Saturday, May 28, 2011

For Your Consideration...a Guest Appearance

Let the battle of wits begin...

Behind the Scenes of "Kung Fu Panda 2"

What didn't make it to air were Dustin Hoffman's sex jokes, his answer to his inner power animal ("A woman with large breasts") and the moment he told me, "You have the spirit of Bette Midler."

Kung Fu Panda 2 Review: Insert "Kick-Ass" Pun Here

"Yes, those jeans do make you look fat."

"Why lie? We love your sister much more than we love you."

"No matter how many grown men cried in 'Toy Story 3,' Pixar might not be the king of animated movies anymore."

There are certain things you're simply not supposed to say out loud.

Since last year, when "How to Train Your Dragon" was roundly ignored in favor of "Toy Story 3," a sweet but, it could be argued (and has been amongst Popcorn Biz staffers), inferior product to both "…Dragon" and "The Illusionist," the third Oscar-nominated animated feature of 2010, we've had our eye on Dreamworks Animation, hoping it would pull a Rocky-esque underdog KO of the beloved Emeryville engine that can and does time and again.

It's not that we have any ill will toward Pixar, quite the opposite in fact; we love almost every film they've ever done (except "The Incredibles;" that was a stinker). But healthy competition is good for everyone, especially audiences. When the bar is raised by one company, it forces rivals to step their game up and suddenly entertainment gets a whole lot better.

Well, cue "Eye of the Tiger" and someone send John Lasseter a memo, because Dreamworks' latest offering, "Kung Fu Panda 2," proves they've come to play.

Directed by first-timer Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who previously honed her skills in Dreamworks' story and art department, the movie follows newly minted Dragon Warrior Po (voiced by Jack Black) and his fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five (not to be confused with Fast Five or anything else with Vin Diesel, this five is voiced by Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu) as they battle a villain (the deliciously devilish Gary Oldman) who seeks to destroy kung fu.
Serving up an effervescent mixture of grand spectacle, charming comedy and action, the movie delights on every level but truly dazzles thanks to its glorious tactile quality that actually justifies strapping on the most obnoxiously ubiquitous accessory of recent movie going: 3D glasses.

"How to Train Your Dragon"'s flying sequences were so impressive, they made James Cameron look like he'd been puttering around on iMovie. "Kung Fu Panda 2" is equally effective, allowing the screen to drape around the audience like a giant bear hug.
Witty, touching and magical, "Kung Fu Panda 2" proves Dreamworks Animation can throw down the gauntlet when it comes to creating animated enchantment that speak to adults and children alike.

Pixar, you've been warned.

written for NBC's Popcorn Biz

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Reviews: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Midnight in Paris

Reviewing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Midnight in Paris on Today in LA.

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I happened to catch this freeze frame of me and Ted Chen giving each other googly eyes. Movie talk brings out the warm fuzzies in both of us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bridesmaids...a Comedy to Put a Ring On

My interview with the cast of Bridesmaids...Link

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And the article that accompanied it:


Female comedies are notoriously painful to watch. In a year that's already seen "No Strings Attached" (Really, Natalie Portman? Really?) and "Something Borrowed" (Wait, are we actually supposed to call that a comedy?), not to mention "Sucker Punch," which isn't a comedy but had moments that were laughably bad, "Bridesmaids" has a lot of bad publicity to slough through.

Written by and starring Kristen Wiig, who, along with producer Judd Apatow, assembled a cast of some of the strongest female comedians in recent memory, including Maya Rudolph and the epically scene stealing Melissa McCarthy, the film defies everything audiences have come to expect from movies that bear the cross of "Chick Flick."

Centered on a wedding, the film takes moments like dress fittings, bridal showers and engagement parties and turns it into a schmaltz-free throwdown of unrelenting hilarity that throws the stigma of female-led comedies in the incinerator and screams "Burn, baby, burn!"

Sitting down to speak with Rudolph and Wiig, both "SNL" alums whose time of the show translates to a language of songs and dialects they say makes them "like the twins in Escape from Witch Mountain," we asked what they felt their role was in championing funny women.

"I don't really feel I have a role," Wiig began.

"You're the treasurer," Rudolph corrected.

"You're the secretary," Wiig replied, grinning.

"It certainly didn't feel like any conscious decision," Rudolph continued. "But when you ask that question, I think it's really cool. It’s such a compliment."

"It's not like we wrote this movie as a reaction to anything," Wiig added. "Like, 'Boys get to do this stuff so let's do it!' We weren't thinking that way. We were just thinking, 'Let's write a hopefully really funny movie with a lot of roles for women in it.'"

One of the most interesting things about "Bridesmaids" is that, unlike most movies focused on women, it isn't about who's prettier or who's gonna get the guy, but who can be a better friend. Not that it's a message movie, but that's a pretty cool message to take home.

McCarthy—whose work on "Mike and Molly" does little to prepare the audience for her stellar, fearless, hilarious turn here—agreed, saying, "Usually the plot is, 'There's three women and they're fighting over SHOES! And nail polish!' And I'm like. 'Who are these women?' I don't know them. It's not me. And this is a real thing. Yes, women have insecurities, but it's usually over a real thing like friendship [or] am I doing okay? Real topics."

The fact that "Bridesmaids" is grounded in reality is one of its great strengths, but director Paul Feig was unprepared for the level of honesty he found on-set. It's contended that women are actually much more foul-mouthed and sexually explicit (yes, guys, women do talk about everything) and their sense of humor goes much further than men's and, if you ask, Feig, that's absolutely true.

"Who knew?" he said. "There's a lot of frank talk in the movie but we never pushed for it. We would say, 'Maybe you have a sex talk,' and the stuff that would come out of their mouths, I'd be like, ‘Oh my goodness. I'm blushing.’ But I love that. That's what I love about the movie; it's women actually getting to talk like women and joke around like they do that men aren't privy to see."

"Bridesmaids" opens May 13.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chris Hemsworth and Kenneth Branagh Raise a Hammer for "Thor"

"Who's that?!?" Even Colleen Williams can't deny the sexy that is Chris Hemsworth. My interviews with the cast of Thor.

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Interviewing the Cast of "Priest 3D"

Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet...not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

My exclusive interview with the cast of Priest 3D for (What they cut out was Karl and Paul telling me about the insane chafe of their high-wire harnesses, which is a shame since it's pretty evocative.)