There are two things you should know before you read this.
First, El Mayimbe of Latino Review has a very, very high accuracy rate with the scoops he breaks. No one is perfect, but he's got a track record that demands that you pay attention when he runs something.
Second, JJ Abrams has never directly lied to me about something. He's demurred when asked some questions, and he's played coy about some things, but outright fabrication does not appear to be his bag.
So… take those two things into account when I tell you that Latino Review is reporting that Benicio Del Toro will be playing Khan Noonien Singh in the upcoming sequel to 2009's successful reboot of "Star Trek."
And when asked to comment on the report, Abrams responded with two very direct words: "Not true."
There are two things you should know before you read this.
I have had a weird week. It's been really hard getting anything done because I feel like the whole day is taken up with the end of school for the year for the boys, or dealing with holiday stuff in general, or seeing about 800 movies at the last minute to make sure I feel like I've got my bases covered before I record my voice-over for this year's "10 Best Of The Year" video.
But while I'm here tonight, I'd like to catch up on a few stories that I think are worthwhile or exciting or reasons for optimism. I want to feel good about some movie news for a little while. And what better to kick that off with than news about Jane Goldman?
It still seems hard to believe that not everyone understands yet that Jane Goldman is awesome, since it's a scientifically established fact. I've spent enough time with her and with her primary creative partner so far in movies, Matthew Vaughn, that I have a fair sense of their chemistry, and I feel confident in saying that Jane is a force to be reckoned with. Whip-smart, with a voracious appetite for genre, she's got a natural deconstructionist's mind, but tempered with a real love of the flawed humanity of her characters.
With one of the largest theater chains in the country refusing to carry "Shame" because of its NC-17 rating, I'm not going to bet on the film breaking box-office records this weekend, but I certainly hope it does well.
First, I hope it does well because I'd love to see a serious film with that rating make enough money to justify other studios taking the chance. "Shame" is strong stuff, but it's not sleazy the way "Showgirls" was, and I think it justifies the notion of an "adult film" that isn't just an excuse for barely-disguised pornography.
Second, I just plain like the movie, as I said in my original review from the Toronto Film Festival. I'm excited for Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender to both get a big career boost out of this one. McQueen has proven himself to be a director of note with only two films under his belt so far, and Fassbender is one of this year's big breakout stars for good reason. When we look back at this year, we're going to think of two performers who really made a splash, and I think both Fassbender and Jessica Chastain are just getting warmed up.
About a week ago, I made the joke that things were starting to get ugly on the whole "Dr. Who" movie thing, but I didn't realize that it was going to really heat up, and tonight on Twitter, things got very confusing very quickly.
This all began when Variety ran a story a few weeks back in which David Yates was named as the director of a "Dr. Who" bigscreen film. Yates talked about how they were looking for writers and just starting development on the project. "We're going to spend two to three years to get it right. It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena," he said. Those are some pretty specific quotes, and Yates also said he was going to be working with Jane Tranter, BBC Worldwide's LA-based exec VP of programming and production.
The thing is, no one said anything to Steven Moffat, and that's a problem.
Tonight at around midnight LA time, Moffat tweeted the following:
"To clarify: any Doctor Who movie would be made by the BBC team, star the current TV Doctor and certainly NOT be a Hollywood reboot."
He followed that up about ten minutes later with a second tweet:
If there is any section of Sundance that I can claim as my own here at HitFix, it is Park City at Midnight. Just as Greg Ellwood is our primary guy for the Competition sections, since those are the film most likely to end up in the conversation about awards as the year progresses, it makes sense for me to cover the midnight movies because I am King Nerd of the HitFix team.
This year's line-up is immediately interesting, and it's funny how many overlaps I can already see in this year's programming, places where you'll have one person in Park City to represent several films. Makes sense, too. There's a momentum that starts to gather around certain people, and sometimes they're just having a moment and it seems like everything's ready at the same time. It's not just at festivals, of course. Steven Spielberg's having a big fat crazy December in theaters in the US, with both "The Adventures Of Tintin" and "War Horse" opening within days of one another. But when it happens at a festival, it can create some really strange and fun echoes that link films that otherwise have nothing in common.
Even as we begin to wrap up 2011, we begin the adventure for 2012 with today's announcements of the first wave of titles for next year's Sundance Film Festival. I'm in the middle of running down my last few films for this year, and I'm focused on just making it to December 9th, when my year is sort of officially over. The reward for all of this work?
A blank slate, and as of today, I get to start figuring out what my January looks like.
This afternoon, the Sundance Institute released the line-ups for several of the sections of this year's festival, including the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competitions. Our team has already published the full line-up as announced, section by section, and you can see those here and here and here. HitFix will be in Park CIty to cover the festival of course, starting with the kickoff of January 19th, and I'm already overwhelmed just based on this early list of things.
Sundance says they've chosen 110 feature-length films from 31 countries, with 46 first-time directors in the mix. We'll get a look at some of the more adventurous sections of the festival, like NEXT, New Frontier, and of course Park City At Midnight tomorrow, and I'm sure many of my immediate must-sees will come from those lists. For now, though, let's look at the sections they have announced:
It's no fun when a campaign simply isn't working for me.
Especially when the film in question comes from a director I'm very intrigued by, features a cast that has real potential, and is based on a property I've loved since childhood. "John Carter" should be a film that has me on the hook from day one, a film I can't wait to see. At this point in the campaign, with the film coming out in March, I should be frothing at the mouth, ready to go, dying to see how the whole thing comes together.
I'm curious, certainly, but this week's launch of the new poster and the new trailer have left me just as cautious as I've been each step of the way so far. I think I just don't get the hook of this campaign, and that's totally removed from what I know about the film or the original Edgar Rice Burroughs books about a Civil War veteran who ends up embroiled in a new conflict on Mars or the various behind-the-scenes goings-on for this one. Just looking at the trailers and the posters, I'm interested in a "there are aliens and spaceships so I'll be there" sort of way, but not in a specific "you've got me" sort of way yet. Carter himself is so bland in these materials that it seems odd to have the film be named after him when he's the least dynamic thing we're seeing in the materials.
It's hard to believe that "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was eleven years ago.
If you don't remember what it was like when that film was coming out, let me take you back. Sony Pictures Classics took Ang Lee's Chinese language masterpiece that was my favorite film of the last decade and turned it into a genuine box-office phenomenon. A movie with subtitles. That's supposed to be impossible. Anyone will tell you that audiences simply don't want to read a movie, and any movie with subtitles is doomed to a certain size audience and no more than that. But Tom Bernard and Michael Barker bet on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and more than that, they strategized. They made a big play with that film, and it paid off and paid off and paid off for them. It's still one of the biggest foreign-language releases of all time.
Barker and Bernard have been around since the dawn of man, of course, and they've been adventurous distributors longer than I've been a film fan. I've met both of them many times over the years, and they're exactly what I would have hoped, smart and still engaged and always looking. They really do love that moment where they get to present something exciting to the general public.
One of the things that happens when you write about entertainment all day every day is you tend to get caught up in minutiae, and it leads to some editorial decisions that I would call questionable. When you're writing breathless headlines about Pez dispensers, you may be working too hard to find relevance in the irrelevant. Getting hung up on the micro often prevents us from focusing on the macro, but I'd like to take the opportunity to take a step back from time to time in a column that we're calling "The Bigger Picture."
Right after our own Alan Sepinwall went to see "The Muppets" with his family, he hopped on iChat to share some thoughts as he was writing his review. He said something to me that he also included in his review, and it really struck a chord with me. "'The Muppets' is, to put it simply, the greatest work of fanfiction I've ever seen." In that one line, he explained something that I've been struggling to articulate for a while now, and I think it explains exactly where we are in pop culture.
This is the Age of Fanfiction.
Ken Russell is dead.
And while I consider Ken Russell a giant, a genuine force to be reckoned with, a man who left a giant shit-smeared mark across the face of cinema like a moustache added to the Mona Lisa, I confess I haven't seen one thing he made in the 20 years since his film "Whore" was released.
That's crazy. According to the IMDb, he's directed 19 things since then. I knew he contributed to "Trapped Ashes," an anthology film that I still haven't seen, but I didn't see it. And I've never heard of the other 18 projects. He was just off my radar.
Again… that's crazy. But if you're looking to sum up the cinematic output of one Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell, the word "crazy" is probably a great place to start. His was a long sustained and beautiful madness that played out in a wildly uneven filmography, where his highs were as high as anyone's who worked in the British pop '60s and the international art house '70s, and where his lows were as low as anyone working in the Golan/Globus exploitation mills of the '80s. He clashed famously with actors, directors, censors, rock stars and most other life forms at one point or another.