Friday, February 29, 2008

Did "The Golden Compass" kill 600 jobs?

More than a tad simplistic, I confess, but that's certainly how it looks from here.

Yesterday came the news that Bob Shaye, who founded New Line Cinema in his New York apartment in 1967, and fellow executive Michael Lynne were being ousted from the somewhat-indie studio. And now comes word that New Line will be folded into Warner Bros., costing the jobs of some 600 employees and adding another big block to the move to consolidate movie production and distribution in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

You probably can't lay all this at the feet of "The Golden Compass," but it does indeed seem to be the final nail in the studio's coffin. Shaye, in particular, had been hoping for "Lord of the Rings" kind of magic, but the anti-religion (much removed from the movie anyway) baggage and the fact that Philip Pullman simply doesn't have the mainstream appeal of a J.R.R. Tolkein were just too much to overcome.

Despite the neutering of some of the book's message, I liked the flick enough to be looking forward to the sequel, "The Subtle Knife," but the chances of that happening now look to be about nil. It apparently has a script by Hossein Amini, but is still listed only as "announced" at the IMDB, with no cast attached as of yet.

But beyond that, what are we really losing in New Line? Well, in its best days, New Line launched the career of Paul Thomas Anderson and revived that of David Fincher (starting with "Se7en"), so for that at least we can be thankful. And they were of course also the studio that backed a little trilogy known as "The Lord of the Rings."

On the downside, they also birthed the career of Brett Ratner and his "Rush Hour" movies, but hey, everybody makes mistakes (and those were at least ones that made mad cash.)

One very important thing that New Line did early, before it got into horror (both "The Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th," among others) and "urban" (I hate that term!) fare ("House Party" and "Menace 2 Society," among many others), was a big boon for the city of Baltimore's oddest native son, and for that we should all say thanks.

I can only imagine the look on Bob Shaye's face when he saw Divine trailing a poodle and eating its excrement. But to its credit, New Line still did distribute even the grossest of John Waters' films, and they were there when he finally made some less shocking and pretty darn good ones ("Hairspray" and "Pecker" being my favorites.) Waters hasn't made a movie since 2004's "A Lowdown Dirty Shame," and is now teaching film at some kind of European university. He's also in the beginning stages of a flick called, appropriately enough,"Fruitcake," but who knows what studio will now bother to get behind that.

Waters himself gave a perfect eulogy of sorts to the Hollywood reporter: "To me, the scary thing is when I was younger, when you went to pitch a movie, there were 20 places to go. Now there are only a handful. They just keep buying each other."

It's hard to believe that the little studio that backed this seriously off-kilter but sometimes very funny dude would later go on to something as ambitious as "The Lord of the Rings." And yes, in case anyone is wondering, "The Hobbit" will still apparently go forward under Warner/New Line's guidance, with Guillermo del Toro still in talks to take the reins.

And what does New Line leave us with as its last offering? A goofy Will Ferrell comedy. I'll probably go see "Semi-Pro," but it would be hard to call that going out on top. In its defense, New Line did also just release Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind," which I did have the chance to see and am still digesting.

The bottom line: Nobody wins in this sad story, and the biggest losers will be the movie fans who will get fewer and less diverse offerings as Hollywood studios merge into what might one day just be one gigantic conglomerate (here's hoping not!). In a crass move on my part to inject at least a bit of levity at the finish, here's the final one sheet for Pixar's Summer 2008 offering "Wall-E," a critter cute enough to make even the most cynical person smile a little. Peace out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Did Joss Whedon cause the writers' strike?

Just kidding with that, of course, but it did seem more than a little coincidental that the rather tremendous news last October that Joss Whedon was coming back to television came just days before the writers officially took to the picket lines.

And, after all, Whedon has had his share of TV bad luck. We all remember "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," of course (fondly, I would hope), but there was also the just tremendously shoddy treatment given to "Firefly" by Fox, which managed to only show 11 of the 14 episodes produced - and out of order, at that - before cancelling the whole thing. (It would live on, though, with the space Western flick "Serenity," which, if you somehow haven't seen, do so immediately.)

So when it was announced that Whedon would indeed give TV another try with something called "Dollhouse," on Fox no less, it only seemed natural that the strike and maybe other difficulties would get in the way. Now, however, through only one sentence buried in a Variety article about CBS picking up three drama pilots, comes word that it's not only back on but becoming a big "Angel" family reunion.

But, since it's been so long since I've mentioned it, a word about just what "Dollhouse" is might be in order. "Buffy" fans will be happy to know it stars fellow vampire slayer Eliza Dushku, who apparently wooed Whedon back to TV at a lunch where they hatched the idea. Here, as far as I can tell, is the plot summary:

"Dollhouse" follows a top-secret world of people programmed with different personalities, abilities and memories depending on their mission. After each assignment - which can be physical, romantic or even illegal - the characters have their memories wiped clean, and are sent back to a lab (dubbed the "Dollhouse"). Show centers on Dushku's character, Echo, as she slowly begins to develop some self-awareness, which impacts her missions.

Sounds more than a little familiar, but still ripe with possibilities. And, even better, it's got "Angel" mastermind Tim Minear (late of the very short-lived "Drive," another Fox catastrophe) on board, and now the writing team of Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft, who served as executive story editors for "Angel" and co-wrote eight episodes.

I realize this is more than a bit of info (and gushing) about a show that's only received a 7-episode pickup and won't be seen until autumn (at the earliest), but Joss Whedon and TV are just the perfect combo to me.

Viva Mexico, once again?

Remember when Mexican directors seemed to rule the world (it was only a year or so ago, so I certainly hope so.) After the big three - Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - received so much simultaneous acclaim, they formed a production company called Cha Cha Cha, which is finally bearing some fruit.

But before I get into that, what are they each up to? Cuaron, my favorite of the three, is listed at the IMDB as being in preproduction of an "Untitled Alfonso Cuaron Project" described as "a drama about a family set in 1971 in Mexico." Cool enough.

Del Toro has "Hellboy II" set to come out July 11 and then most likely will turn his attention to not one but two "Hobbit" movies, which he's been christened to direct for producer Peter Jackson.

Inarritu is simply listed as also having an "Untitled" project in the works, with no plot details available but with shooting tentatively set to begin in May. I'll be curious to see what he comes up with after breaking with writing partner Guillermo Arriaga, who's moved on and is now filming a drama titled "The Burning Plain" and starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.

But what brought all this to mind was something Variety had about three interesting Mexican films now in the pipeline. The first, and by far the most interesting to me, indeed will be the first flick put out by Cha Cha Cha. Here are the details about the three, all listed as being in post-production:

"Rudo y Cursi"
Carlos Cuaron, brother of Alfonso, is directing this flick which reunites "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (one of my favorite flicks) stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as two brother who play for competing Mexican soccer teams. Sounds uber-cool to me.

"Los Bastardos"
This second flick from writer-director Amat Escalante follows Mexican immigrant workers in a U.S. city who are hired by an American to kill his wife.

"Insignificant Things" ("Cosas insignificantes")
In writer-director Andrea Martinez's first feature, secrets unfold from the ordinary treasures an adolescent girl guards in a box.

They all sound like potential winners to me, and even if I only get to watch most Mexican movies on DVD, I can only say bring it on. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's your favorite movie?

A lot of people I know who love movies just refuse to answer that question, and I've been known to do so too from time to time, but I do have one definite favorite when I'm pressed.

I've occasionally landed on "To Kill a Mockingbird," still very dear to my heart, but the real answer is the first film from Fernando Meirelles, "City of God" ("Cidade de Deus.") It's just a moving story of kids growing up (or trying to) in Rio de Janeiro, very well told. It also contains several visually stunning scenes, especially the street party, and I'm always hooked by stories about photographers. And, just in case you somehow haven't seen this and need some more inducement, the lovely Alice Braga is in it too.

So, what made me think of that? Well, there's a sequel of sorts hitting theaters this Friday, "City of Men" ("Cidade dos Homens.") I've enjoyed the TV series of the same name, and director Paulo Morelli, who directed some episodes, is in charge for the flick. Like "City of God," it centers on two friends, this time played by Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha, and how the Rio drug trade has impacted their lives.

But, I digress a bit. I'm not sure when I'll be able to see "City of Men," but a fairly long trailer is below for anyone who's interested. Today, however, I'm interested in knowing what your favorite movie is, if indeed you have one, and why you love it so much. And yes, it's OK to have more than one. I hope at least a few people play along, and that some of you indeed get to see "City of Men." Peace out.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Once" upon a magical Oscar moment

For someone who watches as many movies as I do, I have a rather perilous confession to make: I often zone out in the middle of the Oscars.

I can't be the only person who usually watches the first hour or so, then turns it off for the middle third and then comes back for the big guns. Last night, however, it managed to hook me from start to finish.

I'm sure there's gonna be some carping from people (only the stars, really, I'd assume) that there weren't any bloated-beyond-belief acceptance speeches, but I thought it was a very brisk, mostly very enjoyable affair. And Jon Stewart deserves a lot of credit for that, even though he couldn't wait for more than about 10 minutes to tell the four people in America who might not have known already that Diablo Cody was once a stripper. (Yes, if I can digress for a moment, I did say stripper. Having worked briefly as a blackjack dealer in the back of a strip club [hey, a man's gotta eat] I can tell you there's nothing terribly "exotic" about any dancing that goes on there. So let's just retire that term, OK.)

OK, I'm back. It was a deservedly big night for the Coens (giving the Hollywood Reporter the chance to roll out this groaner of a headline: "No Country: Four Gold Men.") Some other thoughts that ran through my skittish mind were: I guess it's nice that the technicians behind "The Bourne Ultimatum" won at least three awards for giving me a throbbing headache, and wow, I guess they really didn't have to put much makeup at all on Tilda Swinton to make her so pale as the White Witch (beautiful woman, to be sure, but is she some kind of albino or what?)

But anyone who's been here before knows that, even more than seeing Helen Mirren break into a devilish grin when she says the word "cojones," one thing I truly love is the film "Once." Easily the most charming movie of 2007, it also provided the most charming moment of last night's Oscars ceremony.

After watching the three extremely elaborate set pieces for the songs from "Enchanted" (and man, can that Kristen Chenoweth belt out a tune), I was sure that one of them was going to prevail. But then, near the end of the night, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, armed only with their instruments, performed their beautiful nominated song "Falling Slowly," and as everyone probably knows by now, came out as the big winners.

And the biggest victim of the rather brisk pace at first seemed to be the lovely Ms. Irglova, who, just as she opened her mouth, heard the music start to play and was ushered offstage. They probably could have let it at go at that and people would have just dismissed it and moved on, but after the commercial break, Stewart was nice enough to bring her back and give her 30 seconds to say something about the importance of indie artists (amen, sister!)

Perhaps I'm exaggerating the significance of this, but I almost never stay up until 11:45 on a Sunday night, so that's what's stuck in my mind at this early hour.

And yes, in case anyone's wondering, there is news out there today, and some pretty big stuff: Evidently set on giving me another massive migraine, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have both agreed to come back for a fourth "Bourne" flick. Bully to that, I suppose.

But I'll leave you today with just a bit more about "Once": The actual performance of "Falling Slowly" by Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglova at last night's show. Once you get past the rather awful French voiceover of Colin Farrell's introduction (do they actually watch the whole show like that? what a nightmare!), the audio is great and the song is even better. Peace out.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Where the Wild Things Aren't, or how to kill a movie before it's born

I really hope none of this is true, but since it comes from the almost always reliable C.H.U.D. and certainly doesn't seem to be beyond the pale of what happens in the world of movies today, I fear it is.

You may remember seeing a very rough clip of our hero, Max, playing with one of the Wild Things that spring from his mind in Spike Jonze's take on Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." Jonze later clarified that the clip, which you can see in one of my previous posts here, was just very early test footage.

Well, as it turns out, we might just have to savor that clip as the living record of the movie that might have been, because Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures may be on the verge of killing the entire project and starting over from the beginning.

As crazy as that sounds, it's exactly what the suits are apparently contemplating doing with Jonze's flick, which is essentially completed now but not slated for release until 2009 (never a good sign, of course.) So what's the trouble?

Well, C.H.U.D. reports that the plan to animate the Wild Things' mouths and facial features after shooting the actors in those crazy suits was proving a little more difficult than anticipated. That, however, would be surmountable.

Much more ominously, concerns have been voiced about the boy chosen to play young Max (named, conveniently enough, Max Records.) Mind you, this concern is being voiced AFTER the movie has been shot. Even worse, and more perilous for the film's future, C.H.U.D. reports "they don't like the film's tone and want to go back to the script drawing board, possibly losing the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers script when they do it. Apparently the film is too weird and 'too scary,' and the character of Max is being seen as not likable."

The questions this brings to my rather angry mind are almost too many to list, but I'll do my best. First of all, did anyone who finds this story "too weird" or "too scary" ever even read the book? I mean, I realize it's a Caldecott winner and one of the true classics in children's literature, but most of its appeal comes in the fact that it's more than a little off-kilter. And Max isn't likable? In the book, as best as I can recall, he's a petulant child who is punished for, among other things, donning his wolf costume and chasing the dog around the house with a fork (I don't know about you, but I'm laughing about that already.) This clearly isn't the cookie-cutter hero we find in most kids' movies today.

Secondly, and much more importantly, what in the world did they expect when they hired Spike Jonze for this? If they had seen either "Being John Malkovich" or "Adaptation," you'd think someone would have balked at the beginning and asked, "Do we really want to hand the reins of a purportedly $75 million children's movie over to this oddball?" Until hearing this latest distressing news I, at least, thought it was a great idea. Why not an "arthouse" kiddie flick, one that parents will be able to take their children to and sit through without wanting to claw their own eyes out?

Now, I haven't seen the almost-finished product (which a lucky few folks got to do in Pasadena late last year, apparently.) It's entirely possible that what Spike Jonze and scribe Dave Eggers have created, with the talents of Paul Dano, Catherine Keener, Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini and others, is a true disaster. In case you can't tell by now, I'm gonna have to side with the auteurs until we find out more about this, if we ever will. Just a sad story all around.

To cheer myself up I've been listening to Carole King's "Really Rosie." Yes, an odd CD selection for an "adult" with no rugrats running around, but I really love that record. If you don't smile when you hear "The Ballad of Chicken Soup" or how Pierre learns to care, I just don't know if there's anything I can do to help you.

I was hoping to find a video clip from that "Really Rosie" TV special, but instead, here's an animated tribute to "Where the Wild Things Are" I found at YouTube. Enjoy that at least, and if you have the chance, do yourself a favor this weekend and go see Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind" instead of the anatomy of a presidential assassination (why in the world would you put that out now?) or Larry the Cable Guy getting "Witless." Sheesh. Peace out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is there hope that "Friday Night Lights" will keep shining?

If the perhaps final "Friday Night Lights" that aired a few weeks was indeed a finale, it would certainly be an odd way to go out.

In ways it did feel like an ending of sorts, with Smash (Gaius Charles) finding out he just might still have the chance to play (very small) college football and show honcho Peter Berg even making a very funny appearance as an old flame of Tami Taylor's (the simply fantastic Connie Britten) who gets into a drinking and then wrestling match with coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler.)

But it also, of course, had some aspects of a perfect cliffhanger, with Street (Scott Porter) waiting to find out if he will be a daddy and Lyla (Minka Kelly) and Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) perhaps about to start knocking boots again. (If this all sounds rather like a tawdry soap opera, it often is, but like "The Last Picture Show," it's also a fantastic portrait of life in small-town America.)

And I tell you all that to tell you this: NBC, which has until now shown little inclination to bring the show back for a third season despite its rather attractive demographical (is that even a word?) numbers, may be having a change of heart.

In order to salvage my favorite network TV drama (by far), NBC is currently in negotiations with the CW, Comcast Entertainment Networks, TNT and DirecTV to see if it can find a "shared window" plan which would have the show air on multiple networks (which I can only assume would divvy up the production costs, too.)

NBC is apparently asking a high price (especially for a show that it seems to have so little love for), but here's hoping someone takes the bait and saves this TV gem.

Be Kind, play wide?

I was so psyched until Wednesday morning when my local multiplexes updated their weekly movie offerings that, with the arrival of Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind," we would finally have the first truly great (or at least really fun) movie of 2008.

Well, as some of you who live in a small city (well, town, really) like me might be finding out, apparently putting Jack Black and Mos Def in a movie all about the love of movies isn't enough to insure any kind of distribution at all. I will apparently have to drive almost 60 miles this Saturday morning (which I will definitely do) just to see it at the rather palatial AMC Southlake Pavilion south of Atlanta.

There's no real point to this portion except to let me vent a little, which is also a welcome release. I do have to ask, though: What in the world does a movie have to do to play in anything except "select cities"?

Fincher set to dive into a "Black Hole"

Complain about its length or its lack of focus if you have to, but for my money there were very few movies (only four, to be exact) better than David Fincher's "Zodiac" in 2007. And I'd put even money on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," his take on the F. Scott Fitzgerald tale about a man who ages in reverse through the 20th century, being among my favorites of this year too.

And now comes word that he's attached to a new project that seems right up his alley. Though I can't claim to have read the "Black Hole" series of graphic novels by Charles Burns, they seem, from what little I've been able to piece together, to exist in that splendidly sordid realm where Fincher feels most at home.

In the graphic novels, at least according to Publisher's Weekly, the setting is Seattle during the early '70s. A sexually transmitted disease, the "bug," is spreading among teenagers. Those who get it develop bizarre mutations—sometimes subtle, like a tiny mouth at the base of one boy's neck, and sometimes obvious and grotesque. The most visibly deformed victims end up living as homeless campers in the woods, venturing into the streets only when they have to, shunned by normal society. All I can say to all that is bring it on!

In case you need any more inducement to get geeked up about this, here's what Daniel Clowes of "Ghostworld" fame has to say about Mr. Burns at

"Charles Burns is one of the greats of modern comics. His comics are beautiful on so many levels. Somehow he has managed to capture the essential electricity of comic-book pop-art iconography, dragging it from the clutches of Fine Art back to the service of his perfect, precise-but-elusive narratives in a way that is both universal in its instant appeal and deeply personal."

Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman are writing the script for this project which would should definitely keep Fincher on a roll.

Now that's a lead

In a good article about movie studios bringing their video game development in-house that you can read here, the Wall Street Journal leads off by revealing what may (or may not) be the plot to Pixar's 2010 release, "Toy Story 3":

In Pixar's coming movie "Toy Story 3," Woody the cowboy and his toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, leaves for college.

Now, if that is indeed the case, it does sound like a fun way to bring a new batch of kids into the franchise. That plot summary, however, does differ wildly from what's up at the IMDB:

The adventure continues as Toy Story 3 makes its way into theaters in 2010. In this new adventure, Buzz Lightyear has encountered a malfunction and is being sent to Taiwan to be fixed. It appears that these malfunctions are occurring with toys all around the world! Now, Woody and a group of his friends are on a mission to save Buzz's destruction.

No matter which one is right, we'll have to wait a couple of years to find out, but isn't it so much more fun to wonder about such silly things than say, whatever work you have to do? Peace out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Trio steps in to rescue Heath's last movie for Terry Gilliam

When I first heard the rumor that multiple actors would step in to fill the shoes of Heath Ledger and finish Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," I just assumed it was either a joke or someone's wild fantasy.

Well, as it turns out, it's neither, but instead a fairly cool ending to this still very sad story. According to Variety, Johnny Depp (heard of him?), Jude Law and Colin Farrell have all signed on to play Ledger's character in assorted guises.

So, how is this possible? Well, let's look at the plot for this rather typically crazy Gilliam flick: 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) leads a traveling theater troupe that offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror in his possession. Parnassus had been able to guide the imagination of others through a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits, natch), who now comes to collect on the arrangement, targeting the doctor's daughter (model Lily Cole). The troupe, who is joined by a mysterious outsider named Tony (Heath Ledger), embarks through parallel worlds to rescue the girl.

In a gambit that was apparently included in the script even before Mr. Ledger's death, his Tony takes on a different appearance each time the group crosses into another realm through a paranormal mirror. A convenient enough gimmick, I suppose, but if it's enough to rescue another Terry Gilliam flick from fading to black before it's finished, I'll take it.

How will "The Wire" end?

I'll be the first to admit that, though I still consider it without exaggeration to be the greatest TV show of all time, David Simon's "The Wire" has certainly been going out on an uneven keel in its fifth and final season.

Though I have yet to watch Sunday's episode (which I have safely Tivoed), some things that have bugged me more than a bit include the seemingly random return of characters from the past (specifically, so far, Avon Barskdale, Cutty and Randy), and the simply insane downward spiral of McNulty and how it has somehow also enveloped Lester (the great Clarke Peters.) There's also simply no way that Omar would have survived a shootout with that many bullets and managed to escape by making like Batman.

All that said, the journalism storyline still rings true, and I'm excited to find out how Simon is gonna wrap it all up in what is now only three more fresh episodes. Here are the plot summaries for the final three from HBO:

Episode #58: "Clarifications"
Baltimore's renewed police commitment brings fresh recruits to Daniels (Lance Reddick) and McNulty (Dominic West), starting with Carver (Seth Gilliam.) Facing a new political challenge, Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Giffen) is forced to make dangerous political deals. As the Pulitzer season winds down, Haynes (Clark Johnson) approaches Templeton (Thomas McCarthy) about his sources. Bunk (Wendell Pierce) returns a McNulty favor; little Kenard (Thuliso Dingwall) makes a big score; Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) finds work; Fletcher (Brandon Young) continues his interview with Bubbles (Andre Royo); Freamon presents his latest plan to a prosecutor; Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) uncovers the missing piece to a puzzle; McNulty comes clean.
Teleplay by Dennis Lehane; story by David Simon & Dennis Lehane; directed by Joe Chappelle.

Episode #59: "Late Editions"
With Steintorf (Neal Huff) ordering Rawls (John Doman) to initiate "creative" remedies for the rising crime rate, Freamon's vigilance pays off with a promising lead, sending Sydnor and the department into overdrive. Although Daniels is originally delighted, a further probe with Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) reveals some troubling source information. McNulty, feeling betrayed, doesn't feel like sharing in Freamon's celebration; Michael (Tristan Wilds) is suspicious about his latest assignment; Haynes gets fresh eyes to help with fact-checking; Namond's (Julito McCullum) debating skills make Colvin (Robert Wisdom) proud; Davis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) points a finger at Levy (Michael Kostroff) and the courts; and Bubbles recounts a recent temptation overcome.
Teleplay by George Pelecanos; story by David Simon & George Pelecanos; directed by Joe Chappelle.

Episode #60: " - 30 - "
Carcetti maps out a damage-control scenario with the police brass in the wake of a startling revelation from Pearlman and Daniels. Their choices: clean up the mess, or hide the dirt. With his leads predictably drying up, McNulty asks Landsman (Delaney Williams) to pull police off the homeless case - until a fresh homicide ramps up the investigation. A frustrated Haynes finds his concerns about Templeton falling on increasingly deaf ears. Convinced he has the upper hand, but caught in a legal quandary, Levy plays a cat-and-mouse game with Pearlman. Bubbles debates whether to greenlight a newspaper story about his life; Dukie seeks out an old mentor for a loan; and Marlo (Jamie Hector) oversees a new co-op order as he maps out his next move. As the officers stage an Irish wake for another dearly departed officer, the seeds of the future are sown throughout Baltimore.
Teleplay by David Simon; story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Clark Johnson.

And there you have it. If you love this show as much as I do, enjoy it while you still can!

Two CW faves returning soon

Although their renewal fates are very much up in the air, especially for the latter show, the CW has at least extended the courtesty of airing the already-shot episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens in America" beginning soon.

The 12 remaining original episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris" will begin airing March 3, while "Aliens in America" will return with 8 original episodes from March 2-March 23 and April 27-May 18.

Given the CW's rather abysmal track record of cancelling promising shows way too early, I strongly suspect this is the last we'll ever see of "Aliens in America," easily my favorite new sitcom of 2007. If you like to laugh (and who doesn't?), please give this little gem a boost in its probably final days.

"The Wild Things" ... are here!

I received this clip in the e-mail (easily the best missive I received all day) from late Friday night at work, but was negligent in not posting it until today, so please accept my apology.

And, given just how uber-cool it is, I certainly should have acted quicker. "Where the Wild Things Are," director Spike Jonze's and writer Dave Eggers' take on my favorite childhood tale by Maurice Sendak, is now not scheduled to come out until some time in 2009, but right now you can enjoy this rough clip featuring an encounter between Max and one of the creatures that spring from his imagination.

I won't say too much to spoil it except that I like the natural look of it. Rather than some kind of blue-screen magic, it just looks like what might spring from the mind of our hero. My guess is that this particular Wild Thing is voiced by Forest Whitaker, but please let me know if you think I'm offbase here. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly bearable Monday. Peace out.

Where The Wild Things Are

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oscars videocast: Reel Fanatic vs. The TV Guy

Although it's hardly as dramatic as Peter Parker peeling off his Spider-Man mask for Mary Jane, I will indeed be unmasked today for the loyal reader (and, who knows, on a good day maybe even readers) of this site.

I don't particularly enjoy appearing on camera, be it film or photograph, but it's in honor of the Oscars, so why not?

Below, you'll find about eight minutes or so of myself and Phil Ramati, a k a The TV Guy, bickering genteelly about the upcoming Oscars, which are definitely now back in a big way coming Feb. 24, with Jon Stewart as the host. Presenters will include: Alan Arkin, Jennifer Hudson, Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Amy Adams, Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett, Josh Brolin, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Penelope Cruz, Miley Cyrus, Patrick Dempsey, Cameron Diaz, Colin Farrell, Harrison Ford, Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Katherine Heigl, Jonah Hill, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Kidman, James McAvoy, Queen Latifah, Seth Rogen, Martin Scorsese, Hilary Swank, John Travolta, Denzel Washington and Renee Zellweger.

I don't know how in the world Jonah Hill got to join that club, but I'll take it. As for the clip, it's of myself and Mr. Ramati, who writes diligently about all things TV here. One more plug before we get started: Our cameraman/producer is Ryan Gilchrest, who blogs about happenings in the great Peach State here. And, one final note, if you don't have the time (or desire) to watch the whole thing, Mr. Gilchrest, who is much more technically inclined than me, was kind enough to embed a permalink on the sideboard that has links that break it down by category. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Behold, the trailer for the new "Indiana Jones" movie!

I was going to headline this post with my admittedly rather juvenile and profanity-laden reaction when I found out I could watch the trailer for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" this morning, but decided the folks who run the family-friendly newspaper I toil for daily probably wouldn't appreciate that.

And now, thanks to the fine folks at (which, if you can read Spanish, is just a sensational film junkie Web site), you can see it too. I don't want to say too much about it, but after a way-too-long intro it's just all kinds of cool. Enjoy, and if you have the time, read on for a bit more news after the clip.

Tivo alert: Great shows to return soon

CBS and NBC have announced their immediate plans to air something that doesn't flow from the reality toilet, which means the return of a few shows that I tune into reliably each week.

CBS has announced that "How I Met Your Mother" (and, unfortunately, with it "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men") will return to the air March 17.

NBC, meanwhile, has staged a two-tier rollout for its lineup of Thursday comedies. Fans of "My Name is Earl" (of which I'm not much of one) will be treated to a fresh, one-hour episode April 3. Fans of "The Office" (yes!!!) and "Scrubs" (bring that on too!) will have to wait until April 10 for new shows.

Good and bad news about a Valerie Plame movie

Continuing with the international flair today, this is translated from the great French site, so bear with me.

I've been curious about what would happen with this ever since I first heard the earliest snippets about a possible Valerie Plame movie, because as anyone who's been here before probably knows, I just love me some spy movies, especially ones grounded in reality. Billy Ray's "Breach," for example, about the master spy Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), was easily one of my favorite movies of 2007.

And now comes word that Nicole Kidman (heard of her?) will be playing Ms. Plame, the CIA agent who was outed by the Bush administration because they had a beef with her husband. I realize this is far from a minority opinion, but I love Nicole Kidman, as much for her acting skills as for her ability to (almost) always pick great roles. Though it came under a lot of critical fire, I thought she was great at playing a truly detestable character in Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding," and for one from the vault, I guarantee watching her early supporting turn with Thandie Newton and Noah Taylor in the Aussie flick "Flirting" will make you smile.

But this news is still a bit of a mixed bag, since it comes from Doug Liman, a director who I've just come to respect less and less. I was certainly with him through "Swingers" and the rather criminally underrated "Go," but I couldn't find much to enjoy in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and this weekend's "Jumper" looks like a similarly empty spectacle. I hope he still has the chops for this much more serious fare, but I certainly have my doubts.

Emile Hirsch in "Milk"

"Milk," the upcoming biopic about the assassinated San Francisco pol Harvey Milk, should be a real return to top form for Gus Van Sant (although I can't really say he's not on top of his game already, since I have yet to see "Paranoid Park"; I can, despite the fact that it has only about 20 words or so of dialogue, highly recommend his school-shooting flick "Elephant.")

And the Milk flick has assembled easily one of the best casts for 2008 flicks. Emile Hirsch, shown on the set in the above photo courtesy of JustJared, will be playing the activist Cleve Jones, who came up with the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Also already on board are Sean Penn as Milk (Oscar, anyone?), Josh Brolin as the assassin Dan White and Victor Garber as S.F. Mayor George Moscone, who was also killed by White. James Franco, Diego Luna and surely some women will also be featured in what should be one of the best flicks of this year. And that's about all I've got for today. Peace out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jim Jarmusch gets by with a little help from old friends

When I found this news this morning, my first thought was that it's been a really long time since we've heard anything at all from Jim Jarmusch, and indeed it has been almost three years since the release of his last, mostly satisfying flick, "Broken Flowers."

Now comes word that two of the stars of that flick, Bill Murray and one of his paramours, Tilda Swinton, are along for the ride in "Limits of Control," the road movie/thriller Jarmusch is shooting in Spain. As several ladies I work with would want to know, Gael Garcia Bernal factors into this somehow too.

As best as I can gather, the flick centers on a mysterious loner as he attempts to complete a criminal job, and it's set to start shooting this month in Madrid, Seville and Almeria, Spain. Even better for anyone who's a fan of Jarmusch's work is that the great French actor Isaach de Bankole, a regular in many of Jarmusch's films (notably as the ice cream man in "Ghost Dog"), plays the loner.

If that makes it sound more than a little similar to the aforementioned "Ghost Dog," that would be just fine by me, since I own that one on VHS and have probably watched it at least into the double digits in times.

And I know plenty of people whose opinions I certainly respect who had serious issues with the ambiguity of "Broken Flowers," but I thought it suited Murray's character just fine, and the would-be mystery writer Winston played by Jeffrey Wright was just a seriously funny comic creation. Here's hoping this latest project from old friends leads to something at least as fun.

Emile Hirsch finally gets some love

The most constant and amazing snub I've noticed in this awards season is that Emile Hirsch, the star of Sean Penn's "Into the Wild," has gotten almost no recognition at all, at least until now.

In March, Hirsch will take the title of Male Star of Tomorrow at ShoWest, which, despite that rather odd title, I would have to assume is also in recognition of his most recent work too, especially since all he has on the menu for this year that I know of is the Wachowskis' almost-surely-to-be-disastruous "Speed Racer."

And if you somehow missed out on seeing "Into the Wild" in theaters (and since it played in my little corner of the world for exactly one week, I couldn't say I blame you), you'll soon get the chance to see it on DVD starting March 4. The saga of Christopher McCandless is a challenging tale, and one that I took a while to warm to, but once I did it ended up on my list of the top five movies of 2007 (along with "Ratatouille," "No Country for Old Men," "Once" and "The Savages.")

And now I'd like to wrap this up kinda quick today, but I'll leave you with this clip of RZA and GZA of the Wu Tang Clan talk with the great Mr. Murray about that most magical of combos, "Coffee and Cigarettes." It's kinda long at almost eight minutes, but I think it would go just great with just about anyone's lunch. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The fact is this: "Pushing Daisies" will be back!

Acting quicker than I expected in many cases, the TV networks have already gotten back to business in starting to determine what the fall landscape is going to look like.

The big news in my little corner of the world is that ABC has indeed decided to give a 13-episode order to the delightful freshman series "Pushing Daisies."

What would be great now would be a proper re-launch of all nine previously aired episodes this summer, flowing freely into the new season and giving anyone who has missed out on this often-magical show a chance to catch up.

For anyone who hasn't tuned in so far, what you're missing is a true TV oddity: A prime-time fairy tale that's almost as clever as it is simply sweet. Leads Anna Friel and Lee Pace just have perfect chemistry, and the always welcome Chi McBride provides great comic relief as the money-grubbing P.I. Emerson Cod. Throw Broadway vet Kristen Chenoweth into the mix and make her prone to break out in song at any moment, and you've got a show that I'll tune in to week after week.

There were, of course, a lot of other shows that got either great or horrible news yesterday, and you can read the full list here.

In the much smaller subset of shows that I actually tune in for, CBS has thankfully given the greenlight for "How I Met Your Mother" to at least finish up Season three. The show had seemed to lose some of its most important component, heart, in the 11 episodes that had aired this fall, so here's hoping this series starring Willow, Doogie and Freak Nick Andopolis can find its footing whenever it manages to return.

NBC will obviously take more episodes of "The Office" and "Heroes" as soon as it can get them, but more murky is what will happen to the end of "Scrubs." It had already been announced that the interrupted and rather remarkable seventh season would be the last, and negotiations are now under way with creator Bill Lawrence to see just how many episodes it will get to complete its run. Here's hoping it gets the chance to go out on top.

Still also up in the air at NBC is the fate of easily network TV's best drama, "Friday Night Lights." Though the show had fared very well (by Friday standards) in its Friday night slot and, thankfully, managed to put out new episodes throughout most of the writers' strike, it's highly likely that last week's show will have to serve as a series finale.

As for the CW, that network may well be about to lose me for good. Already generating plenty of ill will by exterminating "Veronica Mars" after only a three-season run, it now may be about to kill the only two shows that still gave me any reason to tune in: "Aliens in America" and "Everybody Hates Chris."

The latter, which had managed to finish its third season in spite of the strike, is more likely to return, but "Aliens in America," which had gotten better with each show in its 18-episode run, may well be lost for good, which would be a real shame.

Two big questions, of course, still loom large: How soon will any of these shows manage to return, and will there be any new shows worth watching when Fall finally rolls around? About the latter I'm still extremely pessimistic, but here's hoping that I'm somehow wrong once again.

Coens getting "Yiddish" with Chabon

The only Michael Chabon novel I have yet to read (but just ordered used from Amazon) is now in the rather capable hands of the Coen brothers.

And "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," Chabon's 2007 novel, sounds like it's just tailormade for the Coens. Chabon sets up a contemporary scenario where Jewish settlers are about to be displaced by the U.S. government's plans to turn the frozen locale of Sitka, Alaska, over to Alaskan natives. Against this backdrop is a noir-style murder mystery in which a rogue cop investigates the killing of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who might be the messiah.

The only possibly bad news in all this is that we might have to wait quite a while to see it. The Coens must be just about finished with "Burn After Reading," their CIA comedy starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt and set for a September 2008 release. After that, they are set to shoot something called "A Serious Man," for which I could only find this truly odd plot summary at Wikipedia (which, of course, never gets anything wrong):

A Serious Man will focus on Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor in the Midwest in 1967. Larry starts to question the value of life when he discovers his wife wants a divorce (and may be having a romantic affair with one of their neighbors). He also has trouble with his children stealing money out of his wallet (his son is buying marijuana, while his daughter is saving for plastic surgery) and his deadbeat brother, who has moved in because he neither has the cash nor the maturity to live on his own. Add to that the hostile anonymous notes he keeps receiving which threaten his tenure at school, the grad student who will get a passing grade from Larry by any means necessary (who may or may not be the person leaving the threatening letters) and the attractive neighbor who bedevils Larry with nude sunbathing, and there is little wonder why Larry seeks to solve his existential issues from men of God whom he hopes will help him to become an austere and devoted man.

All of which means the Coens won't be getting to Chabon's work until sometime in the fairly distant future. And in case anyone's keeping score, that means all four of Chabon's novels either have been or will be made into feature films: "Wonder Boys" is a wonderful little film, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is apparently finished and may have already come out in some form, and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" is being shot by Stephen Daldry and is set for a 2009 release. Add to that the fact that Chabon had a hand in writing the script for still my favorite superhero flick of all time, "Spider-Man 2," and you've got quite a run so far.

And now, so that I can get ready for what is still my only paying job, I'll leave you with, first, this plea that, if you live in the republic of Virginia, the great state of Maryland or the District of Columbia (respectively, where I was born [Blacksburg], grew up [Salisbury] and went to college [Catholic University]), please get out and vote today; and secondly with this clip of George Clooney and the boys performing "Man of Constant Sorrow" from what is still my favorite Coen brothers' flick, "O Brother Where Art Thou." Peace out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ellen Page is headed to "Hell"

The big news this morning, of course, is that the writers' strike finally appears to be at an end.

Showrunners are back at work today, and writers are expected back Wednesday, but I have to ask: what exactly did they win? WGA west President Patric Verrone said the new deal is "... not all that we hoped for, and it is not all we deserve." Judging from what I see in TV commercials, however, I fear it will be even worse than that.

Why so pessimistic? I was fairly happy that this was all over until, on Sunday night, I saw a commercial for something on NBC with the word "Truth" in it (the full name escapes me, and I really just can't justify the effort to find out what it is). On this rather reprehensible program, a man seemed to be answering questions, while hooked up to a lie detector, with his marriage and, I presume, most of his life in the balance.

Does anyone see the entertainment value in this? And if so, could you please explain it to me? Here's hoping that the labor peace will lead to some actually scripted TV this fall, but I fear the breach will be too much to mend. I'm sure there's blame to go around, but just to pile on NBC a bit more, the network has already announced it is ending the pilot process used to woo advertisers, which can only be a bad sign.

But enough of that. Even if I fear it will be a phyrric victory at best, the writers are indeed headed back to work, and we should at least celebrate that. And, since nothing makes Mondays go down better than good news about beautiful women, that's all I'll have from here on out (at least until the very end.)

No "Heroes" until Fall

One show that will definitely return, but not until Fall, is NBC's "Heroes," which is seriously in need of a good season after the near-disaster that was Volume 2.

Hayden Panettiere, while at the Berlin Film Festival, spilled the beans to an AICN scribe that filming on season three is set to start in April, which would logically mean we wouldn't get anything new until the Fall.

Whenever it comes, I'll be ready for more. Season two was often a maddening one to me (what in the world was the point of adding the wonder twins Maya and Alejandro, for starters?), but the last few episodes really picked up steam and set up well for the next edition, so definitely bring it on.

Ellen Page is headed to "Hell"

And finally we get to the still-fairly-young lady of the moment. Lest anyone get suspicious that I write about Ms. Page so often simply because it leads to more traffic on this site (which it certainly does), you'll have to trust me that that's not it.

I've seen "Juno" twice now, and it's simply a charming little movie, and mostly thanks to Page's work in the lead role. It's not the best movie of 2007, an honor that I'd split between "No Country for Old Men" and "Ratatouille," but I would call it just about the most fun flick of the year, and that's good enough for me.

And now Ellen Page is about to spread some of her good karma to someone who sorely needs it: Sam Raimi. No one (except for maybe M. Night Shymalan) is more in need of a satisfying flick than Raimi after the dour disaster that was "Spider-Man 3," and his next one, "Drag Me to Hell," is rapidly shaping up to be just the ticket.

All I know so far is that Ellen Page has just signed on to star in the horror flick and that it's described simply as "a morality tale about the unwitting recipient of a supernatural curse."

Raimi and his brother Ted, the team behind "Spidey 3," wrote the script for this one too, so here's hoping they indeed have a lot more fun when this begins shooting in March.

"Veronica Mars" gets Disney treatment

Speaking of "Heroes," Season 2 semi-regular Kristen Bell has just signed on for a Disney romantic comedy, not at all my cup of tea but noteworthy nonetheless.

In "When in Rome," also set to begin filming in March," Bell will play a successful real estate agent in New York City who can't find a lasting relationship (already more than bit hard to believe.) When her younger sister impulsively marries in Rome, she flies out for the wedding and, after picking up coins from a reputed "fountain of love," finds an overabundance of suitors waiting for her back home.

Like I said, sounds like a whole lot of meh to me, but don't blame the messenger.

"Ratatouille" cleans up at Annies

And speaking of "Ratatouille," Brad Bird's Pixar flick won a leading 11 Annies (by my best estimate) at Friday's ceremony, so a hearty huzzah to that.

Along with best picture, best writing and best directing, it also scored the voice work prize for Ian Holm (though I would have given the honor to either fellow "Ratatouille" nominee Janeane Garofalo or the somehow-snubbed completely Peter O'Toole.) And while we're at it, congrats too to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" vet Seth Green, a winner for best director of a TV show for the sublime "Robot Chicken."

And why not wrap this up with a look at Pixar's next summer offering, "Wall-E"? I still have doubts that this largely dialogue-free flick will work, but just a look at Wall-E's eyes is enough to give me hope. Enjoy the trailer, and have an entirely bearable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, February 08, 2008

This definitely does not suck: Mike Judge's back on TV

Even though I don't go out of my way to watch it any more, Mike Judge's "King of the Hill" has been kind of like an old sweater you find hidden in the back of a dresser drawer: No matter when you find it, it's always immediately comforting.

And "King of the Hill," of course, has been a rather amazing survivor, lasting for more than 10 years now (and I think still going) despite being abused by Fox for years with the inevitably wiped-out 7 p.m. after Sunday NFL football slot.

And now Mr. Judge is set to have another animated series, this time on ABC and presumably by the fall. "The Goode Family," which has received a 13-episode order, centers on a do-gooder family that tries to do the right thing in all facets of life. Sounds just right for Mr. Judge, but how in the world is this possible with the WGA strike still going on? Well, Media Rights Capital, the folks behind this project, got an interim deal with the WGA to get back to work.

And speaking of the strike, definitely keep your eyes on Saturday, when the east and west branches of the WGA will meet seperately to discuss the latest contract proposal. I doubt a final resolution will come then, but as always, keep hope alive.

Whither "Friday Night Lights"?

In bittersweet TV news at best, the last new, pre-strike episode of easily network TV's best drama, "Friday Night Lights," comes tonight. But what will happen to this great show after that?

I obviously can't say for sure, but given how quickly the networks have acted to spoonfeed us tons of reality crap (which people apparently seem to wolf down very willingly), I'm not sure how much appetite there will be to re-pick up shows like this or ABC's sublime "Pushing Daisies."

Which, for "Friday Night Lights," at least, would be real shame, because the show is doing extremely well in the coveted 18-34 demographic and, just as importantly, is at least as strong storywise in Season 2 as it was during its rookie year.

Anyways, here's the plot summary for tonight's episode, which unfortunately seems to wrap some things up (and therefore could be, against my fervent wishes, some kind of finale):

Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) is determined to get a football scholarship to college despite the recent events that have transpired, and he is very shocked when the most unlikely place offers him what may be the opportunity of his life. Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) runs into her ex-boyfriend from high school, a big real estate mogul, and he decides to stay in Dillon for a few days, which proves to be too long as Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) begins to feel a bit jealous. Elsewhere, Jason Street (Scott Porter) hears the biggest news of his life since his accident and must decide if he's ready for a dramatic change. Meanwhile, Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) continues his pursuit of Lyla (Minka Kelly) by getting his own radio show at the Christian radio station.

The Riggins stuff in particular lately has been extremely funny, so please, please, please let this not be the last episode ever of "Friday Night Lights"!

Mira Nair's new movie

Buried under the rather meh headline "Hilary Swank to Play Amelia Earhart" was this nugget: This biopic will be the next flick from the great Indian director Mira Nair, easily one of my favorites.

Nair was supposed to make "Shantaram," which would have starred Johnny Depp (heard of him?) as an Australian prisoner who escapes and pretends to be a doctor in India's slums. With that nasty strike intervening, however, Johnny got a better offer in the form of Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," so I can only assume "Shantaram" is on potentially permanent hiatus.

In the meantime, the great Ms. Nair will make the Earhart flick from a script by Ron Bass. Swank will play Earhart in the formative stages of her career. George Putnam, a publisher and publicist, was engaged by society denizen Amy Guest to set up a daring nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. When Guest was talked out of trying to become the first woman to make the trip, she dispatched Putnam to find a female pilot, and to turn the flight into a media event.

Sounds like it could be fun, and by the way, if you haven't seen Mira Nair's "The Namesake," please rent it right away. The film, featuring outstanding performances from Kal Penn (yes, that Kal Penn), Irfan Khan and Tabu, is as viaually stunning as it is just tremendously entertaining.

A little strike lightness

With hopes that real progress will come from Saturday's WGA talks, here's a rather funny bit of propaganda I found on YouTube. Some writers use clips from "The Jerk" and other flicks to make their point about what a world without them might look like. Enjoy "The Phone Book: The Movie," and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Woody Allen''s new muse: The man in the mirror?

Is Woody Allen finally getting in touch with reality? That really would be a monumental accomplishment, and I'm not sure he's there yet, but I suppose making movies that don't center on women about a third of his age does make for some kind of late-in-life progress.

And not only is Woody no longer focusing squarely on young starlets, but he may now have even found a kindred spirit to work with. Larry David of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," whose rather warped view of the world should fit just fine with Allen's, has signed on for Woody's next flick, set to start shooting this Spring.

There will, of course, be at least one rather young lady on the scene, this time being Evan Rachel Wood, late of "Across the Universe." And after an extended European vacation, which most recently produced the upcoming "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (wtf?) with Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, Woody's finally coming home. For the first time since 2004 (I think) he'll be making a movie in NYC.

Welcome home, Woody, and though any plot details for this are currently under tight wraps I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on it to see what these very cranky old men can come up with.

Michael Cera will be a "Youth in Revolt"

The last time I posted anything about Michael Cera's next flick and said it was going to based on one of my favorite novels, a very loyal reader of this blog called C.D. Payne's book garbage, so perhaps a bit of clarification is needed on my part.

The work, clearly aimed at people much younger but equally as immature as me, is the definition of an acquired taste. I will, however, firmly state at least this much: It's the best book I've ever read about a teenager constantly concerned with his own erections who manages to burn down a large swath of Berkeley, Calif.

On that level at least, "Youth in Revolt," which Mr. Payne has turned into something of a cottage industry (with at least five sequels), is a satisfying bit of absurdia, and it presents a role that I think the very funny Mr. Cera will be very funny in, even if he's quickly growing too old to play the lead character, Nick Twisp, who in the book at least is 14 years old (which I would think they'd have to change a bit.)

Now, however, they've at least managed to pick a director before Mr. Cera gets any older. Miguel Arteta, director of "The Good Girl," "Star Maps," "Chuck and Buck" and lots of TV, will helm this project if it ever actually gets made (he's even got an episode of "Freaks and Geeks," "Chokin' and Tokin'," on his resume, so a hearty huzzah!) I know Mike White's "Chuck and Buck" put a lot of people off, but it's just a perfectly odd little movie that I love, and its skewed sense of black humor should serve Mr. Arteta well in this new endeavor. Now, get started already!

A view of Dr. Parnassus' "Imaginarium"

Well, half a view, anyways. Quick Stop Entertainment, which has been following the saga of Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" with vigor, has today published this rather odd half photo of what the Imaginarium will look like, assuming the movie ever gets finished.

The complete photo, apparently, will be available soon at the official site, which tried to go live earlier this week but crashed under its own weight. AICN says the folks will try again this weekend with a bigger server, so stay tuned. Enjoy the half pic, and have an entirely pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Are there any good movies coming at all?

Forgive me if I'm more than a little punchy this morning. I don't usually stay up so late on a school night, but last night's political show was just fascinating, even if it didn't go as well for Barack Obama as I had been hoping.

But enough of that. This isn't about politics, of course. It's supposed to be about movies, but for what seems like the fifth or sixth week in a row there's nothing but crap opening in wide-release world this week.

I had mild hopes for Malcolm Lee's "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," but most of the clips I've seen so far seem to riff on the fact that Mo'nique is a woman who likes to eat. Somehow I think I'll just wait for Tyler Perry's surely superior family-reunion movie "Meet the Browns," coming in early March.

But is there anything even remotely worth watching coming to your multiplexes in the next month? The short answer is not much, but yes, there are a few potential gems in the pipeline. Here's a look at the none-too-distant movie future:

Feb. 8:
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins: See above.

Fool's Gold: It can't be a good sign when, in the one review I bothered to read, your movie is none-too-favorably compared to some Brooke Shields TV movie called "Wet Gold" (which I can't say I've had the pleasure of seeing.) You can see Kate Hudson in a bikini in the trailer, so I really can't see any possible reason to watch the rest of the movie.

Feb. 15:
Definitely, Maybe: Is is just me, or doesn't it seem kind of sick to make a movie in which a poor little girl has to learn about all her daddy's sexual exploits just to find out who her mommy is? Sheesh.

Jumper: This one could be good, especially with Doug Liman in charge, but I have the sneaking feeling I'm just too old for it, and that suit that Sam the Man wears in the trailer just makes him look some kind of futuristic garbage man.

Step Up 2 the Street: I have no idea if all white people can't dance, but I surely can't. 'Nuff said.

Spiderwick Chronicles: All I needed to know to give this Walden fantasy a chance is that the script was written by John Sayles (hey, a man's gotta eat.)

Feb. 22:
Be Kind Rewind: Finally, a week to look forward to. I sure hope this opens wide, because even though I've seen up to a third of the movie already in clips, it should be a lot of silly fun.

Charlie Bartlett: I have my doubts about this one, but I'll watch just about anything with Robert Downey Jr. in it, and I'm holding out hope this one will be at least as sly as it is sweet.

Cover: Don't know much about this one except that it's some kind of thriller directed by Bill Duke and starring Louis Gossett Jr. and Vivica Fox. That's probably enough to hook me.

My Mom's New Boyfriend: This flick starring Meg Ryan and Antonio Banderas used to be known as "Homeland Security." That's about all I know on this one.

Vantage Point: I have fairly serious qualms about releasing a movie about a presidential assassination during the height of this latest campaign, but for sheer entertainment value this looks like a winner. William Hurt is the president, and Sigourney Weaver and Forest Whitaker factor in here somehow too.

Feb. 29:
Addicted: All I know is that Sarah Michelle Gellar is in this, so my money is on either some kind of generic mind-bender or a Japanese horror remake. Either way, I'll probably pass.

The Other Boleyn Girl: Now this could be fun. Natalie Portman is Anne Boleyn, Scarlett Johansson is her sister Mary and Eric Bana is that crazy King Henry VIII. I personally would have swapped the leading ladies' roles, but that's a minor quibble.

Penelope: I hope this has the cast strength to play wide, because it just looks to be utterly charming. Christina Ricci stars as the titular lady who is trying to escape some kind of family curse and, of course, find love. It's surely better than I'm making it sound here.

Semi-Pro: I could be wrong (and I really do hope I am), but this looks like the first Will Ferrell movie that won't be even remotely funny. A white man in a 'fro just isn't enough to make me laugh.

And now I have to, unfortunately, go to work. I'll leave you with - be warned - a R-rated (but very funny) trailer for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," coming from Camp Apatow this summer and directed by former Freak Jason Segel (and starring Veronica Mars!) Peace out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

New hope for an "Arrested Development" movie

Although there's definitive movement afoot regarding a possible end to the WGA strike, for fans of a certain dead TV show there also have been talks of a different kind going on that could generate something unbelievably cool (or perhaps incredibly disappointing, but here's hoping not.)

According to E!'s Kristin Vine, who rarely gets things wrong, Jason Bateman, who has been talking up this rather amazing possibility nonstop, has revealed that "AD" gurus Mitchell Hurwitz and Ron Howard have launched the project with new vigor and contacted all the major cast members to measure their interest in a flick.

"I can confirm that a round of sniffing has started," Bateman says. "Any talk is targeting a poststrike situation, of course. I think, as always, that it's a question of whether the people with the money are willing to give our leader, Mitch Hurwitz, what he deserves for his participation. And I can speak for the cast when I say our fingers are crossed."

How she knows this I have no idea, but Vine also claims that Universal is very interested in backing this if it ever comes together. And, since Jeffrey Tambor is about to have his second post-"AD" sitcom, "The Captain," cancelled very quickly (I predict, anyway) and none of the "AD" cast members except Bateman can seem to find good movies to star in, I'd imagine everyone would be eager to get going on this as soon as possible.

Even with all this buzz this is still just a rumor, but here's hoping it becomes a very welcome reality.

Is "Dr. Parnassus" alive and well?

Speaking of rumors, I've heard a lot of them about how Heath Ledger's death will impact Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," but have tried to stay away from them until something official is announced.

The craziest idea I've heard is that, since Ledger's character had the ability to transform himself with different appearances as he went down the different paths in Dr. Parnassus' contraption, a variety of actors could be used to augment what they were able to shoot with the late Mr. Ledger.

That would indeed be a crazy kind of tribute, but later today we may get to have some kind of official word. Though it's not live yet, a Web site for the movie is set to go on line later today, so click here and see if it actually does, and if it offers any more clues about this rather murky mess.

Finally, a biopic I can get behind

Maybe it's because he grew up in Maryland or just because the Muppets are so friggin cool, but for whatever reason I've always had an inordinate amount of love for Jim Henson and just about everything he put his hands on.

And now he's about to get the proper tribute he definitely deserves. Empire Film Group, Inc. has acquired the motion picture production and distribution rights to Henson, an original screenplay by Robert D. Slane that chronicles the life and achievements of the Muppets creator. Empire has pegged the film for production in late summer with a $30 million budget.

None of this can be called bad news, but who would you pick to play the puppetmaster? For my money there couldn't be a better choice than Jeff Daniels. What do you think?

A teaser for M. Night's "Happening"

Even though "The Village" and even moreso "Lady in the Water" can easily find homes on any list of the worst movies I've ever seen, I'm still holding out hope for a M. Night Shymalan comeback with "The Happening." As you can see from this teaser, there's some pretty creepy stuff going on in the flick set for release this summer. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Tuesday. And, of course, if you live in a Super Tuesday state, vote (as I'm going to do for Barack Obama as soon as I wrap this up)! Peace out.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Is the writers' strike about to end?

There couldn't be any possible bigger news this week, so in addition to my confession that I still love Tom Petty to death even if he looks like he's 95 years old, let's get right to it.

With the Oscars looming very soon (Sunday, Feb. 24, to be precise), it seems that reps from the Writers Guild of America and the major studios made a big breakthrough Friday in one of the major areas of contention, compensation for streaming Web video. Although people on both sides were quick to caution that there's still a lot of work to do (including ratification of any deal by the east and west branches of the WGA), this can only be hailed as major progress.

And it comes none too soon. What happens when there's no TV for good people to be working on? Well, they end up getting lost with Will Ferrell. Poor Anna Friel, the uber-charming star of the best new show on network TV, ABC's "Pushing Daisies," has filled the void in her acting life by signing to star as Will Ferrell's love interest in the big screen version of the Krofft's "Land of the Lost." It's entirely possible she would have made this questionable move even if there was no strike, but that's where I choose to place the blame for this. And bring back "Pushing Daisies" by summer, please!

I don't have too much to add to that this morning, so I'll just close with this rather cryptic bit of rhyming from Vic Chesnutt's "Steve Willoughby," which I just happened to be listening to this morning: "Someday I'll be a paragon, like Louis Farrakhan, but today I'm simply a mess." I have no idea what that means, but it just made me smile. Peace out.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Two images from the best movie of 2008?

I was about to just take the day off and simply catch up on "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights" on my DVR (which still seems like a magical device to me), when I came across theses images from Spike Lee's new war epic at the great Froggy film site

And maybe "Miracle at St. Anna" won't be the best movie of 2008, but with the way it's shaping shape it should indeed be the flick that brings Spike the awards season acclaim he's deserved since at least "Do the Right Thing."

In the photo above (which I think gets a little bigger if you click on it), I believe the four main stars are, from left, Omar Benson Miller, Michael Ealy, Derek Luke (hearty huzzah!) and Laz Alonso (please correct me if I'm somehow wrong about this.) Also in the ensemble cast of this flick, set for release in October, are Spike regular John Turturro, James Gandolfini and D.B. Sweeney, and possibly (according to the great, John Leguizamo and Joseph Gordon Levitt (huzzah again!).

The story, based on the novel "Buffalo Soldiers" by James McBride, is about four black American soldiers who get trapped in a Tuscan village during WWII. The only other thing I know for sure about this is that Mr. Luke only got the lead role after Wesley Sniples was forced to drop out, which I can only call a case of trading up. Peace out.