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No fooling, it’s Thor’s-day at the movies

I don’t usually do these kind of posts on Thursdays, and it’s April Fools’ Day. However, there’s simply too much apparently non-joking, actual movie news to leave for Friday. So, here we go.

* Of course, in Hollywood, it’s not always easy to spot the April Fool’s story from the real thing. That’s why IESB frontloads their big possible, eventual scoop today with all sorts of promises that they’re not joking. Anyhow, it appears that #1 cult creator Joss Whedon, most recently of “Dollhouse” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” fame, is supposedly on the short list to direct “The Avengers,” currently being penned by Zak Penn.

avengers

If you’re skeptical about this, you’re far from alone. Just check out the slightly quizzical reaction from Whedon’s robotic and slavishly devoted cult — of which I am a known member — over at Whedonesque. (I’ve even forgiven Whedon for listening too much to Rahm Emmanuel and selling out to big pharma and not fighting hard enough to keep the public option in the health care bill….Oh, wait, wrong blog.) Still, Whedon’s known for staying in touch with his fans. I strongly suspect that, if the story were completely unfounded, he’d have posted something about it by now.

One creative point. Some fans seem skeptical that a collaboration between Penn and Whedon could work. Well, of course, Whedon has actually done any number of rewrites and polishes on other people’s scripts — a lot of folks give him credit for most of the wittier portions of “Speed” — and though Penn has been involved with some pretty conventionally dull flicks in his day, he’s not completely lacking imagination and humor. His little seen 2004 comedy-thriller mock-documentary, “Incident at Loch Ness,” has some remarkably hilarious moments,  most of them courtesy of Werner Herzog, playing himself and also taking a cowriting credit. If Penn’s good enough for Herr Herzog, he’s perhaps good enough for Joss Whedon.

* Speaking of “The Avengers,” the movie about the only actual deity in the group, “Thor,” is currently in production and director Kenneth Branagh talked about the film and his affection for the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/et al comic books in today’s L.A. Times. This was not some random publicity glad-handing but a deliberate effort to squelch some unpleasant — and, to my ear, unlikely — rumors being reported in the tabloid press which allege open on-set criticism/anger directed at newcomer-lead Chris Hemsworth from venerable master thespian Anthony Hopkins, presumably relating to the 26 year-old star’s relative lack of experience, at least compared to Hopkins.  Hopkins, who’ll be playing Thor’s even more venerable dad, Odin, and Branagh have strongly denied the rumors and painted a picture of a happy set.

I was fairly impressed with Hemsworth’s work in the opening of “Star Trek,” so I tend to lean towards the official story here. He’s also a veteran of an Aussie soap, “Home and Away,” and history teaches us that soap vets tend to become pretty good actors when actually allowed time to learn their lines properly and develop characters. I don’t know much about Hopkins on a personal level except that he’s gotten this far in his career without these kind of incidents being an issue that I can think of. I suspect it would take a titanic lack of talent/ability to visibly annoy him at this point.

* Department of gross generalizations: A difference between British and American directors as revealed in that newest of ill-advised show-biz moments: the Twitter hissy fit. (A “Twissy fit”?)

Last week America’s — let’s make that New Jersey’s — Kevin Smith made himself look as bad as he possibly could have with a typically curse-filled diatribe at us, horrible, horrible critics for failing to love his film in the appropriate way even though it had done well enough commercially to pave the way for another, less commercial, film to be greenlit. Lathering himself up into a rage, he imagined himself forcing critics to personally pay to see his films.

Sam Rockwell in Today, Duncan Jones was angry on behalf of his debut feature, “Moon” which starred Sam Rockwell in a somewhat remarkable performance. The film got very good reviews, especially for a first film, but received little publicity and not a lot of box-office. As reported by Anne Thompson, apparently losing his temper because he believed himself to have been shortchanged by manipulations on the part of his studio regarding DVDs, he went on a tirade. Well, his version of a tirade. Behold, the fury of Jones:

Just learned how we got “got” by the studio on Moon, and wont be getting any revenue from it. Very angry.

Shocked yet? Well, feel the heat coming off of this one:

Im actually quite upset right now.

I’m sorry, but I find this rage almost hilariously low key and, well, you know, English. He then deleted the tweets and took it all very politely and diffidently back.

Shouldn’t try to understand revenue reporting. didn’t have all the info. Being assured it’s all as it should be… Will stick to directing!

Not to generalize too much, but it seems to me that, at least via Twitter, English apoplectic rage is a little bit like East Coast American calm.

* Doug Liman, who knows his way around action and comedy but occasionally has problems dealing with the humans and costs involved in filmmaking, is “in negotiations” for what looks to be the non-horrendously awful upcoming new version of “The Three Musketeers” — in 3-D, of course.

* M. Night Shyamalan takes a lot crap from, well, everybody, mainly for the quality of pretty much all of his movies following “Unbreakable” (which I didn’t care much for, either). His newest film won’t have one of his famous tomato surprise twists to hamper it. “The Last Airbender” is an adaptation of a popular anime which presumably has more of an epic storyline. However, some vocal fans are up in arms regarding its casting.

To them, it’s an East Asian story and the film has most of the primary roles going to caucasians. The supporting cast is more mixed, with two fairly well known actors of South Asian ancestry, charismatic Dev Patel of “Slum Dog Millionaire” and the brilliant Aasif Mandvi of “The Daily Show” and, believe it or not, 1998′s controversial and prescient political thriller, “The Siege.” The only East Asian ancestry person with what appears to be a major role is Korean-American Randall Duk Kim. I take it that some of these roles are fairly villainous while the two young leads are whites. Given how few good roles there are for Asian-American actors  I’m tempted to opine a bit here, but I don’t feel I know enough about the original property to wade into this one.

* And, yes, there were a few actual fake April Fools movie stories, though nothing too epic. Snarky geek movie site Pajiba changed its entire reportorial mission to one of bland obedience to their corporate overlords, while Batman movies were a recurring theme in two other items. First, Michael Cera was cast as the Riddler in Christopher Nolan’s third Batman epic. Then, Nolan (and presumably Cera) were fired and replaced by Tim Burton as director and Johnny Depp as the Riddler.

* Breaking: Fake movie-related news story from last summer!

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