Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Denzel and Oldman bring sparks to a familiar tale
Denzel Washington plays a mysterious wanderer in a post-Apocalyptic world in 'The Book Of Eli,' a new action film about faith from the Hughes Brothers.
Credit: Warner Bros/Alcon
There's another movie coming out this month that I'll review a little later that I'm going to slam for the powerful lack of originality and the perfunctory way in which it borrows from any number of much better movies. But just because something is familiar doesn't automatically make it bad, and "The Book Of Eli" is a film that certainly treads some familiar road, but in doing so, still manages to deliver enough entertainment that I feel good about recommending it to audiences.
Telling a story of a lone hero in a post-Apocalyptic landscape can be done for the arthouse crowd (this winter's "The Road" is probably the most high-minded example of the genre) or for the exploitation crowd (see every single movie in the '80s that ripped off George Miller's "The Road Warrior"), and "The Book Of Eli" manages to land somewhere between the two. The film seems to have something on its mind at the start, and it ends on a wry note that suggests a more nimble wit than the genre is used to, but along the way, things fall into a routine pattern as Eli (Denzel Washington) and Carnegie (Gary Oldman) find themselves at odds over a single copy of a single book.
Gary Whitta's script does not play the identity of the book as a giant secret, as I feared it might. Hell, even the billboards give it away at this point. There are some big reveals built in, but they don't tie in directly to the idea that Eli possesses the last Bible in existence. That's handed to the audience fairly early. Instead, the big stuff is all character-oriented, so it doesn't feel like it's supposed to be a lightning-bolt to the forehead moment. There are some very evident influences on the film that range from Japanese movies like "Yojimbo" and "Zatoichi" to Sergio Leone, films which obviously exist on a continuum anyway.
And if so, which hot character actor is playing the part?
Will Jackie Earle Haley appear as Sinestro in 'Green Lantern,' and if so, how far will the character go in the first film?
Credit: DC Comics
Everyone's up in arms about "Spider-Man" this week, and I can understand why. It's huge news. But it's certainly not the only superhero film that's gearing up to shoot, and "Green Lantern" is actually closer to a start date, with major casting news breaking in the last week. Obviously, Ryan Reynolds was tapped last year after a very close horse race to play Hal Jordan, whose attempt to help a dying alien at a crash site ends up turning him into an intergalactic superhero.
Then last week, there was an announcement about Blake Lively, who signed on to play Carol Ferris, and then Peter Saarsgard signed on to play Hector Hammond, a dangerous telepath whose contact with an alien force turns him into a major threat against the security of Earth.
One of our commenters posted a simple question: "Why isn't Sinestro in this movie?"
Well... who said he isn't?
I've been making some calls yesterday and today, and what I'm hearing actually confirms some earlier rumors online from October of 2009, when Harry Knowles first ran the word that Jackie Earle Haley was the man who had been tapped to play Sinestro. That rumor was debunked by Frosty at Collider in a face-to-face encounter with Haley, who said he had not screen-tested for the part.
Here's the thing, though... the "Green Lantern" project is overstuffed with characters from the history of the series, with a script that almost reads like a Wikipedia page. One gets the feeling that they're worried about setting up the entire series in this first film. Yes... Hector Hammond is one of the two main villains in the movie. And Sarsgaard is a good choice for the part, in my opinion. There's something disdainful and removed about him, and I think it will serve him perfectly in this part. And Legion plays a significant role in the film as well as another major villain, although I'm not sure how they're going to handle him onscreen.
Plus the rest of the cast talks about her work as Susie Salmon
Saoirse Ronan stars as Susie Salmon, the murdered girl at the heart of 'The Lovely Bones,' which opens wide on Friday.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Harry Knowles used to laugh at me and call me the Human EMP because I have the innate ability to render any complex piece of electronics inoperable by merely touching it. I think it's my superpower. What a crappy, crappy superpower for someone who works with a computer all day.
This week, as I went to prep an interview I did with the lovely and charming Saoirse Ronan, I found that an entire folder on my portable recorder had been corrupted, and every file in it had just become a buzzing, clicking sound. One of those files was indeed the chat I had with Ronan, and I'm not sure how I managed to do it.
Paramount asked if I would like to post a new featurette about Ronan instead, and I agreed. I'm bummed, though. When we spoke, it was just a few days after we met for the first time at that Peter Jackson cocktail reception, and I was struck by what a precarious blend of innocence and wisdom she projects. She's not a Hollywood kid, and she doesn't sound jaded at all by the experiences she's had, so there's a part of her that is still very much in awe of the process and the people she works with. But at the same time, when she starts talking about her craft, she seems like an old soul, someone far more capable than her age would suggest.
When we talked, she was particularly taken by Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci, who both offered her strong personas to bounce off of, and I get the feelng she'll be in this business for the long haul. Looking at actors like that and taking her cues from them should help her build a career to be proud of, and I'm hoping the next time she releases a film, I'm able to not only record an interview with her but actually publish it as well.
Plus will Lionsgate end up with the 'Terminator' franchise?
Shhhh... don't tell DC the premise of the new Mark Millar comic series 'Nemesis'
Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm going to be out of the house all morning tomorrow, so I've got a lot of work to do between now and then to make sure there's plenty to read for you guys here on the blog. And since there's a ton of news breaking all over the place today, this morning's Read is already overstuffed with things worth discussion.
For example, there's Mark Millar's upcoming project "Nemesis," which appears to be a bidding war just waiting to happen. The high-concept premise sounds like it'll catch fire on the heels of "Kick-Ass," telling the story of a billionaire who also happens to be a nightmarish supervillain who loves to pick one cop per year to torment and taunt before finally killing him. Basically, he's Batman and the Joker in one body, and in the upcoming series, he finally picks an American cop, who turns out to be the best opponent he's ever had. "Wanted" was also a pretty major world-wide hit, so Millar is about as hot as a comic creator can be in Hollywood. The only thing that would make "Nemesis" even more attractive to studios would be if a major director was onboard to direct the film.
Oh, what's that? Sam Raimi suddenly has an opening on his dance card? Verrrrrrry interesting. I know that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. are excited about having Raimi make "World Of Warcraft" his top priority, but I'd love to see a pissed-off Raimi making a superhero film that was designed to fly in the face of Marvel and Sony's next "Spider-Man" as well. It would be a delicious way to spend summer 2012. In the meantime, if you want to have the supercop in "Nemesis" named after you, they'll be auctioning off that honor in the next few days, so keep your eyes open.
Geekweek's Jeff Katz also guests to discuss the idea from an exec's POV
Drew McWeeny and Jeff Katz appear on G4's 'Attack Of The Show' for a very special segment on beard maintainence... er, 'Spider-Man' development rumors.
"Spider-Man" became a trending topic on Twitter, and I'm almost positive that was because Devin Faraci and I spent nine hours arguing about it back and forth.
And I mean that in the friendly nerd way, where we both ultimately hope that this reboot ends up resulting in a new series of films that accurately repreresents the character and his legacy. Devin's just skeptical that Sony is going to give the film the right sort of room to breathe in development, while I find myself hopeful that this time around, they might make choices that bring the character closer to what I love about Spider-Man overall. I like Raimi's films, but I don't think they're perfect, and I think there's absolutely room for them to be improved upon.
As the news was developing yesterday, I was asked by G4 to make an appearance on "Attack Of The Show" to talk about it all. They also asked Jeff Katz to appear, and I was happy to be on a panel with him. I've known Jeff for years, since he was a fairly new guy at New Line, and in a town full of executives who have little or no affection for the material they make, Katz is an oddity. He's a full-blown nerd, a guy who comes to his love of all things geek in a very organic way.
He's been through it, though. Working at New Line, he was focused on bringing Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees back to the mainstream, and he ended up moving to 20th Century Fox, where he was ostensibly brought in to be a voice of geek authority regarding movies like "Wolverine" and "Deadpool." I'm not shocked that he ended up leaving Fox, where an authentic geek voice is not considered an asset, or that he has started his own production company, American Original, as well as a brand-new website that he's describing as "the Geekington Post."
Before I even got home from the taping, G4 already had an embed ready of the segment. I would have put it up earlier, but I had to run back out for another event. I just watched it, and I think it went well overall, even if I did totally miss Kevin's set-up for a Leno/Conan joke at the start of the piece.
Here's the full conversation for you:
Channing Tatum and Dennis Quaid both discuss their involvement
Channing Tatum and Dennis Quaid, along with the rest of the Joes, will be back when Paramount makes a sequel to 'G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra,' with work on the script already underway
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Last week, both IESB and Collider broke the news that the writers of "Zombieland," Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, have signed on to script the sequel to "G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra."
Rheese and Wernick have become the hot go-to writers on big franchise films, and I can see why. They also booked the job writing "Deadpool" for 20th Century Fox. When they originally conceived "Zombieland," it was as a series, and they ended up using about three episodes worth of their original outline as the feature film. In a way, the film still feels like a pilot episode for an ongoing series, like it just sets up the rules and the characters but doesn't really tell much of a story. It's enjoyable, it's breezy, it moves... but at the end, what's really been accomplished?
That seems to be the ideal skill set for being a franchise writer on the studio level. You're basically just doing giant-budget TV episodes. You don't want to wrap everything up, you don't want to resolve every conflict, and you want to inch characters forward in a way that keeps the actors happy but that also leaves plenty to do in the next film.
Following the reveal that they'd been signed to do the sequel, Greg Ellwood and I were both doing press day interviews with stars of the first "G.I. Joe," and we each asked them for comments on the news that the sequel was moving forward. We'll have more of our Channing Tatum and Dennis Quaid interviews in the next week or so, but for now, we thought we'd cut together their comments on "G.I. Joe" and offer those up as a separate piece.
One thing to pay special attention to: Channing Tatum talks about how the writer's strike hobbled them on the first film, and how much he looks forward to having an actual script this time around. I thought the first film was fun, but I would never argue that it was masterfully written, and to hear Tatum acknowledge it is actually sort of refreshing.
Plus 'The Simpsons' and Fellini go high-def
Jeremy Renner enjoys a relaxing moment at work in Kathryn Bigelow's highly-lauded 'The Hurt Locker,' available now on DVD and BluRay.
Credit: Summit Entertainment
Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast.
Last week may have been a little slow, but this week more than makes up for it. Holy cow, if you've got good taste in movies, you're going to be broke by Wednesday morning. The featured titles this week represent one of the strongest single week line-ups in months. Lots to cover, so let's get right to it.
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
"The Hurt Locker" (BluRay/DVD)
At this point, "The Hurt Locker" may well be the most-discussed film from 2009 that no one's seen. Hopefully that will change with it coming out on DVD and BluRay this week. It's a fairly intimate film, and I don't think it's going to hurt the movie at all if people see it at home. It's almost the opposite of its primary Oscar competition, "Avatar," a character-driven drama set in the real world, complex and political. The notion of a lead character who is addicted to the adrenaline of war is difficult for either liberals or conservatives to turn into a simple symbol, which automatically makes it one of the most interesting of the modern war films. Kathryn Bigelow has always been a director of tremendous style, but with this film, she finally became an important one as well.
Although I may not have been quite as in love with this SF film as some of my peers, I think it's smart and admirable stuff. Sam Rockwell gives a couple of strong performances as an astronaut who is nearing the end of a three-year-tour working a largely automated lunar mining station. As some strange events start to unfold, he begins to question the nature of his job and even his reality, and eventually the film becomes a brain-bending trip. The most impressive thing about the film is how much director Duncan Jones pulled off on a limited budget. It's a major announcement for him as a filmmaker, and I look forward to whatever he does next.
First time as a filmmaker since 1996... will the wait be worth it?
Hey, look, it's Tom Hanks doing that thing he did on 'That Thing You Do' which he'll do again now on a new film called 'Larry Crowne'
Credit: Fox Home Entertainment
Oh, this makes me happy.
When Tom Hanks wrote and directed "That Thing You Do!" in 1996, the film came out and vanished pretty quickly, and it seemed to me at the time that the perception of the film was that it was a failure. That blew my mind, because I thought the film was well-observed, smartly-directed, and filled with a genuine joy. It absolutely seemed to be an extension of the public persona of Tom Hanks, and if I'd been writing for a website at the time, I would have named it to my year-end lists and advocated for it tirelessly.
It's been 14 years since it came out, and it looks like Hanks is finally ready to give writing and directing another chance.
Proving twice in one day that Nikki Finke was wise to hire him for Deadline, Michael Fleming broke the story that Hanks is writing, directing, and starring in "Larry Thorne," a film that Fleming describes thusly:
"I’m told that Hanks will play the title character, a man forced to reinvent himself and find a new career as he navigates the second act of his life."
Sounds like a film that is very much of the moment, and I trust Hanks to do something special with it. He's such a smart guy, and there such a huge wellspring of decency in his work and in his personality that I am curious to see what that synopsis really means. Julia Roberts is now onboard as well to play the female lead in the film, and based on their chemistry in "Charlie Wilson's War," I'm curious.
Classic film makes its first major digital age appearance at home
Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart are just two of the reasons I'm thrilled that 'The African Queen' is finally coming to DVD and BluRay.
Credit: Paramount Home Entertainment
It's funny... when I started prepping this article this morning, I thought this would be the big film nerd news of the day.
It should excite anyone who loves classic Hollywood, though, since "The African Queen" has long been one of the highest-profile titles to never get a release on DVD or BluRay. The film is one of the most beloved in the careers of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, and one of those films that has always been beloved, that always shows up in conversations about the golden age of studio filmmaking.
Although I'm not a big fan of treating any list as sacrosanct, the AFI 100 serves as a general list of films that are mainstream and well-regarded, and of the 100 titles on that list, only one was yet to make an appearance on
What's really exciting to me is that Paramount Home Entertainment seems to have followed the lead of Warner Bros. in how they've been handling some of their classics like "Wizard Of Oz" and "Gone With The Wind," and they've gone the distance to produce a 4K transfer under the direct supervision of Jack Cardiff. That's important because the original film poses a number of challenges in terms of visual presentation. It was a Technicolor film that was shot on soundstages and on location, and there have always been notable differences between the two when looking at earlier transfers on VHS or TV. It seems like this is finally an opportunity to fine-tune the transfer into something that really glows.
Director Sam Raimi and rest of the cast will not return
According to reports, Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi are out as the "Spider-Man" franchise will be rebooted.
Credit: Sony Pictures
Update 3:30 PM PST: Here's the official word from Sony, confirming the story:
Culver City, CA (January 11, 2010) -- Peter Parker is going back to high school when the next Spider-Man hits theaters in the summer of 2012.
Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios announced today they are moving forward with a film based on a script by James Vanderbilt that focuses on a teenager dealing with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises.
The new chapter in the Spider-Man franchise produced by Columbia, Marvel Studios and Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, will have a new cast and filmmaking team. Spider-Man 4 was to have been released in 2011, but had not yet gone into production.
“A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three Spider-Man films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise. Peter Parker as an ordinary young adult grappling with extraordinary powers has always been the foundation that has made this character so timeless and compelling for generations of fans. We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter's roots and we look forward to working once again with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin on this new beginning,” said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.