I got more enjoyment out of David Letterman‘s Elizabeth Taylor jokes during Harrison Ford‘s 7.21 visit than I did from any one moment in Cowboys & Aliens (Universal, 7.29). I’m just being honest. Letterman told the joke twice and it worked both times. Jon Favreau and DreamWorks and Imagine and a platoon of screenwriters and the Universal guys invested a couple of years and $100 million to make this thing, and what did they make? Basically a big, noisy, ComicCon alien-invasion film with an agreeable sprinkling of old-west characters and atmosphere.
Yes, a lot of writers were thrown at Steve Oedeker‘s original screenplay — Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby — and yes, some mildly interesting Old West elements with decent flavoring came out of this process. But the writing overall is still on the crude and primitive side and just okay, and the fundamental delivery is mainly about thump-wham-whoosh-rumble-boom. Orci was quoted a while back as saying the film is “Unforgiven with an alien invasion.” The man is kidding himself.
I’m glad an effort was made to westernize and humanize the film as much as possible in order to keep it from being Wild Wild West. It would been unbearable without this, but it’s still a movie for 13 year olds. It’s blunt, schematic and bludgeoning. And it resorts to familiar moves every step of the way. The punches, shootings and explosions are relentless, and the punches all sound like trucks slamming into a mountain of wrestling mats at 70 mph. And the movie is way, way over-produced.
SPOILER: There’s a bizarre shot at the end of the grand, overbaked finale that was obviously inspired by a certain real-lfe event that happened 25 years ago. Favreau and his team can’t deny this.
There’s a fascist tyranny to ComicCon movies that dictates that the same visual and aural elements and same bullshit cliches be used time and again to the point of punishment. It’s the same light-brown crap over and over and over, and it’s hell to sit through. (Tell me I’m wrong, Drew McWeeny.) This is why ComicCon movies are truly evil and poisonous, and why Favreau and other geek-friendly directors need to severely dealt with. I’m serious. These movies are cancer.
There’s a scene in which a creepy alien sound is coming from outside in the dark, and a lovable dog goes to see what’s up and three seconds after he disappears from sight he YELPS and CRIES. But later on he’s fine. Favreau gets ten demerits for the yelping and 25 if not 30 demerits for letting the dog live. I realize that you’re not supposed to kill dogs in movies, but…God, I hate what Favreau has turned into. All through Cowboys & Aliens you’re begging him not to follow the handbook. You’re moaning “please, please don’t do what I think you’re going to do”…and then he does it anyway. And then he attends a premiere and tells a red-carpet CNN interviewer that “this is why I really love directing.”
Is it possible to watch a ComicCon movie in which a character is not blown backwards from a super-hard punch or some kind of explosive impact? Or is it written into every contract for every ComicCon movie that this kind of thing has to be seen at least once?
And I’m getting really sick of the numbingly repetitious design of aliens in these films. The Cowboys & Aliens aliens are a blend of Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger‘s Alien monster and the big gurgly green guy in Super 8. They have slimy gloopy muck dripping out of their mouths and a gloopy slimy three-fingered hand appendage that pushes out from inside a mucky chest cavity, and that’s very boring.
The Cowboys & Aliens model & effects guys were apparently interested in creating a new kind of monster…but not really. They were obviously terrified of being too original so they borrowed from all the other life forms they’ve seen in other alien movies. How can they live with themselves? Do they honestly expect people like me to go, “Wow, cool”? You know what would be cool at this stage? Hiring seven-foot-tall guys in Martian suits with zippers up the back of their outfits to run around with ray guns and go “aaaah!”
All alien movies are designed by the same community of Hollywood craftsmen, and they all make monsters with the same digital gurgly sound. They all know each other and put their kids in the same schools, and they all copy each other. It’s the same syndrome you get with hillbillies marrying their siblings and cousins and their kids turning out deformed.
So the Ides of March poster is a wide-angle thing with the left and right versions all hazy and out-of-focus? That’s not right. One-sheets have to conform to the usual 27″ x 41″ aspect ratio, or a single, stand-up, vertical-favoring image. George Clooney ‘s political drama plays at the Venice Film Festival on 8.31 and opens on 10.14.
I’ve been figuring all along that Jason Reitman‘s Young Adult would play Telluride-Toronto, just like Reitman’s Juno and Up In The Air did. But tonight Deadline‘s Pete Hammond reported that he’s “confirmed” that’s Young Adult “won’t be riding the fest circuit.”
Charlize Theron, star of the gun-shy Young Adult.
That sounds rather odd. The word on Young Adult, which is based on an obliquely autobiographical script by Diablo Cody, is that it’s tough but strong with Charlize Theron playing a somewhat abrasive, emotionally unstable writer. ESPN’s Bill Simmons saw Young Adult a while back and called it “tremendous.” But the Paramount team has obviously thought things over and decided there might be a potential downside to Tellluride-Toronto unveilings. Do the math.
The Wiki synopsis says Theron “plays Mavis Gary, a writer of teen literature who returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days and attempt to reclaim her happily married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). When returning home proves more difficult than she thought, Mavis forms an unusual bond with a former classmate (Patton Oswalt) who hasn’t quite gotten over high school either.”
Here’s the teaser for Cameron Crowe‘s Pearl Jam 20, presumably a hagiography kiss-ass doc about Pearl Jam‘s history and legacy. It’ll play at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival…I know that much. With an avalanche of award-calibre films playing TIFF, this is the kind of thing you see if you can fit it in…maybe. But preferably before or after the festival.
Pic will reportedly “open” on 9.20.11 “in select theaters for one night only in celebration of Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary with full run beginning on 9.23 in key markets,” blah blah.
I realize that the idea of Geoffrey Rush playing Rupert Murdoch in the inevitable phone-hacking-scandal movie (however and whenever it gets made) has been kicked around on this and that site. How could there be any choice but Rush? The face, voice, scrappy Australian accent, the right age, etc. It could be Rush’s signature role a la George C. Scott-as-General Patton.
“Gentlemen, you have just seen me do a disgusting thing…but you’ll always remember what I just did. If no one remembers your brand, you’re not going to sell any soap.” I’ve seen The Hucksters exactly once, and honestly? I don’t remember a thing about the plot or any lines spoken by Clark Gable or Deborah Kerr or Ava Gardner…nothing. But I’ve never forgotten that glob of spit.
This Steve Carell “Funny or Die” bit isn’t that far off the mark. It’s well known in Hollywood circles (and I’ve said it more than once in this column) that movie stars frequently have disproportionately large heads.
“I’ve spoken to a fair number of big-name actors and can testify that this is frequently the case,” I wrote four years ago. “Mel Gibson has a big head; ditto Kirk Douglas and Kevin Costner. (I once wrote that Costner ‘has a head the size of a bison’s.’) Warren Beatty has a fairly sizable head. So do Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Clive Owen . I don’t recall Tom Cruise‘s head being all large, however.
“There’s obviously something about having a big head that gives a person presence, power…a sense of dominance. Full disclosure: I have a big head myself.
“Big movie-star heads are a very consistent visual factor in day-to-day Hollywood life, and yet people who don’t mix it up with talent would never, ever learn of this from mainstream interviewers and columnists. I’m just saying.”
I’m presuming that the new one-sheet for Our Idiot Brother (Weinstein Co., 8.26) has intentionally downsized Paul Rudd so he looks like a ten-year-old? I’m questioning the Photoshopping because Rudd doesn’t seem to be that much smaller — just somewhat. (Elizabeth Banks is Amazon-sized compared to him.) It’s a moderately clever idea but the Weinstein marketers should have made him the size of a five-year-old and removed all ambiguity.
The most conspicuous absences among the 2011 Toronto Film Festival’s just-announced gala and special presentation slate are Tomas Alfredson‘s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Roman Polanski‘s Carnage. Both are set to play at the partially overlapping Venice Film Festival. Deadline‘s Mike Fleming has heard Tinker may be the opening-night debut at the subsequent New York Film Festival, which would explain that particular situation. Hey, Scott and Todd…any truth to that?
More TIFF titles and programs are set to be announced so this is just the opening salvo. (I’m presuming that Martin Scorsese‘s 208-minute George Harrison doc will be announced down the path; ditto Ami Canaan Mann‘s Texas Killing Fields.) This is going to be a very high-throttle, heavy-star-wattage, Oscar-launchy festival. Here, alphabetically, are most of them:
Galas: Albert Nobbs (d: Rodrigo Garcia, w/ Glenn Close); Butter (d: Jim Field Smith, w/Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Ty Burrell); A Dangerous Method (d: David Cronenberg); The Ides of March (d: George Clooney); The Lady (d: Luc Besson); Moneyball (d: Bennett Miller); Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding (d: Bruce Beresford, w/ Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener, Chace Crawford, Elizabeth Olsen); Take this Waltz (d: Sarah Polley); W.E. (d: Madonna).
Special Presentations, Part 1: 50/50 (d: Jonathan Levine); 360 (d: Fernando Meirelles, w/ Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster); The Artist (d: Michel Hazanavicius); Americano (d: Mathieu Demy); Anonymous (d: Roland Emmerich); A Better Life (d: Cedric Khan); Burning Man (d: Jonathan Teplitzky); Chicken with Plums (d: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud); Coriolanus (d: Ralph Fiennes); Dark Horse (d: Todd Solondz….another dysfunctional weirdo piece?); The Deep Blue Sea (d: Terence Davies)
Special Presentations, Part 2: The Descendants (d: Alexander Payne); Drive (d: Nicolas Winding Refn); Elles (d: Malgoska Szumowska); The Eye of the Storm (d: Fred Schepisi w/ Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling); Friends With Kids (d: Jennifer Westfeldt, w/ Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Edward Burns); Habemus Papam (d: Nanni Moretti); Hick (d: Derick Martini, w/ Blake Lively, Chloe Moretz, Alec Baldwin, Juliette Lewis); The Hunter (d: Daniel Nettheim); Jeff, Who Lives at Home (d: Jay & Mark Duplass); Killer Joe (d: William Friedkin); Like Crazy (d: Drake Doremus).
Special Presentations, Part 3: Machine Gun Preacher (d: Marc Forster); Melancholia (d: Lars von Trier); The Oranges (d: Julian Farino); Pearl Jam Twenty (d: Cameron Crowe); Rampart (d: Oren Moverman, w/ Woody Harrelson, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube, etc.); Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (d: Lasse Hallstrom); Shame (d: Steve McQueen, w/ Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan); A Simple Life (d: Ann Hui); The Skin I Live In (d: Pedro Almodovar); Take Shelter (d: Jeff Nichols); Ten Year (d: Jamie Linden, w/ Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Kate Mara, etc.); Trishna (d: Michael Winterbottom, w/ Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed — an Indian Tess of the d?Urbervilles); Twixt (d: Francis Ford Coppola); Tyrannosaur (d: Paddy Considine); We Need to Talk About Kevin (d: Lynne Ramsay w/ Tilda Swinton); Woman in the Fifth (d: Pawel Pawlikowski w/ Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas).