Shawn Levy

This Is Where I Leave You

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 7, 2014 as part of our TIFF 2014 coverage. We know Judd Altman. He’s the guy in the movie that looks and acts like he has it all figured out, but who’s about to find out – quite suddenly, in fact, and by way of some sort of dramatic event that would never happen quite that way in real life – that nothing is actually as it seems. We know Judd Altman. We’ve seen Judd Altman plenty of times before. But is there anything new to this particular Judd Altman? Based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel of the same name, Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You explores what happens to Judd (Jason Bateman) after the rug is pulled, spectacularly and swiftly, out from underneath him. But Levy’s overstuffed and unfocused feature is unable to give Judd the attention he deserves – or, at least the attention necessary to really engage us in his plight – and is instead stuck telling stories about all the Altmans as they handle tragedy (big and small) together. When we first meet Judd, he’s just about to discover that his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) is cheating on him with his sleazeball boss, and has been for quite some time. Wade Beaufort (Dax Shepard) is a shock jock deejay (his show, which is also technically Judd’s show, is called “Man Up,” and it involves him yelling a lot about what things men should do, which apparently […]

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This Is Where I Leave You Movie

In This Is Where I Leave You, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll play siblings reunited for their father’s funeral. They’re convinced by their mother, played by Jane Fonda, to fulfill the pater familias’ final wish for them to sit Shivah for a week, ensuring that they’ll all have to confront their life problems instead of heading back into them immediately. The trailer is filled with the typical elements of a dramedy: broken lives, personality problems, recognition of life’s messiness, potential new beginnings and smiling reconciliations. It also has Driver stealing scenes and Timothy Olyphant looking like a tennis pro. Check it out for yourself:

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The Internship

It starts promisingly enough. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are in a convertible, cruising to a highly important business dinner, chattering away incessantly, and alternating between their brand of fast-talking bullshit and slightly outdated cultural references. It feels familiar (because it is), but it also feels funny and zippy and like a very fine start to the long-desired follow-up to the duo’s wildly popular Wedding Crashers. It goes downhill quite quickly. The boys may be back at their old confidence game – but whereas they spent the vast majority of Wedding Crashers pulling off gags they were well suited for, Shawn Levy’s The Internship is about what happens when your confidence doesn’t match your skill set (in the least). Of course, the highly important business dinner doesn’t pan out – Vaughn’s Billy and Wilson’s Nick are a working team who have long squeezed direct sales for John Goodman’s old school joint, and such organizations just aren’t cutting it anymore – and the two are tossed out on their collective asses. Jobless, penniless, and skill-less, the two come up with a harebrained scheme to enter the modern market in a big way – by lying about their qualifications to land a pair of highly competitive internships at Google. Unbelievably enough, they get the gigs and soon ship out for sunny California and the veritable paradise that is Google (sick of hearing about Google yet? Imagine how you’ll feel after two hours of Google chatter).

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Shawn Levy

The Internship is kind of a bizarre comedy. It removes the potential for mean-spirited humor by not featuring two leads consistently bust each other’s balls. Director Shawn Levy‘s film is somewhat of an anti-ironic comedy, to the point where that type of self-impressed smirking is literally put down in the movie itself. That makes sense when you consider Levy’s body of work. His movies are as innocent and audience-friendly as one can imagine. From The Night at the Museum movies to, a personal favorite, Big Fat Liar, there’s zero cynicism in their content. For his reunion film between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, Levy explores potentially depressing material: two friends whose lives fall out from under them and, once they start interning at Google, the possibility of failure is always high. In spite of their low chances of obtaining a full-time position at Google, the two characters, and Levy, remain optimistic. This comedy represents another new direction for Levy, who doesn’t want to remained branded as “the family comedy” guy. With Real Steel, The Internship, This is Where I Leave You, and a slew of future projects on his plate, Levy says he’s “just getting warmed up” as a filmmaker. I briefly encountered Levy a few years ago at the premiere for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian where his enthusiasm level was high, and now four years later, speaking with him at 5 a.m. his time, that enthusiasm was still somehow intact. Here’s what came out of our early morning discussion:

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The odds don’t seem so great that The Internship is going to end up being a funny movie. First off, it’s being directed by Shawn Levy, a man who’s known for putting together safe, boring studio stuff like Cheaper by the Dozen and Night and the Museum, and who even managed to disappoint when working with hilarious comedic leads Steve Carell and Tina Fey on Date Night. Secondly, it’s coming from a script that was penned by Vince Vaughn, and when Vince Vaughn is the one doing the writing, he gives us films like The Break-Up and Couples Retreat – not exactly titles that would make anyone’s top ten list of recent comedies. That’s not to say that the upcoming film is doomed to failure, however. It’s got a premise that’s relatable to modern times and an impressive-on-paper cast working in its favor, and that may be enough to help it beat the odds. The Internship stars Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a couple of old school salespeople who find that their jobs are being made obsolete due to the rise of online marketing and shopping. Not taking their newfound lack of employment lying down, the duo decide to reinvent themselves and become the two most aged interns at a major tech company. Bumbling presumably ensues.

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While we’ve yet to see Akiva Schaffer‘s The Watch, it sounds as if at least element of the comedy works – the pairing of stars Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill. Let’s at least hope so for the sake of Shawn Levy and Nicholas Stoller, as THR reports that Levy (who is also a producer on The Watch) has signed on to direct a script from Stoller that would star Stiller and Hill. Not much is known about the project beyond its title – Aloha – and a vague description of being an “island-set comedy.” The outlet also reports that Stiller, Hill, and Levy cooked up the pitch for the project while filming The Watch, and that Stoller is currently in negotiations to write the screenplay. Stoller has, of course, already directed a film that features both Hill and Hawaii (a little ditty by the name of Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and the pair also worked together on its pseudo-follow-up, Get Him to the Greek. Will Aloha center on Matthew the Waiter? Perhaps harassing his favorite comedian – played by Stiller? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Given that it was first launched in 1969 and is still watched by tons of children all over the world today, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call Sesame Street one of the most iconic and enduring television series of all time. Throughout the years, characters like Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, the Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch have become staples of mornings spent raising a toddler. But over the course of the show’s lengthy history it has only made the jump from small screen to big twice. The first time was in 1985, when the whole Sesame Street crew was set to the task of tracking down a runaway and kidnapped Big Bird in Follow That Bird. The second was in 1999, when a capitalization on the explosion of the popularity of Sesame Street character Elmo was attempted with The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Neither were big hits, with Follow That Bird grossing near $14m and Elmo in Grouchland only around $11.5m, despite having a budget of $26m; which would seem to point to the theory that people who have children young enough to enjoy Sesame Street don’t take them to the theaters all that often. Plopping them in front of public television every morning is one thing, but loading them up and paying to have them sit in a dark room and hopefully be quiet for a couple hours is something else entirely.

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Drinking Games

When a boxing robot movie was first rumored about, a lot of people rolled their eyes and shook their heads. It’s bad enough that we’ve got adaptations of the board games Monopoly and Battleship coming down the pike, but a Rock’em Sock’em Robots movie just seemed ridiculous. The result was Real Steel, which is a pretty cool flick, believe it or not. It’s not going to win any awards (except maybe Best Visual Effects, thanks to an Oscar nomination this week), but it’s still an entertaining action film about a father and son and a robot beating the bolts out of other robots. And like any good sporting event, it is more fun to drink while watching it.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strips down to his boxers and starts a new training regimen to make him look more like Huge Jackman. He’s got a head start, considering his torso looks almost like Jackman’s… if you turn it upside down. After duking it out with some robots in a boxing ring, Kevin tries his hands at politics because it’s the kind of business where you don’t necessarily have to look like Ryan Gosling to get a young hottie like Evan Rachel Wood. But the primary system leaves him depressed and cold, so he takes a trip to the Sudan to play target practice with some warlords. He hears the Sudan is simply lovely this time of year.

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Anyone familiar with the work of Shawn Levy — the commercialism auteur behind films like Night at the Museum and Cheaper by the Dozen — won’t have their outlook on life remodeled by the revelation that with his latest film, he’s got very little to say. They may, however, be surprised to hear that the guy who brought the world Just Married has delivered a wicked family-driven action movie that, when put up against the ropes, delivers some of the best robot-on-robot CGI mayhem we’ll see all year. And yes, I’m including Transformers: Dark of the Moon in that category. With a story borrowed from every sports redemption film you’ve ever seen, Real Steel moves quickly through exposition and delivers on its promise of big, bad robot boxing that ultimately finds a way to be a whole lot of fun.

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I’m standing on the edge of the The Detroit River which is also the edge of the set for Real Steel – the forthcoming robot boxing movie with a heart of gold. Twenty or so feet away from the Cobo Arena, the wind is picking up, and the view looks out over the glass of the water toward Ontario. This might not seem like a dramatic moment for anyone who lives there, but there’s something poetically jarring about looking out at a different country (and looking southward to see Canada). Right across the water is another world. It’s a world separate from Detroit that hasn’t been beaten down by a lagging economy and the failure of major auto manufacturing. It’s not that Detroit isn’t as impressive, it’s that Windsor seems newer, fresher, and more alive. A precipice with a view to another world seems like the perfect place for the Shawn Levy-directed, Hugh Jackman-starring film to shoot as it promises to tell a story both embedded in the seedy underground and the glittering, life-filled stadiums of the near future. To hear Levy talk, the movie sets out to feature a man living in one world, testing his limits to live in the other.

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For the next few weeks we’ll be taking you through the gritty underground fighting world and into the sparkling, brightly lit arenas where the premiere robots brawl it out for fame and fortune. Diary from my top secret time traveling experiment into a Dystopian future or my Real Steel set visit? We’ll let you be the judge. We’ll also let you be the judge of these new character posters. One of the most impressive things about watching them film the movie and learning a bit about it was the design of the robots that act as the non-human centerpiece of the story. The pre-viz, CGI and practical all blended together to make some very, very cool machines which get a fresh introduction to the world today. Meet Atom, Ambush, Midas, and Noisy Boy. Click on all of them to make them way, way bigger:

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Look, Shawn Levy directed Night at the Museum. He’s a busy guy and he doesn’t have time to be jerked around. That’s why two movie news stories that have come out recently have it looking like he could be done with the long gestating but still not accomplished Fantastic Voyage remake that James Cameron’s company is producing along with Fox. THR recently reported that there is a sticking point between Levy and the producers, where he believes that the film needs an A-list actor to star and he doesn’t want to go forward without getting one signed. For their part, the producers seem less concerned and just want to make the material. Apparently Levy has had recent meetings with Will Smith and if Smith bites the hook and agrees to make the movie it could still be on, but if not, Levy is likely to leave for other projects. Enter a report from Deadline Andermatt that Fox also has a Frankenstein project brewing, with a script written by John Landis’s son Max, that they want to rush into production. Why do they want to rush it into production? Because pretty much everybody has a project in the works about Frankenstein coming to life and beating people to death with his big cold meat paws, so they want to be at the front of the pack when they start hitting theaters. Apparently they want Levy to helm the thing, so if Cameron and crew don’t want to lose him to a […]

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Two-weeks or so after the release of the near-terrible Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, there’s already a list of directors that Disney is keen on to helm the fifth entry in the quality diving franchise. The list of filmmakers Disney is favoring is a bit surprising. There’s their top pick of Tim Burton, the always busy Sam Raimi, critical darling Alfonso Cuarón, Twilight 2 guy Chris Weitz, and the online venom drawer, Shawn Levy. Apparently an offer went out to Rob Marshall to return months ago, although he may be too busy with his Thin Man remake (*eye roll*)… Burton was rumored for the fourth film as well, but after Alice in Wonderland and Planet of the Apes, I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in seeing a big Burton action sequence ever again. And considering he’s currently working on Dark Shadows then Frankenweenie, he may be not have the time. Side note, when will see an original Burton film again?

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What happens when you work your way to the top of the game, and the game changes? You have to change it back. What’s been lovingly dubbed the “Robot Boxing Movie,” Real Steel hasn’t shown much in the way behind the high tech monstrosities that its CGI has brought to life so far, but this trailer gives a more intimate look at what the movie’s really all about: a father and a son connecting in a garbage heap. It’s about an underdog made of metal, an underdog made of flesh, and working your way back up to the top. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Now that Darren Aronofsky has cold heartedly put the future of The Wolverine in question by dropping out of the project, Hugh Jackman is going to need to find something to do with himself. Luckily, there are a lot of movies out there just dying to get made. One of them is a James Cameron produced, Shawn Levy directed remake of the 1966 shrinking scientists movie Fantastic Voyage. The film has a script that has been written by Shane Salerno and Laeta Kalogridis, and is set to be a big budget, 3D take on the material. While nothing is confirmed, Deadline Wolcott is reporting that Jackman is Levy’s first choice to take a starring role in the film. Seeing as the actor and director just worked together on the giant robots boxing each other movie Real Steel, the idea that Jackman might agree to sign on doesn’t seem so far fetched. I’ve never seen any of Levy’s work other than his family films, however, and I thought that most of those were pretty terrible; so I don’t know how to react to this news. I guess if Real Steel comes out and is good, then the idea of Hugh Jackman doing 3D Fantastic Voyage could be pretty fun. Until then all I can do is wait. Wait, and seethe, and curse the name of Darren Aronofsky.

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It looks like everyone is throwing their hats into the ring. When the studios announced a plan to release movies in home theaters just 30 days after the theaters located outside the home (with a price tag of $30 per rental), the National Association of Theater Owners balked. Apparently their threat to boycott big blockbusters was a fake, but they haven’t kept secret their disgust for the new model that would limit their ability to make money showing movies (since studios take the 50%-100% lion’s share of the ticket split in the first weeks). Now, 23 directors and producers are speaking out against it. That list includes James Cameron, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, Antoine Fuqua, Todd Garner, Lawrence Gordon, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Gale Anne Hurd, Peter Jackson, Karyn Kusama, Jon Landau, Shawn Levy, Michael Mann, Bill Mechanic, Jamie Patricof, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Robert Rodriguez, Adam Shankman, Gore Verbinski, and Robert Zemeckis. The full, un-edited open letter is below:

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Even with 1/3 of the energy that director Shawn Levy displays in person, the trailer for Real Steel that’s smashing its way through the internet is still enough to get the blood pressure rising. The film focuses on Hugh Jackman as a former boxer who turned to Robot Boxing when the sport replaced MMA as the world’s most popular sport that involves punching. Now, he’s washed up twice over and trying to make a come back while reconnecting with his son. That last element is nowhere to be found in this trailer, but the hype sure is. Watch the trailer below:

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Somehow this one slipped by us this week – Robert Downey Jr. officially jumped ship on Alfonso Cuaron’s outer space survival thriller Gravity, and has moved on to producing and possibly starring in How to Talk to Girls, a film based on a book by 9-year old Alec Greven. No ink has been committed to paper just yet, but sources say that Downey is circling the project with great interest. Shawn Levy, who is also slated to produce, has said that the script (written by Ben Karlin and Stu Zicherman) is in the tone of Big. And anything “in the tone of Big” is worth paying attention to, even if it was written by a 9-year old. [THR]

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