More midweek movie news — it bleeds so, alas, it leads

* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feelĀ  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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Midweek movie news

Big movies are in the news today.

* James Cameron apparently won’t be directing the latest iteration of legend of Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Instead, he’ll spend the next few years doing the inevitable: “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3.” Apparently, the commitment now is partially in return for Fox making a large donation to green causes Cameron supports.

* Christopher Nolan gave Geoff Boucher the title of the next Batman installment “The Dark Knight Rises” — not very inspiring. Having previously eliminated Mr. Freeze as the film’s big bad, he also eliminated the Riddler. That leaves Catwoman, the Penguin, and…Man-Bat?

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Old dogs, new tricks, and Matt!

Matt Damon in

You’re pre-weekend box-offfice preview will be up bright and early tomorrow morning, but first I have a couple of what Rachel Maddow calls “Holy Mackeral stories.” Both of them involve old movie reliables trying new stuff, and somehow Matt Damon is involved in both movies.

* Back in 1955, Clint Eastwood had uncredited bit parts in two sci-fi monster/horror flicks from director Jack Arnold, “Revenge of the Creature” (the sequel to the 3-D hit, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”) and “Tarantula.” Since then, he’s somehow managed to steer clear of anything remotely fantastical either as an actor or a director — until now. “Hereafter” is being kept under wraps but the story is said to be in the same general ballpark as “The Sixth Sense.” It’s being written by Peter Morgan, also a first-timer in tales of the supernatural, though the playwright/screenwriter of “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen” is also branching out genre wise with the 23rd James Bond movie. As suggested above, the star will be Matt Damon, who has been around the supernatural before. However, I suspect this film won’t have a whole lot in common either with Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated “The Brothers Grimm” or Kevin Smith’s “Dogma.”

All of this is not to say that director Eastwood can’t do scary. His 1971 directorial debut, the witty and suspenseful “Play Misty for Me,” was pretty thoroughly grounded in our reality but had some definite terror elements.

* Now, Michael Douglas found himself in a pretty similar predicament to Eastwood’s “Misty,” character in the 1987 hit, “Fatal Attraction,” but there’s pretty much no similarities in anything he’s done before with his next project. I don’t know how I’ve missed it, but the actor commonly associated with such super-macho characters as Gordan Gekko (soon to be reprised in the upcoming “Wall Street” sequel) and ultra-horny cop Nick Curran of “Basic Instinct” will be playing Liberace, the glitzy pop-classical concert pianist for whom the word “flamboyant” might have been coined. Directing the film will be Steven Soderbergh, returning to his nonfiction well that earned him one of his biggest commercial successes with “Erin Brokovich” and, he hopes again, with this week’s wide release of the fact-based comedy, “The Informant.”

Just to tie things up in a nice ribbon, as reported by People — who somehow found a picture of Michael Douglas looking oddly like Liberace might have looked later in life — “Informant” star Matt Damon will play Liberace’s longtime partner who ultimately sued the Las Vegas star in a palimony suit. I’m not sure it’s fair to say he “outed” Liberace. This will not, of course, be the first time that Matt Damon has played a gay character. That would be “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

And, now, a moment of vintage Liberace. Definitely not with Matt Damon.

  

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“When the Boys Meet the Girls”

I was looking for some material on the ol’ YouTube on the late Harve Presnell for my more retro-minded other blog home. I didn’t find much, but I did find this trailer for a film that was for one of Presnell’s few shots at movie stardom, a long forgotten attempt at what Hollywood journos and suits like to call a “four quadrant” film, in that it tries to appeal to both genders and all age groups. So, we get a film with hitmaker Connie Francis, Broadway baritone Harve Presnell, lots of Gershwin tunes, but also rocker’s Herman’s Hermits and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, but also Louis Armstrong, the man who practically invented jazz. Oh, and Liberace, too. Check it out.

The movie was “When the Boys Meet the Girls” and it appears it didn’t exactly make a mint for MGM. This was the age when clueless grown-ups thought they could remake an old musical property (the twice-before filmed Gershwin Broadway hit, “Girl Crazy”) and bring people of all ages together in a theater simply by mixing elements appealing to grown-ups and teens of the time. What they didn’t seem to realize was that there was an increasingly acrimonious cultural war raging in the country between young people increasingly hostile to “old people’s music” and “old people” who had never stopped being hostile to rock and roll. About a year or two later they’d be calling it “the generation gap.”

The ironic thing is that, in this “High School Musical” era, the youth of today happily listen to music from all eras — including the pre-rock days — and the angry youth of the past are, of course, now “old people” themselves. In the era of “High School Musical,” as doofy as this trailer might look (though, of course, I kind of dig it…kind of), an approach like this could actually work commercially. Expect a fourth “Girl Crazy” remake shortly.

  

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