LONDON - The Mutant Chronicles unleashes cannibalistic humanoids into a steam punk World War I world. The movie features Thomas Jane (Hung), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Devon Aoki (Sin City), Sean Pertwee (Doomsday) and John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) as the only defense against these ungodly creatures in the CGI enhanced environment. Can Aoki cut them all down with her cool sword?
Director Simon Hunter took nearly two years to adapt the role playing game into a cinematic universe. You can get great sense of what he undertook for his first major motion picture on the Two-disc Collector’s Edition DVD and the Blu-ray recently released by Magnolia Home Entertainment. I had a chance to swap questions via email with Hunter. Here’s the Q&A action:
JOE COREY: Have you played the game?
SIMON HUNTER: Yes I have played the game and enjoyed it very much - the world of Mutant Chronicles is huge and complex.
JOE: What was your prime concern when you were directing scenes? How did you keep the big image in mind while creating the live action elements?
HUNTER: To try and keep the audience’s interest - this is hard when there is so much of the story to set up.
JOE: What do you as a director provide the actors so they can know what you need when they are working in front of a green screen? Did you provide rough ups of the final frame?
HUNTER: We had almost no pre-visuals for the cast to see so I tended to explain orally what we would see in the final movie.
JOE: How was it mentally for you to spend 16 months in post-production making the image on the film take form? Was taking so much time a shock after working on commercials?
HUNTER: Hard mentally as you deal with every single shot - each shot becomes a discussion point and is open to debate both financially and artistically. It was a long struggle. Commercials are over so quickly and that is often a good thing as it gives you perspective.
JOE: Is it strange to hear someone say, “We can fix that in post” and know that it can be?
HUNTER: I am never sure about this - what you can’t do is fix the story in post - not really - you can remove boring scenes but if you keep doing that you get to the stage where the story will not make any sense. You have to get it right before you start shooting. So you can fix mistakes visually in post, like a microphone or airplane coming into shot - but you cannot magic an action scene out of the trim bin on the computer. You have to get the script right and shoot it. Its like building a house, the designers plans are the most important - all the lovely paint you apply later is just paint.
JOE: How did you decide on what extra moments went into your director’s cut?
HUNTER: The film was a hard balance - I wanted to make sure people understood the world and the first cut explained too much - we had an early cut very similar to the directors cut but were worried people would not understand it. The balance over speed and plot explanation was wrong and I wanted to correct that.
JOE: What’s your favorite bonus feature?
HUNTER: The documentary - its a real behind the scenes feature length doc - it really shows the struggle!
JOE: Which of the actors looked best as a mutant?
HUNTER: There were only about six Mutants - they all looked great!
JOE: What was your favorite memory of Thomas Jane?
HUNTER: So many - working with Thomas and Ron and all the cast really was the highlight of the film making experience for me.
JOE: What makes Ron Perlman so effective in effect heavy films?
HUNTER: He acts so well with or without greenscreen - he understands the process and is a true gentleman.
JOE: Can you discuss Devon Aoki’s sword play. Were you nervous of her taking a hit in the “Face of Lancome?”
HUNTER: She can move with a sword like no other person!
JOE: Do you remember when Sean Pertwee’s father was Dr. Who?
HUNTER: Yes of course I used to watch it avidly when I was growing up - I’d love to see a new Worzel Gummage with Sean - he would be great in it!
JOE: In America, we have a cruel image of a headmaster thanks to Pink Floyd’s the Wall and “If.” What was it like growing up as the son of a headmaster?
HUNTER: Not much fun - but I did have the school to myself when everyone went on holiday!
JOE: Is your next project going to involve such a long post-production?
HUNTER: I have about three projects that are fairly well advanced and one of them has very heavy post the other two do not.
Sometimes you have to go to the postman to receive the goods. In this case it was a chance to hang out with Mr. McFeely. Since 1968, he’d been making the rounds of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood with his cry of “Speedy Delivery!”
I borrowed a small child that looked like she could be my own and scooted over to the Parkwood Library in Durham. The meeting room filled up with a nice crowd of pre-schoolers and a few old timers that remembered McFeely’s Speedy Delivery promise before FedEx was founded. McFeely arrived in his uniform and was ready to meet the kids. In this world of massive Disney glitter shows aimed at overwhelming little tykes, he asked if any of the kids wanted to sing a song for the group. He took the time to ask every kid their name. This time together wasn’t just about him. He was happy to finally have a chance to meet his TV friends. It was a sharing moment with McFeely.
This wasn’t a solo act. McFeely brought a few friends to say hello to the kids including puppets for X the Owl and King Friday. The real treat was getting to see Donkey Hodie in person. The little kids got a kick out of shaking hands with the puppets. He read a book about his character guessing what’s in packages that was written by Fred Rogers. Then we sang more songs that he enjoyed from the series. It was a relaxing time with him.
During a question and answer segment, he mentioned his recent trip to Los Angeles included dinner with Spongebob Squarepants…well it was Tom Kenny - the voice of Spongebob. The kids were thrilled that these two icons had broken bread. That ought to be the follow up to My Dinner With Andre and My Brunch with Blassie.
When actor David Newell landed the part of Mr. McFeely, he thought the gig would last one year. Over 40 years later, he’s still playing the part of America’s favorite postman that likes delivering the mail (unlike Cliff from Cheers). He wasn’t even 30 when he was cast in the role that made him look like he was already for early retirement. Now he’s 70 and spry while making his rounds of libraries and events to make sure kids know that Mr. Rogers’ lessons about community and friendship are still vital in the 21st Century. You can learn more about him in the documentary Speedy Delivery. It focuses on Newell’s lifetime role as Mr. McFeely and his work as director of public relations for the company that controls the Mr. Rogers episodes. It can be picked up on DVD at http://www.speedydeliverymovie.com.
Since the passing of Fred Rogers in 2003, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood has been getting pushed off the PBS daily schedule in favor of the more marketable Barney, Curious George and Dragon Tales. McFeely gave the good news that soon the PBS website will be streaming several of the 895 episodes for parents who want Fred Rogers to be their kid’s TV friend.
He wrapped up his visit by signing autographs for all who wanted it. During this time, I asked him about the bogus internet email that claimed Mr. Rogers was a Navy Seal during the Vietnam War and had to wear his cardigan to hide his tattoo covered arms. Mr. McFeely pointed out that Fred Rogers was doing the show during the Vietnam war. He wasn’t covered in tattoos. He suspected that this tale evolved over a promotional photo of Mr. Rogers in a scuba suit from an underwater neighborhood special. The rumors that Lady Elaine Fairchilde is Dick Cheney remains under investigation.
What was interesting is that for a character that constantly said, “Speedy Delivery,” Mr. McFeely knew how to take time with kids on that afternoon in Durham. As I said good bye to the man who had been a part of my life since I could walk, I felt proud that we were TV friends.
After my time with Mr. McFeely, I kept thinking about him being my TV friend. Who on the TV screen really is worthy of our TV friendship? Is anyone on MTV, VH1 or 99 percent of the reality shows really want our TV friendship? Or do they merely imagine themselves as superstars and us as their adoring (and always forgiving) fans? The closest show on TV to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is Food Network’s Ace of Cakes since it is the Village of Make Believe inside Duff’s bakery. Duff ought to wear a cardigan and sneakers when he arrives at Charm City. Would you want to be a TV friend with anyone appearing on Brett Michael’s Rock of Love? Or a Bridezilla? Or anyone on Bravo’s Real Housewives series? TV now gives a platform for the worst of humanity to blind us with their dim bulbs.
Which leads me to a new batch of competitors on Dancing With the Stars These people want you to imagine yourself as their TV friends because they need you to call and vote for them so they can make fat dollars. But are they even worth dialing a toll-free number? The producers selected a group of 16 Reality Retreads and Floundering Fools to prance for our entertainment.
Donny Osmond gets to see if he can go beyond Marie. This means more Osmond facetime on Entertainment Tonight. Rumor has it that Jimmy Osmond is slated for 2013. Let’s hope Mayan Doomsday doesn’t destroy his comeback campaign. Debi Mazar might finally get noticed after being “I’ve seen that actress in another film - who is she?”
There’s going to be a lot of rehab mantras repeated backstage with Aaron Carter, Kelly Osbourne and Michael Irvin. If you want to sabotage their footwork, sit in the audience and waggle a coke spoon. Chuck Liddell continues his trek from former UFC champ to dunking booth clown. Kathy Ireland will remind us that she once had an acting career that peaked when her film was molested on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Model Joanna Krupa’s entire career is based on ripping Terrell Owens a new one on the unbearable Superstars series. Maybe she’ll tear Melissa Joan Hart a new one by saying her mechanical cat has more grace doing a tango. Macy Gray gets a chance to revive her career after she killed it on an MTV award show by wearing her album’s release date as a decoration on her dress. Singer Mya will also remind us that she once was a major force in music before iPods. Why exactly is the son of George Hamilton getting star status? The guy was on a single episode of Oz. Lenny the guy who hangs around the Today Show is a bigger star than this Ashley Hamilton. Donald Trump wouldn’t cast Ashley. And he wouldn’t even think twice about grabbing Iron Chef America’s Mark Dacascos, Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin and snowboarder Louie Vito. I know grandma is going to go nuts seeing Vito. “Is that the Flying Tomato?” she’ll keep asking us.
Last season there were a lot of injuries. My hope is that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay gets rolled off the dance floor in full traction. This guy is scum. ABC ought to feel shame for casting him in hopes of tapping the Fox News crowd. Why not let Squeaky Fromme on the show? She’s out of prison and ready to rehab her image as Manson Girl. There’s no point in voting him off early. He’s got to stick around long enough to require hip and knee replacement surgery when he bites it during his Hip Hop Freestyle.
WORST TV FRIEND
Do not buy the Heidi Montag Playboy magazine. Let Hugh Hefner know that we won’t accept this sort of behavior in the pages of his magazine. We have to prevent more faux-stars from ripping us off. If a semi-famous person wants to pose for Playboy, she better strip down and show us her landing strip. You want to pose arty without showing your naughty bits, haul your plastic surgery enhanced ass over to Maxim or Cat Fancy.
What’s the point of golf in the Olympics? Do we really need to turn the Olympics into another tour stop for the pros? Haven’t we learned the lesson from tennis? The court action was a “well that’s nice” event. When is the last time a tennis pro was hyped for their Olympic performance? It’s merely another piece of hardware in their collection. Here’s the rule of how a sport should be allowed into the Olympics: will the Gold Medal be the pinnacle of an athlete’s competition accomplishments? If it’s just another nice honor like winning the Alpo Match Point Open; the sport has no business inside the five ring circus. If Tiger Woods burns his green sports coats from the Masters and melts down his British Open jugs for a chance to win a Gold Medal, then the golf should be in the Olympics.
Californication: The Second Season reminds us that David Duchovny is not a happy man no matter how happy things should be. At the end of season one, he’d regained the love of his ex-gal (Ronin’s Natascha McElhone). They were braced for a great time. However things go extremely wrong. She has Hank get a vasectomy and the snip cuts something inside him. During a wild party, Hank thinks he’s going down on Natascha in a dark room. But he’s picked the wrong door. However this bad moment turns out to be a good career choice as he hooks up with renowned rock producer Lew Ashby (Battlestar Galactica’s Callum Keith Rennie). The musical madman wants David to write his biography. It’s a good job since he needs something to take his mind off his novel being stolen by Madeline Zima. Should it be mentioned that she ends up boffing Lew? Pamela Adlon (the voice of Bobby Hill) goes on a coke bender that sounds like a psychotic King of the Hill episode. David also discovers that before he was snipped, he knocked up one of his guest stars from season one. The Showtime series didn’t have a sophomore slump. Season 3 starts Sept. 28.
Simpsons: Season 12 finally gives the Comic Book Guy his due with the honor of the box cover. It’s the best box cover. Ever! In case you’re curious, Season 12 took place back in 2000. “Treehouse of Horror XI” features “G-g-Ghost D-D-Dad” spoof of the Bill Cosby turkey, “Night of the Dolphin” and “Scary Tales Can Come True.” “A Tale of Two Springfields” has the city getting divided by a new area code. The only ting that can bring the town together is a massive concert by The Who. John Entwistle was still alive to voice his part in this Homer wasteland. “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” pays tribute to The Prisoner. “HOMR” makes the dad smart when they remove a crayon that’s been stuck in his brain. “Simpsons Tall Tales” makes the family ride the rails with hobos. They give us the true Americana stories. The boxset is loaded up with bonus features. Every episode has a commentary track. The Comic Guy even gets his own special. There’s even vintage Simpsons ads from Butterfingers and Burger King. Here’s a little clip to remember Homer’s love from 2000.
Scrubs: The Complete Eighth Season finally lets me see the show since ABC did weird scheduling stuff after it took the show over from NBC. This will be remembered as the time that Zach Braff grew his Tubb’s beard. The big change at the start is Courteney Cox taking over as chief of medicine. Don’t cry for Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) since he’s hanging out eating free muffins in the hospital coffeeshop. Human Giant’s Aziz Ansari is part of the new interns. He doesn’t stick around long since he’s got to take his smug distracted jerk routine to NBC’s Parks and Recreation. “My ABC’s” is my favorite episode since it features cameos from Oscar the Grouch, Grover and Elmo. Oscar gets to hang with the Janitor. The two part “My Finale” was supposed to wrap up Braff’s role on the show. However there will be a 9th season with Zach back for a few more shows to create a transition. They’re making Scrubs into the American Doctor In the House.
Samantha Who?: The Complete Second and Final Season leaves me asking what happened to this show? How did it go from the top rated sitcom to canceled in barely a 18 months? The easy answer is that the network removed it from it’s rating partner Dancing With The Stars and stuck it with a batch of failed sitcoms. Christina Applegate is Samantha. She was hit by a car and developed amnesia. She discovers what an evil person she was in her former life. The quality of the sophomore outing is up their with the freshman year. “The Rock Star” has her dating John Taylor of Duran Duran fame. The wife was upset that the show was canceled since it meant for the first time in 9 years, she couldn’t see Melissa McCarthy on the little screen. She was TV’s original Sookie before True Blood. While the box lists only 17 episodes, there are 3 episodes in the bonus feature section. At least with both seasons on DVD, you won’t have to forget Samantha Who?
NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services): The Sixth Season keeps David McCallum (The Man From UNCLE) busy tracking down evildoers. However this new season starts off with Mark Harmon and his crack team split up by their new boss. There’s a mole in their midst. There’s also plenty of navy murders, suicides and major crimes. “Capitol Offense” has them dragged onto a case by a Senator. They discover the ugliness of politics in a military case. “Heartland” has the team investigate a case in Harmon’s old town. His past is explored where we find out his dad is really the dad from The Waltons (Ralph Waite). The series last year received another bump in the ratings and became the #5 show on TV even when it ran opposite of American Idol. NCIS will be investigating how the Naval Academy was slaughtered by West Point.
The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 1 unloads more tales from the Tommygun era. Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his crack unit keep busting up the underworld operations of Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon). The stars come out to play gangsters in these 16 episodes on 4 DVDs. “The Troubleshooter” has Peter Falk (Columbo) destroying Ness’ public image. “Power Play” makes Carrol O’Connor (Archie Bunker) an evil bail bondsman. Telly Savalas (Kojak) is the named star of “The Matt Bass Scheme. Telly’s come up with a great way to deal in bootleg liquor. “Loophole” is a triple talent threat with Jack Klugman (Quincy), Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible) and Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat). That’s enough for a night of 100 stars, but they throw in Joe Turkel (The Shining) as a goon. “The Canada Run” goes fast with Simon Oakland (The Nightstalker) using the church to assist in his smuggling operation. “The Gang War” has Victor Buono (Batman’s King Tut) tangle with Nitti over smuggled liquor. “The Death Tree” bleeds from Charles Bronson taking out his competition. This is another stellar batch of episodes from The Untouchables. Season 3, Volume 2 is slated for release on Nov. 10.
Greek: Chapter Three makes me wonder why I despised frat houses back in college. Maybe if I went to Cyprus-Rhodes University, the idea of being spanked by classmates with a wooden paddle would be so appealing. Since the show airs on ABC Family, it’s probably safe to guess that the tales I remember from frat houses will never be covered. The channel might allows the characters to explore drinking, sex and homosexuality, but they draw the line at putting body parts inside cows. That was the rumored pledge highlight of one frat at my old school. Chapter Three covers the first 10 episodes of the second season. We get more fun from Casey and Rusty, the siblings that embrace the Pan-Hellenic life. There’s a casino night in the hopes of bailing one of the kids out of debt. Plenty of confused love crops up. Ultimately this is the show that fans of High School Musical can use as their safety school for a major in entertainment. Season 4 starts August 31.
Julia stars Tilda Swinton (Oscar winner for Michael Clayton) as a drunk woman going on a cart ride to hell. What’s remarkable is that after two decades of either being a complete ice queen or David Bowie’s sister from Man Who Fell to Earth, Swinton is carnal and look female. Although she’s not the most likable of lushes. She’s constantly get sloshed and banging anyone who drags her home. She gets a sense of direction when she agrees to help a neighbor that’s in Alcoholics Anonymous get her son back from a rich possessive grandfather. Tilda decides that it’s not good enough to reunite mother and child. She wants to unite herself with the rich grandfather’s bank account. This is not an happy uplifting film. For people used to her cold gaze in Chronicles of Narnia and Constantine this film will remind us that she’s not an androgynous android sent from the future to confuse us. But we still can’t let her near the children since she’ll use duct tape on them. Ouch.
Surveillance is Jennifer Lynch’s comeback film that should leave you confused and frightened on every level. Two FBI agents (Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) arrive in a small town to investigate a grizzly murder and a car wreck involving serial killers. The killers wear latex masks so everyone is a bit of a suspect. Everybody has something to deny during their talks with the law except for little Stephanie (Ryan Simpkins). Even the cops have issues that shouldn’t end up in police reports. French Stewart (Third Rock From The Sun and Clamato ads) is an officer who instead of setting up speed traps prefers to shoot the tires of speeding cars. You won’t think of him as an alien goofball after this film. Pullman and Ormond are perfect as the FBI agent who want to know everything. They make the queasy seem natural in their eyes. It’s good to see Jennifer Lynch making a movie after getting mocked too hard for Boxing Helena. If you only see one film filled with psychotics this year, let it be Surveillance.
Beyond The Ordinary - T.V. Sets brings the pilot episodes to four series that have futuristic or supernatural themes. Star Trek: The Original Series has “The Man Trap.” Dr. McCoy discovers his old flame might be related to a monster that uses sucker fingers to work the salt out of humans. What are the odds that Kirk’s going to put the moves on her cause you know those toupees are so salty. Medium has Patricia Arquette getting a vision of a murder in Texas. It might have just been the Dallas Mavericks choking their season to death. Joan of Arcadia has a young girl getting message from God. It’s a fun series that lasted only two years. God couldn’t control the People Meters. 4400 has 4400 people that were abducted by aliens return to Earth. They now have special powers. The US government isn’t sure what to do with these folks. Are they puppets for aliens? 4400 lasted 4 seasons. Coincidence? If you enjoy any of the shows, you’ll be able to catch up on the entire series on DVD.
Crime and Punishment - T.V. Sets presents four cop shows from the past and present on a single DVD. Hawaii Five-0 gets represented by “Full Five Fathom.” Kevin McCarthy has been killing women and dumping their bodies off the islands. It’s up to McGarrett and his crew to uncover this murder scam. As Jack Lord would say, “Be there, aloha.” The Streets of San Francisco’s “The Thirty-Year Pin” reminds us at how horrible health care was in 1972. A cop gets shot during a robbery. The “EMT” crew consists of two guys that look like bank guards, a stretcher and an ambulance that looks like delivers potato chips. The cop has a bullet in his gut and these EMTs don’t even try to patch him up, give him CPR or an IV drip. They aren’t even in constant radio contact with the E.R. The show itself has Karl Malden hunting down the shooter since he’s tight with the cop. He drags Michael Douglas around the Bay. CSI:NY brings the franchise to Manhattan. Gary Sinise and folks have to hunt down a killer. The only witness can only communicate through blinking. The episode is remarkably called “Blink.” Dexter rewrote cop shows. Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is the Miami police’s blood splatter expert. He’s also the area’s resident serial killer. He only kills guilty people who have cheated to escape justice. The Showtime series makes you root for what would normally be the bad guy. Far as buying the season DVDs, both Dexter and CSI:NY are up to date in season sets. Hawaii Five-O is up to 6 of the 12 available in boxsets. Season 7 gets released on Oct. 20. It’s been a while since they completed the second season of Streets. Should it be a good sign that they continue the series on DVD with this plug.
Meteor reminds us that we deserve to be doomed when Christopher Lloyd is the only scientist that can spot a meteor heading straight toward the Earth. However Lloyd doesn’t play his role for laughs. He looks like a scientist that could get real funding for his experiments unlike his time on Back To The Future. Even with a sensible look, he can’t get a real response thanks to government inaction. The apocalypse must be certified in triplicate with stamps for 14 agencies. This mini-series is packed with enough stars to make the impending doom seem entertaining. Marla Sokoloff (The Practice), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Stacy Keach (Titus) and Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) almost make this feel like a disaster filled Love Boat. The destruction when the smaller rocks start hitting the earth hold up compared to an Irwin Allen production. Can we stop the hammer of the Gods from striking California? What I learned from Meteor is that if you fear a massive meteor shower; the best thing to do is move to the other side of the Earth.
Grey’s Anatomy: Complete Fifth Season, More Moments seemed to have as much drama on Entertainment Tonight as the actual show. Everybody kept waiting for the upset producers to finally kill off Katherine Heigl after she mouthed off about the writers with her “I’m a Movie star” attitude. T.R. Knight split the show before his contract ran out. The saddest part of the season wasn’t Heigl’s battle with cancer, but Brooke Smith (Silence of the Lambs) finally getting to join the main cast after two seasons in a recurring role. They made her the lesbian lover of Sara Ramirez. Somehow female doctor on female doctor action didn’t sit well with the devoted and she was sent packing before Christmas. There was rumors that the producers were going to “soften” the relationship by making it a threesome with a guy. That would have been a great Christmas gift. The DVD has extended episodes, deleted scenes and a Behind-the-scenes documentary on the 100th episode.
Private Practice: The Complete Second Season gives the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off a chance to grow after the strike shortened debut season. Kate Walsh thrives after she splits the hospital life for Oceanside Wellness Centre in sunny Los Angeles. There’s a touch of reality as the Centre seems to be struggling in this harsh economy. There’s fear of bankruptcy. But no matter how bad the financial crunch gets, Kate and her friends always have time for a good romp in the bed. Just cause she’s not on Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t mean she has to remain celibate like Marcus Welby. “Serving Two Masters” has two pregnant women who don’t know they share the same husband. This must happen a lot in a city with two NBA teams. There’s crossover action with Grey’s Anatomy so the devoted will have to buy both boxsets. The bonus features include deleted scenes, bloopers and a special piece on Audra McDonald.
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