Thursday, June 30, 2011

The art of the funny, with "Bridesmaids," "Party Down" and, yes, a sneezing panda

Actually, to start things off, there's nothing at all funny about the above trailer, which is for "Let the Right One In" director Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," which is certainly right near the top of the list of movies I want to see for the rest of this year.

The flick, based on the novel by John Le Carre, stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, the spy charged with uncovering a Russian mole who has infiltrated the ranks of British intelligence. It also rather remarkably stars Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and CiarĂ¡n Hinds, among others, so definitely keep an eye out for this when it drops in the U.S. of A. hopefully very wide on Nov. 18.

After that today, it's all about laughs, starting with the I suppose inevitable movie to be based on quite possibly the cutest YouTube clip of all time (I wouldn't be the right judge of that).

If you haven't seen the clip of the sneezing baby panda by now, I just have to assume you've also never seen a computer. It is indeed just about the cutest thing you'll ever see, and has been on "South Park" and "30 Rock," among countless other places. Now, it seems that the folks responsible for filming it are making a hopefully very funny mockumentary, "The Life and Times of Sneezing Baby Panda."

Australian wildlife documentarians Lesley Hammond and Jenny Walsh came across the panda while making a 1999 film about the giant pandas of China. And now, for this potentially very fun project, they've got some grand plans.

The $1.3 million co-production, set to start shooting in China in October with Zhejiang Roc Pictures of Hangzhou, will follow an Australian zoologist whose zoo faces financial difficulties she thinks she might solve if she travels to China to save the real-life sneezing panda.

And Hammond has some big ideas for telling the family story of her adorable meal ticket. Per the director:

“One panda’s a terracotta warrior. Another’s on the Long March. You know the famous photo of Nixon sitting with Mao? Using visual effects, we’ll replace the woman interpreter sitting between them with a panda.”

Sounds like nothing but potentially very mawkish fun to me, but now on to some actual good news, this about the summer smash "Bridesmaids," which I'm far from alone in having big love for. And now, not only is it a big comedy hit this year, it also has just become the biggest movie from the directing/producing cult of Judd Apatow, and that's really saying something.

Here are the numbers: Through Tuesday, the domestic take for "Bridesmaids" was 148.1 million, putting it right behind big Apatow hits "Knocked Up" ($148.8 million) and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ($148.2 million), and well within sight of passing them both last night.

And it's all well-deserved. The movie is almost as insightful as it is just fall-down funny, especially when Melissa McCarthy is the center of attention. In fact, I might just go see it again this weekend before it disappears from theaters.

OK, moving on quickly to the clips, one of the real shames about being such a rapidly aging dude is that I'm rarely up late enough to watch Jon Stewart's "Daily Show." Which means I miss gems like this: Louis CK breaking down, in perfect detail, the allure of the fart joke. If you missed the season two premiere of his FX show "Louie" last week, it did indeed include a rather epic bit of flatulence from the guest star who played his pregnant sister, and it was very, very, very funny. Tune in for episode two tonight at 10:30, after "Wilfred," and in the meantime enjoy this clip of him on "The Daily Show."

And to close today with a bit about a TV show that was even funnier, the cast and creators of "Party Down," the much-missed (at least by me) Starz comedy about a catering company populated by wannabe actors and writers, had a reunion recently at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse. I would have loved to have been in the room for the whole thing, but here's just a tantalizing tidbit in which they tease the unlikely prospect of a "Party Down" movie. That's even more unlikely, of course, than an "Arrested Development" movie, but enjoy the clip anyway, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Wednesday clip show, with "Harry Potter," "Torchwood" and more

OK, a lot of clips to get through today and not a lot of time to do it, so let's just jump right into it, and where better to start (at least in my book) then with the first trailer I've seen for "Gainsbourg"?

Based on the life of the legendary French pop singer Serge Gainsbourg, whose love life was at least as colorful as his musical one, it's directed by Joann Sfar, who also adapted the screenplay from her own graphic novel about the singer. Any movie about his rather wild life would both have to make Gainsbourg out to be more than a bit of a gangster, and also have some flights of fancy to fit his persona, and it looks like this will have both. Enjoy the trailer, and keep an eye out for this in at least some American markets on Aug. 31.

Next up, though I really couldn't stand John Sayles' last movie, "Honeydripper," that was the first one of his I didn't enjoy pretty much unconditionally, so I'm certainly looking forward to whatever he comes up with next. Well, it's apparently something called "Amigo," which as you'll see below, gets him back to rightly serious material to work with, the U.S. occupation of the Philippines in 1900. The flick starring Garret Dillahunt, D.J. Qualls and Chris Cooper, among many others, opens in at least limited release on Aug. 20. Enjoy the first trailer I've come across.

I was very late coming to the "Torchwood" game, but thanks to the head's up from my fellow cubicle slave Renee Corwine, I'm now finally catching on and up. I'm only on episode three of the second season right now from Netflix streaming, and at the rate of one episode per night, there's no way I'll be able to catch up in time for the season 4 premiere on Starz on July 8. If, as I believe, however, Starz (which I don't get) puts its new stuff up on Netflix almost immediately, I soon will be all caught up, and you should too.

If you've never seen the "Doctor Who" spinoff, it's a nifty little show that sort of crosses "X-Files" with a good police procedural. And as you'll see from the season 4 preview below, only Captain Jack and Gwen are left from the original cast as they embark on the new season, "Miracle Day." Enjoy.

I got a bucket of swag at work to try and lure me to see "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" in Imax 3D, but I don't think I'm going to take the bait. While I'm glad we finally have the Imax technology here in Macon, I wish a) it weren't coupled with 3D (and I don't know if it always has to be, which would be rather limiting), and b) there were a better movie to check it out with. Well, I just might take the chance with the second half of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which will finally bring the young wizard's saga to a close on July 15. If, like me, you don't quite remember exactly where part I left things, you'll enjoy this handy assist courtesy of, which offers a quick refresher course. Enjoy, and then stick around finally for a free movie, and one I dearly love.

And what better way to close a Wednesday morning post than with a free movie, and with one of my favorites of recent years, too? I first saw "Moon" at the Atlanta Film Festival a few years back, and was instantly hooked. Sam Rockwell was clearly robbed at Oscar time for his work in this flick about a man who gets stranded at his work outpost on the moon. Enjoy the movie, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mid-year report card: My favorite 10 movies - so far - of 2011

After a slower-than-usual start to this movie year, things have definitely picked up this summer for one heavy on good comedies, just the way I like it.

So, without any hesitation, let's just get right to it: Here, in reverse order, are my 10 favorite movies - so far - of 2011.

10. "Cedar Rapids"
Miguel Arteta's insurance salesmen comedy is lighter than air and manages to wrap up just before its laughs run out, and the very best of them all come from John C. Reilly, who just takes over the screen with an irresistible ball of bluster.

9. "Soul Surfer"
Yes, a Christian movie, but even without those overtones, the story of Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, would still be an inspiring tale. Here it's very well told, and AnnaSophia Robb just shines as Bethany.

8. "Water for Elephants"
The definition of by-the-book filmmaking, but since the source is a book I love, the movie just worked for me. And besides, I think the only time I actually heard people cheer in a movie theater this year was when Rosie the elephant finally ... I won't spoil it for you, but just trust me that this grand romance set at the circus is a fun ride.

7. "Super 8"
The science fiction in J.J. Abrams' movie is much weaker than its overall view of life through the eyes of a group of 13-year-olds who love making movies, which is infectiously entertaining. And keep an eye on Elle Fanning, who steals the movie with a performance way wiser then her years should allow.

6. "Rio"
Though I enjoyed "Cars 2" a heck of a lot more than the original flick from Pixar, it definitely won't be the best animated movie of 2011. That title, so far, goes to this flick from the "Ice Age" crew, which brings the streets of Rio de Janeiro to vibrant animated life (especially in bright 2D) and just delivers a thoroughly fun story.

5. "Hanna"
Joe Wright's Euro-thriller came out so early in the year that it's easily forgotten, which is a real shame, because its nearly as smart as it is exciting, and Saoirse Ronan is just icy perfection as the titular assassin raised to carry out her father's revenge plot.

4. "Bridesmaids"
In summer, the ultimate season for the raunchy R-rated comedies, none has delivered more laughs than this romp led by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and for that they've been rewarded with huge box office numbers (more than $146 million domestic so far, hopefully more than enough to greenlight more genuinely funny movies led by women.)

3. "Tree of Life"
No movie this year has been more ambitious or packed with more maddening contradictions than Terence Malick's "Tree of Life," which manages to paint an often painfully intimate portrait of family life in Texas of the 1950s while at the same time asking questions about the very nature of human existence. Malick's most personal film, and in my opinion, his best, too.

2. "Midnight in Paris"
Woody Allen's best movie since "Hannah and Her Sisters" is also his most popular one since then, too, even making an almost month-long run in Macon that unfortunately ends Thursday. As much a valentine to the City of Lights as it is just the funniest movie I've seen this year, and in this solid year for comedies, that's a real accomplishment.

1. "Win Win"
Thomas McCarthy's movie can sort of be described as "The Blind Side" set in the none-too-glamorous world of high school wrestling, but what it really is the story of a not terribly heroic man trying to do the best he can in trying circumstances. And Paul Giamatti's performance as that man gives the movie much of its soul, and makes it an all-around winner in my book.

Honorable mention: "The Way Back", "Of Gods and Men", "Jane Eyre", "Thor", "X-Men: First Class", "Bad Teacher", "Cars 2"

And there you have it. Please feel free to add any you think I may have snubbed, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Amazing music movie news for Coen brothers' fans, and some Muppety goodness too

Coincidentally enough, I was thinking just the other day, "Man, it's been a long since I've heard of the Coen brothers working on anything" (yes, I really do think things like that, but - yet, at least - not usually out loud.) Well, according to the always reliable 24 Frames blog from the L.A. Times, the wait is apparently over, and judging by what they've come up with, it sounds like it could well be worth it.

Music has always been key to the Coens' movies, especially with my favorite, "O Brother Where Art Thou," and they've never encountered a genre they couldn't conquer (actually, noir is a mixed bag - "Blood Simple" was sensational, but I loathe "The Man Who Wasn't There), so turning now to a music biopic seems like a natural move, especially when the subject definitely sounds odd enough to suit their outlook.

The subject for their next movie will apparently be Greenwich Village blues singer and activist Dave van Ronk. I don't know much about him myself, but that should just make the movie more fun. He died in 2002, and his memoirs, "The Mayor of McDougal Street" (going to the top of my reading list now), were published posthumously and will be used for material in the new film, which will document the Greenwich Village folk and music scene.

That should give them plenty of colorful characters to work with, and in the folk vein Joel Coen says the film will contain musical performances "pretty much all performed live, single instrument. I have to say, the thing we’re doing now, we’re not writing specifically for any of the parts, which is unusual for us."

From that brief description, and given their track record, I'd expect that this approaches "The Big Lebowski" in form much more than any traditional music biopic. Truly amazing news to start off a Monday morning, and though little is known now beyond that, I can only enthusiastically say bring it on!

OK, keeping with music but moving on quickly because I'm somehow already late at 7:08 a.m., the buildup to the release of "The Muppets" this Thanksgiving will continue in August with the release of "Muppets: The Green Album," which will contain Muppet favorites covered by the likes of Weezer, My Morning Jacket and OK Go.

I've always thought the guys from OK Go were pretty much just living their live as Muppets anyway, so it's a natural fit for them to take on the "Muppet Show Theme." As good as this sounds, however, and I can almost guarantee I'll buy it, the one musical thing that would be much better is a re-release of the soundtrack for the original "Muppet Movie."

We wore a hole right through our cassette copy on family trips when I was a kid, and I'd certainly spring for a great CD copy now. Just sayin'. In the meantime, here's the track listing for "Muppets: The Green Album":

01 OK Go: "Muppet Show Theme"
02 Weezer and Paramore's Hayley Williams: "Rainbow Connection"
03 The Fray: "Mahna Mahna"
04 Alkaline Trio: "Moving Right Along"
05 My Morning Jacket: "Our World"
06 Amy Lee: "Halfway Down the Stairs"
07 Sondre Lerche: "Mr. Bassman"
08 The Airborne Toxic Event: "Wishing Song"
09 Atreyu's Brandon Saller and Good Charlotte's Billy Martin: "Night Life"
10 Andrew Bird: "Bein' Green"
11 Matt Nathanson: "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along"
12 Rachael Yamagata: "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday"

And, to close today, though I'm mildly excited about the existence of the season four premiere of "True Blood" on my DVR, which I'll probably watch tonight, much better will the upcoming second season of "Boardwalk Empire," which given HBO's tendencies, will probably unspool just as soon as the new "True Blood" season ends. Below is the teaser trailer for season two, and the best thing you can say about it is it promises more of the same, but when a show's this good, that's very far from a complaint. Enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly endurable Monday. Peace out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"The Office" gets its new boss

First things first, the rather intense photo above is of John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in James McTeigue's (let's go with "V for Vendetta" rather than "Ninja Assassin") thriller "The Raven," set to come out March 9. In the flick, Poe joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis for a string of brutal murders. Should be pretty darn fun, and it seems like forever since I've seen Cusack in anything.

It would certainly be better if that were actually filmed in the great city of Baltimore rather than in Serbia, but oh well. Moving on, there certainly are more important and sometimes indeed more disappointing things in life than TV, but there really wasn't anything more disappointing in last season's finales than the dud that was delivered by "The Office."

With each potentially very funny guest star getting at most two minutes to work with almost universally blah material, it was much more like a pilot looking for its funny rather than a well-established show making an essential transition. Now, however, it seems they've at least picked the guest who made the most of his time, James Spader's Robert California, to be the new boss.

The thrall he has over Jim, Dwight and others should make for a big dose of fun on a show that's sorely in need of it, but Spader's character apparently has bigger plans than taking over Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch. According to Entertainment Weekly, he'll soon move on up to replace Kathy Bates as CEO of parent company Sabre, leaving another void to fill.

And, according to EW, the favorite to replace him then would be my favorite candidate going into the finale, "Doctor Who" vet Catherine Tate (who also appeared in the charming little British romantic comedy "Starter for 10" - rent that one if you can find it.) Combined, these two developments should bring some new life back into a show which, in my opinion, has fallen to the bottom of NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup, with them being, in my order, "Parks and Recreation," "Community," "30 Rock" and then "The Office."

For a taste of what Spader could bring to "The Office," here, courtesy of Hulu, is the first half of last season's finale with, unfortunately, way too many commercials. Enjoy, and then stick around for word about a fun new project for "Office" funnyman Ed Helms.

"The Office" star Ed Helms has the distinction of starring in one of my favorite comedies of the year in "Cedar Rapids," but also easily the worst I've seen, "The Hangover Part II." and now comes word of a new pitch that could be a lot of fun.

The project pitched by writer-director Rob Pearlstein will be titled "True North," and it's set to star Helms as a high-powered, workaholic talk show host and father who slips into a two-year coma after suffering through a horrific plane crash. Upon emerging from the coma, the once-debonair man finds that he has undergone reconstructive facial surgery and looks nothing like his former self. He then must track down his family and reconnect with his former life.

Sounds like pretty deep stuff for a comedy, so stay tuned for more on this whenever I can find it.

And to close, bringing things back to TV, "True Blood" returns to HBO this Sunday, and for the premiere episode it will be bringing along a fairly groovy new tune by Neko Case and Nick Cave. Actually, it's just a cover of the Zombies' "She's Not There," but it still sounds great. Enjoy this audio-only clip, and if you like to laugh, go see Jake Kasdan's "Bad Teacher," which for raunchy fun is a whole lot better than most critics make it out to be. Peace out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Friday report with "Wargames" madness, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin

Something that perfect really shouldn't need any words from me, but just in case you somehow can't tell, that's Martin Freeman in his Bilbo Baggins costume for Peter Jackson's upcoming movie of "The Hobbit," making it pretty much pure bliss. 'Nuff said.

And in other movie news this morning, I've really lost all my zeal to complain about the need to remake every single thing that came out of the '80s, especially since it's so clear there's nothing I or anyone else can do to stop them.

When they keep claiming the careers of promising directors, however, it just keeps getting more and more distressing. First this week came the inexplicably bad/tame first trailer for "Hustle & Flow" director Craig Brewer's take on "Footloose," and now comes word that the '80s remake machine has claimed another victim in Seth Gordon.

Gordon, who made the sensational documentary "King of Kong" and in a few weeks will have "Horrible Bosses" starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day in theaters, has now signed on to direct a remake of "WarGames."

Think about that for a second. While "WarGames" was a perfectly fun little flick, was there an '80s movie that was more specifically of its time? I really can't see how you would recreate that ridiculously entertaining scenario in this even more threatening world, and there's another attempt to resurrect something similar that should serve as a cautionary tale, "Red Dawn."

Making a remake of that even sillier '80s minor treasure wouldn't really seem on the surface to be too difficult, but for the filmmakers it's turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. After all major filming for the movie starring Thor's Chris Hemsworth had been completed, whatever studio is behind this madness decided that China could no longer be the big bad because its potential audience is too large, so they had to make a last-minute change to North Korea, where for all I know they don't get many Hollywood movies at all.

And I tell you all that to simply say this: The "Red Dawn" remake still has no release date and may well just disappear straight to DVD, as hopefully this "WarGames" chicanery will too, if it happens at all.

OK, after that diatribe, there's two other bits of news out there that caught my eye this morning, starting with an "X-Men: First Class"-related casting shift for Danny Boyle's next movie.

"Trance," which the director will unfortunately most likely not make until after he directs the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, sounds like its right in the vein of his earlier work such as "Shallow Grave" (still my favorite Boyle flick) and "Trainspotting."

The flick is about an employee at an arthouse who teams with a group of criminals to steal a valuable piece. Though the heist succeeds, a blow to the head gives him amnesia and he is unable to remember where the art is hidden. Suspecting foul play, his co-conspirators hire a hypnotist to try and pull the secret from his mind.

Sounds like nothing but potentially great to me, and though Michael Fassbender was originally set to play the lead, it has now apparently been passed on to James McAvoy. Not really trading up or down there, but a lateral move, I'd say, so stay tuned for more on this project as soon as I can find it.

And finally today, it seems that when HBO gets is hands on talented directors/writers, it really doesn't want to let them go.

Aaron Sorkin already has a series going to pilot on the network this fall, "More as the Story Develops," which sounds eerily like "Sports Night" simply redone with a cable news show instead of a cable sports show (not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that.)

And now comes word that he's teaming up with "The Office" star John Kraskinski, who will produce and probably star, for a mini-series of eight episodes or so that springs from the book "Life at the Marmont" by Raymond R. Sarlot.

Given the Sunset Strip hotel's juicy history, it should give Sorkin plenty to work with. It's where the corpse of John Belushi was discovered in 1982, and among the personalities who lave lodged there since the 1930s are Hunter S. Thompson, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Judy Garland and Lindsay Lohan.

Sounds like a whole lot of fun to me, and the casting alone should be a hoot. And if you'll excuse me now, I'm off to do some swimming before I take a chance on Jake Kasdan's "Bad Teacher," which I'm hoping against hope will deliver some pretty solid laughs. Peace out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tarantino gets his Django, and Gervais' "Life's Too Short" heading to HBO

If it's true, as has been suggested, that the racial language (I think you know what I mean) scared off first Will Smith and then maybe Idris Elba too from "Django Unchained," that's areal shame, because having read the script, I can guarantee it has the potential to be among Quentin Tarantino's very best movies.

And while Elba would have been my definite first choice, it seems that Tarantino has found his Django, and it's a sold second (or I guess third) choice in Jamie Foxx.

With that out of the way, and Christoph Waltz, one Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson too all cast, the only major part left is that of Django's enslaved wife, Broomhilda (yes, really).

So, what's this all about? Well, it's a grand tale about a German bounty hunter (Waltz, natch), Dr. Schultz, who frees the slave Django (Foxx) to help him in his quest as a bounty hunter who has a particular interest in taking out slave owners. They eventually cross paths with the big bad, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), who runs a mandingo fighting ranch called Candyland (again, yes, really) and is Broomhilda's owner.

And what's great about the script? Plenty. The dialogue, principally between Schultz and Django, is Tarantino sharp throughout, and it's used to set up some set pieces that should rival the best scenes in "Inglourious Basterds" (though nothing will match the burning face of Melanie Laurent in that theater .. priceless.) Best of all should be the last half hour or so, which is just packed with tension as Schultz and Django arrive at Candyland in the guise of mandingo buyers to rescue Broomhilda.

As I said, pretty much by force, just about every page of the script is littered with a certain word that begins with the letter n, but it also sets up something potentially great for 2012, so definitely stay tuned for more just as soon as I can find it.

And after that today, it's all about great comedy, starting with a fantastic partnership and closing with great news about Ricky Gervais and Warwick Davis.

If I were to list the 10 or so people who most make me laugh, Gervais would definitely be on it, but so too certainly would Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan. And now comes word that the latter duo have teamed up for what should be some really big laughs.

Iannucci has joined Baby Cow, the independent production company founded by Coogan and Henry Normal, as the company's creative director. Iannucci is the mastermind of "The Thick of It" and the fantastic movie satire "In The Loop" that sprang it (featuring what still stands as the most gloriously profane turn of all time with Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker.)

And Iannucci is currently at work on something for HBO that could be potentially very funny, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in "Veep," a hopefully sharp satire in which she plays the vice president of the United States.

As for his previous work with Coogan, the duo combined to create what is still his best character, the epicly clueless Alan Partridge. You could easily spend an entire day watching the Alan Partridge archive on YouTube, but here's just a sweet little taste, Partridge singing a great Kate Bush medley for Comic Relief. Yes, really.

What will they come up with next? Who knows for sure, but I do know the company currently has a 12-month partnership with the BBC to develop new comedy scripts, so perhaps we'll find out very soon.

And finally today, in great news for anyone who, like me, subscribes to HBO, the inevitable word has come down that "Life's Too Short," the series that Gervais is cooking up with little man extraordinaire Warwick Davis, will be coming to HBO sometime in 2012.

No word yet on when exactly that will be, but this faux documentary about Davis' life should be nothing but a hoot, so I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything solid. In the meantime, here's the show's first trailer, which isn't nearly as funny as it could be, but still gives you a taste of what's to come. Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Wednesday clip show with Cronenberg and Footloose, plus Tyson and Spike Lee to HBO

Let's start with HBO, since they're clearly intending to keep scheduling programming made specifically for me in an attempt to just wring as much money out of me as possible.

"True Blood" returns Sunday, and then the rather miraculous eighth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will return Larry David to New York, where he of course belongs. And after that, HBO has just set in motion a boxing project that should be nothing but great.

"Da Brick" will be a drama loosely based on Mike Tyson's early years in the boxing ring, with Tyson involved to offer his perspective on it. Much better, Spike Lee will direct at least the pilot episode, and John Ridley is on board as the showrunner.

Toiling largely in the shadows in the last five years or so, Spike has nonetheless managed to make two of his best movies (no small accomplishment) with his two New Orleans documentaries, "When the Levee Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" and "If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise," and his movie of the Broadway musical "Passing Strange" is easily one of my favorite movies of 2009 (please rent that one now if you've never seen it.) And there are few genres of entertainment I love more than boxing, so this should nicely fill the void left by the sorely-missed-by-at-least-me "Lights Out."

OK, working briskly so I can have time to go swimming before going to work, let's move on to the clips, starting gloriously with the first trailer I know of for David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," one of the movies I'm definitely most looking forward to for the rest of this year. As you'll see from the trailer below, it stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as the patient on which they try the titular cure (which, as you'll see, somehow involves spanking ... juicy.) Enjoy the trailer, and keep an eye out for this one hopefully opening wide enough to even reach my little corner of the world in November.

Up next comes the first trailer I've seen for Craig Brewer's take on "Footloose," which, not terribly surprisingly, appears to be the exact same movie as the original, except with some rather flashy hip-hop dancing to excite the young folk. I'm clearly not one of those, so I probably shouldn't complain, but how in the world did Brewer go from making one of my all-time favorite movies in "Hustle & Flow" to this? Sheesh. Oh well. At least Miles Teller of "Rabbit Hole," an actor definitely worth keeping an eye on, is getting work in this, but he'll never be able to fill the shoes of the late, great Chris Penn. "Enjoy" the trailer, keep an eye out for the movie if this is your kind of thing on Oct 14, and then stick around for a glimpse of new "Futurama" (huzzah!).

How in the world "Futurama" has managed to survive and thrive for so long is something I'll never understand, but I certainly do appreciate it. Believe it or not, the show is back for its second season of new episodes on Comedy Central starting Thursday night. That's also the same night that FX's "Louie" returns and its new series "Wilfred" premieres, so my DVR will finally be getting a bit of a workout. Enjoy this brief clip from Thursday's "Futurama" premiere, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Woody Allen's next European advenure takes final shape, plus the first big-screen Jeff Buckley

If I could be anyone in the world other than myself (though I'm usually pretty content in my own rapidly aging skin), I'd have to say it would be Woody Allen.

The septuagenarian filmmaker has made, for my money, the best movie so far this year with his City of Lights valentine "Midnight in Paris" (though Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" is a more ambitious and close second), and now comes word that he's finalized the cast for his next cinematic adventure, this time in Rome (hey, why not?).

"The Bop Decameron" will begin filming in the city July 11, and the latest additions to the cast are Greta Gerwig and Alison Pill, who played Zelda Fitzgerald in "Midnight in Paris." They join Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page and Allen himself, who will appear in one of his own films for the first time since 2006's "Scoop."

So, what's it about? Well, "The Bop Decameron" will apparently be a modern-day riff on Giovanni Boccaccio’s medieval tale "The Decameron," a collection of erotic love stories. Sounds like perfectly lascivious material for Woody Allen to play around with, and the man is on a real roll right now, so definitely go see "Midnight in Paris" if you haven't yet, and stay tuned for more on "The Bop Decameron" as soon as I can find it.

In other movie news, this solidly middle-aged man shouldn't admit that he watches "Gossip Girl," but I do, and I find it to be just the perfect, way-lighter-than-air comedown from Monday, always my longest workday of the week.

Well, for you "Gossip Girl" fans, it seems that lonely boy himself, Penn Badgley, has signed on to plays Jeff Buckley in what is apparently one of two biopics in the works about the late singer. This one, titled "Greetings from Tim Buckley," is directed by Dan Algrant and is about the days leading up to Jeff Buckley's breakthrough performance at a 1991 tribute to his father. Per the movie's press release:

"Through a romance with a young woman working at the concert, he comes to understand the father who abandoned him. Culminating in a cathartic performance of his father’s most famous songs, Jeff’s debut stuns the audience and launches his career as one of the greatest young musicians of his time."

That last bit can easily be dismissed as a bit of cinematic hyperbole, but you really can't dispute that with "Grace," Jeff Buckley did manage to record one of the all-time great rock albums during his short time on this planet, so this movie should be nothing but a treat.

And since nothing in Hollywood happens in a vacuum, director Jake Scott is currently at work on a rival Buckley biopic, to based on David Browne‘s book “Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley,” but as far as I know has yet to cast his choice to play the doomed singer.

OK, now on to one video, and then to close a word about the progress of a new movie from one of my favorite young filmmakers, Martha Stephens. First up, the video, which in a very quick and funny style wraps up the three truly convoluted but also sporadically very entertaining seasons of HBO's "True Blood" that have unspooled so far. The show definitely pales to the grandeur of "Game of Thrones," which just finished its first season in superb style, and the continuous liberties that it takes with Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels can just be thoroughly maddening, but for campy TV fun it still manages to satisfy. Enjoy this three-season wrapup, and keep an eye out for the season four premiere of "True Blood" this Sunday on HBO.

Finally today, I was one of five or so people lucky enough to catch the screening of Martha Stephens' "Passenger Pigeons" at the 2010 Macon Film Festival, and I'm certainly glad I did. That movie, a multi-layered drama that centers on the death of a coal miner in Eastern Kentucky, is a quiet winner, and if I ever see it out on video, I'll certainly spread the word.

And this morning, I woke up to find in my g-mail box word from producer Nick Case about the progress of Stephens' next movie, "Pilgrim Song." Also set in coal country, this new movie is about a teacher who gets pink-slipped and sets out to walk Kentucky's Sheltowee Trace Trail. Filming is set to begin July 6, which is very exciting news indeed. Below is a fundraising pitch from Stephens and producer Adam Tate that tells you more about "Pilgrim Song," and to learn even more, visit the movie's site here. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Potentially great things coming to TV with Sam Raimi and Darren Aronofsky

In case you need to know, the above photo of Tom Cruise comes from a 2012 movie called "Rock Of Ages," but it's really so funny that it speaks for itself with no further explanation from me.

And before we get into the TV stuff today, let's start with movie news about one of my very favorite directors, who has inactive for a while now. If you missed it, Anton Corbijn's thriller of sorts, "The American," starring one George Clooney, is easily one of my favorite movies of the past few years. The tale of a hitman (Clooney) on his final assignment in Italy admittedly moves a bit slow, but it's a good story well told and beautifully photographed, and there are few rentals I can recommend higher.

Before that, the former music video director Corbijn made the movie "Control" about Joy Division's Ian Curtis, which is also wickedly entertaining, so he's definitely a director to keep your eyes on. And now comes word that he's landed a follow-up to "The American" that sounds perfect for his style.

"Let the Right One In" director Tomas Alfredson will beat him to theaters with a John Le Carre adaptation, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," and Corbijn will follow that with a much more contemporary Le Carre thriller, "A Most Wanted Man."

The book, published in 2008, tells the story of a Chechian Muslim who illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught up in the international war on terror. The tale is loosely based on the real-life story of Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen and legal German resident who was seized by American authorities, with knowledge of the German government, and taken to Guantanamo Bay. He was kept there for several years before being released, without charge, in 2006.

For a better idea of what the book is and movie presumably will be about, here's a trailer that was made for the release of the book. Enjoy, and then stick around for the promised TV news, and then a couple of clips just for fun (with Muppets!).

On my own TV, with very little new on and at the urging of my fellow cubicle slave Renee Martinez, I've been catching up with a home run of a show that I'm embarrassed to admit I had simply skipped until now, "Torchwood." If you've never seen it, the BBC-produced spinoff of "Doctor Who" is tailor-made for fans of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," with much of the same wit and scarier creatures to boot.

The show will come to Starz for its fourth season beginning July 8, and now comes word that the network has bought into something potentially thoroughly fun from Sam Raimi and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" creator Rob Tapert.

What they're cooking up is a live-action version of an anime show I've never seen titled "Noir," about a pair of rival female assassins who team to take on a secret society to learn more about their own mysterious origins. I'm hooked on that already, and for just a taste of what the anime original was about, here's its opening:

The big event in TV tonight, of course, is the season one finale of "Game of Thrones," and having read book one of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series, what's amazed me most about this perfectly entertaining series is how its managed to stick so strictly to its excellent source material and yet still deliver fun surprises each week. It's somehow gotten better week after week, and tonight's doozy of a finale should continue that trend.

After that, there will be "True Blood," returning next week, and then Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" later this summer, and after that, HBO, never one to rest on its laurels, has enlisted one Darren Aronofsky to direct at least the pilot for a series that sounds like nothing but big fun, "Hobgoblin."

The show, about con men and magicians who conspire to bring down Hitler, has a pilot script co-written by novelist Michael Chabon, and that's all I know so far, but definitely stay tuned ...

OK, to close, on to the videos. The Muppets have teased us pretty good for a few weeks with spoofs on first "The Hangover Part II" and then "The Green Lantern." While those were indeed pretty funny, and probably better than the movies they lampooned, they were really just small-bite appetizers for this first real trailer for "The Muppets," set to come out around Thanksgiving. It looks and sounds exactly like the silly fun I'd expect from a Muppets movie, so move this one starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams right up near the top of the list of movies I most want to see for the rest of this year. Enjoy.

And finally today, I wasn't much impressed at all with the first trailer for Ruben Fleischer's upcoming comedy "30 Minutes or Less," but this second, red-band clip definitely delivers the funny. His follow-up to the sublime "Zombieland," starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride, is set to come out Aug. 12. Enjoy this rather foul trailer, and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.

EMBED-30 Minutes or Less - Watch more free videos

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Thursday clip show, closing with the funniest thing you'll see today

Starting with some movie news, having been thoroughly burned by Matt Reeves' soulless, shot-by-empty-shot remake of one of my favorite movies, "Let the Right One In," I should just run screaming from this, but there's news today that still gives me hope that another unnecessary remake of a modern European classic might actually be pretty good.

Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One," based on the American novel by Harlan Coben, actually came out in the same year as Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One In," and as a duo, they were my two favorites movies of 2008.

So there's nothing more representative of Hollywood's bankruptcy of ideas than the fact that they're both so quickly targeted for remakes, but in spite of that, I still have hope for the upcoming American take on "Tell No One" for exactly one reason: Ben Affleck.

He's now at work on "Argo," the odd thriller he's directing based on the true story of how the CIA and the Canadian government teamed up to rescue six U.S. diplomats who had been taken hostage by Iranians in 1979, developing a ruse that involved convincing the Iranians that the diplomats were a Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a movie called “Argo.”

That should be nothing but wicked fun, but today comes word that after that, he'll direct the American remake of "Tell No One," and though like I said I should know by now not to get suckered in so easily, the hard-boiled mind-bender would indeed seem to be perfectly catered to his directing style, if this remake needs to be made at all.

OK, enough of that. I promised clips, and the movie-related ones today are actually pretty sensational in my estimation, followed by three doses of pretty solid funny.

First up today is the first trailer I know of for the upcoming baseball flick "Moneyball," which, even with the thoroughly annoying "Entertainment Tonight" voiceover interruptions, looks like nothing but great. I love a good baseball movie, and this one starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A's bean counter Billy Beane, Jonah Hill as his assistant and, though he makes virtually no appearance in the trailer, Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's coach Art Howe, should be a real winner. Enjoy the trailer, and if you like baseball movies as much as me, keep an eye out for this in September.

Next up, if you take one piece of movie advice from me ever, it's go see "Tree of Life" if you have the chance. By far Terrence Malick's most personal movie, and in my opinion, his best, too. But don't take my word for it. In what I have to assume is a leaked DVD extra, Christopher Nolan and David Fincher eloquently make the case for why this is such a uniquely entertaining movie, emphasizing its naturalism as one of its chief strengths. Enjoy, go see the movie if you can, and stick around for three doses of good comedy, with the very best for last.

Part of my newspaper job (the one that actually pays me a bit of scratch) is to look for movie reviews of the week's opening releases, if there will be any. Well, this week, I just assumed several folks would step forward to review "Green Lantern" in time for inclusion in our entertainment publication, but only Rene Rodriguez took the plunge, and slightly too late, promptly giving the movie one star. With "Super 8" still to catch up with and perhaps Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" to see again (yes, it's just that good), I think I'll just say no, but just in case you're feeling tempted, here are the Onion folks to get you amped for the sure-to-be-phenomenon that is "Greg Lantern." Enjoy.

I read this book while in a Minneapolis bookstore last week, and even though I have no rugrats of my own to deal with, it was an amusing enough little ditty. I had no idea, however, that Adam Mansbach's "Go the F#$% to Sleep" was about to debut atop the NY Times bestseller list. Reading it is indeed a bit of fun, but believe me, hearing Samuel L. Jackson read it is at least 15 times better. Enjoy this audio-only clip, and then stick around for what is by a very wide margin the funniest thing I've seen today.

By himself, Karl Pilkington, the tormented genius of Ricky Gervais' podcasts and now his Science show "An Idiot Abroad," is pretty friggin funny already. But what happens when you combine him with Warwick Davis, the "Harry Potter" star who's also featured in his own upcoming Gervais series, "Life's Too Short"? Not surprisingly, comic gold. On the podcasts, Pilkington has made it clear that he fears just about everything even slightly out of the ordinary, especially little people, so when Davis sits on his lap in this clip, it's a riot. If you like this, be advised, it's only part one of four, and the rest can be found at YouTube by searching for "When Karl Meets Warwick." Enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When will we get a new Tarantino movie?, plus a short clip show

Actually, I've read what I'm about 99 percent certain is the rough script for Quentin Tarantino's next movie, "Django Unchained," and if he manages to make the movie that he's spelled out on paper, it will be a real doozie, and possibly his best yet (I'm still taking it all in, but I'll put up a script review soon.)

But when will we get to see it? Well, the Weinstein Company has now set up this wild ride as a great Christmas present set for release Dec. 25, 2012.

And what's it about? Having read it, I can tell you it's a fairly epic Southern/Western about a German bounty hunter and a freed slave who join forces to take out slave owners and other generally despicable individuals, and eventually work to rescue the freed slave's (Django) wife.

And the cast, as so far assembled, is just perfect. Christoph Waltz, naturally, will play the bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz, and in even better casting, Leonardo DiCaprio will most likely play the big bad, Calvin Candie, the owner of a mandingo fighting operation (yes, really).

Left among the major parts to cast are Django and his wife, Broomhilda (again, yes, really), and though many names have been thrown about for the former, including one Will Smith, having read this I can see Idris Elba as the natural choice for Django, who in Tarantino parlance, truly is one bad motherf$#%er.

The one thing I know for sure about all this is that, on paper, this is a revenge flick that's even crazier than "Inglourious Basterds," my favorite movie of 2010, so all I can say is hurry up and bring it on!

In the only other major movie news out there this morning, it seems that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hedging its best when it comes to this big question: What if we don't have 10 movies that can be logically be considered worthy Best Picture contenders?

To prepare for that inevitable eventuality and, in their explicit reasoning, to add some more suspense to the contest, the academy has now announced that, rather than a set field of 10 nominees, there will now be anywhere from five to 10, with the actual number not known until the field of nominees is announced.

Not a shocking development, and I suppose it could add some interest to the nominations announcement, but I'll just leave you with this thought before we move on to a couple of videos: With the field of 10 for this year's awards, I correctly predicted all nominees. Not bragging, just saying.

OK, now on the clips, starting in a great spot with the first trailer I've seen for a new Errol Morris documentary set to come out July 15. That alone would be reason to cheer, but with this movie, "Tabloid," it seems he's found a perfectly bizarre story that just naturally fits his style of filmmaking. Best as I can tell, it's about a model who "kidnaps" a Mormon missionary to sex him up and deliver him from the fold. And no, I'm not kidding. You'll have to see the movie itself to learn more, as I certainly will at the first opportunity, but for now just enjoy this fun trailer, and then stick around for a parting shot from Reel Fanatic fave Anna Faris.

Now that Kristen Wiig has gotten the opportunity to craft a smash comedy (and easily one of this year's best movies) with "Bridesmaids," I'd say Anna Faris is now the comedienne most deserving of the same break. Unfortunately, "What's Your Number?", the first trailer for which I've come across is below, doesn't seem to be it. Although veryfunnyman Chris Pratt of "Parks and Recreation" (aka Mr. Faris) is in this too, the flick, set to come out Sept. 30, just looks like the most generic variation of "romantic comedy." Oh well. "Enjoy" the trailer, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Truly magical things happen after "Midnight in Paris"

Having a Woody Allen flick in midstate theaters at all is a minor event in itself for movie lovers. but having one as good as "Midnight in Paris" is a flat-out reason to celebrate.

It's also the first time that I can remember a Woody Allen movie being in the box office top 10, as this has been for a few weeks, and it's well deserved. Though not as great as Allen's best movies - which for me will always be topped by "Manhattan" - it does share with those flicks an extremely strong sense of place, here Paris rather than his early home base of NYC, and adds to it an often irresistible embrace of life and art, along with the city itself.

As the movie opens, we meet Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), an American couple engaged to be married and on vacation in Paris thanks to the largesse of her parents. And it's clear from the outset that Gil, Wilson doing his best to channel Allen now that the director has finally realized he's simply too old to do so himself, is less than thrilled, both with the company he's keeping on the voyage and also with his impending marriage. Though many of his best bits have already been revealed in commercials and trailers for this flick, keep an eye out for the very funny Michael Sheen as half of a fellow young couple on vacation in Paris, particularly the face he makes at a wine tasting. Just pure comedy gold.

But its Wilson who manages to embody the spirit of Allen, from all his neuroses even down to more charm than the director himself has shown for many years, and that's key to how much you're willing to suspend reason and just dive into the crazy world of what comes next. As Gil, seeking both release from his traveling companions and inspiration to finish his novel, is walking through the city of light at the titular hour, he encounters a series of familiar faces who transport him back in time to the 1920s.

It starts with Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and continues with a who's who of giants of the literary and art world of the era, and the gimmick only starts to get old just before Allen wisely wraps things up. Keep an eye out for Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, both of whom eat up their parts for some of the movie's funniest moments, and the thoroughly beguiling Marion Cotillard as Gil's muse, Adrianna.

What keeps all this madness going with an entertaining spirit until Gil discovers the truth he so sorely needs is a genuine infusion of both whimsy and fantasy, more of both than Allen has shown since "Bullets over Broadway" or way back with "Broadway Danny Rose." The bottom line is it's just Allen having a whole lot of fun, and if this flick manages to stick around at the AmStar Cinemas 16 in Macon and Galleria Mall Stadium Cinemas 15 in Centerville for another week and you can catch it, I guarantee you will too.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

AMC's Dead walking again

That's all I really have today, but when a photo's that good, just run with it.

Of all the shows returning this fall, I think I just might be most excited for Frank Darabont's "The Walking Dead," which will offer 13 episodes this fall after just six in season one. Above is the first photo I've come across from season two, just to whet your zombie appetite, and with that I'm off until at least Tuesday to visit my family in Minnesota. Have a great weekend, and by all means, go see J.J. Abrams' "Super 8." Peace out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A short Wednesday report, with "Sons of Anarchy," Darren Aranofsky and Sarah Palin

Just a very short report today because I'm soon to head off to Minneapolis/St.Paul to see mi hermano and my parents for a few days, and frankly my mind is already there, but since there's almost nothing on TV right now, why not start with a great development for what's coming this fall.

In its continuing quest to employ every single actor who has ever appeared on HBO's "Deadwood," it seems that FX will next be featuring Georgia actor Ray McKinnon in a season-long arc on "Sons of Anarchy," which has quickly risen to be one of my favorite TV dramas.

As for McKinnon, he may still be best known as the Rev. H.W. Smith on the first season of "Deadwood," but his other great roles have included playing one ornery bastard in "That Evening Sun" and even playing Vernon T. Waldrip in my favorite Coen brothers' movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou." In short, he's just a great actor, and bringing on him to play an unconventional prosecutor who will be on the trail of SAMCRO on the upcoming season will make an already pretty darn good show even better.

And in a bit of movie news before two funny videos that caught my eye this morning, having wisely dropped any plans to make yet another "Wolverine" movie, it seems that Darren Aronofsky is finally closing in on something much more suited to his vision.

He's currently seeking backers for his epic take on the biblical story of Noah and his ark. Take a second to picture how great, or at least epicly bizarre, that could be. No idea if this will actually be his next movie project, but with the script currently undergoing a rewrite by John Logan, who among other things wrote the screenplay for Martin Scorsese's upcoming "Hugo Cabret," things do seem to be moving forward. Stay tuned ...

OK, moving quickly on to the videos today, I had never heard of this movie, "The Guard," until I saw this rather seriously funny trailer this morning. In the movie, best as I can tell, the great Brendan Gleeson plays a rather racially insensitive Irish cop who joins forces with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle, welcome back) to track some unsavory characters, including Mark Strong. As you'll see from the trailer, it looks like nothing but funny, and Gleeson has proven, best in "In Bruges," that he's a natural comedian. I know this played Sundance this year, but no idea when it will get any other kind of release in the U.S. Keep an eye out for it, and enjoy the trailer.

And to close today, if there's been a sillier season in American politics, I can't remember it. I'm not one to stay up much beyond 11 p.m. on school nights, but if the late night guys aren't just having a field day with the fact that a dude named Weiner is waving his genitals all around, I'd be sorely disappointed. And then there's Sarah Palin, the gift that just keeps on giving. I'd be willing to just let this go, but since her forces have taken to Wikipedia to try and rewrite history in her favor, she's certainly fair game, and this Stephen Colbert Paul Revere clip, though a bit long, is just a hoot. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. As for me, I'm off until next Tuesday, to visit the land of however many lakes there actually are in Minnesota. Peace out.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Macon movies: "Of Gods and Men" with the Film Guild, and Magnetic Fields too

Though we're smack in the middle of the movie summer, and in the world of wide releases we've now got the seriously satisfying "X-Men: First Class" and, this week, J.J. Abrams' "Super 8," here in Macon there are also great movies coming up outside of our multiplexes.

And that starts this Sunday with the French drama "Of Gods and Men," being presented Sunday at the Douglass Theatre by the Macon Film Guild. The movie, a quiet thriller of sorts by director Xavier Beauvois, center on the lives and sacrifices of a group of Trappist monks living in harmony with Muslims in Algeria in 1996, until they find their very existence threatened by extremist forces in the Algerian Civil War.

In giving his very moving movie the slow but absorbing rhythm of the monks' daily lives, Beauvois draws viewers deeply into their world and gives the movie a sense of peace, even as that peace itself is besieged on all sides by the modern life around it. And it's in this constant conflict, best captured in a scene in which the monks gather to share in a Gregorian chant as the terrorists' helicopters swarm around their compound, that Beauvois manages to give his movie at least as much urgency as a good Hollywood action flick.

He's certainly helped in this endeavor by the actors who play the monks at the story's core. Led by the French actors Lambert Wilson as the head of the monastery and Michael Lonsdale as a doctor who reaches out to the Muslim community, they all imbue their performances with a quiet grace, and in their faces show the humanity that give this movie its compelling drive.

In the end, without ever directly preaching, "Of Gods and Men" is ultimately about what it means to be a Christian in extremely trying circumstances. And the mix of hope and sadness with which it examines both the simultaneous power and futility of faith make it well worth checking out with the Macon Film Guild at 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Douglass Theatre.

A magnetic movie offering

The folks behind Macon's Second Tuesday Rock 'n' Roll Picture Show have been doing a great job of bringing us movies that move to all kinds of beats, from the pounding metal of "Lemmy" to the delightfully insane world of the Wu Tang Clan with "Rock the Bells."

June 14 at the Cox Capitol Theatre, they'll slow things down for the documentary "Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields." Merritt, who's been called "the Cole Porter of his generation," specializes in beautiful little ditties about all kinds of love, and this portrait by directors Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara should be an enlightening and entertaining glimpse into his creative process.

The fun begins with happy hour at 6:30 p.m., complete with dinner catered by Saralynn Harvey and her cooks from Good to Go, and then the movie at 7:30 p.m. Admission is just $5, or $3 if you wear a rock 'n' roll T-shirt, meaning that if I manage to make it I'll be wearing my T-shirt featuring an armadillo emblazoned with the logo of the Heartless Bastards. Hope to see you there. Peace out.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Leonard Nimoy channels The Dude for pretty pure bliss

OK, a short, rather lazy post today because I've got the chance to see Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" if I can make it to Atlanta's fabulous Regal Tara Cinemas by 12:45, and I'm most certainly not going to let that pass me by.

I will, however, pass on my quick word that you can certainly believe every ounce of the hype surrounding "X-Men: First Class," because it really is just that good. "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn keeps things moving at a smart and very brisk pace, and if you're reintroducing well-known characters, it certainly helps when you've got James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to play them. Super campy, silly and just ultra-fun summer fare.

And after that today, I just have a couple of videos, but when the first one has Leonard Nimoy channeling The Dude, it's well worth a few minutes of your time. The song itself by Bruno Mars? Like so much of today's breezy radio pop, it just quickly passes through one ear and out the other of this middle-aged dude, but the video is a hoot. Enjoy, and then stick around for a clip from one of the comedy's I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this summer.

Finally today is a clip from the upcoming Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland") movie "30 Minutes or Less," starring Jesse Eisenberg and veryfunnyman Aziz Ansari and set to drop Aug. 12. Just in case you somehow didn't know the plot, Eisenberg lays it out in this clip, after some very funny stuff with Aziz as a school teacher. Enjoy the clip and the rest of your weekend. Peace out.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday news, of Torchwood, Elmore Leonard and even Tarzan ... yes, really

There's really not anything I can add to Leslie Nielsen's rather blissfully funny tombstone, so I'll just let that speak for itself and move on.

Though I do try to be selective in my TV viewing, when there aren't many new shows on (like, say, now) it does leave a bit of a void.

I did quite enjoy the new season premiere of "Men of a Certain Age," especially since I'm now clearly one of them, but I don't think that show's ever gonna gain many more viewers than the very few it has now. HBO has certainly also stepped up with season two of "Treme" (another great show that just about no one watches) and, of course, the sublime "Game of Thrones," and FX has two shows coming up I'll tune in for, the second of season of Louis C.K.'s "Louie" and the truly odd-looking "Wilfred."

After that, however, it's time for catching up with shows I've simply missed that are now streaming on Netflix, starting (with the recommendation of my fellow cubicle slave, Renee Martinez) with "Torchwood."

Most anyone who would be in to such a thing probably already knows that it's a show about a sort of alien-hunting detective agency and is a spinoff of "Doctor Who," and three episodes in now, I really dig it. And in a rather severe case of burying the lead, I tell you all that to tell you this: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" scribe Jane Espenson and star Eliza Dushku are reuniting for "Torchwood: Web of Lies," which will be an animated tale appearing online in three installments before the July 8 premiere of season 4 of the live-action show on Starz.

Dushku, along with series regulars John Barrowman and Eve Myles, will do voice work for the animated offering, and you can be sure I'll tell you how exactly to find it as soon as I know. And Espenson, easily one of the best writers on TV, wrote an episode of "Game of Thrones" and is one of the main writers for the new "Torchwood" season, so definitely tune in.

OK, moving on to movie news, I love most of the movies made from Elmore Leonard's uniformly juicy source material (with "Out of Sight" easily being on any top 10 list if I were to make it), and "Justified" just made a huge leap forward in season two, so any news of a new Leonard movie is certainly welcome in this little corner of the world.

Well, there's a take on the Leonard novel "Freaky Deaky" in the works, and it's quickly assembling a pretty first-rate cast. Per Variety, the story revolves around a Detroit police sergeant (Matt Dillon) who moves from the bomb squad to sex crimes (of course), coming up against a group of '60s radicals who, in 1974, are part of an investigation involving the bombing of a limousine. Brendan Fraser will play a former activist who now uses his knowledge of explosives to provide effects for Hollywood films, and veryfunnyman Craig Robinson will play Donnell Lewis, a Black Panther in the '60s and now the assistant to a Hollywood power player (William H. Macy).

Sounds like a typical cup of Leonard craziness, so stay tuned for any more news about this flick being written and directed by Charles Matthau (director of "The Grass Harp," way back in 1995) as soon as I spy it.

And finally, before a couple of videos, the bizarre ... the once-great Craig Brewer, who managed to create another movie that's probably in my top 10 of all time, "Hustle & Flow," before lowering himself to an upcoming remake of "Footloose," is now going seriously ape-s%$# crazy.

Warner Brothers has apparently signed Brewer up to write and direct a new "Tarzan" movie, and he already has his mind set on a trilogy about the tree-swinger (I'm sure Fraser would jump all over this.)

It's another odd turn for a clearly talented but maddening director. I really couldn't make anything of the mess that was "Black Snake Moan," and I can't see any way I'll possibly go see this new "Footloose" monstrosity, but with this, well, I can only wish him good luck.

OK, quickly on to the clips, because I want to get out of here to go swimming and then see "X-Men: First Class" (man, do I like being off on Fridays.) First up, Jon Stewart making fun of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump eating "New York pizza" in Times Square is the very definition of shooting fish in a barrel, but that doesn't make it any less funny. You really don't need to watch the full seven minutes-plus of this, but if you haven't seen it, it really is a pretty first-class rant. Enjoy.

And finally today, it may be a severely chicky tale, but I enjoyed Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" (though it's certainly not without its faults), and am really looking forward to the movie version due out Aug. 12, both for the movie itself and because it should be what finally rightly makes a big star out of Emma Stone. In the movie and this short clip with Viola Davis, she plays Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, who rouses the black maids of 1960's Jackson, Miss., to tell their stories. Enjoy the clip, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A short Thursday report long on fun news

If you skipped Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" last year, either because of its mind-boggling NC-17 rating or simply because the subject matter sounded so depressing, fix that right away with a rental, because in many ways the movie is a real joy to watch.

It is indeed about a marriage that's imploding in front of our eyes, but the acting from Michelle Williams (rightly nominated for an Oscar) and Ryan Gosling is nothing short of amazing to behold, and the story goes on a journey well worth exploring that will make you smile and laugh more than it will make you blue. The "future room" alone makes this movie well worth renting (it's out on DVD now, so check it out).

And even better comes big casting news about Cianfrance's next movie, the crime drama "The Place Beyond the Pines," which reunites him with Gosling. He will play a biker who, after having a child, begins robbing banks to support the baby. And now comes word that Bradley Cooper will play a rookie cop who's on his trail.

Filming will start in July, and Cianfrance is a real talent to keep an eye on, so stay tuned for more on this whenever I find it.

In other news about a director I can't get enough of, it's now guaranteed that even people in my little corner of the world will get to see Tomas Alfredson's follow-up to the simply sublime "Let the Right One In" (still streaming on Netflix), a remake of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

The news is that Focus Features has taken over distribution from Universal and has set an awards season U.S. release date of Nov. 18, and best of all, will apparently do so in glorious "wide release."

Bully to that, because Alfredson has compiled a stellar cast for the Cold War spy saga based on the John Le Carre novel, starting with Gary Oldman as George Smiley, the British spy charged with uncovering a Russian mole in his ranks, and also featuring Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong.

Bring it on already, even for people like me, who live in tiny burgs!

And finally (and inevitably) today, Paramount is finalizing an option deal to develop a movie based on "Furious Love," an account of the public love affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and is ready to hand it off to one Martin Scorsese to direct.

Scorsese is currently wrapping up "Hugo Cabret" starring Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield (based on one of my favorite novels, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," so bully to that) for a Nov. 23 release, and after that he has a number of potential projects on his plate. Included among those are "Silence," a tale of two Jesuit priests (potentially Daniel Day Lewis and Benicio Del Toro, imagine that) in 17th century Japan, the hitman drama "The Irishman" and a Frank Sinatra biopic.

Though any of those would be a natural fit, I'd imagine he would gladly put them all on hold to jump on this, given his interest in Hollywood history and how simply juicy the story is. Burton and Taylor were both married when they met on the set of "Cleopatra" in 1960, and began a public romance that inflamed the paparazzi. They eventually married in 1964, divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975 and separated for good in 1976.

And with that, I'm off to the job that still pays my bills, so have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Wednesday clip show, with Fincher, Pulp and even "Star Wars"

Actually, before we jump right into that, there's an intriguing bit of movie news out there today about a reunion of director Noah Baumbach and Jesse Eisenberg.

If you've never seen "The Squid and the Whale," while not the most uplifting of movies, there are few rentals I can recommend higher. Baumbach's directing debut (I believe) was an autobiographical tale of sorts about the divorce of his parents, played by Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels, with Eisenberg playing a character at least loosely based on Baumbach himself.

It was just a sweet little movie, and of course since then, Eisenberg has gone on to become more than a bit of a star. He'll next be seen in August in the Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland") comedy "30 Minutes or Less" with veryfunnyman Aziz Ansari, and now comes word this morning that he's set to make another movie with Baumbach.

The movie, titled "While We're Young," is apparently about a Brooklynite 20-something couple who inspire an older, uptight documentarian and his wife to loosen up (according to the always reliable The Playlist, at least). If this all comes together, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts would play the older couple, and Eisenberg and an actress to be named later the younger one.

Sounds like a comedy of manners (or lack thereof) perfect for Baumbach, so here's hoping this all comes together.

And now, because I'm in a bit of a hurry to go swimming before work, let's just jump right into the clips. For about a week or so, a very shaky camera pirated copy of the trailer for David Fincher's thoroughly unnecessary remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has been circulating on the Internet. Well, Sony apparently finally got fed up, and pulled that copy while replacing it with this spiffy official version.

I have to say, however, that as shiny as it all looks, it seems to be pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the original Swedish movie, which is already pretty sublime entertainment, so what's the point of all this? Daniel Craig may well turn out to be an upgrade as Blomkvist, but in movies, there will always only be one Lisbeth Salander, because Noomi Rapace took over the role so completely. Having been burned once by what Matt Reeves did to one of my favorite movies with "Let Me In," I'm not ready to give in yet and believe there's any reason for this to be happening. Anyways, after that mini-rant, here's the cleaned-up trailer for you to "enjoy."

Next up, HBO has been on a real roll lately with "Treme" and even more so with "Game of Thrones," which really does get better and better as the weeks go by. And very soon (June 26, to be precise), the fourth season of "True Blood" will premiere. Though I'm not terribly enamored with the sometimes extreme liberties the show takes with Charlaine Harris' already very good Sookie Stackhouse novels, the show still remains a fun and funky brew. And now, through it's HBO Go toy and on to You Tube, HBO has leaked the first three minutes or so of the season 4 premiere, with more chunky bits to come before it's all unveiled. Enjoy, and then stick around for the return of Pulp and even pure, unspiffied up "Star Wars."

When I was supposedly in graduate school (but actually just having a blast in Athens, Ga.), Pulp's "Different Class" was easily one of my favorite albums, and it's one that I still listen to fairly often today. Here, performing I'm not sure where, is Pulp reunited, with Jarvis Cocker clearly just as cheeky as ever, performing "Disco 2000," and sounding great. Enjoy.

And finally today, where can you see the original "Star Wars" (now episode IV, I suppose), without any 3-D, extra footage or any other kind of enhancement? Why here, of course. I couldn't think of anything better to brighten up a Wednesday morning, so here, as promised, is the movie in its blissfully low-tech entirety. Enjoy, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.