Friday, March 19, 2010

Will Tim Burton ever again have an original idea?

I wonder what would happen if Tim Burton ever encountered an original idea. Would his head - or perhaps his entire body - explode? He certainly must think so, because though the man is clearly a talented director (and yes, I really liked "Alice in Wonderland" quite a bit), he's also just as clearly incredibly insecure.

Rather than take a chance on anything even slightly out of the norm, he's instead signed on to direct a stop-motion animation adaptation of "The Addams Family." And yes, that Addams Family. Sheesh. I've never actually seen the movies that have already sprung from the horror/comedy franchise, but I did see a YouTube clip of Christina Ricci breaking down the real origins of Thanksgiving as Wednesday, and that was nothing but extremely funny (what ever happened to her, any way .. I mean, "Black Snake Moan" really was just about as horrible as it could possibly be, but was it a career killer?)

Actually, I've learned something from this news, so I guess I should be grateful. Did anyone else know the Addams Family actually originated as a New Yorker cartoon? Burton claims his movie will tap into this original spirit and show a "sharper wit than could be placed into a '60s family TV series." OK, fair enough, but you can't color me as anything but skeptical at this point. And besides, as great as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was, please don't ever forget that that was actually directed by the great Henry Selick, not Burton. 'Nuff said on all that.

"Inception" details emerge and sound friggin great

There will certainly be many contenders for the movie of the summer (and my dark horse money is on Phillip Noyce's "Salt"), but there really can't be many at all that come burdened with higher expectations than Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" follow up, "Inception." And as details emerge about what exactly it might be about, you can count me as more and more jazzed to finally see it.

He turned up for the big Warner Bros. event on the last day of ShoWest, and here's some of what he had to say about "Inception."

As he introduced a video clip from the flick, which I unfortunately can't find online, he described it as "an action film told in a grand scale by a character played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who runs a team of people who have access to a technology that allows them to enter people's minds through their dreams." He said there was shooting in six different countries to create all the dreamscapes. Here's a bit of how Collider, for which I occasionally contribute, described some of the footage:

The footage started with Leo cocking a gun and his voiceover saying, "There's one thing you should know about me. An inception is an idea that's like a virus, it's highly contagious. The small seed of an idea can grow to define or destroy you."

What follows are eerie visuals with people floating and the ethereal string chords build, as we see Leo sitting at a table in an ornately adorned room explaining to Ken Watanabe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt what they do:

"In the dream state, your consciousness defenses lower," he tells them. "It makes your thoughts vulnerable to theft, called extraction. So you can actually train your subconscious to defend itself from the most skilled extractor."

Watanabe asks how he knows that to which Leo replies, "Because I AM the best extractor."

It all sounds more than a bit like "Memento" writ on an extremely grand scale, which would be just fine with me. And Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and, inevitably I suppose, Michael Caine all appear in this too, so you can bet I'll be among the masses buying my ticket when this finally opens July 16.

A couple of biopics I can get squarely behind

The first thing I thought when I heard a Cesar Chavez biopic was at least in the early stages of development was, how has it taken so long? After all, he's a hero to millions of Hispanics and gringos alike, and his life would just make a grand tale.

It seems that screenwriter Keir Pearson and producer Larry Meli agree, and have optioned the life rights of the labor activist Chavez, and will be producing this with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna's Canana Films. Pearson, by the way, won an Oscar for co-writing "Hotel Rwanda" with director Terry George, and also has, among other projects, a biopic of Roberto Clemente in the works for HBO and Playtone.

And just in case anyone really hasn't heard of Chavez, he dedicated his life to improving the working conditions of California farm workers, eventually co-founding the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become the United Farm Workers.

Though it's of course far too early to be talking about who could pull this role off, Garcia Bernal would certainly seem to be a perfect choice. What say you?

In other, crazier, biopic news, it seems that independent filmmaker and writer David Miller is hard at work with his son, Jordan, on a movie about the truly odd and troubled Texas outsider musician Daniel Johnston. And yes, I know there's already been a documentary about Johnston, the very compelling "Devil and Daniel Johnston," but can you imagine how much fun (well, maybe that's not quite the right word) the right actor could have with this role?

Here's what he to say about the project to Pedestrian, via the Playlist:

I've got a few things going — we're doing a Daniel Johnston biopic and I'm Producing and Writing and Gabriel Sunday our star [from "My Suicide"] he's going to be Directing and playing young Daniel. It's going to be an epic super hero story and it's going to be a narrative biopic so it doesn't really cover any of the same stuff that the famous "Devil And Daniel Johnston" Documentary that won Sundance in 2005 covers.

How are you going to portray older Daniel Johnston?
That's a really good question. We're either putting Gabriel in a fat suit or there's so many people that are reaching out that are huge Daniel Johnston fans. Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly for example, Johnny Depp's a big Daniel Johnston fan though we'd like him to play the older brother. But we haven't really arrived at that yet — we're just in the scripting process at the moment but once we get the script finished we'll be able to get a better handle on what the budget will be.

Nothing like dropping some big names to get attention, but I'd imagine he's right that a lot of actors would indeed be interested in the chance to take on the life a true American original.

And with that, I've got to go to the job that still somehow pays me, but I'll leave you with the trailer for the next Jennifer Aniston movie I'll be seeing (hint: It won't be "Bounty Hunter.") "The Switch," which I believe used to go by the much funnier name "The Baster," is a comedy starring Aniston and veryfunnyman Jason Bateman, and you can watch the trailer below Enjoy, and have a great weekend (and if you can, go see Roman Polanski's new flick, which I'll be doing Saturday afternoon.) Peace out.


The Mad Hatter said...

The other day I was thinking about Burtone's latest string of movies (and yes I count myself a fan of Alice).

When you ask if he has any original ideas anymore, you aren't kidding since it should be pointed out that he only made one original movie over the last ten years (CORPSE BRIDE). Everything else has either been an adaptation or a remake stemming all the way back to MARS ATTACKS!

But here's the thing - with this string or remakes and adaptations, one stands out...BIG FISH.

Perhaps what Tim needs to do is not forsake adaptations altogether, but at the very least dig a little deeper and choose to adapt stories that the world-at-large doesn't know.

Might make for some better movies if we all didn't go in knowing most of the story in advance, no?

Cullen said...

To me, Burton either scores big or fails big, except for Alice. While I enjoyed it, it wasn't as big a win for me as Big Fish, Mars Attacks or Ed Wood, nor was it the failure that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was. But I still love Burton. I love his vision. I guess you either are on board with it or not.

On a depressing note, this article from /Film should make us all wince and start writing hate letters.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm with you both on the love for Big Fish ... It's one of my favorite books, so I would have been really pissed if he had managed to screw it up a la Willy Wonka, but thankfully it turned out to be what I think is his best movie (with Ed Wood a close second)

And you're certainly right about that /Film piece, Cullen .. I've decided to never again see a 3D movie unless it was made in 3D rather than simply and lamely converted to it afterward .. and even then, I think I'll always be a 2D kinda guy as often as possible

The Mad Hatter said...

I noticed that article too - and what leaves me more confused than the decision to present all tentpole movies in 3-D is the fact that they have projects in the pipe that they've likewise decreed will be adjusted for 3-D (like GREEN LANTERN for instance).

What bugs me is that these projects haven't started filming why not just film them in 3-D??

I'm with you guys - ALICE was the last movie I'm doing in 3-D unless it's a movie that was filmed in 3-D from the get-go.

Not sure if either of you listen to my podcast, but I'll be discussing this very thing in the episode that goes up on Monday morning.

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't catch every one, Mad Hatter, but do when I can, and will certainly tune into Monday's edition

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I think Tim Burton is a great Director but sometimes he likes to use an story that have been already created in the past but he turns it on a different and more bizarre movie.

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