(Photo by Buena Vista Distribution Company, Netflix, Walt Disney Pictures)
Since becoming a Tomatometer-approved critic in 2018, Robert Daniels has written for some of the most popular film- and culture-centric sites out there. No matter where he’s writing – RogerEbert.com, Polygon, his own site (812filmreviews), or Rotten Tomatoes, where he recently traced Ben Affleck’s career and deemed him one of the best actors of his generation – Daniels’ voice consistently resonates as both approachable and incisive. Reading his work feels like having a conversation with an exceptionally witty, thoughtful friend, one who seems to have read and watched just about everything out there.
“I’m lucky, I write pretty fast,” Roberts said in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes. “Usually the first draft is basically the draft.”
But it’s not for lack of effort. He goes in cold to screenings so that his opinions are fresh, jots down minimal notes to keep his eyes on the screen – unless he’s not enamored of what he sees (“I can always tell when I don’t like a film because I will actually long hand write my reviews while I’m watching,” he said) – and does all his background research before sitting down to write.
“It’s not something that you can just fall out of bed and do,” Roberts said of writing reviews. “Things are easiest when you feel like you have all the answers around you and you just have to order all the elements together in a cohesive way.”
It’s been a mixed bag. I’ve been heavy on Criterion Channel. They had a lot of noirs, so I watched a film called The Sniper, if I remember correctly. I’ve been watching a lot of new releases, like The Old Guard, The Beach House, Relic, some of the recent stuff. I rewatched First Cow for the first time in a while. I loved that film so much. I saw it at the New York Film Festival and I was waiting for it to come out so everyone else could see it – I love Kelly Reichardt‘s work.
What do you think makes a good movie?
I don’t think I can give an answer to that. I know what I personally like, but I don’t equate personal evaluation with universal, with greatness, anything. Some films that I hold dear to my heart – Cats, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending – those are movies that probably a good number of people wouldn’t call “great.”
I personally gravitate toward creatives who take risks; even if they don’t stick the landing, I love the ambition. So, I know what makes a great movie for me. Great movies always arise from the unlikeliest of places.
(Photo by Criterion Collection)
What do you consider required viewing?
The Passion of Joan of Arc, the silent film version, that’s always an oldie but a goodie. I think when people watch silent films, they automatically think that silent films are lesser than current sound films, whether visually or narratively. But that film, just every portion of it, it’s a study in editing. It’s a study of pathos and empathy and the narrative just works. It’s classic. The story of Joan of Arc, I don’t think has ever been done better than that film, which – all these decades later – is saying something.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I wasn’t really one of those kids who watched the films growing up and thought, “Oh, I’m going to be involved with that one day.” Movies weren’t really a big part of my childhood, whether going to them or owning them on VHS because my parents just didn’t have the disposable income for that. So, the only escapism I had was really books from the library.
In my childhood, I bounced around from my grandmother to my aunt’s house and for a time, I was homeless and we didn’t really have enough money to buy stuff like movies. I knew of Siskel and Ebert – they were Chicago institutions. But the idea that I, a Black kid from the west side of Chicago who’s probably partly destitute… The idea that I could become a critic never entered my mind.
And so, when I got to high school, I did a lot of catching up to fill blank spots with films that people had grown up with, but I hadn’t. And so, it took years before I had the confidence to undo any intellectual shortcomings I told myself that I had, because I didn’t vacation in whatever country. I didn’t have whatever major experience and see such-and-such movie title. That seed of inadequacy never leaves you. So, every day you feel like you have to prove yourself. I think that’s why I love movies so much today, because I didn’t have them when I was growing up.
The fact that I’m even doing this is what I’m proud of.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about critics?
That our reviews and the pieces that we write are born out of an ether. I think in the purest sense, we’re always providing our opinion, and opinions can be made up of internalized values with regards to quality and interest. But, I think we couple that prior knowledge with research.
I always find it interesting that when someone comments on one of my reviews, they’ll be like, “Did you look up this? Did you look up that? It’d be really helpful if you read this.” And it’s like, well, I did my research before I wrote it. I didn’t just jump off a trampoline.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
Do you have a favorite book-to-film adaptation?
That’s easy: Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. I love the adaptive work for that film mostly because he throws the book out. Because of fanbases today, there is this fear that you have to show some fidelity to the original work. And, I think some of the most interesting adaptations are the ones that throw away everything and go down a different road.
Who is an under-the-radar director or screenwriter that you think more people should know about?
Sarah Gavron. She did Suffragette, and her first film was This Little Life. I watched her newest film Rocks, which hasn’t been released yet, but it played at TIFF this past year. Her stories are just so specific, but they’re built out in a way that they’re entities, intimate worlds that are separate from our own experiences and yet they feel universal.
What is the hardest review that you’ve ever written?
That’s hard because so many things have different valuations. My first thought would be, I did a listicle about the top 20 black director films of the decade for Consequence of Sound. I would say listicles are harder than they seem because if you do them right, you have to do rewatches. You have to do research. You have to have introspection and put them in the context, everything like that. And they can actually be, if you do it right, they could be difficult.
Any personal cultural piece that I write based around race is always difficult just because those pieces tend to either deal with Black Lives Matter or they deal in trauma. I’m always happy that I can write about those kinds of subjects and give them a wider voice. They take a lot out of me, mostly because it’s confronting things that are buried and they’re buried for a reason.
Writing about trauma, it’s not like rolling out of bed. There are some days when even rolling out of bed is a difficult act. I don’t know, it’s difficult because you feel like you have to speak for a community. At least, I feel like I have to speak for a community. And, that’s a dangerous trap to fall into when you feel like you’re speaking for more than yourself. When I’m writing these pieces, the tight rope always feels higher and the fall feels bigger and that’s a terrible place to write from. Words should begin with their importance to you.
The John Boyega Star Wars piece for Polygon was pretty challenging. I had one of the best editors with Matt Patches, and he was just fantastic. And, I kept trying to run away from giving definitions or from taking things down to their simplest terms because I was afraid what those definitions would say. But Matt, to his credit, pushed me – and through all of his queries, the piece ended up with what I wanted to say and not the easy way I wanted to say it.
Honestly, when that piece got released, I thought, “Oh my God, the Star Wars fandom is really toxic. I’m going to get ripped apart.” And then, I woke up and then I saw John Boyega was doing the protest through the streets of London. And I was like, “Oh my God, perfect timing.” It was phenomenal timing.
(Photo by Buena Vista Distribution Company)
What’s a Rotten film you love?
Oh, Reign of Fire. I love Reign of Fire. I love mythology. That’s not like a mythological movie, but it does have a mythological beast with dragons. It’s over the top and it’s Matthew McConaughey at his peak – shirtless Matthew McConaughey era – and Christian Bale in his grumpy cat era. I love every component of it. It’s a film that I definitely don’t think got a fair shake on its first time out.
Is there an actor or a director or screenwriter whose work you always love?
The first person who pops in my mind is Barry Jenkins. I love all of his work from Medicine for Melancholy, to Moonlight, to If Beale Street Could Talk – all those works. He just does them from such a personal place and you would think something so personal wouldn’t feel universal, and yet it does. Not only does it feel universal, but it feels personal to me watching it and his eye and his taste for colors and the way that he films Black skin. He’s just amazing. That’s probably not the most inventive answer, because I’m pretty sure a lot of people say Barry Jenkins, but it’s the best answer I can give.
What’s your favorite classic film?
8 1/2 by Federico Fellini. I think that was probably the moment where I realized that I am very much into ambitious directors and Federico Fellini very much obviously sticks the landing. The amount of surrealist stuff that he does in there… I watched it when I was a freshman in college and that was probably the first movie where I looked at it and I thought, “Oh, that’s what auteur theory is. That’s what it means to have a singular vision and to translate it to the screen. That’s what it means to take risks.”
Who are three people that you think everyone should follow on Twitter?
Soraya McDonald (@SorayaMcDonald). More than great movies, I love great writing. And her style – the way she expresses historical inequities and the way she puts it in such a compact style that breathes very easy, the knowledge and context comes across incredibly swiftly – I’m always amazed by it.
Joi Childs is another critic (@jumpedforjoi). Her interviews for The Hollywood Reporter are – they just all read incredibly. They’re all approachable and she accesses a personal side to celebrities that’s hard for most people. I usually envy her for that skill.
Roxana Hadadi (@roxana_hadadi). I can’t understand how she finds so many angles and new approaches to recent and past films that I would struggle to think of. Being frank: I just love the way her mind works.
Is there a non-critic in your life whose opinion you admire?
My mom, she is the universal barometer. If a movie plays well with her, then I know it plays well with anybody. Usually, if my mom really, really, really likes something – even if it’s something I think I’ll hate – I’ll take a look at it.
Robert Daniels is a freelance film critic based in Chicago, IL. His reviews have appeared at RogerEbert.com, The Playlist, Consequence of Sound, Polygon, and Mediaversity Reviews, among others. Find him on Twitter: @812filmreviews.
There’s only one place where you can get clones, time travel, simulated realities, irradiated and irritated giant lizards, and space fights and beyond. (Maybe not all at once, but we can dream.) Anything’s possible in this creative nebula known as science fiction, and with its long and historic association with cinema, we present our choices of the greatest science-fiction movies ever: The 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
As they do with horror, filmmakers use science fiction to reflect our aspirations, terrors, and issues of the times. Through genre lens, we can consider our impact on the environment (Godzilla, WALL-E), technology gone berserk (The Terminator, Ex Machina), identity (Blade Runner, The Matrix), and societal breakdowns (Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange). We might even check-in on the current state of the human condition (Gattaca, Her).
Or, maybe we just want to see giant ants wreak havoc across the neighborhood. There may not be a lot of subtext in a big monster movie like Them!, or even crowd-pleasing masterpieces like Star Wars or Back to the Future, but they speak to the one thing that attracts us to movies in the first place: escapism. Science-fiction movies are our tickets to planets far-away (Star Trek, Avatar, Starship Troopers), or a quick hop to a local joint in the solar system (The Martian, Total Recall). They take us just above the atmosphere (Gravity), deep down to the bottom of the ocean (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss), and into the human body (Fantastic Voyage). Limited only 2020by imagination, sci-fi inspires wonder, awe, terror, and hope for alternative mindsets and better futures.
Sci-fi spreads across subgenres, all represented here: the monster movie (Cloverfield), space opera (Serenity), cyberpunk (Ghost in the Shell), and post-apocalyptic (Mad Max: Fury Road) and more. Or it can fuse onto traditional genres like drama (Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), comedy (Repo Man, Idiocracy), and action (Predator, Demoliton Man). Wherever the destination, these movies — each with at least 20 reviews — were selected because of their unique, fun, and possibly even mind-blowing spins on reality.
It’s time to strap in and cue the Theremin for some of the best science-fiction films created: Time to launch the 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!
Critics Consensus:Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious -- and surprisingly strange -- exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.
Synopsis: Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X --... [More]
Critics Consensus:Contact elucidates stirring scientific concepts and theological inquiry at the expense of satisfying storytelling, making for a brainy blockbuster that engages with its ideas, if not its characters.
Synopsis: In this Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) races to interpret a possible message... [More]
Critics Consensus: Remixing Roger Corman's B-movie by way of the Off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors offers camp, horror and catchy tunes in equal measure -- plus some inspired cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: Meek flower shop assistant Seymour (Rick Moranis) pines for co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). During a total eclipse, he discovers an... [More]
Critics Consensus: The epitome of so-bad-it's-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi "thriller" from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.
Synopsis: Residents of California's San Fernando Valley are under attack by flying saucers from outer space. The aliens, led by Eros... [More]
Critics Consensus: It doesn't fulfill the potential of its ambitious themes, butSilent Running stands as a decidedly unique type of sci-fi journey marked by intimate character work and a melancholic mood.
Synopsis: After the end of all botanical life on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space... [More]
Critics Consensus: Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds delivers on the thrill and paranoia of H.G. Wells' classic novel while impressively updating the action and effects for modern audiences.
Synopsis: Dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) struggles to build a positive relationship with his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Fountain -- a movie about metaphysics, universal patterns, Biblical symbolism, and boundless love spread across one thousand years -- is visually rich but suffers from its own unfocused ambitions.
Synopsis: A man (Hugh Jackman) travels through time on a quest for immortality and to save the woman (Rachel Weisz) he... [More]
Critics Consensus: Danny Boyle continues his descent into mind-twisting sci-fi madness, taking us along for the ride. Sunshine fulfills the dual requisite necessary to become classic sci-fi: dazzling visuals with intelligent action.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, Earth's dying sun spells the end for humanity. In a last-ditch effort to save the planet,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original.
Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a... [More]
Critics Consensus:A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that's as original as it is scary -- and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.
Synopsis: If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by... [More]
Critics Consensus: Fueled by bombastic violence and impressive special effects, rooted in self-satire and deadpan humor, Dredd 3D does a remarkable job of capturing its source material's gritty spirit.
Synopsis: Mega City One is a vast, violent metropolis where felons rule the streets. The only law lies with cops called... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.
Synopsis: When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Richard Kelly's debut feature Donnie Darko is a daring, original vision, packed with jarring ideas and intelligence and featuring a remarkable performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character.
Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Critics Consensus: A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.
Synopsis: In the near future, as America virtually loses the war on drugs, Robert Arctor, a narcotics cop in Orange County,... [More]
Critics Consensus: The utterly gorgeous special effects frequently overshadow the fact that The Abyss is also a totally gripping, claustrophobic thriller, complete with an interesting crew of characters.
Synopsis: Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They... [More]
Critics Consensus: Led by Rupert Wyatt's stylish direction, some impressive special effects, and a mesmerizing performance by Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes breathes unlikely new life into a long-running franchise.
Synopsis: Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist in San Francisco, is experimenting with a drug that he hopes will cure his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Featuring dazzling, disorienting cinematography from the great James Wong Howe and a strong lead performance by Rock Hudson, Seconds is a compellingly paranoid take on the legend of Faust.
Synopsis: Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though it's dated in spots, The War of the Worlds retains an unnerving power, updating H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi tale to the Cold War era and featuring some of the best special effects of any 1950s film.
Synopsis: Scientist Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) are the first to arrive at the site of... [More]
Critics Consensus: Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the bestselling book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce... [More]
Critics Consensus:Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Synopsis: In Earth's future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael... [More]
Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.
Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)... [More]
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott... [More]
Critics Consensus: Gripping, well-acted, funny, and clever, Edge of Tomorrow offers entertaining proof that Tom Cruise is still more than capable of shouldering the weight of a blockbuster action thriller.
Synopsis: When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Maj.... [More]
Critics Consensus: T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters.
Synopsis: In this sequel set eleven years after "The Terminator," young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization's victory over... [More]
Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott's mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.
Synopsis: Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced by the police Boss (M. Emmet Walsh) to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter.... [More]
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all sci-fi films -- and one of the most controversial -- Stanley Kubrick's 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity -- and folly -- of mankind.
Synopsis: An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short... [More]
(Photo by Well GO USA/ courtesy Everett Collection)
20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Train to Busan
If you’re looking for more movies like Train to Busan, the South Korean zombie classic that sunk its teeth into savvy filmgoers and hasn’t let go since its 2016 release, why not first punch your ticket for something in the shared universe? Check out Seoul Station, an animated prequel to Busan, directed by the same guy, Yeon Sang-ho. He was primarily an animation director before Busan (that was his live-action debut), and he followed that up with 2018’s Psychokinesis, his take on the superhero genre which also had a father-and-daughter relationship driving the plot. Yeon will be back in 2020 with Peninsula, another story set in the world of Train to Busan.
For more from South Korean, consider checking out Rampant, a period piece action epic about – true to history, we’re sure – a zombie outbreak. Deranged and The Wailing are also about illness and outbreak in contemporary SK. (For more quality choices from the region, see our list of 30 Certified Fresh South Korean movies.)
If you’re really into the whole train setting, seek out Snowpiercer, directed by Parasite‘s Bong Joon-ho, The Cassandra Crossing, about a biological weapon that may have been set loose in the caboose, and Howl, wherein a passenger train and its riders have to deal with an outbreak…of werewolves.
Zombie godfather George A. Romero spent his career exploring the different stages of undead chaos: from infection, to pandemic, to normalization. His last great film, Land of the Dead, explored the latter, depicting society that had tenuously adapted to a new, dark way of living. Carriers, The Road, and The Crazies (a remake of a Romero movie) are further entertaining, credible looks at society-destroying diseases in America.
Of course, if you consider yourself a Train to Busan fan, you might also think of yourself an adventurous movie-watcher, ready for pandemic and outbreak movies beyond the borders of America. To that, we’ve assembled suggestions from the UK (28 Weeks Later, Children of Men, The Girl With All The Gifts), Japan (I Am a Hero), France (Ravenous, The Night Eats the World), Germany (Rammbock: Berlin Undead), and Spain ([REC]).
Critics Consensus:The Road's commitment to Cormac McCarthy's dark vision may prove too unyielding for some, but the film benefits from hauntingly powerful performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee.
Synopsis: America is a grim, gray shadow of itself after a catastrophe. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi... [More]
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action.
Synopsis: In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Girl with All the Gifts grapples with thought-provoking questions without skimping on the scares -- and finds a few fresh wrinkles in the well-worn zombie horror genre along the way.
Synopsis: In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a... [More]
Critics Consensus: Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex under siege, [Rec] proves that found footage can still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror.
Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.... [More]
“Babies!! They’re babies!!” Yes, Shredder, they are babies, and one day when you’re all grown-up, you too will appreciate the miracle of birth. Just ask Bridget Jones’ Baby — whose mother endured ugly Christmas sweaters and middle-aged manfights and a previous sequel where we assume stuff happened — crowning this Friday after gestating years in development hell. But because Rotten Tomatoes is never one to pass up a cause célèbre, here’s this week’s gallery of 24 most momentous movie babies!
Diego Luna is bristling at RT’s suggestion he pick just five favourite films. “It’s really unfair to have to say only five films,” he complains as he picks his final choice. “This barely covers my life; I’m up to about the age of 16 by the end of the list!”
The 29-year-old has been acting since before 16 in his home country of Mexico, but burst onto the international stage aged 22 as part of the trio of leads in Alfonso Cuaron‘s Y Tu Mama Tambien. That film marked his first collaboration with Gael Garcia Bernal (see his five favourites here), a partnership that continues – this time with Cuaron’s brother Carlos at the helm – with Rudo and Cursi, out now in UK cinemas.
Indeed, the Cuaron connection is another sticking point for Luna. “I’d also want to say that when I saw Children of Men, for me it wasn’t only a fantastic film, but it was an important film for me because not only do I know the guy but I’ve worked with him, collaborated with him. Every time I have something I show it to Alfonso and hear what he has to say. I’d actually say that film is, for me, the most important film today because it’s a relationship I’m still working on and learning from.”
But what of his final list? Read on to find out more.
“It’s so corny, but it was the first film I saw and the thing about the mother hit me really badly. I remember it was a good connection with my sister, who was fifteen years older. I was about 5 or 6.”
“I’m still kind of psychoanalysing myself but my first shock was with the relationship between the mother and then the father. To find out that your parents are not perfect and in fact they do behave sometimes like thieves to protect you, it was powerful.”
“Three Italians! I remember crying really badly with that when all the films in the projection room are on fire. I remember that also it was a film that when I was really young I could see myself reflected in the younger part of the film. And you can grow with the film, you know. When you become more mature you find a lot of sadness in the story of the old guy while he’s watching at the beginning and the end.”
“Still with the Italians, I’m sorry! With many things in life you’re there because there’s a cute girl around that you want to go out with and you end up finding magic. You end up not caring about the girl but wanting to stay there because of what you found. That happened with Amarcord to me. I really thought a lot about creating images and the connection that cinema had with theatre in a way. That film feels a little bit like theatre. I lived all my life watching theatre and it’s when I found the connection with what I was watching and could do in my life.”
“This was a really important movie for me as a teenager. It was a movie I could have fun with, that I thought was a piece of art and that I thought was doing something modern that had to do with my life. Cinema until then, the ones I really appreciated were done by guys that lived in a different reality from mine and were talking about something in the past that had connections with what I was living but I would have to make an effort to be part of the story and make it work for my reality. With the Coen brothers I thought I was looking at something which was an idea from the day before, you know, and also the commitment they had to their point of view was amazing. I felt excited and it was the perfect film to fall in love with when I was young.”
Brother of Children Of Men helmer Alfonso Cuaron and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of sizzling Mexican roadtripper Y Tu Mama Tambien, Carlos Cuaron makes his directorial debut with comedy drama Rudo and Cursi. He inked the script, too, which sees Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as rival siblings going head to head as professional footballers. Rudo is the tough-guy goalkeeper. Cursi is the happy-go-lucky goal-machine. Something has to give. Powered by their energetic performances, it’s spiky, frantic, funny and, according to Cuaron, nothing to do with football…
Are Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna any good at football in real life?
Carlos Cuaron: I cannot say they are the worst players… but they are not as good as Rudo and Cursi! We all play in the same Saturday league, although they don’t play that often because they’re always working or touring. They used to play in a team that I founded 23 years ago. We just have fun.
How much of the salty banter between Gael and Diego is ab-libbed?
CC: It’s all scripted. There’s very little improv, because we didn’t need it. Maybe only two or three bits. I was looking for naturalness and the dynamic these two guys have together is just amazing.
Why did you decide not to shoot the football scenes?
CC: When I was writing the script, I knew didn’t want to make a sports movie. I was very clear that I wanted to make a sibling rivalry story. So when I was writing the script, the football was getting in the way of the drama. One day, I saw Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, which is probably the most violent film I’ve ever seen — but the violence is off camera. When I finished watching the film, I said, ‘Hey, that’s what I have to do.’ Haneke gave me this solution.
Gael Garcia Bernal in Rudo and Cursi
Why haven’t been any great football films?
CC: Sports like baseball or baseball are easy to dramatise, because all of them have a pause and that helps with the tension. Football never stops. I’m a football fan. I believe in the beauty of the game. If you are a fan, you have two choices. Go to the stadium, where you see the whole beauty of it. Or stay at home, watch the beautiful moves on the slo-mo cameras. Don’t go to the cinema, because you won’t see it there.
So did you use the penalty kicks as your action scenes?
CC: Exactly. The only moment football really stops is with a penalty kick — and that is a moment that is really dramatic. A penalty kick becomes a Western duel. It’s two guys facing each other. Destiny and potential death, whether metaphorical or literal. That’s why in the penalty kick at the end of the film, I shot it like an homage to the Sergio Leone Westerns I saw when I was a kid, especially The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
Your brother, Alfonso, produced Rudo and Cursi. What do you think is his best film?
CC: I think Children Of Men is just amazing. I’m not a Harry Potter fan but I enjoyed Azkaban. I did Y Tu Mama Tambien with him and I think it’s a beautiful movie. But when he says that A Little Princess is his most personal film, I know that it is. It was our first feature. Whenever we talk about it, I tell him, ‘We were so unconscious. We knew shit, man!’ I didn’t even know how scripts were written! I hope I could do that again. But how can you recapture that freshness? I think Francois Truffaut said that a director’s first film is his best because it is his purest. And that’s probably true.
What’s next for you? Something in Hollywood, maybe?
CC: I have an agent in Hollywood and he’s looking for material. If I get the offer and I feel I relate to that material, I will do it. I would love to do a horror film, a thriller, a tearjerker… I like diversity. I would just like to sustain my sense of humour!
Rudo and Cursi is out in the UK today.
The news that one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time was to get a full-fat reboot predictably sent cyborg fanboys into paroxysms of joy. For about 10 minutes. That Arnie, otherwise engaged running the world’s fourth largest economy, wouldn’t be back was partly compensated for by the casting of Christian Bale. But the revelation that McG was to be at the helm put an abrupt stop to the celebrations. Recently, though, the tide’s been turning with trailers and longer assemblages revealing a gritty war movie with more in common with Mad Max and Children of Men than Charlie’s Angels. RT talked exclusively to the much-maligned McG about the rise of his machines…
McG: The whole idea for doing this movie is to honour the first three movies but begin again. The big difference is we’re post-Judgement Day, whereas the other pictures were all contemporary, with Terminators coming back in time. It’s deep post-Judgement Day, it’s a new beginning, and because the future is malleable, there are a great many places to go.
One of the joys of this picture is it explores the space between Judgement Day and the becoming of the T800. So we get to see all the research and development that went into the proficiency of the T800. It’s like an Apple computer; the first ones you got 15 years ago had 2 megs of memory, and they weren’t so fast. And now today it’s the Macbook air and it does back flips. You know, it’s the same thing with the Machine world. And it suggests a world that’s less based in science fiction than it was when Jim Cameron was making the movies.
How do you mean?
McG: Well we live in a time where if you have an arthritic shoulder, they’ll give you a new one. We can make a 70-year-old woman pregnant, and deconstruct the human genome. And certainly the days of talking to a psychiatrist about your mommy and daddy issues are over — they just want to manipulate your serotonin levels. And therefore it’s real — it’s here. It’s now. That wasn’t the case when Ridley Scott made Blade Runner, or the first Terminator pictures, or even when the first Matrix came out. So in response our film was designed to have that tactile reality of Children of Men, or even the Bourne franchise.
Are there obvious elements in the previous movies that have to come back into play in yours?
McG: Certainly. We pay off a great many things that are established — particularly with Kyle Reese. We talk about the mythology of his shotgun strap, his proficiency for stealing cars, and we see where he learned a lot of these skills. And it wasn’t from Connor, it was from the Marcus character, which is one of the joys of the picture. We cite “Pain can be controlled, you just disconnect it,” you know, and we realise where he got that, and there’s a great many tidbits for the hard-core fans out there. But it’s designed as well for people who don’t know that much about the ins and outs of the first films.
Any “Hasta la vista, baby” moments?
McG: We’re working on a few. But I would never be so bold as to say we’ll have that good fortune of, you know, stuff sticking around to that degree. [Laughs]
You’ve got a really talented team of writers on board.
McG: Yeah, we wanted it to be written with the deftest pens possible. There’s a writing team called Ferris and Brancato that wrote the original draft. Then when I got involved, I brought in Paul Haggis, we worked for about 2 months on the script, with Christian as well. He taught us a great deal about character. Then we brought in Jonathan Nolan — who wrote the Batman pictures, Prestige, and largely Memento. So it’s a very cerebral bunch that’s here to make a film of the highest quality.
Continue onto the next page as McG talks about the challenges of shooting the film, his approach to CGI and whether he could take Linda Hamilton in a fight.
What were the most complicated scenes to shoot?
McG: Well a lot of the scenes take place in one shot, and figuring out places to hide the cuts… Again, I go to Children of Men — the car sequence, where the motorbikes come, and Julianne Moore is shot, and the whole thing plays in one shot. Figuring that out is very difficult, and you’ve got to figure out exactly where you’re going to have your blend points; you need to measure everything off, and consult with the visual effects people.
There’s a big gas station sequence that had that, and that was very, very tedious, and very, very technical filmmaking. And that’s why I love this film — one day we’re shooting a very intimate, character-driven scene, and there’s nothing going on but Connor and his wife in a room, and she’s the only one he can talk to about what’s on his mind. And then the next day we’re, you know, blowing up half of New Mexico, and going to a place of extraordinary action. So those are decidedly different hats to wear, day in, day out.
Do you deliberately do as much physically as you can? George Lucas would shoot the whole thing on a green screen, with guys wearing ping-pong balls…
McG: I say with respect to George Lucas, who I adore, I don’t like that at all. This is why Stan Winston‘s team is here. We do as much practically and in camera as possible. I want the machines to be real and we built all the machines. We built all the prosthetics. And then they’re accentuated and added to, certainly.
McG: I believe in visual effects completely. But I just don’t believe in saying, “throw up the green screen, and let’s make it happen.” I think the audience has become so skilled in recognising that – they sniff it out and it loses its potency. We’re going to have 800 CGI shots in this — I mean it’s a CG festival, that’s why I brought in the best minds in the business to come in and get it done – but we don’t just say, “put a blue sleeve on the Marcus character,” I mean — the guy spent six hours in make-up.
How do you inject humour and warmth into this universe?
McG: I don’t. There’s not a great deal of humour and warmth in this universe. It’s very largely influenced by the Cormac McCarthy novel The Road. It’s designed to feel that way — detached and existential, it’s got a great deal of Camus’ The Stranger in it. But there’s a gallows humour. We could all be in a bunker somewhere, and every now and again, you elbow the guy next to you and you make a wisecrack — what else are you going to do? It’s one of the defining characteristics of being human, even in the face of death. But the movie is designed to be very serious and very credible.
McG: Most certainly not. After those pull-ups in the psychiatric ward, I don’t think I could make that happen.
Terminator Salvation is released in the US on 21st May, in the UK on 3rd June and in Australia on 4th June.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last four years, you know that the cheesy old sci-fi TV series known as Battlestar Galactica got picked up, dusted off, and given the all-time, grand champion, mother of all reboots. Solidly led by a couple of veteran movie actors (Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell), BSG has garnered a reputation as one of the best shows on TV. But don’t just call it a sci-fi show; its so much more than that. It’s about love and loss. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, and what it’s like to be a refugee. It’s about religion and fanaticism. It’s about government and corruption. But mostly it’s about our own humanity, and what it really means to be human. Since some of us here are at RT are huge BSG fans (and we’re betting some of you are too), in honor of the beginning of the end (starting next week), we thought we’d share a list of “thinking man’s” sci-fi films; sci-fi stories that aren’t about laser battles or rampaging mutants, but more thoughtful pieces on what it really means to be human.
By the way, if you’re wondering who we think is the final Cylon, as you can imagine, we’re still arguing about that; when pressed, most of us that watch the show suspect President Laura Roslin (even if she doesn’t know it). But Editor in Chief Matt Atchity is going with an extreme longshot and betting that the final Cylon will be revealed as Zack Adama.
We like to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of evolution — or the divinely appointed head of the food chain, whichever you prefer — but what if our inability to transcend our biggest flaws (like, say, our thirst for war) resulted in humans losing their top-dog status? These were the questions asked by Pierre Boulle’s novel, La planète des singes, adapted for the big screen by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling for this 1968 classic. Planet of the Apes took some liberties with Boulle’s book, but that’s par for the course with adaptations — and the changes worked, most notably Serling’s addition of the film’s classic twist ending, which Boulle said he wished he’d come up with himself. Blending thought-provoking commentary and popcorn action at a level few science fiction films had achieved, Planet struck such a chord that it spun off multiple sequels, a television show, and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake (not to mention the reboot that’s reportedly in the works). As Variety noted on the film’s release, “Planet of the Apes is an amazing film.”
Philosophers and scientists have been trying to locate the seat of the human soul for as long as there have been philosophers and scientists, and we’re arguably no closer now than we were when we started — so it would be unreasonable to expect a 100-minute science fiction film to solve the riddle, or even shed any new light on the subject. Dark City probably doesn’t do either of those things, but it does provide plenty of nifty special effects, and blends sci-fi and noir more enthusiastically than any major entry in the genre since Blade Runner. For some critics, this wasn’t enough to forgive City‘s occasionally incomprehensible plot (eFilmcritic’s Rob Gonsalves called it “one of the most ludicrous movies in years”), but most scribes responded to director/co-writer Alex Proyas’ stylish visuals, and some fell completely in love with it; the Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter, for one, declared that “if you don’t fall in love with it, you’ve probably never fallen in love with a movie, and never will.”.
Science fiction is often accused of taking itself too seriously, but leave it to Woody Allen to provide the exception to the rule with 1973’s Sleeper, a hilarious twist on H.G. Wells’ When the Sleeper Wakes. As health food store owner Miles Monroe, Allen goes to the hospital to have his ulcer looked at, is accidentally cryogenically frozen for 200 years, and wakes up as the unwitting leader of a pack of revolutionaries who need him to assassinate a nose. (Don’t ask, just laugh.) Although Sleeper certainly isn’t the only sci-fi film to tackle the ethical questions of cloning — heck, it isn’t even the only one on this list — it’s definitely the funniest; as Christopher Null of Filmcritic wrote, “pound for pound and minute for minute, Sleeper may just have more laughs in it than any other Woody Allen movie.”
Though quite a few sci-fi movies offer commentary on political debates, very few of them do so as explicitly as Gattaca, which offers a potential end point to the advances in genetic engineering — and the public’s concern regarding said advances — that dominated headlines for a time in the ’90s. Helping to erase memories of his years spent playing angsty twentysomethings who were prone to saying things like “there’s a planet of regret on my shoulders,” Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, a man born through natural means (an “in-valid”) rather than with the aid of genetic pre-selection. The flaws in Vincent’s DNA keep him from his dream of becoming an astronaut, but he manages to secure the aid of a “valid” named Jerome (Jude Law) who’s willing to loan him his genetic profile. Some critics yawned and poked at the holes in the plot, but most were charmed by Gattaca‘s thoughtfulness and complexity, both of which were in rather short supply during the Men in Black era. As Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer wrote, “there’s a window on a possible future, a warning about the wages of sin, and enough beauty to make this a lasting classic of modern science fiction.”.
Like any genre, science fiction has its share of clichés — and anything relating to time travel probably belongs on that list. But few films have ever dealt with time travel — or the many personal and ethical questions that could arise from ownership of the technology — with the level of intelligence that Shane Carruth’s ultra low-budget Primer brought to the table. The story of two garage scientists who accidentally build a time machine, Primer eschews whiz-bang special effects for a nuts-and-bolts look at the science behind the device, and a cold, hard look at how quickly and easily a friendship can be torn asunder by unchecked power and bottomless greed. It certainly isn’t for everyone — the reams of technical dialogue prompted critics such as the BBC’s Matthew Leyland to dismiss it as “one of the most willfully obscure sci-fi movies ever made” — but if you can absorb the material, it’s uncommonly gripping. Time Out’s Jessica Winter was appreciative, saying “this film imagines its viewers to be smart, possessed of a decent attention span and game for a challenge. It doesn’t happen all that often.”
Unlike a number of the movies on this list, Children of Men works even if you don’t like sci-fi — and don’t particularly care for thought-provoking movies, either. Yes, it grapples with some heavy issues — most notably, the idea that human hope is tied inorexably to our ability to reproduce — but it also moves with Bourne-like speed and intensity, bounding from one white-knuckle setpiece to another (and packing some truly incredible cinematography as it goes, courtesy of Emmanuel Luzbecki). Director Alfonso Cuarón wasn’t shy about loading his adaptation of the P.D. James novel with visual statements on man’s cruelty to man and the folly of governing through fear, but he doesn’t linger on them; instead, he trusts his audience to absorb the story’s subtext, and rewards them with one of the most rip-roaring dystopian sci-fi films you’re ever likely to see. It deserved the heaps of praise it received from critics like the St. George Spectrum’s Bruce Bennett, who called it “an apocalyptic thrill ride that is as gritty as it is gripping, with a dark terror outgunned only by its daring humanity.”.
Most early sci-fi took the urge for space exploration — and the generally humanoid appearance of extraterrestrials — for granted, but with his 1961 novel Solaris author Stansislaw Lem brought another perspective to the genre, opting instead to use outer space as a backdrop for an examination of the human psyche. Solaris also turned the tables on its explorers, gradually revealing that although they believed they were examining the titular watery planet, it was in fact learning all about them — including a terrible array of dark secrets they thought were buried. In bringing Lem’s novel to the big screen, director Andrei Tarkovsky took some liberties (which annoyed Lem, natch), but critics didn’t mind, praising Solaris‘ quiet, beautifully complex medidation on love and communication. Although Tarkovsky later lamented the film’s inability to transcend the sci-fi genre, his movie still resonated with critics like Roger Ebert, who mused “there was so much to think about afterward, and so much that remained in my memory.”
Is it a sci-fi spin on Moses’ trip up Mount Sinai? A piece of Cold War commentary? A manifestation of writer/director Steven Spielberg’s love for his parents? The motivations behind Close Encounters of the Third Kind have been debated countless times since it landed on screens in 1977, but no matter which angle you view it from, what can’t be argued is the gentle-yet-overwhelming optimism of its message. Shifting the spotlight away from intergalactic battles, Spielberg instead focused on the need for simple communication — and the belief that despite our many problems, human beings are indeed capable of building friendships with beings from other planets. Even the New York Times’ Vincent Canby couldn’t help but crack a smile, pronouncing Close Encounters “a work that borrows its narrative shape and its concerns from those earlier films, but enhances them with what looks like the latest developments in movie and space technology.”
Decades before Dolly the sheep grabbed headlines, Philip K. Dick pontificated on the thorny ethical implications — and possible effects — of cloning and genetic tinkering in his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It took nearly 15 years to reach the screen (and wasn’t all that enthusiastically received by critics once it finally arrived), but Androids eventually inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, a sci-fi/noir blend that pits humans against bio-engineered workers called replicants in a grimy future version of L.A. Though it tanked at the box office and was initially shrugged off by many critics (the Los Angeles Times’ Sheila Benson famously called it “Blade Crawler”), Blade Runner‘s stock rose steadily over the years, eventually attaining classic status. It’s been reissued more times than Elvis Costello’s back catalog — including 2007’s mammoth five-disc “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” — but this is one film that arguably deserves multiple versions. In the words of the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, Blade Runner is “the most remarkably and densely imagined and visualized SF film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, a hauntingly erotic meditation on the difference between the human and the nonhuman.”
In making 2001: A Space Odyssey with Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick set out to make what he called “the proverbial good science fiction movie,” and although critics were divided at the time as to whether or not he achieved his goal, 2001 has aged exceptionally well — in fact, it’s hard to imagine any list of smart sci-fi movies without it. As for what it all means, well…part of 2001‘s enduring appeal is how open to interpretation it all is, something surely recognized by Kubrick, who rebuffed all attempts to get him to explain the film’s heavy symbolism. And even if you find yourself shaking your head at some of the more difficult-to-understand moments, it’s hard to argue with the attention to technical detail, the stunning visuals, or the way Clarke and Kubrick presaged decades of computer-related anxiety. It also helped bring sci-fi out of the margins; in the words of the BBC’s Almar Haflidason, “its triumph lies in its scope of cinematic splendour and the attempt to marry some of man’s most beautiful music to the infinite mystery of space.”
Just a few scenes into Doomsday and we know we’re watching the work of someone who adores post-apocalyptic films, with every scene littered with references to end-of-the-world classics from the 70s and 80s. And writer-director Neil Marshall readily admits that’s exactly what he was going for.
“Right from the start, I wanted my film to be an homage to these sorts of movies, and deliberately so,” he says. “I wanted to make a movie for a new generation of audience that hadn’t seen those movies in the cinema – hadn’t seen them at all maybe – and to give them the same thrill that I got from watching them. But kind of contemporise it, pump up the action and the blood and guts.”
This is a rather surprising shift for the filmmaker behind Dog Soldiers and The Descent, two claustrophobic thrillers that got deep into their characters’ heads. But Doomsday is a big, loud action movie, and Marshall reveals to RT readers the films that inspired him most…
The three Mad Max movies set the bar for this kind of movie, but for me personally it’s the second one. I do love the third one, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985); there are elements in it that are rubbish, but most of it’s pretty good. The first one, Mad Max (1979), has a great car chase at the start – a real jaw-dropper – and a pretty good one at the end, but the rest of it is quite slow. But with The Road Warrior, once the bondage gear comes out – the Mohawks and all that kind of stuff – it was like, “Wow, OK, we haven’t seen this before.” My thinking is that if you’re in the apocalypse and you survive, you’re going to choose to wear a leather jacket instead of a tweed suit. People are going to look like punks, because it looks cool!
The Road Warrior is so concise, beautifully written and beautifully directed. I love the use of cars and locations. And Mel Gibson is just so perfect in that role. He hardly says a word, but when he does speak, it counts. Like him, Rhona Mitra‘s character in my film, Eden Sinclair, is a police officer who has a history. So there’s another connection.
What a fantastic vision and idea, and certainly my film is a huge homage to this film, what with the concept of something being walled off and all the gang warfare. The anarchic spirit of that movie is definitely something I was going for. And of course Eden Sinclair has an obvious connection with Snake Plisken. It’s no accident that she wears an eyepatch in the film. But I said right from the start that if I was going to have her wear an eyepatch, I’d have a bloody good reason for that. So the eyepatch became a plot point, with the fake eye and the camera. And that also enabled us to have her not wear the eyepatch all the time. So that was fun.
This isn’t a post-apocalyptic film, but it had that same ethos, and it’s one of the films that deeply inspired me when I first saw it. I think John Boorman did a wonderful job with the whole genre; no one has ever touched the artistry of it. I mean, compare it to King Arthur! Excalibur has that beautiful look about it – it’s so rich, and I wanted to tap into that a little bit. There’s just a kind of logic in that they’re living in this castle, and they’ve gone to a feudal society and have divided into tribes at war with each other. Scotland is full of these amazing fortresses, so what better place to hide out? They’re all museums as well, so they’re all going to be full of suits of armour and swords and stuff. Maybe go that way – you don’t need to find ammunition when you’ve got bows and arrows and other useful kit.
One of my biggest inspirations is Walter Hill. He made these very tough, very violent adult action movies during that period. And The Warriors is just a classic example. It’s completely nuts – just the visual style of the gang warfare. When I first saw it I took it as being pretty literal, like this kind of stuff was going on in New York. And now of course he’s explained that it was very much an exaggeration and he sees it as a comic book movie. And I don’t see it that way at all. I love the idea of these crazy gangs roaming around New York – it’s scary but fun. But its world is New York at night, and it’s a brilliant depiction. And he did a similar kind of thing with Streets of Fire, another great movie. It’s not post-apocalyptic, but it’s certainly set in a nonspecific future world.
No Blade of Grass (1970)
It’s about a virus that wipes out all the crops in the UK, and there’s bikers roaming the countryside, somebody trying to make their way up north, and they end up hiding in a country house full of soldiers – just like in 28 Days Later. And it was made more than 10 years before Mad Max. I think 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are great movies, but they’re very straight-faced, and I wanted to make mine a lot of fun. It’s not to be taken seriously, really.
I like the world of it, and that sort of sun-scorched look. And I just loved the relationship between Don Johnson and his dog, and then at the end when they eat the girl – one of the best endings ever. I think that’s kind of where the whole Sean Pertwee sequence in my film comes from – the cannibalism idea.
I think Ridley Scott gave us the most amazing spectacle put on screen in years. It’s brutal and giant. And it’s what my film is about – trial by combat. I wanted to put Eden Sinclair through that, and she’s not supposed to survive it. And I just liked the idea of this little woman facing off against this seven-foot knight in armour and managing to outwit him. She’s not stronger than him, but she outsmarts him, and I thought that was a lot of fun.
An excellent movie. But it was kind of frustrating that it came out during the course of making this film. Oh great, let’s do a version of post-apocalyptic London after they do it, and they had something like a $130m budget. So we knew we were going to have to make ours more bloody and more fun.
BAFTA is putting the final preparations in place for BAFTA Goes to Mexico in association with ezylet.co.uk, a weekend of special Mexican events that starts tonight with a glitzy party and a celebration of the work of director Alfonso Cuaron. RT-UK caught up with Cuaron ahead of the celebrations to talk about Mexican filmmaking, keeping it in the family and, of course, the possibility of a return to the world of Harry Potter.
RT-UK: You must be having a busy week, I imagine you have a bunch of friends coming in for the BAFTA celebration…
AC: Actually it’s the first time I’ve seen people here, today. I’ve been really busy, though, I’ve been writing and supervising the film that my brother Carlos is shooting in Mexico – he wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien and he’s directing his first feature. It’s Gael [Garcia Bernal] and Diego [Luna], the same cast of Y Tu Mama Tambien, I’m producing that with Guillermo [del Toro] and Alejandro [Gonzalez Innaritu]. Then I’m producing a short that Jonas, my son, is directing that is going to Venice. And his feature film is going to Venice too, so it’s a lot of stuff going on!
RT-UK: It seems like it’s a good time to be a Mexican filmmaker.
AC: The most important thing, I think, is the community; that’s what’s more exciting than anything else. It’s really a community that supports each other and it’s a community that’s extremely politically aware. It’s a community that understands that sometimes cinema is a means for something more important. In that sense it’s a community that, even with aesthetic differences sometimes, comes together for the important issue. It’s really exciting to be a part of that.
And it’s also a community that has decided to, finally, erase the borders so it’s not about Mexicans it’s about filmmakers. A big chunk of the Argentinean and Brazilian community are making fantastic films and there’s no difference between them and the Mexican community; it’s pretty-much the same. It’s about filmmakers that you bond with. I have so many good friends in that community and we’re always looking to collaborate.
RT-UK: You’ve started a production company with Guillermo and Alejandro, is that going to continue your form of making films both in Mexico and the rest of the world of various different ideas and sizes?
AC: The thing is that the company doesn’t have a nationality, in a sense. Right now we’re producing Carlos’ film in Mexico but there’s a plan to do this other film in Argentina and probably one that’ll be in America. For us it’s not about Mexico, it’s just about filmmakers. I believe in what Marco Muller from the Venice Film Festival talks about as nomad cinema. You can see it in Sokurov films, that he can do Russian Ark in Russian in Saint Petersburg in the Hermitage Museum and he can do The Sun about Hirohito in Japanese in Japan. Both films have the same soul and the same heart of this filmmaker who happens to be Russian. This community of filmmakers that are bonding are doing so because they have the same approach, I think.
RT-UK: It seems to be the case that you’re able to preserve a certain sense of passion whether you’re making Y Tu Mama Tambien or Harry Potter which are clearly very different films.
AC: Yeah, hopefully. They’re mine so it’s kind-of difficult to talk about because I’m too close to them, but I can see it in the work of my peers; I can see it in Guillermo through Pan’s Labyrinth and then I watch Hellboy and I can see that same passion again; it manifests, for me, in the girl in Pan’s Labyrinth and the teenager on the roof in Hellboy; those two are Guillermo del Toro. Two different manifestations of the same thing.
RT-UK: Does being around Guillermo, Alejandro and the rest of that community make you raise your own game?
AC: We’re brutally honest with each other. Sometimes painfully honest! But that’s an amazing comfort, you know, because you know that you don’t have to be trying to smell the bullshit around. I trust their judgement and I know that if they’re going to get tough on me it’s coming from the standpoint of caring and love. That just pushes the envelope. If I’m getting lazy or anything or if I talk about the next project I’m going to do, sometimes they’ll tell me, “You know what, that’s becoming lazy. You’re not trying to stretch yourself. You can do that, but it’s boring. Go and do it, become a ‘bureaucrat of cinema,'” as we say.
And it’s not exclusive to those two either; I can have these conversations with Fernando Trueba or Emanuele Crialese. It’s very obvious to see the Mexicans just because we’ve known each other for a long time and I guess it’s easy to identify the three of us together, but each one of us has relationships with other filmmakers that we’re in constant communication with. There’s this attitude of love of filmmaking and love for filmmakers. Yeah, there are filmmakers that are very competitive but, then, maybe they don’t want to be your friends!
RT-UK: It’s not about movies being better than each other; it’s about having a good raft of great movies…
AC: Well that’s the thing, I love my work but I really admire seeing a great film and when I see a great film I tend to want to meet with and talk with the filmmaker. In most cases you realise it goes both ways; a communication is established and in many cases a relationship is established, and once you’ve established that relationship it’s a great support to know that you can rely on somebody else. You can call and ask someone for advice. Obviously with Guillermo and Alejandro there’s baggage, there’s history, and that makes everything very telepathic, very second-hand.
RT-UK: Making Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban appeared to be a strange decision after Y Tu Mama Tambien, but it also appeared to lead to the chance to make Children of Men – what’s the story behind that?
AC: Well, actually, I wrote Children of Men right after Y Tu Mama Tambien and that didn’t happen at the time. Of course Harry Potter helped make Children of Men happen. That’s one of those beautiful coincidences; I did Harry Potter because it crossed into my life and I was completely unfamiliar with the material. Guillermo is the one who kept on telling me, “You need to read it.” Originally I was making jokes about them offering it to me. I read it and I really fell in love with it. It just made sense, you know, and when I did it I spent the two most beautiful years of my life doing that film. After one of the perks was that I could do Children of Men; it’s just one of those things, I’ve been very lucky. Sometimes you have to just not follow your ego as the perception you wish people had of you, you have to follow what you feel is the right thing and you have to understand why you’re making those choices.
That was the thing about Harry Potter, I have to say, it was something instinctual that I knew I had to do it. When you commit to a movie you’re committing one or two years of your life to a movie, and that affects what you do with your life. I don’t want to get really old and realise that I’ve wasted my life making films. I want to look back and say that I lived and that I was making films as I was living. It’s the combination of all of that stuff.
RT-UK: Is the Potter universe something you’d like to return to?
AC: You know, it was such a great opportunity and such a beautiful two years and everything around Harry Potter – JK Rowling’s creation – is enveloped in this really beneficial energy. I got the benefits of that energy for those two years. So yes I’d be very tempted to do so even though, at this point, I feel a little bit like I have to try to do the films that are not going to exist without me. On the same token, I would be really tempted because it was really beautiful. I just started reading the last book and something I respect is the care the producers have put in the film franchise. It would have been so easy after the success of the series just to take the cynical approach of knowing that no matter what people are going to see those movies. Actually they’ve been taking a lot of care from beginning to end, so yeah I would be really tempted.
Hey, remember action star Vin Diesel? Well, he’s back.
Aside from "The Pacifier," "Find Me Guilty," and a really goofy cameo in "Tokyo Drift," we haven’t seen a whole lot from Vin Diesel lately — especially in the action genre. Looks like all that’s about to change with the arrival of Mathieu Kassovitz‘s "Babylon A.D." And if this behind-the-scenes teaser trailer is any indication, it’s going to be a pretty chaotic affair.
Click here to see the teaser at Vin’s official site, and then pop back here to let us know if the promo clip has you pumped to see "Babylon A.D." The IMDb describes the plot like this: "Veteran-turned-mercenary Thoorop (Diesel) takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to China. Little does he know that she is host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah."
So it’s "Children of Men" meets "Cherry 2000." And I really ought to offer a bonus prize to anyone who actually remembers "Cherry 2000."
Scheduled for release next February, "Babylon" is the second English-language feature from the French filmmaker. His first was … "Gothika." But "Gothika" didn’t have tigers, strippers, fistfights, explosions, and Michelle Yeoh.
As this is only one of a few dozen graphic novels I really ought to read, we’ll rely on our source for a plot synopsis:
"Set in 1800s Arizona, a skirmish between cowboys and Apaches is interrupted by the crash landing of a space ship. The alien commander plans to tame the Old West and enslave everyone, but the cowboys and Native Americans turn their six-guns against the alien invaders."
So let me get this straight: It’s going to have cowboys … AND aliens?
Bryan Singer’s "Superman Returns" cleaned house at the Saturn Awards over the weekend. (Hey, don’t laugh. The Saturn Awards have been around for over 30 years and they pay some fine attention to the genre films we all love so much.)
Check out these winners and then tell me the Saturn folks don’t have pretty good taste:
They also gave out some TV awards, which you can check out at Sci-Fi.com. (There’s also a full list of nominees so you can see which flicks got beat up by Superman.) I think they might be just a bit too much drooling over "Superman Returns," but hey, I’m not on the voting committee.