"We are, each of us, the product of an era." - George, "10"
Born in 1922. That's amazing to me. And Blake Edwards absolutely was a product of an era… of several of them… as well as one of the influences that turned out so many other people who are products of time spent with his amazing body of work.
I did not write something immediately about the death of Blake Edwards because of just how much the life of Blake Edwards meant to me. You can't really say "gone too soon" about someone who was born in 1922 and who left behind some of the great screen comedy of all time, but that doesn't change the impact I felt when I woke up to an e-mail from Dan Fienberg informing me that Blake had passed away.
We all have filmmakers we feel a special affinity for, and in the case of Blake Edwards, I have always felt somewhat alone in my love for his work. I am frequently amazed at how dismissive people are towards big chunks of his work, and in particular, how much disrespect there is for the "Pink Panther" series with Peter Sellers. I have said it many times in print before and I would feel remiss if I did not take the occasion of his passing to once again state just how great Edwards was. He had a phenomenal sense of composition, and if you've only seen his comedies on TV, panned and scanned, you have done him a great disservice.
What sort of lasting impact do the films of the comedy legend leave behind?
"We are, each of us, the product of an era." - George, "10"
The new film from James L. Brooks is, at best, a mild-mannered misfire
I'm willing to bet, although there's no way to prove it, that if "How Do You Know" was written by anyone other than James L. Brooks, Sony would have had no reason to greenlight it. There's nothing about the story, as told, that feels fully formed to me. Since Brooks is who he is, there are moments in the film that are well-written, well-played, and there are ideas that work.
I've read the first draft of this film, and now having seen what Brooks did with it in the shooting, cutting, and reshooting of it, I think it feels like a rough draft that doesn't follow through on the things it lays out. It's a near-movie. It absolutely feels like it's the work of James L. Brooks, but muted, too relaxed to ever quite work.
"How Do You Know" tells the story of two people who find themselves at crisis points in their lives. Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a professional softball player who has reached the point, at 31, where being good as what you do or even great at it isn't enough. She's just plain too old to keep her spot on the team, and that leaves her in a sort of free fall as she tries to decide who she is after her life in the game. George (Paul Rudd) is a guy who works for his father running a major company of some deliberately vague nature. He's the target of a federal investigation, although he's sure he didn't do anything illegal, and his father Charles (Jack Nicholson) seems somehow involved from the moment the trouble begins. Because of these circumstances, and because of the way they both feel adrift and suddenly unsure of their futures, they would seem to be perfect for each other.
Mentions fan favorites for casting, including Jackman and Hamm
I am not afraid to admit that I am excited.
I find that I get seriously hyped up for fewer and fewer films as I get older, and some of that is a reaction to the way the business works these days, and some of that is a desire to be surprised. Whatever the case, I remember when I was younger, and the mere mention of a film in development was enough to get me seriously hyperactive for days, talking about it, thinking about it, imagining what it might be.
I find so much of what studios consider "development" these days to be cynical, and that saddens me. It makes me wish I could unlearn what I know about the process sometimes, because it's hard to tune things out. And it's hard not to become transitively cynical when they announce that they're going to film something you love, particularly when you're not sure that the thing can be filmed in the first place.
I don't often fly this particular freak flag, but if you could call me a fanboy for anything, you could call me a fanboy for the work of Stephen King. These days, I'd say it's settled into a general appreciation for the man's continued skills and for the massive shadow he has cast over the industry as a whole, and I don't find myself compelled to rush out and buy each new book the second it comes out. There was a time, though, when I absolutely felt that way, and I'd say that era came to a close when King finally wrapped up his sprawling, messy, remarkable Dark Tower series.
Plus the true story of a tragedy on the road from BNAT
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Sorry about that. Things get crazy around Butt-Numb-A-Thon time every year. There's a gravity the event casts that is bigger than just those two days, and sure enough, about three Morning Reads fell right into it. We're back today, though, and here through the holidays, so you'll have plenty of presents under the tree to unwrap here at HitFix.
I've also been working on locking down my top ten list for this year, and you'll see that here on the site next week in a format that's a little different from anything I've ever done with the end-of-the-year stuff. It's been a great year of movies, and I'm thrilled to be publishing what looks to me like an unreasonably strong final list.
I'm feeling good today. We've crossed the mark where, finally, there is less than a month till my family gets home from this preposterously long vacation of theirs. Sure, I leave for Sundance three or four days after they get home, but still, I'm going to actually have them here again, and I couldn't be happier about that. I expect that every day I get closer to their return, my mood will get that much better, to the point where I'll be in full-on Gene Kelly tap-dancing mode on the morning I pick them up at LAX.
The 'Shaun of the Dead' duo return with a SF/comedy
Today, we are going to see the premiere of not one but two new trailers for "Paul."
What, you may ask, is "Paul"? Well, chances are if you're a regular reader of the blog, you are already well aware of this Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy, and you probably know that Greg Mottola directed it and Seth Rogen is contributing the voice of the titular alien, an all CG character in the film.
The general moviegoer, though, still has no idea what or who "Paul" is, so this is the week all of that starts to change. Today, the UK version of the trailer is live right now, and we'll see the US trailer premiere online in just a little while.
Mottola suggested on Twitter that there are differences between them ("The UK one is IN COLOUR!"), but we'll have to compare to see what they are.
Simon Pegg was also busy on Twitter making sure to let people know the moment it went live, and he sounded like he's excited but nervous ("*Tucks balls away*. It's time."), as I imagine anyone would be when finally kicking off the campaign for something they're so personally invested in.
Also meet one of the new movie's strangest bad guys
Bruce Boxleitner is, of course, Tron.
And as much as I'm glad they've got Jeff Bridges back for the new film, I think it's equally important to a "TRON" film that you bring Tron back and deal with both him and with Alan, his user-equivalent in the real world.
One of the most compelling ideas in the original "TRON" was the relationship between Users and the Programs that they write. The notion that your personality was embedded deep in the work you did is an honest reflection of the relationship that programmers have with their work, or that artists have with theirs, or that anyone who creates something has with the thing that they create. I miss that in the new movie. I think they've lost that particular dynamic because of the ways they refigured the world of the Grid. That's fine… that's a choice they're free to make. I just think the original movie did a better job of reflecting the ideas that obviously mattered to Lisberger when he created the project.
Sitting down with James Frain and Bruce Boxleitner was an opportunity to speak to both a pure Program and one of the guys who ties the entire franchise together. Frain plays Jarvis, a sort of manservant henchman for Clu, the digital bully version of Jeff Bridges. He's a weirdo, too, which certainly makes him stand out in the film.
A BNAT premiere delivers sleazy exploitation fun in 3D
It's funny that I still sort of think of Patrick Lussier as a "new" filmmaker.
He's not, of course, by any means. He got his start working as an assistant editor in the '80s working on TV, and then moved up to cutting shows like "MacGyver" before hooking up with Wes Craven on "Nightmare Cafe," which led to him cutting "New Nightmare," Craven's attempt at redefining his own Freddy Kruger. Lussier worked on some troubled films over the years, and must have amazing battle stories from "Mimic" and "Vampires In Brooklyn" and "Halloween H20" and especially "Cursed." His time working at Dimension and Miramax in particular put him in the right place at the right time when certain opportunities came up, and he ended up directing films like "The Prophecy 3" and "Dracula 2000" plus two direct-to-video sequels to it, as well as the sequel to "White Noise." Those are all movies that were part of a pipeline, and hardly reflections of who Lussier is as a filmmaker.
Todd Farmer wrote the more-intentionally-outrageous-than-I-expected "Jason X," and then worked for a while as a studio assignment writer, a gig that can be very frustrating. You can spend years working on things that never end up onscreen or that don't really resemble anything you wrote by the time they make it to the screen. Somehow, the two of them crossed paths, and the first result was "My Bloody Valentine," their very loose remake of an '80s slasher film. That film is very self-aware genre fun with a cast that knows exactly what movie they're in and that seemed to enjoy tweaking the slasher conventions with glee. It's not some genre-defining triumph, but it was fun, and that's something people frequently forget when working in a certain kind of popcorn horror.
How does the star of the new franchise feel about the pressure?
Garrett Hedlund has, in my opinion, the hardest job in "TRON: Legacy."
You wouldn't know it from talking to him these days, as he's already moved on. He's currently shooting the long-in-development film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, with Walter Salle directing. This is something that Hedlund's been attached to for a while, and for it to finally be happening is the end of a long journey for all involved.
As a result of his schedule, he was piped in by satellite to the press day, so it was the first time I've ever felt like I was interviewing Max Headroom. I enjoyed the conversation, and I wanted to give Hedlund a chance to speak for himself about his role as Sam Flynn, the son of the long-missing Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). He's the one who makes the journey this time, following a clue that leads him into the same alternate reality inside a computer that his father created 20 years ago.
Jeff Bridges has the fun roles in the film, playing a younger version of himself, a computer version of himself, and the older Zen Col. Kurtz version of Flynn. All three are built around showy moments, and even though I don't think they pull off what they try with him, Bridges obviously came to play.
A front-loaded vintage line-up was every bit as exciting as this year's sneaks
AUSTIN, TX - One of the things that I've always found most irritating at Butt-Numb-A-Thon is when a vintage title begins to play and someone gets up to leave the theater, thinking it's okay to miss "the old ones."
Well, "the old ones" are the point. Anyone can call a studio and ask to see a movie that's coming out in a week or a month or next year, but it is incredibly personal and revealing to program at least five or six vintage titles every year, and in some years, even more than that. If you want to know someone's real movie taste and get some sense of the breadth of their knowledge, ask them to recommend six films for you from before 1980. Tell them to do it quickly, without looking. Ask them for specific genres. Ask them to program to a theme. You'll know who they are very quickly, and it's bound to lead to a great conversation.
As a result, I find that I spend my pre-BNAT anticipation trying to guess how Harry might build his program around a central idea, and inevitably, the enjoyment of seeing a flawless print of something unexpected and beloved on a bigscreen with an audience of friends is the thing that really sticks with me after each year's festival. That's the thing… it's a personal event. It's a birthday party. So a big part of the festival's kick-off each year is a sort of roast-atmosphere greeting by Tim League that somehow involves the active humiliation of our dear friend Jeff Mahler. Jeff is old-school Ain't It Cool. Family. And the epic-level teasing at this point has just become legendary to witness. We enjoyed a stuttering insult comic named Gravy at the start of the fest, and later, Jeff was served a disturbing dessert that he proceeded to pelt several of us with. The later it gets, the weirder it gets at BNAT. Last year's videotape of various Hollywood figures roasting Harry was amazingly raw, and it feels like each year, the ante gets upped.
Late additions sound like must-sees
When the line-up for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was announced recently, there wasn't much that immediately jumped out at me, which is not to say that I'm calling it a bad line-up. There's just a whole lot of "I'm not sure what that is" on the schedule, which i like. I'd rather go into the festival and be surprised repeatedly than just go with a checklist of titles that are pre-ordained.
Just a few minutes ago, a press release arrived in our e-mail inbox from the Sundance Press Office, and they've added three last-minute titles to the schedule, with some immediately interesting descriptions for the films and some recognizable names attached.
Miranda July's "Me and You And Everyone We Know" is a divisive film, and I'm on the side of the "Liked it" camp. She's an interesting voice, and "The Future" sounds pretty great, as does the Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney documentary about the Merry Pranksters. Throw in Rob Minkoff, director of big giant megablockuster "The Lion King," working in the "bank robbery gone wrong" genre, and this is a pretty cool little boost to the line-up.