Chris Lee

Dec. 03, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.

‘Conan’ producer: Arnold’s aging Barbarian faces self-doubt

When screenwriter-producer Chris Morgan met with Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall to pitch him a proposed sequel to “Conan the Barbarian,” the Governator required convincing on one matter above all others – and it had nothing to do with wearing a furry codpiece. At a time when Schwarzenegger, 65, is attempting to reclaim his throne in Hollywood after years stalking Sacramento’s corridors of power, why should he return to Conan? Why should he follow in his own footsteps to the pre-“Terminator” role that shot him to stardom? “To put yourself out there in your 60s? As Conan the Barbarian? I could see why he’d hesitate,” Morgan said. “You’re really putting yourself out there.” In the end, though, Morgan – whose screenwriting credits include the last four “Fast & the Furious” sequels and the hit 2008 Angelina Jolie thriller “Wanted” – convinced […]
Nov. 01, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Man with the Iron Fists’: Rapper RZA makes jump to film director

RZA (featured image)
Call it a case of life imitating martial arts. On the Shanghai set of the kung fu saga “The Man With the Iron Fists” last year, muscle-bound pro wrestler David Bautista and tae kwon do expert Rick Yune had come to loggerheads over how to best enact a fight sequence. The actors, portraying mortal enemies, seemed about ready to trade ax-hand strikes. Only one person could steer the action back toward the peace path: the movie’s writer, director and costar known as RZA, a hip-hop renaissance man who was the musical brains behind the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling rap collective Wu-Tang Clan. No stranger to transforming chaos into chi energy, RZA (government name: Robert Diggs) regaled Yune and Bautista with stories about his nine-man hip-hop crew’s legendary infighting. “I used some of the Wu-Tang stories to defuse situations,” RZA recalls. “I told […]
Oct. 26, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan prepping for his ‘Unforgiven’ turn

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from the 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian," left, and during his term as governor of California, right. (Reuters; Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Before he was the Terminator, he was Conan the Barbarian. Now, some 30 years after his screen breakthrough in “Conan the Barbarian,” the former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed on to a new movie project that would see him reclaim his warrior’s throne. Universal confirmed today that it is moving forward on “The Legend of Conan,” as the new movie will be titled (with a planned release in 2014). The project arrives as the latest splashy star vehicle for the Governator, who inhabits a small part in two “Expendables” films, will be next seen as a small-town sheriff battling a drug cartel in “The Last Stand,” set for release early next year, and is currently filming “Ten,” a David Ayer-directed thriller in which he portrays a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Created in the 1930s by pulp author Robert […]
Oct. 25, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

Luis Prieto captures slice of drug scene in ‘Pusher’ remake

Luis Prieto (featured image)
In director Luis Prieto’s experience, when you set out to shoot a druggy crime drama in London’s legendarily cocaine-fueled nightclub world, odds are you’re going to find yourself surrounded by more than a few people sniffing actual Bolivian marching powder — not just lines of prop coke for the camera’s sake. He made that discovery while filming “Pusher,” an English-language remake of 1996’s Danish gangster smash of the same name directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the Scandinavian auteur behind “Drive,” last year’s critically hailed, Ryan Gosling-starring noir-thriller. In “Pusher,” which arrives in theaters Friday, Brit actor Richard Coyle portrays Frank, a mid-level dope dealer who’s uprooted from his comfortable existence of booze, strippers and key bumps after botching a major score. The character must raise 55,000 pounds tout de suite to repay a drug debt or find himself in the […]
Jan. 16, 2011 | 8:50 a.m.

‘Green Hornet’ director Michel Gondry: ‘It’s not really my movie’

Micehl Gondry at premiere of "The Green Hornet"(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
  Judging from the belly laughs at theaters, it’s one of the funniest scenes in the action-comedy “The Green Hornet”:  Newly empowered as masked crusaders, party-boy media scion Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) and his trusty manservant Kato (Taiwanese pop star and action-movie heartthrob Jay Chou) head out into Los Angeles to battle the bad guys. As their Chrysler Imperial lurches into traffic, Kato drops the needle on a turntable in the backseat. And Reid begins to rap along to Coolio’s R&B tinged 1995 criminal anthem “Gangsta’s Paradise.” With its maudlin take on urban nihilism and mellifluous hook (courtesy of the singer L.V.), the song assumes buffoonish overtones with its new context — a pump-up theme for superheroes on their work commute.  “Hornet’s” distributor Columbia Pictures saw the song’s marketing potential, making it a cornerstone of one of its TV spots for the film. But to […]
Dec. 23, 2010 | 8:20 p.m.

Daft Punk: We didn’t sell out for ‘Tron: Legacy’ soundtrack

Daft Punk. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
For a story in this Sunday’s Calendar, our sister blog Pop & Hiss scored a rare — well, let’s be real– a  just-this-side-of-impossible-to-land interview with Daft Punk to get the lowdown on how the Grammy-winning Parisian dance music duo went about creating the chart-topping soundtrack for the sci-fi epic “Tron: Legacy.” From the word go, almost everything about the process went counter-intuitively: band mates Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo didn’t want the job when it was first offered to them, they balked when Disney Studios asked them to collaborate with a bigger-name film score composer and then rejected the kind of music everyone expected them to record for “Tron” — rave-y, four-on-the-floor Big Beat electronica — in lieu of more symphonic compositions that forefront an 85-piece orchestra and back-burner electronic musical cues. “Especially in the beginning, ["Tron: Legacy" director] […]
Dec. 07, 2010 | 1:49 p.m.

‘Tron: Legacy’: Daft Punk rocks the grid with ‘Derezzed’

Daft Punk
WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: On Dec. 17, the Disney film “Tron: Legacy” picks up the story of the 1982 movie “Tron,” which was neither a critical nor commercial success but somehow still echoes in pop culture as an early signpost of the digital era’s glowing frontier. “Tron” is remembered more for its ideas and images (and its namesake video game) than for its story or characters, and that is a challenge presented to this new film, which is directed by Joseph Kosinski and stars Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. We’re counting down to the release date and today’s post is on the film’s soundtrack. For fanboys as well as fans of the Parisian electronica duo Daft Punk, the “Tron: Legacy” teaser trailer released in October did double-duty. It certainly hyped the movie sequel to 1982’s video game odyssey “Tron,” but the […]
Sept. 30, 2010 | 2:34 p.m.

Daft Punk gives ‘Tron: Legacy’ a pulse and power [updated]

daftpunk2b
Los Angele Times pop music writer Chris Lee was among the journalists who got a sneak peek of “Tron: Legacy” footage on Wednesday and he wrote a special report for Hero Complex on the special backbeat of the film…  For the last two years, Parisian Big Beat electronica experts Daft Punk have retreated from live performances to toil over and perfect the soundtrack for December’s sci-fi epic “Tron: Legacy.” But a holiday movie showcase on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank on Wednesday revealed something else about the duo’s participation. Included in 23 minutes of the still-unfinished movie that the studio screened: a Daft Punk cameo. In the scene, a pale white dandy called Castor portrayed by Michael Sheen (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon” ) reclines on a small divan waving a translucent walking stick. He glances over to a glass partition where two suspiciously familiar-looking […]
May 29, 2010 | 9:46 p.m.

Rampage Jackson brings a bad attitude to ‘A-Team’: ‘Acting is kind of gay’

Chris Lee went on the set of “The A-Team” and found out firsthand that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson lives up to his nickname. This is a longer version of the Calendar cover story that will appear in the Sunday edition of the Times.  Talk about a Bad Attitude. As early December darkness fell on the Vancouver set of Fox’s $100-million movie reboot of “ Pride of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and a former light-heavyweight champ (he is scheduled to fight May 29 for the title in Las Vegas) — a guy whose day job consists of beating the toughest men in the world into either submission or unconsciousness — Jackson stood in the middle of his trailer spewing invective with a glint of real menace in his eye. At issue: a movie crew member had wandered in on this final day of […]
May 22, 2010 | 3:47 p.m.

Hollywood whitewash? ‘Airbender’ and ‘Prince of Persia’ anger fans with ethnic casting

This is a longer version of Chris Lee’s cover story in this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section.   Since its release, the video game franchise Prince of Persia has become notable for the acrobatic grace of its dagger-wielding, balloon pants-wearing hero as well as for what the games didn’t do: affront gamers of Middle Eastern and Muslim descent with stereotypical depictions of people from the region  as terrorists or religious zealots. Independent filmmaker and blogger Jehanzeb Dar, to name one such player, remembers his favorable first reaction to the swashbuckling action game, which is set amid the sands and ancient cities of Persia (as ancient Iran is known) and follows a hero with a magic sword caught between forces of good and evil. “You could see clearly the protagonist had distinct Middle Eastern features and darker skin,” said Dar, 26, […]
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