It was inevitable.
Mike Myers had a small part in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," and he's reprised his role as Shrek for both a sequel and a TV special in the last few years, but as far as live-action movies where he's the star, the last one was the disastrous "The Love Guru" in 2008, and the response to that nearly drove him out of the business.
Myers is a very particular talent, a guy who likes to workshop a character for a while before he actually makes a movie. He has not made that many films, all things considered, and a few times over the course of his career, he has actually pulled the plug on things that probably could have gotten made because he didn't feel they were ready. That happened most famously with "Sprockets," the feature-film version of one of his SNL characters. I liked the script he co-wrote with Mike McCullers, but Myers bowed out just before it was supposed to start, killing the film in the process.
It was inevitable.
It's been interesting watching the reaction to "The Help" this week. The movie, like the best-selling novel that spawned it, is a big slick slice of cheese anchored by some very strong performances, and I liked it well enough when I reviewed it.
I've been told repeatedly, both directly and through the media, though, that it is inappropriate to like the movie, and that it is insulting to both the reality of the civil rights movement and to the performers that are asked to play the maids in the film. I've been told that these stories are only valid if told by black filmmakers. Never mind that most young black filmmakers today have as much direct experience of the South of the '60s as I do… skin color is obviously the primary qualifier for what stories we are allowed to tell, right?
I think the entire debate is wrong-headed, frankly. I think any time people start telling other people what stories they can or can't tell, it's ridiculous. Do I think there is a long history of telling significant stories about other cultures or ethnicity through a white American filter? Sure. Absolutely. I think when you make a film like "Ghost Of Mississippi" about a real-life figure as remarkable as Medgar Evers and you tell it from the POV of a white lawyer, you have made a disastrous creative choice. I think when you make a film about Stephen Biko and you spend most of the running time dealing with the struggles of a white family to escape South Africa, you have missed the point.
There is little doubt that the distribution model has changed for Hollywood in the last decade, and it's going to continue to change over the next decade. And I'm not just talking about the ancillary markets, either, where physical media and digital downloads are currently battling it out for supremacy. The theatrical market, once considered chuch-and-state separate from home video dates, is starting to become a very expensive part of the marketing campaign for many movies, with producers counting on the afterlife for a film instead of thinking as the theatrical release as the film's primary moment.
Joel Schumacher had a moment when he was one of Hollywood's A-list directors, but that moment has passed, and these days, he is struggling to get attention with his new films, and he has crossed a line and become one of those guys whose films get treated like an embarrassment, snuck into release. "Blood Creek," his Nazi-themed horror film, barely even registered, and the same was true of "Twelve," his teens-on-designer-drugs movie that was laughed at heartily at Sundance. His last wide release was "The Number 23" in 2007, and that film died a horrible, bloody death at the box office.
When I posted my piece the other day about "Footloose," I referred to the film as a musical, and Craig Brewer actually showed up in our comments section to clarify that this is not a film where people burst into song. By that strict definition, it's not a musical, it's a dance film.
But music is obviously a huge part of the movie, both in design and in the way it'll be sold, and the new trailer that arrived online today is cut to a very spare reworking of the original Kenny Loggins theme for the first film, and it's a really effective look at what Brewer's put together.
One of the things that makes me think this is going to be more than just an empty cash grab is listening to Brewer talk about the subtext that made him want to remake the film in the first place. We live in a reactionary time, and I think it's clear to anyone who lived through 9/11 and the way things changed afterward that all it takes is a push, and America is ready to overreact, especially when it's in the name of "the children."
With "Final Destination 5" opening today and "Fright Night" next week, horror-comedy fans are really getting a double dose of a genre that's been sorely neglected of late.
Sure, we've seen it here and there when Raimi threw us a bone with "Drag Me To Hell" and of course there's "Scream 4" sequel. But in general, Wes Craven's stuff has been funny for the wrong reasons lately, so that doesn't count.
Witness these four clips from next week's 3D remake of "Fright Night." The original is a shinning example of campy 80's horror-comedy innocence. It's now been updated for our more brutal century by director Craig Gillespie.
Click through to see the how the characters have changed in the new version.
It appears to be a big week at the Stephen King compound.
We put up the story last night about David Yates and Steve Kloves working together again on a new multi-film adaptation of "The Stand," and now it looks like another King property has been snapped up by a very promising filmmaker. This time, it's an unpublished piece of work, and it's one of the few filmmakers to ever earn the Best Picture Oscar with what can only be described as a horror film.
Jonathan Demme is set to write, direct, and produce the film adaptation of "11/22/63," which doesn't hit shelves until November 8 of this year. I'm not surprised that it sold, or that it's a boomer director who will be making the film. At this point, I've accepted the fact that there is an entire generation of filmmakers who will continue to push the cultural supremacy of the '60s on us until every last one of them has died. And with this particular project, King basically laid out the greatest bait imaginable for that generation, a high-concept exercise in wish fulfillment that sounds like it was almost scientifically targeted to get turned into a movie.
The ESPN series "30 For 30" has produced some remarkable films, so I know that ESPN is a force to be reckoned with in terms of documentary production. Seeing their logo on the front of this one, along with Universal and Working Title, I figured on something slick, an advertisement for Formula One racing from the perspective of one of the sport's legends. Instead, it is an acutely felt and emotional movie, an exceptional personal portrait of one of the guys who defined the sport during one of its key turning points. It is also a sad reminder of just what the stakes are for these guys each and every time they get behind the wheel.
There are different schools of documentary filmmaking, and the two docs I'm reviewing today are both examples of the type that is built from existing footage. In this case, director Asif Kapadia is working as a sort of filter, the one who went through mountains of footage from over the years, gradually picking and choosing the bits and pieces that offer up the narrative he's trying to tell. You've got to have an editor's instincts to be good at this, and Kapadia has a knack for cutting dramatic scenes out of this footage, finding the small human details that really tell the story, avoiding narration and simply letting people tell their own story. Working with writer Manish Pandey, he has managed to paint a riveting portrait of one driven man and the course of his career without simply making it a greatest hits collection.
Sequels are tricky business. Done correctly, they can recapture whatever it was that an audience fell in love with the first time around, and they can extend stories and themes and characters in interesting and unexpected ways. Serialized storytelling in general has always been something that audiences devour eagerly, and sequels are a producer's dream, the gift that keeps on giving. Done wrong, though, they can poison a film's reputation, ruin a name, salt the earth so that there's no going back, no growing anything new. Horror sequels and comedy sequels in particular are tough because so much of the impact of those genres depends on the unexpected, the involuntary reaction, and the more familiar you become with material, the less inherent surprise there is.
The "Final Destination" franchise is one of the unlikeliest I've ever seen, but it's turned out to be one of the most robust and versatile formulas for a mainstream bubblegum movie series in recent memory. For me, the best in the series so far was the second film, which opened with a truly spectacular freeway crash sequence. The way they took the first film's basic idea and streamlined it was inspired, and they also embraced the Rube Goldberg side of the series that makes each set piece so much fun if done correctly. The third and fourth films offered more of the same, with a few highlights in each one, but didn't manage to sustain that energy over the entire movie. There's such huge goodwill for this series, though, that it almost doesn't matter. People go to watch outrageous ridiculous deaths, and as long as they get that, it seems like it's enough.
The "Harry Potter" film series was a juggernaut pretty much from start to finish, occupying ten years of pop culture real estate by sheer force of will. There was no guarantee up front that the films would work, or that fans would be happy, or that the studio would be able to get all the films made before the kids got too old to star in them. It seemed like a huge challenge up front, and the way they pulled it off has been sort of overwhelming to witness. It is a triumph of filmmaking as mountain climbing, an accomplishment that few would have been able to pull off, much less with the style and grace of this series.
How many other film franchises genuinely got better as they went? How many film franchises produced eight films in a decade? Especially films of this size and complexity? "Harry Potter" is one of those singular things, and especially over the back half of the series, David Yates and Steve Kloves did a lot of the heavy lifting as the director and screenwriter of the films, and they made a whoooooole lot of money for Warner Bros. in the process.
Little wonder, then, that Warner Bros. is in the process of finalizing the deals for David Yates and Steve Kloves to re-team for a multi-movie version of Stephen King's epic "The Stand."
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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: