Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Plus 'The Freebie' and 'Mars' for a Duplass hat trick and a tricky 'Monsters' arrives at midnight
Saturday started three hours after Friday ended for me. I filed my last story at 5:30, went upstairs, crashed out, then got up at 8:30, got ready, and drove downtown so I could talk to Matt Reeves about his upcoming adaptation of Let The Right One In. Then I had to hoof it to the Paramount around the corner from the site of the interview so I could see "Thunder Soul," a documentary that absolutely cleaned my clock. Leveled me. It's a very, very special film I'll review separately. Suffice it to say, starting a day like that is unfair to anything else you'll see that day, because it's just that kind of good.
I was thinking of staying for "Barry MUNDAY" at the same venue, but I needed to go get something to eat and try to write a bit before the next interview at 3:45. Instead, I'll see the film on Tuesday now. I'm not staying downtown, so it's a good half-hour in the car to get back to where I'm staying. That's an hour in the car at least. I got a few ideas down on paper, but nothing ready to publish at all. And then I went to talk to Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson about their film, "Leaves Of Grass." And after that, I went to the Alamo South Lamar for "The People Vs. George Lucas," which had a line up and running almost two hours beforehand. By the time I got there, it was eighty-five minutes till the start of the film, and a line was already fairly serious. By showtime, the line was much too long for everyone to get in, so the Alamo announced that the TBA "secret" film for later that night would be, instead, a second showing of "The People Vs. George Lucas" for everyone who didn't get in to the first show.. Finally, I went to a midnight screening of "Monsters," another film programmed by Tim League and the rest of the team behind Fantastic Fest. I love that they've got their own little sidebar now during SXSW, and I hope it leads to even more people returning in the fall for what I consider one of the greatest events of the year.
Superhero action-comedy explodes in front of the first night audience
If you read my recap of the tumultuous opening day of SXSW, or if you've read my BNAT review of the rough cut of this film with the temp score still in place, then you might guess that I'm probably going to give the finished film a good review.
The thing is, I wasn't really expecting the reaction I had to it tonight. I was on set for some of this one. A good chunk of it actually. And I've known Matthew Vaughn for a while now. This was pretty open book filmmaking as far as process was concerned, and they were kind enough to let me publish those pieces a while ago. I thought I knew the film after seeing it in December, but I really didn't. I had a surface read on the movie. I liked certain things about it, but I didn't really look at those things closely.
This time around, I'm more certain that the film is a sort of a genre classic, a movie that both is the thing it's riffing on, and that still manages to make cogent conversation of the conventions of the genre so far on film. "Kick-Ass" benefits enormously from the casting, and not in one role or two roles, but across the board. Matthew Vaughn put together a lovely ensemble from top to bottom, and what they each contribute to the film is one of the specific pleasures of it... each one a different flavor.
The opening night of SXSW makes a splash with sneak previews and world premieres
Welcome to Austin, TX. Or welcome back, rather. It's my home away from home at this point, the place where I've spent so much of the last 15 years. And it's familiar by now, so when I arrive, I know where I'm going. Thursday was picking up the rental car, getting a first dinner with people, and writing up my reviews for "Green Zone" and "Remember Me" as well as that Greengrass interview. Friday was a morning of faxing papers and trying to meet deadlines for insurance stuff, things that don't care if you're at a festival, like a busted brake light on my rental car that makes me nervous I'm going to get hassled by over-zealous SXSW-crazed law enforcement. I'd hate to miss a screening because of some ridiculous technical glitch with the rental car.
That's almost what happened anyway. I got a later start than I wanted dealing with all of this, then went to the South Lamar Alamo, so I could leave my car there, catch the shuttle to the Paramount, then shuttle back over for a double-feature to close the night.
Might even have been a plan. Except the shuttle never came. So eventually, I had to hop in the rental and drive over to the Paramount anyway. By the time I found parking and walked over, it was 6:30, and the film was set to start at 7:00. At that point, there was a line around the back end of the theater. I walked around to the front of the lines to see which of them I was supposed to be in at that point with my gold film badge. As I did, cars began to pull up to the front of the theater, filled with the cast and the crew of the film, and the back doors of the first car opened. Producer Tarquin Pack and producer/writer/director Matthew Vaughn got out. And as they did, they looked over, saw me, and walked over to say hello. We'd talked after the screening of the film in December at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I've been eagerly waiting to see the finished film since.
A weak script betrays solid work from alumni of 'Lost,' 'The Sopranos' and, of course, 'Twilight'
I've been rough on the "Twilight" films in print so far, and that new trailer for "Eclipse" looks like a whole lot of the same, but just because someone's in one of those films, or involved in one of those films, I'm not the sort of person who would dismiss them entirely. Kristen Stewart has absolutely had other worthwhile moments on film in movies like "Into The Wild," "Adventureland,' and the upcoming "The Runaways." It would be silly to judge her entirely on the work she does as Bella Swan.
The same is true of her co-star Robert Pattinson, who has a rabid fanbase, but who so far has yet to prove he can draw an audience outside of "Twilight," and who I've never seen in a big enough role to judge one way or another.
The good news for his fans is that Pattinson is a real actor, an interesting guy capable of making some really intriguing choices on film, and if he can survive the "Twilight" series without developing a hatred of stardom, then he may well evolve into someone of real merit and weight. He is charismatic and charming in much of "Remember Me," and he works overtime to bring an emotional honesty to the role he plays. He creates a solid onscreen rapport with his co-star Emilie de Ravin, and he really throws himself into his big scenes.
The film wants to throw punches, but pulls almost every one
If you go to the theater this weekend looking for "Green Zone" to work as an action-thriller, you'll absolutely leave happy. Paul Greengrass brings a master's touch to the chaos and the fury of the Iraqi stage in the days after the American invasion, illustrating how the frustrating search for WMDs leads Captain Roy Miller (Matt Damon) to operate as a one-man wrecking crew, determined to learn the truth at any cost. It is genuinely thrilling, something I'd think would be a pre-requisite for the genre, but so often, we settle for busy instead of exciting, noisy instead of compelling. Greengrass is amazing in terms of how he builds a set piece, and from the opening to the closing, the film is never less than engaging and involving.
It is also frustrating in the sense that Greengrass and his screenwriter Brian Helgeland are looking to make some real-world points about the way the world swallowed a lie, and by turning everyone into composites, by refusing to make a movie that points fingers and names real names, it gets to pretend outrage without having to suffer any real consequence. It is almost timid in the way it scores its political points, something I wouldn't have expected. If that derails the film for you... if you can't get over the idea that Greengrass is more interested in the emotional experience than any sort of factual name-calling... then "Green Zone" could easily be a film that just plain doesn't work for you. That would not surprise me at all.
We discuss his philosophy on shooting an action scene
I can't really claim to know Paul Greengrass, but we've had a few encounters over the years, and I think he's a provocative and fascinating filmmaker, a guy who is pursuing a personal style in a major mainstream way. Talking to him is an exercise in being overwhelmed. Even the person who does my transcriptions after my interviews was a little taken aback. It's a delight to have this sort of conversation with a filmmaker this smart, though. I love that he's this passionate about what he does, and even if he's moved on now from the Bourne series, I'm sure that whatever he does in the future is just as worth your attention as his new film, "Green Zone," is.
I hope you dig this as much as I enjoyed doing this.
Paul Greengrass: Hello?
Drew: Hello, Mr. Greengrass. How are you, sir?
Paul: I’m very, very good. How are you?
Drew: Very good to speak with you again.
Paul: And you. We spoke after "Ultimatum," didn’t we?
Drew: After "Ultimatum," and then I saw you at the early, early screening of "Green Zone" last year.
Paul: Oh, right.
Drew: I have to say, it’s interesting for all the time that’s passed between, it still very much feels like the same film I saw at that point. And it…
Paul: Is that a bad thing?
Drew: Not at all. I really enjoyed it the first time and it just feels like you really squeezed it. Like it just got tighter and…
Two short interviews with the cast of the new Greengrass thriller
As part of the press day for the new Paul Greengrass film "Green Zone," I scheduled phone interviews with both Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan. Their roles in the film aren't huge, but they are pivotal and important, and they are connected. I like both actors a lot, yet this represents the first time speaking to either of them, so it was a good opportunity.
First up was Kinnear, and we jumped right into it:
Greg Kinnear: Hi, Drew.
Drew McWeeny: Hello, Mr. Kinnear. How are you?
Greg: Fine. How’re you doing?
Drew: Good. So is it a compliment to say that you are absolutely detestable in this film?
Greg: Oh, thank you!
Drew: It’s a really tricky role to play, I would think, because you are positively hissable the way Paul positions you in the movie, but you play this guy as an incredibly efficient political animal.
Drew: In getting ready to do this, who do you look at as role models? How do you get ready to play somebody like this?
Dustin Lance Black wrote the picture, currently seeking studio
This is seriously great news.
I'm not always in love with each of Clint Eastwood's movies, but I think he's one of those directors whose no-nonsense approach and tireless work ethic is fascinating. And when it does connect for me, I tend to fall head over heels. In most cases, it just boils down to subject matter.
And believe me... J. Edgar Hoover is about a good a source of material as there is for a biopic.
One of my particular strange avenues of interest over the years has been the history of espionage and intelligence in the United States and around the world. There's something about the notion of how information is gathered and used and turned into currency that I find endlessly fascinating. And if you're interested in that subject, you cannot avoid J. Edgar Hoover. He was hugely important to the way this country's culture developed, both because of what he did and what he struggled to suppress.
Dustin Lance Black, who won the Academy Award for his screenplay for "Milk," has already written the script for producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. They were going to make the film at Universal, but it's in turnaround now, and with Eastwood signing on to direct, a safe assumption would be that the film will end up at Warner Bros.
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe reteam for this new telling of the classic tale
I don't say this to be rude, but I keep forgetting this film is coming out.
I'm not one of those people who bashed "Gladiator" post-Oscars. I thought it was a rousing piece of entertainment the first time I saw it, and I still admire the way Ridley Scott put it all together. I actually prefer the more complex "Kingdom Of Heaven," or at least the director's cut, but I think it's exciting to put Scott and Russell Crowe together again.
I guess the reason I've had trouble mustering much enthusiasm of any sort for this film is because of the story itself. Robin Hood has been told and retold in myriad ways, and I think it's a decent story that's hard to make fresh. Still, the new trailer for this film goes a long way towards selling me on the idea that this is going to be an epic adventure story.
And aside from Russell Crowe, there is a fairly amazing cast here. Mark Strong has quickly become one of the go-to bad guys in Hollywood, and with good reason. He's able to bring nuance to even the broadest of characters, and he's just one of the opponents that Crowe's got to face in the film. There's Prince John (Oscar Isaac) and the Sheriff Of Nottingham (Matthew Macfayden), and it looks like one of the biggest obstacles he's going to face in the film is the incredible strength of this film's Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett).
There are collaborators for Robin as well, including Mark Addy as Friar Tuck and Kevin Durand as Little John. Throw in Danny Huston, William Hurt, and Max Von Sydow, and it's just packed with heavy-hitters.
Ultimately, though, what's going to define this film is the action, and that seems to be on a scale that only someone with the experience that Ridley Scott has would even try to stage.
Enough preamble, though. Check it out for yourself.
Why Hollywood needs to stop listening to fanboys altogether
Right now, all eyes are on "Captain America: The First Avenger," which is the last lynchpin in the ongoing road to "The Avengers," and casting rumors are flying. Cinematical first broke the news that John Krasinski was the top choice for the role, and since then, we've seen the full list of names in consideration leak via Michael Fleming. Now word is that Krasinski has tested twice and that Marvel Studios is pretty much sold on him playing the part.
And, predictably, fanboys are already gnashing their teeth and angrily posting messages in all caps with several exclamation points afterwards.
At what point does the fanboy nation realize that they are terrible at being casting directors? When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker in "The Dark Knight," you would have thought he had broken into their homes and pooped on their grandmothers. Oh, the outrage. Oh, the tears. If they'd had their way, Crispin Glover would have played the part that eventually won Ledger an Academy Award, and which has now become the iconic version of the character. It reminds me of how with my own children, both still under the age of five, any time I suggest we try to eat something they've never eaten before or watch a movie they've never seen before, they protest and cry and resist, absolutely sure they're going to hate it, only to reverse their opinion after they actually try whatever it is. It would be funny if it didn't waste so much time and energy on something that seems inevitable.