Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scarlett Johansson, pop diva?

Smirk or laugh out loud if you want to, as I certainly did when I first saw this, but Scarlett does indeed have a CD coming out May 20 (the day before my birthday, in case anyone cares.)

And since I'm too lazy and late for work to find much else to write about today, here's a surprisingly not-altogether-awful clip of the video for her cover of Tom Waits' "Falling Down." (And, if you hear her singing voice and just want to claw your own ears out to make it stop, please remember I said not altogether awful.)The CD, titled "Anywhere I Lay My Head," is apparently mostly made up of Waits songs, so at least we know the girl has good taste.

Now, mind you, I'm not saying I'll spring for this when it actually comes out, though I must confess I do have one Charlotte Gainsbourg CD in my collection, so who knows? And I just spent a very small portion of that $600 my government sent to me to buy the Pixies' "Trompe Le Monde" from Itunes, so I guess I'm doing my little part to revive at least the digital economy.

Anyways, enough from me. Here's the video. Feel free to make any snarky comments you want to, and have a perfectly pleasant Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Take a magical journey with "The Red Balloon"

It's really slim pickings this week on DVD, especially since I can't see myself springing for any kind of glossy "Golden Compass" package.

There is, however, one little surprise from Janus Films and Criterion that I guarantee will bring a smile to the face of kids of all ages.

Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon" ("Le Ballon rouge") has apparently been available on some kind of DVD for a few years now (I've only seen it on a very grainy VHS copy), but now the folks at Criterion have given this magical short film the proper respect it deserves.

As premises go, it really doesn't get much simpler than this one. Our hero, Pascal (the director's son, Pascal Lamorisse), finds the titular red balloon, which ends up following him through the streets of Paris and even to school. Sappy? Sure, but also just a lot of fun and a moving tale about the power of friendship.

A fun fact: Despite its scant dialogue, the movie actually won the Academy Award in 1957 for Best Original Screenplay, still the only short film to win an Oscar in competition with feature-length flicks. It's also set in the neighborhoods of Belleville and Montmarte, making the balloon's journey a fun one to follow.

You can apparently wait and get a twin bill of this and another Lamorisse film I've never seen, "White Mane," also from Janus/Criterion, but I'm not sure when that will come out. And besides, even if you buy this one rather then rent it, it's only listed as $9.99 at Amazon.

Take a chance and I guarantee you'll be rewarded with a very entertaining little flick.

Bob and Doug get animated?

Well, except for that DVD nugget, all I really have for you is something that will hopefully make at least a few people laugh.

Remember Bob and Doug McKenzie? If you don't, I probably can't help you, because as far as silly but fun movies go they really don't get much better than "Strange Brew."

Now, from ANIMAX Canada, Bob and Doug (a k a Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) are coming in 2009 to Canadian TV, but not as of yet to my American TV (which, oddly enough, looks a lot like a Canadian TV, except mine doesn't get "The Animated Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie.") Here, thanks to QuickStop Entertainment, is the preview that was just shown at New York's ComicCon, introduced by Dave Thomas. Enjoy, and have a pleasant enough Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Never hitting No. 1? No problem

I had a sobering thought as the opening sequence of "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" was unspooling before us on Saturday afternoon: I'm just too old for this.

I mean, I still love the guys, and when it was about the two of them and their juvenile exploits the sequel was still often very funny. But it also just contained some of the most tired jokes about prison and Southerners I've ever seen (and, really, when that prison is Guantanamo Bay, is there anything to laugh about?) Overall I'd say if you like Harold and Kumar it's still worth a rental.

I did, however, buy tickets for me and a few friends for the 10:30 p.m. Thursday night screening of "Iron Man," which I'm thoroughly jazzed about, and I still laughed through the entire length of that redband trailer for "Pineapple Express," so I'm definitely ready for summer!

Before we get into that, however, a nugget of news about Jason Bateman, who anyone who's been here before knows I rather like. Along with being Will Smith's life coach in the upcoming "Hancock," he's now signed on for what will most likely be a pretty funny movie that no one will get to see.

Why? Well, it's being written and directed by Mike Judge, whose last fairly funny offering, "Idiocracy," managed to play only in L.A. and Austin, if I'm not mistaken, before heading straight to video. Now he's heading back to the big screen with Bateman in tow for something called "Extract," which explores "what it's like to be the boss when everything seems to be shifting around you." Sounds more than a little just like "The Office," but I'm still betting it will turnout pretty good.

And in one other "Arrested Development" note, it looks like Mitchell Hurwitz's fall Fox offering is definitely headed to series, with the hiring of "Simpsons" veterans Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein to be most likely showrunners. "Sit Down Shut Up," based on a New Zealand sitcom, will be an animated tale about teachers and administrators at a high school who care much more about their own hijinx than the students they supposedly supervise.

And one more nugget before I move on to the main course. Now that he's officially on board for "The Hobbit" and "The Hobbit 2.0," Guillermo del Toro gave the requisite interview with TheOneRing.net. You can read the whole thing here, but here's what I found most intriguing, since it hopefully means he understands that "The Hobbit," much more than "The Lord of the Rings," is a tale for the young and the young at heart:

"Another thing people will notice, at the beginning of the film will be the palette, that will be slightly different, the world will be the same but it will be a more ‘golden’ world, a more wide-eyed world."

Amen brother.

No No. 1? No problem?

Now, for the summer blockbusters that are about to come our way, that would of course be a fallacy, but there are plenty of movies that never reached No. 1 but still had a very healthy domestic box-office take. Here, with a hearty thanks to Box Office Mojo (which is really a stat-lover's dream come true), are 10 (with their chart positions) that I love from the list of the top 150 grossing flicks that never managed to make it to the top of the box office pack (the No. 1 flick, by the way, is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which never went higher than No. 2 but still managed to take in a rather astonishing $241,438,208):

6. "Chicago": The high-powered musical reached No. 2 when it was released in 2002 and went on to gross $170,687,518

12. "Knocked Up": Judd Apatow's comedy also peaked at No. 2 last year and went on to take in $148,768,917. And, in case you're wondering, "Superbad" isn't eligible for this list because it did indeed open at No. 1, but only took in $121,463,226.

17. "Juno": I can remember watching the numbers for "Juno" during the run-up to the Oscars and hoping it would sneak up to a late-run No. 1 visit, but it never got past No. 2 either in grossing $143,306,893.

26. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon": Man do I miss truly epic kung fu movies. I still haven't seen "Forbidden Kingdom" (though might today), but I hardly think that really counts. This one peaked at No. 4 on its way to taking in $128,078,872.

40. "Big": Has it really been since 1988 that there's been a Tom Hanks movie this fun? The big kid flick managed to peak at No. 2 and take in $114,968,774.

47. "Chicken Run": Back in the day when Aardman Animation wasn't reduced to making TV specials (Wallace & Gromit are coming back to the BBC soon!), they used to have a deal with Dreamworks which led to this zany tale that hit No. 2 in 2000 and managed to gross $106,834,564.

56. "The Aviator": Not even the presence of Leo DiCaprio and tons of Oscar hype could ever lift this higher than No. 3 at the box office, but it still did manage to gross $102,610,330. That makes it the No. 2 all-time hit for Mr. Scorsese, behind only "The Departed," which took in $132,384,315 domestic.

72. "Unbreakable": The last M. Night Shyamalan movie I just loved is also the first one on this list not to cross the $100M box-office barrier. The uber-cool superhero-of-sorts flick hit No. 2 and managed to take in $95,011,339 in 2000.

90: "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie": I may be too old for Harold and Kumar, but I don't think I'll ever outgrow Spongebob. The flick was surprisingly clever, and it managed to peak at No. 2 and gross $85,417,988.

and, finally,

139: "No Country for Old Men": I was sure the Coens' biggest hit would be higher on this list, but shockingly it never made it past No. 5 at the box office. It still did, however, manage to dwarf my favorite Coen brothers' flick and their previous top contender, "O Brother Where Art Thou," $74,283,625 to about $45.5M.

So, there you have it. A waste of time? Perhaps. But still being a huge baseball fan, and since the Orioles are still over .500 at 14-11, I thought a stat-heavy post was in order. I hope someone else found it even a little bit interesting. Peace out.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Weekend update: What - if anything - is worth watching?

I suppose I'd be extremely remiss if I didn't lead off today with the news that Guillermo del Toro is now officially going to be making "The Hobbit," even if the news does now seem more than a little anticlimactic.

He'll be moving to New Zealand for the next four years because, I suppose, it's now written law that any Tolkein movie with Peter Jackson involved has to be filmed there (and I can certainly think of a few worse sacrifices to have to make.)

The somewhat dubious move, of course, is that they're actually making two movies, one that's the real "The Hobbit" and then a sequel that somehow bridges the gap between that work and the first of the "Lord of the Rings" novels. Since this rather extreme act of hubris means they certainly can't call the sequel "J.R.R. Tolkein's 'The Hobbit'," how about "Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson's imaginary bridge to 'The Lord of the Rings' "? I kid, of course, but I bet they'll both turn out to be simply uber-cool.

Though no release date has been set, Variety - with the four-year window - bets it will be one in 2011 and one in 2012, which seems to make sense.

And, before we move on to this week's movies, two bits of TV news, one nothing but bad and one that could turn out to be surprisingly good.

Just to get the ugly out of the way quickly (it is Friday, after all), NBC has definitely traded down in announcing Jimmy Fallon will take over Conan O'Brien's show when the latter moves into the "Tonight Show" chair. I've been wrong at least once before, and to be honest I rarely manage to stay up until 12:30 a.m. very often any more anyway, but I just can't see any scenario in which I'll do so for Jimmy Fallon. Sheesh.

In better news, Nathan Fillion - a k a Captain Mal from "Firefly" and "Serenity" - has signed on to star in a pilot for ABC called "Castle." Despite that rather mundane title, the premise - a "comic procedural" about a famous mystery novelist (Fillion) who helps the NYPD solve crimes - does hold some promise.

But enough about that ... now lets take a look at this week's offerings (which are all really just filling space until the arrival of "Iron Man" anyway), with the added bonus of a trailer for a flick that should probably have made my previous Summer Top 10 list.

1. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
I realize that I'm far too old to watch this one in a theater, and I can't with good conscience recommend that anyone else take a chance on anything this juvenile, but I will indeed be there Saturday afternoon. My inner snob led me to pass on "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," but once I saw it on DVD it's just become one of those silly little comfort movies - like "Office Space" or "Super Troopers" - that help erase my mind after a particularly dreary work day. Besides, here's what critic Nell Minow, an always reliable friend to this site, had to say:

Cheerfully offensive, cheekily raunchy, happily outrageous, and often just plain disgusting, the movie avoids the usual sophomore slump by ramping up the political jabs while keeping it all unpretentious and moving quickly.

Sounds right up my rather juvenile alley, so this time, I'll be there for the first round.

2. Deception
I had never heard of this until it showed up at our multiplexes this week, but with a cast that includes Michelle Williams (hearty huzzah), Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman, I might have been willing to take a chance. A quick peek at the Rotten Tomatoes, however, shows it only managed a 6 % positive rating, which seems rather astonishing. Granted, that's only with a few reviews, but the words "predictable potboiler" are enough to stop me (and besides, even "Harold & Kumar" managed to garner 51 % positive.)

3. Baby Mama
I have nothing but love for both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but I just can't shake the suspicion that this one just won't have enough funny to sustain a feature-length movie. Besides, in the commercial, there's a litmus-test joke, methinks, when Maura Tierney actually wipes something brown off the face of youngun and tastes it to decide if it is "chocolate or poop" (I may be paraphrasing just a bit, but you get the gist.) It's hypocritical I know since I support the often just disgusting "Harold & Kumar," but that joke just kind of makes me sick enough to wait for DVD on this one.

And finally, as promised, the extended trailer for "Hancock," which made its premiere on the TV last night, probably during the rather great "Office" episode with the coke-addled Ryan, but since I fast-forward through the commercials I would have missed it anyway. For anyone else who did the same, here's a look at Peter Berg's July 2 flick about an alcoholic superhero (Will Smith) in need of a makeover from a PR expert (the always funny Jason Bateman.) All those ingredients sound right to me, and the trailer is indeed pretty darn funny. Enjoy, and have a perfectly enjoyable weekend. Peace out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A very dirty take on "Almost Famous"?

Before I get into what will be a very short report today, a few random thoughts.

As depressing as it was for me personally to watch Barack Obama get beat down pretty hard last night, I've decided that I can't blame the good people of Pennsylvania. The real culprit: Michael Moore, who gave Barack his kiss-of-death endorsement Monday night here. I love Michael Moore (though not so much his latest, "Sicko"), but I really don't see how that can possibly help.

And, secondly, though I usually get more than a little queasy when I hear of American remakes of European flicks, word surfaced of one this morning that kind of intrigues me. When I sent out a plea to readers to help me restock my Netflix queue, one of the best ideas was Patrice Leconte's "Man on the Train," suggested by always-welcome reader Ashok, if I remember correctly.

The flick, though very entertaining, is also extremely French (duh, but bear with me.) It stars two superb actors, Jean Rochefort and the rocker Johnny Hallyday, in a story about a bank robber and a retired school teacher whose paths converge and start to interchange. In saying it's very French, I mean it's extremely talky - though very witty. In the right American hands I could see this simple story working for the masses.

And while I'm not sure that director Thomas Bezucha of "The Family Stone" fame is who I would have in mind to helm this for Miramax, casting Billy Bob Thornton as the roaming bank robber - which is in the works, apparently - would be just about perfect.

But, anyways, enough about what was just supposed to be a one-sentence-or-so item and on to the real stories, both about rock 'n' roll.

Though I was mildly disappointed with "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," director Nick Stoller has wisely latched on to that flick's funniest star (sorry Mr. Segel) for a new camp Apatow comedy to be called "Get Him to the Greek," which thankfully has nothing to do with fraternity houses.

In the flick, Russell Brand, who just chewed up the screen as Alduous Snow in "FSM," will (shock!) play an out-of-control rock star, and Jonah Hill (hopefully much funnier than he was in "FSM") will play a fresh-out-of-college insurance adjuster who has to get the rocker to a gig at L.A.'s Greek Theater. As the headline to this post implies, Stoller describes the flick, which he will write and direct, as a very dirty take on "Almost Famous." In my mind, I'm already there.

Before any of that, Segel and Stoller will thankfully be bringing the world another Muppet movie. Judging from the "Dracula" finale of "FSM" I'd say these guys clearly have a love of doing silly things with puppets, so that - and hopefully "Get Him to the Greek" also - should just be tons of fun.

And finally, though I really am quite late for work already, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Ang Lee has signed on for an odd kind of music biopic that sounds like it could be very interesting.

Lee will direct and longtime collaborator James Schamus will pen the flick "Taking Woodstock," based on Elliot Tiber's memoir "Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, Concert, and a Life."

Now, though I am getting fairly old, I wasn't quite born when the real Woodstock happened in 1969, so I'll just have to take Mr. Tiber's word for it that, as he was working at his parents' motel in the Catskills, he played a role in "inadvertently setting in motion" the gargantuan hippie summit. True or not, it certainly sounds like the kind of fish story Mr. Lee could have a lot of fun with. Plus, the casting news, as it trickles out, should just be a blast.

And with that I indeed have to leave, but here's the second trailer for "Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." Not exactly the sexiest of potential summer blockbusters, but one I hope will at least be enjoyable. Peace out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Demko's DVD shelf

UPDATE: Very alert reader Bob of Bob and Justin's Movie Blog (http://bobandjustin.blogspot.com/)alerted me to a serious omission on my part from this week's DVD listing."Charlie Wilson's War" was a real return to top form for both Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin and just first-rate political satire based on truth. Please feel free to insert in the third position on the list.

Man, I didn't think anything would top the first appearance of Robin Sparkles on "How I Met Your Mother," but last night's episode sure came close. A whole season with Robin and Barney as a couple should just be a treat.

But on to the matter at hand. It was a real slugfest this week to determine who would get my title of DVD pick of the week (though I'm fairly certain none of the participants knew they were in the running.) In the end, the presence of Laura Linney in one of my favorite movies of 2007 was just enough to nose out the second season of network TV's best drama. So, here goes:

1. The Savages
I really thought Tamara Jenkins' little movie would become a breakout hit a la "Little Miss Sunshine," but alas that never quite came to pass. I guess dealing with a parent slipping rapidly into dementia just isn't as cute as little kids competing in beauty pageants. Despite its rather depressing subject matter, however, Jenkins' flick is extremely funny in parts and moving in others, and it's a delight to watch Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a brother and sister dealing (or often not) with life. Fans of "The Wire" should note that Gbenga Akinnagbe, a k a Chris Parlow, has a pretty big part in this as the nursing home attendant Jimmy.

2. Friday Night Lights: The Second Season
Season two of "FNL" got off to a seriously rocky start with the rather silly murder subplot involving Landry and Tara, but luckily wrapped that up pretty quickly and got back to its real strength: A very realistic portrait of life in small-town America (albeit with people a lot better looking than folks - me included - I see in my particular little burg.) Though season two could have used a little more football, the 15 episodes they managed to make, especially when it focused on Coach Taylor and the great Connie Britten, were just about the best thing on TV this year.

3. Cloverfield
Though I had my serious doubts about this one going in, it was pretty darn far from - as one old dude behind me said as the credits rolled - "the worst movie I've ever seen." It's not, for anyone worried as I was, a "Blair Witch Project" kind of fraud, but instead a pretty thrilling little monster movie that manages to keep the adrenaline flowing from start to finish.

4. The Orphanage
At his NYCC appearance last week to promote "Hellboy II," Guillermo del Toro apparently teased fans with the prospect of doing another Spanish horror flick to follow in the footsteps of "Pan's Labyrinth" and the even-better "Devil's Backbone" if he somehow doesn't sign on to do "The Hobbit" (which I thought was a done deal, but apparently not quite yet.) Even if he were to do so, that would be at least a couple of years away, but in the meantime his buddy Juan Antonio Bayona has stepped up with this very stylish and fairly scary flick. The ending, even by horror movie standards, just defies all limits of credulity, but what you see along the way is pretty darn fun.

The most despicable movie ever made?

My brother sent me a link Friday to a Politico.com story headlined "Post-Sept. 11 'comedies' coming." Its main peg was the return of Harold and Kumar this Friday, which I think could be pretty funny, but it also touched on something I had somehow never heard of by Uwe Boll - and I frankly wish I never had.

Boll, already hailed as pretty much the worst filmmaker in the entire world, is about to release a "shock comedy" about 9/11 - with the Soup Nazi as Osama Bin Laden. Mull around in your mind just how bad that might be, but I assure you in actuality it will be even worse than you could possibly imagine.

This opening clip - and remember, I did warn you - of the 9/11 hijackers prattling on in the cockpit about virgins, is just about the most offensive thing I've ever seen. I normally like to post clips here directly, but I just can't bring myself to do it this time, so you'll have to click here to see it.

I offer this only as a public service warning just in case anyone might actually be considering watching the whole movie once it comes out. All I can say is please, please, please just say no. Peace out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dear "Sarah Marshall": Have a heart


My heart really wanted to rave about Jason Segel's first starring role on the big screen, and it would have won out if only his flick had a little more heart itself. Without it, the movie too often just falls apart.

But lets start with the good stuff first, because there's almost enough of it to sustain a 90-minute movie (instead of one that, like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," clocks in at just over two hours.)

When the story sticks to its four core stars, it does indeed have plenty of charm. Segel, who you probably know by now exposes his wang-dang-doodle (more on that later) and a lot more in this one, is at his best in awkward situations, and for a guy who spends the first 30 minutes or so crying most of the time, he's very funny here (listen, in particular, for the best use of the "The Muppet Show" theme I've heard in many years.)

And I've made it clear in this space many, many times that I have a weakness for Kristen Bell, so yes I'm admittedly grading on a curve. But, as the titular bitch of the title, she does manage to make Sarah Marshall a well-rounded - if extremely selfish - bimbo (and her rhythmic use of the word "bullshit" near the end is just about perfect comedy.) More importantly, her performance is more than strong enough to make you see why she would be with Segel's slacker for five years before breaking his heart, and therefore get you a lot more invested in the meltdown that follows under the Hawaiian sun.

Mila Kunis, as the requisite other woman who gives the story its rather conventional feel, is certainly sexy enough, but special kudos go to Russell Brand, who makes his Alduous Snow just a first-rate git. I had never heard of the dude before this flick. A quick check of the IMDB shows he was in "Penelope" this year, but I managed to forget all of that flick shortly after it ended. I won't spoil it for you, but his music video (as the leader of the band "Infant Sorrow") is the funniest thing I've seen on screen this year, and just the finest kind of cheese.

So, if the movie has all that going for it, what's the problem? Well, the Judd Apatow equation only works for me when it's got almost as much heart as it does raunch (hence my undying love for "Superbad.") When you just pile on the latter, as "Sarah Marshall" does with its supporting players, you get a second-rate Will Ferrell movie or, worse, something like "My Best Friend's Girl," for which - thanks to projector problems - we had to watch the trailer twice before "Sarah Marshall." If I may digress for just a second, as someone who doesn't watch much standup comedy, I have to ask: Is Dane Cook really funny at all? If so, I've clearly missed it.

In "Sarah Marshall," only the very funny Bill Hader manages to rise above the mediocre material to fare well. Jonah Hill, who was just perfect in "Superbad," only manages to annoy here as a sycophantic waiter, and I just can't understand how they could manage to so thoroughly waste someone as good as Paul Rudd in such a stupid role.

But unfortunately, as much as it pains me, I have to heap the most scorn on Macon's own Jack McBrayer. I've liked him quite a bit on the few episodes I've seen of Tina Fey's "30 Rock," but his dumb redneck shtick on the big screen (the variety here is "dumb Christian redneck) is just quickly wearing out its welcome. I know he can do a lot better, but I've yet to see it in movies.

And finally, getting back to Jason Segel's quickly-becoming-infamous hanging of brain at the opening, the bottom line for me is always was it funny, and I can say that in the most squirmworthy way possible yes, it was. It probably works so well because, as Segel told the Associated Press, it actually happened to him almost exactly like that:

"This naked breakup commenced and, honest to God, maybe this is part of the problem, all I kept thinking was, 'This is ... hilarious.' "

It pretty much is, and if you're keeping score, be warned that he does a brief reprise in the third act (but by then, the shock is clearly gone.) And the score for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"? Well, despite my complaints it's the best big-screen comedy so far this year - which admittedly may not be saying much - and well worth at least a matinee. Peace out.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pimping Rudy Huxtable?

Now, I realize that I'm getting to be a fairly old man, but are we really on the 20th season of MTV's "Real World"? I can say with all honesty that I haven't tuned in for at least the last 10 or so, but jeez is that a lot of time for such a silly show.

And, in one other random observation that hit me this morning, I guess it's good to see that Americans aren't the only ones who make movies about being tortured by evil foreigners. Bold Films is apparently working up something called "Into Hell," which is - and I couldn't possibly make this up - about a group of British soccer hooligans who go to a match in Turkey and, of course, get framed for a political assassination. I'm sure the Turks will be just thrilled with that title alone ...

And finally, before I really get started, on the subject of me being old; anyone who comes here regularly may have noticed that I seem to prattle on about the same subjects a lot, namely lately sci-fi and "How I Met Your Mother." Well, I guess in that way I'm just a lot like Nixon in that, I may not know a lot about movies, but I sure know what I like (and that's a warning that my "HIMYM" and Robin Sparkles and "Battlestar Galactica" obsessions will indeed return later today.)

So, finally, here goes ...

Rudy, say it ain't so

Remember Rudy Huxtable? I used to have a co-worker who went to Spelman with her, a k a Keshia Knight Pulliam.

Well, Rudy's definitely all grown up now, and she - as I supposed all actresses probably have to do at some point in their careers - gets to play a prostitute. On the upside, I guess, at least its for Tyler Perry.

Rudy has been cast in Perry's "Madea Goes to Jail" along with one of my favorite actors, Derek Luke, who will play an attorney.

Now, I've made it clear that I love Tyler Perry, but Madea is definitely my least favorite of his creations. He's at his best when he lets actual women be the id in his movies, rather than trying to do it himself. As a warning about more possible guys-in-fat-suits-and-drag: Madea will apparently protect Rudy from another prisoner named "Big Sal."

And, in no shock to anyone who saw his latest, "Meet the Browns," the very funny husband-and-wife team of David and Tamela Mann will also be returning for this one. I enjoyed "Browns" mostly on the strength of Angela Bassett's performance, but you could definitely tell that Perry was coasting a bit and just setting up Mr. Mann, in particular, for other projects (perhaps it would help if he slowed down to directing just one movie a year instead of two!)

One more nugget on this before I move on - the prostitute's name: Candy, of course.

Galactica's Moore signs with UA for big-screen trilogy

OK, I probably should have lead with this, given how much we need smart sci-fi at the movies, but there are really just the scantest of details so far.

The facts, however, are these: "Battlestar Galactica" mastermind Ronald D. Moore, along with working on a new series called "Virtuality" for Fox, has now signed up with Tom Cruise's studio to create a new trilogy of sci-fi movies.

The Cruise connection? Moore apparently also wrote the script for "Mission Impossible II," which I can't say was a terribly impressive feat. However, if that's what got him this rather cool gig, I'll take it.

And that means that, rather than spending my Friday doing my actual job, I'll be able to think instead of what Mr. Moore might just be cooking up for us now.

"Dollhouse" adds Amy Acker

For a show that only has - so far - a seven-episode commitment from Fox, Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" is certainly acquiring an impressive cast.

It started, of course with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" veteran Eliza Dushku as one of the "dolls," agents who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas for different assignments.

And now to today's news: Amy Acker, a k a Winifred "Fred" Burkle on "Angel," has joined the "Dollhouse" in a recurring role as Dr. Claire Saunders, a member of the crew who tends to the dolls. Here's what Mr. Whedon himself had to say about it at Whedonesque:

Hi campers. We're having the read-through of the script today. Why would I be nervous? YOU'RE nervous! Anyhoo, I just couldn't resist letting you know that the recurring roles have actually been cast for some time now. I'm shocked that any part of our casting process hasn't been leaked somehow. And though I'm a fan of secrets, I'll give you the last two pieces of this particular puzzle:

November (who will be recurring but does not appear in the pilot) will be played by the luminous Miracle Laurie.

Dr. Claire Saunders will be played by... yet another name I'm gonna have trouble remembering how to spell... Amy Acker.


So, let's see ... on the serious babe front, that makes at least three with Dushku, Acker and the simply radiant Olivia Williams (I actually typed "Olivia Cross" first, because I just can't get Rosemary Cross out of my mind.) And on the cool dude front, at least one: "Battlestar" vet Tahmoh Penikett, better known to at least some of the world as Helo, will play Paul Smith, a FBI agent tracking the "Dollhouse" project. All I can really say about all this is cool!

A snippet of Robin Sparkles' new video

Thanks to the heads up from always-welcome reader Neel Mehta on this preview of the Robin Sparkles video that will air on next Monday's "How I Met Your Mother." I guess I should have suspected with a title like "Sandcastles in the Sand" that it would be incredibly sappy, and it surely is, but here's hoping the full video will be pretty damn funny as well. Have a great weekend. Peace out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is it just me, or does Al Pacino kind of suck?

That's more than a bit harsh about a man who obviously used to be a great actor, but I have to say that when I see his name on a movie nowadays it just makes me wince.

Now, luckily unlike Marshall Eriksen (more truly great stuff about "How I Met Your Mother coming at the end), I don't have a boss who yells at me on a regular basis. That doesn't mean, however, that I need to have this void filled by having Al Pacino yell at me at the movies. And that's all he seems to do.

Now, there have been recent exceptions, of course. He was great as Roy Cohn in "Angels in America," but you have to go all the back to 1999 to find a year in which he made two movies that I really enjoyed - "Any Given Sunday" and (much better) "The Insider."

And this week he's back with what looks like a truly tired stinker. Let me go ahead and get the joke out of the way first - "88 Minutes" is, apparently unfortunately, actually 108 minutes long.

In a strictly paint-by-numbers plotline, Pacino stars as a criminology professor who regularly lends his skills to the FBI. Now one particular case has come back to haunt him in the form of a mysterious voice on the other end of the telephone that casually informs him he's been marked for death. That does sound slightly more interesting than the calls I constantly get from people telling me the warranty on my 1998 Honda Civic is about to expire, but only slightly.

Oh well, I will still be going to the movies twice this weekend. Once, of course for Segel's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but also - even though the Hollywood Reporter says it's aimed squarely at 16-year-old males - "The Forbidden Kingdom." I simply don't care how juvenile it might be; if you put Jackie Chan and Jet Li together in a movie (as opposed to Chan and Chris Tucker, thankfully), I'll be there to see it.

As for Mr. Pacino, I don't know when if ever I'll be able to come home to him again. A look at his future projects reveals a team-up with Robert De Niro for "Righteous Kill" - can you imagine the amount of hot air on that set? - and then a remake of the French heist flick "Rififi." The original, by the way, which I just recently managed to see, is simply a superb little thriller directed by the more recently late Jules Dassin. Rent it immediately if you can.

The return of Robin Sparkles!

I've been trying to find out if "How I Met Your Mother" (who it certainly seems is the simply radiant Sarah Chalke) has been renewed for a fourth season yet or not. If anyone knows the answer to this, please do share.

In the meantime, after a very funny episode this week about Marshall's job woes, it appears the show is going back into high gimmick mode for the April 21 episode with the return of everyone's favorite teen pop star, Robin Sparkles.

For anyone who doesn't watch the show (and, if you don't, you certainly should), Robin Sparkles is the alter ego of TV anchorwoman Robin Scherbatsky, played by Cobie Smulders. She made her debut on the very funny "Slap Bet" episode in a music video for "Let's Go to the Mall" on season two, and now she's back next Monday as another video blast from the past surfaces, this time to be called "Sandcastle." The episode will also feature cameos from Alan Thicke (as a music producer) and Tiffany (yes, that Tiffany) and James Van der Beek in the video. Which brings me to my only concern ...

The show already has five very engaging stars who work better and better together all the time, so do we really need all these gimmicky guests? I know I don't, but if "Sandcastle" contains anything nearly as funny as the line "Gonna rock your body 'til Canada Day," I'll be satisfied. And heck, if the guest stars are what it takes to get my second-favorite network comedy (after only "The Office") renewed again, I think I can handle it.

So, in honor of both Robins, here is the much-viewed video for "Let's Go to the Mall" (more than 500,000 times at YouTube, apparently.) Even if you've never seen the show, I guarantee this will make even the most dreary Wednesday just a little brighter. Peace out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An animated "Arrested Development" reunion?

Just in case you think you had a bad Monday, perhaps we should start with a bit of perspective: In executing its previously announced plans to nuke New Line Cinema, the kind folks at Warner Bros. fired 450 New Line staffers in one day Monday. What a way to start the week ...

But, in much lighter and better news, "Arrested Development" creator Mitchell Hurwitz is teaming up with some old friends for his upcoming Fox animated series, which has been picked up for this fall.

Though the cast doesn't - yet, at least - include the sublimely funny David Cross, it will feature two Bluth brothers - Michael and Gob - and bumbling attorney Barry Zuckerman. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler will join Cheri Oteri, Will Forte, Regina King, Nick Kroll, Tom Kenny and Maria Bamford in providing voices for "Sit Down, Shut Up."

And what is that? Well, as one fairly polite but anonymous reader has clarified for me, it's based on a live-action show from New Zealand - not Australia, as the trades still insist on saying. The story centers on staff members at a high school who are preoccupied with their own needs and agendas, which means the students come second.

Given Fox's track record and Hurwitz's luck, I give this no more than two seasons at best, but I'll definitely tune in for the whole run. And after that, we'll get that "Arrested Development" movie, right?

DVD pick of the week

Believe it or not, my pick is not "Juno," though I still have nothing but love for that flick. I've heard the complaints that it's all too smug and hip, but I've seen it twice already and it made me smile each time - and yes, I'll watch Ellen Page in just about anything - so that's all I really need to know.

But my pick instead is a real treasure trove from the Clash. Now, people can argue about who the "greatest rock band in the world" is, but the only thing I know for sure is it certainly isn't the Rolling Stones. Just to provoke a response, I often try and tell people it's the Drive-By Truckers, but if we really have to pin this silly label on anyone, I'll just say this: For the way-too-brief time that they reigned, the Clash were just easily the coolest band on the planet.

And, if you were to give me a time machine chance to go anywhere in the world, anytime, I have to say - as shallow as this might be - I'd definitely pick the day in 1982 when the Who and the Clash took on Shea Stadium. Since I've yet to find such technology for such silly use, I guess this week's DVD release, "The Clash Live: Revolution Rock," will have to do for now.

Here's a track listing for the flick, directed by longtime Clash collaborator Don Letts:

1. Complete Control
2. I Fought The Law (London Lyceum '79)
3. Police & Thieves (Munich '77)
4. What's My Name (Manchester Elizabethan Suite '77)
5. Capitol Radio One (Manchester Elizabethan Suite '77)
6. White Riot
7. I'm So Bored With The U.S.A (Manchester Apollo '78)
8. London's Burning (London Victoria Park '78)
9. 1977
10. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais (Glasgow Apollo '78)
11. Tommy Gun
12. Safe European Home (London Music Machine '78)
13. London Calling (Bonds International Casino '81)
14. Clampdown (Lewisham Odeon '80)
15. The Guns Of Brixton (Fridays '80)
16. Train In Vain (Lewisham Odeon '80)
17. This Is Radio Clash (Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder '81)
18. The Magnificent Seven (Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder '81)
19. Brand New Cadillac (Tokyo Sun Plaza Hall '82)
20. Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Shea Stadium '82)
21. Know Your Rights (US Festival '83)
22. Career Opportunities (Shea Stadium '82)

Now that's a friggin set list!

"Iron Man" will kick serious ass

Based only on the few clips I've seen and, much more so, my simple desire for Jon Favreau to really kick summer off with a winner, I'm thoroughly convinced that the above sentence will be true. And, for those of you too old to tune in to Nickelodeon, here is a clip shown on the channel over the weekend which at least proves that Robert Downey Jr. will be very funny in it. Peace out.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Are we in a golden age of sci fi and fantasy?

Before I get started today, a hearty huzzah and thanks to the Macon Film Guild for screening Todd Haynes' maddeningly entertaining "I'm Not There" (and to Camp Bacon for guiding me to the balcony for a better seat after a flat tire forced me to arrive as the opening credits were already rolling.)

Though you could certainly complain that Haynes needs an editor (and a lot less Richard Gere), if you love Bob Dylan you'll find plenty to like in this seriously unconventional biopic, which hits DVD on May 6. Cate Blanchett once again deserves all the acclaim she garnered for this, and the scenes with Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg have an intimacy and poignancy to them we very rarely get to see on screen nowadays. My favorite moment, though, comes near the end when Christian Bale performs delivers an impassioned performance of "Pressing On," one of Dylan's gospel tunes that I just love. Anyways, see this one as soon as you can.

But, moving on the question at the top of this post, on TV at least I'd say we soon will indeed be in a golden age of both science fiction and fantasy, and we've chiefly got "Battlestar Galactica" to thank for that. But what happens when "Battlestar" is over, a sad development that will come in only 18 episodes or so?

Well, thankfully, the creators of this gem are getting right back to work. Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor have taken the reins of "Virtuality," which is being developed for Fox first as a two-hour movie to premiere in February, with plans to spin it off as a series the following fall.

The movie follows 12 astronauts who are sent on a 10-year journey to find a distant solar system. The explorers pass the time by hooking up to advanced virtual reality modules to explore self-created worlds, but find someone has downloaded a computer bug into the system - and one of them may be the saboteur. Sounds more than a little too virtual for my tastes, but from this crew I'll definitely give it a chance, especially with Martin Campbell of "Casino Royale" in talks to direct the flick.

And it should be a bonanza for people looking for entertaining ways to waste time at work, too. As part of the plot, the space voyage is funded by a reality show that features the trip being streamed back to Earth, and that "reality show" will be produced as webisodes, featuring the same cast members.

NBC first passed on this, saying it was "too sci-fi" (what the frak!?!?), but thankfully Fox seems to have more sense. In fact, Fox, which has a long criminal record of killing high-concept shows way too early, is getting in to the sci-fi/fantasy in a pretty big way this fall, also bringing us Joss Whedon's return to TV with "Dollhouse" in October and then "Boldly Going Nowhere," a sci-fi comedy from the twisted "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" crew, probably coming next winter.

Add to all that good news that another of the "Battlestar" masterminds, David Eick, is developing a series for the Sci-Fi Channel from P.D. James' "Children of Men," and you've definitely got a great time for fans of good television. Now, if we could just sick the cylons on all this reality crap ...

And something cool for fantasy fans too

It seems like forever since there's been a fantasy serial on TV smart enough to make me tune in, but that may finally change this fall.

Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert have tapped John Shiban, who toiled for seven years as a writer/producer on "The X-Files," to run their upcoming syndicated series, "Wizard's First Rule." It's based on Terry Goodkind's novel which went on to be developed into the "Sword of Truth" series of books. To be honest, I don't really know a lick about the plot of this one, but Shiban promises it will be similar - in structure at least - to what we had with "X-Files."

"There's an overarching mythology to the series, but the job of Seeker allows (the lead character) to fight evil in self-contained episodes," he said.

Though this is headed to syndication this fall, it claims to have a presence in 84 percent of U.S. markets, so definitely stay tuned.

But what about movies?

OK, I now promise that my movie funk will end this Friday (or maybe Saturday.) I'm thoroughly convinced that "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" will be a suitably funny gateway to summer and away from the mediocrity we've had thus far. To get everyone ready, here's a pretty funny clip of our hero, Jason Segel, and Russell Brand. Enjoy, and have a pleasant enough Monday. Peace out.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Don't miss a golden Macon Film Guild opportunity this weekend


I will confess that I don't turn out for the Macon Film Guild's screenings nearly as often as I should, but there is absolutely no way I'll miss this weekend's Sunday flick.

Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There," his trippy, segmented tribute to Bob Dylan, was one of the movies I desperately wanted to see in 2007 but never had the opportunity to. I didn't want to make the sacrifice of watching it on my rather minuscule TV, so thankfully the Film Guild has come to the rescue.

In what should be a really popular offering, "I'm Not There" is being screened at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Douglass Theatre in downtown Macon. As an added bonus, devoted Dylanophile Larry Schlesinger, also known as the Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel and a member of the Macon City Council, will lead a discussion following the 4:30 showing. (Being a habitual loner after movies, I confess I'll probably just go to the 2 p.m. showing and think about what I just saw on the ride home.)

Though much has been made of Cate Blanchett's Oscar-nominated turn as the mystery man himself, I'm most looking forward to seeing Marcus Carl Franklin, who opens the film as "Woody Guthrie" (a young black kid, of course), and to seeing the late Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg, because I must confess I've just had a mad crush on Charlotte ever since "La Petite Voleuse."

However, rather than hear me talk anymore about a movie I haven't seen, here are snippets from three reviewers I really like, with links to the whole review if you wish to continue reading.

First up is the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday:

The resulting film, "I'm Not There," is a fascinating exercise that, if the viewer is willing to surrender to Haynes's sometimes hermetic meditations on Dylan's life, heartily rewards the investment. Often using real-life vignettes and Dylan's own quotations as his jumping-off point, Haynes has created an antidote to the "Behind the Music" chronology and one-dimensional caricatures that too often define musical biopics, delivering an absorbing, occasionally mind-bending disquisition on how Dylan has brilliantly eluded his audience's projections. You can read more here.

Next is Dana Stevens, who revealed her own mad crush on Cate Blanchett at Slate:

Cate Blanchett is Bob Dylan: Could there be a sexier above-the-title tagline? But Haynes' casting choice functions as far more than a clever stunt. The gender reversal introduces a strangeness that makes us look at both performers through new eyes. And though you soon forget that Blanchett is a woman—her channeling of the Don't Look Back-era Dylan is that uncanny—you never for a moment forget that she, like Jude Quinn, is a performer. Blanchett shares Dylan's knack for moving audiences deeply without disclosing much of herself, and her Jude is a magnetic cipher, seductive without being likable. When a British journalist (Bruce Greenwood), intent on exposing the self-invented singer as a fraud, questions him harshly in the back seat of a limo, you don't know whose side to take: Yes, the interviewer is a reductive prig, but Jude is a self-important asshole. Blanchett conveys all of this while still keeping you wrapped around her (or is it Jude's?) little finger. Before, I thought of Cate Blanchett as a beautiful and gifted actress. After this crush-inducing performance, I'm seriously considering flying to Australia to stalk her. Read more here.

And finally, a daily stop for me, the Onion AV Club:

The more Dylan you take into I'm Not There, the more you'll get out of it. And even for the devout, Haynes' daring and reference games don't always pay off. A sequence set to the square-checks-out-the-counterculture classic "Ballad Of A Thin Man" is way too on-the-nose, moments when Dylan lyrics turn up in the dialogue clang like failed jokes, and the film doesn't so much end as slowly fade out. But the missteps don't detract from the thrilling brilliance of the filmmaking (aided by the remarkable cinematographer Ed Lachman), or dim the sense that Haynes was right in deciding that the fractions of the man would add up to more than the man himself.
A.V. Club Rating: B+
Read more here.

Well, not quite finally, because the naysayers should have their say too. Rex Reed sure must have been in a sour mood when he wrote this screed about the 2007 New York Film Festival. While I unfortunately agree with him about Wes Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited," I really liked Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding." Here's what Reed had to say about "I'm Not There" to finish off his New York Observer rant:

I cannot believe this is the Todd Haynes who topped my ten-best list in 2002 with the magnificent, unforgettable Far From Heaven. Headed for the No. 1 spot on my ten-worst list, I’m Not There is a tumultuous disappointment. Chopped and shredded into shards of avant-garde impressionism, the film is without a thread of narrative coherence. It’s a 135-minute Cobb salad, what I call jerk-off filmmaking. It desperately needs cutting, and they should use a hatchet.

Well, I guess everyone's welcome to their opinion, and in Reed's defense his piece is pretty friggin' funny. However, I'm almost certain he's wrong about "I'm Not There," so I hope to see a lot of you Maconites at the Douglass on Sunday.

In closing, rather than simply a clip from the flick, here's a fairly funny one of Rainn Wilson "auditioning" for director Todd Haynes as a bit for the most recent Spirit Awards show. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pixar and Disney look way into the future

"Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran"
- Dick Cheney, from the first few pages of the working script for Oliver Stone's "W."

Though he, as of yet, hasn't taken up my suggestion of Dwight Schrute to play Karl Rove, Oliver Stone has indeed scooped up at least one very funny guy for his Bush biopic: "Daily Show" vet Rob Corddry will play press secretary Ari Fleischer (remember him?)

Unfortunately, what the first few script (surely a work in progress) pages reveal is that the movie itself could also be laughably bad. The "Axis of Evil" conversation that starts it off is just ridiculous (and, if it really happened that way, just scary as hell.) I didn't want to ruin it for you, so you can read it and judge for yourself here.

The order of the day here, however, is animation, easily one of my favorite subjects. Pixar and Disney have unveiled a rather ambitious slate that takes the studios through 2012, and though you won't find the name of animation master Brad Bird anywhere, there's still some really cool stuff. (Bird, if I'm not mistaken, is moving into the realm of live-action films with "1906," a historical drama about the fire that ravaged the then-quite-corrupt city of San Francisco.)

First up, of course, is Pixar's Wall•E, which promises to be all kinds of weirdness when it's released June 27, but hopefully also chock full of charm (man, could we use some of that in movies now!) Here are other highlights of what's coming down the pike from both animation houses:

Bolt (Disney, Nov. 26, 2008)
I can't say you're gonna get me too excited when your lead character is voiced by John Travolta, but the plot for this one sounds like it could be pretty fun. He voices Bolt, a Hollywood superdog who gets accidentally shipped to New York City and has to find his way back home with two companions, a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens and a TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball named Rhino.

Up (Pixar, May 29th, 2009)
Being someone who's perfectly happy to go to bed no later than 10 p.m. (and often earlier if the Braves aren't playing on TV), I say it's way past high time that a movie was made about a super hero who just happens to be in his 70s. With the new news that our hero will be voiced by certified grump Ed Asner, I'm nothing but jazzed for this one.

The Princess and the Frog (Disney,Christmas 2009)
I'd be much more excited for this one if they had actually managed to pick a black composer (rather than the omnipresent and increasingly insipid Randy Newman) for this, Disney's first grand animated musical with a black heroine, but I guess we should be thankful for baby steps. Besides, there's a lot of good going on here anyway. The story takes place in New Orleans, it stars Anika Noni Rose, and it should be a return to the kind of old-fashioned animation that made Disney famous in the first place.

Toy Story 3 (Pixar, June 18th, 2010)
I sure hope this trilogy doesn't go the way of "X-Men" and "Spider-Man," as it has thus far (the first one very good, the second great but the third one simply craptastic.) A while back, in an article about the merging of the studios, the Wall Street Journal let fly that the plot for the third installment will be this: “Woody the cowboy and his toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, leaves for college.” Sounds cool enough to me, so bring it on! The next Pixar sequel on the list, however ... more on that later.

Rapunzel (Disney: Christmas 2010)
Don't have much to say about this one except that, after a one-movie-only respite from the 3-D/CGI onslaught, Disney will be going all modern with this one.

Newt (Summer 2011: Pixar)
When it's not making sequels, it looks like - thankfully - Pixar is gonna just keep getting weirder with its storylines. In this one, the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, but of course they can't stand each other. Even with the rather tired tag line "Love, it turns out, is not a science," this could still be a lot of fun.

The Bear and the Bow (Christmas 2011, Disney/Pixar)
A load of quality voice talent is already on board for this trip to "rugged and mythic" Scotland (whatever that means.) Reese Witherspoon is an impetuous princess who would much rather shoot her bow and arrow, Emma Thompson voices her mother and Billy Connolly (of course!) voices her father.

Cars 2 (Summer 2012, Pixar)
This is the only true turkey I can see in Pixar's near future. The first "Cars" was my least favorite Pixar movie by far, with that long middle passage that was simply a road to nowhere, so I just can't get excited much at all about a sequel. Besides, does the world really need more Larry the Cable Guy in any form?

King of the Elves (Disney, Christmas 2012)
This is definitely a case of saving the best for last, methinks. Disney will take on Philip K. Dick's foray into fantasy storytelling. It tells the tale of a dude living in the Mississippi Delta whose reluctant actions to help a desperate band of elves being menaced (of course) by a troll leads them to name him their king (why can't I have days like that?)

That did go on for a while, but hopefully the news was worth it!

"The Office" is open!

Though "Friday Night Lights" and "The Wire" helped me make it through the writers strike in a reasonably good mood, there was no show I missed more from week-to-week than "The Office," which thankfully returns to NBC tonight at 9 p.m. (followed by a new "Scrubs" too.)

You know, it's more than a little disturbing to find out your TV is smarter than you are. I went to set the DVR to tape both of these, only to find that it had saved my recording request from before the strike. I know I'm more than a bit of a Luddite, but that still kind of amazes me. Anyways, here's what's coming in the next four episodes:

"Dinner Party" (9 tonight)
Pam and Jim find they have run out of excuses and are forced to go to Jan and Michael's house for dinner. When Andy and Angela are also invited to dinner, Dwight's jealousy gets the best of him.

"The Chair Model" (April 17)
Michael's fascination with a woman modeling a chair in an office supply catalog makes him feel things he hasn't felt in a while. With Michael distracted, Kevin and Andy team up to win back Dunder-Mifflin's stolen parking spaces, forcing them into a showdown with the bosses of the five businesses of the office park.

"Night Out" (April 24)
Michael and Dwight decide to surprise Ryan in New York for a night of clubbing and meet his friends. Meanwhile, the Scranton branch is upset when they find out they have to come in on a Saturday for Ryan's Web site project. Jim's plan to save them has unexpected results. (Michael and Dwight on the town? I'm there!)

"Did I Stutter?" (May 1)
When Stanley snaps at Michael during a meeting, Michael tries to give Stanley an attitude adjustment. Dwight decides to buy Andy’s car. Meanwhile, Pam deals with an unexpected inconvenience after spending the night at Jim’s.

Sounds like a lot of fun stuff, but rather than let me prattle on anymore about it, here's a clip of Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer telling two rather dippy Utah news anchors about tonight's episode (note the 3-2 Orioles victory over the Mariners in the sports ticker!) Enjoy, and remember to tune in tonight. Peace out.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The joys of summer: 10 to definitely get geeked up for

Instead of using this space to announce my personal multiplex boycott (which will only last about a week and a half anyways), I've decided to keep things positive and future-oriented here today. Besides, the friggin Baltimore Orioles are 6-1, so what could really be so wrong with the world at this moment?

Now, two things you won't see in my summer 2008 preview are any movies directed by Fred Durst (he actually has one coming out in July called "The Comebacks") because, well, he's Fred Durst, or - despite its obvious primal charms - Anna Faris' turn as a Playboy bunny in "House Bunny" on Aug. 22. (But, as you can clearly see, I have rather crassly included - in honor of both summer and, well, Anna Faris - a picture of her in character.)

Unfortunately, you also won't see any little comedies with the potential charms of a "Waitress" or "Little Miss Sunshine," not because I don't want them but simply because I couldn't find them. If you know of any I'm missing, please let me know. One more disclaimer: I'm really looking forward to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" on April 18, but since this is about summer, I've restricted this preview to May to August.

And now, without any further hesitation, are 10 movies I surely won't miss seeing this summer, in order of just how unreasonably geeked up for each I am (and in a few cases, the trailers too.)

10. Redbelt
If you're gonna make yet another movie about the world of underground fighting, do you really cast Tim Allen in one of the leads? Two things in this one's favor, though: The truly great Chiwetel Ejiofor is the badass at the flick's center, and it springs from the mind of David Mamet who, oddly enough, is apparently a purple belt in jujitsu himself. I sure hope this plays wide when it opens May 2 and kicks off Summer with a real bang. (The trailer is below.)



9. The Happening
No one is more in need of a winner than poor M. Night Shyamalan, and I, at least, am hoping he gets it with this one. Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and the always-welcome John Leguizamo lead the cast in this "environmental thriller" which, as far as I can muster, is about some kind of force that leads people to commit suicide. Man, do I hope this doesn't just suck when it comes out June 19.

8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
This one should be pretty fascinating, if I indeed have my plot summary right. Instead of taking on Nazis, according to Mike Mignola, this time Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and the crew will be taking on some crazy version of the American Indian who - and can you really blame them? - have gotten their hands on a nuclear weapon or some other silliness and turned on the gringos. I can't see myself really cheering against Indians, but man do I love me some Hellboy, so I'll be there July 11. (The trailer is below.)



7. Iron Man
The more I see of this one the more I'm convinced that Robert Downey Jr. really does have the chops to play our hero May 2 and turn this one into a franchise. Director Jon Favreau has plans to make it at least a trilogy, and you can look for Downey just about everywhere this summer, turning up as Tony Stark again in "The Incredible Hulk" on June 19 and in black face for "Tropic Thunder" on July 11.

6. X-Files 2
Chris Carter said he has struggled to come up with a better title for this one, but I'll be there no matter what it's called July 25. The plot, of course, is pretty tightly under wraps, but I do know that - unlike the rather disastrous first X-Files flick - this one will spring almost directly from one of the show's late storylines (possibly about Scully's offspring), so it should be great.

5. Pineapple Express
Anyone who knows me knows that I hold comedy in extremely high esteem, so you'll find two in the big five, starting with this Camp Apatow offering starring former "Geeks" James Franco and Seth Rogen. Frankly, I can take or leave stoner comedies, but judging from the trailer below this one should definitely provide some serious laughs on August 8.



4. The Rocker
I had forgotten all about this one, but since it stars comedy god Rainn Wilson I'm certainly hoping its almost as funny as it is sure to be simply silly on Aug. 1. Wilson is Robert "Fish" Fishman, the devoted drummer who gets kicked out of the '80s hair band Vesuvius. Twenty years later, he jumps at the chance to make his comeback in A.D.D., the high school rock band fronted by his nephew. If something in that doesn't make you laugh, I probably just can't help you.

3. Wall-E
OK, it's only the big guns from here on out. I don't think Pixar's latest offering will reach the lofty perch that "Ratatouille" holds in my heart, but here's hoping anyway. I do know that it will be an odd offering, with a lot of none-too-subtle preaching about environmentalism and the dangers of Wal-Mart, plus an opening half-hour with no human dialogue at all. Find out if it works or not June 27. (The trailer is below.)



2. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
It was a photo finish at the top, but in the end, I'm just not as excited about Harrison Ford's return to his most famous role as I am about the flick that nabbed the top spot on this list. Now, mind you, I will, assuming there is one, turn out for a midnight show when this opens May 22 (the day after my birthday!), and will hopefully cheer like a giddy kid at least once.

1. "The Dark Knight"
In spite of the tough competition from "Indy," this one was really a no-brainer for me. Either I've managed to tune it out or Warner Bros. has actually resisted the urge to crassly use the late Heath Ledger to market Christopher Nolan's flick. Besides, with a definite step up from Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes and the addition of Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, I really don't see any possible way this one can suck on July 18.

So, there you have it. Please feel free to add any I have missed, and have a perfectly pleasant Wednesday. Peace out.

Monday, April 07, 2008

No more movies with George Clooney in the lead?


Granted, the question above is pretty ridiculous, but the rather sorry performance of Clooney's "Leatherheads" brought to mind an even sillier statement allegedly made (but of course denied!) last October by the president of production at Warner Bros.

You may remember that, after the twin tankings of Jodie Foster's "The Brave One" and Nicole Kidman's "The Invasion," Jeff Robinov was quoted, first by Nikki Finke, as saying "we are no longer doing movies with women in the lead." Though I can certainly understand what put him in such a foul mood, that statement was just as stupid then as it is now.

But a look at the box office numbers brings up a valid question. In it's opening weekend, Clooney's flick took in a rather paltry $13.5 million, and didn't even manage to win the weekend, finishing second to "21" with $15.1 million (and really just a hair above "Nim's Island.")

Now, let's flash back to "The Brave One" which, for the record, was easily one of the worst movies I saw in all of 2007. In its opening weekend, Jodie Foster's super-silly revenge flick took in $13,471,488, virtually identical to the take of "Leatherheads." It would go on to compile a $36,793,804 domestic box office total, which at this point would have to be considered a good outcome for Clooney's flick.

So, I offer you all that to ask you this: Will there be any similar hand-wringing over this latest failure? Will any studio executive be quoted as saying they won't "even look at a script with a Clooney lead"?

Of course not, but that's just the kind of double standard that's enough to set me off on a Monday morning with less than a full cup of coffee in my system. But why did Clooney's movie fare so poorly?

Well, in its favor, it had three fairly bankable stars in Clooney, Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski, and of course everyone in America loves football, right? Plus, despite the fact it had sat on the shelf for years before Clooney scooped it up, reliable Sports Illustrated scribe Rick Reilly contributed to the script (along with first-time screenwriter Duncan Brantley.)

So, what happened? You can chalk this one up as a "victory" for critics if you want to. From all the reviews I read, director Clooney and his writers played it too safe both in terms of humor and on-field action, and therefore didn't come up with enough to keep audiences entertained. Older moviegoers (of which, it's rather sad to report, I am apparently one) still listen to critics, and therefore just stayed home.

Or something like that anyway. Personally, I'm just looking forward to a good movie of any kind this year, no matter who's in the lead role. I'm tentatively putting my money on "Street Kings" this week, but not with terribly high hopes.

Casting W's cabinet

Now that Oliver Stone has cast the first family - plus his mommy and daddy - for "W," it's now time to fill out the cabinet and staff, where things could get much more interesting.

The roster so far: Josh Brolin is W, Elizabeth Banks is Laura Bush, Ellyn Burstyn gets the rather ignominious honor of playing Barbara Bush, and James Cromwell (hearty huzzah!) is W's daddy. The news today is that, since Stone clearly likes insanely beautiful women, Thandie Newton will play Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Ioan Gruffudd will play W's brother in (making other people take up) arms, Tony Blair.

Which means there are still plenty of juicy roles to fill, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. For Cheney you could certainly do worse than Jason Alexander, but I've got an even more solid TV choice to play Karl Rove.

Remember that "Halloween" episode of "The Office" in which Dwight was so proud of his Sith Lord costume? If there was a better dead ringer for Karl Rove, I haven't seen it, so I'm officially on the Rainn Wilson bandwagon.

And in slightly more serious "Office" news, the show does indeed return beginning this Thursday, so set your DVR. And, even better, NBC announced at its recent upfront that "The Office" will get 28 episodes next year, with the first four being hourlong specials, and then a spinoff to premiere after the Super Bowl. Bring it all on!

"Blindness" trailer

I'm fairly confident that we'll have some great movies before October this year, but if not Fernando Meirelles will be back to hopefully save the day.

"Blindness," Meirelles' follow-up to "The Constant Gardener" and the perfect "Cidade de Deus," is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by José Saramago and is about a city that is struck by a mysterious plague of, well, blindness. As you can see from what I believe is the first trailer below, it stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo (double huzzah!) and Gael Garcia Bernal (and, though she's not in the trailer, the lovely Alice Braga too.) Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Pegg and Wright, together again? Frak yeah!


That last bit of juvenilia was, of course, in honor of the premiere of the fourth season of "Battlestar Galactica" tonight (or earlier), but we'll get to more on that later.

The almost-as-good news today is that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the comedy masterminds behind "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," will join forces again for a third film, to be titled "The World's End." Though I don't know anything about the plot beyond the title, judging from their first two very funny films I'd have to guess this one will be a spoof on/valentine to sci-fi flicks.

I just couldn't bring myself to watch Simon Pegg in "Run Fatboy Run," and I don't have very high hopes he's gonna be terribly funny in "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People," due in October, either. I mean, I hate to pigeonhole the man, but he's clearly at his best with his friends, and thankfully he seems to realize that too.

"The World's End" is part of a two-picture deal Wright has signed with Working Title. Before reteaming with Pegg, he'll make something for the studio called "Baby Driver," which is described as "a wild spin on the action and crime genre which will be set in the US." Cool enough.

Even before that, me thinks, Wright will also be making "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" with veryfunnyman Michael Cera based on the graphic novel about a young lad (Cera) who has to do battle with his new girlfriend's seven exes.

That's almost too much funny, but given the mediocre slate of movies we have right now, I really don't think that's possible. Bring it all on!

Remember Olivia Williams?

I have to confess I didn't immediately without seeing her picture, but Williams is, of course, the school teacher hot enough to make Max Fischer try to build an aquarium on a baseball field.

I loved her in "Rushmore" (which I once drove two hours to D.C. just to see), but really haven't seen much of her at all since. A quick look at her IMDB resume reveals that she has been working steadily, but not in a movie that I have managed to see since 1999's "The Sixth Sense."

Now, however, she's back in something I'll definitely tune in for, Joss Whedon's return to TV in the form of "Dollhouse."

On the Fox show about drones programmed to execute various missions (the "dolls," of which Eliza Dushku, thankfully, is the main one), Williams will play the ruthless matron who controls the "Dollhouse." I have to say, I'd do just about anything Olivia Williams asked me to, whether she was being "ruthless" or not.

Actually, looking back at the IMDB, it also says she had an "uncredited" role in "X-Men: The Last Stand" as Dr. Moira MacTaggart. Can anyone remember that? I've just wiped every memory of that awful mess from my mind completely.

The bottom line: The world is certainly a better place with more Rosemary Cross in it.

"Battlestar Galactica" is back!

It would be hard to overstate just how geeked up I am for the fourth season of "Battlestar Galactica," which premieres at 10 tonight on the Sci-Fi Channel or, if you have a fast hookup, even earlier (at noon EST) on line here.

What's so good about "Battlestar"? Well, it's extremely smart science fiction, and also at times very funny. It tries and almost always succeeds to be a biting commentary on our society, and is easily the best show on TV right now (with "The Wire" gone for good.)

Phillip Ramati, a k a the TV Guy, was luckily (and enterprising) enough to get an advance copy and reports that, not surprisingly at all, it's as good as ever. He doesn't reveal any serious spoilers, but for just a tease read what he had to say about it here.

As for me, I'm gonna brave one trip to the multiplex this weekend, but it won't be for George Clooney's "Leatherheads." Against all my better judgment, I'm actually gonna take a chance on "The Ruins" and hope to find something suitably entertaining and creepy. Peace out.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A "Veronica Mars" reunion? Well, sort of

Just how in the world did Rob Thomas become the hottest property on TV?

I mean, I'm all for second (or third) chances, and I've made clear my devotion to Thomas' way-too-short-lived "Veronica Mars," but three pilots in one season? Sheesh.

Just 'cause I'm in that kind of mood this morning, I'll start with the least interesting and work my way up to the news of the day (just in case you couldn't figure it out from that none-too-cryptic headline.)

The first is some kind of reimagining/update/sequel to "Beverly Hills 90210." Now, I'm an admitted fan of trashy TV, tuning in as I do week after week for the CW's "Gossip Girl" even though I'm at least a few years beyond its target demographic (hey, knock it if you will, but I work 10-hour days and rather enjoy a little mindless entertainment at the end of the day.) Even so, I just can't see any possible way I'll tune in to this one.

The second must give Thomas some solace after his failed attempts to resuscitate "Veronica Mars" in a slightly altered format. For ABC he's getting to revive another of his shows that fans (though I can't say I'm one, since I missed it the first time) would say died too soon, "Cupid." I don't have too-high hopes for this one unless he's able to bring back star Jeremy Piven, which doesn't yet seem to be in the works.

And now, finally, to the big news of the day: Kristen Bell let it slip to E! Entertainment's Kristin Dos Santos here that she is indeed in final negotiations to reunite with Thomas for his third - and by far most interesting - pilot of the season. Also for ABC, he's developing something called "Outrageous Fortune," which is based on an Aussie series and centers on a family of criminals in which moms tries to make everyone go straight after dad gets sent to the big house. In less interesting casting news, Rene Russo is about to sign on as the mom. Sorry, but I've just never cared for her much at all.

Man, even if Mr. Thomas really likes to work, that just seems like a recipe for burnout. If Bell is indeed able to fit it into her schedule - along with a confirmed return engagement on "Heroes" and her continuing narration on "Gossip Girl" - "Outrageous Fortune" at least is one well worth keeping your eyes on this fall.

New "Muppet Movie" clearly in the right hands

For me, the Muppets are just something you don't mess with unless you have the purest of intentions, and it seems that Jason Segel and Nick Stoller indeed have a great, old-fashioned idea for the beloved critters.

According to this report at CHUD, the plotline they're developing in fact sounds like it fits right in the Muppet world. The Muppets will apparently be doing what Muppets do - putting on a show - this time to save their theater from an evil character who wants to tear the place down to get at the oil underneath.

Sounds great to me. Segel next stars with Ms. Bell in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which will hopefully be the year's first great comedy when it finally drops April 18, and there's some other pretty cool casting news out about another of his upcoming projects.

"I Love You, Man" will star the very funny Paul Rudd as a man who's about to get married and - realizing he has no friends - goes on a series of man-dates to find a best man, which turns out to be Segel. Rashida Jones is on hand as Rudd's fiancee, and in great news, Jamie Pressly - the funniest gal on TV on "My Name is Earl" - has now joined the cast as her best friend.

Now, this is apparently written and directed by John Hamburg, who made the rather wretched "Along Came Polly," but he also directed some episodes of Judd Apatow's "Undeclared" back in the day, so I'm willing to cut him a break. Besides, if he actually manages to come up with something bad with a cast like that, it will indeed be a rather monumental failure.

Your daily dose of Nazis

What could brighten your day more than a photo of Tom Cruise and, even better, the great Bill Nighy in their best Nazi garb on the set of Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie"? Well, I couldn't think of anything, so here's the best photo from Empire magazine, and you can find a few others here. Peace out.