...He's out sick. Just in time for Oscar week, our beloved Rene has come down with a horrible (but not life-threatening, so don't worry too much) illness. As Rene's long-suffering editor, I think he's sick because he's so upset that Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino was completely snubbed and he just can't bear writing another Academy Awards story without him. Luckily, Rene made his Oscar picks before he got sick. Look for them in Sunday's Miami Herald.
Time.com blogger Matt Selman has seen Zack Snyder's Watchmen - a perk that comes when your publication is owned by the same company distributing The Most Anticipated Movie Ever - and he's calling it "a serious freak-out ... one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had."
Selman, an executive producer on The Simpsons, takes great care to point out that his reaction isn't the result of sitting through "a great movie," but rather seeing the graphic novel he had loved as a teenager brought to such vivid, exacting life.
Is Watchmen even a good or bad movie? I have no idea. I stand powerless before the Gods I once worshiped in my attic bedroom, now moving and talking and fighting and loving on a giant screen. And I find myself unable to judge them.
I hope I don't have that same out-of-body experience when I get to see the movie. Otherwise, writing that review is gonna be tricky.
In the almost 30 years since he first leapt out of Crystal Lake at the end of 1980's Friday the 13th, the hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees has spawned 10 sequels, been struck by lightning and become a zombie, been to hell and back, visited Times Square and flown into outer space.
Offscreen, Jason has received an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, graced lunchboxes and videogame consoles and become so recognizable that he is known the world over on the same first-name basis as Madonna, Mickey, and Bruce.
One of the first challenges facing the makers of the new Friday the 13th picture was how to take what had become a larger-than-life icon and bring him back to his humble roots, hacking and slashing his way through vanloads of horny teenagers on the blood-soaked grounds of Camp Crystal Lake.
Their eventual solution was simply to trust the hunter-with-a-machete bluntness that had made Jason so popular in the first place and forget about all the self-reflective irony, pretzel-like plot twists and extreme depictions of lovingly rendered torture and suffering that have permeated the horror genre since the release of 2004's Saw.
"The Exorcist is my favorite horror movie of all time, and I would never dare try to remake it," says Friday the 13th director Marcus Nispel, who also helmed a redo of 1974's classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. "But then there are movies that people want to see again and again, and there are some characters that people just can't get enough of. And Jason Voorhees is one of them. When I worked with the screenwriters, they kept referring to Jason as our anti-hero. It was really the kids who were their villains. We empathize a little bit with this character, because he expresses the Freaks and Geeks outcast in all of us. He's like Carrie at prom night."
Like director Rob Zombie's 2007 revisionist remake of the slasher classic Halloween, which delved deeply into the tortured psyche of the murderous Michael Myers in an attempt to explain why he did what he did, the new Friday the 13th makes clear that Jason (played by Derek Mears) doesn't kill for the thrill of it: There's a purpose to his madness, no matter how twisted it happens to be.
Unlike the Halloween remake, however - and in a drastic departure from the recent wave of gore-drenched, R-rated horror films that have generated a new genre known as "torture porn" - Friday the 13th is devoted entirely to giving the audience a haunted-house ride, not sending them home with nightmares.
Producer Brad Fuller, an executive at Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company, which caters exclusively to cranking out horror pictures, says he wanted Friday the 13th to be a throwback to the slasher-film heyday of the 1980s, when the horror genre didn't take itself quite so seriously.
"We started working on Friday the 13th right after we had finished Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and we looked back at the movie and felt we had gone too far," Fuller says. "It was just too sadistic. We told Michael [Bay] we couldn't make another movie where we're sitting in a basement killing people for two hours. We have to make them more fun."
Like the recent My Bloody Valentine remake and the upcoming reimagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street (with Billy Bob Thornton set to play the dream-demon Freddy Krueger), the new Friday the 13th embraces all the cliches of the popcorn-horror flick instead of trying to transcend or one-up them. In a way, the movie marks a return to a gentler, kinder brand of horror, one that isn't all that concerned with reflecting the mood and fears of the popular culture.
Instead, Friday the 13th is specifically designed to be best enjoyed in a crowded movie theater on a Friday night. "I'm 43 years old, and the way I learned about tits was watching Friday the 13th and movies like Porky's and Hot Dog in the 1980s," Fuller says. "But my son doesn't ever get to see that in movies anymore. So we really wanted to go for it with this one and remind people how nice it is to see a nice rack in a horror film. I hope everyone feels the way we do."
Fuller's glee may make Friday the 13th sound like a piece of exploitative trash, but most horror films were never made with aspirations to hoity-toity art. Even Alfred Hitchcock originally made Psycho with the drive-in circuit in mind. The list of exceptions is long, of course (Frankenstein, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Jaws). But what makes the majority of scary movies of interest to film historians is primarily what they tell us about the era in which they were made.
Horrormeister Wes Craven (Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes), who produced the upcoming remake of his 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left due in theaters March 13, says he can still remember the outrage that the original film generated among critics.
"Roger Ebert was one of the few critics who got Last House on the Left," Craven says. "He gave us four stars out of five. Everyone else thought we were demented or perverted or a threat to American national security. It was ridiculous. But films like that one and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit the audience of their time really hard. They were the product of the Vietnam era, just like the torture-porn stuff like Saw and Hostel are a product of theirs.
"Torture is the ultimate obscenity, and to make films about it seems wrong," Craven says. "But there's a sense of 'I am surviving this' that goes on with those movies. You can look at horror films as a mirror where you can't avoid the reality, and a lot of the audiences for these movies are teenagers who will likely to be the ones fighting the wars that are now raging. Those things are not abstract for them. There's something going on when they go to these movies, as if they were testing themselves against them."
Now that the torture-oriented pictures are showing signs of burnout (Saw V grossed a healthy $112 million worldwide last year, but try finding someone who liked it), the studios are increasingly dusting off proven hits to serve to a new generation that may not be familiar with the original films. And that surge, too, could be interpreted as a sign of the times. Remakes are nothing new, but the sheer number of horror redos in production - including new versions of The Birds, Rosemary's Baby, The Wolf Man and the 1987 cult-classic Anguish - is unusual even by Hollywood standards.
"We're living through a time of incredible anxiety and a lack of knowing what's coming next," Craven says. "That filters down all the way to the studios. They don't know what kind of original material is going to work, so it's just a safer bet to go with a remake, especially if there's been enough time. There's an entire generation of moviegoers who thinks 'You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?' and hasn't seen these films."
Friday the 13th marks a return to that carefree, halcyon era when the killer in a horror movie just whacked you in the head with his machete and moved on to his next victim instead of prolonging your suffering as long as your body held out. Weren't those the days!?
A surprisingly straightforward romp in slasher-flick cliches, Friday the 13th is replete with gee-whiz gore, gratuitous sex and nudity and party-loving teens with a penchant for ending up on the wrong end of a pick ax. Like the recent My Bloody Valentine remake, the movie pretends the post-Scream ironic era never happened, and kids never learned not to tread the turf of a psycho who makes no secret about his intent to kill them.
In marked contrast to recent horror hits such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Saw franchise, Friday the 13th is refreshingly light on sadism and lingering shots of gory mayhem. The violence is brutal and bloody, but it is also swift and to the point, designed to make you shriek through your popcorn instead of upchuck into it.
It also helps that the masked killer happens to be Jason Voorhees (played by Derek Mears), arguably the most iconic of the villains who slashed their way through the horror genre in the 1980s. Working from a reverential script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (who previously penned the surprisingly effective Freddy Vs. Jason), director Marcus Nispel makes few changes to the proven Friday the 13th formula: Anyone who dares venture into Camp Crystal Lake will still probably not live to tell about it - especially the knuckleheads who insist on waterskiing topless.
As is typical of this sort of picture, the cast is made up of generic, good-looking, mostly unknown actors, although fans of the WB series Supernatural will recognize Jared Padalecki as the young man searching for his sister who disappeared while vacationing at - you guessed it - Camp Crystal Lake. His quest gives the movie a semblance of a plotline, something that is new to the series, but the result is pretty much identical to every Friday the 13th before it (or at least Parts II-IV, before Jason left the woods).
About the only unpredictable element in Friday the 13th is the question of who will live to see the end credits,although a degree in microphysics is definitely not required. Even the jumps and scares are easy to predict, but there are only so many times you can go camping with a crazed killer before you start anticipating his habits.
This is certainly the best-looking Friday the 13th movie ever made, and teens who weren't around the first time now have their chance to experience the series in a crowded theater. But there is no way the new version can register as strongly as the original did. This is awfully tired stuff, right down to the last-minute gotcha. But at least it isn't Saw VI.
In an interview with TotalFilm.com, Watchmen creator/uber-grouch Alan Moore rails against film adaptations of comic books, why the two mediums don't work well together and even spouts off against the state of the comic-book industry in America.
"The main reason why comics can’t work as films is largely because everybody who is ultimately in control of the film industry is an accountant," Moore told the magazine. "These people may be able to add up and balance the books, but in every other area they are stupid and incompetent and don’t have any talent.
"And this is why a film is going to be a work that’s done by dozens and dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of people. They’re going to show it to the backers and then they’re going to say, we want this in it, and this in it ... and where’s the monster?”
Moore has reason to be skeptical, having had two of his previous graphic novels (From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) turned into middling pictures. So it seems even the highly promising Watchmen trailers aren't doing it for him.
"I will be spitting venom all over [Watchmen] for months to come," Moore told the L.A. Times. Here's hoping crabby Moore is wrong about Watchmen. I should be finding out any day now.
I had never heard of David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas until a couple of years ago, when my friend Jess brought it to my attention, insisting I read it immediately. I guess I wasn't in the proper frame of mind back then, because I never made it through the first chapter and the book got swallowed up by my to-read pile.
I'm going to give Cloud Atlas another shot now that director Tom Tykwer has revealed he is collaborating on a film adaptation of the book alongside the Matrix brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski.
Tykwer has already proven himself capable of adapting seemingly unfilmable books - I was a big fan of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - and I like the idea of the Wachowskis tackling someone else's material. Their last few original screenplays have been lacking, but they remain bold and imaginative filmmakers. They just need good source material.
Tykwer's latest film, The International, opens Friday and it's a more conventional type of conspiracy thriller, easily the most commercial film he's made since his 1998 breakthrough hit Run Lola Run. I'm guessing Tykwer made it to pay the bills in between more ethereal projects like Heaven, which I acknowledge has some serious flaws, but still find mesmerizing.
The International does boast the best prolongued shoot-out sequence I've seen in a movie in years. It's a real corker, and further proof of Tykwer's inventiveness as a filmmaker. Tykwer is also supposedly developing Dave Eggers' novel What is the What as a TV miniseries, which makes me wonder whatever happened to the movie based on Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that was making the studio rounds in 2002.
Henry Selick's stop-motion fantasy Coraline is the best of the new releases this week (you can read my review here). Connie Ogle's review of He's Just Not That Into You is probably more entertaining than the movie itself, although the eclectic cast makes me curious to see it.
The less said about Push and The Pink Panther 2, the better. If you're feeling intrepid, Charlie Kaufman's mind-bending Synecdoche, New York (review here) returns for one more weekend at the Miami Beach Cinematheque and Bill Cosford Cinema. This one practically needs to be seen in a theater, where you can't hit the fast-forward button (or, for that matter, the rewind button, either).
There are three or four big laughs scattered throughout The Pink Panther 2, along with a smattering of decent chuckles. But all those moments combined account for maybe five minutes of screen time, which leaves you with another hour and a half of movie to sit through.
Steve Martin's second outing as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, this time on the trail of a master thief known as The Tornado, is admittedly funnier than the 2006 original. But that movie was so dispiritingly, soul-suckingly bad, there was nowhere left to go but up.
The Pink Panther 2 was directed by Harald Zwart, whose name happens to rhyme with Paul Blart, and who also displays all the cinematic sensibilities of a mall cop. To be fair, though, this is really Martin's show through and through: Whoever took on the mantle of director on this project was there to follow his instructions.
Martin still believes it's funny to watch him wrestle with a thick French accent ("No man eez an ees-land!"), and he has assembled a supporting cast of talented has-beens (including Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Jeremy Irons and Lily Tomlin), nearly all of whom are given their own impenetrable accent to use in mangling their dialogue (several times during a preview screening, I heard a woman sitting behind me asked her companion "What did he say?'')
The scenes between Martin and Tomlin (playing a human resources employee assigned to teach Clouseau proper office etiquette) will seem particularly sad to anyone who remembers their first on-screen pairing in 1984's All of Me. In that movie, Martin was still an inventive and energetic performer who understood one of the keys to screen comedy is to continually spring the unexpected and the outrageous on the audience.
The Pink Panther 2, though, falls in line with Martin's recent spate of family-oriented pictures like Father of the Bride or Cheaper by the Dozen or the execrable Bringing Down the House. Like Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy, Martin has sold his artistic soul to bland, wholesome comedies designed to be screened in malls, cruise ships and children's playrooms everywhere.
It's a lucrative niche - the first Pink Panther made $150 million worldwide - but it's also more than a little lazy. If you're planning a family outing to the movies this weekend, take the kids to see Coraline. That one has soul, ambition and wit, all the things The Pink Panther 2 has no use for.
Imagine if the X-Men had spent most of their time sitting around talking about how they were going to fight Magneto instead of ever actually doing anything and you'll have a good sense of what is wrong with Push. A curiously inert and talky action picture about good-looking mutants on the run from bad (but equally good-looking) ones, Push wastes a decent idea and stylish direction on a script that's much more Ingmar Bergman than Stan Lee.
Director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) establishes the complicated premise over the opening credits, laying out the dilemma faced by a group of people who, as a result of secret government experiments to create an army of genetically gifted warriors, now have one of several different powers. "Pushers" can put thoughts into your head. "Movers" are telekinetics. "Watchers" can draw the future. "Sniffers" can track anyone down by their scent.
And "sleepers" are the people in the theater stuck sitting through Push. Set in Hong Kong, the movie centers on the "mover" Nick (Chris Evans) and the "watcher" Cassie (Dakota Fanning), who are being pursued by a government agent (Djimon Hounsou) and a gang of assassins for reasons much too complicated to lay out here. It's enough that Evans makes for a charismatic, set-upon hero, and the eerily talented Fanning even pulls off her first drunk scene, which one hopes was purely a Method exercise and not based on personal experience.
The exceptionally talented cinematographer Peter Sova (The Strangers, Wicker Park) fills Push with entrancing eye candy that turns the bustling Hong Kong backdrop into a veritable character in the film. But the screenplay by David Bourla makes the fatal mistake of constantly telling instead of showing. The characters in Push spout so much backstory and exposition that the movie eventually becomes impossible to follow. An early showdown at a fish market is excitingly filmed, but there aren't nearly enough good action sequences to make up for the plodding pace.
Worst of all, Push doesn't even reach the big climax the entire story has been building toward. Instead, the movie just stops, as if the filmmakers decided to save the ending for the sequel. Call them "dreamers."
When Faye Dunaway first heard teen pop star Hilary Duff was set to play Bonnie Parker in a planned remake of the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, her initial reaction was "Couldn't they at least cast a real actress?"
Now Duff is fighting back, telling eonline.com that she thought Dunaway's comment was "a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now, too."
A word of caution to Duff: Don't start a fight you can't finish. And I'm pretty sure you'd lose this one.
Terminator: Salvation assistant director Bruce Franklin tells eonline.com that the Christian Bale rant that made the Internet rounds yesterday was just the result of
roid rage a bad day and that Bale was otherwise a "consummate professional" on the set.
"If you are working in a very intense scene and someone takes you out of your groove ... It was the most emotional scene in the movie," Franklin told the website. "And for him to get stopped in the middle of it. He is very intensely involved in his character. He didn't walk around like that all day long. It was just a moment and it passed."
Anyway, all the attention has ensured everyone knows about Terminator: Salvation now. And Bale's rant might even become the next dance club sensation (with a cameo by Streisand, no less).
TMZ has gotten hold of an audiotape of Christian Bale tearing into director of photography Shane Hurlbut on the set of Terminator: Salvation and ... man!
Suddenly, the actor's supposed attack on his mother and sister last summer- which took place within a week's time of his tantrum on the set of T4 - doesn't seem like such a crock.
You can listen to Bale's expletive-laden rant here but be warned: You'll never think of The Dark Knight again the same way.
According to a poll over at MovieTickets.com, the ad for Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the most memorable of the 10 movie trailers that aired during yesterday's Super Bowl XLIII telecast.
Over 83 percent of respondents remembered seeing the commercial, while 23 percent said it the most effective in encouraging them to see the film when it opens on June 26.
Coming in second place was J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek, in theaters, with 79 percent of respondents remembering it. The much-ballyhooed 3-D ad for Monsters Vs. Aliens came in third with 78 percent.
Here's how the rest of the ads fared. G.I. Joe is the only ad not available on NBC's website, but you can click on all the others to watch them.
Judging by the results, looks like Pixar has some marketing work to do, while Jack Black might start wondering if his 15 minutes are up.
4. Fast and Furious (77%) 5. Land of the Lost (75%) 6. Race to Witch Mountain (74%) 7. Angels and Demons (64%) 8. G.I. Joe (59%) 9. Up (48%) 10. Year One (34%)
4. Fast and Furious (77%)
5. Land of the Lost (75%)
6. Race to Witch Mountain (74%)
7. Angels and Demons (64%)
8. G.I. Joe (59%)
9. Up (48%)
10. Year One (34%)