Thursday, December 06, 2007

Camp Apatow gets biblical? Believe it

There's a lot of stuff out there today, so forgive me if I tear through things rather quickly. And where in the world would you start except with what's next from reigning king of comedy Judd Apatow?

Actually, a quick visit to the IMDB revealed he's not set to direct anything in the near future, but this flick he's producing for director Harold Ramis (huzzah!) sounds like it should be just thoroughly crazy and fun.

Michael Cera and Jack Black (now there's a comedy team!) will star in "Year One," and they'll most likely be joined by Oliver Platt, David Cross, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple and, yes, McLovin. What I've always liked about Apatow ever since the "Freaks and Geeks" days is his loyalty, so it's nice to see that continues with Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Details are scant about the story by Ramis, but it will definitely be some kind of Biblical comedy. Platt is in talks to play a platform-shoe-wearing high priest in the comedy, while Jones is on board to play a head palace guard named Sargon.

That's just about all I know for now, but with that many funny people in one flick, which is set to start shooting in January, this is definitely one to keep your eyes on.

NBR picks 'No Country'

Though I stand by my pick of Ratatouille as the best movie of 2007, I have nothing but love for the Coens' "No Country for Old Men," so it's nice to see the kudos start rolling in.

The rather mysterious National Board of Review has picked it as the best movie of 2007, but in one of those bizarre split decisions also gave its directing award to Tim Burton for "Sweeney Todd." "No Country" also won a much-deserved honor for best ensemble cast (along with all the great dudes in this one, Kelly MacDonald was sensational, and you'll be hearing much more from me about how she deserves a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.)

George Clooney picked up NBR’s actor nod for his performance in "Michael Clayton," while Julie Christie won the actress prize for "Away from Her."

Casey Affleck received the supporting actor prize for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," while Amy Ryan won supporting actress for "Gone Baby Gone."

"Ratatouille" took the award for animated feature, while French film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" took foreign film. Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro’s Iraqi war doc "Body of War" drew the documentary nod. Ben Affleck won for directorial debut with "Gone Baby Gone."

Ellen Page won the prize for breakthrough performance by an actress for her role in "Juno," while Emile Hirsch took the breakthrough performance by an actor for "Into the Wild."

"Juno" scribe Diablo Cody and "Lars and the Real Girl" scribe Nancy Oliver tied for the original screenplay prize; Joel and Ethan Coen drew adapted screenplay kudos for "No Country."

Along with naming the best 10 (actually this year, 11) movies of the year, the NBR also picks the 10 best independents. I'm not much on the segregation, but it's still nice to see the smaller flicks gets some love.

Here are the indies: Sarah Polley’s "Away from Her," Craig Zobel’s "Great World of Sound," John Sayles’ "Honeydripper," Paul Haggis’ "In the Valley of Elah," Michael Winterbottom’s "A Mighty Heart," Andrew Wagner’s "Starting Out in the Evening," Mira Nair’s "The Namesake," Tamara Jenkins’ "The Savages," John Carney’s "Once" and Adrienne Shelly’s "Waitress." ("Namesake" and "Once" are both on my weekend watch list, which has me rather excited.)

Making the shortlist of top foreign films were "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," "The Band’s Visit," "The Counterfeiters," "La Vie en rose" and "Lust, Caution."

"Darfur Now," "In the Shadow of the Moon," "Nanking," "Taxi to the Darkside" and "Toots" were named the top five docus.

And now, finally, the NBR's top 11 best movies are:

"No Country for Old Men"
"The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Bucket List"
"Into The Wild"
"The Kite Runner"
"Lars And The Real Girl"
"Michael Clayton"
"Sweeney Todd"

No "Ratatouille" or "American Gangster"? Phooey. Oh well .. let the debate begin!

Johnny meets the Mann

I understand that when you're Johnny Depp you have options, but how in the world did one dude get to pick from three great movie roles (and perhaps pick the wrong one?)

He had been rumored to be making either "Shantaram" in India with the great Mira Nair or a movie based on Hunter Thompson's "Rum Diary" with "Withnail and I" director Bruce Robison. I have to assume that both of those have been delayed or dropped, because now he's teaming up with Michael Mann for a pic that sounds like it's much more likely to actually get made.

"Public Enemies" is set during the great crime wave of 1933-34, when Hoover's FBI was taking on Depression-era criminal legends such as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. Mann wrote the script, based on Bryan Burrough’s book.

In what can only be described as tons of cool, Depp will play Dillinger. And as much as I'd like to see him team with up with Ms. Nair or Mr. Robison, it's hard to see how this could turn out bad.

"X Files 2" cast takes shape

With this many people signed on, it's beginning to look like there definitely will be another X Files flick in our near future (I couldn't help having lingering doubts.)

Rapper Xzibit, Amanda Peet and Billy Connolly have signed on for director Chris Carter's "The X Files 2," which will be a stand-alone flick rather than a real sequel, thankfully. Xzibit and Peet will play fellow FBi agents with David Duchovny's Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Scully. It's not clear yet what Connolly has to do with all this, but I like him in just about everything (including the simply silly but very entertaining "Fido," which I just finished on DVD.)

The flick is set to come out July 25.

Who gets to make out with Rory Gilmore?

Sorry, but that was the first thing that popped into my sometimes puerile mind when I saw this one. Zach Gilford, a k a QB No. 1 Matt Saracen on "Friday Night Lights," will play Alexis Bledel's love interest in "The Post-Grad Survival Guide," and will be joined in the cast by Michael Keaton, Carol Burnett and Rodrigo Santoro.

The film centers on Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel), who graduates from college and is forced to move back home with her eccentric family. Sounds terribly familiar to me, especially with "Superbad" director Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" coming out next summer with pretty much the exact same plot, but I'll watch Rory Gilmore in just about anything. And with "Friday Night Lights" shuttered thanks to the strike (sorry to be the bearer of bad news, if you didn't know), it's just nice to see that the QB gets to keep busy.

Doco directors set to get Freaky

My former boss and still current co-worker Oby Brown swears you can find the answer to just about any question in economist Steven D. Levitt's book "Freakonomics." Having read a few chapters of it myself, I'm not quite that convinced, but it is indeed a fascinating tome.

Now, seven doco directors will be teaming up to each direct a segment based on a chapter of the book to make one flick. Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing ("Jesus Camp"), Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"), Laura Poitras ("My Country My Country"), Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") and Jehane Noujaim ("Control Room") are the super seven.

Jarecki will analyze Levitt's claim that the drop in crime can be attributed to Roe. v. Wade (yes, really), and Gibney will focus on whether or not sumo wrestlers and teachers cheat. The other directors are still picking their chapters to take on.

Shooting will begin in January and will be completed by summer. If you've never read any of this book, I highly recommend picking it up for a read that, even if just makes you scratch your head, definitely won't leave you bored.

What's next on "The Wire"?

OK, we're almost done, but I couldn't omit these plotlines for the first four episodes of the final season of the greatest TV show of all time, could I? David Simon's "The Wire" returns to HBO Sunday, Jan. 6, and the fifth season will take a hard look at the Media's role in addressing - or not addressing - the crime problems of Simon's Baltimore.

New cast regulars this season include Clark Johnson ("Homicide: Life on the Street") as city editor Augustus "Gus" Haynes, Tom McCarthy ("Year of the Dog") as ambitious reporter Scott Templeton, Michelle Paress as reporter Alma Gutierrez, Neal Huff ("Michael Clayton") as Michael Steintorf, Mayor Carcetti's chief of staff, and Michael Kostroff ("The Closer") as Maury.

Here are the official HBO plotlines for episodes 1-4 of what should be a 13-episode final arc.

"More with Less"
As McNulty (Dominic West) and the detail continue staking out Marlo's crew, recently promoted Sergeant Carver (Seth Gilliam) is welcomed by a cauldron of discontent from officers coping with unpaid overtime. Though he wants to keep his campaign promise to lower crime, Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) is strapped by his commitment to schools, and faces some tough choices. Col. Daniels (Lance Reddick) is forced to reallocate his resources, retaining Freamon (Clarke Peters) and Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) for the Clay Davis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) probe. Meanwhile, city editor Augustus "Gus" Haynes (Clark Johnson) and the staff of a local newspaper are reeling from corporate cutbacks, losing key personnel from both the metro and international divisions. Still, with the help of reporters Alma Gutierrez (Michelle Paress), Jeff Price (Todd Scofield) and Scott Templeton (Tom McCarthy), Haynes is able to break a front-page story that links a politician to a co-op drug dealer. Proposition Joe (Robert F. Chew), Marlo (Jamie Hector), Fatface Rick (Troj Marquis Strickland) and others meet in a hotel conference room to discuss divvying up drug frontiers across East Baltimore's county line.

"Unconfirmed Reports"
Although he tells Sydnor that the Davis investigation could be a "career case," Freamon keeps a wary eye out for Marlo, who takes care of some unfinished business and strikes a business deal with Barksdale (Wood Harris). Carcetti throws the police a bone by removing the cap on secondary employment, sending the detectives into fantasy-job reveries. With an eye on the state house, Mayor Carcetti's chief of staff, Michael Steintorf (Neal Huff), tries to find good news for the mayor while blaming the Royce administration for the Campbell revelation. Davis turns to Burrell (Frankie Faison) for help with his problem, but the commissioner's hands are tied. At the newspaper, executive editor James Whiting (Sam Freed) outlines a Pulitzer-worthy series in broad strokes, trumping Haynes while liberating the ambitious Templeton. Fed up with broken-down cars and unsolved serial murders, McNulty decides to take matters into his own hands.

"Not for Attribution"
Carcetti's master plan for the police department is leaked to the press, sending the brass into a panic. Marlo turns to Proposition Joe to help with an enviable problem. Whiting and managing editor Thomas Klebanow (David Costabile) drop a bombshell on the newspaper staff. Michael (Tristan Wilds) finds temporary respite from his life on the corner by taking Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) and Bug (Keenon Brice) on a trip. McNulty shares some inside info with Gutierrez, but her subsequent story doesn't cause the splash either envisioned. Undaunted, McNulty looks for a new ally in Freamon.

Campbell (Marlyne Afflack) tries to smooth out the transitions in the police department. The newspaper scramsbles to confirm surprising news from City Hall, but lose out to the TV media in scooping a high-profile grand jury appearance. As Marlo tries to win favor with the Greeks, Proposition Joe pays his last respects to a fallen colleague, and prepares to make himself scarce in anticipation of a showdown. Freamon enlists the help of a past partner to help with the investigation.

And in welcome music news, on Jan. 8, Nonesuch Records releases "Music from Five Years of The Wire," which includes performances of Steve Earle's "Way Down in the Hole," the show's theme song, by the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Neville Brothers and DoMaJe, as well as the closing theme and numerous other tracks.

It will be sad to see this great crime epic come to a close, but it certainly seems from this description of the first part of season five that Simon and his crew are going out on top. Peace out.


Bob said...

Well hooray for "No Country" and "Assassination of Jesse James," and "Away From Her"! I'm hoping that is a sign of things to come. Still, I'm a bit annoyed (though certainly not surprised) by the total snubbing of all things funny. Why not "Knocked Up," "Superbad," or "Hot Fuzz"? Too funny to actually be GOOD apparently. Oh well. That's the way award season goes.
And that's cool that Johnny Depp is working with Michael Mann except it means that Johnny Depp and Bruce Robinson (which would be far cooler) is pushed back even farther. I DEMAND to have some "Rum Diary"!

Bob said...

To be fair I just remembered they put "Juno" and "Lars," so at least they have a little comedy on their list.

Jonathan said...

I always get a little confused by what they determine to be a "Breakout" performance. I would have thought Ellen Page's performance in "Hard Candy" is what led to her getting noticed for roles like "Juno." Granted, many more people will watch "Juno," but still. I agree a little more with the decision for Hirsch, since everything else he's been in before this ("Girl Next Door," "Alpha Dog," etc.) have all been commercial and critical duds for the most part.

But I guess if the basis is on a performance that will make someone a star then Page fits the bill. Amy Adams in "Enchanted" should also be noted, but since that has a bigger budget and is backed by Disney, I guess that automatically puts her out of the running.

Reel Fanatic said...

I"m with you there, Bob ... of the three you mentioned, both Hot Fuzz and Superbad are in my top 10 thus far, with Knocked Up just missing the cut (though, until the end of the year actually arrives, revisions are of course always possible and probably inevitable

And you're definitely right about Ellen Page, Jonathan .. I think she didn't get nearly enough credit for Hard Candy, which is perhaps why people can misguidedly call "Juno" a breakout performance rather than simplay an outstanding star turn by an actress whose already arrived ... But, by your standard, I couldn't really call Amy Adams' performance in "Enchanted" (which I admittedly haven't yet seen) a "breakout" performance either since she's already been nominated for an Academy award for the simply subline "Junebug"

Chalupa said...

I always find it interesting how my opinions on movie critic's stuff differs from my own. I totally agree that Hard Candy is what really got Ellen Page noticed. It got me to notice her. Yeah, I had seen her in the X-Men movie, but it wasn't really memorable.

Also, it's been annoying to me how Jennifer Garner is being announced as the star of new movie Juno. Why can't they mention Michael Cera, Ellen Page or even Jason Bateman. I can see how they might skip over the "kids" in the movie but I'd rather they talk about Jason Bateman than Jennifer Garner.

Reel Fanatic said...

I actually liked Jennifer Garner quite a bit in "Juno," Chalupa ... I know she plays the character that, by the end at least, we are supposed to naturally cheer for, but I thought she pulled it off really well ... You're right, though, that this is clearly Ellen Page's show, and snyone who doesn't recognize that just doesn't get it

JMW said...

Wait. "The Bucket List"?? "THE BUCKET LIST"???

Granted, I haven't seen it. But I've seen the trailer, and unless it's a bait and switch thing where you see that trailer and then go into the theater and actually see The Godfather, I can't imagine that was one of the best 11 movies of the year, much less one of the best 11 movies of movies released that day. Ugh.

I couldn't read The Wire episode summaries. Must. Be. Surprised.

Reel Fanatic said...

I know exactly what you mean about that one, JMW .. I haven't seen it either, but it just looks like the most sappy kind of treacle imaginable .. And as much as I love "Spinal Tap," I just have no faith at all now in Rob Reiner

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