Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
First trailer for the Rock's return to action explodes online
Dwayne Johnson's looking ripped in his new return to action, 'Faster,' due in theaters later this year.
Credit: CBS Films
When you start your film career under a stage name as silly as "The Rock," you're going to deal with some skepticism, but little by little, Dwayne Johnson has proven himself to be one of the most engaging action stars working today.
So why has he spent the last few years almost exclusively making films for children?
We have so few great action stars these days that it's upsetting to see a guy like this benched for several of his prime years doing things like "The Tooth Fairy." Thankfully, this year might shake up some of what we've come to expect from Johnson. First, he's got a great role in the ferociously dirty and weird "The Other Guys," and then he's making a flat-out no-apologies action film for the first time in a while.
I visited the set of "Faster" earlier this year for an afternoon, and we didn't see much of the film. This trailer fills out some of what I heard during the set visit and gives me a real sense of what it is we might expect from the film when it opens.
And as of right now? I'm interested.
The trailer doesn't quite get into it, but this is a movie that deals in archetypes. You've got characters known only as "The Driver" and "The Cop," and it's an incredibly linear revenge story about a guy getting out of jail and going straight after the people who put him there and who got his brother killed. Religion plays a big part in the film, so it's nice the trailer touches on that. And the little bit you see in the trailer of Dwayne walking down a hall firing at someone? That's the day we were there, standing about six feet away.
But just wait till you see who's playing Robin
Looks like the cops finally caught up with the Dark Knight on the set of Russell Brand's new film 'Arthur'
Credit: Warner Bros./Russell Brand
Technically, yes. And Luis Guzman is Robin.
Which means I may be obligated to love "Arthur" when it comes out, no matter what.
Russell Brand is currently starring in a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy "Arthur," which told the story of a perpetually drunk millionaire bachelor who is expected to marry an heiress, but who wants to marry a woman he catches shoplifting instead. And he's got a reeeeeeeeeeally sarcastic butler.
In the Dudley Moore version, John Gielgud played the part, and he did so with such precision lacerating wit that he won an Oscar. Moore was nominated for one, and the screenplay by Steve Gordon was nominated as well. Gordon was a first timer, and I wonder what career he might have had if he hadn't died of a heart attack the year after "Arthur" was released. To knock it out of the park the way he did as writer and director on "Arthur" marked him as a pretty natural talent, and the film wasn't just a hit... it was beloved while it was out. If you weren't around in 1981, let me tell you... the Oscar-winning Christopher Cross song was omnipresent. You couldn't leave the house without hearing it somewhere. The film was huge.
I have no idea if Russell Brand is a draw for people or if he isn't, but I'm interested to see what he's capable of. So far, he impresses me as a naturally talented guy who has yet to push himself as hard as he can, which means there's more we'll see from him. There's honesty in the big broad work he does, and that implies there's a solid dramatic performer in there somewhere. So far, Brand has carefully kept up the outrageous like a smoke screen. With "Arthur," I think he's going to have to give us more than we've seen from him so far, especially with Helen Mirren playing the role that Gielgud won his Oscar playing.
A look at a long-lost might-have-been from some pretty surprising names
The title page for this mysterious long-lost project features an impressive list of comedy collaborators, to say the least.
This morning, I sat down with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Eva Mendes to discuss their new film "The Other Guys," and while I'm still under embargo about that movie, I can share what happened at the very end of my interview with McKay.
I mentioned to him that I was doing this series on this site right now, and he told me he'd love to sit down and talk "SNL" at some point in the future. I mentioned to him that I was going to write up a script I just discovered for the column this week, and when I told him the title, he looked at me like I'd just tried to describe cell memory in Mandarin Chinese. "What is that?" I told him, and I listed some of the writers who were involved, many of whom are friends of McKay's from his time on the show. "I never even knew that existed," he said, astonished. Keep in mind, Adam McKay was head writer of the show at one point, and he'd never heard of it.
I know the feeling. And, honestly, it seems impossible to me that I've never heard of "The Saturday Night Live Movie."
As I've said since the start of this column, this subject has fascinated me for almost as long as the show's been on the air. Once Chevy Chase made the jump to the bigscreen, he established a path that many others have followed over the years, both in front of the camera and behind it. There have been films that have capitalized on the cultural currency of "Saturday Night Live" by tapping into the same counterculture comic sensibilities, like "Animal House" or "Caddyshack," as well as films that have directly translated "SNL" characters to the bigscreen like "The Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" and "Coneheads."
Scott is really fixated on this Ramona chick, but is she worth it?
Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are featured in the exclusive "Scott Pilgrim" remix debut called 'Ramona' today.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Have you been watching the "Scott Pilgrim" remixes?
These are so much fun as a different way of cutting a trailer. It's all impression, these little mini-movies that are each themed differently, each just a riff on a word or a feeling or an idea. They're... remixes. There's nothing else to call them. DJ Osymyso is the guy who worked with Edgar Wright to put these together, and each one uses music from the film and footage from the film in the most interesting of ways. What I like most about them is how they're... gentle. It's a whole lot of "Scott Pilgrim," yes, and you would call these remixes marketing materials by any standard... but they don't feel like a hard sell at all. They're just these great little tastes of what "Pilgrim" is all about.
One thing I don't think I've really said about any of the "Pilgrim" trailers or materials so far... I think Bill Pope's work here is jaw-dropping. He's a great cinematographer anyway, a guy whose work I've been consistently impressed by, but this stuff is just gorgeous so far. It's like the film is made of cotton candy and lasers, sugar sweet and lacerating. I watched the giant uncompressed HD file that Universal sent over and I'm just drooling. Edgar's such a strong visual stylist that for him to collaborate with a world-class guy like Pope turns into this wonderful collision. That's the real reason I've held off from seeing too much of the film so far. It looks like it's absolutely worth the wait.
Can Michel Gondry make 'Katovision' a household word?
Seth Rogen and Jay Chou are The Green Hornet and Kato in next year's action/comedy 'The Green Hornet'
Credit: Sony Pictures
"Katovision," a villain with a mid-life crisis, and missiles in the newsroom.
Yep, this is what a Michel Gondry comic book movie looks like.
The day a group of us were invited to visit the Culver City sets of "The Green Hornet" began in the newsroom of The Daily Sentinel, the newspaper owned by Brett Reid, Seth Rogen's character in the film, and ended with groups of us being driven around Culver City in the Black Beauty, the decked out car that is one of the signatures of the character. In-between, we saw just enough to convince me that whatever "The Green Hornet" ends up being, it will be sincerely intentioned, and the people behind it seem dedicated to making something that both sincerely honors the genre and mercilessly deconstructs it.
When we first arrived on the Culver lot where they were shooting the film, the small group of us in attendance were taken into the newsroom set first, where they had just finished shooting a major action sequence that involved the Black Beauty actually firing missiles from one end of the newsroom to the other. This is on the heels of a larger car chase sequence that features the Black Beauty driving into an elevator, then getting cut in half as the elevator goes up, a gag that they staged as a practical effect on another set. It's an outrageous sequence as designed, and the aftermath was crazy. They really did blow the set up, and as we walked through it, producer Neal Moritz as our tour guide, we had to step over bullet casings and burnt newspapers, making our way past tubes and cables hanging from the ceiling like someone had disembowled the building.
Want to create seething envy in all your friends? What better way?
Here's what you'll see on the front of the new Motion/Captured t-shirt. On the back? A treasure map to buried gold! (Note: part of that statement may be a blatant lie)
I've just seen the final designs for the Comic-Con 2010 t-shirts, and to my great shock and sadness, there's nary a naked image of either myself nor Alan Sepinwall on either shirt.
Ladies, I apologize.
Now, if you can manage to control your disappointment, I think you'll find that the actual shirts are... well, actually cool. There's one for "What's Alan Watching?" and one for "Motion/Captured" and if you want to get your hands on them, it's easy. Here's what we're thinking...
- Go to facebook.com/hitfix and post "I want a Motion/Captured t-shirt" on the wall. First 120 come, first 120 served.
- Only one t-shirt per person.
- Winners will be able to pick up their shirts on Thursday at a location very close to the San Diego Convention Center, and will receive details on how to get them after the contest deadline Wednesday at noon Pacific.
- Winners can ask for a specific size, but there's no guarantee that you'll get it, so if you're particularly small or large, once you know where and when to go you may want to get there early in the process.
- The t-shirts are obviously free, and all we ask in return is that anyone who gets one wear it to the Con on Friday, where I'll now be moderating TWO panels in Hall H back to back. The first is "Drive Angry 3-D," and immediately afterwards is "Skyline." (Similarly, if you want and win a What's Alan Watching? shirt, try to wear it to the "Chuck" panel Alan's moderating on Saturday with Dan Fienberg in Ballroom 20. Show HitFix some love, people!)
Yes, I know I said yesterday I was only moderating two panels, but things change.
Warner Bros. throws a sneak preview of their animated adventure
Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) is the unlikely hero of the animated adventure movie 'Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole"
Credit: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow
I spent a decent chunk of time on the Warner lot this afternoon, for more than one purpose, and at one point, I found myself standing, stretching my legs, ten free minutes to myself for the first time since waking up, having a Jamba Juice.
It was hot today in Burbank but not punishing. At least not on the lot, where there was a constant breeze. Some scoring session must have just let out, because there were people walking past me carrying instrument cases large and small. Lots of them, chatting, off work and on their way home. It was just after 4:00, and I had three more things to do by 6:30, so I was enjoying the sort of brain-off disconnect.
Amidst the musicians, I saw a few people walking toward me, and it was one of those moments where you see them out of focus at first, and there's something vaguely familiar, and then as they get closer, something in the way someone moves, or some distant raised voice that you catch just a hint of sets off some alarm, and you look closer. Do I know this person? Or these people?
And sure enough, it was Zack Snyder, his wife and producer Deb Snyder, and their producing partner Wesley Coller, three familiar faces in a row. They were one of the reasons I was on the lot, and by "they," I mean there was a "roadshow presentation" today on the lot for their new film together, "Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole". It's a 3-D animated adventure epic... starring owls. Lots and lots and lots of owls. As Deb Snyder pointed out later in the afternoon, the first "Star Wars" is still Zack Snyder's favorite movie, and that journey that Luke Skywalker makes, as he learns of his own innate power and he takes his first steps into the larger world... that's the journey that drew Snyder to react to the Kathryn Lasky novels in the first place, and that's the journey you'll find underlining the visually stunning movie that Warner will release September 24 of this year.
And could it be true? Motion/Captured t-shirts?
Will Ferrell gives voice to the title character in 'Megamind,' one of two films that I'll be helping to introduce at this year's San Diego Comic-Con
Credit: DreamWorks Animation
I've never been on that stage in Hall H to moderate. I've handled the job on smaller panels in other rooms, and no matter what size venue, I've felt like I've been incredibly lucky to be asked to do some of the things I've been asked to do. For god's sake, I got to stand a few feet away from Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes neeeeeee Stevenson, and Simon Pegg in a room full of (understandably) crazed "Spaced" fans, and it was amazing to see how much love that packed room was able to generate for the people who made this thing that they all loved so very, very much. Introducing "Mystery Team" and DERRICK Comedy to Comic-Con last year or trying to stay afloat in a conversation with the wicked minds behind "Paper Heart," those were things that I'd been hoping to do since seeing those films at Sundance, and going from that fest to a room at Comic-Con just underscored how very, very odd the entire experience has become.
This year, however, I've been invited to moderate two panels at Comic-Con, and both of them are in Hall H, and in both cases, I'm just as curious as anyone else about what we're going to get to see. I love that these aren't things I'm already completely sold on, because for me, the Comic-Con experience is about the great surprise, that moment where you go, "I had no idea I needed to see that right now" or "I had no idea this book existed, and I don't know how I ever lived without it" or "I will watch every episode of that TV show no matter what," a presentation that just plain sells something. That is, after all, what Comic-Con's Hall H has become... a parade of what's next, and this is the moment when the first audience gets a very focused look at what you're doing.
The actor discusses why he made it, working with Jay Roach, and farce
Steve Carell and Paul Rudd co-star in "Dinner for Schmucks," opening next week.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Every married couple has "the list."
You know what I mean, too. Each spouse gets their fantasy list of celebrities they are allowed to indulge any carnal fantasy with if the opportunity ever arises, which it won't, which is the point. It allows you to admit some stray desires to your spouse safely, under the guise of a game, and then it removes the threat of temptation.
The problem if you work in a business like mine is that celebrities don't just remain images on a TV screen. I end up interacting with them all the time, and in many cases, you end up in a strange vaguely familiar relationship with them that lasts for years in some cases. I'm not presumptuous enough to call these people my friends, but I would say you end up being friendly with them, almost as a side effect of just doing the job.
In my case, I had a moment where "the list" became a terrifying prospect, because I'm fairly sure Paul Rudd sits very near the top of my wife's list. She's not alone, of course, thanks to the almost mythic power of "Clueless" on the girls who saw it at the right age. Rudd is one of those actors who has always been fairly charming, since his first major roles, and who continues to redefine himself as he works. When I was invited to the set of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" in Hawaii, it was amusing to watch how even the actors who didn't need to be on-set decided to hang around for weeks after they had to be there in some cases. Often when a film is on location, actors will fly home when they aren't needed, but with "Marshall," there was none of that. People stayed. It was probably the longest I saw the various member of the Apatow repertory company all in one place.
Plus a first look at a more serious side in 'It's Kind Of A Funny Story'
Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galiafinakis co-star in the new Todd Phillips comedy 'Due Date'
Credit: Warner Bros./Legendary
I've been watching Zach Galifianakis live onstage here in LA for years now, and it's been strange watching him explode in popularity in the last year since the release of "The Hangover." It's not even like he was new to movies, but for whatever reason, "The Hangover" turned him into a sudden star, and so it shouldn't be a surprise to see movies being built around his particular comic persona.
If I had to describe that persona, I'd go with "seriously mentally unstable man-baby."
At least, that's what he played in "The Hangover," and that looks to be exactly what he's playing again in the new film from Todd Phillips. I thought the script for "Due Date" was familiar stuff, funny but definitely a rehash of very familiar ground that we've seen in movies like "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." Take two mismatched people, stick them together on a hellish road trip, and wait for the comic hijinks to ensue, right?
Casting Galifianakis opposite Robert Downey Jr. is smart casting. And it looks like there could be some genuine friction between the two of them based on the first trailer for "Due Date," released today. The problem I'm having is that it just all feels so familiar. The film may turn out to be very funny in context, but it's one of those films where I think even the most casual moviegoer is going to be ahead of the story from the very start, and no matter how well acted, I'm not sure you can win an audience over completely if they're sitting and waiting for story beats to play out.