Box Office Preview: Blasphemy, Pre-apocalyptic Comedy, and Pixar

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I hate to use the same reference twice, but the situation calls for it. So, it has come to this. As if “The Raven” wasn’t enough, a film about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is fully produced and coming to a theater near you. Before you ask, yes, it’s that Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence that the titular character has the same name as the sixteenth president of these United States. This may lend credence to the popular theory that Douglas Adams is not actually dead, but has gone into seclusion with a magic typewriter which allows him to write the script of reality. Mr. Adams, if you’re out there, “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”

Those of you who remember the brilliant but short-lived Showtime comedy “Party Down” might think the idea for “Vampire Hunter” arose from a joke in the episode “Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen.” Breckin Meyer wants to get Adam Scott back into acting by landing him the role of young Lincoln in a film in which Meyer’s character plays Edgar Allan Poe. The two steal an amulet from the Smithsonian, and, of course, fight vampires. As far as evidence, some Google searching shows claims that at one point, the Wikipedia page for the book on which the film is based said Seth Grahame-Smith did in fact get the idea from “Party Down.” It’s no longer there, and it’s Wikipedia, so who knows? Another question, “are we having fun yet?” No. No we are not.

I beg of you, do not see this movie, lest you lead us to such films as “George Washington: Werewolf,” “Anne Boelyn: Intergalactic Pilot,” and indeed, the end of the world. As if my pleas weren’t enough (I know how much you all love me), “AL: VH” currently sits at a 30 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s gone down every time I’ve refreshed whilst writing this post.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Speaking of the end of the world, Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in a genre bending comedy about just that. What we have here is not just a pre-apocalypse film (don’t see too many of those), but a comedy(ish) to boot. The official synopsis tells us this: “Set in a too-near future, the movie explores what people will do when humanity’s last days are at hand. As the respective journeys of Dodge and Penny converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.” Before the end of their lives, Penny wants to see her family one last time and Dodge wants to find the one that got away. Is anyone taking bets that he ends up with Penny instead?

So far reviews are mixed. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” has earned a rating of 58 on the Tomatometer. Based on the trailer, (perhaps too) much of the film’s humor derives from the idea that certain people, like cops and T.G.I. Fridays employees, would not change their lives in any way if they knew the end of days was at hand. But with it’s star-studded (sort of) cast, which includes Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, and Martin Sheen alongside stars Carell and Knightley, perhaps that number will spike and “End of the World” will surprise us all. I doubt it, but all this apocalypse talk and the mere existence of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has me in a foul mood.

Brave

Pixar has set some lofty standards for itself, so although “Brave” currently sits at a 79 on the Tomatometer, I don’t entertain any fantasies about it being the studio’s best work. In fact, it might not even be the studio’s best work in a fantasy setting with a redheaded female lead. I’m talking about Shrek people. Well the first two Shreks. Anyway, let’s turn to the synopsis:

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

What I can surmise from the trailer is that the age old custom is marriage to the eldest son of one of those “uproarious lords,” and the ill-fated wish, ironically enough, is to “change her fate.” Come on now, Merida. Everyone knows you don’t say something that vague to a witch. That’s how we end up with things like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” OK, OK, I’m done.

  

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United States of Tara 2.3 – Skating on Thin Ice

“I don’t know what Buck’s been doing over there, but it can’t be good.” So says Tara to her trusty video recorder, and, boy, she ain’t kidding. Buck’s giving pedicures…? I never thought I’d see the day. But, then, he’s also making with the sex, so it’s not like there isn’t an appropriate trade-off involved. Still, this is a strange change in dynamic for that particular alter, to say the least. And, yet, Max tells her that she’s the best she’s ever been, and he’s so happy that she can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s transitioning between personalities. Of course, it’s not like he shouldn’t have figured out that something’s up. I realize he’s diving headlong into the renovation of their recently-purchased house (formerly known as Casa de Hubbard), but this is taking obliviousness to a ridiculous degree.

Marshall and Courtney: game on…? “Yeah, that makes sense,” says Tara. “On Opposite Day!” The relationship is clearly doomed. The big question, therefore, is how long until the doom begins to kick in. Surely Courtney’s hopes aren’t but so high when it comes to the duration of her pairing-off with Marshall. It seems pretty clear that she’s a horny teenager…yeah, I know, like every teenager isn’t horny…who’s going after a cute and clearly gay guy because he’s arguably the least intimidating person at the school who’s likely to give her a chance at having sex. “Dogs in a bathtub“? Shit, I’m 39 years old, and this is the first I’ve ever heard of that phrase. There’s something very weird about watching the characters trying to get each other off while backstage at a Shakespearean production – though, of course, everyone knows that’s where all the action is – but the sexuality of the moment is defused by the humor of the moment. Between Courtney’s excitement that she’s good at giving handjobs and Marshall’s uncertainty about whether he’s “getting warm” (not to mention Courtney taking a moment of thought to consider if he was close or not), it was probably my favorite scene of the episode because you could very easily imagine it taking place in the real world.

This was an educational episode all around: I also never knew that straight women go gay because of menopause. The scene between Jackie, Charmaine, and Neighbor Ted in the bathroom was pretty funny, particularly Ted’s assertion on determining one’s sexuality (“You’ve got to get up in it!”), as was watching Jackie try to turn herself into Buck without actually transitioning, although it obviously became a far more serious scene in the end, with Pammy sobbing on Tara’s shoulder about how she never gets the guy. Was I the only one who was completely blindsided by Pammy’s decision to hijack the P.A. system and declare her undying love for both Buck and Tara? Also, I haven’t been ice skating in years, but is it really possible that the music they play at the rink hasn’t changed in two and a half decades, or is this just wishful thinking on Diablo Cody’s part?

So Linda’s check bounced. What a shock. She wouldn’t have been on the collection agency’s hot list if she was the kind of person who’d just stroke a check every time someone came looking for payment. I don’t know that there’s any more to the character of Ricky the Trustifarian than a great name and a source for weed, but, seriously, the name is awesome. It’s a strange relationship developing between the two of them, a kindred-spirits sort of thing…or is it more? Either way, it was totally worth it to see Kate in the Princess Valhalla outfit.

Patton Oswalt’s back! I loved Max’s assurance that, even with Charmaine kicking him to the curb, there are still lots of lovely ladies on eHarmony.com just waiting for a shot at him. It was pretty tragic to see his face when he realized that she was engaged, but it still didn’t tarnish that incredibly funny groan he offered up to get her attention when she first walked in. The fact that Charmaine could barely be bothered to stop ogling her ring and considering an upgrade long enough to feel bad about how she’d made Neil feel…man, that just felt cruel. I say again: she’s totally going to fuck things up long before the wedding day arrives.

So Pammy’s declared her love before God, country, and the patrons of the Paul Bunyan Skating Rink, Max is so pissed off that he’s kicking the living shit out of Sully outside his kid’s birthday party (and, to be fair, it’s a well-deserved shit-kicking), and as soon as we got the shot of Tara not knowing whether to go into the “Ladies” or “Gentlemen” restroom, I knew we’d be seeing Buck within moments. I guess we’re shaping up for next week to find Buck crashing with Pammy, Max hanging loose in the old Hubbard house, and the kids fending for themselves. Good times.

Random moments of bliss:

* Kate’s suggestion for a new organization: Adult Children of Moms You’d Like To Fuck.

* Charmaine’s delivery of the line, “Her name was Gretchen, and she was very proud of her vagina.”

* The shot which established that Tara and Bartender Babe had been to Fun World together…and if you saw the episode, then you know that’s not some sort of euphemism.

* Marshall’s soon-to-be-reversed declaration that “I’m not into weed; it makes me like action movies.”

  

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Weirdly enough

It’s apparently been making the rounds all day but, while being derided for my lack of expertise in American mainstream cinema of the 1980s, I have just learned that Funny or Die has a trailer up for one biopic of a pop music legend I’d definitely pay to see. And with a cast that includes Aaron Paul, Olivia Wilde, Gary Cole, Academy Award™ winner Mary Steenburgen, and Patton Oswalt, in the role he was born to play — Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” has nothing on this guy — you know you’re in for a memorably powerful, and powerfully memorable, film-going experience.

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” from Aaron Paul
  

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2009: A Year’s Worth of Interviews – The Top 100 Quotes

Some people think that the life of a work-at-home entertainment writer is one of the most lax jobs out there, since the perception is generally is that all you do is sit around and watch DVDs, occasionally venture out of the house to see movies or concerts, and then sit in front of the computer and write about them. Okay, it’s a fair cop. But when you throw interviews into the mix, there’s a bit more work involved. First, you’ve got to get the interview (they aren’t always handed to you on a silver platter), then you’ve got to do the research to make sure that you can ask some halfway knowledgeable questions, and after you conduct the interview, let’s not forget that you’ve got to transcribe it, too. In other words, yes, there really is work involved…and when I went back and discovered that I’d done well over 130 interviews during the course of 2009, I suddenly realized why I’m so tired all the time.

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve pulled together a list of 100 of my favorite quotes from the various interviews I conducted for Premium Hollywood, Bullz-Eye, Popdose, and The Virginian-Pilot this year, along with the links to the original pieces where available. As you can see, I had some extremely interesting conversations in 2009. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that I’m able to chat with just as many fascinating individuals in 2010…

1. Pamela Adlon: “In the first season (of ‘Californication’), when we had the threesome with the nipple clamps, I was, like, ‘I don’t get this, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.’ And then, all of a sudden, there’s a crane with a camera hanging over our heads, and you’re, like, ‘Okayyyyyyy. But how are you gonna sell this? How are you gonna make it work?’ And they ended up shooting it brilliantly, cutting it together, and it just all ended up working without me having to compromise my own personal morals.”

2. Jonathan Ames: “After my first novel, my mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you make your writing more funny? You’re so funny in person.’ Because my first novel was rather dark. And I don’t know, but something about what she said was true. ‘Yes, why don’t I?’ Maybe I was afraid to be funny in the writing. But since then, seven books later, almost everything I’ve done has a comedic edge to it.”

3. Ed Asner: “I loved journalism until the day my journalism teacher, a man I revered, came by my desk and said, ‘Are you planning on going into journalism?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘You can’t make a living.’”

4. Sean Astin: “When somebody brings up a movie (of mine) that I haven’t heard about in a long time, I feel like a 70-year-old pitcher at a bar somewhere, and somebody walks in and says, ‘Oh, my God, I was in St. Louis and I saw you. You pitched a shutout.’ It’s real. I really did do that, because someone today remembers it.”

5. Darryl Bell: “The legend of ‘Homeboys in Outer Space’ has become much more incendiary than the actual show. It’s funny how I usually challenge most people who talk about how much they disliked ‘Homeboys’ to name me five episodes. Most of them can’t, because they just bought into the ‘oh, it’s awful, just the title. Oh, it’s terrible.’ What’s interesting is that I had a great conversation with Chi McBride, who was doing ‘The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,’ which, if you want to talk about in terms of the imagery of what was wrong, that show was much more infamous than ‘Homeboys.’ Yet it’s not remembered in the same way because the title didn’t grab you in the same way. I remember Chi pulled me aside and he was, like, ‘Look, everyone who is criticizing what you’re doing would take your job from you in two seconds. All of them. So all I can tell you is that this is one blip on both of our careers, and we are moving on.’”

6. Adam Campbell: “For some reason, people always pick on the British sensibility, and we always come across as stupid, but remember: we used to run this country!”

7. Nestor Carbonell: “Let me make this perfectly clear: I do not wear make-up, and I do not wear eye-liner. This is something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. I remember I was in college in Boston, I had a commercial agent, and they sent me out for some print commercial stuff. And they called me into the office and said, ‘Look, we called you in to talk to you because we just want you to know that…well, we don’t think you need to wear eyeliner.’ And I’m, like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, it’s okay, you don’t have to wear it for print ads.’ ‘No, I’m not wearing eyeliner!’ And I kept dabbing my eyes and saying, ‘Look! No eyeliner! I’m not wearing any!’”

8. Elaine Cassidy: “The last two days of shooting (‘Harper’s Island’) was probably the most hardcore, the coldest anyone has ever been. It was like your head was freezing, and my motivation for most scenes was, ‘The minute this scene is over, I’m heading straight over to that heater to get warm.’”

9. Chris Cornell: “I started as a drummer, so I sort of took on singing duties by default. I had sung backgrounds and some lead vocals from behind the drums in different bands that I’d been in, and I’d gotten great responses for the songs I would sing. I really started pursuing the possibility of being a lead singer based on the fact that I was working a full-time restaurant job and then playing gigs at night, hauling drums around. One day, it just dawned on me that, ‘Hey, I could be in a band and be the singer, and it would be a lot easier!’”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Patton Oswalt talks “Big Fan,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Dollhouse,” and more

In the past several years Patton Oswalt has plotted an admirable career arc, going from being “that guy on ‘The King of Queens'” to the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille” to a progressively more well-known stand-up comedian. His hot streak continues this month with the theatrical release of the positively reviewed “Big Fan” and his latest comedy CD, My Weakness Is Strong — all of which means now is a pretty great time for Bullz-Eye’s Will Harris to have a chat with Mr. Oswalt.

“Big Fan” was naturally a main point of discussion, and Oswalt opened up about taking on a dramatic role after spending so long building his comedy chops, saying:

A lot of my instincts as an actor, I had to kind of sit on (during ‘Big Fan’). Like, my instinct was, ‘I need to end this scene with a funny look or a button of some sort,’ and I couldn’t do that. So that was certainly odd for me to not have that resource in this role, but…it was kind of cool to be in that situation for once in my career, where I’m just totally outside of my comfort zone. I mean, unbelievably outside of my comfort zone. It was kind of thrilling.

But don’t worry — Oswalt isn’t abandoning his funny side. In fact, as he discusses in the interview, his standup is evolving as he gets older, something illustrated on My Weakness Is Strong:

I think most comedians go through that, where you have to change or evolve. You don’t want to just keep doing variations on the same themes. And, besides, it would look kinda creepy for a guy my age to be doing stuff that, like, a 20-year-old would do. ‘Yeah, this is bullshit!’ It’s, like, ‘Really? You don’t have bigger concerns at this point in your life?’

To read more of the interview — including some of the performances Patton feels never got the attention they deserved, favorite unheralded films, and what it was like to work on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” — click on the image above or follow this link!

  

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