The notion doesn't come up when we're tucked into a movie theater seat watching the latest and greatest big budget blockbuster, but making a movie is an evolutionary process. Take Oblivion, for instance.
The hiring an Oscar-winning screenwriter to take on an original idea is music to the ears of any moviegoer. In the case of Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski's science fiction pitch, the sound was even sweeter. Rarely does Hollywood take a chance on an original blockbuster, but when William Monahan, Oscar-winner for Martin Scorsese's The Departed, was hired to pen the picture, the gamble made perfect sense.
Monahan signed on to the movie in 2010 when Oblivion was still at Disney. The script would be based off Kosinski's original ideas, first put to print in a graphic novel version of the pitch. Hiring Monahan was a promise: fans would be getting a fresh sci-fi tale from a visionary director, brought to life by a guy with golden proof of his skills.
Like with most films, writing Oblivion didn't stop at Monahan's initial draft. The movie eventually jumped from Disney to Universal, and between 2010 to 2012 when Oblivion began shooting, other writers including Karl Gajdusek (Tresspass) and Michael Ardnt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) were brought on to rewrite and polish the work. The real surprise is the crediting in the final film — while many writers who write the first drafts of a movie receive "Written by" credits, even if their work has drastically changed, Monahan's name is nowhere to be found.
Why? Hollywood.com reached out to the writer to see exactly why the movie opted out of including his name. According to Monahan's reps' official statement:
"William Monahan did not seek screen credit on Oblivion. He did one contractual draft two years ago and there have been other writers under Joe's specific direction since then, as well as creative work between Joe and Tom. He regards the picture as Joe's baby, hopes he was of some assistance in realizing a long-standing ambition to bring Oblivion to the screen, and wishes Joe and Tom and Universal all success. He looks very much forward to seeing the picture."
Those who caught Oblivion in theaters likely saw a version that took cues from Monahan's script, but either enough of it was altered or Monahan didn't see enough of his work in the finished film to feel a credit was deserving. Luckily for Kosinski, Oblivion still gets to pack the "Oscar-winning writer" credit: Ardnt picked up an Academy Award in 2007 for his work on Little Miss Sunshine.
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Tom Cruise is the biggest star on the planet, yet his greatest strength is a willingness to take a back seat to a director's vision. In Oblivion, the actor dials back his usual heroism to play pensive wanderer Jack, a technician preparing to return to the rest of civilization that recently vacated a post-apocalyptic version of Earth. After aliens destroyed our planet's moon, humans nuked the crap out of them before heading to Saturn. Jack helps harvest remaining sea water of Earth, used as fuel on the new planet, and with only days left, he dreams of the past — memories he, theoretically, should not have.
That's some serious plot. Cruise wisely goes along for the ride, leaving most of the work to director Joe Kosinski (Tron Legacy), who's just as caught up with the fluid motions of his futuristic vehicles and decimated metropolis landscapes as he is with Jack's emotional roller coaster ride. Kosinski, working off a screenplay he wrote with Karl Gajdusek (Last Resort) and Michael Arndt (Star Wars VII), picks and chooses an array of sci-fi concepts to stuff into the movie, making Oblivion a wholly original story where every moment feels familiar. Luckily, Kosinski is a master patch worker. He sweeps slowly over every landscape like he's shooting a nature film, with a fetishism over the operation of every piece of technology so we understand how it works, takes us through the daily operations of Jack and his Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) step by step so we're drowning in the monotony of their jobs. It's a slow build and Kosinski, unlike so many genre movies we see today, demands we see the work he's put into building the world of Oblivion. And it's satisfying.
Cruise makes for the perfect surrogate on Jack's observational journey. Like War of the Worlds, he can sell the blue collar worker going through the motions of flying his Mac-inspired spaceship to fix broken drone bots and he can sell the action that amps up as he uncovers the truth about his existence. Jack is never confident, and the emergence of a mysterious human visitor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), or the leader of a subterranean resistance group (enhanced by the gravitas of Morgan Freeman), make him draw back further into his head. Kosinski twists and turns and forces Cruise back into his own head and it subverts our expectations of a public figure we still imagine jumping up and down on Oprah's couch.
There's an epic quality to Oblivion that Kosinski embraces too casually. It misses out on greatness by never finding an emotional hook and letting the score by electronica artist M83 do the talking. While Victoria and Jack's relationship is meant to be cold ("We are still an effective team," Victoria tells her literal higher ups each morning), there's little personality in the world around them — especially in the overcompensating soundtrack. It's a Tron Legacy rehash, blaring horns and pounding drums burying Cruise's hushed work. By the end, when Jack rises up to hero status, it feels more like an excuse to match the soundscape than the next step of his evolution.
Oblivion is the definition of style over substance, but Kosinski delivers on the eye candy. He and Cruise give the story and characters just enough weight that they're worth following through the multi-million dollar screensaver world — a spectacle that must be seen on IMAX. Dense with backstory, Oblivion is the type of movie that won't survive scrutiny, and that's half the fun. It'll mesmerize in the moment and spur debate, fury, and plenty of questions on the walk to the car.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
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You may know of ABC's new fall drama Last Resort as "That Submarine Show" or "The One With Ben from Felicity," but once you see the pilot episode, your notions of whittling it down to such a narrow scope will be squashed. This show has a whole lotta plot. And to help clear a bit of it up, we chatted with executive producers Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek when they hopped on a conference call, and they shared a few enlightening tidbits about the intriguing new series, including just how much it resembles Lost and what sorts of romantic trouble we'll find star and general TV hunk Scott Speedman getting into. Ryan, who's friends with both Lost showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, is adamant that while elements like the crew and the island may lend the series to Lost comparisons, he works very hard to make sure it's a completely different show. "I’m kind of the Lost police in the writers room. When an idea comes up, I’ll sort of be the first one to say well they did something kind of similar on Lost so we can’t do it," he says. But, the island. Aren't they stuck on some island that looks oddly like Hawaii (because Last Resort also films in Hawaii, where Lost filmed)? Yes. But it's different. "They do want to get off the island but only on the right terms, the terms being that their actions from the pilot are cleared and so in that respect I think they use this place very differently than the characters on Lost did," he adds. Ryan clarifies that for the characters on J.J. Abrams' beloved sci-fi drama were in purgatory on their island, whereas the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado is using their island as an asylum "not unlike the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock." So the series is trying to make its own way. But it can't get through a season without some sort of romance, and fans of series star Speedman (especially those who knew him as Ben Covington on J.J. Abrams' Felicity) will undoubtedly be looking for his character Sam's romantic entanglements. There's just one slight issue: Sam is a married man. Ryan assures viewers, however, that a wedding band won't stop the series from exploring temptation and drama that comes with being taken away from one's spouse and plopped onto an island. Ryan reminds us of the tale of Odysseus, who was separated from his wife Penelope by war and adventure; he eventually makes it back, but not without a few temptations along the way. Now, that's not to say we can be sure of Sam's fate, but rather the temptation he'll encounter while he's at such a distance from his Penelope. "Scott Speedman alone on an island with beautiful women all around might be too easy. For us, this problem is at the heart of what’s best about the sort of sexy side of our show, which is that, it’s unfulfilled very often. It’s a moral problem, it’s a yearning for what you can’t have," says Ryan. But there's also someone — who neither EP dared to name — who's going to make things a lot more difficult for the currently faithful husband. "[He gets] pressed together with strange bedfellows and there are characters that all the sudden he can’t not be around, attractive characters he can’t not be around. That could lead him to the edge of temptation and we sort of think that’s probably the best situation to play those sorts of stories in," he adds. So far, the pieces all seem pretty interesting. Of course, we'll have to see what the episodes beyond the pilot may hold before we can really make a call. Last Resort premieres Sept. 27 at 8 PM on ABC. Will you be tuning in? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: ABC] More: ABC Fall Premiere Dates 'Revolution' Baddie Giancarlo Esposito On Life as a Post-Apocalyptic Villain Leanne's Spoiler List: Will Finchel Get Back Together? Lea Michele Answers!
To us, it might seem like Anne Hathaway has it all. But apparently, the young star needs more out of this tireless vacuum of mania we understand to be life. So, she has decided to take on the role of producing. Hathaway will both star in and produce the developing thriller film Puzzler, which is not the name of a new villain in The Dark Knight Rises, but pretty much the most thrillery movie title I've ever heard.
The new film is said to be reminiscent of Three Days of the Condor, the 1975 Sydney Pollack film wherein a CIA researcher (Robert Redford) must discover who murdered all of his coworkers. Cautious to trust anyone, Redford's character pursues this mystery with a double dose of paranoia, which will be just as large a theme in the upcoming Hathaway film.
Onboard to write the script for Puzzler is Karl Gajdusek, the screenwriter responsible for the new Nic Cage/Nicole Kidman ransom movie Trespass, as well as a handful of Dead Like Me episodes.
I wasn't sure whether or not Joseph Kosinski would be able to get back to work as quickly as he is. His feature debut, Tron: Legacy, did some business, but not exactly what Disney had hoped it would. Of course, that's not the reason that the Mouse House dropped the visually-inventive filmmaker's new project, Oblivion (at least that's not what the company is saying). The fact that Kosinski couldn't bring the film in with a PG rating is supposedly why Disney let the ambitious movie go. Thankfully, Universal Pictures has swooped in and picked it up - and attached the biggest movie star in the world to it.
Deadline reports that Tom Cruise will star as a lone soldier on the ground in a desolate future planet, where most of the population lives in a society amongst the clouds. Day in and day out he repairs drones that patrol and destroy a savage alien life form that has taken control of the surface, until he encounters a beautiful woman who crashes in a craft and forces him to question everything he believes about his planet and life. William Monahan (The Departed) penned the screenplay, based on Kosinski's original idea, and Karl Gajdusek is coming aboard to rewrite it. Universal, not bound by the same family-friendly business model as Disney, has agreed to a PG-13 rating and a production budget of $100 million.
I'm pretty gung-ho about this project. It's totally sci-fi, but also sounds like it has a deeply theological or existential story arc that, set against the beautiful backdrop of a city in the clouds, should be breathtaking. I'd be more comfortable with it if it was in the hands of a more experienced filmmaker, but this appears to be Kosinski's baby. That, coupled with his indisputable aesthetic talents, should lead to a pretty awesome adventure flick. And this is exactly the kind of film that Cruise needs to make the world remember why he's the biggest action star on the planet. He hasn't done sci-fi since 2005's War of the Worlds, instead opting for spy action like Mission: Impossible 3, Knight and Day and this winter's fourth Mission. He's still one of the most bankable leading men in the business and I'm looking forward to seeing him return to this exciting genre.
I guess Hollywood's fictional scientists learned nothing from A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick, essentially, sought to teach cinema's most brilliant minds that you cannot alter an individual's natural behavior. Yet that's exactly what director F. Gary Gray is planning to do with his new film, a high-concept futuristic heist thriller called The Last Days of American Crime. In it, America responds to a second major terrorist attack by developing technology that eliminates the impulse to commit crimes of any kind. The story centers on a man leading a heist team to pull off a final job five days before the signal rubs out the criminal instinct.
Let's make this clear. It's not Mr. Gray who is responsible for bringing this story to the screen. You can thank Radical Publishing's Barry Levine for that. The film is a project that he has been shepherding with Sam Worthington, who has a deal with Radical that also includes another adaptation-in-progress called Damaged. The Aussie will star as the team's point man and will also produce with Levine and his partner Michael Schwarz. Rick Remender wrote the script, though Deadline says that Karl Gajdusek, who penned Joel Schumacher's Trespass and will also rewrite William Monahan's Oblivion script for Joseph Kosinski, will work on the screenplay now that a director is on board.
I like Gray as a filmmaker. Sure, he's had a few misses like Be Cool and A Man Apart, but he's also the guy who made Friday, Set It Off, The Negotiator and The Italian Job. The latter release sounds most closely related to what The Last Days Of American Crime has in store for us, and it is a slick heist pic that holds up against the glitzier Oceans films among other genre contenders. My biggest concern is with the story. As previously stated, I just don't see how the hook of having the characters' criminal instincts eradicated will entice audiences to by a ticket. Will it make moviegoers "miss" their criminal behavior? Will everyone go out after the credits and embrace their inner crook? I guess it'll make the team work against a clock, which will increase the tension ten-fold. But if they don't succeed in their mission, I don't see what the big consequences will be.
This shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone. Walt Disney Pictures has decided not to move forward with producing an adaptation of Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski's upcoming illustrated novel Oblivion, says Variety. The studio made a deal with the filmmaker last August after the book bowed at the San Diego Comic-Con, when Tron was tracking big and looked like it was going to be the start of another huge franchise for the Mouse House.
Fast forward a few months. The film's $398 million haul was good enough to draw profit but was hardly the hit that Disney thought it had on its hands, and thus, Kosinski's stock at the company has cooled momentarily. He's still attached to helm a remake of its 1979 sci-fi family film The Black Hole, but it looks like he'll shop Oblivion (which was possibly retitled Horizons) around at other studios with producer Barry Levine of Radical Publishing (who helped develop the book) first. For those unaware of what this ambitious tent pole is about, the story is set in a future in which the Earth's surface has been irradiated beyond recognition and the human survivors live above the clouds, safe from the alien Scavengers that stalk the ruins. But when surface-drone repairman Jak discovers a mysterious woman in a crash-landed pod, it sets off a chain of events that forces him to question everything he believes.
William Monahan (The Departed) and Karl Gajdusek (upcoming Trespass) worked on the script, which means that it's probably pretty good. Given the visual flair of Kosinski's Tron, I've got no reason to believe that this original project won't be cool; it just needs a home. There's a huge market for big science fiction these days, so I can't imagine a studio not going for the property. Disney may regret letting this one go in the long term...
Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage have signed on to play a married couple in Trespass, a Joel Schumacher-directed action-adventure pic from Nu Image/Millennium Films. Irwin Winkler, Avi Lerner and Danny Dimbort will produce, Variety reports.
In other Cage news, Columbia is revving up a Ghost Rider sequel and is in talks with the actor to star and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to direct.
Neveldine and Taylor, whose first feature as directors was Crank in 2006, wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Jonah Hex.
The screenplay for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was written by Scott Gimple and Seth Hoffman based on a story by David Goyer. Neveldine and Taylor may do a rewrite, says the Heat Vision blog, although that has yet to be determined.
Columbia risked losing Ghost Rider rights which would have reverted back to Marvel if the studio couldn't put a sequel into production by November.
It is not known if any cast from the original, including Eva Mendes, will return.
Meanwhile, Cage and Kidman will shoot Trespass in Louisiana from a story written by Karl Gajdusek and Eli Richbourg about a husband and wife taken hostage by four brutal perpetrators seeking easy cash. Complications ensue amid the unexpected discovery of betrayal and deception, says Variety.
Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, John Thompson and Rene Besson are executive producing.