What, are you people trying to kill me?
Look, I'm dealing with the third case of mono I've had in my lifetime, and my entire central nervous system is a little shaky to start with, so when I see the headline "Tom Cruise In Talks To Play Reacher," my first reaction is to kick my computer into little pieces then run outside and bellow impotently at the sky in rage.
That's normal, right?
I wrote an article last year where I brought up a candidate for the job, Dwayne Johnson, and I admitted that I'm still fairly new to the world of Jack Reacher. Love the character. I think Lee Child writes awesome, compulsively readable pulp. And one of the things that I love about his character is the image I get as I read each of the books. Like John D. McDonald's Travis McGee, Reacher is a very specific type of man, a huge slab of beef who can fall on a bad guy like a goddamn house. When you cast these roles, you need burly, outsized macho men. You need physical specimens that will make the rest of us feel painfully inadequate.
So you hire Tom Cruise and Leonardo Di Caprio?
What, are you people trying to kill me?
I don't get it.
I want to get it.Â I want to understand the basic world so that it doesn't nag at me while I'm watching these films, but so far, I don't get it.
Here's the thingâ€¦ every Pixar film hangs on at least one big idea that the audience is asked to accept, and for the most part, I get the big ideas.Â "The Incredibles" is a family of superheroes.Â Easy enough.Â "A Bug's Life" is our world, but just observed from the perspective of bugs.Â "Toy Story" sets up the basic rule that toys are alive but pretend not to be when we're around.Â Got it.Â "Ratatouille" asks you to swallow the notion of a rat with a refined palette who wants to be a world-class chef.Â "WALL-E" takes place in a world where our trash finally choked our planet out.Â All of these ideas are fairly easy to grasp.
Hollywood, like football (at least according to Oliver Stone), is a game of inches.
Sure, there are people who arrive with their first film, fully formed and lucky enough to connect with the public in a way that means that they never have to struggle. But those people are what we call "freaks," and for the most part, people in the film industry have to make their way from job to job, gradually climbing the food chain, until they are able to call the shots for themselves.
"Road To Nardo" could represent a major jump forward for at least two of the major collaborators in the film, and I'm curious to see how it comes together. The first reason I'm curious is T.J. Miller, a comedian who has been steadily building a resume since he first appeared in "Cloverfield." Miller is very funny when you see him onstage, and I'm not sure I've seen a film yet that uses him to anywhere near his full potential. My kids are big fans after "Yogi Bear," but that's hardly representative of the sort of work he does as a stand-up.
Laura Ziskin was an uncommonly decent person, and not just by the admittedly low standards of Hollywood culture.
I had several encounters with Ziskin over the years, and always found her to be sharp, funny, and kind, and it was obvious on every set of hers I ever visited that she cared deeply about the work she was doing. I remember two different times that Harry Knowles and I dealt with her, once on the set for the original "Spider-Man" in 2001, and then again on the set of the live TV version of "Fail Safe," and in both cases, she went out of her way to deal with us personally instead of handing us over to publicists or assistants. When she talked about the projects she was working on, it never felt to me like I was being hard-sold something. Instead, she was just a tireless cheerleader for her collaborators, knowing full well how hard it is to produce even a bad film, much less a great one.
When I walked out of the first early screening of "Dreamgirls" that I attended, Bill Condon was standing there, and I walked over to share some thoughts with him.Â I've known Bill for a while now, and I was just going to offer him some quick impressions, then let him go because I knew other people wanted to talk to him.Â As I started to tell him what I thought, I was fine until I got to my feelings about Eddie Murphy in the film.Â Suddenly, as I tried to articulate just what it meant to me to see a great performance from Eddie, I got choked up.Â I found myself almost overwhelmed by emotion, and I couldn't even fully explain why.Â I just had to thank Bill for giving Eddie something to do, something worth his talent and my time, and then hurry to the car, embarrassed by the unexpected depth of my own feelings.
It's not my fault, though.Â Like many film fans, the relationships I have with the work that actors and directors and writers do is a personal one.Â It means something very particular to me, and in the case of Eddie Murphy, I consider him an important part of my formative years, and the arc of his career has been almost crushingly sad to witness.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
And now the cycle is complete. This is how it works these days, right? You make a foreign-language genre film, you get it booked into festivals, it gets picked up by a smaller distributor, and then as soon as it gets some US theatrical play, someone sets up an American remake. At this point, if you don't manage to sell your film as a remake, then there must be something wrong with your movie.
Certainly, there's nothing wrong with "Trollhunter," which I just reviewed the other day. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to hear that it's been set up as a remake. Chris Columbus and CJ Entertainment & Media are going to co-produce the American version, and it looks like they've already got a writer attached, Marc Haimes. Last year, there was word that Andre Ovredal, who wrote and directed "Trollhunter," was going to work with Columbus on an original film in the vein of "Gremlins," and I guess this means Columbus is a fan in general. I still want to strongly encourage you to seek out and see the original, either on VOD or at one of the film's theatrical dates, but I guess this remake is inevitable.
I've been lucky enough to have an ongoing conversation with Richard Donner for the last twenty years, starting with an evening when I was a studio guide for Universal Studios, and he has always been one of those guys who tells it like it is. I admire that, especially after two decades in Los Angeles. I am no longer surprised at how completely full of crap people are in this city. Instead, I am surprised when someone isn't full of crap, especially when they're an iconic member of the creative community. That almost seems like permission for some people, like being talented gives you the right to be a total phony.
Not Donner. He always strikes me as a guy who simply isn't wired that way and who couldn't be phony even if he tried.
The occasion for this conversation was the release on Blu-ray of all five "Superman" feature films, and that's as good a reason as any to sit down with the man again. After all, his two "Superman" films set the template that people are still following closely with superhero movies, and the "X-Men" franchise that he helped produce, along with his wife Lauren Shuler Donner, helped kick off the new wave of superhero movies.
I think it's safe to say I'm a fan of John Carpenter and his films.
If you're someone who has seen all of his movies already and you crave something new, "The Ward" just arrived on VOD and is available for rental from Netflix as of yesterday. I reviewed the film when I saw it at last year's Toronto Film Festival, which is the same place where I recorded a special podcast with Scott Weinberg where we talked about all of Carpenter's films.
Tonight, though, I wish I was in Austin for Mondo's "They Live" screening. I love that film. I think it's one of John's more underrated movies overall, and it's one of the best satires of the '80s. And from the '80s. Both. The film works just as the surface story about a guy who discovers a conspiracy that involves the whole world, but what really makes it a better-than-average film by John is the way the subtext also works so well. If there's anything I'm not crazy about, it's the hyper-abrupt ending of the film. Even so, it's a movie that actually seems better in hindsight, smarter and more prescient with each passing year.
When I saw "Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story" at the AFI Fest, it was screened at the Arclight, and I was sitting in the front row. As a result, when Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan stepped up to do a Q&A afterwards, it felt pretty much like a private show. And the chemistry they have in that movie is something that I found electrifying. The whole film, by Michael Winterbottom, is entertaining and daring and inventive and silly, sometimes all in one move, and the Brydon/Coogan verbal sparring is one part of why that movie is great. Not all of it, but certainly a component of why it made my ten best of the year list that year.
With "The Trip," a new Winterbottom movie that is a feature-length version of the BBC series, it's all Brydon and Coogan and that's the point. It's "My Dinner With Andre" with two performers locked in a mad passive-aggressive competition for laughs while on a restaurant-based road trip. It's often riotously funny, and it feels like the larger "joke" about the relationship between Coogan and Brydon is carefully crafted and perceptive. This is the Coogan I like most, the loutish show business version with occasional flashes of self-awareness, and Brydon is a brilliant foil for him. Brydon can provoke Coogan as a performer, get a real rise out of him, and that's what "The Trip" is really all about… Rob Brydon driving Steve Coogan absolutely mad.
Damon Lindelof, you are no longer the Padawan. Obviously, you've now graduated to full-blown Mystery Box Jedi.
Who knows what "1952" is? Well, Disney executives know, but that's it. Other than them, Damon Lindelof isn't telling anyone what to expect from what is described as "an original sci-fi family adventure film."
Fine. I don't need to know a logline to know I'm interested. Lindelof has been a busy, busy man since "Lost" went off the air a year ago, and whatever he's doing, I'm interested. I want to see what he cooks up because I just plain like the way he thinks. I remain a "Lost" fan after the ending of the show, and no matter what I thought of individual choices made along the way, that was a great ride overall, and I begrudge the creators of the show nothing. They entertained me for six years. Well-played. That's all I asked.