Movie Forum: Welcome back, Iron Man; Farewell, Woz
05:00 AM, May 06, 2013
Every Wednesday, the Movie Forum convenes to discuss the latest news from the film world and answer questions submitted by you, the reader.
This week, USA TODAY Movie reporters Bryan Alexander and Susan Wloszczyna discussed the two biggest openings of the next two weeks (Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby) and took a look at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the star-studded jury (Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz, Steven Spielberg) that will preside over the event. Finally, we bid farewell to our own Susan “Woz” Wloszczyna, who is leaving us after nearly 30 years of service at USA TODAY! She shared a few of her favorite film memories over the years in her final Movie Forum appearance. As always, we ended with your reader questions.
John Elliot: Welcome to the USA TODAY Movie Forum!
…which is open to ALL Iron Men and Iron Maidens!
I’m John Elliot, online producer for USA TODAY Movies and I will serve as your moderator. Joining me today are USA TODAY Movie reporters Bryan Alexander and Susan Wloszczyna.
How this works: Each week we solicit questions, online, from our readers on the latest news from the world of film.
This week? Iron Man 3, Great Gatsby & the Cannes jury! It’ll be our most rhyming Movie Forum yet…
Remember, you can submit questions right here and now and we will tackle them later in the chat.
So let’s get started!
And let’s start with a couple of the big upcoming releases: Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby.
Iron Man 3 opens this Friday, and Bryan you’ve seen the film: What are your thoughts?
Bryan Alexander: I’m still thinking what rhymes with Gatsby?
Susan Wloszczyna: That’s be Gatsby?
Alexander: OK. Iron Man. It’s definitely a great ride. Downey at his wise-cracking best with the script and direction of Shane Black. They did Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 20005 together and it brings out what people love about Downey the most he’s funny and doesn’t overdo the macho or the sentimentality.
Iron Man 2 was disappointing. But this will bring the love back to the franchise.
It’s just fun watching Robert Downey on the screen. As director Shane Black says, you cannot take your eyes off him. He has big shoes to fill post-Avengers. But he does the trick.
It’s doing boffo box office overseas. It’s going to be big.
Elliot: You also recently spoke with Robert Downey Jr. Is he still having fun with the franchise?
Alexander: I think he has fun doing whatever he is doing. He’s hilarious, smart and always breaks into that crazy laugh.
He’s having a lot of fun. But the question is, will he continue. That’s the question which lurks around Iron Man 3. How long will Downey do it? And can anyone else ever play that part?
His contract is up and Downey says “the future is unclear.” That’s taking up a surprising amount of attention. This is a beloved character. And people sort of want it to last forever.
Even as we have a new one right in front of us.
Elliot: Does he want more money to reprise for a fourth time?
Alexander: I don’t think it’s the money. I think at some point he’s going to have to move on. It’s a matter of when. He’s 48 years old now. At some point he’s going to have to stop.
Elliot: Also: Does that mean he was only locked into one Avengers film?
Alexander: He’s not locked into another Avengers film. But I think he will do that new one which is currently being written by Joss Whedon. After that I think he’s do at least another Iron Man.
But the rest, unclear.
Elliot: Iron Man 3 also features Ben Kingsley in another villainous role: The Mandarin, a familiar foe to Iron Man fans. On a scale of Prince of Persia to Sexy Beast, how is Sir Ben’s latest turn as the bad guy?
Alexander: Ah, Sexy Beast. Now we’re talking. What a role!
We definitely see a more mysterious menace here. But, it’s hard to explain without spoiling, but things take a turn.
So it’s really apples and oranges or whatever bad-guy term I should use.
He’s definitely highly effective in the role. And he’s a lot of fun. Far more fun than you would expect.
And look out for Guy Pearce who continues to revel playing the hot bad guy once again.
He steps it up here.
Elliot: Now onto next week’s big release: The Great Gatsby.
Woz, you’ve seen this latest re-imagining. How does it stack up to its predecessors? Outside of a soundtrack featuring Jay-Z, what should audiences expect?
Wloszczyna: Those trailers made me a bit nervous especially Leo’s shouty antics. Gatsby is the essence of cool. But I was pleasantly surprised by how well Baz Luhrmann brought to life a novel that depends on a narrator and has yet to be done right by Hollywood. It has all the Baz-alicious visuals fans crave, especially in zoomy 3-D. The jazzy clothes and digital scenery are pieces of art. And the casting with one or two exceptions is perfection. DiCaprio as the G-man himself and Joel Edgerton as brutish Tom Buchanan especially.
Alexander: Who didn’t you like?
Wloszczyna: But what is really impressive is how faithful Luhrmann is to the emotions of the story if not the text at times. There is a 10-minute sequence near the end right before all goes to hell that is like a great dramatic play, heightened by the tension created by 3-D.
I must plead the Fifth on that one, Mr. A. However, I have pre-ordered the soundtrack already. New versions of Crazy in Love and Back in Black are earworms almighty.
Elliot: Has the book finally received a fitting film treatment? Or is such a thing even possible?
Wloszczyna: There is an Alan Ladd version from the ’40s that is respectable and a TV version with Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway as odd as that sounds. But no one but the Great Baz-by could inject Jazz-Age fierceness into this nearly 100-year-old story with such a contemporary feel. I think it is his best film by far.
Alexander: What about Robert Redford’s version?
You don’t have to avoid that one.
Wloszczyna: Oy. He looked the part but acted like a Roaring ’20s zombie. Not even he likes it.
Alexander: Sorry about that, sport
Wloszczyna: Please, it’s OLD sport. You can have a drinking game with how many times Leo says it.
Elliot: Does Baz Luhrmann’s style/sense as a director deviate at all from what he showed us in his first three films (The Red Curtain Trilogy: Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge)?
Wloszczyna: It has the usual things we love about his Baz-ness great parties, fireworks, anachronistic tunes that enhance the mood, gorgeous everything, big emotions and strangeness in the corners. There are even girls on swings on high. But I think it is the seriousness he achieves, the intimate drama even, that I was most impressed by. I think it is called maturing as an artist.
Elliot: Now from the glamour of Gatsby to the glamour of Cannes!
This year’s festival lineup and very star-studded jury (Spielberg! Kidman! Lee!) has already been announced. Bryan, you’ll be our man in Cannes … what jumps out to you about this year’s festival? What should film fans get excited about at this year’s fest?
Alexander: Well first of all, some of the eyes are going to be focused on the jury as you say. Add Christoph Waltz to the mix there. And you have a virtual movie right there. Who wouldn’t want to listen in on these sessions?
Plus I want to see when it goes to discussions of the Oscars as both Ang Lee (Life of PI) and Spielberg (Lincoln) are on board.
But there are movies for sure. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Alexander Payne’s new movie Nebraska. The director goes back on the road in this black-and-white follow-up to The Descendants. It’s getting a lot of buzz. Bruce Dern and Will Forte playing father and son.
Wloszczyna: Cannes usually has at least one picture that breaks out and becomes an Oscar best-pic contender. The Artist or Amour. What do you predict this year, Bryan?
Alexander: The Coen brothers look to be big. Inside Llewyn Davis, a look at the 1960s folk scene, could fit that bill. Great cast, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake who might finally find the part for his talents. John Goodman returns to the Coen brothers.
Elliot: Finally, this is our own Susan ‘Woz’ Wloszczyna’s final Movie Forum as she is soon ending her nearly 30 years at USA TODAY. Woz, you will be missed, but before you depart, please share some of your wisdom and favorite film memories!
Wloszczyna: It is with heavy heart that I decided to move on but I am hoping to freelance, so I am not planning to hang up my byline any time soon. But it has been quite the ride at the Nation’s Newspaper I was there almost from the start and was able to be a copy desk chief, a film critic and now a film reporter. And I doubt if Uncle Al hadn’t invented the paper that I would have been so lucky.
Elliot: Let’s explore your life in movies!
What was the best film you reviewed?
Wloszczyna: I think the films that I must appreciated reviewing were the discoveries particularly The Full Monty, Babe, Pulp Fiction, Flirting With Disaster. Surprises are hard to come by in the Internet age.
Alexander: OK, cliché question but interesting looking back. Who was your favorite person to interview and best moment of that? Also, when did things go terribly wrong that you can laugh about now?
Wloszczyna: I have had the pleasure of talking to hundreds of folks who I have greatly admired. I would say the interviews I must cherish are Peter O’Toole for Venus and Roger Ebert in 2010, when I interviewed him in his home in Chicago and we communicated as best we could since he no longer had use of his voice.
But my favorite subject hands down is Robin Williams. The funniest, the kindest, the quickest and just an all-around terrific individual. I just remember talking to him for Flubber and Good Will Hunting and, when it was over, he asked me to stick around to keep him company while he ate lunch. No one else ever has done that.
One of the best and worst was Bill Murray. When I talked to him for his little elephant movie Larger Than Life, he was so charming and gracious and wonderfully Murray-ish. But then I talked to him for The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, and not only was he hours late with all his interviews, he cut me down to only 15 minutes. And proceeded to be incensed by every question. I actually cried in the cab on the way home.
What was Williams like as he ate lunch? I have never seen him quiet before
Did he stop to eat?
Wloszczyna: He was like a real human he asked me questions, like what movies I had seen that I liked.
Elliot: What was your favorite story you’ve ever written?
Wloszczyna: The Roger Ebert one is a keeper, especially now. But really my favorite is my first-person account of being a zombie extra in my idol George Romero’s Land of the Dead. Not only did I don full zombie makeup including contacts. But I got to interview the director in full zombie regalia and he said I freaked him out! And, too, I got a screen credit and my own IMDB page out of it. Best fun I ever had and called it work.
Elliot: Best perk of being a movies reporter?
Alexander: Doing the movie forum, of course! But other than that.
Wloszczyna: Free movies. Please. And the Academy screeners which I never ever loan or share, just in case the FBI is reading this.
Alexander: And you destroy them, right?
Wloszczyna: Like Frisbees.
Alexander: I once had to show a picture showing that I had destroyed a movie.
Elliot: What’s your favorite film of all time?
Wloszczyna: Now see, every movie critic and journalist gets asked that question so you know I have an answer: Some Like It Hot. Followed by Young Frankenstein. And every Hitchcock film before Torn Curtain and Topaz. Although I love Frenzy, too.
Alexander: You’re a big fan of animation. Where do you feel that field has moved and is moving right now?
Wloszczyna: Yes indeed, since 1989 when The Little Mermaid got the whole thing going. One problem now is overkill everyone has found a way to make a profit on a once-risky genre and it is getting to the saturation point. But what is a positive is the variety of the different styles of animation being done as well as the types of stories. It isn’t just Disney and DreamWorks. Coraline, Rango and Despicable Me were all great and very different from anything else out there. It is interesting to see what is happening at Disney and Pixar, too. Right now I think Disney proper might have the edge after Wreck-It Ralph.
Elliot: And finally … how would your Oscar acceptance speech start?
Wloszczyna: That is easy. “I would like to thank my husband, Chris, without whom I would not be here.”
I am no Hilary Swank.
Alexander: Good answer
Elliot: Thank you, Woz! You are now Movie Reporter Emeritus of the Movie Forum. You will be missed.
Now, let’s field some questions from our lovely readers!
What’s your biggest expectation of this year’s summer movie slate?
Alexander: Look out for Superman. That’s getting the most attention. The return of the cape in British actor Henry Cavill. He certainly has the right stuff (and that chin). That’s going to be big. Star Trek, huge. And obviously Iron Man is bringing the spring into summer. And I cannot wait for World War Z. I saw 15 minutes of footage and it rocked.
Wloszczyna: Iron Man 3, which benefits from being the first one out. Although that Pacific Rim could surprise. But The Great Gatsby might help redefine just what is a summer movie. It is wisely coming out on Mother’s Day weekend and could break the bank from that alone.
Murphy from Atlanta asks:
Is it too early to predict the Oscars or can we begin to see what’s going to be a contender in films that are coming out now?
Alexander: It’s definitely not too early to have the conversation! This is Hollywood. But certainly the Cannes Film Festival is putting things into focus. It’s interesting to note Nebraska has a late November release date. Very awards-friendly. I suspect we’ll see Alexander Payne around the town. As well as the Coen brothers.
I’m sort of Cannes focused right now, so I’m going there.
Woz, you think we’ll be talking Gatsby?
Wloszczyna: I think so, at least technical categories galore. And music. And Leo and Carey and Joel in the acting categories.
Rob Browne from Ranson, W.Va.:
Is USA TODAY going to post a summer movie calender (my March madness with brackets) with premiere dates and synopsis? I use it to plan my viewing schedule at the cinemas.
Elliot: You’re in luck, Rob!
Our Summer Movie Calendar will be hitting the print edition of USA TODAY this Friday (May 3, 2013)
Just 36 more hours and you’ll be in summer cinema heaven
Alexander: But will it be in the form of brackets? I want to see who wins Iron Man 3 or Pacific Rim in an early round. I have Gatsby in my final four.
Unfortunately, NOT bracketed at this time. You’ll have to wage those wars within your own head
… AND now it’s time for us to wrap up
Alexander: Call me Rob!
Elliot: Thank you Bryan and a fond farewell Woz! Don’t be a stranger around these parts!
Alexander: Woz, I want an extended forum. This was fun
Wloszczyna: I promised I wouldn’t cry it would ruin my keyboard. But it has been great doing this with both of you, John and Bryan. I just need to come up with an alias so I can pester you with questions in the future.
Elliot: And a VERY big thank you to all our readers who participated and submitted questions.
Remember: you can submit your burning movie questions all week long, right here.