Welcome to The Morning Read.
Man, it's been a long week. And it's only Wednesday?
I'm not even sure I can pinpoint what's responsible. Sure, there's been some big news today, like the "Avatar 2" and "Avatar 3" confirmation and the "Dark Knight Rises" news, and I've been running around doing things that you'll see soon, like TV interviews for "Tangled" and "Due Date" and "127 Hours," but that's every week. Maybe now that the sun's coming out in LA, I'll shake it off. I'd better. There's a ton of stuff waiting to get written about here on my desk and hitting the screen in the weeks ahead.
If Nicolas Cage really is playing both Johnny Blaze and the demon Zarathos in the upcoming Neveldine/Taylor "Ghost Rider 2," it is going to be a completely lunatic experience. The directors have been posting cryptic hints in their Twitter feed today, promising a "nic cage classic" from the dual performances. I'd be willing to believe them. When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg told me about what Nic Cage had planned when he was going to be the villain in "The Green Hornet," including playing the entire film with a broad Jamaican accent, I was almost sad that it didn't happen. There's nothing more interesting than the moments where directors let Cage off the leash and he is free to play. He remains one of the most inventive, eccentric performers we've got, and it's genuine. He makes big, wild choices, and that's the reason he's remained worth watching for nearly 30 years now.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
If you've spent any time in the last few months reading articles about Christopher Nolan's planned third Batman film, you probably felt confident that the villain in the new film would be the Riddler.
After all, site after site after site reported breathlessly that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had been offered the role of the Riddler on the "Inception" set. And then when word came down recently that Tom Hardy was cast in the film, people began reporting how Hardy had beaten Levitt out for the role. It was reported so confidently and so often that it would seem to be accepted fact... right?
Thing is, no one ever verified that notion, and one of the reasons I try not to run links to every little bit of info during the early days on some of these high-profile sequels is because so much speculation gets mixed into what little original reporting is out there, and eventually, you're playing an Internet-wide game of telephone, and the loser is accuracy.
This morning, Christopher Nolan had a short talk with Geoff Boucher at the LA Times, and two concrete facts were reported as a result of that conversation. First, the film's got a title: "The Dark Knight Rises." Since that came from Nolan, I'd take that as official.
James Cameron made good on his repeated promises of sequels to the immensely popular and box-office busting 3D epic "Avatar" with a press release from Fox this morning stating that he has agreed to make "Avatar 2" and "3" his next films.
The news definitely disrupts plans for Sony Pictures who had been courting Cameron to head up a 3D "Cleopatra" with Angelina Jolie. But it's hardly surprising news that he would pick Fox over Sony, as James Cameron's relationship with the studio dates back to "Aliens" in 1985, and includes "Titanic," winner of eleven academy awards.
New 3D cameras and motion capture technology were developed for "Avatar," and its huge success ushered in our current era of 3D films. His script was based on a story that he had been mulling over for more than ten years. In a recent interview with Drew McWeeny he related that he had enough material involving Pandora and its nearby planets for ten sequels.
The entire notion of the "set visit" has changed since I've started doing this, and that's never been clearer to me than it was in March, when I joined a handful of other writers on the set of the upcoming action movie "Faster," starring Dwayne Johnson, Maggie Grace, Billy Bob Thorton, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
When I started writing for Ain't It Cool back in 1996 and 1997, there was no such thing as a formal set visit. When I started actually writing about my time spent on various film sets, they weren't visits organized with the studio, but with the filmmakers, and they weren't big group activities with formal itineraries. The best set visit pieces I've ever done are the ones where I spent enough time on a film for the filmmakers to forget I was there, where I got to become a fly on the wall and actually watch the process at work. When I write one of these pieces, what I really hope to do is be your eyes and ears and allow you to experience what it's like when you're trying to pull off the logistical, monetary, technical, and artistic challenge that is filmmaking.
Instead, set visits these days have become stage managed to such an extent that what your'e getting as a reader is a junket experience, a completely manufactured theme park version of what really happens when you're making a movie. It's the same as if you visited the MGM/Disney Tour in Florida or the Universal tour, and you drove by a soundstage and you caught a glimpse of something and a few of the stars came out and waved at you and did a little rehearsed patter. You can't really say you saw them making the film, but that's what they want you to think.
It's hard to picture Will Ferrell's voice coming out of anything else than Will Ferrell. I'll admit I wasn't completely on board for the concept when I first heard of it. These five clips released this week from Paramount give a better taste of his voice talents than the snippets heard in the commercials. I'm warming up to the idea.
We're treated to extended scenes with Jonah Hill, who plays someone named 'Tighten,' who is trying to woo Roxanne in a hilarious send-up of the classic scene from "Superman." Hill is another offbeat choice for a superhero/villain voice, but one that just might work as well. Brad Pitt's Metro Man appears in two scenes, and his timing with Ferrell appears pretty on target.
One of the highlights for me of a very busy and emotionally demanding September was spending time at the Toronto International Film Festival and at Fantastic Fest with Scott Weinberg, Cinematical editor and FEARNet film critic. Festivals are great because you end up seeing the same faces, people you don't see the rest of the year.
Sundance, SXSW, Comic-Con, Toronto, Fantastic Fest… it's a circuit that takes me to Austin twice a year, to one of the biggest pop culture press events on the planet, and to two of the most important festivals that happen internationally, and it helps keep me connected to what's going on during the year in film. It's also just plain nice to see those faces and have those conversations and spend that time with film-loving friends.
This year, Weinberg joined me for all of the Midnight Madness programming at the Ryerson Theater, and it was a blast. Colin Geddes put together a really impressive series, and each night was a totally different energy depending on which film was playing. For me, the evening that I anticipated the most was the premiere of John Carpenter's new film, "The Ward." Since I first worked with John in 2005, I've been hoping to see him working on the bigscreen again, and it was a thrill to be in that audience, to be one of the first to see the film.
The night before, as Weinberg and I were writing reviews, we were talking about that anticipation, that weight that comes from having a career like his, and we realized that we should get that anticipation down on tape. I set up the mic quickly, and what resulted is a loose, informal, hour-long trip through Carpenter's full career, from "Dark Star" to "Ghosts Of Mars." We rank each of this theatrical features, each of us picking our favorite films along the way.
This is just plain odd, and it makes me very happy.
I got a press release this morning from SPHE, and I had to read it twice because I didn't believe it the first time. I've been hearing for the past decade how "Ishtar" was never going to come out on DVD because of all the delicate negotiating it would require between the various principal players like Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, and Elaine May.
Anyone who's been reading this blog since it launched, or who was reading my work on Ain't It Cool, probably knows by now that I'm a fan of "Ishtar," and not in some winky ironic way, either. I think it's a genuinely funny film that got unjustly slammed when it was released in 1987, and it's deserved a major rediscovery for some time now. Last year, Mr. Beaks and I hosted an evening at the New Beverly where we double-featured this film with "Joe Vs. The Volcano," and seeing it with a crowd was great.
It's been hard to defend the film when it's been largely unavailable to the viewing public, and it's been hard to explain to people that there are reasons other than the quality of the film that have kept it off of DVD entirely. How many high-profile film can you honestly say have never had a DVD release in the American market? How many Warren Beatty films or Dustin Hoffman films have been completely shelved and sat out this format entirely?
The October skies were still grey and swollen with potential rain as I sped across town to make it to my early morning interview on Saturday with Will Ferrell.Â Perfect weather to interview a supervillain.
Sitting down with Ferrell, 43, has become something of a habit for me over the last decade or so.Â I've stood on-set chatting with Ron Burgundy, sat in a crazy forced perspective classroom beside Buddy The Elf, and there have been any number of interviews as he's released his films.Â This summer, I moderated the "Megamind" panel at the San Diego Comic-Conâ€¦ or more accurately, I stood onstage and asked a few questions while Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, and a cardboard Brad Pitt expertly worked the audience.
I like that when I sit down with him at this point, there's no obligation for him to be "on."Â He's always sharp and funny, but he doesn't exhibit some manic urge to score points or play some character.Â He's a thoughtful, soft-spoken guy when we sit down.Â Especially when it's 10:00 AM and I'm the first interview of what will no doubt be a very long Saturday for the star.Â I feel good about the fact that my decision to recently shave everything off my face for the first time in about a decade makes Will laugh the moment he walks into the room, and for the first few minutes of the interview, as we settle in to talk, every time he looks at me, he cracks up anew.
We begin by talking about the basic premise of the film and the way it riffs off of the traditional idea of the arch enemy.Â "There's always that one guy, and when they catch him, they lock him up forever.Â Onlyâ€¦ it doesn't really work out for some reason.Â Somehow, that guy always makes it off the prison island."
Welcome to The Morning Read.
This may be a quick one.Â It may not.Â It'll just depend on how much I can get done before I get out the door this morning.Â I've got interviews with Danny Boyle and James Franco and director Todd Phillips set for the first half of the day, and I wanted to be sure to have something ready for you guys before I take off.
So this is more like the very very very late night Sunday read, to be fair, but over the weekend, there's been plenty to discuss.Â When I ran into our own Greg Ellwood at the Grove after a screening of "Due Date" on Sunday afternoon, we talked a bit about his encounter with Jennifer Lawrence.Â He sounded really impressed by her in general, and I've gotten that impression from several people who have interviewed her so far this year.Â She's young, too, so it's interesting to see her in this first flush of success and how she's holding it all together.Â Can't wait to see her as Mystique.
I was really excited on Friday about the possibility of Steven Spielberg directing "Robopocalypse," and it makes me laugh to see people who feel so diametrically opposed.Â I'm not going to say I'm "glad" that Spielberg didn't make "Lincoln," because i'm sure he and Tony Kushner could well make a great movie about Abraham Lincoln.Â But I am glad that he didn't make it if he didn't think it was ready or right, and that's evidently what happened.Â It just plain never made it out of development.Â It happens.Â It's a shame, but it happens.Â I'm curious, though, to see what effect the production of "Robopocalypse" has on the Jack Black/Steve Pink project, "How To Survive A Robot Uprising."
Because a couple of people vaguely asked for it... the Motion/Captured Podcast is back.
I kid, but I genuinely appreciate all the kind e-mail and messages you've sent me asking about this podcast, and I also appreciate your patience as I figured out the tech end of things.
This week, Scott Swan joined me as we tried to sweep out the cobwebs. When I was Fantastic Fest at the end of September, I sat down with Steve-O for an interview that we've included in today's podcast, and we also brought back Movie God, the game that made Matthew Robinson curse at me when he was a guest on the show.
Since it's been a while, please go easy on us. We'll start doing more of these, including special themed podcasts for certain releases or certain times of the year or if there are things that demand further conversation. I'm also working on adding more and more guests, and since I'm mobile now, it should be easier since I don't have to make them drive out to the ass end of the San Fernando Valley to be on the podcast.
I like the differences between a written article and a conversational piece, and the reason Scott is my most frequent guest is because after 24 years of friendship, there's no one I'm more comfortable talking to about anything. We can just yak about whatever, and hopefully that comfort level makes this worth a listen.