Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Plus Ratchet & Clank return to the PS3 and Criterion does 'Z'
I look at this picture, and I too have a plan involving Grace Park and Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer, only mine would end with tears and an arrest and much public shame, so perhaps we'll let that go.
Credit: Universal Home Video
Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for October 27, 2009.
It's sort of a thin week all the way around, but the highlights are worthwhile, and so let's do this as quickly and efficiently as we can, since I just realized that I'm pretty much in motion and running around from now until Saturday morning without stop.
THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:
"Battlestar Galactica: The Plan" (BluRay/DVD)
I'm a fan of the reboot of "Galactica," but having said that, I have the final season here in the house and haven't watched it yet. I think part of me just doesn't want to be done with the show, so I've delayed and put it off andas a result, this film arrived at my house on BluRay, and I can't watch it yet because I don't want to ruin the last season. Although Edward James Olmos told anyone who would listen this week at the DVD junket that he hopes there will be more "Galactica" films with this cast, this may well be the real last hurrah as the producers turn their attention to "Caprica." As a result, this final puzzle piece for fans has some significance to the series overall, even if it wasn't attempting to explain all the gaps in the Cylon mythology as established over the show's run.
"The Prisoner: The Complete Series" (BluRay/DVD)
My favorite TV show ever, "The Prisoner" was Patrick McGoohan's response to his long and successful run on "Secret Agent," which was known here in the States as "Secret Agent Man." He decided to take the spy series and turn it inside out, building a limited-run series about a retired spy who is kidnapped to The Village, a mysterious place run by mysterious people. Unsure if it's his own side or his enemies who have abducted him, Number Six finds himself struggling for escape each week, and barring that, struggling to at least hold on to his identity.
How much does James Cameron encourage media's attitude to him?
Zoe ('Star Trek') Saldana as the alien being Naytiri in James Cameron's new megascale SF adventure, 'Avatar'
Credit: 20th Century Fox
I really dig the still you're looking at next to this article. I love the sense of motion, the tactile qualities of it. The high-res version is a thing of wonder, really. I'm sorry, but as an FX nerd AND as a sci-fi/world building nerd, I am absolutely loving this so far.
I am well aware that there are a lot of people who are at this point gunning for Cameron and the film, and a good deal of those people are in the critical community and in the media. And my guess is that Cameron is well aware of the attitude, and that he really doesn't care. I even get the sense he encourages some of the bigger "Evil Jim" stories. I would once I got a reputation as a legendary world-beating sonofabitch. I wish I was a big enough personality to cultivate that. I envy Cameron his ability to give the finger to pretty much everyone and everything and just pursue a massive personal vision. Live or die, succeed or fail, when "Avatar" hits screens on December 18th, you can believe that what you're seeing is James Cameron's baby.
I love, though, how quick everyone was to come to the defense of Poul Anderson and his short story "Call Me Joe" after iO9 ran their article today. Almost immediately, by mid-morning, the court case was over, Cameron was guilty, and the conversation had already moved into the damages stage. "I wonder if they'll change the title to 'Poul Anderson's Avatar'".
In which we discuss rewards, punishment, and golden tickets
Charlie (Peter Ostrum) finds the last golden ticket in one of the many magical moments from 1971's 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,' now on BluRay
Credit: Warner Home Video
Welcome to Film Nerd 2.0, an ongoing look at my relationship with my first son, Toshiro, and his relationship to media of all types, particularly the stuff that I grew up with as I pass it along to him.
It's been a rough two weeks to be Toshi.
He's four now, so he's got typical four-year-old issues, and since he's not really able to articulate those issues or feelings yet, he's obviously trying to vent.
It sort of cracks me up that a four year old could have anxiety over things like pre-school or playtime or coloring, but of course they can. Tension and anxiety happen for any number of reasons, and when you react only to a kid's behavior, you're sort of trying to juggle water. Things are constantly shifting. Toshi's got competition in the house now for people's attention thanks to his adorable nineteen-month-old brother Allen, who has recently become self-aware of said adorabilosity, and who works it shamelessly.
Like I said... the last few weeks have been particularly rough. Since media in my house is a privilege, not a god-given right, Toshi's been benched from absolutely everything cool.
"You're grounded from cool, buddy," is exactly what I told him, and he knows that means a lockdown on everything except vintage "Sesame Street" on DVD or bedtime stories at night. Those are always okay.
He's trying. I know he is. He's had a few tearful heart to heart conversations with me. He's just got an itch he can't scratch. So as we approached the weekend at the end of a whole lot of bad days, I decided we needed to cut him a break.
As I sat down to write the beginning of this column, I had a plan for the weekend, and a list of directives for myself: I've got to give him a taste of the promised land if I expect him to work harder. I've got to give him a weekend that is the weekend he aspires to have every weekend. The weekend he's got to earn.
Plus first 'A-Team' photo, Haggis quits Scientology, and Richard Kelly guest-blogs
Bradley Cooper, 'Rampage' Jackson, Sharlto Copely, and Liam Neeson are the stars of Joe Carnahan's movie version of the '80s TV series 'The A-Team'
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Welcome to The Morning Read.
It's funny the way Twitter works... it's such a loose, conversational platform for conversation that what ends up happening is people say things that they might never say in a more formal environment. It's great when you're following people who happen to be talking about things that interest you intensely like... ohhhhh, let's say "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World."
Jason Reitman and Edgar Wright were obviously separated at birth, so it makes sense that once they were finally reunited, they became fast friends, and recently, when Reitman was in London for the London Film Festival premiere of the excellent "Up In The Air," Wright took him to a secret location and showed him a half-hour of "Scott Pilgrim," swearing him to secrecy.
Obviously secrecy doesn't involve Twitter. Thank god.
Here's what Reitman had to say:
In London, @edgarwright showed me 30min of Scott Pilgrim. While sworn to secrecy (so much, surprised blood wasn't demanded) I will say this: It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than Ive seen in recent cinema. SP does what everyone our age has been dreaming about: achieves the first all encompassing film of the joystick generation. I'm in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a "Matrix" for love and how willing we are to fight for it. If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it. Hats off my friend. Can't get it out of my head.
Great. Now I just have to tell myself to calm down for a year or so. Should be no problem at all, right?
What else is going on out there this morning?
Can the 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' scribe bring pulp back?
Lester Dent's pulp hero 'Doc Savage' could be headed back to the bigscreen thanks to Shane Black and Sony Pictures
Credit: Boris Vallejo
Okay... now is the moment on "Sprockets" when I celebrate.
Normally I'd go into a deep, depressive, near-catatonic state at the news of someone taking a shot at "Doc Savage," since I dearly love these books and it's been a longtime dream of mine to get my own chance to bring Doc and his team of friends to life on the bigscreen.
But if Shane Black's the guy with the gig right now, consider me stone-cold thrilled to just sit on the sidelines, because I have a feeling if anyone can get the character right, he can.
There have been many attempts to bring "Doc Savage" to the screen over the years, and for a while, one of the best candidates was the script that David Leslie Johnson developed under the supervision of Frank Darabont. That script understood the tone of the original Lester Dent stories, and they understood the appeal of the material. Reading that script actually made me think "Doc Savage" could work on film in a way that the George Pal version convinced me it could not.
So of course it didn't get made.
Last I heard, Michael Uslan was the producer on the film and Michael Chabon was the guy writing it, which sort of bummed me out. I like Chabon as a novelist quite a bit, but I think as a screenwriter, and particularly as a screenwriter of pulpy fun material, he's a bust. I hated his "Spider-Man" work, and I think he's a perfect example of a guy who loves certain material but who has no knack for actually creating it. Much like me and horror films, if you agree with my most vocal critics.
Will they update the classic musical with an Emma Thompson script?
Kiera Knightley is rumored to have won the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle in an upcoming film version of 'My Fair Lady'
Credit: AP Photo
If this is all confirmed, this becomes a major upcoming project, one worth noting now.
Keira Knightley and Joe Wright have had a very successful collaboration so far on both "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement," and both of them have benefitted from those successes. The two of them working together on anything becomes news by virtue of their track record together.
But the two of them working together on "My Fair Lady" with a screenplay by Emma Thompson?
That is news. Really, really good news.
I've liked Wright more than his material so far, but I think "My Fair Lady" is a really tough, funny, smart musical, with a huge book and a huge song score, so this time out, I don't think I'm going to have a problem with the material. It's ambitious. You can't just be a good singer or a good actor to pull it off, you've got to be GREAT! And at BOTH! And not just good. Not just very good. GREAT!
Because that's the kind of show it is. So casting is a big deal. According to The Telegraph, Scarlett Johansson was in the running to play Eliza Doolittle until very recently, when Kiera Knightley decisively won the role from her. The same article implies that Daniel Craig is the current choice to play Henry Higgins.
Dark Castle thriller sets female leads and a start date
It's a real shame that January Jones and Diane Kruger are both so homely... imagine how much work they'd get if only they were as beautiful as they are talented
It seems like a very good time to be either January Jones or Diane Kruger.
For Jones, her ongoing role as Betty Draper on "Mad Men" has given her one of the best-written women's roles in either film or television, and she's more than proven up to the challenge over the course of the three seasons of the show so far. She is the best example of the archetype of the suburban housewife on the edge of madness that I've ever seen, and I think she manages to bring real nuance and depth to the role, week after week after week.
For Kruger, her introduction to Hollywood was a rough one. The role of Helen in "Troy" was chased by every actress in town, but the film was a stiff, and Kruger seemed really overwhelmed by the size of the production. She's been in the "National Treasure" movies since then, but for the most part, she seemed like she was being boxed in, given eye candy roles that had no substance at all. That seems to have changed, though, due to her sensational work as Bridget Von Hammersmark in this summer's surprise hit "Inglourious Basterds."
Now the two of them are going to co-star opposite Liam Neeson in "Unknown White Male," a new thriller from Dark Castle and Warner Bros that is set to be directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, whose most recent film "Orphan" divided audiences, but which has been a subject of conversation almost continuously since it came out.
Is Zombie horror's great hope or proof of the genre's decline? Depends who you ask.
Suzi X, voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie, is alarmed by the bad touch of Captain Spaulding, voiced by Sid Haig, in Rob Zombie's twisted 'The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto'
Credit: Starz Media
Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.
My absolute favorite thing about Rob Zombie?
On his IMDb page, under "alternate names," he actually has a fake middle name. Robert Wolfgang Zombie. That is endlessly funny.
Rob Zombie as a filmmaker embodies many of the things that I think are endemic of fandom at large right now, both in his work and in the reaction that work seems to elicit, both positive and negative. As a result, I think it's silly for any critic to dismiss Zombie out-of-hand, just as I think it's silly for anyone to proclaim him one of the greats, or even argue that the work he's done so far is across-the-board significant.
I didn't review "Halloween 2" when it opened because, frankly, I wasn't invited to see it before it opened. Fair enough. I paid. And at the time, I didn't know if I'd even bother writing about it, but since 'tis the season, I thought I'd take a look at the state of Zombie's career in general as one of the HorrorFest entries.
I haven't spent a ton of time writing about Rob Zombie as a filmmaker so far, but on those occasions I have, I think it's been fair, different from film to film. I liked "House Of 1000 Corpses" and thought it was an effective piece of side-of-the-road porno-funhouse fluff. I thought "The Devil's Rejects" was better. Not genius, but solid, upsetting, and it seemed to indicate that he was growing from film to film. I was interested to see what sort of original stuff he had planned.
And then it's like he chickened out.
Another 'classic' TV movie from the '70s revisited
Scott Jacoby plays the title character in the '70s TV cult film 'Bad Ronald'
Credit: Warner Archives
Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.
One of the earliest titles I did in this series this month was a look at the Warner Archives release of "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark," a '70s TV movie that has a passionate cult audience that remembers the film from childhood. The other title they sent me at the same time has a similar nostalgic charge for audiences, and again, I knew the film by name and reputation, but I never saw it back when it originally aired, so I came to it fresh.
"Bad Ronald" is one of those films that I've had many people mention to me over the years as a film that terrified them when they saw it, and that they would love to own or to see again. My advice to those people is to leave it as a memory, because I doubt it's going to terrify anyone who sees it now. It's not a bad film, per se, but it's also not very scary. More than anything, it's a sad little film about a kid who makes one terrible choice and then pays for it with everything he has.
Scott Jacoby stars as Ronald Wilby, a high school outsider who lives with his mother. His dad is long-since-gone, having accepted a payoff of $30,000 from his mother to just disappear and never come back. Ronald's a fantasy-minded kid, constantly drawing and imagining his own magical kingdom, but he knows that his mother wants him to grow up to be a doctor. He loves her and wants to do what she asks, but he's also trying to find a way to reach out to his peers and be part of the group.
On the afternoon of his birthday, he goes to see a neighbor he's got a crush on, and when she rejects him in front of a bunch of friends, mid-pool party, Ronald storms off. He runs into her younger sister on the way home, and when she calls him "weird" and insults his mother, he snaps, and he throws her off her bike. She hits her head on a concrete block, and when Ronald realizes she's dead, he makes the worst choice of his life. He buries her, then heads home to tell his mother what he's done.
How much difference does the unrated BluRay make?
Alison Lohman really doesn't understand the concept of a relaxing mud bath in Sam Raimi's spook-a-blast 'Drag Me To Hell'
Credit: Universal Home Video
Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.
So why did I circle back around to discuss "Drag Me To Hell" one last time this year? I reviewed it out of SXSW, I wrote about it again when it came out theatrically, and now, it's on DVD and BluRay, and I could easily just put it in my weekly DVD column and be done with it.
But a big part of the marketing on this home video release is that this is the "Unrated" version, promising a whole new crazy revamp of the moviet that will be much harder, much wilder. That's the come-on, right? Whenever you see any movie on home video that is "unrated," aren't they sort of implying that what you're going to see if you watch this verion is a film that no theater could handle?
What's the truth, then? Is "Drag Me To Hell" significantly different in its unrated form?
You could just compare running times. You'll notice a different of five or six minutes sometimes, or when you're lucky a huge difference, like whole subplots or major scenes reinstated. But with "Drag Me To Hell," the running times between the two versions are identical. To the minute. So... what's the deal?
It was Stephen Sommers who explained it to me one time, and ever since then, I've kept what he said in mind and paid attention to films that straddle that PG-13/R line, and I think he's right. He said that as he was tweaking "The Mummy" for the ratings board, it became clear to him that the thing that made the difference in the rating was how wet something was. He shows a fair amount of violence in the "Mummy" films, but because he keeps most of the violence dry, using either no blood or blood that is any color but red, he is able to get away with more. If he made the exact same film and then added wet red blood, it would tip his film into the R category easily. Sam Raimi seems to be well aware of the rules, and when you compare the two cuts, what you come away with is a solid education in just how arbitrary the MPAA's rules truly are.