Friday, May 28, 2010

James McAvoy joins cast of superhero flick I'm not too old to get geeked up for

So, kids (or at least males a fair bit younger than me), looking for a way to kill your summer vacation? Why not try out for Paramount's remake of "Footloose"? After all, since once-great director Craig Brewer (director of one of my favorite movies with "Hustle & Flow" but also of the cinematic abortion "Black Snake Moan") has nothing better to do this summer than direct this, why not get in on the fun? Here are the actual details:

Seeking males 18 or older to play high school seniorS in FOOTLOOSE, shooting Summer 2010. MUST HAVE NATURAL RHYTHM AND BE COMFORTABLE DANCING. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A TRAINED DANCER BUT A QUICK LEARNER.
THE SETTING: The South, Present Day
Click here

Nothing like a call for white dudes (or mostly, at least, I'd have to imagine) with "natural rhythm." Sheesh.

And just as I'm too old to try out for the new "Footloose," I'm at least somewhat too old to get excited about every bit of superhero news that comes down the pike. I really couldn't care less who will be playing Captain America, though since I do spend a fair amount of time reading about movies, I'm fairly certain it's Chris Evans.

I will never, however, be too antiquated to get geeked up about genuinely good superhero flicks, which Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class" certainly seems to be shaping up to be. Anyone who saw Vaughn's "Kick-Ass" (which given how great it is really is a criminally few people) knows that he has the style to direct a first-class comic book flick, and with this first nugget of casting news (that I know of at least) things are moving in the definite right direction.

James McAvoy has, according to the Hollywood Reporter, just signed on to play the young Charles Xavier, aka Professor X. The movie (another damned prequel, but I guess we just have to deal with it) will explore the early friendship of Professor X and Magneto, and how it eventually morphed into enmity, so the casting of the other role will be key. Fox is moving this along very quickly now, with shooting planned to start this summer, so expect that word to come any day now.

And for a weekend rental suggestion, you could do a whole lot worse than the last thing I saw McAvoy in, "The Last Station." Though about the heady subject of the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life, McAvoy and much more so Dame Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer just make it a thoroughly funny romp before it gets serious, but still always fun to watch. Highly recommended.

As for what I'll be watching on TV this weekend, one thing will certainly be Peter Morgan's "The Special Relationship," making its HBO debut Saturday night at 9 p.m. If that name sounds familiar, he was the screenwriter for "The Queen" starring Dame Mirren, and also for the simply sensational soccer movie "The Damned United" (actually, if you only rent one movie this weekend, make it that one, to stoke the World Cup Fever!)

What those movies have in common is the great Michael Sheen, who has quickly developed into one of my favorite actors. "The Special Relationship" examines the relationship between Sheen's Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, played here by Dennis Quaid. This is actually the third installment in the Tony Blair trilogy that started with "The Queen." The second, "The Deal," which examines how Blair pushed out Gordon Brown (briefly my former boss) to first become prime minister, is actually better than "The Queen," so here's hoping the arc just keeps getting better.

Though W. apparently plays no visible role in "The Special Relationship," in spotlighting how the U.S. and Britain got involved in Yugoslavia, The Hollywood Reporter says this flick, directed by Richard Loncraine, will say a lot about how and why both countries later jumped back into Iraq. I'm there.

And finally, because I'm just a sucker for Aziz Ansari and will hopefully never be too old to plug something as silly as the MTV Movie Awards, airing June 6 with Ansari as the host, I'll close with the latest promo. Interestingly enough, though I can't imagine "The Hurt Locker" will actually win any big MTV awards, this is the second promo spoofing Kathyrn Bigelow's flick, this time with its star Jeremy Renner and some kid named Justin Bieber (and being a geezer, I have the right to misspell his name, if I indeed did.) Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Greg Mottola movie of "Dog of the South"? Bring it on

Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" is one of those movies that just gets better and better with age. I've seen it three times now, and though the ending seems ridiculously tacked on, it's still just a thoroughly entertaining snapshot of a time we've all been through at some point (though most likely not with Kristen Stewart to pitch woo at.)

He's in "post-production" now on something called "Paul" which, once it comes out, should just be a hoot. It stars British comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" as two geeks who end up picking up an alien voiced by Seth Rogen (naturally) while on a cross-country trip to Comic-Con. I still have no idea when this will be released, but hopefully by the fall, and you can count me as thoroughly amped for it.

Mottola has developed into one of my favorite directors (he also made a little movie called "Superbad"), and he's now eyeing as a future project the Charles Portis novel "Dog of the South," for Bill Hader to star in. If you've ever read the novel, you should know just how funny this could be.

Portis' most famous novel, "True Grit," is getting the remake treatment (though in their hands, I'd really hesitate to use such a dirty word) from the Coen brothers this year, coming as a Christmas day gift and starring Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and the Dude. "Dog of the South," while certainly a lesser Portis work, is still worth reading if you like dry Southern comedy.

As a movie, it should be a great fit for Bill Hader. Simply put, it's about a guy who tracks his ex-wife and her lover through their credit card receipts, mostly so he can get his hands on the car she took with her. It's a lot better than I'm making it sound here, and well worth checking out. Here's hoping the movie comes together fairly quickly.

And speaking of "Adventureland," its star, Jesse Eisenberg, has just signed on to the followup by "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer, and it's quickly assembling a great comedy cast.

In the flick "30 Minutes or Less," shooting this summer, veryfunnyguy Aziz Ansari plays a junior high history teacher who is forced to join forces with a pizza delivery guy played by Eisenberg to rob a bank when one of them is strapped to a bomb vest. Throw in Danny McBride and Michael Pena as some of the baddies in this scheme, and you've got me pretty much hooked.

All I've got after that today is a clip from what has to be the one movie I'm most looking forward to seeing this year, assuming it eventually makes it down here somewhere even close to my little corner of the world, Jean Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs." So far, I know it's playing in New York and L.A. this week, with four more cities promised next week, and only "coming to a theater near you" after that. Here's hoping that's true, because this one really does look like it's thoroughly infused with the Jeunet spirit. Enjoy this clip he introduces for HitFix (and swiped by me for you enjoyment), and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Jackie Brown" prequel in the works, but so far at least, without QT


In a word, the "Chuck" finale: Awesome. But no Buy More? Sheesh.

And I know I'm probably almost completely alone here, but "Jackie Brown" has always (or at least since it was made, of course) been my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie.

Better than "Pulp Fiction"? Better than "Inglourious Basterds," which I rank as my favorite movie of all of 2009? Yep. There's just something about the writing, the pacing and the characters that make it great, and a movie that I go back and watch on DVD about once a year or so (but it's not the best Elmore Leonard work on the big screen, an honor that will always go to "Out of Sight" in my book.)

So, a prequel focusing on the origin of the relationship of Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, played in "Jackie Brown" by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro, would be great news, right? Well, perhaps, but not so fast.

First of all, so far at least, QT has nothing to do with this. The project is an adaptation of the Leonard novel "The Switch," and the screenplay's been written by someone named Daniel Schechter, whose directorial debut, "Goodbye Baby," made the film festival circuit, and produced by Michael Siegel, who, with both "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Be Cool" on his rap sheet, isn't exactly a clean character.

The movie, as is the book it's based on, would be called "The Switch," and Elmore Leonard has signed on as an executive producer, though as yet there's no director or studio attached to this. In the novel, Robbie and Gara meet in prison, and once out, they join forces for one big score that finds them kidnapping the wife of a wealthy Detroit developer. When the husband refuses to pay the ransom for his wife's return, Ordell and Louis are forced to reconceive their plan, and the angry housewife uses the ex-cons to get her revenge.

A Leonard movie set in Detroit, like much of "Out of Sight"? I'm in. So as they seek to recast the younger Robbie and Gara, why not Don Cheadle, who was so great as Snoopy Miller in Steven Soderbergh's flick? As for the young Louis, who knows? As much as I hated "Iron Man 2," I'd still certainly put in a vote for Sam Rockwell.

But who knows if any of this will ever even happen. In the meantime, an ounce of research on my part turned up a bit about "Goodbye Baby," and it indeed doesn't sound half bad. I thought about embedding the trailer from YouTube, but it just has the most obnoxious voice over on it that ruins the whole thing. Instead, I'd recommend visiting the official site and watching the much more enjoyable version there.

Best as I can tell, it centers on a young woman (Christine Evangelista) who wants to make it as a standup comic in NYC, and with co-stars like Kevin Corrigan, Alan Ruck, Jerry Adler and the great Donnell Rawlings from "Chappelle's Show," it has as many funny people in it as Judd Apatow's disappointing movie of the same name.

Anyways, it coincidentally enough is set to come out on DVD next Tuesday, June 1 (at least according to Amazon), and I at least will be renting it from the Netflix. And with that I have to get ready for work. Peace out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's that I smell? I think it's this summer's movies

I really can't blame anybody but myself.

I haven't watched "Saturday Night Live" for more than 20 minutes or so in more than five years, and really haven't even liked a "SNL" movie since "Wayne's World." But I like going to the movies, I really like Kristen Wiig and I'm not afraid to admit that I thought Jorma Taccone's first movie, "Hot Rod" starring Andy Samberg of "SNL," was a hoot, thanks in large part to Ian McShane but also just because it was simply a big ball of goofy fun.

"MacGruber," however, doesn't come close to that spirit. It starts off thoroughly dumb and just keeps getting dumber, almost never adding a bit of funny. And just in case you're wondering, I am a big fan of dumb comedy done well. When I got home Saturday, I watched Broken Lizard's "Slammin' Salmon," and while that's far from a masterpiece by any standard, it was very funny, as the Broken Lizard guys usually are.

"MacGruber," though, is so bad that it isn't even worth any more words from me, so let's just say it's f$#%ing awful and move on. And though I didn't bother to even see the latest "Shrek," I'm really starting to notice a distinct odor to this summer's wide-release movies because, so far at least, they all kinda stink.

Think about it. The last great movie I saw in a moviehouse was "Kick-Ass." Since then, "Iron Man 2" was at best a paint-by-numbers pale imitation of the original, "Robin Hood" was as empty as it was thoroughly unnecessary, and "MacGruber," well ...

So, will there be anything worth watching before Christopher Nolan's summer-saving "Inception"? I'm looking to June 4 for a double-header of at least slight winners with "Get Him to the Greek" and "Splice." The latter has been getting enough TV exposure that I have to hope it's gonna play everywhere and be at least some kind of smart sci-fi rather than simply a creature feature with a twist. Here's five clips from that flick, starring Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody. Enjoy, and have perfectly pleasant Sunday. Peace out.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yep, I've got the World Cup fever

Sure, this little movie of sorts is really just a commercial for Nike, but aside from that annoyance, it's also a 3-minute bit of fun directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

The Wayne Rooney bit, while only at most slightly exaggerated, is very funny, and stick around to the end for an even better appearance from Gael Garcia Bernal (which has him in more soccer action than the disappointing "Rudo y Cursi" ever did.) Enjoy, and of course tune in for 2010 World Cup beginning June 11 with hosts South Africa v. Mexico (go Bafana Bafana!) and then the following day at 2:30 p.m. for U.S.A.-England. Viva futbol!

Friday, May 21, 2010

These damned dirty prequels!

I think in many ways prequel might be an even slimier word than sequel, and if you look around, there's a mounting amount of evidence to back me up on that.

Case No. 1: Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood." I haven't bothered to comment on the flick until now because, well, I don't get paid to do this and it just made so little of an impression on me that I decided to just let it pass.

But the addition of time has done very little to remove the fairly foul taste it left in my brain. And be warned, if you haven't seen the movie and plan to, I probably wouldn't read any further today, or at least skip forward about four paragraphs or so until the news about James Franco that spurred this rant.

Now, Scott's movie certainly looks good enough. The action is close to first rate, and thankfully it was in good, old-fashioned 2-D. Watching Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett flirt for 90 minutes or so would have been mildly diverting enough for 90 minutes or so, but of course, Scott's movie went for a rather thoroughly unnecessary 2 hours and 20 minutes.

And it's not until near the end of all this that you realize just how much of a con it really is. If you've seen the trailer, you've certainly seen Oscar Isaac as King John unleash the cry of "Outlaw!" In any sort of real action flick that's designed to at least entertain, that would be the sign of at least some kind of conflict to come, right?

Well, not in Scott's flick, unfortunately. It doesn't come until there's about five minutes left in this mess, and all you get after that is a final shot of Russell Crowe finally as Robin Hood. And that's when it finally hits, or at least did me, just why this movie - and prequels in general- are just such empty vessels.

Which brings us to the news of the day about James Franco, an actor I've always quite liked ever since his "Freaks and Geeks" days. Because "prequel" is now the new "sequel" in Hollywood's latest attempt to cover up the fact that it has virtually no new ideas left, he's set to star in "Rise of the Apes," which, as you've probably guessed by now, is indeed a "prequel" to "Planet of the Apes" (because Lord knows Tim Burton's abortion of a remake wasn't enough, right?)

In the flick scheduled to start filming July 5 for its planned June 24, 2011, release, he'll play a scientist who is pivotal in the war between the humans and the apes. If I have this right, and frankly I'm not sure how much I care if I do or not, the scientist is working on a project to search for a cure for Alzheimer's in which testing is done on apes. Feeling bad for one of our simian friends, Franco's scientist apparently rescues one of them and takes him home. How in the world this comes to the toppling of the Statue of Liberty is anyone's guess.

In much better news, along with apparently returning to "General Hospital," it's also just been announced that Franco will star in a Jeff Bushell-penned comedy called "Ricky Stanicky" which actually sounds like it could really bring the funny. The movie centers on three male friends who for decades have used their titular imaginary friend to explain their way out of assorted tight spots. When their wives finally catch on and demand they produce this character, they hire an actor to play him, hence Franco.

Anyone who's seen "Pineapple Express" (and if you haven't, why the heck not?) or of course "Freaks and Geeks" knows Franco has the comedy chops, so here's hoping that will be a lot better than him messing with any damned dirty apes.

OK, what better way to close things out than with Helen Mirren saying "I've got 25 psychotic whores to manage"? Until seeing this trailer, I really wasn't convinced that "Love Ranch," directed by her hubby, Taylor Hackford, would deliver anything worth watching, but I've been wrong at least once before, so why not today? Co-starring Joe Pesci and some young buck for her to cougar around with, it indeed looks like this flick about the onset of legal prostitution in Nevada will be a lot of fun when it drops in June in at least some kind limited run. Enjoy the trailer, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yes, it looks like there really will be a new Muppets movie

There will surely be more important movies in the next two years or so, and almost certainly better ones too, but I just can't help but getting excited beyond all reason at the idea of a new Muppets movie, and after a couple of years of it being an iffy idea, it finally looks like things are solidly moving forward.

In an interview with Collider.com, for which I was briefly a contributor, "Get Him to the Greek" writer/director Nicholas Stoller talked about what's up with the Muppets movie he and professional partner Jason Segel have written (and some other things I really couldn't possibly care less about), and for the first time he offered some solid evidence that it's really gonna happen. Here's a taste.

The Muppets, Jason [Segel] and I have been working on for a while and James Bobin is attached to direct it and they actually had a table read on Saturday with all the puppets and that’s going to shoot in September. Just really excited about that. It’s kind of a dream-come-true for all three of us so that’s thrilling.

So, what will the movie be about? Well, all signs are the flick, called "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made" will be a genuinely old-fashioned Muppets affair, with all our old friends getting together to perform a show to save a theater from a now-timely foe, an oil company. This will lead, Stoller promised, to all kinds of crazy cameos a la the old TV show and movies. Here's more from Collider:

It’s one of the original movies like The Muppet Movie, Muppets Take Manhattan, The Great Muppet Caper. Those kinds of movies. So that was really important that we hit that tone and those have a lot of cameos in them and so Jason and I started asking people and everyone we asked just wants to do it. Like everyone is either, “I grew up with it,” or “I loved it,” or loved them now.

OK, I'm sold. Stoller said the shoot should take no more than eight weeks, working around Segel's "How I Met Your Mother" schedule, since he gets to be the main human star of this thing. And as for "Get Him to the Greek," I've read a few geek reviews by now that describe it as so completely debauch that it will be exactly the kind of R-rated movie I enjoy in the middle of summer, and I thought (except for that puppet show at the end) Russell Brand's Aldous Snow was easily the funniest thing about "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," so bring it on.

OK, after that, all I have is a couple of nuggets about much more high-minded projects. With "Frozen River," writer/director Courtney Hunt delivered easily one of my favorite movies of 2008 and just an astonishing debut flick, so any news of her return is welcome around here.

This morning, via the Playlist, comes word that she's found her next project in a remake of the Froggy Laurent Cantet flick "Ressources Humaines," which I have not seen (but will soon, assuming I can find it.) And while I'd normally sneer at the need to remake European movies for American audiences, I think this could be a welcome exception to the norm (and by the way, if you haven't seen Cantet's "The Class," rent it immediately.)

Cantet's flick centers on a young man who returns to his hometown to manage a local factory, only to find out he's being brought in to be the hatchet man. Hunt's movie will keep the same structure but move the action to America, where this story will certainly resonate now.

Rent "Frozen River" right away if you haven't seen it both for a remarkable performance from Melissa Leo, who's currently starring on David Simon's sublime HBO ensemble New Orleans series "Treme," and just because it's just a thoroughly entertaining little flick about immigration in America.

I'll close today with a couple of videos. It's been quite a while (well, since 2006, to be exact) since Alejandro González Iñárritu directed a movie, and though I know plenty of people who hate on his "Babel," I really enjoyed it. And besides, it brought Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi to the world, and what in the world could be wrong with that?

Well, he's back this year at Cannes with "Biutiful," which stars Javier Bardem. Best as I can tell, the movie, which is still in need of a distributor, if you have some scratch burning a hole in your pocket, is about a policeman who runs into a childhood friend who is now involved in drug dealing. Bardem, I think, plays the policeman, and this will hopefully find its way at least kinda near my little corner of the world sometime this year, because you can bet I'll drive a little ways up the road to see it.

Here's a very short production video, again courtesy of the Playlist, to give you just a small taste of what Inarritu has cooking. Enjoy.



And finally, in bad TV news, tonight marks not only the season finales of NBC's Thursday night comedies, but also the last time we'll be able to see them all together (hey, don't kill the messenger.) The real bad news about next season is that "Parks and Recreation," which has developed this year into my favorite of the four, won't be returning until midseason, presumably to accommodate Amy Poehler's new baby. "30 Rock" will also be moving to Friday at 8:30 (I'll watch it at any time, but what the f#@$?) to make room for a hopefully funny new entry, "Outsourced."

Anyways, I'll leave you today with a promo for tonight's "Community" finale, in which Troy finally brings the truth about "jumping the shark." Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why isn't Ellen Page a big star already?

I've often wondered (yes, really, I find it much more fun than thinking about my actual job) why more people don't give Ellen Page starring roles.

Sure, Drew Barrymore gave her the lead in "Whip It," but, especially given the subject matter, that was much more tame and less funny than it could have been. And she has a pretty big role in Christopher Nolan's new flick, "Inception" (which I'll be geeking out for at the midnight show), but that one will of course be all about Leo.

But I just assumed (and hoped) that after "Juno," young Ellen Page would become a big star in something besides TV commercials, because she certainly deserves it. Well, now comes word from Cannes that she has indeed signed on for a new leading role, though not in anything that should bring her anywhere near the multiplexes in my little corner of the world.

Endgame has signed her to star in a dramatic feature based on Cynthia Wade's short documentary "Freeheld," which certainly has a timely topic for our times. Page will play a New Jersey car mechanic whose police detective girlfriend is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The documentary was and feature will be about their battle to secure her partner's pension benefits, which, rather amazingly, is apparently still an issue.

Not exactly the most uplifting of subjects, but hopefully in the hands of screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, who won an Oscar for "Philadelphia," some properly powerful stuff.

Except for that, I really don't have much today before "True Blood" except that the CW has somehow renewed a show that I thought only me and about six other people watched (though that may indeed be a high enough number for renewal there.) I'm not sure if it will be in the fall with a full 22-0r-so season or in Winter again for 13 more episodes.

Either way, I really like the show about a 16-year-old (Britt Robertson) who, after growing up in a series of foster homes, reunites with and is taken in by the parents who abandoned her (Shiri Appleby and Kristoffer Polaha) shortly after she was conceived during a one-night stand in high school. Surprisingly, it's often as serious as the subject matter would call for, but also very funny and overall an odd fit in the CW lineup. I'll certainly be tuning in for as many episodes as they bother to make from here on out.

OK, enough of anything serious, because "True Blood" returns to HBO for season three beginning June 13, and as you can see from the first full trailer below, the series will continue to take all kinds of liberties from the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. In season three, among the colorful characters coming are Alcide (Joe Manganiello), a werewolf charged with protecting Sookie (Anna Paquin) as she searches for the missing Bill (Stephen Moyer); the mysterious (as opposed to mundane, I suppose) vampire Franklin Mott (James Frain), who latches on to Tara (Rutina Wesley); and Denis O'Hare as Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi.

All those characters make at least brief appearances in the novels, all of which, yes, I've read, but much of the fun (almost none of it, thankfully, high-minded) of the show comes in seeing in how their roles are greatly expanded. I'm thoroughly enjoying "Treme," but "True Blood" and that David Simon New Orleans show back to back? The South is indeed rising again. Enjoy the full "True Blood" trailer, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Remember Cameron Crowe? He's officially back

Actually, easily the best news out there this morning is that "In the Loop" director Armando Iannucci is coming back with a new film, and it couldn't be much more different at all from that extremely hard-hitting and satisfying satire.

His next flick, "Out the Window," is an adaptation of Claire Tomalin's biography "The Invisible Woman," which recounts Charles Dickens' affair with actress Nelly Ternan.

Like I said, couldn't be much further removed from "In the Loop," but that flick is so amazingly good that I'll follow Iannucci just about anywhere. And if you haven't seen "In the Loop," rent it immediately, and be prepared to marvel at the sheer wonder that is Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker.

But before I got briefly sidetracked by that, this was supposed to be all about Cameron Crowe, who has indeed now officially signed on to direct his first flick since 2005's "Elizabethtown," which really needs to be erased from my memory right away. Man, was it awful.

His luck will hopefully be a lot better with "We Bought a Zoo," which certainly at least gives him an intriguing story to work with. The memoir by Benjamin Mee is about how he and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside, complete with 200 exotic animals.

Sounds great to me. Crowe is currently reworking the script, and it's already received a release date of Dec. 23, 2011, but of course all that could change.

Like I said, "Elizabethtown" is an almost complete abomination, but Crowe has delivered plenty of winners in his career, and I'm sure he has another one in him. If I had to list my 10 favorite movies of the last 10 (or maybe 11) years or so, "Almost Famous" would make the list every time, and "Say Anything" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" are just cinematic comfort food that I keep going back to again and again. Here's hoping this trip to the "Zoo" will help him regain some mojo.

And in other news about one of my favorite directors who's sorely in need of a winner, it seems that Terry Gilliam may have finally found someone foolhardy enough to step into the role once inhabited by Johnny Depp in his "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote."

Gilliam's first attempt to make this movie several years ago was an utter failure, even though it was turned into a bewilderingly entertaining one in the documentary "Lost in La Mancha." The odds that he'll be able to do any better this time have to be at least slightly improved by the news (from Gilliam himself, at least) that Ewan McGregor is now on board, and hopefully bringing some better luck with him.

Assuming the script hasn't changed too much, McGregor will play an advertising executive who travel back to 17th century Spain, where he meets Don Quixote and becomes involved in adventures with him. It has already been announced that Robert Duvall will play Quixote (take a few seconds to digest that), stepping in for the great Froggy actor Jean Rochefort (if I can digress for one second, for a fantastic film starring Rochefort, rent Patrice Leconte's "Man on the Train."

I hoodwinked mi hermano into going with me to watch Gilliam's last flick, "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," in NYC, and while it wasn't awful, it did pretty much go completely off the rails after Heath Ledger died, but that unfortunately didn't stop Gilliam from letting it just go out of any control or reason to exist for the last 45 minutes or so. "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," however, has clearly been a passion project for him for a long time now, so here's hoping it turns into something worth watching.

And all I have except for that today is the first full trailer I know of for something I'm clearly too old to be watching, but when you make Emma Stone the star of your movie, there's almost an ironclad guarantee I'm gonna watch it. She's just easily one of the best comediennes working in movies today, and even if "Easy A," a teeny update of "The Scarlet Letter" due out in September, is extremely silly, as you'll see below, it also at least has Patricia Clarkson saying "because I slept with a whole bunch of people ... mostly boys," so it's at least got to be mildly entertaining. Enjoy, be sure to watch the Joss Whedon-directed episode of "Glee" with Neil Patrick Harris tonight, and have a perfectly acceptable Tuesday. Peace out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Napoleon Dynamite" the animated series? Yes, really

I would assume this were just a crazy rumor if it weren't apparently so far along, and with so many of the original players involved that I just have to assume it's true.

FishbowlLA is reporting that Fox is developing an animated TV series based on the 2004 movie "Napoleon Dynamite," with filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess closely involved. Take that in for a sec before I tell you that Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell and Jon Gries are all on board too, because, could you really do this without Uncle Rico?

Actually, I'd imagine all those guys were more than eager to answer the phone when it rang this time. Though I loved him as "Napoleon Dynamite," the only thing since that I could even stand Jon Heder in was "Monster House," and what that shares with this new project is that at least we won't have to look at him.

All the snark aside, though I have yet to see "Gentlemen Broncos" (but am checking on the availability of it now at the Netflix), I've enjoyed all of Jared Hess' other movies (yes, even "Nacho Libre"), so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the further animated adventures of Napoleon Dynamite will produce something funny.

This is in the pilot phase now, so with Fox set to announce its pickups any day now, definitely stay tuned.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Joss Whedon's a Gleek, and I am too

Actually, before we get into any of that and another video that caught my eye this morning, I'm starting to worry that at my advancing age I have somehow developed super powers and can predict the future.

About a week ago, when it was first announced that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be reteaming with director Rian Johnson for the sci-fi flick "Looper," I said the plot - roughly about hit men who are sent their victims from crime organizations in the future - sounds rather unfortunately like something Bruce Willis would star in for about one week or so in a February.

Well, either I have a lot more power than I thought (which was, of course, none at all), or by some other cosmic force out of my hands, Willis has indeed now just signed on for the movie, and he and Gordon-Levitt will be playing the same character at different time periods.

That alone already makes this sound a little better, and since rewatching "The Brothers Bloom" last week has me convinced it's a minor masterpiece, I'm certainly willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt as this comes together.

And just in case you think I really can see the future, go ahead and place a bet on Calvin Borel and Super Saver to win the best jewel in the Triple Crown today.

OK, enough of that. Before I got distracted, this was supposed to be all about "Glee," which, in case you hadn't heard, is being directed Tuesday night by Joss Whedon, with a guest appearance by Neil Patrick Harris. If, hearing all that, you somehow still don't plan to tune in, just move on today, because this clearly just isn't for you.

But, with "Glee," it almost always is for me. I've heard the complaints from some of my co-workers that the show is just too cheesy, and that the extremely poorly lip-synced songs are just annoying. I get all that, and it's not that I ignore it or don't care, it's that all that adds into what makes "Glee" so deliriously entertaining to watch.

It is indeed a big ball of cheese, and it very often wears its heart right on its sleeve and defies you to not latch on to it. But so what? Along with that, there's consistently a wicked streak of black humor to it all, and when you mix it all, it's like nothing else on TV, and just the perfect guilty pleasure (though I really don't feel guilty about liking it one bit.)

And, as Whedon points out in this promo video, the kids all just throw so much energy into it that it's impossible not to give in to it. Like him, I think Heather Morris' Brittany is my favorite character, and still the funniest line so far (with all apologies to Jane Lynch's zinger-flinging Sue Sylvester) has to be her gem "Did you know a dolphin is just a gay shark?" I'm probably getting that slightly wrong, but even so, it's just funny.

But enough words from me. Enjoy the video, stick around for a bit from Aziz Ansari, and if you like Joss Whedon and NPH, by all means watch Tuesday night's "Glee," even if it will be for the first time.



OK, I should probably find better things to do with my time than be a shill for MTV, but as long these MTV Movie Awards promos keep being funny, I'm gonna keep sharing them. And besides, since the water-skiing squirrel was at the Georgia State Fair here in Macon, of course he's an international superstar. Enjoy the clip also featuring Sarah Silverman (who unfortunately just had her Comedy Central show canceled) and somehow Zac Efron too. Peace out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chuck vs. a fourth season: We all win

OK, I've seen it from enough sources now, but first at the Hollywood Reporter, that "Chuck" will in fact be back for a fourth season that I'm just gonna accept it as the truth and smile about it.

Details are still sketchy, but it looks like a fourth season will have 13 episodes, and that sounds about right to me. No word yet on when exactly we might see this, but I'd imagine next January would make sense.

The official word won't come until Monday morning, I think, when NBC unveils its upfront, but like I said, take this at least as a done deal. And now that NBC and the fans have shown "Chuck" the love, like I've said here once before, it's time for the show's creators to give us something in return: An epicly good, over-the-top big bad for season four.

Though the show has been as funny as ever this year, with only 13 episodes coming in the next season (and precious few left this year!), the opportunity is certainly there for some focus when it comes to the storytelling and a proper villain for Team Bartowski to set its sights on. Is that really too much to ask?

But enough quibbling on what is, after all, a great day. In the bigger picture, I think I can perhaps take my extremely tiny bit of credit now that my strategy of not watching one single network reality show since the first season of "The Real World" has finally paid off.

The big four are still gearing up, but what I've seen so far is a lot of scripted series ("Wilde Kingdom" from "Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz at Fox, Michael Chiklis in ABC's superhero show "No Ordinary Family" and NO ROCKFORD FILES at NBC) and not much reality TV at all. I'm probably dreaming here, but if that cancer is indeed finally starting to go into remission, it's a banner day for us all.

And in just a bit of movie news, there are a couple of tidbits out there today that are truly delightful for fans of animation and good comedy.

"Kung Fu Panda" was already my favorite animated movie of 2008 (yes, better than "Wall-E"), and now the 2011 sequel "Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom" is getting some script touching up from ... Charlie Kaufman?

Yes, really. He's apparently put about two weeks into reworking the script, probably not enough to turn it into "Being Kung Fu Panda," but hopefully still enough to make it at least a bit of a trip.

And after directing the severely underrated "Role Models" (rent that already and be ready to laugh) and originating with "The State," Ken Wain is now reuniting with Paul Rudd and even bringing Jennifer Aniston along too for his next comedy, "Wanderlust."

In a story that sounds a heck of a lot like "Lost in America," the duo will play a married couple who flee the big city for life on a hippie commune, or something like that. Rudd is always money when it comes to funny, and I can certainly take Jennifer Aniston when she picks smart comedies, and this one written by Wain and fellow "The State" vet Ken Marino (the duo behind "Role Models") certainly should be. Stay tuned ...

And with that, I'll cut it short today, because I've started to at least slightly take on the clutter in my living room by offering some of my books for sale at Amazon. I've sold three since Wednesday, but that of course means I know have to actually send them out. I'll leave you with this prediction: "Iron Man 2" will win the box office this week, and by a pretty wide margin over "Robin Hood." Just a hunch. Have a perfectly great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Will there be any truly great movies this summer?

You know, I really do try to keep things positive around here, but given both the almost complete failure of "Iron Man 2" (well, not financially, of course) and the relative dearth of truly good movies that have preceded it this year, I think it's a fair question to ask: Will there be any great - or at least really good - movies in wide release this summer?

Well, just to prove I'm not a complete cynic, there are at least two that will indeed play everywhere that will surely fit that bill, and I threw in a third that I will certainly make the trip to see when it opens soon in Atlanta. There are, in fact, well more than 10 movies that I want to see between now and the end of August. I'm not usually much of a numbers guy, but I've rated them from 1 to 10 on a scale of just how likely they are to escape from my local multiplex without sucking. If there are any worthy entries that I have just snubbed, please feel free to let me know. Enjoy!

Friday: Robin Hood
The reviews for Ridley Scott's epic prequel (and at 2 hours and 20 minutes, epic I guess it better be) are just the definition of a mixed bag. Roger Moore, not James Bond but a movie critic I always trust, gave it three stars, but most of the geeks I've seen call it a failure. That has me slightly expecting the latter, but at least they decided not to convert it to 3D, and that's enough to make me take a chance on it this Saturday afternoon. Chances of not sucking: 6/10.

May 28: Micmacs
Jean Pierre Jeunet's latest movie is indeed the only one on this list you won't be able to see everywhere in America, but here's hoping that when it finally does get a nonfestival, U.S. release that will mean it comes to Atlanta for at least a week. The flick about a ragtag band of misfits who take on an arms manufacturer looks like it's almost completely suffused with that whimsically fun Jeunet spirit. Judge for yourself with the trailer below. Chances of not sucking: 9.5/10



June 4: Get Him to the Greek
I know there are plenty of people who find him to be thoroughly annoying, but I find Russell Brand's shtick to be very funny, and at least here he's not appearing in a thoroughly unnecessary remake of "Arthur" (yes, really, but at least Helen Mirren will be in it - in the Sir John Gielgud role). Here he continues his Aldous Snow role from the rather average "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and Jonah Hill is the poor sap who has to babysit him. Chances of not sucking : 7/10 (though I'm probably being at least a bit generous there.)

June 4: Splice
It's entirely possible that I'm just being duped here, but I have a real hunger for intelligent sci-fi, and all signs so far point to this being a bit of that. Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody star in this Vincenzo Natali flick about two scientists who mess around with human DNA and come up with something, well, not entirely pleasant. Odds of not sucking 7.5/10

June 18: Toy Story 3
I may be the only person who thinks this, but Pixar has kinda been on a losing streak of late. Now, keep in mind, I mean that only in comparison to the long string of winners (with "Cars" being the exception) before that. "Up" was far from the best animated movie of 2009 ("Coraline," "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "The Princess and the Frog" were all better in my book), and as charming as "Wall-E" was, "Kung Fu Panda" was just a lot more fun. This summer, they've gone with a definite known entity, and though the toys in peril storyline will be gratingly familiar, I'm sure at least the introduction of Ken will be funny. I'll be there to find in GLORIOUS 2D. Chances of not sucking: 8/10.

July 2: The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan? Really? Well, he desperately needs a winner, and he's at least starting with great source material in the wildly entertaining Nickelodeon animated series. He's taking it live action, of course, and bringing Dev Patel and The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi along, so here's hoping this isn't the total disaster it certainly has the potential to be (hey, the man does have a record here.) Chances of not sucking: 6/10.

July 9: Despicable Me
I'm betting that, with Steve Carell voicing Gru, who wants to take over the world by stealing the moon, this flick will be funnier than "Toy Story 3," but I've been wrong at least once, and probably already today. Enjoy the latest trailer I could find. Chances of not sucking: 7/10.



July 16: Inception
OK, here it is, the make or break movie for this summer, because if this one somehow sucks, we're really screwed. With it being a genuine mindbender from Christopher Nolan starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, however, I'd say the chances of that are very slim. Not entirely sure yet, but I think this will be my one midnight movie for the summer. Chances of not sucking: 9/10.

July 23: Dinner for Schmucks
This Jay Roach flick has at least two very funny things going for it in Carell and the even funnier Paul Rudd, but there's one big problem: The French original that it will have to live up to set the standard for comedy very high. From what I've seen so far in trailers, they made at least one very big change that doesn't bode well: In the Francis Veber original, they never make it to the titular dinner because they just annoy each other so much, but that will change in Roach's take. Do yourself a favor and rent Veber's "Le Diner de Cons" before going to see this one. Chances of not sucking: 7/10.

July 23: Salt
Phillip Noyce makes the short list of my very favorite directors largely on the strength of three flicks: "The Quiet American," "Catch a Fire" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence," but before making that trio of winners he was also quite adept at producing solid spy thrillers, including "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games." The latter should serve him well with this flick, which stars Angeline Jolie as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. Chances of not sucking: 7.5/10.

Aug. 13: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
Along with "Inception," this is the other flick I'm most looking forward to for this summer. Having read a couple of the Scott Pilgrim funny books, I'm confident that Edgar Wright is the right man for this, and that Michael Cera is too as our titular hero who has to battle the seven exes of his would-be paramour, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead.) As you can see from the trailer below, Wright's flick will at least look like nothing else you'll see this summer. Chances of not sucking: 9/10.



Aug. 13: Tales from Earthsea
This, unfortunately, won't be a Hayao Miyazaki movie, but any summer offering from Studio Ghibli is reason enough to rejoice for me. This one is actually directed by Miyazaki's son, Goro, and is based on the novel by Ursula K. Leguin. But will the master himself manage to make another movie? Nothing listed yet at the IMDB, but certainly keep hope alive, because his last one, "Ponyo," was simply fantastic. Chances of not sucking: 8/10.

Aug. 20: The Switch
The last time I took a chance on an August comedy almost entirely because Jason Bateman was in it, I was thoroughly burned with "Extract." I do, however, have enough of a reservoir of goodwill for the man to take a chance on this turkey baster comedy that also stars Jennifer Aniston, though not with terribly high hopes at all. Chances of not sucking: 6/10.

And there you have it, my guide to summer 2010. Please feel free to add any wide-release movies you think I might have slighted, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is it just me, or did "Iron Man 2" kind of suck?

Before anyone assumes that I'm exaggerating here, take note of the words "kind of" in that headline. We're not talking about "X-3" or "Spider-Man 3" epic suck here, but think about it: Either in comparison to the wildly entertaining original movie or just on its own as the flick to launch this summer, "Iron Man 2" was for the most part a big disappointment.

Granted, it certainly starts off well enough. Tony Stark is just as brashly fun as we remember him at the Stark Expo, and the good stuff keeps building until the Grand Prix de Monaco, which is one of the best superhero set pieces in recent years and certainly a grand entrance for Whiplash, the ubercool villain played by Mickey Rourke.

Which just makes it that much more of a shame that, from that point on, the movie just pretty much completely fizzles out. It really goes nowhere, and what we get, rather amazingly, is a placesetter. Now, an extremely flashy placesetter at that, but why in the world should the the world's coolest superhero have to fulfill that role for anyone, be it Thor, Captain America, the Avengers or even his own next movie? Sheesh.

The real travesty in that almost complete letdown in the story department is that the cast - new and old - is pretty uniformly first-rate. Downey is if anything even funnier than he was in the original - no small feat - and he and Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts have quickly developed the kind of naturally witty give and take that is sorely missing from the vast majority of what passes for romantic comedies these days. I still see no need to have replaced Terrence Howard - a definite fave around here - with Don Cheadle here, but he certainly works too as both Rhoady and the War Machine.

And as far as villains go, Mickey Rourke makes a bigger impression as Whiplash than any big bad since Alfred Molina's Doc Oc, and like Molina, he menaces at least as much with his words as he does with those electrifying arms. Combined with Sam Rockwell, who just hams it up as weapons man Justin Hammer, pretty much the anti-Tony in every way, they make a pretty sensational dastardly duo once they join forces.

But with all that going for it, how in the world did director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Theroux manage to deliver such a dud storywise? Be warned: If you haven't seen "Iron Man 2" yet and want to (and I would certainly never tell anyone not to), you probably shouldn't read any further today, because I really can't get into my real beefs with "Iron Man 2" without getting pretty specific from here on out.

OK, work with me here, people. After Rourke's smashing intro as Whiplash in Monaco, what's the most exciting thing that happens in the rest of "Iron Man 2"? The real peril for our hero doesn't come during the middle stretch from Whiplash, but instead from the palladium that is slowly killing him at the same time that it superpowers him. But how does Tony go about finding a replacement? Well, after tinkering around a bit in his lab (not being a gadget guy, easily my least favorite of any "Iron Man" tale), Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury simply GIVES HIM THE NEW ELEMENT, or at least what he needs to discover it. Where in the world is the fun or any kind of intrigue in all that?

But the real letdown of "Iron Man 2" has to be the finale, so once again be warned, don't read this if you haven't seen the flick yet. OK, think about it. What happens after Whiplash dupes Hammer (an amazingly easy feat) and unleashes his deadly army of drones at Stark Expo? After a "battle" that lasts maybe a minute or two tops, Tony and Rhoady dispense of them all with seemingly little to no trouble at all. That, however, is just placesetting for the arrival of Whiplash in his own suit of ultrabad armor, right? Nope. Whiplash does look like one bad MF armored out, but Tony and Rhoady, in one of the the silliest Wonder Twins-esque superhero moments ever, take him out almost instantly. Again, where in the world is the fun in that?

In the end, that sums up the real downfall of "Iron Man 2" for me: Though it brought plenty of funny, the filmmakers seem to have forgotten that the root word of that is fun. And lest anyone reading this think I'm simply a curmudgeon who doesn't like superhero flicks, you're at least partly right, because done right, I LOVE THEM. "Spider-Man 2" isn't just my favorite superhero movie, but just one of my favorite movies of all time in any category. And this year alone, though it made next to no money, "Kick-Ass" had all the fun spirit that "Iron Man 2" just squandered after its promising first 20 minutes or so.

And I read that Jon Favreau has his eyes already set firmly on an "Iron Man 3," with Mandarin as the big bad. Well, "Iron Man 2" certainly had to be a setup for something, so I'll give him another chance when that inevitably rolls around, and will be hoping it's a whole lot better than the mixed bag he came up with this time. Peace out.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

OK, I'm still not sold on the need for "Let Me In," but ...


I'm not nearly ready to give in yet, because the necessity of and, for that matter, any possible reason at all for an English-language remake of the simply sublime horror film "Let the Right One In" is still beyond me, but I have to confess that first photo (above) is pretty friggin' cool.

There's still no way in the world anyone should see this without first enjoying the original movie by Tomas Alfredson, which is easily the best horror movie I've seen in the last five years or so, but I'm now willing to concede that they seem to have gotten the casting, at least, just about dead right. And besides, "Cloverfield" was way better than I could have possibly imagined, so I suppose I should have at least a bit of trust in "Let Me In" writer/director Matt Reeves.

All that said, however, the first shot of Chloe Moretz as Abby in the remake highlights just about everything that can go horribly wrong with this. After her performance as Hit-Girl in "Kick-Ass," which not just made the movie but really hijacked the entire operation, I have faith that the rather young lady will at least give this her all, but anyone who's seen the original movie (and again, if you haven't, do it .. it's easily my favorite movie of 2008) knows that she has extremely big shoes to fill in playing the "young" vampire played to perfection (and known as Eli) in "Let the Right One In" by Lina Leandersson. Simply for comparison's sake, here's a shot of her as Eli.


As Eli, she just exuded a great combination of insecurity and blood-starved killer, and was the perfect match for Kare Hedebrant as young, bullied Oskar, who will be known as Owen and played by Kodi-Smit McPhee in the remake. The only thing I can remember seeing that kid in was the recent movie of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," which was a large cut above the usual apocalyptic fare that crowds up our multiplexes and is well worth a rental.

Finish the cast off with definite Reel Fanatic fave Richard Jenkins as Abby's poor "father" and you have the makings of a truly first-rate cast, but let me be clear about this: Though I was always going to see this anyway when it comes out Oct. 1 just out of sheer curiosity, you can still count me as having at best an icy heart toward it, though now perhaps not one completely encased in steel.

And all I have besides that today, before a couple of videos worth watching, is some more intriguing casting news. I still have yet to see "Invictus," but as soon as I finish typing this sentence I'm gonna add it to the Netflix queue, and perhaps move it right to the top. Morgan Freeman won kudos for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in that Clint Eastwood flick, and now another actor, and easily one of my favorites, is ready to step into the rather large role.

Terrence Howard, who just has me for life after "Hustle & Flow," has signed on to play Mandela in "Winnie," a biopic about his even-more-interesting former wife. I'll take more convincing that Jennifer Hudson has the gravitas to play Winnie, the angry heart of the anti-apartheid movement, but you can count me ready to be proven wrong as this movie by director Darrell Roodt comes together in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was locked up. Definitely keep your eyes on this one.

OK, as promised, all that's left now is couple of clips well worth a few minutes of your time. The first is an extended trailer for Christopher Nolan's "Inception," which along with Phillip Noyce's "Salt" I'm expecting to be the sleeper hits of this summer (though I suppose you can't really call a Nolan/Leonardo DiCaprio flick a "sleeper.") It has all kinds of new footage, and just has me thoroughly amped for when this finally comes out July 16 (and besides, isn't the world just a slightly better place with some more Ellen Page in it, especially when she's not schilling for Cisco?) Enjoy.



And finally, I do realize that I'm far too old for the "MTV Movie Awards," so I'll try my best not to watch the whole thing, but with Aziz Ansari as the host when it airs June 6, you can be certain I'm at least gonna watch the beginning. And if you put together a promo that also features Kristen Bell and spoofs "The Hurt Locker"? Yeah, I'm gonna embed that. Enjoy, and have a great rest of the weekend. I'm off to eat some Joe-Bear's barbecue and then watch "Iron Man 2." Peace out.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Take advantage of a golden opportunity at the Macon Film Guild this weekend


In a world in which screen-to-DVD windows keep getting tighter and tighter, it can be hard for a community group as great as the Macon Film Guild to stay alive, but luckily for anyone like me who lives here, it's actually thriving.

And this month they've scored a real coup with "The Last Station." If you've never come out to see what the group puts together the second Sunday of each month at downtown Macon's Douglass Theatre, this is certainly a golden opportunity to finally do so.

The movie itself, about the last years of Leo Tolstoy, is, from everything I've read, a whole lot more fun than that might sound on its surface. Starring Dame Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy and Paul Giamatti, it's apparently a lively arena of personalities and ideas, and if you turn out for the 2 p.m. showing, you'll see me there, probably up in the balcony.

I was hoping to mention what the next offering will be, but I've managed to lose the bright yellow postcard they send me each month. I do know, however, though that I had to miss it because I had to work, the guild showed Pedro Almodovar's fabulous "Broken Embraces" last month, so it is really on a little winning streak.

Showings of "The Last Station" are at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. this Sunday at the Douglass, with a discussion following the 4:30 event, so if you live in Macon, please turn out for this fun offering.

And that's all I really have to say today. I will, of course, also be going to see "Iron Man 2" this weekend, most likely on Saturday afternoon, so feel free to check back for my thoughts about that, mostly likely on Monday morning, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Exactly the right man to play Fela on the big screen, and a welcome visit from exactly the wrong Mexican

At the same time that the Broadway musical "Fela!" has received 11 Tony nominations, Focus Features has announced even better news about who will play the Afrobeat legend in a long overdue biopic - and it's easily the perfect choice.

First, as for the musical, which I had the pleasure of seeing last winter, it would be a worthy winner in any category, but especially for the dynamic performance of Sahr Ngaujah as the man himself. I was ready for the show's first half, more than a bit too heavy on audience engagement for my liking, to end, but it just gets better and better in act two as the story of Fela Kuti just gets crazier and crazier.

And if you're unfamiliar with his saga, it's a truly unique one. Along with creating a mad musical style that fused jazz, funk, West African drums and often 27-minute-or-so-long songs, he also drove the Nigerian government mad to the point that they ... well, you'll have to find out what they did to the poor man's mother for yourself, but it's just plain insane. He also took 27 wives along the way.

Which all makes for what should be an amazing biopic in the hands of director Steve McQueen (no, not the dead one) and (yes, I know I'm rather ashamedly burying the lead here) easily the perfect star in Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has quickly risen to become one of my favorite actors. He certainly has the intensity to pull this remarkable story off, and if you haven't seen McQueen's directing debut "The Hunger," the second-best movie ever made about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands is well worth a rental (the best, Terry George's "Some Mother's Son" starring Dame Helen Mirren, is somehow still not out on DVD. What the hell's up with that? And if I may digress further for just a sec, the Macon Film Guild is showing "The Last Station," starring Mirren, Christopher Plummer and James McAvoy, this Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at downtown Macon's Douglass Theatre. I'll be there, and if you're in Macon, you certainly should too.)

The film, though separate from the Broadway hit, has secured the rights to Fela's music, so along with being extremely political this should also just be an outright party. In my mind, I'm there already.

OK, after that today, just a couple of tidbits, and then the promised return of Robert Rodriguez's "Machete," and I can confirm that Danny Trejo is an even badder MF in the real trailer.

But first up comes the official synopsis for "Brick" and "Brothers Bloom" director Rian Johnson's next flick, "Looper," which will be a reunion with "Brick" star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. To clear up the confusion that has surrounded the "dark sci-fi" project thus far, here's what he had to say to Cinematical:

Looper is a time travel movie, set in a near future where time travel doesn’t exist but will be invented in a few decades. It’s pretty dark in tone, much different from Bloom, and involves a group of killers (called Loopers) who work for a crime syndicate in the future. Their bosses send their targets hogtied and blindfolded back in time to the Loopers, and their job is to simply shoot them in the head and dispose of the body. So the target vanishes from the future and the Loopers dispose of a corpse that doesn’t technically exist, a very clean system. Complications set in from there.

I'm sure they do. Like I said yesterday, that plot certainly sounds like it could be for the kind of tired "sci-fi" flicks that seem to appear for about a week each February, but here's hoping this one goes against the grain.

And in a bit of very good TV news, the makers of "Futurama" have just announced that the first two new episodes of the animated sci-fi comedy will air back to back on Comedy Central at 10 p.m. June 24. I have no idea how in the world the Matt Groening and David X. Cohen show has survived this long, but I'll certainly be tuning in when it somehow returns again. Enjoy this first still from the rather cleverly titled first return episode, "Rebirth."


And finally today, when Robert Rodriguez's "Machete" finally hits theaters Sept. 3, it will probably be as big a box-office flop as "Grindhouse," the movie in which it first appeared as a fake trailer, but I know I'll at least certainly be watching. As you can see from this trailer rather cleverly tailored to Arizona's current immigrant purge, it does indeed flesh out the original faux trailer as a pretty straight-forward tale of revenge, but with a truly eclectic cast that includes Trejo, of course, as Machete, but also Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez and even Robert De Niro. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Now here's a comic-book movie that should truly kick a**

As a very small part of my paying job, I have to compile the "movie caps," or summaries of those movies that are still surviving in Middle Georgia multiplexes, which brought me to this sad fact yesterday: Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass" has already left Macon theaters.

Now, just to put that in perspective, I see a good deal (probably way too many) of movies, but outside the festival circuit I've seen exactly three very good to great ones this year: "A Prophet" (which damn well should have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language flick), "That Evening Sun" with Hal Holbrook and Vaughn's sublimely silly "Kick-Ass" (actually, you should probably make that four, because I enjoyed Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" IN 2-D quite a bit too.) Which just makes it thoroughly depressing that "Kick-Ass" is gone in no more than a month.

Just to make it even odder, still vying for viewers' attention (though not mine) is "Death at a Funeral," quite possibly the most thoroughly unnecessary remake of all time (with stiff competition from the upcoming redo of "Let the Right One In.") Hell, even "Furry Vengeance" gets at least one more week.

Which finally brings us to today's rather glorious news: 20th Century Fox has signed a deal with Vaughn to direct "X-Men: First Class," with the mutant prequel already getting a release date of June 3, 2011. Bryan Singer, who had been originally booked to direct the flick and is still a producer, apparently made the case for Vaughn, so bully for him.

Though "Wolverine" was nothing but average, and that was unfortunately a massive improvement on Brett Rather's abortion that was "X-3," I'm still extremely confident that Vaughn can make magic from the origin stories of Professor X, Magneto and all their fellow young cohorts. As I've said here before, with "Kick-Ass" Vaughn created the best comic-book movie I've seen quite in many a year, so this should be nothing but tons of fun.

And when it comes to "Kick-Ass" the comic by Mark Millar, there's actually even better news on that front. Millar is teaming up with fellow funnypeople Jonathan Ross, Frankie Boyle and others to launch CLiNT, a new anthology magazine that I will certainly be subscribing to as soon as I can figure out how, especially since the first issue will featuring nothing less cool than "Kick-Ass Volume 2: Balls to the Wall."

Here's how Millar described his new venture in an interview with Bleedingcool.com:

“I want this to be edgy and irreverent, the kind of thing guys will be passing around lunch-halls and common rooms, and there’s nobody I’d rather have creating new characters for CLiNT than Jonathan and Frankie. They’re both brilliant writers and will surprise a lot of people with this stuff. The last thing you’d expect from Jonathan, for example, is a vampire strip, but he pulls it off amazingly. People are going to love this.”

OK, I'm officially in. Best as I can tell, the first issue of this will be available Sept. 2 in the UK and then will be available later by subscription in the U.S.A.

And now for something completely different ...

Though 2009's "Broken Embraces" wasn't one of Pedro Almodovar's best movies, it was certainly one of his funnest to watch, and the film noir works nearly perfectly as a valentine to moviemaking (well, more specifically, a valentine to making Almodovar movies, but the man's certainly earned the right to brag a bit by now, right?) If you haven't seen it, I recommend it very highly, and you can indeed rent it now.

And today comes word about Almodovar's next movie, which won't feature regular muse Penelope Cruz, but will mark a reunion with Antonio Banderas, who got his start way back when in Almodovar flicks like "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down" (man, do I love that movie.)

Their new project is called "La Piel que Habito" (literally translated "The Skin I Live In.") It's based on the novel "Tarantula" by Thierry Jonquet, which I'll now have to read, and is scheduled to shoot this summer in Spain and elsewhere. Ever the enigmatic one, Almodovar really didn't reveal much at all about what it's about when he first spoke of this to the Spanish daily El Pais (for you kids, that means daily newspaper, of course):

"The film will be a terror film, without screams or scares. It's difficult to define and although it comes close to the terror genre -- something that appeals to me that I've never done -- I won't respect any of its rules. It's the harshest film I've ever written and Banderas' character is brutal."

An Almodovar "horror" film? I'm already there. More specifically, it's apparently about a plastic surgeon's revenge on the man who raped his daughter, but if you know any more than that, please do let me know.

OK, all I have after that is two videos via my Facebook friends that are indeed just perfect for a Wednesday because they're guaranteed to make you nothing but smile and laugh (and if not, please do get yourself checked out as soon as possible.) First, courtesy of a head's up from Movie Mom Nell Minow comes the first teaser trailer for a movie called "Easy A." Coming in September, it will be an update on the classic "The Scarlet Letter," and as you'll see below it will star easily one of my favorite comediennes working today, Emma Stone. I won't tell you anything else about the teaser except that the Wall Street Journal's Kara Swisher called it and Stone both rightly "adorkable." Enjoy.



And what could possibly top that? The tagline for this last one, which came to my attention courtesy of Bob, just sums it up perfectly: "Bill Murray reads poetry to construction workers at Poet's House." It's a bit long at six minutes plus, but it really is a joy to watch man of the people Murray cutting up with all the working folk and reading, among other things, a poem by Emily Dickinson. Just the perfect thing to get you and me through even the most dreary of Wednesdays. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"Brick" team reuniting for something really crazy, but hopefully great

If the survival of "Chuck" was really contingent on the ratings for last night's episode, as Deadline Hollywood and other sources claim, the creators at least put up a real winner.

With guest stars Swoozie Kurtz and Fred Willard, plus a mean Bengal tiger, it was just good, old-fashioned goofy, with more than enough romance thrown in to sweeten the deal. And the kicker with Ellie and Awesome in Africa points to a fantastic finish.

Word should come very soon on whether or not there will be a fourth season, but in the meantime, NBC has already made, in its first new series pickup, what would make the perfect leadin to "Chuck" for a spytastic Monday night.

J.J. Abrams of "Lost" and "Alias" has pitched a show called "Undercovers," about a married couple who just happen to be former top spies with the CIA. They get called back into duty (by Gerald McRaney, naturally) after a former co-worker goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer. Actually, it's probably too much like "Chuck" to pair the two, though I seriously doubt this new show will bring the funny as regularly or as well as "Chuck" does.

In other good TV news, FX has just announced that it has picked up a second season of "Justified," the series based on an Elmore Leonard short story and starring Timothy Olyphant as, well, pretty much the same character he played in "Deadwood," just in modern-day Kentucky (which, oddly enough, isn't all that far removed from the Old West.)

The show, like another new one I'm really digging, "Treme," is certainly on a slow boil when it comes to a running storyline, but it has plenty of personality, and I'll definitely keep tuning in to see where this all goes. The finale of season one, by the way, comes June 8.

All I've got besides that today, as the headline promised, is news about just what director Rian Johnson and co-conspirator Joseph Gordon-Levitt are up to now, and then a nifty George Clooney trailer to finish things off.

The duo first teamed up for easily one of my favorite films of the last 10 years or so, the high school film noir "Brick." If you haven't seen this one, just rent it already, and I guarantee you'll enjoy it. Next for Johnson came "The Brothers Bloom." The first time I saw this in the theater it just left me cold, but coincidentally enough, I just red boxed it again last weekend, and while the plot still doesn't quite add up, there's more than enough style along the way to make it at least an enjoyable failure (and Rinko Kikuchi is just an adorable hoot as Boom Boom.)

Now, he and Gordon-Levitt seem to have something entirely different in the works for their next movie, "Looper." The plot details so far are more than a little confusing, but as far as I can tell it's a piece of "dark sci-fi" about hit men who are sent back in time to find their victims. Sounds more than a little like the average Bruce Willis movie that will appear in February and make exactly no impression at all, but here's hoping that in the hands of these two, it turns into a whole lot more.

And finally, in an admittedly brief report because I'm just running way behind today, I'll leave you with the first trailer I know of for a flick I had never heard of until this morning, Anton Corbijn's "The American." Starring one George Clooney, it's about an assassin who gets one final case in Italy, and judging at least from this brief glimpse, it looks like the old-fashioned, low-tech kind of thriller that I can really get into. Enjoy the trailer for this one, keep an eye out for it in September, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reger Ebert's dead right: 3-D just sucks (insert your own funny noun here)

In case anyone's wondering, I'm well aware that there really is nothing that Roger Ebert - and much, much less me - can do to stop the extremely profitable plague that is 3-D, but the world is still just a little better place because he keeps trying.

In what I have to assume is the most recent issue of Newsweek, the estimable film critic for the Chicago Sun Times outlines extremely rational and convincing reasons why 3-D just sucks so hard (though he doesn't put it quite that way, of course.) It's very well worth reading his entire piece, which you can do here, but I've taken the liberty of reprinting his lead, which just about nails things very economically:

3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.

He pretty much states his entire case there, but it's still worth reading his full explanation. I'd just like to mention the two aspects of 3-D that just drive me batty, even more than the fact that it arbitrarily costs more (and more, just wait.)

The main point, which Ebert elaborates on, is that 3-D is indeed just an imagination slaughterer. Movies are meant to take you away, if only for a little while, from whatever is upsetting in your actual life. You, or at least I, can dive completely into the world unveiled in front of you, and further create it in your mind as a fully fleshed-out universe. Given that, why in the world would you want a computer to artificially do this for you? It just robs you of much of the moviegoing experience, so in my mind, it should cost less, not more, to watch. 'Nuff said.

A second point that Ebert addresses and I agree with wholeheartedly is that 3-D movies are indeed more than a bit "dim," especially the animated ones. The perfect case in point is "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," just about the very last animated movie I'll ever see in 3-D for this reason. I watched it in 3-D first, and while it was very funny and still entertaining, it appeared to be filled with giant scoops of gray ice cream and beige pizza. Who wants that? Fully aware that it makes the first viewing a waste of money, I went back a week later and watched the movie in glorious 2-D, and the colors really just exploded off the screen. It was just a much more enjoyable experience. For that reason, I'm through with 3-D animation from anyone working now except for Henry Selick, who proved with "Coraline" that he knows how to use it to genuinely enhance the experience.

Ebert offered a technical reason for this a**-awful phenomenon:

Lenny Lipton is known as the father of the electronic stereoscopic-display industry. He knows how films made with his systems should look. Current digital projectors, he writes, are "intrinsically inefficient. Half the light goes to one eye and half to the other, which immediately results in a 50 percent reduction in illumination."

Why in the world would you pay MORE for that? OK, enough about that. Definitely take the time to read Ebert's essay, and I'll leave you with a very funny mashup of "Seinfeld" that reimagines George's life as a seriously dramatic Hollywood movie. Just about perfect. Peace out.