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It’s the bloody end of week movie news dump

As this year’s apparently rather upbeat and successful Sundance winds down, this is just a sampling of some of the movie news stories that have been making the rounds.

* There’s a constant stream of stories about indie films being acquired by studios — like, say, artist Miranda July’s “The Future” and the gentle Paul Rudd comedy, “My Idiot Brother.” Most of these sound like more or less traditional “Sundance” films (docs, small relationship-centric dramas and comedies). At the other extreme, there’s also been an undercurrent of transgression in Park City this year as three films are said to be pushing the envelope regarding extreme graphic violence and gore/blood.

“I Saw the Devil” doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time though it’s twisted revenge premise has a kind of sick cleverness to. If this movie really is as gory as people say, I don’t quite get the comparisons to “Oldboy,” which was often unpleasant and, I suppose, somewhat shocking and definitely brutal in places, but not really particularly gory — I don’t think I closed my eyes once and I’m, you know, me.

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“The Woman,” is a film about a misogynist torturer who eventually gets his that has really divided viewers and caused one gentleman to completely flip out at a screening. Reading Drew McWeeney’s extremely positive review and description of the utterly insane showing, setting aside the issue of the treatment of women onscreen, I sort of fail to see the point of the exercise. Okay, he was traumatized by the movie. Why is that a good thing? Gore and violence aside, in my view, art and that kind trauma may actually be antithetical because it doesn’t allow you any room of your own in which to think. We could maybe use a little more of Bertolt Brecht’s “alienation effect” and a little bit less total immersion cinema these days.

On a somewhat less serious tack, the most popular Sundance premiere with the fanboy set by far is the long ballyhoed “Hobo With a Shotgun,” in which the gore and brutality is mostly, but perhaps not entirely, played for laughs in what I understand is deliberately cheesy grindhouse style. Even so, it sure sounds as if the envelope may be pushed too far for this extreme-gore-phobe, funny or not

Actually, there’s always the matter of festival hype to consider with all of these films. Something about the air in Park City sometimes makes people exaggerate how violent/gorey/scary/upsetting movies are. Remember when “Blair Witch” was the scariest movie of all time?

* Speaking of “Oldboy” director, Chan-wook Park, Mia Wasikowska is in talks to star in his first U.S. film, “Stoker.”

* Yes, the concept that men and women think somewhat differently will be entirely fresh concept for a romantic comedy, I can hardly wait.

* Mel Gibson’s DVD of his new film, “The Beaver” was stolen. Sometimes, the jokes really do all but write themselves.

* A.J. Schnack has some very solid explanations of why “Waiting for Superman” wasn’t nominated and also wasn’t “snubbed” by Oscar.

* Seth Rogen’s going to make a comedy road movie with Barbara Streisand as his mom? It really seems to be happening.

* Another “Hobbit” delay, but a short one caused by a nasty perforated ulcer for Peter Jackson, who surely has had one hell of a year.

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

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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 feel  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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Rallying in NZ for “The Hobbit”

A lot of fascinating things have happened in the history of movie making, but offhand I can’t think of an example of nationwide protests to keep a film in a particular country, but that’s exactly what happened today  in New Zealand, where it’s actually already tomorrow. The issue, of course, are the continuing threats amid the probably inevitable hardball negotiations to move production away from the small island nation in the wake of battles with local actors unions. Here’s what’s happening as the biggest protest is led by Richard Taylor of the famed WETA workshop which did such a great job on the effects in the “Lord of the Rings” films.

It’s important to remember, I think, that as successful as he is, Richard Taylor is very much an independent entrepreneur who has to keep a steady flow of work going for WETA. I spoke to him briefly at Comic-Con as he was helping to promote what appears to be a very unpromising and very low budget effects driven production. Thinking of him as someone who has collaborated closely with a guy like Peter Jackson, I was perplexed until I realized that, for a guy like him with a payroll, it’s always about the next job. Money is money and he can’t be too proud about the projects he takes on, as long as he delivers the best he can for the money. In the case of this particular next job, an entire country, small though it is, is seriously impacted.

For a bit more background, I have a great piece of video — including a very blunt interview with Peter Jackson (that’s Sir Jackson, to you) from last week.

H/t the fabulous El Guapo.

And one final note: Notice how New Zealand Finance Minister Gerry Brownlee assures anchor Mark Sainsbury that there was no negotiations going on between his government and Warner Brothers for improved tax incentives. If you read the THR story from today I linked to above, you’ll note that whether or not such negotiations are going on, people seem to assume they might be.

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Movie news and commentary…lots of it: “The Hobbit” is cast but <sigh> Mel Gibson exists and must be dealt with, somehow (updated)

Tonight’s box office preview has been moved to tomorrow because of a couple of a films news items that just can’t quite wait. The first can be dispensed with in a second. Casting has been announced on “The Hobbit,” short, snub-nosed and talented Martin Freeman will face his inevitable hobbity destiny as Bilbo Baggins, as Peter Jackson again casts a bunch of people I’ve mostly never heard of in smaller roles who’ll probably all be great.

And then there’s this news of Mel Gibson being let go from “The Hangover 2 just a day after it was announced he’d been hired to play a supporting role. Oy.

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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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Midweek movie news — the fatigue edition!

I’m overtired and miles from home in a West L.A. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and I probably should have just thrown up another embed and gone for home and some sleep, but the movie news is just not waiting tonight…

* Johnny Depp is apparently wanting to star in a new version of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” or perhaps the series of really fun movies starring the great William Powell and Myrna Loy that the original 1934 movie adaptation spawned. I’ve no particular clue why he’d want Rob Marshall — not a bad director at all, but also not a great one and prone to ADHD editing — when he could have his pick. Of course, selecting a Nora Charles to go with his Nick will be half the fun — the possibilities are pretty endless though for some reason the only person I can think of right now is Cate Blanchett. She’s great, but don’t ask me why she comes to mind. It’s probably the fatigue. One big problem: Nick and Nora are a couple of merry alcoholics — or at least huge problem drinkers. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that aspect of the property in today’s more abstemious world, although I suppose Nick Charles isn’t that far removed from Jack Sparrow or Keith Richard.

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* They worked mostly in other media, but they all had their moments in the movie sun: RIP Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley and, er, Bob Guccione.

* Cinephile’s cinephile uber-blogger David Hudson, who is based in Germany, gives us a fascinating post-mortem look at a writer and filmmaker I’ve never heard of until now, Thomas Harlan. The key fact here: Harlan’s father directed “Jew Suss,” the most notorious narrative antisemitic film produced by Joseph Goebbel’s Nazi UFA, and had been actively dealing with the legacy.

* Sometimes an actor blends so seamlessly into a part you wonder whether she is really even acting at all.

* In the battle of Hobbit-man Peter Jackson versus the NZ/Oz/U.S. unions, it sure looks like the unions blinked. This is probably the first such battle where I’m glad of it.

* “Giallo” is the name for the subgenre of bloody horror flicks from Italy that predated American slasher films with more mature characters and a heck of a lot more style from directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Apparently wanting to get in on the whole self-awareness thing, Argento, who unbelievably is only just turning 70, made a movie actually called “Giallo” starring Adrien Brody. Brody says the producers didn’t pay him and is suing them and blocking the release of the movie for the time being. That’s always a mistake — not paying your star, I mean.

* Ben Affleck is considering switching from character-driven crime fiction adaptations to a character-driven fantasy-drama adaptation, “Replay.” I gather the book by the late Ken Groomwood is an old favorite of my highly esteemed colleague Will Harris and won a World Fantasy Award in 1987. Why have I never heard of it before?

* “Heckraiser“?

* Today’s tie for the “is this really news” prize: Robert Downey, Jr. “eyes” playing a really intense guy who gets involved in paranoid wackiness. Also, crazed lunatic Mel Gibson follows the path of reformed ear-biter Mike Tyson and will appear in “The Hangover 2″ according to the totally awesome-in-my-book Jodie Foster, who seems to be doing whatever she can to try and salvage her widely discussed movie, “The Beaver” by trying to help repair his insanely in-shambles image. Talk about strange bedfellows.

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It’s the end of week movie news dump — now, with fewer items!

There really hasn’t been all that much interesting movie news this week, but things have definitely heated up just in the last few hours. Specifically…

* Via Quint at AICN, “The Hobbit” two-movie package has been officially greenlit, with Peter Jackson directing. It’s a good thing because I was really getting tired of those “it’s just about greenlit” “it’s almost greenlit” “no, it’s actually not quite greenlit because of MGM being on the block, nothing to see here” rinse-and-repeat stories. I don’t even care if Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming want to claim a “toldja” on this or how many casting rumors they’re repeating, just make the damn movies already.

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Oh, but first, they’ve got to solve the previously reported issues with SAG and AFTRA. As a good liberal I’m very pro-union and I think that anyone who thinks we’d be better off without unions should be immediately transported to a smokey factory in 19th century London and asked to work a 72 hour week without overtime pay. However, like all the other geeks, I nevertheless think SAG and AFTRA are probably overreaching here and are singling out the movie because of its high profile.

* A related story is also a classic example of an unpleasant news item arriving late on a Friday night in an attempt to bury it. The highly regarded executive Mary Parent — beloved of Joss Whedon fans for giving both the “Buffy” TV and the “Serenity” movie gigs — is officially out at MGM.

* The king of the world is supposedly flirting with making a movie about the queen of the world — not Oprah, but Cleopatra. Angelina Jolie is already set to star in a project that’s already sounding to me as bloated as the wildly over budget 1963 production, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, that nearly bankrupted Fox — despite being the year’s most successful movie (despite being a movie that almost no one likes today).

* It always tempting to make jokes about the porn industry, but HIV is no joke and there’s been an outbreak of it, so far limited to one on-screen sex worker. Is the site of a condom really that much of a boner buzz-kill?

* David Chase is reuniting with musical genius Steven Van Zandt, who played helmet-haired Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” as his music supervisor and is taking on a cast of more-or-less unknowns on his planned feature musical drama. This one I’m looking forward to. Before getting his start writing some of the best episodes ever of “The Rockford Files,” Chase was and presumably still is influenced largely by European art films.

BTW, if you’ve never heard Van Zandt’s great radio show and you like rock and roll, you’re missing something. Also, Mr. Van Zandt should be remembered as a human rights hero for his involvement with this great piece of pop music protest.

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Monday movie news

The Deadline crew has really been working overtime these last few days, so there’s much to talk about as a new week begins.

* I’m not kidding about the pace of news from Deadline today. Just as I was starting to finish writing this, Mike Fleming broke the news that we have a “Superman” director who’ll be working with producer Christopher Nolan, and he is one Zack Snyder of “300,” “Watchmen,’ the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and that owl movie that’s out right now. Expect a fightin’ Supes. Should you expect a good Supes movie? Dunno. I never understood the grief that “Superman Returns” got. It was a nice, fun movie in the best senses of the words “nice” and “fun.” Will this one be all grimness and unnecessary darkness? I hope not.

*  Fox landed the film adaptation rights for apparently the hottest book of the moment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is being produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmanbetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted“), who purchased the rights with their own money. And it’s not like they were afraid to show they really wanted it:

When Tim and Timur and their entourage of reps came to the Fox…they were met with a huge banner at the gate. It had the title treatment of the script and was emblazoned, “Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. At their parking spot were signs saying “Parking For Vampire Hunters Only: park at your own risk,” and so forth. There were bloody footprints lining the walkway and stairs leading from their cars to the meeting in Building 88 with images from the book and lines from the script. As if that were not enough, there also were bloody axes strewn about, and a bugle player in a Confederate uniform playing “Taps” as the filmmakers walked to the meeting..

Yes, like Camelot, Hollywood is a silly place, and I sort of like it that way. I just wished I enjoyed Bekmambetov’s movies, because I didn’t.

* Re: silliness. Check out this promotion for “Jackass 3D”

* I seriously dislike writing about stories that say that so-and-so is “about to be” “offered” a part. There are simply too many items like that and too many “ifs” (maybe the studio will change their minds; maybe the star will say “no,” etc.) and I prefer to wait until the story is further down the road. Nevertheless, Mike Fleming has reported that Emma Stone is about to be offered the part of Mary Jane Watson in the Marc Webb-directed 3D “Spiderman” reboot opposite Andrew Garfield.

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Midweek movie news

You’d think Jewish New Year and Labor Day coming so close together would slow down the pace of movie news a little, but leisure is for suckers and Yahweh is just another bit player in this hard luck town.

* The talk of the geek-o-sphere for some time is going to be the announcement of a massive and potentially trendsetting film/television cross-over adaptation of Stephen King’s multi-volume “The Dark Tower” mega-epic. Universal, which has had some very tough times lately, is taking what I’m guessing could be a make-it-or-break-it gamble on the project, the news of which was broken by Mike Fleming earlier.  I’m not a King reader, but I am intrigued by the fact that it’s a western-science fiction-horror cross-breed. In any case apparently the plan is to start with a movie, go to a 22 episode not-so-mini-series, and then onto another movie, another series, then wrapping it all up with movie. The idea being to provide fans with both the grandeur of theatrical films and the detail and time of a television series.

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It’s intriguing but laden with potential pitfalls. One is that it demands an awful lot of time and people who aren’t following the series may feel shut out of the latter two movies. The other is that, quite frankly, I feel the “A Dangerous Mind” creative team of director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman — who I gather will be writing and directing the first two films and the entire first series at least, which could be some kind of record if that’s what’s really going to happen — simply haven’t indicated they’re up to this kind of material. I hate to say it but winning Oscars can be negative indicator sometimes.

It’s not that I doubt their ability to crank it all out. Howard is obviously a very competent director who knows how to make highly professional material and I have tremendous respect for him as an individual and one of the more positive forces in Big Moviedom. However, he’s always shown a tendency to play it safe and often a bit dull when the chips are really down creatively as a director and none of Goldsman’s movies have been all that inspiring to me either. All I’m saying is that I had a good feeling about Peter Jackson taking on “The Lord of the Rings” and I have a bad feeling about it, though I’d seriously love to be wrong.  Something tells me this project needs a real lunatic and Ron Howard is one of the sanest guys in show business. Huge King fan Quint at AICN has similar misgivings. He has a more riding on this than I.

* Simon Abrams is right re: “Kick-Ass” doing a lot better than people assumed. Even though I cover the weekend grosses here, we all make way too much of those openings and fail to look at the overall picture. Calling a movie a bomb that makes nearly half its budget in its opening weekend is just idiotic anyhow. The actual success of the film may have figured in the ongoing financial struggles between Lionsgate and Carl Icahn.

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Movie news for a no longer new week

A fair amount of stuff happening…

* Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts may star, and Stephen Daldry might direct, an adaptation of a 9/11 themed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Lou Loumenick is, I’m sure, not the only one to hope the project never happens. The backlash against author Foer seems to be going full-steam. Since I”ve never read anything by him and missed the movie version of his “Everything is Illuminated,” I’m completely in the dark on this one.

* I mentioned in a tongue-in-cheek way on Sunday that, despite a fairly disappointing $10 million showing for “Piranha 3D” over the weekend, given the modest $24 million, I thought a sequel a possibility. I certainly didn’t expect this quick a turn-around, but there you go. Seems the foreign returns, combined with an okay take domestically on the famished fish tale were sufficient to justify another go-round at this price level.

* One person who I know for a fact to be delighted by the “Piranha” news is film blogger and devoted horror dad Dennis Cozzalio who reviewed — and kind of loved — the movie for the Bullz-Eye team this week, doing us all a solid as everyone in the staff was indisposed in one way or another. (My infamous gorephobia wasn’t helping any, either.) Coincidentally, Dennis’s excellent and already world-famous cinephile blog — Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule — got a little more world famous today through the attention from the lofty likes of Richard Brody of The New Yorker today. The topic, strangely enough, was the work of the late action director Sergio Leone. The infield fly rule will have to take care of itself for now.

* Oh, and if you reaction to the idea of a sequel to the aforementioned silly horror flick was “when pigs fly!” the great Japanese animator Hiyao Miyazaki has a planned sequel for you.

* It’s too sad to mention in this silly context, but it also seems wrong to ignore it and I don’t know how else to handle this. Sincere condolences to comic actor Martin Short and his family. Extremely tragic news regarding his wife.

* Apparently, unlike most /Film commenters, I actually do care that there’s may be a “Fantastic Four” reboot as they’ve always been my favorite Marvel characters, but I couldn’t even make it past the oh-so-thin first half-hour of the first movie. Why not reclaim a lost opportunity? Casting rumors, however, I never care about. Actual casting news gets really old sometimes.

* If movies are making you sick, it might not be just the content. Nah, it’s probably the content.

* The Playlist is correct. Pedro Almodovar’s new film is definitely high up on my list of highly anticipated movies for next year. It’s nice to see the Spanish director reteam with Antonio Banderas, who appeared in four of the director’s early successes starting with “Matador” in 1986 and wrapping with the controversial “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” in 1991.

However, they’ll forgive us for anticipating even more the next film from Winnipeg’s own resident eccentric cine-genius Guy Madden, which will feature Isabella Rosellini, Jason Patric, and Sir Simon Milligan himself, Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe. No insult to Mr. Patric, but his costars appear to be two of the coolest humans extant as far as we’re concerned here at PH. Ms. Rosellini gave a great interview to Will Harris some time back, and Mr. MacDonald has a terrific career-spanning chat over at the Onion which brings up the fact that, in drag, MacDonald has a small visual similarity to the luminous Ms. R.

* The end of one of modern journalism’s greatest hates? Sharon Waxman extends an olive branch to Nikki Finke. This could be interesting.

* Capone at AICN has a great interview with thinking geeks’ favorite Guillermo del Toro. A couple of items that were new to me, anyway: it’s far from a sure thing he’ll be directing “The Haunted Mansion” though he’s definitely producing and cowriting. Also, del Toro is now openly hoping that Peter Jackson will wind up as helming “The Hobbit” after all.

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