I recently learned that I was the only person living in my house, out of six of us, who had seen "The Princess Bride."
I found this revelation to be completely inconceivable.
The only reason it came up was because I was sent the 25th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray to prepare for a conversation with Cary Elwes. It's not like I needed the reminder of the film, since it's been one of those movies I've seen dozens of times since release, and each time, I am struck anew by just what a miracle it is. It doesn't really feel like any other movie, and while I've spoken to both screenwriter William Goldman (who adapted it from his tremendous novel) and director Rob Reiner about it in the past, I'll take any opportunity to chat about it with people who worked on it.
When I spoke to Elwes, it was by phone, and he was in an airport sitting under what sounded like the loudest speaker in human history, with a long garbled announcement blaring every three or four minutes. He seemed chagrined by the situation, but absolutely unflappable in how pleased he was to be talking about "The Princess Bride." The sheer hideousness of the situation only made Elwes seem more likable.
I recently learned that I was the only person living in my house, out of six of us, who had seen "The Princess Bride."
Denzel Washington has been working for so long now that he's sort of an institution, one of those performers who is both movie star and actor. I think there is a clear distinction between those two things, and there are movie stars who never really push themselves out of their comfort zones, just as there are great actors who don't possess whatever that particular charisma is that makes someone iconic. Washington is capable of disappearing into a character, but he's also one of those guys who financiers love because he's been such a reliable box-office sensation over the years.
"Flight," the new film by Robert Zemeckis, calls on both sides of Denzel's personality. It's the story of a guy who is capable of exceptional things who is also a high-functioning alcoholic and drug abuser, and his character is a hard person to like. Denzel's charisma helps with that, and he manages to show you how this guy is able to coast on charm even as he burns his life down. If he wasn't such a movie star, I'm not sure you'd have any sympathy for him, but if he wasn't such a good actor, I don't think that slow crumble of addiction would feel as authentic and unapologetic as it does. It's the sort of work that reminds you just how good someone can be.
"Cloud Atlas," ultimately, is a love story. Or more accurately, it's three love stories told over the span of hundreds and hundreds of years. The overarching couple whose story drives the entire film is played in various forms by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, but they certainly aren't the only thing about the film that is affecting.
Jim Sturgess is taking some serious heat right now for the prosthetic make-up he wears in one of the film's shorelines, where he appears as Chang, the agent tasked with liberating both the mind and the body of Sonmi 451, a service clone in Neo Seoul played by Doona Bae. Their story is perhaps my favorite thing about the movie, and I wanted to talk to them about creating the very delicate rapport their characters share in the film as well as her reaction to seeing him in his make-up for the first time.
It feels like things are coming up Bond right now, and the news that John Logan has signed on to write two back-to-back Bond films that tell one complete story is incredibly exciting.
When you see "Skyfall," you'll see how carefully they have set up the James Bond series moving forward and how several elements that were previously missing in the series have now been dropped in. One thing I liked a lot about "Casino Royale" and "Quantum Of Solace" as a double-feature was the idea that they were both about a shadowy enemy organization that Bond was going to start dismantling piece by piece. That story thread appears to have been dropped almost completely in "Skyfall," and that is one of the few things about the film that saddens me. With the work that "Skyfall" does to set all of Bond's support system in place, though, it makes me wonder if they're planning to get back to it.
Before you laugh, I want you to consider how long Drafthouse Films has even existed.
The company was formed to get the Chris Morris dark comedy 'Four Lions" into theaters, and since then, they've picked up less than 20 films. They're still defining their identity, but even so, last year, they were able to help steer the Belgian film "Bullhead" to a Best Foreign Language Picture nomination at the Oscars. They are a fledgling company, and it's not like "Bullhead" was an easy sell from an established artist with a big permanent fanbase. It was a debut film, and it was about the seedy underworld of steroid trading and treatment in the cattle industry. Not the sort of thing that seems at first description like an awards contender.
With "Miami Connection," Drafthouse Films is rescuing a long-lost musical action inspirational family drama with kung-fu in it, and they're preparing to unleash this forgotten masterpiece on audiences. If you're interested in demanding a local screening for yourself, you can do so through Tugg, and then you can also check to see if they've got the film scheduled to roll out in your area on the film's official website.
I want to meet Chris Morgan.
Perfect world, we could sit down over the refreshment of our choice and we could talk about Conan. Specifically, we could talk about "Conan The Barbarian," the 1982 film that Universal released, directed by John Milius and written by Milius and Oliver Stone. That film was one of the things that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a viable movie star. Before that, he was known for a few quirky appearances in film like "Stay Hungry," his charismatic appearance in "Pumping Iron," and his bodybuilding triumphs. But "Conan The Barbarian" changed things for him, and its reputation has grown over time.
I've loved the film since opening weekend, and I love running into a hardcore fan of the film. You know you've found a kindred soul when you can ask, "What is good in life?" and someone answers without hesitation, "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." And based on the story that Deadline reported earlier this afternoon, Chris Morgan may be one of those people.
It's been a strange day in the "X-Men" movie universe.
Obviously, fandom is freaking out over Matthew Vaughn leaving "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," and I plan to take a deeper look at the post-Rothman world of Fox superhero movies in the days ahead. For now, though, I'm fascinated by a comment that Empire ran today as part of their exclusive visit to the set of "The Wolverine," James Mangold's take on the mutant that has been played since 2000 by Hugh Jackman.
At this point, I would not be shocked to learn that people are confused by the timelines and continuities of the "X-Men" series. After all, there's the trilogy of films based on the Bryan Singer take on the characters, there's the "Wolverine" solo film, and there's last year's "X-Men: First Class," which appeared to overtly contradict several things in the already established movies. I'm not sure I quite understand how they're supposed to connect on a story level if we're meant to accept that they all take place in one movie universe.
I have to say this is looking a little bit more like "Die Hard" now.
I still think it's just plain weird to have built a franchise around John McClane, but I get the reason that most fans want more of something they like. McClane's great in the first film for two totally different reasons. First, he's great because he's a normal person who has to figure out how to stay alive and save his wife against armed, organized overwhelming odds, and that resourcefulness and fortitude make him heroic. Second, he's great because he knows exactly how to mouth off in a way that makes Hans Gruber mental, and that is just plain fun to watch.
That sense of "wrong place, wrong time" is a big part of that first film, and it's one of the things that makes McClane a real hero. He's not doing a specific job he's being paid to do. He just ended up in a position to be the one person who can disrupt this thing that's happening, and so he does it. The idea of him being trapped inside the building with the thieves was definitely one of the things that was most vigorously imitated by others, enough that you could pitch a movie as "'Die Hard' in a fill-in-the-blank" game of "Mad Libs" for years afterwards, but I don't think the contained space is what people who go see "Die Hard" sequels want.
The last time I spoke with Susan Sarandon, the Wachowskis came up in conversation. I still get a kick out of walking into a room and seeing Sarandon, ready to talk. As long as I've been a movie fan, I've been a fan of her movies, and she's had such a great, fascinating evolution as a performer. This time, as I was settling in, I asked her about her recent experience working with Mike Tully on a ping-pong themed movie, and it's true… you mention ping-pong, and she just lights up. I know Mike from various events like Sundance, where I've seen him both as a journalist and as a filmmaker (his "Septien" is pretty grand), and a trip to Ireland to see the cast and crew of "Your Highness" at work, and I was really pleased to hear how enthusiastic Sarandon was about the experience she just had with him. This is a dream project for Mike, and it's great to see that it's important to her, too.
Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, is someone I don't think I've ever spoken with before, and I didn't even think about that before I walked into the room. As I settled in and spoke with her, I looked over at him and was surprised to be suddenly anxious. "OH WOW THAT'S HUGO WEAVING!" is what I was saying inside, because he is so unmistakable, so iconic over the last 20 years. At this point, his work as Agent Smith or as Elrond or in "Priscilla" is so resolutely a part of the cinema landscape that it's hard to imagine movies without him. He's one of those guys, one of those great actors who also found just the right projects with just the right parts to allow them to do something permanent. When you look back at this era of commercial filmmaking, there's Hugo Weaving, smack dab in the middle of it.
A James Bond movie is a mirror.
When I watch one Bond movie by itself, I can watch it as a movie by itself, but when I'm watching all of them in a row, it is like having a mirror that works almost like a time machine, that takes me back to a very specific year for each of the films. You look at the Connery films, and the attitudes to spying, the color palette, the new relaxed sexuality and the tongue in cheek violence… it's all so very early '60s, so very British explosion, and that's one of the reasons I love those movies. That's my particular aesthetic preference. The movies in the transition years, like "Diamonds Are Forever" or "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," show the way pop culture was evolving, and as much as the movies imitated, they also innovated. It was like a feedback loop.
The Moore movies became more overt about it as they tried to fine-tune the formula. "The Spy Who Loved Me" was the height of the disco era, the year of "Star Wars," and "Moonraker" was made not only after "Star Wars" but also after "Battlestar Galactica," and it seems to reflect what was going on in television as well as in movies. "For Your Eyes Only" is a reinvention, and that was the early '80s, a chance to reinvent pop culture in the Reagan era. And as that era curdled, so did the series, with "Octopussy" and "A View To A Kill" offering up bloated attitude and diminishing returns.