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True Blood Teaser

Here’s a teaser video to get you ready for the upcoming 4th season of “True Blood.” We’ll be covering it as usual on our “True Blood” blog, and if you’re too impatient to wait you can check out some season 4 spoilers here.

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

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Late night (PST) trailer: “Rango”

I never thought a movie from Gore Verbinski would be one of my most anticipated movies of any year, but the the third really effective trailer in a row for “Rango” is having the effect I’m sure Nickelodeon and Paramount desires. The first movie I’m looking actively forward to in 2011 stars a lizard.

Of course, I’m a sucker for the western tropes, but it’s really the wonderfully detailed and engaging character designs and great site gags cooked up by screenwriter John Logan that’s selling me. I’m not saying it’s going to be Pixar quality, but it might be close. I also love the fact that this is also subtle propaganda to get kids ready for classic westerns.

Johnny Depp leads the all-star voice cast here. As for the earlier trailers you see can them here and here.

H/t /Film.

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A Chat with director Patrick Hughes and actor Ryan Kwanten of “Red Hill”

Patrick Hughes and Ryan Kwanten of First-time feature directors — especially when they’re essentially financing their films — tend to make low-key stories without much in the way of action. Often, they are offbeat romances or perhaps something about a bunch of guys in their teens or late twenties avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood. Directors who emerge from the world of commercials often wind-up making movies that rely on flashy visuals and employ the worst kind of ADHD editorial approach. To his everlasting credit, Patrick Hughes, a first-time self-financing feature director with a background in commercials, did none of those things in his first feature, “Red Hill,” an often violent suspense tale with elements of classic westerns, monster films, and a strong sense of its Australian heritage.

Its star, Ryan Kwanten, is by far best known as Jason Stackhouse of “True Blood,” an occasionally likable dim-bulb of a character who would pretty much be nothing if it weren’t for his athletic good looks and sexual prowess. But Kwanten as an actor is certainly no mere boy-toy, even if he remains a favorite of young female fans and looks about a decade younger than his actual age (he’ll be 34 later this month). As the rather archly named Shane Cooper, the earnest, violence-averse policeman hero of “Red Hill,” he must be believable dealing with the rampage of revenge waged by an Aboriginal escaped convict (Tommy Lewis) while protecting his loving and pregnant wife (Claire van der Boom), dealing with the barbs of his taskmaster of a new boss (Steve Bisley), and spending a good chunk of the movie marinating in his own blood and believably fighting on. If that isn’t proof that Kwanten is, you know, a real actor, his next non-”True Blood” role appears to be as Charles Manson.

I met with voluble writer-director Hughes and actor Kwanten – who, as befits this film’s low budget provenance, come across as remarkably down-to-earth in person – during a press day held at Strand Releasing’s east Culver City office. A short time later, Kwanten would be chatting telephonically for a solo interview with my colleague, Will Harris, who’d be concentrating on his career, definitely including “True Blood.” No prima dona, and you’ll see just what I mean by that later in the interview, he was fine with surrendering some of the spotlight to director Hughes, who kind of dominates the discussion during the first half of this interview. However, do not fear, Kwantenites: we do hear from the very talented actor starting just past this interview’s halfway point, as he discusses crucial matters of blood, guts, and pig poo.

01._Ryan_Kwanten

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New gig, old gig: Steven Spielberg

Today we’re going to start what I think might be an occasional series of posts where I highlight a movie news story about someone’s new job — which is probably about half the movie news stories (when people aren’t merely “mulling,” “eying” or “circling” new jobs) — and then provide you with a clip of past work I deem somehow relevant.

Okay, so the news here is that Steven Spielberg is returning to directing science fiction with “Robopocalypse,” an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s recent novel written by “Buffy”-alum Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” the ever-delayed “The Cabin in the Woods”). Though I love science fiction, I’m much more a fan of Spielberg when he gets outside his old comfort zones on movies like “Munich,” “Catch Me If You Can,” even the sometimes-derided “Schindler’s List” and  “The Terminal.” Still, apart from the just about perfect “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — which is more fantasy than science fiction anyhow — his best, though still flawed, SF movie has to be “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Below, as Richard Dreyfuss and former French New Wave wunderkind François Truffaut look on, 1977′s cosmic equivalent to “Dueling Banjos.”

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Midweek movie news

No promises we’ll have a Friday news dump this week, so you’d better enjoy this edition…

* Well, the big news tonight is most definitely the reorganization going over at the Warner Brothers megastudio. As far as I’m able to suss out, what this amounts to is a consolidation of power for CEO Jeff Bewkes. Reading Nikki Finke‘s current summary of the situation is a bit like reading a Television Without Pity post for a very complicated soap opera you’ve never seen, but Anne Thompson keeps it much, much simpler. On his way out exec Alan Horn is a good guy who Thompson believes was simply superfluous. Another case of a nice guy finishing last?

Warner-Bros

However, Nikki Finke does allude to a very crucial part of the Warners empire, and that’s DC Comics now being headed by the Warners minded and Finke approved Diane Nelson. As it happens, my deep, deep connections in the comics biz were e-mailing me news earlier today — which I was somewhat aware of but failed to properly cover earlier in the week — of an onging reorganization going on over there which certainly ties into the ongoing attempts at Warners to become more aggressive regarding comics adaptations along the lines of what Marvel Entertainment has been doing for some time — and also to try and avoid more flops like “Jonah Hex.”

There was even talk some talk of DC becoming entirely a West Coast operation, but that would be a major breach of publishing industry tradition with some actual problems involved and, in any case, thanks to FedEx and the ‘net, freelancers can live where they want now. Heidi MacDonald’s great comics blog The Beat has been covering this end of the story and you read about some of what’s going on here.

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True Blood 3.12 – Sometimes, The Wrong Thing To Do Is The Right Thing

Season 3 of “True Blood” has come to a conclusion, and I’ve got to be honest with you: it couldn’t have happened a moment too soon. Between having to blog both this show and “Mad Men” more or less live, I’d reached the point where I’d begun to dread Sunday nights…until I realized that, no, it wasn’t so much that I was dreading Sunday nights as it was that I was dreading having to blog “True Blood.”

But we’ll get back to that.

Since I’ve already watched and written about the show, let’s go ahead and just tackle the events of the season finale first, beginning, of course, at the beginning.

So Eric and The King are just, y’know, kinda hanging out in the parking lot and catching some rays, like good buds sometimes do…except, of course, that good buds don’t tend to be handcuffed together (unless they’ve taken their friendship to a, uh, higher level), and being exposed to the rays in question means imminent death. In the case of The King, it’s kind of a good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish situation, but for Eric’s, it’s definitely a case of suicide by sunshine. So is the spirit of Godric really visiting him, or is it just his rational mind trying to get his attention? Either way, Godic’s pleas for Eric to forgive The King fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Sookie’s running through the forest to catch something that looks like a cross between E.T.’s ship and a chandelier, but it turns out to be something like running toward the light, since she suddenly wakes up from what was apparently a dream and slaps the shit out of Bill for betraying her again…except that, really, he only pretended to betray her in order to save her again. Yawn. As soon as she realizes that Eric’s outside, sacrificing himself in order to rid the world of The King, she refuses to allow it, instead running outside and allowing The King to goad her into using her fairy powers to separate Eric and The King from each other. Rather than save them both, however, she slams The King against a wall, dragging Eric inside and leaving The King to burn…although, frankly, I don’t know why she didn’t do something to actively finish him off, given that he was continuing to threaten her even as she departed.

Oh, that’s why: Sookie offers up her blood to save the day, and once Eric’s in better shape, he announces that he wants to spare The King. Yeah, good plan: he sure talks and acts like he’s really going to be sparing humanity when he gets released. Sookie sits around, reading Star Magazine and listening to The King rattle on with huge monetary bribes, but she’s not letting him out of his chains. As a backup, he tries to make her feel paranoid about the value of her blood to Bill and the other vampires. She openly mocks him for believing that he can bring his lover back to life with her blood. Instead, she pours his remains down the sink and cranks up the garbage disposal. Ew.

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True Blood 3.11 – “Be brave. We’ll die together.”

I’d like to begin this week’s blog with a plea to the publicists at HBO to provide us with some more photo assets for “True Blood,” because I have to believe that you’re just as sick of looking at this all-purpose promo shot as I am. But what can I do? We haven’t been given new shots in ages, and that’s really the most appropriate picture I’ve got to kick off the proceedings. Basically, what I’m saying is blame HBO, not me. In the meantime, though, have another look at the gift that keeps on giving, week after week after bloody week…

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let me applaud Alan Ball and his crew for offering up an awesome nod to the competing programming – yes, the Emmys – by kicking off tonight’s episode with “True Blood: In Memoriam,” which was a little bit of genius…and, if I’m to be honest, was more effective that the Emmy’s “In Memoriam” segment. (Loved the song, Jewel, but the pacing of the whole thing was off, possibly because they’re not used to scoring it to something other than just some plain old orchestral music.)

On to the episode proper. Bill blows into Fangtasia on a quest to find Sookie, but on his way toward the basement, he’s stopped by Pam, who tries to tell him that he just needs to chill out and put things into their proper perspective. He ignores her and heads for the stairs, but he’s taken down by Pam’s handy-dandy silver spray. As it happens, Sookie looks to have another savior: Eric’s Russian stripper girlfriend, who’s bitter at being blown off by him – possibly because he’s been underestimating her (who knew she was a cardiologist?) – and decides to let Sookie go…and the timing couldn’t be more perfect, since she pops up and saves Bill from Pam’s wrath. Pam’s kinda pissed about the situation, since she’s of the belief that things are going to go to hell if Eric isn’t able to present Sookie as a gift to The King.

Lafayette and Jesus are coming down from their crazy-ass trip. Jesus was clearly moved by the experience, but Lafayette, while admitting that it was pretty unique even for him, isn’t particularly interested in revisiting the situation again…and that was before he had his first flashback. But how about that second flashback, with all of the dolls coming to life and talking to him? Loved it.

So Jason’s girlfriend is a were-panther, eh? You can’t blame him for being a little upset at this revelation, especially since – as he informs her – he’d figured that her big secret was “shoplifting or something.” He bristles at her suggestion that he might not be a real man, but, hell, compared to the guys in her family, he actually is kind of a wuss. With no one to talk to, Jason finds himself wandering over to the the football field, where he finds his young high-school student nemesis from earlier this season alienating his girlfriend and pissing off his teammates from working them so hard, but I can’t tell if it’s because he’s on something or if it’s because he’s just kind of an obsessive jerk. (It’s probably both.)

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True Blood 3.10 – Once Evil, Always Evil

If I’m to be perfectly honest, this week is the first time since Season 3 began that I’ve been legitimately excited about tuning in for “True Blood.” Granted, you have to take my position with a grain of salt, since I wasn’t watching when episodes 3.7 and 3.8 originally aired, so I’m willing to admit that it’s possible I could’ve had that feeling as a result of one of those. Even so, though, I’m willing to bet that just about everyone who watched The King rip out the heart of that poor newscaster at the end last week’s episode was desperately seeking an answer to the question, “What’s going to happen now?”

I know *I* certainly was.

It was therefore mildly disappointing to have the episode begin not with The King but, rather, with Bill finally revealing Sookie’s true identity to her. Fortunately, Sookie’s reaction served as an instant salve for the wound: “I’m a fairy? How fucking lame!” I think you’d have to say that Bill didn’t exactly do the best possible job of playing up Sookie’s ancestry, and things only got worse when he was forced to admit that her people were reportedly wiped out of existence by vampires, owing to fairy blood being magically delicious. He can’t exactly confirm that the stories are true, but he can at least vouch for the awesomeness of Sookie’s blood. This immediately makes her suspicious of why Bill’s interested in her, but he swears up and down, “It’s not your blood I love. I love you – your mind, your heart, your soul – and I will foreswear ever feeding on you again if that’s what it takes to convince you of that.” Aw, isn’t he just the sweetest vampire?

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True Blood 3.9 – Relax. It’s Not Like You Killed Someone.

First things first: bless you, John Paulsen, for stepping in and filling my shoes so capably while I was attending the TCA press tour in Beverly Hills. Although the Hilton did have HBO, trying to find the time to sit down on the Sunday nights that I was out there and watch “True Blood,” let alone blog about it, would’ve been a major pain in the neck…vampire-related joke totally intended, of course. Indeed, I’m particularly glad that you did such a good job, as I’ve spent so much time winding down and ramping back up again that I’m relying on your write-ups to fill me in on the pair of episodes that I missed while I was otherwise occupied.

Things kicked off tonight with Eric zipping into Fangtasia and, with an absolutely-warranted tinge of panic to his voice, informing Pam that he’s just staked the lover of the Vampire King of Mississippi. Nice one, sir. Immediately after blowing off Pam’s suggestion that they hide out at Sookie’s house, good ol’ Ginger strolls into the office. “Ginger, dear, where do you live?” he asks, casually. Good idea, bad timing: a battalion of V-Feds have already established a beachhead, with the dark and despicable (yet somehow still kinda hot) Ms. Flanagan glowering at Eric, thoroughly annoyed that his actions have taken her away from pursing the ratification of the Vampire Rights Amendment. After an apparently extreme search of Fangtasia’s basement which brings up nothing (“I’m a Virgo,” says Eric, “I like to be neat”), Ms. Flanagan sits down sexily and proceeds to take Eric’s formal statement, broadcasting it by webcam to the members of The Authority…which, for some reason, immediately brought to mind Springfield Republican Headquarters on “The Simpsons.”

Eric dives headlong into his back story, adding his comments about and thoughts on The King’s philosophies, including the highly contentious statement, “Fuck The Authority,” then wrapping up with a heartfelt explanation about how he wants The King’s death to be at his own hand. Ms. Flanagan isn’t buying what Eric’s selling, however, putting him and Pam on lockdown. Pam doesn’t understand why Eric’s never told her about the depths of his haunted past, but he basically says, “It’s not your problem,” instead changing subjects and telling her that it’s time for her to become a Maker. Woo-hoo! Promotion!

The King runs in to find the decidedly disgusting remains of Talbot, which he promptly smears himself with. Ew. Just…ew. Then he sees that Eric’s stolen not one but two of his most precious possessions, the other being the artifact which dates back to the King’s destruction of Eric’s family. Oh, yeah, he’s really pissed.

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True Blood 3.8 – Making Up Is Hard To Do

This episode was one of the few in the series that didn’t begin with a legitimate bang. Bill had just saved Sookie’s life, and all that was left was Sookie’s (screaming) reaction when she saw Bill again. Nobody in that hospital room was about to die, so after Sookie settled down and ‘broke up’ with Bill, life went on. Bill doesn’t really explain why he went crazy on Sookie’s blood, but she explains it away later (to Jason, I think) saying that Bill was near death and couldn’t control himself. Um, okay.

This episode was written by Raelle Tucker (her 6th of the series) and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, who is an experienced director but hadn’t directed an episode of “True Blood” before. The show always has several balls in the air, but it felt especially scattered in this episode. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that anything actually happened.

Everything else was just setup for that final sequence or for some episode down the line. For example, there was Arlene’s vision of Rene, which literally had no impact on anything else that happened in the episode. I’m sure it was entirely necessary, but it only made the hour feel all the more frenetic, and not necessarily in a good way.

So let’s hit the high points. To me, the most interesting storyline was Eric’s continued infiltration of the King’s trust. He was playing both Russell and Talbot in order to put himself into position to avenge his family’s death. He had to flirt with Russell and get down and dirty with Talbot to get there, but he certainly got there, and it will be interesting to see what happens to him now that he’s staked Talbot. It’s not like he can blame it on someone else — both Russell and the bodyguards knew that they were together that night.

Eric’s actions essentially saved Bill’s (and Sookie’s, by proxy) life, because Russell felt Talbot’s death and flew off into the night just as he was about to put Bill out of his misery. The fight at Sookie’s house was intense, and she’s lucky that Bill and Jessica (who just went through a sweet combat training experience at Bill’s house) showed up to help. When Jessica ran outside to chase one of the werewolves, Bill was left with the choice of following her or going upstairs to save Sookie, and he chose Jessica, possibly because he had to, being her maker and all. Once Russell left, Bill went upstairs and he and Sookie made up in a big, big way.

Meanwhile, Jason’s relationship with Crystal takes another turn when she shows up at his place soaking wet after running away from her betrothed. One can only assume she and her kin are werewolves, and Jason’s confrontation with her father is only going to put him squarely in their cross hairs. But my main problem with the storyline is Crystal’s assertion that she had never been out of Bon Temps — if that’s the case, how in the world did she not at some point cross paths with Jason Stackhouse? In a small town, that would seem to be entirely impossible.

Other than Sookie’s flirtation with Alcide, everything else that happened this week seemed to be swirling about on the fringe — Tara’s strange recovery, Lafayette’s mom and Jesus’s arrival, Sam sending his own mom away, and Holly, the new waitress.

Taking a step back, I can see how some might compare the romantic triangle between Sookie, Bill and Alcide with what apparently goes on in “Twilight,” but the books that “True Blood” were based on were published a full four years earlier. So, if anything, “Twilight” is a watered down version of “True Blood,” not the other way around. (I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying that the “True Blood” story came first.)

Anyway, Will Harrris will be back at the keyboard next Sunday, so my time steering the ship has come to an end. Moving forward, while some have been critical of the third season, we have all the makings for a strong finish. (Namely, one crazy, pissed-off, 3000-year-old vampire.)

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