Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Woody Allen's next European advenure takes final shape, plus the first big-screen Jeff Buckley

If I could be anyone in the world other than myself (though I'm usually pretty content in my own rapidly aging skin), I'd have to say it would be Woody Allen.

The septuagenarian filmmaker has made, for my money, the best movie so far this year with his City of Lights valentine "Midnight in Paris" (though Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" is a more ambitious and close second), and now comes word that he's finalized the cast for his next cinematic adventure, this time in Rome (hey, why not?).

"The Bop Decameron" will begin filming in the city July 11, and the latest additions to the cast are Greta Gerwig and Alison Pill, who played Zelda Fitzgerald in "Midnight in Paris." They join Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Allen himself, who will appear in one of his own films for the first time since 2006's "Scoop."

So, what's it about? Well, "The Bop Decameron" will apparently be a modern-day riff on Giovanni Boccaccio’s medieval tale "The Decameron," a collection of erotic love stories. Sounds like perfectly lascivious material for Woody Allen to play around with, and the man is on a real roll right now, so definitely go see "Midnight in Paris" if you haven't yet, and stay tuned for more on "The Bop Decameron" as soon as I can find it.

In other movie news, this solidly middle-aged man shouldn't admit that he watches "Gossip Girl," but I do, and I find it to be just the perfect, way-lighter-than-air comedown from Monday, always my longest workday of the week.

Well, for you "Gossip Girl" fans, it seems that lonely boy himself, Penn Badgley, has signed on to plays Jeff Buckley in what is apparently one of two biopics in the works about the late singer. This one, titled "Greetings from Tim Buckley," is directed by Dan Algrant and is about the days leading up to Jeff Buckley's breakthrough performance at a 1991 tribute to his father. Per the movie's press release:

"Through a romance with a young woman working at the concert, he comes to understand the father who abandoned him. Culminating in a cathartic performance of his father’s most famous songs, Jeff’s debut stuns the audience and launches his career as one of the greatest young musicians of his time."

That last bit can easily be dismissed as a bit of cinematic hyperbole, but you really can't dispute that with "Grace," Jeff Buckley did manage to record one of the all-time great rock albums during his short time on this planet, so this movie should be nothing but a treat.

And since nothing in Hollywood happens in a vacuum, director Jake Scott is currently at work on a rival Buckley biopic, to based on David Browne‘s book “Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley,” but as far as I know has yet to cast his choice to play the doomed singer.

OK, now on to one video, and then to close a word about the progress of a new movie from one of my favorite young filmmakers, Martha Stephens. First up, the video, which in a very quick and funny style wraps up the three truly convoluted but also sporadically very entertaining seasons of HBO's "True Blood" that have unspooled so far. The show definitely pales to the grandeur of "Game of Thrones," which just finished its first season in superb style, and the continuous liberties that it takes with Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels can just be thoroughly maddening, but for campy TV fun it still manages to satisfy. Enjoy this three-season wrapup, and keep an eye out for the season four premiere of "True Blood" this Sunday on HBO.

Finally today, I was one of five or so people lucky enough to catch the screening of Martha Stephens' "Passenger Pigeons" at the 2010 Macon Film Festival, and I'm certainly glad I did. That movie, a multi-layered drama that centers on the death of a coal miner in Eastern Kentucky, is a quiet winner, and if I ever see it out on video, I'll certainly spread the word.

And this morning, I woke up to find in my g-mail box word from producer Nick Case about the progress of Stephens' next movie, "Pilgrim Song." Also set in coal country, this new movie is about a teacher who gets pink-slipped and sets out to walk Kentucky's Sheltowee Trace Trail. Filming is set to begin July 6, which is very exciting news indeed. Below is a fundraising pitch from Stephens and producer Adam Tate that tells you more about "Pilgrim Song," and to learn even more, visit the movie's site here. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.


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