Thank god for Neill Blomkamp.
I sincerely hope I never end up writing a news story about how Neill Blomkamp, struggling to recover after a series of films that didn't earn their money back, is now signing on to direct the reboot of the reboot of "Robocop" or some similar money-driven monstrosity. I hope he is able to follow his own particular vision for as long as he wants to, and that audiences turn up to support him enough that he is able to maintain his independence.
Also, before we get started, if this movie had been made in 1974, Charlton Heston would be playing the Matt Damon role. AND IT WOULD BE AWESOME.
Right now, my oldest son has declared himself "a science-fiction fan." He is in the shallow end of the baby pool right now in terms of what he's seen or read, but he spends days after each new science fiction book or movie just asking me questions, and most of them aren't about things he saw in the film, but things that were suggested by the movies and the books.
Remember when science-fiction had something to say?
Thank god for Neill Blomkamp.
Sometimes low-key and charming is enough
Sometimes, when you order a hamburger, all you want is a hamburger.
No one is going to accuse "2 Guns" of being some bold reinvention of the action genre, but it's a big jump forward for director Baltasar Kormakur. His previous American action film was "Contraband," also starring Mark Wahlberg, and honestly, it did nothing for me. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't care for it. The whole thing felt inert to me, which happens sometimes with studio films. You can tell that people threw all the resources in the world at something, but it just doesn't come to life. Those films are, in some ways, more frustrating than flat-out bad films, because it's hard to pinpoint where things went wrong.
Was it worth the wait to finally see the mutant-hunting giant robots?
When we're at an event like Comic-Con, there isn't always time to post a complete news story on every single thing you see or encounter. That's one reason it's good to also follow my Twitter feed during an event like that. For example, at one point, I was on my way to the main convention center and passed the spot where 20th Century Fox had a Sentinel head on display, and I snapped a quick picture of it and sent it out.
Almost immediately, I started getting asked questions about scale, which is fair. I didn't have anything else in the shot to give you an idea of how big the head was. I got a real sense of excitement from many of you about the idea of finally seeing Sentinels in the "X-Men" films. I agree. I know that when I first fell in love with the X-Men titles in print, part of what fascinated me was the image of these giant mutant-killing robots that were deployed by the government.
One of the guys who appeared on the "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" panel was Hutch Parker, one of the producers on the film. During Tom Rothman's time at the studio, Parker was one of the executives who worked closely with him, which makes me wonder how a conversation between the two of them would go today. Rothman, keep in mind, was the studio head who said "No 'X-Men' movie is ever going to feature stupid giant robots as long as I'm running Fox," and now we've reached a moment where not only are there giant robots, but Bryan Singer, who Rothman felt betrayed the studio and the franchise, is the one who is responsible for finally introducing them.
Haven't we seen enough origin stories at this point?
Over the weekend, I found myself on the road again, and one of the movies I took with me was the latest offering from DC Animation, "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox." While I don't think every single one of the DC Animated films have been great, I admire the risks they've taken, and I am impressed by the way they seem willing to experiment with what audiences expect.
Directed by Jay Oliva, who has been very busy for the studio lately, "JL: TFP" is a Flash-centric film that tells a story set largely in an alternate reality. Based on a graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, the script was adapted by Jim Krieg, and it's a surprisingly grim affair at times. At the start of the film, we get a glimpse of the Justice League in action when they step in to help Barry Allen, who is cornered by several of his deadliest enemies at once. It's just a glimpse, but enough to establish what Superman, Batman, Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Green Lantern all look like in this timeline. When The Flash wakes up the next day, the world has changed dramatically, and at first, Barry has every reason to celebrate. After all, his mother Nora is still alive in this timeline, so even though Barry is suddenly no longer The Flash, he doesn't mind at all.
It's hard to remember just how ground-breaking that film really was
Plain and simple, I love this.
Part of what I love about movies is the language of cinema. Not just the stories being told or the people telling them, but the particular use of camera and editing and music and effects and sound… the way all of that comes together to create and capture emotion and energy and action and ideas.
There's a film coming out later this year that I've seen that is such an amazing explosion of new visual language, of unfettered visual invention, that I feel like any review we do right now will only be half the story. Some films leave a huge thumbprint on film history because they do something that immediately enters the vocabulary of every other filmmaker working, something that is just added to the tools that are used to tell visual stories. It's got to be amazing to be part of something like that, and I suspect that most of the time, you don't even realize it until later.
Today, there's a four and a half minute silent video online that is nothing but camera tests of people walking around, and yet, looking at it, I am struck by just how much you can sense the excitement of the people shooting these tests because they know that they have this brand-new thing to play with. I'm talking about the Panaglide tests shot by Dean Cundey and Ray Stella for John Carpenter's "Halloween."
From early Bogdanovich to '90s comedies, Brennan carved out her own place
Eileen Brennan was a great broad.
I use that word very specifically, too. There was something about her in most of the work she did that is simply unapologetic. She is caustic, she can be a world class ball-buster given the right material, and she seems like she could drink, smoke, and curse you under the table with minimal effort on her part.
Her biggest cultural moment probably came from her work in "Private Benjamin." The Goldie Hawn film was 14 years into her career, and she had certainly made a strong impression in some significant films already, but "Private Benjamin" was one of those big giant flashpoint hits when it came out. Howard Zeiff's film was a comedy, but it also had a '70s attitude that underscored that comedy with some very raw emotional material and with a sense of sadness. There's almost a European feeling to some of the material, which makes for a sort of strange tonal collision with all the "pampered princess in the Army" stuff that basically boiled down to a battle of the wills between Hawn and Brennan. When you look at the Warren Oates/Bill Murray dynamic in "Stripes" a year later, it looks like they just gender-swapped the exact relationship from "Private Benjamin," and it's impressive how tough Brennan's Captain Lewis is even when you set her side by side with Oates's Sgt. Hulka.
Looks like it's going to be a wild ride at midnight once again
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Toronto's Midnight Madness section of the annual film event that has become one of my very favorite parts of every year.
The first year I went up for the festival, I didn't have a badge. HitFix wasn't even a year old yet, and I was still working to get set up at each of the festivals. I wasn't sure it would be possible for me to do a good job covering it without a badge, but I ended up walking away feeling like I'd done as well as could be expected, thanks in no small part to Colin Geddes, who programs the Midnight Madness line-up and who is also involved in many other decisions made each year.
He went out of his way to make sure I had tickets for things, and to be honest, I barely knew him at the time. He did it because that's the kind of guy he is. I've gotten to know Colin much better over the years since then, and I think there are very few festival programmers who eat, breathe, and love this stuff the way he does. He travels constantly, he sees movies around the world, and when the actual festival begins, Colin puts on an amazing show. He considers those ten nights to be a sacred trust, and he works his ass off to make sure that year in and year out, people who sit in that Ryerson theater every night at midnight have experiences. Good, bad, that's almost beside the point. What is most important is that you have a genuine reaction, and that you can't just shrug these movies off.
Can this one crack the code and kickstart a franchise?
When people say that Harvey Weinstein is once again working with Disney, that's true on a technical level, but the people he'll deal with as he makes "Artemis Fowl' with the studio are not the same people who were in charge during the contentious final days of his time there during the Miramax/Disney years.
I have no particular problem with Eoin Colfer or his work. It's fine, and if you like the conceit that 12-year-old Artemis is a criminal genius who has amassed a great and secret fortune, working right under the noses of his parents. His father is a fairly bad guy himself and his mother is working to make the whole family stay on the straight and narrow. It's part of that huge surge of young adult fiction that appeared on the heels of Harry Potter, and it has enough of its own voice that I don't hate the idea of seeing movies… I'm just not convinced there's any real reason beyond demographic market research.
The press release that came out today is full of sunshiney quotes from Harvey about how thrilled he is to be back in business with Disney and lots of heartfelt endorsements from Alan Horn about how much fun he had with Harvey when he was at Warner Bros., and it all sounds like champagne and lollipops, and it all reads like carefully prepared statements to me. Fine. You guys see some money to be made here, and Harvey's had these rights tied up for a while now and why not?
Are comic writers involved enough with adaptations?
This weekend, I watched the new DC animated film "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox," and I thought it was really well-done overall. One of the things that most impressed me was a credits block where they named the creators of several of the major characters used in the film.
"SUPERMAN created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family.
BATMAN created by Bob Kane.
WONDER WOMAN created by William Moulton Marston.
AQUAMAN created by Paul Norris.
ETRIGAN THE DEMON created by Jack Kirby.
CYBORG and DEATHSTROKE created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
GRIFTER created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi."
And, no, I don't know why they don't also credit Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert for creating The Flash, since this is a Flash-heavy movie, or why they don't include the creators of The Green Lantern or Shazam. It's been a slow and interesting process watching DC and Marvel grapple with how to handle the credits on their films, both animated and live-action, and so far, most of these decisions have been made because of legal action, not a sense of wanting to credit those who deserve it.
And why is 'Movie 43' such a strong audition tape for Gunn to make 'Galaxy'?
I've been talking to people about "Guardians Of The Galaxy" for the last week or so, some who were at Marvel's Hall H presentation, many who were not, and I think at this point, it's safe to call this the single biggest risk on Marvel's calendar. I don't think there's much middle ground on this one. Either it wins people over and becomes a big hit, or it never gets past the initial impression that many people seem to have, which is, "There's a raccoon who does WHAT?!"
About a week ago, I finally sat down and watched "Movie 43," the anthology comedy film that has been vilified since its release at the start of the year. I think the film is dirty more than funny, intentionally trading shocks for laughs for the most part, but the segment that was directed by James Gunn is, in a very strange way, the single best audition tape that Gunn could have made for the "Guardians Of The Galaxy" job.