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 was soon started, however, as we were whisked by three enthusiastic DreamWorks interns onto a bus bound for a screening of “Evolution” at Universal Studios. 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 that makes you wonder how it got green lighted in the first place. It’s one of those movies 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 a special effects bonanza, the movie left the departing bus full of many 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 his wife’s untimely death. 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,” treating us like we were people who cared about the ideas and message 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, and “Shrek” turned out to be witty and hilarious. Murphy supplied the voice for a wise-cracking 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 morning found no rest time allotted for the Sabbath. At 10 in the morning, the corps was transported to the tr