Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lionsgate and Tyler Perry: A Match showered in moolah

Actually, before I get into any of that, just bizarre news came out this morning about something I guess you could say is close to both my cinematic and musical hearts, the upcoming biopic of Marylander Joan Jett and the Runaways.

First, "Twilight" and "Into the Wild" star Kristen Stewart was cast as Joan Jett. Fair enough. She was great in Sean Penn's flick, and I think she can pull it off. Now, however, comes word that none other than Dakota Fanning has been cast as Runaways lead singer Cheri Currie.

So, let's see. The poor girl is only 15, and so far on the big screen she's already been raped (in "Hounddog," which I'll never bother to see), played an alcoholic with special powers in "Push" and now is set to dive headfirst into hard drugs for this role. Fantastic trajectory you've made there for yourself, dear.

But I've been wrong at least once in my life (and probably more than once already this week), so here's hoping I am again and director Floria Sigismondi - against rather stiff odds - manages to come up with something entertaining when this begins filming later this spring.

Also out there today was the first mention in many a month of a movie I just can't wait to see, Rian Johnson's "The Brothers Bloom." The con man flick, starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi, was originally set to be released last fall but is now instead serving as the opening night feature for the AFI Dallas Film Festival on March 26 before hopefully opening wide enough to reach my little corner of the world in May. Bring it on already!

But here today it's supposed to be all about Tyler Perry, who as anyone who might have been here before knows I'm a big supporter of. "Madea Goes to Jail" was thoroughly enjoyable, and with two weeks on top of the box office, also a big winner for Lionsgate.

And now, unsurprisingly, the studio has continued its relationship with the Atlanta filmmaker - which began way back with his first feature film, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" - through at least two more films.

So, what will that mean for viewers? Well, in the short term, even though I thought he was retiring the character from at least the big screen, more Madea and, thankfully, more Taraji P. Henson too.

Coming next Sept. 11, the director's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" is based on one of his stage plays and, as best as I can tell, is about a young woman (to be played by Henson) who moves in with her grandma (Madea, of course) as she's seeking a divorce from her cheating husband. All kinds of drama surely ensues, including Madea's engagement to said cheating dog.

That all sounds great to me, but his next project might be the first one yet that I'll just skip. In a sequel to easily his worst movie, Perry's next flick (because he's just wired to do at least two every year) will be "Why Did I Get Married Too," to presumably again star divas Janet Jackson and Jill Scott.

Even if that one doesn't entertain, it will surely still make money, something Mr. Perry has been rather good at, both for himself and Lionsgate. Since their relationship began in 2005, Perry's pics have garnered a collective domestic gross of nearly $350 million and sold nearly 25 million DVDs. Lionsgate probably makes almost as much or more off his simply unwatchable (in my humble opinion) sitcoms, "House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns," which between them have already produced more than 200 syndicated episodes.

An amazing run, and as long as he keeps cranking out entertaining movies, I'll keep watching.

Roach's 'Dinner' table finally set

Having lost one very funny but fickle guest, director Jay Roach has replaced him with two just as funny guys to finally get started on "Dinner for Schmucks," a remake of the Froggy flick "Le Diner des Cons."

After Sacha Baron Cohen pulled out, Roach has now hired Steve Carell and the extremely funny Paul Rudd to star in the movie. In the French version, a smug publisher and his haughty friends invite pathetic people over for dinner to mock them, but finally get their comeuppance when one guest turns the tables. For that last role, my money would have be on Carell.

This one has sat on the shelf for a long time due some kind of studio debacle that is beyond my pay grade (zero) to explain, but it's finally set to begin shooting in October.

Egregious Alexis Bledel photo alert

I really have little interest in the flick "Post Grad," once called "The Post-Grad Survival Guide," which is set for release in August, but I still wanted to brighten everyone's day with this pic of adorable "Gilmore Girl" Alexis Bledel, who will play the lead role. Just in case you have more interest in this than I do, it will - as the title make pretty clear - be about one woman's drive to find a life (and, one would have to assume, romance) after finishing college, and it's set to co-star Zach Gilford (a k a former QB1 Matty Saracen on "Friday Night Lights"), Rodrigo Santoro, Jane Lynch, Carol Burnett and Michael Keaton.OK, enough about that.

Huzzah,"The Office" finally opens again tonight!

It seems like forever since there have been new episodes of "The Office," but the wait finally ends tonight, and the even better news is that the next four weeks all feature original episodes.

Here's what's coming up:

Tonight:"Blood Drive
It’s Valentine’s Day at the office. Michael (Carell) meets a mysterious woman at a Valentine’s blood drive. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) pair up with single women at the office “Lonely Hearts Party.” Meanwhile Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) are banished from the office for being too publicly affectionate, and have an awkward lunch with Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) and Bob (Robert Ray Shafer).

Next week: "Golden Ticket"
Michael causes a huge problem in the office when he comes up with the idea to put “golden tickets” into packages of paper for clients to redeem for discounts. Andy (Ed Helms), Jim and Pam give Kevin differing advice on wooing a woman.

March 19: “New Boss”
Michael has big plans for his 15th anniversary party at Dunder Mifflin, but is in for a shock when the new, no-nonsense vice president ("The Wire" vet Idris Elba - awesome) has some ideas of his own. Meanwhile, Jim’s prank on Dwight has some unexpected results.

March 26: “Two Weeks”
Michael’s relationship with the new vice president becomes increasingly tense, as Michael finds an excuse to goof off even more than usual. Meanwhile, Pam faces the challenge of a new copier and Kelly develops a crush.

And, just to get you back in the mood, here's a deleted scene from the last new episode, in which Angela explains how she's filling the void left by the end of her "relationships." Enjoy.



R.I.P. Horton Foote

This has already gone on longer than I intended today, but I really couldn't quit without paying respect to the great Horton Foote, who died Wednesday at age 92.

Among his many accomplishments, my favorite would have to be writing the screenplay for Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," still to this day my single favorite movie, if I'm pressed to name one.

There may be others, but he's also the only person I know of to win this awards trifecta, two Oscars, a Pulitzer and an Emmy. He won the Oscars for, of course, "To Kill a Mockingbird" and his script for "Tender Mercies." The Pulitzer came for "The Young Man From Atlanta"in 1993 and the Emmy for his adapatation of Faulkner's "Old Man" in 1997.

And, though it's unlikely, a posthumous Tony may even be in his future too, since a retooled version of his 1989 play "Dividing the Estate" appeared on Broadway earlier this season,

Rest in peace, Mr. Foote.

And finally, of course, "Watchmen"

Zack Snyder's take on the famous graphic novel has already broken a record even before it hits theaters, garnering the widest run - 3,611 "playdates" (I'm not sure if that means screens, theaters or what) ever for a R-rated flick. And just to build the hype a little higher (though my inner hype meter has really reached the max already), here's Snyder, Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) giving a rather profane introduction to the clip of the assassination attempt on Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode). Even though it seems like I've seen tons of clips from the flick, I'm sure there's a lot more to be revealed, and I just can't to see it (in IMAX!) Saturday afternoon. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

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