Oh, my goodness… is that our first look at Moriarty?
It's going to be a week of big trailer debuts, evidently. There will allegedly be a teaser for the artist formerly known as "John Carter Of Mars" at some point this week, and I'm curious to see if Disney kicks off their trailer campaign with more confidence than the confusing poster campaign. There's also a new "Tintin" trailer landing this week, and I'm dying to get a better look at the world and the characters.
Obviously, these new trailers are coming out this week because they're all going to be attached to the front of "Harry Potter And The Box-Office Bonanza" this weekend, and I think one of the trailers you can absolutely count on seeing is the first one for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows," the sequel to Guy Ritchie's interpretation of the classic characters, and I'm really curious to see how Ritchie handles this one considering that in the time since he released his first film, the BBC series "Sherlock" premiered to rave reviews and has, for many people, become the definitive modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest creation.
Oh, my goodness… is that our first look at Moriarty?
One of the earliest memories I have of me inside a movie theater involves "Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too," the 1974 short subject that I saw with my folks in front of "The Island At The Top Of The World." I was already familiar with the characters from books my parents had in the house, and watching them come to life onscreen was magical. A few years later, all of the "Pooh" short subjects were put together as a feature film called "The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh," and even though that was the same year I discovered "Star Wars" and some slightly more adult thrills in the theater, there is no denying the impact that Disney's handling of the A.A. Milne characters had on me.
Even compared to other films on the Disney continuum, the "Pooh" films have always been more gentle, more quiet, more deliberately paced. They are an accurate representation of the mood and character of Milne's work, which is wonderful precisely because of how gentle it is. The biggest drama in the world of the Hundred Acre Wood is based on misunderstandings or misreadings, and never because of villains or threats or anything upsetting. Ultimately, these are the games played by a young boy with his stuffed animals, and they are meant to skew young. This is one of the safest brands in family entertainment, and it's been a while since Disney gave these characters to their A-team of animators and gave a "Pooh" film a proper theatrical release, and considering the major legal battles they've waged to maintain control of the characters, it's about time they gave it another try.
Why in the world would Paramount want to start their own animation division?
I've always had a deep love for animation as an art form, and when I moved to Los Angeles, many of the people I met and became friends with worked in animation. Very quickly, I learned that it can be one of the most punishing forms of filmmaking to work in. That was the era of the giant Disney mega-blockbusters like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," and every studio in town lost their minds trying to figure out how to get a piece of what they saw as a very easy pie.
Let's go ask Fox how they feel about that animation studio they built in Arizona for Don Bluth these days. Let's ask them if that was a good investment.
Or maybe we can go ask Alan Horn if he feels like Warner Feature Animation was a good investment. Sure, we got "The Iron Giant" out of that deal, but we had to basically shame the studio into giving that a theatrical release because of how badly they got burned on "The Quest For Camelot."
It's been nice to go see comedies in the theater this summer that were obviously made with little regard for rating, or more accurately, that were comfortable accepting an R from the MPAA. It was a given for "The Hangover Part II," but getting four or five R-rated big studio comedies in one movie season? Fairly rare.
The latest of them is Seth Gordon's "Horrible Bosses," and while I think the cast is game and Gordon seems to get the spirit of the thing right, it doesn't work as a script, and this is one of those cases where the mix is tipped heavily in the wrong direction. I laughed, but even as I laughed, I was frustrated by the potential that feels unfulfilled. The screenplay by Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein has a promising set-up, some funny early moments, and then it makes a series of choices that keep undercutting the things that work. It's an amiable mess, but a mess nonetheless.
The film kicks off with a really dark and nasty sense of humor, and the way each of the horrible bosses is introduced is very effective. Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) works for the truly awful Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), who is the sort of smug, blatantly amoral piece of garbage that Spacey made his career with. Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) works for the charming and beloved Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland), whose son is the disturbingly vile Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell). And poor Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is employed by the aggressively forward Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston).
I am of decidedly mixed mind about the film work of Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant.
Let's start with the obvious:Â these are very funny guys.Â I find it a little disconcerting to realize that "The State" is almost 20 years old at this point, but when I signed up for Netflix Instant and watched several episodes again, I was struck by how conventionally funny the show is, how classically constructed most of the sketches were, and how even the most absurd moments were clever and not just thrown away.Â Even at that point, Garant and Lennon were thinking like writers, so when they moved into feature work, it wasn't much of a surprise.Â Their Comedy Central show "Reno 911" is a great example of their sensibilities at work, character comedy with plenty of room for improvisation, and the show was often ridiculously funny.Â As both performers and writers, they were consistently impressive.
So why don't I like the movies they write?
It's always tricky when you hire someone who isn't a professional actor to act in your film, but it's even harder to build an entire film around someone who doesn't do it for a living. I can understand Steven Soderbergh's urge to figure out if Gina Carano has it in her to carry a movie… after all, she's easy on the eyes and she's a real-life ass-kicking machine. That's a pretty potent combination, and Hollywood already spends a ton of money on movies that celebrate that particular archetype.
It's an interesting year for Soderbergh fans. His virus-on-the-loose thriller "Contagion" is set for a September release, and he's going to be at Comic-Con for what I'm guessing is the first time ever to help promote "Haywire," the film he designed around Carano. It seems like this one's been in production for a while, and I was hoping we'd have a trailer by this point, something where we can see Carano in action and hear her deliver a few lines of dialogue.
Here's an odd trio of interviews, but that sort of sums up the casting of "Transformers: Dark Of The Moon" perfectly. Michael Bay has repeatedly spoken in interviews about how much he loves the films of the Coen Brothers, and looking at his cast here, which includes John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and John Turturro, it certainly seems like he at least loves the same actors they do.
But Bay makes crazy-ass action movies, so he needs guys like Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson as well, and one of the things that makes a movie like this so surreal is the way you've got such wildly different actors going head-to-head with giant robots kicking the crap out of each other to tie the whole thing together.
I find John Malkovich fascinating. Here's a classically trained stage actor who has become a pop culture icon thanks to Spike Jones, Charlie Kaufman, and his own innate oddity. He is urbane, charming, and if you want to talk about the craft of acting, he will absolutely meet you halfway. It helps that my first question to him as we were sitting down was about his new clothing line, Technobohemian, an example of which he was wearing at the press day.
I've been busy most of today, so I'm just now getting to this story, but it's had me smiling since I first saw it this morning.
I am a big fan of Keith Gordon's work as a filmmaker, but I often feel like that's a lonely position to take. He hasn't directed a ton of films, and the ones he's made were never really box-office hits or cultural sensations.
He's probably better known from his days as an actor in films like "Christine" or "Back To School" or "Dressed To Kill," where he was always incredibly effective at combining a keen intelligence with a withering sense of social grace. Watch the way he changes from pre-car Arnie to post-car Arnie sometime in "Christine," and you'll appreciate just how good Gordon could be at times.
I'm fairly sure when you look up the word "amiable" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Tom Hanks next to it.
That's been the big secret to his enduring appeal, but it also works against him at times. Hanks has never been a guy to embrace edge or cynicism onscreen, and we live in an age where those things are valued. His work as an actor has always been distinguished by a certain approachability, an open quality that is best exemplified by the ongoing popularity of his work in "Forrest Gump." That role could easily have been grating or insulting, but even for someone like me who doesn't really like the film, it's obvious that the reason it connected with people is because of Hanks. He made Forrest into an almost blinding force of decency.
As a writer/director, you can see that even more clearly. His first film, "That Thing You Do," is a deeply charming ode to that moment in life where you figure out what it is you want to contribute to the world and you start making choices about how you're going to do that. There's a scene in that movie that I consider pretty much perfect, about as good as filmmaking can be at communicating an experience. It's when the kids first hear their song playing on the radio, and they all rush to be together so they can hear it, and the excitement just keeps bubbling up out of them as they realize that people are listening to their work, that something they made is actually out there now. I remember the night Scott Swan and I got our first professional reviews for a stage-production here in Los Angeles. We knew that Variety and the LA Times and Dramalogue were all going to publish their reviews the same day, so we started driving around in the middle of the night, looking for whatever newsstand would get their deliveries first. Finally, we found one at Ventura and Van Nuys that had the truck parked at the curb, still unloading the various papers and magazines, and as we read each positive review, we started wigging out, amazed that people had not only seen our work but enjoyed it. That feeling was perfectly captured by the scene in "That Thing You Do," and it convinced me that Hanks isn't just an actor playing director. He can communicate real emotion, and he's capable of creating characters and moments that matter.
I am genuinely sorry to hear that Kenneth Branagh will not be returning for the sequel to "Thor" that Marvel Studios is now set to release in the summer of 2013.
I don't think anyone's more surprised by that than I am. Branagh always made me nervous as a choice for the film, but in the end, I think the decision to hire him paid off in a movie that had its own personality, that didn't feel like "just another cookie-cutter blockbuster." At least, not to me. I think the film's got a great sense of fun, but more than that, it took an absurd world seriously in just the right way, and as a result, they not only successfully introduced one of the Avengers, they also earned themselves a franchise, albeit one that comes with many questions attached.
HitFix has learned that Marvel has set a July 26, 2013 date for "Thor 2," or whatever they eventually call it, and according to Michael Fleming, the director's job is now wide open. Considering "Iron Man 3" is set for a May 3, 2013 release, it sounds like they'll be double-stacking the summer the way they are with "Thor" and "Captain America" this year. We've already started hearing rumbles about the direction they're going with the next Iron Man adventure, treating it more like a stand-alone James Bond adventure, unconnected to any larger narrative except in the most cursory of ways. I think it's important after they've made "The Avengers" to still keep the larger Marvel Universe alive, but to also feel free to stop worry so much about the connective tissue and start focusing more on making every issue of every comic as good as it can be.