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Joel

The Truth About MONEYBALL

The Truth About MONEYBALL 570 350 Joel

Artistic license is that great big blanket that suffocates the truth. It’s why the carefully crafted history of comic book characters can be tossed to the dirt, why Commodus dies in the center of the arena in GLADIATOR, and not his bath. Artistic license allowed Salieri to live on as a villain (AMADEUS), the literal whitewash in 21, and the upside down depiction of the “Hurricane” Carter/Giardello fight.

We accept these inaccuracies in the name of story telling, in the name of entertainment, and in some sad cases we accept them as the new truth.

MONEYBALL is a great movie, a certified box office hit taking in $20.6 million on its opening weekend, and a fantastic representation of Major League Baseball in the early aughts but it is not a documentary and it is not guided by authenticity.

Shot with an eye toward physical realism but ahead for lost details; MONEYBALL is an adaptation of a book that had a clear stance, an adaptation that takes that stance and tries to bolster it with a revisionist view of history that diminishes a truly fascinating story.

The Scene

MONEYBALL needed a villain, someone to embody the very real, very hostile hatred of sabermetrics and the “new way” that people like Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) were eager to usher in. Grady Fuson, a long time scout and baseball executive fills that role for Director Benett Miller; but was Fuson really fired at the beginning of the 2002 season after a heated shout & shove with Billy Beane?

The Truth

Fuson is not a gigantic fan of sabermetrics but he also wasn’t an ornery, insubordinate, old fogy and he was never fired by the Oakland A’s. In fact Fuson was re-hired by Beane and the A’s last year following stops with the San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers, whom he had voluntarily left the A’s for following the 2001 season.

The Scene

Billy Beane flies to Cleveland to discuss a trade for a pitcher. Once there he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who tells him all about this amazing new way of building a baseball team on a shoestring budget.

The Truth

Jonah Hill is outstanding as Billy Beane’s portly and bookish co-conspirator but Brand is in actuality not a real person, standing in for Paul DePodesta who asked that his name not appear in the film (though it does in the book).

DePodesta did work for the Indians before he worked for the A’s but he actually worked under John Hart (not Mark Shapiro) and he was hired (not bought) by the A’s following the 1999 season, allowing him to work alongside Fuson, and Billy Beane as they built the 2000 and 2001 A’s. DePodesta is also a rail thin, former college baseball player, and a scout; not simply a numbers geek who figured out a secret formula that could judge talent on statistics alone.

As for the trip to Cleveland: No General Manager flies half way across the country to discuss a trade for a spare part, especially not in the era of cell phones and email. That said it is a splendid scene that sets up the rest of the film.

The Scene

The Oakland A’s are a powerhouse thanks in large part to the contribution of three now departed superstars: Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen. Crippled by these losses the team goes out and shocks the world by bringing in a rag tag group of spare pieces that lead them to almost victory.

The Truth

The 2001 A’s were blessed with five other key players: Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Eric Chavez, and Miguel Tejada, who remained with the team in 2002 (and beyond). These young players, and their continued maturity, not Scott Hatterberg, David Justice, and Chad Bradford, were the primary cause of the A’s continued success despite the fact that they were barely mentioned in the film and the book.

What about the MONEYBALL “All Stars“? Well Justice was a washout who did just a bit better than the gallery of scouts in MONEYBALL had said he would. Bradford, whose “knuckles to the dirt” submarine delivery was captured perfectly, actually made his debut with the A’s in 2001 and was a highly effective though only moderately used relief pitcher that year. Jeremy Giambi was also already a part of the A’s roster before the 2002 season.

As for Scott Hatterberg (Chris Pratt), aka the underdog hero of the piece? Beane didn’t go to his house to personally offer him a contract and Hatterberg was a solid contributor for the entire season playing in 136 of the teams 162 games, not a bench player who turns into Roy Hobbs. Hatterberg is now a scout for the A’s (yes they do have scouts, not a super computer and various objects for Billy Beane to throw when he is angry).

The book prominently mentions many of the A’s 2002 Draft picks like Nick Swisher and Mark Teahen but they do not feature in the film (with the exception of Jeremy Brown). MONEYBALL writer Michael Lewis has said that he will likely follow up with those players for a companion book.

“I spent ‘02, ‘03, ‘04, and some of ‘05 running around the minor leagues and watching their careers start” said Lewis, “Then I put it to one side, because I realized I couldn’t write this book until their careers were done.”

“I may get back to it very soon. In the next month or two. I may re-enter all these people’s lives,” Lewis added.

The Scene

Infuriated by Jeremy Giambi’s celebratory antics following another loss and Manager Art Howe’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) refusal to play Hatterberg, Billy Beane decides to trade Giambi and Pena to send a message and force Howe to play Hatterberg.

The Truth

Howe, like Fuson is made into a comic book villain, standing in the way of Billy Beane’s forward thinking. As I already established, Hatterberg was a regular contributor and has said that Howe “was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice”. So how about that day or whirlwind trades where we see Beane move players like poker chips?

Giambi was traded to the Phillies for John Mabry but that move happened about a month and a half prior to Carlos Pena’s trade to the Tigers. No one had to pay to stock the A’s vending machine for 3 years as the A’s never charged their players for soda.

So did Billy Beane really trade a future All-Star to piss off Art Howe (despite the fact that most characterize Howe as a nice guy)? Not exactly. The truth is, that while Pena did turn into an All-Star with more than 250 home runs, he was hitting only .218 when the A’s traded him and it took him another 4 ½ seasons and 4 organizations to realize his full potential.

As for the trade: it was no small deal, moving Pena and 6 others between the A’s, Tigers, and Yankees and blessing the A’s with a young starting pitcher and more importantly $600,000 which Beane jokingly referred to as “My brokerage fee”.

The Scene

Through flashbacks we see a young Billy Beane choosing what will become a disappointing pro baseball career over a scholarship to Stanford thanks to the assurances of a scout. The writers (Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, and Stan Chervin) lead us to believe that Beane has a lifelong distaste for scouts and the lying lies that they tell because of this, verbalizing, or ramming that notion down our throats when Fuson says as much to Beane pre-firing.

The Truth

Billy Beane was an awful major leaguer but after he retired he became a scout and still surrounds himself with many of the same people that were with the A’s a decade ago. Beane’s adoption of the MONEYBALL way was always about finding a new way to win within a tight budget, same as his move to stockpile compensation draft picks (a notable part of the book left out of the film) and draft high school pitchers. Not an assault on scouting but a new, better way to do it. A way that most teams have at least partially adopted despite the ever present detractors.

While MONEYBALL deftly displays the rift between baseball’s old school and new school it fails to accurately portray many of the events and people surrounding the fight in the name of simplification.

In the film Beane’s character says “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” but I’d argue that it is incredibly easy when you wash away some of the hard edges of a true story.

The question is: does making MONEYBALL accessible to the masses lessen its greatness and diminish the ballad of Billy Beane‘s quixotic journey?

REVIEW – MONEYBALL

REVIEW – MONEYBALL 565 312 Joel

MONEYBALL
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt

Not every movie has to be an Oscar darling. Sometimes a picture can be successful just by achieving its goals and telling its story well. MONEYBALL is one of those movies. It’s not going to be a Best Picture winner but that doesn’t deny its greatness.

MONEYBALL is the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his attempt to change the game. One year after a painful loss to The Yankees, Beane is looking for a new path to victory. His minimal team budget can’t compete with the big boys in New York or Boston so Beane is hoping to do a lot more with a lot less. When he meets numbers cruncher Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Beane finds his new way. Brand is an economics major who truly understands the numbers of baseball. With Brand’s advice and analysis, Beane decides to invest his slim budget in the players other teams don’t want. Brand describes these athletes as “the island of misfit toys”. They consist of unorthodox, unattractive and past-their-prime guys. But they can hit the ball and make runs and that’s all that matters. They are Beane’s only hope. They’re his last hope.

MONEYBALL is an underdog story set against the backdrop of major league baseball. However, there’s a lot of talk about numbers and strategy in the film and that’s one of its strongest aspects. A brilliant scene with Beane trying to sell and buy players flows magically, Brand’s description of his method feels natural and enticing, chart after chart of RBI and hit percentages aren’t boring but engaging.

But it’s not only the inside baseball business that plays well in MONEYBALL. Several strong performances from Pitt, Hill, Hoffman and Pratt elevate the material and give you more of a reason to give a damn about the characters. Pitt especially delivers, playing Beane with brilliant, charming leading man quality. He makes some fabulous choices with the character. Instead of portraying Beane as an angry, unhinged guy, he plays him an exhausted, desperate and somewhat flippant employee out of money and ideas. When he’s trying to sell his new method of baseball, he’s doing it because it’s all he’s got, he’s at the end of his rope. There are several scenes when Beane is trying to convince the old timers that Brand’s path is the way to a championship. His demeanor, body language and overall attitude are pitch perfect. Anyone who has ever been sick of losing will relate with Beane. This is Pitt at his best.

There are a minor missteps in MONEYBALL. I feel like the film was this close to exploring some very fascinating character elements. Beane was a promising baseball player before his career fell apart. This collapse leads him to hate and fear failure. While this part of his personality is touched upon, I feel as though there is a little missing. We get to spend time with Beane and his adorable daughter (Kerris Dorsey) but these scenes don’t illuminate Beane aside from showing him as a good dad. More time devoted to Beane’s fear of rejection and failure would have been time well spent. As for Brand, we don’t get to know him at all. I wondered about him, about his love of baseball and his decision to enter the sport after studying economics at Yale. While exploring him would have added several extra minutes to the film I think it would have been fascinating.

But there’s little to complain about with MONEYBALL. The movie performs flawlessly, like a prime baseball team coached to perfection. There’s a solid script, a wonderful plot, terrific performances and direction that doesn’t overwhelm the story. And it’s an underdog story, one that everyone can get behind and cheer for. MONEYBALL isn’t the movie of the year, it isn’t this year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but it’s a damn fine film.

The Story of That Badass Scorpion Jacket From DRIVE

The Story of That Badass Scorpion Jacket From DRIVE 576 324 Joel

Many of you caught DRIVE over the weekend.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  Since the film only came in at number three at the box office, not enough of you saw the thrilling neo-noir last weekend.  For those of you awesome folk who did, you were treated to seeing not only some amazing acting, stunts, and sound design, but also some genius costume design. 

Ryan Gosling’s character of little words, shows more of personality and panache through his clothing choices.  As many of cinephiles know, costume design is an integral part of character expression- especially in this layered film.  Throughout most of the movie, Driver wears an iconic satin scorpion jacket – a jacket whose metaphor is not lost on the viewer.  He can be both soft and quite paralyzing if crossed the wrong way.  The logo itself is a reference to one of the first music videos ever made by Kenneth Anger called Scorpio Rising. We even asked Gosling about the jacket when we sat down to talk to him about the film.  Turns out, Gosling wasn’t just joking around with us when he said he “made the jacket.”

According to Gosling – who was on Conan O’Brien’s show the other night promoting the film- there was always a reason the jacket had to be iconic.

“I always wanted to make a character that people would go out for on Halloween and so I’m really crossing my fingers on this one,” revealed the actor before he gifted O’Brien with his own, brown version.

DRIVE’s costume designer, Erin Benach, recently revealed that the actor was very involved in the jacket’s design.

Ryan had been really inspired by these 1950s Korean souvenir jackets,” Benach told Grantland. “He had bought one on his own and was wearing it around. … So we built it piece by piece. We knew the collar had to be able to pop up, we wanted the knit around the wrists and waist to be 100 percent wool as opposed to stretchy nylon. We wanted every element to be perfect. We went through 15 or 20 iterations until we got it right. Which was down to the wire — about an hour before shooting!”

Benach also revealed that when all was said and done, there were 13 versions of the fashion piece made for the star during filming. And, fans of the jacket may not have to wait very long to own their own version.

“You just might be able to find them online soon,” teased Benach.

Hey, Girl. We can only dream.  If you haven’t yet, go see DRIVE – now playing at a theater near you.

INTERVIEW: The Mind of Jane Espenson

INTERVIEW: The Mind of Jane Espenson 584 404 Joel

If you have watched a TV show in the last 15 years it’s likely that Jane Espenson has been related to it in some way–the Kevin Bacon of writers, connectable to most actors, writers directors, and shows by her extensive resume. Espenson is more than prolific though, standing as a trailblazer for female writers, and a beacon of quality in a TV world that consistently seems to devalue it.

Truly interactive at a time when that virtue can be easily faked, Espenson agreed to this extensive interview about TORCHWOOD, her new web-series HUSBANDS (premiering September 13th), the fairytale drama ONCE UPON A TIME (premiering October 23rd on ABC), and her extensive career.

In the interview we touch on issues ranging from televisions cowardice regarding same sex intimacy (my words), and the difference between fantastical and reality based story telling. We also address such burning questions as which Avenger Joss Whedon will kill, and who is the bigger bad-ass: Buffy, Starbuck, Echo, or Gwen Cooper?

As the season draws to a close, what has been the most satisfying part of working with Russell T. Davies and the rest of the TORCHWOOD crew?

JE: I think that question answers itself – working with Russell T. Davies has been the best part of working with Russell T. Davies. I already like that part of my job is helping someone else realize their vision. And Russell makes that task even better by being so effusive when one of us gets it right. It isn’t that he’s easily satisfied, exactly – he can be very exacting. It’s just that he notices the thing you did get right in a scene and praises it, even as he points out the thing that needs fixing. He’s this big tall guy shouting HOORAY at me and I can’t get enough of it! I adore him!

There is a scene in the TORCHWOOD episode “Immortal Sins” where Gwen and Jack make it known to each other how far they will go to protect what they value most–That scene can’t be written by someone who doesn’t fully understand the history of TORCHWOOD and specifically those two characters. How do you capture a previously established voice so well?

JE: Well, I watched all the previously existing TORCHWOOD episodes, and I rewrote that Gwen/Jack car material over and over at Russell’s direction. He didn’t tell me exactly what he thought they’d be feeling, but he just kept telling me to go deeper. It was a great note. And, interestingly, I think it might’ve helped me that I hadn’t been writing them from the start, because Jack’s mortality made him a bit of a different guy in these scenes – we’d never seen him fighting so hard for his own life before. To see him with a horse in the mortality horse race was something new and one of the things that changed from draft to draft was realizing that I had to make him fight harder. Which meant she had to come back harder. The first draft of that script was much more about sadness, and every draft got angrier and craftier, and then it kind of earns the sadness at the end because they’re so damn exhausted from all the anger. Russell let me take the time to find those scenes. I wrote them; but I couldn’t have written them without Russell.

Would you consider coming back to TORCHWOOD if the show is renewed for a 5th season? A follow-up: if the unthinkable happens and TORCHWOOD isn’t renewed, can you see it living on as a comic book like BUFFY?

JE: I would go anywhere with Russell. If he does more TORCHWOOD, I would do it in an instant. I would also go anywhere with Joss, obviously, and will be doing more BUFFY comic book work. And if TORCHWOOD lived on with a comic, I would do that, too. I think TORCHWOOD would lend itself very well to that, actually. Joss has been great at finding BUFFY stories that would’ve been impossible to film, and that took the series forward – I can see Russell doing the same with TORCHWOOD. I have no idea if he would want to, but I think it would be very do-able.

Any chance you’ll also write for the ANGEL AND FAITH comic?

JE: I don’t have any plans to write for Angel and Faith, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

How did HUSBANDS come to be and when did you decide, “I shall rule the interweb with this”?

JE: Ha! It came to be because of my co-writer Cheeks (Brad Bell). He’s a talented performer and I’d seen his videos on YouTube. I was interested in writing for him and that sort of turned into writing with him. We came up with the idea for HUSBANDS together – let’s do a newlywed comedy with two guys – oh, and let’s say they got married before they meant to. And then we just really wanted to make it happen. It didn’t seem like something we could take directly to television, and Cheeks had experience with making things for the web, so we just decided to go for it, to make it the way we saw it in our heads. We brought in Jeff Greenstein to direct it and help us produce it, and the three of us went forward as a team. If people like it online, perhaps it’ll make the jump to TV, or perhaps it will continue online, or not – who knows? For me, it’s very satisfying just to look at this thing we made and say, yes, that’s what I wanted.

There are other shows that get lauded for the fact that they prominently feature openly gay characters and yet we see them hide from actual same-sex intimacy. You’ve said that HUSBANDS is “ready for television, but television is not ready for it”. Is Husbands built to change that?

JE: Television may have changed since I said that. TV executives can be pretty good at reading the public and I’m seeing signs that they may be readier now. We certainly hoped that HUSBANDS would help bring about that change by demonstrating that there is an audience for this kind of story. But if that change is already happening, then that’s even better!

Do you think it’s a disservice to the story when the choice is made to avoid intimacy and a full portrayal of a same-sex relationship? I mean, going back to TORCHWOOD and “Immortal Sins“, if we hadn’t seen Jack fall so fully in love with Angelo wouldn’t that have limited our understanding of how deeply affected Jack was by his betrayal?

JE: Yes, certainly, it was always our intention that we had to make the audience sense the love between them, and that we wouldn’t skip over anything that you wouldn’t normally skip over in a love story. But I actually think the even more revolutionary thing happened in episode three, “Dead of Night,” in which we saw a male-male sex scene inter-cut with a male-female one. That’s an implicit statement of equality that’s pretty hard to miss.

Many know Alessandra Torresani as Zoe Greystone on CAPRICA. She’s just a teensy bit different in HUSBANDS. Is that how the character is written, or is there room for input and improvisation?

JE: Oh, Haley is written very differently than Zoe. Alessandra contributed a huge amount in terms of insight and physicality and commitment, but the lines mostly remained as Cheeks and I wrote them. Alessandra really is a madcap 1930s comedy blonde with no filter and a giant sense of humor, so this part is great for her. I hope people see what a comedy natural she is as a result of this part.

You’re involved with ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC. From what I’ve seen that’s a show that will look to tell a story with some rather big and fantastical elements whereas HUSBANDS is grounded in reality. Do you prefer one type of storytelling over the other?

JE: That’s a fascinating way to look at it. I think most people would characterize it the other way – ONCE is an hour with as many dark elements as it has light ones, while HUSBANDS is a half-hour comedy soufflé. But I think your point is valid, too. ONCE has scenes set in a literally fictional world, while HUSBANDS is set in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I love writing all of it – one of the things I’ve been fortunate to be able to do in my career is to vary the genres I write for. I’ve written for comedies like ELLEN and DINOSAURS and ANDY BARKER PI, and for light dramas like THE O.C. and GILMORE GIRLS and for sci-fi and fantasy shows like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and BUFFY and TORCHWOOD. HUSBANDS and ONCE both represent chances to try something new.

Tell us a little more about Once Upon a Time. How did you come to be involved with that, and what kind of stories do you want to tell in that world?

JE: I’m Consulting Producer now at Once Upon a Time and I’m loving it. The guys who created it and are running it — Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, come from Lost and they’re very smart guys. They happened to be Buffy fans and they brought me in to look at their pilot and meet.  I loved what I saw and was very happy to be involved. Technically, I’m part time, but I’ve found it hard to stay away. We’re writing really unusual and complex and funny and dark stories using iconic fairy tale characters. When do you really get to talk seriously about Snow White? I think it might be huge.

Do you prefer working on a show from the beginning or joining an established show midstream?

JE: They both have their upsides, but new shows are so often difficult because they take a while to find their feet. It’s exciting, but it can be stressful.

You’ve worked on some brilliant shows that never found the success they deserved; is there one you miss most as a fan?

JE: As a viewer I miss ANDY BARKER PI, the last Andy Richter half-hour. I loved that show. It was very funny and very smart and had the most amazingly high-powered writing room. I think it deserved more. And there was a lot more life left in two space-based shows I’ve written for: FIREFLY and BATTLESTAR. As a fan and as a writer I mourn those both.

Many of your contemporaries and former colleagues have explored film, most recently Marti Noxon with FRIGHT NIGHT; do you have a desire to tackle that medium as well?

JE: I think I would love doing punch-up on features. Just pitching jokes in the last phase before filming. And with the right project I might want to write a screenplay, but it’s not high on my list of things-I’m-burning-to-do. I like smaller scale things – in fact, the smaller it is, I might like it better. I really liked working on HUSBANDS because I could grok the whole thing and could help control it. On a feature the writer seldom has much control.

If you were Joss which Avenger would you kill?

JE: Oh boy, I’m not going to second-guess Joss.

Bigger badass: Buffy, Gwen Cooper, Starbuck, or Echo?

JE: That’s tough. Buffy’s got magic-strength which would kick the butts of the other three. But… hm…Gwen has righteous Welsh anger. Ultimately, though, I’m going to go with Starbuck. Buffy would beat her in a one-on-one fight, but Starbuck would never ever ever give up, even in the face of that certain knowledge, and I think that might make her a badder ass. But on any given day, the math may work out differently.

What’s your favorite question, “Will there be a sequel to SERENITY” or “What do you think of the Joss-less BUFFY reboot”?

JE: Ha – I actually don’t get asked the first one that much. I get the second one a lot. Right now, they’re both being beaten by “Will there be more TORCHWOOD?”

TRAILER: Fall in Love with Jane Espenson’s HUSBANDS

TRAILER: Fall in Love with Jane Espenson’s HUSBANDS 570 359 Joel

At the end of the day, one square may be as good as the other and the creators of HUSBANDS, Jane Espenson (BUFFY) and Brad “Cheeks” Bell seem more dedicated to do something right than do it big; refusing to take the concept to TV. Instead the pair kept control–choosing to write, produce, and self finance the soon to be released web-series on their own.

Starring Bell, Sean Hemeon, and CAPRICA actress Alessandra Torresani, the show, which is billed as a “Marriage Equality Comedy” strives to be a classic newlywed sitcom with a few interesting twists.

HUSBANDS premiers on September 13 on HusbandsTheSeries.com, until then check out the clip below and the official trailer. You can also sign up to join #TeamHusbands on the website and receive a daily email up until the premier with a special clip and other exclusive content.

To hear more about HUSBANDS, TORCHWOOD, and much, much, much more check back Friday for my extensive interview with the great and powerful Jane Espenson.

INTERVIEW: Ryan Gosling Talks DRIVE,That Infamous Street Fight, and Why We Can Thank REO Speedwagon

INTERVIEW: Ryan Gosling Talks DRIVE,That Infamous Street Fight, and Why We Can Thank REO Speedwagon 560 341 Joel

In recent years, very few movies have come along that make you feel like you’re part of the action. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE is one of them. After seeing the film, it comes as no shock that he won the Best Director award at the Cannes film festival this year. It’s an adrenaline rush and a privilege being a passenger in our stoic protagonist’s car. Being a man of very few words, Driver’s actions speak volumes in this new neo-noir thriller.

Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling for his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). After a heist intended to pay off Standard’s protection money spins unpredictably out of control, Driver finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). But when he realizes that the gangsters are after more than the bag of cash in his trunk – they’re coming straight for Irene and her son – Driver is forced to shift gears and go on offense.

How the script attracted Gosling goes all the way back to his formative years:

“My personal feelings about the script were two things: I always wanted to see a violent John Hughes movie. I thought if PRETTY IN PINK had a head smashing, it would be perfect. On top of that, when I was a kid and I saw FIRST BLOOD, it put a spell on me that I thought I was Rambo. I went to school the next day with my Fischer-Price Houdini kit filled with steak knives and I threw it at all the kids at recess. I got suspended, as I should have been, and I’m sorry. My parents then put a leash on me and said ‘this kid can’t watch movies because they put a spell on him.’ I could only watch Bible movies, National Geographic movies and Abbot & Costello – even though all those kinds of movies are violent. When I read this script, and I was looking at the character acting like a maniac, I thought ‘this is a guy who’s seen too many movies.’ Because he was a stuntman, it seemed we could go deeper into that idea – that he had seen too many films and had basically become the hero of the movie of his life.”

So the search for a director with a similar vision began. Producer Marc Platt, who had been the one to give Gosling the script, wanted to produce the film with him as well.

“He said I could have any director I wanted and he’d support it. I had to find the right director.”

How the visionary Refn came to be attached to DRIVE, an adaptation of the James Sallis pulp novel, was based purely on the power of his previous works and the audience reaction they elicited:

“His films are deeply rooted in mythology. They feel like fairytales. And I felt like this should be a fairytale since it’s set in LA – a land based on fairytale and fantasy. Driver (in his mind anyway) is more like a knight, Irene is the damsel in distress, Ron Perlman is the dragon, and Bernie Rose is the evil wizard. His films are like Grimm’s Brothers fairy tales, and they are also very personal. He only shoots what he wants to see and I appreciate how personal they are. They have a real identity. They don’t try to please anyone but him. He doesn’t shoot anything that he doesn’t find erotic. I wanted this movie to be something that had personality, and also that you wanted to be in the movie theater to see. When I saw VALHALLA RISING, and the main character cuts open the other guy and starts showing him his own guts, everyone in the theater was hitting each other, laughing, and freaking out. Whether you liked it or not, you were happy to have seen it in the theater.”

The picture has a distinct and hip retro style – from the slightly grainy, low-lit look reminiscent of ’70s films like VANISHING POINT and THE DRIVER, to the new-wave neon-pink script used in the credit sequences, to the sublimely perfect ’80s-style synth score. That aesthetic began to take shape early on, during a pivotal moment in the development process:

“This wouldn’t have happened if REO Speedwagon didn’t come on the radio when I was driving Nicolas home from our first terrible meeting. Suddenly REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” comes on the radio. He starts crying and singing this song to me at the top of his lungs. And he said, ‘This is it! This movie is about a guy who can’t feel anything unless he’s driving around listening to pop music.’”

That moment turned DRIVE into a real labor of love for the actor and director.

“The movie was conceived in my car. He and I creatively mated, we had this movie-baby, and we had to raise it together. The film is a great representation of what the process was like. The way we made the movie informed how it was. We’d shoot all day, then go home and edit it. We’d drive around listening to music – going to the 101 diner to  talk about life and music. That would influence what we shot the next day. It had this dreamlike quality while we were shooting it. That’s what the movie feels like. Something happened in the car and we were chasing that the whole time.”

Gosling also has high praise for his co-stars in the film.  Not only does he affectionately call Mulligan “my partner-in-crime,” but he tells a wickedly funny story about filming one difficult scene with Ron Perlman.

“Perlman is just an endless well of great lines. For instance, I’m trying to drown him in the ocean. Every time I’d push him into the water, the tide would go out. I’m just pushing his face into the mud. The wave comes back, knocks us both over, and we have to start again. We do it all night until the sun comes up and he tears his ACL. When we finally get the one shot we need, he stands up and says to Nicolas, ‘Yo, Nicky! That was the one. And if you don’t like that, you don’t like ice cream mutha fucka!’ He does this snap and he limps back to his trailer.” 

As for Albert Brooks, who turns in a marvelous performance as the villainous Bernie Rose,

“He’s the only one we wanted to play this role. He had to do it. He not only plays that part but he owns that character.”

Even though Gosling kept his badass driving gloves and satin scorpion jacket, that doesn’t mean the actor took any more baggage from Driver off set.

I’m not a good enough actor to become a character and be that character for the duration of shooting. What I can do is turn up the parts of myself that are like that character and turn down the parts that aren’t. What I have in common with that character is amplified while shooting. In this case, it was very peaceful because the character was very introverted.”

While he may have done some of the cool stunt driving for the film, surprisingly it wasn’t Gosling’s love for cars that fueled his desire to make the film.

“I never really cared about cars. I still don’t. I worked on this car I drive in the movie so I have an affection just for it. And even it rubs me the wrong way. I worked with this guy Pedro (a lovely guy) but he changed my transmission on the last day of shooting – the day I was gonna finish the car. It really stings because I did everything on the car except for that and he knew it. He thought it was really funny and it cut me.”

It was Gosling’s positive filming experience with Refn that made him want to continue to further their working relationship.

“His films have a very strong identity. What I feel so lucky about is that he and I share the same fantasies. We can both make a film that’s personal to us and not have to compromise.  I think that’s rare. I find that in Nic and Derek [Cianfrance], who did BLUE VALENTINE and just did THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. I feel very fortunate to have found them and now make more movies with them. There’s no point in making a movie if you’re not on the same page as the director, if you care how it turns out. I used to think you needed conflict, that you were supposed to be combative and out of this conflict came creativity. But I don’t believe that anymore.”

Up next for Gosling is the aforementioned THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, another film about a stunt driver with a criminal streak – however, he warns that the similarities end there.

I didn’t make this [DRIVE] about stunts and going fast.  I just wanted to make a film about driving ‘cuz I like to drive but I don’t have to tear through town. I like being in a car – that you can get out and not remember the trip. As far as PINES goes, I’d always had this fantasy about robbing banks but I’m scared of jail. So I’ll never do it, but I would if I didn’t have to go to jail. I had this fantasy that I would get on a motorcycle and drive it into the back of a U-haul parked around the corner.  The cops would be looking for a guy on a motorbike, not a U-haul. I told this to the director [Derek] who said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! I just wrote a script about that!’”

As for breaking up a potential crime-in-the-making last month, perhaps Gosling does take home more of his character than he thinks. Was it Driver’s heroic side that helped him to defuse that now-infamous street fight? Gosling flashes a sheepish grin laced with embarrassment:

“Um, no. That was just stupid.”

DRIVE opens nationwide on September 16.

Russell Tovey joins SHERLOCK for Season Two

Russell Tovey joins SHERLOCK for Season Two 259 194 Joel

The UK’sDigital Spy is reporting that Russell Tovey, who stars in the UK version of BEING HUMAN, will be joining Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the second episode of the second season of DOCTOR WHO scribe Steven Moffat’s SHERLOCK, titled “The Hounds of Baskerville”.

Tovey, who confirmed this news via his Twitter account, will play Henry, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) after suffering from a traumatic childhood experience.

A bit more from Digital Spy:

It was previously announced that the new series of Sherlock will be comprised of Steven Moffat’s ‘A Scandal In Belgravia’, ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ and Steve Thompson’s ‘The Reichenbach Fall’.

Back in April, Mark Gatiss explained the decision to adapt “the three most famous” Sherlock Holmes tales.

I am a big Russell Tovey, and have loved his work in BEING HUMAN as well as the bevy of other shows he’s done in the UK, and he brings considerable talent to a superb show. I was also lucky enough to meet him at Comic Con a couple years ago, and he’s an incredibly nice guy as well.

If you haven’t checked out Moffat’s take on Sherlock, which places Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters in modern-day London and reimagines Sherlock as a private investigator who uses text messaging and the internet along with his mind, and Watson (a veteran of the war in Afghanistan) to crack cases, I strongly recommend that you do so, especially if you liked the TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY trailer we posted earlier today.

Luckily for you, the entire first season of SHERLOCK is available on Netflix Watch Instantly, so you’ve got no excuse.

PARTY DOWN movie might really happen

PARTY DOWN movie might really happen 540 88 Joel

We’ve been teased before with an ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT movie (that’s still technically happening, by the way) so I’m trying not to get my hopes up about a PARTY DOWN movie. Series creator Rob Thomas is making it hard not to get excited though.

The whole cast was in Austin this weekend to attend a PARTY DOWN marathon. At the event, they had a Q&A with the audience and someone asked about a possible third season of the cancelled series.

Thomas’s response:

People are talking to us about doing a Party Down movie. We are pretty far down the deal-making process with that, so we’re hopeful that there will be a Party Down movie. Ideally, if it works out we could be shooting in television hiatus time next spring. Hopefully that deal will close, and we’ll all tweet about it when it does.

They’ve been talking about a movie for awhile but no one really thought it would come together. Yet Thomas seems very inclined to believe in it. Shooting next spring? Far down the deal-making process? Can I get psyched yet?

To see more from the PARTY DOWN marathon, check out Badass Digest’s coverage. After that, fire up your Netflix account and re-watch the series.

Thanks to /Film for the text.

REVIEW – TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

REVIEW – TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON 300 168 Joel

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Ehren Krueger
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, Francis McDormand, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Alan Tudyk

The words “awful,” “atrocious,” and “abysmal” don’t come close to describing TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, the third and, for now anyway, last entry (let’s not call it a “trilogy”) in the toys-to-animated-series-to-summer-blockbuster franchise directed by Michael Bay (BAD BOYS I and II, ARMAGEDDON, THE ROCK) with the usual mix of offensive ethnic-based humor, complete disregard for the barest semblance of character or coherent storytelling, and, of course, the best visual effects a generous $200 million-dollar budget can provide. Those same visual effects, seamlessly blended with live-action and practical effects will be more than enough to offset DARK OF THE MOON otherwise crippling deficiencies, deficiencies amply shared by the third entry’s predecessor, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, but that’s nothing general moviegoers don’t already know (or know, but choose to ignore).

Apparently aiming for the ADD-challenged demographic, Bay once again gives us not one, but two prologues, one an exposition-heavy voiceover narration by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), the noble leader of the freedom-loving Autobots as he takes us through the last, dying days of his homeworld, Cybertron, due to the cataclysmic war with the tyranny-loving Decepticons, and, in the second, the crash landing of an alien spacecraft, Cybertronian in origin, on the dark side of Earth’s moon. In a retcon typical of long-running comic books in the Marvel or DC universes, Bay and screenwriter Ehren Krueger posit a decades-long government conspiracy tied to the discovery of the Cybertronian spacecraft, initially by NASA, later by the Soviet Space Agency, making the U.S./U.S.S.R. space race nothing more than an attempt to reach the alien spacecraft and retrieve advanced Cybertronian technology first.

Twenty minutes into an incredibly overlong. over-indulgent 154-minute running time, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON finally catches up with human hero-protoganist Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in Washington, D.C. Three months out of college and jobless, Sam takes  whatever comfort he can from his new romantic interest, Carly (former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, giving the non-performance of the year), a former British Embassy employee Sam met on a visit to the White House to receive a medal for his efforts in defeating the Decepticons. Carly now runs a classic car museum for Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), an ultra-wealthy businessman who Sam rightly sees as a threat to his monogamous, if still unserious, relationship with Carly. With his parents, Ron Witwicky (Kevin Dunn) and Judy Witwicky (Julie White), in town for a visit, Sam scrambles for gainful employment.

All that, unsurprisingly, is mostly superfluous, but definitely secondary, to the seemingly endless war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The Autobots have allied themselves primarily with the United States and with the Decepticons lying low, the Autobots help the U.S. military take down Middle Eastern terrorists (or at least that’s what it looks like they’re doing). The discovery of a part from the Cybertronian spacecraft alerts Optimus Prime of the ship’s presence on the dark side of the moon. Once again, a race erupts between the Autobots and the Decepticons to retrieve something or other on the alien spacecraft that can finally turn the war in favor of whichever side obtains said alien object (or objects).

Between Sam’s personal and professional travails, the latter of which leads to a tangential connection to the Autobot-Decepticon, and Bay’s inability to edit down exposition-heavy, redundant scenes or restrain his penchant for ethnic-based humor (the latest batch of Autobots have nonsensically picked up a variety of accents), it takes the better part of 90 minutes to slide the human, Autobot, and Decepticon pieces into place for the final robot-on-robot and sometimes robot-on-human battle (until the next final battle), this time moving the epic-length battle to Chicago from Egypt in the last film and Los Angeles in the first. From there, it’s Bay at his best (or his worst, depending on your perspective): massive mayhem meant to top not just the second film’s climax, but also every other blockbuster in recent memory.

To Bay’s credit, filming in 3D (some scenes were shot using native 3D cameras, others post-converted) has added a smoothness and calmness to his usually frenetic, impossible to follow visual style. Bay keeps the shaky cam action and zip pans to only a few shots, usually to heighten or underscore a particular effect or emotion. As a result, spatial relations between human characters, their environments, and the robots, are significantly easier to follow than in TRANSFORMERS or TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Visual effects, specifically the Autobots and the Decepticons, have been honed over the last five years into near-perfection. Add to that a near-seamless blending of live-action, practical effects, and computer animation, and the result is nothing if not immersive, if only on the most basic visceral level.

Based on just the TRANSFORMERS franchise, Bay’s callous disregard, even outright hostility toward the basics of storytelling, compelling characters, compelling storylines compellingly told, not to mention acting (even from name actors like Francis McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich, and Alan Tudyk in superfluous supporting roles), can’t be denied. While not completely accepting the harsh criticisms that made TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN a favorite example among critics and bloggers on how not to make an enduring tentpole, Bay argued that the ’08 writers’ strike forced him to go into production with an unpolished, if not unfinished, script. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have that excuse this time out. In fact, he has no excuse at all. And neither does screenwriter Ehren Krueger. But just because they don’t care doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care (we should).

1 out of 5

DEADPOOL movie will be “nasty” says Ryan Reynolds

DEADPOOL movie will be “nasty” says Ryan Reynolds 183 275 Joel

Back in December DEADPOOL creator Rob Liefield caused a minor stir when he challenged Fox studios by Tweeting that “Deadpool is not Green Lantern, not a family film. DP is filthy”. Well it looks like his vision for a DEADPOOL film may be exactly what Ryan Reynolds and co have in mind.

MTV News (that’s the Snookie-free wing of the company) sat down with Reynolds during his GREEN LANTERN press tour while on break from filming I imagine four other films. Reynolds, who played Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool in WOLVERINE was more than willing to talk about the selection of visual effects wizard Tim Miller as Director and the type of movie DEADPOOL will be. The watchword is “nasty” kids.

Now while some may hear Reynolds say “the way we want to do it is pretty nasty, and pretty hard. You can’t exactly have a $200 million budget when you want to do a movie like this.” and shiver in fear that DEADPOOL will devolve into some kind of Cormanized mess of bent quips and obvious wire fighting maneuvers but it sure makes me smile.

We don’t need a version of DEADPOOL that is PG-13, benign, and toothless. Another comic book movie that sands down the sharp bits of an outright anti-hero and wraps him up in a focus group approved cloak of redeeming qualities. Wade Wilson is a scarred mercenary, ruthless, hilarious, outright insane, and nearly irredeemable. His depiction shouldn’t be robbed of those unique characteristics in the interest of a mega budget and Thor-esque profit expectations. DEADPOOL needs to be a movie for adults. A comic book adaptation and action film that for once recognizes the fact that adults are a large part of the reading and viewing audience.

Thats the movie Liefield wants and it’s the movie that the overbooked Reynolds apparently plans on making should he ever shake the restraints of Oa and find the time, because while his boundless enthusiasm has kept the project alive his busy schedule may ultimately kill it.

Wanna pick a fanboy word kerfuffle in the comments section over my opinion on the Merc with a Mouth? Lets tango, “Cash”.