I have always found the idea of a horror franchise to be somewhat backwards.
Horror frequently relies on the unknown to scare us. There is an involuntary element to what happens when a great scare delivers. The more often we see a monster and the more close-up we get with it, the less chance there is it's going to scare us. Most horror franchises revolve around the constant resurrection/destruction cycle, bringing their boogeymen back from the dead at the start, then making sure he is defeated again by the end.
It bores me. I don't understand people who watch something like "Halloween 5," unless maybe that's their version of comfort food. Familiar. Comforting. Utterly without any chance of actually scaring you. I'd rather be off-balance in a horror film, uncomfortable, trying to get my bearings.
I have always found the idea of a horror franchise to be somewhat backwards.
I changed my Twitter icon a while ago, and recently updated my profiles on pretty much any social media network that requires an icon so that I'm using the same image everywhere. What's funny is that because most icons are small, people don't seem to really "see" the icon, and it's only when someone takes a closer look that I get the question "What the heck is that photo, and where did it come from?"
First, I claim no ownership of the image. It was taken by Jake Lasker, who I don't know except from Twitter, where he first contacted me.
The backstory as he explained it to me was that he took this photo at Comic-Con 2010. He saw Joss Whedon walking along and asked him if he would stop for the picture. It was one of those quick random encounters, and Lasker walked away happy because he got to meet someone whose work meant so much to him.
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are very clever.
Clever does not always translate, though, to creating something that engages an audience and that works as a film experience, particularly when you're talking about something that is, at heart, a meta-textual game about the very nature of horror films.
Don't let that worry you. "Cabin In The Woods" is, first and foremost, a wildly entertaining movie that plays off of our collective familiarity with horror tropes, and it delivers the sort of experience that absolutely demands that you see it in a movie theater with as many friends as you can gather. It is fun, it is thrilling and it is smart. If you want an absolutely clean experience without having any of the film's surprises spoiled for you, see it opening weekend and read nothing between now and then, not even the rest of this review. Just rest assured that this is the film that finally translates what Whedon has always done so well on television into a movie that I think works completely on its own terms.
It's come up so quick this year that I'm having trouble believing that South By Southwest is finally underway today.
I'm here for the entire film portion of the festival, and for those who haven't been here, you may not realize that SXSW is not just about movies. There is also a major Interactive conference, and an amazing Music festival. Interactive runs concurrently with film, and Music starts just as Film is ending. The net result of all of this is that Austin is absolutely, no question, 100% bananas for the next 15 days or so.
I'm here for Film, though, and unless I can wrangle my way into the show Fiona Apple is playing, all of my events are Film oriented, and I thought before we get going, it would be good to look ahead at what you can expect from our coverage.
For example, TONIGHT kicks off the festival for me. I'm going to see a Norwegian dark fairy tale called "Thale," then the premiere of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's genre-bending "Cabin In The Woods" serves as the centerpiece premiere, and then it's off to the South Lamar Alamo for a midnight screening of "[REC] 3," the latest chapter in the dark and disturbing Spanish horror franchise.
I can't really imagine many modern blockbuster filmmakers who would be a match for James Cameron just on a comparison of filmmaking skills, but I can think of even fewer who could stand up against him when it comes to real-world fortitude.
Sure, it's easy to be an adventurer when you're rich, but only in the sense that you actually have the resources to make your wildest dreams come true. Money doesn't make it any easier to face the fear that comes with doing something truly dangerous, and anyone who writes off what Cameron accomplishes when he's in world adventurer mode is not being honest about what it is that he does.
For example, this past week, Cameron broke a world record for depth diving in a submersible that he helped develop, and it sounds like it was amazing. I'm even more excited to see what happens when he travels to the Challenger Deep in the western Pacific, and what sort of footage he brings back from it.
My last interview this week for Disney's "John Carter" is with the man charged to finally bring this 100-year-old character to life on the big screen, Andrew Stanton.
First, let me just say that anyone whose favorite film is "Lawrence Of Arabia" is okay by me, and especially when you can see that so clearly in the film they've made. I'm not sure I ever would have made the connection between that film and the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It feels natural when you see how Stanton does it, though, and that was just one of the things we discussed when we sat down at the Boulders resort in Carefree, Arizona, to talk about his movie.
Stanton is a great spokesman for his film, and I feel like the Pixar team that's been part of the company from the start is the contemporary equivalent of the group of filmmakers in the '70s who helped create the blockbuster in the first place. There was that explosion of creativity that came from guys like Lucas and Spielberg and De Palma and Scorsese and that entire peer group, and watching how their work evolved over the decades since that first amazing wave of films has been impressive. The Pixar team is now starting to move into live-action, and seeing how they maintain their voice, I'm starting to believe there's nothing these guys can't do.
Paul Williams is a survivor.
The notion that the greatest challenge he's overcome in his lifetime is himself is just one of the things that makes Steve Kessler's documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive" such a pleasure and a revelation. I've been familiar with the work of Paul Williams my whole life, and in many cases, I wasn't even aware when I was first introduced to his work that it was his.
When the Muppets sang "Movin' Right Along" or "The Rainbow Connection" in "The Muppet Movie," or when Jodie Foster sang "My Name Is Tallulah" in "Bugsy Malone," I didn't know who wrote those songs. I just knew that they were burned into my brain right away. When I heard Karen Carpenter sing "Rainy Days and Mondays" or "We've Only Just Begun" on the radio, I didn't even think of the songwriter. I just heard the story she was telling and the heartbreak that she wore like a badge.
I've read the first book in George R.R. Martin's epic "A Song Of Ice and Fire" series, and I'm a fan of that book. I have heard a wide range of opinions about the rest of the series, and I've done my best to avoid spoilers, since I have the books here in the house and will read them at some point. I did not watch the HBO adaptation of the first book when it aired, so I've waited patiently for the Blu-ray release. I have a preference for powering through a full season of TV when I can, and I can't think of a show better suited for that sort of marathon viewing than this one.
When HBO decides to gamble on a show, they go big, and I respect that. "Game Of Thrones" is gorgeous, and it looks and sounds tremendous on Blu-ray. What makes the Blu-ray the ultimate edition, though, is the way they've taken full advantage of the interactive nature of the format to help viewers if they want help keeping track of the show's complex family politics. I think the show does a great job of explaining it all for you, but I understand that it's a dense bit of text overall, and the extra features here are outstanding. You can turn on a program guide that will work during the episodes, giving you facts and history and interconnections at moments you might need the prompt.
I have never understood this idea.
New Line was the first studio to option the rights to "Venom," and it's always confused me deeply to imagine a film in which you only have the Venom character without Spider-Man. Sony had to eventually buy the rights to the character so they could incorporate him into their "Spider-Man" series, and I would argue that their intense desire to force the fan-favorite character into the third film despite Sam Raimi's misgivings is one of the reasons that film does not work.
Raimi had no real desire to do anything with Venom, and I understand why. Venom is the sort of character that serves as a dividing line for comic book fans. I find that it's basically all about how old you were when they started publishing Venom stories. I was getting out of comic collecting right around the time the age of Todd McFarlane began, and I didn't really care for where the comic industry was heading at that time. I don't feel superior to fans who grew up with Venom as a cornerstone of what they loved about Spider-Man, though. I just don't agree with them.
One day, the Edgerton brothers will rule Hollywood with an iron fist, and I for one welcome our new Edgerton overlords.
Joel Edgerton, of course, is working hard in front of the camera these days, and he's managed to finally make the jump to Hollywood leading man. I am enormously fond of the work he did last year in "Warrior," and while I didn't love everything about "Wish You Were Here" at Sundance, Edgerton is great in it. There's something about the new breed of Australian leading men that really sets them apart from the gym-trained oh-so-smooth LA brand of guy, something more genuine and rough-hewn. It's little wonder so many of them are making the jump to action hero these days.
The other Edgerton, though, is the one that needs to have his turn in the spotlight, and I am convinced that day is coming. His short film "Spider" is one of those that you never forget after you've seen it, and every single time I show it to people, I love watching them as they watch it. The same is true of his latest film "Bear," and I'm excited that it's screening at SXSW.