FilmStew’s Richard Horgan has up an amusing little piece which tweaks some of the problems facing Drillbit Taylor, Owen Wilson’s first big mainstream studio flick to open since his suicide attempt last autumn. It’s foremost a speculative goosing of the glad-handing Hollywood junket train (conforming to Wilson’s code of silence, Drillbit Taylor had no big press day), but lurking underneath is the million-dollar question: It’s one thing for an actor to be dark and troubled, and maintain the ability to project something else, but what happens when everything about that actor’s appeal flows from a sunny countenance and smirky, laissez-faire attitude?
It’s a happy birthday to The Office‘s Jenna Fischer, who turns 34 today, and probably doesn’t celebrate by watching Lollilove. It seems a bit dismissive to call a grown women cute, but that’s the nut of her appeal, since Fischer so robustly embodies the wry-perky-cool high school girl for whom guys wistfully pine when they hit their late 20s or 30s. Women may not like to hear it, but it’s the truth. Having tried in vain to hip-pocket said girl while chasing hotter (read: looser) tail in their oat-sowing days, and then subsequently having fallen out of touch with her after college, a lot of men will try to work their way back to this ideal, in either idealized or actual form — women with high-but-not-off-the-charts marks in relatability, intelligence, humor and attractiveness, and super-low maintenance requirements. Settle for the highest aggregate score, in other words. That’s Fischer. Of course, shots of her rocking out in lingerie in Blades of Glory don’t hurt, either. For some of that, click here.
The trailer for The Ruins, opening April 4 from Paramount, is online, and it looks like a matinee-level mash-up of Turistas (the travelogue elements, the latent xenophobia) and 2003’s Cabin Fever (the viral elements, the in-fighting). An R rating (which this movie has as well) and arguable “realism” presumably somewhat dented the former movie’s grosses, limiting it to only $7 million domestically in late 2006, while the same rating was seen as a big part of the latter’s insurgent, $21 million success. Here I expect it will act as more of a suppressor, necessarily excluding 14- to 16-year-olds who might otherwise drift in.
Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey (above right) and Shawn Ashmore, The Ruins is based on Scott Smith’s novel about a group of friends whose leisurely Mexican
holiday takes a turn for the worse when they head to an “ancient Mayan temple, off the beaten path,” where some long-dormant evil
stirs and presumably makes them all pay in ways other than just insincerely “friending” it on MySpace. Ensemble cardsharp flick 21 and Superhero Movie, each opening the week before, seem to have a commercial leg up on The Ruins, and with George Clooney‘s latest directorial effort, the period piece football comedy Leatherheads, opening directly against it, I don’t see a way that The Ruins makes inroads with audiences outside of its wheelhouse demographic, especially since everything other than the setting and that one, forced perspective well shot that echoes There Will Be Blood has already fled from my mind as I write this.
With respect to the movie’s dual posters, I think the first one — of a stretched-back head, with prone neck — is far and away the most effective. The second poster, an outstretched hand, is a little bit Evil Dead, but mostly just vague. For more information on the movie, click here.
The American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre presents another installment in their ongoing screening series of former Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Thomas’ favorite films, hosting Best Picture Oscar winner The Best Years of Our Lives on Wednesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. Even more relevant in these war-torn times, the 1946 epic centers on three World War II veterans who return home and struggle with the physical and emotional demands of adjusting to civilian life. Juggling multiple storylines and social issues, Academy Award-winning director William Wyler and Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland give the drama a visual weight to match its dramatic heft. Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March and Teresa Wright star.
The Aero Theatre
is located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica
information on directions and the Aero’s upcoming schedule,
phone (323) 466-FILM.
Multi-hyphenate Neil Mandt’s Last Stop for Paul is getting some major cable channel run in big city media markets, as well as some positive advance notices from Richard Roeper and other critics. In advance of its theatrical bow this weekend, Mandt submits to a brief email Q&A about his interesting indie travelogue, which chronicles an in-a-rut bathroom supplies salesman who sets off on a four-corners-of-the-world adventure to spread the ashes of a recently, suddenly deceased childhood friend.
Brent Simon: So what was the first seed for the idea of the movie?
Neil Mandt: I’ve traveled the world extensively, and my first big trip was backpacking Europe alone the summer after high school. It seemed that every trip I took left me with at least one crazy story I would tell at parties. It was only a matter of time and trips until I started to think all of these stories put together would make for an interesting movie. So I came up with the sprinkling of the ashes as the through-line and bingo, we have a movie of my crazy adventures.
BS: So I’ve seen the ads for the film all over MSNBC, which is impressive saturation for any indie. How exactly has that worked on your modest budget?
NM: When my brother and I decided to release the movie ourselves we knew we would have to find some affordable way to get the word out. As I was poking around trying to investigate all of the traditional forms of advertising, I remembered that I had seen spots on local cable for local restaurants. Time Warner is able to sell off some of the left-over inventory on the national shows. When I investigated I was shocked to learn that spots were as cheap as $1 on the Travel Channel. MSNBC was $5 in the daytime and $7 at night. Crazy!
BS: What country, or countries, presented the most logistical hurdles during production?
NM: There were many logistics that I had to deal with in making this movie. In addition to being the producer along with my brother Michael, I was the lead actor, writer, director and travel coordinator. Coordinating the travel for the people who participated in the movie as well as producing the movie was very complicated. Once we were on the road shooting, the biggest concern was to avoid getting arrested in every country. Since we were stealing shots everywhere, we were essentially breaking the law everywhere. The Acropolis in Athens was especially tight on security, and numerous signs [were] posted warning against any type of filming. We made an extra effort to be stealth there.
BS: Let’s say you’re graced with the powers of Hayden Christiansen’s character from Jumper, and you can jump around the globe effortlessly — where do you go for Last Stop for Paul that you weren’t able to go, for whatever reason?
NM: We went everywhere I wanted to go in the filming of Last Stop for Paul. There were additional countries which I considered shooting in, however, they were decided against because I knew they would just get cut out of the final product. It’s important for a comedy to move swiflty and I didn’t want to have wasted time in the movie.
BS: What’s it been like traveling to so many festivals with the movie?
NM: I am the first to admit that I am surprised (happily) that Last Stop for Paul has been such a festival success. When we finished the movie I thought it was good, however I knew I was very close to the picture. I never expected that it would connect so well with audiences. Once we started getting invited to so many festivals and then winning award after award, we started to feel very confident with the movie. Looking back at a year of having the movie at over 100 film festivals I feel very honored and appreciative of every single one of them.
Last Stop for Paul expands nationwide throughout March; for more information on the movie, click here.
A week and change ahead of its alleged trailer debut, Paramount has released a first-look photo of Tropic Thunder, currently slated for release on August 15.
Ben Stiller — who nursed the idea of a Vietnam War spoof more than decade ago, long before the incarnation of this script, co-written with Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen — rocks at least one decently sculpted bicep as spoiled action star Tugg Speedman, though one assumes his butt cheeks are clenched tightly for this shot, and that an awful lot of money was spent on Tan-On or some other skin bronzer. That’s Jack Black in the back, as gross-out comedy star Jeff Portnoy, the melanin doppleganger of man-in-the-middle Robert Downey, Jr., who plays an intense, Australian-born method actor who goes to all sorts of extremes to get into character. It’s a nice shot, though hopefully Stiller, who’s also directing, dials down the “Blue Steel” a bit. Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Matthew McConaughey and Bill Hader also star.