I have to admit, despite my skepticism that Into the Woods could be successfully adapted into a movie, this behind the scenes featurette actually makes me excited to see it. And Meryl Streep getting a showcase song and playing the witch? She might as well get ready for her 18th Oscar nomination right now. We also get a first, quick glimpse of Johnny Depp as the Wolf here too.
The Gotham awards are the main precursor for the Independent Spirit Awards, with big studio movies not being eligible here, but today they also serve as the official kickoff to the 2014 awards season, since its the first awards body to bestow any nominations. Here's the full list:
Grand Budapest Hotel
Love is Strange
Under the Skin
Bill Hader - The Skeleton Twins
Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
Oscar Isaac - A Most Violent Year
Michael Keaton - Birdman
Miles Teller - Whiplash
Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
Gugu Mbatha Raw - Belle
Julianne Moore - Still Alice
Scarlett Johansson - Under the Skin
Mia Wasikowska - Tracks
Point and Shoot
Riz Ahmed - Nightcrawler
Joey King - Wish I Was Here
Jenny Slate - Obvious Child
Tessa Thompson - Dear White People
Ella Coltrane - Boyhood
Macon Blair - Blue Ruin
Jury Award for Ensemble: Foxcatcher
So, if there's anything interesting about these early noms, it tells us that Boyhood is undoubtedly the frontrunner in the indie world, which most people assumed would happen months ago. But some nice surprises are the lasting power of movies like Under the Skin and The Grand Budapest Hotel, which many assumed would be overlooked at the end of the year. And the snub of Foxcatcher, aside from the ensemble prize, may be telling as well, fueling the early rumors that that film might be too cold and offputting for people to embrace. But it's early days yet, and this particular group is mostly influential for the Spirits, like I said earlier. The Gothams are handed out on Monday, Dec 1st.
After leaking online earlier this afternoon, Marvel has released the official teaser trailer for next May's Avengers movie, guaranteed to make a billion dollars without breaking a sweat. Looks like they're going for a darker tone in this, as rumor has it the Avengers will disband by the end of the film, leading to the Iron Man/Captain America battle destined to take place in the third Captain America movie. James Spader supposedly did some motion capture work as Ultron here- hopefully this film will mark the first in the MCU to have an actual, memorable villain.
Here's some behind the scenes interviews with the Birdman cast and crew, including Best Actor hopeful Michael Keaton and director Alejandro Inarritu:
After the surprise success of 2012's 21 Jump Street reboot, the sequel had a lot to live up to, and I'm happy to say that's it's a total delight, on par with the first (if not slightly funnier) that exudes a joyous mockery of the very idea of sequels, which kind of allows it to get away with doing just about everything it's poking fun at.
Normally, that would be a lazy screenwriting cliche- being self-aware doesn't automatically mean that the stuff you're doing is funny simply because you're pointing out how aware of it you are. But here, thanks to the directing team behind the first film and this year's The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller manage to lay out in the first fifteen minutes exactly what's going to happen in this movie and then go ahead and do it anyway. The reason it works is because even though the plot might be close to exactly the same as the first (events sometimes even correspond to when they happened in the original), the jokes are about 90% new, and there's not a bad one in the bunch. The movie breezes by, knows exactly what it's doing, and has fun doing it, and that goes double for the actors, once again Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the cop buddies in question.
Schmidt and Jenko are back on the beat, and this time being sent to college in a couple of perfunctory scenes where returning players Nick Offerman and Ice Cube lay out all the tropes and cliches of the "sequel" that everybody hates ("We're back, but this time with more money in the budget," "Everybody knows that sequels suck"). What sells it is Tatum and Hill's pitch perfect chemistry- the movie has no issues telling us that that the two of them are the real relationship in the film, and some of the best stuff in the movie is Schmidt's jealousy when Jenko has a "meet cute" with a jock football player, which in turn leads to Jenko wanting the two to have an "open investigation," followed by the blossoming of his new bromance while Schmidt is left behind, feeling sorry for himself. This has been played out before in many of the Apatow movies of course, and even before that in movies like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's Starsky and Hutch remake, but this movie delivers it straight to us in the formula of a rom-com. Apparently, the only kind that can get made anymore is one where the leads are straight men. I won't say it doesn't work though- the two guys' friendship, love and loyalty to each other are the heart of the movie, and even though it could never be mistaken for serious, it makes us laugh and "aww" at the same time when the guys fight, break up and get back together.
But even aside from that, I was impressed with the way all the jokes, references, gags and action scenes flowed so seamlessly. The movie has a brisk pace and not one wasted punchline in a tight script that makes the most of the actors' ability to hit the target. The supporting cast is also good, especially Jillian Bell as a nutty college roommate, who gets in so many zingers about Jonah Hill's old face she could have hosted a roast, and Ice Cube, whose scene-stealing bit part in the first is expanded upon to good use in this one. And frankly, the movie might be worth seeing for the ending credits alone, which make fun of the endless amount of sequels and threequels that could be made in the Jump Street franchise as the guys will undoubtedly wind up in culinary school, flight academy, beauty school, a contract dispute where Hill is replaced by Seth Rogen but then comes back, and on and on, etc. I sometimes tire of self-awareness just for its own sake, but the truth is this movie would have been the funniest movie of the year even without all the referential digs, and that's the reason to see both this and however many more they want to do. Keep 'em coming guys. I'm in.
* * *
Mark Wahlberg leads a pretty good ensemble cast in The Gambler, premiering at AFI Fest next month and set for a late December release here in the U.S. John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larsen and Michael K. Williams co-star in this remake of the 1974 film that starred James Caan, and with a screenplay from The Departed's William Monahan and Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt at the helm, this might actually have some real potential. If it was no good they would have held it back until next year, so maybe look out for this one.
Out on blu-ray this week is one of the best movies of the year, Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer, the sci-fi epic about passengers trapped on a revolving train in an apocalyptic future where the earth has nearly been destroyed. Chris Evans steps away from Captain America to lead a revolt of the working class citizens against the tyrannical behavior of the elites who abuse them, and it's an action packed, imaginative, beautifully filmed ode to humanity by the film's end. If you haven't seen it, now's the time to check it out.
Here's the new poster for Tim Burton's Big Eyes, which is coming out on Christmas Day but still hasn't been screened for anyone yet (unusual for late releases at this time of year). If a movie hasn't been seen at this stage it likely means that there's not a lot of confidence in it behind the scenes- or for one reason or another, the studio just doesn't think it's going to be good enough for an awards run (they usually take their big awards contenders to a fall film festival to get the buzz going). We'll see though, sooner or later.
Another movie from Cannes is being submitted for this year's Foreign Language Film race at the Oscars, and that's Sweden's Force Majeure. A black comedy of sorts that's gotten pretty ecstatic reviews, and sure to be selected as one of the shortlist (which should be released by the Academy fairly soon). Many say this one could even be the frontrunner.
This weekend, the WWII action movie Fury came in on top with about $23 million, which is good, but slightly below expectations and tracking, which had it earning $25-$30 million for the three day frame. It's still a success for star Brad Pitt though, another one in his recent string of hits, but this movie may not hold well since it's not expected to have much (if any) awards buzz, and reviews (which hold bigger sway with adult audiences) were only fair. Gone Girl, meanwhile, slipped to No. 2, pulling in another $17 million to cross the $100 million threshold in just three weeks.
In third was the Guillermo del Toro produced animated flick The Book of Life, which also hauled in $17 million, while Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, No Good....(you know the rest) came in fourth, and the latest dreadfully reviewed Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best of Me, was fifth with just $10 million (on the lower end of this rather endless series of adapted films).
- Fury- $23.5 million
- Gone Girl- $17.8 million
- The Book of Life- $17 million
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- $12 million
- The Best of Me- $10.2 million
In limited release, Birdman got off to a flying start, opening on just 4 screens in New York and LA, but for a sizzling $415k, the biggest limited debut of the year behind The Grand Budapest Hotel. That's a massive $104k per theater average, but we'll see how far it can go from there, building on all the Oscar buzz for the film. Meanwhile, the Sundance hit Dear White People also made some noise, pulling in a $31k average for a strong start in specialty release this weekend. Next week the only wide releases are the horror film Ouija and Keanu Reeves' John Wick, while Lynn Shelton's Laggies and the Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour open in limited.
So we end our femme fatale week with the most devilish one of all, and that's Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction, played with absolute relish and casually venomous glee by Linda Fiorentino. I think you'd have a very hard time ever finding another female character this uncompromising and rotten to the core- it's almost shocking to watch, even today. You can hardly believe her as she struts across the screen, improvising murderous deeds and deadly schemes with no conscience or second thought whatsoever, and fearlessly enjoying every bit of it too. Bill Pullman and Peter Berg are just two of the men who are duped by her in this (there are other victims in her wake though), and the movie doesn't cop out at the ending either, unlike many films did in the post-noir era, and frankly even at the peak of the noir era itself. This remains a movie villain for all time, as far as I'm concerned- Bridget Gregory could rattle Satan himself with her badness. Check it out.
Original 1994 Trailer:
So yeah, I may be done with posting the relentless amount of teasers being released for this movie after today (similar to the way I finally cut off Maleficent), but I guess that's what you do when your marketing campaign is targeting a demographic that spends all its time on social media. Anyway, here's one that seems to be an early scene in the movie, with Katniss gearing up for battle.