This is a fairly unexpected bit of news, but I have to say… I like it.
Jose Padilha is a very smart filmmaker, and in Brazil, he's been responsible for two gigantic monster commercial hits, "Elite Squad" and "Elite Squad 2," and the sequel is actually the biggest movie of all time in that country. I can see why, too. The first film was pretty much a straight action movie about Captain Nascimento, who is assigned to try and clean up or at least contain the favelas of Rio before the Pope visits the country. He's given carte blanche to do it any way he can, and in the first film, he is an unrelenting badass.
In the second film, though, Padilha turned everything inside out, and Nascimento, played by Wagner Moura, goes after the crooked politicians and corrupt policemen who keep Rio so divided, and watching him work his way up the ladder of corruption was a cathartic release for Brazilian audiences. They'd never seen anything like it, and to actually watch a policeman stomp a politician into the dirt was unheard of.
In a way, Padilha's in the exact right place to pick up the challenge thrown down by Paul Verhoeven on the original "Robocop." In addition to his "Elite Squad" films, he's also a strong documentarian, and his films all have a political point of view. The fact that he can also handle unhinged action sequences and strong character material makes him a pretty solid package all the way around, and his sensibilities seem to me to be a nice match for where Verhoeven was as a filmmaker when he was given his opportunity to make "Robocop."
One of Brazil's most successful filmmakers may take the Hollywood plunge
This is a fairly unexpected bit of news, but I have to say… I like it.
Reeves and a mostly Japanese cast tackle a Japanese Legend
Have you, like many folks, been wandering around in a daze, lost and confused because there hasn't been a big budget Keanu Reeves vehicle in theaters since the remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still?" Well fear not, Universal Pictures has announced that shooting will commence on "47 Ronin" a Japanese Action thriller based on the folk tale "The 47 Samurai." For this first time in our lives we will get to experience Keanu in 3D. Consider your Keanu related prayers answered.
The film is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch, the man behind the beautiful and surreal short film "The Gift," and stars Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai,) Kiu Shibasaki (One Missed Call,) Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer,) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel.) The Script is written by Chris Morgan(Wanted) and Hossein Amini (Drive.) The director or Photography will be the John Mathieson who shot "Gladiator." Considering the talent and talk of "stunning landscapes" and "enormous battles" in the press release, I believe they are going for "epic" here.
In the first in a series, we try to get our heads around what Zack Snyder's making
VANCOUVER - Walking through the various sets and art departments and rehearsal spaces in use for the movie "Sucker Punch," Deb Snyder giving us the majority of the tour with well-orchestrated appearances from the various department heads and director Zack Snyder himself, one thing quickly became apparent to me: no matter how hard they all tried to explain the film to me, this was not going to be a movie that would ever be easily summed up.
I've known Zack Snyder since the post-production period on "300," when I visited his offices in Burbank to watch some early footage that he'd finished, and he has always struck me as a guy who finds it frankly amazing that he gets to do what he does for a studio with some real muscle behind him helping him realize his imagination. As we looked at some of the first finished scene from that film, I laughed several times, incredulous at what I was seeing, and the more I reacted, the more animated Zack got talking about how and why he used the various tricks in his bag.
For "Watchmen," I visited the Vancouver sets that were built for the film, and it remains one of the most impressive physical builds I've ever seen. I got the feeling that was an important part of the publicity for that film after all the press about the greenscreens on "300," the way they built that world in a computer. And walking around those sets with Snyder, as he basically described the way they took the inside of Dave Gibbons' head and turned it into a physical location that was several square city blocks wide, what I felt was his strongest attribute came into focus: his total immersion in whatever it is he's making.
Is it a Western? Is it 'Chinatown'? Is it for kids? Does it matter?
"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?
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
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
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'
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'?
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
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?