I am of mixed mind about the glut of superhero cinema right now, and this summer is going to test the patience of the audience with the genre.
In the comments section for my "Transformers" piece yesterday, Vern posted a few times, invoking the image of Pauline Kael trying to write about the current landscape of movies. And it's both very funny and a nice humbling reminder that critics are defined by their overall diet of movies. We are only ever as good as the movies we are given to write about, and when I'm done with all of this in the future, will the sum total of my work be varying opinions about how well people crafted movies that primarily deal with dudes in funny costumes beating the hell out of each other?
The thing is, part of me has been waiting my whole life to see the Marvel characters in particular brought to life on the bigscreen. Now that they're actually doing it, there is a great deal of satisfaction in seeing how they approach each of the characters, and even if I haven't loved all of the films, it's been exciting to watch these things come to fruition. And I am happy to admit that I'm an easy mark for this sort of thing. I have a voracious appetite for pulp, and I'm not sold on the idea that these movies need to be "important". On the other hand, if they're not fun, they don't really have any reason to exist. These films cost a small fortune, especially if you want to make the outrageous seem possible, and that sets up the expectation that they must be bigger and more significant than the average issue of a comic book… even if that's all these films really are.
I am of mixed mind about the glut of superhero cinema right now, and this summer is going to test the patience of the audience with the genre.
I think it's safe to say that there are many people who openly dislike "Transformers 2: Revenge Of The Fallen." And, after sitting with him for a half-hour yesterday to talk about the third chapter in the giant robots franchise, I'd say Michael Bay is one of those people.
And just wait till you see his apology.
There will be a new trailer for "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" that appears in front of "Fast Five" next weekend, and Thursday morning, a small group of us met at Paramount to see the trailer, a chunk of scenes from the movie, and a 3D sizzle reel. And the trailer is, in a word, outrageous. The scale of this film is so different than what I thought it was that I'm almost at a loss to describe it. It's not even the same genre as the first two "Transformers" films. This time out, Bay is making a full-blown alien invasion movie that just happens to use Autobots and Decepticons, and the result looks like the craziest action movie ride this summer.
And, yes, I'm prepared to say that after just one presentation. I've certainly had my problem with some of Bay's films over the years, but he is as in love with pure action for the sake of action as any filmmaker working right now, and it looks to me like he's gone out of his way here to build scenes that no one's ever done before. It also looks like he's embraced the idea of 3D as a tool to enhance those action scenes, and like he's having fun with the pure little-boy-game of imagining giant robot mayhem this time.
I am not a collector.
Not really. I certainly have my share of items here in the house that celebrate or commemorate my lifelong passion for film, but I don't spend much money on shirts or toys or posters right now, because if I did, my wife would kill me with a rock while I was sleeping. We've got school to pay for, a new car to buy, and a million other obligations, not even taking our mortgage into account. Yet if I had spare cash just laying around, I guarantee a good percentage of it would end up in the pockets of Justin Ishmael and the rest of the guys behind Mondo.
I remember the Mondo Tees that was part of the original Drafthouse, and it's hard to believe that the business it is today grew out of those humble beginnings, but I shouldn't be surprised. After all, Mondo is another of the charmed businesses in the orbit of Tim League, and a big part of why he's been so successful is because he goes above and beyond to make each exhibition experience special. That philosophy seems to be a big part of the creation process behind the posters that are now the main cultural output of Mondo, posters created by artists like Tyler Stout and Oly Moss. Now that Mondo is licensing titles, they're able to create amazing art for these films we collectively love, posters that should have been used in theaters, but that would have never been approved by studios.
What I love most is that these posters manage to sum up why we love a film in very simple fashion, and tonight, there's an event going on where they'll premiere an incredibly limited-run poster. It was announced as a secret screening, and it's only once the lights go down that the audience will discover they're seeing the anime classic "Akira."
As long as I've been working online, there have been "Scream" movies to cover.
I remember the frenzy around "Scream 2," the desperate rush to figure out what Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were doing with the movie, the fake scripts that were leaked to the Internet. And from the start of our conversation, it's apparent that David Arquette remembers those days as well.
It's been a long time since that happened, though, and in the time since, both the Internet and David Arquette have changed quite a bit.
It's a weird podcast this week. Scott and I digressed a bit as we were running down this weak in home video, and we spent almost a full hour on the first part of the podcast. I tried to torture him with this week's round of Movie God, but I failed completely because the more we talked, the clearer it became to both of us: we are not Wes Craven fans.
We'll get into it in the episode, but it's one of those things I hate bringing up because Craven's got such a major reputation in the world of horror, and in person, he's a pretty great guy. Smart, charming, with a wealth of interests, he's one of those guys who is always impressive in conversation, and yet, looking at his career as a whole, I have trouble wrapping my head around how he built that reputation.
Hobbits and WETA and "Apes," oh my!
Okay, I won't lie. Watching the production diary for "The Hobbit" was tremendously exciting. Three years of promise starts right now, really. Three years of curiosity and teases and glimpses and marketing, done the way really only Peter Jackson has ever mastered online. Nobody else has ever done for a giant blockbuster the same level of outreach, something that Jackson and the amazing New Line team orchestrated on "Lord Of The Rings" and that Jackson did again with Universal on "King Kong." And Peter Jackson standing in Bag End in 3D glasses is a mighty cheeky way to kick things off.
If the "Rings" films mean anything to you, there are some incredible things on display here. Goblin tunnels? Beneath the Misty Mountains? OMG. OMFG. And if you don't know the story of "The Hobbit," then let me just say that you've got some wonderful adventure storytelling ahead of you. I love Tolkien's giant triple-play, but I've always thought that "The Hobbit" is one of the best adventure stories ever written, self-contained and self-explanatory and just plain fun. Thrilling. Evocative. Suggestive. And beautiful.
Oh, lord… Ian McKellan. 13 dwarves. Martin Freeman. Andy Serkis in the make-up chair. WHO AM I KIDDING? It's fantastic. And the local New Zealand first day of filming blessing of the soundstages. I love where they chose to start the shoot. What a great thing to dig into, and now they've given themselves the rest of the process to nail down the performance in one of the most important and iconic scenes in the entire story.
It is, to say the least, good news to hear that Sony and MGM have worked out a deal for not one but two new James Bond movies.
There's been speculation about this possibility before now, but the confirmation today should be enough to make James Bond fans around the world relax now. I have to say I was genuinely upset at the idea that we might not see more of this new Daniel Craig version of the character. I know plenty of people who dislike this approach to the franchise, but I figure we've had decades of smarmy jokey Roger Moore style Bond films, and it's nice to finally have a Bond that makes me feel like someone actually read an Ian Fleming novel at some point.
I like the story that has been developing over the course of the Craig films so far. "Casino Royale" was a very strong introduction, and now, I can hope that on November 9, 2012, I'll be seeing the next chapter in that story. We've been building towards some answers regarding whatever the organization is that has been pulling the strings in the first film and in "Quantum Of Solace," and it feels like MGM and Sony, knowing they're making "Bond 23" and "Bond 24" together, can wrap that story up if they want to now.
The big picture relevance of today's press release is that Sony and MGM are now looking at a five year deal where they will be co-financing and releasing films together.
Welcome to The Afternoon Read.
I don't have a problem with Bradley Cooper signing on to play The Crow because of any special feelings I have about The Crow. It's more because it sounds like an amazing bit of career suicide just as things are heating up for Cooper. For one thing, no matter who plays the part, they're going to be compared to Brandon Lee, and that's a sucker's game. Lee's work in the Alex Proyas original is the very definition of a star-making performance, and there's not a lot of character to the character. It's a make-up job, a sulk, and some violence. I hope this is just an early round of the casting guessing game, and not something Cooper's really close to actually doing. But when Borys Kit uses terms like "in early negotiations," that's very specific, and frankly, in this case, sort of terrifying. Relativity, which just had a surprise hit with Cooper's movie "Limitless," seems determined to move quickly on this one, and with this casting news, it sounds like they're off to a really weird start.
So, uh, they appear to have discovered a new elementary particle, which cold possibly change our understanding of the properties of matter. Nothing major.
It is interesting enough to simply report that it looks like Tom Cruise is going to star for Joseph Kosinski in the big-budget PG-13 science-fiction action film "Horizons" for Universal.
But when you look at the decisions surrounding this decision, it's downright fascinating, and very revealing in terms of studio politics and the overall agendas for what is or isn't getting made right now.
"Horizons" was originally titled "Oblivion," and it was set-up while Kosinski was still in production on "TRON: Legacy." At the time, the buzz was high on Kosinski and his sequel to the 1982 cult hit, and he went around town with his Radical Comics presentation and, in the end, Disney decided that they wanted to be in the Kosinski business in a big way. That appears to be a decision they have since reversed, but I think it says less about Kosinski than it does about Disney right now, and in a sort of off-handed way, I think it says a lot about what we can expect from "John Carter Of Mars".
After all, when Disney says that they're letting "Horizons" go in turn-around because they weren't comfortable making a PG-13 action film, I don't think that's untrue. They seem to be focused on making their films skew younger and younger right now, and while they're certainly comfortable with adventure films like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, those walk a fine line in how rough they're willing to play. And while "TRON: Legacy" did eventually break $400 million at the worldwide box-office, it was a preposterously expensive film for Disney, and I'm guessing that if the Disney team was asked to make that decision again now, knowing what they know, they wouldn't do it again. I've been hearing for a while that "John Carter" is being played much younger, more as an adventure, toning down many of the more extreme elements of the Burroughs series.
Your reaction to "Scream 4" will depend largely on your reaction to the "Scream" series as a whole.
When the original "Scream" came out, I was not among the people who went nuts for it. I don't hate the film or anything, but it doesn't do much for me. As a horror film, I think it's flat, and as a mystery, I don't think it plays fair. I'm not the sort of person who enjoys being nudged in the ribs by references to other movies and pop culture, and much of the charge the film enjoyed came from the way it riffed on the rules of horror films.
What I've come to realize in the years since the film's release is that it was an important gateway drug for an entire generation of people who had never seen a horror film of any sort. And for those people, the last ten years has probably seemed like a very long time to wait between movies. For them, I think the wait will end up being worth it, because "Scream 4" feels to me like the most direct sequel to the first film, both thematically and stylistically, and I think it's one of the most confident films in Wes Craven's filmography.
That brings me to my next point, and I want to tread lightly here. Wes Craven's got a big reputation, and I'm not sure I understand why. I quite like the original "Nightmare On Elm Street," and I'm pretty fond of "The Serpent And The Rainbow," but aside from that, I am sort of mystified by Craven overall. He is, at best, a wildly uneven filmmaker. It's almost unfathomable to me to that same person who directed last year's "My Soul To Take" was also the director of this film. It doesn't even seem technically possible. Then again, "Scream" is only half-Craven. The other half is Kevin Williamson, and while there was some work done by Ehren Kruger on the script, you can feel Williamson's fingerprints all over it.
"Cloud Atlas" is one of those films that I forget is inching its way towards production until I see mention of it go by, and then I'm struck anew by just how odd the entire endeavor appears to be.
Now Tom Hanks is onboard to star in the film, which Andy and Lana Wachowski are working with Tom Tykwer to write and direct the film, and just that configuration of talent alone makes it sound like one of the strangest things in development anywhere right now.
Previously, we've heard names like Halle Berry and James McAvoy and Natalie Portman attached to this project, and it's been in development for so long that we've seen cast members come and go. Now, though, it sounds like it's finally going to happen in September, and it sounds like Focus Films has come onboard to help finance the movie.
It's a good week for long-suffering films that are finally stumbling towards production. I'm excited to see what happens with "World War Z," which Bleeding Cool claims has hired Robert Richardson as cinematographer. Allegedly, he's in London scouting locations now and gearing up for a shoot that will start soon. God, I hope that's true. It was just recently that we heard the entire film was in peril, but now it looks like Marc Forster's adaptation of the exceptional Max Brooks novel could be in production almost immediately.