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Five Retroactively Awkward Cameos in Would-Be Franchise Starters

Five Retroactively Awkward Cameos in Would-Be Franchise Starters (photo)

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Of the many questions I had following a screening of “Tron: Legacy,” the foremost in my mind was not whether or not I believed Jeff Bridges’ digital agelessness or wondered about the curious lack of action, but rather — was that really Cillian Murphy in the first ten minutes of the film? Murphy isn’t credited for his work, but then again, he doesn’t have much to do, except to act smug as a board member of Encom, who like the hero of “Tron: Legacy” is the son of one of the key characters from the original 1982 film, Dillinger (David Warner). Since the film is about Flynn’s kid instead, we never see Murphy again, though one suspects Disney signed him to a contract that will guarantee his participation in the event there are sequels.

The problem is there may not be a sequel, or at least an opportunity to fulfill the character’s full potential — just ask Dylan Baker what it was like to patiently wait out “Spider-Man 2” and “3” as the Lizard’s alter ego Curt Connors, only to have a regime change for a reboot when it was likely he would’ve been the big bad of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 4”. This is only a recent phenomenon since stars of a certain paygrade rarely are able to slip into smaller roles except in big-budgeted blockbusters and with the exception of James Bond, most franchises can’t really function as a series of one-off films, so the guarantee of a larger role in the future has made it possible to compromise and besides, audiences appreciate the build.

Sometimes it works wonderfully — “The Avengers” is anticipated because of Marvel’s (mostly) best laid plans of cross-pollinating all their films with big stars in small supporting roles. Sometimes, it doesn’t and shows the arrogance of a studio that is too quick to count their chickens before they hatch. These are five other actors who may be waiting quite awhile for their character to get a second chance at a bigger part.


Kristen Stewart in “Jumper”

In retrospect, the biggest leap taken in “Jumper” was by the filmmakers who decided to cast Oscar nominees Diane Lane and Tom Hulce in tiny roles that likely would’ve matriculated if Doug Liman’s follow-up to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” had taken off at the box office. Instead, “Jumper” was a one-and-done proposition, leaving in its wake a whole bunch of unresolved story threads including the most glaring and frustrating one of introducing the half-sister of Hayden Christensen’s teleporting teen, played in the final five minutes by Kristen Stewart. On the filmmaker’s commentary, screenwriter Simon Kinberg teases that Stewart’s character may become “a possible Paladin herself soon,” referring to the hunters who track down and kill anyone with teleporting abilities. The track was probably recorded before “Jumper” underwhelmed with an $80 million gross domestically. It was just as well for Stewart since her next film proved to be a franchise starter itself with “Twilight,” but audiences who were disappointed by “Jumper” can take comfort that the studio may have felt worse about what might’ve been.


12272010_hamm.jpgJon Hamm in “The A-Team”

In order to explain, I have to resort to spoilers for “The A-Team,” but seeing as it made about $40 million under its reported budget back at the box office domestically, there is very little potential for a follow-up. Yet in the vaguest terms, when the baddie of the first film gets caught, a second man shows up at the end of the film to replace him. As director Joe Carnahan explains in the film’s commentary, “I thought [the bad guy] is too sleazy to lose his life, you want to keep a guy like that around for potential sequels. And there you find the new [bad guy with the same name]. I thought that’s a name they just give a guy to strip him of his own to make him anonymous. He’s almost like the invisible man.”

However, he can hardly be invisible when the role is played by Jon Hamm, who steps off a helicopter to speak a bunch of bureaucratic tough talk that’s essentially code for “I’m going to come back to be the bad guy in the sequel if this film performs to expectations.” Unfortunately, “The A-Team” didn’t, so Hamm will have to stick to playing Don Draper on “Mad Men” for the time being and has an otherwise busy 2011 anyway with “Sucker Punch,” Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids,” and Jennifer Westfeldt’s “Friends with Kids” while awaiting a feature starring vehicle worthy of him as a leading man.

Ryan Reynolds in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”

It’s nearly forgotten now, but Fox didn’t have much success with their first spinoff from one of their successful Marvel films, “Elektra,” so it’s not nearly as surprising to look back at “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and realize the die was cast when they not only expanded the five-minute origin that the first “X-Men” film covered cogently into a wheezy 107-minute extravaganza, but used the film as a petri dish for a host of supporting superheroes and villains that could star in their own films. Taylor Kitsch actually would go on to star in his own franchise, only not as Gambit, but instead 2012 potential blockbusters “Battleship” and “John Carter of Mars.” But Fox was already on record for having much bigger plans for Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, which admittedly was more than a cameo in “Wolverine,” though he disappears for all but the first and last 15 minutes of the film. (And there’s even an asterisk there, because of Reynolds’ already busy schedule, the last 15 as “Weapon XI” were mostly performed by DTV action star Scott Adkins of “Undisputed III” fame as his stunt double.)

Even so, like The Rock’s “Scorpion King” for the “Mummy” franchise, Deadpool was already being developed into the lead of a spinoff film when Reynolds picked up the swords for the first time. However, since then, Reynolds signed on for a superhero franchise that seems far more suited for his charms in “Green Lantern,” which makes a Deadpool film, at least with him in it, seem quite unlikely, though he reaffirmed his commitment to the project as recently as September. And while Fox is still developing a script from “Zombieland” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the studio appears to have given up on the whole “Origins” idea for individual characters in favor of having Darren Aronofsky shooting a one-off with Wolverine and Matthew Vaughn attempting his own reboot of the rest of the X-Men universe. We’re not saying a Deadpool film won’t happen, but if “Lantern”‘s a success, it’d be hard to imagine DC and Warner Brothers not wanting to keep Reynolds busy, and away from their rivals Marvel and Fox.


12262010_SinCity.jpgMichael Madsen in “Sin City”

Leave it up to Michael Madsen to be the only star on this list to make his appearance in a franchise starter awkward after the film was a success. While most who have seen his recent work in the direct-to-DVD realm probably didn’t bat an eyelid when he showed up in a small but pivotal part in Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” as Bruce Willis’ partner Bob, Madsen was clearly expecting more, telling Premiere in 2007, “The only reason I did it was because Robert Rodriguez said that if I took that little part I would get a bigger role in the sequel.” Of course, a sequel to “Sin City” has been in the works since the first film came out in 2005 and in fact, since it’s rumored to be based on Miller’s “A Dame to Kill For,” Madsen would have a role to reprise. But ever since “Grindhouse” went belly up – a film that led to divorces from his wife/producer Elizabeth Avellan and “Sin City” distributor, the Weinstein brothers, at least until reuniting on his latest film, “Spy Kids 4” — Rodriguez has been one of the hardest directors to pin down in recent years, flirting with productions of “Red Sonja,” an original called “Nervewracker” and the aforementioned “Deadpool” as he co-directed “Machete” and shepherded “Predators.” Thanks to the “Meet the Fockers” junket, “Sin City” co-star Jessica Alba was forced to speculate on the current state of the project as Madsen has for the past several years and gamely said, “it’s a matter of time.” It looks like it certainly will be.


Michael Shannon in “Jonah Hex”

Before “Jonah Hex” became one of the year’s most reviled would-be blockbusters, Michael Shannon speculated to MTV, “I think [my] character may come back if there’s another iteration of ‘Jonah Hex,’ but for now it’s just this couple of little scenes.” At that point, not even he could know that he would ultimately appear for a split-second as Doc Cross Williams, who played a key role in the “Hex” comic book series as a mystic ringleader of a freak show with the power to resurrect a dead Wild Bill Hickok. However, you wouldn’t know it from the film since the “Boardwalk Empire” star is reduced to referring a cage match for literally two seconds on screen. (A deleted scene on the film’s DVD restores some of his performance in a bizarre exchange between Shannon and Megan Fox.) The year’s most mixed-up disaster managed to make mincemeat of such accomplished actors as John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn, “The Wire”‘s Lance Reddick, an uncredited Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. — all of whom are brought on for a film like this to lend it credibility towards a larger world than just one film — but Shannon’s part was the biggest WTF moment in a movie full of them, though to his credit, it also surely was the most money he’s ever earned per (nano)second of screen time.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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