I love SXSW.
I was just talking about this festival the other day with a couple of other critics, talking about how long they were planning to stay, and a few of them were talking about how desperate they are to get out of Austin by the time the music part of SXSW begins. I'll admit, there are radically different vibes to the city during the film and the music parts of the festival, but even so, I love the eclectic programming of South By. It's definitely not Sundance, and it's definitely not Toronto. It's looser, more of a movie party, and now that they've added Fantastic Fest programming to SXSW, this is one of the spring things I look forward to most.
Now they've announced a new wave of titles, and it's already looking like an amazing line-up. I'm very curious about Jodie Foster's "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson, and would have been even if the film didn't have a shadow hanging over it. And "Paul" is a great fit for the fest. It's going to be a blast seeing the new Simon Pegg/Nick Frost SF comedy with that crowd, just like they'll be the right people to see the new Ti West horror film "The Innkeepers" with them. This is his first film since "House Of The Devil," and expectations are high for this one.
I love SXSW.
Well, we made it through our first calendar year of podcasting, and now we're kicking off what we're going to call Season Two, and we'll be making some minor format adjustments as we go.
Nothing radical, mind you. I'm hearing a lot of feedback about the podcast these days and it really doesn't seem to me like anything's "broken." That's not to say I'm satisfied with the podcast, because I'm not. It's just that we're doing it at a certain level of "well" right now, and I want to turn that up.
It helps having Scott Swan here with me most weeks. When I'm on the road at Sundance, I'll be recording a special podcast up there for you, and I'll also be expanding the roster of guests here. This week, for example, we did a special interview with Michel Gondry exclusively for the podcast. This is the only place you're going to hear this on the entire site.
We've put a new piece of music on the front of the show, too. Curious if anyone can tell me what it is. I'll run a quick breakdown of what appears at what point on the show, and I hope you'll listen and send in your letters for us to read on the next show, something we explain late in the episode.
The rehabilitation of David O. Russell has got to be one of the most impressive rebounds in recent Hollywood history.
It was not that long ago that "Nailed" finally sputtered to a halt, unfinished, unreleasable, an albatross around the neck of its filmmaker. That was on top of the sort of low-grade non-stop barrage of "David O. Russell is an asshole" press that came out of his Clooney-spats on "Three Kings" and his YouTube moments from the set of "I Heart Huckabee's."
"Nailed" was a script by Kristin Gore that Russell signed on to rewrite and direct. He started shooting with a pretty great cast including James Marsden, Jessica Biel, Paul Reubens, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, James Brolin and more, all telling the story of a waitress with a nail lodged in her head whose personality changes send shock waves all the way into Washington, D.C. And it's a romantic comedy.
So when that ran out of money and the film was shut down… TWICE… it would have been acceptable for anyone to assume that Russell was in movie jail. After all, isn't that the unforgivable sin in Hollywood, to make something that you can't do anything with? At least if you can release a movie, you can hope that maybe you can cut the right trailer or put together the right poster or somehow get your weekend out of the film at the box-office, and home video has a way of putting money in the hands of even the incompetent. But if you direct a film that can't even complete principal photography, that's a pretty solid black mark, especially when people are already calling you "difficult"
There's a reason I'm excited about this summer more than I have been about the last few waves of superhero movies.
It feels to me like we're about to turn a corner, like the studios have all done the basic real-world origin story and supervillain story about as much as they can do it. More than they reasonably should have done it, actually. And it's time for the genre to either evolve or evaporate, so they're finally making the jump to the outrageous.
This summer, we're going to Asgard for the first time.
This summer, the Red Skull's chasing the Cosmic Cube around World War II.
And this summer, the Green Lantern Corps will gather on Oa.
I didn't think we'd ever get to the cosmic space opera comic books. It seemed to me like the decision-makers were all guys like Tom Rothman, guys who made decisions on franchises like "X-Men" based on personal feelings about things like giant robots, decisions that were also financial as much as creative, decisions that kept superhero films earthbound and somewhat contained.
Looking at that photo of Mark Strong as Sinestro, though, I have to say this about "Green Lantern": they're going for it. They aren't shying away from anything. He's perfect. He's a bright red John Waters. What else can anyone ask for from Sinestro?
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So that's what we can expect, visually, from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." I knew they were planning a reveal soon, but this is an interesting way to do it, outside of the context of the film. I would have expected Fincher to wait until he could introduce her in footage, but instead, "W" magazine got the exclusive and ran a big layout of images, specifically emphasizing the tattoos she sports in the film. It's a complete transformation for Mara, and I honestly don't see the girl from the start of "The Social Network" at all. Impressive. More than that, the article reveals that the script by Steve Zallian makes some major changes to the ending of the book, which is interesting news. I think there's plenty of room for improvement in this version of the story, and it sounds like Zallian and Fincher have decided to go for it.
By now, the rhythms of the superhero movie are as familiar to filmgoers as the rhythms of the western or the war movie or the romantic comedy. There's a few basic shapes, and 95% of everything in the genre fits into one of those shapes. It seems like filmgoers don't mind, either, because they continually go see the films without major complaint.
"The Green Hornet" seems determined to do things a little different, and even within that determination, there are models for this. We've seen the blowhard hero who is a front for the truly heroic sidekick before. I really like "Without A Clue," where Michael Caine plays a truly lunkheaded Sherlock Holmes with a quietly brilliant Ben Kingsley as Watson by his side. In this variation, Seth Rogen is Britt Reid, a layabout no-good son to James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), a newspaper magnate with a fierce sense of social conscience. When James Reid is killed, Britt has to decide how to proceed with his life. It's not until he meets Kato (Jay Chou), a mysterious employee of his father's, that he gets the idea that he can do some good as a masked vigilante.
"Battle: Los Angeles" looks cool.
No two ways about it. The film obviously deals with a street-level view of an alien invasion that seems to take place around the world, although the film mainly seems focused on the Los Angeles battlefront. Aaron Eckhart's the big action lead, and Bridget Moynihan is the face of civilian terror, part of a group that Eckhart is trying to keep alive in the film.
The teaser trailer made its impression by offering up a very stylized first glimpse at the film, and the new trailer offers up more narrative, but it also builds to a very particular point and then drops out in a way that is uncommon. It's a bold ending to a trailer.
My guess is that this is the last trailer we see for the film. It's a spring release, and this makes it look like a huge-scale film with a nice sense of SF reality. I worked on a film for Revolution that dealt with civilian and military reactions to an invasion of Earth, and there are a lot of common ideas being dealt with in what we're seeing in this trailer. I'm glad someone got one of these made at this size. This is a cool approach to updating the old '50s invasion films, and I like the glimpses we've had of the alien culture so far. I'm curious to see how well the human story works, because that's the real key. If this film delivers on the emotional side, it looks like the visceral is absolutely pinned down already.
It delights me that "True Grit" has become the biggest theatrical hit the Coen Brothers have ever had, just as it delights me that the box-office take for "Black Swan" is now more than the combined box-office take for all of Aronofsky's other films combined. Not because I think box-office correlates with what is good, but because successes like these for artists I admire mean that these artists will have it easier the next time they try to make something. That's the most important thing that money does… it enables them to continue working.
Paramount seemed excited by "True Grit" before it came out, but since its release, that excitement has turned into over-the-moon joy. A critical darling and a commercial hit, there is even a growing sense that the film could turn out to be an Oscar winner. And in the midst of all this celebration, Paramount wants to give something back to you, the audience that has made the film a success.
Here's how it'll work: I'm going to ask you a question, and you just have to mail the right answer to our news desk. Everyone with the right answer will be entered in a drawing to win one of three posters for the movies, signed by pretty much everyone but Matt Damon.
Talking to Seth Rogen is about as relaxed and informal as it gets in terms of doing publicity with actors or writers or directors. At this point, we've spoken so many times, in so many different contexts, on so many different projects, that it just feels like we're picking up in mid-conversation each time now.
With Cameron Diaz, it's totally different. I don't believe I've ever had a reason or opportunity to interview her before, and anytime you put two people together for an interview where there's a totally different comfort level with one or the other, it's going to leave things a little unbalanced.
Thankfully, she seemed easy to chat with, and I think they're all fairly pleased with the way "The Green Hornet" came together. And they should be. It's a film that certainly feels like it's of a piece with the general superhero movie mainstream, but that also does things I've never seen in one of these movies. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were writers and producers here, and they anchor the film in one sensibility, while Michel Gondry adds another distinct voice, and then the other performers bring particular qualities that pull the film this way and that, out of that original shape somewhat, but not so much that we can't still recognize it. For a film based on a character as second-tier as "The Green Hornet," there's has to be a strong take on the material, or it's not worth doing at all.
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What a week last week was.
My Internet went down on Monday, the first time that's happened to me in this house, and the first time I've had any trouble with AT&T U-Verse at all. They weren't able to fix it until Wednesday afternoon, and it took several different repairmen to do the trick. The rest of the week was spent off-balance and catching up. I will be the first to admit it… I am a total crackhead when it comes to Internet access, and when denied it, I am out of step and out of sorts.
Thankfully, I still feel like I was able to get a lot done. There are a number of TV interviews I've done with folks like Colin Farrell, Natalie Portman, Peter Weir, Ed Harris, Ivan Reitman, Seth Rogen, and more set to share with you, and I'm gearing up for Team HitFix's 2011 attack on Sundance, and I feel like it's already an aggressive screening schedule this month, like the holidays are over and it's time to hit the ground running.
I bookmarked a ton of things while I've been catching up, and I want to try to share as many of them as possible with you this morning, so let's jump right into it.