Tag Archive | "Kevin Heffernan"

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: The Non-Comic Book Superhero, Part VI

Posted on 03 May 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, we examine how superheroes are employed in kid-friendly fare, to good and bad effect.

Comic books, especially superhero comics, were at one time thought of as being exclusively entertainment for kids. Any adult who read comic books would be considered borderline illiterate and not someone you’d want to associate with. I’m fairly certain that there are many people out there that still hold that opinion.

936full-the-incredibles-poster

But comics haven’t been exclusively for kids for almost three decades. While there are some comics that are aimed at the younger set, they are becoming rarer as the years pass. This is a shame not only because there is room in comics for both kids and adults, but also because the world of film has shown that superheroes can be quality entertainment for kids and adults at the same time.

A sterling example of this was 2004’s The Incredibles. This was the sixth film released by Pixar, who were well in the run of quality films by this point. The film was a pastiche on the Fantastic Four with that team’s surrogate family dynamic morphing into a biological family dynamic. Mr. Incredible was the Thing like strong guy, who was immodestly named like the FF’s Mr. Fantastic, whose power set was matched by Elastigirl. Violet had invisibility powers akin to the Invisible Girl and Dash had the youthful impetuousness of Human Torch and Jack-Jack seemed be able to turn into flame (amongst other powers as well).

While there was an antecedent for The Incredibles in the Fantastic Four, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t original. It was, as most Pixar films are, a film that works for both adults and children, although The Incredibles gave the adults a little more to enjoy. The kids got the slapstick humor and flashy superpowers, while their parents got themes such as the Dad  balancing family life with his “secret”  identity. It was a film about the things you must give up in order to provide for the ones you love and the difficult pursuit of a satisfying balance between what you want to do and what you have to do.

The next film on our list is not quite as complex as The Incredibles, but is one of the few kid’s films to have a “Story by” credit given to an actual seven-year-old kid. That kid was Racer Max Rodriguez, whose father, Robert Rodriguez, decided to adapt the characters they both created around their house to the big screen in the form of The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D.

adventures_of_shark_boy_and_lava_girl_in_three_d_xlgThe film centers on a lonely outcast named Max who creates a world where young superheroes Sharkboy and Lavagirl live and have adventures. However, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred when the heroes ask Max to come with them to save their world.

The film takes on a Wizard of Oz like dimension as many of the people Max knows appear in the dream world he created in different forms, yet tied to the way Max views them (for example, Max’s real life bully Linus becomes the villain Minus in Max’s fantasy world and his mean teacher Mr. Electridad becomes another villain named Mr. Electricity).

The film was a critical and box office disappointment, but is known for being one of the first films to usher in the 3-D resurgence and for being the first major film role of Taylor Lautner. All those Twimoms who get weak in the knees whenever he takes off his shirt in the Twilight films should take a look at that trailer up there.   He’s practically a baby in this film. They should be overcome with shame.

If you are looking to create a superhero movie for kids, you could do worse for a plot than a superhero high school or a teenager dealing with famous superhero parents. Sky High combines both plot elements to good effect.

skyhighThe film had a lot going for it. It marked Kurt Russell’s return to Disney family fare (although now as the parent instead of the kid), featured geek culture icons Lynda Carter and Bruce Campbell, had a role for Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan and reunited Kids in the Hall members Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald. It was like they were doing a movie with a collection of actors with large cult followings.

The story was solid if conventional. The cast definitely made the most of the material and I really liked the end product. So much so, I am not ashamed to admit that I saw the film in a theater. However, it is with great shame that I admit that the very next year I saw a similarly themed film in the theaters, a film with a whopping 3% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

That’s not bad. For a long time, Zoom: Academy for Superheroes had a 0% fresh rating, meaning it received absolutely no positive reviews at all. I didn’t really consider the film to be that bad, I have definitely seen worse, but the film wasn’t very good either.

zoom_posterIf you were able to get past the fact that the federal government considers a six-year-old girl with super-strength to be a good line of defense against an incredibly powerful, homicidal super villain speeding his way towards Earth, you’d find other things about the film to make you wince. Like what, you may ask? Well, the reliance on gross-out gags for the sake of gross-out gags. There is an extended sequence where the four young trainees lock the more awkward scientist/trainer/mentor (played by a Chevy Chase who either just had bad plastic surgery done or is coming off a bad allergic reaction to a bee sting) in a room used to train the potential heroes how to react to adverse weather conditions. After Chase’s character is pelted by rain, sleet, snow and struck by lightning, a robotic skunk (yes, a robotic skunk) comes out and sprays (yes, the robot skunk has functioning anal scent glands) him in the face. It’s a pretty good spraying. If I recall correctly, Chase allows some of the spray to go into his mouth, which, you know, is one way to make it funnier. Well, if the scene was funny to begin with, maybe.

On top of that,  we get a Smash Mouth-heavy soundtrack, an extended Wendy’s commercial in the middle of the film, a countdown to disaster that doesn’t countdown in linear fashion (it goes from one day to two days then one day again), and Courtney Cox trying to act nerdy and clumsy. If you take away all of that, you have a relatively harmless kids flick. But the problem is, you can’t take all that away.

Megamind-PosterIt’s only fitting to end this installment with Megamind after starting it with The Incredibles, because the two films have a number of similarities beyond both being CGI animated superhero kid flicks. Both films opened on the same day (November 5th), albeit six years apart. One is done by Pixar, the other by Pixar’s main competition in quality and profitability, Dreamworks. Both draw their inspiration from comic book mythos’ (the Fantastic Four mythos is to The Incredibles as the Superman mythos is to Megamind).  Both appeal to adults as well as kids. And both are humorous examinations on superhero tropes.

This film takes a look at the stereotypical super villain who wants nothing more than destroy the superhero of the city he lives in. What happens when he gets what he wishes for? Well, create a new enemy to destroy, become a hero himself, and/or both.

The film had a great cast that would have been perfect even if the film was live-action. I mean, wouldn’t you want to see Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Will Ferrell together in just about anything? While it wasn’t quite as good as The Incredibles, it was good in its own right.

Next time, we discuss why it is best to use original superheroes if you want to make a superhero comedy.

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Universal Likes Broken Lizard’s ROGUE SCHOLARS

Posted on 27 February 2010 by Rich Drees

BrokenLizardGroupShotUniversal has picked comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s latest screenplay Rogue Scholars as well as a second, unnamed project. The studio has agreed to co-finance the scripts with the Motion Picture Corporation of America through its studio feature film investment fund.

It’s a good movie for Universal. Both projects are being described as “low budget,” so there is not much investment on their part. And while Broken Lizard’s films have never set the box office on fire, the group has a loyal fan base which fuels strong home video sales.

Rogue Scholars will see the five members of Broken Lizard – Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske – as five goofy college professors who run afoul of both the students and the administration. When I chatted with Heffernan and Lemme back in December he described the script as “a reverse Animal House.”

While everyone is being tight-lipped about the title of the deal’s second script, we can make a couple of guesses about what it may or may not be. The project that their fans are looking forward to the most is probably a sequel to their biggest Super Troopers. And while the group has stated that they are working on a script for a sequel, Super Troopers was released by Fox Searchlight so presumably they have first dibs on the sequel. Likewise, their script The Babymaker, in which Heffernan would play a man who recruits his friends to break into a sperm bank to steal back some donations he made years previously in order to get his wife pregnant, is currently in development at Warner Brothers. Another project they have talked about for some time is The Greek Road, in which Heffernan and Lemme would play Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates on a road trip being interfered with by the Gods, portrayed by the other three members of the group. What makes it doubtful that this could be the mysterious second film is that Greek Road had previously been passed on by Warner Brothers who felt that the film was a too expensive for their tastes.

That does leave two possible known projects that this mystery second film could be. The first is Pot Fest, first promised at the end of the group’s 2006 Beerfest. The second is a script about a former NFL linebacker called Nutcracker. The group has already shown the script to their Slammin’ Salmon co-star Michael Clarke Duncan who liked the script. Lemme told me back in December that the group and Duncan are currently looking for a way to put the project together. Could this be it?

Via The Hollywood Reporter.

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SLAMMIN’ The SALMON With Broken Lizard

Posted on 11 December 2009 by Rich Drees

SlamminSalmonCastThe five man comedy troupe Broken Lizard have been steadily turning out dependably funny comedy since they first hit big with their second film, the cop comedy Super Troopers, in 2001. The film was such a hit that it lead to more Hollywood work for the group both collectively and individually.

Their latest film, The Slammin’ Salmon, opens in limited release this weekend. Set in a high-end Miami seafood restaurant owned by a belligerent former boxer played by Michael Clarke Duncan, the staff find themselves under pressure to bring in a night’s worth of receipts to cover the owner’s debt to a Yakuza crimelord. Needless to say with one waiter off his meds, another slowly getting drunk and a waitress slowly burning her face off through a variety of accidents, things are not going to go as planned. The Slammin’ Salmon marks the first film from Broken Lizard that wasn’t directed by  member Jay Chandrasekhar. Instead Heffernan has taken over the directorial reins, delivering the same trademark Broken Lizard comedy that fans have come to expect while spicing the movie with a few directorial flourishes of his own.

I sat down for a quick interview with 40% of the group – Heffernan and Steve Lemme – to discuss the new film.

We started off the interview with a confession.

FilmBuffOnLine: I literally finished watching the screener for the movie about 20 minutes ago.

Kevin Heffernan: In the car on the drive over?

FBOL: Actually, sitting over in the Marathon Grill on my laptop.

Steve Lemme: Nice.

KH: Did you at least have headphones?

FBOL: Yes. After the first “motherfucker”…

SL: How is it to watch a movie like that under duress?

Kevin Heffernan and Michael Clark DuncanFBOL: Not the worst conditions I ever watched a movie under, but still… It was a lot of fun. Michael Clarke Duncan blew me away.

KH: Yeah, yeah. Unbelievable.

FBOL: He’s the secret weapon of this movie.

KH: Oh yeah. He steals it and it’s something you don’t expect. He gives you a performance like you’ve never seen before.

FBOL: What inspired you to cast him?

KH: When we wrote [the movie], the premise that we came up with was if you’re a waiter in a restaurant and the restaurant was owned by Mike Tyson, what would that be like? Would he beat the crap out of you, or what? We started writing this character in the voice of Mike Tyson. There were flights of fancy and there was all these kind of crazy things he says. And then you’re like, oh shit, you got to cast that part. Who do you get to play a believable boxer who can terrify you and kill you and also do this comedy stuff?

SL: We did consider Mike Tyson for a few moments.

KH: For a heartbeat.

SL: We were like “Could we? Should we?” There was the “X-factor”-

KH: We couldn’t get insurance for the movie.

SL: Yeah.

KH: Obviously, he physically fits the role and he had done Taladega Nights. So we gave him the script and he loved it. What we didn’t know was could he do what was on the page. Green Mile, he’s nominated for an Oscar. But does he know comedy? Is going to improvise or what? The first day he had all his lines, he was great. He improvised, he had comedy… And you’re like “Oh my God!” And he just went from there.

SL: It’s hard for us, especially with this character most of all. We find that when other actors come and read some of our dialogue… We intentionally twist logic around a little bit, so sometimes it is hard for people… It’s easy for us, because we’re writing it, but for other people to grasp it… And we were looking at this thing like “Jesus Christ.” Not only are there these huge chunks of dialogue but they have to do with nothing that actually makes any sense. As an actor you can’t grasp on to “Oh, it’s about this particular theme,” because its – Bam! Bam ! Bam! – all over the place.

KH: When we met him he was so funny and we were like “Michael, why don’t you do more comedies?” and he was like “I don’t know. No one ever offers me.” He’s the big scary guy. Hopefully after this he’ll get a chance to do more comedies because he is just inherently a funny guy.

FBOL: In most of your films, you guys circle around an authority figure, almost a Margret Dumont character to your Marx Brothers. Is that a template you consciously pursue or does it grow organically out of the ideas you pursue?

SL: Well, our first movie was Puddle Cruiser and that did not have one. I think it was born out of necessity. I might be wrong, but I remember when we were writing Super Troopers the advice that was given was “Nobody knows who you are so you’ll have to have some name actor with you.” So we were like “OK. We’ll have an older gentleman, our police chief.” It seems to be a good model.

KH: Even Beerfest, for example, we put Cloris Leachman in to that role. You can have someone who is outside of your food group like Michael or Cloris or Brian Cox and it opens up your movie a bit more. I think it is intentional. Also, when you are playing screw-ups or anti-authority people you always need that element of authority somewhere floating around in the script.

FBOL: What is your process for writing?

KH: It’s pretty much everyone sits around a table. It could be one guy has an idea or two guys have an idea, but ultimately you sit down at a table with five guys and you start throwing ideas out. One guy will be in charge of transcribing and keeping it all organized. You keep getting ideas until the point where you make an outline and then a script.

FBOL: The script is pretty hammered down by the time you go in front of the camera?

KH: When we made a film like Puddle Cruiser you don’t have the money to do multiple takes. It was always a good idea in our minds to have the script solid and you get in there, do your two takes and get out. As time has gone on, we’ve become more efficient and have a little bit more money, so we can expand that. We tend to layer joke in the more drafts we do, and then if some things don’t work you can take them out.

Steve LemmeSL: It used to be during rehearsals we would improvise a lot. Also, when we’re writing, it would be hard to get a joke through. So if I’m pitching a joke, I’ve got to make four other guys laugh. We all have different senses of humor. So even if it doesn’t go through, if you think it’s good enough, you’ll make a mental note to “improvise” that while on the set.

FBOL: See if it flies in front of the crew?

SL: Right, yeah.

KH: A new test audience.

SL: (Pointing at Kevin) There are some guys in the group who will ask the director, “Do you mind if I try something like this?” And they may get shot down. I don’t ask. I just do it.

KH: Laughs.

FBOL: (To Kevin) This is your first time directing. How did you wrestle the chair away from Jay?

KH: Oh man, it was hard. We did wrestle. Indian wrestling. And surprisingly, he lost. The film came together very quickly because we shot it independently. So we were putting the financing ahead of the writer’s strike last year, so it was a very quick process. At the time it all came together, Jay was obligated to another movie. We were working at Warner Brothers at the time and he was obligated to one of their movies, so he couldn’t commit to the eight months to a year that it takes to do all the directorial duties. So I said, “I’ll do it.”

FBOL: Well, you worked on the editing for Puddle Cruiser and Super Troopers before…

KH: It’s so collaborative. We all work together on all different facets of the filming anyway so it’s not like we didn’t know what we’re doing.

FBOL: Were you chosen to direct by the time you guys were writing or after you were done with the script?

KH: We actually started writing this script at the same time we wrote Beerfest. We were getting ahead and we wanted to have a higher budget and lower budget script depending on what was available to us at the time. We wrote multiple drafts before we even got to the point where we decided who was going to play what parts and who was going to direct.

SL: In truth, what happened was is that Club Dread came out and for a variety of reasons, one of which was for our fans it was a shift from Super Troopers, so the movie may not have been one of our fans’ favorites. But we also opened against The Passion Of The Christ.

KH: chuckles growing to a belly laugh while Steve relates the following.

SL: We like to say that the Lord smote us down that weekend. We weren’t in a great place after that came out. So we were like “Alright let’s come back with a multiple attack here- a low budget, medium budget and big budget, which we had anyway just in case. We had some time on our hands, so we were able to do so many drafts of Beerfest and of this movie. If you’ve seen the movie, you know it is very complicated. People are coming in doors, running around… Actually, I thought that would probably be the biggest challenge for him as a director. Everybody is somewhere in a tight spot at all times. I know Kevin had to choreograph the whole thing. If there is a scene going on here, I may still be in the background on fire or something like that.

FBOL: That was a great set. Was that a found location or did you guys build that?

KH: We built it. We got this soundstage in Van Nyes. We had a pretty low budget, so we hired this guy named Erich Schultz. He’s predominantly a construction foreman on movie sets. He’s also a production designer and he built this set for nothing. It was really kind of fun because it was like going to work in a combination TV set but also like a stage play. We had never shot a movie like that. It was 25 days in just that one set.

SL: It also had that awful feeling… If you’ve ever waited tables. Even after a month of being there, just seeing the restaurant, I definitely had that feeling. ‘Not here again…’

KH: You wanted a little variety.

SL: Yeah.

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Broken Lizard Film Update

Posted on 10 December 2009 by Rich Drees

BrokenLizardGroupShotEarlier today, I sat down and chatted with Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme about the comedy troupe’s latest film, The Slammin’ Salmon, hitting theaters tomorrow. I’ll have the majority of the discussion for you then, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share what was discussed about some of the other projects they have in the pipeline, including their newest project, Rogue Scholars.

Rogue Scholars- “The new one we’re writing [for Universal] is called Rogue Scholars, where we play college professors. We’re the authority figures and our nemesis are the students, who attack us. We get into a little tit-for-tat with them. You could say that it is Super Troopers on a college campus.” – Lemme

“Or a reverse Animal House.”- Heffernan

Nutcracker- “We just gave [Slammin’ Salmon co-star Michael Clark Duncan] a script that we wrote for a big menacing linebacker at the end of his career, called Nutcracker. We were doing some interviews in New York last week for our live show and Michael was telling us he used to be a dancer. I don’t mean at strip clubs. But he used to take ballet. We were like ‘We have a script called Nutcracker’ and he didn’t believe us. We didn’t believe him that he did ballet. But we gave him the script and he loved it. So we’re going to figure out what to do with that.”- Lemme

Freeloaders- A group of friends who live for free in a rock star’s house suddenly find themselves scrambling when the singer decides to sell the home.

“That’s a movie we’ve produced. It’s done and they’re submitting it to film festivals now. Adam Duritz, the lead singer from Counting Crows, is a fan of our films and he had some guys that he worked on a script with, somewhat autobiographical, and they wanted to make a movie in the same way that we made Super Troopers. They used our infrastructure and our crew. We helped with the script and have little cameos.”- Heffernan

The Babymaker- Heffernan would star in this story of a man who finds that he has become infertile and must retrieve the last remaining vial of sperm he donated in his younger, more viral days so he and his wife can have a baby.

“That was a project at Warner Brothers. I think its still there, possibly we could make it. It got eclipsed by a few things like Rogue Scholars.”- Heffernan.

“That would be Broken Lizard creative producing.”- Lemme

“And [Broken Lizard cast mate] Jay [Chandrasekhar] would direct.”- Heffernan

Pot Quest- As promised at the end of Beer Fest.

“While it well not be a direct sequel to Beer Fest, it will be a Broken Lizard, high concept –“ – Lemme

“- pot adventure”- Heffernan

The Greek Road- Heffernan and Lemme as Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates on a road trip being interfered with by the Gods, portrayed by the other three members of the group.

“We’ve come so close so many times to getting it greenlit. When we got our deal at Warner Brothers they said we’ll greenlight any movie you want. We said ‘Here it is! We’ve been dying to make this movie.’ We were talking about shooting it in Bulgaria, shooting it in India. We just couldn’t get there and we had [the less costly] Beer Fest so that was an easy decision [for the executives].- Lemme

“Sword and sandal epics are making a come back. Because of 300 there are other ways to shoot it now from when we were trying to get it made.”- Heffernan

Super Troopers 2- “Over the course of the last few years, whenever we get some free time we go back and work on a script. So we’ve been writing the script over the course of a couple of years. We just want to get it right. We’re about four drafts in now.”- Heffernan

“Next week we’re sitting down to start work on the new draft.”- Lemme

On the film being a prequel to the original-

“That was something that happened in one interview where we joked about it and were like ‘oh that would be pretty cool. The 70s and we could play our dads and drive our hot rods…’ But actually, with that one we’re going to pick up right where the story left off.”- Lemme

“I think people want to see what happens next. Pure sequel. There was a push to do a sequel very quickly after the first movie came out, but we wanted to make some other movies to do some other things. It’s a blast when we sit down to write it. When you write a script from scratch, you have to make up the characters and the way they talk. But when you revisit somebody, you’ve already established that so it’s a very simple writing process. ‘Mac would say that… Farva would say that… That’s hysterical.’”- Heffernan

“I’m 50 pages in to the new draft and just nice seeing those guys and how O’Hagan is reprimanding everybody and the obnoxious things Farva is saying. It’s going to be fun, but we want to be careful with that.”- Lemme

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