They must be throwing some crazy parties in Montreal this week.
Yesterday, Ubisoft Montreal made news when it was announced that Michael Fassbender has agreed to star in and produce a film adaptation of "Assassin's Creed." That's one of the first gaming properties I've seen make the jump to movies that I think could be something truly special. The "Assassin's Creed" games are built on strong narrative building blocks and they feature a pretty great way of telling a story in historical eras as well as in the near-future.
Now, it looks like Square Enix and Eidos Montreal have closed a deal for CBS Films to create a movie adaptation of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," one of last year's headiest gaming experiences. Again, we're talking about a game that has a big world that it's created, that hinges on some very real and big ideas, and that could easily provide enough material for a series of films.
They must be throwing some crazy parties in Montreal this week.
I don't care how many Bible stories or translations you've read, and I don't care how many films based on those stories you've seen. You have never seen anything like what Darren Aronofsky has planned for "Noah."
Sure, the basic broad strokes of the story are pretty evident. Noah (Russell Crowe) hears the voice of God warning him that the world cannot be allowed to survive in the corrupted, ruined form Noah sees around him. It is a violent, freaky, scary world that Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel have created. I'm particularly excited to see how Aronofsky brings to life the Watchers, eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings. They have a major presence in the script, and they're fascinating. Early on, when Noah needs to go see his grandfather, he has to move through the homeland of the Watchers, something that is not easy to do.
Noah's grandfather is the 900 year old Methuselah, and word today is that Anthony Hopkins is joining the cast to play the role. He's only got three scenes in the film in the script I read, but they're all crucial, and they are beautifully written. It's a good role, and I can't wait to see what sort of make-up they put on him to make him look like he's been alive and walking the earth since the days of Adam and Eve.
If you were starting to believe that "The Wolverine" was never actually going to happen, that would be understandable.
After all, when Darren Aronofsky left the film, it seemed to drop off the radar. Sure, we've heard that James Mangold is now attached to direct, and we've heard vague rumbles from Hugh Jackman over the last year or so, but it's been a fairly quiet development process for a while now.
Today, four names were added to the film's cast, and it appears to confirm not only the creative direction the film is headed but that the film is indeed gearing up now for production and release in 2013. For longtime fans of the character, some of the characters names of the new cast members may seem familiar, and it definitely seems like they're taking the Japan-based run of stories by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and using them as the basis of the script that they plan to shoot in Japan and Australia later this year.
It's safe to say that there are few people given less genuine respect in the Hollywood system than pretty girls.
Sure, they're given money and fame frequently, and sometimes for no reason other than how they look, but respect? That's a whole different kind of currency, and that's where pretty girls often come up short.
You can see it in the headlines about them. You can see it in the roles they are offered. You can see it in the way they're churned through, given a few shots at things before they're replaced by the newer younger model. And it really underlines the way Hollywood treats pretty people as a commodity, not as people.
Blake Lively has taken her fair share of critical abuse and then some. She's also enjoyed some really warm and encouraging words about her work in "The Town." I don't know her TV work at all, so I can only judge her by the films I've seen her in, and while I thought she was fine in "The Town," it's not a great role to judge anyone by. It's too brief. In a much larger role in "Green Lantern," I didn't care for her work at all, but that may well be because I think the film is a mess and the script a sham.
One thing became clear when we published our second look at "Prometheus" after the film arrived in theaters: you seem more excited about the conversation when you've actually had a chance to see the movie, and you participate more.
Makes sense. And on "The Amazing Spider-Man," I feel like there is a pretty wide range of reactions rolling in. I wanted to take a second look at the film because I'm a little puzzled by some of the wildly positive reactions, and because I'd love to see the movie that other people seem to be seeing, the one that they love so much.
Let's be clear about something: I don't begrudge anyone their enjoyment of the film. I'm not writing about it a second time to sway anyone else or to lambast people who feel differently about it than I do. Instead, I'm hoping to raise some questions here, dig deeper into why I feel the way I do, and try to sort out the reactions I'm hearing from others.
THE REBOOT QUESTION
The most common dismissal of my review so far is "You didn't want a reboot, so your opinion on the film isn't fair." That's not true, though. I don't have an inherent problem with the notion of creative solutions to the problems posed by trying to keep a franchise up and running for a decade or more. I can't imagine any creative team that would want to do the same thing over and over and over and over without eventually getting to the point where they want to move on and do other things. Something like the "Harry Potter" films come with an ending in mind, so there's always a sense of building to something, and there is a conclusion that means something eventually.
Okay, now everything's starting to come into focus.
The new Dreamworks animated film "Rise Of The Guardians" is on the radar for the kids in my house in a big way. We've been enjoying the William Joyce books that are already out there that introduce the world and the characters, and the first teaser trailer was enough to convince the kids that they were interested in a film with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman. You don't really have to sell the story at first because you've got such a big high concept idea to play with.
What the first trailer didn't show at all was the main character in the film, Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine. In fact, that trailer actually removed Jack Frost from several key shots, which I found very odd. My guess is that they didn't want to confuse people until they'd had a chance to explain the big idea. Now that that's had time to settle in, they've released a second trailer for the film, and this time, it's all about Jack Frost.
In a way, his story arc in the film reminds me of Jason Bourne in the first "Bourne Identity," since Jack Frost has no real recollection of a life before he was Jack Frost. The movie begins with him waking up in a frozen pond, under the ice, not sure how he got there, and much of his journey in the film involves figuring out who he is.
The last film I screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year was "Seven Days In Havana," an anthology film about life in Cuba. One of the segments was directed by Benicio Del Toro, and he was there on stage along with Gaspar Noe, Laurent Cantet, Julio Medem, and the others. Del Toro seemed like he was humbled to be standing onstage among the other filmmakers, and it was interesting to see this wildly charismatic guy at his most human and nervous.
That charisma is on full display in "Savages," where he plays Lado, a disgusting enforcer for the Baja Cartel. It's one of those performances where every little detail, every choice that Del Toro made, plays into the character and the story. Lado is like a shark, and in those moments where the protective membrane rolls up over his eyes, metaphorically speaking, just before he tears into some poor bastard, Del Toro is terrifying. It's great work, and he seems to relish every moment he has in the film.
Sitting down to talk to him, I was surprised to see him paired with Demián Bichir, who was so tremendously good in "A Better Life" last year. Bichir has an interesting role in "Savages," a sort of middle-management cartel figure, and in one of the most memorable scenes in the film, Bichir and Del Toro end up on opposite sides of an interrogation. It's brutal and awful and something we had to discuss with the both of them.
There was a moment in the mid-'90s when Oliver Stone could get anything funded, and he was making giant studio movies that were unlike anything anyone else was doing. It felt like he was pulling something over on the studios on a regular basis. He was larger-than-life, and it was amazing to watch happen from the sidelines.
During that time period, there was one project I partnered on with a number of people, including my co-writer Scott Swan. It was an animated R-rated horror film, mega-graphic and super creepy. And at that moment, Ixtlan Pictures, Stone's production company, was looking to get into the animation business, specifically looking for material suited to adult audiences. When we met with the executives there, we were told that Stone got bit by the bug when he was working on "Natural Born Killers" and supervised the animation for that film. He thought there was a chance to do something no one had really done in the mainstream yet.
And for about two months, it seemed like it was a "maybe," like they were thinking about whether or not they could put an animation pipeline together, trying to wrap their heads around the real costs of the idea. In the end, they decided not to move ahead with anything in the animation realm, and we moved on to try to find someone else to partner with us on it.
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #8: "Live And Let Die"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Screenplay by Tom Mankiewicz
Produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Roger Moore
Dr. Kananga aka Mr. Big / Yaphet Kotto
Solitaire / Jane Seymour
Tee Hee Johnson / Julius Harris
Felix Leiter / David Hedison
Rosie Carver / Gloria Hendry
Baron Samedi / Geoffrey Holder
Quarrel Jr. / Roy Stewart
Whisper / Earl Jolly Brown
Adam / Tommy Lane
Miss Caruso / Madeline Smith
Sheriff J.W. Pepper / Clifton James
M / Bernard Lee
Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
It's not insignificant that this is also the first James Bond film that Michael G. Wilson, step-son to Cubby Broccoli, worked on as part of the production office. This is a clean break in eras. There is everything before "Live And Let Die," and there is everything after.
That said, it has been a while since I've last seen "Live and Let Die."
The main thing that's happened since the last time I saw the movie and now is that I've really gone back and read Fleming's book. It was a book I never read during my first round of Bond titles. My dad's library was incomplete, but there were enough that I felt like I got the point. Re-reading some of the books starting from about the age of 20 to now, I've grown to have a very different understanding of Fleming's strengths and weaknesses. I've also become a much more ardent fan of blaxploitation cinema and the era in which this film was made.
I would be the first to admit that this job comes with some pretty great built-in perks.
For the most part, those perks mean nothing to me. When it comes to meeting people, there's a momentary pleasure if their work is important to me, but I've met so many people at this point that I can't really claim that it's a thrill. But for my sons, there is still something magical about getting to meet the people they watch on a movie screen, especially if it's a movie that means something special to them.
I've written at length in my Film Nerd 2.0 series about the movies that have become signposts in the relationship I'm building with my sons and in the relationship that they're building with the outside world. These movies we screen are more than just a way to pass a few hours at a time. These movies are their cultural education, and the movies they really love end up getting spun over and over.
I'm not the only one who can pass along a movie to the boys, of course. Their mother has her own list of significant films that she wants to share with them. In one case, there's a film that she has probably seen a hundred times that she has very successfully passed along, and I think it is safe to say that Toshi is a full-blown fan of the movie "Grease." When he had just learned to walk and he was still months away from anything resembling real conversational speech, his mom would turn on "Grease," and Toshi would spend the entire movie up in front of the TV, dancing along to every musical number.