Aaron Eckhart is a good egg.
And he just happens to be having a great run of luck right now. His work in last year's amazing "Rabbit Hole" just destroyed me. As a father, imagining myself in his character's shoes in that movie was almost too much to take. And the way he navigated the performance without ever going for the easy beats, the cheap sympathy, was genuinely impressive.
I still remember the experience of seeing "In The Company Of Men" in the theater when it first came out and watching the way people reacted to him. It was a star-making performance, but as a world-class asshole, and I think there are people who simply assumed he had to be that guy.
Over time, what I've been impressed by is the solid matter-of-fact adulthood that Eckhart represents in an age where so many of our actors are boyish well into their 40s. Eckhart has never seemed like a boy. Not once. He's a throwback to an age where movie stars had some miles on them, where they were real men, and he brings that same quality to his work in the new film "Battle: Los Angeles," where he is the staff sergeant to a group of marines who find themselves navigating the mean streets of Santa Monica during a military emergency involving aliens from space.
Aaron Eckhart is a good egg.
Why do we share movies with our children?
It's a question worth asking as I finally return to this column. It's the question that originally motivated me to turn this into a regular feature on the site, but we've never actually discussed that idea head-on.
So why? What is it that I hope to accomplish by sharing movies with my little boys? I think for some people, maybe even many people, TV and movies are just placeholders, something to have on, and there's very little thought that goes into it. People seem to trust brand names and take the path of least resistance when it comes to picking what they show their kids. Anything Disney gets an automatic pass, and there are channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network that people seem happy to turn on and just trust without watching along with their kids.
And I've met people who are genuinely good-hearted about trying to mold their kids into carbon copies of themselves, tiny mirrors of their own taste. There's no malice in it, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not for me. I feel strongly that my job is to educate my kids about what images mean, to set a context for them so they can deal with what they watch, and to lay out a buffet of choices, then help them follow their own interests.
We went back for seconds.
It is unusual for me to see a movie twice before it opens, but in this case, I took Toshi, my five-year-old, with me to see the film before I went to the press junket, and we had a great evening out with it. With my younger son, Allen, he's never seen a film in the theater, and he turns three years old today, March 4. Ever since that first "Rango" trailer showed up online and he demanded to see it about 300 times in a weekend, I realized that we would have to make this his first film in the theater. Then I started hearing word that the film was "too weird" for littler kids, and I decided I needed to check it out first, with Toshi along as a sort of barometer.
It's funny, because Toshi is interested in monsters, so of course his little brother is interested in monsters, too. If Toshi watches a Godzilla film, then Allen has to see the Godzilla film. If Toshi gets to see the Lon Chaney "Wolf Man," then Allen gets to see it. And watching the two of them during these films, Toshi is the one who has to hide his eyes and who gets visibly nervous and who asked me to turn off "Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" 45 minutes in because it was too scary. Allen never averts his eyes. He never flinches. He leans in closer during the scary parts, and several times, I've seen him smack Toshi and yell "LOOK!" because Toshi was missing something cool.
It's not that it is difficult for me to put the podcast together after Scott and I record it, because it's not. All told, I'd guess it takes about 30 minutes to edit one of these after I record it. Start to finish.
The problem is setting aside the time to do it as other stories are breaking or deadlines hit or family demands arise. There are screenings to attend, things to write, and the podcast sometimes sits on my desktop, taunting me.
That's what happened this week. And I'm sorry. It's a good one. In particular, I really like the interview with Emily Blunt this week. She is effortlessly charming in conversation, and she really likes "The Adjustment Bureau," the new film she's in. You can tell. It's a very shaggy, amiable back and forth about fate and love and Dick and Damon, a potent cocktail to say the least.
In honor of the release of "The Adjustment Bureau," based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, my guest host Scott Swan and I played a particularly Dick-centric round of Movie God, and my guess is that some of you are going to be angry about the films we choose to keep or kill in the game this time around, and hopefully you'll be entertained by the way we tied each round of the game in to the week's theme.
VANCOUVER - One of the things that became evident as we walked around the sets and production offices for Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" was the many different skill sets that each actress would have to draw on as they played each facet of their character.
There are three different levels of reality at work in the film, and the characters are slightly different in each level, refracted back through the imagination of Baby Doll (Emily Browning). As a result, finding something that united each version of the characters became very important to the girls in the movie.
For Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone), the thing that they focused on was their bond as sisters. In the film, Rocket was the one who ran away from home first, and Sweet Pea followed, determined to take care of her sister no matter what. And in each of the fantasy segments of the film, that same drive is present, and crucial.
When we sat down with the two of them, it was the day of Jena shooting her big musical number. And when I say that, I'm sure many of you reply, "Wait… musical number? They have MUSICAL NUMBERS?" One of the major sets I mentioned in my first set visit report was "The Theater," which is a gymnasium of sorts in the first level of reality and a giant plush theater in the second level. In that level, each of the girls working at the brothel has a personalized burlesque number that defines them, and they had to train just as hard for those sequences as they did for the action scenes. We'll get into that near the end of the conversation.
I feel bad about rushing this one, since it's the first time I've written about "Hunger Games" here on the site, but I promise this is a conversation that is just beginning.
When any series blows up and becomes a big buzz hit and gets purchased by Hollywood and suddenly seems to be everywhere, I do my best to read the source material so I can speak with some sort of knowledge about it. It's the least you can do when you're covering pop culture the way I do. And frequently, I find myself underwhelmed by whatever it is, as I did with "Twilight," for example, or irritated by the material or by some subtext or by the fanbase itself.
With "Hunger Games," you can count me in.
I think the books are very well-written, very smart, and the characters are worth investing in. When you look at the range of ages the producers are considering as they start casting, it makes sense, because Suzanne Collins hasn't really made things easy on the people making the films. Her lead character, Katniss Everdeen, is a sixteen year old with the maturity of someone in her mid-twenties but who physically could be mistaken for younger. And she's got to be physically striking, a romantic lead but not an obvious one, and capable of carrying an action film.
Yeah, good luck with that.
The first call I had to make when I read the news that "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace" now has a release date of February 10, 2012, was my co-writer Scott Swan, who is the purest "Star Wars" fan I know.
Sure enough, he was excited to hear that this is the official kick-off date for what we already knew was coming, a film-by-film re-release of the entire "Star Wars" saga for 3D screens. The thing is, if they were releasing the films in their original theatrical order, I would wait and show Toshi the movies in the theater for the first time. But since they're starting with "The Phantom Menace," I'm going to break down and show him the films on Blu-ray this fall instead, in the order I prefer.
It's funny… with "Star Wars," no matter what you write or what you say, there will immediately be someone who wants to argue the point with you. That's where we've ended up with the series. They are little more than fodder for nerd arguments at this point. I'm amazed at people who walk around ready to immediately spew venom at every mention of the prequels, as if it's a fresh wound that has never healed, and who still insist that the films in some way robbed them of something. The anger, the rage… it's almost terrifying to even mention the series in certain company because of just how violent the reaction can be.
The 'quarter life crisis,' or the period of crippling doubt about ones life choices that many of us have in our mid 20's is a phenomenon rarely focused on in cinema. Sure, Hollywood loves teen angst of both the John Hughes and Wes Craven variety, and the baby boomers make sure we live their never ending mid-life crisis through Woody Allen and… well anything with Kevin Costner in it. So it's a treat to see the subject of post-college anxiety broached in the period comedy set in the 80s that is "Take Me Home Tonight."
I got to sit down with producer/star Topher Grace and costar/bombshell Teresa Palmer a few weeks back. I was running late that day and didn't have a chance to put on a cheesy 80's costume the press people were providing and Topher may have been a little perturbed at me for not playing along. Or perhaps I simply felt his nervousness about the film, as he's been shepherding this movie since long before it wrapped filming in 2007. (It was apparently kept on the shelf because of the copious cocaine use that simply could not be cut out without decimating the film.)
The film is a very solid comedy, reminiscent of Linklaters' "Dazed and Confused" which Grace references as an inspiration for this project which the two stars seemed very eager to talk about. Poor Teresa Palmer was born in 1986 and so didn't 'get' to live the time period, and I do not feel bad for her at all. As a gen X'er, I do remember the 80s and I certainly don't miss them, but a nostalgic look back like "Take Me Home Tonight" won't hurt anyone.
Watch the interview embedded above and you can check out "Take Me Home Tonight" when it hits theaters this Friday, March 4th in theaters everywhere.
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THOUSAND OAKS - If you look at one scene in the trailer for the new comedy "Bridesmaids," you'll see Annie Mumolo for a quick moment. Mumolo is the co-writer of the film, and she's the longtime creative collaborator of Kristen Wiig. Since Wiig is playing a character named Annie in the film, it would seem logical to ask the two of them, when we sat down on the set of the film, how much of it was based in autobiography.
Mumolo replied, "We originally got the idea after I was in a series of, like, 20 weddings." Wiig laughed, and from the quick look Mumolo gave her, I'm guessing there were a lot of dark laughs shared during that time period, and that the script has been a comic exorcism of sorts for Mumolo.
We found ourselves seated across a ballroom table from Wiig and Mumolo in a room at the Sherwood Country Club at the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley, on a hot July night, with tons of extras waiting outside for a night shoot. It was a small group of journalists, and we spoke with pretty much everyone between set-ups on a scene in which Annie (Wiig) speaks with her friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) in the front driveway of the country club.
Mumolo confessed that being in that many weddings in a short period of time had a cumulative impact on her, and not a good one. She said it was important that she write a film about the real dynamics between women, and about the impact of things like getting an invite for a wonderful sounding wedding she couldn't afford to go to, and how demoralizing that was.
I missed a screening last week of "The Lincoln Lawyer," and based on the surprised word of mouth I've heard from the people who went to see it, I should be sorry about that.
Michael Connelly is a great crime writer, and it's a good sign that he's been actively involved in the promotion of the film so far. He and Matthew McConaughey both hosted the screening last week, and I would have liked to have spoken with him about how this one came together. He's one of those guys who should be a bigger commodity for movies than he is, and if this one works, maybe it'll kick loose the logjam finally.
Devin Faraci seemed shocked to like the film as much as he did. That's interesting, because Devin tends to reject formula in an almost reflexive way, so I'm guessing this works based on casting. In addition to McConaughey, the cast includes Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, John Leguizamo, William Macy, Bryan Cranston, Shea Whigham, Michael Pena, and Margarita Levieva. That's a promising line-up, and in Connelly's fiction, he writes great supporting characters, so hopefully everybody's got something great to do in the film.
We've got a number of new clips for the film loaded into our media player right now, which you can see here, and we've also got two new stills that are exclusive to the site. First up is McConaughey as Mick Haller, sitting opposite Ted Minton, played by Josh Lucas: