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SDCC TRAILER: Timberlake and Seyfried on the run in IN TIME

SDCC TRAILER: Timberlake and Seyfried on the run in IN TIME 437 628 Joel

Andrew Niccol is that rare Writer/Director that earns the the distinction, “visionary”, hell even his failures are interesting and thought provoking like GATTACA and S1M0NE. Still those failures have been numerous and Hollywood isn’t about being interesting and thought provoking, not entirely at least; no Niccol needs to find some sort of box office vibrancy if he wants to keep making his sort of films and with IN TIME he may have cracked the code.

Filled with essentially anyone who has been on a magazine cover in the last 5 years, IN TIME merges Niccol’s sensibilities with something that feels like it was pulled out of a Phillip K. Dick novel, a new wave LOGANS RUN with a sprinkle of BLADE RUNNER. The film is written and directed by Niccol and it stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki, Matt Bomer, Cillian Murphy, and Vincent Kartheiser. You see now what I was referring to about the magazine covers, I suppose Niccol is trying to say that the future is pretty, but also ugly, and sad, and dangerous, apparently. IN TIME premiers October 28th.

Above us is the official poster, beneath us the official synopsis courtesy of JoBlo, and below that the first official trailer thanks to IGN, it does look intriguing.

Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there’s a catch: you’re genetically-engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich “earn” decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo’s love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system.

REVIEW – CINDERELLA

REVIEW – CINDERELLA 785 510 Joel

CINDERELLA
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Chris Weitz
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter

Rising above one’s station and breaking away from unjust oppression is the prototypical fairy tale made famous by Charles Perrault’s CINDERELLA. In the years since the Disney animated classic arrived, many have put their own spin on it. EVER AFTER, ELLA ENCHANTED, A CINDERELLA STORY and even other rags-to-riches stories like PRETTY WOMAN and KINGSMAN have put forth the notion that everyone is capable of greatness. Now, in the post-modern feminist era where a man rescuing a woman is seen as a cinematic taboo, we’re given director Kenneth Branagh’s very traditional take, CINDERELLA. While screenwriter Chris Weitz has some fun showing that our heroine is no pushover, and the film fleshes out some things a little better than the animated iteration, this adaptation isn’t as unconventional and unique as those glass slippers on Cinderella’s feet.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful, happy family in a palatial countryside estate filled with sunshine, a menagerie of animals and lots of laughter. Until one day, Mom dies, leaving wide-eyed optimist Ella (played in later years by Lily James) and her merchant father (Ben Chaplin) on their own, surviving on the mantra “Have courage and be kind.” Many years down the line, their little kingdom grows when Dad marries widow Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and she and her obnoxious daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera) move in. Things begin okay, but quickly turn once Ella’s father dies, leaving the wicked stepmonster in charge. Forced into servitude, the newly nicknamed “Cinderella” is reaching her breaking point. But fate has something far greater in store for her. Whilst out on a protest horse ride in the forest (as one does), she meets Kit, a.k.a. Prince Charming (Richard Madden). Since she didn’t give him any information, the Prince convinces his dying father the King (Derek Jacobi) to throw a royal ball for all to attend, hoping Cinderella will come. However, Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters set out to sabotage the reunion. Never fear, as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) creates a show stopping, swoon-worthy ensemble to help our heroine find true love – so long as she gets home before the clock strikes 12.

There are things that work in this live-action version and things that really don’t. Let’s begin with the latter. Narration is incessant; it’s wall to wall throughout the first act, then relents for a while only to maddeningly return later and continue off and on through act three. Meant to be like a storybook coming to life, all it does is infuriate with its “movies for the blind” quality. We can see Ella writing in her diary about her magical night; why does the narration have to tell us that’s what she’s doing? Though the race to beat the clock sequence is thrilling, Fairy Godmother’s magical transformation of the pumpkin and animals felt like obligatory CG mayhem. Bonham Carter (who famously said in FIGHT CLUB that “the condom is the glass slipper of our generation”) looks fantastic, but goes a little too broad with the material, which up to that point is pretty straight-forward. Also disheartening is that James singing “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and Bonham Carter’s “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” are relegated to the end credits. For a film that could have used a few transportive musical numbers to break up the flat narrative, this feels like a wasted opportunity. Though the filmmakers create a magical place that’s easy to get lost in, their additions feel a little unnecessary. Do we need a third act scheme between The Captain (Stellan Skarsgård) and Lady Tremaine? Not really, but at least it’s something different.

Branagh restrains himself, eschewing his usual shenanigans of over-the-top Shakespearean dramatics and canted angles (of which there’s blessedly only one). In their place is a light-hearted, entertaining, beguiling atmosphere where actors with pathos can shine. The royal ball sequence is absolutely mesmerizing, lovely and wonderful. They say “God is in the details,” and no one seems to understand that better than CINDERELLA’s power combo of Dante Ferretti’s production design and Sandy Powell’s costume design. Locations and wardrobe come alive with their ornate details. The chinoisere that adorns the walls of Lady Tremaine’s manse oozes glamour, as does Blanchett’s wardrobe, looking like it’s borrowed from Rita Hayworth’s estate. Ella’s household feels as repressive as those corsets under those costumes. Even the way Ella’s iconic baby blue ball gown skirt twists and twirls is simply enchanting, sparkling and superb – as is James’ performance.

While I feel like the filmmakers missed a chance to put a modern twist on the old-fashioned, super girlie tale, what’s there serves as a good reminder to be nice to everyone – including your tormenters. So in that regard, this film’s blights are all forgiven.

3.5 out of 5

CINDERELLA opens on March 13.

The CARRIE Remake Currently Has Five Possible Endings

The CARRIE Remake Currently Has Five Possible Endings 1124 660 Joel

Studios have long used general audiences to test screen films prior to their release.  Achieving the right tone and pace is certainly important for all films, but they are absolutely integral to a horror film.

It kind of goes without saying that most remakes seem to be maligned by film fans.  But because the horror genre seems to be home to the majority of these remakes – few of which outdo their predecessor – the fans of the genre are often the loudest of the cynics.  The upcoming CARRIE film is an interesting project.  Yes, it can be seen as a remake, but the studio has been adamant that it’s a more accurate adaptation of the book than simply remaking Brian De Palma’s 1976 film.  Nevertheless, it still has sparked a variety of opinions since the project was first announced.  Initially many were happy with the talent behind the camera as well as the prospect of Chloe Grace Moretz playing the title character.  However, the buzz died down when the film was pushed back to October from its original summer release date and it has continued on that path as the film inches closer to its release.  Now we are just a few weeks from CARRIE’s big unveiling and many are curious if they need to ready a bucket of blood to dump on the film.

What I find most shocking though is that the film isn’t exactly ready.  I spoke to someone that went to a test screening of CARRIE a few days ago.  My curiosity got the better of me as much of our conversation was centered on the ending . . . or should I say ENDINGS.  Not one, but four different endings were shown to the audience with a fifth one mentioned in addition by the studio reps. Below, I have direct quotes from my source and detailed descriptions of each of the endings screened.  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY SPOILER TERRITORY FROM HERE ON OUT.  SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE ORIGINAL FILM AND REMAKE FOLLOW.

CONSIDER THIS YOUR FINAL WARNING  –  SPOILERS BELOW 

It should be noted that the guy that went to the screening is a big horror fan who has read the book and seen Brian De Palma’s original film.  When I started our conversation by asking if he liked the movie he had this to say:

“I go to almost every midnight screening of a horror movie, and I will definitely be there on opening night to see it again.”

He went on to praise Julianne Moore for quite awhile:

“Julianne Moore gives an award worthy performance.  I really think she deserves to be nominated.”

He spoke very little about the film’s star:

“(Chloe Grace Moretz) isn’t bad but they really gathered a realistic group of high school kids that she’s surrounded by.”

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE

INTERVIEW: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, J.A. Bayona, Sergio G. Sánchez, Belén Atienza & Maria Belon Talk THE IMPOSSIBLE 600 399 Joel

Most of us remember 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami from the round-the-clock news coverage, bolstered by home video footage shot by eye witnesses. The survivors’ harrowing accounts and pictures of the destruction evoked waves of overwhelming feelings.  Now it’s Hollywood’s turn. Writer Sergio G. Sánchez and Director J.A. Bayona’s THE IMPOSSIBLE is a heartfelt, gut-wrenching testament to survival that tells the true story of the Belon family’s painful ordeal to re-connect after a natural disaster. It’s through the microcosm of this family that we see the world of pain and loss.

The film begins as an idyllic vacation for Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), and their three young sons Lucas, Simon and Thomas. But their holiday turns into a hellish nightmare when a wall of water wipes out the resort and separates the family. When all is said and done, the tsunami has killed over 200,000 people and left millions homeless. Maria Belon, who was actively involved in the making THE IMPOSSIBLE, is beside herself when she thinks about how fortunate her family was.

“There is no explanation. There’s no reason why we survived and other moms and dads and kids didn’t. We just ask, ‘what for?’ not ‘why?’ If you ask why, you can go dark. We would like to go up.”

Writing commenced on the third anniversary of the tsunami. Sánchez says, 

“[Producer] Belén [Atienza] heard Maria’s story on the radio and it moved her to tears. We met Maria in Barcelona and heard an extended version of her story. We sat at a table and the coffee went cold. None of us had planned to do a movie about a tsunami. I think in a way the film is not about the tsunami – it’s a story of a loss of innocence. There was something very universal about it.”

Bayona was able to assemble a cast of incredible actors to help tell this extraordinary story.

“Naomi is really good at getting into the dark places and getting close to the tragedy. And also she’s a very everyday woman. Same with Ewan. He has also has this normalcy no matter the character he’s playing, he’s able to keep humanity. He’s really easy to have a sense of empathy from the beginning.”

The film’s message hit home with McGregor and pushed him to explore new territory.

“This film was an extraordinary opportunity to explore being a dad for the first time. I’ve been a father for sixteen years. This was an opportunity to look at the unique love that you have for your children is a love that you don’t experience with any other human beings in the world.”

Watts responded to the script’s emotional resonance.

“The minute I read the script it just felt rooted in truth and it just felt necessary in a way because it was an intimate piece of storytelling about this family as well as addressing this tsunami.”

While the film shows events almost exactly how they happened, it did go through one major alteration. Filmmakers decided to change the original Spanish family to an English one. Says Sánchez,

“We didn’t know if we were going to get the financing to make this film. That first draft was in Spanish. Even in that first draft, 80% of the dialogue was in English because after the wave comes, that’s the language everyone would use to communicate. So then with the characters, you never know where they are from. We let everyone keep their accents. Instead of working against that, we thought it was an interesting concept to have this family have no home. It’s not clear what’s the home they want to go back to. At the end, they realize home is where they are together. We were trying to make it universal – to try to create a place where nationality didn’t matter.”

Bayona reiterates,

“It felt quite natural to get an English speaking cast. It was a film about people – about a Western family going to Thailand and how it’s an experience that transforms them. It’s the end of these people’s innocence. There’s a lot of suffering in survival – it’s not a victory. I thought that was very interesting.”

Watts felt it was necessary to spend time with the real life heroine.

“I didn’t have to worry about the walk and talk and the look of Maria because nobody knows her. I got to invent that part. The power of what she went through was so big. We spoke a lot. There was such a willingness on her part. Although she had reservations about being a part of telling her story for a movie, she also felt it was right that it wasn’t just her story. It was the story of so many. There’s no question that woman has left a massive profound impact on my life. She’s full of courage and so centered and connected. She’s inspired me.”

McGregor felt he had the freedom to create a character from Henry’s experience. He says,

“I’m playing him and I wanted to capture him but we were making them British not Spanish so already I felt I’ll play this guy on the page. I knew that the director knew him and the writer had spent a lot of time with him so I trusted that they steered me in the right direction. When I knew he was coming out to Thailand after a month of our shooting, suddenly I thought, ‘Oh, fuck. What if he doesn’t think I did him at all? What if he doesn’t like it?’ I was nervous that they were coming. It’s a funny idea that you’re playing somebody and it’s an easier idea if they’re not there in a way.”

To help ground the film in authenticity, THE IMPOSSIBLE shot at the same hotel where the Belon’s had vacationed.  Sánchez says,

“People kept coming to us asking, ‘do you know this story?’ There’s this palm tree in front of the hotel that’s covered with pictures and teddy bears. There’s many open wounds and a need to tell this story. It’s like sending a message in a bottle to many different people.”

Great care and respect is given to the film’s script in crafting a fitting tribute to survivors of this horrific event. Says Atienza,

“We were cautious because we were invading some place that is painful that went through all that. We soon found out they want to talk about it. They need people to know. When you are watching the news,you don’t feel what these people went through. That is why we were so obsessed with not only telling the story, but the feeling. Everyone there had a story. We had a lot of extras that were at the tsunami. For example the scene with Ewan in the bus station, the people surrounding him are real survivors. Before he shot his scenes, the other people told their stories. It was very emotional and helpful for Ewan to be transported to what that moment was like. They were very generous and brave to openly share with us to help the story feel true.”

Bayona says,

“…that created a special atmosphere on the set. I felt not like a filmmaker but a messenger getting all these stories and putting them together on screen.”

To capture the horror of the event, Bayona didn’t rely solely on computerized effects. Instead, they built a massive tank with rushing water and debris. Atienza made sure all of the pieces of the puzzle would be there in order to do justice to this incredible story.

“The only way to do it is step by step. One of the key things was to have the money in order to really tell this story right. Not so much the adventure but how it felt. The realism was key to the story. We started from scratch. We worked for six months on an animatic that had all the shots we needed. There’s very little digital. We shot there with the actors in the water. The rest is a composition in the shot with plates of real water at scale. It’s very precise and fun to do because it’s an old school way of doing things. The problem with digital water was it still had this feel of fantasy. In this film, anything that could bring you out of the story would harm the story. Same with the sets – they were huge. Only the background is composition.”

Astute audiences will note that sound design is key during the initial wave sequence. Atienza states,

“We wanted it to sound like a monster. Suddenly this wave becomes like a monster for this family. It’s non-stop. Maria said she could feel the evil in the wave. It wouldn’t listen to you even though you beg it to stop.”

Bayona expands,

“Everything had to be very sensorial. Much more emotional than intellectual.”

Belon was at first reluctant to tell her story on the big screen but ultimately changed her mind. And thank God she did. Says Sánchez,

“That was one of Maria’s questions, ‘Why our story? Nothing happened to us.’ So for us we struggled to find within that story a moment of empathy. The whole story is geared to that last scene on the plane – a sort of bookend with the beginning. It’s not a happy ending – Maria is thinking of the woman on her arm, Lucas takes off that tag, Henry opens up that note with the names on the list. Again, it’s all about the people who remain there.”

Belon states,

“I personally feel I came away from the wave with so much presence. It was selfish of me to keep it for me. People have told me they’ve come home from the movie and hugged their children. There’s nothing else to say. Nothing else to say.”

THE IMPOSSIBLE opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 21.

AFI FEST REVIEW – THE IMPOSSIBLE

AFI FEST REVIEW – THE IMPOSSIBLE 600 421 Joel

THE IMPOSSIBLE
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Johan Sundberg, and Geraldine Chaplin

Both Hollywood and audiences love a good, real-life tear-jerker. After all, it allows us to work out our pent-up emotions whilst plunking down our hard earned cash to see these intensely felt stories play out on the silver screen. This is the sentiment behind director J.A. Bayona’s tsunami of emotions, THE IMPOSSIBLE. While it does a fantastic job portraying the emotional and physical devastation from 2004’s tsunami in South East Asia, it also suffers from a few cuts and bruises due to the film’s trite, lazy, and maddening third act. When all is said and done, this film is visceral, thrilling, and heartbreaking – although not entirely for the right reasons.

We first meet British married couple Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their young children Lucas (Tom Holland), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), and Thomas (Samuel Joslin) en route to their Christmas getaway on one of Thailand’s luxurious beach resorts. Setting up each of their personalities (and the traits they’ll have to overcome in order to survive later), this is a well executed precursor to the harrowing horrors that await. Things are going perfectly at the Orchid resort until the day after Christmas, when a pressing (and frightening) powerful wave floods the shores – not just once but twice! Unrelenting terror kicks in when our hero family becomes separated. Lucas and a badly hurt Maria band together to seek help after being swept away by the current, and Henry and the young boys hang at the hotel until he decides to go look for Maria and Lucas.

THE IMPOSSIBLE’s script by Sergio G. Sánchez makes it impossible not to cry – or at the very least tear up – during the breathtaking and immersive second act. It puts viewers right in the epicenter of the tsunami. How do you go about finding your loved ones in a disaster? Would you take the same measures? Where does strength come from? Through the mouth of Geraldine Chaplin, death is explained in an elegant, non-condescending fashion. Brilliantly executed, Bayona and Sánchez find many moments of staggering beauty throughout much of the devastation. Whether it be toddler Daniel (Johan Sundberg), who represents the hope that can spring after complete ruin or a stranger’s kind act of handing over a cell phone to call home, it’s these tiny genuine moments that visually speak volumes – much more than any dialogue could ever do.

The film brims with standout performances from the entire cast – not just from leads Watts and McGregor. While they add the gravitas a piece like this needs, Holland is tasked with one of the most difficult jobs here. He equals his more seasoned co-stars’ determination and ferocity without ever being precocious or losing one beat with the audience. Sound design by Oriol Tarragó and his crew also plays a large part, as it’s the sound of the massive wave that makes us feel it to our core (and what notably starts us on our harrowing journey). Plus the visual and special effects departments earn a hat tip for adding the correlating visuals. Cinematography by Óscar Faura gives the film a polished, slick sheen that both complements and contrasts the narrative.

That’s why it’s so utterly disappointing that the third act stands in such jarring juxtaposition to what we’ve seen prior. Relying on a cheap flashback device manipulates viewers and insults their intelligence. We’ve already seen the nightmare of what happened to Maria, and we understand this will haunt her for the rest of her life; why must we experience it again?! Plus the film ends on a maddening note, as this rich, insured, white family leaves safely on a private jumbo jet, casually comptemplating the real losses of other less fortunate people. It seems very insincere. There’s also no post-script about how the real life family this film is based on is doing today, which also leaves viewers hanging.

THE IMPOSSIBLE is a testament to the human will, a force that can get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Unfortunately, it can’t overcome all insurmountable obstacles, such as third act contrivance.

THE IMPOSSIBLE played at AFI Fest on November 4 and 8 and opens on Christmas Day.

Congress Rules to Re-Copyright Things in Public Domain

Congress Rules to Re-Copyright Things in Public Domain 200 100 Joel

One of my favorite films of all time is a film from 1965 called CHARADE. It’s an amusing little caper with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and it was directed by Stanley Donen. It’s had a sordid history and a one point had sunk into public domain. That’s all well and good, as many things do. But CHARADE, amongst other works that have been in the public domain, may face a big change ahead, as Wired reports that the Supreme Court may re-copyright things that have fallen into public domain. This includes books, musical compositions, and other works that can be freely used by the public and adapted. The ruling was made last Wednesday.

The ruling was 6-2, the reasoning being that “just because material enters public domain, it is not territory that works may never exit.”

This ruling was made against a petition by a group of people within the arts whose livelihoods depended on the arts. Claiming that the speech rights of those using the material currently would be breached by recopyrighting the material, the group was vehement to stop the ruling. Someone the most famous works in the arts are in public domain, such as the books of Jane Austen, Fritz Lang’s sci-fi epic METROPOLIS, and the compositions ofIgor Fyodorovich Stravinsky. This is the first time that the issue has been brought to public light in years, the last time being in 2002 when Congress ruled that copyright would last from 50 years after an author’s death to 70 years

STAR TREK sequel finally gets a release date: May 17, 2013

STAR TREK sequel finally gets a release date: May 17, 2013 300 162 Joel

Deadline reports that Paramount has scheduled J.J Abrams widely anticipated STAR TREK sequel for a May 17th 2013 release date. The move comes after Sony delayed Roland Emmerich’s next film SINGULARITY from the May 17th slot to fall 2013. It has also been announced that J.J Abrams will shoot the film in 3D.

The original cast and writers of the first film are returning for one of the most anticipated sequels of the next five years. J.J Abrams and Paramount still have no title for the sequel. Recently it was also reported that Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro is primed to star in the sequel as the film’s villain.

STAR TREK was the perfect example of what a reboot/remake/re-imagining (or whatever new term Hollywood comes up in justifying their infatuation with re-doing classics or established franchises rather than embarking on new projects) should esteem to be. The film not only stayed faithful to the fan base but also made it accessible to the non-fans to broaden its (new) fan base.

Cinephelia on iTunes: The Criterion Collection Makes its (Quiet) Debut

Cinephelia on iTunes: The Criterion Collection Makes its (Quiet) Debut 580 225 Joel

The platinum standard in DVD and Blu-ray publishing companies, the Criterion Collection, has now entered the world of iTunes. On November 1, without any fanfare or announcement, Criterion showed up on the iTunes movie page. The company, established in 1984 with LaserDiscs and moving right on to Blu-ray, is renowned for offering world cinema’s greatest films in very pretty, rather expensive sets. Criterion was the first company to introduce audio commentary tracks with film historians and directors on their LaserDisc releases. Well known for their exclusive special features and pristine restorations, Criterion is still the Everest in the DVD and Blu-ray world, in terms of quality, despite the niche audience. In 2008, Criterion started investing their efforts into Blu-ray and have been on numerous top ten lists for best Blu-ray releases of their year. Earlier this year, Criterion and streaming website Hulu made a polarizing deal where they left Netflix and decided to port over their entire collection (and more) to the site, albeit for their subscription service Hulu Plus. Since the deal, which was made official on February 15th, according to Moviefone, Criterion has more than 680 films as well as their incredible supplemental features.

Criterion is offering a very small selection of films from their collection (especially in comparison with Hulu’s library), but it is a start. They seem to be beginning with 46 films, including such hallmarks of cinema as Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS, Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, and Francois Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS. Each film is $14.99 to purchase and $2.99 to rent.

There are a few things surprising about this move such as: a) how few films they’re starting off with, especially in terms of better known titles; b) the lack of any announcement or fanfare, considering that Criterion is a big name well known for their distribution of classic and important art house films; and c) their lack of any special features. While 46, I suppose, is a fine number to begin with, Hulu Plus began their deal with 150 films. Many of the films weren’t part of the official collection, one of the perks of having a subscription. We’ll simply have to wait for more. There was almost no prior announcement on their website, and even the guys at CriterionCast only found out about it the day of. It’s very strange for such a beloved company. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of extras. They could very well utilize iTunes Extras to get some of their comprehensive featurettes and documentaries on iTunes, but they seem to have decided against it so far. The pricing isn’t terribly surprising, as Criterion is a bit infamous for charging an arm and a leg for some films.

At the moment, no film in the meager selection intrigues me enough to buy it, even though the rental option is nice. I already own several on Blu-ray, and until they add more, I’ll be hard put to buy any. I’m hoping that, in the future, they’ll add Charlie Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES and Stanley Donen’s CHARADE. Those two I would pay for to have on my iPod.

INTERVIEW: Jeffrey DeMunn talks THE WALKING DEAD, “Dale”, and Frank Darabont

INTERVIEW: Jeffrey DeMunn talks THE WALKING DEAD, “Dale”, and Frank Darabont 556 390 Joel

It is THE must watch show for fans of strong serialized drama and the horror enamored. A show about survival, and a modern day wagon train full of diverse characters fighting against a mysterious zombie plague that has befallen the world.

THE WALKING DEAD was created by Robert Kirkman, adapted for the small screen by noted Director Frank Darabont, and brought to life by a tremendous cast which includes frequent Darabont collaborator, Jeffrey DeMunn.

A classically trained theater actor and a veteran of over 100 TV and film projects, I spoke with Mr. DeMunn today about the DEAD source material, Darabont’s sudden departure, and what the future holds for his character.

How familiar are you with THE WALKING DEAD comic series?

Jeffrey DeMunn: Im not really all that familiar with it, as a matter of fact when Frank first called me to do the job I was working on another job down in Dallas and he asked me if I wanted to come to Atlanta and kill zombies and I said ok without any previous knowledge of THE WALKING DEAD. I just took a leap because it was Frank Darabont.

Are you aware of where the story goes in the comics?

JD: I have some awareness of it, yeah, but its not by any means a focus of mine. Its like doing an autobiographical play. Aaron Burr, I did that once, I studied some on the life of Aaron Burr but ultimately what you have to go by is what your script is. So I have some awareness of it but its utterly peripheral.

Speaking of Frank Darabont, obviously he’s no longer involved on a day to day basis with the show. I know you’ve worked with him extensively through your career, how has his departure effected you and how do you think its effected the show overall?

JD: Inevitably it is a massive change. It was Frank who brought everybody together. I’ve worked with Frank, I guess for about 22 or 23 years now on various projects. I think its 7 projects in all, this is my 7th Darabont project and I’m no way unique in that. Our scenic designer Greg Melton went to high school with Frank. Our wonderful zombie-maker Greg Nicotero has known Frank and worked with him for 17 years. The FX guy Bill has worked with Frank, I don’t know how many times, Laurie Holden. I guess what I’m trying to say is that everybody was brought together by Frank, not just the cast not just a few individual crew members but it was a massive reuniting.

He works with a group of people and he carries that talent with him and talent follows him because he is, within our time, he is one of the greats, so yeah its made a massive difference having him leave, it was his vision that took a successful comic book and turned it into a massively successful worldwide phenomenon.

If you picture that there was once a wonderful book called RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Frank Darabont read it, and had a vision of what it could become as a film and suddenly that became huge.

His ability to take something from the page, from someone elses hand and move it to the screen…THE MIST for instance is a favorite of mine, and I re-watched it for the first time in awhile for an article, and the vision of that movie is striking in how it casts humans as the monsters…

JD: Did you watch it in Black and white?

I did not, I didn’t know it was available in black and white.

JD: Yes, that is the way that Frank originally wanted to only release it, he shot that as a black and white movie but the powers that be said “no you cant do that, people aren’t going to watch a black and white movie and you’ve got a rough enough ending as it is“.

Going back to THE WALKING DEAD, it seems like his impact is still felt and I think that speaks to how strong his vision was.

JD: Well he worked on the first 8 which takes it right through 2.08, which will be now the first 7 because we combined 1 and 2 for the premier to make the hour and a half premier. So Frank’s work is right through what was our episode 2.08 and I believe that will complete what is shown this autumn and then there is a bit of a hiatus, followed by the remainder of this season in which he had nothing to do with the plotline and so on.

The remainder of the season he had nothing to do with, but another big thing, and I don’t mean to go on and on about Frank, but he’s a genius and one thing, he would look at every makeup, he would look at every costume. People knew you had to run it by Frank, he had his hand on everything, especially the editing. So what we do have now for this year is the edit is not the “Darabont edit“, in that you will see some differences and I believe some people have noticed that already.

What episode are you guys up to now?

JD: 2.12.

Can I get any kind of hints as to where the show is going to go?

JD: Not a chance. (laughs)

Not a chance, well, I had to take a shot–I guess you could be called a character actor in terms of movies and TV, obviously you’ve done a lot of theater work as well but you’ve kinda found a home with THE WALKING DEAD in that you’re stable and its an everyday job. How has that transition been for you?

JD: Oh fine, you know when we shot THE GREEN MILE it was an everyday job too, that was 20 weeks. So this is just a long one (laughs), like a long movie, so yeah it hasn’t been a huge transition, the big transition is always between doing theater, and doing film or television.

Which do you prefer?

JD: I don’t really have one I prefer, they’re both still an extraordinary challenge and they’re both still very very exciting to me. So I don’t have a preference, they feed each other. Theater is harder, it’s a tougher job, and it takes more out of you. But I just enjoy them both, I’m fortunate enough to be able to do both.

Your character on Walking Dead is slowly going through a transformation. He seems to be more vocal, a little less concerned with confrontation, for instance, the whole back and forth with Andrea over her father’s gun. How do you feel about that?

JD: Well, I think it makes sense to me. Dale is a protector, a caregiver, a watcher, and eventually people like that have to speak up. Yeah, you’ll see a lot more of that from Dale.

Now in the comic, Dale kinda moves from being a paternal figure in Andrea’s life and moves toward a romantic relationship with her. Is that something you foresee happening in the show?

JD: I haven’t seen it yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

INTERVIEW: Jewel Staite talks FIREFLY, Food, Fun, and Fillion

INTERVIEW: Jewel Staite talks FIREFLY, Food, Fun, and Fillion 571 425 Joel

As a journalist I am duty-bound to conduct interviews that aim for revelation, probing my subjects with deft questions that are supposed to push them beyond where they want to go. That’s how Oprah does it, that’s how I’m supposed to do it, but funk that.

I reached out to Jewel Staite, a globe-roaming gourmand and portrayer of both Kaylee Frye, the ever lovable mechanic on FIREFLY, and Jennifer Keller, the resident Doctor on STARGATE ATLANTIS, with the hope of having a fun conversation that I could share with you.

The following conversation does not contain revelations on the internal struggle of a suffering thespian, or a questionnaire inspired by Bernard Pivot; frankly I’m not that good at my job.

No, instead of that stuff we touch on brain eating, cheap wine, the ego of Nathan Fillion, shrimp pot pie, Muppets, the creepiness of shag carpeting, and Jewel’s plan for world domination.

And now without further delay, Jewel Staite…

So, you’ve been acting since you were 9 or 10. How are you so normal? Or is it all a clever ruse?

Jewel Staite: Sorry, did you just call me normal? That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I grew up with a mom who wouldn’t put up with any sort of diva-like behavior. She frightened me into being a well-adjusted person. Thanks, Mom.

I have become slightly addicted to late night re-runs of DA VINCI’S INQUEST, with Nicholas Campbell and Donnelly Rhodes (DANGER BAY!). You were on that for much of the first and some of the second season, and it seems like a role that was a key pivot point toward more mature projects. What was that experience like?

JS: I think that was the very first set I worked on where two of the lead actors were doing a love scene I had to walk in on. It was a very different change of pace from Disney and Nickelodeon, that’s for sure. 

You’ve got the very wonderful blog, happyopu.net where you have revealed yourself to be a foodie and a wino, or rather, a wine connoisseur – I’m curious, does my preference for $5 bottles of Strawberry Hill “wine” make me a bad person or am I just keen on depriving myself?

JS: Sorry, I didn’t hear anything past “very wonderful”. Just kidding! Go ahead and drink your cheap wine. I’ve been known to down a glass of Yellowtail on the plane if that’s all they’ve got. But please do yourself a favor and make up for it with something expensive soon.

If one has the opportunity to saunter into a particularly fine restaurant, are they better off ordering from the menu or giving the Chef carte blanche?

JS: Carte blanche, always! Some of my favorite meals have been when I’ve trusted Chef to do what he does best. Plus, it feeds their ego when you let them do the deciding for you, and they really let loose most of the time. I like a loose chef.

There are stock questions like “What kind of weapon would you use in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” and “What would you’re death row meal be?” that I could ask, but those are boring so let’s mix it up: What do you want on your plate if you’re on death row during a Reaver apocalypse?

JS: The lobster pot pie from Michael Mina’s at the Bellagio in Vegas, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. And maybe a Xanax.

I was at New York Comic Con this weekend (and so were you, but you know that), and I had a former pro wrestler call me “Big Daddy” and then give me an impromptu bear hug. What’s your weirdest con  moment?

JS: Well, I signed someone’s back at New York Comic Con that they later had permanently tattooed on themselves, so I think I trump you, Big Daddy. Weirder than that, though, was when a very respectable-looking older lady asked me to sign her boob. And I said yes. If you’re reading this, I’ll never forget you, Crazy Lady! XO

You played Doctor Jennifer Keller on STARGATE ATLANTIS; does the medical jargon stay with you, and also, how’s your Mandarin? Do you know medical jargon in Mandarin?

JS: I know no medical jargon or Mandarin anymore. As soon as it’s out of my mouth and the scene’s done, I promptly allow my puny brain to forget it. I have been known to use the phrase, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”, however.

Has Nathan Fillion changed now that he has “cop show, screw-you” money?

JS: He hasn’t changed at all. But I have. I let him pick up the check more.

Being a part of the “Whedonverse” surely comes with perks; I imagine some typecasting drawbacks as well. Is it an overall joy or is it frustrating to be so strongly associated with Kaylee and FIREFLY?

JS: It’s totally an overall joy. Really. That show’s one of the things I’m most proud of being a part of. I adore being associated with it, and I love every single person on that cast like family. And that’s about as serious as I’m going to get in this interview.

What were your thoughts when you first read the script for FIREFLY, and how surprised were you when Joss got the band back together for SERENITY?

JS: When I first read it, I couldn’t believe my luck, honestly. And I think we were all stunned when Joss got that movie greenlit. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. Plus, I was really relieved I was going to see Nathan again, because he owed me money.

So say AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, and Joss gets a greenlight for SERENITY 2. Is he touring the country, going from set to set like Kermit the Frog trying to track down stray Muppets or are you on his doorstep in full ragamuffin attire the next day?

JS: Who you calling a ragamuffin? Seriously, this Muppet would be there in a heart beat. Wait – which muppet do I get to be? Can I be Gonzo?

What can you tell me about THE PACT?

JS: THE PACT was a short I did last year for a friend of a friend that ended up getting into Sundance. It’s dark and moody and super creepy. Because it has a lot of shag carpeting in it.

How are you not like Kaylee Frye, how are you better than her, and how is she maybe better than you?

JS: She’s overall a better human being than me. She’s sweet and lovely and wide-eyed and wears her heart on her sleeve. I just wear my liver on my sleeve.

DOOMSDAY PROPHECY seems like one of those, “make a bag of microwave popcorn, Saturday afternoon on the couch, fun disaster movies“. What do you say to those who get a bee in their bonnet and think that Syfy originals are an affront to mankind and puppies?

JS: Those people are the kind of people that don’t believe in having cable because it’ll turn your brain to mush. Well, sometimes a mushy brain is exactly what we need on a Saturday night. I love movies I get to check out on. Not every movie needs to be flippin’ PRECIOUS.

We can’t avoid it – you ate brains on SUPERNATURAL. Now, you’re a bit of a food gangsta, would you find your inner Bourdain/Lector and eat a (non-human) sautéed brain of some kind?

JS: What makes you think I haven’t already…?

It seemed like Kaylee’s favorite place was her hammock (which I understand you stole, thief). What’s yours, geographically and I suppose spiritually?

JS: Listen, that thing was given to me, I swear. You want to talk about being a thief, talk to Fillion. He’s got boxes of stuff he stole from that set, and the irony that he’s playing a guy who helps cops right now is not lost on me. But I digress. My favorite place is Maui. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, so that’s my recharge the old batteries place. One of these days I’m going to pull a Woody Harrelson and just move there permanently and become a beach bum and wear hemp and grow dreads. Okay, maybe not the dreads part. And that hemp’ll be Chanel.

What’s next?

JS: Same thing I do everyday. Try and take over the world.

How do you say “Whino” in Mandarin?