Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Information overload? A slew of good movie news

I managed to see Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah" Monday, and while I can report it's Haggis' best movie yet and the first one he directed that I almost entirely enjoyed, i'm still wrapping my mind around it so can't say much more than that. In the meantime, here's a ton of news about people I always like to hear about.

First up comes a serious case of trading up by Spike Lee, and confirmation at the same time that his next movie should be a great one.

It's been hard to tell exactly what Spike will sink his teeth into next, but it seems the WWII drama "Miracle at St. Anna" will indeed be next on his plate. And, in even better news, it seems that Wesley Snipes has dropped out of the lead and been replaced by Derek Luke, easily one of my favorite actors.

Though almost noone saw it in theaters, Luke starred in, for my money, one of the best movies of 2006 with Phillip Noyce's South Africa drama "Catch a Fire." In "Miracle at St. Anna," he joins an impressive ensemble that already includes John Turturro and James Gandolfini. Luke, who also stars in the upcoming "Lions for Lambs," will play one of four members of the Army's all-black 92nd Division who get separated from their squad behind enemy lines. The soldiers, bitter about racism and the feeling that their own government treats its enemy better than it does them, finds humanity in the small Tuscan village of St. Anna (filming in Italy forced Snipes to pull out because of his tax troubles.

You can now officially list as one movie that I'll report just about every detail I can find on, so get used to it now.

Confirmation that I'll watch Catherine Keener in anything

Easily the highlight of my Friday worknight was an e-mail exchange with Nell Minow, a k a Yahoo's Movie Mom, about the virtues of Catherine Keener. On the list of leading ladies, I think I'd only list Helen Mirren above her among my favorites.

And, as Nell and I agree, she's so good that we like her in movies that have relatively few other virtues, as this next one just might prove. Even with the reliable Joe Wright, director of the upcoming "Atonement," at the helm, "The Soloist" just kind of makes me say meh.

Although I liked Jamie Foxx quite a bit in "The Kingdom," just about the last thing I want to see him do is make another musical biopic, this one about Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless musician with schizophrenia who dreams of playing at L.A.'s Disney Hall. Robert Downey Jr. (huzzah!) will play the Los Angeles Times correspondent who found Ayers on the streets of L.A., and Ms. Keener will play his editor. Like I said, this sounds like way too much schmaltz for me, but it's always worth keeping an eye on a cast like that.

And, for you fellow Catherine Keener fans out there, you can also look for her in "Hamlet 2" with Steve Coogan, Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" and Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are."

Berg nabs epic kidnapping tale

With Peter Berg rising rapidly on my list of favorite directors and season 2 of "Friday Night Lights" coming at 8 this Friday, now comes word he's got his hands on a new project that could be tons of fun.

Universal has apparently signed Mr. Berg to direct a movie based on John Pearson's book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty." It's an often sordid tale that involves kidnapping and other high crimes and misdemeanors, so it should make for a compelling flick.

Berg's currently wrapping up "Hancock," his summer 2008 flick starring Jason Bateman (huzzah again!), Charlize Theron and a certain actor you may have heard of named Will Smith, and is then (I think) signed to direct a flick about Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, so he'll be fairly busy for the foreseeable future.

A "Queen" sequel? Bring it on

Though Helen Mirren rightly got most of the acclaim for playing her highness in Stephen Frears' 2006 flick "The Queen," Michael Sheen's Tony Blair was just about as amazing an accomplishment. And now, thankfully, it seems we'll be getting more of it.

Did anyone out there know there was a prequel of sorts to "The Queen," another Tony Blair flick penned for Britain's Channel 4 by Peter Morgan and titled "The Deal"? I didn't, but it's being added to my Netflix queue now if I can get it. Rounding out the series to make a trilogy, Morgan is now at work on a new flick which will be about Blair's relationships with American presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, with Sheen returning as Mr. Blair.

In "The Queen," Morgan and Sheen painted Blair as a wiley pol who nonetheless had a seemingly insatiable desire to be liked by everyone he encountered, so this next chapter should be another nice fit. Though Morgan will stop short of Blair's rather unpopular decision to back W. wholeheartedly on the war in Iraq, you can still expect some enticing palace (or, I guess, Downing Street) intrigue.

Morgan also recently finished a rewrite of "State of Play" for director Kevin Macdonald ("Last King of Scotland") and a draft of the adaptation of John le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Stephen Frears, director of "The Queen," will apparently be handing the reins for the next chapter to British director Tom Hooper, who has episodes of "Eastenders" and "Prime Suspect" listed among his credits.

I always suspected so ...

Though he was more than happy enough to pocket the big Hollywood checks, you can apparently count Jackie Chan (and me) among the legions of people who just can't stand Brett Ratner.

Chan wrote on his blog, according to Yahoo, that when he made the first installment of the "Rush Hour" series in 1998 he only wanted to test the U.S. market and didn't have high hopes.

"When we finished filming, I felt very disappointed because it was a movie I didn't appreciate and I did not like the action scenes involved. I felt the style of action was too Americanized and I didn't understand the American humor," Chan wrote.

He said he made the sequel because he was offered an "irresistible" amount of money to do it and made the recently released third installment to satisfy fans of the series.

Chan said "Rush Hour 3" was no different from the first two installments for him.

"Nothing particularly exciting stood out that made this movie special for me ... I spent four months making this film and I still don't fully understand the humor," he said, adding the comedic scenes may be lost on Asian audiences.

I thought the first "Rush Hour" was funny (and harmless) enough, but didn't bother with the other two. As far as his heart goes, it certainly sounds like Jackie Chan really didn't either.

‘Bottle Rocket’ to get Criterion treatment

Be warned: If it's at all possible you just might see Wes Anderson news on this site every day until I get to see "The Darjeeling Limited." Especially when the news is as good as this.

According to the reliably entertaining MTV movies blog, it seems Anderson's "Bottle Rocket," of which I am the proud owner of a very worn out VHS copy, will someday be getting the Criterion DVD treatment it surely deserves.

“We’ve just begun work with the Criterion Collection to do ‘Bottle Rocket’ on a new DVD that’s going to have all kinds of stuff," he told MTV. "There’s a lot of ‘Bottle Rocket’ that was on the cutting room floor, so we have a lot to work with on that one.”

Though I'd rank "Bottle Rocket" third in the Anderson Oeuvre, behind, respectively, "The Royal Tenenbaums" and then "Rushmore," it's still a damn fine flick well worthy of Criterion respect.

Yes, Will Smith can do anything he wants to ...

IGN is reporting this one simply as a rumor, but it was way too funny for me to pass up.

Perhaps only to prove he can, it seems Will Smith is behind a remake of "The Karate Kid" that would star - get ready - his currently 9-year-old son Jaden. I'd be more put off by this if I could manage to stop laughing.

"Deadwood" officially dead?

Sorry to leave things on a down note, but I did want to pass along what the great Ian McShane, a k a Al Swearengen, had to tell Cinematical about the possibility of two "Deadwood" movies to wrap the story up.

It seems Mr. McShane told the Cinematical folks that, as we all feared, HBO has indeed killed the idea.

"I just got a call on Friday from ... a dear friend of mine, who told me that they're packing up the ranch," McShane said. "They're dismantling the ranch and taking the stuff out. That ship is gonna sail. Bonsoir, Deadwood."

He went on to add: "You feel cheated? Imagine how I feel! We all do. We all do. It was one of those one-off jobs that you do which has got an extraordinary creative brain behind it, and it kept getting better, and the actors were great. It was a fabulous place to be and work. It was a workshop cum theater cum film. It was an extraordinary time. But everything has to come to an end, babe."

I guess it does, but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. Being constantly behind on things, I just finished season two of "Deadwood" and intend to watch the final season before moving on to season four of HBO's greatest series, "The Wire," come December. Though season one was better than No. 2, count me among the many big fans of this Western who are very sad to hear it won't be revived anytime soon.

"Golden Compass" goodness

Whew! Long report today, so anyone who made it this far indeed deserves a reward. Here's a pretty good "Golden Compass" featurette to enjoy. Peace out.


renee said...

Catherine Keener is fantastic in "Into the Wild." Get yourself to that film as soon as you have the opportunity.

Mercurie said...

That is really bad news about Deadwood. I was hoping they would so movies to wrap up the story. It was easily my favourite TV show on HBO, even more than The Wire (which is really saying something given how good it is).

Reel Fanatic said...

I can't believe I forgot to mention that one too, Renee ... It's not playing here yet, and I'm afraid we may have to wait for it to get more notice in awards season, but hopefully I'm wrong

Chalupa said...

Bottle Rocket is gonna hit Criterion?!?! This is good news indeed. That's his only movie not on the list yet, right?

The sequel and prequel to The Queen both sound interesting. I'll have to check them out.

Surprised, yet totally unsurprised, that Chan can't stand the Rush Hour movies. I can't stand them myself.

Marina said...

I like Keener but for me it's the director that I'll follow into any project.

Bob said...

Wow! What a huge update.
They've been teasing us with a "Bottle Rocket" Criterion edition for the past six years so it's about time.
That's cool about Michael Sheen playing Blair again. He was incredible in "The Queen" so I could definitely stand to see him reprise the role. I need to check out "The Deal" for myself.
I saw "The Kingdom" last night and I enjoyed it as well. I loved seeing Michael Bluth wearing an O's cap and a Pixies t-shirt. It's like he raided my ensemble :).
Yes, I love the Orioles too. Thank goodness the season is over.

Reel Fanatic said...

It has indeed been a hard season to bear, Bob, especially after they showed that little hint of promise after the firing of Perlozzo ... I'll still always love them, but it's becoming more and more difficult all the time

Fletch said...

If you like Peter Berg, you must see Aspen Extreme (if you haven't already). What an awful Top Gun ripoff (on the ski slopes). It's so terrible I love it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I had somehow missed out on that one, Fletch, but it does indeed sound terrible in all the best ways .. thanks for the head's up