Friday, May 24, 2013

The Way We Weren't: Jean-Claude Van Damme as Daredevil

On a hot summer day in 1994, Jean-Claude Van Damme hopped on a private jet in Burbank, CA and flew to San Diego for Comic-Con.  There, the self proclaimed fan of comic book heroes Spider-Man and Tintin greeted 2,000 waiting fans in an auditorium, answering questions and taking pictures of the crowd.  Afterwards, Van Damme met the press in a small conference to promote his two upcoming pictures, Timecop (newly announced to be rebooted) and Street Fighter (since rebooted).  Timecop would become one of Van Damme's biggest critical successes as well as his most lucrative.

Post presser, the Muscles From Brussels took to the convention floor where he created a small frenzy as fans recognized the cinematic hero of such 80's and 90's hits Bloodsport, Universal Soldier and Hard Target.  Van Damme was escorted to the Marvel Comics booth to meet the legend himself, Stan Lee, who along with artists like John Romita, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby created Daredevil, Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Fantastic Four among hundreds of others.

After an amiable introduction, Van Damme hoped to catch Stan Lee later to discuss a project he had in mind, a big screen adaptation of The Man Without Fear, Daredevil.  The Fred Astaire of Karate hoped to secure rights to the character with no upfront and points on the back end instead.  A friend doubted Lee would take no upfront but Van Damme confidently replied that someone else could pay, sit on it and not have it made while he could get it into production, turn it into a sensation and Lee would be happy to have the points.

As cinema has shown us, it took nearly a decade to get Daredevil on screen and the results, while entertaining, won't exactly go down in the history books as a success. In the 2003 version, Ben Affleck played the blind lawyer by day, masked and costumed avenger by night.  He's joined by a familiar supporting cast and rogues gallery from the comics; crime boss Kingpin, hyper accurate and insane assassin Bullseye, ninja trained love interest Electra and partner in the courtroom Foggy Nelson.  These roles are gamely filled by the likes of Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner and Jon Favreau.  It's a visual translation of the comics; dark, brooding and violent yet lacks any real depth.

What would Van Damme's version entail?  Who knows.  But I've always been intrigued by the notion of a comic book hero being played by an actor with the physical prowess and action credentials of 80's and 90's stars.  Guys like Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren seemed tailor made to play superheroes because they were basically real life versions of them.  Physical, driven, multi-talented and intelligent types who took care of the job.

A mid-1990's Daredevil would have benefited greatly from the action directors working at the time.  Guys like James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven, Renny Harlin, Walter Hill, Andrew Davis, Roland Emmerich, John McTiernan and Jan De Bont all showed us intense, exciting, character driven action that didn't require wires or unbelievable CGI.

Physically, Wham Bam, Thank You Van Damme playing Daredevil would be no problem.  His acrobatic grace and powerful kicks would have worked beautifully for the martial arts centric Horned Hero.  But what about as secret identity Matt Murdock?  The blind, skirt chasing defense lawyer?  As we saw in Lionheart and Universal Soldier, Van Damme is fully capable of playing vulnerable and sensitive without appearing macho or threatening.  As for the skirt chaser aspect of Murdock, well, JCVD has never lacked charm for the ladies on screen so it wouldn't have been an issue.

Jean-Claude Van Damme playing Daredevil would have been a treat as straight forward superhero movies weren't exactly the norm in the 90's.  It might not have been the blockbuster of Batman or had the virtuoso touch of Dick Tracy but it could have definitely been a charged and entertaining time at the movies.

Here's Joe Carnahan's last minute effort to direct Daredevil for FOX before the rights lapsed:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

24 Hours: Robocop by WeSpark

As if seeing 4 movies in 24 hours wasn't enough, a random Facebook link told me that a screening of 1987's Robocop was happening at Noon on Saturday.  Big deal, I saw Robocop with Peter Weller last year during Hero Complex.  Then I got a little more enlightened, Cancer Support Center WeSpark was hosting this shindig and they weren't fooling about.

In addition to Buckaroo Banzai himself, the final line up would include co-stars Nancy Allen, Paul McCrane, Jesse Goins and Felton Perry.  AND director Paul Verhoeven, writers Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner as well as producer Jon Davison!  Seeing that stacked a line up for charity seemed like the right thing to do.

10:43 AM, Saturday, 5.18...

The Gold Coast Theater on Sunset, a quaint little theater next to the Samuel French Bookshop, home to a million movie and theater related tomes.  WeSpark's Robocop special event was in full swing with raffles, silent auctions and multiple signed posters around the lobby up for grabs.  The crowd was an interesting mix of hardcore fans in their late 30's and 40's, cast and crew family members and a guy in full Robocop cosplay.  Slightly admirable and very dubious was the amount of children in the audience.  Sure, movies can have a lot more sex, violence and gore nowadays but Robocop is still pretty intense.

A bespectacled fellow took the stage and regaled us with his love for Robocop and co-star Nancy Allen.  A love that prompted him to move to the United States from France and retrace shooting locations used in Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill.  His name?  Laurent Bouzereau.  Don't recognize the name?  Go watch the DVD/Blu-Ray special features on Indiana Jones, The Warriors, Jaws, Conan, The Untouchables, Jurassic Park and Raging Bull among dozens more and get back to me.

Ms. Allen gave a quick introduction and explained the genesis of today's special event.  WeSpark is a non-profit organization that assists cancer patients and survivors.  Ms. Allen has been involved with them for years and after a successful 25th Anniversary screening of Robocop last year in Texas, she thought she could bring it to LA for a good cause.  A few e-mails later and everyone appearing today agreed.

We got the Director's Cut today, i.e. the version where people get shot A LOT more.

Robocop is one of my favorite films and it was great seeing it on the big screen again.  It still plays flawlessly as a social satire, an action film, a tech noir western, whatever you want to call it.  Oh yeah, Robocop is the story of Officer Murphy (Weller), a new transfer to a crumbling precinct in future Detroit.  A gang of sadistic goons, led by Kurtwood Smith, empty shotguns into poor Murphy and leave him for dead.  Miraculously Murphy survives and becomes the guinea pig for Omni Consumer Products' new "urban pacification" program and is transformed into cyborg Robocop!  Robo battles crime, crooked corporations and the police force itself in a quest to retain his former identity while bringing to justice those who killed him the first time.

Post credits the line up was brought out.  So you have the director of Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and Showgirls sitting next to the guy who produced a couple of those titles sitting next to the guys who wrote some of them sitting next to Murphy next to Lewis next to Emil the melting villain next to the OCP lackey who likes baby food and played a cop in Magnum Force AND Dumb and Dumber next to the villain who you remember for peeing and cackling.

I've seen Peter Weller in person twice before and he's a force of nature.  One guy called him crazy, I call him intelligent, fascinating and hilarious.

- Part of Ed Neumeir's inspiration came after visiting set of Blade Runner and being told Sean Young was playing a robot.  He thought that was ridiculous and felt you needed to see the machinery.
- Verhoeven thought the original script was a piece of shit.  Credits his wife for seeing the potential.
- Didn't want to leave Holland, especially at age 47 as he was more or less comfortable working there with his own crew.
- Weller was immediately interested as he'd seen everything Verhoeven had done and started talking about Prussian art and how Robocop is an example of a certain kind of art that can be enjoyed in any time period.
- Prolific producer Dino De Laurentiis offered Weller the lead role in his King Kong remake and asked "how much money you want not to make fucking robot movie?".
- Nancy Allen auditioned for Verhoeven and thought it went well but heard they cast someone else who didn't work out and she got the gig.
- Verhoeven had Metropolis and Blade Runner in mind but producer Jon Davison said he could either have great sets or a great Robocop suit, they didn't have money for both.
- Made for $13 million which made them be more creative without a money hose to cover.
- Everyone applauds the genius of suit designer Rob Bottin who along with the studio was adamant the costumes and props stay with him which is why Weller has no souvenirs from the shoot except a painting made by a local artist.
- Verhoeven is lauded for his fast shooting style and Weller compares it to having a Formula One Team of expert technicians.
- The first three audience "questions" were basically awkward verbal love letters to the panel, people LOVE Robocop which is fine but ask a god damned question.
- The writers drafted a scene where the villains blow up a pet store, the studio balked and demanded they remove it.  So it was fine to kill 30 henchmen in the drug lab shootout but they couldn't kill a puppy.
- Verhoeven didn't know anybody in the movie business in America besides producer Davison and composer Basil Poledouris who worked on his last feature in Holland.

The panel lasted for at least an hour so you can imagine how much more was talked about that isn't coming to mind right away.  I also paid the equivalent of three tickets to Tango & Cash for the event so I think this is a pretty good value for what you're paying.

2 movies down with 3 to go!  Bring it on Back to the Future trilogy!

Stay out of trouble!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

24 Hours: 1 Work Out and 5 Movies

Seeing 5 movies in 24 hours seems like a lot, and it is but really it's only about 10 hours worth of programming.  Subtract another 3 hours of driving and waiting, 6 more for sleeping and that still leaves you 5 hours to do whatever you want.  Might as well get in a work out, right?

8:03AM, Saturday, 5.18...

Here's what I got in upon rising on Saturday after the midnight screening of Tango & Cash.  I did this on an empty stomach and as a giant set repeated 3 times for Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps.

1)  Arnold Press/Spider Curl/Close Grip Bench
2)  Dumbbell Upright Row/Hammer Curl/Lying Dumbbell Extensions
3)  Cable lateral raises for all three heads/Cable Curl/Cable Kickback

Calf Raises and Forearms

The first tri-set of this giant set is for size, the second for shape and the third for definition.  Followed it up with a shake of whey and dextrose and got ready for movie 2 of 5 for the day, Robocop!

Here's the King of Kings training arms and putting out the vibe:

24 Hours: Tango & Cash (24th and 3rd) Anniversary

Movies.  Anniversaries.  Movie anniversaries.  Movies as anniversaries.  That's how this crazy weekend got started.  A weekend that would include 5 movies at 3 venues in 24 hours.

12:01 AM, Saturday, 5.18...

You see, three years ago a local Los Angeles theater played a Sylvester Stallone triple feature of Cobra, Tango & Cash and Cliffhanger.  Randomly, I met a fellow Stallone fan and her friend at the event.  Cut to today, we're all still seeing movies together and celebrated our anniversary at a midnight screening of 1989's Tango & Cash at The Cinefamily's Heavy Hitter Midnites series.

Who programs movies like this?  Why, the same action movie connoisseur who programmed it three years ago!  He's a huge fan of action movies and absolutely loves Tango & Cash in a passionate, non-ironic way.  Which is the best way to love anything because it's real.  I actually overheard some clowns (at another theater) talking about paying to see Star Trek Into Darkness just so they could rip it apart ((This is why people still make fun of genre and pop culture fans because some of them are self haters.) You know what's really cool?  Being cool with yourself.)

Apparently, Warner Brothers does not have a copy of T&C in their vault so tonight's 35mm print was provided by a private collector within The Academy Film Archive.  Surprisingly there were at least a dozen members in the audience who had never seen the flick before.  Get ready for a surprise!

If you haven't seen this movie by now, I'm not going to try to convince you to.  Just know that it's awesome and ridiculous at the same time.  It concerns two of Los Angeles' top cops, Detective Ray "Armani with a badge" Tango and Gabriel "eats burritos and wears boots that fire bullets" Cash played by messrs Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell.  They're set up by a powerful crime syndicate headed by mice lover/sniffer Jack Palance (You.  Are.  My number one...Guy!) and James Hong (Lo-Pan!).  The duo have to escape a corrupt prison, fight the clock and blow up a warehouse to clear their names.  Hilarious, homo erotic, big haired, cross dressing, car chasing, back seat humping, gun shooting, fist fighting, RV from Hell-ing, 80's synth-scored hijinks ensues.

I forgot how many familiar faces line the cast.  Beyond Stallone, Russell, Palance and Hong you get pre-Lois and Clark Teri Hatcher, Brion James (Steel Dawn), Geoffrey Lewis (Double Impact, JCVD as twins alert!), Philip Tan (Surf Ninjas), Michael J. Pollard (I Come In Peace), Edward Bunker (cameos in Best of the Best I & II), Michael Jeter (The Green Mile) and the Face himself, Robert Z'Dar!

The chemistry between Stallone and Russell is great and they both look like they're having a good time between the constant ribbing and unrelenting action.  Stallone wasn't bromantic with Arnold yet so there's a few zingers tossed at the Austrian Oak.

It would be interesting to hear some of the stories behind this weirdly funny action movie as credited director Andrei Konchalavskiy was replaced towards the end of production by Albert Magnoli (Nash Bridges!) as the producers didn't like the serious tone he was going for.  It's said that Patrick Swayze was originally set to play Cash but dropped out to headline 80's "philosophical karate bouncer" classic Road House.  Stallone had original Director of Photography Barry Sonnenfeld fired because he wasn't being lit to satisfaction.  The budget swelled as production problems arose and is said to have hit $55 million.

Nevertheless, the movie ended up being a Top 20 grosser in 1989, Russell's biggest hit behind Backdraft and Stargate and a top 10 for Stallone.

It was a fun night and start to my crazy Saturday.  So how about that sequel?

Until then, check out some of the best programming in Los Angeles (Van Damme Triple Feature, come on!) at

Check out this great "bad cop, worse cop" bit:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

24 Hours: 5 Movies and a Work Out

You know how I was saying Los Angeles spoils you with movie events?  Well this weekend might be the mother lode.  The defining cinematic weekend to test my mental, physical and 80's loving fortitude.

Stand by me as I navigate a Midnight screening of Tango and Cash, a Noon Robocop Special Event and finally a triple feature of the Back to the Future trilogy!

One Pepsi Free please...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi screening at Egyptian Theater was great, special guest Mark Hamill was hilarious and now a friend sent me this link where I'm in a YouTube video thumbnail.  Hello internets!

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars and me in the YouTube thumbnail, oh yeah, whoa, hey

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Independence Day

It was another great day at the LA Times Hero Complex Film Festival as today's lineup started with a screening of 1996's Independence Day.  I remember seeing this as a teen and owning a VHS copy complete with groovy hologram cover.  The last time I tried to watch it was several years ago as a drinking game.  Ya know, every time someone says "Mr. President" or Jeff Goldblum's character's failed marriage is mentioned, take a drink.  Trust me, it ain't easy.

Once again, moderator and host extraordinaire Gina McIntyre let us know they had a couple treats in store for us.  With writer/director Roland Emmerich (Universal Soldier, Stargate (Van Damme AND Kurt Russell alert as I saw them both in the last week.  Full circle.  Rambo reference # 225)) scheduled to speak I figured they'd show us a little something from his upcoming White House Down.  We were also informed that former writing partner Dean Devlin would be joining us as well.  Seriously, the duo's work on Universal Soldier, Stargate, Independence Day and The Patriot had influenced my formative years something fierce .  The 90's were just 2 sweeeeet!

The lights went down and the 20th Century Fox fanfare filled the theater.  Watching ID4 again was great, it has that soothing, cold and smoky 90's cinematic look and feel to it.  I was surprised at how well it holds up; the characters are built up and memorable from Bill Pullman's steadfast President to Jeff Goldblum's eccentric yet brilliant communications expert to Will Smith's cocky Marine pilot to Randy Quaid's drunk, abducted by aliens and returned to Earth father/crop duster.  There's humor, emotion, excitement and of course, a mess of destruction!  The special effects still look great with their mix of practical gags, miniatures, matte paintings and computer generated images.  I thought it might play a little cheesy with a bit of eye rolling but no, you're in it to win it.  The emotional beats grab you and the action scenes excite you.  What can I say?  It's still a bombastic, rousing, crowd pleasing disaster meets alien invasion flick that doesn't pummel you with spectacle while ignoring story and characters.  Did I mention how much I miss the 90's?

After the credits rolled, a what I think was new trailer for White House Down played.  It contained a little more build up and much more humor than what I had seen already.  Most of the scenes showcased stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.  If it's half the action-buddy comedy/invasion yarn the trailer makes it out to be, we're all in for a good time at the movies.  The kind of time when you feel copacetic with paying the freight and not cheated you got some low budget, supposed to be clever genre flick (cough, Zombieland, cough).

Joining sirs Emmerich and Devlin was none other than star of the movie, Jeff Goldblum!  It was a very informative affair and the trio were joined by a member of the effects crew whose name escapes me.

- ID4 came from a meeting Emmerich had with Warner Brothers who wanted him to direct an "escape from prison" movie with Harrison Ford.  He politely asked the budget and was told it was $75 million.  Emmerich was flabbergasted that a simple prison movie would cost that much.
- On the drive home he said he could do an alien invasion movie for $75 million...
- Writing and producing partner Dean Devlin was skeptical of the idea but Emmerich sold Devlin on the scope in his mind, saying that if you looked up in the sky, the space ship would take up all of it.
- Ashamed to admit the script only took 3 weeks to write.
- Put it up auction style with a script and set budget.
- Write with actors in mind, nodding to Mr. Goldblum who mentions how good White House Down looks and how he is a fan of WHD co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal.
- Shot in 70 some days and across several neighboring sound stages.
- The way Emmerich and Devlin work is that they sit on opposite sides of a long table with Devlin doing a pass of a scene while Emmerich sketches out his ideas.
- This way they roughly had the entire movie storyboarded.
- Goldblum described the set as always moving but not in a frantic, Emergency Room kind of way.
- Enjoyed E/D's working style as they would continue rolling after scene was over to let the actor's add anything they wanted.
- Devlin recalls taking Goldblum to a sci-fi convention and comparing Goldblum's reception to having Elvis in the building due to his SF cred with The Fly, Buckaroo Banzai, Jurassic Park...
- One of Emmerich's most memorable moments on set came from actor Robert Loggia being concerned the movie was a spoof and nobody told him.  Devlin said they were trying to make Airport but said Airplane.
- Built up the characters and didn't have an explosion right away because they had studied many 70's disaster movies where you always got to know the players before the carnage started.
- Devlin directed much of the aerial footage and they employed old school techniques like using models on sticks and having the background on a wheel to create illusion of movement.
- ID4's main competition was Warner Brothers' Mars Attacks from Tim Burton.  They had already started production but part of the auction agreement was that ID4 be released on July 4th, a month ahead of Mars.  Even though they're different movies, Hollywood lumps types together.
- Leads to talk of White House Down in comparison to Olympus Has Fallen.  While cast was coming together for WHD, Emmerich was told no director was attached to OHF, all of a sudden they had a director and were going to start shooting in 5 weeks.
- First audience question was mine, asked what memories they had of making Universal Soldier and working with young Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.
- Emmerich says it came about because he quit the Sylvester Stallone lead project Isobar after 9 months of prep.  Studio/financier head Mario Kassar was impressed with his decision and offered him Universal Soldier which had already been in heavy pre-production.
- Emmerich told Kassar he wanted to keep the general concept and two actors involved but throw away the rest.  Kassar said yes but they had to bring it in under $20 million even though studio had already spent $7 million on it.
- Only fond memories of Unisol, was great for him and Devlin and launched their careers.

Some slick homeboy with an accent was on the verge of pitching them something but luckily, Mrs. McIntyre shut him down.

As always, lots and lots more was talked about but I think I've told you enough.  It was a lot of fun seeing ID4 up on the big screen and the panel afterwards was fantastic.

See ya next year, Hero Complex!  Until then check out this awesomely bad trailer that by today's standards nearly looks fan made.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ask Me a Question: The Mist

Another weekend, another genre movie filled film festival!  This week, it's the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex, going strong for the fourth year in a row.  The festival kicked off Friday night with a John Carpenter double feature of They Live and Halloween with the man himself speaking inbetween.  Unfortunately, this man has seen 14 movies in 3 weeks, hadn't slept a full night in a week and had a long day at work.  Suffice to say, I missed opening night with our hero, le John Carpenter.

Anyways, the Hero Complex Film Festival is back at the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, site of the infamous screening of Dick Tracy in 2011 where star/director Warren Beatty held court for a whopping 90 minutes afterwards talking about the film, his career and the industry in general.  It must have been that good fortune carrying over that graced today's screening of 2007's The Mist, written and directed by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and based on a short story by Stephen King.

Before the flick, Hero Complex played some clips from their previous events showcasing some of the impressive talent they've lined up over the years.  Like who?  Oh just guys like Tom Cruise, Peter Weller, Harrison Ford, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner and the aforementioned Warren Beatty among many others.

This years moderator, Gina McIntyre, informed us to stay in our seats after as we were going to be joined by messrs Frank Darabont and last minute, special guest Thomas Jane!  I've seen The Jane at various other screenings and convention panels and let me tell you, he's the weirdcoolest guy on the planet.  A very funny and honest guy who usually isn't wearing shoes.  I had only seen The Mist once before a few years ago at the Long Beach Comic Con where The Jane sat in front of me and watched the movie with everyone else.  Pretty cool guy.

That night they showed the Black and White version (a supplement to the DVD release).  Today, The Mist would be in color.  Basically, The Mist starts with artist David Drayton (TJ) putting the finishing touches on a movie poster (actually done by renowned artist Drew Struzan).  A storm puts a tree through the studio and wreaks havoc to the Drayton family home.  In town, Drayton and his son stock up on supplies at the local grocery store when a citizen comes running in, bleeding from the nose and yelling about something in the mist.

What follows is a showcase of intense character and monster driven horror that sees Drayton and a motley crew fending off threats supernatural (courtesy of a shadowy Army base up on the mountain); as well as human when townsfolk start to crack inside the pressure cooker scenario.  Darabont finds a nice balance between the mysterious and horrific creature threat and that of devolving human nature into mob mentality violence.  The movie works for nearly it's entire running time but the ending...the ending is something else.  If you haven't seen it, let's just say it'll make you react.  Good or bad, you'll feel something at the end.  Let's just say you wouldn't walk out whistling a tune with a smile on your face.

A great cast fills the supermarket besides The Jane:  Toby Jones (Captain America), Laurie Holden (Magnificent Seven ((Michael Biehn alert!)), Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher (Fantastic Four w/Silver Surfer), William Sadler (Death in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey!) and the kid who played Sherminator in American Pie.

As the credits rolled, the audience learned something interesting, there's no score/music for much of the end credits, only the sound of helicopters and trucks passing.

The lights came up and Mr. Frank Darabont and the king of weirdcool himself, Thomas Jane (sans shoes and rocking a long, surfer haircut) were ready to rock.  It was a very informal and candid affair with both men dropping the F-bomb like they would in normal conversation which is refreshing and funny at the same time.  It was easy to see that these guys were buddies, very complimentary and congratulatory of one another.  Sometimes they would just be talking to each other instead of the moderator.

- Darabont read the short story in 1980 and came up with idea for tweaking the ending.
- The shocker of an ending is alluded to in King's original short story.  When Darabont expanded on it and pitched it to King, the author loved it and wished he would have thought of it himself.
- Because of the ending, Darabont knew the movie would be a low budget affair and planned for it.
- Feels there needs to be a movie every once in a while that DOESN'T give the audience what it wants a la John Carpenter's The Thing and George Romero's zombie pictures.
- Darabont wrote the script in 8 weeks.  Feels if  you have good ideas you shouldn't take a year to get them out.  Had same time frame on bigger budgeted The Green Mile.
- Thomas Jane read the script, loved it and the ending because it was something different, something off putting that wouldn't make audiences happy.
- The two times Darabont has written with an actor in mind and got them were Tom Hanks and TJ.
- Shot the movie like an episode of The Shield, three cameramen always on, keeping the actors on their toes because they never knew where the camera was.
- Guest directed one episode of The Shield after Ryan Murphy found out he was a fan through their mutual casting director.  FD loved the show's fast, 7 day schedule.
- Stole the camera crew and Cinematographer for The Mist and shot it in 34ish days.
- FD and TJ have a lot of mutual friends because they're both comic and art geeks.
- Both love the work of Drew Struzan and a piece of his art in the movie is a nod to him and Stephen King.
- King offered Dark Tower to Darabont but FD didn't wanna spend 10 years writing/making it and failing to live up to the greatness of the books.
- Had 2 weeks of rehearsal on Shawshank Redemption but none on The Green Mile and feels he got the same quality of performance.
- TJ wishes he played David Drayton more nebbish at the start to see more of a transformation, the animal coming out as things start to go wrong.
- FD disagreed and said he was very satisfied with TJ's performance as the rational guy.
- Darabont wanted TJ to play the lead on The Walking Dead and TJ had actually brought it to HBO separately but by the time the show picked up steam, Jane was doing Hung for HBO who were not keen on him starring in two series concurrently.
- An audience member asks if there was ever a different ending planned?  TJ doesn't quite answer the question and talks about that being life.  What if?  Turned left instead of right, picked up the phone, made that appointment, not turned down X-Men and being a movie star today...(rumor is Bryan Singer wanted to cast Jane was Wolverine but the studio wanted him to audition, TJ didn't or wasn't unavailable.  Some guy named Hugh Jackman ended up playing the Canadian Beserker)
-  FD says The Mist is a very angry movie about the intelligent, rational people in society being crushed by dumb masses.
- $4 million budget for special effects, jokes or maybe not that it was $120 million less than Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

The duo spoke about much, much more but hey, buy a ticket.  It was a great event put on by Hero Complex and I'll be back tomorrow to see Independence Day with guest Roland Emmerich, the director and co-writer (who got his American break on Universal Soldier ((Van Damme VS Dolph Lundgren!)).

Good journey!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ripspirational: Pain and Gain

2013 has brought us new movies from Stallone, Arnold, Statham, Van Damme and Iron Man but you know what just might be my favorite movie of the year so far?  Pain and Gain.

Why?  Because it's a movie about DOING.  Sure, their version of the American Dream is bigger and more fucked up than yours but damn is it entertaining to watch.  Michael Bay's mini budget opus still looks as flashy and hyper real as his astronomically expensive projects but doesn't quite bludgeon you into a coma with car chases, explosions and fighting robots.

It's becoming common knowledge that Mark Wahlberg gained 40 some pounds of muscle for his role as Daniel Lugo, personal trainer turned kidnapper and extortionist.  The former Marky Mark is a father of four now so training starts early, like 4:30/5:00AM early.  Wahlberg had gotten lean for Broken City but bounced back for P&G by hitting the gym hard, eating 10 meals a day, waking up in the middle of the night to eat and working with GNC on his own supplement line.  In the flick, Wahlberg is all neck, traps and arms.  He's so swole you're not sure he can put his arms down.   Check out an old school workout of his here and a new one here.

The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson plays a newly released convict with a kind heart and evil demons who falls in with Wahlberg's crew after meeting them at the local gym.  If you follow the big man's Twitter you know he went through a rigorous eating and training program to be in top condition for his big year of GI Joe, Pain and Gain and Fast and Furious 6.  A former college football player and professional wrestler, The Rock has always been in great shape.  Lately he's really been going for it, 4:00AM cardio, heavy weights, plyometrics and old school bodybuilding compound exercises.  Rock's eating plan had him consuming 7 clean meals a day and by the end of it, gorging on pizza, brownies and giant pancakes.

Anywho, back to me and the flick.  Growing up idolizing Arnold, Frank Zane and Jean-Claude Van Damme meant I was reading Flex Magazine and not knowing bodybuilding professionals do it for a living and are on some kind of supplementation (legal and illegal).  So watching this time capsule of a movie complete with hip packs, cut off jean shorts, white high top sneakers, Otomix workout shoes, Zumba pants, striped leotards and cut off flannels made me crack up regularly.

On a deeper level, it struck a chord because the characters GO FOR IT.  No half assing, no second guessing, they grip it and they rip it.   I know they're all vile human beings for it but you can't help but laugh at them, especially Lugo's attempt to assimilate into suburbia.  You can relate to his character's constant optimism, positive energy and can do spirit that is twisted by his desire to be more than the guy who is liked but to be the guy who is admired (and rich).

Not sure if further (and ho hum looking) adventures of Superman, Wolverine or The Wolf Pack are going to top this one.

Take a look at Wahlberg and Johnson's eating routine, you'll get full just reading it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Escape From New York

Entertainment Weekly's Cape Town Film Festival picks up steam with it's Friday night main event screening of 1981's Escape From New York.  The American Cinematheque showcases writer/director/musician John Carpenter's work regularly but this night was special.  Why?  Because Snake Plissken himself, the man behind Jack Burton, the dude who brought Wyatt Earp to life and took a shower with Sylvester Stallone as Gabriel Cash, yes friends, KURT RUSSELL was doing a rare appearance afterwards to speak about the film.

The courtyard was bumping as the music was playing and EWites were taking photos of the crowd and handing out free magazines.  I'm not sure if this was all a mea culpa for changing up the night's schedule and putting TNT series Falling Skies first (a smart if annoying move by the sponsor).  Falling Skies also provided free drinks and popcorn for the night so you can't complain too much.

I had heard of Falling Skies but don't watch television unless it's called Home Improvement, Two and a Half Men Classic or involves cooking in a non-competition setting.

Season Three is about to hit your TV screen and we were treated to a taste of the premiere.  It played like a jumble of Starship Troopers, Independence Day, War of the Worlds and some other sci-fi stuff you've seen before.  Not in a bad way either, it's just difficult to jump into a show three years in and seeing a chop shop version of an episode.  Familiar faces like Noah Wyle, Will Patton, Moon Bloodgod, Terry O' Quinn and Doug Jones (in alien prosthetic of course) showed up throughout.

Cast and crew showed up to speak about the show:

- Executive Producer Steven Spielberg is heavily involved in the pre-production of the show.
- Noah Wyle has been working for Spielberg for twenty years and describes their relationship as a kid trying to impress his father.
- Moon Bloodgod was pregnant during shooting and giving birth on screen is nothing like real life.

There were some bits about Season Three spoken about but this place ain't about the spoilers!

Some custom made Escape From New York tee-shirts were put up for Twitter auction and some band played a crappy song about Snake Plissken.

And.  Then.  It.  Was.  Time.

Rialto had produced a new DCP print (Digital version of a 35mm print) just for this night and it was time to Flux-Capacitate our way to 1997 via 1981 for Escape From New York.  

This movie kicks ass.  You've seen it, right?  If you haven't, do it.  Basically, in the future New York becomes a maximum security island prison where the President has crash landed.  It's up to former soldier turned thief Snake Plissken to get the Commander In Chief out alive.  Crazy gangs, sewer dwellers, a woman of the night, a psychotic warlord, his giant wrestler henchman, jugular vein bombs, fifty flights of stairs and a booby trapped bridge stand in his way.  Big whoops right?

It's badass, iconic, funny and sad all at the same time.  Carpenter always knows how to set up a slow burn pace that leads up to an all out finish.  The characters, this cast, is awesome.  Kurt Russell (Tombstone (Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton alert!)), Lee Van Cleef (millions of westerns), Ernest Borgnine (The Wild Bunch), Isaac Hayes (Shaft!  You damn right), Adrienne Barbeau (cleavage!), Harry Dean Stanton (Alien), Tom Atkins (Lethal Weapon) and Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape (Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson!)) all make their characters stand out memorable.  It was a little sad to see the opening credits and four names after Russell's have all passed.  Circle of life I suppose.

Post flick, it was time.  Time to see the man.  Mr. Russell came out to a standing ovation, shook a few mittens, handed out a couple of high fives and waved to the cheering crowd with sincere eyes.

To preface, Kurt Russell was great because he was real.  Funny, gregarious, complimentary, sincere and sensitive.  He cracked himself up a few times telling stories and mentioned a few things I won't repeat because they're personal to the subject.  Mr. Russell was rocking a mane of long gray hair and a mustache/beard combo that made him reminiscent of Kenny Rogers.

- Never talks about his movies so this event and the one at AFI prior are pretty special.
- John Carpenter is like an older brother who was always trying to do his best.
- The pair could sit and watch a basketball game, share a six pack of beer and say less than ten words to each other.
- Scripts like Escape From New York just got him, as did Tombstone and so did future project, Bone Tomahawk (why he was rocking the long hair and facial cover).
- Studio wanted Charles Bronson but JC fought for him.
- Snake's costume was put together from multiple sources, skin tight arctic camouflage pants instead of typical baggy green ones, motorcycle boots, the eye patch was his idea.
- Spoke about being a young actor and athlete and knowing one day he'd have to pick one path.  Getting injured playing baseball sealed his fate to become an actor.
- Got injured around 22-23 and really into acting around 25-26.
- Goldie Hawn told him making Ladyhawke with Richard Donner would be a mistake.  Shooting in Europe would add months to the schedule.  He arrived and crews were on strike.  Once he saw himself in the costume, i.e. tights, he knew he was wrong for the role and begged Donner to let him go.  Said he knew Donner wanted Rutger Hauer and he could get him (Russell had no ties to Hauer) and somehow it worked out.
- Snake Plissken would win in a fight against R.J. Mac Ready and Jack Burton.
- FOX didn't know what to do with Big Trouble In Little China.  At a screening, a studio head didn't realize Kurt and JC were in the crowd and openly dissed the movie and his character.
- Was told by a reporter that his career looked like it had been driven by a drunk to which he was flattered as he and agent Rick Nicita had planned it that way to secure interesting roles.
- On the EFNY remake, reiterated that Snake should be played by an American and that baseball bats were used during the death match for a reason.  Not a hockey stick, not a curling stick, but an all American bat!
- Doesn't really matter who they get to play Snake, more important selection will be John Carpenter's replacement because it's JC's world.
- Has affinity for Escape From LA and says people don't realize difference between the Big Apple and the Big Orange.
- Floated around idea of Escape From Earth so Snake could finally be left alone.
- Highest regards for producer Debra Hill, she was a trail blazer for women in film and is deeply missed (Hill died of cancer in the early 2000's).

Moderator Geoff Boucher tried to wind down the session but Russell was uber cool and told the audience to shout out questions and he'd answer them quick.  He finally said goodnight and walked out to another standing ovation.  The evening was everything you wished it would be and more.  A truly great night at the movies.

Ask Me a Question: The Thing

Back again for night three of EW's Cape Town Film Festival at The Egyptian Theater.  Tonight's main dish?  1982's The Thing with introduction and discussion with director John Carpenter!

To get us warm in the pants, a bevy of 35mm trailers played to much fanfare.  Christine, Starman, Prince of Darkness, They Live and more but no Big Trouble In Little China!

Mr. Carpenter watched the mini-career retrospective from the wings and came out to warm applause. 

The hits included:

- It was cold!  The Thing was filmed on set at Universal and on location in British Columbia.
- The all male cast worked hard, had fun and did their best to hit on the few women in BC to much chagrin of the locals.  A gun or two may have been pulled on the cast.
- One effect they couldn't figure out was having the monster attacking from beneath the ice.
- Universal wanted the movie to end after Mac Ready blows up the structure instead of finding Childs and leaving the audience to ponder if either one is now The Thing.
- Carpenter fought for his ending as as both versions tested badly.
- Upon release, an audience member asked who was The Thing?  When told to use her imagination, she said, "I hate doing that!".
- The movie tanked, the studio didn't know what to do with it.
- No comment on the 2011 version.  They worked hard, don't need his two cents.
- There's two types of remakes, 1) He gets a lunch and 2) He gets a check.  Likes # 2 better!
- Working on a comic book and an adaptation of Darkchylde.

With that, he left us with his usual excuse for needing to meet his drug dealer and catch the basketball playoffs.

The movie played and is still a prime example of character based horror at it's best.  The themes of paranoia and fear mixed with Rob Bottin's incredibly unnerving creature effects had the audience jumping out of their seats.  All of the elements come together for this flick, the arctic setting, the gallery of characters, freaky aliens, freakier effects and a sense of humor so you don't feel bad when it all ends.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Iron Man Three

It's going to be a crazy couple of weeks for genre movies around Hollywood with Entertainment Weekly's inaugural, week long Cape Town Film Festival kicking off tonight followed by the LA Times' Hero Complex soon following.  Cape Town started things off with a hilarious bang in the form of an advance screening of Iron Man Three!

The near capacity Egyptian Theater crowd was treated to some extremely amusing Iron Man cartoons from the 1960's.  Animated Tony Stark and his alter ego take on Mole Man, molten lava and robotic dragon lizards when buildings around town start sinking towards the Earth's core.  Besides the POW and FLOP style subtitles, the shorts were memorable for their typical 1960's chauvinistic treatment of female characters.  Just as James Bond slaps a bum and tells whatever pretty young thing it's time for "man talk", Stark orders around Pepper Potts at every turn to hysterical results.

Moderator Geoff Boucher introduced Marvel Studios Chief Kevin Feige for a quick yet informative discussion.

- At Comic-Con 2006, Marvel trotted out directors Jon Favreau, Louis Leterrier and Edgar Wright to discuss Iron Man, Incredible Hulk and Ant-Man.  Still waiting on that Ant-Man feature!
- Marvel tried to use Mandarin in Iron Man One and Two to no avail.
- Thor II wrapped in January and they're currently editing it above the sound stages where Captain America II is being shot.
- At the end of every film since Iron Man II, about 100 special posters are commissioned and given to department heads and cast.
- Shane Black's penchant for Christmas stories continues into Iron Man Three.  Feige recalls how hot it was shooting in North Carolina in the Summer but the set design and actors fool you into thinking it's cold.
- Shane Black's directorial debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was instrumental to landing Robert Downey Jr the role of Tony Stark.
- Feige figured if they did it right, the name Tony Stark would be as known as Iron Man and the actor behind it would be their Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp.
- Feige's experience with other, disappointing super hero part III's led them to challenge the formula and try something different.
- At some point Daredevil will be back at Marvel but that doesn't mean they're going to make the film any time soon.
- Marvel has mapped out their cinematic universe until 2016, then Phase III begins.
- The SHIELD television show won't effect the rest of the universe.
- Guardians of the Galaxy is an exciting property since it's not as well known with less expectation and more chance to make a mark a la non-existing properties/brands The Matrix and Star War were before.

Boucher and Feige have a nice rapport and discussed more but hey, become a member of the American Cinematheque and come see for yourself.

The movie rolled and it was fucking great.  Extremely funny and exciting.  Don't want to spoil anything else.

Cape Town Night Two features a double feature with Edgar Wright and I'm sure a surprise or two.  I'll be back for Night Three and The Thing with John Carpenter!