What else is there to say about Tim Burton?
At this point, he's been working the same sort of thematic and visual material for thirty years now. And how old am I? Old enough to think of Burton as "relatively recent" in terms of working directors.
It's easy to reduce Burton's work to his stylistic signatures and his incredibly familiar color palette. When you see a Tim Burton movie, you know you're watching a Tim Burton film. You may hate the film you're watching, and I've certainly felt that way several times in his career, but you still have to acknowledge that he's found a way to indulge his interests and cast his favorite people and just plain make his stamp, no matter how impersonal or corporate the movie is.
I wonder sometimes what would have happened if he hadn't made "Batman" in 1989. He was shooting the film through much of my freshman year of college, and I was following the film's progress from a distance. I was convinced he was going to turn out to be an inspired choice, a choice that would update "Batman" for a whole generation of viewers.
What else is there to say about Tim Burton?
When you release the first trailer for a film, it says a lot about what that movie's meant to be, and sometimes, it's not really what you expect.
From the moment Warner Bros. started putting together "Gangster Squad," which was still called "Tales From The Gangster Squad" at that point, it seemed like it would fit neatly into a tradition of "LA Confidential" and "Mulholland Falls," movies about the history of the police in Los Angeles using real life as a jumping-off point.
And while today's trailer does indeed seem to confirm that, what I found surprising was the tone of the trailer. I guess I should have put it together when they hired Ruben Fleischer to direct the film. So far, he's had a sense of fun to what he does, a down-the-middle popcorn sensibility. That's not an insult, either, just an observation. He makes movies for the audience, and it looks like "Gangster Squad" is going to be far more focused on the fun than on the hunt for awards.
Fine by me.
We finally know what Edgar Wright's "The World's End" is about.
It's funny, because even knowing Edgar casually and having spoken with him any number of times since the first mention of what will now be the conclusion of 'the Cornetto trilogy," I've never had any desire to push him for information on the film.
After all, I figure we're not going to get endless collaborations between Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, so I look at it as a very special thing when they do get together to work. "Shaun Of The Dead" was this great out-of-left-field lightning bolt moment, "Hot Fuzz" was all anticipation, and so for "The World's End," I've done my best to just sit back and relax and wait to see what it is when the time is finally right.
Evidently, that's today.
The first time I ever saw Michelle Pfeiffer on a film set, it was when she was shooting "Batman Returns." It's fitting that we'd finally sit down for a formal interview for her first work with Tim Burton since then, as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the head of the Collins family, desperately clinging to whatever faded glory and dignity they once had.
I was running late to the press day thanks to traffic, and I was getting phone calls from Anne, the Warner publicist, letting me know that I was going to be the last person sitting down with Pfeiffer for the day. When I finally got to the SLS, I jumped out of the car, ran outside, and within 30 seconds of arriving, I was sitting across from Pfeiffer, which is enough to fluster even someone who had time to prepare.
Pfeiffer has managed to stake out her own place in Hollywood for thirty years or so now, and I admire the way she makes choices and the way she's established room for her role as a mother and a wife as well. It's so easy to get pulled into the idea that you have to keep working, that you have to treat every film as part of a career, but when I got to spend some time on the set of "Stardust," she ended up being remarkably approachable and easy to talk to. It was clear that she works when she's interested in something, and not just to work.
I have a weird relationship with Tim Burton's movies.
Fitting, I guess, since he's such a particular filmmaker. And this is going to be one of those reviews where you read it and you look at the letter grade and you say, "Are you sure those match?"
When "Alice In Wonderland" came out a few years ago, I found myself getting actively angry at almost everything about the film. I hated the script. I hated the way they bent Lewis Carroll's work. I hated the performance choices. Nothing about it worked for me, and beyond that, it irritated me. That film, of course, made well over a billion dollars around the world.
When "Mars Attacks!" came out, I thought it was wildly flawed, but also entertaining and ridiculous and packed with details that made me sort of fall for it, flaws and all. If I had to give "Mars Attacks!" a letter grade, it might not be a good one, but I own the film and I've seen it many times since that initial screening.
Often, I've noticed that when I really enjoy something that Tim Burton does, it makes other people mental and vice versa. Knowing this, I am probably not the best barometer for most people on Burton's work. All I can do is be honest and admit that, yes, "Dark Shadows" is one of those films where I see a lot of problems with it, and they pretty much don't matter to me because of what I enjoyed about it. I think the overall effort is endearingly ridiculous, and here's a way to gauge your own expectations for the film: how do you feel about "Death Becomes Her"?
Shortly after our interview ended, Eva Green returned to her home planet, happy and ridiculously hot.
I love people like Eva Green. I love actors who not only maintain a personal sense of style but who genuinely seem like they are tuned in to a private radio station, listening to music only they can hear. I love them because we often see that individual personality come out in their work in ways that no one could predict. They give performances that are alive in unexpected ways, and the films they are in are much richer for it.
Eva Green made a pretty serious impact on male moviegoers as soon as Bertolucci introduced her in "The Dreamers," and there is no doubt… she's a stunning woman. As she's gotten older, though, what's become increasingly clear is that she is not really equipped to be part of the machine. She's been in some big films, sure, but I don't get the sense that she has handed herself over, heart and soul, desperate to be a movie star.
I'm really surprised that Matthew Vaughn's willing to let someone else play with his toys.
After all, "Kick-Ass" wasn't just some studio gig he got hired for that was going to happen with or without his involvement. He chose to make the film outside the studio system because he knew it wasn't going to be easy to convince people to let him do certain things like cast a real 12 year old to play Hit Girl or keep the extreme attitude of the thing.
As Mark Millar's been publishing "Kick-Ass 2" over the last year or so, the question has been raised many times about whether or not there would be a movie sequel. Every time I ran into a member of the cast of the original, they seemed absolutely ready to jump back in and return to these characters. Chris Mintz-Plasse in particular seemed hungry to play the villain this time, and he seemed excited by where the character had gone on the comics.
Now, according to reports, Universal may well step in as the home for "Kick-Ass 2," and while Matthew Vaughn's MARV Films remains in control of the material, Vaughn and his screenwriting partner Jane Goldman are not going to be hands-on in quite the same way this time.
Until this year's SXSW film festival, I'd never spoken to Joss Whedon.
It didn't really strike me as odd until after the fact. I mean, I've been writing about this guy's work for the entire time I've been online, and we have many overlapping friends. Even if I hadn't had the opportunity for a formal interview, it seemed like we should have at least run into each other at some point. Even my Twitter icon sort of perfectly sums it up, a photo of the two of us standing about eight feet apart that I never even realized happened.
The SXSW chat went really well, I thought, and then I saw "The Avengers" and just flipped for what he pulled off. Sitting down with him again at the press day for the film, it was hard to know where to start the conversation because there's so much that's worth talking about when someone's having a creative moment like the one Whedon's having right now, not to mention the body of work he's already accumulated.
When someone contacts you and asks if you want to see Gary Busey bloopers from the sequel to "Piranha," the answer is ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION "yes."
All I needed to hear was "Gary Busey" and "bloopers," because I can only imagine what it looks like when he gets something wrong. The performances they cut together of his these days look like outtakes in the first place, barely sane collections of reaction shots that only loosely relate to what's happening around him, so bloopers? Please. As many as possible.
Busey is a big personality, and at this point, you know what you're getting when you cast him. I give him credit for holding together this sort of niche he's carved out, finding films that can make use of his particular presence and his box-office percentages in the overseas financing game. Thanks to some of the hits he's been in, Busey can help get a film made. He is a vital piece of the chess board, and I seriously respect any working actor who figures that out for themselves. Lots of people appear in movies. Not many people do it for forty or fifty years in a row.
Yes, I know Roger Ebert recently wrote a piece about struggling to define his ten favorite films of all time. He was doing so as part of the "Sight & Sound" critic's poll, and it was a typically great Ebert piece, even if I disagree strongly with some of the titles on his list.
Disagreement is, of course, part of the point. And since I wasn't asked to be part of the "Sight & Sound" poll, and neither were any number of interesting online voices, it was immediately appealing when Cole Abaius from Film School Rejects asked me to contribute my list to a piece he's doing this week. I decided it would be a fun exercise and opened up a file to start writing and…
I've taken a shot at a similar list before, almost in passing, and I've certainly got a running short list in my head of my favorite movies. But actually quantifying what my ten, or in this case twenty, favorite films are, without cheating, without including trilogies, without padding the list out… that's tough. And by the time I was done, I realized this needed to be a stand-alone article here on the blog.
One film you won't see on my list? "Citizen Kane." I might include it on the list of the ten most significant films of all time, and I certainly think much of what we consider modern film language evolved from choices that Welles and Gregg Toland made on that film, but as far as personal enjoyment? It's not in my top ten or even my top twenty. I just don't feel compelled to revisit it often, nor do I feel there is much more I can ever take from it as an experience.