Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
The 'Die Hard 4' director is on his way to Mars
Philip K. Dick has had a long and strange relationship with Hollywood, and the crazy part about it is that he's been dead for most of that relationship.
Seems appropriate when you read the man's body of work. He was a brilliant idea man, a SF writer who did the majority of his work in the era when you were paid by the word. He cranked out hundreds of amazing short stories that have proven to be incredibly fertile ground for Hollywood over the years. Frequently, though, they just strip out the big ideas from his work and then dump everything else.
"Total Recall" was a perfect example of that. Based on his short story, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," the final film by Paul Verhoeven was an action movie that flirted with a few of Dick's amazing ideas, but which ultimately boiled down to Arnold Schwarzenegger shooting people, something that I'm sure would have bored PK Dick enormously.
Since this morning's announcement that there is a new version of "Total Recall" on the way with director Len Wiseman at the helm, with Kurt ("Salt," "Equilibrium," "The Thomas Crown Affair") Wimmer writing it, I've seen many people grousing about the remake of a film they enjoy. But are we sure we can even call this a remake? If they go back to the source material, they could make a film so completely different that it might be totally unrecognizable. It sounds to me more like they're using a title people know, but making something different.
Plus they reveal the first full look at Kato-vision in 3-D
If there were any kids in the Hall H presentation for Sony's upcoming films "Priest," "The Other Guys," and "The Green Hornet," they ain't no kids no more.
I was under the impression that ever since the infamous "Borat" incident at Comic-Con a few years ago, the Con was far more restrictive of what could or couldn't play in Hall H. Their point, a valid one, is that it's a family crowd. There are kids as young as stroller age everywhere you look, and there are kids here in groups or with their parents, grade school and high school and college aged. Entire families camp out in Hall H together for a day's worth of programming. It makes sense to try and keep things somewhat clean.
No one mentioned that to Sony, though, because they kicked things off with a blood-soaked presentation for Paul Bettany's new film "Priest," they staged a painfully funny and shockingly dirty panel for "The Other Guys," and closed with a drug-joke laden "Green Hornet" panel. Taken as a whole, it was bracing and a little on the shocking side, but I guarantee no one who sat through it will forget the event.
I'm not particularly anticipating "Priest." I didn't like "Legion," the first film from SFX-guru-turned-director Scott Stewart, which also starred Paul Bettany. This one, based loosely on a 16-volume manga series published here by Tokyo Pop, is set in a world that has been devastated by vampire apocalypse. Humans live in walled cities controlled by the Church, and the only weapons that can be used to stop these no-eyed demons are very special humans called the Priests. The 3-D trailer showed some of the tell-tale signs of being a conversion job, but the effects all appeared to be rendered out as genuine stereo effects. It actually robbed the CGI vampire creatures of any weight or heft in what we saw.
Universal finally takes the plunge on the ambitious horror epic
Sometimes, it takes just the right combination of clout and timing and just plain persistence for a dream project to make it to the bigscreen.
Looks like the day has finally come for "At The Mountains Of Madness."
This long-rumored adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story has been in the works by Guillermo Del Toro and his writing partner Matthew Robbins for a while now, and now, along with producers Susan Montford, Don Murphy, and James Freakin' Cameron, it appears that "Mountains" will be the next film Del Toro directs.
Yes... I know there are a ton of projects right now that Guillermo's name is attached to, but I also know the way he thinks, and there is no film that has been closer to his heart longer than "At The Mountains Of Madness," and there are very few authors more important to Guillermo's worldview than Lovecraft. This has always been priority one for him, and Cameron is one of the few producers who I think could genuinely help protect Guillermo's vision.
Universal deserves a lot of credit these days for being the studio that seems to be willing to gamble more often than anyone else. "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," "Paul," "Your Highness," "At The Mountains Of Madness"... these are movies that are ambitious, that have strong voices, and that seem less than commercially obvious.
Plus the truth about the weekend's most adorable moment
"In brightest day...
In blackest night...
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light."
With those simple lines, Ryan Reynolds charmed 6500 people in Hall H and made a lifelong fan of one little boy. Contrary to many reports, the boy didn't actually ask Reynolds to recite the famous Green Lantern Oath when he got his turn at the mic during the audience Q&A at the Warner Bros. panel. He actually asked the question, "What does it feel like when you do the Green Lantern Oath?" Which is infinitely more interesting and charming than "Will you do the Green Lantern Oath?"
And what made Reynolds so likable in the moment was the genuine way he responded to the question. If you see the footage, you see him react first, an emotional beat, and then a decision. And just watching him make a decision, watching him slip into the Hal Jordan he's playing right now, and then say the Oath... not for us as an audience, because that's not the moment. He said it to that little boy. And just to him. And the look on that kid's face when the Comic-Con cameras cut to him after Reynolds finished...
Sony Pictures Classics offers details on a free screening
There are few things that make me happier doing this job than giving out free passes to movies for people. On a personal level, the whole reason I ever started writing about films, way before I even thought about getting paid for it, was simply to share my love of films with people, and there's no better way to do that than to actually show the film to people.
In the case of "Animal Kingdom," Sony Pictures Classics obviously shares my feelings, and they're doing something about it if you're in New York City this Thursday night.
All you have to do is go to the AMC 34th St. at 7:00 PM this Thursday, July 29th. Seating is first come first serve and completely free.
So what exactly is "Animal Kingdom"? Well, the film opens August 13, and it's based on real stories about the criminal underworld in Melbourne.
Here's the summary we've been running here on the site:
"Armed robber Pope Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) is in hiding, on the run from a gang of renegade detectives who want him dead. His business partner and best friend, Barry 'Baz' Brown (Joel Edgerton), wants out of the game, recognizing that their days of old-school banditry are all but over. Pope's younger brother, the speed-addicted and volatile Craig Cody (Sullivan Stapleton), is making a fortune in the illicit substances trade - the true cash cow of the modern criminal fraternity - while the youngest Cody brother, Darren (Luke Ford), naively navigates his way through this criminal world - the only world his family has ever known.
Film's core relationship more than makes up for a few bum notes
From the opening images of the film, with the familiar whimsy of "Fool On The Hill" underscoring loving close-ups of dioramas depicting happier days in a marriage, "Dinner For Schmucks" reveals itself as a movie as sad at its core as Christopher Nolan's "Inception." At the same time, "Schmucks" is broad farce that revolves around Barry (Steve Carell), a force of nature who accidentally unleashes some outrageous mayhem into the life of Tim (Paul Rudd), and it is very, very silly. The way Jay Roach manages to balance those seemingly opposite intents is what makes "Dinner For Schmucks" such a delight.
There won't be a lot of middle ground on this film, I don't think. It is a film that aims big, and so the few missteps it makes are really a matter of unfulfilled ambition more than anything else. In particular, the dinner itself is sort of an anti-climax. Even so, "Dinner For Schmucks" works as an oddball old-fashioned comedy, and it is a nice reminder of just how candy-slick the work of Jay Roach is.
The titular dinner is a rancid by-product of the scumbag corporate culture that Tim so desperately wants to be part of so that his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) won't leave him. Tim wants to impress his boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), and one day, during what should be a routine meeting, Tim takes his shot and steps up... and it works. He gets Fender's attention. Greenwood, along with Larry Wilmore and Ron Livingston, projects exactly the right amount of smarm and insincerity to let you know right up front that we're going to be on the side of anyone who isn't one of these douchebags. They're rotten people, and to his credit, Tim sees through them right away. He still wants to get ahead, though, so he agrees to join them at their monthly dinner where each of them finds a complete and utter freak to bring as a guest, a comedy riff on Nancy Savoca's lovely-and-largely-forgotten "Dogfight."
Plus a description of the Comic-Con footage
When I visited the Vancouver set for Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," producer Deb Snyder spent an hour of the tour explaining the film's plot to us, using storyboards, production art, and the sets themselves.
And I still couldn't tell you what the film will be about.
What was obvious during that set visit just became obvious to about 6500 people on Saturday morning when Warner Bros. premiered the first footage from the film during their panel. Whatever "Sucker Punch" turns out to be, it is absolutely a Zack Snyder film. This is the first time he's not working from existing source material, and as a result, every fetish and fascination of his seems to be front and center here.
The film deals with a girl named Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning, who lives with her abusive father and her younger sister. When her father snaps one night and murders her sister in front of her, Baby Doll sees it happen. Her father decides to send her to an insane asylum so they will lobotomize her, erasing all memory of his crime. Baby Doll is introduced to the other girls in the asylum, who have all found ways to survive their imprisonment, and as she starts the countdown to her lobotomy, she attempts to rally the other girls to escape. The thing is, the way Snyder defines escape in this movie is a tricky thing, and "Sucker Punch" may well turn out to give "Inception" a run for the money in terms of the way it plays with levels of reality and fantasy.
A full run-down of what was shown in Hall H
Technically, my Comic-Con is over, but I've got a fistful of articles, including this one, before I'm done with my Comic-Con experience. Which guests showed up at things and what happened in general has been well-reported by now. All I can offer at this point is my perspective and my reaction to the footage and the conversations at the various panels I attended, with a final piece that will wrap up all the random little odds and ends left worth sharing, and there will definitely be a few.
The last panel I attended in Hall H this year was the Marvel panel, one of the two most anticipated things for me this time around. I wanted to see "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and I wanted to see the Marvel panel. And in both cases, I think they were absolutely worth the anticipation.
The Marvel panel was moderated by Geoff Boucher of the LA Times Hero Complex blog, and it was divided into three distinct parts. First up, Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige brought out Joe Johnston, Chris Evans, and Hugo Weaving to represent "Captain America: The First Avenger," and they showed us two bits of footage. The first was a costume test that they managed to build into a sort of a teaser trailer, using a lot of newsreel footage to set the WWII tone properly before revealing two quick shots of Cap standing in a warehouse somewhere. And I mean quick, too. They don't linger at all. After the title comes up, there's one last quick shot of Cap hurling his shield right at the camera, and that's it. It was as big a tease as a tease can be. You can't help but wonder why, and I'm still not sure about what I saw in that quick flash of him in close-up.
The ensemble cast talks injuries and icons during the panel
At the end of the second day of Hall H panels, I'd say the panel Lionsgate threw for "The Expendables" was by far the greatest concentration of testosterone to hit the stage so far, even if Harry Knowles was moderating.
"I'm going to represent estrogen up here today," the Ain't Cool News poobah said before he started introducing the panel participants. Harry's been friendly with Sylvester Stallone for several years now, and from the conversations about that unlikely friendship that I've had with Harry, it's obvious that he still considers it one of the strangest and most thrilling byproducts of running the site in the entire 14 year history of it. His excitement at getting to moderate the panel was palpable, and he was giddy as he brought the cast out one at a time.
Terry Crews ripped his shirt off and threw a spontaneous gun show for the crowd. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Dolph Lundgren. Randy Couture, whose forearms terrified Harry on the set. And, of course, Stallone himself. I wore my "Rocky" t-shirt all day yesterday out of respect for Stallone making an appearance at the Con this year, and I have to say, I think he absolutely crushed it, giving a great hard-sell for the ensemble action adventure.
Harry asked the assembled cast what it was like to get the call from Stallone to be in this film, a call that other actors like Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris were able to refuse. Crews was effusive in his praise for Stallone and referred to "The Expendables" as "the manliest movie ever made." Austin talked about playing the film's villain and how much fun it was to kick the crap out of the guys.
It may not be a simple mainstream film, but it offers universal truth in a spectacular package
I am prepared to stand face to face with anyone and defend Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" as a genuine, no-joke, out-of-the-ballpark masterwork, a pure expression of voice in service of a potent metaphor, an amazing ensemble comedy that works on the emotional level of the most joyous and romantic of the great Hollywood musicals. It is a jaw-dropping visual experience, and a sonic assault of pure pleasure. It is genuinely unlike any other movie I can name, and from the opening 8-bit Universal logo to the note-perfect final frames of film, it is shot through with confidence and with a wry understanding of the difficult realities of adult love. It is smart and sweet and left me buzzing when it ended, and I can't wait to see it again.
Based on a six-part series of comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley, the last of which was just published on Monday (and which is sitting here next to me, mostly unread still), "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is a fairly simple story underneath all the style. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old dude living in Toronto, a year out from a fairly awful break-up. He lives with his gay friend Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and basically spends his time either hanging out with his band, Sex Bob-omb, or with his brand-new 17-year-old Chinese schoolgirl girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He's hiding from adulthood, and quite successfully, too, until he meets the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and she sets him on a path towards either enlightenment or total destruction.
Plus video games, kung fu, and musical numbers.