Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eleven Lois Lanes

Last week, Nikki Finke reported that Warner Bros. is in talks with Christopher Nolan to "mentor" a Superman reboot. Over at GeekWeek.com, Bryan Hill responded with an impassioned open letter to the studio. It's a great read, even for a casual Supes fan like myself. I agree with many of Hill's ideas - no 3-D, no '40s-era camp, get Kathryn Bigelow to direct, embiggen the S on his chest - but not a crucial one. Having never seen an entire episode of Smallville (again, casual fan), I can't get behind shifting the cast of the CW show to the big screen. Even with every assurance that the movie would stand alone, I'd still feel like I was arriving late to take an exam I hadn't studied for. And the alternative of catching up on nine seasons to feel like I was invited to the party? Not going to happen.  

From a marketing standpoint, spinning such a move to the general public would be a major headache. When the average person (or casual fan) learned that the new Superman is essentially a spin-off, the response would likely be, "Oh, it's based on that show? I've never seen it." And you can't emblazon posters, trailers and Burger King cups with, "DON'T WORRY IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN SMALLVILLE.  THIS ISN'T SMALLVILLE: THE MOVIE!"

Why risk alienating an audience with any perceived baggage? If the idea is to start fresh and shake off Superman Returns, why bind what would likely be a $250 million-plus movie to a TV series that averaged 3.74 million viewers last season?

So who should be Kal-El?

Shia LaBeouf. Sam Worthington. Bradley Cooper. Channing Tatum. Zac Efron. Robert Pattinson. Cam Gigandet. Kellan Lutz. Taylor Lautner.

None of those names should be linked to be Superman. A relative unknown is the way to go.  

In the Bryan Hill piece, he makes a case for Lois being the most important character in the Superman universe, that "Superman doesn't really change. He doesn't have to. In fact his unchanging character is a large part of his appeal. He represents the best aspects of who were are as people. Blah, blah blah...your real battle is Lois."

Hill goes on to implore that Lois Lane be "a REAL female character in a comic book film that's more than just the Girl that the Hero Kisses in the End."

With that in mind, WB would be wise cast Lois first, and screen test actors (as both Clark and Superman) opposite the chosen actress. I cooked up a list of women with potential, some much more proven than others...

Kristen Bell

Curious choices aside (Pulse, an arc on Heroes over LostCouples Retreat, When In Rome, Dax Shepard [couldn't resist - can't wait to see him in The Freebie], playing Gina Gershon to Christina Aguilera's Elizabeth Berkley in the upcoming Burlesque), Bell had intrepid down cold on Veronica Mars.  Yeah, she's teeny-tiny, but a petite Lois would only serve to make the Man of Steel more statuesque. If there's a strike against her, it's the pixie-ish beauty that tends to hold back even the most talented actresses in adult roles (see Natalie Portman).

Elizabeth Banks

Some might say, "But she was already in all three Spider-Man movies as Betty Brant! That would be soooo distracting! She can't work for the Daily Bugle and the Daily Planet!"  Most (non-geeks) would say, "Elizabeth Banks was in all three Spider-Man movies?!"

Between her rapid-fire display on 30 Rock and underappreciated dramatic work (Heights, her awesome, tearful monologue opposite a latex-layered Michael Rooker in Slither, her serious scenes in Zack and Miri Make A Porno), she's got both the vigor and the vulnerability. The big question would be (at least in the minds of WB suits), ridiculously, is if she's too old for the role at 36. Banks looks much longer than her age, but will they consider a "seasoned Lois," played by an actress who will be in her early 40s by the time a third (or second) movie shoots? Doubtful. They'll likely opt for "young Lois with a lot to prove." 

Rachel McAdams

The studios have been trying in vain for years to attach McAdams as  a superhero's sweetheart. She reportedly turned down the Pepper Potts part in Iron Man, refused Katie Holmes's sloppy seconds in The Dark Knight, and was frequently mentioned as a potential Lois back when Superman Returns was casting.

I still haven't seen Sherlock Holmes, but the consensus seems to be that her Irene Adler character had little impact on the plot. Perhaps she wouldn't mind switching to a franchise that would have her driving the narrative. Then again, McAdams was recently romanced by a man afflicted with otherworldly abilities (in The Time Traveler's Wife) so she might not be clamoring to play that again, even if the similarity is superficial.  

Jessica Lowndes

Probably the least recognizable name on the list. She's a regular on the new 90210, but it was her kickass heroine in the low budget slasher Autopsy that made me take notice.  She elevates that B-movie with an A-performance. With the right project, she'll suddenly be anointed "The New Rachel McAdams," much like post-Speed Sandra Bullock was "The New Julia Roberts."

Rashida Jones

She has the spark and the look, but hasn't had a chance to showcase range. The Office, Parks and Recreation and her supporting roles in movies have mostly had her hitting the same note over and over and over again. Would she storm into Perry White's office and project smarts and steeliness, or just be shrill? As a Harvard grad, hopefully the former.  

Evangeline Lilly

Think of the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle on Lost. Now compare that with the Superman/Lois/whoever-James-Marsden-was-playing triangle in Superman Returns. No comparison, really, and that's a credit to Lilly. If Bigelow were to direct, this would be a Hurt Locker reunion.

Emily Blunt

Probably my personal favorite. She's likely still smarting from the debacle of The Wolfman, but a Nolan-advised Superman is a much more sure-fire prospect. That and she signed up for a comic book movie before, as Black Orchid in Iron Man 2, only to be forced by Fox to drop out when it conflicted with her Gulliver's Travels shoot. Landing Lois would be a helluva way to make up for that (as well as the inevitable tanking of Gulliver's Travels).

Lizzy Caplan

Anyone who's seen her on True Blood or Starz's Party Down can tell you she's a star in the making. Killer timing, never has a false a moment, and has that slightly quirky beauty that female filmgoers tend to embrace.

Vera Farmiga

She may very well the best actress on the list, but if Banks's age is questionable, so is Farmiga's. Shame. Imagine those eyes popping against jet black hair...

Olivia Thirlby

She failed to really capitalize on Juno's success, but is great in Snow Angels and The Wackness. Alas, all three of those movies had her in high school or freshly graduated, so Pulitzer-winning reporter might be a stretch for now.

Alison Brie

Currently on Community, was solid on Mad Men, but with her comedic chops, probably better suited for the golden-age Lois that the reboot should be steering away from.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: FROZEN

Three films into his career as a filmmaker, Adam Green has shown great range. Hatchet: cheeky horror-comedy with geysers of gore. Spiral: Hitchcockian character study that leaves much to the imagination. And now, Frozen, a survival thriller both touching and terrifying, restrained and retch-inducing in equal measure.

Adam Green

The setup is simple: three twentysomethings are stuck on a chairlift as a ski resort closes for a week. The execution is admirable: no forced "found footage" device and no flashbacks. Green never strays far from the lift, staying with the characters as they fend with frostbite, wolves, each other, and their own increasingly fragile psyches. In early scenes, the casting seems questionable. As best friends Dan and Joe, real-life best friends Kevin Zegers and Shawn Ashmore appear a bit too pretty to be immediately relatable, and as Dan's girlfriend Parker, Sarah Polley-ish newcomer Emma Bell seems a little raw - it's unclear if the insecurity on display is that of a character, or of an actress making her big screen debut. But as soon the lift's motor goes maddeningly silent, these actors come crackling to life, communicating palpable dread, regret, resentment, and sheer terror from one moment to the next - all while suspended fifty feet above frozen earth.  

How refreshing it is to watch a modern thriller whose suspense is not generated by vampires, aliens, zombies, CIA assassins or CGI robots. Green prefers to explore primal fears. Fear of abandonment. Fear of the dark. Of heights. Confinement. Nature (its conditions and creatures alike). Losing someone we love. Letting someone down who loves us. And fear of rejection, beautifully essayed in a monologue by Shawn Ashmore, doing revelatory work here.

Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore

Will Barratt's stark yet rich cinematography proves indies need not look like shit to feel real. Likewise, Green, who did much of the camerawork himself, doesn't get in-your-face shaky when he goes handheld.  

Some have quibbled over the heroes not being equipped with cell phones. To them I say this: They're freakin' snowboarding; they left their phones in their room to charge and not get broken should they wipe out on the slopes. Young people enjoying a day of outdoor recreation without Facebooking, tweeting or playing Bejeweled makes them likable, not stupid. If a phone was in the equation, the same critics would be bemoaning the inevitable refrain of, "I don't have a signal! Do you have a signal?!"

If a misstep is made, it's the musical score. What's composed by Andy Garfield is effective, yes, but more often than not its needless, underlining emotional notes the actors are already nailing.

Open Water is the movie that keeps coming up in discussions of Frozen, but for this writer, a more recent, popular title springs to mind: Paranormal Activity. Not a fan. Relentlessly stupid characters and a narrative largely dictated by questionable improv outweighed the clever concept. Frozen likely had a budget ten times that of Paranormal's 15 grand, doesn't employ found footage, and isn't supernatural, so why the comparison? Because Frozen actually
deserves the $100 million-plus banked by P.A.

Frozen expands its theatrical release this weekend. Check the film's official site to see if it'll be in your area. If not, have your theater email Frozen@Starz.com; distributor Anchor Bay has vowed to supply a print to any theater that's interested. Oh, and if you're going to ignore the bad buzz and check out The Wolfman, wait a weekend or two. Support original, indie horror this weekend.

Zegers, Green, Ashmore and Bell at Sundance