Before I left for Fantastic Fest, I showed the 1977 "Star Wars" to my boys.
I left the Blu-ray box set sitting on the shelf where I have all of my "to be played" discs, standing up so the boys could see the cover. I did that specifically to torture them. I wanted them to itch every single time they walked in the room while I was gone. And I know them well enough to know that they would manufacture reasons to be in my office to do things, because that's what they do every day all day. My shelves are a constant source of discovery for the kids, whether it's books or movies or games or music. They're always asking to sample something.
And after I left for Fantastic Fest, I talked to the boys on the phone, and each phone call would begin with Toshi saying some variation on "Daddy, when you get back, it's going to be Friday, and on Friday, it's going to be too late, and on Saturday, we're going to watch 'Empire Strikes Back,' right?"
"How many days is that?"
Before I left for Fantastic Fest, I showed the 1977 "Star Wars" to my boys.
Anna Kendrick is awfully young to be typecast already, but it just goes to show you how Hollywood thinks about people.
She made her first impression on audiences in "Rocket Science," and it's easy to see why. Her work in the film is precise and sharp-edged. I have trouble saying much about her work in the "Twilight" series because she doesn't have much to work with in those films, but she manages to steal whatever moments she has with her energy that's so different than the intentional languor of the rest of those movies.
With "Up In The Air," it felt like they were directly reacting to the work she did in "Rocket Science" by casting her as another bossy, smart, hyper-anxious type, and she did great work in the movie that made people sit up and take notice.
The danger, of course, is that she's going to get stuck playing that type of character, and I think she's very aware of it. When we sat down at the Toronto Film Festival to discuss her work in the new film "50/50," we talked about that issue, and about the way "50/50" presents a very different side of her personality. It's a very good film overall, but for her, it could be a real turning point.
As if I hadn't just had an exhausting but amazing month-long orgy of film, as if I wasn't sitting here in the airport, ready to fly home, spent and worn out by how great it's all been, there just had to be one story breaking today that I couldn't resist writing up before I hop on the plane.
Why? Because it makes me ridiculously happy, that's why.
In a recent podcast, Scott and I lamented the idea that Kevin Costner was dropping out of his proposed role in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming "Django Unchained," and I really am sad he's not doing it. I think it would be a nice fit.
However, if Costner dropping out means that Kurt Russell is going to play the part, then sign me up twice. That's awesome. I love Russell in "Death Proof," and I think he is, in general, under-utilized by filmmakers. The role he's stepping in to play is a nasty one, a guy who works for Leonardo DiCaprio, onboard to play the main bad guy in the film. Samuel L. Jackson's got a great role in the film already, as does Christoph Waltz, and Jamie Foxx is onboard as the lead in the film.
For those who don't know what the film's about, it's a big sprawling Western, but set in the South of the Reconstruction Era, where Foxx plays a freed slave who teams up with a German bounty hunter to learn his trade and track down his wife, sold away from him. DiCaprio is a slave plantation owner who pits his slaves in gladiator-style battles, and Russell will play the guy in charge of training the slaves to fight for the games.
We're only about a month away from the film starting production, and I'm thrilled to think that we're a year away from a new Tarantino film, especially one with a cast this strong.
The Weinstein Company will release "Django Unchained" in theaters Christmas Day, 2012.
Seth Rogen sort of knocked me on my ass at Toronto this year.
I'm used to enjoying his work. I've liked him quite a bit ever since "Freaks and Geeks," and I still remember meeting him at the "Anchorman" premiere and really gushing about how much I liked his work on that show, and how I hoped I'd see him in more stuff soon.
So that happened. Cut to now, with him having achieved the status at this point of being Seth Freakin' Rogen. He's big money now. He's made it happen. He is an unlikely movie star simply because of what a cool, normal, regular guy he is. He's bright, he's sharp, but he's normal. He's got this instant accessibility, like he's someone you went to school with or knew from camp or something. He's made quite a career as America's Smoking Buddy, and watching him start to really expand the range of what he plays and add new notes to the material he picks is gratifying. The best parts of "Freaks and Geeks" had nothing to do with comedy. That show reached deep, and even at that point, Seth did some things that I still think are bold and real and not for laughs.
I went to the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time about twelve years ago, but I've been going to smaller conventions my entire life. Fandom has changed so much since I first fell in love with it that I find myself feeling a little disconnected from the modern face of Comic-Con. I like fans when I meet them one on one, but I find that I'm less and less in love with the larger community called fandom.
I think I understand why, too, but it was something that only really started to come into focus when I was at Comic-Con this year and then again when I saw the new Morgan Spurlock film "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Journey" at Toronto this year. Tonight, it is the closing night film at Fantastic Fest 2011, and it seems appropriate since this is one of the first films where my friend and former employer Harry Knowles is an executive producer as well as an on-screen presence, and sure enough, I saw him show up in fine style tonight, ready to enjoy the hometown screening of the film.
There is quite a bit about the film that I like, and there are a few big things about it that I don't like at all. I think what the film does at its best is explain what it is that draws people to San Diego each year. There are five distinct stories being told in the film. My favorite deals with Holly Conrad, an aspiring costume designer who wants to enter the Masquerade with her friends playing a team from "Mass Effect 2." She's enormously talented, and the work she does in the film is professional quality. Spurlock follows her from her home to the Con and through the entire process of preparing on-site and rehearsing and dealing with tech issues and stage fright, and it's a lovely portrait of the way fandom and professional aspiration can sometimes synch up.
I think it's safe to say that in the case of Will Reiser, his encounter with cancer has resulted in the very best possible outcome.
After all, Reiser survived and has recovered fully, a major landmark for any cancer patient, but he went beyond that. Working with his friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, he's turned his experience into a project that began life as a script called "I'm With Cancer" and which finally reaches theaters this week as "50/50."
I'm sure there are some screenwriters who would deny it if asked but who, in their heart of hearts, hear this story and think, "Boy, that guy's lucky he got cancer." That's crazy, of course. Reiser is a very fortunate young man on many fronts. First, he's fortunate that he had friends who stood by him in a very difficult time, and he's fortunate that he had an outlet to express the ideas and emotions that must have been part of his surprisingly youthful struggle with the disease.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention this already, but it's worth repeating in light of the film we saw tonight at Fantastic Fest's Secret Screening #2 at midnight.
Every time I'm in Austin, I stay with my friends Aaron and Kaela. They are, simply put, some of the nicest people I know, always warm, always good company. After this many years, they feel like part of the extended family. I always feel more relaxed during the grind of a festival when I'm home at their house. That guest room really does feel like a home away from home.
The other night, between writing two reviews, posting them, driving across Austin, and everything else, I got to bed at almost 5:00 AM. Maybe even a little bit after. And last thing I did, I used the restroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I had to get up at 10:00 AM, and when I did, I headed into the bathroom, first thing. Keep in mind, this is the second floor of the house, and I have a bathroom attached to the bedroom that also opens into the second floor hallway. And when I walked in, there was a big yellow envelope waiting for me with my name on it.
And inside, a videotape. A handwritten label. "September 1988."
And no one else was home.
There's a restaurant right by the Alamo Drafthouse's parking lot, a Tex Mex place called Maudie's that has a sign I've walked past several times during the festival so far. It says something about "There's no bull in our beef," and lists all the things their meat does not have in it, including hormones. It's a selling point these days if you're growing animals that are just animals, and it's also something that I think takes place in a world I know nothing about.
That world is the setting of the provocative, disturbing new film "Bullhead," from Belgian writer/director Michael Roskam, and this is one of the most original things I've seen here this week, strong and adult and sweeping in the way it handles some very complicated ideas about manhood and what we owe others as we move through this world. This is not a film that plays things easy or that establishes any clear moral lines early on. Both Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Diederik Maes (Jeroen Perceval) move in this shady not-quite-black market world, and when they run into each other early in this film, it's a shock to both of them. There's some shared history here.
There is no scene that better captures the modern face of dread that I've seen in any film this year than a moment late in the new Jeff Nichols film "Take Shelter."
Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain star in the film as Curtis and Samantha, a married couple facing a crisis in this quiet, upsetting film. This film bothers me in the same way the Todd Haynes film "Safe" bothers me, or the way Lodge Kerrigan's work bothers me. These are films about losing your mind, and while I respect the fact that different things bother different people, this is one of those things I can't imagine without squirming. Losing my grip on my sanity, on my reason, on my ability to think? That's beyond a nightmare. That is loss of self, and Michael Shannon's work here cuts right to the heart of that fear.
It starts small for Curtis. Dreams. A feeling. A growing sensation. The film is definitely sympathetic to Curtis and his point of view, and we experience the visions and the dreams and the shifting mood with him. What makes it heartbreaking is just how brightly Jessica Chastain burns in the movie. After seeing all of her performances this year and ending with this one, I'm convinced she really is an important new presence in film. She's amazing here, this wide-open heart, the one who tames Curtis in the first place.
I think it's safe to say I have not been kind to the work of Shawn Levy in print so far.
"Big Fat Liar." "Just Married." "Cheaper By The Dozen." "The Pink Panther." Both of the "Night At The Museum" films. That's a painful list. But it's also a list of films that managed to do well at the box-office, well enough in some cases to see Levy climb onto the A-list. He's the sort of filmmaker executives love, good with the talent, able to work within a budget, and he makes films that make money. It should come as no surprise, then, that when Amblin' and producers Don Murphy and Susan Montford went looking for a director for "Real Steel," Levy would be one of the names on their list.
What is a surprise to me is how well Levy seems to have done at making a genuine mid-'80s Amblin' movie. I know we heard a lot of talk about how "Super 8" was the Spielberg fetish film this year, and certainly that movie indulged a lot of stylistic touches that were designed to evoke that Amblin' feeling. I'd say it's proof that you're as strong as the actual script you shoot, and John Gatins has taken a whole lot of familiar and done something special with it, something that Levy benefits from as much as he does from a game and able cast.