Almost midweek movie news

Some fairly big news to report tonight.

* It might be a bit meta for a lead, but I can’t help my happiness that Roger Ebert has been named person of the year by the Webby Awards people. I’ve been a big fan of his writing for a very long time and always thought he was the best straight-up writer of any of the major critics, but recently he has really emerged as an inspirational figure. He’s also been one of the most generous supporters of film writing on the web in a million different ways. It’s not really bragging when I mention that he’s thrown some small nods my way as well as some occasionally very funny e-mail responses over the years. He’s done the same for countless others.

And, if that wasn’t cool enough, the great cinephile social networking and blog site, the Auteurs also won an award. Well, done, folks.

* In actual movie news, remember that item last week when I said that Matthew Vaughn, most recently of “Kick-Ass,” was not going to be directing the next X-Men movie? If not, you can just keep right on forgetting because, it turns out, he is directing the film they’ll call “X-Men: First Class” — a prequel. I’m a big fan of Vaughn, though not so much of the X-Men films so far, so I find this intriguing. Some of you may remember, Vaughn departed from “X-Men 3” and the film that was, as per Cinema Blend, Matthew Vaughn, and I, almost definitely the worse for it.

* More really good news from my point of view, one of my favorite actors currently working, Chewitel Ejiofor, has been cast as definitely my favorite Afro-pop musician — okay, the only African musician I can think of that I’ve ever actually bought an album or CD by. Ejiofor will be starring in a biopic of the legendary maestro Fela Anikulapo Kuti in a film to be directed by Steve McQueen of “Hunger.” This film is not related, except by topic, to the musical “Fela!” which just got eleven Tony nominations. The cool part is not only that the Ejiofor, a first-generation Brit born of Nigerian parents, is the actor to play the part, he’s also apparently learning to play piano and saxophone (Kuti’s instruments, I believe) and had, we’re told,  become quite good.

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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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Midnight at the movies

Not quite a movie news dump, more of a movie news sampler…

* The various Deadline folks have a lot of reporting going on tonight, starting with the news from Mike Fleming that Robert Downey Jr. is negotiating to possibly star in a new science fiction film Alfonso Cuaron wrote with his son. He also reports on the somewhat delayed sale of a hot Sundance feature staring “Twilight” fave Kristen Stewart, James Gandolfini, and Melissa Leo. In addition, there’s word from the London office that 72 year-old Dustin Hoffman is finally graduating to directing with an upcoming project with BBC Films.

* Todd Gilchrist has the closest thing yet to an official review I’ve seen of “Kick-Ass” and it’s…mixed. Could the film already be a victim of its already amazingly effective hype? Or is it that Gilchrist is, after all, just one guy? Of course, there’s always the possibility that it’s simply not as good as we all seem to be expecting. If so, shoot me now, I say!

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* The Red Skull has always been one of my favorite supervillians — just pure evil and nothing but. I think casting  Hugo Weaving to play him in the upcoming Captain America flick is probably about as good a choice as they could make. If anyone can act without skin, it’s Weaving.

* Quentin Tarantino will not be smurfing around, after all. He did, however, accept an award at SXSW, which is just getting started and where our own Mr. Jason Zingale is hanging out.

* Patrick Goldstein doesn’t approve when Tom Hanks has the temerity to voice a strong opinion because it annoys rightwingers and that’s just the worst thing ever.  Yes, it’s a celebrity’s job to play it safe at all times. Good to know. I wonder if he’ll hold rightwing actors to the same standard when they say something controversial. It’s a true fact that many journos who probably themselves vote Democrat wind up carrying the water of the far-right through their obsession with being even-handed at all costs at all times and regardless of the merits. The American rightwing really did a number on the press during the late 20th century, and it doesn’t look like they’ll ever recover.

* I hate to see any creative person lose their job, especially in this economy, but I hope this item means there’ll be some kind of shift in the creative direction of Robert Zemeckis’s future animated/motion-capture projects. How anyone can think that style of animation is  anything other than creepy — and not in a good way — is beyond me.

  

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“The Wolf Man” trailer

A really strong trailer has just come out on what looks like a fairly loose remake of the 1941 Universal monster/horror classic which originally starred Claude Reins and, in the title role, Lon Chaney, Jr. The new version has Benecio del Toro as the unfortunate Lawrence Talbot and Anthony Hopkins as his concerned pop, as well as Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving.

All I can say is that this version looks top notch. I thought director Joe Johnston’s “The Rocketeer” was very fun and pretty underrated, and this looks to have the potential to be even better. One thing’s for sure, considering the best known movie wolf men so far have been ex-Dr. Pepper song-and-dance guy David Naughton (“An American Werewolf in London”) and Chaney, Jr., who had some moments but was not nearly the actor his legendary dad was, it’s safe to say that del Toro will be by far the best actor to inhabit’s the wolf man’s hairy skin. Check it out.

And remember….

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

  

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