British singer Florence Welch made a scene during a night out in London last week (ends21Jul13) when she jumped on stage to gatecrash a cover band's gig. The Florence + The Machine star was enjoying an evening out with pals at the South London Pacific bar in Kennington when resident group Sourberry kicked off a set with Daft Punk's huge hit Get Lucky.
Welch couldn't resist joining in, so she jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone, thrilling the crowd with her own rendition of the track. She then downed a tequila shot handed to her by a reveller before blasting out her version of Gossip's Standing in the Way of Control.
A post on Sourberry's website reads, "It was the annual Sourberry summer party and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine was in attendance. She hopped up on stage during our sound check and rocked out a couple of numbers with us while we warmed up. Get Lucky - Daft Punk and Standing in the Way of Control - The Gossip. So let's raise the bar, and our tequila shot to the stars."
Illusionist Criss Angel has cancelled a second death-defying stunt in Las Vegas after police officers struggled to control thousands of fans who lined the streets to see his latest trick. The magician was set to be buried alive in concrete as part of a public illusion outside Sin City's Mirage resort on Wednesday night (22May13), but organisers underestimated the number of people who turned out to watch.
Cops struggled to control the surging crowd and the event was called off over safety fears.
Angel has since apologised to fans and insisted the stunt will be rescheduled.
In a series of posts on Twitter.com, he writes, "I'm so honoured to have had such an enormous crowd turn out but am very disappointed that we got shut down - officials never expected (a big) size crowd... We'll reschedule Buried Alive with appropriate number of police. I'm sincerely sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused anyone."
The news comes just days after Angel was forced to cancel a similarly scary stunt in Las Vegas on Friday (17May13) due to bad weather. The star had planned to walk blindfolded across a steel beam suspended between two high-rise buildings, but cancelled his plans because of strong winds.
Director Uwe Boll has struggled to find audiences for his controversial films. He started his career with critically-panned video game movies like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and Bloodrayne before shifting his crosshairs to topical subject matters. In 2009, he adapted his bloody genre aesthetic for a film about the genocide in Darfur. In 2011, he did the same for the horrors of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.
This week, Boll releases his next pointed piece of cinema: Assault on Wall Street. Dominic Purcell stars as Jim, a blue collar New Yorker who loses everything in the 2008 financial crisis. As Wall Street bankers shred every bit of evidence of their wrongdoings, Jim watches as his life is destroyed. Witnessing his wife lose a battle with cancer pushes him over the edge, and Jim decides to pick up a few guns and deliver bloody payback aimed at the suits that wronged him.
Striking controversy is Boll's objective. The German director wants Assault on Wall Street to wake up audiences to the fact that they're being swindled by the political system and provoke them to take action. But he knows he's fighting a losing battle against his past. Will anyone take him seriously in a world where Argo (what he calls "an advertising [movie] for the C.I.A.") wins top prizes at the Oscars?
We sat down with Boll to hear him out. Read on for a boatload of contentious opinions on Wall Street, gun control, Hollywood, and his filmmaking career:
Hollywood.com: Many of your films have relied on over-the-top action but Assault on Wall Street strikes me as a calmer film.
Uwe Boll: I wrote it and I really wanted to show the deconstruction of a human being in the financial crisis fallout. I had the feeling if I make this more like Rampage, I lose all possibilities that people take it really seriously. That stuff like this can really happen. So I decided to go into the details and try and tell a love story. Unusual for my movies.
Did the financial situation in America rile you up on a personal level?
Boll: Look, everything that happened in the bailout… they lifted off everything we ever learned about economy. Especially the people who always talk about free trade. 'No socialism.' Then they pump all the tax payers money in savings and investment banks. The consequences of the bailouts were written on the wall from all financial experts. They said, 'You have to regulate the baking systems.' If you have $5000 in your checking account, it can not be that they are on the hook if the investment side of the bank is gambling and losing money. It can not be! So they have to divide it up. The normal, classical banking — mortgages, normal loans, deposits — can not be infected by the casino, basically.
It didn't happen. It's still the same like it was before. They make the profits still because the stock market exploded from cheap money from the feds. They get the money for free! This is the thing that is crazy. All experts say we're in another balloon. But next time, there will be no bailout. You can't say, 'We print another $5 trillion,' then we file for bankruptcy five minutes after the bailout because no one can pay that back. It's so obvious they had to do self-regulations and they didn't.
Do you feel that Hollywood has properly taken the government to task over the bailouts? Is Assault on Wall Street your response to that? It exudes anger.
Boll: Exactly. Too Big to Fail, Margin Call — I like those movies, but the brokers and the politics are in the middle. There's no normal guy who makes $50,000 a year in those movies. Wall Street 2 was a complete failure because it doesn't show the age of greed on Wall Street. It just shows Josh Brolin (who played [George W.] Bush in another [Oliver] Stone movie [laughs]), being one bad guy saving it all with his stupidity. I love Wall Street but the second was a good looking insult. So I wanted to make a movie where a guy holds people accountable because no one else is doing it.
Was extreme violence an essential part of getting that message across?
Boll: When I cast the movie, many agents said, 'Oh, my actor can not play that. He's just shooting too many people. He can only shoot one or two.' And I said, 'No, it has to be the system.' Like in the beginning, when the guy says 'dump the certificates' and the whole broker room start dumping. They know they've damaged the clients and they don't go to the feds and they're happy and they know they've destroyed peoples' lives. I think this is important that he goes against everybody. If people who watch the movie are feeling uncomfortable in their seats, on Wall Street, I've reached my goal. 'Oh, maybe I should have bodyguards.'
That's a bold wish.
Boll: It's absurd. We have so many people running amok for absolutely no reason, like the Batman screening. Then you have absolutely 100,000 reasons to go after the bankers and nobody did it so far. It's obvious.
Movies are often accused of promoting violence as a solution to life's problems. Though that's Assault on Wall Street's goal. Did you consider those acts of gun violence when making this film?
Boll: I think movies are there for this. To be a catalyst. To show what you want to do but can't do for real. My idea with guns is don't sell it to people under 30. I'm not pro-someone randomly gets a gun. I know how hard it is to change things in America. But it would omit 17-year-old psychopaths from running amok. In Canada, where I live, there are guns everywhere and no one runs amok. It's not a movie about gun control. This guy is able to get a gun and he goes for it.
I feel like you attempted to stick it to the man before with Darfur. Was that a success?
Boll: I think Darfur is an excellent movie. I think it's so brutal that most of the people can't watch it. It's like, 'Oh f**k, I have to switch it off.' Children being impaled, mass rapes, everything. I did it on purpose because that's exactly what happens in Darfur. I thought, OK if we don't stop the genocide but we have money to go to Iraq… here we have facts. I show what's out there. Children being hacked to pieces. 'Oh let's wait another year.' NATO or whatever. The blue helmets or whatever.
I showed it to the German army in a big multiplex in Germany. They got vert emotional about it. Then a big, four star general in Germany said in front of the crowd, 'If something like this happens, it doesn't matter what the order is. Because we're first human beings and have to stop it.' They were surprised he said that. We talked to blue helmets that were there that were not fighting. Why didn't you help? 'We were observing mission.' How absurd.
Why wasn't the movie taken seriously? Does it have to do with the route in which it arrives to America? Do you need the respect of Cannes or Sundance to back it?
Boll: I'm with you. The problem is that if something was said by George Clooney… he's everywhere. I say something, nobody cares. Especially with Wall Street. It's the most important subject matter on Earth. There's no bigger subject matter than the bailout crisis. Why will it get on one screen? Why is it not a movie that gets a 250 print release with some real money behind it?
I imagine it's because you're also the guy who made Postal.
Boll: My past haunts me. They don't take it seriously. The guy who made House of the Dead or Alone in the Dark can't be serious as a filmmaker. It's disappointing, but all I can do is keep trying to make movies that matter. At least on DVD or VOD people say, 'Oh wow.' A guy came up to me at the American Film Market and said, 'I'm the Showtime President and I want to tell you that Darfur is the best movie I've ever seen on our channel.' I said, 'Yeah, and you only $40,000!' They know they can lowball you.
A lot of things getting a lot of attention… look at Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. These are advertising movies for the C.I.A.. They're good films because they have good actors and they make them properly, but what is the f**king subject matter of Argo? It's a minor case. Who cares about eight people?
But would you be open to making a studio movie like that if given the opportunity?
Boll: That's the thing. I could never do the super patriotic point-of-view. Olympus Has Fallen or White House Down. I could do a big action movie, but it would be a little more balanced. I can not make myself do something where I'm political, where I think, 'This is so wrong. S**t.' The Wall Street 2… I can't do that.
Do video game and genre movies scratch that itch? Hollywood is kind of moving in on your territory now.
Boll: I just got calls that a studio has bought the rights to Far Cry. I lost the rights and they want to do a big, big Far Cry movie. Spent like $5 million on the game rights. I spent $150,000. I bought the rights early when they were developing it and bet on the game being a success. It is what it is. I don't have a problem making a genre movie like Far Cry or Bloodrayne because I don't feel I sell out with it.
Your genre films are also R-rated, which I'm guessing isn't the direction a studio wants to go with most properties.
Boll: What they're doing is all PG-13. Paramount watched Assault on Wall Street and I got an e-mail, 'We love it! This is so good! He kills everybody! But we can never acquire it' [laughs]. There was a point where studios acquired the movies they actually like. People go on the wrong track and constantly release movies that are half-cooked. I watched Jack Reacher on the airplane and it's an OK movie, but I don't even know why that guy shot people in the beginning of the movie. I have no f**king clue why they shot that guy. The whole case doesn't make sense. A lot of the movies coming out are good filmmaking, but without substance.
What's the next genre movie you're making?
Boll: Last December, I shot Suddenly, the remake of the Frank Sinatra movie with Ray Liotta and Dominic Purcell. It's a thriller and plays on one day. I hired an Obama double who almost (or maybe) gets shot in the end. I wanted to do that.
Why the hell would you want to do that?
Boll: Everyone said, 'Don't do it!' But I wanted to do it. I wanted an Obama double. And I was preparing to shoot a movie in India. A thriller about organ trade — but I have huge problems in India. I have tons of Indian guys who want to produce with me and I tell them I want to shoot that movie and they're like, 'Oh f**k!' Because it's real. They want me to come to India and shoot dancing.
I could see you doing a Bollywood movie.
Boll: Where everyone gets shredded in the end.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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In the Season 5 finale of Parks and Recreation, appropriately titled "Are You Better Off?," we find Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on the first anniversary of her election to the Pawnee City Council. For her unofficial victory lap, she has gathered the town together to ask that titular question — do they believe they are better off now than they were when the year, and Leslie's reign, began?
As is the way of these public forums, Leslie quickly loses control of the crowd. Contrary to her well-laid plan, the meeting devolves as each person Leslie confronted (except, mysteriously, Councilman Jamm) in the past year raises concerns against her. Remember when Leslie banned gigundous soft drinks in restaurants? Well, the head of the Pawnee Restaurant Association is out for blood. We also meet a rotund gentleman who resents that a Paunch Burger wasn't built on the vacant lot and crazy Marcia and Marshall Langman of abstinence only sex education have returned. It seems the only people willing to speak in favor of Leslie are Pawnee Video Dome owner Dennis Lerpiss (Jason Schwartzman) and porn star Brandi Maxxx, who want to thank the councilwoman because, as Brandi says, "If it weren't for Leslie Knope, there would be far, far less pornography in this town." And maybe that's not such a good thing.
While it was nice to see some familiar faces return, the airing of past grievances and the flashback footage that accompanied them seemed lazy. Is this a clip show or a season finale? Instead of looking ahead to Leslie's and Pawnee's — and, inherently, the show's — future, it seems we are getting bogged down with the past. You're better than this, Parks and Rec. Or at least you were.
Leslie's conflict comes to a head at the annual Founders' Week Parade. Chris "Nipple King" Traeger (Rob Lowe) warns Leslie of an unflattering float seconds too late, causing Leslie to come face to face — or face to inflatable knee cap, really — with a larger than life, finger-waving, glowering Leslie Knope. "Leslie Knope Says No to Fun," the banner reads, and no amount of huffing, puffing, yelling, or irate gesticulating from Leslie can convince the town otherwise.
Then, Icky Mean Restaurant Lady (who doesn't deserve to be named… also, I forgot her name) drops her bomb. She has started the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope and she won't sleep until she sees Leslie kicked off the city council.
At first, Leslie is heartbroken. She has failed her people and ruined their lives, she thinks. She may have lowered the obesity rate by an amount equal to 800 pregnant manatees but the people hate her for it. Luckily, Leslie married the best pep talker of all time. Ben (Adam Scott) asks Leslie to look deep within herself and answer the question, does she think Pawnee is better off?
She does. Of course she does! Because Mary Poppins ain't got nothing on Leslie Knope — Leslie Knope is actually perfect in every way. Leslie throws a press conference for herself and tells the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope to bring it on, step up, and stomp the yard, honey (which is also a dance movie, starring Jessica Alba). If the Aesop's Fablesy sheen Parks and Rec has developed in recent seasons has taught us anything, it's that Leslie (the good guy) is going to be just fine.
The other characters' storylines are linked together as Andy (Chris Pratt), who has resurrected FBI Agent Burt Macklin for one final case, tracks down the owner of a mysterious positive pregnancy test he found in Ron's (Nick Offerman) cabin. It must be one of the five ladies present at the Parks Dept. retreat, he deduces. Which means either Ann (Rashida Jones), Leslie, April (Aubrey Plaza), Donna (Retta), or Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate) is expecting.
Burt/Andy begins to narrow the ladies down. After a few red herrings and much good news — Ann and Chris are happily fornicating, April got into veterinary school (!!!) — Andy has ruled out all the women present at Ron's cabin. So then, who is pregnant?
Tom, meanwhile, is faced with a difficult decision: an anonymous client (who may or may not be Jay-Z but is definitely not Diddy) has offered to buy Rent-A-Swag. Tom ultimately declines the buyout in favor of building up his business, which is obviously successful. In a twist, Tom's benefactor becomes his adversary when his lawyer announces that his client will just build a competitor, called Tommy's Closet, across the street from Rent-A-Swag. Tom best get ready to bring his A-game.
The final moments of the episode are the most jaw-dropping. The pregnancy test belongs to, you guessed it, Ron's girlfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless). Or, at least, so we are lead to believe. As Andy is expressing his frustration with his failed investigation to Ron, Dianne walks into Ron's office and says she needs to talk to him in private. We are treated to a shot of Ron's paling face as the meaning of Diane's words set in. Is Ron, a loner who despises change, ready to become a family man?
This raises the question, will every central plotline next season have to do with babies? Ron: baby. Ann and Chris: trying to have a baby. Leslie and Ben: have talked about starting a family (which means having a baby). Going on record now as saying that's too many babies.
Follow Abbey on Twitter @AbbeyStone
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Comedian Conan O'Brien might have been the host at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner, but it was President Obama who was the one entertaining the crowd. In a room full of Hollywood's biggest names (Steven Spielberg, Connie Britton, Julie Bowen, Katy Perry, Kevin Spacey, Claire Danes), the Leader of the Free World had some of the night's longest laughs. Starting with his entrance to the tune of DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" and including his part in a Spielberg Lincoln-like spoof. Though both speakers ended their speeches with a mention of the tragedy in Boston.
And despite opening for the two-time host — whose last time entertaining this crowd was in 1995 — Obama was clearly the night's political prom king.
Check out the night's 1o best zingers...
10. CONAN: "Of course, probably the biggest story that people in this room covered this year was the Republican failure to recapture the White House. Hard to believe the Republicans didn't fare better in the election with the support of celebrities like Ted Nugent and Meatloaf. I guess they overestimated the number of voters who still drive carpeted vans."
9. CONAN: "By the way, I have a question. And I think some of you also have this question. It's been several months since you were reelected sir, so I'm curious, why are you still sending everyone five emails a day asking for more money? You won! Do you have a gambling problem we don't know about?"
8. CONAN: "Now I've made some jokes about the president this evening, and I'm looking forward to my audit."
7. CONAN: "Yes, all the Washington news media are here tonight, including the stars of online journalism. I see the Huffington Post has a table. Yay! Which has me wondering, who is covering Miley Cyrus' latest nip slip?"
6. CONAN: "This year you have taken it to new heights. I have to congratulate you. New heights, because you have some of the guys from Duck Dynasty here. Which can only mean one thing — the guys from Storage Wars said no."
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5. CONAN: "The demographics of this country have been rapidly changing over the past two decades and I look forward to hosting this event 18 years from now. Then my opening line will be 'Buenos noches …. president e Mario Lopez."
4. OBAMA: "Some things are beyond my control. For example, this whole Jay-Z going to Cuba. It's unbelievable. I've got 99 problems and now Jay-Z is one."
3. OBAMA: "I understand that when the Correspondents Association was considering Conan for this gig they were faced with that age ol' dilemma: do you offer it to him now or wait for five years and then give it to Jimmy Fallon?"
2. CONAN: "Now right away I would like to formally congratulate the president on his re-election, congratulations. As you all know the president is hard at work creating new jobs. Since he was first elected the number of popes has doubled. And the number of Tonight Show hosts have tripled. Congratulations!"
1. CONAN: "It's been said recently that you don't mess with Boston. As someone who grew up there, I'd like to echo that sentiment. It's really pretty simple: if you're going to pick on a city, don't choose one where 9 out of 10 people are related to a cop."
Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaCostantini
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Oh, Justin Bieber. What would Anne Frank think of you now?
According to the very Swedish-sounding newspaper Aftonbladet, police in Stockholm raided the tour bus of the 19-year-old pop star on Wednesday night and found "a small amount of alleged narcotics and an eloctrochock weapon." (This was not the weapon in question).
After a suspicious smell permeated from a bus parked at a concert venue, a police raid took place. Bieber was already in the arena where he was performing last night. According to the press officer at the Stockholm police department, "there were several people in the bus," but there is no "specific suspect." The drugs in question that were found have since been sent to a laboratary for analysis. Also: "Flurgen!"
A Bieber source reportedly told Aftonbladet, "panic broke out when the police raided the bus. The police also demanded access to Justin Bieber's dressing room inside the arena. A couple of dancers started running around screaming 'No weed!' and another member of Bieber's crew yelled 'S**t, the stash!'"
Bieber's rep declined comment. However, a source confirmed to People that "no one was cited or arrested" and another source reiterated, "There were no violations."
Bieber himself seems to be pleading the fifth (or at least pleading the coy), by cryptically tweeting, "some of the rumors about me....where do people even get this stuff. whatever...back to the music."
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Legendary Director Guillermo del Toro welcomed delighted WonderCon fans on Saturday with the debut of an exclusive look at his new summer blockbuster Pacific Rim.
The jam-packed trailer featured a more in-depth look at the Kaiju — the monstrous aliens who emerge from the depths of the seas to destroy earth — as well as more screen time to feature how the Jaeger robots are conrolled via memories. The new teaser also showcased one epic and never-before-seen battle in which a Jaeger opted to use a freighter ship as a bat to smash one Kaiju’s face as hard as possible. In a word, it was incredible.
Del Toro also unveiled an extensive amount of detail surrounding the mythology of this futuristic apocalypse as well as numerous behind-the-scenes secrets. Hollywood.com was in the crowd and eagerly taking note to bring you 15 new things you didn’t know about Pacific Rim. Read on for all the action-packed fun-facts below:
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1. Del Toro’s goals for Pacific Rim were to convey a sense of “awe and scale” for audiences considering “25-story high mother f**kers were kicking the s**t out of each other” for two and a half hours.
2. Although a large part of the film will be created with CGI, Warner Bros secured the largest set in North America for Del Toro to physically create a a four-story tall Jaeger head that would respond physically to a Kaiju battle, one foot of a Jaeger that Del Toro compared to the size of the convention center as well as multiple city streets. “We built several blocks of Hong Kong to destroy — and then we destroyed them,” the director smiled.
3. Del Toro also created a hydraulic-powered set that would react as realistically as possible. “Every time the monster would hit, the whole set would rock from one side to the other, front and back which made the actors very very happy,” he said.
4. The director chose to use the actors as much as possible, especially when controlling the movements of the Jaegers. Del Toro revealed, “We insisted on doing it with the real actors and not the stunt actors and with them in the physical machine that control the robot. They basically had an incredible apparatus attached to them behind.”
5. At the end of the day the actors were “exhausted” and “destroyed physically” from working the controls of the Jaegers — but the only one who never complained was Rinko Kikuchi. Del Toro laughed, “That’s why guys will never give birth, we are crybabies and we would be extinct as a species.” Kikuchi told Del Toro that she would think of “gummy bears and flowers” when she would start to get tired.
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6. Del Toro was very inspired by the visuals of World War II and he chose to use a lot of decay, oxidation, and rust in as many elements as possible throughout the sets.
7. Ron Pearlman’s character Hannibal Chau — named after Del Toro’s favorite historical figure and his second-favorite Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn — is a black market dealing in Kaihu organs. Del Toro explains, “He’s basically a rascal, he’s a really really important little guy and he’s a black market dealer of the lowest kind.”
8. Del Toro was a guest star on It’s Always Sunny In Philidelphia and that’s where he witnessed Charlie Day give a particularly long-winded yet hilarious monologue about rats. The director realized that Day was an incredibly gifted actor and cast him as Dr. Newton Geizer. “I wanted to have a scientist who was like a punk rock guy who has sleeve tattoos and Buddy Holly eye glasses and he thinks he’s super hip — but he’s really a geek, a super hip geek,” he said.
9. The director jokes that throughout the film Day resembles a number of different actors. “From the beginning of the movie he looked like Rick Moranis, to J.J. Abrams and the shorter little brother of Bradley Cooper.” Not a bad bunch to be compared to!
10. Every Jaeger robot is driven by two pilots — or jockeys — one to control the left hemisphere and the other to control the right. If one pilot were to try to operate the machine alone the neuron overwhelm would fry their nervous system and kill them instantly.
11. Every country’s jaeger is controlled by two jockeys, with the exception of the Chinese jaeger, Crimson Typhoon, which is controlled by a set of triplets.
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12. The two jockeys operating the same jaeger are linked through memories. Del Toro explains, “If they’re good at fighting both in the same style then they are linked by a neuron bridge that fuses them with the robots.”
13. Del Toro and the creative team originally designed 12 Kaijus and nine Jaegers and then used an “American Idol” type of elimination process to narrow their choices. As the designs improved they “polished” the jaegers to make them reflect the styles and cultures of the various countries.
14. The Kaiju were sent to terrorize the citizens of earth through a multi-dimensional portal in the depth of the Pacific Ocean. The director noted that the creatures were sent by an alien race who has a habit of “consuming planets.”
15. Del Toro ended the panel revealing that he has seen Pacific Rim many times and it never ceases to make him smile. “[This was] the most amazing experience I’ve ever had making a movie. Pacific Rim has been the most harmonious and free experience I’ve ever had making a movie,” he said.
Fans can catch Pacific Rim when it opens in theaters Friday, July 11.
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros]
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If you've ever seen one of Quentin Dupieux's movies — perhaps Rubber, a horror flick about a murderous tire (and a crowd of people who can't stop watching it), or Nonfilm, about an actor and film crew who try persevere in the production of a movie despite an onset massacre (and a lack of cameras or script) — then you know the director has a penchant for the bizarre.
Dupieux, aFrench filmmaker, recording artist, and DJ, appreciates the "absurd," expressing a more genuine relatability in movies that don't exactly seem like they make sense. His latest, Wrong, fits the bill pretty closely: an oddball falls into emotional disarray after his dog is kidnapped, triggering an impulsive pizza parlor employee to engage in romance with his gardener, and his neighbor Mike to leave town in lieu of admitting to anyone the horribly embarrassing truth that he likes to jog. You're probably cocking your eyebrows right about now... and trust us, the movie is just as strange, albeit highly entertaining and interesting, as it sounds.
As far as Dupieux is concerned, absurdity is real. He considers the structured, neat world of mainstream cinema, on the other hand, is far less relatable. "I think movies can be a little more like life, basically," Dupieux says, expressing his own drive to make films he feels emulate the absurdist poetry of the real world. "Movies are like movies. Even when a movie pretends to be a small story about real life, it is not like real life. It is like the movies. Even when you recognize yourself in a character, it’s just a projection. It is not like real life. It is made like a movie, it is written like a movie, and that’s why we like movies."
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Dupieux wants to channel the sort of disarray he feels in his day to day for the screen: "I think life is more complex than movies. Life is really, if you look closer, life is really absurd, in a way. And when you watch a movie, usually everything makes sense. At the end, everything makes sense, everything is connected. And that’s not like life. Every day, I notice absurd stuff in real life. So, that’s what I’m trying to do."
And how does he go about this? While Dupieux feels that most screenwriters adhere to a certain formula, he trusts his gut. "I’m trying to write with my instincts. It’s like an exercise. It’s like a different job, in a way. It’s more like an organic process. I only trust my feelings, I only trust my instincts. I’m not even using my brain." Dupieux contrasts this with what he believes the norm to be in the industry: "Basically, what I do hate about mainstream movies is that they are all based on the same structure. Even if you compare a comedy to a science-fiction movie, it is the same structure. It is based on the same writing science, if you know what I mean."
Because of this independence from the mainstream writing science, Dupieux jokes that he is "a bad writer," saying, "I don’t know anything about the rules, and I’m not interested in learning the science of scriptwriting. So many people are doing it, we don’t need another screenwriter — or what they call a screenwriter. I’m not interested in being another ‘good writer.’"
Dupiuex veers from the norm primarily because he doesn't feel a lot of movies produce a lasting effect on audiences. "I’m not impressed [with the mainstream]. Only because I usually forget instantly — like, during the end credits, I already forgot about the movie ... I don’t like the idea of watching a movie, and then you go back home and you forget about the movie."
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But the director does have some affinity for Hollywood blockbusters and network television: "Don’t get me wrong," he says, "I like the mainstream world. I think it’s important for the people to be entertained. You don’t need to get more when you watch, I don’t know, a James Bond movie. It’s fun to watch. It’s entertaining. And by entertaining, you completely forget about your life and your personal problems for 90 minutes. It’s like a ride." Dupieux adds, "I can watch stupid TV series just because they are well shot and they give you something you need, in a way ... I like to be entertained, that’s for sure." Ultimately, Dupieux's goal is to entertain his audiences as well, but "without using the same language."
On top of this, Dupieux seems to admire how much of a stronghold most big films have on their viewers' emotional reactions. "When I’m watching a big movie, I don’t understand how they manage to control the audience. I’m always impressed to see a big mainstream movie, or even a TV series. They know how to control what you are supposed to feel. And I don’t know how to do that." The director has mixed feelings on the subject: "To me, it’s almost scary. I’m not interested in doing this. I’m more interested in opening new spaces. I’m looking for some secret places.
Dupieux thinks there is something inherently valuable in the sort of form his films take: "I know it sounds weird. My movies are absurd. You can watch and think, ‘Nothing makes sense.’ But it’s much closer to the complexity of the human being," the filmmaker says. "Usually in the movie, you have the good guy and the bad guy. This doesn’t exist. I don’t know a good guy that is just a good guy. This doesn’t exist at all. Same for bad guys."
He continues on this theme: "It’s not a translation that’s supposed to make sense on the screen. It’s more like the real thing." In terms of Wrong specifically does Dupieux highlight this sensibility: "This guy, who can’t admit he loves jogging… at first, yes, it sounds like a stupid joke, or something you’ve never seen in real life. But actually, it is like real life."
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On top of reality, Dupieux is also interested in one specific manifestation of the fantastical: dreams. "This weird world that we call dreams is something that I’m really interested in," he says. "The way you connect stuff in your dreams. When you’re dreaming, you always make weird connections between things. Sometimes, you have a character — it’s someone you know, and then in the next scene of your dream, the character is someone else. This type of thing that doesn’t make any sense when you wake up, that’s something I really enjoy as a dreamer."
And what about his other artistic ventures? While Dupieux seems to be able to express his thoughts on writing and filmmaking quite well, there is one realm that the multihyphenate doesn't exactly know how to discuss: music. "Music is only based on animal feelings," Dupieux says, struggling to define a formula or science behind the art. "It’s hard to describe why a piece of music is better than another one. You can’t really talk about music. It’s really hard. There’s no word to describe why Michael Jackson is better than everybody. You can’t really put some words on music."
Clearly, the man's appreciation for "going with your gut" extends across the board. Dupieux's imagination runs wild in his films, with Wrong topping the lot as a strange and tangential, but wholly fun and entertaining film. Wrong is now in select theaters and is available on VOD.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: Drafthouse Films]
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As 2012 dawned, there was one movie that geek culture anticipated above all others: The Dark Knight Rises. It was the trilogy-capping follow-up to, at that point, the most successful superhero movie of all time. The Dark Knight was a major cultural touchstone that, with its cracked-mirror reflection of a society ripped apart by terrorism, complex questions about surveillance, and dark neo-noir style, legitimized the idea that comic books could be fodder for serious cinematic art. And yet, when 2012 ended, its sequel had not walked off as the year’s highest-grossing film. That honor went to another superhero flick with a decidedly lighter-hearted tone, glossier visuals, and a mission statement to have popcorn fun rather than strive to be pop art: The Avengers. In fact, The Avengers not only beat The Dark Knight Rises for the No. 1 spot, it did so by a margin of about $175 million.
Now, we’re not saying that Christopher Nolan’s gritty comic-book movie revolution, nor Peter Jackson’s dirt-under-the-fingernails overhaul of fantasy, is by any means over. What is happening, though, is that audiences are starting to direct the question asked by Nolan’s most famous Batman character back on blockbuster filmmaking as a whole: Why so serious?
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After a decade of action, sci-fi, and comic book movies striving for a darker, grittier, more down-to-earth aesthetic — and filmmakers equating such qualities with being taken seriously — escapism is making a loud-and-proud comeback. Audiences are responding to movies that just want to have fun in a big way. In 2010, Alice in Wonderland, with its candy-colored visuals and cheeky Tim Burton wit, grossed $334.2 million in the U.S. alone. Later that year Disney scored its biggest non-Pixar animated hit in years with the $200 million-grossing Tangled, proving what a huge market there still is for bubbly princess fare. And while Bryan Singer’s Jacksonian “dirt under the fingernails” take on Jack and the Beanstalk with Jack the Giant Slayer failed to deliver blockbuster numbers with a tepid $27.2 million opening, early tracking for Oz the Great and Powerful, a decidedly more glossy, color-splashed fairy tale, suggests that film may take in $80 million or more during its first weekend. (It’s not a coincidence that Disney produced Alice, Tangled, Oz, and The Avengers.) The message is clear: there is an audience that wants fun for fun’s sake. Escapism is back.
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Just five years ago, "dark," "brooding," and "gritty" was the way to go if you wanted your tentpole movie to be taken seriously — and make a lot of money. The kid-friendly Fantastic Four movies tanked. Superman Returns’ shiny Americana seemed terribly unfashionable and out-of-date. Spider-Man 3 made a ton of money off the strength of its predecessors, but the fact that its sole attempt at going dark and brooding was to give Tobey Maguire some emo bangs earned the film geek derision and scorn from the same critics who praised the Sam Raimi franchise’s first two installments. The Dark Knight, though, had the ambition to transform iconic Batman villain the Joker into a terrorist spreading urban chaos. Casino Royale turned James Bond into a blunt instrument who was also vulnerable and capable of nursing a broken heart. And the Bourne movies deconstructed the panoptic dread inherent in spy fiction by serving up a title character who was a blank slate at the mercy of forces beyond his control. Bond, Bourne, and Nolan’s Batman presented heroes affected with a kind of PTSD, still tormented by past traumas and regrets, and tending toward a messianic relentlessness to make things right. And then there's The Lord of the Rings, about a legion of bathing-averse heroes suffering incredible hardship to stare down insensate evil. None of these movies featured traditionally “fun” characters or storylines, and yet they became among the most popular, crowd-pleasing entertainments of the past decade.
Try as journalists, publicists, and film scholars might, it’s impossible to disentangle directorial vision, marketing impulses, and audience demand to figure what exactly is responsible for a trend like the dark blockbusters that dominated the multiplexes for much of the past decade. The rote answer is that these films are a cinematic response to 9/11 and are in some way allegorical reflections of the uncertainty, powerlessness, and trauma of that terrible day. Suddenly, Timothy Dalton’s brutish, scowling 007, so derided by Reagan Era movie audiences, was reincarnated as Daniel Craig’s brutish, scowling 007, and post-9/11 audiences loved it.
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If blockbuster filmmaking ever since Star Wars has pivoted around two central themes — “With great power comes great responsibility” and also “He who fights monsters must take care that he doesn’t become a monster himself” — after 9/11 the latter theme seemed to preoccupy the most successful sci-fi/fantasy and superhero movie filmmakers. This has been a unique phenomenon in Hollywood history. In the 1930s, also a time of great trauma because of the Great Depression and the rise of fascism, American movie audiences flocked to champagne-fizzy Astaire/Rogers musicals and kaleidoscopic Busby Berkeley spectacles to escape from a harsh reality. Even in the ‘70s, the era of Vietnam and Watergate, films that held up a darkly-tinted mirror to society were personal works of auteur-driven cinema, like Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon — very different from the classical blockbuster escapism of The Godfather, The Sting, Jaws, and Star Wars. So the idea that people would go to a Batman movie like The Dark Knight to find an allegorical expression of real life fears — even catharsis for them — is unique.
But then in 2008, Marvel struck back at the darkness. Oddly enough, they gave us a character very much like Batman — a billionaire at the head of a company that makes weapons who applies his company’s tech to gadgets that transform him into a superhero. Yep, Iron Man. But unlike Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark wasn’t scarred by tragedy. In fact, you could argue that Stark only becomes a true superhero as Iron Man not when he builds the metallic suit but when he stops being an asshole and decides to use his fortune and genius for good. With Iron Man — and to some degree even more so with 2011’s Thor — Marvel offered up pop entertainment built around personalities rather than traumatic circumstances. Tony Stark and Thor struggle to overcome their natural arrogance and hubris. Then, and only then, do they truly become superheroes. In essence, Iron Man shifted comic book cinema's storytelling priority away from “He who fights monsters must take care that he doesn’t become a monster himself” back to Spider-Man’s old “With great power comes great responsibility.” That meant a lighter tone, more humor, and, not surprisingly, more color-saturated visuals.
NEXT: "Dark" and "brooding" may be cool, but lighthearted escapism — call it the Bubblegum Blockbuster — is enduringly profitable.
The “Dark Blockbuster” aesthetic was decidedly monochromatic. The Bourne Ultimatum and The Dark Knight aren’t just dark thematically, they're dark visually too. The color palette of those movies is very minimalistic — a lot of metallic blues and grays. By contrast, the post-Iron Man Marvel superhero films are bright and pop with bold, primary-colored panache. Outside of Marvel, the one-two punch of Star Trek and Avatar in 2009 also represented a stark shift in blockbuster storytelling priorities. Those were films about exploration and self-discovery more than they were about toil and strife. Sure, some terrible things happen in those movies. But they’re mostly about characters developing hidden potential while discovering new wonders. And those exploratory themes need a visual style that immediately communicates you’re in for not just a movie but an experience. So you get 3D, performance capture, heavily-CGI'd environments, and otherworldly lighting like the Thomas Kinkade glow that suffuses Avatar’s phosphorescent jungle moon Pandora.
It’s been argued that most stories in one way or another have roots charting back to The Iliad, and are about struggle and conflict, or The Odyssey, and are about discovery. Well, the latter is making a comeback with a vengeance. Movies like Iron Man, Star Trek, and Avatar are escapism in its purest form, but that doesn’t mean they're devoid of real-life issues and concerns that many, many people understand. By no means is escapism inherently mindless. It’s the mode of storytelling that’s given us a farmboy staring at his planet’s twin suns and wondering what he’s made of, or a Kansas farmgirl singing about what lies “Over the Rainbow,” and it's the basis for just about every Disney movie ever made. Those are themes everyone who’s ever grown up, or is growing up, can relate to. Even the escapism of the Astaire/Rogers musicals of the 1930s was deeply rooted in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the American viewing public that bought tickets.
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What we have now, to put into film industry terms, is escapism with four-quadrant appeal. Combine themes everyone can relate to with stories people are already familiar with and you’ve got box office gold. That’s why Alice in Wonderland, despite tepid reviews, still grossed a fortune. As did Tangled. And so will probably Oz the Great and Powerful. Not to mention that the decidedly kid-friendlyThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is very much the Odyssey to The Lord of the Rings’ Iliad, just crossed the $1 billion worldwide box office mark. As the President of Hollywood.com Box Office Paul Dergerabedian puts it, “Simply put, these films offer something for everyone: the action fans, the date crowd, fanboys and even families can enjoy these movies on many different levels and yet not be scared away by an R-rating or a cinematic vision that is purposefully dark and gritty.”
Call it the “bubblegum blockbuster,” a type of genre-spanning Hollywood movie that’s existed for a long, long time, from The Thief of Bagdad to The Sound of Music to The Avengers. Bubblegum blockbusters are not often considered to be all that cool, per se. The Amazing Spider-Man deliberately avoided anything as silly as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin Power Ranger mask from Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man movie. But for all the emphasis placed on The Amazing Spider-Man being a "more serious" take on the webslinging hero and all the fanboy discontent with how Raimi’s trilogy ended, which Spidey origin story ended up making more of the green stuff? Hands down Raimi’s bubblegum Spider-Man from 2002, which grossed $403 million to The Amazing Spider-Man’s $262 million.
"No question that 'darker and grittier' plays well with audiences too,” Dergerabedian adds. “One needs only look at the success of the Batman trilogy under the direction of Chris Nolan to realize this. However, unlike its darker-themed brethren, the bubblegum blockbuster has all the elements in place to make it an easier sell with general audiences and thus may provide an easier route to success." Though perhaps not conceived as a tentpole movie the way some of these other films were, Life of Pi also follows this model: strong archetypal themes, a coming-of-age hook, and eye-candy visuals. Hello, PG rating and $600 million worldwide box office. Not to mention that Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, a shiny modern-day update on ‘50s monster movies, is already being positioned — like these other movies — as an adventure, a journey, and, above all, an experience, rather than a tightly-coiled drama.
Bubblegum might not be cool, but it sure is tasty...and profitable.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures(2)]
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Impossibly voluminousness hair. More neon pink than a Barbie Dream House. Sky high heels. Ever-present pasties. Makeup more flawless than a porcelain doll. These are things we expect from pop star and American Idol judge Nicki Minaj, but these things could soon become nothing more than a memory. Minaj has reportedly let her stylist and hairdresser go according to The Sun, causing us to fear her signature eccentric look will soon be a thing of the past.
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Sure, Minaj has gotten out of control on occasion, wearing ill-fitting outfits and at times eschewing fit or flattery for pomp and insanity, but recently, she's started to rein it in and find the sweet spot between looking like a doll covered in glue and rolled through a kids' playroom and looking like a sleek music industry maven. Her recent appearances on Idol have seen her with sleek hair, flawless stage makeup and unique dresses that blend her signature for over-the-top flair with a side of the real world she used to go so long without.
But, if Minaj does fire her hairdresser and stylist and go for a more serious look, things could get really run of the mill and fast. Sure, Minaj has faced more heated criticism of her eccentricities of late thanks to her vulnerable position as one of the faces of American Idol. Most recently, her commentary garnered heavy booing from the crowd in Las Vegas during Idol's sudden death eliminations, despite the fact that her commentary often matched up to seasoned Idol judge Randy Jackson. The rapper/singer has faced harsh criticisms since she stepped foot onto the Idol set, and perhaps all the backlash has her thinking. Let's just hope it has her thinking of a way to take her signature style and refine it.
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It's one thing to try to get out from under the overwhelming facade of an outrageous wardrobe and attempt to legitmize oneself, it's another to completely chuck it. Nicki has created a style all her own, and while it's not who she is in a nutshell, it's an expression of who she is. Refine it, update it, make it new, but don't let it go all together.
You're weird and wonderful, Miss Minaj. Keep letting that freak flag fly.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: FameFlyNet]
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