"Wait a minute!" exclaims George Clooney, growing increasingly baffled on the set of his developing film Tomorrowland. "What the hell is this movie about, anyway?" From the looks of the above photo, the first snapped during production of the Disney picture, even he doesn't know.
Disney, director Brad Bird, and all those involved have managed to keep the details of the project close to the chest. We can imagine that star George Clooney — playing some semblance of a former boy genius who was "banished" from the titular land of magic at some point — has a bit more info on the feature than we do, but the perplexed look on his face above does suggest that the mystery persists.
We've got to assume that is Clooney's costar Britt Robertson (a science enthusiast who joins Clooney on his journey to return to Tomorrowland) to whom he is expressing such befuddlement. The simple shot of the pair does not give us much new info about the feature, though it does serve to stir up excitement if only in reminding us that Tomorrowland is, in fact, going to answer our questions somewhere down the line.
Or so we hope.
More:'Tomorrowland' Details RevealedGo on a 'Tomorrowland' Treasure HuntThe Story for 'Tomorrowland' Sounds Completely Insane
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Under the Dome's Britt Robertson has just been cast opposite George Clooney in Disney's Tomorrowland, the mysterious sci-fi film from Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) based on the Magic Kingdom attraction. She joins a cast that already includes Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, and Thomas Robinson. But what's really interesting is that Disney's official press release for the Robertson news sheds some new light on the under-wraps plot, conceived by writers Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame) and Jeff Jensen (of EW.com Lost recaps fame).
Robertson plays "a high-school girl with an unconventional understanding of technology" who is propelled to embark on some kind of quest to reclaim her future — that future presumably being the Tomorrowland of the title. That differs a tad from the description Disney gave agents back in March: "A teenage girl, a genius middle-aged man (who was kicked out of Tomorrowland) and a pre-pubescent girl robot attempt to get to and unravel what happened to Tomorrowland, which exists in an alternative dimension, in order to save Earth." Wait, do robots undergo puberty?
This new plot description is obviously a lot less complicated, but both could still be relevant. Robertson is likely playing the "teenage girl" of the original logline, and of course Clooney is playing the "genius middle-aged man who was kicked out of Tomorrowland." Could it be that Robertson's character is also an exile from Tomorrowland, albeit an unwitting one, hence her unconventional view of technology? Seems like she's following in the Harry Potter-Luke Skywalker mold of a fresh-faced youngster suddenly discovering that she's the inheritor of a vast legacy she wasn't even aware of. Given Lindelof and Jensen's overwhelming love for The Empire Strikes Back, don't be surprised if there's also a "shocking twist!" family connection between Robertson and Clooney's characters. It'd make sense: based on the movie's original title, 1952, it seems this could be a movie that looks back as much as it looks forward.
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The young Brit who landed the role of Kristen Stewart's Snow White character as a child in Snow White & The Huntsman, has scored another pivotal part as a robot opposite George Clooney. Raffey Cassidy has been cast in Disney's top-secret sci-fi film Tomorrowland.
Little is known about the Brad Bird film, but insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that Cassidy will play a young girl robot, who has had a past relationship with Clooney’s bitter inventor character.
Hugh Laurie is in talks to play the film's villain.
Maintaining the fantastical but dropping any semblance of whimsy Snow White and the Huntsman transforms the classic fairy tale into a bleak Lord of the Rings-esque hero's tale full of sword fights monsters and forces of evil bent on wiping out humanity. Instead of creating a unique world or conflict for its revamped characters to explore SWATH plays it safe and sticks to the familiar beats coming off like an amalgamation of every fantasy film that's ever graced the silver screen. Director Rupert Sanders sticks to flashy special effects (some of which are truly stunning) over his greatest asset: the charismatic cast. Kristen Stewart Charlize Theron Chris Hemsworth and eight familiar-faced dwarves try their best to elevate the thin material on display but the film is under a sleeping spell — and no one steps in to wake it up.
Once again an evil queen manipulates her way into the castle and heart of a widower king only to cut his throat and throw his beautiful young daughter Snow into the tower to rot. Years later a magic mirror reveals to the wicked Ravenna (Theron) that the now-of-age Snow White (Stewart) is the answer to her waning magic and wrinkly skin. But as Ravenna's slimy brother Finn comes knocking at Snow's door the imprisoned princess pulls a fast one escaping and opening the door for a large-scale adventure through the forests mountains and swamps of the mystical kingdom.
SWATH's action feel particularly shoehorned in each set piece drifting by without any weight or purpose. After fleeing the tower Snow takes shelter in The Dark Forest (there wasn't a better name? or a name at all?) where she's tracked by the Queen's freelancer The Huntsman (Hemsworth). A few fleeting character moments later the two are on the run together duking it out with otherworldly trolls and joining forces with a group of pint-sized ex-gold miners who believe Snow White is "the one." The epic speak commonplace in fantasy films plagues SWATH — without any details as to how or why the world works the way it does most of the dialogue amounts to characters screaming about "destiny." The lack of specifics filters into the journey too: at one point Snow White stumbles upon a forbidden forest bustling with fairies moss-covered turtles and an antlered creature that's never been seen by humans. The beast is a sign that Snow is savior of their world. Why? Anyone's guess.
The generic quality brings down the talent on screen namely Theron's delightfully wicked Ravenna who goes full on Joan Crawford/Mommie Dearest as she pulls strings to entrap Snow White. Naysayers of Kristen Stewart will have plenty of fuel after SWATH but it's the material that fails to serve the actress in this case. The actors in the film barely get to smile — the drab overcast look of the movie clouding even the performances — but the moments when Stewart's Snow brightens up things suddenly come alive. Hemsworth lightens the mood too showing off a sliver of his comedic prowess from Thor. Between the movie's instance for doom and gloom the patchwork script and Sanders' overuse of up-close-and-personal shakycam there's rarely a moment for the actors to do their thing. It's barely worth mentioning the handful of British character actors who pop up as the Dwarves who hobble around mumbling unintelligible quips. They quickly form a bond with Snow White — or so the movie strong-arms us into believing.
Snow White and the Huntsman is stuffed with imaginative spectacle but the artistry is lost on a hollow story. Crystalline mirror shard warriors the Queen's youth-sucking powers or landscapes that look like live-action Miyazaki animation — it all looks amazing but they're never more than spiffy special effects. The movie wants to be above the visuals teasing a smart tough Snow White but the potential is squandered by never allowing the heroine to stride beyond the conventional world. If Snow White's tale is a shiny red apple then modern tropes of fantasy are the poison.
After 2010's CG blowout Alice in Wonderland long-time collaborators Johnny Depp and Tim Burton return to a more realistic realm with their update of the '60s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. It just so happens that realism in the case of Depp and Burton also involves vampires.
We first meet Barnabas Collins (Depp) in 1752 enjoying the aristocratic lifestyle of his successful father and wooing the female staff employed in the Collins' mansion. The romantic lifestyle is without consequence until Barnabas picks up and drops the wrong servant: Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) a witch with a nasty case of jealousy. When Barnabas finally discovers true love Bouchard casts a spell on his favored female causing her to jump off a cliff. In the wake of the incident and with nothing left to live for Barnabas hurls himself off the edge — but Bouchard curses him before he hits the ground. He's become a vampire an immortal and Bouchard has just the everlasting punishment in mind. She buries Barnabas in a coffin never to be seen again.
Jump ahead to 1972 where a construction crew in Collinsport resurface the confined bloodsucker. After a quick bite Barnabas heads home to his manor to discover he's a true bat out of water. His family is gone replaced by a new generation of Collinses: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) the family matriarch; Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) her angsty niece; David (Gulliver McGrath) highly disturbed by memories of his dead mother; Roger (Johnny Lee Miller) the scheming deadbeat dad; and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) David's constantly intoxicated psychologist; and Victoria (Bella Heathcote) the new recruit hired to school David in his fragile state. Barnabas' learning curve adjusting to his new surroundings is the crux of Dark Shadows' purposefully meandering plot which strikes a few brilliant bits of comedy in between long stretches of lifeless melodrama. Turns out a soap opera adaptation ends up being pretty darn soap opera-y.
Unlike most summer blockbusters Dark Shadows sparingly uses action and large-scale set pieces to tell its story. Burton chooses a lower-key approach in the vein of his earlier films like Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. But the movie differs in its lack of emotional throughline — all the colorful misadventures would be a lot more effective if there was something to care about. Barnabas strikes up a romance with Victoria but it's hamfisted. He becomes a fatherly figure to David but only late in the film. By the third montage set to a classic rock tune it's clear Burton and Depp seem far more interested in the bizarre collision of vampire tropes and '70s decor. A scene in which Barnabas converses with a group of pot-smoking hippies on the ins and outs of youth culture works as a sketch comedy vignette but in the grand scheme of the story is fluffy funny and pointless.
Depp's dedication to keeping things weird helps Dark Shadows stay alive. He loves the theatrics biting into every moment with epic speak lifted from the British thee-aaaay-ter. Green joins in on the fun full force her wicked seductress both playful and unabashedly evil. The rest of the cast makes little splash Pfeiffer playing the straight woman while the rest of the ensemble go toe to toe with the larger than life Depp. They don't seem in on the same joke as Depp and the many dialogue scenes just. Come. Off. As. Slooooow. And. Painful. Deliberate soap opera acting is a tightrope walk — only Depp and Green really make it across without faltering.
Dark Shadows is a mixed bag that feels indebted to a source material. Whether you're familiar with the style or not may will be a deciding factor. Burton's washy aesthetics and plodding pacing don't do the material any favors with Danny Elfman's standard issued score failing to elevate the atmosphere. Kitsch and horrors abound but the witch's brew of elements won't be everyone's cup of tea. Er cup of blood?