It is probably safe to say that Amy Poehler is beloved these days, and I can't think of many people who deserve it more.
Looking back at her early appearances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," I'm not sure I could have predicted this sort of career arc for her. She always seemed so feral and loony and it felt like she was either going to deliver a killer punchline or stab somebody. That was what made it so amazing to watch her work.
These days, though, she seems to have completely transformed herself, growing into someone both more eccentric and way more accessible. Her "Parks and Recreation" character Leslie Knope has become a fantastic character for her, and no doubt because of her, and it is nice to see someone whose comic persona is almost entirely driven by a sort of misguided optimism, an over-the-top dedication to helping others.
It is probably safe to say that Amy Poehler is beloved these days, and I can't think of many people who deserve it more.
It seems particularly appropriate that a film as steeped in Halloween lore as Mike Dougherty's "Trick'r'Treat" is impossible to kill, once more rising from the dead to close out what sounds like it's been an amazing event here in Los Angeles, Beyond Fest, which evidently blew minds all last week with a trio of live performances by prog-rock horror icons Goblin among other things.
This evening, Beyond Fest will present a special screening of Dougherty's horror anthology, and it sounds to me like this is Legendary's way of launching whatever the next chapter in the life of "Trick'r'Treat" is going to be. One of the first real conversations I had with Thomas Tull was about this movie, an early production by the studio, and something they have been passionate about since day one. The film never quite managed an actual theatrical release, but it has still managed to build a fairly devoted audience, and deservedly so. It is a clever, nasty little bit of business, and it seems like they could easily build off of this first film to pull off what John Carpenter and Debra Hill once envisioned as the way to manage the "Halloween" franchise, unrelated films all connected only by the date on which they take place. Dougherty didn't really tackle the film like a typical horror filmmaker. It's got a very particular, very odd sensibility, and it stands out because it doesn't have the same voice as everything else in the genre.
"Water. Mother Nature's piss. It's what brings us here today."
Kenny Powers has learned absolutely nothing, and it terrifies me.
On the one hand, Kenny and April speak to each other in a way that they never could in previous seasons, and the scene where they're in bed at the beginning of the episode and Kenny's making it rain is both vintage Kenny but also tender in the only way he seems capable of being tender. He's kidding, of course, and he makes a few crazy ladyboy jokes, but underneath that, there's a different level of communication. When you look back at that first season, April is right to treat Kenny like he's garbage, because he pretty much is garbage. Maybe that's why I'm so invested in seeing Kenny pull things together this season. He's come so far, and if he ruins things this time, I don't see where he gets another chance at things down the road.
He's already defied the odds repeatedly, and it feels like he's unaware of just how lucky he's been.
Ken Marino's Guy Young is the wall that Kenny's racing towards at 150 MPH, and I'm not sure Kenny even knows where the brakes are. It's like Kenny has no radar whatsoever for when he's starting to seriously antagonize people, and he expects that when things in his life start going well, then everyone else has to feel the same way he feels. He wants to see April enjoying their new success the same way he's enjoying it, and he wants his brother (John Hawkes, who always grounds the show in a different sort of reality when he shows up) to forgive him for past offenses simply because he's flush, and he behaves like he's rich when the truth is that he's employed, and nothing more. Kenny strikes me as one of the most quintessential modern American characters on film or TV because of how firmly he seems to be able to simply shrug off reality when he doesn't like it.
When "Smokey and the Bandit" is your debut film as a director, you get a place in the pantheon, no matter what else you end up doing.
Hal Needham was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1931. He had an amazing run as a stuntman before he ever got behind the camera, and when you look at the full list of how many films and TV shows he worked on during his career over on IMDb, it is a stunning amount of work he did. It's hard to calculate where he had his greatest impact on the industry. I would argue safety is the thing that he should be known for first, because he was absolutely one of the guys who helped modernize the stunt craft in film. He was a big believer in mechanical devices, like a crazed Rube Goldberg with a taste for obvious jokes and giant car crashes, and he helped create and mainstream a number of inventions over the years.
Last year, Kristopher Tapley wrote a pretty great look at the evening where Needham was rewarded by the Academy at the Governors Awards. Quentin Tarantino was one of several people who helped present the award. It's a pretty big deal in terms of Academy politics because of how few times they've even acknowledged that stunts exist, one of the strangest blind spots that the Academy has. I'd never heard the story about Needham firing a missile by accident and burning down the soundstage where "Pennies From Heaven" was filming, but that's awesome.
Seems fitting that there were two different cuts of the "Anchorman 2" trailer this week, since Paramount is considering something genuinely unprecedented when they release the film in theaters in December.
We recently spoke to McKay along with a group of people when we spent some time in the editing room with him, and while what we saw and most of what we discussed is sill under embargo, thanks to Empire in the UK, we can now discuss one of the things that McKay brought up with us.
If you haven't noticed, we've been doing a lot more in-studio video here at HitFix recently, and that's because we are finally in an office suite as a group. For the last five years, we've all been working out of our homes, and that's been great, but we have a big enough team now that it seems like we need to be in one place, all of us working together.
Part of that is a heavier emphasis on taking news like this and dealing with it on video, especially when we have something like this worth talking about.
Marc Webb's first outing as director of a "Spider-Man" film seems to have been largely embraced by audiences, and in particular, the chemistry between his leads has proven to be the most winning ingredient in the reboot of the series.
It seems like things have been quiet on the "Amazing Spider-Man 2" front lately, but honestly, why keep beating that publicity drum when all the winter movies are just about to come out and there are other movies in the spring aimed at that audience as well. Why not wait until it makes sense to really start hitting audiences hard, and until then, just buckle down and focus on finishing the film?
If you saw the video I ran this summer after Comic-Con, Andrew Garfield and I were very careful to talk our way around a pretty big spoiler for the film. I mentioned it to him before the interview, and he seemed pretty relieved that I didn't spring it on him when we were actually rolling tape. The thing we did not discuss is not the thing that we're going to talk about today, but it was related. In short, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is going to have a ton of villains in it.
Here's a perfect test case to see if you can sell a property that was made to exploit nostalgia when there's no genuine nostalgia for the property among the target audience. The only way this film adaptation of "Mr Peabody & Sherman" is a big hit is if kids go see it, and as far as kids today are concerned, "Mr Peabody & Sherman" is brand-new.
Dreamworks seems to know that this is going to take some special handling. Since they moved to 20th Century Fox, there have been at least three different press events for this particular film, and they've really been trying to sell us on how beloved the Jay Ward characters are. That's partially true. I grew up watching "Rocky & Bullwinkle" in all its various incarnations and repackagings, and I have every DVD of material they've released. There is a droll anarchy to those shows that I love, and I've certainly put them on a few times to try to share them with my kids.
One of the highlights of my day was getting an e-mail from GameFly telling me that they've just shipped "Batman: Arkham Origins," which means it should be in my mailbox tomorrow, just in time for the weekend. This makes me positively giddy.
After all, both "Arkham Asylum" and "Arkham City" turned out to be fairly great Batman games, and what made them so great was the way they used the various game mechanics to genuinely make you feel like you're Batman. It may be one of my favorite hand to hand combat systems in any game ever, and there was a special satisfaction that came from mastering all the various moves and combos and little by little learning how to beat holy hell out of a room full of bad guys.
Likewise, I'm not always the biggest fan of stealth games, but that's a huge part of being Batman, and the games made it very satisfying and challenging to incorporate stealth into everything. The environments for the two games were well-designed, and the villains you face in the games were great, really outrageous versions of many of the best-known members of his massive rogue's gallery. The Joker has been a major player in both of the first two games, and with "Batman: Arkham Origins" serving as a prequel of sorts, it's a safe bet we'll get more Joker this time as well.
There are many writers, great writers, who excel in one form but not in another. Vince Gilligan will not be remembered ultimately as the writer of "Wilder Napalm" and "Home Fries," but rather as the brain behind "Breaking Bad." David Chase probably doesn't have to worry about "Not Fade Away" eclipsing "The Sopranos" as his crowning accomplishment. Those guys have television in their DNA. They understand how to use that form, that storytelling rhythm, to maximum effect, and with their voices turned to something as fundamentally different in style as a 100-minute movie, they seem constricted.
Cormac McCarthy is a hell of a writer. Anything I say about him comes with the obvious caveat that he is freakin' Cormac McCarthy. His books almost feel like fights you've been in when you think back on them. They are tussles, these dense collections of horrible and ugly that illustrate a fairly dark world view, daring the reader to go full-on into McCarthy's various hellscapes. At Toronto, I saw James Franco's film adaptation of "Child Of God," and I'll say this for him: he is unflinching in trying to wrestle McCarthy's exact prose up onto the screen, and that includes a lot of things that audiences really might not expect to end up confronting, or want to. And while he hasn't always gone dark, "Blood Meridian" and "No County For Old Men" are both about as grim as you can get, unless you consider "The Road," which makes jet-black look white.
Honestly, this may be the least surprising story we'll run all month.
I have no doubt Michael Arndt's work will be the spine of "Star Wars Episode VII" when we finally see the film, but from day one, it sounds like there's been a larger brain trust involved, a group of writers who have all had some sort of active hand in the process. At this point, Arndt's been on the film for a while, and they've got to be getting close to putting everything in front of the camera. I would be shocked, frankly, if JJ Abrams didn't do at least one pass at the script just so he's comfortable that the final version is something that represents his voice.
Of course, there's a larger master to serve here, and that's where Lawrence Kasdan comes in. Abrams has spoken in print about trying to recapture the intangible essence of "Star Wars," and if there's anybody whose name is not "George Lucas" who is qualified to decide what is or isn't "Star Wars," it's Kasdan. His voice helped define "The Empire Strikes Back" in a fairly significant way, and having him in the mix has been the thing that has had me most excited about these new films so far.