Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
What does this mean for the films and for the director's future?
Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson shocked fans worldwide today with the news that Del Toro is leaving 'The Hobbit'
Just a few days after speaking frankly about the financial troubles that were causing delays for the production of "The Hobbit," Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson officially announced today that Del Toro will no longer be directing the films, although he plans to stay attached to the project long enough to complete his work on the screenplays.
In a letter to The One Ring, Del Toro and Jackson spoke at length today about the reasons behind Del Toro's departure from the project, but it really boils down to the delay. Right now, Del Toro's already spent two years preparing the films for shooting, but with no start date in sight, it's possible he could be waiting for another year or even two years before they're ready to shoot. Having originally set aside three years of his life to make the movies, he's looking at potentially giving up twice that much time, and for a director, that can be an unacceptable proposition.
"In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming 'The Hobbit,' I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director."
Reading that may upset and outrage fans, but the truth is that Del Toro has no choice here. He's had enough difficult periods in his career already that he knows how tough it can be to get momentum going again after time away from directing.
Familiar material works thanks to winning performances
Justin Bartha and Jesse Eisenberg prepare for a trip to Amsterdam in the smuggling drama 'Holy Rollers,' playing now in limited release
Credit: First Independent Features
One of the hardest parts of covering a film festival is setting your priorities. I know people who will only go see a film if it's something they believe is going to get a theatrical release. They figure their readers only care about films they're going to get a chance to see. Other people take the exact opposite approach, skipping movies they know they'll see later in favor of obscure programming that might well disappear into a void.
I try to strike a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the known and the unknown, and sometimes, I regret not seeing something when I get the chance. At Sundance this year, I felt bad about missing "Holy Rollers," but now it's opening in limited release already and I got the chance to catch up with it.
Films about drug culture typically fall into one of two shapes. Either they serve as cautionary tales about they toll that addiction takes, or they serve as cautionary tales about the dangers of dealing. "Holy Rollers" is one of those "dangers of dealing" movies, a based-on-a-true-story about the rise and fall of an ecstasy smuggling ring from the late '90s. The thing that makes the story unique is the same thing that made them so effective as smugglers: they used Hasidic Jews as their drug mules, correctly guessing no one would search or even suspect them.
A new ongoing series in which the films that 'SNL' spawned are revisited
Bill Murray with his greatest dramatic co-star ever in a pivotal scene from the hard-hitting thriller 'Caddyshack'
Credit: Warner Home Video
[For an explanation of this new ongoing column series, read last week's entry.]
When I tore open an envelope that was delivered to the house earlier this week and a found a copy of the Harold Ramis film "Caddyshack" on Blu-ray, I knew right away I'd found the perfect movie to watch on my birthday. This is one of those comfort food movies for me, something I've seen dozens of times over the years. I'm fairly sure I could recite the entire film if I really put my mind to it. Hell, there's a dancing gopher here in my office that makes me smile every day.
So what is it about this 30 year old film that I return to again and again?
The first job I ever had was as a caddy, but that's not why I fell in love with the movie. It's the exact opposite, actually. It was because of the influence of "Caddyshack" that the 14-year-old me went to the Honors Course outside Chattanooga, Tennessee looking for work. It more than lived up to expectations, too, and I've got stories from that job that were every bit as manic and wild as anything in the movie.
One of the main comedy formulas of the late '70s/early '80s was the "snobs against the slobs" story, and a big part of that was because of the outrageous success of "National Lampoon's Animal House." Studios and indie producers alike rushed to duplicate that movie's chemistry. In some cases, they just borrowed the general idea and changed the location, like "'Animal House' at summer camp" ("Meatballs") or "'Animal House' in the Army" ("Stripes"), but in a few cases, the studios reached out to the people behind the sucess of "Animal House" directly. Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney were two of the writers on that film, friends from the National Lampoon, and after "Animal House" blew up, they formed a production company together.
A look back at one wild man's dangerous legacy
Dennis Hopper in one of his very best roles, the evil Frank Booth in 'Blue Velvet,' which I'll be watching tonight in honor of his passing.
Credit: MGM/UA Home Entertainment
There will never be another Dennis Hopper.
It's actually sort of amazing there ever was a Dennis Hopper in the first place. We work in an industry that loves the image of the rebel, but that rarely rewards the real deal. It's fine to play a part where you're a hard-nosed badass who breaks all the rules, but if that's how you are when dealing with studio heads or money people, you really don't have much of a career.
Hopper started his career in the movies as a character actor in the '50s. It's strange to see a young and pretty Hopper in movies like "Rebel Without A Cause" or "Gunfight At The OK Corral," or in any of his dozens of TV appearances on shows like "Wagon Train" or "The Rifleman" or "The Twilight Zone." Hopper became an icon when he stepped outside the studio system to direct and co-star in a movie he co-wrote with Peter Fonda, a movie that turned both of them into counterculture heroes. "Easy Rider" is, in many ways, the movie that best sums up the social tensions of the late '60s, and there's something about the movie that feels bigger than just the story it tells. It wasn't just an important film socially... it was an atomic bomb set off in the middle of an industry that had grown stagnant and bloated, and the independent film industry that we've enjoyed for the last 40 years or more is due in no small part to the success of "Easy Rider."
This isn't the sort of thing this reviewer likes... or is it?
The cast of 'Glee' better be comfortable with production numbers, because the success of the show guarantees they'll be doing them for the next 20 years.
I've still got a ton of Blu-ray and DVD reviews to catch up on. Don't think I've forgotten. And there's one title in particular that I have gotten a ton of e-mail about since it hit shelves, and I figure it's time to finally go ahead and deal with it head-on.
It doesn't surprise me at all that "Glee" is compulsively watchable TV. "Popular" was far funnier and far smarter than it had to be for the type of high school show that it was, and "Nip/Tuck" was incredibly entertaining trash for the first few years it was on. Ryan Murphy is the common link between the three shows, and "Glee" seems like the perfect expression of all the skill sets that he's been developing from show to show. "Glee" is unapologetically one of the gayest shows on network TV right now, frequently leaping into high camp with no hesitation, and part of what makes the show so immediately appealing to its fans is the unapologetic nature of the characters. It is always difficult to figure out exactly who you are and the best ways to express that, and it is never more difficult than during high school. That's a pressure cooker version of who you are, and if you make it through high school with some shredded dignity intact, you are truly an impressive human being.
Will there be room in Hollywood for this comedy troupe?
Dan Eckman, Dominic Dierkes, D.C. Pierson, and Donald Glover on the set of 'Mystery Team,' the first feature film from DERRICK Comedy.
Credit: DERRICK Comedy
Having said that, the highlight of last week for me was sitting down to catch up with the guys at DERRICK Comedy.
To be accurate, I got together with three of the guys who make up DERRICK. Dan Eckman is the director of "Mystery Team," the feature film by the group that I first reviewed at Sundance 2009. Dominic Dierkes and D.C. Pierson are two-thirds of the on-screen Mystery Team, starring as Charlie and Duncan. In the year since I reviewed the film, we've followed the distribution trials and tribulations (literally in both cases) that have marked the film's theatrical life. I'll say this for them... and it's something you can't really see in the theatrical numbers they did... they worked their asses off. They toured. They worked. They went to screenings. They promoted. They did live comedy. They played crazy games with the crowds that came out. They carried their film around the country and they damn near handed out the tickets and set up the seats for the audience. That's how involved they were in getting the word out.
Roadside Attractions was the distributor for the film, and I've always said that they had taste. They were originally a production company, and the very, very good "Lovely & Amazing" was one of their early movies. "Super Size Me" was them kicking into distributor mode, and they did well with it. They've released some very good films like last year's "The Cove" or "The Puffy Chair" or "The Fall," but even with truly amazing films, they've never really broken through and turned something into a hit. It isn't enough just to pick up good movies for distribution... you also have to convince the ticket-buying public that those films are worth seeing.
Are audiences really hungry for more of either of these?
Either this silhouetted shot gets you excited for the possibility of a new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' film, or it makes you wonder who the heck actually wants a new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' film.
At what point do you gracefully walk away from a franchise? Is it even possible anymore?
I hate the current creative climate in Hollywood. Even though I saw a sequel tonight that is as good or better than any original film I've seen this year, I know that's the exception and not the rule. For the most part, we are trapped in a staggering rut that I can barely bring myself to write about again. I'm tired of beating this particular drum, and yet the news each day almost feels like a dare. "Can you write this story up without yelling about the death of mainstream Hollywood one more time?"
Nickelodeon purchased the rights to the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license last year. They own it all now, and it really shouldn't be a surprise that they're planning a new attempt at turning the characters into a viable bigscreen film franchise. What is surprising is that Paramount and Nickelodeon have chosen Platinum Dunes as the producers of the new film.
These guys have built a reputation for themselves with their horror movie remakes, and while some of their recently-announced development deals suggest some sort of shift away from that particular model, it's still a pretty major jump to suddenly hand them a huge kid's film property, especially one that's as well-known as this. Considering how miserable fans typically are after their favorite horror title gets the Platinum Dunes treatment, it seems dangerous for Nickelodeon to hand over this property to this particular production team. I don't think there are many reboots left in the material, so whatever they do this time, they need to get it right.
Studio sets release dates and confirms development on a handful of projects
Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr., and Rachel McAdams are all set to reprise their roles as Watson, Sherlock, and Irene Adler in 2011's just-confirmed 'Sherlock Holmes 2.'
Credit: Warner Bros.
Warner Bros is, in my opinion, the model of what a modern movie studio can be.
That doesn't mean I think every one of their films is a classic or that every decision they make is perfect. I just mean that they manage their assets as well as any company could, and in the process, they actually seem to support filmmakers in taking risks sometimes.
Running a studio has very little to do with the love of movies, and that makes film fans absolutely mental sometimes. Deservedly. I find decision-making infuriating sometimes from a creative point-of-view, but taken simply as numbers in a ledger, some of those choices end up making a lot more sense. What's great is when the artistic and the financial occasionally collide.
I'm not remotely surprised to hear that they've set a release date for "Sherlock Holmes 2." As recently as a month ago, Jude Law was denying that the sequel was going to happen, but now there's a release date of December 16, 2011 set for the film, something that was announced at a presentation this morning in New York by Warner chairman and CEO Barry Meyer.
If I were a Warner Bros. stockholder, I'd be pretty excited about the information Meyer gave to them today according to an article in the Hollywood Reporter. In addition to confirming the "Sherlock Holmes 2" date, he talked about the end of the biggest franchise in Warner Bros. history, the "Harry Potter" films. It now seems that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II" will hit theaters in 3D on July 15 on 2011, wrapping up a franchise that's going to end up being worth somewhere around $7.5 billion worldwide.
See the latest from Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and more
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz co-star in the big summer action/comedy 'Knight & Day,' just one of several films with new trailers in circulation this week.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
It's been a busy week for new trailers.
So busy, in fact, that I haven't had a chance to catch up with all the new trailers that are bouncing around the interwebs until this morning. It's a strange blend of stuff, big studio movies and tiny indies, long-delayed troubled projects alongside big mechanical release-date-fodder, horror and comedy and action all represented.
I have a theory that "Jonah Hex" is going to sneak up on people as a commercial force this summer, and for reasons that have little or nothing to do with "Jonah Hex" itself. The other day, when I went to G4 to make an appearance to discuss "Lost," I was in the green room before going on, talking to an eclectic group of people that included me, Devin Faraci, some of the producers of the show, Kevin Pereira, and one of the guys from "Chuck," and we all ended up talking about "Red Dead Redemption," the latest game from Rock Star Studios. If you haven't seen or played it, the game is basically "Grand Theft Leone." It's a sprawling sandbox Western game, and heaps of fun. It is, in the opinion of this casual gamer, an immersive and somewhat amazing experience, and for a lot of kids who don't see many Westerns, it's got to be a bit of a crash course in the joys of this particular genre.
"Jonah Hex" has elements of the supernatural in it, which gives it a slight edge and makes it different than your standard Western. Like "Red Dead Redemption," it's set towards the end of the Western age, and there are modern mechanics involved in both the evil plan of Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) and the arsenal that Hex uses to fight him. It's a movie that straddles a few different genres, and we'll see if they can pull them all together into a satisfying whole. For now, here's the second trailer for the film which just premiered on IGN:
Is going through the motions enough?
Gemma Arterton and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Disney's 'Prince Of Persia,' opening in theaters this week.
Credit: Walt Disney Company
I don't mean to sound like a grumpy jerk this year. I swear to god I like movies. In fact, I like many movies, and I like them often.
So why is Hollywood disappointing me so regularly this year?
Maybe I've just reached a saturation point. After all, "Prince Of Persia" is technically well-produced, and Jake Gyllenhaal makes a perfectly amiable lead as Prince Dastan, a street urchin who was adopted into the royal family of Persia after the King saw a demonstration of his courage as a child. Gemma Arterton certainly plays the eye candy role with all the "oh, I'm so sassy" energy that is required of her. Ben Kingsley skulks about looking all skulky, which is what he was hired to do. Alfred Molina satisfies the "colorful supporting comedy role" requirement with all the skill you'd expect. John Seale's photography is lush and colorful, and the FX are top-notch, as is the stunt work which does a nice job of actually suggesting the physicality of the game.
So what's missing? Why is it that at the end of the film, I walked away feeling like I just saw a big trailer with no movie attached? Why, when all the elements are in place, does "Prince Of Persia" feel like a big fat miss?