It sounds like progress is being made on the long-anticipated sequel
When I sat down with the cast of "The Watch," they were all together as a group, which made it hard to ask people about their individual projects.
Even so, I was curious to see if Ben Stiller is any closer to kicking off production on "Zoolander 2," which he's been aggressively talking about on and off for the last few years. The first film was a casualty of its post-9/11 release date, only finding an audience gradually once it came home. That's not uncommon for comedies, especially comedies that are centered around big character choices. Look at the way the "Austin Powers" films built in popularity, or the way "Macgruber" continues to gain in popularity over time.
"Zoolander" is one of the strangest characters that Stiller ever played, and it will be interesting to see if a second film can take all the things people liked about that first film and expand on them in smart and surprising ways. He's been working with Justin Theroux on a script for a while now, and we've heard occasional updates from him about the progress.
A big metaphor gives the cast and filmmakers room to explore ideas fully
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B
"Ruby Sparks" does not exist in some vacuum of wholesale originality. You could argue that the "Pygmalion" myth is just one of the many stories that have covered similar ground in the past, both narratively and thematically. But the film takes a very grounded approach to its one big leap of fantasy, and the result is a film that offers up a warm and wise fable about the way we romanticize people at the start of a relationship, only to be disappointed as ugly, messy reality assures itself.
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris managed to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination for their first film, but that was 2006, and this is their first film since then. It's hard not to draw some parallel between them and Calvin Weir-Fields, played by Paul Dano, who was a successful novelist with an acclaimed first novel that was released before he was eighteen but who now finds himself crippled by writer's block. He's been seeing Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould) to try to figure out what's causing his block, but making no real progress. Rosenthal asks him to try a writing exercise one day based on Calvin's confession that the main reason he got a dog was so that people would stop to play with the dog and give him a perfect excuse for conversation. Rosenthal asks him to imagine someone stopping to play with the dog and write down the conversation, and when Calvin tries that, he imagines a girl. No, he imagines "the" girl. And once he starts, he suddenly can't stop. He cranks out page after page, describing this girl in such detail that she starts to feel real to him.
And then, one morning, he wakes up and she's actually in his house.
Details start to come together for how they'll build a third film
Peter Jackson may have seemed slightly reluctant to return to Middle-Earth before he began production on "The Hobbit," but now that he's actually in the process, it looks like he's having a harder time letting go.
When our own Katie Hasty talked to Jackson during Comic-Con, I didn't really take the idea of a third "Hobbit" film seriously, even when he discussed how it might work and how he was starting to think about it. Richard Armitage also broached the subject with us, but It seemed like one of those idle thoughts that wouldn't really pan out into something real. Now it appears that talks are becoming more serious about the possibility of expanding this into a trilogy, and that's sure to spark debate, with both pro and con making equal sense to me.
On the one hand, "The Hobbit" has always struck me as a totally different beast than "Lord Of The Rings." Yes, they take place in the same world, and yes, they share characters and there is some narrative connection between them, but they seem to work in entirely different ways. "Lord Of The Rings" always struck me as the biggest of big meals, an amazing trip through one of the pivotal moments in an imagined history. "The Hobbit" struck me more as an adventure story, contained and personal, and while the stakes obviously matter to everyone in the story, Bilbo included, they are not apocalyptic, with the entire fate of Middle-Earth at risk.
Plus we ask about the decision on how to explain the film's magic
I never spoke to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris when they were making the rounds to support their first film, "Little Miss Sunshine." I was aware of them from their music video work, and I enjoyed "Sunshine," but at that point, our paths just never ended up crossing.
This time, I made sure to set time aside so we could discuss their new film, "Ruby Sparks," which opens tomorrow in limited release. I wanted to talk to them about the way pressure to match their first film's remarkable success played into the length of time it took them to decide on a follow-up. I wanted to talk to them about working with Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, and how they defined the different relationships they had with Kazan as a writer and as an actor. And I absolutely wanted to talk to them about one of the key choices made in the film, one that may throw some viewers.
It's also always interesting to see what the dynamic is, even in conversation, between co-directors. It's still not a common relationship, and Dayton and Faris are very unusual anyway, since most of the co-directors working are brothers or long-time writing partners. In conversation, there's such a connected back and forth between them that I have to assume that bleeds into their professional dynamic as well.
How many great films can one festival fit into ten days of programming?
I am almost embarrassed about how excited I am for this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Then again, when you look at the list of movies playing this year, announced this morning by the fest, it is overstuffed with potentially excellent films, and the one problem I have right now is figuring out how I'm going to see everything I want to see. Sometimes, festivals can kick the crap out of you no matter how well you plan, and I've certainly had festivals where I felt like the schedule beat me. I think I had a pretty great Toronto last year, and I think it may be one of the best examples of what I want to do at a festival, and part of that is just because I've gotten comfortable in the city finally and I feel at ease when I'm there and working. In addition, the people who actually put on the festival have always made me feel, as both journalist and audience member, like I was welcome, like they can't wait to share the films they've programmed.
This year, it looks like they have every reason to be proud of the festival they're putting together, with a huge buffet of films that represent a pretty spectacular who's who in filmmaking around the world right now.
The two stars of the film discuss their approach to this charming love story
I've seen Zoe Kazan work in a few films and I've enjoyed work she's done before, but until I saw "Ruby Sparks" last week, I didn't really "get" Zoe Kazan.
Consider me fully onboard at this point, though. Not only does she give a fetching, smart, complex performance that fully refutes the entire notion of the "manic pixie dream girl," but she's also the screenwriter for the movie that opens in some markets on Wednesday.
Her co-star in the film and, according to the interviews I did with them last week, also her co-star in real life is Paul Dano, known by many for his work in "Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Will Be Blood" and "Cowboys and Aliens." In the film, he plays Calvin, an author whose first book was published when he was a teenager, making him a media sensation. Now stuck with a massive case of writer's block, he tries an writing exercise that leads to him turning out page after page describing his perfect woman, only to find her actually in his house one morning. Kazan plays Ruby, the girl he creates, and as Calvin experiments, he learns that he can indeed make her into anything or make her do anything simply by adding to his manuscript.
While that's an odd fit, at least he's not planning to play Hicks anymore
Biopics in general seem to be incredibly difficult to make work. The biggest problem is that anyone who lived a life interesting enough to be turned into a film probably also lived a life that is too dense to be boiled down to two hours in a way that is both dramatically satisfying and narratively engaging.
When Bill Hicks was still alive and working, I thought he was one of the few of his contemporaries who was willing to use stand-up comedy as more than just a short-cut to a network sitcom. Since his death, though, Hicks has become a somewhat messianic figure to his fans, and they've managed to package, repackage, and re-re-re-release every single second of his recorded comedy. They have strip-mined everything he left behind, with "American: The Bill Hicks Story" representing the most complete and insightful look at him and his work so far.
It makes sense that this news would break first in the UK, since Hicks had more commercial success there during his life than he did in America, and the UK has been a big part of keeping his legend alive in the years since. The Telegraph ran a few quotes today from Mark Staufer, who is credited as the screenwriter for the proposed project, and it sounds like they're close to wrapping up development and moving into actual production near the start of 2013.
Will this new take on the cult British science-fiction show make it to American screens?
When I was young, British television was not always easy to see in America, and as a result, there are many things I know by reputation and not because I've actually seen them. I've attempted to fill in the gaps in my knowledge over the years whenever possible, but one show that I've never managed to catch up with is "Blake's 7," the Terry Nation space-opera that ran from 1978 to 1981 on BBC 1.
I've heard the show cited as a precursor to all sorts of things, most notably Joss Whedon's "Firefly," but I'm not sure how accurate that is. My one friend who is a big fan of the show always called it "Bastards In Space," which made me laugh every time.
The series told the story of Roj Blake, a political prisoner who escapes from a prison planet with a crew of criminals and and aliens, and using a special spaceship called The Vindicator, they begin to wage a guerilla war against the Terran Foundation.
While he may be gone, the films he wrote were built to last
Frank Pierson was the model of what I think of as the serious professional screenwriter.
In addition to crafting work that will remain fresh and relevant as long as we are watching movies, he was also heavily involved in the industry as the President of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for many years and President of the Writers Guild Of America for many years as well. His career as a writer began on TV in the '60s and ended on TV with his work on "Mad Men," an experience that no doubt drew on his work as an advertising copywriter during the '50s. In between, he wrote some indelible, amazing movies, and he leaves behind a filmography that any writer would be proud to claim.
I never got a chance to meet Pierson, and it's a shame. I would have loved to have spent an afternoon discussing "Cat Ballou," "Cool Hand Luke," "The Anderson Tapes," "Dog Day Afternoon," the nightmare of working with Streisand on "A Star Is Born," or his last produced screenplay, the adaptation of "Presumed Innocent." Pierson had a sober, adult approach to character and narrative, and one of the things that distinguishes his work is that it all seems to have a respect for the audience, treating them as if they can handle complex ideas and difficult emotions.
The studio makes a big choice in the wake of last week's events
Warner Bros. is in a no-win situation on this one.
Almost as soon as executives awoke on Friday morning, Warner began asking theaters to remove all of the current trailers for "Gangster Squad" from theaters since one of the key images from those trailers is a shootout inside a movie theater. Warner Bros. felt that it would be insensitive to leave the ads in general circulation right now, and the decision seems like the right one to make the morning after something as horrible and senseless as the Aurora, CO shootings.
Now comes word that Warner Bros. plans to remove the sequence from the movie completely. Looking at the original trailers, the scene appeared to take place in the Chinese Theater, where armed men standing behind the screen open fire with machine guns, marching through the ragged holes in the screen while firing into the audience. It's a stylish image, and looked like it was executed well.
The studio had just started early screenings of the movie, and they seemed happy with it. The movie is still planned for a September 7th release, which means they'll have to scramble to get the reshoots finished, especially since it's supposed to be a fairly major sequence that comes near the end of the movie.