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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

bitch_slap_posterBitch Slap - Giveaway

When I was at Comic-Con a year and a half ago I can remember this being one of the most memorable interviews I ever conducted. I say conducted as I think conduct was what in order when I was told that the interview I was about to participate in was going to happen in bed.

Sure, you get that sinking feeling when you’re faced with having a conversation with three really lovely women about a movie that is being talked about with the kind of delight the film no doubt was going for. Part pulp, part exploitation, and all fun I don’t believe this movie will require you to do anything more than just enjoy the spoils of their labor.

To that end, and to celebrate the film’s debut today in theaters and on VOD, January 8th.

I’ve got a SIGNED Bitch Slap poster sporting the signatures of  Julia Voth, America Olivo, Erin Cummings, Kevin Sorbo and Zoe Bell, a SIGNED mini-sheet poster (just the girls), one unsigned poster and the full BITCH SLAP 11 card collectible set.

If you’re feeling randy just shoot me a line at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll enter you to win one of these prizes. And if you’re still unsure if this movie’s right for you just read the following synopsis:

Bitch Slap is a post-modern, thinking man’s throwback to the “B” Movie/Exploitation films of the 1950’s - 70’s as well as a loving, sly parody of the same.  Inspired by the likes of Dragstrip Girl;, Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill; Kung Fu Nun and the pantheon of Blaxploitation films, Bitch Slap will mix girls, guns, outrageous action and jaw-dropping visuals with a message… don’t be naughty!

At its core, Bitch Slap follows three bad girls (a down-and-out stripper, a drug-running killer and a corporate powerbroker) as they arrive at a remote desert hideaway to extort and steal $200 Million in diamonds from a ruthless underworld kingpin.  Things quickly spin out of control as allegiances change, truths are revealed, other criminals arrive for the score, the fate of the world hangs in the balance and they are forced to confront a villain much worse than they ever expected… themselves.  It’s the ultimate morality tale as, one by one, they realize the whole she-bang was a set-up and one of them may not even be human…

What also makes Bitch Slap different is a complicated “B” story device that runs throughout the film to illuminate character, backstory and relationship histories not previously revealed.  Like the film Memento, these scene flashbacks take place in reverse, so by the end of the film, you have a wholly different take on who these women are and why they are behaving so badly.  Bet you never saw THAT in Jailbait Babysitter!

So grab your popcorn and fasten your safety belt.  With “Cult Classic” written all over it, Bitch Slap is gonna be one wild ride…

Freestyle, IM Global and Epic Slap will premiere BITCH SLAP in theaters and VOD January 8, 2010

YOUTH IN REVOLT / LEAP YEAR - Review

leapOne insult after another with nary a punchline to be found.

What’s astounding about Leap Year, the latest in a long line of painful movies where we are to believe that a woman has mistakenly thought the love of her life is the man she’s with but that it’s not until they meet a strapping, charismatic man before they forsake everything they’ve built in their lives just to be with a stranger they invariably know for a relatively short period of time. It’s an insult to an audience to try and sell an idea that a woman (played by the usually charming Amy Adams) who is willing to fly, on her own accord, to Ireland in order to ask her boyfriend to marry her in a leap year in an act that seems passionate and kind and romantic and incredible yet manages to fall out of love with that man. It defies all rationality to think how a woman could do this yet Anand Tucker tries to sell a comedy that just seems sad, pathetic, and speaks ill of a heroine who just comes off as easily impressionable and just plain, well, easy.

Through a series of situations which exist and play out in farcical fashion, one such moment involves Adams indiscriminately destroying the world’s smallest hotel room and shoehorning a piece of a sub-plot which is there, I assume, to help those who have difficulty with pesky subtly and nuance, we are to trust in this tale of love that wasn’t meant to be yet obviously will.

The logistics that this movie defies is truly astounding and noteworthy. After not being able to find a rental car, in what I can only believe is some remote outpost of humanity but  exists mere hours away from a bustling metropolis of Dublin, Matthew Goode, who plays his one note character as best as one could expect, becomes the de facto transporter although he really, truly, doesn’t want to. The level of stupidity this script shows in its obviousness staggers the mind.

Love abounds, as it usually does, after a series of unbelievable moments that involve a wrecked car, stolen luggage, missed trains, an outdoor wedding reception (I thought this was February in Ireland), a forced kiss that betrays Adams’ purpose in the first place, and through tiny moments of revelation that show just how right these two are for one another when, in fact, it feels like how it would happen in a fairytale. At one point, after Adams seems trapped in a Bermuda Triangle when trying to find some mode of transport that will just get her to Dublin, she buys a ticket for a train that will take her there. She’s had enough of Goode, as is usually the case with a woman who feels she is being weighted down with a fop , and sits on the train’s platform. The train, we’re told, will take more than two hours to get to the station. Goode motions to Adams in taking a walk to the ruins of a castle where he can extemporaneously talk about the mythical history of the runs and, by proxy, explain how this story will end with the two of them together. Won’t take more than fifteen minutes, he says. She relents, goes, listens to the story, and, wouldn’t you know it, the train shows up. Running will do no good here, as would be the logical deduction that we just told the train wouldn’t be there for two plus hours, and there is nary an explanation as to what worm hole that train appeared from or what just happened. Compound this moment a dozen or so times and you’ve got yourself Leap Year.

How can Adams walk around Ireland at the end of February wearing nothing but a dress, high heels and a light overcoat with no problem at all? How can a dog bark without moving its head? Why on earth would she strip nude and shower in front of a stranger? How could she demolish a rented room without once noticing the detritus falling around her and stopping?  Your logic is no good here as you’d be a fool for trying to piece together the broken shards of this film.

Much like Gavin Hood straying from what he seemed to be strongest at, creating emotionally charged and deeply affective films, and instead deciding to craft a prosaic movie about a mutant with metal coming out of his hands, Tucker seems to want this kind of career pathing. This movie suffers from the kind of inane traps that plague bad romantic comedies but it’s ironic in that the movie engenders neither romance nor comedy. Sure, we are given situations where comedy is supposed to flourish, Adams finds herself blowing out a small village’s power supply after trying to plug in her BlackBerry, she accidentally destroys her guide’s car, she muddies herself after tumbling down a muddy mountain, but it’s all very ham fisted even by romantic comedy standards.

Much is made for fires and the one thing you would grab should you find your home engulfed in them. The importance of this is stressed like a mantra that is repeated over and over again in an effort, I am to believe, to make sure you absolutely positively get that this will be important later. At one point Adams’ great epiphany comes when she thinks about pulling the fire alarm in her posh new apartment after we learn that Scott only proposed marriage after finding out that the only way for them to get into the uber exclusive tenement, which required an interview with a committee at the beginning of the film, was to feign being married or at least on the road to it. Scott obviously comes off as the typical bad boyfriend who only cares about materialism, the fire alarm shows how he only wants to save his electronics (Gasp! He must not love her and must only worship false, electronic deities!), and the scene ultimately shows how bad the script written by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont actually is. To wit, the writing team who brought us Made of Honor, Surviving Christmas, Josie and the Pussycats, and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas obviously feel comfortable with keeping expectations low as any movie that wants us to trust in their ability to give audiences something entertaining only end up failing, once again, to think this is anything but a movie for simple-minded bumpkins who don’t realize they’re being insulted.

youthYouth In Revolt, in contrast, only suffers from being too well-written.

Director Miguel Arteta ought to be praised for his ability to bring one of the best novels about adolescent lust gone wretchedly wrong in every way, the visual character he brought to Chuck & Buck and Star Maps is here in its essence, but there is a fundamental issue that hobbles this film from being the teenage classic it could be. It’s the expediency with which events transpire and then expire from the movie that only serves to confuse viewers who aren’t familiar with the life and times of Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) as he pursues the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), but the story is rife with comedic possibilities and the handling of the things that made the book wonderful only feel rushed here.

Writer Gustin Nash’s hand feels present in every scene as we go from plot device to plot device, we aren’t allowed to let the story breathe on its own, as if Nash wanted to be sure to include as many bits as he could from the book in order to remain faithful to it. Who could blame him, at almost 500 pages there is an inordinate amount of laughs to be found within the pages as writer C.D. Payne developed this over sexed and overly intelligent protagonist with the flourish of a great storyteller, for wanting to do so but the result is a greatest-hits compilation of scenes that sometimes feel jarring as a viewer.

This isn’t to say the film is bad. Far from it. It’s perhaps one of the frankest explorations of what “good” young men have to do in order to satiate that side of themselves which, here, makes for good comedy. Nick is deftly played by Michael Cera, who is able to carry not only the meek personality which seems to come naturally to the actor but is able to transform into his daring alter ego, François Dillinger, with gentle ease. It’s Dillinger who had the greatest opportunity and latitude to go for the laughs in this movie and he does so with gusto. As he compels Nick to do what he is unwilling to do on his own, Cera morphs from a smart, frustrated boy into the kind of man we have never seen before on camera. You believe Cera is capable of the destruction and perversion he partakes in simply by playing off of himself with charisma and aplomb. From suggestive remarks about violating the body of his girlfriend, to possessing the affectations of an English speaking Frenchman with a pathological bent, the film is a delight when these two share the camera.

As well, Adhir Kalyan, who plays Nick’s friend Vijay Joshi, is a superb compliment to Cera as the two of them feed off one another in the kind of patois this film excels at when it’s not speeding through scenes. Again, we are briefly shown how these two become friends and aren’t really allowed to appreciate how vital Vijay is to what becomes one of the movie’s best set pieces. As an aside, I wish we would see more of Adhir as he’s more than competent to jostle with Cera for laughs on screen. However, a lot of the issues regarding this movie’s quick pace, however, stem from this movie’s first act.

Adapting the novel seemed too much for Nash as what we get in the first third of this movie is a lot of rushing. We move from one moment to the next, inserting pithy scenes from the book to fit the moment, without ever delving into the characters of the book or the implication of what it means in the grand scheme of things. It not only implicitly casts a pall on a book that is packed with pure comedy but, explicitly, it has the effect of cheapening this movie’s intent which is to show how one pervy boy with a pathological streak manipulates those around him. To wit, Zach Galifianakis plays one of Nick’s mom’s boyfriends. He is introduced, used for a few scenes, and is crumpled up just as quickly as he came on the screen like a piece of detritus that needs to be swept away in order to make room for other characters. This is the case for the rest of the movie, characters coming and going in order to introduce everyone in this book’s universe, along with their strange proclivities. Zach feels there almost in a utilitarian capacity as he’s the driving force to get Nick out of town so he can meet Sheeni, he’s the one who buys the camper that ultimately meets a fiery finish, and he conveniently meets his demise just at the right time in order to progress the journey. There’s nothing wrong with making every moment contribute to the whole, and for there to be reasons why something is in a movie, but the end result is mass confusion as these contrivances just make everything feel too convenient, too pat.

The issue that this movie never deals with, then, is why Nick and Sheeni are willing to go back and forth with this relationship. We know Nick’s reason for sure but it doesn’t ever feel genuine and it certainly doesn’t earn its ending which feels rushed and shoehorned in as if someone happened to look at their watch to see that the movie was about to break 90 minutes. We ought to feel the penultimate moment these two kids share is well-deserved but the way in which they finally consummate their relationship just doesn’t work.

It’s sad that the relationship that could have spoken to so many pent-up and sexually frustrated boys everywhere is relegated to the backseat of a movie that seems determined to drive the shortest route between two points instead of taking the longer, more scenic route. The result is a movie that certainly could have detailed the life of this young man on the road to finally getting some but it’s a journey that speeds by too fast to appreciate how we got there.

Zachary Levi of Chuck - Interview

I’m used to interviewing celebrities one time. Many of the times they’re enjoyable, sometimes they’re fantastic, and some other times are completely awful. It’s the latter ones where I secretly wish their career commits seppuku just to ensure I never even remotely have the chance to talk to them again.

Zachary Levi is a special case in that I have talked to him a handful of times and every time, absolutely every time, he’s just a kind, open, honest, naturally funny guy who doesn’t put up a superficial front and genuinely thinks about answers before he gives them. He also likes to talk. A lot. That’s really fine for me as when we had a chance to spend a long conversation talking about Chuck’s near demise and the future of network television in general last summer at Comic-Con there was a sense of calm with the actor about all the hullabaloo surrounding the show’s direction. He was passionate when talking about the effort a lot of fans put into making the public aware of the precarious position the show found itself in as it closed out it’s second season. So passionate was Levi about rolling up his shirt sleeves to save the show, Levi literally rolled up his shirt sleeves. Making sandwiches at Subway, coinciding with the series finale, it was a clever sponsorship drive that asked fans to purchase subs, writing a comment or two about how much they wanted the show to stay on the air, Levi didn’t let this oft abused rallying cry on the Internet to save yet another show go unnoticed.

It was this kind of effort, small as it may have been, that speaks volumes about the man who goes into work and gets to play a secret agent on TV every week.There is no affectation when he speaks, it’s just a guy talking about a career who’s just thankful to have one. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it’s conversations like this that remind me how much better interviews could be if people were just more, well, human.

Chuck is indeed back for its third season starting this Sunday night with a two-hour season premiere at 9/8c before returning to its regular night and time, January 11th at 8/7c.

chuckCS:  One of the things that marked this year, this season, for Chuck was the number of people who came out wanting to be sure the show was saved from the network chopping block.  What was your take on how that swell started?  I know a lot of people in your position would say “There’s nothing we can do about it” but what was it like to have all those people come out and say, “Please save the show?”

LEVI: It certainly gives you an appreciation of what you do.  Being a working actor and getting to do what I love to do is already awesome.    For the most part, no matter what you do somebody out there likes it and somebody out there will find you at some point and say “Hey, I love your work” even if it’s a horrible piece of crap, which is sometimes the case…

(Laughs)

But, with this I think we’ve collectively all been pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished – what we continue to accomplish.  So on top of just that and appreciating it that way and knowing that your fan base, your core demographic fan base which is – we live and die by Comic-Con – because Chuck would be here.  Chuck would be at the Chuck panel – which would be a very out of body experience.  Wait a minute?  That’s me!

CS:  There are hotel keys with your face on it…

LEVI:  I know man.  That has been that way for three years now.  Warner Bros. has done a great job at doing that.  All those little things certainly help.  I remember when Jerico was about to get canceled the first time and all the fans went crazy and they worked in unison and sent tons of peanuts to CBS and it worked.  It got 13 more episodes for Jerico.  But I feel like what’s happened is kind of like – and I’ve never seen it happen like this before – where a fan really had a kind of moment of genius - when some people sent Nerds, those little candy Nerds, to NBC which is all effective in some way because they are passionate fans, but at the end of the day it doesn’t change the problem.  It doesn’t solve the problem.

The problem is television is failing.

The formula doesn’t work anymore.  Back in the day you had 3 options.  CBS, NBC, and ABC and there was no cable, no DVR’s, no Internet, so if you were going to be home, which a lot of people were on any given night, Nielsen’s worked.  You could see a cross section there. 70% of the audience is going to be watching the Cheers finale and they have to watch the commercials through and in that way you could offer free entertainment like that.  You could force commercials down people’s throats but you can’t do that anymore.  So more and more people, especially audiences of a show like Chuck that are tech savy, are watching it online.  They are watching it on DVR and so, as much as I think they like to think that that still counts. It actually doesn’t. Even networks and studios say “Well, every little bit helps” but they know it doesn’t really work out that way.  Because, at the end of the day, advertisers are only looking at the live numbers.  They need to know if we spend this amount of money on advertising, who’s actually seeing those commercials.  And live numbers are the only ones that count.  Really.

So, it makes it very difficult.  The roundabout way of getting to our very dedicated fans, Wendy Farrington, a smart cool chick, she was watching the show one night and worried about the show getting canceled because that was the word on the street that it was on the chopping block. And she saw one of the scenes where Big Mike is chopping away on a Subway sandwich and thought, “If we can get enough fans to actually patronize one of the main sponsors, actually spending money that directly connects to, it’s not just wasting your money on peanuts or Nerds and making some statement.  “So what if we’re not watching the commercials.  We know who is behind the show and we will spend money and buy their product?”  So she came up with this idea, wrote it up, came up with a mission statement and that got picked up virally basically by everybody.  Some of my fan sites asked for my take on it and I told them what I’m telling you, that I think it’s a fantastic idea.  It’s a real idea and not just people swarming their fists around saying, “No, no, please don’t.”  We get it.

zachary-levi-meb2009The rubber has got to meet the road somewhere.  And so that, mixed with a couple other variables, allowed us to come back for a 3rd season.  I think it’s really kind of blazed a trail and I think if network television is going to survive in this new DVR, internet, downloadable world, why not like that?  Why not just have one main sponsor and harken back to what TV used to be?  How about Borax? I don’t know.  But as long as it’s an easily consumable product. Unfortunately for car makers, you can’t be a Toyota and hope that people will go buy a Civic, or a Celica, I mean.  All of that combined to create a perfect storm of this is really happening.  It was weird because at first your pride takes a hold a little bit.  You think, “Why aren’t we picked up?  We are a good show and critics like us, a lot of critics love us, our fans love us, and yes, we only do 7 million live but there’s a number 5 if you count all the DVRs and download and DVD purchases.  That’s a lot of people.  Right?”

So, at first I was a little bummed.  I thought it just sucked that this show gets picked up right away and this show is back and we’re still waiting and hanging on but as we went through this whole process what I realized is A) it gave me an appreciation for what we do, like I was saying because it’s humbling especially today.  Being out there in front of a packed hall of 4,000 fans that are dedicated to the show and that’s just a sampling because there are people that stood in line but couldn’t make it into the room and what we do impacts them in some way enough for them to be there with us today and it’s really, really, really humbling and to be here at Comic-Con because we live and die by these very fans that joined the cause and picked up the torch or whatever analogy or metaphor – it’s only right that whatever time we can spend with them to say, “Thank you.  I only have a job today because you guys cared enough to Tweet about it or blog about it or emailed it to other friends.”

We also have fans that just bug the heck out of their families and friends – check out Chuck – did you see Chuck? – Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, you know?

(Laughs)

LEVI: I was telling a reporter and the lady from the Chicago Tribune – and people like yourself – anyone in the media who through all that and before we went on the chopping block, during the season we’ve gotten a lot of love and I’m sure their viewers were saying, “OK, enough of this freakin’ Chuck – I get it, you like the show, OK.”  But they are constantly plugging the show and constantly giving us love.  So I really feel that, not that we are the first to stick around because of that kind of love – Arrested Development stuck around because of critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base, and winning a couple of trophies didn’t hurt - but even despite that it wasn’t enough for Fox to keep them around, so three seasons and then it was done.  And there are people that still today say, “How could they possible do that?  It was the best show on television.”  And it was.  It was an incredible show but it was ahead of it’s time I think.  And being ahead of your time isn’t always the best thing because audiences still hadn’t caught on to the single camera comedy in that way.  Scrubs has stayed around and weathered some storms and now it’s going to keep going and I’m sure there are fans that are really happy about that.  Then also, so through the process I went from being like that really sucks that we weren’t renewed to seeing all the outcry and outpouring of the love of our fan base and the critics because everybody picked it up: Entertainment Weekly, and E, and TV Guide, and People.  The show that might go away…it’s Chuck.  And then I realized that we are getting lots of free press out of this.  This is really good.  And then you start to think about it in the bigger scheme of things like stuff that only later on in hindsight – you think clearly God had a bigger plan than all this because now this is keeping us fresh in people’s minds because we are not going to be on the air again until March 1st possibly and that’s all I know.

CS:  That’s like another writers strike.

LEVI: Yes.  Fortunately it won’t be that long until we go back to work but nonetheless, that’s a long time off the air.  We certainly benefited tremendously from not being quietly renewed in the night.  We fought for it.  Our fans fought for it.  Our critical fans fought for it and we’re back.  And, I feel like because of that, now it’s almost like our fans are part owners of the show.  They are all shareholders.  “Yeah, we fought for that and we got that back.”  It wasn’t just because the numbers were so great that 15 million people are watching it and of course you are going to get renewed.  No man, it was the strong, the proud, the Marines…

(Laughs)

LEVI: And nerds everywhere.  When I was in the UK right before the finale I was in Birmingham – Adam Baldwin and I were at a Comi-Con out there and doing some signings and stuff and it was right before the finale and my publicist was calling me saying that a lot of people are asking, both editorial and fan sites, asking what we are going to do for the finale.  “Are you going to do a footlong finale thing with the grassroots thing?” and the girl who started the thing was in the UK and I met her there for the first time.  I think she was from Philadelphia and there happened to be a Subway there.  I didn’t even know they had them there because it’s called the Underground there.

(Laughs)

Comments:

One Response to “Trailer Park: Zachary Levi - Part 1”

  1. Danielle Says:

    wow he can talk huh?
    I hate to admit it, but I am one of those fans who drive everyone nuts… mostly because from New Zealand, thats all I can do, I cant go to chuck fests, I can go to the comic-con, so the only way I could think of how to help was getting people I know in NZ to watch it when its finally aired here..

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