Surprise! It’s the return of the end of week movie news dump.

I thought I’d shock everyone and do a post that’s not built around a trailer — there’ll be time enough for that on the weekend.

* Tom Cruise may or may not be many things, but I’ve never really thought of him as a rocker. Yet, that’s exactly what he will be in the promised film version of “Rock of Ages.” I’ve long had mixed feelings about Cruise as an actor — he can be very good in some things and disastrous in others — and I have mixed feelings about this project, too. To be specific, I like good movie musicals but strongly dislike eighties hair bands and what some of us used to call “corporate rock.”

On the other hand, Mike Fleming touts Anne Hathaway, who I have few or no mixed feelings about, as a possible costar. I wonder what she’d look like as a glam rocker…

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* A star has been set — or at least gotten to the serious negotiation stage — for the long discussed “Jack the Giant Killer” coming from Bryan Singer and his old screenwriting cohort, Christopher McQuarrie, writes Mike Fleming. He’s that kid who was so great in 2002’s “About a Boy” grown-up into 20-something Nicolas Hoult. Hoult has also appeared on the UK “Skins” and will be turning up in the upcoming “Mad Max” reboot/sequel or whatever.

Mike Fleming, however, is not correct when he describes the tale as a “scary” variation on “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It’s an entirely different, far less commonly told, fairy tale. As Wikipedia tells us:

Jack the Giant Killer is a British fairy tale about a plucky Cornish lad who slays a number of giants during King Arthur’s reign. The tale is characterized by violence, gore, and blood-letting.

No wonder they’re making a movie of it.

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A roundtable chat with Kevin Pollak of “Middle Men”

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A highly entertaining character actor, stand-up comic, and now also a screenwriter and Internet talk show host, Kevin Pollak will nevertheless remain forever in the shadow of three men. One is wise-guy crook Todd Hockney from Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer’s slambam 1995 debut, “The Usual Suspects” (currently at #24 of all-time most popular films on IMDb); the other two are, of course, William Shatner and Christopher Walken. So powerful are the Pollak impressions of these two men, I’d venture that when most of us attempt to impersonate either actor, we’re really not doing Shatner or Walken, we’re doing Pollak doing Shatner or Walken. (Though, personally, my extremely bad Christoper Walken is really a very bad impression of Kevin Spacey‘s Walken but, for all I know, Spacey got his from Pollak while shooting “Suspects.”). Indeed, I can remember a time when it seemed like nobody did Shatner and I’m pretty sure it was Pollak who kind of opened to door for all the other impressionists into the voice and mannerisms of the man Pollak calls “the Shat.”

Among the nearly 90 or more productions he’s been involved with as an actor, Kevin Pollak’s latest release is “Middle Men,” a black comedy-laced drama owing more than a little bit to Martin Scorsese. The film stars Luke Wilson as straight-arrow businessman Jack Harris who falls in with a pair of highly inventive cokeheads (Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribisi) and would be Internet porn kings during the late 1990s. The pair have developed the first really viable method for collecting money over the ‘net in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, things get massively complicated from there and Pollak turns up later in the film as an FBI agent who comes to Harris and his porn star girlfriend (Laura Ramsay) with a startling new reality. The film, co-written and directed by George Gallo, best known as the screenwriter of “Midnight Run,” is actually just part of an ongoing collaboration between the director and the actor-comic and now screenwriter.

As is often the case, I was one of a number of scribblers who were participating in a roundtable with Pollak during the “Middle Men” press day at L.A.’s Four Season’s hotel. Pollak arrived in a friendly but highly subdued mood. He was a late addition to the press day and obviously has been keeping very busy. Among many other projects, he had a new stand-up special ready premiering, and an increasingly popular podcast, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, with recent guests including Neal Patrick Harris and John Slattery of “Mad Men.”  Pollak frankly seemed a little tired at first, though going out of his way to be funny — because that’s what you expect from Pollak. Things perked up as it went.

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What kind of director is best for a comic book movie?

I was reading a profile of Jon Favreau in the May issue of Maxim — I know, I don’t have a subscription anymore, it just keeps showing up in my mailbox — and I ran across an interesting bit where the head of Marvel Studios discusses why he tabbed Favreau (whose biggest directing credit to that point was Elf) to lead the way on Iron Man:

For years Marvel had been making left-field directing choices, tabbing Evil Dead‘s Sam Raimi to do Spider-Man and The Usual Suspects‘ Bryan Singer to lead the X-Men franchise. But Favreau still seemed like an odd selection to head the studio’s first tent-pole picture for its new alliance with Paramount. “We have the technicians who know how to blow up the cars,” says Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “What you want in a director isn’t necessarily technical expertise. It’s taste, and it’s tone, and Elf is a triumph of taste and tone. There’s a reason everyone watches it every Christmas.”

This strikes me as a great way to approach that decision. At the time, it was a little strange that they’d hire Favreau to direct Iron Man, but funny is funny, and a sense of humor is typically what makes a comic book adaptation great. Of course they can find someone to blow things up — why does the director need to be an expert in demolition?

Then I thought about a couple of comic book adaptations that were critically panned, and Daredevil and Ghost Rider immediately sprung to mind. It turns out they were both directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose first directing credit was Simon Birch (45% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes). (He also wrote Electra, by the way.)

Fantastic Four director Tim Story got the gig after finishing Barbershop and the Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon-vehicle Taxi. Joel Schumacher had a series of good dramatic credits (including St. Elmo’s Fire and Falling Down) before helming Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, though The Lost Boys did have a sense of humor, albeit eight years earlier.

On the flip side, Christopher Nolan got the keys to the Batman reboot after two good thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, while Guillermo del Toro got to direct the very funny Hellboy on the heels of Mimic and Blade 2.

The bottom line is that it’s probably better to hire someone who has proven that they can coax good performances and humor out of their actors on a smaller scale than hiring a director just because he knows how to blow stuff up.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

  

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

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A geeky movie Tuesday

Little time but some big news today in the geekier realms of moviedom (which is pretty much all of big moviedom these days, or so it seems at times).

* The dynamic duo of Finke and Fleming have broken the news that “Dark Knight” helmer Christopher Nolan will be leading — though probably not directing — a new Superman reboot that will definitely not follow on the (in my view) somewhat underrated Bryan Singer/Brandon Routh semi-sequel to the Richard Donner/Richard Lester films of the seventies. I’m sure me and half of everyone reading could probably write a novel length essay about this. From my end, at least, that’ll have to wait.

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* The apocalyptic battle over the rights to “The Terminator” winds on. Last night, Nikki Finke claimed the exclusive that something called Pacifore had purchased the rights for $29.5 million. Today, since Pacificore is a Santa Barbara-based hedge fund with presumably no knowledge of how to make a blockbuster franchise film, they are today reportedly in negotiations with the former bidding adversaries, Sony and Lionsgate as to actually making new Terminator films. Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times Company Town blog has the details. Apparently, if the negotiations don’t go well, legal action may be in the cards. Gotta love show business.

* And a fun casting story to top everything off. Did I ever tell you people I actually know people who’ve actually been on UCLA stages with Tim Robbins back in the day? It’s really true. Well, I just got a few degrees of separation closer to the “Green Lantern” movie since the very talented writer-director-actor-dramaturg and Sarandon-ex (<sigh>) has joined the cast of “Green Lantern” where he’ll be playing the Peter Saarsgard’s dad. Heat Vision has the scoop.

  

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