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And now the cycle is complete. This is how it works these days, right? You make a foreign-language genre film, you get it booked into festivals, it gets picked up by a smaller distributor, and then as soon as it gets some US theatrical play, someone sets up an American remake. At this point, if you don't manage to sell your film as a remake, then there must be something wrong with your movie.
Certainly, there's nothing wrong with "Trollhunter," which I just reviewed the other day. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to hear that it's been set up as a remake. Chris Columbus and CJ Entertainment & Media are going to co-produce the American version, and it looks like they've already got a writer attached, Marc Haimes. Last year, there was word that Andre Ovredal, who wrote and directed "Trollhunter," was going to work with Columbus on an original film in the vein of "Gremlins," and I guess this means Columbus is a fan in general. I still want to strongly encourage you to seek out and see the original, either on VOD or at one of the film's theatrical dates, but I guess this remake is inevitable.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I've been lucky enough to have an ongoing conversation with Richard Donner for the last twenty years, starting with an evening when I was a studio guide for Universal Studios, and he has always been one of those guys who tells it like it is. I admire that, especially after two decades in Los Angeles. I am no longer surprised at how completely full of crap people are in this city. Instead, I am surprised when someone isn't full of crap, especially when they're an iconic member of the creative community. That almost seems like permission for some people, like being talented gives you the right to be a total phony.
Not Donner. He always strikes me as a guy who simply isn't wired that way and who couldn't be phony even if he tried.
The occasion for this conversation was the release on Blu-ray of all five "Superman" feature films, and that's as good a reason as any to sit down with the man again. After all, his two "Superman" films set the template that people are still following closely with superhero movies, and the "X-Men" franchise that he helped produce, along with his wife Lauren Shuler Donner, helped kick off the new wave of superhero movies.
I think it's safe to say I'm a fan of John Carpenter and his films.
If you're someone who has seen all of his movies already and you crave something new, "The Ward" just arrived on VOD and is available for rental from Netflix as of yesterday. I reviewed the film when I saw it at last year's Toronto Film Festival, which is the same place where I recorded a special podcast with Scott Weinberg where we talked about all of Carpenter's films.
Tonight, though, I wish I was in Austin for Mondo's "They Live" screening. I love that film. I think it's one of John's more underrated movies overall, and it's one of the best satires of the '80s. And from the '80s. Both. The film works just as the surface story about a guy who discovers a conspiracy that involves the whole world, but what really makes it a better-than-average film by John is the way the subtext also works so well. If there's anything I'm not crazy about, it's the hyper-abrupt ending of the film. Even so, it's a movie that actually seems better in hindsight, smarter and more prescient with each passing year.
When I saw "Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story" at the AFI Fest, it was screened at the Arclight, and I was sitting in the front row. As a result, when Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan stepped up to do a Q&A afterwards, it felt pretty much like a private show. And the chemistry they have in that movie is something that I found electrifying. The whole film, by Michael Winterbottom, is entertaining and daring and inventive and silly, sometimes all in one move, and the Brydon/Coogan verbal sparring is one part of why that movie is great. Not all of it, but certainly a component of why it made my ten best of the year list that year.
With "The Trip," a new Winterbottom movie that is a feature-length version of the BBC series, it's all Brydon and Coogan and that's the point. It's "My Dinner With Andre" with two performers locked in a mad passive-aggressive competition for laughs while on a restaurant-based road trip. It's often riotously funny, and it feels like the larger "joke" about the relationship between Coogan and Brydon is carefully crafted and perceptive. This is the Coogan I like most, the loutish show business version with occasional flashes of self-awareness, and Brydon is a brilliant foil for him. Brydon can provoke Coogan as a performer, get a real rise out of him, and that's what "The Trip" is really all about… Rob Brydon driving Steve Coogan absolutely mad.
Damon Lindelof, you are no longer the Padawan. Obviously, you've now graduated to full-blown Mystery Box Jedi.
Who knows what "1952" is? Well, Disney executives know, but that's it. Other than them, Damon Lindelof isn't telling anyone what to expect from what is described as "an original sci-fi family adventure film."
Fine. I don't need to know a logline to know I'm interested. Lindelof has been a busy, busy man since "Lost" went off the air a year ago, and whatever he's doing, I'm interested. I want to see what he cooks up because I just plain like the way he thinks. I remain a "Lost" fan after the ending of the show, and no matter what I thought of individual choices made along the way, that was a great ride overall, and I begrudge the creators of the show nothing. They entertained me for six years. Well-played. That's all I asked.
I am a firm believer in Sacha Baron Cohen.
I think both "Borat" and "Bruno" are impressive character comedies, and the way Cohen builds and inhabits his characters intrigues me. He is a dedicated, inventive performer, and in a way, it feels like "The Dictator" is one of the most important moments he's had so far.
Up till now, we've been watching him cross over from the small screen to the bigscreen. Both Borat and Bruno were characters created for "Da Ali G Show," and they had been tested and perfected there. Both films played as sort of pseudo-documentaries about the characters interacting with people who were often real people, unaware of the joke. And while I think both films have very different things to say, there is an undeniable similarity between them in style. The one traditional narrative comedy that Cohen's done, the actual Ali G movie, was sort of painful. It didn't work as a film, even if there are a few nice moments here and there.
One of the benefits, if you can call them that, of the PlayStation Network getting hacked and being down for a few weeks is that they are fairly desperate to make it up to customers now that they're starting to restore the service. One of the things they're doing is offering customers two free games from a fairly short list, and I picked "Super Stardust HD" as one of my games.
If you've never seen it, it's basically "Asteroids" cranked up to the point of madness, and it's a perfect "I have fifteen minutes and just want to play one quick game of something" title. If you've got a 3D TV, you can even play the game in 3D, and it is totally lunatic when you do so. Playing the game, I've been impressed by the way it is basically just one of the first arcade games of all time, with graphics that are updated but gameplay that is pure throwback. I didn't even realize how much I loved "Asteroids" until I started playing this.
At this point, the fake documentary/found footage subgenere has become almost omnipresent. TV shows have taken on the form with shows like "The Office" and "Modern Family," and since '99, when "The Blair Witch Project" became a box-office sensation, almost every genre's had their found footage movie, and filmmakers continue to wring fresh life out of the basic form.
The latest example of someone getting it right opens this Friday in limited release, and it's worth the effort for you to track it down. Andre Ovredal wrote and directed the film, and it is a smart and funny use of mythology that works as both wicked comedy and sad commentary. At the start of the film, a group of students are working on a documentary about what they believe are poachers, killing bears all over the country. They find the guy they think is responsible and start to follow him, gradually realizing that he's something far stranger than just a poacher.
It's not a spoiler, since it's the title of the movie, to reveal that the stranger turns out to be a Trollhunter, working for the government to not only keep the existence of trolls a secret, but to also keep the trolls on government land, safe and sound. He's been doing it for so long that he's burnt out, and he decides to let the students film what he does, dragging the secret out into the light finally.
Has 20th Century Fox finally turned a corner in terms of the way they're handling their various superhero properties?
Anyone who sat through "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "X-Men: First Class" would have to ask that question, because they are such radically different ways of handling the same basic material that it doesn't seem possible that the same people are behind both films.
David Slade, one of the directors who came close to directing "The Wolverine" before Darren Aronofsky got the job, obviously made a strong impression on the upper brass at Fox, because they ended up hiring him for "Daredevil" instead.Â While some might view that project as tainted goods, Slade seemed genuinely excited by the opportunity, and he's been playing his cards pretty close to his vest over the last couple of months.
Tonight, thanks to the news breaking about the hiring of Brad Caleb Kane to write the film, we also have our first look at what it is that Slade has in mind for the reboot, and it looks like he's going straight for the best-known story from the run of the best writer who's ever worked on the character.
There are few genres that reveal quite as much about the filmmaker as the coming of age story. "Submarine" may be based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, but there is such a personal quality to the film that a few days after I saw it at Sundance, I happened to spot director Richard Ayoade in the lobby of the Yarrow Hotel, and the urge to walk over and give him a hug ran through me. I resisted, but that's the way "Submarine" affected me. It is a wonderful film, smart and funny and beautifully performed, and it speaks well of what Ayoade is capable of behind the camera.
If Americans know Ayoade, it's probably from his work on "The IT Crowd," a sitcom from the UK where he plays Moss, an uber-nerd who would make the guys on "The Big Bang Theory" look like Shaft by comparison. His co-star on the show, Chris O'Dowd, made his big American breakthrough in films last month as Kristen Wiig's romantic interest in "Bridesmaids," and I'm curious to see what happens with him as a result. It is important, though, for Ayoade's film to make some sort of a splash, because I want more work from him in the future. No… I'll go one step further. Based on how good "Submarine" is, I need more movies from him. Absolutely.