At this point in mid-June, we're about halfway through the summer movie season. Tom Cruise and Will Smith have already come and gone, their box office farts noiselessly absorbed into the winds of the blockbuster hurricanes that blew past them. Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6 have blown up a collective $600 million worth of shit in America. Star Trek Into Darkness finally opened its mystery box, revealing the Wrath of Khan DVD and pair of yellowing rubber Vulcan ears squirreled away inside. Superman arrives today to die for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's sins. So what's left to look forward to?
While Emily is in space for the week visiting Leonardo DiCaprio on his voyage to the stars, Tess and Molly hold down the Hoodies homefront. Topics on the table include Behind The Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's incredible Liberace biopic for HBO, which thrilled us with outrageous Vegas schmaltz, genuine emotion, Matt Damon's stank face, a tender Michael Douglas in a variety of rhinestone capes, and the world's best supporting cast of character actors. Also up for discussion; the sudden proliferation of Room 237-style Mad Men conspiracy theories. Is perennial coffee-offerer Bob Benson evil or just misunderstood? Plus speculation on Leonardo's cosmic journey, his transformation into Jack Nicholson, and whether letting a fan on your rocket will just lead to Misery in space.
When a week of constant moviegoing fails to rouse either unanimity or contentious division, the world's film press gets a little antsy. Where is The Movie? You know, the one that will bring us to tears or to war. Where's the movie that incites peals of laughter, intentional or otherwise? Where on earth are the Oscar-caliber, midmovie storm-outs? The applause has been tepid. The boos have been virtually nonexistent. No one seems willing to kill for anything. No one has any idea what the Steven Spielberg jury will or should do.
That sense changed this morning with the unveiling of Steven Soderbergh's Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. When the film ended, the house applauded Soderbergh's name and cheered for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The song that sends you floating up the aisle and through the exits is Douglas doing "The Impossible Dream" as Liberace. It's a strangely moving moment in exactly the same way that the film itself is strangely moving: It's determined to see beyond the obvious kitsch of Liberace to find something close to the man.
Summer is always an endurance contest: week after week of Movies You Have to See. Once upon a time the season was four months, like actual summer. But climate change has managed to monkey with the Hollywood release schedule. Now summer starts whenever a studio says it does; last week Universal called summer first. So the season pretty much began in the middle of April, with Oblivion, which delivers Tom Cruise as the last man on Earth. The movie industry is hoping you like the end of the world. It's the source of the season's other endurance contest: seemingly endless months of planetary devastation, alien invasion, and surviving. Armageddon is the new Avengers.
Maybe it's foolish to wonder whether the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the subsequent citywide hunt for the perpetrators wasn't summer movie enough. Maybe this should have been the summer Mark Wahlberg partied with the vulgar teddy bear. We are strong, however. Absentminded, too. So if Brad Pitt wants to race around the globe in the name of stopping a zombie pandemic, we might be helpless not to watch. But there's something going on when even the comedies are horning in on that action. I saw the poster for This Is the End, with the faces of all those funny people — Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jay Baruchel — and assumed it was about a bunch of man-children graduating from night school or getting drunk at a wedding or something. It might still be about that. But it's also about how a disaster has hit Los Angeles and left them stuck with each other. I'm going to go ahead and predict that Robinson dies first.
Well, this is nuts: THR is reporting the United States Attorney in Manhattan has brought charges against 34 individuals tied up in Russian-American criminal organizations that partly facilitated secret gambling rooms catering to big Hollywood names like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. Teddy KGB lives!
If some of this sounds familiar, that's because details of the operations were partially revealed in 2011, when hedge fund manager Bradley Ruderman was arrested after losing $25 million of his clients' money — much of it, he alleged, lost playing high-stakes poker with fancy celebs in these secret backroom games. (Afterward, a trustee attempted to recoup the losses via some of the stars Ruderman lost big hands to, namely Tobey freakin' Maguire.) Now, the legal ax is falling on those who set up the games.
Four years ago, director Neill Blomkamp, then not yet 30, came out of nowhere (well, technically, "came out of South Africa") to drop District 9, a modestly budgeted sci-fi flick that somehow managed to be simultaneously sharp and funny and super sad. Sensibly, Hollywood came a-calling, with their standard Would you like millions and millions of dollars to make a movie that must make millions and millions and millions of dollars more? offer. Blomkamp sacked up, said yes, and now here comes Elysium.
Do you remember thinking the phrase "Steven Soderbergh is making a Liberace biopic with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for HBO" sounded ridiculous when the project was merely in development? Well, wait till you see moving footage!
For 10 years now, Jimmy Kimmel (a Friend of Grantland) has been signing off with a dismissive nod to a certain A-lister: "Our apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time." This endless, ruthless bumping of Mr. Jason Bourne has led the two down some peculiar roads over the years: There was Kimmel's ex Sarah Silverman shtupping Damon, and admitting as much in a gorgeous musical medley; there was Kimmel shtupping Ben Affleck right back. And, despite all that pain and damage the rivalry had wrought, on it went: Matt Damon, an American treasure if ever there was one, bumped from the show, over and over again. Last night, after all those years of mental anguish and scorn, Damon sought his revenge. Sensibly, he duct-taped Kimmel to a chair, stuffed a tie in his mouth, then did Kimmel's show instead. Oh, what a sight it was! Filled with celebrity friends — from Robin Williams to Andy Garcia, Sheryl Crow to Benny Affleck — and secret audition footage and jokes about Siri and the joyous glee of a man enjoying a whole elaborate Count of Monte Cristo thing. Now this is how you exact years-in-the-making revenge. Matt Damon, you're an inspiration to us all.
Amid all of the secrets and lies being spilled at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour are highly intriguing reports about Behind the Candelabra, the long-in-the-works, “too gay for Hollywood” Liberace biopic that Steven Soderbergh was finally able to get made thanks to HBO. Critics were treated on Friday to “a lengthy first look” at the movie, which is about the scorchingly flamboyant entertainer’s turbulent affair with his much younger assistant Scott Thorson. Vulture reports that Michael Douglas “disappears into his role” as Liberace, whose involvement with Thorson (played by a blond mop-topped Matt Damon) eventually ended in a highly publicized palimony suit. The preview included clips of Douglas and Damon making out by a pool and bickering at home in bed, as well as Douglas consulting his plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe, “whose eyebrows were arched to a stunning extreme for the role”) about how to make Thorson appear more Liberace-like.
At this late stage of my life, I should be more comfortable with the idea of living through the inevitable recasting of pop culture reboots. After all, I'm on my second Spider-Man, second James T. Kirk, fifth Batman. I've watched four different versions of Fitzwilliam Darcy, a bunch of different Sherlock Holmeses and Professors Moriarty. (For some reason, Wolverine and Gandalf abide, unchanging.)
The point is, I shouldn't be so offended that this fourth Bourne movie — which came just five years after the third, The Bourne Ultimatum -- continues the story. It offers a new protagonist, who happens to have a remarkably similar backstory to the "Jason Bourne" we came to know in the original trilogy, which, fine, I guess; TV series refresh their casts like this all the time. But replacing the charming and likable Matt Damon with Jeremy "Charisma Vacuum" Renner? UUUUUUUUUGH. Won't it be hard for audiences to care whether he unravels the mystery of his true identity if he seems like such a sour jerk that we don't want anything good to happen to him? ...Just me? Okay. At least Rachel Weisz is on hand to supply some humanity to balance Renner's off-putting grouchiness.
There may be a WikiLeaks political party, and Julian Assange plans to run for Senate in 2013. “Mr Assange hopes that WikiLeaks' internet presence, which includes a Twitter account with nearly 1.7 million followers and a Facebook page with more than 2.1 million "likes", and the formation of ''friends of WikiLeaks'' groups would mobilise Australian supporters,” says the Sydney Morning Herald (at smh dot com, so I can’t help but conclude that they’re all shaking their heads over lines like “2.1 million ‘likes’”). The newspaper’s poll shows 72 percent of readers would vote for Assange, which would be great because SNLneeds the material.
So Matt Damon, for at least the time being, has bowed out of the Bourne series of amnesiac-spy thrillers in which he single-handedly popularized the use of the Yellow Pages as an improvisational instrument of bludgeoning death, to chase his somewhat less exotic dreams of buying a zoo/communing with the deceased/turning doorknobs in the wrong direction while wearing magic hats.
Jessica Chastain is in talks to join The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's hunt-for-Bin Laden movie, along with Mark Strong and Edgar Ramirez. Already cast are Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt; Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal is on board as well. Also: “Reports today assert that the Pentagon will investigate charges made by Rep. Peter King that Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker tandem Bigelow and Boal somehow got inside information about the mission from the Obama Administration in preparing the script.” Whatttt?!!! That is insanely awesome. Has Peter King been covertly hired by this movie’s marketing team? Grade: A [Deadline]
Jason Sudeikis has joined Dog Fight, the Jay Roach-directed comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival candidates in a small South Carolina congressional district. This continues a string of big comedies for Sudeikis, who was originally hired as a writer only on Saturday Night Live before breaking out as a performer. Just goes to show you, professional writers: You, too, could have had a rich life of public fulfillment, if only you were are as handsome as Jason Sudeikis. Grade: B [HR]
Matt Damon will direct and star in a movie he co-wrote with John Krasinski, who will also star. (Krasinski came up with the idea, and developed it with Dave Eggers). Details have yet to be released, but the movie is in the vein of Erin Brockovich, and will feature Damon as a salesman who “arrives in a small town only to have his life changed.” That is certainly a lot of information to digest, so let’s focus on what’s really important: in the vein of Erin Brockovich? Finally, Matt Damon in a push-up bra! Grade: A- [HR]