You'd think that as long as I've been doing this, I would have interviewed Wes Anderson by now.
You'd think, but you'd be wrong. Even though he's released most of his movies while I've been covering film, and I've been an ardent fan since "Bottle Rocket," which I still think is one of his most disarming films, it's never worked out for the two of us to sit down to talk about his work.
That's why when I was offered a chance to finally talk to him during the Cannes Film Festival about his new film, "Moonrise Kingdom," I jumped at the chance. I'll have several other interviews for you in the next few days, but we wanted to kick things off with Anderson himself.
Before we started rolling, his publicist mentioned that I used to be with Ain't It Cool, and Anderson asked me what my spy name was. I confessed that I was Moriarty, and he smiled. "I thought so."
You'd think that as long as I've been doing this, I would have interviewed Wes Anderson by now.
The last time Joe Roth produced an updated take on a classic fantasy story, the result was the numbingly painful "Alice In Wonderland," so when he announced an updated "Snow White," complete with a transformation by the lead character into a sword-wielding warrior, it immediately set me on edge. After all, if I had to bet on either Tim Burton or a first-time filmmaker named Rupert Sanders to deliver something worthwhile, I would have put my money on Burton.
And I would have been wrong.
The greatest thing "Snow White And The Huntsman" has going for it is that it treats its fairy tale story seriously, and it treats the world it takes place in with a sense of wonder. While Rupert Sanders seems to be a very big fan of Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson, he manages to make this feel like its own thing. It is still recognizably the Snow White story, but Evan Daughtery, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini's screenplay expand the story in ways that feel like logical extensions of the text rather than radical reinventions. The thing that surprised me most is that the film plays as dark as it does. This is not a film for kids under 13 or so, and it is filled with nightmare imagery that many young viewers could be upset by. Considering the almost insane levels of darkness in the original Grimm fairy tales, it's appropriate. I'm just not used to seeing fairy tales treated this way by mainstream Hollywood.
Walk down the aisle of a grocery store, and you'll see products with the "G.I. Joe Retaliation" logo slapped on them. Hit the right toy store that didn't get the memo, and you'll see "G.I. Joe Retaliation" toys on the shelves. Drive around LA, and you'll see plenty of outdoor posters for the film. It looks like Paramount's got their sequel to the live-action "Rise Of Cobra" ready to go and on its way to theaters on June 29th.
That's not true, though. They've pushed the film to a March 29th, 2013 release, and the reason they gave last week when details started to break was that they wanted to make sure they had time to give the film a good 3D post-conversion.
This week, though, that cover story is starting to collapse, and a very different picture is emerging of a film in trouble, a director being pushed aside, and reshoots designed to radically alter the fate of at least one character. In an age where even the smallest details on a film seem to be known months ahead of release, I'm not sure how Paramount thought they were going to get away with a cover story as simple as "We like 3D," but it's apparent that they're going to have to contend with months of tough buzz instead, and their decision to move the film could be make or break and worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a studio that can't afford to throw away any money right now.
Last week, I ran my long-form interview with make-up effects legend Rick Baker, which may be my favorite thing we've done so far this year here on HitFix.
While we were at his Glendale studio getting ready for the interview, we had some time to kill in the showroom, where he has many elaborate make-ups on display, and we decided to shoot as much of it as we could for you.
The result isn't he most formal walk-through tour of all time, but should offer you a flavor of what it's like to be there, and just how remarkable these creations are when you see them up close. Stan Winston used to have the same sort of showroom at his company, and I think it's a testament to the artistry that goes into the making of these things. Built right, they endure long past when you'd expect them to, and even without knowing the film they came from, they are remarkable.
Paramount's been making some odd and potentially expensive choices recently, and no matter what's really going on behind closed doors, it's making them look like they are rudderless and even desperate.
I was not at CinemaCon this year for Paramount's presentation, but that's where they first showed footage from what they hope will be a kickoff to an ongoing franchise based on the Lee Childs novels about Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop who wanders America and frequently finds himself in harm's way. They're starting with an adaptation of the ninth book in the (so-far) seventeen novel series, "One Shot," and until now, that's the title they've been using for the film itself. Today, though, it appears that they have decided to retitle the piece.
It will now officially be known as "John Carter."
Oh, wait… I mean they're changing the title to "Jack Reacher." But my entirely-intentional slip makes a point, and I'm curious how no one brought up Disney's marketing debacle from this spring when they were having meetings about this title switch. Of course, this is just the latest in a series of strange choices that Paramount's made on this one.
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 was a long and irritating day of travel to get me from France to Los Angeles, and I've only been home for about six hours, but that's enough time for me to start to get my post-festival bearings again and prepare this week's Weekend Watch. As always, there are big films and small films and theatrical and video all in the mix, and it's an eclectic buffet that proves that just because it's the beginning of the summer movie season doesn't mean you only have big giant blockbusters as possibilities. It looks like I'm going to be taking Toshi to see "The Avengers" on Sunday after all, so that's my Memorial Day fireworks celebration, and I'll also be enjoying a birthday celebration with friends tomorrow with friends and family. Hope you guys are going to use the weekend to see something fun, and that we're able to help steer you towards something you might not expect.
CANNES - Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 film "The Celebration" was a blistering piece about repressed secrets as a form of familial cancer, and it established him as an important voice in Danish film on part with Lars Von Trier. The films he's made since then have not worked with the same focus, but he's remained an interesting presence with the potential to put it all together again.
And now, with his new film "The Hunt," he's done exactly that.
It's interesting that you could read this as an almost direct inversion of "the Celebration," but I don't think that was by design. Instead, Vinterberg began his process on this film by reading some disturbing reports on how children are so unclear on the notion of fantasy that they can lie with complete emotional conviction, and how adults, unclear on the way that works, can sometimes believe the unbelievable because of the source. We tend to paint children in our culture as these pristine moral figures, and when I hear that, it makes me wonder if the people who believe that have ever actually met any children. I love my kids, and I think they are well on their way to being good people. But left to their own devices, kids are basically wild animals and morality is something we teach them, not something that is inherent to them. They are driven by desire and need and powerful waves of emotion that they barely understand.
CANNES - The last time I saw the name "Leos Carax" onscreen was as part of the anthology film "Tokyo!", where he was one of three directors including Bong Joon-ho and Michel Gondry. His segment, "Merde," was surreal and silly, and his star, Denis Lavant, gave a unique performance as the title character, a strange sewer-dwelling beast. The images from that stuck with me the same way images from Carax's earlier film "Lovers On The Bridge" stuck with me, and I've been hoping for the last four years for Carax to get back to making features.
"Holy Motors" was more than worth the wait.
It is rare for me to see a film that I enjoy so deeply and that I feel like I have just begun to understand, but "Holy Motors" is a huge meal, a rich and playful picture that packs so much into its two-hour running time that once I finally staggered out of the Salle Debussy last night, I felt drunk. I was dizzy from everything that Carax had thrown at me, but I was also feeling that light-headed wooziness that comes in the first flush of love. It is a film that speaks to me on the same intuitive level as something like "Enter The Void" or "El Topo" or "Eraserhead," and while I can't claim to have fully digested it yet, I can say with confidence that it's my favorite film I've seen so far at Cannes and so far in 2012. It is a film I'll see many times in the future, and I look forward to exploring every corner of this kingdom of dreams that Carax has created.
CANNES - Many filmmakers have attempted to adapt Jack Kerouac's seminal novel "On The Road" over the years, but Walter Salles is the guy who finally wrestled it up onto the screen. It is a largely successful attempt to bring the book to life, and it follows the same sort of episodic rhythm that Salles utilized so well in "The Motorcycle Diaries." While I would not call it a towering accomplishment, it is far more successful than I would have expected knowing the source material.
It would be interesting to take all of the films that exist that deal with the Beat Generation and the various characters who defined the era and look at how these people have been interpreted though various artistic filters. After all, "On The Road" was Kerouac's biography, but through a very thin filter of fiction. He renamed people, turning himself into Sal Paradise, the novel's narrator, while he turned the charming and charismatic Neal Cassady into the iconic Dean Moriarty. Cronenberg's adaptation of "Naked Lunch" used a similar device, taking the unfilmable William Burroughs novel and turning it into a film that is as much about the writing of the book as the book itself. We've seen films like "Howl" and "The Sheltering Sky" tackle the era and the figures who wrote those remarkable works, and there are, of course, plenty of documentaries that also tackle the era, giving these people a chance to make a case for their own place in cultural history. The result is that we've got a pretty dense tapestry of material to choose from now if we want to try to understand what it was like to both create these works and to live in an era where they were fresh and causing major cultural shifts.
CANNES - Andrew Dominik's last film, "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" was, to put it kindly, divisive. You can count me on the side of the folks who thought it was a gorgeous, poetic look at an American West that may not have ever truly existed, and the legends that stood astride it in its sunset years. The score alone would qualify it as a fairly major work of film art for me, and when I revisited the film about four days before flying out for this year's festival, I found myself smitten all over again.
With "Killing Me Softly," Dominik appears to have zagged when everyone expected a zig, and this lean, mean, cynical little crime film, adapted from a novel by George V. Higgins, is a stylish delight, but perhaps not what many viewers will expect. Brad Pitt is obviously the biggest name in the film, and his work as Jackie Cogan is great. But he doesn't appear in the film nearly as much as some of his lesser-known co-stars like Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, who both rip it up playing low-level criminal dummies who are enticed into a job by The Squirrel, played by Vince Curatola. If you're a "Sopranos" fan, you'd know Curatola immediately as Johnny "Sack," and it's interesting seeing him show up in a key role in the same film as James Gandolfini, who contributes a lovely supporting turn as a washed-up hitman who's too busy whoring and drinking to actually pull a trigger.