Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday fun with trailers ... starring the Coen brothers!

OK, OK, I realize it's the height of sloth to simply post a couple of trailers for only my second post of the week, so let's first start out with a bit of news, the first of which I can only see being all kinds of bad.

Now, I love the movie "Donnie Darko." It took me at least three viewings to properly wrap my mind around it, but once I did, it just rocks. But why in the world would you feel the need to make a sequel? And more importantly, why would you possibly want to make a sequel without director Richard Kelly (someone named Chris Fisher is stepping in) but with Elizabeth Berkley of "Saved By the Bell" fame? I can't fathom any possible answer to those questions, but it's apparently happening now in the form of something called "S. Darko" (for Donnie's sis, Samantha), and probably headed straight to DVD soon.

In much better news, there will indeed be new TV this summer in the form of the very satisfying "Mad Men" on AMC. Hopefully with some kind of Emmys bounce, with the nominations set to be announced in July (I think), the show will return for season two at 10 p.m. July 21. And, in even better news, if you somehow managed to miss the first season of this great show about ad men, AMC will air all 13 episodes of season one on July 20, so set your DVR.

And, in the last bit before we move on to a twin bill of trailer goodness, David Gordon Green, director of the upcoming can't-miss comedy "Pineapple Express," will next direct the very funny Danny McBride in something called "Your Highness."

The promising premise, in a flick written by McBride and buddy Ben best, has an arrogant, lazy prince (McBride) who must complete a quest to save his father's kingdom. While I'm all for movies with dungeons and dragons, it's certainly also a genre ripe for send up.

And if you've never heard of Danny McBride, you hopefully will very soon. I was really hoping the kung-fu comedy he made with Jody Hill, "Foot Fist Way," would be playing everywhere this week, but it's apparently only in New York and L.A. so far. Here's hoping it plays everywhere next week, cause even if though it's gotten very mixed reviews so far, any flick that actually contains the phrase "Myrtle Beach drunk" as an adjective has to have at least a few merits.

But, finally, I did promise you two trailers, and they're for two flicks I'm genuinely jazzed about. The first, and surely superior, is the redband trailer for the Coen brothers' next flick, "Burn After Reading." While I loved "No Country for Old Men" almost unconditionally, I like the brothers best when they turn to comedy (my favorite Coens flick remains "O Brother Where Art Thou"), so this CIA caper starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich should just be a hoot when it hits this fall. Enjoy!

And lastly here's a teaser for Kevin Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (and no, I didn't just put the word "porno" in this post to get a few more hits from perverts.) I know a lot of people are tired of Smith's rather juvenile view of the world, but I still have a lot of time for him, and have high hopes for this flick starring Seth Rogen and soon-to-be-"it" girl Elizabeth Banks (after her turn as Laura Bush in Oliver Stone's upcoming Bush biopic "W".) Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Magical things happen under "La Misma Luna"

Perhaps still lurking in the shadows of Indy and Iron Man you might find a little Fox Searchlight movie called "Under the Same Moon." If so, I can't urge you strongly enough to go see it right away.

This one has been playing at our local Regal theater for at least six weeks now, but I had until now somehow managed to just dismiss it. I think my fears were it would be a) a polemic about immigration, b) a super sappy flick that's just way too sweet for me or c) a religious movie.

I really have no idea where I got the third idea from, but it's the only that's completely wrong. What Patricia Riggen has instead delivered here is a perfectly charming movie that is indeed about immigration and is fairly often super-sappy, but never in a manipulative way.

I've been surprised that there haven't, before now, been more mainstream movies about this subject that clearly impacts the lives of so many people. I suppose it would be the perfect subject for a "Traffic"/"Crash"-type ensemble drama, and if I'm not mistaken there is indeed one coming very soon with a slew of big stars attached to it. I do have some stomach for those (though words can't truly describe just how much I hate "Crash"), but I prefer movies like Riggen's which examine the most fragile of human ties and the forces that bend them to the breaking point.

But I guess a word or two about what this flick's actually about would be in order before I go any further. And when you look at it on paper, it does indeed ooze sap from every pore. At the outset we see a phone call from Rosario (Kate del Castillo), an illegal immigrant of some degree who's working as a maid in L.A., to Carlitos, the young son she's left behind with her mother in Mexico. When grandma dies, young Carlitos (Adrian Alonso) decides he has to brave the journey to America to reunite with his mother. You can probably guess if he gets there or not, but if you can't I certainly won't tell you, and even if you can it's still well worth watching the journey unfold.

Del Castillo does a great job of portraying just how devastating it can be to live with that much uncertainty, but the real stars here are Alonso and Eugenio Derbez as Enrique, an illegal laborer who forms an unlikely bond with our young hero. Once the two of them reluctantly hit the road together the movie is full of small moments of grace, and it's here where Riggen's "message," if there is one, comes out. As the two of them are on the bus bound for L.A., Enrique turns to Carlitos and says "nobody chooses to live like this." By forcing us to think about just how wrong or right he is, Riggen and screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos subtly make a very powerful point.

If you're looking for an enjoyable detour from the blockbuster expressway, I really can't recommend this little movie highly enough. Enjoy it while (and if) you still can. Peace out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This just in - Indy mostly rocks hard!

Is it really fair to give "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" a pass on something as key as plot?

Well, it may not be the most professional of standards for reviewing movies, but I say in this case yes, because it delivers just about everything else you're looking for in an Indiana Jones movie in spades.

Besides, in every Indy movie so far, the story has always been delivered with a wink, like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are elbowing you in the ribs as they deliver the spectacle that just keeps getting crazier and crazier in front of your eyes. The only time I wasn't really too in on the joke was with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," but this time I was laughing right along with them until the last 15 minutes or so, when the flick just falls to pieces.

The easiest way to describe it might just be to tell you what you'll get this time around. The signature set piece, a thrilling jeep chase through the jungles of Peru, is as fun as anything that's come before it in Indy flicks. My office mate Ryan Gilchrest said it lost him when young Shia LaBoeuf went all "George of the Jungle" (you'll see what I mean), but I was laughing so hard at that point (apparently to the annoyance of the young man in front of me) that it didn't really bother me much at all.

And this wouldn't be Indy if there weren't some creepy crawlers to make you squirm in your seats. Though much of the flick has a comfortably familiar feel, the main critters here aren't snakes (but my favorite moment in the entire movie came when one of Indy's dreaded asps came into play.) I really can't tell you what they are this time, but trust me that it will have you cringing and cackling as they attack and devour the evil Russkies.

And the performances here are all-around solid, mostly because everyone was clearly in on the joke. Harrison Ford still has the chops to be a pretty serious bad ass, but he plays it with enough humility that you don't mind that he's really 67 years old (yes, 67 years old!) Mr. LaBoeuf, who I don't always particularly care for, is plenty dorky enough to play "Mutt" (I thought he was saying his name was "mud," but really, aren't they just equally as silly?) And if you don't smile as broadly as Indy when Karen Allen makes her return as Marion Ravenwood, well, why in the world did you come to this movie in the first place? Cate Blanchett vamps it up to the max as evil Russkie Col. Irina Spalko, and John Hurt (who I almost always manage to confuse with Sir Ian McKellen), is equally good as the befuddled Dr. Oxley.

So, what's the problem? As I said, it's not much of one, but I guarantee that when you hear the secret behind the "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" you'll be left scratching your head and saying, quite possibly out loud as I almost did, "nah, really?" Though David Koepp puts his name on the script, I blame George Lucas - who also gets a writing credit - for trying to make us swallow this whopper.

But, like I said, I think any die hard Indy fans will be smiling so broadly at that point that you won't mind being hoodwinked more than a little bit. Given the unbelievable hype I'd say this one almost manages to measure up, and I guess you can't ask for much more than that.

And as for my movie weekend, I'm finally gonna break down and see the little Fox Searchlight drama "Under the Same Moon," which has somehow managed to be playing at one of our Macon multiplexes for at least six weeks or so now and is hanging on for one more. Feel free to check back Sunday for my impression of that one, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the saga of the rapidly aging man

I apologize up front for that rather unfortunate title if it leads anyone to think I have seen the new Indy movie. It instead reflects that I'm simply too old to stay up until 2:30 a.m. or so on a school night to watch a movie, even one as potentially cool as this. To complete my transition to solidly middle-aged citizen, however, I am going to see it at the much more civilized hour of 11:15 a.m. today and will share all my thoughts about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, there are a few bits of news out there about people I like, starting with seriously "Star Wars"-obsessed Patrick Read Johnson.

For years now I've been reading about a flick called "5/25/77" that was set to star everyone's favorite "Geek," John Francis Daley, but I just assumed it was completed and went straight to DVD. As happens, oh, twice daily or so, I was wrong.

It seems that Mr. Johnson has just landed a $200,000 windfall to complete his flick in time to present it at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (which I won't be attending, but I will be at this year's Savannah Film Festival in October, which I'm already rather jazzed about.)

So, what in the world is this little flick, now simply called "77" to suit our rather limited attention spans, about? Well, the original title matched the release date of the original "Star Wars," and the flick is about how Johnson's obsession with it led him to Hollywood and a career in directing. I haven't seen Daley, a k a Sam Weir on "Freaks and Geeks," in years, so here's hoping this little indie gets some kind of wide distribution after Toronto.

Jonathan Demme, music man

In what I'd have to call perhaps a slight case of trading up, Jonathan Demme has taken the reins of a new Bob Marley documentary from Martin Scorsese, who presumably is too busy working on "Shutter Island."

As many probably know well, Demme has a solid history of making docos, musical or otherwise. The most famous is probably still the Talking Heads flick "Stop Making Sense," but if I had one DVD-viewing recommendation for the day it would be "The Agronomist," his 2003 doco about Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique.

In any case, this Marley flick is now one that's certainly caught my interest.

All hail the Polish brothers

In an era when truly independent movie studios are rapidly disappearing it's just extremely heartening to hear this bit of news about the Polish brothers, Mark and Michael.

The siblings, known most recently for the somewhat-satisfying "Astrononaut Farmer," have formed their own production company, Prohibition, with plans to start immediately on a pair of new flicks.

They will start with "Manure," a comedy about manure salesmen in 1960s heartland America that reteams them with "Astronaut Farmer" star Billy Bob Thornton. If that idea doesn't make you smile at least a little bit, there's probably nothing I can do to help you.

Immediately after that flick wraps in July, they'll get to work on "Stay Cool," a comedy that will star, oddly enough, Winona Ryder, Sean Astin and Chevy Chase.

I love movies that have a solid sense of time and place, which the Polish brothers always do with America's heartland (whatever in the world that really means.) "Twin Falls, Idaho" and "Northfork," in particular, are two I can't recommend highly enough.

Is Terry Gilliam coming to America?

There's a bit of good news about Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," which I'd have to assume will be the last movie we'll ever see with the late Heath Ledger in it.

His folks at Cannes have sold U.K. rights for the flick to Lionsgate and Japanese rights to Showgate. No word yet on distribution in the U.S., but I'd imagine the presence of Ledger alone might be enough to get this one to my local multiplex at some point.

So, what is Gilliam's rather crazy flick about? Well, it stars Christopher Plummer as the immortal, 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus, who leads a traveling theater troupe that offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror he acquired through a deal with the devil (Tom Waits, naturally.) When Satan comes to collect on his debt and targets the doctor's daughter (Lily Cole), the troupe members must rescue her with the aid of a mysterious outsider named Tony (Ledger.) Actually, after Ledger's untimely demise, "Tony" will now be played by Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.

Finding out how they pull that off alone is enough to make me want to see this one if it indeed ever makes it to any kind of movie theater near me.

A look at "Vicky Christina Barcelona"

Phillip Ramati, a rather serious TV and movie fan who shares his thoughts about the boob tube daily here, summed up his opinion on this year's movies thusly yesterday as he passed by my cubicle (and I may be paraphrasing just slightly): "If it doesn't have Indiana Jones or Batman in it, or Scarlett Johansson having sex with Penelope Cruz, I'm really not too interested."

Well, as you might imagine, that last bit did spark my curiosity, so I had to seek out a trailer for Woody Allen's upcoming "Vicky Christina Barcelona," which indeed stars that dynamic duo, Javier Bardem and Patricia Clarkson. And yes, if you watch the trailer long enough, I believe you do get to see some fairly steamy Cruz-Johansson smooching, which is hopefully enough to liven up everyone's Thursday work day. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surprise ... Spike Lee sounds off at Cannes

I love Spike Lee, even when he's just horribly wrong, because the man is never, ever boring.

At Cannes to promote his upcoming World War II flick "Miracle at St. Anna," Spike couldn't help but take swipes at some big-time fellow directors, the Coen brothers and Clint Eastwood.

When it comes to the Coens, however, I had to think back through all their movies before deciding he's just dead wrong. Here's what Mr. Lee had to say about their body of work:

"I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't. Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that."

Wow. Now, the Coens have certainly, and thankfully, made their share of very funny comedies, but I don't think they've ever made death a joke. Now, they do make it a very stylish occurrence and, yes, do sometimes revel in the bloodiness of it, but if anything "No Country for Old Men" was the best meditation on violence and death I've seen in many, many years.

But, Spike being Spike, he wasn't finished yet, and saved his most savage (and accurate!) critique for Mr. Eastwood. Here goes:

"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total and there was not one Negro actor on the screen. If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that -- that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."

Amen, brother. I really had no time at all beyond the performance of Adam Beach for Clint's "Flags of Our Fathers," but I really liked "Letters from Iwo Jima" quite a bit. That said, Spike is right, and I'm happy someone has the huevos to point it out in such a significant forum.

As for "Miracle at St. Anna," Spike said it's in the final stages of post-production and will be complete by the end of July, hopefully for a very wide release on Oct. 10. The flick, for anyone who doesn't know yet, is about four African-American Buffalo soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division - Derek Luke (huzzah!), Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller - who get trapped in a a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II. It also stars James Gandolfini, John Leguizamo, Kerry Washington and Joseph Gordon Levitt (another huzzah!), hopefully giving it enough star power to reach my little corner of the world this fall.

Steve Buscemi in 'Revolt'

With Michael Cera set to star in the adaptation of one of my favorite books, I already had my eyes squarely on any news about "Youth in Revolt," and there's a lot of the good kind about it today.

For director Miguel Arteta ("Chuck and Buck"), Cera will play the sex-obsessed hero Nick Twisp, 14 in the book but assumedly a little older when this finally hits movie theaters in December. Now, in some fantastic casting news, he's being joined by Steve Buscemi as Nick's violent and status-obsessed loser of a father, George Twisp, and Ray Liotta, who plays a rather fascist member of the Oakland PD who shacks up with Nick's mom. Jean Smart and M. Emmet Walsh have also signed on, but I'm not sure as of yet to do exactly what. Still to be cast is Sheeni Saunders, the teen temptress who wins Nick's heart.

The book by C.D. Payne is one of the silliest I've ever read, but still holds a high place in my heart, so here's hoping this all turns out as funny and crazy as it should be.

"The Happening" trailer

What exactly makes this a redband trailer I have no idea, but it does hold the promise that director M. Night Shyamalan will get back to top form when "The Happening" comes out in July. I certainly hope he delivers a winner, but now I've got to hurry and get to work. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm back, with - believe it or not - three pretty friggin great movies!

My sincere apologies to the very few people who bother to stop here on a semi-regular basis. If you do, you've surely noticed I've been gone, deterred first by a tornado that ripped out my power for a few days and then by a vacation that unfortunately included watching my beloved Orioles turn in a listless performance in falling 2-1 to the lowly Washington Nationals.

Being me, I of course also managed to go to the movies three times (twice on Saturday) and - shockingly, given the year so far - managed to see three really enjoyable flicks. Here are my quick thoughts on each, in order of just how much I liked them.

"Prince Caspian"

I realize it's an incredibly irrelevant activity to add my two cents about a flick that's already had a $56 million opening weekend, but I still wanted to mention that it's the best flick I've seen so far this year.

I had my doubts going into this one, though given my love of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" I'm really not sure why. Perhaps it's because that what little I knew of "Prince Caspian" was that it was a darker - and therefore bloodier - tale, and I really wasn't sure that director Andrew Adamson had the heart for it. In chapter one, the battles were almost completely blood- and consequence-free, not exactly the message you want to pass on to kids by my measure.

That's definitely not a problem with "Caspian." The rather epic battle that takes up the final 45 minutes or so just keeps coming at you in wave after wave and has a real fluidity to it that keeps the excitement at top notch throughout.

Which brings up the only real problem with "Caspian," which wasn't much of one at all to me: It's definitely not for the younguns, either in it's rather slow buildup or it's seriously violent finale. But I like movies like this when they're at their most quiet (my favorite portion of the "The Lord of the Rings" flicks is still the opening half-hour when they're in the shire), and "Caspian" delivers a lot of humor before the carnage, thanks in large part to Peter Dinklage.

And, if I can digress just a bit on that note, if you happen to make movies and want to cast a "little person" (or whatever the right thing to call them is), please consider using the very talented Mr. Dinklage or the very funny Tony Cox (if you doubt me, just watch "Bad Santa") before you employ the simply annoying Verne Troyer.

But if you like epic adventure, it really doesn't get much better than "Prince Caspian," no matter what you see Aslan as.

"Son of Rambow"

The rather seasoned citizen with a pierced lip at the concession stand who told me this one was "thoroughly cool" was thankfully thoroughly right.

I'm a sucker for movies about the love of movies, which this certainly is. But much more than that, Garth Jennings' ("Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") flick is just a beautiful little movie about the power of friendship. I realize that sounds seriously sappy, and this one is at times, but it has just enough heart to push it to the brink but never over it.

I don't want to say too much about this little gem, because I want as many people as possible to see this one and just be surprised by how well it works. What you'll find is that little summer comedy I had been searching for, and two fantastic performances from young bucks Bill Milner and Will Poulter.

"Flight of the Red Balloon"

Hsiao-hsien Hou's homage to Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon" is the definition of an acquired taste, but one I certainly appreciated.

To put it in more solid terms, I'd call it a mix somewhere between "Seinfeld" and the late Edward Yang's "Yi yi," still one of my favorite flicks. Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying this is as savagely funny as "Seinfeld" or even close to it, but instead that it's a film about almost nothing at all that features some of the most astounding camera work I've seen in years (or at least since "No Country for Old Men.")

What story there is centers on Juliette Binoche's Suzanne, a divorced voice artist for puppet shows who is raising her young son Simon (Simon Iteanu) with the help of nanny Song (Fang Song.) The titular ballon rouge does indeed make several appearances, but mostly Hou manages to find magic in the most mundane of moments, just as Yang did with "Yi yi." And it's a real treat to watch Binoche really get into the spirit of her puppetry work.

Looking over the rather long filmography of Mr. Hou reveals that this is the only one of his many flicks that I've managed to see. If anyone can recommend any others, I'd certainly appreciate it.

"Dollhouse" trailer

A hearty word of thanks to Divinity for the word that Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse," coming to Fox this fall and starring Eliza Dushku, has a fairly up-and-running Web site you can visit here.

Even better, I managed to find this trailer on YouTube which just went up a few hours ago but has already been viewed more than 1,000 times. It looks like a whole lot of fun, and best of all it's narrated by Olivia Williams, a k a Rosemary Cross. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Tuesday. Peace out.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Alexander Payne and the fine art of the ... dick joke?

I was wondering just a few days ago what in the world had happened to Alexander Payne, and now I have the rather odd but potentially very funny answer.

It would seem the man who was last in the limelight as the director of a Best Picture nominee (the pleasing if only-so-slightly overrated "Sideways") way back in 2004 has now signed on with HBO for something called "Hung," and it's exactly what you might be imagining. Here is, verbatim, the description of it in this morning's Variety:

"Hung" revolves around a well-endowed man who is plodding along in middle age as a struggling father and high school coach. The character was once a high school sports legend, and his luck returns when he figures out a way to use his best asset.

OK, fair enough. I laughed at the premise alone, which is usually a good sign, but how in the world does such a talented director end up having to do this? I mean I haven't loved all the man's films ("About Schmidt" was one I'm fully ready to concede I just didn't get at all), but "Election" is easily one of my favorite comedies and "Citizen Ruth" - despite its enormously broad strokes - is extremely funny too.

Oh well. I suppose a man's gotta eat. One thing I know for sure is this won't be enough to get me to re-up on the HBO I only ordered to watch the final season of "The Wire." Alan Ball's vampire series starring Anna Paquin and now apparently Stephen Root (huzzah!), "True Blood," might be enough to tempt me, though I should probably just save my money instead.

But, since it is Friday, here's one last very funny word on "Hung," from series creator Colleen Burson, and then a very evil looking shot of what Entertainment Weekly swears is Josh Brolin in character as George W. Bush for Oliver Stone's upcoming "W," which has just been slated for an Oct. 17 release. The picture just kinds gives me the creeps, but frankly so does W. at this point, so I suppose it works for me.

"Think of him like Spider-Man. He's an average guy who gets in touch with his innate superpowers."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

See Rainn Wilson as "The Rocker"

Not too much to report today, especially because - as usual - I'm already running late for work, but I figured just about everyone's Thursday would be brightened up at least a bit by the sight of Rainn Wilson in a really goofy haircut.

Before we get to that, however, there's good news today that for at least one veteran New Line director, John Waters, there will indeed be life after Warner Bros devoured and basically shuttered the little studio.

For his first feature film in four years, Waters is expected to be back with a "Christmas" movie called "Fruitcake," and the news today is that he's landed Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey to star in it.

Now, in spite of that rather colorful title, this isn't an autobiographical flick, as many might believe. Instead, as with the previous Waters film "Pecker," the title simply refers to the nickname of the main character, a young boy named after his favorite dessert. Plot details are slim so far, but it apparently focuses on what happens when the youth runs away from home during the holidays after he and his parents are caught shoplifting meat, then meets up with a runaway girl raised by two gay men and searching for her birth mother.

Sounds as twisted as anything Waters has cooked up before, but hopefully with a sweet touch rather than simply gross. Look for it next Christmas, most likely from ThinkFilm.

In one other bit of news about "The Office," which has its penultimate episode tonight, it seems "The Wire" veteran and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan will be introduced as the new HR person when Toby departs next week. I'll really miss Toby, but assuming the great Ms. Ryan stays on for next season and more, I'd still have to say this is a case of trading up.

But now on to today's main course. As goofy as this looks, I'm hoping it will pair nicely with "Pineapple Express" to give us the kind of comedies that August so sorely needs. At the very least, Wilson should be a hoot. Enjoy this trailer for "The Rocker," and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

For "Redbelt," thankfully "everywhere" does indeed mean everywhere

This post was initially meant just as a celebration of the fact that for once, as promised, a movie that's supposed to open "everywhere" this week will indeed make it out to one multiplex in my little burgh: David Mamet's "Redbelt."

How cool should "Redbelt" be? Well, even with Tim Allen in it, a David Mamet flick starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a martial artist would already have me hooked from the start. Throw in the surprising fact that Mamet is himself a purple belt in jujitsu and you've definitely got what I'll be doing for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon.

Besides, I can't think of too many actors who can list four flicks on the rather long and broad list of my favorites, as Ejiofor can do in his still rather short career. For the record, those four would be "Dirty Pretty Things," "Serenity," "Children of Men" and "Talk to Me." If you've never seen "Dirty Pretty Things," I can't recommend the rather gritty thriller about organ smuggling that also stars adorable Audrey Tautou highly enough.

But, along with the wide release of "Redbelt," there's a lot of other news out there today that at least warrants a brief mention.

Yet another "Jane Eyre"?

First up is Ellen Page, who always generates a few more hits to this rather lightly visited site whenever I mention her name but also just makes me smile whenever I get to bring her up, even when it's for something as potentially meh as this.

Having backed out of going to Hell with Sam Raimi, Ms. Page has now signed for yet another version of "Jane Eyre." Now, I understand that Charlotte Bronte's novel is an attractive target which offers plenty of opportunity to get decked in period garb, but didn't we already have one of these in the last 10 years? Indeed, Franco Zeffirelli made a more-than-slightly appealing version with the delightful Charlotte Gainsbourg in 1996.

No director has yet been attached for this BBC Films adaptation set to begin shooting in Fall, and as snarky as I've been here, I'm sure I'll at least tune in to this one on DVD for the presence of Ellen Page alone.

Yes, Atom Egoyan is still working

It seems like forever since I've heard anything about Canada's greatest filmmaker (at least in my often misguided opinion), but he's indeed about to return very soon with a flick titled "Adoration."

It's not set to be released (and probably not very widely at all) until the Fall, but it will first get a premiere May 22 in competition at Cannes. The flick, starring Rachel Blanchard and Scott Speedman, is described as a "contemporary drama" about a teen who creates a false Internet persona and goes in search of a family secret.

I'm not sure when I'll ever be able to see this, but it's just good to know that Atom Egoyan is still working and apparently thriving.

More from Buckley in the works

After the success of "Thank You for Smoking" I just assumed there would be a run on the works of Washington satirist Christopher Buckley, but it unfortunately never really happened. His books may not be the most intellectual thing out there, but as far as wry commentary on D.C. culture and entertaining writing go, it just doesn't get much better at all.

There was some rumbling that Whit Stillman (remember him?) would indeed make a comeback by making his first film in 10 years in adapting Buckley's "Little Green Men," but I can't find any evidence that that's moving forward. Now, however, GreeneStreet Films has optioned "Boomsday," Buckley's very funny novel about a D.C. lobbyist who casts herself in the center of a firestorm after she half-jokingly blogs about a solution to the stress that retiring baby boomers will place on the Social Security system: A voluntary suicide program for the aging.

Now, I'm rapidly getting to the age where I shouldn't find that funny any more, but I did when I read the novel and I still do now, so definitely bring this one on.

A tease about "Iron Man 2"

An "Iron Man 2" with Jon Favreau on board to direct was already pretty much a foregone conclusion before Marvel penciled it in Monday morning for a 2010 release. No firm word yet that Favreau will direct the sequel, but I can't imagine why not, and here's what Tony Stark himself had to say about a possible sequel in Entertainment Weekly:

There's this idea of Terrence [Howard] putting on a suit and coming back as War Machine, who is pretty iconic in the Iron Man and Marvel universe. Just seeing where it can all go, but grounding it in a very modern mythology. I see it as greatest dysfunctional family story ever told.... In The New York Post a couple days ago, [there was a cartoon] of Iron Man suited up, and he's telling the governor even his super-powers can't get him out of the budget problem. That was what Jon was hoping for and excited to see the most, the idea that Tony Stark and Iron Man can become part of the cultural fabric. When we heard posters were being defaced to promote political or social ideas, he just got such a hoot out of that.

It would indeed be great to see Terrence have a lot more to do in the second installment, and you can read all of EW's interview with Robert Downey Jr. here.

Proof, in case I needed it, that my movie tastes are often just juvenile

I had no idea that "Superbad," easily one of my favorite movies of 2007, would still be up for kudos, but it seems that the esteemed voters on the MTV Movie Awards indeed have yet to have their say.

And "Superbad," not surprisingly, is the big winner in nominations with five. Along with best picture, it also nabbed "breakthrough performer" nods for veryfunnymen Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and McLovin. Hill (but not Cera, WTF!?!) is also nominated for comedic performer of the year. Cera and the aforementioned Ellen Page, however, did each pick up performer of the year nominations (and, this being MTV and all, best kiss) for "Juno," so I guess it's all good.

Now, just how silly are the MTV Movie Awards? Well, in the category of best picture, "Juno" and "Superbad" indeed have to share space with not only "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Transformers," but also "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." I haven't seen the latter, so I can't really say for sure, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't the best movie of 2007 by any conceivable standard. MTV does, however, have a lot of fun with this, and you have to at least respect that.

If you wanna show some love for "Superbad" or "Juno," you can vote for the nominees here through May 23. The show, rather unfortunately hosted by Mike Myers, will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. June 1.

And now, in closing, here's the trailer for "Redbelt," which I'm hoping will be a surprise box-office contender in its first week of wide release. Peace out.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Finally, the word on "Iron Man," and revving up for "Speed Racer"

My apologies for not getting to this before Jon Favreau's movie managed to take in $201 million worldwide, for the the 10th-best opening of all time, but as a volunteer for Barack Obama (something that as a newspaper employee I should probably just keep to myself, and mostly do) it was obviously a crucial and very busy weekend.

And, before I get into it, a brief bit of news about "Heroes" (remember shat show?) It is indeed, of course, coming back to NBC sometime this fall for a third volume, and Michael Ausiello of TV Guide reports that Brea Grant - who played Landry's rebound girl on "Friday Night Lights" - will be joining the cast as a speedster named Joy. I'm surely much too old to call a woman of her age "adorable," but Ms. Grant certainly is, and she should make a fun addition to "Heroes."

But back to "Iron Man," and finally for the record, like most of the world I mostly loved what Jon Favreau did with entrepreneur/genius-turned-reluctant-superhero Tony Stark. If there's one overall reason, I'd use a word no one really ever should in decent conversation - vibe. The whole thing, even at its most intense, feels like it's approaching the superhero genre with a big - although never condescending - wink.

At the outset, and perhaps with Jon Favreau's name on this it's too facile an analogy, it has a real "Swingers" feel about it as we're introduced to billionaire playboy Tony Stark, played of course by Robert Downey Jr. Being a far-too-white fan of the Wu Tang Clan, my favorite moment in this rather breezy intro was easily the Ghostface Killah track that's playing as Stark, James Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and the stewardesses/go-go dancers drink champagne on his plane. It would have been nice to see the "Iron Man"-obsessed rapper actually get a part in the movie (he apparently did, but it's on the cutting room floor), but a nice touch all the same.

And forgive me if this review is a bit episodic, but I'm just gonna assume just about anyone who bothers to read this has seen the movie by now (but not offer any major spoilers either just in case.) The flick stays on sure footing as we see Stark taken captive in Afghanistan with Yin Sen. The Afghani warlord and his soldiers are clearly evil, but never the kind of cartoony evil you might be fearing, just really bad dudes (and besides, never having been to Afghanistan, it is my understanding that there are indeed roving bands of armed dudes who do not-terribly-nice things, so I can't imagine too many people would be offended by their presence in what, after all, is a comic-book movie.)

And I have to say it was much more entertaining to watch Tony and Yin Sen (Shaun Toub, who does a lot with his little screen time) assemble and use the primitive Iron Man costume than it was as Tony fine-tuned it into a real fighting machine.

That was, in fact, the first point at which "Iron Man" started to lose me a little bit. Not being much of a gadget guy at all (no, I still don't have a cell phone), I took little joy in watching Tony manipulate those ridiculous computers, even if the robot was pretty funny. The only thing that keeps this middle segment from falling apart completely is Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, who's as charmingly loyal as she is simply stunning in that rather backless evening dress. She really does need to work more often.

It's the first payoff from all this high-tech tinkering around that delivered the best scene from "Iron Man" as he tests the suit out for the first time and exacts a bit of revenge. It worked both as a very funny poke at the military (which, this being a comic-book movie after all, seems to have Howard's Rhodes serving in every branch around the world) and the kind of gee-whiz levity I sorely needed as the clock hit about 11:45 p.m. (well past my usual bedtime on a school night.)

The final chapter, with its inevitable showdown, was easily the weakest of the three, but brief enough so as not to annoy too much in its anti-climacticness. Jeff Bridges does indeed make a very bad Obadiah Stane, even if it was rather obvious that when you shave The Dude's head he's gonna indeed be nothing but evil. The very ending, however, (which you won't hear about from me, as promised), is just the perfect cliffhanger, and left me, at least, definitely wanting more.

So, why no real mention of Robert Downey Jr.? Well, watching "Iron Man" it's clear that Favreau steered clear of most the baggage that Tony Stark carries, which would given Downey a lot more chance to shine. He's good here, but you get the definite feeling he's gonna be truly great when Tony Stark's shortcomings inevitably come to play in "Iron Man 2."

And overall, despite my previously mentioned quibbles, "Iron Man" was just the perfect way to kick off the summer, and after some initial reservations I'm now convinced that "Speed Racer" this week will also just be a treat. From the first three minutes, which you can watch below, and other clips I have seen it does indeed seem like the Wachowski's have managed to preserve much of the anime feel and keep this what it should be - a movie for kids of all ages. And yes, to make one more mention of "Friday Night Lights," I believe that is indeed "FNL" vet Scott Porter in the race car cockpit with young Speed. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Too tired for a full review, but Iron Man rules!

I had planned to get up early, after a 10:30 p.m. "Iron Man" screening last night, to sings the movie's praises, but I have found I am just too old to get by on four or five hours of sleep anymore.

So, a full review will come tomorrow morning, but for the most part, Iron Man is smart and funny enough to kick the summer off just right. It drags a bit as Tony Stark is assembling his suit of armor, but never enough to make me even slightly bored.

Perhaps most importantly of all, unlike Peter Parker, badass Tony Stark doesn't cry! See this one as fast as you can.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Summer starts early with "Iron Man" tonight!

If you don't care at all about "Iron Man," which opens tonight, than please accept my sincere apology; with my 10:30 tonight ticket in hand, it's all that's on my mind right now, so you'll just have to deal with it.

Besides, blockbuster summer starts today, so what else would there be to talk about? Well, The Coens just a bit later, but in a shameless plug for "Iron Man" (as if it needs it), here's why I'm sure it will just kick all kinds of ass:

Casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was the perfect move for starters, because the best superheroes always come the most flawed kinds of human beings. Call him an "anti-hero" if you have to, but he should just be fun to watch. Add to that Gwyneth Paltrow (remember her?) as his loyal assistant, Pepper Potts, Terrence Howard as fighter pilot Jim Rhodes and finally Jeff Bridges as industrialist-turned-really-evil-dude Obadiah Stane, and you've definitely got my attention (and my $8.)

Plus, as everyone probably sort of knows already, Iron Man isn't just some hero who cries a lot because he was bitten by a radioactive spider (man, did "Spider-Man 3" just suck). He made his suit of iron, with the help of fellow prisoner Yin Sen, after receiving a piece of shrapnel in his heart behind enemy lines. Maybe it's just me, but I'd much rather have a self-made badass than an accidental one any day.

And finally, because it simply has to. Let's face it, and I know I've said it here plenty of times before, but most of the movies so far this year have been pretty darn bad. Kicking off the summer is a big burden, but all reports have it so far that director Jon Favreau and his co-horts have delivered just the right kind of spectacle. Here's hoping I find out so - and that they play the new "Dark Knight" trailer too - tonight.

And now, in closing, here's a first look of sorts at the the Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading," one of the flicks I'm definitely jazzed for for the end of the year. The CIA comedy starring Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney and an apparently manic John Malkovich is set to kick off the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 27 before playing everywhere a bit later, and here, courtesy of, are four stills from the flick. Enjoy, and please feel free to check back tomorrow for my opinion about "Iron Man." Peace out.