Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcome back, Bertolucci

Any word of Bernardo Bertolucci returning to the director's chair is good news to me, especially when the project seems as tailored to his strengths as this one does.

His new project will apparently be an English-language drama centered on the emotionally turbulent life of 16th-century Italo musician and murderer Gesualdo da Venosa. Bertolucci's longtime producer Jeremy Thomas describes it as "an epic story" about a character "hidden from history" similar to Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor."

The story about the composer - whose creativity soared as he suffered terribly over having killed his first wife and her lover - is being penned by Bertolucci with "Last Emperor" scribe Mark Peploe.

That all sounds great to me. Despite the epic nature of the tale, it reminds me more of "Besieged" than "The Last Emperor," both of which I adore. If you haven't seen Bertolucci's "Besieged," a tale of obsessive love starring David Thewlis and Thandie Newton, drop whatever you're doing and rent it immediately.

Gurinder Chadha also busy

No man my age should admit to liking teen movies, but when they're funny (which, granted, isn't very often at all) or British I'm almost always there. And Gurinder Chadha's next project should be a hoot.

According to the great Film Ick blog, she's currently casting for a lead actress for her adaptation of Louise Rennison's "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging." I have to admit I had never heard of the book, but Amazon describes it as a "Bridget Jones for the younger set," and Rennison is apparently a comedy writer of some acclaim. If it contains any of the spirit of two of my other favorites, Sue Townsend's "Adrian Mole" series and Keith Waterhouse's "Maggie Muggins" (admittedly about a much older and more beaten-down lead heroine), I'm in.

And besides, if you're a teen living in England who happens to be reading this, you just might want to take note: Keira Knightly and Parminder Nagra (huzzah!) certainly could have gotten off to a lot worse start than starring in Chadha's charming "Bend it Like Beckham."

Keira as Princess Di?

This first appeared in London's Sun tabloid, so take it with the appropriate grain of salt, but I could certainly see it as being true.

According to The Sun, Ms. Knightley is 'being wooed' to take the role of Princess Diana in an upcoming film. OK, so far so good, even if I wouldn't be interested in the least. From here, though, the story just gets disgusting.

The flick, apparently, would be based upon a book called "Princess Diana and the Paparazzi," written by two members of said paparazzi. If young Ms. Knightley were ever to take on such a project, could this ever be called anything but blood money? I think not.

Now, I'm no big fan of Diana. Like the Queen, I was on vacation when she died, and also like the Queen, apparently, I just kind of shrugged and went on with my day. I do, however, know when something smells rotten, and this just stinks all around.

Two very funny Michael Cera clips

In much better news, I've discovered two clips that prove young Michael Cera, late of the much-missed "Arrested Development," just might be one of the funniest dudes on the planet.

The first, courtesy of Funny or Die, is a promotional clip of him getting "fired" from "Knocked Up" by Judd Apatow (a la David Russell and Lily Tomlin.) Once again, Katherine Heigl just about steals the show just with her expressions, but Cera's meltdown is also just very funny. Click here to see for yourself.

The second, much odder clip, came to my attention via Jeremy, a frequent and always welcome visitor to this site who is lucky enough to be at the Seattle International Film Festival at the moment. It took me a bit to digest it, and to be honest, I'm still not sure exactly what it is.

As far as I can tell, it's a series of videos chronicling Cera and buddy Clark Duke's attempt to sell their screenplay about them being adopted by a cruise ship captain (or something crazy like that.) I've only watched the first episode so far, and can attest that it is very addictive fun. Click here to enjoy, and have an entirely bearable Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

20 airplane discs

Because, in this one way at least, I'm extremely spoiled, I will be accompanying my parents and bro to South Africa for two weeks starting June 16.

Needless to say, I'm rather excited about this, but as my parents keep reminding me, it does mean two rather long flights (like 17 hours each, I think), so I'm gonna have to find some serious timekillers.

I've already settled on my plane book, Monica Ali's "Brick Lane" (yes, I know, I'm more than a bit behind.) And, since I'm also always way behind on technology too, I'm still a CD person, and have managed to snag a portable CD player for the voyage.

Here are the 20 discs I'm planning to take with me, though that is, of course, subject to change in the next few weeks.

Ween, Live at Stubbs 7/2000
Any fan of Ween (and if you're not one, I have to ask why not) should get this one, if you can still get your hands on it. It's just a two-hour party featuring all of Ween's best stuff played to a crowd that was really into the groove. And, this being Ween, there's a third disc with one half-hour song titled "Lick My Love Pump." That one you can avoid and not miss anything.

The Best of Chuck Brown
I actually stumbled upon Chuck Brown through a duet disc he did with the great jazz singer Eva Cassidy called "The Other Side." In his own right, Mr. Brown is the king of D.C.'s go-go scene. Nelly once called his "Bustin Loose" the best beat he had ever heard, and I have to agree with the man there.

Mary Lou Lord, Live City Sounds
Sure, recording herself playing in the subway was a big gimmick, but I'm willing to forgive when the results are this beautiful. The covers are the best stuff here, especially "Thirteen" and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning."

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
Like all male fans of indie music, I'm simply smitten with Rilo Kiley's Jenny Watson, and this solo record is as fun as anything she's ever done with the band.

Carolyn Mark and her roomates present a tribute to Robert Altman's Nashville
By all accounts, this should never have worked. As the title implies, alt-country hipster Mark assembled all her friends to record all the songs from Altman's best flick. They all clearly got into the spirit of the project, and the results are surprisingly good.

Wig in a Box - Songs from and Inspired by Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The original soundtrack to John Cameron Mitchell's crazy movie is good in itself, but this is one of the few all-star tributes that makes it even better. You may think you're prepared for the pure-pop sensation of the Polyphonic Spree doing the title track or They Might Be Giants on "The Long Grift," but it will definitely surprise you if you've never heard it.

Goodie Mob, Soul Food
It's probably rather unseemly that I first started listening to hip-hop when I was 30 years old, but that's what happened. When I moved down to Macon, I found it was the best thing coming out of my little corner of the world, and this CD from Cee-Lo and his former Goodie Mob mates is just about as good as it gets.

Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera
I'm still ashamed that my brother had to call me from Minnesota to hip me to this sensation in my own backyard. I've been hooked ever since I first played this two-disc set that's sort of the story of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and have seen many incredible live Truckers shows since.

Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid
As far as Texas twang-pop goes, it doesn't get any better than Rodney Crowell. If I'm not mistaken, this is the middle disc in a trilogy, but it's the only one I've managed to acquire from the former Mr. Rosanne Cash.

Alejandro Escovedo, Rhapsody
Mr. Escovedo is apparently as healthy as can be expected now, and the world is certainly a better place for it. It was hard to pick only one of his discs, but this one from 2001 just perfectly encapsulates what he's all about.

David Banner, Mississippi: The Album and Certified
When I sent these two rap albums to my brother, though I think he liked them, his first response what that it's "awfully bleak." He's right at that, but Mr. Banner, who essentially played himself in Craig Brewer's "Black Snake Moan," is the king of all Dirty South rappers for my money.

Steve Earle, Jerusalem
I think it might have been because of all the hoopla surrounding that terrible John Walker Lindh song, but it took me more than a year to get into this one. Now, however, it's just about my favorite Steve Earle album, with the top track being "What's a Simple Man to Do."

Hip Hop Forever III - compiled and mixed by DJ Jazzy Jeff
It's easy to forget (as I did) that Will Smith's former sidekick was and still is a real DJ, and a great one at that. As the title implies, here he takes some of his favorite hip-hop tracks and weaves them together for a party that never stops.

Amadou and Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako
I guess it's appopriate that I bring one African disc, even if it's by this blind couple from Mali rather than anyone from South Africa. If you can get past the fact that this one is mostly in French, it's infectiously pure pop with a great African beat.

Atmosphere, You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having
Though he's surely doing fine without the acclaim, this Minneapolis rapper should definitely be one of the most popular around by now. I've heard some lame critics call him "emo" (whatever that means), but the leader of the Rhymesayers collective is as tough as anyone, and this is his best work yet.

Cee-lo Green ... is the Soul Machine
He may not be able to decide if he wants to be a rapper or a soul singer, but Mr. Green, who you may all know as one half of Gnarls Barkley, is a master at both. He collaborates with T.I., Timbaland, Ludacris and others on this, his best solo disc.

Geto Boys, The Resurrection
My former fellow cubicle slave Dan Maley, who I believe once had the honor of interviewing Bushwick Bill, once hailed the Geto Boys as "the Ramones of rap." I can see that, since they are very funny guys who just happen to like rapping about guns and drugs.

Soundtrack, The Ladykillers
I liked this Coen bros. remake a whole lot more than most people I know, and I like the soundtrack even more. It mixes hip-hop from the likes of the Nappy Roots and Little Brother with great gospel music. An odd mix, but a great one too.

Eva Cassidy, Live at Blues Alley
In exchange for a copy of the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," which is loads better than the movie, I sent this to a frequent and always welcome visitor to this site, J. Marquis, who said both he and his wife like it. Cassidy, for anyone who doesn't know, was a D.C. jazz singer who died of cancer way before her time. This live set serves as a fitting tribute to her life.

Dead Prez, Revolutionary but Gangsta
Though it was packed with hip-hop superstars, the show was stolen at "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" by this L.A. duo. Rap with a conscience just doesn't get any better.

So, there you have it. Because I'm not remotely averse to burning CDs for people I like, I'll make this offer. Leave me your e-mail address in the comments and I will send you my street address (I'd rather not just give it out to the masses.) Then, for anyone who mails me a blank disc (or more than one) with a request from this list, I'll gladly burn it for you and send it back. Piracy? Yes, but I buy way too many CDS, so I think I should be able to share them if I want to. Peace out.

Monday, May 28, 2007

WWMD: What Will Marty do?

Although I promised a review of "Pirates 3," I just can't bring myself to do it. Just in case anyone in the world hasn't seen it yet, here's the short version: The first 90 minutes can be really boring, but the last hour is almost worth the wait. I could watch pirates fight for three hours and you'd never hear a complaint from me, but I could have done with less of that pesky exposition (and more Chow Yun Fat, damnit!)

But enough about that. What I really want to talk about, and haven't for some time now, is Martin Scorsese. I've been wondering for a long while where he's gonna turn next, and the UK's Guardian newspaper seems to have the answer, maybe.

Without a definitive quote from Marty on the subject, the Guardian confidently states that he will next turn to Japan to shoot "Silence," a story about Jesuit missionairies in 17th century Japan set to star Javier Bardem.

"It raises a lot of questions about foreign cultures coming in and imposing their way of thinking on another culture they know nothing about," Scorsese told The Associated Press. Sounds like Marty has modern politics on his mind too, and that can only be a good thing.

Unfortunately, the Guardian piece also stated any Japan shooting won't take place until Summer 2008. Sheesh. Give a man a Best Picture Oscar and he thinks he's entitled to a long vacation, I guess.

But word that he was even able to pick a project, maybe, is good news in itself. Among the selections rumored to be on his plate: "Silence;" "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," another biopic starring Leo DiCaprio; a flick based on Brian Selznick's children's novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," about a 12-year-old orphan who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in 1930 and a mystery involving the boy, his late father and a robot; and finally "Long Play," a rock 'n' roll epic being penned by "The Departed" scribe William Monahan.

Of all those, "Silence" and "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" sound the most interesting to me, so I'm glad he's turned his sights to one of those. And I'll be even happier if someone has solid proof that the great man is even working at all.

A Kazakh answer to Borat?

Apparently the glorious nation of Kazakhstan isn't going to get over the hurt of "Borat" anytime soon.

Miss Kazakhstan (and just in case anyone wants to make a joke about that, I've included a picture of the rather lovely lass) said her country is preparing its own movie in response to "Borat," the hit comedy that portrayed the Central Asian nation as bigoted and backward.

Gauhkar Rakhmetalieva, a contestant in tonight's Miss Universe beauty pageant, said her government is filming the movie to show the nation's positive sides.

"In the end we have to understand that it was only a joke," Rakhmetalieva said. "The advantage is that now our country is world famous. As people are looking toward us, we have the opportunity to show how we really are: a modern country with infrastructure and a very developed culture."

Well, OK. If that's what you have to do, so be it. What would be much more fun, however, would be to send in a Kazakh team to do a real expose on America, and maybe Sacha Baron Cohen's Britain too. Although "Borat" was plenty scathing and funny from start to finish, there's surely more they can find to embarrass us with. And somehow I think that would be much more fun to watch than any propaganda film about the glorious nation of Kazakhstan, even if it would star the rather radiant Ms. Rakhmetalieva.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Waitress" a winner


If anything, I've been a victim of my own high expectatons so far this summer. Both "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek 3," though for very different reasons, failed to deliver what I wanted.

And I had almost equally high expectations going into "Waitress," partly because Adrienne Shelly's last movie had been getting such good reviews and partly because it just looked like a movie about Southerners who act like the people I see here everyday. And for the first time this summer, I certainly wasn't disappointed.

It didn't hurt that, for the 10 a.m. showing Saturday morning (man, do I love summer!), we were the only two people there. Though it takes place in a somewhat-too-sugary version of the real world, Shelly's movie works best as a fairy tale, and the private screening somehow just made it seem even moreso.

But, before I get ahead of myself, a little about the very familiar story. Keri Russell plays the titular "Waitress," who finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage and rather unfortunately pregnant. When she goes to see her OB/GYN to talk about it, she finds there's a new doctor in town, played by Nathan Fillion (huzzah!)

And when Shelly's movie works best is when they're on screen together. The problem I have with most romantic comedies is that there's no real chemistry between the leads, but Keri and Captian Mal just click here. She doesn't quite have the "aw shucks!" to pull off your classic Southern waitress, but Shelly doesn't make her. Keri's Jenna is a little too beaten down by life for that, and she plays it very well. And Captian Mal gives the doctor just enough character to get you past the considerable ick factor that he's a married man pitching woo at one of his OB/GYN patients.

And the supporting cast pitch in well here too. Jeremy Sisto, who you might remember as Billy on "Six Feet Under," is appropriately menacing as Jena's husband, but never a cartoonish figure. One thing I liked was how his honking the horn to announce his arrival anywhere steadily grows from funny to dangerous. And Andy Griffith, who I'm always a sucker for, is just perfect as the diner owner and Jena's father figure.

Now, don't get me wrong: This isn't a perfect movie. In parts, especially when it comes to Shelly's fellow waitress and her nerdy suitor, it's too cute by half, and the pie-making as scene framing never quite works. And, like I said, you won't find anything here you haven't seen before. But as escapist summer fare, it's lighter than air in all the best ways, and a great way to spend a couple of hours.

And best of all, it's so enjoyable that I didn't even think about the death of Adrienne Shelly until we were heading out to the parking lot. For anyone who doesn't know, Shelly was murdered last fall in her NYC apartment after having the nerve to ask her neighbor to turn down his radio. As a parting gift to us, she really could have done a whole lot worse than this sweet pastry.

Friday, May 25, 2007

No Capone for Cage; who should it be?

With this latest news via comingsoon.net, the notion of a prequel to "The Untouchables" has just gotten a lot more intriguing.

Actually, I've been pretty excited about the idea since I first heard of it. Though I know it has its haters out there, Brian De Palma's first "Untouchables" was a lot of fun, and he's one director from whom I never ask for much more than that.

The only problem with a prequel was the casting. Nicolas Cage was in serious talks to play Al Capone, but has now pulled out due to a scheduling conflict. Now, I'm not an across-the-board Nicolas Cage hater. I have liked the man in more than a few films - "Moonstruck," "Raising Arizona," "Leaving Las Vegas" and even "Matchstick Men" come to my mind first.

That said, he, to put it lightly, does like to emote just a bit. I like him much more in comedies than in movies where he plays the heavy. So, I just couldn't see him as Capone in a potential "The Untouchables: Capone Rising."

With Cage out then, the question becomes, who should play Capone. For me, the answer is Clive Owen. He's clearly a tough guy and a hell of an actor, and he would definitely be my choice. What do you say?

Already announced for the cast is Gerard Butler as Jimmy Malone, the role played by Sean Connery in De Palma's first flick. Butler is also a very bad man, so the combo of he and Owen would be intriguing. Actually, if I ran the world, I'd switch the parts, with Butler as the young Capone and Owen as Jimmy Malone. Now there's a movie I'd pay $10 to see.

"Knocked Up" clips

It's been at least a couple of weeks since I've plugged Judd Apatow's upcoming "Knocked Up," so it's time to get on board again. Coming one week after "Pirates," lord knows it's gonna need all the help it can get.

Here, courtesy of YouTube, are two clips that show just how funny this movie, starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl, should be. The first, just to warn you, is a deleted scene that is extremely profane. It features Jonah Hill (who is set to star in "Superbad" later this summer) riffing on what was missing from "Brokeback Mountain." Now, most "Brokeback" jokes weren't even funny right after the movie first came out, but this (remember, I warned you, very foul) clip manages to make it fresh and very funny again. And just watch Katherine Heigl's face as Hill delivers his rant. Priceless.

The second clip is a fairly generic behind-the-scenes clip, but still has some very funny stuff. In case you can't tell yet, I'm really psyched for this, which should be the funniest movie of this summer. Nell Minow, Yahoo's Movie Mom and an all-around friend to this blog, has already seen it and promises it will indeed be a hoot, and says to watch out for Paul Rudd. Anyways, enjoy the clips.





My movie weekend

Like everyone in the world, I will indeed be going to see "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," most likely Saturday afternoon, so please feel free to check back Sunday for a review. I'll also be going to see "Waitress" Sunday, and expecting to like it quite a bit, so I'll put something up about that Monday. Have a great holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Can Randy Newman ever be stopped?

By any stretch, this should be all-around good news.

In a move long, long overdue, Disney has tapped Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls") to voice the lead in the animated musical fairy-tale romance "The Princess and the Frog," making her (I believe) the first black character at the center of a grand Disney musical (unless, of course, you count the great James Baskett in "Song of the South.")

Even better, the movie, with a story by helmers John Musker and Ron Clements, will be set in New Orleans' French Quarter, giving lots of opportunity for animation and storytelling fun.

So, what's wrong with this picture? For this grand musical animated tale, its first in years, Disney has turned to one of the most boring songwriters in movie history, Randy Newman, to compose the songs and score. This is just wrong in every possible way.

There's a great "Family Guy" joke in which the Griffins are on the road looking for a new home after Quahog was destroyed by Y2K. On the way, they run into Randy Newman, who simply starts making "songs" about everything he sees ("Lois picks an apple/I think she's gonna eat it") until someone mercifully bludgeons him to death.

Now, I don't wish Randy Newman any bodily harm, I just wish he worked a lot less often, because that "Family Guy" joke was dead on. To use a technical term, his songs have simply sucked for many years now.

And, though I understand that he is N'awlins native, aren't there so many more interesting choices they could have made to take on this project? If you want someone from the Crescent City, the great Allen Toussaint comes to mind, and there are many others you could mention.

Given the good intentions going into this project, I don't think this is a matter of racism, simply sloth. Disney couldn't bother to look beyond the face they're so familiar with, and this could-have-been-great project will surely suffer for it.

A quick, and early, ray of "Sunshine"

According to Fox Searchlight, via the great Filmick blog, the company has once again changed the release date for Danny Boyle's "Sunshine," this time moving the U.S. release back up to July.

How in the world will this sci-fi tale fare in the thick of July? No idea, but I'll definitely be there to see it. And, in even better Fox Searchlight news, "Waitress," the last movie by Adrienne Shelly, is finally coming to one theater in my little corner of the world this weekend, so I'll definitely be there to see that too (before "Pirates," even.)

What "Veronica Mars" could have been?

I'm still suffering from the loss of "Veronica Mars," and will be for some time, but here's something of interest from the good folks at TvSquad.com.

According to them, this is a synopsis of what show creator Rob Thomas pitched to the tin-eared miscreants at the CW (remember, from here on out, just say no to this excuse for a "network.") I'm hoping the video pitch will make it on to YouTube very soon, but here's at least a description of what me might some day get to see:

SYNOPSIS: We start out with Veronica on her first day of work at the Los Angeles FBI offices. She has just graduated from the Academy, already with her snappy little suit. Her voice-over sounds competitive, and we get the sense that she's not always going to be the smartest person in the room here. There's also lots of sexism for her to overcome. We're introduced to another hot-shot female rookie and a guy named Sean, who Veronica either slept with at some point or embarrassed at the FBI Academy through her superior sleuthing skills. He tells her that everything is OK, that they are both adults in the professional world now, yadda yadda.

Veronica goes into a staff briefing where she's essentially given the option of going undercover as a pole dancer or a high school student. Much to her dismay, she ends up with the high school assignment. She goes undercover as a juvenile delinquent to catch the principal who's a sex predator. It's a funny but kinda gross scene, where the guy unzips his pants and tells her to give him a blowjob to get ahead. Once Veronica gets him to state that aloud, she tells him that she's with the FBI. The guy flees but is caught by the other FBI officer on the stake-out -- some hot guy who thinks Veronica is an idiot rookie.

Back at FBI headquarters, Veronica's boss tells her she did a good job, but asks why she wasn't at drinks last night with the rest of the team. "Hot shot" was supposed to spread the word among the rookies. Veronica assumes the other hot girl agent didn't tell her.

Cut to Veronica and the hot guy on a stake-out later that night where we find out that he didn't want to be paired with Veronica, who he refers to as "Barbie." They're staking out a mail bomber, a college professor, but hot guy says that they're staking out the wrong guy. He explains that the mail bomber would be more "meticulous, patient, etc." We learn that hot guy is a very talented profiler.

Cut to a scene where Veronica and said hot-shot girl rookie are questioning one of the professor's students in his apartment. The student leaves the room for a minute, and Veronica confronts hot-shot girl rookie about not relaying the "drinks with the boss" information to her. It turns out it wasn't her. Sean - the guy who told Veronica that they're "professional adults" now - neglected to tell her; apparently he's still hurting. Veronica then starts poking around this kid's apartment, when she notices how "meticulous and patient" this guy is. It dawns on her that this the kid is the mail bomber. We hear a noise, and when Veronica turns around with her gun withdrawn, we see that the kid has a knife to hot shot rookie girl's throat. The end


Even if it would have been a slimmed-down version of "Veronica," with all my other favorite characters jettisoned, you can tell from that short synopsis that Thomas put great care into this retooling. The folks at the CW can just go straight to hell.

"The Golden Compass" trailer

And now something to wash away that bit of bile. Here is the trailer for "The Golden Compass" that will be shown before that "Pirates" movie you may have heard about. New Line's whoring of "Lord of the Rings" at the outset is atrocious, but the rest of the trailer looks great, and if you stick around long enough you even get Sam Elliott. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Five clips from "No Country for Old Men"

I could start off the day with some really bad news about Mike Myers and Walter Mitty, but I'm trying to say positive for a Wednesday morning. Besides, just the thought of that makes me vomit a little in my own mouth, which is never a good thing.

Besides, there's so much more better stuff out there. First and best, courtesy of the French (yes, they can be trusted from time to time) come five clips from the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men." I've been trying to find reviews of the flick, but I'm not certain if it has even screened at Cannes yet (if anyone knows about this, please tell me.)

What the Coens do better than anyone else is create a sense of place with their movies. From the American midwest in "Fargo" to the American South in "O Brother Where Art Thou" (and yes, "Ladykillers"), you always get taken away when watching their flicks.

And as you can tell from these clips, you definitely get that sense of the Southwest in "No Country for Old Men," based on the bleakly violent novel by Cormac McCarthy. It stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Stephen Root, Woody Harrelson and many others, and won't be coming out in the states until, I belive, the fall. For now, don't fear the French, click here and enjoy these five clips from the flick.

A reason to watch women's basketball?

OK, that was a bit harsh. And I do watch some women's college basketball during tourney time. But if you really want to get me to watch it, make a movie about it with Carla Gugino as the star.

As I've said in this space before, she's just one of those women I'll watch do just about anything. She's made this easily the best season so far of HBO's "Entourage." And now she's signed on to star in "Our Lady of Victory" as the coach of the Immaculate College women's basketball team, which apparently won the women's national championship in 1972. I suspect we may finally find out if there is indeed crying in basketball (again, I'm sorry, but I just couldn't resist.)

All jokes aside, I'm a sucker for a good sports underdog movie, and as a bonus you get "Angel" David Boreanaz in this as the coach's hubby. Sounds like a winner to me.

Be your own "Jackass"

I've been known to throw around words like "comedic masterpiece" a bit too lightly, but the words definitely apply to the first "Jackass" movie and almost to the second. Silly? Of course. But also just funny as hell.

Well, the boys are back now with, inevitably I guess, their own video game. Coming in September, Johnny, Bam, Steve-O and the rest will all provide their likenesses for a "Jackass" game for the Nintendo systems.

Though I'm not much of a gamer myself anymore, I'd have to say this can only be a good thing. If being a virtual idiot keeps even one kid from burning his own genitals, the world will probably be just a little better place.

Among the 35 stunts gamers will be able to set up are bumper car races across New York rooftops, unicycling though a construction site, rolling down San Francisco streets in a trash can and destroying a golf course with a golf cart.

To pitch his new product, Johnny Knoxville summed it in typical "Jackass" style: "We're excited as all hell about it. We just hope that our video game is as crappy as our movies." And on that note, I have to go work. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welcome back, Hughes brothers

I would have started off today's segment with the news that Robert Rodriguez, rather than making a "Sin City 2," is instead going to do a remake of "Barbarella," but it just depressed me too much.

Instead, I'd like to welcome back two of my favorite directors, dudes who could easily have made yesterday's list if it had had 30 names rather than just 10.

For years now, Allen and Albert Hughes have been coasting by directing TV commercials and the like, and surely padding their pockets well, but now it seems they're finally ready to make another movie (their first since "From Hell," in fact.) The bros have signed up with Warner Brothers to direct the post-apocalyptic drama "Book of Eli."

Scripted by Gary Whitta, the drama revolves around a lone hero who fights his way across the wasteland of post-apocalyptic America. He's the protector of a sacred book that may hold the key to saving humanity. Sounds right up their alley.

Actually, the Hughes bros are about to break their inactivity streak in a big way. Presumably after "Book of Eli," they're also attached to direct "The Ice Man," a film about Richard Kuklinski, a serial killer who found his calling as a Mafia hitman. They're also, at some point, going to direct a big-screen version of the TV series "Kung Fu," one of the few remakes I can solidly get behind.

For anyone who may have forgotten, and frankly I wouldn't blame you if you did, the Hughes bros managed to direct three tremendously entertaining flicks in the '90s, "American Pimp," "Menace 2 Society" and "Dead Presidents." (As an aside, one of the guys who pulled off the real bank heist on which the dead prez flick was based was arrested on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when I was living there in the late 90s. He had been the food service director for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for many years. Very funny stuff, at least to me.)

McQuarrie set for WWI

Like many people nowadays, Chris McQuarrie seems to have war on his brain. And that's good thing.

After co-writing the WWII drama "Valkyrie" as a vehicle for Tom Cruise, he'll turn to writing the WWI drama "No Man's Land." The battlefield drama will use three fictional characters to illustrate the complex reasons why the various European powers chose sides to fight WWI, and how the use of machine guns, tanks and other technology led to unimaginable carnage.

The drama will focus on three characters: an American ambulance driver in France who joins the French Foreign Legion and eventually fights for the Americans when the U.S. enters the war; a British soldier wrongly accused of cowardice; and a German soldier mired in the trenches. Sounds like three plum roles to me

"The First World War has been effectively depicted, but I've never seen it adequately explained," McQuarrie told Daily Variety. "WWII and every war since then are simply aftershocks of that Great War."

Among the conflicts depicted will be the Battle of the Somme in 1916. British troops fired 1 million rounds and then charged, only to discover the Germans lying in wait in tunnels; 19,000 British troops were killed by German machine gun fire.

Sounds like a genuine WWI epic like we haven't seen in a great long while, to which I can only say bring it on.

And a casting update that proves you might not be able to believe everything you read in this space, though I really hope you can. I earlier reported, from the Froggy film site Cinempire.com, that "Valkyrie" was compiling perhaps the greatest cast ever, with Bill Nighy (huzzah!), Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry and Patrick Wilson (star of "Little Children" and "Hard Candy.") Well, not so fast, apparently.

Variety has confirmed that Branagh will indeed join the cast as a German general who mentors Cruise's character and hatches a plan to assassinate Hitler, but its report made no mention of the other cast members, who are apparently still in negotiations. It still sounds like it will come together, but if not, accept a hearty mea culpa from me if it comes to that.

An "Y Tu Mama Tambien" reunion?

I missed the news last week that Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Rodrigo Garcia and Carlos Cuaron are joining forces for Cha Cha Cha, a $100 million, five-feature production partnership with financing, distribution and international sales handled by Universal Pictures and Focus Features International.

The real news out of all this, at least to me, is what the new unit's first flick will be. There will, of course, eventually be flicks from the big three, but first will come "Rudo Y Corsi," a soccer comedy/drama set to reunite Gale Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, the stars of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." Carlos Cuaron also co-wrote that flick with brother Alfonso, so this one definitely falls in the category of flicks I'm psyched about.

And for that matter, the world can never have enough soccer movies. Peace out.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My favorite directors

It's hard to be lieve I've been doing this for more than a year now and have never compiled a list like this.

Before I get started, some provisos. There are many more than 10 great directors in the world, so many great ones will be left off this list (even Martin Scorsese!) And, just to narrow it down, I've decided to confine this to living directors (meaning Robert Altman, who would be on the top, won't be making an apperance today.)

With that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 10 directors whose movies I will always shell out $10 to see:

Wes Anderson
I've drawn dirty looks from more than a few people when I said I didn't like "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," but after watching it again I have to stand by that. Even so, Anderson's first three flicks are just my kind of comedy, especially "Rushmore," which I must have seen three times during its theatrical run. It seems like years since Anderson's even made a movie, but his Darjeeling Limited, starring Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, is apparently nearing completion, finally.

The Coen brothers
My fellow cubicle slaves and I went out for a screening of "Raising Arizona" last week and it was just as funny as I remembered. I can only think of one Coen brothers' movie I didn't care for, "The Man Who Wasn't There" with Billy Bob. I even liked their remake of "The Ladykillers," which has one of the best gospel movie soundtracks ever compiled.

Spike Lee
Two of the smaller movie in Spike's body of work really show why I love him so much. The first, the documentary "4 Little Girls," is a surprisingly low-key but very effective movie about the bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church. And the second, "Get on the Bus," still probably my favorite Spike movie, bottled up all the emotions of the Million Man March in one very entertaining flick. As a side note, though I am not a black man, I was living in D.C. and was vastly underemployed at the time, so I actually went to the Million Man March.

Brad Bird
When pressed to name a favorite movie, I've been known to give 10 different answers, but one of them is always "The Iron Giant." Animated movies just don't get any more charming, and the tots at "Shrek the Third" laughed a lot louder during the trailer for "Ratatouille" than at anything in the main feature. I can't wait to see it.

John Sayles
John Sayles is the second thing, after Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap," that made me a devoted movie geek. When I first saw Joe Morton as that "Brother from Another Planet" I was instantly hooked. Sayles has made a few lemons over the years, but many more great movies. My two favorites would have to be "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star."

Mira Nair
I was hoping that the presence of Kumar would make Mira Nair's "The Namesake" play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world," but apparently not. I'm still hoping the Macon Film Guild will pick it up in August or so, because it's gotten nothing but rave reviews. If you haven't seen Mira's "Mississippi Masala," with Denzel and the simply radiant Sarita Choudhury, drop whatever you're doing and rent it now.

Hayao Miyazaki
About a year ago I somehow got it into my head that Miyazaki was dead, but luckily that's just one of the many things I've been wrong about. He's at work now on something called "Ponyo on a Cliff," which as far as I can tell is about a goldfish princess, or something crazy like that. Whatever it turns out to be, I'll definitely be there to see it.

Phillip Noyce
Noyce could make this list on the strength of his remake of "The Quiet American" alone. I really wouldn't consider it a remake at all, because it's a thoroughly original vision of Graham Greene's novel. Noyce's "Catch a Fire" was also one of the most criminally underappreciated movies of 2006.

Fernando Meirelles
I probably should have started this list with Meirelles, since he was the one who inspired it with the news that he's going to make a movie of "Love's Labors Lost" by Brazilian writer Jorge Furtado. Loosely based on the Shakespeare play, it follows the travails of a group of international students, and should just be tons of fun. Meirelles probably won't ever make a movie better than "City of God," but I'm hoping he somehow does.

Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron
Since they're such good friends I'm sure they wouldn't mind sharing the last entry on this list (so I can, technically at least, keep it to 10.) Besides, they also shared my title of best movie of 2006 with "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Children of Men." I know del Toro is making another "Hellboy" movie (huzzah!), but I have no idea exactly what Mr. Cuaron is up to. According to the IMDB, it's a semi-autobiographical movie about his family's life in Mexico City in 1971. Sounds great to me.

So there you have it. Like I said at the outset, many, many great directors have been left off this list, so please feel free to add your favorites, and have an entirely bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Best cast ever, take three?

I've gotten the feeling lately that a pendulum is swinging back in the direction of the kind of movies I like, so let's hope I'm right.

Don't get me wrong. I love gigantic blockbusters that pile on the special effects, as long as they tell a compelling story or just deliver big laughs (as Shrek 3 had better this weekend.) But I have more time for flicks that put their money into hiring actors I want to see and pairing with them with a great script.

After recent news about Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie" and Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon" both adding a slew of top-shelf Brits, now comes great news about what should be a really funny upcoming journalism flick.

Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst had already been confirmed for director Bob Weide's "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People." Now comes word that Jeff Bridges (huzzah!) is on board as Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, and even better, that Gillian Anderson will also be on hand in some capacity.

The flick is based on the memoir of Brit Toby Young, who went to great lengths to ingratiate himself to the rich and famous during his short tenure as an associate editor at Vanity Fair. Pegg will play him in the role that should prove to the entire world that he's simply one of the funniest dudes to live in it. MJ will play a journalist for a rival publication and, I can only assume, will probably find some woo pitched her way by Mr. Pegg.

Definitely keep your eyes on this one, which starts shooting June 4.

Three beauties as the Brontës

If I've translated this right from the Froggy site Cinempire.com, Michelle Williams is the latest addition to a biopic about the Brontë sisters that already stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Evan Rachel Wood. Not much to say about this, except that it will be called "Brontë," and I thought some of you might find it at least mildly interesting.

De Niro and Pacino, together for real?

Sure, they appeared together in one scene in Michael Mann's "Heat," but this appears to a real pairing for the first time.

They will team up onscreen "Righteous Kill," a $60 million indie production put together by Nu Image's Millennium Films and Emmett/Furla Films. The two stars play cops chasing a serial killer. Jon Avnet will direct and produce; "Inside Man" scribe Russell Gewirtz penned the script. (Interestingly enough, a look at Mr. Avnet's IMDB directing record revealed only one feature film I had heard of, "Fried Green Tomatoes." Somehow I've managed to make it this far in life without seeing that one.)

"This is an event in world history," Nu Image chief Avi Lerner said. "They were in two scenes in 'Heat.' In this movie, they are in the whole thing together."

Well, I'm a firm believer in both showmanship and hyperbole, but somehow I can't even say I'm all that excited about this news. Why? Both of these actors have been coasting for years now. I can't remember the last time I saw a Pacino movie in which his modus operandi was anything more than to simply yell at the camera for two hours. Now, I'll definitely be there to see this when it comes out, but it will be with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Repeat after me .. I will never watch the CW again

Given how fast its slid into the toilet, that shouldn't be so hard a pledge to take, should it?

I'm a little late with the news that "Veronica Mars" is not on the fall schedule for this "network," which is just thoroughly depressing news. Only the Hollywood Reporter is holding out hope that Rob Thomas' pitch of a revamped series with our heroine at the FBI Academy will resurface at some point, but even if it does, it won't be in the fall, apparently.

As far as my viewing attention goes, the other loser here is "Everybody Hates Chris," the only other CW show I currently watch. Make that watched. This will have to be one I catch up with now on DVD because, as the headline stated, I will, from this day forward, never watch the CW again (or at least until they bring back "Veronica Mars" in some form.)

Come on, people. I know you have the strength to join me and just say no.

In other, mixed TV news, Fox has, at last, dropped the least funny "sitcom" of all time, "The War at Home." Here's hoping the once-promising Michael Rappaport soon returns to actual acting work. In worse news, however, the network also announced that we'll have to wait until midseason for "The Return of Jezebel James," the new Amy Sherman-Palladino comedy set to star Parker Posey and Scott Cohen.

Oh well. If the simply execrable "War at Home" is really dead, I'll just have to take that as a small victory. Peace out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Something good from "Aces' " ashes?

Though Joe Carnahan's "Smokin' Aces" was just a thorough mess, it seems something great may still be born in its wake.

Given how Carnahan woefully underused Jason Bateman, giving him a grand total of about two-and-a-half minutes of screen time, I just assumed he hated the man. Apparently not.

Before he takes on a finished script for a pic of James Ellroy's "White Jazz," Carnahan will write and direct "The Remarkable Fellows," based on a premise pitched to him by the very funny Mr. Bateman.

The story, which sounds very funny to me, will be about two brothers who are in the revenge business. Bateman, who described the duo as "half Ricky Jay and half James Bond," had this to say to Variety: "The revenge scenario is dependent on the intricacy of the plot. If the president of a major bank was sleeping with the French ambassador's wife, the banker would call these guys."

Sounds fun to me, and after "Aces," Carnahan is sorely in need of a winner. Having thoroughly enjoyed his debut, "Narc," I know he's got at least one more in him.

Wood set to go Pop

When I first saw this, I just had to be thankful that it's only about the young Iggy Pop. While I'm happy the man still works out, no 70-year-old man should strut around with no shirt on like Iggy seems to need to do.

Because it's the birthright of every promising actor that they get to star in at least one musician biopic, it seems Elijah Wood has signed on to play Mr. Pop in the upcoming flick "Passenger." The flick, which will primarily be about Mr. Pop's work with the Stooges (the first time, thankfully, not now!), will be directed by Nick Gomez.

I like Elijah Wood in almost everything he does, so I'll have to hold out hope that, when this arrives for midsummer next year, it somehow manages to rock.

The "Hunger" of Bobby Sands

It's hard to believe that a biopic hasn't already been made about the IRA hero Bobby Sands (and if one already has, please forgive me and tell me what it is.) Word from Cannes is that that's about to change.

Steve McQueen (no relation to the man himself, as far as I can tell), a UK music video director (and before you start to hate, remember Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze started in videos too) has made this flick, which is an "impressionistic interpretation" of the last six weeks in the life of Sands, the IRA hunger striker who died in the Maze prison in 1981.

Michael Fassbender ("300") stars as Sands. Though, like I said, I don't know of any other movie like this one, Sands was sort of the subject of easily one of my favorite movies of all time, the criminally underappreciated "Some Mother's Son" with Dame Mirren. Here's hoping Mr. McQueen has something new to say about this fascinating figure.

Veronica Mars update, sort of

Though the fate of the CW's last remaining good show may not be known until June, it seems our heroine, Kristen Bell, will be getting more work on another show for the "network."

Entertainment Weekly reports that she will be the narrator of "Gossip Girl" in The CW's new teen drama from "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz. The show is based on the bestselling teen book series. I hope this doesn't spell the end of "Veronica," but we're apparently gonna have to wait to find out about that for sure. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Demko's DVD shelf

This week's shelf, while admittedly short, just happens to contain my favorite movie of 2006 (by just a nose over Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men") and the movie I'm most ashamed for missing during its brief theatrical run.

The first, as some of you may already know, is Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," simply a genuine cinematic accomplishment. The story of Ofelia and how she deals with the harsh reality of her surroundings blends fantasy and reality in a flick that's a visual and storytelling wonder.

In the featurettes of the two-disc set, apparently (I won't be buying this until the weekend), you learn just how much this was a labor of love for del Toro. He apparently slept very little during the filming, and lost at least 40 pounds. Given the beauty of the final result, I'm not surprised. Just go and buy this one already.

The Fountain

Given how much I love Darren Aronofsky's first two movies, it's certainly my biggest shame that I missed this in the theaters. In my defense, there were like 8 billion movies released last fall, and this one only played in my little corner of the world for two weeks or so. A pretty week excuse I know, but there it is.

Anyways, I'm definitely renting this one to watch on the weekend. I'll post a review sometime soon, and hopefully a big mea culpa. If you haven't seen it, definitely give it a chance this week.

American Dad!, Vol. 2

They're not high art, I'll grant you, but Seth McFarlane's animated shows just make me laugh, and at the end of the day I often don't ask for much more than that from TV shows. This story of Stan Smith, CIA man, and his family life started off as a pale comparison to "Family Guy," but has managed to get better as it goes along. I'll definitely spring for Vol. 2.

Dog of the week

If it comes to that, I will gladly pay anyone thinking of buying or renting this one to keep them from doing so.

Fox's "The War at Home" is not simply the worst show on TV right now, it is quite possibly the worst show I have ever seen. It's a toilet full of the most unfunny "jokes" you'll ever hear. I can handle mean when it's combined with funny, but mean by itself just sucks hard, as this show somehow continues to prove.

Fox has yet to announce its upfronts for the fall, but I'm hoping they drop this turd and add Amy Sherman-Palladino's "The Return of Jezebel James" and maybe some more animation.

And there you have it. Like I said, a short list, but this workin man does indeed still have to work for a living, so I have to split. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Goodbye to the "Gilmore Girls"

When people ask me why I like "Gilmore Girls" so much, I can never help but think "why not?"

You start with a show full of smart, funny and beautiful women, which I've always found to be a good thing. To that add a cast of supporting characters that are very quirky but rarely forced, the best ensemble since "Northern Exposure." And, finally, throw in the very clever writing (for the first five seasons anyways) of Amy Sherman-Palladino and hubby Daniel Palladino, and you've got me hooked.

Tonight at 8 on the CW, the show will finally end its run after a fairly phenomenal 154 episodes. It's probably gone on two years too long already, but I've stuck with it until the end, and will be sad to see it go. Here, in the Gilmores' honor, are my 10 favorite episodes, in only chronological order.

3. Kill Me Now
This was the episode that first got me hooked when daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) and mom Lorelai (the criminally underappreciated Lauren Graham) get into an argument about who has bigger breasts. It's as funny and odd as it sounds here.

13. Concert Interruptus
The very funny supporting players Paris (Liza Weil), Louise (Teal Redmann) and Madeleine (Shelly Cole) get big parts as the Gilmores hit NYC to see the Bangles.

25. The Road Trip to Harvard
Fresh off of dumping Max (Scott Cohen, who will star in Sherman-Palladino's new show, "The Return of Jezebel James," if it gets picked up by Fox), Lorelai coaxes Rory into a road trip that leads them to the hallowed halls of Harvard.

31. The Bracebridge Dinner
This is rapidly growing to more then 10 episodes, but I had to include this one as a model of how well this show wrote for its large ensemble of players. Richard (Edward Herrman) and Emily (Kelly Bishop) are particularly good in this episode about the whole town gathering at the inn for a wacky dinner party.

37. There's the Rub
A throwaway episode, perhaps, but very few got to the core of Lorelai and Emily's unique relationship than this weekend trip to a spa. Bonus: A lecherous Hal Linden hits on Emily at a 60-40 bar.

50. They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?
Along with colorful characters, Stars Hollow was also famous for its elaborate events, like the '40s-themed dance marathon that dominates this episode. Seeing Kirk (Sean Gunn) run around the dance floor to the "Rocky" theme is worth the price of admission by itself.

52. A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
Can the Gilmore Girls really eat four Thanksgiving dinners in one day? They do, and each one is very funny, especially Sookie's (Melissa McCarthy) drowning her sorrows at the prospects of a deep-fried turkey dinner.

56. Dear Emily and Richard
The occasion of Sherry having her baby puts Lorelia into flashback mode, meaning we get to see how she ended leaving the Gilmore household at 16 with infant Rory in tow.

60. A Tale of Poes and Fire
Probably my single favorite "Gilmore Girls" episode. After the Poe Society descends on Stars Hollow, the inn catches fire and Rory will make her big decision about college.

72. The Festival of Living Art
The Living Pictures conceit may have been slightly funnier on "Arrested Development," but it had more heart here as Lorelai fights to stay frozen as Sookie's baby pager goes off at the worst possible moment.

74. Ted Koppel's Big Night Out
OK, the limit of 10 is officially out the window. Watching Richard and Emily tailgate and then Lorelai and Jason Stiles (Chris Eigeman, huzzah!) on their first date is just thoroughly entertaining viewing. You also have to watch Paris make out with a 60-year-old dude (Michael York), but even that is funny.

81-84. The Reigning Lorelai/Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin' the Twist/Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!
For me, this three-episode arc was when the show was at its very best. In rapid succession, we get the funeral of "The Reigning Lorelai" (Marion Ross in one of her two "Gilmore Girls" roles), Rory and Paris on spring break (where, of course, the girls go wild and kiss), and then the breakup/bustup of Lorelai and Jason. For my money, no series has ever put together a better trio of episodes.

86. Last Week Fights, This Week Tights
The Renaissance-themed wedding of T.J. and Liz is is funny as it is sheerly frightening.

105. To Live and Let Diorama
As Old Man Twickham's house gets turned into a Stars Hollow Museum, Rory, Paris and Lane (Keiko Agena, my favorite of all the "Gilmore Girls" players) take a dive into Miss Patty's Founder's Day Punch to forget all their man troubles. Just very funny stuff.

128. I Get A Sidekick Out of You
Almost done. It's a sad statement about the slow downfall of this show that I could only pick one episode from the last two seasons, but this one is a real winner. It's Lane and Zack's wedding, which actually turns into two (one Buddhist and fake, one Christian and real) after Mrs. Kim (the great Emily Kuroda) learns her mother is coming in from Korea for the big day. Just an all-around reminder of how great this show used to be.

So, there you have it. I think that actually turned into 15, but it was hard to make my mind up. Tune in tonight at 8 on the rapidly dying CW to bid adieu to easily one of my favorite TV shows.

Talk to Me poster

OK, anyone who's bothered to make it this far certainly deserves a reward, so here it is. Kasi Lemmons' "Talk to Me," despite its rather generic title, gets my vote for the sleeper hit of this summer. It stars Don Cheadle as DC disc jockey Waldo "Petey" Green, and as you can see from the poster, you also get Chiwetel Ejiofor. Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2007

28 Weeks Later

One of the best things you can say about Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and his mostly satisfying sequel "28 Weeks Later" is that the man definitely does his homework.

In crafting the follow-up to "28 Days Later," he clearly watched Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men," lifting much of its story and even a few exact scenes. I was mostly able to forgive this because, luckily, he also clearly watched a lot of what passes for "horror" nowadays, and managed to avoid most of what makes it all suck so hard.

Most of the raves (and even the pans) for "28 Weeks Later" have heaped praise on the opening sequence, and rightly so. It's simply a stunner. In it, Fresnadillo makes great use of what most "horror" movie directors seem to have forgotten, that the suspense should be at least as terrifying as the payoff. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but in revealing that the rage virus hasn't been completely wiped out (of course), it also very efficiently sets up the moral ambiguity of our first hero, Begbie (a k a Robert Carlyle.) The decision he makes at the start sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Even better, however, is a scene in which Begbie's two kids, who have recently returned to London as part of the repopulation effort, journey out of the safe area to visit their former home. If you've seen this, I think you'll agree with me it's one of the best horror set pieces put together in years. Even if you were able to figure out what was lurking on the top floor faster than I was, it's still just a gut punch that hits hard.

But, of course, I'm getting way ahead of myself. I suppose I should share at least a little bit of the story, especially since, given that this only made an estimated $10,000,000 at the box office, there are at least a few of you out there who didn't bother to catch it on the opening weekend.

Well, as the title makes clear, it's "28 Weeks Later," and a U.S.-led NATO force is in charge of repopulating London and insuring the rage virus doesn't return. Begbie, after the opening sequence, is a key player among the civilians, and when his two kids return it should set up a happy new beginning. And it does. For about five minutes.

This being a horror movie, the virus will return, and the NATO troops will go to the most extreme measure possible to remove it. Though they were really given little do here as members of the American force, it's still always nice to see Idris Elba and Harold Perrineau on the big screen.

Once the chaos is unleashed, it becomes a tale of survival, and that's where Fresnadillo is at his strongest. This one is much more bleak than its predecessor, and a much more efficient killing machine. You can certainly bring your own political views into the fact that this is, in effect, America invading a foreign country with extreme force (if I wanted to make you groan, I'd call it schlock and awe.) But Fresnadillo wisely keeps most of the attention on our two young heroes who may hold the only hope for survival.

Now, though I really liked this flick quite a bit, it's not perfect. There's one scene in particular, after the military base has been put on lockdown, that's just extremely lazy to the point of annoyance. If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. I can't think of one instance in which I've ever enjoyed looking at a strobe light, especially in a movie, and I certainly didn't here.

And the final 30 seconds or so, which I won't reveal here, are just thoroughly unnecessary. After setting the stage for the inevitable third chapter of this saga, you don't need to serve it up to us in a kiddie meal.

But, those are really just quibbles about the most satisfying sequel I've seen in many years. Do yourself a favor and go see it before king Shrek returns to wipe everyone out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What to watch this weekend?

I've been pretty psyched for the sequel to "28 Days Later" for some time now, and now that it's here, my excitement has hit fever pitch.

I'm ashamed to say that in the Macon Telegraph, because we have to rush our Friday entertainment section on to the press early in the week, we ran a one-and-a-half star review of "28 Weeks Later" from the usually very reliable Roger Moore. Mr. Moore is usually a geek at heart, so I'm just hoping he got this one wrong, because I've seen more than couple raves out there already too.

Given the other choices this weekend, anyway, it's definitely the cream of the crop. If I had a couple of hours to kill I could probably come up with a couple hundred very painful things I'd rather do than watch "Georgia Rule." There's an article in the fantastic new Oxford American Southern Movie Issue that tries to crown Lindsay Lohan as a "hillbilly heroine," but trash with a crown is still just shiny trash in my book.

And I've officially reached my breaking point with Zach Braff. Last night's "Scrubs," following a simply sublime episode of "The Office," was just plain bad. They apparently even managed to put the extremely likable Amanda Peet and Jason Bateman in "The Ex" and gave them exactly nothing funny to do or say.

And then, of course, there's "Delta Farce." What can you say about this one? I was happy to see that, rather than shipping Larry the fat redneck to Iraq to ridicule our fighting forces for real, they instead send him off with Bill Engvall and DJ Qualls to Mexico to ridicule our friends to the south. It's nice to see someone as geeky as DJ gets to keep working, but there's just no way I can see myself supporting this.

So, one good movie. Actually, if you live anywhere near Macon, there's another very appealing option this weekend. The Macon Film Guild is presenting Deepa Mehta's "Water" Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Theater in downtown Macon. If I have this right, the movie is set in 1930's India and is about a young girl and other women forced to live in a home for widows. It's supposed to be epicly good viewing, so if you're going to the 2 p.m. show, I'll see you there.

So, actually two good movies on a summer weekend? I guess I can't really complain much about that after all.

The. U.S. vs. Michael Moore

You know an American presidential administration is in its final days when it does something as epicly stupid as this.

Michael Moore knows a thing or two about garnering attention for himself. It's what makes his otherwise entertaining and informative documentaries often a pain to watch. Now, even before the release of his new one, "Sicko," he's getting a big assist in this endeavor from an unlikely source: George Bush.

It seems the U.S. Treasury Dept. recently opened an investigation into whether Moore violated a federal travel ban to Cuba by taking "ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers" there for medical attention for a segment in "Sicko," according to the Associated Press. In other words, they've turned what sounds like a typical Michael Moore gimmick into a media event. Sheesh.

Don't get me wrong. If Lions Gate manages to actually play this wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it opens June 29, I'll be there on opening day. Like a train wreck, Moore's movies just have an appeal that keeps me from looking away, even when he makes a royal ass of himself.

The funniest man in America?

I was going to say the world, but there may well be s Sri Lankan comedian whose funnier than Rainn Wilson. But I kinda doubt it.

He apparently has a role in Jason Reitman's next flick "Juno" (along with Ellen Page, Michael Cera, JK Simmons and Jason Bateman .. what a cast!), but he also has two other projects in the works that sound very funny. The first, of which I don't know the title, apparently answers one of the many burning questions that have plagued my overly busy mind: What does a ninja do in his downtime? He's also just been signed to star in something called "Rocker," about a Pete Best-style drummer who gets a second shot of fame.

Wilson's Dwight Schrute is the funniest character on the small screen, so I can't wait to see what happens when he finally gets to cut up on the big one.

P.S. I've mentioned it here before, but the script for "Juno" was written by Minneapolis City Pages scribe Diablo Cody, author of the very funny Pussy Ranch blog, so it's well worth supporting when it finally comes out. Peace out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Best cast ever?

When I heard that Tom Cruise was going to star in the new Brian Singer World War II flick "Valkyrie," I just assumed he would be the only big name in the mix, the hero standing tall in a sea of nobodys. Well, I've been wrong before, and apparently it's happened again.

According to the great froggy film site Cinempire.com, a slate of British actors (and one American) that would make Harry Potter jealous is set to join the project: Bill Nighy (huzzah!), Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry and Patrick Wilson (star of "Little Children" and "Hard Candy.") Now that's what I call an A list.

The movie will be about "Operation Valkyrie," a plot hatched to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II.

Even more reason to get psyched is this flick will be a reunion for Singer with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, who penned a little flick called "The Usual Suspects." Will he and co-writer Nathan Alexander come up with another winner here?

Brendon over at the Filmick blog, who seems to get his hands on everything, has seen the script and says yes:

As a whole, Valkyrie is well constructed – each scene moves the plot hurtling forward to its inevitable conclusion. It does an excellent job of building tension, particularly in the scene where Stauffenberg (Cruise's character) constructs a briefcase bomb and slides it next to Hitler and as the coup begins to take shape towards the end.

Valkyrie is right up Singer’s street and it could very well be his best film since The Usual Suspects. The script clocks in at less than 120 pages, which is rare at this point in time. Many films seem to be bloated and go way over 2 hours when there isn’t a need to. The script tells a fascinating story and it does so with intelligence, style, edge-of-your-seat-suspense and a close eye on the history books.


Definitely stay tuned to this one.

Best cast ever, take two?

Even with Ron Howard attached to direct, "Frost/Nixon" is another upcoming movie that I'm jazzed about, and the news about it just keeps getting better.

The pedigree for this one is certainly solid. The stage play and movie script, based on the series of Richard Nixon interviews conducted by Brit David Frost, were written by Peter Morgan, who was rightly nominated for an Oscar for his whipsmart script for "The Queen."

And the previously announced main stars are just pitch-perfect. Michael Sheen, who made a properly needy Tony Blair in "The Queen," will play David Frost, and Frank Langella (huzzah!) will play Nixon. Langella is a damn fine actor who deserves more starring roles.

And even better, the just-announced supporting cast is also solid. Sam Rockwell will play James Reston Jr., the head researcher who helps Frost prep for the interviews. Toby Jones, a k a that other Truman Capote, will portray Hollywood dealmaker Swifty Lazar, who negotiates the deal with Frost on behalf of Nixon. And Matthew MacFadyen, who the ladies will surely remember as the 2005 version of Mr. Darcy (in what is still my favorite "Pride & Prejudice"), will play another journalist for a weekly British television show.

Definitely keep your eyes on this one too ...

New hope for Veronica Mars redux?

With "The Sopranos" obviously nearing its finish and "Gilmore Girls" set to end very soon (after an outstanding penultimate episode last week), "Veronica Mars" stands as my favorite TV show that's at least still hanging on by a thread. And now it seems that thread may be an actual lifeline.

TV Guide's Michael Ausiello, who almost always gets things right, says a new version of the show, with our hero Veronica moving on to the FBI Academy, got a very good reception from CW chief Dawn Ostroff.

If this reworking happens, of course, it will mean big changes for the show. Kristen Bell and show creator Rob Thomas will still be on board, of course, but the rest of the cast will most likely be jettisoned, along with the show's name. As for the "VM" supporting cast, I'll certainly be sad to see Mac, Weevil and Wallace go, but I think most of you will agree that the world could be a better place with a lot less Piz.

If that's what it takes to save this smart and funny show, I'm all for it. Any ideas for a new title? I'm drawing a blank, but I hope it's a lot more inspired than "FBI Girl." Given the CW, however, that one's probably not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thoroughly unnecessary remakes

My favorite movie story of the past year or so has to be when Emory University kicked McG and his "Revenge of the Nerds" remake right off of campus and told them to make their craptastic flick somewhere else. Even if they did so on moral grounds rather than on any principled stand against the notion of ridiculous remakes, I can only say huzzah.

As far as I know that movie is still dead, and hopefully will remain so. Although "Revenge of the Nerds" is far from high art, it's a thoroughly entertaining flick, and I always stop by for at least a few minutes when I stumble upon it on Saturday afternoon TV.

Which gets us to today's topic. Though there are countless unnecessary remakes, and way too many more in the pipeline, these are the six that just make me most want to hurl. Please feel free to add any remakes that just piss you off.

1. Psycho
I'm still holding out hope that this was still a joke. In my eyes, Gus Van Sant still has not recovered from his decision to do a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's classic (meaning, of course, he just made the same exact movie all over again.) "Elephant" was a damn fine flick, but it's gonna take a lot more than that to put him back in my good graces.

2. Cape Fear
I don't know how I thought this could be good. I guess I was just blinded by the names Scorsese and De Niro, but I was definitely duped. If you haven't seen the original, definitely check it out. Robert Mitchum's terrifying performance should be required viewing for all the directors who are churning out what passes for horror movies nowadays. I generally skip them all, but I'll be making an exception this Saturday for "28 Weeks Later."

3. Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton is one of my favorite and least favorite directors, all rolled into one. It's maddening to me that he's capable of incredibly original creations like "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and "Big Fish" (still my favorite Burton movie), but then turns out turds like this and his take on "Willy Wonka." They're equally bad movies in my eyes, but this one takes the title by a nose.

4. Poseidon
Though there was plenty of competition, this one takes my prize as the worst movie of 2006 (with the caveat that there are many movies that I simply don't bother to see.) There are several scenes that are so bad they remain lodged in my brain, surely taking the place of much more important things, but there's one that takes the cake. Near the beginning, Kurt Russell is playing cards when his daughter, played by Emmy Rossum, comes up wearing a fairly revealing evening dress. If I remember this right, he then leers at his "daughter's" chest and makes a comment about her "twins." I can't make this stuff up.

5. Breathless
This one was D.O.A. for me because movies just don't get any cooler than Godard's "A Bout de Souffle." Jean Paul Belmondo is just about my favorite actor in the world, and he's rarely been better than he was here riffing with Jean Seberg as the doomed Michel Poiccard (a k a Laszlo Kovacs.) I actually can't in good faith condemn the remake starring Richard Gere because, though I've tried twice, I still can't make it all the way through. Somehow I don't think I'm missing anything.

6. Point of No Return
I can understand the impulse to remake "La Femme Nikita," and this American version isn't actually terrible. The whole problem lies in the choice of heroine. Anne Parillaud, the original Nikita, was sexy, dangerous and cool in a way that Bridget Fonda, who had the dishonor of following in her footsteps, could never even hope to match. Its third life as a TV show, however, was an entertaining ride.

So, there you have it. I could come up with many more, but I still have to work for a living. Please feel free to add any of the many I have missed. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Will Spider-Man go on forever?

It's little surprise, given how "Spider-Man 3" shattered all worldwide opening weekend records, but I still found this nugget from Sony CEO Micheal Lynton to be interesting.

Talking to BBC News, he said he could see "a fourth, a fifth and a sixth and on and on ... as many as we can make good stories for."

And thus, unwittingly I'm sure, he pointed out what fans and critics alike have mostly attacked "Spider-Man 3" for: the story. Although it has many faults (and, let's be fair, some virtues too), the way it failed to deliver on the promise of Harry Osborn v. Peter Parker from the end of "Spider-Man 2" was the biggest.

That said, the world could be a better place with more "Spider-Man," I think, even if you have to replace all the main players.

Although I love what Sam Raimi did with the first two movies, he showed clearly with "Spider-Man 3" that it's time for him to move on and tackle a new challenge. So, who could take his place? I could easily see another trio of "Spider-Man" flicks coming from either Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron. They both have the visual and storytelling flair to pull it off. What do you think?

If the media reports are true, you'd also have to replace Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. I know many have been hard on Ms. Dunst, but I've enjoyed watching both of them through all three movies, at least until Peter couldn't stop crying in "Spider-Man 3."

So, who could replace them? I think the obvious choice for Peter Paker would be Shia LaBeouf. As the human lead in "Transformers" and the heir apparent to Indiana Jones, he's about to be the hottest name around. And, from what I've seen so far, the kid can act. Any more suggestions?

As for MJ, my choice defies all rules of age logic, but I could definitely go for Isla Fisher. She's clearly got the look, and much more importantly, she's very funny, which, before he went emo with "Spider-Man 3," Sam Raimi understood was very important to this franchise. Any more logical ideas?

No matter which way they eventually go, I'm sure of one thing: There is definitely a Spidey movie out there that will be better than "Spider-Man 3," but probably not quite as good as "Spider-Man 2," my gold standard. I can't wait to see how this all pans out.

Six Simpsons posters

Speaking of story, I've often found that the writers of "The Simpsons" have had trouble lately even coming up with one that can still sustain a half-hour worth of quality viewing, so I have my doubts about the upcoming "Simpsons" movie. If it's funny from start to finish, however, that will be enough for me. Here are six "Simpsons" movie posters I stumbled across. Marge on fire is my favorite, but Bart with the french-fry doodle is pretty funny too. Peace out.