Count the 1980s movie references with the cast of “Take Me Home Tonight”

Okay, I personally think John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei kind of cornered the market on humorous interpretations of the Human League kitsch classic, “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” in “Cyrus.” Still, Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer and (very briefly) Demetri Martin come pretty close in this nicely done promotional video for the upcoming 1980s-set coming of age comedy, “Take Me Home Tonight,” featuring the band, Atomic Tom.

Yep, you did catch Michael Biehn in there. He plays Grace’s policeman dad in the movie.

I’m currently embargoed from reviewing “Take Me Home Tonight,” but let’s just say that as someone who has been tired of the 1980s since the 1980s and has been tired of coming of age films even longer, my expectations were kind of shattered. What do I mean by that? You’ll have to wait. In the meantime, you can see my earlier post on the red band trailer.

  

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Tuesday late night movie news

It’s pretty clear that nothing going on in movieland tonight is going to be able to compete with the sheer entertainment value of the NBC late night TV quagmire, but there’s definitely stuff to talk about.

* Peter Saarsgard of the very good “An Education” is a highly intriguing actor who I’ve been following for some time, especially since catching his work in the underrated “The Dying Gaul” at Sundance a few years back. No matter what kind of character he’s playing, he seems to have a real gift for moral ambiguity. If he’s cast as a villain, we think he must have a good side, and if he’s cast as someone more upright, we wonder if there isn’t something underhanded going on. Anyhow, Borys Kit reports that it looks like he might be playing the villain side of the street in the Green Lantern movie. Could be good.

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* The longest named director in show business is back on “The Tourist,” a remake of a French thriller to star Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is the very talented and personable multilingual director behind “The Lives of Others.”

* Simon Brew has some more on the upcoming “Spiderman” reboot announced yesterday. His list of possible new Spideys has two interesting entries that I can’t quite agree with. Daniel Radcliffe actually makes some sense, but we’ll have to see how his American accent is, though I’d personally advise the soon-to-be ex-Harry Potter to avoid overly franchisey roles for a while. Michael Cera would be interesting but, I fear, disastrous. He’d have to get muscular and we know what happens to funny young actors when they become too obviously physically fit. Just ask Anthony Michael Hall.

The trick with Peter Parker is that the actor has to be believable both as a vulnerable demi-nerd, and as the sinewy superhero. Tobey Maguire was actually a really outstanding choice.

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Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season One

Observational humorist Demetri Martin is one of the most promising talents on the circuit today, but like most stand-up comedians who are given their own TV series, “Important Things with Demetri Martin” is but a shell of his real potential. Produced by “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, “Important Things” blends Martin’s unique stand-up routine with the more generic stylings of sketch comedy, and the end result is about as hit and miss as you’d expect. While the stand-up portions are solid thanks to the variety of his delivery (from deadpan one-liners to silly songs like “You vs. Me”), the sketches aren’t quite as good. In fact, with the exception of just about every sketch featuring Jon Benjamin (including a great bit where two guys fight over a parking spot and another involving an Olympic sport called the Passive Aggressive 800m), most of them are downright dull. Nevertheless, fans of the comic will still enjoy hearing some of his new material, and for those that feel cheated by the short season, Paramount has included a nice collection of bonus features like deleted sketches, a look at an early concept for the show, and audio commentaries by Demetri and friends.

Click to buy “Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season One”

  

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Recycled horrors and boomer-bait form box office threesome

It’s an odd duck of a weekend coming up, movie-wise. Our new releases include two films seeking to squeeze just a few more dollars from some long-running horror franchises and a historical prestige comedy which isn’t generating a huge amount of prestige.

Though it’s not quite a given, the prognosticators assume that one of the horror franchises — neither of which has been screened for critics — will top the weekend box office. I think you’d have to give the edge to Warner/New Line’s “The Final Destination,” mainly because it’s in 3-D. The format may gin up interest in the fifth installment of the nearly decade old series highlighting elaborately gruesome deaths and definitely will gin up ticket prices at the nearly 1,700 venues showing it in that format. The other horror flick, The Weinstein Company’s “Halloween II,” is not only a sequel, but a sequel to a reboot/remake. The cachet of director Rob Zombie has probably helped give this thing some steam and apparently both horror films are doing the “tracking” thing well, says THR‘s Carl DiOrio. Still, splitting the fright ticket here seems almost inevitable as the films appeal to largely the same audience.

The numbers being bandied about for both films seem to top out at no higher than $20 million or so, with significantly lower amounts for one or both likely. Of course, that mean’s it’s far from impossible that neither film will win the weekend, and Quentin Tarantino‘s verifiable hit “Inglourious Basterds” might just walk away with its second #1 slot to go with its strong weekday performance. Of course, with Hollywood concerned for the fate of Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s new company, the performance of both the Tarantino and Zombie productions will be very closely scrutinized.

Taking WoodstockLikely to come in fourth place is something completely different. Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock,” a fact-based comedy about the young entrepreneur who found himself inside a musical/historical whirlwind when he set up the epoch-making music festival at Max Yasgur’s farm. Though Lee is thought of as a rather heavy-duty director these days in the wake of “Brokeback Mountain,” humor has always been a strong suit going back to his early Taiwan-centric international hits, “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman” (which had nothing to do with cannibalism). Even the downbeat “The Ice Storm” is far more darkly funny that it’s usually given credit for.

That, however, was then. Our own David Medsker apparently reflects critics as a whole in his split decision on the film, and that doesn’t bode well because this isn’t a teenager-centric horror flick. Movies appealing to boomers are helped by good reviews; movies by arthouse-fave directors like Lee need good reviews; movie starring culty stand-ups like Demetri Martin in their first starring role might benefit from good reviews, too. So, a meh-by-definition 51% Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t really cut it and I will expect this one to do moderate business at best once the general apathy sets in. Still, that might be ameliorated somewhat by the ongoing interest in all things baby-boomer and to a lesser extent by the absurdly young looking Demetri Martin’s cable TV fame. (Martin, by the way, is 36, despite having a near identical hairstyle to me at age 12. Funny guy, however.) The presence of Emile Hersch, Liev Schreiber, and Eugene Levy in the Greco-Jewish dominated cast might not hurt, either. At least it gives violence-averse aging hippies and ultra-PC liberals (and I’ve known a few) some appropriate entertainment.

Patton Oswalt in That pretty much covers the new releases. However, film geeks in L.A. and New York will have the chance to see a frequently hilarious nightmare version of a sports geek via the acclaimed tragicomedy, “Big Fan,” from Robert Siegel, the very talented writer of “The Wrestler.” Our sports-loving compatriot Mike Farley digs it, and I very much admired it, in a bummed out sort of way, as well when I saw it at the Los Angeles Film Festival several weeks back. The mass of critics agree, too. Patton Oswalt might not look much like Robert DeNiro did during his “Taxi Driver” days, but in every other way, he gives Bobby D. a run for his money.

  

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More LAFF: How do you mend a “Paper Heart”?

If documentaries necessarily involve a potential for abuse, simply because the perceived reality of film is so open to manipulation through editing and other tricks of the movie trade, documentary/fiction hybrids offer the opportunity for extreme confusion and manipulation. And, boy, is that the case here.

While the actual write-ups for “Paper Heart” were vague about the premise, a fellow LAFF-goer casually told me that it involved some kind of recreation of the romance between comedian/performance artist Charlyne Yi (“Knocked Up“) and the future of comic understatement, Michael Cera. Thus, watching the film, I became convinced I was seeing some kind of fictionalized retelling of a real-life romance. I am informed, however, in David Poland’s interview and from the post film Q&A that the relationship in the film is utterly and entirely fictional, so I assumed I was wrong again and the pair don’t date and never have. But after a bit more research I have information that indicates that Yi and Cera do have a relationship, just not in the one the movie. Except that the movie deals with what are Yi’s supposedly real feelings about love and how could that not affect her real or imagined romance with Cera? Of course, that’s none of my business and that’s probably a big part of the point.

The whole layers of fiction and reality thing got even more complicated when, at the post-screening Q&A, cowriter-director Nicholas Jasenovec stated categorically that story portions of the film were fictional while the documentary portions were not. Fine, but then a pre-teen boy who appears in the film opining on romance joins the discussion and, asked about he was found for “Paper Heart,” he and Jasenovic state that he was found through a casting process to join what appears to be a conversation with more or less random school children, and he is an actor.

When Jean Luc Godard uttered his most quoted line, that cinema was truth, 24 times a second, and every cut is a lie, I think this is kind of what he was talking about. But, so what?

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