A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale

Can you name all the major actors from the “Godfather” movies? If you’re missing one, it’s probably John Cazale. He played the initially minor character of Fredo, the tragic runt of the gangster litter who figured so prominently in “The Godfather: Part II.” An accomplished stage actor, Cazale appeared in only five moves before his death from lung cancer in 1978 at age 42, but since they also included “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Conversation” and “The Deer Hunter” — all nominated for Best Picture Oscars — it is slightly strange he isn’t better known. It’s definitely not for lack of esteem from his peers. This short HBO documentary from director Richard Shepard (“The Matador“) proves that point with testimonials from friends, colleagues and fans including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Gene Hackman, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, and Meryl Streep, who was Cazale’s girlfriend at his death. It seems that, aside from his ability to submerge himself into a role and raise the game of his fellow actors, the unglamorous and good-natured Cazale also had a way with beautiful women.

Though the packaging of this DVD is first-rate if overly elaborate, it also attempts to hide the fact that “I Knew It Was You” is only 40 minutes long, not counting about an hour’s worth of special features. Nevertheless, this is a sincere, well-made, and entirely laudable labor of movie love.

Click to buy “I Knew It Was You: Redisocovering John Cazale”

  

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New gig, old gig: Steven Spielberg

Today we’re going to start what I think might be an occasional series of posts where I highlight a movie news story about someone’s new job — which is probably about half the movie news stories (when people aren’t merely “mulling,” “eying” or “circling” new jobs) — and then provide you with a clip of past work I deem somehow relevant.

Okay, so the news here is that Steven Spielberg is returning to directing science fiction with “Robopocalypse,” an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s recent novel written by “Buffy”-alum Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield,” the ever-delayed “The Cabin in the Woods”). Though I love science fiction, I’m much more a fan of Spielberg when he gets outside his old comfort zones on movies like “Munich,” “Catch Me If You Can,” even the sometimes-derided “Schindler’s List” and  “The Terminal.” Still, apart from the just about perfect “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — which is more fantasy than science fiction anyhow — his best, though still flawed, SF movie has to be “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Below, as Richard Dreyfuss and former French New Wave wunderkind François Truffaut look on, 1977’s cosmic equivalent to “Dueling Banjos.”

  

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Another Easter weekend trailer: “Leaves of Grass”

We live in a climate where even a fairly action-packed stoner black comedy featuring an apparent comedic powerhouse performance by an A-lister can still be released almost as if it were a 4-hour meditation on the futility of existence from the Ukraine. Fortunately for said A-lister, Edward Norton, and actor-writer-director Tim Blake Nelson, “Leaves of Grass” — which has not much to do with Walt Whitman but utterly wowed Roger Ebert — apparently made audiences squeal with delight at SXSW, reportedly setting up a chain of events which saved that film from what Anne Thompson reported on Thursday would have been a mere $250,000 ad budget.

The movie, which really seems to have dramatically divided critics so far (occasionally a sign of a truly interesting film), continues a venerable tradition of great actors interacting with themselves as identical twins and more fanciful doppelgangers. Below, Norton swims quite nicely in the same waters that worked so well for Jeremy Irons (“Dead Ringers”), Nicolas Cage (“Adaptation”), and, more recently, Sam Rockwell (“Moon“).  All I can say is that with a supporting cast that features a menorah-wielding Richard Dreyfuss, Keri Russell, Susan Sarandon, and filmmaker Nelson, a strong comic actor whose previous indie films have all been on deadly serious topics,  this one may not turn out to be the masterpiece Ebert finds it to be, but it sure looks to me like way too much fun to be left just to us art-house denizens.

  

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Late Friday night news dump

A few more items than usual may be slipping through the cracks this week as my iMac has let me know in no uncertain terms that it’s hard drive is ready to be sent off to the digital happy hunting grounds and has been temporarily mothballed.  In the meantime, I am writing to you now, dear reader, via my trusty, if Vista-laden lap top and minus a few links I’ve been saving up over the last couple of days.

But enough about me and my choice of blogging weapon, what’s going on as Hollywood’s denizens ready for the weekend by hit the bars and/or gyms?

* MGM is officially on the auction block, and the secret word to protect against bankruptcy, writes Sharon Waxman, is “forebearance.”

* I’ve never watched “Nip/Tuck” and I couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes or so of “Fantastic Four,” so Julian McMahon is a new name/face to me. Nevertheless, Heat Vision blog wants us to know that he’s in negotiations alongside Richard Dreyfuss and 92 year-old Ernest Borgnine to join an already very impressive cast on the action-espionage comic book adaptation, “Red,” which includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly, and Mary Louise Parker. Considering whose on board, director Robert Schwentke of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” really needs to step up his game. (H/t CHUD.)

* “Paranormal Activity” has past $100 million in grosses. I think Anne Thompson is correct that there are lessons here for other films. It’s true the movie is a one-off creatively speaking, but the slow roll-out and “by popular demand” tactics can definitely be transferred to all kinds of movies. It’s also silly to argue that the success of the movie was all the result of some kind of wide belief that it was “real.” In general, I’m a proponent of slow releases, except that there’s a problem — it works better with movies that are actually entertaining.

On a different note entirely, be sure to check out Ms. Thompson’s three part video interview with Michael Stuhlberg, the heretofore unknown star of  “A Serious Man.”

*Word has it that Nicolas Cage’s crappy streak appears to be ending in a big way with Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutanent: Port of Call New Orleans” which I’m really starting to looking forward to despite, or perhaps because, I was not a fan of the original film, much as I love Harvey Keitel. Via The Auteurs Daily, Manohla Dargis considers Cage’s career ups and downs. Good stuff, but, well, since Ms. Dargis mentions it, I can’t resist indulging in, well, you know….

  

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