Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
An amazing cast rises to the challenge of their demanding director
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, the head of a dream-invading team of thieves in Christopher Nolan's new film 'Inception'
Credit: Warner Bros./Legendary
I'm going to do this without spoiling the movie for you, because I think this is one of those films you should experience as free of fore-knowledge as possible.
Christopher Nolan has been making the same basic film since the beginning of his career, and one of the things that makes his filmography compelling is the way he circles the central idea in his work.
"Inception," like his earlier work, deals with a broken man, determined to fix his mistakes but only making things worse in the process. That could easily describe "Memento" or "The Prestige" or "The Dark Knight" or even his one remake, "Insomnia." Yet even with him returning to this idea, worrying at it, exploring different ways it can play out, he doesn't feel like he's stuck or marking time. I'd argue the opposite is true: by refining this idea over time and over different films and in different ways, Nolan is becoming merciless in his ability to engage both intellectually and emotionally. As a result, "Inception" flattened me, and even now, more than a week after my first viewing of it, I find myself turning over images and ideas from the film almost constantly.
Shrouded in secrecy during production, the film isn't really built as a narrative shell game with mind-blowing twists and turns so much as it is a logical and orderly descent into a trippy but airtight exploration of the way we frequently chase illusory versions of the people in our lives while ignoring the real flesh-and-blood imperfections that we don't want to acknowledge. Taken as a simple exploration of a marriage that has imploded, "Inception" is harrowing and brutal, and all the SF trappings layered in on top of that only serve to make that stark emotional truth palatable in some way.
Could this be the start of the turning of the tide?
There are lots of little clues to the nature of Zack Snyder's 'Sucker Punch' hidden in this early title treatment for the film.
Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary
This is where things start to get interesting.
I really like Zack and Deb Snyder. There's something great about a married couple that is also a creative partnership that works this well together, and every time I've ever spoken with them about their various projects, they've struck me as really no-nonsense, hard-working people who love what they do.
They also speak their minds whenever they're in front of reporters, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they went off-book in a recent red-carpet interview with MTV about their next film, "Sucker Punch." For most of this year, Warner Bros. has been talking about giving the film the post-conversion treatment so they could release it in 3D, and it's been a general assumption that it was going to happen. After all, Warner Bros. seems dedicated to the post-conversion process since it paid off for them in spades with "Clash Of The Titans," which was rendered almost impossible to look at by the process.
This week, I saw "The Last Airbender" in 3D, another post-conversion, and although it wasn't the same sort of eyesore that "Clash" was, it still managed to be utterly pointless and obviously not organic to the film. And don't even get me started on "Alice In Wonderland," which I thought might as well have been called "ViewMaster: The Movie." The thing is, I was a fan of the concept of post-conversion several years ago when I saw the first few tests that Lightstorm produced, and I had serious faith that the studios would start working to post-convert older catalog titles, taking their time with them to get them right, even as they started filming their new product in 3D so it was native. I guess it never occurred to me that you would film a new movie 2D, even though these insane high-end 3D cameras exist now, then do this post-process on the new films.
What is George Miller up to right now?
Mel Gibson may have made the "Mad Max" role famous, but Thomas Hardy is stepping up as the star of not one but two new sequels from director George Miller.
Credit: Warner Bros.
As recently as March 2009, George Miller seemed resigned to the idea that he was never going to get the chance to make a "Mad Max" sequel in live-action, and he seemed like he was moving on to the notion of making an anime-inspired CGI "Mad Max" movie. I understand his frustration, since I've been feeling it as a fan for years now. I still ache to get my hands on the original pre 9/11 script for "Fury Road," which supposedly wasn't even in conventional screenplay format, but was instead a bound set of storyboards, a visual roadmap for the proposed film.
So it's hard for me to believe that right now, somewhere in the world, George Miller is standing on a set making a "Mad Max" film in live-action. It is truly a wonderful world we live in.
And now, making it even more wonderful, Todd Brown of Twitch broke the rumor this morning that Miller is not making one film, but actually two back-to-back for a giant "Mad Max" epic. There's been a fair amount of discussion back and forth online all day about whether this rumor will pan out or not, but HitFix can now confirm that, according to sources, Miller is indeed making two films at the same time.
Certainly makes sense of the statment Thomas Hardy made at the "Inception" junket when he mentioned that he was going to be shooting for an entire year. That's a huge commitment for a cast to make, and I know when I spoke to Teresa Palmer at the press day for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," she was genuinely distraught that her schedule on "I Am Number Four" had forced her to drop out of the film. As an Australian, she grew up on the films, and she's known Miller for a while, having almost starred in his "Justice League" film at one point.
See how they prepared Kick-Ass to get his ass kicked
Matthew Vaughn directs Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz on the set of 'Kick-Ass,' which arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on August 3.
Wow... it seems like it took years and years from the first time I read the script for "Kick-Ass" to the moment it landed in theaters, and yet it seems like it's been about eleven minutes since it opened, and now we're already gearing up for DVD and Blu-ray, since the film is released on home video on August 3rd.
One of the things I'm most interested in seeing when the Blu-ray is released is a documentary that won't be appearing on the standard DVD edition, called "A New Kind Of Superhero: The Making Of Kick-Ass." We've got an exclusive clip for you today from that documentary, dealing with the way they approached the idea of fight choreography for Aaron Johnson's character. This is just a taste, though, so if you like what you see, you'll end up having to check out the whole thing on the final release of the disc.
If Blu-ray is ever going to catch up to DVD in terms of overall market share, then they need to create content that is both exclusive to the format and that offers real value. I see some ridiculous "special features" sometimes that I can't imagine anyone ever using, but this is something that would tip me towards buying the Blu-ray rather than the DVD if I was debating the choice.
I love the way Lionsgate Blu-rays look for the most part, and I think with "Kick-Ass," they've got a movie that should really push the visual quality as hard as possible. Matthew Vaughn shot in such bright primary colors, and the film's got such an aggressive action style, so I'm hoping the Blu-ray lives up to that .
As fans get their first look at the American version, many fears are calmed
Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee star in "Let Me In," the new American version of the Swedish vampire film.
Credit: Overture Films
Earlier this week, there was a screening for "Let Me In" at a mysterious, undisclosed location in Southern California. I did not attend, but several people I know did, and the word back from all of them was the same.
They loved it.
Color me pleasantly shocked here. Even when I spoke to Matt Reeves about the film at SXSW this year, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was one of the people who spent a lot of time and energy talking about "Let The Right One In" when I saw it at Fantastic Fest '08, and I love the way the film has built in reputation over time. I figured that it was going to have a long fuse on it, and sure enough, it seems like one of those movies that home video is slowly but surely growing from an obscure foreign title to a genuine genre classic.
Even though I think it's sort of ridiculous to make a new version of the book this close to the release of the Swedish film, that seems to be the new business model. And if they've got to do it, at least Matt Reeves seems to have a real affinity for the material. In our conversation, it was obvious that he's as big a fan of the novel as the Swedish film, so he's drawing from both in making his version. And until this trailer came out, how closely he might be taking cues from the film was still a question mark.
Who is Garfield, and does this mean Spider-Man loves lasagna?
Andrew Garfield, seen here in 'Boy A,' has been cast as Peter Parker in the new 'Spider-Man' due in theaters in 2012.
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Andrew Garfield, the young English actor who appeared in "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus," the "Red Riding" trilogy, and the upcoming Mark Romanek film "Never Let Me Go," has been cast as Peter Parker for the upcoming "Spider-Man" reboot, according to a press release by Sony Pictures.
"Boy A" was actually where I saw him the first time, and right away, he seemed like a young actor worth paying attention to, someone with a very raw and honest approach. His work in the "Red Riding" trilogy is mature and difficult, and he was absolutely up to the task. And working with Terry Gilliam on the troubled "Parnassus" was a great move. Even though all the press on that film was about Heath Ledger's untimely demise, onscreen, it was Garfield who served as the emotional core of the movie, and he was great in it.
He's older than I would have expected based on the casting speculation surrounding this film. Most of the final candidates are genuine teenagers, while Garfield is 27 right now. Originally, the Jamie Vanderbilt script for this film had Peter Parker as a high school student, and the assumption was that Sony would cast young so that they could do several films over the course of high school and college, a la the Brian Bendis take in "Ultimate Spider-Man." What we're hearing now though is that Parker starts the series as a college student, and that makes more sense with this casting.
Animation and puppets and sitcoms, oh my
Jason Segal sat down to discuss 'Despicable Me' and his upcoming Muppet movie recently.
I've spent a fair amount of time now talking with Jason Segel about his various projects, and from the first time I met him on the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," he's been talking about his love for the Muppets and his desire to make a Muppet movie.
So even though I sat down with him at the Four Seasons last week to talk about "Despicable Me," the new animated film where he plays Vector, the bad guy of the film. It was good to catch up with Segel, who seems to be enjoying his hiatus from "How I Met Your Mother," and his enthusiasm for this film and for his upcoming Muppets collaboration is evident in the conversation.
It's funny... last week was a very Apatow week for me, even though Judd wasn't involved at all. Monday started with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the "Green Hornet" event, I ended up seeing "Dinner For Schmucks" and discussing it with Steve Carell, I met Martin Starr at that screening, and then I wrapped it up with Segel at the Four Seasons. That's in addition to the "Scott Pilgrim" event just before that, with Michael Cera front and center. It strikes me that even with Apatow taking things easy right now, and deservedly so, the ripple effect of the run of movies he wrote, directed, or produced between "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Funny People" is enormous, and still playing out.
M. Night Shyamalan's career ends with a whimper, not a bang
This is probably the only moment in the entire film that made me smile, and they still managed to screw up Appa as a character. Amazing.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
I just realized that I never even bothered to review "The Happening."
Wow. I'm not sure what surprises me more... the fact that I just plain skipped discussing an M. Night Shyamalan film, or the fact that I didn't even remember if I'd written about it or not. I've been writing about Shyamalan's work since 1998 at least, when I covered "Wide Awake." I was already a fan at that time thanks to the scripts he'd written for "Labor Of Love," "Stuart Little," and "The Sixth Sense," and I spent a lot of time talking him up, calling him one of the best writers in the business.
What a difference 12 years makes, because with "The Last Airbender," the ride is finally over.
Over the last few films he made, I've been saying that Shyamalan's priorities as a filmmaker had shifted, and he had become a much better director than writer. Now, based on the evidence of this film, based on the acclaimed Nickelodeon TV series, I'd say he's not particularly good at either of those skill sets anymore. "The Last Airbender" is a total stiff, and a disappointment for fans of the show as well as a confusing mess for anyone who's never seen an episode.
I was late to the party with the TV show. I don't spend a lot of time watching Nickelodeon, oddly, but after hearing enough talk about it to make me curious, Paramount sent me one of the five-episode DVD collections they put out, and I checked it out. Even picking up mid-series and just watching a few episodes, I was immediately taken with the show's energy and style and approach to character. It's sort of like watching a slightly sillier Miyazaki film each week, full of the same genuine spirituality as Miyazaki's best work, but unafraid of broad and goofy humor at times. The action on the show is inventive and unique, and the way the series builds from year to year is focused and controlled and eventually pays off in an experience that pays off in ways that few "kid-oriented" shows ever even attempt, much less accomplish.
Go ahead, Tim, you might as well... you've already given up
The characters created by Charles Addams have survived numerous interpretations including a current run on Broadway, but will Tim Burton have anything new to say in stop-motion?
Credit: Charles Addams Foundation
I don't think it would surprise anyone to learn that Charles Addams was a major influence on the artistic style of a young Tim Burton. I'm sure Edward Gorey and Gahan Wilson were equally influential in terms of ghoulish silly sensibility, but when you look at the black and white line work of Charles Addams, you see the direct precursor to almost every one of Burton's signature quirks.
That's cool. Burton wears his childhood influences like an open book, like many great visual stylists do, and in his case, he's always been partial to a mix of the morbid and the hilarious. Addams is the master of that. I would argue that more people know his style from the original '60s TV show "The Addams Family" or the feature films that were made in the '90s than are actually familiar with his cartoons.
Understandably. Right now, the one place you can read the amazing work that Addams left behind is in those weird book things. The Addams family (the real one, not the creepy ooky kooky one) has worked hard to keep his work off of the Internet. There are only a handful of his hundreds of cartoons online, and since it's so important to the estate, I won't reprint one here as an example. The reality is, it's far more likely that people stumbled across the TV show or the movies or the animated cartoon versions that have existed at various times, simply because that stuff is actively out there, easy to stumble over.
Who exactly is this animated film intended to entertain?
Johnny Depp is playing the title character in Gore Verbinski's animated 'Rango,' and there's a full-length trailer for the film now.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
For the most part, animation is controlled by a few very loud voices in the industry, and there is little room for people to experiment with it, particularly at the studio level.
That's a shame. Because animation is a medium with near-limitless storytelling potential, and year after year, film after film, we essentially see the same types of stories with the same types of characters and the same sort of authorial voice, an echo chamber in which you either tell stories for children, or you don't tell stories. And you tell them in a very familiar way, so as not to freak anybody out.
Sure, we've got Pixar, and I have been vocal about how much I admire their work, but I don't think that should be the only strong voice out there in animation. Disney, Dreamworks, Aardman... they've all contributed strong films to the mix, but that's still just a very narrow range of stories being told.
What we don't see much of are filmmakers who have strong voices who decide to just make an animated film. Robert Zemeckis is a rare example, and he sort of took the all-or-nothing route, building an infrastructure and working with the same technology from film to film, polishing his technique, experimenting. Seeing Spielberg and Jackson jump into "Tintin" together is a thrill, and I hope they crush it. I hope they make these movies that are basically like jumping into the world that Herge created.