George Clooney has signed on to star in A Very Private Gentleman, the adaptation of the Martin Booth novel being helmed by Anton Corbijn, the famed photographer and director of the excellent Joy Division biopic Control.
Sean Penn is to star in the English language debut of Paolo Sorrentino, the director of Il Divo, called This Must Be the Place. Penn will play an aging rock star who becomes bored in retirement and makes a decision to track down the killer of his father.
The trailer has shown up for Sherlock Holmes, the Guy Ritchie-directed take on the character, and features another comic tour-de-force from Robert Downey Jr.
Ben Stiller has been talking up Zoolander 2 in an interview with the UK’s own Screenrush.
Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha is to be released in a brand-spanking-new Blu-ray edition through Criterion.
Chris Hemsworth, who made a genuine impression in his ten minutes in Star Trek, is to play Thor.
Dustin Lance Black, the writer of Milk, has lined up Liam Neeson and Jennifer Connelly for his directorial debut, What’s Wrong with Virginia?
John Goodman has apparently joined the cast of The Cross, the new sci-fi from Andrew Niccol starring Orlando Bloom, Vincent Cassel and Olga Kurylenko.
The casting rumours are beginning to heat up for the Three Stooges movie from the Farrelly Brothers with some interesting choices being touted for the trio.
Top of the pile is Sean Penn who looks likely to be tapped to take on the role of Larry. Negotiations are reportedly also in motion to get Jim Carrey for Curly and Benicio Del Toro for Moe.
Penn is apparently pretty much set and Carrey, who would need to put on around 40 pounds to manage to look something akin to Curly, is understood to be embarking on the necessary diet to do so. Going on the story, Del Toro is not quite set.
The casting adds a huge degree of intrigue to the project, especially the potential additions of both Penn and Del Toro, known primarily for serious, indeed in many cases very serious indeed, projects. The two in fact collaborated to work on 21 Grams together. The Variety article notes Penn last did a comedy in 1989 with We’re No Angels, while Del Toro is said to have exhibited comic touches with his work in Snatch.
Carrey obviously has a storied past with the Farrelly brothers, aiding the launch of their career through his performance in Dumb and Dumber, and possibly harming it forever with the execreble My, Myself and Irene.
Being from the other side of the pond, this is somewhat less exciting news to me than many who will read it, however this casting cannot be described as anything less than intruiging. Add to this the success shown by Robert Downey Jr in turning to straight comedy with Tropic Thunder and you have a recipe for success.
Terrence Malick, the reclusive and less-than-prolific director, is reportedly currently at work on two IMAX pictures; one his meditative Tree of Life work, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the other an “ambitious documentary” which, according to The Playlist, is a natural history IMAX piece depicting “the birth and death of the universe”.
Much more is known about Tree of Life, his wildly ambitious project which has drawn comparisons in scope and greater sense of madness to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. SlashFilm gleaned some factual information on the projects from Wikipedia, stating: “We trace the evolution of an eleven-year-old boy in the Midwest, Jack, one of three brothers. At first all seems marvelous to the child. He sees as his mother does, with the eyes of his soul. She represents the way of love and mercy, where the father tries to teach his son the world’s way, of putting oneself first. Each parent contends for his allegiance, and Jack must reconcile their claims. The picture darkens as he has his first glimpses of sickness, suffering and death. The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth.”
Malick has been renowned for the lack of work he has given to the world but, by his standards, is proving comparatively prolific in the past ten years. His last two, The Thin Red Line and The New World, are both epic in scope and scale but both hugely rewarding to those willing to invest time in their theses. If nothing else, this is the man who gave the world Badlands and Days of Heaven, works of mastery in blending character, landscape and myth, and Tree of Life should prove a challenge to savour for a filmmaker with his gifts.
Tree of Life is seemingly still at least a year away yet but this seems like something to get really excited about, as any project involving the great man should be.
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill, Victor Garber, Lucas Grabeel
Director: Gus van Sant
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
While likely never by design, Milk comes to the wider filmmaking market at a startling prescient point in history which adds further weight to its message and attaches a sense of pessimism for modern life with yet further hindsight allowed. A film which focuses on likely the most famous political figures in the gay rights movement, a centrepiece of which was his defeat of Proposition 4 in California which would have allowed gay teachers to be fired over their homosexuality, comes to us amid the recent failure of modern California to beat Proposition 8 which took away the right for homosexuals in the state to be married. Whether Gus van Sant and Dustin Lance Black meant for this to occur is highly questionable but you cannot watch Milk with that knowledge in mind and not feel anger and disappointment, maybe even falling far enough into philosophical cliché to consider how far we have not come.
Although that’s the thought that comes through, and certainly provides much of the power to the film on any external level, it doesn’t feel like the purpose. Van Sant seems mostly to be looking to explore the life not only of Harvey Milk himself in California in the 1970s, but also the environment experience as a homosexual in that period of time. It’s structured in three primary acts, defined by the single relationships he harbours during those times.
The first, and most effective of them all, is the earlier, formative part of his political and activist career and relationship with Scott Smith (James Franco) where the drive to become the figure he would later be comes through everyday experience, fighting for little but important issues for homosexuals in and around his life and aiming to build bridges with the wider community. The relationship between the two seems one of equals, two intelligent and passionate people who worked to find time for each other while also trying to support the movement. Those cracks begin to show as the first act closes and Scott’s departure is key in Milk’s life. Never however does it lose the atmosphere of their time together, all quiet and respectful of each other, the kind of relationship that the majority of people want to experience, while their intimate moments and sensual and sexy, van Sant filming with his usual dream-like quality but entirely unafraid to place us right inside those most intimate times. The performances by both Penn and Franco during those scenes warrant Oscars on their own, subtle and loving and entirely convincing as a secure pair.
The second act then follows the beginning of difficulties in his life as Milk succumbs to the less challenging company of Diego Luna, his other key relationship. Luna’s Jack Lira represents an entirely different side of relationships to Franco’s Smith. He’s unstable and politically inactive but doesn’t provide any threat or difficulty to Milk during his off-hours from his increasingly fraught and stressful political career. As this relationship grows, so too does Milk’s success as a political figure, maybe because he is able to focus on it without having to bring it into his home. Yet his spirit seems to be sapping during these portion of the film. Again, the sex scenes between Penn and Luna work well in grasping the different type of relationship he has, far less intimate and much more lustful and concerned with minimal-strings fucking. Luna though derails certain points of the film with his performance. He never manages to access anything beneath the surface of his troubled character and eventually paints a two-dimensional sketch of an important piece of the puzzle in understanding Milk and the progression of his life.
The final portion of the film then focuses on the combative relationship between Milk and rival councilman Josh Brolin’s Dan White, the man who would eventually become Milk’s killer. White himself could have been played as such a monstrous creation, a rampant homophobe and ignoramus who wanted only to prevent the rise of homosexuality in his city. Instead, Brolin plays him with a degree of empathy, trying to portray an essentially good man who could not understand the evolution of the world around him and struck out to try and stop such change. He is a family man and seems almost a reluctant hater of Milk’s cause, unable also to play the political game with the same sense of ruthlessness that Milk himself can access. White couldn’t quite access that kind of skill in getting what he wanted and making deals, finally succumbing to the pressures he felt to try and ‘protect’ his family and community from the rising power of homosexuals in the city.
Milk doesn’t quite manage to sidestep all the problems that normally come with biopics, primarily the issue that the audience, if it has any knowledge of the man, knows precisely where the film is going. How they get there is mixed. Van Sant does imprint some personality on the storytelling style, meaning that his avoid being a basis A-B story of a life. But the scenes with Luna do derail portions of the film and the probing of Milk’s psyche is not done as well as Van Sant attempted in Last Days, a flawed but more meditative and ultimately investigative attempt to understand the motivations of its lead character. The performances are, excepting Luna and in certain parts Emile Hirsch, uniformly great. Penn is astonishing, inhabiting the character and pulling off both the intimate moments and the rallying speeches with aplomb. His Milk is a gentle man but a ruthless politician, a perfect combination for any cause, and Penn’s creates a character that would be welcomed with open arms into the gay rights movement of modern times. Franco is brilliant and calm as Smith, playing his role with restrained emotion and intelligence while Brolin gives extra dimensions to a character which could have been an uninteresting monster. Also worth mentioning is Alison Pill as Milk’s latter campaign manager who bring a youthful knowingness and realism to her role beyond her years. Van Sant’s direction is beautiful, a more successful combination of the ethereal qualities of his indie pictures (Elephant, Paranoid Park) with a mainstream style than Good Will Hunting or Finding Forrester in the past, while the cinematography by Harris Savides (a regular Van Sant collaborator and shooter of Zodiac) is stately yet character-filled, adding to the picture while only occasionally drawing attention.
A worthy film and certainly one with modern relevance, Milk may well shine an unfavourable light on the modern gay rights movement, but it also serves its audience on a wider political level, concerning itself with another charismatic and optimistic politician looking to unite the American people in a style not far removed from the rhetoric espoused by Barack Obama. It’s a brilliant film on many levels and, if it never really gives a full understanding of the personal motivations of Milk, it doesn’t really need to and therefore becomes essential viewing for anyone interested seeking a biopic which doesn’t fall headlong into cliché and presents a character worth mourning.