Welcome to The Vacation Read.
I deserved a few days off.
Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself. I'm not really wired for vacation. I don't have an off switch. It's a point of contention with the lovely Mrs. McWeeny, and so when I take a vacation, I do my best to genuinely turn off the computer and just relax and recharge. I don't always quite pull it off, but I figure the trying is the important part.
For me, a week of no writing for HitFix is hard to imagine. I can't remember the last time I did this. It's been a big year of travel, with Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Comic-Con, Toronto, and Fantastic Fest as some of the bigger destinations I've visited, and any number of set visits including the one I just returned from last week. And that's in addition to the daily demands of being the dad of two crazy little boys who have much more energy than I ever did. I'm weary all the time, but in a good way. I feel like each and every day, each and every festival, each and every event, we keep getting better at what we do, and I see it in the feedback you've been giving us in e-mail, in our comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere.
Welcome to The Vacation Read.
That last podcast may have posted very very late, but look! Here's another one about five minutes later. That makes up for it… right?
This one's packed with a preposterous amount of great stuff, and I'm really proud of it. This is what I want from the podcast, this kind of eclectic mix of material, and I think this week can serve as an example of what this show is at its best.
First, you'll hear two full songs this week, one at the beginning of the podcast, and one at the end. This is unusual, but I've got permission since the singer is our very special guest for Movie God and Remake This!, the great Robert Davi. You know his face even if you don't know the name, and you've probably seen him in more films than you can count. Scott's been doing some work with Davi for the last few years, and the end result of all of that work just hit record stores this week. Davi isn't just an actor, after all, but is also a rather accomplished vocalist, and his tribute album to Frank Sinatra is a knock-out. I wanted to have him on to talk about the album and to play some games that would give you guys a better idea of who he is and what sort of films are important to him.
I know, I know… that's like my mantra these days, but there's only one of me, and I'm trying to turn out a workload that would probably keep four people busy for ten hours a day. That's just the way it is, too. There's so much to cover, and there are only so many hours in a day.
I'm also sort of a dummy when it comes to all things technical. For all of the wisdom I've accumulated over the years about other things, when it comes to technology, I have a built-in EMP of sorts that means that most machines hate me and vice-versa. It can make things awkward considering I work on a computer all day every day.
Long story short, this podcast was lost to the ages, but through some heavy lifting, I managed to recover it, and now I'm running this and the next podcast in the same day. That'll give you plenty to listen to between now and when I come back from vacation.
Last week, I took a drive through hideous rush hour traffic from my house in Northridge all the way to the IMAX theater that used to be called The Bridge, near the airport. And the crazy thing is that I didn't do it to see a whole film. Nope. I did it just so I could see 20 minutes of the new "Mission: Impossible" film on an IMAX screen.
And I regret nothing.
There's a new trailer for the film that is just now launching, and I'll have that embedded for you below. First, though, let's set some of what you're going to see in context.
We saw two full sequences from he film, and producer Bryan Burk was on-hand to set up the two scenes for us. He's Bad Robot's producer on the film, and I think it was smart for Cruise to reach out to Bad Robot even though JJ Abrams wasn't directing this one. Burk and Abrams are very smart commercial producers, and Cruise had a very good experience with them on the last film. Christopher McQuarrie, who also scripted "One Shot," the currently-shooting Reacher adaptation that Cruise is starring in, was the lead writer on the film, and then Bad Robot brought in Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, writers they loved from "Alias" and a ton of other TV credits. They worked to once again make a "Mission: Impossible" film that feels different than any of the others in the series, something I like about the franchise.
I'll just go ahead and say this up front: I should have done this better.
I don't think it's a bad interview, per se, but I like Zach Galifianakis, both as an actor and as a comic, and I think he's one of those guys with a razor-sharp mind. I also think it's really easy to lose him in a conversation if you're not keeping him interested. When you're at a junket, you're one of a parade of people who trot into the room in what must feel like a blur to the people sitting in that chair, and you don't really have a conversation. You have the illusion of a conversation. You have to hit the ground running and then hope you can get one or two good sound bites before they hustle you out the door for the next person.
With Zach, I feel like I never really found my way into the conversation, and the result is a perfectly pleasant five minutes or so, but that's not what I was hoping for. I was hoping I'd engage him and draw something special out of him. Nope.
"The Rum Diary" is not a very good book.
It's an early piece of work by Hunter S. Thompson, but anyone who picked it up looking for the voice that distinguished his classic work was likely disappointed. He wrote it in his early 20s, and it went unpublished until 1998. More than anything, it serves as a fascinating glimpse at a raw, unpolished talent, and it offers up some autobiographical details hidden amidst the twists and turns in the story of Paul Kemp, a reporter who moves from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico in order to kick off his career as a writer.
As a film, "The Rum Diary" is far more interesting, due in no small part to the collision of talent that it represents. First, there's Johnny Depp, whose performance as Thompson in Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" is positively inspired, a spooky case of near-possession where an actor absolutely channels a real-life figure. The idea of seeing him play Thompson, or a Thompson stand-in, at an earlier point on his slow slide into self-medicated madness is undeniably appealing. Then there's writer/director Bruce Robinson, whose "Withnail & I" is one of the greatest films of the '80s, and one of my very favorite British films of all time. He hasn't made a movie since "Jennifer 8," a Hollywood misfire that killed his career dead, and from the moment he was announced as the man behind the camera, this became one of those films I almost refused to believe really existed. The idea of Depp reaching out to Robinson, who was always Hunter's first choice to make a "Fear & Loathing" film, and somehow coaxing him out of retirement would be interesting enough even if it were just a straight adaptation of the book.
One of the pleasures of the new film "Puss In Boots" is the almost preposterous amount of sexual tension that builds between the lead character Puss (Antonio Banderas) and his partner in crime Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).
And don't worry if you're a parent. This isn't something overt that your kids are going to have to ask you uncomfortable questions about, but it's impossible to miss. Banderas and Hayek seem to have an indecent amount of fun together, and it's one of the most infectiously silly things about the film.
Sitting down with the two of them together, that same chemistry is totally evident. Ever since they worked together in "Desperado," they've had a very special onscreen relationship, and the filmmakers behind "Puss In Boots" took full advantage of that. When I joined them during the press day for the film, we talked about how director Chris Miller made a very unusual choice as far as the recording process was concerned, and what benefits there were to that decision.
As films show up at the house, the boys like to open all the packages, something I've had to decide against thanks to some of the more extreme movies that have been sent to me over the years. I'll glance inside before deciding if they can open something.
There are times when the boys are excited not because they know anything about a movie, but simply because they recognize that they heard someone talking about the title. It's sweet, and I'm sure they take their cues from me. No matter how hard I try to make sure that what they watch is about laying out choices and letting them make those choices, they get excited if I'm excited at all. They're just trying to learn about the world that way. "Hey, mom likes this so I'm going to like this!" "Dad said this movie's title ten times, and so we want to see it!"
Marketing is pervasive, and as Toshi's been learning to read, one of the big joys for him is reading the titles of movie posters as we drive around. Living in LA, there is a constant barrage of roadside imagery selling movies. And they ask about EVERYTHING we go by. There are times when they become excited about something for bizarre reasons, and one of my recent favorites was when they became fixated on the release date of "Crazy Stupid Love."
By now, you are probably pretty sure of how you feel regarding the "Shrek" franchise. I think it has been a lovely example of the law of diminishing returns as they've milked it way past the point of dry. I forget the name of the last movie, and I'm so uninterested in it that I don't even feel the urge to look it up. It struck me as a lazy cash-grab, and as a result, when I walked in to see "Puss In Boots," it was with dread more than anything.
Thankfully, "Puss In Boots" is not a "Shrek" film. At all.
It's so disconnected from the series that I have no idea where it takes place in the timeline of the "Shrek" series. Before? After? Doesn't matter. "Puss In Boots" stands on its own, and it's better for doing so. It is a very silly film, a big adventure movie, and surprisingly effective. It's not easy to spin off a popular supporting character into his own movie, and yet this feels completely natural. It helps that Antonio Banderas seems to fully understand the ludicrous nature of the film, and his performance is nuanced and hilarious, a charming riff on his own bigscreen image.
Late Saturday night, a few hours after we finished watching "Revenge Of The Sith," about an hour after both of the boys had fallen asleep, I was sitting in my office when the door opened and a sleepy-eyed Allen walked in.
"Dad, I think it's sad that Anakin's a bad guy."
"Did you just wake up to tell me that?"
"Yeah. I hope he gets better."
I picked him up, carried him back down the hallway to his bedroom, and he was asleep again by the time I tucked him in surrounded by his stuffed animals. That one thought was weighing on him enough that he needed to get up and come tell me. And as I sat back down, I realized what showing the films in this particular has done narratively that is underlined in a very different way now. More than ever, the notion of having to stand against one's father to punish him and, maybe, to redeem him is written in GIANT GLOWING LETTERS now. The last thing they saw was the birth of Luke and Leia.
Which blew their minds, by the way.
Like, off the charts, oh my god, running in circles. Blew. Their. Minds.
And that wasn't the biggest moment of the night.