Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't fear "The Ides of March," or the season of Clooney

Yes, the first trailer for for George Clooney's political thriller is the main event here today, but since I've had a week from hell and haven't been able to even visit here until today, there's some other catching up to do too.

In other movie news, production starts this week on an intriguing project starring three of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, Laura Linney and the truly great Olivia Williams (most recently seen on the big screen by me in another fairly great political thriller, "Ghost Writer," but most famously of course Ms. Cross.)

"Hyde Park on the Hudson," filming in London, stars Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt in the period piece that focuses on the first visit of the British monarchy (in this case, King George VI (Samuel West) and the queen (Olivia Colman) to the United States. Stammering George is there to drum up American support for England's looming war with Germany, but FDR just happens to be distracted by ... his distant cousin, Daisy, played by Linney, with whom he develops an intimate relationship.

Juicy stuff there, and seeing Murray play a serious (though surely not too serious) FDR should just be a treat. Stay tuned ...

And there's also a bit of TV news out there about my current favorite network sitcom, "Parks and Recreation."

Poor Ron Swanson. First he (definite Reel Fanatic fave Nick Offerman) gets the single biggest Emmy snub of this awards season, and now, when "Parks and Rec" returns on Sept. 21, he'll encounter Tammy 1, his first ex-wife, so scary a character that she even makes Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally) quake with fear.

Poor Ron's torment, however, should be our delight, because in what should be a great comic turn, Patricia Clarkson will play Tammy 1 in two episodes starting with the premiere.

Should be pretty close to comedy bliss there, and in other TV news, HBO has set the fall premiere dates for two returning shows I'll definitely tune in for.

First up, the best thing about the new season of "True Blood" is that just about as soon as it ends, the second season of "Boardwalk Empire" will start right up. I used to have a lot of time for "True Blood," but though I still tune in during this summer dead period for TV, the utter randomness of it is really starting to drive me more than a little nuts.

That's certainly not a problem with "Boardwalk Empire," which tells the tale of early 20th century Atlantic City and the rise of "Nucky" Thompson (heavy Emmy favorite Steve Buscemi) with a clinical (and sometimes too perfect) precision. Keep an eye out for season two beginning Sunday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m.

And even better than that, in a rare move off of HBO's regular Sunday night home, the third season of "Bored to Death" will make its debut for an eight-episode arc beginning Monday, Oct. 10, at 9 p.m. The show, which springs from the twisted mind of novelist Jonathan Ames, is far from the deepest thing you'll ever see, but the often doped-out adventures of a would-be private eye played Jason Schwartzman with his buddies, a long-suffering cartoonist played by Zach Galifianakis and, best of all, a truly loopy Ted Danson as magazine editor socialite George Christopher, all around NYC is just exactly my kind of funny.

OK, we really are getting to "The Ides of March," but also this week came the first proof that the once-great Cameron Crowe is actually still making movies. No visual proof that I know of from the feature film he's apparently wrapping up now, "We Bought a Zoo," starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and set for release this Christmas.

There is, however, a trailer for a documentary that finds the "Almost Famous" director on familiar turf, "Pearl Jam Twenty." Pearl Jam was never exactly my kind of rock (far too earnest for me), but I love what Eddie Vedder did for the "Into the Wild" soundtrack, and I'm always up for a good rock doc, which this certainly looks like it should be. Enjoy the trailer, and keep an eye out for this flick in at least some cities Sept. 20.

Pearl Jam Twenty from Pearl Jam on Vimeo.

And now finally on to the main course. Say whatever you want to about George Clooney's persona, but I really couldn't give less of a flip about all that. The man knows how to pick good movies, and when he manages to direct them they usually turn out to be even better.

The last thing I saw him in was "The American," a first-rate but low-key thriller from Anton Corbijn that would make a perfect rental if you've never seen it, and now this fall he has two movies coming up that are both near the top of my list of must-see flicks for the rest of the year.

Now moved up to Nov. 23, he's starring in the long-time-coming return of director Alexander Payne with "The Descendants," in which Clooney plays a man who tries to put his family back together after his wife dies in a car crash.

Even better, and set to drop before that on Oct. 7 hopefully wide enough to reach even my little corner of the world, will be "The Ides of March," an old-fashioned political movie directed by Clooney and featuring a truly first-rate cast.

In it, Ryan Gosling plays a conflicted political strategist working for a presidential candidate played by (natch) Clooney himself. As you'll see from the trailer, all kinds of political games ensue, and the movie somehow also stars Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood.

It's been far too long since I've seen a good political thriller, so this one is definitely circled on my movie calendar. Enjoy the trailer, and have a great weekend, which for me will at least include seeing "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and maybe "Cowboys and Aliens" too. Peace out.

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