Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hulu Plus: Why in the world would anyone pay for this?

The rumored day that Hulu goes to pay-per-view is almost here as the TV-online service is previewing its subscription service - Hulu Plus - and for so many reasons it's pretty much predestined to fail.

Before I get into why, here are the specs. Hulu Plus will offer content not available on the free site, including full current seasons of certain shows, plus all the past seasons of shows like "Glee" and "House" (those were the two most often mentioned in the write up I saw, so I suppose Fox is full in here.)

OK, fair enough, but does anyone else see the huge problem here? If you subscribe to Netflix, as I do, you probably well know that, for the same $9.99 price tag (I think - it may have gone up without me noticing), you can get not only the two or three movies at a time mailed to your house, but also a seemingly always-increasing library of TV shows you can watch on your computer (sound familiar?).

Even better than that is that, in perusing the offerings in the latter category, they certainly seem tailor-made to my tastes. I've recently enjoyed past seasons of "30 Rock," "The Office," "Friday Night Lights" and even somehow "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" too. Perhaps best of all, they have the current season of "Party Down" for all of you who don't get Starz, and even without Jane Lynch, that show is almost as wickedly funny as it was in season one.

So, if you can get Netflix's movie library (supplemented very well by the documentary offerings of Docurama) plus its TV on DVD content via computer content, why in the world would you pay the same price for simply the TV offerings, and surely not as much content at that?

The only thing that stood out in the Hulu press release is that you can stream content to your cell phone. Wow. Now if I ever a) feel the need to buy a cell phone or b) want to watch TV on a screen so small it will make my eyes bleed, I know where to go.

OK, enough of that. There has to be some actual good movie news out there today, right? Yes, and it starts with Martin Scorsese's adaptation of one of my favorite books by Brian Selznick, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

As production starts this week on that December 2011 flick, it's just been announced that Jude Law and Reel Fanatic fave Ray Winstone have joined an impressive cast that already included Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield (who had the misfortune of starring in the simply dreadful "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" - meh.)

The story itself is about an orphaned boy (Butterfield) who's living in the walls of a Paris train station, where an encounter with a broken-down machine leads him into the world of silent filmmaker George Méliès (Kingsley) and his automatons. Baron Cohen will play the station inspector and Moretz the young female lead, but nothing is known yet about the roles Law or Winstone play.

Even if this is being filmed in 3-D (why in the world?), it's still easily one the movies I'm most looking forward to for 2011.

And in one more bit of news before we get into the videos which, yes, feature a rant from John Cleese, there's a music biopic in the works that has caught my eye.

How do you spark interest in this fairly tired genre? Well casting a great actress or actor to play an interesting subject is certainly the best way. Casting Chiwetel Ejiofor to play Fela Kuti (which has so far only happened in my overactive imagination) would certainly be one way, as would casting Peter Sarsgaard to play bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, which has actually just happened in the real world.

I really can't see the kids en masse getting into bluegrass, but Sarsgaard is easily one of my favorite actors (witness his truly skeevy performance in "An Education" for the most reason example of why), and this aging dude digs that high and lonesome sound, so count me as intrigued by this.

OK, since there's no World Cup futbol until Friday morning, how better to fill the void than this classic rant from John Cleese about the differences between futbol and American football? I love the latter far too much, and unlike Cleese find it to be plenty full of creativity, but there's no denying that this clip, which I found in the latest Roger Ebert Club newsletter, brings the funny. Enjoy.



Until I found out otherwise yesterday, I just assumed that no one would dare open opposite "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," but it seems that one M. Night Shyamalan is brave and foolish enough to enter that fight with "The Last Airbender." And, I have to say, even though M. Night has now delivered more stinkers than winners, he'll still be getting my movie money (in 2-D) this weekend, partly because I love the Nickelodeon "Avatar: The Last Airbender" series it's at least loosely based on, and just out of sheer curiosity. To get ready for it, enjoy this clip of the Slumdog Millionaire engaging in a battle of the elements with some young lady whose name I don't know.



And finally, in what might be - even with John Cleese included - a case of saving the best for last, here are the first five minutes of "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," a crime drama set to drop in at least some American cities in early August. As you'll see from the clip below, it stars Reel Fanatic fave Eddie Marsan as one of two ex-cons who plot to kidnap the daughter of a rich businessman. This could easily devolve into your average torture porn, especially with the rather beguiling Gemma Arterton playing the victim, but judging from the methodical nature of the beginning (I can't do anything about the script at the bottom - sorry), I think director J. Blakeson is up to a lot more than that here. Enjoy, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christopher Nolan, uncaped crusader against 3-D? Not so much

Actually, if you like the funny, there's nowhere else to start today than with the fact that the extremely funny Louie CK is coming to F/X tonight with his new sitcom, appropriately enough titled simply "Louie."

The show, which will blend his standup with sitcom set pieces, has gotten nothing but positive write ups from what I've seen so far, so you can count me as thoroughly psyched for this, even if, since it's on at 11 p.m. on a school night, this kid will be in bed already and will watch it in DVRed form Wednesday night. Here's a fairly funny promo clip. Enjoy.



OK, now on to the main event. I'm still entirely convinced that Christopher Nolan's "Inception" is going to do nothing but rock when it comes out July 16, but any notion that he was some kind of uncaped crusader against the virus that is 3-D (which, admittedly, really only existed in my own mind) has now been shattered.

It seems that, rather than standing up to the tide and making his blockbuster without Hollywood's latest gimmick, Nolan and his crew simply ran out of time to complete the 3-D conversion process. Sheesh. Here's what he had to say about it:

"When we edited the film, we looked at the post-conversion process and did some very good tests, but when I really looked at the time period we had and where my attention needed to be in finishing the film, I decided I didn't have enough time to do it to the standard I would have liked."

In the very next quote, however, he goes on to make the exact case against 3-D, post-conversion or otherwise, that holds the most sway with me.

"It's perfectly possible to post-convert a film very well. I like not having glasses on when I see a movie and I like seeing a bright immersive image. So, I think at the end of the day I am extremely happy to be putting the film out with 35 mil film prints. Very brightly projected with the highest possible image quality. That's really what excited me."

Amen brother, Now, just remember that when and if you ever get around to making a "Batman 3"!

In other superhero news about a flick that's so far coming together very well, it seems that Matthew Vaughn has hired his Emma Frost for "X-Men: First Class." Having already made solid choices for the leads of young Professor X and Magneto, respectively James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, it's only natural in comic-book progression that they'd find, and forgive me for saying it, a sublimely hot actress to play the White Queen. And in Alice Eve, pictured, of course, here, they certainly have.

So, who's Alice Eve? Well, I've only ever seen her in the surprisingly satisfying "She's Out of My League" with Jay Baruchel. Before that movie collapses into a pool of rom-com formula for the finish, it's remarkably funny, especially co-star Krysten Ritter. If you haven't seen this one, you could certainly do far worse with a rental.

OK, as we go into the videos, where else to start than with this this touching tribute to O Rei Pele, executive produced by Fernando Meirelles of "City of God" fame. It imagines a parallel end to the great one's playing career, and if you like soccer (and please, if you don't, keep it to yourself), this is certainly worth about five minutes of your time, and may even jerk a tear or two out of you. Enjoy.



Where do you go from there? Why not to a kung fu movie directed by RZA of the Wu Tang Clan? Yes, really, and this two-minute trailer (with, I apologize in advance, just horrendously bad music) promises that "Wu Tang Vs. the Golden Phoenix" will be bad in the most delightfully fun kind of way. Enjoy.



And finally, how better to end than with the first trailer for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which they've rather wisely stashed in front of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" beginning at midnight tonight (or tomorrow morning, or whatever.) You can argue with making it into two movies, but the final chapter of Harry's saga is an epic tome, so I really have no beef with it. What you can see from this is that they really got it done just in time, because the kids really can't get any older for this to work at all, but I'm confident director David Yates will come up with winners for these two flicks, the first of which is coming in November. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Peter Jackson taking over "The Hobbit?" Plus the first look, sort of, at Fincher's "Social Network"

After a whole lot of complicated studio stuff that's just way beyond my (gratis) pay grade, it does seem like "The Hobbit" can go home again.

Long before Guillermo del Toro took on and was forced to abdicate the mammoth project (two movies? really? why?), think of who would be the only natural person to make this, assuming he was interested. Peter Jackson, of course, and now that might actually be about to happen.

Jackson is indeed in negotiations to direct the two movies, with talks centering on a time frame that would let him fast-track these for release in 2012 and 2013, with the shaky financial shape of MGM, which owns the "Hobbit" rights, always a hovering concern.

Beyond the other obvious reasons, Jackson would be a natural fit for this because he had been working on the script all this time with his professional partners, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, along with del Toro. And with Middle Earth being reconstructed from the ground up in his home of New Zealand, it only make sense that Warners/New Line didn't apparently go too hard after any other directors to take this over.

Solid word should emerge in the next few days, so stay tuned ...

And all I have after that today is a couple of videos that caught my eye this morning. After a way beyond wretched start to this summer, things have certainly picked up with the utterly charming "Toy Story 3" (I'm debating over whether to go see it again today or finally see "The A-Team" - and leaning toward the latter), and I'm hoping the good mojo will be continued with "Despicable Me" on July 9 before Christopher Nolan's "Inception" finally drops July 16. It could very well turn out to be a thoroughly generic 3-D mess, but with a voice cast that includes Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Mindy Kaling, Ken Jeong, Jack McBrayer and even Danny McBride, I'm still cautiously betting on at least slightly twisted and hopefully funny. Here, courtesy of Collider.com, are 10 clips that will take up slightly more than seven minutes of your life if you watch them all. Enjoy.



And, in what would have to be a definite case of saving the best for last, here is the first teaser trailer for David Fincher's "The Social Network," the story of Facebook as written up by one Aaron Sorkin. This is one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year (with perhaps only Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" starring James Franco rivaling it for that title.) Being only a teaser, this doesn't have any actual footage from the movie in it, but it's very well done (and if you somehow have never heard of Facebook, well, you're probably better off, though, yes, I'm on it, and this will reveal some crucial plot points.) Enjoy the trailer, watch the U.S.A. take on Ghana today at 2:30 EST in the knockout round of the World Cup, and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Into the breach, meatbags! New, scab-free "Futurama" premieres tonight

You know, I've never even been remotely tempted to watch a Syfy movie, but the channel may have finally just found the formula to break down my resistance for about five minutes or so.

In a move that surely can only be hailed as evil genius, it has made the cast of its next movie, "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (because, I suppose, on Syfy it always has to be something vs. something), a real battle of the '80s pop divas, Tiffany vs. Debbie (apparently back from Deborah) Gibson. And yes, really.

Just in case the plot actually matters to anyone, here goes: Debbie "not Deborah" Gibson will play a fanatical animal-rights activist who frees illegally imported exotic snakes from pet stores, sending them into the Everglades, where they grow to mega sizes (natch). Tiffany will play an overzealous park ranger who uses dangerous methods to save endangered alligators. Then, of course, the pair brawl at a party, then take matters outside into the swamp.

That's really probably enough about that nonsense, but just for the record, I'll take Tiffany, just on general principle, and because her dance music career has brought her here to Macon twice in the last few years.

In other, hopefully more important, news, the signs are increasing that Cameron Crowe really will direct another movie and at least somewhat wipe the sour taste of "Elizabethtown" from my movie memory. It appears that Matt Damon is in negotiations to play the lead in "We Bought a Zoo," which would begin shooting in January for a Dec. 23, 2011, release.

So, what's the movie about? Well, it's based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee, who along with his family bought and moved into a dilapidated zoo housing 200 exotic animals in the English countryside (but not, as far as I know yet, either Debbie Gibson or Tiffany.) In all seriousness, though, I really hope this all does come together, because with "Almost Famous" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" the man has directed and written two of my favorite flicks, and he surely deserves another winner.

And speaking of another director I really like who's been on a bit of a losing streak lately, I finally got around to watching Fernando Meirelles' "Blindness" a few weeks ago, and man was that a bleak bit of business. Not entirely awful, but not too close to entertaining either. Anyone who bothered to read my list of the best 100 movies of the '00s (and I suppose there just might be one of you) knows, however, that Meirelles rather easily topped that list with his debut flick, "City of God," so any news of him working again is welcome in this corner of the world, especially when he joins forces with a first-rate screenwriter.

Meirelles and Peter Morgan (writer of "Frost/Nixon," "The Queen" and, best of all, "The Damned United" - do yourself a favor and watch that ode to futbol futility as soon as possible) are joining forces for the "mature" drama "360." It will be based on the 1900 Arthur Schnitzler play "La Ronde" (which I'm not going to claim I've actually read), which apparently examined "the sexual morality and class ideology of his day through a series of sexual encounters between pairs of characters.” Sounds like equally juicy and heady stuff, and I'd imagine they'll contemporize it for what should be anything but a boring flick. Stay tuned ...

OK, before I got distracted by all that, this was supposed to be about the rather miraculous return of "Futurama" with back-to-back new episodes on Comedy Central tonight at 10 p.m. After Fox's brief flirtation with firing the entire voice cast and replacing them with scabs, they were eventually shamed into backtracking and bringing everyone back, and everything I've read about the new episodes indicates they're just as fun and trippy as ever. Just in case you need a refresher on all things "Futurama," here's a 7-minute "Recap-O-Rama" clip hosted by legendary Captain Zapp (not Zaff, as an alert reader politely informed me) Brannigan to get you caught up. Tune in to "Futurama" tonight and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

FuturamaThursdays 10pm / 9c
Recap-O-Rama: 5 Seasons in 7 Minutes
www.comedycentral.com
Futurama New EpisodesFuturama New EpisodesUgly Americans

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A "new" Christopher Nolan flick before "Inception"? Bring it on!

There are many, many reasons to subscribe to Roger Ebert's seemingly more than monthly newsletter, but the two best are that it, after all, only costs $4.99 a year, and, even better, it's always chock full of goodies like the trailer teased above and found at the end of this post. To subscribe, click here.

But before I get to that, however, it's a fairly full day of good news, starting out with, if it comes together, what would have to make just about the funnest movie trilogy ever, although I'll concede far from the best (an argument for that one would have to be made for "Toy Story," because the third chapter is indeed just that good.)

There are few subgenres of movie I love more than the baseball flick, so it makes me nothing but giddy to hear writer/director David S. Ward talk about the possibility of another "Major League." He's told Moviehole.net that he's already written a "Major League 3" script and will be talking to the Morgan Creek movie company next week about how to proceed. Here's what he had to say about the story:

"It's 20 years later, and Wild Thing comes out of retirement to work with this 19-year-old player. We've actually got three new characters in the new film. And if the new film is popular, they could carry the franchise on."

Just thinking about that made me smile, and Ward added that he's already spoken to the "Wild Thing" himself, Charlie Sheen, about this. When and if he's on board, I can't imagine it would be to hard to get Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and perhaps even Wesley "Willie Mays Hayes" Snipes too. Make this happen!

And in two other tidbits about directors I really like, Ruben Fleischer, who begins shooting his "Zombieland" follow-up, "30 Minutes or Less," next month, has now already set up the movie he plans to direct after that, and it comes from a great comedy source in scribe Mike White.

He's signed on with Columbia Pictures to direct "Babe in the Woods," which, from a script by White, will be an action-comedy centering on a female freshman from the Midwest who arrives at Yale and becomes a target of the New Jersey mob.

That sounds like it could be funny enough, but what he's doing before that should be better. "30 Minutes or Less" stars veryfunnyguys Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride, and will have to be a dark comedy, since it's about two fledgling criminals who kidnap a pizza delivery driver and strap a bomb to his chest to force him to rob a bank within 30 minutes.

Another director who I'm glad works very quickly of late is David Cronenberg, who is now shooting "The Dangerous Method" but has also already signed for the project that would follow that.

Pajiba is reporting he'll direct an adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel "As She Climbed Across the Table," and from the description I've seen of the story, it sounds twisted enough to be right up Cronenberg's alley. It centers on Professor Phillip Engstrand, who is in love with particle physicist Alice Coombs. Unfortunately for Phillip, Alice is in love with “The Lack” – a selective black hole (I hate it when that happens) – leaving Phillip to basically compete with nothingness for her affection.

As for what he's filming now, "A Dangerous Method" (formerly known as "The Talking Cure," which would have been better), it's about a feud that developed between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) over the treatment of a patient (Keira Knightley, though as far as I know it's not for anorexia - sorry, I couldn't resist.) That sounds like nothing but fascinating to me.

OK, as we get to the videos, it is indeed all about Christopher Nolan from here on out, starting with the best featurette I've seen yet for "Inception," which is finally set to come out July 16. Be warned, as it sort of introduces the characters, it contains more spoilers than what's come out before, so click it with that warning. Enjoy.



And finally, getting back to the lead, IFC On Demand, which I and probably you can get through your digital cable or whatever you subscribe to for TV, will be screening "Following," Christopher Nolan's first feature film, starting July 7. So, what's it about? Here goes, per the Ebert Club newsletter:

"Out of boredom and frustration, an unemployed writer (Jeremy Theobald) picks strangers at random from the crowded streets of London and then follows them to see where they go, and how they spend their days. Reasoning that he's gathering material for the fictional characters in his writing, he begins following the same people more than once, curious to learn more about them; a rule he'd promised himself not to break. That was his first mistake. But then he teams up with a burglar Cobb (Alex Hawk) and breaks into the apartment of a mysterious blonde (Lucy Russell), with whom he is fascinated. And slowly begins to find out that things may not be as they seem."

Sounds like a mindbender tailormade to Nolan to me, so I'll definitely be tuning in. Enjoy the trailer below, and if you'll excuse me now, the second half of U.S.A. v. Algeria really demands my undivided attention now. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seth Rogen as "The Green Hornet": Not as bad as you might have imagined


The first trailer for Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet" has indeed been unveiled (and the first picture is above), but if you'll indulge me for just a few seconds during a short post today (have to get to work early so I can take off during tomorrow's U.S.A.-Algeria match), there were a few great things that also caught my eye.

First up comes some confirmation that when Harold and Kumar finally return again for Christmas day 2011 with "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas," they're gonna bring the serious funny. Shooting has just begun, and word came out yesterday that veryfunnyman Patton Oswalt has joined the cast, though I'm not sure yet in what capacity. "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," while far from awful, wasn't nearly as funny as "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," but here's hoping that as Harold at least finally tries to grow up in the third installment, the guys go out on top (assuming this will be the final chapter of the stoner saga - but here's hoping I'm wrong again.)

Secondly, and this can really be a shock to absolutely no one, HBO has gone ahead and ordered a fourth season of "True Blood" just as the third season is getting going. While the first two season three episodes have been heavy on exposition, they've also been as wickedly funny as the show has ever been, and though I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't read Charlayne Harris' sensationally entertaining Sookie Stackhouse novels, I'll just say that the arrival of lovably dimwitted Jason (Ryan Kwanten) in Hotshot is going to signal a major transformation, probably as soon as episode three, that you definitely don't want to miss. Stay tuned ...

And thirdly before we finally get to "The Green Hornet," I just assumed the World Cup ratings headline in the U.S.A. was going to be "Blame it on the Vuvuzuelas," but I guess I should have a little more faith. In fact, per the Hollywood Reporter, "through the first 14 matches of the World Cup, ESPN and ABC have delivered an average crowd of 3.35 million viewers, marking a 64% increase from the same period in 2006, when the nets drew 2.9 million fans. The initial portion of the round-robin stage was distinguished by the much-anticipated June 12 U.S.-England tie, which drew 13 million viewers on ABC, making it the most-watched first round World Cup game in U.S. broadcast history." Bully. And again, just in case you're looking for an excuse to drink a beer or two for breakfast tomorrow, U.S.A. v. Algeria for all the marbles tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Tune in.

OK, indeed the main event here was supposed to be the unveiling of the first trailer for "The Green Hornet," and here it is. And although the idea of Seth Rogen as a superhero raises its fair share of doubts, he really doesn't embarrass himself here. The problem, at least in this snippet, is that it really doesn't show any of the signature trippy style of director Michel Gondry, who seems to have been tamed by the superhero flick. Anyways, there are certainly worse ways to spend two-and-a-half minutes of a workday morning, so enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Emblematic of this summer: A 9 percent fresh flick

How bad have the movies been this summer? This morning, I was struck by two signs.

First, the idea that "Jonah Hex" would be this year's first (that I know of) "zero percent fresh" movie at Rotten Tomatoes. Think about that for a second. Of all the people in the world who call themselves critics, they couldn't find one to say this comic book flick starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox doesn't just suck?

By this morning, however, it was up to a more robust 9 percent fresh, with three or so "positive" reviews, one of which had the following summarizing phrase: "You could do worse than this and if you have been going to the movies this summer with any regularity, you most likely already have." Nothing like a ringing endorsement, eh?

And secondly, the Hollywood Reporter, in apparent seriousness, ran the following headline: "Early Oscar Contenders Scarce." Really? Having seen my fair share of stinkers already this year, I didn't have to take the time to read that article.

However, I do still try to be a glass half full kinda guy, and along with the U.S.A. playing Slovenia this morning in the World Cup, there is, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a "100 percent fresh" movie opening this weekend, Pixar's annual offering, "Toy Story 3." The closest thing I've seen to criticism of that so far is that it's a roller-coaster ride that never lets up. Sounds like summer to me, and I'll be going to see it in glorious 2-D (because I already wear glasses, and don't need to pay $3 more or so just for a second pair, thank you very much) this afternoon.

And speaking of potentially great movies, Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" just keeps looking better and better as they keep releasing trailers. I suppose it could be overload by the time this finally opens in August, but with as thoroughly fun as it looks to be, I'm nowhere near that point yet. My favorite line in this latest international trailer: "Prepare to die, obviously." Enjoy, watch the U.S.A. this morning, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This just in: "The Blues Brothers" is a classic

Complaining about the vuvzelas is embarrassing. It's part of their game and we are their guests. Suck it up and stop whinging. Hooooooooonk!

Amen, brother. Not surprisingly, Simon Pegg gets it exactly right in that tweet. Do the vuvuzuelas really bother you that much, or more to the point, how are they any more annoying than thunder sticks, the wave or any other obnoxious thing we do at sporting events?

But, one paragraph in, already I digress. Just watch the World Cup already, and enjoy it as I am.

Here today, however, it's all about a startling discovery by the Vatican, well known for it's cutting-edge pronouncements on film and everything else. Its latest directive, issued in the Vatican's official newspaper "L'Osservatore Romano," in honor of the 30th anniversary of John Landis' movie, calls "The Blues Brothers" a "Catholic classic" and says it should be recommended viewing for Catholics everywhere.

Well, duh. The only way you could make that statement more accurate would be to make it say "film and comedy lovers" everywhere, but how in the world could the tale of Jake and Elwood, on a mission from God to save a Catholic orphanage, among other pursuits, not be a classic? Way to finally get on board, guys ...

And just in case you want to get all your viewing advice from the Vatican, here are a few others they have endorsed (and though I haven't seen "The Passion of the Christ" and won't, I can confirm that the rest of these are indeed very good, if not particularly edgy, movies): "The Blues Brothers" joins the list of dozens of films recommended by Catholic authorities that includes Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments," "Jesus of Nazareth" from Franco Zeffirelli," Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ," Victor Flemming's "Joan of Arc," and "It's a Wonderful Life" from Frank Capra.

OK, from here on out today, before we get to a few trailers, it will be all about comedies to come that will hopefully bring the serious funny, starting with a bold pronouncement from Ricky Gervais, who is the king of comedy in my book.

Anyone who's seen the original "The Office" or "Extras" knows that Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant have already established themselves as purveyors of very good observational comedy. So, when you see a statement like this, even if it's obviously self-promotion, you have to get at least a little excited:

"It's the funniest thing we've done," Gervais said while attending the Banff World Television Festival. "It's pure funny."

So, what's he talking about? Well, it's "Life's Too Short," and it's a show he's doing now for BBC2 (and hopefully HBO or some other American medium soon enough) starring the truly great Warwick Davis as a little person with "a small-man complex."

According to Gervais, among the real-world experiences shared by Davis are using a broom handle to retrieve out-of-reach supermarket products, or being forever touched by ordinary people for good luck, as if he were a leprechaun (just go ahead and admit it - you laughed at that last bit too. It's OK, because it's just plain funny.)

Bring this on already, and as soon as possible. If the aforementioned list of my funniest people in the world were expanded a bit, it would certainly include Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Dave Chappelle, Kristen Wiig and Larry David, and not too long after that, Danny McBride, so you can count me as psyched any time he sets up a new project.

Mandate has picked up "Bullies," from an original McBride idea and to be penned by "Yes Man" scribes Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul (so I suppose they're due for a winner, right?) The comedy, which one would have to assume will also star McBride, centers on two brothers who have bullied people their whole lives and finally get what is coming to them.

Sounds good to me, and for fellow Danny McBride fans, 2011 should be a very good year. He's just wrapped "Your Highness," a stoner/knights in armor comedy also starring James Franco, Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman, and directed by David Gordon Green (and if you've seen "Pineapple Express" and that didn't make you smile at least a little bit, why the heck not? If you haven't seen it, rent it immediately.)

He's also now shooting the second season of HBO's "Eastbound and Down" with director Jody Hill (yes, the South is rising again, in very good comedy.) I may be the only person in the world who's psyched that this seriously bitter show about a washed-up former pro baseball player (McBride, natch) got a second season, but I certainly am.

And finally, he'll also star in "30 Minutes or Less," director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to the rather insanely funny "Zombieland." The dark comedy also starring veryfunnyguy Aziz Ansari is about two fledgling criminals who kidnap a pizza delivery man and strap a bomb to his chest to make him rob a bank. I said dark, right?

OK, enough of that. All I have after that today is a trio of trailers for flicks that look like they'll certainly be worth catching. First up, does anyone remember the "Chronicles of Narnia" series? The flicks certainly seem to be lost in our current sea of bad 3-D and thoroughly unnecessary sequels/prequels/remakes/reimaginings, but I loved "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," and thought "Prince Caspian" was even better. So, you can certainly count me as jazzed for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," set to come out this Christmas. Enjoy the first trailer I know of for it.



OK, since you must be using the Internet to read this, I have to assume you've been on it at least once, and have probably noticed that along with the musing of movie fans, you can also count on it as a pretty solid source of pornography of just about any kind you can imagine (if you somehow didn't know that, go ahead and take a few minutes to find out - I won't tell anyone.) Well, it wasn't always that way, and this next flick, "Middle Men," which I had never heard of until this morning, stars Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi and takes a clearly tongue-in-cheek look at one of the pioneers of turning the Internet into a moral wasteland (congrats!) Seriously, though, this looks like it could be really good when it drops in August. Enjoy.



And finally, since I declare my love for "This is Spinal Tap" in the permanent sideboard of this site, I should at least give the benefit of the doubt to the first movie Rob Reiner has both written and directed since that true gem, right, even if he has made a ton of stinkers in between? "Flipped," as you'll see below, is a sweet-looking tale of kids growing up in the 1950s and discovering that, yes, boys and girls can have all kinds of fun together. It will make you obviously think of "Stand By Me," and it does somehow have veryfunnyguy J.K. Simmons in it, so here's hoping this will far from suck when it also comes out in August. Enjoy, and if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch some World Cup before I have to go to the job that I somehow still get paid for. Peace and futbol ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Has "The Hobbit" found its new director? Perhaps so

I'm not afraid to admit when something is just too maddening to wrap my often way-too-occupied mind around, and the sad saga of Guillermo Del Toro and "The Hobbit" is a perfect example of that.

How a director that talented could give what seems like 10 years of his life to something and then just have to abandon it all still confounds me, but even if the MGM mess will continue to be beyond my pay grade (nothing), it seems "The Hobbit" is closing in on a replacement for Del Toro, and it's a natural choice.

David Yates has directed the last four (if you count the two-part "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" as two movies, which I suppose you have to) Harry Potter movies, and before that made the sublimely entertaining little flick "Girl in the Cafe" (rent that one immediately if you haven't seen it.) And now Production Weekly is reporting that an offer has been made to Yates to direct "The Hobbit" next.

"Deathly Hallows," the first installment of which is set to drop in November, finished shooting just this week, so the timing would certainly be ideal. And apparently in the actually only two years he spent on this, Del Toro wasn't just sitting idle; there are apparently sets and designs that have Del Toro's vision of Middle Earth pretty much ready to go whenever Yates, or whoever ends up taking this on, is ready to go.

Now an offer is only exactly that, and who knows if he'll actually accept it, but that would certainly be good news, because "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was solid, and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," both directed by Yates, was the best in the movie franchise so far.

And "The Hobbit" has always been my favorite of Tolkein's tales, mostly because it is so naturally a story for children, and one that I adored when I was one. Heck, I even liked that Jules Bass/Arthur Rankin Jr. animated musical, as admittedly silly as it was, and learned to play the piano to its songs.

But what will happen to Guillermo Del Toro? He seems to have at least 10 options on his plate, but the picture is about to get a lot clearer, especially if you're going to Comic Con next week, where he will announce what he'll direct next. I have no idea what that might be, but will certainly be tuning in to find out. If I had my druthers, it would be an original tale set in Spain to complete the "Devil's Backbone"-"Pan's Labyrinth"-whatever might come next trilogy, because those are still easily his best movies.

OK, enough of that. All I have after that is a trio of videos and, be warned, yes there is some "Saved By the Bell" at the end. Yes, really, but first up is the first trailer for Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," which could either be something really intriguing in the vein of "Lost in Translation" or just a sappy mess. I really had little time at all for "Marie Antoinette," which was just a ton of style signifying much less than nothing, but "Lost in Translation" and the even-better "Virgin Suicides" are winners in my book, so I'll certainly be there to see this as soon after it opens on Dec. 22 as I can. As you'll see from the trailer, "Somewhere" stars Stephen Dorff as a star leading a fairly empty existence until he's reunited with his young daughter, played by Elle Fanning. Like I said, plenty of room for schmaltz here, but I'm still holding out hope for something more. Enjoy.



Next up, and keeping it a family affair, here's the trailer for the second season of HBO's "Bored to Death," which stars Coppola's cousin (I think) Jason Schwartzman as a would-be private eye in NYC. If you missed the first season last fall, you missed out on some serious funny, especially in Ted Danson, who plays an out-of-control magazine editor. The show, which also stars Zach Galifianiakis and was created by Jonathan Ames, is set to return in September, so definitely give it a chance. Enjoy.



OK, how better can you wrap things up than with some "Saved By the Bell"? I'm not ashamed to admit that I love the extremely silly NBC Saturday morning show (which may still be on the air with some kind of "Saved By the Bell: Next Generation" or something, for all I know.) There's really nothing funny about the BP oil spill, but whoever put together this mashup of the show and "There Will Be Blood" clearly knows this simple fact: You really can learn just anything you need to know about life from "Saved By the Bell." Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. I'm off now to watch some World Cup. Peace - and futbol - out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Represent! Watch U.S.A. v. England, of course, but first, some news

If you were to ask me who the funniest two people in the world are, I'd respond, in this order, Ricky Gervais and Larry David, so if you bring them together, even for just one episode, you're gonna get my attention.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to see the eighth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David's much more bitter and, yes, funnier, HBO follow-up to "Seinfeld," but when we do, it's been announced that Gervais will indeed be appearing as himself on the eighth episode.

Is it possible to have too much funny? I think not, and luckily, HBO definitely doesn't think you can have too much Ricky Gervais. Just last night I finally sat down and watched a few episodes of "The Ricky Gervais Show," which is essentially just animated visuals to go along with podcasts he makes with comedic partner Stephen Merchant and foil Karl Pilkington, and for which HBO has already ordered a second season.

The show itself is hampered by both that extremely limited format and by the fact that Gervais, in baiting Pilkington, often comes off as a bully. It still works, though, because these are three extremely funny guys, and because Pilkington in particular is at least as much a savant as he is an idiot. The best bits so far have been a "Monkey News" segment in which they debate whether or not a monkey can host a talk show, and another one in which Pilkington shares his birthing theory that when you die, you should immediately turn in to a baby again.

The bottom line: if you like cerebral funny, these guys deliver it, and I'm a fan. And in even better news, Gervais is now launching a new series for the BBC titled "Life's Too Short," which will "document" the life of showbiz little guy Warwick Davis, who has already made an appearance with Daniel Radcliffe on the Gervais/Merchant series "Extras." When and if this crosses the pond, it's extremely likely it will be to HBO too, and I can only say bring it on, because I'll admit I really like good jokes about little folk.

In other news, I really don't think there's any way Disney can get me too excited about another damned prequel, this one for "The Wizard of Oz," but they're certainly trying. Vulture reports today that the studio has offered Sam Raimi the reins for this project, in which Robert Downey Jr. would apparently play the wizard himself if this ever gets made.

I'd still lean toward just saying no to this, but if you've seen "Drag Me to Hell," you know Raimi still has some fun left in him (and if you haven't, and can handle a wickedly funny and equally gross horror flick, rent it immediately.) I suppose the man's gotta work, especially since they swiped the "Spider-Man" franchise from him, but if he jumps at this, he'll be far from alone in returning to the land of Oz.

Because absolutely nothing in Hollywood happens in a vacuum, there are at least three other "Oz"-related projects coming together, the furthest along being an upcoming 3D animated film "Dorothy of Oz." Nothing about that would make me say anything but meh except for the fact they've now cast "Glee" star Lea Michelle as the lead, and being an admitted and devoted Gleek, I figured I'd at least be the messenger on that too.

In the same press release, however, came this rather ominous note: "15-time Grammy winner Bryan Adams is currently moving forward on the first songs and lyrics for the film." Sheesh. OK, enough of that. On to the videos ...

Sticking with HBO first, this is the third, and best, trailer I know of the Martin Scorsese-produced series "Boardwalk Empire," which will chronicle the rise of Atlantic City's gambling empire and is set to debut in September. As you'll see from the trailer, the best one yet, it stars Steve Buscemi. Enjoy, and if you're a Sookie Stackhouse fan like me, of course tune in at 9 Sunday night for the season three premiere of "True Blood."




"Futurama" is rather inexplicably but thankfully set to rise again very soon with new episodes on Comedy Central, with the first two coming back-to-back June 24 (and yes, with all the original voice cast members.) Here, courtesy of the network, is first 90 seconds or so of the first new episode in which, predictably, we already find Fry in a tight spot. Enjoy.



And finally, the big day is finally here. The U.S.A. takes on England today in South Africa, and if you're somehow in Macon and interested, the rather unfortunately named Bottom's Up (not a titty bar, despite that name) will be open downtown and I and some fellow soccer geeks will be there to watch as the game begins at 2:30 EST. In the meantime, soccer fan Rivers Cuomo and his Weezer bandmates have recorded "Represent," an unofficial theme song for the squad, and it indeed kicks ass. Enjoy along with this video tribute to the team, and definitely tune in for what will hopefully make the U.S.A. undefeated (2-0) all time in World Cup matches against England. Peace and futbol to all!

"Wax on, F$#@ Off": F$#@ yeah!

Happy World Cup to everyone, and thoroughly distracted by that as I am (Mexico v. Bafana Bafana in just under three hours!), all I really have time for this morning is this seriously funny clip from Funny or Die starring the one and only Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio.

I'll probably try and squeeze in a movie tomorrow before U.S.A. v. England, but I can't imagine it will be the new version starring Will Smith's kid, though word so far is it isn't entirely awful. I'll probably spring for "The A-Team," but in the meantime, enjoy this clip, which works because it's so undoubtedly true and because Macchio still looks like he's about 15. Peace and futbol!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Riddler? Bring it on!

Rumors are, after all, exactly that, but when they're this good, you just have to embrace them and hope that somehow makes them true.

Hollywoodlife.com is reporting that, after the two joked about it on the set of "Inception," aka the best candidate to save us from this thoroughly wretched summer (though if you've been here before, you know I did enjoy both "Get Him to the Greek" and "Splice"), director Christopher Nolan now has Joseph Gordon-Levitt on his short list to play the villain in the next Batman movie, the Riddler. Take a second to absorb just how cool that would be if it turns out to be true.

Now, keep in mind that any new Batman movie is two years away and is still being written by David S. Goyer, but if you look at Gordon-Levitt's work so far, you'll hopefully understand just how cool this could be. I'm not as high on "500 Days of Summer" as many people I know, but it's a pleasant enough little movie, and he's much better in either "Brick" or "The Lookout," if you're in the market for a movie rental.

And easily the weirdest thing about this of all? I had forgotten but saw somewhere that Nolan's last big bad, the late Heath Ledger, and Gordon-Levitt co-starred in the much-better-than-it-should-be teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You." Not sure why, but I just for some reason find that a little eerie ...

OK, enough of that, because it's a day full of actual casting news, good and bad, so let's get to it. And, being me, I'll just start with the bad and get it over with. If you've seen "Tropic Thunder," I have to hope you liked it, because even though some of it was indeed overkill (way too much Jack Black), it was mostly savagely funny (and you'll have to forgive me if it offends you, but that "full retard" bit will always make me laugh out loud.)

Unfortunately, now comes word that easily the least funny part of that movie, Tom Cruise's movie producer Les Grossman, is now somehow getting his own feature-length movie (but, if Marmaduke can get his own movie, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.) You may remember him from "Tropic Thunder" with more fondness than I do, but I just thought it was a tremendous amount of bluster signifying very little funny. This is being produced by Cruise and Ben Stiller, and this statement from Stiller announcing it did little to convince me they'll actually come up with anything funny here:

“Les Grossman’s life story is an inspiring tale of the human class struggle to achieve greatness against all odds. He has assured me he plans to quote ‘F**king kill the sh*t out of this movie and make Citizen f**king Kane look like a piece of crap home movie by the time we are done.’ I am honored to be working with him.”

Whatever comes of all this will apparently be written up by "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" co-screenwriter Michael Bacall, but that still doesn't give me too much confidence.

OK, enough negativity, because it really is far outweighed by the good casting news out there today. First up comes word that two of Jack Donaghy's girlfriends will be among the ladies I like watching in movies joining veryfunnyman Paul Rudd in what sounds like a really fun little flick.

Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Rashida Jones will star opposite Paul Rudd in "My Idiot Brother," a comedy being directed Jesse Peretz. With that much funny on the female side, can this possibly go wrong?

The movie, according to the Hollywood Reporter, centers on an idealist (Rudd) dealing with his over¬bearing mother who crashes at the homes of his three ambitious sisters and (this last part actually scares me a bit) "brings truth, happiness and a sunny disposition into their lives while also wreaking havoc." No matter how sappy that sounds, I'm still betting on funny too. Here's a bit more about the characters, per THR:

Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer play the sisters. Banks is a career-driven single about to get her big break in journalism after spending years writing about accessories at a fashion magazine; Deschanel is a bisexual whose flakiness and lies are getting in the way of moving forward with her caring, responsible girlfriend (Jones); and Mortimer plays a Park Slope mom too worried about having the perfect life and children to notice that her marriage is falling apart.

That all sounds good to me, and the few people who may have visited here before probably know that I have an inordinate amount of affection for the Paul Rudd movie "Role Models," which makes this next bit of casting news even better.

It seems that Steve Zahn (currently starring on "Treme"), Peter Dinklage (easily my favorite of the little people) and Ryan Kwanten (Jason on "True Blood") will star in something called "Knights of Badassdom." Yes, really.

The horror/comedy being directed by Joe Lynch is about a group of live-action role players who just happen to conjure up a demon from hell by mistake and have to deal with the consequences. That had me laughing already, and just to make it better, here's what Kwanten had to say about it to Access Hollywood:

"... it's like 'Shaun of the Dead' meets 'Role Models.' It's that real black comedy that I really love."

Nothing like name-checking two movies I love too to get me hooked. OK, from here on out today, it's simply about a trio of videos that happened to catch my eye. "True Blood" does indeed return this Sunday at 9 p.m., and you can count me as thoroughly psyched for it. I've read all of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels now, and though the show takes all kinds of liberties from her work, they almost always pan out. Here's a clip from season three that features one of its new characters, the werewolf Alcide Herveaux, being played by Joe Manganiello, and Anna Paquin's Sookie. Enjoy.



For some reason not until an hour or so after I've gone to bed (it is after all, a school night), AMC will be premiering the first episode of a promising new series called "Rubicon" this Sunday at 11 p.m. (thank God for the DVR.) I'm a sucker for almost anything with a grand conspiracy, and when you make it political, I'm even more in. "Rubicon," which will be a 12-part series and eventually settle in behind the new season of "Mad Men" starting on Aug. 1, is about a fourth branch of American government that really runs everything around us, as far as I can tell from this trailer (just to clarify, "Mad Men" actually returns on July 25, and not a minute too soon, but "Rubicon" won't get it's proper launch until the following week.) Enjoy.



And finally, and in so many ways saving the very best for last, I found this little comedy nugget in the latest Roger Ebert newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. It costs like $5 for a year, but it's thoroughly worth it, especially when he puts in things as good as "David Mamet's Lost Masterpieces of Pornography." With a title like that, I'm not sure it needs any more embellishment from me, but know it's hosted "Masterpiece Theater"-style by Ricky Jay and somehow stars Kristen Bell and Ed O'Neill. Yes, really, and on the funny or die scale, this is definitely funny. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A good movie this summer? Yes, finally, "Get Him to the Greek"


Actually, before I get into any of that, here's a real what the f#$% moment about another potentially great movie we Yanks will never be able to see, or at least not in any kind of movie theater.

I've been wondering for some time when we would be able to see "Cemetery Junction," the '70s period comedy written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (you know, the "The Office" guys). Well, it seems we now have an answer: Aug. 17, but only on DVD.

How in the world could a working-man's comedy from this duo, about insurance salesmen in England in the '70s, not get even a small theater release? I suppose the rather phenomenal box office failures of "The Invention of Lying" and "Ghost Town" had something to do with it (though the latter is a seriously smart and funny romantic comedy, so rent it already.)

Anyways, enough about that disaster. At least we know when we'll be able to see it in some form. Before we get to a couple of videos, here in the next few days it's about two surprisingly good movies I did manage to see last weekend, "Get Him to the Greek" and "Splice." And they're not just good in comparison to the fact that the rest of this summer has just sucked pretty hard, but standalone, actually good.

Let's start today with "Get Him to the Greek," which really comes down to one question: Can you stand Russell Brand? Jackie K. Cooper, who writes up movies for the newspaper I toil for, can't, and gave the move a three. Rather harsh, but certainly understandable. I'd give it a 7 or even 7.5 (on a scale of 10) for being a fast-paced, almost entirely raunchy and just about right summer comedy.

But it all comes down to Brand and to a somewhat lesser extent Jonah Hill, because unlike Judd Apatow's star-laden but seriously confused "Funny People," which really had no idea what it wanted to be, writer/director Nicholas Stoller (with, according to the credits, "characters created by Jason Segel) makes "Get Him to the Greek" a buddy comedy in the traditional sense, with a few celebrities making cameos (Kristen Bell makes a brief but hilarious return as Sarah Marshall) but never overwhelming or distracting from the story at its core.

And I'm sure anyone reading this by now knows already that that story is about Hill's mission, as a record company intern, to get debauched British rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) to L.A.'s Greek Theater for a show. And it indeed often comes down to the two of them pushing the limits of taste and through them again and again, which would get old a lot quicker than its one hour and 45 minutes or so if they weren't such a natural fit together.

There's a moment near the end that just captures their chemistry perfectly. After their American adventure reaches its nadir in a Las Vegas meltdown featuring Snow's father (Colm Meaney, very funny as usual) and broken up by Hill's boss (P. Diddy, not nearly as funny as hyped to be, but OK). Look for the expressions on their faces, one of sheer joy and the other of utter terror, on their faces as they're running out of the hotel, for me the movie's signature moment (and it's the top of this review.)

In the end, what makes this the best "Camp Apatow" - or whatever you want to call it - movie since "Superbad" (and almost as good as that movie, and if you've been here before you know that's high praise) is it's simple moral, or more accurately the almost complete lack of one. Through his journey (and I hope I'm not spoiling too much here, because you really should go see this), all Aldous really learns is that he really shouldn't be too much of a dick. Really nothing more redeeming than that, and that's exactly where this should have ended up.

OK, you get the idea by now that I really liked this, but I did have some quibbles, and it has almost entirely to do with how the movie treats - or more accurately abuses - women (except for Rose Byrne, who is very funny as Jackie Q, Snow's pop diva ex-girlfriend whose songs delight in the art of single entendre.) After "Freaks and Geeks," Apatow and friends made another one-season show that was in its way almost as good, "Undeclared" (if you've never heard of that, just trust me and rent it.) At its center were Jay Baruchel and Carla Gallo, who has been famous since mostly as the female foil for the crudest of "jokes" in the movies Apatow has produced since.

You may remember her from "Superbad" as the party dancer who, it being a certain time of the month, leaves her mark on Jonah Hill. OK, that was funny. In "Get Him to the Greek," however, you can certainly call her a sport, but she's also the butt of a joke that goes horribly wrong in the aforementioned Las Vegas scene. To tell you anymore would spoil it, but let's just say I don't cringe very often at rude humor, but this was just gross and not at all funny.

And poor Elisabeth Moss really just gets treated even worse. As Hill's earnest live-in girlfriend who is also a very hard-working doctor, she's not just a one-dimensional killjoy, but in the movie's most lethargic and awkward stretch, makes for its worst scene by far when she berates Hill for his rock 'n' roll exploits, and then proposes an encounter that's as ludicrous as it is poorly delivered.

Though women have had fun in Apatow-produced movies before (Emma Stone was great in "Superbad," and Charlyne Yi was a hoot in "Knocked Up"), all too often - as here - they're simply around to rain on the parade. But perhaps I'm just thinking too much about what, after all, is designed to be a thoroughly raunchy and fun summer ride, and is, exactly because boys will still be boys, and thankfully with "Get Him to the Greek," very funny ones at that.

OK, I really have to go work now, but I'll leave you with the funniest clip I could find this morning. The "punch line" doesn't come until the very end, and be warned: Before that you get Mike White and Justin Long acting like a very gay (as supposed to partially gay, I suppose) couple, so if that kind of thing offends you, please don't watch it. In a couple of minutes, however, it makes a very salient point about California's Prop 8, and does it in a way that made me, at least, laugh out loud. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

For Thursday, no laughing matter in baseball, great movie news and a cache of funny clips

I suppose I would actually get a few people to read this if I ever bothered to make it single entries rather than a fairly free-flowing outpouring of whatever enters my mind at 6 in the morning, but than it would stop being fun, so what then would be the point?

But I, like many people, was watching baseball on ESPN last night (actually out of the corner of my eye while watching something else on Netflix, about the most multitasking I can actually do) when Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was absolutely robbed and jobbed out of a perfect game.

That was the lead story on NPR when I woke up this morning, so it's obviously already a lot bigger than baseball, which it should be. For me, however, as angry as it initially made me, it was Galarraga's classy reaction to the obviously blown umpiring call that sticks with me: "No one is perfect."

He's certainly right there, and it is, in my own warped way, while I'll always be opposed to the introduction of replay in baseball (though I'd be willing to bet Galarraga would vote for in an instant.) Baseball is and always be a sport with as many opportunities for error as grace, and that all goes into what makes it the world's second-most beautiful game (second to, only of course, soccer.) It's far preferable that these errors be committed by the players than the umpires charged with regulating the game, but even in extreme cases like this one, think about it for a second.

Do we really want the game to be stopped every time there's a close call on the base path or anywhere in the field? That slippery slope will eventually lead to recalls on balls and strikes, and games that could easily go on for five hours or more. It would simply disrupt the natural flow of the game, which often, yes, does involve the extremely human act of umpiring, and would be a disaster.

OK, enough about baseball in what is supposed to be a movie site, especially since it's a day full of good news about directors I really like.

To start, does anyone remember Whit Stillman? He made his debut with what lingers as one of my favorite movies in "Metropolitan," a very dryly witty look at the lives of wealthy young NYC socialites (it's a lot better than I'm making it sound here, and rather amazingly, you can watch in on Hulu.) He followed that up with two movies that were not quite as good but still entertaining, "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco," and then pretty much disappeared, at least until now.

He tried to make a comeback a couple of years ago with an adaptation of Christopher Buckley's satirical novel "Little Green Men," but like many ventures in our brave new world, that fizzled fast. Now, however, it seems like he's actually going to be able to make a movie, and it will be called "Damsels in Distress." Here's a synopsis:

[The picture] centers on a group of college girls who take in a new student and teach her their own misguided ways of helping people. Lily, a new student at Seven Oaks University, winds up filling in with a dynamic and highly individualistic group of girls, addicted to the elegance of the past: Heather, Violet and Rose all volunteer at the campus Suicide Prevention Center, convinced that musical dance, sharp clothes and good hygiene — the Dior perfume “Diorissimo” is their trademark — can all contribute to staving off the inevitable self-destructive impulses that follow hard on the heels of failed college romances. Despite their sophisticated talk and savvy use of perfume, the girls are plagued by Cupid’s arrows and must adjust their psyches to the onset of amour.

That all sounds really funny to me already, and casting is apparently going on now, with eyes set on a five-week July shoot in NYC, so it looks like, yes, we will actually get another movie out of Whit Stillman.

In other news, I didn't know that Spike Lee was working on a sequel to his sensational Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," but it certainly makes sense, especially since those same poor folks could find their land covered in oil any day now. Never being one for half-measures, however, it now seems that Lee is also now filming in Haiti, to draw obvious parallels between what happened there and in N'awlins.

The fate of Haiti is worthy of a Spike Lee documentary on its own, but whatever he comes up with here should be as painful to watch as it should be thoroughly engaging (and frankly, thank God that he keeps doing things like this as the attention of the rest of us understandably turns elsewhere.)

And, in a final bit before we get to the, I promise, extremely silly clips, it seems that director Sam Mendes has very, very wisely turned his back on some kind of "Wizard of Oz" prequel, sequel or whatever the hell it might be called "Oz the Great and Powerful" to instead direct a movie based on the Ian McEwan short novel "On Chesil Beach," a minor McEwan work but one of my favorites, and even better, "An Education" star Carey Mulligan will apparently star in it (even with Robert Downey Jr. as the wizard, there's just no way you could have gotten me to watch that "Oz" crap.)

As for "On Chesil Beach," it's about a couple on their honeymoon on the titular beach in the 1960s, and like Mendes' best movies so far, it explores the psychological barriers to and burdens of intimacy. Again, I'm surely not summing that up very well, but trust me, it's great stuff, and Mulligan as one half of the couple at its center will surely be fantastic.

OK, you have my solemn promise that from here on out today, it will be nothing but silly in the clips. First up comes something that needs absolutely no more description from me: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert vs. Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter in a fatal danceoff. Enjoy.



I was already convinced that "Get Him to the Greek" is gonna be exactly my kind of raunchy funny with just enough heart, but just in case anyone else needs some convincing here, courtesy of Funny or Die (I'll take the former with this) are the movie's first five minutes. As were the best parts of Nicholas Stoller's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," it's a pretty spot-on hit on our celebrity culture, and I think that even if you can't stand Russell Brand (which I can, because he's just friggin' funny), this is still gonna be a winner. Enjoy.



Next up comes the second trailer for one I'm not as sure about, Jay Roach's remake of the sublime French farce "Diner de Cons," which is now called "Dinner for Schmucks" and stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (and as you'll see from the trailer, Zach Galifianakis too.) This has a high hurdle to jump in being compared to the original flick by Francis Veber, but it at least looks like Carell will be in full geek mode when this comes out July 23. Enjoy.



Well, these last two are probably more silly than funny, but Ben Kingsley trying out for a part in "Transformers 3"? Why not? (Sorry to break it to you, Sir Ben, but I'm afraid you somehow missed out on this to Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely - say what you want about Michael Bay, but the man does certainly at least have a type.) Enjoy the clip and compare it to Heidi Montag's apparently earnest "Transformers" audition tape he's spoofing, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.



Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A black Spider-Man? Hell yeah! Plus, "Scott Pilgrim" vs. the rest of the summer

I pledged to myself a few weeks ago that I wouldn't join any more groups on Facebook. I mean when you're a member of something as life-alteringly important as "Keep Rex Daisy on the 1st Ave. Wall", where else is there to go?

There are still a few things, however, I find interesting enough to latch onto without being asked to by friends like radio DJ and former Rex Daisy member Jason Nagel (though I'm afraid I'm considering dropping my Orioles feed, because, frankly, I'm not sure I can take the daily reminder that, yes, they've managed to lose another game.) And Donald Glover as Spider-Man? There's something I can get behind.

When it was first announced that Sam Raimi had quit the "Spider-Man" franchise and later that the entire cast would be jettisoned in favor of a reboot, that's when I lost just about all interest. Even when "500 Days of Summer" director Marc Webb was announced as the helmer of this project, it still didn't make it anything but a bad idea in my mind.

Given all that, how can you get me interested again? Well, how about a black Peter Parker for starters, and why the hell not? Especially since "Community" star Glover, who has launched his own lobbying campaign to at least get the chance to audition for the role, would be just about perfect for it. If you watch "Community" you know he's a funny guy, and he's certainly the right age for this. And you can tell from the eagerness he brings to this that he's clearly a Spider-Man fan.

So, you can count me as entirely on board with this idea, which would at least make the notion of a new "Spider-Man" franchise more stomachable (and yes, I'm well aware that's probably not an actual word.) If you're a twitter kind of person, you can sign on to #donald4spiderman, which apparently was the "third highest trending" feed (whatever the hell that means) on Monday night. Or, if you're a rube like me who resists Twitter, you can sign on to his facebook page here (and trust me, it's at least worth a visit if only to see the hilarious photos of him as Spidey in various poses.)

I've just moved "Mystery Team," which Glover stars in and wrote along with his DERRICK comedy cohorts, to the top of my Netflix queue, but it tells me there will be a "short wait" for it, so who knows when that will be coming.

All I've got except for that today is the second trailer I know of for "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World," and it's even better than the first one. It looks like Edgar Wright has simply put together a really fun and funny movie that will hopefully breathe some life into what has so far just been a disastrous movie summer when it finally comes out in August. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.