Tag Archives: Neil Patrick Harris

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing

I really don’t understand the bad mojo this wonderful film gets. There’s a handful of films out there where humans either shrink themselves or are subspecies that are already small and many approaches have been made from wacky Big Hollywood comedy (Honey I Shrunk The Kids) to quaint whimsy (the varied adaptations of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers) to glib SciFi (InnerSpace) and beyond. Alexander Payne achieves something unique to its being in Downsizing though, a film that doesn’t fit any pre-existing template and sits squarely in unexpected terrain.

It’s the future, but there’s still Longhorn Steakhouses and as Matt Damon’s Paul picks up dinner from one he sees a world changing new broadcast: scientists have successfully shrunk a human being down to tennis ball size. Fast forward a few years and it has become an institution in which people undergo the treatment and live at their itty bitty size in utopian bliss to reduce impact on the environment. Paul goes for it, his wife (Kristin Wiig) has second thoughts and he’s now alone in the world at roughly the size of a rodent. He makes quaint friendships with the two adorable Eastern European hedonists (Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier sheepishly steak the show) who live next door to him as well as the Vietnamese maid (Hong Chau) who cleans their pad. The film meanders, and refreshingly so as we languidly get to know this ragtag team of tiny folk and join them on a wistful international voyage to explore the origins of this strange breakthrough. Others breeze in and out in a surprisingly eclectic supporting roster that includes Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Rolf Lassgard, James Van Der Beek, Neil Patrick Harris, Don Lake, Margo Martindale and Joaquim De Almeida. I love Damon’s character because he’s just this naive average dude and, as Waltz sneakily puts it, kind of a schmuck but in an endearing way. The relationship he blunders into with Hong Chau’s Ngoc is simultaneously bizarre, touching, hysterical and heartfelt. Theirs pasts are both terminally tragic in different ways and they couldn’t be more mismatched but it somehow works, and Chau’s fiercely funny performance is a thing of affecting beauty. It strikes me as odd that this film didn’t get received better and I don’t know what to chalk it up to other than it perhaps being pretty unconventional in terms of narrative and style. It feels like a cult classic in the making, it’s fresh, unpredictable and works in every venture it tries and trust me there’s a few. Everyone I’ve watched this with has left enchanted and I really hope it’ll endure as time goes by.

-Nate Hill

Robot Cops, Giant Bugs and Big Snakes in the Jungle: An Interview with Ed Neumeier by Kent Hill

 

 

I remember vividly the first time a saw RoboCop. Watching it with the cousins in my bedroom and my mother walking past, hearing a flurry of coarse language, then sticking her head through the door to see what we were viewing. My cousin Rick, was good at putting spin on such incidents, so that we might avoid reprisal and be allowed to keep the movie going. Needless to say, that first time, I was pretty much doing what Rick told my mother I was doing – I was waiting for RoboCop to show up and not listening to the foul language at all. Well, maybe just a little.

Then we have Starship Troopers for which I blew off a lecture at university to go see. The prospect of this large-scale, B-movie flavored extravaganza was too good to pass up. I walked out of the picture exhilarated and so glad I skipped an hour long spiel on The Trojan Women to partake in this, the third time a director named Paul Verhoeven had blown my joyous, cinema-obsessive brains out.

 

But there’s another character responsible for this pair of uber-cool films and that is their scribe, Ed Neumeier, who as a young man wanted nothing more than to make movies. He, at that time his his life, had had his own mind blown when he learned that in his home town of Marin County a man named George Lucas was making movies. “It is possible,” he said to himself and thus took off for California. Once there, after finishing college, spending time as reader for the studios and a short time as an executive, he had an idea for a story that would eventually become a cinema classic. He joined forces with another filmmaker by the name of Michael Miner and together they got down to writing RoboCop.

 

The film would go on to become a phenomenon, spawning two sequels, a remake, and TV series and even an animated series (and a it-looks-really-cool documentary, RoboDoc). The film gave Ed the start he was looking for and introduced him to the director (Verhoeven) with whom he would mount his next assault at cinematic glory. It would take place beyond the stars on planets menaced by giant insects in their hundreds and thousands. Based on the Robert Heinlein novel of the same name, Ed would bring his love of science fiction and personal blend of humor and action to Troopers, and, for the second time, he and Paul were on a winner which would have sequels, Troopers 3 which he himself would direct, as well as animated films, Traitor of Mars is set to be released, comics and games.

 

Yes folks, Ed Neumeier is indeed a world builder and he’s working in the movie business and living the dream. He is cooking up a new film, and we that have grown up watching and loving the movies he has thus far penned, (yes, I kinda like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid) look forward to see where this talented screenwriter is going to take us next. Whether it be alien bugs, cyborg cops or those oversized killer serpents you don’t want to have lunch with, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say, we’re in good hands.

Here he is folks, the man, the one and only . . . Ed Neumeier.