In the world of big-budget franchise management, the stakes are very high.
When your job is managing an intellectual property, you aren't just telling a story or making a movie… you're creating something that is meant to service something larger. In the case of the "Judge Dredd" property, this is the second time filmmakers are taking a shot at bringing the character to the screen, and they've got the advantage of having seen it done absolutely wrong by Hollywood the first time.
Based on reports that have started to trickle out over the last week, it sounds like they're making all new mistakes this time, and I'm curious to see what happens with the film now that Pete Travis, the director on the film, has been shut out of the process.
In the world of big-budget franchise management, the stakes are very high.
I think my dad would have made a badass cowboy.
You know who the toughest men in the West were? Old men. You know why? BECAUSE THEY MANAGED TO GET OLD. No easy trick back then, no matter how you made your living. It was a frontier, and they had to carve a living out of that land. I think my dad would have done that very well, and I think he would have enjoyed it on an existential level. He would have been in his element in every way.
After watching "Blackthorn," the new western starring Sam Shepard, I feel like I've got a much more specific idea of what kind of old cowboy my dad would have been. If I didn't know better, I'd say Shepard spent time with him at some point and studied him a bit. He is a weathered, wise, but still vital man in this film, a guy who has found his place in the world, his role in things, and who is mostly at peace with it.
"Mostly" is the key word, since Shepard's James Blackthorn is a man haunted by something or someone that he ran from at some point, and in flashbacks, we are given pieces of his past that eventually add up to a pretty spectacular reimagining of a real-life Western legend.
When you say "Johnny Depp as Dr. Seuss," the first image that flashes at this point is one of his patented weird-voiced eccentric larger-than-life performances.
That's not who Theodor Geisel was, though, and if Universal and Illumination Entertainment are serious about making a biopic that honors the remarkable life and creative output of this man who has helped shape the early imaginary lives of 50 years worth of kids, then I'm genuinely excited. This could be one of the coolest things Depp is currently attached to, and the hiring of Keith Bunin as a writer indicates that they're treating this as a serious drama, not a wacky kid's film.
I find it interesting that people right away assume that this is going to be another performance like The Mad Hatter or Willy Wonka or Captain Jack Sparrow. Why? Dr. Seuss was not one of his own characters. He was a guy who lived from one end of the 20th Century to the other, working in advertising, publishing political cartoons and propaganda work during WWII, and finally helping to redefine children's literature with his classic works that are still read around the world.
Earlier this week, talking about the casting of Werner Herzog as the bad guy in the first Reacher film, "One Shot," I mentioned how nervous I am about that film.
There is one other film in development that makes me more nervous, though, and it's because someone's adapting one of my very favorite things, and I'm still not sold on the creative team that's attached. I want to believe, though. The last thing I want is to be negative about a new "Thin Man" movie.
In general, "The Thin Man" is important to me. I love Dashiell Hammett's novel. I love the film series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. But more than anything, I just plain love Nick and Nora Charles. They may be my favorite fictional married couple of all time. There's just something delicious about their chemistry, and part of it is the way Nora seems to indulge and support all of Nick's worst habits. There is an understanding and an acceptance that is part of their relationship that I love dearly, and it's always been the thing I've sought in my own relationships. I don't think all of the "Thin Man" movies are as good as that first one, but their chemistry stayed crisp and compelling in every scene in every movie they made together.
Sounds like a kinder gentler Mark Millar/Matthew Vaughn film to me.
One of the things that has defined the modern era of comic book writing is the way writers these days take familiar tropes or character types and bend them in all sorts of interesting ways. Frank Miller and Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman were in the first wave of guys doing this, and in some cases, they were able to work with the actual characters and the results were something like Miller's landmark "The Dark Knight Returns" or Moore's "Watchmen" or Gaiman's "Miracleman" or Morrison's "Animal Man." In other cases, they invented characters that were similar to things we knew, and then dirtied up the icons in very subversive ways.
Mark Millar has had great success working in that vein, and in particular, he and Matthew Vaughn found it to be very fertile ground when they collaborated on the film version of "Kick-Ass." Now it looks like the two of them will be working together again, although not on the sequel that many people expected.
Instead, they're going to be bringing Millar's new series "Superior" to the bigscreen, and based on the description of it, it sounds like "Shazam with MS." I don't mean to be reductive, but the key to what makes "Shazam!" so potent is the idea of a young boy finding himself in the body of a super-powerful being. It's like seeing a 10-year-old behind the wheel of a Ferrari. There's so much potent drama in that archetype that adding a crippling illness to the equation is a very interesting complication. Our own Greg Ellwood tells me he's hooked on this book, and I'm sure I'll be checking it out now, if only to see what it is that Millar and Vaughn are cooking up.
What are you doing next Thursday night?
That's a week from now. I can tell you what I'll be doing. I'll be at the Arclight in Hollywood, where I'll be moderating a special Q&A after a glorious bigscreen viewing of John Carpenter's "The Thing."
And I hope you'll be there with me.
Right now, the roster of guests we're going to have there is growing every day, and I hope to have some great surprises for you after the film. There's going to be a giant display of props and other memorabilia downstairs at the Arclight, a special commemorative program book that's being produced for the event, a special poster… it's crazy how much effort's gone into this, but that's because Taylor White, the man behind Creature Features, has geek in his DNA, and when he sets out to put one of these events together, he pulls out all the stops.
While I was away at Fantastic Fest, I got so crazy busy that I was unable to interview Pam Grier and Robert Forster about "Jackie Brown," which is one of two Quentin Tarantino films arriving on Blu-ray this week.
I mean that sincerely, too. I love "Jackie Brown." I think if you counted how many times I've seen each of Tarantino's films, "Jackie" would be the clear winner. It's the emotional journey the film takes me on that I keep going back for. Everytime I reach the reprise of "Across 110th Street," I feel the same surge of adrenaline and emotion, the same sensation of running towards the future, free and finally realizing what that means. I love the performances, the cinematography, the dialogue, the relationships, the soundtrack. It didn't feel like a 1997 film when it came out, and it still feels timeless. The Blu-ray transfer is superlative, rich and film-like, and it sounds amazing.
I have an unabashed love for the new Lars Von Trier film "Melancholia." I think it's the best thing he's done since he made "Breaking The Waves," and right now, if I had to pick, I think it might be my choice for best film of the year.
It is, therefore, a pleasure to be able to present an exclusive clip from the film for you. This weekend, the movie will be available on On Demand, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Playstation, and Zune, and then will open in theaters on November 11. It's funny… I wrote yesterday about how Universal is skirting some real controversy with their VOD plan for "Tower Heist," but for Magnolia, their business model uses VOD as a pre-theatrical window. They've completely inverted the typical model, and it seems to be working for them.
I want to encourage you to see the film on the biggest and best screen possible. If you've got a great system in your house and you can crank it up and really lose yourself in the movie, great. Do so. But if you can, wait for it to play theatrically, because it is a lush and sensual film. Much of the first half of the movie takes place at the wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), where we watch anxiety and fear eat away at what should be a joyous occasion for Justine.
September was a blur.
By the end, I felt like I had stayed on a Tilt-A-Whirl too long and my equilibrium was shot, but I loved it all. Toronto was great, and I published two big podcasts about Toronto just before I left town to head to Austin. Now, I'm finally on the other side of the wonderful Fantastic Fest, and I've come back with one less interview than I expected.
I'll explain in the actual podcast, but the short version is my computer just plain didn't record something. And as a result, it doesn't exist. And so in this week's podcast, I discuss the interview that didn't record with Scott and try to relate some of the highlights as best I can. It's a disappointment for me, but hopefully I convey some of the flavor of what it's like to chat with make-up legend Rick Baker for a half-hour.
We cover a fair amount of ground this week. I've got FEARnet's lead critic Scott Weinberg on to discuss "The Human Centipede 2," I sit down with the directors and star of "Paranormal Activity 3," and we go through many of the highlights of Fantastic Fest this year.
The theatrical model I grew up with is dead.
Sure, theatrical release is still the first stop for studio films, for the most case, but the window between when something plays in a theater and when it arrives at home is shrinking rapidly, and today, Universal Pictures unveiled a startling plan to bring the big-budget comedy "Tower Heist" to VOD a mere three weeks after it hits theirs on November 4.
They're going to be testing the idea in Portland, OR and in Atlanta, GA, and it's got a steep ticket price. $59.99 is more than any typical PPV movie charges, but it's not typical in any way. If this does work, it could change the way studios handle big-ticket releases, and I would bet they'll telescope the release dates even more. If they can get people to pay $60 a pop to sit at home and watch a big new release, why not do it on opening weekend? Why not go ahead and start at day one?