Today, for the first time in a while, there is a Godzilla movie shooting somewhere in the world.
I can't believe it was 2004 when I wrote about the Hollywood premiere of "Godzilla: Final Wars." At the time, Toho was experiencing some kaiju fatigue, and they declared that they were finished. They've actually stuck true to their word in the years since, and as a result, Godzilla has been absent from the bigscreen for the better part of a decade now.
Considering what an important overall cultural icon he is, it's sort of amazing they've been willing to keep him off-screen for this long. Toho considers him one of the most important assets they own as a studio, and the decision to allow Hollywood to take another crack at the character could not have been an easy one for them.
This has been a long and careful process for Legendary Pictures, too. They know how badly things went with the Devlin/Emmerich version, and they seem to understand what some of the most pronounced mistakes were with that film. But knowing what's wrong and fixing what was wrong are two different things, and Legendary has been moving slowly during pre-production on this because they didn't want to screw it up a second time.
Today, for the first time in a while, there is a Godzilla movie shooting somewhere in the world.
I haven't read the novel by Jean Hanff Koreltiz that served as the source material for the new film "Admission," but Karen Croner's screenplay is one of those films where the lead characters are ostensibly smart people who do some oddly not-so-smart things for reasons that seem less than genuine. I wouldn't call "Admission" a bad film, but I think it's a muted pleasure at best, even with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd both doing their best to keep things light and charming.
Fey stars as Portia Nathan, who works at Princeton as one of the gatekeepers who help decide who gets into the school and who doesn't. Portia is portrayed as one of those people who has no real life outside of her job as the film begins, and she seems fine with that. Her devotion is one of the reasons she ends up as a candidate to replace her boss (Wallace Shawn), the department head who is about to retire. All she has to do is buckle down for one more admissions season, do her job as well as she always has, and then reap the rewards.
When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago for the "Incredible Burt Wonderstone" press day, part of what we did involved a tour of David Copperfield's private magic museum. In order to get into the museum, you have to go through an outer room that is a reproduction of the men's wear store that his parents owned. Before showing us the secret door that would open the door to the inner warehouse, Copperfield told us that his favorite show as a kid was "The Man From UNCLE," and as soon as he said it, the theme started playing.
To some degree, "The Man From UNCLE" has always been the poor cousin to other spy shows. Norman Felton is the creator of the show, but his work was overshadowed by the publicity around Ian Fleming, who created two characters for the show. Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (who later served as the lead in "The Girl From UNCLE") both came from the back-and-forth between Fleming and Felton, and there was a point where the show was going to be called "Ian Fleming's Solo." The James Bond producers sued to prevent the show from using Fleming's name in the promotions for the show, and his work was just a small part of the overall premise. Producer Sam Rolfe also played a big part in coming up with the details of how UNCLE worked. Once the show went on the air, it was quickly turned into a buddy show, with Robert Vaughn playing Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. The series ran for 105 episodes in the mid-to-late '60s, and it was a massive cultural hit.
AUSTIN - Dan Mazer has built a career based on a very particular type of humor. As a writer/producer, he's been involved in "Da Ali G Show," "Borat," "Bruno," and "The Dictator," and he's helped define Sacha Baron Cohen's public persona in the process. Now with his first feature film as a writer/director, he's turned his attention to the Working Title romantic comedy formula, and "I Give It A Year" manages to parody the structure of those films while playing as an actual one at the same time. No easy feat, that, and I was surprised by how well Mazer manages the balancing act.
Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne) meet, fall in love, and tie the knot all within seven months of meeting one another, and from the very start, their marriage seems like a bad fit. It would be easy to make one of them the bad guy in this film to make it clear whose fault things are, but Mazer instead paints both of them as decent people who simply might not be suited for each other. The weakest element in the film is a structure that involves both of them talking to a marriage counsellor played by the great Olivia Colman, and those scenes play like they're cut in from another movie. The actual day-to-day struggle between Josh and Nat is written well, and it's only gradually that Mazer starts to bring in Chloe (Anna Faris) and Guy (Simon Baker), who seem like far better-suited partners to Josh and Nat.
Even in an age where horror remakes seem to arrive every other week, the work of John Carpenter seems to be particularly picked over. Small wonder, though. Carpenter was a writer before he was a director, and he had a knack for creating films based around smart, easy to understand hooks. And of all of his films, one of the best loglines was for "Escape From New York." Talk about easy. New York is a prison now, and the President's plane crashes on it. One man is sent in to find the President and rescue him, and if he fails, he will die.
It would be accurate to say that the film has been unofficially remade any number of times now, including last year's "Space Jail" with Guy Pearce, or whatever the heck it was called. Neil Marshall's "Doomsday" went so far in its homage as to even use Carpenter's signature font for the film's credits.
There have been several attempts to remake "Escape From New York" in recent years. Ken Nolan, one of the "Black Hawk Down" writers, wrote a fairly faithful version of the movie that almost happened in 2007 with Gerard Butler attached to play Snake Plissken. What Nolan's script tried to do was flesh out the world around New York, while also delving slightly into the back story for Plissken that was suggested with a few key lines in Carpenter's script.
AUSTIN - Harmony Korine has been a provocateur since the start of his film career, and his new film "Spring Breakers" may be the single most controlled and subversive thing he's made so far. Hypnotic and garish, the film feels like it was assembled from terrible music videos, irritating internet memes, and the worst impulses of a generation of kids raised on gangster culture. It's going to be interesting to see how this one lands, because I think some people will judge it by its surface, while other people will engage with what feels like a deliberate piece of deconstructionist art.
Even the casting of the movie seems to be an attempt to play off the relationship people have with pop culture. Selena Gomez stars as Faith, and there's no way her background as a Disney Channel star was not part of Korine's thought process. Faith is the one good girl in the group, and at the start of the film, we see the things that all of the girls do for release. For Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), that's drinking and smoking pot and dancing, and for Faith, that's church group and prayer. The four of them are all broke, frustrated that they can't go to spring break in Florida with everyone else, and Faith in particular is dying to get out of their small town, to see the world for the first time.
Man, I wish I'd seen "Drinking Buddies" before I went to Vegas for the press event we did for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."
Look, it's never a bad thing to sit down and have a conversation with Olivia Wilde. She's good at making each press day feel relaxed and casual, something not everyone can do. Often, when there's a new film getting ready to come out, I will get e-mail from readers who have certain things they are curious about. In the case of Wilde, I continue to get letters from people who want to know if Disney is moving forward on a new chapter in the "TRON" franchise.
I may not be the biggest fan of "TRON," but I recognize that there is an audience that wants to see more in that world, and asking her about it, it seems that Wilde has heard that same feedback. So far, that's really the biggest blockbuster role she's played, and if they are going to continue the series, she's a big part of what they set up.
I've heard some exciting things about the "Jurassic Park 3D" release that's coming in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to taking both Toshi and Allen to see the film on an IMAX screen in 3D. They're excited, and they've been talking about it since the release was first announced.
As we covered in Film Nerd 2.0, they saw the film on Blu-ray, and while it was definitely a formatively scary experience for them both, it's one that we had as a family, and at home, and they enjoyed it. They've seen the film many times since then, and they love the dinosaurs now. They love the scary scenes. They know most of them beat for beat.
Seeing the first "Jurassic Park" in the theater in 1993 was a huge cultural moment, and I really studied the way the screenings worked as I went back over and over. The T-rex attack in the middle of the film played like virtual reality. When it started, some tiny little part of the ancient animal brain inside each of us remembered that stark, existential fear that comes from being prey. Right now, we are not used to, as a species, being hunted and eaten. It is uncommon for us. We are the top of the food chain, a hard won placement that we've maintained for a long time now.
AUSTIN - The biggest acquisition story out of this year's SXSW festival so far came when Drafthouse Films picked up "Cheap Thrills," and now that I've seen the film, I can vouch that it is money well-spent.
Drafthouse Films has demonstrated eclectic taste in what they will or won't pick up so far, and any company that will release "Miami Connection" and "Bullhead" and give both the same amount of attention and support is a company that intrigues me. This summer, they're releasing "The Act Of Killing," a documentary that made my top ten list last year after I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival, and while I think that's an incredibly important release, and a film that I want people to see, a documentary about an Indonesian genocide is not the easiest sell of all time. I recognize that they're taking a big chance with that film, and I respect that they're willing to do it. Any distributor who wants to stay in business has to play the commercial game as well, and "Cheap Thrills" is the sort of pick-up that I can get behind critically, but that has a real shot at being a commercial title for them as well, and that is exciting.
Just before Thanksgiving of last year, I spent four days at Pinewood Studios outside of London to see them wrapping up production on "Kick-Ass 2." At the end of the visit, I got to see about 20 minutes of the film, a sizzle reel that director Jeff Wadlow put together to show the cast and crew what they'd been working on so very hard, and I walked away from that deeply impressed.
Today, the red-band trailer has gone live, and Mark Millar has been counting down the hours until that premiere on Twitter, giddy because he knows what Wadlow's made, and he's justifiably excited by it. If you didn't like the first "Kick-Ass," you may not be the audience for this new one, but if you did like the first film, they've made a sequel here that seems to be poised to genuinely up the stakes from the first film while building logically onto the characters and events we saw in that movie.
You get a glimpse here of how Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) have been spending their time in the years since the death of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank DeMarco (Mark Strong), and you also get a glimpse of the way they've changed the world around them. They've inspired other people to start dressing in costumes and standing up to criminals, and they begin to assemble these people into a group, figuring there must be safety in numbers. One of the most outrageous new additions to the cast this time is Jim Carrey playing Colonel Stars'n'Stripes. Look closely at him when you see him in the trailer. It's a pretty heavy set of prosthetics that Carrey designed to wear in the film, and he looks like he leapt off the pages of the comic, like John Romita Jr. drew him for the film.