No director and no writer yet, but that doesn't seem to concern Bruno
I can honestly say that if I were sitting across from Bruce Willis in an interview these days, the last thing that would cross my mind would be asking him if he's going to be making another "Die Hard" film.
Maybe I misread the general reaction to the last film in the "Die Hard" series. Maybe there are people out there saying to themselves right now, "I wonder what happened to John McClane after he fought that jet airplane bare-handed and saved the universe from the Internet," but if so, I've never met one of them. Maybe there are hardcore fans who are already angrily logging in to HitFix so they can respond, "Mr. McWeeny, you are simply not cool enough to appreciate a PG-13 'Die Hard' movie, so go FORK yourself." Maybe.
Personally, I like to imagine an alternate reality where the producers of the original "Die Hard" realize that the charm of the film hinges largely on the idea of John McClane being a very average guy who finds himself in one-time-only circumstances much larger than him, and who survives just barely, and as a result, they decided to never make a sequel because they know it would just be stupid to do so. I like to imagine that reality, and when I look at my own DVD collection, that is indeed the reality it reflects.
There are no "Die Hard" sequels in this dojo.
What could a nearly fifty-year-old film about filmmaking have to say about life today?
Welcome to The Motion/Captured Must-See Project.
If there's any one column that I've started since joining HitFix that I love and dread in equal measure, it's this one. I love it because it gives me a chance to write about anything in the history of film that I consider formative and essential to a film education. I dread it because it's such a big blank canvass each week, and after I finished my initial run of 26 entries on the list, picking one for each letter of the alphabet, I hit the wall because I realized I was free to write about anything next... and "anything" is an awfully big target to hit.
Thankfully, I finally broke my writer's block, and there's no small irony to the idea that the film that did it for me was Fellini's "8½," a story about a director who, free to make anything he wants, finds himself unable to figure out what, if anything, he has to say. For many people, their exposure to this Italian classic is still only knowing it as the movie that inspired the musical "Nine" last Christmas. Considering how powerfully off-base that film was, and how wrong it got the source material, that's a shame. I feel like "Nine" might have put people off of Fellini's film if they've never seen it, and that would be a travesty.
The difference is that "8½" is authentic, the work of a man trying to make sense of his own life with art, while "Nine" is an act of empty fetishism, a pale echo of the original. Everything that is wrong with "Nine" was encapsulated in the song "Cinema Italiano," a naked admission of what "Nine" was about. It treats the look and mood and feel of Fellini's films as something you can slip on like a t-shirt, an affectation. But Fellini wasn't making films and putting something on... he was making films about the world he lived in, the people he worked with, the faces that surrounded him. His movies could be surreal and grotesque and outrageous, but they were his. They were movies that came from inside him, and in the case of "8½," it was a movie he had to make, or there was a chance he was done making movies altogether.
Details on what to expect from a recent post-show Q&A
On February 2nd, the night that "Lost" premiered, that was the second coolest bit of pop culture I enjoyed.
And I say that as a big giant honking "Lost" fan who stayed up until 3:00 AM writing a recap of this season's opening two-hour salvo. No, the coolest thing about that evening happened a few hours earlier. My wife and I took our four-year-old son Toshi to the Nokia Live, right next to the Staples Center, not telling him what he was going to do. We got him into the theater and into a seat, and he still didn't know why we were there. He thought we were just out to have dinner together.
When the lights went down, the announcer came over the PA. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Pee-Wee Herman Show!" And Toshi looked up at me, eyes wide as saucers, and said his new favorite exaggerated overreaction:
Words for the ages. If you didn't get a chance to see the show during its run last month, it was incredible. It was a perfect hybrid of the original Roxy show that HBO shot back in the '80s and the beloved "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" series that was on TV at the end of the '80s. The Roxy show was a really sly parody of children's shows, but the actual content of the show was sort of adult. Lots of insinuation and entendre. The "Playhouse," by simple adjusting the material a few degrees, was a genuine kid's show, and one of the greatest. The reason Toshi's little mind was so blown by this particular event was because the very first show he loved... hell, the very first piece of pop culture on which he imprinted... was the DVD box set of both seasons of "Pee Wee's Playhouse." He used to dance by the TV when the theme song played. He could say "Pee Wee" before he could identify every person in our house by name. It was a BIG DEAL to him.
Plus people begin to respond to 'The Basics'
Welcome to The Morning Read.
By far, the most moving, beautiful, inspirational thing I read all week was the Esquire profile of Roger Ebert. I actually read it in print first, as that's one of the magazines I subscribe to. Yes... crazy, I know... I still like my actual paper media. I feel like a bad internet professional, especially since most of that content shows up online within days of me getting my issue in the mail.
If you haven't read the piece yet, it's amazing. And it's amazing because Roger is amazing. I had a few encounters with him at Sundance this year, all in passing, and I felt like I was imposing no matter what. I've dined with Roger in the past, and he once drove me around Champaign-Urbana in the middle of the night, telling me stories about his student days, which was one of those moments where I almost felt like I was having an out of body experience, it was so surreal. It is impossible to overstate the impact that he's had on film criticism, and what I find most dazzling about him is the way he continues to have that impact, and how his voice has only gotten clearer and stronger and more vital in the days since he spoke his last words aloud. You should also ready his follow-up to the interview for a nice look at how it feels to be profiled like that.
'The Trade,' an acclaimed Black List script, may reunite the 'Good Will Hunting' stars
This sounds awesome.
According to Mike Fleming, Ben Affleck is now attached to direct and possibly star in "The Trade" for Warner Bros., and there is a chance that the film will reunite the stars of "Good Will Hunting" in major starring roles.
The script first hit the radar for a lot of people this past December when it made the 2009 Black List, an informal survey of well-liked in-development projects. At the time, I noticed only because I like Dave Mandel, a "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" writer who was the man who put pen to paper here.
It's a true story about New York Yankees Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, who swapped wives at the start of the 1973 season. You add in the extra "wow" of Affleck playing Peterson and Damon playing Kekich, and that sounds like Warner Bros. has pretty much a sure thing on their hands.
Mandel is a very smart and funny guy, and this is easily going to be the biggest thing he's been associated with so far. I love "Seinfeld" and "Curb," but those are someone else's playground. Here, it sounds like Affleck's going to work with Mandel to polish the script, so hopefully he'll stay on for the whole thing. Especially on projects like this, where there's a real voice to the story you're telling, you want some consistency of vision. It's better that way.
Old-fashioned enough to seem cutting-edge, the film entertains
There is something fundamentally old-fashioned about the construction and delivery of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," based on the novel by Robert Harris. And, man, I wish someone else had directed this exact same film, because it would make the conversation about it so much easier.
It seems to me sometimes that movies play a game of one-upsmanship that ultimately hobbles the audience, in which filmmakers feel the need to "top" what has come before at the price of making solid films that simply tell a story well. I enjoy watching the Jason Bourne movies, but did I need every single action movie or thriller of the last five years to mercilessly copy those movies? Nope. I actually like it when a "thriller" remembers that it doesn't have to bombard me with sound and image for its full running time, stunt after empty stunt piled on in hopes that I pay no attention to the story or the lack thereof. It is with open arms, then, that I welcome "The Ghost Writer," a film that manages to distill a very real anger that exists in today's society into a sleek, well-constructed adult entertainment.
I've seen a few people already knock "The Ghost Writer" because it draws its paranoid conspiracy underpinnings from reality, barely bothering to disguise the things it's talking about, but when did that become a sin? One of the reasons we got so many great paranoia thrillers in the '70s was because filmmakers were willing to let the real world bleed into their films, because they took their own very real fear and fury and made it part of the entertainment that they were making. Do I think "The Ghost Writer" is the equal of something like "The Parallax View" or "The Conversation"? No. Do I think it's worth seeing, though, and an honorable entry in the genre? Absolutely.
Don't expect to hear Queen singing the theme this time around
We are entering a new age of cinematic pulp.
I know for some audiences, the word "pulp" makes them immediately think of Quentin Tarantino, thanks to the way he staked his claim on it in the '90s, but for some of us, pulp is a particular flavor of fantastic fiction that has only been flirted with in recent years. "Avatar" may have felt brand new to many audiences, but I thought it was a big fat slice of pulp science-fiction, unapologetic about it. And with "John Carter Of Mars" in production now and Sam Raimi talking about "The Shadow" and Shane Black writing a new "Doc Savage"... well, it feels like now's the time if you are sitting on a pulp property worth doing.
And when I spoke with director Breck Eisner today about his new film "The Crazies," I had to ask him what is up with "Flash Gordon," a project he's been associated with for a while now. There was a immediate difference in him, like he perked up. He sounds happy with "The Crazies," but he sounds positively rabid about "Flash Gordon."
"'Flash Gordon' is a project I've been passionate about for years and that I've been pursuing for years. I love sci-fi. I absolutely am obssessed with sci-fi," he told me. "The 'Flash Gordon' that we're currently writing... we're turning in the script in a month or so. Maybe two months."
Will his Terrence Howard/Cuba Gooding Jr. movie make its release date?
Is this a case of publicists playing cover-your-ass, or is it a case of information being taken out of context? Let's break it down and see if we can figure it out.
According to a report on First Showing, the long-in-gestation Lucasfilm project "Red Tails" has taken another step back on its road to release, and at this point, if there was a new story tomorrow that somehow all the dailies and negatives for the film were somehow burned, I would not be surprised.
For those who are not familiar with the film's history, "Red Tails" is a story about the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and for those not familiar with real history, the Tuskegee Airmen was a fighting unit, the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps, to be exact, made up of all African-American pilots. Since that was the 1940s, that was downright revolutionary, not just progressive, and it was an uphill battle against the realities of race relations the entire time. It's a truly important story, and since the early '90s, George Lucas has been talking about making this film. I think I remember hearing this title around the same time I first heard Lucas talking about "Radioland Murders."
I've learned not to believe Lucas when he vaguely discusses projects that might or might not happen at some point, because I think he talks a good game but rarely delivers. When "Red Tails" went in front of the camera last year with Anthony Hemingway directing, I was shocked. Pleased, but shocked. Mr. Beaks wrote an excellent report on the film's script, and if you're curious to see what story Lucas is telling about these important military heroes, check out that Beaks article.
According to First Showing's report, things didn't exactly go as planned.
A heartfelt review of the heartfelt film from this year's Sundance Film Festival
Marriage and love are not the same thing, and one is not enough to guarantee the other, no matter what we want or think we deserve.
I can honestly say that in my nearly 40 years alive, the single most complex, frustrating, terrifying, rewarding, and influential relationship I've had with anyone is the one I have with my wife. Every marriage is different, offering different reasons for the union between the two people, and every marriage comes with its own built-in pitfalls and stumbling blocks. No one can truly understand or judge a marriage from the outside, and even the people in the marriage are often hard-pressed to fully explain it to themselves.
I was thinking about this earlier when I noticed, of all things, my Facebook "relationship" status that just says "Drew is married." What does that really tell anyone about the emotional rollercoaster ride that I'm on as I deal with issues of money, children, career, intimacy, honesty, communication, passion, language, culture, travel, and the future on a daily basis? What does that simple phrase tell you about our joys, our sorrows, our highs, our lows, our wants, our needs, or our shared history? Nothing. And yet marriage is all of that and more.
For Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), marriage is a journey that seems to be nearing an end, and in a narrative that bounces from past to present, from start to finish, from cause to effect, director Derek Cianfrance does an expert job of charting the way love waxes and wanes and the incredible difficulty of making it out of any marriage in one piece. It is sobering work, exquisitely observed and acted with a searing emotional honesty. My first year at Sundance, back in 2001, I was blown away by Ryan Gosling's work in "The Believer," and now, nine years later, I find myself once again flattened by his work. Dean is all impulse, all surface, everything about him easy to read. He's an uncomplicated guy, and that seems to be a good thing for him. It's charming when he's young and Cindy's just getting to know him, but it's nowhere near as cute when he's closer to forty than thirty and they're trying to raise a child.
More of the same from one of the unfunniest comedy directors working
I think it boils down to a fundamental philisophical difference of opinion.
I just plain don't like the stories Nancy Meyers tells or the people she tells stories about, and I don't believe the behavior of anyone in her films. I think she is a terrible observer of human behavior, and as a result, the "comedy" in her films hits me all wrong. I find myself irritated with her characters and the situations instead of laughing.
In a way, I'd say "It's Complicated" is her masterpiece, by the technical definition. She's taken every single thing I despise about her work and cranked it up to eleven, and the result is a film that I found infuriating. She's never gotten further under my skin, and so it's obvious she is refining her approach from picture to picture. There has never been a film that more fully embodies all that is "Nancy Meyers," and perhaps that's why I spent most of my time watching my screener of this film wishing for it to end.
To be fair, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and John Krasinski all do exactly what they were hired to do, and with a fair amount of precision. They are all expert comic actors, and they do their very best to make it interesting. Watching them flounder and watching the way they score laughs is genuinely educational. Baldwin, of course, has ripened into one of the biggest cheeseballs in Hollywood, and in the most glorious sense of what that means. He is ridiculous on "30 Rock," a lunk of a cartoon of a lunk. It's a special sort of actor who can make the jump from "movie star male lead" to "beloved comedy presence," and I think Baldwin's done it better than William Shatner, precisely because of the ways he lets the brakes off his male ego. He's got it cranked up here, but the script just isn't good enough to give him anything really worth doing.