Why is the assassin such an enduring archetype?
Audiences seem to have an endless appetite for watching the adventures of people whose job is to kill for money, particularly when they start to wrestle with issues of conscience. How many movies at this point have started from the notion of the professional killer who's got "just one more job to do"?
When the HitFix movie team decided to put together a gallery of their favorite assassins in honor of tomorrow's release of "Three Days To Kill," the new Kevin Costner film, the biggest problem seemed to be narrowing everything down to the list of their very favorites. There are so many of these characters that have become icons that we could probably end up doing two or three of these galleries without running out.
Why is the assassin such an enduring archetype?
If correctly pronouncing the name of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was an Olympic event, our own Dan Fienberg would be in Sochi winning medals right this moment.
When I went to the "Pompeii" press day recently, I was met outside the room by a publicist who was speaking on behalf of another publicist who was inside the room, and they all wanted to make it clear that I shouldn't bother trying to say anything beyond "Adewale" when I walked into the room. "You don't have to try his last name," she said.
Hey, if he wants to go the full Madonna, fine by me. I've always had a great time interviewing him, and I've liked his work as far back as I can remember seeing him. He made such a huge impression when he was on "Oz" that the only real danger for me as a fan is that I would call him "Adebisi" instead of Adewale. One of the things that becomes clear if you spend more than ten minutes in conversation with him is that he is crazy smart, a guy with a knack for running a conversation.
At a press day for "The Thing," we had some time to just sit and chat while they were re-lighting the interview set, a good twenty minutes or so off-camera, and we talked about his background, a Masters degree in law, and how I'd like to see him cast as the lawyer in something instead of the perpetual client. It's one of those things where I don't even think it's about race as much as it is about a sort of failure of imagination on the part of filmmakers thinking about how to cast him.
My kids were excited to talk to him for a moment about "Thor: The Dark World," and he was incredibly gracious when talking about the part he played. Personally, I thought it was yet another film where they made less than ideal use of him, burying him in (admittedly well-designed) monster make-up for most of the movie. I'll say this for "Pompeii"… Paul W.S. Anderson gives Adewale a lot of screen time, and his character plays more than just a bad guy or a tough guy. I'll have my actual review of the movie up on Friday, but it's safe to say that I was happy to see Adewale get to play someone who we can actually root for and who has more than one big moment to play.
"Pompeii" is out in theaters on Friday, and you can see "Thor: The Dark World" on Blu-ray and DVD on February 25.
Last night, as I got home from a screening, I was about to climb out of my car when I saw something or someone moving stealthily in the area beside my garage. I turned the headlights back on and revealed two large raccoons who were standing on their back legs picking through our recycling bin. They didn't look startled by my lights, but more annoyed than anything as they turned and walk off through my backyard. I started laughing because, after this week's reaction to (and omnipresence of) the "Guardians Of The Galaxy" trailer, it felt more like viral marketing than anything.
Part of what I find fascinating about the way they've brought the character to life for the film is that he looks like a photo-real creature. He's the right size, and aside from the fact that he talks and he lives in outer space and he can operate heavy firearms, he looks pretty much exactly like those two I saw last night. We've gotten to a point where the visual effects work is almost spooky it's so realistic.
If there is any superhero film on the horizon that has me crossing my fingers at the moment, it's "Fantastic Four."
There are other films I am more confident will work because of things I've seen or read or heard, but when it comes to "Fantastic Four," I want them to get it right. I want my kids to have a series of great movies about some of the best Marvel characters that remain undefined so far on film.
No offense to the team that took the first crack at it (I'm not counting Roger Corman's disastrous tax dodge version), because I think they tried to do a certain version of things, with a particular interpretation of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, her younger brother Johnny, their friend Ben Grimm, and an evil lunatic named Doom, and it's just plain not for me. The world never felt right. The casting wasn't right. The way they built their bad guys in both movies was fairly inept. It just… didn't work.
Whew. I was starting to worry this might be good.
Perhaps I should dial back the skepticism a bit. After all, they're bound to eventually make a "Terminator" spin-off/reboot/remake/sequel that's not annoying and pointless, right? All they have to do is keep cranking them out every few years with a new cast of actors with some career heat, and I'm sure they'll stumble over a good movie at some point.
Sure, they've announced three different times now that they're going to "kick off a whole new trilogy," and each time they've announced that, they've failed, but that doesn't mean anything. I'm sure it was simply because the public wasn't ready. This time… this time it will all be different.
Sure, Jai Courtney and Sam Worthington would confuse me if I had to ID one of them in a police line-up, and sure, Courtney seemed mercifully spared of the horrors of charisma in "A Good Day to Die Hard," but I'm sure it's a great idea to pin your wildly expensive franchise film on him because the public just hasn't caught up yet.
The NCAA basketball tournaments are less than a month away. Because it's obviously never been done before, HitFix is going to host its own tournament, but this battle won't take place between teams on Tobacco Road. We've got something more exciting in mind. In our competition, the greatest Heroes from the worlds of television and movies will face off versus the greatest Villains.
The committee is currently mulling over the brackets, but we need your help. There are six characters who some would consider anti-heroes, but we know then need to part of the battle royale. Do they fall in the Heroes bracket or the Villains bracket?
You decide. You have 48 hours. Choose wisely.
We've had Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg both offer up anti-heroes for you guys to vote on already, but if you haven't already been following this series, let me catch you up. We're going to ask you guys to spend March helping us eventually whittle things down to the greatest hero vs. villain showdown possible, but before we even get started, we need you to tell us where you'd place six characters.
It is entirely fine with me if I spend much of 2014 writing articles about a gun-toting space raccoon.
James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is not so much a radical reinvention of what Marvel Studios has been doing so far as it is a very smart way of them broadening their palette. In many ways, this is the same sort of heroic journey that their other characters have been on in film after film, but it takes place in a very different kind of world, and it brings in all sorts of new ideas that should give the entire Marvel movie universe a major shot in the arm.
The funny part of this trailer is that it's essentially the same as the footage that was shown at Comic-Con a mere ten days or so into the shoot. It's a lot slicker now, but everything up through the last big barrage of quick shots is cut the same, and the structure is identical.
Now that my oldest son is getting more cognizant of what it is I do when I travel for business, there are some awkward conversations about why he can't just drop everything and come with me to do something that sounds like fun.
For example, he is currently exasperated with me because he isn't going to be allowed to join me in Austin, TX, for this year's SXSW Film Festival, where Rialto Pictures and Warner/Legendary are going to be presenting a special screening of the original 1954 Ishiro Honda film "Gojira," with director Gareth Edwards appearing afterwards for a Q&A that should also address this summer's remake of the film.
That's not actually technically accurate, though. I wouldn't call the new film a remake because, aside from the presence of the giant monster who breathes atomic fire, the two films really don't have much in common in terms of story. The new film tells its own story, and there's a lot more going on here than just one giant monster destroying things.
I am starting to suspect that dream projects should never be made. I know that sounds counter-intuitive and incredibly pessimistic. Hear me out.
Certainly, there are movies I love that very talented people have worked tirelessly to realize, and I would be devastated if those films did not exist. I get it. I love "Apocalypse Now." I love that it smells desperate and sweaty in a way precisely because of the insane demands the production made on everyone. I love that it was finished. I adore every flaw, every eccentricity. I love it. But it is also true that there are many dream films that have been made that have turned out to be mystifyingly bad, bad in a way that can only be personal, and while I can't imagine what might have started me thinking about this topic recently, I thought it would be worth looking back at what's happened when people have backed a vision and given it everything and stood back and looked at the end result and thought…
… we are in so much trouble.
Exhibit A for me on this list is always Barry Levinson's "Toys."
Last night, I finished reading "A Storm Of Swords" finally, and one of the real tensions of reading the series for me is that I have grown very fond of the cast of "Game Of Thrones," and they've demonstrated such a penchant for killing off characters that I spend pretty much the entire time I read each book clenched and worried now that I'm into material that has not already appeared on the show.
As of the end of the third season of the show, Jon Snow has become a fairly important character simply by virtue of outlasting so many of the other members of his family. Without revealing his fate moving forward, I can say that each and every cast member I've had a chance to chat with has turned out to be very grounded about being part of a phenomenon and I haven't run into anyone yet who has displayed any attitude at all about it. It seems to be a largely diva-free cast, which would seem to be essential if you're trying to pull off something as complicated and large-scale as "Game Of Thrones" on the sort of uber-demanding schedule and budget that they have.