Gary Ross, coming off of the success of "The Hunger Games," was in one of the most enviable positions in Hollywood.
After all, there's no sweeter moment than when you've just had a tremendous commercial hit and you're able to take your time and pick your follow-up from a huge selection of possible projects. Ross was already an A-list filmmaker, so the success didn't radically change things for him, but it did put whatever choice he made under a much brighter spotlight.
Disney purchased the rights to the Peter Pan novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson several years ago, and it was previously announced that writer Jesse Wigutow was working to adapt it as a film. Now it appears that Ross has picked this as his next film, and that he will roll camera on it sometime next year.
I will point out that the logline description for the film starts with one of the phrases I hate most right now, "A prequel to [insert name of beloved property here]," and for that reason alone, I am automatically suspicious of the picture. It disturbs me how often we hear that phrase at this point, and it disturbs me more when you consider how few of those films actually work at all.
Gary Ross, coming off of the success of "The Hunger Games," was in one of the most enviable positions in Hollywood.
When faced with a suicide, it is impossible for even those close to a person to fully understand what it is that pushed them to such a final solution, and I certainly don't intend to speculate about what might have led Tony Scott to take his own life this weekend.
Instead, let's look back at his body of work and the mark he left on modern filmmaking. While I will not pretend to suddenly love everything he directed, his filmography is defined by an ever-shifting sense of style and by the way he successfully reinvented himself many times. With his brother, Ridley Scott, he created a company that has been responsible for successful film and television projects for decades now, and he had dozens of projects in development. Obviously, it's impossible to guess what work he might have done in the future, so the best we can do now is look back at the highlights of the work he leaves behind.
I was thirteen when "The Hunger" was released, and even if that was the only film he ever directed, I would have owed him a hearty handshake. For thirteen year old me, "The Hunger" set the bar pretty high. Nudity from both Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve? David Bowie as a vampire? Good lord, what part of that does thirteen year old me not like? The thing was, even at that age, I was aware that the film looked better than it played, that the style was overwhelming even if the story wasn't. It was a gorgeous movie that had the pulse of a perfume commercial, a charge that would follow Scott through much of his career.
I'm going to have a longer version of this interview posting next week, and it was a real pleasure to have a deeply nerdy tech conversation with Keanu Reeves about the moment we're in right now as an industry, and the wrestling match that's going on right now between film and digital.
For one thing, it's always nice to realize that the person you're having a conversation with really knows their subject. Reeves has been working on this project for two years, and during that time, he's become quite fluent in the debate, and seems to have a pretty even-handed perspective on the historic moment where we find ourselves.
The core truth is that we're really just arguing about the tools of storytelling. In the end, good storytelling is good storytelling, and if the tools evolve, then filmmakers will evolve as well. They'll continue to use those tools to communicate a broad spectrum of ideas and attitudes, and some people will do it well and others won't, and it won't really be about which cameras they use or how they cut the film.
I interviewed writer/director Peter Hedges when he was getting ready to release "Dan In Real Life," a Steve Carrell movie from a few years ago, and our 20 minute scheduled conversation ended up lasting much longer. Hedges struck me as a decidedly non-Hollywood type, smart and sincere and serious about making movies with a nice mix of sentiment and ideas.
That sensibility is definitely represented in "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green," the latest movie by Hedges, and there are definitely things to like about the film. It's uneven, though, with a central conceit that doesn't quite hang together, and I'm not sure the film's theme is focused enough to really work. It's a hard film to dislike because of just how earnest it is, but it's also a film that has some severe problems, making it hard to give a blanket recommendation.
Hedges, starting from a story by Ahmet Zappa, has crafted a movie that aims to make some profound statements about the nature of parenthood and what it takes to nurture someone, and he is assisted greatly by a cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, Common, and James Rebhorn. He's got John Toll shooting, so you know the movie looks great. It is, aesthetically speaking, uncommonly pretty for a Disney live-action family film, and it aims to earn copious tears from you.
It's unusual at these broadcast press days to get time to talk technical with filmmakers. For the most part, these events are all about getting a sound bite out of a movie star.
On a film like "ParaNorman," thought, it's great to have that chance to talk to the people who actually brought the remarkable world of the movie to life. Stop-motion is one of those art forms where survival depends on younger artists learning from those few people who are still actually doing this, and Laika's new film plays like a master class on the potential for stop-motion. They've combined classic technique with high tech in a way that is visually dazzling.
Beyond that, though, "ParaNorman" is an example of just how beautiful and affecting performance work can be when you've got masterful animators at the helm. Laika is unusual as a company because Travis Knight is not only the head of the company, but also an animator who did a lot of the hands-on work himself. There are some dazzling sequences in the film that he was the lead animator on, and it's proof that he's not just some executive. His father is Phil Knight, the co-found of Nike, and Laika was created out of the passion that Travis Knight feels for stop-motion animation in general.
When you sit across from Jason Statham, it's hard to not be aware that he could end you if the mood struck him.
As one of the youngest members of the core team of "The Expendables," Statham gets to do some of the most physical hand-to-hand combat in the movie. He's got a scene in a church in the film that is him at his balletic badass best.
Talking to him about this second film in the series, I wanted to ask about how the action scenes were designed this time around. It feels like this second film did a much better job of building scenes that gave each cast member room to show off the skills that qualified them for the movie in the first place. Statham talked to me about how he works with his fight choreographer, a guy who he's been working with for a while now.
September is starting to look like it may well end up being one of the best months of film viewing of my entire life between the Toronto International Film Festival's line-up and Fantastic Fest, which is still coming into focus.
This morning, the second wave of Fantastic Fest titles has been announced, and it continues to look like it's going to be a deep, crazy batch of movies. Some of the titles that were announced today are exactly what I expected, and others are out of left field, which is the exact thing that I love about Fantastic Fest every year. There are things I've seen at the festival that I'll never see again because they don't neatly fit into any distribution plan in the US right now. I love going to a festival where it's not just about what's going to sell to a distributor. It's great to see a festival that is programmed for the people that actually attend and not just as a promotional opportunity for a larger release pattern.
It also helps that Tim League and the amazing programmers he works with every year are completely out of their minds.
I can't believe I leave for Toronto on September 5th.
That's just around the corner. And if Toronto is just around the corner, the end of the year is just after that. Which means it's almost 2013. Which means… okay, I'm going to give myself a headache. Let's just focus on Toronto. Let's focus on the Midnight Madness line-up, which looks amazing this year. Let's focus on "Seven Psychopaths."
After all, it's a new film by Martin McDonagh, whose "In Bruges" was such a delight. He's a great playwright, exciting and brash and wicked funny, and this is the story of a down-at-the-heels LA screenwriter played by Colin Farrell who ends up involved in a bizarre heist of sorts when his best friend kidnaps the dog of a deranged gangster. Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell are Farrell's friends in the film, and Woody Harrelson is the dangerous dog owner who is determined to get his Shih Tzu back.
The film also features Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko, and that cannot be a bad thing. Zeljko Ivanek appears to have a fairly big role in the film as well, and he's one of those "that guy!" actors who always does interesting work.
Oh… and did I mention Tom Waits is in it? He's the guy with the bunny.
Every single time I've sat down to finish this article, I am struck anew by just how complicated any conversation about "The Dark Knight Rises" has become for reasons that have nothing to do with the movie itself.
And once I sat down to finish it, it quickly turned into an unwieldy and completely disorganized collection of thoughts that I couldn't quite get my arms around.
I originally planned to publish this the week after the film opened, but it has stymied me for the last two weeks because of what happened in that theater in Aurora, Colorado. I don't believe the film had anything to do with the actions of that deranged piece of garbage, but I think the media has worked overtime to make sure they connect the two with a near non-stop assault. I just saw that a BBC3 documentary is being rushed through production called "The Batman Shootings," a disgusting title, and sure to be a classless piece of sensational garbage.
One publication I've seen made the editorial decision to only refer to what happened as "The 'Dark Knight Rises' shooting" in every single headline they've run, as many as four or five a day so far, and it turns my stomach every single time. It feels gross for anyone to take this film that represents the conclusion of six years worth of storytelling involving one of the biggest characters in pop culture and permanently saddle it with what that lunatic did. And if it seems like I'm going out of my way not to say his name, it's because I refuse to play into his agenda in any way. He wanted to tie himself to something huge and unavoidable, just like someone deciding to shoot John Lennon, and if you give him the gift of celebrity, doesn't that mean it worked?
You can't be fired from a job that doesn't exist.
Today has been a long day of hysterical headlines and wild overreaction to what basically amounts to a non-story, a re-confirmed detail that has been combined with one new piece of information, slathered in rumor, and then served up in a mixture that is designed to outrage and drive page views, but which seems to me to point out one of the fundamental flaws of entertainment "news" as a whole.
David Koepp was hired to write a sequel to "Snow White and the Huntsman." That's true. David Koepp is now moving on, presumably to some other high-profile job, as Universal tries to decide what, if anything, they're going to do with the script.
Let's imagine we lived in a world where "Snow White and the Huntsman" was a giant megahit and people were genuinely asking for a sequel. Let's imagine that in that version of the film, Kristen Stewart felt like an organic piece of the overall world and not a momentarily hot actress shoehorned into a franchise role that ill fits her. Let's imagine that there's a scandal involving her and the filmmaker and the studio decided to fire her as a way of scolding her for her sexual indiscretion while they reward the filmmaker with another job. That would be a situation worth reporting on, and it would be a fairly damning course of action by Universal Studios.