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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.

US-CINEMA-EDGE OF DARKNESS

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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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