DID YOU READ

Here’s all it takes to get Amy Adams to star in your movie

Here’s all it takes to get Amy Adams to star in your movie (photo)

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Evidently, Jason Segel wanted Amy Adams to co-star with him in “The Muppets.” Evidently, Adams was playing hard to get. So evidently Segel called in a certain green friend and together they played hardball: they begged.

Here now, via Deadline, is the delicious piece of emotional blackmail Segel and Kermit made to convince Adams to join the film.

Well of course she was going to make the movie after that — who could say no to Kermit the Frog? Actually, that begs a legitimate question: is there anything you wouldn’t do if Kermit the Frog asked you to?

“Hi-ho Matt! Kermit the Frog here! Gonzo and I doubled but he and his chick split early and I’m in desperate need of a ride. I tried Piggy but she didn’t answer. Now I know you don’t have a car, but could you do me a favor? Go downstairs and steal one. If you come pick me up we’ll be best friends forever YAAAAAY!”

Would I jack a car for Kermit? Are you kidding? I’d be Googling “how to hotwire a Hyundai” faster than you can find the rainbow connection. Damn frog puppets and their manipulative adorableness. They get whatever they want.

Are you excited for the new Muppets movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

“Tyrannosaur,” reviewed

“Tyrannosaur,” reviewed (photo)

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

There are bleak films and then there’s “Tyrannosaur,” a movie so dark it’s like a cinematic black hole, a film from which no light escapes. Just how dark is it? The most cheerful scene in this movie is a funeral.

By the end, “Tyrannosaur” arrives at a deeply moving place, but before it arrives at that deeply moving place the viewer must endure one of the tougher sits of any movie in recent memory. Put this one alongside “Requiem For a Dream” and “Funny Games” on the Mount Rushmore of One-Timers, movies you have to see once, but can’t imagine seeing twice. It’s a powerful film you can’t shake and won’t want to revisit anytime soon.

It tells the story of two desperately sad people in Leeds in the UK, a man and a woman, united by their shared sense of helplessness. Joseph (Peter Mullan) is an unemployed widower whose anger management problem is exacerbated by his drinking problem. As the movie begins, he’s already in the middle of a profane tirade for the ages. Out of his mind with rage, he unthinkingly kicks his own dog to death. Then he brings the dog’s body home and sits quietly, stroking its paw. There is more to this man than meets the eye.

Still, whatever hurt is driving him, he’s still a fairly repulsive person. Joseph’s mere presence onscreen makes the hairs on your arm stand on end; he’s unpredictably violent and incredibly scary. You never know what will set him off next. Watching him prowl through the streets of Leeds is like watching someone stick a bullet in a revolver, spin the chamber and start pulling the trigger as fast as he can. The movie keeps pushing Joseph, waiting for the explosion.

One day, Joseph winds up hiding in a thrift store run by Hannah (Olivia Colman). She’s a religious woman and she takes pity on him. Her shop is filled with perfectly functional items society’s deemed worthless and discarded; perhaps Hannah sees a similar quality in Joseph as he cowers in a coat rack and spews bile at her. Despite his complete refusal to believe in God, or to even tolerate the views of someone else who does — “God ain’t my fucking Daddy,” he sneers at one point — Joseph continues to return to Hannah’s shop. But of course he does: he has nowhere else to go. And for reasons that only later become clear, she continues to welcome him back. They have something to do with the fact that she’s married to a man named James (played in a terrifyingly cold performance by Eddie Marsan) who is outwardly lovely and charming but so cruel to Hannah in private that he makes Joseph look like Mother Teresa.

The darkness of the subject matter, which involves violence against women, children, and animals — yes animals, plural, Joseph’s dead dog is just the beginning — would make this film almost unwatchable if not for the absolutely mesmerizing performances of the lead actors. As the film reveals more and more of Joseph and Hannah’s secrets, Mullan and Colman continue to show us new sides of their characters. With his deeply grizzled face and a voice that’s just a shade higher than a tracheotomy patient, Mullan oozes menace and sadness in equal measure. And Colman takes a really difficult role — full of pain and victimization — and turns it into something really powerful. She finds the humanity in this inhumane world.

“Tyrannosaur” is the first film directed by British actor Paddy Considine, who’s probably best known in the United States for his supporting roles in films like “Hot Fuzz” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (he was the journalist Bourne was trying to protect). “Tyrannosaur” is primarily a film about performance and character so there’s not a lot of room for visual pyrotechnics. But Considine has a knack for knowing where to put his camera. Consider the scene where Hannah’s husband has come to her, pleading forgiveness after he’s treated her badly. She sits in the bed, he lays with his head buried in her lap. The camera sits level with Hannah; we can see her face but James can’t, so that when Hannah sounds utterly sincere saying that she forgives him, we can read the truth in her blank, unmoved expression.

Considine has a way with simply effective imagery, too. He lets the visuals speak for characters who have a hard time opening up to one another. Nothing the reticent Joseph could say about his dead wife would explain their relationship more effectively than the picture on his mantle — ripped in half, then reassembled and lovingly framed. Joseph is a man lost to his own personal darkness. In one particularly striking moment, the security gate of Hannah’s store closes in the foreground, as Joseph stands waiting behind it. As the gate lowers he’s literally engulfed by blackness.

I would have a hard time arguing with someone who said “Tyrannosaur” is similarly overwhelmed by its unquenchable bleakness. Portions are so oppressively harsh they almost verge on parody. But Considine and his great cast never let things go over the top. And I have to tell you, when Joseph and Hannah come to a place of understanding late in the film — not quite happiness, but as close as these two people can probably ever get — and she tells him that she feels safe with him, I was incredibly moved. It’s not an easy film to sit through, but it’s worth it for moments like that.

“Tyrannosaur” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

What happened to DVD special features?

What happened to DVD special features? (photo)

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Brian Collins over at Badass Digest has written a good piece about a subject that’s been troubling me lately: disappearing DVD special features. His “The Slow Death Of DVD Special Editions” identifies the recent lack of quality and depth in DVD and Blu-ray releases. And he’s absolutely right when he says:

“Nowadays, beyond the occasional big ticket item like the ‘LOTR’ or ‘Star Wars’ films, you almost never see these sort of mammoth sets anymore, particularly for horror movies. Most of them don’t even have actual special editions — as terrible as it was, ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ was one of the bigger hit horror films of 2010, yet its DVD only has a few deleted scenes and a generic making of along with Blu-ray exclusive features (brief interview/behind the scenes snippets). No commentary, no in-depth documentary, etc. Compare that to the special edition DVD of Platinum Dunes’ equally successful ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ from six years before, which had three commentaries and hours of material (spread across two discs), including a documentary about Ed Gein! For twenty bucks, you got a set that would take nearly a full day to go through in its entirety, plus crime scene photos and things like that. Now, you can be done with the (disc-only) ‘Nightmare’ set in about three hours or so, which costs the same amount.”

Collins identifies the rise of online movie streaming through services like Netflix as the leading factor in the death of DVD special editions. Unquestionably, it’s an important one. Wonderfully convenient as they are, streaming video sites like Netflix don’t offer special features. There are a few exceptions: you can follow your Netflix Instant viewing of “The Expendables” with “Inferno: The Making of ‘The Expendables,'” for example. But those exceptions are few and far between. If you want to watch “Insidious” — one of the best horror movies of the year — on Netflix, you’ll have to do so at the sake of missing its DVD special features. Then again, those special features are so paltry (a Horror 101 seminar with the filmmakers, a brief behind-the-scenes documentary, and a featurette about the film’s ghosts) it might be a sacrifice worth making. The same goes for Amazon Prime. Ditto iTunes movie rentals.

If you’re still using Netflix’s DVD rental business, you’ve no doubt noticed the disappearance of special features there as well. Most Netflix discs of major new releases no longer include the supplements; clicking on them in the onscreen menus brings you to a disclaimer instructing you to buy the film for the full experience. Given that sort of teasing marketing technique, you’d think it would be in the studios’ best interests to continue to deliver high-end supplements to encourage purchases. But as Collins notes, that just isn’t the case.

The bad economy and the decline of the DVD and Blu-ray markets, probably have as much to do with the problem as people’s streaming habits. Companies are cutting back wherever they can, and I suspect smaller rosters of supplements and fewer 2 or 3 disc DVDs and Blus are a direct result. Factor in the nature of online viewing and the fact that less and less people have the opportunity to consume special features, and you’re left with an artform in decline.

It’s particularly a shame because of the potential for new and innovative supplements on Blu-ray. Just a few years ago, as Hollywood embraced this format, we got some very creative special features. For example, I love the “Crank’d Out” mode on the “Crank: High Voltage” Blu-ray, which gives you a video commentary by the filmmakers which you can put either full-screen or picture-in-picture with the movie and includes mini making-of documentaries that branch out from the main feature. Zack Snyder made some interesting video commentaries as well. Lately, when we do get special features on Blu-rays, they seem far more pedestrian.

Experimentation apparently isn’t considered a good investment anymore. That’s a shame. Even though they’re getting rarer and rarer, special features just don’t feel as special anymore.

Do you miss the heyday of DVD special editions? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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