Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Oscar-winning actor embraces SF/horror this summer
It's hard to believe that it took this long for me to finally sit down with Adrien Brody. I've been writing about his career since his first few films, and I remember seeing him in a film called "Restaurant" at a festival about a decade ago. Long time coming, and now that we've actually spoken, he's every bit as intelligent and confident about his craft as I expected him to be, and even before the cameras were turned on, he was engaging and cracking jokes, working to set me at ease.
Still, if I'm finally going to interview him, it seems appropriate that it would be for a film that seems very film geeky while still managing to subvert expectations. I know what movie I thought I was going to see when I viewed "Splice" at Sundance this year, but the film was much weirder and more sly about its agenda than I expected. If you're in Los Angeles, and you want to take a peek at the film before it's released on Friday, then please join me Thursday night at the Egyptian Theater, where I'll be moderating a Q&A after a screening of the movie, with writer/director Vincenzo Natali and producer Don Murphy joining me.
In the meantime, though, check out the conversation I had with Brody, where we talk about the way the hedalines lately have almost felt like viral marketing for the film, and the way Brody and co-star Sarah Polley formed an unlikely family with Dren, the creation at the heart of the movie.
Online leak offers up first good look at The First Avenger
So last week, it was JoBlo who had the big Captain America exclusive, reporting on a costume test that he'd seen. Fans all over the internet went to work trying to draw what he described.
Now Ain't It Cool has come up with the actual costume tests that JoBlo described, and they've published them this morning so you can take a look for yourself.
If I understand the way the film is laid out, this is the second costume we'll see in the movie. There's an earlier version that is what Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wears when he's working for the USO, and it's showier, more colorful, geared more for the stage than for combat.
This is the combat version. This is what he wears once he's hooked up with the Howlin' Mad Commandos and out in the field, ready to kick some Nazi ass. This is what we'll evidently be seeing for the majority of the film, and I think it looks pretty good. It seems like something you could wear and still have your full range of motion, something that wouldn't impede you in combat, and more than colors, that's what seems most important to me.
This is, of course, just artwork, and not an actual photo of Evans in the outfit, so the next question is how well this will translate to live-action. I'm guessing this is going to be pretty much exactly what you see onscreen. Now that this has leaked, I'm curious to see if Marvel's going to release an image of Evans in uniform sooner rather than later as a reaction, or if they're just going to hold out and release an image on their original timetable, whatever that was. For now, this is a tantalizing first glimpse at where they're headed, and it looks to me like they're sticking close to the iconic look, with a few tweaks.
An internet meme sets off a heated debate on race in pop culture
Here's my first question for you: why is Peter Parker white?
My answer to that question would be "Because the comic book was published in the early '60s, and there was no way Marvel was going to make their main character anything BUT white at that point in publishing history."
Aside from that, there's no inherent story or thematic reason for Peter Parker to be white. None at all. But you wouldn't know that looking at the reaction this weekend online to what started as a bit of a goof and has now blown up into a typhoon-force internet meme that is forcing an interesting and always-explosive conversation.
Donald Glover, who you used to be able to follow on Twitter under his name @donglover (and, yes, he knows exactly how else you can read that), has been building a following this year with his work on the show "Community." He's also a member of the group DERRICK Comedy which I wrote about last week, and he's an active member of LA's stand-up comedy community, a former writer for "30 Rock," and the star of "Mystery Team," which just got a DVD release. I'd say his audience is still a cult audience, but a passionate and growing one, which is probably why he changed the Twitter name to @MrDonaldGlover.
Over the weekend, as people were publishing more stories speculating about the casting process on Sony's "Spider-Man" reboot, Don started a campaign via Twitter, using a simple hashtag. Actually, here's how it started on May 30 at 2:45 PM:
We start a monthly peek at what you'll see in theaters near you
I've heard the refrain over and over now, from all sorts of people.
"This is the worst summer ever."
Admittedly, the summer movie season just got started, but people are already starting to freak out, afraid that they're in for 16 weeks of "Prince Of Persia" and crummy "Shrek" sequels. Even when I try to name films they might like, I can tell they're starting to feel like the summer is a total loss.
So instead of dwelling on this year's disappointments so far, let's take a quick look at what we can expect from June, and why this month just might save 2010's summer for most audiences.
Pretty much any flavor of film you might want will be represented by the new releases hitting screens in the next 30 days. I've seen a good sampling of them so far (including the first great sequel of the year), and to me, it looks like you've got a lot of opportunity for genuine pleasure in theaters ahead of you.
There are movies that I'll admit give me pause when I see the ads for them. "Killers" and "Marmaduke" both look to make this coming weekend a difficult one for viewers, and I think "Grown-Ups" later in the month seems fairly dire. But I'm willing to bet there are Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl fans who are genuinely excited to see what looks to me to be a weak sauce retread of "True Lies" or "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." I'm equally willing to bet that kids are going to get suckered into dragging their parents along to see the dancing talking doggies for "Marmaduke". And Adam Sandler has long since proven himself to be critic-proof, no matter how terrible a film of his looks to be, and adding Chris Rock and Kevin James to the mix should only make the film even more of a powerhouse when it's released.
Brand and Hill work well together again, but does the film work as a whole?
Judd Apatow may be taking things a little easier this year, but for the past five years or so, he's been omnipresent in American film comedy as a writer, a producer, and a director, and his influence on what comedy is getting produced has been undeniable.
What I found interesting about the way the Apatow team approached their films was how they didn't seem to be built as simple star vehicles, where you take a recognizable established comic persona and build a film specifically suited to them and their strengths. As I continue our new "Saturday Night At The Movies" column (you can read the first two editions here and here), we'll be talking about what happens when you are more worried about servicing a personality than telling a story or creating characters. I think Steve Carell is great in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Do I think he's the only person who could have played it? Nope. Do I think "Knocked Up" works because Seth Rogen is so good in it? Yes. Could they have made that same film with a different lead, like Jay Baruchel or Martin Starr? Yes. It would have been different, but possible.
When I was on-set for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," I was introduced to Russell Brand, and as soon as our interview was done, I found myself in a conversation with producer Shauna Robertson, and right away, the talk was about building a movie around Brand's outrageous Aldous Snow character with Jonah Hill as a co-star. Aldous was a fairly small part of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," all things considered, but even speaking to him while they were shooting, it was apparent that Brand had a unique comic presence that wouldn't just drop into any role easily. It's little wonder, then, that "Get Him To The Greek" is one of the first of the Apatow Company films to really feel like a "Saturday Night Live" movie where the personality came first, with the story secondary, an excuse to throw a few performers together and see what happens.
What does this mean for the films and for the director's future?
Just a few days after speaking frankly about the financial troubles that were causing delays for the production of "The Hobbit," Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson officially announced today that Del Toro will no longer be directing the films, although he plans to stay attached to the project long enough to complete his work on the screenplays.
In a letter to The One Ring, Del Toro and Jackson spoke at length today about the reasons behind Del Toro's departure from the project, but it really boils down to the delay. Right now, Del Toro's already spent two years preparing the films for shooting, but with no start date in sight, it's possible he could be waiting for another year or even two years before they're ready to shoot. Having originally set aside three years of his life to make the movies, he's looking at potentially giving up twice that much time, and for a director, that can be an unacceptable proposition.
"In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming 'The Hobbit,' I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director."
Reading that may upset and outrage fans, but the truth is that Del Toro has no choice here. He's had enough difficult periods in his career already that he knows how tough it can be to get momentum going again after time away from directing.
Familiar material works thanks to winning performances
One of the hardest parts of covering a film festival is setting your priorities. I know people who will only go see a film if it's something they believe is going to get a theatrical release. They figure their readers only care about films they're going to get a chance to see. Other people take the exact opposite approach, skipping movies they know they'll see later in favor of obscure programming that might well disappear into a void.
I try to strike a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the known and the unknown, and sometimes, I regret not seeing something when I get the chance. At Sundance this year, I felt bad about missing "Holy Rollers," but now it's opening in limited release already and I got the chance to catch up with it.
Films about drug culture typically fall into one of two shapes. Either they serve as cautionary tales about they toll that addiction takes, or they serve as cautionary tales about the dangers of dealing. "Holy Rollers" is one of those "dangers of dealing" movies, a based-on-a-true-story about the rise and fall of an ecstasy smuggling ring from the late '90s. The thing that makes the story unique is the same thing that made them so effective as smugglers: they used Hasidic Jews as their drug mules, correctly guessing no one would search or even suspect them.
A new ongoing series in which the films that 'SNL' spawned are revisited
[For an explanation of this new ongoing column series, read last week's entry.]
When I tore open an envelope that was delivered to the house earlier this week and a found a copy of the Harold Ramis film "Caddyshack" on Blu-ray, I knew right away I'd found the perfect movie to watch on my birthday. This is one of those comfort food movies for me, something I've seen dozens of times over the years. I'm fairly sure I could recite the entire film if I really put my mind to it. Hell, there's a dancing gopher here in my office that makes me smile every day.
So what is it about this 30 year old film that I return to again and again?
The first job I ever had was as a caddy, but that's not why I fell in love with the movie. It's the exact opposite, actually. It was because of the influence of "Caddyshack" that the 14-year-old me went to the Honors Course outside Chattanooga, Tennessee looking for work. It more than lived up to expectations, too, and I've got stories from that job that were every bit as manic and wild as anything in the movie.
One of the main comedy formulas of the late '70s/early '80s was the "snobs against the slobs" story, and a big part of that was because of the outrageous success of "National Lampoon's Animal House." Studios and indie producers alike rushed to duplicate that movie's chemistry. In some cases, they just borrowed the general idea and changed the location, like "'Animal House' at summer camp" ("Meatballs") or "'Animal House' in the Army" ("Stripes"), but in a few cases, the studios reached out to the people behind the sucess of "Animal House" directly. Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney were two of the writers on that film, friends from the National Lampoon, and after "Animal House" blew up, they formed a production company together.
A look back at one wild man's dangerous legacy
There will never be another Dennis Hopper.
It's actually sort of amazing there ever was a Dennis Hopper in the first place. We work in an industry that loves the image of the rebel, but that rarely rewards the real deal. It's fine to play a part where you're a hard-nosed badass who breaks all the rules, but if that's how you are when dealing with studio heads or money people, you really don't have much of a career.
Hopper started his career in the movies as a character actor in the '50s. It's strange to see a young and pretty Hopper in movies like "Rebel Without A Cause" or "Gunfight At The OK Corral," or in any of his dozens of TV appearances on shows like "Wagon Train" or "The Rifleman" or "The Twilight Zone." Hopper became an icon when he stepped outside the studio system to direct and co-star in a movie he co-wrote with Peter Fonda, a movie that turned both of them into counterculture heroes. "Easy Rider" is, in many ways, the movie that best sums up the social tensions of the late '60s, and there's something about the movie that feels bigger than just the story it tells. It wasn't just an important film socially... it was an atomic bomb set off in the middle of an industry that had grown stagnant and bloated, and the independent film industry that we've enjoyed for the last 40 years or more is due in no small part to the success of "Easy Rider."
This isn't the sort of thing this reviewer likes... or is it?
I've still got a ton of Blu-ray and DVD reviews to catch up on. Don't think I've forgotten. And there's one title in particular that I have gotten a ton of e-mail about since it hit shelves, and I figure it's time to finally go ahead and deal with it head-on.
It doesn't surprise me at all that "Glee" is compulsively watchable TV. "Popular" was far funnier and far smarter than it had to be for the type of high school show that it was, and "Nip/Tuck" was incredibly entertaining trash for the first few years it was on. Ryan Murphy is the common link between the three shows, and "Glee" seems like the perfect expression of all the skill sets that he's been developing from show to show. "Glee" is unapologetically one of the gayest shows on network TV right now, frequently leaping into high camp with no hesitation, and part of what makes the show so immediately appealing to its fans is the unapologetic nature of the characters. It is always difficult to figure out exactly who you are and the best ways to express that, and it is never more difficult than during high school. That's a pressure cooker version of who you are, and if you make it through high school with some shredded dignity intact, you are truly an impressive human being.