Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny

Will Darren Aronofsky end up directing 'Wolverine 2'?

The rumor mill has Fox close to making choice about second film in spinoff franchise

<p>Hugh Jackman, seen here in last year's 'X-Men Origins:&nbsp;Wolverine,' is on the hunt for a director for 'Wolverine 2'</p>

Hugh Jackman, seen here in last year's 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' is on the hunt for a director for 'Wolverine 2'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

No.  Probably not.

But let's look at why this conversation is even possible.

How do you get from "the maker of 'Pi' and 'Requiem For A Dream'" to "the director of 'Wolverine 2'"?

Well, for one thing, if you're the maker of "Pi" and "Requiem For A Dream" and "The Fountain" and "The Wrestler" and "Black Swan," you are not the guy who is paying the light bills at 20th Century Fox.  If you're the guy who made "Wolverine 2" for a respectable price and kept the studio's movie star happy, then you might be the guy paying the light bills.  And that changes things.

Darren Aronofsky's had an amazing career, and whether you like or dislike his work, what he was created is distinct and alive and fascinating, worth studying and revisiting.  I haven't seen his new film yet, but it's the first new movie I'll see once I land in Toronto next week.  His work is that significant.

It's also been resolutely uncommercial up till now.  I don't really study box-office, but I assume he made some money for someone on "Pi" and "Requiem," and that he's demonstrated a sense of how to do certain things on a budget, how to stretch a dollar, and I know "The Fountain" was an expensive experiment, but I hope in the end, enough people see that movie to push it into the black for the studio.  "The Wrestler" seemed to make Fox Searchlight pretty happy, happy enough to make another movie with him.  And that certainly puts him inside the Fox family.  But has he ever been a guy who made a "Titanic" for anyone, or even a "District 9"?  Not really.  He's never had his commercial break-out moment.

Wait a minute... how many stunts are in the new 'Mad Max' film?

Either someone was misquoted or George Miller is deliciously insane

<p>I think this guy just read the script for 'Fury Road' and realized just how many bones George Miller plans to break during production next year.</p>

I think this guy just read the script for 'Fury Road' and realized just how many bones George Miller plans to break during production next year.

Credit: Warner Home Video

I think it's fair to suggest that I am unreasonably excited about getting a new "Mad Max" film from George Miller.  And, to be blunt, I don't really care if it's a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, or a kabuki musical version as long as it's got tons and tons of car stunts staged by Miller, the single best road action director of all time.

No... don't argue.  You can list me other good car chase films, and I'm sure I'm a fan of many of the films you'll list, but for my money, no one has eve shot car action (or action in general) the way George Miller did in the first two films in the "Mad Max" series.  Working with cinematographers David Eggby on the first film and Dean Semler on the second film, Miller created a style of shooting car action that is still unequaled, though oft-imitated.  Placing his camera low to the ground and right in the center of the action, Miller made the act of driving seem like an existential expression of self, and not just a mode of transport.

In particular, I would say "The Road Warrior" is the single most kinetic car stunt movie of all time.  Things happen in that movie that no stunt team should have walked away from, and every single time I've seen it with an audience, the temperature in the room goes up over the course of the film.  People engage with it completely, and they react to the big stunts like they can actually feel the impact themselves.

What's Fox doing with their new Fantastic Four? Willis as CGI Thing?

And more importantly, what should we hope for?

<p>Just because 'Fantastic Four Reborn' won't look like this doesn't automatically mean it will be better... does it?</p>

Just because 'Fantastic Four Reborn' won't look like this doesn't automatically mean it will be better... does it?

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The first thing you have to ask yourself is whether you care about a Fantastic Four movie at all.  Do you like the characters?  Do you like the films that already exist?  Do you want to see another version of the material?  In a world where "The Incredibles" exists, do we need anyone to keep trying to make a Fantastic Four movie in live-action?

20th Century Fox certainly isn't going to give up on the idea of the franchise, but they are going to reboot.  Right now, "Fantastic Four Reborn" is the game plan.  And although there's been nothing like a formal announcement, there's plenty of speculation and rumor out there right now, gaining enough critical mass through re-reporting that it has to be addressed.

Comic Book Movie is a very, very young site, and the rumors they're running right now are just rumors.  Unproven.  Until we see real progress on the film, take whatever you're hearing as part of the "wish list" phase of movie rumors, when fansites run rumors that are more about what they want than what they know.

Case in point:  casting for any new "Fantastic Four" movie is still quite a way off.  There are steps happening between now and then that will be news, milestones that will indicate we're getting close to real news about the film.  Hiring a director would be one of those milestones, and they haven't done that yet.  There are rumors about names like Joe Carnahan, David Yates, and James McTeigue supposedly in the running, and I'd be shocked if the list didn't contain those names, frankly.  That's exactly the sort of filmmaker Fox would hire for these films.  Yates is going to be hugely in-demand after the last two "Potter" films are released, and Carnahan and McTeigue are both guys who make exactly the sort of movie that Fox likes.  I'm willing to bet there are a whoooooole lotta lists being written full of filmmaker's names.

Saturday Night At The Movies: Why 'Noble Rot' died on the vine

A look at a John Belushi movie that nearly was

<p>One of my favorite pictures of John Belushi, taken for a People magazine  cover story, captured him at a quiet moment in turbulent days, right  around the time 'Noble Rot' was tearing him apart.</p>

One of my favorite pictures of John Belushi, taken for a People magazine cover story, captured him at a quiet moment in turbulent days, right around the time 'Noble Rot' was tearing him apart.

Credit: People

Last week, we talked about John Belushi's career in terms of the broad strokes, and I mentioned that there was one project in particular that I thought summed up the troubles faced by the actor during his damnably brief career in Hollywood, and this week, we'll take a look at the script for that project, and what its failure in the development process said about this business.

Don Novello is probably best known to audiences as the character he created and played in the '70s, Father Guido Sarducci.  Best described as an uber-hip Catholic priest, Sarducci was a regular on "Weekend Update" and even released books and a stand-up comedy album called "Breakfast In Heaven" at one point.

Novello was also a writer, though, and his most notorious screenplay is called "Noble Rot," a film that was supposed to star John Belushi as the lead.  It was actually rebuilt from a Jay Sandrich script called "Sweet Deception," and Novello reworked it almost completely.  Belushi was a co-writer on the film, and he saw it as a chance to define his own onscreen persona.  He was frustrated by offers to do films like Paramount's proposed "National Lampoon's The Joy Of Sex," where they wanted to put Belushi in a diaper for his sketch.  He was dismayed at the idea of having to play variations on Bluto for his whole career, id-addled rage babies who just acted out.  It's the same fear that Chris Farley always described as "Fatty Falls Down syndrome."  I'd only ever read about "Noble Rot" until recently, so when the script landed on my desk, i was excited to finally get a look at the way Belushi saw himself, versus the way he was seen by executives.

Satoshi Kon, anime legend, has moved on to a new reality

The director of 'Paprika' and 'Perfect Blue' passes away from cancer

<p>Satoshi Kon's masterpiece, 'Paprika,' is available on Blu-ray, and will most likely make your brain leak out of your ear.&nbsp; In a good way.</p>

Satoshi Kon's masterpiece, 'Paprika,' is available on Blu-ray, and will most likely make your brain leak out of your ear.  In a good way.

Credit: SPHE

When I went to the Fantasia Film Festival in 2001, it was one of the first few film festivals I ever attended, and I was a little overwhelmed by the number of choices available and by the number of filmmakers I'd never heard of.  One of the few titles that jumped off the schedule immediately for me was "Millennium Actress," the latest movie from Satoshi Kon.  I knew his work already from the film "Perfect Blue," and I thought he was one of the more promising names in anime, so I wanted to attend the premiere and possibly meet the filmmaker.

Instead, I ended up seated next to him, and before and after the film, I got a chance to chat casually with him about his work, anime, science-fiction on film and more.  He turned out to be a younger guy than I expected, and right away, from that first conversation, it was obvious that he was a guy who believed in the potential for animation to tell stories that no live-action director could pull off, using language unique to animation, and the force of his belief was enough to win me over.

I spent almost two years back in the '90s trying to get an R-rated animated horror film made, based on a novel I loved.  My co-writer Scott and I worked with a producing partner named Kevin and a very talented animator named David Simmons who did a ton of design work for us.  It was gorgeous, unsettling stuff, and every time we took the presentation into a new office, people would freak out over the quality of the work, and then tell us that they didn't believe anyone would ever see an animated film for grown-ups.  This was the era of "The Lion King," and all anyone wanted to do was chase that film's success.  Animated musicals.  That seemed to be all anyone in Hollywood believed was possible with the medium.  It got so frustrating listening to otherwise-smart people sell short an entire type of filmmaking that we eventually gave up and moved on.

Review: What can you really expect from the 'Avatar: Special Edition'?

How does it stack up with earlier Cameron special editions?

<p>See those things?&nbsp; Wanna see what they do?&nbsp; Wanna see them do things you've never seen them do before?&nbsp; You will in 'Avatar:&nbsp;Special Edition&quot;&nbsp;in theaters now</p>

See those things?  Wanna see what they do?  Wanna see them do things you've never seen them do before?  You will in 'Avatar: Special Edition" in theaters now

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lightstorm

I have a long relationship with James Cameron's special editions.

I'm a guy who saw the original "Terminator" in the theater.  Well over 20 times.  Over and over at a theater where my friend's older brother got us in for free, and where the film played for months to a mostly-full auditorium.  And by the time "Aliens" came out theatrically, I was working at a theater, so again, I must have gone 20 times or so in the long summer and fall the film played one of our eight screens.  I was addicted to Cameron's action-movie sensibility, and I thought he was a clever, inventive SF writer.  His influences were fairly close to the surface, but so what?  He was an aggressive stylist and he knew how to throw down the big moments.

The reason I loved novelizations when I was growing up was because many of them contained material that was in the original script but that didn't make it to the final film because the writer was working from something in advance, before there was a finished film to look at.  And when I read the Alan Dean Foster adaptation of James Cameron's "Aliens" script, I got reeeeeeeally frustrated.  The material about Ripley's daughter made it into the book, and right away, it struck me as a stronger character choice.  But at that point, the home video market really didn't do the director's cut thing.

Fantastic Fest 2010 announces their second wave of programming

Robert De Niro and Edward Norton in 'Stone' join the festival

<p>Looks like Tony Jaa is going to get into even greater elephant mayhem in 'Ong Bak 3' at this year's Fantastic Fest in Austin.</p>

Looks like Tony Jaa is going to get into even greater elephant mayhem in 'Ong Bak 3' at this year's Fantastic Fest in Austin.

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

It's just plain silly how excited I am about September.

The Toronto International Film Festival is a great way to kick off a month, and if that was all that was going on during the month, that would make it one of the highlights of the year.

But you add Fantastic Fest at the other end of the month?  Ridiculous.  Outrageous.  Overload.

I'm excited to see Overture's "Stone" announced as one of the gala screenings.  I just saw "Stone" yesterday, and it's a hell of a movie.  It's not what I expected, and that's a good thing.  It features one of the best De Niro performances in a long time, and it'll be a great conversation once I'm able to review it.

There are some other overlaps with Toronto as well, which I consider a good thing because there's just no way for me to see everything I want to see at either festival.  Overlap helps me out, and I'm dying to see the final Fantastic Fest line-up.

For now, you can look back at the first wave of titles announced, and then you can dig in to this second batch of titles, which features some exciting highlights, and I'll offer some comments at the end:


Stone (2010)
USPremiere, USA, director: John Curran
Director John Curran and Edward Norton live in attendance.
A seasoned corrections official and a volatile inmate find their lives dangerously intertwined in STONE, a thought-provoking drama directed by John Curran and written by Angus MacLachlan. STONE features powerful performances by Academy Award winner Robert De Niro and Oscar nominee Edward Norton, and a startlingly raw, breakout performance from Milla Jovovich as the sexy, casually amoral woman they both desire.
As parole officer Jack Mabry (De Niro) counts the days toward a quiet retirement, he is asked to review the case of Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Norton), in prison for covering up the murder of his grandparents with a fire. Now eligible for early release, Stone needs to convince Jack he has reformed, but his attempts to influence the older man’s decision have profound and unexpected consequences for them both. STONE skillfully weaves together the parallel journeys of two men grappling with dark impulses, as the line between lawman and lawbreaker becomes precariously thin. Golden Globe winner Frances Conroy completes the superb ensemble as Madylyn, Jack’s devout, long-suffering spouse. Set against the quiet desperation of economically ravaged suburban Detroit and the stifling brutality of a maximum security prison, this tale of passion, betrayal and corruption examines the fractured lives of two volatile men breaking from their troubled pasts to face uncertain futures. 

Major changes in store for Brad Bird's 'Mission: Impossible' sequel

What roles will Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner play in franchise future?

<p>Tom Cruise, seen here in &quot;Mission:&nbsp;Impossible III,&quot; will play some role in the future of the franchise, but just how much of one remains to be seen.</p>

Tom Cruise, seen here in "Mission: Impossible III," will play some role in the future of the franchise, but just how much of one remains to be seen.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Paramount's getting serious about the "Mission: Impossible" series.

It's about time.

Since the series was brought to the bigscreen in 1996, it has been focused entirely on Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise.  He hasn't had a consistent team in place from film to film, and the stories have all been freestanding, with little or no continuity of any import.

The first film, directed by Brian De Palma, is a lot of fun, with some great De Palma style (i.e. borrowed and polished) set pieces and a subversive streak.  After all, the film made Jim Phelps, the hero of the original '60s series, the film's villain and then killed him off.  That's not the smartest move in terms of pleasing a fanbase, but it is pretty ballsy.

The second film, by John Woo, is a flat-out catastrophe, playing more like a Mad magazine version of a John Woo film than like the real thing.  I think this was pretty much the nadir of the Hollywood career of John Woo, and a shameless ripoff of Hitchcock's "Notorious" by Robert Towne, whose screenplay is the work of a once-great writer who genuinely couldn't care any less.

The third film, directed by JJ Abrams, was slick and fun and played with the idea of grounding Cruise with a team around him, and for the most part, the film worked.  Philip Seymour Hoffman made a radically different type of villain than in many films, and a very good one at that.  It didn't really set the genre on fire, but it didn't have to in order to redeem the series.  Really.  "M:I 2" is that bad.  

Review: 'The Last Exorcism' earns every scare

Eli Roth's name may be the selling point, but the cast is what makes it work

<p>Ashley Bell does startling work as Nell Sweetzer, the young girl whose condition is the mystery at the heart of 'The Last Exorcism'</p>

Ashley Bell does startling work as Nell Sweetzer, the young girl whose condition is the mystery at the heart of 'The Last Exorcism'

Credit: Lionsgate

It has become increasingly difficult to build a mockumentary that the audience accepts as "real" on any level, even as the format has become increasingly popular with filmmakers who often use the style as a crutch.

Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko could be considered pioneers of the format, and I published a piece a few weeks ago that repurposed some things I wrote about them and their earlier efforts in the field.  Right away, people went nuts all over again, accusing them of being mean and cruel and damn near sociopathic, and you should read the piece I wrote so you get some sense of what it was they're alleged to have done.


The thing is, I never really "believed" any of their films, but I think they ring true in the way they tap the awful feelings many people have about family, or the way they feed into the things people suspect about fraternity hazing, or in the case of the very good "Mail Order Wife," the way they comment on the very nature of making a documentary and stepping into someone else's real life in search of something you can digest as "entertainment."  They've always used the form to play with that tension between "I'm watching a film" and "documentaries are real," and it never seems like they use it as a crutch instead of making a "real" movie.

Interview: Eli Roth and the stars of 'The Last Exorcism' discuss making the unreal mundane

How did this freaky horror mockumentary come together?

<p>Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell share a quiet moment in the freaky new horror film 'The Last Exorcism'</p>

Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell share a quiet moment in the freaky new horror film 'The Last Exorcism'

Credit: Lionsgate

I'll have my review of Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" later tonight, but first, I wanted to share with you a couple of interviews from the other day, when I sat down at the SLS Hotel here in Los Angeles to talk with producer Eli Roth and stars Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell about the movie.

Eli is a polarizing figure in modern horror, to say the least, but before I knew him as "the director of 'Cabin Fever' and 'Hostel,'" I knew him as "that dude from Butt-Numb-A-Thon who loves movies."  And no matter what, he remains an arden supporter of genre film in general.  He's using his powers for good, producing films for other people, genuinely doing his best to bring original horror to the bigscreen and supporting new voices.  When I hear fanboys get upset because of who Eli's friends are, I think they assume that was always the case, but Eli should serve as an inspirational story for them.  He's a guy who worked his way up, who got to where he is not because of his friends, but because he threw himself into his work and hustled and earned that firs shot.  It cracks me up to see him as an actor in something like "Piranha 3D," and I would think his appearance in that film would be a treat for fans and non-fans alike.  They kill him reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal good.

Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are both new to me, which really works for the film.  It's smart to put them together for the interviews, since much of the movie is a dance between the two of them.  This is not a film with a big FX budget.  90% of what you will or won't find scary is simply performance, and it's almost disturbing how sweet Bell seems in interviews, because in the film, she's deeply, indelibly upsetting.

Get Instant Alerts on Motion/Captured

Around the Web