Welcome to The Morning Read.
It feels like a logjam has recently been kicked loose, and we're finally seeing projects reach the screen that have been lingering in development for what seems to be a preposterous amount of time. "Cowboys and Aliens" released its first trailer today, and that marks a moment that seemed like it would never happen. Spielberg is finally making his "Tintin" movie after decades of being interested in doing so. David Fincher made "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" after something like 500 other directors worked on it over the years. There have been so many false starts on "The Green Hornet" that I still don't believe it's actually happening. It's interesting to see which version of these long-gestating movies makes it to the screen, and who ends up spearheading the films.
Along those lines, George Clooney has been interested in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." since at least 1999. He was reading drafts of the film back in the summer and fall of 2000, and was seriously interested in making the film with either Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. The property is obviously a major asset for Warner Bros. It is the only other spy franchise co-created by Ian Fleming, and you can do almost anything with it depending on what tone you take with the material. The Playlist and Hollywood Reporter have both been reporting on the way the film is starting to come together, and the teaming of Clooney with Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns as director and screenwriter is exciting, and the idea of making it a period piece so you can do this as a '60s film is absolutely perfect. It's so perfect that I'm having a hard time believing Warner Bros. is hip enough to let them do it. It's exciting to think of it, though, and for Clooney, this would be the end of a long process of flirting with Napoleon Solo.
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Jon Favreau's 'Cowboys and Aliens' made a splash this year at Comic Con when the director managed to get star Harrison Ford onto the stage in Hall H for the first time ever. That coupled with some impressive preview footage left the crowd wowed and hungry for more. It was the perfect venue as 'Cowboys and Aliens' actually began as a comic and has all the elements that fanboys love, a mash-up of sci-fi and western elements mixed up without trace of irony.
If you missed that event fear not, as a lot of that Comic-Con footage has ended up in the teaser trailer that Universal released today on Yahoo along with a bevy of new images. The teaser begins with outlaw Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of the desert with no shoes and no memories, only a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. It becomes apparent that Favreau is making a western when we see standard cowboy movie elements such as a posse, a saloon and surly rich rancher (Harrison Ford) appear in sequence. The "Aliens" part soon becomes apparent when the old western town starts getting strafed by alien ships. neato.
CBS films acquired the Jason Statham explosion-fest back in August and the first trailer for the film was released last night. Explosions and ass-kicking abound in the trailers two and a half minutes. The movie marks a return to the scene for director Simon West ("Con Air," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") who's been spending time in TV land lately, most notably directing the pilot for "Human Target."
A remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name, "The Mechanic" features Jason Statham teaching young Ben Foster the basics of how to be a hit-man as they both pursue Foster's father's (Donald Sutherland) killers. From the looks of it, this touching tale is less a "buddy" story between Statham and Foster and more of an all out kill-fest.
It's actually very easy to find. Just go to "Podcasts > Movies & TV > Drew McWeeny," and there it is... the Motion/Captured Podcast on iTunes finally.
And to celebrate, I had a collapse of the system I'd been using to produce the podcast up to this point. A completely stupid convergence of events that left me with a raw audio file and no way to use the software I've been using to edit the thing. Finally, I got everything set up again, and so here we are with the tenth MCP, and hopefully we can use this milestone as the end of the "experimental" phase of podcasting and we can get busy treating this as a regular feature here at the site.
It's fitting that this would be my first new post after the redesign, too. What do you guys think of the new version of HitFix? We plan to constantly evolve over the life of the site to better reflect what you, our readers, are telling us is important to you. We don't ever want to get so comfortable that we just assume that we're finished developing. That's why I'm pushing myself to learn a new skill set like podcasting after over a decade of being perfectly happy just working in print.
This is a very loose and silly episode overall, and I haven't forgotten my promise to dedicate a series of special podcasts to the big box sets coming out on Blu-ray this fall, including the "Alien Anthology," the "Back to the Future" series, and a look back at "Harry Potter" so far as we enter the home stretch. I can produce one of these almost in real time once I've got everything set up properly, so there's no reason for me to hold back.
It's a big week for trailers, and of course all of these trailers are hoping to make a splash with filmgoers who pile into theaters over the holidays. I'm sure that if you go see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," you are going to see the trailer for "Green Lantern." Sure of it. Every studio has the option of attaching a trailer to a print for their own movie, and this is the most important movie for Warner Bros. next summer. It doesn't just have to work as a movie… it's also the first step in building out a very particular DC Universe on film.
Can DC play the same game as Marvel? Can they play it as aggressively? Can they get the general public to buy into what looks like a very big, very stylized comic book reality?
This is a very different thing than what Christopher Nolan's been doing with the Batman movies. There's a broadness to the approach… and there has to be, frankly. Ryan Reynolds has been looking for the right role, and as far as I can tell, this is it. This looks like a big crowd-pleasing hero role, and he's got the charisma (and the physique) to fill the suit.
What sells it for me is the scale of it. I've seen some truly terrifying "Green Lantern" scripts over the years, and to see this… a cosmic space opera, a "Star Wars" with superheroes… is something I genuinely never thought would happen.
Okay, here's one of those moments where I have a totally selfish reaction to something, and I invite you to share in it, but I am also well-aware that I am a big giant weirdo.
How else can you explain my immediate obsession with the new trailer for "Your Highness"? Right now, there is nothing I want more than my eventual Blu-ray copy of this film so I can watch and re-watch what looks like one of the craziest genre indulgences of all time. David Gordon Green's career amazes me, and it has taken one of the least predictable paths possible. If you look at early movies like "George Washington" and "All The Real Girls," it would be impossible to guess that he would eventually make a giant-budget fantasy epic with monsters and magic and wizard's weed and the dude who played "Bust-Ass" in the lead.
And yet here we are.
I love this trailer. I immediately and absolutely love this trailer. This looks like the ideal version of the film that Danny McBride and Green and James Franco and Zooey Deschanel and Justin Theroux all described to us while we were on set in Belfast last year. That's really the process that happens with any film I visit… there's the ideal version of the film that everyone on-set describes, and then there's the version that eventually hits theaters, and it's not often that those two things are the same.
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Another late start over here, but there's so much out there that's worth reading that I wanted to make sure I had a column for you, even if it's essentially the Bedtime Read at this point. Make sure you check out our story on the scheduling change for Universal's "The Thing," which took up some of my morning. And I had to get a couple of other things ready for the week ahead, which includes screenings of some of the biggest films of the fall.
The smoke has finally settled, and it looks like Mike White is going to be the director on "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," one of the top-priority projects for Lionsgate. I confess… I'm still not sure this one's going to work. I think it's a joke that gets old about the moment you first hear of it. The title is the best thing about the book by Seth Grahame-Smith, and I'm curious to see if this turns into another "Snakes On A Plane," or if there's really an audience out there for a Jane Austen movie with dismemberments thrown in.
There was a very smart comment Jon Favreau made during our visit to the editing room of "Cowboys and Aliens," in which he talked about how he used the hook of the alien invasion to get a studio to let him make a real Western. "I could have walked into most studios and pitched a film called '… and Aliens,' and I could have walked out with a deal. But even with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig attached, I don't think I could have sold 'Cowboys' anywhere." He's right, of course. Right now, there are roughly 9,748,261 alien invasion films being prepped for release in the next three years, and another one has been added to the line-up, called "Year 12," and it now has a director. Fredrik Bond is a commercial filmmaker who is attached to several films around town, and now he's set to direct this story of how humanity fights to reclaim the Earth over a decade after the beginning of an alien invasion.
Last week, there was a date shuffle by Universal on two of their upcoming films. "Fast Five," the newest installment in the "Fast and the Furious" series, moved up to April 29, 2011, and "The Thing," the prequel to the John Carpenter 1982 horror classic has now simply… moved.
It's easy to speculate about the reason behind a date change, but in this case, it's as simple as one film being ready and another film not being finished yet. HitFix learned in the last few weeks of plans for upcoming additional photography on the film, and when we contacted Universal for clarification on their plans for the film, producer Marc Abraham was the one who called me to explain.
Everything he said confirmed what we'd already heard, that the filmmakers have a cut of the movie and that they are now hoping to use this next round of photography to enhance existing sequences or to make crystal clear a few story beats or to add punctuation marks to the film's feeling of dread.
I've been an advocate for years for films just building in an additional photography period from the very start, a period after you've cut the movie to ladle on the gravy if you can, and to solve problems the right way if you have to. Abraham has been producing since "The Commitments," and he's a guy who seems very direct about what he's doing with this picture and what the expectations are.
It's important to remember that on the John Carpenter version of "The Thing," there was a year of post-production necessary to create the iconic monster sequences, and in many cases, they had no idea how they were going to accomplish any of that while they were shooting the film. Rob Bottin's work was an act of faith up till the moment it actually started cutting into the film, and there was nothing easy about the magic that Carpenter captured in that film.
As I mentioned on Friday, I had a good excuse for being unable to finish a Morning Read last Wednesday. I went to Santa Monica to visit Jon Favreau at the editing suites where he's hard at work on his next film, "Cowboys & Aliens."
At that point, we were shown the new one-sheet for the film, which makes its premiere online today, and we were also shown the trailer for the movie, which you'll get a chance to see on Wednesday, and which is also being sent out this weekend with every single print of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I," so you'll get to see it theatrically as well.
We also saw the first forty minutes or so of the film, but discussion of that is going to have to wait a bit.
What I can say today is that Universal has a really big commercial movie on their hands here, and Favreau's about to prove that the "Iron Man" films weren't just hits because of an appetite for superhero movies. The trailer manages to condense the film's arresting first forty minutes into an easy to digest form, and then also throws in some surprising imagery for what is a teaser. The film has some big secrets to protect, and yet the teaser is already hinting at some of them. The thing that the trailer sells loud and clear is the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, the film's two leads, something that comes through in the film's opening act.
Earlier today, I sat down at the W Hotel in Hollywood to talk with Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman about their new film, "Black Swan," and we'll have those conversations here for you in the week before the film opens.
For now, though, there's one tidbit worth passing along from our conversation. When Aronofsky was settling in for the interview, I mentioned to him that I had run into Matty Libatique the other night, and Aronofsky smiled. "I saw that." He offered up one correction to the information that we've run on the film so far, though, and as far as I can tell, this is the first time I've heard this.
The film that he's directing is officially called "The Wolverine," and there won't be a number attached to it. In our interview, he referred to the movie as a "one-off," and he emphasized that the film isn't a sequel in any conventional sense.
It's an interesting move, and it certainly separates this from Gavin Hood's movie, and from the larger "X-Men" franchise in general. Between this film and Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class," it sounds like any rules we've got in mind about these films and what to expect based on the first four films in the franchise are out the window.
Frankly, I like that. Comics have always made room for different artists and writers to take these icons and bend and twist them and try different things with them, so why shouldn't the films be the same way?