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A Chat with John Landis (“¡Three Amigos!”)

There’s no point in writing an intro for our conversation with John Landis when we’ve already given a perfectly serviceable synopsis of the man’s life and times on his page within Bullz-Eye’s Directors Hall of Fame – which you can find right here – but we will say that we’ve been looking forward to chatting with Landis for quite some time. Although his publicist regretfully informed us that he didn’t have time to talk when we were pulling together the Hall of Fame, we’d kept our fingers crossed that we’d get an opportunity to talk to him one of these days, and at last that time has come, courtesy of the Blu-ray release of “¡Three Amigos!,” which hits shelves on Nov. 22nd.

Bullz-Eye: First of all, in case you haven’t heard, I should let you know that we put you into our Director’s Hall of Fame last year.

John Landis: Oh, thank you very much!

BE: Our pleasure. After all, we’re a guy-centric site, and it would be fair to say that you’ve made a few movies that have been appreciated by many a man over the years…including, of course, “¡Three Amigos!”

JL: [Laughs.] So did you get a chance to watch the Blu-ray, then?

BE: I did. It looks fantastic.

JL: Yeah, I was able to restore it to the way it’s supposed to be seen. I’m very pleased with the way it looks.

BE: I was actually going to ask you about that process. I presume there’s at least a little bit of difference when it comes to restoring a comedy for Blu-ray versus, say, a full-on special effects extravaganza.

JL: Actually, no. [Laughs.] That would be an untrue presumption. I mean, every picture’s individual, and it depends on the look you were going for with that particular movie. When they made the Blu-ray for “Animal House,” I was upset. I thought they made it much too bright and clean. “Animal House” is supposed to look dirty and funky. [Laughs.] I remember the technician, when I had to check it, he kept writing on his chart, “Image degraded per director.” But every movie you make, you try – or at least I do, anyway – for a different kind of look. On “¡Three Amigos!” I was really trying to go for those beautiful westerns that Hollywood used to make in the ‘50s. The Technicolor pictures. We wanted the colors to be incredibly vibrant. You know, the old DVD wasn’t even the correct aspect ratio. So I’m happy that I got the chance to restore it.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for NBC

Monday

The Playboy Club

(10 – 11 PM, Sept. 19)

Amber Heard in The Playboy Club

The competition: Castle (ABC), Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)

Starring: Eddie Cibrian, Amber Heard, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Wes Ramsey, Naturi Naughton, Leah Renee, Jenifer Lewis, David Krumholtz

Executive producers: Brian Grazer, Chad Hodge (“Runaway,” “Tru Calling”), Francie Calfo (“Scoundrels”), Jason Burns and Dick Rosenzweig (“The House Bunny,” “The Girls Next Door”), and Ian Biederman (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”).

What the network says: “Nick Dalton is the ultimate playboy and one of the city’s top attorneys, rubbing elbows with everyone in the Windy City’s power structure. With mysterious and complicated ties to the mob, he comes to the aid of Maureen, the stunning and innocent new Bunny at the club, who accidentally kills the patriarch of the Bianchi crime family. Dating Nick is Carol-Lynne, a bombshell of a beauty and an established star at the Playboy Club who’s ready to be more than a Bunny. As she seeks an opportunity to elevate her stature even higher at the club, she can’t help but notice that something is developing between Nick and Maureen. Adding to the charm of the club is Janie, the foxy and carefree life of the party who is dating Max, a sweet and romantic bartender. Brenda, a stunning beauty with a dry wit, has big aspirations. Bunny Alice manages to take care of everyone but herself, and while married, is hiding a huge secret from everyone. Pearl is the club’s seamstress who’s been there since day one and knows more about what it takes to survive than anyone. Running the club and answering only to the top is general manager Billy Morton, who also shares a close friendship with Nick. With all of these larger-than-life ambitions, there are even greater secrets. It’s a good thing Hef’s Playboy Mansion is open after hours for a little R&R – and burying your past.”

What we say: Given that this is “the guys’ portal to the web,” it should come as no surprise to find that we here at Bullz-Eye find this series to be imminently watchable, in no small part because of the ever-gorgeous Amber Heard. It must be said, however, that the similarity in feel to “Mad Men” is almost unbearable at times, not just because it’s set in the ’60s, but also because if you close your eyes when Eddie Cibrian is talking, it might as well be Jon Hamm. Plus, not only is there a lot of melodrama on hand with the blend of romance and criminal activity, but the idea of having actors playing real ’60s celebrities – in the pilot episode, Ike and Tina Turner perform at the club – brings back dormant memories of “American Dreams.” By the time the proceedings are over, there’s really only one question to be asked: will beautiful babes in bunny costumes be enough to keep us coming back? Up to a point, sure…which makes sense, since that’s why people kept coming back to the real Playboy Club. As for the show, though, we’ll see where things stand after a few episodes.

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A chat with the cast and crew of “MacGruber”

macgruber_1

When Universal’s big-screen adaptation of “MacGruber” rolls into theaters on May 21st, it’s going to face some pretty heavy competition. In fact, it’s a bit of an underdog when compared to some of the surefire blockbusters opening around the same time, but you wouldn’t know it from the reception it received at this year’s South by Southwest film festival. Although director Jorma Taccone announced that the movie was still in the later stages of post-production and not quite 100% finished, it brought down the house at the sold-out Paramount theater. The following morning, I was invited along with a few of my fellow movie bloggers to chat with Taccone, co-writer John Solomon, co-writer/star Will Forte, and star Kristen Wiig about making the film. (Warning: minor spoilers ahead.)

As the first “Saturday Night Live” movie since 2000’s “The Ladies Man,” everyone was curious how “MacGruber” was chosen as the next sketch to receive the big screen treatment. Taccone admitted that he didn’t know “how Lorne’s wonderful mind works,” but that “he’s always been a champion of the sketch and thought of it more highly than we did at times.” That doesn’t change the fact that the big joke of the skits is that MacGruber dies at the end of every one, and although Forte agrees that “a lot of people will probably think that’s what the movie will be – just a series of explosions,” Taccone was a little more defensive of the early criticisms:

“That was the comment: ‘What’s it going to be?’ We’re going to make a plot of it. What did you expect? But we did put that one little nod to the original sketch at the end, which is really nice that people seem to get that moment.”

Though Taccone wouldn’t get into any details regarding the recent lawsuit surrounding the film (Forte did say they would have loved Richard Dean Anderson to be a part of it), he was quick to state that the MacGyver character didn’t have any direct influence on the movie. Instead, they looked more to 80s and early 90s action movies for inspiration, and when asked if there was anything specific, Taccone offered up an example:

“I will say that me and John [Solomon] were watching a [Steven] Seagal movie and over an explosion you heard a cougar growl. We were like, ‘What was that? Oh my god, we have to put that in!’ It’s a technique, obviously, but you’re supposed to put it low enough so that it’s just a hint of something. So our sound dude was like, ‘People are going to think I’m bad at my job.'”

In addition to Forte, the film also features Kristen Wiig (reprising her role from the sketches), as well as Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer. Taccone confesses to being really lucky to get both actors, especially for how hard they worked and how little they were paid. Phillippe, in particular, plays an important role in the film according to his co-stars, not only because there are always three characters in the sketches, but because they needed someone who could “ground the craziness with something that we thought would be useful.” As for Kilmer, while he didn’t have a hand in shaping the villainous role of Dietrich von Cunth, Taccone joked that he “certainly made it more Cunthy.”

Everyone on set clearly got along really well, and it shows in the final product. While Forte and Wiig swear that a majority of their soon-to-be-infamous sex scene was scripted, they were more than game to talk about the difficulties of shooting it. When asked how she could possibly keep a straight face as Forte humped and grunted all over her, Wiig was quick to point out that it if you watch carefully, you’ll notice that she’s laughing so much that she had to turn her head ahead away from the camera. Forte, meanwhile, just felt bad for his co-star, who was being “pelted with major drops of sweat” the minute he started moving on top of her.

It’s not the most risqué moment in the film, though. That honor goes to a scene where MacGruber sticks a stalk of celery up his ass as a diversionary tactic. Forte spoke at length about where the idea came from, including a particularly funny anecdote about the day they filmed it:

“I think that was John and Jorma’s, and they pitched it to me, and it was just one of those things where I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll stick some celery in my butt.’ The best part was that my mom was visiting that day, and she was saying, ‘Oh, I think I’m going to go into Santa Fe with my friends,” and I said, ‘Okay, there’s a pretty crazy scene we’re doing, so you could stay for that or got to Santa Fe.’ And I forgot exactly what we were doing, and I’m sitting there naked, cupping my balls, trying to place this celery, and I look over and there’s my mom and there was no judgment on her face. It was just like, ‘This is what my son is doing today…’ The weird thing is, she was with two friends, and they were not having it.”

And just like that, the interview was over, although I couldn’t think of a better place to end it. After all, they had just demonstrated how far they were willing to go in order to get a laugh, and that’s “MacGruber” in a nutshell.

  
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