Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Coens as "Serious" men? Well, sort of, and here's a look

Actually, there's some great TV and other movie news too, but before I get into any of that, there's a quiet little thing going on in New York City on Monday morning that's certainly worth a mention.

Remember Adrienne Shelly? She's best known now as the writer/director/star of the thoroughly charming movie "Waitress," but she was also the star of several great Hal Hartley movies early in her career and other flicks. And she was also murdered in her New York apartment in 2006, before "Waitress" even came out.

Now she's about to get a small tribute, thanks to her husband, Andy Ostroy - a memorial garden in Manhattan's Abingdon Square Park, across from where she used to live. Perhaps not very important to many people in the world, but it's interesting to me, so there it is.

But enough of that depressing stuff, 'cause there's a lot more fun news out there. I know there are vampires everywhere, but I'm certainly not immune to them, so I can only call this great stuff.

It seems that joining the thoroughly campy but entertaining "True Blood" sometime soon will be a TV series based on the Guillermo Del Toro/Chuck Hogan novel "The Strain," to be masterminded by none other than Marti Noxon, one of the big brains behind "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"Strain," which I've just started reading, is a much more serious (well, as serious as this stuff can really get) affair than "Buffy," however. It tells the story of an outbreak in the U.S. of a virus that either kills those who are exposed to it or turns them into vampires, and I can tell you that so far it's an engrossing read. The plan, apparently, is to shop the TV project, envisioned as an event series unfolding over three seasons, early next year after the second book in a planned trilogy is released.

Noxon has also signed on to create, along with professional partner Dawn Parouse Olmstead, a series for HBO revolving around a feminist icon who launches a sex magazine for women. Diane Keaton is slated to star in it, which could be really funny, but I don't think it's enough to keep me from dropping my HBO again once "True Blood" winds up season two.

And in one other bit of really good TV news, "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas has re-upped to create a second show for Starz to go with his comedy series "Party Down."

If you missed "Party Down" during its bitter but extremely funny first season, I believe Netflix subscribers can watch the entire season on their computers, as I did. It's about a bunch of wannabe actors who work at a catering company, and it gets my good show guarantee.

And now, Thomas has signed to develop another hourlong show for Starz titled "Waterloo," which will follow a struggling rock band and be based on his own youthful experiences trying to launch a music career in Austin (and please keep any Matchbox 20 jokes to yourself.)

If we're never gonna get "Veronica Mars" back in any form, which looks increasingly likely to be the case, I'll certainly give a chance to anything else Mr. Thomas has to offer.

OK, we're almost to the main attraction, but one movie note about a flick that's quickly attracting what could be the best small cast of 2010 so far. I mentioned recently that Ben Affleck has set his second directorial effort as "The Town," based on the novel "Prince of Thieves" by the aforementioned Mr. Hogan, and that it had already attracted Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" and the simply stunning Rebecca Hall to join the cast.

Well, now Jeremy Renner, who is just outstanding in Kathyrn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" (if you have any chance at all, please see that right away!), has also joined the fray. In the flick, Affleck plays a bank robber who becomes infatuated with the manager (Hall) of a bank he's robbing. Renner will be a member of Affleck's gang, and Hamm will be the lawman on their trail.

And finally, as promised long ago, the first trailer I've seen for the Coen brothers' next flick, "A Serious Man," and just from this two-minute glimpse or so it looks like they have a real winner here. As best as I can tell, it's about, among other things, a Midwestern college professor who finds his life falling apart when his wife threatens to leave him because his annoying brother won't move out of the house. It doesn't feature any of the Coen regulars, but you'll get a glimpse of Richard Kind as said brother and, even in this short bit, the dark humor that marks the Coens' best work. Keep your eye out for this one on Oct. 9, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The return of "Lawman" Oliphant and a first look at "Mad Men" season three

Before I get into the really pretty good TV news out there today, there are some movie tidbits that have to start off with more on the craziest of all, Zhang Yimou's (unnecessary?) remake of the Coens' "Blood Simple."

I know I should be against this from the outset, but I have to admit it sounds intriguing. In Zhang's vision of the movie, which will apparently be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, the noir story will move from the Texas bar to a Chinese noodle shop in a desert where "the owner of the noodle shop's seemingly simple plan to murder his adulterous wife and her lover quickly spins out of control after the introduction of a gun into the lives of characters more accustomed to knives and swords."

"Tampopo" meets "Blood Simple"? I think I'm in. My only real reservation is that this is described as a different angle because it's a "thriller-comedy," but the Coens' flick is - of course - in its own way a very funny movie already.

In two other short notes, there should be another movie based on Christopher Buckley's works coming to theaters, and that can only be a good thing. As many will know, among Buckley's many satirical D.C. novels is "Thank You For Smoking," converted into the sharp movie by Jason Reitman.

And now it seems that Charlize Theron's company has adopted another of Buckley's novels for herself to star in (well, that's one good way to get work.) "Florence of Arabia" is about a State Dept. employee (to be played by Theron) who, after watching her friend marry the prince of a Middle East country and subsequently get executed, fights for equal rights for the women of that country.

Doesn't sound quite as funny as the other Buckley books I've read, but I'm sure there's more to it than that. And in slightly older but odd Buckley news, Whit Stillman, who directed one of my favorite flicks, "Metropolitan", and two others before disappearing for many years, is still listed as the director of another Buckley movie, based on his novel "Little Green Men," which I did read. Don't hold your breath for that one.

And finally, before I get to the news that will have to be considered great for any fans of "Deadwood," there will be another Dr. Seuss movie coming soon in the form of "The Lorax."

Given my current distaste for 3-D animation, which everything seemingly has to be by now and so this will be, I should probably dismiss this outright, but it's a classic tale, and until that ridiculous song at the end, "Horton Hears a Who" was actually a really good Dr. Seuss flick, so who knows? Besides, that image of the poor Lorax standing among the fallen Truffula trees just gets me every time.

OK, now on the really good stuff. It seems that FX has picked up something called “The Lawman,” based on a character introduced in the Elmore Leonard novella “Fire In The Hole,” to begin airing early next year.

And much better, Seth Bullock himself, Timothy Oliphant, will return from video-game-movie hell to play "Stetson-sporting contemporary U.S. marshal Raylan Givens, who finds himself punished with a permanent assignment to Kentucky, where he was reared." I doubt there will be any characters as colorful as Ian McShane's Al Swearsallthetime, but I like everything I've read from Leonard, so Sheriff Bullock walking a modern beat sounds great to me.

Don't forget that FX also has two of my current favorites coming back very soon. The second season of the motorcycle gang drama "Sons of Anarchy," which just got better and better last year, begins Tuesday, Sept. 8. Even better in terms of real anarchy, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" finally returns for its fifth season Thursday, Sept. 17. Friggin fantastic.

In one bit of other networks news that also only be called good, USA Network has picked up "Burn Notice" for a fourth season next summer, along with the freshman show that follows it, "Royal Pains."

As with another spy show I like even more, "Chuck," I was slow to pick up on the easy charm of "Burn Notice," but as the third season wraps up I'm now hooked. It hasn't been quite as good as season two, but it's still just about the best thing on TV now until the return of "Mad Men" (more on that below.) I've yet to even tune in for any of "Royal Pains" because, well, the idea of a show about a doctor to residents of the Hamptons just doesn't sound all that appealing to me. If I'm somehow wrong about this (after all, the show does now outdraw "Burn Notice," 7.3 million viewers to 7.1 million) please let me know.

And anyone who actually made it this far certainly deserves a reward, so here goes. Hitfix has put up a full gallery of "Mad Men" shots from the third season, which still seems like an eternity away at Aug. 16. Moving this back from its regular July return, though probably for some reason necessary, has just been agonizing, and I can't wait for it to finally begin anew. You can view the full gallery here, but I've included my two favorites, one of Robert Morse and John Slattery and another of the great January Jones as Bertie Draper. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yes, there will be a new Wes Anderson movie

After his last two flicks I wasn't completely sure I really wanted this day to come, but it seems there really will be another Wes Anderson movie, and it will indeed be opening the London Film Festival in October, and then supposedly get a very wide release in the U.S. beginning Nov. 13

And to that I can at least conditionally say bring it on, in large part to the new gallery of photos from "Fantastic Mr. Fox" that they've just put up at the movie's official site, which so far has little else on it.

The pictures, however, are well worth a visit, because they reveal an attention to detail, especially in the Fox family home, that compares favorably to - and I know I'm getting my hopes up way too high for what is an animated children's story, albeit a classic one - the Tenenbaum home in "The Royal Tenenbaums," by a nose my favorite Anderson movie.

With George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and even Jarvis Cocker providing voices, it should at least hopefully be a lot of fun.

And in other good news, I was proven even more wrong than usual when - even after the positive reviews came pouring in - I just couldn't believe that any movie directed by Ben Affleck would be fairly great. Well, anyone who's seen that flick, "Gone Baby Gone," will probably agree that it was one of the best of 2007, and now he's back with a cast that sounds really promising.

Affleck will star in and direct "The Town," based on the novel by Chuck Hogan, and he'll be joined by Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" and, in even better news in my book, Rebecca Hall of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (and, I like to point out, "Starter for 10," just because it's a fun little British teen romantic comedy very few people have seen.)

Affleck is playing a bank robber who becomes smitten with the teller of a bank he held up (Hall, natch), and Hamm is an FBI agent on his trail. The teller, of course, makes the robber want to go straight, but she is also the FBI's golden ticket to catching Boston's most wanted bank robber.

Sounds pretty standard to me, but with that cast, I'm in.

And fans of "How I Met Your Mother" - of which you can still count me one, even if it slipped a bit last season - might be curious to know that Ted himself, Josh Radnor, has apparently directed his first movie.

Radnor also wrote the script for "HappyThankYouMorePlease" (wow is that a bad title), which stars Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Richard Jenkins (huzzah!) and even Buster Bluth, Tony Hale.

In what sounds a heck of a lot like "HIMYM" itself, the comedy "follows the lives and loves of six New Yorkers not quite ready to embrace adulthood. Sounds awfully meh to me, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

And speaking of "Mad Men," I'll close with an extended Comic-Con clip from AMC's coming update of "The Prisoner," which I had thought was going to premiere directly before or after "Mad Men" finally returns Aug. 16 (the day after I get back from Mexico!)

It now seems AMC's "new" show won't appear until November, but with Sir Ian McKellen as the mysterious interrogator I'm gonna tune in for at least a few episodes, and the nine-minute-or-so clip (I did warn you) actually raises some hope that this might have been a good idea in the first place. And with that, it's off to the salt mine. Peace out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Does Chuck really know kung-fu? Well, sort of

It may seem awfully odd and - well - kinda pathetic to be commenting on what goes on at Comic-Con when I'm not even there, but I love reading this stuff and also passing on what I find.

And before I get into the mostly good news about "Chuck," there were two tidbits from yesterday that caught my eye, both in their own way rather sad.

Kevin Smith showed up to "promote" his buddy-cop movie "A Couple of Dicks," but without any footage and mainly with the news that the title will have to be changed. Not a huge deal, I guess, but the reason is just pathetic: You apparently can't say a certain word (and it's not couple) before 9 p.m. on TV and get your ads on the air. What in the world?

I can't say the signs are terribly good for this one, but I really enjoyed "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," and Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan should make a great comedic duo, so I guess I should keep hope alive.

Things were apparently - and by force - more grim at the "Futurama" panel, where I guess you have to give Matt Groening credit for facing the audience at all, especially since he couldn't bring any actors with him (in case you missed it, Twentieth Century Fox essentially fired them all after they wouldn't take pay cuts and is now recasting ALL the parts - as it stands, I won't be watching that.)

Groening used his sarcastic best to try and stay above the fray, but the bitterness clearly came through in this: "The core of my being is at peace... There are no mistakes," he said. "I embrace the universe. I send loving thoughts to all living beings, including the 'Futurama' cast and Fox executives."

Here's hoping against hope that they somehow get this resolved with Billy West, Katey Segal and everyone else coming back, but I don't really see it happening at this point.

But the big TV news in my book was all about "Chuck," and like I said, if you're a big fan of the show like me, it was all as good as we could expect.

First and foremost, according to the Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd and a few other reports I cobbled together, Chuck (Zachary Levi) will not be the next coming of Bruce Lee in every episode, which would, of course, eliminate the need for his handlers (and if you make the show with out Adam Baldwin or Yvonne Strahovski, I'm not gonna watch that either.)

According to Levi himself: "The Chuck-fu ... he can't just know kung fu all the time, otherwise his handlers are obsolete. So our very talented and wise creators, they've structured it so the powers have a window, a shelf life, there's a glitch in the system ... I have my powers, but they don't necessarily last -- that's the secret."

That can only be good news, because if at his core Chuck isn't still a pretty goofy guy, the show will lose a lot of its charm. I've included a picture of the art for season three, which would clearly make a really cool comic book cover.

As far as the panel itself went, the cast apparently entered the stage to Jeffster performing "Take Me Home Tonight," which must have just been a riot.

A few other interesting tidbits:

Per co-creator Josh Schwartz: "Something very emotional and traumatic will happen between Chuck and Sarah, but it will be really-really good."

Also: "Now that Awesome knows Chuck's secret, you'll see him pulled into a spy role as well, probably not as reluctantly as he should be." Awesome the spy? Bring it on!

And in a final tease to the fans, Schwartz made this vague claim about the premiere of the third season: "It could be sooner than was announced. We don't know."

I seriously doubt we'll see "Chuck" again until next February, after the next Winter Olympics, but it definitely seems that when it does make it back it will look a lot like the show I've grown to love. Peace out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A glorious glimpse of "Where the Wild Things Are" on a newsy day

This being Comic-Con season and all, there's a lot of great news out there for a Saturday morning, so I'll just jump right into it - finishing up with the truly fantastic new footage of "Where the Wild Things Are."

First up comes news about the second season of Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" on Fox, which I'm rather amazed - but happy - is happening at all. The show took a good six or seven episodes to get started, but once it did, it was solid and increasingly crazy (especially the finale) sci-fi.

Well, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly" fans should definitely take note, because Whedon announced at Comic-Con that (Salisbury, Md., native, huzzah!) Alexis Denisof, aka Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, will have a recurring role on season two of the show, and River Tam herself, Summer Glau, will probably factor into it somehow too now that "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" has gotten the axe.

And, since I suppose he couldn't resist, Whedon slipped in a thoroughly deserved dig at "Heroes" season two: "As long as we don't send anyone to feudal Japan, I think we'll be okay."

And I've also included a teaser poster for "The Cabin in the Woods," the horror movie that Whedon is cooking up with Drew Goddard. Funny as they are, the posters aren't all that promising, but with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford headlining this, and even "Dollhouse" and "Angel" star Amy Acker in tow, I'm betting its gonna be a lot of fun when it finally comes out in February.

Next up, in movie news so good I probably should have led with it, David Cronenberg is about to - finally - get back to making movies again. He had been rumored to be making something from the Robert Ludlum spy vs. spy tale "The Matarese Circle" with no less than both Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise, but it sounds like the frankly more promising project below might happen first.

The new word is that Cronenberg is teaming up with a Portuguese producer to bring novelist Don DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" to the big screen. I've not read that one, though I did read "Underworld," but the plot certainly sounds nuts enough for Cronenberg: The story of a 28-year-old multimillionaire on a 24-hour odyssey across Manhattan to get a haircut.

I kind of miss the days when Cronenberg's movies had a more creepy side to them ("Spider" is still my favorite), but it's just nice to hear the man is working on the big screen again at all.

On another subject completely, it seems that Todd Phillips' follow-up to the wildly popular and mostly deserving "The Hangover" just got a lot more classy, even if does fall squarely in to the road-trip rut he's crafted for himself.

It seems that Robert Downey Jr. has signed on to play the lead in Phillips' next flick, "Due Date," along with "Hangover" star Zach Galifianakis. Downey will play an expectant father who finds himself on a road trip with a mismatched partner (Galifianakis, natch) as he races to get home before the birth of his first child.

Though Downey is now crafting a solid career as an action star with "Iron Man" and now "Sherlock Holmes," I always like him best when he's funny, as he rather deliriously was in "Tropic Thunder," so to this I can only say bring it on.

And, finally before we get to the "Where the Wild Things Are" goodness, if I were really able to go to Comic-Con rather than just be there in my mind, the one other panel (along with "Where the Wild Things Are") that I'd be sure not to miss would be the Miyazaki/Disney panel, at which John Lasseter made a promise that damn well better be true about Hayao Miyazaki's new flick, "Ponyo."

Disney deserves credit for getting behind the Western release of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, but they've never really given them a full-throttle Disney push, until now. Here's hoping that Lasseter meant it when he said of "Ponyo," "We are going to give this a nice big release. Disney believes that strongly in the film."

And I can promise you I will be one irate moviegoer if that doesn't turn out to be true come Aug. 14.

OK, finally comes the "Where the Wild Things Are" featurette screened at Comic-Con that just made me smile broadly through its entire three-and-a-half minutes or so. Along with interviews with Spike Jonze and Maurice Sendak, it also contains some new footage, and yes, I do plan to howl like a wild thing in the theater once I finally get to see this for real. Enjoy, and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"The Ugly Truth" about Katherine Heigl

What in the world does Terry Gilliam have to do to get "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" even screened in America?

Though I don't have to pleasure of being at the world's greatest geek fest, Mr. Gilliam was at Comic-Con yesterday for the first time, with hat in hand begging for even the smallest movie company to give him some kind of U.S. distribution. In what was about-an-hour-or-so show, he apparently showed a highlight reel/trailer that was, of course, heavy on the late Heath Ledger and the three men who stepped in to replace him, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law.

And yet, at the end of the report I read, it said that the movie will get a few international screenings but, in spite of all this promotion, still doesn't have any U.S. distributor.

Now, I know Gilliam isn't perfect. He seems to more than a bit of an obstinate fool, and his last movie, "Tideland," was simply unwatchable (though I did soldier through to the rather painful end.) But does he really deserve this? I've only seen about 10 minutes or so of assorted "Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" footage, but it all looks pretty fascinating to me.

But before I got sidetracked by all that, this was supposed to be about Katherine Heigl, who though she is a rather seriously beautiful woman, has turned out to be at least as disagreeable than Mr. Gilliam on many occasions.

Her constant complaining about her character on "Grey's Anatomy" (which I don't watch) is well known, but here today it's about what she once said about Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up," which in movies anyway, pretty much made her career.

Waiting to get all she could from it before biting the hand that fed her, she went on to tell Vanity Fair that, "It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It was hard for me to love the movie."

Well, fair enough. It's certainly true that different people, men and women, black and white folks look at movies differently. Though I try my best to no longer live like that, I could certainly identify with the guys of "Knocked Up," and found Seth Rogen's trajectory, while perhaps a bit of a fantasy, a believable enough attempt (at least in movie terms) to finally become a little bit of an adult.

And besides, before I read what she had to say, I really liked her character and Leslie Mann's too (and just to take this to its further possible point, Charlyne Yi certainly seemed to be having as much fun as she could as one of the guys.)

But there's a bigger point here, and I'm finally about to get to it. Now, perhaps it's not the best-informed point since I won't have to so won't be going to see her new film "The Ugly Truth," co-starring Gerard Butler (I have no idea why, but every time I type that it first comes out as "Trugh" before I go back and fix it.)

Now, for someone who complains about being sexist, let's take a look at what her new movie is apparently about. As best I understand it, she's again a TV producer, this time for a station that hires Butler's character, an advice show host whose tips to women are as enlightened as this gem about pitching woo: "It's called a stairmaster. Get on it!"

And of course, rather than just being repulsed by him, she apparently enlists his help "Cyrano"-style to help her win the heart of a doctor and later, I'm going to have to assume, just ends up knocking boots with the creep instead.

OK, fair enough. In its defense, that really doesn't sound much more noxious than the plots of many "romantic comedies," but how in the world is all this garbage not sexist too?

Men are pigs. Women, if they work hard enough, can make them just less piggy enough to make them tolerable. With what I'm going to have to assume is about one-tenth of the laughs or the heart of "Knocked Up," it even kinda sounds like broadly the same storyline, sans the pregnancy.

The difference? Though I don't have the exact figure in front of me, I'd imagine Heigl must have made $6 million-$10 million for "The Ugly Truth," which I suppose would cloud my world view at least a bit if I had that much scratch too.

Well, enough of that. It probably isn't terribly professional to rant about a movie I won't see, but I don't get paid for this, and just wanted to let it spew. And I certainly have no beef at all with genuinely romantic movies - in fact, I love them. In less something comes up, I'm gonna sidle up the road and see "500 Days of Summer" with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt this weekend in Atlanta, and I'm really looking forward to it. And if you somehow made it to the end all of this, please feel free to tell me if I'm just all wet about it, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trailer Thursday: Tim Burton's "Alice" and Tyler Perry too

You know, I've only been to a real Imax theater once since I was a little kid and got to experience it at the National Air and Space Museum, which every kid should get to do.

My only time as an "adult" was for "Watchmen," and though the movie certainly has its critics, I loved it, and the experience was well worth the drive to north of Atlanta for it. But since it's nearly two hours, it's not exactly something I can afford to do very often.

Well, now. I've found the second movie that will get me to drive all the way to the Mall of Georgia in Buford for a real Imax (no fauxmax for me) experience: Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are." It was announced Wednesday at Comic-Con that Maurice Sendak's Wild Things will indeed appear larger than life, and I'll certainly be there to see them.

And, shame on me, I thought Maurice Sendak was dead, but as this rather crazy photo of the two of them from the "Where the Wild Things Are" production blog of sorts,We Love You So, proves, that's not so.

And if you live in Middle Georgia like me, please take advantage of the chance to see easily one of the year's best movies, Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." When I heard this was going to play "everywhere" beginning Friday I didn't really believe it, but at least they have the sense to play it in a military town like Warner Robins (well, Centerville, but you know what I mean.)

Though there's never been a commercially successful movie about the war in Iraq, Bigelow's movie is changing all that because it legitimately looks at war through the eyes of the soldiers of a bomb squad unit, while at the same time delivering the sensational set pieces Bigelow has become known for (the best being an encounter with three mercenaries played by Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce and David Morse that very quickly turns very deadly.)

On top of all that you get truly breakout performances from Jeremy Renner and, even better, Anthony Mackie. So definitely go see this one while you have the chance.

And of course, before I once again got distracted, this was supposed to be about two promising looking trailers, the first of which has been anticipated for a long time now, Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland."

Burton's record of wrecking beloved stories such as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Planet of the Apes" is well known, but I still think he's got something pretty good going with this, which is set to come out in March.

First of all, at least that I've seen, there hasn't been a definitive live action version of the Lewis Carroll work, so he has kind of a blank slate to work with. And second, as you can see from the teaser below, it's gonna be a genuine trip, with a big dose of a truly demented Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, so it should be a heck of a lot of fun. Enjoy the trailer, and then stick around for a visit from Madea (remember, I did warn you.)

And finally today comes the first full trailer for Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," and to me at least, it looks like a real winner.

Now, Mr. Perry certainly has a formula, and you can tell this one won't stray far from it, but it has at least one big thing going for it: Taraji P. Henson. She's been one of my favorite actresses ever since "Hustle & Flow," and now that someone has finally given her the starring role she deserves, I can tell she's gonna make the most of it. Enjoy. and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sam Raimi to enter the "World of Warcraft"

You know, I probably shouldn't admit it, but just about my entire knowledge of "World of Warcraft" comes from that fantastic "South Park" episode. It's certainly not that I think I'm too old or above it to play video games, it's simply that I've never, ever been terribly good at them.

With Sam Raimi attached to this, however, I can still deliver it as only insanely good news. One of the real mysteries of this summer is why more people didn't turn out for Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell," which was a really solid return to form. Granted, a woman vomiting up a dead kitten is one of the movie's milder scenes, but it was still the most fun I've have had watching a movie this summer.

And now, Blizzard Entertainment and Legendary Pictures have handed him the reins for what should be a boffo budget to make a movie from the epicly popular game, and I can guarantee this will be the first (I really can't think of any others I've seen) movie based on a video game I'll definitely see in a theater.

And if you're a fan of Bruce Lee (and really, who the heck isn't?), there's even better news out there this morning. I had heard there was going to be a biopic on the kung fu master, but had no idea it was going to be on the scale of this.

Apparently, a Chinese company called J.A. Media is making a three-part biopic on Lee, with the first chapter to begin shooting in October. The part of Bruce Lee has yet to be cast, but his father will be played by Tony Leung Ka-fai, and though no director has been picked yet either, Zhang Yimou has apparently expressed interest. Nothing but awesome there.

And finally, to close an admittedly short post, here's the best video I could find today, which is a four-and-a-half-minute clip from the upcoming flick "9," for which I've seen the trailer what seems like 500 times. Each time I do, I can't help but laugh every time I hear the phrase "visionary director Shane Acker," since I can't for the life of me name one thing he's ever directed. It does, however, feature the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover and even Martin Landau, and the animation (which I assume will have to, by force, be 3-D) does look really cool, so enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Like Don Draper, I feel like this at least once a week

It was in fact just yesterday, when I put in a 12-hour day and got paid for 10 in putting together my hardest publication of the week.

What would make that better? Well, short of a new job, I suppose the return of "Mad Men" would help quite a bit, but it seems like that's never gonna come. After what has been an extremely hard wait, the show is finally set to return for its third season Aug. 16 with an episode titled "Out of Town."

But what's gonna happen next? In the big picture, I really have no idea, but one can only imagine it's gonna be tough times for Don in or out of Sterling Cooper. One thing the photo below, which has been circulating for some time now but I still find interesting, shows is that there will be at least one new cast member. Also below is the season 3 key art, which pretty well sums things up. Enjoy, and stick around after the jump for another visit from my favorite new comedian.

And to close, I just love what Aziz Ansari is doing with his bit part in Judd Apatow's "Funny People," as the seriously dick-obsessed comedian Randy. Even though watching an actual Randy show would just be excruciating, you have to admire how clearly obsessed he's become with a character who apparently only gets a few seconds of air time in the movie. And besides, it's really, really funny, especially when he explains how he organizes jokes. Enjoy, and have a better Tuesday than Don Draper clearly was above. Peace out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nine clips of some seriously "Funny People"

Not a whole lot of time this morning, since I worked last night and have to be right back this morning, but I would be remiss if I didn't offer kudos to Tina Mabry.

Mabry's "Mississippi Damned," while more than a little hard to watch because of the family and life issues it deals with, was easily one of the best movies I had the pleasure of seeing at this year's Atlanta Film Festival 365. It's just an extremely compelling drama, and it features the best all-black cast I've seen since Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records."

No word yet on when it might be hitting DVD, but it seems that over the weekend Mabry and her movie won the grand jury award for outstanding dramatic feature at Outfest. Huzzah!

And after that, all I've got is these nine clips from Judd Apatow's "Funny People," all courtesy of Collider. The movie, starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill and many other "Funny People," is set to come July 31, and it's certainly on my must-see list. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Truly dastardly news about "Futurama" and a video trifecta

I really don't believe this news about Guillermo del Toro's "The Hobbit" is true yet, but I figured I'd pass it on anyways.

It's already out there that James McAvoy (who would be my choice), Doctor Who David Tennant and Daniel Radcliffe are the three finalists to play Bilbo Baggins. Now, this report in London's Telegraph claims that Tennant has landed the lead role, but their sourcing (nonexistent) and logic are extremely shady. They're essentially concluding that since Peter Jackson (for "District 9") and Tennant (For "Doctor Who") are going to be in San Diego for ComicCon next week, they must be planning to make the big announcement there.

Well, that's obviously much more than a leap. I think there's more than a 50-50 chance they'll turn out to be right in the end, but it will just be a matter of luck.

But that's not the news that really set me off this morning, which is much more ominous. It seems that Twentieth Century Fox, which is still producing the planned new episodes of the great "Futurama" even though it's going to be on Comedy Central, is trying to recast almost the entire show because they are, as Bender would surely agree, cheap bastards.

You could have counted me as thoroughly psyched and planning to tune in to (well, DVR) every episode, but certainly not on these terms. In a dispute over money, the studio is now recasting the parts played by Billy West (Fry, the professor and Doctor Zoidberg), Katey Segal (Leela), John DiMaggio (Bender) and everyone else in the cast.

Now, I realize that TV shows change cast members all the time, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like this. You might as well just call a scab a scab, and I really can't see anyway I'll be watching any of these now. Stay tuned.

OK, on to much sweeter stuff. Here are a trio of videos that just made me smile. My co-worker Woody Marshall likes to get me to call this theater in North Carolina where the old guy who owns it likes to do mini-reviews as he reads the week's showtimes, but he's not nearly as funny as this Irish dude who really has his knickers in a bunch over "Bruno." Enjoy.

Next up comes an oddity that will surely be of interest to fans of "Where the Wild Things Are," of which you can certainly count me a devoted one. Long before Spike Jonze set his sights on making what is sure to be the sensational live-action version coming in October, it seems that Disney owned the rights to Sendak's short classic, and John Lasseter toyed with making an animated version of it. That never came to fruition, and Lasseter was fired before obviously getting his sweet revenge at Pixar, but at the end of this clip you can see a bit of what he had in mind, which looks pretty friggin' terrible. Enjoy.

And finally, just so you can't say I didn't warn you, this next clip is really, really gay (not that that there's anything wrong with that.) Courtesy of the great froggy film site Allocine, here's the first trailer I know of for "I Love You, Phillip Morris," the directorial debut of "Bad Santa" scribes Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, which, as you'll see, stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in what should be a truly odd tale. It's not set to come out until next February, I think, but enjoy the trailer and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My review of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Before I dive into Harry Potter's latest flick, there are two choice rumors/facts out there well worth mentioning.

The first is apparent proof, thanks to Bloody Disgusting, that not only will Robert Rodgriguez begin filming "Machete" next month, but it will also have a pretty great cast. Danny Trejo will of course play the titular badass out for revenge, who was introduced in the faux trailer during "Grindhouse," but according to Bloody Disgusting he'll be joined by Michelle Rodriguez, Jonah Hill and even Robert De Niro as the senator who double-crossed Machete. Wild stuff, that, but I can only say bring it on.

And in slightly Harry Potter-related news, the L.A. Times says that the three finalists to play Guillermo del Toro's Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit" are Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy and David Tennant, aka Dr. Who. Personally, I'd love it if the role goes to McAvoy, who would just be perfect. Either way, an announcement is expected as soon as next week, perhaps at ComicCon, so stay tuned.

But now, of course, on to "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which I almost thoroughly enjoyed.

The book, though easily my favorite in the series, was really just table-setting for the big finale, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which will (rightly I think, since it's like a billion pages long) be split into two flicks.

Even so, director David Yates, who will also helm the final chapter(s), manages to succeed because even though "Half-Blood Prince" is full of teen romance and other silly games, he manages to sustain a mood of constant dread that doesn't just hover over but pretty much encases the flick. Whereas the early movies (and their directors) had a wide-eyed wonder to them, Yates thankfully knows that this is serious business.

But it's still lightened, of course, because love is in the air, from the comic crush of Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) on Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) to the tender moment between Ron and Hermione (Emma Watson) that pays off all their years of simmering attraction. What really comes through in these scenes is just how perfectly they were and are all cast, growing into a natural chemistry even though none of them are exceptional actors.

As "Half-Blood Prince" begins, that little weasel Draco Malfoy, played to snivelling perfection by Tom Felton, is up to no good, and in bad news for the good guys, is being aided by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), who in an early, great scene in the flick swears an "unbreakable bond" to Draco's mother, Narcissus (Helen McCrory), to do whatever he can to assist him. Meanwhile, Dumbledore is taking strange trips, on which he eventually takes along Harry, to discover more about the nature and power of he-whose-name-can-now-sometimes-be-spoken.

And, best of, all, since every British actor of note gets to appear in a Harry Potter flick (Bill Nighy will play Scrimgouer in "Deathly Hallows," huzzah!), Jim Broadbent gets his turn here as Horace Slughorn, the potions professor whose memories of Tom Riddle play an essential role in "Half-Blood Prince," and makes the most of it, playing up every ounce of Slughorn's constant need to be loved.

If there's a complaint about Yates' direction and the script by Steve Kloves, it's that the flick is indeed light on action- or horror-heavy set pieces, but when they come, they really deliver. The scene in which Harry and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, as usual a slight improvement on the late Richard Harris) go in search of one of the dark lord's horcruxes in a watery cave looks exactly like it did in my mind, and the cursing of Katie Bell (Georgian Leonidas) by Draco is even better, like something straight out of a Japanese horror flick.

And those far more devoted to Harry's saga than me will surely be able to take more umbrage than me at the things that were left out from the book, but from that standpoint I have two advantages: I read "Half-Blood Prince" exactly once more than a few years ago, and no longer have anything approaching an elephant's memory. One glaring omission that irked me, though - AND IF YOU'RE THE ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO DOESN'T KNOW HOW THIS ENDS, PLEASE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH, 'CAUSE I'M ABOUT TO SPILL IT - was the lack of a funeral for Dumbledore, which was just one of my favorite scenes from the books and left this flick without some much-needed closure.

I can tell you, though, that two of my fellow cubicle slaves who are truly devout Harryphiles, Erin and Renee, both enjoyed this flick at least as much as I did, and therein lies the proof for me that it's both the best of the Harry Potter flicks yet and just darn good summertime entertainment. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wanna see Ellen Page "Whip It!"? Of course!

And when you've got something as fun as that, I suppose you really don't need anything else, but if I can briefly make a music recommendation, I'm listening to St. Vincent's "The Actor" this morning, and it really is rather amazing.

I rarely buy CDs (well, Itunes downloads more often now) without knowing a pretty good deal about them, but I saw this reviewed in some mag and just decided it sounded good, and it indeed does. The second album from the woman also known as Annie Clark, a former member of the Polyphonic Spree, is just a weird, wonderful little collection of songs, and well worth checking out.

But quickly on to the main course, because I'm very soon going to see "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," and my mind isn't really on anything else to write too long. Below is the first trailer for director Drew Barrymore's "Whip It!", which stars Ellen Page (welcome back!), Kristen Wiig and even Alia Shawkat of "Arrested Development" in a roller derby movie. I can't imagine you need to know much more than that to be intrigued, but know that the flick, due out Oct. 9, was also written by Shauna Cross who used to skate under the name Maggie Mayhem for the Los Angeles Derby Girls. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A nifty gadget for Muppet lovers ...

and if you're not one of those, really, what the heck is wrong with you? And besides, mighty Mr. Adam Jones had the game-winning RBI for the American League in last night's All-Star game (surely an omen of the Baltimore Orioles surging in the season's second half) and I'm going to see the movie based on my favorite Harry Potter book as early as tomorrow morning, so all is right with the world, right?

Well, not exactly ... there still is evil out there, and in my book almost all of it is embodied in Renee Zellweger. I've just never, ever liked her. And I can't see anything good coming from the news that she'll be starring in a new Bridget Jones flick.

I'll admit that this dude both read and enjoyed both of Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones" books, the first one much more than the second. As for the movies, the first one was OK and the second was pure rubbish, so I can't even imagine how bad a third one - not based on any book at all - will turn out to be.

In even worse news (remember, there's Muppets coming to lighten things up), Stephen Chow has now completely exited Michel Gondry's "Green Hornet." If you've been following this rather sad saga from the beginning, you know that Chow was originally set to both play the Green Hornet's martial arts expert sidekick AND direct the movie, but a while back he was replaced as director by Michel Gondry.

Fair enough that. I still think Gondry can have a lot of fun with this, with Seth Rogen set to star and a script from Rogen and creative partner Evan Goldberg, but without Chow it's just gonna lose that extra bit of craziness that would have made this remarkable. Is Jackie Chan available? (Hopefully not!)

Oh well, there's got to be some good news out there, right? Actually, yes, especially if you love baseball (and again, if you don't why the heck not?)

Billy Bob Thornton has signed on to be a producer for a flick based on the Buzz Bissinger book "Three Nights in August," which is about a three-game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in 2003 - as told from the perspective of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa (no word on this yet, but I could certainly see Billy Bob playing La Russa, too.)

Now I haven't read the source material for this, but I did read another of Bissinger's books, "Friday Night Lights," and it's a simply fantastic look at the obsession with high school football in Texas (and, of course, sort of the inspiration for TV's best drama, soon to enter its fourth season.) And any flick that offers this intense of a look at America's great sport and into the mind of Tony La Russa can only be a good thing in my book.

And finally, as promised, Muppets, Muppets, Muppets ... 101 of them in all. I can't take any credit for this except in the delivery of it, but if you indeed click on the link below, I defy to both not smile or waste at least a minor chunk of your work day. What is it? A guide to the 101 Muppets of Sesame Street. 'Nuff said.


And with that, have a perfectly passable Wednesday, and if you've seen "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," please feel free to tell me if it's any good or not. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What kinds of kids will appear next under "Friday Night Lights"?

You know, I tend to rail against sequels and remakes all the time (and just for the case of symmetry, a rather dastardly one of the latter will be showing up at the end today), but occasionally you hear of one that's just screaming out to be made.

To give all credit to where it's due, I read about this amazing bit of news/gossip on the fantastic blog The Playlist. It seems that on Adam Carolla's podcast recently (I really can't imagine any way I'd be listening to that), he was apparently interviewing Jules Asner, who used to be a host on E! but is now, among other things I suppose, the wife of Steven Soderbergh.

Well, as they were discussing Soderbergh's movies, she let fly this juicy bit about what just happens to be my co-favorite (along with the sublime "Out of Sight") Soderbergh flick, "The Limey": "He wants to do a sequel to The Limey and Terence wants to do it. Terence and Michael Caine."

Take a minute to envision just how cool that could be. Now, I know that "The Limey" has a very definite ending, but I'd still certainly welcome the chance to see Terrence Stamp reprising his role as one of the baddest asses of all time, especially along with Michael Caine. Perhaps Soderbergh is up for a revenge flick after being burned so bad on "Moneyball," but whatever his motivation might be here, I can only say bring it on!

And, before I get to today's "Friday Night Lights" main course, and then two wickedly entertaining videos, comes easily the funniest bit of news I could find in the last couple of days.

When I first heard they were gonna make a live-action movie of "Hong Kong Phooey," I was perfectly happy to simply shrug it off as yet another movie I'll never, ever see. But then I saw who's producing it. It seems that Brett Ratner, who just made my eyes bleed with what he did to the "X-Men" saga, has nothing better to do than produce this mess. Sheesh.

OK, now on to the main event, which comes courtesy of the seriously TV-obsessed Michael Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly.

Anyone who tuned in to the third season of "Friday Night Lights" on either DirecTV or later on NBC (like me and most of the world) watched what I think has turned into easily the best drama on television right now. And if you didn't, why the heck not?

As you may well remember, season three ended at a definite crossroads, with Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) being ousted as coach of the Dillon Panthers and shipped off to coach at a brand new school, East Dillon High. It sets up all kinds of crosstown rivalry possibilities, especially since Dillon's QB1 JD McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter) was at the center of Taylor's ouster.

Anyways, it's gonna be hard to wait until February or so to get to see this again on regular TV, but Ausiello has four sketches of the new characters to fill the void a little. And please, as you read them, remember that one of the real pleasures of watching "FNL" (at least for me) is that it takes what truly is soap opera material and turns it into fairly high art, so the characters are gonna sound even more tawdry on paper. Per Ausiello, here goes:

Vince: A charming yet dangerous East Dillon junior. He's African-American and, when we first meet him, he's running from the cops. Look for Coach Taylor to put his speed to better use as a member of the Lions. Series regular.

Luke: Vince's classmate and arch nemesis. He's Caucasian, cocky, and charming. Reminds some of a young Paul Newman. Dillon's new geographical breakdown has him playing for the Lions, and he's not happy about it. Series regular.

Jess: The super-energetic daughter of a onetime NFL hopeful, she knows the game inside and out. When she's not busy coaching her younger brothers, this sophomore/junior is getting crushed on by every guy in Dillon, East and West. Series regular.

Becky: A freshman beauty queen whose family is purebred trailer trash. Think Blair Waldorf with lousy genes. She finds Riggins in bed with her mother and reacts by trying to seduce him herself. My new favorite character is listed as recurring.

That last bit is key, because I can only assume that means that, although regulars Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki and Zach Gilford have all been lost to graduation, Taylor Kitsch will take time out from his new life as Gambit to return to the role that made him semi-famous, Tim Riggins. Man, with this and "Chuck" returning, TV's second season is gonna easily be better than the first.

OK, enough of that. Before I go, I've got two videos that certainly made me smile. I've stated here before that I have almost unconditional love for what Zack Snyder did with "Watchmen." One of my only beefs, in fact, was that he omitted a key scene from Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' funny book, the death of Hollis Mason.

Well, as you can see from this video courtesy of Trailer Addict, it will be in the director's cut set to hit DVD July 21 (and though I've severely curtailed my DVD buying of late, that is a must-have for me.) I especially like how poor Hollis flashes back to the baddies of yore as his demise nears. Enjoy.

Next comes a seriously good bit of funny from Aziz Ansari, who stars on NBC's "Parks and Recreation." He also has what is apparently (and unfortunately) only a bit part in Judd Apatow's July 31 flick "Funny People," as the comedian Randy.

Now, Randy is far from the kind of comedian I'd want to see live, delivering as he does the broadest and basest possible jokes, but seeing how Ansari jumped into the role with affection and energy is just a joy. Even though he apparently only gets a couple of minutes at best in the flick, Ansari got into the spirit enough to make a mockumentary about his character, the first part of which you can watch below courtesy of Funny or Die (and in this case I definitely vote for Funny.) Enjoy.

And finally, I should really just ignore this project, but I have to admit it has me almost as morbidly fascinated as it does simply disgusted. There's certainly no reason in the world for a talented director like Matt Reeves to make an English-language remake of my single favorite movie of all of 2008, the flawless coming-of-age horror flick "Let the Right One In," but I'll probably go see it to witness the flaming train wreck he comes up with. As you can see from the poster below, he at least keeps Oskar at about the same age, even though he felt compelled to shorten the title to simply "Let Me In." And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for the job that still pays me just enough shekels to keep the lights on. Peace out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of "Cemetery Junction," and proof that Wes Anderson really will work again?

This being a lazy Saturday morning, I really don't have too much, but certainly wanted to pass along this BBC clip from the set of Ricky Gervais' and Stephen Merchant's "Cemetery Junction," easily one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for 2010. It really doesn't reveal a whole lot except that, once again, the two of them just love telling jokes about Ralph Fiennes, and really, who doesn't?

OK, the only other thing I've got is the first photo I've seen from Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which will be his first foray into animation when and if it finally comes out (there's still no release date at the IMDB.)

I used to have a lot of love for Wes Anderson, and for his early work, I certainly still do. If you were to put a gun to my head and make me list, say, my 20 favorite films, Anderson's "Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," each an improvement on the other, would all make the list. But his last two, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and "Darjeeling Limited," have just left me more than a little cold.

In other words, Mr. Anderson really needs his mojo back, and though I have serious doubts this flick is gonna get it for him, here's hoping. Enjoy the pic, which comes courtesy of JoBlo, and the rest of your weekend. Peace out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Aaron Sorkin steps to the plate to revive a baseball flick

Some guy in Idaho just tweeted that I’ve ruined cinema. Already? Had no idea I was so hugely influential. Suck it, Truffaut!

I'm not a tweeter or a tweet follower, and I'm 100 percent certain I can make it through the rest of my life just fine that way, but I saw that post from Diablo Cody yesterday and just thought it was very funny.

And with that, let's get right into what's a pretty full day of good news, capped off by visits from Craig Robinson and Megan Fox, because he's very funny and she's .. well, you know.

First up is what is quickly becoming the best ensemble cast of 2010 in director David Gordon Green's "Your Highness." Though "Observe and Report" was just a muddled mess, I'm still convinced that Green, Jody Hill, Ben Best and Danny McBride are leading a real Southern comedy resurgence (and on a side note, fellow cubicle slave Randy Waters told me yesterday that he bought "Eastbound and Down" but really couldn't get into it at all, so he's gonna give it to me for free ... good times!)

Best and McBride have written the script for "Your Highness," which stars McBride as a lazy prince who must complete a heroic quest to save his father's kingdom, and in a "Pineapple Express" reunion of sorts, James Franco plays his more heroic brother. Natalie Portman is already on board as McBride's love interest, a warrior princess, and just announced is Zooey Deschanel, who plays Belladonna, Franco's character's virginal bride.

I think you'll agree that's just a whale of a good cast. It's all being filmed in Northern Ireland beginning later this month, so you can definitely count this as one 2010 flick I'm thoroughly jazzed for.

In other, especially good, news for fans of "Let the Right One In" (and if you're not, rent it today and I guarantee you will be), Tomas Alfredson, the director of that fantastic coming-of-age horror flick, has set his sights on a great choice for his next movie.

If you haven't seen the '70s miniseries "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," which starred Alec Guinness and also the late, great Ian Richardson, certainly see it if you can, and be happy that Alfredson is now set to turn it into a feature film. Peter Morgan will write the script for the cold-war thriller about a spy-hunt in the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Though I have no time at all for the English language version of "Let the Right One In" being cooked up by "Cloverfield" mastermind Matt Reeves, Alfredson breaking into the Hollywood big time is only great news, so definitely keep your eyes on this one.

And, in the last tidbit before we get to what was supposed to be the main course, "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips has set his next two flicks, and they're both set to star veryfunnyman Zach Galifianakis. Though the plot wasn't nearly as salacious or inventive as it thought it was, I still almost thoroughly enjoyed "The Hangover," and it's certainly a reason to cheer when an at least fairly intelligent R-rated comedy makes such a yachtload of cash at the box office. (As an aside, at $210 million domestic and still counting, "The Hangover" has surpassed "Wedding Crashers" to become the second-highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time - the original "Beverly Hills Cop" is still No. 1 in that subcategory at north of $234 million.)

For their next collaboration, Phillips and Galifianakis will make a road-trip comedy (sense a pattern here?) titled "Due Date" in which an expectant dad and his unlikely travel companion (Galifianakis, natch) race cross country to make it home for the birth of the rugrat. After that, there will be, by sheer force of nature, a "Hangover 2."

Sounds like more than a little bit of a rut to me, but I have to admit, as long as they keep making comedies that are both reliably crude and clever enough, they'll keep getting my money.

But when I started out today, this was supposed to be about the resuscitation of a flick that had been pretty much left for dead. And since it's a baseball flick, that's certainly noteworthy news.

For anyone unfamiliar with the saga so far, director Steven Soderbergh had been plotting a movie based on Michael Lewis' book "Moneyball," about Oakland A's bean counter and big brain Billy Beane, who would be played by Brad Pitt.

All well and good, right? Well, not exactly. Just days before the movie was set to start shooting, Sony pulled the plug because it wasn't impressed with a script retooling Soderbergh had done to a previous version by Steven Zaillian.

In a bit of hyperbole that nonetheless touched on the truth, this prompted the New York Times to opine that this may be a broader danger sign for "tricky but appealing" movies, in a piece you can read here. Even if that's a bit of an exaggeration, the death of a potentially good baseball flick is reason enough to be blue for me.

But now, thanks to Aaron Sorkin, and I'd imagine the pull of Brad Pitt, the project is back on.

Soderbergh is out, but Sony has Sorkin in to do a draft of the script, starting with what Zaillian finished, for Pitt to still star in. Great news all around there for just about everyone except Mr. Soderbergh, I'd say. Everyone knows Sorkin's track record with "The West Wing" and the much-too-brief "Sports Night," but for a recent example of his work to prove he's still got a lot of wit left to work with, I'd strongly recommend renting "Charlie Wilson's War," which would be a great bit of satire if it weren't all based on the even crazier truth.

And though I still can't find a DVD release date for it yet, the single best movie I've seen so far in 2009 (mid-season report card coming after Judd Apatow's "Funny People" drops July 31) just happens to be a baseball movie of sorts, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's "Sugar." See that one as soon as you can.

And anyone who's made it this far certainly deserves a reward, and I've got three of what I think qualify.

First is one of eight teasers (in French, malheuresement) for Jean Pierre Jeunet's next crazy flick, "Micmacs à tire-larigot." Like I said, they're pretty aurally useless for those who don't speak French (and I only barely do at this point), but you can still see from the look of this that the tale of a man and his friends who come up with an intricate and original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers will have all the spirit of his best work, "Amelie" and "Delicatessen." You can count this, along with Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," as the two flicks I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year, and you can watch seven more of these brief character teasers courtesy of Twitch Film here. Enjoy.

And, next-to-finally, this Funny or Die clip, though it's a little to slow to get going and way too crude to be enjoyed at work without headphones, shows why Craig Robinson is the most underappreciated member of both "The Office" and Apatow's crew. My inner 8-year-old will always appreciate songs about where to post naked pictures of your girlfriend, so in that spirit, enjoy.

And really finally, in something I'm certain Mr. Robinson would enjoy, here's a certain someone known as Megan Fox in the first teaser poster for the Diablo Cody horror-comedy "Jennifer's Body." Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Proof that "Funny People" is filled with exactly that

Actually, before I get to that, it's a full day here, with lots of news that matters to, well, me, and a slew of videos (and even a wild bonus pic) that just made me smile, so let's just get right to it.

The first, and easily most important, news of the day is that Gary Ross, writer/director of "Seabiscuit," "Pleasantville," "Dave" and "Big," among other flicks, has been brought on board to do a rewrite on Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 4."

Just take a second to think of how great that news can be. What it hopefully means is that, with this rather prestigious filter, Raimi can avoid delivering a turd sandwich that's as bloated and boring as "Spider-Man 3." I was very happy to find with a visit to that that flick has fallen to #16 on the all-time box office list, so apparently crap does float downward over time.

And, to be fair, Raimi has delivered this year easily the funniest movie I've seen in a theater so far with "Drag Me to Hell," so here's hoping Ross' input can give him a winning streak and a thoroughly entertaining "Spider-Man 4."

OK, moving on quickly from that, it seems that Michael Moore has come up with a title for his new documentary, which I'm certainly looking forward to. Though I thought "Sicko" was mostly just a missed opportunity, I'm fairly confident his new one, to be titled "Capitalism: A Love Story" and be about just how in the world we got into our current economic mess, will be a winner when it finally comes out in October.

And, in a simply fantastic bit of TV news, mystery writer Harlan Coben is soon to apply his talents to the small screen. Though this was pitched in the trades as a new gig for "How I Met Your Mother" executive producer Greg Malins, the news that it springs from the mind of Cohen, as did the simply sublime French thriller "Tell No One" (rent it already if you haven't seen it!), makes this one a lock for my DVR when it finally comes to fruition.

The two will team up to create an hourlong series for Fox about a "larger-than-life" private eye who teaches a college criminology class. Bring it on!

OK, as promised, from here on out it's a lot of videos, and I can pretty much guarantee they're all at least slightly worth watching.

First up comes an oddity from Esquire featuring Mary Louise Parker, who I have to confess I've always just had an inordinate crush on, which was only magnified to the breaking point when she played the feminista Amy Gardner on many episodes of "The West Wing." Here, you might be surprised how thoroughly entertaining it is to watch her simply read a few minutes of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Enjoy.

OK, guys, take a few seconds to recover from that, and next up is a somewhat clever teaser for "Cemetery Junction," the first feature film to be written and directed by "The Office" and "Extras" teammates Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. The running gag about Ralph Fiennes is one I'm sure that anyone whose seen "In Bruges" (and if you haven't, do it already!) knows is a false one, but it's still pretty funny. Enjoy.

And now, one more before we get to the main course, and it also sort of springs from the Apatow camp, since it stars "Freaks and Geeks" vet James Franco. This clip from Funny or Die purports to be Franco's audition tape for the UCLA commencement address, and though it's a little long and liberally riddled with F-bombs, I guarantee it brings the funny, especially when he goes so far as to compare himself to Barack Obama. Enjoy.

OK, finally what was promised at the outset, a second (at least) trailer for Judd Apatow's "Funny People," and be warned that in at least the early part it's rather not safe for work. It does, however, show a lot of stuff not in the first trailer, including a very funny scene with Seth Rogen and the RZA ("OK, I gotta admit, that was humorous.") Enjoy.

And finally, if you actually made it this far, you certainly deserve a reward, and I think this qualifies. It's been far too long since we've seen or heard from Ellen Page, and it certainly looks like "Whip It!" will be a fun return. I love the determined looks on the face of her and Kristen Wiig in this photo from the movie, also featuring director Drew Barrymore. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.