I'm still unconvinced about "Akira" as a live-action property.
I'm convinced that hiring Steve Kloves to come in as a screenwriter on pretty much anything is a good idea, so the news that the studio is moving forward with casting how that he's done with his rewrite of the script suggests that he managed to crack what has been a difficult task for everyone assigned to it so far.
I've read Gary Whitta's first couple of passes at the project, and I've heard about the plans Albert Hughes has for the film, and it sounds to me like a really strange and risky project. Little surprise. The Katsuhiro Otomo manga and the 1988 film based on it are both surreal, dense, and even as a fan, I'd hardly call them ironclad examples of how to write a compelling narrative. They are dreamy, filled with big memorable images that frequently seem to work more as experience than story. I love the movie, but I am also weirded out by it each time I revisit it. Like "Godzilla," the prior incarnations of "Akira" have been built out of the mythology and psychology of a country that actually knows what it's like to have nuclear bombs dropped on it, and the scar that leaves on a national psyche comes out in these films in fascinating and organic ways. Moving the setting to "New Manhattan" does the same thing that happened when they remade the Argentinian film "Nine Queens" as "Criminal" in the US: they can tell the same surface story, but the subtext vanishes because of geography, robbing the original of much of its meaning.
I'm still unconvinced about "Akira" as a live-action property.
Like many people, I dig Conan O'Brien but didn't always make time to actually watch him, either on "Late Night" or once he moved over to "The Tonight Show." In theory, I appreciated that he was the host of the most-famous franchise in late night talk show history, and I thought it was appropriate, but I don't watch much TV of any type at this point, and certainly I don't feel the need to watch something which is largely about publicity, since I get plenty of that through my job every day.
When the entire flap about Jay Leno and Conan erupted last year, it was remarkable how vocal Team Coco got, especially considering the overall lackluster ratings that his "Tonight Show" had. That's why I think many people were like me… fans in theory, if not in practice. And in the end, that cost him the show. It was ugly and awkward and public, and if he had become bitter and retreated from show business for a while, no one would have blamed him.
Instead, he turned his anger into a live tour and kept himself busy until he could go back on the air with his new show, "Conan," and thanks to director Rodman Flender, audiences will get a look at that time between the TV shows in the new documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," which had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival.
I reviewed "Down Terrace" late in the game, after it had already won some awards at Fantastic Fest, and I felt like I was the last one to realize just how impressive Ben Wheatley's film was. Of course, considering the size of the film's eventual release and how much of a blip on the radar it made, that's not true. Most people still aren't familiar with that jet-black look at the way crime can twist a family, but they should be. And this past week at SXSW, I got a chance to see Wheatley's new film as part of the amazing SXFantastic line-up, which starts out as a crime film, but which becomes something much stranger by the time it's through.
"Kill List" became one of the big acquisitions stories out of SXSW this year, and I know why. It's the sort of film that you'll have a strong reaction to one way or another, and you could cut a hell of a trailer for it. The problem is that you don't want to even hint at the way the film twists and turns, and so you've got to be very careful about it. Even writing a review of the film, I feel obligated to warn you that it's the sort of thing that plays better if you know very little about it. I will endeavor to leave you at the end of this review with very little concrete information while still imparting my reactions, which isn't easy.
The film, which he co-wrote with Amy Jump, is about Jay (Neil Maskell), a hitman who has been out of work for eight months following a major cock-up on his last job. He's trying to play it off like he just doesn't feel like going back, but the inertia is starting to really wear on his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring). When Gal (Michael Smiley) brings his girlfriend to dinner with Shel and Jay, Gal's got an agenda in mind, and when he sees the toll that Jay's unemployment is taking on their marriage, he takes the opportunity to pitch Jay on a job. Jay might not be ready, but it seems like an easy assignment. Three names, and once the list is done, there's a big payday waiting.
Welcome back to The Morning Read.
As if a trip to Area 51 and a film festival wasn't already disruptive enough to my regular schedule, I managed to get a sinus infection that has laid me flat for the past few days and that has been one of the most painful experiences of my adult life. Then there was a flooding incident that ruined my office in the house yesterday and most of my books, so I lost an entire day to trying to salvage what I could from all of that. Even so, I've been working through most of it, and we'll have some great video interviews for "Sucker Punch" and "Source Code" coming up this week, as well as the rest of my South By Southwest coverage.
First, though, let's jump back in and see what's going on out there on the rest of the Internet. It's been a tumultuous couple of weeks, and there's a lot of ground to cover. There has been casting news I've missed during the festival, but it all feels vaguely anti-climactic to me. It's momentarily interesting to hear what role Joseph Gordon Levitt might be playing in "The Dark Knight Rises," but how much do I really want to know about that film this far away from its production, much less its release? And I'll be writing more about "Hunger Games" later today, so I'm glad to hear Jennifer Lawrence is officially onboard as the lead, but that's hardly the entire puzzle, so I'm not feeling the breathless excitement I've seen in some of the reporting of it. And while I'm glad to hear that production has finally started on "The Hobbit," and it's nice to Peter Jackson up and around and looking healthy, it's familiar and a return to something. It doesn't electrify me the way something genuinely new does. It's just a nice confirmation of something that's been in the works forever.
So what is going on out there? What's going to shake me from my stupor so I can start this week the right way?
So I'm guessing this has to be the final trailer for "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," right? I mean, we're just around the corner from the film's release, and it seems like this is the one where they finally lay out as much of the story as they're going to before we actually see the film.
It seems to be fashionable to retroactively hate this film series at this point, or to roll your eyes at the return of Capt. Jack Sparrow, but I generally enjoyed all three of the films that Gore Verbinski made, and I like the source material they're using this time for the underlying structure of this latest chapter. Tim Powers is a hell of a writer, and his book "On Stranger Tides" offers a lot of opportunities for Elliott and Rossio to build off of as screenwriters.
For me, the biggest question mark about the entire endeavor is Rob Marshall. I'm not the biggest fan of his work as a director, and I think these films require a very particular type of energy if you're going to get them right. I'm certainly willing to give him a chance, and I hope this is the film of his I like the most.
I like the idea that Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) has sold out to the crown and is now working as an official representative of the British Navy. It creates a brand new tension between him and Sparrow that can be a lot of fun depending on how they play it. And in this trailer, it seems that Blackbeard (an ideally cast Ian McShane) has taken possession of the Black Pearl, raising the stakes between him and Sparrow. Throw in the fact that it seems Sparrow put it to Blackbeard's daughter (Penelope Cruz) at some point in the past, and there's all sorts of dynamics to keep things interesting.
Believe it or not, the thing that I've always enjoyed the most about the "Fast and the Furious" movies is the sound. I was a student post production sound mixer back in school, and I've always had an appreciation for a good sound design and a good mix. There's something about sitting in a dark theater watching a movie with a soundtrack that mostly consists of rumbling engines and tires squealing in Dolby all around my head for an hour and a half that just brings a smile to my face.
The part of a movie that has the least to do with sound is its poster, (How's that for a clumsy segue?) and "Fast Five" just put out a new one that focuses more on the actors than the cars.
The One-sheet consists mostly of Rio's sky-blue skies with the cast posed in various states of action across the bottom, this poster invokes more of a collage feeling than anything, as the actors do not appear to be inhabiting the same space.
While Drew's away at SXSW, rubbing elbows with the hip elite and eating amazing BBQ (sob!) I'm back here editing his video interviews and subsequently, in the case of "Source Code" having my movie experience pre-ruined by all the spoilers I'm hearing from the likes of Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan in their respective interviews. Ok, we'll they're not spoilers per-se, but I think I know much more than I would like to about the film.
And now the studio has released the first five minutes of the film to get you hooked.
I haven't watched this. I don't plan to either. I'm a huge fan of Duncan Jones' 'Moon' and my enthusiasm has been building to see this one. So I apologize in advance if there's any problems with the video, I haven't checked it for glitches. I'm just putting it up here for those of you who don't care, or are just too curious to wait for it the theater. We'll have some great interviews coming up next week, which you may or may not wish to watch as well. The one with Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones will be definitely spoiler-free and I highly recommend it. Watch the film embedded after the jump.
And just like that, Aronofsky is off of "The Wolverine" and on to whatever is next.
My guess is he won't be franchise hunting like he was before the release of "Black Swan." I get it. When he signed on to do "The Wolverine," Aronofsky was still a filmmaker in need of a hit. No matter how good his films have been, and I've been a fan of all of them, he was not a money-maker for any of the studios yet, and that can be problematic when you have big-canvass films you want to make.
Him signing on to do "The Wolverine" looked to me like a guy following up several personal choices with a movie that looked like as safe a commercial choice as possible. I believe he would make a very good "Wolverine" film, particularly with Hugh Jackman aboard, and that he has a real affinity for the material that would result in something honestly exciting.
But since he signed on, "Black Swan" became a legitimate box-office hit. A huge one. And for the first time ever, Aronofsky finds himself in a position of strength as he starts trying to develop his next film. It's like he got all the benefits of making a "Wolverine" movie without having to actually make the film.
Jodie Foster has been part of film as long as I've been paying attention. She's eight years older than I am, so by the time I was paying attention to movies at all, she was already working and familiar and established, a regular guest star on every show on TV, it seemed. I saw her in movies like "Tom Sawyer" and "Bugsy Malone" and "Freaky Friday," and once I got a little bit older, I started seeing her in other films like "Taxi Driver" and "The Little Girl Who Lived Down The Lane" and "Foxes" and "Carny," and she was constantly working with interesting people and on interesting films, and she seemed like an adult from the moment she stepped in front of a camera, no matter how old she was. Once she started directing, it seemed like a natural step, and "Little Man Tate" is a lovely debut movie, sweet but not sentimental, shot through with deep feeling and a love of performance. Then four years later, she returned to it with "Home For The Holidays." And then…
Sixteen years. That's a huge layoff between movies. Not by choice, either. She's had false starts and dead ends. She's produced movies for other people. She's acted. She's stayed involved. But until now, she's been silent as a director, and her return to the job made its premiere tonight at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It was one of the last two films I saw at the fest, and I did my best to walk into it cold, without any sense of what I was going to see. I've never watched the trailer for the film, and I saw one poster for it at the Summit offices last year, before Comic-Con. At that point, Summit seemed very happy with the movie, confident that they had something special on their hands.
Disney loves to tease out their press materials and have done so yet again with two new posters for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." The first, a "teaser payoff" shows Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, standing heroically in front of a montage of elements from the film: on his left, some mermaids on a rock, behind him on his right, a ship on fire (ooh! and another mermaid in the water.)
In the second one, meant for bus stops, we have Johnny Depp as Sparrow again, although this is a "big head" medium shot, and he's looking straight at us. I would hazard to say it's the same boat on fire in the background, although much farther away. (I would say he's being smart to get away from it, it's gun powder stores could go off!)
Interesting to note how sober and heroic the poster version's of Captain Sparrow are compared to the Ozzy-like character that Depp brings to the screen. Check out the two posters embedded after the fold.