Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
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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Jody Hill and Seth Rogen thrown the year's most twisted party in this comedy featuring no Pauls and no Blarts
Something's happening in comedy right now, something really special, and I feel genuinely lucky to have watched it unfold for the last few years.
Anyone who just refers to this new explosion of comedy talent as "that Judd Apatow stuff," as a guy in line in front of me did the other night, isn't paying attention. Yes, Judd's been a big part of that, but it's richer and stranger than just his work, and the talent pool is deep enough that everyone's bringing something different to the table.
Consider the North Carolina Posse, for example. When David Gordon Green released his acclaimed early films "George Washington" and "All The Real Girls," I doubt anyone who saw them was thinking about them as calling cards for a huge comedy career. But after seeing "Pineapple Express" and his episodes of "East Bound and Down," a part of me hopes he never goes back to working in drama again. "East Bound," if you're not aware of it, is an HBO series that finishes its soon-to-be-legendary run this Sunday night. Co-created by Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best, it stars McBride as Kenny Powers, an ex-major league baseball player who is in free fall in his personal life, but who always manages to remain gloriously, idiotically unaware of his own ridiculousness.
That's actually a signature of the work of Jody Hill, another big player in this North Carolina mob. I find myself more and more impressed by each fresh project from these guys. "The Foot Fist Way" made my top ten list in 2007, the year before Paramount Vantage finally released it theatrically. I felt bad about that, though, because by the time Vantage finally put it out, they'd messed with it. The cut that made my list was the festival cut of the film. It was shaggier, meaner, with all sorts of rough edges. The eccentric details are what made the film great, and I was frustrated by the theatrical cut as a result.
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Austin's biggest festival wraps the film program with awards as the music kicks off
Wow. Looks like the festival is now halfway finished. Actually, it's officially over as of tonight, while the music festival is just kicking off. I'm not seeing a ton of movies like I did at Sundance, because I've been trying to do press for a few films. I've got reviews coming tonight, but the big news right now is that the festival has just announced its awards.
I wish I could offer more perspective here, but at a festival like this, it's such a crap shoot, and this time, I think I completely had a different festival than these juries.
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Yep. We're at that point.
Last night was the "Observe & Report" premiere and party here at South By Southwest, and as much fun as all of it was, I'm reminded this morning why I don't attend many festival parties. My throat is thrashed. And I'm weary in a way I haven't been so far this week.
I'll have more on "O&R" later today (it's sort of amazing), as well as reviews for a few other films. I'm on my way to a press event right now, so I'll have to hold the posting until right after, but rest assured... lots more SXSW coverage ahead as this exceptional week continues...
Sam Raimi brings his new horror film to Austin and rocks the house
Sam Raimi took the stage tonight with a pratfall flat on his face, followed by some fumbling around with his speech that managed to somehow end up with his necktie threaded through his glasses and over his face, leading to a wistful, "Who turned out the lights?" from the beloved film geek icon. His playful demeanor helped set just the right tone for the work-in-progress screening of his brand-new self-described "spook-a-blast," a nasty little bit of cyanide fun called "Drag Me To Hell." It is a new Sam Raimi horror film, something many of his fans probably thought they'd never see.
And it is an indecent amount of fun.
Alison Lohman's had a hard time getting traction in her career. Although she'd worked quite a bit beforehand, it was "Matchstick Men" where I first noticed her, and although she was in her mid-twenties when she made it, she looked like a fifteen year old. She's never really had a great role since then, a movie-star role, the sort of role that helps define an actor for the public. She may have finally found it as Christine, the put-upon hero of this film. She's a loan officer at a small bank, bucking for a promotion, competing with a co-worker. She's a former farm girl, a once-fat girl who managed to drop the weight, move to the city, start a career, and find a perfect boyfriend named Clay.