Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ben Affleck may finally be ready to move onto a new "Town"

Though I wanted to love Ben Affleck's "The Town," I could never really quite get there for several reasons.

First of all, the story is familiar to the point of being tired. And though it's extremely well shot, the body count in those slick action scenes should have been in the 100's (it's just a movie, I know, but with the way Jeremy Renner was spraying bullets around, it just didn't even come close to adding up.)

But what it really left me with was the sense that, even though the best strength of "The Town" is its very strong sense of place in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, perhaps its time for Affleck to finally branch out from his home turf as a director.

Well, Warner Bros., apparently has the same idea, and has now offered him the chance to direct something called "Tales from the Gangster Squad."

Adapted from a series of LA Times articles, the movie will explore the true story of a secret "off the record" police task force that went after Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen, a high-profile gangster who was a member of the "Jewish Mafia" in the 1940's. The screenplay has been drafted by former LA cop and novelist Will Beall.

Still a crime movie, obviously, but that's just fine with me, because Affleck has proven much more with "Gone Baby Gone" than with "The Town" that he has a sure hand in directing crime thrillers, so here's hoping he takes this rather epic-sounding one with a welcome change of scenery.

After that today, there are just a couple more tidbits about directors whose work I almost always enjoy, including one who hasn't managed to make a feature film in about 12 years or so.

Before that comes word that David Fincher has now seemingly filled all the major roles in his still thoroughly unnecessary but could be quite good remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The latest addition is Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of the mysterious Vanger clan who hires Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to investigate the Vanger family's secrets and track down his missing great-niece.

The biggest shoes to fill of all will be Rooney Mara, pictured here, stepping in to the titular role of Lisbeth Salander, already played to perfection by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish original by director Neils Arden Opley, but I think she'll do just fine. Round out the cast with Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger and Robin Wright as Blomkvist's editor, Erika Berger, and you've got something that shapes up just about the same as Matt Reeves's "Let Me In," which has been receiving almost uniformly good reviews so far: A well-made movie with a sensational cast that, in a perfect world, probably shouldn't exist at all, because there's really very little room to improve on the original work it's based on.

Even so, I'll certainly turn out due to curiosity if nothing else to see what Fincher makes of all this, which is filming now in Sweden. (And if you want to see a first-rate, cerebral but truly brutal thriller, the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is now both out on DVD and also streaming at Netflix, so watch it!)

And finally, does anyone remember Whit Stillman? Probably not, but with his very witty debut "Metropolitan" and then two lesser but still good followups, "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco," he seemed to have a fairly flourishing indie movie career before pretty much disappearing after the latter's release in 1998.

He's tried to make several comebacks since that have fallen apart, but it looks like he finally really will return this time, with his "Damsels in Distress" having already started filming. Here, according the always reliable The Playlist, is what it's all about:

[Damsels in Distress] centers on a group of college girls who take in a new student and teach her their own misguided ways of helping people. Lily, a new student at Seven Oaks University, winds up filling in with a dynamic and highly individualistic group of girls, addicted to the elegance of the past: Heather, Violet and Rose all volunteer at the campus Suicide Prevention Center, convinced that musical dance, sharp clothes and good hygiene — the Dior perfume “Diorissimo” is their trademark — can all contribute to staving off the inevitable self-destructive impulses that follow hard on the heels of failed college romances. Despite their sophisticated talk and savvy use of perfume, the girls are plagued by Cupid’s arrows and must adjust their psyches to the onset of amour. [The Playlist]

As silly as all that sounds, it also sounds like just about the perfect milieu for the kind of sharp comedy of manners Stillman used to specialize in when he was able to work regularly. Greta Gerwig of "Greenberg," which I haven't seen, is apparently playing the role of Violet, and she will apparently be the closest thing to a star in this, assuming it really does come together.

And with that, I have to go now to the job that still somehow manages to pay me enough to keep the lights on. Peace out.


Movie Reviewer said...

I have never been a very big fan of Ben Affleck. I enjoyed the movies he did with Matt but I never thought that Ben was a very good actor. I think he should spend time behind the camera.

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