Welcome back to The Morning Read.
Our long national nightmare is over. We can all finally breathe easy again. It's hard to believe, but somehow, the lawsuit between Quentin Tarantino and Alan Ball has been resolved, and it was done without calling in The Wolf.
Boy, Cannes worked me over. Then again, every festival seems to work me over at this point. I think it just comes down to the fact that I am a very old man. This Thursday marks my 41st birthday, something which seems like a horror movie. That can't possibly be true. Maybe we can just agree to have a week of good news. That would be a great gift. For example, Oscilloscope Laboratories, which picked up my favorite Sundance movie, "Bellflower," this year is also planning to release one of my favorite films from Cannes, "We Need To Talk About Kevin." They're looking at a winter release with an eye on being part of the awards-season conversation. Oscilloscope is rocking it these days, and when they sent out word this morning, it made me genuinely happy. I like they way they handle the films they buy. They care, and you can tell. Later today, I'll have my interview here with Tilda Swinton, star of the film, so check back for that.
Plus Rob Lowe is literally hilarious and the 3D debate continues at home and in theaters
Welcome back to The Morning Read.
Kirsten Dunst, Jean Dujardin, and more also pick up accolades
Because I am writing this from the comfort of my home in Northridge, CA, instead of filing from the press lounge at the Grand Palais, there is a weird feeling of disconnect even though I was at this year's Cannes Film Festival for most of its duration. I missed a few films for various reasons, and as a result, there are things I can comment on and things I can't. One thing is obvious, though, looking at the list of winners for the festival… Cannes covered a lot of ground this year, and it was an incredibly strong line-up overall.
The biggest award at the festival is the Palme D'Or, and the winner was "The Tree Of Life," Terrence Malick's long-in-development personal look back at childhood in the '50s in Texas, as well as our place in the universe. As I said in my review of the film, I thought it was a beautiful, ambitious piece, and I've certainly spoken to people whose genuine reactions to the film were emotional and profound. I just felt like, for me, it was Malick doing Malick, feeling the pressure to deliver THE film instead of just a film, and less successful overall than past efforts from him. I certainly wouldn't slam the choice, and I think it's a movie that leaves a lot of room for each individual viewer to walk away with a very different experience.
Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence shine in strong ensemble
I am happier overall with "X-Men: First Class" than with any other film released so far in the "X-Men" franchise at Fox. And I suspect that when I see it again before my full review, I may find even more to like about it. Right now, I'm still sort of in shock at how much of it works, and how ambitious the entire thing is.
I'll have a full review of the film closer to release, and in that, I might get a little spoilery. But my first impressions of the film are so strong that I want to share the big points without spoiling anything for you. First, there's the style of the world, the way the mutants are built into reality, and I think one of the things that makes this such a success is the confidence that's part of every choice made by Matthew Vaughn and his creative team. The film is set in the '40s and the '60s, and while I wouldn't call it realistic, I think the impressionistic take it offers on period is even more fun than if they did it as complete realism. The powers are so matter of fact, so much a part of the world, that it never feels like the film stops to show off. "Hey, look, this guy teleports!" Well, no duh. That's the sort of movie this is. People teleport. The film just takes that as a given, and so action scenes erupt without too much labored exposition or set-up. We learn how things work as the film needs us to, and not before. Characters are still discovering their own abilities, still learning how the world around them works.
Warner pushes all their chips to the middle of the table with this one
Considering how negative much of the early buzz was towards the campaign Warner Bros. put together for "Green Lantern," they're finishing things up strong, and it seems like they've won over many of the most vocal early critics.
I'm a big fan of the full-length theatrical trailer for the film that was released recently, and what it did so well was start to explain the mythology of the Green Lantern universe, and now, with this new trailer that will be playing exclusively in 3D this weekend in front of "Pirates Of The Caribbean," they have stepped it up even more. This is actually sort of jaw-dropping for me, the sort of thing I never would have imagined seeing a studio cut. This is pure 100% from the tap DC, mainlined at a scale of $100s of millions of dollars of studio state-of-the-art, and there's nothing halfway about it. This is the DC nerd dream, as big a bet as the studio's ever made on this material, and based on this, they're going all-in.
Elizabeth Olsen grounds a slow burn look at deprogramming
I remember watching the 1981 film "Ticket To Heaven" when I was a kid, starting to ask questions about faith and belief and dogma, and the notion of cults and deprogramming freaked me out. I also remember when the Jonestown suicides happened, and looking at the photos of all those bodies, each of them a believer, and being struck by the profound sorrow of investing your full identity into something that you believe will free or elevate your soul, only to end up a dead, dirty sack of meat, betrayed and left to rot in some third-world hellhole.
This weekend, another fringe figure has convinced his followers that the end of the world is nigh, the third time this particular idiot has picked a date to claim the same thing. I'm not sure how you earn and second and third try at this, but people keep putting their faith in him. And at least with him, it seems like the worst that will happen to his followers when Sunday rolls around will be a sense of disappointment and, in the most self-aware few, embarrassment at ever having believed his drivel. Maybe a few will even snap out of their delusions.
And, no, I don't mean all believers in all things are delusional, but I do think anyone who believes that any man walking around on this planet has a calendar that already has the end date circled is a fool. From the outside, it seems like it would be an easy thing to do, shake off this sort of doomsday nonsense. You'd think that his followers could just realize something isn't true, pick up, and move on. But the human mind can be much like a cruise ship, slow to turn around once it's been set on a course. And for many people who have undergone the sort of personality-shattering indoctrination that is part of many of these cults, it is impossible to find their way back to normal without the help and support of friends, family, and a trained professional.
But what if you had to do exactly that, all by yourself?
3D trailer to appear before 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'
I had the eye-popping pleasure to preview this 3D trailer a few nights ago at the "3D: A Transforming Visual Art" talk with James Cameron and Michael Bay. I have to admit that seeing this footage in 3D caused me to reverse my course and decide to actually see the movie. As you can see (embedded above) there's not that much new footage since the last trailer, but in 3D it does look amazing. The fact that you have to buy a ticket to the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie to see it is another thing altogether.
As I said before, I think Michael Bay might just be the perfect director for this kind of tool. He's not afraid to go over the top for an image or a set piece, that's just who he is.
The new clip, of Josh Duhamel as Lt. Colonel WIlliam Lennox asking his men for volunteers to "wingsuit in" to the war zone in Chicago is a mostly human-based clip with flesh and blood actors and not so many special effects. It's the lead up to a set piece of a bunch of guys flying into Chicago, gliding in wing-suits.
Can he succeed where Kevin Smith and Bill Lawrence failed?
One of the great mysteries of the last 20 years is why it has been hard for Hollywood to make a new "Fletch" movie.
If your only knowledge of Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher is from the Chevy Chase film or its sequel, then you might not understand my frustration. If you're a fan of Gregory McDonald's novels, though, then you know what I'm talking about. He wrote great, simple, wildly witty adventures featuring the character for years, and much of what people assume was invented by Chase is pretty much a direct lift from McDonald's first book. He really was that funny in print, well before Chase got there.
In fact, the thing that makes the first film so good, in my opinion, is that McDonald provides such a strong mystery spine that the comedy feels like a bonus, not the point. And it helps that Andrew Bergman wrote the script since he's, you know, a big-brained comedy god. You get to be called that for the rest of your life when you wrote "The In-Laws," "The Freshman," and co-wrote "Blazing Saddles." That's in the WGAw bylaws, I think.
Yep... looks like Bronson with a freaky mask
Now that they've officially announced the beginning of production, Warner Bros. appears to have kicked off their viral campaign for "The Dark Knight Rises," and the result is our first look at Tom Hardy as Bane, one of the film's big villains.
It's interesting how closely this appears to be following the model they followed with their "Dark Knight" campaign. I guess Warner feels like there's no reason to change something that built to a billion-dollar worldwide gross. They've got very different elements at play this time, though, and while I think the reveal of Heath Ledger's look as The Joker was one of those lightning-bolt pop culture moments thanks to the iconic Joker/Batman relationship. I'm not sure Bane holds anything like that sort of grip on the audience's minds.
Instead, what I hope works is the air of mystery about the overall film, and when you look at what Hardy's wearing, it kicks off the mystery with what appears to be an intriguing visual cue. That mouthpiece is, if I'm not mistaken, a skeletal hand. Who exactly is this version of the character? A weapon unleashed by the League Of Shadows? Who designed his gear? Who pulls his strings?
I hope that even with reveals of characters like Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, played this time around by Anne Hathaway, they come at it sideways instead of just giving us a shot of the typical spandex clad… er, wait a minute. I just considered a spandex-clad Hathaway, and decided that is what I want after all. Scratch what I just said.
Four looks at the train crash sequence from the new thriller
Got four new looks at J.J. Abrams 'Super 8' in the inbox this morning. I hesitate to call them 'clips' because they're obviously tv spots or highly edited pieces that share footage with each other. They're calling them 'sequences' which is a new one for me. All center around the same train crash scene we can presume is at the beginning of the film and sets all the story in motion.
The film takes place in 1979 and focuses on a teenage boy who's life is turned upside down when strange supernatural things start happening in his small town after something is released from a government transport train after a crash that may have not been an accident. (notice a certain "Hatch"Â shot in the "Run"Â clip? Looks a little familiar to me!)
Sporting lot's of Spielbergian lighting and wide eyed kids in danger, the clips highlight that this is an admittedly nostalgic story by Abrams for the time in his childhood when he first started shooting super 8 movies.
UPDATE: James Cameron and Michael Bay preach the 3D gospel and sneak 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'
It's Michael Bay's first movie in 3D, will he change the game?
HOLLYWOOD - In an odd confluence of big summer movie publicity and 3D technology proselytising, Paramount Studios gathered a theater full of journalists, film students, and I would assume DPs and industry folk to watch a few minutes of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and to hear Michael Bay and James Cameron talk about 3D and all it entails. The evening was called "3D: A Transforming Visual Art" (See what they did there?)
The evening began awkwardly with a quick video of Michael Bay accepting his Vanguard award at ShoWest, (the theater owners convention) in 2009 saying that it wasn't necessary for filmmakers to jump to 3D en masse immediately because it "might be a gimmick, might not." The irony did not seem lost on Bay that three years after discouraging theater owners from buying 3D projectors for their cinemas, here he was with a 3D picture of his own.
The conversation that ensued between Bay and Cameron was pretty entertaining because they both have… how to put it politely? Strong personalities. Although mostly cordial, Bay repeatedly spoke about being "old school" and of his reservations about shooting in the format, "They said James had a camera that could be easily used handheld, then I found out you (Cameron) broke your back" to which Cameron replied cooly "That's not true." (To make a long and technical story short, the cameras had grown in size since Avatar, which Cameron did shoot mostly handheld.)