Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ben Affleck may finally be ready to move onto a new "Town"

Though I wanted to love Ben Affleck's "The Town," I could never really quite get there for several reasons.

First of all, the story is familiar to the point of being tired. And though it's extremely well shot, the body count in those slick action scenes should have been in the 100's (it's just a movie, I know, but with the way Jeremy Renner was spraying bullets around, it just didn't even come close to adding up.)

But what it really left me with was the sense that, even though the best strength of "The Town" is its very strong sense of place in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, perhaps its time for Affleck to finally branch out from his home turf as a director.

Well, Warner Bros., apparently has the same idea, and has now offered him the chance to direct something called "Tales from the Gangster Squad."

Adapted from a series of LA Times articles, the movie will explore the true story of a secret "off the record" police task force that went after Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen, a high-profile gangster who was a member of the "Jewish Mafia" in the 1940's. The screenplay has been drafted by former LA cop and novelist Will Beall.

Still a crime movie, obviously, but that's just fine with me, because Affleck has proven much more with "Gone Baby Gone" than with "The Town" that he has a sure hand in directing crime thrillers, so here's hoping he takes this rather epic-sounding one with a welcome change of scenery.

After that today, there are just a couple more tidbits about directors whose work I almost always enjoy, including one who hasn't managed to make a feature film in about 12 years or so.

Before that comes word that David Fincher has now seemingly filled all the major roles in his still thoroughly unnecessary but could be quite good remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The latest addition is Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of the mysterious Vanger clan who hires Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to investigate the Vanger family's secrets and track down his missing great-niece.

The biggest shoes to fill of all will be Rooney Mara, pictured here, stepping in to the titular role of Lisbeth Salander, already played to perfection by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish original by director Neils Arden Opley, but I think she'll do just fine. Round out the cast with Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger and Robin Wright as Blomkvist's editor, Erika Berger, and you've got something that shapes up just about the same as Matt Reeves's "Let Me In," which has been receiving almost uniformly good reviews so far: A well-made movie with a sensational cast that, in a perfect world, probably shouldn't exist at all, because there's really very little room to improve on the original work it's based on.

Even so, I'll certainly turn out due to curiosity if nothing else to see what Fincher makes of all this, which is filming now in Sweden. (And if you want to see a first-rate, cerebral but truly brutal thriller, the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is now both out on DVD and also streaming at Netflix, so watch it!)

And finally, does anyone remember Whit Stillman? Probably not, but with his very witty debut "Metropolitan" and then two lesser but still good followups, "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco," he seemed to have a fairly flourishing indie movie career before pretty much disappearing after the latter's release in 1998.

He's tried to make several comebacks since that have fallen apart, but it looks like he finally really will return this time, with his "Damsels in Distress" having already started filming. Here, according the always reliable The Playlist, is what it's all about:

[Damsels in Distress] 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. [The Playlist]

As silly as all that sounds, it also sounds like just about the perfect milieu for the kind of sharp comedy of manners Stillman used to specialize in when he was able to work regularly. Greta Gerwig of "Greenberg," which I haven't seen, is apparently playing the role of Violet, and she will apparently be the closest thing to a star in this, assuming it really does come together.

And with that, I have to go now to the job that still somehow manages to pay me enough to keep the lights on. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Star Wars" in 3D? I'll take half of that, if it ever gets that far

OK, I've never watched "Dancing With the Stars," and have no plans to, but I did see a tidbit about it that left me with a question: With Michael Bolton getting the boot after delivering what someone named Bruno Tonioli called "probably the worst" performance in the show's 11 (really? sheesh) years, does that now officially sanction him as a no-talent assclown? (sorry, there was no way I could resist that.)

After that, it's mostly all good movie news today, so let's get right to it, starting with the biggest of big dogs (in his own mind still, at least), George Lucas, and his plans to gussy up all six of his "Star Wars" movies in 3D (and before anyone who's been here reads on and wonders why, as usual, I'm not just railing against all 3D - for something like "Star Wars" I'll make a rare exception, because this should be thoroughly cool.)

To the "last" three of those, now unfortunately known as episodes IV-VI, I'll certainly say huzzah. They're great movies (yes, even episode VI), and time certainly doesn't change that. And if there's one good thing you can still say about Lucas, he certainly will spend whatever money he can throw at these to make them look spectacular.

There is, however, a real big problem with all of this, and that's that he plans to do these in order, starting with "The Phantom Menace" in 2012 and then releasing one each year after that. Now, I have no intention of seeing that, "Attack of the Clones" or "Revenge of the Sith" ever again, and especially not with any kind of 3D premium attached to the pain of actually sitting through them again.

And the 3D mountain of movie stench emanating from those three releases, if this gets that far, may actually prevent us from seeing the actually good "Star Wars" in 3D, because, at least according to the report I saw at the Hollywood Reporter, the subsequent 3D conversions would depend "on how well the first rerelease does."

My prediction? Jar Jar Binks is gonna kill this enterprise long before it gets to "A New Hope," where it should really start in the first place, which will be a genuine shame.

OK, enough of that, since there's plenty of other, better news out there today, starting with an unlikely but thoroughly deserved kudos for "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," easily the funniest documentary I've seen in the last five years or so and one of the best, too.

Katie Couric, Brian Williams, Bill Moyers and other actual news people may have been the big winners at the 31st annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards this week, but "Anvil!" snuck in too and took home a major award, an Emmy for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming (it was eligible after airing on VH1).

If you've ever seen this great little film you'll know just how funny that is, but still well deserved, so a hearty huzzah to that. And if you've never seen the movie about Canada's hardest-working heavy metal band, I recommend it extremely highly as a rental.

In other news, Guy Ritchie's inevitable "Sherlock Holmes" sequel is shaping up to be much better than the first take, at least in terms of cast. Well, that's not really fair, because the real problem with the first flick wasn't its performers, who all clicked well, but the extremely weak story. Here's hoping that gets a whole lot better for "Sherlock Holmes 2."

We now know, however, that the cast will be first rate. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law will of course be returning as Sherlock and Watson, and now comes word that they'll be joined by Jared Harris as archnemesis Professor Moriarty.

This role was originally rumored to be going to Brad Pitt, who would have been just fine, but anyone who's watched Harris as Lane Pryce on "Mad Men" knows he'll be great in this. And if you watched the latest episode, you know his character now has the dubious distinction of both using the term "jungle bunny" and also getting a savage beating in the same episode.

And the good casting news continues beyond those lead roles. Stephen Fry has joined the cast as Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft Holmes, and even better, the original "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," Noomi Rapace, will play a French gypsy and, I'd have to assume, inevitable love interest for Sherlock. Now, if they could only come up with a much better story this time ...

And speaking of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," if you haven't seen the original Swedish version, it's out on DVD now, and it's pretty uniformly great. So great, in fact, that it enticed me to read the 700-plus pages of the late Stieg Larsson's second book in the series, "The Girl Who Played With Fire," and it's a pretty sensational work, too. I'm fairly certain David Fincher, who has a little movie coming out this week you may have heard of called "The Social Network," will do just fine with his American remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," but if you can handle it's often-brutal story, the original is excellent viewing.

Now comes word that Niels Arden Opley, director of the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," has signed Tobey Maguire for his next project, "Good People," based on a book I haven't read by Marcus Sakey. The story, about a Chicago couple who find nearly $400,000 and go to extraordinary lengths to try and keep it, seems to follow directly in the footsteps of Sam Raimi's "A Simple Plan" and Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" (still probably my favorite of his movies), so it should be right up my alley.

OK, all I have left for the big finish today is just a short video, but since it's our first look at the Dude as Rooster Cogburn, I'd say it's a good place to end up. The Coen brothers' take on "True Grit," starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, is certainly one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year, so definitely keep an eye out for it on Christmas day, enjoy this teaser trailer, and have a perfectly bearable Wednesday. Peace out.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Zombies! The first extended look at "The Walking Dead"

Well, I guess you can scratch "starring in the movie version of 'The Hobbit' " off of my life's goals, because as this poster makes clear, I'm slightly too tall to play one of the titular creatures and way too short to play anything else ... and I don't live in New Zealand. Oh well.

This poster I found at the Playlist, however, is real, and is apparently not just for extras. So, if you're a kiwi and fit the part, there certainly has to be a worse way to spend a few hours of your day. As far as I know, even the part of Bilbo Baggins hasn't been cast yet, but I'm hoping that will go to Martin Freeman of the U.K. "Office" fame.

But what it's really about here in this short report today is the first extended look at Frank Darabont's "The Walking Dead," coming to AMC starting Oct. 31, appropriately enough. Now here's something I should have auditioned for. They filmed most all of this right up the road from me in Atlanta, and I certainly would have loved to play an actual zombie.

As you'll see from this clip, there will be loads of them when this finally hits the air, and it should just be tons of fun. Enjoy the clip, and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A new Christopher Guest movie? It's about friggin' time

Can anyone remember the last time Christopher Guest made one of his almost always entertaining mockumentaries? I would have guessed five years ago, and a quick glance at the rather disastrously "redesigned" (yes, I pretty much fear all change) IMDB confirms I was close ("For Your Consideration" in 2006 was his last - and not one of his best.)

Well now, according to Liz Smith at Women of the Web (hey, choose to believe it or not, but she has two of the stories I found interesting this morning, so credit where it's due), he's found a new subject to parody, and it sound just about perfect: the rather seriously idiosyncratic world of retro collectors.

I've never delved into that world, but I'm sure Guest, if this will indeed be his next target, will treat these endearing oddballs with his usual mix of mockery with a hint of respect. And according to Smith, the "Spinal Tap" core of Harry Shearer and Michael McKean are all already on board with the as-yet-untitled project, and they're writing roles with Guest regulars Michael Patrick Higgins, Parker Posey and even Jane Lynch in mind, though I'd be seriously impressed if they manage to snag her around her "Glee" schedule.

This could all be conjecture, of course, but it sounds so good that I'm choosing to believe it until I hear otherwise.

After that today, there's actually a lot of news about probably my three favorite young actresses out there, so after a short diversion about NBC's "Community," I'll get right on to that.

If you watched NBC's Thursday comedy block last night (except, I can only hope, "Outsourced," which my remote stopped on for a second during DVR breaks, and I could feel it cringing in my hand before I quickly moved on), I think you'll agree with me that "Community" has clearly now risen to the top of the pack. "The Office" is still funny, and "30 Rock" rebounded strong last year, but last night's "Community" premiere, from Chevy Chase's "White Man Says" Twitter account to the promise of evil Senor Chang out for revenge, was just nonstop laughs.

And the best joke of all just might have come in the first 10 seconds, when they show veryfunnyman Donald Glover waking up in his Spider-Man pajamas. Glover was lobbying for the role of Peter Parker in director Marc Webb's coming "reboot," and until now that would have been the only thing that would have possibly gotten me interested in this thoroughly unnecessary project.

The role eventually went to Andrew Garfield, which, once you've already fired Sam Raimi as director, just finished the meh for me. Now, however, he and Webb have interviewed Emma Stone and Mia Wasikowska for roles in the movie and, given that both Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson will appear in the new movie, those two, in that order, would be just about perfect, and perhaps even be enough to make me buy a ticket for this mess.

If you haven't seen Stone's "Easy A," do so this weekend, unless you somehow don't like to laugh. The story is too slight by half, but it's wickedly funny, and Stone truly shines in it.

And while we're on the subject of young actresses I always like to watch, just as Chloe Moretz is getting raves for "Let Me In," which I've now dropped all plans to avoid, she's now lined up what would have to be just about the perfect part.

I don't read comic books much any more, but I have read several issues of Dark Horse's "Emily the Strange," and they pretty much rule. The Goth teen who, with proper reason, loathes just about everything in the world except her talking cats, will make a great part for Moretz, who has now signed on for a live-action movie version based on the comic books.

OK, quick hits today, I know, but there's a lot out there, and not much time for me to get to it at all. Next up is a rumor that I'm sure is true, but I can only hope never comes to fruition.

According to Smith, again, Mel Gibson, who through no possible fault than his own is now pretty much an exile from the big screen, is apparently now lobbying hard to make a comeback on the small one, and in easily one of my favorite shows.

It seems that Gibson has been begging "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner for a recurring role on the fifth (and I think probably final) season of the show, which would film in July. Take a second to think about that.

Now, I know the show deals in complicated characters, and thrives on that, but I really hope Weiner doesn't take the bait on this. It would just be the worst kind of stunt, and "Mad Men" certainly doesn't need that. Though apparently less than 2 million people are tuning in for this season, it has been possibly the show's best, and with Cooper's "She was an astronaut," offered easily the best line of this just-starting TV season. Just say no, Mr. Weiner.

OK, after that, I think I have time for a trio of clips, so here goes. First up, from, for which I occasionally contribute, comes this collection of five clips from the upcoming David Fincher Facebook flick "The Social Network." Though I didn't really need any convincing to go see this when it finally comes out one week from today, I've gotten word from someone whose opinion I always trust, Jeremy Jirik, that this is indeed first-rate Fincher, so I'm definitely amped now. Enjoy the clips.

After that today, all I have left is a couple of trailers, starting with the first one I know of for "The King's Speech," which was the big winner at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, which will hopefully give it enough mojo to open very wide when it does so later this fall. The movie, directed by Tom Hooper (who made the seriously satisfying futbol flick "The Damned United" - rent that one already), "The King's Speech" tells the story of King George VI. After his brother abdicates, George ‘Bertie’ VI (Colin Firth) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded nervous stammer and considered unfit to be King, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Helena Bonham Carter (of course) stars in this too, and it should be a treat. Enjoy the trailer.

And finally today, here's the trailer for a comedy that, until this morning, I had never heard of, but Bill Nighy is just one of those people I'll watch in just about anything. As you'll see from this trailer for "Wild Target," in this rather familiar story he plays an assassin who falls for the latest target he's supposed to take out, played by Emily Blunt. Rupert Grint of "Harry Potter" fame also makes an appearance, and I'm hoping against hope this somehow turns out to be a whole lot less conventional than the trailer makes it out to be. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free and funny? Two of my favorite things

Actually, before I get into that, now that Joaquin Phoenix's sabbatical from acting appears to be over and his "I'm Still Here" freakout exposed as a hoax (albeit, from what I've heard, a very entertaining one), it's good to know he's quickly going to jump into things that should be fascinating.

First up, if some financing issues are resolved, will be an indie oddity titled "Big Shoe," about a foot fetishist (Phoenix, presumably) who doubles as an amazing footwear designer. Ingenue Mia Wasikowska, who has yet to make a movie I haven't liked quite a bit (especially the Southern drama "That Evening Sun," out on DVD now, so watch it already), has been cast as the female lead in this craziness.

Sound like an odd subject for a feature film? Well, it comes from director Steven Shainberg, who has been missing for about five years, but when he makes movies enjoys rather lurid subjects. He made his debut with the S&M flick "Secretary" starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and also made "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," which starred Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr.

Here's hoping that somehow comes together, but more likely and even better would be if he takes the part that Clint Eastwood has reportedly offered him in Eastwood's upcoming J. Edgar Hoover biopic.

With a script from "Milk" scribe Dustin Lance Black and Leonardo DiCaprio hired to play Hoover, this was already shaping up to be pretty great, but now with Phoenix being offered the role of Hoover's protégé and reputed paramour Clyde Tolson, who was Hoover's longtime associate director of the FBI, it just gets much better.

It's a fascinating subject now apparently to be paired with an equally great cast, so this 2012 flick is definitely one to keep your eyes on.

OK, now on the titular offer of free and funny, which comes in two doses (actually, I suppose the latter is actually more cute than funny, but it's still pretty great.)

First up comes the new Louis CK standup flick "Hilarious," which fortunately both lives up to its boastful title and is being streamed for free at Epix. I've watched about half of it so far, and even if CK's often morose humor isn't for everyone, it certainly is for me, and this is really good stuff. To see it, go here and sign up by entering your e-mail (yes, you have to), and then enjoy.

And finally today, what OK Go is doing with music videos is really something not to be missed. The band's actual music is just the breeziest brand of pop, but as visual artists, they clearly put a lot of effort in to their work and have a lot of fun doing it.

If you've never seen their giant Mousetrap game video for the song "This Too Shall Pass," I've included that too at the end, because it really is a pretty amazing visual feat (and apparently all real - no computer tricks.)

But first up comes their new video for the song "White Knuckles," which, while not as visually ambitious, is guaranteed to make you smile. It features an adorable and remarkably trained cast of rescue dogs doing all kinds of tricks on cue. And, best of all, OK Go is donating a portion of any profits they make from this to the ASPCA. To learn more about that, go here. Enjoy the videos, and have a perfectly bearable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Listen to and watch the "Soundtrack for a Revolution"

Is there really a completely fresh way to examine a story as familiar as that of the American civil rights movement?

Probably not, but "Soundtrack for a Revolution," which hits DVD on Sept. 28, comes very close by looking at the spirituals and other songs that gave the movement its rhythm and spark.

Along with a brisk recounting of the titular revolution that changed the American South forever, it offers fresh takes on songs such as "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "This Little Light of Mine" by some of the best contemporary soul, R&B and gospel performers, including John Legend, Wyclef Jean, The Roots, Joss Stone and Mary Mary.

The songs all get polished up and beautifully delivered, especially Stone's "Eyes on the Prize," but they're all outshone by an Alabama church choir, the Carlton Reese Memorial Unity Choir, who show that these songs are, after all, still strongest in their raw, natural form.

And though this is a story we all learned in elementary school, this documentary directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturnam still manages to bring it some new perspective through its choice of living witnesses to the movement. There are heavyweights such as Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Young, but here it's a story best told by the soldiers - many of them only children or teenagers at the time - who waged this war of ideas on the street.

Seen filtered through their eyes and in often extremely brutal footage, scenes as small as the violent breaking up of a lunch counter sit-in to as monumental as the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama, are brought back to life in a powerful way.

The movie hits hardest when the music and the tale it drives come together, most dramatically when Richie Havens' solo acoustic rendition of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" is accompanied by a slide show of photos of some of the many people who lost their lives in the moment, closing with the four little girls who died in the bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Ala. It's both extremely hard to watch but also impossible to take your eyes off of.

And in the end, "Soundtrack for a Revolution" works as well for what it says as for what it leaves unsaid. To hear Lewis calmly describe how he was spit on and beaten can't help but make you think of how he was treated again during our recent national debate about health care reform, and no matter where you come down on that issue, it's a solid punch in the gut.

As for DVD extras, there's really only one, but it's a natural extension of the movie: The studio performances of all the great songs featured in it. Along with the performers listed above, there's also soul singer Angie Stone and the Blind Boys of Alabama with Anthony Hamilton, and they're all first-rate (well, actually, I personally can't stand John Legend, who is really just a pale imitation of Stevie Wonder, but that's just my opinion.)

For a history lesson that entertains at least as much it enlightens, "Soundtrack for a Revolution" is well worth checking when it hits DVD on Sept. 28.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First look at John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole"

Actually, before I get into that, two bits of news in what will be a short report today because I've got some errands to run before going to see "The Town" today and most likely "Easy A" tomorrow (now that's a good movie weekend.)

Though I'd be more interested to find out what happens to the stunningly talented Connie Britton once the "Friday Night Lights" go out, which will be after next season (coming in spring again to NBC, I believe), her TV hubby has already snagged a new gig.

Kyle Chandler, aka Coach Taylor, and young Elle Fanning are the first two stars announced for writer/director J.J. Abrams' "Super 8." What else do we know about the project? Not too much - just that it's most likely some kind of alien thing (shocking, I know) and it's shooting this fall for release next year. Here's the extremely unrevealing teaser trailer that debuted earlier this year.

In other news, the one thing that would make me finally break down and order BBC America is perhaps about to happen soon. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, creators of "The Office" and "Extras," are officially turning their pilot for "Life's Too Short" into an at least six-part series for BBC2.

So, what is it? Well, it stars (and I'm not making this description from the Hollywood Reporter up) "Britain's pre-eminent little person actor" Warwick Davis, and it is indeed about his life, with some appearances from Gervais and Merchant too.

Here's hoping they don't bully Davis as badly as they do poor Karl Pilkington on their very funny podcasts, but I don't think that will be the case. Here's how Gervais himself describes it:

"Third in our trilogy of TV sitcoms, Life's Too Short is another naturalist observational comedy, dealing with everyday problems, human foibles and social faux pas... but with a dwarf," said Gervais.

Sounds like nothing but funny to me, so keep an eye out for it, and let me know if you ever find it.

But on to the main event today, and it really has to be just about the opposite of funny, but it should still be fairly great - and with the buzz around Nicole Kidman's performance maybe even playing wide enough by the end of this year that even I'll be able to see it at Macon's one (for now at least) movie theater.

If you've never heard of John Cameron Mitchell, he's the director of the crazy little punk rock/sex change operation gone wrong gem "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," which would make a perfect Saturday night rental if you've never seen it. He also made a sex romp called "Short Bus," but I've never seen that one (not because it would possibly offend me in any way, just because I haven't gotten around to it yet.)

And now he's back with something pretty much completely different, "Rabbit Hole," which has been picked up by Lionsgate. The movie stars Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married couple dealing with the death of their 4-year-old son (I said the opposite of funny, right.) Dire stuff, that, but I can't think of the last time Nicole Kidman picked a role that made me say "that was just awful" (yes, I even liked "Margot at the Wedding" quite a bit), so I'm really looking forward to this. Enjoy these two scenes from the movie, and of course, go see at least one movie this weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

For Thursday, a very large cache of clips

Anyone who's been here before knows that I love trailers, good bad and otherwise. I almost never arrive to a movie late enough to miss them.

So, I've spent so far an hour or so of my morning watching some (hey, it was from 6-7 a.m., so what more productive thing was I really supposed to be doing?), and here are the best eight or so clips I could find.

Actually, it starts today not with a trailer, but with what purport to be the first 10 minutes of "Easy A," and having watched this through once (and laughed out loud several times), I believe it to be genuine. Not everyone will want to have the first 10 minutes of a movie revealed, but hey, it's not like there are any real secrets here. All it reveals is that, in case you didn't know already, "Easy A" is going to make a genuine star of natural comedienne Emma Stone. Enjoy.

OK, now on to some actual trailers, and this being fall, there are some real heavy hitters (pun fully intended for the first one) coming. First up comes the first trailer I know of for David O. Russell's (remember him?) "The Fighter." Russell's first feature film since "I Heart Huckabees" in 2004 stars Markie Mark Wahlberg as boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and Christian Bale as the brother who trained him before he went pro in the early 1980's. It indeed looks like a pretty typical sports underdog tale, but with Amy Adams and Melissa Leo also starring in this, I'm hoping for much more when it opens wide Dec. 17. Enjoy.

Next up comes one that I haven't heard too much about, but since it comes from "The Lives of Others" director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, it should be a real winner. As you'll see from the trailer, Johnny Depp plays the titular "The Tourist", who gets framed for murder and all kinds of other juicy stuff after a perhaps-not-chance encounter with Angelina Jolie on a train. The moral clearly seems to be that, even if you're Johnny Depp, always be suspicious when an insanely beautiful woman strikes up a conversation with you. Enjoy the trailer, and keep an eye out for the movie Dec. 10.

Anyone who's been here before also knows that, although I didn't bother to see his last movie, "Why Did I Get Married Too?", I have a whole of time for Tyler Perry. His previous movie, "I Can Do All Bad All By Myself" with Taraji P. Henson, was very entertaining, thanks in large part to a small turn by Gladys Knight (yes, really). For his next movie, due out Nov. 5, he will for the first time adapt the work of someone else, here the play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. The story, which is about nothing less than existence from the perspective of 20 nameless black women, is an ambitious undertaking, and I'll be sure to see it on the opening weekend for curiosity if nothing else. As you'll see below, it boasts a strong cast, with Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Janet Jackson and even Macy Gray. Enjoy the trailer.

Still with me? Then here's some more. Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," about the titular amount of time climber Aron Ralston (to be played by James Franco) spent trapped under a boulder in a Utah valley, is reportedly so intense that it caused several fainting spells and possibly a seizure too in Toronto. While the latter is certainly unfortunate, that doesn't make me any less excited to see this when it finally comes out Nov. 5. Enjoy the clip below, which features Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara.

OK, we're in the homestretch now. After reading yet another rave review of "Let Me In," the still thoroughly unnecessary English-language remake of the sublime "Let the Right One In," this one at, I've now given in to the very real possibility that Matt Reeves has really come up with something fairly great here. Below are eight clips from the movie starring Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee and set to come out Oct. 1. I think they'll make a bit of a believer in you, too. Enjoy.

I buried this one more than a bit because, after the disaster that was the interactive trailer for "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" (which, as several people pointed out to me, played the most annoying music even without clicking on it), I'm really not sold on the concept. You can judge for yourself, however, with this interactive trailer for David Fincher's "The Social Network," which I'm really looking forward to seeing when it comes out Oct. 1. The "interactive" comes because if you click on the trailer while its playing, it pops up little windows with facts and links you can follow about the movie. More than a little annoying to me, but enjoy if you do.

And where better to wrap things up today than with a genuine oddity? This bit of animation apparently springs from a question Fincher asked Werner Herzog as Herzog was in Toronto promoting "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?". As you'll see below, Herzog apparently witnessed Joaquin Phoenix getting into a doozy of a car accident, and then rescued him from it. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Thursday. Peace out.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Will James Gunn's "Super" deliver a cult hit?

Update: James Gunn's "Super" has been picked up by IFC, meaning, I hope, that it will be available on cable on demand as soon as it hits its probably very meager amount of theaters ... bully

Wow. The word is trickling in from Toronto, and so far I've seen two simply glowing reviews of "Let Me In" from sources I trust, HitFix and The Playlist.

In both cases, the reviewers clearly love the original Swedish movie, "Let the Right One In" (my single favorite movie of 2008), as much as I do. Yet they both say Matt Reeves, director of the surprisingly entertaining "Cloverfield," has done the just about impossible: He's made a movie that, while perhaps not better (which really would be impossible), at least lives up to the spirit of the original and soars thanks to its two young leads, Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee. You can read those two reviews here and here, and keep an eye out for Reeves' flick Oct. 1.

You can now count me as extremely curious, if not excited, about that flick, but there's something else that came through the midnight circuit up north that sounds like even more my thing. James Gunn, though he delivered a winner in my book with "Slither," is sorely in need of a box office one, since that very entertaining humor/horror mix starring Captain Mal Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks took in a rather amazingly disastrous $7.8 million at the U.S. box office (really? Trust me, maybe it's not great, but this movie is well worth a DVD rental.)

Well, I can't imagine his new movie, "Super," will do a whole lot better, but from what I know so far it seems to be tailor-made for me. Rainn Wilson plays a man who becomes a masked vigilante after his wife (Liv Tyler) gets strung out on drugs and runs off with her dealer (Kevin Bacon). If that casting's not enough to get you intrigued, as you'll see from the clip below, Ellen Page plays Wilson's seriously unhinged sidekick, and she should just be a hoot.

Early Toronto buzz has been good for this too, and according to the headline of an article behind a Variety paywall, buyers are now "circling" it, so here's hoping it's picked up by a studio big enough to bring it to my little corner of the world sometime this fall. Enjoy this first clip I know of, but be warned: Page throws around F-bombs with abandon, so if that kind of thing bothers you, please don't watch it. Peace out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thumbs way up ... Ebert's "At the Movies" coming back to life!

I never should have believed that, having survived the cancer that robbed him of his natural voice, a simple cancellation by Disney would be enough to keep Roger Ebert or "At the Movies" down.

Indeed, as announced appropriately enough in the Chicago Sun Times, "Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies" will be coming to PBS - where Ebert and the late, great Gene Siskel got their TV start way back in 1975 - in January, and he's lined up two fantastic hosts. The show will be hosted chiefly by the Associated Press' Christy Lemire and NPR's Elvis Mitchell, with further contributions from Kim Morgan and Omar Moore.

Though by force we mostly run reviews by Roger Moore in the newspaper that still pays my bills (although he's a very good writer, the "by force" is that he's also very fast and we have an early deadline), I always try and wait to get my hands on Lemire's reviews, because she always delivers strong opinions with a hearty splash of wit. I also like that, as you'll see from the preview clip below, she's a woman who both rails against by-the-numbers romantic comedies but embraces great female directors like Nicole Holofcener, while at the same convincingly raving about odd choices like "Piranha 3D" and "The Last Exorcism."

As for Mitchell, I haven't kept up with his work like I should recently, but I used to love his writing for The New York Times. Together, as you'll again see in the preview below as they discuss Holofcener's "Please Give," which I haven't had the pleasure of seeing yet, they have a natural banter that, while not quite Siskel & Ebert caliber, should at least make them worthy successors.

Perhaps best of all, Ebert will be appearing with his computer voice in a weekly segment called "Roger's Office," most often, I'd have to guess, giving his thumb's up to movies that otherwise wouldn't get much play at all anywhere on TV. Here's what Roger himself had to say about the new endeavour:

"This is the rebirth of a dream. I believe that by returning to its public roots, our new show will win better and more consistent time slots in more markets. American television is swamped by mindless gossip about celebrities, and I'm happy this show will continue to tell viewers honestly if the critics think a new movie is worth seeing."

One definite advantage of returning to PBS (assuming the yarnheads at GPTV are smart enough to pick this up) is that it should have a set air time each week, something the show was often sorely lacking when it was handled by the Tribune company and then Disney.

Definitely keep an eye out for this starting in January. I know I will, because "Sneak Previews" with Siskel and Ebert debuted when I was 5 years old, and I've enjoyed Ebert's insightful and always entertaining reviews ever since (or at least since I was old enough to understand them.) Enjoy this preview for the new show, in which Lemire and Mitchell dish on "Iron Man 2" (solid thumbs down, and I heartily agree) and "Please Give" (a split decision), and then feel free to stick around for a couple more videos that caught my eye this morning.

OK, if something this mawkish-looking were coming from, say, M. Night Shyamalan, I'd probably just say no immediately, but I'd say Clint Eastwood has at least earned the benefit of the doubt by now. And besides, I've seen his last flick, "Gran Torino," three times now, and it just keeps getting better each time. As you'll see from this first trailer, Eastwood's next flick, "Hereafter," stars Matt Damon as some kind of reluctant psychic and deals with all kinds of weighty life-and-death issues (hey, it is fall, right?). Enjoy the clip and keep an eye out for "Hereafter" beginning in at least some cities Oct. 22.

And finally today, a dose of silliness that's just about right for a Saturday morning (even if it's a Saturday on which I have to work - nards.) I've said here plenty of times before that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an actor I'd watch do just about anything, and he certainly puts that to the test by performing Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" for his cohorts. It's actually pretty darn good, and guaranteed to at least make you smile a little, which is really the right way to leave things today. Peace out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

DVD picks of the week: All hail Hal Holbrook and Helen Mirren

Looking at that headline, it's probably as much as anything a reflection that I myself am getting pretty friggin' old, but - by a pretty wide margin - the best two things on DVD this week are a movie starring an 84-year-old man and the complete run of a sublime TV series starring a 65-year-old woman (though on the younger side of the scale, I'm watching vol. 3 of the UK teen series "Skins" streaming on Netflix too, and that's a real treat.)

First up comes "That Evening Sun," a genuine Southern drama that has been around for quite a while. I first missed the chance to see it at the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival 365, but luckily managed to catch it in its rather meager theatrical run (it apparently has made a paltry $281,000 or so at the box office) last spring. The flick also played the Macon Film Festival this year, and is extremely worth catching now on DVD.

The few who have seen this already will know it's a rare starring turn by Hal Holbrook, the kind of treasure that should be savored while it lasts. Holbrook is probably my favorite performer, if I were forced to pick only one, and here he plays Abner Meecham, an aging Tennesseean who bolts the nursing home to try and reclaim the family homestead that his son has sold out from underneath him.

It's really a role Holbrook was made to play, full of anger, pride and, best of all, a dark humor. Returning to the farm, he finds it now inhabited by two of my other favorite Southern actors, Ray McKinnon and Maconite Carrie Preston (aka Arlene on "True Blood"), along with their daughter, played by ingenue Mia Wasikowska.

What ensues is a war of wills that can at times be hard to watch because, as each holds his ground, they each become less and less likable, but that gives the drama based on a short story by William Gay and directed by Scott Teems a natural feel.

Music by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers makes this all go down even sweeter, so if you wanna take a chance this weekend on a movie that so far hasn't even managed to make a blip on the radar screen, trust me and give "That Evening Sun" a try.

Today's second pick comes with a disclosure: Acorn Media was kind enough to send me the complete "Prime Suspect" to review on DVD, but that doesn't change at all just how great the UK police procedural starring Helen Mirren was and still is.

Though the stories contained in the seven, three-hour-or-so installments are as gritty - and often more so - than anything you'll find on the best of American police procedurals, it's the performance of Helen Mirren at its core that make these so entertaining.

The humanly flawed cop has been played out way past the point of cliche many times, and very well by Dennis Franz on "NYPD Blue" and Dominic West on "The Wire," but Mirren plays it so naturally that it trumps the pattern completely.

Watching how her life's foibles (among other things, her Jane Tennyson battles the bottle as much as she does her inability to have anything approaching a full personal life outside of the police beat) intertwine with the often frustrating and sickening cases she pursues make this the most well-rounded police series I've encountered on TV. It's indeed on a level with David Simon's "The Wire," and anyone who's been here before knows that from me that's the highest form of praise.

These have been available individually on DVD for years now, but I believe Acorn's collection is the first time they've all been collected in one set. They would make a fine gift for anyone who enjoys great TV, or if you're so inclined, perhaps for yourself.

And with that, I have to go now to the job that pays me in something besides promotional DVDS. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Oh, the horror

Really, how hard of a sell could a smart sci-fi movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron be? I'd certainly buy a ticket, especially since his take on "Children of Men" was my second-favorite movie of 2006 (second only to Guillermo del Toro's sublime "Pan's Labyrinth").

His "Gravity," however, has had a heck of a time even getting off the ground. Though Robert Downey Jr. is still solidly attached in a supporting role, the lead role has already been turned down by Angelina Jolie, but now it looks like there might be a new candidate (and a clear case of trading up in my book.)

Natalie Portman, who stars in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" this fall, has been offered the role, and is now reading the script, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

So, what's the movie about? Co-written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, the 3D (I guess I should just accept it by now) survival story is about a woman (Portman, if she wants it) stranded on a space station after satellite debris slams into it and wipes out the rest of the crew. Sounds great to me, so here's hoping this actually gets going sometime soon.

OK, after that today it's all about horror and humor (at least until the clips), two things that, when done right, just go so well together.

And one recent movie that got the mix just about perfect was "Zombieland." The director of that flick, Ruben Fleischer, is now shooting "30 Minutes or Less" with Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari and "Zombieland" star Jesse Eisenberg, who shared a juicy tidbit about a possible "Zombieland 2" with Shock Till You Drop.

Eisenberg said a first draft of the script for the sequel has been completed by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the writers of the first flick) and turned into Sony, although he hasn't read it yet. According to Shock Till You Drop, Fleischer has read the script. Here's what he had to say:

"Yeah, I read it. I mean, it's an early draft and we have plenty more to do to work on it, but I think it's going to be amazing, I'm really excited about it."

I am too, but Fleischer apparently has a lot of options for what comes next. Here's hoping it's "Zombieland 2," because, let's face it, zombies are just a heck of a lot funnier than vampires will ever be.

And speaking of humor and horror, Bruce Campbell knows a lot about both, and at least wants to unleash something on the world that would by force have to be a little bit fun. Though most every one I know loathes "My Name Is Bruce," I kind of liked it for the little humor/horror flick it was without ever attempting to be anything more. Well, he says he's now plotting a sequel of sorts, "Bruce Vs. Frankenstein," for which I suppose the plot would have to be rather obvious. Here's what he had to say about it to the L.A. Times, via Screen Rant:

“Yeah, The Expendables, or more like the It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World of horror. I want to get so many horror movie stars that people can’t possibly not see the movie. I want to give them other stuff to do. I want to have Kane Hodder be very particular about what he eats. I want Robert Englund to be a tough guy, like he knows tae kwon do or something. I want to find out the hidden sides of all these people. Some will play themselves, some will play alternate characters as well. I may approach Kane Hodder to play Frankenstein. He could be Kane Hodder himself fighting himself as Frankenstein. It could be crazy. It’s a silly concocted story that we hope to do maybe in a year or so. My breaks between Burn Notice have been getting tighter because they’ve been adding episodes. They’re trying to trap me like a rat in the TV world, and I might just let them. There’s a script, it just kind of blows right now, so no one’s really seeing it. We gotta work on it. Definitely shoot in Oregon all on a stage. It’s like the 300 of horror comedies. We want to make it a whole world. Someone’s gotta take Frank down for good.”

Sounds like a straight-to-DVD kind of thing, clearly, if it ever happens, but one that will probably make me at least pony up for a rental.

OK, moving into the clips, let's keep the horror streak going a little longer. But first, if you happen to be a fan of "Mad Men," I think many people will agree with me that last Sunday's Don and Peggy episode was just about the show's finest hour. I can't wait to find out if Don has finally hit bottom or if there's further to fall. Just about when "Mad Men" wraps up again or shortly after, AMC will be premiering Frank Darabont's six-episode (so far at least) zombie series "The Walking Dead," which was filmed just up the road from me in Atlanta. Enjoy this latest TV promo, and certainly tune in when the show debuts, naturally, on Halloween.

And to close with something a little different, I can't say I've been particularly interested in the upcoming action-comedy "Red," but that's simply because I'm unfamiliar with the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer. However, when you put together a cast that somehow includes Dame Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and even the great Brian Cox, you've got my attention. In the flick, Mirren, Malkovich, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman play top CIA agents who get framed for an assassination and must join forces to break into CIA headquarters and "uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history." Sounds like awfully fun stuff if they accent the humor, and judging from this first clip featuring Mirren and Willis, it looks like they will. Enjoy, keep an eye out for the movie Oct. 15, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Sons of Anarchy" returning with vengeance and verve

As cliffhangers go, fans of the show will remember, the ending of season two of FX's "Sons of Anarchy" was a real doozy.

With the SAMCRO crew watching from the end of the dock, "Irish" absconded with Jax's (Charlie Hunnam) baby Abel, while simultaneously, Gemma (Katey Sagal, yes, really) had been framed for two murders by agent Stahl (Ally Walker) and was on the lam with Police Chief Unser (Dayton Callie).

Got all that? Well, thankfully, I was sent the first four episodes of season three by the kind folks at, so if you're sure you want to know some of what's ahead for the motorcycle club with, if not quite a heart of gold, at least an odd sense of justice that makes the show so watchable, read on.

Season three opens just days after season two ended, with Jax predictably stoned out of his mind with grief and Peg now under the protection of a SAMCRO contingent led by Tig (Kim Coates). She doesn't yet know what has happened to her grandson Abel, and that fact gives the opening episodes much of their impact.

As Jax is slowly brought back to reality, Clay (Ron Perlman, still great) and the rest of the crew get him focused on what will be the main focus of season three, the hunt for "Irish" (Cameron, played by Jamie McShane) and Abel. To tell you much more would just spoil things, but the pursuit leads down a variety of agonizing wrong turns as it introduces us to Cameron's True IRA mates and James Cosmo as Father Ashby, a great actor and a much tougher priest than you might expect to meet at Mass on Sunday.

The search for Abel, thankfully, gives Jax something else to focus on other than his existential angst, so the Clay-Jax tension that dominated season two is now at least just bubbling under the surface. Episode one closes with the funeral for Half-Sack (Johnny Lewis), who fans will remember was stabbed by Cameron at the end of season two, and it's interrupted by an act of violence (naturally) which will change the future of Charming in a way that will surely impact the power of SAMCRO.

The best story arc of season three, however, is certainly the story of Gemma and her father, played by the inimitable Hal Holbrook. Bringing in a performer of his stature (easily one of my favorite actors) gives more power to what was already a great story line from creator Kurt Sutter and his writers. It is, without exaggeration, so good that it should finally put both Sagal and Holbrook into Emmy contention (it probably won't, but since Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler each finally received overdue recognition for "Friday Night Lights," one can dream, right?) As this arc plays out, keep an eye out for a cameo from horrormeister Stephen King, though to reveal how he appears would be a crime I won't commit.

Overall, the first four episodes of season three of "Sons of Anarchy" have the show developing further into an intricate and juicy web of family ties, secrets and lies, making it easily one of the best shows returning to TV this fall. Enjoy the trailer, and tune in for season three beginning at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Review: "The American"

Even if the movie calendar has at least slightly turned away from summer, I'm still sure George Clooney and Anton Corbijn's "The American" will be a tough sell (though I haven't seen any box office numbers yet.)

After all, when you dig through the simply gorgeous layers of cinematography in the Italian country side, what Corbijn and screenwriter Rowan Joffe, from the Martin Booth novel "A Very Private Gentleman," have cooked up is nothing short of a meditation, and if you aren't susceptible to its many languid charms, it can indeed be a very tedious one at that.

If you give into the rhythm of it, however, I really think there's a lot to like here (or at least there was for me). I've most often seen Corbijn's movie described as a matter of style way overshadowing substance, but though there's plenty of the latter, there's a lot going on under the extremely pretty surface here too.

When we meet Clooney's Jack, he's an assassin who's either finishing up a job or has been discovered while hiding out after completing one (that's one of the many unanswered questions that hover over "The American" and give it much of its tension.) Either way, it doesn't end terribly well for our hero. Though he survives, it's a bloody escape that will haunt him as he goes into hiding again, this time in Italy (tough life, eh?)

While there, he's commissioned by his handler, a suitably mysterious Johan Leysen, for one last mission for which, he's promised, he "won't even have to pull the trigger." He's commissioned to build a rifle/shotgun hybrid for a beautiful Italian assassinette (Thekla Reuten), and as far as story, that's pretty much what you get.

Now, for the style, which if you're a fan of cinematography, Corbijn delivers on in spades. He lingers on all the right moments and makes the most of the crazy angles you find in those Italian mountain towns. One of my favorite moments comes when Clooney's Jack drives into the center of Castelvecchio, looks around at a few curious townfolk, and then simply gets back into his Audi and drives away - rather than being the world's worst tourist, he's actually just scouting out the location of a pay phone, but it's a really funny scene.

As he's hiding out, though he's warned to "don't make any friends," Jack strikes up a friendship with Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonicelli), who is as interested in what is tormenting Jack's soul as the no-longer-bloodthirsty assassin is too. And more importantly, he meets and, at least initially, pays to have sex with the beguiling prostitute Clara (Violante Placido.) Not terribly James Bond-suave that, but since we've already seen Jack throw his cell phone out the window, we knew he was never really going to be that kind of hero. And for fans of Italian beauty, be advised going in that Placido really doesn't have much time for clothes at all through much of the movie, though I really can't call that a fault.

You can probably tell where this is going, but I guarantee that if you stick with "The American" until its splendid finale, there are plenty of small surprises along the way. What makes it all work, along with Corbijn's camera, is Clooney, who plays Jack with a weariness of the soul that keeps us (or at least me) engaged until the very end. Yes, it's essentially "Up in the Air" without much of the humor but almost as much jaded heart, and it sends summer off not with a bang but with a low-key "thriller" that works on almost every level.

And if you'll excuse me now, I'm off in an almost completely direction to have all my senses assaulted by "Machete." Peace out

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Down in the "Treme," it's me ...

Yep, that's what happens when I get four days off in a row - my head not only gets filled with crazy ideas, but I also act on them.

Yesterday's was that, having just made it through all of Spike Lee's sensational "If God is Willin' and Da Creek Don't Rise," his second opus about New Orleans and its people, and also having thoroughly enjoyed the first season of David Simon's "Treme," perhaps I should go to the city myself.

And so, if you happen to be there in the third week of November, you just might run into me (staying at something called the "Rathbone Mansion" - I've never stayed in a mansion before, but at $60 a night, I wasn't about to turn that down.)

And in New Orleans news that might just matter to someone besides, well, me, the track listing is out for the collection (you'll see soon why I didn't say "CD") "Treme: Music from the HBO Series, Season 1," and the music itself will be coming very soon too (and will certainly find its way into my digital downloads.)

If you watched the slow-moving but engrossing show (and if you didn't, why the heck not?), you know the music played not just a key role in it, but really set the pace and feel for the whole operation. Musicians from up-and-comer Trombone Shorty (whose "Backatown" I'm listening to right now - excellent) to legends like Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas all popped up at various spots (and watching Irma Thomas play poker is a surreally entertaining sight.)

Thankfully, they also all make appearances in the music collection for season 1, which will be available for digital download Sept. 28 - with a CD to come at some undisclosed future date. Man, I gotta say, for someone who still doesn't and probably never will own a cell phone, the modes of delivery for entertainment continue to surprise and often confound me (stick around for more on that after the track listing.) Here are the 19 songs you'll find when this comes out:


1. "Treme Song (Main Title Version") - John Boutté
2. "Feel Like Funkin' It Up (Live Street Mix)" - Rebirth Brass Band
3. "I Hope You're Comin' Back to New Orleans" - The New Orleans Jazz Vipers
4. "Skokiaan" - Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
5. "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" - Trombone Shorty & James Andrews
6. "Drinka Little Poison (4 U Die)" - Soul Rebels Brass Band & John Mooney
7. "We Made It Through That Water" - Free Agents Brass Band
8. "Shame Shame Shame" - Steve Zahn & Friends
9. "My Indian Red" - Dr. John
10. "At the Foot of Canal Street" - John Boutté, Paul Sanchez, Glen David Andrews & New Birth Brass Band
11. "Buona Sera" - Louis Prima
12. "New Orleans Blues" - Tom McDermott & Lucia Micarelli
13. "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You" - Michiel Huisman, Lucia Micarelli & Wendell Pierce
14. "Indian Red (Wild Man Memorial)" - Mardi Gras Indians
15. "Indian Red" - Donald Harrison
16. "Time Is On My Side" - Irma Thomas & Allen Toussaint
17. "This City" - Steve Earle
18. "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" - Treme Brass Band
19. "My Darlin' New Orleans" - Leigh "Li'l Queenie" Harris

All I have after that today is a cache of clips, but the first one comes with a bit of news. Though "Freakanomics," the documentary based on the best-selling book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, isn't coming to at least a few theaters until Oct. 1, it's apparently available for at least rental now on Video On Demand, iTunes, Amazon On Demand, PlayStation Network and Xbox Marketplace. I say apparently because, although it was listed for a $3.99 rental at iTunes, it only said "this item is being modified" and wouldn't work when I tried it, and there's no way in the world I'm going to pay a whopping $9.99 for it at Amazon On Demand. As for the movie itself, with six portions directed by Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "Casino Jack and the United States of Money"), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing ("Jesus Camp"), Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") and Seth Gordon ("The King of Kong"), I'm certainly going to watch it as soon as I figure out exactly how to find it, perhaps as soon as tonight. Here's the latest TV spot. Enjoy.

OK, if I really ever did have a wall of resistance to Matt Reeves' upcoming "Let Me In," I have to admit now that it's just about completely washed away. It certainly should still be there, since it's a thoroughly unnecessary English-language remake of "Let the Right One In," my single favorite movie of 2008 and easily the best horror movie I've seen in many years, but with each clip they release, it's getting lower and lower. The cast - Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-Mcphee and the simply fantastic Richard Jenkins - is perfect, and if you've seen "Cloverfield," you know Reeves is a solid director. And from this first actual footage from the movie, you can see that they at least got right that Jenkins' character, though charged with finding fresh blood for the "young" vampire Eli (renamed Abby in the remake and played by Moretz), he's pretty spectacularly bad at it. Keep an eye out for the movie, also due out in actual theaters Oct. 1, if, like me, you've decided to give in and see it, and enjoy the clip.

In case anyone's wondering, I am very well aware that I'm too old to be watching a bunch of high school-age kids (or probably slightly older) lip-synch their way through incredibly cheesy musical numbers each week on Fox, but I'm also aware that "Glee" is a wickedly funny and very addictive show, so I guess you can call me a "Gleek." The show itself thankfully comes back soon (Sept. 21), and Fox has released this promo clip in which the kids put their spin on Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," and though that will and should make all hip-hop fans cringe, I like it. Enjoy.

And finally today, in something just perfect for a Friday morning, "Zach Galifianakis' brother" interviews a game Sean Penn in the latest Between the Ferns segment. It's not all funny, but when it is, it really works, especially the thought of Galifianakis, Penn and Jack Nicholson hitting the town to eat at Long John Silver's. Enjoy the clip and have a great weekend, which for me will include at least two movies, "The American" and "Machete." Peace out.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Kick-Ass 2": Not sure I believe it, but why not?

Where better to start today than with a rumor about easily one of my favorite movies of 2010 so far, especially when it's such a juicy one.

While I can't aesthetically call "Kick-Ass" a "great" movie, which certainly means something different to every person who chooses to bestow it on a flick, I can say that it's by a pretty wide margin the funnest movie I've seen this year, and that goes a long way in my little corner of the world.

Now, I understand that the often very bloody antics of a 13-year-old superhero of sorts named Hit-Girl (the simply excellent Chloe Moretz) isn't for everyone, but I still couldn't understand how so many people skipped this during it's spring theatrical run (it only made $48 million in its domestic box office run, and about the same amount overseas.)

DVD sales and rentals, however, have been considerably better, which leads us to the claim that got me so geeked up this morning: Mark Millar, writer of the Kick-Ass funny book, has said on the UK's Radio 5 that a "Kick-Ass 2" has been greenlit and will go ahead based on his follow-up comic (courtesy of AICN for the head's up.)

Now, from all I've read, Millar says a lot of things, but here's hoping this bit at least turns out to be true, because "Kick-Ass 2"? To that, I can only say bring it on!

And after that bit of possible fantasy, here's some much more serious news about two very interesting flicks, one about to start and one that's already finished.

Anyone who's been here before knows that there are very few genres of movies that I like more than the American political movie, the kind that gets at the meat of campaigning in what we still like to think of as a civil society.

George Clooney, who stars in "The American," which hits theaters today (and I'll be seeing tomorrow), will next move back into the director's chair for "Farragut North," an adaptation of Beau Willimon's play, and he's apparently lining up a fantastic cast.

According to Vulture, "the story is set in Des Moines, Iowa, just weeks before the state's Democratic caucuses officially commence; it follows the exploits of a twenty-something presidential campaign spinmeister/wunderkind named Stephen Myers, and the dirty pool he plays to get his candidate the nomination against a rival senator."

As for the cast, Clooney has apparently reached out to Chris Pine, a.k.a. the new Captain Kirk, to re-create the lead role he played in a L.A. stage production of the play last fall. Already set are Philip Seymour Hoffman as Myers' boss on the campaign trail and, even better, Paul Giamatti as the campaign manager of a rival candidate. Offers are apparently also out to Evan Rachel Wood to play a teen campaign staffer and Marisa Tomei to play a probing journalist.

Shooting is set to begin in February, so I'd guess you can put this on the list of movies I'll be amped to see about this time or a little later next year.

And as for movies coming out a lot sooner in at least some corner of the world, can anyone remember the last time John Sayles directed a movie? It was "Honeydripper" in 2007, and though I almost completely hated that flick, the man has made many, many more that I love, so any news of a new Sayles flick is welcome around here (if I had to pick two of his movies I like the best, they would be "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star".)

The director heads to the Toronto International Film Festival this year with a new movie, "Amigo," a fictionalized account of the Philippines-American War at the turn of the 20th century, based on his unpublished, 1,000 page novel on the same subject, "Some Time in the Sun."

The film stars Joel Torre, Garret Dillahunt, Sayles regular Chris Cooper, DJ Qualls, Rio Locsin, Ronnie Lazaro and Bembol Roco, and according to The Playlist, here's what it's about:

The film revolves around the occupation by a squad of U.S. soldiers of a small, rural village. Headed by a respected elder, whom the Yankees refer to as “Amigo,” the villagers are forced to deal with this foreign presence as rules are set, curfews introduced and small attempts at democracy initiated. But the most significant tension in the film lies in the village’s relationship with a rebel group leading the resistance to the occupation. Amigo’s brother is the rebel leader, and his son runs off to join them, so he constantly finds himself torn between balancing what is right for the village and what this means to his family.

Juicy stuff that, and when he's on his game, Sayles is just an epicly good storyteller, so keep an eye out for this one hopefully soon. In the meantime, here's the trailer. Enjoy.

OK, after that today, all I have is a couple of clips, courtesy of MTV, from flicks I'm really looking forward to this fall. Admittedly, they're not the most exciting stuff, but I still think the movies they're culled from will be well worth watching.

First up comes "It's Kind of a Funny Story," from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, which comes out Oct. 5 (I believe) and which you can list as the single movie I'm most looking forward to for this fall. It stars Keir Gilchrist as a teen who checks himself into a mental hospital only to find himself housed in the adult ward, where he meets Zach Galifianakis and, I'd have to presume, a host of other colorful characters. Enjoy this short clip from the flick.

And finally today, though I haven't read the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, I'm really looking forward to Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go," coming to at least some American cities Sept. 15, because it just looks thoroughly creepy in all the best ways. The flick, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield is, as best as I can tell, about students at an English boarding school who are part of some kind of truly odd social experiment. If I knew more than that I'm still not sure I would reveal it, because I think people, including me, should always be surprised by movies. Anyways, enjoy this short clip featuring Reel Fanatic fave Mulligan and Knightley, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.