"Forty can suck my d**k!"
With that emphatic birthday-morning proclamation, Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" kicks off a rude, rowdy, occasionally brutal look at aging, marriage, family, and love, and while it may be the most personal thing he's ever made, it is also the most universal. It would be hard to not recognize yourself in some part of this film, and while your specifics may not exactly match what you see onscreen, this is as honest and observational as mainstream comedy gets these days.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) were first featured as supporting players in Apatow's "Knocked Up," and they stole pretty much every moment they were in. Part of what made them fascinating was how much further Apatow let their arguments go than what we're used to seeing in films where we're worried about "liking" the leads. They didn't have to carry the film, and so Apatow seemed free to push things with them as much as possible. Now that they are the leads, I was worried he would defang them, but if anything, moving them to the center of the film gives him more room to paint a painfully accurate picture of just how hard it can be to hold things together.
"Forty can suck my d**k!"
Guillermo Del Toro is occasionally accused by fans of committing to way too many projects, more than he can ever possibly make. It helps if you understand that he knows full well that not all of those projects will ever happen. One of the things you have to do if you're a working director is develop a ton of projects at all times, because for every seven or eight films you develop, maybe one of them will actually make it in front of the camera. No one knows the pains of the development process as well as Del Toro, and he has become very canny about how he spearheads a dozen different things at a time so that he never finds himself without an active possible film when he finishes something else.
We talked earlier this week about why he took the job as a creative consultant at Dreamworks Animation, and how he's taken a very hands-on approach to his work there while also approaching the entire situation as a student, someone who wants to learn. I have a feeling we'll see an era of Guillermo animated films at some point, but for now, he's still happy to be a sounding board, a sort of idea factory for other artists to bounce off of. He giving most of his attention right now to "Pacific Rim," his giant-scale live-action monster movie coming out next summer, and early word from inside Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures has been incredibly effusive and passionate. It sounds like he's done something special, and there's one particular sequence in the film that Guillermo already describes as "the best scene I've ever done."
I sincerely regret not going back to the House Of Blues last week after my interviews with the cast and the crew of "The Man With The Iron Fists" to see the RZA perform. It was an invite offered to all of the press who worked that day, and it would have been great to see him play some of the tracks from the preposterously fun soundtrack album, but I couldn't make it work.
Even so, I got to sit down with him and with Eli Roth and talk to the two of them about what went into the making of this big, gorgeous, super-sincere tribute to the films that have informed the RZA's aesthetic for as long as he's been a working artist. They were in a great rowdy mood, the result of finally completing what has been a major part of the RZA's life for several years now and an ambition for years before that.
I would not say I know the RZA, but I've sure seen a lot of kung-fu movies with him over the years. He was a regular at the Tarantino festivals in Austin, and perhaps the most insane, over-the-top, how-the-hell-does-this-exist kung-fu film I've ever seen with an audience was one of those screenings where he was right there with the rest of us, freaking out at every single great moment in "A Fistful Of Talons," including what may well be the craziest ending I've ever seen in a film.
That's not an exaggeration, either. The ending of that movie is one of the few things I've ever seen in a theater that made me leap to my feet, as if I were physically involved in what I was watching. It is sheer madness, and the audacity and the unashamed uber-violence… that all played into what an amazing shared moment it was. That seemed to be one of Quentin's goals as a festival programmer, that group experience, and perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to "The Man With The Iron Fists," which is a passion project directed by the RZA and co-written by him with Eli Roth, is that it feels like the sort of film that would play at a Tarantino fest, something he found on a shelf that no one else had ever seen, and it manages to pull off its ambitious goals without winking at the audience or becoming a mere post-modern exercise.
I just published my interview with Sarah Silverman and talked about how strange a fit that seems to be at first, the gleefully filthy stand-up and the biggest family brand in the world, but it really works. She gives a lovely performance in the film. And it's a nice reminder that it's not wise to prejudge what someone can or can't do as an actor.
When Jamie Foxx was cast in "Django Unchained," I had a hard time picturing it. I think he's a very modern presence and some people simply don't strike me as period actors, as people we'd believe in certain other contexts. The early footage and trailers for "Django Unchained" make me think I was wrong in my knee-jerk reaction, and I am now fervently hoping he pulls it off and does something wonderful. He's certainly got the right script and the right cast surrounding him.
And while I didn't love "The Amazing Spider-Man," I think the team that's in place could easily improve from the first film to the second one. Raimi had a learning curve on his "Spider-Man" movies, so Webb could easily do the same thing. The success of a superhero movie, at least creatively, depends in large part on who they pick as the villain. And while Jamie Foxx isn't the guy I would think of first as Electro, it sounds like that is the role he's in negotiations to play.
It is still very strange to me that Sarah Silverman is now officially a Disney character.
Sure, she's playing a character named Vanellope von Schweetz, but those pipes could only belong to one person, and it's kind of remarkable that this sort of big pop cartoon would provide the actress with the opportunity to do some of the most nuanced work she's done on film so far.
There's something wonderful about the way kids get to know performers like Silverman or Patton Oswalt or Jack McBrayer or John C. Reilly or Sarah Vowell from these smart, engaging animated stories where they play outrageous characters who are grounded and humanized by that voice work. Silverman perfectly expresses the bruised heart of the "glitch" who Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) meets when he sneaks into the game "Sugar Rush."
I'll have a review of Barry Levinson's new film "The Bay" later today for you. First, though, I thought I'd share a couple of images of the Isopods, the creatures that are the primary threat in the movie.
When Levinson was first approached by the producers, they wanted him to make a documentary about the way Chesapeake Bay is dying. While he decided against doing the documentary because he saw one that he felt did a solid job of covering the topic, the more he read, the more fascinated he became by just how the bay is dying and why.
In particular, he was horrified by what he learned about isopods, and if you want to crank up the nightmares, just run a Google image search for "isopods." Specifically "giant isopods." Some of those actual images made their way into "The Bay," and at the Q&A after we saw the film, one of the audience members asked Levinson how much they had to exaggerate the isopods. "We didn't," Levinson said. "Those Google images you see are real."
One of the first reactions yesterday across the Internet was rejoicing about the Disney/Lucasfilm deal because fans immediately assumed that Disney would make all their dreams come true of a Blu-ray release for the unaltered original 1977 version of "A New Hope."
Well, don't hold your breath.
Home video rights are a tricky thing, and in this case, fans can be forgiven for their immediate assumption. After all, Disney bought Lucasfilm, right? The problem is that there are existent deals in place concerning the first six films and the "Clone Wars" television series that aren't going to suddenly change just because of this sale. Those obligations are going to be playing themselves out for several years to come.
In the case of the "Star Wars" movies, the earliest Disney would have a chance to release anything would be in the year 2020, and even then, they aren't going to have the rights to "A New Hope," which remain with Fox permanently. Now, sure, companies can work out deals to release movies that other studios made. The new James Bond box set, for example, is a Fox release even though MGM is the studio that has made those movies and Sony is currently releasing the new titles. And the Alfred Hitchcock box that just came out from Universal features several Paramount and MGM titles as well. It's certainly not unheard of, and I'm sure Disney would love to work it out.
Disney now owns the Muppets, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. In breaking news, they are currently in negotiation with my parents to buy the rest of my childhood for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
And we don't get the first new "Star Wars" film until 2015, eh? Guess I'm going to have to start exercising and eating right after all.
First, I think it's a safe bet that all of your poring over your "Star Wars" expanded universe novels to figure out if he's doing the Thrawn movies or the New Jedi Order series can relax. They won't be adapting books. They mentioned today that Lucas has written treatments for three new films, and there is no way he's going to let those films say "based on a story by Timothy Zahn". Those stories exist, fans are able to enjoy them now, and simply translating them to the screen is a losing proposition on all sides. The general public has no investment in those books, and for filmmakers who become involved with the series moving forward, there's no up side to simply adapting someone else's "Star Wars" story when there is almost limitless room to invent new stories that take place in that universe and even in that continuity.
What is a Disney movie these days?
I know what an animated Disney film was, brand-wise, when I was a kid. And when Disney reinvented themselves in the post-"Black Cauldron" world as a musical fairy tale factory, that was also a brand that was easy to identify.
But today, Walt Disney Feature Animation has perhaps the most tenuous grasp on identity that I've ever seen from them. Part of that has to do with all the competition that exists today from Blue Sky Studios and Sony Animation and DreamWorks Animation… basically a bunch of companies that have gotten very good at making movies that play to the audience that was at one point the sole domain of Disney. Then, of course, there's the in-house issue of Pixar Animation, a powerhouse team of storytellers who have arguably out-Disney'd Disney for the past fifteen years. It's hard to be the top dog when you no longer are the first pick for animators looking for work, and these days, filmmakers who want to work in animation are probably looking to Pixar the signpost for what it is they want to do.