Long-Awaited (Or Perhaps Not) Sequel to ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ in the Works

I’m glad to know what I’m not the only person who has spent the last thirteen years hoping and praying for a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Just kidding! I don’t think that movies needs a sequel. Alas, somebody does, and that somebody is not Ang Lee. Ronny Yu, on the other hand, is, which will probably earn him the title of "Poor Man’s Ang Lee" after he directs this follow-up to the 2000 film. With a script by John Fusco and money coming in from The Weinstein Company, the still-untitled sequel will begin filming in May. [Via Deadline]

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Director’s Guild Award Nominations Fall Short

Well, the Director’s Guild nominations have come in, and they’ve proved to be entirely predictable. Not a surprise in the house. And that isn’t to say the directors nominated aren’t deserving and that their films don’t merit acclaim but come on, there are so many brilliant films being made and so many talented people at work, that although awards don’t mean everything, it’s just slightly disheartening to see the scope of praise be so narrow.

The nominees are:
Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

But aren’t we missing something? Sure, Django Unchained could have been about 40 minutes shorter, but Quentin Tarantino most definitely deserves accolades for his cinematic achievements. He knows how to craft something that’s universally entertaining while always staying true to his heavily-rooted obsessions and idiosyncrasies as a filmmaker, while coining his own take on an old genre. And what about David O. Russell? Silver Linings Playbook was a heartfelt and challenging film, and if we’re talking purely of directorial skill, he managed to get incredibly nuanced, passionate, and sincere performances out of his actors while crafting something wonderfully enjoyable. Um, not to mention P.T. Anderson for The Master, which was basically a master class on how to direct your actors and build a mise en scène.

I’m hoping the Academy Award nominations will provide a bit more excitement in terms of choices, but that’s always a toss up. The Director’s Guild Award winners will be announcement on Saturday, February 2nd at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ Adaptation Now Has A Trailer

After nearly a decade of talk and rumors of a host of directors helming the project, including M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarón and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this summer, the first glimpses of the film adaptation of Life of Pi are upon us. The trailer of the Ang Lee-directed reimagining of Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning meditation on faith, survival and what to do when you’re on a boat and the only other passenger could rip you in half at any second. 

Suraj Sharma makes his acting debut as the titular Pi, a young man who, after being the sole survivor of a shipwreck, becomes stranded on a lifeboat with an assortment of animals—a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra and a Bengal tiger (eventually, it comes down to just him at the tiger)—as impromptu crewmates. The trailer focuses mostly on the lifeboat scenes, with Pi confronting his furry CGI adversary (that claw-swipe feels like it was made for the film’s 3-D release), with plenty of bright, sweeping sea and landscape shots that Lee does so well. 

Life of Pi, which also stars Irrfan Khan as the adult Pi, Gerard Dépardieu as The Chef and Tobey Maguire as Yann Martel, hits theatres this November. Have a look at the trailer below. 

A Surprising Appreciation of ‘Dark Shadows’

I have a confession to make: yesterday I saw Dark Shadows, the new Tim Burton joint featuring, predictably, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as well as fresh Burton cast members like Chlöe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, and Eva Green. I predicted that it would be awful, and most critics seemed to prove all my points: that Burton’s weird big-budget goth epics have gotten stale and stupid. But still, something drew me to the film—maybe vampiric mind control? And, um, I kind of really enjoyed it!

Like most people my generation, I have never seen Dark Shadows, the extremely popular daytime soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971. A quick jaunt onto the show’s extensive Wikipedia page reveals it was like a late ’60s version of True Blood: there were vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and witches and was considered a gothic, campy masterpiece—just without the current vampire drama’s gratuitous sex and political subtext. It seems like the perfect source material for a Tim Burton movie (he has, after all, professed that he was a fan of the show, as did Johnny Depp), which, judging from his recent creative pursuits (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to name a couple of cinematic clunkers), would surely be a big old CGI mess.

And it was, let there be no doubt! But that was also sort of its charm? I concede that it makes absolutely no sense, is all across the board with a bunch of different bizarre subplots including reincarnation, surprise eleventh hour werewolves, fishing politics. It was somewhere in between the movie version of The Addams Family—lovingly showing the divide between an appreciation for straight-forward gothic sensibility and the modern, normal world—and Jan de Bont’s shitbox remake of The Haunting that featured a CGI-heavy scene in which a haunted fireplace murders Owen Wilson. Yes, the creepy old house that is at the center of Dark Shadows eventually attacks its residents at the hands of Eva Green’s sexy witch, but (spoiler alert!), the scene also has Michelle Pfeiffer shooting Green with a shotgun LIKE A BOSS, and then Green’s body breaks apart in a Death Becomes Her sort of way. It’s the best ’90s movie to be released in the second decade of the new millennium! 

Let’s talk about what makes this shitshow so great: it takes place in the ’70s. It’s so super stylized with ridiculous clothes, wigs, and accessories (I have never seen so many turtlenecks under corderoy blazers); it’s the best ’70s costume design I’ve seen since The Ice Storm, and we all know that the only way that Ang Lee masterpiece could have been improved is if Joan Allen was a witch and had the gumption to punish her cheating husband with dark magic. And the music! The Moody Blues, T-Rex, Barry White. Even present-day Alice Cooper makes a cameo as 1972 Alice Cooper! That is the most stupidly brilliant thing that I wish I could have thought of myself. 

So basically Dark Shadows is a gigantic disaster that entertained the hell out of me. Let’s compare it to another pile of garbage that has captured the hearts and minds of hate-watching Americans this year. As Tara Ariano writes of the NBC musical theater drama, "Smash is the worst TV show I’ve ever loved; it might be the worst thing I’ve ever loved." Well, Dark Shadows is my Smash. I’m not proud that I loved it, but I’m not ashamed, either. 

Yes We Cannes: The 11 Most Exciting Movies at This Year’s Fest

To the dismay of everyone within earshot of my desk, my excitement will not be quelled about how totally major this year’s Cannes Film Festival is going to be. In addition to new awards-contenders from the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Michel Gondry (who didn’t make the list, only because I couldn’t find much on his latest film, L’epine Dans le Coeur), the sun-soaked Riviera festival will premiere Sam Raimi’s return to death and evil, as well as Jane Campion’s first major release since the Kiwi director tried, disastrously, to make Meg Ryan edgy in 2003’s In the Cut. Penelope Cruz hugs a lot of people in Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces, Ang Lee takes Woodstock and Brad Pitt screams, “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps … and I want my scalps!” Oh, and the late Heath Ledger might just get another Oscar. After the jump, the festival’s, if not the year’s, most anticipated films (with trailers).

Agora by Alejandro Amenabar. From the director of The Others and The Sea Inside comes a historical drama, starring Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella, about Hypatia of Alexandria, the Egyptian philosophy professor who fell in love with her slave. Minghella tells BlackBook, exclusively, “Rachel’s performance in the film is, objectively speaking, quite spectacular. Performances in historical films can so easily stray into frigidity, but she injects everything with warmth and modernity, which I really believe is a principle reason why the film is as accessible as it is.” Of his working relationship with Weisz, he adds, “I felt completely comfortable around her. We grew up on the same street in London, and now in New York our apartments are directly opposite one another — which is fantastic for voyeuristic reasons, but also a bizarre coincidence. Maybe it’s our shared geographic history, but I feel very at home around her.”

The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke. While it certainly would have been interesting to watch Haneke eke out another version of Funny Games, the master of torture’s latest project sounds incredible. Courtesy of IMDb: “Strange events happen at a rural school in the north of Germany during the year 1913, which seem to be ritual punishment. Does this affect the school system, and how does the school have an influence on fascism?”

Taking Woodstock by Ang Lee. Of course the director who turned Jewel into a cowgirl, Kevin Kline into a swinger, Eric Bana into a monster, and Jake Gyllenhaal into a pederast would eventually set his sights on Woodstock. Starring an incredible cast that includes Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Live Schreiber, and Jonathan Groff, audiences surely won’t be able to quit it.

Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino. Unless you’ve been living under a very large, Brangelina-proof rock, this one needs no introduction. Still, I’m going to overlook the misspelling, and bypass the backlash by moving ahead to the backlash backlash, and just the love the guts out of this movie. Tarantino and Nazis? It’s almost better than Darryl Hannah and an eye-patch.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Jan Kounen. Forget Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Tautou for a minute, and watch Anna Mouglalis transform into the gamine Rue Gambon icon as she navigates a relationship with composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky. And keep an eye on Mouglalis: up next, she’ll star in 2010’s Serge Gainsbourg biopic.

Drag Me to Hell by Sam Raimi. Full disclosure: I saw an unfinished version of this. And, as a huge Evil Dead fan, was excited to see what the director of Spider-Man might do with his return to full-on horror. Alison Lohman plays a banker who pisses off a geriatric gypsy, which leads to one of the best catfights ever to appear on film. That said, some of the effects felt a little amusement-park ride-y, but I’ll reserve judgment until watching the final cut.

Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodóvar. This is the return of “Penelepedro,” the unstoppable force of director Pedro Almodóvar and Penelope Cruz, who last captivated audiences with Volver in 2006. It’s got a film noir feel to it, centers on love and a car crash that leaves the protagonist blind, and features a soundtrack that includes Cat Power and Uffie. It sounds near perfect, really.

Map of the Sounds of Tokyo by Isabel Coixet. From My Life Without Me to last year’s Elegy, Coixet has proved herself a masterful storyteller, which is why we can’t wait for “a dramatic thriller that centers on a fish-market employee who doubles as a contract killer.” Tokyo stars Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi, who, in my opinion, is one of today’s most revelatory onscreen chameleons.

Bright Star by Jane Campion. Kiwi director Jane Campion is to dark drama what Amy Heckerling is to romantic teen comedy — no matter how tragically their recent films have bombed, I still get excited when their names are attached to new projects. Like this one. Starring Paul Schneider and Abbie Cornish, Bright Star chronicles the love affair between 19th-century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, before Keats’ early death. Actually, I just got sort of bored writing that, but, hey, at least it doesn’t feature Meg Ryan getting her nasty on. Plus, Campion made The Piano, so she’s more than capable of a comeback.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by Terry Gilliam. Doctor Parnassus might just be the most exciting of all of the offerings at Cannes this year. Yes, the last time Gilliam and Heath Ledger worked together, they created The Brothers Grimm, which was very much so. And yes, Gilliam’s last film, Tideland, was ugly, misanthropic, and bloated. But after Ledger’s tragic death, actors Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law stepped in to play the same character in various dream worlds. Plus, Tom Waits channels the devil, supermodel Lily Cole plays a damsel in distress, and Christopher Plummer transforms into the 1,000-year-old title character. Intriguing is a gross understatement.

Thirst by Park Chan-Wook. The director of Oldboy is back with a thriller about a religious man who turns into a vampire! That’s all you need. Oh, and this trailer.
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