Steven Soderbergh

Film Fanatic: Steven Soderbergh Ending Retirement, George Miller Talks ‘Justice League’

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Film Fanatic

 

Steven Soderbergh Possibly Ending Retirement?

Three years ago, director Steven Soderbergh said he was retiring from feature-filmmaking to the surprise of many movie fans considering his age at the time was just 50. But if you look at his body of work from 2000-2013, you could understand his desire to take a break. He directed 18 movies and a short-lived television show, K Street, in that time and that’s not even mentioning all of the other shows and movies he produced. I mean he was giving Woody Allen a run for his money on churning out movies.

But he didn’t say break. He said “retiring” which is a very definite word to use. Did I ever believe he was done directing movies? Absolutely not, which is why this news of a possible return to the big screen isn’t surprising.

Since his last movie, Side Effects, he’s worked strictly for television directing the HBO film Behind the Candelabra and all 20 episodes of the Cinemax show The Knick and his reasons for moving to television were due to his belief that the majority of originality and creativity in storytelling was found on television these days.

Contagion - Director Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh in a familiar position: Behind the camera. | (Warners Bros.)

Having said that, he may have found something worth bringing to cinemas. According to Variety, Soderbergh could be directing something called Hillbilly Heist which would center around a group of people pulling off a heist during a NASCAR-type race.

But the question of whether he will be doing it is still up in the air as it was Soderbergh himself who tweeted, “Facts are SO twentieth century….,” following the Variety story. Now there are conflicting reports from such publications as The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline that Soderbergh’s denial of the whole story is in response to Matt Damon’s possible involvement in the project. THR believes Channing Tatum, another Soderbergh collaborator, is actually attached to star in the heist film.

Whether or not Soderbergh is actually returning to movies, it makes sense considering he plans to direct one final season of The Knick and he doesn’t appear to have any other projects on his plate save for producing another Cinemax show, The Girlfriend Experience, based off of his 2009 film.

I truly believe his “retiring” comments were made from someone who was just burned out following so many projects. He’s a guy who loves working and I can see him perhaps slowing down a bit and making a movie every three or four years which would ultimately be a good thing because while he’s made a number of good and different films over the past decade, it’s been more of quantity than quality.

Soderbergh is one of our most talented directors and he has many years of quality work ahead of him. It’s only a matter of time until he directs another major motion picture.

 

George Miller Talks About What Happened to His Failed ‘Justice League’ Movie

One of the great what-ifs in the history of cinema is George Miller’s Justice League movie that almost happened nearly ten years ago. Anyone who follows movie news knows a lot about the project such as who was cast, the script and concept art. But how did it all fall apart?

While speaking with THR, Miller talked about the project and how timing was it’s downfall:

“Justice League was the main one. That was, oh, seven years ago, I think. And there was a really great script. And Warners said, ‘let’s do it. Let’s do a Justice League.’ I was really attracted to it. But there was a writers strike looming. We had to cast it very quickly, which we did with Warner’s casting people. And we cast it really quickly and we mounted it very quickly. And it depended on a start date and it depended on some basic rebate legislation that had just got through a new Australian government. But it was just too big a decision for them to make in the time. And that fell through and the whole film fell through. We almost got there. And it wasn’t to be. But that happens a lot, where films line up and the stars look like they’re aligning and they didn’t.”

George Miller-indiewire.com
George Miller on the set of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ | (indiewire.com)

This is very interesting because Miller’s Justice League movie would have existed in a separate universe from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies which were going on at the same time. Shared universes are all the rage in today’s superhero movies so it would have been a little strange seeing both Christian Bale and Armie Hammer as Batman in a separate universe.

It would have confused general movie audiences seeing two different Dark Knights, but witnessing Miller’s take on the superhero genre would have been amazing. He finally returned to live-action filmmaking with Mad Max: Fury Road and we all know how that turned out.

Personally I would have preferred Miller to Zack Snyder when it comes to a Justice League movie, but I’ll give Snyder the benefit of the doubt for now. There were rumors that Miller would direct a Man of Steel sequel so we can still hold out hope for that.

Film Fanatic: George Miller Not Directing ‘Man of Steel 2’

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Film Fanatic

 

George Miller Not Directing ‘Man of Steel 2’

About a month ago rumors began swirling that Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller was going to make Man of Steel 2. Both franchises are produced by Warner Bros. and coming off of the universal acclaim for Fury Road, Miller pretty much had his pick of projects.

But instead of making another blockbuster sequel, Miller has decided to do something a little more intimate. While speaking with Digital Spy, Miller confirmed that he met with the studio about a DC movie, but eventually passed.

“I hope the next film I make is a very small film without any special effects and not many stunts,” said Miller.

George Miller-indiewire.com
George Miller on the set of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’ | (indiewire.com)

While these comments are disappointing for selfish fans like me who hadn’t seen an action film from Miller in more than thirty years prior to Fury Road, it makes sense considering the highly-publicized problems while making the latest Mad Max. Between Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron fighting on set to punishing weather conditions leading to re-shoots, the production of Fury Road would have been hard on any director, let alone someone who’s 70.

Another thing to consider in Miller’s decision is that he almost made a superhero movie fifteen years ago. With a cast already assembled and waiting in Australia, Warner Bros. ultimately pulled the plug on Miller’s Justice League: Mortal. So perhaps he was a little gun-shy in attempting to make another superhero film.

After watching Fury Road multiple times, I would actually prefer he take over the Terminator franchise. It’s in total disarray at the moment and his ability to shoot car chases practically and work with simple plots are two signature ingredients in any great Terminator movie and those elements were absent in Genysis.

If you compare his career to that of Ridley Scott, Miller has made only three movies since 2000 with two of them being animated (Happy Feet 1 and 2). Scott on the other hand has made thirteen and he’s nearly eight years older than Miller. It might be an unfair comparison considering the only director to rival Scott in work is Woody Allen, but it would still be nice to see Miller take on more projects.

Hyperbole aside, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action movie of the decade and after watching it I thought to myself, “Where have you been George Miller!” To be honest any Miller project is a welcomed sight.

 

Steven Soderbergh Finding New Life in Television

A couple of years ago, Steven Soderbergh announced he would be retiring from filmmaking. Many people, myself included, didn’t necessarily believe him considering he was an Oscar-winning director with immense talent and he was still young (He’s 52).

But as far as feature-filmmaking goes, he seems to have been a man of his word. His last directorial effort on the big screen was Side Effects released in early 2013. Since then, he’s made Behind the Candelabra for HBO and he’s about to release the new season of The Knick on Cinemax for which he’s directed all 20 episodes over two seasons.

Contagion - Director Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh behind the camera. | (collider.com)

The Knick is a show I’ve been excited to check out, but as for Soderbergh’s decision to move from movies to television, he believes the constrictive nature of big-screen storytelling is the main reason.

“Just from my very personal, subjective point of view, I don’t have an interest in making another theatrical film unless my attitude changes or the business changes,” said Soderbergh to The Hollywood Reporter. “There are a series of things that have contributed to it — I think the audiences have played a role, the studios have a role in it — but film is increasingly fear based in its decision-making, and that’s not a good base to be creative.”

We are in the “Golden Age of Television” according to many and with shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Fargo and Mr. Robot creating and developing fascinating worlds and building strong characters, why would someone as ambitious as Soderbergh stick with a two-hour movie?

For someone who’s worked with the likes of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, Soderbergh has always seemed like an outsider. For every Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s movie, he’s made experimental films with non-actors like The Girlfriend Experience and Bubble. He’s reached a point in his career where he can make whatever he wants and to him, working in television maximizes his creativity and freedom.

I have a feeling one day he’ll return to feature films, but for now he’s enjoying the small screen. At least he’s not retiring all together.

 

‘Kingsman 2’ Planning to Shoot in Early 2016

It’s certainly been the year of the spy movie. Between Spy, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, CitizenFour, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the upcoming Bridge of Spies and Spectre, 2015 has been infiltrated by a number of sleuthing individuals.

But there was one spy movie that came before all of them and that was Kingsman: The Secret Service. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the movie opened in early February and finished with more than $400 million in worldwide box office receipts.

Kingsman-hitfix.com
Taron Egerton and Colin Firth in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service.’ | (hitfix.com)

The movie was a surprise hit for Fox and as of this week, it’s still the highest-grossing live-action movie of the year for the studio (Although that could change with The Martian landing in theaters this weekend).

When a movie makes money, studios immediately think “sequel” and Kingsman is no exception. Fox is planning an April 2016 start date for Kingsman 2 which will once again star Taron Egerton whose stock has risen considerably since his breakout role in Kingsman.

The only concern about their targeted start date is that Egerton will be starring in Robin Hood: Origins (Yes, another Robin Hood movie) which will have a lengthy production beginning in February of next year.

Kingsman was certainly a unique spy movie with a distinct tone of edge and sophistication. It was also very different from the other two spy franchises (Bond and Mission: Impossible) so the idea that more are coming is great news.

 

 

 

Film Fanatic

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Steven Soderbergh’s final film opening this week

One of our greatest filmmakers is calling it quits at the age of 50. Steven Soderbergh, the man whose body of work ranges from independent fair (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, King of the Hill), to critically acclaimed (Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic), to blockbuster (Ocean’s Trilogy, Magic Mike) and experimental (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience) has decided to stop suddenly.

His last theatrical film, Side Effects, opens this weekend and his final film, the HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, will debut later this summer.

He’s hinted that he will focus more on photography and painting, but Soderbergh said recently that he just wants to experience different things creatively.

Contagion - Director Steven Soderbergh
Soderbergh directing Contagion.

“It’s just going to be different stuff. I don’t think I could ever sit still and do nothing. It’s just going to be different stuff. In the hopes that maybe by exploring some other avenues I can find another way in to this job and reboot somehow. It’s something I’ve been planning for a while and I get those feelings of I just know something’s got to change, so five years ago I decided pretty much to follow the plan that I followed,” said Soderbergh in an interview with Collider.

Judging by the diversity of his last few films and the fact that he’s essentially made a movie every year for the last twenty, it appears that he’s both bored and burned out. For a man who not only directs, shoots and edits his films, but also produces others, the guy could use a break. But I wouldn’t bet on this being the end for him.

Michael Jordan once said he was “99.9 percent sure” he was retired and then came back. Perhaps Soderbergh is aware of his legacy like one of his fellow filmmakers. During press for Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino mentioned that he too would probably hang up the camera sooner rather than later because he didn’t want his overall body of work to be stunted by a bad film later on.

While Soderbergh’s filmography isn’t perfect, the ratio of hits to misses for him is still better than most. What I admired most about him was his need to maintain his independent roots even when he was making bigger studio films. Whether that was using different color tints in sections of Traffic or mounting a camera to the back of a car as Brad Pitt and George Clooney drove at night through downtown Los Angeles or his signature shot of a character being out of focus only to walk into it, he seemed to be unafraid of trying different things.

Watch Traffic or the Ocean’s Trilogy or Contagion and you can see a filmmaker telling great stories on a smaller scale despite the subject being on an epic scale.

He was never flashy, just consistently good. From action to comedy to biopics, Soderbergh always seemed to want a new challenge. And yet no matter the genre he tackled, you always knew when you were watching one of his films. That’s the mark of a truly great filmmaker. One that can bounce from one subject as diverse as the next and still maintain a unique and distinctive visual style.

Trailer of the week: Fast & Furious 6

As I mentioned in Film Fanatic last week, one of the things I look forward to during the Super Bowl is the new movie trailers that debut. The one I was looking forward to the most was of Fast & Furious 6 because there hadn’t been any footage of it yet. The spot was short (even Universal doesn’t want to shell out more than $3.8 million for 30 seconds), but what I saw was kind of insane.

Now just a few days after the game, Universal has released a full-length trailer for the sixth installment of the drive fast, look cool doing it and eat barbeque with family series. Judging by the footage, moviegoers like myself who were shocked by how good Fast Five was will probably be equally blown away by what Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner have in store for us this time.

Seriously, this franchise was dead. After the third installment sans Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (his cameo at the end doesn’t really count) bombed, this series was DOA. But after the two leads career’s began to flounder (Diesel’s in particular), they decided to go back to what they knew; stand next to cars, drive cars real fast and flip cars and walk away.

Thrown in Under-Armor wearing Dwayne Johnson, a couple of one-name actors from previous installments (Ludacris and Tyrese) and a significantly higher budget and you have a complete reinvention of a franchise. After seeing this trailer, am I the only one more excited for this than Iron Man 3?

Movie trivia of the week

When Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson all passed, which actor was cast as one of the most iconic action heroes ever and for which film?