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.
Until this year's SXSW film festival, I'd never spoken to Joss Whedon.
When someone contacts you and asks if you want to see Gary Busey bloopers from the sequel to "Piranha," the answer is ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION "yes."
All I needed to hear was "Gary Busey" and "bloopers," because I can only imagine what it looks like when he gets something wrong. The performances they cut together of his these days look like outtakes in the first place, barely sane collections of reaction shots that only loosely relate to what's happening around him, so bloopers? Please. As many as possible.
Busey is a big personality, and at this point, you know what you're getting when you cast him. I give him credit for holding together this sort of niche he's carved out, finding films that can make use of his particular presence and his box-office percentages in the overseas financing game. Thanks to some of the hits he's been in, Busey can help get a film made. He is a vital piece of the chess board, and I seriously respect any working actor who figures that out for themselves. Lots of people appear in movies. Not many people do it for forty or fifty years in a row.
Yes, I know Roger Ebert recently wrote a piece about struggling to define his ten favorite films of all time. He was doing so as part of the "Sight & Sound" critic's poll, and it was a typically great Ebert piece, even if I disagree strongly with some of the titles on his list.
Disagreement is, of course, part of the point. And since I wasn't asked to be part of the "Sight & Sound" poll, and neither were any number of interesting online voices, it was immediately appealing when Cole Abaius from Film School Rejects asked me to contribute my list to a piece he's doing this week. I decided it would be a fun exercise and opened up a file to start writing and…
I've taken a shot at a similar list before, almost in passing, and I've certainly got a running short list in my head of my favorite movies. But actually quantifying what my ten, or in this case twenty, favorite films are, without cheating, without including trilogies, without padding the list out… that's tough. And by the time I was done, I realized this needed to be a stand-alone article here on the blog.
One film you won't see on my list? "Citizen Kane." I might include it on the list of the ten most significant films of all time, and I certainly think much of what we consider modern film language evolved from choices that Welles and Gregg Toland made on that film, but as far as personal enjoyment? It's not in my top ten or even my top twenty. I just don't feel compelled to revisit it often, nor do I feel there is much more I can ever take from it as an experience.
It's hard to believe that the summer of 1982 is already upon us.
Oh, sure, it happened 30 years ago, but what I'm talking about is the Alamo Drafthouse celebration of what I consider the best genre summer of all time. This week, they're warming up with a Tuesday booking for the great sleazy "Vice Squad," and then the party starts in earnest with "Conan The Barbarian" this Friday.
HitFix is pleased to co-present this first weekend's movie, and as part of that, we've got a very special premiere for you today of Mondo's special poster that they've put together for the event. Believe me when I say to you, there are very few things that are going to make me this happy this year.
Unlike "Blade Runner" or "The Thing," two films that have become critical hits in the 30 years since their release, "Conan The Barbarian" is still dismissed by many, and that drives me crazy. I think it's a genuinely great film, and while it's not exactly my interpretation of Robert E. Howard's dark and strange pulp stories about the sword-bearing Cimmerian, I love what John Milius did with it. It's one of my favorite performances by Arnold Schwarzenegger, too, and I think he benefits enormously from Sandahl Bergman's work in the film. She makes him more soulful simply because of how she plays against him.
It looks like campaign season has begun.
Or rather, it looks like "The Campaign" season has begun, with Warner Bros. using Facebook today to kick off the marketing for the new Jay Roach political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
Roach's last film was the HBO drama "Game Change," and part of his goal with that film was to stick very close to reality since he was depicting events from a real election that was held up to enormous media scrutiny. If he got the details wrong, we'd know immediately because of how the images from that primary season were burnt into our collective consciousness.
With "The Campaign," it looks like Roach decided to kick loose and go the other direction, cranking up the absurdity of our political machine, and hiring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis seems like a good step in that direction. Instead of releasing a conventional trailer, this morning sees three new videos online. The first is on the main Facebook page for the film and features Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) and Cam Brady (Ferrell) together. Then each of them also has their own Facebook page where they have posted attack videos aimed at each other.
It is not unusual for studios to respond to real-world issues by changing titles, delaying films, or even altering content within the movie. This can be done for any number of reasons.
Anyone who has been following the Trayvon Martin story in Florida would likely understand 20th Century Fox's decision to change the title of their summer science-fiction comedy "Neighborhood Watch." The movie doesn't have anything to do with that situation or anything like it, but just knowing that George Zimmerman was a member of a neighborhood watch program and hearing that phrase on news story after news story had to be enough reason to get the studio nervous.
Today, they are set to officially announce the title change to "The Watch," and they'll do so with a debut of the new red-banded trailer for the film.
"I was shocked," said Clark Gregg, who reprises the role of Phil Coulson for the fourth time in "The Avengers", of first reading Joss Whedon's script. "As someone who's been in these movies, who loves these movies, who loved the comics, who knows these heroes, and who loves good writing, I didn't know how anyone was gonna do it."
Critics are shocked too - against all odds, the hugely-anticipated superhero film that could've gone wrong in a million different ways now stands at a whopping 94% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes, with Drew McWeeny (who chatted with Gregg and co-star Cobie Smulders during the film's recent press junket) giving the film an "A" in his own review. So what's the secret to Whedon's success?
"It's a magic trick," said Gregg. "The fact that it's so human, and so funny, and then so damn exciting...I don't know how he did it, so I'm kind of a little freaked out by him right now."
You can watch Drew's full interview with Gregg and Smulders (who appears in the franchise for the first time as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill) above!
"The Avengers" hits theaters on May 4.
It was during a set visit for the movie "Thor" that I met Tom Hiddleston for the first time.
He was in full costume as Loki at the time, and he was happy to be talking to reporters about his part in the film as Thor's brother and the instigator of much trouble. As with any Marvel visit, we were being carefully supervised the entire time by the film's producers, who were working hard to make sure no real secrets were revealed to us.
There was a mishap earlier in the day with video playback that meant we accidentally saw the first 1/3 of the film played back in high speed as a collection of footage, animatics, and artwork, and so I think people were even more on edge than normal. As we interviewed Hiddleston, Feige had to take a few steps away to take a phone call, and so we pressed our advantage as a group.
"Is it true you're going to also be the bad guy in 'The Avengers'?"
With the way Hollywood churns through material these days, we thought it was worth taking a look at the various sources they're pulling from and discussing what they might make from these books, games, TV shows, or whatever else they use. For today's column, we look at Jo Nesbo's 'The Snowman,' a crime novel set to be adapted by Martin Scorsese.
The seventh installment in the Harry Hole series, "The Snowman" is a Norwegian crime thriller about a serial killer and the cop who is determined to stop him. And, yes, it really is that simple.
Harry Hole is a deeply flawed man, an alcoholic who barely manages to keep his appetites under control, but his brilliance is what continually saves him from being fired. One of the few Norwegian officers to ever go to America for training by the FBI, he is also one of the only Norwegian officers to ever assist in the capture of a serial killer.
Samuel L. Jackson carries a lot of iconography into a room with him when he arrives somewhere.
My own kids, for example, already know him as Mace Windu. Allen's four, but he knows Jackson by sight and by sound. All he needs to do is hear his voice from another room, and he'll walk in, ready to see what Mace Windu is up to.
That can make things complicated when I'm playing a film like "Jackie Brown," and his dulcet tones draw the kids to the TV just in time to hear Jackson lay down a stream of perfectly timed motherf**kers. They're starting to realize he is in a lot of movies, and when they saw him on the posters for "The Avengers," they were excited.
He's got more to do this time around than in any of his previous appearances, and talking to him at the press day for the film, it seems like he's just warming up. He's happy to keep playing Nick Fury as long as they'll have him, and he's got a good handle on the character's whole history, making jokes about the David Hasselhoff version at one point in the day, eager to step into the Hasbro room to see the action figures. Right now, Marvel is working hard to bridge the classic rendition of Nick Fury into the Samuel L. Jackson image that they've developed.