Welcome to The Morning Read.
In the comments section for the article I ran last week, the great Vern asked the question, "Has there ever been a good movie directed by an effects artist?"
Well, yes. I can name at least one. Douglas Trumbull's "Brainstorm" is, in my opinion, a remarkable little film, and while there are some big FX moments in the movie, what makes it great is the emphasis on simple human ideas and emotions. Trumbull, who is known for his work on "2001," "Close Encounters," and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," has been a larger than life figure for most of my life, and I still remember his big push to move into ShowScan, a sort of IMAX-esque super format that shot at 60 frames per second. He's a fascinating guy, and in addition to "Brainstorm," he's also the director of the intriguing "Silent Running," and I wish I'd been at the NAB Show over the weekend to hear him speak at the Digital Cinema Summit in Vegas. That's where he announced that he'll be directing a new feature, which is exciting news. I'm not surprised at all that he's on the cutting edge of the push to use higher frame rates in filmmaking, which is about to become the new pet cause of James Cameron. He spent much of his time at CinemaCon, talking about an industry shift to a standard of 48 fps or even 60 fps. And unlike 3D, this is something that I don't think would be a gimmick at all. It's simply a shift in clarity and resolution of image, and the tests I've seen over the years for shooting at higher frame rates are incredibly persuasive. And while he's talking tech up front, looking at the features Trumbull has made in the past convinces me that him returning to the director's chair is great news, indeed. I can't wait to hear more details about whatever it is that he's working on.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I am glad that Sidney Lumet, unlike many directors who are still working well into their 80s, got to exit the stage on a high note, with the critically acclaimed "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead". A few years before that, he was given an honorary Academy Award for his entire career, but I would like to think that Lumet was well aware that with or without Oscars for his mantle, he left behind a filmography studded with genuine classics, cultural landmarks that helped define great cinema decade after decade, and that his films will be watched and rewatched and studied for as long as we are still sharing movies.
First, if you have any ambition towards becoming a filmmaker yourself, you must immediately find a copy of Lumet's remarkable book, Making Movies, and read it cover to cover. Read it several times. Read it until it starts to sink into you, become part of the way you think. Lumet's philosophy on filmmaker was as unadorned and no-nonsense as his actual films, and when you look at his full body of work, you can see his approach in the amazing performances people gave for him, and in the quietly powerful visual approach he took to material. He was an actor first, working on Broadway and off for many years before he started working in television in the early 1950's. He always maintained certain habits from the theater, whether working in television or in film, giving his actors room and time to rehearse together as a group, insisting on it because of the difference it made in every performance, not just the starring roles.
Let's talk about "Deadpool."
The question was broached a few times to Ryan Reynolds at the recent "Green Lantern" panel at WonderCon in San Francisco, in a few different ways, all boiling down to one main concern: will you still be playing the role of Deadpool?
If so, it's strange territory for Reynolds. One Marvel hero, one DC hero, two different studios. True, it's weirder for Chris Evans, who plays two characters in the Marvel Universe, but it's still a lot to ask for the mainstream audience to accept you as not one but two distinct superheroes in two very different franchises. I guess these days, the genre is so ubiquitous that it's no different than Burt Reynolds playing two different rednecks with fast cars.
The difference between Green Lantern and Deadpool as characters, though, is night and day. Green Lantern is a big broad adventure hero, and the "Star Wars" styled world of that film is designed to appeal to kids and across the board. Based on early drafts of the script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and comments made by Reynolds last weekend (when he said "it would have to be a hard-R"), it's safe to say that Deadpool is being played much closer to the character that has a dedicated cult audience in print. Deadpool is a motor-mouthed mercenary, a killer who regularly breaks the fourth wall to make wisecracks to the audience, and the script that they're working with is kinetic and crazy and ridiculous in some really interesting ways.
Okay, now see… this is the sort of casting news I like because it's suggestive and intriguing, but it doesn't really give away any of the potential secrets of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises". All it does is raise possibilities and give fans of Batman something to argue about for the next year.
Josh Pence, who was the Winklevoss you didn't see in "The Social Network," has been signed now to play a young Ra's Al Ghul for the film. In the story by Borys Kit, it is suggested that Pence will appear in flashback scenes set 30 years before the events of Nolan's Batman series. Pence will be joining previously announced cast members like Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. Some of the cast, like Gordon-Levitt and Cotillard, have not had their roles announced yet, which has led to all sorts of speculation about who they're playing and how they fit into the story Nolan is telling, which seems to be designed to bring the entire trilogy full-circle.
Certainly using Ra's Al Ghul again helps do that, and I'm curious to see how that plays out. According to Devin Faraci over at Badass Digest, The League of Shadows has a major presence in the film, headed by Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra's. She's always been played as a sort of quasi-villain, dedicated to her own agenda, but also a love interest for Bruce Wayne. In the comics, she's actually the mother of his son, Damian, but it sounds like they're playing things differently in the film.
Earlier today, I was part of an e-mail chain about a possible get-together on Saturday night, and as is the case with many e-mail chains I'm part of, things devolved into pure silliness very quickly, leading one person to simply reply to everyone, "CHAOS REIGNS!"
It is amazing to me just what an impact the last film by Lars Von Trier made on people, and I'm curious to see if that will carry over into an audience for his next film, "Melancholia," which stars both Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland. The first trailer for the film has just appeared online, and I'm hoping the movie will play at Cannes in May. I'm also hoping to be at Cannes in May, and if so, you can bet this will be one of the titles I make sure to see while I'm there.
I like how the trailer, posted by Von Trier's company on Vimeo, is simply described as "A beautiful movie about the end of the world." At first, it looks like a domestic drama about a wedding and the effect of it on a wealthy family, but then Von Trier introduces the idea of a long-hidden planet from behind the sun that may bring about the end of the world, and suddenly you've got a film that looks like a perfect fit for his filmography.
One of the funniest things about the bad reviews for "Your Highness" has been reading the hand-wringing disapproval some critics have expressed for the career trajectory of David Gordon Green, the film's director.
Trust me… all this concern on his behalf is silly. Green is doing exactly what he wants to do, and between "Pineapple Express" and his work on "Eastbound And Down" and, yes, "Your Highness," you're seeing just as honest an expression of who he is as a filmmaker as you did in "George Washington" or "All The Real Girls." Just because he's not making the exact same movies over and over that he made at the start of his career, that does not mean he's somehow gotten off-track.
Far from it, in fact. It seems to me that he's enjoying this change-up quite a bit. The first time I met him, I was invited to visit the "Pineapple" set, and I showed up on a day when they were shooting a car chase. As I walked up, they were just about to roll cameras on a stunt where a cop car smashes through a bunch of things and flips over. I didn't realize what was going on, but Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg waved me over and told me to watch. Maybe a minute later… BOOM! The stunt came off without a hitch, to quite spectacular effect, and about 20 feet in front of us, someone turned around and gave us the thumbs up, big smile on his face.
I haven't seen the new "Jackass 3.5" yet. Hell, I haven't even watched my unrated cut of "Jackass 3D" yet. But it's not from lack of interest. If anything, I feel like I'm hoarding these last few bits of "Jackass" for the perfect time. I'm waiting until I've had that perfect-storm-of-crap day and I need that guaranteed laugh.
And it does feel like we've reached the end of something. I can't imagine how many more years of this the guys have in them. The ending of "Jackass 3D" used a Weezer song to create a genuinely poignant sense of this being a conclusion for them. All of the footage in "Jackass 3.5" was filmed as part of the same big round of filming as "Jackass 3D," and knowing how difficult it was to get everyone together for that, I don't see them pulling it off again any time soon.
I love that Spike Jonze is part of the "Jackass" family. There's something so wonderful about the notion that this serious filmmaker sometimes puts on latex make-up so he can go freak random strangers out with ill-timed questions about camel toe.
I try to imagine Stanley Kubrick skateboarding in a gorilla costume, and somehow, I can't quite conjure up that image. With Jonze, though, we've got a clip of him in comedy terrorist mode today, and it's an exclusive glimpse at what's in store when "Jackass 3.5" arrives in stores.
This probably shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who's been following the story over the last few months, since Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's name has been in the mix for the director job on "The Crow" reboot since at least February.
It's official now, though, and Fresnadillo will helm the re-invention of the character for producer Edward R. Pressman and Relativity Media, with a start date set for the fall with an eye on release next year. Right now, Fresnadillo is finishing up work on "Intruders," a Clive Owen film that he's making for Apaches Entertainment, which is also involved in this new "Crow" reboot.
I'm not a big fan of "The Crow" overall, but at least with the Brandon Lee film, you had the benefit of an actor who was looking to make a name for himself, giving a performance that is almost feral. One of the reasons I find it genuinely painful to watch footage from the Alex Proyas film is because Lee was amazing, daring you to look away from his work, and the loss of Lee at that point in his life seems incredibly cruel.
There are still a few major hurdles that the filmmakers are going to have to clear before they actually roll film. For one thing, they have no script and no writer at the moment. For another thing, they need to find The Crow. There have been so many films between 1994 and now that tap into the whole moody supernatural thing, not even counting the sequels to the original, that I'm curious to see how you make a "Crow" that doesn't feel like just another lame "Underworld" knock-off.
I am intrigued by the idea that people genuinely want to see more action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Look, as much as anyone, I am a first-generation fan of the guy as an action icon. I was so determined to see "Conan The Barbarian" in the theater when I was 12 that I spent months campaigning my parents, eventually getting them to agree to take me and all my friends to see it as part of my birthday party that year. When "The Terminator" came out in '84, my friend's older brother worked at a local theater and would let us in for free, which led to me seeing the film in the theater something like 30 times. There are many films he starred in, including a high percentage that happen to have been directed by James Cameron, that I enjoy. But as a first-generation fan, I also remember the unmitigated garbage that makes up much of his filmography, and I would hardly call him the king of good decisions. His presence in a movie does not automatically render that movie amazing. And we are now at least a decade past the point where I realistically see him as an action lead, especially after he just spent a stretch of time working his office gig.
Still, I understand that nostalgia is king for my generation and even more so for the film fans a decade or so younger than me. Anything that reminds them of their childhood is indulged to the point of being creepy. When I see people debating the merits of a "Thundercats" reboot, it is obvious that quality has nothing to do with this disturbing fetishization of anything that was part of their formative years. And there must be some sort of near-Pavlovian comfort that they hope to get from the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to action roles, no matter how old he is.
THE BIG QUESTION is a weekly feature in which we're going to examine issues and ideas that are important to our industry as a whole.
I was talking back and forth with someone the other night about some new films we'd each seen, and I mentioned "Arthur" and the person messaged back, "I hear Arthur is not even a drunk.Â True?"
The film opens on Friday.Â And this person, who works in media, who no doubt sees a ton of advertising and marketing and trailers and clips and whatnot, still doesn't know for sure if Arthur drinks or not.
To be clear, just as in the original film, Arthur drinks pretty much non-stop through the entire film.Â He is a raging lush.Â You could call the film "Raging Lush" and it would be completely appropriate.Â He is a silly drunk.Â He's the kind of drunk who buys a Batman outfit, a real Batmobile, and then has his chauffeur run from the cops while driving dressed as Robin, plastered the entire time.Â He's the kind of drunk who just goes staggering around in public like an astronaut from the planet Privilege, having a laugh at pretty much everyone and wasted the entire time.Â He's always got a bottle or a flask or a glass in hand.Â Arthur is not just a drunk.Â He's Alpha Drunk.Â And he makes it look like loads of fun.