David O. Russell is a very funny man.
That's been easy to forget lately. The last time it feels like he made a full-on comedy was "I Heart Huckabees," and I still remember walking out of the first screening of the film, big smile on my face, only to run smack dab into a cluster of journalists all angrily venting about the film. They didn't just dislike it, they were furious at having seen it. One in particular was red-faced about it, and when I tried to walk by, they tried to rope me into agreeing with them about how terrible it was.
"I really liked it," I said, and it was as if I told them that their mothers never really loved them. They recoiled from me. It only made me love the film more, and it certainly wasn't the first time liking a David O. Russell film made people seem irritated or creeped out. "Spanking The Monkey" did exactly what it set out to do at a time when people hadn't been conditioned by an entire culture of squirm-based comedy, and "Flirting With Disaster" felt like he just found a slightly less overt way to push buttons. "Three Kings" was a near-perfect distillation of his voice in a mainstream package, a movie that managed to be political and wicked funny and tense and moving all at the same time.
David O. Russell is a very funny man.
It makes perfect sense that any of the marketing we've seen for "Saving Mr. Banks" so far has focused almost exclusively on the relationship between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), and that makes sense. That is what the film deals with for the most part, but there's another relationship in the film that is, in its way, even more important.
Colin Farrell plays Travers Robert Goff, father to Helen Goff, aka Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley), the little girl who eventually grows up and takes the professional pseudonym of P.L. Travers. He is her world, as we see in flashbacks, and Farrell is great in the role. He shows us exactly why he would be so revered by his little girl, the dreamy and inventive personality that makes him so much fun to be with, and he also shows us why Goff was such a disaster in the professional world. His alcoholism is just part of the problem. He is simply not wired for adult life, and the ways he fails are heartbreaking. One of the things that has always defined Farrell is that sense of danger that is always simmering, and the thing that makes him dangerous here is just how much faith his daughter has in him, and just how misplaced it is.
One of my few complaints about "Frozen," the latest animated musical from Disney, is that they played a pretty aggressive game of bait-and-switch with audiences with the film's marketing. Sure, it paid off in a record-breaking weekend for the company, and in the world of the movie business, that makes them right and me wrong, but I still feel like the campaign they ran was a disservice to both the movie and the audience.
Ultimately, sell the movie you made. When I see a trailer that I find really appealing or intriguing or provocative and then I see the movie, and it's nothing like that trailer, it is unfair of me to be upset because it's not the trailer, and yet it's almost impossible not to have that reaction. From a pragmatic business angle, I understand that a trailer is just a piece of marketing, and its only real purpose is to get someone to pay money to see something. But from the point of view of being a film fan, I consider a great trailer to be a promise, a taste of a meal that someone is going to serve, and when someone tells me they're serving sushi, I don't want to eat a hamburger.
As I work on a larger piece about Warner's ongoing DC "problem," I saw a story scroll past that made me smile. It's not news so much as a bit of backstory that makes a scene that we saw in a recent movie seem even sweeter.
We ran a story about one of the post-credit scenes in "Thor: The Dark World," the one that exists largely to drop a few narrative bread crumbs for next year's "Guardians Of The Galaxy," but that was just one of the two scenes that were hidden during the credits for the film.
In the other one, we see that Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is still sitting at the breakfast table in her English apartment when there's the familiar sound of the Rainbow Bridge opening up and depositing Thor back on her balcony. She runs into his arms, they embrace, and some serious making out commences. It's a nice swoony punctuation mark at the end of the film, and it seemed appropriate since one of the signatures of the "Thor" films seems to be palpable sexual tension between Jane and Thor, something that not every superhero series is able to pull off.
Emma Thompson is pretty much all the awesome.
One of the best things about hiring her to play P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks" is that Thompson is an accomplished writer in her own right, and when she portrays the creative process, she's not imagining what it's like. She knows. She's done the hard work herself, and she's damn good at it.
She's also someone who can effortlessly play sophisticated, but who is unafraid of being massively silly. The first film I really remember seeing her in was "The Tall Guy," a very funny and very silly romantic comedy. She has always come across as ferociously bright, but without being obnoxious about it. There are people who love to make sure that you know they are smart, and they will hammer that point until it becomes almost infuriating, but Thompson is one of those people who just projects a sort of radiant intelligence without working at it.
Christian Bale has, somewhere along the line, picked up entirely the wrong reputation.
Sure, he throws himself into his work with an intensity that can be dizzying to watch, and he's still living down the infamous recording that leaked from the set of "Terminator: Salvation" when he had a meltdown at cinematographer Shane Hurlbut. But the Christian Bale that I've seen when I've interviewed him over the years and the Christian Bale that is spoken of by his collaborators is not the guy who we see in those few human moments that people tend to judge him by.
When we sat down to talk about "Out Of The Furnace," he was positively chatty about his work on this film, and he's obviously very proud of what they've made. He threw himself into his role as the "good" brother in a very sad and damaged story about the way we sometimes carry our family's burdens as our own. He and Casey Affleck are great together, and there's an enormous sadness to the work they do.
Ben Affleck's been in the midst of a career renaissance lately, and the sheer volume of the reaction to his casting as Batman should serve as an indication of just how high visibility he remains. In the meantime, Casey Affleck's been busy with a Batman of his own, co-starring with Christian Bale in the dark revenge drama "Out Of The Furnace."
It's an incredibly physical performance by Affleck, and I'm not sure I've seen him do anything like this before. When we sat down to discuss the film, I had to ask him about how he approached that side of things, and I was surprised to see that he basically dismissed the challenge of turning himself into a sculpted block of wood. Ultimately, though, he's right; the physical transformation doesn't matter if he doesn't do an equal amount of emotional work, and this is one of the strongest roles he's played.
The worst thing about dying young is the hole you leave in so many lives. Paul Walker's car accident tonight must have shocked and devastated the people he's worked with over the years, and I can't imagine how this feels for the people who are part of the "Fast and Furious" franchise. No one could have predicted that they would be shooting a seventh film right now when the first one opened a mere 12 years ago, and they certainly couldn't have predicted the way the franchise became a family affair over time, both onscreen and off. I can't think of any other action series that is so explicitly focused on the notion of the way we build our families, and I suspect that's a big part of the completely unironic appeal of the films.
More than anything tonight, I am haunted by the idea of someone having to tell his daughter about his passing. Meadow Rain is only 14 years old, and while there is no good age for lose a father, the pain of losing one right as you're entering one of the most confusing, difficult, emotionally turbulent times of life seems profoundly upsetting to me. Whatever reaction I'm having to Walker's passing tonight isn't about the movies he made or the movies he might have made or how I did or didn't feel about his work. It doesn't have to be. More than anything, it's that simple sharp pang of empathy at the thought of how his passing affects the community around him, both personal and professional.
Secrets are a funny thing in this business. When you work in a scoop-based economy, secrets are counter-intuitive. You don't keep a secret; you print it, right?
This summer, when we interviewed Andrew Garfield about his return for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," there was a spoiler that we discussed off-camera, and it was obvious that he believed it to be the film's biggest surprise. He really wanted me to keep the secret, and I was happy to oblige. I've erred plenty of times on the side of "Wait, you didn't want people to know that?" and I find it's a balancing act that I'm constantly trying to strike. I recently got called to the carpet by a filmmaker I've known since the early '90s who may well be done talking to me because of how angry he was at me for revealing details about his film before he was ready for them to be revealed, and especially because of the way I handled it.
Imagine my surprise this morning then when I logged on and saw a new triptych poster for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" that quite literally takes that spoiler and makes it the center of the image.
When Paramount announced yesterday that they would be releasing "Friday The 13th" on March 13, 2015, it took most people by surprise.
There have been a number of rumors swirling about what approach they're taking, and while they now have a release date, they're a long way from having a script or even a director. HitFix can confirm that this is indeed the found footage film that has been mentioned, and that it is once again going to reboot the series from the start, which is a very confusing approach considering the 2009 film was also a remake of sorts.
The thing I liked most about Marcus Nispel's "Friday The 13th" was the way screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon managed to condense the first three films of the franchise into one movie. We got the death of Jason's mother in the opening scenes of the movie, we got a long stretch with deformed hillbilly baghead Jason, and we eventually got the hockey-mask wearing icon version. The film was the first time anyone actually tried to explain the way Jason would get around Camp Crystal Lake so quickly as well as the reason he seems to always know where everyone is. It seemed like a really interesting way to restart things without throwing out the entire franchise.