“Public Enemy” awaits a verdict; other stuff happens

* There seems to be some concern out in the world about just how well Michael Mann’s new Johnny Depp/Christian Bale vehicle, “Public Enemies,” will fare when it’s released on Wednesday. Mixed reviews, like the one posted today by Den of Geek’s Michael Leader seem fairly typical and it’s possible audiences will feel mehish on the project. (The Tomatometer is currently at a fair-to-middling 64%, but even some of the “fresh” reviews don’t read as outright positive.) Anne Thompson specifically wonders about just how Depp’s huge star power will register and Mann’s decision to shoot a period film in digital, though it’s not the first period action film to be shot that way (“The Last Samurai” comes to mind). Those still reasonably jazzed about the nouveau-gangster flick (and that includes me, even though I’m not a super big Michael Mann fan), may want to check out our “Between Good and Evil” feature over at Bullz-Eye.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she has a festival wrap-up posted (looks like we saw a pretty different selection of films). I’ll be writing about it one-more time tomorrow.

* Nikki Finke has the “actuals” in from “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” It’s $390 million worldwide. I guess that’s enough. She’s also upset over some impending Oscar changes, including a rule that might limit the number of “Best Song” entries and having a separate, non-televised dinner for the humanitarian awards like the Thalberg, which I’ll personally miss, because I’m weird.


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They’re “wild” alright, but are they “wonderful”?

Confession time: Being a bit sleep deprived and apparently under-caffeinated, I nodded off for probably 10-20 minutes of MTV/Dickhouse’s “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” Therefore, I have to be a bit careful about making any sweeping statements about this documentary from filmmaker Julien Nitzberg, a sort of follow-up to Jacob Young’s 1991 short, “The Dancing Outlaw,” which became a viral cult hit. It’s safe to say that judging from what I heard from the crowd — many of whom were fans of the earlier documentary and/or the “Jackass” TV series (which has some fans in the cinegeek world, though I’ve never been moved to watch it) — I might have been the only person in the theater who didn’t have a great time with the film.

The earlier film deal with Jesco White, a gas-huffing Elvis Presley fan whose brain-damaged schizoid psychology and criminal tendencies tend to overshadow his talent as a “mountain dancer,” a sort of bluegrass forerunner to tapdancing. Executive produced by Johnny Knoxville, “The Wild and Wonderful Whites” deals with the ongoing struggles of Jesco’s extended family, led by super-tough, extremely shrewd, ultra-raspy voiced occasional singer Mamie White and on into the more violent third generation members of the clan. There are some captivating moments, in particular Jesco dancing to music provided live by punk country’s own Hank Williams III and the sugary soda-fueled gyrations of one of the youngest Whites, who just might be a dancing chip off the old Jesco White block.

However, apparently somewhat like Slant’s Nick Shager, I was largely left cold by the portion of the film I managed to stay awake through. I’m not sure I’d be as critical of its moral stance, or lack thereof, on the Whites, but I found myself wondering just what the vignettes about the various family members — who are perhaps too numerous for clarity — and their purportedly fun-loving dysfunction add up to. I’m not sure how I feel about the way director Nitzberg flirts with celebrating a clan whose members abuse themselves and each other to this degree. It’s still possible I might find something more there in a less tired state and, if this sounds in any way interesting, you’d be well advised to check out the not so safe for work trailer.

I should also add that, in terms of a crowd vibe, the mood at the Los Angeles Film Festival screening could not have been a happier or more upbeat one. I spoke to some really nice people there who really seemed to enjoy it and “get” the film a lot more than I — and the post-screening dancing by Jesco White, backed up by a terrific bluegrass trio, was something else.


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Here are my problems with the last episode of “Harper’s Island”…

First things first, if you haven’t watched the most recent episode (“Splash”) then you might want to skip to the next post, because there are major spoilers ahead.

I’ll go ahead and insert a jump here so that anyone who proceeds does so willingly.

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The Next Food Network Star: paying for past mistakes

On “The Next Food Network Star” Season 5, there have been some catty moments, and, well, moments of gameplay that border on vicious. So it wasn’t really a big surprise last night when the judges announced who they were eliminating. We’ll get to that in a bit, because this episode had a lot going on, including one of the finest (read: horrific) moments in the show’s history.

The show began with Bobby Flay playing network executive, and telling the remaining seven contestants that they would start off this week’s episode by creating a burger from a specific region of the country (not necessarily where they were from). The winner would have a burger on the menu at Bobby Flay’s new burger joint in Connecticut (book my flight, I want to go there right now). They would then have 30 minutes of camera time to describe their creation.

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A Chat with Kevin Nealon

Kevin Nealon’s been a familiar face on television since his days as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” but in recent years, he’s become more known for his work on Showtime’s long-running series, “Weeds.” Those who can’t afford the premium stations, however, may also see him pop up as the host of TBS’s “World’s Funniest Commercials” specials. Won’t you please join us for…

Kevin Nealon: Hey, Will! How are you doing?

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Kevin, good to talk to you!

KN: Yeah, you, too!

BE: So this is not your first time around the block for TBS.

KN: No, it’s not! It’s starting to add up. (Laughs)

BE: So how did you come to hook up with them in the first place?

KN: Oh, gee, let me see if I can remember. It’s been about…oh, I’m guessing eight years now? Seven or eight years. I think they just kind of came to my agents with this offer to host this show, and I always loved funny commercials. You know, one of the reasons – like a lot of people – that I watch the Super Bowl is for the commercials during it, so I was into that. And, also, I went to school for marketing and learned a lot about commercials then, and I was going to be in advertising, but instead I went into comedy. So there’s a big interest there for me.

BE: Do you have a favorite commercial from this most recent special that really stands out?

KN: Well, there are a couple that I like. There’s one…I think it’s for Berlitz Language School, where a guy’s on the phone and he’s trying to find out how to spell “Def Leppard” because he’s doing a tattoo on somebody’s back. And it’s all in subtitles, but the woman goes, “Do you mean ‘deaf’ as in hearing, or ‘death’ as in dying?” He goes, “Um, I’m not sure.” Then he looks to the person’s back, where he’s just made the tattoo “deaf.” That’s a cool one, and there’s another one for Tabasco that’s from Belgium, where they show a streaker running across a soccer field, the cops are chasing him, and then they stop the action and say, “An hour earlier,” and they show him in a restaurant having Tabasco sauce. They kind of back up the whole thing, from the soccer field leading back up to when he used the Tabasco.

BE: So where did you film this special? I know you film them on location in various places.

KN: Oh, yeah, we’ve done them everywhere! Well, not everywhere, but we’ve done them in California, in Paris, New York. This one happens to be in Chicago, which is great, because I love Chicago.

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