Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” hits theaters soon

We see this mess on TV every day . . . so will people go to the theaters to watch as well? Should be interesting . . .

  

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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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It’s weekend box office preview time: It’s “Jackass 3D” vs. Helen Mirren with a gun.

Guess which movie I’m rooting for? As usual, however, I won’t get what I want. It’s hard to imagine that the audience for “Jackass 3D” will accept seeing the gross-out-a-thon in any other format and for that reason alone the docu-comedy is expected to outgross the very strong competition from the comic book adaptation, “RED” (as in “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”) which stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary Louise-Parker, Karl Urban, and Fred Grandy as Gopher, I think.

Helen Mirren and John Malkovich are

Both the L.A. TimesBen Fritz and THR’s ever-jolly (despite his lousy new theme music) Carl DiOrio agree that the cleverly pitched comedy thriller, putting mostly older actors in the traditionally young-skewing over-the-top action genre, should net about $25 million. The even more cleverly framed “Jackass 3D” should, however, ride those expensive tickets, the spectacle of three dimensional bodily by-products, and the tendency of young males to see movies opening weekend, to about $30 million or more. “RED” should have the longer legs, but presumably “Jackass” has the smaller budget (medical insurance bills for the cast notwithstanding). Both will do fine.

It’s a very busy weekend in limited release. Artistically speaking, the most important films of the bunch will likely turn out to be Olivier Assayas’s mega massive and hugely praised true-life political thriller, “Carlos,” about the notorious far-left terrorist of the 1970s which you can watch all 330 minutes of this weekend in a few showings at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, and I’m tempted to. A shorter 2.5 hour cut is also available for people with less stout buttocks and/or lives to lead. On the other hand, one can never sneeze at a new movie by Clint Eastwood, and “Hereafter,” his second movie to star Matt Damon, begins to appear. This time, the octogenarian Mr. Eastwood takes on the topic of death itself.

Meanwhile, 542 theaters are going to be empty save for a few hardcore tea parties, I predict, this weekend as “I Want Your Money” opens. I’m actually sitting on an interview with director and would-be conservative answer to Michael Moore, Ray Griggs, from Comicon which will likely never see the light of day because it’s mostly quite dull and he had really nothing to say of interest to say about the movie we were actually supposed to talk about. It only got interesting when he mentioned this movie, which he dishonestly tried to pitch to me as nonpartisan. I smelled a cinema rat and, as I now know, the cast is dominated by famed Republican pols like Mike Huckabee and Newt Gringrich. However, a PR person ended the interview before I could try and figure out what the story really was.

Most conservatives would never believe me, but I don’t assume “I Want Your Money” is extremely bad because I disagree with its politics, I assume it’s extremely bad because Griggs last (apolitical) movie got a rare 0% from Rotten Tomatoes, including being slammed by the New York Post’s conservative Kyle Smith. He also couldn’t discuss “I Want Your Money” — or the other movie — with me in a straightforward fashion which doesn’t speak well for him or either movie.  To quote the old rock and roll song, sometimes bad is bad.

  

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Los Angeles Film Festival Recap: The Movies, part 2

Following on from last night’s post, here are some more reactions to the movies I saw at the recently wrapped Los Angeles Film Festival…

Johan Hill in * “Cyrus” — This played early in the festival and was pretty much concurrent with it’s opening in theaters. I’ve already said in passing elsewhere that I enjoyed the film quite a bit despite some flaws and, by now, you’ve probably heard something about this oddball romantic comedy of gently Oedipal horrors. It first came  up on my radar some time ago when I interviewed Mark Duplass, one half of the directing Duplass Brothers.

About the worst thing I can say about “Cyrus” is that, unlike the similarly improvised film Mark stars in, “Humpday,” which also involved a woman caught between two problematic men, the female role here is relatively under-developed. The fact that that movie was written and directed by a woman, Lynn Shelton, is, I’m sure, not entirely coincidental.

There’s also been something of a cinephile backlash to the Duplass’s camera work, among other issues, which may interest you wonks. You can read about that via Glenn Kenny, Bill Ryan (my further thoughts are in comments at his place) and Jim Emerson.

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A chat with Alex Gibney

alexgibneycrop

There’s no doubt that Alex Gibney is on a historic roll as a documentarian. Within only a few years, he’s been involved with probably the largest number of popular and influential documentaries of any single human being not named Michael Moore. Those works would include the outstanding “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and the equally strong, and Oscar winning, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about American use of torture in the “war on terror.” Gibney has also made his share of more historically themed documentaries, including “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.” He was also involved as a producer in two of the other most important and controversial documentaries of recent years, the Iraq-war expose, “No End in Sight” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

If Gibney’s past output is hugely impressive, however, his upcoming list of films is dizzying. At the recently wrapped Tribeca Film Festival in New York, he premiered as a “work in progress,” a new and apparently very revealing, look at former New York state governor, attorney general, and Wall Street watchdog Eliot Spitzer and the sex scandal that drove him from office. He also has a segment in the upcoming film version of the super-hot bestseller, Freakonomics, as well as new films about two very different cultural legends: bicyclist Lance Armstrong and author/super-hippie Ken Kesey of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Merry Pranksters fame.

There’s also the recently completed “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” and the film Gibney was promoting at his publicist’s L.A. office one recent afternoon, “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” It’s a work of amazing journalistic detail that also works very hard to be lively and accessible.

Jack Abramoff is

 

Even if I felt that Gibney didn’t quite master that “accessible and lively” aspect too consistently this time around, his “Casino Jack” reviews so far have been great overall. He’s certainly a filmmaker to be reckoned with and one with an outstanding body of work behind him and much, much more to come. Not my idea of a lazy person.

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