(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: The Foot Fist Way
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime Video and Hulu
The Pitch: Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) is one of the world’s most gifted practitioners of the Korean fighting style known as Tae Kwan Do — or at least that’s what he likes to tell people. Despite his supposed skills, Fred teaches students out of a dingy dojo, where he browbeats kids into learning the aggressive points of the martial arts without having much understanding of the philosophy or reasoning behind it.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Before writer/director Jody Hill and and actor Danny McBride gave us Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones, they made waves in the indie cinema world with the low budget, dark comedy The Foot Fist Way. Take The Karate Kid (or the sequel series Cobra Kai), mix it with the oddball nature of Napoleon Dynamite‘s Rex Kwan Do, and throw it in a blender with beer, cigarettes and a myriad of narcotics, and you have the perfect recipe for The Foot Fist Way. This is the movie that launched Danny McBride into Hollywood, introducing us to his signature deadpan one-liners, abrasive antics, and oblivious arrogance that would define so many of his characters to come. Read More »
Now that Danny McBride and Jody Hill ostensibly have the keys to the kingdom by way of their new production company, Rough House Pictures, the world of comedy better watch its stagnant ass. Hill is attached to direct, and McBride to star as a “beaten down, hardboiled private investigator,” in a new action-comedy called L.A.P.I. Their pal and fellow North Carolina School of the Arts alum, David Gordon Green, who co-founded the company with them last year, will co-produce.
What’s intriguing is that unlike their previous collaborations The Foot Fist Way, HBO’s Eastbound & Down, and Observe & Report, the idea and pitch for L.A.P.I. originates outside the crew’s creative circle, from screenwriter team Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan. The duo have two other buzzing projects in development: a comedy entitled Comic Con (one of two scripts by these guys on the 2009 Black List) and a remake of Brewster’s Millions. McBride and Hill are pretty damn selective about material, so I can’t wait to hear more and see what appealed to them. Read the official press release and additional /Film thoughts after the jump. Or just go celebrate in your backyard by waving around a machete and leaving uncool magical trails…
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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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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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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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While doing interviews for his new movie Observe & Report, director Jody Hill revealed that he has toyed around with doing a prequel/spin-off of The Foot Fist Way, the indie comedy that caught Hollywood’s attention and made Danny McBride a star. Hill wants to return and tell the story of Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Ben Best), who appears in Foot Fist as a coked-up, Chuck Norris-like, faded Kung Fu movie legend who has been reduced to signing autographs at conventions.
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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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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
Who is Fred Simmons? Why is he The King of the Demo? And what does “King of the Demo” even mean? I’m not quite sure…
On February 26th, Danny R. McBride appeared as Simmons on the Conan O’ Brien show in a fake promo to promote the upcoming Paramount Vantage comedy The Foot Fist Way. Why should you watch this clip? Well aside from the fact that the film is currently getting a 9.7 on imdb, aside from the fact that the entire Judd Apatow crew is apparently obsessed with this movie, aside from the fact that Patton Oswalt has been “declaring it a sui generis work on par with The Big Lebowski”, it’s worth watching for Simmons’ interaction with Will Farrel alone. Check out the video after the jump.
Also check out the red band movie trailer below:
[flv:http://media2.slashfilm.com/slashfilm/trailers/thefistfirstwayredband.flv 336 252]
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