Category Archives: Film

MY PRECIOUS!

I just saw, via Propeller, that Peter Jackson has signed on to produce The Hobbit.

Director Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc said on Tuesday they have agreed to make two movies based on the book “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, ending months of legal wrangling.

Jackson, the director of the smash hit “Lord of the Rings” movies, and producer Fran Walsh will executive produce both a “Hobbit” movie and a sequel, but no decision has been made about who will direct the films, Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, co-chairmen and co-CEOs of New Line told Reuters.

The good news is, it’s going to take two whole films to contain its awesomeness. The (potential) bad news is, he won’t be directing. That’s offset by the (potential) good news that it will make its way into theaters before 2011.

King Kong showed that Peter Jackson isn’t infallible, but it’s clear that he loves and respects Tolkien’s work, so I’m sure I’m not the only geek who would be willing to wait until 2011 or 2012 if that’s what it takes to get someone who loves it as much as we do behind the camera. I mean, we’ve waited for decades for this; what’s a few more years to get it right?

Can media conglomerates afford to pay the writers?

As someone who hopes to be in the WGA one day, and as a current SAG member (and former member of the Board of Directors) I am in complete and total solidarity with the Writer’s Guild. It’s quite heartening to me, also,  to see that so many people refuse to be fooled by the lies that the six companies who control all of the media have been trying to spread.

The AMPTP has been successful (and helped by the news media they own) in spreading FUD about the things the writers are asking for. This post at United Hollywood puts some important numbers into perspective:

"But can the corporations really afford to pay you what you’re asking for?"

Let’s
set aside for the moment the issue of what the congloms say in their
press releases to us (which is basically "There’s no money! Ever! And
if there was, we spent it all on other projects that lost money so it’s
gone! Forever! We’re broke! We’re having to rent our yachts!") and focus on some hard numbers thoughtfully provided by Jonathan Handel on the Huffington Post yesterday.

He
writes an excellent (I think) and even-handed analysis that takes into
account the effect pattern bargaining will have in calculating real
numbers of what we’re asking for, and what it will cost the companies,
individually, to pay us.

It comes, by his calculation, to $125 million per conglomerate per year — if we got every single thing we’re asking for.

That, by the way, is less than the $140 million Disney spent to fire Michael Ovitz for 15 months of work.

Also, Carson Daly is still an epic douche.

Also, also:

And finally, a meager contribution from the actor half of me:

Speechless

oh my fucking god pictures from the set of watchmen

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Apparently, I’m the last Watchmen geek on the planet to hear that Zack Snyder is keeping a rarely-updated blog during the film’s production.

I discovered the blog on a good day, though, because today he posted some pictures from the set that gave me a serious geekgasm.

I have a lot of hope for this film, though I seriously doubt it’s possible to make it into anything less than 12 hours long and truly do the book justice, because Zack Snyder managed to turn 300 into something not only watchable, but something that was a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel. When I saw these pictures this morning — especially the ones that are almost 1:1 recreations of panels in the book — I upgraded my condition from guarded to cautiously optimistic.

However, I am putting the studio on notice: if you pull any studiofuckery with Watchmen, you will see a rampaging horde of geek rage that will make The Phantom Menace look like a Fred Thompson campaign rally.

roll another number for the road

A lot of people have asked me about Americanizing Shelly, the film I worked on last year as director Alan Smithee.

I haven’t said much about it, because I didn’t know what I could talk
about and what I had to keep on the down-low, but I just read this story from the swnewsherald about the production:

The film tells the story of a wannabe Hollywood talent manager’s quest
to Americanize an Indian girl from the Himalayas. As he teaches her
about the “American way of life,” they begin to see the world through
each other’s eyes.

I didn’t know this when I worked on it, but one of the co-producers was
just seventeen years-old! I’m totally blown away; we only spoke on the
phone and via e-mail, but if I hadn’t read this article, I would have
thought she was a typical, experienced film-maker
.[1] Good on ya, Natasha!

I also just discovered that the film has a website, which currently features a teaser trailer that includes me, in all my "incompetent director" glory. Right on.

[1] Oops. Mistaken identity. We never spoke with each other. However, it’s still incredibly cool that a seventeen year-old got involved with the making of a movie (which I’ve just found out looks great and is cracking up all the people who have seen it during editing.)

on poker and acting

Last week, Otis asked me if I’d write a few words for the PokerStars newsletter about how acting and poker mix together, and if I’d discuss how acting has helped my poker game.

I tried to answer intelligently and keep it brief, but since it takes
me 200 words to say hello to someone, it shouldn’t be a big surprise
that I ended up sending Otis a little over 2800 words about acting,
poker, and Almost Famous. I was so long-winded, in fact, that Otis ended up using the power of the fully-operational PokerStars blog to handle the Alderaan-destroying mountain of words I sent.

If you’re interested in the poker stuff, or want to know how I’ve been able to combine my acting experience with my poker game, you can read the whole thing at the PokerStars blog.

For the rest of you, here’s a little bit about acting that you don’t have to be a poker geek to follow:

As an actor:
1) I have to be completely connected to the other
actors in the scene, so my character understands what the other
characters are doing, why they are doing it, and I (as the actor) can
allow my character to react naturally and realistically. rather than
"acting."
2) I have to completely commit to everything that my
character does, and allow my character’s memories, beliefs, and prior
experiences (that I have made up) to truly _live_ in me, like they are
real, so that all the unconscious physical signals that come with
different emotions happen naturally, rather than as a result of
"acting."

For an actor, getting caught "acting" is worse than a
poker player getting caught bluffing; it’s more like getting caught
cheating. So we actors work very hard to make sure it never happens.

[. . .]

One of my favorite examples of this is from Almost Famous. Kate
Hudson, as Penny Lane, asks Patrick Fugit, as William Miller, if he’ll
go with her to Morocco.

When she asks him, they’ve been running
around a park together, and it’s clear to the audience that they’re
falling in love. It’s really charming to watch, and unless you’re
deeply cynical, it’s tough to not smile with them, recalling the first
time you fell in love.

"I’ve made a decision, I’m gonna live in Morocco for one year. I need a new crowd. Do you wanna come?" She says.

"Yes!" He says.

"Are you sure?" She says.

He looks at her, like he was completely lost in her, and says, "Ask me again."

She flushes, and she says, more intently, "Do you want to come?"

"Yes! Yes!" He says, as some seventies power ballad starts to play.

According
to director Cameron Crowe, Patrick asked Kate to ask him again, because
he’d been staring at her, and just got lost in that moment, so he
missed his line. But he was still in the scene, so he asked her exactly
the way he would have if it had been real. Kate stayed focused on him,
stayed in the scene, and asked him again, so we have this incredibly
wonderful moment of two people falling in love that probably has many
of you running to Netflix to queue it up right now. If either one of
them hadn’t been completely focused on each other, that moment (which
would have been impossible to script) never would have happened. If
we’d caught them "acting," it would have ruined that moment, and the
whole movie would have suffered as a result.

Did I pique your interest? Heh. So go on, read the whole thing. You know you want to.

twenty-one to twenty-three: seventy-two hours of hawesome

This weekend started out on an exceptionally high note: on my way to Dodger Stadium to meet my parents for the Arizona game, I got a call from my manager: one of the producers from Teen Titans is now working on Legion of Superheroes, and wanted to cast me for a part on the new show. I don’t know any details, yet, like if it’s a one-time voice, or a recurring character or what, but I’m working on Friday! Go me!

The Dodger game was superexcellent. Not only did I get to spend an evening with my wife and my parents, but it was a great game that the Dodgers actually managed to hold on and win. Go Dodgers!

Saturday, I bought some new shoes and a new belt  (trust me, this is very exciting) before Anne and I met our friends at Dave and Busters and goofed off for hours. I am the master of coin-flipping soccer, and I have over 20,000 tickets and nothing worth redeeming. Go me (but really go Dave and Busters for making a game that I love to play with no tangible reward . . . yet.)

Sunday, I started the day with some marathon training, but I only got one mile done before I got the goddamn pain in my right side that keeps ruining me. Maybe someone knows what the hell is going on: occasionally, I’ll go out for a jog, and after about two blocks, this tightness starts in my right hip that spreads up my stomach and eventually into my ribs on my right side. Once it starts, it takes about one minute to take over the right side of my body and hurts so severely I can’t even take a deep breath, much less keep running. I always end up just turning around and walking home, because I’ve learned that I can’t even walk it out, because it’s much more (and worse) than a simple stitch in my side; it’s more of a crippling muscle freak out. The worst thing is that I get pissed because my cardio system is fine, the rest of my body feels fine, but I absolutely can’t even jog a half a block. What the hell? I’m only 33 years old, and I can’t even run a block? Why can’t my fucking body just work?! Can you tell that I’m getting pissed just thinking about it?

Anyway, after that unfortunately aborted attempt to get out and exercise, I came home and played some poker online. I played a one table sit-n-go tournament (where you just wait for 9 players to sit down and you go, hence the name.) I got knocked out with my pocket kings vs. ace queen when he caught an ace on the river to bust me. I wasn’t upset, though, because I made the right decision on the play, and he just got lucky. I’ve noticed that when I play at limits I can really afford and I just focus on being decision (rather than result) oriented, I always have a good time and I’m much happier playing, whether I win or lose.

I was talking about this revelation with my friends CJ and Alan, when CJ talked me into playing a three table (27 player) sit-n-go. I had some time to kill while I waited for Anne and Ryan to get home, and Nolan was asleep on the couch (so no guitar hero) so I signed up and played my little heart out.

Dude, I totally won! It only cost $11 to enter, and I won $100 for first place! I was extremely happy with all the decisions I made, including when I made a four-card diamond flush with AT to suckout on a guy who had AA, then fell on the other side of that hand when I was heads-up at the end, with JJ vs something totally lame like T3 suited and he caught a diamond on the end to make his flush. Go me again again!

Anne and Ryan got home right after I finished that tourney, and she wanted to take a nap (yeah, I have a real nap-happy family) so Ryan and I went over to the movie theatre to watch Silent Hill.

I’ve played about 40% of Silent Hill 2, but I didn’t have any expectations for the film, really, and mostly went because Ryan really wanted to see it (he can’t see R-rated films on his own for another four months. Excuse me while I process that reality and have a minor heart attack.)

I really, really liked it. It looks very creepy and spooky (just like the game) and the visual effects are really fantastic. The monsters (especially Red Pyramid and all the bugs) are terrifying, the music is great, the casting is perfect, and though the whole thing requires a some suspension of disbelief, the story is quite solid. In fact, about halfway through the movie, I thought to myself, "Man, this is really quite deep for a horror movie. I wonder why?" When the credits rolled and I saw that it had been written by Roger Avary, I totally understood. Go Roger.

After the movie, we came home and the entire family settled in for some Simpsons (fairly funny, but the over-reliance on musical montages this season is really getting on my nerves) Family Guy (more Stewie-as-gymnast, please) and American Dad (I don’t know how they made an entire episode about anal probing hilarious, but they did) before the rest of my family went to sleep, leaving me to read Cell in alone in the living room where the zombies can totally get me. I eventually watched Survivorman (my new favorite show on cable television) before drifting off to sleep, blissfully content at the end of a fun-filled weekend.

a few thoughts on the oscars

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Q
uick thoughts after the Oscars:

Best. Opening. EVAR.

I loved Jon Stewart, even if most of the audience didn’t until halfway through. This crowd takes itself very seriously, and they tend to sit on their hands for the new guy. Lighten up, jerks! It’s a party!

I can’t comment on the winners, because I didn’t see many of the films. I don’t know if anyone got robbed, or if there were any Marissa Tomei moments. As far as I can tell, the winners deserved it, but I also know that it’s really about being nominated.

I fucking hated it that they kept cutting winners short when they tried to give speeches, so they could do yet another stupid montage about how great movies are. Yeah, we know movies are great. If we didn’t think movies were great, we wouldn’t be watching. Most of these people get this chance once in their lives; give them the respect they’ve earned and more than 40 seconds to enjoy and share it, jerks. (That’s a different group of jerks than the jerks I was referring to in my first paragraph. You know who you are . . . jerks.)

On the subject of montages: putting The Day After Tomorrow in with movies like All the President’s Men, Network, and Schindler’s List? Are you serious? I hope someone got seriously laid, like eleven times, for including that. Otherwise, what the hell?

I am so glad that they didn’t go out into the theatre like they did last year.

I loved this thing that George Clooney said when he accepted his Oscar:

"And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch."

I, too, am proud to be out of touch.

The anti-DVD crap was really stupid. I’ll be sure to watch movies in theatres when people shut the hell up in them, and it doesn’t cost me twenty-five bucks before I’m even in my seat. And don’t even get me started on how shitty most movies are, man.

I really liked the interstitial stuff they did for each category.

Ben Stiller nearly stole the show; it’s a draw between him and Meryl Streep and Lilly Tomlin’s brilliant tribute to Altman.

Altman made me really happy, I’d love to work with him someday, because even if the final project isn’t perfect, I get the sense that you learn a lot and have a lot of fun when you work with him.

I was really bummed that Ang Lee didn’t thank or acknowledge his actors.

I didn’t know that Paul Haggis is a Scientologist. What a damn shame. Oh well, Crash is still a great movie. And as long as we’re talking about spaceship cultists, Tom Cruise is still the most overrated actor in history. In fact, I chalk up War of the Worlds‘ magnificent .000 batting average to his being in that film. Couch-jumping, Katie-Holmes-ruining, shoulda-stopped-at-Risky-Business and you’re not fooling me with Born of the Fourth of July hack.

I loved the campaign ads. Does anyone know if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert wrote them?

Jessica Alba needs to eat about fifteen sammiches. Come on, girl. I know you’ve still got some Nancy Callahan in you.

Jennifer Garner was teh hot. Even when she’s slipping on her dress, she manages to look amazing.

I loved it that the Wallace and Grommit guys brought little ties for Oscar, and the March of the Penguin guys brought stuffed emperor penguins.

The performance of "It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp" is probably my favorite moment in Oscar history, and I agree with Cinematical’s Martha Fischer who said, "Nothing, ever, will top a
giant marquee in front of an auditorium of rich, white people that reads "IT’S HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP." (As
Kim said, "Have there ever been that many black people at the Oscars at one time?")"
The only thing which topped that performance was the acceptance speech, from the highest bunch of guys I’ve ever seen on television, including the Cheech & Chong marathon a few years ago.

ABC cutting off the acceptance speech from the producers of Crash, the Best Picture Of The Year, is absolutely un-fucking-forgivable, and completely classless, tacky, and horrible. What are they doing? Making sure Jimmy Kimmel starts on time? One of the lowest moments of the entire show, almost as bad as cutting off Martin Landau when he won for Ed Wood. I hope the television critics lay off the fashion snark and lay into ABC for that. It was the one moment in the show when I was actually pissed off.

This is the first year in a long, long time that I’ve really looked forward to watching the show, and it’s the first year in a long, long time that I really enjoyed it, other than the cutting them off in the middle of the Crash speech thing. I hope they have Jon Stewart back next year, and I hope they’ll do fewer stupid montages.

(photo from flickr user wannabehipster)

REVIEW: Dawn of the Dead documentaries

My call for the movie today isn’t until 4:30, so I watched the documentary disc of Dawn of the Dead: The Ultimate Edition. Here’s my quick review:

There are four features on this disc, but the two documentaries, "The Dead Will Walk" and "Document of the Dead" make it required viewing for any serious fan of DotD. The contrast between the two is remarkable, and the result is much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

"The Dead Will Walk" is the obligatory look back at the making of the film, complete with cast and crew interviews, and original behind the scenes footage from the production. It’s an enjoyable retrospective, and it’s nice to see people look back fondly on this great film.

"Document of the Dead" is a documentary made during the prodction of DotD, and has a decidedly different point of view. Interviews on the set and a narrative examination of Romero’s style are woven together to give us a much more in-depth look at the making of this landmark film, which was clearly not an easy production and struggled to find distribution. "Document of the Dead" was made long before Romero was the unquestioned master of the genre, and after watching him discuss his philosopy on filmmaking, it’s easy to see how he earned the title.