Monday, December 17, 2007

Review: I Am Legend

In I Am Legend, Will Smith, as a U.S. Army officer who may be the last man on earth, drives at top speeds through the concrete valleys of Manhattan, which have been deserted for so long that the cracks in the roads now sprout scruffy green weeds. For sheer eeriness, that effect — the metropolis as vacant lot — far outdoes the desolate Times Square of Vanilla Sky, and Smith is the perfect actor (maybe almost too perfect) to play a survivor who has no one to talk to but his dog and himself. Smith has always worn his self-sufficiency like a suit of armor, often treating costars as sounding boards; he brings that jaunty insularity to the abandoned canyons of a trashed Twilight Zone New York. Here, though, he also draws on the vulnerability he showed last year in The Pursuit of Happyness, suggesting a man whose sanity is beginning to fray.

Based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel, I Am Legend is a spooky-hokey postapocalyptic thriller built around our fear of contagion (the premise is that a ''miracle'' cancer cure has wiped out the earth's population). It's a movie that might have fit snugly into the zeitgeist had it been made in the early '90s, or maybe 1971 — when, in fact, it was made as The Omega Man, a somber but colossally silly Charlton Heston thriller. Let's be honest: The peril of infectious disease, while quite real, is hardly the anxiety of the moment. In spirit, I Am Legend is caught in some abstractly doom-laden sci-fi past. For what it is, though, the film is well-done, a case of suspenseful competence trumping questionable relevance.

There's one scary sequence in which Smith follows his dog into a warehouse, but as soon as you see the prancing, gnashing, veiny mutant humanoids who have taken up refuge there, you think, ''Okay, it's a fake-demon CGI movie.'' And so it is, though at least it never becomes a soulless monster-hunt videogame like Resident Evil. Smith, who keeps the movie grounded, isn't just surviving — he's on a mission. In The Omega Man, Heston faced a cult of white-faced hippie mutants in sunglasses and medieval monks' robes. Sometimes, CGI really is an advance.

Confident in Goldsman and eager to stay in business with Lawrence, Warner Bros. soon announced that Legend was back. Very quickly, the duo hit upon a big idea: relocating the tale from Los Angeles to New York. Goldsman, a Big Apple native, felt the new setting lent it some timely resonance and differentiated it from its predecessors. By Christmas 2005, he had a script and sent it to Smith, for whom he had co-written I, Robot. The actor dug it enough to come back, even if he felt the writing wasn't quite there yet. ''It's a $100 million-plus movie where the lead doesn't talk for the first hour,'' says Smith. ''It's really just me and a dog. That's tough. We desperately had to get in there and figure out how to make it riveting.'' That took work: improvising scenes, reintroducing elements from Protosevich's earlier script (the scribe shares credit with Goldsman on the finished film), meeting with experts on infectious diseases and solitary confinement, and exploring earlier films in which an isolated soul struggles to survive. In other words, says Smith, ''we took a big hint from Tom Hanks in Cast Away.''

I Am Legend finally went into production in the fall of 2006, and for six months, it turned New York into a studio backlot. The film's congestion-causing presence wasn't always welcome. ''By the conclusion of this shoot,'' says Goldsman, ''I wouldn't tell people what I did for a living because they'd go, 'Oh, you're that motherf---er.''' During six frigid nights last January, Legend took over the Brooklyn Bridge to shoot a flashback of people fleeing Manhattan. The six-minute sequence required 1,000 extras, the construction of a fake pier, and the assistance of the Coast Guard and the National Guard. At one point, Smith warmed up the frosty extras by performing his 1991 hit ''Summertime.'' ''We had a good time out there that night,'' laughs the actor.

Six months later, Lawrence and his effects team are holed up at Sony Imageworks in L.A., eradicating all the people in New York — the Fifth Avenue rubberneckers, the workers in their skyscraper windows, the cars moving in the background — and adding animals and vegetation to create a New York reclaimed by nature. The director's visual inspiration? John Ford Westerns. ''We didn't want to make an apocalyptic movie where the landscape felt apocalyptic,'' he says. ''A lot of the movie takes place on a beautiful day. There's something magical about the empty city as opposed to dark and scary.''

Also on Lawrence's to-do list: finishing Legend's monsters. Their appearance is one of the film's two closely guarded secrets. In fact, nobody can even agree on what to call them. To Goldsman, they are ''the Infected'' (as in 28 Days Later). Smith's character refers to them as ''dark seekers,'' while the actor himself often wants to call them zombies. They're not exactly vampires either, though Goldsman will say that they have vampirelike drives. As for that other secret, it concerns the film's cryptic tagline, ''The Last Man on Earth Is Not Alone.'' A coy Goldsman says that Smith represents ''85 percent of our cast,'' and that while a Web rumor about Johnny Depp making an extended cameo is not true, another recognizable face does pop up in the film.

Even without a Depp drop-in, Smith is sure Legend hits that sweet spot he's long sought. More important, the film lives up to a new standard of his. ''With The Pursuit of Happyness, I turned a corner,'' he says. ''My movies need to mean something. I Am Legend is essentially the story of Job, the idea that life is awful if you can't connect to the possibility that there's a reason for everything. To have those ideas at work in a movie with special effects — that's magic.'' Thinking back to that day of shooting on Fifth Avenue, Smith says he didn't mind the gawkers, especially now that Legend has given him a taste of true solitude. ''As much as you wish people would just get the hell out of your face...that is so not true,'' he says. ''Because if everyone really did, that would be a miserable existence.''

Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend, the third cinematic version of Richard Matheson's novel, has been in improvement for a awfully long time. Originally slated to star Arnold Schwarzenegger and be heading for by Ridley Scott, this film has kicked around for so long that by the time it has to end with reached the screen, Schwarzenegger is out of the production altogether and the director is someone whose career in music videos hadn't even started when Michael Bay was being touted as possible replacement for Scott. Nevertheless, all these years later, we finally have this new version of I Am Legend, starring Will Smith as the Last Man on Earth and directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine).

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I assume it's a regular fantasy - believing that you're alone on the planet. The reality, if it ever happened, would be more the stuff of nightmares. When Matheson wrote I Am Legend; from which this film takes its name, its main nature, and certain events and themes; he was attracted in exploring the hard aspects of what this kind of survival might really mean. Loneliness can drive a person slowly insane even if they guard against it. That lies at the core of I Am Legend - the mental distress endured by the character. That, and the vampires.

Matheson's book has often been recognized as the "inspiration" for many of the latter-day zombie cinema; his "vampires" have a kinship with George A. Romero's dead. Cinematically, the creatures of this film most manifestly echo (perhaps because of the circumstances) those in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. In fact, there are frequent similarities between that movie and I Am Legend, not the least of which is that both feature a situation in which an Judgment Day occurs because of a virus and those who don't die turn into slavering, crazed monsters.

I Am Legend opens in 2012 New York City - the the majority deserted position on Earth. Kudos to the special effects wizards for using computers to so successfully depopulate the city. It's eerie inspection such emptiness. New York has a human residents of one: Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith), an ex-military scientist who was to some level culpable for what happened to his race. The virus was initially hyped as a cure for cancer (by Emma Thompson in an unbilled cameo) but it mutated and became a killer. The creatures it transform can't emerge in the sunlight, so they stay hidden during the day only to come out and seek fresh blood between dusk and dawn. In that period, Robert and his exact dog, Sam, are padlocked within his residence. They hunt by day and hide by night.

Robert is lonely and his aloneness is eroding his sanity. He talks to Sam as if she was a human. He speaks to department store mannequins he has clad in clothing. He rents DVDs of old news shows not so a great deal so he can revisit the past but so he can hear individual voices and pretend he's not alone. In many ways, it's how Tom Hanks survived in Cast Away - by making a volleyball, Wilson, his best friend. Robert has set a broadcast to shout out his location on every station on the AM dial, but so far, no one has come looking. He uses a private lab in his apartment to continue research on the disease, always searching for the elusive cure. If he could save one vampire - turn it back into a human - he would no longer be alone. Ghosts of his past haunt his dreams, and it's through those tortured flashbacks that we gain some knowledge of what the last hours were like for our class.

The original two-thirds of I Am Legend are bigger to the fast-paced, action-oriented ultimate 35 minutes. There's a key event that occur just past the hour blotch and, after that, the movie feels more like a typical Hollywood adventure than the pensive, thought-provoking production that graces the screens for the first 65 minutes. The finale, while not a absolute cop-out, diverges from that of Matheson's book and feels a little too convenient and facile. For most of the movie, character drives plot. The closer we get to the conclusion, the further plot drives character.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sara Jean Underwood



"I thought I was going to puke," she told The Associated Press. "I thought I was going to faint. I thought I was going to cry. It was every emotion you can imagine one would feel when given such an honor."

Being named Playboy magazine's 2007 Playmate of the Year made Sara Jean Underwood feel sick.

"I thought I was going to puke," she told The Associated Press. "I thought I was going to faint. I thought I was going to cry. It was every emotion you can imagine one would feel when given such an honor."

Sara Jean Underwood (born March 26, 1984 in Scappoose, Oregon) is an American model and student. She primary appear as the face model for the October 2005 issue of Playboy. She went on to grow to be Playmate of the Month for July 2006 and 2007 Playmate of the Year in the June 2007 issue of the men's journal.Underwood is a leading at Oregon State University. She graduate from Scappoose High School in 2002.

Underwood appeared on the cover of the October 2005 issue of Playboy holding a football with nothing on but bodypaint. This was done to simulate her wearing a jersey similar in design to the ones worn by the Oregon State Beavers football team. She also wore matching painted bikini briefs. Underwood was in the Girls of Pac 10 illustrative in the same issue.

Underwood appear in episode #2 of E! reality TV series, The Girls Next Door, as a friend hopeful of having her check gun down taken at Playboy Studio West. Subsequently, she was given the title of Miss July 2006. She has since appear in several more episodes, attending events at the Playboy Mansion and hanging out with the girls. In a season 3 episode aired on May 6, 2007, it was open that Underwood, along with fellow Playboy models Holly Madison and Alison Waite, previously worked for Hooters restaurants. Underwood worked at the Beaverton, Oregon place.

On June 7, 2007, a group of Oregon State University student taking a Women's Studies lessons, fashioned a poster celebrating Underwood's completion of becoming Playboy's 2007 Playmate of the Year. The poster was hung outside Bexel Hall for a few hours before being taken down by Oregon State University staff. The poster was mirror after the "Achievement" posters that line Campus Way at the academia. The poster read, "Sara Jean: First OSU Beaver Playmate of the Year, Playboy June '07, OSU CENTERFOLD, People, Ideas, Innovation." It should be noted that the first Beavers playmate of the year was actually Jodi Ann Paterson, in 2000.

Underwood appear as a pirate wench in Epic Movie, next to with Playmates Qiana Chase, Irina Voronina and Jillian Grace.

As founder and editor of the journal, he helps select the annual honoree with advice from his promotions and photo staffs and oodles of input from readers. And what they're looking for, he said, has been "essentially the same" since the first buddy of the Year was crowned in 1960: "Women are a little healthier, a little slimmer, but it's always been, and was from the very beginning, the girl next door."
Playboy photographers first met her as a college student when they visited Oregon State University looking for candidates for the "Girls of the Pac 10" pictorial. She ended up on the cover of the October 2005 issue. She went on to pose for the centerfold of the July 2006 issue.

Underwood said she never modeled before appearing in Playboy.

"I didn't think I was pretty enough," she said. "I'm 5'3," short, freckle-faced. I'm from Oregon. It wasn't a thought in my mind that I could do something like that."

Hefner described her as an "all-American beauty," but that's not all that's required to be Playmate of the Year.
"It's incredible to get to experience a different life," she said. "I was in a very small bubble where I came from."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

'I Am Legend' Director to Tackle Palahniuk's 'Survivor' Next


Good news for Chuck Palahniuk fans everywhere: It seems his novel Survivor is finally working its way to the big screen. I haven't attended a Palahniuk reading in awhile (always a fun time, and I recommend it to anyone), but last time I did he fielded a bunch of questions about Survivor. Back before 9/11 hit, Survivor was gearing up to become Palahniuk's next big-screen adaptation following Fight Club. But seeing as the novel deals with a guy who hijacks a plane for the sole purpose of crashing it, plans to shoot the film were scrapped indefinitely. Now, however, it seems I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence has stepped up to the plate, and in a new interview over at Collider, he talks about finally bringing Survivor to the multiplex.

When asked about his future projects, Lawrence replied, "I'm working on a book "Survivor" by Chuck Palahniuk that I'm working on with a friend. It's a great book. I love that book. So we've been working on that." Sounds like it's just in the adapting stage right now, but it's definitely better than the development hell stage it's been stuck in for the past few years. Survivor is a weird story to adapt, and one that will most likely have to go the indie route (a la Choke): It revolves around Tender Branson, a "media-made messiah" and member of a suicide cult who uses his girlfriend's psychic powers to predict the future and become a star. I haven't read it in a long time, and I forgot most of it, but remember it being one of my favorites next to Choke, which will premiere this year at Sundance. Should be fascinating to watch this one develop, and we'll bring you the news as soon as it's available.

I Am Legend by Nick Schager

I Am Legend's finest scene, military scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith), the last human survivor of an apocalyptic virus, visits a Manhattan video rental store and begins talking to mannequins, all of which have been carefully arranged in a facsimile of an everyday social scene now extinct in the desolate metropolis. It's an unsettling vision of both Neville's desperate craving for interpersonal interaction and his budding psychosis, sold by Smith with his usual brand of engaging larger-than-life emoting. His character's monumental struggle to remain optimistic and sane in an empty world is hauntingly complemented by eerie panoramas of deserted New York City—grass growing through cracks in the asphalt, abandoned cars crowding streets, remnants of efforts to combat the deadly contagion—yet it never quite gains the traction that it should, in part because director Francis Lawrence is more interested in the hungry nocturnal creatures known as "dark seekers" who crave Neville and his trusty dog Sam's flesh. The film takes noteworthy liberties with the influential Richard Matheson novel upon which it's based (and which set the solitary-man-under-siege template for everything from Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later), changing Neville's enemies from vampires to mutants and moderately shifting the story's focus from internal to external struggles. These alterations aren't the disaster they might have been thanks to the big, pulpy ominousness of early passages, in which Neville hunts deer in Times Square and attempts to locate Sam in a pitch-black building crawling with infected beings. Yet the decision to make the dark seekers wholly computer-generated proves ill-advised, as it causes them to seem not like corrupted vestiges of our race but, instead, like monsters from another time and place (or movie, like The Mummy). Their unreal insubstantiality saps the eventual assault on Neville's heavily fortified home of any visceral ferocity. But unwise use of CGI is eventually no more debilitating a defect than I Am Legend's wayward third act, which begins with Neville cornily reciting lines from Shrek (whose titular, lonely character he relates to) and crooning Bob Marley, and then swiftly devolves into a morass of shabby, barely developed spirituality in which Neville learns to believe in God's plan and, as a result, finds the strength and courage to transform himself into a modern-day Jesus.

Will Smith Interview, I am Legend

MoviesOnline sat down with Will Smith at the Los Angeles press day for his new movie, "I Am Legend,” directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman based on the novel by Richard Matheson. The film also stars Alice Braga, Dash Mihok, and a German Shepard named Abbey.

Robert Neville (Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable…and manmade. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City…and maybe the world. But he is not alone. He is surrounded by "the Infected”—victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path.

For three years, Neville has spent his days scavenging for food and supplies and faithfully sending out radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. All the while, the Infected lurk in the shadows, watching Neville’s every move, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind’s last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But his blood is also what The Infected hunt, and Neville knows he is outnumbered and quickly running out of time.

Will Smith has enjoyed success in a career encompassing hit films, his own television series and multi-platinum records. He earned his first Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann’s acclaimed biopic "Ali.” Smith more recently starred in and produced the critically acclaimed, true-life drama "The Pursuit of Happyness.” His performance brought him his second Academy Award nomination, his fourth Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nomination for Best Actor.

In 2005, Smith starred in and produced the hit romantic comedy "Hitch,” directed by Andy Tennant. The year prior, he starred in and executive produced the sci-fi smash "I, Robot,” adapted from the book by Isaac Asimov and directed by Alex Proyas. Also that year, he voiced the central character of Oscar in the blockbuster animated feature "Shark Tale,” opposite Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro.

In July 2003, he reunited with Martin Lawrence for "Bad Boys II,” the sequel to their 1995 hit "Bad Boys.” Smith had earlier starred in two blockbusters that topped the box office in back-to-back summers. In 1996, he took on alien invaders in Roland Emmerich’s science fiction actioner "Independence Day.” The following year, he starred with Tommy Lee Jones in Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi comedy "Men in Black,” for which Smith also recorded the Grammy-winning title song. In 2002, Smith, Jones and Sonnenfeld reteamed for the sequel "Men in Black II.”

Will Smith is a fabulous person and a multi-talented artist and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us:

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about the experience of shooting a large scale production in New York City and what that was like?

WILL SMITH: Shooting in New York, especially something on this level, is difficult. I would say percentage wise it’s the most amount of middle fingers I’ve ever received in my career. I was like, ‘I’m used to people liking me, when I come (laughs) to town it’s fun, so I thought ‘middle fingers?’ I was starting to think ‘f-you’ was my name. (laughs) We shut down six blocks of Fifth Avenue on a Monday morning. That was probably poor logistics, that was poor planning. You realize that you have never actually seen an empty shot of New York. When we were doing it, it’s chilling to walk down the middle of Fifth Avenue. There is never an opportunity to walk down the middle of Fifth Avenue. At 2 o’clock in the morning on Sunday you can’t walk down the middle of Fifth Avenue. What happened is that it just created such a creepy energy. There are iconic buildings, there is a shot in the movie with the UN, there is Broadway, and it puts such an eerie, icky, kind of feeling on the movie when you see those shots. Logistically, it was a nightmare, but it absolutely created something that you can’t do with green screen, and you can’t do shooting another city for New York.

MoviesOnline: How significant do you think it is that the last man alive is African American?
WILL SMITH: (Laughs) First and last, baby. (laughs) It’s funny, it’s almost a metaphysical idea for me. I rarely think about that until someone brings it up. Then I say ‘Oh, wow. That never actually crossed my mind in that way.’ I kind of feel like, for me at least, the acknowledgement of those kinds of ideas put a weird boundary on my thoughts. I can’t allow myself to be a part of it because it sort of makes me think smaller, if that makes any sense. All that to say that I’ve never really thought about the significance of that with the film.



MoviesOnline: What about the loneliness of your character, Robert Neville, and the madness he begins to feel? Basically, you are acting for the first half of the movie by yourself.
WILL SMITH: It was such a wonderful exploration of myself. What happens is that you get in a situation where you don’t have people to create the stimulus for you to respond to. What happens is that you start creating the stimulus and the response. There is a connection with yourself, where your mind starts to drift to in those types of situations, that you learn things about yourself that you would never even imagination. In order to prepare for that, we sat with former POWs and we sat with people who had been in solitary confinement. That was the framework for creating the idea. They said, ‘The first thing is a schedule. You will not survive in solitary if you don’t schedule everything.’ We talked to Geronimo Ji-Jaga, formerly Geronimo Pratt of the Black Panthers, and he was in solitary for over three months. He said that you plan things like cleaning your nails.
You will take two hours, which you have to because it’s on the schedule, which you have to just clean your nails. He said that he spent about six weeks and he trained roaches to bring him food. I’m sitting there like, ‘Oh my God.’ The idea of where your mind goes to defend itself. Either he really did train the roaches, which is huge, or his mind needed that to survive. Either way, you put that on camera and it’s genius. For me, that was the thing, to be able to get into the mental space where whatever the truth was for Robert Neville didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered is what he saw and what he believed. How many people picked up on the mannequin shot at the end with the little turn of the head? You saw that? There are probably like six or seven of those in the movie. It was such a great exploration of what happens to the human mind that is trying to defend itself. For me, I’m a better actor for having had to create both sides of the scene, with no dialogue.

MoviesOnline: A couple of questions here, You have had a passion for "I Am Legend” since you were going to do it with director Michael Bay. Why has Neville stayed with you for the past twelve or thirteen years? Also, the grey hair you have in the film, was that a special effect or the real Will Smith?

WILL SMITH: That was a special effect. We had the world’s best grey hair people come in from -- uh, they were uh, from Europe."

MoviesOnline: The cover of "Men’s Vogue” eluded to the idea that you may have converted to Scientology (like pals Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes)?
WILL SMITH: No, wow, that’s what you got? (laughs) Well, that is a broad array of questions. On the first one, Robert Neville staying with me this long. I think with movies I am really connecting to the Joseph Campbell idea of the collective unconscious. There are things that we all dream, there are things that each one of us has thought, that connect to life, death, and sex.
There are things that are beyond language. To me, this is one of those concepts, that you have been on the freeway many times and wished that everybody was dead. (laughs) There have been times where things have gone and you just wish you were by yourself. You don’t need any of these assholes. You just want to be by yourself. That coupled with, that separation from people, that being ripped away from people, being separated, connected with the dark and the unknown of the dark, and how we would fare against whatever is in that realm of the unknown is a really primal idea. I couldn’t always articulate it like that but I’ve loved this concept because it connects to ideas that a four year old can understand.

MoviesOnline: And, the grey hair.

WILL SMITH: Yes, that is a European, they are, GHI, or Grey Hair International and they just do that, because this is what it normally is. (laughs) I can prove it! I can prove it! (laughs) As far as Scientology. I don’t necessarily believe in organized religion. I was raised in a Baptist household, went to a Catholic church, lived in a Jewish neighborhood, and had the biggest crush on the Muslim girls from one neighborhood over. Tom (Cruise) introduced me to the ideas. I’m a student of world religion, so to me, it’s hugely important to have knowledge and to understand what people are doing. What are all the big ideas? What are people talking about? I believe that my connection to my higher power is separate from everybody’s. I don’t believe that the Muslims have all the answers. I don’t believe the Christians have all the answer, or the Jews have all the answers, so I love my God, my higher power, but it’s mine and mine alone. I create my connection and I decide how my connection is going to be.

MoviesOnline: What was it like working with your daughter Willow (Smith)?
WILL SMITH: You kind of don’t work with Willow, you work for Willow. (laughs) It’s interesting, Jada (Pinkett-Smith), and I debate the age old debate of nature versus nurture. Is it because two actors went to Mexico and drank some tequila and made a baby? Does that make the baby an actor? Or, did she grow up in a house where that is what is in her house, that is just the life, and that’s the experience that she knows. When I look at Willow, I just believe that it has to be neither one of those. There has to be something else. She just knows (a glass drops). See? That’s the problem, see? A black man starts to make a good point and you got to keep him down. Trying to keep me down, I get it, I get it. How often does the soundman make that much noise? (laughs) With Willow, she just loves it. We watched, I don’t remember the building, but we were shooting the bridge sequence.
There is a building that had a temperature gauge on it and we watched it. You started at sunset, and it was probably twenty-nine degrees or something. Then we watched it go down to one, and then negative. Willow is out there, she has her stuff on, and she’s cold. She is getting a little irritable. She looks at me and says, ‘Daddy, I don’t care how low it goes, I’m going to finish.’ I was like, ‘Wow!’ I said, ‘That’s good baby, because Daddy is leaving if it go any lower than that one.’ She just wants it, she has a drive, an energy, and she just connects to human emotion. I think a big part of it is probably Jaden. After ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and she saw what Jaden did, she thought, ‘I want that.’ (laughs) The night we told Willow that she got the role, because we make our kids audition and all of that, we don’t do the whole nepotism thing, so Jaden was sitting where you are. I’m Willow. We always call the family in and we announce all the good things that happen with everybody in the house and everybody has to share in it. Willow is there, Jaden and I are here, and Willow is behind her. We say, ‘Everybody, we just want to congratulate Willow. She got, ‘I am Legend’.’ She immediately turns around to Jaden and smiles and I went ‘What’s that? What was that?’ Never had she talked about any feelings she was having, but it was like ‘Okay, I’m plotting on you dude.’

MoviesOnline: You’ve had a lot of experience with saving the world in "Independence Day” and "Men In Black.” (laughs)

WILL SMITH: I missed this time. (laughs)

MoviesOnline: What would you do in a real life disaster? Have you ever had to play the hero in the real world?
WILL SMITH: That is always a tough question. That is what is interesting about playing characters like this. You get to explore and wonder how you would react. For me, ‘Ali’ was the greatest time of asking myself that question. When Ali didn’t step forward because they wouldn’t call him Muhammad Ali, and he knew he was going to jail, he knew what the situation was going to be, but still he couldn’t step forward. I just remember thinking, in that moment, ‘What would I do?’ I just don’t know if I would be enough man to give up everything I have right now, the way Ali did, for that principle. When I look at Robert Neville, I think, ‘What was there to live for? What was there to hope for?
To wake up everyday and try to restore something that is good and gone?’ I like to believe that I would put my chest up and stand forward, just march on and continue to fight for the future of humanity. I would probably find a bridge and say ‘I’m coming to join you Elizabeth.’ (laughs) It’s a tough question, and I guess the answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t think so. You want to be tested to know what you would do, but at [the same time] you really don’t want to be tested. That is sort of the space that I have lived in with quite a few of the roles I have played.



MoviesOnline: Which one of your kids demanded more money, Jaden or Willow? Are you planning to work with either of them in any film soon?

WILL SMITH: Jaden, we say when we look at Jaden and Willow, that Jaden is Johnny Depp. He just wants to do good work, he doesn’t care what money he gets. He doesn’t care if people see it or don’t see it. He loves acting, he just wants to make good movies. Willow is Paris Hilton. (laughs) Willow wants to be on TV. (laughs) We are managing both of those in our household.

MoviesOnline: How attached did you get to Samantha, the dog in "I Am Legend?”

WILL SMITH: Oh, Abbey is the dog’s real name. When I was probably nine years old, I had a dog Trixie. It was a white golden retriever that got hit by a car. So now I refuse, I have had no animals. ‘Jada, you can have the dogs you want, the kids can have the dogs they want, but I’m not putting myself emotionally connected to a dog anymore.’ Then, they brought that damn Abbey on the set. You say a ‘smart’ dog. It got to the point with Abbey that she would be playing, playing, playing, and she would hear ‘Rolling!’ so she would run over to her mark and get ready. I was like ‘What in the hell?’ It’s like she would know when I wasn’t doing my lines right. If I would get lost in the scene she would just go silent you know? (laughs) It was the first time I had allowed myself to connect and be fond of a dog, since that experience, and to the owner I said, ‘Please, Abbey had to live with me. Please.’ He was like ‘Well, this is how I make my living, man.’ I was like ‘Tell me what you need. Tell me what you need. A house in the hills?’ But she was smart, just fun, and warm. I experienced the pain again, because he said ‘I’ll bring her over every weekend Will, but she has to work.’ It was painful. She is great. I used to watch ‘Lassie’ and animals really can be smarter than other animals. She is way on another plane of connecting to what your energy is, what your feelings are, and protective. It’s beautiful.

MoviesOnline: When is the last time you were called "Fresh Prince?”

WILL SMITH: About four seconds ago. (laughs)

MoviesOnline: Do you still talk with DJ Jazzy Jeff?

WILL SMITH: Yeah, Jeff and I perform a couple of times a year. We’re going to go out big in July. We are figuring out some places around the world to do some big shows. It’s about to be that circle back to the golden age of hip-hop. There is starting to be a little resurgence, so yeah, we are planning some things. As far as Fresh Prince, it’s interesting. On July 6, 1996 ‘Fresh Prince’ stopped. After ‘Independence Day,’ that Monday, after ‘Independence Day’ was the first time that anyone called me Mr. Smith. I was like, ‘What the hell?’ All through ‘The Fresh Prince’, all through the music, it was ‘Fresh Prince, Fresh Prince.’ And that morning, when the box office numbers came out, after ‘Independence Day,’ it was ‘Good morning Mr. Smith.’ It was so bizarre. I specifically remember that morning is when people started calling me Mr. Smith.

MoviesOnline: Will the new tour coincide with your next film "Hancock?”

WILL SMITH: Yeah, it will probably go out with ‘Hancock’ and do performances with premieres around the world.

MoviesOnline: After "I Am Legend” do you want to do a comedy?

WILL SMITH: Yes.

MoviesOnline: What’s next?

WILL SMITH: I’m working with Gabriele (Muccino) on something that will probably start in March, it’s called ‘Seven Pounds.’ Gabriele has a wonderful insight on who I am and how to get the best out of me. Michael Mann and Gabriele Muccino. You know how people can have X-ray vision on you? There are some people that you can’t pull tricks on, they know exactly what is going on. They see you, right to the heart of who you are, and what you are feeling. That is the relationship I have with those guys. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in there with Gabriele. ‘Hancock’ is July 4 with Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Peter Berg directed. Akiva Goldsman, Michael Mann, James Lassiter, and myself are producing.

MoviesOnline: What is "Hancock” about?

WILL SMITH: If you can imagine, it’s the Michael Mann version of an alcoholic super hero. It is so bizarre. Michael Mann developed a script about an alcoholic super hero.

MoviesOnline: Isn’t your character in love with his buddy’s best friend?

WILL SMITH: Right. Jason Bateman plays a publicist and I save his life. He begins to rehabilitate me in the eyes of the public.

MoviesOnline: The movie with Muccino is a comedy?

WILL SMITH: No, it’s a dramatic film. It’s fiction.

MoviesOnline: Many of the books on the "New York Times” best-seller list deal with life, the self-conscious and our feelings. What do you think it is that has people so fascinated in that subject, since that’s what the film deals with?

WILL SMITH: I think it’s a primal idea. Carl Jung talked about the collective unconscious and how we dream similar things, even though we have no contact with one another. If you map the dreams of an Aboriginal tribe in Australia that has had no contact with Tibetan Monks, but if you monitor the dreams, they dream similar things. I think that this is one of those concepts. We have all had a piece of that collective unconscious idea. We have all dreamed about, or had nightmares about being alone, being by ourselves. It’s the representative dark of the unknown and what that would be. The fear and the converse of the fear is the hope, the hope that you connect to those concepts.

MoviesOnline: With the holidays coming up, are your kids expecting a Lamborghini? How do you keep them grounded?
WILL SMITH: It’s funny, it’s really simple. Jaden and Trey are very simple. Willow just wants clothes. She loves it. She’s dressed herself since she was about four years old. She is very specific about her style. She is very specific about how she wants to look, how she wants to present it, the sizes and all that. Willow is like a …"


MoviesOnline: Would you say she’s like a shop-a-holic?

WILL SMITH: Actually it’s funny, she doesn’t necessarily like shopping. She doesn’t like going out and shopping. She wants you to think about her and she loves the idea that she gets things by surprise. Christmas really isn’t big for her because if she knows it’s coming, it’s not as big of a deal. Jaden just wants his family around. Anything that causes the whole family to be together, that is what he wants.

MoviesOnline: How do you manage to keep them grounded?

WILL SMITH: We live in La-la-land out here. Los Angeles and New York are cut off from the rest of the country and the rest of the world. For us, traveling is hugely important, for our kids to really see other things, and experience other things. We have taken them to South Africa. Gabriele hosted us just outside of Rome in his town. We try to get them to experience how other people live. The grounded idea is more of a concept of how you relate to your service of mankind. That is what we try to impart to our children. You are a part of a whole, and you have a responsibility to uplift and be a positive influence on the whole. We feel like that will help with the concept of grounding in this."

MoviesOnline: Is there another country you would like to take your family to and possibly live in?

WILL SMITH: Not to live. To me, Los Angeles and Miami, I just can’t imagine topping those places for where I would love to live. I have a theory that cities and towns have, essentially, emotional patterns. There are cities that each and every one of us could live in, that match our emotional pattern, that we would just be better people if we lived in this place. I think that my emotional pattern is like the weather patterns of Los Angeles and Miami. It’s warm all the time, it rains a little bit, but when it does it’s fun because it cools it off. The traffic might get a little bad but it’s not like being in four feet of snow in traffic. Jada needs four seasons. She can’t function if it’s warm all the time, it’s light and fun all the time, and she needs the hibernation. She needs the time where nothing is moving, it’s quiet, you aren’t hearing cars and horns, because they are muffled by the wonderful snow. If I never, ever, see snow again for the rest of my life, that’s great.

"I Am Legend” opens in theaters on December 14th.

Will Smith Interview, I am Legend

SATURDAY AM: Some amazing numbers were posted Friday for this weekend's No. 1 and No. 2 movie releases. Warner Bros' I Am Legend opens closer to $80 million than the studio's hoped-for $50 million from Friday through Sunday after making a whopping $29.6 million Friday in 3,606 theaters for first place. This more than demonstrates that Will Smith is now the biggest U.S. box office stud bar none and breaks his previous opening record (I Robot's $62 mil in summer). This also will easily be the biggest December movie opening ever. Not only did I Am Legend soar past the numbers for King Kong's and Narnia's December debuts, but it looks likely to pass all three of the Lord Of the Rings trilogy's Christmas-timed openings as well, including Return Of The King's record-setting $72.6 mil.) The humongous hit is a badly needed life preserver for Warner Bros' drowning movie division, which I'm told didn't even have time to do a research screening on the film since it came in so late.

I won't have exit polling until tomorrow, but Smith is one of the few, if not only, Hollywood stars right now who tracks extremely well with both African-American and Hispanic audiences as well as whites. That accounts for why I Am Legend's numbers went through the roof even though its "last man on earth who's not alone" subject matter is a downer. (Charlton Heston starred in The Omega Man, a 1971 adaptation of I Am Legend, the post-apocalyptic novel by Richard Matheson.) "But put Will Smith into it, and it really changes the equation," a Warner Bros source told me. "It's definitely tracking four quadrant." I'm told the movie played broadly -- almost equally male/female, under age 25/over 25, ethnic/non-ethnic -- and playability was strong with all audiences being at or above the norms with males slightly stronger than females. That was evident even going into Friday, I was told, when the PG-13 thriller had definite interest among young males (74%), older males (67%), young females (56%) and older females (49%). The only question now is whether the East Coast storms will affect Saturday and Sunday turnout there, prompting one Warner exec to rue not having a degree in meteorology.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox had a lot to celebrate this holiday season as well since its remake of baby boomer favorite Alvin And The Chipmunks will wind up #2 and closer to $40 million than the $20 million that the studio anticipated for the weekend. The PG pic hauled in $13.2 million Friday in its 3,475 venue debut. Indications are for the Saturday matinees to be huge since Moms especially feel pleasantly predisposed to take their kids to see The Munks. (I love the little guys. But can anyone actually understand anything that Alvin says?) Another reason that Fox is thrilled is because the studio claims the kiddie pic cost only in the high $50 millions. Although tracking had been slow at first, the pic's marketing did a good job of closing the gap by Friday when The Munks had 91% awareness.

The only other newcomer this weekend was Yari Film Group's PG-rated family comedy The Perfect Holiday which opened December 12th and then placed 8th after earning $700K Friday from just 1,307 dates.

And in only its second weekend in release, the bottom fell out of costly domestic flop The Golden Compass from New Line, which forked over $200+ million to make it. I know, I know, the pic is doing OK overseas, earning $50.9 mil from 27 territories December 7th-9th. But the fantasy epic is so lost domestically it earned only an anemic $2.6 million Friday from 3,528 nearly empty runs for 3rd place and a new cume of just $34.5 mil. I hear studio topper Bob Shaye once again is blaming everyone but himself -- including the movie's director Chris Weitz, and also New Line's own prez of production Toby Emmerich.

The rest of the Top 10 were holdovers. Here's the chart:
Here's the Top 10 chart:
1. I Am Legend $29.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. (cume $29.6M)
2. Alvin And The Chipmunks $$13.2M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($13.2M)
3. The Golden Compass $2.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($34.5M)
4. Enchanted $1.6M Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($87.9M)
5. No Country For Old Men $850K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($31.4M)
6. This Christmas $750K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($44.9M)
7. Fred Claus $710K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($67.3M)
8. The Perfect Holiday $700K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($1.3M)
9. August Rush $610K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($26.8M)
10. Atonement $520K Fri, $? Sat, and est $? Sun. ($1.6M)

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Am Legend' (starring Will Smith)

"I Am Legend" has a distinct drop-off point, which is a shame, because for an hour it's a surprisingly absorbing last-man-on-Earth movie. Why surprising? Because the director, Francis Lawrence, made "Constantine," which was two hours of visual noise. This one actually takes its time, creating some sights worth the gape, though they tend to be rather simple and unshowy sights, such as Will Smith stalking the empty, weed-strewn streets of Manhattan, looking for something to eat.

Working from a script by Mark Protosevich and revised by Akiva Goldsman, the new film is the third big-screen adaptation to date of the 1954 Richard Matheson novella. Smith stars as Dr. Robert Neville, apparent sole survivor of a viral plague, the result of a cancer cure gone horribly wrong. The film begins with news footage of the doctor responsible for the miracle, played by Emma Thompson, acknowledging her contributions on camera. Something in Thompson's wily eyes suggests a flickering doubt or two regarding the cure's efficacy. If you ever see this same look in your own doctor's eyes, switch doctors.

Matheson's story rides on a very simple and flexible premise, which is why filmmakers keep returning to it, changing particulars depending on the times. Our own time has fixed post-9/11 Manhattan as an epicenter of horror--hence the New York setting. For a long time, profitably, "I Am Legend" chronicles the daily routine of Neville as he and his dog search for food, the primary order of business. A few stray computer-generated deer have survived the plague, along with the odd computer-generated lion. Plus, Neville has "the dark seekers" to mess with: These are the vampiric denizens of the night, part human but transformed by the plague into bloodthirsty devils. Their closest cinematic cousins are the well-dressed bloodsuckers in the recent "30 Days of Night," to name one film less entertaining than this one.

I AM LEGEND

DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence

CAST: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence

LINKS/TRAILERS
· Official site

PHOTO GALLERY

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GRADE: B

It's also, of course, a showcase for Will Smith, who has been proclaimed by all the magazine polls of the past year as the Biggest Movie Star in the World. He's practically the only cast member here, so if you're one of his fans, you've definitely come to the right place.

The film is set in the year 2012, after a genetically altered virus has destroyed most of mankind. Smith plays a 52-year-old former Army doctor who's somehow immune from the scourge and lives in a Manhattan utterly devoid of his own kind.

He and his German shepherd (animals also are mostly immune) have the city to themselves during the day but at night the streets are taken over by former humans that the affliction has turned into ugly, slobbering, kill-crazy fiends out to eat him.

When he's not foraging for food, browsing video stores or visiting the city's great museums (he has grabbed Van Gogh's "Starry Night" from the Museum of Modern Art for his wall), he's at work in his basement laboratory trying to develop a serum that will save mankind.

Meanwhile, he's sending messages out into the world trying to connect with other survivors who may have been blessed with immunity and survived the apocalypse -- perhaps even the wife and daughter he sent to the country when the city was quarantined.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because the movie is based on the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson and has been made twice before: 1964's "The Last Man on Earth," with Vincent Price, and 1971's "The Omega Man," with Charlton Heston.

This $100 million version is by far the best, if only because it's resting on a tremendous special effect: a vast, intricately detailed, computer-altered vision of an eerily depopulated and decaying New York City with weeds and wild animals retaking its canyons.

The movie has some kick as a thriller, with Smith outwitting and blowing away legions of attacking zombies. This action is well staged, but we've seen it all before ("28 Days Later," etc.) and it's not nearly as compelling as the down time, where it starts to resemble a kind of Robinson Crusoe saga. Here the character's isolation is endlessly fascinating and Smith is endearingly vulnerable as he wanders through his daily survivalist routines, amiably talking to himself and his loyal dog, fighting his intense loneliness.

I Am Legend

Review in a Hurry: Will Smith grapples with existential angst and cannibalistic vampire-zombies (in that order) as, apparently, the last man on Earth after a bioengineered plague. Maybe not the most uplifting choice for a holiday flick, but Smith's riveting performance and tight action scenes make this a smart, gripping view of the end of the world.

The Bigger Picture: Smith plays Lt. Col. Robert Neville, a military medical researcher living in the wasteland that used to be Manhattan. He fills his days doing the Last Man on Earth Workout™—dude is cut—and hunting for a cure with his faithful dog. At night, he locks down his brownstone and hides from what the rest of the world has become.

This version of Richard Matheson's sci-fi classic owes more than a little to Charlton Heston's campy classic The Omega Man (the screenwriters of that 1971 movie get a credit), with mannequins filling in for real people as Neville goes through his daily routine.

But for the most part, Neville is left to interact with an empty planet as a blank canvas. And Smith's performance knocks it out of the park. His considerable charisma turns inside out as he starts to fall into despair, and it helps that the dogs playing his canine costar are good enough for a best supporting actor nod.

Neville refuses to give up on the world, even as he gives up on himself. He captures members of the Infected—although they terrify him—to test his various cures. (Another mark of Smith's ability: He seems genuinely scared, even with his action-hero cool.)

The big problem is Neville's descent makes the chance of hope at the end seem false. There's probably a whole nerdy grad thesis in all the recent apocalypses out there, starting with 28 Days Later through Cormac McCarthy's The Road. But the bottom line is, despite the sci-fi setting, the implications are a little too real to be wrapped up so neatly.

Still, Will Smith gets to kick some vampire-zombie ass, and really, who doesn't want to see that?

The 180—a Second Opinion: We're okay with 94 percent of humanity getting wiped out. We can stomach what hits Neville's family. But things happen to dogs in this movie that are seriously not cool. Seriously.

I Am Legend

After years in development, the first adaptation of Richard Matheson's chilling apocalyptic novel to share its name is the one that strays furthest from the source material.


New York, 2006: In a TV interview, smugly self-deprecating Dr. Krippen (Emma Thompson, in a flawless uncredited cameo) announces that she's found the cure for cancer in a mutated measles virus.


New York, 2009: The streets are overgrown with weeds, empty except for herds of deer and Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith), who lives a lonely existence in his Washington Square townhouse. Neville survived the plague unleashed by Krippen's unstoppable virus, but most of the human race is dead and the rest are worse than dead: The virus turned them into subhuman, cannibalistic monsters. Profoundly allergic to the sun, they roam in howling packs by night, seeking the blood and flesh of the living. A military scientist, Neville continues to experiment in his high-tech basement lab, but an artificial version of his own immunity remains elusive. Most of his time is spent filling the empty hours: Neville watches movies, picking them up at a video store he's peopled with mannequins, scavenges for food and supplies with his dog, Sam, hunts deer and sends out daily radio messages offering shelter and food to other survivors. Without Sam, three years of solitude and the relentless battle against the living dead would have driven him mad, but the eventual appearance of a woman and a small boy (Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan) offers a glimmer of hope.


Music veteran Francis Lawrence's version of I am Legend, from a script by Mark Prosevich and Akiva Goldsman, wavers uneasily between psychological case study and a shameless rehash of 28 DAYS LATER (2002) by way of THE OMEGA MAN (1971), the second adaptation of Matheson's 1954 thriller. The first, influential black-and-white Vincent Price vehicle THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), hews closest to the source material and helped spawn the modern zombie movie via NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). This pumped-up variation has the advantage of epic scale and state-of-the-art special effects, but ironically, it's the least effective. The monsters — "The Infected" — are motion-capture bogeymen, weightless and profoundly fake, and even the surefire sight of a major metropolis reduced to desolation, as nature slowly reasserts her claim, rings oddly hollow. I AM LEGEND could be Exhibit A in the case against excessive CGI; the artificial images dilute the real ones — the production shut down parts of Manhattan for months — and rob the film of any sense of real horror. Worst of all, Matheson's bitterly ironic ending — which pivots on the nature of Neville's legend — is gutted and turned into formulaic pap. --Maitland McDonagh

A Film Review by James Berardinelli

I Am Legend, the third cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel, has been in development for a very long time. Originally slated to star Arnold Schwarzenegger and be directed by Ridley Scott, this movie has kicked around for so long that by the time it has finally reached the screen, Schwarzenegger is out of the business altogether and the director is someone whose career in music videos hadn't even started when Michael Bay was being touted as possible replacement for Scott. Nevertheless, all these years later, we finally have this new version of I Am Legend, starring Will Smith as the Last Man on Earth and directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine).

I suppose it's a common fantasy - believing that you're alone on the planet. The reality, if it ever happened, would be more the stuff of nightmares. When Matheson wrote I Am Legend; from which this movie takes its name, its main character, and certain events and themes; he was interested in exploring the hard aspects of what this kind of existence might really mean. Loneliness can drive a person slowly insane even if they guard against it. That lies at the core of I Am Legend - the psychological torment endured by the protagonist. That, and the vampires.

Matheson's book has often been credited as the "inspiration" for many of the modern-day zombie movies; his "vampires" have a kinship with George A. Romero's dead. Cinematically, the creatures of this film most evidently echo (perhaps because of the circumstances) those in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. In fact, there are numerous similarities between that movie and I Am Legend, not the least of which is that both feature a scenario in which an apocalypse occurs because of a disease and those who don't die turn into slavering, raving monsters.

I Am Legend opens in 2012 New York City - the most deserted place on Earth. Kudos to the special effects wizards for using computers to so effectively depopulate the city. It's eerie watching such emptiness. New York has a human population of one: Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith), an ex-military scientist who was to some degree culpable for what happened to his race. The disease was initially hyped as a cure for cancer (by Emma Thompson in an unbilled cameo) but it mutated and became a killer. The creatures it transforms can't emerge in the sunlight, so they stay hidden during the day only to come out and seek fresh blood between dusk and dawn. In that period, Robert and his faithful dog, Sam, are padlocked within his apartment. They hunt by day and hide by night.

Robert is lonely and his loneliness is eroding his sanity. He talks to Sam as if she was a human. He speaks to department store mannequins he has dressed in clothing. He rents DVDs of old news shows not so much so he can revisit the past but so he can hear human voices and pretend he's not alone. In many ways, it's how Tom Hanks survived in Cast Away - by making a volleyball, Wilson, his best friend. Robert has set a broadcast to shout out his location on every station on the AM dial, but so far, no one has come looking. He uses a private lab in his apartment to continue research on the disease, always searching for the elusive cure. If he could save one vampire - turn it back into a human - he would no longer be alone. Ghosts of his past haunt his dreams, and it's through those tortured flashbacks that we gain some knowledge of what the last hours were like for our kind.

The first two-thirds of I Am Legend are superior to the fast-paced, action-oriented final 35 minutes. There's a key event that occurs just past the hour mark and, after that, the movie feels more like a typical Hollywood adventure than the introspective, thought-provoking production that graces the screens for the first 65 minutes. The ending, while not a complete cop-out, diverges from that of Matheson's book and feels a little too convenient and facile. For most of the movie, character drives plot. The closer we get to the conclusion, the more plot drives character.

There are some top-notch action sequences, such as one in which vampires and vampire dogs attack Sam and an injured Robert. There's also another scene in which Robert tries to take out an entire cell of vampires with nothing more than a speeding vehicle. There are some missteps - the deer chase is dumb and marred by CGI deer that look CGI. And the climactic struggle is less exciting than it should be. There's a sense that some of the action was inserted into the movie to keep from losing the attention of younger viewers. It's okay for the movie to deal with intelligent ideas as long as there are enough bangs to enliven the proceedings.

As Tom Hanks did in Cast Away, Will Smith pulls off this half-insane role perfectly. Of course, in addition to being alone, Robert has other crosses to bear. He is hunted by the living dead. He carries a weight of guilt. And he knows, on one level or another, that he is responsible for what happened to his wife and daughter. Smith nails the portrayal. It's not the kind of work that will earn him an Oscar nomination but audiences usually don't see better than this in genre films.

Science fiction fans hoping for a faithful adaptation of Matheson's novel will be disappointed. This is no more a visitation of the source material than its predecessors, The Last Man on Earth or The Omega Man, were. The updates are timely - the movie makes the suspension of disbelief curve as easy to ascend as it was in Children of Men. For me, the most engaging aspects of the movie are connecting with Robert and understanding how he uses routine to survive each day. It's seeing the empty New York and understanding how its desolation offers both solace and pain. For the most part, the action sequences work - and they are directed in a straightforward manner that thankfully does not rely on fast cuts and shaky camera movement - but they are not the real reason to see this movie. Cautionary tale though it might be, I Am Legend offers a window into a future that probably won't be but that is easily believed within the context of this workmanlike motion picture.

Government agencies cover filmmakers in red tape

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - New York. Nighttime. Post-apocalypse. As a life-warping illness devastates the American populace, survivors gather at a pier by the Brooklyn Bridge, desperate to be evacuated.

It is a central moment in Warner Bros.' December release "I Am Legend," a $150 million-plus sci-fi actioner starring Will Smith. But as impressive a nail-biter as this particular scene will surely be, its drama is rivaled by that of the process of mounting and shooting it on six successive nights in January.

"The physical scale of the Brooklyn Bridge scene was the most daunting," says location manager Paul Kramer, who began preparations in July. "There were so many moving parts."

In addition to complying with the requirements of no fewer than 14 government agencies, producers had to bring in a crew of 250, plus 1,000 extras, including 160 members of the National Guard in full combat gear. They commandeered a flotilla of Coast Guard boats, grappled with hypothermia-inducing temperatures, coped with dozens of production-related injuries -- and nursed a frozen helicopter.

All this cost the studio at least $5 million, according to executive producer Michael Tadross -- six times that, if Internet reports are to be believed.

While four Department of Defense Humvees and three Stryker armored vehicles waited on shore, a 110-foot cutter and a 41-foot utility boat, two 25-foot Response Boat Small craft and nearly 30 crewmen circled frigid waters for six nights.

To handle the "evacuations," a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter flew in with a crew of five, as did an Army-issue Black Hawk helicopter with four crew members. The dock on which these copters land in the film is actually a spud barge dressed up to look like a pier and floated in from Staten Island.

Then, to light the bridge as never before, crews worked weeks in advance, securing permission from the city's transportation department to dangle lights from catwalks and set up other lights on shores all over the waterfront. Scores of klieg lights were positioned to capture the 124-year-old landmark's every angle and curve -- from the Brooklyn side of the East River all the way to the South Street Seaport and into Manhattan. Even jaded New Yorkers, accustomed to seeing the bridge every night, commented on the vista.

ted film, it will serve as a flashback) in what the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting is calling the biggest movie to be filmed "start to finish" in New York. "Things are done in this film that have never been done before," Tadross says. "The hardest part of shooting this scene was its enormity and the logistics."

Creating such a tableau would be difficult in any large city, but accomplishing it in post-September 11 New York seems nothing short of Sisyphean. The number of permits and permissions involved was staggering. "Just finding out who you needed the permits from and who needs to sign off was a job," Kramer says. "I needed to get permission from the (Economic Development Corp.), (the Department of Environmental Conservation), the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the New York City (Department of Transportation), the New York State DOT, the Department of Small Business Services, the FDNY, the NYPD Harbor Unit, the NYPD Aviation Unit, the (Federal Aviation Administration), the U.S. Army, the National Guard and the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting."

If that seems Byzantine in its web of red tape, there is a reason. According to John Battista, deputy commissioner of the mayoral film office, the hoops are all about safety.

"The priority is the safety of the general public," he says. "We have to have communication with all agencies, from the federal to the state to the local. We were in constant contact with those involved. Ten years ago, if we needed to get something done, it took a quick phone call. We had no fears. But after 9/11, we have to be more cognizant of what's going on around us."

Permits weren't the only challenge. Because the barge was not a true helicopter-landing site, the FAA required test landings. The mayor's office wanted sound tests, and the fire department needed trucks on the shore -- just in case.

NYPD divers were on hand at all times, augmented by a team of eight officers. The Coast Guard organized safety briefs for a possible water rescue and also dispatched a member of its Vessel Traffic Service to ensure that filming did not impede maritime operations.

"It was surreal because we were acting out something so similar to a real evacuation," says Cmdr. Kevin Raimer of the Coast Guard's Motion Picture and Television Liaison Office. "It was fun to do a movie, but the reality would have been a lot less light-hearted. Also, some of the crew had worked in New York during 9/11, and it brought back memories."

September 11, 2001 also was on the minds of those at the mayor's office, which was concerned that waterfront commotion might confuse New Yorkers. "We wanted to make sure (residents) really knew this was a movie shoot and not a terrorist attack or cause for concern," commissioner Katherine Oliver says.

There were other logistical issues, including handling and directing legions of extras and production assistants. "How do you feed 2,000 people?" Tadross asks.

I Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film

I Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith. It is the fourth film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend; following 1964's The Last Man on Earth, 1971's The Omega Man and 2007 direct-to-video I Am Omega. Smith plays Robert Neville, possibly Earth's only survivor of a man-made virus. He works to create a cure but is stalked by nocturnal mutant survivors of the plague.

Warner Bros. Pictures began developing I Am Legend in 1994, and various actors and directors were attached to the project, though it did not enter production due to budgetary concerns. I Am Legend entered production in 2006 in New York City, filming mainly on location in the city including a $5 million scene at the Brooklyn Bridge, the most expensive scene filmed in the city to date. For the film, Warner Bros. launched a tie-in comic and an online multiplayer game on Second Life as part of its marketing campaign. I Am Legend was released December 14, 2007 in the United States.Contents [hide]

Plot

A Man-made Virus called KV, originally created as a cancer vaccine, wipes out the population of New York City in 2009, leaving virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) the last human survivor in the city and possibly the world. Neville lives alone with his dog for three years, attempting to contact and find other possible survivors. He is watched by nocturnal mutant victims of the plague. The virus instantly killed 90% of the people on the planet, roughly 5.4 billion. Less than 1% of humans are immune, which Neville theorizes would leave roughly 12 million people immune. The remaining 588 million people were infected but did not die, instead losing all normal human behavior and degenerating into a primal state driven by cannibalistic hunger. Sunlight kills the infected, so they hide in the dark underground and in buildings then swarm out at night. By three years after the plague swept the globe, Neville has not seen another normal human being for years and suspects that the infected have succeeded in killing the remainder of the survivors in the New York City area and possibly the entire world. Neville finds himself outnumbered by the infected and running out of time.

Neville is also haunted by the intense psychological trauma not only of having everyone he ever knew die, but physically being completely isolated from all human contact for three years, with his only companions being his dog and various department store dummies he has set up and assigned names. The total isolation has begun to take its toll on Neville's mind, with his sanity nearly at the breaking point. Multiple times throughout the narrative, Neville witnesses semi-surreal events which it is not clear are indeed real or if Neville has simply begun to hallucinate. After meeting two other survivors and developing a cure for the plague, he sacrifices himself so the other two immune humans can escape. They eventually travel to an isolated community of survivors. Neville's heroism, creating a cure and allowing others to escape the infected, leads to him becoming a legend, hence the title of the movie.

Production

Development

In 1994, Warner Bros. began developing the film project, having owned the rights to Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend since 1970.[3] In June 1997, director Ridley Scott and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger entered talks with Warner Bros. for I Am Legend, based on a script by Mark Protosevich. Actors Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas were previously considered to star in the film.[4] The following July, Scott and Schwarzenegger finalized negotiations with the studio.[5] Production slated to begin the coming September,[4] with Houston as a stand-in for the film's setting of Los Angeles.[6] In December 1997, the project was called into question when the projected budget escalated to $108 million due to media and shareholder scrutiny of the studio in financing a big-budget film.[7] Scott rewrote the script in an attempt to reduce the film's budget[8] by $20 million, but in March 1998, the studio canceled the project due to continued budgetary concerns.[9] In August 1998, director Rob Bowman was attached to I Am Legend,[10] but he moved on to direct Reign of Fire.[11]

In March 2002, Schwarzenegger became the producer of I Am Legend, commencing negotiations with Michael Bay to direct and Will Smith to star in the film. Bay and Smith were attracted to the project based on a redraft that would reduce its budget.[12] However, the project was shelved due to Warner Bros. president Alan F. Horn's dislike of the script.[13] In 2004, Akiva Goldsman was asked by head of production Jeff Robinov to produce the project.[14] In September 2005, director Francis Lawrence signed on to helm the project, with production slated to begin in 2006.[15] Guillermo del Toro was also approached to direct.[16] Lawrence, whose film Constantine was produced by Goldsman, was fascinated by empty urban environments. He said, "Something's always really excited me about that... to have experienced that much loss, to be without people or any kind of social interaction for that long."[14]

Goldsman rewrote the screenplay to be closer to the second I Am Legend film adaptation, The Omega Man, of which he was a major fan.[17] The rewrite was also done to distance the film from the numerous zombie films inspired by the novel.[16] A forty-page scene-by-scene outline of the film was developed by May 2006. When delays occurred on Will Smith's film Hancock (2008), which was scheduled for 2007, it was proposed to switch the actor's films. This meant filming would have to begin in sixteen weeks: production was greenlit, using Goldsman's script and the outline.[14] Elements from Protosevich's script were introduced, while the crew consulted with experts on infectious diseases and solitary confinement.[17] Rewrites continued throughout filming, because of Smith's improvisational skills and Lawrence's preference to keep various scenes silent.[14] The director had watched The Piano with a low volume so as to not disturb his newborn son, and realized that silence could be very effective cinema.[18]

Casting

Will Smith signed on to play Robert Neville in April 2006.[19] He said he took on I Am Legend because he felt it could be like "Gladiator [or] Forrest Gump - these are movies with wonderful, audience-pleasing elements but also uncompromised artistic value. [This] always felt like it had those possibilities to me."[17] The actor found Neville to be his toughest acting challenge since portraying Muhammad Ali in Ali (2001). He said that "when you're on your own, it is kind of hard to find conflict." The film's dark tone and exploration of whether Neville has gone insane during his isolation meant Smith had to restrain himself from falling into a humorous routine during takes.[20] To prepare for his role, Smith visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. He also met with a person who had been in solitary confinement and a former prisoner of war.[21] Smith compared Neville to Job, who lost his children, livelihood and health. Like the Book of Job, I Am Legend studies the questions, "Can he find a reason to continue? Can he find the hope or desire to excel and advance in life? Or does the death of everything around him create imminent death for himself?"[16] He also cited an influence in Tom Hanks' performance in Cast Away (2000).[17]

Abbey, a three-year-old German Shepherd, played Neville's dog. Another dog was used for scenes where Neville plays fetch with his companion, as Abbey refused to perform these scenes.[22] The rest of the supporting cast consists of Salli Richardson as Ginny, Robert's wife,[23] and Alice Braga as a character named Anna.[23] Willow Smith, Will Smith's daughter, makes her film debut as Marley, Neville's daughter.[24] Emma Thompson has an uncredited role as a doctor on television, explaining the vaccine for cancer that mutates into the virus.[25]

Filming
The Brooklyn Bridge served as a location in I Am Legend, at which there was a $5 million scene filmed, the most expensive scene to date in New York City.

Akiva Goldsman decided to move the story from Los Angeles to New York City to take advantage of locations that would more easily show emptiness.[3] Goldsman explained, "L.A. looks empty at three o'clock in the afternoon, [but] New York is never empty... it was a much more interesting way of showing the windswept emptiness of the world."[20] Warner Brothers initially rejected this idea because of the logistics,[14] but Francis Lawrence was determined to shoot on location, to give the film a natural feel that would not benefit from shooting on soundstages. Lawrence went to the city with a camcorder, and filmed areas filled with crowds. Then, a special effects test was conducted to remove all those people. The test had a powerful effect on studio executives.[18] Michael Tadross convinced authorities to close busy areas such as the Grand Central Terminal viaduct, several blocks of Fifth Avenue and Washington Square Park.[14]

Filming began on September 23, 2006.[26] The Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg was used for the interior of Neville's home,[20] while Greenwich Village was used for the exterior.[16] Other locations including the Tribeca section of Lower Manhattan, the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx and St. Paul's Cathedral.[3] Weeds were imported from Florida and were strewn across locations to make the city look like it had overgrown with them.[14] The closure of major streets was controversial with New Yorkers. Will Smith said, "I don't think anyone's going to be able to do that in New York again any time soon. People were not happy. That's the most middle fingers I've ever gotten in my career."[16]

A bridge scene was filmed for six consecutive nights in January on the Brooklyn Bridge to serve as a flashback scene in which New York's denizens evacuate the city. Shooting the scene cost the studio $5 million, which was the most expensive shot in the city to date. The scene, which had to meet requirements from fourteen government agencies, involved 250 crew members and 1,000 extras, including 160 National Guard members.[27] Also present were several Humvees, three Stryker armored vehicles, a 110-foot cutter, a 41-foot utility boat, and two 25-foot Response Boat Small craft.[2] Filming concluded on March 31, 2007.[26]

Reshoots were conducted around November 2007. Lawrence noted, "We weren't seeing fully-rendered shots until about a month ago. The movie starts to take on a whole other life. It's not only until later that you can judge a movie as a whole and go, 'Huh, maybe we should shoot this little piece in the middle, or tweak this a little bit.' It just so happened that our re-shoots revolved around the end of the movie."[28]

Effects

A week into filming, Francis Lawrence felt the infected, who were being portrayed with actors wearing prosthetics, were not convincing. His decision to use computer-generated imagery meant post-production had to be extended and the budget increased. Lawrence explained, "They needed to have an abandon in their performance that you just can't get out of people in the middle of the night when they're barefoot. And their metabolisms are really spiked, so they're constantly hyperventilating, which you can't really get actors to do for a long time or they pass out."[14] While the infected become vampires in the novel, the film depicts them as "dark seekers" (Neville's term for them)[17] who consume living flesh, with a design inspired by the concept of their adrenal glands being open all the time. The actors remained on set as a guide, but were replaced by CGI.[20]

In addition, CGI was used for the lions and deer in the film, and to erase pedestrians in shots of New York. Workers visible in windows, spectators and moving cars in the distance were all removed. In his vision of an empty New York, Lawrence cited John Ford as his influence: "We didn't want to make an apocalyptic movie where the landscape felt apocalyptic. A lot of the movie takes place on a beautiful day. There's something magical about the empty city as opposed to dark and scary."[17]

Release

I Am Legend was originally slated for a November 21, 2007 release in the United States and Canada,[29] but was delayed to December 14, 2007.[30]. The film will open on December 26, 2007 in the United Kingdom,[31] having been originally scheduled for January 4, 2008.[20]

In December 2007, China banned the release of American films in the country,[32] which is believed to have delayed the release of I Am Legend. Will Smith spoke to the chairman of China Film Group about securing a release date, later explaining, "We struggled very, very hard to try to get it to work out, but there are only a certain amount of foreign films that are allowed in."[21]

Marketing

A tie-in comic from DC Comics and Vertigo Comics will be released with I Am Legend. The project draws upon collaboration from Bill Sienkiewicz, screenwriter Mark Protosevich, and author Orson Scott Card. The son of the original book's author, Richard Christian Matheson, also collaborated on the project. The project will advance from the comic to an online format in which animated featurettes will be shown on the official website. The comic is due out in November.[33]

In October 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures launched the online multiplayer game I Am Legend: Survival in the virtual world Second Life. The game is the largest launched in the virtual world in support of a film release, permitting people to play against each other as the infected or the uninfected across a replicated 60 acres of New York City.[34] The studio also hired the ad agency Crew Creative to develop a website that would be specifically viewable on Apple's iPhone.[35]

Reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, 60% of one hundred and two reviews listed were positive, with an average score of 6/10.[36] On Metacritic, the film earned a score of 67%, earning a "generally favorable" rating from twenty-six reviews.[37]

A. O. Scott felt Will Smith gave a "graceful and effortless performance", and also noted the "third-act collapse". He felt the movie "does ponder some pretty deep questions about the collapse and persistence of human civilization".[38] Dana Stevens of Slate felt the movie loses its way around the hour mark, as "the Infected just aren't that scary."[25]

Sequel

The original screenwriter of I Am Legend, Mark Protosevich, pitched the idea of a sequel to Warner Bros., though a deal has not been finalized.[39]

Legend’ dazzles, flirts with greatness

So if we must watch the last man on Earth wander aimlessly, it may as well be someone who can hold our attention like the charismatic Will Smith, star of "I Am Legend."
STORY TOOLS

Vincent Price and Charlton Heston took on the role with less success in previously cheesy adaptations of the Richard Matheson sci-fi novel, 1964’s "The Last Man on Earth" and 1971’s "The Omega Man," respectively. While Smith certainly conjures both pathos and absurd laughs as Robert Neville, a military scientist whose immunity to a deadly virus leaves him stranded in Manhattan with only his trusted German shepherd for companionship, it’s the visual effects in director Francis Lawrence’s film that truly dazzle. CGI-enhanced images of Times Square, Washington Square Park and Tribeca, eerily silent and still and covered in weeds, provide a haunting set-up.


Then come the Infected — the ones who didn’t die from the virus but rather were transformed into shrieking, flailing crazies who only come out at night. And here’s where "I Am Legend" turns from a quiet meditation on the nature of humanity into a B-movie schlockfest.


It’s too bad, too, because Lawrence is really onto something for a while. With the help of stark cinematography from Andrew Les- nie, he sucks you into this comatose version of the city that never sleeps. It’s totally disconcerting, but, at the same time, engrossing — watching Neville roam about with his dog, Sam, and a hunting rifle, you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. (Mark Protosevich’s screenplay, touched up by Akiva Goldsman, is very different from the previous incarnations of Matheson’s book.)


Military man that he is, Neville has his routine down cold, with a daily radio broadcast seeking out any other survivors and alarms to warm him when the sun’s about to go down. But he’s also a human being who misses the wife and little girl he lost during the city’s frantic evacuation a few years back.


Neville’s peaceful if tenuous grasp on reality and sanity are disrupted when he realizes the Infected have begun adapting, and are banding together to destroy him.


Conveniently, there’s one guy who’s the biggest and baddest and serves as their leader (Dash Mihok). And conveniently, when other survivors do finally respond to Neville’s daily radio calls, they happen to be a beautiful woman (Alice Braga) and her son, who are about the same age as his wife and daughter.


The three of them hunker down in Neville’s fortified brownstone for one last apocalyptic battle with the baddies.


Lots of explosions and rapid gunfire ensue — sound and fury signifying nothing, which is a shame, since "I Am Legend" looked as if it might have had something to say after all.

movie review
** 1/2
“I Am Legend”
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga
Director: Francis Lawrence
Rating: PG-13, violence
On the Web: iamlegend.warnerbros.com

Watch I Am Legend Online

Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable and manmade. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City, and maybe the world. But he is not alone. He is surrounded by "the Infected"-victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path. For three years, Neville has spent his days scavenging for food and supplies and faithfully sending out radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. All the while, the Infected lurk in the shadows, watching Neville''s every move, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind''s last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But his blood is also what The Infected hunt, and Neville knows he is outnumbered and quickly running out of time.