Woody Harrelson's having a lovely moment these days.
I sat down with him this week to talk about his movie "Rampart," and that represents one part of what I like about his work right now. He's a great character actor, but it took a while for filmmakers to really figure out his range. I think he has a strong connection to filmmaker Oren Moverman, and I am excited to see if they're going to keep working together moving forward from here.
But Woody has also become a valuable asset for big studio movies when they find the right role for him, and I think Haymitch, an important figure in the world of "Hunger Games," could be one of those cases where he's not the first name you think of, but he's could turn out to be an inspired choice.
He's certainly ready for whatever happens, and I think it's interesting to see how different his attitude is from Elizabeth Banks, who we spoke to yesterday. She's keeping her head down, focused on the work she's doing, and tuning out the rapidly-mounting hype for the films. Woody, on the other hand, seems totally at peace with whichever way this goes. It could be gigantic, and he'd be happy to keep on playing the character in future films, or this could just miss, and he'd still be satisfied with the work and the experience.
Woody Harrelson's having a lovely moment these days.
Steven Soderbergh is a miracle worker.
These days, George Clooney is about as close to a sure bet as you can find when it comes to awards season, both as an actor and as a filmmaker, and it's easy to forget that when he made the jump from "E/R" to feature films, there was a struggle while he was trying to define himself.
These days, there is no real remnant of the tic that defined him at first, that weird sideways head thing he did where he'd sort of do the palsy shake while he was talking. The moment where he finally stopped doing that was when he worked for Soderbergh in "Out Of Sight," and whatever happened between them, it transformed Clooney, and he's never looked back.
I think the same thing might be going on right now with Channing Tatum, and it's exciting. When we sat down to talk about his role in "Haywire," we had a brief moment where we were trying to sort out some camera issues, and we started talking about the recent trailer release for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," as well as my time on the set of the film.
One of the ridiculous things about making lists of what you're most anticipating before the start of a calendar year is that you haven't really seen much yet. Chances are by the time a film's actual publicity campaign kicks in, I've seen more than you have, but even so, many of those "what's coming in 2012" pieces you see at the end of the year are speculation, betting on interesting combinations of things you recognize, hoping for the best.
When you talk about a film that looks good in the hypothetical, "Moonrise Kingdom" sounds like someone sat in a room with someone else and said, "How can we get Drew to pay attention?"
"Well, we could cast it with people like Bill Murray and Bruce Willis and Edward Norton and Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman."
"Nice. Good. He loves those actors."
"Exactly. And we should get the script to be a collaboration, try to appeal to two different points of interest for him. Take someone like Roman Coppola, whose movie 'CQ' is one of those underseen, under-appreciated gems that Drew totally loves, and have him collaborate with someone whose taste would make an interesting match…"
"Oh. Slam Dunk. Ticket sold. Drew's in."
This is exciting.
SXSW has announced their opening night film for this year, and it's a doozy. I'm allowed to say that I've seen it already, and that anyone who is in the audience for the Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard horror experiment "Cabin In The Woods" that night is in for a treat.
And I mean it when I call it an experiment. This is one of the year's wildest rides, and I can't wait to be able to talk about it when the festival finally arrives.
Add to that the idea that Judd Apatow's coming with Lena Dunham, and that seems like the perfect combination to describe the identity that SXSW has carved out for itself, as a place where Hollywood and indie co-mingle quite comfortably.
Here's the information that SXSW sent over this morning:
"Chinatown" is one of those movies that changes every time I return to it, each time giving it some space after I see it. It is a slippery classic that represents a gorgeous collision between the studio hypergloss of the '40s and the New Truth cinema of the '70s, a European's heartfelt struggle to understand the city where his chosen medium thrived and took root. I adore "Chinatown," both as a script that refuses to compromise in the way it unveils its sad, damaged heart and as a perfectly-pitched tribute to the LA noir fiction I love so much. It's impeccably performed, beautifully photographed, and about as good an example of what happens when everything clicks just right on a movie as I can name.
And it is finally, finally, finally coming to Blu-ray.
Like Universal, Paramount is celebrating it's 100th year this year, and I think releasing one of the finest films the studio has ever made on the finest home video format that's been made so far is a pretty nice way of celebrating the year. And if the only thing the disc contained was a perfectly restored high-definition print, I'd be all about that. I would happily pick one up.
I've interviewed Elizabeth Banks a handful of times now, and she comes across during a press day the same way she comes across in her work: down to earth, not fussy at all, and always just sort of slightly kidding about things.
I'll have my full interview with her about the new film 'Man On A Ledge' soon, but for now, we wanted to share a short piece of the conversation when I brought up the impending onslaught of publicity and attention for "The Hunger Games."
I just talked to Woody Harrelson about the film as well, and he seemed well aware of what sort of expectation there is for the movie. Banks, though, seems like she's got her head down, focused on this year's "30 Rock" and doing publicity for "Ledge" and basically anything that keeps her from thinking about the insane spotlight that she's about to step into with this series.
I get it. It's one thing when you make a movie in a vacuum and you release it and people suddenly fall in love with it and there's a big fan base that grows from the movie. But this sort of big fat pop culture phenomenon that you're adapting is something very different, and it comes with a totally different type of attention. Fans of the "Hunger Games" series have very strong opinions about the casting, and while some of the choices may have been controversial, it seems like fans have taken to the idea of Banks playing Effie Trinket in a big way.
Each time I sit down with Sam Worthington, I am struck by just how resolutely unpolished he is, and how refreshing that can be.
No matter how many press junkets and interviews he does, I get the feeling no one is sanding any rough edges off of Sam Worthington any time soon. He doesn't have that filter that is so carefully trained into most movie stars, and he doesn't seem terribly political in terms of what he will or won't say.
As a result, I've always enjoyed talking to him. If you do get a reaction out of him, it's genuine. If you want to talk '80s metal bands with him, you'll get him to talk all afternoon, and you'll see what passion looks like. But he'll be equally frank and critical if you want to talk about his own movies.
For example, as we sat down last week to discuss his new film "Man On A Ledge," I wanted to ask him about returning to play a character in a sequel, something he just did for the first time, and something that he's going to do soon (relatively speaking, considering the "Avatar" sequels aren't going to arrive until at least 2016) when he returns to Pandora for James Cameron.
Wait, wait, wait… so "Red Tails" is a trilogy?
That's what George Lucas said during a fairly freewheeling interview on "The Daily Show" this week. He's been making the rounds doing publicity for "Red Tails," which is a surreal thing to say as a longtime Lucas fan. How many years has he been talking about this story, and how long has he been trying to get it made? And now, finally, here it is.
Rick McCallum has also been doing interviews to support the film as well, and he dropped an interesting bit of information about the long-rumored live-action "Star Wars" television show… a title.
What's really interesting is how the title plays into what I'd already learned about the show, and every time they say anything official about the show, it sounds like they're making the series that I initially heard described. And if that's true, it sounds like it could be a really interesting different take on the world of "Star Wars," one that's not like any of the films that have been made so far.
Robert Rodat, eh?
He is, of course, best known for his screenplay for "Saving Private Ryan," which was fairly heavily doctored by several other heavy hitters brought on once Spielberg was officially making the film. That's the way it works, though. No matter who did what, if you're the guy with the name on the movie, you're the one who gets the bounce.
The thing is, Rodat's a good writer, and that's true of his other work as well. I quite like "Tall Tale," a fantasy picture that deals with some of the legendary characters of the American west, and I greatly admire "Fly Away Home," a strong family film starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin. Rodat's done strong drafts of a number of films over the years, and he's a guy who works very well with directors, especially when they're about to start production on something and the clock is ticking. That is one of the most important skills in modern screenwriting, and one he's going to put to use if he's going to get them ready for Alan Taylor to start production later this year on the sequel to "Thor."
Welcome back to Film Nerd 2.0.
As we move forward with this column, one thing is important to remember. In the end, these are my kids. Not a social experiment. Not a reflection of me. Not an accessory for the column. But actual kids who only get one actual shot at childhood, and whose emotional lives are my responsibility. I consider the sharing of movies to be one of the primary things that we share as social creatures, and that's not a small thing. Movies travel across culture and geography and time to communicate essential truths and absurdities and experience and invention and hopes and fears. They are invaluable, and as media becomes more and more portable and flexible in the daily lives of people, including my kids as they get older, why not be careful about the road map you provide these people?
Many of my DVDs have been removed from their cases and placed in 300-disc books, and one of Toshi's favorite things to do is page through those books and look at the various images and titles and ask questions about them. I try to answer his questions honestly but there are a lot of films he asks about that I can't even summarize to him without it raising questions I can't answer yet. He is aware that I write about the movies we watch together, and after the reaction to his Muppets interview at the school he attends, I think he understands that it is not something everyone does, and that it's special.