Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nick Cave, Shane McGowan and ... yes ... Johnny Depp "Put A Spell on You"

Although there's certainly no way this will raise more money for Haiti than the new "We Are the World" confab, I'm just as sure the folks who turned out for that didn't have nearly as much fun as these guys (and gal) did.

Now, when you're talking about a party convened by drunkard's saint Shane MacGowan, things could have certainly gone South very quickly. As you'll see from the video below, his view-askew all-star gathering of sorts to croon Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" actually turned out something remarkably listenable - and even bordering on good.

As you'll see, the vocals are handled by sometime Pogue MacGowan, Nick Cave, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, and if you stick around to the end, you'll find none other Johnny Depp contributes a passable guitar solo too.

And all this madness is meant to benefit the Dublin-based charity World Concern as it works to help rebuild Haiti, so if you like the song, consider buying it when it goes on sale later this month.

Friday, February 26, 2010

For Friday, a ton of fun movie news

There's indeed a whole lot of fun stuff out there today, but the best and oddest of all just might be that there's a horror remake opening this weekend that I'm gonna take a chance on seeing.

"The Crazies" is at least slightly intriguing because it was shot about 20 minutes from my house, but that's really not enough to snag me. Two good reviews from sources I trust, however - Collider and HitFix - are, so I'll be there Saturday afternoon, 'cause I just love smart horror.

OK, in news that might just impact somebody besides me, easily the best of all is that Angelina Jolie has bailed on a "Wanted 2" (did the world really need that?) and instead signed on for something much, much better - an Alfonso Cuaron sci-fi movie (huzzah!)

"Gravity" will be about a woman (Jolie, natch) who is the sole survivor of a space mission, desperately trying to get home to Earth and her daughter. Sounds a bit like Duncan Jones' "Moon" (for which Sam Rockwell certainly should have gotten an Oscar nomination), but anyone who's seen Cuaron's "Children of Men" knows he can work wonders with good sci-fi, so definitely keep your eyes on this on.

Before that, however, I seem to remember reading something about Cuaron making an odd road movie of sorts starring Daniel Auteil and Charlotte Gainsbourg (a definite crush around here.) Indeed, IMDB lists him also working on that flick, "A Boy and His Shoe," but with only a vague 2012 release date so far.

Will there really be a funny Farrelly brothers movie?

I certainly have my doubts about that, but there's no question that they've somehow assembled a first-rate cast for "Hall Pass," which is shooting this week in Atlanta, if I'm not mistaken.

Starting with a base of Owen Wilson and someone named Jason Sudeikis, they've this week or so added HBO vets Stephen Merchant and J.B. Smoove, and even more recently Alyssa Milano and Christina Applegate. The latter two certainly need no introduction, but comedy fans will know Merchant as Ricky Gervais' comedic partner in crime, and Smoove played Larry David's brother-in-law, Leon Black, on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

But what in the world is this all about? Well, Wilson and Sudeikis play two lucky dudes whose wives (Milano and Applegate, perhaps) give them passes to engage in extramarital shenanigans. Merchant and Smoove will play two of their buddies.

Not the most promising of premises, but with that cast I'm relatively optimistic about a winner here.

Farina joins Mann pilot at HBO

Although I'm most excited about the return of "The Wire" creator David Simon (with the N'Awlins series "Treme," coming in April, when I'll return to HBO too), what Michael Mann and David Milch ("Deadwood") have cooking up for the station sounds like an awful lot of fun too.

Dennis Farina has now signed on to star in "Luck," which Mann is directing at least the pilot of from a script by Milch. The show centers on a man who, after just getting released from prison, teams with his longtime chauffeur and muscle (Farina) to craft a complex plan with a crooked jockey (John Ortiz) to fix races at a racetrack.

I love the ponies, and Mann has a real talent for developing a seamy sense of place, so I'll definitely be tuning in for whatever comes of all of this.

Demme to head back to Haiti

Though Jonathan Demme makes usually-great movies of all kinds, I think his documentaries are the best of all. And since the single best of those is "The Agronomist," about slain Haitian activist Jean Dominique, it only makes sense that he would turn his thoughts and camera to the country at this troubled time.

Actually, his route back to the country this time intersects with one of his other documentary passions, music. Demme had been planning a documentary about Arcade Fire (new album coming very soon, huzzah!), whose founding member Regine Chassagne is Haitian. He and the band were set to head to Haiti to shoot something music-driven the very morning the quake struck, which of course changed his plans entirely. Here's what Demme had to say about his new course of action.

"My personal feeling was, those who go down two months or three months from now, with a specific mission in mind, will be valuable in their own way, as the people that are going now. So I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go within the next six months, but I haven't been yet."

He's certainly right, there. Though the people of Haiti needs just about everything, what they'll need months from now is continued attention from the rest of the world, so here's hoping Demme follows through on this and even makes a movie about it too.

And a bit closer to home, Demme is apparently now working on the documentary "Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower Ninth Ward," about the most devastated neighborhood in New Orleans after Katrina.

Broken Lizard signs Universal deal

Though the juvenile antics of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe certainly aren't for everyone (Nell Minow knocked me, perhaps correctly, for including "Super Troopers" in my list of the 100 best movies of the '00s), they just make me laugh almost every time they put something out.

Their latest flick, "Slammin' Salmon," didn't manage to play anywhere near me, so I'll have to just watch it on DVD, but now comes word that the guys have signed on for two movies that will hopefully play a lot wider with the help of Universal.

The studio has picked up "Rogue Scholars," a college comedy revolving around five unruly professors played by the members of the troupe, plus an additional as-yet-untitled Broken Lizard flick to follow. Like I said, I'm a devoted fan of "Super Troopers" - for which they are still promising a sequel someday - so I'll follow these guys just about anywhere.

A new flick for Ed Helms

Though he's surrounded by plenty of very funny people. Ed Helms has slowly and steadily developed into the best character on "The Office" with the Nard Dog, so any word of him appearing on the big screen is welcome in this little corner of the world.

He'll next be seen hopefully everywhere as an insurance salesman in Miguel Arteta's "Cedar Rapids," due out this year. And now comes word that he's signed on to star in something called "Central Intelligence" for director Dean Parisot (who, yes, really did direct "Galaxy Quest" back in the day.)

The flick is about an accountant (Helms) who reconnects with an old friend via Facebook and finds himself sucked into a world of espionage (I always knew that Facebook was nothing but evil, but yes, I'm on it.)

That sounds like nothing but funny to me, so definitely stay tuned to this one.

And finally, what in the world is "Harold and the Purple Crayon"?

Though I had never heard of it until about a year or so ago, it's apparently a fairly classic children's tale by Crockett Johnson, and has already been made into a movie and short TV series.

The first I had heard of it, however, was in a New York Times magazine profile of Spike Jonze in which he revealed he was at work on another movie version of this when he thankfully got sidetracked by "Where the Wild Things Are" (I still say the single biggest Oscar snub this year is that even in the field of 10, that didn't get a Best Picture nomination. Criminal.)

Now comes word that the book is coming to movie life again, this time with the help of "Where the Wild Things Are" author and national treasure Maurice Sendak as a producer.

The story apparently follow our hero Harold as he uses his magic purple crayon to retreat into his own fantasy world, but soon realizes that he’s been selfish with his crayon and so uses it to help his parents and others, and even go on a mission to Mars.

This will be a CG-animated affair, with no director attached yet, but why not Mr. Jonze himself? Sounds like it would be world of fun for him, and I know for sure he'd love to work with Maurice Sendak again.

OK, this has certainly gone on long enough today, so I'll just wrap it up with a couple of clips. The first is for a flick called "The Good Heart," set to come out in at least some urban portions of the world on April 30. It caught my eye because it stars Reel Fanatic favorites Brian Cox and Paul Dano. The flick tells the story of Lucas (Dano), who attempts suicide and meets bar-owner Jacques (Cox) while in the hospital. The two quickly form a friendship and Lucas starts to work in Jacques' bar. Enjoy the trailer.

The Good Heart trailer from zik zak on Vimeo.

Actually, make that only one clip, because although there's a new international trailer out there for the "Karate Kid" remake starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith's offspring, I've decided to just ignore that monstrosity from here on out. Peace out.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A "Prime Suspect" remake? Terminate with extreme prejudice!

It's probably good for my fairly under control blood pressure that as I'm first hearing about this idiocy, it also comes with word that NBC has - for now at least - shelved this monstrosity, and for the best possible reason.

Yes, the network whose last big brilliant idea was putting Jay Leno in prime time five nights a week (how'd that work out, guys?) was actually considering a remake of the sublime BBC police procedural "Prime Suspect."

And I can certainly understand the temptation. For sheer intensity matched with characters you actually care about, only "The Wire" and - at its best - "NYPD Blue" have even come close to matching "Prime Suspect" on this side of the pond, and almost all of the credit for that has to go Dame Helen Mirren.

Of all the characters of the last 20 years or so, on big screen or small, very few have been taken over as completely as Helen Mirren dived directly into the role of Jane Tennyson and made it entirely her own. And it's apparently their belated realization of just how impossible it would be to replace her that finally led NBC to abandon this madness.

Unable to find the right actress for this, NBC has now shelved it until at least June, and here's hoping forever. If I had to name one actress who could pull this off, the only name that even comes to mind is Anjelica Huston, but as great as she is, I can't even see that working, if God forbid she'd even be interested.

And if you've somehow never seen "Prime Suspect," I can't recommend it highly enough. If you want to get started, the beginning would be best, but if you only want to watch one, No. 3, with David Thewlis and Ciaran Hinds in a truly tawdry tale about child murder and serious police corruption, is the best of all in my book.

Here's hoping that this NBC "idea" gets aborted for good, and from now on today it's all about a trio of clips that at least managed to catch my eye this morning.

First up comes a clip from the upcoming flick "Date Night" featuring Tina Fey, Steve Carell and, in this clip, a shirtless Marky Mark. Even though NBC's current king and queen of comedy would seem to make a dream team on the big screen, I somehow just can't get all that excited about this. I just get the sinking feeling it's gonna lack any of the truly manic appeal of "After Hours" in chronicling a supposedly "wild" night in NYC. Anyways, enjoy the clip.

Next up comes a TV spot for something I'm much more excited about, "The Runaways." On paper, the idea of Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning playing rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie just sounds dreadful, but the buzz about this out of Sundance was mostly positive, and it really does seem music video director Floria Sigismondi has come up with something that will rock when this finally comes out March 19. Enjoy.

And finally today comes a surprise that made me genuinely laugh out loud. I've never found Jimmy Kimmel all that funny at all, but Tracy Morgan can really do no wrong in my book (yes, I'm really gonna go see "Cop Out" just to see how funny he can manage to be in it, even though the reviews are dreadful.) In this clip I have to assume appeared on Kimmel's show sometime this week (after my school-night bed time, of course), he and Morgan make a rap video, and it's absolutely as silly as you might imagine. Here's hoping that Kimmel's turn as Lil' Jim puts the final nail in autotune. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For Wednesday, just a slew of movie news, good, bad and simply silly

There's just a ton of news out there today (or perhaps yesterday, but it's new enough to me), but let's just start with the worst of all and get it over with: George Lopez has signed on to star in a big-screen version of "Speedy Gonzalez." Just take that in for a second before moving on.

Now, I understand that Hispanics need to get all kind of roles and want that to happen all the time, but can you have a worse comedic role model than the very obnoxious Lopez or a more stereotypical role for him to jump into? Sheesh.

Just in case you're curious about the "plot" of this monstrosity, it will be a live-action/CGI animation hybrid from the director of "Garfield" (this just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?) about how Speedy becomes a race car driver.

OK, enough bile to start the day. It can only get better from here, I promise.

Freida Pinto to join forces with Tarsem

It really seems like every other movie coming out nowadays has something to do with Greek gods, and I'll probably skip just about all of them except for this one, because I'll see just about anything directed by Tarsem.

If you have seen "The Fall" (and if you haven't, why the heck not?), you know he's as capable of telling a great story as he is of delivering something visually stunning, and now he's got a great leading lady for his next project, "War of the Gods."

The story follows a young warrior Theseus as he leads his men into battle with the immortal Greek gods to - of course - save mankind. Freida Pinto is set to play Phaedra, an oracle priestess who joins Theseus on his quest.

Like I said, these movies quickly all run together for me, but Tarsem is without exaggerating a genius, and Freida Pinto is the kind of beauty I'd probably pay to watch eat a bag of chips, so I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on this one.

The Coens find their young leading lady

Remakes usually make me cringe as much as anyone, but these next two are just so crazy that I can get behind them unconditionally.

First up is the Coen brothers' take on "True Grit," set to come out in December and almost certainly net them another Best Picture nomination in the next field of ten.

Why a remake of "True Grit"? Well, the original movie is great in itself, but the novel by Charles Portis is even better, with a lot of humor to mine that the Coens should take full advantage of.

Already announced for the stellar cast are Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, and now its just been announced that newcomer Hailee Steinfeld has been cast in the essential role of Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old who, along with an aging U.S. marshall and another lawman, tracks her father's killer in hostile Indian territory. I've included a picture of her since I really had no idea who she was, but the Coens' take will apparently focus much more on Mattie's view of the story, so this really is the key part. Count me as thoroughly jazzed for this.

Stephen Chow to channel Bruce Lee

I'd normally greet any news of a Bruce Lee movie remake with nothing but a sneer, but Stephen Chow is both certifiably insane and just as fun, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

Chow has just signed on to make his Hollywood acting/directing debut with something called "Tai Chi," which is at least loosely to be a remake of sorts of Lee's "Way of the Dragon."

Like the original, it will tell the story of a Chinese immigrant (Chow, natch) working as a dishwasher in Chinatown who also just happens to be a Tai Chi master. He hides those skills until he's forced to stand up to gangsters who oppress his fellow immigrants.

This sounds like nothing but fun to me, and the kind of flicks Jackie Chan used to make before he joined ludicrous projects like the "Karate Kid" remake coming fast (and, don't say I didn't warn you, there's more coming on that later today.) Definitely keep an eye on this.

A pair of biopics in the pipeline

When I saw this this morning, I tried to think if there's been a Robert F. Kennedy biopic made yet, but couldn't think of one (if I'm wrong, let me know.) He's certainly a ripe subject, and by far the most fascinating of the Kennedy clan in my book, so word about a biopic is certainly welcome.

And Bostonian Matt Damon would certainly seem to be natural choice to play him, as he will for director Gary Ross from a Steven Knight script.

We all know the tragic story, but my favorite RFK moment of all would have to be the speech he gave in the streets of Indianapolis announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Incredibly stirring stuff that should be great to see envisioned on the big screen.

And in even better biopic news, Forest Whitaker let slip in an interview with the indispensable that he is directing and starring in a biopic about Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong. Whitaker certainly has the look for it, and he's becoming a first-rate director too, so this should be nothing but fun.

And there's some great casting news, too

Of all the comedy fronts out there, the best one in my book is what's coming from my adopted South from the mob of Jody Hill, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green. They just view the world with an extremely jaded eye, and deliver their stories, thankfully, without an ounce of sentiment (but often plenty of silliness.)

And now comes word today that Green is about to sign on to direct something that should be the epitome of said silliness, something called "The Sitter," to star Jonah Hill. You've at least got my attention when you describe your flick as a cross between "Superbad" and "Adventures in Babysitting," and this one will be about Hill being forced to babysit three wild kids.

Just about nothing makes me laugh more than children being unleashed as their truly wild and hopefully profane selves, so here's hoping this turns into something genuinely hilarious.

And in semi-related news, fellow Judd Apatow protege Jason Segel is joining something that sounds just raunchy enough to suit him perfectly. Along with the alwaysveryfunny John Michael Higgins (if you don't know who he is, watch "Best in Show" and then get back to me) he's joined something called "Bad Teacher" being directed by Jake Kasdan (as an aside, if you haven't seen Kasdan's "TV Set," do yourself a favor and rent it immediately.)

The flick follows a foul-mouthed, gold-digging seventh grade teacher (Cameron Diaz, somehow) who, after being dumped by her boyfriend, sets her sights on a colleague (Lucy Punch) who is dating the school's model teacher. Add into this mix Segel as a gym teacher and Higgins as the school's principal, and you've got the makings of something that should be nothing but very funny.

And in clearly much classier news, Angelica Huston and Philip Baker Hall are joining James McAvoy, Seth Rogen and Reel Fanatic crush Anna Kendrick in the now-untitled cancer comedy which used to be known as "I'm With Cancer."

The flick, which director Jonathan Levine starts shooting later this month in Vancouver, stars McAvoy as a 25-year-old who learns he has cancer. I have no idea what anyone else will do in this flick, but with a cast like that, it's certainly one to watch out for. Hall, in particular, is a favorite around here who should be a much bigger star by now.

And, finally, a trio of videos

You know, this has already gone a lot longer than I intended when I woke up this morning, but that's what happens when I start the day with a big bowl of coffee.

And for my money, there isn't a funnier (or, not coincidentally, crazier) dude out there today than Aziz Ansari. You can see him on "Parks and Recreation," but thankfully he's also taking his Raaaaandy character from Apatow's "Funny People" to ridiculous extremes. After making a mini-documentary about the Andrew Dice Clay-type comedian (which you can watch in installments on YouTube, highly recommended), Ansari has now teaamed up with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek to make a Raaaaandy rap album. Yes, really.

And judging from the first single, "Aaaaaaaangry," which you can listen to here, the as-yet-unfinished "mix tape" should just be insanely fun. On this track, he disses everyone from Dr. Dre (first name slowest, last name ever) to the Clipse, and it's just a hoot. Below is a clip of Ansari in character annoucing that the mix tape will be delayed but coming soon, and will certainly be purchased by me whenever that actually happens. Enjoy.

OK, now remember, I did warn you earlier. Next up comes quite possibly the most intelligence-insulating trailer of all time. I'm really not sure where to start with this, but ripping off the "wax on, wax off" bit is probably the worst of all. "Enjoy" the first trailer I know of for the "Karate Kid" remake starring Will Smith's kid, if you dare.

And finally, if for nothing else than to watch out the taste of that monstrosity, here's a promo for "Chuck," which is thankfully finally set to return to NBC on March 1. Since you've got Superman of a sort, Brandon Routh, why not make a "Superman" style promo? Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Video proof positive that David Cross really is just about the funniest man on Earth

You know, as those "Pirates" movies keep getting weirder I just lose more and more interest, but Rob Marshall, director of the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," has at least come up with one thing to get me intrigued.

Ian McShane, Al Swearengen himself, is about to sign to to play Blackbeard, the legendary pirate who piloted the ship Queen Anne's Revenge. With Penelope Cruz already on board as a definite case of trading up from Keira Knightley, I think that just might be enough to get me to buy a ticket for this.

And in another bit of news that interests me (and life's frankly just too short to spend any time on things that don't), details are starting to emerge on just what "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is cooking up now for the CW.

Yes, I realize I'm far too old to watch this stuff, but at its rare and best (as with "Gilmore Girls"), the station occasionally offers shows that cater to folks over the age of 15, which will hopefully be the case with this. "The Wyoming Project," which needs to start by getting a better name very soon, will star someone named Sean Faris as a 22-year-old dude who inherits a Wyoming ranch and the custody of his three younger sisters. What made "Gilmore Girls" so great was the keen eye for familial relations combined with a genuinely quirky sense of place, so here's hoping she can do at least something close to that magic this time around.

And after that today, all I have left is the first episode, in its entirety, of something Spike Jonze and David Cross teamed up to create for British TV. If that sounds like a dream team to you, than you're with me, and as you'll see from this trio of YouTube clips containing the first episode of "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret," they don't disappoint.

I'm not sure what British network this is on, but be warned, whichever one it is certainly isn't afraid of profanity, which spews from the mouth of Will Arnett, who also stars in this, almost as freely as it did from Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker in "In the Loop." Definitely watch this with headphones if you're at work, and have a perfectly pleasant Tuesday. Peace out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An "Arrested Development" reunion - of sorts? Bring it on!

Just a quick report today fueled by a large cup of Jittery Joe's java, because I'm soon off to see "Shutter Island" and then go to see Jack McBrayer host a screening of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as part of the Macon Film Festival (crap film, but should still be fun night.)

Before all that fun, however, there are a couple of bits of intriguing news out there this morning.

Though the "Arrested Development" reunion diehard fans most want to see would have to be the tremendously long-gestating movie, any project that reunites creator Mitch Hurwitz with Will Arnett - a k a Gob Bluth, of course - on TV in the meantime has to be good news.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hurwitz and "Arrested Development" co-executive producer Jim Vallely are close to signing a deal to create a single-camera, half-hour series for Lionsgate TV to be aired on Fox, with Arnett to be the main star. The show, in what sounds rather suspiciously (but welcomely) like the further adventures of Gob Bluth, would be about a "rich Beverly Hill jackass" who falls in love with a charitable tree-hugging woman who can't stand his lifestyle. Come to think of it, it sounds an awful lot like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" too, but either way, it should be just insanely funny.

Hurwitz and Arnett have reunited on TV once before since the end of "Arrested Development," but calling their very-short-lived animated series "Sit Down, Shut Up" a disaster would be far too courteous. Here's hoping this new project comes together and works out a lot better, but doesn't keep Hurwitz and Vallely away from that "Arrested Development" flick for too long.

There's other news this morning about Thomas McCarthy, who, if I were ever to get around to listing my 10 favorite directors (actually, sounds like fun), would definitely make the roster somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Along with starring as that seriously unscrupulous reporter on the final season of "The Wire" (reminder, David Simon's New Orleans series "Treme" premieres on HBO on April 11!), McCarthy has directed two perfectly sublime indie flicks, "The Station Agent" and the even-better "The Visitor." And now comes great word about the cast for the new project he's developing for Fox Searchlight.

Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan (double huzzah!) have joined the cast of "Win Win," which McCarthy is writing and directing as a semiautobiographical tale about a teen runaway who is taken in by a suburban New Jersey couple and joins the local high school's wrestling team (McCarthy wasn't the runaway, but rather one of his teammates.)

If that sounds suspiciously like a white, suburban "Blind Side," so what? I'd have to assume Giamatti will play the wrestling coach and Ryan the mother who takes the kid in, and with McCarthy guiding this it all sounds great to me. Shooting is set to start in the Garden State in April.

And by the way, did you know McCarthy is an Oscar nominee, for his contribution to the screenplay of "Up"? Congrats!

All I have after that today is a slew of clips from "Cop Out," courtesy of I'm still not convinced that Kevin Smith's hired hand flick is gonna be any good, but it should provide the ultimate confirmation that Tracy Morgan really can be funny in anything. Enjoy, and if you're headed to the big Macon Film Festival event tonight with Jack McBrayer at the Cox Capitol Theatre, I'll see you there. Peace out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

See the best movie of 2010 (so far) and much more at the Macon Film Festival this weekend

The fifth annual Macon Film Festival kicked off yesterday and gets into a real groove starting today, so if you're gonna be in town this weekend, there's really no excuse not to turn out for a few events (you can find the full schedule here.)

The fun things on the menu today include a special screening of "The Candidate" (my single favorite political film, by the way), hosted by Illeana Douglas, granddaughter of one of the movie's stars, Melvyn Douglas. Illeana Douglas will then host a screening of her own latest project, the Web-based series "Easy to Assemble."

That's going on at the Cox Capitol Theatre, while also downtown today at the historic Douglass Theatre, Richmond Riedel's "Target Practice" will be among the movies screened (around 7 p.m. or so, if I got the message he sent me right.) Though you could never call it high art, this debut feature from Riedel about a group of outdoorsmen who encounter a band of terrorists on a camping trip (yes, really) plays out as an updated "Deliverance" of sorts and is just a heck of a lot of fun.

Saturday's Marquee event will certainly be the Q&A session with Macon native Jack McBrayer. It's unfortunate that he can't bring a better movie than "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to screen, but in the "30 Rock" star's defense, I suppose he really hasn't appeared in that many movies yet (and at least he didn't bring "Talladega Nights"!) The movie isn't awful, though, and the Q&A should be a blast, so if you turn out for this at the Cox Capitol, you'll certainly run into me.

But the real highlight of this year's fest will be Sunday's closing night feature, Scott Teems' debut feature "That Evening Sun," easily the best movie I've seen so far this year. This movie has a number of connections to Macon, with the great Ray McKinnon having visited a previous Macon Film Festival to present his Oscar-winning short film "The Accountant" (a spectacular work) and Macon native and "True Blood" star Carrie Preston also appearing in a key role in "That Evening Sun" as the wife of McKinnon's character.

In fact, the greatest strength (among many) of "That Evening Sun" is its genuinely (and welcomely) Southern ensemble cast led by national treasure (and I mean that wholeheartedly) Hal Holbrook, who, believe it or not, gives a performance even better than his work in "Into the Wild."

He stars as Abner Meecham, who as the movie opens is slowly dying of boredom in a nursing home his son shunted him into. Seemingly on a whim, Meechan decides to seek out the farm that until recently had been his, and as is the fact with many Southerners, was his greatest point of pride.

After somehow making it back there, however, he finds his son has rented it out to a truly mean class of redneck played by McKinnon (the kind of character he revels in playing.) The movie evolves from there as a battle of wills between the two as Holbrook's Meecham takes up residence in a shack once intended for servants and refuses to leave until McKinnon and his family do (living as I do in a cottage - not, note, a shack - that surely once housed servants, that hit home with me.)

I'm probably not doing this great little movie justice with my description of it, but it's just a genuinely Southern tale, the likes of which we haven't seen since "Sling Blade," although "Junebug" came close too. The story, adapted by Teems from a short story by William Gay, just unfolds at a naturally entertaining pace, and I guarantee you'll be riveted as this slowly evolves from extremely quotable (Holbrook is a hoot) to something much more intense. Do yourself a favor and turn out for this Sunday night at the Cox Capitol Theatre.

OK, after all that today, all I have is a trio of clips. First up comes a short bit from the animated "Ricky Gervais Show," which just hit the air on HBO. As you'll see, it's essentially an animated version of the podcasts he shares with partner in crime Stephen Merchant and sidekick Karl Pilkington. Pilkington is a seriously funny dude, but as you'll see from this clip, it doesn't really translate all that well to animation, so I'll be HBO-free until David Simon's "Treme" hits the air, hopefully by April (a quick visit to the IMDB confirms April 11 - huzzah!) Enjoy.

Next up is a featurette of sorts for Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg," set to open with Ben Stiller as its main star April 1. I simply adored "The Squid and the Whale" and even stuck with Baumbach (unlike anyone else I know) through "Margot at the Wedding," but I have a feeling this one is just going to test my patience with the angst of white dudes (I get enough of that from myself, thank you very much.) Anyways, here's hoping I'm wrong and this turns out to be worth turning out for. Enjoy the clip.

OK, with this last one, you certainly can't say I didn't warn you, because it's a sure case of saving the worst for last. Of all the pre-release items that have been spit out to promote Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland" (finally coming March 5), this video for "Underground" by Avril Lavigne is easily the most distressing. I suppose I'm just far too old to enjoy this, but if you dare, click on the clip to see Avril go down the rabbit hole and encounter Johnny Depp. Enjoy, have a great weekend, and if you happen to live anywhere near Macon, please do come out for at least a few Macon Film Festival events. Peace out.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Thursday report just chock full of good movie news

There really is just a ton of news out there this morning about filmmakers and actors I like, so let's just jump right into it.

First up, in perhaps the biggest and best of it all, Kathryn Bigelow is set to reunite with "The Hurt Locker" scribe Mark Boal for "Triple Frontier," which is described as a "Traffic"-like drug parable set in the notorious border zone between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, and Bigelow says the film will use the same "raw and visceral visual style" as "The Hurt Locker."

Except for the "Traffic" reference (I can really think of very few movies that are more overrated than that one), that all sounds great to me. It's a perfectly gritty subject for her, and if I were still a betting man, I think there's been a groundswell of activity behind "The Hurt Locker" that just might bring it the big Oscar prize on March 7, which would be just fine with me (though, of course, I'm still standing behind Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," which I've seen four times now.)

And in a related note, Jeremy Renner, also an Oscar nominee for his performance in "The Hurt Locker," has set up his next project, and being a devoted fan of all things Baltimore, it certainly sounds intriguing to me. To be directed by James McTeigue of "V for Vendetta" and star Renner and Ewan McGregor, "Raven" is sort of based on Edgar Allen Poe's poem, but set in 1850's Baltimore with a serial killer's crimes mirroring Poe's work (and it damn well better be shot in 2010 Baltimore, too.) Renner probably won't win on Oscar night, but as far as male performers go, he and Christoph Waltz (who we'll hear about in just a few paragraphs) certainly had the "breakthrough" performances of 2009, and he's definitely got my attention.

Duncan Jones garnering stellar cast for next flick

I've somehow managed to once again con my way into a press pass to the upcoming Atlanta Film Festival 365, and if they screen even one movie as good as Duncan Jones' debut "Moon," which I squeezed into there last year, it will be well worth the trip.

So it's certainly good news that Jeffrey Wright has now signed for Jones' next flick, "Source Code," joining the already-announced Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan.

Best as I can tell, the flick is a sci-fi thriller involving time continuums in some way. Gyllenhaal is, of course, the main star, who's investigating a train bombing and finds himself in the body of one of the victims, reliving the incident until he can find out who's behind it. Farmiga will play Gyllenhaal's handler, and Monaghan a woman on the train with whom the man he becomes is romantically involved. All I know about Wright's involvement is that he plays a helicopter pilot of some kind, but I do know that with this director and cast, this is one I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on.

Cobain biopic in the works

Just about the last thing the world needs is another musician biopic, but I think I'd certainly at least turn out for one about Kurt Cobain. In fact, I can't believe this hasn't been done already.

Oren Moverman, director of "The Messenger" (which I haven't seen yet, but everyone tells me I should), is about to sign on to direct and rewrite David Benoiff's script for the project, using as at least a partial source Charles R. Cross' 2001 biography, "Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain."

No word yet on who would play Cobain, but I'd have to say Jared Leto, assuming he isn't just way too strung out by now, would be a natural, or maybe Billy Crudup. And as to why I'd want to see this, well, Cobain's certainly a fascinating subject, and I can still remember when my roomie at the time, Cory, told me what had happened to him. We had just seen the Breeders open for Nirvana about six months earlier at Atlanta's now-defunct Omni. A real bummer, but this seems to be in the right hands, and could make for a really compelling flick.

Waltz sets next project as another mean bastard

I've been hearing talk lately that Christopher Plummer, nominated for "The Last Station," just might pull the upset on Oscar night and nab the Best Supporting Actor award that everyone has been assuming would go to Christoph Waltz for his work as the Jew hunter Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds."

If that's the case, it would be a genuine travesty, because anyone who's seen QT's flick (and if you somehow haven't, why the heck not?) knows, he just takes over every scene he's in, and you can't take your eyes off him.

We'll just have to wait and see how that all turns out, but in the meantime comes word that he's in talks to star in "Water for Elephants" with Reese Witherspoon and a certain vampire dude you may have heard of named Robert Pattinson.

Based on the novel by Sara Gruen and to be directed by Francis Lawrence of "I am Legend," the story is about a Depression-era love triangle between a veterinary student (Pattinson) who joins a travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Witherspoon). Waltz would play the third angle, Witherspoon's husband, described as "a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures."

I'll watch Mr. Waltz in just about anything at this point - he's in Michel Gondry's upcoming "Green Hornet" with Seth Rogen, too, but I'd put my money on this flick being finished first - and especially in something that sounds this intriguing.

Carla Gugino set to run "Faster" with the Rock

You know, I really have no beef whatsoever with Dwayne Johnson. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy, but I'm not sure I've ever seen one of his movies. That said, putting the simply stunning (and just as talented) Carla Gugino in one of his flicks just might be enough to get me to buy a ticket.

She's come aboard the revenge thriller "Faster," being directed by George Tillman Jr., who made the mostly entertaining Biggie biopic "Notorious", and also starring The Rock, Billy Bob Thornton, Maggie Grace and Moon Bloodgood.

So, what's it about? Well, apparently, The Rock is an ex-con bent on avenging the death of his brother, murdered 10 years earlier when the two were double-crossed during a heist. Gugino will play the detective in charge of the investigation of the killing.

On second thought, I really can't see any way I will go see this, but I just really like Carla Gugino, so I'm just passing the news along 'Nuff said on that.

Whedon and Spurlock to harass poor Comic Con-goers
I'm not sure why, but I just can't stand to even look at, much less listen to, Morgan Spurlock. I think it's because I also can't stand documentaries in which the filmmaker feels the need to make himself the star - exactly the wrong approach in my book - and no one except for maybe Michael Moore does this more than Spurlock. And, for that matter, Moore is just a much better filmmaker.

Now, however, it seems that Spurlock and Joss Whedon (because, with "Dollhouse" canceled I guess he just has nothing better to do) are teaming up to make a documentary about Comic Con, which I'd love to attend some day.

The duo will apparently follow their poor victims for three months leading up to this year's mega-geekfest in San Diego. I can't imagine anything good coming from any of this, but I've been wrong at least once before (and probably already today), so maybe I am about this too.

Whew. That certainly went on a lot longer than I intended when I woke up this morning, so anyone who actually made it this far deserves a reward. I'm not sure that the latest weekly installment of "Alice In Wonderland" featurettes really qualifies, but they've at least managed to keep them all entertaining, and there just something soothing about watching Helena Bonham Carter with the Red Queen's enormous head calling for a pig to rest her feet on. Enjoy, and have a perfectly enjoyable Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A "Freaks and Geeks" reunion with Kristen Wiig? Yeah, I'll watch that.

Of all the comediennes working in movies today, none is more deserving of a starring role in a feature film than veryfunnywoman Kristen Wiig, and now she's about to get it thanks to "Freaks and Geeks" co-creators Judd Apatow and Paul Feig.

Though her Gilly on "Saturday Night Live" just makes me want to claw my own eyes out, she was sensationally funny last year in "Adventureland" and even better as the completely callous doctor in "Ghost Town" (if you somehow missed that rom-com of sorts starring Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni, as most of the world seemingly did, do yourself a favor and rent it tonight - it's fairly great.) And now she's set to star in a now-untitled movie once called "Bridesmaids," to be directed by Feig and produced by Apatow. The movie will be about to two women battling to plan a friend's wedding party.

That sounds like exactly the kind of movie I never need to see, but with this crew and Wiig having co-written the script, I'll certainly at least give it a chance whenever this comes out.

After that, the best news out there today is that director Doug Liman - who way back in the day directed a little movie called "Swingers" - has set his eyes on something much more serious, the 1971 uprising at New York's Attica state prison (insert your own Attica! chant here.)

The four-day confrontation that was at least as much the fault of the screws as the prisoners themselves is certainly ripe material for a movie, and Liman has a personal connection to the project. His father, the late Arthur Liman, served as chief counsel to the New York state Special Commission on Attica Prison and co-authored the commission's report on the uprising.

He'll be working with a script from "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" scribe Geoffrey Fletcher, an Oscar nominee for that flick and I'd have to imagine the favorite to win Best Adapted Screenplay. The two of them toured the prison recently to prepare for this flick, and here's what Liman had to say about seeing the notorious "cellblock z" in a post on his blog:

The rioters never succeeded in taking over cellblock z where the most hardened criminals are kept in solitary confinement. Had they succeeded, the devil would really have been out of the bag. The “box” was not really a relevant part of our tour, but I would be lying if I didn't admit to a morbid curiosity that drew me into that building. It did not disappoint.

This is how our guide put it: when you fuck up you go to prison, when you fuck up in prison they send you to Attica, and when you fuck up in Attica, they send you to cell block z. Prisoners are only allowed out one at a time, they are let out one hour a day, they must be shackled at all times when out of their cells. Up on the third floor a prisoner was about to be moved. In the rest of the prison, the inmates walk around lightly guarded, and the warden knew many of them by name and they all exchanged hello how are yous. Not so in the “box”. It was like the movement of Hannibal Lecter and we were ushered into a food prep alcove until the inmate was clear. Everyone seemed scared of him.

That certainly sounds like some intense material to work with, so here's hoping he gets it right. And before then, we'll get to see "Fair Game," the movie he recently wrapped starring Naomi Watts as outed spy Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband, Joseph Wilson, some time later this year.

And from here on out today, it's all about clips, first from surprise Oscar nominee "Secret of the Kells" and then, even better, a glimpse of "Glee," which is finally coming back to tv soon.

The more I see of "Secret of the Kells" the more I'm starting to love it, so I certainly hope it gets more than an arthouse release in mid-March. The simple animation style is rendered beautifully, as you'll see from this U.S. trailer and then, much better, six minutes of footage from the animated flick courtesy of, for which I occasionally contribute. Enjoy.

I'm sure I'm very far from alone in thinking that "Glee" was the best show of last fall, so I just can't wait for it to finally return to Fox on April 13. And, frankly, I don't care how incredibly gay the show might get (and I'm sure it will just keep getting gayer), because it's simply so much fun too. In this promo for the welcome return, you get two choice Sue Sylvester quips from Jane Lynch, and be sure to watch it all the way through to see her new wardrobe choice. Perfection. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The three craziest rumors you'll hear ... well ... at least today

With a post like this, there's really no better place than to start with Quentin Tarantino, who, if he followed through on everything he mentioned in the media, would have one whale of a great movie canon by now (the one he really has is, of course, pretty darn good as it is.)

This appeared in a New York Daily News item titled "Brad Pitt doesn't smoke pot while acting; I don't smoke pot while directing," so certainly take it with more than a few grains of salt. Even if that headline is true (which I kinda doubt), I'd still have to believe he at least smokes up a bit when he comes up with his movie ideas, like this one he let slip in the Daily News piece:

"I'd like to do a Western. But rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. With that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with. Let's shine that light on ourselves. You could do a ponderous history lesson of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. Or, you could make a movie that would be exciting. Do it as an adventure. A spaghetti Western that takes place during that time. And I would call it 'A Southern.'"

Now, he's mentioned making a movie about slavery before, but now that he's made World War II into some kind of crazy revenge fantasy about killing Hitler with "Inglourious Basterds" (and even managed to make it into my single favorite movie of 2009), I'd imagine anything's possible, so we'd better take even his craziest ideas a little seriously. A "Southern" that makes slavery "exciting"? I don't doubt he can do this, but whether he actually does or not ... stay tuned.

OK, these are actually coming in order of how much I'd like to see them happen, and just behind QT's madness comes a potentially fantastic collaboration between Nick Cave and Andy Serkis.

While on tour plugging his Ian Dury biopic "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" (yes, I'll watch that, please), Serkis let slip that he's planning a motion-capture movie version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera." Even better, Nick Cave is writing the screenplay with him, and will presumably have a big part in the music too.

The piece, which seems tailormade to Cave's rather odd brain, is based on "The Beggar's Opera," which tells the story of the sociopathic criminal Macheath, who marries the daughter of Mr. Peachum, who controls all the beggars in London. Peachum opposes the match and conspires to have Macheath hanged.

This has, of course, already been made into a movie once - as the simply dreadful "Mack the Knife" - so it's screaming out for a version that people can actually sit through without visibly cringing. Details to come if this actually all comes together, but for now, enjoy this rather sublime clip of Cave performing the song "Mack the Knife."

OK, with that, the goodwill ends, because the next two items fill me with nothing but bile (I did warn you.) It seems that Lars Von Trier, who I've never much cared for (his sole mission seems to be "shock" people into complete boredom, but I concede it's entirely possible I simply just don't get his flicks), ran into Martin Scorsese at the Berlin Film Festival and, perhaps drunk, crazy or both, has challenged the old man to something of a cinematic fist fight.

The story is more than a little odd, so bear with me. According to the Danish mag Echo, he has apparently "challenged" Scorsese to remake "Taxi Driver" (pause a minute or so and let that sink in), with Robert De Niro but also with several "obstacles" thrown in to make things "interesting," as Von Trier apparently did to fellow Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth in his 2003 doco "Obstructions."

The idea of remaking "Taxi Driver" under any conditions would, I certainly at least hope, just make Scorsese laugh in Von Trier's face, but can you imagine this old dude jumping through all kinds of hurdles just to turn his signature movie into some kind of game? It's ludicrous to the point that it could actually be kind of fun if it were ever actually to happen, but even if I still were a betting man, I wouldn't touch this one with even the longest of odds.

Scorsese, however, apparently isn't immune to incredibly bad ideas. It's fairly certain now that his next movie will be "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," and since I've read that children's book (I read quite a few of those, actually), that makes me nothing but giddy. It's a magical tale about a young boy in Paris who lives in the wall of a train station, where he tends to the clocks, doing the work supposedly performed by his drunken uncle. In the course of the story he eventually encounters Georges Melies and his wild automatons, and it just gets better and better from there.

So, what could possibly be the bad in this? Well, also while in Berlin, Scorsese let it slip that this will be shot in 3D, because, well, I guess everything has to be that way now. Sheesh. Can't I just go to a movie without putting on a second set of glasses? Apparently not, but that's really all I have to say about that potential disaster, because I have to get ready for the job that somehow still pays me enough to keep the lights turned on. I'll leave you with this new teaser trailer for "Despicable Me," which at least looks like it will at least be a lot of fun when it drops this summer. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

So, what's the movie good enough to drag me back to the multiplex?

Before I get into any of that, what in the world is going on at HBO? With Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann already on the roster directing pilots for, respectively, "Boardwalk Empire" and "Luck," it now seems the network has even somehow managed to sign Kathyrn Bigelow too (and they'll have me back too if and when David Simon's New Orleans series "Treme" hits the air.)

I have no idea how they managed to snag Bigelow, but the material she's working with sounds fantastic, though about as different from "The Hurt Locker" as you could pretty much possibly get. Created by Broadway director John Logan, "The Miraculous Year" centers on a charismatic, self-destructive Broadway composer and his family in New York. Bigelow is so far on board as executive producer, but I'd have to imagine she'll at least direct the pilot for this too.

And man does that sound like something I'd tune in for every week.

But before I got distracted today, this was supposed to be about the movie that will finally drag me back to the multiplex to watch a new theater offering. I thought it might be "The Wolfman" or "Percy Jackson ... whatever that movie's called," but I just couldn't bring myself to do it with either of those.

The movie weekend was far from a loss, however, because I went to see "Crazy Heart" again, and I'm certainly glad I did. Though I liked it the first time, the story just seemed all-too-familiar, and that hindered my engagement with it. The second time around, that wasn't an issue, and I was able to dive into just how good a story it is, with sensational acting and even better music by Ryan Bingham (and I bought the soundtrack when I got home - if anyone's listening, this young man just might be able to save country music from itself.) I was thrilled to see a nearly sold out crowd of grownfolks at the 2:30 matinee, and hopefully the theater owners noticed ... we like to go to movies too!

But what will be the movie good enough to finally get me to watch a new release, only the third this year, after "Youth in Revolt" and "The Edge of Darkness"? It's Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," and I'm just thoroughly jazzed for it Saturday afternoon. The early reviews, while trying to be negative, have only amped up my excitement. I mean, really, a B horror movie directed with exceptional style and great pace, as they've all said? I'm definitely there.

And on that note, all I really have this Monday morning is a behind-the-scenes featurette for the flick courtesy of I really don't see any possible way this movie won't just rock. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Are the "Friday Nights Lights" about to go out? Plus, a treasure trove of trailers

Before I get into all that, I suppose congratulations of sorts are due to John Francis Daley, aka Sam Weir of "Freaks and Geeks" fame, because getting a job of any sort in this brave new world is certainly something to celebrate, but couldn't he have done better than this?

It seems that Sam Weir and writing partner Jonathan Goldstein have been hired to "reboot", "reimagine" or whatever the hell they call ruining perfectly fine movies these days "Vacation." This time out, Chevy Chase will return as Clark Griswold, but the main focus will be on son Rusty as he takes his own family on some kind of surely disastrous road trip.

All I can really say to that is a resounding sheesh, but if you're a fan of "Friday Night Lights" (and if not, how in the world?), it's a big day of news, both good and bad. Folks like me who don't get DirecTV will enjoy hearing that the show's fourth season is finally set to return to NBC beginning April 30, and I just can't wait to see what happens with coach Taylor at the new East Dillon High School.

At the same time, however, the always reliably TV-obsessed Michael Ausiello is reporting that the show's runners have been informed that the "Friday Night Lights" will go out for good after shooting wraps on the fifth season in June.

While I'll certainly be sad to see the best drama on television now (yes, really, better than "Mad Men" and anything you might come up with in my book) go, it does give Jason Katims and his fellow creators plenty of time to give this thing a proper ending. I certainly don't expect Connie Britton to remain unemployed for any long stretch of time, and it will be fun to see where she ends up next (and I'll definitely follow.)

And finally, in a final bit of good TV news before we dive into a sea of trailers, veryfunnyman Larry Charles has booked a new gig with CBS for a new pilot. Though perhaps best known for "Borat," Charles has for years done much funnier work with "Seinfeld" and then the even better "Curb Your Enthusiasm." For CBS, he'll team with frequent collaborator Ant Hines to create a show about a dad, played by Paul Kaye, who reenters the life of his now-famous daughter. I'm not sure Charles' truly caustic wit will fit at CBS, but I'll certainly tune in to find out.

OK, from here on out it's all about trailers (and a featurette too), and there are some great ones.

First up comes the first trailer I know of for "Get Him to the Greek," an offering from the Judd Apatow camp which stars Russell Brand in a continuation of his "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" character, Aldous Snow (along with the Dracula puppet show, the funniest thing about that flick.) The new movie, set to drop June 4, was created by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, and also stars Jonah Hill, who's charged with getting Brand's beyond debauched rock star to a gig at the titular Greek theater. Silly? Absolutely, but I'm betting on a lot of funny here too. Enjoy.

Next up comes also the first real trailer I know of for "Toy Story 3," which is sure to dominate the weekend when it opens June 18. In the third installment, the toys are (once again!) put in a tight spot and forced to escape, this time from a daycare center full of very eager rugrats. The plots for these just get more and more tired, but in the trailer below the moment when Ken meets Barbie at least shows director Lee Unkrich and crew have some inspired ideas in their bag. Enjoy.

Toy Story 3 Trailer 2 in HD

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video

Though he looks at least as creepy here as he did as Tim Burton's vision of Willy Wonka (which is, unfortunately, permanently seared on my brain), Johnny Depp appears to be having a lot more fun as the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland," so hopefully we will too when this comes out March 5. The best thing in this featurette is seeing the Mad Hatter take up his sword to join the battle with the forces of the Red Queen, just surreally fun. Enjoy.

And finally, I'm not sure what's craziest: That Nickelodeon's great animated series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is now a live-action flick set to come out July 2, that both Dev Patel and Asif Mandvi of "The Daily Show" are in it and don't look entirely silly, that it's directed by M. Night Shyamalan or that it simply looks like it could be really great. Decide for yourself. Enjoy, have a great weekend, and please, if you live in Macon, go see either of our Oscar offerings this week, "Crazy Heart" and/or "A Single Man." I've seen them both, and while "Crazy Heart" is worth watching for the great performance of The Dude, Tom Ford's "A Single Man" is simply sensational, with Colin Firth at his best. Peace out.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Muppets, Wild Things and other news that just makes me smile

Anyone who's been here before (and there are, amazingly, a few of you) knows that I have a serious thing for children's stories meant to equally entertain young-at-heart "adults," and on that front there's two bits of good news to share.

Starting with Spike Jonze and "Where the Wild Things Are," there wasn't a bigger Oscar snub in my mind than the fact his take on the classic children's story by Maurice Sendak didn't get a Best Picture nomination, even with the field this year expanded to 10 flicks.

Heck, I loved the movie so much that I would have also certainly given nominations to James Gandolfini for his voice work as Wild Thing Carol and also to Dave Eggers for his wildly original adapted screenplay (Eggers' novelization of the script, "Wild Things," is also just a great read.)

Now comes word about both the DVD release of "Where the Wild Things Are" and something else fun that's coming with it (and, frankly, hopefully packaged together so I can afford them both.)

First up, if you buy the "Where the Wild Things Are" DVD on March 2, there will be a rather sweet bonus in the form of an animated short based on another Sendak story, "Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life," featuring the voices of Meryl Streep and Wild Thing (the Bull, if I recall correctly) Forest Whitaker. Bully to that, although I didn't really need any more motivation to buy this one.

In even better news, on the same day, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories will release the doco "Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak," directed by Lance Bangs and Jonze, on DVD as well. Jonze and Sendak bonded quite a bit on the set of "Where the Wild Things Are," and as you see from the clip below, it became a genuine mutual admiration society. Enjoy.

And in a final bit about Mr. Jonze, a Web site has been just unveiled for his short film "I'm Here," which recently made its debut at Sundance. Best as I can tell, it's a 30-minute movie that's a love story involving two robots (why not?). You can watch the trailer at the site here, and according to the site itself, the movie will be released on it in March. Stay tuned for more on this very soon.

OK, except for that today, everything else will be about another subject that just fascinates me, the new Muppet movie being cooked up by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller for Disney. Being both a Marylander and a child of the '70s, I of course grew up on the Muppets, and certainly have never outgrown their appeal.

Well, now details about the movie itself are coming out quickly. "Flight of the Conchords" co-creator James Bobin has been officially attached to direct the project (a perfect choice in my book), and now early word about the script has emerged on The Playlist (a daily must-read here.)

According to their source, the movie's name has also changed from "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" to now "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made." Even with tongue firmly in cheek, you'd better deliver something solid with a title like that, and here's what the source had to say about the movie's synopsis:

" (The script) is about Gary, Mary, and Walter (a man, his girlfriend, and the man's life-long nondescript, brown puppet best friend) getting the old Muppet gang — now retired entertainers known for the same Muppet show we know them from — together to save the TV studio that the original show was shot in. A villain, Tex Richman (nice name, on par with Doc Hopper), bent on drilling for oil underneath the studio, is due to take over the studio in weeks and the only way to stop him? Putting on a show that draws ten million viewers (see also "Heartbroken: The Conan O'Brien Story").

I'm not sure what that last CoCo bit was all about, but although that synopsis perhaps lacks an original spin on the Muppets story, it at least fits firmly in the tradition of what they're all about, so I'm very confident this is in the right hands. Here's some more of what he or she had to say:

It's a fresh, younger approach. Stoller and Segel have fun with the characters, are aware of what made the Muppet early years so great (winks to the audience, friendly musical numbers, single gag repetition, friendship and togetherness being the answer to everything), and hit the mark 65% of the time.

Again, that all sounds great to me, but the key to any great Muppet movie is the music, none of which The Playlist's mole could get his or her hands on. The only proof we have so far of Segel's and Stoller's skills in that department is that blissfully silly Dracula puppet show at the end of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (easily the best thing about that very easily forgettable movie.) Here's a clip of Segel performing "Dracula's Lament" on Craig Ferguson's show (I think) to brighten your day.

Finally today, the world is certainly a better place now that the Muppets have their own YouTube channel (trust me, it's a seriously good time-waster), and here's the newest clip. Beaker sets out to meem his way through Kansas' "Dust in the Wind," but as you can probably imagine, the results are somewhat short of perfect. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tuesday tidbits, a visit from Wallace & Gromit, and why today should be a national holiday

Actually, let's start with the latter, because this is indeed a day so glorious that I should get the day off: After tonight, Jay Leno will no longer be polluting the airwaves at an hour when I'm still awake.

I suppose it's rude to kick a man when he's down, but what he and NBC tried to do to prime time was so atrocious, there's really nothing else to do but celebrate its demise. And though I realize he comes out of it as kind of a winner, since he gets to return to the wounded and almost dead duck that is "The Tonight Show," at least it will be at an hour by which I'm almost always fast asleep.

And though Time magazine actually hailed him as "the future of television" on a serious cover (and I have yet to see any apology for that), this Entertainment Weekly cover sums up the situation much more accurately (and is much, much funnier too), so I'll just let that speak for itself. Enjoy, and even though you surely have to work today, take some solace from the fact that today is V-JL Day (Victory over Jay Leno, of course, and I can take credit for that bit of silliness.)

And what I have after that today is news about three directors I like to varying degrees, in order of just how much I like them, and two videos, one the promised "Wallace & Gromit" bit and the other some madness about Colin Farrell and a mermaid (yes, really.)

First up is Thom McCarthy, who is easily one of my favorite directors working today. He's also an actor, and you may recognize him from his work on "The Wire" and various movies (including somehow, if I'm not mistaken, "2012"!)

As for the movies he's directed himself, there are two that I know of, and I love them both. "The Station Agent" is a sublime little movie, but even better is "The Visitor," easily one of my favorite movies of 2007 and featuring a well-deserved, Oscar-nominated turn by Richard Jenkins (who will somehow now be appearing in the thoroughly unnecessary American remake of "Let the Right One In" - Ack!) If you've never seen this one, I highly recommend it, because you'll find few better stories about immigration in America and the human face of it we so often strive to simply ignore.

And now it seems McCarthy is amping up to direct again, though this time with something completely different and much lighter.

In a tale apparently drawn directly from his own experiences, and in what sounds slightly like a white version of "The Blind Side," McCarthy is now working on a "light-hearted comedy" called "Win Win," which will be "about how a rough-and-tumble runaway changes the lives of a suburban New Jersey family and turns around the luck of a high school wrestling team," according to the always reliable The Playlist. The runaway wasn't McCarthy, but instead one of his childhood friends.

That certainly sounds like it has the potential for mawkishness, but I have full faith in McCarthy, and as someone who at least tried to wrestle in high school, the subject itself intrigues me. Paul Giamatti is apparently on board, presumably as the wrestling coach (perfect), and he and McCarthy are now out scouting unknown actors for the lead role, with an early March start to filming in New York and New Jersey. I can't imagine too many aspiring high school wrestlers read this, but if so, now is your big shot, I guess.

When I saw this next bit about the return of Peter Bogdanovich, I had to visit the IMDB to see when he had last a) made a feature film and b) made one that I've seen. The answers are: a) in 2001, which something called "Cat's Meow" and b) in 1973 and '74 with, respectively, "Paper Moon" and "Daisy Miller."

Even so, when you add to those "The Last Picture Show" and the perfectly silly "Targets," I think you can certainly list Bogdanovich as a great American director, so news of his potential return to the big screen is worth noting.

According to Variety, he's writing and directing an adaption of Kurt Andersen's novel "Turn of the Century," which I can't say I've read. Set in February 2000, it apparently focuses on a Manhattan power couple and their three private school kids. As details go, that sounds pretty far from exciting, but I'm betting Bogdanovich will turn this into something worth watching when filming starts in New York in spring 2011 (though with actual filming that far away, I suppose I should say "if" it starts.)

And finally, in something that's coming together very quickly, it seems that Steven Soderbergh is moving forward with "Contagion," a deadly virus outbreak thriller which is already somehow set to star Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard, even though so far at least there is no studio attached.

When Soderbergh is genuinely engaged and having fun, I do too, which was certainly the case with "The Informant" this year. And if I can digress just a bit, I didn't see "Invictus," but no matter how good Damon may have been in that, there's no way he shouldn't have been nominated instead for his amazing role in "The Informant" at this year's Oscars instead.

Here's hoping "Contagion" turns into a fun ride rather than the star-studded disaster it certainly could very easily become.

OK, it's probably time to start wrapping this up, but there's also a bit of very good casting news out there too. Danny Boyle's next movie, "127 Hours," is already set to star James Franco as Aron Ralston, a mountaineer who was forced to amputate his own arm in order to escape entrapment under a fallen boulder. And now it seems that Amber Tamblyn, who presumably can no longer talk directly with God, has joined the flick as his girlfriend, with the relationship apparently played out in a series of flashbacks in his mind.

I'm not sure how far along this is, but I love me some Danny Boyle, so this is one certainly worth keeping your eyes on.

And now, for the real ending, does anyone remember "The Secret of Roan Inish"? I love that John Sayles movie about selkies, mysterious Irish creatures of myth that can turn from seals into humans. Well, it seems Neil Jordan did too, and now he's made "Ondine," which stars Colin Farrell as an alcoholic Irish fisherman whose life is turned around when he encounters what he thinks is a mermaid (the simply stunningly beautiful Alicja Bachleda, his actual wife.) What will hopefully be a magical fairy tale of sorts has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures, and with Farrell in it, I suppose it might even play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it drops June 4 in the U.S. Enjoy the trailer.

And finally, as promised at the outset, there is indeed a visit from Wallace & Gromit today, thanks to a heads up from my fellow cubicle slave Randy Waters. Nick Park is nominated for an Oscar this year in the short film category for "Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death," and I'm certainly rooting for him. But here today, all we get is a little snippet of the duo in action, with poor Gromit of course subjected to another of Wallace's disastrous inventions, the "Turbo Diner." Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, February 08, 2010

What if Wes Anderson directed the "Spider-Man" reboot?

I'm gonna go on an overnight drunk and then find the man who killed my uncle.

I really don't have the time or energy to say much on this Monday morning, but this YouTube send up of Wes Anderson was just too good not to pass along.

I have no idea if Wes Anderson was really rumored to be the director for the upcoming "reboot" (in this case, aka disaster) of the "Spider-Man" franchise, but once you decide to scrap the great Sam Raimi and essentially pretend the first three movies didn't even happen (actually, with the third one at least, I'm with you there), I suppose anything's possible. (The Spidey job, by the way, went to "500 Days of Summer" director Marc Webb, so maybe it won't be a complete catastrof***.)

Anyways, this Anderson parody is just about about spot on, so I'll stop prattling on now and just let you have at it. Enjoy, and have a perfectly nonobjectionable Monday. Peace out.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Saturday cache of clips: Is there really hope for "Cop Out"?

This surely isn't terribly exciting to the rest of the world, but it's thrilling to me that I have actually managed to enter the mid-90s or so and am - for the first time - typing this on my fancy new laptop while enjoying a strong cup of java at Jittery Joe's. It might be also because of the large Brazilian brew I'm downing, but it makes me seriously giddy.

And you know, ever since I heard that Kevin Smith was making a rather routine-sounding buddy cop movie as his next flick - and one he didn't even write himself - I just assumed that "Cop Out" was one I would skip altogether.

But, as you can see from the red band clip below, he does have one definite strength in his corner, the indefatigably crude Tracy Morgan. If you love watching him on "30 Rock" - and when the Emmys are perennially showered on the show, I really can't understand why he isn't at least nominated - you know he's at his best when he appears to be just spouting whatever comes into his head. And from this seriously crude clip - be warned, it contains both talk of monkey sex and a 10-year-old getting punched in the nards - you can see that Kevin Smith understood that he should at least let Tracy Morgan be Tracy Morgan, which will be enough to sucker me into buying a ticket when this comes out Feb. 26. Enjoy.

Next up comes the teaser trailer for a new Luc Besson movie, which though it really doesn't reveal much at all, is still reason to celebrate. The movie is called "The Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec," and from what little I know about it so far, it's based on the comic books by Jacques Tati about a young novelist who gets into all kinds of Indiana Jones-style adventures in the early 20th century. Though this is listed as coming out in April in France and July in Japan, I can't yet find a U.S. release date, but one is sure to come soon. Enjoy.

Even if Avril Lavigne's new theme song for Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" is nothing but a disaster, I'm still almost entirely convinced that the movie itself will rock when it finally comes out in the first week of March. In this clip featuring interviews with both Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway, I got the sense for the first time that this is going to be "Alice"-meets-"Chronicles of Narnia," with, near the end of this clip, young Mia Wasikowska donning armor to go into battle for the White Queen. And if I can digress about her for a second, she's part of the seriously great ensemble cast of "That Evening Sun" - the best Southern movie I've seen in many years. Go see that one if you can.

There's no shortage of artistic efforts to aid Haiti, and there can really never be too many. Lionel Richie's reconstitution of "We Are the World" surely will have more star power, but I'll take this project over that one any day. As you'll see from this British TV clip, Pogues poet and drunkard extraordinaire Shane MacGowan has convened Nick Cave, Chrissie Hynde, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols. Mick Jones of the Clash and - though he doesn't appear in this clip - even Johnny Depp too, among others, to record a version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' great "You Put a Spell on Me," with all proceeds going to help Haiti rebuild. You don't get to hear any of the new track in this behind-the-scenes clip, but it's still fun to watch (not the least so you can try and decipher just what in the world MacGowan is saying), and keep your eyes out for the single release at the end of this month. Enjoy.

And finally, in a definite case of saving the worst for last, here's an "Entertainment Tonight" visit to the set of "Burlesque," which gets my early vote for the biggest disaster of 2010. You do get to see Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell and other very attractive young ladies cavorting around in their burlesque outfits, but this clip mostly just left me with this burning question: Just how in the world did Bell, Stanley Tucci and even Alan Cumming end up in what appears to be a "Showgirls" sequel of sorts with Cher as the matron? Sheesh. Anyways, enjoy the clip, have a great weekend and please, if you have the chance, do go see "That Evening Sun," which features a performance from Hal Holbrook that's even better than the one in "Into the Wild" that should have won him an Oscar. Peace out.

P.S.: The Blogger spell check is once again not working, so please forgive any egregious spelling errors. Thanks.