Marvel has a giant game plan, and this casting choice is a major piece of that puzzle
It's been fascinating to watch the process that Marvel's been going through as they've been trying to cast Captain America, and now that they've officially made the deal with Chris Evans, they finally have all of the major pieces in place for "The Avengers," which is an unprecedented film event if they pull it off.
What else is in store for the company moving forward, though? Especially with Warner Bros. announcing at ShoWest last week that they're planning to use the DC superhero properties as their new tentpole franchise to replace "Harry Potter" now that it's wrapping up. What Marvel's been doing for the last few years is something brand-new in movies, and now that they've proven it works, they're in danger of watching someone else try to beat them at that game. Warner/DC could well use "Green Lantern" and "The Flash" and Nolan's "Batman 3" and whatever Superman film finally happens to build towards "Justice League," the closest equivalent they have to "The Avengers," and it's obvious that Warner would like to make that film. They came close once before, then stepped back to try and lay the groundwork a different way.
If you grew up as a comic fan, you got used to the notion of crossovers and team-ups and storytelling that was spread over several different issues or even several different series. But in the film world, there's almost nothing like this. Much has been made of the nine-picture deal that Marvel now asks for actors to sign, but I think something like that makes sense if you're trying to build a world that spans several franchises and several sequels. If I were an actor, I'd want to be part of something like this for the challenge of it and the fun of playing opposite all these different characters.
But at this late date, does anyone really care?
There are many, many fans of "Scream," and for them, the news that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson are officially reuniting as the director and writer of "Scream 4" must be exciting. Craven confirmed it last night on his Twitter feed, and then The Weinstein Company followed up with an official press release today.
In the current pop culture landscape, though, haven't fans been burnt enough by late-in-the-game sequels to grow wary? People wait 20 years for a new Indiana Jones film, then detest the final product. It increasingly seems that the only good thing about returning to the well is the guarantee of an opening weekend, but that there are few if any creative reasons to extend these franchises beyond what already exists.
Whenever I make this point, people love to bring up James Bond, but the difference there is that the Bond films have never traded on any serious sense of continuity. Bond is a constant. He's a spy. He chases bad guys. That's it. Something like "Scream 4" is going to have to contend not only with the original film, but with two weak sequels that considerably complicated the story and the characters, and so no matter what, a certain degree of familiarity is going to be required on the part of the audience if they're going to connect to this new film, and I'm not sure there are that many people out there who are that invested in the events of "Scream 3." Certainly not enough to be able to count on this movie being a major cultural event when it's released, and that's exactly what Dimension needs at this point.
Magnolia picks up the SXSW midnight movie, and could have a hit on their hands
Gareth Edwards is a very smart guy with a keen eye for composition, and I'm guessing when we look back at 2010 in film, his name will be one of the names that helps define the year.
"Monsters" played SXSW this year as part of the Fantastic Fest at midnight line-up, and with a title like that, it was easy for the festival to fill the theater every time they played the movie. Going into the film, though, I knew nothing about it aside from the title. Someone in line told me that they'd heard it was "the first mumblecore horror film," which sent a chill down my spine and not in a good way. I'm not a fan of mumblecore as a genre or even as a descriptive word. I think it's an excuse for people to make films that are damn close to anti-audience, like a dare. I love small-scale character drama, but there's a fine line between effective and personal and deadly dull whining. Having seen "Monsters," I can see why someone would describe the film that way, but I disagree. I think it sells short of what Edwards has accomplished, and I worry that it would scare off people who would end up really liking the movie.
Right now, there are a number of companies chasing the success of last year's "Paranormal Activity" and "District 9," realizing that the idea of what you can do on film and how much you can make certain films for has changed. Paramount's got a new division that wants to make ten movies for a total of a million dollars. I hope they take a look at "Monsters" and reach out to more people like Gareth Edwards, who has been working for a while in the FX community. Makes sense, because while there are some inventive and ambitious special effects in the film, there's a handmade feel to it all that is a big part of its charm. Edwards pretty much ran this all as a one-man show. He wrote and directed, he shot the film himself, and he did all of his own FX work, on a budget of $7000. This is what independent filmmaking in the 21st century is going to look like. The most impressive thing about that is how you can sit in the theater and never once question how much the film cost. It's a "real" movie. And thankfully, Edwards chose not to make a "found footage" movie, something which I'm personally very tired of, and a cheap solution to a budget issue. His film has a documentary feel to it that comes from how it was shot, but the camera isn't an actual character in the film.
Fox has reasons to play hardball with Warner Bros, but can they pull it off?
HitFix has exclusively learned, from multiple sources, that Bryan Singer may not be directing "X-Men: First Class" despite recent press reports to the contrary, and that 20th Century Fox is actively searching for directors to step in and helm the film, with discussions with at least two other filmmakers as recently as last week.
The filmmakers that they're approaching now about directing "X-Men: First Class" are good names, guys who either have real experience in the comic book movie medium or who have heavy credibility with fan audiences. Names that would make fanboys happy from the first moment they're announced. I'm curious to see who else they meet with in the next few weeks now that their first few choices have passed. Those meetings, exclusively reported by HitFix, make it seem like no matter what public face they're putting on things, Fox is making plans as if Singer will not be free.
This is particularly interesting if you consider the timing of the interview with Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times, who sat down with Lauren Shuler Donner and Bryan Singer for a story that's running in this weekend's Calendar section. Much has been made of the "confirmation" in the story that Singer's directing "X-Men: First Class." Here's the section of the story that is the most interesting:
Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber have great chemistry in offbeat effort
The best science-fiction, like the best horror, manages to be about more than one thing, using the outrageous to illustrate the universal. "Repo Men" doesn't quite hit all of its targets, but it hits enough of them to count as a welcome and even exciting new SF vision. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker have surprisingly rich chemistry in the film, and despite one major storytelling stumble, it's soulful enough to linger.
Law stars as Remy, a repo man working for The Union, the company that makes the artificial organs that have revolutionized health care in the future. The organs are obscenely overpriced, and patients are cornered into buying, sometimes going black market. It's a genuinely interesting industry to imagine and explore, and Miguel Sapotchnik's taken as many cues from the reality of modern New York and Tokyo as from the futurescapes of "Brazil" or "Blade Runner" in bringing his vision to the screen. Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, working from Garcia's novel, have played fast and free with structure on the film, and as a result, it feels like you end up watching two or three different movies.
The first movie's probably the most fun, with Remy and Jake (Forest Whitaker) working the job. It's matter-of-fact, observational, all character and chemistry. Law etches Remy as a charismatic cad, a guy who can't admit to himself how much he enjoys the hunt. He's good at it, and a part of him enjoys the pain he causes someone else. He's a thug, born and raised, and his job is his excuse to keep that up, to indulge it with approval. That's the bond he shares with Jake, since he's the exact same way. And as long as that's the movie, it's just plain dark bloody fun. Liev Schreiber plays Frank, their boss at The Union, and he's an absolutely ruthless salesman, well-oiled and unburdened by any vestige of humanity. He's sensational in the part. It's one of those roles that exists like a gift to an actor, a supporting role that gets a high percentage of the good lines in the movie.
Director discusses working with Hit Girl on 'Let Me In' and more
Matt Reeves has an unenviable task ahead of him with the release of "Let Me In," his adaptation of John Lindqvist's novel Let The Right One In. Obviously that was filmed (well) just two years ago, and the original was embraced by critics around the world. I don't think it's fair to call what Reeves is doing a "remake," though. He appears to be treating the novel like new source material and building his own take on the story.
He was here in Austin to participate on Scott Weinberg's big giant blow-out horror panel, and as a result, a group of reporters got a little face time with him on the morning of that panel. Early. And this is the conversation Reeves and I had as a result:
Matt Reeves: How are you?
Drew McWeeny: I am good. I’m on festival time, which means three hours of sleep here, two hours of sleep there.
A few days ago, as I was walking from the convention center here in Austin back to my car, I ran into a friend on the street who was here with Miguel Sapochnik, director of "Repo Men." Because I had just interviewed Sapochnik, I felt comfortable insisting that he check out that night's screening of "A Serbian Film," still by far the most interesting thing I've seen at SXSW this year.
Sapochnik impresses me as a hearty movie fan, a guy with a keen taste for the outrageous, and I think his movie reflects those sensibilities quite strongly. I enjoyed our brief chat on the phone, which you can read in full below:
Drew McWeeny: I wanted to talk about where this film began for you, because I know what the novel is, but your film feels like it’s got its own voice, and I can’t help but feel that there is a touch of a Verhoven to it.
A comedy about life's left turns features Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer in fantastic lead roles
Here's a film that has no distribution, and so far, that seems to have generated very little press buzz at the festival, but if the right company steps in, "Barry Munday" feels like a "Juno"-sized hit just waiting to happen, a crowd-pleaser with a big heart, sincere and silly and featuring a career-changing performance from Patrick Wilson. I have a feeling I have not heard the last of "Barry Munday."
There are few experiences that compare to walking into a festival film with no knowledge of what you're about to see, then reeling out the other end feeling like you've got a secret you want to share with everyone. "Barry Munday" is based on a novel called Life Is A Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon, and it's got a denseness of character that makes it feel like a book. That's one of the things that helps when adapting from a novel... you get so much to draw from, and adaptation is a reductive process, gradually carving away all the things you don't want to get to the particular thing you do. The shift in title, from a general description of theme to a specific character's name, signals the intent of writer/director Chris D'Arienzo quite clearly. This is a man on a journey towards some sort of place in the world, and in playing the role, Patrick Wilson does more onscreen in this one film to convince me of his genuine gift as a performer than he's been allowed to do in his last five movies combined. Which is not to say I've thought he was a bad actor before this... it's just that you don't often find a role like Barry Munday.
The actor speaks frankly about what it will take to make Bruce Banner live again
Louis Leterrier and Edward Norton's take on "The Incredible Hulk" came after Ang Lee's mega-budget daddy-issue take on the character flamed out both critically and commercially, and there was a chance for Leterrier and Norton to completely redeem one of Marvel's most iconic properties with their film. Internal editorial struggles hobbled the release version of the film, though, and whatever you think of the final movie, it's not what the star thought he was making as he worked on it.
As a result, his continued involvement in the Marvel Universe has been a question mark that has plagued fandom now for a few years, especially as Marvel has started taking more and more concrete steps towards the endgame of "The Avengers." Even when the question came up about whether or not Edward Norton would represent the Hulk part of the "Avenger" equation during a recent Marvel set visit, it was neatly sidestepped by Kevin Feige.
When I sat down with Tim Blake Nelson and Edward Norton to discuss their new collaboration "Leaves Of Grass," we had a free-ranging conversation that was terribly enjoyable, and it was only when we stood up to leave that I finally broached the "Hulk" subject with Norton. Part of me suspected that he would dodge the query or defer it, which is why I left it to the end. Surprisingly, Norton seemed more than willing to discuss it, and his answers were to-the-point and more optimistic than I would have imagined.
Ryan Phillipe emerges as the film's unlikely MVP
There is a long tradition of characters that have sprung to life as characters on "Saturday Night Live" making the jump from sketch form to feature film, and it's yielded all sorts of results over the years. "The Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" could be said to represent one end of the scale, with "It's Pat" and "The Ladies Man" at the other end. The demands of narrative long-form storytelling are totally different, in terms of how you build a character, than the expectations in a six-minute sketch with a recurring punchline. Some characters just can't make that jump.
"MacGruber" seems at first glance to be nearly impossible to adapt. After all, this is a character known for blowing himself up at the end of each sketch he appears in. There's no larger, richer world suggested during a "MacGruber" sketch. It's fairly one note. Then again, you know what else was fairly one note? '80s macho action films. And the great conceit of Jorma Taccone's film version of "MacGruber" is that it plays like a crappy Rambo sequel. It's uncanny timing, since this year's biggest trend seems to be the fetishistic resurrection of '80s action, with "The Losers" and "The A-Team" and "The Expendables" all coming soon. And here, before any of them, Taccone pretty much nails what they're all chasing, sending it up even as he embraces it fully. The result is a film that's easy to watch and consistently funny, even if it is as substantial as a merengue.