If character/story match premise, this one will be an event. If not, they'll still do good business over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Glenn Kenny is a bit put off by being referred to as 'ordinary and pathetic' by the character played by James McAvoy in 'Wanted'. Isn't that a bit oversensitive? I mean, really -- this guy, McAvoy's character, goes from being a cubicle schlub to shooting guns, driving fast cars, learning he can curve bullets because of some genetic trait his father passed to him, and, (let's not forget) kissing a character that happens to be played by Angelina Jolie. That ain't bad.
I think the fact is most people feel pretty ordinary and more than a bit pathetic, at least from time to time, driving a desk through decades of their lives. That's why movies like 'Wanted' make tons of money. We love to see someone break out, even if (or especially if), it's in an over-the-top fantasy (allegory) action movie. McAvoy's character sees himself as a total loser in the beginning of the movie. By the end of the movie he has become something, anything, other than a desk-jockey. Why not cut him some slack and allow him to call us ordinary and pathetic. Don't most people refer to themselves, from time to time, in just such a manner? The people I know do. I sure as hell do.
However, I see Kenny's point about Hayden Christensen saying "I wasn't always like this. Once, I was a normal person. A chump, just like you." in the beginning of 'Jumper'. I'm sorry, but Christensen's acting just doesn't give him the right to say that, even in character. But, Wesley Gibson, played by James McAvoy, saying such a thing in 'Wanted' -- I can live with that.
I mean, look at that poor fucker -- before...
...and after. More power to him. (Even if he's just a fictional character in a fantasy [allegory] action movie). I believe most people would take a deal like Wesley's (although it would have to be tailored a bit to fit reality). They'd take such a deal in a second. It ain't allegorical for nothing. I think Wesley has earned the right. What did he call me? 'Ordinary and pathetic'? I can live with that -- if I chose to, that is.
Monday, June 23, 2008
When Pixar rolled out 'Ratatouille' I thought their streak would end. I just couldn't see how there could be that much interest in a movie about a rat who wants to cook classical French cuisine. I didn't care that he wanted to be a chef. I didn't even like the way he looked -- not that he's a bad rat, he's just drawn that way. I thought it was a mistake to name a movie after a Provencal soup. 'Ratatouille' did pretty good business, though (not as good as previous Pixar benchmarks, perhaps, but...). So, I was wrong. (I haven't finished watching the DVD yet, but...).
Now comes 'Wall-E', a robot that processes garbage, who lives alone, loves to watch 'Hello, Dolly', and yearns for a robot girlfriend. Katrina Onstad at NYT feels Pixar is gambling with this one. I don't see it. If Pixar can make a successful movie about a rat that aspires to preparing oh so haute cuisine for the French upper crust, why can't they make a successful movie about a lovelorn robot that collects garbage? I agree with Onstad that 'Ratatouille' seemed like a hard sell at the time, but can't see why 'Wall-E' is a gamble. The guy is cute, with those big eyes, and that snappy endearing ancronym/name -- what's not to like?
According to NYT, the film's writer-director, Andrew Stanton, scoffs at conventionality saying, "I never think about the audience. If someone gives me a marketing report, I throw it away." Fair enough. Add to that: "I'm not naive about what's at stake," he said. "But I almost feel like it's an obligation to not further the status quo if you become somebody with influence and exposure. I don't want to paint the same painting again. I don't want to make the same sculpture again. Why shouldn't a big movie studio be able to make those small independent kinds of pictures? Why not change it up?"
I'm not sure I'd call 'Wall-E', which cost $180 million dollars, a small independent kind of picture, but it certainly doesn't further the Hollywood status quo for fluff animation (unless you're Pixar and the status quo is making movies with increasingly off-the-wall premises. (Yes, I'll admit I thought about saying 'off-the-Wall-E' premises).
If Remy the rat can carry a movie about cooking classical French food, then Wall-E the cute robot can carry a movie about collecting garbage and looking for a girlfriend. The rat chef may have been a gamble but I think 'Wall-E' is money in the bank.
Pixar may be further out, but they're not on a limb. However, they might consider, just consider, making their next movie a bit more conventional -- the kind of thing where you don't have doubts about the premise and don't cross your fingers and hope for the best before taking the family. Just saying, is all.
Yahoo Movies has a point and listen version of 'The Spirit' poster featuring Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King, and Sarah Paulson saying the most wicked things. Really...it's quite racy. Not for the faint of heart.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Wired rates the coolest movie metamorphoseseses. Mine would have to be when that sap in 'American Werewolf in London' does his big changola -- perfectly blends creep and funny.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Here's a doc about Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter who found himself scrutinized by HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), and ultimately blacklisted by Hollywood studios.
I saw a production of his novel 'Johnny Got His Gun' (there have been a few. I believe the one I saw was by PBS, but can't remember). I remember how moved I was by the story -- a soldier is wounded in battle. He can't speak or see, and has lost his limbs. This is one of the most virulent anti-war statements, but also speaks out for personal freedoms and the right to choose.
Here's the NPR story (8 minutes). From their write-up:
All Things Considered, June 17, 2008 · The fall of Dalton Trumbo took him from being one of Hollywood's highest-paid writers to a Hollywood pariah.
The screenwriter wrote dozens of movie scripts in the 1930s and '40s, including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. And his anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun won the National Book Award in 1939.
But in 1947, Trumbo was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as part of the "Hollywood Ten," who were questioned about their ties to the Communist Party.
Trumbo refused to testify and was later blacklisted by Hollywood studios. His story is told in the documentary Trumbo, due in theaters June 27.
I'm not sure why, but I can't wait to see this movie.
(Photo of Dalton Trumbo taken by his daughter Mitzi in 1969)
Sunday, June 15, 2008
When I saw the first trailer for 'Wanted' it looked like just another action hack-attack. I wasn't interested -- I mean...being able to shoot a bullet in a curve...no thanks. The next trailer was even more implausible; protag was not only able to put English on a bullet, he could shoot the wings off flies (while they are in flight, no less). The thing about this trailer, though, it was better. 'Wanted' was shaping up to be worth a look.
Now the first 7 minutes of 'Wanted' are available and this picture is looking pretty good. The writing here elevates 'Wanted' from the hodgepodge of action pics that are unloaded before us and sorted through every summer. It may be implausible at first blush, but it's smart between the lines. 'Wanted' is on my must-see list. This is 'allegory-action' -- probably the only one we'll have unloaded before us for a long time to come.
Word on the street is that people are wary of Shyamalan's trickery. Whereas he became known for twist endings that added value to the story, he then became known for pulling the rug out from under the viewer in Act III with endings that weren't so much of a twist but were simply dumb.
The endings for 'The Village' and 'The Lady in the Water' were not only dumb but they had the effect of sucking all the value out of what preceeding them. The viewer walking out of the theater can't help but feel cheated.
That said, there's a lot of people who don't really know the Shyamalan brand and the implications therein and don't really care about potential Act III dumb bombs. These people will see a movie if the trailer looks good, and the trailer for 'The Happening' certainly has that trademark glossy/creepy look Shyamalan produces so adroitly. So, I'm thinking week one could be very good for this happening, but I wouldn't hold my breath for subsequent frames once word of mouth gets out -- (by all accounts Shyamalan's latest leaves the viewer hanging just as badly as ever).
Early word on the blogosphere has been pretty much the same -- 'The Happening' ain't happening. Over at NPR, Bob Mondello says: ...The Happening is neither terribly scary, nor all that twisty... The bigger danger, after The Village and The Lady in the Water, is that he'll become known as the guy who makes the inane movie with the risible premise.
That about sums it up for me. I felt stupid for having watched my DVD of 'The Lady in the Water' (over a period of three days) that I bought for $9.99 in the discount bin at Blockbuster (there were lots of copies). If it's anything, this movie is inane and based on a risible premise. I can only feel for those who went to the theater and saw 'The Lady in the Water' in one sitting. (Ouch). I can't help but feel sorry for those who, having been suckered by well-edited trailers, will see 'The Happening' in theaters.
Anyway, my favorite entry in the current backlash is from Grady Hendrix over at MonsterFest:
Call me old fashioned, but I don't care about Marky Mark's under-developed, poorly-written marital difficulties -- especially when they revolve not around infidelity, but around dessert. Tiramisu, in fact. A horror movie in which someone is allowed to utter the word "Tiramisu" and live to the end credits is a horror movie that has given up any claims to horror. It's Hallmark Horror: Scare flicks developed for people who think Lifetime movies are too intense.
I love that...Hallmark Horror. That's good. That's Shyamalan.
Director Marina Zenovich with Peter Bart and Peter Guber on AMC Shootout re: her HBO doc, 'Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired', which is undergoing 11th hour changes.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I'm liking the look of Werner Herzog's new doc 'Encounters at the End of the World'. Sort of a mix of a standard National Geographic look at Antarctic wildlife and a As-the-World-Turns look at the people who live and work at McMurdo Station.
Over at NPR, David Edelstein reviews the doc along with two others, 'My Winnipeg' and 'Chris & Don'.
There's some cool material at the official site. Here's a trailer:
My favorite wine is cheap Italian red. After that, almost anything from California or Oregon. French wine just doesn't speak to me -- it's just too classical and a bit holier-than-thou. They need to get over themselves and get with it. Who knows, maybe this movie will convince the French to start producing 'California-style' wines.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
You know when a trailer for a comedy actually makes you laugh (yes, out loud)...I don't know how to finish this. Does it mean the movie is good? Not really. Okay, got it -- it's better than when a trailer for a comedy doesn't make you laugh. There. That's got it.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Notice anything? In the Russian trailer it's all about Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) kicking ass, shooting guns, and engaging in some very violent goings on. Angelina Jolie is hardly featured, and when she makes an appearance her face is blocked and she comes off as a sex object.
In the American trailer it's all about Fox (Angelina Jolie) kicking ass and teaching poor Wesley how to be a man. Wesley is very much Fox's boy-toy -- he's timid, unsure, and pretty much has to be led by the hand by a balls-out Jolie.Tells you a lot about the difference in our cultures.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Fresh Air talks with filmmaker and photographer Anton Corbijn about his new film 'Control'.
From NPR: Anton Corbijn's acclaimed 2007 film, Control -- based on the life of post-punk musician Ian Curtis, who killed himself in 1980 at age 23 -- won a trio of prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and took home a range of other international awards. The movie, which was Corbijn's first feature, has just come out on DVD.
Photo of U2 by Anton Corbijn
Jay Roach is best known for comedies like 'Austin Powers' and 'Meet the Fockers'. I'm not even sure why he would want to do a picture about the hanging chads of the 2000 election, but it's called 'Recount' and plays on HBO. Elvis Mitchell talks with Roach on The Treatment.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
It's axiomatic: The degree to which an Antagonist gets under our skin determines how much potential there is for a Protagonist to be a compelling force and, by extension, how likely it is the movie will be a success. One thing was pretty obvious about 'The Dark Knight' from the start: Heath Ledger nailed his character, and I'm thinking people want to see 'The Dark Knight' not so much for Christian Bale's portrayal of the titular character but for Ledger's portrayal of The Joker.
Do a Google image search for 'The Dark Knight' and The Joker's picture comes up more than Batman's. Out of the first 21 returns only 6 feature Batman exclusively, the rest are of that madman with the wicked grin and the fuck you attitude. Everyone is looking for details about Ledger's performance -- pictures, write ups, anything. We all want to know more about that sizzling energy.
Even mainstream press coverage is heavily skewed:
(I just love how The Joker says 'Hit me'! as the Bat Cycle approaches. And Ledger's body language [like when he claps his hands]...it's just so, well...'fuck you').
All this interest is due, in part at least, to Ledger's death, but I was far more interested in The Joker than I was in Batman even before Ledger died. Maybe it's because The Joker is so anti-authoritarian, maybe it's because he's spitting mad because his face got fucked up in some kind of accident and he wants payback -- I don't know. Now I'm thinking it's just the simple fact the Ledger brought power to his portrayal; that is, I've picked up on what everyone else has -- Ledger's Joker is a force to be reckoned with, a character brought to life by an actor burning white-hot with inspiration -- and it's this that makes 'The Dark Knight' a winner, a must-see.
Batman has his work cut out for him. Not only is a bad guy on the loose, but it's a bad guy we believe in and are cheering for. (The editor might want to keep this in mind during final cut.) Hats off to screenwriters Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan for creating such a well-cut character, and to Heath Ledger for digging so deep to make The Joker real.
Can't wait to see this movie.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
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