Movie news and commentary…lots of it: “The Hobbit” is cast but <sigh> Mel Gibson exists and must be dealt with, somehow (updated)

Tonight’s box office preview has been moved to tomorrow because of a couple of a films news items that just can’t quite wait. The first can be dispensed with in a second. Casting has been announced on “The Hobbit,” short, snub-nosed and talented Martin Freeman will face his inevitable hobbity destiny as Bilbo Baggins, as Peter Jackson again casts a bunch of people I’ve mostly never heard of in smaller roles who’ll probably all be great.

And then there’s this news of Mel Gibson being let go from “The Hangover 2 just a day after it was announced he’d been hired to play a supporting role. Oy.

US-CINEMA-EDGE OF DARKNESS

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Monday movie news

The Deadline crew has really been working overtime these last few days, so there’s much to talk about as a new week begins.

* I’m not kidding about the pace of news from Deadline today. Just as I was starting to finish writing this, Mike Fleming broke the news that we have a “Superman” director who’ll be working with producer Christopher Nolan, and he is one Zack Snyder of “300,” “Watchmen,’ the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and that owl movie that’s out right now. Expect a fightin’ Supes. Should you expect a good Supes movie? Dunno. I never understood the grief that “Superman Returns” got. It was a nice, fun movie in the best senses of the words “nice” and “fun.” Will this one be all grimness and unnecessary darkness? I hope not.

*  Fox landed the film adaptation rights for apparently the hottest book of the moment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is being produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmanbetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted“), who purchased the rights with their own money. And it’s not like they were afraid to show they really wanted it:

When Tim and Timur and their entourage of reps came to the Fox…they were met with a huge banner at the gate. It had the title treatment of the script and was emblazoned, “Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. At their parking spot were signs saying “Parking For Vampire Hunters Only: park at your own risk,” and so forth. There were bloody footprints lining the walkway and stairs leading from their cars to the meeting in Building 88 with images from the book and lines from the script. As if that were not enough, there also were bloody axes strewn about, and a bugle player in a Confederate uniform playing “Taps” as the filmmakers walked to the meeting..

Yes, like Camelot, Hollywood is a silly place, and I sort of like it that way. I just wished I enjoyed Bekmambetov’s movies, because I didn’t.

* Re: silliness. Check out this promotion for “Jackass 3D”

* I seriously dislike writing about stories that say that so-and-so is “about to be” “offered” a part. There are simply too many items like that and too many “ifs” (maybe the studio will change their minds; maybe the star will say “no,” etc.) and I prefer to wait until the story is further down the road. Nevertheless, Mike Fleming has reported that Emma Stone is about to be offered the part of Mary Jane Watson in the Marc Webb-directed 3D “Spiderman” reboot opposite Andrew Garfield.

awsmmj

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Farewell, Dr. No

Joseph Wiseman, the very fine Montreal-born character actor who played the first cinematic James Bond supervillain, Dr. Julius No, has passed on at the age of 91. A highly accomplished stage performer, he apparently had little idea he was going to be involved in the launch of a major global phenomenon and didn’t have a huge amount of respect for the property at first, but he certainly carried off the role with aplomb.

Alongside his stage work he had a strangely coincidental 91 film and TV acting credits including Elia Kazan’s “Viva Zapata!” and William Wyler’s “Detective Story.” Still, the role that makes an actor just a little bit more immortal than others isn’t always the one he might expect.

Below, as beautiful Honey Rider (legendary Bond-girl #1, Ursula Andress) looks on, we have the first of many strangely civilized social encounters between Bond (Sean Connery, who else?) and an ultra-evil would-be world dominator. It begins at about 5:05.

H/t the always invaluable Twitter feed of The Auteur’s Daily.

  

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RIP Budd Schulberg

The ending of Budd Schulberg‘s extraordinary life at age 95 last night was just a little strange for me personally. By a very odd coincidence, just the night before I finished watching the 1959 TV production of “What Makes Sammy Run?,” Schulberg’s great and possibly never-to-be-filmed 1941 novel about Hollywood careerist dehumanization (yes, it goes back that far, at least). The DVD included an interview he gave just last year. Given his age and fairly obvious frailty, I wondered how long it would be before I’d be writing one of these posts on him. He was not a young man, but this is still too soon.

Anyhow, what can you say about the writer of “On the Waterfront” and “A Face in the Crowd” — two of the most acclaimed screenplays ever written — and the nastily on-point movie business novel which was so effective it is supposed to have driven the usually jovial John Wayne to physical violence? Of course, Schulberg got it from all sides, though for differing reasons.

Like most liberals, I have serious complaints with how Schulberg and his more famous directing collaborator, Elia Kazan, comported themselves during the McCarthy era, and certain lines in both of their most famous films stick in my craw. While Budd Schulberg never abandoned his liberalism, it’s clear to me that his entirely justified anticommunism took a form that helped that American extreme-right, harmed the first amendment, and bolstered the most vicious aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Still, there’s no denying the power and clarity of his writing or the moral values they expressed at their best.

As it happens, I posted one great scene from “A Face in the Crowd” just last week. I’m posting more after the flip, starting with a scene with Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal that should knock your socks off.

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A televisionary movie moment

In honor of the biannual TCA and the arrival to our fine coast by PH’s own Will Harris, I’ll be doing a few movie moments that relate to the movies’ media sibling. Let’s just say that the rivalry’s been fierce at times. This spookily contemporary-feeling clip is from Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face in the Crowd.” Andy Griffith might seem “country” here, but he’s a very long way from Mayberry.

  

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