I wish I were more resistant to Stephen Daldry's movies.
He's given to the sort of grand gestures that can drive me nuts in some filmmakers who don't earn those moments, who work at the depth of a car commercial, but put to service of some fairly well-groomed material. And I'm a guy who really liked "Everything Is Illuminated," the first film that was adapted from the work of Jonathan Safran Foer. I think this guy writes lovely little books that filmmakers can get crazy about, gorgeous little challenges. Here, he's crafted a narrative that depends completely on finding the right kid. You've got to believe this kid and his relationship with his parents, and the parents have to work quickly, and you have to be ready to be sucker punched by this one, because it's going to work you, and in more ways than many people will expect.
I think any advertising for this makes it fairly clear that the main hook is "Boy loses his father, WHO HAPPENS TO BE TOM HANKS, in 9/11, and then struggles." That's clear. And to be fair, that sort of is the whole movie. A boy struggles to deal with the loss of his totally awesome father in a very famous tragedy. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." Here's a U2 song. I see this movie coming, and it makes me nervous. It looks to me like it will be shameless. And if you listen to some other critics, the movie is shameless. It is that worst case scenario.
But I don't think so.
I wish I were more resistant to Stephen Daldry's movies.
It's hard to believe that we're a year away from the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and even harder to believe we're a full decade out from the release of "Fellowship Of The Rings."
It's bold of Warner Bros. and New Line to throw down a full year ahead of release, but there are very few films that come with as much built-in anticipation as this one. Sequels are one thing, and most of them arrive with a certain amount of hype, but in this case, you're talking about a follow-up to one of the most beloved film trilogies of all time, and it's not someone making up some flimsy excuse to make a new movie… it's a book that may even be more beloved than the books that were the source material for the trilogy.
I know that "The Hobbit" was my gateway drug to the larger world of high fantasy, well before I read "Lord Of The Rings." And I still think "The Hobbit" is one of the great simple beautiful books of any genre, a perfect piece of storytelling that has left seismic ripples throughout all of fiction for the last 60 years or so. Great characters, great set pieces, a great sense of time and place… "The Hobbit" has it all.
Steven Spielberg's films are events at this point, even when he tries to go low-key, simply by virtue of who he is and what he's done.
Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could ever shut myself off from Spielberg's films. His voice as a filmmaker is a crucial part of the DNA that made me into the film fan that I am today. Early viewings of "Jaws," "Duel," "Close Encounters," and "Raiders" hardwired me to his particular emotional vocabulary, and watching his evolution over the course of my life has been fascinating. Even if you ignore his work as a producer, his contribution to film has been rich and varied, and he's managed to remain dead center in the mainstream for longer than almost any director I can name.
It's been three years since his last film, the decidedly mixed bag of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull," and six years since his last non-sequel, "Munich." Now, we've got two very different new Spielberg films within a week of one another. There's "The Adventures Of Tintin," which I reviewed earlier, and which I think is one of the most unfettered examples of his imagination as a filmmaker, breathless fun and invention. He's also the director of "War Horse," a sprawling and intentionally old-fashioned adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgo, and his sensibilities are on display in a way that should prove pleasing to most viewers while driving his harshest critics up a wall.
Not long after the release of "Clash Of The Titans," I had occasion to speak to Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures. He was one of the main reasons that the remake of "Clash" happened in the first place, as he holds the first film as one of his most cherished geek treasures. He wanted to do something grand and amazing and really dig into the potential of the mythology of that world, and instead…
… well, if you saw "Clash Of The Titans," you know that didn't really work out. And no one seemed more aware of the film's shortcomings than Tull. Star Sam Worthington has been blunt about the film's problems as well in interviews, and so as they were gearing up for the sequel, it seemed that everyone had the same goal in mind: they wanted to set things right. Tull told me that he felt obligated to make a sequel just so they had another shot at making the film he had in mind the first time around, which seems to me as good a reason to make a sequel as any.
As long as I've been in LA, I've been enjoying great conversations with Brad Bird.
When I worked at Dave's Video in the early '90s, Bird was one of our regular customers. At that point, he was working on "The Simpsons," and he was already known by some film geeks for his incredible "Family Dog" episode of "Amazing Stories." At that point, I remember long conversations about pulp classics, spy movies, his dream of making either "The Spirit" or a SF animated film called "Ray Gunn," and much more. He was one of those customers of ours who really lived and breathed movies, who seemed to be interested in every genre and in every type of filmmaking.
It was little surprise, then, when I saw and loved a very early rough cut of "The Iron Giant," a movie that was a difficult political football at Warner Bros.
Five more movies with Daniel Craig.
That's the dream of the producers of the James Bond franchise, anyway, as revealed in a recent Michael Wilson interview with The People, a London-based newspaper. He's apparently very happy with the way "Skyfall" is coming together, and he's ready to start pinning down the star of the series for a truly epic eight total films as James Bond.
That means he'll do as many movies as the character as there were in the entire "Harry Potter" series. As someone who was thrilled by "Casino Royale" and who loves certain things about "Casino Royale Part 1 and a Half," it's exciting to think about what sort of narrative opportunity there is if they're now aware that they've got five movies to play with.
Let me ask something of EON now, though. If they're really going to do this, and Craig agrees, and they gear up for a mad dash through five films, which could take as long as eight to ten years to pull off, then please tell me that there will be some real continuity with real consequences for Bond.
Here at last are the final "Harry Potter" interviews I conducted during my recent trip to Orlando for the press day they held to celebrate the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" on Blu-ray.
If you didn't read my first few pieces, let me paint the picture of how these interviews were staged. We were actually in the park, in the section of Universal's Islands Of Adventure that is known as "The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter," and it's a remarkable recreation of the world that Jo Rowling and her film collaborators have created over the past decade. It is also wildly successful, so even on a regular day, the park is totally packed. The weekend we were there was part of a major Harry Potter event, though, so it was busier than normal.
That means that every single spot where we were supposed to do interviews was also occupied by about 10,000 screaming Harry Potter fans. I've never really done press in a fishbowl like that, and it's a disconcerting way to try to conduct what is already an exercise in forced and immediate intimacy. Conversations aren't meant to be a spectator sport, but on this particular day, that's exactly what it felt like.
Noomi Rapace is at a turning point.
I don't consider it the end-all be-all goal of actors to work in giant Hollywood movies, but that's often how it is treated. Think of the same basic cycle we see play out over and over again. Someone plays an interesting role in an international release and then suddenly they're in every movie released by Hollywood for about a year, and then if they don't have a hit, they're gone again, back to the world of foreign-language movies. It's treated like a major league/minor league situation, whether that's true or not, and it's brutal to watch some of these very accomplished actors get chewed up by the Hollywood machine.
"Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows" is the Hollywood debut of Rapace, who gained international attention playing Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptations of the "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series. Her work in those films has earned her some staunch supporters, and even if I'm not among them, I was curious to see how she was used in the film. She's also in "Prometheus," the Ridley Scott "Alien" sidequel that's coming out next summer, so one could say she's getting a fair shot and then some.
It's not often that I double-dip with interviews for one movie, but that's exactly what happened this past week with Guy Ritchie for his new film, "Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows."
Earlier in the week, I ran our podcast interview, which was about twenty solid minutes with the director talking about a number of different aspects of making the film, including working with Robert Downey Jr., a demanding collaborator by all accounts, and how they handled Moriarty. But one of the things we didn't have a chance to talk about it is actually one of the things that interests me most in the film.
I think it's safe to say I've been preoccupied with London most of my life. I fell in love with English pop culture young, and one of the great pleasures of my professional life has been the way I've been able to repeatedly visit London and tour various corners of it, including some of the soundstages and studios where many of my favorite films were made.
It's strange when you realize that the people who you flip out about meeting are rarely the ones you expect will make you have that reaction. I've met people whose work has been important to me my whole life and handled it with relative grace and calm, and then I've also met a few people who rattled me face-to-face simply because I didn't understand quite how significant their work is to me.
William Joyce is one of those people.
I love reading to my kids, and the books that end up in the constant rotation, the ones that we come back to over and over again, are the ones where the art and the prose are both approached with care and with soul. We've sampled books from dozens if not hundreds of authors, and there are certain guys who went right to the top of the permanent pile as soon as we read the books for the first time, and an uncommon number of those books were written and illustrated by William Joyce.
They are gorgeous, designed and painted with delicate wit and a lush sense of imagination, books like "Bently and Egg" and "Buddy" and "Santa Calls" and "The Leaf Men," and he's the creator of the "Rolie Polie Olie" books and TV show. His work has been a key part of films like "Meet The Robinsons" and "Robots," and he's just published two new books as part of what sounds like the biggest overall property of his career.