Of Griz­zlies, Great Apes & Craig Brewer

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MOVIES -

Mem­phis film­maker

has had a busy week, with his con­tri­bu­tions to Hol­ly­wood spec­ta­cle and home­town pride emerg­ing al­most side by side.

Mon­day, the Mem­phis Griz­zlies re­leased

a short film trib­ute to point guard by Brewer and his

com­pany. The sec­ond Brewer film com­mis­sioned by the Griz­zlies to help woo a vet­eran team­mate turned free agent (af­ter last year’s “Marc Ga­sol of Mem­phis”), the short de­buted on­line just hours be­fore Brewer and his wife

ar­rived in Los An­ge­les for the red-car­pet world pre­miere of

a Warner Bros. would-be sum­mer block­buster with a story and script cred­ited to Brewer and Adam Cozad (“Jack Ryan: Shadow Re­cruit”).

With a bud­get es­ti­mated at $180 mil­lion and stu­dio hopes for a fran­chise rid­ing on the square shoul­ders, six-pack abs and lin­gual creases of new Ape Man Alexan­der Skars­gard, “The Leg­end of Tarzan” — close to the 50th Tarzan movie to be pro­duced since Elmo Lin­coln donned a headband and fur tu­nic in “Tarzan of the Apes” in 1918 — is by far the largest pro­duc­tion with which Brewer has been as­so­ci­ated.

“It was ex­cit­ing to see ‘Tarzan’ and to be there and to know that I had a hand in it,” said Brewer, 44, of the Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard pre­miere at the Dolby The­atre (home base for the Os­cars cer­e­mony), at­tended by the film’s stars (Skars­gard, Mar­got Rob­bie, Christoph Waltz and Sa­muel L. Jack­son, who had been di­rected by Brewer in “Black Snake Moan”) and direc­tor David Yates (helm­ing a project that Brewer orig­i­nally hoped to di­rect him­self).

Said Brewer: “It’s a strange thing to see my name go on and off the screen and then see Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ name come on and off the screen and af­ter that to see Jerry Wein­traub’s name come on the screen.” (Bur­roughs was the cre­ator of Tarzan in 1912 and the au­thor of 24 Tarzan novels; Wein­traub, who died last July at 77, was a pro­ducer of the new Tarzan movie and the pro­moter who en­gi­neered Elvis Presley’s tri­umphant re­turn to con­cert tour­ing in 1970.)

“That’s some­thing I wish my father could have seen,” Brewer said of the “Tarzan” screen credit, ref­er­enc­ing his late father, men­tor and artis­tic sup­porter, Wal­ter Brewer. “He was re­ally into Bur­roughs — ‘Tarzan,’ ‘John Carter of Mars’ — and C.S. Lewis and other writ­ers.”

Brewer — who said he did not want to dis­cuss specific aspects of the new “Tarzan” movie while the film is so fresh — ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing of a bus­man’s hol­i­day in Los An­ge­les. While his wife was haunt­ing the city’s fab­ric em­po­ri­ums to make pur­chases for her Jodi Brewer Cou­ture cus­tom wed­ding gown busi­ness, Craig Brewer has been meet­ing with “stream­ing” and “web con­tent” com­pa­nies in hopes of find­ing the fund­ing and the plat­forms for episodic pro­grams that could be pro­duced in Mem­phis through his BR2 Pro­duc­tions.

“This is where all my ex­cite­ment is right now,” Brewer said of the idea of Mem­phis-based, web-launched en­ter­tain­ment. “It ba­si­cally helps me in two ar­eas I’m most pas­sion­ate about. One, how can I do some­thing cre­ative that ac­tu­ally hap­pens, and that’s of such size that we can ac­tu­ally get it done, so it’s not like I’m wait­ing for­ever to do it ... .” (Sev­eral of Brewer’s past fea­ture film projects col­lapsed be­fore they reached the pro­duc­tion stage, even af­ter stu­dio an­nounce­ments about them to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter and other trade mag­a­zines.)

“... And sec­ond, it pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cally minded cre­ators who can’t get a foothold in Cal­i­for­nia or New York. This is an op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ing series with lo­cal writ­ers, to pitch ideas for sto­ries we can shoot in Mem­phis in the $100,000 to $2 mil­lion range — the kind of size that we were pi­o­neer­ing with ‘$5 Cover,’” he said, re­fer­ring to the Mem­phis-set mu­sic drama he cre­ated for MTV in 2009.

“$5 Cover” and its fol­lowup, “Sav­age County,” an MTV hor­ror se­rial also shot lo­cally through BR2 Pro­duc­tions, were ar­guably ahead of their time. Both shows ar­rived be­fore a great deal of viewer mi­gra­tion from tra­di­tional tele­vi­sions to “de­vices” had oc­curred, and be­fore view­ers es­sen­tially de­manded to be able to “binge” and watch pro­grams when­ever they wanted to.

Brewer said his work with BR2 part­ner and lo­cal film­maker

— an in­te­gral part of the Griz­zlies films — con­vinced him that Mem­phis has enough crew and tal­ent for the type of mod­est on­line pro­grams he en­vi­sions, which in­clude nar­ra­tive dramas as well as “re­al­ity” type series. (For ex­am­ple, he has high hopes for a pro­gram built around the on­go­ing “You Look Like a ...” com­edy show at the P&H Cafe, hosted by Ka­t­rina Cole­man and Tommy Oler.)

“For the first time, I have com­plete con­fi­dence that I can han­dle it all at home, this par­tic­u­lar size pro­duc­tion,” he said.

Brewer said he is cre­at­ing so-called “siz­zle reels” — minipreviews of po­ten­tial pro­gram ideas — to shop around to var­i­ous com­pa­nies. “It’s not like some­one like me can click their heels three times and make it hap­pen. You do the siz­zle reels, and then the mar­ket­place will de­cide if it wants to do it and at what level.”

In the mean­time, the more high-pro­file as­pect of his ca­reer con­tin­ues apace. Brewer said he is re­turn­ing to Chicago in July to di­rect two more episodes of the Fox net­work mu­sic-in­dus­try drama that re­united Taraji P. Hen­son and Ter­rence Howard, the stars of Brewer’s 2005 Sun­dance hit, “Hus­tle & Flow.”

Did we say “hit”? At the box of­fice, the movie made a profit, but “‘Hus­tle & Flow’ was not a hit,” Brewer said. “Yet it’s wild to me how that movie has a com­pletely dif­fer­ent life out­side the bound­aries of what’s called a ‘hit’ movie. Every­body has seen it. And with ‘Em­pire,’ there’s a whole new en­ergy now that’s con­nected to the movie.”

Con­tact John Bei­fuss at bei­fuss@ com­mer­cialap­peal.com; 901-5292394 An­gry Birds (Pg, 97 min.) the video game app in­spires a com­puter-an­i­mated com­e­dyad­ven­ture. Wolfchase Galleria Cin­ema 8. Bar­ber­shop: The Next Cut (Pg13, 112 min.) HHH An un­of­fi­cial com­pan­ion piece to spike Lee’s “Chi-raq,” this fourth film in the “Bar­ber­shop” series — di­rected by spike’s cousin, Mal­colm D. Lee — also is a re­sponse to the mur­der epi­demic plagu­ing in­nercity Chicago, but it’s more hope­ful than mourn­ful: this is the south side with a touch of May­berry. A show­case for ice Cube’s every­man ap­peal, Cedric the en­ter­tainer’s old-school wise­cracks, the movie is filled with comic and se­ri­ous de­bate, but the ar­gu­ments aren’t fractious; rather, they’re in­tended to cel­e­brate a tightknit and vi­brant com­mu­nity. Bartlett 10.

Cour­tesy of Craig Brewer

Jodi and Craig Brewer at the Hol­ly­wood pre­miere of “the Leg­end of tarzan” on Mon­day. Craig, who is from Mem­phis, co­scripted the film.

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