I do not envy Adam Berg.
Many first-time feature directors are cutting their teeth on found footage films or remakes these days, simply because that's so much of what is being produced. It's a tough spot to be in.
On the one hand, you get a guaranteed greenlight, and you know the studio is going to promote the movie because it's an investment for them. These remakes are about extending the copyright on something. They're about keeping intellectual property in circulation. They are expensive marketing campaigns to sell the original in a super-deluxe home video edition. They are business, pure and simple, and as such, you know the studio is going to put a certain amount of muscle into making sure people see the movie.
But on the other hand, you are competing with another film before you ever roll a frame of film. You've got this original film out there, and audiences have whatever relationship they have with that film. If they love it, they might hold that against you. If they hate it, they might never give your film a chance. The percentage of great remakes to uninspired remakes is daunting, to say the least, and I think when you tackle a title that has a devoted fanbase, you're really daring fate.
I do not envy Adam Berg.
You had me at "Kat Dennings."
The absurdly plush actress was one of the comic highlights of the first "Thor," so it was great news to hear that she's coming back for the sequel. I know there were many people who thought for sure that the sequel would lose some of the key cast of the original just because they had trouble imagining Natalie Portman doing a comic book movie sequel.
Sounds like everyone's onboard for "Thor: The Dark World," a title I like a lot. In general, I love how the Marvel sequels seem to be using subtitles instead of numbers. It also sounds like they're taking existing storylines from the comics and tweaking or expanding them so they fit into the continuity established by the movies. Great idea. It gets fans excited because they know generally where things are headed, but there's enough invention going on that everyone's got surprises in store for them.
It looks like a happy ending is in the cards for Don Coscarelli's adaptation of "John Dies At The End," which is great news for fans of the director or the book or just plain weird movies.
"John Dies At The End," or "JDATE" for short, has been on my mind the last few days as I've been reading "This Book Is Full Of Spiders," the sequel to the novel by David Wong that inspired Coscarelli's film in the first place. Having seen the movie, it's hard not to picture the cast of that film going through the rather insane paces of the sequel, and I'd love for this film to eventually do well enough that Coscarelli gets the chance to do the follow-up.
Since its premiere at Sundance this year, Coscarelli's been fine-tuning the film, and it's gone through some fine edits as well as some work on the effects to bring the last act of the film to life. Now Magnolia/Magnet has stepped up to distribute the film, which is great news because one way or another, you'll have access to the film.
"Side By Side" is interesting because it is a snapshot of a moment, an attempt to capture an argument mid-stream, one that will be resolved at some point soon but which is, right now, one of the primary conversations happening about the state of our industry.
Virtually all of the student filmmaking work I did was on video. We were lucky enough at my high school to have a non-linear editing suite, but these were the days of VHS to VHS, and it was still crude compared to the editing firepower available to anyone with a laptop these days. At that point, video was not in competition with film for the business of movie making. It just wasn't an option. The best-looking film shot on video was still shot on video. It was something even the least sophisticated viewer could see right away.
These days, digital projection and digital filmmaking are so technically sophisticated that the entire conversation has had to change. The question is no longer "does video look as good as film?" because we've realized that isn't the point. Video still has a number of signatures that make it different from film, but instead of being limitations now, they are just differences, and the best artists working in movies today are hotly divided over which tools to use, what to use them for, and what it means for the art as a whole.
The Toronto International Film Festival finished announcing the full line-up for the 2012 festival, starting September 6, and what they've put together is an almost decadent amount of exciting cinema, featuring highlights from earlier 2012 festivals as well as a number of major premieres. Their Midnight Madness section is amazing, as we discussed earlier, and it feels like every single section of the fest has been programmed with several major events.
The last batch of titles arrived today as a series of press releases. The Masters programme was the first one I read, and there are several films here that I've already seen, including a few of the Cannes titles I never got around to writing about. Michael Haneke's "Amour" is playing, and I think it's a lovely, gentle, broken-hearted look at what happens when the people we love start to disintegrate. I wasn't as fond of Christian Mungiu's "Beyond The Hills," but I think it's the sort of film that any serious film fan should see to at least form their own opinion. I'll be writing reviews before the festival for both "Like Someone In Love," the latest from Abbas Kiarostami, and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Me and You," a tiny little story about a boy and his half-sister and a very unusual "trip" they take, and I'm glad both of these will be in the conversation in Toronto.
Occasionally, if you write about movies for a living, you will come across one that will simply frustrate any and all attempts you make to write about it. "Cosmopolis" is one such beast, wild and ugly and cold and unwilling to give the viewer any of the standard kicks that they have been taught to expect from genre films, even those created by the uber-smart David Cronenberg.
I was decidedly not onboard for his last film, "A Dangerous Method," and it left me depressed afterwards. I have been a fan of Cronenberg's work since early exposure, and I think a major part of my own aesthetic standards were defined in some small part by the movies he's been making as long as I've been watching movies. I remember the first time I saw "The Brood" the way I remember things that actually happened to me. I remember "Scanners" that way. I remember "Videodrome" that way.
Paramount is betting big on Tom Clancy.
They've had a fair amount of luck with the author's work in the past, and they've done their best to reinvent Jack Ryan as they've dealt with cast changes. "The Hunt For Red October" was a great showcase for young Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery hot on the heels of his "Untouchables" Oscar win. With "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," they reinvented the series around Harrison Ford as a central personality. With "Sum Of All Fears," Ben Affleck stepped into the part as they attempted to back everything up for a younger take on the character.
Since then, they've worked to figure out how to reboot it again, and they've also worked to figure out what they can do with the other Clancy books that they own. In "Sum Of All Fears," they cast Liev Schreiber as John Clark, a CIA operative who has become a major part of Clancy's overall world, the same character who was played by Willem Dafoe in "Clear and Present Danger." He's an important part of the studio's overall franchise plans, and today, it looks like they're one step closer to making those plans a reality.
Gary Ross, coming off of the success of "The Hunger Games," was in one of the most enviable positions in Hollywood.
After all, there's no sweeter moment than when you've just had a tremendous commercial hit and you're able to take your time and pick your follow-up from a huge selection of possible projects. Ross was already an A-list filmmaker, so the success didn't radically change things for him, but it did put whatever choice he made under a much brighter spotlight.
Disney purchased the rights to the Peter Pan novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson several years ago, and it was previously announced that writer Jesse Wigutow was working to adapt it as a film. Now it appears that Ross has picked this as his next film, and that he will roll camera on it sometime next year.
I will point out that the logline description for the film starts with one of the phrases I hate most right now, "A prequel to [insert name of beloved property here]," and for that reason alone, I am automatically suspicious of the picture. It disturbs me how often we hear that phrase at this point, and it disturbs me more when you consider how few of those films actually work at all.
When faced with a suicide, it is impossible for even those close to a person to fully understand what it is that pushed them to such a final solution, and I certainly don't intend to speculate about what might have led Tony Scott to take his own life this weekend.
Instead, let's look back at his body of work and the mark he left on modern filmmaking. While I will not pretend to suddenly love everything he directed, his filmography is defined by an ever-shifting sense of style and by the way he successfully reinvented himself many times. With his brother, Ridley Scott, he created a company that has been responsible for successful film and television projects for decades now, and he had dozens of projects in development. Obviously, it's impossible to guess what work he might have done in the future, so the best we can do now is look back at the highlights of the work he leaves behind.
I was thirteen when "The Hunger" was released, and even if that was the only film he ever directed, I would have owed him a hearty handshake. For thirteen year old me, "The Hunger" set the bar pretty high. Nudity from both Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve? David Bowie as a vampire? Good lord, what part of that does thirteen year old me not like? The thing was, even at that age, I was aware that the film looked better than it played, that the style was overwhelming even if the story wasn't. It was a gorgeous movie that had the pulse of a perfume commercial, a charge that would follow Scott through much of his career.
I'm going to have a longer version of this interview posting next week, and it was a real pleasure to have a deeply nerdy tech conversation with Keanu Reeves about the moment we're in right now as an industry, and the wrestling match that's going on right now between film and digital.
For one thing, it's always nice to realize that the person you're having a conversation with really knows their subject. Reeves has been working on this project for two years, and during that time, he's become quite fluent in the debate, and seems to have a pretty even-handed perspective on the historic moment where we find ourselves.
The core truth is that we're really just arguing about the tools of storytelling. In the end, good storytelling is good storytelling, and if the tools evolve, then filmmakers will evolve as well. They'll continue to use those tools to communicate a broad spectrum of ideas and attitudes, and some people will do it well and others won't, and it won't really be about which cameras they use or how they cut the film.