Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
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.
Is it September yet? Please?
Oh, boy... just as I'm getting ready for the madness of Comic-Con, this happens and I find myself suddenly looking at the first announcement of titles for Fantastic Fest in September. I love that the year is basically broken up into one giant thing to anticipate after another. Certainly keeps it interesting.
This is the very first announcement of titles, so this is not the "BIG STUFF" designed to get maximum press attention. Instead, this is the foundation that they're building this year's festival on, and the line-up is already appealing. Rather than try to re-describe a bunch of films I haven't seen, I'm going to let you just read the full line-up as announced, with some commentary at the end.
"Fantastic Fest is proud to announce our first wave of programming for the sixth edition of Fantastic Fest, happening September 23-30 in Austin, Texas.
This batch of 13 feature films includes bloody revenge from Korea and Australia, South African and German zombies, Swedish musical terrorists, a renaissance of action heroes from Hong Kong, more disturbing images from Serbia, aging Yakuza from Japan and a psychokinetic automobile tire from France.
Fantastic Fest is scouring the globe for the very best in action, horror, science fiction, fantasy to the truly bizarre in contemporary cinema for your viewing pleasure. Look for many more announcements in the weeks to come, including information on our gala events, parties and AMD Next Wave filmmakers in attendance.
Plus where you'll see more of it this weekend
When I mentioned to our own Greg Ellwood that I was planning to post an article about the upcoming animated feature film version of 'The Goon,' his response was very telling.
"I've never even heard of 'The Goon.'"
Greg reads comics... in some cases, he's a more regular comic reader than I am. Still, Eric Powell's brilliant long-running series is not a household name, and I can understand why. It's a genuinely unhinged book, crazy and wild and violent and delightful in every way. I think Powell's an amazing artist, and one of the hardest parts in translating the book to the bigscreen will be capturing the style of the thing, which is part '50s-era "Mad" magazine, part H.P. Lovecraft.
Thankfully, it seems like Blur Studios is on the case.
The first artwork from the proposed film appeared online in March of 2009, thanks to Quint at Ain't It Cool. Since then, they've been working on animation tests, and David Fincher's kept an eye on the way things have been progressing. There was a Comic-Con appearance last year by Powell, with a wee tease for fans, and now he's heading back down for another panel on Saturday of this year's Con. And he's bringing a bunch of test footage with him.
Even more exciting, it sounds like he's going to have David Fincher (who is a producer and a potential director on the film) and Paul Giamatti (who is doing the voice of Frankie, The Goon's misanthropic sidekick) there on the panel with him, talking about the current plans for the film. I hope they announce it's been greenlit and it's not just more talk about development. I'm not sure if they're bringing Clancy Brown, who is giving voice to The Goon, but that would be amazing.
First trailer for the Rock's return to action explodes online
When you start your film career under a stage name as silly as "The Rock," you're going to deal with some skepticism, but little by little, Dwayne Johnson has proven himself to be one of the most engaging action stars working today.
So why has he spent the last few years almost exclusively making films for children?
We have so few great action stars these days that it's upsetting to see a guy like this benched for several of his prime years doing things like "The Tooth Fairy." Thankfully, this year might shake up some of what we've come to expect from Johnson. First, he's got a great role in the ferociously dirty and weird "The Other Guys," and then he's making a flat-out no-apologies action film for the first time in a while.
I visited the set of "Faster" earlier this year for an afternoon, and we didn't see much of the film. This trailer fills out some of what I heard during the set visit and gives me a real sense of what it is we might expect from the film when it opens.
And as of right now? I'm interested.
The trailer doesn't quite get into it, but this is a movie that deals in archetypes. You've got characters known only as "The Driver" and "The Cop," and it's an incredibly linear revenge story about a guy getting out of jail and going straight after the people who put him there and who got his brother killed. Religion plays a big part in the film, so it's nice the trailer touches on that. And the little bit you see in the trailer of Dwayne walking down a hall firing at someone? That's the day we were there, standing about six feet away.
But just wait till you see who's playing Robin
Technically, yes. And Luis Guzman is Robin.
Which means I may be obligated to love "Arthur" when it comes out, no matter what.
Russell Brand is currently starring in a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy "Arthur," which told the story of a perpetually drunk millionaire bachelor who is expected to marry an heiress, but who wants to marry a woman he catches shoplifting instead. And he's got a reeeeeeeeeeally sarcastic butler.
In the Dudley Moore version, John Gielgud played the part, and he did so with such precision lacerating wit that he won an Oscar. Moore was nominated for one, and the screenplay by Steve Gordon was nominated as well. Gordon was a first timer, and I wonder what career he might have had if he hadn't died of a heart attack the year after "Arthur" was released. To knock it out of the park the way he did as writer and director on "Arthur" marked him as a pretty natural talent, and the film wasn't just a hit... it was beloved while it was out. If you weren't around in 1981, let me tell you... the Oscar-winning Christopher Cross song was omnipresent. You couldn't leave the house without hearing it somewhere. The film was huge.
I have no idea if Russell Brand is a draw for people or if he isn't, but I'm interested to see what he's capable of. So far, he impresses me as a naturally talented guy who has yet to push himself as hard as he can, which means there's more we'll see from him. There's honesty in the big broad work he does, and that implies there's a solid dramatic performer in there somewhere. So far, Brand has carefully kept up the outrageous like a smoke screen. With "Arthur," I think he's going to have to give us more than we've seen from him so far, especially with Helen Mirren playing the role that Gielgud won his Oscar playing.
A look at a long-lost might-have-been from some pretty surprising names
This morning, I sat down with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Eva Mendes to discuss their new film "The Other Guys," and while I'm still under embargo about that movie, I can share what happened at the very end of my interview with McKay.
I mentioned to him that I was doing this series on this site right now, and he told me he'd love to sit down and talk "SNL" at some point in the future. I mentioned to him that I was going to write up a script I just discovered for the column this week, and when I told him the title, he looked at me like I'd just tried to describe cell memory in Mandarin Chinese. "What is that?" I told him, and I listed some of the writers who were involved, many of whom are friends of McKay's from his time on the show. "I never even knew that existed," he said, astonished. Keep in mind, Adam McKay was head writer of the show at one point, and he'd never heard of it.
I know the feeling. And, honestly, it seems impossible to me that I've never heard of "The Saturday Night Live Movie."
As I've said since the start of this column, this subject has fascinated me for almost as long as the show's been on the air. Once Chevy Chase made the jump to the bigscreen, he established a path that many others have followed over the years, both in front of the camera and behind it. There have been films that have capitalized on the cultural currency of "Saturday Night Live" by tapping into the same counterculture comic sensibilities, like "Animal House" or "Caddyshack," as well as films that have directly translated "SNL" characters to the bigscreen like "The Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" and "Coneheads."
Scott is really fixated on this Ramona chick, but is she worth it?
Have you been watching the "Scott Pilgrim" remixes?
These are so much fun as a different way of cutting a trailer. It's all impression, these little mini-movies that are each themed differently, each just a riff on a word or a feeling or an idea. They're... remixes. There's nothing else to call them. DJ Osymyso is the guy who worked with Edgar Wright to put these together, and each one uses music from the film and footage from the film in the most interesting of ways. What I like most about them is how they're... gentle. It's a whole lot of "Scott Pilgrim," yes, and you would call these remixes marketing materials by any standard... but they don't feel like a hard sell at all. They're just these great little tastes of what "Pilgrim" is all about.
One thing I don't think I've really said about any of the "Pilgrim" trailers or materials so far... I think Bill Pope's work here is jaw-dropping. He's a great cinematographer anyway, a guy whose work I've been consistently impressed by, but this stuff is just gorgeous so far. It's like the film is made of cotton candy and lasers, sugar sweet and lacerating. I watched the giant uncompressed HD file that Universal sent over and I'm just drooling. Edgar's such a strong visual stylist that for him to collaborate with a world-class guy like Pope turns into this wonderful collision. That's the real reason I've held off from seeing too much of the film so far. It looks like it's absolutely worth the wait.
Can Michel Gondry make 'Katovision' a household word?
"Katovision," a villain with a mid-life crisis, and missiles in the newsroom.
Yep, this is what a Michel Gondry comic book movie looks like.
The day a group of us were invited to visit the Culver City sets of "The Green Hornet" began in the newsroom of The Daily Sentinel, the newspaper owned by Brett Reid, Seth Rogen's character in the film, and ended with groups of us being driven around Culver City in the Black Beauty, the decked out car that is one of the signatures of the character. In-between, we saw just enough to convince me that whatever "The Green Hornet" ends up being, it will be sincerely intentioned, and the people behind it seem dedicated to making something that both sincerely honors the genre and mercilessly deconstructs it.
When we first arrived on the Culver lot where they were shooting the film, the small group of us in attendance were taken into the newsroom set first, where they had just finished shooting a major action sequence that involved the Black Beauty actually firing missiles from one end of the newsroom to the other. This is on the heels of a larger car chase sequence that features the Black Beauty driving into an elevator, then getting cut in half as the elevator goes up, a gag that they staged as a practical effect on another set. It's an outrageous sequence as designed, and the aftermath was crazy. They really did blow the set up, and as we walked through it, producer Neal Moritz as our tour guide, we had to step over bullet casings and burnt newspapers, making our way past tubes and cables hanging from the ceiling like someone had disembowled the building.
Want to create seething envy in all your friends? What better way?
I've just seen the final designs for the Comic-Con 2010 t-shirts, and to my great shock and sadness, there's nary a naked image of either myself nor Alan Sepinwall on either shirt.
Ladies, I apologize.
Now, if you can manage to control your disappointment, I think you'll find that the actual shirts are... well, actually cool. There's one for "What's Alan Watching?" and one for "Motion/Captured" and if you want to get your hands on them, it's easy. Here's what we're thinking...
- Go to facebook.com/hitfix and post "I want a Motion/Captured t-shirt" on the wall. First 120 come, first 120 served.
- Only one t-shirt per person.
- Winners will be able to pick up their shirts on Thursday at a location very close to the San Diego Convention Center, and will receive details on how to get them after the contest deadline Wednesday at noon Pacific.
- Winners can ask for a specific size, but there's no guarantee that you'll get it, so if you're particularly small or large, once you know where and when to go you may want to get there early in the process.
- The t-shirts are obviously free, and all we ask in return is that anyone who gets one wear it to the Con on Friday, where I'll now be moderating TWO panels in Hall H back to back. The first is "Drive Angry 3-D," and immediately afterwards is "Skyline." (Similarly, if you want and win a What's Alan Watching? shirt, try to wear it to the "Chuck" panel Alan's moderating on Saturday with Dan Fienberg in Ballroom 20. Show HitFix some love, people!)
Yes, I know I said yesterday I was only moderating two panels, but things change.
Warner Bros. throws a sneak preview of their animated adventure
I spent a decent chunk of time on the Warner lot this afternoon, for more than one purpose, and at one point, I found myself standing, stretching my legs, ten free minutes to myself for the first time since waking up, having a Jamba Juice.
It was hot today in Burbank but not punishing. At least not on the lot, where there was a constant breeze. Some scoring session must have just let out, because there were people walking past me carrying instrument cases large and small. Lots of them, chatting, off work and on their way home. It was just after 4:00, and I had three more things to do by 6:30, so I was enjoying the sort of brain-off disconnect.
Amidst the musicians, I saw a few people walking toward me, and it was one of those moments where you see them out of focus at first, and there's something vaguely familiar, and then as they get closer, something in the way someone moves, or some distant raised voice that you catch just a hint of sets off some alarm, and you look closer. Do I know this person? Or these people?
And sure enough, it was Zack Snyder, his wife and producer Deb Snyder, and their producing partner Wesley Coller, three familiar faces in a row. They were one of the reasons I was on the lot, and by "they," I mean there was a "roadshow presentation" today on the lot for their new film together, "Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole". It's a 3-D animated adventure epic... starring owls. Lots and lots and lots of owls. As Deb Snyder pointed out later in the afternoon, the first "Star Wars" is still Zack Snyder's favorite movie, and that journey that Luke Skywalker makes, as he learns of his own innate power and he takes his first steps into the larger world... that's the journey that drew Snyder to react to the Kathryn Lasky novels in the first place, and that's the journey you'll find underlining the visually stunning movie that Warner will release September 24 of this year.