Sunday, July 31, 2011

Roman Polanski and the art of the extremely uncomfortable

OK, I'm more than a little slow. I knew Roman Polanski's next movie was titled "Carnage," and I've seen the Tony award-winning play by Yazmina Reza "Gods of Carnage" while on vacation with my family in Minneapolis, but not until now did I manage to put the two together.

In my defense, why in the world do they have to keep shortening movie titles to as few characters as possible? Martin Scorsese, of all people, found the title of one of my favorite books, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," so odious that he had to cut it all the way down to simply "Hugo" for his Thanksgiving offering. But was "Gods of Carnage" really so long that people couldn't digest it on a poster? Sheesh.

But I already digress. Polanski's "Carnage" has been chosen to open the New York Film Festival on Sept. 30, and for many reasons, the play is just a perfect fit for his style of filmmaking.

First, a bit about what the movie and play are about, and who's starring in the flick. Reza's play (and hopefully Polanski's movie) takes place entirely in one New York City apartment, where two groups of parents are gathered after one child has acted out violently to the other one. I'm just guessing from the photo above here, but I have to think John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster play the parents of the wronged child, and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz the other couple. Take a second to digest all that star power in one small room.

The setting is key, because in that tight space, the often scathing words aren't just weapons, they're WMD's, and the "Carnage" is immediate and brutal. And, thankfully, Reza's whip-smart play is also devastatingly funny, as when the character to be played by Reilly (again, I assume) explains how he used to be in a "gang" when he was a kid. It's not a comedy of manners, but of pretty much the complete lack thereof, my favorite kind.

In relation to the best of Polanski's movies, it fits in perfectly. The most direct correlation is to "Death and the Maiden," in which Sigourney Weaver traps and torments Ben Kingsley in Polanksi's take on the Ariel Dorfman play. In that and his most recent flick, the political thriller "Ghost Writer" (well worth an immediate rental if you haven't seen it), among others, the tension is not just kept high, but ramped up to the point of suffocation throughout, giving his best movies a very claustrophobic feel.

And that, in short, is why Roman Polanski's "Carnage" is definitely a movie to keep an eye out for when it opens hopefully wide enough to reach even my little corner of the world on Nov. 18. And I'll leave you today with, courtesy of collider, eight or so short clips from another movie I'm certainly looking forward to, "The Help," the movie based on Kathyrn Stockett's insanely popular novel and starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis, set to come out as some relief from the usual August slog on the 10th. Enjoy, and have a great Sunday. Peace out.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday fun: of "Red Tails" and the Gods of Westeros

I've only read the first book in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of fantasy novels, and though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I've decided to stop so that I can be surprised by what unfolds in season two and beyond of HBO's glorious "Game of Thrones."

Why not read the books and just see how the show differs? Well, because, and I certainly don't mean this as a criticism, but very rarely have I seen a show or movie that stuck so closely to its source material. When you're starting with something this good, there's really no reason to monkey with it too much, and if anything "Game of Thrones" proves it's sometimes perfectly OK to go exactly by the book.

And, not surprisingly since the show seemed to go up in the ratings with each episode, HBO co-President Richard Plepler said this week that, “We told [author George R.R. Martin] we’d go as long as he keeps writing” those books, of which there are now five (including this year's "A Dance of Dragons.")

So, I tell you all this to tell you that the photo above is of the statues of the Gods of Westeros from the filming of season two of "Game of Thrones," but I, like probably many of you, we'll have to tune in to find out exactly what role they'll play in the series, and can't wait to find out.

And after that today, the main event is the first trailer for "Red Tails" from director Anthony Hemingway and Lucasfilm. My first thought upon watching it was how in the world has it taken so long for there to be an epic feature film about the Tuskegee Airmen? (There was, of course, "The Tuskegee Airmen" from 1995, but that was just a HBO movie ... albeit a pretty good one.)

So, will this be the grand treatment these heroes deserve? Well, not surprisingly, it looks fantastic. The cast, featuring Terrence Howard and Bryan Cranston, among others, is solid. The major question is if Hemingway, who up until now has only directed a long string of TV shows (though having honed his skills David Simon's "The Wire" and now "Treme," he's certainly learning from a master) is able to pull this all off.

And along with releasing this trailer, Lucasfilm has also announced just when we'll find out how all this turned out: Jan. 20. Enjoy the trailer, and if you're looking for some good summertime movie entertainment, ignore what a solid majority of critics have said and take a chance on "Cowboys and Aliens." Peace out.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't fear "The Ides of March," or the season of Clooney

Yes, the first trailer for for George Clooney's political thriller is the main event here today, but since I've had a week from hell and haven't been able to even visit here until today, there's some other catching up to do too.

In other movie news, production starts this week on an intriguing project starring three of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, Laura Linney and the truly great Olivia Williams (most recently seen on the big screen by me in another fairly great political thriller, "Ghost Writer," but most famously of course Ms. Cross.)

"Hyde Park on the Hudson," filming in London, stars Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt in the period piece that focuses on the first visit of the British monarchy (in this case, King George VI (Samuel West) and the queen (Olivia Colman) to the United States. Stammering George is there to drum up American support for England's looming war with Germany, but FDR just happens to be distracted by ... his distant cousin, Daisy, played by Linney, with whom he develops an intimate relationship.

Juicy stuff there, and seeing Murray play a serious (though surely not too serious) FDR should just be a treat. Stay tuned ...

And there's also a bit of TV news out there about my current favorite network sitcom, "Parks and Recreation."

Poor Ron Swanson. First he (definite Reel Fanatic fave Nick Offerman) gets the single biggest Emmy snub of this awards season, and now, when "Parks and Rec" returns on Sept. 21, he'll encounter Tammy 1, his first ex-wife, so scary a character that she even makes Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally) quake with fear.

Poor Ron's torment, however, should be our delight, because in what should be a great comic turn, Patricia Clarkson will play Tammy 1 in two episodes starting with the premiere.

Should be pretty close to comedy bliss there, and in other TV news, HBO has set the fall premiere dates for two returning shows I'll definitely tune in for.

First up, the best thing about the new season of "True Blood" is that just about as soon as it ends, the second season of "Boardwalk Empire" will start right up. I used to have a lot of time for "True Blood," but though I still tune in during this summer dead period for TV, the utter randomness of it is really starting to drive me more than a little nuts.

That's certainly not a problem with "Boardwalk Empire," which tells the tale of early 20th century Atlantic City and the rise of "Nucky" Thompson (heavy Emmy favorite Steve Buscemi) with a clinical (and sometimes too perfect) precision. Keep an eye out for season two beginning Sunday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m.

And even better than that, in a rare move off of HBO's regular Sunday night home, the third season of "Bored to Death" will make its debut for an eight-episode arc beginning Monday, Oct. 10, at 9 p.m. The show, which springs from the twisted mind of novelist Jonathan Ames, is far from the deepest thing you'll ever see, but the often doped-out adventures of a would-be private eye played Jason Schwartzman with his buddies, a long-suffering cartoonist played by Zach Galifianakis and, best of all, a truly loopy Ted Danson as magazine editor socialite George Christopher, all around NYC is just exactly my kind of funny.

OK, we really are getting to "The Ides of March," but also this week came the first proof that the once-great Cameron Crowe is actually still making movies. No visual proof that I know of from the feature film he's apparently wrapping up now, "We Bought a Zoo," starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and set for release this Christmas.

There is, however, a trailer for a documentary that finds the "Almost Famous" director on familiar turf, "Pearl Jam Twenty." Pearl Jam was never exactly my kind of rock (far too earnest for me), but I love what Eddie Vedder did for the "Into the Wild" soundtrack, and I'm always up for a good rock doc, which this certainly looks like it should be. Enjoy the trailer, and keep an eye out for this flick in at least some cities Sept. 20.

Pearl Jam Twenty from Pearl Jam on Vimeo.

And now finally on to the main course. Say whatever you want to about George Clooney's persona, but I really couldn't give less of a flip about all that. The man knows how to pick good movies, and when he manages to direct them they usually turn out to be even better.

The last thing I saw him in was "The American," a first-rate but low-key thriller from Anton Corbijn that would make a perfect rental if you've never seen it, and now this fall he has two movies coming up that are both near the top of my list of must-see flicks for the rest of the year.

Now moved up to Nov. 23, he's starring in the long-time-coming return of director Alexander Payne with "The Descendants," in which Clooney plays a man who tries to put his family back together after his wife dies in a car crash.

Even better, and set to drop before that on Oct. 7 hopefully wide enough to reach even my little corner of the world, will be "The Ides of March," an old-fashioned political movie directed by Clooney and featuring a truly first-rate cast.

In it, Ryan Gosling plays a conflicted political strategist working for a presidential candidate played by (natch) Clooney himself. As you'll see from the trailer, all kinds of political games ensue, and the movie somehow also stars Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood.

It's been far too long since I've seen a good political thriller, so this one is definitely circled on my movie calendar. Enjoy the trailer, and have a great weekend, which for me will at least include seeing "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and maybe "Cowboys and Aliens" too. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dog days or flick finds? What to expect from the movies of August

Starting off with some funny, the banner above that welcomed the cast of "Community" back to the set this week for the filming of season three, and was tweeted by star Joel McHale, pretty much perfectly captures the comic spirit of the show, as do two of its upcoming multi-episode guest stars.

In season three, the great Michael Kenneth Williams, aka Omar from "The Wire," will join the show as Greendale's new biology teacher (I'm laughing at that already), and in potentially even better casting, John Goodman will play the vice dean of the School of Air Conditioning Repair, the only program at Greendale that gets any kind of good recognition.

Great news all that, and keep an eye out for the return of "Community" on Sept. 22, but here today its otherwise all about the movie slate for August, a month that gets a bad rap, but still often delivers some comedies that are, if you'll forgive the truly groan-worthy pun, august. Here's a look at some of what's coming up in the next month.

Aug. 5: "The Change-Up"
For a truly funny guy, Jason Bateman has managed to make some seriously wretched "comedies" since "Arrested Development" ended, and it certainly doesn't look like this frat-boy "Freaky Friday" of sorts also starring "Green Lantern" Ryan Reynolds will do anything to change that course.

Aug. 5: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
When exactly did the term "prequel" become the go-to idea when movie producers are lacking anything resembling an original thought? I can't pinpoint it, but even with engaging stars such as James Franco and Freida Pinto (from "Slumdog Millionaire"), I really can't see this one as being anything but one of the most unintentionally funny movies of this summer.

Aug. 10: "The Help"
In what I think will be one of the gigantic sleeper hits for the rest of this year, Emma Stone leads the cast of this flick based on the very popular novel by Kathyrn Stockett, which I read and mostly enjoyed. She plays Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, an awkward Southern socialite who organizes the black maids of 1960's Jackson, Miss., led in the movie by Viola Davis, to tell their stories.

Aug. 12: "30 Minutes or Less"
For that perfect combination of clever and just plain crude, director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to "Zombieland" should be the flick to look out for this August. In it, Jesse Eisenberg gets a bomb strapped to his chest by unsavory characters Danny McBride and Nick Swardson and is forced to rob a bank. And hijinks will surely ensue.

Aug. 19: "One Day"
I've probably seen the trailer for this flick starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess more than any other this summer, but that hasn't made it look any more appealing. Granted, I'm not the target audience for romantic comedies like this one about two college friends who agree to meet for one day each year of their lives. It is, however, from "An Education" director Lone Scherfig, so here's hoping I'm wrong about this one and it turns out to somehow be a winner.

Aug. 26: "Our Idiot Brother":
If the entire secret to making funny movies would be simply to stock them with funny people, this flick somehow starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott and Rashida Jones would be an automatic success. And if director Jesse Peretz lets Rudd be truly funny as the titular "Idiot," I'm betting it will be.

Aug. 31: "The Debt":
By far the most serious wide-release movie of the month could also be a surprisingly big hit, with Joel Madden directing an espionage thriller about a trio of retired Mossad agents (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) who find a celebrated 1966 mission in which they tracked down a Nazi war criminal called into question. Exactly my kind of spy games.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comic-con clips, Charlie Kaufman news and much more

There will almost certainly be more popular and more epic movie offerings this holiday season, but among the ones I'm definitely looking forward to is "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas," and the above photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly should tell you exactly why. And actually, we won't have to wait until Christmas for this madness, since it's due out Nov. 4. Bring it on!

And in movie news, the world is certainly a little better place when Charlie Kaufman's making movies in it, especially when he's set to direct another one. I have to admit that his first directing effort, "Synecdoche, New York," lost me a bit in the third act, but it was still a wild trip that I thoroughly enjoyed taking.

This time out, of course directing a script he also wrote, "Frank and Francis" will be about a film director (Frank) who gets into a war of words with an online blogger (Francis) who trashed his cinematic sensibilities. Sounds thankfully like an "Adaptation"-style mindbender, and it's now set to star Nicolas Cage, Jack Black and Steve Carell, though who would play which role is yet to be determined (my bet is on Cage as Frank and Black as Francis, but stay tuned.)

Kaufman is also working again with Spike Jonze (who really needs to work a bit faster) for an as-yet-untitled political satire set to begin shooting in March or so with Joaquin Phoenix starring. Here's a brief plot description for that:

A satire about how world leaders gather to figure out all the seismic events that will take place in the worlds, from oil prices to wars that will be waged.

Nothing but cool there, and a very active Charlie Kaufman is just great news all around.

And now, as promised, though there were a ton of things going on at Comic-Con this week, there's no way I could log them all (especially since I wasn't there), but here a few things that have caught my eye.

First up, even though I was pretty thoroughly burned by "Your Highness" (even by stoner comedy "standards," just a wretched movie), I still can't help but get geeked up by the trailer for "Knights of Badassdom."

So, why should this one be any different? First off, the comedy cast is pretty first-rate, including the HBO trio of Steve Zahn ("Treme"), Ryan Kwanten ("True Blood") and the Emmy-nominated-and-should-be-winning Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), plus Summer Glau of "Firefly" among many other things , Danny Pudi of "Community" and Jimmy Simpson of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Not exactly A-list talent, but all people I like watching, and add to that that this is a flick about live action role playing gone way wrong (as in conjuring a rather evil demon bad), and I'm convinced that this Joe Lynch movie will deliver plenty of funny whenever it comes out. Enjoy this trailer from Comic-Con.

OK, after that today, it's all about TV, starting with word from Comic-Con about what's ahead for one show that - though I still love it - probably should have ended already: "Chuck." With the firm end now in sight after this next season, however, instead of hanging each year over the heads of creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz, it should at least allow the show to go out on a fun note.

As everyone who watches the show knows (BIG SPOILER HERE IF YOU SOMEHOW MISSED LAST SEASON'S FINALE), the Intersect has now moved from Morgan to Chuck (yes, really), and the gang has formed their own spying agency. Here's what Fedak had to say at Comic-Con about what else is ahead when the show returns - on Friday nights rather than Wednesdays - for its final, 13-episode arc:

Now that Chuck owns the Buy More and his own spy company, the big challenge will come in an opposing spy business and its owner may present a romantic connection for Adam Baldwin’s Casey.

Someone won’t survive Season 5 and it’s going to be a big loss!

We will see Jeffster break up and the two will wage major war against each other.

If I were still a betting man (and when I briefly was, I was never any good at it), I'd put my money on Morgan dying (not anything I know, just a hunch), and the implosion of Jeffster alone should make this go out with a big blast of fun this fall on NBC.

The show I'm probably most looking forward to this fall, however, is season two of AMC's "The Walking Dead." The first season was only six episodes, but the zombie series from Frank Darabont was as terrifying as it was just addictive. Now, it's getting 13 episodes for a second season, and returning two weeks earlier than expected, Oct. 16 rather than around Halloween. Enjoy this five-minute trailer from Comic-Con, and definitely tune in for the return of "The Walking Dead."

And finally today, I've been enjoying the return of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to HBO this summer. It's not his best work (for me still seasons three and four when, respectively, Larry tries to open a restaurant and then co-stars with David Schwimmer in "The Producers" on Broadway), but the show's enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and a summer with any Larry David is better than one without him. Tonight's episode will, thankfully, be very Marty Funkhauser-centric, because the character played by Bob Einstein/Super Dave Osborne has always been my favorite "Curb" creation.

Tonight, just as Funkhauser is embracing his Judaism, a popular Palestinian chicken restaurant opens next to his beloved kosher deli. Larry, of course, comes to the Palestinians' defense, and it should just be a hoot. Enjoy this short preview, and tune in for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" tonight if you get HBO. Peace out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

This is like a family tree, if your family was made of whores ... Beavis and Butthead are back!

Yes, the boys are indeed back, and judging from the clip that Mike Judge just unveiled at Comic-Con, they thankfully haven't matured even one bit.

But first, a bit of movie news, because for fans of comedy (which it's all about today), this could be pretty great.

"Easy A," while lighter than air and clearly aimed at moviegoers much younger than me, was also easily one of the funniest movies of 2010. It's director, Will Gluck, has a new movie out today starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, which in spite of its rather tired "Friends With Benefits" title and premise looks like it could be pretty witty.

What really made "Easy A" a winner, however, was the writing, so the even better news today is that Fox Searchlight has just purchased a new spec script from "Easy A' screenwriter Bert Royal.

Titled "A Thousand Words or Less," the comedy, which Royal will also direct, is set in the cutthroat world of a national high-school (I'm assuming) essay contest. Shailene Woodley, who apparently stars on ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (which I've obviously never seen) and can soon be seen in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" with George Clooney, is apparently up for the lead role in this.

I guess you can't get Emma Stone every time, but this should be a hoot all the same, so stay tuned ...

And in other comedy news, I can understand why a lot of people don't like Ricky Gervais. He can be more than a bit of a prick, I suppose, but for comedy to work really well you almost always have to piss someone off, as he's clearly good at.

I can't wait to see what he came up with for the Warwick Davis mockumentary "Life's Too Short" (apparently coming to HBO, but no word yet on exactly when), but he's apparently already moved on to something new, titled "Afterlife."

As Gervais just revealed on his blog, the show, which he's working on with "Dexter" producer Clyde Phillips, will have him playing God, which should have probably an equal number of people cringing and laughing.

The comedy will be about an atheist who dies and goes to heaven ... and meets Gervais as God.

"Not the typical, wise, benevolent God -- that's Morgan Freeman's thing," Gervais wrote. He said his own version will be "an arrogant, wisecracking son of a bitch, who thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread. ... Actually he thinks he's the best thing ever because... well, he is. (He invented sliced bread by the way.) He also loves welcoming atheists to heaven with a smug grin on his face."

He went on to say that, despite his own being an atheist, this isn't an "atheist comedy" because if it was it wouldn't include a heaven or God.

Not sure about the logic there, or where or when this will actually hit the airwaves, but keep your eyes out for it (and I'll certainly let you know when I know more.)

OK, after that rather long detour, on to the main event. With "Beavis and Butthead" coming back to MTV this fall, only two questions popped into my head. Will they still be funny, at least for those people (like me) who found them to be very funny the first time around? And what in the world will they do between segments now that MTV no longer shows anything approaching music videos?

Well, as this 4-minute-plus Comic-Con clip shows, the boys have, if anything, possibly regressed. And in this first bit, which I'll only tell you is titled "Holy Cornholio" (you can probably guess where this is going), they're just as funny as ever. And as for the commentary, instead of videos, for this at least, it's "Jersey Shore," and if you can get past the obviously blatant plugging of MTV's own programming, the boys shred it pretty darn good. Anyways, enjoy, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. I'm off to see "Captain America." Peace out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What will happen when it's Sunny again in Philadelphia?

One of the very few bright spots during this TV summer with no "Psych" and no "Mad Men" has been FX's one-two comedy punch of "Wilfred" and then "Louie" on Thursday nights.

If you've never seen either, I'd recommend giving them a chance tonight starting at 10 p.m. "Wilfred," an Australian import starring Elijah Wood, is as close as I've seen to a real trip on mainstream TV in many years. Co-star and show creator Jason Gann plays the titular "Wilfred," the dog who only Wood's character can talk to (almost always after consuming copious amounts of marijuana) and who becomes his partner in all kinds of depravity. Just trust me, it's much funnier than I make it sound here.

And "Louie" creator and star Louis CK was probably the biggest surprise in this year's Emmy nominations, garnering a much-deserved one in the category of best actor in a comedy. The show mixes CK's often caustic standup comedy with vignettes from his life raising his two young daughters as a divorced dad and getting into all kinds of uncomfortable situations. It's a dry and definitely acquired taste, but one I look forward to every week.

The best of FX's comedies, however, at least for me, will always be "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." It's just the ultimate release after a long day of work, because not only are the characters always constantly trying to undermine each other with petty (and uniformly ridiculous) schemes, but it thankfully has absolutely no conscience at all.

You'd think it would get old, but for me it certainly hasn't yet, and now FX has announced that the show is returning for a 13-episode seventh season beginning Sept. 15. And what will the gang get up to next? Well according to FX, Charlie, Dee, Mac, Dennis and Frank will "prepare for the apocalypse, hit the beach at the Jersey Shore, produce a child beauty pageant and take a walk down memory lane at their high school reunion."

All that has me laughing already, so definitely tune in when "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" once again.

And in a bit of movie news, it seems we may finally get to see what ever became of Joss Whedon's horror movie, "Cabin in the Woods," but I'll believe that when we finally really get to see it.

The movie, co-written by Whedon and Drew Goddard, and directed by Goddard, was originally scheduled to come out in 2009, but got swallowed up in the bankruptcy of MGM and other things that are beyond the rather silly scope of this site.

Now, however, it seems that Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the movie starring Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford and Whedon mainstay Amy Acker, among others, and has set a release date of April 13, 2012.

The title should pretty much make it clear what this is about, but here's how Whedon, in typical modesty, described it: "the horror movie to end all horror movies." I somehow doubt that, but at least now we'll all get to find out for ourselves.

And after that brief report, I'll leave you with this audio-only clip of the new song from Jay-Z and Kanye West because, well, I don't think I'll ever get too old for good hip-hop and because this song, "Otis," just makes truly audacious use of the Otis Redding song "Try a Little Tenderness." Their collaborative album, "Watch The Throne," which will easily set the record for the most ego ever assembled on one record, is set to hit the Web Aug. 1 and then record stores on Aug. 5. Enjoy, and have a perfectly adequate Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ron Howard to explore dark side of Mormon history, and more cheery stuff

I'm usually not one to get too excited for simple movie posters, but the movie fall is getting so close (at least in my sun-fried mind) that I can already envision it, and "Let the Right One In" director Tomas Alfredson's take on "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is certainly one of the movies I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year, so just wanted to share this. As you can see from the poster above, these will be some rather star-packed spy games when this opens hopefully wide enough to reach my little corner of the world Nov. 18.

And in the closest thing to fresh movie news in this post, Ron Howard, having lost his multi-layered production of "The Dark Tower," has now set his sights on Mormons, but not the cute, cuddly kind that won "South Park" masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone the top Tony.

Instead, Howard will team up with scribe Dustin Lance Black ("Milk" and Clint Eastwood's upcoming J. Edgar Hoover biopic) for a movie based on Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven." As many probably know, Krakauer is also the author of "Into the Wild," which Sean Penn turned into easily one of my favorite movies of the last five years or so.

"Under the Banner of Heaven" tells the story of a double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with this "divinely inspired" crime, Krakauer continues on for an investigation of the Mormon faith as a whole. Heady stuff that, and should it happen to drop just as we might have a Mormon running for president? Stay tuned ...

And speaking of unsavory characters (behold the power of the segue!), Kevin Costner has already made it easy to hate him through the years, but it seems he'll take this to a whole new level with Quentin Tarantino's next movie, "Django Unchained."

Having read the script for this (which is uniformly excellent), I can confirm that the character he'll play, Ace Woody, stands out as the most vile person in a cast packed with them. Woody trains the mandingos who fight for the pleasure of Candyland ranch owner Calvin Candie, to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Which makes the only missing piece in Tarantino's sprawling "Southern" finding an actress to play Broomhilda, and with the truly great Kerry Washington up for this, things are rounding into shape in very good, if truly odd form (by the way, I've said it here many a time before, but "Night Catches Us," a '70s period piece of sorts set in Philly and starring Washington and Anthony Mackie, is a can't-miss video rental.)

But getting back to "Django Unchained," if you can get past the racial language that permeated the script and I have to assume will make it on screen, it's as witty as anything Tarantino has written and truly epic in scope too. The movie will tell the story of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who teams up with a freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx, bizarre), to take out slave owners and eventually work to free Django's wife, Broomhilda, who works at Candyland. Just picture how wild all that could be, and I think you'll agree that if he somehow pulls all this off, QT should deliver quite the movie present on Christmas day of 2012.

And all I have left after that today are a couple of videos that caught my eye this morning. Having just finished the U.K. run of "Torchwood" and watched the first Starz-produced installment of "Torchwood: Miracle Day," I just have a hankering for more witty and smart sci-fi. In recent memory, very few TV shows delivered that combo better than Joss Whedon's way-too-short-lived "Firefly," so here, courtesy of Sci Fi Wire, is a clip compiling their 25 best quotes from the series. Enjoy

And what better way to wrap things up on a Wednesday morning than with zombies being bludgeoned back to death? Like the zombies themselves, this wordless promo for the second season of "The Walking Dead" is probably a bit ripe by now, having premiered during Sunday's return of AMC's "Breaking Bad," but I like it, so enjoy, and keep an eye out for the show returning in October. Peace out.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Men of a Certain Age" are dead, but will "Friday Night Lights" shine on?

“Peter Berg told us he wants to do an FNL movie with Chandler/Britton off the final episode.”

As what you can without exaggeration call a rather huge fan of the recently deceased (just last night, in fact) "Friday Night Lights," the above tweet from Bill Simmons, aka The Sports Guy, definitely caught my eye this morning.

And while fans of TV shows that die, albeit with "FNL" after a five-year run that was quite impressive, always make the case for a movie to follow, this time it actually makes sense.

The show started out, after all, as a popular movie directed by Peter Berg, before going to develop a much richer panorama of characters in its TV life. And though I haven't seen the finale yet (it's aging like a fine wine on my DVR, mostly because it's hard to say goodbye to what I really think has been the best drama on network TV in the last 10 years or so), so I don't know what it set up for Kyle Chandler's Coach and Connie Britton's Tami Taylor, high school football is certainly a popular enough subject to warrant going forward with this, if all the right people (including show runner Jason Katims) are involved.

Besides, I haven't liked a Peter Berg movie since "The Kingdom," and last I looked he was dirtying his hands with a movie of the game Battleship (yes, really), so he'd certainly be better off pursuing this. 'Nuff said.

And moving on to another show I've come to love that certainly won't be heading to a movie theater anywhere near you or me, TNT has just cancelled the perpetually ratings-challenged "Men of a Certain Age."

Not terribly surprising news there, but disheartening all the same. The show definitely moved at its own extremely slow pace, but in doing so dived into the lives of the characters played by co-creator Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and the truly great Andre Braugher in rich and satisfying detail.

But I guess when your fans pretty much match the title of your show and you certainly don't fit in on a cookie-cutter network that specializes in facile buddy-buddy fare ("Franklin and Bash" and "Rizzoli & Isles," for example, neither of which I've seen), a two-year, 22-episode run is pretty much the best you can wish for. And with that, I'm off for a mundanely busy day of shopping, laundry and cooking, hopefully leavened with a viewing of that new "Winnie the Pooh" movie, which this man of a certain age still has plenty of time for. Peace out.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Great things coming for the kid in all of us - especially me - from Scorsese and Aardman

Actually, the photo above is one of six or so album cover creations by Next Movie in honor of the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," which you may have heard of by now. You can see them all by clicking here, but I just chose the Snape/Elvis because it's an easy classic and Alan Rickman just rules.

And before we get into the aforementioned great things for kids, both in spirit and in actuality, there's some news out there today from 24 Frames that, while it does involve Santa Claus, really couldn't have less to do with younguns. And if you've seen the original movie, you already know what I'm talking about.

We've been on a pretty solid winning streak for R-rated comedies lately ("Bridesmaids" and "Bad Teacher" have been my favorites this summer), but for me, "Bad Santa" is really just about the best one of the last 10 years or so, mostly because of its joyously unfiltered and thoroughly funny filth, with a genuine holiday spirit somehow still running through the whole thing.

And now, this morning, comes word that Dimension Films has commissioned two competing scribes, Johnny Rosenthal and John Phillips (neither of whom I know anything about), to pen scripts for a "Bad Santa 2," with the winner hopefully getting made and the other one, if it's not just horrible, possibly saved for a "Bad Santa 3." Sequels can often turn my stomach as much as anyone, but I'm a true "Bad Santa" believer, so I can just say bring it on. And every day is really a little bit better with a little "Bad Santa," so here's just a taste of veryfunnylittleman Tony Cox and the late, great Bernie Mac (in, don't say I didn't warn you, a truly and blissfully foul-mouthed clip) before we move on to today's main courses. Enjoy.

OK, moving on to today's main clips (and just about as far away from "Bad Santa" as you can get), the honor of following up that truly foul bit goes to Martin Scorsese, who has really delivered a winner with this first trailer for "Hugo," even if he has obnoxiously shortened the title of one of my favorite books from "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" (was that really too long? Sheesh.)

I'm hardly a moralist, even when it comes to kids' movies, and I wouldn't be a very good one if I ever wanted to be, but along with less fart jokes, what they could really use is much less product placement and more of the three W's, wonder, whimsy and wacky. Well, when it comes to the first two, I haven't been as psyched for a young folks' movie as I am for "Hugo" since Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are," which I still watch a couple of times a year and will never tire of. Except for the awful music, this trailer for Scorsese's Thanksgiving flick starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law and Sacha Baron Cohen gets just about everything else right, and I can promise it will be the only time in the foreseeable future that I'll spring for anything in 3-D. Enjoy.

And when it comes to the wacky, it really doesn't get much better than the claymation offerings from Aardman, best of all the "Wallace & Gromit" collection. For anyone who may not know, a fire struck the main warehouse storing most of Aardman's best stuff in 2005, wiping out, as Nick park put it at the time, the studio's "entire history."

Since then, however, and with a big assist from Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman has rebounded in a big way, and soon (well, March 12 in the U.S. of A., so fairly soon) will be back on the big screen with "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." As you'll see from the first trailer below, it's as loopy as ever, and somehow stars Hugh Grant as the voice of Pirate Captain. Enjoy, and have a great weekend. And if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some swimming and then try to squeeze into a matinee of that "Harry Potter" flick. Peace out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quick hits: The funniest thing I've seen today, and then the creepiest, too

I really have nothing at all against Adam Sandler. The man's clearly having a lot of fun, and his movies entertain many, many people who aren't me, so bully.

That said, I couldn't even have brought myself to watch the trailer for his next movie, "Jack and Jill" (he plays both parts, natch) unless some clever soul hadn't managed to splice it together with this clip of George C. Scott from the 1979 movie "Hardcore." This treatment is sure to be given to tons of trailers after this, but this is the first time I've seen it, and it's a hoot. Enjoy, and if "Jack and Jill" is your kind of thing, keep an eye out for the movie Nov. 11.

And secondly today, I just find Steven Soderbergh one of the most maddening of directors. He's clearly a very talented man, and has made some movie I adore ("Out of Sight" and "The Limey" are just a couple that come to mind), but the cool detachment that proved so fitting for those flicks doomed other to be simply unwatchable (if, like me, you sat through all five hours or so of his "Che" movie, which I conned mi hermano into doing with me, you have my condolences.)

You do have to give him credit, however, for trying all kinds of things, and next up will be the rather epic horror movie with a very self-explanatory title: "Contagion." And the trailer for this outbreak flick coming out Sept. 9 is indeed thoroughly creepy, at least to me. As you'll see below, the rather star-stocked flick stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Bryan Cranston and even Reel Fanatic fave John Hawkes, too. Enjoy the trailer, and have a great weekend. For me, it will mean seeing both "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and probably "Winnie the Pooh," too. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday news, of Spike Lee, Errol Morris and a small clip show

Actually, let's start with the photo above, which I'm sure everyone can tell is a photo of Woody Allen and Penelope Cruz on the set of his new film, "The Bop Decameron," in Rome. Why? Because I always like seeing Penelope Cruz, and with Woody's "Midnight in Paris" being my second-favorite movie so far of 2011 (behind only Thomas McCarthy's "Win Win"), you can certainly say I'm psyched to see what he cooks up on the next stop of his late-in-life European tour.

And after that, though the news about Spike Lee returning in a big way may be a bit old now, so am I, and besides, to me it's easily the biggest story of the week, and there's something new to report about his "Oldboy" remake.

Before he makes that, in better news, Mr. Lee is apparently already at work on a low-budget flick that will have him playing Mookie once again. Think for a minute about just how good that could be. The movie, called "Red Hook Summer," is about "an adult from Atlanta who comes and spends the summer in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY."

That doesn't say a whole lot about where this might go, but as Lee fans will certainly know, the last time he made a big splash in Brooklyn in a very hot summer was with a little movie called "Do the Right Thing," so certainly stay tuned for more on this as soon as I can find out.

And Mr. Lee, apparently eager to get busy after his too-long hiatus from making big-budget feature films, has also signed on to direct Mandate Pictures' "Oldboy" remake, and there's good news today about how that might just come together.

Twitchfilm was the first to correctly report that Mr. Lee was going to direct this (the best way it could happen, since there's clearly no way to stop it), and the site is now reporting that Josh Brolin is being pursued for the main role. Without spoiling too much for anyone who somehow hasn't seen the original (do so, please!), he would play the American version of Oh-Dae Su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years before he finally gets to seek revenge on his unknown captors.

Perfect casting there, I'd say, so here's hoping it actually happens.

And there's other news out there this morning about another of my favorite directors who likes to move between the worlds of documentary and feature films, Errol Morris. In theaters in at least some corners of the world, he'll soon have a new documentary, "Tabloid," with the rather juicy subject matter of a model who allegedly kidnapped a Mormon to sex him up. I'm sure it's all more complicated than that, and it's just a great match for Morris.

For his next project, however, he'll be venturing into the world of feature films with a movie about cryogenics based on a the book "We Froze the First Man" by Robert F. Nelson and a "This American Life" segment titled "You're Cold as Ice." For me, Morris has always been at his best when he delves into the truly odd, as with "Mr. Death" and "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control," so this should be a real treat.

And now comes word that Paul Rudd has signed on to play the lead in this as-yet-untitled flick. It's unclear yet if he'll play the first man to be cryogenically preserved or Nelson, who helped invent the technology in the 1960s. Either way, this should be nothing but fun, so stay tuned.

OK, now on to the videos, and where better to start than with something new from Studio Ghibli, especially since, in Japan at least, it's coming out very soon. "From Up on Poppy Hill," directed by Goro Miyazaki from a screenplay by his father, one Hayao Miyazaki, it tells the story of a group of Yokahama teens who try to save their school's clubhouse from being torn down in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The real treat from Studio Ghibli will be "Porco Rosso 2," which the elder Miyazaki is at work on now, but in the meantime enjoy this teaser for his son's flick, which looks like a real winner too.

As far as the clips go, it's almost all about cartoons here today, but that's the way I like it, and I'm the author here, so deal with it. Next up comes the most thorough trailer I've seen yet for "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn." I still say that Tintin just looks way too modern in this, but it should still be a pretty good Christmas gift from Steven Spielberg to finish up this year. Enjoy.

OK, I know this weekend is all about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," and I'll certainly go see that, probably on Friday, but there's also a "Winnie the Pooh" movie opening this weekend, and even though I don't have any little kids to drag with me, I think I'll sneak in to see that, too. After all, with two or three new songs from Zooey Deschanel and a good, old-fashioned story about Pooh and all his friends, what's not to like? Enjoy this trailer, and don't be afraid to unleash your inner little kid this weekend.

And where better to end up on a Wednesday morning than with a free movie, especially when it's "Repo Man," not to be confused with that "Repo Men" flick from a couple of years ago. That's right, this is the one with Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Esteves and all kinds of punky fun, so enjoy it, and have a perfectly endurable Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: "American: The Bill Hicks Story"

Though he only lived to be 32 years old, comedian Bill Hicks packed a lot of life into that short span, as does the lovingly made and visually wild documentary "American: The Bill Hicks Story," now streaming on Netflix and available on DVD.

It's a movie made by fans and for fans of the stand-up comic with an eviscerating wit, but also serves as a good introduction to a very talented performer who often toiled in anonymity in the country he called home but embraced with complicated emotions.

But before I get into more about the movie, it's good to know a little more about the man himself, too. Born in Valdosta, his family moved at an early age to Houston, Texas, where he would sneak out of the house as a teenager to perform as a comedy duo with a friend at one of Houston's main comedy clubs.

Much of the early appeal of "American" comes in seeing his style develop, from a good young comedian with an already wicked smile, to one who would later show a much darker and funnier side, drawing inspiration from his anger as he delivered sobering diatribes on consumerism, war, drugs or whatever else piqued his interest that night.

And like his comedy, which certainly won't appeal to everyone and never tries to, Hicks' short life was full of contradictions.

Though he at first embraced alcohol and other drugs as a way of liberating his voice, he eventually gave them all up except cigarettes, which he could never kick. And though Hicks was an often harsh critic of American politics, he clearly yearned to be as accepted here as he was overseas, especially in Great Britain, where he really became a star.

Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas bottle all this up into a movie that tells Hicks' story in an unconventional but always inviting style, using family photographs and stories mixed with footage of Hicks on stage to create an almost animated dreamscape that's extremely fitting to its complicated subject. So, if your sensibilities can take it, take some time this weekend to meet Bill Hicks in a movie that burns as brightly has he himself did in his all-too-short life.

Friday, July 08, 2011

First look at Meryl Streep as the Iron lady and, oh yeah, Sarah Palin too

No, none of those are either Sarah Palin, Meryl Streep or Margaret Thatcher, but the dwarves are what really make "The Hobbit" my favorite of Tolkein's novels, so I couldn't resist. They actually are, in full costme from Peter Jackson's upcoming flick, the dwarves Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy) and Ori (Adam Brown). Bully.

And before we get into the two videos that make the title, there's a bit of news about what exactly Judd Apatow's next directing effort will look like, and since it involves veryfunnywoman Melissa McCarthy, here it is.

The flick, fortunately apparently known as "This is Forty," picks up five years after "Knocked Up" and looks at the lives of Debbie and Pete, played by Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. And joining them along with McCarthy will be "Knocked Up" vet Charlene Yi (always very funny), "Bridesmaids" co-star Chris O'Dowd, Lena Dunham and Albert Brooks, among others.

Here's what I know: O’Dowd and Dunham will play employees at the record label that Pete now runs, while McCarthy will play the Mom of "Super 8" star Ryan Lee, whose character attends the same school that Pete and Debbie’s kids (aka Judd Apatow's kids) go to.

I'm fairly certain I've never used the word ironic correctly, but it's at least odd that Apatow, who pretty much launched the R-rated comedy renaissance we're now enjoying (mostly), risks being left behind with more serious work such as "Funny People" (which I really didn't care for much at all) and possibly now this. But since he's stocking this new one, tentatively due out in June 2012, with genuinely funny people, here's hoping it's a winner. Stay tuned ...

And now on to, as promised, a couple of trailers, the first of which features Meryl Streep doing, not surprisingly, a rather uncanny impression of Margaret Thatcher. Her performance in "The Iron Lady," which chronicles Thatcher's rise to power and is due out in the U.S. of A. on Dec. 16, will surely do more than that, but for now enjoy this brief glimpse and then stick around for, yes, Sarah Palin.

To watch more, visit tag

As pure, shameless propaganda, which I always respect, this trailer for "The Undefeated," in some theaters now and apparently expanding, is pretty first-rate. I'll keep most of the commentary to myself and just let you decide, except for this: when "DAUGHTER," "WIFE," "MOTHER" and then "WARRIOR" came on the screen, I kept waiting for "QUITTER" to be added to the end, but I guess they left that part out. Anyways, "enjoy" the trailer, and have a perfectly great weekend. Peace out.

The Undefeated Teaser Trailer from Dain Valverde on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bombs Away: 10 2011 box office duds

Summer is the season of box office hits, but here (with credit to The Hollywood Reporter for the numbers) is a look at 10 movies that didn't come close to qualifying for that title.

Mars Needs Moms
Wow. How could so few people turn out for a movie based on a book by Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed? Robert Zemeckis' movie isn't just the biggest bomb of this year, but after pulling in about $39 million worldwide and costing at least $150 million to make, it's easily one of the biggest box office disasters of all time, and thankfully will hopefully keep Zemeckis from laying his remake hands on the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."

Your Highness
I pretty thoroughly enjoy a well-made raunchy comedy ("Bad Teacher," still in theaters, is a good example), but "Your Highness" certainly wasn't one of them. The stoner comedy that cost about $50 million to produce created very little buzz at all, taking in only $21.6 million domestically and a mere $3 million overseas.

Only you can stop the '80s remake machine, and moviegoers certainly did their part with this dud starring Russell Brand, who I usually like quite a bit. The "comedy" took in $33 domestically and another $12.7 million overseas, giving it at least a slightly larger haul than its production budget of about $40 million.

Was there really a Disney movie this year that only took in $10 million at the domestic box office? If you didn't know it was something called "Prom," you're clearly far from alone. In relative terms, I suppose it's hard to really call this one a "bomb," since it only cost $8 million to make, but I guess in this case you get what you pay for.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
The folks behind this potential kids movie tentpole were clearly hoping Judy Moody would follow this one up with perhaps a Not Forlorn Fall and then maybe a Not Woeful Winter (as some kids must know, the actual titles of these are probably much more clever than mine), but with the $20 million movie only taking in $13.4 million so far, Judy's movie calendar may have already run out.

Green Lantern
Have we finally reached the breaking point with super hero overload? There will be another test coming July 22 when "Captain America: The First Avenger" hits theaters, but with "Green Lantern," all signs point to yes, with the movie costing at least $200 million to produce and expected to rake in no more than $260 million or so worldwide. Not a disaster, though, and in fact, there's already plans for a sequel, so what do I know?

Finally, a vampire movie that no one wanted to see. The action movie starring Paul Bettany as a holy man who hunts down bloodsuckers cost about $60 million to produce, and took in a mere $29.1 million domestically, but caught up a bit overseas by taking in another $46 million.

Sucker Punch
Along with being a box office bomb, Zack Snyder's truly bizarre fantasy-revenge mess holds the double distinction of being both one of the movies I was most looking forward to for this year and also the single worst one I've seen so far in 2011, by a pretty wide margin. The flick, which cost about $82 million, took in just $36.3 million domestic and $53.4 million overseas, and to add insult to injury, didn't even open at No. 1, losing out to "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" (and having seen them both, I can confirm that the Wimpy Kid turned in a much better movie.)

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
The original "Hoodwinked!" was the very definition of a sleeper, taking in more than $100 million worldwide with little fanfare, but this sequel turned out to be pretty much the complete opposite, with a production budget of about $30 million and a domestic box office take of just $10 million or so, supplemented by a scant $3.6 million overseas.

The Beaver
No, this movie about a crazy Mel Gibson wasn't a documentary, and nor was it seen by just about anyone in the world. Costing $20 million to make, it made no box office impression at all, taking in less than $1 million domestic before disappearing. I'm no economics master, but I'm pretty sure that adds up to a disaster.

And I'll leave you with simply a brief preview of tonight's sure-to-be very funny episode of "Louie." Packaged with the extremely funny "Wilfred," FX has a great pair of comedies at a time when there is very little else on, so give them a chance if you haven't yet. Peace out.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Wednesday clip show, with "Curb," cancer as comedy and much more

Actually, before we get into any of that, there's some intriguing movie news out there today, so let's get right to it.

Though he hasn't made a traditional feature film since 2008's "Miracle at St. Anna," which was really just a well-intentioned mess, Spike Lee has nonetheless been doing some of the best work of his career lately, largely in the shadows. His two New Orleans documentaries, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" and "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," are both sensational, and his movie of the Broadway musical "Passing Strange" was easily one of my favorite movies of 2009.

And now it seems that Mr. Lee is finally ready to get back to big-time moviemaking, and with a project that couldn't be stopped even if we wanted to, so why not? Given that Hollywood remakes even thoroughly average foreign movies all the time, it's only inevitable that Park Chan Wook's excellent revenge flick "Oldboy" would get that treatment, and now Mr. Lee's name has been attached as the possible director for it.

This project has been gestating for a while now, but in some earlier form it was being eyed as a vehicle for Will Smith to star in, and since he turned down the lead role in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (HUGE mistake, that), he may still be interested.

No matter how this all turns out, here's hoping that the part about Spike at least turns out to be real, because he's been gone for far too long.

OK, to transition into the videos, let's start with news about one of my very favorite funnymen, J.B. Smoove of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He'll return with the show this Sunday on HBO, and after that now comes word that he'll be starring in Sacha Baron Cohen's latest prank, "The Dictator." It's at least supposedly "inspired" by Saddam Hussein's novel "Zabibah and the King," and is about a despot who "risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come the country he so lovingly oppressed," according to Paramount.

I don't know anything else about what Smoove will have to do with this except that his character is called "Usher," but with this being directed by "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Borat" helmer Larry Charles, I'm expecting some truly inspired madness this time out.

And keeping with "Curb," which I'm thoroughly jazzed for, the eighth season finally comes to HBO this Sunday, and it will bring Larry David where he belongs, back to New York, along with guest stars Ricky Gervais and Michael J. Fox, among others. Enjoy this final preview clip, and tune in Sunday for the return of Larry "yelling for society," as we all should.

OK, continuing with the clips, the first trailer today is for a flick that I had forgotten all about, but looks like it could be a real sleeper hit this fall. Once known as "I'm With Cancer," I believe, the flick, now known as "50/50, stars Reel Fanatic faves Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick, plus Seth Rogen and many others too, in a movie based on Will Reiser's battle with cancer. The movie, due out Sept. 30, is at least kind of a comedy, and a thoroughly human one at that, so just my kind of thing. Enjoy.

"The Help" is going to be an extremely chicky movie, and probably one that will have people reaching for their hankies, but I'm still betting it will be a lot of fun, too. After all, it's based on Kathyrn Stockett's mostly great but not perfect novel "The Help" and features Emma Stone in the role that should finally make her a bona fide big star. Stone plays Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young woman who organizes the black maids of Jackson, Miss., of the '60s to tell their stories. Keep an eye out for this as counterprogramming to the standard slate of late summer comedies on Aug. 10, and enjoy this second trailer made for the UK.

I've already seen Kevin McDonald's "Life in a Day" when it premiered earlier this year on YouTube, but it was definitely good enough that I will again on the big screen if I get a chance when it hits at least a few theaters starting July 24. For the documentary, McDonald, director of "The Last King of Scotland" and other movies, gave people around the word cameras and asked them to describe what happened in their lives on July 24, 2010. The result is fascinating to watch, so definitely go see this if you can, and enjoy this trailer.

I'm about halfway through season two of "Torchwood" now on my Netflix streaming, and the "Doctor Who" spinoff about an alien hunting agency remains pretty spectacular summer TV viewing. What will happen when the show crosses the pond for season four and premieres on Starz on Friday night with many new cast members? It could very well be a disaster, but I'm hoping not, of course, and hoping that Netflix's deal with Starz will put the new season on streaming very soon. Enjoy this clip from the new season, "Miracle Day," featuring Bill Pullman.

And finally today, where better to leave off than with a free movie, especially when it's "Easy Rider," the perfect way to escape from thinking about your actual Wednesday morning. Enjoy the movie in its entirety, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

What's next for Studio Ghibli: The first UK trailer for "Arrietty"

The other day at work, my fellow cubicle slave (and damn fine reporter) Mike Stucka and I were discussing the worst animated movies we had ever seen, and I somewhat facetiously mentioned "Cars" (though I do truly loathe that movie).

I eventually settled on "Chicken Little" for my pick, and I firmly stand by it, and he chose, sight unseen, "Anastasia," because as he said (and I'm probably paraphrasing by now), "why would you take a kid to a movie about an entire family being gunned down"?

Solid point, that, and all that got me thinking about what are actually my favorite animated movies, and found that they come from only two directors, Brad Bird and Hayao Miyazaki (hey, I know what I like). In order, they are:

1. "The Iron Giant"
2. "Kiki's Delivery Service"
3. "Ratatouille"
4. "Porco Rosso"
5. "The Incredibles"

And I tell you all that to tell you this, though thankfully Miyazaki is again at work on a new movie, and even better its the sequel "Porco Rosso 2" (due out in 2012), the next Studio Ghibli offering is something called "Arrietty," directed by studio animator Hiromasa Yonebashi.

Based on May Norton's "The Borrowers" series of novels, it's about a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a human family's house. And below is the first trailer I know of for the UK version, which, for some reason, will be different, voice-wise, from the American version, which is set to come out Feb. 17.

Any Ghibli, however, is potentially great Ghibli to me, so enjoy the trailer and have a great rest of the weekend. Peace out.