The first-year festival kicks off with the latest from the acclaimed genre director
Neil Marshall has proven himself over time to be a filmmaker who is able to move from style to style, genre to genre, and he seems to understand that the films he makes are entertainment, pure and simple. Watching "The Descent" in a dark theater that's completely packed is a great exercise in tension. His "Doomsday" is one of the most remarkable examples of one filmmaker paying homage to the style and technique of another filmmaker I can recall. He has a great sense of camera and energy, and even when I don't love his movies, I respect the craft and the confidence.
"Centurion," his latest, attempts to answer the question of what happened to Rome's legendary Ninth Legion, and it's a bloody, gritty, simple chase film that gives Michael Fassbender a lead role that could easily turn him into a viable action hero in big Hollywood films. So far, he's proven himself to be a gifted and interesting actor in films like Steve McQueen's "Hunger," Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," and the underseen "Fish Tank" from earlier this year. He's a bit of a chameleon, and he's one of those actors who pushes his body to extremes depending on the role. For "Hunger," where he played an Irish hunger striker, he looked like he was on the verge of death, emaciated and frail. In "Centurion," he's preposterously ripped, and he handles himself like an old pro in the fight sequences. It's an impressive piece of work, and he grounds the film with his performance.
Special guest James Rocchi debates 'Kick-Ass' and 'The Losers' and discusses life on the festival circuit
James Rocchi is one seriously decent melonfarmer.
One of the fringe benefits of my job is the way it brings me into contact with so many like-minded people, serious film fans who have found a way to make a living discussing the thing they love so much. Over the last year or so, I've gotten to know Rocchi fairly well on the festival circuit and at various press events, and although he and I frequently disagree on the merits (or lack thereof) of various films, I've always enjoyed the conversations.
Quick-witted, incredibly well-read, and unfailingly polite, James is one of those guys who you want to have along on events because even if the thing itself turns out to be a bust, you know you'll have someone to hang out with and enjoy. As a result, he seemed like a perfect second guest for this podcast, especially since I knew going into it that we disagreed strongly on this weekend's biggest theatrical title, "Kick-Ass."
As with last week, I offer up the podcast with the caveat that I am still learning how to do this. I am going to be investing in some better recording equipment for the office, and I'm still a little green at the whole editing process, especially since I did this one entirely by myself without the invaluable technical assistance that Scott Swan offered me last week.
Still, I think there's some really good stuff here this week, and what was meant to be a brisk 35 minutes or so became almost a full hour because we ended up following some great digressions to their natural conclusions. It's a little late because I put off the editing as I prepared for travel this week, but I hope it's aged like fine wine for you.
What is it that makes this music mogul want to act?
By the end of a long day on set for the new film "Get Him To The Greek," one thing was apparent: everyone on the film was convinced that Sean Combs is going to be the film's breakout comedy star.
Most of the pop culture world knows Combs by his other names, of course. Puff Daddy. P. Diddy. Diddy if you're nasty. He's a big personality, a huge figure in the music world, and a tremendous success story overall. He's carefully been building a career for himself as an actor as well, though, in films like "Made" and "Monster's Ball," and with an acclaimed turn onstage in "A Raisin In The Sun."
People know Combs from his unflaggingly cheerful Twitter account ("Locked in!") or from his appearances on MTV reality shows or even from the way he was portrayed in "Notorious," the B.I.G. biopic, but the real Sean Combs in person comes across as soft-spoken, modest, and very serious about the craft of being very silly. At the end of a long day of shooting, Combs sat down with HitFix for a few minutes to talk about taking this next step as an actor.
"My plan as an actor has always been to try to get close to as many talented people as I can and really just learn from them and observe." When asked about the improvisation that was so much a part of the morning's shoot, he said, "This process is probably the freest acting process I’ve ever been involved in because there’s really no limitations, you know?" That was evident from the sheer range of jokes they attempted in each scene, and the crazy places they pushed the characters. Asked if there was anything he balked at doing or was uncomfortable with, Combs shook his head. "No, when your whole passion is trying to make people laugh, I think you just have to be ready to do or say anything. You can’t really have your guard up."
Plus: McLovin' talks about what happens when you inadvertently become a pop culture sensation
It seems like forever that I've been covering the progress of "Kick-Ass" to the screen, but my first piece about the script was just in September of 2008. My first set visit report was in December of that year. and I ran some others here on HitFix, like this one. Or this one. I wrote about the screening at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in December. Just a few weeks ago, I went to Wondercon to moderate a panel with the cast and the creative team behind the film.
At this point, you have to wonder if there's anything left to say or ask, and there absolutely is. It helps that you've got a cast as engaging as this, and that they're still really excited to talk about the film, no matter how long they've been working on it.
While I was in San Francisco for Wondercon, I started my morning at a hotel near the Moscone Center, where I first found myself in a room with Chris Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Moretz. Sounds like a charming way to start the day, and it was. Chris has been through what Chloe's about to go through, and he offers her some sage advice about what happens when a character you play becomes a pop culture phenomenon.
Our set visit week continues with the creative team behind the film
Rodney Rothman and Nicholas Stoller make a powerful team on a film set. I've seen them in action together twice, and considering the first time around resulted in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a film that owes as much of its success to its post-process as to the shoot itself, I think it's a safe bet that "Get Him To The Greek" could well turn out to be one of the summer's best comedies.
On the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," it was easy to forget that it was Stoller's first time as a director and that he and Rothman were just developing their working language. Stoller had already created a solid reputation for himself as a screenwriter, and Rothman rose to prominence as the youngest head writer for "Late Night With David Letterman" ever before publishing his first novel. Both of them are still frighteningly young considering their accomplishments, and incredibly easy to speak with.
When I arrived on-set, they were in the middle of a scene involving Sean Combs and Jonah Hill, and I commented about how Russell Brand was the scene-stealing discovery on "Marshall," while he was the star on this set, and now Combs was developing into the new scene-stealer.
Rothman just shook his head, laughing. "You have no idea."
Plus a long-lost Kubrick script comes back to life and 'Predators' keeps looking better
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm a big on-the-record fan of the work of Darren Aronofsky so far, and in particular, I think "The Fountain" is a tremendous film that benefits enormously from the work that Aronofsky's real-life partner Rachel Weisz does in it. They are an intriguing film couple, and I'm always going to be interested in what they might collaborate on, but the announcement that they are teaming up for "Jackie," a film about the four days following the assassination of JFK, has me a bit worried. I find the entire Kennedy legend to be wildly overdiscussed at this point, and the notion of an entire film about Jackie Kennedy is particularly problematic. In order to explain my point, I'm afraid I might say something that will offend people who canonize her, and I know there are many of you. Please... skip the rest of this paragraph, continue with the Morning Read below, and let's stay friends. Anyone still reading, I assume you're adult enough to handle a personal opinion of a public figure who is long dead at this point. Having grown up in a post-Kennedy era, I was not under the media sway of the First Family the way people who lived through JFK's Presidency must have been, and my impression of her based on every interview I've ever seen and all the books I've read is that the media image that exists for her is a carefully-constructed fraud. I don't want to be unkind, because I think she was something of a genius at managing social events or making people feel invited into the private world of influence she inhabited, but in terms of personal charisma and conversational ability, she strikes me as an empty suit, vulnerable to the point of being almost retarded. It seems appropriate that the Kennedys were treated as American royalty, because she seems the perfect embodiment of that inbred physically shaky quality that you only get from bloodlines that have been overly thinned. And even if you disagree with me, I think it would be hard to argue that the robust, keenly intelligent sexual charisma that marks the work of Rachel Weisz is at total odds with any image of Jackie Kennedy. She's a decent match, physically, but Weisz has so much more going on under the skin than Jackie Kennedy did. It's one thing to cast against type, but the notion of Weisz subverting her own charisma to this particular character rubs me wrong in every way. I'm always happy to see Aronofsky work, and I look forward to "Black Swan" later this year, but this is the first film he's announced in a while that I find it impossible to get excited about.
With Zak Penn hard at work on the script, the film's on track for 2012
Color me intrigued by this choice.
When word first broke that Joss Whedon was a possible director for "The Avengers," it was April 1st, so there was little or no chance I was going to reprint the story. I'll give credit where it's due, though, because now, almost two weeks later, it looks like Whedon has pinned the job down, and as with anything related to Joss Whedon or Marvel Comics or, in this case, the combination of the two, expect there to be controversy in a big ol' way.
It's not hyperbole to say that "The Avengers" is the single most important film on the Marvel Studios agenda. Everything they've done for the last few years has been about laying the right groundwork for this film. That means they've had to focus on getting each building block right. "Iron Man" was an unexpectedly robust hit for the studio, and even if "The Incredible Hulk" wasn't a megahit, it re-established the character in a way that fans seemed pleased with following Ang Lee's nearly experimental take on the property. This summer, "Iron Man 2" seems poised to be one of the biggest films of the year, and work is well underway on "Thor" for a release next year, with "Captain America" about to start shooting.
Universal picks up the hard-R comedy from 'Family Guy' creator
There are certain subjects you cannot write about without infuriating the fanbase of that subject, no matter what you say.
I'll be blunt: 'Family Guy' does not make me laugh much. I don't hate the show, I don't begrudge the fanbase their enjoyment of it, and I certainly don't have any problem with Seth MacFarlane's methodical takeover of the Fox network. I actually enjoy the way the story unfolded, with the show getting canceled its first time on the air, then getting saved by DVD sales, and now serving as the cornerstone of an entertainment empire. Even if I'm not the audience for the show, I can appreciate a content creator getting a second chance.
Now it looks like he's getting his first shot at bigscreen success, courtesy of Universal, with a live-action/CGI comedy called "Ted," which is so far simply described as a hard-R-rated comedy about a man and his teddy bear, with MacFarlane doing the voice of the bear. Sounds like a perfect fit for the filmmaker, since I'm guessing the teddy bear will be an even-dirtier riff on the Stewie character from "Family Guy." The film, which MRC developed with MacFarlane before taking it to Universal, is said to be a $65 million production, and I'm betting most of that ends up on the screen. You don't need to hire giant movie stars for a film like this because MacFarlane is the star that will get the fanbase interested.
The stars of the summer's rowdiest studio comedy on the set of a party and a party of a set
Russell Brand has the perfect last name.
"Get Him To The Greek" is a perfect movie star vehicle in terms of conception and timing and opportunity, and there's a good chance it's going to do exactly what it's been designed to do and kick Russell into a different level of movie stardom.
There is a major difference between a movie star and an actor. Sometimes, movie stars are great actors. Sometimes they are not. Doesn't really matter. Movie stars are personalities that audiences will go see on the flimsiest possible excuse just to spend time with the personality. Good movie star movies are built to give a movie star an excuse to do something, preferably with another movie star, that is fun to watch for a while and that fulfills whatever promise its premise makes. "Get Him To The Greek" is the story of Aldous Snow (the same rock star character that Brand played in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and the American junior record executive Aaron Green (Jonah Hill not playing the same character he played in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") who is assigned to bring Snow to America for a heavily-promoted concert appearance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
The joke is simple: Aldous Snow is decadence incarnate, Pete Doherty-by-way-of-"Arthur. And this isn't a guy who likes a few too many cocktails, either. In "Marshall," the character was portrayed as sober, reformed, all of his energy chanelled into chasing girls instead of drugs and alcohol. It's part of the public face he wears. In "Greek," Snow is off the wagon, back on the prowl, abusing himself with abandon. And that's what makes Aaron's just so difficult, and it's also what looks to be a major source of humor in this gleefully R-rated comedy, one of several that Universal is making right now.
Plus a sneak peek at the new Riddick movie
Welcome to The Morning Read.
The superhero film continues to evolve. It's hard to believe that the modern superhero movie is really only about twelve years old (I'd argue that "Blade" was the first in this latest cycle), and that we've already seen so many variations on the form played out by so many different studios using so many different characters. Technology is part of what shifts from film to film, but so are the ideas about how we tell these stories. As "Kick-Ass" hits theaters this week, it's obvious there's a lot of life in the genre, and I'm fascinated with the way DC is trying to get into the business that Marvel's in, building out a universe populated with many heroes instead of relegating each one to a separate movie world.
"The Green Lantern" is a big film for them in every way, and the report that /Film ran about the film over the weekend is provocative. The notion of the uniform that Ryan Reynolds wears in the film being entirely CGI makes actual thematic sense. The uniform that the members of the Green Lantern Corps wear is created by their ring, more of an energy construct than an actual cut-from-cloth suit. Creating it the way they're planning to makes it feel otherworldly, and I'm excited now to see what it looks like in motion. It's going to make set photos a lot less interesting, but the final result should be worth the wait.