TagsAmy Adams Angelina Jolie Anne Hathaway Cameron Diaz Carey Mulligan Daniel Radcliffe Darren Aronofsky David Fincher Dwayne Johnson Edward Norton Elizabeth Banks Emily Blunt Emma Watson Gary Oldman George Clooney Gwyneth Paltrow Jack Black Jake Gyllenhaal James Franco Jason Bateman Jason Segel Jason Sudeikis Jesse Eisenberg John C. Reilly Johnny Depp Joseph Gordon-Levitt Julia Roberts Mark Wahlberg Matt Damon Michael Bay Michelle Williams Mila Kunis Natalie Portman Owen Wilson Paul Rudd Reese Witherspoon Robert De Niro Robert Downey Jr Ryan Gosling Sam Worthington Seth Rogen Steven Soderbergh The Avengers Tom Cruise Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Monthly Archives: April 2012
[Each week, inspired by what's in theaters or in the news or even just by random firings of neurons, "Retro Rental," by film critic James Rocchi, looks at an older film on disc or download that links up to the here-and-now ...]
Promoted, advertised and teased within an inch of its four-colored, high-flying life, ‘The Avengers‘ opens this weekend, and Disney gets to finally bust open the multi-billion-dollar toy chest it bought when it purchased Marvel Comics and play with all the action figures — Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. Putting aside the fact the film feels like a hallucination you would have while locked in a sauna during a house party at Sundance in ’96 — “It was hot, it was loud, very few things made sense, and on occasion I saw Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo …” — it’s also a big step up for writer-director Joss Whedon, who’s given a big budget and big canvas and big characters to play with.
At the same time, though, Whedon has to return all the toys to the box pretty much as he found them so some other kids can play, which kinda limits what he can do; that sense of weird, corporate predetermination is why I found myself re-watching Whedon’s prior feature film, 2005′s ‘Serenity’ and, even in the absence of power armor and divine hammers and emerald forces of pure rage, think it’s a better film than ‘The Avengers,’ even as it’s very similar.
Confronting the press like a well-timed comedy double-act — which, in many ways, they are — director Nicholas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow spoke with MSN Movies (among other reporters) about their new film, “The Five-Year Engagement,” which depicts the loves and challenges of Jason Segel’s Tom and Emily Blunt’s Violet, a couple madly in love but still confronted by very real problems. Director Stoller spent most of last year celebrating the success of “The Muppets,” which he co-wrote with Segel; Apatow, of course, has done more to define comedy on film in the past 10 years than perhaps any other director or producer.
The films made under your name, Mr. Apatow, they’re like these really well-marbled steaks — the fat is the flavor and there’s really no clear place to cut. How hard is it when you’ve got all these talented people, working on this very smart script, given room to play, to make the final assembly cut? How much of that is you in some advisory role going, “No, you have to make it tinier” or “No, no. Leave that in …”?
Apatow: That sounds really good. I want a steak now. I’m always going, “Keep it longer.” I’m the worst person for that. I try to just save a fresh clear head for whoever I’m working with, so hopefully its helpful that there’s someone who doesn’t have to sit in the editing room twelve hours a day and who’s blinded by the massive footage and options that they have. So that when Nick is happy with a cut, and I see it at the previews, I’ve just been at the tanning salon all day, fresh as a daisy.
Stoller: He’s very tan when he comes to the first take.
The indie film “Sound of My Voice” is both striking and contradictory: Stuffed full of ideas and twists and turns, it also plays a little thin and fragile, more like a haiku than a novel. Starring and co-written by Brit Marling (“Another Earth“), the film begins (and it’s not giving away too much to say this, as the film’s first 12 minutes are online as a kind of mega-trailer) as a young couple are finally being initiated to the inner circle of the cult they’ve joined. They’re taken from one unknown place to another in a series of cars to maintain secrecy, through the cul-de-sac anonymity of San Fernando Valley suburban homes. There, they are asked to clean and scour themselves raw before they finally meet the cult’s leader, Maggie (Marling). Maggie has a message of sacrifice and struggle, and warns of hard times to come. This isn’t prophecy, for Maggie, but rather memory. Maggie’s most outrageous claim, made matter-of-factly, is that she’s been sent from 2054 to warn anyone brave enough to listen about the collapse soon to come …
Brought to the screen by Aardman Animation, the British stop-motion maestros behind “Wallace & Gromit” and “Chicken Run,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a busy, buzzy bit of fun, loaded with sight gags and wordplay and silly surrealism in lovely 3-D. It also has likable characters, no matter how piratical, and the wide-eyed Aardman style — chaos composed out of meticulous order, frame by frame — is always welcome to see. To be honest, I’m not sure if kids will follow the intricacies of the plot of “The Pirates!” — there’s Charles Darwin in the mix, as well as Queen Victoria, with plenty of plot convolutions and exposition along the way — but, frankly, as the creators of the film didn’t seem to worry too much about that, I’m not going to, either. And there’s plenty of quick, silly slapstick, along with goofy non sequiturs, crammed in the spaces between the story beats to keep anyone amused.
Ushered — no pun intended — into a hotel room to meet John Cusack to talk about his work playing Edgar Allan Poe in the thriller “The Raven,” the actor’s scribbling a list, frantically; music inspired by Poe, for a promotional bit of business. The Chicago-born actor may be aging — as are we all — but the familiar mannerisms from a career stretching back to the 80′s are there: The hesitancy, the hand-thru-the-hair, the muted explosions of real enthusiasm. We spoke with Cusack in L.A. about playing Poe, why he so often plays writers, and his view of the late author as ‘a badass …’
MSN Movies: When you find out you’re going to be playing Poe, to what degree do you roll up your puffy sleeves and just dive into the life and work?
John Cusack: Right away.
There’s stuff we think we know, and then actually learning more about it. What were you most surprised to learn?
Well, I think, what I hope everybody does is maybe takes the time just to read him again. When you read him again, you see how prescient he was, how many genres he invented, how many styles he was capable of. You see him as a satirist, someone who’s taken the ludicrous and heightened it to grotesque. You see him as a first person narrative, as a precursor to Truman Capote and Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer, all these writers who write for themselves. You see so much there when you read him again. I think because he’s iconic, he somehow becomes two-dimensional over time. When you reread him, you see, “My God, he started all this stuff. He started everything.”
Promoting his work in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation “The Lucky One,” actor Zac Efron laughs easily — and mostly at himself. Best-known for leading Disney’s “High School Musical” through three profitable films, the young actor’s also trying real parts in films like the criminally under-seen “Me and Orson Welles,” or trying to mesh with ensembles, as in “Hairspray.” The film sees Efron play an ex-Marine, searching for a woman whose photo he found in Iraq, even as it saved his life. From the best-selling author of “The Notebook,” it’s a romance that sees Efron find Taylor Schilling, the girl in the photo, and tenderly and tentatively romance before they both get doused with water and make sweet, PG-13 love, Sparks-style. MSN was part of a group of reporters who spoke to Efron about his experiences making “The Lucky One.”
On the difference between reading big, romantic moments in a script and watching them play out-screen.
Zac Efron: There’s a cynical part of you. The red flags go off with just a couple of lines, for me, anyway. But then I think back to moments when I’ve been in, you know, and I’ve said things way crazier than that. It’s all relative. There was a little bit of shiver when I realized I was going to do that on camera, but I think a little bit of pride too you know?
On if he became attached to the dog-actor who plays his companion Zeus:
We went through so much, me and Rowdy. The first time I met him I wasn’t even really allowed to engage it, because the dog loses respect for you. We had this like rollercoaster relationship. We went from virtually me paying no attention to him, to him being interested. Finally I was able to sort of engage him, and we became best friends. We had a great working relationship, best actor on the set, super talented. Yeah — I became very attached to the dog.
With her silver hair and elegant air, Blythe Danner sailed into the room to speak with the press about “The Lucky One,” where she plays Taylor Schilling’s grandmother, giving appropriate nudges and welcome comic relief to kickstart Schilling’s romance with ex-marine Zac Efron. Danner may be best known as Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, but Danner’s career has lasted over 50 years, with her first on-screen role in 1968. Danner shared her thoughts on a number of topics with a number of reporters.
On playing a grandmother and being a grandmother:
I’m not quite as wise and judicious in my input. I try to just be there if needed. As a grandmother I’m very goofy. I’m silly. I just love to spoil them, and I love to get down on the ground. They’re very wise. They are. I learn a lot from them, just as I have from my children.
On fitting in as part of an ensemble:
I’ve always thought of every piece I do as a musical piece and what instrument am I. I was thinking “Am I the piccolo, or am I the cello?” Definitely. I love doing that kind of role. It’s back up with some (characters). She’s very solid. I love that too. I love the fact that she is the strong one helping, guiding silently.
The horror-comedy of the year — indeed, of years — “The Cabin in the Woods” begins as five college friends take off for the title structure — and as two mystery men, clad in shirts and ties, watch them as part of a broader mystery. The kids are a who’s who of fresh faces and familiar names — Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchinson and Jesse Williams. The men watching them are led by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. To say too much more would betray the film’s fun, of course, but this interview should be general enough as director and co-writer Drew Goddard talked about making the film, the challenges of marketing a surprise, and what scares him …
MSN Movies: How important was it casting the five young people?
Drew Goddard: Crucial. I mean, it was everything.
And you hired Ms. Connolly first, right?
I feel like we may have known Fran first, because he’d been on “Dollhouse,” so I think he was the first piece of the puzzle. Then Ms. Connolly was next, because we had to watch the two of them play off of each other. We did, and it was very exciting to see:”Oh, okay, you get those two together, and fireworks.”
And you had fake sides (script pages) for auditioning actors?
Starting as five college students head to a, yes, cabin in the woods. a journey intercut with clean-cut technicians working hard on … something … that clearly figures into the five’s getaway, “Cabin in the Woods” shouldn’t, and can’t, be explained much more than that. co-written by Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard, it’s a crazy-fun carnival of smart, silly and surprising scares. The film’s fun turns make for a cagey interview — talking with co-stars Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, who play two of those clean-cut technicians behind the scenes, felt almost more like a debriefing than an interview at SXSW last month. You know Whitford best from snappy Aaron Sorkin projects like “The West Wing” and “Studio 60″; Jenkins, Oscar-nominated for “The Visitor,” has also lent his presence to films from ‘Step Brothers” to “Let Me In.” The two actors and gentlemen were good enough to not spill any secrets as they talked about working on the film, how they got roped into its bizarre vision and their favorite horror films.
Was finding this film a circumstance where somebody sent you the script, and you read through it, and discovered its delights page by page? Or did somebody drunkenly or caffeinatedly sit down with you and go, “Alright, there are these kids…?” Was it reading it page by page or was there more a narrative approach?
Bradley Whitford: It was reading it page by page. It was as fully realized as a script could be, and it was clearly the sort of unpasturized vision of a couple of lunatics, which is so rare to read a script that hasn’t been storyboarded into submission. It was a very fresh script to read. Pitching, I don’t understand pitching. If somebody came to me and said, “We should to a TV show about people who work in the White House,” you got to read the script. The idea isn’t enough.