Monday movie news

Just a few items on a warm and sunny SoCal Ides of March…

* David Fincher is really keeping busy. I missed the story late Friday about him putting together a new movie iteration of “Heavy Metal.”

The first attempt to transpose the appeal of the legendary European-based anthology comic magazine is pretty much unwatchable these days — I know because I tried and failed to watch it at Comicon a couple of years back — but that’s all the more reason to give it another try I suppose. Considering that the late seventies and early eighties were pretty much the lowpoint of animation and the high end nature of this project, it pretty much has to be an improvement on most levels.

And that’s not all. Having taken on Facebook with Aaron Sorkin, another upcoming project may possibly involve an equally cinematic undertaking: chess.

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* With John Krasinski apparently out of the running for “The First Avenger: Captain America” (a title I’m not fond of, by the way), the Marvel gang has apparently adopted a “nobody excessively interesting” rule in its prospective casting. The latest name being floated: Ryan Phillipe. Still, he played effectively off of Chris Cooper in the highly underrated “Breach,” one of my favorite films of 2007, so perhaps he can do the same with Hugo Weaving here.

* Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen are “in talks” to appear in Martin Scorsese’s ambitious, 3-D, meta-film, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”  As a Deadline commenter notes, this one appears to be DiCaprio-free, at last. Kingsley and Coehn could make an interesting buddy film.

* Tim Adler of Deadline|London thinks that the success of 3-D screenings of “Avatar” in Europe is funding the growth of digital movie theaters in Europe.

* I’ve said it before, but the career of director David Gordon Green fascinates me. He starts out like an American Vittorio De Sica by way of Terrence Malick with the neo-neo realist “George Washington,” and then transitions to stoner-frat comedies apparently spoofing eighties sword and sorcery flicks. Attention must be paid.

* If you really wanna know more about “penis trauma” and the MPAA ratings system

* Phrases like “penis trauma” aside, SXSW really does sound like the most fun of the festivals, doesn’t it?

  

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Mid-week movie blips and bleeps

Another night under the Klieg lights.

* Nikki Finke is obviously in a nasty mood over it, but Rachel Abramowitz at the L.A. Times has a fairly interesting piece on Angelina Jolie‘s upcoming portrayal of best-selling mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta. Even though this will be character’s first appearance on film, they’ve decided to preboot the character by starting with an new “origins” story for the medical examiner character. (Was she bitten by a radioactive pathologist, perhaps?)

* You may think Sundance has been over for a few weeks now, but Anne Thompson details hows it’s not even close to being so simple as she describes how the indie film world is doing its business. One takeaway point: though indie filmmakers are making the most of new media with VOD and slightly older media with DVD, you still need “robust” theatrical to be in the mix if you’re hoping for significant bucks. (H/t Mr. Ebert’s Amazing Twitter feed.)

* The Coen’s have found the young, female lead to play opposite Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn in their sure-to-be interesting nouveau “True Grit,” and it’s 13 year-old Hailee Steinfeld. Mike Fleming has the scoop.

* Pulp loving writer-director Shane Black of “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is going to be helming a new cinematic take on Doc Savage writes Renn Brown of CHUD, via Variety. Brown admits to not knowing his Doc Savage, but I myself went through a pulp phase and read several of the good doctor’s adventures as a youth. I can tell you that “Scooby Doo” is not really the first thing that comes to mind. He’s really more of a non-superpowered Superman, or a much more clean living and nonviolent James Bond, but with the mental faculties of an Indiana Jones and a touch of Jesus Christ. (He has hangs out with a bunch of somewhat more flawed guys who help him to do his various earth-shattering good deeds. He’s so tough, however, he only needs five of them.) Buckaroo Banzai owes his very existence to Doc. Pretty much the only thing Doc couldn’t do was to get through a day’s work without ripping his shirt into shreds. In the world of pulp heroes, he was definitely the daylight yin to the dark yang of “The Shadow.” The character has foiled filmmakers before, but I think Black may be the man for the job.

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Happy birthday, Dick

So, yesterday was Elvis Presley’s birthday and today is the birthday of his old partner in the war against drugs, President Richard Milhous Nixon.

Because of Watergate and Vietnam, and possibly also because in so many respects he still can seem like a central casting villain, Nixon gets depicted in movies a lot more than presidents you’d think we’d like to see on screen more often.  Want to see a movie about George Washington? Well, there was David Gordon Green’s “George Washington,” but our nation’s first president wasn’t exactly a character. Nixon, on the other hand, has been depicted in starring roles in numerous theatrical and TV movies by, among other, Frank Langella, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Baker Hall, and even Beau Bridges. Nixon was even portrayed by comedian Chuck McCann as Oliver Hardy to Vice President Spiro Agnew’s Stan Laurel in a 1972 ultra-ultra-obscure comedy called “Another Nice Mess.” (You may know writer-director Bob Einstein as TV’s Marty Funkhouser and/or Super Dave Osborne. ) If I could find a clip, I’d definitely feature it here but the film has apparently been secreted somewhere, perhaps in Dick Cheney’s man-sized safe.

In any case, my favorite portrayal of Nixon is by the great Dan Hedaya in the title role of Andrew Fleming’s underrated little 1999 comedy, “Dick.” One thing the film gets right is the innate humor of Nixon’s situation — a man with almost no sense of humor whatsoever (always hilarious) who was also the least hip man in America, president at a time when hipness was at a kind of premium.

Nice supporting cast in this one, huh?

  

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Fatal Attraction

Despite a premise that reads like a sci-fi film – Michael Douglas steps outside his marriage to Anne Archer with Glenn Close? In the peak of her “George Washington with a perm” phase, no less? – “Fatal Attraction” is actually a tremendously effective sexual thriller, one that remains not only a high point of the genre, but the apex of director Adrian Lyne’s career. Lyne, who has a tendency to get lost in his own fog machines, puts his visual brilliance to good use here, mixing in the usual stuff (billowing curtains, colored lights, smoke) with a delicately crafted, steadily building tension and a trio of excellent performances from Douglas, Close, and Archer. Misogynistic? Perhaps. Deserving of a Best Picture nomination? Doubtful. Two hours of sleek, (mostly) believable thrills? Absolutely.

The new Blu-ray transfer gives the movie a gorgeous 1080p facelift and a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio mix, but not much else; though “Fatal Attraction” comes with a healthy selection of bonus materials, including a commentary track from Lyne, an alternate ending, screen test footage, and some featurettes discussing the making of the film and its social impact, they’re all holdovers from the last DVD reissue, which is going for under $10 new at Amazon. What it boils down to – as seems to be the case all too often with these catalog Blu-ray titles – is whether you think it’s worth an extra $10-$15 to watch the movie in high-def. Unless you’ve always wanted to count the hairs on a boiled rabbit, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.

Click to buy “Fatal Attraction”

  

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