YRB Magazine Interview: Director James Wan

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After making his wildly successful directorial debut with the low-budget horror film Saw, young director James Wan returns with Death Sentence, a revenge-thriller about a family man (Kevin Bacon) who takes matters into his own hands after his son is murdered. I caught up with Wan to discuss Death Sentence and his approach to filmmaking, and here’s what he had to say.

Movie: The Brothers Solomon

Will Arnett and Will Forte are the Brothers Solomon

The Solomon brothers want to put a baby in you, and goddammit they will, even if it’s the last thing they do. When their dying father expresses one final wish to have a grandchild, Dean and John Solomon (Will Forte and Will Arnett) must find a way to procreate, stat. And it’s not going to be easy. That’s because until now, they’ve grown and developed (or rather, not developed) in the social equivalent of a concentration camp: a remote arctic location where they were home-schooled by their father. Miffed to find that the ladies aren’t exactly swooning, Dean and John explore other options, such as kidnapping (“We were trying to coax that little girl into our car, but her mom’s being a real pain in the ass,” Arnett explains to the police) and adoption (“What is your return policy?”), before they find Janine (SNL’s Kristen Wiig) on Craigslist, and convince her to serve as a surrogate. Written by Forte and directed by the legendary Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), this late-summer gem has all the right ingredients for comedy gold.

Movie: Superbad

-Popular Girl: "You know, you scratch our backs, we'll scratch yours." -Fat Nerd: "The funny thing about my back is that it's located on my cock."

Once again, director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) proves that good things happen when you combine a funny script with funny actors. Superbad tells the tale of Evan and Seth (played by Michael Cera of Arrested Development and Knocked Up’s Jonah Hill), two socially inept best friends and high school seniors who must make the most of their days together before enrolling at different colleges in the fall. With no social skills, less than no sex appeal, and nothing even resembling a cool bone in their bodies, the boys realize that if they want to make it as college men, they’re going to have to turn around their luck with the ladies – starting tonight, on the eve of their graduation. Not to be mistaken for a classic coming of age tale a la Stand By Me, Superbad is about as heartwarming as a funeral. But thankfully, it’s a whole lot funnier.

Movie: I’m Reed Fish

Jay Baruchel stars in I'm Reed Fish

In his breakout movie role, Jay Baruchel (Undeclared, Knocked Up) proves to the world that Zach Braff isn’t the only geeky leading man who can pull off a romantic comedy without making us want to puke. Baruchel plays Reed Fish, a small town radio personality with a hot fiancée (Gilmore GirlsAlexis Bledel) and a solid 10-year plan, whose life is turned upside-down when his former high school crush suddenly reappears on the eve of his nuptials. With DJ Qualls (Road Trip, Hustle & Flow) and SNL alum Chris Parnell at the helms, I’m Reed Fish takes a not-so-original story and turns it into a not-half-bad picture.

TV: It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia


It's Always Funny in Philadelphia

The little TV show that could, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns to FX this summer for a third season. The show–which was picked up in 2005 after a pilot that reportedly cost only $85 to make was submitted to FX under the title It’s Always Sunny on TV–circulates around four friends (two of whom, Dennis and Dee, also happen to be twins) who run Paddy’s, an Irish pub in the City of Brotherly Love. Midget-turned-actor Danny DeVito joined the cast last year in the role of Frank, the twins’ father–or so we were led to believe before it was revealed at the end of last season than he is actually their friend Charlie’s biological father. A bunch of lazy, depraved, egomaniacal liars, these kids are fast becoming our personal heroes, and if you don’t get FX, don’t worry; episodes of It’s Always Sunny are available for download on iTunes.

Movie: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

When the fine print in his insurance plan prevents New York firefighter and widower Larry Valentine (played by Hitch’s Kevin James) from naming his own kids as beneficiaries, he and his best friend Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) devise a foolproof plan to get around the technicality: They tie the knot, claiming to be gay domestic partners. So far, so good, until a suspicious official starts snooping around, and Chuck and Larry’s personal life is suddenly front-page news. Enter Jessica Biel, the firecracker lawyer who feels so comfortable around her gay client Chuck–who is of course actually straight and single–she doesn’t think twice about getting undressed in front of him or making sure he knows first, uh, hand that she doesn’t have breast implants. A bit of a hokey premise to be sure, but everything Adam Sandler touches turns to gold, and Kevin James’s ass is no exception.

Movie: Spider-Man 3


This spring, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) returns in the third installment of Spider-Man. In the new flick, Spidey’s suit suddenly turns black, augmenting his existing powers and drawing out a more sinister side focused on retribution and vengeance. As he struggles to resist the power of the black suit and remain on the side of good, he must also throw down with two of his most dangerous opponents, Sandman and Venom. Can Peter overcome the forces of evil that threaten to pull him away from his family and his dreamgirl, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), or will he hold it down and regulate on his enemies? Since this is Hollywood (and since we’re not retarded), we already know the answer, but with Tobey Maguire dancing around in a glorified leotard, Spider-Man 3 is like watching a demented version of Billy Elliot with high-budget special effects and action sequences. In other words, it’s worth it.

Movie: Evan Almighty

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

We first met Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) in 2003’s Bruce Almighty, in which he played Bruce’s (Jim Carrey) office rival at a local Buffalo, N.Y., television station. When Bruce lost his job to Evan, he blamed God, prompting the Almighty Himself to come down from the heavens to teach Bruce a lesson. Now, Evan is a United States congressman, and he’s about to get his very own visit from God (Morgan Freeman). And what does God want with Evan, pray tell? It’s pretty standard, really; He wants Evan to build an ark in anticipation of a great flood and He won’t take no for an answer. Thus it is that Evan becomes the modern counterpart to Noah, as he sets about building an arc, much to the dismay of his wife and kids. Co-starring John Goodman, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls), Jonah Hill (Knocked Up; The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms (not to mention a variety of elephants, giraffes and other members of the animal kingdom), Evan Almighty is laugh-out-loud funny, which is certainly the best thing the Bible has done for us lately.

Live From Springfield: The Simpsons Movie

Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

If you don’t like The Simpsons, there is something very, very wrong with you, and you ought to consult a doctor immediately. Medical conditions notwithstanding, if you do nothing else this summer, you must go see The Simpsons Movie. Nerds have Star Trek and cool nerds have Star Wars, but the one thing we can all agree on is our common love and appreciation for The Simpsons. In the movie, Homer is charged with saving the world from an impending disaster that he is responsible for having created in the first place. Sounds like a classic in the making.

Movie: Fanastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben are as fantastic as ever in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the latest installment of the Marvel Comics-inspired films. In the sequel, the astronauts-turned-superheroes must face-off with a new enemy: the evil, intergalactic Silver Surfer, who has touched down on Earth with the intention of destroying the planet and anyone that stands in his way. As in the first film, expect some fancy, hi-tech special effects and a few hours of entertainment, but don’t lose too much sleep wondering whether the Silver Surfer will succeed in his efforts or whether the Fantastic Four will prevail and save the world. Something tells us they will.

Movie: Live Free or Die Hard

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

After Sylvester Stallone brought retro back with last year’s Rocky Balboa, this summer, Bruce Willis, 52, is back as Average Joe-turned-hero John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard. In this, the fourth Die Hard flick, the plot has been updated to accommodate a post- 9/11 world, and focuses on a terrorist group that is using the Internet to wage war against the United States. Live Free or Die Hard boasts the same entertainment value of the first three Die Hard movies, but with better technology and action sequences. In short, failure to go see Live Free or Die Hard would be downright unpatriotic – and these days, that’s enough to land you an open-ended stay at Guantanamo.


Movie: Smokin’ Aces

Common and Jeremy Piven in Smokin' Aces (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Simply put, Smokin’ Aces is Pulp Fiction meets Saving Private Ryan – if the objective hadn’t been so much rescuing Private Ryan as it was tracking down and killing him. With an A-List cast, Smokin’ Aces features excellent performances by Ryan Reynolds (yes, we are as surprised as you to see Van Wilder coming into his own), Jeremy Piven (as Buddy “Aces” Israel, the powder-nosed, Vegas illusionist with a $1 million bounty on his head), Ray Liotta, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman (who has a small but ingenious role), and even a cameo by Lost’s Matthew Fox. The long list of characters and complex web of relationships á la The Usual Suspects might seem confusing at first, but before you realize that you’re not totally sure what’s going on, the movie is over and it all makes sense. With everything you could possibly want – violence, drugs, hookers and mobsters – we venture to say Smokin’ Aces is one of the best movies we’ve seen all year.


DVD: The Messengers


Although this horror flick didn’t break any records when it was released in early 2007, The Messengers did hold down the top spot at the box office over Superbowl weekend and was generally popular among horror fans. The movie (which stars Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and Kristen Stewart) tells the story of the Solomon family, and the events that transpire after forces of darkness begin to infiltrate their formerly tranquil North Dakota farm. Bonus footage on the DVD includes the standard featurette on the making of the film, interactive commentary with the actors and so on. And don’t be skeptical about the film’s fright factor just because it’s rated PG-13; kid-approved movies are allowed to be terrifying – they just can’t contain excessive nudity or profanity. Which totally makes perfect sense.

Movie: 28 Weeks Later

Photo courtesy of Fox Atomic

The sequel to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later picks up six months after a deadly, blood borne virus was released from a London laboratory, devastating the city and transforming those infected into ferocious, murderous predators. Now, the U.S. Army has come to restore order, claiming to have eradicated the virus, but as the surviving refugees begin to return to the city it seems the nightmare has only just begun. A new cast of characters is led by Rose Byrne (Star Wars Episode II; Troy, Damages) and although 28 Weeks Later may seem like little more than a vaguely altered version of the first film, the story carries over quite well and suspense levels remain high. Don’t be surprised if this one sticks with you after you leave the theater, but be sure to remain seated until the final credits role – you wouldn’t want to miss another famous alternate ending.

Movie: Rescue Dawn

Photo courtesy of Gibraltar Films

This April, Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins) stars in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn as U.S. Fighter pilot Dieter Dangler, whose plane is shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. He is soon captured and subjected to extensive torture – as is the audience, during a difficult first hour that is virtually free of any dialogue whatsoever. The second half of this docu-drama focuses on Dieter’s stay in a prison camp — along with fellow POWs Gene (Jeremy Davies) and Duane (Steve Zahn) — where he devises and ultimately executes a complex escape plan. Rescue Dawn is not a Bruce Willis-style action flick, and it does not even begin to achieve the magnificence of its predecessors, Vietnam classics such as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now. Bale, Zahn and Davies all give excellent performances against a visually stunning backdrop, but in every other sense Rescue Dawn simply comes up short.WWW.GIBRALTARFILMS.COM