Saturday, 18 June 2011

Toy Stories (Film News - 18/06/11)

It's been a bumper week for film news, with an extraordinary selection of stories catching my eye, even if some of them appear to be less likely than me winning the lottery this evening. Actually mainly what we've seen this week are stories concerning directors who just can't seem to make their minds up about the next excuse to get behind the camera. In fact for the various big name helmers I'm going to mention this week there are at least 20 projects they've been "attached" to so far this year and given they can't possibly make all of them it seems unlikely that any will be made. Once again we're facing the fact that the Internet will eat itself in it's desperate attempt to create and sustain news feeds. Like a sucker though I just carry on reading and digesting everything for just the slightest indication of what's coming up. So to mix it up this week I'm going to be labeling the projects I've read about against their potential auteurs (although given the range of some of the titles I think we can safely say the director is not the author of the film when it is a studio picture) rather than the titles.

Robert Zemeckis

Having seen his Yellow Submarine remake sank Zemeckis appeared to be going into live action movie making again with Flight with Denzel Washington just having gone into pre-production. However he's now been attached to Major Matt Mason, a 3D extravaganza based on the 1960's Mattel action figure with Tom Hanks in the lead role. Side note, given Hanks's long time association with a different kind of toy do you think he's doing this as a way of competing with Buzz Lightyear?

The action figure's (see below for his lifelike limbs) story was surprisingly complex, given it was a standalone product, with several different coloured suits for his assistants in space and a giant foe who proved to be more help than hindrance against more hostile aliens.

Of course the toys must have had a large, albeit unsung, cultural influence. They were released around the same time as the original "Star Trek" series and with them popularised the idea of colonization of space by a future collective of humans able to put former nationalistic ideas of Earth to one side. Although these days it will probably feel too much like a throwback, the plot could be a retread of Star Trek only for a much younger audience with elements of John Carter of Mars thrown in for good measure, so it might struggle to build up it's own identity in a crowded genre field. I also suspect the trend for 3D presentations will be well and truly dead by the time the film is made.

Read on for more debunking of the auteur theory, the latest casting gossip and my reaction to the latest group of actors inducted into AMPAS.

Ben Affleck

Currently in pre-production for his CIA mission movie Argo, including chucklesome plans to lock the actors up for a couple of weeks together to give them an idea of what's it's like being in captivity, Affleck has also been named as the go to guy for the American remake of French thriller Tell No One (see poster, left). Going back to Harlen Coben's source novel, itself American, the story focuses on a doctor who begins to suspect his wife is still alive several years after her murder at the hands of a known serial killer. The French version, written and directed by Guillaume Canet, was a huge success in both Europe and the States so any remake will have to work very hard to survive the inevitable comparisons.

Ethan and Joel Coen

At the opening of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center earlier this week the Coen brothers and Noah Baumbach were discussing film openings in front of an invited audience when a small clue about the Coen's next project was revealed, in that it involves music but little playback (the comments were in response to a question about their dislike of the cumbersome process of playback recording). Of course without anything else we're completely in the dark, although it's worth noting earlier this year they said one of their potential projects was a mockumentary - or rather a fake documentary in that it won't be openly comedic. Could that be focused on a musician?

Catherine Hardwicke

I hope she's liking her wounds following my scathing review of Red Riding Hood (unlikely I know, and in the picture on the right she's still smiling so I guess Catherine hadn't heard my views then) and hopefully she's taking my advice about returning to pubescent girls for the subject of her next movie. Regardless of whether she is it's still what she's going to do with the announcement of a Scandinavian set crazy, raw and gritty true story of which more will be announced over the next few weeks (hang on why didn't I wait for that...)

Sean Penn

The only name here is isn't pimping himself out to the highest bidder is actor and sometime director Sean Penn, who doesn't go behind the camera often but when he does it's a fascinating thing. This week we've been asking whether he's going to take on the Art Linson script The Comedian which has already grabbed the attention of Robert De Niro. The project was originally intended for Martin Scorsese but it looks like he's passed leaving Sean Penn free to pick it up, if so this seems like a unlikely but hopefully fruitful combination of talent involved.

David O. Russell

I wish this guy would just make up his mind over what he wants to do. So far this year he's been linked to Cocaine Cowboys, Fighter 2, Joe, Politics and Pasta, Silver linings Playbook (currently in pre-production), Uncharted: Drake's Progress (which he's ruled himself out of) and a Russ Meyer Biopic. Not to mention his Nailed which is languishing in post-production vaults waiting for the money to finish the cut. So imagine my surprise to see two more projects land on his desk including Disney's Cinderella spin-off Maleficent (surely not what someone like Russell should be concentrating on) and The Mission which may be about the rescue of 15 FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, left) hostages in Columbia in 2007 by cross-national agencies working together and certainly will be produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Steven Spielberg

I've been keeping the two I least suspect of making it to multiplexes under the directors I've attached them to until last - it's not just because it's his name last alphabetically - which stems from the difficulties in separating Spielberg the producer from Spielberg the director. Anyway over the last few days there have been stories in connection to Jurassic Park 4 and Transformers 4 both of which could have the beard in control, and both of which would be interesting to see, but I suspect a less-assured name will be found soon to take over both projects.

Casting News

Plenty of exciting stuff going on in the casting couches of Hollywood including Darren Aronofsky courting Christian Bale as the lead in his Noah's Ark picture and the curious news that Annette Bening has signed onto to He Loves Me, the writers block movie from Valarie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directing duo behind Little Miss Sunshine, which explains why she's dropped from Rob Reiner's similarly themed movie. Elesewhere Ed Harris has signed on to World War Z, Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are circling Jason Reitman's Labor Day and John Hurt and Kevin Bacon will be passing through Jayne Mansfield's Car. Finally there's been the surprise sighting of Liam Neeson on the set of Dark Knight Rises in the costume of Ra's Al Ghul, the character he played right up until he drove a train off it's tracks in Batman Begins, so of course the fans on the net have been trying to figure out how that will affect the plot (and how he got out of the predicament). Personally I suspect the truth is less exciting, we already know Josh Pence is playing Ra's in flashbacks, surely it's not to difficult to make the leap to more recent flashbacks with Neeson in the role?

How they know Neeson was in costume confuses me as he wore a variety of clothes in the first film, maybe he's dressed for a fight like in this picture.


Another year and another cohort of inductees find themselves offered membership into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As ever it's a fascinating list that says as much about the Academy as it does about those invited. In terms of the actors (I'll be honest it's the group I'm most interested in) there's been 27 performers who've received invitations, up 7 on last year, with a large number of younger members whose tastes are hopefully more hip and in touch with public tastes than the older conservative members. None of those invited this year have riled me as much as Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen did over the last couple of years, although you do have to question the wisdom of letting Russell Brand and John Corbett identify quality movies. Anyway here is the full list of actors and the films that probably formed part of the reason for their invitation, in order that I think they deserve that honour.

John Hawkes - Winter's Bone; American Gangster; Miracle at St. Anna; Miami Vice; Identity; Perfect Storm; Flesh and Bone

Jesse Eisenberg - Social Network; Cursed; Village; Emperor's Club

Ellen Page - Juno; Inception

Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom; Picnic at Hanging Rock

Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone;

Vincent Cassel - Black Swan; Eastern Promises; Elizabeth; Ocean's Thirteen; Ocean's Twelve; Jefferson in Paris

Anthony Mackie - Hurt Locker; Half Nelson; Million Dollar Baby; She Hate Me; Manchurian Candidate; 8 Mile

Lesley Manville - Vera Drake; Secrets and Lies; Another Year; Christmas Carol; All or Nothing; Topsy-Turvy; High Hopes; Sammy and Rosie Get Laid; Dance with a Stranger

Jennifer Garner - Juno; Catch Me if You Can; Valentine's Day; Deconstructing Harry

Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married; Cinderella Man;

Robbie Coltrane - Mona Lisa; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Ocean's Twelve; World is not Enough; Message in a Bottle; Nuns on the Run; Henry V; Revolution; Loose Connections; Krull; Britannia Hospital; Death Watch

David Duchovny - Chaplin; Full Frontal; Zoolander; Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead; Bad Influence; Working Girl

Gerard Butler - Mrs Brown; Game of Their Lives; Phantom of the Opera; Timeline; Cherry Orchard

Connie Nielsen - Gladiator; Return to Sender; Hunted; Mission to Mars; Devil's Advocate

Wes Studi - Dances with Wolves; Avatar; Heat; Last of the Mohicans; Doors

Dominic Monaghan - Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Two Towers; The Return of the King

Mia Wasikowska - Kids are All Right; Alice in Wonderland; Defiance

Beyonce Knowles - Dreamgirls; Fighting Temptations

Mila Kunis - Black Swan;

Rooney Mara - Social Network;

Natassja Kinski - Inland Empire; One Night Stand; Crystal or Ash, Fire or Wind, As long as it's Love; Revolution; Maria's Lovers; Hotel Blue Hampshire; Unfaithfully Yours; Cat People; One from the Heart; Tess

Tea Leoni - Spanglish; Hollywood Ending; Flirting with Disaster; Wyatt Earp; League of Their Own; Switch

Thomas Jane - Killshot; Mist; Dreamcatcher; Magnolia; Boogie Nights

Peter Dinklage - Death at a Funeral; Find Me Guilty; Station Agent; Human Nature

Bradley Cooper - Valentine's Day; New York I Love You

Russell Brand - Tempest

John Corbett - Raising Helen

The other Academy news story this week was the twist in the number of films the Academy will nominate for best picture this year, it will now be a variable figure between 5 and 10 based on the number of films getting over 5% of the vote for the best films. It's an odd way of doing things, but it sure will make the announcement of the nominations more exciting.

Yes, this man, holding his hand out to the Academy in the dreadful Sex and the City 2 now has more of a say about what the best films of the year are than you do, reader.


TomS said...

Ben, So there is so much to respond to....

Of all of these items, the one that made me most excited was a possible biopic of Russ Meyer... Should be a hoot if it's done carefully. Maybe Drew Carey as Roger Ebert? Amy Winehouse as Erica Gavin??? No clue who should play Meyer himself.....

I look forward to ANYTHING Annette bening wants to do.....

I agree that the idea of "auteur" loses meaning in today's studio system...but then, the French new Wave selected Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks as prime examples of auteurs. They worked at a time when the studio system was most controlling.... Thing was, the studios had some real artists at the helm; today, it's mostly accountants and marketers....Although some "auteurs" can still emerge, like Aranofsky and Malick, for instance...Interesting discussion...

Ben, I understand your thoughts about fresh perspectives from the new AMPAS invitees....but I offer a friendly request: to consider that there are a some "older" viewers out there who form a huge segment of the "public", and I think their tastes do matter...a lot...and are worth "staying in touch" with...if they lack the "hip" factor, they compensate with perspective, and a storehouse of movie knowledge....

What I hope is that a younger membership will eventually wipe out some other Academy its homphobia....

We should get together for a brew (or maybe a mineral water) and discuss these things!!!

Runs Like A Gay said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your comment - I think you're the only person who reads my news posts so it's always a pleasure hearing your thoughts.

I doubt the Russ Meyer biopic will happen, at least not for a few more years and even then I suspect it will go through a number of directors and studios. That said, I love your fantasy casting...

I look forward to Annette Bening in anything but I am glad she's doing a Little Miss Sunshine esque indie rather than a Rob Reiner bathos laden saga.

You make a really good point about Hitchcock and Hawks as auteurs who worked within the studio system, but as you say the studios were run by creatives, or at least commercially focussed business types who believed in their own judgement - you can't imagine David O. Selznick getting too worried about audience opinion prior to release. I would like to point out your modern examples both work primarily outside of the studio system, whereas hacks like Michael Bay, James Mangold and Robert Zemeckis who just seem to throw money at the screen are the ones we need to worry about.

I agree with your comments about an aging Academy being a positive thing, in terms of reflecting national tastes and of having a better background of movie knowledge. I think the Academy are sending a message rather than actually changing the make-up of the members (after all no-one ever leaves once they're a member) to present themselves as being a younger crowd - why else would Russell Brand have been invited?

I'm not sure the Academy is homophobic... What makes you think that it is (right now, rather than 06 March 2006)?

Would love to chat about all this and more... Do you have Skype - we could plan for a call at some point in the future?