Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Best DVD week ever?

Well, probably not, but given the sea of crap that usually flows onto DVD shelves this time of year, it's rare enough to have three movies that I thoroughly enjoyed hit all at once.

First, of course, comes "300," Zack Snyder's take on Frank Miller's graphic novel about the battle of Thermopylae. Gerard Butler leads the 300 scantily clad Spartans of the title into battle in what was probably the most over- (and incorrectly) analyzed movie so far this year. It's just a popcorn movie, after all, and as I argued here, a damn fine one at that.

Extras for the two-disc edition include a commentary by director Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong, deleted scenes with introduction by Snyder, and three featurettes: "The 300: Fact or Fiction?" Historians, authors and filmmakers reveal how much of the film was based on fact; "Who Were The Spartans: The Warriors of 300" touches on the customs and ways of life of the Spartans; and "Frank Miller Tapes" shows how Miller exerted his control to make sure his epic graphic novel looked right on the big screen. Definitely my first buy this week.

"Hot Fuzz"

Is "Hot Fuzz" the funnest movie of 2007? So far, I'd have to say yes, by just a nose over "Knocked Up." Anyone who liked "Shaun of the Dead" will love this ode to '80s action movies from Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. It goes on at least 10 minutes too long, but you'll be laughing so hard you'll hardly notice. You can read my full review here.

"Starter for 10"

Among the many nice things I can say about South African Airways is that their inflight movie selection is sensational. Although I decided to skip "The Painted Veil," I did watch the nearly flawless "Breach" again and discovered "Starter for 10," a thoroughly predictable yet utterly charming British take on the '80s teen romantic comedy.

James McAvoy, who must have been pushing 30 when this came out last year, is surprisingly convincing as a British public school student who, of course, is more interested in chasing co-eds than he is learning anything. The rather awful title, which meant nothing to me before seeing the flick, comes from a quiz show for teams of prep-school students.

There would be nothing to recommend this movie if it weren't so entirely, well, British. From the great music to the hideous attire, it invokes the spirit of Thatcher's Britain if nothing else, and it's well worth a rental. Besides, I once watched "Big Momma's House 2" out of desperation while trapped on a plane, and this is a damn sight better than that.

Welcome back, Mr. Franklin

It's a rare feat when a director manages to make two of my favorite movies, so I can only give a hearty huzzah to the return of Carl Franklin to the big screen.

His "One False Move" is an almost flawless film noir, and that "Devil in a Blue Dress" flick with Denzel and Don is almost as good. Now, after years of directing for TV and serving up the occasion big-screen clunker, it seems that Mr. Franklin is getting back on course.

First will come "Tulia," based on the book about one Texas sheriff's plan to wipe out the black population of his town by concocting an imaginary drug ring. It would make a sensational story if it weren't all so horribly true. For the movie, Billy Bob Thornton plays an attorney who tries to take him on, and Halle Berry figures in here somehow too (please, please, please let this be better than that simply craptastic "Monster's Ball" flick!)

And now comes word of a new project that is even more up Mr. Franklin's alley. Inspired by true events chronicled in a PBS "Frontline" documentary, "Snitch" centers on a devoted father whose son faces 30 years in prison after being set up in a drug deal. The father goes undercover in the drug world to make a bust that will free his son. I can see Denzel being involved in this one already, but we'll have to wait and see.

No matter how it all turns out, I can only say welcome back, Mr. Franklin.

Three more intriguing Comic-Con tidbits

Here are three more nuggets from the sunny San Diego comics confab, all of which sound promising to me and come directly from Dreadcentral.

First, it seems that Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant of "Reno 911," who are also extremely prolific (and hit and miss) screenwriters, are now at work on a sequel to their "Night at the Museum." So far, we know only that Ben Stiller and Robin Williams are on board, and there will be "exisiting characters and plenty of new ones." I thought the original flick was just silly fun, so bring it on.

Actually, I should have listed that one third, because these next two are just perfect. It seems that Robert Rodriguez, though he'll surely first turn his attention to "Barbarella," hasn't given up on making a feature-length "Machete" movie. For anyone who's forgotten, the "Machete" trailer featuring Danny Trejo (huzzah!) preceded "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's half of "Grindhouse," and was far superior to any of the fake trailers that cut the flick in half. Trejo is simply the definition of a badass, so I can only hope he follows through on this before his attention gets diverted once again.

And, finally, it seems that Frank Darabont will have Stephen King on his mind for the foreseeable future. After "The Mist," which I'm thoroughly psyched for, he'll be adapting two other King stories for the big screen, "The Long Walk" and "The Monkey."

According to Dreadcentral, "The Long Walk" is about a 16-year-old boy who is on a survival walk with 99 others. They walk for honor and their lives with the winner being promised everything his or her heart desires. "The Monkey" revolves around a father-son relationship and a toy monkey whose clanging symbols are harbingers of death.

Those sound intriguing, but first get ready to be enveloped by "The Mist" in November. And now, unfortunately, I have to get ready for work. Peace out.

P.S. Nell Minow, Yahoo's Movie Mom and easily one of my favorite bloggers, e-mailed me over the weekend to share some of her crazy adventures at Comic-Con (and make me, of course, insanely jealous.) You can read all about what she found in sunny San Diego in her great blog here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Joss Whedon ... working ... on movies?

There was tons of great news out of Comic Con, which I of course did not attend, but I tend to focus in on only the things I get singularly obsessed with. And Joss Whedon very often tops that list.

Lately, of course, he's been putting out those great (so far) Buffy Season 8 comic books, but now comes word that he may (finally!) be getting back into movies, with help from a very talented friend.

Again, remember that I have to get this all second-hand, but it seems that he let slip at Comic Con that he has just finished writing "Cabin in the Woods," "the horror film to end all horror films -- literally" with "Buffy" and "Angel" vet Drew Goddard. Mr. Goddard, of course, is also the scribe behind that mysterious JJ Abrams-produced "Cloverfield"/"1/18/08" monster flick, so just call him the man of the moment.

Whedon working on a horror movie? Or any movie at all? That news alone would be good enough, but of course there's more.

It seems like I've been hearing rumors about a "Ripper" TV series/TV movie starring Anthony Stewart Head (a k a Giles) ever since "Buffy" went off the air, but now it seems it may really come to life. Whedon let loose at Comic Con that our British friends (lucky bastards!) will be getting "Ripper" as a 90-minute BBC movie in 2008. Here's hoping it gets a quick turnaround to DVD, and then maybe morphs into a series here in the U.S.A. Hey, one can dream, right?

And, just in case that wasn't enough, there's also a free Joss Whedon-penned comic that has cropped up on the Dark Horse Comics Myspace site. It's called "Sugarshock" and it's about ... well, it's really hard to tell, but it's well worth a few minutes of your time to click here and read the first issue.

And, for a much more well-rounded Comic Con report (yes, there were just a few other things going on out there), you can read Crystal Green's fine reportage here.

Johnny Depp's back on the rum

I'd have to count that "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" with Mr. Depp and Benicio del Toro as one of the most criminally underappreciated movies of all time, so this new tidbit can only come as good news.

Almost 10 years after Terry Gilliam brought that Hunter S. Thompson work to the big screen comes word that Depp will be starring in another Thompson flick, this time "The Rum Diary." And, though Terry Gilliam isn't back this time, they've got a more than worthy subsitute in "Withnail and I" director Bruce Robinson, who will also be writing the script (if you somehow haven't seen the maginificent "Withnail and I," and can somehow still get your hands on a copy, watch it immediately!)

Now, I have to admit I haven't read "The Rum Diary," but as best as I can tell it's an early, autobiographical Thompson novel about his work for a rundown newspaper in 1950s Puerto Rico. Depp will play Thompson's character, who in the book was named Paul Kemp.

Now, that alone would probably be cool enough, but I'll leave you today with a little extra. I'm cautiously optimistic that Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" won't just suck hard. Coming for Christmas, it's set to star Mr. Depp, Borat, Bellatrix Lestrange and, apparently, Rupert Giles. And, here below (click on it to see a much larger image), is the fairly sinister-looking poster. Enjoy, and have an entirely suckfree Monday. Peace out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cowabunga, dude! "The Simpsons Movie" doesn't suck!

My two midnight screenings this summer couldn't have been more different.

For "Spider-Man 3," there were three (or maybe four) packed theaters, but the energy got sucked out of each by that tepid fare after no more than a half hour.

For "The Simpsons Movie," however, there were maybe 100 people spread out in one theater, and judging from the (often too) loud laughter I heard throughout, everyone left with a smile on their face. Or at least I'm sure I did.

My biggest beef and even bigger point of praise for "The Simpsons Movie" is that it's all so terribly familiar. Given how all the advance details were kept to a minimum, I was afraid we would be getting a bloated monster packed with way too many guest voices and way too epic a plot.

Thankfully, however, the movie just plays out like an extended "Simpsons" episode, albeit one from way back when the show was still fresh and at least a little subversive (but, was it ever really all that edgy? How in the world did George H.W. Bush ever get into such a huff over such a family-friendly show?) But I digress ...

Without giving anything away, I can tell you that Lisa wants to save the Earth, Bart wants to be a Flanders, Homer almost brings about the end of the world and Marge frets about it an awful lot. So, what would make you want to see it? Well, the jokes fly faster and hit their targets more often than the TV show has in many, many years.

Even if you've seen every possible advance clip for this one, and therefore had some choice gags spoiled (I really wish, for example, that I hadn't known about Spider-Pig going in), there's still plenty to surprise. And what I appreciate about "The Simpsons" on TV and here is that there are almost as many visual gags as there are spoken-out-loud ones, so you're rewarded for paying close attention.

My favorite moment, if I can offer a mild spoiler, comes after Marge has had enough and left Homer to fend for himself. Before they can be reunited, of course, he has to have an epiphany, but the five minutes in which he has it here are just a visual wonder (and, for me at least, a reminder of the great "Two Cars In Every Garage And Three Eyes On Every Fish" episode from season two.) I can't go as far as film critic Roger Moore, who I always enjoy reading, and declare this the best animated movie of the summer - "Ratatouille" is sheer perfection and more than a few notches above this one.

What it is, however, is a valentine to all the people who have stuck with the show for the last 20 years (has it really been that long?), and an almost ideal summer treat.

P.S. If any of this doesn't make sense, please forgive me. It was written when I got home from the midnight flick, when I may not have been at my most lucid. Peace out.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's hot at Comic-Con?

I, of course, wouldn't know, since I'm stuck in a cubicle here on the East Coast rather than geeking it up in sunny San Diego. Here however, is what Variety says will rule the day at the mecca of movie-mania.

1. Indiana Jones 4
What else could possibly be No. 1.? I don't care how much Geritol it takes to get the job done, I'll still be there on day one for this one. Apparently Shia LaBeouf is playing some kind of sidekick to Han Solo, not his son, as I originally thought.
Opens: May 22, 2008

2. Star Trek 11
Is it OK to admit I simply never cared much at all for Star Trek? It cleary has virtues that escape me, since more than a few people seem to be devoted to it. "Lost" mastermind J.J. Abrams has promised big casting news at his Comic-Con appearance this afternoon, so stay tuned to this one. Shooting starts in November.

3. Watchmen
On a slightly unrelated note, "300" comes out on DVD next week, and I'll be buying a copy. On an even more unrelated note, my boss, about once a week or so, has a tendency to just yell out "Spartans!" at the most random of moments. Shooting for Zack Snyder's take on this rather famous graphic novel begins in September, and Jackie Earle Haley and many more people are already on board.

4. The Dark Knight
If this is ranked in term of buzz, how in the world is this sequel not at No. 2? In Nolan's next take, the Caped crusader (Christian Bale) is set to take on at least two big baddies, the Joker (Heath Ledger, believe it or not) and Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart, huzzah!) We all know what happens when you add a third villain, so here's hoping they stop there.

5. Beowulf
There's a new trailer for this one out, which you can watch here. This one is, of course based on the epic poem and stars Ray Winstone as Beowulf, Crispin Glover as Grendel and Angeline Jolie (wtf?) as Grendel's mum. I can't see any possible way this will be anything but cool when it opens Nov. 16.

6. Iron Man
The cast alone makes this one worth watching, but I have serious doubts that Jon Favreau is ready to take this on. Robert Downey is our hero Tony Stark, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard (huzzah!) also factor in somehow. If you're somehow lucky enough to be in SD for this, Favreau and Downey will be premiering some new footage Saturday.

7. The Incredible Hulk
Am I the only person in the world who really liked Ang Lee's "Hulk" movie? Apparently so, because now they've come up with a new director and, of course, a new Hulk. I liked Eric Bana just fine, but Edward Norton should just have tons of fun with this. It opens June 13, 2008.

8. I am Legend
The great, somewhat-new Jazzy Jeff record, "Return of the Magnificent," has a great running joke about Will Smith (maybe you've heard of him.) As it culminates, Jazzy, tired of constantly being asked if he's seen Mr. Smith lately, finally calls up his old pal and asks him, "does anyone ever ask you if you've seen Jazzy Jeff lately?" Mr. Smith, gamely in on the joke, says "no, but sometimes they ask me if I've seen Carlton." I spit up my coffee the first time I heard that. I know it has nothing to do with this movie, which is apparently a new adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel about a viral plague that turns the world's population into brain-dead savages. Who ya gonna call? Will Smith, of course. Opens: Dec. 14, 2008

9. The Golden Compass
Were this my list, this one would be at No. 3, just barely behind "The Dark Knight." This first installment in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (which will be on my reading list directly after Harry Potter) stars Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, and from everything I've seen so far should just kick royal ass when it finally comes out this Christmas. Opens: Dec. 7, 2007

10. The Mist
Stephen King and Frank Darabont together again? I'm definitely there. This time it's based on King's novella about an eerie cloud filled with otherworldy creatures that envelops a New England town. In my mind, I'm already there. Opens: Nov. 21, 2007

R.I.P. Ulrich Muhe

I'm ashamed to say I have never seen "The Lives of Others" (which has just been added to my Netflix queue), but this is certainly sad news all the same.

German actor Ulrich Muhe, the movie's star, has died at age 54 of stomach cancer. He had been offered several movie roles after playing the Stasi officer at the center of "The Lives of Others" but had been too ill to take any of them on.

Rest in peace indeed, Mr. Muhe.

The last word on "Gilmore Girls"

It just pains me to see how bitter Amy Sherman Palladino has become about her divorce from "Gilmore Girls." She just sounds like petulant 4-year-old every time she opens her mouth, as she did recently on the TV critics press tour, where she was plugging her midseason Fox sitcom "The Return of Jezebel James" (which I will definitely be tuning in for come January or so.)

Asked about the "Gilmore Girls" finale, she said "I didn't watch it. I just got very drunk that night and sat in a corner. I couldn't watch it because it wasn't going to be my ending and had in my head forever. You know, go with God. I love all those people; I love that cast. I'm friends with Lauren (Graham)."

Fair enough, I guess, but she did have two interesting things to say about the future and what might have been. Asked about the possibility of a "Gilmore" TV movie, she said "We've talked about maybe sometime doing a little song and dance together. I'm not ruling it out."

And, even better, she revealed what would have been the final line if she had been around to write her own "Gilmore Girls" finale: "You're adopted."

Being more than a little thick, my original response when my similarly "Gilmore" obsessed co-worker Renee Martinez told me about this was "well, she can't mean Rory, can she?" Of course not. I can only assume this line would have been spoken by either Emily or Richard to Lorelei. Maybe someday we'll find out for sure.

Midnight madness: "The Simpsons Movie"

Having been a "Simpsons" devotee since way back on "The Tracey Ullman Show," there was no way I could pass up a midnight showing of "The Simpsons Movie" tonight, even though I have to be up bright and early for work Friday. Assuming I make it, I'll post something early Friday morning, but in the meantime enjoy this short clip of Homer's monologue on "The Tonight Show," which I haven't bothered to stay up for even once since Johnny left. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter gets even more star Wattage

Although she can only say she "considers" herself British, Naomi Watts has joined the long list of British stars who seem to have been guaranteed a role in the "Harry Potter" movies.

Naomi, who is apparently about to give birth to a child conceived with actor/partner Leiv Schreiber, will step in to the role of Narcissa Malfoy, mother of that dreadful little Draco. Now, I'm only on about page 109 of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," so please don't spoil anything for me, but I would think this would give her the chance to have some real fun vamping it up with Bellatrix Lestrange, brought to vivid life in "Order of the Phoenix" by Helena Bonham Carter.

In other "Half-Blood Prince" casting news which may be of more interest to the ladies, Joseph Fiennes (yes, the brother of Ralph, a k a He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named), has also joined the cast in some capacity.

I have more than 1,000 pages of Potter to read by sometime before "Half-Blood Prince" comes out in theaters, so I'll have Harry on the brain for a while now (because I'm a slow reader even if I didn't have this pesky job to occupy my time.) For those of you who have already finished "Deathly Hallows," please be kind and don't give away the end of Harry's saga!

'Southland Tales' finally coming out?

Since Richard Kelly's new movie originally debuted to disastrous results at Cannes more than a year ago, I'm still skeptical that it will ever really come out, even with this news.

It seems that "Southland Tales," Kelly's apocalyptic tale about Los Angeles starring The Rock and Buffy as some kind of porn/reality tv star (no, I'm not making that up), has finally been given a release date of Nov. 9 by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Given the star power (Mandy Moore and Justin Timberlake are somehow in this too), it may even reach far enough to play in my little corner of the world.

Though this has "danger" written all over it in bright neon letters, I have nothing but mad love for Kelly's "Donnie Darko," so I'll definitely take a chance on this one, if I ever really get to.

Dardenne brothers get boost

I count their "L'Enfant" easily among my favorite movies, so any news about the Dardenne bros. (Pierre and Luc) is good to me.

They've apparently just been handed 360,000 euros (about $500,000) by something called Eurimages to work on their next flick, the French-Belgian pic "Le Silence de Lorna." The movie centers on an arranged marriage of an illegal immigrant from Albania to a drug addict, and it stars "L'Enfant" headliner Jeremie Renier. Sounds like exactly my (and their) kind of flick, so I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on this one.

Two delightful time-wasters

Ever wondered what a week in the life of Alfonso Cuaron would be like? He makes it all sound remarkable mundane when he describes it to London's Telegraph, but it does involve jetting around Italy with Terry Gilliam to scout movie locations. I guess boring is in the eye of the beholder.

In case you need any more incentive to read this, it contains the following phrase: It is amazing how fast your testicles can go up and down. Click here and enjoy.

Another fun time-waster is this supposed list of the 50 funniest movies of all time compiled by London's Observer (via the Guardian.) I won't spoil it for you any further than this: There is no way "Life of Brian" should be at No. 1, even though it is a very funny movie (which I first watched, oddly enough, at an Episcopal youth group gathering.) I can't seem to find my list of the 10 I laugh loudest at, but I do know I had Stephen Frears' "The Snapper," based on the great little novel by Roddy Doyle, at No. 1. Anyways, click here to see what they picked, and feel free to grouse about it.

Two TV tidbits

I used to like Michael Rapaport quite a bit, I promise, but his starring role for two years on Fox's "The War at Home" just wiped all that goodwill away. I guess starring on simply the most excremental TV show in history will tend to do that.

Now comes word that he's sticking around TV to tarnish one of the few sitcoms I actually tune in to, NBC's "My Name is Earl." With Earl (Jason Lee) starting the upcoming season in jail, it seems Mr. Rapaport will be have a recurring role as one of his cellmates.

I'm a firm believer in second (and more) chances, but Mr. Rapaport has a lot of work to do to win me back. Here's hoping this is a good start.

In possibly much better news, it seems that the Henson folks are hard at work on the pilot for a new version of "The Muppet Show." Just typing that makes me smile. Paul McCartney is the guest host for the test episode of what I can only hope will be many more. Read more about it in TV Guide here.

Two intriguing (well, one anyway) posters

Whew. Long post today, but since I've taken three out of the last four days off, there's a lot out there, including these two posters courtesy of Comingsoon.net.

First comes Jerry Seinfeld's "Bee Movie," which I frankly can't say I'm too excited about. He just looks so damn smug, even with his bee face, in the trailers I've seen and in this poster. There's a strong chance I'm wrong and this will be somehow be good, and hearing but not seeing Renee Zellweger is a solid step in the right direction, but I'm still really skeptical.

Next, for a movie I'm much more excited about, comes "3:10 to Yuma," set to come out Sept. 7 with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in the leads. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard (huzzah!), it's about an infamous outlaw (Crowe) and the struggling Civil War veteran (Bale) who volunteers to deliver him to the "3:10 to Yuma" train so he can stand trial for murder. There's few things in life I like more than a good Western (and I'm watching "Deadwood," which certainly qualifies, now), so to this one I can only say bring it on.

And finally, a sublime trailer

Originally we were on some kind of spiritual journey, but that didn't really work out.

I have extremely high hopes for Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited," and the look and feel of this trailer only have me more excited. The colors alone mark it as an Anderson movie, and the snippets of dialogue we get from brothers Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and, of course, Owen Wilson show that Anderson seems to be back on top of his game (after the rather disastrous "Steve Zissou.) Enjoy, and have an entirely bearable Wednesday. Peace out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Who won't be on "The Simpsons" this fall?

I saw Michael Moore's "Sicko" last weekend and was mildly disappointed. I'm still trying to put my finger on exactly why, so in the meantime here's the best news I could find this morning.

In a shameless attempt to ride the hype wave for this week's "Simpsons" movie, which I have decided will just be tons of funny (and of course I do have control over that), here's some details about characters and plots for the next season on Fox.

I have to admit, I've often been annoyed by the show in recent years. The writers often seem so distracted that they are unable to string together even a half hour's worth of coherent plot. When it's on target, however, it's still well worth watching.

In the season premiere, "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs" (Sept. 23), Homer saves Mr. Burns from drowning in a mall fountain (funny already) and is rewarded with a flight to Chicago on Burns' private plane. In the course of all this, guest star Lionel Richie somehow ends up serenading our hero with "Say You, Say Me," and then Homer enlists a life coach (Stephen Colbert) to help him find a job that offers him the use of a corporate jet.

In "I Don't Wanna Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" (Sept. 30), Marge convinces a bank robber (Steve Buscemi) to turn himself in with the promise that she will visit him in prison. When she doesn't, he escapes to find her.

This next one sounds like it's actually a dream from my own head. In "Husband and Knives," Milo (guest voice Jack Black) opens Coolsville Comics & Toys directly across the street from Comic Book Guy's store. At Milo's store, the kids get to meet cool folks like Alan Moore, Art Spiegleman and Daniel Clowes. Sheesh. I guess when you've been on the air for 19 years you really can do anything you want to.

Later in the season, Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney are reunited playing Sideshow Bob, his brother and father, respectively, and Jon Stewart, Matt Dillon, Maya Rudolph, Dan Rather, Placido Domingo, Kurt Loder, Weird Al Yankovic, Beverly D'Angelo and Topher Grace also pay Springfield a visit.

In the meantime, I'll be imagining what's coming with Friday's movie instead of thinking about my actual job.

A "Family Guy" movie?

Can you imagine how many gags it would take to fill even a 90-minute "Family Guy" movie? It could quite possibly be joke overload, but I'd definitely be there to find out.

Creator Seth MacFarlane told the Hollywood Reporter that a flick could soon be in the works.

"We have been trying to figure out how to do that and the series at the same time without the series suffering," MacFarlane said. One possibility is having longtime writer Ricky Blitt (writer of one of the worst movies I've ever seen, "The Ringer," so take that into consideration) work on a script for the flick.

Whatever comes of it, MacFarlane couldn't resist taking a shot at the "Simpsons" movie and its rather insane (but still secret) plot: "I don't want to do 'The Griffins must save the world,' " he said.

Tucci landing killer role

These next three casting tidbits are just nearly perfect. Stanley Tucci is in negotiations to play the pivotal role of killer George Harvey in Peter Jackson's adaptation of "The Lovely Bones."

Rachel Weisz and Ryan Gosling are already on board as the parents of Susie Salmon (newcomer Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old who has been raped and killed by a neighbor she refers to as Mr. Harvey. Alice Sebold's best-selling 2002 novel is told from the perspective of Susie, who looks down on her family and Harvey from the afterlife.

It seems like this flick has been taking shape forever now, but it's apparently finally set to begin shooting in October in Pennsylvania and Jackson's native New Zealand.

Chow down on this!

According to the L.A. Times' movie blog, Seth Rogen isn't afraid to bring on a sidekick with even better comic timing than he has for "The Green Hornet."

According to the paper, Rogen let it slip at Comic-Con that he wants none other than Stephen Chow to play his sidekick Kato, who was played on TV by Bruce Lee. I can't see any possible way that wouldn't be tons of fun, but there's no word yet if Chow is willing. Here's hoping!

Possibly the world's most beautiful woman joins 'Che' pics

If you somehow haven't seen "Maria Full of Grace," drop whatever you have planned for tonight and get thee to a video store. It's that good.

Now, "Maria" star Catalina Sandino Moreno has signed on to Stephen Soderbergh's two upcoming Che Guevara flicks, "The Argentine" and "Guerilla," which are set to begin shooting Wednesday in Spain. Benicio Del Toro is set to play Che, and though I'm not sure which role the lovely Ms. Sandino Moreno will play, she falls squarely into the category of women I will watch do just about anything.

Yes, John Krasinski will get to be in a good movie

Justjared.com has what it says is the first pic from the screwball comedy "Leatherheads," which I've of course swiped. Though I'll take Mandy Moore over Renee Zellweger any day, it looks like John Krasinski will emerge from the wreckage of "License to Wed" unscathed.

In the fictionalized account of the origins of the NFL, George Clooney plays the coach of a wannabe pro football team in the 1920s and Krasinski plays the World War I hero/star football player. Ms. Zellweger gets caught between the two in some kind of love triangle or other.

Though he can be an awfully smug bastard, Clooney is also a damn fine movie director (and Soderbergh is on board to help with the script), so I have high hopes for this one.

New "No Country for Old Men" poster

I still have a day job, so I'll have to wrap this up quick, but here's a parting gift: a new poster for the Coens' upcoming take on Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for old Men." Enjoy, and have an entirely bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Simply crazy comic book news

Before you read too much into that title, please remember that in my rather twisted view of the world crazy is rarely not a compliment.

In the case of the "Wolverine" movie, what it apparently means is an instant injection of class. I have to say, of all the characters they could have spun off from the "X-Men" universe, Wolverine is the one I'm least excited about.

Now, don't get me wrong. On paper, Wolverine has a fascinating backstory which would make for a great summer action flick. But on screen, Hugh Jackman and those who write for him have turned him into simply a smirking one-liner machine, and certainly not the kind of character I'd like to see a movie built around.

With this good news, however, I'm gonna have to at least be cautiously optomistic. In an instant leap to the big leagues, "Tsotsi" director Gavin Hood has been tapped by Twentieth Century Fox to work with the script by David Benoiff.

If you haven't seen "Tsotsi," which managed to snag a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a thoroughly touching tale of redemption set in South Africa and based on a novel by Athol Fugard. Before he gets to have fun with "Wolverine," Hood will be making the rounds with "Rendition," his new flick which is sure to catch a lot of buzz.

That flick, starring Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Alan Arkin and J.K. Simmons (huzzah!) is about the CIA's methods of interrogation of an Egyptian terrorism suspect, and his wife's mission to rescue him. I smell at least few Oscars cooking here.

And it's apparently his work on this movie, set to be released in the U.S. in October, that won Hood the right to play around with "Wolverine." To which I can now say bring it on.

Seth Rogen, super hero?

Just in case you can't tell in print, I'm more than a little skeptical about this one. Encouraged, mind you, being a rather portly gentleman myself, but skeptical nonetheless.

It seems that king freak Seth Rogen is finalizing a deal to write and most likely star in Columbia's big-screen adapatation of "Green Hornet." I'll pause to let you ingest that one for a sec. ...

Given Rogen's ability to make fun of himself, I could actually see this working pretty well, if it ever really happens. Rogen would play Brit Reid, the millionaire publisher-turned-masked crime fighter. "The Green Hornet" started as a radio serial before being turned into a comic book, film and TV series by the 1960s. The TV show was apparently notable for the presence of the late Bruce Lee as sidekick Kato, a kung fu expert with a killer car.

You can, of course, look for Mr. Rogen very soon in another movie he wrote, the upcoming "Superbad," which Variety says he originally intended to star in before it took a long time to get off the ground and he simply became too old to play a believable high school student (which hasn't stopped too many people from trying to do it anyway!)

Can he really make the leap to action hero? I have my doubts, but I'll definitely be cheering him on.

A "Bottle Shock" update

In my "fresh faces" plug for the great Freddy Rodriguez I noted that, as far as I can tell, he's set to star in the upcoming "Bottle Shock," a flick about the rise of the Napa Valley wine industry.

Well, not so fast, apparently. A report on the flick this morning listed pretty good cast additions: Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Eliza Dushku (today's gratuitous beautiful woman pic), Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman (huzzah!) Nowhere in the list, however, was Mr. Rodriguez.

Set in the 1970s, the film is based on the true story of the Montelena Winery, which won an international wine-tasting competition and put the California region on the vino map. Pine portrays the son of the vineyard owner who saves the winery and represents Napa in the French tasting, while Taylor plays a university student who interns at the winery.

Dushku acts as a local bartender, and Pullman is the owner of the run-down winery who clashes with his son. Rickman is an Englishman who runs L'Academie du Vin in Paris and is the chief architect of the blind-tasting challenge that results in an upset victory for the American vintages.

Whether Freddy's involved or not (and the IMDB still says he is), this is still shaping up to be an interesting flick worth keeping our eyes on.

Che flicks finally get rolling

The AP reported as news this morning that Benicio (not Guillermo, a mistake I somehow manage to make quite often) Del Toro is playing Che Guevara in director Steven Soderbergh's back-to-back flicks about the revolutionary leader. I thought that was pretty common knowledge, but maybe not.

The real news is that Soderbergh is gonna start serious filming on the flicks Wednesday across Spain. In honor of this good news, here's a pic of Benicio as Che cribbed directly from the actor's rather bizarre Web site. It's definitely worth a visit here.

"Darjeeling Limited" gets supercool poster

Until stumbling upon this rather nice poster for Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited," I was beginning to doubt the flick really existed. It's just been so long since Mr. Anderson has managed to complete a movie, but I can only say welcome back.

The flick stars Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as three estranged brother who use a trip across India to reforge their bonds after the death of their father. It's set to be the opening night flick at the New York Film Festival Sept. 28 (and why not: There have been very few better valentines to the city of New York than Anderson's "Royal Tenenbaums.")

The poster has an odd, almost "Steve Zissou" kind of look to it, and only makes me want to see the flick right away, which I guess movie posters are meant to do. Anyways, I still have to work for a living, so I have to quit now and get ready. Peace out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I always suspected Tom Cruise was a Nazi ...

Well, this being a Hollywood movie, he's not really a Nazi of course, or at least not an evil one.

The picture below is just so crazyfunnycool that it really needs no introduction, but I'll set it up just in case anyone doesn't know what "Valkyrie" (or, as the IMDB is now referring to it, "Rubicon") is.

In the upcoming Bryan Singer flick (penned by Chris McQuarrie, huzzah!), Cruise will play Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who lead an attempt to bring down the Nazi regime and end World War II by planting a bomb in Hitler's bunker.

Along with Mr. Cruise, all the rumored cast members have signed on, giving this one a simply stellar lineup. On board so far are Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Patrick Wilson, Stephen Fry, Tom Wilkinson and Carice van Houten (who, just because I believe in the principle of including at least one gratuitous picture of a beautiful woman with each post, is pictured at right.) Eddie Izzard is also somehow involved, but I can't imagine that's gonna be a terribly good thing.

But, enough of that. Here, courtesy of the great Rope of Silicon site, is Col. Tom in full regalia. Enjoy!

A new candidate for the best cast ever?

I've always had a soft spot for D.C. political potboilers for one simple reason: If you've ever lived or even visited there for any amount of time, you know that it really is a pretty sleepy place. Since it's almost just a big town, it always amazes that most of the most important things that happen in the world originate there.

Don't get me wrong. I love D.C. Of all the places I've lived, it remains my favorite, especially the Northeast neighborhood around Georgia Avenue, where the great George Pelecanos sets his crime novels. It's just a truly odd place.

Rod Lurie, who had mixed success with this genre with "The Contender," is getting back in the game with a juicy topic, the Valerie Plame case. "Nothing But the Truth" (my God is that a bad title!) will be about "a female newspaper reporter who outs a CIA agent and is imprisoned for refusing to reveal her source," according to Variety.

Well, assuming the reporter is based on Judith Miller, we now know she wasn't much of a heroic figure, but it could still make for a compelling flick, especially with this cast: Kate Beckinsale as the Miller journalist, Matt Dillon as the prosecutor, Vera Farmiga as the CIA agent, Edie Falco as the editor of the newspaper that published the story and Alan Alda as the attorney who tries to free the reporter from jail.

Assuming he doesn't shy away from it, Lurie, who also wrote the script, gets the chance to play a fun game of palace intrigue: Guessing just what went on in W's mind when he decided to pardon Scooter. Definitely keep your eyes on this one.

A slew of "Simpsons" pics

Any doubts I had that the "Simpsons" flick wouldn't just serve up a huge pile of funny were erased by the bombastic trailers I've seen so far. This is just gonna be goodness on a grand scale.

The great Comics Continuum site has posted a new series of pics from the flick. I've included one here, of course, but click on the link to see a whole load of them.

What did they do to deserve this?

For a country founded on the principle of religious freedom, America definitely does like to heap scorn on the assorted religious groups that call this usually great country home. Now, apparently, it's the Mormons' time to step up for their dose of abuse, and with Mitt Romney on the rise I don't expect it to stop any time soon.

An example is this truly bizarre trailer for the upcoming "September Dawn." As far as I can tell it's some kind of Mormon horror film that somehow stars both Jon Voight and Terrence Stamp. Now, I know next to nothing about Mormons except that they don't particularly care for R-rated movies, but I'm sure they deserve better than this. Remember, I'm just the messenger, and have an entirely bearable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

10 (fairly) fresh faces to watch

Though I cribbed this idea directly from Variety, anyone who's been here before (and, amazingly, there do seem to be a few of you who actually read my ramblings) knows these names are all from my own head and close to my heart.

So, without wasting any more time, here are 10 names of rising stars you probably know already but will hopefully hear a lot more about in the future, with, when I could find it, their most interesting upcoming movie project.

Amy Adams

While I'd hesitate to call it a "great" movie, "Junebug" is easily one of the most charming movies I've seen in many years, largely due to Ms. Adams' great performance as the very pregnant (and not terribly happy about it) Ashley Johnsten. Amazingly, according to the IMDB, she worked at a Hooters restaurant until she turned 18 and they tried to make her wear the customary cleavage-promoting attire. Look for her this December in Mike Nichols' "Charlie Wilson's War."

Paul Dano

In "Little Miss Sunshine," he managed to steal the show in a cast crowded with heavyweights even though he didn't have much to say at all until near the very end. His reward? He landed the lead role in Spike Jonze's sure-to-be-wild adaptation of Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," which we unfortunately won't get to see until at least October 2008.

Taraji P. Henson

This D.C. girl is, so far, best known as the lady who sang D.J.'s hook for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" in "Hustle & Flow." Since then, she's been the only good thing about "Smokin' Aces," playing off Alicia Keys, and David Fincher has apparently had the good sense to cast her in his next movie, so look out for her in his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Jonah Hill

I've already pimped the upcoming "Superbad" to death, so instead I'll recommend another flick that proves Mr. Hill is just astoundingly funny. I rented "Accepted" from that $1 DVD machine at the supermarket, which was surprisingly good, and he was very funny in it. Though I'm not sure I can call this a good thing, he'll soon be contributing his voice to the thoroughly unnecessary update of "Horton Hears a Who."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The only good thing to come out of the rather excremental TV show "3rd Rock From the Sun" (and no, it wasn't French Stewart) was the very talented Mr. Gordon-Levitt. All the proof you need can be found in "The Lookout," which was probably seen by about 10 people when it came out earlier this year but deserves to garner a lot more fans on DVD.

Derek Luke

Of all the actors and actresses who can claim to have been snubbed at last year's Oscars, Mr. Luke gets my vote for his outstanding turn as a South African man driven to terrorism by torture in Phillip Noyce's "Catch a Fire." Look for him soon in Robert Redford's upcoming Oscar bait "Lions for Lambs."

Ellen Page

Though Ms. Page deserves the most recognition for her surprisingly hardened work in "Hard Candy," I'll always remember her for giving me just about the only reason to smile while watching Brett Ratner's simply awful "X-Men: The Last Stand." Next, she'll be the titular star of Jason Reitman's "Juno." This coming-of-age story about a young lady who finds herself pregnant also stars three of the world's funniest people, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Rainn Wilson, so definitely keep your eyes out for it. (And, of course, it was written by Minneapolis City Pages blogger Diablo Cody.)

Keke Palmer

I usually have little time for sweet family films, having no rugrats of my own to tend to, but "Akeelah and the Bee" was a breed apart for its smarts and young Ms. Palmer's spunk. Since then, she's appeared in an episode of Tyler Perry's fairly awful TV show "House of Payne," and her only upcoming credit is for something from Renny Harlin called "The Cleaner," which also stars Samuel L. Jackson in what sounds like a fairly run-of=the-mill thriller.

Freddy Rodriguez

I've liked Freddy ever since his work on "Six Feet Under," and it was loads of fun watching him slay zombies (or whatever they were) in Robert Rodriguez's half of "Grindhouse." He currently resides in my Netflix queue opposite Christian Bale in "Harsh Times," and is apparently working on a flick called "Bottle Shock," to be about the birth of Napa Valley wine industry.

Anika Noni Rose

After holding her own with but ultimately getting overshadowed by divas Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles in "Dreamgirls," Ms. Rose is soon to get the ultimate last laugh. For what's being billed as Disney's first black princess, Ms. Rose will voice the lead role of Princess Tiana in its upcoming musical extravaganza "The Princess and the Frog," to which I can only offer a hearty huzzah!

So, there you have it. Please feel free to add the names of any young folk who just make you smile when they appear on the big screen, and have an entirely suckfree Wednesday.

P.S. A hearty congratulations to Robert Reichert, who scored a thoroughly impressive victory in the Macon mayoral race in Tuesday's Democratic primary, virtually assuring he will be my city's next mayor. Though the horse I backed, the Rev. Henry Ficklin, only got five percent, I only wish Mr. Reichert all the best in tackling all the serious problems we have to deal with. In his honor, here's a clip of the simply stunning "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke (audio only.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Of tomatoes fresh, rotten and simply rancid

It's days like this that, even though I would still love to get paid to simply watch movies, I have to give thanks that that dream has yet to materialize.

As a service to movie-renters everywhere, Rotten Tomatoes has released a list of the 25 best-reviewed movies from the first half of 2007, and much more importantly, the 10 worst-reviewed.

It's little surprise to me that Brad Bird's simply sublime "Ratatouille" ends up at No. 1, but there were some others that caught me off guard. I had no idea that "Hot Fuzz," which seems to me an acquired taste at best (though definitely one for me), and David Fincher's fantastic "Zodiac," with all the griping about its length, both managed to work their way into the Top 10. As an aside, two movies I recently had the pleasure of watching on an airplane, "Breach" and the simply charming "Starter for 10," also made the Top 25.

As for the Bottom 10, I had three thoughts. First, thank God I haven't had the misfortune of seeing any of these! Second, how in the world does poor Lauren Graham end up starring in the worst-reviewed movie (so far) of the year? (and is it really that much worse than "Norbit"?) And third, that I guess we should be thankful that even the worst movie of the year (so far) still managed to get 17.7 percent good reviews.

Anyways, I just love lists, so here are the Top 25 and Worst 10, followed by their percentages of good reviews. Please feel free to sound off on any that you think got particularly dissed or received too much love.

Best-Reviewed Movies

1. "Ratatouille" - 85.9
2. "Away From Her" - 84
3. "Once" - 83.2
4. "Knocked Up" - 83
5. "Hot Fuzz" 82.1
6. "Sicko" - 81.7
7. "The Host" - 81.6
8. "Zodiac" - 80.8
9. "Waitress" - 79.1
10. "The Lookout" - 78.5
11. "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" - 77
12. "The Italian" - 76.7
13. "The Hoax" - 76.4
14. "Red Road" - 76.3
15. "Breach" - 75.9
16. "Bridge to Terabithia" - 75.7
17. "The Namesake" - 75.7
18. "After the Wedding" - 75.2
19. "Grindhouse" - 75.2
20. "An Unreasonable Man" - 75.1
21. "God Grew Tired of Us" - 74.9
22. "Starter for 10" - 73.9
23. "Into Great Silence" - 73.7
24. "Live Free or Die Hard" - 73.4
25. "Paris Je T'aime" - 73.4

Worst-Reviewed Movies

1. "Because I Said So" - 17.7
2. "The Number 23" - 18.6
3. "Premonition" - 19.9
4. "The Reaping" - 21
5. "Norbit" - 22.9
6. "Perfect Stranger" - 23.1
7. "Happily N'Ever After" - 25.1
8. "Are We Done Yet? " - 25.2
9. "Code Name: The Cleaner" - 25.8
10. "Hannibal Rising" - 27

Maybe you can quit that day job after all ...

If it weren't for Rotten Tomatoes, this almost certainly would have been my lead item of the day.

Sadly, it seems that even seemingly bionic Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba is susceptible to aging, and at 68 has announced his retirement from action films. On the upside, if you've ever wanted to learn how to kick royal ass, here's your golden opportunity.

It seems the great Mr. Chiba, unwilling to let his tremendous talents just follow him to the grave, will open his own action-acting school in Japan.

So, what drove the seemingly inexhaustible Mr. Chiba to his limit? He said it came while filming a period drama for pubcaster NHK in July. Required to wear a heavy suit of armor for his role of warlord Itagaki Nobukata, Chiba suffered an asthma attack. "Itagaki died (in the drama) -- now I want to bury 'Shinichi Chiba' as well," he told reporters.

Next month he will start taking applications for a Japanese branch of his LA-based acting school, Thousand Leaves Hollywood. He also plans to join with Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan to launch schools for future action stars in Beijing and Shanghai.

Sounds like they're launching their own little army, which, given the state our world is in today, can only be a good thing. In my overactive mind at least, sign me up!

Welcome back, Ms. Polley

Even if she directs and stars in movies that are simply too good to ever play in my little corner of the world, I'm always happy when I hear that my favorite Canuck, Sarah Polley, is getting back to acting.

For her latest return, she's set to star with Jared Leto in "Mr. Nobody," a romantic drama from writer-director Jaco Van Dormael that sounds like quite the mind trip.

Set in the not-so-distant future, the story follows Nemo Nobody (Leto) who, at 120 years old, is the last mortal surrounded by happy immortals as he relives his real and imaginary years of marriage.

This sounds like it will straddle that fine line between interesting and awful, and for Sarah's, sake I'm pulling for the latter.

Two nuggets of YouTube goodness

This first clip has been making the rounds for a few days now, but I still couldn't pass it up. Not only do you get a glimpse of Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' upcoming "I'm Not There," but you also get David Cross (huzzah!) as Allen Ginsberg. This flick is just gonna be incredible.

Next comes a trailer which, if it weren't for the rather remarkable cast, I'd be inclined to simply ignore. Called "The Good Night," it features the great Martin Freeman of the UK "Office," extremely funny man Simon Pegg and simply irresistible Penelope Cruz. The awfully hokey premise: Freeman is a very unhappy man who starts to have dreams about Ms. Cruz (as I've been known to do from time to time myself.) This being a movie, of course, she turns out to be an actual woman, they meet, and shazaam. Like I said, this could be truly awful, but I just couldn't pass up a cast this good. And now, I simply have to go vote, drop off my car to get its window fixed and then go to work. Peace out.