Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
It comes as quite the surprise to hear — so late in the casting game — The Playlist's reports that superstar Matt Damon would be signing onto Christopher Nolan's under-wraps science fiction film Interstellar. More than just surprising, it's suspicious. And the timing, well... it makes us wonder if the whole ordeal didn't go down something like this...
He heard the news just as everyone else had — on Twitter, the information presenting as a sea of varyingly humorous jabs on the subject matter. Ben Affleck, his lifelong pal and secret rival, had been cast as Batman. Matt Damon grew red in the face. He thought he had won. He had just starred in Elysium, a science-fiction blockbuster from the creative mind behind District 9. When the reviews came in lukewarm, Damon became uneasy. "It's okay," he thought. "It's still enough to tide everyone over until my next big move. My own directorial project, something that'll really blow everyone out of the water. After all, Argo wasn't that great." He swallowed nervously as he forced himself to accept these words. "I just have to make sure he doesn't do anything else before I get a chance to — " And before he knew it, it was over. Affleck had been named the next Batman. He had earned the support of Joss Whedon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Things looked bad. Damon had to do something. Rumors that he might get back in the Jason Bourne game? No, too desperate! (Though let's at least keep 'em guessing for a while.) But what's better than the character of Batman? Maybe the guy who made him cool again in the first place...
Christopher Nolan. Interstellar. That's it. It's perfect. "Casey," Damon practically screamed into his iPhone 8 (a special model that only movie stars have). "How would you like to help me stick it to your brother?" And of course, the junior Affleck — already cast in the complex sci-fi — was on board. A meeting was set up. Damon had a part in the movie. Your move, Mallrats.
But back to reality for a minute. According to The Playlist, Damon's part will be a small one, and is yet undisclosed in nature. Reports add that Damon is considering a script titled A Murder Untold for his directorial debut (a phenomenon we've awaited for quite some time), written by Chris Terrio (that pretty-darn-great-after-all movie Argo). But for now, we'll just sink our teeth into his potential casting in Interstellar, and smile unknowingly as his nefarious ploy ensnares us all...
Author's Note: We do not think that Matt Damon is in any way the sort of resentful, calculating menace illustrated in the above hypothetical scenario. We've actually met him. He was really nice to us. He complimented my tie. We love him.
More:'Twilight' Star Mackenzie Foy Joins 'Interstellar' 'Interstellar' Adds John Lithgow and MoreSomehow, Even More People Join 'Interstellar'!
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
From Our PartnersBattle of the Bikini Bodies (Celebuzz)Complete Guide to Strippers in Movies and TV (Vh1)
Imagine you happened upon a wormhole that could take you to any place and time in this and all parallel universes. Imagine you took that wormhole to suburban Wisconsin circa 1976. Sounds pretty unimaginative, doesn't it? Well, you'd be surprised at just how interesting a choice you'd be making — there aren't many who'd pinpoint Topher Grace, known best as good-natured wimp Eric Forman from the Fox sitcom That '70s Show, as a probable casting addition for Christopher Nolan's developing sci-fi epic Interstellar. But Nolan is a visionary. The sort of creative mind who can turn dreams into romantic heist missions, memory loss into neo-noir love revenge stories, and comic books into gripping psychological dramas. And his greatest feat of all: turning the world back onto Topher Grace. Because, lest we forget, that dude is awesome.
Yes, while some might cock our brows at the addition of Grace to Interstellar — Deadline reports that the actor is presently in talks for a role — we challenge you to remember a time prior to this modern era of Gracelessness. On That '70s Show, Grace exhibited comic charms far and beyond that of his costars. He has yet to find an explosive vehicle since: Take Me Home Tonight, In Good Company, and Win a Date with Chad Somethingorother didn't do much to help the young actor... and the fact that we couldn't even remember he was in Spider-Man 3 without help from IMDb probably doesn't say much (although, to be frank, he'd be best served distancing himself from that movie altogether).
But perhaps this new turn will be what Grace has been awaiting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, another former child star from a goofy, low budget sitcom, took a career boost with one of Nolan's flicks, so why can't Grace? The newcomer joins Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, and every single other human being in this and all parallel universes on board the cast.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
More:John Lithgow Joins 'Interstellar''Twilight' Star Joins 'Interstellar'Casey Affleck Joins 'Interstellar'
From Our PartnersBattle of the Bikini Bodies (Celebuzz)Fangbanging: Complete Guide to All of 'True Blood's Sex Scenes (Vh1)
Renesmee Cullen is leaving Bella and Edward's Twilight home in Forks to jet off through time with Christopher Nolan. Mackenzie Foy, who starred in the last installment of the Twilight Saga films as Bella and Edward's vampire/human hybrid daughter, is in final negotiations to enroll in Christopher Nolan's upcoming project Interstellar, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The child actress would join a gloat-worthy crew of stars comprised of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, and also Casey Affleck.
The sci-fi film penned by Nolan and his sibling Jonathan Nolan, who also worked with his brother onThe Dark Knight series, is said to explore American physicist Kip Thorne's theories involving wormholes, gravity fields, and other intergalactic madness that Einstein grappled with. Let's just hope Renesmee can subdue her sparkling glitter while traveling through time!
Joining the cast of Nolan's Interstellar, which is set for a November 7, 2014 release, proves that Foy is not just fussing around. The former Twilight star is not letting the end of Edward and Bella's time on the big screen be a damper on her prominent career. On top of landing a role in the upcoming flick Interstellar, Foy is slated to voice a part in an animated modern childhood adaption of The Little Prince alongside Jeff Bridges and Marion Cotillard.
Follow Cori on Twitter @gimmegimmeCORFollow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More:'Twilight' Star Renesmee Reveals 5 Things to Know About Mackenzie Foy It's Renesmee, Bella, and Edward in Cullen Family PicChristopher Nolan Follows 'The Dark Night' With Trippy Space Movie 'Interstellar'
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The esteemed South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival will begin on Mar. 9 this year, starting things off with a film that has garnered a heavy sum of anticipation: The Cabin in the Woods. SXSW has announced that the movie, directed by Drew Goddard and co-written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, will play as the 2012 Opening Night Film.
Along with to getting to see what promises to be a striking takedown of the horror/thriller genre, attendees will be graced with a Key Conversation panel with Whedon, who also serves as a producer of the film. The Cabin in the Woods will star Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian J. White, Amy Acker and Tom Lenk.
In addition to The Cabin in the Woods, another exciting new project will be showcased at the conference: GIRLS, the new HBO comedy series created by, written/directed by and starring Lena Dunham, and executive produced by Judd Apatow. The series focuses on twenty-something Hannah (Dunham) and her friends facing the comical hardships of New York City life. SXSW is premiering the first three episodes of the series, and Dunham and Apatow will both be present, along with other members of the production team, for a GIRLS panel to follow the screening.
More in SXSW news includes new film announcements for the festival:
Beauty is Embarrassing (World Premiere)
Director: Neil Berkeley
A funny, irreverent and insightful look into the life and times of one of America's most important artists, Wayne White.
The Cabin in the Woods (World Premiere)
Director: Drew Goddard, Writers: Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard
Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. From fan favorites Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard comes The Cabin in the Woods, a mind-blowing horror film that turns the genre inside out.
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchison, Chris Hemsworth, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford
CITADEL (World Premiere)
Director & Writer: Ciarán Foy
An agoraphobic father teams up with a renegade priest to save his daughter from the clutches of a gang of twisted feral children.
Cast: Anuerin Barnard, James Cosmo, and Wumni Mosaku, Jake Wilson, Amy Shiels
GIRLS (World Premiere)
Director & Writer: Lena Dunham
Created by and starring Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture), the HBO show is a comic look at the assorted humiliations and rare triumphs of a group of girls in their early 20s.
Cast: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver
MARLEY (North American Premiere)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
The definitive documentary on the life, music, and legacy of Bob Marley.
The Oyster Princess (1919) with original live score by Bee vs. Moth (World Premiere)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch, Writers: Hanns Kraly & Ernst Lubitsch
The Oyster Princess is Ernst Lubitsch’s tart 1919 silent comedy that parodies the rich and the spoiled. Austin jazz/rock band Bee vs. Moth performs their original score live with the film for the first time.
Small Apartments (World Premiere)
Director: Jonas Åkerlund, Writer: Chris Millis
When Franklin Franklin accidentally kills his landlord, he must hide the body; but, the wisdom of his beloved brother and the quirks of his neighbors, force him on a journey where a fortune awaits him.
Cast: Matt Lucas, Billy Crystal, James Caan, Johnny Knoxville, Juno Temple, James Marsden, Dolph Lundgren, Saffron Burrows, Rosie Perez, DJ Qualls
The complete festival lineup will be announced in early February 2012.
The 19th Annual South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival runs Mar. 9-17, 2012 in Austin, Texas.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.