Tag Archives: Michael Keaton

Interview: Dylan O’Brien talks making of Vince Flynn’s ‘American Assassin’

It’s a Friday afternoon — exactly one week before his new film “American Assassin” is slated to open in theaters nationwide — and actor Dylan O’Brien is waiting patiently to attend the premiere of the film in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Normally, it’s not the sort of place big premieres outside of Hollywood take place, but this time it’s warranted because St. Paul is the hometown of the Vince Flynn, the late author who created the New York Times best-selling Mitch Rapp novels, including “American Assassin.”

In a phone conversation before the premiere, O’Brien said he expected the premiere — which was attended by Flynn’s widow, Lysa, and their children; producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; and many of Flynn’s family and friends — to be one of the most emotional events he’s experienced to date. In short, O’Brien was honored to be there to represent the film and commemorate the life and accomplishments of Flynn, who died of cancer in 2013 at age 47.

“Honored is the perfect word for how I feel. It’s going to be really nerve-wracking,” O’Brien said. “It’s really going to be an emotionally-charged night in a way and I’m just really happy to be here, honored to play the character and honored to bring it to his hometown and celebrate.”

Originally released in 2010, “American Assassin” is actually the 11th Mitch Rapp novel, which serves as a prequel story of Rapp before he becomes the expert CIA agent that readers came to know in the books preceding it.

The film version of “American Assassin” chronicles how a 23-year-old Rapp — who lost his parents in a car accident at age 14 — is recruited to become a counterterrorism agent after he suffers another deep personal tragedy at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Michael Keaton also stars as Stan Hurley, a grizzled black ops veteran who trains Rapp; as well as Sanaa Lathan as CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy; and Taylor Kitsch as Ghost — a mysterious figure on the verge of starting a deadly nuclear conflict in the Middle East.

O’Brien has been down the road of adapting well-known books into films before, having starred in the big screen adaptations of “The Maze Runner” novels. For “American Assassin,” the actor said he informed himself of who Mitch Rapp was in reverse, essentially, since he didn’t read any of Flynn’s work before he got the role.

“The script was my first introduction to the role, then obviously I did my research and read about all of the books and the character,” recalled O’Brien, who filmed “American Assassin” after recovering from traumatic injures he suffered during the making  of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” “I even went to fan pages to read comments on the character just to get an idea of who the guy was outside of the script. Once we got doing it, I really wanted to build him from the ground up and come from me with the thought that I understood this guy.”

O’Brien said her felt his approach to came from a “really original direction.”

“My goal first and foremost was about really humanizing the kind of cold-hearted Mitch we see in the books. Everyone who knows the books describes him as this cold, ruthless and brutal killer, and I can see why,” O’Brien explained. “But I also saw so much more underneath. I was really excited to bring all these layers underneath to life.”

O’Brien, 26, said that readers of the “American Assassin” novel will notice changes from the page to the screen adaptation, mostly because of the shift in time periods. The actor said the move was made largely to give the story more of a contemporary feel, especially in the age where terrorism is at the forefront of people’s minds.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Lysa Flynn and Dylan O'Brien at the St. Paul premiere of "American Assassin." (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for CBS Films)
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Lysa Flynn and Dylan O’Brien at the St. Paul premiere of “American Assassin.” (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for CBS Films)

“You get changes with all adaptations, obviously, and this one’s no different, especially considering how the times have changed with what the book deals with and what we deal with in the movie, “O’Brien noted. “We’re updating and modernizing those situations and events, and done some other major things, too, by adding a major character to the film version. You want book fans all over to approve and hope that what you’ve done still captures that spirit, and hopefully they’ll sign off on those changes, especially in Vince’s hometown, and especially from his family and friends.”

Luckily, O’Brien said, Lysa Flynn was a part of making the film happen, and having her seal of approval meant everything to everybody on the production.

“It really started with Lysa. It’s been the biggest blessing to have her so on-board the entire time with her endless support,” O’Brien said. “She just brings such a warmth to the entire process. She was so happy and so grateful just to come to the set to see the story brought to life. That’s made the process so much easier for us, too.”

Reviews: ‘Return of Xander Cage,’ ‘The Founder,’ ‘Patriots Day,’ ‘Live by Night’

Click the audio player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” and “The Founder” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard.

Click the video player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” and “The Founder” on “KARE 11 News at 11” with Adrienne Broadus.

Click the audio player below for Tim Lammers’ reviews of “Patriots Day” and “Live by Night” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard.

Movie reviews: ‘Love the Coopers,’ ‘Spotlight’

Diane Keaton and John Goodman in 'Love the Coopers' (CBS Films)

By Tim Lammers

“Love the Coopers” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)

If you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit early you should at the very least like “Love the Coopers,” a dysfunctional family comedy that avoids the trappings of the genre as it winds down to a predictable yet very sweet conclusion.

Diane Keaton and John Goodman star as Charlotte and Sam Cooper, whose marriage has soured after 40 years together. Wanting to gather their family together for one last Christmas before they split, the Coopers struggle to hold it together as their children and extended family each make their respective treks to the family household.

“Love the Coopers” plays out in five individual stories before the family gathering, as we follow the complicated lives of Cooper children Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), grandpa Bucky (Alan Arkin), Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), and of course, Charlotte and Sam.

Hank is going through a divorce and is in search of a job, while Eleanor has a mess of a love life until she meets a soldier (Jake Lacy) on leave. Bucky, a lonesome widower, is distraught that his good friend, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) is moving away; while Emma struggles to come to terms with her longtime sibling rivalry with Charlotte. Also involved wrapped up in the family trials are a taciturn police officer (Anthony Mackie), an eccentric aunt (June Squibb) and Hank’s estranged wife (Alex Borstein) and their lovelorn teenage son, Charlie (Timothee Chalamet).

“Love the Coopers” feels like a number of different films, from “Home for the Holidays” to “A Christmas Story,” because the story is aided with a wise, introspective narration. It

also feels a lot like “Love, Actually,” because it starts out with separate stories that eventually intertwine.

Despite its shortcomings, “Love the Coopers” works because it could have easily gone the way of a screwball comedy, yet instead relies on its gifted cast’s talents as actors whom possess natural gifts for both drama and comedy. It has a surprising blend of humor and poignancy, all while telling us a story we all know too well: Families are complicated. But since the Coopers are loaded with family members you can relate to, don’t be surprised if you leave the film with a big smile on your face.

“Spotlight” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams head up an all-star cast in writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” a compelling film about the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s investigation into the Boston Archdiocese child sex abuse scandal – a report that led to a falling out in the Catholic Church and exposure of hundreds more scandals in parishes nationwide.

Set largely in 2001 – in the days before the Wild West journalism of the Internet (and a sad reminder of how investigative journalism is currently on life support) – “Spotlight” follows editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), reporters Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) as the team digs into allegations of child molestation against defrocked priest John Geoghan. As it turns out, Geoghan is only the tip of a very large iceberg, leading the reporters to groundbreaking investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-ups of child sex abuse by defrocked, and in some cases, reassigned, priests.

“Spotlight” runs the gamut of emotions. You’ll feel sadness hearing the tragic revelations of abuse survivors in interviews conducted by reporters; and anger when you see the thinly-veiled threats by the church’s powerful supporters as Spotlight is urged to back off its investigation. There’s also frustration as journalists desperately try to get sensitive court documents unsealed, and disbelief as the reporters uncover a coded system in the church’s records to detect how priests accused of abuse were dealt with in a very large and convoluted system.

In the end, “Spotlight” is a very difficult film to watch, but an important film to watch nonetheless. It’s easily one of the best films of the year.

2015 Oscars: Tim Lammers predicts who will win, should win

Birdman and Michael Keaton

By Tim Lammers

The 87th annual Oscars are Sunday night, bringing to an end another controversial awards season. At this point with all the guild awards decided, it’s pretty clear who and what film will win the big prize, although I personally hope for some big upsets just to keep the perennial overlong night interesting.

As usual, my predictions aren’t a reflection of who and what I hope will win, but educated guesses based on voting trends throughout the awards season. Of course, no one — no one — is a sure thing (remember Juliette Binoche upsetting Lauren Bacall?), so included in the picks is a wild card in each major category.

Best Supporting Actress nominees:  Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild”; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”; Emma Stone, “Birdman”; Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods.”

Analysis: This category will likely signal the overrated “Boyhood’s” only big win for the night, but if any categories have upsets, it’s the supporting acting ones. Perennial nominee Streep generally bulldozes everyone she’s up against, and this year is no different. Arquette’s performance is the best of all those in “Boyhood,” but all the awards love for the movie is still mystifying.

Count Arquette’s win as the Academy’s tip of the cap to the year’s most gimmicky movie. A Dern win would be a salute to not one, but three Hollywood acting stalwarts: Dern and her parents Bruce Dern (who should have won for “Nebraska” last year) and Diane Ladd, but don’t hold your breath.

Will Win: Arquette.

Should Win: Streep.

Potential Upset: Dern.

Best Supporting Actor nominees: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”; Edward Norton, “Birdman”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”

Analysis: Not only has Simmons proven to be a great actor who has consistently delivered in his roles over the years, his turn as the vitriolic jazz conservatory conductor in “Whiplash” is hands-down the best nominated performance across all of the categories.

“Birdman” is shaping up to be this year’s awards juggernaut, and Norton — who is brilliant in the movie — could be a benefactor of that. Duvall, who is terrific as usual in “The Judge,” would be a shoo-in as a sentimental winner, but he already has an Oscar thanks to “Tender Mercies.”

Will Win: Simmons

Should Win: Simmons.

Potential Upset: Norton.

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Best Actress nominees: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”; Reese Witherspoon, “Wild.”

Analysis: With five Oscar nominations (including this year) to her credit, Moore is long-overdue. But this award isn’t being earned by Moore for sentimental purposes: Her turn as an early-onset Alzheimer’s disease patient is heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting, and one that stays with you long after the credits roll.

Cotillard (who previously upset Julie Christie, oddly enough, in Christie’s Alzheimer’s-themed movie “Away From Her”) and Witherspoon don’t have a chance because they’re won in the category before and it’s hard to repeat, and Jones, while great, is simply over-matched in the category. An upset for Pike’s ultimate ice queen role in “Gone Girl” would be a way to rectify the Academy huge oversights in several categories — including Best Picture and Best Director (for David Fincher) — in what is easily one of the best films of the year.

Will Win: Moore.

Should Win: Moore.

Potential Upset: Pike.

Best Actor nominees: Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”

Analysis: Keaton’s career performance in “Birdman” has dominated most of this year’s awards season, and since he’s sidestepped personal controversy (i.e., he’s said all the right things in his acceptance speeches and has been genuinely gracious) the award has been his to lose. Keaton is brilliant in the role with a fine mix of comedy and drama, but Cooper took the biggest risk with his moving, understated turn as late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

It’s not a flashy role, but yet somehow you can sense the inner-turmoil of Kyle as deals with the stress of the battlefield and suppressing his emotions on the home front. It’s an amazingly subtle role and a gutsy move for an Cooper since it flies in the face of Hollywood’s political ideas.

As much as Cooper deserves to win, the only possible person capable of upsetting Keaton is Redmayne, who gives a “My Left Foot” Daniel Day-Lewis-caliber performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” His unlikely Screen Actors Guild upset opened the door for a possible upset at the Oscars, but don’t bet on it. Carell’s and Cumberbatch’s nominations are well deserved, so don’t be surprised to see future noms, especially for the latter.

Will Win: Keaton.

Should Win: Cooper.

Potential Upset: Redmayne.

Best Picture nominees: “American Sniper”; “Birdman”; “Boyhood”; “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; “The Imitation Game”; “Selma”; “The Theory of Everything”; “Whiplash.”

Analysis: The race all along this awards season has appeared to be an even match between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” but then a surprising surge with “American Sniper” (and a $300 million North American box office) with a strong showing in the nominations suddenly made the race that much more interesting.

Conventional thinking at the moment points to a big night for “Birdman,” since it has taken top honors with the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America (for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – who will also win the Best Director Oscar) and the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble Award (the equivalent for a Best Picture prize) — so don’t be shocked when it when it wins the Best Picture Oscar.

As refreshing and inventive as “Birdman” is, remember 2015 as the year the chickens come home to roost on Hollywood. The Academy will appear completely out of touch with Middle America for not naming “American Sniper” its Best Picture; even more so if it goes the upset route and names the low-budget, gimmicky “Boyhood” as “the best.”

A film that rightfully puts the focus squarely on the American soldier and his or her families (and avoids the politics of war), “American Sniper” has had a profound emotional experience on viewers, and it will no doubt enrage them when it is passed over (watch out, Twitter!). Ultimately, if one film is going to make Hollywood stand up and listen to its audiences, this is the one, but they’re too afraid to honor a movie with ties to the right wing by default.

Will Win: “Birdman.”

Should Win: “American Sniper.”

Potential Upset: “Boyhood.”

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie reporter and author of the ebook “Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).”

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