Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to August

August has never been the most exciting part of the summer movie season, but the studios have treated it like a warm-down of sorts in recent years, taking the opportunity to discard their misfit films with seemingly no interest in how they perform. That may change this year, however, as there are a number of high-profile movies (including several targeted at action fans) that could end up doing some pretty big business. In fact, with the somewhat disappointing summer that we’ve had so far, it’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest that August might end up being the highlight of the season.

“TOTAL RECALL”

Who: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy
What: Factory worker Douglas Quaid begins to suspect that he’s a spy after visiting Rekall, a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories.
When: August 3rd
Why: While not exactly a remake in the conventional sense, director Len Wiseman’s adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” has nonetheless caused diehard fans of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original to scream blasphemy. But just like that movie was forced to get creative and expand upon Dick’s story, so too has Wiseman’s version, seemingly sticking closer to its source material by keeping the action on Earth. Colin Farrell is definitely an inspired choice to play Quaid (and just like Adrian Brody in “Predators,” it should help to limit the comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger), while Bryan Cranston is on such a hot streak right now that it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Cohaagen. Whether Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale or the special effects provide the film’s best eye candy, however, is still up for debate.

“CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER”

Who: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts and Ari Graynor
What: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while pursuing other people.
When: August 3rd
Why: In addition to being a smart piece of counterprogramming to “Total Recall,” the indie dramedy has been riding a wave of strong buzz since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, where most critics praised the excellent chemistry between its two stars. Though I’m not entirely sold on the idea of Andy Samberg as a romantic lead (or a serious actor, for that matter), I’ll see just about anything that Rashida Jones does these days, especially if it leads to more high-profile roles for the “Parks and Rec” actress. Jones also co-wrote the screenplay, which boasts an interesting premise that practically guarantees it won’t be anything like the typical Hollywood rom-com, with a more dramatic streak reminiscent of movies like “Annie Hall” and “(500) Days of Summer.” And if it’s even half as good as those films, we’re in for a pleasant surprise.

“HOPE SPRINGS”

Who: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell and Jean Smart
What: After 30 years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.
When: August 8th
Why: There are usually a few movies every summer targeted explicitly towards adult audiences, and more often than not, one of them stars Meryl Streep. That’s the case once again with this geriatric twist on the traditional rom-com, which reunites Streep with her “The Devil Wears Prada” director David Frankel. Unfortunately, “Hope Springs” doesn’t look nearly as good, instead hewing closer to the vibe of “It’s Complicated,” at least where Streep’s overly giggly character is concerned. The actress appears to be trying too hard to get a laugh, while Steve Carell doesn’t seem to have that much to do. The wild card is Tommy Lee Jones, who isn’t the first person you’d think of for this kind of role, but that’s exactly why it’s such a brilliant piece of casting. And if the three actors work as well together as you’d expect, “Hope Springs” might not be that bad after all.

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Revisiting Bullz-Eye’s interviews with “The Expendables”

Perhaps it was always too much to hope that Bullz-Eye might be able to secure an interview with Sylvester Stallone in connection with the release of his all-star action extravaganza, “The Expendables” (not that we’ll ever stop trying ’til we get one), but at the very least, we can take a look back at some of the other stars of the film with whom we’ve spoken and reminisce about coming aboard the production in the first place.

“(Sly and I) are sort of friendly. We’ve been seeing each other on and off, just saying ‘hello’ in Beverly Hills. Even though I live in Europe, I’ve been back here on occasion, and we always talk about the good old days. And I just got a call, and he said, ‘You want to check out this script, see this character, and see if you like it…?’ And he was very nice about it. He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy. And I read it, and I loved the writing. It’s, like, I realize that, with Sly, when he sits down and writes something, that’s when he changes things in his career and lots of people take notice. He’s a terrifc writer. I mean, look, he wrote one of the better screenplays ever, ‘Rocky.’ I mean, that’s a fricking classic. So I read the script, and I was, like, ‘This is great! It’s like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ with a sense of humor, and the action is terrific!’ And he wanted me to play this crazy Swede… (Laughs) …who’s this over-the-top, super-dangerous guy, but he wrote the character in a very funny way, kind of like Nick Nolte. One of those guys who drinks too much and who’s, like, a loose cannon. So I was very interested straight away, and then we had some talks. I had a couple of ideas, and he was very, very nice about it. And he actually developed a friendship between me and him that we’ve had in real life, and also the stuff that goes back to ‘Rocky IV,’ where we do have a falling out in the movie, but then we go back and forth, and…it’s really good. I think people are going to enjoy it. ” – Dolph Lundgren

(Be sure to check out my 2008 interview with Dolph, too!)

“I was privileged and honored to work side by side with Sly. Most of my scenes take place with him, and I’m telling you, man, he took me under his wing, and it was a brilliant thing to be able to be under one of the Trinity. There’s a trinity of action stars: Sly, Arnold, and Bruce. And to say that I know all of them is…it’s just a really unique place to be. What can I say? They invented what the movie-going experience is right now. I don’t know what else to say. ‘Rocky,’ ‘Rambo,’ just everything he’s done is iconic, and it wasn’t lost on me. I love the man, and…I’ll just tell you this: I don’t die. I’ll give that away for you. And I can’t wait to do another one, ‘cause Sly’s the king of the sequels…and in my whole career, I’ve never done a sequel to any one of my projects. So I’m, like, ‘Sly, I’m ready for ‘Expendables 2,’ okay?’” – Terry Crews

“I was actually down at my ranch in South Texas, and my guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get you a meeting with Sylvester Stallone. He’s casting a movie called ‘The Expendables.’’ Several months went by, and he’d already cast ‘The Expendables,’ but he still wanted to meet me for potentially playing the part of Dan Paine. So I went in to meet Sly, it was the first time I’d ever met him, and I’m a huge fan. I remember watching ‘Rocky’ back in ’76 or whenever it was, then getting up the next morning, drinking eggs, and running down the street…and now here I am meeting with this guy! (Laughs) And, again, it was just two guys from two different backgrounds, but Sly has a big athletic background, with all of his college activities, his boxing, and all of his action movies, and he’s a big MMA pro wrestling fan as well. So we were still coming from two different worlds, but we met in his office one day, we hit it off like we’d known each other for ten years, and he offered me the part on the spot. I accepted on the spot, I was in ‘The Expendables,’ and it was an absolute thrill of a lifetime to be in that movie with all those people.” – Steve Austin

And, lastly, although our conversation took place well before he’d signed on to do “The Expendables,” I’d be remiss if I didn’t also offer up a link to…

The interview took place in conjunction with the DVD release of Roberts’ very first film, “King of the Gypsies,” and whenever I think back on our conversation, this is the story I remember most fondly:

“I’d been working about two or three weeks (on ‘King of the Gypsies’), and when we went into our night shoot, I had my first scene with (Sterling Hayden), in the back of a car. I show up early like I always do, and he shows up late, like he always did, and I’m waiting for him to get ready. The assistant director comes and knocks on the door and says, ‘Mr. Hayden would like to speak with you.’ And I’m, like, ‘Cool, man, great!’ So I go over there, and I knock on the door. (does a perfect Sterling Hayden growl) ‘Come in, come in!’ So I open up this door, and it reeks of hash! And he says to me, ‘Have a seat, son! So, what are we doing tonight?’ I say, ‘We’re doing scene 85.’ ‘I know the number! What the fuck happens?’ I say, ‘Well, it’s a night scene, and you want to bring me back into the fold because you don’t think your son is too capable but you think your grandson is,’ I being the grandson. He goes, ‘Okay! How’re your improvisations?’ I said, ‘I’m pretty good.’ He says, ‘Well, that’s what we’re doing tonight: we’re gonna improv the whole thing. Now that I know what we’re doing, we’re just gonna shoot from the hip, okay?’ I said, ‘Great!’ He said, ‘Y’wanna get high with me?’ I said, ‘No, if I get high, I can’t talk.’ And he says, ‘Well, I can only talk when I’m high!’ (imitates Hayden’s raspy laugh) So that’s kinda how we started. And we bonded, and I probably haven’t ever enjoyed working with an actor more until I worked with my wife.” – Eric Roberts

  

Load up on guns and bring your friends: Twenty great action movie ensemble casts

When we saw the cast that Sylvester Stallone assembled for war machine throwback that is the upcoming “The Expendables,” well, we were just giddy. It didn’t matter that Stallone’s recent writing projects (“Rocky Balboa,” “Rambo”) were as predictable as a sunrise and safe as houses – he has put together the single biggest cast of ass-kicking movie stars we’ve seen in decades, possibly ever. Indeed, as we looked back at great action ensembles from the past, we discovered just how infrequently the big stars worked together for an action movie. It happens all the time for dramas (two words: Oscar bait), but one quick look at the ‘80s in particular will tell you that action movies, by and large, are a single man’s game.

However, there are times when movie stars have forsaken the lion’s share of the spotlight in order to deliver something special, and so we salute the great guy movie ensembles of years past. In the interest of full disclosure, once we discovered that the list was going to consist almost entirely of war movies, westerns and sequels, we decided to play around a little bit with the definition of “action movie.” To the point where it included Tim Burton and Steven Soderbergh. Don’t judge.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Cast: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Brad Dexter
The Plot: A village of farmers, frequently raided by a group of bandits, recruits a group of gunslingers to defend their town.
The Back Story: In the 1950s, it wasn’t exactly the easiest task to get the average American to go see a Japanese film, no matter how great it may have been. Fortunately, director John Sturges was up to the task of seeing Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” and upon doing so, he saw elements in the story and characters which would translate well to the Western genre. Boy, was he right…and if his instinct for hot properties was good, then his gift for casting was downright remarkable, given that the only truly top-shelf actor in the cast at the time was Brynner, who was riding high on the Academy Award winning success of “The King and I.” Combining these upstanding gentlemen, the inspiration of the original source material, and the classic score by Elmer Bernstein, and you’ve got yourself one of the greatest Westerns of all time.
The Money Shot: There are a lot of great small moments leading up to the big showdown between the Magnificent Seven and the despicable Calvera (Wallach), including the classic knife-throwing sequence that introduces Coburn’s character, and, indeed, the grand finale offers several immortal death sequences. None, however, match the power of Calvera’s final seconds onscreen, specifically his stunned reaction to the fact that Chris (Brynner), despite his earlier retreat, has not only returned but, indeed, successfully taken him down.

The Great Escape (1963)

Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald
The Plot: A group of Allied prisoners plan a daring escape from a supposedly escape-proof German prison.
The Back Story: Remember what we said about Sturges’s gift for casting? It wasn’t a one-off, as this ensemble clearly demonstrates. Based on a true story, utilizing Paul Brickhill’s book of the same title as its inspiration, “The Great Escape” was adapted somewhat from its source material, pumping up the importance of the Americans in the story and adding a bit more motorcycle action. The latter was reportedly done at McQueen’s request, but whoever came up with the idea deserves a round of applause, as it makes for some of the film’s most exciting moments. Ironically, “The Great Escape” got more shrugs than kudos upon its original release, but it has since gone on to become recognized as a classic.
The Money Shot: When Hilts’s mad motorcycle ride through Germany ends abruptly when he attempts to jump the fence into Switzerland, only to get caught in the barbed wire. That’s got to hurt…

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