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Interview: Garrett Hedlund, Jason Fuchs talk new ‘hook’ of iconic character in ‘Pan’

Levi Miller and Garrett Hedlund in 'Pan'

By Tim Lammers

When the characters where drawn out for the hotly anticipated “Peter Pan” film prequel “Pan,” filmmakers Joe Wright and Jason Fuchs, along with star Garrett Hedlund were pretty intent on giving the J.M. Barrie story’s iconic characters a different spin.

Since it’s not often such a time-honored tale gets a fully fleshed-out back story, Fuchs decided to give one core character, Captain Hook, a new, well, hook; and Hedlund was thrilled to be a part of it.

“It all starts with Jason. When I read the script, it examined how Hook and Peter were sort of forced to be allies. I thought it was a unique take on the story,” Hedlund told me in a recent phone conversation from New York. “I obviously wondered if people would accept the version of Hook without a hook, but since it’s a wonderful and interesting beginning, who better to create a world like this than Joe Wright? He’s one of the best directors out there.”

Hedlund said he loved how Wright brings “a beautiful, fantastical underbelly” to every film he makes.

“I love ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Anna Karenina,’ and he takes these stories that people know and love, and gives them the Joe Wright flair that’s so brave and unique. That’s why I so excited to see what he was going to do with the story of Peter Pan. For Joe Wright, I would have played Tinkerbell,” Hedlund said with a laugh.

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Pan” examines the origin story of Barrie’s classic character, Peter Pan (Levi Miller), a young boy given up by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) as an infant and raised in a London orphanage during World War II.

Whisked away from the orphanage in the middle of the night by pirates, Peter finds himself transported to the mysterious island of Neverland, where thousands of other “Lost Boys” are forced to mine the landscape for pixum, a gem which contains fairy dust and the key to keeping the evil ruler of the island, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), immortal. Fortunately for Peter, he gains a fast friend in James Hook (Hedlund) and together they team with island native Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) to stop Blackbeard’s dastardly plans.

Fuchs in a separate interview told me that his inspiration for penning the prequel story was partially an ode to the musical prequel of another classic fantasy.

“‘Wicked’ in some ways is a semi-inspiration for ‘Pan,’ because I think what ‘Wicked’ does so beautifully is that it’s not a prequel for the sake of a prequel to tell more of a story that people like, it puts the characters that people know and love in a different context — it rephrases things,” Fuchs said. “‘Wicked’ gave us a better understanding of who those characters are in the original ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and for ‘Pan,’ my aspiration was to achieve the same thing. It’s not about filling in blanks, it is saying, ‘Hey, take a second look at Peter Pan, Hook, Tiger Lily and Tink,’ and walking out of this film, you may look at them very differently now that you have an understanding of where their journeys begin.”

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Glimpse of home

A native of Roseau, Minnesota, a northern town close to the Canadian border, Hedlund was asked by Wright to recall his farm boy upbringing to help determine and inform Hook as a character — which the actor was thrilled to do.

“When I first met with Joe, he revealed to me that he’d always seen Hook as somebody out an old John Ford film,” Hedlund recalled. “If he wasn’t in Neverland, he would have been happy being on a horse in some prairie. I thought that was quite brave and it wasn’t like any version of Hook that we’ve seen before. Ultimately, though, it’s an origins story, which reveals that there could something mischievous going on with this character and we’re yet to find out what that is.”

The 31-year-old actor’s upbringing also determined Hedlund’s accent for Hook, but for fans of Minnesotans being portrayed in film, don’t expect a “Yah, you betcha,” which Joel Coen and Ethan Coen joyfully brought to light in “Fargo.” (Ironically, Hedlund got a glimpse of home working with the Minnesota-born brothers a couple years back on “Inside Llewyn Davis.”)

“I was trying to make my tagline in ‘Pan’ be ‘Uff da,'” Hedlund said, laughing. “We’d miss something careening down on us and we’d escape the impact just in time, and I’d say ‘Uff da.’ Joe just fancied this sort of Scandinavian-route with Hook. Or maybe he just hasn’t heard too many Minnesotans speak before, and there was something about the way I spoke made him crack up and look at Hook in another light.”

Fuchs views Hedlund as much more than a hearty Midwesterner. In fact, the writer feels he represents all of us.

“Garrett is an extraordinary actor and the definition of an American movie star,” Fuchs said. “The guy just oozes charisma and a tremendously talented dude.”

Needless to say, Fuchs was happy when Hedlund, whose credits include the original film version of “Friday Night Lights,” as well as “Tron: Legacy” and “Unbroken,” committed to play his bold new version of Hook.

“When I conceived the character for this film, I knew that this wasn’t going to be the character that we know in J.M. Barrie’s book, this is someone that you find cut from the mold in ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ or ‘Indiana Jones’ — a roguish leading man-type of adventure,” Fuchs said. “Also, he’s a man who’s quite selfish and hasn’t grown into the man he’s supposed to become. All of those things led us to things led us to the version of Hook you seen in the film. In a way, it’s quite different, yet it has the seeds of the Captain Hook we know and love, or love to hate.”

Reviews: ‘Chappie,’ ‘Unfinished Business’

'Chappie'  (Sony Pictures)

“Chappie” (R) 1 star (out of four)

There’s no other way of putting it: “Chappie” is crappie.

After a brilliant debut with the Best Picture Oscar nominee “District 9” and the sharp downward turn with the preachy, universal health care polemic “Elysium,” writer-director Neill Blomkamp has sunk to even deeper depths with “Chappie” – a ridiculous artificial intelligence action thriller that makes the sci-fi disaster “Transcendence” look, well, intelligent.

While the film’s trailers and TV spots highlight such A-listers as Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, the true star of “Chappie” turns out being the voice and motion-capture movement of Sharlto Copley, the lead in “District 9” and bad guy opposite Matt Damon in “Elysium.” Set in the near future in Johannesburg, South Africa (the same setting as “District 9”), the streets are policed by robots invented by  Deon (Dev Patel), a young scientist on the verge of creating artificial intelligence.

When Deon finally cracks the AI code, he uploads the technology into a damaged robot (Copley), only to lose control of the now sentient being to a small gang of thugs looking to gain the upper hand on police and other criminals. Standing in their way, though, is Vincent (Jackman), a driven rival robot developer who will go to extreme lengths to put into play “The Moose,” a larger and much more lethal brand of law enforcement.

The sad part about “Chappie” is that Blomkamp wastes Patel, Jackman (in a supporting role) and Weaver (in a small role as the profits-driven CEO of the robotics company) in favor of South African rave-rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser (of the group Die Antwoord), who dreadfully overact in their major roles as two of three gang members who educate the very impressionable Chappie in the ways of gang life and hip-hop slang.  And while Chappie at first leaves you feeling sorry for him in his infantile stages, by the time he quickly grows into an “adult” and starts swaggering around with bling around his neck, talking trash, shooting a gun sideways and grabbing his robotic crotch, the movie becomes laugh-out-loud funny, but in a bad way.

Half-heartedly  using the formula of “District 9,” and borrowing inspiration from “Short Circuit” and the original, classic 1987 version of “RoboCop” (Chappie in a sort of way mimics RoboCop, while The Moose is clearly ED-209), “Chappie’s” fatal flaw com

es with Blomkamp’s decision to make the sentient robot his protagonist, instead of focusing on the dangers of artificial intelligence.  The movie is just a jumbled mess. At first, Blomkamp seems to satirize the gang-banger culture, only to eventually pander to and glorify it, as if he somehow hopes we’ll identify with a robot as a street thug merely because he’s developed feelings.  There’s a weakened battery that’s keeping Chappie “alive” throughout the course of the film, and it doesn’t die out quick enough.

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Reviewed in brief:

“Unfinished Business” (R) 1 star (out of four)

Vince Vaughn leads a trio of struggling businessmen who travel overseas in a desperate bid to score a deal that will save their small company. The outcome is predictable from the get-go, and in between, we’re treated to 90 minutes of one horribly unfunny scenario after the other. Vaughn and his co-stars Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco are talented enough, but the actors – along with James Marsden, Nick Frost and Sienna Miller in supporting roles – are totally wasted here. “Unfinished Business” is a movie that had no business being made.

Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.

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Tim Lammers picks top movies of 2014

Agree or disagree, here’s this year’s Top 10 list — wedging in 14 of the best movies on the big screen in 2014. See you at the movies in 2015.

10. “The Box Trolls”/”The Lego Movie”“The Boxtrolls” proves why stop-motion is still the best of all forms of animation, and “The Lego Movie,” a computer-animated film that mimics the under-appreciated art form, proves why we need more.

9. “Unbroken”/”Fury” — Directors Angelina Jolie and David Ayer shine proper lights on the unsung heroes of World War II: POW survivor Louie Zamperini in “Unbroken,” and a Sherman tank crew forced to do horrific things in order to survive in “Fury.” What Jolie lacks in context of Zamperini’s sufferings in the PG-13 “Unbroken” is more than made up for in brutally realistic R-rated “Fury,” starring, oddly enough, Jolie’s husband Brad Pitt.

Bradley Cooper in 'American Sniper' (photo Warner Bros.)
Bradley Cooper in ‘American Sniper’ (photo Warner Bros.).

8. “The Imitation Game”/”Big Eyes” — The amazing tale of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is told on two levels: One about Turing the  genius mathematician who invents a pre-cursor to the computer to help the British break German’s Enigma code during World War II; and second Turing as gay man in a time where homosexuality was outlawed in the U.K. Since his covert efforts with Britain’s MI: 6 technically didn’t exist, not even saving millions of lives couldn’t prevent the persecution of one life – Turning’s own. “Big Eyes,” meanwhile, tells another true story about secrets – this one set in pop art scene of the 1950s and ’60s – through the unique cinematic brushstrokes of canvas and film artist Tim Burton.

7. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”/”X-Men: Days of Future Past” — While the wonderfully funny and action-packed “Guardians of the Galaxy” marked a departure to the light side for Marvel Studios, the latest film in “The Avengers” superhero saga daringly ventured down the complete opposite path with a ’70s political thri

ller twist, to boot. Though technically not a Marvel Studios property, “Days of Future Past” and star Hugh Jackman did its Marvel Comics roots justice by righting some wrongs from previous films in the “X-Men” series.

6. “St. Vincent” — Bill Murray is at his best in the feel-good movie of the year as a ne’er do-well with a heart of gold and chamber of heartbreaking secrets. Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher complete the joyous halo that encircles Murray in “St. Vincent,” a dramedy that’s every bit as poignant as it is funny.

5. “Gone Girl” – Director David Fincher is at the top of his game in Gillian Flynn’s complex crime thriller, expertly adapted by the screenwriter from her own best-selling novel. Featuring one of the best ensemble casts of the year (including Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle and Sela Ward), “Gone Girl” is taken to a whole new level by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike in what’s easily the best female lead performance of the year.

4. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” – Director Matt Reeves pulls off the impossible by topping “Dawn’s” predecessor, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – a brilliant reboot of a classic film series. The apes continue to evolve in “Dawn,” and so does the story and Andy Serkis’ motion capture acting. Awards voters better soon get with the program and accept what Serkis does as a legitimate form of acting.

3. “Birdman” – Michael Keaton gives a career performance as a struggling big-screen superhero trying to reinvent himself on Broadway in “Birdman,” the most inventively staged film of the year. The only reason this film works is because of Keaton, who will no doubt enjoy a career renaissance with an Oscar nomination (if not a win) in his future. Of course, it helps to have Edward Norton in your cast, who is as brilliant as ever in a crucial supporting role.

2. “Whiplash” – J.K. Simmons gives the one of the best performances of the year as a conniving, vitriolic jazz conservatory instructor who uses mental abuse in an effort to try to bring out the best in his students – specifically an immensely talented but emotionally fragile drummer (Miles Teller). Simmons is so explosive in “Whiplash” that he makes Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman” feel like a pre-school teacher.

1. “American Sniper” – Director Clint Eastwood places you in the thick of the battle in the Iraq war while Bradley Cooper puts you in Chris Kyle’s conflicted mind in this brutally honest portrayal of the most lethal sniper in the American military. Sienna Miller is also heartbreaking at Kyle’s wife, Taya, a woman suffering the residual effects war has on families. To say the film is riveting is an huge understatement, especially given the tragic fate that awaits Kyle as he finally finds his peace and tries to help other veterans adjust to life on the home front.

Most over-rated movie of the year: “Boyhood” — It’s a clever idea no doubt, filming a child’s life over a 12-year period and there’s no deny the effort and planning director Richard Linklater put into the project, but ultimately, “Boyhood” feels like a gimmick because of a mostly uneventful story. Perhaps critics were ultimately more fascinated with the idea of making a movie over 12-year period than the film itself. Besides, haven’t we seen characters grow up on screen before with the films in the “Harry Potter” saga?

Worst movie of the year: “Inherent Vice” — The film’s top-shelf talent is completely wasted by Paul Thomas Anderson’s pretentious writing and direction, and a nonsensical script that’s virtually impossible to grasp. Don’t pay attention to the film snobs who pretend to understand what’s going on in this bloated heap of “I’m smarter than you are” filmmaking, because they really don’t. Dreadful and disappointing, this movie should have been called “Incoherent Vice.”

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Reviews: Tim Lammers talks ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ ‘Blended’ on KARE-TV

X-Men Days of Future Past
Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (photo: 20th Century Fox).

Tim reviews the Marvel superhero adventure “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with Bryan Piatt on KARE 11 TV (NBC) in Minneapolis.  See the review of the film, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, below, as well as a review of the new Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy “Blended.” You can also read the print version of the reviews on BringMeTheNews.com. Also, click HERE to read Tim’s interview with Hugh Jackman.

Tim also reviewed the films with John Williams on WCCO AM 830 (Click HERE to listen: audio begins at 3:30) and Rider and Eric Perkins on 96.3 K-TWIN. Listen to the K-TWIN audio below.

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