Almost midweek movie news

Some fairly big news to report tonight.

* It might be a bit meta for a lead, but I can’t help my happiness that Roger Ebert has been named person of the year by the Webby Awards people. I’ve been a big fan of his writing for a very long time and always thought he was the best straight-up writer of any of the major critics, but recently he has really emerged as an inspirational figure. He’s also been one of the most generous supporters of film writing on the web in a million different ways. It’s not really bragging when I mention that he’s thrown some small nods my way as well as some occasionally very funny e-mail responses over the years. He’s done the same for countless others.

And, if that wasn’t cool enough, the great cinephile social networking and blog site, the Auteurs also won an award. Well, done, folks.

* In actual movie news, remember that item last week when I said that Matthew Vaughn, most recently of “Kick-Ass,” was not going to be directing the next X-Men movie? If not, you can just keep right on forgetting because, it turns out, he is directing the film they’ll call “X-Men: First Class” — a prequel. I’m a big fan of Vaughn, though not so much of the X-Men films so far, so I find this intriguing. Some of you may remember, Vaughn departed from “X-Men 3” and the film that was, as per Cinema Blend, Matthew Vaughn, and I, almost definitely the worse for it.

* More really good news from my point of view, one of my favorite actors currently working, Chewitel Ejiofor, has been cast as definitely my favorite Afro-pop musician — okay, the only African musician I can think of that I’ve ever actually bought an album or CD by. Ejiofor will be starring in a biopic of the legendary maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti in a film to be directed by Steve McQueen of “Hunger.” This film is not related, except by topic, to the musical “Fela!” which just got eleven Tony nominations. The cool part is not only that the Ejiofor, a first-generation Brit born of Nigerian parents, is the actor to play the part, he’s also apparently learning to play piano and saxophone (Kuti’s instruments, I believe) and had, we’re told,  become quite good.

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Adam McKay has “The Goods”

You may not know Adam McKay by name, but you’ve almost certainly seen his work: the former “Saturday Night Live” writer has been virtually inseperable from Will Ferrell since the latter ankled “SNL” for a future in feature films, directing such comedy classics as “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers.” And that isn’t all — McKay and Ferrell’s production company, Gary Sanchez Productions, is responsible for a long list of films and television shows, including “Eastbound and Down,” “The Foot Fist Way,” and, most recently, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” It’s that last project that has McKay making the publicity rounds these days, discussing the Sanchez-produced, Jeremy Piven-led comedy about a legendary car salesman.

Of course, with a resume — and list of upcoming projects — as intriguing as McKay’s, “The Goods” isn’t the only thing worth talking about, and during his recent chat with McKay, Bullz-Eye’s Will Harris made sure to pick his brain about a variety of topics, from how he and Ferrell met to the second season of “Eastbound and Down” to that oft-rumored “Anchorman” sequel. Which, McKay tells us, will happen…eventually:

We have a very clear idea for it, we want to do it, and we’ve talked to everyone, and everyone has said that they’re in, but everyone has schedules. Sadly, the second part after I say, ‘We’ll do it,’ is that it could be two or three years away.

With eight more episodes of “Eastbound and Down” on the way, it’s only natural to wonder how much McKay can spill about where the next season will take us — and just as natural for McKay to play it close to the vest:

Let’s see if I can give a clue without wrecking anything. I’d say the question for this season is, “Will Kenny return?” I don’t know, I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to wreck it, because they have some cool ideas.

And that’s just scratching the surface of the interview. To read about McKay’s thoughts on the “SNL” years, his feelings about the impending DVD release of “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush,” what to expect from Jon Heder’s upcoming sitcom, and more, click on the image above or follow this link!

  

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Adam McKay talks “The Goods,” “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”

Anyone who’s a fan of Will Ferrell’s work will recognize the name of Adam McKay. The two have been in cahoots virtually since the day they met…which, as it happens, was the day they were both hired for “Saturday Night Live” (along with David Koechner, Cheri Oteri, and writer Tom Gianis)…and they’ve turned their collaboration on sketches like “Neil Diamond: Storytellers” and the ongoing saga of Bill Brasky into an partnership which has found McKay directing Ferrell in “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers.” It’s also led to a successful production company – Gary Sanchez Productions – which has brought us HBO’s “Eastbound and Down,” “The Foot Fist Way,” and, most recently, the used-car comedy, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.”

“The Goods” was kinda sorta buried at the box office by the competition, but Roger Ebert describes it as a “cheerfully energetically and very vulgar comedy,” adding, “If you’re okay with that, you may be okay with this film, which contains a lot of laughs and has studied Political Correctness only enough to make a list of groups to offend.” Hey, sounds good to me…and although McKay was doing the press rounds this week in what one presumes was an attempt by Paramount to kick up the buzz for the film a little more, he seems pretty comfortable no matter what the resulting numbers are this weekend.

“Regardless, we’re either gonna be a small little box office surprise or we’re gonna be a cult cable hit,” he said, with a laugh. “It’ll be one way or the other. But it certainly makes us laugh, so we’re happy about that.”

Producer Kevin Messick came to McKay and Ferrell with the script for “The Goods” with star Jeremy Piven already attached, and after giving it a read, McKay couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the actor’s involvement.

“Oh, my God, if there’s ever a role that you’re going to have him play coming off the success he’s had as Ari Gold (in ‘Entourage’), it’s this role,” said McKay. “And we thought, ‘Well, we can do a rewrite on this, kind of gussy this up, get people we like in it, and sort of approach it through improv.’ Will and I had written a car-salesman script about five or six years before that, which Lorne Michaels tried to get made at Paramount, but it was a weird time over there, and we couldn’t get it made, and it was very frustrating. So we saw this script come through, and we thought, ‘Well, this is perfect.’”

Some may hear about the concept of this film and think, “Didn’t they already do this with ‘Used Cars’?” Although McKay is a fan of the classic 1980 Robert Zemeckis comedy and admits that it’s one of the reasons that the idea of the movie was so attractive to him, he estimates that 8 out of 10 people don’t even remember the film.

“It’s a film-fan movie,” he said. “I love it, of course, but it was so long ago. It’s kind of amazing that there really haven’t been many car-salesman movies since then. There was ‘Cadillac Man,’ but that wasn’t really about car sales. My favorite salesman movies are ‘Tin Men’ and ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ and that’s really what got us excited about it. If anything, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ was a huge influence on this movie. Even though this movie’s raunchy and absurd and silly, that vibe is still very funny to us.”

And so, by many folks’ estimations, is “The Goods,” although – appropriately, given the subject of the film – your mileage may vary.

McKay is currently in pre-production for his next directorial effort, “The Other Guys,” but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have his eye on what project will be next on the horizon. He’s excited at the prospect of branching out beyond his usual realm, and in addition to the sci-fi satire, “Channel Three Billion,” he’s particularly chomping at the bit to get the ball rolling on the intriguingly-titled “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” from writer/director Tommy Wirkola.

“I love that movie,” said McKay. “That’s exactly the kind of shit where, like, it almost veers a little more toward Sam Raimi Land. Yeah, our production company, Gary Sanchez, is producing that. We saw ‘Dead Snow,’ the movie that Tommy did first, and Kevin Messick had Tommy come in, and he told us about this ‘Hansel & Gretel’ idea, and we were instantly, like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re doing that.’ And then he wrote an amazing script, so I’m as excited about that as anything we’re doing.”

Be sure to head over to Bullz-Eye.com next week for the full interview with McKay, where discusses the history of his collaboration with Ferrell, the status of “Anchorman 2,” and what we can expect from the second season of “Eastbound and Down.”

  

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