Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jay Baruchel's Next Move

Here's a piece I wrote for that didn't get used.
The alumni of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig's now cult-classic TV show "Freaks and Geeks" (including Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel) have risen to the top of Hollywood's A-list in the past few years. Shortly after the cancellation of "Geeks", however, Apatow created a second show, called "Undeclared", which again featured Rogen and Segel, but also gave actor Jay Baruchel his "big" break as the show's lead. Like its predecessor, the show only lasted a single season, but 9 years later, Baruchel is ready to take his swing at Rogen-level fame with a trio of 2010 films. The actor co-stars in Disney's big-budget, live-action Sorcerer's Apprentice alongside Nicolas Cage, took on a starring role in the recent R-rated success She's Out of My League, and voices a CG hero in DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon.

Baruchel has seemingly shied away from Apatow's success thus far: his only appearance in one of the director's films (as producer or director) is an intermittent role as one of Rogen's roommates in Knocked Up. In the meantime, he's appeared in one or two indie projects, such as the aptly named real-time dramedy Real Time, and continued to be a supporting actor in big movies like Tropic Thunder and the Night at the Museum sequel. None of these films have trumpeted the actor as a leading man, but perhaps that's part of the actor's plan. A good parallel might be actor DJ Qualls, who made a splash in the 2000 comedy Road Trip and quickly graduated to a starring role in 2002's The New Guy, only to see his movie career immediately stall. Qualls even appeared in I'm Reed Fish, a 2006 movie that happened to star Baruchel.

Regardless of what Baruchel's plans were, 2010 is already looking like it's going to be his breakout year. The producers of League were clearly looking to be in the Apatow business, starting with a romance and raunch formula and ending with a movie poster basically consisting of Baruchel's scrunched-up face, just like the campaigns for The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Banner ads peppered the internet, trumpeting the film's R-rating, looking to catch the attention of the same demographic that made The Hangover a $300 million hit, the studio, after sitting on the film for around a year (thanks to the Paramount/DreamWorks split), carefully positioned it a safe two weeks away from John Cusack and Steve Pink's Hot Tub Time Machine. The strategy worked: League isn't a box-office smash or even a low-key hit, but the film's solid numbers proved that Baruchel's non-existent star status didn't seem to bother audiences.

Now, Baruchel is looking at what may turn out to be two of the biggest films of his career, regardless of whether he'll be personally responsible for their box-office success. Apprentice, which won't be arriving until August, has plenty of cache behind it, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jon Turtletaub, and star Nicolas Cage -- three men who turned two National Treasure films into nearly $400 million in domestic box office reciepts (a third is in the cards) -- as well as the basic name value of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (the film is an expansion of the original Fantasia short with the buckets and brooms, minus Mickey; you can see Baruchel recreating the scene briefly, near the end of the film's teaser trailer), even though it's not really a remake. Right now, though, How to Train Your Dragon is getting big buzz as DreamWorks' best animated project yet, with additional kudos for the 3D. Even if Baruchel won't get stopped on the street for participation in Dragon if it turns out to be a smash, he'll likely find himself doing more and more voicework (just like his "Geeks" alum Seth Rogen, who laid down tracks for Shrek the Third, Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens).

On one hand, most voice actors aren't exactly celebrities, and, while the practice is increasing, most actors would prefer to do their work in front of the camera rather than behind the microphone. Then again, for Baruchel, maybe that level of celebrity makes perfect sense. By doing a film where he doesn't physically appear, and another where he plays the co-lead, he's probably locked up plenty of steady work, retains his cred as a supporting actor, allowing any profit and credibility League creates to be icing on the cake. Even if "Jay Baruchel" never becomes a household name, it looks as if he's got his future in perfect order.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Remake Watch 2010: Week 15

A catch-up post, in which Hollywood vomits old movies and television shows into your face with alarming strength and velocity.

Legendary Pictures has the rights and are trying as hard as they can to avoid making anything like Roland Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla. Good plan. [Source: Variety]

House Party
This movie isn't going to make House Party 2 look like House Party 3! It's just going to look like House Party! Because, you know, it's a remake. I guess that House Party 4 Film Favorites DVD is selling like gangbusters. [Source: Pajiba's The Hollywood Cog]

"Laverne & Shirley"
Jamie Foxx is writing a "Laverne & Shirley" movie with Jessicas Biel and Garner in mind to star and Garry Marshall to direct? I told you I wanted an out-of-left-field story, damn it! [Source: TV Guide]

Look Who's Talking
Clearly, someone wants to capitalize on those E*TRADE ads starring babies. Oh, wait, they're making a movie based on those, too. [Source: Pajiba]

Sometimes I think Hollywood execs with no ideas on what to greenlight just go to Blockbuster and look at old DVDs. You know, because Hollywood Video is out of business. Maybe this is the one that will get Jennifer Lopez that "dope" Oscar she deserves. [Source: The Hollywood Reporter]

Night of the Living Dead: Origins
Never mind that there is already a Night of the Living Dead 3D, they're making another one, and it's animated, and a prequel. Hmm. [Source: Movie Mikes, via Moviehole]

Private Benjamin
Anna Faris is headlining a Private Benjamin remake. Unlike my joke above, it may really turn out to be an Oscar bid for Faris (the original scored Goldie Hawn an Oscar nomination), which Jennifer Lopez can watch from her couch while lamenting that her comic ability to hold semen inside her vagina in The Back-Up Plan was overlooked. [Source: THR's Risky Business Blog]

Police Academy
Steve Guttenberg's dreams of a Police Academy reunion sequel are crushed by the news of this remake. Steve Guttenberg's dreams are always crushed. [Source: The Hollywood Reporter]

A remake of the cartoon, not the Robin Williams movie. IN 3D!!! [Source: Variety]

Real Genius
I like the idea that someone is remaking a movie titled Real Genius, in the sense that that same person would probably remake a movie called Truly Original. [Source: the first article from Pajiba again]

The Toxic Avenger
Everyone's favorite hand-frying, arm-tearing, boob-loving, grossly mutilated dweeb is bringing his classic mix of blood and breasts to Hollywood in an all-new PG-13 family movie in the vein of The Mask! Wait, what? [Source: Deadline Hollywood Daily]

Not added to the "Remake Watch" count but still oh-so-very-in-development:

Years ago, Eli Roth was attached to "Baywatch", presumably for no other reason than he could be. Unfortunately, as it turns out, that might have been a good idea, and it was quickly scrapped. [Source: THR's Risky Business Blog]

Fantastic Voyage
Alright, alright. There are four movies on this list with genuine potential, and this is one of them. Like Clash of the Titans, there's definite room for improvement here, and it's been long enough since the original film was released to justify revisiting. As long as potential director Paul Greengrass leaves his shaky-cam behind (sometimes it works, but I don't think Fantastic Voyage needs to be gritty) and producer James Cameron lets someone else write it, I'll go see it. [Source: Variety]

Fright Night
Here's another one that I have mild faith in, entirely based on Anton Yelchin. [Source: THR's Heat Vision Blog]

Heavy Metal
The third project worth caring about and the one with the second-most potential: Heavy Metal, via David Fincher. He tried before and failed, but this time, he's brought his buddies Zack Snyder and James Cameron with him. Loud and nasty indeed. [Source: Deadline Hollywood Daily]

Caesar (Planet of the Apes)
Finally, 20th Century Fox is moving forward with a Planet of the Apes prequel called Caesar, which will ignore Tim Burton's much-maligned remake. [Source: Production Weekly, but the best link I have is from Deadline Hollywood Daily]

Red Sonja
Rose McGowan: out. Megan Fox: potentially in. My attention: as far away from Megan Fox as possible. [Source: Pajiba]

The director of Stomp the Yard is considering directing. There will be no robots, only interpretive dance. [Source: IESB]

When a movie is a hit (like, say, Transformers), quickly find and buy a property that you can make nearly indistinguishable, and pour money into it. [Source: Corona Coming Attractions

Remake Watch 2010:
15 film remakes in development
4 film remakes released in theaters
0 film remakes released direct-to-DVD
3 film reboots in development
0 film reboots released in theaters
0 TV remakes announced
0 tv remakes released

A "reboot" is defined by Remake Watch as a new attempt at a film series with new actors playing old characters (thus, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Race to Witch Mountain are excluded). Sequels to remakes (The Pink Panther 2, Halloween II) are ignored.