heard for a "Finding Nemo 2." But beyond that, Stanton is indeed one of Pixar's strongest story guys, and if he's got something he's excited by, then I'm absolutely willing to see it.
A little later, I'll have my thoughts on the "Marvel: Phase Two" panel from Comic-Con, which certainly indicated an organized approach to what they've got planned for the next few years, but it seems like they've already got more news than they announced on Saturday, and it suggests another interesting expansion for the potential roster they're looking at for "The Avengers 2."
Anthony Mackie has been showing up on fanboy wishlists for pretty much everything since "The Hurt Locker" was released, and when we ran a piece about a month ago about the possibility of a Black Panther film, Mackie seemed to be clear favorite for many of you. He's done nice work in a number of films, but so far hasn't really found that role that pushes him over the top and establishes him as a bankable star.
That could change now that it's being reported he is in final negotiations with Marvel Studios to join the cast of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" as one of the most significant supporting characters in Captain America's ongoing comic history, The Falcon.
"Are you so desperate to fight criminals that you'd lock yourself in so you can fight them one at a time?" - Ra's Al Ghul
So began "Batman Begins," Christopher Nolan's first Batman film. At the time, it felt unlike any film ever attempted with these characters, and strikingly different from superhero cinema in general.
This trilogy is exactly that: three films that work as one, a story told in three movements, and with "The Dark Knight Rises," it seems that Nolan has finished out his time with this icon in the only way he could based on where it began. I would argue that his so-called "real world" approach has never been particularly realistic, but it has always felt plausible based on the rules that he establishes for his world. The first film starts with an angry billionaire climbing a mountain so he can join a ninja death cult. That's not exactly Errol Morris. But there is a sincerity, a sober direct quality to the way the fantastic is handled, that makes it all feel like it could happen, and that's an enormous gift that should not be discounted.
SAN DIEGO - Gollum dropped some f-bombs, Elijah Wood made a surprise appearance, and the slightest glimpse of Orlando Bloom dressed as Legolas elicited shrieks of pleasure from the J.R.R. Tolkien fans who packed into Hall H today specifically to catch a glimpse of footage from part one of what may yet grow into a full trilogy of films based on Tolkien's enduring classic, 'The Hobbit."
In short, it was a perfect Comic-Con moment.
Before I recap what happened, let's talk about what didn't. There was no demonstration of the 48 frames-per-second process that will be used for special engagements of "The Hobbit" when it opens this year, and the footage wasn't even shown in 3D. I think it was a poor decision all the way around to avoid revealing the process here, but I think Jackson's stated reasons are right. He knows that almost any conversation about the footage would focus on the technical if he did bring it, and good or bad, that's not really the point of bringing the material to show to the faithful. These are fans, and what they're concerned with is the content of the movie, not the mechanics of how it will be shown to them. Disappointed as I was, and frustrated to still have not seen a demonstration of the process, I do think it probably served them well in the end.
Warner Bros went all out this year, bringing a real sense of showmanship to their presentations. Obviously, one of the most anticipated moments for many people was a detailed look at what Peter Jackson's been up to with "The Hobbit," a two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved book, and they were rewarded with over twelve minutes of footage. The way the panel opened, though, was immediately immersive. Warner put in two screens flanking the stage, extending out into the audience, and as the lights went down, the song of the dwarves filled Hall H and the various images from the recently released banner filled the screens, surrounding us with characters both familiar and new.
It immediately set a mood, and then, in the center panel, a new "Hobbit" production diary began to play. You'll see it soon, I'm sure. Basically, it covered the last five days of the production, and it was carefully cut because much of the work in those last five days is for material that will appear in the second film, which is still well over a year away.
SAN DIEGO - There was little doubt left after Robert Downey Jr. danced his way triumphantly through Hall H to the sounds of Luther Vandross singing "Never Too Much" as to who the King of Comic-Con truly is.
Marvel's victory lap to celebrate "The Avengers" becoming the highest grossing superhero film of all time was capped off on Saturday afternoon by the appearance of the man who could well be credited with setting the tone for the entire interconnected universe that Marvel is building from film to film now, and Downey seemed winded but exhilarated by the time he finally reached the stage, one hand encased in an Iron Man glove with a glowing palm.
"I have three questions for you," he said, and the crowd roared at him, cheering.
"First, how much do I love you?" The wave of noise that came back at him was huge.
"How much do you love me?" he asked next, smiling as he said it, and if anything, the noise was even bigger.