Any time I want to feel really old, all I need to do is spend some time with Chloe Grace Moretz.
Watching her prowl through "Dark Shadows" playing a character who is just on the verge of adulthood, it struck me how far she's come in what seems like just a few short years since I first met her. The first time we spoke, she had on a purple wig and was doing backflips out of a window as she was shot repeatedly in the chest for about 20 takes in a row. It was on the set of "Kick-Ass," and as I spent the next few days watching her work with Nicholas Cage, I was struck by how incredibly focused and self-aware she was, and how important her on-set support system of her mother and her brother were to keeping her protected. After all, "Kick-Ass" was fairly rowdy material, and even actors older than her might balk at some of what she was asked to do in the film.
Not Chloe, though. She has this ability to throw herself into the work she's doing completely, and a truly adult understanding of the things she's being asked to do. When I saw her the next time, it was for the Comic-Con panel on "Let Me In," and it was interesting to see her spend time with Kodi Smit-McPhee, her co-star in the film. He struck me as much younger than her, emotionally, and when they were together, she suddenly seemed much more like a kid. In those moments she was away from him and talking, that adult sensibility would drop back into place, and that contradiction seems to sum up what it is that makes Chloe so interesting on film.
Any time I want to feel really old, all I need to do is spend some time with Chloe Grace Moretz.
Here's what I wrote when I saw the film "American Animal" at SXSW about a year ago:
Take "American Animal," for example, a film by Matt D'Elia. I am shocked that the film is not the culmination of a long-running stage production that someone decided to adapt for film, because that's what it feels like. It is a relatively intimate affair, with only four actors and one main set, and it has that sort of ebb and flow rhythm that is common to stage productions. Jimmy (D'Elia) and James (Brendan Fletcher) live together, and their primary activity seems to be avoiding any and all productive actions. They invite over a couple of girls, Blonde Angela (Mircea Monroe) and Not Blonde Angela (Angela Sarafyan), and at first, it's like we're watching this weird hybrid of a drugged-up party and a performance art piece. But there are secrets simmering just below the surface for both of the guys, and over the course of a very, very long evening, we get a glimpse at the harsh realities that they're both hiding from.
D'Elia is an intense screen presence, and serving triple-duty as writer, director, and lead actor is one of those things that can easily overwhelm a young filmmaker. Not a problem here. Jimmy is always on, larger than life, slipping from one persona to another, and it's all an act designed to hide a fear of impending mortality, and there is a point to the outrageous behavior. There is a sadness beneath the mania, and D'Elia never crosses the line into making the character impossible to like. He just skates on that line really carefully. Fletcher makes a perfect fencing partner for D'Elia, as does the strikingly lovely Sarafyan, who seems unimpressed by Jimmy's aggressive eccentricity. What I love is how the film doesn't excuse Jimmy's actions, but it does explain them, and we're allowed to have our own reactions, good or bad. D'Elia goes through a radical physical transformation in the film, and it's just one expression of how committed the entire thing feels. This is what I want from indie filmmakers… personal visions that are uncompromising, films where you can feel the passion, movies that had to be made. "American Animal" deserves to be seen, but more than that, it deserves to launch D'Elia as a filmmaker of note, and I'm curious to see where he goes from here.
A year has passed since I wrote that, and the film is about to finally get a release to theaters. You'll get a chance to see it. And I'm curious to see what people make of it. To help give the film some attention as it attempts to compete in a marketplace where "The Avengers" is apparently grossing $100 million every six hours or some such madness, I thought it would be nice to have D'Elia out to the house to talk about the film he made, the films he draws inspiration from, and the films he hopes to make in the future.
What else is there to say about Tim Burton?
At this point, he's been working the same sort of thematic and visual material for thirty years now. And how old am I? Old enough to think of Burton as "relatively recent" in terms of working directors.
It's easy to reduce Burton's work to his stylistic signatures and his incredibly familiar color palette. When you see a Tim Burton movie, you know you're watching a Tim Burton film. You may hate the film you're watching, and I've certainly felt that way several times in his career, but you still have to acknowledge that he's found a way to indulge his interests and cast his favorite people and just plain make his stamp, no matter how impersonal or corporate the movie is.
I wonder sometimes what would have happened if he hadn't made "Batman" in 1989. He was shooting the film through much of my freshman year of college, and I was following the film's progress from a distance. I was convinced he was going to turn out to be an inspired choice, a choice that would update "Batman" for a whole generation of viewers.
When you release the first trailer for a film, it says a lot about what that movie's meant to be, and sometimes, it's not really what you expect.
From the moment Warner Bros. started putting together "Gangster Squad," which was still called "Tales From The Gangster Squad" at that point, it seemed like it would fit neatly into a tradition of "LA Confidential" and "Mulholland Falls," movies about the history of the police in Los Angeles using real life as a jumping-off point.
And while today's trailer does indeed seem to confirm that, what I found surprising was the tone of the trailer. I guess I should have put it together when they hired Ruben Fleischer to direct the film. So far, he's had a sense of fun to what he does, a down-the-middle popcorn sensibility. That's not an insult, either, just an observation. He makes movies for the audience, and it looks like "Gangster Squad" is going to be far more focused on the fun than on the hunt for awards.
Fine by me.
We finally know what Edgar Wright's "The World's End" is about.
It's funny, because even knowing Edgar casually and having spoken with him any number of times since the first mention of what will now be the conclusion of 'the Cornetto trilogy," I've never had any desire to push him for information on the film.
After all, I figure we're not going to get endless collaborations between Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, so I look at it as a very special thing when they do get together to work. "Shaun Of The Dead" was this great out-of-left-field lightning bolt moment, "Hot Fuzz" was all anticipation, and so for "The World's End," I've done my best to just sit back and relax and wait to see what it is when the time is finally right.
Evidently, that's today.
The first time I ever saw Michelle Pfeiffer on a film set, it was when she was shooting "Batman Returns." It's fitting that we'd finally sit down for a formal interview for her first work with Tim Burton since then, as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the head of the Collins family, desperately clinging to whatever faded glory and dignity they once had.
I was running late to the press day thanks to traffic, and I was getting phone calls from Anne, the Warner publicist, letting me know that I was going to be the last person sitting down with Pfeiffer for the day. When I finally got to the SLS, I jumped out of the car, ran outside, and within 30 seconds of arriving, I was sitting across from Pfeiffer, which is enough to fluster even someone who had time to prepare.
Pfeiffer has managed to stake out her own place in Hollywood for thirty years or so now, and I admire the way she makes choices and the way she's established room for her role as a mother and a wife as well. It's so easy to get pulled into the idea that you have to keep working, that you have to treat every film as part of a career, but when I got to spend some time on the set of "Stardust," she ended up being remarkably approachable and easy to talk to. It was clear that she works when she's interested in something, and not just to work.
I have a weird relationship with Tim Burton's movies.
Fitting, I guess, since he's such a particular filmmaker. And this is going to be one of those reviews where you read it and you look at the letter grade and you say, "Are you sure those match?"
When "Alice In Wonderland" came out a few years ago, I found myself getting actively angry at almost everything about the film. I hated the script. I hated the way they bent Lewis Carroll's work. I hated the performance choices. Nothing about it worked for me, and beyond that, it irritated me. That film, of course, made well over a billion dollars around the world.
When "Mars Attacks!" came out, I thought it was wildly flawed, but also entertaining and ridiculous and packed with details that made me sort of fall for it, flaws and all. If I had to give "Mars Attacks!" a letter grade, it might not be a good one, but I own the film and I've seen it many times since that initial screening.
Often, I've noticed that when I really enjoy something that Tim Burton does, it makes other people mental and vice versa. Knowing this, I am probably not the best barometer for most people on Burton's work. All I can do is be honest and admit that, yes, "Dark Shadows" is one of those films where I see a lot of problems with it, and they pretty much don't matter to me because of what I enjoyed about it. I think the overall effort is endearingly ridiculous, and here's a way to gauge your own expectations for the film: how do you feel about "Death Becomes Her"?
Shortly after our interview ended, Eva Green returned to her home planet, happy and ridiculously hot.
I love people like Eva Green. I love actors who not only maintain a personal sense of style but who genuinely seem like they are tuned in to a private radio station, listening to music only they can hear. I love them because we often see that individual personality come out in their work in ways that no one could predict. They give performances that are alive in unexpected ways, and the films they are in are much richer for it.
Eva Green made a pretty serious impact on male moviegoers as soon as Bertolucci introduced her in "The Dreamers," and there is no doubt… she's a stunning woman. As she's gotten older, though, what's become increasingly clear is that she is not really equipped to be part of the machine. She's been in some big films, sure, but I don't get the sense that she has handed herself over, heart and soul, desperate to be a movie star.
I'm really surprised that Matthew Vaughn's willing to let someone else play with his toys.
After all, "Kick-Ass" wasn't just some studio gig he got hired for that was going to happen with or without his involvement. He chose to make the film outside the studio system because he knew it wasn't going to be easy to convince people to let him do certain things like cast a real 12 year old to play Hit Girl or keep the extreme attitude of the thing.
As Mark Millar's been publishing "Kick-Ass 2" over the last year or so, the question has been raised many times about whether or not there would be a movie sequel. Every time I ran into a member of the cast of the original, they seemed absolutely ready to jump back in and return to these characters. Chris Mintz-Plasse in particular seemed hungry to play the villain this time, and he seemed excited by where the character had gone on the comics.
Now, according to reports, Universal may well step in as the home for "Kick-Ass 2," and while Matthew Vaughn's MARV Films remains in control of the material, Vaughn and his screenwriting partner Jane Goldman are not going to be hands-on in quite the same way this time.
Until this year's SXSW film festival, I'd never spoken to Joss Whedon.
It didn't really strike me as odd until after the fact. I mean, I've been writing about this guy's work for the entire time I've been online, and we have many overlapping friends. Even if I hadn't had the opportunity for a formal interview, it seemed like we should have at least run into each other at some point. Even my Twitter icon sort of perfectly sums it up, a photo of the two of us standing about eight feet apart that I never even realized happened.
The SXSW chat went really well, I thought, and then I saw "The Avengers" and just flipped for what he pulled off. Sitting down with him again at the press day for the film, it was hard to know where to start the conversation because there's so much that's worth talking about when someone's having a creative moment like the one Whedon's having right now, not to mention the body of work he's already accumulated.