If a major motion picture studio gave you $50 million to make the movie of your choice what would it be like? If you’re producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost it’d be a loving lampoon of geek culture and an homage to the films of the Spielberg/Lucas revolution but nostalgia is both an advantage and disadvantage in director Greg Mottola’s Paul.
Pegg and Frost star as a pair of nerds from across the pond who fulfill lifelong dreams when they fly to San Diego for the annual Mecca of nerdom Comic-Con. The doofy duo extend their trip to tour America’s extraterrestrial hot spots including Area 51 where they pick up an unexpected alien hitchhiker on the run from the proverbial men in black. Across the country they go getting into trouble picking up more passengers and building bromantic bonds as the little green man Paul inches closer to his escape from planet Earth and the shadowy government official who has been exploiting his knowledge of the universe since he crash landed in Wyoming over 60 years ago.
Fan-favorite filmmakers since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead Pegg and Frost have been making geek chic for years now and continue to create identifiable roles for themselves while finding humorous ways to write their like-minded friends into their movies. Their collection of wacky characters is charming if incredibly derivative but for better or worse they are the heart and soul of the film. Jason Bateman Kristen Wiig Bill Hader and Jo Lo Truglio turn in fun performances but I expected a bit more from the Jane Lynch David Koechner and Sigourney Weaver cameos. Still Seth Rogen’s vocal performance as Paul adds significant layers to an already adorable alien and enlivens the adequately rendered CG character.
The comedy is surprisingly sweet and doesn’t bite like Mottola’s Superbad though there are enough religious jabs and signs of anti-establishment fervor to call it mildly subversive. Lack of laughs isn’t the issue here; lack of originality is. Mottola is too dependent on pop-culture references and inside jokes pertaining to E.T. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind so much so that the film ultimately becomes a parody of itself as its storyline mirrors that of Steven Spielberg’s massive 1982 blockbuster (in this world the movie mogul actually consults the incarcerated alien for inspiration for his beloved family film). While these nods are all amusing they’re not enough to carry the film and Mottola/Frost/Pegg offer little else. At its worst Paul will give you a reason to revisit those classic sci-fi staples and remember the good old days. At best it provides a few mindless chuckles and gives you good reason to give the geek next to you a great big hug.
Aussie director Baz Luhrmann also joined family members and friends for the send-off at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles.
Russian tenor Alexey Sayapin performed Ave Maria at the star-studded event.
Oscar-winning producer De Laurentiis died on Thursday (11Nov10), aged 91.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (it still feels weird saying that) went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (it still feels wrong saying that) to talk about something. What they ended up talking about was marijuana. The sticky icky. Pot. Weed. Grass. The greens. Mary Jane. Ganja. Cannabis. THC. Trees. Herb. Wacky Tobacky. White Rhino. Pineapple Express. Kansas Ditch Weed. Dope. Poke smot. Purple Kush. Any other word that has some resemblance to plants, the color green, or references the Grateful Dead.
Basically he said why he opposed Proposition 19 (which California voters turned down) was because of the wording not the idea behind it. He doesn’t mind that weed has already been decriminalized for being caught with under an ounce to basically receiving the equivalent of a speeding ticket (he signed the bill after all). I mean Schwarzenegger has toked himself (see the picture). He just didn’t like the wording of Prop 19 and thought it went too far. Then Schwarzenegger went on the record saying:
“No one cares if you smoke a joint.”
Which is totally usable in court, I presume.
Wooo! I mean, booo! How dare they! What if these kids are smoking a bowl? What about an elaborate bong that only has a small amount in there but the glass is blown, man? What about gravity bongs? Blunts? Is it cool if I make something out of an apple? Are those gas mask bongs kosher? How about an old corn pipe? Can I blend some in and make a spliff? I swear I have glaucoma, these are special brownies. And what if you can’t roll a joint? Those sucks are hard to roll and you gotta lick the paper. This is just an outrage.
Conan is back! And he's, um, a little bitter?
Last night former Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien premiered his new TBS late night show, Conan. (Check out our live blog from the event right here). And overall, despite a lot of other sources calling the premiere average, I thought it was pretty successful. And, it was exactly what I expected. Nothing more, nothing less.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that's a bad thing. I just think people were expecting a little too much from the tall and lanky funnyman. During his hiatus (which spawned his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour this summer), the buildup for this moment was tremendous. People -- some who probably didn't even watch Conan while he was on NBC -- had such high expectations for Conan that they weren't even possible to meet. Seriously. If Steve Martin, Jon Stewart, and Bill Murray teamed up with Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, and the reincarnation of John Belushi, they wouldn't have been able to reach audience's expectations.
So anyway, despite about a million jokes about cable television, Conan was funny. Hopefully, it gets funnier, but overall, it was a solid performance. But I feel like I have to note one thing. Did anyone else see him as a little bitter? Yeah, he made a few planned cracks at NBC, but underneath that, I got the sense that he's still really upset that he lost The Tonight Show. But then again, maybe it was just the cynical TV critic in me trying to find something wrong with the show.
And one more thing. TBS, if you're reading, MAKE THE EPISODES AVAILABLE ONLINE. HOLY CRAP. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
The cold opening: Conan can't get a job.
Oh man, the jokes about NBC will never get old.
And the masturbating bear returned! Yes!
Seth Rogan talked about getting engaged and his disappointment with California not passing Proposition 19.
Glee star Lea Michelle talked about how her dad told her once that she couldn't sing and addressed that whole GQ incident from a month ago, to which Conan did his Conan thing and made it even more awkward.
And then, to top off the exciting night, we got to see Conan rock out! He joined Jack White as they covered Eddie Cochran's 1957 hit "Twenty Flight Rock," also featured on Conan's Live at Third Man LP, out now on White's label.
Meanwhile, Conan's successor who's older and less funny, Jay Leno, sat down with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and talked about the Tea Party and political ads.
And then they talked about weed.
Scarlett Johansson and Jimmy Fallon talked about their night of partying in Baltimore a few years ago. (Sidenote: I want to party with Scarlett Johansson.)
And since everyone couldn't stop talking about Conan, Letterman got in on the action and made a few observations himself.
Jon Stewart responded to the Rally to Restore Sanity pundits by announcing another rally.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cMSNBC Suspends Keith Olbermannwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity
Stephen Colbert pointed out FoxNews' brilliant source of President Obama's $200 million per day trip to India -- the internets! And he used the board game Battleship as a source, too.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cPresident Obama's Expensive Trip to Indiawww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive
David Cameron welcomed Schwarzenegger to his official residence, 10 Downing Street, where the pair posed for photographers before heading indoors for a chat about politics.
Cameron quipped to reporters, "He's going to help me terminate the budget deficit."
The pair then went to watch the traditional Changing Of The Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, before making a stop at Wellington Barracks to visit the British Army's Grenadier Guards.
David Fincher likes Facebook, and this week he updates the status of his film The Social Network to “released.” It’s the story of the controversial origins of this internet leviathan. Though among the first of the massive social networks, Facebook is by no means the only game in town. Social networks have become as ubiquitous as they are consuming and I can’t imagine living in a world without them. That being said, I got to thinking about some classic movie characters that existed in a time and/or place where these impulsive, electronic extensions of our selves were not available. How might these characters’ situations improved if they’d had…
Twitter: Guy Haines from Strangers on a Train
In this classic Hitchcock thriller, two men meet by chance on a trip and speak hypothetically about murder plots. One of the participants views the chat as little more than a morbid pastime, the other is a bona fide psychopath who views the situation as a verbal contract and carries out his murderous, supposed obligation. If the more upstanding gentleman had access to Twitter, he may have been able to halt the nightmare early on. If you can read the lunatic’s updates and see things like “I’m about to kill this chick” or “just made a new friend and I’m totally going to kill his wife,” authorities could have been alerted; especially when the messages are absent the crucial “jk” or “lol” clarifications. Besides, it’s handy to know when one of your followers is actually following you.
Foursquare: Boba Fett from The Empire Strikes Back
The baddest bounty hunter this side of the Dagobah system still has to resort to archaic and wildly inefficient tracking methods. Though this addition to the list seems absurd given the futuristic setting of the film, did you see a single cell phone in Star Wars? Plus, if you want to get technical, it takes a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. All I’m saying is that it would make Mr. Fett’s job much simpler if he could track Han Solo as he checks into every strip club, gambling house, and holistic hookah bar on Mos Eisley. Han is incidentally the mayor of the Wendy’s on Hoth.
Facebook: Fergus from The Crying Game
We’ve all had bad dates and more than a few awkward romantic encounters. But when it comes to being lucky in relationships, Fergus from The Crying Game is someone who really got the shaft. I keep imaging that this whole sorted situation could have been avoided with the intervention of Facebook. If Fergus could backtrack through Dil’s profile, particularly noting the sex field listed as “it’s complicated,” he at least could have made a more informed decision before walking into that bedroom.
Tumblr: Keith Jennings from The Omen
No one likes hearing that their son is actually sired by the prince of darkness, but it is problem becoming far more commonplace these days. Photographer Keith Jennings assists Robert Thorn in tracking down his son’s true heritage only to be taken out of the equation with extreme prejudice. One of the creepier elements of this film is the fact that his photos, as it turns out, actually portended not only his own death but the deaths of many others who stood in Damien’s way. If Keith had been able to take these pictures and immediately upload them to Tumblr, he may have noticed sooner the mysterious lines across his neck and understood the warning contained within; especially with that elevated pixel count.
Blogspot: The Terminator
Killer robots from the future are often misjudged. People tend to view them as vapid, stoic, and emotionless when actually they are deep and pensive. In between cutting out his own eye and having his living tissue melted away until he’s left with only his metal endoskeleton, he enjoys musing about bubble baths and macramé. Thankfully, blogspot affords him the opportunity to vent his frustrations about the selections at the People’s Choice Awards and share which Arcade Fire song he is currently listening to.
UPDATE: I guess ABC couldn't resist Cameron's True Lies. The network bought the rights to develop the project, though this doesn't mean it will receive a pilot or even make it to series. And with the upcoming NBC show Undercovers from J.J. Abrams, the spy next door genre seems to be filled on network TV. But if I know James Cameron (which I don't), that little fact won't bother him in the slightest.
EARLIER: Let’s be honest. James Cameron can pretty much do whatever he wants. With the #1 and #2 highest grossing films of all time, he has the ability to pick and choose his projects as he sees fit. It's not like he'll be starving anytime soon.
So what does he do? He plays it safe and starts adapting one of his previous hits for television. True Lies, the 1994 classic action film starring Governor (which is still weird to think about) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jaime Lee Curtis (not a governor, but fingers crossed), is being produced by Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV. The 4400 and Castle executive producer Rene Echevarria will double as the writer and executive producer.
I like True Lies as much as the next manly man, but Cameron isn’t the best writer out there. True Lies was awesome, but it was also based on a French film so Cameron had a head start. Sure, I saw Avatar twice in theaters, but not for the story. And Titanic was saved by Leo and Kate’s brilliant acting. TV shows survive based on the quality of writing of the episodes and hiring Echevarria (who is also developing Teen Wolf for MTV) does not inspire much hope with me.
And the last time Cameron dabbled in television we got Dark Angel. Remember that show? Of course not.
But Dark Angel did give us Jessica Alba (which I am thankful for every day) and Cameron does know how to put on a good show. As much as I hate to say this, I’ll watch every episode of this show and it will have bigger ratings than the Super Bowl. James Cameron just works like that.
The Titanic director has seen several rivals take on follow-ups to his movies, including Jonathan Mostow and McG - who directed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation respectively - as well as David Fincher, who stepped behind the camera for Alien 3.
But Cameron admits he finds it hard to root for his rivals - and often hopes their efforts to extend his original movies fail.
He tells ShortList magazine, "You definitely want to see them not do as well. With Terminator 3 and 4, because Arnold (Schwarzenegger) and Sam (Worthington) were in them, I wanted them to do well, but just not that well!
"With Alien 3, I love David Fincher, but I thought killing off the characters that people had rooted for in the second (movie) wasn't a wise decision."
If you grew up on a steady diet of action movies if your bones hardened every time a muscle-bound guy dove away from an explosion in slow motion if you hit puberty the first time you saw the hero of the hour bed his scantily clad damsel in distress then it’s impossible to resist the allure of a movie like The Expendables. It’s the superband version of an action movie. It was created by an action star its cast consists almost exclusively of action stars and the only reason it exists is to put a smile on the face of action fans. And invariably it will do just that.
The question is how wide one’s smile will be. The answer depends on how forgiving one is willing to be of The Expendables' faults and there are many. It’s a little slow-going at first the characters are very thinly defined some of the acting is spotty and on the production front Sylvester Stallone’s knack for action scenes is thrown under the bus by a ton of visual shortcuts (CGI blood being perhaps the most egregious) that belie the film’s obvious low budget. That said Stallone’s knack for gory ultraviolent action is indeed so strong his mind so tuned to the quirks and cliches that make action movies beloved despite their faults that The Expendables kicks more than enough ass by the time credits roll to be worthwhile beyond just the novelty of seeing Stallone Statham Li Lundgren Austin Rourke Couture Crews Willis and Schwarzenegger all under one explosion-filled roof.
That was actually my biggest concern at the offset of the film that the only ace up star/co-writer/director Stallone’s ripped sleeve was his cast but the best thing about The Expendables is that it could have worked with a roster composed entirely of no-name actors. It’s fantastic to see some of these action movie titans go head to head (particularly so in the case of Lundgren) but the headliners surprisingly neither make nor break the movie. The script which involves a gang of mercenaries overthrowing a South American dictator who has become a puppet of a rogue CIA agent isn’t particularly strong but no one goes to an action movie expecting it to be a David Mamet-scripted battle of wits. The story just needs a firm enough framework to allow for enough scenarios for our heroes to punch kick stab shoot and explode an army of bad guys. To that end Expendables could have been given to a cast and crew of newcomers and still stomped in tons of face.
What actually hurts the film the most is that it is filled with veterans and promises of a return to old-school action an era where the only thing bigger than the heroes’ muscles was the body count left in his wake. The only thing wrong with the body count in The Expendables is that it takes too long to begin piling up whereas the rest of the movie feels too small too amateur hour considering its cast of pros. Nu Image the chief studio financing Stallone’s grand endeavor is known primarily for making low-budget straight-to-video movies; sadly The Expendables isn’t going to shake that image any time soon.
There is a disappointing amount of poorly-rendered CGI blood and flames throughout the film which completely goes against the “do it old-school” mindset one expects from all involved. It’s hardly unwatchable but there are times where the look of the film brings to mind the Syfy channel and as any brave soul who has ever wandered into a Syfy Original Movie knows all too well that is rarely ever a good thing.
However even with lackluster production values The Expendables still manages to be a wild throat-slashing elbow-dropping grenade-throwing trigger-pulling and limb-dismembering good time. The last forty-five minutes alone are packed with more carnage than most action movies today can dream of delivering throughout their entire run time. The slow beginning gives way to a glorious orgy of death that generates a body count that would warrant UN intervention were it to have occurred in the real world. And since fictional armies getting absolutely obliterated by a fictional team of the manliest men on the planet is all anyone really requires from The Expendables it’s easy to turn your back on the few obstacles that stand in the way of that holy goal.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 action hit Commando is being remade by 20th Century Fox.
The studio has brought on Training Day and The Fast and the Furious screenwriter David Ayer to write and direct the new version. Ayer’s previous directorial efforts are Street Kings and Harsh Times.
No word yet on who will replace the superstar-turned-California governor in the new Commando, whose premise will be given an update and personal spin courtesy of Ayer.
The news comes just a couple months before the release of another update of a Schwarzenegger film, July’s Predators.