If physical media is dead, why does this fall look so good on Blu-ray?
I hate the way the industry is rushing to try to convince people that they don't need physical media anymore because of the magic of streaming video, especially since they just finished trying to convince everyone that they needed to upgrade to Blu-ray. The reason the market is weaker than it was at the height of the DVD craze is because the studios are confusing consumers with mixed messages, and they still haven't managed to convince the general consumer that they need to upgrade simply for sound and picture reasons.
Even so, I think the rush to pronounce the format obsolete is premature. I remember Hercules The Strong getting angry at me for calling HD-DVD and Blu-ray "Laserdisc 2000," basically accusing it of being little more than a niche market. Don't get me wrong… I loved laserdisc, and I didn't mind that it was aimed more at the film freak than the casual viewer, but now it feels like it's not enough for the format to cater directly to the dedicated collector. Either it becomes the cash cow that DVD was for a few years, or the industry is going to get impatient and kill it.
If physical media is dead, why does this fall look so good on Blu-ray?
A few weeks ago, I published a piece about the book "Savages" by Don Winslow, the inspiration for Oliver Stone's new film that arrives in theaters next week, and I said in that piece that I hoped his sensibilities would mesh with the material in a way that provoked great work from this long-dormant giant.
While I don't think "Savages" represents the very best that Stone has ever committed to film, I also think he's a different guy, looking at something that he would have shot one way in 1995, and he's reacting to it in a different way. Stone reveals himself in the one major choice where the film is different than the book, and in what has to be the most shocking thing Stone could add to his repertoire, he's gone every so slightly gooey. He loves these dumb, lucky, beautiful kids, and he's rooting for them every step of the way.
Stone hasn't always loved the losers he has immortalized, but he has been fascinated by them. When you look at "Salvador" or "Platoon" or "Born On The Fourth Of July" or "JFK," these lead characters are men who are pushed to some moral breaking point, some character defining extreme, and they all crumble before they rebound, if they rebound at all. Jim Garrison is the "hero" of Stone's "JFK," which is sort of radical in the very notion because Garrison's legacy is a whole lot of failure and conjecture, a rabbit hole of crazy that may well obfuscate some genuine truth that he helped uncover as well. Who knows? Who can know at this point? Stone loves Garrison and sees him as a hero not because he accomplished anything but because, no matter what anyone else or common sense said, he tried. And that, more than anything, is what Stone respects and idealizes. That determination in the face of everything.
Is it okay if I just pretend Comic-Con is already over and start focusing on Fantastic Fest instead?
With the announcement today that Fantastic Fest 2012 will kick off with their opening night premiere of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie," I think it's time to officially start getting excited. I've heard some of the other titles that are confirmed or rumored for this year's line-up, and it's looking like Fantastic Fest is packed this year. There will be both big and small premieres, and the line-up could end up being one of the strongest since the festival began.
I'm amazed at the way Tim League and his programming team have turned Fantastic Fest into a major part of the film year. League takes chances, and more often than not, they pay off. At a time when the home video market is supposedly retracting, getting even smaller, League is just starting to build out a library of his own curated titles with the Drafthouse Films Blu-rays and DVDs. He started a distribution company when no one else would step up and release "Four Lions," and he's already managed to help one foreign title, "Bullhead," get an Oscar nomination while also helping coordinate the first title that Drafthouse Films has been involved in from start to finish. During SXSW this year, we figured out that he was also opening four new businesses, and of course, he's also juggling the pressures of new fatherhood.
This looks awesome.
I've seen many kung-fu films with the RZA in attendance at the various Quentin Tarantino film festivals, so there's something that feels completely organic and normal about RZA finally making his directorial debut with a movie that looks like a non-stop totally mad mash-up of genres and styles.
I love it when someone gets a chance to indulge their passions like this. Good or bad, the films that come from this kind of madness are films that are deeply felt, films that someone cares about. When "Kill Bill Vol. 1" came out, the thing that struck me first about it was just how much joy there was in each and every fight scene. You could almost hear Tarantino standing behind the camera, cackling after every moment, after every stunt that went right, after every gushing blood geyser.
There's that same sense of giddy abandon in the footage we see in this first red-banded trailer for "The Man With The Iron Fist," and I'm so happy to see Russell Crowe in the middle of this madness. I like him a lot on film, but I haven't really loved the choices he's made in recent years. I wish he could have more fun, and that's what this looks like… fun. Big silly crazy bloody fun.
Last year, I was interviewing Joe Cornish about "Attack The Block," and I asked him about the premise for the "Ant-Man' script he's been writing with Edgar Wright. Years ago, I'd heard their basic hook into the film, and I asked Cornish if that was still true.
There was a long silence from his end of the phone, and he finally replied, "I'm surprised you know that." From the rest of our conversation, it was evident that they want to keep that story hook under wraps, and at this point, he and Edgar have so much time and energy invested in the picture that I hope no one spoils it for them.
It is hard to keep a secret, though, especially on something as highly-anticipated as this, and now The Hollywood Reporter says Edgar just wrapped production on a test reel for the film, designed to demonstrate how he'll handle the character and his powers visually. We wrote today about one of the things Marvel may have planned for their Hall H panel on Saturday the 14th, but if they decided to show some test footage of Ant-Man that day as well, I expect they'd have to pass out a change of pants to everyone in the room.
Marvel Studios seems to enjoy the game of Comic-Con each year. True, they sat out last year's event in order to focus on D23, but the year before, their big end-of-the-panel reveal was when they brought all the members of The Avengers out on stage at the same time for the first time. It was a big moment for Hall H, and it's the sort of thing studios try to create, a "moment" that really pops.
A few weeks ago, Latino Review reported that "Black Panther" is a priority title for Marvel Studios, and they theorized at that point that "Panther" might be the mystery 2014 title that the company hadn't announced yet. Today, they are stating emphatically that "Guardians Of The Galaxy" will be the title that Marvel announces at Comic-Con, and if they're right, did they just steal Marvel's thunder?
If you're talking about risks for the studio, this would represent one of the biggest they've taken so far, and I'm excited to see them step outside the safety zone of the established name-brands they've been using so far. After all, industry types were convinced that "Thor" was too obscure a name for the mainstream, and he's way more visible in the media landscape than "Guardians Of The Galaxy."
Okay, it's official… the summer of 2012 is not what I thought it was going to be at all, and I'm enjoying the near complete sense of surprise, week after week, film after film. At the start of this week, I had three films scheduled, and the one I felt most excited about seeing, the one that seemed like the safest bet of the bunch was "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Now, on the far side of the three of them, "Spider-Man" is the one that disappointed me, and both Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" have proven to be far more interesting than they seemed in basic pitch form. There's something wonderful about being kept off-balance in the middle of a season where each week brings something that seems almost pre-digested thanks to hype and expectation. Aside from knowing the general backstory that Channing Tatum used to work as a stripper and that's where the material began, I knew next to nothing about "Magic Mike," and so while I'm not sure how they're selling the movie, they've got something really charming and smart here, and it deserves to be one of Soderbergh's biggest hits in years.
One of the things that makes him such an interesting filmmaker, even when he isn't completely on his game, is his willingness to try anything, work in any genre, tell any story. Our film industry puts people into very narrow boxes as soon as they can, and it can be impossible for people to work outside of that very narrow definition of their talents. Soderbergh seems like he's managed to figure out how to do some of everything, keeping it exciting because we can't possibly anticipate his next move if he can't.
Nora Ephron followed an unusual career trajectory in Hollywood, and the single greatest compliment I can pay to her on the occasion of her passing is that you can clearly identify what makes something a Nora Ephron movie. Her voice was strong and distinct, and from the start of her Hollywood career to the end of it, she did personal work that somehow also managed to fit comfortably into the ever-changing modern studio system. That is no easy feat, no matter what the gender of the artist, and when you praise Ephron, it should be as a writer and not just a woman writer.
She came from Hollywood stock, of course, with parents who were part of the old Hollywood studio system, and I have no doubt she learned all you would ever need to know about navigating the political system growing up that way. She was around for the production of films like "Desk Set" and "Carousel" and "There's No Business Like Show Business," and her parents worked on TV variety shows as well. She couldn't have been any more ground zero for a career in film, but for a while, she worked more as an essayist. She was part of the world of politics and journalism, married for a time to Carl Bernstein, and her first theatrical feature, "Silkwood," was a very smart and angry portrait of famed nuclear industry whistle-blower Karen Silkwood. She was working with Mike Nichols, with Meryl Streep. Talk about hitting the ground running. Her journalist's background made her an inspired choice for "Silkwood," and it's a really good script.
There is one moment of pure visual magic in "The Amazing Spider-Man," perfectly staged and realized, and when the Stan Lee cameo is the best thing in your movie, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
One of the biggest questions you're going to hear in the days and weeks ahead as people finally get a chance to see this series reboot is going to be "Why?" Sony's answer to that question is "Because we had to." From a business perspective, they had no choice but to make another movie, and since they couldn't afford to stay in the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire business, they made a decision to go back to the start and kick things off with a new creative team…
… only they didn't. The producers are still the same producers, and sure enough, Alvin Sargent's got a shared screenplay credit on the film, making him the most consistent creative player in the series so far. While there's one advantage to restarting the entire series, allowing them to layer in Gwen Stacy from the very start and then, somewhere down the road, play out her most infamous story line, what you gain by doing that, you lose in narrative momentum. This film's got one major issue that nothing can overcome, and that is a profound feeling of "been there, done that."
If you had told me at the start of this summer that I would prefer both the Seth MacFarlane film and the Katy Perry film to "Prometheus," I would have laughed in your face.
Seth MacFarlane has become enormously wealthy thanks to his animation empire, the foundation of which is "Family Guy," a show that tends to be very divisive. I've written before about my problems with it, and I think by now, you know whether or not you're a fan of the show's shotgun-style sensibility and the near-constant pop culture randomness. The thing that always surprises me about the show is how MacFarlane's able to get some of the material by Fox's standards and practices, because "Family Guy" is frequently dirty in a way that is startling. Looking at "American Dad" or "The Cleveland Show," one could be forgiven for thinking that he's basically a one-trick pony. A successful one-trick pony, certainly, but limited nonetheless.
Walking into "Ted," all I'd seen was the first red-band trailer, and it looked to me like exactly what I would expect from a Seth MacFarlane film. However, what the trailers haven't really sold yet is the emotional core of the movie which works incredibly well, and while the movie has a dirty mouth, it's got a sweet heart, and it suggests to me that MacFarlane's signature interests are tempered by a new maturity to his work.