Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell are responsible for one of the biggest horror franchises of all-time with the 'Saw' movies. Since then, they've created yet another horror franchise as 'Insidious: Chapter 2' opens in theaters this Friday. We caught up with Wan (who also directed this summer's 'The Conjuring') and Whannell to talk about creating the follow-up and how exactly you make a scary movie even scarier.
It should have been called ‘No Homo: The Movie.’
Vin Diesel, whose entire career feels like homage to the musclebound machismo of the 1980s, has possibly reached the peak – by which I mean, nadir – of his search for the meaning of virility. ‘Riddick,’ the overdue, and largely unwanted, third installment in Diesel’s first big film series, is so full of tough-guy overcompensation that it makes the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies seem like understated character studies by comparison.
'Smurfs 2' is pretty much unbearable, but then again I am a guy with no children whose favorite 2013 so far is a toss-up between 'Stoker' and 'Only God Forgives.' To paraphrase Roger Ebert, I’m as sure of the fact that there is an audience for this sequel as I am that I’m not a member of it, but does that excuse how overmodulated and mind-obliteratingly stupid Raja Gosnell’s sequel is? It seems like it can’t. And yet, there’s a massive difference between abominable entertainment made for “everybody” and abominable entertainment made mostly for kids. All of which is why 'Smurfs 2' is the kind of terrible that almost deserves to be excused, because it’s designed to make children laugh at stupid hijinks with bright colors and broad gags rather than tell a story that anyone over the age of five hasn’t seen 5,000 times before, much less care about.
'Only God Forgives' feels like a merciless practical joke played upon followers of Nicolas Winding Refn’s career, fans of Ryan Gosling, and perhaps most of all, moviegoers who flocked to their first collaboration, 'Drive.' It has the same glossy visual sheen as its predecessor and the same sort of impenetrable main character, but it’s almost nothing like that film, unless a throughline of deeply dysfunctional relationships counts. Rather, it’s much more similar — in style and technique, anyway — to Refn’s black-metal fever dream 'Valhalla Rising,' whose cryptic but bloody-as-hell exploration of spirituality repelled the filmmaker’s budding fan base after he wowed them with the Kubrick-esque festival-circuit favorite 'Bronson.'
But the differences are not simply a deliberate effort to antagonize audiences. Instead, they serve as evidence that Refn has the potential to be one of cinema’s next great voices, if only because challenging himself creatively is just as important to him as evoking a strong reaction -- be it good or bad.
Brilliantly manic but decidedly unimposing, Charlie Day doesn’t seem like the most obvious actor to be cast in a sweeping sci-fi opus like 'Pacific Rim.' But in Guillermo del Toro’s new film, Day is perfectly cast as a fanboy scientist who is as fascinated by the gigantic monsters that are attacking humankind as he is determined to stop them. He not only serves as some much-needed comic relief in the film, but provides a human counterpoint to the monolithic heroics of his co-stars, while occasionally providing a few details that become crucial to the plot.
We sat down with Day to talk 'Pacific Rim,' where the actor discussed the challenges of squaring off against one of those megaton monsters – and revealed it was pretty easy, even when they weren’t actually there. Additionally, he talked about tackling different sorts of acting challenges, in particular his openness to take on roles that push him outside the realm of comedy that he’s already conquered.
Leave it to a foreigner to make possibly Hollywood’s most archetypical American film of 2013, 'Pacific Rim.' Although Guillermo del Toro borrowed from Japanese monster movies and anime for his basic idea, set much of the film in foreign countries, and assembled a cast of characters that more or less defines "multiethnic" and "multicultural", he celebrates the West’s great melting pot, and its heroic traditions, with his story of monsters and the giant robots that humanity builds to fight them.
Del Toro didn’t stop there, however. His latest film, also his biggest, is a remarkably humanistic odyssey, buoyed not by an affection for militaristic power, or even the triumph of individual heroism, but the uplift of humanity coming together and prevailing, geographic and political borders be damned. We caught up with him for a substantial conversation about his latest film earlier this when, during which he offered some insights into the thematic underpinnings and conceptual foundations of this terrifically straightforward summer opus.
In addition to talking about the process of constructing a pure adventure story in an era where complicated mythologies dominate the moviemaking landscape, del Toro explored the film’s deeper, recurrent themes, and offered some insights into his creative approach as he tackles a horde of projects at one time, without any certainty when – or if – they might come to fruition.
"Marky Mark and the Fun Bunch." Precisely how Maya Rudolph came to incorrectly remember the name of Mark Wahlberg’s former music group is just one of the highlights of this great interview with her and Sam Rockwell, the two stars of 'The Way, Way Back,' the directorial debut of the writing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. In the film, Rockwell and Rudolph play employees of a water park who help an awkward kid overcome some of his insecurities while he’s on vacation with his mother and her new, authoritative boyfriend. As a counterpoint to his oddly more dysfunctional domestic situation, the pair provide a stabilizing if unconventional influence on the boy, even if they aren’t quite funky.
Although his more recent work has stolen the hearts of fanboys over and over again, Chuck Roven is a remarkably unpredictable producer. All three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, not to mention 'Man of Steel', were produced under his auspices, but so was 'Twelve Monkeys.' 'City Of Angels.' 'Three Kings,' among many more. Roven is a proven commercial powerhouse whose calling card is, unlike contemporaries like Jerry Bruckheimer or Joel Silver, chameleonic understatedness. All of which underscores his suitability to tell a Superman story that razes the character’s identity and starts over from scratch, notwithstanding a few essential hallmarks.
We sat down with Roven recently to discuss 'Man Of Steel,' where he discussed the process of rescuing the last son of Krypton from a cinematic fate worse than death: the end of a franchise. In addition to talking about what needed to stay – and to go – from Superman’s considerable mythology, Roven discussed the challenges of reintroducing a known character to audiences in a new way, and reflected on what qualities his films possess in order for him to consider them successful.
Although this summer has been full of highly-anticipated blockbusters, 'Man of Steel' may be the one that has worked fans into the biggest tizzy. The long-overdue follow-up to Bryan Singer’s 'Superman Returns,' conceived as a reimagining of the character from the ground up, promises the kind of moral complexity of the last three Batman movies, while still retaining the energy and frenetic action of, well, all of the earlier Superman movies. Director Zack Snyder created a singular vision for Superman’s beginnings, rebranding the character as an outsider struggling to find his place in a world that he knows is not his own.
At the recent Los Angeles press day, we got to speak with the cast and crew of 'Man of Steel.' In addition to discussing the challenge of bringing Superman back to life, the actors talked about their physical and psychological roles within the film, while the filmmakers offered their perspective on why the character endures – and why that enduring persona had to be reinvented for a new generation.
Although the peak of his supporting-player participation came to a head in 'The Avengers,' Clark Gregg has always provided the heart and soul of many movies that otherwise lacked them. And in 'Much Ado About Nothing,' he’s the voice of outrage, the protector of a young woman’s virtue, even as a swirling ensemble of characters conspires to impugn it. Oddly, the two films share more in common than their writer-director, Joss Whedon – namely, that both utilize Gregg’s performance as a catalyst for the story to find its footing and pay off with the emotional strength that’s suggested in the text.
We sat down with Gregg at the recent Los Angeles press day for Much Ado About Nothing, where the gifted character actor talked about how he made the transition from working on one of the biggest films of all time, to one decidedly much smaller. In addition to describing the process of breaking down the language of Shakespeare’s iconic play to its most visceral elements, he offered insights into his expanding collaboration with Whedon, and revealed a few details about how his character Agent Coulson will not only be revived, but further explored in the upcoming television series 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'