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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.