Can you feel it? The wind just changed direction, and I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before that wind changes back.
Since the release of "The Sixth Sense," M. Night Shyamalan has been calling his own shots, and he's grown a reputation for himself as a wee bit of a control freak. And by "wee bit," I mean "planet-sized." If you've never read The Man Who Heard Voices, the book that was written by Michael Bamberger about the development and production of "The Lady In The Water," you should. It's an amazing glimpse at a man who is still wracked by insecurity even after having a career-affirming mega-success or two, and who is so wounded by the development process on his early film "Wide Awake" and the unproduced "Labor Of Love" that he has never been able to fully embrace collaboration again.
That may be changing, though, and I consider it very promising news, indeed. When Shyamalan first started gaining momentum in Hollywood, it was because of his skills as a writer. If you go back and look at his early scripts on the page, like "The Sixth Sense" or his draft of "Stuart Little," what comes across first is the economy of his writing, and the elegance of how he could communicate an idea. Over time, he's become more and more confident as a director, but in the process, he's lost touch with his own talents as a writer, and I'd say his last few feature scripts have been the worst work of his career.
Can you feel it? The wind just changed direction, and I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before that wind changes back.
Anyone who walks into "Paranormal Activity 2" skeptical would be well within their rights.
Think about it. The original, released theatrically last year, was a sort of lightning strike of indie inspiration, a shot-on-video film that used one house as a set and that managed to wring some real scares out of something as simple as two characters and some sound effects. It was actually made two years earlier, and it took that entire time for people… specifically Paramount… to figure out how to sell this $11,000 film. They pulled off an aggressive campaign and opened the film to impressive business, even managing to dent the previously undentable "Saw" franchise.
Releasing a sequel a year later would seem to be a sign that the studio is cashing in, and that this is something for them to squeeze as quickly as they can. It's no stretch to imagine that whatever Paramount was rushing onto screens this year was going to be a pale imitation of the first, which was already a fairly lean little trick of a movie.
So how is the second one genuinely scary, and why do I feel like this is a near-perfect example of how to learn from a first film when building a second film?
One thing that made tonight's viewing so fun was the way Paramount has kept pretty much all story details under wraps, including the time-frame for this film. When they started showing a few snippets (because it's not fair to call them clips based on how short they were) from the film in the last few weeks, it was surprising to see Katie Featherston show up again. Considering the end of the first film, that isn't what I expected. I thought we'd be seeing a brand-new family and just more of the same.
A few days after this trailer premiered, appropriately enough, at "Spike's 2010 Scream Awards" and just two days after a crappy bootleg of said trailer made the rounds, we have the official trailer for Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's latest installment in the "Scream" saga. ("exclusively" on Yahoo today)
"Scream 4" looks to review some familiar but much beloved territory. Ten years after the last installment, (wow, really?) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is once again tormented by a demented knife wielding maniac with a sense of humor and a love of horror movies.
Returning are the franchise's surviving regulars, Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox
Arquette as well as a few fresh faces such as Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin. In the trailer, Culkin has the coveted role of explaining "the rules." Or the horror movie conventions that Ghostface will tend to follow this time around.
Looks like fun, watch the trailer embedded above and let us know what you think. Are you ready for more, or over it?
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Of course Johnny Depp wants to remake "The Thin Man". He'll get to play another comic lead who spends an entire movie drunk. It's like Jack Sparrow in a tuxedo, for god's sake. And since he and Rob Marshall are evidently getting along like a house on fire on "Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" right now, I'd say if Depp really wants him to direct this remake, he will. Intense jealousy barely begins to describe what I feel towards anyone lucky enough to be involved in this.
I have a love of the "Thin Man" films, even the weakest of them, that I have for very few other films. I love Nick and Nora Charles. Hell, if you go to my Twitter page, my background since day one has been the two or them and Asta, their dog. There is no greater screen couple, and as much as Depp feels like an easy slam-dunk as Nick Charles, the real key is finding a Nora Charles who gives as good as she gets, and who can be a completely game partner for him. No easy feat. This one's still an idea in a movie star's head, an itch he wants scratched, and there's no writer yet, much less a script, so for now, it's an interesting hypothetical.
I can't believe they caught the kid who threatened to kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker over their depiction of the prophet Muhammad on "South Park." That's sort of amazing. Anonymity really isn't the shield that people think it is.
Female directors are not uncommon only in the world of animation. There's a reason it was a big deal when Kathryn Bigelow won her Oscar last year. I'm not a "meet a quota" kind of guy, but I do believe that a variety of voices is what we need in film if the art form is going to remain vital and interesting. The more types of voices we have making films, the more perspective we gain on ourselves, and that's one of the primary reasons we make art in the first place.
Of course, when you're talking about giant budget franchise pictures, the word "art" is a little precious. And as much as I enjoy the work of Pixar, they are absolutely one of the most important financial brands in modern Hollywood. They have the best track record in the business for a reason. They have a carefully managed story department, and they are ruthless during development. They have had several major shake-ups on films, including "Cars," "Ratatouille," and "Toy Story 2," with directors being replaced and big chunks of story being thrown out. Recently, they pulled the plug on "Newt," and some of the concept art for that ended up on their Facebook page. John Lasseter is now also the man in charge over at Walt Disney Feature Animation, and he's had a major late-in-the-game influence on both "Bolt!," which began life under the direction of Chris Sanders as "American Dog," and "Tangled," which arrives in theaters next month in a very different form than was originally intended by Glen Keane.
Obviously, none of that matters if the film actually works. And time after time, Pixar has managed to snatch success from the jaws of failure. They've been quite open in discussing the way the process works.
Roger Vadim once referred to it as "the most enjoyable film I made in my career." Gene Roddenberry fans generally have no idea it exists. Rock Hudson was at the tail end of his career when he made it. And the Osmonds recorded the totally awesome theme song.
So why doesn't everyone already own "Pretty Maids All In A Row"?
Oh, that's right. It's been totally unavailable until next week, when Warner Archive (who should be given some sort of Congressional medal for their efforts in the last few years) releases the film on DVD for the first time. I saw the movie in February of 1999, when I was at QT III, the third film festival that Quentin Tarantino programmed at the old original Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, and I fell for it, head over heels. It's a slasher movie, and it's a teen sex comedy, and it's a sort of last lap around the pool for Rock Hudson, and somehow, all of these different things going on work together.
Angie Dickinson is exceptionally sexy in the film, and Rock Hudson may have been in his sunset years, but he is sharp and charming and manages to make an incredibly distasteful role into something almost charming. Roger Vadim packed the film with crazy gorgeous '70s girls, all of whom seem practically offended by the notion of wearing clothing. The young lead in the film, John David Carson, should have had a real career, but for some reason this is one of those one-offs. I don't think Vadim is a great director, but I think he's occasionally a really fun director, and maybe it was the chemistry between his sensibility and the totally wackadoo screenplay by "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, who reveals himself as sort of a gleeful superfreak with this one. Whatever the case, this was a case of Vadim getting it all just right.
Ben Affleck could probably make any script in town right now if he wanted to.
"The Town" may not be a giant preposterous megahit, but the reviews were great and audiences have definitely responded. What impresses studio execs when they look at something like "The Town" is a film for grown-ups that isn't based on a comic book and that stars adults and that was made for a reasonable cost, and that seems like the Holy Grail for these folks these days.
When they turn to Affleck, they're looking to him to make something that can be commercial, but that they can genuinely be proud of. My guess is there are snowdrifts of scripts for long-dormant properties being dumped on Affleck's doorstep these days, and all he has to do is say yes if he wants to get one of them made.
Ken Grimwood's "Replay" is definitely not a new property. The first time I remember hearing about the development of the novel into a film was in the mid-'90s, and at that point, it had already been kicking around for a while. I was a fan when it was published in 1987, and it's one of those books that has stuck with me for decades, clearly, without ever revisiting it. Grimwood's book is about a guy in his early '40s who has a heart attack. Instead of dying, though, he wakes up in his 18-year-old body, with all of his memories of the 20-plus years that follow.
And not just once, but in a cycle that he realizes is not unique to him. The reasons why he is a Replayer, and the way he plays out these second and third and so on chances is what makes the material so powerful, and Grimwood plays riffs on this idea that you've never seen. Sure, the idea of being caught in a loop like that is somewhat similar to "Groundhog Day" on the surface, but "Replay" digs deeper, and the book is powerfully emotional as well as wickedly high-concept.
Clive Barker's world is a dark, sick, wet, sexually disturbed world, and that's exactly as it should be.
When he began releasing the "Books Of Blood," it was a sensation because there seemed to be no line that he was afraid to cross, no taboo he was afraid to confront. His stories were dangerous. They felt personal. They felt invasive. Even now if you read them, they remain transgressive, almost too dark to take.
When he directed his first feature film "Hellraiser," the film seemed to ably reflect that sensibility on film. It's not a perfect movie, but there's a sweaty, overheated quality to it that works, and that makes it feel like something you shouldn't be watching, Since that first film, which never really felt like a franchise movie, the series has been subject to the law of diminishing returns, quickly becoming so coarse and stupid that it's hard to believe there was ever any merit to the original. That's the real danger with doing one terrible sequel after another. You can eventually turn something that started well into something that any right-thinking person would actively avoid.
Dimension Films has never been accused of under-exploiting the film properties they own. They are a sequel factory, and they seem perfectly happy to pump out straight-to-video fare if that's the way it works out, with an eye on theatrical release if the stars align. Little wonder they've been trying to get a new "Hellraiser" off the ground for a while, and there have been a few moments in the last couple of years where there were some interesting names attached.
"This is the end."
The end of me rebuying "Apocalypse Now," anyway, because finally, after at least three previous home video editions, they got it right.
This is not a film I watch lightly. When I watch "Apocalypse Now," it is with intent. I treat it like a psychoactive substance. My relationship with "Apocalypse Now" goes back at least 20 years, and it's one of those movies I point at as proof that there is magic involved in the making of films. There's no way all the various ingredients of "Apocalypse Now" should add up to the movie that exists, but there it is. Chaos and madness and blood and sickness and ego and hubris, all of it adding up to the uber high concept idea of Joseph Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness," told in an updated Vietnam setting, executed in such a way as to make a silly idea into harrowing, vibrant art.
When I worked at Dave's Video, the laserdisc store in Sherman Oaks, it was the early '90s, and a lot of the titles that are making their debut right now on Blu-ray were just rolling out on laserdisc. The "Aliens" box set, for example, which we'll get into next week when Fox drops that whole series onto Blu-ray. That was a huge deal at the time. And when "Apocalypse Now" was released, it was given the Rolls Royce treatment. Big giant double-disc set, and that CAV transfer was pretty much the end of the world back then.
I started this column back at AICN, and I did it for a time here at HitFix as well, but it recently occurred to me during a conversation with a friend who has also been a reader since the early AICN days that this makes a nice bookend to the Morning Read, which runs three days a week. I want to try different regular articles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in place of the Morning Read, so there's always something familiar in the morning, Monday through Friday, with this column at the other side of the day as an anchor.
The "thing" in question can be… anything. A concert. A book. A DVD. An event. A toy. An experience. A link to something particularly poignant. Or crazy. Or whatever. The point is to spotlight one thing a day that might otherwise not get that spotlight. Considering how many things are sent here for review, there is never a shortage of things that can be featured in this column, so why not bring it back?
After all, the more regular I am in providing certain things to you guys, then hopefully the more engaged you'll be. That is the point here. I don't ever want to think of this as me shouting into the void. I hope to find ways to put some of these things I love into your hands as well, and later tonight, I'll be running a piece about "Apocalypse Now" that should you should check out for that exact reason.