Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Is it a Western? Is it 'Chinatown'? Is it for kids? Does it matter?
If I tried to explain what's happening in this scene in 'Rango,' you'd never believe me. It's really something you need to see for yourself.
Credit: Paramount Pictures/ILM
"Rango" is one of those films that I love simply because it exists.
The fact that Gore Verbinski took all the box-office clout he earned directing the mega-blockbuster "Pirates Of The Caribbean" trilogy and used it to make a spaghetti western about a domesticated chameleon who ends up alone in the desert, animated completely by a company that has never made a full-length animated film… that is so totally preposterous that I feel like it's this great magical little accident, worth extra scrutiny right away.
The good news is that, for the most part, "Rango" is a wild and witty race through a variety of genre conventions, twisted through the filter of a bunch of strange-looking anthropomorphic animals running a riff on "Chinatown." Yes, that's right. It's "Chinatown." For kids. With animals. In the old west.
There's a sophisticated silliness to what Verbinski and ILM have accomplished here, and the mix of slapstick with nimble verbal wit with designs by Crash McCreery, unchained after years of bringing some of the best-known fantastic creatures in pop cinema to life, is almost intoxicating. "Rango" feels unhinged at its best moments, like anything might happen, and it's liberating to see such talented people running so absolutely off the rails.
I mean that as a good thing, by the way.
This Victor Hugo book has been filmed repeatedly, so why go back to the bell?
Charles Laughton is just one of the actors who has been drawn to the role of Quasimodo over the years, and he gave one of the best performances of his career in the role.
Credit: MGM Home Video
One of the highlights for me at this year's Butt-Numb-A-Thon was seeing the Charles Laughton version of "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" on a theatrical screen. I've seen that one many times, but always at home, and it's the sort of experience that benefits from being seen on as big a screen as possible. Part of that is the impressive production design, but much of what I feel benefits from being blown up that big is Laughton's performance.
Quasimodo is one of those roles that actors are drawn to because of the various opportunities that it represents. And with Josh Brolin, I can tell you that he is absolutely fascinated by the world of make-up heavy performances. When I visited the set of "Jonah Hex" and talked to him about the appliances he had to wear in that film, he was loving the restrictions it placed on him as an actor. And while that film didn't really work out for Brolin, it sounds like it didn't dampen his enthusiasm at all.
After yesterday's wins at the Academy Awards and the billion-or-so dollars it earned at the box-office worldwide, "Alice In Wonderland" is going to serve as a template for a whole lot of movies that are going to be greenlit in the next few weeks and months. And in particular, it's going to make it very, very easy for a studio to say yes to any classic story with Burton's name attached.
One of our favorite character actors sits down to talk about his new unstoppable bad guy role
William Fichtner prepares to kick ass and take names as The Accountant in 'Drive Angry 3D'
Credit: Summit Entertainment
I hate the idea that a compliment I was trying to pay someone may have inadvertently been taken as an insult, and I'm hoping that wasn't the case when I sat down last week to talk to William Fichtner.
See, I don't think it's an insult to call someone a "character actor" as opposed to a "leading man," and I'll explain why. To me, "leading men" are frequently the movie stars who don't really change from film to film, and that isn't a good thing. It's the reason they are movie stars, sure, but I would think that one of the reasons you become an actor in the first place is to vanish into different roles, becoming different characters to such a degree that the actor becomes invisible.
That's how I would describe William Fichtner. I know that for me, it was "Contact" that turned him from "I recognize that guy" to "I need to make sure I see whatever that guy does," and he's been utilized well by filmmakers like Michael Mann ("Heat"), Kathryn Bigelow ("Strange Days"), Michael Bay ("Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor"), Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down"), and Kurt Wimmer ("Equiibrium"). He's made an impression on TV viewers on the show "Prison Break," and he gave great smarm in his appearances on "Entourage" as Phil Yagoda.
One of the hottest women from Hollywood's studio days passes away at 89
I can see why censors in the '50s had cardiac issues when dealing with the voluptuous Jane Russell
Credit: RKO Pictures
It is not enough to merely remark upon the passing of Jane Russell that "they don't make them like that anymore."
The truth is, they never made them like that. Jane Russell was a cruise missile in a world of firecrackers, a Great White Shark of a sweater girl with a bawdy sense of humor about herself, and she cut an imposing figure in the films she made.
The thing about a death like this is while I am certainly sorry to hear about it, she's been out of the public eye for the past 25 years already. The last onscreen appearance she made was an episode of "Hunter" in the mid-'80s. She was never the most prolific actress, and the majority of her iconic work was done in the first fifteen years of her career, with much of her fame coming from TV appearances as herself and tabloid headlines when she was young.
Yes… as a male with a pulse, I absolutely admire the young Jane Russell for the volcanic sexual charisma she brought to films like "The Outlaw," "Macao," and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," but she also had a wicked sense of comic timing, and that's what makes these performances endure above and beyond the visual splendor.
Two tough schedules might mesh for high concept riff on the story of 'Job'
Will Smith attended the Justin Bieber premiere in Los Angeles with his entire family.
Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
The story of Job is a fascinating one, and if there's any section of the Bible I feel could really work in the hands of a smart modern filmmaker, that's it.
Right now, David O. Russell is as white-hot as he's ever been in his career, and even if he didn't win the Oscar this weekend, getting nominated really was the victory for him. We talked in the most recent Motion/Captured Podcast about the way he's rebounded after the near-disaster of "Nailed," a dark political comedy that fell apart during production, and I'm thrilled to see how many projects he's got lined up. Not all of them will happen, of course, but for a director, it's crucial that you overdevelop, because so many things can derail a film, no matter how good it sounds.
It makes sense that Russell would want to work with Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson again after the success they've all enjoyed with "The Fighter," and Tamasy and Johnson just sold their new spec "Joe" to Sony and Overbrook Entertainment, with Will Smith attached to star.
It was on the Movie B.S. podcast that Eric Snider and Jeff Bayer got the Tamasy to open up about his script and just how it was inspired by the Biblical tale of Job, as Collider noted when they pulled this quote:
Plus where can you finally see 'Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair'?
Quentin Tarantino, seen here at this weekend's Cesar Awards in Paris where he was honored, is said to be close to production for his new film, a spaghetti western.
Credit: AP Photo/Jacques Brinon
Now this is how you start a week.
There have been rumblings building for the last few weeks that Quentin Tarantino was close to announcing his new movie, and that he was working on getting it ready to go. I was hesitant to mention anything because I was worried that the death of his longtime editor Sally Menke last year might have sidelined him. Menke was one of his key collaborators, and the loss of someone who is so important to his process could easily keep him from making a new film for a while. No one would blame him, either.
Instead, it looks like things are coming together for a fall start for his next film, and thanks to Franco Nero, we now know what the ilm is, if only in the broadest of broad strokes.
How does a Quentin Tarantino spaghetti western sound to you?
I love the sound of that, personally. I'm a big fan of the genre, and some of the best obscure spaghetti westerns I've ever seen were screened as part of Quentin's various film festivals in Austin. And many of those starred Franco Nero, which makes it very exciting to hear that he's on the list of guys that Tarantino is putting together. Keith Carradine and Treat Williams were named as also being part of the cast by Nero, and both of those guys would be perfect additions to this type of picture.
Enough of you asked that I feel compelled to defend my position
When I realized that C-3PO was the closest Alec Guinness was getting to an Oscar in 1977, it started me thinking about the value, or lack thereof, in awards.
Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.
How did you spend your Sunday?
Me, I got up late, had lunch with my family, worked on some writing, finished playing "Call Of Duty: Black Ops," and then sat down to watch the same thing every other movie fan watched this Sunday evening.
My new Blu-ray of "Vampire Circus."
Wait… what? As I was Tweeting some thoughts on the film, I was getting bombarded by people asking me why I wasn't weighing in on the Oscars, and I realized that in all the time I've been here at HitFix, I've never formally explained my anti-Oscar stance, and since it seems like covering the Oscars is automatically expected of anyone and everyone who writes about films, maybe an explanation is due.
So why don't I watch the Oscars?
After all, HitFix has a blog dedicated entirely to awards season and coverage of all the stops on the way to the Oscars, and we've certainly benefited from some ad revenue this Oscar season. And I've done interviews with many of the nominated actors and directors and writers this year. Why wouldn't I take part in what many people consider to be the pinnacle of the year in movies?
Eccentric but endearing adaptation of Philip K. Dick story almost nails it
Of course it all starts in the men's room for Elise (Emily Blunt) and David (Matt Damon) in next weekend's 'The Adjustment Bureau'
Credit: Universal Pictures
Hollywood is not kind to Phillip K. Dick.
The strange part is that I think Hollywood would claim otherwise. "Look at how many times we've turned his work into movies," they would say, and they might even think they've "improved" his work. But the typical tact in bringing a PKD story to the screen is to take his big idea, his hook, and build a rigidly formulaic action movie around it. I know people love "Total Recall," but I think it's a lot less subversive than it wants to be, and a lot more like most of the carbon copy Ahnold films of that era. And it is an unfortunate template for adapting his work, because it shortchanges much of what makes his literature so compelling and dense and worth revisiting.
George Nolfi's "The Adjustment Bureau" has its own issues in terms of structure, but it works well in many ways, and overall, I thought it was surprising and even sort of touching. It is a sweet film, a love story first and a game about the notion of fate and how we make it second, and much of what I would consider good about the film comes down to the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
David Norris, played by Damon, is a rising star in New York politics, and he is at a turning point early in the film when he meets Elise, played by Blunt, in a bathroom. And this awkward random moment turns into an instant spark of something, and Nolfi has done a great job of setting things in motion. There's a playful quality to the film that I think is very strong, and there's no real mystery to things. He reveals early on what the "big idea" is, and for once, we're not dealing with what I would call science-fiction.
The ads for the film make it look like something it's not
Jenna Fischer, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, and Christina Applegate illuminate the magic and splendor of marriage in the aftermath of one of the funniest scenes from 'Hall Pass'
Credit: Warner Bros.
It's strange that the Farrelly Brothers have become known for and identified by the most outrageous moments in their comedies.
Sure, they love to push buttons, and in "Hall Pass," their latest film, there are at least two scenes that are designed to provoke an involuntary response from the audience, big giant cold-bucket-of-water shocks that got huge responses when I saw the film.
But if you really want to try to sum up their work, you can't just look at those moments and use them as the totality of what they do. You have to look at the unconventional casting that they've always made part of their movies. You have to look at the way they try to find the sweet center of even the most extreme characters in their films. You have to look at the regional focus of their work, the way they've made their corner of Rhode Island into something as particular to them as certain haunted corners of Maine are to Stephen King.
It's tough for comic filmmakers as they get older because comedy depends in no small part on surprise and the ability to catch an audience off-guard. It's the same problem that horror filmmakers face. The more films you make, the more an audience gets a bead on you. They start to predict your rhythms. And the moment an audience gets ahead of you, the moment they know when you'll zig and when you'll zag, you find yourself in a tough spot. The Farrelly Brothers felt like preposterous anarchists when we first saw "Dumb and Dumber" or "Kingpin," and right around the time "There's Something About Mary" came out, they became a name brand. Audiences got a handle on what it was that the guys did as filmmakers, and almost immediately, it was like the air went out of things for them.
A short interview reveals a solid chemistry between the film's leads
Keeping eye contact with Nicolas Cage during this interview while Amber Heard is sitting next to him should earn me some sort of medal of conduct
It's the damnedest thing. Amber Heard is, by any standards, ridiculously beautiful. And Nicolas Cage can be a somewhat imposing interview subject, at least when you're first getting to know him. By all rights, I should have been the one person in this room feeling nervous or flustered.
Yet when you watch the interview, it's Amber who seems like the entire notion of sitting and talking about the new film "Drive Angry" has got her sort of flushed and rattled, and it's endearing to realize that this girl, who can no doubt fell whole rooms full of men with just the right look, can actually get all twitterpated. Makes her seem human-scale again.
It's an interesting moment for Heard, since she's got a role in "Drive Angry" that allows her to do more than just be "the girlfriend" for once, even if she does rock a pair of Daisy Dukes that are downright indecent. She gets to be every bit as rough and gruff in this one as Nicolas Cage or Billie Burke or William Fichtner, and she also is responsible for the heart of the film. Not an easy role, but she makes it look easy.
I've spoken to Nicolas Cage enough times over the past few years that I've noticed something: he is one of the most protective co-stars a young actor could ever hope to have. When I was on the set of "Kick-Ass," I saw it in the way he dealt with Chloe Moretz, and I assumed that was part of the father-daughter dynamic they were playing in the film.