Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Warner Bros makes the best possible choice for the Man of Steel
Honestly, I don't think there's a better choice Warner Bros. could have made.
For the last year, we've been hearing rumors about what plans Warner Bros. has for Superman, arguably the most famous superhero character of all time. The first concrete information we had was that David Goyer, Jonathan Nolan, and Christopher Nolan had figured out a way to bring the character back to the bigscreen that they would be producing and writing. There were rumors about Jonathan Nolan directing the film, rumors about David Goyer directing the film, and then a whole bunch of recent rumors about a whole bunch of names who might direct the film.
In the end, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have decided to go with a filmmaker who is already family, and who seems to me to be the absolutely dead-on bull's-eye perfect choice for the job: Zack Snyder.
As much as any of the superhero films out there, Superman is a character who plays as pure modern mythology, and he should be painted in big epic strokes. Snyder's got an undeniable way with an image, and his obsessions with flight and slow-motion and the depiction of the clash of power all feed directly into the idea of bringing a new version of Superman to life, while still honoring everything that makes the character an icon.
The story was broken in very brusque manner by Michael Fleming, who I assume knew that the story was about to break and wanted to make sure he got his scoop up. I'm curious to see if we hear in the days ahead about what won Snyder the job. Aside from common sense, that is.
The hiring appears to suggest a continuity in the series that should please fans
There's little doubt Universal plans to keep making "Bourne" films indefinitely, but until today, the direction those films would take was very much up in the air.
Now it appears that Tony Gilroy, who wrote drafts of all three of the "Bourne" films so far, will not only write but direct "The Bourne Legacy," which may well serve as a total reboot of the property. Matt Damon has previously indicated that without director Paul Greengrass, he has little interest in playing the character again.
Gilroy just recently turned in a draft of "Legacy," and evidently the direction he's taking the series is the direction the studio likes. There were several other takes on this one, with several other writers working before Gilroy, but this is the first sign that the studio thinks the material is something they're serious about making. The "Bourne" franchise is incredibly important to the studio, and despite Gilroy's involvement with all of the films, he's been very vocal about his disappointment with them.
So does that mean we're going to see a different approach to the material altogether? Surely not. But maybe the new film will emphasize high-tech spying just as much as high-impact action. Gilroy loves to build elaborate mechanisms for his films, and "The Bourne Legacy" would seem to be a perfectly logical film to do that with.
Plus does Amy Adams have a date with the Muppets?
Welcome back to The Morning Read.
Let's not make a big stink out of this, and I'm not going to make any grand claims, but thanks to some major work behind the scenes by our great tech team, I may be ready to publish The Morning Read again on a regular basis. It's all about making it an effective part of the work week, and the only way to test that is by giving it another try.
One of the strangest things about a month like September, with back-to-back film festivals, is the way it makes you feel totally disconnected from the news that's going on. I'm not sure that's been a bad thing in the last month, though, because when I scan back over recent headlines, it's like someone's playing an elaborate practical joke on Hollywood and film fans alike. For the past four years or so, we've been promised a Spielberg-directed, Tony Kushner-scripted film about Abe Lincoln starring Liam Neeson, and instead, it now appears that "the hottest project in town" really is a 3D movie in which Lincoln kills vampires, produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmembatov. Irony has eaten our pop culture when this is "the hottest project in town," and while I'm sure it'll be a gas, I'm a little amazed reading accounts of how far 20th Century Fox went in their pursuit of the property. If Liam Neeson did end up playing Lincoln in this film instead of Spielberg's, it would be one of the most bizarre punchlines to a public development process of all time.
A review of the first season of the iconic comedy series, part of the new complete collection
Every single episode of "The Larry Sanders Show" is quotable. How many shows can you say that about? Or is that one of the things we use to measure our favorite TV shows? With comedy,
The first episode of the series had its voice and identity in place immediately. There's no growing pains at all in "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" The central dynamic that drives the show… Larry, Hank, and Artie… is firmly in place, and each of them is as clearly defined in the first half-hour as they were in the last episode years later. In this season, Larry's married to Jeannie (Megan Gallagher), and his personal life is one long hall of mirrors, watching his own show at home after spending all day awash in it. Hank's desperate need for recognition and love is already on display, and I love when "Kingsley's Queens" come to visit, his fan club of middle-aged ladies. There's a tension between Larry and the network from the very start, and I like that they never name the network in the entire run of the show. It's just "the network." It's wild how little the landscape has changed for late-night talk show guys, and after the last year of Conan and Leno and hoopla, oh my, it feels appropriate to watch this series again as a sort of chaser.
The episodes that follow are just as strong. "The Promise." Great stuff. Big laughs. "The Spiders Episode." The simple thrill of hearing Carol Burnett say, "I saw your balls." "Guest Host" taps that recurrent anxiety of being replaced that fuels almost all the choices people make over the course of the series.
An unofficial festival sidebar showcases one of the best martial artists in the world
Donnie Yen had a very, very good Fantastic Fest, even if he wasn't there.
The icons of martial arts cinema have been on the wane as of late, and for understandable reasons. Jackie Chan is probably lucky just to be walking at this point in his life, and Jet Li just doesn't seem to have the drive anymore. Tony Jaa, the most recent addition to the canon, cracked up and basically destroyed his own career. Although I've seen many strong martial arts films in the last few years, I don't think there's any single performer who has stepped up as an instantly recognizable star, and that's a shame.
That's why I'm sort of amazed by the resurgence in the last few years by Donnie Yen, who I've always considered one of the best actors out of all the current generation martial arts stars. In three films playing at Fantastic Fest 2010, Yen's work is showcased in three very different ways, and watching all three of those films is a great way to understand just how wonderful he is these days, and just how singular he seems to be in the world of action cinema these days.
I saw "14 Blades" at ActionFest in Asheville earlier this year, and as part of the jury at the fest, I helped award the film a citation for "Best Action Sequence." There's a scene early on where Green Dragon (Donnie Yen) meets the Judge Of The Desert (Chun Wu), and they challenge one another to a certain display of skills in a certain period of time, and it's such a classic, simple way of establishing the way each of these characters fights that it seems to me to be a near-perfect scene to show someone who wants to understand why I'm drawn to martial arts films in the first place. There's character, humor, thrills, and danger all wrapped up in one scene.
An afternoon with one of the best film composers working
Michael Giacchino takes his job very seriously.
If I were to make a short list of my favorite movie-related moments in 2010, there's a good chance my afternoon at the home studio of composer Michael Giacchino would top that list. After all, he's one of the most canny pop-culture artists working today, and his scores have been a major factor in my love of films like "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" and "Star Trek" as well as shows like "Lost" and "Alias." He is probably the first great Hollywood composer to emerge from the video game industry, and in his way, he's the Tarantino of film scores, a canny magpie whose knowledge of the history of film and film music shows up in the most unusual ways in his work.
There are certain people on films you get used to never speaking with, composers and cinematographers and editors, people who are key creative collaborators but whose work goes largely unnoticed by the general filmgoer and largely uncelebrated by the press. Part of that is access. When I visit a film set, one of the people I'm most interested in talking to is the cinematographer, but they're typically so busy that they don't have time to talk to reporters. With composers, what they do is typically a private process up to the moment of recording, and then it's such a quick process that they don't bring the press in. I can count the number of scoring sessions I've been to on one hand, even though it's always magic when you're there.
The good news is you'll get a chance to see this one yourself
Traditionally speaking, it's hard to mix horror movies and Christmas.
I still vividly remember the outcry over "Silent Night, Deadly Night" when I was young. People seemed outraged at the idea of a Santa Claus slasher film. Looking at it now, it's a very strange movie to get upset about, and I'm not entirely sure who people are protecting when they get indignant about people playing with the Santa iconography. Santa's not a religious figure… he's not real… and he's not sacrosanct. As with all mythology, I think all things Santa are up for grabs for anyone working creatively, and based on my own research into the origins of Santa Claus, I think there is some rich and fertile material that has never been used in any movie.
At least, not until now. "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" is a monster movie, a horror film, deliciously weird and filled with outrageous imagery. It uses the traditional Finnish Santa Claus mythology to set up a monster movie about a young boy who is the only one who knows what's going to happen when a team of explorers, allegedly a "seismic research team," decides to excavate a mountain nearby where Santa Claus is rumored to be buried.
One of them, anyway. See, in Norway, they have a wide array of Santas. 13 of them, actually, each with a different name, and each one behaving differently. The Santas of their traditional tales are creepy, vile things, cautionary figures for naughty children. It's about as far away from the Coca-Cola commercial version of Santa that we know today in our own culture as you can be. The real pleasure of watching "Rare Exports" comes from watching how Jalmari Helander, the film's writer/director, takes his country's mythology, the world's perceptions of Santa, and basic childhood fears, and combines it all into this particular story with such skill.
TV stars Eric Balfour and Donald Faison chew some serious scenery
The new trailer for 'Skyline' made it's way onto the web, judging by the poor audio quality, it may be a tad premature or a leak. That said, however, it looks like a lot of fun.
We see quite a bit more this time than in the "Stephen Hawking warned us but we didn't listen" teaser trailer that came out a while ago. Adding to the space ships and the giant people vacuums, we've got giant beast feet, tentacle action and some serious eye-zombification that happens whenever people look into the alien light.
Adding to the fun is some serious sci-fi "reaction acting" from stars Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under) and Donald Faison (Scrubs.) Balfour's reaction to the helicopter tentacling at minute 1:43 is pretty darned fantastic. And David Zayas (Dexter) uttering "Don't you get it, we're at war" is a harbinger of some zealously dramatic dialog.
It really is a film about a killer tire on a rampage, and so much more
I find it hard to believe "Rubber" exists.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad it does. I just have trouble imagining the chain of events that had to happen to result in a film as singular and enjoyable as "Rubber." This movie's been infamous since the first word of it broke online as "the movie about the tire that kills people," which may be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
And sure enough, if I was trying to describe this film to someone honestly, I would have to admit that it is indeed the story of a tire that wakes up, becomes mobile, realizes it has telekinetic powers, and starts to kill people. The tire doesn't have a face. It doesn't talk. It's just a tire that rolls around. And even so, it offers up a performance. It is billed as Robert in the closing credits. It is an actor, and part of what kept me riveted for the entire running time of the movie was the work it did, and trying to figure out "the trick".
But the film is more than that. Much more than that. The opening moments of the film feature one of the great set-ups for a movie I've seen in a while, but describing it to you won't really do justice to it. It's a long shot of a car driving up, parking, and a guy getting out and delivering a monologue. And then, once he's finished, he's back in the car and off again. It's completely self-aware, and it sets up the rules for what you're going to watch. Not in a subtle way, either… this is a movie that tells you right up front what it's going to be, and that it's going to be playing with you overtly every step of the way. It is hilarious and weird and smart and stupid all at once, and it's a very unusual example of a broad surrealist comedy, expertly accomplished.
Character actor Jared Harris in talks for key villain role
The entire time I wrote at Ain't It Cool News under the name of "Moriarty," I was inundated with Sherlock Holmes knick-knacks and trinkets and toys and books and other Arthur Conan Doyle ephemera. People sent me truly amazing things over the years, all celebrating Sherlock Holmes and his most infamous of opponents, Professor Moriarty. Just recently, a friend gifted me with this stunning hand-crafted chess set using all of the characters in the stories to represent both sides of the board.
It is inevitable that the producers of the big giant "Sherlock Holmes" series for Warner Bros. are going to bring the good Professor into the films. In the first one, he has handled as a shadowy figure, with only his hands showing. There have been any number of rumors about who would play the part in the sequel, with names including Brad Pitt and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Now it looks like the role has officially been filled, and the choice is somewhat surprising. It seems like they're not trying to just find a big movie star for the part, but have instead gone with an actor whose onscreen intelligence will be a fair match for Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. That's the key, since you have to put someone in the part who will seem like a righteous challenge for the character, and since Moriarty is the only person who Holmes is intellectually challenged by, we have to sense that onscreen.
If you've seen the BBC's recent series, "Sherlock," then it's obvious that these characters still have a lot of flexibility left in them. You can refigure them in many different ways, as long as the core relationships are intact and as long as you're playing with the classic version of the characters for a reason. What I liked about the Guy Ritchie film is that it's a very modern take, but in a period setting, and they're not running from the history of the characters, but they're also not just telling the same stories that Holmes fans already know.