Writer-director Michael Davis has stripped the action movie down to its essence in a mind-blowing mash-up fueled with testosterone, adrenaline, and weapons-grade plutonium. No esoteric references in the title. No Robert McKee-mandated 10 pages at the beginning to make us fall in love with the hero. No pause for a hot sex scene. Oh, there’s a hot sex scene, but there’s no pause. Insert your own shooting joke here. There’s time for a few “Who is that chef?”-style expressions of increasingly furious amazement. But there’s no time for a detour to check in with the wise man in the forest, that former insider who knows all the secrets. This is pure action.
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My favorite movies this year, all pretty much tied for first place:
Charlie Wilson’s War
Gone Baby Gone
Into the Wild
No Country for Old Men
No End in Sight
Lars and the Real Girl
King of Kong
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will be Blood
This was a very good year for family movies. Here are the best:
Bridge to Terabithia
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Last Mimzy
Meet the Robinsons
The Astronaut Farmer
“The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” a fantasy set in WWII about a boy who befriends the Loch Ness monster, is one of the best family movies of the year. I spoke with director Jay Russell and stars Ben Chaplin and Alex Etel.
How do you act with a creature who isn’t there but will be filled in later with CGI?
AE: It was really hard to act to a tennis ball on a stick. It was a challenge for me. When it first hatched and was in the teenage stages it was a puppet, so that was easier. But we didn’t film in sequence at all, so we began with my looking at a tennis ball and pretending it was Crusoe (the monster).
JR: Some of the very first things we did the creature was already an adult. Later on when we got to the stage work, the WETA Workshop built these amazingly lifelike puppets and the puppeteer was so great. He would give the creature those quirky moves. When it was an adult, that’s when they had to play make-believe. We did pre-visualization. I would take the storyboards that I did before we started, WETA would bring them to life with animation and we would have living storyboards on the set and that would help them, especially when there’s nothing there.
Why has the legend persisted?
JR: Because there are really two legends. The first goes with any body of water or in the mountains with, Bigfoot, and that kind of thing. The original legend goes back over 1000 years, kelpie or water horse, about a traveler who would come by the loch and this creature would appear to be very friendly and would want to take them across the loch and then get them into the middle and drag them to their death. Then there was the more modern notion from the 1930′s with the famous surgeon’s photo. My feeling about why the legend persists is that we want to believe that there’s something out there that we can’t understand. We have a need for magic and imagination. When I went to Loch Ness for the first time, we pulled up and saw all these tour buses looking out. Then I stood there a while looking for it myself.
BC: It’s a deus ex machina.
JR: We want it, we need it. There always will be a legend of a loch, even as recently as last May, a guy shot a video on his phone of the water and a wave with a big black thing underneath it, and it’s all over the internet.
BC: Because it’s in a loch it’s not as scary as in an ocean.
AE: It’s like it’s in a zoo.
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