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I don't know what to make of the idea of James Cameron making "Cleopatra."
I thought the Steven Soderbergh "Cleo" sounded absolutely lunatic, and I really wanted to see that happen. I doubt it ever will, though, if Cameron ends up signing on to direct Angelina Jolie in a 3D adaptation of the non-fiction book, "Cleopatra: A Life." Jolie's already onboard, and Scott Rudin is producing the film. Evidently the script is by Brian Helgeland and lit a fire under the studio. Stacy Schiff, who wrote the book, is excited by the idea of Jolie being joined by Brad Pitt as Mark Antony, and that's evidently been the goal since the moment Rudin bought the rights to the book. It sounds like Schiff has laid out a very different historical portrait of Cleopatra than we've ever seen represented before, and on an epic scale.
Certainly Cameron's the man you want to hire if you want a historical epic shot in 3D. And he's always been drawn to powerful female protagonists, so it sounds like Schiff's book would be absolute catnip. The things he's interested in right now as a producer and as a director are all fascinating to me. There's "Fantastic Voyage" at Fox. There's "At The Mountains Of Madness" at Universal. There's the "Avatar" sequel. There's the movie about the cave diving accident, and the other movie about the free diving couple. And now, suddenly, there's also "Cleopatra."
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Okay, now you're just kidding, right?
Over the years, I've found myself outside looking in on all sorts of giant blockbuster hits, amazed at those moments when something I can't find any appeal in whatsoever becomes a pop culture phenomenon. Case in point: "Top Gun." I think the film is a hilariously dated music video about a man, his plane, his half-naked oiled friends, and a woman he has absolutely no chemistry with. But for many people, "Top Gun" is one of the flashpoints of the '80s, a beloved favorite. In the recent comedy "Going The Distance," Justin Long's character harbors an almost creepy degree of love for the film. Quentin Tarantino famously riffed on the movie in "Sleep With Me," calling it out for the Riefenstahl-style fetishized man meat parade that it is. It is one of those films that you can reference and pretty much everyone's seen it or seen part of it or at least heard of it. It is fundamental.
And, evidently, David Ellison is one of those giant fans.
I'd never heard his name before reading the story about how the "Top Gun" sequel seems to be coming together, but he is evidently the 27-year-old son of Larry Eliison, who is the world's sixth-richest man. Ellison the Younger recently put together a $350 million fund that he plans to use to make movies with Paramount, including "Mission: Impossible 4."
The idea of releasing the first five minutes of your movie online as a way of promoting it is something that we've only started to see in the last few years, and it was sort of novel the first few times. I remember watching the opening scene of "28 Days Later" online and immediately needing to see the whole thing. It was just a perfect compelling taste of what Danny Boyle had in mind. It's a good example, because if you're going to release the opening scenes of your film as a way of promoting it, they'd better grab you right away.
I'll let you be the judge if Dreamworks Animation has accomplished that with their new film "Megamind," which I had a chance to see earlier this week.
I'll be reviewing it once we get a little closer to release, but I think it's safe to say that this has been one of the very best years Dreamworks Animation has ever had. People have a lot of justified love for "How To Train Your Dragon," and I think you'll see a similar reaction to this film when people finally get to see it.
When I moderate the panel for "Megamind" at this year's Comic-Con, we showed some early scenes that were quite striking, and that hinted at the film's "big idea," about a supervillain who finally kills the superhero he is always fighting, only to realize that without a hero, there is no meaning to his life. It's a great existential dilemma to give a lead character, and in order to make that really work, you've got to have some sense of why this character is a bad guy in the first place.
At this point, I suspect you already know if you're a fan of "Jackass" or not.
After all, this is the tenth year they've been working together. When I say "they," I'm referring to the strange conglomeration of personalities that, taken as a whole, constitutes what we know as "Jackass." That includes Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, "Danger" Ehren, Preston Lacy, Jason "Wee Man" Acuna, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave Englund, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine, although it's not limited to them. It's hard to believe that they've gotten a full decade of media life out of stunts that basically consist of either hitting each other, making each other do things that will make them throw up, or putting life and limb in harm's way. Add some boners and poop, and that's pretty much it.
And yet they had their premiere this week at the Museum Of Modern Art.
Why is that? What is it about "Jackass" that transcends the description of the most basic nature of their work? This third film reinvigorates the cast and the creative team in a number of ways, and understanding what it was that happened that made the film work in a way that puts it on par with the best episodes of the original show is key to understanding their appeal and importance overall.
UPDATE (10/14/2010 - 1:30 PM PST): Speaking with agency sources close to the process today, HitFix has been able to further clarify the situation regarding "Pacific Rim," an original screenplay by Travis Beacham, and "Godzilla," currently being scripted by Dave Callaham.
Contrary to the report yesterday, there are no conversations underway regarding the merging of these two projects. Beacham's original pitch does indeed fit the vague logline that's currently available, but there's a lot about the project that isn't in that logline. After all, giant monsters are making a comeback right now, and there's a lot of studios around town preparing to get into that game. The specifics of Beacham's script are under wraps for a reason, and when you hear those specifics, you'll understand why it doesn't really work as a potential "Godzilla" film.
Dave Callaham is in the middle of his process right now, and his work has Legendary happy enough that they're talking to directors and eyeballing a release date. He's still on the film, and suggestions that they're dumping him or taking the script away simply aren't fair or accurate.
Here's the one piece of information that you might logically take away from Latino Review's story yesterday, and it is an intriguing piece of information. If you know Beacham's work, it's probably because of the spec script that made him an in-demand writer for studios, "Killing On Carnival Row." That script was a sensation when it hit Hollywood desks, and it's a great piece of world-building, really smart and cool and dark and weird. One of the script's biggest fans was actually attached to direct it at New Line for a little while, a Mr. Guillermo Del Toro. I think it's safe to assume that anything Beacham writes is something Del Toro would be willing to read, and that after he makes his dream film, "At The Mountains Of Madness," it might not be outside the realm of possibility that he would want to make a giant monster movie.
But as far as "Pacific Rim" and "Godzilla"? Not the same project. Never have been. Definitely will not be.
Here's what I've learned: you do not "interview" the cast of "Jackass 3D." You just jump in and enjoy the ride. They're going to run the room, not you.
As long as you embrace that, you're going to end up having fun, and I have to say, I walked away without any scars or any footage of myself naked ending up on MTV, so I think I'll count this as a victory.
Over the years, i've interviewed and talked to Johnny Knoxville a number of times, and he's always been exactly as easy to talk to as you'd imagine. I've also spoke to Spike Jonze about the show and Jeff Tremaine. In Austin, I just interviewed Steve-O by himself, and I'm going to put that up tomorrow as an audio piece as part of the return of the Motion/Captured Podcast.
The "Jackass" guys are exactly what you see when you watch the show or see the films. There's no difference when you're in the room with them because they're not playing characters in their films. I guess you could technically call the "Jackass" movies documentaries, although they are perhaps the most surreal commercial movies I've ever seen.
I'll have my review for the film later in the week, but for now, I want to share the interviews I spent last Saturday conducting at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. The first room I walked into was the toughest, with a total of five of the guys stacked in there together. As you'll see, I lost control of things pretty much right away, and was perfectly happy to do so:
It's going to be interesting to see if the audience is still hungry for more "Men In Black" when Sony releases "Men In Black 3" on May 25, 2012 in 3D.
Production is getting closer to starting and casting is underway. Previously, we've heard that Josh Brolin will be starring in the film as the 1960s version of agent Kay, while Tommy Lee Jones returns as the original agent Kay. Wait… how can there be two agent Kays in the film? Well, it's a time travel movie, thanks to the machinations of the main bad guy in the film, Yaz, who will be played by "Flight Of The Conchords" star Jemaine Clement. Yaz is pretty much Lobo, the DC Comics character, a big wild vile biker from outer space with absolutely no moral or ethical compass.
Of course, Will Smith is back as agent Jay, and he's the one who has to find a way to get back in time after Yaz, who was arrested by Kay all those years ago, escapes from a secret federal prison on the moon and finds a way to turn back the clock. The way Jay learns that the timeline has changed is one of the best jokes in the script (and an opportunity for a great cameo by someone), and when he does make it to the '60s, what he finds is a whole new world.
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I'm not sure I can call this the day's biggest news considering there's a "Batman 3" casting story on our front page, but I'm personally thrilled to hear that Luc Besson is returning to sci-fi, and that he wants to make something that he describes as "'The Fifth Element' to the power of ten." Yes, please. Design is already underway, and he's talking about two movies that will be released in 2013 and 2014. I can't believe I'm already excited about something coming out four years from now, but I have a feeling a new Besson sci-fi film will be worth the wait.
I love Mike Russell's work. His cartoon-fu is strong, and so are his interviewing skills. It's a unique combination, and there are very few pop culture interviewers whose work can be called art. This Dan Aykroyd piece? Art. Totally.
This piece, by a longtime Austin friend, is a lovely way of summing up how people felt by the end of this year's absolutely amazing Fantastic Fest. I got really unpleasantly sick at the end of the festival, unfortunately, so missed the last three days of it more or less. The problem is that I never got to really wrap up that coverage, and so I never got to sum up just how impressive it was as a whole this year. It's getting better and better each time out, and co-founders Tim League and Harry Knowles have every right to be proud that they've built one of the year's essential stops now for any serious film fan.
That's the question being breathlessly asked across the internet this morning, and it's certainly a provocative one.
Ridley Scott's been talking about making an "Alien" sequel or prequel for a while now, and finally settled into the prequel idea. Early work on the script was done by Jon Spaihts, a talented writer whose "Passengers" is one of my favorite unproduced works of the last few years. Recently, though, word broke that Damon Lindelof would be writing… something. Either a new draft or a new take or a new something.
Lindelof reportedly turned in the new draft to the studio over the weekend, and they're eager to get going. Since they're about to make a credile and possible run at the Oscar for Natalie Portman, it makes perfect sense that they would have her at the top of their list for possible stars for this film. I'm curious to see what Ridley Scott would get from Portman, and despite my misgivings about anyone making a prequel to pretty much anything at this point, Ridley Scott is where this all began, and him returning to play with this iconography again, especially if he plans to make it a real horror film and not an action movie, is actually exciting.
Noomi Rapace, star of the original "Millennium Trilogy" as Lisbeth Salander, is also on the short list, so there's no guarantee it will be Portman. She's got a totally different type of hype going these days, and Rapace has already committed to "Sherlock Holmes 2," while Portman just fell out of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which was supposed to be her next film.
Thinking about it now, I'm surprised I wasn't more nervous when I walked into this room.
After all, Hilary Swank's got two Oscars, and Sam Rockwell is… well, he's Sam Rockwell. He's just awesome. That's an impressive room. One of the reasons "Conviction" is a film you sort of have to pay attention to, no matter what your feelings about the true story being told, is because of that casting. The two of them together are indeed the best thing about the movie, the real heart of it, and putting the two of them together for an interview at the Toronto Film Festival was an irresistible opportunity.
In addition to being actors whose work I admire, these are people who always seem to be serious about their work, and who are very direct interviews. You don't want to walk into that room with nothing to discuss. By this point in the festival, I was already starting to get a little punchy, but I made sure that when I walked in, I was bright-eyed and ready to go.
I'm actually surprised this was my first time sitting down with either of them, but it's just never come together on any of their earlier films. I think the end result is a good conversation that just got cooking about the time we had to wrap it up, but as frustrations go, that's not a bad one.