And unfortunately, Akiva Goldsman's charting his course
Stephen King's epic "Dark Tower" series would seem, at first glance, to be a natural source for a major film franchise. For a while, JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, and Damon Lindelof were attached to the material, and that was interesting... but even with them onboard, it's such a big and strange and slippery piece of work to turn into film.
But now, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman are said to be signing on to produce the property together as a film (or films, depending on which source you read) as well as a television series. Ambitious. That's fitting for a piece of work like this. I'm not sure exactly what that means, and I'll bet they're not sure yet either. But at least they're thinking of something big and sprawling.
For "Dark Tower" fans, my question is this: can anyone really pull off the essence of what is "The Dark Tower" on film? For me, the experience of that story came from how it was told, over decades, as well as what was told, and being there to read it from start to finish felt special. It added an urgency to the last few books. I'm not sure someone starting with a finiite stack of books already done and easy to get can ever have the same "Dark Tower" experience as someone who read the thing as it came out, wondering if it would ever actually have an ending. And that's not to say that this team can't find a strong central storyline to tell in what King wrote. They probably can. I'm not sure if I buy that the general public really knows what "The Dark Tower" is, though, and even as a major King fan, I'm not sure his name carries the singular commercial clout it might have in other earlier moments.
Or did Paramount kill it today?
More and more often, Twitter is a place where movie news breaks even before a studio can put together a press release, and in some cases, things that are said on Twitter give us a glimpse of the corporate process that no press release would address.
Today, Adam McKay (who uses the handle @GhostPanther on Twitter) had this to say:
Now, he's only got 140 characters, so he doesn't really offer up any details, and he hasn't followed up when questioned today, so it's unclear if they're able to take the film anywhere else. I was actually surprised to see that this was a Paramount film, although maybe McKay had to offer it to Paramount first as part of his production deal for Gary Sanchez Productions. The first film was released by Dreamworks, and I wonder if they get a shot at it now that Paramount's passed.
[UPDATE: McKay just Tweeted the following at 4:15 PST -- To all who asked: no we can't do Anchorman 2 at another studio. Paramount owns it.]
As recently as a few months ago, when I spoke to Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell on the set of "Dinner For Schmucks," they seemed excited about what they were discussing as a follow-up, and a cast like this seems to be a studio's marketing dream come true. I'm a little puzzled how, in this climate of sure-things-only, Paramount just turned down a movie that would star Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, and more, especially after the way the first film performed on home video and the way its grown a fairly substantial cult since its theatrical release.
A whole lot of slick can't hide the hollow center of this remake
I found this film deeply upsetting, but not in the ways the producers or the director intended.
"A Nightmare On Elm Street" has always been a franchise I've found deeply uncomfortable. I saw the first film theatrically. I was 14 at the time. I thought it was effective and inventive and stood out from the typical slasher fare that was being released by that point in the '80s. I still think it's one of the best things Wes Craven ever did. Beyond that first film, though, I find the franchise loathsome. Freddy Krueger is an uncommonly grotesque creation even in the world of movie killers, and if there's any flaw with the original Craven film, it's the way he sidesteps the nature of Freddy's real-world crimes. He was described as a "child killer" in the first film, and the idea of molestation was carefully avoided by Craven entirely. By softening the point in the first film, it made the character more palatable, and by the time there were Halloween costumes for kids based on the Krueger design, it was obvious that no one really understood the monster they were watching or releasing. The way they quickly turned him from a figure of fear into a bad stand-up comic with claws rendered pretty much every one of the sequels a gutless mess. I listened to someone at a press day recently explain which ones are the "good" sequels and which ones are the "bad" sequels, but I've never been able to get behind that idea. I think the entire notion of spinning him into a recurrent character robbed him of all effectiveness and led to incredibly mean-spirited and wrongly-silly films.
One more pointless remake is announced, and an editorial is the result
Enough. Please. Mercy. I beg you.
I don't think "Commando" is sacred ground, some untouchable masterpiece that no filmmaker will ever equal. Actually, it's the contrary that's true. I don't think "Commando" is fertile ground, worth anyone's time to remake. David Ayer may not be my favorite working writer/director, but I think he's got more to offer audiences than yet another regurgitation of the '80s that no one is asking for. Sure, Ayer served in the Navy, and he comes from a military family, so he certainly seems qualified to write the main character in the film. And he's not afraid of remakes... heck, this guy's got nerve enough to have attached himself to a modern-day remake of "The Wild Bunch," so obviously he's not afraid to get in there and mix it up.
But "Commando"? A military guy with a ton of training has to chase down his kidnapped daughter and kill a bunch of dudes. That's it. That's all there is to the original. It's a bunch of cheesy one-liners, Vernon Wells chomping scenery, some good action, and a ridiculous body count. It's not a movie with a strong narrative spine or a particularly clever hook that would justify a remake. It's very much a product of its time, a perfect vehicle for an Arnold Schwarzenegger, and little else.
The thing is, coming on the heels of some of the films I've seen in the last week, this is another case of karaoke culture out of control, and it's at the point now where I swing between trying to accept that this is the way things are at the moment and an almost irrational degree of anger at the idea that this is the way things are at the moment. I love movies. I have spent my life totally immersed in movies. I work incredibly hard not to be cynical and overly negative, and I hate judging things before they even really get going. The truth is, though, that any adult who depends on cinema to feed them in all the various appetites that a film freak cultivates is starving these days. It is harder than ever before to track down truly original voices, even though I would argue there are more films to see and more ways to see them. The cowardice that runs most Hollywood decision making is just breathtaking, and it reveals just how sad the current power structure really is.
Is there really going to be a big-budget 3D film of the new age fable?
Ang Lee is close to getting the go-ahead to finally bring the bestelling novel Life Of Pi to the bigscreen, and current plans are for the film to be a 3-D FX heavy affair. The proposed budget of $70 million doesn't sound like much, relatively speaking for the studio system, but I'm willing to bet they lose all $70 million if they're really betting on this as a box-office hit.
I love Ang Lee. I've been a supporter of his even when I haven't loved the end results. As most people were arguing over "LA Confidential" or "Titanic" as the best film of 1997, I personally felt like "The Ice Storm" dusted both of them. Even if I don't play the Oscar game, I can understand why "Brokeback Mountain" was such a key player in the race the year it was released.I was a vocal advocate for his much maligned "Hulk," and I still defend it, convinced it's a film that aims high and almost pulls it all off. When I wrote my list of the "50 Best Films Of The Decade" in December, I gave the top spot to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." And I still think people just plain missed out when it comes to "Lust, Caution" and "Ride With The Devil," although there's at least a Criterion release of the latter film available now.
With the element of surprise gone, how do you convince the audience they care about Iron Man?
Let's call this one the victory lap.
"Iron Man" was no guaranteed hit before the weekend it opened. There were people predicting failure for that film even after it opened, even after it started to turn into a word-of-mouth-must-see, not just a box-office success but a genuinely loved pop culture moment. The first movie's got its weak points, but it also has a ridiculous energy to it, and I unabashedly loved it when I reviewed it for Ain't It Cool.
"Iron Man 2" is, in every possible way, issue two of a comic book. It doesn't have to spend time setting up the origin of the character, and it doesn't feel the need to resolve every single story thread introduced in this one film. There's a sense that everyone's settling into this series and thinking big. It is just as confident as the first film, and incredibly aggressive in the way it handles story and characterization. The pre-title sequence picks up mere seconds after the ending of the first film, and introduces Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an embittered Russian with family ties that make Tony Stark a perfect target for his rage. By the time the main title appears onscreen, everything's already in motion, and then we're right into the Stark Expo, where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes the stage.
The series returns with a look at the most significant film in the Albert Brooks filmography
It's been a while since we've done one of these, but that's because Will Goss got caught trying to smuggle 7.3 metric tons of Gourdough's gourmet doughnuts out of Austin, TX. Internally. And the AMA needed to study him to see how he kept his heart from exploding.
Now that the study is complete (answer: he deep-fried it), Goss is ready for his latest installment of "The Basics." Last time we did this, he watched "Manhattan," and I didn't mean to move on to a neurotic romantic comedy from a writer/director as a follow-up, but when Goss told me he'd just rented a stack of movies recently and he listed off the titles, I couldn't resist one of the ones he was about to watch. "Modern Romance!" I wrote to him. "Please! Make it 'Modern Romance'!"
Why? Well, it's hard for viewers with no long-term memory to understand why Albert Brooks is significant to film comedy. An "In-Laws" remake? "The Muse"? "Looking For Comedy in The Muslim World"? It's been a while since he's done something worth serious consideration, but man... when he did...
I have trouble reconciling the Brooks of those later films with the guy who made some of my favorite comedies of the '70s and '80s. There was a time when I thought he was making truly lacerating films about the ways in which we were failing ourselves as a culture. "Real Life" managed to burn reality TV to the ground before there ever was such a thing, and it retains every bit of its bite thirty years later. "Lost In America" demolished the whole obsession that the baby boomers had with '60s culture and the "freedom" they supposedly gave up when they "sold out," and I think the reason the film didn't do better is because it was a bitter pill to swallow. Even in his later "Defending Your Life," he managed to score powerful points about what we call courage in life and how we all compromise ourselves, little by little, day after day, all wrapped up in what looks like a high-concept comedy about Heaven. Brilliant.
See Mickey Rourke in action and Sam Rockwell crank up the sleaze
There is only a little over a week until "Iron Man 2" hits theaters, and I'm excited for people to finally lay eyes on what Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. and all of their collaborators have put together for issue two of this big-screen comic series.
I've already heard some complaints from fellow journalists who saw it last week when I did, many of them upset that this film doesn't have the same "wow" for them as the first one. I think they forget how everyone was skeptical about the need for an "Iron Man" movie in the first place, making the first one a huge mainstream surprise. That's something you can never duplicate with a second film, so it seems like the wrong thing to get hung up on, in my opinion.
If "Iron Man" was the surprise out of nowhere for most people, then "Iron Man 2" is the victory lap that they absolutely deserve to take, and today, there are four new clips available that give you a good look at the tone and attitude and, yes, scope of what Marvel Studios is about to unleash.
There's been a fair amount of speculation about how Scarlett Johansson's character would end up interacting with Tony Stark in the film, and how she ties in to SHIELD and the larger "Avengers" plan that Marvel's building bit by bit right now. Without spoiling the fun, let's take a look at her introduction in the film.
By the way... next time I upgrade my home computer, I want whatever system it is that Stark's using when he Googles "Natalie Rushman" after being introduced to her:
Plus 'Hobo' gets a blog, Ebert publishes 'Bambi,' and Gizmodo gets busted
Welcome to the Morning Read.
I'd like to start this morning by welcoming Alan Sepinwall to the HitFix team. We are slowly but surely cultivating a great crew of people to write about entertainment culture of all sorts, and adding a guy as sharp and widely read as Alan can only be a good thing. I hope you guys check out his blog and his reportage for the site in the days ahead, and that you agree with us that he's a great fit for the site.
If I disappear completely and only make occasional public appearances dressed head-to-toe in cowboy gear, you can blame "Red Dead Redemption," the open-world Western game from the same people who created the "Grand Theft Auto" games. The more I read about this game, the more I'm convinced this is going to be one of those immersive gaming worlds that I'm able to play for months. If I ever manage to get my 70-year-old father to try a videogame, this would be the one that did it.
Douglas Trumball spent some time this weekend at the Turner Classic Movies festival in Hollywood talking about his work on the new Terrence Malick films, among other things. After reading this and the rumors of a recent Austin screening, I think it sounds like we're in for something special with "The Tree Of Life," even among the ranks of the other Malick films. Brad Pitt may get people into the theater, but it's Malick that will make the experience a one of a kind.
Will we see a 3D 'Blade Runner' post conversion in theaters soon?
Earlier today, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe sat for an eight-person roundtable during the Los Angeles press day for "Robin Hood," and before the press conference began, the famed director sat and chatted about his recovery from recent knee surgery and how glad he is to not be shooting while he's still on the mend. Crowe was running a few minutes behind him, so talk turned to what Scott might be up to next, with many of us guessing that we knew for sure what his next film would be.
He didn't even make us ask. He just shrugged. "Alien. Yeah. We're doing that now. We've got a fourth draft, which is pretty good."
We asked him if he was going to considering shooting it in 3D, since most event movies at least have that conversation now. "Of course," he replied. "It will be in 3D." Can't really ask for a more direct confirmation than that. He talked about how the cameras he'll be using are already "moved beyond" what James Cameron used on his monster hit "Avatar," and how it will be easier for him as a result. "It took them four years [on "Avatar"], but now we can do it in two."
One of the rumors we heard at the end of last year was that Scott considered retrofitting "Robin Hood" into 3D before releasing it. "I could have squeezed it in under the hammer," he said, but decided against it. I asked him if it made more sense to compose the images in 3D originally. "It's not a big deal," he answered, surprising me. "People always agonize over whether something's 1.85 or 2.35, and I don't really give a sh*t." Even so, I asked him if shooting 3D makes sense with an "Alien" movie, since they're so dark, traditionally, and with 3D, you need as much light as possible on something to shoot it and give it a real sense of depth. "You'll have to grade it later," he conceded. "You'll have to grit your teeth and light it not the way you'd like it, and then later, regrade it. Repaint it, basically. When you think about it, 'Avatar' is almost completely an animated movie."