Box Office Preview: Blasphemy, Pre-apocalyptic Comedy, and Pixar

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I hate to use the same reference twice, but the situation calls for it. So, it has come to this. As if “The Raven” wasn’t enough, a film about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is fully produced and coming to a theater near you. Before you ask, yes, it’s that Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence that the titular character has the same name as the sixteenth president of these United States. This may lend credence to the popular theory that Douglas Adams is not actually dead, but has gone into seclusion with a magic typewriter which allows him to write the script of reality. Mr. Adams, if you’re out there, “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”

Those of you who remember the brilliant but short-lived Showtime comedy “Party Down” might think the idea for “Vampire Hunter” arose from a joke in the episode “Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen.” Breckin Meyer wants to get Adam Scott back into acting by landing him the role of young Lincoln in a film in which Meyer’s character plays Edgar Allan Poe. The two steal an amulet from the Smithsonian, and, of course, fight vampires. As far as evidence, some Google searching shows claims that at one point, the Wikipedia page for the book on which the film is based said Seth Grahame-Smith did in fact get the idea from “Party Down.” It’s no longer there, and it’s Wikipedia, so who knows? Another question, “are we having fun yet?” No. No we are not.

I beg of you, do not see this movie, lest you lead us to such films as “George Washington: Werewolf,” “Anne Boelyn: Intergalactic Pilot,” and indeed, the end of the world. As if my pleas weren’t enough (I know how much you all love me), “AL: VH” currently sits at a 30 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s gone down every time I’ve refreshed whilst writing this post.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Speaking of the end of the world, Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in a genre bending comedy about just that. What we have here is not just a pre-apocalypse film (don’t see too many of those), but a comedy(ish) to boot. The official synopsis tells us this: “Set in a too-near future, the movie explores what people will do when humanity’s last days are at hand. As the respective journeys of Dodge and Penny converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.” Before the end of their lives, Penny wants to see her family one last time and Dodge wants to find the one that got away. Is anyone taking bets that he ends up with Penny instead?

So far reviews are mixed. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” has earned a rating of 58 on the Tomatometer. Based on the trailer, (perhaps too) much of the film’s humor derives from the idea that certain people, like cops and T.G.I. Fridays employees, would not change their lives in any way if they knew the end of days was at hand. But with it’s star-studded (sort of) cast, which includes Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, and Martin Sheen alongside stars Carell and Knightley, perhaps that number will spike and “End of the World” will surprise us all. I doubt it, but all this apocalypse talk and the mere existence of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has me in a foul mood.

Brave

Pixar has set some lofty standards for itself, so although “Brave” currently sits at a 79 on the Tomatometer, I don’t entertain any fantasies about it being the studio’s best work. In fact, it might not even be the studio’s best work in a fantasy setting with a redheaded female lead. I’m talking about Shrek people. Well the first two Shreks. Anyway, let’s turn to the synopsis:

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

What I can surmise from the trailer is that the age old custom is marriage to the eldest son of one of those “uproarious lords,” and the ill-fated wish, ironically enough, is to “change her fate.” Come on now, Merida. Everyone knows you don’t say something that vague to a witch. That’s how we end up with things like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” OK, OK, I’m done.

  

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5 Shows Which May Make Bullz-Eye’s NEXT TV Power Rankings

If you’ve checked out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings for April 2009, then you’ve already seen the site’s picks for the top 20 shows currently airing, several honorable-mention entries, and what series they’re most excited to see return. Given the way new programs are popping up constantly throughout the year, however, it was always inevitable that the voting for the Power Rankings would close just as a few promising series were making their debuts but before their consistency could be properly gauged. Here, then, are five shows which, at least as it stands right now, look like they have the potential to be ranked next time around.

1. “Party Down,” Starz. It’s a longstanding Hollywood tradition for producers to build themselves a gaggle of go-to actors who they can always count on to make an appearance in one of their projects, and although it’s Joss Whedon who has one of the most recognizable posses on television, it’s clear that Rob Thomas is building a pretty solid one, too. In “Party Down,” which focuses on a Hollywood catering company helmed by aspiring actors and actresses, you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing someone who once appeared on “Veronica Mars.” Ryan Hansen is the only “Party Down” regular who held the same status on “Mars” as well, having played Dick Casablancas, but Adam Scott (“Stepbrothers”), Ken Marino (“The State”), and Jane Lynch, who most recently proved hilarious in “Role Models,” all made visits to “Veronica” at some point or other. Enrico Colentoni had an unforgettable nude scene in the first episode of “Party Down,” and it looks like Kristen Bell will be turning up in the season finale.

Paul Rudd is one of the other co-producers of “Party Down,” and it’s clear he had a hand in bringing some of his favorite talent onto the show as well. Martin Starr, late of “Freaks and Geeks,” is here, and after scoping out IMDb, it looks like Ken Jeong will be turning up in a future episode. With all this talent, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is arguably the funniest new show of the spring season…if seasons even still exist, that is…and is already shaping up to be the place for cool comedians and actors to guest-star. “Crash” may have been a bust as Starz’s first original series, but count on “Party Down” to do for the network what “Mad Men” did for AMC.

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Party Down”

Ever since the demise of “Veronica Mars,” I think most die-hard Rob Thomas fans have been following the development of his remake of “Cupid” for ABC, but he’s got another new series in the works as well, as this one – “Party Down,” which focuses on the lives of a bunch of “cater-waiters” who came to L.A. in search of careers in the entertainment industry and haven’t gotten very far with their dreams – has actually been in the works for more than five years.

“When the original British ‘Office’ started airing on BBC America, Dan (Etheridge) and John (Enbom) and I and Paul Rudd started gathering each week to watch the show and just became very intrigued about the tone of the show,” said Thomas. “And we started talking about wanting to write something that had a similar comedic tone, and we decided if that show was about people who had given themselves over entirely to the rat race that it would be interesting if we took our stab at people who had perhaps chased the dream for too long, people who had refused to join the rat race. And so we came up with this idea about a show about cater-waiters in Los Angeles, people who came here to make it as actors, writers, musicians, comedians and find themselves in their mid-30s and perhaps, uh, having chased the dream for too long.”

Thomas likens “Party Down” to “Taxi,” in that “you start off following the ongoing lives of these characters who are doing some other job while pursuing the thing they really want to do. Each week, we take an opportunity to lampoon some facet of society, some different party idea. So each episode is one catered event, and these range from a senior singles mixer to a mobster-release-from-prison party to a super sweet 16 to an adult video awards after party, each one sort of giving us a unique group of people that we can have our characters interact with.”

Cast members Jane Lynch and Lizzy Caplan have at least a little bit of first-hand experience in the show’s subject matter; Lynch did some time as a waitress in Chicago, while Caplan catered a few premiere parties. (Adam Scott, meanwhile, claims to have never worked a day in his life.)

“It was interesting, because the whole experience made me so angry,” said Caplan. “Like, having to go around and serve these people because I was so convinced that, like, ‘It should be me. You should be serving me.’ You’re positive that you can do it better than anything you’re seeing on any screen. There’s nobody really cockier than the unemployed actor.”

“Party Down” premieres on Starz in March 2009.

  

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