After jumping ship from his track to become a doctor, Ken Jeong hit the comedy world with a bang. Over the past five years, he's escalated from a bit part in Knocked Up into a substantial player on both the big and small screens. This weekend, Jeong appears in The Hangover Part III, and while the marquee will tell you the comedy threequel stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms, its dominated by Jeong.
"This is the biggest role I've ever had and I think it's the best thing I've ever done as an actor," Jeong says. "I feel like this role is a culmination of everything I've done."
That's true on a comedy level: with a leading role intertwined into the misadventures of the Wolf Pack, Jeong's third outing as gangly crimelord Chow required a bit more pacing. He worked with director Todd Phillips to revive the manic character in a way that would be palatable over the course of an entire movie. "Todd is a great coach. He knows when to give me latitude and do my thing," he says. "He also knows when to rein me in. Having such an expanded part, it was really my first exercise in tracking the whole movie from beginning to end and where I'm at. It's not about maximizing being funny. It's a marathon and not a sprint."
The beefed up role also required more physicality than Jeong is used to. In the opening sequence, Chow escapes from the prison where we last saw him in Part II. To escape, the gangster finds himself leaping from the top of a mountain into the ocean — a stunt that required Jeong to jump from a sky high platform into a water tank over and over and over for a full day.
"That was the most intense stunt I've ever done. It was also, possibly, the greatest day of my career," Jeong says. As he puts it, Jeong has a "massive fear of heights" (he drops the word "massive" a few more times for emphasis). "I'm the kind of dude who cries on Ferris wheels. No joke — I was with my kid at Disney World on a Ferris wheel, and I was more scared than my kid."
To conquer his fears, Jeong worked with Jack Gill, Tom Cruise's stunt coordinator on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. "I worked with him once a week, being in a harness, 10 feet. Just getting used to that. Then 15 feet. Next week 20 feet. Then 25, 30. And then moving in a harness at those heights," he says. As scared as he was, Jeong admits that being thrust into danger is what he believes an actor's job is all about. "Every actor says, 'Yeah, it was great because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.' Well, I put my money where my mouth was."
Not all stunts come in the same shape and size. At one point, Jeong has to stick his nose in Ed Helms' butt. And not just once.
"We know what we're getting into when you sign up for a Hangover movie," Jeong says. "And knowing Todd Phillips so well and knowing the tone of his movies, which I love... I think what we all have in common, we have a love of comedy and a love of mayhem. Deep down inside. Subconsciously. What I love about this group of actors is there is no overlap. No one is a diva. There's no ego. The most grounded group of actors. That's what I'll miss the most."
So will Jeong return if The Hangover Part IV stars brewing? He would be there in a heartbeat — and wouldn't mind stepping up his game even more for a solo venture.
"I love Chow so much. I'd love to do a Chow spin-off," he says. "I'd love to do anything Chow related. It's so freeing. You can say or do anything."
Or maybe a TV spin-off... although weekly doses of Chow is an intimidating notion.
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Christina Ricci, star of such gloomy fare as "Sleepy Hollow" and "Buffalo '66," will put her experiences to work in her latest project.
Daily Variety says the indie siren has agreed to grapple with depression as the star and co-producer of a big-screen version of "Prozac Nation."
The movie adapts Elizabeth Wurtzel's 1994 autobiographical account of her lifelong bout with the disease. The New York writer graduated from Harvard and became a well-known journalist, but her crippling feelings once caused her to attempt suicide. Prozac, she said, was the lifesaver that helped her reshape her life.
Ricci's interest in the book sparked the development of the project. The film's set to begin shooting May 15 with "Insomnia's" Erik Skjoldbjaerg at the helm.
BOOB TUBE REDUX: Ex-"Roseanne" star John Goodman can't resist a return to sitcoms -- especially when Fox and the producers at Carsey-Werner Co. (his old "Roseanne" home) offered him $4.4 million for 22 episodes' worth of work. According to Variety, the actor has signed on to star as one-half of an "Odd Couple"-like pair of single fathers living together with their teenagers. ("My Two Dads" with more kids?)
LONG LIVE 'KINGS': In the grand tradition of such respectable concert films as Eddie Murphy's "Raw," Spike Lee has signed on to document the popular "Kings of Comedy" tour. The show, which has played to sell-out crowds at Madison Square Garden and the Great Western Forum, features entertainers Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley, Cedric "The Entertainer" and Bernie Mac.
The film will combine outtakes from the show along with backstage activities and music. The movie's in development at Paramount-based MTV Films, with the network planning a soundtrack that combines the channel's top hip-hop and R&B acts.
MTV Prods. Senior VP David Gale tells Variety promises that the movie "will be pretty racy, but not offensive."
MAN IN BLACK: He's a music legend and an American icon. Next, dark horse Johnny Cash will be the subject of a big-screen movie. Variety says Columbia Pictures has signed filmmaker James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted") to co-write and direct "Cash," a biopic about the musician's "tumultuous life and profound effect on American music."
Mangold will team with scripter Gill Dennis on the screenplay. James Keach (brother of Stacy, husband to Jane Seymour) is a producer, and a close friend of the legend. Also producing is Sony-based filmmaker Cathy Konrad.