the lawnmower man

In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus—a scrappy start-up dedicated to resurrecting virtual reality—for $2 billion. Since then, every major player in the tech space (from Google and Microsoft to Sony and Samsung) has begun to prepare for a very virtual future.

With this incredible technology now on its way, I’ve spent the past couple of years working on a new book about the unlikely heroes of this virtual reality revolution. During that time, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with those in the burgeoning VR industry and, at some point, almost inevitably, The Lawnmower Man—the 1992 sci-film film directed by Brett Leonard—eventually comes up.

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gamer

No matter how you feel about the films of Brian Taylor — a high-voltage assortment that includes Crank, Gamer, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance — they all, at first glance, inspire a shared singular question: how the fuck did this get made?

Seriously. Just look at what these movies are about:

  • To avoid dying, a British hitman must keep adrenaline coursing through his body.
  • In a future where kids can control humans as if they were video game characters, a wrongly imprisoned death row convict seeks freedom.
  • Years after making a deal with the Devil, a hell-on-wheels monster known as “The Ghost Rider” must save a young boy (and, ultimately, the world).

To many, these films are considered “guilty pleasures.” Yet interestingly enough, they come from an unexpectedly honest place: a desire to provide viewers with an alternative to the four-quadrant, check-the-boxes, CGI-everything Hollywood Machine.

This underlying, upend-the-system ethos was just one the many things I learned during my conversation with Taylor. But by no means was it the most interesting. Not compared to hearing about his wild and crazy “maniac” days, the strange legacy of Gamer and what it’s really like to work with the iconic and eccentric enigma that is Nicolas CageRead More »

Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye / Les Bohem interview

Hulu’s new original series Shut Eye is set in the world of psychic hustlers. Jeffrey Donovan stars as Charlie, the front man to a psychic operation that looks up their clients on Facebook, and scams them for thousands. In the pilot, Charlie starts having genuine psychic visions. Charlie works with his wife Linda (KaDee Strickland), and his sister runs afoul of the turf of rival psychic boss Rita (Isabella Rossellini).

Les Bohem created Shut Eye. Bohem’s name graced many ‘90s movie posters as the screenwriter of Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Nowhere to Run and 1989’s A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. We spoke with Bohem about the world of Shut Eye just before Hulu’s panel for the Television Critics Association.  Read More »

Rogue One Star Wars riz ahmed interview

Riz Ahmed has been having one hell of a 2016. Before audiences see him as Imperial pilot turned Rebel sympathizer Bodhi Rook in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he played a key role in Jason Bourne earlier this summer and headlined HBO’s critically lauded miniseries The Night Of. Toss in major roles in modern gems like Four Lions and Nightcrawler and you’re left with one of the most interesting (and multi-faceted) young actors working today.

I was able to speak with Ahmed shortly after watching 28 minute of footage from Rogue One and we chatted about using fanboy feelings as on-set fuel, the importance of diversity in modern stories, and what it’s like to play an ordinary person in the Star Wars universe. Oh, and we wasted valuable Star Wars time chatting about Nightcrawler.

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diego luna interview

Everyone at the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story junket is tired, exhausted from days of press and hours of interviews. Except for Diego Luna. He’s alert and energetic and improbably cheerful for a man who has been answering questions from reporters and bloggers all day.

The actor I sit down with couldn’t feel more different from his character, Captain Cassian Andor, a Rebel intelligence officer who was seen making some very tough decisions in the Rogue One footage we saw the night before. Cassian is a pragmatic soldier not above living in shades of gray to get the job done. Diego Luna is positive, charming, and had to go camping with former Marines so he could learn the ins and outs of soldering. Our conversation was far too brief.

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Andrew Kevin Walker interview

Tonight, for one night only, Nerdland is playing in theaters across the United States courtesy of Fathom Events. The wacky, wild, and bizarrely sweet animated film tells the story of two 30-year-old friends, John (Paul Rudd) and Elliot (Patton Oswalt), on the hunt for infamy. Sick of waiting around for fame to drop on their laps, the actor who doesn’t act and the screenwriter who barely writes decide to do whatever necessary to grab headlines.

Director Chris Prynoski‘s (Metalocapylpse) buddy picture sprang from the mind of screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker many years ago. Walker, best known for Se7en, spent plenty of time and money trying to make Nerdland. It was originally planned as a live-action film that David Fincher was going to direct, but after years of hearing “no,” Walker’s story finally got told as an R-rated animated feature, thanks to the fine people at Titmouse Inc., the animation production company behind The Venture Bros., Superjail!, and Metalocalypse.

Walker recently spoke with us about his love letter to Los Angeles, the Jonah Hill draft of Nerdland, working with David Fincher, and far more. Below, read our Andrew Kevin Walker interview.

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Rogue One Alan Tudyk Interview

Of course Alan Tudyk is in a Star Wars movie.

And of course the beloved character actor whose eclectic credits include Firely, Serenity, I, Robot, Death at a Funeral, Wreck-It Ralph, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and Frozen would play a seven-foot-tall, antisocial Imperial security droid reprogrammed to serve the Rebel cause and help steal the Death Star plans in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. After all, Tudyk has a knack for popping up in unexpected places, taking on the strangest roles, and stealing every scene he’s in.

I sat down with Tudyk the day after watching 28 minutes of Rogue One footage, which revealed his K-2SO (a digital character created through motion capture) to be an early contender for the film’s MVP. During our all-too-brief conversation, we spoke about bringing humor to a dark movie, avoiding getting typecast, and the importance of spontaneity on set.

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Transformers The Last Knight - Michael Bay's Secret Weapon

There are plenty of movie lovers out there who just don’t like the movies of Michael Bay. But no matter how ridiculous the action is in his movies, or how silly the story may be, you can’t deny that he is one of the most proficient and efficient directors working today. All of the stories you hear about how crazy this man is on movie sets are true. But it’s because of his demand for excellency that the cast and crew respect him, working intensely to ensure that the production is moving quickly and efficiently.

Some might find Michael Bay’s intensity unnecessary and over the top, but it’s his raw, unbridled passion for filmmaking, albeit in his own unique style, that has resulted in one of the most impressively run film sets I have ever seen. In fact, pushing his crew to do such hard, fast work has resulted in one particular innovation that is essentially Michael Bay’s secret weapon to shooting a mega visual effects blockbuster like Transformers: The Last Knight in such a speedy, productive fashion, and it’s not the Bayhem camera that we’ve talked about before.

Find out what Michael Bay’s secret weapon is after the jump. Read More »

Universal Monsters Movie Universe

Last year it was revealed that Fast and the Furious producer Chris Morgan was teaming with screenwriter/director Alex Kurtzman to design a Universal Monsters cinematic universe. The plan was to reboot the Universal Monsters properties, including characters such as Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, each with their own movies leading to an Avengers-type film that would bring them all together.

The trailer for the first film in the series, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, was released over the weekend, giving us a first look at the Universal Monster movie universe. I had the opportunity to talk with director Alex Kurtzman about the creation of this world, what their intentions are, how they hope to bring it all together and more. Please note the headline comparison to Marvel is my own, not Kurtzman’s. Although I think its obvious that Kurtzman’s opinion on building a cinematic movie universe seem to closely reflect Marvel Studios’ own philosophies and approach.

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Star Wars Rogue One set - Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen, Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards looks tired.

It’s the kind of fatigue you see on the faces of filmmakers after they’ve put the finishing touches on major motion pictures and have to summon a second (third? fourth?) wind to survive the press cycle. A stiff breeze could knock him over. But the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is smart and alert and clearly as much in love with George Lucas’ classic science fiction universe now as he was when he first signed to to make Lucasfilm’s first Star Wars spin-off movie. He’s also the kind of filmmaker who is comfortable naming The Battle of Algiers as an influence on his space opera.

I spoke with Edwards the day after watching 28 minutes of Rogue One and the director of (the wonderful) Monsters and (the divisive but brilliant) Godzilla shared his thoughts on moving from the independent realm to the world of blockbusters, why Star Wars still matters, and how the war-torn fictional moon of Jedha is like Nazi-occupied France.

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