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A “Hit-Girl” in training

Coming soon over at Bullz-Eye.com will be an interview with me and the extremely talented Chloe Moretz. At 13, she’s going to be everywhere next year with parts in, among other films, “Let Me In” and Martin Scorsese‘s 3-D opus, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

I finally had a chance/excuse to catch up with the film that really put her on the map, “Kick-Ass,” just a few days ago, just before it ended it’s run at my local $2.50 movie theater. (They still exist in the less fashionable reaches of Orange County, CA.) I have to say while I could quibble with its morality — not so much the idea of a little girl killing crooks willy-nilly, but anyone killing crooks willy-nilly — I found it as entertaining as heck and I have very little clue why it wasn’t a bigger hit.

Still, entertainment is very hard work and this kind of  martial-arts oriented action filmmaking is probably some of the most labor intensive there is. This clip from the upcoming Blu-ray release shows a small part of how young Ms. Moretz went from being just another highly skilled young actress to one of the more effective movie mayhem delivery systems we’ve seen.

H/t The HD Room.

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

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“Damages” moves to DirecTV

Jan 19, 2010 - New York, New York, USA - Actors TED DANSON, GLENN CLOSE, MARTIN SHORT, ROSE BYRNE and TATE DONAVAN attend the Season Three premiere of FX's 'Damages' held at the AXA Equitable Center. © Red Carpet Pictures

In a deal not completely unlike the satellite’s move to partner with NBC to save “Friday Night Lights,” DirecTV has announced that it is the new home of the FX drama “Damages.”

DIRECTV and Sony Pictures Television will team up to bring the award-winning DAMAGES, starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, back with brand new episodes to be produced early next year and debuting exclusively on DIRECTV. Emmy winner Glenn Close, Emmy nominee Rose Byrne and other principal cast members will return for the new episodes.

Unlike DIRECTV’s current deal for Friday Night Lights, whereby the show airs first on DIRECTV and then on NBC, the new episodes of DAMAGES will air only on DIRECTV. Additionally, DIRECTV will have the rights to air previously produced seasons 1 through 3.

“FX was very proud to have developed one of the best scripted series on television, but, in order to have a future, the show needed DIRECTV and we are thrilled they stepped in,” said John Landgraf, President & General Manager, FX Networks, who also heads FX Productions. “Sony Pictures Television is a great production partner and we at FX Productions are excited for these next two seasons.”

The key thing to note here is that, as it stands, “Damages” will never air on cable television again. DirecTV will be the only place that fans can (legally) see new episodes as they are released. It appears that without such a move, there wouldn’t have been a fourth season.

The third season of the critically-acclaimed drama brought five more Emmy nominations to bring the series total to 19.

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RIP Miramax

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It’s always a tricky business to declare the death of any company before all the deals are really done, but if it’s final enough for Anne Thompson, I’m loathe to disagree that the studio founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and named after their parents, Mira and Max, is winding up on a financial ash-heap.

The Weinsteins are not just any producers and Miramax was not just any company. For good and for ill — not all their movies were great by any means, a few I even hated (don’t get me started on “Chocolate”)  — they were and are throwbacks to the moguls of the past. They make decisions in a mercurial, seat of the pants way that always seems to generally produce better material than the cool logic of an MBA, which may be safer but rarely produces the kind of movie that really blows anyone’s mind. You don’t produce a “Pulp Fiction” by thinking like a marketing major, you produce it by thinking like a showman.

As I understand it, Disney wanted a certain amount of cash for the 700 or so titles in the company’s library, and they got it from a construction magnate with apparent close ties to the least trusted and most widely disliked person in an industry with a high quotient of untrustworthy and unlikable people. Disney has done a lot of things right over the years and they’ve done a lot of things wrong, I make no claims to being able to really look inside this as a business decision, but this certainly feels wrong. The film studio that launched some of the greatest behind-the camera talents around, including Quentin Tarantino, Alexander Payne, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh and even (in the U.S. market) Hiyao Miyazaki, among many others, deserves better.

For more, I definitely suggest you read the Anne Thompson piece I linked to above, and check out her links as well. Wikipedia has a partial and awe-inspiring list of films made and released by the company.

And now, your moment of Miramax.

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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 3

Day 3 of the TCA Press Tour continued with the CBS family of networks, offering us a split day between Showtime and The CW…and if I’m to be honest, my enthusiasm was decidedly higher for the former. I’ve made this comment before, but The CW so unabashedly caters to an audience that’s far younger and prettier than myself (or, really, almost anyone I interact with on a regular basis) that it’s hard for me to get but so excited about their shows…but, of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be reporting on them, anyway. First up, though, is Showtime, which I am excited about. Seriously, it’s reached the point where I’m pretty sure I prefer Showtime to HBO.

There, I said it…and it feels good.

Showtime Introductory Remarks

Matthew C. Blank, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Showtime, took the stage to welcome the assembled throng, then launched immediately into a series of announcements and remarks, including the following:

“Weeds” guest stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Alanis Morrissette, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Mark Paul Gosselaar, Peter Stormare, and Linda Hamilton.

“Dexter” guest stars: Julia Stiles, Peter Weller, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Shawn Hatosy, and Jonny Lee Miller.

“Californication” guest stars: Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Tommy Lee, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ealy, and Callie Thorne.

Liam Neeson will be joining his former “Kinsey” co-star Laura Linney for an episode of her new Showtime series, “The Big C.” Also guesting on the show: Cynthia Nixon and Idris Elba.

The network has committed to ten episodes of “Web Therapy,” a comedy developed by and starring Lisa Kudrow.

“Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara” will be both be returning for third seasons, as will “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” for Season 4.

Producer John Wells is premiering his new Showtime series, “Shameless,” starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum, on January 9th. Also coming in 2011 is “The Borgias,” starring Jeremy Irons and created and executive-produced by Neil Jordan, who’s directing the series’ first two episodes as well. The trailer for “Shameless” looks like the start of another great dysfunctional-family drama for Showtime, and…well, actually, I guess you could say the same of “The Borgias,” although they haven’t really filmed enough of it yet for us to get much of a feel for it. Most of what we were shown was interview clips with Irons and Jordan and footage from the photo sessions for the series, so all I can really confirm is that it looks awesome…but, then, what else would you expect from the network that brought you the gorgeousness of “The Tudors”?

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Weekend box office preview: PG/PG-13 comedies with veiled genitalia references take on “Inception”

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Yes, I’m going to be brief and terse today for, as you can see, we’re pretty busy here at Premium Hollywood right now. However, allow me me to tell you two things. As discussed at a recent press conference I attended, Paramount’s “Dinner for Schmucks” contains a Yiddish word literally meaning “penis” in its title and might just as easily been named “Dinner for Dicks,” if we were all living in a shtetl.  The 3-D kiddie sequel from Warner’s, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” contains an at-one-remove non-reference to female genitalia that somehow seems a million times dirtier to me than the real reference contained in the wonderfully absurd name of the character played by Honor Blackman in the greatest-James-Bond-ever-made (aka, “Goldfinger”).

That being said, both movies have their potential commercial upsides and downsides as they struggle to top the predicted $25-$30 million dollar third weekend for Christopher Nolan’s brain-based blockbuster, “Inception.” I personally don’t know why any parents went to see the first “Cats & Dogs” beyond being dragged forcibly by little ones, but they went. I’m personally convinced watching ‘net videos of non-CGI assisted/created cats and dogs would be a lot more amusing.  The new film adds the 3-D factor and, as jolly Carl DiOrio notes, may be something of a test for the ongoing commercial appeal of the format-cum-gimmick.

Steve Carell has something to show Paul Rudd in I’ve seen “Schmucks” (been one, too) and, while I understand Dave Medsker’s more-negative-than-positive review — well, except for the part about Zach Galifianakis, who pretty much put me away — I myself come down more on the positive side. It’s not great film-making nor is it an example of great screenwriting, but it engaged me and made me laugh quite a bit, mostly based on the sheer invention of its cast, particularly the supporting players, most definitely also including Jemaine Clement. Considering the audience reaction the night I saw it, I’m willing to wager it’ll do the same for most rank-and-file film-goers and could perhaps over-perform on the ongoing appeal of stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

There’s one more new major release, “Charlie St. Cloud,” a fantasy tearjerker for Zac Efron that apparently borrows a page or two from the Nicholas Sparks playbook and may perhaps set the hearts of some teens and tweens aflutter. It doesn’t seem likely to hit the big leagues. Of course, the reviews aren’t so hot.

There is also more than a little action on the indie/limited release front this week. The highly acclaimed “The Kids Are All Right” has a major expansion that could take it through to Oscar time.  There is “The Extra Man” which I’ve been covering here as you may have noticed (more is on the way) which I liked more than most critics. There is also the well-reviewed by nearly everyone but a few fine cinephiles, and me, “Get Low.” The Oscar talk is already flying about this one for the great Robert Duvall in his folksy mode, and we’ll see whether it allows the film some, forgive me, tender mercies from arthouse filmgoers.

Robert Duvall, getting low

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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 2

CBS’s big day of TCA panels kicked off with an Executive Session from the one and only Nina Tassler, the network’s President of Entertainment, who brought us the following tidbits and newsbriefs:

“The Big Bang Theory”: The show is moving to Thursdays. “Certainly, it was difficult, but not in the sense that you don’t have complete faith and belief in the show,” said Tassler. “The time felt right. The show is certainly enjoying an extraordinary amount of support and love, and this was a great opportunity for us to really move it into a strategic place and open the night.”

“Survivor”: The new season of the popular reality series will find the castaways divided into Young vs. Old. The members of the La Flor Tribe will all be aged 30 or younger, while those in the Espada Tribe will all be 40 or older.

“Undercover Boss”: Four of the companies which will appear in the show’s second season have been revealed: NASCAR, DirecTV, Chiquita Brands, Inc., and Great Wolf Resorts.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”: Justin Bieber will be playing a character in the season premiere, playing a character that is “quite different from his wholesome real-life persona.”

“CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” timeslot changes: “Going into this season, we had very strong development, we really wanted to get a number of those new dramas on the air, and both ‘Miami’ and ‘New York’ are still strong players for us, so we said, ‘Look, we can use them to improve the time periods they’re going into, as well as support new shows that they’re launching side by side with.’”

“Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior”: Janeane Garofalo has been added to the cast.

New gay characters: GLAAD will no doubt be pleased to hear that, according to Tassler, there are three on the horizon for the new season. “You’re going to meet Alicia’s brother in ‘The Good Wife,’ a gay character. We’re also going to be adding a new character to ‘Rules of Engagement.’ Jeff and Audrey’s surrogate will be a member of Jeff’s softball team, and she’s a lesbian. We’re also going to be recurring a character in ‘$#*! My Dad Says,’ the character Tim Bagley played.” I’m particularly happy to hear about that last one, mostly because the scenes between Bagley and William Shatner are arguably the funniest in the pilot.

After Tassler’s remarks and Q&A were completed, she evacuated the stage in order for the day’s show panels to begin, starting with…

“The Big Bang Theory”

At first glance, the fact that “The Big Bang Theory” is the only pre-existing CBS show to get its own panel on the network’s TCA day would lead one to deduce that it’s because it’s so popular. In reality, though, it’s much more likely that the series got the spotlight because they want to make sure it’s still a major player when it returns on Sept. 28th and shifts on the CBS schedule from Mondays to Thursdays. Ah, but who cares why they’re here? It’s just good to see the gang again. Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar were all in attendance, along with creators / executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and, as usual, they gave us some great, fun stuff.

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A chat with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, directors of “The Extra Man”

Shari Springer Berman and Robert PulciniThe recent death of autobiographical comics writer Harvey Pekar at age 70 was a more bitter than sweet reminder of one of the first really great films of our young millennium. Released in 2003 and written and directed by the husband and wife team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, “American Splendor” dared to place actors Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, and Judah Friedlander — portraying Pekar, wife Joyce Brabner, and their ultra-nerd friend, Toby Radloff — alongside the real Pekar, Brabner, and Radloff, seamlessly combining traditional fiction, documentary film, and some charmingly minimalist comic book-style animation to make easily the most inventive and rewarding comics-to-film translation so far. (Yes, I think it’s better than “The Dark Knight.”)

What made it even more impressive was that this was the first fiction film by its makers. Prior to “American Splendor,” Berman and Pulcini were the documentararians behind a pair of films focusing on film and show-business landmarks. They chronicled the death of a venerable, movie-star-beloved Beverly Hills restaurant in “Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s” and the rebirth of the ultimate movieland cemetery into the world’s hippest burial plot in “The Young and the Dead.” The pair also made a 2006 IFC documentary about road movies, “Wanderlust.”

Their return to fiction films, 2007′s “The Nanny Diaries,” was less well-received, but now Berman and Pulcini are back with an imperfect but enjoyable comedy. Co-written with author Jonathan Ames (HBO’s “Bored to Death”) from his semi-autobiographical novel, “The Extra Man” stars Paul Dano as Louis Ives, a courtly 20-something with a fixation on 1920s literature and a certain amount of sexual/gender confusion, who finds himself spending a lot of time with his new roommate — an aging, ultra-obscure, ultra-reactionary playwright named Henry Harrison (Oscar and Tony winning veteran stage and film star Kevin Kline).

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Berman and Pulcini are also preparing their next film. “Cinema Verite,” with James Gandolfini, Diane Lane, and Tim Robbins starring in a screenplay by veteran scenarist David Seltzer (“The Omen,” “Punchline”). It’s a tailor-made premise for the couple: the making of “An American Family,” the groundbreaking and highly controversial PBS documentary series which essentially created the modern reality television genre in 1975. The series was also the inspiration for the 1979 Albert Brooks comedy, “Real Life.”

When I was escorted to the room at L.A.’s Four Seasons where I was to meet with the writing-directing pair, I was surprised to see only one person and at first I wasn’t sure I had arrived at the right place. Robert Pulcini and I talked about our shared first name (he’s a “Bob” too), and he explained cordially that his wife would be returning in just a moment. Shari Springer Berman arrived and then somehow got into the topic of the unusual spelling of my last name. All very fascinating — to me — but I figured I’d better talk about Berman and Pulcini’s movies instead.

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What am I going to miss next?

I missed yesterdays big geek news of the upcoming Guillermo del Toro doing his “one for me” project with a long delayed adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “From the Mountains of Madness” with a little help from James Cameron. Bummer, but we’ll survive that tragedy together.

And then Mike Fleming, and every fanboy on earth it appears, found that the Comic-Con trailer for “Thor” had magically appeared on line, Wikileaks style. Anyhow, just as I had prepared this post, the folks at Marvel who apparently have a control issue with their marketing plan much as the U.S. government would rather you didn’t know too much about civilian casualties or the like, pulled it. I mean like seconds ago — it was there and I was ready to go and then it was gone. If you didn’t see it elsewhere, it was all Shakespearian and stuff and had more than a touch of “King Lear” to it, which makes sense as it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh.

So, since I don’t have the Thor trailer, here’s not one but two trailers. The first, a bit of Branagh directing actual Shakespeare and the probably never to be rivaled best ever quasi-Lear in cinema history. Enjoy, as you taste my bitter fanboy tears.

You know, I love Shakespeare and all, but his stuff is so full of cliches. Well, you’ll see none of that from Kurosawa-san.

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Press Conference for “Schmucks”

For those of us who enjoy contemplating the historical and political currents that run through film history, it’s tempting to look at the latest comedy from director Jay Roach (“Austin Powers,” “Meet the Parents,” “Recount”) as a possible reflection of American discomfort at the brutal nature of business and the growing disparities between the wealthy and the increasingly lumpen middle-class. However, when you’re talking about a movie that ends with a confrontation between a good idiot (Steve Carell) who designs amazing dioramas using dead mice and an evil idiot (Zach Galifianakis) with the power of mind control, but only over other idiots, that may be taking things a little seriously.

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Opening this Friday, “Dinner for Schmucks” borrows its premise and some of its plot from Frances Veber’s 1998 “The Dinner Game.” Paul Rudd co-stars as Barry, a rising L.A. executive who finds that entering his company’s upper echelon will mean participating in a competitive Dinner for Winners. All the guests are to bring an extraordinary person who has been unrecognized by society — in other words, a dithering idiot. The winner of the nasty game is the one whose guest is the most amusingly stupid.

Barry is initially appalled by the idea and assures Julie (Stephanie Szostak), his horrified art curator girlfriend, he’ll have nothing to do with it. On the other hand, he needs to pay for his Porsche and his absurdly large apartment at West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower Hotel (in real life, you’d need a billionaire’s wealth to afford that). It’s a choice between being nice and being unemployed and in debt. Then the fates seem to reward him when, driving through a quainted-up version of Westwood Village, he nearly runs over Tim Wagner (Carell), a clueless IRS employee and ultra-naive artist committed to his “mousterpieces.” Wagner, of course, turns out to be a goodhearted type whose attempts to help his new friend backfire in increasingly absurd ways. Fortunately, most of them are funny, particularly thanks to some outstanding and often completely unhinged supporting performances from Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” as an absurdly pretentious and untalented, but hugely successful, artist on the make for Barry’s increasingly angry girlfriend and all other attractive women on the planet.

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“Dinner for Schmucks” isn’t going to electrify cinephiles or become a staple of screenwriting seminars, but a couple of weeks back it had proven itself to be a very effective laugh-getting machine at a West L.A. screening. Therefore, full of a free breakfast, a selection of journos were in a pretty good mood for a morning press conference at the Beverly Hilton with a number of funny and/or talented people, including stars Carell and Rudd, supporting bad guys Bruce Greenwood (“Star Trek“) and Ron Livingston (“Office Space“) as well as director Roach and writers David Guion and Michael Handelman, who are about to become directors themselves with the film version of the BBC comedy, “Cruise of the Gods.”

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Top Chef DC: keep it simple

Last night on “Top Chef: DC,” the theme was related to Congress, as host Padma Lakshmi introduced congressman Aaron Schock from Illinois (dude is not even 30 years old!). Anyway, Schock told the chef-testants that they had to keep lobbyists from buying them expensive dinners and so they have rules that they can only have small bites when getting together for food. So the quick fire challenge was to create a small bite that packed the punch of a full meal. The winner would win not only immunity this week, but $20K. Wow!

The least favorite dishes were Ed’s duo of tuna; Alex’s pan-seared scallop; and Kelly’s bay scallop with watermelon. The top dishes were Kevin’s pork kebab; Angelo’s cucumber cup with shrimp and cashews; and Stephens surf and turf with crispy potato. The winner was…Angelo. Of course it was. Is he annoying all of you as much as he is me? I know he’s going to be in this till the finale though.

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