Dustin Lance Black

FILM JOCKEYS HEADER

What happens when a legendary film critic brings is geriatric crankiness to an internet movie show? Film Jockeys follows the adventures of Carl Barker, his far-too-young production staff, the filmmakers and the movie characters that inhabit their world. Written and illustrated by Derek Bacon, it’s the perfect webcomic for passionate movie fans who also hate spoilers. For your consideration, Episode #16:

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Five years ago, it looked as if Robert Zemeckis‘ interests as a technologically forward-thinking filmmaker would just lead him to the continued creation of terrifying motion captured animated films that pose as being “family-friendly” while actually being nightmare-inducing. If Zemeckis’ new bag is just doing live action films that contain the word “flight” in their titles, I’d say that’s a vast improvement over the former. Now THR reports (via ComingSoon) that Zemeckis will help Fox develop their Taking Flight: The Hunt for a Young Outlaw, a true crime drama about the exploits of the teen “Barefoot Bandit,” cult hero and criminal Colton Harris-Moore. Filmmaker David Gordon Green was originally developing the project, but my favorite director who continues to break my heart with every subsequent project has “turned his attentions” to his remake of Suspiria (which, incidentally, will begin shooting next month). Zemeckis has not yet signed on to direct, but is working on this as a “potential directing vehicle.”

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Hold on to your hats, kids, this is not a remake of the 1974 Charlton Heston-starrer. No need to froth at the mouth just yet. Deadline Hollywood reports that Universal and J.J. Abrams‘ long-rumored Earthquake has finally gotten off the ground after being set up back in 2008. That incarnation of the film had David Seltzer set to pen it, but Universal and Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions have now hired Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black for the gig. It’s an interesting job for Black, who is best known for writing both Milk and J. Edgar – perhaps we’re in for a historical earth-shaking flick? Black has, however, been busy as of late with some different projects that also signal his desire to branch out. He adapted Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” for Ron Howard to direct, he penned Barefoot Bandit about real-life criminal Colton Harris-Moore for Fox, and he’s currently working on an adaptation of the Dark Horse graphic novel “3 Story” for his next outing as directing. And speaking of Black, directing, and disasters…

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This post contains spoilers about J. Edgar. For the past few years, I haven’t been much of a fan of Clint Eastwood’s work. While he no doubt possesses storytelling skills as a director and certainly maintains an incredible presence as a movie star, I’ve found that critics who constantly praise his work often overlook its general lack of finesse, tired and sometimes visionless formal approach, and habitual ham-fistedness. When watching Eastwood’s work, I get the impression, supported by stories of his uniquely economic method of filmmaking, that he thinks of himself as something of a Woody Allen for the prestige studio drama, able to get difficult stories right in one take. The end product, for me, says otherwise. While I was a fan of the strong but still imperfect Mystic River (2003) and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006), the moment that I stopped trusting Eastwood came around the time the song “Colorblind” appeared in Invictus two years ago, throwing any prospect of nuance and panache out the window. Eastwood, despite having helmed several notable cinematic successes, has recently been coasting on a reputation that doesn’t match the work. He is, in short, proof of the auteur problem: that we as critics forgive from him transgressions that would never be deemed acceptable with a “lesser” director. As you can likely tell, my expectations were to the ground in seeking out the critically-divided J. Edgar. I was prepared, in entering the theater to watch Eastwood’s newest, to write an article about […]

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In Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, the director once again returns to his cinematic bread and butter with a large-scale historical epic, this time focusing on an American institution and an American icon. As J. Edgar Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio attempts to navigate the personal and professional life of America’s first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a man bent on uncovering the secrets and deceits of others, even as he too viciously guarded his own perceived defections. Hoover was a man obsessed with big ideas and even bigger ideals – especially the concepts legacies, notoriety, heroism, and adoration (particularly of the public variety), but J. Edgar is at its best when it sticks to the smaller moments of the man’s big life. Despite predictably fine and focused details like historically accurate (and gorgeous) sets, costumes, and props, J. Edgar skimps on the big framework, unable and unwilling to scale back on its story, leaving most of the film feeling somehow both bloated and empty.

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People always jest about Clint Eastwood being a papa’s boy of the Academy, and even after a string of movies ranging from just good to flat-out tedious, that belief hasn’t changed much. When films like Changeling and Gran Torino — one being forgettable and the other being plain laughable — garner nominations, it’s a clear sign that the once-great director doesn’t have to do a whole lot to get a few nods thrown his way. Come this awards season, that may remain the case. A trailer for J. Edgar has finally arrived, and it looks like the type of Oscar bait film that Kirk Lazarus would star in. From DiCaprio’s inconsistent-sounding accent to his questionable old man make-up, all signs point to a tedious bio film; events being told, rather than a story. The production design is clearly topnotch, but it’s impossible not to cringe during this “Give me that Oscar!” trailer.

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It was inevitable that a movie studio would pick up the highly successful Broadway musical based on the highly successful compact disc put out by band Green Day. It’s fitting that it would be Universal to option American Idiot considering their growing interest in musical storytelling – or at least their proposed future in interest in telling stories like Les Miserable and Wicked. Deadline Neches is reporting that the studio has hired Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar) to write his first screenplay that doesn’t involve real-life political figures. His skill is unmistakable though, and his political experience will help color this story about three small-town guys despairing at their suburban existence through pop-punk. I, for one, welcome the adaptation because it’s high time a screen musical involved shooting up heroin. Universal has also signed Michael Mayer to direct the film, which is an interesting choice. His Tony-winning, Broadway background is notable, and he’s directed two features including A Home at the End of the World and Flicka. Essentially, he’s in a unique position to match musical sensibility with cinematic knowledge. In a sense, he might emerge as a new Adam Shankman. As a life-long fan of the band, it’s great that they’ve branched out so much and maintained mainstream appeal over more than two decades, but I can’t help but hold out hope for a musical based on “Dookie.”

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After seeing Invictus get rightfully shut out on Oscar night — lets fact it, folks, the movie was bad — director Clint Eastwood is moving on to what is sure to be his next Oscar-grab biopic. This time, he’s bringing his lens back into the confines of the United States, putting focus on the controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

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