A legendary funny man plays it straight to discuss the new George Miller sequel
Robin Williams is an institution.
I'm sure that's not something an actor wants to hear, particularly one who still pushes himself out of his comfort zone so regularly this far into a career, but it's true. He really is a living legend, and the pleasure at this point comes from watching the choices he makes.
In "Happy Feet Two," he once again plays two roles, and they're very different in attitude. He's Ramon, the lovesick penguin who is still on the hunt for a mate, and he also plays Loveless, who appears this time as the most ardent cheerleader for Sven, a false prophet who shows up promising to save the penguins and teach them to fly.
It's hard to believe, but this may be the first formal interview I've done with Williams. I've met him before, and we had a great and funny encounter a few years back when we ran into each other at Meltdown Comics, which Williams told me is one of his favorite places anywhere. He's always been very genuine when I've run into him, and in this case, I was showing up about halfway through his second day of press for the film, and everyone I talked to was raving about how he was so on fire in their interview, doing impressions and voices and jokes.
Now that we've seen glimpses of both Snow Whites, who's the fairest?
- Critic's Rating D
- Readers' Rating D+
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest trailer of them all?
Fair question to ask now with the release of Relativity Media's first peek at their comic fantasy "Mirror Mirror," which finds itself in direct conflict with the recently-released first trailer for "Snow White and the Huntsman," a far more sober-minded take on fairy-tale reality.
Today's trailer is interesting, especially in light of the idea that distributor Relativity Media is dealing with the morning-after fallout from the release of "Immortals," their big Greek mythology-as-modern-action-movie that was also directed by Tarsem Singh, who Relativity has bet big on. The idea that they had him direct another fantasy so quickly, even before "Immortals" was in theaters, suggests that Relativity really liked what they saw. I wasn't able to make it to "Immortals" before it came out, and it's been a crazy few days since then, so I have no idea how the film came together. I know the overall critical reaction hasn't been particularly kind, and I've certainly had both great ("The Fall") and not-so-great ("The Cell") reactions to Tarsem's previous films, so I can see how a movie by him might be divisive.
But who's the Jacob to Kermit's Edward?
I can't help myself. I'm Muppet Mad at this point.
You'll see for yourself in a very few days, and when you do, I'm willing to bet that if you've ever loved The Muppets, you'll find yourself utterly defenseless when the film comes out.
For example, there's the music. There are a few classic callbacks, including a freakshow casino jingle version of the "Rainbow Connection" that is sort of amazing, and it's nice to hear those old faves again. The new material, though, is just as strong, which is a really welcome thing. This is fun movie music, smart and funny and sweet, and even something as potentially terrible as Chris Cooper rapping in character as an evil billionaire named Tex Richman works on repeat listens.
But what the Muppets ultimately gets right is the characters, and recognizing what made them icons in the first place. And they are. They really are. Anyone underestimating the deeply-seeded love that many people have for these characters hasn't seen it close up. Jason Segel just recently signed up for Twitter, and in the first day or so of having his account, he told the story of a guy in his 40s who had a breakdown during an interview with Kermit in Mexico City, and the guy just started to hug Kermit while crying and mumbling in Spanish, and everyone except Jason got weirded out.
The writer/director of one of the year's best films picks some surprising titles
I'm a big fan of "Bellflower."
I think that's been pretty clear since January when I ranted and raved and ran both a pair of interviews and a review during the festival.
Now it's finally arriving on home video this week, and the Blu-ray is flat out gorgeous. It's also got the DVD inside, and it's a handsomely packaged release by Oscilloscope Laboratories. In honor of the release at home, I'm going to be running some lists this week that were put together by the cast of the film, in which they name their favorite post-apocalyptic films.
First up, fittingly, is Evan Glodell, who wrote and directed the film, and he also stars in it. He's a real talent, and an interesting guy overall, and yet when he sat down this weekend to record the podcast, he confessed that he has some strange blind spots in terms of what he has or hasn't seen.
We also talk about George Miller and sequels
Elijah Wood seemed startled when he saw me at the Beverly Hilton hotel.
"What are you doing here?"
"I didn't know you did the TV stuff."
"Well… I do. See you in there."
It's weird because I see Elijah several times a year in Austin at this point at film festivals, and I think he's a really sharp, fun film fan. I know him from his constant interest in music, his fondness for Texas barbecue, and his willingness to indulge every crazy, glorious whim of Tim League's. It's almost always a surprise for me at this point when I see him in something like FX's show "Wilfred," which was a dark, twisted ride this season, one I liked a lot, and I think it struck him the same kind of strange seeing me in this context.
Does Jennifer Lawrence look like the Girl on Fire to you?
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B
Well, here it is.
I've gotten to the point where I was tuning out any and all talk about "The Hunger Games" because I didn't want to feel exhausted by the movie before I ended up getting a chance to see it.
Today, I'm ready to take a look at the new trailer and finally get a real look at what it is that Gary Ross has done adapting this monster hit series of books into what Lionsgate hopes is going to be a monster hit series of films.
I watched the trailer twice this morning, and my reaction so far is that it looks like Ross has done it. It's a tonally interesting bit of world building based on the footage we've seen here, and I'm really liking the sense of reality that the trailer establishes. Jennifer Lawrence looks like she's going to be a strong presence as Katniss Everdeen, the girl who is chosen to compete in The Hunger Games, a gladiator battle to the death that's held once a year in The Capitol. We get a glimpse of almost everyone in the trailer, including Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and, of course, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson as the two young men who represent different paths Katniss might take in her life.
Strong performance-capture work gives this technical marvel a human edge
- Critic's Rating A
- Readers' Rating A-
"The Adventures Of Tintin" is a preposterously fun movie, first and foremost, regardless of what technology was used to make it. It is very old-fashioned in storytelling terms, but cutting-edge in the way it's told. It tells a rough-and-tumble adventure story that is more real-world than much of what Hollywood makes these days, but it's animated in a way that removes it from reality completely. It is a film that seems to hinge on a number of contradictions, and that friction is just one of the reasons I really loved the experience.
Much has been written about how long Steven Spielberg's been interested in making a film version of Herge's long-running comic series, and one of the biggest questions that I've heard repeatedly is "Why would he do it as a performance capture animated film?" I think the first answer to that question is obvious after you see the movie and you see Snowy, Tintin's canine sidekick, in action. Snowy is a major character in the film, and has an outsized personality. Trying to get the same performance out of a real dog in the middle of a film also involving stunts and special effects and international travel would be a nightmare, and as it is, Snowy is one of the main highlights of the movie now. Also, there is a sense of scale and abandon to the way the action is staged in the film that would be a nightmare to orchestrate in live-action, and I think working in animation has set Spielberg free in a way I'm not sure we've ever seen from him before.
Ultimately, though, the tools used wouldn't matter if the film was no fun.
And this film is nothing but fun.
From Mary Jane to the end of the world, Dunst has finally grown up
In yet another milestone on the very strange road to adulthood my two sons are walking, they were witness to an exceptionally chipper Kirsten Dunst talking about her "boobies" as we settled in for a quick conversation last weekend about her new film "Melancholia."
This was a very busy morning for us. I was also doing interviews for "The Muppets" at the same hotel, so I had both of my sons with me. Toshi actually did one of those interviews, and you'll see that here next week sometime. They've both come to junkets with me before, and they know that they have to sit quietly when I'm doing the actual interview. As fans of Spider-Man, they are aware of Dunst from the covers of the movies they're not old enough to watch yet, and they knew that she used to be Spider-Man's girlfriend.
When we were just sitting down, I complimented Dunst on her work in "Melancholia," and she thanked me, then asked what the boys were doing with me. I explained about "The Muppets," and she got interested immediately, asking them how they liked the film and asking me if they got the movie right. She then asked the boys if they had seen "Melancholia" with me, and laughed when they both said no.
"Well, that's good. They haven't seen my boobies, then."
Oh, okay, we digress a little, so it's 'Star Wars' and 'Bellflower'
It's a weird one this week.
One of the first things that brought Scott Swan and I together as friends was our shared affection for all things "Star Wars." When we first met, "Return Of The Jedi" was only two and a half years old, and both of us were still operating under the impression that there would be more sequels, and that they would come fairly quickly.
Now here we are in the year 2011, a full six years after the release of the final prequel, and I've just finished sharing the films with my kids for the first time. It seems hard to believe, since in some ways, it feels like it's just been a blink of the eye since the first time Scott and I sat there, arguing over the merits or the demerits of the films, and it sort of feels like our entire friendship has been one long conversation about the films and their creator, George Lucas.
We were asked by many of you to do an all-"Star Wars" podcast, and the result is perhaps the loosest and most inside conversation we've ever published as a podcast. This is Scott and I late on Sunday night, just shooting the breeze, the conversation wandering from point to point, all of it somehow loosely related to "Star Wars." If you're looking for something professional and well-organized, this ain't it. But if you want to hear two old friends picking up the same topic for the 10,000th time, this is it, and it's a real glimpse at the nerd DNA we have in common.
Both Jack and Jill are impossible to like, making the movie a tough sit
- Critic's Rating D-
- Readers' Rating C+
At this point, I think Adam Sandler has a pretty good idea of what he's going to be doing for the rest of his life, and he's made peace with it. He makes a certain kind of film, running a few variations to keep it slightly different each time out, and they make a certain kind of money. His friends all stay employed, nobody challenges him, and he's happy.
Good for him.
The people around Adam Sandler all seem to love him. I can't recall ever hearing a bad word from anyone in Los Angeles who works for or with him. Todd Garner, who produces many of the films that Sandler's part of these days including this one, loves him, and I know Todd well enough to know that he does not pretend about who he does or doesn't like. Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel, two very funny men I have boundless respect for, think of Sandler as a dear friend and a comedic peer. Sandler creates constant work for a core group of people, and they owe their livelihoods to him, something which must be a strange relationship to have with your friends, but which he seems to wear well. They all seem to share his sensibilities enough that the films represent a pretty consistent example of comic voice bent to different scenarios and characters, but always within a certain range.