As fans get their first look at the American version, many fears are calmed
Earlier this week, there was a screening for "Let Me In" at a mysterious, undisclosed location in Southern California. I did not attend, but several people I know did, and the word back from all of them was the same.
They loved it.
Color me pleasantly shocked here. Even when I spoke to Matt Reeves about the film at SXSW this year, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was one of the people who spent a lot of time and energy talking about "Let The Right One In" when I saw it at Fantastic Fest '08, and I love the way the film has built in reputation over time. I figured that it was going to have a long fuse on it, and sure enough, it seems like one of those movies that home video is slowly but surely growing from an obscure foreign title to a genuine genre classic.
Even though I think it's sort of ridiculous to make a new version of the book this close to the release of the Swedish film, that seems to be the new business model. And if they've got to do it, at least Matt Reeves seems to have a real affinity for the material. In our conversation, it was obvious that he's as big a fan of the novel as the Swedish film, so he's drawing from both in making his version. And until this trailer came out, how closely he might be taking cues from the film was still a question mark.
Who is Garfield, and does this mean Spider-Man loves lasagna?
Andrew Garfield, the young English actor who appeared in "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus," the "Red Riding" trilogy, and the upcoming Mark Romanek film "Never Let Me Go," has been cast as Peter Parker for the upcoming "Spider-Man" reboot, according to a press release by Sony Pictures.
"Boy A" was actually where I saw him the first time, and right away, he seemed like a young actor worth paying attention to, someone with a very raw and honest approach. His work in the "Red Riding" trilogy is mature and difficult, and he was absolutely up to the task. And working with Terry Gilliam on the troubled "Parnassus" was a great move. Even though all the press on that film was about Heath Ledger's untimely demise, onscreen, it was Garfield who served as the emotional core of the movie, and he was great in it.
He's older than I would have expected based on the casting speculation surrounding this film. Most of the final candidates are genuine teenagers, while Garfield is 27 right now. Originally, the Jamie Vanderbilt script for this film had Peter Parker as a high school student, and the assumption was that Sony would cast young so that they could do several films over the course of high school and college, a la the Brian Bendis take in "Ultimate Spider-Man." What we're hearing now though is that Parker starts the series as a college student, and that makes more sense with this casting.
Animation and puppets and sitcoms, oh my
I've spent a fair amount of time now talking with Jason Segel about his various projects, and from the first time I met him on the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," he's been talking about his love for the Muppets and his desire to make a Muppet movie.
So even though I sat down with him at the Four Seasons last week to talk about "Despicable Me," the new animated film where he plays Vector, the bad guy of the film. It was good to catch up with Segel, who seems to be enjoying his hiatus from "How I Met Your Mother," and his enthusiasm for this film and for his upcoming Muppets collaboration is evident in the conversation.
It's funny... last week was a very Apatow week for me, even though Judd wasn't involved at all. Monday started with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the "Green Hornet" event, I ended up seeing "Dinner For Schmucks" and discussing it with Steve Carell, I met Martin Starr at that screening, and then I wrapped it up with Segel at the Four Seasons. That's in addition to the "Scott Pilgrim" event just before that, with Michael Cera front and center. It strikes me that even with Apatow taking things easy right now, and deservedly so, the ripple effect of the run of movies he wrote, directed, or produced between "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Funny People" is enormous, and still playing out.
M. Night Shyamalan's career ends with a whimper, not a bang
I just realized that I never even bothered to review "The Happening."
Wow. I'm not sure what surprises me more... the fact that I just plain skipped discussing an M. Night Shyamalan film, or the fact that I didn't even remember if I'd written about it or not. I've been writing about Shyamalan's work since 1998 at least, when I covered "Wide Awake." I was already a fan at that time thanks to the scripts he'd written for "Labor Of Love," "Stuart Little," and "The Sixth Sense," and I spent a lot of time talking him up, calling him one of the best writers in the business.
What a difference 12 years makes, because with "The Last Airbender," the ride is finally over.
Over the last few films he made, I've been saying that Shyamalan's priorities as a filmmaker had shifted, and he had become a much better director than writer. Now, based on the evidence of this film, based on the acclaimed Nickelodeon TV series, I'd say he's not particularly good at either of those skill sets anymore. "The Last Airbender" is a total stiff, and a disappointment for fans of the show as well as a confusing mess for anyone who's never seen an episode.
I was late to the party with the TV show. I don't spend a lot of time watching Nickelodeon, oddly, but after hearing enough talk about it to make me curious, Paramount sent me one of the five-episode DVD collections they put out, and I checked it out. Even picking up mid-series and just watching a few episodes, I was immediately taken with the show's energy and style and approach to character. It's sort of like watching a slightly sillier Miyazaki film each week, full of the same genuine spirituality as Miyazaki's best work, but unafraid of broad and goofy humor at times. The action on the show is inventive and unique, and the way the series builds from year to year is focused and controlled and eventually pays off in an experience that pays off in ways that few "kid-oriented" shows ever even attempt, much less accomplish.
Go ahead, Tim, you might as well... you've already given up
I don't think it would surprise anyone to learn that Charles Addams was a major influence on the artistic style of a young Tim Burton. I'm sure Edward Gorey and Gahan Wilson were equally influential in terms of ghoulish silly sensibility, but when you look at the black and white line work of Charles Addams, you see the direct precursor to almost every one of Burton's signature quirks.
That's cool. Burton wears his childhood influences like an open book, like many great visual stylists do, and in his case, he's always been partial to a mix of the morbid and the hilarious. Addams is the master of that. I would argue that more people know his style from the original '60s TV show "The Addams Family" or the feature films that were made in the '90s than are actually familiar with his cartoons.
Understandably. Right now, the one place you can read the amazing work that Addams left behind is in those weird book things. The Addams family (the real one, not the creepy ooky kooky one) has worked hard to keep his work off of the Internet. There are only a handful of his hundreds of cartoons online, and since it's so important to the estate, I won't reprint one here as an example. The reality is, it's far more likely that people stumbled across the TV show or the movies or the animated cartoon versions that have existed at various times, simply because that stuff is actively out there, easy to stumble over.
Who exactly is this animated film intended to entertain?
For the most part, animation is controlled by a few very loud voices in the industry, and there is little room for people to experiment with it, particularly at the studio level.
That's a shame. Because animation is a medium with near-limitless storytelling potential, and year after year, film after film, we essentially see the same types of stories with the same types of characters and the same sort of authorial voice, an echo chamber in which you either tell stories for children, or you don't tell stories. And you tell them in a very familiar way, so as not to freak anybody out.
Sure, we've got Pixar, and I have been vocal about how much I admire their work, but I don't think that should be the only strong voice out there in animation. Disney, Dreamworks, Aardman... they've all contributed strong films to the mix, but that's still just a very narrow range of stories being told.
What we don't see much of are filmmakers who have strong voices who decide to just make an animated film. Robert Zemeckis is a rare example, and he sort of took the all-or-nothing route, building an infrastructure and working with the same technology from film to film, polishing his technique, experimenting. Seeing Spielberg and Jackson jump into "Tintin" together is a thrill, and I hope they crush it. I hope they make these movies that are basically like jumping into the world that Herge created.
Is being the best 'Twilight' film really something to be proud of?
I think it really just comes down to one inescapable fact: I hate Bella Swan.
I suspect my real problems lie with Stephenie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg, the novelist and screenwriter responsible for "The Twilight Saga," and, by extension, Bella Swan. But it does not change how completely I hate Bella Swan.
Bella Swan, for those of you fortunate enough not to be "Twilight" savvy at this point, is the main character in "The Twilight Saga." Kristen Stewart has become a superstar playing the character, although I'd argue we have yet to see any proof that her fanbase will follow her after the franchise is done. She is the teenage girl who finds herself torn between her affections for Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a Native American werewolf, and Edward (Robert Pattinson), a sparkly vampire. She is a rotten, rotten person as written, and the fact that the entire series just serves as an extension of her desires and goals has managed now to make me feel like a bad person just for sitting in the theater and watching her.
I never reviewed the first "Twilight" film. I didn't see it in any sort of timely manner. I did, however, review "New Moon" last year, and here's what I wrote about that film:
Can anything live up to the promise of this trailer?
Well, you can't accuse Warner Bros. of playing this one down.
I'm already watching people moan and groan on Twitter and message boards about the claim that this is "the motion picture event of a generation," but if any upcoming film gets to claim that early, the last two "Harry Potter" movies would fit the bill.
I find the films sort of amazing. The fact that they even finished the series with the original cast in place is remarkable. The fact that there's been a learning curve and we're actually seeing the films continue to get better as they wind up to the finish is almost beyond belief. Shouldn't they just be coasting? Shouldn't they be phoning it in by this point?
That trailer is not the sign of a franchise that is phoning it in. This looks so ambitious, and it looks like they know that they get to basically play the entire two films at a crescendo that they've earned in the previous six movies. Ralph Fiennes is so freaky in that make-up, and the digital work they've done on him works perfectly. It doesn't look like an effect. It looks real. And it looks wrong.
The kids have grown into really strong actors, the world has grown darker in keeping with the ideas each movie deals with, and the magic has grown into something potentially scary and dangerous this time around.
These are going to be huge, both in impact and in content, and I can't wait.
A quick chat after an early screening of their new movie
Last Thursday night, while many of my peers were seeing "Inception" for the first time, I was sitting in a theater in Hollywood for an early screening of "Dinner For Schmucks," starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd and directed by Jay Roach.
The following day, I spent 45 minutes on the phone talking to Roach about the movie, and I ran into Steve Carell on Saturday at the "Despicable Me" press day, where we also ended up talking about the film. Even though I'll have the full Roach interview up next week (and it's a pretty great one), I wanted to run some first impressions of the movie and my conversations with these guys.
Right from the start of the movie, a gorgeous credit sequence set to "Fool On The Hill," there's real control in the way Roach tells the story and lets you know exactly where your sympathies should lie. Carell plays one of the most outrageous characters of his career, Barry, who spends his free time creating elaborate dioramas with taxidermed mice, and the opening credits are all done over a huge inter-related scene, a "Sunday in the park dream date," that immediately tells you just how sweet Barry is, despite seeming completely bent. It gives you permission to laugh at Barry, because you know he's a good guy underneath, so it's not mean-spirited at all. That's key to being able to enjoy the ride in the movie, and Roach gets it exactly right.
How will Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson adapt?
From 1996 to 2000, the first "Scream" films helped define horror at a time when it was at a commercial low. By paying homage to the slasher films of the '80s and then investing them with a decidedly '90s feel, Williamson and Craven managed to bring the entire genre roaring back to life in terms of box-office. Williamson's influence on the teen genre basically created an entire market, beyond horror even, but "Scream" was ground zero for that.
It is not uncommon for a film to become a phenomenon based on one great idea or one great scene or one great action gag, and in the case of "Scream," it's all about that opening scene. The winky knowing dialogue, the deconstruction of the genre, the idea of killing Barrymore early... it sent shock waves through its audience. I'm not saying that's the only thing people liked about the film, but after that opening, there was so much good will built up that the audience would have gone almost anywhere with Craven and Williamson.
I can't really call myself a fan of the series. I admire the commercial machinery of the first film, but I didn't buy it. I respect that there is an audience that used "Scream" as a gateway to horror, that suddenly had an appetite for being scared in the theater. I think a lot of truly terrible films were made in the wake of "Scream," including the "Scream" sequels. But there have been a lot of kinks and twists in horror since 2000, and obviously the remake frenzy has set in. Even if I don't love "Scream," I love that it was an original film that was Williamson's way of nodding to films he loved rather than just straight-up remaking them.