'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Finding Nemo' and others will receive the special treatment
Ti West's follow-up to 'The House of the Devil' is a similar slow burn with greater charms
'I think there's serious challenges the country's facing.'
With his rippling voice and air of no-holds barred intelligence, Jeffrey Wright ("Source Code," "The Manchurian Candidate") plays Senator Thompson in George Clooney's political thriller "The Ides of March." Thompson has a few scenes -- and only a few lines of dialogue -- and it's a tribute to Wright that he's able to fill a seemingly small part with such verve and vigor. We spoke with Wright in Toronto about politics, working with Hollywood's best-looking director and his take on 2012.
Aside from the fact that your director is better looking that usual, what's it like working with Mr. Clooney? Obviously he's got insight in acting, but are his technical chops there as a director?
Wright: Not yet, but I'm hoping.
No, but seriously.
Wright: I was serious. No, George -- it was a fantastic experience. I never worked with him as a director. We were in 'Syriana' in separate tracks. He brings such a clarity and a calm to a movie set. That's all you can hope for your director and a clear command of the vision. We as individual actors know our little component, but the director really has a clear command of the overall. They don't always have that. George cowrote the piece, was acting and directing at the same time, and doing it with such ease that it was really mindblowing. He's a wonderful director to work with.
On robots, boxing, learning from Spielberg and kid actors
It is safe to say that director Shawn Levy does not have those crippling, middle-of-the-night moments of doubt we mere mortals do -- or, if he does, they don't show on the press tour for "Real Steel." Levy's animated and super-psyched to talk about his new robot-boxing film that also tells the tale of promoter Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) reuniting with his abandoned son Max (Dokota Goyo). After the 'Night at the Museum" films, Levy's shown he can get big money out of big effects -- with 'Real Steel," though, he tries for (and occasionally gets) big emotion, too. We spoke with levy in L.A. about what he learned from producer Steven Spielberg, kid actors and boxing's ballet versus boxing's brutality.
When you have Steven Spielberg, the king of heartbreaking special effects movies, as a producer on this, how much do you learn from him? How much of a great opportunity is that?
Levy: You ask the right question, because a lot of people have asked, 'Is it intimidating? Was it daunting?' Not at all, but it was the dream mentorship of my life. You learn so much, because Steven is so generous with his instincts, with his advice, with his anecdotes and wisdom. It was really one of the greatest mentorships anyone could ever imagine.
It also helped make an important decision in terms of making the film, which is he referenced 'Jurassic Park' and the practical dinosaurs on that making it so memorable. You built several robots to give it that realism, to give the actors something other than a tennis ball on a stick to work with. I'm sure it would have been cheaper to go all virtual, but would you have gotten the film that you wanted?
Levy: I don't think we would have gotten a film that's as realistic as it is, and I know we wouldn't have gotten the acting. Not only does it affect Hugh's performance to have a real robot, but maybe most critically, that's a 10-year-old boy as a co-star in the movie. Is this movie is going to have some magic to it, it's going to come from that boy in the way he connects with the father, in the way he connects with the machine. The fact that he was doing scenes with a real, remote-controlled, eight-and-a-half foot-tall robot lends those scenes a poetry and an emotion that you wouldn't have gotten if I had asked him to fake it with a tennis ball on a stick.
Videodrone's New Release of the Week
"Fast Five" (Universal) takes the fast cars and speed-demon criminals of the surprisingly resilient action franchise to Rio, which becomes more than just an exotic landing pad for the wanted crew.
After kicking off with a prison transport jailbreak (because they don't take on any job that doesn't include precision driving and auto mayhem), the core team—street smart crew chief Dom (Vin Diesel), ex-cop turned outlaw Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom's sister/Brian's girl Mia (Jordana Brewster)—reunites co-conspirators from all four previous installments to take on a drug lord and heist a cool $100 million. Meanwhile Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who signs on as their new nemesis. "This guy, he's Old Testament," explains Brian. "Blood, bullets, wrath of God. That's his style." Okay, whatever. Mainly he's a humorless cartoon character of an American agent whose brawny presence that makes him a veritable double for Vin Diesel, minus the street-smart grin.
You can credit Justin Lin for keeping the franchise as supercharged as it has become. "Fast Five" isn't particularly smart or savvy as a heist film or a battle of wits but Lin knows how to keep things moving, whether it's a footchase through the alleys and over the corrugated roofs of the favelahs or a precision-driving getaway with tandem cars dragging a bank vault. They, of course, turn this anchor into a wrecking cube of a weapon. Forget physics, it's just a fun blast of action movie ingenuity, as is the film as a whole. These guys make robbing a mobster into a party game for criminal buddies who revel in the adrenaline rush of speed and psych-outs between the rubber and the road.
The "Black Swan" director just finalized a deal with Paramount and New Regency to film the Old Testament story
I smell a new trend. Having already ripped off every TV show, video game, and amusement park ride, studios may be turning back to that most revered screenwriter of all time. Deadline reports today that Paramount and New Regency have joined forces to produce Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic, “Noah.” As part of the deal, John Logan (“Gladiator,” “The Aviator”) has been brought in to work on the script that was written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, based, of course, on the original story found in Genesis.
Despite the huge scale of such an ambitious film (can’t wait to see the CG Ark and flood!), word is that the film is being fast-tracked with the hopes of beginning production as early as next spring. Back in the day, Paramount was the king of biblical epics and “Noah” fits perfectly with their new mandate to appeal to a global audience. Aronofsky is thrilled that his pet project can finally move forward. “Since I was a kid, I have been moved and inspired by the story of Noah and his family’s journey,” he said. “The imaginations of countless generations have sparked to this epic story of my faith. It’s my hope that I can present a window into Noah’s passion and perseverance for the silver screen.”
Still, Paramount execs may be in for a surprise if they’re looking for a repeat of the Cecil B. DeMille treatment—sanitized, wholesome depictions of biblical excess that plopped every blond, blue-eyed starlet in Hollywood down into the Middle East setting. “I was stunned going back and realizing how dirty some of those [Bible] stories are,” Aronofsky said. “They’re not PG in any way—they’re all about sleeping with your brother’s sister who gives you a child who you don’t know. That kind of stuff got censored out of our religious upbringing.”
The dramatic story of Noah and his Ark has appeared in the movies as far back as 1928. In that part-silent, part-talkie version of the story, directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Darryl Zanuck, so much water was used for the flood scene that three extras drowned, several received major injuries, and one had to have his leg amputated. Young John Wayne was one of the extras in that scene but he managed to get through it unscathed. Director John Huston played Noah in his own 1966 Dino De Laurentiis extravaganza, “The Bible: In the Beginning” which also featured Ava Gardner and Peter O’Toole. A more recent take on the story was the 1999 TV-movie “Noah’s Ark” starring a solemn Jon Voight as Noah and Mary Steenburgen as his long-suffering wife.
No word yet on casting for Aronofsky’s film. According to many literal interpretations of the Bible, Noah was about 600 years old when he built the Ark. Hmm, does that rule out Joseph Gordon-Levitt? There is no confirmation to the rumor that scenes of debauchery in Sodom and Gomorrah may be shot on location at the Jersey Shore.
The second documentary about the former vice-presidential candidate fares even worse than an earlier film
There was a time, not so long ago, when any morsel of news about Sarah Palin would be devoured by millions. Love or hate her, people were fascinated by the former Alaska governor who was John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Palin was at the epicenter of a cultural storm, the public just couldn’t get enough. When the ideas for not one but two documentaries about the controversial vice-presidential candidate were pitched, movie execs probably assumed that both projects would be instant hits. Ah, the fickle nature of American politics. The films sank at the box office faster than Palin’s chances of ever getting on a national ticket again.
The pro-Palin doc, optimistically titled “The Undefeated,” was released in July. Written and directed by Stephen Bannon, the film was rolled out in cities with large populations of Tea Party activists. But timing is everything. Unfortunately for the film, even the Tea Party folks had moved on. Bannon largely financed the film on his own, God love him, and it was originally proposed as a stepping stone to Palin’s assumed frontrunner status in the 2012 presidential election. Think again. The only Oval Office Sarah Palin is likely to see in the next few years is the one on the set of “Saturday Night Live.” Tea Party leaders tried to rally the troops in the cities where “The Undefeated” was playing, but the film, which received a rare 0% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website, has only managed to rake in $116,381 to date.
So Sarah Palin’s fans have lost interest—but what about her rabid detractors? A new documentary called “Sarah Palin: You Betcha!” opened this weekend. Directed by Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill, the “100% Not Authorized” film gives Palin haters all the negative facts, figures, and foibles that they crave about the Queen of Wasilla. Just one problem: no one’s craving anymore. The film grossed less than $7,000 in its opening weekend and ticket sales are dropping as rapidly as Wasilla’s autumn thermometers. In related news, two highly publicized books focusing on Palin, “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin” by Joe McGinnis and “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs” by former Palin son-in-law Levi Johnston, are also going belly up. But all is not lost for Palin-philes. HBO still plans to release “Game Change,” a movie version of the book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin.
Perhaps studio execs will be more cautious before greenlighting a film about Michele Bachmann’s congressional triumphs.