Christopher Walken

The Jungle Book

It’s about to be, well, a jungle out there (sorry) as both Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. are hellbent on giving the world a new version of The Jungle Book. So, yes, two versions of The Jungle Book, a beloved children’s book that has already been turned into a movie plenty of times before. But while we wait to hear more about about Andy Serkis‘ feature (that’s the Warner Bros. film, and one that is apparently set to be titled Jungle Book: Origins, because it sounds appropriately sci-fi, oh wait, what?), Jon Favreau‘s set-to-be-CGI-heavy take on the material continues to know it out of the park when it comes to casting. The latest addition to the cast — Bill Murray as Baloo, come on, people – just proves that, no matter what the final outcome is, this new Jungle Book has a solid lineup of talent behind it. But who is everyone playing? Baloo is the bear, right? What’s a Kaa? Who is Raksha? We got you on this. It’s time to relive your childhood.

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Christopher Walken in The Country Bears

The Jungle Book is seriously crushing the casting game right now. This morning, Deadline revealed that two new actors have come aboard the all-singing, all-dancing, all-CG wildlife pic directed by Jon Favreau (as opposed to the other one, coming from Andy Serkis). Giancarlo Esposito, best known for portraying a dark-universe Colonel Sanders on Breaking Bad, will play the wolf Akela. And Christopher Walken, best known for a lifetime of skeezing people out by being Christopher Walken, will play the orangutan King Louie. Those two extra-talented thespians join Ben Kingsley as the panther Bagheera (yes, splendid), Lupita Nyong’o as mother wolf Raksha (really, really great), Scarlett Johansson as the python Kaa (this is perfect) and Idris Elba as the film’s antagonist, the tiger Shere Khan (good god yes). Also, there’s some newcomer named Neel Sethi playing Mowgli, but  he is not a well-loved Hollywood star voicing an extremely appropriate animal character. Temper your excitement accordingly.

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Jersey Boys 1

I can understand the appeal of a jukebox musical on Broadway. In a way, it’s just a concert, albeit for cover artists, with a little bit of story thrown in for fun — like skits on a rap record. On the big screen, though, they just can’t be as enjoyable. There’s no live performance and, unless you find just the right movie theater or wait a number of years for a Drafthouse sing-a-long screening, there’s none of the same audience vibe you get with the real deal. I’m sure the stage incarnation of Jersey Boys is a really good time. The movie version, on the other hand, looks like a real bore of a biopic with an imitation soundtrack. It seems so generic that they’ve probably even thrown in a token sibling death for Frankie Valli. This evening we got our best look yet at the adaptation, directed by none other than Clint Eastwood. And by the look of this new trailer, Jersey Boys looks like a cheap TV series knocking off the period-set popularity of Mad Men. That is especially disappointing, because Eastwood and cinematographer Tom Stern have made some great historical dramas together, including Letters From Iwo Jima and Changeling, for which Stern received an Oscar nomination. In fact, Eastwood’s usual visuals team is here — costume designer Deborah Hopper, art director Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., effects supervisor Steve Riley — so why doesn’t this look like it fits with the rest? Why does it look like something made for cable? At […]

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Plain ol’ everyday Christopher Walken is terrific just the way he is. The strange deadpan. The madness in his eyes. All great. But Christopher Walken set to music is even greater, and Little Rootie Tootie may provide us all with something we didn’t know we desperately needed. Walken has, according to Deadline, signed on to star as a virtuoso jazz pianist who slowly spirals into madness after losing his wife. One has to ask, of course, whether Walken would really “slowly spiral” into madness, or just “take a slight step to the left” into madness, but that’s hardly the point. Little Rootie Tootie may provide the opportunity to see a far jazzier Walken than we’ve ever experienced before (at least, not since 1981′s Pennies From Heaven, which features a Walken-centric musical number you absolutely track down on YouTube). Alongside Walken is Lenny Kravitz, who joins Little Rootie Tootie as the unstable pianist’s son. Kravitz’ character, along with his wife (who hasn’t been cast yet) are developing their own musical careers in Europe, when they’re forced to return and tend to Walken’s crumbling mental stability. Little Rootie Tootie will be directed by Dan Algrant, who with last year’s Greetings from Tim Buckley proved he can merge music and family tragedy with ease. With luck, he’ll provide the same gravitas to Walken’s delivery of the words “Little Rootie Tootie,” which I assume he’ll be uttering at some point in the film.

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true romance hopper

Tony Scott‘s True Romance is probably one of my top ten all-time favorite movies, which is kind of weird since Badlands is one of my top five all-time favorite films. Or maybe it’s appropriate that this is the case. I’m sure that one of the reasons I fell in love with this movie is because of how directly it’s inspired by and references the earlier Terrence Malick film. Notice I make the distinction between movies and films. Scott made movies, Malick makes films. Scott also made a movie I like that directly references another of my all-time favorite films (Enemy of the State –> The Conversation). I was sad when Scott died particularly because I was hoping he’d eventually cover all my top shelf titles (just imagine what he could have done with Duck Soup!). Then again, maybe he’d have just redone himself, the way he did with Domino, which is like a bad remake of True Romance. Anyway, True Romance turns 20 years old this week. Warner Bros. released the movie on September 10, 1993, and it came in at #3 for its opening weekend, behind reigning champ The Fugitive and fellow newcomer Undercover Blues (uh?). In honor of the anniversary, let’s take a look at some scenes we love. It was hard to narrow down, of course, so we went with major character moments.

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deerhuntertruth-4

Back in 1978, director Michael Cimino gave the world one of the early cinematic examinations of the traumatic experience of the Vietnam War. A film that was vastly ahead of its time, The Deer Hunter took a stark look at how soldiers returning from the war dealt with what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder. The film was a hit with critics and audiences, earning nine Oscar nominations with five wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken. However, The Deer Hunter was not without its controversy. Not only was the final scene in which the veterans sing “God Bless America” criticized and analyzed, the film was notorious for depicting the torture of American POWs by the Vietcong by forcing them to play Russian roulette. While powerful and effective in the picture, there was no evidence that Russian roulette was forced on prisoners of war in Vietnam, leading to a raging debate at the time of Cimino’s artistic license. Still, no one can deny the effectiveness of these scenes. This got us thinking. Just in case we found ourselves in an artistically-licensed Vietcong jail, how long could we survive playing Russian roulette?

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dashes

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s being written from the waiting area of a body shop today, because the Hollywood machine never stops, and we’ve got to keep up. Today we’ve got news about new jobs for Carey Mulligan, Jessica Alba, and that guy whose name keeps popping up everywhere, James Badge Dale. Bradley Cooper provided a pretty big casting bombshell regarding Cameron Crowe’s next film while he was giving an interview to the Huffington Post. What exactly Crowe’s next venture is going to be about is still being kept under wraps, but the general rumor is that Cooper will be starring in it, he’ll be playing a defense contractor of some sort, the film will be set in Hawaii, it will feature roles for Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams, and—now the important part—according to Cooper, This is the End scene stealer Danny McBride is going to be part of the cast as well. Crowe and McBride together is likely going to be the craziest thing that’s happened since Matt Damon bought that zoo.

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Stand Up Guys

Old age can be a frightening prospect for anyone, but especially for gangsters. Think about it, your aim starts to go, you begin forgetting the names of your hit victims, and before you know it, you’re spouting gems like, “as far back as I can remember…it was yesterday.” This unfavorable scenario faces the protagonists of Fisher Stevens‘ (yes, that Fisher Stevens) Stand Up Guys. Back in the good ol’ days, the all-or-nothing days, a certain trio of button men were the toast of the town. To phrase it with fewer idioms, Val (Al Pacino), Doc (Christopher Walken) and Hirsch (Alan Arkin) comprise the literal gang getting back together in their twilight years for a final night of wild antics before Doc must complete his last assignment…killing Val. Stevens has had a bizarre career as a filmmaker, and Stand Up Guys is clearly the most ambitious project he’s ever undertaken. Truth be told, it shows a great deal of promise. Pacino and Walken are living legends, and they’ve each in their own right played some of cinema’s most iconic gangsters. That said, the casting of either one or both of these actors long ago exited the realm of a guaranteed hit…or even a guarantee that the film would be watchable. However, Stevens smartly walks the line between keeping his actors sharply focused on playing the beats that enhance the narrative and letting them ease into their natural cosa nostra charisma. There are even thrilling pockets in which we are reminded that […]

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Criterion Files

Sometimes the greater cinematic spectacle ends up not being the film itself, but the ability to watch the film crash and burn. And Hollywood history has arguably seen no greater spectacle of failure than Michael Cimino’s epic anti-western, Heaven’s Gate. Credited as the film that destroyed United Artists, the bloated-for-its-time production has come to represent for some the last hurrah for a New Hollywood whose challenging artistic visionaries eventually stumbled over their own escalating egos. But decades after the hype, damage, and demonization of the film faded away, audiences can finally see Heaven’s Gate’s depiction of the Johnson County War for what it really is: a gorgeously realized, largely misunderstood, admittedly far from perfect but heavily underrated film. The Criterion Collection’s addition of Heaven’s Gate is a significant step in complicating the story of the film’s overwhelmingly bad reputation. But unfortunately Criterion’s DVD and Blu-ray packages make for a strange release that doesn’t go far enough in recontextualizing a movie whose tattered history always threatens any potential appreciation of it.

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Seven Psychopaths

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a screenwriter with a serious case of writer’s block. “Seven Psychopaths” is his latest script, but there’s one big problem with it. The title is all he’s written so far. He needs some inspiration to make his characters and his story come alive, but where is an Irishman with a drinking problem and relationship issues going to find that spark of originality? As with most of life’s questions, the answer here is Sam Rockwell. More precisely, it’s with his good friend Billy (Rockwell). Where Billy goes trouble follows, and that trouble is currently in the form of a pissed-off gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who’s violently distraught over the loss of his pooch Bonny (Bonny the ShihTzu). It seems Billy’s primary source of income is a scam he runs with his friend Hans (Christopher Walken) involving the dog-napping and subsequent return for reward of wealthy peoples’ pups. Snatching Bonny has opened up a can of murderous worms as Charlie hunts down those responsible and Marty finds himself caught in the blood-spattered middle of it all. On the bright side he’s getting inspiration for all seven of his fictional psychopaths, but none of that will matter if he doesn’t live to finish the screenplay. Seven Psychopaths is exactly the film we should expect from the man who created the wickedly great In Bruges. It’s whip-smart funny, deliriously violent and deceptively heartfelt. And good god does it have the most aggressively awesome ensemble cast of all time.

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The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that does not need an animated continuation. It just goes on and on with very live action. We begin this evening with a shot from The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2, the animated follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns. Warner Home Video has released the image with a promise to show some footage at the upcoming New York Comic-Con. This should continue to hold you off until Warner Bros. can figure out what they’re doing with live-action Batman. Or at least until the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy is available on Blu-ray.

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Stand Up Guys

In Stand Up Guys, Christopher Walken picks up Al Pacino from prison, and they hit the town in fine form, but there’s one last assignment hanging over Walken’s head. He’s got to kill his friend. So what’s an insane, elderly punk-filled night when your life will be over by sunrise? Why not let Alan Arkin drive? Directed by Fisher Stevens (yes, the guy from Short Circuit) it looks like equal parts harmless retirement comedy and 25th Hour. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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A Late Quartet

If Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Wallace Shawn were in a movie together, would you go see it? Director Yaron Zilberman (Watermarks) is even throwing in Imogen Poots for free. This excellent ensemble formed for A Late Quartet, the story of four world-class string players who struggle to stay together. The official synopsis uses the phrase “insuppresible lust.” Hopefully it’s between Walken and Hoffman. Or hopefully it’s the kind that causes a massive rift between two or three people. That might be the case, as this absolutely gorgeous trailer shows. It’s intense and makes a powerful impact with a striking metaphor. Having Beethoven in its corner doesn’t hurt either. This, right here, looks like must-see filmmaking from a new director and a veteran cast.

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Seven Psychopaths

A film begins with its script. So when a screenwriter is poised with creating a script for a film entitled Seven Psychopaths and is unable to get past page one (for various reasons), it’s obvious we have a conundrum on our hands. Marty (Colin Farrell) has found himself, drunk more times than not, staring at a blank notepad still trying to figure out who the seven psychopaths are. As the story goes on, he encounters a series of psychopaths all surrounding a dog kidnapping scheme that Hans (Christopher Walken) and Billy (Sam Rockwell) are running. Billy has picked up a Shih Tzu dog that happens to belong to Charlie (Woody Harrelson), who happens to be a raving psychopath who heads up some sort of mob or something. While this film sets itself up (marketing-wise) as a crazy comedy about this slew of characters, it really isn’t. It’s more about the process of writing, with a lot of blood and guts involved. The film enjoys the use of shocking comedic violence in a way that allows its characters to get a laugh through their situations and reactions more than just through their catchy one-liners. There are some jokes in this movie that are so deeply embedded in character reveals that it’s made for multiple viewings.

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The moviegoing world was saddened earlier this week when it was learned director Tony Scott had died. Despite the manner of his death, it’s no less sad when a filmmaker such as Scott, who continued making films well into his 60, had many more films to helm. We felt it was time to hear some filmmaking insight from the man himself, which leads us to True Romance. The movie itself is a modern classic, an energetic tale of love, drugs, and a whole bunch of bullets courtesy of fledgling – at the time – screenwriter Quentin Tarantino. He also provides a commentary for the film, a rarity for the Pulp Fiction writer/director, but we’ll cover that another time. This is Tony Scott’s time, and here, without further ado, are all the things we learned listening to him speak about his film, True Romance.

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2010′s The Expendables gave fans of iconic action hero badasseration a taste of what it would be like to experience some of our favorite face punching, public property demolishing, one-liner dropping stars of recent yesteryear share the big screen. It was over the top, explodey good times. Stallone, Li, Crews, Statham, Lundgren, Couture, and Rourke were a fun sample course. Sly, never being one to shy away from sequels (still waiting on Cliffhanger: Hang Some More), poured moonshine in the formula and give us more Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and the perpetual awesomeness that is Chuck Norris in The Expendables 2.   Even better, the villain finally gets an equal measure of excellence in the form of The Muscles from that Place in Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Sorry Eric Roberts, I love you but…Sharktopus. Still, one JCVD chair-splits punch alone isn’t enough to compete with those  three decades worth of action superstars, and whomever tangles with them next will have to compete with an action aficionado wet dream of additional Expendables. What is a top bad guy to do? Contract out — pull an equal measure of baddies from the past together and give Barney Ross and company a run for their money. Below are my ten Anti-Expendables, in no particular order.

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Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges remains one of the finest black comedies in recent years thanks to his sharp writing/directing and a couple of fantastic performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Both actors displayed great comedic chops alongside a surprising pathos, and the result is a film that’s eminently quotable and highly re-watchable. And it was four years ago. McDonagh is finally following that film up, and the first trailer has arrived. Seven Psychopaths stars Colin Farrell as a struggling screenwriter whose friends get him mixed up in dog-napping, violence, and murder. Those mischievous friends are played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken, and they’re joined by Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, and Tom Waits. Check out the trailer below.

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Culture Warrior

Part of the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films is that the basic conceit informing their aesthetic seems so natural. Batman is one of few major superheroes that isn’t actually a super-hero. Batman mythology, then, lends itself to a degree of plausibility more than, say, Superman or Spider-Man, so why not manifest a vision of Batman that embraces this particular aspect that distinguishes this character from most superhero mythologies? But realism has not been a characteristic that unifies Batman’s many representations in the moving image. Through the eyes of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the Batman of tentpole studio filmmaking has occupied either a world of gothic architecture and shadowy noir, or one of schizophrenic camp. From 1989 to 1997, Batman was interpreted by visionary directors with potent aesthetic approaches, but approaches that did not necessarily aim to root the character within a landscape of exhaustive Nolanesque plausibility.

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Dark Horse Movie 2012

The parallel is too easy, but Todd Solondz‘s Dark Horse really is a Dark Horse. Not only does the main character, Abe (Jordan Gelber), take some time to get any empathy, the movie itself isn’t exactly an instant winner. The reason is clear: so much of it is tied directly to a curly hair-chested baby of a man who drives a yellow hummer and doesn’t understand anything except his own victimhood. With only ten minutes under its belt, it’s difficult to see falling in love with it. That’s where the saying about books and covers comes in. Almost any other director might struggle to avoid making a movie focused on Abe into a chore, but Todd Solondz is most comfortable when he’s most uncomfortable, and the result is a drama that is singed with comic moments that belong in a therapist’s waiting room.

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Last Vegas is one of those movies that’s been in the works for quite some time, with several years of actors almost becoming attached to it and the movie almost getting put into production already under its belt. Written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Last Vegas tells the story of a bunch of old guys who are probably too old to be having a bachelor’s party in Las Vegas having a bachelor’s party in Las Vegas anyway. Think of it as the mash-up of The Bucket List and The Hangover that everyone’s been clamoring for. While the initial buzz from The Hangover that was palpable when this project was first being talked about has been significantly lessened over the past year or so, the success of a movie like Bridesmaids has to mean that there have been movie execs out there somewhere looking for a project that could do for old men what that movie did for women; so now a new series of deals has been made that sees Last Vegas moving full speed ahead. Yesterday THR reported that the film is scheduled to start shooting this fall under the watch of CBS Films, and in order to bring the printed word to the big screen they’ve hired director Jon Turteltaub (who made Cool Runnings and 3 Ninjas back to back!) to helm, and a returning-from-a-medical-leave-of-absence Michael Douglas to star. That’s a heaping truckload of Hollywood clout right there, but the parade of news involving Last Vegas isn’t […]

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