You know, you should never count the Weitz brothers out.
Both Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz made their names early. "American Pie" put Paul on the map as a director, and they seemed to indicate that their careers were headed to a more personal and heartfelt place with 2002's lovely "About A Boy," which they co-directed. Since then, they've both had some pretty big creative misfires, although no one could accuse them of being anything less than ambitious. I may not like "The Golden Compass" as a movie, but I can see what drew Chris Weitz to it, and I respect the effort. For Paul, the nadir of his film work so far would have to be the one-two punch of "Cirque du Freak" and "Little Fockers," both movies that felt corporate and calculated.
Last year, Chris made the piercing "A Better Life," featuring an amazing performance by Demian Bichir, and it felt to me like he had roared back to life as a filmmaker, besting whatever his own high-water mark was so far. While I don't think Paul's new film, "Being Flynn," reaches the same beautiful heights as "A Better Life," it strikes me as authentically observed and deeply felt, and a huge step in the right direction for him as a filmmaker.
You know, you should never count the Weitz brothers out.
I like this trailer a lot.
When Tim Burton first announced plans to take his 1984 short film and turn it into a stop-motion animated feature film, I sort of dismissed it as a weird late-career indulgence and haven't thought much about it since. After all, once a director makes a billion dollars for a studio with one movie, he's in a position to get any random weird-ass dream off the ground as a movie, and it felt like the sort of thing where Disney was just allowing him to do it as a thank you for the Scrooge McDuck style vaults full of money they were swimming in thanks to "Alice In Wonderland."
But looking at this trailer, it strikes me that if George Lucas would have just been honest with himself and remade 1977's "A New Hope" instead of endlessly tinkering with the original film and giving it weird digital face lifts, my guess is the outrage would have been more pronounced at the beginning, but it eventually would have settled down because they would exist as different movies.
"The Deer Hunter." "Charade." "To Kill A Mockingbird." Over the last few weeks, it's felt like a bit of an avalanche of titles have been arriving at my house from Universal, all on Blu-ray, all part of their 100th year celebration, and so far, my only question is why more studios don't celebrate their legacies like this.
Universal has gone above and beyond with these releases. I know that some of the films, like "The Blues Brothers," have already been out on Blu-ray, but most of them are new to the format, and the studio appears to be shelling out for some full-scale restorations. I have not yet seen "All Quiet On The Western Front," but I've heard amazing things about the work they did on it, and I can vouch for the "Deer Hunter" transfer, which has never been better.
The sad truth about Hollywood is that as much as they pay lip service to legacy and nostalgia, they are very bad about taking care of their treasures. One only need look at the way the various movie palaces of Los Angeles have been treated over the years to see how little history means to most of these people. Maybe it's because it's a job where there is a high turnover rate and a near-constant game of executive square-dance going on. Maybe it's because the people who work at studios now aren't the ones who made those older films, so there's no emotional attachment. Whatever the case, I've been frustrated by this attitude since I arrived in LA in 1990.
I like being surprised by someone when I walk into an interview.
I do not pay much attention to pop music of any kind at this point. I have a few trusted friends who recommend things to me that I might like listening to, and I have older artists whose new work I'll pick up because I'm a fan, and every now and then, something punches through the haze of pop culture and catches my attention. For the most part, though, I know names more than I know the actual sound, and that was certainly the case with Taylor Swift.
I know who she is. I know she's very young. I know she has a reputation for writing songs about dudes who have done her wrong. Beyond that, she's not really on my radar. That's not a negative judgment on my part… it's just a confession that when it comes to blind spots, she occupies one of mine.
So when we sat down at the recent press day for "The Lorax" to talk about her work in the movie as Audrey, the girl whose obsession with trees kicks off the quest by Ted (Zac Efron) to find one for her, I walked in a blank slate. I was there to talk to an actor about her latest film, end of story.
There are just a few weeks left until the opening of one of the year's most-hyped gambles, the big-screen adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel, "The Hunger Games."
I'm actually seeing the film very soon so I can sit down and interview the cast and crew, and I'm excited to see what they've done. I've said a few times now that I admire the Collins novels, and I think there's real potential here for a film trilogy that is visceral and thrilling and emotional, and it all depends on whether or not they get this first one right.
I will say this… a friend of mine recently got in touch after a screening of the film, and his succinct reaction was "Buy Lionsgate Stock." Seems like a bit of an endorsement, eh?
But you don't care whether a film critic gets to see the film early. You want to know when you get to see it. And if you're in Philadelphia or Chicago, then I am pleased to report that HitFix may be able to help you with that.
Good documentaries have a very simple and direct appeal. We engage because we are watching something true, and often, something we had no idea about. I have always been drawn more towards documentaries about people or places than issues, because I find people endlessly interesting, and documentaries capture us in all our freaky glory.
In the case of "Beauty Day," a Canadian documentary that is arriving on video in that country this week, I was hooked immediately by the the story of Ralph Zavadil, who made a name for himself as a local cable access celebrity in Ontario decades ago. As "Cap'n Video," Zavadil was willing to do anything for a laugh, putting himself in harm's way over and over again before one stunt ended the laughter.
Or… did it? Because the stunt that broke his neck was also the first stunt of his I ever saw, without knowing who it was or what the circumstances were. I didn't realize it was from a show or that this was a guy who did this on a regular basis. I was introduced to Zavadil via the magic of YouTube and a friend who sent me a video in an e-mail with the header "OMG THIS IS THE STUPIDEST PERSON ALIVE EXCEPT HE MIGHT BE DEAD NOW!!"
The three friends who kick off the avalanche of bad behavior in "Project X" are played by J.D. Brown, Oliver Copper, and Thomas Mann, and the three of them together sat down to talk to us about the wild ride that was the production of the film.
In addition, I sat down with the lovely young ladies who represent the angel and devil on the shoulders of Thomas, the main character in the film. Kirby Bliss Blanton plays Kirby, the girl who has been friends with Thomas for years. He thinks of her as "one of the guys," which is a convenient way of keeping his shameless crush on her at bay. And Alexis Knapp plays Alexis, the rich bitch bad girl who decides that she's going to give Thomas the best birthday present a teenage boy can ask for.
As you can see, they're playing with pretty familiar teen movie archetypes here, and in our conversations, it feels like all the young actors are aware of what they're playing, and aware of the tradition that these roles fall into.
Zac Efron and Rob Riggle are an odd couple, and in "The Lorax," they go head to head in a battle for the environment of Thneedville.
I'm sure most teenage girls, faced with the choice between Efron and Riggle, would find themselves hard-pressed to make the call. I mean, sure, Efron's so pretty he makes 20-year-old Rob Lowe look like the Elephant Man, but what teenage girl doesn't dream of a hilariously sarcastic slab of 42-year-old Kentucky ham?
I kid because I think Riggle is awesome, and a near-total cartoon character in person. What I find most interesting about his role in "The Lorax" is how completely opposite his character in the film is from him physically. They couldn't have designed a more different character for him to play if they'd tried. Riggle fills a room with his booming voice and his carved-from-beef physicality. He's a big guy. His character in "The Lorax," however, is about as tiny as can be, with a weird creepy haircut and a classic case of little-man syndrome.
If you're going to market your movie to me, have fun with it.
That's really all I ask. I think the key to great movie marketing is that you have to figure out what movie you've made, and then crack the way to present that film to the public. Don't lie about what movie you've made. Don't hide the movie you've made. Don't shroud the thing in mystery so completely that no one knows what the movie is. And for god's sake, don't ruin it as you try to sell it to me.
So far, I think Fox has done a fairly masterful job with the actual materials they've released from "Prometheus." Their one sheets are interesting. The trailer that evokes the original 1979 "Alien" trailer without ever explicitly saying "Alien" anywhere on it is effective. They're trying.
And today, there's a very cool new puzzle piece that they've dropped in the form of a fake TED talk. Luke Scott directed the piece, which was conceived and designed by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof. You'd barely know that from the actual TED page, though, which plays it all very straight-faced.
I must confess that I am fascinated by the new film "Project X." It's not a particularly complicated film, in either concept or execution, but maybe that simplicity is what I like about it. At heart, "Project X" is a John Hughes movie from the '80s, right down to its final shot, but it's wrapped in a level of chaos and decadence that sums up the career of producer Todd Phillips with a gleeful degree of anarchy.
This may be the biggest budget found-footage film I've seen so far, and this and "Chronicle" both suggest that the language of found-footage is finding its way into the mainstream in a very real way, and that there are ways to crank it up. This is the story of Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann) and his 17th birthday party, as thrown by him, his friend Costa (Oliver Cooper), and their friend JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). It is strictly forbidden by Mom (Caitlin Dulany) and Dad (Peter Mackenzie) before they leave town, but Costa browbeats the much more pliant Thomas, convincing him that this is for his own good. Costa overplans this thing on a scale that is like mounting a full-sized D-Day to take control of a playground. This party isn't just big. This party isn't just crazy. This party is the end of the goddamn world.