Thursday, November 01, 2007

Have Faith: Joss Whedon's returning to TV!

I know, I know, this is supposed to be about movies, and if you bear with me today you'll find out there is indeed a lot of great movie news out there, but when there's a TV story this good it can't be denied as the lead item.

When Eliza Dushku signed a big deal with 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year, it led me - and surely fanboys everywhere - to muse about the possibilities of a "Faith the Vampire Slayer." Well, this is just about as good, if you can believe that.

Joss Whedon, arguably burned thrice by TV and most severely with the great "Firefly," has finally returned to TV, and he's bringing Faith and "Angel" mastermind Tim Minear with him. Take a minute to think about the possibilities here.

Their project, which has been picked up for seven episodes by Fox, will be called "Dollhouse," and it just sounds like perfect Whedon material. Faith will play Echo, one of a group of secret agents living in a futuristic dorm. Each has the ability to be imprinted with custom personalities and abilities for special assignments ("human chalkboards," I believe he's calling them.) When they return, their newly acquired memories are wiped. The show follows Echo as she takes on a variety of assignments — some romantic, some adventurous, some uplifting, some illegal — and gains awareness of her role and confinement.

“It deals with our darkest impulses and our best ones,” Whedon told TVWeek, which, to be fair, had the scoop on this. “It deals with all the things I like to deal with — strength, weakness, power and corruption.” Amen, brother.

But who do we really have to thank for this rather remarkable development? Faith herself, apparently, Keen to reunite with Whedon, she apparently took him to lunch and picked his brain until this idea spilled forth, and a week later he had sold it to Fox. Depending on how fast Whedon can write, the show will appear either in spring or next fall.

I could go on for hours about something this cool, but you'd be better off to read TVWeek's great interview with Whedon, in which he talks not only about this show, but also about "Ripper," the pain of returning to Fox and the looming writers' strike. Read it all here.

No "Heroes: Origins"?

Though they're blaming this development on the impending strike (which I've tried to avoid reporting on because, well, it doesn't particularly interest me until it impacts specific projects I'm interested in), I have to suspect that NBC's qualms about this might have just as much to do with the new season of "Heroes."

Now, I haven't seen this week's episode yet (my newest DVR habit is to watch it and "Pushing Daisies" back-to-back later this morning), but I have to say there are several things about the new season of "Heroes" that are, well, queer (with no sexual connotation intended whatsoever). In brief, I just can't stand Maya and Alejandro and Hiro's "adventure" in Japan has just been a big bore. The addition of Kristen Bell (although her debut was rather lame) holds promise, and I like what's happening with Peter Petrelli, so I'm certainly not gonna give up, but I do have worries.

As to "Origins," the facts are these: It will not get its six-episode run, which was expected to start as early as late April.

In even more depressing news: NBC's big move instead will be to air TWO-HOUR installments of "The Biggest Loser." In this game, I think that might just be you and me.

New details about Gilliam's "Imaginarium"

Though tidbits about this great project have been floating about for months, I never believe a Terry Gilliam movie's gonna happen anymore until it hits the trades, which it did this morning with "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus." The real news this morning was that Christopher Plummer will be joining Heath Ledger and Tom Waits in the flick, as the titular doctor.

The plot details were long ago encapsulated well by Brendon at the great filmick blog, but I'll do my best with what I remember: Dr. Parnassus is a sort of medicine show man who travels with a theater troupe and an assistant named Anton (Ledger, apparently) who works up the crowd. After encountering and making a deal with the devil (Waits, natch), he is given the power to show people what will happen if they make certain choices, sort of a glimpse down both forks of the road.

Like I said, I may be a bit sketchy on the plot details, but it sounds like pure Gilliam. The flick starts shooting in December, so definitely keep your eyes on this one.

More "X-Files" coming in July!

Has it really been almost 10 years since the first "X-Files" movie? Apparently so, but the wait will be over soon, with 20th Century Fox setting July 28 as the return date for Mulder, Scully and, thankfully, Carter too.

Though the plot is of course shrouded in mystery, creator Chris Carter co-wrote and will direct the flick, which begins filming in December in Vancouver. All we know so far is that it will be a stand-alone story that "takes the complicated relationship between Mulder and Scully in new directions." Not much to go on, I know, but I definitely and heartily say bring it on.

Meryl to play Julia

Some time ago I did a list of my favorite movies about food, and that remains a combo that entertains me almost every time. And this one sounds like a sure winner.

Meryl Streep will play Julia Child in "Julie and Julia" for director Nora Ephron, and in case that isn't sweet enough, you get the truly delectable Amy Adams (forgive me for that, but we are talking about food, after all) in the mix as well, never a problem with me.

The flick centers on a frustrated temp secretary (Adams) who embarks on a yearlong culinary quest to cook all 524 recipes in Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog that catches on with the food crowd. Not sure how exactly Julia herself will factor into this, but it should be fascinating to watch.

Gilroy snags Roberts and Owen for "Duplicity"

I've been pleased to see Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton," the most satisfying legal thriller I've seen in many years, lingering solidly in the top 10 after a rather disappointing box-office start. If you haven't seen it already, do so before you miss the chance.

His next flick is setting up as one that should have no trouble finding an audience. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen (heard of them?) have signed on for "Duplicity," a thriller being written and directed by Gilroy. The duo will play longtime lovers who happened to work as spies on opposite sides (haven't we heard that before with "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"?) They team up to stage an elaborate con to rip off corporations and steal a valuable product.

Even if it does sound awfully familiar, you can only go so wrong with a team like that.

Broken Lizard set 'Slammin' Salmon'

Any list of my favorite comedies, though it might change from time to time, will always have a spot for "Super Troopers," so any news about the Broken Lizard troupe is welcome to me.

The boys are very busy, but their newest will be an indie pic called "Slammin' Salmon" that sounds right up their alley. Bigman Kevin Heffernan will direct (and I can only assume play the lead in) the pic about a restaurant owner and former heavyweight champ who pits his wait staff against each other in a "Glengarry Glen Ross"-like competition.

Broken Lizard also has a deal with Warner Bros., for which it is developing something called "Ambulance Chasers" and another untitled project. It also has set up "Taildraggers" with Participant Pictures and "Pony Bush" with Dimension. How in the world they will juggle all that I don't know, but as long they keep me laughing I'm along for the ride.

"Infernal" director gets huge budget

Bear with me folks. Only two short tidbits to go, and then a fun poster at the end, I promise.

Andrew Lau Wai-kung, director of the simply fantastic "Infernal Affairs" (which of course inspired Scorsese's "The Departed), will direct another trilogy for the Hong Kong studio Media Asia. The budget for all three films: A rather whopping $250 million!

"Water Margin" will be an adaptation of a classic Chinese novel that sees 108 outlaws form a resistance movement to oppose the feudal king. "This is a story that everyone in China knows well," Lau said. "We (see) this as a three-part franchise with me directing the first movie and Johnnie To doing the second and me acting as producer." This just sounds like tons of fun, with or without tons of money.

Jarmusch to push the 'Limits'

Wow. You can definitely tell it's a busy day if news about Jim Jarmusch, easily one of my favorite directors, gets buried this deep.

It seems the great Isaach de Bankole will star in Jarmusch's next pic, tentatively titled "The Limits of Control." De Bankole, who you may remember as the very funny ice cream man in Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog," will play a mysterious loner used to operating outside the law, who is about to complete a job in contemporary Spain. That's just about all I know about the flick, which will begin shooting in Spain in February.

Great new "Juno" poster

It seems like forever since I've plugged Jason Reitman's upcoming "Juno," so here's another installment. The first poster for this flick, simply showing adorable Ellen Page's artificially swollen belly, was funny enough, but this is a definite improvement. I was already well sold on this one, of course, but the priceless look on veryfunnyman Michael Cera's face just makes it even better. Enjoy, and have an entirely pleasant day.


Chalupa said...

More X-files?!?! I had heard something about this a long time ago and had almost forgotten about it. My wife will be very excited to know about this. She owns every season and the original movie on DVD. She can also tell you the plot of any story if you give her the title or vice-versa.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can't say I'm that a devoted fan, Chalupa, but I certainly did love the show while it was on the air .. The first movie, though, was kind of a dud for me, so hopefully this one will be a lot better

Bob said...

Whedon, "X-Files," Amy Adams, Tom Waits with Terry Gilliam, Jarmusch, "Juno," hooray! Can't say I'm sad about "Heroes: Origins" not happening. They need to breathe life back into the show they've got first. I'm with you on Maya. That story's been boring me to tears. I'm hoping for more of Stephen Tobolowsky and (obviously) Kristen Bell.

Tom Waits and Terry Gilliam together. It's just so perfect. I really hope it works out (and that it's better than "Tideland").

Ian said...

"Even if it does sound awfully familiar, you can only go so wrong with a team like that."

Errm. A lot of the critics who reviewed "Closer" might disagree with you on that one!

X-Files news is a surprise given that they've been trying to do this for years. I'd assumed Duchovny was hanging on in the hope his "life after X Files" career would take off, so it seems odd that they're doing this now when he seems to busy with what reviewers here are indicating is a very successful show "Californication" (haven't seen it, waiting for the inevitable DVDs).

I'm with you on the first X-Files movie - a huge disappointment, particularly because Carter and co completely over-hyped it. Let's hope they don't do the same this time.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm with you there completely, Ian ... I have "TV Set" with Duchovny near the top of my Netflix queue to watch soon, but I can't think of any other movies he's appeared in, the first X-files included, that I've enjoyed or particularly want to see ... And hopefully with such a long time between flicks Carter will come up with something much better this time!

Marina said...

Woooeee! Talk about a busy day of announcements! My fave has to be Streep and Adams together. Should be good.

As for "The X-Files 2"...Oh GOODNESS. I'm super excited already!

Mercurie said...

I can't say I am that excited about an X-Files movie. I loved the show, but I feel it went downhill the last few seasons. I would hope another movie would be like the first few seasons, but I fear that it might turn out more like the last.

I am much more excited about Dollhouse. It sounds perfect, except for being on Fox. I haven't trusted that network since they killed a show called, well, Firefly...

* (asterisk) said...

That's disappointing about Heroes: Origins. Worse, though, is the news that this 2nd season is a bit flat, and it's not the first time I have heard it. Gah!

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