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America’s very own Kenny Powers aka The Man with the Golden Dick is officially leaving North Carolina and shipping off to play ball(s) in Mexico, better known as Hell on Earth in recent months due to drug cartel violence, kidnappings, and the rest of it. So, yikes, the “sour patch” seems only to worsen for Danny McBride‘s iconic steroid-taking professional baseball pitcher turned existential curse of an oaf. In early April, I wrote of the confirmation of an international change of setting from  Eastbound & Down co-director, David Gordon Green. He first brought up the possibility in 2008 during my set visit. In recent weeks, Puerto Rico had been bandied about quite a bit as a shooting location for the HBO series, but as I hinted, the island will sub in for ever-topical Mexico. The core team has been in Rico working on the scripts for the next eight episodes (its predecessor had six), and shooting begins in May.

Now, Deadline confirms two new regulars for the second season. In line with rumors, many of season uno’s beloved characters won’t be returning. One of the regulars for season two, actor Michael Pena, is a no brainer. He played the amazing thief/mall pig named Dennis in 2009′s Observe & Report, the cult classic sophomore feature from EB&D co-creator and co-director Jody Hill. In a subtle hat tip to the movie and the series’ new setting, fans will recall that Dennis fled America in a raffle car for Mexico where “the water’s warm and the girls are wet. “ More details south of the border, including news and pics of Kenny’s vivacious new lady friend…

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Viral videos have popped up this week under the guise of scratchy infomercials for something horrendously called The American Budget Shopping Network. A few readers have emailed in to ask if these are previews for the upcoming season of Eastbound & Down, which is understandable since they are hosted by Andrew Daly, aka Principle “I’ve been goin’ a little bit of crazy” Cutler, and are faux-aired from North Carolina. Well, they aren’t for the show’s second season, but they are directed by series co-creator, Jody Hill, and tie into his native town of Concord. View all five videos and find out what they are for after the jump, or call 1-888-TAB-9373 to order a “Candy Lamp” from a distraught Daly.

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Wizard people, dear reader. The casting director on Your Highness must really hate shitty talent. Today brings confirmation that Justin Theroux, the guy burdened with writing Iron Man 2 and hiding scythe-like eyebrows, will play a badguy wizard in the R-rated stoner fantasia due 2010 from Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green.

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This past April saw the release of writer/director Jody Hill‘s first official Hollywood feature entitled Observe & Report. The film is an uncompromised portrait of a young mall-cop riding the peaks and valleys of bi-polar disorder like a vigilante daydream set to Queen‘s Flash Gordon theme. In the lead, Seth Rogen gave his most memorable and invested performance since a scathing-eyes debut on Freaks and Geeks.

On top of that, Observe‘s production design was deliberately unglamorous; its depictions of a troubled, goofy main character and firearms bordered, at times, on misanthropic endorsement. Hill’s script and direction managed to flesh out an endlessly talented supporting cast (Anna Faris, Aziz Ansari, Patton Oswalt, Ben Best, Danny McBride, Ray Liotta, Michael Peña, Collette Wolfe) in a decidedly untypical comedy. Many critics and viewers didn’t know what to make of it. Far too many critics said, “I liked it, but it’s not for everyone.” Movies as Joe Viewer trough? Moreover, gallons of digital ink were wasted on a bullshit, hit-fueled “rape controversy,” in yet another growing-pain display of male movie writers as over-sensitive guardians of today’s PC-gates.

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With only two feature films and one TV show to his name, writer/director Jody Hill, is now synonymous with ignoring the boundaries and “genre rules” of modern comedy and creating anti-heroes that laughably burble with nihilistic rage, scary faux pas and hot-air egos. But there is also an internal depth to these macho doofuses played by Hill’s longtime pal and writing partner, Danny McBride, and comedy star Seth Rogen, to surpass the high art of a perfectly-timed and pronounced “fuck.”

Hill’s work on Observe & Report, The Foot Fist Way, and his cultural breakthrough, HBO‘s Eastbound & Down, contains more glass-darkly social commentary and life-lived expression than the work of any hotshot young novelist in recent memory. Rather than document the cold realities and indulgent pleasantries of another big city with bright lights, Hill is set on exploring the very place that so many creative-types vacate upon the arrival of their first Visa card or college acceptance letter: the American South. Moreover, as many middle-class and broke white American males face sobering, if inevitable, realizations and disillusions about the future, laughing at Hill’s moronic, unhinged versions as they champion outdated movie/sports star heroics atop small-town kingdoms is like homemade medicine. When it comes to countering the monotony of the average day-to-day? Eastbound is harder to beat still. The sight of Kenny Powers “dancing” in a middle school gym under the influence of eggrolls and ecstasy or ejecting a topless broad from his Jet Ski is priceless. Like cheetah-spotted gold or “a bulletproof tiger, dude.”

A native of North Carolina, Hill is the latest progeny of the North Carolina School of the Arts, alongside McBride and creative partner Ben Best, fellow EB&D director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), and EB&D cinematographer Tim Orr. In the first part of my interview, we discuss the show in-depth, including some of the surprising and vile admissions and special features on the Season One DVD. We also talk about what it’s like to be a young director coming from, and staying in, the South, why so many comedians today are from there, and why the region was overdue for a proper comedic depiction.

Hunter Stephenson: Hey Jody, how are you?

Jody Hill: Hey Hunter. Good, good, good. Hey man, I wanted to say that I was sorry I wasn’t there when you visited down in Wilmington [Eastbound & Down set, 2008]. I remember the piece you wrote, and it sounded like a really good time. [laughs] Sucks I couldn’t there, man; I was editing my film (Observe & Report), and Warner Bros. wouldn’t let me go. When you have to do a director’s cut, they want to lock you up for 10 weeks. [laughs] Everybody said they had a blast…and I was editing.

Yeah. I expected to interview you there. And I didn’t know about the change, that David Green was now directing the majority of the episodes while you were in L.A. But it all worked out, he killed it. My first question: Legend has it that when you, Danny [McBride], and Ben [Best] first conceived of Kenny Powers you were sitting in a kiddie pool in North Carolina drinking beers. [laughs] Is that accurate?

Jody Hill: [laughs] Yeah, this was before we made Foot Fist Way or anything. We were trying to come up with ideas for shows. I was between jobs; I had been working this really shit reality show job, doing motion-control for Behind the Music and shit like that. [laughs] It was pretty lame. And so, yeah, we were in Charlotte, in the backyard of Ben Best’s house. And yeah, we were literally sitting in a kiddie pool with a case of beer. And Kenny was one of the ideas that, uh, we came up with. [laughs]

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It was a little before the half-way mark to Land of the Lost when a little kid started crying in the theater as the Sleestaks opened their reptilian beaks, revealing row after row of neat, razor-sharp teeth. We hadn’t even reached the scene in which Danny McBride’s misogynist, would-be casino maven, Will Stanton, stared directly into the camera while sitting in a swimming pool, tripping his fucking mind out on “narcotic” alien fruit-juice. The swimming pool was randomly parked on an inter-dimensional white sand desert sprinkled with a Viking ship, a broken-down Cessna, and a meta neon sign that blankly spells “Motel.” And as if exiting from Jeff Goldblum’s ear canal during a Jurassic Park hallucination, dinosaurs big and small were roaming the diverse terrain beyond. Land of the Lost is chockful of original, PG-13-hazing moments. And if you’re a parent and bring your kids to see it, you deserve a cool sticker.

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In July, director David Gordon Green begins shooting Your Highness in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Inspired by herb-friendly ’80s fantasies like Krull, Yor, and The Dark Crystal, the R-rated adventure-com centers on Danny McBride as a regal fuck-up who’s forced to save his kingdom and his brother’s fiancé. James Franco recently signed on—Pineapple Express reunion, natch—to play the feted, charming brother. And today, Natalie Portman is officially a lock to for McBride’s would-be love interest, described as a “warrior princess.” Some may recall that Portman was attached last year to headline Green’s remake of Dario Argento’s macabre, color-obsessed Supiria; that project remains on the back-burner. She’s currently producing and working on Hesher, a cool-sounding teen angst film co-starring Rainn Wilson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

McBride, who co-wrote Highness with Ben Best, has said that the supporting cast will consist of “serious” British actors to align with the film’s play-it-straight tone; in jest, he’s even compared the tone to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. The movie’s SFX by Spectral Motion will go light on CGI (a welcome trend) and—a la the actor’s upcoming Land of the Lost—willl shoot on built-sets that are “huge and crazy.” This project easily makes my top-5 most anticipated. For more info on Your Highness, click here.

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Weekend Update: Due to the amazing bitch-session in the comments: the following article is a combination free-form essay/review on the genius, relevance, and influences of writer/director Jody Hill and his works including The Foot Fist Way, Eastbound & Down, and his latest, Observe and Report. It also deals with the growing trend of incredibly dark and conflicted American male anti-heroes in movies and TV. Oh yeah, it’s also really, really, really long and I didn’t see a need to begin the piece with “If you were expecting Paul Blart, get ready for a crazy rollercoaster not suitable for the kiddies.” Because fuck Paul Blart. No one will remember that movie in five years, until the sequel is released and makes $200 million. My bad?

Let me preface this by saying that I now anticipate Jody Hill’s films more than any other working filmmaker with the exception of Paul Thomas Anderson. And on a particularly excruciating Monday, maybe Tommy Wiseau’s.

“You suck this gun like a dick and then this dick goin’ cum in your mouth and blow your brains all over the street!” – Danny McBride in Observe and Report, um, protecting his legacy

Generally speaking, there are two types of people, and as it lies, two types of moviegoers: Those who go to malls without a second thought and those who go into them only on the rarest of occasions, sucking on an imaginary Klonopin, those who walk around wondering how the fuck this and they and that sign came to be, pregnant with the speeding notion that a loon might as well destroy the entire fucking building or at least high-jack the “raffle car,” peel out through the entrance doors, and drive on to a fabled body of water.

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