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Post-Turkey Day film news bites

A few items as Hollywood finishes digesting its turkey and stuffing.

* Paramount has picked up “Area 51,” the science fiction follow-up to the ridiculously profitable “Paranormal Activity” from writer-director Oren Peli. Somewhat to my disappointment, this one will also use the “found footage” gimmick, though I guess we can assume that with an exponentially larger budget — $5 million (about enough to pay for craft services on some films) as opposed to $15,000 — Peli will at least attempt to spread his wings creatively. One reason to give him props, however, is that the film has already wrapped principal photography. We can’t accuse the Israel-born former video game designer of failing to strike while the iron’s hot!

Matt Damon and Julia Styles in * It appears that The Playlist broke the story that it appears that the very talented Paul Greengrass has left the helm of “Bourne 4″ and if he goes, Matt Damon may not be far behind. Still, at this point it’s a tale without an ending in more ways than one

* Kim Masters considers “Avatar” and Robert Zemeckis’s motion capture and 3-D work as featured currently in “A Christmas Carol.” To me, they’re creatively too different beasts in that James Cameron‘s creations aren’t trying so hard to be realistic, which I think is the real reason for the “ugly” problem with the creator of Roger Rabbit’s more recent work. As for the “Avatar” characters, I’m not sure I’m going to love them yet, either, but we’ll see when the movie’s out. I’m also not at all sure that movies need to be revolutionized in quite this way.

* Over at Film Threat, Gary Morris of the highbrowish Bright Lights Film Journal is interviewed. Among the topics: interviews like this one. Don’t fear the meta. (H/t The Auteurs on Twitter.)

* It technically ended yesterday, but the Boris Karloff Blogathon, hosted where else but at Frankensteinia, lives on with tons of material still coming in submitted by innumerable bloggers about the late, great character actor who originated the role of Frankenstein’s monster in 1931. Definitely worth many looks.

The vocal there is quite obviously reconstructed using the original recording by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. If you want to hear the actual vocal from the 1965 episode of “Shindig” featuring the real Boris Karloff, you may hear it here.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Fox picks up Matthew McConaughey’s “Rooster”

McConaughey

Fox has teamed with Matthew McConaughey to executive produce “Rooster,” an animated series based on the laid back actor’s brother, Mike “Rooster” McConaughey.

“My brother’s life is so unbelievable, we had to animate it,” McConaughey said. (case in point: Mike’s second son was named “Miller Lyte,” after his favorite frosty beverage)

The series will follow a redneck sheriff who marries a younger Mexican woman, only to inherit her 114-plus relatives.

The show was reportedly part of a bidding war between Comedy Central, TBS and Fox, with the latter emerging as the eventual winner. Matthew will serve as executive producer on the series, via his production company, J.K. Livin’ Production.

This should satisfy fans of “King of the Hill,” the long-running series from Mike Judge which went off the air this year. Since Seth McFarlane’s slate and “The Simpsons” already populate Sunday nights on Fox, we can expect “Rooster” to air during a different night.

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Evangelion: 1.01 – You Are (Not) Alone

One of my first experiences with anime was Hideaki Anno’s beloved 1995 series, “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which was so good that it ruined just about every anime for me after that. It’s been more than ten years since I last saw “Evangelion” in its entirety, so when Funimation announced that they’d be bringing Anno’s four part re-imagining of the series stateside, I couldn’t wait to watch it all over again. Though much of the buzz surrounding the “Rebuild of Evangelion” tetralogy is due to the addition of new content, the first installment is a fairly straightforward retelling of the first six episodes where 14-year-old Shinji Ikari is recruited by a government organization called NERV to pilot a giant cyborg and fight back against an army of mysterious beings known only as Angels. With the exception of a few minor changes in the story, however, the only thing that’s really different compared to the original series is the animation. The entire film has even been given a digital polish (and the results are astounding), while some scenes have been re-rendered in CG. It’s still the “Evangelion” you know and love, only with a much-deserved upgrade.

Click to buy “Evangelion: 1.01 – You Are (Not) Alone”

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3 questions with Iron Chef Jose Garces

Chef Jose Garces was not new to the Iron Chef brand before he was cast as a contestant on Season 2 of “The Next Iron Chef” on Food Network. He had competed against Iron Chef Bobby Flay in an episode of “Iron Chef America” and had defeated Flay in Kitchen Stadium, something that may have spring-boarded him into his role as the newest Iron Chef after winning Season 2 last week. Garces defeated Jehangir Mehta of New York City in the battle of ribs and racks to win the crown, and he owns and operates several restaurants in both Philadelphia and Chicago.

We had the chance to ask Chef Garces a few questions after his big win last weekend….

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Saul Bass on a Sunday night

Two great titles sequences by the master designer, plus an homage.

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The Limits of Control

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, “The Limits of Control,” has been categorized as a thriller, and I’m not really sure why. You see, to qualify for that genre, not only does there need to be some kind of underlying tension in the story, but an actual story needs to exist. There are crumbs of plot development scattered throughout – something to do with a man (Isaach De Bankolé) sent to Spain on a secret mission – but it goes nowhere fast as the audience is forced to watch him perform menial tasks like sleeping, meditating, and waiting around for his next contact. All of the people he meets with greet him the same way, and one of them – a lustful woman played by Paz de la Huerta – is completely naked throughout, seemingly for no particular reason other than to tempt Bankolé’s reserved assassin. This has to be one of the dullest films ever made. Jarmusch isn’t so much telling a story as basking in the beauty of Spain, and though Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is as gorgeous as ever, it’s the film’s only redeeming trait. Falling somewhere between “Coffee and Cigarettes” and “Ghost Dog” in tone, “The Limits of Control” is simply too pretentious for its own good. You’d be wise to keep the remote nearby for this one, because you’ll be fast-forwarding more than you’d like to admit.

Click to buy “The Limits of Control”

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“New Moon” rises while sinking; Thanksgiving box office gets hit on “The Blind Side”

My Wednesday prediction that this would be a healthy Thanksgiving weekend at the box office certainly proved true — and it was nice to see it wasn’t at the rest of the economy’s expense: holiday shopping actually went up slightly this year and went up a lot more virtually. Also, the movie everyone expected to hit number actually did one hit number one. However, looking beneath the surface just slightly, movie consumers were making some interesting choices.

The argument prognosticators were making last week was that Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” pretty much had to come out on top because, considering its $142 million+ opening weekend, even if it suffered a catastrophic drop in its second weekend, it still would be ahead of everything else, and that’s pretty much what happened. The vampire-werewolf-human love triangle dropped a massive 70% but, as reported by Box Office Mojo‘s weekend chart and trade mag writers jolly Carl DiOrio and Pamela McClintock, it still earned an estimated $42.5. That was a mere $2.375 million ahead of this week’s surprise #2 film, “The Blind Side,” which not only actually won the box office race on Thanksgiving day (which is not included in the weekend tallies) but came refreshingly close to winning the weekend with $40.125 million. The five day total for the films offer a bit more air between the #1 and #2 spots, with an estimated $66 million for “New Moon” and just over $57.5 for “The Blind Side.”

blindside

The impressive aspect of the Sandra Bullock-led sports film/cross-cultural family drama combo is that it did something I don’t remember seeing whenever I’ve been paying close attention to grosses.  In a world where we think it’s good if a film drops less than 45-50% on its second weekend, “The Blind Side” actually climbed 17.6% on its second go-round without a significant expansion (it went from being in 3,310 theaters to 3,340). I haven’t seen the film but I will say that this seems to be a sign that it’s possible what attracts most audiences today isn’t so different from what attracted them 50 or 75 years ago.

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Trailers: French spoken here

Three very cool trailers you won’t be seeing at the multiplex this weekend.

As you might imagine, this one features some tasteful, yet incredibly sexy, sixties style female nudity. You have been warned/attracted. It’s also Jean-Luc Godard’s idea of a musical.

If that last trailers interests you, check out my Bullz-Eye review of Costa-Gavris’s “Z.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOyEj2SKVCQ

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The ultimate movie countdown

This guy has my definite respect. Is it parody of movie lists, a fun movie game, or a kind of poetry? You decide.

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Happy Birthday, Bruce Lee

The San Francisco-born, Hong Kong-raised master of martial arts would have been sixty-nine years old today. Here’s a brutally effective scene from “Fist of Fury” a.k.a. “The Big Boss” — sorry about not very good dubbing in the set-up, but this is how almost every one of my generation in the States first saw these films.

And’s here’s a brief clip from of one of Lee’s small roles in mainstream American films. Watch as the young actor does a number on the office belonging to James Garner as Raymond Chandler’s legendary P.I. in 1969′s “Marlowe.”

Looking at these scenes, it’s clear that Lee had several times the presence of many superstars. It would have been interesting to see how far he would have been allowed to go as an Asian-American if he’d survived the see the release of “Enter the Dragon.” Even today, it seems like the glass ceiling for Asian-American actors is borderline impenetrable and doubly so, for whatever reason, if they’re male and not already superstars in Asia, but that’s another blog post.

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