Welcome to The Morning Read.
Sorry about that. Things get crazy around Butt-Numb-A-Thon time every year. There's a gravity the event casts that is bigger than just those two days, and sure enough, about three Morning Reads fell right into it. We're back today, though, and here through the holidays, so you'll have plenty of presents under the tree to unwrap here at HitFix.
I've also been working on locking down my top ten list for this year, and you'll see that here on the site next week in a format that's a little different from anything I've ever done with the end-of-the-year stuff. It's been a great year of movies, and I'm thrilled to be publishing what looks to me like an unreasonably strong final list.
I'm feeling good today. We've crossed the mark where, finally, there is less than a month till my family gets home from this preposterously long vacation of theirs. Sure, I leave for Sundance three or four days after they get home, but still, I'm going to actually have them here again, and I couldn't be happier about that. I expect that every day I get closer to their return, my mood will get that much better, to the point where I'll be in full-on Gene Kelly tap-dancing mode on the morning I pick them up at LAX.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Today, we are going to see the premiere of not one but two new trailers for "Paul."
What, you may ask, is "Paul"? Well, chances are if you're a regular reader of the blog, you are already well aware of this Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy, and you probably know that Greg Mottola directed it and Seth Rogen is contributing the voice of the titular alien, an all CG character in the film.
The general moviegoer, though, still has no idea what or who "Paul" is, so this is the week all of that starts to change. Today, the UK version of the trailer is live right now, and we'll see the US trailer premiere online in just a little while.
Mottola suggested on Twitter that there are differences between them ("The UK one is IN COLOUR!"), but we'll have to compare to see what they are.
Simon Pegg was also busy on Twitter making sure to let people know the moment it went live, and he sounded like he's excited but nervous ("*Tucks balls away*. It's time."), as I imagine anyone would be when finally kicking off the campaign for something they're so personally invested in.
Bruce Boxleitner is, of course, Tron.
And as much as I'm glad they've got Jeff Bridges back for the new film, I think it's equally important to a "TRON" film that you bring Tron back and deal with both him and with Alan, his user-equivalent in the real world.
One of the most compelling ideas in the original "TRON" was the relationship between Users and the Programs that they write. The notion that your personality was embedded deep in the work you did is an honest reflection of the relationship that programmers have with their work, or that artists have with theirs, or that anyone who creates something has with the thing that they create. I miss that in the new movie. I think they've lost that particular dynamic because of the ways they refigured the world of the Grid. That's fine… that's a choice they're free to make. I just think the original movie did a better job of reflecting the ideas that obviously mattered to Lisberger when he created the project.
Sitting down with James Frain and Bruce Boxleitner was an opportunity to speak to both a pure Program and one of the guys who ties the entire franchise together. Frain plays Jarvis, a sort of manservant henchman for Clu, the digital bully version of Jeff Bridges. He's a weirdo, too, which certainly makes him stand out in the film.
It's funny that I still sort of think of Patrick Lussier as a "new" filmmaker.
He's not, of course, by any means. He got his start working as an assistant editor in the '80s working on TV, and then moved up to cutting shows like "MacGyver" before hooking up with Wes Craven on "Nightmare Cafe," which led to him cutting "New Nightmare," Craven's attempt at redefining his own Freddy Kruger. Lussier worked on some troubled films over the years, and must have amazing battle stories from "Mimic" and "Vampires In Brooklyn" and "Halloween H20" and especially "Cursed." His time working at Dimension and Miramax in particular put him in the right place at the right time when certain opportunities came up, and he ended up directing films like "The Prophecy 3" and "Dracula 2000" plus two direct-to-video sequels to it, as well as the sequel to "White Noise." Those are all movies that were part of a pipeline, and hardly reflections of who Lussier is as a filmmaker.
Todd Farmer wrote the more-intentionally-outrageous-than-I-expected "Jason X," and then worked for a while as a studio assignment writer, a gig that can be very frustrating. You can spend years working on things that never end up onscreen or that don't really resemble anything you wrote by the time they make it to the screen. Somehow, the two of them crossed paths, and the first result was "My Bloody Valentine," their very loose remake of an '80s slasher film. That film is very self-aware genre fun with a cast that knows exactly what movie they're in and that seemed to enjoy tweaking the slasher conventions with glee. It's not some genre-defining triumph, but it was fun, and that's something people frequently forget when working in a certain kind of popcorn horror.
Garrett Hedlund has, in my opinion, the hardest job in "TRON: Legacy."
You wouldn't know it from talking to him these days, as he's already moved on. He's currently shooting the long-in-development film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, with Walter Salle directing. This is something that Hedlund's been attached to for a while, and for it to finally be happening is the end of a long journey for all involved.
As a result of his schedule, he was piped in by satellite to the press day, so it was the first time I've ever felt like I was interviewing Max Headroom. I enjoyed the conversation, and I wanted to give Hedlund a chance to speak for himself about his role as Sam Flynn, the son of the long-missing Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges). He's the one who makes the journey this time, following a clue that leads him into the same alternate reality inside a computer that his father created 20 years ago.
Jeff Bridges has the fun roles in the film, playing a younger version of himself, a computer version of himself, and the older Zen Col. Kurtz version of Flynn. All three are built around showy moments, and even though I don't think they pull off what they try with him, Bridges obviously came to play.
AUSTIN, TX - One of the things that I've always found most irritating at Butt-Numb-A-Thon is when a vintage title begins to play and someone gets up to leave the theater, thinking it's okay to miss "the old ones."
Well, "the old ones" are the point. Anyone can call a studio and ask to see a movie that's coming out in a week or a month or next year, but it is incredibly personal and revealing to program at least five or six vintage titles every year, and in some years, even more than that. If you want to know someone's real movie taste and get some sense of the breadth of their knowledge, ask them to recommend six films for you from before 1980. Tell them to do it quickly, without looking. Ask them for specific genres. Ask them to program to a theme. You'll know who they are very quickly, and it's bound to lead to a great conversation.
As a result, I find that I spend my pre-BNAT anticipation trying to guess how Harry might build his program around a central idea, and inevitably, the enjoyment of seeing a flawless print of something unexpected and beloved on a bigscreen with an audience of friends is the thing that really sticks with me after each year's festival. That's the thing… it's a personal event. It's a birthday party. So a big part of the festival's kick-off each year is a sort of roast-atmosphere greeting by Tim League that somehow involves the active humiliation of our dear friend Jeff Mahler. Jeff is old-school Ain't It Cool. Family. And the epic-level teasing at this point has just become legendary to witness. We enjoyed a stuttering insult comic named Gravy at the start of the fest, and later, Jeff was served a disturbing dessert that he proceeded to pelt several of us with. The later it gets, the weirder it gets at BNAT. Last year's videotape of various Hollywood figures roasting Harry was amazingly raw, and it feels like each year, the ante gets upped.
When the line-up for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was announced recently, there wasn't much that immediately jumped out at me, which is not to say that I'm calling it a bad line-up. There's just a whole lot of "I'm not sure what that is" on the schedule, which i like. I'd rather go into the festival and be surprised repeatedly than just go with a checklist of titles that are pre-ordained.
Just a few minutes ago, a press release arrived in our e-mail inbox from the Sundance Press Office, and they've added three last-minute titles to the schedule, with some immediately interesting descriptions for the films and some recognizable names attached.
Miranda July's "Me and You And Everyone We Know" is a divisive film, and I'm on the side of the "Liked it" camp. She's an interesting voice, and "The Future" sounds pretty great, as does the Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney documentary about the Merry Pranksters. Throw in Rob Minkoff, director of big giant megablockuster "The Lion King," working in the "bank robbery gone wrong" genre, and this is a pretty cool little boost to the line-up.
I feel like I've spent an uncommon amount of time with Dwayne Johnson this year, even for people who play the publicity game, but that may just be a sign that Johnson's career has finally kicked into overdrive. I saw him in Hawaii last month, and then about six weeks before that, I visited him in Atlanta, where he was finishing up production on "Fast Five," the newest entry in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise.
Johnson is, of course, the newest cast member to join the ever-expanding ensemble that makes up the ongoing "Fast" crew. I'm fascinated by the way Universal took this sort of underdog little first film, a movie that no one expected anything from, and is now finishing up on this, the fifth film, with no signs of slowing down. I'm also impressed by the way Justin Lin has become the David Yates of this series, coming in late and then pretty much taking the series over. He made "Tokyo Drift," then "Fast and Furious," and now he's the man who is bringing Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel together for what could easily be the largest scale of the films so far.
Set primarily in Rio this time, the story focuses on an international team headed by Johnson tasked with tracking down and capturing the team led by Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, as well as many other returning cast members from all four of the previous films. Loyalties will shift, truths will be revealed, very large men will most likely beat hell out of each other, and, in the words of Johnson…
"And above all else, you don't ever ever let them get into cars."
Jon Favreau, who's recently been making making the rounds with his work in progress, the stand-alone sci-fi-in-a-western "Cowboys and Aliens" has informed Marvel Studios/Disney that he won't be back to direct a third installment of "Iron Man." Vulture reports that insiders say Favreau has been frustrated with the direction that marvel wanted to go for the film, insisting that it tie in with other Marvel titles such as "Thor" "The Incredible Hulk" and "The Avengers." The Director told MTV News recently that the production company's concepts of the film version of the Marvel Universe were not very clear to him, saying "This whole world… I have no idea what it is. I don't think they do either.."
Still others speculate that Favreau's growing price tag may have been the cause for the split, and that Disney/Marvel was looking to contain their costs and wouldn't mind a less expensive director at the helm. Star Robert Downey Jr. Does have Director approval, however, and may complicate things. As of now the project is slated to go ahead no matter who's directing and hit theaters on May 3rd of 2013, necessitating a shooting start date of early 2012 if not before.
Favreau confirmed this news thought his twitter account (@Jon_Favreau) saying "It's true, I'm directing Magic Kingdom, not Iron Man 3. I've had a great run with Marvel and wish them the best." Meaning that he's definitely not breaking up with Disney any time soon, as "Magic Kingdom," is a Disney movie that takes place in Disneyland.
There's a distinct possibility that the first film my younger son Allen sees in the theater will be Gore Verbinski's "Rango."
For one thing, it comes out on his third birthday. That's convenient. That wouldn't matter, except he's obsessed with the first trailer for the movie. And I have to agree with him that it's one of the more arresting, interesting movie trailers I've seen in a while. Visually, the film is unusual and striking and you almost need to see the trailer a few times just to get a handle on what you're looking at. But it's the comedy that he's smitten with, and he'll act the trailer out every time. He walks into my office, gives me a solemn, "Dad, play the lizard and the bird," and then plop himself onto my knee, waiting.
Every single time through, he would pretend to be a cactus when Rango would pretend to be a cactus, and then giggle like he was being tickled. I love seeing him fall for something, openly adore something like that. And it makes me love "Rango" right away.