The Morning Read (1.29.09)

I'm still reeling from last night's episode of "Lost," which I recapped over on our "Monkeys As Critics" blog.  If you're a fan, you know why I'm so blown away, and if you're not, I couldn't even begin to explain it.

Various news stories breaking at Variety are going to get regurgitated across the blogosphere today.

For example, there's the bidding war that erupted over "The Sitter," a spec script that ultimately sold to Fox Atomic.  What that article doesn't say is that Jonah Hill may be attached to star, which is one of the reasons that package looked so attractive to everyone bidding on it.

I saw "Coraline" yesterday, and while I'm embargoed on any sort of full review, I'll just say that Neil Gaiman's got to be feeling better about the prospect of seeing his work done right onscreen than he ever has before.  And just in time, too, since Neil Jordan's attached to write and direct the screen adaptation of "The Graveyard Book," which just won the Newberry Award.  It's basically "The Jungle Book" if Mowgli was raised by the dead instead of animals, and it's another of Gaiman's great ideas.  Jordan's a gifted visualist, and when he really nails a piece of material, there are few filmmakers I like more.  I think this is terribly exciting news.

I remain profoundly unconvinced by this prequel to "The Thing" that is coming together. Ron Moore's a smart guy, but I don't give a shit about seeing what happened before Carpenter's film. I barely care about the idea of what happened after, but at least there's some latitude for storytelling there. But a prequel? I wish Matthijs Van Heijningen luck, but I just can't image why this story needs to be told aside from cash. Then again, I hope the producers remember the original was a massive bomb when it was released in '82. Also, technically, Bloody-Disgusting broke this story two weeks ago, so Variety once again reports something without sourcing the internet. Sweeeeet.

Speaking of Bloody-Disgusting, they have several stories of note up this morning.  One is a confirmation that Nic Cage is attached to a "Ghost Rider" sequel.  I actually had a long talk with Cage about this on the set of "Kick Ass," and he talked about how the idea for the sequel evolved.  Basically, he was on a press tour for the first "Ghost Rider" and wanted to visit Westminster Abbey.  When he did, he stumbled into a conference of cardinals, who recognized him and asked him to sit in with them.  When he was sitting there, dressed as Johnny Blaze, surrounded by cardinals from all over Europe discussing official Catholic Church business, Cage had the idea:  "what if Blaze was working for the Church?  What if they needed their own demon to get certain things done?"  As I understand it, that's where the sequel picks up.  Right now, it looks like Sony's still looking for a writer for the film.

Is Robert Rodriguez finally producing his long-rumored "Predators" for Fox?  If so, it's got to be a step up from those wretched AvsP films they've been cranking out the last few years.

Also, Bloody-Disgusting managed to sneak into that "Drag Me To Hell" test screening as well.  God, I want to see that movie now.

Off to take Toshi to school, then I've got to take a quick nap before I run off to do interviews for "The International."  Then, finally, I'll have time to type up this backlog of reviews.  Seems like I haven't had ten free seconds since Sundance ended.  Crazy, eh?

 

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The Morning Read (1.28.09)

The truth is that Harry misses me.

Desperately.

That's the only explanation for the way he responded to my "Green Hornet" follow-up article.  He's written some elaborate fantasy about me supposedly having "affection" for him.  Short of him smothering himself in Chuy's creamy guacamole dressing, though, I don't believe there's any chance of my giving him looks of longing and desire.

And come on... is anyone surprised that Harry says he's the one real "Green Hornet" fan out there?  Harry was a fan of every single property that has ever been developed.  That's who he is.  If they were to announce tomorrow that Edgar Wright is developing a big-budget bigscreen revamp of Buck Henry's "Quark," I'm sure Harry would have 28,000 words ready to go on the subtle nuance of Tim Thomerson's gender-bending character and why he's always though "Quark" was unappreciated genius.  He's a big mad ginger.  Look away.

However, his wife is sort of awesome, and I wholeheartedly support the idea of giving Patricia "Yoko" Knowles her own music column on the site.  She's got her own voice, and her taste is eclectic enough that I think it'll be worth checking out her recommendations from week to week.  Now let's hope Rojo gets her a badge for SXSW so she can see a ton of bands and report on them.

Quint's been busy, with two reviews that are worth your time this morning.  One's for a Japanese superhero film called "K-20" that I've heard nothing about until his impassioned rave, and the other is from last night's test screening in LA of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me To Hell."

He wasn't alone.  Other online guys like Latino Review's El Guapo and Shock Till You Drop's Ryan Rotten were also in attendence, and it seems like everyone liked what they saw.  Considering what a drag (pun intended) the script was, I'm very excited to hear these reactions, and now I have to hope for a genuine no-shit Sam Raimi horror film when the movie's released in May.  Great news, indeed.

Even if I now think of Glenn Kenny as immeasurably gross thanks to his work in Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience," I still think he's a hell of a read, and his piece over at The Auteur's Notebook on Joe Losey's "The Big Night" is a must read today.

Brendon Connelly may be a new-ish addition to the team at /Film, but he's well-known to anyone who is a Gilliam freak, and it doesn't surprise me at all that he's the one who broke the first real details on "The Zero Theorem," which may star Billy Bob Thornton and be Gilliam's next film.

Peter Travers broke a confidence, and he's a douche.  Seriously.  The only reason he ran that is to make himself look cool, and he just burned down a multi-year joke as a result.  Blow me, Travers.

It's going to have to be a shorter Morning Read today.  I've got to make a double feature of both "Coraline" and "The International," but I'll have more reviews when I get back.

 

 

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Mr. T and Dwight Schultz in a 1984 photo from NBC's "The A-Team."
Mr. T and Dwight Schultz in a 1984 photo from NBC's "The A-Team."
Credit: AP Photo/NBC-TV/File

REMAKE THIS: Joe Carnahan set to direct Fox's 'A-Team'

Ridley and Tony Scott on board to produce

Welcome to an editorial column that will show up here at Motion/Captured from time to time, a variation on a column I ran for years at Ain't It Cool called "Remake This."

Basically, the flood of remakes has become so pervasive that I stopped the column.  Every other news story was about a remake of some sort, either an update of an old TV show or a "reimagining" of an old movie, and it seemed silly to rail about it.

At this point, I've accepted that this is just part of the business model for the studios that isn't going away, even if they are in danger of making so many of them that they forget to develop new properties that might one day be ripe for them to remake.  It's like lumber companies that forget to replant the forests.

I think the time has come to bring this back so that we can not just report about some of these remakes, but also look at the potential of the properties involved and also look at the choices being made in development.  Some good.  Some bad.  But this is the engine driving our industry right now, and that means this is a conversation worth having.

Today's news is about a property that's been kicking around for a few years now, and it marks a dramatic about-face in what we thought was happening with it.  '80s nostalgia is a big deal since "Transformers" made 73 grajillion dollars around the world, and you'll see a big test of people's tolerance for it with the release of "G.I. Joe" this summer.

Remember when the news was that John Singleton was set to direct Ice Cube in "The A-Team"?  And that it was also set for release this year?

Well, that ain't happening.

According to Variety, Joe Carnahan ("Narc," "Smoking Aces") is set to direct the movie now based on a script that Skip Woods wrote after Singleton left the project.

I think Carnahan's a good filmmaker who really hasn't navigated the development waters of the studio system with any luck.  He's developed a fair amount of interesting material that has gone unmade, and he's got to be feeling a bit bruised by this point.  His Pablo Escobar movie, which has been a driving passion for the last few years, has bounced from home to home, with its last stop at the Yari Company now embroiling it in bankruptcy proceedings.  It doesn't help that "Entourage" has thoroughly roasted the notion of the Escobar biopic in the meantime, meaning that's one more thing Carnahan will have to deal with when selling the film.

I can imagine that when Fox says, "How about 'The A-Team'?" it starts to sound pretty appealing.  You know they're interested in not only making it, but selling it, and a box-office smash helps kick loose money for passion projects.  This is exactly the kind of gig you take if you're thinking that it's about time you just plain sell dat ass in order to get to the point where you can make what you want at the budget you need.

I think Carnahan's a better choice than Singleton.  I think anyone's a better choice than Singleton, who I think has proven to be one of the most disappointing working filmmakers overall, with a filmography that can be called "spotty" if you're feeling overly generous.  Carnahan's "Narc" is a genuinely good little film, and "Smoking Aces" is stylish if empty.  He's a guy I think has a great mainstream action movie in him, and if they let him turn "The A-Team" into a big macho rollercoaster, it just might turn out to be one of the better decisions Fox has made in a while.

Ridley and Tony Scott are producing through their Scott Free deal, and they're at least a strong enough producing unit in terms of their muscle at Fox that they might be able to make this something decent.  And the premise -- four Iraqi vets accused of bank robbery break out of a military prison and become Robin Hood-style heroes-on-the-run -- gives Carnahan enough room for something really rowdy and violent, which could be a nice playground for him.

Still don't want to see an "A-Team" film, but I have to admit... I understand how this deal came together, and I can't blame anyone.  A property like this takes on a gravity of its own as it moves forward, and it's going to get made one way or another.  At least this way has some small degree of potential.

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Seth Rogen, preparing to lay down some kung-fu pain on Drew McWeeny
Seth Rogen, preparing to lay down some kung-fu pain on Drew McWeeny

Seth Rogen Says 'Hornet' Still Has Wings

Additional reports say Stephen Chow still attached

Over the weekend, I ran an article in which I talked about the plug possibly being pulled on the upcoming "The Green Hornet," written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  I had sourced the article from several directions, but there was one person I hadn't spoken to when I published, and that was Seth Rogen.

Let's just say he wasn't pleased.  And he has a very different take on things.

"'The Green Hornet' has many people working for it, including production designers, costume designers and many conceptual artists, office staff, etc.," he said during our e-mail exchange back and forth. "[The studio heads] have every intention on making it, and assuming we're able to hire a new director in the upcoming weeks, which seems like a distinct possibilty, it should still hit the release date."

I've known Seth for a while now, and I always feel awkward approaching people over bad news.  Even with three separate sources all associated with Sony or the production confirming the news, Seth is a producer on this, a co-writer, and the lead actor.  His point of view certainly belonged in an article about the status of the film.

And Rogen's right to be protective of what's happening in the development phase right now.  This is not the moment to be reading that your job is ending, especially if you're hearing differently from your employer, and I hate thinking about all the production staff spending the weekend worried about their paychecks because of something I wrote.

Over at Ain't It Cool, Harry's itching for a fight with me, and he published a report that Stephen Chow is still involved with the film.  Now, according to Seth, they're looking for a director, so I guess Chow really is just playing Kato.  I'm eager to hear how that works out, and I hope that as this one moves forward, we're able to bring you reports on how it comes together.

Look, I sincerely hope I was misinformed by my initial sources on this.  I think everything I've heard about Seth and Evan's take sounds cool, and anything that brings Stephen Chow to the mainstream is great news in my book.  Fingers crossed we see this one onscreen and on time.

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Penelope Cruz makes a nation of men jealous of a cigarette in 'Vicki Christina Barcelona'
Penelope Cruz makes a nation of men jealous of a cigarette in 'Vicki Christina Barcelona'
Credit: The Weinstein Company

On The Shelf (1.27.09)

It's Tuesday.

That means there must be new DVDs and BluRay releases on the shelves of your local stores today, and I must be gettin' my butt out of the house so I can pick up an armful of stuff later today.

I'm trying to get all of my relationships with the various DVD companies sorted out so I can bring you advance looks at these titles, but for now, I'm pretty much down to one or two vendors who are still working with me, and the rest, I'm buying just like you guys.  So don't think this is just me shilling for people who sent me free stuff.  Far from it.  I'm a DVD junkie, and even if I didn't write for any website at all, there's still a stack of titles I'd be interested in this morning.  It's just how I'm wired.

"Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection"

"As for you, Troy Donahue/I know what you wanna do..."

That line from "Grease" was the introduction for most of my generation to the existence of Troy Donahue, and since most of his films have slipped into obscurity, it's not like you can really fault us for not being more familiar with what he did.  One of the reasons I think Warner Bros. is the best home video company in the business is because of the depth of their catalog, and another is because they actually reach into those deep shelves and produce box sets full of titles that might otherwise never be seen again.

I don't know that I'm chomping at the bit for any one specific title here, but I always pick up the Warner collections knowing that I'll get an assortment of things that will most likely yield at least one gem.  Will it be "Palm Springs Weekend," "Parrish," "Rome Adventure," or "Susan Slade"?  Guess I'll have to weigh in once I've actually worked my way through this one.

"Goodbye Mr. Chips"

"Cannery Row"

"Far From The Madding Crowd"

"Waterloo Bridge"

"The Yellow Rolls-Royce"


See what I mean about Warner?  All of these are catalog titles that are hitting DVD for the first time today.  There's an earlier "Waterloo Bridge" that came out as part of a "Forbidden Hollywood" collection earlier, I believe, but this one's new to disc.  I am particularly interested in "Cannery Row," which plays far stranger in the memory of my one viewing at the age of 12, and "Far From The Madding Crowd," with young badass Terrence Stamp and Julie Christie back when she was omygodbeautiful, and not merely beautiful, like now.

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Mel Gibson, in the young-and-pretty not-so-crazy days, from "The Road Warrior"
Mel Gibson, in the young-and-pretty not-so-crazy days, from "The Road Warrior"
Credit: Warner Home Video

Stuff To See In LA: January 26th - February 1st

One of the best things about living in LA is the burgeoning revival scene that's been blowing up over the last couple of years.  There's always room for it to be better, though, and the only way that's going to happen is if I use whatever platform I have to promote these screenings and, even more crucially, if you guys actually attend them.

I'm guilty of talking about the revival scene more than enjoying it.  I get so caught up in the week-to-week schedule of press screenings and writing that I have very little free time left over to go check out what's happening at the Aero or the Egyptian or the New Beverly or the Silent Movie Theater.  But I should go.  It's an important part of a balanced cinema diet, going to see revivals of great films in the theater, and I rely too much on DVD to fill in the gaps in my own film knowledge.

So I think I'm going to start trying to round up some of these screening announcements once a week, and if there's stuff I'm missing, or smaller films that are playing special venues... let me know.  Please.

For example, did you know there are two different venues where you can see Alfred Hitchcock films this week?  Or that someone's doing an ongoing program of kid's movies that are totally f'ed up?

The New Beverly is the most authentically grindhouse place in town, and the programming is consistently good.  When they have in guest programmers, it gets even more exciting, and this week Peter Bogdanovich is the man in charge.  That's so cool that I don't even care what's playing.  I'm tempted just to go and see whatever he's put together because this is a guy who deeply loves movies, and whose writing about them has always been so sharp. 

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Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig
Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew

'Tintin' adds Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig to the cast

Title officially 'The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of The Unicorn'

Well, then.  "Tintin" just got a title, some new confirmed cast members and co-screenwriters, and a whoooooooole lot more interesting all at the same time.

The film is now officially called "The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn," according to Variety.  That's one of the best-loved of the Tintin stories created by Hergé, and it appears that Stephen Moffat had some help on the script from Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish.  That news alone would push this way up the list of things I'm dying to see right now, but there have also been some new developments with the cast.

Jamie Bell is now set to star as Tintin, and I think that's a hell of a good choice.  Bell's been getting better and better over the last few years, and even in a weaker effort like "Jumper," he stands out.  Even better, Daniel Craig's been added as pirate Red Rackham, one of Tintin's recurrent enemies in the comic stories.

The movie has finally started production after a fairly rocky pre-production, where money kept falling in and then falling out again.  Reaction to the announced motion-capture CGI adaptations of the long-running illustrated adventure series has been decidedly mixed so far.  There are a ton of people my age or younger who don't really know the character or the material as they never really broke huge in America.  I remember reading Tintin in Boy's Life magazine when I was a little kid, and I hunted down the book collections and read them all over the years.  I'm excited about these, in no small part because of a great documentary on Hergé that I saw on PBS in the last few years.

And with a team like this in place?  Keep in mind, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are playing the Thompson Twins, Andy Serkis is Captain Haddock, and Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook are also part of the cast.  Paramount and Sony are co-financing the films, with Spielberg directing the first one and Peter Jackson onboard to direct the second one.

Honestly, I'd bet money that "The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn" is going to be one of 2011's most unusual films, and I'm eager to get a look at what it is they're up to.

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Jennifer Carpenter just before things get ugly in 'Quarantine'
Jennifer Carpenter just before things get ugly in 'Quarantine'
Credit: Sony/Screen Gems

My DVD Shelf: 'Quarantine' (BluRay)

Since I got back from Sundance, I've been watching any and everything I have here in the house on BluRay, just to see how good things can look and how bad some source material looks on the screen.  And when my buddy Scott came over on Saturday and wanted to watch something new, we ended up putting in one of the discs that showed up while I was away, the new Sony BluRay release of "Quarantine."

Yes, I think it's a criminal shame that a new film as good as "[REC]" didn't get widely distributed and seen here in the U.S.  Having said that, the remake happened.  A year after the original.  And the filmmakers they attached to the American version worked their asses off to make sure that they made a film that would work on its own.  I like the Dowdles as filmmakers.  Their movie "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" turned out to be one of the most controversial things I ever programmed at any event I was part of, so I hoped that "Quarantine" would be at least a decent effort from them.

I think it's more than that, though.  I think "Quarantine" is a great haunted house.  It's not really a movie in a conventional sense, because it's such a linear, experiential event that calling it a movie sort of does it a disservice.  In the theater, it leaned heavily on the "shot on video" gimmick, but this BluRay transfer is a whole different thing.  It looks like they just used the high-def master and did a direct transfer.  The result is sort of eye-popping if you watch it at 1080p.  There's a good chance that a number of filmmakers who are just now gearing up will never work on film.  That's sort of mind-boggling.  I remember when the mere suggestion of shooting a feature film on video would have been laughed at, and now it's more than an option... it's gaining ground as the first choice for many people.

The DVD has a commentary by the Dowdles and a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and I wish they'd devoted one entire piece to the editing of the film, one of the invisible threads holding this complicated sleight-of-hand together.  If you can't get past the idea of the remake, don't bother, but if you're interested in seeing a really smart and slick horror film, "Quarantine" is at least worth a rental.

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Nazi zombies in 'Dead Snow'
Nazi zombies in 'Dead Snow'
Credit: Sundance

Sundance 2009: 'Dead Snow' and 'Treevenge'

Nazis. Zombies. How can you get that wrong?

When we were preparing for Sundance, Greg and Dan and I all picked certain things we wanted to see and review, and I called the midnight section of the festival for myself.  I love the potential collision of exploitation and arthouse at festivals like this or Toronto, and I'm always curious to see what they call a midnight movie.  The best way to judge the effectiveness of the programming is, of course, to actually see it at one of the midnight public screenings at the Egyptian, which is where I caught the double-feature of "Treevenge" and "Dead Snow."  I'm glad I did, even if it's not entirely equal footing for the two films.

I didn't realize who the filmmakers responsible were when "Treevenge" started, but after seeing it, I wasn't shocked to learn that it came from the same creative team as the awesome award-winning fake trailer for "Hobo With a Shotgun."  You know the one.

You don't?  Oh, we must remedy that.  Right now.

 

 

Two minutes of sheer awesome, right?  Well, "Treevenge" runs longer, but it's just as gleefully deranged, just as giddy on its own mayhem.  The new short tells the story of the Christmas season from the point of view of the Christmas trees.  It starts funny, but after about seven or eight minutes of this awful foliage holocaust, it actually starts to become disturbing.  I tried to imagine the exact same film with people instead of trees, and it was too ugly to consider.  Once the actual "treevenge" part of the film kicks in, complete with crazy over-the-top gore, it gets hilarious again.  Jason Eisener, along with producer Rob Cotterill and co-writer John Davies and their entire cast and crew all deserve credit for making an absolutely ridiculous concept into something really special.

On the other hand, "Dead Snow" takes a really great monster to build a film around -- Nazi zombies -- and somehow adds up to total mediocrity in execution.  What a disappointment this one is.  Director Tommy Wirkola finds his footing in the last forty minutes or so, when he pumps about 20 million gallons of the red stuff onto the white, white backdrop of a Norweigian snowbound countryside.  But until then, there's a whooooole lot of overly familiar genre wank.  Do we really need the eight millionth movie where one of the characters is a horror movie addict who spends the whole film talking about the rules of the genre?  Or the creepy old "Scooby-Doo" character who stops by to warn the kids about the danger they're in?  Or Sam Raimi/"Evil Dead 2" camera moves complete with idential sound effects?  Or the rustic old cabin in the middle of nowhere?  There's so much about "Dead Snow" that is just plain tired that even when it does do something right, I found myself numb to it, worn out from the wait.  In a world where "Shaun Of The Dead" and "Brain Dead" exist, you've got to aim high with any zombie horror comedy, and "Dead Snow," despite obvious ambitions just plain falls flat.  If you can't make Nazi zombies into a credible force of evil, horror may not be your bag.

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The Morning Read (1.26.09)

It's been a while since we've had a Morning Read here at Motion/Captured, but now that Sundance is over, we're back on schedule with all the regular columns.  It's funny... you go to a festival like that, and that really is all that's going on.  I know there was an inauguration and Oscar nominations and all sorts of other stuff happening, but to me, the last week or so has just been this blur of movies.  Movie after movie after movie, and it's been pretty damn grand, all things considered.

I got back late Friday, and then this weekend's just been hanging out with my wife and kids and getting some writing done.  And watching that new TV in the office, one BluRay after another.  Holy crap, it's amazing.  I can't wait until I find ten free minutes six weeks from now so I can try a game on there.  I bet "Fallout 3" looks amazing.

One of the things I'm doing this week is attending a press screening of "Coraline," and I can't wait.  I've heard great things from the people who have been seeing it, and over at TrailerAddict, they just put up an amazing new trailer for it.

A week ago, Dennis over at "Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule" ran his end of the year list for 2008.  There are some things I agree on, others I don't, but it's a stupendous read, like pretty much everything he publishes.  If you're cool with one more trip though last year's movies, this is one worth taking.

Today's trailer at "Trailers From Hell" is hosted by Larry Karaszewski, and it's a minor-key Hershell Gordon Lewis entry called "Color Me Blood Red."

Over at "The Art Of The Title," they put up a supremely groovy double-feature of "Danger Diabolik" and "Barbarella," and they're both gorgeous.  I think that the "Barbarella" titles may actually have triggered my transition into puberty the first time I saw that movie.

Amid over at "Cartoon Brew" has written two very good articles that summarize the growing discontent over the upcoming feature film version of "Avatar: The Last Airbender."  You can find the first article here and the second article here.

And if you want to wrap up with a great read that should make you hungry enough for an early lunch, Roger Ebert has a few hundred things to say about Steak'n'Shake.

 

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