The first film set I ever visited was for John Carpenter’s Starman. I was 13, and the film was shooting just outside Chattanooga, TN, where I lived at the time. When I was leaving the set at the end of the day, the unit publicist (the great Peter J. Silbermann) gave me a copy of the script by Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon and Dean Riesner, the first actual film script I ever read. It could have been anything I read first, but I’m glad that as I started try to break down structure and character and the crazy magic trick that is writing words on a page that then come to life on a film set, it was that script which I was studying. It’s a lovely piece of writing, and there’s a reason Jeff Bridges got nominated for an Oscar playing the lead role of an alien who borrows a human body for a joyride for a few days.
Game Of Thrones is going to be one of those pop culture moments that ends up overstuffed with movie stars when we look back at it, and I suspect one of those movie stars is going to be Maisie Williams. She has a compelling combination of maturity and youth, and everyone I’ve talked to about how she is on set seems to be convinced that she’s in this for the long haul.
With her on-screen sister Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) already joining the X-Men family in this summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, it makes perfect sense that the X-Men producers would be looking at the show closely. Now comes word that The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone, currently co-writing the film with Knate Gwaltney, has set his first three cast members for The New Mutants, which is my personal pick for the “It’s about time!” award when it comes to which of these spin-off properties they decided to develop.
One of the things that excites me about the news that Ben Affleck has already turned in a solo Batman script is that we’ve never seen an actor write his own Batman film before. While I like many of the screen interpretations of the character that have come before, the actors who wear that suit have a perspective on how that feels that no one else does. If you’re someone like Affleck who has spent time in that cowl, it has to impact how you think about the character and his relationship to the world around him. It just has to.
Overall, I am curious to see how long Affleck stays attached to the part. He’s contracted, obviously, for both of the Justice League movies and he makes a cameo (at least) in Suicide Squad later this year. The cover story of the Hollywood Reporter that was just published is an interview with his agents, and they report that “there’s a script that he’s written that is a really cool [Batman] idea.” This may be the film that he was reportedly developing with Geoff Johns, and I’d be curious to see where it falls in the overall Batman timeline.
This may be the first Disney trailer to ever open with the heroine of the film running away from someone because they are about to manually stimulate her to orgasm. Well-played, Alice Through The Looking Glass.
Landing somewhere between Sucker Punch and Return To Oz, the opening of this trailer comes up with a very different reason to send Alice running than the first film did, and then kicks into an assault of hyper-vivid eye candy that is almost startlingly insane. James Bobin is picking up what Tim Burton put down, and while I like Bobin, maaaaaaaaaaaaan, do I hate the overall visual design of this world. It is aggressively unpleasant at every turn, and while they are technically drawing from Lewis Carroll’s work, I find this interpretation very off-putting.
Okay, I think it’s safe to say I am officially too excited about Luc Besson’s now-filming Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets.
It was Wondercon three years ago where I spoke to Besson about the film for the first time. I was moderating the panel for Lucy, his Scarlett Johansson action film, and as we wrapped up the panel and chatted backstage, he brought up the still-untitled project and talked about how he made The Fifth Element at the exact wrong moment, just before CGI caught up with his ambitions. It was clear that he was excited at the prospect of using modern film technology to tell a science-fiction story on a scale that he would have never previously tried, and seeing Besson that excited about an upcoming film was infectious.
One of the nicest things about doing interviews at the HitFix studios instead of at a junket is that removing someone from that environment automatically puts them at ease to some degree. When you’re stuck in one room all day, one interview after another being done in the same place, things start to blur together. When someone makes the drive over the studio and we do an interview, they’ve had a chance to clear their head, and they start in a better mood than they do in a junket room.
That was certainly the case with Jeff Nichols, who rolled into our offices last Friday just as his latest film, Midnight Special, was opening in limited release. I’ve been a fan since his first film, Shotgun Stories, but this was my first time sitting down with the writer/director, and it was an easy conversation.
I live less than two minutes from Warner Bros., and to get anywhere, I have to drive by the studio, and every single poster spot on the side of the studio, normally occupied by four different movies and four different TV shows, is currently taken by Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. From my living room window, I can see the water tower at the center of the lot, which currently features the shield-and-cowl combination logo for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. In fact, it is impossible to look anywhere in that general direction or be in my car or be outside my house in Los Angeles without feeling like I’m being bludgeoned by the oh-so-urgent existence of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Speaking as a fan of Man Of Steel and of Zack Snyder’s work in general, I am baffled by what I saw tonight. In one regard, it certainly feels like they delivered on the promise of that incredibly awkward and franchise-minded title. But I’m not sure how a filmmaker whose work normally speaks to me as clearly as Snyder’s does could deliver something that feels this confused, this impersonal, and this corporate. It is a confounding mess of a movie, and while there are individual sequences that I enjoyed as isolated moments, it is almost breathtakingly incoherent storytelling. Characters do what they do because the movie requires them to do it, not because they are behaving like characters at all. There’s no sense of voice to the film. I have no idea what I should think about Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman based on what I see here. They are all apparently blanks who simply exist to react without thought or purpose to whatever stimuli is presented to them. Structurally, there’s something fundamentally broken about the way this thing’s been built, and I have a feeling it’s going to take some time to really pull apart all of the mistakes that were made.
One thing’s clear: I don’t want the Justice League this movie promises.
Things are changing right now, and the people who are going to thrive are the ones who are wiling to embrace that change instead of railing against it. If you’re a storyteller, you’re going to go where you have the most freedom to tell stories. When I look at a deal like the one Netflix made for Bright, the film that David Ayer will direct from a script by Max Landis, I see a shift that is going to change where we see certain types of things. My whole life, my focus has been on movies and the theatrical experience, and that may be changing, and not because of any decision I’ve made. The industry has simply evolved in a certain direction, and if I want to watch certain kinds of storytelling, that is more often than not going to be at home now instead of the theater.
Michael Mann’s been able to adapt over the course of his career, and whatever kind of work he’s been doing, he’s managed to find a way to put his signature on it. Films, TV, it didn’t seem to matter. Now we’ll see how he does as a publishing magnate, and the first choice he’s made is enormously encouraging. If there’s anyone working in crime fiction right now who I would call a superstar, it’s Don Winslow. His last book, The Cartel, was a huge, absorbing look at our failures in the “drug war” on the Mexican/American border, and after I read it, I went back to re-read the first book in the series, The Power Of The Dog, and I was blown away again by the ambition and the raw, brutal beauty of his work.
A quick note: my computer finally gave up the ghost last week, and I’ve spent the past five or so days scrambling to get back up and running. I’ve never gone this long without posting at HitFix, not since we began the site, and it’s a disconcerting feeling to just watch pop culture flow by without having the tools be part of the conversation. It’s amazing how ingrained it is at this point, and even when I’m working as hard as I can, I still always feel like there’s more that I’d like to write and publish than I’m able to actually accomplish.
Case in point: I was hoping to publish this review last Friday night after my sons joined me and my girlfriend for an evening built around the Netflix premiere of Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, directed by John Lee. One of the things that excited me when they made the announcement about Lee as director is that he’s got a history of pretty wild conceptual comedy. I love his TV work. I think he’s been part of some of the most interesting and vital American comedy of the last five or ten years, working on Wonder Showzen, Inside Amy Schumer, and Broad City, among other things. There’s a whole generation of guys who helped make the really strange and vibrant TV comedy for channels like Adult Swim and Comedy Central who are making the jump to features now, and they seem hungry for it, ready and more than able.
There is no project in development right now that is more avidly followed in my own household than Ready Player One. Toshi, my ten-year-old, read the book last year and since then, he's been utterly obsessed with the notion that is going to be a movie, especially with Steven Spielberg set to direct.
'80s pop culture in general drives Toshi crazy, and I'm fascinated by his love of it. While I understand what drove Ernie Cline to write the book, I am more confused by a ten year old, born in 2005, who experiences nostalgia for an era that ended fifteen years before he was born. My conversations with people who are working on the film say that it was important to Spielberg that he get legal clearances on all of the '80s stuff before he signed his deal to make the film. This is going to a pop culture collision on the order of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with an even broader reach.