Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
'Nightmare' answers, Cameron reflects on 'Terminator,' and Vaughn's 'American Jesus'
Good morning, folks. I've been thinking a lot about The Morning Read in the last few weeks. It's easily the thing that's gotten the most feedback since I started here at HitFix, and I know people are checking for it daily, and I'm actually really happy with the format. I just know that on some days, it can take a few hours to put together, and the morning becomes the afternoon before I can publish it. I'd like to make it a little more concise, with the possibility of an Afternoon Read on a very busy day, and then actually emphasize a few stories with articles of their own if they're worthwhile or if a story is breaking. I think it'll help keep things active here on the blog, and since I'm trying to get better at the "constant content" thing, I think maybe a slightly shorter Morning Read, but with more frequency, might just be essential.
Yesterday's biggest news was the arrival of the trailer for "Where The Wild Things Are," which you can see in high-def over at Apple.com, and it pleases me to see how strong the reactions to the trailer have been so far. It's absolutely accurate to the look and tone of the movie, so if you like what you've seen so far, that's what you're going to get when the movie is released. I think it's exciting that so many people seem to understand already just how odd and challenging this film is, and instead of rejecting it, that seems to be what has them interested.
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A hypnotic documentary about an underground music phenomenon
There was a time in my life when live music was really important to me, an essential part of my regular entertainment diet. If I liked a band, I felt like I had to see them play every time I could, and there were certain bands I even followed from city to city on certain tours. Film was always my first love, but live music ran a close second.
At some point, that changed. And it changed completely. It just turned. I didn't feel that same manic urge anymore. I can't even tell you why it happened. It just did. I'll occasionally go see a show now, but it's more of a special occasion, and sometimes, I'll look around during a show and see a look on someone's face as they're gripped by that same urgency I used to feel, and I envy them that ability.
That's a big part of what I felt while I was watching "All Tomorrow's Parties," a new documentary about a decade-old music festival in England that's unlike any other music festival I've heard of. More than anything, it reminds me of what the New Beverly's been doing with filmmakers, or the Alamo's classic Quentin Tarantino festivals. At All Tomorrow's Parties, the festival invites a curator, a headliner like Mogwai or Sonic Youth or Explosions In The Sky. The curators then pick enough other bands to fill out an entire weekend's worth of music, like a giant live mix tape, and because it's a differerent curator each time, the personality of the festival is always changing.
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Plus screwed-up subtitles and 'Bruno' tricks
Wow. It feels like I've been on the road forever, but it's actually just been a little over a week. That's the last major road trip I've got planned until Comic-Con this summer, so for the next few months, we can focus on the regular routine here at HitFix.
During that week-plus I was on the road, lots of stuff happened that I didn't report here on the blog, and I'd like to catch up this week even as we dig into what's new. So if you see something here this week that's not "brand-new," it might be new to me.
I see that Yahoo! Movies decided to put together a list of "The 100 Movies You Should See Before You Die." And looking at it, there sure are a lot of familiar titles there. It's sort of what I was hoping to avoid with the Motion/Captured Must-See Project, and the whole reason I put together a List Of Duh before even starting. There are so many great films that people don't already know the title of that recommending "Die Hard" seems almost frustratingly wrong. Yes... it's an action classic. Yes... it was imitated mercilessly. But do you really think "Die Hard" is underrated or overlooked, or that it needs the help of a list at this point? What point is there in doing any of this if we're not going to try to broaden the conversation instead of just repeating the same thing over and over?
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The studio creates one of the most innovative ideas in DVD sales so far
As I sit here sorting through a week and a half of e-mail, physical mail, DVDs, BluRays, screening invites, and news I've missed while buried in festival land, trying to get organized enough for a Morning Read for today and a new DVD column this afternoon, there's one story that is absolutely worth discussing on its own before we get into anything else.
Yep, I'm talking about you, Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
It doesn't shock me at all that George Feltenstein is one of the big movers behind the deal. I met George when I was at Dave's Video almost 20 years ago, and he was a rabid buyer of laserdiscs. In particular, he was all about the vintage titles, and what was available and what wasn't was a topic that we had many, many conversations about over the two years I worked there. There were films he was desperate to get his hands on that he was convinced would never find their way out of the vault, and it used to drive him crazy. So when I read his quotes in an article about this new system, it makes perfect sense. "This news is going to make a lot of people really happy" is a bit of an understatement.
Look, ever since Feltenstein began to climb his way to senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Home Video, his influence has been evident on the catalog release schedule over there, but no matter how many films they release commercially each year on DVD, they're not going to put everything out. That's because they have almost 7,000 titles in their archives. Those are Warner titles, MGM titles, and anything else they've picked up as various catalogs have changed hands over the years. There are less than 1500 of those titles that are available right now.
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Is there ever room for three identical projects in the marketplace?
One of the worst parts of SXSW this year was getting that horrible black lung rot that I seem to pick up when I travel these days. I think having kids has ruined my immune system. In the last three years, I've gotten more deathly respiratory and sinus plagues visited on me than in the twenty years before that combined.
One of the best parts of SXSW this year was getting a little time to hang out with my old boss Harry Knowles, who I just plain don't see often enough these days. Not that I ever did, but the day to day interaction of working with someone can allow you to forget you don't get enough chances to see them socially, just as friends. We were lucky that way at AICN... the friendships made the work almost indecent amounts of fun much of the time. It was like getting away with something.
Unfortunately, the worst and the best parts of SXSW overlapped a bit there at the end, and even as I got a chance to have dinner with Harry and Quint and Capone and Rav and Kraken and Father Geek, my fever was peaking without me realizing it at first. Things got a little weird by the time we finished screening "The Horseman," a film we'd all missed during the festival, but I remember at one point in the evening, Harry told me that he'd been sent two copies of a book for review, and he gave me the second copy to read on the plane on the way home. The title? "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
A father-son trip to The Bridge for some Monsters and some Aliens
It's been a looooooooong three weeks since I've seen my family.
They took a family vacation with a whole posse of immediate relatives in every direction in Argentina, while I was here working. They had been gone for just over a week and a half when I left for Austin to attend SXSW.
They got back while I was gone, and when all was said and done, it wasn't until about 5:00 on Saturday afternoon that I got to see them for the first time in what I think is the longest I've been away from all three of them since my second son was born. I think the shooting of "Pro-Life" may have actually been longer, but that was before Allen. And I remember that being really emotionally difficult. This time, it was torture. Absolute low-grade agony for the whole trip. I really depend on the time I spend with them. There are all sorts of reasons, and one of them certainly is enjoying movies with someone, which any film fan knows is better than watching them alone.
Some of my fondest memories of seeing films as a kid are films that I saw with my parents. Or with one parent or the other. I know people who can tell you exactly what theater they saw every film in (hello, Scott Weinberg). For me, I can trace my formative years in film by who I saw films with. Because it was always me, pushing people to see things. I made the strangest requests, and I saw a lot of films simply because people were so curious why I would ask to see something in the first place. Sure, there were films my parents took me to because they were the "right" movies for kids. Like Disney films, obviously. But they also took me to a lot of films that they were interested in seeing, and as a result, I think I "grew up" cinematically sort of fast. Which is important. I think my attitude towards what film is and what it can be and what I like about it all depends on those post-"Star Wars" years where I really started asserting my own taste. Since my job entails so much movie viewing, it's something that I obviously hope my sons will be interested in. If they're ever not interested in movies, I am totally fine with that, but it would be nice if they wanted to go see what I'm seeing. Right now, they're too young for most things I see theatrically. It's going to be a while before anyone's joining me for "Last House On The Left" or "Shortbus."
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Clive Owen and Julia Robers play a grown-up game of cat and mouse
Tony Gilroy's been a working writer in Hollywood since the early '90s, but it's really only been in the last seven years that he's hit his stride and really established his voice. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with "Michael Clayton," and if you enjoyed that film, then "Duplicity" should have you dancing in the aisles. It's smart, sophisticated bubblegum, a chance for two actors to turn the charm up and let their hair down a bit. The entire film, with its knotted narrative and its sassy attitude, is basically an excuse for Clive Owen and Julia Roberts to engage in a bit of verbal tango for a few hours. How you feel about the film will depend in large part on how you feel about them as actors, and my own enjoyment of the film caught me a bit off-guard.
I don't dislike Julia Roberts... I've just never been a rabid fan. I think she's given some very good performances, and I think she's also been in films where she was stranded without any support. Now that she's aged out of the mainstream romantic lead, the roles she's right for are more interesting, if less frequent, and my first reaction here was that she was slightly miscast. Upon reflection, though, I'd say that's not true. She's older, and it shows, and that's actually perfect for what Gilroy's written. She plays Claire, formerly of the CIA, while Owen plays Ray, formerly of MI6, both of them professionals who are moving from one career into another, both of them seasoned and experienced. Their romantic connection isn't based on a fleeting physical attraction. Instead, it hinges on the fact that they recognize something in one another, something unique. These are people who lie and cheat and manipulate for a living, and to suddenly come face-to-face with someone who not only understands who they are, but who can accept them, dishonesty and all.
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Does this bromance deliver the laughs? Paul Rudd & Jason Segal star.
It's been just over ten years since John Hamburg's "Safe Men" was released. If you haven't seen that film, it's on DVD right now, and I highly recommend tracking down a copy. It's a great small quirky comedy with Steve Zahn, Paul Giamatti, and Sam Rockwell, and it's one of those movies that I've probably pushed on more friends over the years than I can count. And every single time, the person who I give it to ends up loving it. As a result, I've been interested in whatever Hamburg's up to since then. He's co-written both "Meet The Parents" and "Meet The Fockers," and right now, he's working on a draft of "The Little Fockers." But him as a writer/director is what interests me more, and this weekend, he's got a film in general release that I think justifies that ongoing interest on my part, and which confirms Paul Rudd as one of the most deranged and subversive mainstream male leads working right now.
"I Love You, Man" is about a guy named Peter Klaven (Rudd) who has managed to go from girlfriend to girlfriend his entire life, never really forming any close male friendships as a result. I know guys like this, serial monogamists. And they do vanish into their relationships, almost as if they're afraid that any outside influence will destroy whatever relationship they have with the girl. When Klaven pops the questions to his girlfriend Zooey (the preposterously cute Rashida Jones), he realizes he's going to need a best man, and that's what kicks off his quest to find a new friend, someone he can legitimately ask to stand next to him on the most important day of his life. If you've seen any movie ever in your entire life, you can guess that it won't be easy, and that Sydney Fife (Jason Segal) isn't going to be the easiest guy in the world to deal with. And, admittedly, narrative innovation isn't what "I Love You, Man" is all about. Instead, the film provides a simple framework to explore the idea of how we define "normal" masculine behavior, and whether or not there's some value in playing the social roles that we're supposed to play. It's a smart comedy with plenty of broad, outrageous moments to keep things light.
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Kathryn Bigelow's disturbing portrait of war as a drug opens this summer
Writer Mark Boal spent time as an embedded reporter in Iraq, specifically with the men who are tasked as many as twelve times a day to defuse explosives. And in that time, he came to realize that the men who were best at it were wired differently than anyone else, which makes sense. I truly believe that man
y of us end up where we do in life because we couldn't end up anywhere else if we tried. We are at the mercy of our own nature, and if you're lucky in this life, you are able to find the job that brings out all your best qualities.
But what if that job put your life in danger a dozen times a day?
That's the main thrust of Kathryn Bigelow's dynamic new "The Hurt Locker," a film that is fact-based, character-driven, and tense from the opening frame to the last. It's a hell of a picture from this director who has always had a hard time sustaining any sort of commercial momentum. Her last feature was 2002's "K-19: The Widowmaker," a Harrison Ford movie that wasn't great, but that certainly shouldn't have killed a career dead. I mean, has it really been 20 years since she made "Near Dark"? Seems unbelievable. And in that time, she's made several films that have emphasized an almost immersive quality, and it's that aesthetic that she brings to "The Hurt Locker" to fantastic effect. This is the best overall film she's ever made, and it manages to fit neatly into the voice she's already established as a filmmaker while hopefully also opening new doors for her as well.
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The heroes suit up and Nic Cage gets batty
In my first "Kick-Ass" set visit article, which was posted over at Ain't It Cool, I was talking about being on-set for the one scene in the film where all the real-life superheroes are together in one room, in costume, at the same time. Let's recap who was there:
The Red Mist. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, famous from "Superbad," looking to redefine how people think of him. The most outrageous of the costumes, looking like he wandered off the set of "Velvet Goldmine."
Hit Girl. Chloe Moretz. Huge iconic character. When you see the purple wig and the leather battle armor under the schoolgirl exterior, and the sneer this 11-year-old rocks with all the authority of a young truck-drivin' Elvis, you will understand. Hit Girl is a star.
Kick-Ass, of course, played by Aaron Johnson, and he's the one this entire film rides on. If the audience identifies with him and really feels like they know this kid, then they'll take this fairly dark and crazy ride with him. I think Aaron's work that I saw reminded me of what young Michael J. Fox did so well... he's playing a kid who is sort of not quite in control, but there's a precision to what he does in that performance.
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