Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go "In a Dream" now on DVD

You know, the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival may not stand among the ranks of the world's biggest movie confabs, but its an unfailingly good time and the place where I saw three of my favorite movies of last year.

The festival returns from Nov. 11-15, and though the lineup hasn't been set (it says early October, so hopefully soon), you can find out other details about this year's event here. I'll be there, and I can't wait.

Last year, I saw easily my two favorite movies of 2008 there, "Let the Right One In" and "Tell No One" (granted, that one for the second time, which made it all add up a heck of a lot better.)

Just as good as finding movies like those, however, is walking into one I know next to nothing about and finding a real gem, which was the case with Jeremiah Zagar's "In a Dream." What did I expect it to be? I really had no idea except that the brief description said it had something to do with public art in Philadelphia, which sounded interesting enough to me. What I got, though, is a whole lot more.

The documentary is indeed a portrait of Zagar's father, Isaiah, who has covered 50,000 feet or so of South Philly with his very intricate mosaics. The works reveal details about his life with wife Julia and his two sons, which we slowly find out is almost as complex as his artwork itself.

There's no "Capturing the Friedmans" crime (or not?) here, but a secret that once revealed tears the Zagar family apart, and watching Isaiah and Julia try to put their lives back together can be as painful as it is ultimately insightful and very entertaining. Most of all, it's a touching look at a man who is capable of great public works but at the same time has a lot of difficulty dealing with the rest of the world around him, and I recommend it very highly.

The DVD is out this week, and can be rented through Netflix or purchased at Amazon or through the movie's official site here. Here's the trailer, to give you more of a taste of a truly unique documentary. Peace out.

IN A DREAM: Theatrical Trailer from Herzliya Films on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take a free listen to the "Where the Wild Things Are" soundtrack

You know, I guess I shouldn't be terribly surprised that the Coen brothers' newest flick, "A Serious Man," isn't opening anywhere near my little corner of the world this week (not counting a 90-minute drive to Atlanta, which just really isn't in the cards.)

Even though the new flick is apparently a very black comedy about Judaism and life featuring no stars to mention (though I really like that Richard Kind), I was still hoping that the brothers' sway as filmmakers would be enough to get a pretty wide release, but I was mistaken once again.

Oh well. Even so, this is still a pretty good week for movies, with Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page's "Whip It" and Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying" opening everywhere, plus, though I don't think I'll bother to sit through this, a 3-D double feature of both "Toy Story" movies.

And two weeks after that, just in case you've never been here and heard me constantly obsessing about this one, Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" opens everywhere, and you can listen to the entire soundtrack by Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and the Kids, courtesy of and right here in the sideboard of this very blog (I'm really not too much for widgets, so Barack Obama and this soundtrack are the only two things to get that honor.)

The soundtrack, as I'd imagine the movie will be, is an odd affair, and took a few listens to grow on me, but it's pretty addictive once you adapt to it. Be warned: The Kids are indeed just that, and they sing, wail and howl throughout the soundtrack. I really thought that would have no appeal to me, but it certainly fits the spirit of the story.

The songs range wildly in emotion from the wrath of "Capsize" to the elation of "All is Love" (the first single, which I dismissed on first listen, but have grown to enjoy quite a bit) and of course, in the middle, a rumpus to start. Click the widget just to your right and give it a listen.

And, also fitting the spirit of the movie and the music, We Love You So, the "Where the Wild Things Are" production blog of sorts, has been running a Where the Wild Things Ought to Be contest that has produced some very funny results. Here are my two favorites, but it's well worth checking out a slide show of them all and much more here. Peace out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is this, indeed, the single worst movie weekend of the year?

You know, I finally got around to watching the series premiere of ABC's "Flash Forward" last night, and it was excellent. It certainly was annoying how fast everyone seemed to figure out what had happened to them, but it has several potentially interesting stories going forward along with the big mystery.

"Dollhouse," also, was much improved over last year, and with Salisbury, Md., native and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" vet Alexis Denisof most likely the big bad this year, I'm definitely gonna keep watching. Here today, however, its not about TV, but about just how wretchedly bad this weekend's slate of movies is out here in wide release land.

In my actual paying job, I lay out the Friday entertainment section each week for The Telegraph, and I usually look for the movie reviews on Tuesday afternoon. That early in the week usually means Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, since he works faster than anyone else we have access to, and that's just fine with me, because he's really good.

This week, however, I waited until midday Wednesday, and still, none of the three movies opening this week - "Fame," "Pandorum" or "Surrogates" - had been reviewed. Never a good sign, and only the second time this year we had to go with no reviews (the other one is listed below.)

So, does that make this the single worst movie of the year? Well, it's gotta be close, at least in the category of offering movies I have any interest in seeing. From what I've now heard, "Fame" - even if you, like me, generally like musicals - is nothing but bland, "Surrogates" gives away all its mystery in the opening act and, as for "Pandorum," I've still heard nothing at all about that one.

It all got me to thinking, and though this is quite far from a scientific study, here are my nominees for the six worst movie weekends so far this year, in only chronological order, but I'll crown a winner at the end.

Jan. 9:
"Bride Wars"
"Not Easily Broken"
"The Unborn"

"Bride Wars" just looked like a thoroughly hateful little piece of junk, and I take my Tyler Perry straight up, not cloned, so it was easy to just say no to this weekend.

Jan. 23:
"Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans"

Having barely managed to sit through the latest "Mummy" installment I just couldn't take any Brendan Fraser family fare, and I just have no idea what a Lycan is, so couldn't see jumping into the "Underworld" realm at this point.

Feb. 27:
"Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience"
"Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li"

This was the only other weekend of the year when nothing got reviewed in advance, and I can see why. I've made it this far in life without seeing any movies based on video games, and I think I can keep that streak going just fine, thank you.

March 13:
"The Last House on the Left"
"Miss March"
"Race to Witch Mountain"

I haven't been able to smell what the Rock's been cooking on the big screen for - well - just about ever.

July 24:
"The Ugly Truth"

I know I'm just not the audience for "G-Force," which made a ton of money with the kiddies, but I just can't stand to even look at Katherine Heigl at this point, even though she is a stunningly beautiful woman. I did, however, enjoy seeing all the histrionics about making an orphan the villain in a silly little "horror" movie.

And finally, this weekend.

And the winner is: Feb. 27, with Street Fighter and the Jonas Brothers, though this weekend was certainly in the running.

Take heart, however, because good things are surely on the way. Next week we get both Drew Barrymore's "Whip It," starring young Ellen Page, and Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying." (By the way, I hear tell that Gervais made the big "lie" for his flick the existence of God, so it should be fun to see just how that goes down.) And two weeks after that, the big one for me, Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," which I think I'll actually drive to Atlanta to watch in glorious Imax.

And this weekend? I still can't decide if I'll take a chance on "Jennifer's Body" or not, but I do know that at some point, I'll be watching Spike Lee's "Passing Strange," which is available on my cable box on demand. A good Spike Lee movie? It's been a while, so I'm really looking forward to this one. Please feel free to let me know if any of the movies I've dismissed without seeing them above are actually any good, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

P.S.: I really don't have much of a taste for apocalyptic movies, but I used to really love the Hughes Brothers, so wish them nothing but success with "The Book of Eli," their upcoming return to the big screen after a very long time off. Here's the second trailer for the flick, which stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis, and is set to come out in January.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just how long can "Watchmen" really get?

You know, I think I'm almost alone here, but I almost unconditionally loved what Zack Snyder did with "Watchmen".

Now, of course, there are always going to be complaints from fans of the funny book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about what was left out, and it seem that Snyder has now taken just about all of those complaints to heart.

After a director's cut, which I bought, that clocks in at a you-would-think-long-enough 178 minutes or so, he's now about to release "Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut" on Nov. 3, which will run for what you would have to hope would be an exhaustive 3 hours and 35 minutes. Whew.

I'm not enough of a sucker to buy this again, especially since my company is offering us furloughs as the latest incentive to keep working there, but I do think I'll at least rent it, because it does seem to be just about as close to the graphic novel on screen in its entirety as we're gonna get (though I know I'm being naive here, and there will surely be an "Ultimate, Ultimate" edition coming sometime soon.)

In this new version, "Tales of the Black Freighter" will be interwoven into the movie, as it should be, but Hollis Mason's autobiography, "Under the Hood," will only be available as a standalone extra. Perhaps coolest of all in the extras will the entire motion comic, which I'd really like to see.

Anyways, call me a sucker if you want, but I think I can spare three-and-a-half-hours or so of my life for what has apparently turned into "Watchmen: The Miniseries".

Two doses of "News of the Weird"

With apologies to Chuck Shepherd, whose News of the Weird we publish most Fridays in the Telegraph, as far as movie news of sorts it doesn't get much weirder than these next two tidbits.

After, and I never would have guessed there were this many, FOUR direct-to-DVD sequels, it seems that "Bring It On" is about to get yet another life on stage as a musical. And no, I'm not making that up.

Now, I will admit that I'm a big fan of the original with Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union and Eliza Dushku, and I've even sat through most of some kind of sequel with both Hayden Panettiere and Beyonce's sister in it on a Saturday afternoon, but I can't imagine any scenario in which I'd pay Broadway prices for another dose. However, if a touring company brings this to Macon's Opera House someday, I have to admit I'd at least be curious.

And in possibly even odder news, Werner Herzog, whose most recent flick was a new take on Abel Ferrera's "Bad Lieutenant" (because Lord knows the world needed that), is now offering classes in "guerilla filmmaking" for $1,450 a weekend.

If I somehow had $1,450 to blow through and was in Los Angeles from Jan. 8-10, I actually bet this would be a lot of fun, especially since he's describing it with typical bravado:

"The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lock-picking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: it is for those who have a sense for poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four-year-old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream."

The beginning of the end for Jay Leno?

Actually, I'm well aware that he's probably indestructible at this point, but it's still interesting to see how he fared with the key 18-49 demographic on Monday night, one week after his big debut. Here are the numbers:

6.5 House
4.6 Big Bang Theory
4.4 Two and a Half Men
4.3 CSI Miami
4.1 Dancing With The Stars
3.5 How I Met Your Mother
3.2 Accidentally On Purpose
2.7 Heroes
2.3 Castle
1.8 The Jay Leno Show
1.2 One Tree Hill
1.1 Gossip Girl

Now, I will admit that I watch "Gossip Girl" as exactly the kind of mindless fluff I need on a Monday night, so I certainly think it's great that Jay not only finished dead last among the shows from the big four networks, but also just barely managed to beat the CW's two offerings. Predictably pathetic. Please keep tuning out!

Fincher's "Facebook" takes shape

Most of this was already pretty well known, I think, but Columbia Pictures has now confirmed the cast for David Fincher's flick "The Social Network," written by Aaron Sorkin and based on the rise of Facebook (which I'm on, somehow.)

In the principal cast, Jesse Eisenberg will play Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake will play Napster co-founder and Facebook founding president Sean Parker, and someone I've never heard of named Andrew Garfield will play Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who fell out with Zuckerberg over money.

Why should anyone care about any of this? Well, I find the subject kind of fascinating, and I've been rewatching a lot of "Sports Night" lately, which is proof that Aaron Sorkin is an extremely witty guy when he gets things right (and, in its own little way, I think "Sports Night" just might be better than "The West Wing" - blasphemy, I know.)

Steve Coogan alert

I normally wouldn't care one lick about any early news about a Will Ferrell/Adam Mckay comedy, but when you cast Steve Coogan, who would certainly have to be in the discussion if you were actually to try and pick the funniest man on Earth, you've got my ear.

Actually, the whole premise of "The Other Guys" sounds pretty funny. The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson will play supercops who constantly show up a pair of bumbling co-workers to be played by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I wasn't sold, however, until I saw that the great Mr. Coogan has been cast as the arch villain of the piece.

For the best doses of Coogan I can recommend on DVD, try "24-Hour Party People" and "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story."

Has Diablo Cody lost "it"?

Now, I'm really not someone to kick people when their down (except for maybe Jay Leno), and I admittedly haven't yet seen "Jennifer's Body" (and I'm not sure I will), but if this really is Diablo Cody's next writing project I think the "Juno" scribe has really hit a wall.

It seems she's not set her sights on "Sweet Valley High," the series of novels about (and I'm going on what the trades say here, not having actually read any of them) a set of identical twins "with dissimilar personalities - the sensitive and practical Elizabeth and the flighty and boy-crazy Jessica - in the fictional town of Sweet Valley."

My God does that sound awful, so if you made it this far you certainly deserve a reward. Ricky Gervais' new film, "The Invention of Lying," doesn't open until next week, unfortunately, but here's an odd bit of marketing that only he could come up with. This clip is seven minutes long (and this is only part one), but I guarantee that if you let it get started for a couple of minutes you'll laugh out loud as Gervais' comedy compadre and punching bag Karl Pilkington tries to first review the flick and then offers his rather unique ideas for marketing it. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Did "Pushing Daisies" really almost take down "30 Rock" at the Emmys?

You know, I didn't tune in for Sunday's Emmys except for in snippets, but for a reason any TV awards show should appreciate: There was simply much better TV on at the time.

On "Mad Men," that smooth cat getting his foot caught off by a John Deere was the most action the show has ever had, and of course very funny, but I thought all the stuff with poor Sally was even better. And for fans of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," I have it on good authority (from a friend who has seen the first three episodes) that the Loretta Black (Vivica A. Fox) cancer story line will take a turn by episode three that will shock and possibly offend even the most jaded Larry David fans, of which you can certainly count me one. I'll be there, especially since that's also when the "Seinfeld" folks begin their "Curb" run.

But perhaps I should have tuned in for at least a bit of the Emmys, because it somehow turned out to be a banner night for the late and much lamented (at least in this corner) "Pushing Daisies." The show somehow took home four awards, the biggest of which was easily Kristin Chenoweth's win for supporting actress in a comedy.

Now, I know a lot of folks just can't stand her cheery act, but it fit the spirit of the show perfectly (which may tell a lot about why it got canceled after just 22 episodes and two vexingly incomplete seasons), but I loved her Olive, especially how she played off of Chi McBride's Emerson Cod.

And though I'm sure a "Family Guy"-style resurrection is out of the question, it's certainly worth noting that with four Emmys (granted, three were in the creative arts realm handed out before Sunday night), "Pushing Daisies" finished only one behind "30 Rock," which I just assumed would take home its allotted double-digit assortment of trophies (granted, I tune in for every new episode of that one too, I'm just saying, it is kinda funny.)

I would say R.I.P. "Pushing Daisies," but with all these signs of life after death (Bryan Fuller is developing a comic book and even dreaming beyond all reason of some kind of movie) I just can't help but keep a little hope alive.

The only other thing I really would have liked to have seen was the visit from host Neil Patrick Harris' Dr. Horrible. It didn't come in a big production number, as hinted at by EW's Michael Ausiello, but this bit also featuring Nathan Fillion's Captain Hammer is still pretty funny. And I've been telling my bosses for years that the Internet is just a fad, but no one listens to me either. Peace out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goofy with a guarantee of laughs

You know, I always thought Pearl Jam was more than a little overrated at its heyday, mostly I guess because they were just way too earnest for my tastes.

But, over the years, I've warmed a lot to at least Eddie Vedder, mostly because of the great soundtrack for "Into the Wild," but also because their cover of "Last Kiss" is just a little delight.

Anyways, I tell you all that to tell you this: You can stream the new Pearl Jam album, "Backspacer," on the band's MySpace page here. I'm only on song three now (mostly because it has the nasty habit of crashing my Firefox at the end of each track), but it sounds pretty epicly good to me so far.

And on a different subject, it seems that Neil Patrick Harris hosting the Emmys will deliver a bonus for anyone who bothers to tune in for the almost completely suspenseless broadcast. According to Entertainment Weekly's seriously TV-obsessed scribe Michael Ausiello, there will be a "Dr. Horrible"-themed production number about midway through the show. Harris and his castmates already won an Emmy for the Web show "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" created by Joss Whedon. No word yet if Whedon will be involved in tonight's show, but that's still more of a reason to tune in than watching "30 Rock" win 20 awards yet again (though I do love the show.)

But on to the main event: "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is an almost thoroughly enjoyable animated delight and, blasphemy I know, more entertaining (and frankly that's what matters most to me) than "Up."

What makes it, if not unique, at least original enough to work is the goofy spirit of both the story and its voice actors, who are clearly all in on the fun. I think it helped going in to this one that I really knew just about nothing about the children's story by Judi and Ron Barrett, on which this is based.

The story itself is indeed so silly that you have to wonder how it could possibly work for anyone over the age of 4: Our hero, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a boy and quickly man who just wants to invent things rather than get any kind of actual job (and really, who doesn't?) He lives in the quickly dying town of Swallow Falls, dying because its most famous export, sardines, are simply disgusting (though I've always kind of liked them.) I don't want to give too much away, but Flint somehow invents a device that turns water into food and, on a grand scale, causes it to rain food down on the town.

You can tell early on that this won't go extremely well, and it surely doesn't, but the jokes do. From the outset, they're not throwaway pop-culture references, but quick-flying bits that fit organicly with the story, from Flint's one-word commands to himself and his helper monkey Steve to the newspaper headline "Sardines are really gross."

The best jokes of all though, largely thanks to Anna Faris as the voice of wannabe-weather girl Sam Sparks, come at the expense of The Weather Channel. For me, the only weather channel I've ever tuned in to has been my front window, so the puns and especially the cut-in to a cute animal just hit their target spot on.

And with Bill Hader and Anna Faris leading the cast, plus Neil Patrick Harris (yes, him again), James Caan, Andy Samberg, Mr. T, Bobb'e J. Thomson (that fantastically foul-mouthed kid from "Role Models") and even Bruce Campbell in the voice cast, this could easily have turned into a hipster-irony disaster, but for the most part they disappear into their parts with ease. Faris (a favorite around here, in case you couldn't tell) fares the best of all, but Bruce Campbell as the mayor of Swallow Falls who jumps all over the opportunity to promote the town with Flint's new creation, is also a hoot. Lauren Graham is somehow in this too, though only for about 90 seconds at the very start, which is about as good a summary as any of just how well her movie career has gone since "Gilmore Girls."

As with any animated movie for kids and goofy-minded adults, there comes a point when the directors, here Phil Lord and Chris Miller, want to tell us the message about gluttony and obesity rather than simply show us through the story. Luckily though, after about a 10-minute dead space (in what is only an 81-minute movie), they quickly realize that any town covered one day with giant hot dogs and the next with kids sliding down giant scoops of ice cream pretty much speaks for itself.

I guess you can tell by now that I had a heck of a lot of fun with this one, but I'll leave you with just one more word about why: I watched it through exactly one pair of glasses, MINE. The colors of "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" jump from the screen, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them unfold in 2-D rather than being muddied with those silly 3-D glasses. Judging from the packed house at our Saturday afternoon screening, I'm apparently far from the only one who doesn't want to pay an extra $2 for this worthless gimmick. Peace out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Remember Wallace and Gromit? They're back!

First off, about last night's comedy slate, big kudos to the uneven "Community" for turning its premiere episode into a tribute to the late John Hughes. It was class and easily the best thing about a show with a lot of potential that will almost surely get better as the first season rolls along.

But, even though the funniest thing was of course "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which is thankfully just as rude as ever, the real surprise was that "Parks and Recreation" was sharper and wittier than "The Office." More Aziz Ansari would always be welcome, but watching Amy Poehler embrace her newfound gay stardom was just a hoot.

OK, enough of that. A bit of movie news before we get to the Wallace and Gromit clips, which will hopefully make you smile like they did me.

First up, it seems that Rebecca Hall, a definite favorite around here (in case you hadn't noticed), has signed on to play the lead in a Richard Linklater movie I might actually get to see before it hits DVD.

In the road comedy-drama "Liars A-E," she'll play Bacall Loomis, a woman who sets out on a road trip during the Obama inauguration to reclaim items that used to be hers from ex-boyfriends. Kat Dennings is also on board to play one of her friends, certainly not a bad thing.

Sounds a little meh to me, but a Linklater road movie of any kind is always at least worth checking out in my book if it actually makes it into theaters.

And in other news, The Weinstein Co. has delayed "potential awards contender" (not sure where I saw those words, but I didn't make them up, believe me) "Youth in Revolt," which I had really been looking forward to seeing in October. I really can't imagine that a movie based on C.D. Payne's absurdly entertaining novel about a 14-year-old (played by Michael Cera in the movie, I have to assume a couple of years older) who's only goal in his young life is to score with the object of his affection, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), will ever be up for any major awards of any kind.

But even so, it was certainly something I wanted to see, since I just love the book, but we won't be able to do that now until Jan. 15. Sheesh.

OK, now on to the main event. Could there be better news for fans of wickedly funny animation than that Wallace and Gromit are hitting DVD again Tuesday in their latest adventure, "Wallace and Gromit in a Matter of Loaf and Death"? I actually had the chance to see this as part of an animation collection at the Atlanta Film Festival earlier this year, but passed to see something else playing at the same time.

Nick Park has dabbled in bigger things, but I'll always love Wallace and Gromit most among his creations. It's just that slightly bawdy spirit and the groan-inducing puns that get me every time. As the title suggests, in this latest offering our heroes are somehow now bakers, and surely some kind of evil will develop to block their path.

Here are three clips from the short movie, first the straightforward trailer and then two scenes, first the new morning routine chez Wallace and Gromit and then a glimpse of Wallace pitching woo with his new lady love, Piella Bakewell (did I mention the puns?). The "Ghost" parody in the final clip is just as funny as it is, of course, timely. Enjoy.

And as for this weekend's movies, I think I've been at least temporarily scared off of "Jennifer's Body" by the fair-to-worse reviews, so for me I think it will be "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (unfortunately in 3-D) on Saturday and then Matt Damon as "The Informant!" on Sunday. Have a great weekend, no matter what you choose to see (or not.) Peace out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In honor of Henry Gibson, and one whale of a good night of TV

You know, it's funny the things you learn about people only after they die. Take Henry Gibson, who just died at age 73 after a short battle with cancer.

In my case, it's not that we're both great actors (though I would certainly argue that he was.) It's that we're both proud graduates of the Catholic University of America. For a school with no particularly famous drama department, I'd say it's at least a bit of an accomplishment that it can count Gibson, Bob Newhart and Ed McMahon (and surely some other stars I'm forgetting) among its alumni (in fact, just a quick bit of research reveals we can also claim Susan Sarandon, Jon Voight and, perhaps best of all, John Slattery of "Mad Men" too.)

But back to Mr. Gibson. Since death comes in threes (with Patrick Swayze and Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary also dying this week), I suppose it had to happen, and of the three his death saddens me most of all. Though I suppose he's best known as a fixture on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh in," he went on to more than 100 TV and film roles, most notably in four of Robert Altman's '70s films, and "Nashville," easily one of my favorite flicks, in particular.

Gibson made a lot of his living playing for laughs (he was even half of a comedy duo called The Hillbillies while at CUA), and he easily could have done that again for the key role of Haven Hamilton in "Nashville." But though Hamilton gets plenty of laughs in the flick, it's the pride he brought to the role that made it ring true.

He was also, in one of the iconic roles in children's movies (at least to me) the voice of Wilbur in "Charlotte's Web" (the delightful cartoon, not the remake I still haven't bothered to see), and in one of his silliest but still memorable roles, he played the (as it's actually credited) "Head Nazi" in "The Blues Brothers." R.I.P. indeed, Mr. Gibson.

OK, enough of that. In much more happy news, it seems that the writing/directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have set their next project, and they're about to bring Zach Galifianakis along with them.

Boden and Fleck gained a bit of instant fame with their much-lauded first feature, "Half Nelson," but in my book they did much better with this year's "Sugar." The drama about a Dominican baseball player trying to make it to the Major League spent most of the first half of this year as my favorite flick of 2009, before being knocked from its perch first by "The Hurt Locker" and then by "Inglourious Basterds." A quick Amazon check reveals that it's available on video now, and I really can't recommend a rental any higher than I do this one.

But on to the new stuff. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" will be about a teenage boy who is sent to a mental institution after struggling with depression. There, he's put in the adult ward, where he meets all kinds of characters (Galifianakis included) and even girl to flirt with (Emma Roberts.) Sounds a little meh to me, but I have full faith in this duo, so I can definitely say bring it on.

Switching gears a bit, to TV, I was more than a little happy to see that Jay Leno managed to lose 36 percent of his audience in one night, but also not surprised to find out that NBC still tried to pitch this as "good" news, just proving that they will leave this hopefully quickly sinking vessel out at sea until the last deck chair has fallen overboard.

On a much more pleasant TV subject (though still largely NBC), this would have to be my favorite TV night of the fall season. On NBC, I don't think I'll bother to tune in for the "Saturday Night Live" clip show that will start the night at 8, but after that you can definitely count me in for the returns of "Parks and Recreation" and "The Office" (hearty huzzah!) and then the premiere of "Community" with Joel McHale and, somehow, Chevy Chase. As you can see from the clip below, word of Pam's pregnancy starts to flow around "The Office" tonight, along with a slew of other crazy rumors. In short order, Pam and Jim will apparently try to run off for a quiet wedding at Niagara Falls, but after Michael gives everyone a long weekend off, find they're nowhere near alone. Comedy bliss.

And best of all tonight will be the return of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," easily my favorite TV sitcom of the moment. In tonight's episode, "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis," Frank, Mac and Dennis try their hand at real estate, while Dee arranges to be a surrogate mother for a wealthy couple. And Charlie? Who knows, but I can't wait to find out.

As promised, I'll close with this NBC preview of tonight's "The Office" season premiere. Peace out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Five clips from "Whip It" look like nothing but fun

You know, I really have nothing terribly profound to say about the fact that Patrick Swayze has died at the rather young age of 57, so I'll simply share that sad news with anyone who hadn't seen it yet and move on.

In much geekier and less depressing news, it seems that, fresh off his star-making turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" (my favorite movie so far this year, read why here), Christoph Waltz has now traded up to join the ranks of superhero flicks.

According to Nicki Finke of Deadline Hollywood, who is right at least slightly more than she's wrong, he's been cast as the villain Chudnofsky in Sony's "The Green Hornet." Up until now I had little interest in this, even though it's somehow being directed by Michel Gondry and starring Seth Rogen as our hero, but I'm now more than slightly intrigued.

Waltz easily stole every scene he got in Tarantino's wild flick with the sheer and sick glee he brought to the role of the Jew hunter Hans Landa. I'm sure he'll have the same zest for this project, and hopefully some more in which he'll get to play more than the bad guy.

In other movie news out there today, it seems that the director of my favorite film of 2008, those being Tomas Alfredson and "Let the Right One In" respectively, has settled on his next flick.

Though he had been attached to a big-screen version of John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," he's apparently got his eye on Nicole Kidman for something else first. Alfredson will next direct "The Danish Girl," starring Kidman as Danish painter Einar Wegener, who in 1931 became the first person to go through a sex-change operation to become a woman. In even wilder news, Charlize Theron had been cast as Wegener's wife, but has since dropped out.

Say what you want to about Nicole Kidman, but she almost always goes out of her way to choose interesting projects, and this certainly fits the bill (I think I'm still the only person in the world who almost unconditionally loved her in Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding.")

And in local "Let the Right One In" news, the Macon Film Guild will be offering a special Halloween screening of this great coming-of-age tale about what happens when your new neighbor just happens to be a vampire Oct. 30 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Douglass Theatre for $5. I'll be at the 7 p.m. show, so maybe I'll see you there.

OK, all I've got left today is two video clips, and before I get to the titular five minutes for this post, here's a glimpse of the Muppets schilling for Disney at the corporation's D23 conference. At the confab, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller revealed that the title of their upcoming Muppets movie (resounding huzzah!) will be "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." That's funny already, and it will apparently be about Gonzo directing a Muppet movie, if I have my facts straight (and I think I do.) Enjoy.

And finally, courtesy of and with full credit to Collider, here are five clips from Drew Barrymore's upcoming directorial debut, "Whip It," set to come out Oct. 2. The roller derby flick stars young Ellen Page, Barrymore, the always funny Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis and even Alia Shawkat, who played "Maeby" Fünke on "Arrested Development." It's great to see her again, especially since the chances of an "AD" movie look no more likely now then they did when the show was cancelled. It looks like Barrymore has something thoroughly fun going on here, and I really don't ask for much more than that. Enjoy the clips, and have a perfectly pleasant Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Please, please, please just say no to Jay Leno

Before I go any further, I just wanted to thank Kanye West for finally proving to the world just how much of an ass he is. Not that it really matters to me, since I've thought that much of him since he was obviously the only person who had no fun at "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," but I am glad the proverbial cat is completely out of the bag now.

But I didn't tune in for much else of MTV's Video Music Awards last night because, first of all, I'm obviously far too old, and more importantly because last night was just such an epicly good night of television in other places.

First up at my house came the two-episode finale-of-sorts for "King of the Hill," a finale-of-sorts because it was really just two really good episodes. I love the fact that, apart from that they all ended up eating Hank and Bobby's steaks, there really wasn't any big closing at all, just two naturally funny Bobby-centric episodes that showed why "King of the Hill" has always been funnier than anything else in Fox's Sunday night lineup - and a heck of a lot better than Mike Judge's latest movie, "Extract." R.I.P. Hill clan.

Next up was the season two finale of "True Blood," and man was that just a wildly entertaining mess. It hit me about five minutes into it that, even though what they had come up with all of Maryann's madness was just crazy enough to work, absolutely none of it came from Charlaine Harris' very popular Sookie Stackhouse novels (of which, since I'm nearing the end of book five, you can certainly count me as a fan.) And the ending (I'm just gonna have to assume that you've seen this by now if you want to)? If Sookie had somehow even agreed to marry Bill it would have just been way too much of a departure from the novels to even stomach, so I'm certainly glad that never happened (at least to his knowledge.)

But, amazingly, episode five of season three of "Mad Men" was still the best thing on TV last night, and by a pretty wide stretch. Poor Bertie giving birth while Don and his new prison guard buddy bonded over a bottle of booze? Priceless. And you can just tell that the schoolteacher is gonna be a femme fatale like Don just hasn't encountered yet. Of all his mistresses so far, Rosemarie DeWitt from season one would have to be my favorite, with Maggie Siff a close second, but you can just tell that the teacher will do more damage than the both of them combined, and I can't wait to see it unfold. And it really is amazing that season three so far is miles better than season two, which was just as much better than season one.

And I tell you all that to tell you this: In your mind, compare all that wild entertainment to what's going to be unleashed on NBC tonight and, for that matter, every weeknight at 10 p.m. or the foreseeable (or should it be "unforeseeable"?) future. Is there really anything worse you could imagine for primetime than FIVE HOURS A WEEK of Jay Leno kissing celebrities' asses? I can't come up with anything, and given the rather amazing amount of reality crap that pollutes most of the airwaves now, that's saying quite a bit.

Tonight will be a test of willpower for me, because I really like Jerry Seinfeld (Jay's first 10 p.m. guest), but I'm gonna stand strong and just say no. If I have any power at all (and, believe me, I'm well aware that I don't), please do me this tiny favor and never, ever tune in to this garbage. I have a feeling from everything I've read so far that, no matter how abysmal Jay's ratings might get, they're unlikely to pull him off the air any time soon because the show is just so cheap to produce, but we can still try, right?

OK, enough bile for a Monday morning. I'll leave you with something much more glorious: A making-of featurette for Wes Anderson's upcoming "Fantastic Mr. Fox." As you can see from this clip, Anderson clearly has the same respect for Roald Dahl and his work that Spike Jonze has for Maurice Sendak and his. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

True wit: With the Coens and the Dude, a remake I can support

I'm really not sure there's ever been other remake news that just made me smile like this does.

The Coen brothers are now (I assume) in Toronto promoting their new flick, "A Serious Man," which will hopefully play at least wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it opens Oct. 2, and as they're doing so the thoroughly crazy word about their next project has leaked out.

It seems that - and brace yourself for just how cool this could be - the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, is about to sign on to play Roster Cogburn in a Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit" for Paramount.

Though a large part of me wishes the Coens would stick to their most often wildly inventive original material, this would seem to be just about a perfect fit to me. I have seen the original movie, of course, and can already see the Dude in it in my mind. And I read another novel by Charles Portis, "The Dog of the South," and can report its filled with the kind of very dark and sly wit that matches well with the Coens' view of the world.

And in other movie news out there today, if there's any director who deserves another shot at directing a fairly big budget feature flick, it's James Gunn.

Did anyone besides me see "Slither"? If you did, you know it was a delightfully twisted mix of humor and horror starring Nathan Fillion that, according to BoxOfficeMojo, made a rather astoundingly paltry $7,802,450 in the U.S. and only another $5 million or so in the rest of the world.

It also did, however, get a grade of B from the 330 or so people - including me - who bothered to rate it at BoxOfficeMojo, and if you're among the many who haven't seen it, I think it's well worth a rental.

I tell you all that to tell you this: James Gunn is finally back with something called "Super," with Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page and hopefully a pretty funny tale in tow.

Wilson plays an average guy who takes on the pseudo-superhero alter ego of the Crimson Bolt, after watching his wife (Liv Tyler) fall under the spell of a charming drug dealer. Lacking super powers, he compensates by swinging a trusty wrench. I'm laughing at that already. I have no idea what role young Ellen Page will play in all this, but I'll definitely turn out to see the final result.

I'll leave you today with couple of clips, plus, since I haven't mentioned "Where the Wild Things Are" for at least two days (a real void for me), some thoroughly cool character posters for the upcoming Spike Jonze flick. Before all that, however, enjoy this clip of Rob Lowe and Ricky Gervais in "The Invention of Lying," which Gervais wrote and directed with Matthew Robinson. Here's hoping the flick is that rare breed of flick, both a truly witty romantic comedy and a money-maker when it comes out Oct. 2. Enjoy.

And sort of finally, Warner Bros., who has clearly now decided since it found it couldn't stop Jonze from finishing "Where the Wild Things Are" they would just really get behind it instead, has released these four fantastic character posters for the Oct. 16 flick. The first one, of course, is young Max Records as our hero Max, but if you want to put a name with a face, in the others, KW will be voiced by Lauren Ambrose, Carol will be voiced by James Gandolfini and Judith will be voiced by Catherine O'Hara.

In this great profile of Jonze in the New York Times, Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers revealed they fleshed out the Wild Things as projections of Max's feelings. Man, I can't wait to finally see this. Enjoy.

And really finally, courtesy of and worth a plug for the great "Where the Wild Things Are" production blog of sorts We Love You So, well worth a visit if you haven't seen it, I'll leave you with this delightfully insane clip of Shel Silverstein performing on "The Johnny Cash Show." Along with being a celebrated children's author, Silverstein was also a rather prolific writer of country songs, including the two you'll hear below (the second, "Daddy What If," is just one of my favorite little sappy songs, especially as it was performed by Bobby Bare and Bobby Bare Jr.) Enjoy, and have a great weekend (and if you've never seen a Tyler Perry movie, take a chance on "Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself." I certainly will Saturday afternoon.) Peace out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No, I really don't have a heterocrush on George Clooney, but this stuff looks damn funny

But before we get into any of that, the details have finally emerged about just what "Pushing Daisies" creator Bryan Singer is gonna do after walking away from "Heroes" for the second time (when they thoroughly wasted Hiro's time trip to Japan, that was enough to make me walk away for the first time and make it permanent.)

The good news is he now has two projects in the works for NBC, but unfortunately neither of them sound anywhere near as imaginative as "Pushing Daisies."

In the first, Fuller and Bryan Singer are partnering to adapt the Augusten Burroughs book "Sellevision," which apparently revolves around the inner workings at a fictional home shopping channel. Sounds like an awful lot of meh to me, but who knows? It could also be really funny, I suppose.

The second project he's on sounds much more appealing to me simply because of the oddity of it. Described as a "workplace comedy," "No Kill" will be set inside a no-kill animal shelter. Sounds great to me, especially with this tease from Fuller: "There's definitely a 'Barney Miller' workplace aspect to it."

And of course, for you "Pushing Daisies" fans out there (and there had to be at least a few of you, right?), Fuller is also working on a 12-issue series of comic books based on the show, and like just about any show creator you can think of, dreaming about a movie someday. I don't even think I have the heart to go there ...

OK, from here on out today it's all about George Clooney in two clips, as the fall will seem to be with the two flicks below and Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" all coming out in short order.

First up comes a new, short clip from "Men Who Stare at Goats," featuring Clooney torturing Ewan McGregor with some kind of odd device. The movie, set to come out Nov. 6 and based on Jon Ronson's book about the Army's exploration of uses for paranormal activity, should probably be the funniest movie for the rest of this year, and is one I'm really looking forward to. Enjoy.

Next up, and potentially even better, is as far as I know the first teaser trailer for director Jason Reitman's return, "Up in the Air." Clooney stars as a downsizer who compiles his frequent flier as he travels the globe firing people, and thankfully the great Anna Kendrick (who I've loved ever since "Rocket Science" - rent that little charmer if you've never seen it) plays a rival who develops a way to fire people even faster (comforting thought, eh?). Before today, I had only seen this as having a probable Christmas day release, but now it's listed at the IMDB for Dec. 4, so I can only say huzzah to that. Enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

OK, this is late, but for me QT is the king of summer

As I was wondering how in the world to finally write something about Quentin Tarantino's simply insane "Inglourious Basterds," my easily distracted mind moved to thinking about the possible standards by which you can judge movies.

There are certainly many more than one that are valid, but for me it's always come down to simply this: Is this flick entertaining or not? And by that simple standard, QT's latest, and I think best, movie is wildly and often maddeningly so, and is therefore my favorite movie of 2009 so far.

Much of the praise I've seen for "Inglourious Basterds" (and except for the incredibly arrogant and equally vapid David Denby pretty much calling QT a retard, I haven't seen a lot of criticism) has centered on Christoph Waltz and the opening sequence, and with good reason.

Waltz just approaches his role as Hans Landa, aka "The Jew Hunter," with the most disturbing glee, and the opening gambit, set at a farmhouse in occupied France, is a model of what has always been QT's greatest strength, the ability to write extremely wordy scenes that never feel too wordy, since those words are turned into weapons that slowly and constantly raise the tension. Tarantino clearly knew he had a winner with this scene, since he released the script for it well in advance of the actual movie.

I can't take credit for this myself, but as my Facebook friend and devoted movie fan Ashok pointed out, many of the best scenes in "Inglourious Basterds" take place around tables, the real arena of action here.

And one such scene that I found even more dynamic than the opener comes when the titular Basterds are sent to pick up a German-actress-turned-counter-spy, played by Diane Kruger, at a French bar. The tension is both alleviated and sustained here by a sublimely silly game of celebrity Indian head poker so perfectly that when it all inevitably falls apart it just hits that much harder.

But as great as these and other set pieces are, they would all be wasted if they weren't used in the service of some truly inventive storytelling. I'm gonna have to assume from here on out that almost anyone who wants to see this has done so already (I was positively giddy to see that it came within a whisker of knocking "The Final Destination" from the top spot in week three.)

If you have, you know that what QT has unleashed here is nothing less grand than a revenge fantasy about taking down the Third Reich, and the chapters of "Inglourious Basterds" build as flawlessly as did those of "Pulp Fiction" (yes, I went there) to a grand finale that I guarantee will just be seared onto your eyeballs. I know it makes me more than a little sick, but both times I watched this, I started grinning as soon as I heard the first strains of David Bowie's "Cat People" ("putting out the fire with gasoline") and didn't stop until Shoshanna's face was being projected in smoke over all the carnage like the Wizard of Oz.

Now, all that said, "Inglourious Basterds" is far too ambitious to be perfect, and it certainly has its faults. The titular "Basterds" are just far too cartoonish for even a tale as crazy as this one, so thankfully they get the shortest chapter. Though I normally love Brad Pitt as a comedic actor, his Aldo Rayne just constantly grates as he seems to be channeling Karl Childers through the spirit of John Wayne.

And be warned: As with any QT movie, the violence here is just often way over the top. Even more than the finale, the scalping and, well, let's just say engraving of Nazi soldiers is more than enough to make even the most hardened person squirm.

But none of that was nearly enough to spoil the fun of this one for me. Even more than the dynamic set pieces or wild storytelling, it's just the spirit of this flick that sets it apart from anything else I've seen this summer. As my friend Randy Waters remarked as we were leaving the theater the first time I saw this, why stick to the facts for something as conventional and simply tame as "Valkyrie" when you can use your vivid imagination to twist history to your own ends?

I almost never clap at the end of movies unless the director is somehow in attendance, but I have to admit I did a little each time I heard Pitt utter that "masterpiece" remark, mostly because in spite of the hubris of it, I have to admit he's right: This is indeed Tarantino's masterpiece (at least so far) and thus my favorite movie of 2009 so far. Peace out.

P.S.: As part of my ongoing bid to do my minuscule part to promote glorious, traditional animation, here's the second trailer for "The Princess and the Frog," which just looks more and more like its gonna be a real winner.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Stay in school and follow your dreams? How dare he?!?!

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

From the text of my president's address to returning school children, set for today

OK, I try my best to keep the politics out of this, because it really has no place, but I really think civility in our country is about to take a turn for the seriously worse, so bear with me for a few seconds.

As part of my ever-shifting duties at The Telegraph, I now deal with the letters to the editor, and I have to say it truly tries my patience, especially when the subject is U.S. President Barack Obama (many of the people who I have to hear from daily don't even except that that's even his true title.) I can usually just grin and bear it, but the comments that have come in about Mr. Obama's desire to address kids returning to school have just been a whole new breed of hate, and its very hard to take.

I'm not sure if it's something being coached by Rush, Hannity or anyone else, but I've never had to read the words "indoctrinate," "socialism" and "government schools" as much as I had to late last week. As you read those words, please take a second to compare them to the actual wording of the president's address, an excerpt of which you can read above (and you can read the whole thing here.)

Has there ever been a bigger disconnect between reality and what a seemingly growing segment of the U.S. population now believes is happening simply because we have a black president who's actually following through on exactly what he promised to on the campaign trail? (I used to believe it was more complicated and less hateful than that, but when you really object to the president of the United States urging kids to stay in school, study and follow all their dreams, I really think it's time for you to look pretty hard in the mirror.)

I can't imagine how much of a thrill it would have been if something this historic had happened when I was in elementary school (though it would have been Jimmy Carter then, not anywhere nearly as exciting.) I know I certainly would have paid a lot more attention than I did on a normal day, which was sadly at the time just about next to none.

OK, enough of that. I apologize to anyone who might have been offended by any of that, but sometimes I just wake up in a cantankerous mood and have to let it out somehow. When I went to bed last night, too late after watching the Canes take out the Noles in a truly great game, this was supposed to be about how, after watching it for a second time last weekend, I'm now ready to declare Quentin Tarantino's wild "Inglourious Basterds" the best movie of this summer, and therefore of the year thus far (dethroning "Sugar" and then "The Hurt Locker," the movies in chronological order that had previously held the top spot.)

I'll get to that tomorrow if I can manage to concentrate on it long enough, but in the meantime, I'll leave you with this can't-miss entertainment tip: Even if you didn't watch the first season of "Sons of Anarchy," take a chance and tune in as the show returns to FX tonight. The motorcycle drama slowly just got better and better last year as it built to a genuinely explosive finish, and from what I've read from folks lucky enough to have seen the first five episodes of season two, it's gonna get even better. Bring it on!

Peace out.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A truly maddening dose of MPAA madness

Before I get into any of that, and a commendable scoop from easily one of this site's favorite movie reviewers, Nell Minow, there's news of a new Tyler Perry movie in works. I know that seems to happen at least twice a year, but this one really does sound pretty fascinating.

Lionsgate has now tapped him to direct a film based on the 1975 Ntozake Shange play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf."

As far as I know, this would be the first Tyler Perry movie not based on his own work, and if it sticks to the structure of the play - a series of 20 poems read by women with names like "Lady in Purple" - will certainly present him with a challenge.

And I know Tyler Perry is an acquired taste for many, many people, and I can thoroughly understand, but for all his faults as a filmmaker I guarantee you there isn't a director out there who's now writing better parts for women than he consistently does. So this project should be just perfect for him.

And this being the fall, Mr. Perry has his second movie of this year coming out next Friday, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself." With easily one of my favorite actresses, Taraji P. Henson, as the star, you can bet I'll be there to see it Saturday afternoon.

But after that today, it's about something that really makes me irate, and I have to warn you, I'm not completely sure why as I start to type this. First the facts, per Nell Minow in today's (I think) Chicago Sun Times, which you can read here.

We've all gone to the movies and, for as long as I can remember, seen those green screens that precede the trailers and always say "appropriate for all audiences." Well, no more. In April without apparently telling, well, anyone, the MPAA (far from my favorite cabal in the world) just decided that green now means "appropriate for some audiences."

Now, I fully realize that for most of the world that means absolutely nothing, and if I were to decide to launch a career as a moralist I'd be a truly rotten one (I was sad to see today that the king of trash, John Waters, now says he's only going to make two more movies before he retires.) But stop for a second and think about just what "some audiences" means.

If you have any idea, please let me know, because I have no friggin clue. And I'm not a parent, but if you've gotten used to the green screen meaning you don't have to worry about the content of the trailer that's about to unfold in front of you, now be warned that you really can't count on that at all.

But what irks me even more than the randomness of this move is what seems to be the attitude behind it of just giving up. Of course, kids and anyone else can see "red-band" trailers on the Internet simply by typing in an age that is clearly not their own. But at least that's an attempt to keep some people from seeing it. Now, the green, in what was once considered a safe zone, is moving quickly toward the red, with no limitations whatsoever.

Though it's a slightly different subject (and, believe me, one I could go off on for no short amount of time), PG-13 has become the same sort of animal, a toilet full of every kind of random filth imaginable to push the limits of R as they keep getting flimsier.

Wow. That was quite a bit of bile for a Friday morning, so I'll just leave you with this assurance. I LOVE raunchy, R-RATED movies. I can't wait to see Mike Judge's "Extract" on Saturday afternoon, and despite some early middlin-to-bad reviews, I'm really looking to a solidly R-rated comedy.

But is it too much to ask from the MPAA that everything below R really is appropriate for folks under age 17 or so, or that we have some kind of control over what we have to see in trailers? Sheesh.

And to go out on a more pleasant note, and since I really do like to mention Spike Jonze's upcoming "Where the Wild Things Are" just about every day, check out this groovy cover of Filter magazine, illustrated by Geoff McFetridge. Looks like I'll be buying that soon. Peace out.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

TV tidbits and a glorious glimpse of "The Damned United"

Does anyone else remember the fairly great little documentary "Hands on a Hard Body"? It was a contest doco about a bunch of folks who compete to see who can stand the longest with one hand on a pickup truck, with the winner getting the truck.

For a strange little flick I don't even think you can get on DVD, it's had a surprisingly high number of attempts to re-create it. Robert Altman (and no, I'm not making that up) even had his sights on making a fictionalized version of it when he died, but that wouldn't have been nearly as crazy as this latest reinvisioning (is that even a word)?

It seems that Doug Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and lyricist Amanda Green have scripted a musical based on the story, which will be staged at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. And no, even if I concentrated really hard, I don't think I could make up anything quite that crazy.

Except for that, it's mostly about TV here today. I suppose I should change the blog's name on days like this, but since it's my space, I write about just about anything that catches my eye.

It starts today with what could only be called excellent news for fans of "Freaks and Geeks" (and if you're not one, I just have to assume you've never seen it.) It seems that Mike White, who served as a "Freaks and Geeks" producer and also wrote probably my favorite episode, "The Little Things," before going on to pen "School of Rock" and other movies, is now returning to TV for HBO with Laura Dern in tow.

The HBO project will star Dern as a woman who troubles those around her when she undergoes a spiritual awakening. And, I apologize for this in advance, but I keep trying to get rid of HBO, but "every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in" with intriguing TV.

OK, so much for the good news. This next bit just makes me vomit in my own mouth, and not just a little bit either (and I must say, orange juice and kashi just taste a whole lot better going down.)

It seems that, unable to come up with any more ideas for its shows that aren't about fat people, NBC is now going to piss all over the great "Prime Suspect" with what might just be the most unnecessary and downright insulting remake of all time.

Without, of course, Dame Helen Mirren or even series creator Lynda La Plante in tow, it seems that "Without a Trace" creator Hank Steinberg has the hubris to take this on. Thankfully, so far at least, it's just a planned two-hour presentation rather than a series, so maybe this just will go away extremely quickly and will be forgotten even faster.

But enough of that bile. In much better cop TV news, it seems that Fox has picked up 13 episodes of a new show from "Burn/Notice" creator Matt Nix.

Though the premise - an ambitious, by-the-book cop is saddled with a drunken, wild-card partner - sounds awfully familiar, from Nix I know it will at least be a fun mix of action and humor, and that's probably enough to get me to tune in when this hits the airwaves.

OK, for the finish, I suppose I should at least make this a bit about movies, especially when it's a glimpse of what is - next to only Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" - the movie I'm almost most looking forward to for the rest of this year.

Based on easily one of my favorite books by David Peace, "The Damned United" tells the rather disastrous tale of Brian Clough's 42-or-so days as coach of Leeds United, a team he despised even as he took the job. With a script from Peter Morgan and starring Michael Sheen, I really don't see how this can be bad, and you can see from the trailer below that Sheen has at least captured the manic nature of Clough that drives the book. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Film Forum with Beavis and Butthead? Bring it on!

Actually, before I get into any of that (plus a bonus clip for "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and even Alyson Hannigan as a Lusty Leopard stripper), there's a couple of bits of news out there today that are just too good not to pass along.

First up is that, though I might have to drive to Atlanta, I most likely will get to see Jean-Pierre Jeunet's crazy new flick "Micmacs" this fall now that it's been picked up for U.S. distribution by Sony Pictures Classics.

I believe the full original French name of the flick is "Micmacs à tire-larigot," but I'll take it in any form I can get it, especially since the plot sounds exactly like something that sprang from Jeunet's rather active imagination. In it, Dany Boon stars as a video store clerk who bands together with his friends to take out two weapons manufacturers after he gets a bullet lodged in his brain.

And in perhaps even better, though certainly expected, news, AMC has greenlit a fourth season of "Mad Men."

Beyond the acclaim the show brings to AMC, the numbers this year have been rather incredible, bringing in 2.8 million viewers for the season premiere (34 percent more than the season two premiere), with the total rising to 4.5 million viewers of subsequent airings during the first week.

And from an aesthetic view, the show has never been better, so I can only say bring it on. If I have this right, show creator Matthew Weiner only has a five-season arc planned, so this brings us into the home stretch. And I'll certainly be around until the very end.

OK, before we get into the videos, being a fan of Allyson Hannigan since the beginning of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," I certainly couldn't help but pass along this photo of her apparently working at the Lusty Leopard from the Sept. 28 season premiere of "How I Met Your Mother." As best as I can tell, the premiere is called "Double Date," and from the photos I've seen, I think Barney finally gets a date with Robin and - of course - takes her to all his usual haunts. Enjoy!

I'll close today with a couple of clips, the first of which is a new featurette for Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which is set to drop Nov. 13. You can see from the clip that Anderson is paying a lot of attention to the details of the animated sets, much as he did with the live-action ones for "The Royal Tenenbaums" (still my favorite Anderson flick), and watching George Clooney roll around on the farm is just a hoot. Enjoy.

And finally comes the main event for fans of truly juvenile humor (like me), the return of Beavis and Butthead. Sure, it's shameless promotion for Mike Judge's "Extract," which is indeed playing wide enough for me to go see it Saturday afternoon (huzzah!), but it's also very funny, and if you have American heroes Beavis and Butthead in your stable, why not use them? Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Epic soundtracks? The 18 or so ones I own and still listen to regularly

I really can't see myself driving a half hour and then paying $15 to see this, but for boxing fans, it's really nothing but good news.

One of the best/worst jobs I ever had was dealing blackjack (yes, really) in the back of a "gentleman's club." Along with the obvious regular "entertainment," the owner of the club's son was a huge fight fan, and he'd order every pay per view boxing offering he could find - which at the time meant a whole lot of Mike Tyson - and turn them into major events (which, if I'm not mistaken, was highly illegal.)

I tell you all that to tell you this: Boxing is returning to movie theaters for the first time in almost three decades with the Sept. 19 welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez and its undercard. Like I said, the only theater in my area that shows "events" like this (concerts, etc.) is about a half hour away in Centerville, so I can't see myself going, but this is still an awfully cool happening in my book (and it's apparently the first boxing event in movie theaters since the "No Mas Fight" between Sugar Ray and Roberto Duran - I remember that one.)

And if you happen to live in or will be visiting New York (which I will for the last week of the year), the Museum of Modern Art has something coming from Oct. 8-18 that will be a delight for fans of Spike Jonze (of which you can certainly count me one.)

The perhaps too cleverly titled "Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years" exhibit covers Jonze’s entire filmmaking and television career. Included are Jonze’s first two feature films, "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation," as well as two films that he co-produced: "Jackass: The Movie" and the documentary "Heavy Metal in Baghdad." I never would have guessed that about the "Jackass" flick, but I will admit I find it to be just about pure comic bliss.

Also featured will be music videos for Björk, Fatboy Slim,his award-winning Weezer, Beastie Boys, Wax, The Notorious B.I.G., and many others, as well as his commercials. Easily best of all, though, on opening night, will be "In Cahoots: Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze," an evening of short films that Jonze made about, and with, Maurice Sendak during the production of his forthcoming feature, "Where the Wild Things Are" (which you just may have heard me talk about, oh, 290 times by now.) Nothing but cool there, and you New Yorkers, I'm nothing but jealous.

But before all that here today, it was supposed to (and still will) be about the 18 or so soundtracks (and movie-related oddities) that I discovered I own (or used to own) as I was cleaning up my CD collection. I wouldn't go so far to call too many of them among the best soundtracks ever, but I still listen to them all, so they're winners in my book. Here goes:

"Slumdog Millionaire": I hear tell that AR Rahman has done much better film score work than this, but as a representative sample of his sound, it's nothing but fun.

"Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten": Imagine listening to the late Joe Strummer play DJ, as he used to do for the BBC, and you'll come close to just how great the soundtrack for this documentary about him is. Elvis, Nina Simone, Eddie Cochran and, of course, lots of Clash all find a home here.

"Into the Wild": What has grown to become my favorite movie of 2007 has also slowly evolved into the year's best soundtrack in my book too. Eddie Vedder delivers these mostly great tunes with a guttural growl and howl that indeed almost transport you "Into the Wild."

"The Muppet Movie": It hurts me a little to even type this, because I grew up on it but now can not find the cassette tape my family and I burned a hole through when I was a kid. If anyone out there somehow has a copy of this they'd be willing to burn on CD, please let me know, and I'll gladly send you music, money or anything else you might desire in return. Man, do I love the Muppets!

"O Brother Where Art Thou": If the purpose of a movie soundtrack is to allow you to watch the movie unfold in your mind while you're listening to it, none succeeds as well as this one from the Coen Brothers (one of two that will make this list.)

"Avenue Q": OK, I concede that the soundtrack for this Broadway musical starring a bunch of puppets and even Gary Coleman is extremely silly, but it's also just perfect listening for whatever you may be doing around the house on a Sunday afternoon. This show is coming to Macon's Grand Opera House next May, and I highly recommend it.

"Hairspray": This could be either the soundtrack for the utterly addictive Jon Waters original or the Broadway musical, both of which I own, but not for that other movie, which I haven't and won't see. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the Broadway set, which is just pure fun, but for one single song, I'll take the movie's "Nothing Takes the Place of You" by Toussaint McCall," which just slays me every time I hear it.

"Seu Jorge: The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions": OK, this is the first, but not the last, one on this list that really isn't a movie soundtrack at all. Instead, it's a collection of those David Bowie songs delivered in Brazilian Portuguese by Seu Jorge in director Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," easily the best thing about that mostly disappointing film.

"Ladykillers": This second entry from the Coens also comes from a flick that most people find not only disappointing but downright useless. But I kinda like it, and I like the soundtrack, featuring a mix of genuine gospel greats from the likes of the Soul Stirrers and Donnie McClurkin with hip-hop from the Nappy Roots, a whole lot more.

Carole King's "Really Rosie": In the spirit of "Where the Wild Things Are" comes this soundtrack for the '70s (I think) TV special based on the children's collection by the great Maurice Sendak. And yes, I really do still listen to the likes of "Alligators all Around" and "The Ballad of Chicken Soup" and smile every time I do.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch": Though the straightforward movie soundtrack for this divine oddity from the mind of John Cameron Mitchell is perfectly good in its own right, much better is the "Wig in a Box" collection, which features the Breeders, the Polyphonic Spree, They Might Be Giants and many more offering their takes on the very catchy songs. Pop perfection.

Prince: "Parade": I was so addicted to Prince when I was a teenager that to this day, most of my computer passwords contain some variation on the word (which indeed draws raised eyebrows from my co-workers if I ever have to reveal that.) I've even seen all the Prince movies, and though "Under the Cherry Moon" is pretty darn wretched, the soundtrack stands up very well over time.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling": Who can't like this one? Buffy's musical episode was not only a ton of fun when it first hit the air, but if you go back and listen to it now - which I still do from time to time - you'll find that little pop gems like that "I'll Never Tell" with Xander and Anya are just pretty much timeless.

"Once": I've probably listened to this soundtrack for the great little Irish movie starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova more often than anything else you might find on my desk at work, and each time it still manages to take me away, no matter how downright rotten my work day just might be.

"Spongebob Squarepants": Yes, that's right, "Spongebob Squarepants." I've seen the movie and I own the soundtrack, and I'm well aware that might mean there's something rather seriously wrong with me, but when it contains Ween, the Flaming Lips and even the delirious delight of "Prince Paul's Bubble Party", how can you resist? If you have kids and want to teach them to listen to good music, I can't recommend this highly enough.

"Office Space": I just tried to check the Web sites for my local multiplexes to see if Mike Judge's "Extract" would indeed play as widely as promised this week, but they haven't put up their Friday listings yet. I can't imagine "Extract" will be as funny or just therapeutic as "Office Space," which features a soundtrack full of gangster rap that just fits the movie perfectly.

"Big Bad Love": I managed to see this biopic of sorts based on the short stories of Southern writer Larry Brown in New York with an introduction by producer and star Debra Winger, and though I liked the movie quite a bit, I'm pretty sure I was one of about 10 people in the entire world who bothered to watch it. The soundtrack, full of a lot of genuine Southern blues and two great tracks by Tom Waits, is well getting your hands on if you can still find it.

"A Tribute to Robert Altman's Nashville": Whew, last one! Instead of what should have been an insufferable bit of hipster irony from Carolyn Mark and her buddies, this is instead a heartfelt tribute to one of American's great movie soundtracks. Robyn Carrigan's "It Don't Worry Me" is particularly just spot on.

OK, there you have it. And anyone who really made it this far deserves a reward, so here goes: If anything on this list strikes your fancy, simply e-mail me your name, address and request to, and I'll gladly burn you a copy of anything you want. Piracy? Perhaps, but I still spend more than enough money on music that I can make this offer with a clear conscience. Hope you enjoyed this list, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.