Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Plus director Sylvain White discusses making action movies the '80s way
I'll have my review of the new action-comedy "The Losers" later this week, but for now, let's take some time to talk to the cast and the director, Sylvain White.
Walking into a room to sit down opposite Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan would make even the most self-confident person in the world question their own personal appearance. It's amazing how charismatic they are as a trio, and to make things worse, they also appear to be incredibly nice and engaging people. Just before I walked in the room, they took a break for a few minutes, and listening to the banter between them and everyone outside, there was none of the movie-star attitude that I frequently see at these events. Just a lot of good-natured kidding and a sense that they were enjoying their day together doing press as much as they obviously enjoyed making the film.
Idris Alba was on crutches, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and seemed delighted to discuss "Thor" off-the-record before the cameras rolled. Trying to resist the urge to call him "Stringer Bell" was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Saldana seemed preoccupied with thoughts of snack pastries. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, or "Javier Bardowney Jr" as a friend called him recently, let the expletives fly in a barrage of good-natured enthusiasm whenever anyone approached him to talk about their reaction to the picture. Wrangling the three of them back into their seats seemed to take a lot of effort, but only because these three are all so energetic and outgoing.
And if so, what does that mean for the other 'Oz' projects at Warner and Universal?
There's a race to see who is going to get the first new film based on the work of Frank L. Baum made, and today, it appears that Disney is pulling out in front of the race.
They've got a script, after all, originally called "Brick," and now known as "Oz: The Great and Powerful". Written by Mitchell Kapner, the story follows a circus worker who ends up in Oz and then goes on a trip similiar to Dorothy's before eventually ending up in the job as The Wizard, according to the LA Times. It's an interesting way to end up back in the land of Oz and build something out of the various books in Baum's series, all of which are public domain now. Joe Roth, former head of Revolution Studios, is set to produce the film, and the one thing that makes me nervous is that the success of the godawful "Alice In Wonderland" is what got this movie onto the fast track. I hope and pray that this film doesn't share anything in common with Burton's monstrosity.
The news that broke today came via the Twitter feed of Production Weekly, where they say Sam Mendes is attached now to direct the film and Robert Downey Jr. is close to coming onboard to play the Wizard. Mendes was developing the latest James Bond film until MGM's financial woes put that film on indefinite hold, and he also recently walked away from Sony's proposed "Preacher" adaptation. This gives Mendes a possible franchise, since there's a ton of source material they could use. Baum's books are so much fun, and so rich and inventive, that they could possibly build a dozen films without ever once touching on the same material we've seen brought to the bigscreen before.
Look out, 'Twilight,' this summer's looking ugly
"Beastly" is most likely going to make a lot of money.
I am most likely not going to like it.
And it will not matter a bit.
To be fair, I haven't seen the last film by Daniel Barnz, 2008's "Phoebe In Wonderland," a moderately well-reviewed picture with Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, and Campbell Scott. Here, though, we've got a movie that is like a "Twilight"-fan-seeking-missile. It is a fascinatingly crafted, just in this 47-minute sneak peek they've posted today.
Wait. It's not actually 47 minutes. I had to go back and look, and I'm surprised it's only actually a total of 2 1/2 minutes. It's a "Beauty and the Beast" riff for the crowd that has been well-and-truly primed with the adventures of Edward and Buffy and Angel and Bella and now, here it is, the ol' girl-sees-past-a-rough-exterior-to-the-cuddlebuddy-buried-deep-inside number.
Vanessa Hudgens and a dude star in the film as the girl and... well, the dude. I'm not sure who the kid is at first glance. IMDb offers up "Alex Pettyfer." Still drawing a blank. I read his previous credits, and "'Entertainment Tonight' (Himself)" is the most familiar thing on the list before this. No matter. He was hired right, based on the glimpse here. As the pre-curse version of himself, he's almost absurdly pretty, and then when he's become "The Beast," he just looks like a dude who took Burning Man a little too far. It's carefully designed "ugly" make-up.
Let's see if I'm right. Let's see if CBS Films can deliver on the throwdown they made in the just-released trailer, which MTV Films exclusively premiered.
Plus Ebert on videogames and Knowles on Ebert as multiple online debates go nuclear
Welcome to The Morning Read.
It's been a genuinely lovely weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. The area is gorgeous, the people were friendly, the food was good, and the movies were plentiful. Not much more you can ask, and now, as I get ready to fly out in the morning so I can get home to my beautiful wife and my baby boys, it's time to take a look at what's been going on while I've been submerged in ActionFest.
It's interesting how much information I've heard here at ActionFest that I can't do anything with at the moment, genuinely big news that would get people fired if I printed it. It gives me several jobs to do when I get back to LA this week in order to try to find secondary sources for things, but I have a feeling it's going to be a frustrating race to pin the stories down before someone else publishes them, which is exactly what happened with the breaking of the news that Rutger Hauer has been cast as the title character in Jason Eisener's feature film version of "Hobo With A Shotgun."
If you don't know the title, that's fine. When "Grindhouse" was being prepped for release, there was a contest for people to create their own grindhouse-style trailers, and the winner was Jason Eisener. Since then, he's also made a great short film called "Treevenge" that I reviewed at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and he's been working to develop a feature out of the trailer that got him all that initial attention. It's been a long and frustrating process, but as of right now, the movie is actually shooting, and I think the casting of Rutger Hauer is absolutely amazing. It's frustrating because just before Quint broke the news over at Ain't It Cool, we talked about it here at the fest, with the understanding being that we weren't allowed to write about the casting yet. Oh, well. Good score for Quint. And for those of you who still don't understand what it is I'm talking about, here's the trailer that kicked this whole thing off:
The first-year festival kicks off with the latest from the acclaimed genre director
Neil Marshall has proven himself over time to be a filmmaker who is able to move from style to style, genre to genre, and he seems to understand that the films he makes are entertainment, pure and simple. Watching "The Descent" in a dark theater that's completely packed is a great exercise in tension. His "Doomsday" is one of the most remarkable examples of one filmmaker paying homage to the style and technique of another filmmaker I can recall. He has a great sense of camera and energy, and even when I don't love his movies, I respect the craft and the confidence.
"Centurion," his latest, attempts to answer the question of what happened to Rome's legendary Ninth Legion, and it's a bloody, gritty, simple chase film that gives Michael Fassbender a lead role that could easily turn him into a viable action hero in big Hollywood films. So far, he's proven himself to be a gifted and interesting actor in films like Steve McQueen's "Hunger," Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," and the underseen "Fish Tank" from earlier this year. He's a bit of a chameleon, and he's one of those actors who pushes his body to extremes depending on the role. For "Hunger," where he played an Irish hunger striker, he looked like he was on the verge of death, emaciated and frail. In "Centurion," he's preposterously ripped, and he handles himself like an old pro in the fight sequences. It's an impressive piece of work, and he grounds the film with his performance.
Special guest James Rocchi debates 'Kick-Ass' and 'The Losers' and discusses life on the festival circuit
James Rocchi is one seriously decent melonfarmer.
One of the fringe benefits of my job is the way it brings me into contact with so many like-minded people, serious film fans who have found a way to make a living discussing the thing they love so much. Over the last year or so, I've gotten to know Rocchi fairly well on the festival circuit and at various press events, and although he and I frequently disagree on the merits (or lack thereof) of various films, I've always enjoyed the conversations.
Quick-witted, incredibly well-read, and unfailingly polite, James is one of those guys who you want to have along on events because even if the thing itself turns out to be a bust, you know you'll have someone to hang out with and enjoy. As a result, he seemed like a perfect second guest for this podcast, especially since I knew going into it that we disagreed strongly on this weekend's biggest theatrical title, "Kick-Ass."
As with last week, I offer up the podcast with the caveat that I am still learning how to do this. I am going to be investing in some better recording equipment for the office, and I'm still a little green at the whole editing process, especially since I did this one entirely by myself without the invaluable technical assistance that Scott Swan offered me last week.
Still, I think there's some really good stuff here this week, and what was meant to be a brisk 35 minutes or so became almost a full hour because we ended up following some great digressions to their natural conclusions. It's a little late because I put off the editing as I prepared for travel this week, but I hope it's aged like fine wine for you.
What is it that makes this music mogul want to act?
By the end of a long day on set for the new film "Get Him To The Greek," one thing was apparent: everyone on the film was convinced that Sean Combs is going to be the film's breakout comedy star.
Most of the pop culture world knows Combs by his other names, of course. Puff Daddy. P. Diddy. Diddy if you're nasty. He's a big personality, a huge figure in the music world, and a tremendous success story overall. He's carefully been building a career for himself as an actor as well, though, in films like "Made" and "Monster's Ball," and with an acclaimed turn onstage in "A Raisin In The Sun."
People know Combs from his unflaggingly cheerful Twitter account ("Locked in!") or from his appearances on MTV reality shows or even from the way he was portrayed in "Notorious," the B.I.G. biopic, but the real Sean Combs in person comes across as soft-spoken, modest, and very serious about the craft of being very silly. At the end of a long day of shooting, Combs sat down with HitFix for a few minutes to talk about taking this next step as an actor.
"My plan as an actor has always been to try to get close to as many talented people as I can and really just learn from them and observe." When asked about the improvisation that was so much a part of the morning's shoot, he said, "This process is probably the freest acting process I’ve ever been involved in because there’s really no limitations, you know?" That was evident from the sheer range of jokes they attempted in each scene, and the crazy places they pushed the characters. Asked if there was anything he balked at doing or was uncomfortable with, Combs shook his head. "No, when your whole passion is trying to make people laugh, I think you just have to be ready to do or say anything. You can’t really have your guard up."
Plus: McLovin' talks about what happens when you inadvertently become a pop culture sensation
It seems like forever that I've been covering the progress of "Kick-Ass" to the screen, but my first piece about the script was just in September of 2008. My first set visit report was in December of that year. and I ran some others here on HitFix, like this one. Or this one. I wrote about the screening at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in December. Just a few weeks ago, I went to Wondercon to moderate a panel with the cast and the creative team behind the film.
At this point, you have to wonder if there's anything left to say or ask, and there absolutely is. It helps that you've got a cast as engaging as this, and that they're still really excited to talk about the film, no matter how long they've been working on it.
While I was in San Francisco for Wondercon, I started my morning at a hotel near the Moscone Center, where I first found myself in a room with Chris Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Moretz. Sounds like a charming way to start the day, and it was. Chris has been through what Chloe's about to go through, and he offers her some sage advice about what happens when a character you play becomes a pop culture phenomenon.
Our set visit week continues with the creative team behind the film
Rodney Rothman and Nicholas Stoller make a powerful team on a film set. I've seen them in action together twice, and considering the first time around resulted in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a film that owes as much of its success to its post-process as to the shoot itself, I think it's a safe bet that "Get Him To The Greek" could well turn out to be one of the summer's best comedies.
On the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," it was easy to forget that it was Stoller's first time as a director and that he and Rothman were just developing their working language. Stoller had already created a solid reputation for himself as a screenwriter, and Rothman rose to prominence as the youngest head writer for "Late Night With David Letterman" ever before publishing his first novel. Both of them are still frighteningly young considering their accomplishments, and incredibly easy to speak with.
When I arrived on-set, they were in the middle of a scene involving Sean Combs and Jonah Hill, and I commented about how Russell Brand was the scene-stealing discovery on "Marshall," while he was the star on this set, and now Combs was developing into the new scene-stealer.
Rothman just shook his head, laughing. "You have no idea."
Plus a long-lost Kubrick script comes back to life and 'Predators' keeps looking better
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm a big on-the-record fan of the work of Darren Aronofsky so far, and in particular, I think "The Fountain" is a tremendous film that benefits enormously from the work that Aronofsky's real-life partner Rachel Weisz does in it. They are an intriguing film couple, and I'm always going to be interested in what they might collaborate on, but the announcement that they are teaming up for "Jackie," a film about the four days following the assassination of JFK, has me a bit worried. I find the entire Kennedy legend to be wildly overdiscussed at this point, and the notion of an entire film about Jackie Kennedy is particularly problematic. In order to explain my point, I'm afraid I might say something that will offend people who canonize her, and I know there are many of you. Please... skip the rest of this paragraph, continue with the Morning Read below, and let's stay friends. Anyone still reading, I assume you're adult enough to handle a personal opinion of a public figure who is long dead at this point. Having grown up in a post-Kennedy era, I was not under the media sway of the First Family the way people who lived through JFK's Presidency must have been, and my impression of her based on every interview I've ever seen and all the books I've read is that the media image that exists for her is a carefully-constructed fraud. I don't want to be unkind, because I think she was something of a genius at managing social events or making people feel invited into the private world of influence she inhabited, but in terms of personal charisma and conversational ability, she strikes me as an empty suit, vulnerable to the point of being almost retarded. It seems appropriate that the Kennedys were treated as American royalty, because she seems the perfect embodiment of that inbred physically shaky quality that you only get from bloodlines that have been overly thinned. And even if you disagree with me, I think it would be hard to argue that the robust, keenly intelligent sexual charisma that marks the work of Rachel Weisz is at total odds with any image of Jackie Kennedy. She's a decent match, physically, but Weisz has so much more going on under the skin than Jackie Kennedy did. It's one thing to cast against type, but the notion of Weisz subverting her own charisma to this particular character rubs me wrong in every way. I'm always happy to see Aronofsky work, and I look forward to "Black Swan" later this year, but this is the first film he's announced in a while that I find it impossible to get excited about.