The press notice made it sound too good to be true. Hallowed Hollywood studio Dreamworks was going to put me and a bunch of other college journalists up at the Brentwood Holiday Inn and pamper us with movie screenings, celebrity interviews, free beer, free food and the like. And what did they want out of it again? A piddly feature? No problem.
I arrived at the hotel Saturday afternoon and sat down to the perfunctory, “So where you from?” banter with peers from Princeton to Pomona. The frenetic pace of the weekend soon started, however, as we were whisked onto a bus bound for Universal Studios to view a screening of “Evolution” by three enthusiastic Dreamworks interns. Waking up from a bus nap, I found myself entering a posh, amazingly comfortable screening room with magenta curtains and carpet.
After a brief introduction by director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”) the 40 or so of us watched this prospective summer blockbuster unfold. Basically a pulp “science” fiction film about a pair of community college professors who try to thwart an alien takeover of their small town. “Evolution” is the kind of bumbling, pointless film where you wonder how it got green lighted in the first place. It’s one of those movies that I imagine bored, stoned teenagers in suburbia venturing into on a hot summer day because there’s nothing else to do. At the very least it is a special-effects bonanza. The departing bus was full of many people scratching their heads over why someone like David Duchovny or Julianne Moore would stoop to this. Maybe a recession is coming.
The next stop was far more interesting. We entered a cavernous warehouse that held the set to the upcoming movie, “The Time Machine” – a remake of a 1960 movie based on H.G. Wells’ first novel. Set in turn of the century New York, the film stars Guy Pearce as a man who develops – you guessed it – a time machine to venture into the past to prevent the untimely death of his wife. When he fails, he hurdles himself 800,000 miles into the future to a post-apocalyptic world where two different species of man, Elois and Morlocks, are engaged in predatory combat. The intelligent director Simon Wells and his production designer Oliver Scholl gave a thoughtful discussion of “The Time Machine.” They treated us like we were people who cared about the ideas and messages behind a film, instead of giving us a pep talk and distributing promotional bouncy balls and plastic cups.
After a hasty reprieve at the hotel, Dreamworks Tours chauffeured us over to a Westwood theater for a screening of “Shrek,” a new animated fairy tale comedy with voices by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow and Cameron Diaz. My barely minted friends and I were skeptical about seeing some PG cartoon movie with fairy tale themes of dragons, princesses and the makings of true love, but no movie with Myers and Murphy in it was going to be lame. “Shrek” turned out to be witty and hilarious. Murphy supplied the voice to a wisecracking donkey who accompanies an ugly ogre (Myers using his Fat Bastard voice from “Austin Powers 2”) as they save a princess (Diaz) from a vain lord (Lithgow). “That’s the funniest I’ve seen Eddie Murphy in 10 years,” somebody quipped.
Sunday was no day of rest. At 10 in the morning, the corps was transported to the tr