Check out our exclusive talks with Marcus and John Connor
Here's what I'll say for the stars of "Terminator: Salvation," a Hail Mary pass of a summer movie: they are intense. That's the adjective that most readily describes the film's entire aesthetic. Or the challenge of following up arguably one of the best original/sequel one-two punches in SF/action history. It's the genre equivalent of making both "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II". Cameron set the bar higher than high. He made two great films, one a clever big-budget twisted comment on the original, an extension of the idea that also managed to invert it completely. Following that... intense.
But Christian Bale and Sam Worthington were cast specifically because they are able to turn that on, and stand toe-to-toe. Sitting down to talk to them, I was curious to see if they would bring that same degree of intensity to things. When I was asked if I wanted to sit down with the cast a few weekends ago, I was pleased to do so, curious to talk to them about the challenges inherent to anyone crazy enough to make this film.
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Dan Brown's pulp hero Robert Langdon gets another shot at box-office gold, but is the film any good?
I actually had to go back to look up my review of "The Da Vinci Code" over at Ain't It Cool to see if I'd even written one. I didn't remember.
That's not a good sign.
An equally bad sign would be that, having just re-read that review, I was half-tempted to just cut and paste it here and do a search and replace of one title for the other.
Did you actually enjoy watching "The Da Vinci Code"? Having just seen the 3-hour director's cut on BluRay, the answer for me would be "absolutely not." If you would answer "yes," then by all means... "Angels & Demons" is the big dumb summer movie for you. But if you're not a fan of fatally passive heroes, directors with no knack for action, and giant phone-book-sized chunks of exposition being jammed down your throat with no regards for narrative flow or audience interest, then you may want to sit this one out.
What's most interesting is the way the film manages to build off of the flaws of the first film, making many of the same mistakes while adding in a few new ones for fun. I thought Langdon, as played by Tom Hanks, was a total mistake in the first film. He was so passive that things wouldn't have played out any differently if he had never become involved in the events of the story. And the attempt to visualize his "gift" with puzzles and codes and symbols was just nonsense that was designed to disguise the fact that this is a movie about a guy whose only heroic actions are based on explaining research he's done. He's one of the most ridiculous leads in a franchise that I can even imagine, and watching Tom Hanks sleepwalk through the role a second time just confirms for me that he's miscast, and that this is one of the most egregious examples in recent memory of a paycheck role. Hanks is one of the smartest, most intellectually engaged actors I've had the pleasure of meeting and talking to, smart and probing and witty, and all of those qualities should make him perfect to play this character. But the character, as written, is such a waste that it feels like someone bought a sports car to drive to the end of the driveway to get the mail. Wrong tool for the job.
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Motion/Captured is heading south for a few days
I'm out the door in just a few minutes, on my way to New Orleans, where I'll be joining a small group on the set of "Jonah Hex."
I dare not hope to see Megan Fox in a corset.
I'm sure whatever we do see will be suitably impressive, though, and it should be a good trip. There's plenty of content ahead, though, once I'm at the hotel tonight. I'll be recapping tonight's "Lost" season finale, and if it's not quite real time, it'll be close. I've got some other articles I'll be fine-tuning on the plane as well, and I'm going to try to make sure there's plenty for you to read tonight and tomorrow while I'm braving the bayous.
In the meantime, the rest of the HitFix staff is here to keep you entertained, and I hope you make sure to check out all the best breaking movie, music, and TV news.
I'll be back online as soon as possible.
Sound and picture are stellar, but the extras really go above and beyond
I'm amazed at how many people I know who not only do not have BluRay in their homes yet, they've never even watched a movie on BluRay. And they don't see any real reason to do so. And while I understand that not everyone is as uber-nerdy about sound and picture presentation as I am, I have to believe that if people were able to sit down and check out a great presentation of a great transfer, they'd realize just how much it can enhance the viewing experience.
And right now, if I were going to use any live-action film to demo my system for someone, it would probably be "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button." No surprise for anyone who saw Paramount's amazing transfer of "Zodiac" on BluRay, and logical if you consider that Fincher shoots with the Viper camera, so you're looking at a high-def transfer of high-def material, with no film involved in the process at all. It makes a huge difference, and it allows you to really marvel at how much texture and color and warmth Fincher and his photographers manage to wring out of these cameras. He's a pioneer in terms of how far he pushes HD photography right now... there's no one else shooting films like this right now, with the possible exception of Michael Mann, and even he hasn't really pushed the HD towards the same sort of lush and dreamy film look that Fincher has. I think Mann actually likes the video qualities of HD, where Fincher seems determined to prove that it doesn't matter what camera you use... you can accomplish the same look, and that's all a matter of how your photographer approaches his job.
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Coppola's not-so-secret autobiography, both beautiful and heartbreaking
I'm not sure how you can honestly say you're a fan of Francis Ford Coppola's work if you don't rank this right alongside the very best of his '70s work. It's easily the most personal film he ever made, and it's also one of the most beautiful. Maybe part of the problem is that the film he made is simply too much for home video to handle. When the film came out, I worked at a theater that played it, and I saw it seven or eight times in the two weeks it played. That print was gorgeous, lush, like it was printed on candy. And on VHS, it looked terrible. On laserdisc, it looked better, but it wasn't as vivid as that film print. On DVD, it's a mess. A huge mess. I'm sort of amazed as I revisit the disc that it is a DVD print. It's soft and the colors sort of bleed, and it just doesn't look very good at all. It's noisy. Here's a film just begging for a gorgeous BluRay restoration and release, and maybe if the right person at Paramount Home Video reads this and realizes just what a gem they're sitting on, it might get coughed up at some point. After all, the Warner Archives just made "Freebie and the Bean" available, so anything is possible.
Preston Tucker was an inventor, a salesman, a huckster, a family man, a crackpot, a criminal, and an inspiration, depending on who you talked to, and from the moment the film begins, it's obvious that Coppola sees himself in this guy who is willing to risk everything, over and over and over again, in order to follow his dreams. This is the Coppola who hadn't yet settled into the financial stability that he now finally deservedly enjoys. Coppola has gone bankrupt something like 347 times. I may be exaggerating, but not by much. And it's because he bet on his art. I think Coppola's a goddamn hero by example, and even if I don't love everything he's ever made, I love him. I love the way he talks about his own films and other people's films and the way his passions plays out in his filmmaking. Jeff Bridges is playing about as far from Coppola as is physically possible, tall and chiseled and golden-hued, with the Norman Rockwell family spilling out of his Norman Rockwell house, but in terms of the way he pursues his dreams, they seem to be cut from identical cloth.
Plus BoingBoing goes 'Ninja Assassin,' 'Wolf Man' reshoots, and Darwin Cooke does Richard Stark
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Between last night's weekend read and this morning's piece on Bale, I'm getting a late start on today's Morning Read, and I think this one's all about some of the big stuff I haven't commented on over the last three or four days.
Ole Bornedahl has been rocking it pretty hard for the last couple of films. Both "The Substitute" and "Just Another Love Story" deliver in unexpected ways, and they suggest that he's really hit his stride as a storyteller. Now Twitch has an English-language version of the trailer for "Deliver Us From Evil," his latest.
You want to know what I'm afraid of, more than almost anything else, in regards to working on the internet? This. One of the last things I did at Ain't It Cool was start putting together an archive of my work over there, and I made decent progress on it before I left. One of the reasons that was so important to me was because I've lost plenty of material over the years as we've switched servers. I would estimate that 90% of the first three years of contributions I made to AICN are gone forever, and an entire blog of mine is gone, too, because of me dicking around with it at TypePad. I work hard to generate online content, and the idea of it simply disappearing gives me the sweats.
Mr. T remains just as weird today as he's ever been, and I love it.
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Here's the truth on how rumors evolve
I've been at this now for going on 15 years, and even before I was doing it online, I chased rumors down for my own curiosity. Living and working in Los Angeles, you hear things from the strangest of sources, hints dropped in passing, a piece of info from one person leading you to make some connection that allows you to coax another piece of info from another person until suddenly something snaps into vivid focus. And sometimes, even when I feel like I've got the puzzle pieces all laid out, I can't quite make them fit together the way I think they should.
Over the last three weeks, I've had three random encounters with people, and each one gave me a different hint towards something that I've been curious about for a while now: who will be playing John Carter for director Andrew Stanton in "John Carter Of Mars," the long-in-development adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp classic. It's a great role, and if the first film works, it could easily be the cornerstone for a new franchise. And with Stanton at the helm, I can't imagine this will be anything less than amazing.
So who's the lucky guy tapped for the lead? Well, my initial source told me point blank that it was Christian Bale. And then a secondary source disputed that directly. Still... that first source sounded incredibly confident about it. I would imagine many of the usual suspects are in the running. And although Stanton's been Tweeting lately about casting being underway, things have been fairly quiet. And then, like I said, a flurry of hints and innuendo, leading me to try to piece things together. And based on the clues I'd gotten, I was fairly confident walking into the "Terminator: Salvation" press day, thinking I was going to be able to drop the question directly on the guy who had emerged as the most likely John Carter. Even the people who were talking around the name of the actor, giving me very vague hints, seemed to be all pointing at the same guy, so I felt confident enough to bring it up.
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Julia Roberts talks dirty, Mel Brooks takes Berlin, and Ridley Scott returns to 'Alien'
Welcome to The Morning Read, your special weekend edition.
At this point, it's almost Sunday evening, and I assume many of you have already seen "Star Trek". Curious what you think now that you've laid eyes on it. I've heard such great word of mouth that it's starting to look like this year's "Iron Man," the movie that just gets out in front and is so much fun that people end up comparing everything else during the summer to it, to its advantage.
I'm going to use this afternoon to clean out a ton of links I've bookmarked for the Morning Read that fell between the cracks, a sort of clearing house of cool or strange stuff that didn't quite fit into any of the regular columns. I know some of these links are ten or twelve days old... but why not finally put them all together? They were worth my attention in the first place, right?
For example, I bookmarked this review on Twitch because I've never heard of the film, and that always interests me. There are so many movies that have managed to fall off the radar completely since they were made, and the age of video has mainly helped to preserve new crap. Things that were already forgotten before the VHS or DVD age are probably still forgotten, so when I get a heads-up on a film like "Jigsaw," I try to make note of it. I love when this is the sort of thing my peers focus on, instead of nine thousand voices at once on the same new movie.
My kids are growing up in the science fiction movies I watched as a kid, and I love it. I can only imagine what their world's going to be like when they're my age now.
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A special side project to the Motion/Captured Must-See List begins
When I started the Motion/Captured Must-See Project, I published "The List Of Duh," which was meant as a sort of short-cut. That list of films, by no means complete, represents everything from the first 900 discs in my collection that I consider the basics, the givens, the movies that I would assume everyone has seen.
I'm wrong, of course. There's no such thing as a movie everyone's seen, no matter how famous, no matter how basic to the history of film. And the proof of that is another Internet webmaster, Alex Billington, who runs the First Showing blog. Now, I wasn't familiar with Alex until last year when Devin Faraci of CHUD zeroed in on Alex as a subject of scorn. Devin's issues with Alex seem to be rich and varied, but one of the big ones is that "Alex hasn't seen anything." Someone's even gone out of their way to create a "Fake Alex Billington" on Twitter, and I've seen other webmasters and bloggers slam the guy fairly hard.
But one of the reasons I have spent the last 14 years writing about movies online is because I think those of us who have this voracious appetite for movies, who have gone out of our way to mainline thousands and thousands of films, good and bad, big and small, mainstream and obscure... it's our obligation to pass on to others why we do that, what makes those films worth that sort of investment of time and energy, and to steer people to the things that we think are most essential. In a world where you have as many options as we do now for entertainment, where you can constantly swim in the new without ever looking backwards, it seems to me more essential than ever to communicate our enthusiasm for the greats, the films that we hold dear.
So I called Alex. And instead of just lambasting him about what he hasn't seen, I suggested a different approach to this, one that acknowledges that there are probably far more people out there whose relationship to movies is like his than like mine. Or Devin's. Or Harry's. One of the reasons I've had this long friendship with some of these other film writers is because they speak the same language I do. They have the same vocabulary. If I reference a movie, they'll understand it, and they understand why I draw a comparison. And so if we're going to treat this... all of it... like a conversation, then we have to acknowledge that if we want people to take part in that conversation, we have to invite them in, not attack them for something they haven't experienced yet.
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Blake Edwards bends Hollywood over and over and over again
The other night, I had drinks with a hardcore film geek buddy of mine, and as we talked, we touched on any number of topics and ideas. At one point, we were discussing how to shoot film comedy, and I think we agreed that the best comedy directors are very similar to the best musical directors, guys who could stage and pace and shoot a scene so it could all play in a master shot. The more wacky camera angles and wacky montage cutting that a director throws at something, the less confident it seems to me. And I love directors who have the balls to shoot comedy in wide wide widescreen. If you want a great example of what I'm talking about, check out the work of Blake Edwards. And as much as I prefer some of Blake's other films ("The Party" is pretty much a perfect film), as a fan, there's something particularly interesting about the strange and angry cocktail of "S.O.B."
Part of my attraction to the film is due to Richard Mulligan's work in the lead. I'm a huge rabid fan of the '70s TV series "Soap," and Mulligan's work is one of the main reasons. It's mad genius. He didn't play many leads in many movies, sort of like Christopher Lloyd, so when he did, it was special. Here, he's been given a role that plays to his many strengths, and he runs with it to tremendous effect. He's Felix Farmer, a distinctly Blake Edwards-esque Hollywood movie director who has just released his latest giant-budget epic movie musical "Night Wind," starring his wife, beloved icon of purity Sally Miles, played by the real-life wife of Blake Edwards, beloved icon of purity Julie Andrews. The film has opened to catastrophic reviews, and no one is going. It's a bomb of unheard of proportion. People are bailing out of responsibility for the movie, and Felix? Felix is suicidal.
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