If I had to pick one movie in 2013 that I hope works, it would be Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel."
I think it is beyond comprehension that Warner has taken this long to get Superman back on track. He is not just DC's single most important and iconic superhero character, he is also the single most iconic superhero owned by anyone. Superman is, for many people, the definition of what a superhero is in pop culture, known pretty much everywhere. And while almost everyone has some idea of what Superman is, it seems like it has been insanely difficult for the studio to figure out exactly which version of the character they want to see onscreen.
There has been a ton of speculation about how Warner Bros would start to build their way towards "Justice League," and most of the scrutiny is now focused on whether or not we'll see our first steps towards that with "Man Of Steel" next summer. One of the questions involved has to do with tone. You look at how Marvel handled their build-up to "The Avengers," and the most important thing they did was set a certain tone that meant you would be able to accept it when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner and Thor and Steve Rogers all ended up in a frame together, no matter how different their individual stories.
If I had to pick one movie in 2013 that I hope works, it would be Zack Snyder's "Man Of Steel."
I think two directors this year are following up the movies where they won Best Picture with films that I think are clearly superior to the films they won the awards for. This is one of the reasons I think this entire season is so strange. Politics are so clearly part of the process of what gets picked and what gets ignored that if you try to apply the filter of "deserves" or "fair" to the films you watch, you'll go crazy. In a perfect world, it shouldn't matter what film Kathryn Bigelow made last, or what awards it won. But because "The Hurt Locker" was the little film that could, and it did, the scrutiny this time around is on a whole new level. Of course, she's also collaborating again with Mark Boal, the screenwriter of "The Hurt Locker," and this is also a military themed film, so they're basically setting themselves up for the comparison.
I would love for the Kathryn Bigelow who directed "The Loveless" and "Near Dark" to sit down and watch "Zero Dark Thirty," because the huge dissonance between the voices of those works would make her head explode, "Scanners"-style. She started her career as a filmmaker whose work existed in an entirely artificial movie universe, and with "Zero Dark Thirty," it feels like she has finally reached a place where she has stripped all artifice from her approach, and she's made a film that is pure procedural, the "Zodiac" approach to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. I can't tell you for sure that the film has anything to do with the unvarnished truth, but I can tell you that this feels accurate. It has an integrity to it that is bracing and adult, and it manages to deliver a major visceral experience without ever once bending to Hollywood convention. This is a film that knows exactly what it's doing, and does it without compromise.
Just as Fox made it easy for people to mainline James Bond movies in the lead-up to the release of "Skyfall" by putting out that beautiful Bond 50 box set, Universal has made it easy for people to take a crash course in Alfred Hitchcock by releasing their retrospective box of his films on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, the Bond 50 box set put "Skyfall" in a perfect context to be enjoyed, but comparing even the least of Hitchcock's films to Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" isn't going to do this new film any favors.
If you'd asked me for my reaction to "Hitchcock" as I walked out of the theater, it would have been mildly negative, but the more I've thought about it, the less I like it. Gervasi was the director of the wonderful documentary "Anvil: The Story Of Anvil," and as a screenwriter, he's responsible for Spielberg's "The Terminal" and a small indie called "Henry's Crime," which I didn't see. I liked "Anvil" so much that I've been curious to see what he could do as a director with a great script. And now, the wait continues.
I've read Stephen Rebello's book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho,' and it's a well-written, well-researched look at the director and the production of one of his most famous films, but Rebello's book doesn't really feel like a story that demands to be told as a film. It wasn't the most demanding process in Hitchcock's career, nor is it a film that reveals Hitchcock's own inner life to the degree that, say, "Vertigo" does. So why tell this story as a film? And if you are going to tell it, why lie about so much of what actually occurred if you can't even come up with a compelling drama with your falsehoods?
Larry Hagman will always be identified with the indelible roles he played on "I Dream Of Jeannie" and both iterations of the series "Dallas," but as we mark the occasion of his passing tonight, let's remember that he was a gifted comic and dramatic actor who had a long and robust career on both the big and small screens. Born into a show business family (his mother was Mary Martin, a huge star in her day), he endured in a way that few performers ever do.
For my money, his finest work ever was in the Blake Edwards comedy "S.O.B.," and that's the film I'll be throwing on later tonight in honor of him. It's a blistering Hollywood satire, and Hagman plays a disgusting version of a Hollywood executive, the type of person I'm guessing he had plenty of experience with over the years. Hagman seemed to be most at home in his work when playing people whose personal moral compasses were somehow poorly calibrated, and maybe that's why he became a pop culture sensation starring as J.R. Ewing on "Dallas." He enjoyed the work so much that it spilled over to the way audiences would watch him.
I have been an ardent supporter of Ang Lee's work over the years, and if nothing else, "Life Of Pi" demonstrates just how much control he maintains over his craft, both technically and artistically. In 1997, when most people were arguing over whether "Titanic" or "LA Confidential" was the best film of the year, I was of the opinion that the sadly-underseen "The Ice Storm" was better than either of them. When his "Hulk" came out, I loved it precisely because it was such a left-of-center take on the material, and there are images from the film that are still among the most beautiful in any superhero film so far. And when I posted my article about the 50 Best Films of the last decade, "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" landed right on top of my list. It is safe to say I am a fan of his work.
I am not, however, a fan of "Life Of Pi."
I believe that David Magee's screenplay is the best possible adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, but the problems I have begin with the book, and they've been carried over to the movie, completely intact and just as problematic. This is one of the most striking cases I've ever seen of the craftsmanship of a film being at total odds with the text itself. I love how the film tells the story, but I don't like the story. It is almost purely metaphorical, and for much of the running time, it is an overwhelming visceral experience. Lee's use of 3D in the film is remarkable, and as a theatrical experience, it's hard to argue with the impact. But it is also hard to argue that the film isn't also frustrating and flawed on a fundamental level, one that bothers me far more than the visuals dazzle me.
Are you ready for Hollywood to go crazy about magic?
In June, we saw the first images from the set of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which stars Steve Carrell as a Vegas magician who tries to get back together with his former partner Anton Lovecraft (Steve Buscemi) so that they can work together to destroy Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who seems like a cross between Criss Angel and David Blaine. That is obviously the big comedy version of doing a film about the world of magic, but since Hollywood can't do one version of something without also doing a ton of similar films at the same time, we can also look forward to the slick stylish heist movie magic film, and if the first trailer's anything to judge by, "Now You See Me" looks like it could pull off a major trick at the box-office.
It has traditionally been very different to do a film about stage magic that works, and part of that is because the thrill of magic comes from seeing it live, with no edits, and still being fooled by what you see. On film, anything is possible because it's film. When Christopher Nolan made "The Prestige," he made the entire notion of misdirection and lies part of the thematic structure of the movie, and he shot the magic scenes in a way that made all of it seem possible, even when the film took a turn towards the surreal. It looks like director Louis Leterrier is going in the exact opposite direction with "Now You See Me," which appears to have gone through a whole lot of hands on its way to the screen.
I'm in London right now, so I had to hunt down a YouTube version of the "Avengers" sketch that Jeremy Renner did last night on "Saturday Night Live." I was curious to see how Renner did with live comedy, something that is totally outside his comfort zone so far, and I also wanted to see what they did to make fun of the film.
The sketch is very silly and very short, and more than anything, I'd love to see the reaction at Marvel Studios when they saw it. It's one thing when it's the SNL cast making fun of your film, but to have one of your actual franchise stars playing the same part in the sketch, that hits kind of close to home. And on top of it, Taran Killam played Captain America in the sketch, and in real life, he is of course married to Cobie Smulders, who played Maria Hill in the film.
I think the best things in the sketch are Jason Sudeikis as Iron Man saying "You've been quipped!" and Renner's exasperated "Yes, and I killed 11 of them. You're welcome."
Jose Padilla is an enormously talented filmmaker. Let's just get that out of the way up front. I want to believe that he's going to take "Robocop" and make something special of it. I want to believe that he's going to successfully navigate the Hollywood system and make something that is worth his time.
Earlier this year, I unintentionally stirred up a fair amount of noise when I commented on the script for the remake while I was reading it. I was on Twitter one night and having a hard time believing what I was reading, and I may have been unkind about the project. But as even the licensing reel that showed up online today notes, the original still regularly shows up on lists of the best of the genre, and for good reason. The alchemy that went into that film has proven impossible to reproduce with any of the sequels or the TV shows, and it seems to me that they're making some big weird choices in trying to get "Robocop" right.
I have not read "The Mortal Instruments," mainly because there are only so many hours in the day and there are now roughly 100,000 different Young Adult series that deal with romance and the supernatural, and I have to sleep and eat occasionally.
Screen Gems is gambling on this as a new franchise that can put them into the same sort of business that Summit has so beautifully managed over the last few years with the "Twilight" franchise and which every studio in town has been chasing as hard as possible. Lionsgate managed to pull it off with "The Hunger Games," but there are plenty of examples of where it's gone wrong, the cinema landscape littered with the corpses of "City Of Ember," "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising," "Eragon," and more. At first glance, I'm not sure what sets "The Mortal Instruments" apart. It looks like a riff on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," with Lily Collins starring as Clary Fray, a girl who learns that she is not a mortal, but is instead a powerful being born to hunt and kill demons on Earth.
Oh, I see… Friday is trailer day. Lots and lots of new trailers, and they're all over the map in terms of genre and tone.
I had no idea Paul Rudd and Tina Fey were making a film together, and I always enjoy it when a trailer shows up out of nowhere like this. It's a Paul Weitz movie, so I'm going to guess it falls somewhere between a traditional comedy and a traditional drama. It features Wallace Shawn, Michael Sheen, Gloria Reuben, and Lily Tomlin, and it's aiming for a March 2013 release.
Here's the synopsis for the film:
Straight-laced Princeton University admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey) is caught off-guard when she makes a recruiting visit to an alternative high school overseen by her former college classmate, the free-wheeling John Pressman (Rudd). Pressman has surmised that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), his gifted yet very unconventional student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption many years ago. Soon, Portia finds herself bending the rules for Jeremiah, putting at risk the life she thought she always wanted — but in the process finding her way to a surprising and exhilarating life and romance she never dreamed of having.
Here's the trailer, via Yahoo! Movies: