Much online e-ink has been e-spilled over the question of which actor will take up the mantle of international superspy James Bond for the 25th installment of the perennial franchise. Will incumbent star Daniel Craig return for another go-round as 007, or will he be replaced by the likes of new challengers Tom Hiddleston, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, or Idris Elba? Who knows (not us), but as the mission to secure a star has been playing out, another big change-up has unfolded largely in the background.
Shooting a movie’s not like performing a play. The theatrical process is primal, all rooted in emotion and immersion within the fictional moment. Production on a feature film requires far more on a technical level, to the point where actors will be ordered to pick up a spoon in the exact same way ten times, just to be safe. (David Fincher famously went through one hundred takes to nail the opening breakup in his magnum opus The Social Network.) For the typical actor, most of filmmaking is waiting around for stuff to happen — but that’s far less tiresome when you get to hang out with Carrie Fisher between calls of “ACTION!”
Once and future Robin actor Chris O’Donnell made an appearance on Conan O’Brien last night to promote his current TV home NCIS: Los Angeles. Among the friendly chatter, the fiery-haired talk show host grilled a visibly uncomfortable O’Donnell about one of his more surreal experiences on a film set during the ’90s. See, one of O’Donnell’s first major roles came on the well-respected drama Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino, where they had to deal with a unlikely prima donna guest star. Donald Trump’s acting career has taken him through the Home Alone franchise and beyond, but this credit in particular eluded him.
To narrate a nature documentary requires a certain softness of touch. The key is to wrap the audience up in your smooth tones like an oversize cashmere blanket without allowing it to be so soothing you lull them to sleep. Morgan Freeman mastered the form in his era-defining narration on March of the Penguins, hitting each syllable with the gentle force of a butterfly’s beating wings. It’s an art, and who better to undertake this intricate dance of restraint and delicacy than that most velvety-voiced bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger?
No bubble can last forever — it must eventually pop, as is the nature of bubbles. Marvel has built a vast media empire on the strength of such stars as Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth, but no actor would be content with playing and re-playing the same role forever. All good (and obscenely lucrative) things must come to an end, and Evans has begun the long and painful process of consciously uncoupling from Captain America’s star-spangled shield and cowl. But a new quote from the actor suggests that he may not be the first big name to make a departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kyle Davies, the President of Domestic Distribution for Paramount Pictures, is not having a great week. The early eruption of a backlash to his studio’s newest release (the generously-budgeted Ghost in the Shell remake) and its whitewashed casting was cause for concern. But up until recently, he could assuage his shareholders’ worries by clinging to the notion that hackle-raising on the Internet would not have any tangible effects on the box-office receipts. That changed after this past weekend, when the Scarlett Johansson vehicle mustered a piteous $19 million in wide release. Left to answer for the film’s commercial failure, Davies has placed the blame on the controversy over tapping confirmed white woman Johansson to portray an Asian role, to which the whole of the Internet will now respond with a hearty “DA-DOY.”
After the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga debuted to a critical shellacking, many believed the film would be a franchise-killer for the swashbruckling adventure series. (“Swashbruckling” is an industry term for Jerry Bruckheimer-produced films that include swordplay.) But because On Stranger Tides also raked in a cool billion dollars worldwide, yet another sequel was inevitable. Between the dire notices for the most recent film, the six-year gap between entries, Johnny Depp’s declining public profile, and the motivator of a financial imperative, fans braced to greet No. 5, Dead Men Tell No Tales, as more studio-mandated pap. What this article presupposes is... it might not be?
Five days ago, I denounced the banal evils of the recent trend of running trailers in promotion of trailers when covering the latest buzz for the upcoming Justice League movie. It would appear that the marketing executives at 20th Century Fox have not been reading my daily news writing (I know, I’m as shocked as you are), because they’ve returned today with an 18-second amuse-bouche for tomorrow’s brand new trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes. Give it a look above, it’ll only take a moment. Or, to be precise, 18 moments.
Pixar’s 2016 was something of a mixed bag, having landed a true-blue blockbuster with Finding Dory but then missing out on the coveted Oscar nomination. They’ll get back in the saddle in 2017 with Coco, a vibrant fantasy about the power of music, family, and remembrance of those lost to us. In the film, a lonely young boy finds a link to the past through an enchanted stringed instrument and sets off on an incredible journey with an animal companion, encountering all manner of dreamlike wonders (along with a monster or two) on the way. It bears mentioning at this point that this film is, in fact, not Kubo and the Two Strings.
What’s more exciting than a bold, accomplished feature debut from a director with vision and something to say? The non-rhetorical answer to that rhetorical question: the movie they make afterward. In 2014, Jennifer Kent wowed audiences with her fully-formed horror parable The Babadook, mining the frustrations of single motherhood for chills and creating a memorable monster along the way. (Whether the Babadook is indeed homosexual remains a topic of heated debate in some extremely specific online communities, however.) Now, her next challenge will be proving that her initial success wasn’t a fluke. And today brings the news that she’ll re-prove her filmmaking bona fides with a sophomore project titled The Nightingale.
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