Welcome to The Evening Read.
Well, Monday didn't happen, mainly because I had an early morning press event for the new James Wan/Leigh Whannell film "Insidious" at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. I didn't even get back to my house until almost 2:00 in the afternoon, at which point I had other things to write and publish.
There were a number of things that broke over the weekend, but I feel like we're at a weird point in the way movie news is reported where teeny tiny non-stories turn into giant ridiculous waves of chatter, simply so people have something to talk about. The most ridiculous things get endlessly debated, and so the scale of what is or isn't news has become so skewed that it's hard for me to get excited about a lot of what's going on out there.
I find myself getting frustrated by things like the preposterous flap over Natalie Portman and "Black Swan," and I see the same groupthink answers about why it's "an outrage" over and over. I'm not sure who allegedly promised moviegoers that every frame of Natalie Portman dancing in that film was really her, but it certainly wasn't the director or the actress. When I interviewed Portman last year, she was pretty clear about the fact that a year of dance training allowed her to stand and move like a dancer, and not that she was suddenly a professional-level ballerina. Film is illusion, and it sounds like the people stoking the fires of this idiotic outrage believe they were watching a documentary instead of, you know, a movie. And don't bring up the Oscar. Unless you can show me some rule book where it says that you have perform every shot in a film to qualify for an Oscar, nothing about this affects her win one little bit.
Welcome to The Evening Read.
"Cowboys and Aliens."
There is a bluntness to that title which should help it cut through the noise that surrounds the summer season, or at least that's the gamble that Universal's making. This film has been in development longer than I've been working as an online writer, but in different forms. It took a long time before they finally clicked into the creative team that finally took it from "title in search of an idea" to the film we'll finally see onscreen this year.
And this is a case of a title that existed before a story. The comic book was an attempt to develop the material in some form after Platinum Studios had optioned the title and a drawing to Hollywood in the first place. The project went through a lot of hands, and it was one of those things that seemed like it would never happen. And not because anyone got it wrong, per se, but rather because it seems like there's so few ways to get it exactly right. That's the thing about these genre mash-up movies. Once you get past the high concept notion, you still have to make a real movie that stands on its own.
Last November, a group of writers was invited to Santa Monica to sit down with Jon Favreau in the editing room for "Cowboys and Aliens," and we ended up seeing the first 40 minutes of the film before talking to the director for about an hour. I've known Favreau for a while now, and I can tell you that the enthusiasm he has for this movie is different than anything I've seen from him during production of a film, and that includes the first "Iron Man." Whatever "Cowboys and Aliens" ends up being, Favreau seems pleased with it, and I have a strong feeling audiences are going to agree.
"Source Code" is a lot of fun, and it's not just a one-note popcorn pleasure. Director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley have built a smart satisfying science-fiction/Hitchcock movie that uses a very clever conceit to tell a very simply and lovely human story. It's just plain enjoyable, and I strongly encourage you to check it out this weekend.
Jake Gyllenhaal is very good in the lead role as the guy who finds himself being sent back into the same eight minutes, over and over, but what gives the film its heart and soul is the tension between him and the two very different women in his life. Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) each exist in different moments, different times, and they deal with Colter (Gyllenhaal) in very different ways. Christina is the girl caught in the moment on the train, the repeated eight minutes before the explosion, while Goodwin is the one speaking directly to Colter in the lab setting known as the Source Code.
There are different demands made of each of the actors, and sitting down to talk to them during the SXSW festival in Austin, we talked about those challenges. Monaghan sort of surprised me in person. She always plays such girl-next-door sort of down-to-earth types in her films, and even though it was 9:00 in the morning, she showed up looking like a rock star. And then on top of it, she's charming and cracking jokes and in a great mood? It's enough to make you sick.
Well, exactly as I expected, we're seeing stories everywhere today that are stating conclusively that there will be a "Justice League" film onscreen in 2013.
When I ran that story last night, I took the time to send messages and e-mails to a few people who were in a position to know whether or not that was really going to happen, and I went to bed comfortable that we were right in stating yesterday that there's not going to be a "Justice League" film in 2013.
So then today, The LA Times publishes part two of their Jeff Robinov piece, and again, they state that the film's going to happen in 2013. They don't leave much room for doubt, either.
Here's the thing… I still don't believe there's a "Justice League" movie coming that close on the heels of "The Dark Knight Rises" and the "Superman" reboot. I just don't. I do believe that 2013 will be an important year for the Warner Bros. superhero business, and I would not remotely be shocked to see "The Flash" come out that year.
I mentioned in my article yesterday that Warner should be a little gun-shy about getting "Justice League" onto the screen, and was surprised to realize how many people were unaware of quite what went down with "Justice League: Mortal," the movie that they almost made in 2007. On that film, they had a great director in the form of George Miller. Yes, the same George Miller behind "The Road Warrior" and "Babe." He had cast the movie completely, and he was deep into design with WETA for both costumes and digital effects, and the things I've heard about the visual plan he had for the film make it sound like it was going to be a bold interpretation of these characters that would be very different from any version we've seen before. This past year, many audiences discovered Armie Hammer for the first time in his dual role as the Winklevoss Twins in "The Social Network," but you almost saw him as Batman, who would have been the star of Miller's film.
South By Southwest was a blur for me this year.
I need to figure out some foolproof way to stay healthy on the road. I'm going to guess that packing on a trip to Area 51 right before I head to Austin for a week of sleepless nights isn't the best plan I've ever had, because holy cow did I get sick at the end of the festival.
Thankfully I was still in good shape when I joined Rainn Wilson and James Gunn onstage to moderate the panel on their new film "Super." And with those two, "moderate" really just means, "Ask a few questions that aren't totally stupid, then get out of the way." They're both very entertaining guys, and together, they've got a really fun energy. It's obvious they enjoyed working together, and that they're both proud of the film they've made.
I saw and reviewed the film out of last year's Toronto Film Festival, and the more I've thought about it, the more the things I like outweigh the things I didn't. It's so crazy, and it has such a strong sense of voice, and it features some remarkably devoted performances by Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, and more. Sitting down with them after our panel, we had a half-hour conversation that featured a great round of Movie God.
I'm pretty sure I'm not breaking embargo simply by saying that I love "Your Highness." Not in any halfway, almost, make apologies sort of way, either. It is a case of a movie that feels like it was made for me. It got me laughing about two seconds into it, and kept me laughing until the closing credits finally rolled.
I have no doubt that a big part of my reaction to "Your Highness" is based on growing up when I did and ingesting all the astoundingly awful fantasy films of the '80s. There were a few good ones, certainly. I think the original "Conan The Barbarian" by John Milius is a legitimately great film. I think "Sword and the Sorcerer" is crazy low-budget trash that delivers every pulpy thrill you'd want from the material. I think there are moments in some of them that are fun. But by and large, the genre is made up of hyper-serious movies about very silly things.
When you see "Your Highness," it's impressive how they manage to make a comedy genre film without directly referencing other movies. That seems to be a dying art, and for someone like me, who gets tired of the "nudge, nudge, hey, did you see that movie, too?" school of comedy, it's depressing to live in the era of "Family Guy". "Your Highness" will certainly make you think of those crazy '80s fantasy films, but in a broad sense. If you have a fondness for those movies, you'll be laughing at things that non-genre-savvy audiences might not pick up, but for me, it's not because I was laughing at a reference, but rather because I recognized just how sincere Danny McBride and co-writer Ben Best and director David Gordon Green really are about all of this.
There are times when no matter how hard you try to come up with the stupidest idea in Hollywood history as a joke, someone else is out there working to come up with the stupidest idea in Hollywood history for real.
And this week, it looks like someone succeeded.
I understand that we are in the age of the reboot. I understand that when you reboot something, you should probably make some big choices that guarantee you're not just doing what someone else has done before. I understand that adaptation is not a process that involves literally putting every syllable of something onscreen. All of that is a given.
Let's also be clear that I like Jennifer Garner, more than I think I'm "allowed" to like her. I find her incredibly winning on film, and I think there's a decency to her that is very appealing. She's a beautiful woman, certainly, but she carries herself like a former nerd who had that "take the glasses off and WHOA!" moment we've seen in a million high school movies, a woman who didn't grow up canonized just for how she looks. It makes her seem approachable on film, human-scaled, unlike some movie stars who project an untouchability. It also means she's not the easiest person to cast, because she's not just a "type."
Okay, let's be logical about this.
That's the first thing I'd say regarding any rumor you hear. Think about the logic of what you're reading or, in many cases, re-reporting, and ask yourself if it makes basic sense.
For example, when The LA Times does a major profile of Jeff Robinov, who has finally been promoted to the job of president of Warner Bros. after many years of working as one of their top execs and as a very powerful agent before that, one would assume that piece has been vigorously fact-checked.
As a result, when reading that piece and looking at the passage that talks about the way Robinov wants DC superheroes to step in and replace the "Harry Potter" franchise that's wrapping up this summer, it would be easy to accept everything in those two short paragraphs as simple truth.
If you haven't read the article, let me share those paragraphs with you so we're clear what we're talking about:
His most immediate hurdle is filling the void that will be left this summer when the multibillion-dollar "Harry Potter" series shepherded by Horn ends. Robinov is betting on DC Comics characters to take center stage starting in June with the $200-million-plus production "Green Lantern."
He's then aiming to release new "Batman" and "Superman" films in 2012 and "Justice League," a teaming of DC's top heroes, in 2013.
Makes perfect sense, right?
It's summer, right?
I get confused because of the way I see movies. My schedule is not the same as the calendar schedule, and it leads to some confusion about when things are coming out and how soon they're going to be screening for the general public.
When I start seeing all the marketing materials for the summer movies kicking into high gear, it makes me feel like the season is actually starting instead of still a month or more away. Today, there are two new posters out for May releases, and they both do a nice job of selling tone.
So far, I like that they're playing things understated for the campaign for "The Hangover Part II." There's no reason to play hardball with an audience when you're making a sequel to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. I like that the poster is just an image for the four guys looking pretty much worn down and burnt out. I still laugh every time I see Ed Helms and his Tyson-style face tattoo, and it's looking more and more like that monkey is this movie's equivalent to the baby in the first movie.
Have I mentioned yet that I love "Attack The Block"?
It's hard sometimes when you see a movie at a film festival that you fell head over heels in love with, particularly when that movie does not have a US distributor lined up. If you're in the UK, you'll see "Attack The Block" on May 13, 2011. But if you're here in the States, there's nothing. No release date. No one set to release the film. And so far, the conversations we're hearing in the press include such lunacy as subtitling the English-language movie for a US release or, even scarier, a remake. Which is hopefully not a conversation anyone actually involved in releasing the film ever really has. Nobody's finding a better cast of real kids than this one, and nobody's going to do what Joe Cornish did as a director.
Let me be clear: if you remake "Attack The Block" for the US market, I hope you get an entire colony of fire ants in your urethra. And I hope they're very, very angry.
If you live in Los Angeles, I have a lovely surprise for you. This coming Thursday night, we're going to be participating in a special screening of the film, and I'm authorized to offer 15 pairs of tickets to you, the viewing public. You want to see it now? You want to avoid a huge wait? You want to see what it looks like before somebody tries to make it "better" for an American audience? Here's your chance.