Friday, August 31, 2007

The season of TV on DVD

Every fall I resolve to watch at least two or three new shows, but far too often just fail to do so.

It's not there's nothing good on TV. Sure, there's a heck of a lot of crap, but there's still some good stuff (even on network TV!) The main reason I don't tune in like I should is that I'm now so completely conditioned to watching TV on DVD that I'm willing to wait just for the ease of watching them on my own schedule from Netflix.

This week we have two shows that I certainly should have stuck with, "Heroes" and "Friday Night Lights."

I think my appetite for "Heroes" waned simultaneously with my interest in "Studio 60," which came right after it on NBC. Once I had missed a few episodes of "Heroes," I knew there was no way I could catch up, so I simply didn't.

The pilot episode of "Friday Night Lights" is simply pure "Rudy"-esque schmaltz, but in all the right ways. After the pilot, however, I stopped watching because it was on directly opposite the dwindling "Gilmore Girls," and not yet having Tivo I had to make a choice. I'm gonna start with "Lights" on DVD, then "Heroes," and once again resolve to watch them both when they return for their new seasons.

Here, courtesy of the great site, are some more upcoming TV releases to put on your calendar:

Sept. 4
"The Office" - season three and "30 Rock" - season one: I'm fairly certain I've seen all the episodes of the third season of "The Office," but I'll still buy it on DVD because there's simply nothing funnier on network TV right now. And, though I never tuned into "30 Rock" because it just looked far too silly, so many people have since sung its praises that the first season is at least worth Netflixing.

Sept. 11
"Fraggle Rock" - third season: Jim Henson's puppets and crazy, cool songs. 'Nuff said.
"Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act": I've already been sent this one and can tell you Dame Mirren is as good as ever as this sublime limey cop serial finally winds to a close. I can't recommend this one high enough.

Sept. 18
"Family Guy" - volume 5: Seth McFarlane's antics are finally starting to grow old to me, but I still might add this one to my queue.
"Upright Citizen's Brigade" - second season: I'm probably remembering this crazy comedy troupe through rose-colored glasses, but when they were on Comedy Central I thought they were great.

Sept. 25
"My Name is Earl" - second season: Jason Lee's narration just continues to annoy me more each time I watch this NBC sitcom, but he, Ethan Suplee, Jamie Pressly and the Crabman are still very funny in small doses.

Oct. 2
"How I Met Your Mother" - season two: Season one of this CBS comedy is surprisingly strong, so I'll definitely spring for season two, of which I've already seen probably half the episodes. Willow, Doogie and Nick Andopolous, all on one show? I'm there.

Oct. 9
"Creature Comforts" - season one: I have serious doubts there will ever be any more episodes of this Aardman import updated for American viewers. I caught a couple of episodes and can confirm that it's still awfully funny, and therefore well worth a rental.

Oct. 16
"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" - the complete series: I can pinpoint the exact point when this Aaron Sorkin show lost me: When those two dudes were caught plagiarizing but weren't fired. Simply ludicrous. I might eventually Netflix this to see it ever recovered.

Oct. 23
"Veronica Mars" - season three: Ah, Veronica, I miss you so much already. Kristen Bell will be on "Heroes" (not "Lost," as I mistakenly posted earlier) this fall and will be the narrator for the CW's "Gossip Girl," but she'll probably never again get to star in a show as good as this one.
"The Sopranos" - season six, part two: I'm glad the frenzy over David Chase's limbo ending of this great series has died down. I, for one, loved it, and will enjoy dissecting it again on DVD too.

Oct. 30
"Scrubs" - sixth season: I know Zach Braff rubs many people the wrong way, and I concede he can be very annoying, but he still makes me laugh on "Scrubs," and I don't ask for much more than that from TV.
"My So-Called Life" - complete series: The folks at Shout/Factory do a nice job of putting together DVD sets of TV shows, so if Claire Danes is your cup of angst, this would be well worth buying.
"Twin Peaks" - definite gold box edition: I still have to get around to watching "Inland Empire" before I return to this wild and too-short David Lynch TV foray.

Nov. 6
"Seinfeld" Vol. 8: season 9 or the complete series: Possibly the most quotable show in TV history finally completes its run on DVD.
"X-Files" - complete collector's edition: You know what this is, of course.

Nov. 20
"Gilmore Girls" - seventh season: The final season of this beloved (at least by me) show was often a bitter pill to swallow, but I thought the second half was really starting to pick up. See how it all ended and say goodbye to the Gilmores once and for all.

Nov. 27
"Futurama: Bender's Big Score": New episodes of this Matt Groening/David X. Cohen gem will eventually be coming to Comedy Central, but in the meantime I'd definitely recommend buying this movie to tide you over.

And, as far as shows that have a definite release date and intrigue me, the list ends there. However ...

"The Wire: Season 4" - new hope?

Though there's still no firm word as to when the fourth season of the single greatest cop show in TV history will be released on DVD, but TVshowsonDVD did have a pic of the cover art, so it must be coming soon, right? I love the "No Corner Left Behind" tagline, and can't wait to watch McNulty on the beat in Charm City.

I know HBO wants to time this with the start of Season 5, which should come early in 2008, but I'm sure there are many more people than me out here who want to see it out ASAP. Release it already! Peace out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Revenge is a dish best served ... well, many ways

One sure sign that it's the end of August is that the movies that get dumped in these dog days just make me think of better ones that preceeded them.

Even though Kevin Bacon was a reliable soldier on CBS' "Early Show" (or whatever it's called) the other day as he claimed with a straight face that James Wan's "Death Sentence" will seriously explore the dark side of revenge, I think I'll just have to pass. I'll be spending my holiday weekend like most Americans: Watching college football and attending a barbecue or two, and maybe getting caught up on either "Heroes" or "Friday Night Lights" on DVD.

Besides, as with most things I enjoy, I often take my revenge on the big screen with more than a little dose of silly, simply because I like to laugh. Here are 10 flicks, some silly and some not, in which revenge plays a big part and I just can't get enough of (and, though they're numbered, they're indeed in no particular order):

1. Revenge of the Nerds
Because, after all, who in the world deserves revenge more than nerds? As far as I can tell, McG's rather insidious plan to remake this has died, or at least I hope so. To hear someone probably much wiser than me on the subject wax poetic about the virtues of this flick, watch Toby riff on it in "American Splendor." Heck, just watch "American Splendor" anyway if you somehow haven't seen it yet.

2. Oldboy
No director has made a better career out of revenge flicks than Korea's Chan-Wook Park, and this one would have to be my favorite. It can be hard to take at times, but watching Min-Sik Choi find out who held him captive for 15 years and get his vengeance (before they inflict further pain on him) is a one-of-a-kind experience.

3. Jackie Brown
Quentin Tarantino obviously tried his hardest to make a "revenge" flick with "Kill Bill," and mostly succeeded, but I'll still take "Jackie Brown" every time. It's still my favorite of the Tarantino flicks, and watching Pam Grier square off against Samuel L. Jackson will never get old to me.

4. Election
Remember, I did say silly, right? Of all the revenge flicks set in the hell that is high school, this one is still the best, both because it's Reese Witherspoon vs. Matthew Broderick and because, adorable as Reece is, you just want to crush Tracey Flick's head long before the flick ends.

5. Taxi Driver
Though I managed to omit "Death Wish" from this list, you really can't snub "Taxi Driver." Even if it has created a long list of cringe-worthy imitators (including this week's entry, of course), Scorsese's movie stands up well over time, and De Niro was rarely better than as the ball-of-rage that was Travis Bickle.

6. Rushmore
After all, what better to drive a man to vengeance than love? Although this movie has so many charms, my favorite moment might just be the look of relief on Herman Blume's face after Max Fischer calls off his vendetta in front of the barbershop. "I'll take punctuality."

7. The Limey
This is the only movie I can think of, at least off the top of my head, in which I liked Terrence Stamp, though surely there must be more. Not nearly as cool or clever as Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight," but it's still a reminder that when he puts his mind to it the man can direct a lean, mean thriller.

8. Get Carter
The Michael Caine original, of course, not the Sly Stallone remake (which I concede I haven't seen.) What I love about this movie is how it unfolds so slowly until the last half hour or so, when Caine's gangster unleashes the bloodbath you knew was coming from the start.

9. Bully
If you're considering moving to south Florida, I'd strongly advise watching this cautionary tale from Larry Clark first. Based on the true story of a group of teens who plot to take out the titular "Bully" (Nick Stahl, if I remember correctly), it's as chilling as it is entertaining. And, finally ...

10. Office Space
Though Ron Livingston is still a fairly young dude, I'm sure he'll never make another movie with the staying power of this one. Just in case you've forgotten just how cathartic watching this flick can be after a long day at work, I've included a YouTube clip of Michael Bolton and friends taking out their frustations on the fax machine, to the soothing strains of the Geto Boys. Feel free to add any revenge flicks that you can watch over and over again, and have an entirely suckfree Thursday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spoofy movies that don't just suck

I can remember watching Dan Fogler in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" just before it hit Broadway.

He was annoying then, but in his defense, he was supposed to be, and he played it very well. The show itself, while more than a little too high on audience participation for my taste, was a lot of fun.

Now, however, he's making his break to the big screen in what looks like a most unfortunate way: As the star of "Balls of Fury." If this movie is somehow more than even intermittently funny, please let me know, because I'll definitely need some convincing before I even touch this one, with or without Christopher Walken.

I have nothing against the notion of spoof movies, or at least I didn't before they starting being so weak they had to put "movie" in the title just in case anybody missed the thoroughly obvious point (as my own petty protest for having been dragged to the absolutely unfunny "Date Movie," none of those flicks will be included in the list that follows.)

In honor (or dishonor, I guess) of Dan Fogler's fairly auspicious movie debut, here are 10 spoofy movies (and I do admittedly use the term more than a little loosely) that still manage to make me laugh. Please feel free to add any I've missed.

1. Blazing Saddles
It was hard to pick just one Mel Brooks movie (and probably unfair to do so), but for me his work was never funnier than in this sendup of Westerns. Perhaps it was Richard Pryor's contribution to writing the script that just made this the most politically incorrect of Brooks' flicks, and one in which everyone is a target for ridicule.

2. Airplane!
No matter how many of those "movie" movies they inflict on the masses (yes, there is a "Scary Movie 5" in the works), you have to give props to Jim Abrahams and David Zucker. Shirley you don't doubt this spoof of disaster movies is simply one of the funniest movies ever made.

3. Top Secret
Zucker and Abrahams again, I concede, but when I was 14 years old I thought this was the funniest movie around. I was clearly wrong, but I do miss the days when Val Kilmer was a funny guy, particularly here and in "Tombstone."

4. Our Man Flint
In many ways this spoof starring James Coburn as a sendup of James Bond was an omen of what would later go wrong with some Bond movies that just lost their way. Coburn, however, is very funny, and the "scientific" weapons they come up with are worth the price of admission by themselves.

5. Spinal Tap!
It's hard to believe now that Rob Reiner was ever this funny (in his defense, I did watch "Dave" on a recent Saturday morning, and if you can stomach it's heavyhanded politics, that was a much better flick than I remembered it being at the time.) If this list were in any kind of logical order, this mocku-rockumentary would be on top.

6. Psycho Beach Party
I concede that the supremely silly work of Charles Busch is definitely not for everyone, but I like it, and this is my list. This 2000 flick riffs on both Gidget and slasher films, and you get Nicholas Brendon and Amy Adams to boot.

7. Hollywood Shuffle
What in the world ever happened to Robert Townsend? I can't remember seeing him in anything since his fairly dreadful sitcom "The Parent 'Hood," but very few people have made funnier debuts that had more to say than this flick (and I'd certainly put out a little cash for a 20th anniversary edition on DVD, if anyone's listening.)

8. Life of Brian
If you're gonna spoof on anyone, why not start at the top. The Pythons' riff on Jesus, while being very funny, is not nearly as blasphemous as many might think, and actually surpisingly sweet. I first watched it, after all, at an Episcopal youth group meeting, so just how sacreligious can it really be?

9. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
If you like film noir (and if you don't, why in the world not?), you'll probably have a soft spot for this old parody starring Steve Martin and directed by Carl Reiner. It's not quite as funny as it should be, but it's still fun to see old favorites like Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck pop up throughout.

10. Best In Show
Christopher Guest's movies works best when you can either like or identify with the people in the flick, as you can with this dead-on shot at dog shows. The laughs fly funnier in "Waiting for Guffman," but this is still my favorite of his works.

And there you have it. As I said, if you see "Balls of Fury" and enjoy it, please let me know, and feel free to add any great spoofs I have snubbed (shirley there are many.) Peace out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oliver Stone finally heads back to Vietnam

Although I was really hoping he would jump into the middle of the hunt for Osama bin laden, Oliver Stone has apparently changed course and is now heading back to familiar territory. And that could surely be a good thing.

He is apparently closing a deal with United Artists to finance "Pinkville," a drama about the investigation of the 1968 My Lai massacre that he would direct. Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum will star.

This would be Stone's fourth foray into Vietnam (well, fifth, of course, if you count his actual war service.) Of the the three he's already made, I'd rank "Heaven & Earth" as the best, with "Platoon" a close second and "Born on the Fourth of July" trailing rather badly.

In the new flick, Willis will play Army Gen. William R. Peers, who supervised the investigation into the massacre by U.S. soldiers of as many as 500 My Lai villagers, most of them unarmed women, children and elderly. It's good to hear that, unlike Sly Stallone, Mr. Willis may finally be starting to act his age and not taking to the battlefield.

Tatum will play Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot who, upon realizing what was happening below, put a stop to the killing by placing his craft between gunmen and the few villagers who were left, and telling his two shipmates to fire on the soldiers if they shot any more people. They airlifted the survivors and reported the carnage to superiors.

Although they really need to work on that title ("Pinkville" is apparently the description on a military map for the region where My Lai is, but so what?), this could be a welcome return to meaty material for Stone. I enjoyed "World Trade Center" enough as an ode to heroism, but it's been way too long since Oliver Stone challenged anyone or anything on screen, so I can only hope he jumps rights into "the shit," as Max Fischer put it so well, with this one.

Lucas to make two good movies?

OK, that may be a bit harsh, but I'm counting on the Lucas-produced "Indy 4" being fantastic, and this news about a World War II flick sounds almost as good. When's the last time you could really associate George Lucas with two good movies?

The latest, "Red Tails," is a World War II movie he apparently came up with the story for some time ago. The flick, which will center on the Tuskegee Airmen and be produced through Lucasfilm, will be scripted by John Ridley, who is definitely on a roll of late.

Ridley has already written the very funny but underappreciated "Undercover Brother" and the story for "Three Kings," among other flicks, and he came to Lucas' attention after the producer read his script for a movie about the L.A. riots, which Spike Lee will hopefully someday soon finally get around to making instead of toying with more "Inside Man" nonsense.

I really hope Lucas is finally committed to this. What may finally make him follow through with it could be ego. Lord knows what Peter Jackson will do after he wraps "The Lovely Bones," but if it's his long-rumored World War II aviation flick "Dambusters" a fun race to the finish could be on between these two titans.

Paul Giamatti channeling Karl Rove?

The marketing for "Shoot 'Em Up," which has never once shied away from the fact that this movie will be nothing more than an unapologeticly silly hail of bullets, has been just about brilliant.

The latest installment I found was a column by director Michael Davis at MTV Movie News in which, among other amusing things, he reveals the inspiration for Paul Giamatti's hitman in the upcoming flick:

He (Giamatti) says he'd like his character to be based on Karl Rove — a seemingly bookish guy who exercises power behind the scenes. I like it. His character turns out to be way more flamboyant than Rove ... but I like how our free-flowing conversation started making the character better than what is on the page.

If you didn't know it was written by a promising new director, you might think he was just an extremely eager fanboy as he describes meeting Giamatti, Clive Owen and the ravishing Monica Bellucci for the first time, but it's genuinely entertaining reading. And coupled next week with the "3:10 to Yuma" remake, his flick will hopefully blast us right out of the movie-muck that has flowed forth after "Superbad."

TV tidbits

Though I spent probably too much time yesterday fantasizing about the return of Eliza Dushku as Faith the vampire slayer, it seems Tim Minear has other plans in mind for his next TV project. Minear, who was a co-creator of "Angel" and had a big role in the creation of "Firefly," will reteam with his "Wonderfalls" partner Tim Holland for "Miracle Man." It centers on a disgraced former televangelist, a man of no faith, who finds that God is using him to perform real miracles and change lives, starting with his own.

"It's about losing everything and starting over and finding that there is a higher purpose in life," Minear said. "It's about a man who says, 'I don't know how to be good, but I'll try to be better.' "

The premise, frankly, doesn't sound terribly promising, but after the disastrous treatment of "Drive," Mr. Minear needs and deserves a winner, so I'll at least give it a chance.

And, apparently it pays off big to draw extremely crude and smart cartoons. Assuring we will get "South Park" until at least 2011 (huzzah!), Trey Parker and Matt Stone have signed a new $75 million deal with Comedy Central.

The unique deal gives them a 50-50 split on any digital ad revenue. In my fairly many years on this planet I've yet to see anything approaching $75 million, and I really can't even imagine what it might look like, but these guys definitely deserve it. Fifteen years of "South Park"? Bring it on.

OK, it's a long post today, but I'm almost finished, so bear with me. In the mail a few weeks back I got the DVD for the final "Prime Suspect," which I will dutifully review before its Sept. 11 release (but, having already seen it on TV, I can tell you now that it's as good as any entry in the series, and therefore better than at least 90 percent of what passes for entertainment on TV now.)

But "Prime Suspect" does indeed appear to be over, and creator Linda LaPlante is moving on too. She's signed with NBC to pen "Mafia Wives," which revolves around mob wives who take over the business in their husbands' absence. Sounds fairly promising, and it's definitely in the right hands.

And anyone who actually made it this far deserves a reward. Here's the latest trailer for "American Gangster," Ridley Scott's take on the saga of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Peace out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Elvis battling vampires? Please say yes to this, Bruce

Having failed to watch any movies this weekend except "Serenity," I was beginning to think there was nothing to talk about today. And then I found something so crazy it made me wake up right away.

If you somehow haven't seen "Bubba Ho-Tep," do so as soon as possible. It's much more fun and surprisingly moving than I can make it sound here, but you've got Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK and, well, a mummy. And now, thanks, to the twisted mind of Don Coscarelli, it seems we may be in for even more fun.

In a prequel of sorts, "Bubba Nosferatu and the Coven of She-Vampires," the king would be filming a movie in Louisiana when he runs afoul of a coven of, well, she-vampires. And, believe it or not, Paul Giamatti is somehow involved in this madness, to play Col Tom Parker.

What in the world would compel him to do this? Well, as you can probably guess just by looking at him, Giamatti is just a big geek at heart. Here's what he had to say about this to Rotten Tomatoes:

"Did you ever see Bubba Ho-Tep? Great movie. And that director [Don Coscarelli], I love that guy's movies. All the Phantasm movies and stuff. But we are trying to do it."

I'm definitely with him on the "Phantasm" movies (of which there will apparently be a fifth, also from Mr. Coscarelli, in 2008.) The only thing holding this up, apparently, is Elvis. I'd be surprised if Bruce Campbell really does turn his back on this, but so far he's apparently hesitating. Again, Mr. Giamatti:

"Bruce Campbell was waffling around about whether he wants to play Elvis or not again. So that's the problem. I'm playing Colonel Parker, which will be great, but you gotta have Elvis and you really want him playing Elvis, so hopefully we can get him to do it. If not, I'm sure they will try and find somebody else but I think it's contingent on whether he'll do it or not."

Mr. Giamatti, of course, will be in another extremely silly movie very soon, "Shoot 'Em Up," set for release Sept. 7. In the meantime I at least get to spend my Monday thinking about Elvis battling she-vamps, which is of course so much more pleasant than anything else that might come up at my actual job.

Warning: It's gonna get geeky in here

Oddly enough, I found this e-mail from the folks at just after I had finished watching all the "Serenity" extras (and this is a special edition truly worthy of the name, for once.)

It seems that among the "Serenity" and "Firefly" toys you can buy there is a brand new release, the actual papers for the Serenity vessel (no, I'm not kidding.) If you actually have $120 to spend on something as silly (yet undeniably cool) as this, you can get 13, 8 1/2-14 inch papers from the ship, one of which I've included at right. And, if you somehow missed out on the Buffy Season 8 comics, TFAW recently reissued the first four titles (which quickly sold out), and they're promising to do it again very soon, so stay tuned.

And, possibly even better than that is that Eliza Dushku is coming back to Fox TV, and possibly in something that's not craptastic. This rather radical idea comes from Aintitcool, so I'll give all credit before proceeding.

Faith has apparently signed a development deal with Fox and is now in the process of meeting the networks's stable of writers. And who's sitting at Fox with nothing to do at the moment? "Angel" veteran Tim Minear (having been mercifully removed from the sure-to-be-wretched "Angel" ripoff "Moonlight.") So, and as I said I can't take credit for this idea, why not bring the two together for a "Faith the Vampire Slayer"?

That's not even a rumor at this point, but every idea has to start somewhere. Dream with me, people, and I guarantee you'll have a much more bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hearing the ghost of Joe Strummer?

"I'd like you to write punk rock warlord, with warlord being one word."

From this rather odd intro on, listening to the soundtrack to Julien Temple's new Joe Strummer documentary, "The Future Is Unwritten," is a truly disconcerting experience.

Not unentertaining in the least mind you, just a little eerie. In putting this together, Temple could have taken any number of easy routes, but any one who has followed his music video work or of course seen "The Filth and the Fury" knows there was little chance of that happening.

Rather than simply compiling a best of the Clash/Joe Strummer/the Mescaleros, Temple scoured the tapes from Strummer's stint as a BBC DJ from 1999-2002 and put together some of Joe's favorite tracks, interspersed with voice snippets from the show itself (and, of course, some Clash and Mescaleros stuff too.)

The result is a fascinating listen, almost like listening to a ghost DJ on your radio. Although I never doubted it from listening to his own tunes, you get a real sense that Joe Strummer genuinely just loved music - and people - of all kinds. I won't spoil your listening adventure with a full track listing, but among the early standouts are the Elvis Presley oddity "Crawfish" and a rare tune from folkie Tim Hardin, "Black Sheep Boy."

From there, you take the same journey Joe did, discovering music from around the world. Hearing Baaba Maal singing along to the great guitar sounds of Ernest Ranglin on "Minuet" is just a perfect synergy of sound, and Andres Landeros' "Martha Cecilia" is also a real treat.

By the end, the secret comes out: Though he tried to come off as a tough guy, a "punk rock warlord," Joe Strummer was at heart just a big softie who wanted us all, as cheesy as it sounds, to love each other a little more, and who can argue with that? The set closes with Nina Simone's jazzy take on "To Love Somebody" and then a plea for world unity from the Mescaleros, "Willesden to Cricklewood."

With 25 song and voice tracks, there's a lot more to discover here, so I won't spoil it for you. You can buy the soundtrack now and, of course, if you happen to live in a more cosmopolitan corner of the world than I do, go see this when it finally gets some kind of U.S. release in November. Early word is that the movie just rocks, as any tribute to Joe Strummer certainly should.

Sounds of "The Darjeeling Limited"

Music also, of course, plays a big part in all the films of Wes Anderson. I managed to get my hands on a CD of those Portugeuse David Bowie songs by Seu Jorge from "The Life Aquatic," and I just can't get them out of my head. And as much as I love "Ooh La La" by the Faces, I now can't hear it without a vision of Max Fischer cuing the DJ so he can finally get to dance with Ms. Cross popping into my brain.

For his new flick, "The Darjeeling Limited," Anderson ventures out for the first time without longtime music collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. And as you can see from this track listing, he leans heavily on the music of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and throws in a few Kinks tunes for good measure (something I've never complained about.)

Giving credit where it's due, I discovered this track listing at the highly addictive blog The Playlist. Be warned in advance: If you go there, you may easily spend the next hour perusing its offerings. In the meantime, have a truly great weekend. Peace out.

"The Darjeeling Limited" Tracklist
Music from the film “Jalsaghar” - Ustad Vilayat Khan
“This Time Tomorrow” - The Kinks
Music from the film “Teen Kanya” - Satyajit Ray
Music from the film “The Householder” -Jyotirindra Moitra
Music from the film “Pather Panchali” - Pendit Ravi Shankar
Music from the film “Aparajito” - Pandit Ravi Shankar
Music from the film “Devi” -Ali Akbar Khan
Music from the film “Apur Sansar” - Pandit Ravi Shankar
Music from the film “Joi Baba Felunath” - Satyajit Ray
Music from the film “Charulata” - Satyajit Ray
Music from the film “Bombay Talkie” - Shankar Jaikishan
Music from the film “Shakespeare Wallah” - Satyajit Ray
Music from the film “Baksa Badal” - Satyajit Ray
Music from the film “Kanchenjungha” -Satyajit Ray
“Debussy: 3. Clair de Lune” - Written by Claude De Bussy (performed by Alexis Weissenberg)
“Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)” - Peter Sarstedt
“Strangers”- The Kinks
“Typewriter Tip Tip Tip” - Shankar Jaikishan
“Symphony No. 7 in A, OP. 92″ Written by Ludwig Van Beethoven (performed by Fritz Reiner)
“Symphony No. & in A OP. 92. Il Allegretto” Written by Ludwig Van Beethoven (performed by Otto Klemperer / Philharmonia Orchestra
“Champs Elysees (aka Waterloo Road)” - Joe Dassin
“Play with Fire”- The Rolling Stones
“Powerman"- The Kinks
Music from the film “Guru” - Ustad Vilayat Khan

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Whedon's "Serenity" gets royal treatment on DVD

I have to confess that I tried to watch Danny Boyle's "Sunshine" this past weekend and just didn't get it. I did stay through the whole movie, of course, but it just seemed to have little point or reason to exist at all (and I'm perfectly willing to concede that perhaps it all just went right over my head.)

It's the first Danny Boyle movie I've even mildly disliked, so I can definitely give him a pass and eagerly await his next move, especially when it's something as crazy as "Slumdog Millionaire," about an illiterate Hindi kid who conspires to get on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to win the girl of his dreams. That should just be tons of fun.

But back to "Sunshine." I certainly think the big screen needs more intelligent science fiction, so I'm glad Boyle took a stab at it, but there have been much better examples of it in recent years. Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" was my second-favorite movie of 2006, behind only Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth." And before that, of course, there was Joss Whedon's "Serenity," which gets the grand treatment it deserves this week on DVD.

"Serenity," based on Whedon's one-season-only "Firefly" (honestly, you folks who run the Sci-Fi Channel, is there anything better you could do than throw the money at Whedon to revive this show on your network? Just do it already.) What this space Western had, along with the smarts, was a lot of laughs. Even if his character was directly cribbed from Han Solo, Nathan Fillion makes Capt. Mal Reynolds his own and leaves a lasting impression.

For anyone who hasn't seen this one yet (and if you haven't, really, for shame!), it picks up the "Firefly" story with River Tam (Summer Glau) as the focus. The collector's edition claims to include more than 30 minutes of bonus features, including extended scenes, "Take a Walk on Serenity" featurette, "A Filmmaker's Journey" featurette with Mr. Whedon, "The Green Clan" featurette with cinematographer Jack Green, "Sci-Fi Inside: Serenity," an "in-depth look at the film and TV show hosted by cast member Adam Baldwin, and a commentary with Whedon, Fillion, Baldwin, Glau and Ron Glass.

As far as intelligent sci-fi with heart goes, I really can't recommend anything higher than "Serenity."

Other picks this week:

The Lives of Others
It seems like I've been waiting years to see the movie that somehow managed to beat out "Pan's Labyrinth" for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, and now I'll finally get to. There's a listing on the IMDB for a "Lives of Others" coming in 2010, so I can only imagine there's some crap American remake coming soon, but do yourself a favor and watch this drama about the German Stasi police instead.

South Park: Season 10
I'll keep springing for "South Park" until it stops being bitingly funny, and that hasn't come to pass yet. Highlights of this tenth season include the two-part "Cartoon Wars," in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone declare war on Fox's "Family Guy" with help from Eric Cartman, and "TSST," in which a "dog whisperer" is brought in to try and curb Cartman's erratic behavior.

Pusan pays tribute to Yang

Edward Yang may not have made many movies in his short life (only eight, to be precise), but he did manage to craft easily one of my favorite in the sublime "Yi Yi."

And now he's getting an extremely fitting posthumous honor from the Pusan Film Festival, which will name him the Asian Filmmaker of the Year. Huzzah indeed!

Egoyan unleashes 'Adoration'

The world is certainly a better place with more Atom Egoyan in it, especially when he comes up with something as odd as this.

Egoyan has announced his next project will be called "Adoration." With filming beginning in Toronto in September, it will be about teems navigating "this brave new world and how people can invent themselves, or re-invent themselves, through technology." It will star Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Devon Bostick and, of course, Egoyan's wife, Arsinee Khanjian. Definitely keep your eyes on this one.

Carla Gugino makes a Righteous Kill

With "The Spirit" and now this, Carla Gugino has been on a real roll lately, and I can't think of anyone more deserving.

Her latest coup is the leading female role in "Righteous Kill," the Jon Avnet crime drama that teams up Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as New York cops chasing a serial killer. Gugino will play a crime-scene investigator who starts knocking boots with De Niro's character, apparently.

Sounds like a pretty blase story with, frankly, two actors who have been coasting for years now, but just about anything can go down a lot sweeter with a little Carla Gugino mixed in. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to work. Peace out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where do you go after you're "Superbad"?

I was gonna start today by discussing Todd McFarlane's plan to piss all over "The Wizard of Oz," but I just can't bring myself to do it. Some people would name "Casablanca" and "The Birds" as the most untouchable flicks of all time, and I certainly wouldn't stop them from making that argument, but to me there's just no movie that combined amazing storytelling with virtuoso filmmaking better than "The Wizard of Oz."

OK, maybe a few words about it, but then I promise I'll quickly move on. McFarlane and Josh Olson, writer of the "History of Violence" graphic novel, are promising a "revisionist" vision, but McFarlane's quote on the subject reveals this is all really happening because he can't be bothered to come up with any more original ideas himself.

"My pitch was ‘How do we get people who went to ‘Lord of the Rings’ to embrace this?’ " McFarlane said. "I want to create (an interpretation) that has a 2007 wow factor. You’ve still got Dorothy trapped in an odd place, but she’s much closer to the Ripley from ‘Alien’ than a helpless singing girl."

Bleah, bleah and more bleah. Enough of that. I'd much rather talk about what Greg Mottola will do now that he's crafted and unleashed the funniest movie of 2007 with "Superbad."

If you polled 100 people leaving the movie theater after a screening of "Superbad," more than half of them would guess it was directed by Judd Apatow, and the rest would probably just give you a blank stare. But, of course, it was Mr. Mottola who was responsible for this, and before it the underrated little "Daytrippers" flick and solid TV work with "Undeclared" and then "Arrested Development."

I'd love to see some of these very talented people in the Apatow camp return to TV and give us something even half as great as "Freaks and Geeks," but they're probably too recently burned by the experience to go back to it. Instead, Mottola is quickly getting back to work on movies, this time with a script he penned himself.

Giving credit where it's due, this report comes directly from the almost-always-reliable JoBlo site. According to those fine folks, Mottola's next flick will be called "Adventureland" and will be a semiautobiographical tale set in the '80s about a college grad who, as he's about to set off on a European adventure, finds himself stuck at home in Long Island because his father gets laid off. Forced to support himself, he gets a job at the local amusement park Adventureland, where comedic hijinx will surely follow.

The slightly sordid world of amusement parks should be ripe territory for fun, and Mottola also wrote the script for "Daytrippers," so I'm hoping he comes up with a winner here to keep us laughing again next summer.

Greenaway's grand vision of Rembrandt

My favorite Froggy film site,, has a slew of photos up from Peter Greenaway's upcoming "Nightwatching," which starts with the creation of Rembrandt's painting "The Night Watch" to tell the story of his often turbulent private life.

Even when they're deeply flawed, Greenaway's flicks are always a visual feast, and as these photos show, this one should be no different. Martin Freeman of the UK "The Office" fame plays Rembrandt, and even if this movie is far too wild to ever turn up in my little corner of the world on the big screen, the photos can take your mind off of Wednesday for a few minutes. Click here to peruse them all and enjoy.

Two doses of trailer fun

The first is just a tease of the movie I'd have to say I'm most excited about for the fall, Todd Haynes' Dylan flick "I'm Not There." Though it doesn't show much, I like the style of it and am definitely ready for more.

Next up comes the more substantial trailer for Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream." Though much of the world has dismissed him as the aging pervert he often seems to be, Mr. Allen has been on a real winning streak of late. "Match Point" was easily one of my favorite movies of 2005, and though it was lighter than air, "Scoop" was a lot of fun.

"Cassandra's Dream," starring Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor and Tom Wilkinson, is definitely on the darker side. It's set to come out in October, and I'm hoping it has enough star power to make out here to the hinterlands. Anyways, enjoy the trailer. Peace out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can there be too many beautiful women in one movie?

Though there were many charms to Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," I have to say the one that has lingered longest in my mind is that scene of Penelope Cruz singing at the restaurant. Just an incredibly beautiful woman singing an almost equally beautiful song.

And so any news of her being cast in a grand musical is certainly welcome to me, especially joining a cast and project as grand as this.

Apparently, the lovely Ms. Cruz, Javier Bardem and Marion Cotillard (star of the Edith Piaf flick "La Vie en Rose," which I have yet to see), are all in negotiations to join director Rob Marshall's take on the Broadway musical "Nine." And, apparently because he can get whoever he wants for this, Mr. Marshall is also courting Sophia Loren and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Now, I saw quite a few Broadway musicals in my youth (and, though I probably shouldn't admit it, the thoroughly silly "The Wiz" remains my favorite), but I have to confess I know nothing about "Nine" except that it's based on the Federico Fellini movie "8 1/2."

Bardem just got the offer to play director Guido Contini, who experiences a creative and personal crisis as he tries to balance all the women in his life. That includes his wife (Cotillard), mistress (Cruz), his film-star muse (Zeta-Jones), agent and even his mother (Loren), who appears as a ghost.

Put that many beautiful women in one movie and you've got my attention, and I thoroughly enjoyed Marshall's "Chicago" adaptation, so I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on this.

Movie-to-TV love for Buffy

There are few things I love to waste time with more than lists, and this one from IGN is pretty darn good. I guess with "The Simpsons" and tons of other flicks out there now it would have been much simpler to go TV-to-movie, but the folks at IGN have gone the reverse route with some interesting results.

I won't give away the whole thing, but as the headline suggests, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" took the top prize (beating out "M*A*S*H"!), and the short-lived but beloved (at least by me) "Karen Sisco" with Carla Gugino even made the list at No. 8.

Now, a word in defense of "Buffy" for anyone who just can't imagine it deserves to be ahead of "M*A*S*H." I don't think the IGN folks are really saying "Buffy" was a better show than "M*A*S*H," but instead that the distance between the source material and what Joss Whedon made of the TV show was the most impressive turnaround, and I would certainly have to agree with that.

One more quick note about TV: I don't know how this slipped by me for so long, but apparently two of my favorite TV performers are nominated in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy category. Both Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute on "The Office" and Neil Patrick Harris as Barney on "How I Met Your Mother" just make me laugh out loud, so it's nice to see the recognition. Though I won't bother to tune in for the broadcast in September, especially with Ryan Seacrest as the host, I'd love to see either of them win over Kevin Dillon and Jeremy Piven from "Entourage" or Duckie from "Two and a Half Men."

Get some Dewey Cox swag

Though I hesitate to suggest anyone give out their e-mail addresses to get yet more garbage, this is one case where that might just pay off. At the Sony site here for "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," they ask for your e-mail address, to get some kind of Sony newsletter, but then your snail mail address with the promise of some Dewey Cox swag. I took the plunge, so hopefully there will be a Dewey Cox T-shirt that I can fit into in my near future.

A quick word of praise for "Rocket Science"

As I mentioned yesterday, I managed to see two high-school flicks while in Minneapolis to see my brother, the sublime "Superbad" and the not-quite-as-good but still worthy "Rocket Science."

I think the latter could well be the summertime indie sleeper we haven't seen yet this year (I was hoping that would be Adrienne Shelly's "Waitress," but that never really caught fire.) "Rocket Science" is the first fictional flick from documentary maker Jeffrey Blitz, who brought us "Spellbound."

Well, sort of fictional, I guess, since the endearing lead character, Hal Hefner, is apparently based on Blitz's experience growing up in New Jersey. In the flick, Hefner is a stuttering mess of a kid who lugs a big suitcase with him to school each day, and he's played with lots of charm by newcomer Reese Thompson. Despite his speech impediment, Hal is recruited by Ginny (Anna Kendrick, a Tony nominee in 1998 for "High Society"), a competitive classmate with a penchant for underdogs, to be her new partner on the debating team.

Much of the movie's magic comes from watching Hal try to actually speak in front of a crowd while at the same time awkwardly pitching woo at his new muse. If anything, the movie piles on a little too much contrived quirk (especially in the Hefner's Korean neighbors), but it has enough spirit to overcome that and succeed as a late-summer charmer. Go see it if you can.

A trailer that ... rocks?

I know it's not nice to be mean to the elderly, but when they insist on prancing around on stage like Mick Jagger does, aren't they asking for it?

I've been down on the idea of Scorsese doing a Rolling Stones doco since I first heard about it for that exact reason: Watching them on stage is simply painful. I saw them at RFK Stadium in DC in 1989 (or maybe 1990) with the fantastic Living Colour because I assumed that would be one of the last chances to ever see them. And, though they definitely rocked the house, it probably should have been.

Judging from this trailer for "Shine a Light," however, maybe I should give the flick a chance when it comes out next spring. Mick does indeed still make me want to hurl, but it still seems to have much of the style of Scorsese's best rock docs. Enjoy, and have an entirely suckfree Tuesday. peace out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Superbad" and the fine art of extreme profanity

While in Minneapolis I managed to watch two movies about high school that really couldn't have possibly been more different, but in their own way almost equally appealing.

The first, of course, was "Superbad," which I've been waiting to see for, well, it seems like three years or so. And, first things first, it didn't disappoint in the least. To a packed house on a truly dreary Saturday afternoon (aside: Malls, on a rainy day, are to Minnesotans like libraries are to homeless people; that place was just crammed full of people!), the flick delivered all the laughs I expected and even a little more heart.

Though it never really grinds to halt, the jokes flow fastest in the first half hour or so, in which Jonah Hill is a pretty much unstoppable fountain of profanity. And I hope I never get too old to enjoy that. The best joke I hadn't heard in advance involved oral sex and the Vietnam War, but there's plenty to laugh at, even if, like me, you watched every possible second of YouTube advance footage.

And Michael Cera, though he's often left to just react to this ball of energy, manages to get in some choice lines in the few seconds that Mr. Hill stops spouting off. He may soon fall into a rut of playing the straight man in ensemble comedies, but he was great at it on "Arrested Development" and also very funny here. As a team, they work so well together because you can tell they have become the kind of friends this movie celebrates. (And, admittedly only because it generates lots of traffic to my rather silly site everytime I mention it, take a few minutes to check out Mr. Cera's extremely funny site.)

And of course, a word or two about the story might help, just in case there's someone out there who doesn't know about this one. It's essentially the quest for the holy grail of teen-age conquest: booze and broads. But it's also a fairly touching story about male friendship (pushed to the brink of hetero man-love), and a far sight funnier than the many other movies that have travelled down this familiar road.

As a co-conspirator in this quest, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a k a "McLovin," is much funnier than your standard geek, but by the end of the movie I could already envision him becoming as annoying as Jon Heder post-"Napoleon Dynamite." It doesn't help that his story line, involving two dangerously juvenile cops (co-writer Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), is the movie's weakest thread. It's saved, though, by just enough directing style from Greg Mottola, who, like many people you'll spot in the crowd scenes of "Superbad," cut his teeth in the Apatow empire early with work on the fairly great one-season TV series "Undeclared."

Now, bear with me for a second and try not to scream. I'm not saying, by any stretch, that Greg Mottola has much of anything at all in common with Martin Scorsese. However, and maybe it's just me, but what saves this stretch of the flick, with the dual storylines of McLovin and our two heroes, is that it's paced a whole lot like "After Hours," easily the silliest Scorsese flick and therefore one of my favorites. Like that flick, it just keeps piling on the absurdities, leaving you little time to realize just how silly it really gets.

In the car afterward, we were talking about how, in a truly twisted fashion, the movies in Apatow-world are really about "family values." Well, as much as a movie that has a truly tasteless (but very funny) joke about the side effects of dancing while menstruating can be, anyway. In the end, and I won't spoil anything here, the dudes ultimately do the right thing, though thankfully never in anything approaching an afterschool special-type way.

As with "Knocked Up," there was one joke that almost crossed the line for me, but still managed to keep me laughing (in "Knocked Up" it was the pinkeye joke, and here it was the "green beer," which you won't hear anymore about from me.) And, though this is clearly a movie that's all about male bonding, the women are surprisingly well-developed (and no, though this is a review of the movie "Superbad," I'm not making any kind of thoroughly inappropriate comment about female anatomy here) too. Martha MacIsaac as Becca and even moreso Emma Stone as Jules take full advantage of their short screen time, and frankly fare just as well or better than Katherine Heigl in "Knocked Up." If I had to pick only one of the summer's funniest two flicks, I'd take "Superbad," but only by a nose (and, thankfully, I don't see any reason why I won't soon own them both on DVD anyway.)

Also after the flick, in an act of purely silly hyperbole, I declared to my running mates for the day, my brother and his friend Jason, that we are now in "a golden age of R-rated comedies." Even if that is an exaggeration, I do have to say thanks for movies that make me think just enough and laugh a whole lot, often at the most crude jokes imaginable.

The other high-school flick I saw, by the way, was the thoroughly charming but rather horribly named "Rocket Science," but since I still have to work for a living, more on that will have to come tomorrow. For now I'll leave you with the trailer for Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow's Christmas offering, the appropriately absurd "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," which should finally make John C. Reilly the star he deserves to be. Peace out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

NY Film Fest a sign of great things to come

If you offered me a pass to any film festival in the world, I think I'd have to pick New York. Cannes clearly has the most pull, and Toronto has been rising for years now and probably now gets the most star power, but I'm just a sucker for New York.

And, this week, though I can't seem to find it anywhere, they've unveiled their full lineup, and it of course just makes me insanely jealous.

As previously announced, Wes Anderson's (huzzah!) "Darjeeling Limited" will be the opening night film. It's been a long time off for Mr. Anderson, so I'm hoping this is a strong return to top form after the disastruous "Steve Zissou" (I've watched that flick three times now, and just about the only thing I can find to enjoy about it are those beautiful Portugeuse David Bowie songs.)

Added this week are plenty more flicks I'm looking forward to. On the top of that list would have to be Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding." I thought his "The Squid and the Whale" was very close to being the best movie of 2005, so I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Starring wifey Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, John Turturro and Ciaran Hinds (huzzah!), it's about the titular Margot (Kidman) visiting her sister (Leigh) after she announces she's marrying a rather dim dude (Black, of course.)

Close on the heels of that as far as flicks I need to see as soon as possible would have to be the Coen brothers' take on Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men," which will be the centerpiece flick, and Todd Haynes' simply insane Dylan biopic "I'm Not There."

The closing night flick, "Perselopis," should also be intriguing. It's apparently an animated retelling of the Iranian revolution. Like I said, I can't seem to find the full slate on the film fest site, but other notable flicks include Brian De Palma's Iraq war drama "Redacted," Gus Van Sant's skater flick "Paranoid Park," Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Abel Ferrara's "Go Go Tales," Claude Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" and "Secret Sunshine."

If you're somehow going to this, as my father managed to do once, I'm insanely jealous. As for me, I'll just have to wait until these potentially great flicks make it to somewhere near my little corner of the world.

Bonus Wes Anderson?

The Guardian newspaper had a little tidbit about Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited."

The flick, starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, is about three estranged brothers who rebuild their bonds with a voyage across India after the death of their father. According to the Guardian, it will be preceeded by a 12-minute short called "Hotel Chavalier," which acts as a prequel to the main flick and is about one of the brothers and a relationship that goes awry.

Sayles goes back to school

If John Sayles' latest flick, "Honeydripper," ever somehow plays in Macon, I guess I'll have a savvy group of college students to thank for it.

"Stomp the Yard" producer Will Packer and Emerging Pictures founder Ira Deutchman are teaming with Clark Atlanta University to launch a film marketing and distribution course for African-American college students across the country, and their first assignment will be to produce a marketing plan for the flick.

Reading the plot summary on IMDB, it sounds like a blues-tinged version of "Big Night," which could be a good thing, I suppose. Danny Glover plays the owner of a failing delta juke joint who lures "Guitar Sam" for one night only in hopes of drawing customers away from a more popular competitor. Sam, however, doesn't show, so he instead cleans up a ne'er do well named Sonny who claims he can play and tries to pass him off as "Guitar Sam." I can only guess that the kid can indeed play the blues, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. Along with Glover, the movie stars Charles S. "Roc" Dutton (huzzah!), Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen and Sean Patrick Thomas.

Before Emerging Pictures releases the flick in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 28, select students from Clark Atlanta and other participating historically black colleges will help develop and implement a grassroots marketing campaign with their professors and the film's distribution team. It will continue throughout the platform release in Atlanta and Chicago on Jan. 18 and a wide release the following month.

My guess is they've got a tall task ahead of them to get this a real wide release, but they've certainly got me cheering them on.

Something I swore I would no longer care about

I promised myself that, after Joss Whedon got booted from the project, I would never again write another word about the "Wonder Woman" flick, but this is just too odd to let pass.

According to the celebrity gossip site I'm Not Obsessed, Mrs. Tom Cruise is in talks to play our heroine. Here's what their "source" had to say:

“The movie’s only at the discussion state, but Katie feels this role as a kick-ass superhero will put her back in the public eye. She wants to show her stuff, and she wants to prove that she can stand on her own two feet without Tom’s help. Tom, at times, feels compelled to oversee Katie’s career, but Katie is bent on doing this alone. She actually scheduled the meeting when she knew Tom wasn’t going to be able to be there.”

Any chance that I would have seen this disaster-in-the-making would have been if they went ahead with the plan to cast the very funny Cobie Smulders of "How I Met Your Mother." With Katie instead? No chance.

Three days off

I'm off for a long weekend to visit my brother in Minneapolis where, I'm sure, I'll see a movie or two. "Superbad" may be on the menu if I can talk him into it, and "Rocket Science" has also been discussed.

If you're here in Macon, we've got three great offerings this week, a real rarity for August. Along with "Superbad," which in case you haven't noticed I've been more than a little obsessed with for, well, forever, we're getting "Becoming Jane" and, only at the Regal Rivergate 14, the Don Cheadle flick "Talk to Me." The latter flick, about DC disc jockey Petey Greene, has one-week-only written all over it, so don't pass up this chance to see it. Peace out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can David Milch save the TV cop show?

I gave up on watching cop shows several years ago because, like Emily Gilmore, I "simply don't find forensic work as fascinating as the rest of the world." I'm really not knocking the 42 varieties of CSI or anything else that's on the air now, but it's just not my thing.

Earlier this year, however, I found out just what I had been missing when I caught up with the first three seasons of "The Wire" on DVD. Anyone who used to love "Homicide" needs to watch these as soon as possible. The arc of season three in particular, if I may use a truly cringeworthy term, is downright Shakespearian.

Since then, my cubicle mate (and occasional Reel Fanatic guest reviewer) Rodney Manley and I have treadmilled our way through the first season of David Milch's "Deadwood" and are now embarking on season two. Those old (or maybe they still use them) commercials that said "It's not TV, it's HBO"? Well, you really can't call it arrogant when it's true. Milch's "Deadwood" is possibly the most profane show I've ever seen (and therefore rather hard to watch at work), but also simply one of the best TV Westerns ever made.

I tell you all that (in an admittedly rather long lead) to tell you this: With Milch's "John from Cincinnati" (which I didn't watch) flaming out after one season, he's now back with HBO on a singular mission: To save the TV cop show.

What he's pitching is familiar, NY cops on the beat, but I'm sure he'll still have something new to say. The project will apparently be about a Vietnam veteran who returns to the U.S. in the early 1970s and joins the New York City police force. The story is loosely based on the experience of former "NYPD Blue" exec producer Bill Clark, who is developing the show with Milch.

The things I don't know could easily fill a rather mundane book, but you can add to that long list this: I had no idea that Milch was one of the co-creators of "Blue," a show my parents and I used to watch religiously, and also a writer for "Hill Street Blues." Now that's a pedigree.

This probably means the other possible Milch project I had hoped for, a pair of "Deadwood" movies, is dead for now, but I'll take whatever I can get and, given its slump of late, surely so will HBO.

Raimi to direct "The Hobbit"?

I would have lead with this, but I'm not sure I'm ready to believe it yet.

According to the usually very reliable, its "sources" are saying that though Peter Jackson and New Line's Bob Shaye are in the first stage of kissing and making up, Jackson won't be coming back to direct "The Hobbit." Instead, according to IESB, he would sign on as a producer and hand the reins over to Sam Raimi.

Now, after the disaster that was "Spidey 3," no director is in greater need of a new franchise than Raimi, and I'd much rather see him do this than any remake of "Clash of the Titans," but why would Jackson want to do this? I find it hard to believe he would get back in bed with New Line and not want to be the director on this, but I've been wrong at least once before. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

As for Raimi, I do have faith he could pull this off. With the last "Spider-Man" flick he just seemed to be bored, but before that he did manage to craft my single favorite superhero flick in "Spider-Man 2," so I know he can bounce back again. Maybe "The Hobbit" would be just what he needs.

Michael Cera to 'Revolt'

Michael Cera, a k a the funniest guy on the Internet, has set up his next project, "Youth in Revolt," an adaptation of the C.D. Payne novel (which I haven't yet read.)

Mr. Cera, of course, is one of the stars of a little movie called "Superbad" I may have mentioned here a few times before. And, in case you're wondering what makes him the funniest man on the 'Net, just watch a few episodes of Clark and Michael and try not to get hooked.

Payne's self-published novel apparently caught on with the youths (who, it's becoming more clear to me everyday, I know nothing about) and led to a series of books featuring a teenager named Nick Twisp. The conceit of the novels is that Twisp strives to balance out his budding sexual urges while remaining an intellectual teenager in a world of moronic adults.

In the first novel, Twisp meets the girl of his dreams while on a family vacation and he turns his life and the lives of all those around him upside down in order to be with her. Gustin Nash wrote the screenplay.

Cera told the Hollywood Reporter that he's a huge fan of the book, having read it four times. "I have a copy signed by C.D. Payne. It's my most prized possession."

Well, anything that Michael Cera's read four times is certainly one I can bother to read once, so I soon will.

Actually, there's another Cera project that I'm more jazzed about (and have mentioned here before.) It's the next movie from Jason Reitman, "Juno," which was penned by Minneapolis City Pages scribe and blogger Diablo Cody. The coming-of-age story about a young lady who finds herself pregnant may actually have the best cast yet (a title I admittedly throw around rather loosely): Cera, Ellen Page (huzzah!), Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Rainn Wilson, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons (huzzah again!) I'm not sure when this will finally come out, but it's got to be soon, so keep your eyes out.

A Tyler Perry trailer

For a dude who keeps things so positive, Tyler Perry certainly does seem to generate a lot of hate, but it will never come from me. I really like his movies for what they essentially are, fairy tales, and apparently some other people do too.

His latest admittedly doesn't have a terribly thrilling premise, but his movies rarely do. This one, "Why Did I Get Married?", follows couples on a winter retreat on a mission to save their marriages (as best as I can tell). It's set to star Mr. Perry (not as Madea), Janet Jackson and Jill Scott, and come out, I believe, in November. Enjoy, and have an entirely suck-free Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who's making a porno with Kevin Smith?

There are few directors more in need of a new crowd than Kevin Smith (and some would say he needs a new writer and director, but not me.)

He's currently at work on two flicks, one really odd horror movie with a baddie modeled on the Rev. Fred Phelps to be called "Red State," and much more promising, something called "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." In what will hopefully turn out just as crude and juvenile as the title promises, it's about two friends in their 30s who, finding themselves at a crossroads, decide to get into the porn business.

Rosario Dawson has, perhaps understandably, turned her back on this (and joined Shia LaBoeuf and others in DJ Caruso's "Eagle Eye"), but it seems Mr. Smith may be closing in on his Zack (and, since he wants to wrap up filming by the end of this year, that would probably be a step in the right direction.)

A "reliable source" at Aintitcool who calls himself "Big J" (as if that doesn't wipe out any credibility at the outset) wrote in to say that the role would be taken by none other than Michael Bluth himself, Jason Bateman.

I could definitely see this working. Bateman's Bluth worked so well because he was constantly trying to play the straight man even though he was just as crazy as anyone in the "Arrested Development" Bluth clan. He would be great as a dude likewise drawn into the tawdry world of Kevin Smith.

Another name I've heard out there however, and I'd give credit for this if I could just remember where I saw it, intrigues me even more. Jay Baruchel. That name probably means nothing to 90 percent of the world, but he's a member of the Judd Apatow clique who is just one very funny dude.

He earned entry into this somehow-now-elite cadre by starring in the second of Apatow's one-season-only TV shows, "Undeclared." Though never nearly as good as the flawless "Freaks and Geeks," it's still a very funny look at college life, and Baruchel put up with all kinds of shenanigans as the main star. More recently, he was one of Seth Rogen's pothead buddies in "Knocked Up."

Once Mr. Smith finds a Zack, of course, he'll need a Miri. Knowing him, if he does indeed land Jason Bateman, he'll probably try and get sister Justine too just for the novelty of it. Assuming that won't come to pass, all we really know now is it will have to be a fresh face. Any suggestions?

Demko's DVD shelf

The lock of the week was an easy pick since "The Lookout" is easily one of my favorite movies of 2007.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and thankfully not French Stewart!) has found a surprisingly solid acting career after the cesspool that was "Third Rock from the Sun." Before "Brick," easily one of the best movies of 2005, he starred in "Mysterious Skin," which I rented on the recommendation of several readers of this site and thoroughly enjoyed.

"The Lookout," while not as good as either of these, is still an entertaining little flick. JGL plays a former star high-school athlete who, after suffering a severe head injury in a car crash, has serious memory problems and now works the overnight shift as the cleaning man at a bank. He's paired with a blind man played by Jeff Daniels (huzzah!) for living conditions, and the movie's at its best when they're playing off each other. JGL's character gets roped into a plot to rob the bank, becoming the titular "Lookout," and you even get lovely Isla Fisher in the bargain too, so what's not to like? Just rent it already.

Best movie I haven't seen: This one definitely goes to David Lynch's "Inland Empire," one of the many movies that are simply too good to ever play in my little corner of the world. I'll be seeing this very soon.

Two classics get grand treatment: If you don't own either Jim Henson's "Labyrinth" or Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," there are "special editions" of each out today. The "Taxi Driver" set in particular seems to be a grand affair, with three documentaries and at least three more featurettes in the two-disc set.

Fun with pictures

As far as I know, this image, courtesy of the great Froggy film site, is the first still from Tim Burton's take on Sweeney Todd, coming for Christmas.

It looks fantastic, and set me to thinking: Why do I have such mixed feelings toward Mr. Burton? I think it must be solely based on his remakes, which just suck eggs, because I've liked almost all of his original movies immensely (if you haven't seen "Big Fish," do so immediately.) I'm definitely getting psyched for Sweeney Todd, and this creepy shot of Johnny Depp and Bellatrix LeStrange certainly does nothing to change that.

Another flick I'm definitely jazzed to see later this year is David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises." Opening Sept. 14, it stars Viggo Mortensen as a tough guy for one of London's most notorious organized crime families. His life is changed after he meets a midwife, played by Naomi Watts, who finds herself unwittingly in the middle of some kind of sinister scheme involving the family he works for.

Personally, I prefer Mr. Cronenberg when he works more intimately with the human psyche (especially with "Spider," my favorite flick from both Cronenberg and Ralph Fiennes), but I'll follow him just about anywhere at this point. This should be a first-rate thriller, so enjoy the rather sinister poster and one pic below. You can find tons more pics here at Peace out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Peter Jackson and The Hobbit: New hope?

This story is probably very old by now, but I don't get paid enough (or, for that matter, at all) to work on this on the weekends, so here goes. Besides, to me at least, there are few things in the world of movies that could be better than Peter Jackson returning to the New Line fold to make "The Hobbit."

For a long while, it certainly seemed extremely unlikely. With the two sides mired in a very nasty fight over the profits from the "Rings" movies, New Line co-Chairman Bob Shaye in particular had been raising the bile level with his public statements.

Here's what Shaye had to say in January: "It (Peter Jackson directing "The Hobbit") will never happen during my watch." Sounds pretty firm, right? Well, not so fast.

Now, according to Yahoo!, Shaye is back in talks with Jackson to bring him home to New Line - and "The Hobbit." Shaye's quote this time: "Notwithstanding our personal quarrels, I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit."

So, what happened in the last eight months to change his mind so completely? I'd guess one of two things: They either shopped this around to several different directors but couldn't find one with both the skill and the will to do this right, or he was told by the New Line money men that his "watch" might not last too much longer without Jackson in the fold.

My money would be on some version of the former, especially since Jackson still has all the "Rings" sets on hand to use in New Zealand. Plus, I'm sure Shaye's been gorging on all that gorgeous "Golden Compass" footage and realizing just how lucrative Jackson's "Hobbit" will be.

But why is "The Hobbit" so important to me? Well, I loved the "Rings" stories and movies, but I just hold "The Hobbit" in even higher esteem. I think it's a combination of several factors: "The Hobbit" is a simpler story, more oriented to kids, and more magical than its companions. Plus, I learned to play the piano to those silly songs from the Rankin/Bass animated movie, so even in that cheesy form "The Hobbit" has always just been extremely close to my heart.

So, knowing all this, I'd have to bet on the breach being mended very soon, and Jackon soon announcing he will begin work on "The Hobbit" after he wraps "The Lovely Bones."

Updates on two of my favorites

In it's promo work for the upcoming bloodbath "Shoot 'Em Up" (mark your calendars for Sept. 7), has interviews with Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti about their future plans, and it features plenty of cool stuff.

There have been several attempts recently to revive Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, some much better than others. Thankfully, it seems the idea of a TV series "loosely" based on the Marlowe character, in other words taking only the shred of Chandler's original concept and just running in all kinds of directions with it, is seemingly dead.

Still going strong, though, is a big-screen version to star Clive Owen and, get this, actually based on one of Chandler's stories. There are very few dudes in movies today badder than Mr. Owen (watch "Croupier" before you even try to dispute that), so I can definitely get behind him filling the shoes of Marlowe. Here's what he had to say to Comingsoon.

"We got the rights and we're developing the script, and there's an area that's very daunting because the greats have played him: Mitchum and Bogart. I won't be going in there trying to do so something I think that relates to them. You go in there with a fresh approach, so I never really worry about the history of a project, like I wouldn't do 'The Big Sleep' but you go in and I'll do my interpretation of Marlowe and hope it comes even with the same radar as Bogart's."

Later this year, Mr. Owen will star with Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush in "The Golden Age," about as close to an Oscar lock (along with "American Gangster" and "Charlie Wilson's War") as there will be this year. Owen, as Sir Walter Raleigh, will be pitching woo to Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth I, and Samantha Morton (huzzah!) will be around as well as Mary Queen of Scots. Here's what Mr. Owen had to say about that one, due out Oct 12:

"There's a whole element of it that centers on the love triangle between Elizabeth, Raleigh and Bess, the lady-in-waiting. They were known to have a very, very close relationship and this is about setting up a situation where maybe in another time, another place, the whole thing could have become different. It's really about Elizabeth and her destiny and heading to become the immortal virgin Queen and struggling with that really."

And, even better, he talked about his next flick, Thomas Twyker's "The International": "It's like a big international, political thriller with a guy trying to expose and bring down a big bank, and every time he gets close, people are backing off, and strange things are happening with people being murdered, and he's obsessively trying to bring them down. It's like a throwback '70s very political thriller with some amazing bursts of action in there as well."

Even if I'm in the vast minority of people who just had very little time for his last bank-heist flick, Spike's "Inside Man," to that I can only say bring it on. And, finally, Mr. Owens' nemesis in "Shoot 'Em Up," Paul Giamatti, got shortshrift from Comingsoon, but did have a few tidbits about the possibility of playing Philip K. Dick in a biopic:

"His daughters are probably going to help produce it, and there's a guy writing it right now as far as I know. I'd love to do it, if they still want me to do it when it comes around and it's all done, I'd absolutely love to do it. Definitely. We'll see what the guy comes up with."

And I know I'd love to watch it, so I can only hope it happens.

Meirelles and the Brazilian bunch

When pressed to name a favorite director, I usually punt a little bit and offer up two names: Fernando Meirelles and Phillip Noyce.

And now it seems that Mr. Meirelles is following in the footsteps of the trio of Cuaron, Inarritu and del Toro (I simply refuse to call them "amigos") and flexing his muscle on behalf of his friends.

Under the name of his O2 Filmes shingle, Meirelles is bringing new flicks from Brazilian directors Cao Hamburger and Nando Olival to Universal.

Hamburger's pic "Xingu," the more promising of the two, turns on two young brothers discovering Brazil's Amazonian forest, known as Xingu National Park, in the 1960s.

Olival's "Round Trip" takes on tourism in Brazil. A commercials director, Olival teamed with Meirelles in 2001 to direct "Maids," centering on Sao Paulo's domestic servants.

And Mr. Meirelles himself, of course, will be back in March with Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal (triple huzzah!) in "Blindness," about an epidemic of, well, blindness that strikes a modern city.

"What does it mean to be "Superbad"?

It's been at least a week since I've pimped for Jonah Hill and Michael Cera's "Superbad," so why not close out a Monday with this very funny clip (even if it has been making the rounds for a week or so already.)

The phony meltdown bit may have been copped from Cera's stunt on the set of "Knocked Up," but Mr. Hill's staged encounter with "Hot Fuzz" director Edgar Wright is still very funny, especially the explanation that he's "on Atkins." Peace out.