It’s time for midweek movie news

I used to be disgusted, now I try to stay bemused…

* Yes, they weren’t kidding. Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are teaming up to make a Les Grossman movie, declares Nikki Finke. I try never to prejudge films, and I really did think Cruise was hilarious in “Tropic Thunder.” However, I think writer Michael Bacall, Ben Stiller, and whoever winds up directing really have their work cut out for them in terms of this not turning into some kind of inverted ego-fest (“look at me — I’m willing to act all crazy!”) like what we saw on MTV a few nights back.

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* A new James L. Brooks romantic comedy by any name will probably be worth a look, and maybe better than that.

* It’s always seemed to me that the best part of the guilty pleasure appeal of “Entourage” — aside from Ari, Lloyd, and Johnny Drama, anyway — is the lightning fast pacing that nearly always leaves fans wanting more. Now, producer Mark Wahlberg is determined to give us more in the form of a movie to follow up from the conclusion of the television show. I’m concerned about whether he gets the concept of why you want to always leave an audience wanting more. If not, “Entourage”  could become the male equivalent of “Sex and the City” in theaters as well as the small screen.

* I’m getting more and more jazzed about the upcoming Jason Segal/Nicholas Stoller/James Bobin “Muppet” film. This freewheeling AICN interview with Stoller and Jonah Hill, which is naturally mainly about “Get Him to the Greek,” whets my appetite some more. If they can make the material as accessible to kids as they can make it funny for adults, they’ll have a huge hit on their hands. It’ll also be an interesting challenge for all of them to not have raunchy humor to fall back on. I think they’re up to it.

* Joseph Gordon Levitt is “rumored” to be in “early discussions” to play the Riddler in the third Christopher Nolan Batman movie, which as far as we know also features Bat-mite and a major role for all the former members of Menudo. In other news, I’m currently rumored to be in early discussions to write, direct, and star in the title rule of a reboot of the Francis the Talking Mule franchise.

* I haven’t seen “Splice” yet. Nevertheless, I am really tired of writers like Patrick Goldstein glibly implying that critics are somehow inherently wrong or “out of touch” every time they give decent reviews to a movie that does badly or, heaven forfend, gets a poor grade from Cinemascore — an organization that polls the self-selected group that paid to see the movie opening night, not a randomly selected audience. Cinemascore seems to be a fair enough predictor of whether a film will do well since the people who go opening night will form the nucleus of the word of mouth, but it does not look at the possibility that a given film will do badly because it attracted the wrong audience that night.

As I wrote on Sunday, “Splice” was heavily marketed as an R-rated horror film. In today’s movie world, that means an ultra-frightening and/or ultra-gore-laden film. Since I understand it’s actually more of a creepy odd-ball thriller and neither a gorefest nor a jump-out-of-your-seat scare-athon, of course the horror audience that went to see it opening night were, by definition, disappointed. If “Zombieland”  had been sold as a horror film, rather than as primarily a comedy, it might have failed too. The audiences  expectations are key.

Now, if Goldstein personally disliked “Splice,” that’s fine. So did 26% of Rotten Tomatoes critics and even many of the positive reviews noted what the writers saw as fairly serious flaws, so it’s not like they were all declaring it a masterpiece or a surefire hit. Just because critics notice interesting things in movies doesn’t mean they’re aliens from the planet Cinephile.  To paraphrase whoever paraphrased F. Scott Fitzgerald, the critics are different. They see more movies.

* Michael Fassbender, the outstanding Irish actor with the German name who broke through last year as dashing movie critic Archie Hickox in “Inglourious Basterds” and real-life IRA martyr Bobby Sands in “Hunger” is, according to Roger Friedman, on the horns of a supervillain dilemma. Should he play young Magneto opposite James McAvoy‘s young Professor Xavier in “X-Men: First Class” or should he be whichever villain Spiderman will be facing in the Marc Webb reboot? That’s what I think most struggling actors would consider to be a very high-class problem.

* Even though I cover a number of them, I have limited patience with casting stories, especially since so many of them are so speculative and vague. If you can’t get enough of them, however, Anne Thompson has more  on who’s thinking about what.

* Salma Hayek’s absolute terror of snakes is kind of funny but I feel slightly wrong even posting about it here. Put me near a beehive, and I’m not sure I’d be any more composed. I’m okay with most animals but stinging insects are another matter.

* I have no idea how the remake of “Fright Night” will turn out; I’ve never even seen more than a few minutes of the original, but the cast is sure shaping up in an interesting way. It’s another example of the truism that yesterday’s B-movies are today’s mainstream productions. The latest additions to the cast are Andy Tennant of “Dr. Who” fame and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Mint-Plasse is playing another nerd character, but I really think he’s well on his way to avoiding becoming the Eddie Deezen of our era and getting past his McLovin success.  If he can do a credible London accent(s), I have a suggestion of a role Mintz-Plasse might play just a few years down the road (if anyone could ever get the movie bio rights, which may be doubtful).

* I’m really not sorry I didn’t run the new trailer for “Gulliver’s Travels” with Jack Black last week. One of the worst trailers I’ve seen in a while. Did anyone even bother to read Jonathan Swift for this one?

* “The Cove” is finally being seen in Japan by at least a few people in Japan, threats from rightist groups notwithstanding.

* RIP Steven Rivers, the second Hollywood figure in his fifties to pass on in as many days. PR people don’t always have the best reputation, but he apparently found ways to do some good while doing well in his job. Among his many clients were both Robert Redford and his Sundance Institute as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  

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