Thursday, November 25, 2010

The single movie I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year

First off, happy Thanksgiving to all, and how better to start the day than with a collection of turkeys?

Fandango surveyed its visitors to get the fans' picks for the 10 worst movies of 2010 so far,and I guess I should at least be thankful that I've only taken the time to watch one of these. First the list, and then my bone to pick with one of the picks.


So, which one doesn't belong there? I have to admit that I kind of liked M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender." Now, it certainly had almost nothing at all to with the source material from which it sprang, but as a standalone work, it's actually pretty entertaining.

For a remake that took a much bigger crap on the original work from which it sprang, I'd certainly substitute Matt Reeves' "Let Me In" on this list. Just sayin'.

But enough of that. It's a holiday, right, and easily one of the best ones of the year (even if I have to work ... nards), so let's keep it positive from here on out.

This being fall and all, there will surely be some fascinating flicks to wrap up the year. "127 Hours" and "Black Swan" are certainly two mind trips I'm ready to take, and I've only heard sensational things so far about Marky Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in David O. Russell's "The Fighter."

The single movie I'm most looking to for the rest of the year, however, has to be the Coen brothers' take on "True Grit" (which is also a great and very funny novel by Charles Portis.)

A remake? Sure, but I still have extremely high hopes. One of the very best things about the Coens' flicks is their extremely strong sense of place, and especially in their last visit to the American West with "No Country for Old Men."

And besides, The Dude as Rooster Cogburn, hunting down Josh Brolin? This should be nothing but extremely cool, so keep an eye out for it Dec. 22, and for now enjoy these three fairly similar but still all worth watching TV spots for the flick, and of course, have a happy, happy Thanksgiving! Peace out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If the apocalypse comes, beep me .. well for "Buffy" fans, it's here

You know, no matter how hard it gets to do so, I still do try, even as a now certified middle-age curmudgeon, to look for the good things in life, so let's start there before I unleash what I'll warn you now will be a well-boiled pot of bile.

I, like I assume all subscribers, got an e-mail yesterday from Netflix, and as far as that goes at least, I'm now streaming only, for just $7.99 a month, and that's just fine with me. If there's a new release, I guess I'll just Red Box or maybe even buy it, and that's gonna have to do, because having all the TV and increasing movie content to stream directly to my TV was just too much to resist (and was, of course, Netflix's rather ingenious plan all along).

One thing I will, however, spring for on beautiful blu-ray are the movies of Hayao Miyazaki, and beginning in March with "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," Disney will hopefully be bringing all the Studio Ghibli titles to the format. I'm sure that I will at least buy my two favorites, "Porco Rosso" and "Kiki's Delivery Service," as soon as I get the chance, and maybe more too.

When I first bought my blu-ray player (and only after my DVD player finally died - yes, I fear all change), Movie Mom Nell Minow suggested I buy a Pixar movie, because animation in particular just looks amazing on blu-ray. For me, that meant "Ratatouille," of course, and she was right, so I can't wait to see how great Miyazaki's best works will look.

And to keep the good vibes going before the "Buffy" bile, there are few subgenres of movies I love more than boxing flicks, and it seems a potentially great one is now in the works. Gael Garcia Bernal of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" fame has signed on to play boxer Roberto Duran in a flick called "Hands of Stone," and Al Pacino is "circling" the role of his trainer, Ray Arecel.

Even though that surely means Pacino will spend the entire movie yelling at him, that should still be rather amazing to watch. Someone named Jonathan Jakubowicz will write and direct the flick, which will apparently focus on the "No Mas" fight, in which, after getting rather soundly battered by Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran simply uttered those words and walked out of the ring forever. Bring it on!

OK, enough of the good vibes until today's video clips, because there's evil afoot that must be stamped out immediately. I first heard of a possible "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" "reboot" (whatever the hell that means) a few years ago, and was hoping that, since it dropped off the radar for a while, that simply wretched idea was dead.

No way. Unable to resist an obviously "Twilight"-inspired cash grab, Warner Brothers has apparently now hired an actress named Whit Anderson (whose three-movie resume contained nothing I've ever seen) to write a "Buffy" movie.

If you were a fan of the TV show, just let that craptastic idea settle in for a moment before I explain how it only gets worse from here. Charles Roven, who is producing this monstrosity, had this to say in a press release:

“While this is not your high-school Buffy, she’ll be just as witty, tough and sexy as we all remember her to be.”

So, Buffy won't be in high school. Since I'll never see this, fair enough. But just in case you ever happen to, know this: There also won't be any of the characters we all loved from the series. That means no Giles, Willow, Xander, Spike, Angel, Oz, Cordelia, Anya or even Dawn (always the weakest link to me.)

And, of course, there won't be any Joss Whedon, who created the show in the first place. So, if he's not involved, who is the real villain here? Well, it's apparently co-"creators" Fran and Kaz Kuzui, who had a big role in the fairly funny movie that preceded the TV show, and have held on to the rights all these years. Fran Kuzui directed the original "Buffy" movie, but beyond their "executive producers" credit, the duo had nothing at all to do with the TV show.

Whedon, for his part, has moved on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things with his "Avengers" movie, so I can certainly understand his fairly measured response to this when he was contacted by Kristin Dos Santos of E! Here's what he had to say:

Kristin, I'm glad you asked for my thoughts on the announcement of Buffy the cinema film. This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths - just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.

Obviously I have strong, mixed emotions about something like this. My first reaction upon hearing who was writing it was, "Whit Stillman AND Wes Anderson? This is gonna be the most sardonically adorable movie EVER." Apparently I was misinformed. Then I thought, "I'll make a mint! This is worth more than all my Toy Story residuals combined!" Apparently I am seldom informed of anything. And possibly a little slow. But seriously, are vampires even popular any more?

I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I'm making a Batman movie. Because there's a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you.

Leave me to my pain! Sincerely, Joss Whedon.

Not terribly surprisingly, very witty stuff, and certainly much funnier than anything that will spring from this abominable endeavour. I will, out of morbid curiosity if nothing else, dutifully report who gets the "honor" of playing the new Buffy once this all comes together, but for now, let's just move on, because life is indeed too short for so much bitterness.

OK, now for much better stuff, on to a couple of videos full of nothing but good vibes. I'm hoping that the presence of Natalie Portman will be enough to elevate Darren Aronofsky's sure-to-be-epicly-twisted ballerina tale "Black Swan" to a release wide enough to reach my little corner of the world when it finally comes out Dec. 3. In the meantime, there's this music video containing clips from the film, which also stars Mila Kunis. Enjoy.

And even better than that, for something which much more poetically expresses my exact reaction when I first saw all that "Buffy" crap, why not four minutes of something that needs no further explanation than its title, "Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit"? I'll only say that, while this proves exactly why Cage, while never quite a master thespian, is still often very fun to watch, please watch this with headphones if you're at work, because it is indeed just as profane as you could possible imagine. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Get a first look at Duncan Jones' "Source Code"

If you've ever heard the soundtrack for "Crazy Heart" or just seen the movie (which I already have a rather ridiculous three times), you know that among the many things Jeff Bridges does amazingly well is singing real country music.

And so it's not terribly surprising news but good all the same that The Dude is reuniting with producer T-Bone Burnett to record an album. Here's what he said to say about it:

“I’m making an album with T-Bone Burnett right now. After I leave here I’m goin’ to the studio and we’re cutting some more tracks with this band that’s just phenomenal.”

Nothing but goofy awesome there, but it keeps getting better. The band will be called the Royal We (yes, really), and after the album is released "sometime next year," the band will be going on tour. Yes, that's something I'll gladly drive to Atlanta and pay a whole lot of money to see.

And in other news, while here on vacation in New Orleans, and perhaps thanks to some kind of voodoo curse, I seem to have developed the ability to see the future, and here it is: In late January or so of 2013, Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg will be taking home at least 10 Oscars.

Yes, the awards show is entirely predictable, even that far in advance, when you know this: DreamWorks Studios just announced that Day-Lewis will take on the role of President Abraham Lincoln in the biopic to be directed by Spielberg.

Not enough prestige for you? The script for this has been penned by playwright Tony Kushner, from the Lincoln biography by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. All kidding aside, this does indeed sound pretty amazing, and shooting is set to begin in fall of next year (nothing like planning ahead), with an eye on a fall 2012 release.

And after that, all I have today is a trio of clips, but just trust me and stick around until the end for something that may just truly blow your mind (so, I guess it might be a good idea to put some towels on the floor at least to sop up the mess.)

Before that, however, I'll start with the first trailer I know of for Duncan Jones' "Source Code." If you haven't seen Jones' debut film, "Moon," there really are very few rental ideas I could recommend higher. It's just first-rate sci-fi allegory of the kind we rarely see anymore, and Sam Rockwell, who is all alone in just about very frame of this, is astonishingly good (and living proof again that the Oscars are often just all wet.) For his followup, as you'll see from the trailer below, David Bowie's son (yes, really) has recruited Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monagahan to star in some kind of time-clock thriller about a man who briefly inhabits the body of a soldier to stop a massive train bombing. Not exactly my favorite kind of thing, but I'm still confident Jones will come up with something worth watching when this comes out April 15. Enjoy the trailer.

OK, next up comes a clip from a flick I'm really looking forward to, and which I'd imagine should get a bit of a boost from the fact that it stars perhaps the world's two biggest movie stars in Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. "The Tourist," directed by "The Lives of Others" helmer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (try saying that five times fast) with a script by he and Christoper McQuarrie, is set to come out Dec. 10, and should really be a lot of fun. Enjoy this clip, and like I said, definitely stick around for one more for which the word amazing really does no justice.

'The Tourist' Exclusive Clip

Trailer Park Movies | Myspace Video

Now, I'm well aware that Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" is just one big mess of a movie, but that's one of the main reasons I adore it and always will. Well, thankfully, so apparently does a singer named Laura Workman McMurtrey, so much that she actually tried to re-create the "Diva Dance" song by Diva Plavalaguna for Leeloo's fight with the Mangalores (did I not say this movie is crazy?) And, even more thankfully, she has the rather remarkable pipes to pull this off. Any more words from me would be a waste of time, so, via, enjoy this superfantastic clip, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The return of Alan Partridge, to a big screen somewhere near you?

Actually, before I get into any of that, there's great news out there this morning about Daniel Clowes, easily one of my favorite funnybook authors.

Two of Clowes' works have hit the big screen so far already, and I'd say he's now one for two. "Ghost World" is simply sublime, and easily one of my favorite comic book flicks (what in the world happened to Thora Birch, anyway? ... I just might have to IMDB that.) Unfortunately, that was followed by the uneven at best "Art School Confidential," though not having read the original source material for that one, I suspect it may have been weak right from the start.

That, however, is certainly not the case with "Wilson," which is now being eyed as a directing vehicle for Alexander Payne and, on paper at least, is at least as funny as "Ghost World." Perhaps that just because I look at the world just about the same way as the hero of "Wilson," but I loved the book. Here's the Amazon synopsis.

Meet Wilson, an opinionated middle-aged loner who loves his dog and quite possibly no one else. In an ongoing quest to find human connection, he badgers friend and stranger alike into a series of onesided conversations, punctuating his own lofty discussions with a brutally honest, self-negating sense of humor. After his father dies, Wilson, now irrevocably alone, sets out to find his ex-wife with the hope of rekindling their long-dead relationship, and discovers he has a teenage daughter, born after the marriage ended and given up for adoption.Wilson eventually forces all three to reconnect as a family—a doomed mission that will surely, inevitably backfire.

Believe me, it's all as misanthropically hilarious as that sets it up to be, and assuming that Clowes has a hand in the screenplay for this, it should certainly be one to keep your eyes on.

OK, now on to the main event, which was brought to my attention by fellow Alan Partridge devotee bob Connally, who compiles his always insightful movie reviews here. Steve Coogan has reincarnated the character in a so far very funny set of webisodes as the host of the "Mid Morning Matters" radio shows. Foster's Funny, which puts this together, has put some kind of U.S. block on it, but some kind person always seems to Youtube them quickly again anyway.

But the real Steve Coogan/Alan Partridge news is that the character is apparently returning to the big screen (though it will probably be the little screen of DVD by the time it reaches me), and he's bringing the extremely funny Armando Iannucci (writer and director of the scathingly funny "In the Loop") along with him.

Here's what Iannucci himself had to say about the movie they're working on to Digital Spy:

“We don’t want to rush it - it’s got to be right and justify itself as a film,” Iannucci said. “On the other hand, we don’t want to be unfaithful to the character. So we’re not going mad and doing an Alan-goes-to-Hollywood thing. It’s very much Alan in Norwich. Putting Norwich on the map. Well, somebody’s map.”

Putting Norwich on the map indeed, and Iannucci went on to say that this is in the script stage and the storyline is "pretty much coming along." Iannucci has also sold a satirical series to HBO, to star Julia Louis Dreyfuss as "The Veep," that being the American vice president, so it's great to hear this extremely funny many is very busy.

And all I have after that today in this admittedly brief report (hey, I am on vacation, after all) is a bit of kudos and then just one video. First the kudos. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has just released the short list of 15 nominees for Best Documentary Feature, and I was thrilled to see that Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath's "Enemies of the People" is on it. The movie, which features Sambath tracking down former Khmer Rouge members to try and get to the truth of what really went down in Cambodia's killing fields, is just sensational filmmaking, so here's hoping they make it to the final cut of five and maybe even win the whole thing, because the movie is just that good.

And finally today, what Spike Jonze really needs to be doing is making a big-screen followup to "Where the Wind Things Are," but that doesn't seem to be on the books any time soon. In the meantime, at least he's using his talent for directing music videos, this time for the Arcade Fire song, "Suburbs." As for Arcade Fire, they'll never make another album as good as their first, "Funeral," which Zachary Levi correctly called an "aural aphrodisiac" in perhaps the worst attempt at seduction of Sarah on "Chuck," but this year's "The Suburbs" is still one of 2010's best albums in my book. Enjoy the video, and if you'll excuse me, I'm off to wander around the French Quarter all day and then go see the Cottonmouth Kings at the Spotted Cat. Yeah, I could get used to this. Peace out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The South will rise again .. in comedy

Actually, if the South ever does rise again, please, dear God, let it be in comedy (and not the Jeff Foxworthy kind), because that's easily the most harmless thing we (and I've lived here 10 years now, so yes, I can say we) could be good at.

And thankfully, Jody Hill, David Gordon Green and their running mates are already well off to a good start in that department.

Hill has struck comic gold in my book with "East Bound and Down," his HBO show starring Danny McBride as pretty easily the world's biggest asshole. In movies, he's been uneven, with "Foot Fist Way" being nothing but bitterly funny but "Observe and Report" being just an unfunny mess. I'd imagine the latter has probably taken him out of the feature film game for a while, but if my N'awlins hotel room wi fi lets me check (yes, I'm on vacation!), I will. Actually, he's on the books for something called "L.A.P.I." to star McBride next year, so bully.

Green, on the other hand, made the deliriously funny "Pineapple Express" and is set to follow that up in April with "Your Highness" (pun, I'm sure, fully intended), with some very funny people in tow. As you'll see from the trailer below, it's some kind of tale about princes and princesses, and it stars McBride, Natalie Portman and definite Reel Fanatic favorites James Franco and Zooey Deschanel. Enjoy the first trailer I know of, and keep an eye out for "Your Highness" on April 8.

OK, after that today, I just have one more clip, and then the first poster I know of for the comedy I'm actually most looking forward to for 2011. First, the clip, and it brings me no joy at all to confirm that Pixar is now clearly in the tired sequel game. In case you need any evidence, behold the first full trailer I know of for "Cars 2," set to crash and burn (OK, almost entirely likely not) next summer. In better news, Michael Caine is somehow in this, and any world in which he seems to be in one out of every 10 movies or so is just a better place to live to me. "Enjoy" the trailer.

And to close with some potentially good news to wash that away, there is apparently a Joe Strummer biopic in the works, and if it's done right (and completely nonlinear), I say why not? Todd Haynes could certainly have a lot of fun with this. No word yet on who will play the patron saint of conscious punk, but as soon as I hear word on that, you will too.

And I'll leave you today with the first poster I know of for "Paul." Given that it's directed by "Superbad" helmer Greg Mottola, and was written by and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, yeah, I'm gonna watch that when it comes out in February. And if you'll excuse me now, I'm off to walk around the Garden District and then go see Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan's Lounge tonight, assuming I can get in. Yeah, New Orleans pretty much rules. Peace out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The best thing ever, or at least today ... Weezer and the Muppets!

I have no idea how old this is, but with something this good, isn't it timeless anyway? And with that, I'm off on vacation, to New Orleans until Sunday, about which I'm rather thoroughly stoked. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfect passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Animal Kingdom": All gangster, no glamour

I also managed to see two very compelling documentaries on my final day at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, but they were each, in their own way, so grim that they sort of canceled each either out in my mind, leaving me kind of mentally battered and bewildered.

Which certainly doesn't make them any less successful at telling important stories extremely well. The first was "Mugabe and the White African," which from the title alone you can tell is probably not going to have the happiest of endings. It follows the story of Mike Campbell, a white farmer in Zimbabwe who has taken leader Robert Mugabe to court to block Mugabe's land grab of all farms owned by white people. Using hidden cameras, the filmmakers get extraordinary access to Campbell and his family as they fight their fight and are menaced by Mugabe's thugs at every step. Hard to watch, but well worth catching when this hits DVD on Dec. 14.

After that, and for the last movie of the festival for me, I watched "Last Train Home," but like I said, I was unfortunately way to emotionally drained by that point to really enjoy it. The movie follows the misfortunes of one family in particular as it takes a look at the exodus of China's migrant work force back to their home towns for each Chinese New Year, described at the outset as the largest human migration in the world (and watching people fight for spots on the train, it's impossible to doubt that.) It hits very hard as it follows one married couple who work in the garment industry as they simultaneously fight to keep their children from following in their footsteps. Not sure when this might be coming to DVD, but check it out when it does.

Sandwiched in between these two grim affairs, thankfully, was "Animal Kingdom," an Australian gangster movie of sorts that I'm fairly certain will find a home on my list of the top 10 movies for the year.

As the movie begins, you can tell that our protagonist, young Joshua "J" Cody, has already had much of the life drained out of him as he calmly calls his grandmother to report that her daughter, his mother, has died of a heroin overdose as she sits on the couch beside him. From there, he's taken in by the Cody clan, a low-level Melbourne crime family with many of the trappings of crime families throughout movie history, but still a unique group to watch for both their savagery and, often, their ineptitude.

The Cody gang is made up of three brothers and a cousin as the soldiers, and a matriarch played by Jacki Weaver who is someone to keep your eyes on (though it will be impossible not to anyway.) As we meet them, they're clearly already on the downside of their rather petty criminal careers, and watching their fall is one of the many things that makes writer/director David Michod's debut feature film so grimly but thoroughly entertaining.

I don't want to give too much away, but the story here is about how Joshua (James Frecheville) is slowly drawn into their desperate world, and what measures he will go to to escape it. It always annoys me when gangster movies get compared to "The Godfather" (calling, for example, "Un Prophet" the French "Godfather," as I've seen many times), but in its lack of convenient catch phrases or stylish action set pieces, Michod's movie is, if anything, the anti-"Godfather."

Instead of resorting to any of these usual gangland conventions, Michod instead lets his movie be driven by a constant mood of terror that only increases as the flick unfolds, and by natural performances throughout from his cast, particularly Weaver and Ben Mendelsohn as the rather seriously unstable Andrew "Pope" Cody.

Even its ambiguous ending was a satisfying wrap up for me, and I think you'll be hearing at least Weaver's name with the Oscar nominations as Best Supporting Actress, and "Animal Kingdom" is so good that I'd have to think it's a dark horse for Best Picture too, since there will once again be 10 competitors.

I have no idea if this is still playing in theaters anywhere, but if it is, definitely check it out, and look for it in on DVD in January. I've included the trailer, which makes hilarious use of Air Supply's "All Out of Love," below. And with that, I've got to pack and return home from the first leg of my vacation. Peace out.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Saturday morning mix of clips

Before I get into any of that, including glimpses of two great documentaries I managed to see yesterday at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival and a Studio Ghibli picture just guaranteed to make you smile, there is one bit of good news this morning.

Though most of my head knows that "Easy A" isn't one of the best movies of 2010, in my heart it has lingered as the funniest movie I've seen this year, so it will almost certainly end up in my top 10 for the year. And besides, Emma Stone is just so thoroughly charming throughout that its perfectly easy to give in to the fact that this is as light as light can get and just go along for the very fun ride.

So it's nothing but good - if incomplete - news that "Easy A" director Will Gluck and star Stone are reuniting for Sony Screen Gems for an as-yet-untitled and -unscripted comedy. The wild card here is that it's not yet known who will write the flick, but here's hoping it's "Easy A" scribe Bert V. Royal, who clearly knows the funny.

In less exciting Gluck news, he did both and write and direct the rather generic looking friends-with-benefits comedy with the uninspired title of, well, "Friends With Benefits," starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake and set to come out July 22.

And after that, all I have today is a couple of clips that bring the funny and two looks at movies I managed to catch yesterday in Rehoboth. You know, it really is a shame that Curtis Hanson has pretty much disappeared, because I quite liked at least a few of his flicks, especially the Eminem biopic "8 Mile," which I'm pretty sure airs on at least one basic cable channel every single Saturday afternoon. And though he clearly needs the work, I'm fairly certain Hanson isn't directing the upcoming Justin Bieber biopic (yes, really) "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," but I'm glad Babelgum pilfered from his flick for this very funny parody "8 kilometer." Enjoy.

Now, I've never seen Jimmy Fallon's show, and if I'm ever sitting in front of a TV at that hour, I'll be watching Conan O'Brien instead, but it's nice to see that Fallon at least uses his fantastic house band, The Roots, for some real musical madness from time to time. Here, it's Jeff Goldblum crooning "Just a Friend," only to be joined later by Biz Markie himself, all backed by the Roots (who, for my money, put out the best album of 2010 with "How I Got Over.") There's really not much more to say about this except that Biz clearly learned nothing at all from his stint on "Celebrity Fit Club." Enjoy.

And finally today, I managed to catch two nearly perfect documentaries yesterday (and one truly disastrous Indian movie, "Like Stars on Earth," but I really don't have anything to say about that.) First up is "Enemies of the People," which spotlights the very hard work of newspaper journalist Thet Sambath, who for 10 years plus in his spare time has been embedding himself with veterans of the Khmer Rouge killing machine and often coming face to face with pure evil. It's personal for Sambath, whose mother, father and brother were all killed by Khmer Rouge operatives, and that's what makes this difficult movie so engaging. And his interviews with Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's No. 2, are as chilling as Errol Morris' encounter with Robert S. McNamara in "Fog of War." Highly recommended as soon as this becomes available, and it's in "Save" mode now at Netflix, so hopefully soon. Enjoy the U.S. trailer.

"Summer Pasture" was nominated this year for a Gotham Award in the category of "Best Movie Not Playing at a Theater Near You," and that certainly would have been true for me if not for the Rehoboth fest. The film itself is deceptively simple but thoroughly charming as it takes a look at six months or so in the life of a Tibetan nomad couple who herd yaks for a living. It has a little to say about modernization and a lot to say about life, without ever hammering you over the head with any of it. This may not sound terribly appealing, but trust me, it all just really works very well. I have no idea when this might come to DVD in the west, but with the Gotham love, hopefully it will be soon, and I'll certainly let you know when I hear of it. Enjoy the trailer.

And really finally, there also isn't much to say from me about this great Studio Ghibli group shot except that it's the thing that most made me smile this morning, especially since my single favorite Ghibli character is the great Porco Rosso. Enjoy, and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What will Wes Anderson's next movie look like?

I guess it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that with Wes Anderson about to get busy on a new movie, there are plenty of stars ready to sign up for it. And in even better news, unlike the disastrous "Darjeeling Limited," it seems like this one might even have a proper story behind it.

Anderson is expected to start shooting his next film, "Moonrise Kingdom," in the spring, and he's apparently in negotiations with regular partner in crime and funniest man alive Bill Murray, plus Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and even Bruce Willis.

And even though he's again working with co-writer Roman Coppola, who was with him for "Darjeeling Limited" (sorry to keep bringing it up, but I really hated that movie), it indeed sounds like this flick will have something actually going on in it.

In a story set in the late 1960s, two young adults fall in love and run away, and leaders in their New England town go in search of them. Norton will play a scout leader who brings his charges on a search. Willis is in talks to play the town sheriff who’s also looking, and who is having an affair with the missing girl’s mother, the role McDormand is in talks to play. Murray will play the girl’s father, who has his own issues.

Oooohh, drama. Since Anderson has managed to make four movies I have nothing but love for with "Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (and also two real duds, but enough about that), I'll definitely be keeping track of this one, so stay tuned for more on this soon.

A fairly short report today because, after all, I am on vacation (but, of course, watching movies, since I'm at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.) The only other real bit of news before a couple of clips today is something that just makes me giddy: The Muppets movie taking shape painfully slowly is finally starting to line up some seriously funny people.

Along with writing the movie, Jason Segel, of course, gets to cast himself as the main human in this operation, and it's already been announced that he'll be joined by Amy Adams, as his girlfriend (rough gig for Segel, eh?), and Chris Cooper as the big bad, an oil man who wants to drill below the Muppets' theater. But now surrounding them is when things are starting to get really good.

Lady Gaga will make an appearance (why not?), and her entourage will be made up of veryfunnyguys Ed Helms, John Krasinski and Eric Overstreet (a recent Emmy winner, and deservedly so, for "Modern Family"). Also in the mix will be Jack Black, Paul Rudd and "Community" uberfunnyman Donald Glover in unspecified roles, Jane Lynch as a prison guard and Danny Trejo as her prisoner (why a prison guard would have a personal prisoner I don't know, but anything can happen with the Muppets!), and Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe.

Whew. Is that enough funny for you? The flick, being directed by James Bobin of "Flight of the Conchords," isn't set to come out until two Christmases from now, but you can already count me as thoroughly psyched for this.

OK, that's all the real news I have today, so here are couple of clips to wrap things up. First up comes the first trailer I've seen for "Barney's Version," based on the comic novel by Mordechai Richler and, thankfully, starring Paul Giamatti. The story is about the life of the titular Barney, or at least his version of it, which includes three wives, two continents and any number of possibly true adventures. It's probably much better than I'm making it sound here. Enjoy the trailer and keep an eye out for this in at least some corners of the world Jan. 14.

And I'll leave you today with the trailer for a magical movie I saw last night here in Rehoboth, a 2009 Indian movie titled "Harishchandrachi Factory." Directed by Paresh Mokashi, it's a humorous look at the life of impossible dreamer Dabasaheb Phalke who, in 1913, made "Raja Harishchandra," thus launching India's feature film industry. It really is a movie made for people who love movies, and though I have no idea if it's coming to DVD in the Western world any time soon, definitely see it if you get a chance. Unfortunately, this trailer was the only one I could find that has the English subtitles, but it also has a truly unfortunate voiceover. It still gives you an idea of the spirit of this great movie, so enjoy the clip, and have a great weekend (and if you happen to live in Macon, of course, please go see the Macon Film Guild's presentation of my favorite flick of 2010, "Winter's Bone," Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Theatre.) Peace out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For Wednesday, a large cache of clips, plus the Muppets!

I know it should rightly be all about Harry Potter, with part one of the final chapter opening in just over a week, but I've always had a whole lot of time for the "Chronicles of Narnia" movies too, and I'm definitely amped for the third chapter, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," set to drop Dec. 10. Enjoy what I believe is the final U.S. trailer.

How good was the first "Kung Fu Panda" movie, at least in my opinion? Well, so good that in my book it beat out "Wall-E" to be the best animated movie of 2008. That said, a little Jack Black goes a long way with me, so I don't have terribly high hopes for the "Kaboom of Doom" sequel, set to come out May 27. Enjoy the first teaser trailer.

I'm not going to go see "Skyline," or any other theater movies this weekend, but that's only because I'm heading out tomorrow for the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, my favorite event of the year. If I weren't, I think I'd go see this, because I like cheese, and as you can see by the alien monsters in this clip, this flick will serve it up in huge portions. And besides, who would have ever imagined that Eric Balfour, a.k.a. Jesse on the two-part premiere of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," would ever get to star in his own feature film? Enjoy.

Does the world need another "Jane Eyre" adaptation? Of course not, but this one, which by my count would be at least the 22nd movie or TV version, still looks intriguing. Granted, that's mostly because it stars Mia Wasikowska, who has already developed into an actress I'll watch in just about anything, but I also liked Cary Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre" quite a bit, so I'm curious to see what the director will do with this. And for one final random thought before the clip, is there a funnier name in the English language than Imogen Poots? Enjoy the trailer and keep an eye out for this hopefully everywhere March 11.

I really don't know the origin of this next clip, but if you've been here before, you probably know I'd post a Steve Coogan clip every day if possible, because I think he's just about the funniest dude on the planet. As you'll see below, today's offering has Coogan and frequent partner in crime Rob Brydon doing their best impressions of Michael Caine, and it's a hoot. Enjoy.

And finally, what would brighten up a Wednesday better than a visit from the Muppets? Not much I can think of, so here's the picture from the most recent (I think - my subscription ran out) issue of Entertainment Weekly of Jason Segel and his puppet friends - including the newest Muppet, Walter. If I could have any job in the world, I think it would probably be the writer/human star of the next Muppet movie, whatever it's called now, so I guess you could say Segel pretty much has it made. Enjoy the pic, and have a perfectly tolerable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Macon Film Guild is presenting the best movie of 2010 in "Winter's Bone"

Editor's note (or, I guess, writer's note, since there is no editor: This is the online version of my weekly newspaper column, but if you happen to be reading this and don't live in Macon, "Winter's Bone" is also out now on DVD, and is my current top rental recommendation.)

I see a lot of movies (probably way too many), but none this year has lingered as long in my head or heart as Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone," making it the best flick I've seen in all of 2010. And luckily for us here in Macon, it's being presented this Sunday at the Douglass Theatre by the Macon Film Guild.

Granik's movie works perfectly on many levels - a twisting film noir and a riveting mystery - but at its core its simply the story of a teenage girl who's fighting to save her family in the most desperate of circumstances. And Granik has a heroine who is up to the daunting task presented here in Jennifer Lawrence, a newcomer whose name you will certainly want to remember and whose face you won't soon forget once you've seen this.

As the movie begins, a sheriff's deputy knocks on the door of the Ozarks home that Lawrence's Ree Dolly shares with her two younger siblings, who she protects with determination. He informs her that if she doesn't track down her long-missing father, who is due in court on charges of cooking meth and other rather unsavory endeavors, they will lose their house, which he has put up as a guarantor of his appearance.

From there, Granik's movie takes us very deep into the underbelly of America, the kind of place we might have driven by from time to time but would never think to stop. As Ree pursues the "truth" about where her father is, or at least something close to it, Granik gives the movie an extremely strong sense of place, yet thankfully one with no irony and little false sentimentality.

What she does have for the characters that make up the twisted branches of Ree's family tree is compassion, and that's what keeps this harrowing tale from devolving into simply a horror story (but be warned, though its most extreme act of violence is more implied than splattered in your face, it still hits extremely hard.) And Ree's quest is driven throughout by a hope that manages to shine through all the bleakness.

The main thing that brings this all together so well is Lawrence, who plays Ree with the perfect mix of resolve and vulnerability, conveying both often without uttering a word. "Winter's Bone" has already won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Award for Screenwriting from the Sundance Film Festival (both very well deserved), and if there's any justice, it should add an Oscar too for Lawrence's performance. She's almost matched here by John Hawkes as her uncle "Teardrop" (yes, really), who keeps his motivations tightly wrapped as he guides Ree through this warped world.

What Granik has managed to concoct here is both a compelling coming-of-age-way-too-fast tale and an unforgettable Midwestern Gothic, and a movie that I highly recommend checking out this Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Theatre.

As for me, however, I won't be there, because I'm going on vacation (as you read this in the newspaper, I actually already am), which for me means more movies, this time at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival with my parents. And which means also that this column will not appear next week, but will return after that, hopefully with some rental ideas from the festival.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Your Saturday dose of very funny ... Alan Partridge is back and here!

Though Steve Coogan did indeed make his return as Alan Partridge on Friday, well, afternoon by the time they got around to it, sponsor Foster's managed to block the content for folks in the U.S. because of "copyright" or some other kind of phony crap.

Thankfully, however, you can't keep a man this funny down, and it's managed to emerge - at least temporarily - in one YouTube clip, which I've shared here (and which looks good at full screen.)

As you'll see, in his latest incarnation, running in webisodes weekly for I'm not sure how long, Alan Partridge is now the host of the radio show "Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge" for North Norfolk Digital. And as fellow Alan Partridge devotee Bob Connally, noted, it starts off a little slow (though still very funny with a "favorite condiment" call-in), but really gets going when a young bloke named Jim Jones shows up to promote cycling for youngsters (pop, not broth!).

Though Steve Coogan has been great in many forms, particularly on screen in "Tristram Shandy" and "24-Hour Party People," if you want some rental ideas, he's never been as funny as he is when he slips into Alan Partridge. Welcome back! Enjoy the clip, and if you get a chance, go see Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls," which I'm gonna do tomorrow if I have time. Peace out.

Friday, November 05, 2010

For Friday, four or five degrees of funny

Even if it still is the most unnecessary prequel/reimagining/or whatever of all time, director Marc Webb is certainly piling up an impressive cast for his take on "Spider-Man."

After making the beyond-perfect choice of Emma Stone to play Gwen Stacy and the perfectly adequate choice of Andrew Garfield from "The Social Network" to play Peter Parker himself, the movie has now somehow added Martin Sheen to play Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt May. Is that enough prestige for you?

Webb has so far, however, made at least one mistake (beyond the studio's choice to fire Sam Raimi in the first place): Rather than the rumored Mia Waskikowska or any other young actress to play Mary Jane Watson, they're apparently just leaving the character out altogether. Bummer.

But enough about a movie that, even with that cast, I'm not sure I'll even be able to bring myself to see when this finally all comes together. As the headline makes clear, this was supposed to be all about the funny this morning, but it lost a little sheen when I found that the promised first episode of "Mid Morning Matters With Alan Partidge" is not yet available, even though it was promised for Nov. 5, and it is indeed already noon UK time on that very day. Keep an eye out for it some time later today here, and I guarantee you'll laugh out loud.

Instead, I have four clips delivering differing degrees of funny, pretty much in descending order, until the final one, which is pretty much just here as word of warning about the impending monstrosity. First up comes the first trailer I know of for the return of the Farrelly Brothers, on Feb. 25 with something called "Hall Pass." I can't remember the last time I bothered to see a Farrelly Brothers movie, but this one looks like it could be funny, and with a cast that includes Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis of "30 Rock," Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate and even veryfunnypeople JB Smoove and Stephen Merchant too, this one should at least be worth checking out. Watch trailer to find out just what a "Hall Pass" is.

Though I've yet to see the need to tune in to George Lopez's 11 p.m. show on TBS, and will have even less incentive to do once he moves to midnight starting Monday, if he's promoting the return of Conan O'Brien, I'm on board. This clip from Wednesday's show, in which CoCo makes an appearance to promote his return to late night Monday night at 11 p.m., is actually really funny once O'Brien lapses into his "native tongue," Spanish. After that comes William Shatner "singing" what is easily my favorite pop song of the moment, Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You," known to you kids who still listen to top 40 radio in its much more family-friendly form, "Forget You." Shatner's skewering of it is indeed pretty funny, but as a further bonus, I've included the original text only video from Cee Lo, so anyone who hasn't heard the original version of this can see just how incredibly entertaining it is in its very raw form. Enjoy.

As someone who plays with fonts for a living, I just don't think I'll ever get tired of watching that very clever video, and the song of course is pure gold. OK, remember that, at the outset today, I did warn you that the final clip is more a warning than anything else, because it certainly doesn't deliver any funny. It does, I suppose, finally answer the burning question of whether or not Martin Lawrence has even a drop of shame left with a thundering no. Without any further ado, and yes, really, here is indeed the trailer for something called "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son." If you really want to know when this is coming out, you'll have to look it up yourself, because I really just can't bring myself to tell you. "Enjoy" the clip and have a fantastic weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The first extended look at what should be the craziest movie of 2011

Though plenty of people I know heaped scorn on Zack Snyder for what he did with "Watchmen," considering his options with what should have probably remained an "unfilmable" funny book, I thought he did a first-rate job, even without a giant squid.

So I've been looking forward to "Sucker Punch" quite a bit. Coming in March 2011, it will be Snyder's first original idea turned into a movie. Well, as you'll see from the first full trailer below, not entirely original. The story of a teen girl who uses her imagination to escape from a mental institution owes a heck of a lot to both Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth."

That said, however, it still seems that what our heroine (Emily Browning) dreams up will be a rather amazing trip, all thankfully made in glorious 2D and somehow co-starring both Reel Fanatic fave Carla Gugino and Jon Hamm, so enjoy the trailer (which looks great full screen) and stick around for a couple more clips just silly enough to be perfect for a Thursday morning.

Of all the things that happened with Tuesday's election, none of them terribly encouraging to me, the single oddest would have to be that Californians voted for the return of Gov. Moonbeam while simultaneously rejecting Prop 19, which dealt with legalizing some marijuana use. Having used the stuff only once (on a side trip from the 2006 World Cup to Amsterdam with mi hermano) in the last 10 years or so, I really don't have any opinion either way, but I do know that this clip of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara discussing "marihuana" is nothing but funny. Enjoy.

And finally today, given how protective George Lucas is of his creations, I suspect this clip won't be around for long, but you've got to appreciate the effort that Bryan Theiss put into this mashup of Lando Calrissian and R. Kelly's "Real Talk." Nothing but awesome, and with that, I'm off to the job that somehow still pays my bills. Peace out.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

DVD review: "Community" season one

While watching the sometimes uneven but often very hilarious first season of NBC's Community on DVD, I had to wonder: Why don't more TV shows aiming for the funny take on college?

Teen shows often avoid it like the plague. Judd Apatow and his crew found gold - if for only one season - with Undeclared, the natural successor to Freaks and Geeks. But not until Joel McHale and his Spanish study group at Greendale Community College entered NBC's Thursday night lineup last fall has a show so successfully tapped into the contradiction that our four years or so of "higher learning" are often the silliest and most hedonistic time of people's lives.

Watching the first six or so episodes of Community, last fall and again back-to-back on DVD, I really wasn't sure NBC had a winner on its hands. One of the show's biggest assets on paper was also - at least to me - its biggest early problem: A little Joel McHale goes a long way.

His character, a former lawyer booted from his profession because he had a fraudulent college degree, has all the often-misplaced ego that he should have, but McHale just doesn't have the comic chops to make his Jeff Winger much more at all than a one-dimensional wise ass. The character would be much funnier if, like Jason Bateman's Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, he were more comically unaware of the fact that he's the king of crazy in a group that has tons of it.

It's when Community really became more of an ensemble production and tapped into all of its comedic assets - and the genuine geek bona fides of at least two of its stars - that the show really got into its groove. By the time Abed's (Danny Pudi) Dark Knight rescues McHale and a rather disastrously high Chevy Chase (dressed, naturally, as the Beastmaster) from a collapsing fort of tables and chairs at Annie's (Alison Brie) Halloween/Day of the Dead party in episode six ("Introduction to Statistics"), you knew this was like nothing else on TV right now in all the best ways.

From this turning point, Pudi's Abed and Donald Glover's Troy get a lot more screen time, and are naturally just very funny together. They also give the show its genuine geek appeal, making its frequent pop-culture spoofs hit their target much more often than they miss. It all comes together perfectly in season one when the two of them are serenading their rogue lab mouse, naturally named Fievel, to the strains of "Somewhere, Out There," as Senor Chang (the riotously funny Ken Jeong) is trying to salsa dance his way back into his ex-wife's heart to the Celtic sounds of Greene Day. This close to episode 10, "Environmental Science," is pretty much comic perfection.

And the women of Community more than hold their own in all this madness. Brie's Annie plays up her young eagerness, and finds a natural counterpart in Gillian Jacobs' prematurely jaded Britta, while Yvette Nicole Brown's Shirley turns what could have been a stock character - the overly religious black woman - into one who gives as good as she gets when the barbs really start to fly.

As the show progressed, creator Dan Harmon kept injecting it with more and more genuine political incorrectness, giving it an edge sorely missing from so much of what passes now for situational comedy. That reaches its height in the "Basic Genealogy" episode, in which Abed's darkly veiled Muslim sister gets called, in short order, a black ghost and then Phantom Menace (it's OK to admit, that's very funny), and later, in a game of Pictionary, Pierce (Chase) draws about the most offensive thing you can think of for the word "windmill." It's all so incredibly wrong that it works just right.

Community hit its real season one peak, however, with the "Modern Warfare" episode, which manages to sharply skewer just about every sci-fi/action movie cliche you can think of in the space of 22 minutes or so. From the early moment when Pudi utters the line, "Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes," you know (or at least I did) this will be the funniest prime time moment of the 2009-10 TV season. If you've never seen this show, which has risen to the top of NBC's Thursday lineup in my book, this one episode would make the perfect introduction.

Chief among the extras in this set are the commentaries featuring cast members for every single episode, only a few of which I've had the time to get through so far. Another feature that works very well is the outtakes featured on each disc. Rather than the usual clips of characters breaking out in giggles in the middle of their lines, they spotlight the natural give and take of some truly funny people and what most makes Community a real winner: What NBC has on its hands, for as long as it wants to keep it on the air, is a genuine comedy troupe on top of its game.

And does the mojo continue into season two? So far, solidly yes. The show bagged the quickest and perhaps biggest laugh of the new season by having Glover wake up in his Spider-Man pajamas to open the season, and last week's zombie episode "Epidemiology" was as fall-down funny as the pilot for Frank Darabont's The Walking Dead was utterly terrifying (and watching them back to back, as I did on the DVR, is a real trip.) The bottom line: Community is much more fun than I ever remember college being, and well worth tuning in for every Thursday night or on DVD.