Could Verbinski make Westerns cool again?
SAN DIEGO - The final surprise of today's Disney panel at Comic-Con 2012 probably wasn't a total surprise to anyone in Hall H. After all, this is the same place where Disney ended a panel with footage of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow on the set of "Pirates 4," and it's the same place Guillermo Del Toro made an appearance to announce a "Haunted Mansion" film that no one was aware of. And of course, this is where Disney showed that test footage that kicked off the avalanche of anticipation that built to the release of "TRON: Legacy." Disney knows the value of a Hall H moment, and they did their best to guarantee one this afternoon with the debut of the very first footage anywhere for "The Lone Ranger."
Much has already been written about the backstage drama for this movie, with a production delay while the budget was slashed and later reports that the budget was creeping back up during production anyway, but none of that ultimately matters if the film works. Based on the four or five minutes they showed today, "The Lone Ranger" looks to be a lush, opulent take on the Western, focusing on the way the introduction of the railroad changed the power dynamic of the Old West.
New behind the scenes developments make things interesting between the studios
20th Century Fox has taken plenty of heat over the years for their handling of comic book properties, some of which I've applied personally, but any fan of the modern age of superhero movies has to acknowledge that if they hadn't taken a chance on "X-Men" when they did, things might look very different right now.
They're still very much in the Marvel business, and it looks like they've made it official now that they'll be rebooting "Fantastic Four" with Josh Trank directing. I really liked his work on "Chronicle," and I think it'll be interesting to see what sort of aesthetic he brings to the property. They never really found a tone that worked in the first two films, but I believe that "Fantastic Four" could be one of the biggest franchises in all of superhero cinema if they get it right.
What's more interesting is that David Slade has left "Daredevil," which means Fox has to scramble now to get someone onboard to start production on the film this fall, or they risk having the rights revert to Marvel.
Tom Cruise and Andy Griffith are also discussed in this free-wheeling conversation
The latest episode of the podcast is posting a few days past its due date, but I had a weird tech issue I had to sort out, so I apologize.
The good news is that the interview I did with author Don Winslow is about a half-hour long, and it's a really great chat with a guy whose work is reaching an increasingly large audience with each new book, and who deserves the acclaim. It's always nice to talk to filmmaker or actors, but we don't feature nearly enough in-depth conversations with writers, and this is a great example of what I'd like to do more often in the future. Also, since the film's already out, I don't feel so bad about talking with Winslow about the ending of the movie, but be warned… if you haven't seen it, spoilers do ensue.
In addition, Scott and I have a lengthy talk about the work of Oliver Stone in general this week, and both of us were hardcore fans of Stone for many years. It's been frustrating for a while now looking at movies of his that just didn't excite me, and finally having a new movie from him that feels like it's worth the sort of excitement he used to generate every time out has been a treat.
If nothing else, it's a big week for possible video game adaptations
I'm guessing every development executive in Los Angeles spent the long 4th of July weekend playing video games. That's the only explanation.
"God Of War" has been in the works as a movie for a while now through Atlas Entertainment, with Chuck Roven and Alex Gartner producing. They originally had David Self attached as the film's writer, but now it looks like Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have been chosen to help get the film ready for production.
If you were a fan of "Project Greenlight," then you remember Melton and Dunstan as the writers of "Feast." If you're a horror movie fan, then you probably know them from their work on the "Saw" series. And if you're a development exec in town, you probably read their spec "Monstropolis," and you know that they were brought in to do some of the production rewrites on Guillermo Del Toro's upcoming "Pacific Rim."
Do this and 'Assassin's Creed' signify a new age of game-to-movie attempts?
They must be throwing some crazy parties in Montreal this week.
Yesterday, Ubisoft Montreal made news when it was announced that Michael Fassbender has agreed to star in and produce a film adaptation of "Assassin's Creed." That's one of the first gaming properties I've seen make the jump to movies that I think could be something truly special. The "Assassin's Creed" games are built on strong narrative building blocks and they feature a pretty great way of telling a story in historical eras as well as in the near-future.
Now, it looks like Square Enix and Eidos Montreal have closed a deal for CBS Films to create a movie adaptation of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution," one of last year's headiest gaming experiences. Again, we're talking about a game that has a big world that it's created, that hinges on some very real and big ideas, and that could easily provide enough material for a series of films.
How does he fit into the director's radical rethink of the Bible story?
I don't care how many Bible stories or translations you've read, and I don't care how many films based on those stories you've seen. You have never seen anything like what Darren Aronofsky has planned for "Noah."
Sure, the basic broad strokes of the story are pretty evident. Noah (Russell Crowe) hears the voice of God warning him that the world cannot be allowed to survive in the corrupted, ruined form Noah sees around him. It is a violent, freaky, scary world that Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel have created. I'm particularly excited to see how Aronofsky brings to life the Watchers, eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings. They have a major presence in the script, and they're fascinating. Early on, when Noah needs to go see his grandfather, he has to move through the homeland of the Watchers, something that is not easy to do.
Noah's grandfather is the 900 year old Methuselah, and word today is that Anthony Hopkins is joining the cast to play the role. He's only got three scenes in the film in the script I read, but they're all crucial, and they are beautifully written. It's a good role, and I can't wait to see what sort of make-up they put on him to make him look like he's been alive and walking the earth since the days of Adam and Eve.
As the character prepares to head to Japan, the cast comes into focus
If you were starting to believe that "The Wolverine" was never actually going to happen, that would be understandable.
After all, when Darren Aronofsky left the film, it seemed to drop off the radar. Sure, we've heard that James Mangold is now attached to direct, and we've heard vague rumbles from Hugh Jackman over the last year or so, but it's been a fairly quiet development process for a while now.
Today, four names were added to the film's cast, and it appears to confirm not only the creative direction the film is headed but that the film is indeed gearing up now for production and release in 2013. For longtime fans of the character, some of the characters names of the new cast members may seem familiar, and it definitely seems like they're taking the Japan-based run of stories by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and using them as the basis of the script that they plan to shoot in Japan and Australia later this year.
She's not just the pretty face we've seen so far in her work
It's safe to say that there are few people given less genuine respect in the Hollywood system than pretty girls.
Sure, they're given money and fame frequently, and sometimes for no reason other than how they look, but respect? That's a whole different kind of currency, and that's where pretty girls often come up short.
You can see it in the headlines about them. You can see it in the roles they are offered. You can see it in the way they're churned through, given a few shots at things before they're replaced by the newer younger model. And it really underlines the way Hollywood treats pretty people as a commodity, not as people.
Blake Lively has taken her fair share of critical abuse and then some. She's also enjoyed some really warm and encouraging words about her work in "The Town." I don't know her TV work at all, so I can only judge her by the films I've seen her in, and while I thought she was fine in "The Town," it's not a great role to judge anyone by. It's too brief. In a much larger role in "Green Lantern," I didn't care for her work at all, but that may well be because I think the film is a mess and the script a sham.
We try to sort out our reaction to the divisive new chapter in the series
One thing became clear when we published our second look at "Prometheus" after the film arrived in theaters: you seem more excited about the conversation when you've actually had a chance to see the movie, and you participate more.
Makes sense. And on "The Amazing Spider-Man," I feel like there is a pretty wide range of reactions rolling in. I wanted to take a second look at the film because I'm a little puzzled by some of the wildly positive reactions, and because I'd love to see the movie that other people seem to be seeing, the one that they love so much.
Let's be clear about something: I don't begrudge anyone their enjoyment of the film. I'm not writing about it a second time to sway anyone else or to lambast people who feel differently about it than I do. Instead, I'm hoping to raise some questions here, dig deeper into why I feel the way I do, and try to sort out the reactions I'm hearing from others.
THE REBOOT QUESTION
The most common dismissal of my review so far is "You didn't want a reboot, so your opinion on the film isn't fair." That's not true, though. I don't have an inherent problem with the notion of creative solutions to the problems posed by trying to keep a franchise up and running for a decade or more. I can't imagine any creative team that would want to do the same thing over and over and over and over without eventually getting to the point where they want to move on and do other things. Something like the "Harry Potter" films come with an ending in mind, so there's always a sense of building to something, and there is a conclusion that means something eventually.
From Captain Kirk to Jack Frost, Pine has a way with smart-ass heroes
Okay, now everything's starting to come into focus.
The new Dreamworks animated film "Rise Of The Guardians" is on the radar for the kids in my house in a big way. We've been enjoying the William Joyce books that are already out there that introduce the world and the characters, and the first teaser trailer was enough to convince the kids that they were interested in a film with the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman. You don't really have to sell the story at first because you've got such a big high concept idea to play with.
What the first trailer didn't show at all was the main character in the film, Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine. In fact, that trailer actually removed Jack Frost from several key shots, which I found very odd. My guess is that they didn't want to confuse people until they'd had a chance to explain the big idea. Now that that's had time to settle in, they've released a second trailer for the film, and this time, it's all about Jack Frost.
In a way, his story arc in the film reminds me of Jason Bourne in the first "Bourne Identity," since Jack Frost has no real recollection of a life before he was Jack Frost. The movie begins with him waking up in a frozen pond, under the ice, not sure how he got there, and much of his journey in the film involves figuring out who he is.