Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
At what point does genuine depression turn into miserable self-pity?
While I'm busy kicking my cinematic heroes in the balls today, I might as well finally share some thoughts on the new film by Kim Ki-Duk.
Since seeing "The Isle" at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, I've greatly admired this outrageous, ambitious Korean director, and several of his films have become favorites of mine in the years since.Â In particular, I adore "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring," a meditative piece that seemed to mark a new maturity for him.Â For the last three years, though, he's been suffering from a crippling depression that has kept him away from filmmaking, due in large part to a near-fatal accident involving an actress on the set of "Dream," his last film.Â
This is not a narrative film, but a documentary of sorts, a diary of depression as he tries to deal with his artistic block and his newly discovered fears about what could go wrong while making a movie.Â It is a nakedly personal film, and it is also almost completely unwatchable.
There are few guys working now who know as much about comedy as these two
It seems sort of amazing that it's only been a little over six years since I got to know Judd Apatow. I'd been a fan since his name first showed up on "The Ben Stiller Show," and he turned out to be exactly as cool and as approachable as I'd hoped when we first met on the set of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
Paul Feig's name has always been tangled up with Apatow's for me since "Freaks and Geeks" first aired, and although it makes him wince any time anyone mentions it to him, I met him on the set of "Unaccompanied Minors" and instantly liked him.
It helps that I'd read his books before meeting him, and if you can, put your hands on a copy of Superstud right now and prepare yourself for the bruising your ribs will take from all the laughter. I spent a morning during the Writer's Strike a few years ago marching the picket line with Paul outside Warner Bros., and he's always struck me as a guy who knows comedy theory inside out, and who actually has the skills to put all of that theory into practice.
It was nice to see Apatow and Feig together, and when you're talking about comedy with guys like this, you do not want to phone it in. Thankfully, I probably couldn't be more relaxed chatting with these two, and I hope that comes through in this conversation.
Has Spielberg finally brought a 20-year dream to life?
When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1990, there were already rumors that Steven Spielberg was interested in making a live-action version of "Tintin." Evidently, he was a huge fan from childhood, and he considered it one of those great untapped properties. In the 20 years since then, there have been any number of near-misses for the character as Spielberg has continually tried to figure out how to bring him to life on the bigscreen.
So it's a little strange to finally see a trailer for "Tintin," which no longer appears to be using the "Secret of the Unicorn" subtitle. There were two different posters for the film that appeared online yesterday, one on Empire, one on Ain't It Cool, and it appears there are some slight differences in the domestic and the international versions of the trailer as well.
For those of us in the US, Apple.com is hosting the trailer, [update: it's embedded below now too] and I took the time to download the full 1080p version because I wanted to be able to really look at the work and see it in motion and, most importantly, check out the eyes. Sure enough, WETA once again proves that they are the best company out there for this sort of thing. They give life to these characters that has eluded many people who have worked in motion-capture (coughRobertZemeckiscough), and it really does seem to hinge on how well the eyes work.
Another Hollywood showdown is brewing between fairy tale movies
I have never understood the mentality behind the competing projects moments that erupt from time to time in Hollywood, but I've been ground zero for one of them, and it's something that will end up happening over and over again.Â The latest example just heated up today with the announcement that "Snow White And The Huntsman" is moving up to a June 2012 release date, effectively trumping Relativity Media's plan to release their "Snow White" movie at the end of the same month.
This has been a brutal race already, but this decision is beyond aggressive.Â Just the idea that there were two version of "Snow White" in development was already potentially bloody, but there were originally a full seven months between them.Â Now, they're set for release less that four weeks apart.Â At this point, I'm curious to see how Universal and Relativity handle this, because one of these movies is going end up on the short end of the stick.
It doesn't always come down to what's first, of course.Â "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" is a good example of one of these races where the second one in release managed to be the box-office giant.Â And sometimes, neither film ends up working, as with "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano."Â In more cases, someone blinks and pulls the plug on one of the films before they even go into production.Â And since both of these "Snow White" projects are still hypothetical, there's still time for anything to happen.
1985 Horror comedy gets remade, will they get it right?
I was happy to see the new trailer for "Fright Night" in my inbox this morning. I had the pleasure of visiting the set a few months back (details still under embargo) and have been very curious about where the film was going to be going as far as tone. It's a trade-off that studios make when they make a re-make. They get built in name recognition (among a certain age group) and probably in their minds a "tested" concept, in exchange for the inevitable comparisons to the original. The more beloved the original, the higher the risk of fans going b.s. crazy if they get it wrong.
Fitting smack-dab into the aforementioned age demographic for "Fright Night," I saw it once or twice back in the day, but I remember it fondly. I have met people, however, who LOVE this movie and have seen hundreds of times. It's combination of humor, teen angst, and some quality scares hits all the right buttons for many folks. I assume that they look upon this remake with the same (valid) trepidation that I had for the "Rollerball" remake… shudder.
A beautiful but oddly hollow experience ultimately disappoints
This is what happens when we turn our filmmakers into religious figures.
I can barely express how much I adore the first three films by Terrence Malick. I saw "Badlands" for the first time in college, and it was one of those lightning bolt moments for me. I love everything about that film, about his aesthetic sense, about the performances by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. I think of that movie, and I think of a dozen little moments, about the use of score, about that stunningly gorgeous light that the entire film is bathed in. "Days Of Heaven" is one I love even more, and that Blu-ray has been played at least three times since I got it. It's a remarkable film, a simple story but a rich and wonderful slice of history captured as if by magic. Again, it's the performances I come back to in that one. Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, and Sam Shepard are all at their very best, and young Linda Manz is so strange, such an unusual narrator, that I find myself wanting to put the film on right now just to hear her voice again. For the longest time, that's all there was, those two movies, and then we finally got a third film out of him, his adaptation of the James Jones novel "The Thin Red Line," which managed to start life as a fairly straight adaption only to become something totally different in the editing room. That year, many people tried to pit "Saving Private Ryan" against "Thin Red Line," but aside from being set during WWII, the two films couldn't be more different. Malick's God's-eye view of men at wartime is a piercing character study and confirmed that even after almost 20 years away from filmmaking, he still maintained a rigid control of every element of what you saw onscreen.
A gentle tale of survival has raw emotional edge
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are among the most awarded filmmakers to ever play Cannes.Â They've won the Palm D'Or twice, and their films are almost always received here as the word of God. I'm a fan of their work, and in particular quite like "The Son" and "The Child."Â They make movies that sound like they could be sentimental goo when you read a description, but when you see how they handle the material, there is always a smart, simple reserve that makes the films feel like more than just the synopsis.Â It's little wonder they are so beloved here, since their movies basically feel like the perfect representation of what Cannes looks for in filmmakers.Â Elegant, spare, emotional, and human, all of which are words I'd use to describe their latest, "The Kid With The Bike."
Cecile de France was last seen in the US in Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," and she was sorely misused in that film.Â Here, though, she's perfectly cast as Samantha, a woman who meets a young boy named Cyril (Thomas Doret) during a turbulent point in his life.Â It's one of those emotional scenarios that plays out with a certain undeniable nightmare logic and power for the first 45 minutes or so.Â Cyril has been sent to spend his weeks at a boarding school by his father, and as a weekend approaches, Cyril starts trying to call home and contact dad, only to learn that his father has moved without telling him.Â He's convinced that can't be the case because his dad would never leave without at least bringing him his bike, and for a while, Cyril acts out, dangerously out of control and angry.
Bad action? Jack Sparrow done wrong? It's all here and more.
It is evidently not a popular opinion to have enjoyed the first three "Pirates Of The Caribbean" films, despite their having made over a billion dollars each worldwide.Â If you were to listen to Johnny Depp in his recent "Entertainment Weekly" cover story, the films are evidently no good, and the series needed an overhaul moving forward.Â Personally, I don't buy that.Â I think the first film is still the one that gets everything right, but the second and third films have many, many things to recommend.Â If they commit any one sin above all others, it is that they are overstuffed.Â There is simply too much going on.Â There's enough material in there for three or four films, and Gore Verbinski seemed to be determined to please you or to pummel you into submission, whichever came first.
If you did not like the second and third film, might I suggest that you skip the new film entirely, and even if you did like the sequels, I'm going to warn you that this latest edition in the franchise, "PIrates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," is a near-total creative disaster.Â Since Rob Marshall is directing this time instead of Verbinski, I think it's pretty clear who was keeping the series afloat, and Verbinski's work has never looked better than it does by the end of this new film, which is marred by a leaden pace, a complete inability to stage an action scene, and a wildly misconceived move of Captain Jack Sparrow from drunken clown commenting on the action to the main engine of the movie.
What's the difference between a filmmaker and someone who made a film?
To my mind, there is a very distinct difference between a filmmaker and someone who has managed to make a film. One is a natural gift, and the other is a result of sheer force of will. I respect the hard work and determination it takes to wrestle anything up onto the screen, but I happily acknowledge that some people are just born with a voice that asserts itself when they are behind the camera. That's when they really come to life.
I'm trying to see a variety of titles here at the festival, not just focusing on the big names. Sure, we'll have reviews of "The Tree Of Life" and "Melancholia" right after they screen, no doubt about it. I'm here to be part of those conversations and to give you the very first account of the highest-profile movies playing at this, the highest-profile film festival in the world. But while I'm here, I should try to take a chance at least once a day. After all, even if I don't know anything about a movie I'm walking into, it is playing at Cannes, so that's sort of an implied endorsement, right?
I've seen four of the films from the Un Certain Regard program at the festival, two competition titles, and the out of competition films "Midnight In Paris" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Not bad. If I had to guess about the programming directive behind Un Certain Regard based only on what I've seen, my guess would be that it's all about films with a strong emphasis on voice.
Lovely film about grief and sorrow packs a gentle punch
In the first season of HBO's "In Treatment," Mia Wasikowska gave a performance as Sophie, a potential Olympic gymnast who sabotaged her own chances, that immediately put her on my radar as a brilliant, gifted, intuitive actor. Since then, she's done solid work but hasn't really had a role as good, something where she could show off just how special her abilities really are.
Thank god, then, for Gus Van Sant's "Restless."
Van Sant, no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival, has always been something of a chameleon in his filmmaking voice, and I'm not really sure "Restless" has an easy comparison in his filmography. It is sweet, simple, eccentric, and gentle. It is a film about grief, but it is anything but depressing. There is a lyrical quality to it that caught me off-guard, and in the end, I surrendered myself to its charms completely.
Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) is adrift in grief at the beginning of the film, unable to process the death of his parents, and he has begun attending funerals and memorial services for strangers as a hobby. At one of them, he catches the eye of Annabel Cotton (Wasikowska), who finds herself immediately drawn to this strange young man. Both of them seem inordinately young in many ways, emotional children, and they seem to immediately recognize one another as kindred spirits. When Enoch realizes that Annabel is dying, diagnosed with a brain tumor that will kill her inside three months, he is forced to finally deal with all of his feelings about life, death, and being left behind.