John Moore is entirely competent.
Having said that, I am not sure why 20th Century Fox loves him the way they do. They've given him more chances to fail than I can comprehend, and he has risen to the occasion over and over. "The Omen" and "Flight Of The Phoenix" are both remakes that make the originals look brilliant by comparison, but they are masterworks compared to his strange and nearly incoherent "Max Payne."
All told, he's made four films for the studio so far, and to me, he seems a great example of what happens when you take a commercial director and throw him into feature films without him having to prove he has real narrative skills first. Yes, film is a visual art. Yes, the ability to make a pretty image is important, and in advertising, there is no skill more highly regarded. But in feature filmmaking, when you're supposed to be telling stories, there has to be more than just a pretty picture. Moore went right from directing Dreamcast commercials to making "Behind Enemy Lines," and it feels like each of his films gets worse, not better.
John Moore is entirely competent.
I think it's safe to say that Helen Mirren is revered these days.
She's become one of the most reliably classy actors in the business, which is sort of mind-blowing if you look back at her early work in movies like "Age Of Consent." She has earned her place in pop culture gradually, and she's such a towering figure at this point that we're now seeing other actors grapple with her legacy, like Maria Bello on the NBC reboot of "Prime Suspect" this year.
I've enjoyed every single chat I've had with her over the years. I remember one visit to the set of "Inkheart" in particular. It was the morning after she got her Oscar nomination for "The Queen," and Devin Faraci and I asked her how she had celebrated the nomination with the cast and crew. "Oh, it was lovely," she said. "They rigged these bags so they would shower us with gold coins from the rafters, and we drank champagne…"
Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman have been slowly, steadily building a reputation for themselves as a screenwriting team, and their collaborations so far include "Stardust," "Kick-Ass," and "X-Men First Class."
The film that is surprising when you look at their filmography is this Friday's new release "The Debt," adapted from an Israeli film call "Ha-Hov" that was written by Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum. The script landed them on the Black List a few years ago, an informal annual collection of what some execs call the best unproduced scripts in a given year, and then went into production with John "Shakespeare In Love" Madden signed on as director. The film played at last year's Toronto Film Festival, and then promptly dropped off the radar completely. Now, after a quick distributor shift, Focus Features is putting the film out, and they benefit from the delay thanks to the fact that Jessica Chastain went from being an unknown quality to being one of the stars of a big summer hit and one of the most-discussed arthouse releases of the year.
I'm never good at keeping track of when it's cool to like something and when it's not cool anymore, so I'm not sure where we are in the cycle on "Avatar" and Sam Worthington in general. I like the guy. I think he's been stiff in a few of the film he's made, but I also see moments from him where there's something special going on, and I totally get why directors keep casting him, hoping they'll be the ones who figure it out and put it all together.
So far, John Madden might be the guy who gets to claim he directed Worthington to his best performance, and it was a pleasure to sit down with Worthington to talk about the film they made together, "The Debt," which arrives in theaters this Friday.
Worthington always comes across to me like the President of the Don't Give An F Club when it comes to what people think of him or how he does his job. As I understand it, that attitude is one of the things that got him the job in "Avatar" in the first place. I've interviewed him several times at this point, and I enjoy sitting down with him each time. I think he loves the work he does, but not talking about it, and I can respect that position. If people engage him in real conversation, though, he seems absolutely up for that. It's the hollow exercise of staying on-message that I think drives him a little bit crazy, which I understand.
Watch: New trailers for 'The Skin I Live In' and 'Miss Bala' promise a wild ride at Toronto Film Fest
I spent a chunk of the weekend working on my schedule for the Toronto Film Festival, and I am overwhelmed by how many potentially great films they've got on the schedule. I've seen a chunk of the movies already at the Cannes Festival and here in Los Angeles, and it's going to be an exciting fall at the movies as these things start hitting theaters.
There are two new trailers online today for movies that will be featured at the festival, and both of these also played at Cannes this summer. I saw one of them there, but had to leave town before I could see the other. Drove me crazy, too, since I am fond of Pedro Almodovar as a filmmaker.
In particular, I love early crazy Almodovar. I think he's evolved into a great respectable director of women-driven melodrama, and I adore many of his later films. His run since 1995 has been incredible, with "All About My Mother," "The Flower Of My Secret," "Live Flesh," "Bad Education," "Broken Embraces" and my favorite of this era, "Volver," all serving to highlight some of his strengths as a director.
Josh Brolin continues to book the most interesting jobs out there, and in this particular case, it sounds like he's claimed one of the best roles in an upcoming film for himself.
It's a good fit, too. I love Chan Wook Park's "Oldboy." No doubt about it. The film is brutal and unsparing, and it offers up two great male roles if you're sticking somewhat close to the first film. I haven't read the manga that the film was based on, but I've heard it's not a straight adaptation. That makes me wonder if Mark Protosevich is using the film as his source material or the manga or some combination of both.
I was intrigued when they hired Spike Lee to direct the remake, precisely because it's one of the last names I would have come up with if asked to pick someone to remake "Oldboy." I think the best thing that could happen to Spike Lee in general would be if he became a for-hire studio guy, making movies that have nothing to do with race in any overt way. He's visually dynamic and adventurous, he's great with actors, and he is capable of absolutely nailing a script if he's got a strong piece of writing to work with in the first place. With Protosevich working on the film, that's a strong start, and I think Lee could easily turn this into something worth seeing.
I was in the room when Robert Rodriguez made his most recent public update on the status of "Sin City 2," and he sounded fairly sure that they had the money and were ready to go, with some script work still to be done.
Now it looks like the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "The Departed" is going to be the guy putting the final coat of paint on the script before it goes in front of the camera. The idea that William Monahan is going to be the last guy in on "Sin City 2" is fairly exciting, and I wish Robert had made this announcement at Comic-Con, where it could have done the film some good, given it some heat. This is newsworthy, and if they're spending this kind of money, they're serious about making the movie.
It was bizarre at Comic-Con, where Robert Rodriguez was in the big anchor spot in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday. Traditionally, Comic-Con programs something major for that time so people start piling into the room two or even three panels earlier just to guarantee their seats. If there was a "Dark Knight Rises" panel, for example, and they scheduled it for 4:00, you'd better believe people would claim seats for whatever was at 10:00 AM, even if it was a remake of "Ernest Goes To Camp" starring Dustin Diamond. It's just good programming. So there was Robert in that spot with a mysterious panel. All anyone knew ahead of time was that he was going to announce a new company called Quick Draw Productions.
In it's hundred year history, cinematic language has been developed and expressed within the confines of a 2D square or a rectangle. You could argue that computer animated films were the gateway for filmmakers to start thinking of their material in three dimensional space, because that is the toolset of 3D modeling programs. They place objects inside a space and then decide how to shoot it.
This thinking is now able to jump to movies as filmmakers are able to play with depth and blocking, much like a theater director and create scenes in three dimensional space. In an odd way cinema is coming full circle from it's inception when a movie was no more than a stage play filmed from the front from start to finish.
It's been close to a year since I had the opportunity to visit the set of the remake of "Fright Night" when it was shooting in the Hard Rock Hotel in New Mexico. At the time, the fact that they were shooting in 3D was somewhat of a rarity for a medium-to-small budget horror film and there hadn't been enough 3D movies out there for people to start lining up in the various camps pro and con.
Leave it to August to bring the truly witless films out of hiding. I feel like this month is the equivalent of a landfill where distributors try to bury the evidence of their worst crimes, hoping no one will notice. Well, I sat through every single minute of "The Caller," and I hope to prevent any of you from suffering through the same misfortune, so this is one corpse I'm going to dig up and dissect.
Rachelle Lefevre and Stephen Moyer in the same film is a bit of an SEO dream come true thanks to the rabid fan bases for both "Twilight" and "True Blood," but I'm fairly sure fans of both series will feel let down by this ridiculous, poorly-made, flat-out ugly little attempt at a horror film, full of preposterous twists that build to an ending that is positively tone-deaf. Director Matthew Parkhill seems perfectly suited for a career in any industry except filmmaking, and there's not a single beat of this film that I would describe as "competent" or "well-executed." That's almost impressive. You've got to be a special kind of terrible filmmaker to turn in something this leaden and artificial. Sure, there's plenty of blame to share with screenwriter Sergio Casci, whose previous work includes nothing you've ever heard of, but it is in the execution that this film fails completely.
Although I rarely go nuts for the individual movies, taken as a whole, I am a fan of the Luc Besson factory of action filmmaking. That's what you have to call it at this point, too. It's a factory. They crank these things out without pause, and there is a certain degree of slick that they all aspire to that I find to be one of my favorite flavors of modern action. It's all very Euro and trashy but with a high degree of gloss, and every now and then they throw in a movie star you don't expect like Liam Neeson in "Taken."
In particular, I'm fascinated by the way Besson is drawn to this one particular female archetype over and over, the broken little girl who grows up with vengeance in her heart, and his latest film, "Colombiana," is a solid example of that. The film is undercooked as a script, but Zoe Saldana commits to it with such ferocity that she makes it feel like everything matters, even when the script doesn't lay out a case for what that is. The hilariously-named Olivier Megaton may be the director here, but Besson's fingerprints are all over the movie, and I think it's safe to call him the auteur behind this chaos.