Sunday, May 31, 2009

Raimi's trip to "Hell" is a thoroughly disgusting delight

Going in to the great movie showdown that this weekend promised, I had two questions: Which movie would I prefer, Pixar's "Up" or Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell," and how in the world did Raimi's movie end up with less than a R rating?

Well, after having seen them both, I can definitively answer the first query: While I liked and more so admired "Up," Raimi's return to horror is the most fun I've had at the movies this year (edging out by a nose "Star Trek.")

As to the second, however, I still have no idea, because as any fans of "Evil Dead" would have been hoping, this flick is as juvenilely, eerily and blissfully disgusting as you could possibly expect. And give Raimi credit: With the most dead-on descriptive movie title since "Snakes on a Plane," there really shouldn't be anyone who goes into this one expecting anything less.

I'm not sure why, since they are such a natural combo, but humor and horror have been a very difficult concoction to blend in satisfying form in recent years. James Gunn did a fine job with "Slither" (did anyone else see that?) and Edgar Wright and co. do even better, but with both of these the laughs come first, whereas Raimi at his best, which he very nearly is here, delivers classic horror and finds the dark laughs within it. A litmus test: If seeing Alison Lohman stalk her pet with a kitchen knife as she coos "here kitty kitty" doesn't make you laugh, this movie isn't for you.

The movie opens with a great set piece that establishes immediately (in case the title left you with any doubt) what you're in store for. Two Hispanic parents take their cursed child to a healer of sorts. It seems the youngun has stolen a gypsy's necklace, never something I'd recommend, and, well, as you can probably imagine he doesn't fare too well from there.

It seems that the gypsies aren't a group of people you want to cross, and I have to confess that on a B-movie horror level, that just works for me. I think of myself as a solidly nonracist person, but if there's a chink in that armor, gypsies are it, because I once tried to sleep on a Eurorail train and had no less than four gypsy urchins come into my car and try to steal all of my belongings. Does that mean all gypsies are evil? Of course not. But it does, if suspending my nagging sensibilities, make me very susceptible to believing for about 90 minutes or so that they would be capable of unleashing something as nasty as the Lamia curse which, believe me, you don't want to get.

In Raimi's world, the star is Christine Brown, a very game Alison Lohman. Young Ellen Page was originally set to submit herself to this hell, but either chickened out (which I'd perfectly understand) or simply passed. What Lohman, who I had never seen in a movie before (but heard in "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind") brings to this schlockfest, along with a willingness to go through all kind of nastiness, is a nagging optimism that although you suspect is woefully misplaced, is enough to keep you playing Raimi's game until the end.

Her big mistake? Lohman's Christine, an ambitious bank loan officer (is there a more evil sort in the real world?), turns down an old lady for a third extension on her mortgage. And as anyone who knows even a bit about this flick knows, this was the wrong woman to piss off (and Lorna Raver, complete with an evil eye and secreting all kinds of squirm-inducing fluids even while she's still alive, is just the perfect choice.) From there, well, even if you think you know what's gonna happen, it's still a hell of a lot of fun going along for the ride.

And going in, I was fairly certain that funny guy and Mac pimper Justin Long was going to annoy me, but luckily he really doesn't have much to do here as Christine's supporting boyfriend (but his character's parents, played by Chelcie Ross and Molly Cheek, get the funniest scene of all, no small feat here.) What you need if you're gonna dine on this cheese buffet is someone who can lead you and Christine along, and Dileep Rao as psychic and all-around dark arts sensei Rham Jas certainly gets the job done. I don't want to give much else away, but Adriana Barraza is easily one of my favorite actresses (I even liked her quite a bit in the Jesus-wall-stain oddity "Henry Poole Is Here"), and when she turns up near the end of this flick (if you haven't walked out in disgust already) I guarantee you'll smile.

Raimi wraps it all up with an ending that's among his best, but what really makes this whole exercise so much fun is that, as with Raimi's "A Simple Plan," Christine, even as she makes mistake after mistake and suffers the requisite plagues for her misdeeds, is someone who - although more than a little greedy - we can easily all identify with.

In short, I loved just about every minute of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell," and though it's not enough to erase the nightmare that was "Spider-Man 3" from my memory (really, nothing would be, because it truly was just that bad), it certainly shows Raimi's still capable of having a blast of wicked fun, and raises hopes that Spidey's fourth installment won't just suck hard. Peace out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday morning links

Actually, the best news out there is that, with a revamped starting pitching staff and the best outfield in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles are now 6-1 in their last seven games. And, even better, supercatcher Matt Wieters finally makes his debut tonight against the Detroit Tigers.

With all this coming together, I can even see a .500 finish - poetically known in this corner as the "Run for 81" - in sight. Hey, one can dream, right?

And I'm almost as excited about the fact that this is clearly the best movie weekend of the year, even if it doesn't include Rian Johnson's "The Brothers Bloom." Because of my 10-10-10-5-5 (crazy, I know) schedule, I should be off of work by 4:30 or so today, and I'm gonna try and check out a screening of "Up!" for my supper.

I've been just as happy, though, to see that Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell" has fared almost as well with the critics at Rotten Tomatoes - 98% for "Up" to 95% for "Drag Me to Hell" (actually, I looked through the six pages of reviews at RT to find the one splat for "Up" but couldn't find any ... I think they're just making it up.) It's clear that Sam Raimi is having fun again, and that we will too. For a great Raimi profile from the New York Times, click here (and the correction about the print headline is a hoot too ... that one had me scratching my head.)

But beyond that, here today it's about two sites I found recently that offer a little Friday morning time-wasting, the first way better than the second.

Anyone who's been here before knows that if there's a single upcoming movie I'm most obsessed with for the rest of this year, it would have to be Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," and that really has nothing to do with all the ridiculous hoops that Warner Brothers has made Jonze and his crew jump through just to get it released.

From everything I've seen so far, they've managed to take my favorite childhood story and bring it to life with all its wild spirit intact. We won't get to see the final product until sometime in October, I believe, but just the trailers featuring that great Arcade Fire song "Wake Up" have been enough to get me thoroughly jazzed for this.

And now, the folks who are putting this together have started (well, it actually may have been going for sometime now already) a blog of sorts that's loosely about the movie, but moreso just about random thoughts that are always at least mildly diverting. The site, We Love You So, is well worth checking out, if for no other reason than right now, if you scroll down far enough, it contains a photo of a "Where the Wild Things Are" bento box. Yes, really.

Today's second site may simply be a bit of "viral marketing," but for that it is at least pretty clever. Judd Apatow's "Funny People," set to come out at the end of July, is certainly one of the summer movies I'm amped for, even if it seems like they did give away the entire plot in the trailer.

Though the main stars are Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, the movie also features Eric Bana, Jonah Hill and a host of other hopefully "Funny People," including Jason Schwartzman, who this latest gimmick site is about.

His character in the movie, Mark Taylor, has a sitcom (or at least a pilot) on NBC called "Yo! Teach," so of course NBC has made a site devoted to it. The good news is that the three-minute-or-so clip on the first page is a pretty dead-on skewering of teacher sitcoms, and yes, that is indeed Roger from "What's Happening!!". Click here to check it out.

And, though I'm sure no one needs any incentive to go see "Up," I'll leave you with this clip introducing Doug the talking dog. Although "Ratatouille" will always be my favorite Pixar flick, I have a feeling this one will be right up there with "The Incredibles" competing for second place. Peace out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just how much did ABC hate "Pushing Daisies," and when can we see it end?

It really pains me to even write that headline, but given what they're doing to the last three episodes of Bryan Fuller's prime-time fairy tale, I'd have to imagine it's a valid question. Oh well. I guess we should just be happy we're getting to see these on TV at all.

And if you hate "Pushing Daisies," what do you really hate? Whimsy? Creativity? If so, I can only really feel sorry for you. Anyways, since ABC has given the show's former Wednesday night slot to footage of people falling down (unless I'm wrong and "Wipeout" is actually about something a whole lot more enlightening than that), when will be able to see the last three episodes?

Well, it seems ABC has created a graveyard of sorts for this summer, at 10 p.m. Saturdays. Beginning this week, May 30, the final three episodes will air in order, followed by the remains of two other dead ABC shows, "Eli Stone" and then "Dirty Sexy Money."

A rather ignominious end for a show that probably never much of a chance. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mottola, Pegg and Frost assembling A-list comedy

After the pure disaster that was Mitch Hurwitz's "Sit Down, Shut Up" (though out of loyalty, I did watch every episode that made it to air, hoping against all evidence that it would somehow get better ... it didn't), I could certainly use a smart and funny animated offering for my summer viewing slate. And I have a feeling Mike Judge has just the right thing with "The Goode Family," coming to ABC at 9 tonight.

According to Variety: What "King of the Hill" did for Texas rednecks, Mike Judge and crew accomplish with Prius-driving tree-huggers in "The Goode Family" -- a smart, wryly funny animated comedy that's going to need a strong word-of-mouth campaign to flourish.

Sounds great to me, and it also features wannabe freak Lindsay Weir, a k a Linda Cardellini, so I'm definitely in.

But the coolest news I saw this morning is about what Greg Mottola, who's quickly becoming one of my favorite directors, is cooking up starting very soon.

But first a look at his track record. As for this year, I'd say there have already been a surprising amount of good-to-great movies, with my list so far being: "Coraline," "The International," "Watchmen," "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail," "Duplicity," "Sin Nombre," "Moon" and "Tyson," with the best two of all being "Star Trek" and Mottola's "Adventureland." Though it thoroughly tanked at the box office, that flick starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and a very funny Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig was just a real charmer that moved at a naturally entertaining pace.

And before that, of course, he made for my money the best comedy of 2007 with "Superbad." I just watched that one again with that instant "play" feature on Netflix (man, is that addictive), and I have to say the B story about the cops played by Hader and Seth Rogen, which I initially thought was the far weaker of the two, has really grown on me. And, coincidentally enough given what's to follow here, I'm now waiting for "Spaced," starring Simon Pegg, to arrive in my Netflix mail, hopefully today.

Now to finally get to the main course, Mottola is next directing veryfunnyguys Pegg and Nick Frost in something called "Paul," from a Pegg/Frost script. The road trip flick is about two British geeks (Pegg and Frost, natch) who set out on a road trip from Comic Con to Area 51 and manage to encounter an actual alien named "Paul." And the flick, set to start shooting in June, is quickly attracting an A-list cast.

Rogen will provide the voice of Paul, and he'll be joined by Wiig, Hader, Jason Bateman and the seemingly ubiquitous Jane Lynch. As I said earlier, Mottola is rapidly becoming one of my favorites, and with this crew I don't see how this can be anything but extremely funny, so keep your eyes on it. And with that, I have to get ready for the job that still actually pays me a little scratch each week. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

" If the apocalypse comes, beep me": Well, for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans, its here

Buffy: I wish we could be regular kids.
Angel: Yeah. I'll never be a kid.
Buffy: Okay, then a regular kid and her cradle-robbing, creature-of-the-night boyfriend.

Wow. I had an inkling that "Terminator Salvation" would get housed at the weekend box office by the family-friendly "Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian," but this is just downright embarrassing.

It's almost like the makers of the latter issued a dare-bet: "We'll give you an extra day, and I bet we can still beat you handily," because that's exactly what happened. Over the three days they were in direct competition, "Museum" took in about $70 million at the U.S. box office, while McG's flick netted only a truly paltry $53 million; add in his extra day numbers from Thursday, and he still lands in second place with about $67 million.

A sad saga indeed, but as a lead-in to the simply insidious tale that's about to unfold here, it's also quite cautionary. Because while for my money McG made a serviceable and even entertaining summer flick, he really didn't bother to absorb much of the Terminator mythos before he simply starting blowing things up (which, of course, certainly his its own entertainment value.) Had he studied just a bit more, his movie might have been embraced the way "Star Trek" has been by the franchise's fans and just about everyone else in the world (well, probably not, but it at least could have beat a movie with Ben Stiller getting slapped by two monkeys - you see, it's a sequel.)

And I really have tried to give up on ranting about remakes because it's just come to seem like a tremendous waste of energy. You wanna make English remakes of my two favorite movies of 2008 - "Let the Right One In" and "Tell No One"? Fair enough. I'll simply ignore them. But a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie without Joss Whedon? Well, as Buffy herself might say, that's just a whole new level of suck.

So, what exactly are these jokers up to? Well, initially Whedon and since some very talented comic book artists have been continuing the "Buffy" saga in fine form in funny books. With Jane Espenson taking over the writing duties for the issues coming in July, and with Oz returning to the story to help battle the current Big Bad, Twilight (no, I'm not making that up, and it's insanely funny), I'm certainly in for the fifth volume of "season eight."

And just writing about those characters points out all that's wrong with the drive to create a "Buffy" movie that surfaced in the Hollywood Reporter this morning. It seems that Fran Rubel Kuzui, who to give credit where its due both directed the first "Buffy" movie and wisely brought Joss Whedon along to create the rather famous TV show that followed it, has held on to the rights all this time. And now it seems she's just completely lost her mind.

To finally get to the point, with Vertigo Entertainment but without Joss Whedon, she's gotten it into her head to make a "remake or relaunch" of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" story for the big screen. If you'll excuse me for a second, I just threw up a bit in my mouth.

What in the world is "Buffy" without the writing that made it so funny and sometimes magical from week to week? Well, she's just a girl who fights vampires, which in the wrong hands could add up to simply a big ball of meh. And, just to ensure that when this finally comes together, it will be one of the most hated movies of all time along with being a box office Hindenburg, THR reports the movie will have "no connection" to the TV series, meaning it wouldn't use "popular supporting characters like Angel, Willow, Xander or Spike" (no Spike? sheesh.)

This was pitched at THR as similar to what Abrams did with "Star Trek," but I don't see how that could be more wrong. As anyone who's seen his flick by now (and, I'll admit, I've seen it twice already) knows, he made it work because he not only brought along all of the "supporting characters" in the Enterprise crew but also created a brave new world for them to inhabit. Kuzui, however, is instead apparently just trying to pretend the "Buffy" TV show and its creator didn't exist, and is therefore headed for nothing but disaster.

OK, that's enough for today about a movie that may not ever even happen. But how much do I love the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV show? I think the show's best couple put it best, so I'll leave it to them.

Drusilla: Do you love my insides? The parts you can't see?
Spike: Eyeballs to entrails, my sweet.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A glimpse of Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam's "Imaginarium"

It's the height of laziness, I know, but for a Sunday morning you'll have to excuse me, because all I have is this fairly tantalizing clip of Heath Ledger in "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus."

I believe it comes from Swedish TV, but some resourceful person was kind enough to cut off all the Swedish intro and just get to the clip. From what I've read about how Terry Gilliam's film has been received at Cannes, I don't believe it yet has a buyer that will get it any kind of proper distribution in the U.S. or anywhere else.

A real shame that, because while I'm sure it will be extremely odd, I'm still betting on entertaining too (unlike Gilliam's last flaming bag of crap, "Tideland.") Anyways, enjoy the clip and what's left of your weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

OK, "Chuck" is back, but what will it look like? Some answers

I know I write about "Chuck" an awful lot at this site, but if I don't write about things that interest me, why bother at all? I could instead wax euphoric about how the Orioles managed to pull out a 12-inning victory last night over the lowly Nats, but I can't imagine anyone would want to read that.

So, now that "Chuck" has gotten its 13-episode renewal, albeit not until January, the real question now is what will it look like now that its budget has been cut. My friend Cory Sekine-Pettite is the only person I've encountered so far to speculate that they might write out Adam Baldwin's Casey, which would just be suicide. My own fear, especially since they sort of gave Morgan an out and definitely gave Chuck an evolving set of super skills, was that they would simply write out the Buy More.

Well, thanks to a heads-up from another good friend of mine, Stephanie Hartley (who's also sort of my boss), we now have some answers via Michael Ausiello and the mastermind of "Chuck" himself, Josh Schwartz. You can read all of Ausiello's interview here, but below are some of the highlights, and it's mostly good news.

First of all, viva the Buy More? Yes: We might have certain episodes where Chuck's mission is such that we don't get the opportunity to go to the Buy More [as much]. We love our cast and, obviously, we want to use them as much as possible in as many episodes as possible.

Will Casey be back? Of course: Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are in all episodes.

Perhaps the biggest question, however, revolves around Zachary Levi's new set of super skills, which of course in the finale debuted as some snazzy Kung Fu, and whether or not they will change his character in any fundamental way. Schwartz says no:

And I think for anyone who is concerned that he's no longer going to be the Everyman, or an accidental hero, fear not.

Like I said, that all mostly sounds like good news to me, so now we just have to wait until January or so to see how it all turns out. As Liz Lemon would say, Nards! And if you'll excuse me now, I'm going to clean my house and then go have my senses (and hopefully funny bone too) assaulted by "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." Peace out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Well, McG's "Terminator" certainly doesn't suck ...

Before I dive into McG's take on "Terminator," I suppose the big news of the day is the return of Michael Moore, and this certainly seems to be a time that's ripe for his input.

Now, I've always had a lot of time for Michael Moore, and I'm glad he's still making noise (and documentaries), but I really just didn't care for "Sicko" at all. Watching him gallivant around Europe, Canada and finally Cuba just felt like such a stunt, and more importantly a missed opportunity to properly analyze the catastrophe that is health care in America.

But I've enjoyed all his other movies quite a bit, and I'm glad he's about to come back and tackle a subject he's rather familiar with: Capitalism and the American economy (I don't want to spoil anything here, but I don't think he's gonna be a terribly big fan.)

Due to drop Oct. 2, his as-yet-untitled flick "will explore the root causes of the global economic meltdown and take a comical look at the corporate and political shenanigans that culminated in what Moore has described as 'the biggest robbery in the history of this country' – the massive transfer of U.S. taxpayer money to private financial institutions."

The press release notes that year is the 20th anniversary of "Roger & Me," and assuming that's true it just makes me feel really old, but I'm still glad Michael Moore is back to make me laugh and hopefully think at the same time.

But getting to the main event, I come today mostly to praise McG, not to bury him, and he could certainly use it; "Terminator Salvation" currently sits at 33% positive at Rotten Tomatoes, made much worse because that puts it even behind "Dance Flick" at 35% (Really? Amazing.)

I, however, had a pretty great time with it, which admittedly may have had a lot to do with the fact I was going to see a new movie on Thursday at 5 p.m., when much of the real world is still hard at work. It's certainly not, however, a great chapter that propels the "Terminator" saga forward in a really compelling way. In fact, the screen script that sets the scene (Skynet, Cyberdyne, 2018) reads pretty much like what I'd imagine the flash card they gave McG to familiarize himself with the "Terminator" universe would have read.

That said, he at least doesn't manage to crap all over the established mythology like, say, Brett Ratboy did with "X-3." He instead seemed to just embrace as much of the saga as he could understand and made his own often very fun movie.

So, what's it about? Well in the truly ludicrous opening sequence (which is rivaled for sheer stupidity only by the final five minutes or so), we meet Marcus Wright (a very good Sam Worthington), a death row inmate who signs his body over to "science" (which, in this case, means Cyberdyne, so you know he'll turn up later with a secret even he doesn't know about.) Meanwhile, flash forward and John Connor (Christian Bale, of course) is leading his followers in the resistance against Skynet, and Kyle Reese (remember that name?) and a young, mute companion make up the entirety of the resistance's L.A. branch.

And that's really all you need to know, because from there it pretty much just plays out as a chapter from the battle against Skynet and little else, but given the expectations that was good enough for me (were I a conspiracy theorist, I'd imagine McG might be engineering this expectations game W. style, but I really don't think he has that much power or cunning.) And, not surprisingly, the machines are indeed pretty friggin cool, especially one particularly menacing dude who shoots robotic motorcycles out of his feet, and I hope I never get too old to appreciate that.

The main beef I had heard going in is that Christian Bale delivers a performance as robotic as any of the machines, pretty much just barking orders through the whole thing, and that's true. I have to ask, however, given the way the part was written, what else was he supposed to do? And besides, though he clearly has a knack for picking movies that I and everyone else get thoroughly geeked up for, is he really all that good an actor overall? Although it pains me to say it, I'd say no.

As I said earlier, Worthington fares much better, and he's gonna be a big star very soon. Even better, though, is Anton Yelchin's Kyle Reese. Yelchin, of course, has already played Chekhov in the far-superior "Star Trek," and he's now someone whose name I'll always take note of on movie posters and wherever else I might come across it.

And, finally, what of the humanity that made the first "Terminator" such a classic? Well, admittedly, there's not much of it here at all, but I really just don't think McG has it in him as a director to draw that out. The only other movie of his I've seen is "We Are Marshall," and oddly enough it left me with pretty much the exact same impression: A solidly told tale that would have been a lot more compelling with more of the human stakes thrown in.

The bottom line, however, is that if you show up five minutes late and leave five minutes early (because, trust me, those really are just about the two worst scenes you'll see in a movie this year) you'll get a better-than-average action flick that delivers a solid dose of summer fun, which on this day at least was more than enough to satisfy me.

And I'll leave with you this featurette for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which focuses on the relationship of Harry and Dumbledore. That's what made this installment my favorite of Rowling's novels about the boy wizard, and has me thinking this will also be the best of the Potter movies when it finally comes out July 15. Peace out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All I want for my birthday is ...

Two simple things really, but I'm really afraid neither of them are going to happen.

First, I'd really like "Terminator Salvation" to not suck, but the reviews from both critics and people who actually just like watching movies are starting to quickly pile it up in the negative. At least they bothered to release it a couple of days early so I can go see it after work today.

For me, "Terminator" isn't just an iconic franchise. It's also the first time I really understood as a kid that "Rated R" wasn't just for sleazy movies. Granted, seeing Salisbury, Md., native Linda Hamilton all kinds of naked when you're 14 years old is certainly a bonus, but it was also just seriously smart sci-fi that earned the violence side of its "R" with style and purpose.

I have a growing suspicion that McG - who I have no real beef with up to this point - is just gonna blow that all away, but here's hoping against hope that I'm wrong.

And secondly, an Orioles victory over the damn Yankees, I'm afraid, is even more of a lost cause. I was hoping Tuesday night would lead to our second defeat of C.C. Sabathia this season, but in the seventh inning the game went from 2-1 to 9-1 in favor of the Yanks in what seemed like five seconds. And the less that's said about last night's game the better.

Actually, what I really want for my birthday is to see Matt Weiters in an Orioles uniform now, and to bring a bunch of those young arms with him to replace the bums we have now. Gregg Zaun is hitting well below the Mendoza line, which even Peter Angelos must recognize isn't terribly good, so the future is now! Peace out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three looks at QT's "Inglourious Basterds," and what have they done with "Friday Night Lights"?

You know, I suppose the "Chuck" fiasco has been settled about as well as we could have possibly expected, with the show returning to its same time slot for the winter midseason - and maybe getting a bit of a bump from following the Winter Olympics.

But buried in NBC's upfronts (or infronts, who knows?) was a surprising note regarding "Friday Night Lights." This year, TV's best drama (by far, in my book) returned to NBC's Friday lineup in January for those of who don't have DirecTV (Jeremy, always a friend to this blog, was kind enough to send me some episodes before they hit NBC - most grateful.)

Now, however, it's been pushed back to summer, so that NBC can air f-in "Southland" instead. I suppose I should be happy that's it's somehow already guaranteed to come back for two more 13-episode seasons, but the wait is just gonna truly be a bitch. In the meantime, the third season - easily the best yet - hits DVD this week, so if you haven't caught on, it's well worth a rental (which I've already put in my queue.)

This grownass man will freely admit that the show would make me almost cry at some point in just about each episode, and I would submit that the episode in which they bid goodbye to Smash (Gaius Charles) is the finest hour of television broadcast in the past year. What else can I say? It's the best thing on TV since "The Wire," so watch it already.

Here today, however, before I got distracted, it was supposed to be all about Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," which it seems he has not only actually finished but apparently also cut to just more than two hours. As I'm writing this, I believe it's already premiered at Cannes, so I suppose we'll get a lot of reaction in the coming days. Some goofball at the Hollywood Reporter (yes, I suppose that's just jealousy) panned it as just a "standard action movie," but you can still count me rather severely psyched to see this when it comes out for the rest of the world in August.

In the meantime, here are a couple of great time-wasters to give you a little taste. The first comes courtesy of CHUD, and for those who like the music QT puts in his movies (of which you can certainly count me one), the site has put together a listing of the songs that will appear on the "Inglourious Basterds" (I seem to spell that differently each time I type it, so maybe I should just stop correcting it) soundtrack, with many of the entries linking to YouTube or Quicktime clips that let you hear the songs. Instead of the usual feast of pop nuggets, this time it's a lot of Ennio Morricone and other film music, but there's still a few fun surprises thrown in. Click here to give it a listen.

Second, and even better, are three short clips courtesy of Trailer Addict. The only real problem I have with any of these is that the more I see of Brad Pitt, the more he just seems to have the most ridiculous accent. I think that's gonna only be a minor distraction, though. Anyways, enjoy the clips and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You see, but you do not observe: A glimpse of "Sherlock Holmes"

Actually the best news out there today is further proof that, despite the ascendancy of a new generation and Barack Obama, there are still some areas in which grumpy old men, of which I'm rapidly becoming one, still rule the Earth.

In less than two weeks, of course, we get our own fantabulous 3-D animated feature with Pixar's "Up," but perhaps even better was today's announcement that this year's weeknight World Series games will start before 8 p.m., meaning that - even if my Orioles most likely won't have anything do with it - at least the games will hopefully wrap a little closer to my schoolnight bed time.

And best of all, the story I saw on this said Fox won't even take to the air before 7:30 p.m. Less than a half hour of inane Fox pregame (meaning, hopefully, no Steve Lyons, if he's indeed still there) and an earlier game time? I'm in heaven.

And I suppose the most "important" news out there today is that they're finally gonna do a biopic on Martin Luther King Jr. Not surprisingly, such a "prestige" and - in my book - "obligation" movie has attracted big fish Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg, so far as just a producer, but who knows?

The only way you could get me more than even mildly excited about this, however, is to cast the right dude as MLK. Don Cheadle would work OK, but for my money the slam-dunk choice would be Jeffrey Wright (oddly enough, Mos Def would be my second choice, and I actually saw them on stage together once in Suzan-Lori Parks' rather disappointing "Topdog/Underdog.")

You may remember that Wright has already played MLK Jr. once in a surprisingly entertaining but underrated HBO movie, "Boycott," also starring Terrence Howard as Ralph Abernathy and directed by "Homicide" and "The Wire" vet Clark Johnson. The only way to keep my interest in this going would be to bring him back for more.

The order of the day here, however, is supposed to be all about "Sherlock Holmes" and the case of its first theatrical trailer, with a little "Scott Pilgrim" thrown in at the end as a bonus.

When I first heard Guy Ritchie was gonna put his stamp on "Sherlock Holmes," I have to say I was more than a little worried. Now, don't get me wrong: "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and - to a lesser extent - "Snatch" are very funny flicks, but I'm not sure I'd call them clever in the vein of Holmes, and Ritchie's movies since then have been pretty much pure crap (with the possible exception of "RocknRolla," which I'm perfectly willing to concede I just didn't get.)

Beyond the tone, however, I also felt more than a little queasy when I heard rumors about them turning Holmes into some kind of Bond-style badass with exceptional fighting skills. That certainly wouldn't josh with any kind of Holmes I remember or ever want to see.

I suppose, though, with Robert Downey Jr. as our main man, I should have faith, and indeed this trailer does look pretty darn good. As everyone probably knows, Jude Law stars rather oddly as Watson, and as I just found out from the IMDB, Eddie Marsan of "Happy Go Lucky" fame stars as Inspector Lestrade. Enjoy the trailer, and feel free to check back for many more updates on this before it comes out Christmas day.

And, as a bonus of sorts, here's the latest installment of Edgar Wright's video blog about the making of "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World." The part of me that used to (and sometimes still does) read comic books has to admire the details that he and comic book writer Bryan Lee O'Malley are trying to recreate while filming in Toronto, but you also have to wonder how much any of that is going to matter to anyone beyond the most devoted subset of geeks (of which I still proudly consider myself one.) Anyways, enjoy this latest bit about the making of the flick set to star veryfunnyman Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and, as I just found out today, one of my favorite people in "Rocket Science" star Anna Kendrick. Peace out.

Blog Five - From Comic Book Panel to Screen - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World from Scott Pilgrim The Movie on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Chuck" vs the recession: We win, 'cause it's back!

First off today, I'd like to issue a personal thank you to everyone out there who managed to just say no to "Angels & Demons" in its opening weekend. Though $48 million is, I suppose, not a total failure, it also can't be called anything close to what was expected. It's just a shame that - at $43 million - "Star Trek" didn't manage to keep it out of the top slot.

And if I can bury the lead just a bit more, this can't really be called as good TV news as the return of "Chuck," but it's still pretty close in my book.

In 2005, Ricky Gervais and his often at least as funny writing partner Stephen Merchant started doing a series of podcasts, and thankfully introduced to the world the truly eccentric character of Karl Pilkington. The podcasts, which actually began before that as a London radio show, will now be turned into a 13-episode run (so far) of animated episodes on HBO.

And who in the world is Karl Pilkington? Well, he's a radio producer and just an endearingly odd fellow who managed to eventually become the real star of the podcasts. As Gervais and Merchant themselves put it best: "Karl is a man who believes that a sea lion is a cross between a fish and a dog. Hopefully, Karl will enter the pantheon of animated greats."

That all sounds great to me, but I suppose today of all days I should have just gotten to the real news straightaway, because it's true: NBC has - at least in some form - renewed "Chuck"!

From all I've read this morning, the fate of "Chuck" wasn't just a matter of finding time for it as Jay Leno gobbles up most of the prime-time schedule (though, believe it: He is pure evil incarnate, and must be stopped by any means necessary.) It seems instead that "Chuck" had to go through some serious budget cuts, meaning fewer writers and - much more importantly - smaller roles for the supporting cast. We'll have to see how that all plays out, but I fear it could mean a lot less Buy More (I've reposted my own Buy More badge to show my support for our beleaguered bit players.)

As far as when or on what night "Chuck" will return, details so far are scant, but I do know one thing for sure: The next run of "Chuck" will be 13 episodes rather than 22. Personally, that doesn't really bother me, since I've really adapted to the cable run of 13 anyway (I was just rewatching the final episodes of "Sons of Anarchy" season one, for example, and would like to retract anything I said about that show being "good" - by the end it was nothing short of great and nearly flawless television, and I can't wait for season two.)

But back to "Chuck": When will we find out more? Details may trickle out today, or else there will probably be a formal announcement sometime tomorrow. Either way, count this a rare victory for smart, sexy and, yes, fun TV, and to that I can only say huzzah! In closing and celebration, here's a NBC clip of Lester and Anna giving the Nerd Herd review of the new Avril Lavigne album. Not surprisingly, very funny. Peace out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Terry Gilliam and the art of perseverance ... or is it insanity?

Well, Friday came and went with no word on "Chuck," so I guess Tuesday really is the big day in that department. Two other shows I just assumed were dead, however, have somehow escaped the chopping block.

When Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" premiered, I was sure it would be canceled after four or five episodes, because frankly those early shows were almost as abysmal as the ratings. Not awful, I guess, just awfully generic, and with really no touches that would tell you it was a Whedon show.

As the season went on, however, it slowly developed into a solid little bit of sci-fi, so I'm pleased to see it will be back for a second season. And, frankly, just as glad that it will once again only be 13 episodes. More network shows should adapt to this cable-like schedule, in my opinion, since a lot of them - while perfectly entertaining - just clearly don't have enough ideas to sustain a full 22-episode run.

And, perhaps even more amazingly, "Scrubs" is somehow coming back to ABC for a ninth season, after what was clearly intended as a series finale. Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke have both agreed to return for six episodes to help transition to the newer cast members, and thankfully Donald Faison, John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn will all be back for at least some of the new episodes too.

I'd call this mostly great news, since "Scrubs" is just the perfect pitch of silly fun, except for one very big problem. A quick test: If you watched the "Scrubs" season that just ended, can you name any of the characters who were added? I can't, because none of them were all that memorable or entertaining, and I really think it's gonna be a big leap to make people want to watch them week after week without a BIG dose of the real regulars.

But enough of all that. Here today it was supposed to be all Terry Gilliam, and from here on out it will be.

When I first saw this news Friday, it just made me smile, but it also made me finally realize that I really like Gilliam as a personality at least as much or more than I still do as a filmmaker. Don't get me wrong: I'm cheering for him to return to form, but his last flick, "Tideland," was just the definition of unwatchable (although I did, in a couple of sittings, somehow make it to the end.)

And I wish him nothing but the best in finding a proper distributor for "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." Tom Waits as the devil? I'll be there as soon as I can, but I really don't have terribly high hopes that it will ever be at a theater anywhere near my little corner of the world.

But for his own sanity and hopefully at some point our entertainment, I'm most happy to now hear that - truly against all odds - Gilliam has somehow revived once again "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote."

If you're unfamiliar with this saga, it began nine years ago and has already spawned a feature documentary about just how epic a failure it was the first time around. And if you haven't seen "Lost in La Mancha," I can't recommend it highly enough as an oft-times depressing but nonetheless engaging portrait of exactly how NOT to make a movie.

But even after watching that doco in Atlanta with my mom at the fabulous Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, I was always cheering for Gilliam to finally somehow pull this off, mostly because I've been a big fan of perseverance that borders on and often crosses right over to insanity. And beyond that, what he was cooking up the first time and hopefully again this time just sounded like tons of fun.

This time, screenwriter Tony Grisoni and Gilliam are working on a tale that will revolve around a filmmaker who is charmed into Don Quixote’s eternal quest for his ladylove, "becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza." If this really happens, it will begin shooting next spring, but the biggest remaining question would have to be will Johnny Depp really go through all this again?

If I were a betting man, which I almost never am now, I'd say yes, both because he clearly has tremendous loyalty to Gilliam and because he often seems to have the same obstinate qualities that make Gilliam so fascinating in the first place. Here's hoping he also brings along his wife, Vanessa Paradis, again, and that easily one of my favorite actors, Jean Rochefort (who had a small but pivotal role in one of my very favorite movies of 2008, "Tell No One"), will also be able to take on the lead role again, though it was his back pains, among other things, that doomed Gilliam's Quixote the first time around (and if you want to see another great Rochefort movie on DVD, Patrice Leconte's "L'Homme du Train," with Rochefort and the French pop singer Johnny Hallyday, is just a nearly perfect little flick.)

And no matter how this all turns out, to me it's just an inspiring tale of insanity. And with that, I'm off to watch "Star Trek" again to do my part to put it on top of the box office ladder again, and hopefully miles above the ball of shite known as "Angels and Demons." Peace out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who should play Frank Sinatra?

Before we get into the main orders of business, I have to say that Sports Illustrated has just conducted what has to be the most thoroughly unnecessary poll in history.

As I was driving home from work yesterday, the first thing I heard was Freddie Coleman saying "Oriole fans deserve so much better." While that statement could very easily be applied to any number of developments, in this case it was the news that Sports Illustrated had conducted a poll to determine that Peter Angelos is the worst owner in baseball.

My only thought about that was, were there really any other competitors? I mean, if the question were "worst world leader," I'd imagine Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot would all have their partisans, but in baseball there has never, ever been a worse owner than Angelos.

I'd go so far, in fact, to go ahead and call him the worst owner of all time, in any sport. A few members of my small Facebook cabal have posited that the Raiders' Al Davis is even worse, but I have to differ. Davis at least has the excuse of being certifiably insane, but Angelos is just mean, cheap and stupid, and there can't possibly be a worse combination.

Anyways, enough about that. At least we're not the Nationals. And since I haven't mentioned the fate of "Chuck" in a while, it's certainly worth an update. Although I had heard NBC wouldn't announce anything until May 19 (next Tuesday), the Hollywood Reporter seems to think that NBC will finalize its lineup by tomorrow.

I still have no idea which way this will go, but there was one promising sign this week as the network passed on "Legally Mad," a new pilot from David E. Kelley, giving it one more prime-time hour that hasn't already been swallowed up by that glutton Jay Leno. Here's one other possibly promising nugget from the Hollywood Reporter article:

And of course, Peacock is still mum on "Chuck," "Medium" and "Law & Order," although no one would be surprised to see all three return. "Chuck" is already appearing on schedules being floated.

Keep hope alive, of course, but here today it's supposed to be all about what would have to be called the ultimate harmonic convergence when it comes to music biopics: Martin Scorsese and Frank Sinatra.

It seems that Universal Pictures and Mandalay Pictures are teaming up for "Sinatra" and have brought on Scorsese to direct and produce. There's no question that it's a perfect fit, given the clear affection of each for both music and the Mafia. The big question, which Variety said has yet to be settled, is who would play Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

Now, the obvious choice would, of course, be Leonardo DiCaprio, who has played the lead in Scorsese's last four features: "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator," "The Departed" and the upcoming "Shutter Island." I'm sure Leo would be just fine in this, because he's proven to be great in anything Scorsese pitches at him, but I have one more name in mind that would be even better: James Franco.

Now, anybody who's been here probably knows that, thanks to "Freaks and Geeks" and everything he's done since, I have something bordering on an unhealthy heteromancrush on Mr. Franco, but I just can't help it. He's just that good, and he certainly has that wildness in his eyes that would be perfect for capturing Frank.

There was a time a few years ago when we were just impaled with a seemingly never-ending series of music biopics, but now that that has cooled down considerably, I'd certainly say the time is right for this, and I'll be sure to pass it on as soon as I hear anymore about the casting.

Jekyll and Hyde vs. ... Jekyll and Hyde?

When the news broke a few days ago that Keanu Reeves was gonna star in a new version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" I just let it pass without comment because the best I would have been able to come up with would have been meh.

But as with any odd Hollywood story, these things always come at least in pairs, as with the dueling "Sherlock Holmes" flicks. On that front, Guy Ritchie is prepping his version for a Christmas release starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, while some wing of the Apatow camp is at least beginning plans for its own, sure-to-be-much-sillier take with Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Now, with Jekyll and Hyde, there's likewise rival projects in the works as well. To the already announced Reeves-starring take to be adapted by Justin Haythe ("Revolutionary Road"), you can now add one from the truly odd Abel Ferrera to star Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent, presumably as the two sides of the bad doctor's personality.

Even though Ferrera plans to "contemporize" the tale, with Forest on board my money's still on the latter project to be the much more interesting.

Trailer two-fer

And now, for anyone who's made it this far, a couple of trailers as a reward. The first is just a teaser featuring a bit of vintage Madea ("I don't want no po po at my do do") from Tyler Perry's fall flick, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," which along with Madea is set to star Taraji P. Henson (huzzah!), Mary J. Blige and even Gladys Knight. I concede that Madea is just a thoroughly silly character, but "Madea Goes to Jail" was a surprisingly entertaining affair, and Tyler Perry has yet to make a movie that I didn't enjoy, so I'm definitely still on board.

The second trailer is for a much grander undertaking, Rob Marshall's take on "Nine," the musical based on Frederico Fellini's autobiographical "8 1/2." With Penelope Cruz, Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Dame Judy Dench and many more starring in what you can see from the trailer will be a truly epic production, when it finally comes out at Thanksgiving, I'll certainly say bring it on!

And finally, a parting gift

This one comes from Wilco to me to you. After it's new, self-titled album, leaked onto the Internets last night, the band decided to go ahead and let it out themselves for free streaming on their Web site. To give it a listen, click here. I've only listened to it once, and will need several more spins to offer my true opinion, but my instant verdict is that it's unsurprisingly a pop classic. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Tuesday morning, so let the hate flow

I normally try not to get in the business of telling people not to see movies that I haven't and won't, but the fact there's only one this week - and what it is - just has me in a fairly cranky mood to start the day, so bear with me.

I always knew this week was going to be a hole in what otherwise is just a sensational month for movies. Already, of course, there's "Star Trek," which I'm almost certain to see again this weekend. Next week comes "Terminator: Salvation," for which you can count me thoroughly jazzed, and then Pixar's "Up" and Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell" (but not, apparently, dammit, Rian Johnson "The Brothers Bloom.")

In between, however, all we get is "Angels & Demons." Now, for reasons I'll keep to myself, I will never, ever read a Dan Brown book or see one of his movies, but let me see if I have this plot summary right. After the Pope is murdered, the four Preferiti, or candidates to replace him, are also slain. Is this really anyone's idea of pleasant Summertime entertainment? Sheesh. Here's hoping against hope that this somehow makes a grand total of about $100 worldwide.

And, in the spirit of hating, which can actually be more than a little fun, here's a word or two about one I did see last weekend, so I guess you can call this a cautionary tale. Here goes:

I should have known "Next Day Air" was going to be a disaster when I saw it called, in separate places, both "the black Pineapple Express" and "the black Lock, Stock and Two Smokin' Barrels."

Now, I guess the bigger question would be why we would need either of those, but for right now, I can just tell you "Next Day Air" just falls miserable short of both. Not even Donald Faison, Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale on "The Wire") and Mos Def (who wisely only spends about five minutes total in this train wreck), all of whom I like a whole lot, were enough to give this flick either an ounce of comedic charm or dramatic urgency. Lacking both, it's a grim affair, and much more importantly, just incredibly boring. Avoid this one at all costs. I sure wish I had.

Actually, I guess just about everyone already has since it made a grand total of about $4 million. I give it one more week, and the filmmakers only have themselves to blame, because I really can't think of a movie I was looking forward to more that's just so completely lacking in anything that could even come close to being called entertainment value.

The premise, which I knew going in, can only generously be called tired. Faison, playing a spliffed-out delivery guy, delivers a package of narcotics to the wrong address. To that, the movie adds almost no comedy and really no further story, hence why it has no relation AT ALL to "Lock, Stock" and even less to "Pineapple Express." Debbie Allen shows up for about two minutes and tries very hard to be funny, as does Mos Def, but they both wisely bail very quickly. I guarantee that if you do somehow manage to see this, Mos' line in the commercial, "I like your outfit," is just about the only one that will make you even snicker.

And you can call me a devoted fan of "stylized violence," but the bullet ballet that closes out "Next Day Air" forgot one key element: Any kind of style. It just mercifully puts this instantly forgettable flick to bed in just under 90 minutes, which in my book amounts to a mercy killing. Peace out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Disney's return to 2-D animation? Color me (so far) impressed

When I first heard the news that Pixar was going to do all of its movies in vaunted 3.D, I have to admit it made me more than a little sad.

It wasn't just that this extremely broad embrace was more than a little bit of exaggeration. It's also that this just seems like a loss of innocence, of animated movies containing old-fashioned magic and being aimed - as corny as this sounds - at the kid in all of us.

So you can count me as rather psyched for Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," coming at Christmas and starring "Dreamgirl" Anika Noni Rose. As you can see from the trailer below, after a thoroughly unnecessary intro listing the various accomplishments of Disney (in case we somehow all didn't know already), it indeed makes New Orleans look like a magical place.

My only beef with any of what I've seen or heard so far is that they couldn't find anyone but Randy Newman to do the score. Having just bought a copy of Allen Toussaint's first strictly "jazz" album, "The Bright Mississippi," I can attest that that great pianoman or, for that matter, any number of other New Orleans musicians, would have been a much more inspired choice.

Anyways, enjoy the trailer, and continue after that if you wish for two more clips that deliver varying degrees of funny.

Sacha Baron Cohen and the limits of funny

Anyone who's seen "Borat" knows that for Sacha Baron Cohen there really isn't even anything like an "envelope" to push, but from what I've seen of his upcoming flick, "Bruno," I think it's gonna still manage to shock (and hopefully make people laugh too.)

Below is a clip from his "Meinspace" page in which Bruno talks about recruiting "Friends," and describes the specific kinds he's looking for (and talks about, just to warn you, his bleached ******* and how he's a chocoholic.)

After that is the first trailer for "Whatever Works," which is Woody Allen's movie starring Larry David but unfortunately seems to contain the broadest and easiest kinds of jokes about Southerners and gay people. Here's hoping this is just an attempt to get this to play as wide as possible (maybe even in my rather Southern little corner of the world), and that the movie itself will prove to be a whole lot more satisfying. And with that short report, I'm out.

Meinspace Vassup!

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Star Trek": Not bold, but still brilliant

As I was waiting for J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" to start last night (I showed up plenty early, expecting, frankly, a much bigger crowd), I was trying to remember the last time I had even bothered to watch a movie based on an old TV show, and I really couldn't think of one.

"Bewitched"? Why bother? And despite the presence of both adorable Anna Friel and veryfunnyman Danny McBride, I really can't see myself getting into Will Ferrell's upcoming "Land of the Lost."

In most cases, even if its called a "reimagining," it usually just means adding tired jokes about all the anachronisms. What Abrams has accomplished with "Star Trek," however, is something entirely different. By embracing the best elements of the original animal but adding a fresh and almost uniformly appealing cast and enough of his own touches to give the series a big jolt of new blood (and adrenaline), he's created something so entertaining that it should relaunch the series and have it thriving (or, if you must, prospering) for a long time to come.

Though our 7 p.m. showing was only a little more than half full, I could tell from the crowd that we were in for something thoroughly fun. Despite the absurdity of a local country station giving out Trek t-shirts (to the only two people who bothered to come in costume), all the good-natured "Star Wars" jokes ("I should have come dressed as Vader") just set the stage perfectly.

So, what about the movie itself? Well, after a superb opening sequence that simultaneously features the birth of Kirk and introduces the movie's big bad, the Romulan Nero (Eric Bana, not really all that menacing except for the fact that - with all the Romulan facial tattoos - he looks a lot like Mike Tyson), Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wisely spend a lot of time introducing the new members of the Enterprise crew-to-be.

And though the types are already well set in stone, the new players are all just about perfectly cast (with the glaring exception of Simon Pegg, but more on that later.) The only thing I could remember seeing Chris Pine in was the mildly disappointing "Bottle Shock," but here he captures the combustible mix of anger and potential that makes the young Kirk intriguing, and though I gave up on "Heroes" during the disastrous second season, Zachary Quinto finds the soul of Spock rather than making him the cartoon it would have been easier to become.

Among the supporting crew, Zoe Saldana smolders just enough as Uhura, and gives the movie its most tender moment along with Quinto. Karl Urban's McCoy (a truly eerie dead ringer) and Anton Yelchin's Chekhov are mostly there for very effective comic relief, but my favorite crew member of all was John Cho's Hikaru Sulu, perhaps mostly just because it was so much fun to see him do something besides get incredibly stoned.

The main (and just about only) beef I had heard from the minority of critics who at least kind of panned this was that the story was lacking, but I have to disagree. Though it is indeed a fairly standard revenge tale with enough wrinkles thrown in to keep it interesting until the end, I have to wonder, just how intricate could you really expect what amounts to the first mission of Kirk's Enterprise crew to be?

As it is, Abrams keeps the tale moving at a very fast but fluid pace, enough so that - for once - I really didn't mind the occasionally shaky camera work because it really does set up some simply stunning set pieces. Kirk and Sulu get the best one of all, as they dive from the Enterprise to take out a crazy giant drill that Nero is using to assault the Vulcan planet. I guarantee it will be the best action sequence you'll see this summer (or at least I welcome the challenge from "Terminator: Salvation" trying to top it in two weeks or so.)

My only quibble (and I hesitate even to bring it up, because the movie really was just about perfect summer fare) was that, after producing a script that set up the natural dynamic of the young Enterprise crew, it really felt like they went back at the end and crammed in the catchphrases that any Trek fan (and even a casual admirer like me) expect to hear. They're very funny at first, but exceedingly just a little annoying as it feels like Abrams and crew are working from a checklist.

And the introduction of Pegg's Scotty unfortunately feels right in this vein too. You know going in that he can't be a member of the Star Fleet Academy class with Kirk and company, but he just feels tacked on when he's finally brought in, and it doesn't help matters that Pegg - shockingly - just doesn't seem to fit the part at all. It's the first time on the big screen that I just really haven't much liked him at all.

But all that said, the bottom line is that this is a thoroughly fun flick that will thrill "Star Trek" devotees and newcomers alike. And with that, I have to go pay $70 to keep from having my power cut off and then to the job that pays me just enough to put me in that admittedly rather sorry position. Peace out.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Instant opinion: "Star Trek" rules

That's all I can say for tonight, but go see it as soon as you can, and feel free to check back some time tomorrow for a full review.

Like "Robot Chicken" for people not suffering from adult ADD?

Actually, the biggest news out there today, of course, is that J.J. Abrams and folks are rolling "Star Trek" out tonight "Iron Man"-style, with hourly Thursday night screenings that come well before midnight (thank God he remembered us old folk!) I still haven't decided if I'm gonna brave the madness for a 7 p.m. show, but I'm leaning toward yes.

And the funniest, at least in my book, is that even though Kal Penn supposedly works for the White House (actually, I'm sure he does, and probably works quite hard), they're still gonna let him do another Harold & Kumar movie. I can't believe anyone with that much power thinks this would be a good PR move, but even so, "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas" (I'm laughing at that already) has been penciled in for a Nov. 5, 2010, release. They may be thoroughly puerile, but the first two Harold & Kumar flicks are also just extremely funny, especially "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (and don't forget, of course, that Harold himself, John Cho, is the new Hikaru Sulu.)

And in perhaps the oddest, what could only be called an A-list cast has been assembled for a movie about ... raccoons? Elizabeth Banks, James McAvoy, Laura Linney and Anna Friel (all of whom would make any list of my favorite actors, with Laura Linney easily No. 1) are all set to star in a black comedy called "The Details" about a couple (Banks and McAvoy) who discover an infestation of raccoons in the backyard. More than a little bizarre, but I'm betting on funny, too.

And as I write this, it strikes me that the headline for this post is more than a little fitting, because these posts sometimes (like today) often do seem like they're written by someone with a rather severe case of ADD (which may well be the case, but I really have no idea.) Anyways, fans of "Robot Chicken," and I'd imagine there have to be quite a few of you out there, should rejoice, because Seth Green and his crew are getting another Adult Swim show to do in their stop-motion style.

Now, "Robot Chicken" certainly isn't without faults, the biggest being that it indeed has the attention span of a 2-year-old on meth. For fifteen minutes of late-night funnies, however, it really doesn't get much better than what these guys have been cooking up for the past four years or so.

And for their new project, "Titan Maximum," they're trying something a little novel: An actual, perhaps even coherent, plot, with a storyline that actually continues from episode to episode. Shocking.

Per the Hollywood Reporter: "Titan" is set 100 years in the future, when Saturn's moon Titan is defended by an elite squadron of young, brash pilots whose spaceships combine to form the giant robot Titan Maximum. Because of budget cuts, the team has been disbanded but must hastily reassemble when a former team member turns rogue and tries to conquer the solar system.

"Titan," which will launch in September with an initial order of nine episodes, was created by "Robot" co-head writer/producer Tom Root and co-creator/exec producer Matthew Senreich.

All that sounds great to me, especially since Seth Green will voice the show's villain and "Robot Chicken" players Breckin Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Dan Milano and Eden Espinosa will all be along for the ride. Tom Root summed up the spirit of the thing pretty good with this quote, also from THR:

"There were always teams of extraordinary young people with the fate of the universe in their hands. In reality, that would end terribly. The last thing you want when giant monsters attack is a bunch of teenagers in charge of defending you. 'Titan Maximum' is about what would really happen if a team of idiot kids was in charge of a 6-story-tall robot."

Ha! A new, possibly even half-hour long show to watch this fall? Sounds perfect to me, and fans of "The Office" should take note: It's entirely likely that Jim and Pam might get married tonight, so you'll definitely want to tune in. All the episode summary from NBC said was that they take a "secret trip," but given that we're almost at the end of the season, I'd have to imagine nuptials are in the air. Enjoy this deleted scene from last week's "Casual Friday" episode (I'm still trying to wipe that vision of Meredith's outfit out of my mind, but it's just kind of stuck there), and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. And please, if you go see "Star Trek" tonight, feel free to let me know what you thought of it. Peace out.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's official: David Simon hits New Orleans, and, yes, the X-men will go on forever

Actually, before we get into all that, there are two bits of news out there that offer varying degrees of promise.

First of all, there was apparently a screening last night for movie executives of Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" in an attempt to finally find Heath Ledger's last flick an American distributor even before it screens out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. This is easily bordering on pathetic, but at this point, whatever it takes to get this into a theater anywhere near my little corner of the world will be welcome. Stay tuned ...

And in great TV news, Mindy Kaling, a k a Kelly on "The Office," has signed her own deal with NBC. Kaling, who along with playing Kelly has been writing for "The Office" for years now, will continue to work on that show next season as she simultaneously develops a new comedy in which she would also star.

Among the episodes she's responsible for is the one that's still my single favorite, "Diwali," a k a the "Hindu Halloween." Here's hoping this leads to something seriously funny, because TV could certainly use it.

But here today it's mostly about the return of David Simon to HBO, which has been kicked around for awhile but is now official as it has picked up his pilot for "Treme" and will be taking it to series.

Though Simon has stressed this won't be making " 'The Wire' twice," it's clear that what he's cooking up with fellow "Homicide" scribe Eric Overmyer will be just as political and probably just as often maddeningly entertaining as that scarring portrait of Charm City was. Per Simon:

"It will be uplifting at points, and may make viewers a little angry at points," Simon said. "And at another point it will make viewers a little depressed."

And best of all, the cast will prominently feature two vets of "The Wire" and even a former "Homicide" beat cop. New Orleans native Wendell Pierce, a k a Bunk Moreland, will play a struggling trombonist and Khandi Alexander - who starred on Simon's "The Corner" - will play his ex-wife, who owns a bar. Amazingly enough, Clarke Peters - a k a Lester Freamon - will play the leader of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe. And rounding out the cast will be Steve Zahn as a DJ with "anger management issues," and even Melissa Leo as a civil rights lawyer.

So, now that it's going to series, when will we get to see any of this? Well, in a uniquely New Orleans twist, though the pilot has been shot, work on other episodes can't begin until after hurricane season, meaning the show probably won't hit the air until next spring.

Here's hoping it's not delayed any more than that (though that at least puts off the date I have to start paying for HBO again), since as anyone who watched "The Wire" - easily the best cop show ever - knows, Simon and company will have a lot to say, and about more than the Crescent City itself. Again, per Simon:

"Look at what happened down there after Katrina. A lot of things in which New Orleans depended on and trusted turned out to be wholly undependable and untrustworthy. The governing institutions were supposed to monitor things of actual construct like the levees and the pumping stations. That could be an allegory for what we Americans presumed about our financial institutions, and the governing bodies that were supposed to monitor them."

Amen, brother.

"X-Men Origins: Deadpool"? Yawn

Given how much mad cash "Wolverine" scooped up in its opening weekend, I guess the question really wasn't whether or not Twentieth Century Fox would make another "Origins" spinoff, but which mutant?

Well, the answer is in, and unfortunately it isn't Taylor Kitsch's "Gambit." Instead, Ryan Reynolds will get to be the star as the company has greenlit a "Deadpool" movie instead.

Now, I have no problem at all with the concept of a Deadpool flick. The character, a mercenary who submits himself to the Weapon X genetic alteration experiment as he's dying of cancer, is certainly a worthy movie subject. My only beef is with Reynolds himself.

And it's not really just that he can't act, but instead that to me he's pretty much a "nonpresence," if that's even anything resembling an actual word. Floating through good movies like "Adventureland" and simply wretched ones like "Smokin' Aces," he usually just makes no impression at all, though I have to concede he was very funny in the underrated Watergate spoof "Dick."

And just in case you doubt that the "X-Men" will continue to rule the universe, along with "Deadpool" there's also already a Japan-set "Wolverine" sequel, a "Magneto" movie starring Sir Ian McKellen, and Josh Schwartz's sure-to-be-cheeky "X-Men: First Class" all in varying stages of development. Sheesh.

Several looks at "Ponyo"

Though we won't get to see Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea" in the U.S. until at least August 14 (and with its heavily Disney voice cast, hopefully EVERYWHERE), the picture above and several other stills you can find here just make me - and hopefully someone else - smile. You can tell from all the vibrant colors that this one is clearly intended for the kids, and that's just fine with me. Bring it on already!

And finally, in sticking loosely with the theme of the day and just because I like it, I'll leave you with this clip of the Treme Brass Band performing "I'll Fly Away" in a jazz funeral procession through the streets of New Orleans. Peace out.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Read QT's script for "Inglorious Basterds"

What in the world did "Chuck" do to deserve this kind of treatment? No, it hasn't been canceled, but this limbo - which is expected to last perhaps until May 19 - is just the worst kind of excruciating.

According to Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello, there was a mention of "Chuck" at yesterday's NBC "infronts," but it was far from anything definite. NBC's Ben Silverman simply said that if the show does indeed come back, it will most likely be moved away from Mondays.

Given how busy its time slot is now (with the CBS comedies, "Dancing With the Has-Beens" and "House" all up against it), I have to say that would probably be good news.

And if NBC does ultimately pass, which I really think would incur an outpouring of serious wrath, perhaps the makers of "Chuck" could secure a deal like that that was just inked for "The New Adventures of Old Christine." If CBS passes on a fifth season of that Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy, ABC has already announced it will immediately scoop the show up, just as it did for NBC's "Scrubs." Kind of an interesting way to bypass creative development there.

However this sordid tale all ends, I'll be sure to let you know, but in the meantime I can share a bit of mostly good news in that the third season of "Mad Men" is definitely on, although it will come a bit later than usual. Though the show normally starts in July, this year it will be pushed back to an as-yet-announced date in August.

Either way, I'll just be happy when my second-favorite TV drama (edged out by less than a nose by "Friday Night Lights") is finally back on the air.

Here today, however, it's all about a tip my friend Randy Waters sent me, which at least purports to be the entire script for Quentin Tarantino's next flick, "Inglourious Basterds." And though I have no way of knowing for sure, I think it's the real deal.

Why? Well, the only solid reason is that the opening few pages match what was recently printed in Vanity Fair. And the other reason is that I'm simply a fairly gullible chap who wants to believe this.

I can't tell you yet if it's any good or not, since I've only read the first 10 pages or so thus far, but I just wanted to go ahead and pass it along to anyone else who might be interested. You can read it here.

I intend to read it all this weekend, and I'll certainly let you know then more of what I think of it. Randy, however, posed an interesting query: Do you really want to read a movie script before seeing the movie, and therefore - of course - possibly spoil things in a rather major way?

For me, if it's a movie I'm looking forward to as much as I am this one, the answer is always yes. I love everything about movies, especially seeing how they come together. With a writer as good as Tarantino, I'll thoroughly enjoy seeing the rough product and then just how much it changes when it finally hits the big screen.

And with that I'll close for today, leaving you with this latest clip from Pixar's "Up," courtesy of Hulu. Though May 29 was shaping up to be perhaps the greatest movie day of 2009 with this, Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell" and Rian Johnson's "The Brothers Bloom" all coming out at once, it now looks like Johnson's flick may be released a bit earlier but only in a limited run (damnit!). Anyways, enjoy the clip, which introduces the talking dog, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.