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2012: The year in film

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Midnight movie news

Well, depending on how long this takes.

* The Oscar voting deadline passed today and the big story ’round the town was on the punishment meted out to producer Nicolas Chartier, whose over-aggressive e-screeds against “Avatar,” and in favor of his own, “The Hurt Locker.” He’s banished from the ceremony. Still, as Nikki Finke reports, don’t feel too bad for him, if you feel bad at all, and I’m not sure why you should.

Wouldn’t it be nice — and naive — to think that stuff like this actually affected no one’s vote, in any direction?

* I like Tim Burton‘s work and dislike Timur Bekmambetov’s films, but the two nevertheless insist on working together to produce “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” based on the book by the author of the also soon to be filmed “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.” The reportedly erratic but extremely talented writer-director David O. Russell, who infamously got into a scuffle with George Clooney over the treatment of extras while making 1999′s “Three Kings,” is “circling,” Mike Fleming says.

* Hef on Bogie. And, when you think about the Playboy mansions, almost everybody really does come to Hef’s, or wants to, anyway.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt* James McAvoy leaves a “cancer comedy” for mysterious reasons and Joseph Gordon-Levitt jumps on board, reports THR‘s Gregg Kilday. McAvoy’s pretty good, but that still might be an improvement.

* Martin Scorsese is so busy these days I get tired just reading about him. Oh, and that gangster film with De Niro is starting to take shape, alongside at least three documentaries about Fran Lebowitz, George Harrison, and the history of British cinema, including much, I’m sure, about his old friend and mentor/influence, Michael Powell — the greatest director even many cinephiles barely know. Oh, and elsewhere he discusses the possibility of making films “like ‘Precious‘” in 3-D. I see his point about how the technology could theoretically be used to enhance intimate stories. I guess. Maybe.

* I meant to mention this days ago, but this lawsuit over the fictional destruction of the “Christ the Redeemer” statue in “2012” is based on the fact that the statue is covered by copyright — something one usually doesn’t think about for iconic statuary. In any case, I really just wanted an excuse to quote Matthew Belloni‘s opening to the story:

With apologies to the Coen brothers, Columbia Pictures is learning the hard way not to f— with the Jesus….

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Happy (Fake) Presidents Day! – A Collection of U.S. Presidents from TV and Film

Once upon a time, the third Monday in February was designated as a day to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. These days, however, although it varies from state to state, it tends to be known less specifically as Presidents Day, which means that we can ostensibly celebrate everyone who’s ever been the President of the United States. Here at Premium Hollywood, we’d also like to extend that to those who’ve served as our nation’s commander-in-chief on television and the silver screen.

Now, granted, that’s a lot of people…more, in fact, than we could possibly give shout-outs to in a single piece. As such, we decided to pare it down to the same number of individuals as have held the highest office in our land since its inception. Forty-four folks is still nothing to sneeze at, but we’re betting that we’ll still end up having left out someone’s favorite son (or daughter). To paraphrase one of our real presidents, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. With that said, however, we still think we did a pretty solid job of picking the best candidates for the piece.

1. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews), “Idiocracy”: Why are we leading off with President Camacho? Because, really, when you’ve got a fake President on your list who’s also a porn superstar and a five-time ultimate smackdown wrestling champion, why in God’s name would you wait any longer than necessary to trumpet his inclusion? Clearly, this man is the fake President to end all fake Presidents, and he’s #1 with a bullet. It’s all going to be downhill from here.

2. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), “The American President”: President Shepherd is a widower who pursues a relationship with an attractive lobbyist — Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening — while at the same time attempting to win passage of a crime control bill. Although the film was mostly ignored by the Oscars, it racked up several Golden Globe nominations and has since found its way into the #75 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of America’s Greatest Love Stories. Plus, its screenwriter managed to find a good use for the excess material that he didn’t have room to fit into the script…but we’ll get to that in our next entry.

3. President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), “The West Wing”: Yes, if you hadn’t figured it out already, “The American President” was written by Aaron Sorkin, which is why you may notice a resemblance between the mannerisms of Presidents Shepherd and Bartlet. Ironically, though, Sorkin had originally envisioned the series as revolving so much around the White House senior staff that viewers would rarely, if ever, see the president. Instead, what the nation got was an idealized leader, one who – in A Novel Approach to Politics, by Douglas A. Van Belle and Kenneth M. Mash – is referred to as the “most popular Democratic president in recent memory.” The book was written pre-Obama, mind you, but we’re pretty sure the title still stands.

4. President William Harrison Mitchell (Kevin Kline), “Dave”: Given the vaguely “The Prince and the Pauper”-esque premise of the film, which involes a guy who makes a few bucks on the side as a Presidential impersonator being asked to play the part for real when the actual President suffers an incapacitating stroke, there was every reason to believe that “Dave” would’ve been a trifle at best, but between Kline’s imminent likability and a fantastic supporting cast (Sigourney Weaver as the First Lady, Ben Kingsley as the Vice President, Frank Langella as Chief of Staff, and Charles Grodin as Dave’s accountant buddy, Murray), it often comes close to – even though it doesn’t quite reach – the heights of “The American President.”

5 – 8. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), “Independence Day” / President Blake (Perry King) and President Becker (Kenneth Welsh), “The Day After Tomorrow” / President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), “2012″: As soon as you see the credit “directed by Roland Emmerich” on a disaster flick, you just know things are going to reach a point where the President of the United States is going to be brought into the discussion about whatever imminent danger may be about to thrust itself onto our planet.

There’s also a very good possibility that the ol’ rite of succession may come into play during the course of the film, such as it did in “The Day After Tomorrow,” when we lost President Blake after the blades of his helicopter froze. Say hello, President Becker! The same thing happened in “2012,” too, but we were so in awe of President Wilson’s selfless sacrifice – he stayed behind to help survivors in need, only to meet his death when the tidal wave struck the White House – that we’ve made an executive decision not to include Wilson’s successor, President Anheuser (Oliver Platt) in the list. Why? Because he’s a dick.

The definitive Emmerich-flick president, of course, is President Whitmore. During the course of “Independence Day,” he sees the White House blown up, loses his wife, fights off a psychic attack from an alien, and flies a goddamned jet fighter into battle to help save the day. Plus, he gives the most stirring speech this side of “Patton.” Hell, I’d vote for him.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Emmerich says “Independence Day” sequel still alive, “2012: The Series” not so much

Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker chatted with “2012” director Roland Emmerich yesterday about the film’s impending release on DVD, but while the final product won’t hit the site ’til close to the DVD’s street date (March 2), Emmerich offered up two pieces of information during the course of the interview that we figured were worth reporting sooner than later.

During the course of the conversation, Medsker brought up our 2009 interview with Bill Pullman and mentioned the actor’s surprise that a sequel to “Independence Day” never got off the ground.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Emmerich. “Everybody wants to do it, but it’s really difficult. People had to wait for ‘Indy 4′ for a decade, and the reason is because of the people involved. If you want to assemble the same people, then you have a big problem. But everyone wants to do it, and it will happen one day, I’m pretty sure.”

If you’re not exactly overwhelmed by his confidence, perhaps this will help: after many years of uncertainty about what the premise of the sequel would be, it can at least be said that Emmerich and his “ID4″ co-conspirator, Dean Devlin, do actually have an idea in place.

“Dean and I always said that we’d only do it when we had a really good story that excites us both, and we have the story written,” revealed Emmerich. “We’ve had it for a year and a half, two years. So we’ve been ready! Maybe it takes another two years [to get everyone together]. We’ll see.”

For better or worse, it appears that the rumored “2012″ TV series won’t be getting in the way of “Independence Day 2.” When Medsker asked about the status of the series, Emmerich confirmed that it’s as dead as Danny Glover’s character. (RIP, President Wilson.)

“It’s not happening,” he said. “When the TV [network] realized what we wanted to do, they thought this was not possible for TV. It’s just too big. And I didn’t want to do it in a lesser form, so it went away.”

Damn.

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“Avatar” off to a slightly snowbound $73 million start

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, embellished, in Thursday night, I tried to imply that only the apocalypse itself could prevent “Avatar” from winning the weekend. And, while 2012 is still a few years away, Nikki Finke reports that a big East coast snow storm is being blamed for the film earning a below-expectations estimate of $73 million for Fox — $12 million less than the the $85 million figure that was being bandied about previously. Regardless, $73 million ain’t chicken feed, though with a ginormous budget ($300 million??) comes ginormous responsibility to rake in the megabucks.

If I were James Cameron, I wouldn’t worry too much, however. Finke is trumpeting the numbers for the more expensive 3-D and 3-D Imax screens and the worldwide take was a record setter, if you leave out all “franchise” films. In other word $159.2 million worldwide is the worldwide record for a film with no previously known characters and not a sequel to some prior hit.

More important, as I suggested on Thursday, the science-fiction spectacular’s strong reviews will likely be reflected in word of mouth among cinema civilians. Finke says that the audience approval surveys from Cinemascore gave the film an “A” across every “quadrant” — i.e., people of all age and gender groups seems to like it. With the Christmas vacation period just getting started and a few Oscar nominations almost certain, I think it’s safe to say that “Avatar” is in better than good shape, especially if a movie like “2012,” which lots of people saw but which I gather very few loved, could still be profitable with a production budget of $200 million. I’d like to think that, sometimes, movies that people actually like do better than movies they merely tolerate. Humor me.

As for the rest of the weekend box office, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement. Taking a look at the ever-handy Box Office Mojo chart once again, the #2 and the #3 spot went to Disney’s hand-drawn “The Princess and the Frog,” which earned an estimated $12,224,000, and this year’s unrivaled sleeper hit from Warner Brothers, “The Blind Side.” The feel-good sports drama made an estimate $10,030,000 this weekend for a rough total so far of $164,734,000. Considering it’s $29 million budget and the possibility of a box office life-extending Best Actress nomination for Sandra Bullock, I’m guessing this has to wind up as one the year’s most profitable films, perhaps rivaled only by the sub-micro budgeted phenomenon, “Paranormal Activity,” and assorted mega-hits I don’t feel like mentioning/researching.

While Oscar-hopeful “Nine” was the week’s winner in terms of per screen average with $61,750 in four theaters (“Avatar” average of $21,147 was the second placer in per-screen), the week’s other major new release performed in predictably uninspiring fashion. Sony’s critically drubbed star-driven attempt at romantic comedy, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?,” dipped below its extremely modest expectations to earn an estimated $7 million, about  $1 million less than predicted — the snow again, I’m sure. Nevertheless, it appears that if people did hear the Morgans, they mostly decided to ignore them.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker in

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