I’m going to avoid really embracing any obvious gags like ‘Take Shelter really took Sundance by storm,’ but the fact remains that Jeff Nichols‘ film about a man’s deteriorating mental state really made an impression on viewers both at Sundance and at Cannes. The film stars Michael Shannon as a man who dreams of an apocalyptic oncoming storm, and features Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) and Shea Whigham. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the movie at Sundance, and now there is a great trailer. Read More »
I just returned from the set of H2 (Halloween 2) and am running off adrenaline, craft services coffee, and an iPod of Brian Jonestown Massacre and MF Doom. And also, a little bit of anger. Let me just say that Twitter has become a HUGE problem on movie sets, and that I do not grasp why it is necessary for some sites, however cool, to Tweet every effing detail of what they are seeing in real time. Word spreads quickly on these productions, and one bad, trivial, prematurely ejaculated Tweet can potentially and seemingly spoil access for everyone. End rant. The below news was in my email, cheered me up, and even though I need to crash, it was too good to delay posting…
HBO has officially confirmed that its original comedy series Eastbound and Down—a /Film fave—has been renewed for a second season. Better yet, given the fast ascent up the comedy ranks of the show’s masterminds, Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best, one may have expected another six-episode season further down the pipeline. Instead, the next season begins filming later this year and will air in 2010. Woo. When we were on the set last year, co-director David Gordon Green revealed that a follow-up pitch was being entertained that centered on McBride’s profane bulletproof tiger Kenny Powers shipping off to South America to quasi-fulfill his baseball career. However, the idea seemed to be news to much of the cast, and given how well received the ensemble performances of Andy Daly, Katy Mixon, John Hawkes, and Steve “Ass Blood” Little, I wouldn’t bet on it.
My review of Jody Hill’s Observe and Report is on the way. It’s a 9.5/10 and one of the most uncompromising, face-checking comedies to come around in a long time.
Mad Men certainly deserves all of the praise thus far received in its first two seasons on AMC, but I always thought it a tad disconcerting that AMC’s Breaking Bad has purred in the background like colorful dry ice. Not only is the series as entertaining, well-produced, and agreeably shrewd with its layered characters, but creator Vince Gilligan has given a daring, nutty jolt to themes long mastered by others shows i.e. the drug war (The Wire) and the rapport between money and mortality (The Sopranos).
At last year’s Emmys, when lead actor Bryan Cranston beat out Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall and Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, the underdog bite in the W mirrored that of Walter White‘s, the cancer-stricken, primo meth-cooking family man he plays. Season Two begins tonight at 10 p.m. EST. and picks up immediately where the first left off. If you’re a fan, it’s been a friggin’ longtime coming, eh? Almost a year to the day. If you haven’t been following, recommended. This is easily one of the best shows going…
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Pulling into the suburbanish neighborhood of Marsh Oaks in Wilmington, North Carolina, one would not expect this quiet enclave to be ground zero for an American Comedy Valhalla, but surprise, surprise. On the sunny backyard patio of an upscale home, a camera is rolling as Pineapple Express director, David Gordon Green, casually pitches one-liners to Danny McBride. His suggestions are incredibly vile.
“Okay Danny, now say ‘she’s my cum dumpster,’” says Green, with a focused smirk, his moderately tired eyes hidden beneath a pair of Ray Bans. “She’s my cum dumpster,” delivers McBride with deadpan redneck aplomb, referring to his date, the local floozie who’s standing nearby and currently flirting with a large, black male. “I put a lot of shit into her.” I’m standing a few feet away, hearing this ribald improv through a headset, surrounded by the cast and crew of Eastbound and Down. Nobody is laughing—professionalism aside—because everyone knows these lines are funny as shit, the funniest shit you can imagine. Airing in February on HBO, this new original series from the all-star creative team behind The Foot Fist Way, which also includes Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, looks to do for Southern stereotypes what Larry David did for rich neurotics burdened with follically-challenged cul-de-sacs.
“This is not some Blue Collar Comedy Tour shit,” laughs McBride, during a break. “I like being in the South, I was born here. We’re having a fucking blast and if we could, I would seriously make every movie in Wilmington. This is where we want to be. When we started shooting, we didn’t want a bunch of kids from Burbank putting on fucking Southern accents.
“The way the South is portrayed in Hollywood, they shoot it in Van Nuys, and everyone yuks it up. And in places like New York, that’s just what the South is. But to us, that’s just insulting. It’s like they’re scraping the tip of the ice berg of what the region is all about. It’s too easy.”
The coastal city of Wilmington remains off the map to the casual moviegoer, but in the film industry it’s oft-referred to as “Hollywood East.” In the early ‘80s, mega-producer, Dino De Laurentis, brought the Drew Barrymore cult flick, precociously entitled Firestarter, to the region, and ended up permanently setting up shop. If you resided here in the ‘90s, you might have heard things like, “I saw Katie Holmes getting a haircut,” “Brandon Lee got shot!”, “Steve Buscemi got stabbed…at a bar,” and “Vince Vaughn got banned. Good.” Tourists still partake in a local Blue Velvet tour. Today, the city’s major studio, EUE Screen Gems, is in the midst of constructing the largest soundstage east of California, in addition to a massive $175 million water tank for blockbuster features. The buzz is back, making Eastbound even more of a celebration.
For those of you who haven’t illegally downloaded the show’s leaked pilot—McBride’s lines like “You mean, Jew York?” and “You’re Fucking Out!” were drunkenly quoted to me by local film students during my barhopping seshes in “Wilmywood”—in the series McBride plays Kenny Powers, a former champion Major League Baseball pitcher with a major league penchant for cocaine and soundblasts. And banging prostitutes wearing the Scream mask. WTF? Reduced to a simmering Kid Icarus in denial, Powers moves back home to North Carolina with his older brother and his family.
With America’s economy in the proverbial shitter in real life, Powers’s rude awakening in the series will likely pack an extra punch. All he has left is a storied ego and one last piece of materialistic excess in the form of a customized cheetah-accented jetski—referred to on set as the “Panty Dropper”—leaving him to reluctantly take a gig as a P.E. teacher. A solid ensemble cast fills out the school’s faculty including Katy Mixon, Steve Little, and comedian Andrew Daly (UCB, Mad TV). But curb the sighs in regards to a redemptive and predictable “smartass students teach the smartass teacher” arc…
“Fuck formula. That’s what we’re all about. There is no formula. You don’t have to like the main character,” says David Gordon Green, dissing The Writer’s Journey, inside his humid-as-fuck trailer. “Look at most of the great movies and comedies, they follow their own beat. This show has a lot of traditional narrative devices that do not necessarily play out in traditional narrative ways. We’re alluding to all of those points of the hero’s journey…and then we’re decapitating them. We fucked the textbook over on this one.”
“We’re dealing with fame,” continues Green, “and it seems that so many people think they’re going to live forever…You know, these people who are on the cover of every magazine and can’t get through airport security, and then one day, nobody recognizes them anymore; and they’re back in the line with everyone else. That bitterness becomes a seething wound and this show is a comedic exploration of how Kenny—everyone Kenny touches he puts back to their place in his childhood. And by dealing with him, they revert into that dynamic, be it his brother, his ex-girlfriend: By the end of episode three, this infantile Hollywood-like behavior has spread throughout this 4×4 culture. [laughs] This is the South at its funniest and this is what we know.”
When I arrived on set, I expected to interview Jody Hill, who directed, co-wrote and co-starred with McBride and co-star/writer/producer, Ben Best, in the gang’s first ode to the contemporary, marginalized anti-hero, The Foot Fist Way. Completed in 2006, just a few hours away in Charlotte, Hill’s indie didn’t see release until this summer; by the time it quietly reached theaters, the flick had already solidified McBride as one of the most original lead actors and writers working in comedy today.
However, it turns out that Green is now directing the majority of the show’s six episodes, while Hill is wrapping up Observe and Report (pegged by me as the darkhorse classic comedy of spring ’09). Hill was scheduled to arrive shortly thereafter to helm the finale ep, and McKay (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) also directed an episode. Originally, Will Ferrell was slated to contribute his first-ever gig behind the camera, but he got sidetracked rehearsing his 2009 George W. Bush stage show. He had just flown out to do SNL while I was there. In Eastbound, Ferrell appears as an “alphamale owner of a local BMW dealership” named Ashley Schaeffer who sizes up dicks with Powers (probably not literally).
Green is candid. Everyone on this set is. Half of my interviews contain party stories and crazy shit that was sworn off the record. While riding back from craft services, Green semi-dismissed a well known ensemble actress unrelated to the show as “…or whatever her name is.” Funny. When I ask if East Bound’s half-hour episodes and UK-inspired six-episode season will leave viewers frustrated for real depth a la Entourage (RIP), he grins and quickly says, “No. It’s not like that.” And then, as if he’s cutting a taut line, “And I’ve never watched Entourage.” What about the divisive Southern accents on HBO’s vamp-hit, True Blood, which is set in Green’s home of New Orleans? “I can’t watch that show.”
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