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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…

anne_hathaway

* 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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Academy nominations stay truer to form even than usual

In a funny way, the most surprising thing about this year’s batch of Academy Award nominations was how strongly they stayed true to Oscar’s long-held habits — even a Film Drunk could see it this year. At least in terms of sheer numbers of nominations, the Academy was most generous to a historical/inspirational costume drama from England over a somewhat edgier and less traditionally fashioned tale ripped from today’s business headlines.

academy-awards

The King’s Speech” led the nominations with 12, followed by “True Grit” with 10, and just eight for “The Social Network” — still very much the front-runner in my opinion — and “Inception.” Though Anne Thompson sees the momentum shifting in a more royal direction, I think it’s a big mistake this time around to read too much into sheer quantity. For example, I would be surprised to see a huge number of non-”technical” awards for “True Grit” or “Inception.” (Roger Deakins’ “True Grit” cinematography and the amazing effects of Christopher Nolan’s team being very likely winners).

Considering where most of the awards have gone so far, the only thing really going for “The King’s Speech” and against the previously prohibitive favorite, “The Social Network,” is aforementioned traditional Oscar genre prejudices and the inevitable backlash most highly acclaimed and award winnings films get. However, outside of infantile attention-hog critic Armond White, I actually haven’t noticed a huge anti-”Network” backlash though there were some off-target feminist complaints. (A movie about an almost literal boys’ club is going to depict a boys’ club atmosphere.) In any case, the rather enormous and still ongoing on- and off-line backlashes against “American Beauty,” “Crash” and “Titanic” clearly didn’t hurt those films’ Oscar prospects one bit.

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Box office preview: Harry Potter and the potentially record-breaking weekend

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in

Like Stephen Colbert’s frequently posed query about George W. Bush, the question for this weekend is: will “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” have a great box office weekend, or the greatest of all time — not adjusted for inflation, of course. Short of the kind of the Hitlerian magic-driven apocalypse that Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley try so hard and so emotionally to avert in the final Potter volume, there is certainly no way it doesn’t top the weekend. “Hallows” has already sold out a bunch of midnight shows already happening nationwide as I write this, according to Ben Fritz. With decent-to-good reviews and the legions of Potter fans still growing, the $400 million total gross figure posited by jolly Carl DiOrio seems more than reasonable. As for the totals of the 3D second half of the conclusion of the saga coming this summer, the sky appears to be the limit.

Russell Crowe in The only other major release that dares to rear its head this weekend is a potentially canny bit of counterprogramming. The very grown-up oriented, if not necessarily all that grown-up, “The Next Three Days” is a sort of character-study-cum-prison-break tale starring Russell Crowe and written and directed by Paul Haggis (“Crash“). It’s getting ho-hum reviews both over at our linked-to-above sister-site and elsewhere. DiOrio’s talking “teens” as in millions, not viewers.

Among limited releases, this weekend sees significant expansions of two bits of prime Oscar bait based on real life ordeals. Taking a look at the Box Office Mojo theater count, we have “127 Hours,” about a guy who sawed off his own arm and “Fair Game,” about a power couple whose (metaphorical) legs were cut off by the Bush-Cheney administration, adding a number of screens. Meanwhile, this weekend also sees the 3-screen debut of that ultimate rarity — a feel-good movie about politics showing that, sometimes, ordinary people really triumph in a democracy. What will a disbelieving world make of “Made in Dagenham“?

Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, and Geraldine James in

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I think Paul Haggis wants to be an action director now

That’s really the only conclusion I can draw after seeing the trailer for “The Next Three Days,” which starts out like a fighting-for-justice movie along the lines of Jim Sheridan’s “In the Name of the Father” and then becomes moves into an even more well-worn subgenre. Whatever else might be true about the sometimes extremely controversial work of Haggis’s, including the critically lauded, Academy Awarded, but cinephile-despised “Crash” — easily the most divisive Best Picture winner since the similarly largely cinephile-hated “American Beauty” — he knows how to write entertaining dramatic scenes. Could be okay.

H/t – THR’s Jay Fernandez.

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Serious offers and old gossip

Just another sane Monday in movieland.

A robot* Halcyon, a somewhat odd firm with an all but empty website, has officially put its one and only asset and reason for being, the rights to “The Terminator” franchise, on the auction block. So reports Variety and Nikki Finke. Suddenly, over at Whedonesque — yes, the Joss Whedon fansite where the beloved cult TV and occasional film creator occasionally posts  — Whedon links to it and posts a very serious offer. So serious, in fact, that Finke — who occasionally claims she “doesn’t do geek” runs the item. Meanwhile, back at Whedonesque, the Whe-man and a commenter who appears to be both a fan of the Joss and the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon (some folks are just blessed with too much taste) note an earlier serious offer.

Quote of the week (probably):

Well, here’s what I have to say to Nikki Finke: you are a fine journalist and please don’t ever notice me.

* Sony Classic has picked up the rights to “Mother and Child,” the latest film from arthouse/cable director Rodrigo Garcia, still probably best known to a lot of people as the son of Columbian literary great Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s not too surprising a pick-up, even in this tough market, given that the cast includes Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, up-and-comer Kerry Washington (“Ray,” “The Fantastic Four”), and Samuel L. Jackson.

* The box office “actuals” for most of the big releases turned out to be a couple of million higher than the estimates I reported yesterday. Sorry MJ’s ghost.

* Thinking about “The Men Who Stare at Goats” which comes out this Friday, Jeff Bridges gets appropriately trippy but not in too dudish a way.

* This is a few days old, but for those of us who find ourselves unduly fascinating by the Church of Scientology, via Kim Masters, here’s an interesting new story opened up last week. Writer-director Paul Haggis (“Crash”) announced he’s leaving the church.

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Starz series “Crash” does its inspiration justice

After mowing through the first season of “Crash” on the Netflix streaming service, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The series is based on the same concept as the 2004 film of the same name — the lives of otherwise disparate Angelinos are ultimately connected.

It stars Dennis Hopper as Ben Cendars, a past-his-prime record mogul. In reality, Hopper is playing the same role he always plays — a man with great presence and intelligence who may or may not be totally insane. He takes a young wannabe rapper (Jocko Sims) under his wing as he tries to wrest control of his record company from his resentful daughter (Kari Matchett).

Another (and more dominant) storyline revolves around a married police officer (Ross McCall) who, via a car crash, gets involved with a beautiful but dangerous gypsy (Moran Atias). His partner (Arlene Tur) is having an affair with a dirty detective (Nick Tarabay) who is moonlighting for a Korean kingpin. A gang-banger-turned-paramedic (Brian Tee) gets tangled in this web, and a detective from another precinct (Tom Sizemore) is called in to investigate.

The series also follows a Guatemalan immigrant who makes the trek through Mexico to the U.S., a married couple that loses their life savings in the real estate market, and a homicide detective who is tasked with keeping a young witness alive long enough to testify against a murder suspect.

As we learned on “The Shield,” dirty cops make for excellent television, and while “Crash” isn’t quite as gritty, it serves as a nice fix for those missing Vic Mackey and Co. I’d also recommend it to those that liked “Southland” in that it’s successful in telling a big story that involves a lot of different moving parts. Unlike these two series, “Crash” is on pay cable, so the creators have even more freedom to tell their story.

Season 2 debuts on Starz on September 18. Between this series and the excellent comedy “Party Down,” Starz has something going.

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TCA Tour – You Asked For It: Ira Steven Behr’s opening remarks

I guess one person’s request doesn’t necessarily qualify as “clamoring,” but since it’s been requested, I thought I’d go ahead and offer up Mr. Behr’s opening remarks from the TCA Press Tour panel for Season 2 of “Crash.” Truth be told, it’s as educational a lesson about what to expect from the show’s sophomore season as one could possibly have hoped for…and if he’d just sent this off in an E-mail or letter to all of the writers in attendance rather than delivered it orally, he probably would’ve found a lot more people saying, “Say, I am curious to check out this show!”

Okay, here we go…

“Crash,” Season 2.

L.A.

Los Angeles.

Okay, we’re in Pasadena, but pretend.

Los Angeles is paradise, but paradise comes at a price and everybody pays, and that’s the new season of “Crash.” So I’d like to introduce some of the new characters who will be paying that price this year along with the wonderful Dennis Hopper as Ben Cendars, Ross McCall as Kenny Battaglia, and Jocko Sims as Anthony.

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TCA Tour, Day 2: “Crash”

Hey, wanna see a panel come to a screeching halt before it even gets rolling? Just ask Ira Steven Behr to step up to the mike.

I’m a big fan of Behr’s work, particularly on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “The 4400,” but, holy cow, Starz main man Bill Hamm has got to still be kicking himself over his decision to say, “Before we open it up for questions, I want to ask Ira to give us some details about the direction of the second season and some of our exciting additions to the cast.” There’s no way I’m going to offer up everything Behr had to say, but I’ll tell you that, having copied and pasted the text of his comments into a Word document, it totals out at over 600 words, and his halting delivery made it seem as though it lasted forever. I’d actually been excited about the panel, which was to provide details about the upcoming second season of “Crash,” but I quickly found myself within an inch of standing up and yelling, “Geez louise, Ira, wrap it up, wouldja?”

Eventually, of course, Ira did wrap it up, and things moved onto the most obvious new development about the new season of “Crash”: the addition of Eric Roberts to the cast.

This isn’t the first time that Eric Roberts and Dennis Hopper have worked together, but it’s the only time that Roberts is interested in talking about, even if Hopper seemed to enjoy needling his new co-star about it.

Dennis Hopper: We did a movie together, too.
Eric Roberts: We don’t want to talk about that, Dennis.
Dennis Hopper: Okay. It was the first…
Eric Roberts: We don’t talk about that, Dennis. Terrible movie. (Shrugs) I made a couple.
Dennis Hopper: I made more than a couple!

Actually, Roberts tried his best not to say anything at all during the panel, as was further evidenced when a writer asked him and Hopper about the differences between working on television versus working in motion pictures.

Dennis Hopper: Well, you don’t have as much time, but I’ve worked in a lot of independent films through the years, so it doesn’t get that much different. I’ve had a lot of dialogue in this series, so that’s been the most difficult part for me. Beyond that, we work 15, sometimes 17 hours, but we have a great crew. Never heard anyone complain, except me. But nobody listens to me, so it’s okay. But the crew and the cast are just wonderful. Yeah, I’m having a joyous time, even though it’s difficult. But since we’re shooting other episodes, we have our three days off and four days off, you know, every two weeks, whatever. So it’s a nice schedule.
Eric Roberts: What he said.

Now, here’s the big question: how many of you even watched “Crash”?

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When a Double-0 Does It, It is Not Illegal + “G.I. Joe,” F**k No!

A couple of items hot off the action film presses…

* As per Cinematical, writer Peter Morgan has been hired to work on the as-yet-untitled 23rd (!) James Bond film. If the name rings a bell, he’s the playwright and screenwriter best known for the slam-bang action fests “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen.” (Yeah, I know, but they cut out the lengthy sequence where Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II dons a cat suit and tears a bunch of foreign agents limb from limb as she foils a plot to blow up Buckingham Palace before tea and crumpets with the French premier.)

It’s actually not a big change in strategy. Both “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” were written by the team of Robert Wade and Neal Purvis with a “polish” from Oscar-winning veteran scribe Paul Haggis (“Crash“, “Million Dollar Baby“). After what many perceived as a bit of a let down on “Quantum” both in terms of story and direction, apparently the idea was to get a fresh Oscar-nominated, if not actually Oscar-winning, writer on board. So, no need to worry that “Bond 23″ will be an earnest examination of the legal and ethical issues created by giving random blokes a license to kill people — though I’d pay to see that. As usual, interesting choices are being bandied about for the Bondian director’s chair, but in 22 films, for better or worse, a director with a strong personal vision has yet to be hired, so no reason to think the Bond producers will break the pattern now.

* Rumors have been flying all over the place about a supposed disastrous screening of “G.I. Joe” — a movie that wasn’t exactly being awaited with baited breath at least in my corner of the geeksphere. Anyhow, the upshot is that helmer Stephen Sommers, best known as the writer-director behind the Mummy films, or other heads may or may not roll or be diminished creatively.

For insight, I hereby direct you to Anne Thompson‘s refreshingly FACT-ual approach to the matter. Looking at the trailer, I can’t help thinking that this movie has somehow already been made….


Team America Trailer
Uploaded by ijeannie.

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Dude, Where’s My Oscar? Bullz-Eye revisits recent Academy Award “mistakes”

Dude, Where's My Oscar?

There are times when we swear that “Entertainment Weekly” has either bugged our office or is tapping into our conference calls. Numerous pieces of ours wind up on their pages at almost the exact same time, be it a list of the best sequels, cinematic stoners, or our long-gestating piece on the Bullz-Eye Fantasy Band Draft, which will drop later this year. They’ve even named their hot/not meter “The Bullseye.” Hmmm.

And sure enough, they scooped us once again, when they put the top awards from various Academy Awards results to a new vote, to see how the current Academy would fix the previous generation’s “mistakes.” We’ve been throwing that idea around for over a year, and just when we begin to put pen to paper: boom! — they beat us to the punch. We’re not at all surprised that they saw the appeal in such a topic; every year there is at least one head-scratching moment, one that usually owes more to awarding a long-overdue actor for their overall body of work than for the performance at hand (ahem, Al Pacino, “Scent of a Woman”). Enter Bullz-Eye, Mighty Mouse-style, to save the day and make sure justice is served. We’ve examined recent Academy Award winners and their competitors, and we found a few, um, irregularities. Revisionist history begins now.

Oscar Snubs

Elaine Benes summed up our feelings for “The English Patient” as well as anyone. Actually, that’s a tad unfair; we didn’t think “Patient” was awful, just long and, in the end, anti-climactic. Without Juliette Binoche carrying her co-stars from start to finish (her Oscar, unlike this one, was well deserved), we wonder if “Patient” would have received half the praise that it did. Then there’s “Fargo,” which featured invaluable contributions from its leads, the supporting cast, and even the characters who were only in a scene or two (Marge Gunderson’s Japanese high school classmate had us in tears). It’s funny, shocking, coy, and best of all, normal, an expertly crafted movie all the way around. Guess the Academy wasn’t quite ready for the Coen brothers yet.

Oscar Snubs

To be fair, this one isn’t a staff pick; it’s mine and mine alone. My colleague Jason Zingale loved “Crash,” as did most people. I, however, loathed it like no movie I’ve seen since “Shrek.” The manner in which people would instantly spew the most hateful, ignorant nonsense in scene after scene was just unbearable, and I wanted to throttle Sandra Bullock’s ridiculously underwritten shrew of a character. Granted, “Brokeback Mountain” is not a perfect movie by any stretch, but I’ll take it over “Crash” any day of the week and twice on Sunday for the sheer fact that it didn’t try to beat me into a coma about what a racist pig I am. Fuck you, Paul Haggis.

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