Hayden Christensen, John Leguizamo, and Thandie Newton at the end of the world
Brad Anderson is one of those filmmakers like Michael Winterbottom who seems to have escaped the normal trap of getting stuck working in only one genre. Anderson has a definite flair for horror, with films like "The Mechanist" and "Session 9" on his resume, as well as episodes of both "Fear Itself" and "Masters Of Horror." But he's also made films like "Transsiberian" and "Happy Accidents" and "Next Stop Wonderland," and he's directed a bunch of episodes of the trippy sci-fi show "Fringe" lately.
If you've seen his horror films, then you know that mood is incredibly important to him, much more than overt scares. His movie "Session 9" is one of the great slow-burn horror films of the 2000s, and it looks like his new film, "Vanishing On 7th Street," is going to be more of the same. Very good news indeed.
I can't believe we're just over two weeks away from the Toronto Film Festival. In a way, it's already begun, since today I saw my first Toronto screening, and I've got more this week and next week both. I intentionally did not watch the trailer for Aronofsky's "Black Swan" because I know I'm seeing it first thing first day, and I don't want to ruin any of it for myself. As with last year, I'm going to make sure to cover all of the Midnight Madness offerings for you, starting with "Fubar 2" on opening night, and then including titles like "Super," "Bunraku," James Wan's "Insidious," a new film from John Carpenter, and of course, Anderson's "Vanishing."
First Extended Look is Promising
Ok ok, officially this is not a film, and doesn't belong on Motion Captured, however we've decided to make an exception because the trailer that AMC released today for "The Walking Dead" is just so darn great we wanted you to see it if you haven't already.
Following, for the most part, the first few issues of the comic, we see Officer Rick Grimes wake up in his hospital bed to find the world overrun by zombies and his family missing. He travels to Atlanta by horseback in search of them.
The comic was conceived as a never-ending version of the Romero movies, and it falls very much on the side of "Team Slow Zombie" drawing scares not from imminent danger of attack, but from the slow, unstoppable and quickly overwhelming power of thousands and thousands of zombies. (Much scarier than running zombies in my book. Look at that tank shot!) The comic is also notoriously "talky," we will have to wait and see if this trait is passed on to the TV show.
The creators of one of the best English cult comedies engage in a loose, informal chat
It's no secret if you've read my work over the years that I am a rabid fan of British comedy. I think it's one of those things you develop a lifelong taste for when you're young, and in my case, it led to a lifelong hunger for the new.
One of the things that's been fun about being a fan of UK comedy since I was a kid was the way I would hear about things I should see. Word-of-mouth, worn videotapes passed hand-to-hand, years of searching... all par for the course. In recent years, DVD has finally become a real option for American fans, but even then, years can go by between first hearing of something and finally seeing it. Sure, there are uber-famous titles like "The Office" that make the jump quickly, but most titles remain cult items and can take much longer.
Case in point: "Look Around You."
There are few shows I can compare this to, and that's a good thing. The work of Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, this mock-serious science show is surreal, silly, and desert-dry for every second of each ten-minute episode. It's not for everyone, but it's one of those shows that fans get protective about because it feels like it was made personally for them.
It's finally available in the US, where Adult Swim's been showing it for a little while, and where BBC Home Video has now finally released the show's first season on home video, and just before Comic-Con, I sat down to dinner with Devin (CHUD) Faraci, Jeremy (Ain't It Cool) Smith, Damon (Collider) Houx, and Serafinowicz and Popper to talk about the U.S. DVD debut. It's nearly impossible to separate who asked what, and the audio of the dinner was a hideous mess, almost impossible to transcribe. The conversation may have gotten away from us just a bit.
I think it's better for it.
Plus the animation genius discusses the future of Studio Ghibli
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest working filmmakers.
Not just in animation, although that is what he's known for, but in all of film, in my opinion. Miyazaki has created a body of work that is both profound and artistically gorgeous, working in big mythological tropes. His work transcends age and language and culture. It is universal, easily understood by children but with enough depth to reward repeat viewings by adults. His world view is uncommonly human, and his films deal with themes about who we are, who we should be, and who we must resist the urge to become.
There are films of his that have become iconic, characters that have become immediately recognizable around the world, and there are other films that are not particularly well-known, but that are equally worthy and interesting. There are few filmmakers with the breadth of filmography that Miyazaki has, and when even your relatively obscure titles are fantastic, it's a sign of just how innate his talent really is.
"Porco Rosso" has never been one of the films I really hear people rave about when Miyazaki's name comes up. I know a few hardcore fans who appreciate the story of a fighter ace who, dehumanized by his experience with war, literally turns into an anthropomorphic pig. The film feels like a classic Hollywood movie from the heyday of the studio system, and it's one of the greatest expressions of Miyazaki's career-long obsession with flight. The lead is one of Miyazaki's most prickly and particular creations, which may be the reason people don't embrace him the same way they embrace characters like Totoro or Kiki or Ponyo. It's not easy to love Porco Rosso, but it's worth it. He is an amazing character, and just looking at the actors who have voiced him in different international dubs of the character (both Jean Reno and Michael Keaton have played him), you can tell he's not the typical lead for a "children's film."
Will flying fish be in our future?
In a move that may seem a tad contrived, Dimension Films has announced today they will be making sequel to bitey fish movie "Piranha 3D". The Film opened in 6th place for the weekend, making a little over ten million dollars, about half of its stated production budget of 24 million. But this was apparently enough to announce a sequel.
The reviews have been strong, and I'm sure the producers see it making its money back, especially once it opens internationaly.The announcement should fuel talk of movies with similar opening weekends, like say, Scott Pilgrim, and the miracle of well managed expectations.
For me it's great to see a full-on genre pic that wore its gore and zaniness as a badge of honor in all its publicity. I have not seen it yet so I cannot speculate as to any returning stars or the storyline. I hold the original in a special place in my heart, as I do most New World Pictures.
A short chat with the show's creator as the first season arrives on Blu-ray
As with comic books, I'm somewhat slow to find TV shows during their first run on whatever channel airs them, often catching up with them on DVD instead. I'm that guy who picks up trade collections to read comics, catching up with something like "Y The Last Man" once it hits book form, and I'm the guy who discovered "Deadwood" as a group of DVD box sets instead of on HBO.
As a result, when I'm sent shows on DVD, I'll almost always give them a try. If the premise even slightly appeals to me, I'll throw the first disc on and see if anything hooks me. With the show "Being Human," I hesitated briefly because I had a hard time imagining how anyone would wring fresh life from a show about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire sharing a flat in London.
That's where Toby Whithouse comes in.
Whithouse is the creator of the series, and after seeing what he did with that very, very basic premise, I was happy to hop on the phone with him to discuss the show's first two seasons and where he might be headed with it in the future:
What makes the Beloosh such an enduring icon?
John Belushi remains, in my opinion, one of the five greatest talents to ever move through the "Saturday Night Live" machine, and I would argue that it is only because he was one of the first-generation cast members that the show ever became the self-perpetuating legend that it is today.
There is a reason that first run of episodes from 1975 - 1979 gets romanticized by longtime fans of the show and comedy nerds in general. There have certainly been many funny people on the show over the years, and there have been great moments with various eras of cast and writers, but it was the first cast that created the template that everyone else has followed since. If you weren't there at the time, you have to try and imagine what the cultural landscape was like at the time the show went on the air The conflict between young and old, hip and square, the institutional and the subversive, was playing out on the national stage in any number of ways, and while "Saturday Night Live" didn't create counterculture humor, it was the moment where it made the most aggressive leap to the mainstream, and the ripples from that moment are still felt today.
Sure, there were earlier examples like "Laugh-In" or "The Smother Brothers Hour," shows that helped pave the way for what "Saturday Night Live" managed to do, but those were prime-time shows under even tighter network control, and anytime the shows pushed the boundaries, there was blowback. "SNL" was, by design, dangerous the moment it went on the air. Calling its cast the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" and making it a destination Saturday late-night event were part of the way they sold the audience the idea that they were seeing something beyond what TV normally allowed. Anything could happen. The cast felt like people who might lunge right out of the set at you. If anyone embodied that rowdy, edgy attitude, it was John Belushi. The Beloosh. One half of the Bully Boys. Behind the camera, Michael O'Donoghue got a reputation as the wildest of all the wild cards, but it was Belushi who the public knew and fell in love with right away.
Xavier and Magneto put McAvoy and Fassbender center stage
Original "X-Men" Director and "X-Men: First Class" producer Bryan Singer and Harry have a relationship that goes waaaaaaaaay back to the start of both the site and Bryan's career as a filmmaker. And it's as simple as Harry feels a great affection for Bryan's work, start to finish, and Bryan seems to like talking to Harry.
And when they talk, it usually results in Bryan spilling the beans in a major way, and that's what happened again. Harry just wrote it up, and it is a vintage Ain't It Cool special. Harry lays out a lot of the film's big ideas, pretty much exactly as Bryan voiced them to him. It's not a critical piece... it's pure pitch, and as a pitch, it's a pretty radical shift for the series.
I'm a fairly on-the-record fan of Matthew Vaughn as a director, and I know he was disappointed on a creative and a personal level when "X-Men 3" didn't happen. So far, it appears he's been able to bring his entire creative team with him to the project, and that's very good news. I've long considered his partnership with screenwriter Jane Goldman to be one of the "secrets" of why Matthew Vaughn's done so well with his three films so far. And the same is true of his producer Tarquin Pack. And the same is true of his cinematographer, his sound guy, his costume and make-up people... Matthew's from that British tradition of the rep company, the people you keep employed and fed and working and prosperous, and who work their asses off for you in return. He gets better and better as a director because they work together better and better as a team each time. I'm really pleased to see they're shooting this in London and not in Vancouver or in Los Angeles, and not because I have an issue with those cities... it's just that a London shoot would indicate that this is Matthew's movie.
Why you might be missing something you'll love right now
First, let me just say that's a lovely shirt you're wearing today.
But even when I've been most vocal in my dislike of the actual "Twilight" films, I've had enough respect for "Twilight" fans and the conversation with them to take those reviews seriously. I don't dismiss the books or the fanbase... I just disagree.
Last year, when "Twilight" showed up at Comic-Con, I remember having a long talk with Devin Faraci at one point during the weekend about how much fun "Twilight" fans looked like they were having, and how nice it was to see. Some were young, enthusiastic, vocal, and wide open to the experience of the rest of the programming at the Con as well. Some were older, but not the typical Comic-Con crowd, newbies who seemed to dive in whole. It was impressive, and it was a reminder of just how fervent our first big pop culture loves can be. I was a "Twilight" fan when the first "Star Wars" came out. Rabid. Enthusiastic. Ready to expound on the matter at any opportunity. Passionate enough to argue with anyone who dared speak ill of my beloved. And it was my gateway drug to everything else I love today.
Dimension Films finally lives up to their company name in style
The worst case scenario for a reaction to a movie like this would be, in my opinion, indifference. There's nothing more depressing for me to sit through than something mechanical and boring and perfunctory. When a film has no pulse at all, I find it more unpleasant to sit through than an enthusiastically terrible film. If someone really goes for it, but they fail completely, it's still worth seeing if only for that misguided passion. It's the films where it feels like all involved are just picking up a check and sleep-walking through the work that chip away at me each year.
Thankfully, Alexandre Aja is a lunatic.
He seems to have rebounded completely now from the rancid, joyless "Mirrors" with this fishsploitation joyride that does its best to entertain from the first shot to the last. It is shameless, in every way that matters, amazingly gory, packed with gratuitous nudity, and cheerfully unconcerned with padding at a brisk 82 minutes. The film starts with a silly celebrity cameo and a bunch of wink-wink in-jokes that will entertain fans who know the origins of the original '70s "Piranha," as well as a fistful of CGI and blood. That sets the tone that the rest of the film adheres to, and it seems like Aja's never been more comfortable than he is playing loose and ridiculous here.