Saturday, March 17, 2018

What Made the Kurt Russell/John Carpenter Partnership So Special

It seems like it would have never worked.

Kurt Russell was an actor whose all-American good looks and natural sweetness landed him in countless roles for Walt Disney, while John Carpenter was the filmmaking natural whose breakout student film combined horror, comedy, and science fiction (and was so good, that it was lengthened and released commercially as a feature). In the Venn diagram of creative partnerships, there didn't seem to be too much overlap; Carpenter's punk rock spirit would never mesh with Russell's inherent wholesomeness.

And yet...

In 1978, just a year after Carpenter broke box office records for independent cinema with his game changer "Halloween," the filmmaker was given a seemingly impossible task: tell the story of Elvis Presley, American icon, with a budget of a little over $2 million and a running time of just two-and-a-half hours (three with commercials). Carpenter knew he was going to have to hire a professional for "Elvis," who could work long hours and be comfortable in any situation. And that man was Kurt Russell. (Russell had actually worked with Elvis once before, in 1963's "It Happened at the World's Fair" -- he got to kick Elvis in the shins).

Clearly, the two got along well, because just a few years later, when Carpenter was putting together his futuristic action movie "Escape from New York," he called upon Russell. Now, you start to see what Carpenter saw in Russell: his terseness, his ability to convey a character through sheer physicality, and his genuine playfulness; all of this would be necessary to play Snake Plissken.

These were also traits that could be found in some of Carpenter's heroes, the stars of countless westerns the director watched as a child. There's definitely a John Wayne quality to Russell's performance in "Escape from New York" (and its underrated sequel, 1996's "Escape from L.A."), and his look, with the long leather duster, was certainly borrowed from another western hero of Carpenter's, Clint Eastwood. There's a moment in Quentin Tarantino's high-flying horror film "Death Proof" (itself an homage to Carpenter's work), where Russell actually does a Wayne impression. It's pretty awesome.

By the time they made "The Thing" in 1982, the Carpenter/Russell collaboration was totally synchronous. This is the movie where Russell is the most like Carpenter's stand-in; he's brilliant, hard-nosed, and sports a truly wicked beard (although, to be fair, Carpenter is known mostly for his mustache). As a man trapped in an arctic research station, trying to figure out which of his confederates have been turned into a hideous space beast, Russell brings an everyday realism to the character. It's less heightened than Snake or Elvis. And it's arguably one of Russell's greatest roles and, along with it, Carpenter's greatest films.

When "The Thing" was released, the backlash was poisonous, but it must have been heartening that Carpenter and Russell went through it together and had each others' backs. Today, it's rightly seen as a masterpiece. But back then, it helped that they were so close.

Four years after "The Thing," the pair made "Big Trouble in Little China." This was the goofiest film in their stable and one of the most experimental. It crazily blending eastern and western motifs and cinematic genres with reckless abandon. More than a decade before "The Matrix" made Hong Kong influences cool, "Big Trouble in Little China" mixed martial arts with spiritual mysticism, and the results were even better. You could tell that the two were comfortable enough in their relationship to push Russell out of the limelight and fashion him more as a supporting, comedic character. The results were incredible and it was proof that the two had gotten into a spirited creative groove.

And then, for a while, there was nothing.

It wasn't until the pair reteamed for "Escape from L.A.," released a whopping ten whole years after "Big Trouble in Little China," that you really felt the true impact of not having the duo together and making movies. The movies that Carpenter made in between Russell collaborations were fine; he was being tugged in one direction, while Russell was being pulled in the other. But the alchemy truly happened when they were paired up, totally in sync and making terrific genre fare.

What makes the partnership between Russell and Carpenter so special is that the movies they made together are unlike the movies they made in either of their catalogues. And, quite frankly, they're unlike any other movies, period.

They are wholly unique and born from a creative partnership that ran so deep, that they feel like a pure artistic expression. In a way, their differences are what made their accomplishments even grander. The renegade filmmaker and the squeaky clean star teamed up and made Hollywood history.

Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Feast On These New 'Westworld' Season 2 Photos

Westworld Season 2Fans have had to wait a year and a half for more "Westworld," but Season 2 of the addictive HBO series finally arrives April 22.

HBO released some intriguing new images today on the show's official site. We get a look at newcomer Antoine Costa ("Tyrant" alum Fares Fares) a tech expert among those trying to restore order in the park.

Westworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBO

And meet Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgard, yes, he's Bill and Alex's brother) and Maling (Betty Gabriel, Georgina from "Get Out"), who are part of the control team sent to the park, pictured here with Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright.) Westworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBO

And enjoy these new photos of Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Angela (Talulah Riley (who's now a series regular), Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), Charlotte (Tessa Thompson), and the Man in Black (Ed Harris).

Westworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBOWestworld Season 2 CR: John P. Johnson/HBO

[Via EW]

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Martin Freeman Says Fan Pressure Ruined 'Sherlock' For Him

Martin FreemanAfter the reaction to the fourth season of "Sherlock," Martin Freeman isn't exactly chomping at the bit for more of the BBC mystery.

Talking to The Telegraph, Freeman says the show's massive popularity meant it was difficult to keep meeting fans' expectations. Especially the ones who really, really wanted Watson and Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) to hook up.

"There was a chunk of people who just knew [Season 4] was going to end with us getting together. Me and Ben, we have literally never, never played a moment like lovers. We ain't f***ing lovers," he fumed to The Telegraph.

"To be absolutely honest, it [was] kind of impossible," he told the British paper. "'Sherlock' became the animal that it became immediately... it was frankly notably high quality from the outset. And when you start [that high] it's pretty hard to maintain that."

He added, "People's expectations, some of it's not fun anymore. It's not a thing to be enjoyed, it's a thing of: 'You better f***ing do this, otherwise, you're a c***.' That's not fun anymore."

When asked if a fifth season is being discussed, Freeman replied, "Not massively... I think after series four [it] felt like a pause. I think we felt we'd done it for a bit now. And part of it, speaking for myself is [due to] the reception of it."

In January 2017, "Sherlock" showrunner Steven Moffat admitted that Season 4 might have been the last season after all.

Both Freeman and his "Sherlock" costar have both kept busy: Cumberbatch reprised his role as "Doctor Strange" in last year's "Thor: Ragnarok" and the upcoming "Avengers: Infinity War." And Freeman was one of the "Tolkien white guys" in "Black Panther."

So "Johnlock" shippers might have to hope that Freeman's Everett Ross and Stephen Strange cross paths at some point in the MCU.

[Via EW, Radio Times]

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This 'Pulp Fiction' House Can Be Yours For $1.4 Million

Want to own a piece of movie history? The house in "Pulp Fiction" where Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) lay low in "The Bonnie Situation" is now for sale.

In the 1994 Oscar-winning crime drama, the house where Quentin Tarantino's character Jimmie reluctantly accommodates the two blood-splattered hit men is in Toluca Lake. (Which, as, Jules tells Vincent is the only "friendly place" he knows in the "818" area code.) In actuality, the house is in Studio City, which is also conveniently located to Burbank Studios.

The 3 bedroom, 2 bath house has been considerably redone since the '90s. The kitchen where Jules and Vincent memorably sip "serious gourmet" coffee looks recently remodeled. And, nice touch, images of the famous "Pulp Fiction" characters are up for the open house.

The house, which was built in 1936, is listed with real-estate brokerage company The Agency. They're asking a mere $1,395,000.

Very few of the L.A. locations for the 1994 film are still around, but you can still visit a few of them -- without shelling out millions.

Relive the house's cameo in this NSFW segment:

[Via The Wrap]

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'Avengers: Infinity War' Smashed Ticket Sales Record In 6 Hours

We knew "Avengers: Infinity War" was going to be huge, but it took only six hours for the upcoming Marvel mega-movie to completely smash sales records.

According to THR, "Infinity War" shattered Fandango's record for fastest-selling superhero movie when it went on sale this morning at 6 a.m.

That's faster than previous record holder "Black Panther," which has earned more than $1.1 billion worldwide and is looking to top its fifth weekend ad the box office. In other words, "Infinity War" is going to make bank, big-time.

The supersized sequel, which features all of the Avengers, Black Panther (and the Dora Milaje), the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and just about every Marvel character ever, will see them going up against the seemingly unbeatable Thanos (Josh Brolin).

The second trailer for "Avengers: Infinity War," which opens April 27, just dropped today. As did a poster so crowded with characters, we can barely count them all.

Since Marvel describes the movie as "the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time" fans are understandably worried that their favorites (Cap! Tony!) may not make it out alive. That's an extra incentive to see the movie early and avoid being spoiled.

Get those tickets now!

[Via THR]

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David Tennant Joins Jennifer Garner in Lena Dunham Series 'Camping'

David TennantDavid Tennant has just signed on to play the "obedient" husband to Jennifer Garner's "controlling" wife in the upcoming Lena Dunham HBO series "Camping."

HBO announced the casting of the former "Doctor Who" star today. Tennant will play Walt, a loving father who's nursing a "subtle but growing discontent," according to Variety.

Garner was previously cast as Kathryn in the eight-episode series, who is, as her character description goes, "far less cheerful than her Lululemons imply."

Instead of following 20-something New Yorkers, the half-hour comedy will focus on uptight 40-something Angelenos. Everything goes awry -- including woman on woman" crime -- when a group of friends go on a camping holiday to celebrate Walt's 45th birthday.

The HBO series is a remake of the 2016 British comedy of the same name, which was created by actress-director Julia Davis.

Tennant also stars in the upcoming fantasy series "Good Omens."

[Via Variety]

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Embarrassed Jennifer Garner Wants to Punch Her Own Oscar Meme Face

2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones - ArrivalsJennifer Garner wants to punch herself in the face.

The actress became the subject of a viral meme when she was captured looking as if she'd had a stunning realization while applauding at the Oscars. The very game Garner even poked fun at herself, reposting the meme with some of her own theories on Instagram.

She again addressed the meme on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," telling the host, "I can't even look at it. It's too embarrassing."

DeGeneres noted that nobody else in the audience near her, including actor Chris Messina, seemed upset.

"I have no control over this. What am I doing?" Garner said, indicating her face. "I started getting texts, as you can imagine. People were saying, 'What were you thinking? What's happening?' and I try really hard not to see myself online, but she was a little unavoidable."

Garner joked, "I want to just punch her in the face! Not really, I don't, but still."

DeGeneres asked if the actress had any clue what she'd been thinking. "I wish I did. I wish I had a better story about it," Garner sighed.

Then again, if we knew, the best meme of 2018 wouldn't have happened.

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