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It’s your extremely abbreviated end of the week movie news dump

I’ve got just a little less than an hour to write this up tonight, but let’s see how much we can get through.

* RIP Jill Clayburgh. I’ll have more in remembrance of this very fine actress tomorrow. She passed on from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, an illness she’d been dealing with for more than 20 years.

* This makes me feel a bit old since I remember him before he was President of the United States in “The West Wing” and even before he was a very bad possible future U.S. President in “The Dead Zone,” Martin Sheen will be Peter Parker’s oh-so-doomed old Uncle Ben in the Marc Webb “Spiderman” reboot. Making me feel even a bit older, Sally Field is looking like a likelihood as Aunt May, who was always drawn by artists like Steve Ditko and John Romita as if she were about 99 years old. Of course, these days we mainly see her selling hawking Boniva for bone health, so I guess should just adjust to the new reality that Sister Bertrille (aka “The Flying Nun”)/Sybil/Norma Rae isn’t a baby anymore. And I really do like her. I really do.

* The very interesting, talented, and occasionally irritating (when he writes op-eds about with premises about the impact of movie violence I disagree with) Mike White has been offered the gauntlet of “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies” recently dropped by the equally interesting but more experienced David O. Russell. White is best known as a writer and actor. His most fiscally successful screenplay — in which he also acted — was the terrific “School of Rock.” In quirkier times, he starred in and wrote 2000′s “Chuck and Buck” as well as “The Good Girl.” This will be his second directorial outing, the first being…I don’t remember the name and you don’t either. It’s a bold and interesting choice, I will say that.

* A lot of people thought his “Hot Tub Time Machine” was kind of toxic (others thought it funny; I thought it not seen by me…I’ll get to it someday), so I guess it makes sense that Steve Pink’s next project will apparently be a remake of “The Toxic Avenger.” Gross-out franchise, here he comes.

toxicavenger7

* Boy, that Lars von Trier is so f*cking suave.

* AFM, the American Film Market, has been going all week. It’s an event where lots of smaller films find distribution and foreign deals are made. Deadline has some interesting deals today. “The Giant Mechanical Man” might sound like one quirky rom-com too many, but any film with Jenna Fischer and Topher Grace in the lead has my attention. Starting up also is the AFI Film Festival, which I’ll be checking out some over the weekend and there may be some quickie off-the-cuff impressions of the movies there coming from there.

* And finally, I’ve been guilty of ignoring the MGM bankruptcy this week, and I’m writing this directly across the street from the Sony lot, the home of Leo the Lion in his prime and for many years past that. Anyhow, the Wall Street Journal summarizes the situation numerically. Reminding us that, adjusted for inflation, “Gone With the Wind has made $1.6 billion. On the other hand, the studio only had one movie in the top 50 this year. What was it? The aforementioned “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Cinephile alert: Denmark’s harrowing new tourism ads directed by Lars von Trier

Via Christy Lemire comes word of a new series of commercials from the aging enfant terrible of Nordic cinema and the director of “Dancer in the Dark,” “Breaking the Waves,” “Dogville” and this year’s genital-mutiliation smash-hit, “Antichrist.”


Denmark Introduces Harrowing New Tourism Ads Directed By Lars Von Trier

How do you say “The Onion is freakin’ awesome” in Danish anyhow?

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Wednesday night at the movies

I’ll be taking tomorrow off, so this’ll have to hold you….

* Several blogs, including The Vulture, are commenting on Disney’s refusal to greenlight a sequel to the Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds hit comedy, “The Proposal.” Apparently, Disney is only interested in either franchise pictures with commercial spin off possibilities (i.e, toys and video games) or small-budget youth-themed films.

Ryan  Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in

* So, after everything we’ve seen from him over the last eleven years or so, I’m supposed to believe George Lucas getting more involved will improve the reportedly troubled “Red Tails”? I just hope he stays far, far away from the actors.

* The Playlist has a fascinating peak at an apparent early draft of P.T. Anderson’s not-about-Scientology screenplay.

* The late John Hughes will get a special Oscar tribute this year.

* Nikki Finke on the latest version of the often remade Wuthering Heights. They might as well just go all-out and make Heathcliff a vampire in this one, from the sound of it.

* The British trade, Screen Daily, is the latest pub to go behind a paywall. Anne Thompson has some salient thoughts.

* “American Pie 4″ may come to us from the “Harold & Kumar” writers. “Middle-Aged Pie”? (H/t /Film.)

* Remember that wacky/fascinating rumored Lars von Trier/Martin Scorsese remake(s) of “Taxi Driver” rumor I mentioned a couple of days back? Not at all surprisingly, it was just a rumor.


Benecio del Toro chills out in
* Devin Faraci of CHUD provides a listen to that unused rock music score for “The Wolfman.” Yup, it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly have worked with a period horror film, but then I probably would have told Quentin Tarantino that using an eighties David Bowie song in a World War II movie wasn’t such a great idea, either.

Actually, much as I love “Inglourious Basterds,” I’m still not convinced about that particular touch.

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President’s Day movie news

It might be a national holiday, but movie news hasn’t been taking anything like a break.

* It’s not really even movie news in the usual sense, but Kevin Smith has been making big Internet news by making a big Internet stink about being ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for being “too wide for the sky.” The latest: He might go on Larry King or “The Daily Show” to prove his point. Of course, this is movie news if it helps out the grosses for this upcoming buddy police comedy, “Cop Out.”

* This is really interesting and weird. All weekend, we’ve been hearing that Martin Scorsese has announced that he and old friend Robert De Niro would be revisiting the world of the mob in an upcoming film. Secondarily, there are numerous stories — actually not much more than written down rumors that he, together with cinema bad boy Lars von Trier, would be doing a series of remakes of some sort of his classic early collaboration with De Niro, “Taxi Driver,” possibly with the participation of the actor.

taxidriver2

If anyone out there has seen “The Five Obstructions” they’ll have some clue what is supposed to be going on here. It’s a highly entertaining documentary in which the director challenged his filmmaking mentor, Jørgen Leth, to remake an experimental short film of his that von Trier admired five times, each time with some creative limitation thrown in the way. The idea being that creative obstacles can sometimes lead to more interesting work.

Of course, Scorsese and De Niro aren’t going to make five full-length “Taxi Driver” remakes based on the Danish director’s whims, but if there’s anything to this, it’s certainly something I’d pay to see. Peter Hall at Cinematical has the most concise version of this confusing story or non-story that I’ve seen, and likes the idea as much as I do.

* And that’s not all on the Scorsese speculation front. The Playlist passes on word from the paywall encrusted Variety that he may be contemplating making his next film, a movie about movies called “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” in 3-D. It was good enough for Alfred Hitchcock in “Dial M for Murder,” so I wouldn’t be surprised and, for this particular project, it might make sense.

* Can you imagine the Oscars — or any award show — without innumerable thank yous? I can’t. Still if what Peter Sciretta at /Film reports turns out to be for real, it would prevent any more unpleasantness like this.

* Another Oscar institution really does seem to be on its way out: Barbara Walters’ post show interviews.

* Patrick Goldstein quizzes Quentin Tarantino on influences, why he likes them and why he doesn’t like them being used against him.

* The estimates for the entire three-day weekend are out. No huge surprises based on what I wrote yesterday.

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Late Friday movie news dump

It’s been a long four day week, and the hits just keep on coming.

* Even as A-listers are wrapping up George Clooney‘s Haiti telethon, the Sundance Film Festival is now underway in earnest and under new management, although boss Bob abides, naturally. Anne Thompson has a report from the front. Yesterday, she reported on the notable acquisition of the super-fest, director David Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman” — which is not about to whole “when will the next Superman movie come out?” thing or even superheroes at all. Sorry.

More Sundance news to come next week, no doubt. Watch this space.

* Movie City News has compiled the results of 225 Top 10 lists and come out with a top 30 of its own. At the top, “The Hurt Locker” far ahead of nearest competitors, “Up in the Air” and “Inglourious Basterds.” At the bottom of the “best of” lists, Lars von Trier’s horror drama “Antichrist,” the most controversial film in a career filled with controversy.

* Speaking of films at the bottom, the Wrap brings us Forbes’ annoyingly hard-to-read list of the biggest fiscal flops of the last five years in more easily digestible form. Topping the list is the recent adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men” which went from Oscar hopeful to complete dud in nothing flat when it came out. There are two films I personally like on this list, “Grindhouse” and “Walk Hard.” Anybody else out there have a favorite on the flop list? In any case, I wonder about the accuracy of the list as it doesn’t include DVD figures.

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Celluloid Heroes: Eight Musicals of the 21st Century

A funny thing happened this decade — the once dying genre of live-action movie musicals seems to have returned to the movie repertoire. As the decade closes, I can think of exactly two major westerns, but I keep remembering musicals that I should consider for this piece (including the mostly well-regarded French musical “Love Songs,” which I forgot to see before writing this, je suis désolé).

As a lifelong fan and a nearly lifelong tough critic of musicals, I love most of these films. However, this list is not so much a traditional “best of” and I’ve included one choice I definitely don’t like. (It won’t be hard to guess which.) These are musicals that I think contributed to the development of this polarizing and hard to pull off genre. They don’t hark back to times gone by or try to recapture a past glory that will never return, but actually take us into the future. That’s important now that musicals seem to have a future.

“Dancer in the Dark” (2000)

Earlier this year, the brilliant but often irritating Danish director Lars von Trier shocked hard-to-shock European festival audiences with graphic sexual violence in “Antichrist.” Back in 2000, all he needed to divide audiences was some really intense melodrama and an approach to making dark musicals partially borrowed from TV creator Dennis Potter (“Pennies from Heaven,” “The Singing Detective”).

Featuring a literally once-in-a-lifetime lead performance by singer-songwriter Björk as a young mother ready to sacrifice everything to save her son’s failing eyesight, “Dancer in the Dark” is maybe the most emotionally potent story of parental love I’ve ever seen. As a musical, it’s strange and arresting.

Like the Potter television shows and movies and “Chicago,” further down the list, the musical numbers take place in the mind of the lead character. In this case, however, it is particularly poignant as our heroine is a fan of musicals who, though she is gradually going blind, is attempting to appear in a community theater production of “The Sound of Music.” Below, she musically confesses her situation to a smitten Peter Stormare (yes, the guy from “Fargo”). Lumberjacks or not, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” sure seems like a long time ago.

Moulin Rouge” (2001)
As the non-musical Pixar films became the dominant template for animation and the musical form lost its last apparent movie bastion, big studios began to experiment with musicals starring humans. Unfortunately for me, the first and still one of the most popular of this decade’s high profile film musicals was Baz Luhrmann’s beautifully shot, amazingly designed, dull-witted, and over-edited “Moulin Rouge.”

Yes, this musical fan is not a fan of the musical that’s been credited with resurrecting the genre. Why? A couple of sequences work, but on the whole I expect the funny parts of a movie to make me laugh and, even more important, I like to see the movies I’m seeing. As far as I can tell, Luhrmann simply doesn’t have the confidence in this film to allow us time to view the arresting images he’s worked so hard to craft, nor does he permit time to actually see the hard work his dancers and actors put in. Editor Jil Bilcock is expected to do all the performing instead.

As for what Luhrmann and his arrangers did with the various classic songs they threw into a musical Cuisinart, the less I say about it the better. At the risk of sounding like a fogey (or a member of an 18th century Austrian court), too many notes. Way, way, way, too many notes. See if you disagree.

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Gore v. chills at the box office

I keep reading that the studios are reducing their outputs and that we’ll be seeing fewer new movies, but there’s sure no sign of it lately as we have another complicated week where, at least in theory, anything can happen. Still, the prognosticators agree that the latest entry in the first and longest running franchise in the sub-genre of torture-heavy horror, “Saw VI,” will likely win the week for Lionsgate.

On the other hand, there is also a consensus that the low-violence yet entirely potent chills of “Paranormal Activity” will be cutting into the Saw-bucks some also. Obviously, there is some audience crossover but, just as obviously, the most jaded gore hounds may find it beyond tame. I’ve already noted online the start of an inevitable backlash. I doubt this reaction will have the same angry potency that afflicted “The Blair Witch Project” so many moons ago. In that case, Lionsgate’s attempt to persuade less-savvy audiences that it might actually be real probably backfired later on, as did the over-hype of some of the early write-ups.

This time, Paramount has been more cleverly circumspect than the “Blair Witch” marketers, simply making the case that the modest video-movie can really scare the bejesus out of an audience. I’m here to tell you it can, even though I feel sure that not a single person I saw it with was under any delusion that what we were watching was not staged. Still, you see the violence-loving fanboys complaining at certain sites. I mean, how can a movie be scary if it lets you imagine the worst of it? How is that ever going to work?

It’s probably pretty obvious by now, especially from my post just before this one, that I prefer the “Paranormal” approach and will be rooting for it but, despite the still growing excitement around the movie, it’s the definite underdog as “Saw VI” will be opening in 3,036 theaters, while it’s competitor will be expanding to a mere 1,900. However, the outstanding per-screen averages that the film has been nailing could compensate if some horror audiences find the prospect of yet another ultra-brutality fest less than ultra-appealing.

Though it’s yet another family-friendly CGI animated film, this one based on a property at least some of us remember from our childhoods, hopes are not all that astronomically high for the next film. Summit’s “Astro Boy” is based on the best known creation of Japan’s “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka, who basically invented both manga and anime as we now know them and who created some of the best comic books for adults that I’ve ever read. Of course, you’d never know from the horrendously lame gag at the end of the trailer or the often ugly CGI animation that ruins the beautiful 2-D (black and white, too!) of the early Tezuka cartoons as scene in the trailer. This appears to be another case of a studio adapting a property and missing what made the original work.

astro_boy_movie_image

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Some travelling music…

Just a few quick thoughts to keep you busy as I make my way on the long, long journey from Orange County to San Diego for Comic-Con (well, it can feel long).

* Lars von Trier is enjoying the hub-bub around “Antichrist” (soon to have it’s second coming). What part of “provocateur” didn’t we understand?

* Karina has only one thing she’ll miss about the con. (Warning — don’t click while eating unless you find a fake ultra-bloodied Lloyd Kaufman palatable.)

* Also from THR: Michael Jackson’s flirtations with filmmaking. The big surprise — it could have been weirder. Even his meeting with Mel Gibson was apparently not incredibly strange, though Mel hugged a pillow.

* I’ve been reading articles like this for decades. The fact that they’re more or less true doesn’t make them less their inaccuracies/shallowness less annoying. Women have been getting more interested in geek stuff for a very long time. That’s a good thing. Personally, I didn’t notice a humongous “Twilight” contingent last year, but perhaps I’m sheltered.

* And now a clip that will be running through my mind as I approach the convention center.

I’ve never been good at avoiding silly places, obviously.

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Weekend at the Multiplex, Pt. II: The Power of Family Defeats Robot Rehash + the Palm Goes to…. (Updated)

The long holiday weekend is barely halfway through here on the west coast, but the numbers gurus have already spoken. Both Variety and megablogger Nikki Finke report that “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” outgrossed “Terminator Salavation” by 53.5 to 43 million smackers, proving once again the power of family films and that I am, at best, a very mediocre prognosticator. It also indicates that McG’s name and talents may not be pure box office gold.

In other news, in what turned out to be a battle of movie bad boys of various types, the coveted Palme D’Or (that’s Golden Palm to you and moi), has been awarded at Cannes after a week of some very divided audience and critical responses. Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” elicited reactions ranging from reasonably positive to angrily disappointed. “Antichrist,” the new horror film/domestic drama from the personally disliked but often genius-level brilliant Lars von Trier (“Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark”) crossed some deep psychological lines in terms of graphic violence and human genitals, leading to a raucous screening and deeply appalling many while eliciting some truly unusual, often more positive, reactions from writers. (Roger Ebert’s take, for one, is certainly worth a look.)

Not too surprisingly, the winner was another overage enfant terrible entirely. Ironically enough, he himself has been simultaneously applauded and despised for the first version of “Funny Games.” The second, English-language, version was mostly just despised for its manipulations and made Bullz-Eyer David Medskar talk of punching its maker in the face, which I’m sure he intended as a metaphor.

That winner would be Austria’s 67 year-old Michael Haneke — often regarded as the world class director most in need of a hug, as well as a punch. He picked up the Palm for “The White Ribbon” a dark (of course!) black and white pre-World War I drama. Haneke has had some out-and-out success apart from “Funny Games” with 2005′s genuinely compelling and thoughtfully upsetting “Caché,” which Ron Howard once considered remaking but, perhaps fearing David’s reaction, choose to make the movie version of “Arrested Development” instead. Probably a wise move, in any case.


UPDATE: Brandon Grey of Box Office Mojo has the final figures “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithinsonian” raked in $70 million on 7,000 screens and “Terminator Salvation” earned $53.8 million on about six-hundred fewer screens. Also, NPR’s hourly newscast this morning suggested that some of T4′s weakness, especially here in Southern Cal, might be related to the ongoing NBA play-offs. Could be, I suppose. That’s what I get for being a guy who writes for an online men’s mag who’s also a complete ignoramus about sports.

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