Joe Johnston

Chris Evans in CAPTAIN AMERICA THE FIRST AVENGER

Captain America: The First Avenger is probably the best of Marvel’s Phase One films. I say “probably” to allow for nostalgia for Iron Man and the abundance of fun that is The Avengers, but re-watches have shown The First Avenger to be the least problematic and most affecting of the bunch. Its high entertainment value doesn’t hurt either. The sequel, The Winter Soldier, hits theaters this Friday, and according to at least one very reputable source it may just be the best Marvel film yet. We’re spending the week exploring all things Captain America so there’s no better time than now to take a listen to director Joe Johnston‘s commentary for The First Avenger. He’s joined by the film’s editor and director of photography, and together they discuss the production, the cast and crew, and the moments they love as film fans.

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commentary-jurassicpark3

Even though there’s pretty much no information about the upcoming Jurassic Park 4 film that was announced earlier this week, you’ll find plenty of speculation and discussion about it on the interwebs. So why not jump on that bandwagon and dissect the famous dinosaur movies? Yeah, we’d all like to go back to the original Jurassic Park for this Commentary Commentary, but sadly, Spielberg hasn’t sat down to record his thoughts on that or the sequel. That means we’re left with Jurassic Park 3. The plus side is that we get Stan Winston’s take on the whole thing as he is joined by other members of the film’s special effects team. And on to the commentary…

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Star Wars

Before we get into today’s line-up of fresh Star Wars Episode VII talk, can we just take one moment to reflect on how truly insane it is that we’re reporting on an entire string of rumors about a seventh Star Wars film that is actually being made within mere months? Have we thought about that enough? Yes? Okay. First up, more director rumors! (We know you guys love these.) Joining the ranks of Zack Snyder, Steven Spielberg, and Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams has weighed in on his potential for helming the film with a big, fat, resounding “no.” The director told Hollywood Life: “Look, Star Wars is one of my favorite movies of all time…I frankly feel that – I almost feel that, in a weird way, the opportunity for whomever it is to direct that movie, it comes with the burden of being that kind of iconic movie and series. I was never a big Star Trek fan growing up, so for me, working on Star Trek didn’t have any of that, you know, almost fatal sacrilege, and so, I am looking forward more then anyone to the next iterations of Star Wars, but I believe I will be going as a paying moviegoer!” Cross Abrams off the list (probably). And what about Jon Favreau? Favs gave a bit of a riff on Abrams’ answer to the outlet, saying: “I think both J.J. and I come from a generation of people who formed our whole creative persona around what […]

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Culture Warrior

Crowding a movie with talent often seems like a good idea only in the abstract sense. In practice, such films can easily feel overstuffed. For example, the basic conceits for both The Expendables and Grown Ups sound like products of wishful thinking held during a drunk conversation between a group of 19-year-olds at 3am. Yes, in theory a movie featuring all of the action stars of the 80s or the most successful SNL cast since the late-70s would be great – however, a bunch of famous people do not a seminal action film or great comedy make. What’s most surprising about Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is that the whole somehow proved greater than its parts. A movie with this quantity of iconic superheroes runs the incredible risk of being overstuffed and only half-cooked. The standards created by previous Hollywood films indicate that studios would be happy enough allowing the conflagration of bankable characters stand in for (or, more accurately, distract from the lack of) actual entertainment value; mammoth opening weekends, after all, are always more a sign of effective marketing than good filmmaking. But The Avengers not only stands as an equal to some of the stronger entries in Marvel’s 4-year, 5-film multiverse-building, but is arguably superior. Some of these characters came across more fully-fleshed and three-dimensional as part of an ensemble than in their respective standalone films.

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Director Joe Johnston has chosen to follow up his big-budget superhero flick, last summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger, with a new “micro-budgeted thriller” that will, unfortunately, be pretty hard to search for online. The film is called Not Safe For Work (or just NSFW) and “it follows a young paralegal trapped in an office with a killer mission to destroy files and anyone that stands in his path.” Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays! (Forgive me.) The film is starting to come together, with Max Minghella (The Social Network, The Darkest Hour) in talks to play that put-upon paralegal, with Elise Mumford (part of the ensemble on the new TV show The River, and soon to be seen in that Miley Cyrus sorority flick So Undercover) also in talks to Minghella’s girlfriend, who just so happens to works in his office. While we haven’t seen enough from Mumford to properly judge the weight of her casting, I’ve always found Minghella appealing and interesting to watch, so he could make for a compelling young lead in this thriller.

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Drinking Games

If you liked Joe Johnston’s superhero action flick Captain America: The First Avenger this summer, you might want to watch some of his older movies. No, I’m not talking about The Wolfman. I’m talking about his other comic book film from 1991: The Rocketeer. In honor of its 20th anniversary, Disney has released the film for the first time on Blu-ray. Fans of The Rocketeer will recognize the fact that the rocket pack is powered by alcohol. What a coincidence… so is this column. Take a few drinks from your own rocket pack and enjoy this classic adventure in high definition.

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Source Code…and, for that matter, Avatar. Recently in Hollywood, the physiological capabilities of our heroic protagonists have owed a great deal to modern medicine and technology, specifically from the military. Whether it be the unique opportunity provided for the paraplegic Jake Sully in Avatar, the incredible and unwanted responsibility of the nearly-dead Colter Stevens in Source Code, or the intravenous hyper-bulking of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, Hollywood has given us a spate of unlikely protagonists connected specifically by the fact that their initial disabilities provide for them a unique opportunity to become exceptionally enabled.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes retro this week and injects himself with strange chemicals in an attempt to become a World War II era super soldier. Hop over to the Fat Guys at the Movies page to see if his physique has reached the pinnacle of that of Chris Evans from Captain America. After recovering from the procedure, Kevin randomly wandering the streets, looking for hot ladies like Mila Kunis who just want to have sex but with no emotional baggage of a relationship. Sadly, this will probably end up as empty and worthless as his similar attempt last January when No Strings Attached came out.

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The films of Marvel Studios have come full circle, and not a moment too soon. What began with a flurry of excitement over Iron Man, their opening salvo into the world of being an independent studio, has lately been listless in its Avenger-assembling agenda. In their last two outings — Iron Man 2 and Thor — they’ve spent more time focused on the future of the heroes than the heroes themselves. With Captain America: The First Avenger, they take full advantage of the ability to leave all the distractions out of it, allowing them to deliver their most confidently crafted, complete film yet. Sure, the story of Captain America feels bookended by his role in Marvel’s forthcoming team-up movie, and from what we’ve been told, The Avengers is your reason for sticking around after the credits. But in between all that, director Joe Johnston has set out to tell the simple story of a hero named Steve Rogers. The year is 1942, and after five unsuccessful attempts to join the fight against Adolf Hitler, a scrawny Rogers isn’t ready to give up. Luckily his heart and determination catches the eye of a government scientist whose work includes making a Super Soldier serum that will turn an ordinary man into a super-human fighting machine. Desperate to get in on the action, the young patriot from Brooklyn signs on the dotted line. A few doses of steroids later and this scrawny little dude, created with brilliant CG-enhanced, Benjamin Button style effect that […]

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If you’ve  followed our coverage of Marvel Junkets in the past (Iron Man 2, Thor) then you know that those press events and I have a long and useless history. Generally speaking, everyone spends a lot of time learning very little, and sometimes things break and fall down. It seems as though Marvel may be on the upswing in terms of getting these junkets really pumping out information – or maybe we journalists are asking better questions – who the heck really knows why it happened, but somehow the Captain America junket was interesting and had stuff to learn you might actually care about. So much so, in fact, that I’ve got 15 cool tidbits right here.

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Director Joe Johnston loves good old fashioned fun. The Rocketeer, Hidalgo, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Captain America: The First Avenger don’t contain a dark or cynical bone in their bodies. While some superhero films try to go to darker places nowadays — usually by just having their hero mope around — Johnston has no interest in a sulky hero. Captain America is all about adventure, charms, and simply being a kid from Brooklyn. While many people question if Cap can reach an audience outside of the States, Johnston thinks differently. The Boba Fett and Iron Giant creator didn’t want to make a commercial about America’s awesomeness; he wanted to explore themes that nearly everyone can relate to. Like his previous films, the idea of finding one’s identity and coming of age is present in Captain America: The First Avenger. Despite being a super solider who looks the way that he does, Captain America is like any other kid trying to become the man he’s meant to be. Here’s what Joe Johnston had to say about Raiders of the Lost Ark, fully embracing the color palette of comics, the ego of Red Skull, staying sincere without being cheesy, and why he’s a true film school reject:

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Remember Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman with Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins? You do? I’m sorry. Universal’s sorry too, and they’re hoping to make it up to you by rebooting the movie… less than two years after their last attempt. Per Moviehole, the studio had originally planned to follow up Johnston’s film with a sequel, but once they realized what a stinking pile of dog turds the movie was the idea was scrapped. But not completely. They’ve decided to turn the sequel’s script by Michael Tabb into a fresh take on the subject with the catchy new title Werewolf. Johnston’s film had a multitude of problems both before and during production, but one of the most detrimental was the late in the game switch-up of directors from Mark Romanek to Johnston. So you know Universal’s going to be extra careful in that department this time around. Which is why they’ve reportedly hired Louis Morneau… director of Carnosaur 2, Soldier Boyz, Bats, The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting For You, and Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead.

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A young scrappy pilot, conveniently, accomplishes what a non-freakazoid Howard Hughes (played by the Terry O’Quinn) and a few lackeys at the C.I.A. couldn’t do: create a flying man! That pilot, Cliff, becomes that gold helmeted flying phenom. This comic book adaptation is full of Nazis, a vain and villainous actor, and an ugly as hell goon. What more could you ask for?

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Apparently Universal wasn’t too pleased with the results of their new Joe Johnston directed version of The Wolfman that came out last year. That film, that starred Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, was set to get a sequel, but now plans are changing. Movie Hole is reporting that Michael Tabb’s script for a sequel is getting reworked into a new start for the series that will be more in keeping with the original Lon Chaney starring film from 1941 that is oft heralded as being a classic. Reportedly, the title of this new film is tentatively set to be Werewolf. I probably would have gone with The Werewolfman just to keep that lack of brevity thing Rise of the Planet of the Apes started going.

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Junkfood Cinema

Bienvenu, mes amis, to Junk Food Cinema, which has a certain, as the French say, “ordure.” Our beloved Brian will be back next week, when he returns from his vacation ghostbusting. Until then, you can pin the blame for your eyeball blisters on me, Mrs. Junkfood-Cinema. I’ll be piloting this trash barge over the choppy waters of murky, questionable cinema, picking our precarious way through the flotsam and jetsam of a capsized wreck of a film. But just when you start to panic and look for the life vests (there are only 2. BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!), we arrive at the golden shores of redemption. I throw out beach towels so we can all bask in the warm glow of this film’s not-so-crappy side. And like any good day at the beach, I brought snacks. Unhealthy snacks. This week…well, this week, allow me to set the stage: Ahh, it’s a good day to be white off the coast of Isla Sorna. But what is this? CG fog? Bad green screen? What’s happening?! This isn’t the Jurassic Park Crichton envisioned, painstakingly researched, and that had audiences everywhere scared to ride in Jeeps for months afterword. This isn’t even the Jurassic Park 2 Crichton begrudgingly churned out and to whose script he turned a tactful blind eye. This is the notorious, superfluous, suck-o-saurus: Jurassic Park 3. JFC JP3. The point is,  you’re alive when JFC starts to eat you. So, you know…try to show a little respect.

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Entertainment Weekly has posted the first official image of the Red Skull from Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger and he looks exactly like I imagined he would. Sure, it kind of seems like they just spray-painted the Skeletor mask from Masters of the Universe red and put a guy in a leather jacket, but what else are you going to do? The character is a dude with a skull for a head that’s bright red; there aren’t many options there for creativity. I have one big question after looking at the photo: I thought Red Skull was a Nazi, where are all the swastikas? What we see is a very black, leathery, militaristic look that seems to be right in line with what some sort of high-ranking Nazi official might wear; but where I would imagine there would be swastikas, instead there are Hydra logos. I’m not the biggest Marvel Comics historian on the Internet, but I thought that Hydra came about from the ashes of the Nazi’s defeat in WWII? Am I wrong? Is this movie not all set during the war like I thought it was? Or, God forbid, are they homogenizing away the existence of Nazis? If I don’t get to see Steve Rogers clock Hitler in the jaw, I’m going to be pretty upset. Check it out for yourself:

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Empire magazine has given the web a look at their next cover; a bold new image of Chris Evans as Captain America set in front of an American flag.  That’s pretty progressive for a magazine called “Empire”. While it has been reported that the film’s title Captain America: The First Avenger will probably be shortened in many countries to just The First Avenger due to it’s pro-American, rah-rah patriotism, the British seem to have no qualms with the focus of the film. Inside of the magazine, some of the men behind the scenes make comments about the World War II time period in which the film was set. Marvel chief Kevin Feige explained, “Scripts had been developed that took place half in World War II, half in the modern day and none of those scripts were particularly successful because the costume ended up overshadowing the man …” and the film’s director Joe Johnston added, “I’ve always loved Raiders and the tone that it had. It was period but didn’t feel like it was made in the period. It felt like a modern-day film about the period, which is what we’re doing on Captain America.” Johnston has been hit or miss with me as a director, but it seems like they’ve put a lot of thought about what works and what doesn’t into this film; and any time you can compare something to Raiders my ears are definitely going to perk up. I will rate my anticipation for this one as […]

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Marvel came out swinging with a teaser for Captain America: The First Avenger that used black and white footage from World War II floating behind reds, whites and blues. It’s the kind of footage that would trick my father into believing he was getting a brand new WWII special on the history channel, but those color combos of course belonged to a trademarked shield. A black silhouette holding said shield drove the Comic-Con crowd here crazy, and with a quick flash, everyone got to see a brief look at a hardened, dark blue costume that looks strong. According to the filmmakers, it was for the costume test, and when they designed it they were attempting to make it authentically something from the time period that could also work for the character as a superhero. Then, fans at Comic-Con got to see a scene from the film that’s barely in production, and it might silence some doubts by speaking to it in German.

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Perhaps Creedence Clearwater Revival said it best when they said that “some folks are born made to wave the flag, Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.” Some folks are born to be true patriots. Steve Rogers, best known as the hero Captain America, is one of them. For decades, Captain America has been a cliche-spouting symbol of jingoism. And aside from those post-Nixon years, that’s pretty much the only way he knows how to be. But in film form — at least in director Joe Johnston’s upcoming Captain America film — there will be more to Steve Rogers than some apple pie-loving catch phrases. He’ll be a good man, but he’s no flag waver.

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published: 04.19.2014
A-
published: 04.19.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C

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