Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Fountain Will Live Forever

The Fountain has managed to polarize viewers to a degree which few films are able to equal. Audiences either think Darren Arofonsky's latest film is the most disappointing crap they've ever seen, or the most brilliant piece of filmmaking in years. This critic is among the latter.

The story spans a thousand years of human past, present, and future. Five hundred years before the present day, the Queen of Spain sends a devoted conquistador to find the Fountain of Youth. In the present day, a woman dying of a brain tumor works on finishing her novel, The Fountain, while attempting to spend her final days in the company of a husband determined to save her life at any cost. Five hundred years in the future, a man travels alone through space in a transparent sphere while haunted by ghost images of a woman. All three men are portrayed by Hugh Jackman and all three women are portrayed by Rachel Weisz. Determing which of the three stories are 'real' and which are 'fantasy' depends on a personal interpretation of the film but ultimately matters very little. The film is concerned more with the lessons Hugh Jackman's character(s) learn about the mutual inclusivity of love and loss, of life and death. The film's tagline asks, "What if you could live forever?" The film answers the more important question, "Would that be enough?"

It's a story told brilliantly by Aronofsky who has been trying to get this project made for some time. Originally actors Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were attached to the lead roles but left due to creative differences and scheduling conflicts. While I would have been interested to see Pitt in a role like this, I'm grateful for the opportunity to see Hugh Jackman make the character his own. Aronofsky raises the bar of film direction here as well. Because he wanted to maintain the timelessness of The Fountain, Aronofsky avoided using CGI for all the special effects shots, and instead utilized a process involving "microphotography," a technique using little more than chemicals and some petri-dishes. I'm not really sure how he did it, but he made some of the most elegantly stunning effects I've seen on screen.

The Fountain is not for everyone. The nonlinear narrative can be quite confusing and tends to shy away from force-feeding the audience answers to the questions it poses. No one should go into the film with any assumptions that (s)he'll love it just because it's a Darren Aronofsky film. You will love it or you will hate it, but moviegoers should take the risk, because no matter where they might end up, there's no argument that The Fountain goes places other films rarely go.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Peter Jackson's Hobbit film is dead....

Found this on

Dear One Ringers,

As you know, there's been a lot of speculation about The Hobbit. We are often asked about when or if this film will ever be made. We have always responded that we would be very interested in making the film - if it were offered to us to make.

You may also be aware that Wingnut Films has bought a lawsuit against New Line, which resulted from an audit we undertook on part of the income of The Fellowship of the Ring. Our attitude with the lawsuit has always been that since it's largely based on differences of opinion about certain accounting practices, we would like an independent body - whether it be a judge, a jury, or a mediator, to look at the issues and make an unbiased ruling. We are happy to accept whatever that ruling is. In our minds, it's not much more complex than that and that's exactly why film contracts include right-to-audit clauses.

However, we have always said that we do not want to discuss The Hobbit with New Line until the lawsuit over New Line's accounting practices is resolved. This is simple common sense - you cannot be in a relationship with a film studio, making a complex, expensive movie and dealing with all the pressures and responsibilities that come with the job, while an unresolved lawsuit exists.

We have also said that we do not want to tie settlement of the lawsuit to making a film of The Hobbit. In other words, we would have to agree to make The Hobbit as a condition of New Line settling our lawsuit. In our minds this is not the right reason to make a film and if a film of The Hobbit went ahead on this basis, it would be doomed. Deciding to make a movie should come from the heart - it's not a matter of business convenience. When you agree to make a film, you're taking on a massive commitment and you need to be driven by an absolute passion to want to get the story on screen. It's that passion, and passion alone, that gives the movie its imagination and heart. To us it is not a cold-blooded business decision.

A couple of months ago there was a flurry of Hobbit news in the media. MGM, who own a portion of the film rights in The Hobbit, publicly stated they wanted to make the film with us. It was a little weird at the time because nobody from New Line had ever spoken to us about making a film of The Hobbit and the media had some fun with that. Within a week or two of those stories, our Manager Ken Kamins got a call from the co-president of New Line Cinema, Michael Lynne, who in essence told Ken that the way to settle the lawsuit was to get a commitment from us to make the Hobbit, because "that's how these things are done". Michael Lynne said we would stand to make much more money if we tied the lawsuit and the movie deal together and this may well be true, but it's still the worst reason in the world to agree to make a film.

Several years ago, Mark Ordesky told us that New Line have rights to make not just The Hobbit but a second "LOTR prequel", covering the events leading up to those depicted in LOTR. Since then, we've always assumed that we would be asked to make The Hobbit and possibly this second film, back to back, as we did the original movies. We assumed that our lawsuit with the studio would come to a natural conclusion and we would then be free to discuss our ideas with the studio, get excited and jump on board. We've assumed that we would possibly get started on development and design next year, whilst filming The Lovely Bones. We even had a meeting planned with MGM executives to talk through our schedule.

However last week, Mark Ordesky called Ken and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on the Hobbit and the LOTR 'prequel'. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects.

Ordesky said that New Line has a limited time option on the film rights they have obtained from Saul Zaentz (this has never been conveyed to us before), and because we won't discuss making the movies until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director.

Given that New Line are committed to this course of action, we felt at the very least, we owed you, the fans, a straightforward account of events as they have unfolded for us.

We have always had the greatest support from The Ringers and we are very sorry our involvement with The Hobbit has been ended in this way. Our journey into Tolkien's world started with a phone call from Ken Kamins to Harvey Weinstein in Nov 1995 and ended with a phone call from Mark Ordesky to Ken in Nov 2006. It has been a great 11 years.

This outcome is not what we anticipated or wanted, but neither do we see any positive value in bitterness and rancor. We now have no choice but to let the idea of a film of The Hobbit go and move forward with other projects.

We send our very best wishes to whomever has the privilege of making The Hobbit and look forward to seeing the film on the big screen.

Warmest regards to you all, and thanks for your incredible support over the years.

We got to go there - but not back again ...

Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh

This is sad news. Sad, because it not only means there will not be another Jackson-directed Tolkien epic on the big screen, but also because it means there is a great chance some hack could very well be hired to make the film. The movies worked so well I think because Peter Jackson loved the books. While the movies - even in their extended forms - were unable to cram all of the events from the novels, they definitely had the heart, and it's a shame that a potential product of great passion has been ended by cold business dealings and Hollywood politics.

Still, I have to respect the tenor of Jackson & Walsh's letter, which was the classiest way to deliver heart-breaking news if there ever was one. I guess we will have to wait for The Lovely Bones and move on with our lives.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Trailer Trash

I was surprised by Sony Pictures' recent attempt to suppress the "leaked" footage of Venom from the unfinished Spiderman 3 trailer. Why? Because I thought it was a hoax. Co-host Mike was the first to catch on to this.

If you saw the trailer before it was removed, then you might remember that most of the Special effects were unfinished. And when I say most, I mean all of them except for the scenes with Venom.

When trailers are made, the footage used is selected far in advance, giving the filmmakers time to finish all the effects that will go out with the trailer. After all, no one wants audiences to think that their movie has crappy FX because everything in their advertising materials is unfinished. If the Venom footage was not a part of the game plan for this second Trailer, why was it rendered to theatrical quality? You would think they would have held off making the clip in lieu of scenes that actually DID make the cut - especially from a production standpoint. Mark my words (and by my I mean Mike's originally), several years from now, this little episode will be outed as a marketing hoax engineered by some brilliant 'new media' ad man. The old saying goes, 'How do you make people want something? By telling them they can't have it.' You can find the video online if you look hard enough. It's viral now - just as the filmmakers most likely intended for it to be. Well played, Sony.

And while we are on the subject of trailers, watch The Simpsons Movie trailer below if you haven't seen it already.

What did you think? Well, I will tell you what I think, I think it wasn't a trailer. I think my interest in this film has suffered because Fox had advertised, and quite extensively so, that the clip was a trailer, when in fact it was just another teaser. The 'trailer' has no hint as to what the film is about, and more than half of it consists of fake footage (and a much-needed jab at the CGI talking animal cartoons of late). All of this is fine and dandy - if Groening and Co. wants to keep a tight lid on the film's plot, fine; if there is in fact no plot for the film whatsoever and the entire project is just an excuse to milk some big screen money from a 17 year-old franchise, that doesn't bother me too much either (so long as the end result is funny); but please don't show me repeated commercials for several weeks in advance that promise the premiere of a trailer only to dump a big, wet second teaser in my lap. It's very disappointing, the exact opposite of what anyone should want the trailer for a tent pole summer film to be.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A director's cut of Thursday's Spiderman 3 trailer.

This trailer is pretty much everything you got to see on TV and the internet. The only difference is the appearance of a highly anticipated villain at the very end.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Babel Provokes Your Thoughts

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is my favorite working director today. I've now seen all of his work, and I formulated this opinion after seeing 21 Grams, one of my all time favorite films. So now that you know the bias this review might be written with- I beg you, continue reading, I'm not going to praise it JUST for Inarritu.

Babel is probably one of the most important films I've ever seen. Following the lives of several different individuals, all of different nationalities, the audience learns that coincidence may not always be as random as we assume. Following the route of a single rifle, the story tells the consequences of the language barrier- and it's ultimate message- to listen, is delivered in one of the most powerful trips to the cinema you're likely to have any time soon.

Following the same editing structure as 21 Grams, Inarritu starts his film out of sequence, making a puzzle of a film that his audience may piece together as the story progresses. Most of the time, I find this technique annoying and unnecessary, but Inarritu in all of his films, makes a pretty mesmerizing piece of work out of it. As the film progresses the individual stories start to fall into sequence. I would have enjoyed the film either way, but I assumed that since so much was going on in the story itself, Inarritu felt that he would help the audience out with the progressions just a little bit.

Atop the exceptional writing and directing, Babel will give you some of the best acting you'll ever see. Every actor on screen holds their own and has their individual moments to shine. Most people will probably go see this for Brad Pitt, and I'm not going to say that's wrong. This is easily one of his best roles, alongside 12 Monkeys and Fight Club. Gael Garcia Bernal also gives a pretty memorable performance- but so does Cate Blanchett, and each foreign actor that Inarritu has cast.

As far as the comparisons to Crash are concerned- they are angering me. Crash was overrated. This is not. Not to say that I didn't like Crash, but I certainly didn't find it to be the ground breaking, eye opening film that it seems many people did. I find Babel ground breaking and eye opening in all the ways that Crash wanted to be. Babel is one of the best films of the year, and I enjoyed it immensely. I hope that you do too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Optimus Prime talks to the Movie Show

Your favorite geektards interviewed Peter Cullen Thursday.
Cullen provided the voice for Optimus Prime in the Transformers cartoon as well as in the forthcoming live-action film.
CLICK HERE! for high quality MP3.
CLICK HERE! for standard quality MP3.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tom Cruise Catches A Break

When Tom Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner were shunned by their home of 14 years- Paramount Pictures over the summer (along with just about every one else in the industry,) the notion of the two ever working again seemed far fetched. (Afterall, Mission:Impossible 3 only made some 150+ million dollars thanks to Cruise's controversial antics in the public eye previous to it's release.... please.)

Anyway- Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner have found a new company to produce films for- one in which, they will also run. United Artists, which was founded by Hollywood stars, the likes of whom included on Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, has been put in the hands of the producing pair who are responsible for such films as the Mission:Impossible franchise, Shattered Glass, Without Limits, among others.

No dollar amounts have been announced, but I'm sure Cruise and Wagner were greatful just to find some support- and then some. United Artists has a rather distinguished reputation which I hope Cruise won't do anything to tarnish. I hope he sees this opprotunity as a second chance in the realms of celebrity and maybe he will bring us some more Top Gun and Jerry Maguire. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Benicio Del Toro and Steven Soderbergh will probably make a good movie... or 2...

If you were a fan of 2003's The Motorcycle Diaries- a film which chronicled the formative years of Latin American activist Che Guevara, then brace your self for some pretty promising news. Damn near flawless director Steven Soderbergh and the equally flawless thespian Benicio Del Toro have finally gotten their dream collaberation into production: a two-film telling of Guevara's uprising, influence, and execution. The first film entitled "The Argentine" will focus on Guevara's arrival on the Cuban shore along side other exiles led by Fidel Castro; whereas the next film "Guerilla" will focus on his speaking to the United Nations and his final years in South America. The two films are set to be filmed back to back beginning next Spring. Soderbergh and Del Toro have been planning the project since the two first collaborated back in 2000 for the acclaimed hit Traffic. With Steven Soderbergh at the helm, and Benicio Del Toro starring, I really don't see how this film could be any thing but stellar. Anticipate it along with me.

Steven Soderbergh's next film is set for release this holiday season- The Good German stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, and none other than Beau Bridges.

Benicio Del Toro can next be seen along side Halle Berry in the drama Things We Lost in the Fire.