Okay, now it's getting exciting.
There is no Luke Skywalker but Mark Hamill. At least, that's always been the way I've felt about it. While Harrison Ford is the one who became the giant movie star, what Hamill had going for him was the feeling that he belonged in the world of "Star Wars" completely. Watch him dealing with the mundane details of the world, like doing the maintenance on the droids or seasoning his meal in Yoda's home or any of a million other little things he does that sell it as real. It goes beyond talking about performance for me, and all I can really say is that as a seven or a ten or a thirteen year old kid seeing the "Star Wars" films for the first time, Hamill was a big part of making me completely believe in that universe.
In an interview with "Entertainment Tonight," Hamill compared the announcement that there will be an "Episode VII" to finding a pair of jeans in the closet with a $20 in the pocket. That's probably my favorite reaction to the new "Star Wars" movies so far, and Hamill confirms what Lucas said initially, that he'd already started speaking to the principal cast.
Okay, now it's getting exciting.
It is vaguely amazing that Seth MacFarlane has become the media titan that he is today, and no matter what you think of his work, you have to give it up to the guy for the way he turned things around.
There was a point, after all, when he was just the guy whose show got canceled not once, but twice. It would have been easy, between 2002 and 2005, to pretty much count MacFarlane out. Now, here we are eight years later, and not only is he hosting the Academy Awards this coming Sunday night, but he's actually nominated for one of those Oscars, his film "Ted" is a gigantic worldwide megasmash hit, he's got three different animated shows running at the same time, and he's gearing up to make his second movie.
I'd say that qualifies as one of the greatest bounces in recent memory.
Media Rights Capital is underwriting the film, and I like the way MacFarlane's played it this time around, putting together an entire package before finding a studio partner. And despite Deadline's insistence that this is a "kindred spirit" to "Blazing Saddles," something MacFarlane directly disputed in this week's Entertainment Weekly cover story, they seem to have the details on how the auction is coming together on the film.
It seems like each week now, we get some new lesson in just how fast information, both true and false, can spread online. The moment someone breaks a story like El Mayimbe's Harrison Ford scoop last week, it is everywhere. And while there's been no official confirmation of that story yet, most online organizations picked the story up because they trusted the origin of the information.
But what about when people suddenly create headlines around something that comes from a totally untrustworthy and untested source? Why do things that have no immediate credibility suddenly become worldwide trending topics on Twitter? Is is just a case of people wanting a rumor to be true so much that they don't care about reality? As Wilco once sang, "All my lies are only wishes," and it sounds today like a lot of people wish there was a "Toy Story 4" arriving in theaters in 2015.
The problem is, it's not.
This past weekend, I sat down with Michelle Williams to talk about her role in Sam Raimi's "Oz The Great and Powerful," and we'll have that interview for you soon here at HitFix. Before we started, though, I mentioned to her that I just saw Sarah Polley's latest film, a personal documentary called "Stories We Tell," and that it completely changed the way I thought about Polley's previous film, "Take This Waltz." Williams lit up and we chatted about both films until they told me they needed to roll tape, and it's obvious that she is very fond of Polley as a filmmaker and just as impressed by her work as I am.
When I saw "Take This Waltz" at the Toronto Film Festival, it pretty much flattened me emotionally. I put it on my top ten for 2011, and I have seen the film three or four times since then, loving it just a little bit more each time. Polley has a strong, fascinating perspective, and it's not just because she's a woman. Yes, there are things about her work that are distinctly feminine, but she's also just got this huge curiosity about the really painful parts of life and the way those painful parts relate to the joy we feel. If you've seen "Waltz," you know it's about a married couple who come to a parting of the ways, and it's not anything the guy does. It's because the wife is simply open to life in a way that leaves her unguarded. She falls in love. She doesn't mean to do it, but she's wired to do it. She can't help but do it. She falls in love because that's the sort of person she is. That's what is important to her. She is so full of a certain kind of vitality and energy and when she finds someone who connects to it, she can't resist. And why should she? It's her nature.
Severin Films normally handles things that fall closer to the sleazy end of the scale, and that's not a judgment of their overall identity, just an observation. You looking for the absolute best master ever of a particular European softcore title from the '70s? If anyone's put it on home video, it's probably Severin.
I can understand why they probably wanted to put out "Ashanti" as one of their latest releases. The film has a certain reputation, and I've never seen it before, in part because of that reputation. Finally having seen it, though, it's far less exploitative than I expected it to be, and instead, it's pretty much a straightforward adventure film using human trafficking as the backdrop.
While he's in Africa with his wife, Dr. Anansa Linderby (Beverly Johnson), Dr. David Liderby (Michael Caine) is horrified by her disappearance. She's taken by the slaver Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), and for the rest of the film, Caine does his best to catch up with Ustinov before she can be sold into a life of bondage. I was worried at the start of the film that it was going to be rapey and disturbing, but the film avoids that sort of thing entirely. Instead, it's all about the chase and the various allies that Caine is forced to call on in his quest to find his wife.
I need to get better about sharing thoughts on the mountain on home video that ends up on my shelves here at the house, and it doesn't need to be long-winded or overly-complicated. It's amazing how often I forget that. I also want to start including links out to Amazon (you'll find one at the very bottom of this piece) from these DVD and Blu-ray pieces so, if you choose to, you can support the ongoing efforts of Film Nerd 2.0 as I continue to add titles to the library to share with the boys in the months and years ahead.
For example, this morning's movie is one of those films that I know I've seen the cover of about a thousand times over the years. "Timerider" has been a home video mainstay since not long after its 1982 theatrical release, and for some reason, I've always put it off as one of those "that looks fun on some rainy afternoon" movies. Finally arriving on Blu-ray seems like a good enough excuse to finally watch it, and my first observation is that this is probably as good a print of this particular title as you are every likely to see.
I had no idea this was co-written and directed by William Dear, who was also responsible for the late-'80s Amblin' film "Harry and the Hendersons," or that producer Michael Nesmith was also a co-writer. The film is a somewhat goofy adventure film about a motorcycle racer who accidentally rides into the middle of a test of a time machine. He ends up in the Old West, where he squares off against a gang of bloodthirsty bandits made up of Peter Coyote, Tracey Walter, and, as unlikely as it sounds, Richard Masur.
So it's President's Day. As with any holiday, you should celebrate with a movie, obviously, but which one?
If you're going to the theater today, then "Lincoln" probably remains your best bet. After all, not only does it manage to actually raise the 16th U.S. President from the dead via medium/movie star Daniel Day Lewis, but it also does a fantastic job of showing how the power of the Presidency can be used. There are so many movies about U.S. Presidents that trying to pick from, and so many different types of films, that picking one to enjoy today can be as brutal as your average election season.
Oliver Stone has made a career out of exploring the uses and abuses of power in America, and he may be the only working filmmaker who has made three different films named after U.S. Presidents. Of the three, I think "JFK" is the best of the bunch, even though it's not really about the President. There are few films that have ever done a better job of exploring the elusive nature of truth in the media age or that have dramatized the way we can disappear down a rabbit hole in search of answers where there are none to be found. It is a film about obsession and the way power is brokered in the post-Eisenhower era, and it is nothing less than dizzying to witness. Stone has never been more technically exciting to watch than he was at this point in his career, and "JFK" is one of the most amazing theatrical experiences he has ever signed his name to. I'm quite fond of "Nixon" as well, but that may be because I have been fascinated by Nixon for as long as I've been aware of him.
It looks like we're going to end up hearing the rest of the key casting for James Gunn's "Guardians Of The Galaxy" in the next few weeks. Gunn just relocated to London, where he'll be through most of this year, and they're looking to kick off the shoot in April.
That means they're doing everything they can right now to build that ensemble just right, and if they end up hiring Jason Momoa as Drax The Destroyer, that sounds like a nice step in the right direction.
Drax, who did not originate in the "Guardians" series, is directly tied to to Thanos, the character introduced in the very end of "The Avengers," and I'm guessing they'll try to maintain some of that in the film. Drax began life as a human character, Arthur Douglas, and it is only after Thanos kills his family and leaves him brutally wounded that Douglas managed to transfer his soul into a new body. That's Drax, and in his earliest incarnations, he was a powerful figure with super strength, the ability to fly, and magic power lasers he shoots from his hands.
With those powers, he had only one job: find and kill Thanos.
Danny Boyle is a trickster spirit.
That's the only explanation for the way he's been able to morph from one filmmaker into another, covering a wide range of subject matter and tone, and it looks like he's pushing into some strange new territory with his new film "Trance," which just got a new red-band trailer today. I'm not sure when the first trailer came out, but I somehow missed it completely.
After seeing the red-band trailer today? I'm in. Let's see it now.
He's working with his longtime screenwriting collaborator John Hodge again, and it looks like a mystery thriller with a crazy psychological component. James McAvoy plays an auctioneer who works with big-ticket art items. One painting in particular goes missing, and people are convinced the answer to what happened is locked inside McAvoy's head. He says he doesn't remember, and he agrees to allow a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to try to help him unlock the secret.
It feels to me like Bryan Singer is desperately trying to put together a version of "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" that will erase any lingering bad feelings about what has happened to the "X-Men" franchise since he jumped ship to run off and make "Superman Returns."
If that's true, then hiring Peter Dinklage to play a key role in the film is a major step in the right direction.
Right now, there's no word on who he's playing, but that's the great thing about a guy like Dinklage. No matter who you've hired him to play, you know you're going to get something interesting out of him. It's been really exciting watching him blow up as a nerd icon in the last few years thanks to "Game Of Thrones," because he's one of those guys who has been highly respected by film fans for years, even if there are times where he's felt like a well-kept secret.
Now what I'm most curious about is how Singer's going to juggle what sounds like a positively massive cast of characters. He's had fun announcing new additions to the cast on Twitter, and he seems positively giddy about returning to the franchise he kickstarted. Our own Dan Fienberg was in London over the weekend to discuss "Jack The Giant Killer" with Singer and his cast, and he talked to the director and Nicholas Hoult about the sequel, and we'll have that up for you soon.