More midweek movie news — it bleeds so, alas, it leads

* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feel  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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New gig, old gig: Steven Spielberg

Today we’re going to start what I think might be an occasional series of posts where I highlight a movie news story about someone’s new job — which is probably about half the movie news stories (when people aren’t merely “mulling,” “eying” or “circling” new jobs) — and then provide you with a clip of past work I deem somehow relevant.

Okay, so the news here is that Steven Spielberg is returning to directing science fiction with “Robopocalypse,” an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s recent novel written by “Buffy”-alum Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” the ever-delayed “The Cabin in the Woods”). Though I love science fiction, I’m much more a fan of Spielberg when he gets outside his old comfort zones on movies like “Munich,” “Catch Me If You Can,” even the sometimes-derided “Schindler’s List” and  “The Terminal.” Still, apart from the just about perfect “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — which is more fantasy than science fiction anyhow — his best, though still flawed, SF movie has to be “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Below, as Richard Dreyfuss and former French New Wave wunderkind François Truffaut look on, 1977’s cosmic equivalent to “Dueling Banjos.”

  

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From Riches to Rags

Not every celebrity is like Sarah Michelle Gellar, the Buffy the Vampire slayer girl, who still rides a bike in New York and takes used bags to retail stores to get discounts. No, there are some like Nicholas Cage, who shakes and trembles his way into large boutique shops and real estate agencies and never has an idea of what and how much he is about to spend in the next 2 minutes. That’s crazy, really; even celebrities don’t have limitless amounts of money. Everybody, no matter who they are, should not be squandering away ridiculous amounts hard earned money.

Most people spend a lot on credit cards. It’s a psychological thing; credit cards give you the illusion that you have more money to spend than you have actually earned. They give you the illusion that you actually have $5000 to spend, when you are doing nothing but taking a loan –at a high rate of interest- to buy something you don’t need in the first place.

One good way to stop doing this is to use prepaid credit cards. What you do here is, you put in an amount of money into the card at the beginning of a month, say, and spend that money – and only that money – when you use the card. You cannot cross that red line and go into shaky credit zone. You stick to whatever you can afford to put in, and this system naturally puts in a limit to how much you can spend. What this does is basically let you use a card instead of bulky cash, but it puts a limit to your spending too. It’s a great way to budget your life.

  

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Friday night movie news dump

Because I will it to be so…

* It’s getting mighty meta here. Via Anne Thompson, will show biz blogger/reporter Nikki Finke be in any position to sue HBO over their series about a presumably fictional entertainment blogger/reporter with a “no-holds-barred” attitude? asks THR, esq. She’s apparently already threatened to sue the Gawker. And here’s a quote for you:

So we were delighted when she acknowledged, fully aware that she would be quoted, that in our last off the record conversation she threatened to sue your blogger personally and Gawker corporately for “unfair business practices” related to our coverage of her. When we explained that the lawsuit threat was the reason we refused to speak off the record, she said, “How do you know I won’t? I’d love to own your house and your kids.”

Nikki Finke owning another blogger’s kids? Now there’s a Dickensian tale for you.

And that’s just the beginning of tonight’s useless blogging.

* Another superhero reboot. This time, it’s “Daredevil.” While writer David Scarpa’s resume doesn’t inspire great confidence, it shouldn’t be too hard to top the last attempt.

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* The Weinstein Company has picked up “The Tillman Story,” which is likely to be one of the year’s hotter documentaries.

* Sony has entered the bidding for the “The Terminator” franchise. Joss Whedon’s attempt at snapping up the franchise looking less likely every day. <Sigh>

* Speaking of Mr. Whedon, from time to time someone among his fans suggests some kind of fan donation and/or investment set-up to fund those ongoing “Buffy” or “Firefly” related projects they so crave. The idea is routinely shoot down as unrealistic. Kevin Smith works on a somewhat smaller canvas, but it’s interesting to see him apparently taking the idea seriously.

* James Cameron will presumably be betting against himself in Oscar pools.

* Many reasons to be slightly bummed that I decided not to take the SXSW plunge this year.

* One more Deadline|Hollywood item for the week from Mike “the sane one” Fleming. It’s about the movie moguls taking chances on less well-known directors (as if they aren’t always taking chances regardless, even if they’re trying not to), but all I can get my head around tonight is the idea of remaking “Damn Yankees” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jim Carrey. I’m not Carrey’s biggest fan, but that could actually work. As for the part of the lovable Satanic temptress, Lola, I’m sure there are many great possibilities, but there’s one actress whose proven she’s got the stuff for Fosse-esque choreography.

  

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Celluloid Heroes: Eight Musicals of the 21st Century

A funny thing happened this decade — the once dying genre of live-action movie musicals seems to have returned to the movie repertoire. As the decade closes, I can think of exactly two major westerns, but I keep remembering musicals that I should consider for this piece (including the mostly well-regarded French musical “Love Songs,” which I forgot to see before writing this, je suis désolé).

As a lifelong fan and a nearly lifelong tough critic of musicals, I love most of these films. However, this list is not so much a traditional “best of” and I’ve included one choice I definitely don’t like. (It won’t be hard to guess which.) These are musicals that I think contributed to the development of this polarizing and hard to pull off genre. They don’t hark back to times gone by or try to recapture a past glory that will never return, but actually take us into the future. That’s important now that musicals seem to have a future.

“Dancer in the Dark” (2000)

Earlier this year, the brilliant but often irritating Danish director Lars von Trier shocked hard-to-shock European festival audiences with graphic sexual violence in “Antichrist.” Back in 2000, all he needed to divide audiences was some really intense melodrama and an approach to making dark musicals partially borrowed from TV creator Dennis Potter (“Pennies from Heaven,” “The Singing Detective”).

Featuring a literally once-in-a-lifetime lead performance by singer-songwriter Björk as a young mother ready to sacrifice everything to save her son’s failing eyesight, “Dancer in the Dark” is maybe the most emotionally potent story of parental love I’ve ever seen. As a musical, it’s strange and arresting.

Like the Potter television shows and movies and “Chicago,” further down the list, the musical numbers take place in the mind of the lead character. In this case, however, it is particularly poignant as our heroine is a fan of musicals who, though she is gradually going blind, is attempting to appear in a community theater production of “The Sound of Music.” Below, she musically confesses her situation to a smitten Peter Stormare (yes, the guy from “Fargo”). Lumberjacks or not, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” sure seems like a long time ago.

Moulin Rouge” (2001)
As the non-musical Pixar films became the dominant template for animation and the musical form lost its last apparent movie bastion, big studios began to experiment with musicals starring humans. Unfortunately for me, the first and still one of the most popular of this decade’s high profile film musicals was Baz Luhrmann’s beautifully shot, amazingly designed, dull-witted, and over-edited “Moulin Rouge.”

Yes, this musical fan is not a fan of the musical that’s been credited with resurrecting the genre. Why? A couple of sequences work, but on the whole I expect the funny parts of a movie to make me laugh and, even more important, I like to see the movies I’m seeing. As far as I can tell, Luhrmann simply doesn’t have the confidence in this film to allow us time to view the arresting images he’s worked so hard to craft, nor does he permit time to actually see the hard work his dancers and actors put in. Editor Jil Bilcock is expected to do all the performing instead.

As for what Luhrmann and his arrangers did with the various classic songs they threw into a musical Cuisinart, the less I say about it the better. At the risk of sounding like a fogey (or a member of an 18th century Austrian court), too many notes. Way, way, way, too many notes. See if you disagree.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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