Saturday, January 30, 2010

The 10 (or 11) best things I missed in the past month

You know, just because this January has been just about the worst movie month on record (though "Edge of Darkness" was a surprisingly taut and entertaining thriller) doesn't mean there's not a lot of movie news out there (even if I wasn't there to read it.)

This was intended as a list of the 10 best or simply oddest things I had missed in the last month or so, but there's something new too, and it's definitely good news.

At Saturday's Director's Guild of America awards ceremony, Kathyrn Bigelow beat out the biggest box office champ of all time and three other competitors to take home the group's top prize for "The Hurt Locker," and it's well-deserved. Though my personal favorite would still have been Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," Bigelow's movie was a close second in my book, and a very worthy winner.

She becomes the first woman to win the DGA's top prize. The other competitors this year, all very good films, were Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," Lee Daniels' "Precious" and a little movie you may have heard of called "Avatar." Here's hoping this at least mild upset of "Avatar" means the Oscars are a wide-open race rather than simply Avatar's to claim in a runaway.

OK. Now, here are the 10 best or oddest things I missed in the last month, though not really in any order except for that the first item is certainly the best news in my book.

1. "Conchords" ' Bobin to direct Muppet movie

It seems like forever since the news first broke that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller were writing a new Muppet movie for Walt Disney Pictures, but little seemed to be happening in the way of progress until last week or so, when the project finally landed what I think is the perfect director.

James Bobin, co-creator of HBO's delightfully dippy "Flight of the Conchords," has signed on to direct the new Muppet movie, with production set to start in late summer of this year.

Apparently now a man in high demand, Bobin at the same time turned down directing "Bridesmaids," a comedy from the Judd Apatow camp and written by veryfunnywoman Kristen Wiig. Since, like Segel, you can call me a certified "Muppet freak," I can certainly say he made the right choice here.

2. "Scott Pilgrim" set to take off Aug. 13

Did any one in the world except me see "Youth in Revolt"? Though it failed to quite capture the anarchic spirit of C.D. Payne's book, it was still very funny, even if Michael Cera was clearly - even with his baby face - way too old to play the lead.

I'd have to imagine Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" will do a whole lot better when it finally drops on Aug. 13, a good, usually slow spot for his follow-up to "Hot Fuzz." The flick, based on the funnybooks by Bryan Lee O'Malley, will also star Cera as the titular hero, who just wants to win back the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but must battle her seven exes to do so.

The movie, which will surely be a lot better than I'm making it sound here, also stars Anna Kendrick, a definite favorite around here, as Scott Pilgrim's sister, and for further proof it will be good, take this hint from Wright himself:

"When I hired [cinematographer] Bill Pope to be DP — amongst his many films and TV shows he's done [are] "Freaks and Geeks" and "The Matrix." And I said to Bill: Imagine this film is equidistant between those two projects. Imagine the film is slap-bang in the middle of "Freaks and Geeks" and "The Matrix"." Here's hoping it's more of the former than the latter, but either way it should just be a fun mix to behold.

3. "Parks and Recreation gets third season"

Though it is the lowest-rated entry in NBC's stellar Thursday comedy lineup, "Parks and Recreation" is the first one to get another season pickup. The others - "Community," "The Office" and "30 Rock" - are sure to be picked up very soon also, but P&R got the early nod simply because NBC had to lock up the actors' contracts. I mean, does anyone really think NBC would ever get rid of "30 Rock" unless Alec Baldwin finally actually quit?

Personally, I like "Parks and Recreation" as much as "Community," and almost as much as I do the other two. It's even drier than "The Office," but often sweeter too, and everyone in the cast is very funny (especially Aziz Ansari, and Amy Poehler in the lead just keeps getting better too.)

4. Fincher headed to HBO for crime pilot

When I was compiling my best movies of the past decade (which you're certainly welcome to go back and read), I came very close to naming David Fincher's "Zodiac" as the best movie of 2007, but it lost out by just a nose to Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" (which just keeps getting better and better with age.)

So it's certainly good news that Fincher is about to get back in the crime game to direct at least the pilot of a potential new HBO series called "Mindhunter," with a script from "Dexter" scribe Scott Buck. Set to star Charlize Theron (I guess I sort of buried the lead there), the series would be about the FBI's elite serial crime unit.

I recently canceled my HBO to pay the power bill instead (you gotta have priorities, I guess), but I'm certainly gonna re-up as soon as either Martin Scorsese's "Boardwalk Empire" or David Simon's "Treme" finally hit the air, so with another "True Blood" season coming in June and possibly this Fincher work too, I guess I'm gonna be hooked again for quite a while.

5. "South Park" creators off-Broadway bound

Anyone who has seen "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" knows that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are a surprisingly natural fit with musicals, so I guess this news isn't quite as odd as it seems on the surface.

It seems the duo are teaming up with "Avenue Q" composer-lyricist Robert Lopez on a new musical set for the 2010-11 season at the New York Theater Workshop. Though details so far are scant, speculation is that the subject matter will be Mormons, who have been fairly frequent targets for Parker and Stone already.

If that's the case, it's the only thing about this that sounds like a bad idea to me. The Mormon jokes on "South Park" are very mean but not funny, and mean by itself just doesn't work in my book. That said, I've seen "Avenue Q" and loved it, so definitely keep your eyes on this.

6. George Lucas producing musical ... with fairies?

Anyone who endured the agony of George Lucas' "The Phantom Menace" and "Battle of the Clones" surely knows that when it comes to CGI shenanigans, the man really knows neither limits or shame, but this next nugget still seems to be a special brand of crazy.

It seems that for past few months at Skywalker Ranch, "TMNT" director Kevin Munroe is busy directing a CGI-animated musical about ... wait for it ... fairies. Believe me, I can't make this stuff up, because if I could I'd probably be getting paid a whole lot more than the zero I do now to do this.

There's always the chance, I suppose, that something spectacular will come out of this madness, but for now let's just chalk it up as pending further proof that George Lucas is sorely in need of occasionally hearing the word "no."

7. Sarah Polley books next flick

OK, for at least a little while, you can call this the end of the crazy section of this post, 'cause here's some genuinely good news. Along with all the movies being shown at Sundance, it's of course also a site for making deals, and it seems that's where Sarah Polley locked down the cast and financing for her sophomore writing/directing effort, called "Take This Waltz."

It took me a long time to see Polley's first directing project, the nearly flawless "Away from Her," but I'm glad I finally did, because it's sublimely entertaining. She's also known as the star of Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter," a role that I still have burned on my brain.

Her new movie will star Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen and start shooting in Toronto in July. Williams will star as Margo, a 28-year-old married woman who just happens to meet the man who lives across the street from her while on a business trip. I'd have to imagine sparks will fly, and that Rogen will play the neighbor (especially since the character is apparently named Seth.) The Playlist blog, a must-read around here, says the script starts off on some wrong notes, but eventually turns into the kind of sad/sweet romantic drama that should fit Polley - though perhaps not Rogen - perfectly.

8. John Carney lands new flick and has one already in can

Since his little flick "Once" was easily one of the best - and the single most charming - movies of 2006, it's certainly good news that John Carney is directing a movie that might actually play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world in its theater run.

According to the Irish Times, he'll direct the comedy "Town House," set to start shooting in August with stars Amy Adams and Zach Galifianakis. Based on the book by Tish Cohen, it's about a man 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 ... and a call girl strikes up a friendship with the man."

The Adams/Galifianakis news is a bit old and may change, but this certainly seems like the kind of relationship flick that should fit Carney perfectly. And in even better news for DVD, it seems that Carney has also already shot another flick in Ireland.

Co-written with his brother Keiran, the low-budget comedy "Zonad" is about a man who visits the town of Ballymoran and is thought to be an extraterrestrial. Variety has described the '50s set film as equal parts "Pleasantville," "The Quiet Man" and old "Carry On" films, which all sounds good to me. It's set to open in Ireland on March 19, but here in the U.S., it sounds like a pretty quick straight-to-DVD affair, and I'll certainly let you know when I know more.

9. Tim Burton chosen to head the Cannes Grand Jury

That one speaks for itself, but to make the next two items very New York-centric, I can report that the Tim Burton exhibit on display at the Museum of Modern Art into April is well worth a visit if you can stand the company of many excitable children (they really tried the patience of this known curmudgeon.) If you can, it's a really cool show, featuring sketches and props from many of his films, along with other paintings by the filmmaker. And by the way, if you can find Avril Lavigne's truly god awful song from Burton's upcoming "Alice in Wonderland," its worth a listen just to see how truly awful it is, but don't try and say I didn't warn you.

10. Original "Red Riding" trilogy premiering in New York

Though sitting through all five hours of Steven Soderbergh's "Che" at the IFC Film Center last year was a truly agonizing experience I never need to relive, this IFC movie marathon sounds like one I would truly dig.

Starting Friday, Feb. 5, IFC will be showing all three installments in the UK true crime "Red Riding" trilogy back-to-back-to-back, with two intermissions and only credits at the very end.

So, what are those? well, they're based on three true crime novels by David Peace, also author of the simply fantastic "Damned United," which was itself turned into an almost-as-good flick you can watch on DVD beginning Feb. 23. Having read the first "Red Riding" installment, "1974," I can report that it's a truly gritty affair, and before it goes off the rails completely at the very end, would certainly make the basis of a great true-crime movie in the "Prime Suspect" vein.

But of course, I don't live anywhere near New York City, so I take this mostly as a hopeful sign that all three of the "Red Riding" flicks will be available sometime very soon on DVD in the U.S. Which finally gets us near the finale of this admittedly very long opus, a trio of clips. The first is the trailer for the "Red Riding" trilogy. The rather amazing cast includes Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine, among many others. Enjoy.

Next up comes seven clips, courtesy of (for which I sometimes contribute), from "The Wolfman," starring Benicio Del Toro and set to drop Feb. 12. I suppose there's a pretty big chance this could just suck, but I'm a sucker for horror in the classic style, so this is a remake I'll definitely check out.

And finally (yes, we're at the end, really) comes a delightfully silly and thoroughly profane mashup of James Gandolfini's work as Tony Soprano and his voicework as Carol in "Where the Wild Things Are." I love Spike Jonze's flick, and if I had a vote, I'd push Gandolfini for a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars. Here, however, as you might imagine, in this clip he's not only "not safe for work," he's about as foul as you can get, especially in the final two words, which I won't give away. If your sensibilities can take it. Enjoy.


Justin Steiner said...

I'm very anxious to see how the Scott Pilgrim movie will turn out - I love the comics.

Glad to hear Parks & Rec is coming back for another year, as it really jumped in quality when it came back in the fall.

Nice to have you back as well!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on the second season of Parks and Rec, Justin ... The jump from season to season two was a big one in quality ... I'm still hoping Louis CK will somehow make a return, 'cause he's always very funny to watch

Ryan McNeil said...

Noticed your "lose your audience" post - just to let ya know, I'm still reading!

I can't wait for SCOTT PILGRIM. I've been reading the comics for the last few months, and petty as this might seem, get a small twist off the fact that the story is set in my hometown of Toronto.

I think Cera's hair looks a tad ridiculous in it, but there's nothing that can be done about it now. Here's hoping it makes the dog days that much more fun!

Reel Fanatic said...

From what I've seen of the production vlogs (is that a word), Mad Hatter, Wright seems to be taking the setting very seriously, so it should have a really strong sense of place in Toronto .. and thanks for sticking with me through the computer drought!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

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