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News and Views

Sidney Lumet has died

Filmmaking titan Sidley Lumet passed away yesterday from lymphoma at the age of 84.  With a career spanning half a century behind the camera, Lumet boasted one of the greatest filmographies of any contemporary director.  45 features in total, accompanied by a whopping 46 Oscar nominations and six wins.  His films include 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Fail Safe, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict, among many others.  He was making films all the way to the dawn of his ninth decade, directing Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead at age 80.

He was a powerful presence in cinema, helping to promote a more naturalistic style of acting and crafting indelible portraits of beleaguered modern men.  The world of movies just lost a great one.


So ‘Captain America’ looks pretty awful

In what seems to be little more than a high-budget jingoist advertisement for steroids, Paramount’s upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger has a shiny new trailer.  Predictably, the film looks to have great visual effects, wooden acting, and a shamelessly one-dimensional perspective regarding the role of its superhero protagonist.  The digital matching of star Chirs Evans’ head with a different, scrawnier body might have been impressive five years ago, before David Fincher’s doubling of Armie Hammer in The Social Network raised the bar for that kind of effect.  I’m intrigued by the inclusion of Red Skull (one of Marvel’s best baddies) and the cool post-Steam Punk aesthetic of the Nazi war machine, but this trailer fails to provide any hope of the project being more than summer earnings filler.

It doesn’t help that Captain America is one of the most boring comic heroes in existence, and while his unilateral “America-Fuck Yeah!” gallantry might have garnered more sympathy in the years immediately following 9/11, the American worldview has significantly greyed since then, and I mean that mostly in a good way.  I don’t see much of a place for Captain America in today’s world situation, especially if there’s no apparent effort to provide the character with any kind of moral shading.

Anyway, check out the trailer and see what you think.

A promise of more Batman films

Newly minted Warner Bros. film president Jeff Robinov has big plans for his studio, and those plans apparently include keeping the Batman gravy train running after Christopher Nolan leaves the director’s chair.  Says Robinov:

“We have the third Batman, but then we’ll have to reinvent Batman…Chris Nolan and [his producing partner] Emma Thomas will be producing it, so it will be a conversation with them about what the next phase is.”

So you’re going to talk to the guy who reinvented the Batman franchise by providing his own personal vision for the character and hid world about….talking to some other guy about about how to reinvent the whole thing again.  Something tells me Nolan will not have a great deal of interest in that.  Even if he is indeed planning on producing future Batman films, it seems to me that he’ll also want to pursue other directorial projects and give them the whole of his creative attention.  Right now, he’s probably just lending his name to a hungry new exec who’s hoping to keeps the wheels turning on his studio’s biggest moneymaker.

But this thing is a moneymaker for a reason…because the films are good.  Really good.  And despite all the superhero hoopla, it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of superhero films are, well, not good.  So I guess we can took forward to a “reinvented” Batman series telling the same story Nolan is so effectively telling.  Just, you know, not as well.  Exciting.

The new ‘Super 8’ trailer!

The first full theatrical trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 has arrived, and consider my interest in this film increased about 1,000%.  The original teaser hinted at not much more than a 50’s-style monster flick, but it now looks like Abrams is after something much greater.  The Spielberg thumbprint is all over this trailer, and I don’t think Abrams would be insulted by someone pointing that out, seeing as he’s always referenced Ole’ Steve as one of his biggest aesthetic influences.  The influence worked wonders for the Star Trek franchise.

Color me very, very excited for this one.

Universal has killed the next Guillermo del Toro film

Marking another sunken directorial effort for Guillermo del Toro, Universal has pulled the plug on his planned adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic novel At The Mountains of Madness.  Not even del Toro is sure exactly why the studio backed out, but his (righteous) insistence on the film having an ‘R’ rating probably has something to do with, especially with its large proposed price tag and the source material’s relative obscurity among the modern moviegoing public.  Still, it would have been awesome to see a del Toro rendering of the half-insane story of South Pole expiditioners awakening ancient alien gods from inside a snow mountain.

First his Hobbit project sinks before eventually being ressurected by Peter Jackson, now his fantasy/horror project supposedly backed by producer James Cameron bites the dust.  This time last year everyone was talking about the incredible slate the director had planned that would seemingly last him until sometime around the dawn of the next century.  Now his projects can’t last past the incubator.  Well, now he’s embarking on Pacific Rim, a big monster flick backed by Legendary Pictures, and I certainly hope this one pans out for him.  Hollywood could always use a little more Guillermo del Toro.

The first 3-D ‘Star Wars’ film to release in 2012

At this point (or more likely a point long ago), you’ve got to believe that George Lucas enjoys pissing on the faces of the throngs of fans who made him one of the richest men in the country.  The Star Wars saga is indeed getting a 3-D makeover, and as announced over the Fall, the films will be released in “chronological order.”  Not meaning in the order of their release into theaters, which is what everyone was hoping for, but in accordance with their place in the timeline of the story.  Meaning that, yes, our first look at a third-dimensionized Star Wars will be of Jar-Jar Binks spouting pidgin and falling over things in The Phantom Menace.  I can’t wait.

It’s now been announced that the first release will come on February 10, 2012.  And Lucas’ brilliant “order of reverse interest” release plan will see one film put into 3-D each year, meaning we won’t get to see The Empire Strikes Back until some time in 2016.  The guy still has that marketing panache.  Use a transfer into a new dimension to remind why we all came to hate you, then use the same transfer after that to remind us that, a long time ago, you could ask us to buy $30 plush Ewok ashtrays and we’d  wait in line seven hours to get one.

‘The Great Gatsby’ will be in 3-D

In a development that sent pangs of dread through at least one cinephile, it’s been announced that Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby will be rendered in 3-D.  What good this will serve the project is beyond my mental reach at this point, but even my cynicism wont allow to believe this was studio mandated.  I have to believe that Luhrmann himself made this call, which only feeds my fear that the man’s playful yet occasionally distracting stylistic aesthetics might not be best suited to adapting one of the most somber and lonely novels in American history.  He can be a wizard with a camera, but too often he just can’t help himself.

The presence of Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, though, keeps me optimistic.  There simply is no other A-Lister as consistent with his project choices, and he has shown a tendency toward singular filmmakers completely in charge of their material.  Hopefully he saw that in Luhrmann and in the script.  Otherwise, what many consider to be The Great American Novel might have its cinematic promise drowned in the visual quirks of the medium.