Friday, January 19, 2007

Into India with Mira Nair and Johnny Depp

Today is chock full of news about people I like quite a bit, so let's get right into it.

For years now I've been reading criticism of Mira Nair, principally from Indian movie fans, that she has abandoned her home country to make lightweight Western fare. And it has always pained me. While it is true that she has turned to the West, I count "Mississippi Masala," starring Denzel Washington and the radiant Sarita Choudhury, among my all-time favorite flicks, and "Monsoon Wedding" is a darn fine flick too.

Now, however, comes news that should make everyone smile. Mira is bound back to Bombay, and she's taking Johnny Depp and a great big budget with her. After Peter Weir dropped out on the Depp-starring project "Shantaram," Mira has stepped in and taken over.

That means Johnny will start work on this as soon as "Sweeney Todd" wraps, with a 2008 release in view. In "Shantaram," an Australian heroin addict (Depp) escapes from a maximum-security prison and reinvents himself as a doctor treating the destitute in the slums of Bombay. His drive to procure medicine leads him into counterfeiting, gun-running and smuggling. Sounds just about perfect to me.

And Mira Nair's more immediate project, coming March 9, also sounds pretty friggin cool. Kal Penn makes a serious upgrade from "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (don't worry, stoners ... a sequel is in the works) to star in her "The Namesake," the story of an Indian man torn between his new life in Boston with girlfriend Jacinda Barrett (huzzah!) and the more traditional lifestyle envisioned by his parents.

Sounds like it will explore many of the same themes as "Monsoon Wedding," so I'll definitely be there to see it.

Aronofsky to direct ballet?

That's what I mistakenly thought when I first saw this story, but luckily I was mistaken. Darren Aronofsky's next movie will instead be "Black Swan," described as a psychological thriller that looks at the manipulative relationship between a veteran ballet dancer and a rival.

I'm ashamed to say - due to some hesitation on my part, a vacation, and the simple glut of movies that came out at the same time - I still haven't seen Aronofsky's "The Fountain," easily the most divisive multiplex movie of 2006. His movies demand a lot from viewers, but with "Pi" and even more so "Requiem for a Dream," the reward was more than worth the effort, so I'll eventually break down and see "The Fountain." and I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on "Black Swan."

Pixar prepping next film

I've heard rumblings about some kind of Michael Bay movie with Transformers in it, but the flick I'm most excited about for the coming summer remains "Ratatouille."

Brad Bird, who directed the best Pixar movie, "The Incredibles," and my favorite animated movie ever, "The Iron Giant," is back in charge for "Ratatouille," so it should be great. Besides, I didn't care too much for "Cars," so Pixar owes me.

After "Ratatouille," however, will come another Pixar project that also sounds like a lot of fun. Titled "WALL-E," it's believed to be about a young robot looking for a home in outer space (see the rather rough photo.) Andrew Stanton, who won an Oscar for directing "Finding Nemo" and co-directed "Toy Story 2," is helming. "WALL-E" will be released June 27, 2008.

Also in the works is a "Toy Story 3," but a robot lost in space just sounds much better to me.

Garner joins 'Juno' cast

Jason Reitman is just on a roll. After debuting with "Thank You For Smoking," he's soon to begin shooting the follow-up "Juno," which is rapidly assembling a first-rate cast.

Already on board for the coming-of-age comedy about a teenager faced with an unplanned pregnancy are Ellen Page (huzzah!), presumably as the young lady in question, and the very funny Michael Cera of "Arrested Development" fame, presumably as the impregnator. Now comes word that Jennifer Garner has joined the cast as the hopeful adoptive mother of said offspring. Production is expected to begin mid-February in Vancouver.

The script was written by St. Paul/Minneapolis City Pages scribe Diablo Cody, who pens the always entertaining Pussy Ranch blog, so it definitely deserves our support. Besides, it's virtually guaranteed to not suck, which can't be said for Garner's upcoming "The Kingdom," which is already in contention for worst movie of 2007 in my mind.

And as for Reitman, he'll go from this to making a movie with Dwight Schute about a ninja with too much downtime on his hands. For some people, life really is just way too good.


Aurous said...

My fav Pixar movie was toy story <3

why didn't you like cars!! it wasn't the best but it was good :)

thanks for commenting in my blog ;D

Reel Fanatic said...

I didn't hate it by any means, aurous, but the middle stretch, where our here Lightning is learning his "lesson," just seemed to drag quite a bit .. the beginning and ending were great, though

Anonymous said...

If I had not already been a big fan of your blog, this post would do it -- I could not agree more wholeheartedly. I love "The Iron Giant" (I admit, I cried at the end), and I had the great pleasure of telling Brad Bird how much I loved it when I interviewed him after a screening of "The Incredibles." I agree with you about "Cars." My husband liked it more than I did, but that's because he is more interested in the visuals and I am more interested in the story and characters. First time I checked my watch in a Pixar film. And I also agree about Mira Nair. "Namesake" looks terrific.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm not afraid to admit I was brought to tears by "The Iron Giant" too, Nell ... it's just a timeless story that gets me every time

Anonymous said...

The Fountain (reviewed here) is a tough, tough film to defend. It's gorgeous to look at, though, so I'll recommend it on that basis.

Finally, a release date for The Namesake. It's been completed for about a year now. I've read the book; Jacinda Barrett's an interesting choice for that role.

Sadie Lou said...

I'm shocked you didn't enjoy Cars. It was far better than Monsters Inc. and Bug's Life. The Toy Story movies are by far the best but Cars is right there under them. The ending was awesome! My kids LOVED it right down to my little one year old who was instantly attracted to all the cool car noises.
Mira Nair is a wonderful actress--she's the one from The House of Sand and Fog, right? She was always a lead role in a 24 season.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you're thinking of an Iranian actress with the last name Shoreh Aghdashloo (sp?), Sadie ... Mira Nair hasn't acted in any of her movies, as far as I know ... If you're looking for an extremely smart romantic flick, you absolutely can't go wrong with her "Mississippi Masala"

Marina said...

I love the fact that she's taken over for Weir but most of all, I want to see what she manages to do with Johnny Depp!

Anonymous said...

Mississippi Massala is such a swoony, good movie. A rare non-pandering love story.

And I can't wait for "The Namesake." I think Kal Penn is so good in everything, it'll be interesting to see him in that role.

And by the way, can we arrange for Michael Cera to be in every movie? He was so funny on Arrested Development.

Reel Fanatic said...

If that were possible, Margee, I'd certainly arrange the petition drive ... I think he was the funniest person on "AD," which was no mean feat given its terrific cast

Sadie Lou said...

Oh, that picture you posted looks just like the actress i was thinking of. Hmmm...oopsie. Sorry.
Thanks for the rec. I'll add it to my que right now. I just added "Extras" which is the same genius from the BBC's The Office.

Reel Fanatic said...

They do look a whole lot a like, Sadie Lou, especially in that pic .. I just got Extras also, and am looking forward to it, but I don't think anything can rise to the level of the original Office

Anonymous said...

I am reely excited about Rata...the Patton Oswalt rat film. I'm usually against monopolies but only Pixar should make computer-animated films.

Linda said...

Iron Giant is one of my faves too. Cars was fine, just no need for an animated feature to be longer than 1:40. Kids wiggle at 1:45 ... know your audience! I'm way in for The Namesake. BTW I loved Harold and Kumar! Happy Friday all!!

Miss Chi Chi said...

dropping by to say Hi!

Have you seen the italian yet?

Reel Fanatic said...

Hola Miss Chi Chi .. Always great to see you .. I haven't managed to catch The Italian yet .. Here in my little corner of the world, instead of movies that good, we only get a remake of "The Hitcher" .. sheesh!

FrancesDanger said...

You have officially made my day by letting me know I'll soon see my beloved George Michael, Michael Cera, again.

Also, Kal Penn was just on Law and Order: SVU in a dramatic role, and he did an excellent job. It's nice to see him expanding.

Reel Fanatic said...

Is it OK to confess I liked Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Frandes? Not high art by any stretch, but he was funny in it .. I didn't even bother with that Rise of Taj or whatever the hell it was that was in my movie theater for a week or so recently

Vasta said...

Hey Keith,

Sorry I haven't been around for a bit, the relocation is taking up a lot of time.

Just to jump in: I had the opportunity to see The Namesake, and I will say that I enjoyed it more than Monsoon Wedding. In fact, it was just as good as the book (by Jhumpa Lahiri), which is rare in films. Tabu does a phenomenal job in her role as Kal Penn's mother. It may not be the best movie of the year, but it surely is quite a good one.

As for The Fountain, do go and watch it. Whether you love it or hate it (I'm in the love it camp) it's still worth the experience of seeing a man like Aranofsky craft such a visual masterpiece and Hugh Jackman put up one of his best performances ever.

Reel Fanatic said...

I will see it eventually, Vasta, and I have just started reading the book on which Mira's new movie is based .. I like it quite a bit so far, so I'm sure I will like the movie as much as you did .. And, even better, I saw a preview for it today here in Macon, meaning it's gonna play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world

FrancesDanger said...

I'd be disappointed if you didn't like 'Harold...' It was awesome for what it was, and I look forward to the sequel. As far as I'm concerned just about any movie would be better with a dash of Kal. Well, except for a National Lampoon one. Yuck!

Anonymous said...

I saw Mississippi Masala and loved it! I'm South Asian, by the way. :)

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm glad to see Mira get some love from South Asia, Crankshaft ... I think after Namesake she'll finally be getting it from around the world