Now's when things start getting interesting.
Until this point, any and all conversation about casting for "The Hobbit" has been little more than a game of hypotheticals for fans. Now, with the announcement having been made officially that Peter Jackson will direct both films in 3D, casting is underway for the film's February start date.
Obviously the biggest question regarding "The Hobbit" has to be "Who will play Bilbo Baggins?" In my article about the greenlight being given, I stated my preference, one I've been saying in public for a few years now. Imagine my joy at the idea that Martin Freeman, best known as Tim from the original "Office," might actually turn out to be the man they hire for the job. Most recently, he played Watson in the exceptional new BBC series, "Sherlock," and it's a reminder of just what a great combination of open curiosity and wry wit he's capable of given the right material. He's an exceptional choice for the role, and if it's true he's first on the list, I think Jackson and company may have hit a home run.
There are obviously going to have to be returning cast members like Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis, but for the most part, "The Hobbit" offers dozens of new roles, great roles, and it's going to give Jackson a lot of room to put together amazing actors from around the world to help bring this new corner of Middle-earth to life. Right now, we're starting to hear names like David "Dr. Who" Tennant and Jimmy Nesbitt being mentioned, although without any particular character name attached. I'm pleased to see Michael Fassbender also in contention for a role in the film, and if all of these guys end up in one film together, it's going to be an embarrassingly good cast.
Now's when things start getting interesting.
And in the end, we all get what we wanted in the first place.
Warner Bros. has officially confirmed that the greenlight has been given for Peter Jackson to direct two "Hobbit" films article with production set to start in February 2011.
In an official press release, Jackson says, "Exploring Tolkien's Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience." I'd say that's an understatement. Maybe we've forgotten a bit at this end of the decade just how unreal the entire proposition sounded when we first heard about Jackson's plans for "Lord Of The Rings," and yet by the time he was finished, there was little argument that he had accomplished one of the singular feats in fantasy filmmaking.
Over the last year, the drama surrounding the making of "The Hobbit" has threatened to overwhelm any conversation about the film itself, and when Guillermo Del Toro left the film earlier this year, it looked like the film was further away from happening than ever before. If I was a betting men, I'd probably be losing money today because I felt sure the MGM bankruptcy issues would keep the movie from happening this year at all. So many films are stuck in the black hole of MGM's money troubles that I didn't have faith this one project would be the exception.
And yet here we are, with Peter Jackson saying, "It's an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty, and drama. We're looking forward to re-entering this wondrous world with Gandalf and Bilbo and our friends at New Line Cinema, Warner Brothers and MGM."
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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."
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.