I didn't mean to do it.
Earlier today, I found myself sitting across from Dwayne Johnson so we could discuss his new film "Faster," and in the midst of talking about the current landscape of action heroes, I asked him if he's familiar with the Lee Child novels about Jack Reacher.
Let me back up. If you're not familiar with Jack Reacher, he's the hero of fifteen best-selling novels, the most recent of which was published in September. He's an ex-Military Investigator, a guy who has made a decision to own nothing and live nowhere, a drifter who finds himself embroiled in crazy, difficult situations where his military training, his investigator's mind, and his ability and willingness to kill entire towns full of bad guys if he has to is what makes Reacher such a compulsively interesting pulp character. Child created a perfect hero for an ongoing series. He's able to bounce from situation to situation in a way that never limits the type or the scope of the trouble he can get into.
I am no expert on the series. I only recently started reading them. Basically, I finished finally re-reading every one of the John D. McDonald Travis McGee novels recently, and I wanted to find a new series to try. I had heard enough good things about the Reacher books that I picked one up as I was leaving on a set visit. I read "One Shot," which is the book that Paramount is working to develop as the first Reacher movie.
I didn't mean to do it.
@jock4twenty tweeted this photo of Karl Urban as Judge Dredd from the set today. We admit he looks pretty badass. Not sure if this is a leak or a "leak." Mr. 4twenty is a brit penciller with an impressive website here. I wonder if he'll get to keep his job?
The official synopsis for the new film reads as follows:
"DREDD takes us to the wild streets of Mega City One, the lone oasis of quasi-civilization on Cursed Earth. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of elite Street Judges, with the power to enforce the law, sentence offenders and execute them on the spot - if necessary. The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and the frenetic vision of director Pete Travis bring DREDD to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film that returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's revered comic strip."
Welcome to The Morning Read.
Let's kick off today's column with a bit of a public service announcement. Have you read about the Amazon Studios announcement? Basically, Amazon decided to get involved in the production of content, and they've created a brand-new program that is part contest, part development fund, and all garbage.
I've gotten several e-mails from people asking me my take on this, several of which were from very excited writers looking at this as a way to finally get around the "no manager or agent" conundrum. And I empathize with any writer out there with a script who can't get people to read it. I get what is attractive about the idea of a brand-new way of getting around the system, but this is not it. Have you read the Development Agreement or the Contest Terms and Procedures? They are fascinating and revealing and completely insane.
I'll put it this way: if you upload your script or your movie to their contest, you are essentially kissing it goodbye forever. Line after line of the legalese on these pages just confounds me. "You agree to be automatically entered into any future contests for which your work is eligible. The specific contest rules for future contests will be posted on this page when they are announced." And considering one of the rules of this contest grants Amazon Studios a free 18-month option on your work the moment you upload it, the idea that they can enter you in a contest later and tell you the rules after they do so seems positively batty. The "development agreement" is a contract you're signing, not an entry form for a contest, and in it, you grant them a free option on your work for a year and a half, and if they do end up producing your work, there's a set fee. Period. That's all it is. A set rate. The same no matter what the project is, and no matter what happens with it. That is, simply put, immoral.
I have within me a tremendous drive to preserve my family, to make things safe and secure for my wife and my sons. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my family, and one of the things that I've been surprised by is the intensity of my paternal drive. It's something you can't predict about yourself. You can't imagine it until you've actually held one of your kids for the first time. I had a moment of total lightning-bolt transformation, an internal thing that I find hard to even quantify. There have been several moments in the five years since my first son was born where I have felt powerful reminders of just how far I'd go for my children, for the family I've built.
I like stories in which a genuinely common person is tested by extraordinary circumstances. I think we've gotten to an age in film where everyone's basically a superhero when you're watching a thriller. There are no "common people" in films anymore, it seems. What I like most about the new Paul Haggis film "The Next Three Days" is the way Russell Crowe plays John Brennan as a completely average guy. He's a little fat, he's not particularly powerful or brilliant, and he doesn't really have any special resources to draw on. So when he is forced to find a way to save his family, rallying what little strength he has, it is a genuine test. And when he faces certain moral choices, he fails. That seems compelling to me, precisely because of what I explained, that drive that kicks in to protect your family at all costs. This movie asks exactly how far it is that John is willing to go, and then tries to push him just that little bit further, taking him to some harrowing places even before the film works its way around to the escape that is its whole purpose.
Review: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' begins the grand wrap-up for the series in style
This is a tricky one to review, because I am of split mind on the way it works as a movie.
The title should be the tip-off right away that this is not meant to stand on its own. Each of the previous films in the series has been a stand-alone, with nary a number in sight. True, if you buy the giant special collector's edition Blu-ray editions of the films that are being released by Warner Bros., there are big numbers on the side of each one, but that's not part of the title. Never has been. Now, for the last two films, we get "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2." It's a choice based purely on function, inelegant, and the one genuine criticism that anyone could level at the movie opening in theaters everywhere on Friday is that its ending is based purely on function, although elegant in its way.
If my biggest complaint about a film is that I would have happily sat through the next two-and-a-half hours of story immediately, I'd say that's a good complaint, one that director David Yates should take as high praise. There is little doubt that this series belongs to Yates at this point. I've enjoyed the round robin of directors as the series progressed, and rewatching the films in the last few weeks, I am struck anew by just how lucky they got. Chris Columbus set the tone and found the kids, and he had to do all the heavy lifting in setting up a visual palette for Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter, and in his two films, I think he defined things so well that when Alfonso Cuaron came on for "Azkaban," he was able to play. The only reason Cuaron's film is able to experiment is because Columbus had already so clearly established everything, so experimenting with those boundaries felt thrilling. Mike Newell, who almost broke his film into two parts a la "Deathly Hallows," had perhaps the biggest job in any of the individual films, and his movie kicked off the narrative arc that really brings the second half of the series together. Until "Goblet," the films are exciting, but the stakes aren't as brutal as they could be. "Goblet" features the first key death in the war that has been building in each film since then, and "Deathly Hallows" brings that all from a simmer to a boil.
Witness the trailer of 'The Eagle,' a sword and sandals epic about a young roman soldier (Channing Tatum) who goes on a quest to find his father's eagle standard (A bronze figure carried on a post by a roman battalion) that was lost 20 years before when his Ninth battalion was slaughtered by the natives.
His journey takes him deep into ancient Britain, beyond Hadrian's wall. He travels in disguise with only one slave (Jamie Bell) to accompany him. The script is based on a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliff, "The Eagle of the Ninth" and was remade once before by the BBC. The story could be considered a sequel of sorts to Neil Marshall's "Centurion," released earlier this year, which documents the famed disappearance of the Ninth Legion.
Today we get a glimpse of "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke's return to the themes of teenaged longing and sharp toothed supernatural predators in this teaser trailer for next year's teen-goth-horror-romance "Red Riding Hood."
The film stars Amanda Seyfried as a young maiden in a medieval village who falls for the orphaned son of a woodcutter (newcomer Shiloh Fernandez,) much to everyone's dismay as she is promised to another man. The village has the larger problem of werewolves on its hands, however. Could the suspect young gentleman be involved?
The script was written by David Johnson, and considering that his only other credit is last year's less than subtle sex-midget-posing-as-7-year-old "Orphan," we foresee more some bold writing ahead. The trailer is brief, but judging by the strong uses of color and intense camera work glimpsed, we may be in for a wild ride come March.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
It feels like a logjam has recently been kicked loose, and we're finally seeing projects reach the screen that have been lingering in development for what seems to be a preposterous amount of time. "Cowboys and Aliens" released its first trailer today, and that marks a moment that seemed like it would never happen. Spielberg is finally making his "Tintin" movie after decades of being interested in doing so. David Fincher made "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" after something like 500 other directors worked on it over the years. There have been so many false starts on "The Green Hornet" that I still don't believe it's actually happening. It's interesting to see which version of these long-gestating movies makes it to the screen, and who ends up spearheading the films.
Along those lines, George Clooney has been interested in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." since at least 1999. He was reading drafts of the film back in the summer and fall of 2000, and was seriously interested in making the film with either Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. The property is obviously a major asset for Warner Bros. It is the only other spy franchise co-created by Ian Fleming, and you can do almost anything with it depending on what tone you take with the material. The Playlist and Hollywood Reporter have both been reporting on the way the film is starting to come together, and the teaming of Clooney with Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns as director and screenwriter is exciting, and the idea of making it a period piece so you can do this as a '60s film is absolutely perfect. It's so perfect that I'm having a hard time believing Warner Bros. is hip enough to let them do it. It's exciting to think of it, though, and for Clooney, this would be the end of a long process of flirting with Napoleon Solo.
Jon Favreau's 'Cowboys and Aliens' made a splash this year at Comic Con when the director managed to get star Harrison Ford onto the stage in Hall H for the first time ever. That coupled with some impressive preview footage left the crowd wowed and hungry for more. It was the perfect venue as 'Cowboys and Aliens' actually began as a comic and has all the elements that fanboys love, a mash-up of sci-fi and western elements mixed up without trace of irony.
If you missed that event fear not, as a lot of that Comic-Con footage has ended up in the teaser trailer that Universal released today on Yahoo along with a bevy of new images. The teaser begins with outlaw Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of the desert with no shoes and no memories, only a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. It becomes apparent that Favreau is making a western when we see standard cowboy movie elements such as a posse, a saloon and surly rich rancher (Harrison Ford) appear in sequence. The "Aliens" part soon becomes apparent when the old western town starts getting strafed by alien ships. neato.
CBS films acquired the Jason Statham explosion-fest back in August and the first trailer for the film was released last night. Explosions and ass-kicking abound in the trailers two and a half minutes. The movie marks a return to the scene for director Simon West ("Con Air," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") who's been spending time in TV land lately, most notably directing the pilot for "Human Target."
A remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film of the same name, "The Mechanic" features Jason Statham teaching young Ben Foster the basics of how to be a hit-man as they both pursue Foster's father's (Donald Sutherland) killers. From the looks of it, this touching tale is less a "buddy" story between Statham and Foster and more of an all out kill-fest.