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I'm not sure I can call this the day's biggest news considering there's a "Batman 3" casting story on our front page, but I'm personally thrilled to hear that Luc Besson is returning to sci-fi, and that he wants to make something that he describes as "'The Fifth Element' to the power of ten." Yes, please. Design is already underway, and he's talking about two movies that will be released in 2013 and 2014. I can't believe I'm already excited about something coming out four years from now, but I have a feeling a new Besson sci-fi film will be worth the wait.
I love Mike Russell's work. His cartoon-fu is strong, and so are his interviewing skills. It's a unique combination, and there are very few pop culture interviewers whose work can be called art. This Dan Aykroyd piece? Art. Totally.
This piece, by a longtime Austin friend, is a lovely way of summing up how people felt by the end of this year's absolutely amazing Fantastic Fest. I got really unpleasantly sick at the end of the festival, unfortunately, so missed the last three days of it more or less. The problem is that I never got to really wrap up that coverage, and so I never got to sum up just how impressive it was as a whole this year. It's getting better and better each time out, and co-founders Tim League and Harry Knowles have every right to be proud that they've built one of the year's essential stops now for any serious film fan.
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That's the question being breathlessly asked across the internet this morning, and it's certainly a provocative one.
Ridley Scott's been talking about making an "Alien" sequel or prequel for a while now, and finally settled into the prequel idea. Early work on the script was done by Jon Spaihts, a talented writer whose "Passengers" is one of my favorite unproduced works of the last few years. Recently, though, word broke that Damon Lindelof would be writing… something. Either a new draft or a new take or a new something.
Lindelof reportedly turned in the new draft to the studio over the weekend, and they're eager to get going. Since they're about to make a credile and possible run at the Oscar for Natalie Portman, it makes perfect sense that they would have her at the top of their list for possible stars for this film. I'm curious to see what Ridley Scott would get from Portman, and despite my misgivings about anyone making a prequel to pretty much anything at this point, Ridley Scott is where this all began, and him returning to play with this iconography again, especially if he plans to make it a real horror film and not an action movie, is actually exciting.
Noomi Rapace, star of the original "Millennium Trilogy" as Lisbeth Salander, is also on the short list, so there's no guarantee it will be Portman. She's got a totally different type of hype going these days, and Rapace has already committed to "Sherlock Holmes 2," while Portman just fell out of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which was supposed to be her next film.
Thinking about it now, I'm surprised I wasn't more nervous when I walked into this room.
After all, Hilary Swank's got two Oscars, and Sam Rockwell is… well, he's Sam Rockwell. He's just awesome. That's an impressive room. One of the reasons "Conviction" is a film you sort of have to pay attention to, no matter what your feelings about the true story being told, is because of that casting. The two of them together are indeed the best thing about the movie, the real heart of it, and putting the two of them together for an interview at the Toronto Film Festival was an irresistible opportunity.
In addition to being actors whose work I admire, these are people who always seem to be serious about their work, and who are very direct interviews. You don't want to walk into that room with nothing to discuss. By this point in the festival, I was already starting to get a little punchy, but I made sure that when I walked in, I was bright-eyed and ready to go.
I'm actually surprised this was my first time sitting down with either of them, but it's just never come together on any of their earlier films. I think the end result is a good conversation that just got cooking about the time we had to wrap it up, but as frustrations go, that's not a bad one.
Drew loved "Four Lions" when he saw it at Sundance this year. It still resides in his top ten for the year. He will be interviewing director Chris Morris when he gets back form traveling, in fact, and by sheer coincidence today, we received an email from the publicist containing the the poster and the trailer.
The Film will be opening November 5th, and although this is the first I'm hearing about it, everything about it strikes me as funny. Almodovar cast Antonio Banderas as a bumbling terrorist in "Labyrinth of Passion" back in 1982 who could track down a lover with his elevated sense of smell. Who knew that Almodovar's ridiculousness would get trumped by a man with explosive underpants over twenty years later.
"RED" is not the sort of film that will redefine a genre or shock anyone who goes to see it because of some radical reinvention of narrative. It is fairly familiar stuff overall, based on a graphic novel by Warren Ellis, a low-key mix of comedy and action that works largely because of a great cast that approaches the material with enthusiasm and charm. It's uneven, but in the best moments in the film, "RED" is one of the most enjoyable things I've seen this year, and I would absolutely recommend it.
There are a few familiar tropes sort of mashed together here. There's the main storyline, which deals with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA operative who has a crush on the woman he deals with over the phone regarding his retirement checks each month. That woman, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), has developed a crush on Frank as well, and the start of the film really is just a growing flirtation between the two of them, and it's smartly written and smartly played. Mary-Louise Parker has never really been one to just play "the girl," and she brings some interesting colors to play in the way she portrays Sarah. She's a little cynical, a little hopeful, at an age where she knows it's probably too much to dream of being swept away by love but still addicted to the notion of it. She reads crappy romance novels precisely because they are crappy, and she relishes how terrible they are. Frank is smitten by the quirks and rough edges in this woman, and director Robert Schwentke and screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber are patient, letting the chemistry between the two characters gel before they start ladling on the complications.
Complications like, say, a team of assassins who break into Frank's house in the middle of the night to try and kill him.
It's almost a given at this point that any script that has even the slightest chance of getting someone a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars lands on the desk of Hilary Swank first. It's little wonder she ended up as the star of "Conviction," the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a woman who spent decades trying to prove that her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) was innocent of the murder charges that got him sentenced to life in prison, eventually going to law school so she could represent him as his lawyer. It's a compelling story, and a significant one in terms of precedent, and I can see why director Tony Goldwyn has been drawn to the story for over a decade. I'm just not sure the end result completely works.
In 2005, I saw and quite liked a documentary called "After Innocence," a look at Barry Sheck's Innocence Project, which helped use DNA evidence to free wrongly convicted men from prison. The idea that science reached a point where it was able to start overturning these injustices was quite powerful, and looking at the way the lives of these men were impacted by the work of the Innocence Project was, frankly, inspirational. It's an impressive movie, and the best moments in "Conviction" tap into that same sense of moral indignation. Barry Sheck actually appears as a character in "Conviction," played by Peter Gallagher, and that part of the film is some of the most interesting material in it.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the movie is fairly slow going. We meet Betty and her brother, and we see how Kenny is a bit of a hellraiser, with a bad local reputation. When a violent murder takes place in town, Kenny is immediately suspected of it, and some very circumstantial evidence is enough to convince deputy Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo in a severely underwritten part) that Kenny is the killer. Like a slow-motion nightmare, Kenny is arrested, tried, and sentenced, and all Betty can do is watch it happen.
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Not really sure how long this morning's column will end up being. I'm supposed to be asleep right now, since it's 4:00 in the morning and I'm in a hotel room in Atlanta, where I'm getting up to go on a set visit tomorrow that will occupy my whole day. Insomnia's got me worried that the set visit is going to be a nightmare, and so I figure if I'm awake, I might as well use this time in the wee small hours to put together a Morning Read, and we'll see how much stuff I end up getting to.
I'm excited by Michael Mann's return to television, particularly since it's for HBO, and David Milch is the writer of the project, called "Luck." Geoff Boucher did a really nice piece on the show, and on Mann's involvement in particular. If you're already a Mann fan, it's a nice reminder of why, and if you're not, this may make you reconsider your position.
I give up. I've had my heart broken by George Miller and "Fury Road" so many times that another delay of at least a year before they even start filming pretty much feels to me like an admission that they're never making the damn thing. It's not the promise of a new "Mad Max" film that's got me all worked up, although I'm certainly up for some car-fu any day of the week. No, it's the idea that George Miller can't get a giant action movie up and running that leaves me depressed.
Jason Schwartzman is one of those actors who arrived in his first film, his persona apparently fully-formed, and since that appearance, he's just continued to refine this great, quirky identity of his, working with great filmmakers, working with great actors, and making the sorts of choices and enjoying the sorts of opportunities that would make any other actor jealous.
Right now, HBO is airing the second season of "Bored To Death," the eccentric comedy-noir created by Jonathan Ames. The series details the adventures of Jonathan Ames (Schwartzman), an author living in New York who likes to moonlight as an unlicensed private detective. He ends up dragging in magazine publisher George Christopher (Ted Danson) and best buddy/cartoonist Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis) most of the time, and the show also details the complicated love lives of these characters with painfully wry observational wit. It's a hard show to describe, genre-wise, and it's only getting more eccentric and enjoyable as it unfolds.
This week, Schwartzman called me bright and early one morning, and we ended up talking for a little over a half-hour about his show, his work, and my favorite overlooked film of the year.
Yes… we're going to discuss "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" again. Brace yourself.
I saw one of these films at Sundance, one at Toronto, and one was downloaded as a rental to my PS3. They're all open in theaters this weekend, although none of them are what I would call a wide release. I can only really recommend one of them with any real enthusiasm, but I'm guessing they'll all have their audience. It's just a matter of
"Freakonomics" is an all-star line-up of documentary filmmakers, all of them working on separate segments of a film that attempts to illustrate the different principles explained in the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki, and Morgan Spurlock all worked on the film, and it's expertly made, engaging from moment to moment, and about as unfocused as you'd expect a film made that that many people to be. While I think each of the individual sequences, including "Pure Corruption," "Can A Ninth Grader Be Bribed to Succeed," and "It's Not Always A Wonderful Life," works as an individual idea, I still don't get the overall throughline that makes "Freakonomics" work as a whole. It all plays like an elaborate commercial for the book, all tease and no meat.
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What a morning. Although I haven't seen it yet, "My Soul To Take" is getting some blisteringly bad reviews from even the most forgiving horror fans, and one of the things I keep reading is that the 3D conversion was a particularly wretched example of the process. I have to give real credit to Warner Bros. for issuing the following statements about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I" just a little while ago:
"Warner Bros. Pictures has made the decision to release 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1' in 2D, in both conventional and IMAX theaters, as we will not have a completed 3D version of the film within our release date window. Despite everyone's best efforts, we were unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality. We do not want to disappoint fans who have long-anticipated the conclusion of this extraordinary journey, and to that end, we are releasing our film day-and-date on November 19, 2010 as planned. WE, in alignment with our filmmakers, believe this is the best course to take in order to ensure that our audiences enjoy the consummate 'Harry Potter' experience."
They say they're still releasing the final film in 3D in July of 2011, which now just feels strange, but the idea of a studio saying that they are intentionally backing off a 3D conversion for technical reasons is impressive. I wish more studios would take a hard look at what they're releasing and ask if it really works and if it offers anything to the audience.