Thursday, October 29, 2009

More "Chuck"? Yes, please!

You know, my hopes have already been raised and dashed by that dastardly rumor that "Chuck" would come back as soon as the end of October (which is, of course, just about here, with no "Chuck"), but I'm certain this time that this just-as-good information is satisfactual.

With another of its new shows crashing early - this time "Trauma," poor Derek Luke deserves much, much better - it seems that NBC has already ordered six more episodes of "Chuck," upping the second season order from 13 to 19 (and, if enough people tune in, perhaps maybe even 22 - hey, I can dream right?)

No word yet that it would come back any earlier than the originally planned March, but the way things stand now, it would probably be best to just wait until then. NBC has the Winter Olympics, so if "Chuck" were brought back in, say, January, it would just get preempted for the second half of February and perhaps lose any new viewers it may have picked up. Methinks, all things, considered, waiting until March would be just fine.

Whenever it comes, however, more "Chuck" is just sensationally good news. Stay tuned for more details as I get them.

The word is also out today on when we'll get to see another of my favorite comedies, but probably one that should be off the air already.

How in the world "Scrubs" has survived for what will be its ninth season beginning Dec. 1 with two episodes on ABC, I'll never know, but I do know that when it returns this time it won't look much like anything we've seen in the past.

As far as I know, all the regular cast members except for Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and perhaps Carla (Judy Reyes) have mostly moved on and will only be seen in brief recurring spots from time to time (but it sure is nice to see Neil Flynn each week on "The Middle.") Instead, we'll find Dr. Cox with a new crop of med students to berate and perhaps break down.

I'm all for a fresh start, and I like this show enough to give it another chance this winter, but the main problem is that when they tried to introduce a new cast of characters last year, they all bombed (and I assume will all be gone.) I mean, when you have veryfunnyman Aziz Ansari and you give him absolutely nothing funny to say, you're certainly going in the wrong direction.

But, enough of that. Like I said, I'll at least tune in to see if any of the magic still exists. And all I have except for that today is a couple of videos that caught my eye this morning.

First up is a deleted scene from J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek," which I assume will be included with the DVD release coming Nov. 17. Like most people, I loved the flick, and am almost certain it will end up on my top 10 for the year. Enjoy.

Star Trek - DVD Bonus Footage

And finally comes something that's, unfortunately, at least as depressing as it is enjoyable. If you somehow haven't seen Joss Whedon's short-lived series "Firefly" or the improbable follow-up flick "Serenity," you've missed one of the truly great characters of the last 10 years or so in Nathan Fillion's Captain Mal Reynolds. Watch them as soon as you can, and just to stir some memories, here's Fillion donning the familiar garb for a recent episode of "Castle," which I just can't bring myself to watch because I already absorb way too much just-above-average TV and just don't have time or energy for something that looks so thoroughly banal. Anyways, enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The stars of "Once" make beautiful music together again

If you saw the thoroughly charming little Irish film "Once" three years or so ago, you surely remember the names Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Well, musically at least, they're back together again, and they sound as good as ever as The Swell Season.

Following - or perhaps concurrently with, I'm not sure - their on-screen romance in John Carney's flick, they were an actual couple too, but have since broken up. And be warned: The fact and feeling of that breakup resonates throughout The Swell Season album "Strict Joy," which I bought from the Itunes yesterday (and have listened to at least three times through since then.)

The sadness of it creeps up on you slowly, however. I was so hypnotized on first listen by the sheer beauty of the music (and, though I'm prone to it from time to time, I'm not exaggerating one bit here) that I didn't really notice it at first. In perfect harmony, the two of them explore all kinds of variations within their basic folk music motif, and they all work (and I guarantee you won't be able to get Irglova's rhythmic chant of "you're every now and then on my mind" on the best track, "I Have Loved You Wrong," out of your head for a long time.) And besides, if you spring for the two-disc special edition, you also get a live album featuring all the great tracks from "Once" and more, so how can you go wrong?

And in some kind of odd convergence that I suppose can only be put up to coincidence, rather big news about Carney's next film, his first with any actual Hollywood stars, has dropped today.

Zach Galifianakis and Amy Adams are about to sign on to star in Carney's comedy-drama (or dramedy, I suppose, if you must) "The Town House," based on the debut novel by Tish Cohen.

The story centers on an agoraphobic man (Mr. Galifianakis, I'd have to presume) who lives with his teenage son in a historic Boston townhouse that he inherited from his rock star father. With royalties from his father's work dwindling, the man is forced to come to terms with his life. A call girl (Adams, maybe, which would by force have to be pretty fascinating) strikes up a friendship with the man.

As I was typing all that, I stopped to add the only John Carney movie I could find there to my Netflix queue and moved it to the top of the list (so I'll get it after returning either Lee Daniels' "Shadowboxer" or Guillermo Del Toro's "The Devil's Backbone," since my wallet forced me to drop back to two movies at a time.) It's called "On the Edge" and it stars two of my favorites, Stephen Rea and Cillian Murphy, and I love me some John Carney, so I can't wait to see it.

Except for that today, all I've got is a trio of videos that are varying degrees of fascinating. First up comes a rather extended look (eight scenes and more than 12 minutes) at Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." You get glimpses of Heath Ledger and the three men who replaced him - Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell - and even better, several looks at Tom Waits as Beelzebub himself. Even if this does turn out to be a trainwreck, I'm still thoroughly psyched to see it when it finally drops on Christmas Day and I'm in NYC. Enjoy.

Next up comes the second (I think) trailer for Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," and it's of course very heavy on Mr. Depp as the Mad Hatter. I have a feeling that when this finally comes out in March I'm going to be permanently haunted by that gigantic Cheshire Cat head. Enjoy.

Alice in Wonderland - Extended Trailer

And, though I had my doubts, I think I've definitely saved the best for last with the first trailer for Clint Eastwood's "Invictus," which stars Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman (as a certain man you may have heard of known as Nelson Mandela.) I'm always suspicious of Eastwood's movies because he makes everything so obvious, but I adored "Gran Torino," and this looks even better. Judging from this brief look, I'd say he's captured this magical moment in time, and will take home all the Oscars (and more) that he deserves. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finally, two remakes I can certainly support

You know, the Coens really don't have the best of luck with remakes, which is probably all for the best, since their original ideas usually work so well.

I think I'm just about the only person in the world who almost unconditionally liked their take on "The Ladykillers" (it probably helped that I know absolutely nothing about the original), but now they're getting back in the remake game with source material that's just about perfectly fitted to their view of world, methinks.

I really like Southern writer Charles Portis, especially his novel "Dog of the South," but he's certainly best known for "True Grit," the novel turned into the John Wayne-starring flick that the Coens are set to remake as perhaps their next movie.

The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, has already signed on to play U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (I can already picture that, and it's nothing but cool in my mind), and now it seems that Josh Brolin and Matt Damon are about to sign on for parts too in the flick set to begin filming in March for a late 2010 release.

Damon would play the lawman (played by Glen Campbell in the original) who teams with Cogburn and a 14-year-old girl to track her father's killer into hostile Indian territory. And Brolin would, natch, play the killer. Sounds just about perfect to me so far.

Definitely keep your eyes on that one.

In another potentially very funny remake of a movie for which I haven't seen the French original ("Le Diner Des Cons"), Ron Livingston - the "Office Space" star who I don't think I've seen in a movie in many years now - has just joined the already very solid cast of the 2010 flick "Dinner for Schmucks."

In the flick, already set to star Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis, a group of friends invites the biggest losers they can find to dinner to ridicule them, and surely there will be some comeuppance delivered. I have no idea who the schmucks are here, but I'd put my money on Carell and Galifianakis, and I'll certainly be there when this Jay Roach flick hits theaters in July.

All I have except for that is the first five minutes of "Boondock Saints II." I don't know if the sequel is going to get (or has already gotten) any kind of theatrical release or is headed straight to DVD (or when that would happen.) If you know, please share.

It's been a long time since I've seen the original, but it's certainly a lot of fun, and it's just nice to see the McManus brothers and the great Billy Connolly back in this clip. And I'm fairly certain those rather sensational legs you see at the end belong to Darla, Julie Benz herself. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A painful, insightful and ultimately entertaining look at "Good Hair"

C'mon, you know we've all done it. You walk by a woman - most likely a black woman - with an elaborate hairdo and say (hopefully not out loud!) "how in the world did she do that?"

Well, Chris Rock provides a few answers and a lot of laughs in the documentary "Good Hair" as he asks varieties on that question in hair salons around the country, at the world's biggest black hair show in Atlanta and even in India - and I can tell you from this gringo's perspective that after watching his movie it's hard to say which locale is the most exotic.

I was a little hesitant to see this this movie, not because of the subject matter - which has always kind of fascinated me - but because I don't always find Chris Rock to be all that funny. I just didn't think I could bear two hours of him ridiculing and berating these women who often - we find out - spend thousands of dollars on their hair, but he tries a new tack here, empathy.

He says at the outset that the idea for the movie came at least in part from his very young daughter asking, "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?" The movie is indeed often at its best as he talks with black women in hair salons and black men in barbershops because - perhaps with his daughter in mind - Rock manages to make this much more of a free-flowing conversation than a series of uncomfortable interrogations.

Sprinkled in with these visits are interviews with assorted celebrities who have achieved their fame at least partly by having "Good Hair," both women and men. Ice-T is very funny as he talks about wearing curlers to school, and the stunning Nia Long is the most candid as she talks about the lengths she goes to to both acquire and protect her 'do. I guarantee you'll just squirm in your seat, however, after you hear all about the painful weave process and then see a game Raven Symone showing off her tremendous head of fake hair. (As an aside, as a young kid growing up near Baltimore, I always thought self-promoting Charm City business man Mr. Ray invented the hair weave.)

Rock and director Jeff Stilson wisely frame their movie with the outlandish Battle Royale that closes out the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show each year in Atlanta. A lot of my favorite documentaries feature some kind of competition to build in suspense, and you'll definitely pick a favorite and probably hoot out loud while watching the four star stylists who compete here (mine was Freddie J, whose elaborate production was probably doomed from the start but still the most fun to watch.)

"Good Hair" takes a brief but very wrong turn as Rock gets into the touchy subject of why so few black people - and so many Asians - have made so much money off of this billion-dollar industry. It's a worthy question to ask, but Rock adds absolutely nothing to the flick when he sinks down to the "gotcha" style of documentary making and ambushes an Asian hair store owner, trying to get him to buy some "black hair." It's just the kind of stunt that Michael Moore leans on at his worst, and it adds nothing at all to "Good Hair."

That's only a minor beef, however, about a movie that's almost as insightful as it is downright entertaining. See this one while you can, since it will probably only get a few more weeks in theaters. And, apropos of nothing except for the fact that i like it so much, I'll leave you today with a video of the queen of "Good Hair" and great voice, Etta James, singing what is still probably my favorite song, "I'd Rather Go Blind." Peace out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Say it ain't so, Hulu

Before I get into any of that, there's some much better news out there for people who like their TV to make them laugh, which I certainly do.

First up is that NBC has given full-season orders to two shows I tune in for every week, "Community" and "Parks and Recreation." The former is already very funny and seems to get a little better with each episode, and the latter has a sweetness that masks just how sly it can often be.

And, in even better news, it seems that both Jane Lynch and Kristen Bell will be returning for the second season of Starz's "Party Down," set to begin in April, if only for limited runs. Lynch was, as usual, extremely funny as a regular on season one before she got a better gig on "Glee," which, yes, I watch. And Bell showed up at the end, most likely as a favor to "Veronica Mars" and "Party Down" creator Rob Thomas, as a rival caterer with a mean streak but a wounded heart. Lynch will return for the second season finale, while Bell will apparently show up for a few episodes mid-season to stir up some trouble.

If you've never seen this often wickedly funny show about a group of wannabe actors who work at a catering company, you can catch up on all of season one with that watch instantly thing at Netflix. I'd highly recommend it.

And now on to the bad news. Since I don't own a cell phone and never will, and the only computer I own sits permanently on the desk in my front room, I'd say is just about the best technological innovation of the last five years or so, and easily one of the most addictive.

For anyone who's never used it, the site essentially compiles TV episodes and some movies (including, somehow, Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan," which I've watched at the site), which you can watch in their entirety with limited commercial interruption. It's a great way to catch a recent episode you might have missed (if you somehow don't have any kind of DVR device), but even better, it's a great place to rediscover shows long gone. For example, you can watch the entire first season of "Arrested Development" there now for free, and since it rotates, I'd imagine seasons two and three will appear soon, as they have in the past.

The key word there, however, and what may change very soon, is "free." Though is hasn't yet said what form any coming fees might come in, News Corp., which owns the site with NBC Universal, the Walt Disney Co. and Providence Equity Partners, announced Thursday that a subscription fee of some sort could come as early as next year as the site struggles to remain viable.

Oh well. I guess something this cool couldn't last forever, but I don't think I'll be paying for the service, since I already have the Netflix and more than enough digital cable.

OK, enough of the bad news. All I've got otherwise today is two clips that will hopefully pick up everyone's spirits at least a bit. First up comes the first eight minutes or so of ABC's upcoming remake of "V." The network apparently plans to release four episodes of it in November to see how it does, and then bring it back as a midseason replacement. That just sounds goofy as hell, but I'll tune in for at least the first four to see what they have going on, because my TV is sorely in need of some good sci-fi right now. Enjoy.

And finally today comes the second (I think) trailer for "Men Who Stare at Goats," which will hopefully play everywhere when it drops Nov. 6. It just makes me smile every time I see George Clooney stare down a poor goat, and it looks like this one is just gonna be insanely funny. Enjoy, and have a great rest of the weekend. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to get a gyro at the Central Georgia Greek Festival and then go see Chris Rock's "Good Hair." Peace out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Can Sam Rockwell really get an Oscar nomination?

The oddest thing about the Somali pirate story that grabbed our attention for a few days earlier this year is that no one has bothered to make a movie about it, but that's about to change.

It seems that Billy Ray has been hired to pen the story of captain Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates until Barack Obama gave the order for some rather badass snipers to give them three shots to the head. (I only mention Obama because he could certainly use whatever goodwill he can get these days.)

Ray is easily one of my favorite screenwriters. "Breach" finished in my top 10 for 2007, and if you haven't seen "Shattered Glass," his flick about serial journalistic fabricator Stephen Glass, it's even better and well worth a rental. He was also one of three (wtf?) writers listed for "State of Play," which I just watched on DVD and enjoyed quite a bit.

Assuming this all comes to fruition (and why wouldn't it?), I would hope they pick someone besides Ray to direct it, because although I like all the movies he's helmed, they're very claustrophobic and cat-and-mouse, really not what we have here.

And in other, odder news today, it seems that the often great Don Cheadle is somehow getting into the sitcom business with NBC.

It's certainly not surprising that NBC would order up more comedies (last night's episode of "Community" was easily the funniest one yet - and on another network, of course, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" also had its funniest episode of the new season.) But why would Cheadle lower himself to TV?

I suspect it's due to the involvement of "Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder, who will write and I'd have to assume at least sometimes direct for the series. He'll certainly have to tone down his act for this new show about "mismatched brothers who reunite to open a private security company," but here's hoping he can keep it raw enough to be very funny.

But what sparked the headline for this post was that I saw there's now an online petition with about 700 signatures on it to get Sam Rockwell an Oscar nomination for his work in "Moon," and as far as empty gestures go, this one certainly has its heart in the right place. If you want to sign on, click here.

I had the distinct pleasure of squeezing into the screening of Duncan Jones' flick earlier this year at the Atlanta Film Festival 365, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It does steal more than a little directly from "2001," but it's still the kind of very smart sci-fi allegory we don't see on the big screen nearly often enough these days (and that, frankly, Neil Blomkamp's "District 9" only thought it was.)

And if you've seen this flick (if you haven't, it's finally coming to DVD Dec. 29), you know that Sam Rockwell's in just about every frame all alone, and he's sensational. Though Rockwell could have easily hammed it up with the descent into madness, he instead let it play out at a natural pace and turned in easily one of the best male performances I've seen this year.

So, is there any real chance that he could get a Best Actor Oscar nomination next year? I don't think so, but looking at the competition, I'd say he's at least a fairly healthy dark horse. Here's a look - as best as I can gauge it - at the contenders so far, plus a few players to come later. In my heart, I certainly wanted to include Peter Capaldi's gloriously profane turn as Malcolm Tucker in "In the Loop," but I really couldn't see that happening, so here goes:

Someone from "The Soloist"
I haven't seen this one yet because it just looks way too mawkish for me, but my fellow cubicle slave Randy Waters - whose taste I almost always trust - swears its good, so I should probably give it a shot on DVD. I'm certain, even without having seen it yet, that either Robert Downey Jr. or Jamie Foxx will get an Oscar nod for this - if not both - and I'd put my money on Foxx.

Someone from "The Hurt Locker"
Outside of Rockwell's run in "Moon," Kathyrn Bigelow's (not pro- or anti-, just) war movie has the best two male performances I've seen this year from Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner. Though they both just perfectly capture the state of soldiers in combat, I can't imagine they'd both be nominated, so I'll bet on Renner.

Matt Damon
I suppose this could come for either Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant" or for his upcoming role in Clint Eastwood's South Africa flick "Invictus," but I sure hope it's for the former. In Soderbergh's flick, he was just the perfect definition of a weasel as he kept digging deeper and deeper with the lies of Mark Whitacre, and it was thoroughly fun to watch.

Johnny Depp
And no, not just because he's Johnny Depp. In "Public Enemies," which made a surprisingly strong $97 million or so at the U.S. box office, Depp just carried the movie with ease as bank robber extraordinaire John Dillinger (and since he also had to carry the pretty much dead weight of Christian Bale as lawman Melvin Purvis, that was some truly heavy lifting.)

Future contenders

George Clooney
With "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Men Who Stare at Goats" and "Up in the Air" all coming in short order very soon, this fall will certainly be the season of Clooney, and I suspect you'll hear his name called next year for his role in the latter, the new flick from Jason Reitman and one I'm certainly looking forward to seeing.

Daniel Day Lewis
Because, well, he's Daniel Day Lewis and because, as the only dude in a sea of Oscar-winning women in Rob Marshall's epic musical "Nine," he'd have to just really, really suck to not snag a nomination for this, and I can't see that happening.

And there you have it. Please feel free to mention any I might have missed, and have a great weekend. As for my movie weekend, I'll probably go see Chris Rock's "Good Hair" and maybe "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," but not "Paranormal Activity," not because it looks too scary but because "The Blair Witch Project" was just easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen and I just don't think I can sit through another horror gimmick flick. Peace out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

David Fincher coming to TV with ... my favorite miniseries of all time?

Without exaggeration, the "House of Cards" trilogy - based on Michael Dobbs' book of the same name and starring the late, great Ian Richardson - really might be just about the best thing I've ever seen on TV, outside of maybe "Freaks and Geeks."

The story takes place at the end of Margaret Thatcher's reign as British prime minister, and Richardson stars as Francis Urquhart (often none too kindly abbreviated as F.U.), the Conservative Party chief whip who weasels his way into more and more power by any means necessary.

Now, it seems that David Fincher is getting set to make his TV debut as the executive producer and - for the pilot at least - I'd imagine director of an hourlong U.S. drama based on at least the first chapter of "House of Cards" (though I'd imagine if it ran long enough they'd get to the second and third chapters, "To Play the King" and "The Final Cut," too.) ... (On second thought, scratch that, because unless I'm somehow mistaken, we yanks aren't much for kings.)

Though I loved "The West Wing," and indeed go back and watch it from time to time, a show that delves into the darker (most people would say natural) side of politicians could certainly be a lot of fun, and the source material is just impeccable. My only real worry about this is that much of the salacious fun of the original was driven by Richardson himself, who dived into it with all the wickedness he could muster. Replacing him with an American counterpart will be a very tall order, but assuming this gets picked up by a network sometime soon, I'll definitely be tuning in to see how it all turns out.

All I have except for that today is a couple of videos, the first of which comes from a movie opening in some of the country tomorrow but, unfortunately, nowhere near me, Jared Hess' "Gentlemen Broncos." Though his movies, especially "Nacho Libre," are just silly beyond any reason, I just dig them. I'm not much of a moralist, and if I wanted to be I'd most certainly fail, but there's gotta be a place in our world for the squeaky clean but more than a little askew view of Mr. Hess. That said, here's a couple of scenes from his new flick, about the exotically geeky world of fantasy literature. Enjoy.

Next up comes the second trailer for director Joe Johnston's "The Wolfman," which stars Benicio del Toro as the titular man-beast and is set to come out in February. Though my instincts would tell me to beware of this one, everything I've seen so far makes it look like it's gonna be a whole lot of silly fun, and sometimes you just can't ask for more than that. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coming soon to a home near you, the best movie of 2009

Though I'm not naive enough to think it will ever be enough to kill off reality TV, sitcoms have started to make a real comeback in primetime TV. And, amazingly, there's even a few new ones good enough that I tune in each week (at least until they get canceled.)

Two that have caught my eye run back-to-back tonight on ABC, first "The Middle" and then "Modern Family." Sure, "The Middle" is a direct and not quite as good ripoff of that show that had "Malcolm" in it too, but I like seeing Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn together, and the humor is pretty spot on. "Modern Family," as it wades each week into uncomfortable situations, is even better.

And since both of those shows have (I think) gotten at least close to full-season orders already, ABC is ordering up more comedy, and thankfully with veryfunnylady Judy Greer, a k a Kitty Sanchez.

The network has signed her up to star in a series based on the book "I'm With Stupid," which would star her as a Manhattanite who has a fling with a park ranger while on safari in South Africa, and then finds the ranger has tracked her down in New York. Elaine Szewczyk, who wrote the book, is on board as a writer, and it seems like there could definitely be some funny there.

And speaking of definitely funny, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" almost always delivers in the foulest way possible, and we'll soon be getting it a lot more often.

Comedy Central has just snatched up the syndication rights for the F/X show, which is now in its fifth season and is signed for at least two more. And since Comedy Central is apparently paying about $700,000 per episode, I'd imagine they're gonna be showing "Sunny" as often as NBC does that dirty rat Jay Leno. Huzzah to that!

But before I got distracted by all that today, this was supposed to be all about the DVD release of my favorite movie of 2009 so far, which is coming Dec. 15.

Though Kathyrn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's "Sugar" have each spent time at the top this year, the enduring champ I'm referring to is Quentin Tarantino's wildly entertaining "Inglourious Basterds." It has its faults, for sure, but for vivid storytelling there just hasn't been a better flick this year, and though I don't buy nearly as many DVDS as I used to, I'll definitely spring for the two-disc set of this one (and then watch as probably at least five more "special" editions come out.) Here's what you'll get with the two-disc "Inglourious Basterds":

* Extended and alternate scenes
* Nation's Pride - The film within the film in its entirety
* A roundtable discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and film historian/critic Elvis Mitchell
* The making of Nation's Pride
* The Original Inglorious Bastards - a salute to the original 1978 film
* A conversation with veteran actor Rod Taylor
* Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitters, the Australian beer
* Quentin Tarantino's Camera Angel
* Hi Sallys - Gag Reel
* Film poster gallery tour with Elvis Mitchell
* Inglourious Basterds poster gallery
* Digital Copy of Inglourious Basterds

Some of that is surely filler, but most of it has to do with QT's love of movies, and I'm sure I'll watch it all at least once. The only thing missing is any kind of featurette about the music, which as usual just fits with the flick perfectly (I find David Bowie's "Cat People" just popping into my head at all the strangest times.)

And I'll leave you today with something from Eli Roth's twitter feed that I found to be pretty funny. The Basterds themselves, and especially the Bear Jew, were easily my least favorite chapter of QT's flick, but I still liked this suggestion for Halloween. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday tidbit and a couple of cool videos

Am off out now. Good night all. Hands up who still wants a HOT FUZZ sequel.

OK, that was probably just a joke taken completely out of context, but even so I just wanted to respond to that tweet (or twit, or whatever the hell they might be called) from Edgar Wright by waving my hands all around as spastically as Horshack. That would indeed be just the definition of cool in my book.

And speaking of things I would love to see that are just highly unlikely to happen, this headline got me momentarily interested in a subject I thought I had managed to leave for dead: "IFC Picks up 'Arrested Development'."

Well, any rational person would quickly realize that that simply means that the IFC channel is picking up all 53 episodes of "Arrested Development," and not that it has somehow set in proper motion an "Arrested Development" movie, as I briefly did. But hey, I write this thing at like 6 in the morning, so cut me some slack. The good news, I suppose, is that if you get IFC, which I do not so I can watch way too much soccer instead, I suppose that means you'll have the Bluth clan in your house just about every night starting Monday.

And speaking of soccer, I've liked just about every movie made about the game (except for, oddly enough, Carlos Cuaron's "Rudo Y Cursi," mostly because it just had so little of the beautiful game in it.) I've made no secret of my desire to see "The Damned United," and now Mia Hamm is getting in the movie game to produce a soccer flick of a completely different sort.

It seems that the soccer great is teaming up with Breaking Ball Films to produce a screen version of "Alive and Kicking: When Soccer Moms Take the Field," a book by New York Times sportswriter Harvey Araton. And despite that title, it's not a horror movie, as far as I know.

Instead, it's the story of a women's soccer team in Montclair, N.J., formed by mothers who were tired of standing on the sidelines while their kids played. I can see any numbers of ways this could be just truly awful, but I'll have to keep an open mind. Not that they're gonna be at all similar, but I'd just like to close this subject by adding somewhat tangentially that "Bend It Like Beckham," as silly as it is, still just makes me smile every time I see it (and it's probably five times or so by now.)

OK, after that, all I have today are a couple of videos that caught my eye this morning. After Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" finally comes out everywhere (which it now seems like won't be until Christmas day, damnit), I think Anna Kendrick's finally gonna be a big star. In this clip she takes on George Clooney about his obsession that fuels the film, to amass 10,000 frequent flyer miles. Enjoy.

Next up and finally comes this montage from Rob Marshall's upcoming "Nine," which I'd say will have to be the Oscar heavyweight for this year unless it somehow just sucks. The musical version of Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical "8 and a half," its rather star-stocked cast includes Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Dame Judi Dench and, even, somehow unfortunately Kate Hudson and Fergie too. Anyways, this rehearsal montage is, I think, the first clip released for the flick, so enjoy and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When Spike met Kanye: Where the Vain Things Are

First off, serious kudos go out to filmmaker Tina Mabry, whose "Mississippi Damned" I had the disinct pleasure of seeing at the Atlanta Film Festival 365 this year.

Now, it seems that Mabry's flick has taken home the top prize, the Golden Hugo for best film, at the 45th annual Chicago International Film Festival over the weekend, and Mabry also nabbed the best screenplay prize.

They really couldn't have gone to a much better movie in my book. Not the easiest flick to watch, "searing" doesn't really begin to convey the story she tells here, about a black family in Mississippi and how their lives become intertwined in increasingly violent ways, mentally and physically. That said, I simply loved it, and it's got easily one of the best ensemble casts of the year, so catch it if you ever can (I looked, and it doesn't seem to yet have any DVD release date I could find.)

Here today, however, it's all about this truly bizarre short film by "Where the Wild Things Are" director Spike Jonze and starring Kanye West, which comes courtesy of Vimeo. It's more than a bit long at 11 minutes, and the sound in the nightclub is often muddled and blaring, but it's still fascinating.

I have no idea if this was supposed to be some kind of music video (there's a song playing in the background that West is very happy to hear, but only being a fan of actual hip-hop, I couldn't possibly tell you if it's his), of which Spike has directed plenty. What it mostly is, before it takes an appropriately odd turn at the end, is West "acting"like a drunken, obnoxious idiot (I say "acting" only because I'd imagine this is what a night on the town with him would be like, and it would be truly be one of the circles of hell.)

I also have no idea if this was supposed to be some kind of apology of sorts from Mr. West for his recent behavior, but I can't help but think it will only reinforce people's generally negative view of him.

Anyways, it's easily the most interesting thing I could find for a Monday morning. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable day. Peace out.

"We Were Once A Fairytale" - Kanye West Dir: Spike Jonze from Yooj‽ on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A maddeningly beautiful trip to "Where the Wild Things Are"

Of all the wild and raw emotions flying around in Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," the one I hadn't counted on feeling during the flick was sympathy for all the studio suits who had to market it.

When they finally sat down to watch it, however, rather than fighting with Jonze for years and years, I'm confident that like me, most of them found that - despite the movie's often-lumbering pace - he got all you possibly could and more out of Maurice Sendak's magical book by turning it into a glimpse into a 9-year-old's troubled mind.

And it certainly helps that the 9-year-old in question was played by Max Records, though the studio fought him on that choice too. As the movie Max, young Mr. Records captures his state of mind perfectly, wanting to be - and often acting like - a savage while at the same time unable to mask the fear and doubt that cloud up his life. As he rampages through the woods with his wild creations, Jonze isn't afraid to let young Max get as sweaty and snotty (enough to match his attitude) as a kid would left to his own devices. My favorite Max moment, however, came early on as you see the perfectly reasonable horror on his face after a teacher tells him the sun is going to die. It's all around certainly the best movie performance by a youngster this year.

In fact, what I was most surprised to find about Jonze's movie is that, as magical as the realm of Max's wild things often is, the best segment is the first 20 minutes or so that take place in Max's often-cruel (at least in his eyes) real world. Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers deftly flesh out the details that will shape Max's fantasy world once he runs away from it all, from his sister's friends who destroy his igloo (but only after he started a snowball fight) to his sister and mother who don't pay enough attention to him. Best of all is that, though it's a small role, the writers and Catherine Keener quickly turn the mother into a harried, lonely but mostly sympathetic character (and I loved that scene where she distracted herself from the tedium of work by typing into a report the much-more-fun story she cajoles Max into telling her about the consequences of vampires biting buildings.)

But, of course, it's supposed to be all about the wild things here, and that's where the movie will lose some audience members - young and old - because of just how morose they often turn out to be. Here too, however, it's still written with a lively spirit as it is all filmed by Jonze and cinematographer Lance Acord with an inquisitive touch, always making us uninvited guests at this savage summit of creatures infused with all of Max's simmering frustrations.

What made it all work so well for me was that though there are often some complicated psychological issues being hashed out, Jonze and Eggers have enough confidence in the audience that they never tell us directly what's going on but instead just let it all unfold in front of us, often in the most beautiful ways. It's the alluring landscape (in Australia, if I'm not mistaken) juxtaposed with the consequences of the wild things acting out all of Max's most savage wishes (the snowball fight turns into a dirt clomp fight, and the igloo becomes the greatest fort of all time) that give the movie most of its power.

And though the actors who voice the wild things all do a a great job (James Gandolfini as Max's alter ego Carol and Lauren Ambrose as K.W., who embodies Max's sister, in particular), it's the CGI folks who create the facial expressions for the wild things who are some of the real stars. The thing that bugs me most about computer-enhanced animation is that, particularly with human beings, they just get more and more bizarre as animators try to make them look more "real." With the wild things, however, using giant puppet suits from the Henson shop that are inhabited with actors other than the voice stars, the emotions portrayed through computer animation are more moving and ultimately satisfying than anything ever created by the power of 3-D.

I've probably gone on long enough about all this splendid mess, but I wanted to take issue with one particularly annoying criticism that I read of the ending (but the critic will remain nameless - no name-calling here.) If you somehow don't know how the story ends and don't want to, please just skip to the next paragraph. When Max finally returns home after learning that "All Is Love" (as expressed in the often-enchanting soundtrack by Karen O and the Kids, which you can listen to here by clicking on the widget at right) and that, no matter how big a fort you build, you really can't "keep all the sadness out," he's welcomed home by a relieved Keener with a smile and a warm meal. One rather snotty and condescending review I read of this flick took big issue with this because Max is never punished for first berating his mother (and threatening to eat her!) and then, of course, running away. Well, I'm not a parent myself, but if my kid had run away like that, though I'd certainly be a little angry, I certainly hope I'd first be happy to have him back and give him the meal he so impetuously skipped out on. Punishment may surely have come, but in that instant, I thought Keener, a definite favorite around these parts, just captured the moment perfectly.

And in the end, I suppose all those Warner Bros folks who fought this before ultimately giving in and putting together a rather brilliant marketing campaign certainly have to be smiling now that the flick took in $12 million on Friday alone and clobbered all its competitors. Huzzah to that, and if you haven't seen it yet, I encourage all movie fans young in body and heart to take it all in. Peace out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I knew it! Sam Raimi finally comes clean about "Spider-Man 3"

Somewhere deep in my mind I know that "Spider-Man 3" really wasn't the worst movie I've seen in the last 10 years or so. But it was just about the worst movie-going experience, which for me means pretty much the same thing.

Someone of my age should probably just give up on going to midnight movies altogether, but after the magic that was "Spider-Man 2" (still my favorite superhero flick), I was just thoroughly geeked up for the third chapter, as were the several hundred people who lined up outside our best local multiplex to watch it at the witching hour.

And, though I can't be sure, I'd have to imagine that most of those people were just as disappointed as I was as we made the drive home two-plus very long, boring hours later. It wasn't just that there were too many villians, the most-often heard complaint about "Spider-Man 3," though lack of focus was certainly a problem. Much more than that, it was really just a lack of spirit. Could the man who delivered the blissfully fun "Evil Dead" movies and the great baseball flick "For Love of the Game," among other movies, really spit out something so completely lifeless.

Well now, only about two years or so too late, it seems that even Sam Raimi himself is willing to admit just how bad "Spider-Man 3" was.

In the print edition of DVD & Blu-ray Review, he finally admitted what we all know: "I think having so many villains detracted from the experience. I would agree with the criticism."

More importantly, Raimi claims to have learned (or, I guess, re-learned) some lessons while making this year's best horror film and, next to Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," the second-funnest movie I've seen all year, "Drag Me to Hell." Seriously, if you missed that one in theaters, it's out on DVD this week, and I can recommend it for anyone with a strong stomach who remembers the days when Raimi's movie used to be just wickedly funny. Here's what he said he learned from the experience:

"I think I've learned about the importance of getting to the point and the importance of having limitations, and I'm hoping to take that into a production where I'm actually allowed to explore with more of the tools to pull it off with a little more splendour. I hope I don't lose that edge that I've just found. That would be my approach to Spider-Man 4: to get back to the basics."

Call it "edge," "back to basics" or whatever you want to, but here's hoping he can hold on to it. A look at his IMDB slate shows that, along with just a ton of producing gigs "in development," he's still listed as directing three flicks, "Warcraft," "Spider-Man 4" and - scheduled to somehow come out before either of those - another "Evil Dead" movie for next year, penned by Mr. Raimi himself. If that actually happens (and this is the first I've heard about it), it would be the real test of whether or not the old Sam Raimi is back to stay.

Except for that and before I finally set off to see "Where the Wild Things Are," all I have is the trailer for "Serious Moonlight." It looks like nothing I would ever want to see, but since it was written by the late Adrienne Shelly (actress and writer of "Waitress," among other flicks), directed by veryfunnylady Cheryl Hines at at least co-stars Kristen Bell, maybe I'll give it a chance when it comes out Dec. 4. Anyways, have a great weekend, and if you've seen "Where the Wild Things Are," please feel free to share your thoughts about it, as I hopefully will tomorrow. Peace out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Viva Aviva Kempner .. the 10 or so movies I want to see in Rehoboth

OK, so it may not be a terribly glamorous affair, but the upcoming Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, returning from Nov. 11-15, are easily my favorite days of the whole year (sad, perhaps, but it's just a really fun time.)

As per usual, this year they're presenting about 100 films - features, documentaries and shorts - that cover all kinds of subjects. The marquee flicks are probably a certain documentary that I'll mention later (for a hint, I'm listening to the White Stripes in concert at Meriweather Post Pavilion right now courtesy of NPR, which you can too by clicking here) and "The Messenger," starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. I think I'll pass on the latter because I simply can't handle another Iraq war movie.

And the reason for the title of this post? They're showing an Aviva Kempner movie! Kempner is the director of my favorite baseball movie, making it one of my favorite movies overall too, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." She's back with a new flick screening at Rehoboth, so I'm rather psyched to see it. Here are the 10 movies I think I'll try to squeeze into, in order only of the order I'll hopefully see them.

"United Red Army"
This one sounds like more than a bit of an endurance fest at just more than three hours, but the subject is simply fascinating. This docudrama in three chapters about the United Red Army student group that sprouted up in Japan to protest the war in Vietnam before turning on itself in increasingly sinister ways should be very compelling (and at three hours, it damn well better be.)

"Terribly Happy"
I know it's a publicist's job to set the bar high, but they've really done it by comparing this Danish thriller/dark comedy to the work of the Coen brothers. It probably won't reach those heights, but I guess it worked, because they've convinced me to take a chance on this flick about a police officer who - following a nervous breakdown - transfers to a small Danish town and becomes mixed up with a married femme fatale.

"Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg"
This is probably the movie I'm most looking forward to at Rehoboth, both because it's directed by Kempner and because of the fascinating subject matter. It's a documentary about Gertrude Berg, Jewish radio star of "The Goldbergs" and later one of the first TV sitcoms by the same name. I had never heard of her, but my parents can remember listening to her on the radio, so this should just be a delight.

"It Might Get Loud"
It's two music documentaries to close out Friday, and with this one, I can only say "I certainly hope so." Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge are the subject of this documentary by Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), and I have a feeling it may well sell out very quickly, but here's hoping I get to see it. I've always thought Jack White was Jimmy Page's son anyway.

"Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love"
I usually raise my eyebrows in disgust when pop stars try to be more than exactly that, but it's impossible to not be impressed with what Youssou Ndour has done in Senegal. With his "Egypt" album he created quite a stir in the Muslim world as he found new fans outside it, and this documentary chronicling that time should be great.

"Jury Duty"
The country focus at this year's festival is Japan, so I'll work in a couple more of those as I move into Saturday, but first comes this French psychological drama because, well, no one does that subgenre better than the French. In this Edouard Niermans flick, a French man rapes and kills a young woman and then finds himself picked to serve on the jury for the trial of the young Algerian man accused of the crime. As I read that plot description, I'd have to think this will be remade into an American thriller fairly soon.

"Still Walking"
Though I fully realize that "Yi Yi" is a Chinese film by the unfortunately late Edward Yang, that's the first movie I thought of when I heard the story of this little Japanese flick, which made me pick it out of the lineup. This "meditation on family" (according to the festival program) from director Hirokazu Kore-eda is about a Yokohama family gathering for their annual remembrance of the death of a son who died 15 years earlier while attempting to save a drowning child. Despite that rather morose storyline, there's apparently plenty of humor and heart too, so I'm in.

"Sita Sings the Blues"
It seems like more than a year ago when I saw an article in which Roger Ebert called this one of the most amazing animated movies he had ever seen, and that's enough to lure me in. Created by Nina Paley entirely on her home computer, it weaves together Indian stories with the tale of a breakup in San Francisco (I'm probably doing the story a horrible injustice with that summation) for what should be a wild mix.

A movie about death at 9 p.m. is really testing the ability of this clearly middle-aged dude to keep his eyes open, but this still intrigued me. The Japanese flick from director Yojiro Takita won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film, and it is about a man who enters the field of "encoffining," the ritual preparation of a corpse before cremation, after he loses his job. These Japanese really like cheery stuff, don't they?

"The Baader Meinhof Complex"
OK, were into Sunday morning, and it seems appropriate to frame the venture with two docudramas about political movements that went seriously awry, so I'll close out the weekend with this one (unless I squeeze in an "audience favorite" Sunday afternoon - entirely possible.) Also in reaction to what was seen as American imperialism, Baader and Meinhof launched a movement in Germany that had humane goals but used extremely inhumane means to achieve them.

And there you have it. Ten or 11 movies in four days? Yes, it's quite a bit, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Mi hermano and I are tentatively planning on going to the Toronto International Film Festival for a week or so next year, but for now, Rehoboth is as good as it gets for me. If you happen to know more about foreign and independent movies than I do (and I'm sure many, many people do), please feel free to peruse this pdf program for the festival and make any recommendations for movies I may have wrongly overlooked, and of course, please go see "Where the Wild Things Are" this weekend, as I will tomorrow morning. Peace out.

P.S.: Listening to it now once again, I really think The White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" is just one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, that's what I should be reading.

Read the Twilight books on hols. Really enjoyed them in a sort of 'creepy old man reading delusional, horny, daughter's diary' way.

No, the title of this post doesn't refer to the Twilight books, which I'd never bother to read, but I just thought that tidbit from Simon Pegg was just way too funny to pass up.

What I'm actually referring is the quartet of Red Riding novels by David Peace, "Nineteen Seventy-Four," "Nineteen Seventy-Seven," "Nineteen Eighty" and "Nineteen Eighty-Three." If you're unfamiliar with Peace, he's also the author of "The Damned United," a damned fine book about football coach Brian Clough that's now been made into a feature film starring Michael Sheen, if you're lucky enough to see it.

The Red Riding novels, a different kettle of fish, sound a lot like a "Prime Suspect" kind of thing to me, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. The books have already been made into a three-part British miniseries, which was unfortunately not yet available through my Netflix account, described as "a study of power and police corruption framed around the investigation of the disappearance of several young girls."

I'll see that as soon as I'm able, and I've already just ordered "Nineteen Seventy-Four" from the Amazon, but of course an American version (bastardization?) is also already in the works.

Ridley Scott has been hired to direct and Steve Zaillian to script a two-hour movie (shortened from the original five hours) flick which will transplant the action from the U.K. to the U.S., because I guess that's just supposed to be more palatable to us somehow. I'll keep an open mind about all that until I've at least read the four books and seen the original miniseries.

All I have after that today is a couple of fun videos, starting with this series of six clips from Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," courtesy of Collider. The more I see of this stop-motion animated flick based on and expanded from the classic children's novel by Roald Dahl just makes me think it's gonna be a real winner when it comes out Nov. 25. Enjoy.

And lastly today, since my (and many other people's) most-anticipated movie of the year finally comes out tomorrow, here's a "Where the Wild Things Are" featurette showing how big a part actual kids played on the set of Spike Jonze's flick. Due to furloughs, vacations and other fun stuff, I'm gonna have to work instead of seeing this tomorrow, but I'll certainly be there Saturday morning, and I just can't wait. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Where the Wild Things Are Exclusive Featurette

Trailer Park|MySpace Videos

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free Tom Waits and a ton of fun news

The best thing I can possibly think of to start a Wednesday morning on which it's pouring outside would be some new, free music from Tom Waits.

The great Mr. Waits is about to put out a double live album recorded on his Glitter and Doom tour (which I didn't get to see), and he's released an eight-song preview through his Web site that you can get by clicking here and giving up your e-mail address (hey, nothing's really totally free, right?) Listening to it as I am now, I can confirm it's well worth checking out, and even contains one of my favorite Waits songs, "Fannin Street."

R.I.P. Johnny Fontane

Before I get into anything approaching the news of the day, it's sad to report that crooner Al Martino, a k a Johnny Fontane, has died at the age of 82. Before he became the entertainer at Connie's wedding and the reason for the horse head in the bed in "The Godfather," the south Philly singer also had a string of fairly big hits. Rest in peace, Mr. Martino.

Shaun and Dr. Who a comedy dream team?

According to Bloody Disgusting, David Tennant, a k a Dr. Who, has signed to co-star with Simon Pegg in "Burke and Hare," set to be directed by John Landis. Any flick starring those two and about the true story of two 19th century graverobbers who provided cadavers to an Edinburgh Medical School is certainly one I'm going to keep my eyes on.

Zombie Joe Pesci?

If you'll bear with me today, I'm certain it could seem like I'm more than a bit schizophrenic as I flit from topic to topic, but there's a lot of good stuff out there, including the inside dirt from Hitfix about how easily the funniest cameo of this summer almost didn't come to be.

I'm just gonna have to assume that everyone who cares knows by now that Bill Murray makes a hilarious appearance about halfway into "Zombieland" that wakes the movie up and makes it hum along right to the finish (which was, a co-worker tells me, filmed at Great Adventures in Valdosta, taking advantage of the Peach State movie-making tax incentive, so bully to that.) Here's what Mr. Murray, apparently quite seriously, had to say about Joe Pesci and the part he passed up.

"I just thought playing yourself as a zombie was irresistible. And I thought Pesci was a fool. Pesci would be a spectacular zombie. Just imagine that guy with super-human zombie powers. He's already like that. In a way I thought, 'He missed the boat on this one.' Even while we were shooting, 'Why did he not do this? This is crazy.' "

Indeed. Oh well, there's certainly gonna be a "Zombieland" sequel or two since it's made so much money already, so maybe Mr. Pesci can get in on the fun next time. I'm certainly glad he passed this time, though, because Murray was just the definition of funny.

Kudos for Kendrick

Just a quick word about this, but anyone who's been here before knows that the charming Anna Kendrick is a big favorite around here, so I wanted to share it. Kendrick, who you may have seen in a certain little movie called "Twilight" and in the much, much better "Rocket Science," co-stars with George Clooney as a fellow downsizer in Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," has been rightly honored by the 21st annual Palm Springs International Film Festival with its Rising Star Award. Huzzah.

"Golden Suicides" for Van Sant

As morose as this new project sounds, it also seems to be just about right for Gus Van Sant, who will team with author Bret Easton Ellis to pen "The Golden Suicides."

Based on a Vanity Fair article, it will be the story of the double suicides of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake, respectively a video game designer and "digital painter." The couple descended into a paranoid spiral when the artists developed a consuming belief that government and religious organizations were conspiring against them. She killed herself in 2007. Blake found her body on the floor of their bedroom, and walked into the Atlantic Ocean a week later, ending his life.

No word on whether or not Van Sant would direct this, but I'd have to assume so, and like I said, it seems like just about a perfect fit.

"Gilmore Girls" creator coming to HBO

Given how much I loved "Gilmore Girls" (yes, really, and you would too if you had watched it), I really should have led with this news.

It seems that "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has signed on with HBO to create an as-yet-untitled show which "chronicles the complicated relationship between three adult sisters, all writers sharing the same upper east side apartment building, and their mother, a domineering literary lioness who reserves most of her affections for their ne'er-do-well brother."

Sherman-Palladino has already made one post-"Gilmore" effort of sorts with the truly execrable "Return of Jezebel James" on Fox (if I remember correctly), but given her easy ear for family dynamics and the loose confines of HBO, I think this could be a real winner.

And finally, "Friday Night Lights"

If I had to pick one single favorite current TV show, it would certainly be "Friday Night Lights," edging out "Chuck" by a nose (it amazes me that NBC, the same network that makes eyeballs bleed with Jay Leno five nights a week, is also capable of airing such great shows - when it gets around to it.)

As fans of "Friday Night Lights" know, season three (the best yet, in my opinion) ended with a schism - Coach Taylor shipped out to coach at the new East Dillon High while Tami is left behind as the principal of Dillon. It also meant the graduation and departure of a lot of favorite characters, so it will be fascinating to see how they rebuild - though I won't get to see it until sometime next year.

For those of you who may have DirecTV, however, the show is about to return Oct. 28. Below is a sort-of-making-of featurette for a DirecTV promo, followed by the promo itself. I know that doesn't sound like much fun, but it's just nice to see all the characters again, and if you don't mind me saying, I think I'd be entertained by simply watching Connie Britton eat a box of crackers. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just in case anyone asked ... some books I'd like to see made into movies

You know, considering that no one with any kind of power that I know of has ever actually asked, a rather remarkable number of my favorite books have already been made into movies this year: "Where the Wild Things Are" (of course), "The Damned United", "Youth in Revolt" and "Watchmen" (and yes, in case anyone has a snooty reaction to that, "Watchmen" is indeed a great novel, graphic or otherwise.)

That got me to thinking, and looking through my book shelf, for the books that I'd most like to be made into feature films, though I really can't see any of these six making any kind of serious box office coin.

Before we get into any of that, however, the program for the 2009 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival has just been released, and as usual it's full of a lot of very fun stuff. I'll probably see 10 or so movies in the three days I'm there in November, and so far the highlights I've scribbled down are "The Baader-Meinhof Complex", the documentaries "It Might Get Loud" and "Youssou NDour: I Bring What I Love", and the animated film "Sita Sings the Blues," leaving me with more than a few slots to fill.

If anyone who knows more about independent and foreign movies than I do wouldn't mind looking through the program you can download here and giving me a few suggestions, I'd certainly appreciate it.

But getting back to the intended subject here today, looking through my bookshelf, here are the five or six (or seven) books I could find that I'd most like to see made into feature films:

Among the Thugs
Soccer hooliganism is hardly the most appealing subject, but it's already worked very well at least once as a movie with "Green Street Hooligans" starring Frodo Baggins himself (if you haven't seen that one, it's well worth a rental.) This nonfictional work by Granta editor Bill Buford chronicles his often frightening adventures running with a rather surly band of Manchester United fans known as the "Inter-City Jibbers," most notably with a troubled trip to Turin. It's just a fascinating book I've read at least three times now.

"Reservation Blues"
Given the relative success of "Smoke Signals" and how many great books have been written by the American Indian scribe Sherman Alexie, it really surprises me that more of his books haven't been made into flicks already. If I had to pick just one, it would be "Reservation Blues," probably his most accessible novel and just a great tale about what happens when bluesman Robert Johnson makes a visit to the Spokane Indian Reservation and passes his enchanted guitar along to resident Thomas-Builds-the-Fire. Adam Beach surely needs the work, and for the young ladies, why not that Taylor Lautner from those "Twilight" movies too?

The "Adrian Mole" novels
Sue Townsend's series of novels about Adrian Mole (who starts out at age 13 3/4 and, of course, gets older) have already been the inspiration for three British TV series, none of which I've managed to see, and even apparently a musical of some sort. And, though I can find no evidence that it has either been ever completed or even started, there's also a listing for a "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4" at the IMDB for 2009, but it doesn't feature a cast, so I have no idea what's going on with any of that. Here's hoping it somehow makes to a theater somewhere near me soon!

"Member of the Wedding"
OK, this one has also already been made into two TV movies and a proper 1954 feature film, but the coming-of-age story of Frankie Addams by the great Georgia writer Carson McCullers is just the definition of timeless and could certainly be done again and right. Perhaps I just have a soft spot for this one because mi hermano played John Henry West in a local theater production of this when I was growing up, and I quickly just fell in love with the story.

"Outcasts United"
I really harbor no fantasies that there's ever gonna be a genuine blockbuster about soccer, but this great American story penned by New York Times reporter Warren St. John would just make a perfectly compelling movie. The nonfiction work tells the tale of coach Luma Mufleh and her band of refugee kids who band together to form a not-surprisingly-good soccer team in the town of Clarkston, Georgia. Much more than a soccer story, it's all about immigration in America and what happens when you transform a sleepy Southern town into a melting pot featuring all kinds of ingredients. Read it now if you can.

"Maggie Muggins (or Spring in Earl's Court)" and "Small World"
I went through a brief period of my reading life when all I read was British novels, and these were easily two of the best. Though Keith Waterhouse's novel "Billy Liar" has been made into a great 1963 movie, the story of Maggie Muggins is just as good, and her misadventures as "a piece of urban flotsam" would certainly work as movie, sort of the anti-Bridget Jones (and please, dear God, if anyone ever really does make a movie of this, don't cast Renee Zellweger in it!) "Small World: An Academic Romance," by David Lodge, is just one of the wittiest novels I've ever read, and despite the fact that it's set in the none-too-movie-glamorous world of academic conferences, it still delivers all kinds of funny.

So, there you have it, and I believe that actually went to seven. I fully realize that none of these ideas will ever hit the screen (or at least not again) anytime soon or ever, but please feel free to add any books you'd love to see brought to the big screen to this list.

And, because I'm just psyched beyond belief to finally be getting to see Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" this Friday, here's a clip from when Max first meets the Wild Things to get you geeked up too. Peace out.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Chuck" back on the air this month? Bring it on!

You know, I really don't need any more reasons to just about thoroughly hate 3-D, but this morning (or perhaps yesterday, who knows?) comes what for me just might be the biggest one yet.

Joss Whedon and "Cloverfield" (if you haven't seen that, take a chance .. it's shockingly good) writer Drew Goddard have collaborated on a horror movie called "The Cabin in the Woods." In case that's not enough to get you geeked up, it somehow stars both Richard Jenkins, a true favorite around here, and Bradley Whitford of "West Wing" fame.

Well, that's the good news, and here's the bad. The movie was originally set to come out Feb. 5, but has now been pushed back almost a year to Jan. 14, 2011, ostensibly just so they can convert it to 3-D.

What the hell? You're gonna delay a completed movie for a whole year just so you can charge me $2 more to watch it. Sheesh.

But enough of that. As the headline of this post makes clear, there's much better news out there today for fans of "Chuck," of which you can certainly count me one. As any fan well knows, the show wasn't set to come back until March, but Entertainment Weekly's seriously TV obsessed scribe Michael Ausiello says it might actually return much earlier.

How much earlier? In three weeks or so! With "Southland" canceled before it's second season could even get started and most of its other primetime offerings tanking fast, it seems that NBC is finally realizing just how solid a product "Chuck" is, and needs the show to come to its rescue.

Ausiello didn't say if the show will return to its usual Monday night slot or be moved, but he did say that NBC folks who have seen the first four episodes are saying this will be the "best season yet." Bring it friggin' on!

Now, if I can make one suggestion: How about moving it to 10 p.m. so the dolts at NBC can see just how much better Chuck's ratings will be than Jay Leno's at the same time? I've been checking the ratings often, and Jay is ALWAYS the worst-rated show in the 18-49 bracket except for whatever the CW is offering that night. Cancel him already!

And, though "Chuck" only as a 13-episode order for season three, it only follows logically that if they move it up to the end of this month and it performs well, NBC will order more episodes.

Ausiello also recently had a fun tidbit about another show I don't like nearly as much as "Chuck," but still tune in for to see what Barney might get to up that night. It seems that the rather insanely funny Chris Elliott has been cast as Lily's (Alyson Hannigan) estranged father on "How I Met Your Mother," and will make his first appearance Nov. 23 at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Lily's grandparents. Word is that Elliott's character will be an extreme loser, so there's nothing but cool there.

And finally, it's almost the week of "Where the Wild Things Are," so enjoy this featurette featuring Spike Jonze and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs talking about how they put together the kid-filled and pretty fun soundtrack (which you can listen to with the widget I put on the pasteboard to the right, if it still works.) A pack of kids screaming? I'd normally run in the other direction as fast as I could, but this all works surprisingly well, and I can't wait to finally see the flick. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Opening today, the best movie almost no one in America will get to see

If you'll allow me to vent a little bit, easily one of my favorite books of all time, "The Damned Utd," has been made into a movie (with the final word stretched out to United), but I now find it's opening today, but not ANYWHERE near me.

I checked Access Atlanta just in case an hour drive would deliver it to me. Nope. I checked the movie release schedule to see if it's ever slated to play wider than L.A. and N.Y. As far as I can tell, nope. Sheesh.

If you've never heard of this book, I really can't recommend it highly enough, whether you are a soccer fan or not (and don't even get me started on just how we're getting screwed with Saturday's U.S.-Honduras World Cup qualifier.) The piece of historical fiction by David Peace gets inside the mind of football manager Brian Clough for the ill-fated 44 days he led Leeds United, a team he admits he hates even as he takes the helm.

Though the Clough family has taken issue with both the book and movie, Peace's work is a fascinating psychological portrait, and it keeps up a brisk pace as it jumps back and forth between Leeds and Clough's earlier triumph at Derby County. And just in case you're reading this and do happen to live in a place lucky enough to get this flick, here's a little more incentive: It stars Michael Sheen as the manic Mr. Clough and features a screenplay from Peter Morgan, writer of "The Queen" and other works.

For the rest of us, I suppose it's just "Couples Retreat," but I can't imagine there's any chance you'll catch me anywhere near that one. It's more than a little depressing that something that looks so stupid was written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, making it, I suppose, their "follow-up"-of-sorts to "Swingers." Oh well. I'm sure they all had fun filming this in Bora Bora or wherever with Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," and as for me, I think I'll take the chance to catch up with Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying" before it surely leaves theaters after this week.

And, since at least my Friday is a little better with a little "Damned United," here's a four-minute-or-so clip from the flick of Brian Clough's first day on the job at Leeds. Enjoy, and catch this if you can. Peace out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Six glimpses of tonight's big "Office" wedding and a visit from Dr. Parnassus

Actually, the coolest news out there today about TV is that young Ellen Page and Alia Shawkat (aka Maeby F√ľnke) may soon be coming to my TV (and if you have HBO, yours.)

It seems that the two stars of Drew Barrymore's "Whip It" have signed a deal along with Sean Tillmann to write, produce and (hopefully!) quite possibly star in something called "Stitch N' Bitch" for HBO. According to the description I saw, it would be about "two painfully cool hipster girls as they relocate from Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood to Los Angeles' Silver Lake enclave in hopes of becoming artists - of any kind."

That sounds funny enough, but I think they'd have to be the stars themselves to get me hooked. I found "Whip It" to be pretty average, and often downright afterschool-special-ish when it wasn't on the roller rink, but the two of them are still easily two of my favorite young actresses out there. (And, just as an aside that will come as a shock to no one who bothered to watch it, "Arrested Development" still gets a 9.7 out of 10 rating at the IMDB.)

But regards TV here today, of course, it's all about Pam and Jim's big wedding tonight on "The Office." By nature I'd imagine this will bring an awful lot of sweet, but hopefully a whole lot of funny too in the hour-long broadcast.

As the entire office ventures to Niagara Falls for the big day, Michael, Dwight and Andy are, of course, on the prowl for ladies, and Michael and Dwight apparently meet twins. Here, courtesy of NBC, are six short preview clips of tonight's episode (and, if you stick around to the end, a visit from Dr. Parnassus, I promise.) Enjoy.

And now, as a bonus, here is the first full trailer, I think, for Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," which is set to finally get a limited release date on Christmas Day (and I'll be in New York so I can see it!) Along with plenty of the late Heath Ledger and glimpses of the three actors who stepped in to finish the job, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, you get enough of a taste of what Gilliam has cooked up here to have me just about thoroughly geeked up for this. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.