Plus: 'Days of Future Past' to shoot in 3D, Peter Dinklage comes aboard
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 14, 2013 4:02AM
Hugh Jackman has said in a new interview that the role of his signature character, Wolverine, in the next "X-Men" movie promises to be large.
There's been a lot of news in the past day or two about "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the fifth continuous film in the long-running series (seventh if you count the two "Wolverine" spin-off pictures), and perhaps the most interesting item of all was found in a Hollywood Reporter interview with Jackman, who predicts that fans will get to see a lot of the mutant with the metal claws in the 2014 film (he also stars in "The Wolverine," out this summer).
Jackman told the Reporter, "I first heard about it around October or November (2012). I was literally finishing 'The Wolverine' and dreaming about lasagna, and about three weeks before the end, they told me."
Although he has not read a finished screenplay for the Bryan Singer-directed film -- which is vaguely troubling, since filming is supposed to start in mid-April -- Jackman said that the role was large and reunites him with many of the original cast members from the first three "X-Men" films.
It's true: as previously reported, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" will feature not just members of 2011's "X-Men: First Class" cast, like Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence, but series vets Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page and others in a storyline that finds the mutants of the future sending one of their own (presumably Page's Kitty Pryde, if the movie follows the storyline from the comics) into the past to warn their younger selves of a catastrophic incident that could spell doom for the mutant race.
Singer, who directed "X-Men" (2000) and "X2: X-Men United" (2003), said in an interview with Collider that he'll be shooting the film in 3D -- a first for the franchise -- and that the time-traveling tale will be "the biggest movie I've ever made," adding that it will contain "some more science fiction-type aspects to the story and, without giving it away, some technology that we haven't seen yet in the 'X-Men' universe."
One more bit of news broke last night, with Singer tweeting that "Game of Thrones" star Peter Dinklage had joined the cast of "Days of Future Past" in a yet-to-be-disclosed role (head over to Badass Digest for some real in-the-weeds speculation about who he could be playing).
"X-Men: First Class" was a welcome relief after the twin disappointments of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," and we hope that Singer, Jackman, the rest of the large cast and the new addition of the awesome Dinklage will make "Days of Future Past" an epic entry in the "X-Men" series.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is out in theaters Friday, July 18, 2014.
New version of sci-fi novel to be penned by original author
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 13, 2013 4:39PM
Richard Matheson's classic novel The Shrinking Man will come to the screen once again, with the legendary author himself writing the screenplay.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, MGM has picked up the rights to Matheson's book, which was first filmed as "The Incredible Shrinking Man" in 1957. Matheson, now 87 years old, will adapt his tale with his son, novelist and screenwriter Richard Matheson Jr. The plan is to retain the tone of the novel while updating it for the 21st century.
The book told the story of a man who begins shrinking in size after being exposed to a cloud of mysterious radiation. Battling for his life against once harmless things like the family cat and a spider in the basement of his house, the man's perspective on the universe -- and his place in it -- begins to change. Matheson adapted the story previously for the 1957 film, which won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2009.
Universal Pictures held the rights to the novel for years, and at one point considered adapting it as a comedy starring Eddie Murphy. But Matheson says that the new version will be an "an existential action movie," adding, "My original story was a metaphor for how man's place in the world was diminishing. That still holds today, where all these advancements that are going to save us will be our undoing."
MGM president Jonathan Glickman remarked that "the Mathesons' cutting-edge ideas for the adaptation will make for a great film that will play all over the world."
Matheson, who continues to write novels, is a giant in the genres of horror and science fiction. He is perhaps best known for the novel I Am Legend -- an acknowledged masterpiece of both fields that has been filmed three times -- but his other works adapted for the screen include Hell House (filmed as "The Legend of Hell House"), What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes and Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time).
He also wrote the classic 1971 TV movie "Duel," directed by Steven Spielberg, and penned a number of unforgettable "Twilight Zone" episodes, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "The Invaders" and "Steel," which was the basis for the 2011 movie "Real Steel."
The Shrinking Man is a profound, visionary work of science fiction, elements of which the 1957 film retained quite well. If the same tone and intelligence can be achieved with today's modern effects, Matheson's story may become a masterpiece all over again.
Actor's on the run in this post-apocalyptic future
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 13, 2013 2:49PM
A new trailer has landed for "Oblivion," and it sheds some more light on the plot of the Tom Cruise sci-fi epic.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy"), "Oblivion" casts Cruise as Jack Harper, who repairs the drones that scour the surface of a ruined Earth for any vital resources they can find after the planet has been devastated by a decades-long war with something called the Scavs.
But one day a spacecraft crashes to the surface carrying a beautiful, enigmatic woman (Olga Kurylenko), and Harper's life is changed forever as his own past, his mission and the fate of humanity itself are all called into question.
From the trailer, it looks like Cruise's employers -- we presume it's whoever's leading the human race -- are rattled by the arrival of the woman in the spacecraft, while Cruise himself seems to stumble across some sort of underground resistance led by Morgan Freeman.
Many questions remain: who is the woman and what are her ties to Jack Harper? Why does her arrival precipitate a crisis? Who or what are the Scavs and what exactly is in store for what's left of Earth?
To be frank, we weren't impressed with Kosinski's storytelling skills in "Tron," although the movie certainly delivered on the visuals. The imagery here looks fantastic as well -- if somewhat derivative of a number of other sci-fi movies -- but we're hoping that Kosinski, who co-wrote the movie and developed the story first as a graphic novel, has also upped his narrative game.
Check out the trailer below.
"Oblivion" is out in theaters Friday, April 19.
Can the Iron Patriot help defeat the Mandarin?
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 13, 2013 2:21PM
Today sees the release of the second new "Iron Man 3" poster, a couple of weeks after the first one featuring Robert Downey Jr. made its debut.
This time around, it's Don Cheadle as Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, friend and confidant of Downey's Tony Stark, who takes center stage in his Iron Patriot gear.
If you remember from "Iron Man 2," Rhodey got hold of one of Tony's older suits and fought alongside him as War Machine, but ended up bringing the armor to the U.S. government. It's gotten a new red-white-and-blue coat of paint this time around, and we're sure its weaponry has been tweaked too.
We're not sure how Rhodey and the Iron Patriot armor figure into the plot of "Iron Man 3," but with Stark going up against his deadliest enemy yet, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), we're guessing that Shellhead is going to need all the help -- preferably in armored suits -- that he can get."Iron Man 3" is out in theaters Friday, May 3.
Star Anthony Edwards discusses his return to TV
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 13, 2013 1:14PM
It took a clock to bring Anthony Edwards back to TV.
Well, not exactly. But a decade after finishing out his eight-season run on the modern television classic "ER," Edwards has returned to the weekly series format with "Zero Hour," an hourlong headfirst dive into what could be the ultimate conspiracy theory.
Well, not exactly. But a decade after finishing out his eight-season run on the modern television classic "ER," Edwards has returned to the weekly series format with "Zero Hour," an hourlong headfirst dive into what could be the ultimate conspiracy theory.
Edwards plays Hank Galliston, publisher of Modern Skeptic magazine, who spends his time debunking myths and unraveling seemingly otherworldly mysteries. But when Hank's wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett), is kidnapped after innocently purchasing an antique clock, Hank finds himself immersed in just the kind of scenario he's spent his career discrediting.
Video: Watch a clip of 'Zero Hour'
Hidden in the clock is a map that opens the door to a centuries-old plot that could have cataclysmic repercussions for humankind and personal ones for Hank himself. The search for his wife puts Hank, his two assistants and FBI agent Rebecca Riley (Carmen Ejogo) on the trail of the villainous White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist), who has his own designs on the map and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
Secret societies, apocalyptic warnings, occult practices, alternate histories ... they're all here, and they're all geared toward making you feel like, as Edwards puts it in our exclusive interview, "someone gave you a great book to read on vacation."
MSN TV: What lured you to come back to television and do this? What was it about this premise and this show that attracted you to it the most?
Anthony Edwards: Not that I watch a lot of TV, but I hadn't seen this attempted on television, this kind of "Raiders"/"Da Vinci Code" mystery on such a big network scale. And I guess it just held my interest so much. I read the pilot going, "Oh my God. Really? Really? Really?" I know, having done this for many years, that the place you have to start from is that you're excited to be a part of the story, and that's what this was.
There's a lot of alternate history out there. Some of it's based in fact and some stretches into some really crazy theories, but either way, people seem to have a hunger for this kind of stuff. What do you think it is that drives people to not take events at face value?
I think we all feel overwhelmed by life sometimes and it's such a mystery to us anyway -- like why we fall in love or who we meet or, you know, the phenomenon that can happen in life that just seems indefinable. And I think stories like this -- I think there's a yearning in people to explain that unexplainable. I think that's where Hank Galliston is. I mean, he's a skeptic, but it's only because he wants to believe.
He wants to believe, but he's not willing to just kind of go on faith without having the proof in his hands -- is that what you're saying?
Exactly. Exactly. And I think that's why people are drawn to it. Why we're here on this planet is this huge mystery that religion's been trying to define and science has been trying to define. Ordinary people use storytellers and stories to help us define what that is and who we are.
Hank throws out a lot of these little tidbits of information throughout the show, like that there's no such thing as treasure maps. Had you known any of this stuff before? Have you ever read up on any of this stuff, or did you see it in the script for the first time and say, "Wow, I didn't know that either?"
I think I am similar to Hank in that I am someone who does need a bit of proof. But it is fun. You know you think about treasure maps, and that was actually one thing that did puzzle me in the pilot. I was like, "Oh, right, of course. Robert Louis Stevenson created this to help tell a story, not because they were finding treasure maps of buried treasure." And when that story becomes real, you know, what's the difference there from a lot of religious stories, too?
Very often truth is stranger than fiction.
That happens. I think that's the world that we're playing in, that I think (executive producers) Paul Scheuring and Zack Estrin really wanted to play in. It's the opposite of "ER" in a way, where "ER" was really basing things on reality and how things really work. This is really about the reality of storytelling, you know, and what is it that makes stories and why do people get intrigued ... things are not going to be what you think they're going to be in this pilot.
Everybody does quite a bit of globe-trotting in the premiere. Where did you shoot the tundra scenes?
We actually shot that up in Lake Winnipeg. Last spring we were up there, bizarrely on the warmest day of the year, because the ice was melting around us. We were landing that airplane on there and kind of sweating underneath all of our huge arctic down.
Hank goes to India in the second episode, so I guess we'll see quite a bit more globe-trotting as the series goes on.
Yeah, you know, it's an international show. And what's fun is that we shot it in New York. And the fun thing is that New York hasn't been shot out that way for television. When you have New York television shows, they're cop shows, you know, or "Rescue Me" or something that's really based in New York. They've been finding unbelievable locations for India and Paraguay and Germany and, you know, we go all over.
After 10 years, was there anything you missed about doing television? Anything you didn't miss?
The best part of it to me is that you're working with that crew and those actors for an extended period of time very intensely. It took us a hundred days to shoot our 12 episodes, and in that time every eight days we're starting a new script. So that kind of camaraderie that comes from moving quickly is what I loved about doing "ER" and it's what I love about being on a TV show as opposed to even film. Getting up early is annoying, but it's really like, "we're all into this together." That is the part that I really enjoy.
We're not going to give anything away here or get too much into the mechanics of the plot, but there's a lot that people get to chew on in that pilot. So does this get more expansive over those next 12 episodes?
Yeah, very much so. I think everything that we set up in the pilot we twist and turn in the next 12 episodes a lot. So characters are going to change, situations are going to change, priorities are going to change. In that way it's like someone gave you a great book to read on vacation -- you know, you sit down at the beach and you just can't put it down. That's what we want to do.
"Zero Hour" premieres Thursday, Feb. 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
A talk with authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 13, 2013 12:47PM
For "Beautiful Creatures" authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, writing their first novel all came down to having lunch.
It was sitting down for that meal which led the two -- who had never tried their hand at writing before, let alone getting published -- to devise the story of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, two teens in love who come from very different backgrounds. Ethan is a native of the small town of Gatlin, S.C., more bookish than his classmates and yearning to get out into the world. Lena is part of a clan of immortal, witch-like beings called Casters, who has come to town to stay with her reclusive yet powerful uncle, Macon Ravenwood.
Related: 10 Southern Gothic movies | Video: Watch the trailer for 'Beautiful Creatures'
Ethan and Lena's forbidden romance may be short-lived: At the age of 16, Lena will be "claimed," meaning she will either become part of the Light or part of the Dark -- with members of her own family eager for her to turn toward the latter for their own nefarious reasons. It's a classic love story set against an intricate supernatural mythology that surprised even its creators.
"We've been friends for a really long time," says Stohl when she and Garcia sit down with a small group of reporters at a recent press day in Los Angeles for the film adaptation of their book. "Kami taught all three of my daughters in elementary school, and we sometimes say that we're the only two people in Los Angeles who actually read books anymore, which is probably not a good thing to say (laughs). We started trading fantasy books back and forth, and we are exactly like 60 percent of our genre's audience, who are adults who read young adult fantasy for fun.
"So one day we had a long lunch where we cooked up a world based on a fantasy idea. Also, Kami's family is from a small town in the South and mine is from a small town in the West, and we both come from a great tradition of storytelling. So we kind of cooked up this story that was really a response to what my kids and her students were saying that they wanted."
Young adult fiction is a monster business, with teens -- and adults -- eager to dig into series such as "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games." But that kind of success breeds repetition as publishers -- much like movie studios -- attempt to duplicate what has worked before. Garcia says that her own students and Stohl's kids told them exactly what they didn't want to see more of.
"They said, 'We love all the vampire books we've read, but we're tired of vampires now; that's been done. No vampires, no werewolves,'" recalls Garcia. "They really wanted to see a book written from the boy's perspective, where the boy was a regular mortal and the girl was the one with the supernatural powers. They were like, 'Why does the girl always fall in love and never get to have any magic?' They also wanted it to feel like it wasn't generic. It couldn't take place in any city. They wanted it to have a very specific sense of place."
So the two women began to collaborate, outlining the story together before trading chapters to write and edit. The next step was giving each chapter to the teens that they knew, who in turn passed it along to their friends. "We didn't write the book to be published," says Garcia. "We cooked up this idea saying, 'Well, why isn't anyone doing that? We could do that.' We came up with the idea, but we never in a million years thought it would become a book in bookstores."
But it did become a book -- in bookstores -- after a writer friend passed it along to his agent. "Beautiful Creatures" was published in 2009 and became a best-seller, leading Stohl and Garcia to pen the rest of what became "The Caster Chronicles: Beautiful Darkness" (2010), "Beautiful Chaos" (2011) and the conclusion, "Beautiful Redemption" (2012). (The pair are now working on separate projects, with Stohl's "Icons" coming out in May and Garcia's "The Legion" set to arrive this fall).
Naturally, with that kind of success, Hollywood came knocking as the studios themselves scrambled to find the next "Twilight"-type hit. "Beautiful Creatures" eventually landed at Alcon Entertainment, with Richard LaGravenese ("The Fisher King") signed to write and direct. "When Richard came to us and told us he loved the book, we already knew his work," says Garcia, admitting that she and Stohl were understandably anxious about their book being filmed. "We knew 'The Fisher King.' We knew he was amazing at adapting, and also what a lot of people don't know is how much he loves fantasy. Once he started sharing that with us -- we who are fantasy nerds -- we knew he was going to be able to do this."
"We viewed him as an ally from the very beginning because the things that we care about the very most is that our teens are smart and critical," adds Stohl. "We respect teens, we respect our teen readers, and we really respect the smart teens we wrote it for. I think the thing we were most afraid of was that it would become this sort of generic movie where the actors might be Hollywood celebrities in the making and the roles dumbed down in a certain way. But Richard was ferocious about that. He protected the wit and the classical charm and the characters."
The film version of "Beautiful Creatures" does in fact have a wit, sly self-awareness and depth of characterization that other teen-oriented dark fantasy films have mostly lacked. We come to care about Ethan and Lena, as played by Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, and perhaps most importantly, Lena herself is not a passive young girl (we're looking at you, Bella Swan) who needs a young man to come along to give her life meaning.
"We wrote chapters and handed them directly to the teenagers," says Stohl about making sure that their female lead was a strong, empowered person. "It was like serialized fiction. So you're not going to write something and hand it to your daughter --"
"-- Or your sister or your students, that doesn't say, 'Be who you are, embrace the person you are, claim yourself and don't give a crap what anyone else thinks,'" interjects Garcia without missing a beat. "That was the heart of the whole series and what it's about."
"Beautiful Creatures" is out in theaters Thursday, February 14.
Conspiracy theory movies to blow your mind
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 12, 2013 5:33PM
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, and there are plenty of folks out there who also take them very seriously (as we can sadly see from some of the political discourse of the past dozen years). But whether you believe in plots to control the world, secret societies or invisible alien takeovers, there's no doubt that these kinds of tales are fascinating to follow purely as stories. They can start with something as seemingly unambiguous as an assassination, a theft or a mysterious crash -- and can end with events of world-changing or apocalyptic proportions.
That's why a show like "Zero Hour" (premiering Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC), with its globe-spanning plot and shadowy villains, has the potential to be a hit on the network that also brought us enigmas like "Lost" and "Flash Forward." But beyond television, there's a long, rich history of conspiracy-minded movies out there as well. We've listed some of our favorites below (and since this is Parallel Universe, we've leaned on the more sci-fi oriented ones). Eyeball some of these and we guarantee you'll never look at the world around you in quite the same way.
"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962): John Frankenheimer was either the most imaginative director of his time or the most paranoid. This classic thriller uncovers a Communist plot to use mind-controlled assassins in an attempt to take over the U.S. government. It's wild, over-the-top and will have you utterly unable to turn it off.
"Seven Days in May" (1964): A rogue general (a frightening Burt Lancaster) plots a coup d'état against what he perceives as a weak president (Fredric March), with only his second-in-command (Kirk Douglas) standing in the way. Frankenheimer was at it again with this unbelievably tense drama that's both more subdued and more chilling than "Manchurian Candidate," because it seems a lot more plausible.
"Soylent Green" (1973): It's 2022 and the world is breaking down from overpopulation, environmental destruction, food shortages and poverty. A New York detective (Charlton Heston) investigates the seemingly random murder of a wealthy businessman (Joseph Cotten) and stumbles upon a horrific conspiracy about the nature of a new miracle food called Soylent Green. We won't spoil it if you haven't seen it -- but you've got nine years to figure it out.
"The Parallax View" (1974): Director Alan J. Pakula ("All the President's Men") was just behind Frankenheimer in the paranoia sweepstakes, and this thriller starring Warren Beatty was perhaps his creepiest. Beatty plays a reporter investigating the title corporation, which recruits and trains political assassins. But why? And who runs the Parallax Corporation? "The Parallax View" plays like a horror movie -- and is scariest than most.
"Futureworld" (1976): This semi-sequel to "Westworld" is set two years after the events of that movie, with the Delos amusement park about to be reopened after its androids went on their deadly rampage. But the park's owners now have a nefarious plan to replace world leaders and members of the media with androids to ensure that their interests are left alone. Wait -- did we say this was science fiction or a documentary?
"Capricorn One: (1978): Remember the urban legend that the Moon landing was faked (and by no less than Stanley Kubrick)? This rather corny yet endearing timewaster takes it one step further, with the U.S. government faking a Mars landing and then plotting to get rid of the still-living astronauts when their empty rocket blows up. Look for O.J. Simpson as one of the crew.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978): Yes, there have been several versions of this sci-fi classic, but this remains our favorite and also the most unnerving. By setting it in a large city (San Francisco) instead of the original's small town, director Phillip Kaufman gives us a portrait of urban alienation and paranoia that makes its worldwide alien conspiracy even more chilling and somehow more real.
"They Live" (1988): One of John Carpenter's most unsung and underappreciated gems, this wicked satire establishes that the aliens are already here, disguised as politicians, members of the wealthy elite and captains of media -- and that they use a subliminal TV signal to hide their true appearance and keep us pumped with subliminal messages. Its budget and acting never match its ambitions, but you'll still be seeing aliens everywhere after watching this.
"The Arrival" (1996): More alien shenanigans in this one, with Charlie Sheen (before he became a punch line) starring as a radio astronomer who discovers an extraterrestrial signal beaming to Earth -- and promptly gets fired for it. Only later does he learn that his former boss is one of the aliens, already here and prepping the planet for takeover by raising its temperature. "The Arrival" is smart and moody even if it's not plausible -- but the Earth's temperature has gone up lately.
"The X-Files" (1998): Was there ever a greater conspiracy series than "The X-Files"? The show's influence is still being felt today in shows like the just-ended "Fringe" and others. When Mulder and Scully made the jump to the big screen halfway through the series' nine-season run, some mysteries were revealed, yet the air of dread and imminent apocalypse remained intact. We miss the good old days of black oil and cigarette-smoking men ...
"From Hell" (2001): Were Jack the Ripper's infamous and gruesome 1888 Whitechapel murders actually part of a Masonic plot stretching to the highest reaches of the British empire? Enter Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp), whose "psychic" visions lead him toward revealing the sordid truth. Not a great film, "From Hell" (adapted from Alan Moore's comic book), still presents a tantalizing "what if," especially since Jack has never been identified.
"Angels and Demons" (2009): Although "The Da Vinci Code" is more popular and exposed a supposed "secret history" of Christianity, we prefer this Ron Howard-directed adaptation of an earlier Dan Brown novel much more (and, thankfully, Tom Hanks' hair is way better). Vials of antimatter, a plot to destroy the Vatican, banned books, secret underground labyrinths and even the Illuminati -- they're all here and all nutty fun ... just what a conspiracy theory should be.
Director Richard LaGravenese and his 'Beautiful Creatures'
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 12, 2013 5:29PM
For screenwriter-director Richard LaGravenese, the most important reason that he hesitated about adapting the best-selling young adult supernatural romance "Beautiful Creatures" for the screen was the fact that it would almost surely be compared to another book-to-screen phenomenon in the same genre. Sitting down with LaGravenese and cast members for roundtable interviews recently in Los Angeles, that elephant in the room was addressed immediately.
"It was my largest concern and hesitation in doing this to begin with," agreed LaGravenese about the almost inevitable comparisons to "Twilight." "Not because I didn't believe that we'd make this original and something else, but because so often in this industry, perception is more real than fact. People don't want to know what something is; they want to know what it's like, so they can categorize it. So I don't know if (the comparisons) are good or bad. All I know is that we worked really, really hard to make this original, and that we both share a genre, like many movies do."
Related: 10 Southern Gothic movies
On the surface, the parallels are certainly there. The novel "Beautiful Creatures" is the first of a four-book series detailing the romance between a restless small-town high schooler desperate for something new in life and the strange, magnetic outsider who comes to town and causes turmoil among the populace. The differences? The townie is not a girl, but a boy named Ethan Wate (played in the film by rising star Alden Ehrenreich), while his crush is Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the niece of the mysterious Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). The latter is the patriarch of an aristocratic family that has played a seminal role in the history of the town of Gatlin. The Ravenwoods are not vampires, but are known as "Casters," immortal, witch-like beings with supernatural powers.
"Alice and I were both reluctant to do the film in the first place," said Ehrenreich. "We didn't read the script and we were kind of pitched the movie in a certain way, and said, 'Well, that sounds like something that's been done.' But then I read the script, and within two pages I could see that Richard was doing this unique take and it wasn't something I'd seen before. It did feel much more classic, and had a lot more charm and humor and intelligence to it. And then meeting Richard, his whole m.o. was, 'I want to do a film in this genre, but elevate it and make it more interesting and quirkier and idiosyncratic and do it with wit and humor.'"
"'Twilight' was a phenomenon, and you don't repeat a phenomenon," said LaGravenese. "You can't chase that creatively. You have to do something that you want to do because you love the story." He's correct, and while it remains to seen whether "Beautiful Creatures" can become a massive hit on the level of the dreary saga of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, one thing is clear: Although we have not read the source material, "Beautiful Creatures" the movie is far more interesting, compelling and thoughtful than all five of the wretched "Twilight" films put together (go ahead, send us your hate, Twi-hards; we stand by that statement).
Authors Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia have crafted a denser, more complex mythology for their love story, while setting it in a rich Southern environment and placing it within the context of that region's own comfortable relationship with things beyond human understanding. "I liked the world, I liked that it was kind of a Southern Gothic, which was appealing to me," said LaGravenese, whose previous scripts include "The Fisher King" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." "I was a big 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and Joss Whedon fan, and loved the way that he was able to put mythology into a teen world and make it a metaphor for growing up.
"I saw in this book this great idea of all of us when we're 16 years old and we don't know who we are," he continued. "We're full of these feelings, we don't have our identity set yet and we're searching for our self-individuation. How much do we get to choose and claim ourselves, and how much do we inherit from our ancestors -- or do we say to our ancestors, 'No, I'm not gonna carry your baggage anymore. I'm not gonna be you, I'm gonna be myself.' I loved that idea."
Lena comes to stay with her uncle and other family members as she approaches her 16th birthday, the time of the "Claiming" for female Casters, in which it is determined whether she will belong to the Light or the Dark. Lena wants to remain part of the Light, but there are members of the Dark, including her wicked cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) and her own mother, Sarafine (who remains hidden for a while, so no spoilers), who want to use Lena's powers for evil.
"I liked it. It was really fun," said Rossum, the star of the Showtime hit "Shameless," when asked about taking the role of the sexy and sinister Ridley. "When I read the script at first, I kind of fell in love with the character. She's ballsy and out-there and has kind of embraced the dark side, and has a sense of fun with it. I felt that somebody who's evil, who really enjoys it and has fun with it is really interesting. So I read the book and fell in love with her there, too, auditioned and got the part."
While Ridley wears her allegiance on her sleeve -- or whatever sleeve she has on her rather flimsy wardrobe -- Macon Ravenwood is a different creature altogether. Clearly a being of immense and ancient power, he is a Dark Caster who shifts his allegiance to the Light, even though his own personal preferences remain somewhat ambiguous. "I think it's certainly very nice if characters don't fit into the sort of two-dimensional expectation," said Irons in that unmistakable gravelly voice. "One of the things I like about Macon was not just his wit and his panache, but his enigma -- you don't really know where he's coming from.
"I think you still don't know where he's coming from, even at the end of the movie," adds Irons. "I couldn't tell you whether he's a 'good guy' or a 'bad guy.' I suspect that his fighting the Dark -- a Dark Caster trying to be a Light Caster -- is sort of like most of us. We have bad sides, we have good sides. We know that we all carry the possibility for that within us, and every little action and decision in our day is sort of dependent upon which way we choose to go."
The more complex nature of the mythology, the questions posed by the story and the more multilayered approach to the characters all serve to set "Beautiful Creatures" apart from its genre competition and, if appealing enough to a mass audience, open the door for the next three books in the series to be adapted as well (LaGravenese says he hasn't read them yet because he wanted to make this one stand on its own). Whatever happens, everyone involved -- including Alice Englert in what could be a star-making turn -- is pleased to give this particular storytelling niche a fresh tweak or two.
"That was what really sold me on the script," said Englert. "Just that we were able to have a film that could sit in a mainstream genre and just fall left of center of every cliché that we dealt with -- or laugh at them or completely embody them and love them. That was great. We couldn't have really done this film without having a sense of humor as well, and I think we had such a great cast and crew for that."
"Beautiful Creatures" is out in theaters Thursday, Feb. 14.
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