Thursday trailer: “X-Men: First Class”

It’s still the dead of Winter, but Summer (or the movie version of it, which actually stars in late Spring) is getting closer every day. “X-Men: First Class” is of special interest to me as it marks the return of director Matthew Vaughn to the franchise. (Vaughn famously dropped out the third X-Men installment shortly before production and was replaced by nobody’s favorite, Brett Ratner.)

Ironically, I’m not the biggest fan of any of the “X-Men” movies I’ve seen so far. However, Vaughn and his writing collaborator, Jane Goldman, most recently of “Kick-Ass,” have batted 1000 a with me as they careen from genre to genre and fail to rake in the big money I think they richly deserve. Let’s just hope this isn’t only a movie for critics and hardcore genre geeks. As you probably already know, James McAvoy is a much hairier and more ambulatory Dr. Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender is a much younger Magneto.

H/t Deadline. I’m definitely digging the retro vibe here.

  

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have your new Superman and, yeah, he’s British too

Englishman Henry Cavill in his ordinary street clothesSomeone wake up Lou Dobbs. I mean, Spidermen and Batmen hailing from the UK is one thing, but what’s Henry Cavill going to do, fight for truth, justice and the British way? Will Luthor try to do him in with a Kryptonite crumpet?

But, seriously, folks, the main reason I’ve decided to put off this week’s box office round-up is that the entire geek film Internet is having a fangasm because Mike Fleming and La Finke and also, possibly, la Harry, broke the news this morning that busy working English thespian Henry Cavill is the new man from Krypton.

If, like me, your first reaction to the news is “Who’s Henry Cavill?,” the answer is that he’s best known as a macho nobleman on TV’s “The Tudors.”  The assumption is that producer-director Zack Snyder and company are going with a more ultra-masculine Superman in reaction to the underrated and underseen Brandon Routh, but thats probably jumping the gun. Let’s see what he actually does with the part. If, like me, you’ve never watched “The Tudors,” Cavill also played supporting roles in the 2002 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and as the obnoxious Humphrey in Matthew Vaughn’s underrated and underseen, “Stardust,

I still haven’t decided just what I think of Zack Snyder as a filmmaker and I haven’t seen enough of Cavill to have a pre-opinion here though, just looking at some of his pictures, he seems a slightly better fit to me for either James Bond or Batman, both characters he was actually in the running to play. Still, my hunch is he’ll do fine. I would, however, like to remind casting directors that Americans can save producer’s substantial sums on dialect coaches. Or, let’s make the next 007 American, and in two or three years, when they decide to do a Harry Potter reboot (this time, he’ll be tougher and sexier) let’s make him a Yank as well. America’s acting superheroes needs jobs!

  

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A roundtable chat with director Stephen Frears of “Tamara Drewe”

Stephen Frears on location for Anyone who thinks that the only interesting directors are the ones with obvious personal styles needs to take a long, hard long at the filmography of Stephen Frears. Something of a contemporary, English throwback to such versatile craftsmen of pre-auteur theory Hollywood as William Wyler, George Stevens, Robert Wise, and Michael Curtiz, the Cambridge-educated Frears began his career neck deep in the English New Wave cinema of the 1960s as an assistant director on Karel Riesz’s “Morgan!,” and Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 surreal youth revolt drama, “If…” Later moving on to directing for the BBC, his second theatrical feature, 1984’s “The Hit,” was mostly ignored despite an all-star cast, but did gain a cult following of which I am a proud member. Frears’ follow up collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi, a then-bold cross-racial same-sex romance, “My Beautiful Laundrette,” co-starred a young Daniel Day Lewis and got more immediate results. It was a hit in arthouses on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make Lewis a star; it also paved the way for Frears’ smashing mainstream Hollywood debut, 1988’s Oscar-winning “Dangerous Liaisons.”

Since then, Frears has enjoyed success both here in the U.S. and at home in England with numerous BAFTAs and films as diverse as “High Fidelity” and “The Grifters” — for which he was nominated for an Oscar — as well as the ultra-English “The Queen” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents.” He’s dealt with modern-day cowboys (1998’s “The Hi-Lo Country”), English fascism (2000’s “Liam”), the monarchy (2006’s “The Queen”), and the illegal trade of human organs (2002’s “Dirty Pretty Things”). When George Clooney decided he wanted to try a live television remake of “Fail Safe” back in 2000, Frears handled the chore to no shortage of acclaim.

Frear’s latest, “Tamara Drewe,” has fared reasonably well with critics on the whole, though not so much with this particular longtime admirer. An adaptation of a graphic novel originally serialized in England’s The Guardian by cartoonist and children’s book author Posy Simmonds, the tale is a comic, modern-day homage to Thomas Hardy’s tragic 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd starring Gemma Arterton as a formerly large nosed “ugly duckling” whose swannish post-operative return to her family’s estate sparks chaos at a writer’s retreat in ultra-picturesque rural England.

Apparently taking the casualness of California fully to heart, the 69-year-old Frears, who bears some resemblance to the late Rodney Dangerfield, arrived unshaven and in a t-shirt that had seen better days. If the “just rolled out of bed” look was disconcerting, however, we needn’t have worried. Frears was in good spirits and clearly enjoys sharing his views with the press.

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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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Friday night movie news dump

I’ve got a bunch of other stuff to get to, so let’s see how efficient and selective I can be tonight.

* We have a Bat-date and it’s July 20, 2012.

* “Iron Man 2” is already starting to rake it in.

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* I can’t believe I failed to mention this a couple of days back, but writer-director Bill Condon is handling the next “Twilight” film. These days, Condon is best known for “Dreamgirls,” and he did a brilliant job turning Bob Fosse’s anti-dramatic theater-piece, “Chicago,” into an audience-friendly hit as a writer. However, he’s made a horror film (one of the “Candyman” films) and also his terrific “Gods and Monsters” was an homage to “Frankenstein” director and all-around filmmaking great James Whale. In other words, he’s far more interesting a guy to do this than you would expect.

* News-flash: “Kick-Ass” man Matthew Vaughn will, once again, not be directing an X-Men movie. Don’t stop the presses!

* If James Cameron paid such careful attention to the science in “Avatar,” why couldn’t he also spend a little time on the dialogue?

* With all the sequels being made, why the f*** not “Anchorman 2”? Too many comedy superstars means too much $, I suppose.

* Speaking of money, you’d think it would be easy for David O. Russell to get enough money for two or so days of shooting to finish “Nailed,” written by Kristen Gore (Al and Tipper’s  funny daughter). It seems the quirky comedy (the extremely talented, conflict-prone Russell makes no other kind) has been sent to cinema hell — or purgatory if we’re all lucky — not by Russell, who for once seems to have things nicely under control, but by seriously troubled producer David Bergstein. For those of you with enough time, check out the long version of what left this film literally hanging as written by Kim Masters. Sad/fascinating stuff.

* Justly respected critic Todd McCarthy is back after being canned by Variety and blogging for Indiewire. Good news.

* J.J. Abrams may be doing something with Steven Spielberg. Quoth Beaks:

[It] will be “both a tribute to and a collaboration with Steven Spielberg”. The film, about which nothing specific is known, is intended as an homage to Spielberg’s ’70s and early ’80s output; “…an interpretation of some of Spielberg’s earlier films, but done in a personal way.”

…This is either kinda cool, or a little creepy. I can’t decide.

  

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