James Wan is having a big year.
Right now, he's gearing up for "Fast & Furious 7," whatever they end up calling it, which is the biggest film he's ever made if we're just talking about budget and scale. Before we see that film, though, two films that he's already finished will be released.
The first is this summer's "The Conjuring," which is a tremendous piece of entertainment, smart and sleek and scary as hell. That one's based on the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who made their reputation as paranormal investigators. Patrick Wilson stars in that one as Ed Warren, and it's starting to look like Wilson and Wan are building a great relationship as actor and director, since "The Conjuring" will be followed up this year by the September release of "Insidious Chapter 2," hitting theaters on the appropriate date of Friday the 13th.
James Wan is having a big year.
One of the reasons I fell in love with horror films early in my development as a film fan was because I realized that you could tell any story and grapple with any topic, and you could do it by dealing in metaphor. The horror films that I think cut the deepest are the ones that have something real to say about who we are and what marks us, and just because they feature corpses or werewolves or creatures from space, it doesn't mean they are any less emotionally or intellectually valid than any other form of film. They just smuggle their meaning a little more.
The flip side of that is when you see a horror film that thinks it's doing something profound while completely and utterly missing the mark, and "The Purge" is a fantastic example of that. Written and directed by James DeMonaco, the film starts with a pretty hefty premise for audiences to swallow. Set in the near future, the US government has decided to pick a single day of the year where they suspend all emergency services for 12 hours, and everything is legal. That includes murder, although there are a few rules. Nothing above a certain category of weapon types (so I'm assuming no nukes) and there are several Federal employees including The President who are off-limits. Otherwise? Feel free.
I hope audiences take to Aubrey Plaza as a lead in films, because I think she is fascinating.
Her particular brand of emotional reserve is a very specific comic voice, and not one that we see all the time. She's strikingly pretty, but that's not what makes her so compulsively watchable. I think it's the fact that you can see this constant barrage of thoughts just behind her eyes, this constant sizing up of the people around her, that makes her such a quiet gem on "Parks and Recreation." One of the reasons "Safety Not Guaranteed" worked was because of the value of her oh-so-rarely-seen smile and the effective deployment of it at key moments.
Now she's working with writer/director Maggie Carey, who also has her own specific comic voice, and when I visited the set of the movie, they were still trying to pin down a new title instead of what it was when it was set up originally, "The Hand Job." Looking at the new red-band trailer that showed up online today, "The To-Do List" makes perfect sense as a replacement, and it's not like people are in any danger of missing the point.
If you're an "Arrested Development" fan, you probably pride yourself on being able to pick up all the levels of the various jokes that are piled on with an almost breathtaking density, but even the nerdiest of fans probably missed one of the weirdest inside beats this season. There are a number of jokes in the new series built around that weird early-'90s tax shelter production of "Fantastic Four" that was supposed to lock down the rights for Roger Corman, and on their own, those jokes are a bunch of fun.
But if you pay close attention, you'll spot Josh Trank and Jeremy Slater in the episodes, and that's a joke that won't fully pay off until Fox releases their in-development reboot of "Fantastic Four," which Josh Trank is set to direct, and which Jeremy Slater worked on as a writer. The notion of layering in a gag that won't even fully make sense for a few years is one of the many reasons I love "Arrested Development."
I'm pretty sure the Screen Actor's Guild passed a bylaw recently that says every working actor must take a role in a superhero movie. Even so, there are certain roles that have to be among the most daunting to approach, and I would imagine there is no more that is more simultaneously terrifying and thrilling to learn you're going to play than Superman.
Even James Bond isn't the same level of pressure. Superman is enough of an icon to scare an actor, but when you consider how iconic and beloved the work of Christopher Reeve was, there's a reason no one's been able to claim the role as their own since then. When I met Cavill for the first time, it was only a few days after he was announced as the star of "Man Of Steel," and I was at WonderCon to moderate a panel with him for the film "Immortals." It was a kick to introduce the new Superman to an audience, and he handled himself with grace at the event, as well as in the interview we did that same day, where we talked about the first time he wore the suit for his audition.
There is a very special film coming out this year that I'll be telling you more about soon, but today, the first trailer for "Short Term 12" is available.
Some recent conversation (some constructive, some not) about the ratings system of reviews here on the site that I've had reveal that people have very different ideas about what ratings actually mean. If I give a film an "A+," that automatically means it makes my top ten list at the end of the year, right? Because that rating means I think it's perfect, right?
I'm giving "Short Term 12" the same rating I'm giving other films this year that couldn't be more different, but in doing so, I'm not comparing those films. The rating is me saying how well I think they execute the film they're trying to make. I could give a film a B+ and not like it at all. Like is one small part of my overall rating of a movie. Instead, I'm more curious to see how well someone pulls off the things they try to do, both stylistically and in terms of narrative, and me giving something an A+ is me saying that I feel like they made the best version of that movie, like they hit the target dead center.
When they were shooting "Serenity" at Universal Studios, I got a chance to visit the set and take a walk through the main ship, which had been built to give them a chance to do a full continuous shot from the front of the ship to the back without cutting away or cheating, and I must admit… it's one of the most impressive sets I've seen built. Functional, but completely immersive. It was the ship. I'm so used to seeing things in pieces and in sections that to just step inside something real like that was sort of dizzying.
I'm not rabid about the continuation of the adventures of Mal Reynolds and his crew, but if they made another one, I'd sure see it. I enjoyed the comic series that followed the show, and I think it's a cool world that they had just started to explore.
When I sat down with Nathan Fillion, it was as part of the press day for "Monsters University," and I'll have my interview with him about that film coming a little closer to release. For now, I wanted to run the final question I asked him about whether anything's changed now that Joss Whedon finally has a billion-dollar-monster under his belt, with another one already in the works.
There are few things more important to me than my friendships. In general, I consider myself a friendly person, and there are many people that I deal with who I would say I've got a pleasant but casual relationship with, and a few special people who I consider genuine pick-up-the-phone-anytime friends. They are hard-won, and even if I don't get a chance to see all of them as often as I'd like, they are important to me.
One of the reasons I take those relationships so seriously is because I know how rare they are, and I know how uncommon new ones can be. The worst feeling for me is when things shift, when one friendship starts to crowd out another. It's happened in my life, and it's never something calculated or intentional. It's just evolution, the way things happen, and it can hurt when it happens. "Frances Ha," the latest film by Noah Baumbach, mines that material in a very smart way, and with a very different voice, so does "This Is The End."
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a storytelling voice that I like enormously. Both "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" are movies I enjoy top to bottom, and watching them navigate the offers and opportunities that have come to them, and even the projects that I think are less successful are choices that make perfect sense, and I think their approach is always recognizably theirs. That is not easy to do working inside the system, and it feels to me like they've been working their way up to "This Is The End," a summation of everything they've done so far.
Superman has a long and, frankly, completely barking insane history.
One of the amazing things about a character like Superman is that because of his longevity, you can read through his publishing history and trace the various ebbs and flows of the comic industry. You can see how storytelling developed, and you can see how DC managed their key players because no matter what, Superman is always involved.
"Man Of Steel" is just a few weeks away now, and it is officially time to start getting very, very excited. Right now, fans are still speculating about what sort of riffs the new film will play on the long-established conventions of the character and the world around him. Will we see Lex Luthor in the new film? Is he a reporter for the Daily Planet? How do they handle Krypton's fate? Why does General Zod want him and how much does Superman know about his true identity as Kal-El?
When you show a character onscreen doing something that is supposed to be genuine magic, the use of special effects and camera trickery is perfectly acceptable and even understood as a given. When you're showing a character onscreen who is performing stage magic, something meant to be an illusion performed for a live crowd, I find it far more problematic when I don't believe what I'm looking at. "Now You See Me" is energetic, well-cast, and very, very narratively busy, but it fails the most basic test for me: the magic is a bust, so nothing else matters.
I'm sure having David Copperfield consult and build things for you is a great anecdote for the press day, and they get the trappings of stage magic right, especially as it pertains to Las Vegas. But there's not a moment in this movie where it doesn't feel like a movie, like everything is heightened and slightly ridiculous and impossible, and for that reason, I find myself less able to engage with the genial caper film that uses magic more as set dressing than anything else.