Many of us grew up watching Renny Harlin’s action movies like Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2, and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. It would be several more years before Jackie Chan was properly introduced to America with the U.S. release of Rumble in the Bronx. The two represent quite different approaches to action, with Harlin embodying the explosive bombastic American style and Chan his own unique brand of comedic martial arts.
Harlin directed Chan’s latest movie, Skiptrace. Chan plays Hong Kong detective Benny Chan, who is mismatched with an American gambler Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville). Chan has to get Watts back to Hong Kong, but their journey will take them from Russia, to the mainland, through the desert and the cities, all while being chased by bad guys led by Dasha (Eve Torres). Some of Chan’s trademark set pieces include a fight in a Russian nesting doll factory, and another scene has him singing “Rolling in the Deep.”
We spoke with Harlin by phone out of his Beijing office, because he’s staying put there. I had actually corresponded with Harlin on Twitter last year after the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles showed his maligned pirate film Cutthroat Island. 20 years later it finally played to a friendly crowd. We started out talking about the Cutthroat Island screening, and discussed Jackie Chan, American vs. Chinese filmmaking, and more. Read More »
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I saw I Am Not a Serial Killer at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year and it was one of the most pleasant surprises of the fest. A throwback horror movie that never feels the need to wink or nudge, Billy O’Brien‘s film is slick, sick, and deeply interested in the humanity that lurks behind a monster (and vice versa). It also features the great Christopher Lloyd in his best role in years, playing the elderly neighbor and friend to a teenage sociopath who finds himself pursuing a serial killer in his rural town.
I was able to speak with Mr. Lloyd for a brief phone interview to discuss his work in I Am Not a Serial Killer, but we also managed to chat about the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, playing a Klingon, and how his first copy of the Back to the Future screenplay ended up in the trashcan.
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There were three books in The Strain series by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The FX TV series will be five seasons and it is entering its third now. When season three begins, it has only been 23 days since the CDC quarantined New York City and discovered the vampire species the Strigoi, as the introduction to the season reminds us. Eph (Corey Stoll) is looking for his son while Fet (Kevin Durand) encounters some New Yorkers watching the authorities from the sidelines.
We spoke with Hogan and producer Carlton Cuse after their Television Critics Association panel for The Strain season three. Del Toro was not available this year as he is filming The Shape of Water, but he has supported the show with his attendance at two previous TCAs. The Strain returns Sunday, August 28 at 10PM on FX. Read More »
Posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
Director Fede Alvarez is all about defying expectations. First, he did the impossible and made an Evil Dead remake that managed to live up to the nasty legacy of the original. Now, he’s back with Don’t Breathe, a terrifying thriller that never zigs when it can zag, pushing the boundaries of good taste at every opportunity.
The set-up is refreshingly simple: three young criminals break into the home of a blind man, hoping to make off with the fortune he supposedly has stashed away. But that blind man is tough military veteran played by Stephen Lang and those crooks are on his turf and he has a few surprises in store for them. It’s intense. It’s gnarly. It’s grotesque. It may even go a little too far, but hey, you’ve got to admire its gleefully deranged commitment. I enjoyed it as SXSW and enjoyed it just as much just a few weeks ago. Alvarez is the real deal.
I was able to sit down with Alvarez after my second viewing and like many of the directors responsible for the most gruesome of horror movies, he turned out to be thoughtful, funny, and full of great stories. We spoke about directing Stephen Lang, channeling (and rejecting) cinematic influences, and how the film’s best scene was the result of a last-minute on-set rewrite.
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Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 by Fred Topel
USA presented a panel called “Decoding Season_2.0 With the Women of Mr. Robot” for the Television Critics Association, featuring stars Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Grace Gummer, and Stephanie Corneliussen. Creator and showrunner Sam Esmail was busy editing the show, so representing the behind the scenes of the show was Dawn Olmstead, Executive Vice President, Development, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios.
We had the chance to meet with Olmstead after the Mr. Robot panel. As EVP of Development, Olmstead took the show to pilot and series and she’s also developed UCP’s current and upcoming slate of shows including 12 Monkeys, Shooter, Falling Water, and recently announced series based on Neil Gaiman’s Interworld, Dark Horse Comics’ Umbrella Academy, Boom Studio’s The Woods and Top Cow’s Bushido. Olmstead took us inside Mr. Robot and how UCP develops series for cable. Read More »
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We first spoke with Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez by phone when they wrote and produced the second season of Daredevil. They are big fans of /Film, especially Ramirez, so when I met them in person at a Marvel Television cocktail party for the Television Critics Association, it was fun to geek out together in person.
Ramirez and Petrie went from showrunning Daredevil to showrunning the long-anticipated Marvel TV series The Defenders. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will meet in the fifth Marvel TV series on Netflix in 2017. Here is what Petrie and Ramirez were able to say about the upcoming show at this point. Read More »
With Kubo and the Two Strings, the CEO & President of Laika, Travis Knight, makes his feature directorial debut. Knight’s 3D stop-motion / CG hybrid follows a brave young hero named Kubo (Art Parkinson), as he goes on an epic quest to retrieve what’s needed to defeat Raiden the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). Along for the samurai’s emotional adventure are Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
The Japan-set film’s style was inspired by ink wash paintings, Noh theater, and period doll making. One of the biggest influences for Knight, besides the famous woodblock painter Kiyoshi Saito, was ukiyo-e (translation: pictures of the floating world). The director was most drawn to the work of Hokusai and Hiroshige, and the former’s “Great Wave off Kanagawa” clearly inspired the film’s opening sequence, which we talked about with Knight.
During our time with the filmmaker, we discussed the work Laika put into crafting some of Kubo and the Two Strings‘ most visually stunning sequences, in addition to why they’ll never make sequels. Below, read our Travis Knight interview.
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Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2016 by Fred Topel
FX’s miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was such a sensation, they presented a second panel on it for the Television Critics Association. Now all ten episodes have aired, more than reporters got to see in advance of the premiere, and it is nominated for Emmys, so the creators and stars came back to discuss it.
At a cocktail party following the FX panel, screenwriting duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski got separated. I got to speak with Alexander about their work crafting the series based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life and real events. I’m still obsessed with the jurors, as the episode on their sequestration seemed like the biggest tent in the whole circus. Alexander and Karaszewski have some more true story screenplays in the works, and Alexander told us the extent of their work on the Death Wish remake in our interview. Read More »
Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 by Fred Topel
CBS did not present a Television Critics Association panel for their upcoming series Training Day, based on the 2001 movie, but the cast and creators attended their evening party. Screenwriter Will Beall adapted the movie for television under producers Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Bruckheimer. I actually ran into Beall just as he was about to leave the party, in line at a waffle truck parked for dessert.
Beall said this was the first formal interview he had given on Training Day, which now has veteran Det. Frank Rourke (Bill Paxton) take rookie Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) under his wing. The movie had Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop training a rookie played by Ethan Hawke. Beall is also working on the feature film scripts for Aquaman, The Legend of Conan, and Robin Hood, and we discussed them all during our conversation. Training Day could be on CBS this fall or midseason. Note: this interview contains spoilers for the movie Training Day. Read More »