Why Dwayne Johnson is asking for 'Big Trouble' with his Carpenter remake
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Why Dwayne Johnson is asking for 'Big Trouble' with his Carpenter remake

Oh, this one ties me in knots

I confess that my first reaction to this news was caught on film and you can now see it in photo form attached to this story.

Here's the thing: I am on record as saying that I consider Dwayne Johnson a bit of a natural resource. I don't think the movies he makes are always worthy of his charisma and his genuine talent, but i think he's more than proven himself capable. I am hopeful when he announces a project that it'll be something that is as good as he is.

I am also on record as saying that it's exhausting to get worked up about every single remake or sequel or reboot or whatever at this point. The industry has so clearly embraced that as an omnipresent business plan that it is wasted energy. It takes a lot to shake that loose from me now, but maybe this one bothered me more than normal because I spent most of yesterday writing about a John Carpenter film, so my affection for his work was already at the forefront of my mind.

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Fox Searchlight goes bold with 'Me & Earl & The Dying Girl' posters
Credit: Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight goes bold with 'Me & Earl & The Dying Girl' posters

Is this poised to be the summer's indie breakout hit?

I haven't had the chance to see "Me & Earl & The Dying Girl" yet, but I'm excited that opportunity is finally here.

When I attend Sundance as part of Team HitFix every year, we divide the movies up before we get to the festival, and as a result, there are times when I miss a title that has everyone worked up, and that was "Me & Earl & The Dying Girl" this year. As soon as that first screening ended and our own Greg Ellwood started going nuts for it (along with everyone else), it seemed like a pretty safe bet that we'd get a chance to see the film this year at some point.

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Review: 'Entourage' is a big-budget riff on the low-stakes original
Credit: Warner Bros.
B-

Review: 'Entourage' is a big-budget riff on the low-stakes original

If you're already a fan, you should be very happy with what they've done

There have been a few reviews lately where people have gotten hung up on the letter grades on these reviews, and it seems like this is a good review to begin with a reminder of how the letter grades work. If you want to know how I felt about a film, you read the review. I'll tell you about my own personal reactions, and I'll tell you if I enjoyed things. And I'll work hard to try to set a film in some sort of context if I think that's required.

The letter grade, though, is more about a general sense of how well I feel like a film accomplished the goals of the filmmakers. I may not like those goals, but if I think the filmmaker did what they were trying to do, then I'll give a solid letter grade. There are plenty of films I don't especially like that I can acknowledge will play to some audience even if they don't play to me.

"Entourage" is one of those films.

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Are horror movies the antidote to the way we're making modern kids afraid?
Credit: Anchor Bay Home Video

Are horror movies the antidote to the way we're making modern kids afraid?

Are we scaring our kids the right ways today?

It happened, and I didn't notice it. I've been hoodwinked, bamboozled. Someone made an end run, and it worked? Oh, my god, I'm Elmer Fudd. I got took.

And honestly?

Couldn't be prouder.

For the most part, when I write about Film Nerd 2.0, I'm writing about both Toshi and Allen, both of my sons, and when it comes to showing them movies, I try to keep them both involved as much as possible.

Toshi turns ten just a few months, though, and there's really no comparison between the way he digests media now and the way Allen does. Toshi's begun talking to me about storytelling in a way that suggests that when he's done watching or reading something, he's not done thinking about it. He came to me recently to tell me that he's "got a character." The other day, he and Allen were playing, and I was sitting in the other room. I could hear them talking, and Toshi was telling Allen a story about this character he's created, a story he appeared to be making up as he was telling it.

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Review: As destinations go, 'Aloha' makes 'Elizabethtown' look irresistible
Credit: Sony Pictures
D+

Review: As destinations go, 'Aloha' makes 'Elizabethtown' look irresistible

This long-delayed romantic comedy is a dud from frame one

If you were to show me "Aloha" with no credits on the film, my reaction would remain just as complicated as it is now, but I'd say, "There are a few moments here that are promising, and I feel like this filmmaker might put it together at some point. Not this film, probably not the next one, but at some point." It is, frankly, astonishing to me that "Aloha" is the eighth film in someone's directing career, not the first.

When they released the trailer for "Aloha," I was flabbergasted by it. It looked like a beat-for-beat remake of "Elizabethtown," which seemed like very odd choice considering the response to that film. Now that I've seen it, the crazy part is that they had to go out of their way to cut the trailer like that, since "Aloha" is not structured the same way as "Elizabethtown." Basically, Sony decided that it was better to advertise this as a loose remake of the film that derailed Crowe's career than to advertise the film as what it actually is.

That pretty much says it all.

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Review: Dwayne Johnson shines but earthquake takes center stage in 'San Andreas'
Credit: Warner Bros
B-

Review: Dwayne Johnson shines but earthquake takes center stage in 'San Andreas'

Things sure do shake, rattle, and roll

"San Andreas" is a very silly movie.

Then again, disaster movies are almost always silly. That's just the nature of the beast. They're all roughly the same, and they end up as narrative excuses for mayhem and little more. Carlton Cuse's screenplay for "San Andreas" (apparently written on a napkin during a "Bates Motel" lunch break) is no exception, and if you are curious about whether or not you should see the film, look at the trailer. Do you want to watch California shake to pieces? Yes? Then see the movie, because it absolutely lives up to that promise. Do you want anything else from the movie? You may come up short.

First of all, there is no scene in this film where The Rock punches an earthquake. For that reason alone, I have to take a full letter grade off. Instead, Dwayne Johnson plays Ray, who heads up a rescue team in LA. He's about to finalize his divorce from Emma (Carla Gugino), who left him when there was a personal tragedy, taking their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) with her. Emma's about to be remarried to billionaire Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd), aaaaaaaaaand… then there's a giant earthquake.

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Pixar turned to female exployees to make sure 'Inside Out' rang true
Credit: Pixar

Pixar turned to female exployees to make sure 'Inside Out' rang true

Learn what sorts of films drive Docter as a storyteller

My first trip to Pixar’s Emeryville campus was 13 years ago. That alone was enough to give me pause when I was invited to the “Inside Out” press day. I’ve done it. I’ve taken the tour. I’ve seen the campus. I’ve met the artists and I’ve seen their amazing work spaces and I’ve had a chance to walk through pretty much every department. I remember standing outside the server room my first time up, looking in at the brain of this remarkable company, amazed at how those racks of black technology represented this collision of all this amazing human artistry. My other hesitation, honestly, was because we were told that we’d be seeing “part” of the movie. I’ve grown wary over the years of seeing movies in chunks because you can’t really react in any meaningful way since you’re not seeing something that’s complete.

Pixar’s at an interesting moment in their history, though. They’ve never seemed more vulnerable. There was this remarkable streak they had where it seemed like they couldn’t make a false step, and while I think they’ve continued to make good and even very good movies, the last few years have certainly seen a wider variety in quality. The sequel business has been good to them financially, but it has been far less exciting to watch. Even a great sequel like “Toy Story 3” is, at best, a step sideways creatively.

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20 year ago today, 'Casper' changed everything. No, seriously.
Credit: Universal Home Video

20 year ago today, 'Casper' changed everything. No, seriously.

Why 'Casper' is a milestone in modern blockbuster moviemaking

What if I told you "Casper" was an important film in movie history?

Twenty years ago today, Universal released "Casper," and it did okay. It was not a critical hit, and it was not a box-office sensation. But in its way, "Casper" was revolutionary, and at the time, I was absolutely fascinated by the movie and, more specifically, by the ILM work in the film.

In late 1994 and early 1995, I was dating/living with/engaged to a young woman who was working in marketing at Universal. She was about as low on the totem pole as she could be, but excited about what she was doing and excited about the various films she got to work on. Because she had to basically immerse herself in each of the films she was working on, that meant I had that same opportunity. I remember reading three scripts in particular during her time there that got me curious. One was for "Dragonheart," which was still in the early stages of development and set for a 1996 summer release. One was for "The Frighteners." And one was for "Casper."

All three of them read like enormous technical challenges that would require some leaps forward from where we were at the time, and in all three cases, that's exactly what happened. You could argue that while that is not a slate of blockbusters, those three movies all represented Universal pushing the envelope in ways that continue to ripple through the blockbuster movies being released every summer.

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With 'Entourage' arriving soon, we examine classic films about boys being boys
Credit: Warner Bros/MGM-UA

With 'Entourage' arriving soon, we examine classic films about boys being boys

From 'A Hard Day's Night' to 'Anchorman,' groups of guys drive these very different films

A few nights ago, Warner Bros. hosted a very canny event that our own Louis Virtel attended at the Playboy Mansion, a screening of "Entourage" that may have felt like virtual reality for those who attended. While I doubt being surrounded by scantily clad bunnies influenced Louis one way or another on the film, it's likely you'll see a number of reviews that are perhaps more enthusiastic than they would otherwise be, and it'd be hard to blame anyone who fell for it.

One of the reasons the setting seemed so right for that particular film is because much of the charge of "Entourage" is watching the core ensemble swagger their way through Hollywood, doing whatever they want and rarely if ever facing any consequences as a result. It's always presented with a wink and a smile, just a case of boys being boys. We live in a world right now where that doesn't really mean what it used to, and I wonder how much longer this sort of movie is viable.

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Review: 'Poltergeist' is what happens when smart people outthink the genre
Credit: 20th Century Fox/MGM
C+

Review: 'Poltergeist' is what happens when smart people outthink the genre

If you're embarrassed to be writing a horror film, maybe you shouldn't write horror films

Director Gil Kenan's work on "Poltergeist" is, like his work on "City Of Ember" and "Monster House," smart and focused and technically adept. He has done about as good a job as anyone would have done with David Lindsay-Abaire's screenplay based on the 1982 film, and the same is true of the cast. Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, and Jane Adams are all very good at what they do. The various visual effects houses and tech departments on the film all did what they were hired to do, and taken as a whole, "Poltergeist" is professional and slick and entirely fine.

It's also unnecessary in every way.

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