A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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A chat with Greg Nicotero, make-up and effects wizard of “The Walking Dead”

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With 124 make-up credits and 64 effects credits to his name so far, Greg Nicotero is one of the busiest and most respected make-up and effects professionals in Hollywood. Originally inspired to take up special effects after seeing “Jaws,” he broke into the business working for the legendary gore-effects maestro Tom Savini on zombie-master George Romero’s 1985 splatter opus, “Day of the Dead. ”

A few years later, Nicotero had decamped from Romero’s Pittsburgh’s to show-biz’s Los Angeles and formed the multi-award winning KNB Efx Group with friends Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger. Aside from his intimate involvement in such effects heavy films as “Sin City,” “Kill Bill,” “Minority Report,” “Serenity,” “Spiderman 3” and, yes, “Ray,” Nicotero has also branched out into directing, helming the second unit on Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” and making his own short subject, a funny and endearing homage to several generations of classic movie monsters, “United Monster Talent Agency.”

When I met with Nicotero and last Summer’s Comic-Con, however, it was to promote the already highly buzzed new AMC series, “The Walking Dead,” which reunites Nicotero with writer-director Darabont in an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning comic book series. Premiering Halloween night, the show will be taking a more dramatic look at the cannibal zombie mythos originally created by George Romero in his 1968 “Night of the Living Dead,” combining slow-moving zombies with the kind of in-depth characterization and complex yarn-spinning that’s making the onetime “vast wasteland” of television into something more like the last refuge of classical storytelling.

There’s only one problem. I’m kind of scared to actually watch the thing. You see, much as I admire the craft of someone like Greg Nicotero, I’m not exactly the usual gorehound media-fan for whom the more, and more realistic, cinematic gore he can create, the better. There was no point in hiding it.

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If it’s Tuesday night, it must be movie odds and ends

* This year’s Oscar producers have been named: choreographer turned critically-hated film director turned “Hairspray” wunderkind Adam Shankman and industry mainstay Bill Mechanic. Nikki Finke is happy and, really, isn’t that all that matters? That’s not the only gig for Shankman, who will also be directing the film version of the eighties-centric hair-band musical “Rock of Ages.” I’ve run across one or two hair bands I don’t completely hate, but this does not excite me. The period juke box musical I’m waiting for features Elvis Costello, the Clash, X, and maybe some early Ben Folds. I’ll call mine “Clubland.”

* Anne Thompson rakes the muck on the Hollywood Film Festival. Fascinating. I have my doubts about L.A. ever getting a really world-class festival, and this one sure doesn’t seem to be helping.

Zombieland with Jesse Eisenberg* I caught up with “Zombieland” last night and managed not to become overly upset at the gore. (I have this whole issue with excess blood and ick, yet also like the kind of stuff that sometimes features excess blood and ick — it’s a conflict.) Still, I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand why people enjoy being disgusted. I find being disgusted disgusting.

Otherwise, it was nicely paced, slightly poignant, and very funny, thanks to a nice and cleverly profane dialogue, decent writing, and a good cast. Unlike Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, however, I found the movie enjoyable but a little thin, especially during the second half. Some of the most ballyhooed aspects (the superstar cameo, which Dave didn’t love either) were less hilarious than I expected, however. I’m surprised we haven’t heard about a sequel yet as in some ways plays more like a well-produced TV pilot than anything else.

* Not that he hasn’t earned the right to be astonishingly wealthy as much as any human can, but how rich must Steven Spielberg be? I mean, if someone owed you a few hundred million bucks would you be all, like, “ah, that’s okay — you can wait until 2017. Just give me a 5.25% share of your income. I’ll be cool.” And, according to La Finke, the language of the contract refers to him as “Steven.” I know Hollywood loves first names, but it’s a contract. Aren’t those supposed to be formal?

* It’s not really movie news at this point, but speaking of musicals this musical lover never asked for, the Bono/Edge Spiderman musical directed by Julie Taymor continues to gasp. Personally, I’ve had my curiosity about a “Spiderman” musical sated already. Much as I love cocktail lounges and the song “Fever,” this was not a high point.

  

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