Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
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.
Will today's Hall H audience end up in the movie? Plus: Watch the new trailer and check out a new photo
The San Diego Convention Center has become a very familiar setting for the filmmakers behind the new film "Tron: Legacy," and this year, their third in a row at the now-gigantic pop culture event, was easily the most impressive, with eight minutes of new footage and audience participation just part of the appeal for the 6500 assembled fans.
The panel today consisted of Joseph Kosinski, the film's director, as well as producer Sean Bailey and the writer/director of the original "Tron," Steven Lisberger. From the cast, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, Bruce Boxleitner and the great Jeff Bridges all showed up to discuss their work in the film and to get their first look at some of the finished footage in 3-D.
Kosinski and Bailey talked about the process of putting the film together and the unorthodox way it progressed through development over the last few years. They talked about the way the camera technology for shooting the 3-D kept evolving right up to the minute they rolled film, and how that means we're seeing maybe the most cutting-edge live-action 3-D yet with this one.
Asked about playing the young version of himself, Jeff Bridges called the experience "psychedelic." It's so great to watch him in front of a crowd these days, because it feels like people are finally fully appreciative of the man and his gifts. He also seems to be just plain enjoying it right now, and there was so much love for him in the room today. He talked about the thrill of butting up against the cutting edge of technology in 1982 and again today, and how exciting that is.
Plus some hints about what you'll see at Friday's Hall H panel
On Friday, I'll be moderating a panel for a Universal SF film that was, until last week, completely off my radar, and I'm willing to bet off your radar as well.
The Brothers Strause have made one film before, and when I walked into the room with them last week to see some of what we'll all be checking out for the first time on Friday, I was curious to see who they really are as filmmakers. I've been through the process at 20th Century Fox, so I have a hard time holding a film like "Alien Vs Predators: Requiem" against anyone in particular.
With "Skyline," we're going to see who they are, and so far, it looks like they are geeks unleashed, guys who own their own cameras and their own FX house and their own equipment for post, and they finally realized, "Why aren't we making the films we want to see right now?"
Here's what I'm allowed to tell you so far:
In the sci-fi thriller Skyline, strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth.
Your first look at the film's big bad guy
Considering how crazy the industry is for 3-D product right now, there are surprisingly few people I would call "experts" at shooting in the process at this point.
Patrick Lussier may well be one of the few guys who deserves that title. When he shot "My Bloody Valentine," he did it all as in-camera 3-D. No post-conversion from him. And the same is true of his wild new movie "Drive Angry," which will be roaring into Hall H at Comic-Con 2010 on Friday, July 23, at 11:15 AM. I'll be moderating the panel, so I went to check out the presentation you'll be seeing yesterday over at Summit.
First, it's true. When you go to the Summit offices, you are personally greeted at the door by a shirtless Taylor Lautner, who carries you around piggy-back style the entire time you're there. And I've never actually been to offices where people were blowing their nose with $100 bills, but I guess that's what "Twilight" money does to you. Aside from those little eccentricities, it was a great visit, and I walked away thinking that we're going to see a truly unhinged ride when "Drive Angry" actually hits theater screens on February 11, 2011.
Is sheer velocity enough to make the movie work?
"Salt" is a very silly movie, and by the end of its brisk and breathless running time (and I mean that literally), it makes the "Bourne" movies look like documentaries.
I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.
Angelina Jolie is, in my opinion, a casting problem in anything at this point, and it's simply a side effect of her megafame. She projects such a powerful, fully-formed persona that it is difficult to accept her vanishing into a role. She's a talented actress, she works hard in her films, and I feel like no one could ask more of her than she already gives for her movies... but that hesitation on my part remains. You watch her onscreen, and it's Angelina Jolie, no matter what.
Part of it is the way she looks, sure. She's a cartoon, a comic-book artist's idea of the dangerous bad girl. Because she is so visually extreme, I don't buy her as, say, a spy or someone who is meant to be anonymous or adaptable. I still think the notion of the "little grey man" is the most potent notion of who a spy should be, someone you wouldn't look at twice. No matter if she's wearing long blonde hair or a dyed Morticia Addams do, Jolie stands out in any crowd.
But part of it is that there is some part of her as a performer that feels unbending, like she can't submerge her own personality enough anymore to convince as someone else. That actually serves "Salt" to some degree, because the character she plays, Evelyn Salt, is living several different roles at once, with a central core that remains unchanged no matter what situation she's in. That's a gift in the film's opening moments, where we see her in North Korea. She's been captured, and she's being tortured in an effort to convince her to confess that she's working as a spy. She keeps denying it, over and over, her cries becoming more pathetic as the main title is revealed and we cut forward in time to her release. She's being traded for a North Korean who ended up in the hands of America, at the insistence of her boyfriend Mike (August Diehl), who has no idea what she does for a living.