Welcome to The Morning Read.
Bruce Willis in "G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation"? Well, that's one way to grab some headlines. Word is that Willis is likely to step into the role of Joe Colton, the original G.I. Joe, which would mean this film's cast is pretty much a wall of macho man-meat at this point. Dwayne Johnson is bigger than ever before to play Roadblock, and Ray Stevenson's onboard as Firefly, meaning this is largely a reboot even though Paramount's treating it like a sequel. Willis and Johnson would be a big step up from Channing Tatum and one of the nine zillion Wayans, and it sounds to me like Jon M. Chu is doing everything he can to make his film rock.
Speaking of Paramount projects, some days, it's interesting just to watch something that starts small ripple its way around the Internet, picking up steam as it goes, until it finally erupts into something much larger than would have seemed possible from the way it started. I'm sure when Paramount put together their official synopsis for their upcoming "World War Z," they probably read it over a few times and felt good about how it sounded. It reads for maximum excitement, but the problem is, it doesn't really sound like it's describing "World War Z" at all. Here's what Paramount sent out:
Welcome to The Morning Read.
One of the most frustrating habits of well-meaning Hollywood over the years has been the tendency to create movies about how white people have heroically helped one minority after another. If you only know the history of race relations from movies, it would seem that most major changes in the condition of how we live together have resulted from noble, selfless white folks who have decided to take mercy on the "lesser" races. That disturbing cultural lie is the reason I have a problem with a number of films. like "Cry Freedom" or "Mississippi Burning," movies that contain good work on important subjects, but that are hobbled by this need to have a white face at the center of things.
For Tate Taylor, the screenwriter and director of "The Help," this history of dishonesty is working against him before the film even begins, and I'm happy to admit that I walked in, arms crossed, ready to dismiss the movie. I didn't read Kathryn Stockett's novel, but I'm aware of how big a hit it was, and I expected something that was all feel-good surfaces and white guilt. Instead, Taylor deserves real credit for what he's done, avoiding many of the easy traps of the genre, and I walked away impressed by just how solid and sincere "The Help" really is. This is a case where the dynamic between the white and black characters informs the premise of the film, and they gain strength and courage from each other. This is no one-way transaction. Instead, it's a cross-class portrait of Southern women of a certain era, and the dawning of new respect between them, and it packs a heck of a punch.
Nicolas Lopez first got attention on the US festival circuit with his heartfelt and profane teenage comedy "Promedio Rojo," then promptly vanished down a several-year hole called "Santos," his follow-up film that accurately summed up many of Lopez's geek fetishes but that also wore him out as a filmmaker.
He wisely took a step back and rebooted himself as a filmmaker, and in the process, he had one of the biggest hits in Chilean history with the bluntly-titled "F**k My Life." The film is a wry and acutely-observed look at the way social media has changed the landscape of modern relationships, and the particular case of Javier and Sophia, a young couple whose break-up resonates through the lives of their friends and family.
If you weren't able to catch "F**k My Life" at its various US festival appearances, it's already been sold to HBO. In addition, Lionsgate is working with Pantelion to remake the movie for the US, and I'm curious to see how they handle the title of the remake. There's no way they'll release it here with that name, although it would certainly get people's attention if they did.
Here's a strange one.
Earlier today, Disney released the first poster for "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green," a film I knew nothing about until they released that poster. Never heard of it.
A little reading reveals that it's the new film from Peter Hedges, which is a good sign. Hedges was the writer of "About A Boy" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," and the writer/director of both "Pieces Of April" and "Dan In Real Life." I spent an afternoon with him talking about his work during the release of "Dan In Real Life," and I thought he was a really smart, down-to-earth guy who wants to make smaller personal films inside the studio system.
But I still wasn't sure what this new film was about. I thought it was intriguing that it's one of the films written by Ahmet Zappa, who's been setting up a ton of stuff lately. And now, thanks to Zappa's Twitter feed, I was directed to a Vimeo page where the trailer just went up.
This morning, I put up a piece in which I discussed the upcoming remake of "Footloose" with the film's director, Craig Brewer. In that, we talked about what it was that he brought to the table when he approached the movie, and what the original meant to him. Whenever you're making a remake of a film, I'm always curious what the hook is that gets a director interested in spending several years of their life working on something that's already been made once before.
That's an easy question to answer when it comes to "Dirty Dancing" and Kenny Ortega, though. It's no surprise that they're remaking the film. It's one of those things that seemed inevitable just because of the nostalgic weight of the first film's title. People love "Dirty Dancing," and it continues to resonate in pop culture. If you've seen "Crazy Stupid Love," one of that film's big laughs is built on a signature moment from the 1987 romantic drama.
The gamesmanship involved in picking release dates a year or more out has been a tradition for some time now in Hollywood, but things seem to be escalating to an almost absurd level at this point, especially with Marvel Studios claiming two dates in 2014 for films that they aren't even willing to name yet.
It's one thing when Lionsgate announces a date for the sequel to "The Hunger Games" before the first one is in theaters. That's a move that is designed to impart a certain degree of confidence in the first film that they're shooting now. After all, if they're already planning for when they're going to release the second film, then things must be going incredibly well on the first film, right? There's no way this is going to turn out to be another "Golden Compass" or "Eragon," right?
Musicals require a very particular skill set as a filmmaker, and one of the frustrating things about trying to pick a director for a musical is that it's not something that everyone has the background for, and since musicals aren't as omnipresent a part of our film culture as they used to be, it's a lot harder to build that skill set with pratical experience. It's even harder to become really good at it, and I think that's why the moment someone has directed a film that is even vaguely dependent on music, studios immediately put that person in a box.
I get the feeling Craig Brewer is perfectly happy being in that particular box, and that music is his way into a movie in the first place. Last week, I spoke with Brewer about the film he's just finished, the remake of "Footloose." Brewer was a guest at BNAT, and a very approachable, outspoken film fan who has been carefully trying to figure out his place in the studio system. Brewer's first two films were strong examples of voice, and in both, music was practically a character. When we got on the phone, I asked him what his first reaction was when they brought him "Footloose, and what sort of opportunities he saw in the material.
"When they first brought up 'Footloose,' I said, 'Absolutely not.' I probably passed on it like twice." He laughter thinking about it. "We have a very good relationship with the head of the studio at Paramount, and Adam [Goodman] called me and was like, 'What are you doing? You know you're the perfect person to do this. The first film means so much to you.' And they wanted it done the right way. They wanted it done with heart, and with affection for the first film, and they wanted to give me freedom to make it my movie."
There are some films that are uneven that I have a hard time recommending because that quality destroys narrative tension or undermines suspense or just leads to an unsatisfying experience.Â With comedies, though, even an uneven one can be worth seeing because of the laughs that do work, and that's the case with "30 Minutes Or Less," which features a strong cast, some big laughs, and a strangely thin script that feels almost tossed away.
There was a moment after the release of "Zombieland" where Ruben Fleischer was being offered every giant movie in town, and instead, he took a step back to make what is ultimately a very small movie.Â Sure, Jesse Eisenberg is coming off of "The Social Network," and Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari and Nick Swardson are all fairly high-profile names in the comedy world these days, but the scale of "30 Minutes Or Less" is incredibly small, and the film barely runs 85 minutes.Â It is efficient to the point of being slight, and I think it is actually not quite ambitious enough.Â The film winds down just at the point where it feels like it should be kicking into a higher gear, and the result is slightly disappointing.Â I'd still say you should see it if you like the people involved, but expect a movie that leaves you smiling without ever quite pushing you over to the full-blown laughter that all that talent might suggest.
It's difficult enough for studios to figure out the logistics of giant location shoots these days when juggling things like tax incentives, movie star schedules, and an uncertain economy.
But when you factor in a secrecy-obsessed director, one of the most famous characters in pop culture, a rabid fanbase dying to know more, and a hungry paparazzi, you have the perfect storm that is the production so far of Christopher Nolan's mega-sequel "The Dark Knight Rises."
For much of the shoot so far in Oakland, PA and in other surrounding parts of Pittsburgh, there have been non-stop streams of paparazzi photos of the set and the cast. Our first good look at Tom Hardy in his Bane costume came from a shoot on the Carnegie-Mellon campus, and the same shoot has now started yielding photos of Anne Hathaway's stunt double, in full costume, riding the Batpod.
In response, Warner Bros. has done the only thing they can do, really, and they've finally released their own official image. And although it was obviously taken in a different location, they managed to choose a picture of Selina Kyle on the Batpod, suggesting that she either has a close working relationship with Batman in the new film, or access to the place where he stores all the cool toys.
It's not often that I'm left absolutely stumped by a name when a director is announced, especially on a giant tentpole project like "Thor 2," but that's how I felt when I read the report that Brian Kirk is in early negotiations to make a deal for the sequel to Marvel's first big superhero movie this summer. It all clicked when I read that he was one of the directors for the first season of HBO's "Game Of Thrones," though. HitFix contacted Marvel Studios reps who would not confirm the hire at this point, saying instead that they are "actively looking." And while I don't know Kirk, I can guess why he's in the mix.
After all, fantasy has always been one of the more commercially difficult genres to get right, and it can be all about trying to find a tone that works, which is never easy. George R.R. Martin's epic series of novels seemed to me to be a whole series of challenges for anyone looking to adapt them, and the show has proven to be a culmination of a whole bunch of those smart choices. If you're Marvel and you're looking for someone who can handle a piece that is set on Earth and in Asgard and that has to somehow ground these fantastic elements, then why not reach out to someone who was part of a show that pulled it off in an admirable way?