Plus five new short films from Ridley Scott's commercial division and Bill Condon circles 'Breaking Dawn'
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Lots of news breaking this morning. None of it particularly earth-shaking, but some of it fun.
For example, I'm not sure if I'm excited for "Cowboys and Aliens" yet. I mean, the film's been limping through development for about a decade now, and it's always seemed like the highest of high concepts in search of a compelling story and characters. I like Jon Favreau as a filmmaker, so I'm curious, and Daniel Craig in a Western is also enough to get me interested. Adding Harrison Ford to the cast, though? That might be the thing that finally pushes me over. It's been a long time since Harrison did anything that made me curious, but this is one of those moves I wouldn't have seen coming. Nice work by Latino Review breaking the story, and nice work by Favreau getting Ford involved.
Meanwhile, it's looking more and more likely that Bill Condon, director of "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey" and "Dreamgirls," is about to sign on for the final two movies in "The Twilight Saga." If it happens, the real winner is Summit Entertainment, who just classed up a very, very silly franchise just as they get it across the finish line. I have made no secret of the fact that I think the "Twilight" series is garbage, but Condon makes sense as a director here. Despite his Oscar-bait pedigree, the man earned his stripes in the horror world, and I know for a fact he's been interested in doing a gothic Vampire story for a while now... just not this one. I'd wager this is all but a done deal at this point, and I hope these turn out to be the biggest movies out of the entire franchise, just so Condon can move on from a position of enormous strength and get some of his dream films made, like that Richard Pryor biopic or something else close to his heart.
The theatrical editions of the popular series, all in one high-def box for the first time
After careful consideration, my overall opinion of this three-movie nine-disc set is that it represents a rush to make "The Lord Of The Rings" available on Blu-ray, but it does not offer a significant or compelling technical justification to upgrade for anyone who already owns these films, and it certainly isn't the last time we'll see this material presented for sale on this format.
Both "The Two Towers" and "Return Of The King" look pretty great in high-definition, but I'm mystified by how "Fellowship Of The Ring" has been given such a slapdash overall transfer. I would argue that "Fellowship" is the lushest and most beautiful of the films, and yet it's the one that shows the most obvious signs of compression and digital manipulation. It's frustrating, because there are certain titles that I want to use as the demo discs when showing off Blu-ray to friends who haven't made the jump to the format yet, and "Lord Of The Rings" should be a slam dunk.
Overall, I don't think the films look like they're a decade old already in the way that many FX films quickly start to show their age. Because WETA worked so hard to combine practical and digital FX, and because there are so many techniques in play at any given moment in the film, the films still look fairly cutting-edge. Beyond that, they will age well because the emphasis is always on story and character, and that's really the thing that Peter Jackson got right in bringing these epics to the screen. He found the right cast, and he gave them plenty of room to inhabit this fantastic world he brought to life.
Almost an hour with the creators and cast of the spring's rowdiest movie
As I mentioned in the Morning Read yesterday, Saturday was a long and strange day, culminating in the event I'm going to share with you thanks to a new YouTube friend, .
It was a genuine pleasure to moderate a panel with these people. I think they've made a great movie and that entire room full of Wondercon attendees seemed pumped to see what the cast had to say. Jane Goldman, the co-writer of the film, was there along with John Romita Jr., and the cast was well-represented. Clark Duke, Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, and Christoper Mintz-Plasse all turned up to discuss their work in the film, and earlier in the day, I sat with them for interviews you'll see very soon.
Toys210 is the name of the guy who shot the panel at Wondercon. Or at least that's the name of his YouTube account. He broke it into five separate videos, and when I found it last night, Greg encouraged me to post the entire thing here for you.
It was really flattering to be asked to moderate a panel like this one, and it's rare that I can enthusiastically endorse a film like this when moderating a panel that's promotional in nature. This is a gifted group of people, and they handle my questions well, then bear with the ups and downs of a Q&A with the audience..
Here's part one, which features my introductions and the start of the conversation:
Shocking, profane, deeply disturbing, but amazingly made and truly significant
If you were anywhere within earshot of me during SXSW, then you already have some idea of just how enthusiastic I was about a screening that happened early in the festival, a screening that may turn out to be one of my few chances to see this audacious debut on the bigscreen.
However, it's precisely because the film hit me so hard that I found myself unable to quite put it all into words during the festival. It's taken me until now to get my head around it completely so I could somehow write a review that wouldn't just be ranting and raving. So what is "A Serbian Film"? Hmmmm...
"This is a new genre, Milos!"
-- Vukmir Vukmir, "A Serbian Film"
On one level, "A Serbian Film" is the movie that Brian De Palma and Dario Argento teamed up to make in 1987, and it works as a dark, inhuman thriller in which a family man's tainted past catches up with him and threatens the happy life he's built for himself. It is the story of one generation's crimes becoming a younger generation's punishments. But even before any of that, it is a hysterical cry for help, a cultural declaration of surrender that I found emotionally devastating.
And Peter Sollett signs on to direct Marvel's 'The Runaways'
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Friday and Saturday blended into one hellaciously long day for me. I worked on Friday, did some stuff with the family, and then Friday night spent about five or six hours working with my co-screenwriter Scott Swan for a while on a new project. Once we wrapped up work, he drove me to the Van Nuys FlyAway so I could catch a ride to LAX, where I took a one-hour flight north to San Francisco. I spent the morning doing interviews with the "Kick-Ass" cast and spent a few hours preparing for a panel on the film that I moderated at Wondercon. As soon as that was done, I handed off my videotapes to Greg Ellwood, caught a cab to the airport, and flew home so I could hang out with the boys while my wife and her sister went out for some birthday celebrations. I played Easter Bunny and hid eggs all over the house and the backyard, and then finally crashed, after being awake for about 40 straight hours.
So, yeah, unsurprisingly, I'm sick now. Whoo-hoo!
Still, well worth the trip, and it was heaps of fun, all things considered. I've got a ton of work to do this week, including the release of my very first HitFix podcast, and I figure the best way to get the week off on the right foot is to put together a Morning Read, especially considering what a strange grab-bag of links I've got cluttering my bookmark menu. There have been hundreds of thousands of words already written about the iPad in just the last few days, and for those of you who went out and bought one, you should learn some tips on how to play with your new toy. I'm probably still quite a while from owning one. I'm still just starting to enjoy my iTouch. But once they've perfected the thing and gotten a few generations into it, I'm looking forward to satisfying my own gadget nerd itch.
How does a stop-motion epic play to kids in the digital age?
Instead, I give them choices. And let's be honest... I stack the deck. I filter out things I find objectionable so they're never even in the pool of options that are presented to Toshi to choose from. That's just basic parental common sense. And the options I present them with are all things they could enjoy or that they've already asked about. That's a big part of the dialogue I have with Toshi in my office these days.
He's begun to browse.
"Daddy." Only these days, that two syllable hailing signal is more a sound, a siren full of want that is about eight syllables longer, whined at full volume. "Daaaaaaaaddeeeeeeeeee." It means, "I am about to ask you for something and I'm letting you know in advance that if I don't get it, I'm going to make sure you hear about it."
"What's this purple movie?"
"Bring it to me."
"I like this one. I think it's maybe my favorite, so I think I should watch it with you."
"This is 'Beetlejuice.'"
"Yeah. 'Beetlejuice.' That's the one I like."
"I don't think so, pal."
"I really like it when we can watch 'Beetlejuice.' Really, Daddy. Tonight, okay, Daddy? Deal?" He knows that if I say, "Deal" back to him, that's binding in a court of law, and he's always fishing for it as a result. "Deal, Daddy?"
"I don't think so."
Plus an exclusive clip from 'The Good Heart' with Brian Cox, on VOD today
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm confused by Paramount's decision to purchase the "xXx" franchise from Revolution Studios/Sony, who made the first two films. I remember when I was working at Revolution and they were releasing the first film, they had such ambitious plans for how to extend the franchise, either with Vin Diesel onboard to star in the films or without. Having that sort of flexibility built into a franchise from the start is what I was talking about with "X-Men" and "Mission: Impossible" the other day. Obviously, the first film was sold on Vin Diesel, who everyone was gambling was a movie star. It wasn't just the "xXx" films, either. The first "Fast and the Furious" was part of that, along with "The Chronicles of Riddick." Then we went through a phase where Diesel was absolutely NOT a movie star, and they were making faster and furiouser movies without him in them, and they made a "xXx" movie starring Ice Cube and that baby-faced scowl of his. And then "For Fast For Furious" or whatever it was called starred Disel again and suddenly everyone realized that maybe Vin Diesel IS a movie star, and so now here we are.
Putting 3D in the hands of Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel sounds like, quite frankly, a B-movie hoot. Whatever else "xXx 3D" will be, it will be big and loud and aggressively 3D. It will be about as subtle as "2 Girls 1 Cup." It will be pure sensation, and it will most likely make a metric ton of cash. And because they're shooting the film that way, from the start, with Cohen specifically building his set pieces for the process, I'm in. I'll happily see the first 3D screening of that, and the more ridiculous the better. Joe Roth controls this particular piece of the Revolution fire sale. I know there are other projects controlled by Todd Garner, and other projects that went to other producers, and I fully expect to see a trickledown of Revolution stuff that gets redeveloped elsewhere, with this being a prime example. Paramount seems to be heavily investing in films that will actually shoot using 3D from the start, like the greenlit-by-a-peniscopter-test "Jackass 3D," which I fully expect will win Best Picture 2010. From me, anyway.
Does a contract for multiple films mean we may see The Winter Soldier?
If they had left Bucky completely out of the upcoming Marvel movie "The First Avenger: Captain America," I would not have been remotely surprised.
After all, Chris Nolan made the decision to completely ignore Robin in his modern take on Batman, convinced that there's no way to do it without people snickering, and sidestepping the issue altogether certainly hasn't hurt the way people view the Batman movies.
So if they had made this film without ever once referencing Bucky, it would have been one of those major creative adjustments that I would have understood. Wouldn't necessarily be the choice I would make, but I would understand it. It's hard to sell the idea of the underage sidekick for a superhero. There's just too much pop culture that's made fun of the idea so mercilessly.
So hats off to Marvel for casting Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, who was too young to join the Army but old enough to suit up and fight alongside Captain America, and whose fate at the hands of the Red Skull marked a major turning point for many comic readers. In recent years, new narrative choices have expanded the role of Bucky in the Marvel Universe, and word is Stan's signed for as many as six movies.
Some new ideas, some old ideas, and some revisions of the way things work
I'm listening. Really.
One of the things that has become clear to me over the last few months is that what you want from this blog and what I want from this blog are, by and large, the same things, and in order for me to be able to give you more of what you want, I need to figure out smarter ways of sharing things with you.
It's important to take inventory of what you're doing, because it's possible to get so caught up in the day to day flow of things that you are letting your blog run you rather than you running your blog. I got called out the other day for running a story about "Twilight," and you guys are right... that's not something I'm interested in. I was a little amazed at how Stephenie Meyer is milking her franchise in a way that Rowling seems to be resisting so far, and that's why I ran it, but you don't come here for "Twilight" news. At least I hope not, because if you do, you have taken a very, very wrong turn somewhere.
Original content seems to be an increasingly rare beast online, and it's the stuff that you guys seem to respond to the most. When you can read the same story on forty sites in a day, that story has no real value. But when you can only read something here, then it gives you a reason to visit this site instead of those forty others. Seems like common sense, but in a competitive market, it's easy to lose sight of that idea.
John D. McDonald series still in development at 20th Century Fox
John D. McDonald was one of the finest popular novelists of the English language. Period. The man should be taught to anyone who wants to write, and his work should still be sold in grocery stores and airports. Compulsively readable, entertaining yet profound, his Travis McGee series was 21 books without a single weak entry, a rarity in publishing, and enormously successful in their day. If the books were relaunched with a major publicity push (they're completely out of print at the moment), they could be just as successful now, especially in a pop culture primed by Carl Hiaasen and Stephen King, just to name two of the many authors who owe McDonald major stylistic debts.
Evidently one of the reasons that the book series is out of print right now is because 20th Century Fox wants to reintroduce Travis McGee on their timetable, focused on a Travis McGee movie that they're developing for Leonardo Di Caprio to star in, produced by DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions and Jennifer Davisson-Killoran and Peter Chernin. Now rumor has Oliver Stone in early talks to direct the film, scripted by Dana Stevens and Kario Salem, and based on the first book in the series, The Deep Blue Good-by. The film would star Leonardo Di Caprio as McGee, and if things went well, would hopefully kick off a franchise for the actor, one of the few working movie stars today without a franchise in his hip pocket.
In July of last year, there was a big story in the Los Angeles Times about how Amy Robinson ("After Hours" and "Baby, It's You") was the primary producer still pushing the rock up the hill, but her name doesn't appear at all in the scoop that broke today at Deadline Hollywood. Makes me wonder if the studio muscled her off, or if it's just an oversight in the story. Keep in mind that Deadline is also reporting that Di Caprio is discussing the idea of starring in Clint Eastwood's J. Edger Hoover movie for Warner Bros., and that seems like something that would shoot sooner rather than later. Stone's wrapping up work right now on "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" for Fox, and the film may debut at this summer's Cannes film festival. That would be the first time at the festival for Stone, and it would mark a major return to pop culture center stage for the filmmaker, who's been a bit adrift lately.