In the parlance of today's pop culture, Team Hathaway. Totally.
Anne Hathaway is what the studio system used to produce routinely. She's got good comedy chops, she's absolutely got dramatic chops, she's physically substantial enough to pull off action, and she's been unafraid of nudity since day one. She has a strong female appeal, and she's anchored some big hits like "The Princess Diaries" and "The Devil Wears Prada," movies that play right down the middle to the romantic comedy market. She's also made a lot of unpredictable choices, and she's taken risks, and she's pushed herself onscreen. She gets to go further than a lot of the classic-era movie stars did. I have no doubt she would have been doing big studio musicals and comedies and dramatic Oscar bait routinely in the '40s or the '50s, but she's got a brittle thing about her, something that she likes to play, that makes her interesting, unafraid to be disliked.
In the parlance of today's pop culture, Team Hathaway. Totally.
Amongst the chaos that was the San Diego Comic Con this year, I got the opportunity to sit down with a few of the cast members of "Fright Night," including Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Best known for his role in "Superbad," It's fair to say that Mintz-plasse has a promising career ahead of him as he is a talented character actor. He is the no-brainer choice to play Ed, ("Evil Ed" in the original) Charley Brewster's extremely geeky best friend.
In my review of "Conan The Barbarian," I wrote about how glad I am that Momoa ended up playing the part. I got e-mail from several of you who seemed irritated this morning that I would say anything good about anyone besides Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role, and it frustrates me. You won't find many people who love the 1982 John Milius film more than I do, but I can feel that way and still think that the character described in the stories isn't the character in that film. I've always felt that there's another interpretation possible.
For me, the moment that comes closest to capturing the mood of Howard's stories as I always read them isn't even from a "Conan" movie. It's from "Brotherhood Of The Wolf," late in the film, when Mark Dacascos is raining bloody vengeance down on people. He's not a giant muscle-man, but that's not really what I think of when it comes to "Conan." Yes, he's powerful, but he's also a thief, someone capable of grace and stealth. He's excellent with a sword, fast and agile.
Daniel Radcliffe will end up behind the camera at some point. Count on it.
I think there's a reason many people who start their area in film as a child actor eventually move into producing and directing. Radcliffe has grown up with other people calling the shots, and after a while, if you're a creative person, you're drawn to telling your own stories. If he's even remotely interested in filmmaking, he's had plenty of time to learn his craft by watching the directors of the "Harry Potter" series. Obviously, I don't know for sure he will make movies, but if I was a betting man, I'd put a few dollars down on the possibility.
In addition, there's the idea that he's spent his whole professional life playing one character. Sure, he's done other work on stage, and to great success, but his film persona is defined entirely at this point by The Boy Who Lived. If he's going to have a career moving forward, the choices he makes have to be somewhat calculated, at least in the big studio movie realm.
Marcus Nispel's new "Conan The Barbarian" is the film equivalent of having someone punch you in the face for two straight hours while someone screams in your ear. Now, if you like that sort of thing, buckle up, because "Conan" is absolutely stark raving mad from the first frame to the last. Hyperviolent, with all the sexual sophistication of an eleven year old who just read his first "Hustler," and filled with utterly nonsensical set pieces, it is no more faithful a rendering of the work of Robert E. Howard than the 1982 John Milius film was. It is, however, pulpy in an almost defiantly unapologetic way, and there is some kick to seeing a movie this gleefully unconcerned with offending modern sensibilities. I would not call this the definitive "Conan" movie that I still hope someone makes some day, but I would say that it's unforgettably deranged, and I had fun watching it even as I felt shame over how much fun I was having.
I grew up on the Robert E. Howard stories, as well as the stories by other authors working in his world and the Marvel comics treatment by Roy Thomas, and I had very strong feelings about the character before I ever saw the original Milius film. When that came out in 1982, I fell in love with it as a movie, even though I didn't love it as an adaptation. This time out, screenwriters Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood have drawn definite inspiration from Howard's work, and you can go through the film and pick out moments here and there that are directly lifted from this story or that story.
It's been a while since I've had Scott Swan over to record a podcast, and I could blame Comic-Con or I could blame other trips, or I could blame Scott's crazy work schedule or the films he's gearing up to direct, but the truth is, we just plain let it get away from us. My bad entirely.
This weekend, though, I finally got him over to the house, and we sat down for what turned out to be one of our longest, loosest, strangest podcast recording sessions so far. The reason I enjoy doing this show with Scott is that I've known him for over 25 years now, and the two of us can gab about pretty much anything with little or no preparation. It keeps things spontaneous, and almost no one else has the ability to reduce me to helpless tears of laughter as often or as scientifically as him.
I'm still struggling to find the exact right format for the show, but one thing you've been very vocal about is that you want Movie God to be part of the show. Rest assured, we brought it back this week. We also have an interview, as normal, this time with Phil Rosenthal, who created "Everybody Loves Raymond." He has a new documentary out on DVD and Blu-ray right now, and we talked to him about trying to reproduce that hit show for a Russian audience.
Rose McGowan and Rachel Nichols both play key roles in this weekend's new release, "Conan The Barbarian." I saw the film a few weeks ago in preparation for the press day, and while I can't review it yet, I can say that it is less a movie and more of a direct and unrelenting assault. Everything about it is pumped up and insane. It is Marcus Nispel screaming in your face, something unintelligible about "Howard" and "Crom" and "Boobs" and "Blood."
So. Much. Blood.
If you're casting to match the hyper-exaggerated world you've created, then you're looking to cast women who can embody the sort of van-art-super-curvy-exaggerated archetype. And so you're not just looking for attractive, you're looking for something striking.
Ernie Cline has been kicking around the edges of fandom since I first got online, and even before I learned that we had mutual friends, before we ever met, I knew him as the guy who took a not-at-all-bad crack at writing the long-promised sequel "Buckaroo Banzai Against The World Crime League," which endeared him to me right away. Ernie's the kind of guy who drives a DeLorean with a license plate that reads "ECTO-1" and a specially installed Oscillator Overthruster, and who couldn't care less if you think that's cool or not. In other words... he's the real deal. Nerd by blood. One of us.
In theory, I should be a huge fan of the film he wrote, "Fanboys." After all, I love "Star Wars," and both Ernie and the film's director Kyle Newman are sharp, funny guys, and the film even directly references Ain't It Cool and Harry Knowles. That sounds like a movie that was sort of directly engineered to appeal to me, which is why I found it so frustrating and awkward when I didn't love it. That's a hard position to be in, because the first inclination is to give something a pass. That's just a human reaction. I find, though, that when I am in that position, it is a stubborn point of pride for me that I have to be clear and on the record, and I have to set my personal feelings aside about the creators even if I'm afraid it'll burn a bridge. I don't think you do any artist a favor by lying to them about your reaction to their work, and I don't think you as an audience deserve to be soft-pedaled on something just because I know someone in the real world. When I wrote about "Fanboys," I knew I was possibly going to offend either Ernie or Kyle, and I figured that was just going to have to be the fallout, something I'd have to live with.
It was inevitable.
Mike Myers had a small part in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," and he's reprised his role as Shrek for both a sequel and a TV special in the last few years, but as far as live-action movies where he's the star, the last one was the disastrous "The Love Guru" in 2008, and the response to that nearly drove him out of the business.
Myers is a very particular talent, a guy who likes to workshop a character for a while before he actually makes a movie. He has not made that many films, all things considered, and a few times over the course of his career, he has actually pulled the plug on things that probably could have gotten made because he didn't feel they were ready. That happened most famously with "Sprockets," the feature-film version of one of his SNL characters. I liked the script he co-wrote with Mike McCullers, but Myers bowed out just before it was supposed to start, killing the film in the process.
It's been interesting watching the reaction to "The Help" this week. The movie, like the best-selling novel that spawned it, is a big slick slice of cheese anchored by some very strong performances, and I liked it well enough when I reviewed it.
I've been told repeatedly, both directly and through the media, though, that it is inappropriate to like the movie, and that it is insulting to both the reality of the civil rights movement and to the performers that are asked to play the maids in the film. I've been told that these stories are only valid if told by black filmmakers. Never mind that most young black filmmakers today have as much direct experience of the South of the '60s as I do… skin color is obviously the primary qualifier for what stories we are allowed to tell, right?
I think the entire debate is wrong-headed, frankly. I think any time people start telling other people what stories they can or can't tell, it's ridiculous. Do I think there is a long history of telling significant stories about other cultures or ethnicity through a white American filter? Sure. Absolutely. I think when you make a film like "Ghost Of Mississippi" about a real-life figure as remarkable as Medgar Evers and you tell it from the POV of a white lawyer, you have made a disastrous creative choice. I think when you make a film about Stephen Biko and you spend most of the running time dealing with the struggles of a white family to escape South Africa, you have missed the point.