DIR/WRI: Paul Haggis • PRO: Paul Breuls, Paul Haggis, Michael Nozik • DOP: Gianfilippo Corticelli • ED: Jo Francis • DES: Laurence Bennett • MUS: Dario Marianelli • CAST: Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco
Cults pray on those of us who suffer from excessive feelings of disconnection and alienation. Paul Haggis, former Scientologist, wrote and directed 2004’s Crash, an Oscar-winning argument in favour of the existence of quasi-mystical ties that both connect and redeem humanity. Crash followed a group of individuals, including Matt Dillon’s glorious forehead, as they tottered across the faultlines of their various prejudices, each eventually arriving at something on the spectrum between an epiphany and just deserts. The film’s plot was contrived, its analysis of prejudice fatally unsophisticated; still, Haggis’ faith in the power of human engagement granted his characters a sort of grace. An inscrutable moral sense animated everyone, almost-but-not-quite saving them from two-dimensionality. It’s tempting to put it all down to a displacement of faith in wacky ‘religion’ to one in a Tao-flavoured personal spirituality.
Third Person is an attempted rejection of that worldview. This is by means of obfuscation, sleight-of-hand, and an oftentimes nearly incomprehensible plot. We only have three storylines to deal with, at least. A writer (Liam Neeson) is working on a book in Paris when his young lover (Olivia Wilde) visits; an ex-soap actress (Mila Kunis) battles her child’s artist father (James Franco) for custody of the boy; a shady American (Adrien Brody) tries to help Monica (Moran Atias) find her daughter in Rome’s underworld.
So far, so Magnolia – so Love Actually. The cast is obviously strong, and bits of the scenery are in Adrien Brody’s mouth at all times. Something like the same graceful inscrutability is there. Mila Kunis’ Julia is a substantial and often unsympathetic creation, and the question marks that hang over her motivations are unusual in mainstream cinema. She’s the only character whose flaws aren’t retrospectively absolved by one or other of Third Person’s plot twists, under the weight of which the film starts to groan about halfway in. The sleight of hand that is the purview of the director of ‘Hyperlink Cinema’ (Roger Ebert’s term) then starts to look like self-abuse. Even the cinematography gets noticeably sloppier as things progress – a major sign of a lack of control or of money, of a piece of cinema ‘saved in the edit.’ And Crash’s misogyny rears its balding head. “Women have the incredible gift of being able to deny any reality,” a fatherly figure tells Liam Neeson. Monica is Roma, a thief and possibly a prostitute, and, ahem, ‘feisty’ – thus an irredeemable stereotype. And the ending – if only it were a statement of disgusted protest to walk out of a film once it’s over.
Third Person isn’t as terrible as the consensus has decided, but that’s the best thing I can say about it.
DIR/WRI: Gia Coppola • PRO: Vince Jolivette, Miles Levy, Sebastian Pardo, Adriana Rotaru • DOP: Autumn Durald ED: Leo Scott • DES: Sarah Beckum Jamieson • MUS: Robert Schwartzman, Devonté Hynes • CAST: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Val Kilmer, Chris Messina
Directed by Gia Coppola, the latest scion of the Coppola filmmaking dynasty, Palo Alto adapts a handful of short stories by James Franco (who also appears and co-produces) into a loosely-structured narrative about disaffected teenagers in the eponymous Californian region. Jack Kilmer (son of Val) and Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric and niece of Julia) play Teddy and April, two teenagers whose nascent attraction is complicated by Teddy’s friendship with the volatile Fred (Nat Wolff) and by April’s affair with her smarmy soccer coach (Franco). While Coppola’s focus on troubled teenagers carries some echoes of her grandfather Francis’s Rumble Fish (1983), the film most openly quotes her aunt Sofia, with one character’s wall emblazoned with a poster for her 1997 film The Virgin Suicides.
This terrain is well trodden, and not only by Coppolas. While Palo Alto’s dreamy suburban ambience is at times distinguished from that of The Virgin Suicides only by the present day setting, its sexual frankness invokes two collaborations between Larry Clarke and Harmony Korine, 1995’s notorious Kids and 2002’s little-seen Ken Park. These are certainly interesting poles between which to be suspended, but Palo Alto struggles to rise above the sum of its influences. Even the easy-on-the-ear score by Robert Schwartzman and Devonté Hynes (Blood Orange) is most notable for the way in which it juggles reference points, almost all of which originate in the ’80s.
Coppola scores highest with her two central performances. As the confused but essentially decent Teddy, Kilmer has a tender, introverted quality reminiscent of a young River Phoenix, most obviously in a hushed fireside confession of love that echoes a similar scene in My Own Private Idaho (1991). The film belongs, though, to Roberts, who is a revelation as April. Coppola’s sympathetic exploration of April’s confusion as she edges toward adult life is reminiscent of her aunt’s work with Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst, but Palo Alto works despite this familiarity because Roberts, like Johansson and Dunst, has the kind of mysterious quality that can make somebody else’s boredom and frustration compelling to watch.
The same can’t be said for Nat Wolff, saddled with the grating part of Fred, an obnoxious budding sociopath who doesn’t develop much shading, beyond an occasional sulk, as the film unfolds. Phoned in from the pages of early Bret Easton Ellis, the juvenile Fred exists solely to provide dramatic counterpoint to April and Teddy’s cautious steps towards adulthood. Nobody even passingly familiar with Franco’s half-baked career as an occasional visual and performance artist will be surprised, either, that Fred’s escalating fury eventually boils over into a stilted monologue about homosexuality. As heat-seeking gay tourism goes, it’s not quite on the level of Franco’s own Interior. Leather Bar (2013), but if we’re supposed to infer that Fred’s borderline psychosis stems from suppressed desires, there might have been a more nuanced way to get this across than through an artificial speech, delivered apropos of nothing in particular, in a parking lot.
Curiously, given its title, Palo Alto does not convey much sense of a particular place or time. This lack of specificity is both weakness and strength. While the familiarity of the film’s style and content edges it perilously close to the generic, Coppola’s affinity for the eternal struggles of teenagers gives it a universal quality. Empathic without being indulgent, and anchored by Roberts’ performance, Palo Alto hints at an intriguing future for Coppola, especially now that her debt of influence is comprehensively paid off.
DIR: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman • WRI: Andy Bellin • PRO: Heidi Jo Markel, Laura Rister, Jason Weinberg, Jim Young • DOP: Eric Alan Edwards • ED: Robert Dalva, Matt Landon • DES: William Arnold • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, James Franco, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple
Lovelace tells the life story of the star of porn’s most successful theatrical release, Deep Throat. That film reportedly earned more than $600 million, while its lead, Linda Lovelace, earned a paltry $1,250. Lovelace focuses on her relationship with tyrannical husband/manager Chuck Traynor, exposing the sinister side of the sex film industry.
Lovelace traces Linda’s development from naive, almost priggish young girl, through her brief stint as the porn industry’s megastar, to her decision to confess what it was really like. “Ordeal” was the name of her book, and her experiences are unpleasant. The film progresses first as a success story, hinting at something sinister, before going back and revealing unhappy going-ons behind the scenes.
The film notes that Lovelace’s appearance contrasts with the image expected in porn. She’s not the big-breasted blonde with a small waist. Her freckles receive much attention. Amanda Seyfried conveys Linda’s naivety and initial discomfort with her body. The film’s highlight perhaps comes in her scenes with Wes Bentley. Bentley plays a photographer, taking snapshots for the movie’s publicity posters. He encourages Linda to talk, and Seyfried shines in an emotional moment when she realises her own beauty. (One notes that Wes Bentley played the character in American Beauty who found so much beauty in the world that he couldn’t take it, an incidental intertextual pleasure.)
Seyfried also excels in her scenes with Peter Sarsgaard, excellent as Chuck Traynor. In the film’s early scenes, he imbues Chuck with an unnerving carnality as he glares and flirts with Linda. His presence is overbearing from that start, so that Chuck’s later anger and violence are not all that surprising.
Supporting cast includes enjoyable, if slight, turns by Hank Azaria as Gerry Damiano, Deep Throat‘s director, and Chris Noth (Mr Big in Sex and the City), as Anthony Romano, the film’s financier. Sharon Stone is effective as Linda’s mother. Chloë Sevigny (The Brown Bunny, more intertextuality) appears as feminist journalist, questioning Lovelace about how it feels to be “the poster girl for the sexual revolution”
Lovelace’s story has become a touchstone in debates concerning pornography. The narrative in Deep Throat addresses the problem that critics identify pornography as attempting to resolve: how to render visually female sexual pleasure. Linda’s character in that massively successful film, nowadays little seen, presents an independent woman seeking to satisfy her own sexual needs. Her search takes her outside the confines of patriarchal marriage. It locates female sexual pleasure in the clitoris, which, for Linda in Deep Throat, is at the base of her throat. So, Deep Throat became celebrated because it was a “porno with a story”, and the story presented the sexual freedom of a woman in the era of sexual revolution.
The behind-the-scenes story reveals the coercion involved in the industry. It exposes whatever pleasure is to be derived from pornography as purely male. In one scene, Harry Reems (Adam Brody) climaxes too quickly when filming Linda’s first sex scene. The crew watching the scene being performed are entirely male and clearly enjoy watching Linda fellate Harry. The same scene later becomes more chilling with the tyrannical presence of Chuck, watching and making sure that Linda takes part and does what she’s told.
Andy Bellin’s script also characterises the traditional family as coercive and problematic for women. When Linda turns to her mother for respite from Chuck’s beatings, her mother insists that she should “be a good wife, listen to him and obey him”. Linda endures further threats, violence and misery as a result of doing what’s expected of her. It’s ironic then that Linda finds happiness as a mother and a wife, ultimately presenting a conservative message: women should stick to their traditional roles. Of course, Chuck is not a role model husband, pimping his wife and expecting her to perform in porn films.
James Franco appears on the film’s fringes, playing Hugh Hefner. He recently worked with Travis Mathews on Interior. Leather Bar, a film that challenges the workings and apparent realism of pornography in a more cinematically sophisticated manner. Lovelace is itself in some ways pornographic. In a home movie clip, Seyfried’s Lovelace drops her denim shorts, to reveal her bottom in a teasing, sexual manner, whereas, in a similar clip, Sarsgaard’s Chuck “moons” playfully. Male nudity is a joke; female nudity is charged with desire. In another scene, feeling uncomfortable with her appearance, Linda’s hair hides her breasts and she covers her midriff with her arms, while the men in her life, workers in the sex industry, encourage her to reveal. The film then exposes Seyfried’s breasts in a pornographic fashion, indulging in some of the pleasures that pornography promises.
Critics believe pornography is not art because it intends to arouse; it’s affective pleasures are sensations. An appeal to rational or critical thinking makes something artistic. The appeal of Lovelace to the emotions, in its simplistic characterisation of Chuck Traynor as Svengali, becomes pornographic, in this sense, when Anthony Romano oversees Chuck’s beating, at which stage viewers will probably take delight in seeing this exploitative man getting what he deserves.
The production design, given its modest $10 million budget, is excellent, with groovy ’70s costumes. Gladys Knight sings “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” over the opening sequence, in which we cut from the light in a theatrical projection room to a shot of the sun shining through Linda’s car window. The use of classics ’70s tracks, such as Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby”, give the film an uplifting feel that begins to seem out of place, as the horror of Linda’s story becomes apparent.
Epstein and Friedman, the film’s directors, have made excellent documentaries, including The Celluloid Closet, about homosexuality in the movies, and the Oscar-winning Common Threads Stories from the Quilt, the subject of which is the AIDS memorial quilt. Epstein also won an Oscar for The Times of Harvey Milk. Paragraph 175 told the story of persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. Epstein and Friedman recently moved into fictional treatments of real people. Howl (2010) starred James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.
Inside Deep Throat was a well-received documentary that features interviews with the real Linda Lovelace, who died from injuries sustained in a car crash in 2002. It perhaps explains why Epstein and Friedman resort to a fictional telling of an important story, but the complexity of the debates that Deep Throat and Lovelace’s story provoke is lost in their simplistic film that’s made enjoyable by good performances and incidental pleasures.
DIR: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • WRI: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • DOP: Brandon Trost • ED: Zene Baker •DES: Chris L Spellman • Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna
Expanded from the 2007 short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, This Is The End is the feature film directorial debut of long-time writing and producing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Having first worked together on the US version of Da Ali G Show, the childhood friends have subsequently collaborated on a total of nine films, and while Rogen has also become a major Hollywood player in front of the cameras, Goldberg has continued to be an unassuming (but pivotal) presence behind the scenes.
They have enjoyed plenty of creative control on their films to date, but This Is The End finds them being given free rein in a way that must have seemed like a pipe dream just ten years ago. Thanks to their connection with the prolific Judd Apatow, they have come into contact with a number of rising and established comedic actors, and it is therefore no surprise to see the vast majority of them make some form of appearance in this $32 million budgeted comedy romp.
The trump card of this film is that every actor in the film is actually playing themselves, or at least a version of themselves. At the centre of the piece is Canadian actor Jay Baruchel – who featured heavily in Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder but had earlier come to prominence in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. He arrives in Los Angeles to spend some time with Seth Rogen, his fellow compatriot and best friend.
Not being a fan of the L.A. party scene, he hopes to confine himself to Rogen’s abode, but the Funny People actor has other ideas, and they instead end up at the home of James Franco, who is hosting a housewarming party. There they are accompanied by a plethora of Apatow alumni including Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Michael Cera, as you have never seen him before.
However, what starts as a typically rambunctious Tinseltown shindig quickly descends into something completely different. Initially oblivious to what is happening in the outside world (with the exception of Rogen and Baruchel who briefly exit the party), it some becomes clear to everyone that an apocalyptic disaster is happening before their very eyes.
Numerous guests are violently dispatched as the ground begins to crumble beneath their feet, and we are left with just six survivors – Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson and Danny McBride – who barricade themselves inside the luxurious house in an appearance attempt to fend off the horrors that await them should be embark into dangerous terrain.
When you are dealing with a concept like this, it can be all too easy for the film to lose sight of what it is trying to achieve, and it certainly is true that This Is The End has moments of indulgence and is often too self-aware for its own good. As the film moves into the final half-hour, there is a lot of discussion about how they need to be to stop being so selfish and need to treat one another with good will and charity, which could be potentially off putting for some audiences.
In an overall context, though, these are only minor concerns, as given the lack of memorable comedies that have been released during 2013, the main question surrounding This Is The End is whether or not it is able to reach sufficient levels of hilarity. It is a relief therefore to say that the film does have plenty of funny moments, and is particularly at its best when the participating stars display a willingness to send themselves up.
This is especially noticeable in the case of Franco, who has really enhanced his current standing as a truly unpredictable oddball screen presence with recent roles in Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers and The Iceman. The eccentricities that have often characterised his public persona are on full display in this film, whether it be his unique art collection or peculiar choice of food and household beverages.
Credit must also go to Hill, who does a fine job of pitching his performance somewhere between suspiciously amiable and outright sarcastic. Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson all bring their customary level of comic timing to the fray, but McBride proves to be the ace in the hole as he starts off as the most troublesome and self-centred of the group and actually becomes progressively worse despite the obvious benefits of him being the polar opposite.
With improvisation high on the agenda, the stars riff off each other to telling effect, and as they try to keep themselves occupied while the world as they know it changes irreparably, they try their hand at making an amateur sequel to the popular Pineapple Express, which featured Franco, Rogen, McBride and Robinson in lead roles.
Though much of the action remains confined to the inner sanctum of Franco’s home, the biblical implications of the film dictate that they must eventually be taken out of their comfort zone, and thanks to their reasonably sized budget, they have enough to clout to develop some eye-popping special effects, and although it intends to satirise the current trend for apoca-blockbusters, it does its level best to match them in terms of scale. Whether or not this film will go down as the cult classic that Rogen and Goldberg are clearly hoping for remains to be seen, but come the end of 2013, it will certainly register in the memory banks of cinema-goers to a much larger degree than all the comedy films that have preceded it this year.
106 mins 16 (see IFCO website for details) This Is The End is released on 28th June 2013
DIR: Ariel Vromen • WRI: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen • PRO: Ehud Bleiberg, Ariel Vromen • DOP: Bobby Bukowski • ED: Danny Rafic • DES: Nathan Amondson • Cast: James Franco, Robert Dazvi, Michael Shannon
It’s late at night. A man, dressed in a shabby robe and sporting a cheesy moustache blankly stares at a television screen. His gaze, however, is the gaze of a man on the verge of a breakdown. That man is Richard Kuklinski, one of the most notorious contract killers in American modern history, who from 1948 to his arrest in 1986 killed over one hundred men. Yet, it’s not guilt or remorse that is keeping him awake, but rather anger and frustration at an emasculating lack of work, a state of mind that has been the cause of many outbursts of tension in his household as of late. However, even as this scene develops into a fight with his wife and Kuklinski trashing the house by knocking anything that gets in his path, it concludes with the cold-blooded killer grabbing his wife, looking into her eyes and telling her passionately how much their daughters and her really mean to him.
His wife doesn’t suspect a thing about his second life. He is such a devoted family man, loving father and caring husband, that it would be impossible for her to even think of him having an affair with another woman, let alone the fact that he may be a sadistic assassin. She believes him to be working in finance and blames the frustrations of his work for the way he has been acting lately. In a way, of course, she is right, and employment is one of the themes with which Vromen plays the most – and the way in which he plays with it in turn is one of the most interesting aspects of The Iceman which, in a bizarre sense, may be an unlikely cinematic product of the recent recessionary times.
Kuklinski is morally deranged and psychotic, yet he is also a man who loves his job, whatever it may be. He also happens to be good at what he does. He loves his job as much as he loves his family, in fact he needs them both. When Roy DeMeo, leader of a gang of the Gambino crime family played here by Ray Liotta, deems him unemployable, Kuklinski replies that he needs to work and, in that sense, he is not unlike a lot of the average men who find themselves in the same position from one day to the next. Of course, the gimmick here is that his job is contract killing, and the feeling is that by doing this he gets to fill a big void in his life. A short scene where he visits his brother in prison briefly hints at the background story of a troubled upbringing, an evil father who beat him regularly and the sadistic games involving the torturing of his neighbourhood’s pets and various animals, of which the act of tying stray dogs at the back of trains is directly mentioned. Yet he chooses to abandon his brother, regardless of the fact that he is just as bad. That is because he is unable to forgive him for murdering a twelve year old girl, something he could never and would never do himself.
The Iceman is neither a sympathetic portrait nor a redemption film. Vromen chooses to remain distant and relatively neutral towards his subject, letting the audience pick sides. Yet for a character-driven storyline, Kuklinski still feels a little shallow and two dimensional; sometimes he even feels like a weaker version of Travis Bickle from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. His intensity relies almost entirely on an enchanting performance by a perfectly cast Michael Shannon, whose ice cold facial expressions and stiff but controlled movements dominate the film and almost make you forget the lack of emotional depth in the screenplay. In one of their first encounter, DeMeo points a gun at his face, and Kuklinski doesn’t flinch. Impressed, DeMeo tells him to kill a homeless man, a test which he passes with flying colours. Murder is something he has been acquainted with, and on his face he reacts to it in the same way as when he receives a kiss from his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder).
The “parallel lives” structure of the film doesn’t work to full effect, perhaps because it’s too frank. Yet, sometimes the juxtapositions are intriguing. One instance is particularly worth mentioning as a stand out moment in the film. After a conversation with his daughter, who questions the existence of God, in the following scene Kuklinski meets his next victim (played by James Franco in a cameo role, though he still gets top billing in some of the posters) and offers him to pray for his salvation. For the most part, however, this structure weakens the emotional depth of the movie. This two dimensional approach is something that is becoming somewhat of a trend in “gun crazy” dramas nowadays. That is why it’s easier to see them as satirical, much like another gangster film which was out earlier this year, Spring Breakers. The two films have a lot in common in the sense that there is almost a feeling of them walking a thin line between comedy and tragedy; in Korine’s film the comedy was more slapstick, and in Vromen’s the comedy is closer to deadpan. Nevertheless, both films are more open to graphic violence than melodrama and while both films hope to thrive on originality, they still make use of many character stereotypes.
For instance, even the humanisation of the villain is less compelling than Fritz Lang’s portrayal of Peter Lorre’s character in M, though an attempt to make him seem ordinary is more evident here than in other serial killer movies like Dahmer (2002). Yet this film is more impressive on a visual level than a narrative or thematic one. The story mostly takes place in the seventies and early eighties and seems influenced by the gritty and streetwise style of the thrillers by William Friedkin, most notably The French Connection (1971). From costumes to sets, the art direction is equally up to the task of making it look like a genuine period piece.
While in The Iceman a somewhat unique element of domestic drama is included, it seems that the screenplay is more interested in keeping the central character’s two lives separate and it’s hard to understand why, seeing as it could have been the film’s most interesting aspect. Eventually, the weakness in the screenplay start to show prominently and even the initial intensity soon starts to wane right up to the ending, which seem rushed and weak. Vromen’s film is carried by a powerhouse performance by Shannon, and while its visual style is full of nice touches, it can’t help but feel like a conventional testosterone and violence fuelled crime drama dressed in art house fashion.
DIR: Sam Raimi • WRI: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abair • PRO: Joe Roth • ED: Bob Murawski • DOP: Peter Deming • DES: Robert Stromberg • CAST: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weiz, Michelle Williams
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the merry ol’ land of Oz, so off I went in my sparkly red shoes (egg on my face though, cos there wan’t a ruby slipper to be seen in Raimi’s version) to a Sunday morning family screening of Oz The Great and Powerful.
Raimi’s film is essentially the origin story for the wonderful wizard. Oz (Franco) is a selfish circus con-man whose tendency towards smoke and mirrors has left him devoid of any real sense of self. Like Dorothy, he is swept away in a cyclone and transported to a strange and magical world where he is soon recognised as the man who is destined to rule all of Oz. In order to gain the throne and a room full of gold, he must convince them, and himself, that he’s the man they need him to be
Knowing Sam Raimi and his tendency towards playfulness I was unsurprised but no less delighted to see him open his film with 4:3 monochrome, where it stayed until we enter Oz, where he then revealed in all its 3D glory, all the beauty and spectacle we would hope to see in Oz.
The plot sees three witches struggling for power over Oz (the place AND the man), one is beautiful, naïve Theodora (Kunis) who falls in love with Oz as she leads him to meet her sister Evanora so they can plot to kill the wicked witch who has been banished to the woods but they suspect to be planning an uprising. But things get complicated when he finds the “wicked witch” and she turns out to be the beautiful, wise and good Glinda The Good.
The production design, CGI effects and cinematography are absolutely beautiful throughout the film, which instantly removed the slight alarm bell of cynicism that might have existed in me around this project. But it’s clear from the outset that love and passion went into the aesthetic of this film. Special mention must go to Gary Jones for the unbelievably beautiful costume design. All the actors seem to be having a blast camping it up in their roles (does Franco ever really do anything else?) and it’s especially nice to see Michelle Williams in a happy film for once.
At almost two and a half hours, I couldn’t help but feel that the thin plot didn’t really warrant the lengthy running time, but having said that I absolutely adored so many aspects of the film that I never really wanted it to end. Raimi’s stamp is all over the film in the most wonderful ways! His flying cameras, his sharp visual wit and not to mention his horrifying witch and flying baboons, there’s plenty on display here to keep his fans happy. But what about the most important audience of all? The children. What’s in it for them? Magic, a cute monkey, a lovely little china doll, action, scary villains and most of all a wonderful sense of what epic 3D cinema should be. Big! From where I was sitting (which was surrounded by hundreds of children) they seemed very, very pleased with themselves. One thing it is missing though – singin’ and dancin’; but I guess I can’t have it all.
DIR: Rupert Wyatt • WRI: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver • PRO: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver • DOP: Andrew Lesnie • ED: Conrad Buff IV, Mark Goldblatt • DES: Claude Paré • CAST: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow
Sequels to the original Planet of the Apes tried and failed to explain how it came to be that Charlton Heston’s own planet was overrun by intelligent chimps – time-travelling escapees, intelligent offspring hidden in the circus, humans training apes in slave labour, etc. That these movies existed more as social commentary than story exposition meant believable causality fell to the wayside, and Tim Burton’s ‘reimagining’ did little more than remake an untouchable original with substantially less insight. After six movies if would seem that the Apes franchise might finally have worn itself out – until Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and even the new proliferation of zombie movies, has shown that returning to the beginning of a story, or showing a disaster from its inception, is a markedly more bankable option.
We unsurprisingly find ourselves in a lab, with experiments in progress that will ostensibly improve the life of humans, but which clearly must go awry in some fashion. Though this might seem hackneyed – zombie outbreaks result from labs, Spiderman was bitten in a lab, and so on – that it retains its heart and strength is down to some fantastic filmmaking, and excellent support acting. James Franco leads the human actors, and it is through his work on a cure for Alzheimer’s – which his father (Jon Lithgow) suffers from – that the baby chimpanzee, Caesar, comes into being. Franco is as solid as ever, anchoring a strong support cast, including Freida Pinto and Brian Cox, and maintaining a visual link to the motion-capture CGI apes that inhabit the film. Most noteworthy of all these, of course, is the master of motion capture – Andy Serkis… for who else could have taken on the role of a CGI ape and turned him into the sympathetic character of Caesar. Unlike the previous Apes movies, these monkeys do not talk, so we are treated to many scenes of animal communication and behaviour which, though mostly managed through CGI, never once lose the flavour of reality.
The basic story needs no more explanation than that the retrovirus created to regenerate dead cells has caused a chimp like Caesar, with no diseases, to instead create new cells – leading to heightened intelligence and a human capacity for emotion. This is an origins story that adds weight to the original, instead of taking away from it, and there is solid basis for believability. Despite Franco’s loving father routine, there is enough cause for apes to be unhappy with lab experiments, circuses and zoos, and when they finally stand up against their human oppressors the flawless CGI does not for one second let down the awesomeness of their rise.
This move marks the beginning of a new franchise – succeeding in its depth as The Dark Knight succeeded, and avoiding the pitfalls of Spiderman’s inability to follow through on disaster. While entertaining enough to find a new audience in those who have never seen the originals, it contains enough knowing nods to keep enthusiasts happy – balancing the old with the new as only a franchise usurper can.
As this is the story of origins, there is, by necessity, more narrative and background – though the action, when it does come, is well worth the wait. With solid acting, great script, fantastic CGI and firm direction, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has injected new hope into a fading idea. If this movie was good, then it appears that the ones to come will be even better!
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) Rise of the Planet of the Apes is released on 12th August 2011
Gemma Creagh (and some lovely, but competing website writers) got to sit down and have a chat with the writer, producer and star of Your Highness, Danny McBride.
Did you ever think you’d get to this point in your career?
It’s real crazy. I moved to LA in 1999 when I finished film school, with a bunch of my buddies like Jody Hill – who I wrote The Foot Fist Way with. We were waiting tables, trying to get by, trying to pay rent and to find our place in Los Angeles. We weren’t really too successful, so we eventually we decided to just make something ourselves and see what happens. That was the idea for with The Foot Fist Way. We tried to make something we thought would be funny and that we liked, but didn’t have a lot of money. We funded it on our credit cards for $40,000. We didn’t try to imitate a Hollywood movie or try and make it look like we had more money than we did. Instead we just embraced the lo-fi nature, making it look like it was made for 10 dollars. I don’t know what ended up happening; the next few months became a whirlwind. The film just ended up getting out there; people ended up seeing it and responding to it. Suddenly we went from having nothing going on to Jony and I getting phone calls from people like Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell – and all these guys who we really admired – and they had seen our film and were saying that they would like to work with us. It was a really surreal time! It was crazy to make something like that, and we were just worried about how many jobs we would have to take on in order to pay off the debt – for that not to have happened is awesome. We were very grateful.
Where did the idea come form?
David Green and myself went to film school. When you leave film school you tend to lead off with all these arty pretentions films so you can show people how smart you are but David was one of the guys who was like not ashamed to show that movies like The Beastmaster were part of his video collection. We had that in common. I loved those movies, they were one of the first films that captured my imagination when I was a kid. So Your Highness was a strange love-letter to the weird, perverted 13-year-old versions of us. We really approached it this way, even when it came to the comedy. The thought of this movie was about getting these huge actors – like Natalie Portman; Franco; Toby Jones; Damian Lewis and Charles Dance, and our camera department were people who had worked on Lord of the Rings with Peter Jackson, all who really approached this thing really seriously – but then undercut the whole thing with this really juvenile comedic approach. All of it was to make the younger versions of ourselves laugh.
What was the writing process for the script like?
The script was formed over the course of two years. Right before I did the Pineapple Express I sold the script, during Pineapple, Tropic Thunder, I made a loss and a lot of the time I was on the sets, in my trailer, writing the script. Working with David I know that the script is just the blueprints, the springboard, but we worked hard to make sure the story and the structure and the characters were there. However we really started to explore a lot of the comedy and the chemistry though the improv on the set.
What are the influences of Your Highness?
It really came to the forefront when we started getting the first Office series in America. We had never seen anything like that before, where the main character’s such a buffoon but then when he doesn’t get the promotion you really feel sad for him. I love comedy that teeters on the edge of tragedy the whole time. I think that’s what we try to do with Eastbound & Down, really ride the line, making it really dark. It has moments of it being really dirty and foul but at the same time there’s a tragedy that undercuts it. I don’t think with this movie we try to go so much into that dark territory, but it still plays with that concept of ‘what does it take for the audience to root for someone’. I think with a story like this, if we were just to do he straight up version where we’ve followed Franco’s character, who’s just the ‘Good Knight’, where would we really find the comedy if were weren’t going to do a straight up spoof? In ours we found it a little better by shifting who the audience was supposed to be followed. The protagonist is not the same one you’ve seen in this type of film before. You can run them though the same clichés that they hit in these movies, but there’s always a different angle to it comedically as you haven’t seen a character like this go through those steps.
How did you get James and Natalie attached to it?
We’d worked with James on Pineapple Express, and David and I had a really good time with him. We had written the character of Fabious for James. And Natalie? David was in talks with Natalie on another film and she had heard about this film that we were trying to do and wanted to get involved. She actually was really open to the idea, which was surprising to us! But I knew she had this great sense of humour since I had seen her Saturday Night Live Gangster rap music video. I thought that was amazing, she had this image of being a serious accomplished actress and to see her just undercut that in this video was just hilarious. We were just stoked to have her in this movie to do a little bit more of that.
What can we expect from Eastbound & Down?
We’re still writing the third season now and with the last season you find out that Kenny is going to be a dad… the next season is going to explore that even more. Kenny is going to try and be a dad while making one last run for glory. We aim to finish the series with this next season. We always saw it as something we wanted to keep small and compact. With a lot of shows in the states, the seasons are so long, 24 episodes, that you kind of tune in and tune out during episodes and we wanted to do something different.
DIR: David Gordon Green • WRI: Danny McBride, Ben Best • PRO: Peter McAleese, Scott Stuber, Danny McBride • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Craig Alpert • DES: Mark Tildesley• Cast: Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, James Franco, Justin Theroux
Sweet, clever and very, very funny; there hasn’t been a comedy this hilarious since that youtube video I watched on my iPhone – just before I got kicked of the Luas for laughing so hard I nearly got sick.
Oh wait, now the many, many drugs I had taken are beginning to wear off….
As soberness takes that fuzzy filter off, the film that had previously seemed such an insightful parody, now, well… maybe not so much. Let me take you through it: Danny McBride plays Thadious, James Franco’s, eh, younger brother and son to King Tallious. The old one-sided sibling rivalry flares up like a bout of herpes when the heroic Fabious (Franco) returns from a dangerous mission. He arrives with a beautiful new fiancé, Belladona, and significantly less beautiful severed Cyclops head.
On the day of the wedding, Thadious decides to sit it out and instead smoke ye olde weede, avoiding his duties as best man. However in his absence, tragedy ensues. The evil sorcerer Leezar attacks the ceremony, taking away Fabious’s missus-to-be with the intention of raping her when the Kingdom’s two moons collide to produce a dragon baby. Together the two princes and Knights, (including the handsome red-head from Band of Brothers) must go on a dangerous mission to save her; crossing paths with pervy Muppet-wizards, dismembered members and an Oscar-winning Natalie Portman.
For those not in the know, this was shot up North. There are a number of familiar sights featured in the film, such as the Giant’s Causeway and some deadly old castles. I even saw an old buddy extra-ing it, and the Northie accent can be heard yelling during a barfight scene, all giving it a nice bit of local flavor.
Alright, so this probably won’t get Nats Oscar® number two for best supporting actress, nor will it go down in history as the greatest comedic film of our time – but what it will do is make you laugh. It’s a stoner film: zany, idiotic and completely over the top – and it’s a decent stoner film. Unlike a lot of spoof films, which usually rely on the one joke, over and over, there’s a consistent vein of humour throughout. Nothing mind blowing mind you, but enough to power through. There’s a decent bit of (and by ‘decent bit of’, I do mean ‘some’) character development, and it pokes fun at the oh-so-serious adventure genre, which I did enjoy.
It’s an odd mix for the audience – the humour is very immature, yet the swearing and sexual references are pretty explicit. And the fact that there’s a close up of Natalie’s bum, confirms that this flick is one for the teenage boys. It will probably do most of it’s financial damage on DVD, where the 16s rating has less of a sway, what with all the naïve mums out there (‘Yes mum, it IS on the junior cert syllabus. See, it’s set in the past!’).
As long as you’re not expecting anything Gourmet, Your Highness shouldn’t disappoint. It’s really the Kebab of films: you know it’s not good for you, but enjoy it anyway – and it ALWAYS tastes better under the influence.
Rated 16 (seeIFCO websitefor details) Your Highness is released on 15th April 2011
Has your home got what it takes to play a starring role in a film, television series or commercial? It can be a lucrative way to top-up the household budget, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER. Household budgets squeezed tighter than ever, homeowners are looking for creative ways to stretch the family finances. One way is to rent your home as a location for either film, television, commercials or editorials.
James Franco has optioned feature film rights to Steve Erickson’s 2007 novel Zeroville and will develop the project under his Rabbit Bandini Prods. banner with an eye to direct the pic. Franco will produce with Miles Levy and Vince Jolivette, but there are currently no plans for the thesp to star in the film. They are eyeing an early 2012 start date. The darkly comic story follows Ike ‘Vikar’Jerome, a 24-year-old student who arrives in Hollywood in 1969 with dreams of breaking into the movie business.
RTÉ launch switchover campaign for its Saorview digital terrestrial TV service
RTÉ have launched their information campaign ahead of the eventual switch off of the analogue TV signal and move over to Saorview digital TV at the end of 2012. The campaign will feature on TV, radio, online and print as the State broadcaster focuses on getting the 600,000 households who rely on their aerial for television ready for the switchover. A lo-call helpline (1890 222 012) is also in operation. While there are a number of options for those householders right now, those choices are expected to grow as we get closer to the switchover.
An Ancient church in the heart of Cork city has been transformed into one of the country’s most exciting multi-purpose arts and cultural hubs. Christchurch on South Main Street, which dates from the 18th Century, will open its doors as a state-of-the-art 250-seat concert, cinema and exhibition venue on April 15 with a weekend-long arts gala. The €4.8 million restoration and refurbishment was supported by Cork City Council, with funding from the ERD Fund and the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly.
Hollywood video on demand plans anger cinema owners
A row has broken out between major film studios, including Universal and Sony, and US cinema owners over plans to allow Hollywood blockbusters into living rooms within weeks of their big screen debuts via video on demand (VoD). Film lovers could soon watch new releases just two months after their cinema debut under the new premium VoD plans, which will reportedly be introduced in the US later this month. Four of the six Hollywood film studios – Universal, Sony, Warner Bros and Fox – will offer films to rent for $30 (£18), for a period of two to three days through the US satellite TV service Direct TV, according to reports.
DIR: Danny Boyle • WRI: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy • PRO: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, John Smithson • DOP: Enrique Chediak, Anthony Dod Mantle • ED: Jon Harris • DES: Suttirat Anne Larlarb • CAST: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara
‘This rock has been waiting for me my whole life’ – a moment of realisation for Aron Ralston, a young man literally trapped between a rock and a hard place for five days straight – not too long before making the decision that will set him free to live the rest of his life.
Everyone who watches 127 Hours goes into the movie knowing that the guy cuts off his arm in the end…but what you might not expect is the wide spectrum of emotions and imagery that his journey to get there encompasses. The sense of discomfort waiting for *that* scene is palpable in an audience throughout the running time, but there’s also the sense of discovery and life-affirming joy that the film’s fantastic direction evokes.
Danny Boyle brings the same kinetic energy to the material as he did with the likes of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire – there’s always been a confidence about his filmmaking that can either come off exhilarating or obnoxious, luckily here he strikes the former. From the opening scenes of Ralston setting off for his journey (without telling anyone where he’s going I might add) Boyle employs split-screen visuals and a pumping tune to bring the audience along for the ride, as he takes with him only a few supplies and a handycam to record his trip to the desert near Moab, Utah.
Franco’s spirited portrayal of a thrill-seeking adventurer brings to mind the same carefree energy of Into the Wild’s Christopher McCandless – another ill-fated young explorer, played by Emile Hirsch. Tearing through the desert on his bike, Ralston falls to the ground and without pausing snaps a shot of himself smiling on the ground. There are some really dynamic camera tricks, like placing the camera inside the straw as he takes a sip of water. He encounters two rather irritating girls, novice climbers for whom he serves as guide for an afternoon, taking a plunge into the rock pool with them and then going on his way.
’We probably didn’t even figure in his day,’ the girls quip as he walks off. However, before too long Ralston is shouting their names from the fault line into which he has fallen. The moment the rock hits and he gets painfully wedged between it and the wall, bam – the title card ‘127 Hours’ – a good 15 minutes into the film, a very sly move on Boyle’s part. After much grunting and cursing, Ralston realises the severity of his situation, and so lays out his inventory – trying to formulate some kind of plan.
He begins by trying to chip away at the rock with the blade of the cheap made-in-China multi-tool he has with him. There is a moment early on when he drops the knife somewhere quite out of reach – and the audience, knowing what’s coming, secretly hope that he can never pick it up. But alas, he does – and in fact attempts to sever his arm with the dull blade far earlier than you might expect, but to no avail.
Ralston soon settles into a routine – recording his thoughts on the handycam every day, observing a raven that flies overhead every morning, the sunlight as it shines down into his fault line for fifteen minutes a day, and the few blissful moments he can bathe his ankle in it. Some music choices almost seem too upbeat and undercut the seriousness of the situation; Danny Boyle often (as he has in the past) places the need to keep an audience superficially entertained over the need to honour the grim reality of story.
Ralston becomes resourceful in his fight for survival, constructing an elaborate pulley with ropes and connecting devices, trying with all his might to pull the rock out, but failing to do so. On the Tuesday morning, he tapes himself hosting a kind of light-hearted TV chat show – interviewing himself about his current predicament. Entertaining as this enthusiastic schizo-dialogue might be, it stretches belief that he’d have so much energy after that many hours of dehydration.
He begins to have dreams, remembering times with the French girl-that-got-away, played by the alluring Clémence Poésy, and also experiences hallucinations – including a rain shower that turns into flash flood – a spectacular sequence that sees Ralston floating to freedom as the rock comes loose in the rush of water, defying audience expectation before returning to him in his actual circumstance. Some of the flashbacks and illusions are a little heavy handed, as to be expected with Danny Boyle – but for the most part serve the movie well to take us out of the confined setting.
As Ralston situation becomes more dire and he seems to be facing into death, his body is drained, becoming so dehydrated that he resorts to drinking his own urine, that same camera inside the straw now rising with a yellow liquid. ‘It’s no Slurpee’, Franco observes ‘…it’s like a bag of piss.’ Pushed to his physical and psychological limits, he makes the decision to sever his arm. He begins to have heart palpitations, and stabs himself in the arm out of frustration. Once again Boyle cuts to one of his novelty internal camera angle – this time we see the point of the blade hitting the bone. He begins breaking these bones, and it’s out with the blade again – slitting skin, ripping tendons, blood everywhere – the soundtrack underscoring the pain. You cannot distance yourself from it and say “it’s only a movie’ because this really did happen – loss of circulation is only the only consolation.
Despite how graphic the scene is, he’s taking the necessary action to break free and it is truly a cathartic moment after so many scenes of struggle and hopelessness. Eventually, he emerges with only a red stump remaining – climbing out into the sunlight, having lost one arm – but gaining immeasurable wisdom from his experience. The struggle is over and has felt real thanks Franco’s fantastic and commitment to the character’s plight and Danny Boyle’s inventive direction. 127 Hours is an uncomfortable ride, but one worth taking, as long as you’re not too squeamish.
Rated 15A (seeIFCO website for details)
127 Hours is released on 7th January 2011
Disclaimer: this is long, self indulgent and full of name-dropping and was written more or less as my own personal record of events.
It all started when I returned from holidays on Monday 11th August and our assistant editor, Niamh Creely tells me that we’ve gotten a 20-minute interview with James Franco, (the Green Goblin’s son and Tobey Maguire’s best friend in the Spiderman movies) and Danny McBride. No, me neither.
For the next few hours I could barely concentrate at work as I thought of the great time that me, James and Danny were going to have for 20 minutes. It would be out of the ordinary, but they could easily end up inviting me out for pints, right?
I was determined that I would ask the questions that I wanted to ask without compromise. I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to be like Pat Kenny and ask questions, not listen to answers and then ask the next question on my list.
I got onto IMDb and started researching all I could about Danny in particular, as I didn’t know him. It ended up he was in The Heartbreak Kid.
He is also in Drillbit Taylor which was co-written by Seth Rogen, who co-wrote Pineapple Express so that was a good place to start. I got through it and at least now had some idea who this guy was.
Though I still had no idea what questions I was going to ask.
I was emailed the production notes from Sony and found them really interesting. I’m a fan of 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad (not so much Knocked Up) but as I read the notes, the whole community feel to the Apatow ‘Family’ was intriguing.
Here’s a group of guys, friends for years, who collectively write, produce, direct and star in a bunch of funny comedies together. I hate to have to describe a comedy as funny but it’s important to differentiate them from the likes of The Heartbreak Kid.
So on to the press screening. I get to the locked doors of the Savoy Cinema and spot someone equally bewildered as me and soon we are let in. All in all, about ten critics are there, including Donald Clarke (DC) of The Irish Times and Tara Brady of Hot Press, and there were lots of laughs throughout, even from hardened cynics such as ourselves. The film itself is a blast, great entertainment. It made me laugh and was a movie that I would actually choose to go to.
So, still with no ideas of questions, I decided to try and see as many of the movies that are mentioned in the production notes as possible, with All the Real Girls and George Washington my priorities as the director of Pineapple Express, David Gordon Green, and Danny McBride had worked together on them.
Delightfully, Laser had them both and I watched All the Real Girls. All but the last 15 minutes of it.
I got the my hands on the Dictaphone and cable and tested it a couple of times with different volumes and different distances between parties to make sure I wouldn’t have any fuck-ups come interview time. (Is that a set up?)
After watching George Washington the whole way through, (but spacing out at regular intervals about the great time me, James and Danny would have on Friday) I now had a good feel for who Danny was. In Pineapple Express, the combination of this director, David Gordon Green, whose previous features were character-based dramas, with James Franco playing against type as the loser stoner guy, really appealed to me.
The Big Day
Researching Danny, I found a clip of him on Conan O’Brien playing the character Fred Simmons from The Foot Fist Club, a comedy he stars in and co-wrote. I read interviews with him from ABC, NBC and The New York Times. I also read more on James Franco and Pineapple Express on Wikipedia.
The fact that, at this stage, I was still struggling to come up with questions was starting to weigh on my mind, but I thought that they are there to talk, and talk they would.
As I entered the Merrion, the concierge gave me an overly friendly greeting and I blustered out I was looking for reception. I asked at reception for the Pineapple Express interviews, eliciting a blank look from the girl. The guy beside her was on the phone but said something indecipherable. I returned the blank look and after what seemed like an eternity, the penny dropped and I realised he’d said ‘Sony Pictures’.
‘Yes, that’s it,’ I replied.
‘It’s in 180,’ he said to the girl.
The girl nodded, came round the desk and we walked through the bar and around through beautiful corridors with views of the garden, to plain old room 101, opposite a bin and a set of lifts.
She attempted to swipe me into the room but we were greeted by flashing amber lights on the door handle and the door didn’t open. After a sigh, and some foostering of the door handle and a couple of knocks of ever increasing intensity, the door is opened by a woman in a bathrobe drying her hair with a towel.
All three of us look at each other and, without saying a word, communicate: ‘Nothing needs to be said, we all know this is definitely not the room we were looking for.’
A colleague comes out of the lift and she doesn’t know where the interviews are either. I offer: ‘180?’
A quick phone call to reception and it turns out it was 181. We walk through the hotel and eventually get to a corridor that has been completely taken over by Pineapple Express promotional poster boards.
I get shown to a room, give my name and publication to a very pleasant girl from Sony and get shown to another room with a table of soft drinks and the Olympics on the television. I recognise DC and introduce myself as Gordon from Film Ireland.
DC gets out his Dictaphone so I wisely get out mine too. My name is called so I grab the Dictaphone and pad of not-so-many questions and follow a very friendly girl down the corridor where I get passed to yet another friendly girl and sit and wait outside the room. I can hear Seth Rogen chatting loudly next door.
The door opens and the previous interviewer leaves complete with friendly goodbyes from the two lads. They do seem friendly. The girl asks them if they want anything and James asks for a coffee. She introduces me, but my name and publication get lost in the refreshments order.
I introduce myself again and indeed they are very friendly. I take off my jacket and James immediately asks if my T-Shirt is a René Magritte. It’s not, but I tell them it’s not the first time I’ve gotten that. I tell them the design’s by the Imaginary Foundation and that I got them cheap via the States as they are expensive here. I have told that anecdote dozens of times but never to two less interested people.
So as I sit down properly, I make chit-chat, asking if I’m one of the last ones to interview them. They only got in last night and are off tomorrow morning. James tells me they ate in the Unicorn last night but didn’t have a chance to sample the Guinness. Danny assures me he’ll be ‘routing down pints’ tonight, once this is over.
I confirm it’s okay to switch on my Dictaphone and we are off and running.
I continue the chit-chat and James for the first time flashes this strange eyes wide open facial tic. My gut tells me he’s concerned I’m going to trap him into some story of debauchery on the town in Dublin, but we’ll never know.
My first question is to James. ‘Having you cast as the stoner loser probably made a lot of sense to the creative elements of the production, but did they have trouble from the financiers that wanted you as the…’
Before I finish my question, James is off on enthusiastic autopilot straight from the production notes.
James Franco: When Judd Apatow sent me the script for Pineapple Express, They didn’t tell me which role. I thought they wanted me to play Dale (the Seth Rogen character), and I was thinking, ‘Gosh, I really like it, but I really wish I could play Saul.’ And then they said, ‘We want you to play Saul,’ so it was perfect.
I was disappointed but not surprised by his response so I pushed further. ‘You made short films yourself. Did the financiers watch those?’
JF: Yes, I did The Ape.
Franco:The Ape, you know, like –
The penny drops. Sort of.
GG: Oh! The Ape.
JF: Yes, The Ape, like a monkey.
He puts his hand to his face for some reason, to help explain things.
JF: Which I wrote and paid for and no one watched it, seriously they wouldn’t watch it. I had a cameo in Knocked Up and unbeknownst to me at the time that was my audition for Pineapple Express, and based on that they cast me.
GG: Seriously though, is it true they wouldn’t be bothered to watch your short films?
DMcB: Yep, unless someone paid 25 million on something, none of those guys are going to watch it. Yep, it has to look like 25 million, anything less than that, they won’t switch it on.
GG: Danny, you were part of the crew on director David Gordon Green’s George Washington, how was his approach on Pineapple Express different to that?
And he’s off with the production notes spiel.
DMcB: Yes, I was second unit director, we went to film school together and we lived on the same dormitory hall, he was a year ahead of me but lived next door to me, so that’s how we knew each other.
Eh, what was my question?
GG: How was his approach similar to Judd Apatow’s?
DMcB: A lot of it was improvised. He’s similar to Judd in just going ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot and we’ll sort it out in editing.’ All ideas were open, actors were given a chance to improvise.
JF: Both Judd Apatow and David Gordon Green are open to creativity and improvisation as it’s real and adds something to a scene. We ended up shooting about a million feet of film (I’m not sure if he’s serious), the camera kept on rolling all the time, it was always on.
DMcB: Yeah, this created challenges for Tim Orr (the cinematographer) as to lighting and shooting, as he had to have multiple cameras on people in order to not miss the reactions of any actor from an improv.
Then the coffee arrives, either mid-question or mid-answer. Either way, it throws me off my train of thought and makes me realise: ‘S**t, I’m almost out of questions.’
I go onto say how I think Irish audiences will like the movie, particularly the cynical satirical swipe at conventional Hollywood endings.
JF: That’s my favourite scene in the whole movie. They didn’t know how to end it and came up with the ending about half way through shooting. They knew they couldn’t put in a happy ending after all that happens.
That wasn’t really what I was getting at so I try again that the ending was taking the piss out of normal Hollywood endings and that type of cynicism goes down well with Irish audiences who often feel their intelligence is insulted with some of the endings coming from California.
GG: I find that the relationship between Dale (Seth Rogen’s Character) and Saul (James Franco’s character) is done very well, it seems genuine and believable and there is real heart there, like in all Apatow movies. In Irish movies, and I could but I won’t name any names (I think if I had named names they would not have been the least bit bothered) it would have been clichéd and unrealistic.
JF and DMcB: Thanks
GG: I’m curious to find more about the Apatow ‘Family’. You all know each other firstly as friends and in several cases for many years. What plans do you have to work together again?
JF and DMcB immediately say they’d love to work with each other again. Danny has three big movies coming out, including Tropic Thunder and Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell.
James is heading back to ‘School’. So it is true! (I read it in Wikipedia.) He’ll be studying American history and something else.
‘History is useless as the victors get to write history,’ says Danny.
At this stage I have finally run out of questions, and ask them if they have any questions for me. They don’t.
‘Hey man, grab a Red Bull,’ says James.
‘I think I will, actually,’ I say and then remember I hate Red Bull. I try to get a bottle of Coke but can’t see an opener.
They joke again that they are going to Amsterdam after this to continue on the movie. At least I think they were joking.
So, with my questions finally exhausted and with them having no questions for me, I gather my things and pick up the Dictaphone, which greets me with a blank screen.
Due to some random glitch, the whole interview has gone unrecorded. I shake hands with the lads and, to their puzzlement, end the interview early. The next journalist is out there waiting to go in and the Sony girl, on her way down to call me, is also slightly surprised to see me.
‘All finished?’ she says. ‘Yes,’ I reply, as I head off, trying to keep as much of the last eighteen minutes as possible in my head.