"I am Iron Man."
That was Tony Stark's big announcement at the end of 2008's first film in what has become one of the biggest franchises in the world, the cornerstone of an even larger franchise called The Marvel Universe, a creative gamble that has paid off in a huge way. In that moment, Stark, personified rather than played by Robert Downey Jr., not only flipped the superhero formula on its head by revealing his identity to the world but also announced himself as the owner of the character. He's now played Stark five times on film, and there is no one who would argue that in terms of the pop consciousness, Downey is Stark and vice-versa.
In "Iron Man Three," as it's written during the closing credits, Stark finds himself genuinely tested by the Mandarin, a media-savvy terrorist, and a rival businessman who is angling to take away Pepper Potts. From that simple logline, Shane Black has spun my favorite of the standalone films about the character, including the first film. I think Jon Favreau deserves all the credit in the world for getting the entire thing off the ground, finding the right tone to play everything at, creating a credible world that has now expanded in ways that would have been unthinkable a mere five years ago.
"I am Iron Man."
One of last year's Midnight Madness films from the Toronto Film Festival is arriving in theaters shortly, and we were asked if we wanted to premiere an exclusive clip from the movie here at HitFix.
I definitely try to see as many of the Midnight Madness selections as I can, and part of that is because I trust the taste of Colin Geddes, programmer for the section, and part of that is because these tend to be the films that speak to my film geekiest side. They often represent unlikely collisions between different genres or different styles or unexpected partnerships. Perhaps the strangest of those this year saw the WWE producing a horror film that starred Luke Evans and was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura.
Kitamura first gained attention with the swords-and-zombies film "Versus," and he famously struggled to get his adaptation of Clive Barker's "The Midnight Meat Train" the theatrical release he felt like it deserved. WWE Films has been pushing into genre fare pretty much from the moment they decided to get into filmmaking, thinking much broader than just action films.
I understand how you might have different levels of reaction to the various films that Sofia Coppola has directed, but I don't understand at all when I hear people try to downplay her talents as a filmmaker.
As soon as "The Virgin Suicides" ended that first theatrical screening I saw back in '99, I knew I was onboard with whatever she did in the future because that was as clear a display of filmmaker's voice as I've seen in a debut film in the last twenty years. Dreamy, literate, perfectly capturing a specific age in the life of the American teen, "Virgin Suicides" lingered long after many of 1999's more hyped movies started to fade. I quite like "Lost In Translation" as well, and even if I don't love "Marie Antoinette" or "Somewhere," I think they are absolutely the films she set out to make. She has real control over tone and she's great at building spaces for her actors.
Focus Features doesn't have a new film every weekend this summer, so they have time to pay attention to each film fully, and they've sent out a new batch of pictures to preview the two films they are releasing.
First up, there's Edgar Wright's "The World's End," which we couldn't be more excited about. The reteaming of Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg is irresistible to us, and with a cast that also includes Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman, it looks like it's going to be something special. Right now, we know very little about the plot and it seems like that's by design. Edgar Wright has played mum about almost everything regarding the film, so all we know for sure is that the film deals with a group of old friends who are reunited to participate in a pub crawl on a night where some very strange things happen in London.
Simon Pegg's look in the film is pretty outrageous, and it's interesting seeing how everyone else looks clean-cut and settled and happy. I hope that more than anything, this is another examination of the strange ways that friendships among men work. It is a thematic vein that has proven quite rich for Wright in the past.
At this point, I think of Don Cheadle as Rhodey, Tony Stark's good friend, and I have to be reminded that he didn't actually play the part in the first film. That's a testament to just how naturally Cheadle stepped into the role when Terrence Howard negotiated himself right out of the sequels, and I think things ultimately worked out the way they were supposed to work out.
When I sat down to talk to Cheadle at the press day for "Iron Man 3" last weekend, I mentioned to him that I drive by the donut shop from "Boogie Nights" at least four times a week just because of where I live in the Valley. "Ever get the urge to rob it?" he asked me with a smile.
Michael Bay is one of the few overtly, blatantly, unapologetically amoral filmmakers working in mainstream Hollywood.
I think a lot of what passes as moral material in mainstream cinema is phony, grafted on without sincerity. When someone learns something about themselves in a movie, more often than not, it's complete bullshit. I have always preferred films that challenge me to have my own reaction to something, that trust me to navigate my own way through a work. I don't mind the big broad strokes of filmmakers working in archetype. I'm all for great bad guys and perfect good guys, as long as it's done well, but I'm equally okay with just watching sociopathic dummies screw up terrible plans.
Good thing, too, because "Pain and Gain" fits that bill exactly. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely deserve credit for writing what feels like a tailor-made Michael Bay movie. Mark Wahlberg stars as Daniel Lugo, a guy who is the perfect customer for the self-help market. He wants to be a success. He wants to be famous. He wants to be a big man in his community. He wants every bit of the American Dream, and he doesn't want to work for it. He expects it. He believes he has a right to it.
Phase Two is in full swing.
While I can't say what I thought of it, I did see "Iron Man 3" over the weekend, and I conducted interviews with the cast of the film and with producer Kevin Fiege and director Shane Black. Now that we've seen three stand-alone adventures for Iron Man, it's about time for the first sequels to the other films that helped introduce the Avengers start to roll in, and it should surprise absolutely no one that the trailer for "Thor: The Dark World" will be on the front of "Iron Man 3" when it arrives in theaters.
Thankfully, it's online now, and it gives us our first taste of what to expect as Alan Taylor ("Game Of Thrones") takes over as director. Chris Hemsworth is back, as are Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Jaimie Alexander, and Idris Elba. Zachary Levi steps in for the departing Josh Dallas as Fandral, and there's a new bad guy in the form of Christopher Eccleston as Malekith.
So far, we've had a very healthy mix of movies in the countdown of the 25 most anticipated movies for the Summer of 2013, and there's been some controversy about the ranking of some of these choices.
The thing to remember here is that we've voted on this as a group, and the results surprised us as much as they seem to be surprising you. I never would have expected that the follow-up to "The Avengers" would rank so low, but I think I understand why. Anticipation is based at least in part on the desire to be surprised, to have something new happen. And while sequels are part of the fun of summer, there's also a hope that most movie fans harbor that something new is going to sneak up on them as well.
One thing seems very clear at this point: Bryan Singer is excited to be back in the world of the X-Men.
Little by little, Singer's been using social media to release sneak peeks behind the scenes as he's been preparing to begin production on "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," the latest chapter in an increasingly odd franchise that features plenty of digressions and a semi-reboot right in the middle of things. When Singer left the series, it was a difficult professional moment for him, and it also left Fox in the lurch unexpectedly. When it happened, I would have bet that there was no chance Singer would ever return to the series.
What makes this return especially exciting is how it looks like he's enjoying himself so much. I feel like Singer has been struggling to define himself more often than not over the course of his career. He made such a huge splash with "The Usual Suspects," and his first "X-Men" may have helped kick off the current new wave of superhero cinema, but he has still managed to evade any particular directorial voice, and it's actually somewhat frustrating. I don't think every filmmaker has to have a particular unique voice, but Singer is a guy who seems to want to be thought of as an auteur of sorts, and it doesn't feel like he's ever really figured out what it is that matters to him about the films he makes.
There is something magical about doing something for no reason other than play.
It is uncommon for adults unless they make specific plans for it, but kids are great at walking into a situation and immediately beginning to play with other kids, even if they've never met before. I watch it in my own kids, and it's a sort of fearlessness that adults have crushed out of them. When kids are playing and really enjoying themselves, they're not worried about anything else. They're not thinking about anything else. They're not worried about how cool they look. They're just playing, and it's a very pure form of pleasure.
Holding on to that, in any form, is not easy, and I'm curious to see how Will Ferrell and Jack Black handle "Tag Brothers," a film that The Wrap reports is being developed for the two of them to star in by New Line and Todd Garner's Broken Road. It's based on an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about a group of adults who started playing an elaborate game of tag years ago. Now, as they approach middle-age, they still spend one month out of the year going to insane lengths to declare one another "It."