We get a first look at one of this year's Sundance midnight movies
I'm not claustrophobic, thank god, but I know plenty of people who are.
This may not be the movie for you.
Then again, I have a profound phobia of being kidnapped, so maybe this isn't the film for me, either, although I'm certainly planning to see it this week while I'm here in Park City. "Buried" has been chosen as one of this year's midnight movies at the Sundance Film Festival, and I'm sure that's in no small part to the star power offered by Ryan Reynolds, who stars as an American contracted to drive trucks in Iraq. He's taken hostage, told to record a message about a ransom, and then buried alive to wait as his kidnappers see if they're going to be paid or not.
When you're dealing with a premise like this, the first question is how do you make it visually and dramatically compelling. You're talking about a movie where your lead character is locked in a box. It's a real test for an actor, too, since you don't have someone else to play off of for long stretches of the film.
The teaser's fairly smart. It just sets up the concept, but it still doesn't really show you what the experience of the film is going to be. It was just sent out to websites today, and so we wanted to share it with you before the festival gets too crazy and we start to get overwhelmed:
Magnet Releasing set to distribute the Fantastic Fest award winner
Magnet Releasing recently announced that they'e going to be handling the U.S. release of 2009's Fantastic Fest award winner "Down Terrace," and this week in Park City, Alamo honcho and genial lunatic Tim League is going to be throwing a skull-destroying party in support of the film, which is playing Slamdance.
All of this finally spurred me to pop in my screener of the film, and I'm glad I did. Ben Wheatley's film, co-written with star Robin Hill, is a scabrous look at an English family whose venal distrust of of one another makes the Sopranos look like the Waltons by comparison. There's an extra kick provided by the casting of real-life father and son Robert Hill and Robin Hill as Bill and Karl, both just released after a short stretch in jail, ready to jump back into whatever criminal entertprise got them in trouble in the first place.
We never actually learn what it is that their family's involved in, but that's actually a crafty bit of screenwriting since it doesn't really matter. We know that they're lawbreakers, and that their turf is everything to them. That's enough. They went to jail because they were informed on by someone close to them, and since they have no idea who could have done it, they make the only sane, rational decision.
They'll kill everyone.
An expertly crafted film that makes me glad I don't have daughters
Andrea Arnold's filmography so far is not a particularly long one, but it seems that even in the span of a short and a couple of features, it's a significant one. Cut from the same cloth as fellow English miserablist Ken Loach, she seems fascinated by the grey areas inherent to a certain sort of UK upbringing. With "Fish Tank," she's made her best film so far, and in the process, reinforced just how glad I am I didn't have any daughters.
Don't get me wrong... I have friends with daughters, and I know how much they love them and what a particular type of joy that relationship brings them, and I'm sure they wouldn't trade it for the world. But I know myself and I know how I handle stress, and as girls get older, the anxiety would probably kill me. As a friend once said, "With a son, you only have one penis to worry about. With a daughter, you worry about ALL OF THEM."
Katie Jarvi makes her film debut here as 15-year-old Mia, angry and aimless, a creature of pure impulse, and as the film starts, she's already on a collision course with self-made disaster. She's angry all the time at her mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) for reasons to drift from bad idea to bad idea. Then a new form of chaos enters her life when her mother, after a long drunken night out, brings home a man named Connor, played by Michael Fassbender.
From the moment he shows up, Fassbender injects an uneasy energy into the film, too focused on Mia, too interested in the one thing that seems to crack the grim facade she projects, her dancing. Alone in a room, a stolen beer to loosen her up, Mia dances with abandon, with something even approaching joy. Katie Jarvis perfectly captures that strange, powerful moment when a girl becomes aware of just how much sexual charisma she actually has, and the cat-and-mouse between her and the much-older Fassbender made my stomach hurt from tension as I watched it. Fassbender's been racking up one great performance after another in the last few years, but he still somehow retains the ability to vanish into his roles. I know it's the same guy in "Hunger" and "Inglorious Basterds" and this film, but the characters are nothing alike, not even visually. The extreme control of his craft as an actor works in perfect counterpoint to the raw unpolished nature of the work that Jarvis does.
Some truly awful things happen in the film, and even if Arnold gives us some release at the end, it's still shot through with a bleak melancholy, and it's a rough ride getting there. Arnold doesn't offer up easy explanations for Mia's anger, and she doesn't let her off the hook with some easy fix at the end. That's what makes this one linger, and it reaffirms that Arnold is a voice worth the attention.
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British film about bruised masculinity offers style, but seems familiar
But throw in a screenwriting credit for Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who wrote "Sexy Beast," and that's a genuine cause for celebration. And if you're a fan of Malcolm Venville as a photographer or for his striking commercial work, then that's just bonus on bonus since this film marks his feature directorial debut.
So with all that potential in front of and behind the camera, does the film live up to it?
Yes and no.
The film is great looking, moody, with a constant sense of simmering violence thanks to cinematographer Daniel Landin, which is no surprise. He's been one of the most impressive guys working in music videos for the last 15 years or so. And the cast is uniformly good, led by Ray Winstone as Colin Diamond, a powder keg of a man who has just learned that his wife Liz (the still-gorgeous Joanne Whalley) has been unfaithful to him. Upon learning this news, which she tells to him with a matter-of-fact cruelty, he goes totally caveman, and with the help of his friends, he tracks down and abducts Loverboy (Melvil Poupand), tying him to a chair while he decides what to do with him.
We also discuss 'Master and Commander' and 'The Right Stuff' with the stars
The more interviews I do in a year, the more I hear from other reporters about stars who are supposedly difficult on-camera, tough to get anything out of. And on occasion, that's true. I think a lot of it is where you talk, the mood they're in, who was in the room before you, and any number of other factors.
For example, at the "Legion" junket, some jackass was walking into the rooms dressed in a cheesy angel robe with a tinsel halo on his head, screeching at the actors in a weird falsetto, absolutely poisoning the mood. I saw the same thing at the "Jennifer's Body" press day in Toronto, where some guy threw a glass of water on himself while talking to Megan Fox, then tried to take his shirt off. These idiots don't realize that someone else who has a job to do has to walk in there after them and try to have a real conversation, and that's already difficult when you've got six minutes total.
When I was on the set of "Inkheart," Paul Bettany sat with us during lunch, and while he was soft-spoken and somewhat quiet, I didn't think it was a problem. It just seemed like he was busy with his own process, and we were a distraction. That's fair when you're on a set... different actors need different things from their environment, and journalists have to respect that when they're the ones who are intruding on the work. But at a junket, the actor's whole job is to speak about their work all day, and try to convey some sort of excitement, and in this environment, I thought Bettany was actually really easy to talk to, a whole different level of energy evident from the moment we sat down.
What can you expect in the week ahead?
We have descended on Park City en masse, and this year, we come to conquer.
Last year, HitFix had been up and running for about a month when we flew to Sundance, and I was still getting my bearings, having just left Ain't It Cool after a decade or so. I hadn't been to Sundance in almost that long, and so I had to adjust to both a new outlet and re-establishing myself with publicists, and I had to relearn the Sundance system all over again.
This year, I feel like I've got a head start on everything, and I'm looking forward to covering as much as possible for you guys, starting opening day and maintaining a constant pace until the evening of the 28th, when I'm flying back to LA. In addition to me, Greg Ellwood, Dan Fienberg, Melinda Newman, and Katie Hasty are all here in Salt Lake City as well, which means we'll be bringing you a fairly diverse line-up of interviews, reviews, and reactions as the week unfolds.
I'm all about the midnight line-up this year with films like "Splice," "Buried," "Frozen," and "Tucker & Dale VS Evil" already scheduled, and I'm trying to hit a wide range of things including documentaries like "Smash His Camera" and "Teenage Paparazzo," international titles like "Vegetarian" and "Bran Nue Dae," and premieres like "Cyrus" and "The Killer Inside Me." I'm set to talk to folks like Spike Jonze, the Duplass Brothers, Michael Winterbottom and even Gaspar Noe, and I'm going to work to get you those conversations as soon as possible after they happen.
Your first look at a film that's trying a unique distribution plan post-festival
One of the first films I watched for this year's festival was last night, a very small film called "Bass Ackwards." Directed by Linas Phillips and also starring him, "Bass Ackwards" is the story of a guy named Linas who finds himself at a crossroads, disappointed by where his life has led him, and he makes a strategic decision to retreat. Taking a cross-country trip, he heads back to where his mom and dad live, with the intention of moving in with them so he can figure out what to do next.
There's a girl, but "Bass Ackwards" isn't a love story.
There's a guy who takes the trip with him, but "Bass Ackwards" isn't a buddy film.
The movie is soft-spoken and introspective, but it's not really a mumblecore movie.
Basically, "Bass Ackwards" is what I think of as the very model of a Sundance movie. Slight, delicate, and personal, it's a film that is never going to set the box-office on fire, but it'll do very well in a festival environment, and I think it'll play beautifully at home.
We've got an exclusive clip for you today, and it's a scene that takes place fairly early in the movie. Linas has ended up employed at a llama farm. He's still not sure what to do with his life, but when he discovers an old VW bus that the owner of the farm is willing to let him have, he decides on the spot that he's going to make the trip that takes up the rest of the film's running time. The clip really shows off the gorgeous photography that is one of the film's strongest suits, so you may want to click here for a larger version, or just check out the embed below:
They'll also be releasing a live album on March 16
Just before Toronto this year, I saw a great documentary about The White Stripes on a Canadian tour, and I was bummed the film didn't get more buzz coming out of the festival.
I think it was just a case of it not being quite the right fit for Toronto. I have a feeling it's going to do much better with the music-savvy crowd at SXSW this year.
I reviewed the film from Toronto, and the more I've thought about it, the more I liked it. Jack White is one of the last great press-loving rock stars, and his persona in both this film and "It Might Get Loud" was hilarious and impressive.
If you didn't read my earlier review, you can check it out here.
And then take a look at the press release sent out by SXSW to me this afternoon:
Marc Webb has signed a deal for a trilogy of new 'Spidey' films for Sony
6:40 PM PT
[Editor's note: Sony Pictures announced Marc Webb would helm the three new "Spider-Man" pictures this afternoon, confirming rumors going around Hollywood the last week. The official press lease is as follows:
CULVER CITY, Calif., January , 2010 – Marc Webb, the director of the Golden Globe nominated Best Picture (500) Days of Summer, will direct the next chapter in the Spider-Man franchise, set to hit theaters summer 2012, it was jointly announced today by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.
Written by James Vanderbilt, Webb will work closely with producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin in developing the project, which will begin production later this year.
Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, president of Columbia Pictures, said, “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker’s life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey.”
Arad and Ziskin added jointly, “Over the years, the Spider-Man comics have been told with bold and creative new writers and artists who have re-calibrated the way audiences see Peter Parker. Marc Webb will do for the new direction of the films what so many visionary storytellers have done with the comic books. He is an incredibly talented filmmaker and we look forward to working closely with him on this new adventure.”
Webb said, “This is a dream come true and I couldn't be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi's virtuoso rendering of Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon. The first three films are beloved for good reason. But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well. I am signing on not to ‘take over’ from Sam. That would be impossible. Not to mention arrogant. I'm here because there's an opportunity for ideas, stories, and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man.”
Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, added, “I’m excited that Sony has chosen a director with a real penchant and understanding for the character. This is a brave, bold direction for the franchise, and I can’t wait to see what Marc comes up with next.”
Added Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, “The idea of re-imagining the on-screen story for one of the world’s most iconic superheros is sure to deliver an exciting new dimension to Spider-Man fans everywhere. There are volumes of comics and material available to inspire fresh and compelling takes on Peter Parker and his journey as Spidey and we look forward to seeing this come alive onscreen.”
Marc Webb has won acclaim with his film debut (500) Days of Summer. He has several MTV VMAs™ including 2009's Best Director award for Green Day's "21 Guns," 2006 Best Rock Video for AFI’s “Miss Murder,” and Best Group Video for The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” The Music Video Production Association honored him in 2006 as the Director of the Year for his work with Weezer, AAR, and My Chemical Romance.
In addition to two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical or comedy), his first feature film, (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, has been nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature. Webb was also awarded the Spotlight Award, which honors outstanding directorial debuts, by the National Board of Review.
More updates on this story from HitFix and Drew as warranted.]
4:00 PM PT
Well, that was quick.
There was a virtual parade of filmmakers through the Sony offices last week, but it looks like one of the first rumored names is the one that stuck, and The Vulture broke the news just now that Marc Webb has signed on to direct not one, but a trilogy of new "Spider-Man" films.
I'm not buying any of the casting rumors out there. Every one of the candidates I've heard rumored are just plain too old, like today's rumor at IESB that Jim Sturgess was offered the part. First, they're still trying to get that stage musical version off the ground with Sturgess starring this fall, and there's no way he's doing both at the same time, but beyond that, I know Amy Pascal has a wicked crush on Sturgess and wants to make him a movie star, but the whole point of this "Spider-Man" reboot is to take him back to high school, and that's what you have to keep in mind with the casting.
Webb's an interesting choice, and he brings a strong skill set to the film. He's got a breezy pop style as a filmmaker, and he's good with actors. One of the things that I've heard as I've talked to people this week about the Jamie Vanderbilt scripts for "Spider-Man 5" and "Spider-Man 6" is that he was very true to the notion that Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson both present credible romantic interests, and Parker isn't tied down to one person from the very start.
Plus we compare bullwhip scars with the 'Indy' star
I was of mixed opinion when I was offered a chance to sit down and talk to Harrison Ford last week.
The eleven-year-old version of me started screaming "HOLY CRAP! IT'S INDIANA JONES! IT'S HAN SOLO!" And I can't help but listen to that inner voice sometimes... that's what keeps me honest as a film fan. The reason I love movies is at least in part because of those formative years, and Harrison Ford was the first movie star I ever felt belonged to my generation.
But as an adult, and as a journalist, I've heard that Ford is a tough interview, to put it lightly. And I've watched several really strong interviewers come up short when talking to him. I just get a feeling it's not a process he enjoys on any level, and that he does it when he absolutely has to. That is not the best circumstance to sit down and have any sort of real conversation with anyone, especially when they're herding you through, six minutes at a time.
Still, in the end, I decided I had to try, and I figured I had a good way to open the conversation with him to try and get some sort of reaction. A few years ago, Paramount sent out real bullwhips to a number of online writers as promo for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." As a kid, I'd learned to use one of those whips pretty well, and I figured I'd show off at a party I was throwing. Sure enough, I got a great sound on my third attempt, a deafening CRRRRACK!