Actor Clark Duke made his big breakthrough with his own web series “Clark and Michael” in which he played a fictional version of himself opposite Michael Cera. Since then, he has gone on to give a number of hilarious performances in movies like “Sex Drive,” “Kick Ass” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” This past summer, he stole some scenes in the eagerly awaited sequel “Kick Ass 2″ in which he reprised his role of Marty who has now taken on the superhero identity of Battle Guy.” Clearly, he has become the guy to go to for memorable supporting roles.
In his latest movie, “A.C.O.D.” (Adult Children of Divorce), Clark plays Trey who lives in the basement of his older brother Carter’s (Adam Scott) house. Both Trey and Carter managed to survive their parents’ bitter divorce as kids, but it looks to have forever soured Carter on the thought of marriage. Trey, however, ends up getting engaged to his girlfriend and begs Carter to get their estranged parents to come to the wedding. Knowing how their parents can’t stand to be in the same with one another, Carter knows that this will be a challenge to say the least, but he goes through with the improbable reunion because that’s what his little brother wants. But as things get underway, Trey has yet to learn the real truth of what is going on behind his back.
We got to catch up with Duke during a roundtable interview which was held at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, California as part of the “A.C.O.D.” press conference, and he proved to be as funny off screen as he is on it.
Question: When you’re playing a character like Trey, how do you keep him grounded in reality as an actor?
Clark Duke: Well, this script was pretty grounded. We didn’t have to improv a lot. A good script makes our job a lot easier.
Question: You and Adam Scott play brothers in this movie. How did you go about establishing that chemistry and working together?
Clark Duke: Well, it probably helped that we knew each other beforehand and we were friends before the movie so there wasn’t much of an acclimation period, I guess. I have one sibling, a younger brother, so I kind of tapped into that. As to how to play it, I related more to Adam’s character while reading the script. When you have a cast that’s good, nothing’s too hard.
Question: How did this project come to you and what made you want to do it?
Clark Duke: I just read the script. You get sent scripts all the time, but ninety-nine percent of them are just unreadable and terrible. So, when you get a really good one that really stands out… That’s just the truth; most of them are just god-awful. I went to the table read in just actively wanted to do the movie, so I did (laughs).
Question: Ken Howard, the current President of the Screen Actors Guild, co-stars in this movie as well. What was it like working with the union boss?
Clark Duke: No riffraff on the set. No grace periods for lunch, just ended right on time every day (laughs). He’s a licensed deputy as the SAG-AFTRA head.
Question: Adam Scott joked that Ken Howard deputized the both of you and gave you both firearms…
Clark Duke: We immediately abused it (laughs). I would waive mine at cars. We were in Atlanta so I would go to a lot of strip clubs with the gun, and then I’d float my SAG card and they are like OK. They just had to put up with it (laughs).
“A.C.O.D.” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.
WRITER’S NOTE: This interview took place back in 2013.
Who doesn’t love Jane Lynch? We see her everywhere these days either as Sue Sylvester on the hit show “Glee” or hosting the NBC game show “Hollywood Game Night.” Lynch is an endlessly talented actress who never fails to give a tremendously entertaining performance in anything she does. While we may not have recognized her right away as a doctor working alongside Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive,” she would later go on to steal scenes in the Christopher Guest mockumentaries “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” After that, she made her big breakthrough opposite Steve Carell in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” as Paula, the electronics store manager who offers, in a rather bizarre way, to have sex with the man of the movie’s title.
We got to meet with Lynch during the press day for the comedy “A.C.O.D.,” its title meaning Adult Children of Divorce. In it she plays Dr. Judith, a therapist who was there for Carter (played by Adam Scott) as a young boy when his parents go through an incredibly messy and bitter divorce. Now Carter has come back to Dr. Judith after hearing that his younger brother has just gotten engaged to get her advice on a few matters. But what Carter soon realizes is that Dr. Judith was not actually his therapist when he was a child, but instead a writer who used him and other kids for her study on children of divorce, and it ended up turning into a book which is now in its umpteenth edition.
The press day for “A.C.O.D.” came just a few days after the Emmy Awards in which Lynch got to share the stage with a number of entertainers including Neil Patrick Harris.
Question: The opening of the Emmy Awards this year was fantastic. What exactly were you going to do to lynch Mr. Harris?
Jane Lynch: I was going to throw him down and show him what kind of a woman I can be, but that’s something he would not enjoy unless I said that I would enjoy it less (laughs).
Question: You did have the somber tribute to your “Glee” co-story Cory Montieth, but then you are also celebrating and get to have this great comedic moment.
Jane Lynch: Yes, that was great and to see the company I keep on being one of the guys with Jimmy, Jimmy, Judy and Neil and Conan. I was just out of my body going wow, this is pretty amazing!
Question: Many were surprised that you didn’t have a singing and dancing number given that you have been on Broadway a number of times.
Jane Lynch: Yes, exactly! Well, I’m kind of glad that it was confined to what it was (laughs).
Question: What attracted you to the role of Dr. Judith in “A.C.O.D.?” You have actually played many therapists throughout your career.
Jane Lynch: Many times, and I’m playing one on Saturday in a little spot for a friend of mine. I think I’m fascinated with therapy and I’m fascinated with my own therapist (laughs). I have a terrific therapist who I have seen over the years and I would say that we’re probably friends now. We’ve come to the point where we’re friends. I always take a little bit of her and blow it up because she’s a very interesting person.
Question: Has your therapist ever been offended by your portrayals?
Jane Lynch: NO! She’s like ha, ha, ha! She loves it!
Question: It seems that many actors do go to therapy for years and years. Why do you think that is?
Jane Lynch: Well, I don’t know if that’s absolutely true, but I wouldn’t be surprised. What we do is we examine ourselves because we’re interested in all aspects of humanity, and the place you have to start to be any good at acting is with yourself. Everything is inside of you, all of it; the murderer, the great mother, the therapist, the husband, everything is inside of us. Because we’re human beings, we can relate to almost every emotion and I think that kind of exploration you do in therapy makes you more open and creative and more empathetic. You are able to see a character from the point of view of the inside out as opposed to, ooh, I’m playing a bad guy! Let’s get deep inside this person so we know what makes this sociopath tick. What in me is sociopathic? We all have it. For me, my therapy has always run parallel with the characters I play. I’ll find something that I’m dealing with that will come up in a character.
Question: For the longest time there was a lack of roles for women of age but now that seems to be changing. Do you believe that the tide is turning?
Jane Lynch: I don’t know if you will be able to point to a moment in time where the tide did turn, but I think that it definitely has. I love this new generation of girls coming up. It sounds so old when I say that, but there’s an entitlement to people like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey where they just expect to have a seat at the table so they have a seat at the table.
Question: Do you ever think you will step behind the camera to direct?
Jane Lynch: I don’t know. I don’t feel that I have to, but I have a feeling that I will at some point. But it will come out of something that will have me saying, ooh I want to do that. But I don’t think I can sit here and go, I would like to direct one day.
Question: Do you think you could direct yourself?
Jane Lynch: Yeah. Sometimes I wish I could, you know? One of the worst moments on set is when the director says, “Jane I have an idea…” I hate that! I will have the ideas thank you! I think a great director sees what you can bring to the table and they go okay and maybe they build on that. But to take you in a completely different direction… If Christopher Guest does that then fine, but not Joe Schmo.
“A.C.O.D.” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I vaguely remember watching 2020’s “Becky” when it was released through various digital platforms. Besides the brutal violence and seeing Kevin James as a Neo-Nazi, the film didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me as a viewer. When I heard they were going to make a sequel, “The Wrath of Becky,” I was intrigued for two reasons: Lulu Wilson and Seann William Scott. Wilson is a tremendous young actress who shows maturity beyond her years, and Scott has shown a knack recently for playing chilling and unsettling villains. I figured it was worth giving it another go around, and I’m happy to report “The Wrath of Becky” is lightyears better than the first film.
When the film introduces us to Becky a few years later, she has an edge to her after the traumatic events of the previous film. She’s sarcastic, matter-of-fact, and she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. She has been bounced around from group home to group home. Eventually, she decides to rent out a room with an older African-American woman who takes in strangers and is dealing with her own sense of loss. Her name is Elena, played by Denise Burse. One night while waitressing, Becky runs into a group of men who call themselves the Noble Men. They are a white supremacist militia group with bad intentions. After she spills coffee on one of them, they follow her back to Elena’s house, where they proceed to kill Elena and take Becky’s dog Diego.
Now, Becky is looking for two things: revenge and to get her dog back. The film uses an interesting technique where it will show the audience a violent sequence of what she is hoping to do, and then what she actually does. They use voiceovers for this as well, which was a nice touch. She communicates with the audience and lets us know what she’s thinking. They don’t overdo this, thankfully. The Noble Men are brought back to the house of one of their leaders named Darryl, played brilliantly by Seann William Scott. Scott and Wilson are the stars here, and Scott knows how to be unnerving and very intense without trying too hard. I remember him in a film called “Bloodline,” and he crushed it in that film. He’s really, really good at playing these low-key, calm, and sadistic villains.
The rest of the group consists of DJ (Aaron Dalla Villa), Anthony (Michael Sirow), and Sean (Matt Angel). Twig (Courtney Gains) is already with Darryl at the house. They have members all over the world, and they are looking to take down Senator Hernandez (Gabriella Piazza) at an upcoming town hall event. First, they have to deal with extreme girl scout Becky, and she is not one to back down from a fight, especially since they have her dog and they killed the one living person in the world she actually liked. From here, it’s a rather straight-forward film with Becky taking on these misogynist, hateful, and narrow-minded men. The characters are a little too on the nose at times, politically, but it works as a film like “The Wrath of Becky” is one where you are going to sit back and watch Becky destroy bad people in creative and brutal ways.
The film is not shy about its violence. It really goes for it. As with any sequel, especially one which relies on violence, they really up the ante here. They were also smart enough to keep the film under 90 minutes. We are reintroduced to Becky, find out what she’s up to, meet the villains, and then it’s time for the mayhem. It’s a formula, yes, but it’s a formula that works because Wilson is terrific at playing Becky. She’s a badass chick and easy to root for as the heroine. She also has a worthy adversary in Seann William Scott. The scenes with the two of them together are just brilliant.
In the end, you know what you are getting with “The Wrath of Becky” and what you have signed up for as an audience member. I could have done without the dog being involved, not because it offended me, but because it seemed to take a page out of other films, most recently “John Wick.” We have seen people try to avenge their dog when it has been captured or killed. The ending seems to hint that there might be another film or two still left in the “Becky” franchise. If they keep the budget low and stick to one location, which is basically what they did here, I see no reason why they can’t continue to make more of these films. Wilson is a star, and she deserves her own franchise. I look forward to seeing her take on more villains portrayed by quality actors in the future.
Should You See It?
The film is being released on May 26. I know there are a lot of movies to choose from at the box office right now. “The Wrath of Becky” is a nice change of pace, though, from the usual fare of blockbusters and franchises. It’s bloody, gory and very, very entertaining. As stated in my review, this film knows what it needs to do, it stays out of the way of its actors, and it’s a ton of fun. I truly enjoyed seeing Lulu Wilson and Seann William Scott in a battle of wits. It’s way better than 2020’s “Becky,” as it moves at a faster pace, gets right to the meat of the matter, and it doesn’t hold back with its violent, in-your-face approach. I think it would be a lot of fun to watch on the big screen. It’s in limited release, but you can find it at a theater near you. I don’t think you will be disappointed if you enjoy blood, guts and have a sense of humor.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
The idea of being a superhero is something which appeals to people all across the world. They want the chance to start out as an ordinary individual and transform themselves into something special and magical. 1978’s “Superman” is a perfect example of this, especially with its leading man, Christopher Reeve. It’s an iconic role and performance which continues to stand the test of time. It also achieved the rare feat of being both a financial and critical success. When that happens in Hollywood, everyone is pleased as punch. It’s the magic formula Hollywood is always trying to achieve as they want to do quality work which is meaningful to an audience while also making a lot of money.
There are so many things which make “Superman” great. Of course, as mentioned previously, you have the tremendous performance by the late, great Christopher Reeve. However, you also need a really, really effective villain, and it’s hard to find a better Hollywood villain than the legendary Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. He oozes with charisma, personality, and you love to root against him. As far as the supporting cast, it is filled with some of the greatest working actors and actresses in Hollywood history, such as Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Glenn Ford, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Jack O’Halloran, Maria Schell and Sarah Douglas.
It also doesn’t hurt when you have a director like Richard Donner behind the camera as well. He knows how to pace the film, allow his actors room to breathe, and he is also respectful of the source material. There was also the magnificent score by the iconic John Williams. When you have all of the right pieces in place like Donner did such as the script, the actors and the budget, you have to stay on track and basically not screw it up. He was just the right man for this big budget affair. During its release, it had the highest budget for a film at the time, coming in at $55 million. It’s funny to hear that number now, considering how much budgets have increased in Hollywood since then.
What speaks to me about the first “Superman” film is the idea of having a double life and people not knowing who you really are. During the day you are Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter, but you also have the ability to be Superman. It shows we all have something special inside of us. It is up to us to really find that, harness it, and use it for good. Superman is your all-American, clean cut, good guy. He’s very likable and effortlessly charming. On paper, this idea might sound ludicrous, but because the filmmakers took it seriously and had the right actors and participants involved, they really had lightning in a bottle. Even to this day, the film holds up incredibly well. When you see the special effects, they were really ahead of their time and they helped pave the way for a lot of the effects we see today, only they are now taken up a notch. Most importantly, this film has a big heart and a big soul attached to it. This is why the film is beloved by so many.
With this tremendous release from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, we are also treated to “Superman II” in two different versions. We get the original theatrical cut by Richard Lester and the Richard Donner Cut on 4K. To this day, people still debate which version they like better and which is more worth watching. If you ask me, it’s best to watch both versions. I see things in Donner’s film I like more than in Lester’s and vice versa, but overall, I felt like Lester’s version was a much more polished, easy to follow, and complete film. Donner’s version is flawed with moments of greatness, and it deserves to be seen. Thanks to this set, you can watch both versions, which, as stated previously, I highly encourage you to do as I love a good film discussion. Film is subjective and there is really no right or wrong answer.
In “Superman II,” Mario Puzo is back once along with fellow screenwriters, David and Leslie Newman, again with a really good story, and this is a great thing for the audience. All three really know how to flesh out a story and create unique and interesting characters. It doesn’t hurt when you have actors like Beatty, Kidder and Hackman completely invested in the material. While not as good as the first one, and it’s rare for a sequel to be as good as its predecessor, it’s still a very, very good movie. There is some great humor here, and even in a superhero movie where the stakes are high and we are in a fictional world, some levity is very much appreciated! Sometimes it is nice to have a different vision and a new voice in a franchise while also staying true to what made the first film successful. Richard Lester was not put in an ideal situation, but he made it work, and you have to give him credit for that.
By “Superman III,” it seemed like the magic was starting to disappear, and they totally shifted the focus of the franchise into a campy, goofy and comedic realm which really rubbed audiences the wrong way. I understand they were going for something different, and they brought in Richard Pryor, but the script, the jokes and the material are just really, really bad. There is no denying that Pryor is a funny man with great comedic timing, but his abilities didn’t lend themselves to this film franchise. Overall, “Superman III” was doomed because of behind-the-scenes issues, script issues, and a film in search of the right tone. The filmmakers seemed to have lost the plot all together as well as their love for the character and the franchise. When a franchise has success, many times it is how the filmmakers handle that success which defines how it will carry on and continue. It is clear they didn’t know how to handle success here.
It didn’t get any better with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” It was so poorly made and received that they didn’t make another Superman film until 2006. As is often the case with sequels, they went cheap. Even though Hackman returns and Kidder receives more screen time, this film was dead on arrival. The plot is incoherent, messy, and just plain dumb. It was a cash-grab sequel, and when you are focused on money over quality work, you end up with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” It’s a very frustrating film and incredibly hard to follow. As you can see with the “Superman” franchise, you have the law of diminishing returns.
4K Info: The “Superman” 5-Film Collection 1978-1987 is in a terrific box set with all the films getting their own individual dual 4K case which also includes a Blu-ray version of the them. I was really happy they didn’t stack the discs in the set here, as that is always a pet peeve of mine. I was also very happy they gave each film its day in court with artwork and its own individual dual case. “Superman” was previously released on 4K, but this is the first time the other four films have been released in this format. You also a digital code for all of the films as well.
Video Info: If you already own the first “Superman” 4K, please know they have not added anything new to it here. It’s the same “Superman” 4K that had been released in its standalone edition. That being said, it’s hard not to be stunned and blown away by the beautiful Dolby Vision look of the original film. I had not previously owned the first “Superman” film, so I had no qualms about there not being anything new here. It’s just something to keep in mind for those who already own it on 4K. Overall, this is far and away the best these five films have ever looked on home video. They look sharp, clean and free of grain or mess. They have cleaned these films up very, very nicely. I was very impressed with these transfers. Warner Brothers has really been knocking it out of the park with their releases this year during their 100-year anniversary celebration, and this “Superman” box set is no exception.
Audio Info: We are treated to Dolby Atmos on all five films which is fantastic news! I am a huge fan of Dolby Atmos, and the sound is such a vital part of these films. The audio sounds crystal clear, concise, and it comes in at just the right pitch without being too loud or in-your-face. I’m always happy when I can leave it on one volume setting and still get the same impact throughout. That was the case with all five films. They also all come with subtitles in French, English and Spanish as well.
“Superman: The Movie” Special Features:
Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler
The Making of Superman – vintage featurette
Superman and the Mole-Men – vintage featurette
Super-Rabbit – 1943 WB cartoon
Snafuperman – 1944 WB cartoon
Stupor Duck – 1956 WB cartoon
‘Superman II” Special Features:
Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
The Making of “Superman II” – 1980 TV Special
Superman’s Soufflé – Deleted Scene
Fleischer Studios’ Superman vintage cartoons:
The Mechanical Monster
Billion Dollar Limited
The Arctic Giant
The Magnetic Telescope
Terror on the Midway
“Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” Special Features:
Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz
Introduction by Richard Donner – featurette
Superman II: Restoring the Vision – featurette
Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head North
Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head South
The Villains Enter the Fortress
He’s All Yours, Boys
Clarke and Jimmy
Famous Studios vintage cartoons:
The Mummy Strikes
The Underground World
“Superman III” Special Features:
Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler
The Making of “Superman III” – 1983 TV Special
Save My Baby
To the Rescue
Going to See the Boss
Hatching the Plan
Boss Wants This to Go
Hanging Up on Brad
“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” Special Features:
Commentary by Mark Rosenthal
Superman 50th Anniversary Special – 1988 TV Special
Nuclear Man’s Prototype
Metropolis After Hours
Flying Sequence (Extended Scene)
Battle in Smallville
Battle in the U.S.S.R.
Nuclear Arms Race
By My Side
Lark and Lacy Say Goodbye
Should You Buy It?
Last time I checked, this set is going for about $90, which is a great price for five films. Granted, you are really paying for “Superman,” “Superman II” and “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut,” so you need to own all of the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films if you are a completist like myself. I’ve heard a lot of people in the film community complain about some of the special features from other releases not being included on this set but they are included in the other Blu-ray releases. This did not bother me as there are still plenty of special features to shift through here. I’m happy they included the Blu-ray discs for all of the films and didn’t just include the 4K’s. The good films in this franchise leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. When films make me feel this way and put a smile on my face, I’m a happy camper. There is also something to enjoy about the total and complete absurdity of the bad films as well. If you have a sense of humor and come in with the right mindset, you can enjoy them on the level of they are aiming at. All the films come with Dolby Atmos tracks, which is a great perk. My one minor nitpick is the fact that not all these films include Dolby Vision except for the first one. However, in 2023, when physical media is hard to come by in stores but very much appreciated by us hardcore film historians and lovers, I don’t want to be too overly critical or negative over the little things. Warner Brothers and other studios are really going all out to preserve important pieces of cinematic history. We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This set comes highly recommended, and I enjoyed revisiting these films in 4K. It gave me a whole new appreciation for these films, Christopher Reeve’s performance, and the intense feelings of happiness and joy the first two (three if you are counting the Richard Donner cut) films brought to me. You can’t put a price tag on that. This set comes highly recommended!
* * * ½ out of * * * *
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.
WRITER’S NOTE: This interview took place back in 2013, and I have indicated the specific question I asked during it.
Catherine O’Hara is one of the best comedic actresses working today, and she never fails to give a hilarious performance in anything she does. After making a name for herself on “SCTV,” O’Hara went on to a career in movies that included unforgettable roles like the self-centered Delia Deetz in “Beetlejuice” and the forgetful mother Kate McCallister in “Home Alone.” But some of her best work to date has come from her being in the hilarious mockumentaries of Christopher Guest such as “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show.” O’Hara even received a number of nominations and awards for her role as Marilyn Hack in “For Your Consideration.”
In “A.C.O.D.” (an abbreviation for Adult Children of Divorce), O’Hara plays Melissa who, as the movie starts, is undergoing an extremely bitter divorce from her husband Hugh (Richard Jenkins). Since their marriage ended, Melissa has made it clear that she hates Hugh with every fiber of her being. Then she gets the news that her youngest song Trey (Clark Duke) has just gotten engaged to his girlfriend of a few months, but what she has yet to discover is that her other son Carter (Adam Scott) is working on getting her and Hugh together so that they can attend Trey’s wedding in a peaceful fashion. While you may think you know what happens from there, “A.C.O.D.” proves to have many surprises and takes you in directions you don’t see coming.
We got to meet up with O’Hara during the “A.C.O.D.” press junket which was held at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, California. She still looks very lovely after all these years, and her hearty laugh is more than enough proof that she hasn’t lost her sense of humor in the slightest.
Question: “A.C.O.D.” was written by Stu Zicherman and Ben Karlin who have great pedigrees as writers, and you also have Zicherman directing this movie as a first-time director. How did he do as a first-time director and what was the atmosphere like on set?
Catherine O’Hara: I wasn’t aware of him being a first-time director while we were working because he wrote it for one thing. He and Ben wrote it and they are great friends, and Ben was there all the time so you had a good support system. Stu seems like a levelheaded kind of clear, confident guy and he’s funny. When people are smart and good at what they are doing like that and have a sense of humor about everything outside of themselves and even themselves, they are not threatened by anyone giving ideas or working collaboratively. It is a collaborative venture and you can’t lose by being open to the people you’ve hired. Not in the way that it was like a free-for-all, you just knew there was a chance to discuss everything there and he’s so open and he’s a great writer. It just felt like I was in good hands.
The Ultimate Rabbit: The thing I really liked about this movie is that you really don’t know what’s going to happen next. Most comedies you kind of get a sense of the formula and where it’s going to go, but this one really had surprise after surprise. Have you read a lot of scripts like that recently?
Catherine O’Hara: No, you would have seen me in them (laughs). If I was reading them, hopefully I had a chance for them. No, there aren’t enough. They (Stu and Ben) took their time writing this and it’s based on their lives and they have been friends since they were six or seven years old. They know all their extended families and their stepparents, and they really took their time and did a great job and they really thought it out. Every character is taken care of, that’s what I love. It’s not just one or two leads and everyone else is just barely there. Where are you going now? Out of your movie…
Question: That seems to be the case with most movies, but this one gives each of its characters the attention they deserved.
Catherine O’Hara: It is, far too many. This one was really well thought out.
Question: Ken Howard who plays your second husband Gary is also President of the Screen Actors Guild. What was it like having the union leader on set?
Catherine O’Hara: There was that whole merger thing coming up (with SAG and AFTRA) and I personally was against it and he was for it.
Question: Did you talk with Ken about it?
Catherine O’Hara: I did. I asked him why is this good. He seems like a good, smart man, but I just didn’t get it. His explanation was… You could tell that he really cares about the unions and wanted the best for everyone so that was nice to hear.
Question: But you still disagree with him?
Catherine O’Hara: I’m really so not involved with the union in any way, so I had to trust him. He actually is really involved and knows what he’s talking about, so I thought okay. I just like to work and get paid (laughs).
Question: You have been in show business for a long time now. Have you seen a change because for the longest time there was this great void of roles for women over 40 and 50. Do you believe that the tide is now turning?
Catherine O’Hara: There are more and more women writing, and there are more and more good male writers who decided and learned that it’s worth writing for women. I guess the more women are present and out there in life, the more their stories will be told. Our stories have always been told on Lifetime (laughs).
Question: Have you ever thought about stepping behind the camera to direct at some point?
Catherine O’Hara: I only want to write. I don’t care about directing really. I’ve tried it and it was fun, but it’s not like something I have to do. I hate losing trust in a director, that’s awful.
Question: So, what’s coming up for you next?
Catherine O’Hara: I have a movie at the Toronto Film Festival which will hopefully come out soon and it’s called “The Right Cut of Wrong,” and I think I’m reshooting a pilot that didn’t get picked up.
Question: That’s good, and they’ll pay you to do it.
Catherine O’Hara: There you go! Work and pay. Work and get paid, and good for Ken Howard looking after us (laughs).
“A.C.O.D.” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I saw “Creed III” in theaters when it came out in March, and I walked away very impressed by the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan. Even though we were only three months into the new year, I felt it was an early candidate for one of the best films of 2023. I enjoyed his creative and inventive approach to filmmaking, the tremendous acting throughout the film, and the way it was paced just perfectly. Here we are, almost half-way through the year, and I feel even stronger about “Creed III.” It really surpassed any and all expectations I had for the film, and it also shows the “Rocky/Creed” franchise is in very good hands. Much like the “Scream” franchise did with “Scream 6,” it proved you can leave a key player or two from the franchise behind and not miss a beat if you have your heart in the right place, a good script, and you forge your own path while also remembering the pulse of the franchise.
I think by now it is common knowledge that Sylvester Stallone is not in “Creed III.” Stallone expressed his reasons why in interviews, and while I would have enjoyed him in this film, even if it was only in a minor role, I can’t say he was missed. I say this as a huge fan of Stallone and his contributions to the “Rocky/Creed” franchise. It says more about the fact that Jordan took the bull by the horns and really ran with it when it came to “Creed III.” He’s in front of and behind the camera here, and from what he showed me as a director, I can’t wait to see what he does with his next project. He has a keen visual sense and tremendous style without losing the heart and emotional weight of the film.
“Creed III” opens by showing us a young Adonis Creed hanging out with his friend from his group home, Damian Anderson. They are like brothers to one another, and Damian looks out for Adonis. Damian is on the rise as a young up and comer until he finds himself in prison for pulling out a gun while defending a young Adonis. Adonis ran away and never faced any jail time. Damian, on the other hand, spent almost two decades in prison and saw his chance go by the wayside. Adonis is ready for retirement after winning his final fight and leaving as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He’s now a family man with a beautiful house, wife, and young daughter.
Adonis is also running his own gym with the help of Little Duke (Wood Harris) and helping promote a fight for the world heavyweight champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.) against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). On his way out of the gym one day, he runs into Damian (Jonathan Majors) who is out of prison and looking to make up for lost time. He wants to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, as he was a top prospect and a Golden Gloves champion before he ended up in prison. Adonis agrees to let him hang around the gym and spar with Felix, but he feels uneasy about having him around and wonders what his true intentions are, especially after all these years.
As a matter of fact, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) is not too keen about Damian being around, as she remembers some of the trouble he and Adonis would get into as youngsters. Adonis is also dealing with parenthood as his hearing-impaired daughter Amara, played perfectly by Mila Davis-Kent, is having trouble expressing herself in school. When she is being bullied by another student, she resorts to violence instead of working things out in a more peaceful way. This is very troubling to her mother Bianca, played by the lovely Tessa Thompson. She is looking to raise their daughter to express her emotions in a more productive way instead of resorting to violence. For Bianca, she’s been adjusting to her career as a producer. While she enjoys it, she also misses performing and doing her own thing. However, she must also be protective of her hearing as she doesn’t want to cause further damage. She’s also noticing Adonis is pulling away from her and that something is bothering him. It’s clear he has unresolved guilt and anger from his past with Damian. Until he deals with those feelings, he will never be able to move forward in his life and will be stuck in the past.
I have to give major credit to the women of “Creed III” from Rashad to Thompson to Davis-Kent. They are attempting to help Adonis see the forest from the trees and learn that it’s okay for him to open up about his past and talk about his regrets and his pain. It’s not good for him to bottle it all up inside. The two main male characters played by Jordan and Majors are also terrific together on screen. Jordan is fantastic at expressing his emotions on his face and not overacting. That being said, he knows when to tap into an emotion, anger, and turmoil when the scene calls for it. His facials here are terrific, and he knows how to tap into whatever the screenplay needs out of him. Majors reminded me and others of a young Mike Tyson. He will do whatever it takes to win, and he is physically imposing and carries a tremendous presence on screen. When he’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him.
For a film which is nearly two hours long, there is rarely a dull moment. There is something dramatic which occurs in the film (no spoilers) that seemed to get glossed over and moved on from very quickly. It seemed rather unnecessary, and that is my only gripe with the film. As with any “Rocky” or “Creed” movie, the best scenes are not in the ring. The best scenes are the characters talking to one another, figuring out their inner conflict, and dealing with the past and the present. Yes, it’s a boxing movie, but the boxing ring serves as a therapeutic canvas for them to work out their pain. That being said, the boxing scenes are beautifully shot and are the best kind I’ve seen in a boxing film in a long time. Jordan makes some really interesting choices as a director, and they worked out perfectly for him.
“Creed III” is a feel-good film with a big heart behind it. It has a great soundtrack with some real bangers on it. It also has some fantastic acting from everyone in the cast. There isn’t a bad performance to be found here. The stakes also seem very high throughout. There is an urgency here. For a first-time director, this is a very, very impressive debut. I can see them carrying on the “Creed” franchise with Jordan working both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera. He really hit a home run here, and I loved this movie from start to finish.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
4K Info: “Creed III” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It is rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language. It has a running time of 116 minutes. The 4K combo pack also comes with a digital code for the film.
Video Info: I loved the way this film looked in 4K. Warner Brothers has become one of the top studios for 4K releases, and they do not disappoint here with “Creed III.” I’m always happy when a film gets the Dolby Vision treatment, and this film is spectacular looking. We get a detailed, clean, and smooth look with dark darks to set the mood for the emotional trauma Creed is dealing with inside of him. This film really, really pops on 4K. Dolby Vision and Warner Brothers are always a match made in heaven. I truly was impressed by this 4K transfer and how it lends itself to the film.
Audio Info: More good news—we also get a Dolby Atmos track! For a film like this with great music and intense boxing action, you have to have a good Atmos track. The Atmos track makes the film sound absolutely perfect. Warner Brothers really did the right thing by “Creed III,” and I’m very thankful for that.
Michael B. Jordan: In the Ring/Behind the Camera – Featurette
There’s No Enemy Like the Past: Donnie and Dame – Featurette
Should You Buy It?
If you saw it in theaters like I did, I’m happy to report it holds up very, very well on a second viewing. It’s one of the reasons why I love to watch a movie in the theater and then at home. It’s two totally different viewing experiences, and you pick up on certain things you might have missed initially. It was actually better on a second viewing. I highly recommend you pick this film up on its release date on 4K. It is truly the best way to watch this great film. With Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, Warner Brothers really did a magnificent job of putting this film together for a great home-viewing experience. The supplements are a little light, and I would have liked a commentary with director/actor Michael B. Jordan, but still, this is a day-one purchase. I’m not sure how the rest of the year will play out, but this film is still one of the best of 2023, in my opinion. I loved the powerful performances, incredible emotion, ingenious boxing sequences, and how much fun this movie was. I highly recommend “Creed III” as a movie to proudly own on 4K. You won’t be disappointed.
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.
Alright! We are back in Paul Schrader land with his latest film, “Master Gardener.” Just as with “Taxi Driver” and “First Reformed” among other films, it focuses on a loner who keeps a journal and is struggling to deal with a past which was never less than traumatizing. Some directors tend to make the same film over and over again, but I always enjoy seeing Schrader doing so as he always has an interesting angle on this, and “Master Gardener” is no exception.
Joel Edgerton stars as Narvel Roth, an infinitely meticulous horticulturist who is employed at Gracewood Gardens, a beautiful estate owned by Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). Judging from the blooming flowers featured in the opening credits, this is an individual who takes his job ever so seriously as he clearly revels in bringing a garden and the flowers in it to exquisite life. There is even a scene where Narvel invites his fellow workers to smell the soil they have been working on endlessly. Watching this, it made me wish this film came with one of those scratch and sniff cards like those Odorama cards John Waters used for “Polyester.” I would love to have smelled what these characters were taking in as it might just give new meaning to the word “organic.”
Norma, who it turns out is having an affair of sorts with Narvel, has invited her wayward step-niece, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), to become his apprentice. While Maya may be a wealth of trouble at home, she slides into her new job with what seems like relative ease. But, as you can expect, nothing will stay sane for our main characters as revelations of who they are will truly eventually come to the surface whether everyone is prepared for it or not.
Looking at Narvel and hearing how he talks, it is tempting to think he has been a dignified individual since birth, but he eventually takes off his shirt to reveal two things: he has spent a lot of time at the gym, and he has a plethora of tattoos of swastikas and other neo-Nazi images covering his body which indicate he has had a racist past which he is trying to get past. It would have been enough if Narvel had just one swastika tattooed on him to indicate he was once a white supremacist, but the fact he has so many reminded me of a scene from Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” remake in which Robert Mitchum looked over Robert De Niro’s heavily tattooed body and said, “Jesus! I don’t know whether to look at him or read him.”
This revelation brings about complexities as we wonder if Norma and Maya are aware of Narvel’s sordid past. Looking at this, I kept thinking Narvel would reveal the truth of his past existence to both women in an intelligent fashion. But if he did, would this film have such rich dramatic tension?
Gardening and horticulture never struck me as something which could be captured in a cinematic way as it can seem rather boring. It is a credit to Schrader and company that “Master Gardener” makes gardening seem far more immersive than it might be to some. Like I said before, I would love to smell this garden Narvel is cultivating because it is clear no one can cultivate one the way he can.
Schrader also makes the characters and their situations all the more dramatic by pointing out how different their ages are to one another. Now I have long since learned to NOT ask any women their age as serious bodily harm is likely to occur and deservedly so, Norma being almost twice Narvel’s age and Maya being close to half of his. Taboos are bexploited for dramatic effect as certain things are not quickly accepted in today’s culture, but here we may need to look more closely at what is going on.
Looking at Joel Edgerton’s resume, I wonder if I have given him enough credit as an actor. He has played a variety of roles in the “Star Wars” prequels, “The Thing” prequel, “The Felony” and “The Gift” among other films. Each has shown him going from playing good guys to villains with relative ease, and that is a gift many in his field would love to have. While it might seem like Edgerton is playing Narvel as a far too reserved, it becomes clear why this is the case as he nails this character’s complexities perfectly from start to finish.
Sigourney Weaver is a very welcome presence here. As Norma, she gives off a very regal vibe which makes her seem like a peaceful individual, but her play on words reveals someone whose anger is just simmering beneath the surface. I also love how she makes indigent sound like a four-letter word.
Quintessa Swindell does very interesting work as Maya. We learn a lot about this character before she appears onscreen, and Swindell makes Maya into something more than a mere cliché or stereotype that many might expect her to be. As we find Maya becoming involved with a man who is at least a decade older than her, Swindell comes to hold her own opposite Edgerton in their scenes together to where it becomes clear who has the upper hand in this relationship.
When it comes to Schrader and his films, he typically works with the bare minimum of budgets, and I am always impressed with what he accomplishes with them regardless of how tight they are. The cinematography by Alexander Dynan is quite lovely, the music score by Dev Hynes fits the material just fine, and kudos to those who gave Schrader the money to make this one as indie films like these do not get as much support as they once did.
How does “Master Gardener” compare to Schrader’s other works? Hard to say as there are many I still need to watch. This one does not quite reach the cinematic heights of “First Reformed” or “Affliction,” but this one reminds me of what a compelling voice he still is in cinema. Perhaps the conclusion left me wanting more as it did not quite fill my cinematic bloodlust, but maybe that was because I was expecting the wrong kind of movie. Whereas many of Schrader’s films end in an orgy of violence, this one concludes in a way which gives a certain piece of dialogue from “Natural Born Killers” an infinite amount of meaning, “Love beats the demon.”
Perhaps the loners who inhabit Schrader’s recent works have found reasons to not end their lives in an intensely dramatic and fatal fashion as the women they encounter give them a reason to live on. While the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” might be treading through familiar territory, it is clear he has found how love can alter one’s destiny. This makes “Master Gardener” stand out in a memorable way as it defies certain expectations which I never should have brought into the theater in the first place.
Moreover, this film makes me view gardening and cultivating in a whole new light. I really enjoyed the specifics Schrader gives us when it comes to certain flowers as few other writers could these details down so perfectly. Perhaps I should visit the local flower or garden shop to truly appreciate the plants and their smells which are on display here.
I am glad Schrader is still making films in this cinematic climate. There always needs to be something outside of the mainstream.
WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2013, and it contains spoilers for this film.
Stu Zicherman and Ben Karlin are best known for their work as writers in film and television. Zicherman was one of the screenwriters on “Elektra” which he did not even try to hide his disappointment over, and the Hong Kong action film “2000 AD,” and he is currently working on the FX show “The Americans.” Karlin made a name for himself as a writer and executive producer on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” and these days he serves as one of the writers for the acclaimed ABC comedy “Modern Family.” But what you may not know is these two were best friends when they were growing up, and they are also children of divorce.
When they reunited as adults, Zicherman and Karlin began working together on the screenplay for “A.C.O.D.” which tells the story of when Carter (Adam Scott) is tasked to get his bitterly divorced parents, Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara), to come to their youngest son Trey’s (Clark Duke) wedding. Writing the script allowed Zicherman and Karlin to deal with their own memories of their parents separating, but they also manage to find humor in a situation which is usually filled with tremendous sadness and anger. In the process, they both succeed in turning a lot of comedy conventions on their heads and give us a movie full of endless surprises.
I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Zicherman and Karlin when they appeared for the “A.C.O.D.” press junket held at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
Question: What was the genesis for this movie?
Stu Zicherman: Ben and I have actually been friends since we were born. What’s the quickest way to explain this? Basically, my mom was friends with Ben’s parents, and Ben’s parents were friends with my mom’s first husband who I didn’t even know about. We’ve been friends our whole lives. I have always wanted to do something with this subject matter, this generation of divorced kids. We’re both part of this generation.
Ben Karlin: Yeah. We were friends growing up and our families were friends growing up, but then, when his parents got divorced and shortly thereafter my parents got divorced, we stopped hanging out because that was the end of our families getting together and doing things.
Stu Zicherman: It was a very romantic journey where our families used to go on vacations together.
Ben Karlin: So, when we were both professional and we were established as adults in our careers, I moved to New York, and Stu was working there already and he said, “Hey, I want to write a movie about how messed up we all are” (laughs). I went, “I’m in!”
Stu Zicherman: We grew up on movies like “Kramer vs. Kramer” and dramas that were kind of tragic. Ben and I talked about this when we first started working on the movie. Our parents’ divorces were tragic and sad in their own way, but they were also not to be believed at times (laughs). They were irreverent, funny and weird. We wanted to try and find a way to make light of it and make a comedy that still had some gravity to it because it’s something that people don’t laugh about. What’s been really fun about making this movie and about taking it around and showing it at Sundance and all these places is that people are excited and relate to it. People will come up to me after screenings and want to tell their stories like, “My parents got divorced when I was 8.” We’re almost giving them license to laugh about it.
Ben Karlin: We were shooting in Atlanta, and the night before production started, it was just us. It was me, Stu, a couple of the actors, a couple of the producers, and we were out in the bar at the hotel. There was a wedding going on and there was the after party for the wedding. There was the groom, the bride, the whole bridal party. Everyone was in tuxedoes. So, it was like these two worlds. We were about to make this movie about divorce and these people who were just starting. And they were great. They were lovely people. We closed the bar down with them. And then, a week later, I got a letter from one of the bridesmaids who I had been chatting with, and she told me this long story about her family’s divorce and how it affected her. It was just so weird. Even in that moment, people were just connecting to what we were trying to do, and we found that throughout the whole process, that there seems to be something that everyone can relate to about this subject.
Question: So, everybody is trying to figure out who got married at the movie’s end…
Stu Zicherman: Well, you know, we didn’t really want to give it away. Ben and I always talked about the movie as being an anti-romantic comedy. There were certain beats we would get to in the movie as we were writing it. There’s the obvious romantic comedy beat. We were trying to turn away from that wherever we could, not to the detriment of the movie, but the end of the movie was not so much about who got married. It was more important to us that the characters, especially those three men, have evolved through the movie to a point where it could be any of them. When pressed, I always say it’s all three of them, but we like the idea of leaving it open-ended because it didn’t matter.
Ben Karlin: It didn’t really trouble us, I have to say. We wanted to create a scenario where all three characters were repaired to the point where you’d be just okay with any of them. And it could be all three of them or none of them. The point is that whatever was waiting for them in there in the church was okay.
Stu Zicherman: And it’s funny too, when editing the movie, every single time I would adjust frames or tried a different shot and put it in front of an audience, people always guessed a different person. It was bizarre. I started to lose track of why people felt what. We had to calibrate it so that it’s pretty hard to tell now. We’d had a version where there was a faceless bride running through the background.
Ben Karlin: Oh, deep, deep background. A limo, a bride, the whole thing.
Stu Zicherman: Again, it distracted from the movie. It’s such a nice, clean moment with the three of them walking in, and we like it.
Question: Everyone seems to have their own version of the movie’s ending, and that really serves as a testament to your writing because you got us so deeply invested in every single character to where we really want to know what happens to them
Ben Karlin: It’s a very hard thing to do. You want to give in. You want to give people what they want. And then, there’s the creative jerk part of you that’s like, “I know better.”
Stu Zicherman: But also, we thought about a lot of this when we were writing the movie that we didn’t want people to be right or wrong. It’s not a right or wrong thing. It’s the dad who does this impetuous thing and they get back together. He’s not wrong. He’s following his heart. What’s wrong with following your heart? And again, at the end of the movie, I always say to people it’s not a movie about divorce per se. I don’t want people just to think it’s about that. It’s really about if you’re married, if you’re not married, divorced, whatever kind of family you’re from, you’re not destined to repeat the patterns of your parents. You’re free to make your own mistakes. You’re free to live your life. That’s why I always love the word “adult” being in the movie. I always felt like you become an adult when you actually can put your past into perspective. That’s when you really start becoming an adult. And I like that about the ending because, up to that point, everybody is acting like a child.
Question: You have said the script is loosely based on your families. Have you gotten any flak from them about it?
Ben Karlin: We’ve done a pretty good job of hiding or changing details. There used to be more stuff in the script that was literally word for word from our lives. There was an incident in his family and a specific incident in mine that involved the handing off of kids on a bridge, like a prisoner transfer, but it was between the parents. And it literally, at this moment, happened to me in Cape Cod where it was my dad’s new wife actually and her children and her ex-husband, and they had to exchange and they decided the exact mid-point. It was like North Korea-South Korea. Here’s the DMZ and we’re going to trade these children over that line, and we had that exact scene in the movie for years. That probably wouldn’t have gone over so well.
Stu Zicherman: And then there was a thing in my family called the hysterectomy conspiracy that was so absurd that when it was in the script, people would read it and be like…
Ben Karlin: “That’s not real.”
Stu Zicherman: They didn’t believe it. “No, no. It’s real.” We had to take it out because people didn’t believe it. But that happened to me. There’s one moment in the movie that is sort of torn from my life and its funny. It’s the one where Carter sits his parents down. My sister was getting married, and my parents would not agree to come to the same wedding. My brother-in-law and I sat them down. What’s hilarious about that is my parents don’t remember that. They block it out.
Question: How long did it take you two to get this film made?
Ben Karlin: Oh my God! I was just talking about this the other day. I was living here (in Los Angeles) and I moved to New York in 1999, and Stu was already living there at that time. He probably approached me in 2000 or 2001 to start working on it. Obviously, we had other jobs.
Stu Zicherman: Yeah. We had other jobs, so we were working on it nights and on weekends and vacations.
Ben Karlin: The amazing thing is we were both single when we started working on this movie. I have since gotten married, had children, and gotten divorced (laughs).
Stu Zicherman: It’s crazy. We were both single when we started this thing, and now I’m married with two kids and he’s got two kids, which I think helped inform the movie a little bit.
Ben Karlin: Yes, definitely.
Stu Zicherman: It’s been a long process. It’s funny though. The movie almost got going at one point. It came really close to get going. What was great about it was once we committed to Adam Scott, the movie started to finally roll. Finally, eventually, you get so frustrated with all the games you have to play to try and get a movie made. The thing is that we always loved Adam for this. And again, it fits in a little bit with the anti-romantic idea. He’s got an anti-romantic lead in a way because he’s got a very cynical humor and perspective on life. It just worked really well. And once we got Adam, then we got Richard Jenkins. It just started to roll.
Ben Karlin: Once you have those first few pieces in place, it starts to gain a terminal velocity.
Stu Zicherman: Right. The phone starts to ring and all of a sudden people want to be in your movie. That was very exciting.
Question: What I like about the script is that you don’t know where it’s going to go. From a distance, it looks like your typical formulaic comedy, but it really isn’t. How did you go about that? Were you looking to avoid certain things that you see in a lot of comedies like this?
Ben Karlin: Yes. There are so many tropes to these kinds of movies. Because we always were around, we were like, “How do we deal with the subject of a wedding in a movie that’s essentially about divorce?” We were very resolute that if we were going to have a wedding, we were going to do it differently than that typical moment at the end of the movie where people are walking down the aisle. So, we knew we wanted that outside the wedding moment to end it. We just were acutely aware of convention and trying to understand why those conventions worked and why they existed, and then trying wherever we could to tiptoe around the obvious thing.
Stu Zicherman: But the big thing was stakes. I mean, there were so many times where we were hyperconscious with the movie, and we would do readings just to find out where we were with it. The main character, Carter, is in every single scene of the movie and he doesn’t have cancer. He isn’t beaten. It’s the kind of thing, at a certain point, where the audience could be looking at him and go, “Hey dude, get over it.” And so, there were scenes we really liked but we felt like we were going to lose the audience. We said, “We have to keep the audience rooting for him.”
Ben Karlin: We didn’t want to turn the guy into a jerk.
Stu Zicherman: So, it was this balance. At times, people would read the script and say, “Why doesn’t he want his parents to get back together?” We just had to find a way and we kept trying to find ways in through relationships. But we did at times always try to move away from the tropes like the scene with the ring that turns into the key, and moments like that. It was funny. I did a Q&A; in New York the other night and someone asked me about the whole cheating thing with Jessica Alba and how he never gets caught. In the classic romantic comedy, you always get that scene where she’s like, “What were you doing with that girl?” It never crossed our minds to go there, and the truth is because in real life most people don’t get caught. You’re just forced to live with it. And that was the great liberty of making this movie independently. We’re not beholden to a studio to hit certain tropes. Also, it made the tone what it is, because the movie is funny but it’s also got some gravity to it and it’s got this balance. I’m excited. The fact that the movie is finally coming out, I’m excited for people to see it, but I’m also going to miss it because we’ve just been carrying it around like this for so long.
“A.C.O.D.” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.
WRITER’S NOTE: This interview took place back in 2013.
John Krokidas makes his feature film directorial debut with “Kill Your Darlings” which stars Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall. The movie is about a murder that occurred in 1944 which brought three poets of the beat generation (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs) together for the first time. Radcliffe portrays Ginsberg as a 17-year-old who is about to start college at Columbia University, and he ends up falling under the extroverted spell of fellow classmate Lucien Carr (DeHaan) who introduces him to the poets who would later bring a new vision to writers everywhere. It is when Carr murders his love David Kammerer (Hall) that their relationship starts to become unglued.
Krokidas co-wrote the script for “Kill Your Darlings” with his Yale University roommate Austin Bunn. A former magazine journalist, fiction writer and reporter, Bunn graduated from Yale and went on to get his master’s degree at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As for Krokidas, he later attended New York University’s Graduate Film Program where he made the short films “Shame No More” and “Slo-Mo.”
I got to hear how Krokidas and Bunn made the film under challenging circumstances when they appeared at the “Kill Your Darlings” press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
Question: What was the division of creative responsibility between you two like?
Austin Bunn: Probably like a lot of people in this room, I discovered the beats in college. I used to go to the campus bookstore and just track down the poetry collection, find Allen’s books and read them like they were some secret transmissions from the future version of myself. I was a closeted, young creative writer from New Jersey so Allen Ginsberg’s work meant the world to me. So, I had this really strong connection with Allen and of beat biographies and the history. I read a lot of the back catalog and I had come to John with the idea. So, in terms of the division of responsibility, I would write the first draft and then John would come in. The thing about John, as you will soon learn, he wanted to raise the emotional decibel level in every scene. John is one of the most riveting and vital and least hagiographic version of this story. We didn’t want to take the beats’ greatness as a given, so John sort of demanded that we write a really emotional roller coaster. Then we just went back and forth. John talks about it as the Postal Service, like the band version of producing a script. We were living in different cities at the time; I was at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a graduate student and John was in New York finishing film school.
John Krokidas: Austin wanted to do this as a play first. He was a playwright and a short story writer of some renown, and we were college roommates and we shared ideas with each other as college roommates and good friends do. But I, of course, started seeing the movie version in the back of my head and I had just gotten out of NYU film school and started convincing him that the play would be really flat and undramatic, but as a movie…
Austin Bunn: The Jedi mind trick!
John Krokidas: This would be amazing. But I would say I’m the structure guy I think, coming from NYU’s film program. I’m very traditionalist in terms of Sidney Lumet’s “find your spine,” and Austin is really wonderful with character and dialogue. If anything, he’s on a religious crusade against expository dialogue, and I would write these three paragraph monologues for each character expressing their emotion like that scene where Jennifer Jason Leigh finally turns to Allen to give him advice. I had a two-page monologue version and Austin crossed it all out (Austin laughs) and wrote the one line that’s in the movie, “The most important thing your father ever did was fail me,” which said everything.
Question: The movie is also very visual too because of the beats’ energy and such. How did you go about creating the look with cinematographer Reed Morano?
John Krokidas: I’m so proud of what we brought to this film. The movie is set in 1944 and it’s a murder story. Even in the writing process, I looked up and saw that “Double Indemnity” won Best Picture that year, and it was the year of “Laura” and “Gilda” and all these great American Film noirs. So, I said, “Why don’t we incorporate this even in just the fabric of the movie and start with the jail scene in a place of heightened tension flashback to more innocent times, and then build again to see whether or not these characters can escape or not escape their fate?” So, I started looking at noir style at first, but I thought an academic recreation of Film noir, who wants to see that? Going back to spine and theme, I thought what this piece was really about was young people finding their voice. So, what about going from conformity, the row houses of New Jersey and the pillars of Columbia, to nonconformity? And of course, where film noir went in the hands of the French was the New Wave. So I thought, “Okay well let’s start off with these controlled, composed, expressionistic-lit shots, and then as the boys go down the rabbit hole together, let’s take the camera off the tripod. Let’s get some jazzier free-form style.” So, I made this book of the 1940s. I had learned that Ang Lee, for “The Ice Storm,” did a 50 page book on the 1970s with colors, fonts and important historical events, you name it. So, I did that with the 1940s and then gave it to Reed. The great thing that I have learned on this is you can do all the academic treatises you want, but then you hire great people. She saw the goal post of what I wanted and then she showed me Jean-Pierre Melville’s films. She showed me films that meant a lot to her and then let kind of what I wanted filter through her own imagination. What I am amazed by specifically in her work is we did this movie in 24 days. Each scene was done in two hours or less, and she has the instincts to be like a documentary camera person and is able to light like that at the same time. We wanted to make sure this film felt relevant and contemporary as opposed to just being a traditional biopic.
Austin Bunn: (We didn’t want it to be) the greatest hits version of their lives.
John Krokidas: It was looking at Ryan McGinley photographs and contemporary, counterculture, young images of today and then finding what connected them to the 1940s. What was resonant in counterculture then and today at the same time.
Question: What was the direction that you were giving your actors? We were told that sometimes you would pull them aside for a more dramatic scene, but was there a consciousness you went into to direct the film and the actors? Were they any kind of specific kind of notes you gave them?
John Krokidas: Here’s the embarrassing story; Austin and I actually met freshman year because we were both acting in a production at Yale of “The Lion in Winter.”
Austin Bunn: Yes.
John Krokidas: Neither of us were the greatest actors in the world which is, I think, why we went into writing and directing. But I trained as an actor as an undergraduate and what you learn is that each actor has their own method and way. It’s whatever it takes for them to get the emotions to the surface. So, when I met with each actor that I cast, I would just simply ask them, “Have you trained? How do you like to work and what don’t you like?” Michael C. Hall gave me one of the greatest lessons in directing in which he said, “If what I am doing is not making you happy, don’t tell me that because that will make me self-conscious and it will make me think about what I’m doing. Just tell me to add whatever you want to what I’m doing.” That’s just a great lesson for life. Dan and I, when we were working together, we spent time before production (he was so generous and hard working on this) and he wanted to approach this like it was his first film which was very poignant to me. I said, “Would you like to try learning a new method and approach acting in a different style?” He said, “Absolutely!” So, with Dan, he’s so bright and in his head, and for the intellectuals Meisner works really well in focusing your action on what you are trying to do in the scene. Dane had trained extensively, and what he does is create a Bible for the character and does tons of research before production. Then he burns it and starts really becoming the character on set. Ben Foster (who plays William Burroughs) has something I’ve never seen another actor do which is, once we’ve basically got the scene up on its feet, he goes and he does the blocking of the scene by himself in the location several times. He calls it “the dance” because once he’s memorized the dance and knows the physicality (“I need to pick up the fork here, I need to put it down there”), he doesn’t have to think about it anymore and that’s completely freeing to him. So it’s like cooking this huge seven course meal where you have to get everything done at exactly the right time, but every plate needs a little bit of love in a different way. To me the greatest thing was being able to get this dream cast and then just to work with them to find how they like to work and what got the best out of them.
Austin Bunn: John had a really intuitive idea which was to keep the actors from reading past this point in the biographies, so none of the actors came in burdened by the mythology of who these guys would become. They were just 19-year-old kids. So, I think that was really smart and it released the actors from having to play the later decisions in their lives and the kinds of writers they would become. They just got to be young people, and that was a great relief I think for them.
John Krokidas: Yeah, and for us too as writers. I had a talk with Jack Huston once when he and I shared the same room and I’m saying, “Oh my god, I’m directing you as Jack Kerouac.” But we were like, “No. You are Jack who is a college student on a football scholarship who hates the other jocks, who just wrote a book which he thinks might be completely trite and he just wants to get out of college and have some real-life experience and join the war so he could begin to have real material to write his next book. That’s who you are.” That just liberated all of us.
Question: When writing the script, how much are you tied to the truth and how much are you allowed to take creative license?
John Krokidas: We did so much research for this. We felt we had to, and I think part of it’s our academic background because there’s so much in the biographies. There are so many biographies of them out there, but then also we would find different accounts online for example from David Kammerer’s friends. They said that that relationship between him and Lucien was never portrayed accurately and that Lucien actually kept coming back to David and David was asking him to end the relationship. And then we may have broken into Jack Kerouac’s college apartment together. We did the trick of pressing all the buzzers and then somebody let us in. But what’s interesting is Columbia students were living there and they had no idea that they were in Jack Kerouac’s apartment. So, we physically went to all of the locations in which this movie took place, and that just helped inform our writing process as well; getting to be able to visualize the actual spaces. Add to that, we went to Stanford University to the Allen Ginsberg archives. It wasn’t about the lack of material out there. If anything, it was about making sure that we really just focused on who they were up until the point which the movie takes place.
Austin Bunn: Just to add to that, the people that I know that have seen the film have been really surprised at how much is actually totally accurate. The day after the murder, Allen Ginsberg went to the West End Bar, “You Always Hurt the One You Love” was playing on the jukebox and he wrote the poem that ends the film. It ends with “I am a poet;” that is a line from August 20, 1944 so we worked really hard to weave it in. But like John was saying before, we didn’t want to do the dutiful, stuffy, every box checked kind of biopic that has been around for a while. We wanted to do something that felt more in line with the spirit of the beats that was more specific and honest and transgressive, and I hope we got there.
Question: Did you two have a specific goal of what you wanted to portray and what you wanted the audience to leave with either of the time or of the characters themselves?
John Krokidas: What I want the audience to leave with is that feeling of when we were 18 and 19 years old just like these guys were in the movie; when everything seemed possible and you knew that you had something important to say about with your life. That you wanted to do something different and unique and not just what your parents taught you, not just what school taught you, but you wanted to really leave your mark on the world. The fact that after the movie these guys actually did it and created the greatest counterculture movement of the twentieth century is amazing. I have had plenty of people come up to me after seeing the movie and said, “This movie made me want to be a better writer” or “this movie made me want to go back and start playing music again.” That to me means everything. That’s ultimately, deep in my heart, why I wanted to make this movie.
Austin Bunn: The pivot point was this murder. I loved Allen Ginsberg for his openness and his honesty, and to think that at one point in his life he was called upon to defend his best friend in an honor slaying of a known homosexual, the very thing that Ginsberg went on in his life to defy and radically create change about the idea of being in the closet and the shame around that issue, that contradiction was really exciting to us dramatically.
John Krokidas: You know this movie took, from the time that we started talking about this until the time that we are getting the chance to be with you all today, over 10 years to make. When I really think about it, the thing that kept me going and kept me wanting to tell this story is that there needs to be something that pisses me off at night. The fact that in 1944 you could literally get away with murder by portraying your victim as a homosexual, that pissed me off to no end. This isn’t a political movie and it’s one scene and it’s obviously what informed how Lucien Carr got away with murder, but for me that was the thing that kept me up all night that said, “No, I have to tell the story.”
Question: The movie has different kinds of music playing throughout it like jazz and contemporary music. Did you envision using different musical styles when it came to making this movie?
John Krokidas: I originally wanted a bebop jazz score similar to Miles Davis’ score for Louis Malle’s “Elevator to the Gallows” because the transition from swing to bebop at this time was exactly what these guys wanted to do with words; to go from rhythms to exploding them into something beautiful. My music supervisor, Randal Poster, said to me, “John put down your academic treatise, put down your paper. Go make your movie. Your child’s going to start becoming the person that he or she wants to be.” So I went and I made my movie, and then I put jazz music on the film and it didn’t work at all. And then I went and did only period accurate music and it felt like Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” which is a great movie but it’s not the young rebellious movie about being 19 and wanting to change the world that we wanted to make. So, I actually went back to the playlists that Austin and I used a while writing this movie and I used Sigur Rós and stuff that was timeless but contemporary, and it brought the movie to life. Then I realized that the composer Nico Muhly had arranged all of those albums and worked with Grizzly Bear and Björk and other people that we were using as temp track. So, we got the movie to Nico and just thankfully he loved it. Now that I knew that I had contemporary music in a period film, then we get to that heist sequence. I had heist period music on it, it was so corny. The sequence didn’t work, it didn’t have any stakes to it, and I can academically tell you when the beats come on, they led to the hippies which led to the punks, and the punks led to Kurt Cobain and the 90s, etc. But the truth is that while I can intellectualize it, you go with what’s visceral and what feels honest and true to you. For me, the biggest lesson in making my first film is to do all of your homework, do all your research, know what you’re doing, but then don’t be afraid to get out of the way if your movie starts to tell you what you should be doing.
Question: How did you decide on what literary quotes to put in, and how did you work with the actors in establishing the cadence and the elocution on those?
Austin Bunn: What a great question! If you know any of the beat history, this new vision was real for them and they have written volumes about it, none of which makes any sense. We couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
John Krokidas: Do you all remember your journals when you were 20 years old or those conversations you had at three in the morning with other college students? We got to read their version of it, and there’s a reason that we hide all of our journals and don’t let them see the light of day.
Austin Bunn: It was challenging. With the uninhibited, uncensored expression of the soul, that’s actually a credible quote directly from the Ginsberg new vision manifesto. So in some ways we knew we had to distill some of that material from the Ginsberg journals to help make the argument for how valuable this manifesto was and the irony honestly of what transpires in the plot which is the very thing that Allen’s called to do which is to create this censored version of history. But in terms of the poetry itself, it was really challenging because as we all know there are movies about poets and writers where recitations happen and they are really flat and they can be corny and there’s a time where you tune out of the movie when you’re waiting for the poetry to end. Specifically, I think of Allen’s first poem that happens on the boat. We were really challenged to find a poem that would speak to audiences but was genuinely an Allen Ginsberg poem written in his voice. So what we had to do was really channel Allen. His early work is quite rough and burdened by trying to impress his dad and his professors. John had the concept of this isn’t a poem that he’s just reading to impress people, it’s a poem he’s reading to Lucien Carr. The audience knows that, you know that and Lucien finds it out on the boat at that moment. That really gave me permission to kind of rethink what the poem was going to do and how we would make it, so we came upon Allen’s method which was kind of magpie; stealing from the American vernacular and going out and finding common speech and repurposing it, creating this Whitman-esque inclusion. So you hear in the poem things that you’ve already heard in the film just like Ginsberg did himself. Things like Allen in wonderland is reworked in the poem, unbloomed stalwart is the very thing that David said to him at the party. So we’re kind of hopefully paying off not just a poem that is emotionally powerful, but also something of the method that Ginsberg would use for the rest of his life.
John Krokidas: Radcliffe was such a hard worker. While he was on Broadway doing a musical, we would meet once a week for two months before even preproduction and rehearsals began to work on the accent and to work together. I have him on my iPhone reading “Howl.” We didn’t look at the later recordings, we looked at the earliest vocal recordings possible of Allen Ginsberg to make sure that we weren’t capturing the voice of who he became, but his voice at that time and what his reading voice was like. To be honest, it’s just really telling the actor, “You’re not performing a poem. You are letting Lucien know that he is loved with this poem and that you love him and that you can see inside him.” It’s playing the emotion underneath the poem which was the direction.
Question: What does it do for you when all the main characters are gay? Normally you got the female characters who can be a love interest but they are not going to be a rival. Usually, even now in films and in life, there is a separate role where as if you are all the same gender, you can all be anything to each other.
John Krokidas: I think this is a movie with every character is discovering what their sexuality is (gay, straight, bi or all over the place), and more importantly whether or not they are worthy of being loved. I personally don’t know if Lucien Carr was straight or gay, and to me it’s irrelevant because I have seen this relationship play out amongst gay people I have known so many times where an older man who is gay and a younger man of questionable sexuality develops such a close bond. The stereotype I think would be is that the young man had an absent father figure or finds the older man’s confidence and just the care and nurturing qualities of them very attractive. What happens though is that those two get so intimate that ultimately there’s nowhere else to take the relationship but sexual, and when that happens then the power position in that relationship twists and the younger man suddenly realizes that he holds the power because he’s the sexually desired one. That’s where a lot of conflict ensues. Whatever you read about that relationship between Lucien and David, everyone knew that they were codependent. Everyone knew it was toxic and going to end badly. Nobody knew it was going to end in murder.
Austin Bunn: I think a lot of the biopics we see are kind of denatured of their sexual qualities and the edginess of the relationships in them. So, I think we were trying to do something that restored some of that ambiguity, lust, desire and confusion that is genuinely in the beats’ history. We were not making that up.
Watching Kermit the Frog sing “Rainbow Connection” in “The Muppets” brought back one of my most cherished memories. “The Muppet Movie” was the first film I ever saw on the silver screen, and I consider myself fortunate that this was the case. I even brought along my own Kermit hand puppet with me, and I had him singing “Rainbow Connection” along with the real Kermit, and this was long before such actions might have been annoying to other audience members like when anyone takes out their cellphone during the latest cinematic spectacle which the MCU has to offer. These characters were a large part of my childhood, and I still find them endlessly entertaining all these years later.
“The Muppets” represents the kind of Muppet movie I have been yearning to see for years; one which appeals to the whole family and does not condescend to kids in the slightest. Ever since Jim Henson passed away in 1990, everything Muppet has been geared towards children without much thought to adults. The ironical humor we knew these felt characters for vanished without a trace, and Disney took over the franchise without really knowing how to sell them to either new or old generations. This became abundantly clear when “Muppets from Space” collapsed both critically and commercially back in 1999, and perhaps this was because they were not partying like it was 1999.
But with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s” Jason Segel and “Flight of the Conchords'” co-creator James Bobin directing and Bret McKenzie supervising the music, “The Muppets” is a movie the whole family can enjoy together, and it will put a smile on even the most jaded fan’s face. Granted, a number of puppeteers from this infamous franchise (namely Frank Oz) refused to participate because they felt the script did not respect the characters. I beg to differ on that.
Segel stars as Gary whose brother Walter is a Muppet himself, and both are die-hard fans of “The Muppet Show” in childhood. Their love for the Muppets stays strong even through puberty, and they finally get their chance to visit Muppet Studios when Gary invites Walter to come along with him and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) on a vacation to Los Angeles. But when they get there, they find the Muppet theatre it is now in a dilapidated state as Kermit and company have not performed together or seen each other in years.
Even worse, Walter overhears the evil oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) planning to buy the Muppet theatre not to preserve it as a historic landmark, but to instead drill for oil underneath it. As a result, Walter, Gary and Mary join forces to reunite the Muppets in order to put on a telethon which will raise the money needed to save not just the Muppets, but the theatre where all the magic started.
My guess is Oz and the other puppeteers never saw the Muppets splitting up and going their separate ways, but having re-watched a lot of “Muppet Show” episodes recently, they did not always have the best time working together. Besides, they did split up, if only temporarily, in “The Muppets Take Manhattan” when Kermit got all pissed off about the gang constantly leaning on him to figure out what to do next. Heck, that Kermit didn’t ditch Miss Piggy sooner is amazing in retrospect.
Starting off with the Muppets having gone their separate ways years ago gives “The Muppets” an interesting jumping off point. Like many, these characters wonder if they are still relevant in today’s popular culture. While they are a big favorite of my generation, whether they can translate to another is still feels uncertain.
Even though the voices of the original Muppet performers are not present, the characters have not changed nor have they gotten cynical (unlike Statler and Waldorf). Steve Whitmire performs Kermit the Frog and does great work in capturing his unforgettable mannerisms without ever simply going through the motions. The same goes with the rest of the puppeteers here as they make each character from Miss Piggy to Animal all their own.
It ia also interesting to see where all these Muppets are at today. Kermit is living in a mansion which is not in the best condition, Miss Piggy is the editor in chief of Vogue Paris, Scooter works at Google, and Sam the Eagle is a Fox News-like personality which seems to be the perfect venue for his endless pomposity. But the one Muppet who practically steals this movie is Animal who we meet up with again at an anger management clinic where Jack Black is his sponsor.
As for the human actors, Segel is a hoot as Gary, and his love for the Muppets shines through every contribution he has in this film. Amy Adams remains infinitely adorable as her sweetness is no act, and she scores a huge musical highlight with the song “Party of One.” We even get to see Chris Cooper do a rap song, and it is not as terrifying as it sounds. As for Jack Black, he becomes the most unwilling guest star “The Muppet Show” has ever had.
The music is really good as well, and it never becomes cringe-inducing thank goodness. “Life’s a Happy Song” starts off the proceedings with a happiness which feels genuine, and you can tell Segel is having the time of his life while singing it. The one song though which truly deserved a Best Original Song nomination is “Man or Muppet” where both Segel and Walter bring down the house in deciding who they really are, as if the answer was not the least bit obvious. And yes, it did win the Oscar in that category, but this should not have surprised anyone as this song did not have much in the way of competition.
It is also great to see that ironic humor the Muppets were famous for back on display here. They push the bounds of the PG rating to where if the kids do not get what is being said, it is probably just as well. I loved how they got away with the Muppet chickens singing Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” without its explicit lyrics. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You” (right, whatever).
But what makes “The Muppets” so good is that everyone, be it the Muppets, the human actors or those making cameos, comes into this project without any cynicism. Making a movie with the best of intentions or one with a happy ending is greeted with our eyes rolling in the back of our heads as we come out feeling utterly and shamelessly manipulated. The filmmakers even bring back “The Muppet Show’s” opening theme song as it was performed in season three, and it looks almost exactly like it did all those years ago. Even “Mahna Mahna” is brought back, and being it was the very first sketch on “The Muppet Show,” that should show you how much these filmmakers value their childhood entertainment.
Kermit, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy will never feel or sound exactly as they did from years ago, but “The Muppets” proves they still have their charms and humor long after their glory days. It is a film made with a lot of love for the imagination Jim Henson gave us, and deep down we all would hate to see his wondrous imagination die away without a trace.