Saturday, July 31, 2010

For Saturday, three or four bits of news about people I like

Quick, before I get into any of that, think: How many versions of "Law & Order" are there, and when's the last time you watched a new episode of one?

For me, the answers to those are I have no idea and for at least 10 years or so. It's not that I have anything against "L&O," simply that I prefer them with the late Jerry Orbach. Now, however, I think they've packed a new version with just the right stars to get me to tune in.

Two of my definite favorites, Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina, will rotate on the new "L&O" version "Law & Order:Los Angeles" as, respectively, a deputy district attorney and a prosecutor. Great news on the "Law" side, and though I have no idea who's gonna keep the "Order," you can bet that that's enough to get me to tune in for at least a few episodes when this premieres on NBC presumably some time this fall.

And in related TV news, just about the only possibly positive thing about the demise of the wickedly funny Starz show "Party Down" is that its cast members keep popping up in good shows. Adam Scott will be a regular on "Parks and Recreation" this fall to presumably pitch woo at Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope, and now comes word that Lizzy Caplan has also found a new gig, and a starring one on HBO.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez production company is developing Julie Klausner's memoir "I Don't Care About Your Band" for Caplan to star in as a HBO series. Though I had never heard of her, Klausner is a comedy writer/comedienne, and her book, as the title implies, is a comedic look at her dating life in New York City with men trying to make it "in bands, as comedians, writers, or worse, as actors." Sounds not too far removed from Caplan's character on "Party Down," and like something I'll definitely tune in for.

And finally, in some actual movie news, it seems that "Precious" director Lee Daniels may have lost - at least temporarily - one movie and picked up another one that sounds at least as good.

For a while now, he's been working on a piece of historical drama called "Selma," which, as you can probably guess from the title, involves the American civil rights movement. Had that come together, it would have (and probably still will) have a pretty epicly good cast, including Liam Neeson as President Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert De Niro (maybe) as George Wallace (try and imagine that). While that was set to start shooting in August, the financing has at least been delayed, and in the meantime, Daniels has jumped onto something that sounds equally up his alley.

Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Daniels has now signed on to rewrite and direct something called "The Butler," based on a series of articles by Wil Haygood on Eugene Allen, a White House butler who worked for eight presidents in the 20th century and, of course, had to be witness to some rather amazing events.

The script that Daniels will be working on comes from Danny Strong, a name that may be familiar to fans (like me) of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Gilmore Girls." After having long recurring roles on those shows, he went on to write the seriously good HBO movie "Recount," about the shenanigans that lead to George W. Bush becoming president. Along with a sublime performance from Laura Dern as Katherine Harris, it also just delivered a whipsmart story, so I can't imagine Daniels will have to do a thorough rewrite here.

And though this wouldn't start shooting until the end of this year, what makes it a lock to get made before "Selma"? One Denzel Washington has been approached to play the titular butler, and I can't imagine he'd turn it down.

Either way, though I'd love to see Daniels branch out a bit and move beyond matters of race, he's a very talented director to keep your eyes on no matter what comes next.

OK, I really have to get a move on today so I can work a hopefully happy viewing of "Dinner for Schmucks" into a busy Saturday, so I'll just leave you with the perfect closing gift, the Comic-Con panel for "Chuck," in its entirety. I don't know if anyone will bother to watch the whole thing, as I did, so I'll go ahead and tell you now: It doesn't contain the best news of all about the new season coming Sept. 20, that "Terminator" badass and Salisbury, Md., native Linda Hamilton will play Chuck and Ellie's mom (I can't wait to see that!) It does feature the entire cast having a good time, and for fans of the show it's well worth watching. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mid-year report card: One man's picks for the best movies of 2010 (so far)

After a more than slightly disappointing beginning to this movie year, we've been on a real roll of late.

The winning streak started with "Toy Story 3," the perfect ending to a great movie trilogy, and continued with the surprisingly charming "Despicable Me" on through the ambitious mindbender "Inception" (and if you really think you can explain that one to me, bring it on.)

Overall, not nearly as good a movie year as 2009, but it's clearly getting better, and the fall should have some real winners (more on that in coming weeks). Here is one man's opinion about the best movies (so far) of 2010, in order of preference.

10. "Shutter Island": I'd say Leonardo DiCaprio was in a mindbending movie rut if the ones he's been in this year weren't so good. "Shutter Island," a Martin Scorsese movie based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, was a B-movie flick with A-level acting and style. Now on DVD.

9. "Alice in Wonderland": Though many - if not most - of director Tim Burton's adaptations/remakes are tired, this was a welcome exception. It was full of whimsy and surprising restraint from Burton, and for once, Johnny Depp was funny rather than simply creepy in a Burton movie as the Mad Hatter. Now on DVD..

8. "Date Night": This is most certainly the year of Steve Carell on the big screen, and since he's soon likely to quit "The Office," why not? Though this flick with co-star Tina Fey lacked the anarchic spirit of Scorsese's "After Hours," from which it clearly draws inspiration, it was still a fun night out with two very talented comedians. Coming to DVD on Aug. 10.

7. "Despicable Me": Carell again, in a flick that proves Pixar doesn't have the market cornered on mixing wicked humor with heart. After a slow start full of run-of-the-mill jokes, it develops into a thoroughly charming animated tale, and contains my single favorite movie line of 2010 so far: "The physical appearance of the please makes no difference." In theaters now.,

6. "Inception": This is, of course, all anyone is talking about now when it comes to movies, and what more can you ask for than that? Christopher Nolan's dreamscape may well move up on this list over time, but for right now, I need to see it again, because after one viewing it left me with as many questions as answers, and that's far from a complaint. In theaters now.

5. "A Prophet": It has been called "The French Godfather," and though that's clearly a high bar to set, the comparison actually works on many levels. The story about what one man has to do to survive a long stint in prison - from unsavory alliances to even more unsavory activities - is simply mesmerizing from start to finish. Out on DVD Tuesday.

4. "Kick-Ass": Really? Yes, really. Though there are clearly questions about the morality of a 13-year-old, extremely foul-mouthed and even more lethal "Hit-Girl," played by young Georgian Chloe Moretz, there's no denying that it's funny. And this is, after all, a comic-book movie, and one that in the hands of director Matthew Vaughn breathes new life into that very familiar genre. Now on DVD.

3. "That Evening Sun": A definite highlight of the 2010 Macon Film Festival, this stars Hal Holbrook in a revival of the great Southern movie, a genre that's becoming far too much of a rarity. He's angry, ornery and excellent as an old man who escapes from a nursing home to reclaim his former home, now being inhabited by another Macon Film Festival favorite, Ray McKinnon. Not to be missed, and coming to DVD on Sept. 7. And the Macon Film Festival will return Feb. 17, 2011, so stay tuned.

2. "Toy Story 3": Is Pixar's marquee trilogy also now the best movie trilogy of all time? The argument can certainly be made, since it started with a groundbreaking original, upped the ante with a second chapter that was even better in terms of story and humor, and then finished up (we assume) with a final chapter that was both a rousing adventure and a definite charmer, and yes, the ending did make this grown man cry (admit it, you did too.) In theaters now.

1. "Winter's Bone": Debra Granik's movie takes a classic film genre, the film noir, and sets it in just about the bleakest possible setting, the Missouri Ozarks. And though it can often indeed be as depressing as that sounds, it's also riveting as newcomer Jennifer Lawrence tries to unravel the mystery of what has happened to her deadbeat father, who has put up the house she shares with her two young siblings as a guarantor that he'll appear in court on charges of making meth. This is, indeed, the perfect kind of movie for the Macon Film Guild to offer this fall (though I don't have any say in that), and worth seeking out now in select theaters.

Honorable mention: "Youth in Revolt", "Edge of Darkness", "Ghost Writer", "The Crazies", "The Good Heart", "OSS 117: Lost in Rio", "Splice", "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work", "Get Him to the Greek" and "Cyrus"

So, there you have it. Please feel free to share any you think I may have snubbed (and there's surely more than one), and to offer any of your favorites from this movie year so far. Peace out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peggy, this isn't China - there's no money in virginity: A salute to the women of "Mad Men"

Before we get into any of that, and the return of "Mad Men" is clearly the biggest and best thing happening this week, there is a bit of movie news out there, starting with the great Steve Coogan.

It's always kind of mystified me why Steve Coogan isn't a bigger star in the United States. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that he's apparently more than a bit of a royal a**hole, but as someone who can be that way at least from time to time, I've never had much of a beef with that (Mel Gibson aside - that dude's just a psychopath.) Besides, when someone's as fall-down funny as he was in "Tristram Shandy" or simply great as he was in "24-Hour Party People," stardom surely should be coming.

Well, after years of being very good in small parts in flicks like "Night at the Museum," he's now about to get his shot at headlining a hopefully wide-release flick, and one based on something he's already done for the BBC. I've never seen "Cruise of the Gods," a 90-minute movie he starred in, but the premise sounds priceless: the two stars of a 1980s sci-fi series, one now a big star, one a has-been, are reunited on a cruise for fans of the show.

I'm laughing at that already, so bringing it to the big screen with a script from "Dinner for Schmucks" scribes David Guion and Michael Handleman sounds like nothing but a good idea to me. In the original (which I'm gonna have to hunt for on DVD), Coogan played the successful actor, with his "Tristram Shandy" foil, Rob Brydon, playing the other half of the duo, but I'd have to imagine that role will be recast. Definitely stay tuned for more on this ...

And in another bit of movie news about a director I really like, it seems that Zack Snyder has finally given in and hitched onto a sequel to "300" (not the best thing he could be doing, but that flick was fun enough, so why not?)

He's apparently been waiting on Frank Miller to finish his 6-part "300 prequel comic "Xerxes," which anyone who's seen "300" knows is of course about that big gay Persian dude. Well, the work has apparently met his standard, because Snyder and writing partner Kurt Johnstad started working on the script a week ago. Whether or not he will direct this is still an open question, but I'd have to imagine the eventual answer will be yes.

OK, before I got distracted by all that, it was supposed to be all about "Mad Men," today, so here goes. Anyone who watches the sublime show, which returns for its fourth season Sunday on AMC, knows that not only do the women give as good as they get, but often get the upper hand in terms of wit and style. Just in case you need some proof, or simply something to make you smile a bit this Thursday morning, here's a clip compiled by PopSugar that features some of the best ladies' barbs, and as usual Joan gets the best of all. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catching up with some news and clips

Many of these things may have indeed happened while I was on vacation with mi hermano in New York and Philly, but they're all fascinating to me, so if you want to, please feel free to read on.

Easily the best news, and fresh I think, is that HBO has set the return dates for two of my favorite TV comedies, and is in fact packaging them back to back this September. "Bored to Death" and "Eastbound & Down" will indeed premiere as a block beginning at 10 p.m. Sept. 26, and I can only say bring it on.

If you've never seen "Bored to Death," and I'm sure there's many more than a few of you who haven't, I really can't recommend many TV comedies higher. The show from novelist Jonathan Ames (if you haven't read his "Wake Up, Sir!", do so right away) is about a struggling writer (Jason Schwartzman) who decides to list himself as a private eye on Craig's List. As he goes on various misadventures in New York City, he's often joined by co-star Zach Galifianakis and, even better, Ted Danson, who steals every minute he's in as a crazed magazine editor.

"Eastbound & Down," from the Southern-fried comedy shop of Jody Hill and friends, is a more bitter pill to swallow, but in its own way almost as funny. At the end of season one, Danny McBride's Kenny Powers had burned all his bridges in his pathetic attempt to return to the big leagues as a pitcher, and if I'm not mistaken, the new season will at least in part have him hurling in Mexico. That should be a hoot, so if you've never seen this little odd show, give it a chance.

In another bit of TV news, though I'm now thoroughly convinced there will never be an "Arrested Development" movie, two of its funniest actors will be reuniting on creator Mitch Hurwitz's new show, "Running Wilde," starting Sept. 20 on Fox.)

In the show, Gob Bluth plays a rich callow dude (sound familiar?) who falls in love with a crusading environmentalist played by Keri Russell. And now comes word that in a casting change, the extremely funny David Cross will play a radical environmentalist who competes for her affections for at least seven episodes. Nothing but funny there (or at least here's hoping, because Hurwitz's last show, "Sit Down, Shut Up," was just a flaming turd.)

And finally, both because this is nominally supposed to be about movies and because I love Sam Raimi at his best, he's attached to direct something that could be all kinds of fun (and I'm not talking about that "Oz" prequel, which even with Robert Downey Jr. as the wiz himself should just be terminated with extreme prejudice.)

After that, I suppose, Raimi has set his sights on adapting the graphic novel "Earp: Saints for Sinners," from a script by the novel's author, Matt Cirulnick. As the title implies, this would indeed be about the Western hero Wyatt Earp, but transport him into a future in which he takes on outlaws in a ravaged society where the only boomtown left is Las Vegas. Now, having sat through "Spider-Man 3" I know Raimi can fall as much as anyone, but this just sounds like fun to me.

OK, from here on out it's all about clips, the first two of which come directly from Roger Ebert's newsletter, which really is a must-read if you love movies (and at $4 a year, it's a real steal too.)

First up comes the first proof that this fall and winter are going to be all about James Franco, and as a devoted "Freaks and Geeks" fan, that's just fine by me. Later, in December (I think), he'll star in Danny Boyle's next flick, "127 Hours," as mountain climber Aron Ralston, who became trapped while climbing in Utah and had to go to desperate measures to survive. You can count that as one of the very few flicks I'm most looking forward to for the rest of the year, but before that, on Sept. 24 if you live in one of America's bigger cities, you'll be able to see him as the poet Allen Ginsberg in "Howl." Here, courtesy of the Ebert crew, is the first trailer I know of. Enjoy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Affleck's directing debut with "Gone Baby Gone," so you can certainly count me as psyched for his sophomore effort, "The Town," based on the novel "Prince of Thieves" by Chuck Hogan and set to come out Sept. 10. The rather stellar cast includes Gossip Girl Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Reel Fanatic fave Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Chris Cooper in a Boston flick about a bank robber and his contacts with the FBI, amorous, contentious and otherwise (sounds more than a little like "Out of Sight," which is fine with me.) Enjoy the first trailer I know of.

Next up comes the first American trailer for Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which, even with the awful narration that also was the only blemish on his sublime "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," looks like it should be another winner. The cast includes, Josh Brolin, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas and the simply stunning Freida Pinto, so we at least know there will be a lot of pretty people, hopefully doing very funny work when this comes out (and hopefully everywhere) Sept. 22. Enjoy the trailer.

And where better to finish up today than with more silliness from the Muppets? We'll have to wait until Christmas 2011 for the new Muppet movie, "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made," being cooked up by Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin. In the meantime, thankfully, Jim Henson's creations keep popping up in new YouTube creations like this latest clip of the Swedish chef cooking up some popcorn shrimp, with predictably disastrous results. Enjoy the clip, and have perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Not exactly a summer crowd pleaser, but the best movie I've seen this year

Mi hermano and I had a blast during the week off in New York and, even better, Philly, but we only ended up doing about half of the murals tours I had mapped out simply because it really was murderously hot.

So, what do you do when it's too hot to move? Go to the movies, of course. I asked for "Inception," but we couldn't work it in over the weekend, so that's to come this weekend. Apparently, it might be pretty good.

We did, however, manage to see at least five movies during the week, including the recently restored "Breathless," which looks better than ever and is just as sublimely silly as I remembered. I just love that flick. We also saw the Duplass brothers' "Cyrus," which was as downright uncomfortable to watch as it was sheerly entertaining; "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," which was a surprisingly good portrait of quite possibly the rudest woman alive (and yes, it is a singular experience to watch a 75-year-old woman do a joke about anal sex); and "Micmacs," a flight of fantasy from Jean-Pierre Jeunet that never reaches the sweet heights of "Amelie" but is nonetheless a little ball of fun (which I liked more than my brother.)

Easily the best of all, however, was "Winter's Bone," and that's what I'm here to talk about today.

Nothing draws me into a movie faster than sense of place, even if, as with Debra Granik's mesmerizing film noir of sorts, that's a place you'd never really want to even visit for a minute in the real world. We've all driven by such places, maybe a beaten-down shack or a collection of them, and wondered just how in the world someone lives like that.

Well, the answer, of course, is you really don't want to know, but the two things that make "Winter's Bone" work so well are how much humanity she finds in this extremely bleak tale set in Missouri's Ozarks and the compelling lead performance by newcomer Jennifer Lawrence (well, new to me, but you may recognize her if you manage to see this ... and trust me that you'll never forget her performance as Ree Dolly; in a related bit of very good news, she's just been cast as Mystique in Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class," which just keeps piling on the good casting news.)

At the movie's outset, Ree learns that her deadbeat father, who among other wise career options is a meth dealer of some sort, is due in court in a few days, and to make matters worse has put up the house she and her two younger siblings live in as the guarantor that he'll appear (which, obviously, is none too likely.) This sets in motion what could have - in lesser hands - been a pretty straightforward detective tale, but instead unfolds naturally (if a bit slowly) as more of a descent into hell as she tries to uncover the mystery of just where her father is hiding out and at the same time save her family.

To reveal much more about the plot would be a crime, so I'll just say it unfolds much like Rian Johnson's "Brick," with Ree methodically compiling often contradictory clues from a cast of characters who are far too unpolished to even be called unsavory. If anything, however, it has far more urgency in its storytelling and, no offense to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I always enjoy, just a far better hero to cheer for.

Lawrence, often nonverbally, just perfectly captures the mix of fear and resolve that drive Ree on her quest, and though she'll probably be overlooked when that time comes, here's hoping she somehow slips into the Best Actress race at the Oscars much like Melissa Leo did for "Frozen River." And she's aided here - eventually - by her uncle Teardrop (yes, really), played by John Hawkes, who does a great job of concealing his motivations until it finally becomes clear just how much he's willing to help. It's a natural performance that will have you wondering where you've seen him before (and the three best answers I could find all involve TV: As the unfortunate brother of Danny McBride's Kenny Powers on "Eastbound & Down"; as the Jewish merchant Sol Star on "Deadwood"; and, perhaps best of all, as the janitor George on the ghostly "I Only Have Eyes for You" episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.")

But as usual, I digress. The bottom line, if you can still find it in theaters, "Winter's Bone" offers a chilling look at a place you'd never want to live in but will enjoy visiting if you can dig film noirs with a raw streak of reality. Peace out.

Friday, July 09, 2010

"Let the Right One In" director assembling great spy game

Congrats to my staff on 4 Emmy nominations. This bodes well for the future of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

It's good to know that through it all Conan is, of course, still very funny, but easily the best news in yesterday's Emmy nominations was long overdue acting nods for Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights." They probably won't win, and the great show somehow still didn't get a best dramatic series nomination, but kudos nonetheless. Bully.

And beyond that today, it's a fairly slow day outside the quartet of clips at the end of this, but there is news about one of my favorite directors. Although Matt Reeves has been garnering plenty of attention for his thoroughly unnecessary English-language remake of the simply brilliant vampire movie "Let the Right One In," the director of the original classic (yes really, classic already, it's that good), Tomas Alfredson, has quietly assembled an A-list cast for what should be a fantastic spy flick, his take on John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

Already according to Variety, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman and Michael Fassbender have all signed on, though there's no word yet on which of them will play the main spook, George Smiley. Even better than that is that Peter Morgan, who wrote, among many other things, "Frost/Nixon," "The Queen" and the fantabulous futbol flick "The Damned United" (rent that one already), has penned the script for this, so it should be whip smart.

Le Carre's novel was already made into a seven-part British miniseries starring, among others, Alec Guinness and the late, truly great Ian Richardson (if I can digress for a second, the "House of Cards" trilogy, starring the latter as the nefarious Francis "F.U." Urquhart, is a grand piece of political theater, so watch that as soon as you can find it.) In the story, Smiley is assigned to uncover and take out a double agent implanted in the British Secret Service by Moscow Centre.

Update: A second of research by me reveals that Gary Oldman will indeed be playing George Smiley, so count this as one to definitely keep an eye out for in 2012.

OK, after that all I have today is a quartet of clips, but they're all well worth sticking around for. First up comes the second teaser trailer I know of for David Fincher's "The Social Network," and I have to say both of these have brought new life to that dying art of getting you amped up for a flick without revealing any actual footage. The flick, penned by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rashida Jones (of "Parks and Recreation") and one Justin Timberlake, is set to drop Oct. 1. Enjoy.

Next up comes the second full trailer I know of for Robert Rodriguez's "Machete," which of course springs from the faux trailer in "Grindhouse" and is set to come out Sept. 3. There's a gigantic chance this could just be bloody awful, but with Danny Trejo as the lead badass and Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan and even somehow Robert De Niro all starring in this, I'm betting on a lot of silly fun too. Enjoy.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to see Christopher Nolan's "Inception," since I'll be on vacation in Philly next week with mi hermano, but there's no doubt that the marketing machine for his brainy blockbuster set to come out July 16 is operating at full force. Here's just one of the many clips out there today, in which Leo DiCaprio introduces Reel Fanatic favorite Ellen Page to the concept of shared dreaming.

And where in the world would be a better place to end up today than with Warwick Davis discussing his upcoming mockumentary BBC series with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, "Life's Too Short"? No idea when this will manage to cross the pond, but hopefully the wait won't be too long, because with that trio, comedy gold will surely be unearthed. Enjoy the clip, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

New "Beavis and Butthead"? Well, that won't suck

Actually, I was tempted to use that word in association with Mike Judge's craptastic last flick, "Extract," but let's just be nice and simply say perhaps the man should just stick to TV.

In easily the best combination of crazy and great news today, it seems that Judge is indeed now "outlining" 30 new episodes of "Beavis and Butthead," and if anything, our world is even more deserving of their deconstruction than it was when the duo first debuted in 1997.

There's no deal yet in place with MTV, but seeing as how it hasn't shown anything resembling a music video almost since our heroes left the air the first time, I can't imagine they'd turn this down. Actually, wouldn't that be a problem? Do people even make music videos anymore? If so, why, since no one shows them?

Even if that means the format would have to be tweaked somewhat, the potential return of Beavis and Butthead is still nothing but good news in this little corner of the world.

And in their honor, the synopsis is out for the the third adventures of Harold and Kumar, "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas," due out Christmas Day 2011. Here goes:

The new "Harold & Kumar" comedy picks up six years after the duo's last adventure. After years of growing apart, Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) have replaced each other with new best friends and are preparing for their respective Christmas celebrations. But when a mysterious package arrives at Kumar's door, his attempt to deliver it to Harold's house ends with him inadvertently burning down Harold's father-in-law's prize Christmas tree. With his in-laws out of the house for less than a day, Harold decides to cover his tracks rather than come clean, and reluctantly embarks on another ill-advised but hilarious journey with Kumar, taking them through New York City on Christmas Eve in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

Nothing but potential funny there, so here's hoping the third chapter is a whole lot better than "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," which, while still being a hoot, just too often crossed that fine line between clever and simply stupid.

And all I have after that today is a trio of videos that caught my eye this morning, starting, of course, with something in honor of the return of "Mad Men," coming July 25 with season four on AMC. The show's return is a definite entertainment highlight in any summer, but in this season of suck, it's even more vital. To whet your appetite, here's a clip some devoted and inspired fan with some time to kill made that compiles some of the best pickup lines and rejections. Enjoy.

Actually, in terms of movies that won't suck, the reviews I've read of "Despicable Me" indicate that should be a winner, and it should initiate at least a three-week streak of good flicks, being followed by Christopher Nolan's "Inception" (for which the early reviews could, without exaggeration, be called rapturous) and then Phillip Noyce's "Salt," starring Angelina Jolie. With flicks like "The Quiet American" and "Catch a Fire," Noyce has made himself into easily one of my favorite directors, and he's clearly at home with spy games, so I'm expecting this to be pretty great, and one of the surprise megahits of the summer. Enjoy this clip.

And, it being Thursday, where else to end than with a clip from tonight's new "Futurama"? Last week's episode featuring everything from the Eye Phone to that thoroughly disgusting Susan Boyle boil was comedy gold, and as you'll see from this clip, tonight's episode is all about "robosexual marriage." Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

FuturamaThursdays 10pm / 9c
Preview - No on Infinity
Futurama New EpisodesFuturama New EpisodesIt's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Is "Toy Story" now the best movie trilogy of all time?

Actually, before we get into any of that, I saw an update on a contender for the title of movie I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year, and it's one I had almost forgotten about.

If you haven't seen Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's minor league baseball/immigration drama "Sugar," there really are very few rentals I can recommend higher. It was easily one of my favorite movies of 2009, so it's certainly only good news that they're coming back this fall, especially when they've got such a good cast in tow.

Their next movie, set to be released Sept. 24 by Focus Features, will be called "It's Kind of a Funny Story," adapted from the Ned Vizzini novel of the same name. It's about a teen (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into a mental institution only to find himself stuck in the adult unit, where he encounters a bunch of colorful characters.

The supporting cast somehow includes Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Lorelai Gilmore, Viola Davis and Aasif Mandvi of "The Daily Show," and it was described in Entertainment Weekly by producer Kevin Mischer as being like a "teen version of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' but the tone is more similar to 'The Breakfast Club,' it's funny." OK, I'm in.

But before I got distracted by all of that. this was supposed to be all about movie trilogies, spurred by a comment from one of my fellow cubicle slaves, reporter Phillip Ramati: "So, is 'Toy Story' now the best movie trilogy ever?"

Having thought about it for a couple of days, I'd have to say yes, and with no hesitation. Think about it. The first "Toy Story" was as groundbreaking as it was simply entertaining, the second one was just miles better in terms of story and humor, and the third installment was the best of all, just a fun ride from the start to a finish that's making grownass people around the world cry (yes, me too.)

For that consistency, I'd have to say that yes, it certainly is the best movie trilogy ever made. Below are the eight others that were in contention in my mind, but before that a bit of a digression about the third installment in a trilogy that, while it will almost certainly never make anyone's best of list of any kind, certainly brings the funny.

Kal Penn has quit the White House to reteam with John Cho for the third "Harold & Kumar" flick, "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas," coming as the perfect Christmas day gift next year. The story finds Harold as a suburban dad who's awakened from his new world by the return of stoner buddy Kumar. We've already learned that, thankfully, Neil Patrick Harris will somehow be revived and veryfunnyguy Patton Oswalt will be involved in this somehow too. And now comes word that Thomas Lennon of the late "Reno 911" (and, rather amazingly, the co-writer of the "Night at the Museum" movies too) has joined the cast as Harold's neighbor.

That's a whole lot of funny for one movie, so here's hoping the duo goes out on a very high note (sorry, I couldn't resist.)

And here, without any further digression, are the eight movie trilogies that, in my mind, could even enter the same conversation with the "Toy Story" saga. As usual, please feel free to add any at the end that you think I've snubbed.

"Back to the Future": For sheer fun, there probably isn't a trilogy that delivers more than Robert Zemeckis' flicks starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. 'Nuff said.

"Evil Dead": I've sung the virtues of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell" here, well, probably way too many times, but the reason it's so good is it was a return to the form Raimi was in when he made these priceless zombie flicks.

"Goal!":I may well be the only person in the world who holds these movies in such high esteem, but the the soccer series about Mexican futboler Santiago Munez and his journey from L.A. to Newcastle United to Real Madrid and then, of course, to the 2006 World Cup (hey, this is a fantasy, after all), really is just about my favorite sports underdog tale.

"The Godfather": Though the first two movies in Francis Ford Coppola's epic saga get regular and unconditional love, I'd like to take a second to clear up a misconception about the third installment: It's really not a bad movie at all. Not nearly as good as the first two chapters, but a solid ending to the story, especially when you compare it to the simply awful third chapters of, for example, "Spider-Man" and "X-Men."

"Lord of the Rings": I have no idea what's going on with "The Hobbit," which may or may not somehow going to be directed by "LOTR" helmer Peter Jackson, but my favorite moment in the whole Rings trilogy shows just why a "Hobbit" movie would be so amazing. Of the entire nine hours or so, the best stretch for me is still the first 20 minutes or so of the first movie, which take place with the hobbits in the Shire. I'm probably the only person in the world that thinks the rest of Jackson's flicks fail to reach that high point, but there it is.

"Major League": Really? Yes, really. And rather amazingly, writer/director David S. Ward, who's responsible for the first two installments of this baseball comedy epic, says he has a script ready for a fourth chapter, and has even had at least primary talks with Wild Thing Charlie Sheen about it. How could you make another "Major League" perfect? Make it about a winning season for my beloved Baltimore Orioles, because at this point, nothing would be funnier than that.

"Star Wars": Just in case anyone needs any clarification (which I rather seriously doubt), I'm talking here of course about what I believe, thanks to George Lucas, are somehow now called chapters IV-VI. But the abortions that were I-III have been wiped from my mind, so these are really the only three "Star Wars" flicks, and even with the Ewoks at the end, they're all three great.

"Blue," "White" and "Red":
Nothing like saving the artsiest for last. I actually Netflixed and watched all three chapters of Krysztof Kieslowski's sublime trilogy over a recent weekend (yes, I live a wild life), and I think the second chapter, "White" with Julie Delpy, is my favorite, though they're all sensational. Though it appears last on this list somehow, this is the movie trilogy I'd put right behind "Toy Story" in terms of overall appeal.

And there you have it. Please feel free to add any you think I've snubbed, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Actually, I'm gonna leave you with easily the funniest picture I saw this morning, which really needs no explanation from me. Peace out.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Does the anti-3-D movement finally have a champion in Zack Snyder?

I certainly hope so, because when you hear news as crazy as this, it really just drives home how much we need one.

And I suppose that when you're James Cameron, you've certainly earned the right to a little crazy, but really, can't he find anything better to with all his pull than a 3-D Black Eyed Peas concert movie? Apparently not.

According to (and I have no idea nor care if I'm writing that right), the now-confirmed-as-evil genius is indeed using his 3-D magic for a big-screen concert flick that will follow the band around the globe. Here's what he had to say to Vibe:

“We have the biggest director because we are the biggest group on the planet. The Peas are filming it in South America. People will be able to see us in the theater with the 3-D glasses and everything. There will be a storyline that [Cameron] came up with, which will be dope.It’s a full-length film and it's based around our tour activities. We’ve toured from America and Europe, to the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa."

Oh, there will be a storyline? Thanks for clearing that up. Sheesh.

But what is the real remedy to all this madness? It will have to be movies that make tons of money without ever touching the gimmick, and that starts, I suppose, with "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" having possibly already made a billion bucks. Not my cup of blood, but bully.

It also needs directors who, when asked to ruin their films with the simply wretched "3-D conversion," have the nards to just say no, and Zack Snyder is hopefully the man to do it.

I've always liked Snyder's movies. "300" was just a big ball of fun, and unlike most "Watchmen" fans, I had no problem at all with what he did with that funnybook masterpiece. He has a 3-D animated owl (yes, owl) flick, "Legends of the Guardians" (at least I think that's what it's called), coming out Sept. 24. But it's what come next that should be really fun.

After making two adaptations, "Sucker Punch" will be his first original live-action flick, and it will star Vanessa Hudgens as a young lady who must escape from a mental hospital to which she's been sent by her evil stepfather. And just in case that's not enough to get you hooked, this will also star Reel Fanatic fave Carla Gugino, Mad man Jon Hamm and even "Black Dynamite" himself, Michael Jai White (if you haven't seen that comic gem, take it as my rental recommendation for the day.)

And that's where his hopefully firm 3-D stance comes in. Having shot the entire movie in glorious 2-D, he's apparently under studio pressure to now "convert" it to 3-D, but as you can see from this MTV clip, he's rightly hesitant. After a little hemming and hawing about time, it's his wife and professional partner, Deb, who gives the real reason: It's just so unnecessary. Amen to that. Enjoy the clip and expect to see "Sucker Punch," hopefully only in 2-D, on March 25, 2011. Peace out.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Perfect for Friday morning: The greatest movie insults of all time

What you surely won't hear anything more about here today is that Andrew Garfield has been cast in the "reboot" of "Spider-Man," 'cause once you fire Sam Raimi from something and start over, you've lost pretty much all of my interest.

What it will be about is three clips that caught my eye in the last 24 hours, one of which has nothing at all do with movies (hey, it's my site, right?) And on that note, where else could we start but with the first trailer for "Let Me In"?

As soon as the thoroughly unnecessary American remake of easily my favorite movie of 2008 (and really one of my favorite overall movies too, yes, it is that good), "Let the Right One In," was announced, it immediately rose to the top of any list of the movies I'm most dreading for the next few years (yes, even more than "Marmaduke").

Since then, however, writer/director Matt Reeves (who made "Cloverfield," and if you haven't seen that, it's surprisingly well worth a rental) has made several great moves, mostly in the area of casting. As you'll see from the clip below, young Hit-Girl Chloe Moretz as Abby (formerly Eli) and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen (formerly Oskar) were clearly just about perfectly cast, and the New Mexico setting should make an at least adequate fill in for the bleak Swedish locale of "Let the Right One In."

My only real beef with the trailer is the need for that annoying slide show effect, so I guess you could say my heart is warming toward this, and I'm certainly at least going to see it to find out just what Reeves has done with this movie treasure. Enjoy the trailer.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what the kids are listening to these days, but in any version of a perfect world it would certainly be Janelle Monae. Actually, I just checked the Billboard site to make sure this sensational song, "Tightrope," wasn't on the charts already, but it isn't (the chart-topper, something called "California Gurls," only prompted questions from me: how is a "gurl" different from a "girl," is this simply a remake of the Beach Boys song, and, if a song featuring Snoop Dogg is No. 1, how in the world is it not his "True Blood" tribute "Oh Sookie"?) But as usual, I digress. If I had a vote, this remix of "Tightrope" featuring Atlanta's B.o.B and Lupe Fiasco would be the song of the summer. Enjoy the clip, and please feel free to tell me if I'm simply tone deaf.

Tightrope (Wondamix) ft. B.o.B & Lupe Fiasco

Janelle Monae | MySpace Music Videos

And finally, what could possibly be better for a Friday than 10 minutes of the meanest movie insults? To give credit where it's due, this was compiled by the great, and it's just about as good as you could possibly imagine, so it really doesn't need any more introduction from me (except for this note: This is, of course, CHOCK FULL of profanity, so for God's sake, if you're watching it at work, USE HEAD PHONES.) Enjoy the clip, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Of comedy, the good, the bad and the crazy

Before we get into any of that, a bit of bad business for people like me who have become at least partly addicted to those Redbox machines at your local grocery stores.

Since I have a Netflix account, I should surely just be satisfied with that, but far too often I get to the weekend with no new movies in hand and have to give into the Redbox siren. Well, and I guess we shouldn't surprised, knowing that they have us (or at least me) in their grasp, the folks behind this enterprise are at least testing a rate rise.

There's no word on when or if this might go national, but Redbox is now testing out raises (from $1.00) to $1.50 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, $1.25 in Modesto, Calif., and $1.15 in Spokane, Wash., and Miami/West Palm Beach, Fla. Nothing but sinister news there ... stay tuned.

OK, as promised today, it's all about good, bad and simply crazy news about what I at least consider comedy, so here goes.

Let's start, of course, with the crazy. It seems that although "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" did fairly well in its midnight run (only smashing all possible records with $30 million or so), certain young viewers did object to what came before it.

Though its merely a teaser trailer and by all accounts not terribly creepy at all, Cinemark theaters in Texas have pulled the "Paranormal Activity 2" trailer because viewers who were simply there to enjoy some Team Edward vs. Team Jacob action found it to be too scary.

Now, having been scarred for life by "The Blair Witch Project," I made a vow to never watch any more "found footage" horror movies, and therefore haven't seen the first "Paranormal Activity," but just the thought that 30 or so shadowy seconds from the sequel's trailer would be too much for "Twilight" viewers to take is nothing but funny to me.

OK, now on to the good, and if you're a fan of Pee Wee Herman (and if you're not, why not?), I should really say great. It seems that Paul Reubens has come up with a script for a new Pee Wee Herman movie, and has somehow managed to hook Judd Apatow to produce it, meaning this will probably really happen, and fairly fast.

All that's known so far about the plot for this, which is already booked at Universal, is that it will have Pee Wee going on some kind of road trip. No word yet on who would direct this (though I can't imagine it could possibly be Tim Burton), but I'd probably be happy watching Pee Wee simply eat a bowl of Cheerios, so bring it on!

And in a bit of tangential good comedy news, it seems that IFC (which I unfortunately don't get on my cable) has picked up the rights to what are still Apatow's two best creations, the single-season TV shows "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared." The only surprise in that news for me was that it's taken so long for this to happen, since "Freaks" is without exaggeration simply one of the best TV shows ever made (and certainly the best one-season-only show), and "Undeclared" is in its own way almost as good.

"Freaks and Geeks" will premiere on IFC this Friday at 11 p.m., and then run there weekly, with encore airings Mondays at the same time. "Undeclared" will follow sometime this fall, and in the best news of all of this, there will be an episode that never managed to make it to the air before the show was canceled after only 17 episodes. If you've somehow never seen either of these and get IFC, just trust me and tune in.

And I guess the comedy troika today wouldn't be complete without the bad (if inevitable), so here goes: Starz has canceled the seriously funny "Party Down" after only two seasons. The show about wannabe actors who work at a catering company was created by "Veronica Mars" mastermind Rob Thomas and Paul Rudd, and has starred (before many of them moved on to shows watched by many more people) Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan and even "Freaks and Geeks" vet and veryfunnyguy Martin Starr.

I've been enjoying the second season on Netflix, but once I finally get around to the finale, probably this weekend, I guess I'll join a fairly select group. It seems that only 74,000 people tuned in for the finale when it aired on Starz, giving the show a rather unsensational 0.0 rating (ouch). R.I.P., "Party Down."

But enough of that bad news. The only other thing I have today, before a welcome sneak peek at episode three of the new run of "Futurama," is two intriguing bits of casting news.

Going back to his movie roots in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Sean Penn is in negotiations to produce, and I'd have to assume star in, a biopic about surfing icon Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz and his family.

And in a sure bit of Oscar bait, Meryl Streep is eyeing the lead role in "Thatcher," which would of course be a biopic about the former British Prime Minister. In another bit of good casting news for this potential flick, Jim Broadbent is likely to play Thatcher's husband, Denis, who I would have to assume spent plenty of time simply saying "yes, dear."

The movie would center on the 17 days in 1982 leading up the Falklands War. As soon as this all comes together, I suppose we should just go ahead and give her the little statue in advance.

And where better to end today than with a clip from the third new episode of "Futurama," coming to Comedy Central Thursday at 10 p.m. Although the first episode last week was much funnier than the second, they both were imbued with that familiar and fun "Futurama" spirit, so I'm looking forward to the whole new season. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

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