Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm not personally acquainted with Terrence Malick, but it looks like he got me a birthday present. My birthday? May 26. The official release date of "Tree Of Life"? May 27, 2011. Thank you, Mr. Malick. Now if I can just get my ass on a plane to Cannes to see the film premiere there…
More news that makes me happy this morning? Laeta Kalogridis has been hired to help get "Fantastic Voyage" ready to shoot. She's one of James Cameron's favorite writers, and one of mine as well. She's been in the game for a while now, but it's only in the last few years that the films she's been working on have even remotely resembled the scripts she writes. With "Shutter Island" and "Avatar," she seems to have finally turned a corner professionally, working on films that actually live up to her work. She's an amazing action writer, and she's great with character, a killer combination that keeps her busy. She's also working on "Ghost In The Shell" right now, but I'm guessing if she's onboard "Fantastic Voyage," they'll sign another director soon to replace Paul Greengrass. Can't wait.
Welcome to The Morning Read.
The robots are coming!
I like to pretend that I'm okay with the evolution of Steven Spielberg into a very solid, respectable, smart and heartfelt grown-up filmmaking. I can appreciate the nuance and the craft of films like "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" and "Catch Me If You Can." But in those quiet moments, when I'm honest with myself, I confess that I would trade every "grown-up" movie he's ever made including my beloved "Empire Of The Sun" if it meant I got another piece of pure popcorn as perfect as "Raiders Of The Lost Ark."
And now, damn it, I have reason to hope.
I haven't read the Daniel H. Wilson novel Robopocalypse, but I can say with confidence that if Drew Goddard is scripting the adaptation, it's going to rock. Goddard is one of those guys who made his bones crafting some of the best TV of the last 15 years, and in his best moments, I hear the same influences in his work that inform my own tastes. That includes a big helping heaping of early Spielberg. Goddard working with Spielberg is an exciting combination.
Reading the article at Deadline, I'm also encouraged by the description of the process on this one. The novel wasn't even finished when Spielberg and Goddard got involved, so for a time, Spielberg would be working on storyboards while Wilson was turning in book pages and Goddard was adapting them into script form.
At comic-con it was easy to confuse "Faster" with "Drive Angry" as they both have lots of steely eyed muscle car driving. As more becomes revealed, they are shaping up to be very different movies, each interesting in its own way.
"Drive Angry" has Nic Cage escaping from hell in 3D, "Faster," on the other hand, has the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson, bent on avenging the death of his brother in a plot that's been laid out very simply in the promotional materials. It feels gritty, pure, and a throwback to earlier times. A 50's western or a 70's cop drama. The fact that there appears to be lots of muscle car chases and gunplay only sweetens the deal.
There will come a point soon where we will be able to set at least two versions of every single film ever made on a shelf. And on that day, I look forward to having a party with my friends to watch Michael Bay's 3D PG-13 $500 million version of "Salo."
Until then, I'll have to content myself with the constant avalanche of remakes of titles both obscure and obvious by artists big and small. At this point, I just marvel at the weird combinations of things. Who wants to see Matthew McConaughey take a shot at "Sargent York"? Or how about Shia LaBeouf in "The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad"? Doesn't make any sense? Doesn't matter! We'll just remake it again in five years anyway!
I'm amazed when little skirmishes break out, bidding wars over rights packages that have been around for a while, but that's a testament to a producer or a writer or a director suddenly making something old look brand-new and exciting. This week, two SF titles have suddenly come roaring back to life with talent attachments and announcements, and despite my irritation with this culture, they both sound like they've got real potential.
Will Smith has become a go-to choice in making big event action movie versions of SF classics. "I Am Legend" and "I Robot" both took strong source material and turned it into decent but surface-level movies. Only time will tell how Jason Rothenberg has adapted both the original novel Colossus and the 1970 film "Colossus: The Forbin Project" into a new film which is, for the moment, called "The Forbin Project."
It's the story of a supercomputer artificial intelligence that basically goes all Frankenstein and tries to take over the world. I expect Will Smith to punch it.
You're a filmmaker working on original projects, and you're looking at the misery of the international financing market, and you're looking at the marketplace and its near-psychotic dependence on remakes and sequels and brands and widgets, and you are filled with despair.
The reason some people break through and some people don't comes down to something as simple as presentation. It is absolutely still possible for a good original idea to take root and bloom and even succeed wildly these days. Possible, but incredibly difficult. If you want to get people to pay attention to your idea, you have to be professional about it, but you also have to think beyond the basics. You have to take initiative, and if you really believe in your idea, you find a way to tell that story. You do it because you have to, not because you're looking to get rich. You do it because it's a compulsion.
I love it when artists take it upon themselves to kickstart something, and when they do it using limited resources, on a small scale, somehow creating things that don't feel like they were created by committee based on market research.
This week's been a good week for this type of story, and two of them deserve to be highlighted. The first is a major new Dreamworks animated film called "Alma," based on a short film by Rodrigo Blaas. Guillermo Del Toro will be working with Blaas and Dreamworks to turn Blaas's award-winning short film into a full-length feature, and it's obvious that Blaas has made a huge impression on Del Toro, since they'll also be co-directing the animated film "Trollhunters".
Over the years since "The Exorcist" exorcism and possession movies have almost become a genre unto themselves. Journalist Matt Baglio sought to get to the reality behind all the green vomit and glazed over eyeballs from those films and followed a young priest as he took a course in exorcism from a Vatican affiliated university. His 2009 non-fiction book "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist" was the result.
One year later and here comes the film version of that book, "The Rite." From the looks of this trailer, all of the Hollywood conventions about exorcism are back with a vengeance. Colin O'Donoghue stars as Michael Kovak, the disillusioned American seminary student who meets Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins,) who introduces him to the darker sides of the faith.
So I woke up this morning to a news alert about some raw video of the "Paranormal Activity 2" screening, including that night-vision stuff of people in the audience sh**ting their pants at the scary parts. It's amazing how effective that footage was in the trailers last year. This stuff is really fun, it's fascinating and voyeuristic to watch people squirm as they get scared.
Given that Drew liked the movie, I threw together a look at the evening for you all to see. Are any of our VIP pass winners in the video? Let us know! And remember, being lured into a free screening may get you on national TV, looking like a scare-dy-cat!
Can you feel it? The wind just changed direction, and I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before that wind changes back.
Since the release of "The Sixth Sense," M. Night Shyamalan has been calling his own shots, and he's grown a reputation for himself as a wee bit of a control freak. And by "wee bit," I mean "planet-sized." If you've never read The Man Who Heard Voices, the book that was written by Michael Bamberger about the development and production of "The Lady In The Water," you should. It's an amazing glimpse at a man who is still wracked by insecurity even after having a career-affirming mega-success or two, and who is so wounded by the development process on his early film "Wide Awake" and the unproduced "Labor Of Love" that he has never been able to fully embrace collaboration again.
That may be changing, though, and I consider it very promising news, indeed. When Shyamalan first started gaining momentum in Hollywood, it was because of his skills as a writer. If you go back and look at his early scripts on the page, like "The Sixth Sense" or his draft of "Stuart Little," what comes across first is the economy of his writing, and the elegance of how he could communicate an idea. Over time, he's become more and more confident as a director, but in the process, he's lost touch with his own talents as a writer, and I'd say his last few feature scripts have been the worst work of his career.
Anyone who walks into "Paranormal Activity 2" skeptical would be well within their rights.
Think about it. The original, released theatrically last year, was a sort of lightning strike of indie inspiration, a shot-on-video film that used one house as a set and that managed to wring some real scares out of something as simple as two characters and some sound effects. It was actually made two years earlier, and it took that entire time for people… specifically Paramount… to figure out how to sell this $11,000 film. They pulled off an aggressive campaign and opened the film to impressive business, even managing to dent the previously undentable "Saw" franchise.
Releasing a sequel a year later would seem to be a sign that the studio is cashing in, and that this is something for them to squeeze as quickly as they can. It's no stretch to imagine that whatever Paramount was rushing onto screens this year was going to be a pale imitation of the first, which was already a fairly lean little trick of a movie.
So how is the second one genuinely scary, and why do I feel like this is a near-perfect example of how to learn from a first film when building a second film?
One thing that made tonight's viewing so fun was the way Paramount has kept pretty much all story details under wraps, including the time-frame for this film. When they started showing a few snippets (because it's not fair to call them clips based on how short they were) from the film in the last few weeks, it was surprising to see Katie Featherston show up again. Considering the end of the first film, that isn't what I expected. I thought we'd be seeing a brand-new family and just more of the same.
A few days after this trailer premiered, appropriately enough, at "Spike's 2010 Scream Awards" and just two days after a crappy bootleg of said trailer made the rounds, we have the official trailer for Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's latest installment in the "Scream" saga. ("exclusively" on Yahoo today)
"Scream 4" looks to review some familiar but much beloved territory. Ten years after the last installment, (wow, really?) Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is once again tormented by a demented knife wielding maniac with a sense of humor and a love of horror movies.
Returning are the franchise's surviving regulars, Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox
Arquette as well as a few fresh faces such as Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin. In the trailer, Culkin has the coveted role of explaining "the rules." Or the horror movie conventions that Ghostface will tend to follow this time around.
Looks like fun, watch the trailer embedded above and let us know what you think. Are you ready for more, or over it?