There is no weirder trend right now than the sudden resurgence of the Biblical epic.
Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" sounds like one of the weirdest movies of all time. The script was fascinating, a hybrid of a moral tale and a monster movie,and Ridley Scott is evidently gearing up to make a Moses movie with Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Aaron Paul called "Exodus."
I'm not sure I understand the sudden urge. If the idea is to try to reach out to traditional conservative Christian groups, I'm not sure hiring the directors of "Wanted," "Requiem For A Dream," and "Black Hawk Down" is the way to do that. At least with Aronofsky and Scott, they've demonstrated some range as filmmakers in the past. Bekmembatov, on the other hand, is a sensation junkie ADD lunatic. That's not necessarily a negative judgment, just an observation. There are very few people who would have ever approached something like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" with the straight-faced utter lack of humor that he did, and the idea of him shooting something like a new souped-up version of the chariot race from "Ben-Hur" is so decadent that I almost can't contain my glee.
There is no weirder trend right now than the sudden resurgence of the Biblical epic.
There's no way I can be objective or dispassionate about a film like "The Dirties." As I was watching it, the part of me that is a film critic, constantly analyzing and contextualizing, simply shut down. My experiences, my influences, my history… it makes it impossible for me for me to try to explain this in any terms except personal ones. That happens with films all the time for people, and it is an occupational hazard. I've had moments like that so many times over the years, and each and every time, I feel like this is why I am as fascinated today by the strange emotional magic trick of a movie as I was in 1977 when I first fell in love.
My teenage years were the John Hughes years, the '80s, full-flush, and I went from a chubby nerdy ten year old kid in 1980 to a chubby nerdy twenty year old who couldn't wait another day and moved to Los Angeles. The mid-point of that decade was the moment that made all the difference in the world, the moment where my family moved to Florida and I ended up enrolled in the same high school as Scott Swan, a kid who had just moved to the area from Pittsburgh, a kid who was exactly as movie crazy as I was.
Any announcement that involves Neil Marshall getting more work is a good thing.
It's exciting to hear that he's back on "Game Of Thrones" for next season. His work on "Blackwater" was epic, even by the amazing weekly standards of that show. I think he's been completely undervalued as a feature director, and a big part of it is simply because not enough people have seen his movies. "Centurion" happened at the exact wrong moment in the career arc of Michael Fassbender, and it would have been a much easier sell a year later. It's worth catching up with if you haven't seen it, and it's just one more example of how good Marshall is at staging large action sequences.
Marshall has a classic sense of action geography. He's smart about how he lays out his big set pieces, and he is excellent at conveying what's important in a scene and how everything connects. These days, that seems to be a more and more precious skill, especially when the aesthetic pushes more and more towards total incoherence and visual chaos. When you look at "Doomsday" or "The Descent" or "Dog Soldiers," you clearly see a guy who has action chops to spare, and yet it seems like he doesn't work nearly enough.
Mark Hartley has made two exceptional documentaries about the history of exploitation films, one called "Not Quite Hollywood" and the other called "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" The first examined the evolution of Australia's homegrown genre movies, and it was more than just a scholarly look at a list of movies. Hartley understood exactly why those films were so exciting, and he made a documentary that had the same sort of breathless energy that the films did, and he made a hell of a case for the significance of those films and those directors.
While I'm excited to see his next documentary, which will deal with the history of Canon Films, I'm equally excited about the notion that he took one of the films that he covered in "Not Quite Hollywood" and remade it. "Patrick" is one of those films that I knew by reputation more than anything, and after "Not Quite Hollywood" came out, it was one of the movies that got a US release to capitalize on its new notoriety. The original was directed by one of my favorite of the Aussies, Richard Franklin, and it's an effective movie with some smart script choices, solid performances across the board, and Franklin really knows how to screw with an audience. Released in 1978, it feels like a reaction to films like "Carrie" and "The Fury" with a comatose patient who wages a telekinetic battle against a nurse. Like "Road Games," the film seems to lean on Hitchcock at times, and that's just Franklin. There's a reason he was hired for "Psycho II," and he obviously has an enormous respect for the kind of classically built scares from a different age.
The first real film festival I ever attended was Sundance in 2001. I remember one of the mornings we were there, we had to get up earlier than normal to drive the hour to Park City so we could then stand in line for over an hour just on the off chance that maybe we could make it in to see a screening at 8:30 in the morning. It turned out to be well worth it, though, when we got to see the first screening of Jonathan Glazer's "Sexy Beast," which seemed to make good on the promise Glazer had shown as a filmmaker when making amazing music videos.
That was twelve years ago, and we're just now seeing Glazer's third film as a director. He seems to be one of those guys who would rather focus on something he loves than just make as many films as possible, and as a result, when he does release a new film, you can count on it being something that he sincerely means as an artist. He doesn't seem remotely interested in courting commercial favor, which must drive the money guys crazy, but as long as he can find people who are willing to pay for his dark and haunting visions, I'll happily line up to see them.
I'm not entirely sure how I managed to broach the subject of porn during a conversation with Scarlett Johansson without the authorities becoming involved, but it all seems to have worked out in the end.
I hate the term "romantic comedy," because nine times out of ten, the films described with that term are neither romantic nor particularly funny. I have written before about how I feel like most studio "romantic" films sell a disturbing idea of adult relationships, and many of the characters in these films seem to have been dropped onto the Earth from somewhere else, completely untaught in the ways normal human beings behave.
"Don Jon," which was both written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, seems inordinately wise about human behavior, and in particular, I was struck by the way the film draws a direct parallel between the porn that Jon (Gordon-Levitt) watches non-stop and the romantic comedies that Barbara (Johansson) invests in so fully. In both cases, the film argues, the person who watches is giving themselves unrealistic expectations, and they use the entertainment in place of real life instead of working to find something genuine that will fulfill them.
The last film I saw at this year's Toronto Film Festival is also set to play Fantastic Fest in Austin, with the first screening set for this coming Sunday night. While a festival like Toronto is packed with so many giant titles that are given full publicity pushes by the studios releasing them, frequently drowning out anything anyone might write about smaller films, Fantastic Fest seems devoted to finding and showcasing the small gems. I expect "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" will do very well there, and I hope a canny distributor picks up this smart, brutal neo-noir, because it deserves an audience.
Written by Dutch Southern and directed by Simon and Zeke Hawkins, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" tells a very familiar story in terms of the broad strokes. Sue (Mackenzie Davis) and B.J. (Logan Huffman) are a couple, which puts Bobby (Jeremy Allen White) in a tough spot. He's best friends with B.J., but he is madly in love with Sue. They all live in a very small Texas town, which means there's not a lot they can do to entertain themselves, leaving plenty of time for bad ideas. Both Bobby and Sue plan to leave for college just as soon as they can, and B.J. is starting to realize he's going to get left behind. One weekend, just for kicks, B.J. steals a fat stack of cash from the safe of Giff (Mark Pellegrino), the guy he and Bobby work for, and that sets off a chain of events that could destroy the fragile peace that they've all been working so hard to maintain.
Los Angeles has a shockingly bad track record when it comes to protecting its own history, especially when it comes to the grand movie palaces that were built to worship the movies that drive everything else in the city. You would think that if there is anyplace on Earth where theaters would be treated as important historical landmarks, it would be LA, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Even since I moved here in 1990, I've seen major changes, and few of them have been for the better. The Avco Theater in Westwood was used for years as a proof-of-concept house for pretty much every major breakthrough that Dolby made, so it was the first house anywhere with Dolby Stereo, the first house anywhere with Dolby surround, the first house anywhere to use Dolby Digital. Seeing "Jurassic Park" there in 1993, it was definitely the best sound out of any of the big LA engagements, and for some reason, not long after that, Avco cut the giant historic downstairs auditorium in half, creating two smaller theaters that both tilt towards what used to be the center of a giant curved screens. It was so wrong headed that it didn't surprise me when the theater finally closed completely. The National is gone now, despite that being a great house that could have used some renovation instead of just shuttering the place completely.
So far, Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios have been running things separately, and there's been almost no synchronicity between their storytelling. That's great because it means the writers and artists working on the comics aren't being forced to build the work they're doing around someone else's storyline, and it means that movie fans don't have to feel driven to read comics between the movies just to figure out what's going on.
That may be changing, though, and some recent rumors about the plans they have for Phase Three as well as some behind-the-scenes battles that have plagued the studio for the last few years raise some fascinating questions about the future of the studio.
As strange as it sounds, I'm not sure I'd put Stan Lee on the short list of credible sources when it comes to Marvel's upcoming plans. Sure, he has a cameo in everything they make, but I don't think he's consulted on anything they're doing. Still, he made a recent mention of several movies that he says are being developed right now by the studio, including the long-rumored "Black Panther," Kevin Feige's pet project "Doctor Strange," and, to the surprise of many, "Inhumans."
Twenty-four solid months without a single Pixar film in theaters seems almost unthinkable.
At D23 Expo recently, Disney seemed like everything was full speed ahead on the Pixar slate, and they announced that "The Good Dinosaur" was set for release on May 30, 2014, with the highly-anticipated sequel "Finding Dory" set for November 25, 2015.
They still have a film set for November 25, 2015, but now it's "The Good Dinosaur," and unless something radical happens, that means "Inside Out" is the next movie the studio is releasing, and that comes a full two years after the release of "Monsters University." While Disney has plenty of major content brands under the larger umbrella of Disney these days, and they seem to be gearing up for something like nine Marvel movies a year, two years without a Pixar film sounds like a genuine crisis for the studio.