A quick note before we get started.
This one's going to be a little different for the simple reason that two of my semi-regular columns are going to collide in this one article, something that I don't think has ever happened before. It just so happens that this year, I'm counting down to the release of "Skyfall" on November 9th with a look back at the James Bond movies, and as a result, I found myself talking about the films with my sons, who are of course the subject of Film Nerd 2.0, my ongoing series about the way we share media with our kids.
I was seven years old when I saw my first Bond film. It was in the theater, and it was one of the first times I remember my father taking me to see a movie by himself. By that point, I was aware of the character thanks to his omnipresence on the ABC Sunday Night Movie as well as the books that my dad always had around the house. I knew it was something he liked, but I didn't really know anything else about it, and when he decided to take me to see "The Spy Who Loved Me" in the theater, I considered it a very special moment. I remember tactile details about that day. I remember the "Sinbad and the Eye Of The Tiger" poster they had in the lobby. I remember going to lunch and having hamburgers before the movie. More than anything, though, I remember that it was just us. Just the guys. No mom or little sister allowed. And I think that bond was the first part of what made me a Bond fan, the idea that I was connected somehow to the world of men because of this thing he was sharing with me.
A quick note before we get started.
I can think of no better way to kick off Global James Bond Day than with the first official clip from "Skyfall."
The buzz on this film is building now, and it makes sense. We are, after all, only a month out from the release. I've talked to at least one person who saw a rough cut of the film, and their reaction to it was unbridled enthusiasm. It sounds like Sam Mendes didn't just make a good Bond film, but actually nailed the idea that this has to serve as a celebration of the 50 years that Bond has been a presence in the world of international cinema. That's a huge legacy to try to encapsulate in a single film, but the word I'm hearing is that he did it, and that fans of the series are going to be positively flattened by the movie.
I find it amazing that there are still people who seem unhappy about Daniel Craig playing James Bond. He's about as perfect for the role as anyone I could imagine, and I think the choices he makes in the role are exciting. It's important to me that on some level Bond has to be scary. That's the biggest problem I have with Roger Moore as I rematch the movies right now. I just don't think he's intimidating at all, and one of the things that defines James Bond is his license to kill. Craig's Bond has proven himself capable of killing pretty much anyone he gets his hands on, and there's something kind of glorious about what a cultured ape he is.
Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell in one room together promises to be a whole lot of energy to try to manage during an interview.
Of course, neither of these men is easily summed up by their onscreen personas, and Rockwell in particular is a guy who I think comes across very different in a face-to-face situation than he does onscreen. He is one of our great oddballs on film, and it is one of cinema's unbreakable rules that any film where Rockwell dances is automatically better because he dances.
Walken is also a remarkable dancer, of course, as any fan of "Pennies From Heaven" or the Fatboy Slim "Weapon Of Choice" video can attest, but he's also a tremendous actor who has managed to become a larger-than-life figure. Some films trade openly on that idea and cast him to play "Christopher Walken," and some films cast him for his considerable chops and his ability to create memorable characters. "Seven Psychopaths" is a little bit of both. While there is dialogue that absolutely sounds like it was crafted to trip off his tongue with his trademark pauses to punctuate things, he's also enormously touching in the way he gives life to what could have been a cartoon in lesser hands.
At this point, it's safe to say "True Lies 2" is never going to happen, no matter how much Tom Arnold wishes it would.
The sad thing about that is there was a perfectly natural sequel built into the DNA of the first film, and even better, they cast is just right by accident. When Eliza Dushku played the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in the first film, that was before "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and Dushku was still very young. In the years since, she's grown into a credible action lead, thanks in large part to her years of working with Joss Whedon as the morally compromised Faith. The first film dealt with the way spouses keep secrets within a marriage and how much stronger you are as a duo when you're able to finally see each other clearly without any lies to separate you. The sequel could easily have been about that moment when a child finally starts to see their parents as people instead of just "parents," and how that adjustment can be difficult. Putting Dushku in the middle of a spy caper with her parents could have paid off beautifully and actually expanded on the original's ideas thematically.
Big badda boom.
At this point, the only way to approach the ongoing adventures of John McClane is with a wink, because the very notion of the first film has been undermined by the entirely understandable urge by the studio to turn the character into an ongoing franchise. What made the first "Die Hard" so great is the exact thing that makes the sequels less interesting. John McClane was just a normal cop. That was made very clear in the film, and that's why it was so great to watch this guy take down this elaborate heist. It was just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time, and he beat Hans Gruber and his merry band of thieves through sheer tenacity. McClane simply wasn't going to let them win, and as a result, he managed to not only stop the bad guys but he also won back his wife in the process. Great character arc, great premise, lean and mean and self-contained.
And while I can roll with the notion of "Die Hard With A Vengeance" because it's about an act of specifically-targeted revenge, a true sequel to the first film, I have more trouble getting my head around the coincidental nature of "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and "Live Free Or Die Hard," where McClane goes from being a normal cop in extraordinary circumstances to being a lightning rod for elaborate bad guy plots.
"Seven Psychopaths" is one of those films that you can't fully sum up just by describing the plot or the characters, because it seems like it's playing a lot of games with the viewer at all times.
Taken just on the surface, as a plot-driven comedy, it's fun. In my review of the film from the Toronto Film Festival, where it played as part of the Midnight Madness section, I talked about how it also serves as an "Adaptation"-style deconstruction of the creative process. That's a hard thing to sell to an audience, though, and it's basically just the gravy. If the film didn't work as a character comedy first, it wouldn't work at all, and thanks to both the sharp writing and the dizzyingly funny performances, it absolutely works on that level.
My favorite film of all time is playing theaters Thursday night, and if you've never seen it, or if you've never seen it theatrically, now's your chance.
I know that many people view "Lawrence Of Arabia" as something that sounds like it's going to be homework. I try to go see the film every time it plays LA in 70MM, and last time I went, I was joined by a friend who had never seen it. He confessed that he was worried about the homework issue and that the film's length intimidated him. "Tell you what," I said, "if you still think this is homework by the time the intermission rolls around, you should feel free to leave." When we reached the intermission, he looked over at me, wide-eyed, and I could tell he wasn't going anywhere.
"Lawrence" is as theatrical a film experience as I can imagine, huge and epic, with scenes that I find almost impossible to imagine anyone actually staging and shooting. It is a tremendous film both as entertainment and art, and with the Blu-ray arriving in stores on November 13, Sony decided to show off the new restoration, an update on the amazing work done by Robert Harris and his team in 1989, something you need a theatre screen to fully appreciate.
I get the feeling no one wrangles Bruce Willis.
Most of the time when a publicist wants to organize an interview, everything is rigorously scheduled. I've had several phone interviews this week, and in every case, there has been a flurry of e-mails and phone calls ahead of time to pin things down, including in almost every case a pre-call call just to make sure I'm really where I'm supposed to be and the conversation is really going to happen.
I got an e-mail from Sony asking if I'd be interested in talking to Bruce Willis about "Looper," and the answer to any query about whether or not you want to talk to Bruce Willis is, of course, "yes." I sent back my affirmation and then waited for a follow-up.
A full day and a half later, my phone rang, and I answered, right in the middle of trying to talk my kids into putting on pants. It was post-school, and they have recently decided on an all-underwear policy when they're relaxing after school, something I'm trying to discourage. In the middle of a debate that largely consisted of me saying things like, "I don't know why! You just need pants!", I picked up the phone, distracted and not expecting anyone in particular.
"Hi. Is this Drew?"
"Hi, Drew. This is Bruce Willis."
Richard Stark wrote 24 novels about Parker, and yet we've got no less than three film versions of the first book now, including Taylor Hackford's "Parker," where Jason Statham will step into the shoes once filled by both Lee Marvin ("Point Blank") and Mel Gibson ("Payback") in previous adaptations.
At some point, I'd love to hear the story of why this one particular novel keeps getting adapted while the rest of the series, which contains some truly remarkable books, has yet to really be mined as source material. Sure, Godard adapted one of the books loosely as "Made In USA" in the '60s, and there was another French film called "Mise a Sac" that used "The Score" as source material, also in the '60s. Jim Brown played a renamed version of Parker in "The Split," and Robert Duvall played a renamed Parker in "The Outfit". But we're talking about 24 books, and just a handful of movies. That's crazy.
I'm still not sure what to make of the title, but the trailer for "Movie 43" makes it look very slick and wildly offensive, and I'll admit that much of what I saw made me laugh.
The very, very, very red band trailer for the movie showed up today on the Comedy Central website, and just looking at the trailer, you can tell this has been kicking around for a while. It filmed in 2010 and is the work of a whole group of directors. Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Brett Ratner all contributed to the picture, which was written by Steve Baker, Will Carlough, Patrik Forsberg, Matt Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, and Jeremy Sosenko.