Tuesday night at the movies

A busy day in tinseltown, but I’ve got to keep things brief tonight.

Spiderman* Nikki Finke is breaking the story that “Spiderman 4” is on hold due to script problems. In other words, Sam Raimi supposedly “hates” the screenplay a large of number of screenwriting cooks have been preparing.  The latest to get his hands on the script is screenwriting standby Alvin Sargent, who worked at the past two Spidey movies and is, at 82, probably by far the most senior fellow writing comic book movies these days. And, oh yeah, it might be in 3-D.

* In another scoop for the Finkster, she reports that underage It-boy Taylor Lautner is Hollywood best compensated teen and now being paid “per ab,” though he apparently has half an ab. I wonder if I get figure out a way to get paid per nose hair.

* Anne Thompson reports that Sam Mendes is “in talks” to direct the next James Bond movie. This would be a major change of pace for the director best known for the Oscar-winning, cinephile-derided, “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition,” whose attempt at an indie dramedy, “Away We Go,” failed to set the world on fire last year.

* T-Bone Burnett, a superb musician and record producer who has found his greatest fame working on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and pretty much every major film with a country music/Americana aspect to it, tells Kim Masters a moving story about how the late musician Stephen Brutan influenced the filming of “Crazy Heart” with Jeff Bridges.

* And how can we get through a day without mentioning “Avatar“? If you’ve been wondering how the Na’vi nasty is done, you’ll get some “soft R” clues, I’m guessing, on the special edition DVD. That’s the word from Huffington Post. I guess we’ll have to wait longer to have 3-D big screen alien-sex.

* On a vastly more serious “Avatar” related note, the Washington Post reports that James Cameron is openly considering making a hard-hitting film about nuclear weapons and traveled to Japan — the only country to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons — to start researching it last month. This is the kind of film you can make with a major studio after you have the kind of monster hit Cameron appears to have on his hands.

As for the research, not all of us are able to talk to survivors of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — I actually have, in another life, and consider myself lucky for having done so. If you’ve never read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, however, you should. The world might not be under constant threat of annihilation as it was up from the fifities to the late eighties, but nuclear weapons remain a serious threat. ‘Still, I’m sure Fox would be just as happy if Cameron decided to make “True Lies II.”

* It’s a big day for octogenarians breaking stereotypes just a bit. Christopher Lee is continuing his exploration of “orchestral metal.” I hope you enjoy his new direction.

* The Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye gang is quickly dividing into Blu-Ray “haves” and “have nots.” For the benefit of the “haves,” (a group that does not include me) Glenn Kenny recounts his favorite BR discs of 2009.

  

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Celluloid Heroes: Jason Zingale’s Best (and Worst) Films of 2009

For film critics, the end of the year means only one thing: “best of” lists. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about the job, so when Bullz-Eye decided to do a decade-end feature in place of our annual retrospective, I didn’t let that deter me from putting one together anyway. This year’s crop of films was just as uneven as in past years, but while you might have had to dig a little deeper to find some real gems, there’s no denying that 2009 still delivered some truly great movies. Here’s a look at my ten favorite films, along with a few honorable mentions and a list of the year’s worst.

THE BEST FILMS of 2009:

1. “Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s WWII revenge fantasy is every fan’s dream movie. Not only does it feature the director’s trademark dialogue (and plenty of it), but it also boasts a stellar ensemble cast, award-worthy performances from Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender, and some of the most thrilling sequences of the year. The German bar scene may feature QT at his nostalgic best, but the opening chapter is his magnum opus. That “Inglourious Basterds” can run for an additional 120 minutes and still be just as engaging is a testament to the film’s supreme quality.

2. “The Hurt Locker

This Iraq war thriller is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen, piling on the tension so high that you’ll literally spend the entire film on the edge of your seat. Jeremy Renner is a marvel to watch as the bomb squad thrill junkie at the center of the story, but the real star is director Kathryn Bigelow, who takes an otherwise barebones script and transforms it into a series of memorable set pieces that continually upstage the one before it. But best of all, “The Hurt Locker” proves that female directors don’t have to make movies for women to be taken seriously in Hollywood.

3. “Up in the Air

There’s a pretty good chance that “Up in the Air” would have moved up a spot on my list had I found the time to see it a second time, but as it stands, the Jason Reitman-directed seriocomedy is still one of the year’s best movies. Reitman may not get a lot of credit as a director, but between his funny and timely adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel and keen use of his actors, it’s pretty clear that he has a promising future in the business. George Clooney continues to charm the hell out of moviegoers in a role tailor-made for the veteran actor, while Anna Kendrick steals the show yet again in a performance that deserves to be rewarded come awards time.

4. “Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’m surely in the minority on this one, but “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the best animated movie of the year. I love Pixar just as much as the next person, but while “Up” proved to be yet another excellent addition to the studio’s still-flawless portfolio, director Wes Anderson’s adaptation of the popular Roald Dahl children’s story is even better. From the spot-on voice cast and witty script to the incredible sets and wonderful costume design, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” has so many layers that you have to watch it several times just to soak up all of the rich detail that went into making the movie.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Box office wrap-up: “Transformers” sequel blows up real good

The news this week is about as simple and unsurprising as you can get: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” has done some pretty spectacular business, netting an estimate of $201.2 million, just shy of the all-time record $203.8 million “The Dark Knight” earned on its initial five-day release. Could that $2.6 million difference be the difference between outstanding reviews and really bad ones? Nah, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a big drop off here, or maybe that’s wishful thinking based on my oft-repeated feelings about this particular franchise.

As per Variety, “The Proposal” came in at the #2 spot, dropping 45% from its opening for $18.5 million in its second week. And this summer’s ongoing audience and critical favorites continue to do outstanding business. “The Hangover” is thought to have taken in $17.2 million in its third week, while “Up” continues to exercise the astonishing power of the Pixar touch in the #4 spot with about $13 million in its fifth week.

This week’s only non-“Transformers” wide release, “My Sister’s Keeper” (referred to by newly rich superblogger Nikki Finke as “simpering,” but which our own Jason Zingale actually kind of liked), came in at the #5 spot with an estimated $12 million. As we mentioned last time, that’s actually a couple million more than some expected.

John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, It also wasn’t a bad weekend on the indie side. The critically acclaimed Iraq war action-suspense drama, “The Hurt Locker,” performed well in its four theaters on the coasts, netting about $3600 per screen. In wider release, the high pedigree prestige comedy, “Away We Go,” perhaps benefited from the TV appeal of stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, and got into the #10 spot with $1.7 million in just under 500 theaters.

Back tomorrow with more on the about to be concluded LAFF

  

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