Midweek movie news, and then…

After tonight, I’ll be taking a break from the daily blogging grind for just a bit. That means I’ll be out completely for a couple of days at least and then you may see a post here and there and then, suddenly, I’ll be back like I was never gone in the first place, probably towards the tail end of the month. So, this will have to hold you for a little while.

* As of tonight, corporate raider Carl Icahn appears to be a majority stockholder in Lionsgate.

* I’ve never been a fan of the seventies movie of the silly seventies film version of “Logan’s Run,” but with Carl Erik Rinsch directing, my interest in the new film perked up considerably. Now, Alex Garland — who wrote and produced the not-entirely-unrelated upcoming version of “Never Let Me Go” which I discussed yesterday — has jumped on board, making it even more interesting. Better, they’re approaching it as a new version of the book, not a remake of the film. In the 1976 film, by the way, no one in the futuristic society was permitted to live past 30. In the novel, it was 21.

* Sam Raimi has been confirmed as the director of “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Apparently Robert Downey, Jr., who just formed a new company with his producer wife, Susan Downey, is the most likely Oz at this point.

* Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific interview with one of the best, Isabella Rossellini. Easily one of the most fascinating  actresses of the last thirty years or so, with quite a backstory behind her. Don’t miss it.

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*Though Ms. Rossellini seems perfectly at home in a very humorous way with her fifty-something status, that is not really always the case for actresses. This month’s conversation between Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard at the House Next Door underlines that point as the cinephile thinkers discuss two of Hollywood’s greatest show-biz based films, “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve,” both released in 1950 and both dealing with actresses who struggling with this whole passage of time thing.

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Stop me before I summarize the movie news again

It’s like a disease, I tell ya’…

* THR’s Borys Kit has the shortlist of actors being considered for the new Marc Webb “Spiderman” and, not surprisingly given Webb’s good taste in actors, they’re a pretty strong bunch, with the biggest name being the one-time “Billy Elliot” and the Tintin to be, Jamie Bell.

Megan Fox* Much as I am not a fan (I’m not sure who is, exactly), it was once tempting to think that maybe Michael Bay was perhaps showing good judgment by letting Megan Fox go from the next “Transformers” flick. If Jeff Schneider at the Wrap has his facts right, however, it might just be another reason to think even less of him and also, maybe, to worry about her. And is it really possible that the earlier reports were part of a bluff, which Fox has now called? Oy. H/t The Playlist.

* More from Borys Kit. I’ve written about Carl Erik Rinsch a couple of times here. He’s a very interesting commercial director who’s a protegee of Ridley Scott and who has an arresting visual style of his own. Now, it appears possible that his first feature film could be that new version of “Logan’s Run,” which maybe someone other than me remembers was actually based on a book — way better than the lame seventies movie, if my teenage opinions can be trusted — written in 1967 by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Rinsch definitely has a feel for science-fiction, I think.

* The Frairs Club’s next roastee will be one Quentin Tarantino. Expect cursing, but perhaps better written than usual. Lots of geek and pot-smoking jokes too, no doubt.

* If  you’re a killer, but forget you’re a killer, are you still a killer? And if you remember, can you start over and drop your bad habit? Those are the questions that appear to be the topic of “Jack,” which John Cusack has just signed on to. No word on who’ll be playing his no doubt brilliant and beautiful, yet vulnerable, doctor.

* Steve Carrell playing the big-in-the-Philippines songwriter of “We Built This City”? Works for me.

* Speaking of signing on, the new editorial director of THR aka The Hollywood Reporter is the former editor-in-chief of Us Weekly. Anne Thompson wonders just how complete a shift to celebrity journalism this might mean for the venerable trade pub, which may not really be a trade for very much longer if her pessimistic/realistic guess is right.

* Ever wondered why the residents of Skull Island bothered to put a Kong-sized door in that giant wall meant to keep the big ape out? Greg Ferrera has a theory.

* I didn’t even know this was happening, but the John Williams Blogathon is under-way at Edward Copeland’s place, celebrating easily the most famous film composer of our era. Yes, his work on “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” etc. is pretty great, but there’s he’s got more musical quivers in his bow than you might think.

  

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“The Gift” that keeps on giving (updated)

One of the cooler aspects of this whole ‘net thing from a film lover’s point of view is that it’s created a whole new venue — if not quite a market — for short films. While it’s still next to impossible to make any money from short subjects, Carl Erik Rinsch, a commercial director who is currently making the leap to features, has apparently used an Internet short to get one of his projects off the ground. It probably helps that he’s got the apparent backing of one of the most respected names in mainstream film-making.

“The Gift” is part of a series of connected shorts called “Parallel Lines” backed by Ridley Scott Associates. The story is as simple as it gets, but the visuals are anything but. Anyhow, according to Peter Sciretta at /Film, it all turns out to be prequel, or I imagine a possible pre-credit or opening sequence, to a new feature over which Rinsch has been able to get an apparent studio bidding war going. It’s embedded below, but I suggest you punch the full-size feature and make sure the subtitles are turned on first for reasons which I think will be fairly obvious.

[UPDATE: Crimeny! I put up the wrong video and no one said anything. Does anybody actually read this? Anyhow…at long last, the corrected one is below.]

Last year, I praised Rinsch’s strong visual sense and sensibility in a post which included embeds of some of his terrific commercial work. While I’m not sure he’s a great storyteller yet, he’s certainly on to something. If you liked the above, I’d suggest you take a look.

  

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Okay, maybe this guy actually should be making movies

In the post just below this one, I write quite skeptically about a planned upcoming movie that commercial director Carl Erik Rinsch is said to be “circling.” Aside from my other strong misgivings about the project, I was initially unimpressed that yet another big movie was being helmed by a commercial director.

Now, as Ridley Scott (one of the bosses at Rinsch’s commercial production company) proved, the demanding field of commercials can yield some fairly great directors. At the same time, commercials are great proving grounds for visual flash and style, but don’t require the kind of sustained storytelling that even dramatic short subjects require.  I think one reason old Hollywood worked better from a film consumer’s point of view was that directors started on dramatic short subjects, then moved on to low budget “B” pictures, and finally on to main features. I don’t think I need to remind anyone where Michael Bay started.

Still, things haven’t worked in the old school way in a long, long time and I thought it was only fair for me to see if I could find some of Mr. Rinsch’s commercials online. And, I have to say, I was impressed — not that they’re all perfect or indicate he’ll be the next John Ford, but he certainly has a way with an arresting image and with some very cool CGI work as well. I just wish Rinsch could find a more promising project than “47 Ronin” — or figure some brilliant way to make the thing not as wrongheaded as it sounds. We’ll see about that, but I do think these are very intriguing pieces of work. There’s a bit of a Spike Jonze/Michel Gondry vibe here, alongside something else.

Much more after the jump.

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Hollywood, land of confusion

Today, much of the confusion appears to be ethnic.

* Patrick Goldstein presents the U.K. based “Case of the Vanishing and Less Famous African-Americans.

* Universal is “circling” a director of commercials named Carl Erik Rinsch for a shot at the big time for a new action flick, writes Michael Fleming. Rinsch, who I never heard of until now, turns out to have an pretty interesting visual approach (more about that in tonight next’s post), but these days every third movie is from some first-timer whose made his or her name doing commercials. Also, Keanu Reeves is the star. Nothing surprising or strange about that, I guess. No, what’s of interest here is that the movie is a new version of the story of the loyal 47 Ronin (leaderless samurai), an oft-filmed national legend — in Japan, that is.

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Okay, so Reeves is part-Asian, but his looks are sort of those of a vaguely ethnic white guy, which is usually neither here nor there, but this isn’t “Shogun” or “The Last Samurai” — it’s not a story about some random westerner who finds himself in 18th century Japan. Or maybe it is now. I don’t like pre-judging movies but this just gives me a bad feeling. The 47 Ronin is a dearly held national legend of Japan and they’re going to make a seemingly super-Americanized English language version, and starring this guy?

I know there’s such a thing as non-traditional casting, but this is just weird. Samurai are not merely part Japanese and really can’t be. Remember Boss Tanaka from “Kill Bill” and his reaction to taking orders from a woman who was Chinese-Japanese American? Quentin  Tarantino is one big-time Western filmmaker who knows something about Asian culture; I wonder if there are any others. If any movie were to give Japan’s growing nationalist far-right a boost, this could be it.

But it’s only a movie, right? So, let’s see some Japanese filmmakers get to do a version of the Alamo or the Shoot-Out at the O.K. Corral starring some vaguely Caucasian-looking Japanese actor as Wyatt Earp/Davey Crockett and film it in Japanese. I wonder how that would do in the States. I also wonder what our own ranting nativists would make of that.

Tadanobu Asano* But poetic semi-justice is swift, because also from the mighty pen of Michael Fleming comes the word of casting the “Warriors Three” by Kenneth Branagh of the upcoming “Mighty Thor” flick. Alongside the traditionally more or less Nordic looking Stuart Townsend and Ray Stevenson (who I guess will be wearing a fat suit of some sort as Valstagg or gaining a lot of weight, or will just be the trimmest Falstaff knock-off ever), Branagh has taken the interesting step of going full mongol on the character of Hogun, who was partially modeled on Charles Bronson, by casting the Japanese actor who actually starred in “Mongol” (and Takashi Miike’s probably-never-to-be-seen-by-me gangster gorefest, “Ichi the Killer”), Tadanobu Asano. Yes, this is not your father’s lily-white Asgard.

* Mel Gibson adds to the confusion/mystery around “Max Max 4.”

* And, finally, in non-ethnically based confusion, Nikki Finke reports Carl Icahn appears to be mucking about with the MGM sale, and the ever-opinionated Devin Faraci (well, he’s a pussycat next to Ms. Finke, but who isn’t?) has some interestingly contentious thoughts on the state of geek-oriented film journalism and Julia Styles/Spiderman/Black Cat rumors.

  

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