It’s 2011 and time for the return of the Friday night news dump

I haven’t done this in awhile and I know I’m missing a bunch of stories from early in the week, but you’ll read this and you’ll like it, damn it!

* Mike Fleming is claiming a “toldja” on the news that Elijah Wood will be appearing in “The Hobbit” as Frodo Baggins who is, I believe, not yet born during the events of Tolkien’s original children book. The rumor from earlier in the week has now been confirmed and nothing will ever be the same.

* Mr. Fleming also has the latest on speed-crazed Hollywood buying the rights to a book that has yet to be published and the remake rights on a documentary almost no one has seen. At least we know what the documentary’s about, and it does sound like material for a good movie — except, of course, it’s already a movie.

* Robert De Niro will be heading the jury at Cannes this year. This will be his third go-round in the gig.

* There’s been a ton of quibbling on why it’s not a sequel and maybe not even a spin-off, but the fact remains that Judd Apatow is building his next film around the terrific characters from “Knocked Up” played by Paul Rudd and Apatow’s real-life wife, Leslie Mann. I have to admit I find these kind of fine distinctions to be marketing-driven annoyances. Novelists cast supporting characters from past books in leading roles in newer books all the time and no one calls these books anything other than “novels.” Novelists like Sinclair Lewis and Kurt Vonnegut treat their worlds like the Marvel Universe, so why can’t there be an Apatow-verse?

knocked-up

* Ricky Gervais has apparently signed up to play Mole in an upcoming version of “Wind in the Willows.” Ordinarily, I’d be a little bit excited about this news, but this is a project coming from Ray Griggs, who I frankly wonder about for a number of reasons. I’ve written about him before, at least he had the good sense to hire WETA in on the project. Still, if I were a friend of Gervais’s I advise him to stay away. It has a funny smell about it.

* Oscar winning writer-director Paul Haggis is taking his complaints with the Church of Scientology public in an upcoming book-length expose to be written by Lawrence Wright. Haggis is a former member of the church. I’d tell you what I think of Scientology, but that’s a whole other blog post. I will say I think this will be big.

* Danny Strong played the greatest geek ever on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and went on to become a respected screenwriter with his script for the Jay Roach television movie about the 2000 election, “Recount.” Now he’s back in the genre world with a gig rewriting something called “Earth Defense Force,” which Sam Raimi is producing.

* Stan the Man got his star on Hollywood Blvd. Excelsior!

* Ron Howard wants you to know that the “Arrested Development” movie is really still happening. Sure, why not?

  

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Trailer for a Friday morning: “I Love You, Phillip Morris”

It’s looking like those of us who gay panicked their way into an excuse to avoid “Brokeback Mountain” will have a new quality film to miss for no good reason, and this film, which recently escaped from a distribution limbo, appears to be very funny indeed. If you dare — or if you’re a woman or an actual person with teh gay — check out this trailer that features some very funny and relatively explicit sexuality and language between stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. This could easily be one of the year’s more memorable films. Man up or miss out. Also, if you absolutely need to focus on a hetero thought, Leslie Mann (a woman, also Mrs. Judd Apatow) is actually kind of insanely adorable in this trailer as Carrey’s Christian ex-wife.

Oh, and before I saw this trailer, I somehow figured that the corporation best known for its tobacco products would somehow figure in the story. It’s still kind of an odd name for Ewan McGregor’s character, though.

H/t Screencrave.

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Shorts”

For many people, “Shorts” will go down as one of the worst films of the year. I still don’t understand why someone as talented and resourceful as Robert Rodriguez wastes his time on such drivel, especially when he could be off making any movie he wanted. That won’t stop some parents from buying it for their kids, however, so let’s take a look at what else they’ll be getting in addition to the film. And no, the digital copy doesn’t count.

The Magic of Short

This making-of featurette takes a look at some of the behind-the-scenes tricks that went into creating the world of “Shorts,” from practical effects like the conjoined parent suit worn by Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer to designing a CG Booger Monster. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as long as it should be for a movie built entirely around visual effects, and it feels more like an afterthought than a genuine extra.

Shorts: Show and Tell

Running only five minutes, “Show and Tell” is a collection of interviews with the film’s child actors as shot by co-star Devon Gearhart. They all say a few words about their experience on the film, but it’s pretty dull stuff.

Ten-Minute Film School: Short Shorts

By far the best extra on all of Rodriguez’s films, the latest installment in the Ten-Minute Film School series is a bit of a letdown. This time around, he offers up advice on how to make your home movies more interesting with the addition of sound effects. Since that doesn’t really take ten minutes to do, he also shows footage of the home movie he made with his kids to pitch “Shorts” to the studios. If there’s anything to be learned from the lesson, though, it’s that just because your dad is a good director, it doesn’t mean you’ll be a good actor. Man, those kids are terrible.

Ten-Minute Cooking School: Chocolate Chip Volcano Cookies

Another DVD staple, this recipe neither creates the volcano it promises nor is very unique when compared to past offerings. It’s essentially just a chocolate chip cookie with a bunch of other stuff (like marshmallows and nuts) thrown in for the hell of it. Though his daughter Rhiannon adds some much needed comic relief, this is easily his worst Cooking School to date.

In fact, you could say the same for the Blu-ray itself. Though I didn’t expect very much from “Shorts,” I did expect more due to Rodriguez’s involvement. I guess I’ll have to lower my expectations the next time he decides to make another movie for his kids, because they’ve only gotten worse.

  

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