Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Plus he discusses the rules of world-building in the sequels
James Cameron discusses his re-release of 'Avatar' with nine new minutes of footage on Aug. 27th.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
It's probably better that I didn't know ahead of time that I was going to sit down with James Cameron this week to talk about "Avatar."
Surprisingly, I've never interviewed James Cameron. I've sat down with his longtime producer Jon Landau before, and I attended one press conference around the time "Titanic" hit home video, but the entire time I was at Ain't It Cool, Harry had Big Jim on lockdown. It was very clear that only one Ain't It Cooler was allowed near the man, and that was Grande Rojo.
As it was, I had about a day's advance notice, and it worked out well that way. I didn't have time to overthink things, and since I had the same six minutes as everyone else, it really wasn't the time to do the grand epic interview that I'm sure I could do with the man. Instead, we were there to speak quickly about about the upcoming theatrical re-release of "Avatar," with nine new minutes of footage included, and also to talk about the future of the series.
As I sat down, I had my Moleskine open on my lap, and Cameron pointed at it. "Why do you get a cheat sheet? I don't need notes."
"I just want to make sure I get to everything..."
"You won't," he said, smiling.
"... and don't forget anything."
Plus learn the terrible truth about Schwartzman's deadly X-wing ninja style
Scott Pilgrim and Gideon Graves have their final battle at the Chaos Theater in Edgar Wright's film version of 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'
Credit: Universal Pictures
Here on HitFix, as in the new film "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," it all comes down to this: Michael Cera vs. Jason Schwartzman.
Actually, they seem like they really enjoyed each other as collaborators, so this interview is pretty much the opposite of antagonism. But it's fitting that my long day of on-camera interviews for the film wrapped up with these two. This was still before Michael and I boosted that golf cart, but just by a half-hour or so. When Schwartzman saw the "Star Wars" t-shirt I was wearing, it inspired a story from his childhood that made an excellent way into the conversation.
I've got one more interview for you, and it'll run Saturday morning so that you have a chance to see the film before you read it. It's the one-hour sit-down I did with Edgar Wright, and it's an all-print piece, well worth the read. In the meantime, I hope you understand that I've thrown this much effort and energy at the movie this week because I sincerely want to see it do well, and I'm worried that it won't. There are times where I consider this platform to be a place where box-office shouldn't be discussed at all, but the truth is that when a film like "Scott Pilgrim" underperforms, it's harder for the next guy with a radical vision to get his film made, and if there were more films that tried as hard and reached as deep as "Scott Pilgrim," then Hollywood would be a better place.
The series returns, and we reach out to you to participate
Deborah Harmon and Kurt Russell star in 'Used Cars,' the raunchy Robert Zemeckis/Bob Gale comedy that is this week's entry in 'The Basics'
TODAY'S EDITION OF "THE BASICS" is dedicated to Edgar Wright on the eve of "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" Vs. The World, one film nerd's way of raising a toast to another film nerd who just made something that other film nerds are going to spend years being all film nerdy about. Edgar is a man of taste and distinction. I know this because I know he is a fan of the film we're going to discuss today.
And if there's one thing I've learned in my 40 years of being a big ol' film nerd.... when you meet a fan of "Used Cars," that is someone you should befriend immediately.
First, though, we're going to shake up "The Basics" a bit because Will Goss has good ideas, and because you the readership have good ideas as well, and if you've got ways to improve something here, then I'm absolutely going to listen.
The entire point is for you guys to play along. Look at how great a community Alan Sepinwall has built on the television side of HitFix. I love that during the summer, they rewatch shows together, and Alan's just going to get to keep basking in all the great television shows that he loves.
The point of this series should be to all share a vocabulary. We want you to watch the movies on this list, and the movies on the Motion/Captured Must-See List (which will be getting an overhaul and which will sort of be part of this same series), and more than that, we want you to weigh in.
Can James L. Brooks strike gold with this ensemble?
Paul Rudd is one of the stars of 'How Do You Know,' a new romantic comedy from James L. Brooks also starring Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, and Owen Wilson.
Credit: Sony Pictures
I remember when "Broadcast News" was released in theaters and there was still a palpable excitement around the notion of a new film by James L. Brooks, and it made sense. He was, after all, a TV giant who had made the successful jump to films with the Oscar-winning "Terms Of Endearment," and suddenly he was seen as important, as a significant mainstream Hollywood voice.
Cut to today, where we're on the other side of films like "I'll Do Anything" and "Spanglish," and Brooks's star seems considerably tarnished. Even so, I remain curious about anything he does precisely because of the moments he's crushed it completely, like every single word spoken by Albert Brooks in "Broadcast News" or the great rolling misanthropy of Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets." Brooks is a guy whose sensibility hasn't evolved at all over the years, which isn't a bad thing. He is the same filmmaker now he was when he began, with the same concerns, and his characters all still sound the same.
What has changed is the entire culture of film, and I'm curious to see if there's still a place for what Brooks does. When I interviewed Rob Reiner recently, he complained that studios simply won't make mid-price films aimed at grown-ups anymore, and those movies are the bread and butter for guys like Reiner or Brooks, films that star big movie stars but that aren't particularly high-concept. He's always been most interested with setting characters up on these deteriorating downward spirals, then throwing them together to see what happens.
Meet the other two-thirds of Sex Bob-omb
Mark Webber and Alison Pill are two-thirds of the band Sex Bob-omb in 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'
Credit: Universal Pictures
One of the real pleasures of "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is the way the huge ensemble cast is packed with surprises, people who I may not have been terribly familiar with before this film. In every case, I find that now that I've seen them in these roles, I have a huge affection for them.
Alison Pill's best known role before this for me was probably in "Milk," but I know people really loved her on the second season of "In Treatment," which I haven't seen yet. Each time I've seen "Pilgrim" so far, I find myself really drawn to her portrayal of Kim Pine. Like many of the cast members, she's got this entire movie going on in the background of the main movie, and that rich inner life is what really distinguishes this from much of what I've seen this year. These aren't just types used to fill out the film... they're each such interesting and hilarious people. What I really love about Pill's portrayal of Pine is how her sullen irritation with Scott is played as a joke in much of the film, but she never loses sight of the genuine pain that fuels the character, and she makes it more than just a one-note character.
Mark Webber is a guy who I've never really noticed before, and I feel like an ass saying that. He's made 30 films already, but sometimes it takes a movie like "Scott Pilgrim" and a role like Stephen "The Talent" Stills to make an actor stand out. He's great, perfectly embodying the insecurity and the arrogance that so often collide in the front men of unknown bands. He steals moment after moment that he's onscreen, and I hope this is a launching pad to much bigger things for him.
Why this mockumentary has a chance at being something special
The shot-on-handheld-video look of 'The Virginity Hit' is meant to help sell the 'reality' of the piece.
Credit: Sony Pictures
Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland are very dangerous men. I’ve known this for quite a while, but the two new films they're part of reinforce this idea quite persuasively, as they reach out to a wider audience than they've ever had before.
Before the era of "Jackass" and "Punk'd" and Bam Margera doing whatever the f he wants to and Tom Green fellating cow udders, Botko and Gurland were making short films that are still hard to believe when you see them. Botko’s “Dessertumentary” series blew my mind, one of the most openly hostile comic exercises I’ve ever seen. Basically, he had a ton of unresolved aggression towards his family and decided to work it out on film. In the film "Fruit Cake," he bakes a fruit cake for his family, but he has an assortment of homeless people spit in the batter before he cooks it. In subsequent films like "Baked Alaska," "Cheesecake," and "Graham Cracker Cream Pie," he continues to make desserts filled with vile substances including his own semen... desserts that he ends each film by serving to his family members so he can film them while they’re eating. The short films are both hilarious and terrifying, unchecked comic hostility on display.
Right around the same time, Gurland made a feature documentary called "Frat House," a controversial feature he co-directed with Todd ("The Hangover", "Old School") Phillips. It’s ferociously entertaining, and it made quite a stir at the 1998 Sundance Festival, partly because of it’s harrowing and wickedly funny look at college fraternity hazing rituals, and partly because of accusations that the film was more fiction than fact.
Did Ryan Murphy shape a successful movie from the bestselling memoir?
Julia Roberts and Richard Jenkins star in the globe-trotting new adaptation of the best-selling book 'Eat Pray Love'
Credit: Sony Pictures
It's a fascinating weekend at the box-office in terms of what is available to viewers, and whatever ends up on top, it feels to me like everyone can find something they'll enjoy if they hit a theater.
I'm on the record already about how much I love "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and in a perfect world, it would outgross "Avatar" by Monday. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about "The Expendables," but the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am by the total lack of ambition of the film, which ultimately just feels like every other crappy direct-to-video Avi Lerner movie with a few more famous faces than normal.
Of the three major releases this weekend, "Eat Pray Love" is probably the least likely fit for my blog, and I've been sent letters in the past from readers outraged over what they see as my bias against "chick flicks." It's somewhat amazing to me that so many smart women will defend a genre that frequently treats them like morons beneath contempt, but I guess I understand the protectiveness. I may think a lot of what gets released in the superhero/comic book genre is junk, but when I read Jeffrey Wells with one of his stupid bitter "I hate fanboy movies" rants, I get defensive on behalf of the good films in the genre that make it worthwhile, conveniently forgetting all the crap that comes along with that. I think it's the same way with women who feel like they are under-served by Hollywood... they'll defend anything that even remotely looks like what they want, hoping they'll get some good films that justify that defense along with the 900 shitty "Kate Hudson needs a dude" movies that get released each year.
Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the Bechdel Test, a way of judging films on a quota system that sounds like a way to balance a shocking injustice at first, but which seems to me to value rigid rules over the simple expression of a point-of-view by an artist. To pass the test, there must be at least two female characters in your film with actual names, they must talk to each other at some point, and it must be about something other than a man. I certainly see the value in looking at your film through that filter, but I don't think every film has to pass that test. I just think it's key that not every film fail that test. More importantly, though, is that a film, whether it fails that test or not, treats its audience with respect and offers up something akin to actual human behavior during its running time, and that is the test that most Hollywood "romantic comedies" or "chick flicks" fail utterly.
Watch the warm-up for our big interview later this week
Edgar Wright shares a light moment on-set with Mary Elizabeth Winstead during the production of 'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'
Credit: Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright is a madman.
I don't understand how he's still able to get out of bed these days. It seems like he's been pulling 30-hour-days on "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" for about four years straight, and yet when I saw him at the press day for the film or when we sat down for a one-hour interview you'll read here later this week, he seemed to be in his typical good spirits. Amazing.
Even more insane, we were just the start of his press duties. Right after he wrapped up in LA, Edgar hit the road with the cast for a multi-city press tour that doesn't wrap up until Austin on Thursday.
This interview is just a warm-up for the longer piece I'll run, but it gives you a wee bit of Edgar in the flesh as opposed to just words on a page. Edgar is now the first person I've ever had a transcriber tell me "never again" over, and I'm guessing it's the combination of unbridled energy and his distinctive accent, as well as several other people sending her Edgar interviews in the same week.
I'm glad we got to put some of our talk on tape, though, because I think he's the best advocate I know for his work, a guy whose enthusiasm for what he's made is evident in every conversation, and who doesn't know how to do things in half-measures. In conversation, Edgar exhibits all the same hyperactive film geek passion that he does in his movies.
It's a good Idea to listen to Stephen Hawking
Credit: Universal Pictures
Anyone who attended the San Diego Comic - Con this year could not have missed the gigantic billboard for the film "Skyline" that graced the face of the hotel overlooking the convention center. In it, what may have been a space ship hovered over a sky-blue skyline and if you got close enough to the building you could see thousands of little people-shaped silhouettes being sucked up into it.
Accompanying the billboard was a truly ingenious "How did they come up with that?" gag where hundreds of little human shapes were carved out of soap bubbles and allowed to rise up over the hotels' air conditioning exhausts in front of the sign and up into the sky.
I noticed these cool little "bubble men" as I raced from press line to press line as one does when one "works the Con" and didn't manage to catch any of the presentations for the film as Drew did.
The one thing I gathered from the sign and the bubble-guys was this: In "Skyline" people get sucked up into a spaceship against a pretty blue sky.
And we return the sentiment in a major way
Credit: Katy Winn/AP
Last night, I saw "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" for the third time. I know, I know... it's almost ridiculous at this point, but I can't stop. I feel like a 13-year-old "Twilight" fan. I love this movie, and in particular, I love the two ladies in the life of Scott Pilgrim.
It really doesn't matter what your taste is in either boys or girls... someone in this movie is going to ring your bell. It is an adorable cast, top to bottom, and the fact that they're all great in the fights, funny, cool, AND lovely... well, it's just too much to bear.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been working for a while now, but she's never really had that one breakthrough role that defined her for audiences. Ramona Flowers is by far the best part she's had, but the very nature of who Ramona is might keep this from being the breakthrough for her. Ramona is unknowable, careful to guard herself, and even at the end of the film, she remains the biggest enigma of the movie.
Ellen Wong is about to steal the hearts of boys of all ages, and for good reason. She took the occasionally psycho Knives Chau of the book and gave her so much heart and soul that she became just as worthy of Scott's love and attention as Ramona, something that wasn't necessarily the case in the books. I've seen some discussion of Knives as a stereotype, and a bit of humorless harumphing from people who feel that she offers a negative image of Asian girls. That's just silly, though. Knives is a sweet, innocent teen girl taking her first steps into defining her own identity, and Ellen nails the character, making her efforts understandable and even endearing. "I didn't even KNOW there was good music until, like, two months ago!" Oh, Knives.