“The Amazing Spider-Man” may have been all the talk at last month’s Comic-Con, but that wasn’t the only movie Sony Pictures took to San Diego. Oh, no! The studio served up some laughs with “30 Minutes or Less” directed by “Zombieland”‘s Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride (both couldn’t attend), Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson and Michael Peña; 1990′s “Total Recall” with Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a total remake, this time starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston; and Nicolas Cage is back in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” joined by Idris Elba and Johnny Whitworth (“Limitless,” “3:10 to Yuma”).
Before their appearance in Hall H at the pop culture convention, the guys of “30 Minutes or Less” – in theaters August 12th – talked to the press about the movie, and one of the big topics of discussion became Michael Peña’s character, Chango. The studio didn’t release very much promotional movie footage that includes Peña – and for good reason; he has just a handful of scenes, all of which are quite ridiculously funny in their own way.
Peña told me about creating the character, one that was written nothing like the way he played it.
When you think of Aziz Ansari, one of the stars of the NBC hit comedy “Parks and Recreation,” action star doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But his characters, Chet – best friend to Jesse Eisenberg’s Nick – reluctantly helps his desperate buddy who’s about to blow.
2009′s “Zombieland” was Ruben Fleischer’s feature directorial debut (a sequel is slated for 2013 and Fleischer says he would direct it “if the opportunity presents itself and the timing is right.”) Fresh off of that surprise hit – it made more than $102 million worldwide – Fleischer says a lot of bigger movies were at his fingertips. But he told us why he opted for “30 Minutes of Less,” a movie that Swardson was familiar with long before he knew he was going to be in it.
When “Total Recall” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone hit theaters in 1990, it went on to make more than $260 million at the worldwide box office – quite a haul. It earned two Oscar nominations and received a Special Achievement Oscar for visual effects. Of course, we’ve come a long way since 1990, and when the “Total Recall” remake starring Farrell, Beckinsale, Biel and Cranston hits theaters in August 2012, the cast is quick to assure it’s sure to be a spectacle. Cranston could barely contain his excitement: “From the little I’ve seen of it so far, oh my God! I will predict, it’ll be far and away better than the original. Far and away!”
Like the original, a company called Rekall is offering a service that turns dreams of vacations into real memories. Farrell steps into Schwarzenegger’s role, playing Doug Quaid, a factory worker. He gets the procedure, which goes horribly wrong. Now a hunted man, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred and Quaid has to figure out his true identity before it’s too late.
Cranston, who plays Vilos Cohaagen, says this version of the movie is closer to Phillip Dick’s original novel. ” You can have the best special effects, you can have the most shocking scenes, but if it’s not grounded in real, authentic human nature and human emotion, it doesn’t mean anything,” Cranston says. “So you’re going to be able to follow Colin’s character and root for him and feel for him, and that’ll make the roller coaster ride that much more fun.”
For Biel, who was just eight years old when the original hit theaters, says this reinvention is very different. “I feel it’s kind of what [Christopher] Nolan did for Batman, it’s what we’re – it’s what [director Len Wiseman] is doing for “Total Recall,” she compares. “Not only is it about a man who’s searching for his identity, but it’s a love story.”
Portraying the role originally played by Stone, Beckinsale is Quaid’s wife, Lori. No stranger to appearing in movies with big fan followings – having appeared in “Van Helsing” and the “Underworld” franchinse, the third movie in theaters next January – Beckinsale knows all about pleasing fans. “People are very passionate about the original movie and the source material,” Beckinsale says, acknowledging the hurdle this remake faces. But she hopes audiences are open to the changes. “You don’t remake movies and make them exactly the same.”
Having said that, Beckinsale talks here about why “Total Recall” was one worth remaking.
Nicolas Cage is no stranger to Comic-Con, a known collector of comic books and star of several movies that have previewed there (“Drive Angry 3D,” “Kick-Ass,” “Knowing,” “Next,” “Ghost Rider”). “I’ve always been fascinated by fantasy and imagination and movies and graphic novels and comics and animation, so I’m excited with [Comic-Con attendees]. There’s a buzz to it that’s undeniable when you go into Hall H. You can feel it.”
His latest trip into Hall H was for “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” (“This is ‘Spirit of Vengeance,’ it’s not a sequel,” Cage pointed out to the press), a follow-up (hopefully that’s a safe word to use) to the 2007 comic book adaptation in which he plays Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman, who becomes the vigilante Ghost Rider after selling his soul to the Devil.
Ghost Rider isn’t the only one on a bike, though. Idris Elba joins this movie as Moreau, a warrior Monk whose mission it is “to find Ghost Rider and take on a journey with him,” Elba explains. Describing Moreau as a “pretty cool sidekick” to Ghost Rider, that did mean facing a demon of his own. ”When I was 19, I fell off a motorcycle and never wanted to get on one again…until this movie.”
One of Ghost Rider’s main foes this time around is a character named Roarke, played by Johnny Whitworth. The Devil (Ciarin Hinds) turns Roarke into Blackout, a man who knows more about Ghost Rider than the title character may like. “As far as the comic’s concerned, we took a liberties in make him cooler, in my opinion,” Whitworth said, not volunteering much information about his character or story in broad terms. “I’m the villain, the bad guy…badass.”
The second time around, there is a new director. Or make that, directors — Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor share the duties as they have on their previous three movies, “Gamer,” “Crank” and “Crank: High Voltage.” Asking Cage to reprise his role, it was decided a darker approach would be taken with “Spirit of Vengeance.” Admittedly, Cage wanted the first movie to be like a Grimm’s fairy tale, “scary, but something kids could still enjoy,” he says. As Taylor describes it, the 2007 movie wasn’t even a thought in their mind, though. “We didn’t really consider the first movie at all when making this. It’s…you can’t really. We just wanted to make a great movie, make a great movie on its own terms,” Taylor said. “The first movie we think is really valid. It’s like a Walt Disney kind of take on the character, which is totally cool. This version, we kinda wanted to people what we think Comic-Con fans really want to see from ‘Ghost Rider,’ which is: it’s darker, it’s more intense, he is from a nightmare, he will scare the hell out of you, he’s not a superhero that wears tights and does nice things. He’s more the villain than he is the hero. He is a dark entity. He sucks out your soul – that’s his superpower.”
To achieve that meant coming up with something “weird,” as Cage explained. Together, the three devised an attack method on Ghost Rider’s enemies which they called the “compass,” in which we see the character levitating in circles. And it pushed the veteran action movie actor like he hadn’t been pushed before. “All the wire work was very stimulating, but also very nauseating. Literally nauseating because I was going in circles upide-down and I really was trying not to throw up, ’cause it kept spinning and spinning,” Cage explains with a slight laugh, the ridiculousness of it all coming back to him. “But it’s one of my favorite things that we call came up with together, so I’m glad it’s there. it was well worth it.”
To hear Cage tell it, Neveldine and Taylor are a true team, explaining how one convinced him to join the movie, and how the other uses a dangerous technique to capture the action.