Joss Whedon is working on a Batgirl movie. Here is why this might rule.

 

So Variety is reporting that Joss Whedon is working on a Batgirl movie for Warner Bros.

Now that my jaw has met up with the rest of my face, let’s examine some key bits of the story. Quotes from the Variety piece are in italics, emphasis mine.

  • “The superheroine is getting her own standalone movie from filmmaker Joss Whedon. Whedon is nearing a deal to write, direct, and produce an untitled Batgirl pic for Warner Bros. as part of its DC Extended Universe.”

The operative word for me here is standalone. Given Whedon’s issues with the what-happens-next nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (“That’s the danger of this sort of serialized storytelling, turning the motion picture experience into episodic TV. Because we have episodic TV, and now you don’t even have to wait to watch it, you can binge it. So that’s to me a dreadful mistake”), I can imagine him wanting to make this movie as standalone as humanly possible. A beginning, a middle, an end. No setting up the next thing. Just a really good movie about Batgirl with maybe some various Gotham City supporting characters.

  • Whedon would be making a big move from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its DC counterpart, having written and directed “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” for Disney-Marvel. He also created the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” “Dollhouse,” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Boy howdy, is it. When Whedon very publicly got cranky with Marvel in 2015 (comments he somewhat walked back in 2016), it seemed like he was done with bringing corporate superhero fiction to the screen. Which is interesting in that contemporary live action superhero fiction pretty well starts with “Buffy.”

Which is why it felt so perfect when Whedon started steering the MCU back in 2012 or so.

The mix of melodrama and humor, the fantastic fights, the epic feel — Whedon did it better than anyone. He did an incredibly good job with “The Avengers” — less so with the according-to-him-much-more-personal “Age of Ultron.”

RELATED: How Comic Book Movies Are Making Comic Books Worse

  • Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe launched with 2013’s “Man of Steel,” followed by last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”

You might have noticed that while the last two films did well financially — “Batman” did $873 million worldwide, “Suicide Squad” did $745 million worldwide, — but critically reviled does not begin to describe the bile (rightfully, IMHO) launched at these films.

Hiring Whedon seems an attempt to reverse this trend, or at least try to stop the bleeding. He is a longtime critical darling, and one imagines (and this is pure speculation) that Whedon gets if not literal final cut, something awfully close.

This move comes at an interesting point in superhero stuff on TV and in movies.

Out of nowhere, the best live-action superhero fiction around is being made by Fox.

After the dire “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Fox’s “Logan” is one of the strongest superhero movies ever made (and, not coincidentally, most stand-alone). And Austin resident Noah Hawley’s “Legion” doesn’t just feel like a next step for superheroes on TV, it’s one of the best shows on TV, period. Are things looking up for live-action comic book stuff?

Well, not so fast.

The idea that Aaron Sorkin, who is capable both of greatness (the script for “A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing,” “SportsNight”) and, you know, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom,” was in talks with Marvel and DC to work on TV and movie ideas for them made me hold my dome. (See also the “How Comic Book Movies Are Making Comic Books Worse” piece above for my fears about a Sorkin –> Bendis —> Sorkin feedback loop.)

Also, considering Sorkin’s shock at the treatment of women and minorities in Hollywood, it would be good of DC and Marvel to remember that the very last thing comics and comic book movies needs is more white guys who don’t understand that lack of representation is a thing.

Two potential steps forward, one potential step back. One hopes for the best.

 

 

 

 

Tim League isn’t worried about streaming services, and 4 other things we learned from his clapback at Netflix

 

Alamo Drafthouse co-founder and CEO Tim League is no stranger to making strong statements about the movie theater industry. League has famously used the written word to advocate for gender-neutral restrooms in at least one of his Alamo theaters and to decry AMC Theatres’ brief flirtation with allowing texting during movies.

Tim League is the founder of Alamo Drafthouse. The Austin-based chain is expanding via franchisees. (Photo by Annie Ray.)

And now, on the heels of a Q&A session with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last week where Hastings declared that distribution in the movie business hadn’t innovated in the last 30 years (“Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it”), League is taking another stand to defend the “business of cinema” in an editorial for IndieWire.

More: Mueller’s new Alamo Drafthouse location will have family focus

Here are five things we learned from League’s editorial:

  1. Netflix’s business model doesn’t concern League one bit.
    “It seems like every other interview I give asks me about the “threat” of Netflix. I’ll be blunt. Netflix doesn’t concern me, and I think it is obvious after last week that the cinema industry is of no concern to Netflix either. We are in very different businesses…Netflix is in the business of growing a global customer base by being the best value proposition subscription content platform…But here’s my business: Cinema.”
  2. But he still respects Netflix’s ability to innovate.
    “They are doing a great job. Their portal is stable, intuitive, cheap and delivers plenty of great, new content every month. They also provide a fantastic financial opportunity for both emerging and veteran storytellers. I stand in awe of the audience they have built and the wealth they have amassed in such a short time.”
  3. He doesn’t think films should be viewed on phones, but rather, in a theater, where they belong.
    “Our best and most talented, passionate filmmakers vehemently do not want their films to be viewed first and foremost on a phone, on the train to work, while checking email, while chopping vegetables for the evening meal, on mute with subtitles while rocking a baby to sleep, or while dozing off before bed…Great filmmakers create content to share their fully realized creations in a cinema with full, rich sound; bright, crisp picture and a respectful audience whose full attention is on the screen.”
  4. He does think that Netflix should follow the example of other streaming services who distribute films in theaters, like Amazon Studios did with “Manchester by the Sea”:
    “When courting filmmakers young and old to create content for their platform, I wish Netflix would consider the relationship with cinemas built by Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and Epix…They believe in the promotional partnership that successful theatrical engagements can give to word of mouth, awards consideration, brand loyalty and ultimately maximized financial returns.”
  5. Finally, he does believe in innovation in movie theaters, but not at the expense of the movies themselves.
    “I will acknowledge some underlying truth to Reed Hastings’ words. We do, as an industry, need to invest in innovation. Cinema’s primary threat today is not Netflix; it is ourselves. We must continue to maintain high exhibition standards, invest in new sound and picture technology, improve the digital experience for our guests, develop innovative ways to delight our guests and ensure that we live up to our one job – make going to the cinema an amazing experience.”

Read the full interview here.

Related:

Alamo Drafthouse introduces ‘Alamo For All’ sensory-friendly screenings

Alamo Drafthouse vs. Apple? If iPhone function rumors are true, maybe so

 

SXSW 2017: ‘Life’ star Jake Gyllenhaal is doing just fine on Earth, thanks

 

The following contains mild spoilers for “Life.”

This just in: Jake Gyllenhaal could not stay on the International Space Station for a year.

Gyllenhaal: “No. No. No way. Physically, there would be no use for me up there other than potential entertainment. I would be hopeless in any other way.”

David Jordan, his character in Daniel Espinosa’s new sci-fi thriller “Life,” has spent more than a year up there and is among the six person crew (including Ryan Reynolds) who make first contact with life retrieved from Mars. When said encounter goes from thrilling and kind of cute to ARGHHH NOOOOO, it is up to Jordan and his crew to fight a creature that seems rather hearty for a newborn.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Life”

We’re sitting outside the Hotel Saint Cecilia. It’s about 10 a.m. the Sunday after South by Southwest. The night before, Gyllenhaal walked the red carpet for “Life,” which closed the film festival. He isn’t staying here all that long — dude’s in the middle of a well-regarded, 10-week Broadway engagement as the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing he is an actor (and an extremely hard-working one at that). Gyllenhaal says astronaut was never in the cards.

“It’s just never been a legitimate interest of mine. I really never wanted to go up and out there,” he says. “Someone told me about the sorts of people they are looking for to go on the Mars mission and it turns out they’re looking for people who are essentially stamp collectors. And I am maybe the furthest from that. I was the kid always being sent outside. So I don’t know how that would work on the way to Mars.”

But fictional astronauts? Totally fine. “I read the script, and it was terrifying,”  Gyllenhaal said, “and I thought this will be really elevated because of all the incredible people involved, but it was also just, why not have some fun on a movie?”

In keeping with the stamp collector idea, Gyllenhaal’s Jordan is a quiet fellow. “Someone who has been up there that long is going to be more of an observer than a do-er or a go-getter. That is more Ryan’s character.”

As for the creature itself, with which Gyllenhaal and his pals end up doing a not insignificant amount of battle, one had to use one’s imagination. “The creature was a bit of an abstraction. It was Daniel’s intention that we interact with it in a way that wasn’t false, but we also had to use our imagination. He shoots in a really elegant way. He knows he needs pieces, and he knows he needs something from the actors; he’ll shoot for a while knowing what he needs and knowing where to find it. We had earpieces in, and he would be speaking to us while he was watching monitors, saying things like,  “Now it’s over there, it’s coming at your left side.’ But we had no real idea of what it looked like.”

And, no, the cast did not do any time in a Vomit Comet for the weightless sequences.

“Man, I would have loved that,” Gyllenhaal said. “No, it was all wires, and that is a very strange thing, as you are being handled by four people on a soundstage as you attempt to say your lines and remember scientific jargon.”

But Gyllenhaal said he welcomed any kind of tension in such a controlled environment. “It did start to feel very isolated,” he said “It was dark all day long on these stages, and since you are on wires, you are incapable of moving and in a very small space. That is something that was useful in building the characters.”

Just don’t expect him to actually head to Mars any time soon.

“Life” opens in theaters March 24.

Danny Boyle almost put nothing but Young Fathers on the “T2” soundtrack

In an interview with the American-Statesman, “T2 Trainspotting” director Danny Boyle discussed how music, so crucial to the first film, would work in the second.

Boyle knew he couldn’t quite replicate the zeitgeist of the original, which had nothing but pop music cues and no original score at all. In “T2,” there are discrete bits of original music here and there, while songs from the original are hinted at or remixed.

Boyle said he thought briefly about removing any familiar music at all and populating the soundtrack entirely with tracks by Young Fathers, a contemporary Scottish hip-hop act.

“They live and work in Edinburgh and they obviously make music for now, but they fit so perfectly,” Boyle said. “I could have used 20 of their tracks, and I thought about having nothing but Young Fathers from beginning to end.” Ultimately, Young Fathers cut a new song (“Only God Knows”) for the soundtrack and makes a few more appearances.

Check out the full interview here.

 

 

 

10 highlights from the SXSW Film Festival

From left, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling star in Terrence Malick’s “Song to Song.” Contributed by Van Redin / Broad Green Pictures

Joe Gross:

Oddly, the visceral dislike I experienced at “Song to Song” was a South by Southwest highlight for me.  Rarely have I gotten so angry at a film so quickly, and rarely has a film continued to build on that which is generating the rage. It is gorgeous, but, boy howdy, is it not ever about Austin or musicians. I suspect the movie was a bit rage-inducing for anyone who takes music seriously, but, hey, your mileage may vary.

For the exact opposite feeling, there is Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver.” Yes, it is a trifle, but it’s one of the better movies you will see this year about the centrality of music in people’s lives. Look for it in theaters in August.

I also thoroughly enjoyed (if that is the appropriate word) Jennifer Brea’s documentary “Unrest,” a fascinating look at a woman (Brea herself) struggling with myalgic encephalopathy, the condition formerly (and somewhat dismissively) known as chronic fatigue syndrome. I was especially taken with the other stories Brea and her team gathered, from the athletic young man whose condition has reduced him to a husk and the young woman in Denmark who was forcibly removed from her family and institutionalized against her will.

Perhaps my very favorite moment came at the very end of Leonard Maltin’s interview with Frank Oz, when a gentleman in the audience asked Oz about an article in Salon called “How the Muppets created Generation X”  and how the piece suggests that a lot of the values that Gen-Xers tend to have in common were communicated by the various Muppet venues. “Tell me in your opinion what those values are,” Oz said.

“Acceptance, tolerance, curiosity, enthusiasm for diversity,” the gentleman said.

“You could just say one word for that, and that’s Jim,” Oz said. “That’s what we learned. He never shared his philosophy verbally, he just was who he was and we followed him because all those words and more were Jim’s moral compass.”

Amen.

Charles Ealy:

It’s known as a film festival, but some of the biggest highlights of this year’s event were the TV premieres.

The most-anticipated one for Texans was AMC’s premiere of the first two episodes of “The Son,” based on the epic Texas tale by Austin’s Philipp Meyer. It stars Pierce Brosnan as patriarch Eli McCullough, who is kidnapped by Indians and grows up to found a cattle and oil empire. It starts showing on AMC on April 8 and will last for 10 episodes. Five seasons are tentatively planned, depending on ratings.

“American Gods,” which will premiere April 30 on Starz, was also a hit with SXSW crowds. It’s based on the book by Neil Gaiman — and it is WAY out there, with incredible visuals and inventive storytelling. It stars Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday.

And then there was Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” a timely take on race relations in America, told from multiple perspectives of various students at a fictional Ivy League university. It will be on Netflix, but a release date has not yet been announced.

Evan Rodriguez:

As the sun set on the long, arduous yet fun journey that was SXSW 2017, some films truly rose above the fray.

Elijah Bynum’s “Hot Summer Nights” should be the sexy and scintillating summer film of 2017. Through an auteur’s lens, Bynum subverts the summer romance/coming-of-age-drama formula and delivers a dark, smart, well-crafted hard-truth love story set to a killer soundtrack.

John Carrol Lynch’s “Lucky” is a refreshing existential meditation with Harry Dean Stanton, which has the potential to reach beyond fanboys and the initiated with its thoughtful musings.

While I struggled with James Franco’s work-in-progress “The Disaster Artist,” I ultimately cannot deny its odd allure and the Franco brothers’ organic on-screen dynamic, and especially James Franco’s performance as the bizarre Tommy Wiseau.

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Meth, Muppets and music: Five of our favorite documentaries from SXSW

A scene from “Meth Storm: Arkansas USA”

The documentary slate at South by Southwest this year was as strong as ever. Our critics saw nearly two dozen docs; here are five of their favorites.

“Meth Storm: Arkansas USA”: Charles Ealy says this documentary about meth addiction in lower-income America  “has a weird vibe. It’s undeniably groundbreaking. But it’s also undeniably troubling, from an ethical standpoint.” The filmmakers appear to have been given incredible access to law enforcement authorities, but they also feature families caught up in the drug trade, including young children who add a disturbing element to the movie. HBO will be distributing this film; no release date has been set.
REVIEW: The meth doc at SXSW raises a lot of questions

“Stranger Fruit”: This documentary about the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., made national news on its world premiere at SXSW. It examines a previously unreported video that, the filmmaker says, shows Brown did not rob a convenience store but rather was involved in an exchange of pot for cigarillos. A lawyer for the store and its employees disputes the film’s allegations.
REVIEW: ‘Stranger Fruit’ offers new theory about Ferguson shooting

“As I Walk Through the Valley”: This film looks at the varied musical influences of the Rio Grande Valley, from conjunto to country to punk to Chicano-funk, told through interviews new and old interspersed with concert footage. “A true testament to the universal language of music,” Evan Rodriguez writes.
REVIEW: ‘As I Walk Through the Valley’ shines light on South Texas music scenes

“Muppet Guys Talking – Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched”: Frank Oz and four other original Muppet performers gather to talk about their time on “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show. ” It’s “not only a fascinating historical document but also a beautiful portrait of old friends who can still crack each other up after decades together,” Matt Shiverdecker writes.
REVIEW: ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ is like hanging out with old friends at SXSW

“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”: This film about the “Tales From The City” author is, in the words of Shiverdecker: “Heartwarming. Funny. Sad. Vital. This is essential gay history.”
REVIEW: ‘The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin’ is essential viewing

 

‘David Lynch’ documentary has arty appeal for fans of filmmaker

“David Lynch – The Art Life.” Contributed

David Lynch no longer remains a mystery. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, but John Nguyen’s documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life,” which screened at South by Southwest, does shed some light on what led the man behind “Twin Peaks,” “Eraserhead,” “The Elephant Man” and more to begin his filmmaking career.

Nguyen takes us through Lynch’s early adolescence and formative years and his dedicated journey to becoming a painter by adhering to a philosophy of “the art life.” It’s a Beat-aesthetic philosophy that consists of painting, drinking, coffee, cigarettes and occasionally opening some time up for women, Lynch says .

“The Art Life” essentially is a feature-length interview married with a slickly produced art show — dark and comic vignettes that resonated with Lynch contributing to his creative psyche. We also get to bear witness to some making-of footage as we get to watch Lynch smear, tug and screw various materials into his mixed-media canvases high in his Hollywood Hills studio, where most of the film takes place.

Fanchildren of Lynch will be enraptured; the casual observer of Lynch’s work might find the documentary tedious and self-indulgent. However, Lynch is one of America’s last true auteurs, so Nguyen’s rendering is par for the course in its well-composed oddity. In this age of celebrity, it is refreshing that “The Art Life” sheds more light on the man’s methods and philosophy behind his artistic processes than the man himself — though the ubiquitous presence of Lynch’s very young daughter throughout the documentary as they paint, sit and listen to music together leaves more questions than answers about the enigmatic man. Intimate, yet somewhat contrived, beautiful and frustrating, “The Art Life” is still psychedelic through all its slickness.

“The Light of the Moon,” “Dealt,” “Baby Driver” pick up SXSW audience awards

“The Light of the Moon”
 A feature debut about the aftermath of a rape, a documentary about a blind magician and a heist movie about a young getaway driver who must have the right soundtrack took audience awards at SXSW Saturday.
Jessica M. Thompson‘s “The Light of the Moon,” about a woman who is assaulted blocks from her house, took the award for narrative feature.
Luke Korem‘s “Dealt,” about blind card magician Richard Turner, won for feature documentary.
Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” took top honors in the headliners category, while former Austinite Noël Wells‘ “Mrs. Roosevelt” won in the narrative spotlight category.
Here is the full list of winners:
2017 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Winners:

NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION 
Audience Award Winner: 
The Light of the Moon
Director: Jessica M. Thompson

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION 
Audience Award Winner: 
Dealt
Director: Luke Korem

 

HEADLINERS 
Audience Award Winner:
 Baby Driver 
Director: Edgar Wright 

 

NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT 
Audience Award Winner:
 Mr. Roosevelt 
Director: Noël Wells

 

DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT 
Audience Award Winner:
 The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin 
Director: Jennifer M. Kroot 

 

VISIONS 
Audience Award Winner: 
Becoming Bond 
Director: Josh Greenbaum

 

MIDNIGHTERS 
Audience Award Winner:
 68 Kill 
Direct
or: Trent Haaga

 

EPISODIC 
Audience Award Winner
: Dear White People 
Director: Justin Simien 

 

24 BEATS PER SECOND 
Audience Award Winner: May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers 
Directors: Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio 

GLOBAL 
Audience Award Winner:
 Divine Divas
Director: Leandra Leal 

 

FESTIVAL FAVORITES 
Audience Award Winner
The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter 

 
 

SXSW Film Design Awards

 

EXCELLENCE IN TITLE DESIGN 

Audience Award Winner: Into The Current 

Directors: Chris R. Moberg and Jared Young

Virtual Cinema Grand Jury Awards

VIRTUAL REALITY: ROOM-SCALE

Winner: After Solitary 

Directors: Cassandra Herrman, Lauren Mucciolo

 

Special Jury Recognition for Innovative Use of Virtual Reality Technology in the Field of Health: Reinvent 

Directors: Ian Forester, Sook-lei Liew, PhD

 

360° VIDEO

Winner: Behind the Fence

Directors: Lindsay Branham, Jonathan Olinger 

 

Special Jury Recognition for Technical Excellence: Dreams of “O”

Directors: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël

 

SXSW film highlights: Four documentaries, from true crime to the Grateful Dead, and the comic brilliance of Noël Wells

Noël Wells’ “Mr. Roosevelt” won the audience award for best narrative feature at South by Southwest.

From a disturbing tale about a disgraced college athletic program to a breakout performance from a brilliant writer and performer Noël Wells, SXSW offered plenty of gems this year. Below are the five highlights from the Statesman’s Matthew Odam

“Disgraced” Austinite Pat Kondelis’ documentary spends as much time detailing the cover-up of a murder as the murder itself. If you want to challenge any belief you might have in the purity of college athletics, sit with this disturbing tale of manipulative former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss and the equally tainted administration he served. You will leave with more sympathy for victim Patrick Denehy and his family than apparently anyone at Baylor ever felt. (Full fest review.)

“Long Strange Trip” Don’t let the four-hour run time intimidate you, director Amir Bar-Lev’s exploration of the Grateful Dead moves with the fluidity and pace of a concert, with even the occasional deviations seemingly perfectly suited for a story about the psychedelic band. At a time when much music feels corporatized and soulless and a brand of disconnected narcissism fuels many of our leaders, “Long Strange Trip” reminds you of the power of coming together to create powerful art and a vital sense of community. To paraphrase a line from Bar-Lev in our conversation with him, now would be a great time to “make America Grateful again.” (Interview with director Amir Bar-Lev.)

“Mommy Dead and Dearest” The  true-crime phenomenon has gripped American audiences in recent years. What’s different about Erin Lee Car’s documentary is that she spends less time unraveling a mystery while heightening the drama, instead choosing to simply stun audiences through her reveal of the details behind a crime clearly defined early in the film. (Full fest review.)

“Mr. Roosevelt” It seems silly to describe an artist with millions of YouTube views and a brief stint as a performer on “Saturday Night Live” on her resume as undiscovered, but after watching this film, you get the feeling former Austinite Noel Wells is just now at the precipice of taking off. She wrote, directed and starred in this movie that she wholly owns, with her cutting observational wit, eye for detail and the way she can transform from daffy goofball to sympathetic character full of vulnerable longing in an instant. (The audience award winner screens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Alamo Ritz.)

“The Work” Like the work it portrays in the film, Gethin Aldous and Jairus McLeary’s documentary delves into a dark, personal space and returns with glimmers of hope and salvation. Groups of prisoners and civilians join twice a year to engage in a form of concentrated psychoanalytic work, breaking down personal and interpersonal barriers, shattering their masks of invincibility and finding belief in themselves and their fellow man. “The Work,” which won the jury award for best documentary at SXSW, could just as easily be described as “the network,” that thing that binds people together and connects us to something deeper and more profound. (Full festival review.)

 

Austin filmmaker Kat Candler named producing director for ‘Queen Sugar’

Kat Candler at Flipnotics in 2014. (Deborah Cannon AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin filmmaker Kat Candler will serve as a producing director on season two of “Queen Sugar.” The television drama based on the novel of the same name by Natalie Baszile airs on the OWN Network, and was created by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey. The show won best drama at the 48th annual NAACP Image Awards.

Candler directed episodes eight and nine of the first season, which aired last fall. We have questions out to her regarding how this change in title will affect he work with the show. DuVernay was nominated for an Oscar for the documentary “13th” and earned a best director  Golden Globe nomination for the historical drama “Selma,” also co-produced by Winfrey. Candler’s most recent feature was the family drama “Hellion,” starring Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad.”

From the archive: