Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny

Gilbert Taylor, legendary photographer of 'Star Wars' and 'Hard Day's Night,' has passed away

Few cinematographers left behind more groundbreaking work

<p>The films that Gilbert Taylor shot are positively overflowing with classic images and brilliant visual ideas, and 'A Hard Day's Night' could well be one of the most imitated movies ever made.</p>

The films that Gilbert Taylor shot are positively overflowing with classic images and brilliant visual ideas, and 'A Hard Day's Night' could well be one of the most imitated movies ever made.

Credit: MGM/UA Home Entertainment

When you think of your favorite images from your favorite movies, I think it's a fair question to ask who you think is responsible for those images. More often than not, people praise the director for anything they like about a movie, and it is rare that the public even acknowledges that there are cinematographers, much less single one out for praise. I admit that when I visit a set, the guys I get most excited about meeting are the directors of photography. I think these guys are magicians, and the best of them have created things that have never existed anywhere, and they've made it look like all it took was a camera.

I always encourage people to check out "Visions Of Light," a beautiful documentary about the art of movie photography, and I love how the film puts some of the industry's giants front and center, tying them to their accomplishments and restoring some balance in terms of who we credit for those shared memories that have made movie fans of us all.

Scott Cooper signs to write and direct 'The Stand' as Ben Affleck moves on

It's an interesting choice by the studio

<p>Even Marvel Comics took a crack at 'The Stand'</p>

Even Marvel Comics took a crack at 'The Stand'

Credit: Marvel Comics

What matters most when it comes to finding a filmmaker to make "The Stand"?

Forget the question of whether or not we even want or need a new film version of "The Stand." That's one of those things where it really doesn't matter about "want" or "need," because it's in motion. Money has been spent. People are working to make it happen. And if that's the case, then the next question deals with finding the right person to tell the story.

I remember when George Romero was the guy who was attached to make this happen, and I remember how long that process took without finally yielding results. Rospo Pallenberg, the writer of "Excalibur," was the writer on the film, and they chipped away at it for years. That's back when Romero was still part of Laurel Entertainment, and every year they'd have their section of AFM ads where they promoted all the films they had in development, and every year, "The Stand" was part of that package.

Richard Rubenstein, the other side of the Laurel equation, was the one who eventually managed to wrestle the project onto TV, with Mick Garris taking the creative lead on that version.

3 On 3: We break down the pros and cons of casting Ben Affleck as the new Batman

In the meantime, Twitter's killing it with #Batfleck

<p>&quot;Mr. Affleck, I'm sorry, but Mr. Cavill would like for you to take his costume off and, if possible, get it steam-cleaned. Yes, especially that part.&quot;</p>

"Mr. Affleck, I'm sorry, but Mr. Cavill would like for you to take his costume off and, if possible, get it steam-cleaned. Yes, especially that part."

Credit: Focus Features

They must have sent out the press release tonight about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman for Warner's upcoming "Superman Vs. Batman" about three minutes after I walked out the door of the HitFix office this evening.

As a result, I didn't know about it at all during my screening tonight. I slipped in just as the lights went down, and as soon as it was over, I was up and on my way to the car. It wasn't until I walked into the house and booted up the computer that I saw the chatter on Twitter, on Facebook, in my e-mail box. I saw Affleck's name first, over and over, and I had that horrible "Oh, god, I hope he's not dead" moment that comes anytime I see a celebrity's name explode over social media.

As we do with many big stories, we gathered three HitFix contributors to spitball some quick responses to questions that the casting of Affleck raised for us.

What if George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola traded jobs on 'Star Wars' and 'Apocalypse Now'?

How different do you think modern filmmaking would look?

<p>'What do you mean, Kurtz is my father?'</p>

'What do you mean, Kurtz is my father?'

Credit: Lionsgate Home Video

This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if...?

My first contribution for "What If?" week here at HitFix asked a very simple question. That's an easy one because it's an either/or proposition, and honestly, it's something I've thought about so many times in the last 20 years that it seemed like the most immediate and obvious topic to cover.

There's another question that I've been turning over for a while now, and it's a little more complicated. Part of it is based on something that was a real possibility, and the other part is based on speculation on my part about how a chain of events could have played out. I'm not saying that this scenario was ever going to happen, but that's not the game, is it? When you play "What If?", everything is possible, and so I'm going to posit something here that could have changed not only the landscape of modern cinema, but my life and the choices I've made about my work. Based on some of the responses I've gotten from other filmmakers for my vacation articles that will be running next year, I'm not the only one who would have been heavily impacted, either, which makes me wonder…

Dan Mindel will shoot 'Star Wars Episode VII' on 35mm film

Little by little, Abrams is making all the right choices

<p>JJ&nbsp;Abrams and Dan Mindel, pictured here as they discussed how to shoot 'Episode VII,' have finally worked things out.</p>

JJ Abrams and Dan Mindel, pictured here as they discussed how to shoot 'Episode VII,' have finally worked things out.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

It seems like a lack of concrete information on the development of "Star Wars Episode VII" is driving people berserk. Considering we're still two years away from release, it's a little scary to see how rabid people already are.

I reported not long ago that while the script is still being developed, several major action sequences in the film have already been shared with ILM so they can start working on the various things they'll need to pull off those scenes. I also reported that ILM is putting together a fairly substantial model department, something I enjoy hearing, but when I reported it, I noticed something about the responses. Many people acted as if this was a return to something that Lucas hadn't done at all since "Return Of The Jedi," and that's simply not the case.

The truth is, all three of the prequels used models and miniatures. What changed most substantially was the way those objects were composited into shots and the amount of CGI used to extend the physical builds in all sorts of different ways. When I hear people complain that everything in the prequels was CGI, it's a reminder that a lot of people don't really know what they're looking at in a film, and they dismiss things based on some vague understanding.

Steven Charles Gould has been chosen to write four 'Avatar' novels for James Cameron

The ambitious plan would complement the upcoming trilogy of sequels

<p>&quot;Wait... <em>how many</em> sequels did you say we're doing?!&quot;</p>

"Wait... how many sequels did you say we're doing?!"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

One of the very best movie adaptation novels that I've ever read was written by Orson Scott Card, based on James Cameron's "The Abyss." He wrote three chapters of backstory for the main characters of Bud, Lindsey, and Coffey, and Cameron liked them so much he gave them to the actors to use as their backstory for the film.

Since it was written before Cameron hit the wall on budget and time, the novel was adapted using the original ending, so when I sat down in the theater, I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going, and I was shocked when the ending appeared to be lopped off for no apparent reason. It was infuriating, and for a while, I had real problems with the movie simply for that reason. I still think it's the one time Cameron has ever really hurt himself with an edit, and once the original ending was finished and restored for a home video release, it definitely changed the way the entire final third of the film played.

Quentin Tarantino's new list of the 12 greatest movies raises some questions

Aren't lists supposed to be definitive and permanent?

<p>It's hard to argue with Quentin Tarantino when he calls 'Taxi Driver' one of the greatest films of all time.</p>

It's hard to argue with Quentin Tarantino when he calls 'Taxi Driver' one of the greatest films of all time.

Credit: SPHE

One of the things that seems to be part of being a lifelong film nerd is the making of lists. Obviously, I publish a list each year of what I consider the best films I've seen during the preceding 12 months, but I've also published lists that have to do with specific genres or that deal with something like my favorite films in a decade or even of all time.

In an interview I did with Edgar Wright yesterday, he talked about how as a kid he kept lists of all sorts of things. Films he wanted to see, films he'd seen already. I did the same thing, and I've known many film geeks over the years who have had their own lists at the ready. Quentin Tarantino was a hardcore film fan before anyone knew his name as a filmmaker, and one of the things that was clear going to see his various film festivals in Austin or Los Angeles over the years is that he is a omnivorous film consumer. He'll watch anything, hoping for a gem or a discovery, and he's shown me many movies that I never would have otherwise seen, some of which have become favorites of mine now as well.

Ubisoft's 'Watch Dogs' already in development as movie before its PS4 debut

Could Ubisoft be the company to finally get game-to-movie adaptations right?

<p>How many times do I have to tell Tom Cruise that just hiding part of his face isn't fooling anybody?</p>

How many times do I have to tell Tom Cruise that just hiding part of his face isn't fooling anybody?

Credit: Ubisoft

I can't wait to get my hands on a PS4. I'm dying to play many of the games I've seen teased for this fall, and just the other day, I started updating my GameFly queue to make sure I had PS4 titles on there as well.

I don't get to play games as much as I'd like. I'll frequently go three or four weeks at a time without putting a single game into the PS3, which is primarily a Blu-ray player in my house. Even so, I'm excited for "inFamous: Second Son" based on how much fun those first two games were, and "Killzone: Shadow Fall" will hopefully be a big jump forward from the three games Sony's released in that series so far.

There is no other title this fall, though, not even "Grand Theft Auto V," that has me as excited as "Watch Dogs." Ubisoft is a great developer in general, but there's something about the mechanics of this title that just plain does it for me. When they showed the very first gameplay video, I was hooked at that point. If you haven't see anything about the game yet, you play the character Aiden Pearce, a hacker who snaps when his family is taken from him by a violent crime. He decides to exact his own form of justice by taking over Chicago's ctOS, the operating system that runs pretty much every major function in the city. It allows Aiden to control everything, from cameras to mass transit to the traffic lights in the streets.

What if River Phoenix had lived?

We examine a scenario we desperately wish was true

<p>Lili Taylor and River Phoenix were heartbreaking in the lovely 'Dogfight,' but it's even more painful when we consider what else Phoenix might have accomplished.</p>

Lili Taylor and River Phoenix were heartbreaking in the lovely 'Dogfight,' but it's even more painful when we consider what else Phoenix might have accomplished.

Credit: Warner Bros.

This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if...?

There's a question I've turned over in my head a thousand times, and while there are music fans who I'm sure have very strong feelings about the tragic deaths of artists whose work was cut short, as a film fan and as someone who got hooked on movies in the '70s, who came of age in the '80s, and who moved to Hollywood just as the '90s kicked off, there is one question that looms largest for me, one that I feel strongly about as my first pick. If we're trying to imagine a world we wish had happened, this is question number one for me…

What if River Phoenix had lived?

WHEN WAS IT?

The night of October 31, 1993 still seems unreal to me, especially the way the news spread that River Phoenix had collapsed on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room. Living in LA, that conjured such a specific image, and it seemed offensive to think of someone as gifted as Phoenix suddenly simply not being there anymore. As a fan of his work, I was excited by each new film, knowing full well that we were still just seeing the start of what he could do. He managed to be casually great in a series of films, and I felt like we were seeing the warm-up to a huge adult career. And then... suddenly... gone.

The shot-at-Disney Sundance sensation 'Escape From Tomorrow' will be released theatrically

Will the re-edited film pack the same punch?

<p>It's exciting to think that audiences will get a chance to see 'Escape From Tomorrow' after all.</p>

It's exciting to think that audiences will get a chance to see 'Escape From Tomorrow' after all.

Credit: Cinetic Media/PDA

By far, the most welcome surprise this year in terms of news is the word today that "Escape From Tomorrow" will be getting a theatrical release in October.

I'm going to be reaching out to the filmmakers to talk to them about the lengthy process they've gone through since Sundance as they've worked to get this film released in some form, and I give huge credit to Cinetic Media for never giving up.

The story broke today courtesy of Steven Zeitchik at The LA Times, and it looks like it's going to be handled through PDA, which is the distribution arm of Cinetic, which was the company handling sales for the film when it showed up at Sundance this year. I was at the film's first public screening, and fifteen minutes into it, I was already convinced that the film would never play a movie theater in commercial release. It just didn't seem like there was any way Disney would ever allow it to happen.

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