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Joel

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”.

Jeff Bridges still wants to make THE GIVER

Jeff Bridges still wants to make THE GIVER 412 700 Joel

For such a successful children’s novel, it’s taken a long time to turn THE GIVER into a movie. No one knows that more than Jeff Bridges.

Bridges and producer Nikki Silver owned the rights to Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel a few years ago but lost them in 2007. Variety reports that the pair has gotten them back and are once again trying to convert the book into a feature film. Bridges would star as the titular Giver, a role he originally envisioned for his later father. He’s has been rocking a fierce beard in the last year so he’s definitely looking the part and he’s not getting any younger either. Vadim Perelman (THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG) has been dispatched to write the script.

The book is a middle grade staple (though I read it in sixth grade, thank you very much) about a future world where the memory of society has been removed and all citizens are given a specific job. 12-year-old Jonas’s world changes when he is tasked with receiving all the emotions and memories of the past from the current Giver. This will change how he views his community and his life. It’s quite a strong book that makes some daring choices. You’ve probably seen the cover before (pictured below) as it’s become quite iconic in most libraries.

Even if THE GIVER doesn’t happen, I hope that Bridges keeps that beard. It deserves an Oscar of its own.

DVD Announcement Roundup

DVD Announcement Roundup 400 496 Joel

Disney’s animated classic DUMBO comes to blu-ray September 20, 2011 in a 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray. Announced Special Features include: a deleted scene and song, Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo – A journey back to the origins of the film as everybody’s favorite baby elephant takes wing, The Magic Of Dumbo: A Ride of Passage – Witness the excitement and magic of Disneyland’s most popular ride through the eyes of a child and Audio Commentary with Pete Docter, Paula Sigman and Andreas Deja.