I would love to know how "Hope Springs" got made.
Sure, David Frankel's had a few hits now. "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Marley & Me" were both down-the-middle studio hits, but his last film, "The Big Year," barely got a release. It's a shame, too. It's not a great film, but it's a nice, gentle character piece that featured a restrained, charming performance by Jack Black and strong work by Steve Martin. Hard film to sell, though, no matter how it all plays in context, because it's not really loaded with the sorts of moments studios count on to help cut a comedy trailer. "Hope Springs" is even more restrained and quiet than "The Big Year," and it's the best overall film Frankel's made yet.
It helps that Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep are both masters of their craft, and they both are at their absolute best here. Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) have been married for 31 years, and they've reached a place of quiet stalemate, each day exactly the same. They barely talk, they sleep in separate rooms, and it's been years since they were intimate. As the film starts, Kay finally finds the voice to tell Arnold that she's unhappy, and Streep is excellent at playing a woman who is lonely within her marriage but too afraid of shaking things up to find her voice. Streep plays Kay as this bundle of tension, small eruptions of emotion occasionally flashing across her face before she manages to get them under control again. Watching the way Arnold moves through their shared life, it's easy to understand how she gave up communication little by little. He's basically a statue, a ghost who blows through for a few minutes in the morning and then passes out in front of televised golf in the evening.
I would love to know how "Hope Springs" got made.
Jeremy Renner is the Bizarro world Ted McGinley.
For years, McGinley had a reputation as a show killer, a guy who would show up on a long-running TV series just in time for the show to drop dead. It wasn't his fault, but it happened often enough that he got saddled with that for a while, and something like that can be hard to shake.
Renner, on the other hand, appears to be the guy you cast late in the game if you want to extend a franchise. He was a great addition to the "Mission: Impossible" franchise last Christmas, he hit the ground running in "The Avengers" this summer, and now they've handed over the "Bourne" series to him, and he's managed to once again deliver a performance that feels absolutely like it has always been a part of that world, perfectly picking up where Matt Damon's work as Jason Bourne left off, and I suspect Universal will be amply rewarded for taking the chance on him.
Sacha Baron Cohen is facing a real turning point in his career, and it will be interesting to see how things progress.
The joy of discovering his early work was due at least in part to the feeling that you were in on a secret. Watching Ali G or Borat or Bruno interact with real people was amazing because of how seriously people took these insane creations of his. Even when "Borat" arrived in theaters, there was still a sense that something deranged was happening, something that was amazing to witness.
The one problem with that kind of humor is that a performer can only keep up that kind of ruse as long as he's not famous. The moment people start to recognize you, it's impossible for you to interact with the real world, and Sacha Baron Cohen is arguably one of the most recognizable comic performers working today.
I thought "The Dictator" was very funny this summer, but for people who wanted more of the "Borat"/"Bruno" school of gotcha comedy, it seemed less exciting than his earlier work. I think Cohen's got chops as an actor that we've just barely seen demonstrated onscreen, and while he's done nice work in films like "Hugo" and "Sweeney Todd," it still feels like there's more to his talent.
It was bound to happen eventually, and I had a feeling Fox was going to the company that finally made it happen.
Ever since Marvel Studios started making their own movies, fans have been wondering about the possibility of the characters that are currently owned by other studios making crossover appearances into the Marvel Universe that's been built, film by film, over the last few years.
Today, it looks like that's starting to happen, and it's a fairly exciting development in terms of what opportunities it sets up for this second wave of Marvel movies and also for one of the characters that is staying at Fox. David Slade recently left the "Daredevil" reboot that Fox has been developing, and now it looks like Joe Carnahan may step in with a take that is being described as a "Frank Miller-esque hardcore '70s thriller," which sounds like the exact right approach to the character. Carnahan hasn't commented officially, but he just Tweeted a very cryptic "DD - MM - 73," so feel free to interpret that as you see fit.
It sounds like it's still premature to say that's a done deal, but time is something that Fox does not have on their side right now. They have to make a "Daredevil" movie sooner rather than later, or the rights revert to Marvel. That's something Fox would like to avoid, and since they have a bargaining chip, it looks like they're going to play a lightning round of "Let's Make A Deal" where the real winner will be the audiences.
Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" changed her career and redefined her for audiences and studios alike. It was a great moment for a director who had been working in the margins for a while at that point, and there has been a great deal of attention on her follow-up to that film as a result.
Now, finally, we've got a trailer for "Zero Dark Thirty," which reunites her with "Hurt Locker" screenwriter Mark Boal. Even before Osama Bin Laden was actually killed, they were hard at work on a story about the hunt for the elusive Al Queda leader, and when he was found and killed, they were deep into pre-production. They were happy to reconfigure their film, though, since real life was kind enough to give them the perfect third act for the film.
This is a teaser in every sense of the term. There's very little actual footage here. It's more mood and little snippets of soundtrack and a couple of quick glimpses of cast. She's lined up an amazing collection of actors for the film, so I'm hoping there's another trailer soon that shows us more of the cast together. Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Duplass, Stephen Dillane and ass-kicker supreme Scott Adkins are all part of the ensemble, and I think Chastain is the only one I was able to actually spot in the trailer.
When Edward Norton signs on to play the bad guy in a movie, it's a safe bet he won't just be playing a simple, easily-defined black-and-white villain.
That's doubly true when he's joining the "Bourne" series that has become one of the few reliable alternatives to Bond for fans of smart popcorn spy movies. The latest entry, "The Bourne Legacy," is an attempt to extend the life of the series past the departure of Matt Damon, who has been the star of the first three films. My review will be up later this week, but it's safe to say the new film absolutely feels like part of the same world and the same narrative, and Eric Byer, the shadowy government figure who Norton plays in the film, is a perfect addition to the roster of middle-management government types who have peopled these films so far.
Norton is rarely just a gun for hire, instead signing on to films as a serious collaborator, someone who's going to want to dig into the text and see what can be done to elevate the material every single time. It's an approach that might make some people hesitate, but the filmmakers who embrace the approach tend to get great work from him, and it sounds like Tony Gilroy was absolutely up for the back-and-forth.
One of the dozens of ways that film critics and other people who write about movies do a disservice to the films that they cover is when they automatically refer to any film that is animated as a "kid's film" or a "family film." Case in point: Laika Studio's gorgeous new stop-motion movie, "ParaNorman," which has enough genuine scares and thoughtful material about life and death that I would have a hard time mounting an argument that it was aimed at children in any way.
Like many of the Amblin' films of the '80s, "ParaNorman" has a kid as the protagonist, but the film doesn't speak down to its audience. Instead, it tells a sometimes sad, often scary story about perception and institutionalized lies and the things that we are driven to do by fear, and it treats all of its characters, even the most cartoonish of them, with respect. Whatever I expected from the film, it wasn't something this smart and mature.
I find it fascinating that the fortunes of Screen Gems over the last decade have been primarily decided by two married couples, each with a filmmaker husband and an action star wife.
What's funny is that Beckinsale seems unconvinced that she's an action star. When I sat down to talk to her, I mentioned that the last time we spoke was for "Snow Angels," and she thanked me for being one of the six people who saw the film. I really love her work in that film and in "Laurel Canyon," and I think when given the right material, she can be a very effective performer. But for most people, the most indelible image of her so far on film is wrapped in tight black latex for her role as the monster killing badass at the center of the "Underworld" movies.
We discussed the thought process that would lead her husband, Len Wiseman, to cast her as the thunderously awful Lori, Quaid's fake wife in the new "Total Recall," and it seems to entertain her that she was asked to play such unrepentant evil by Wiseman. It certainly must have made for some interesting days on set.
When I interviewed Andy Samberg at the press day for "That's My Boy," he was joined by Adam Sandler, and it was a rowdy, loose conversation, which seems fitting based on the movie itself.
When we sat down to talk about his new film "Celeste and Jesse Forever," though, there was a very different mood in the room. And while Samberg may be incredibly self-deprecating in the interview about his own abilities as an actor, he should be proud of the work he does in the film. It's an indication that there's more to him than we've seen so far in films like "Hot Rod" or during his run on "Saturday Night Live."
We went pretty far out of our way not to talk about either SNL or "That's My Boy" during this conversation, and while that may sound limiting, I think there's enough to discuss in "C&JF," and the time zipped by as it always seems to during these interviews. Samberg has an innate likability that was important to his part in the film, and I think people will be surprised by him when they see it.
I'm that guy who really doesn't like the Paul Verhoeven film.
I like things about it, certainly. I like the idea of Rekall as a company and as a premise for a science-fiction film. Then again, Rekall isn't really a premise for a movie… it's a device, something you still have to build a plot around, and the one undeniably genius move of the original script is having someone ask to have the secret agent memories implanted, only to suddenly find himself in a secret agent scenario, unsure if it's really happening or if this is what he paid for. Great idea. Huge idea. So much you can do with it.
Perhaps that's why I remain disappointed by both versions of "Total Recall" to some degree. Here's this amazing opportunity, and both films eventually just turn into fairly standard action movies. Verhoeven's film ladles on the weird and tries to be subversively funny in the same way "Robocop" was, but it's an uneasy mixture at best, and I think the Schwarzenegger film is largely witless. This is a movie that actually contains a scene where Arnold sits at the controls of a giant drill that he uses to kill someone as he screams "SCREEEEEEEEWWWWWW YYYYYOOOOOUUUU!" It's hard for me to see the things the Verhoeven film does right when there is so much of it that makes me actively embarrassed to be watching it. I saw the film a few days before it opened at a midnight screening at the theater where my friend worked. I was tremendously excited for it, and I was a fan of Verhoeven's work even before "Robocop." I'd seen "Soldier Of Orange" and "Flesh and Blood" and "The Fourth Man" already, and I really liked his overall sensibility. To me, "Total Recall" felt like Hollywood swallowing him up, and it's not until it spit him back out and he made "Black Book" that I was fully onboard one of his films again.