Red carpet chatter with some folks from “Backwash”

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If, like me, you grew up a weird kid compulsively watching the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and, yes and alas, the Three Stooges, then you might well enjoy “Backwash,” an enjoyably dippy web series with its final episode to be uploaded on Crackle this Monday night, December 20. The series stars Joshua Malina, who also wrote it, as the grumpy and conniving Val, who is, for whatever reason, charged with the care of the childlike and lovably idiotic Jonesy (Michael Panes). When they accidentally rob a bank with a sausage — you kind of have to be there — and hook up with a flamboyant ice cream truck driver, Fleming (Michael Ian Black, who I was unable to nab for a quick interview), the on-the-lamb trio begins a cross-country odyssey of sorts.

The enjoyably lowbrow but sometimes surreal silliness is book-ended by introductions from a rogues gallery of comic and acting talent, the funniest being a mysteriously bearded Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, John Cho, Dulé Hill, and Sarah Silverman. Somehow, Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray is maligned as being the originally author of this more or less contemporary travesty lovingly directed by Danny Leiner, who also helmed “Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.”

It was my privilege to chat with with some of the actors and creators of “Backwash” at the theatrical premiere of a somewhat shortened feature-length version of the web series. I started with Josh Malina, an actor I’ve been rather fond of since I stumbled over “Sports Night,” the show that convinced me that the writer of “The Social Network” was something more than an entertainingly glib semi-hack, actually a lot more.

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Movies news on a Monday night

Direct from the Starbucks at Pico & Robertson…

Jon Hamm in * Rumors have been circulating for at least a week that Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” and now “The Town” is being considered to play Superman. I’m a huge fan of the guy, but count me among those who think he’s a bit old to play an eternally youthful superguy, if there’s going to be more than one movie anyhow. Kal-El is not Tony Stark. In any case, apparently someone else who it appears did turn down the role of Superman director was Guillermo del Toro. Actually, if they ever make a movie set in the Bizarro world, del Toro would be the guy. Otherwise, I don’t see it at all and, it seems, neither did del Toro.

* In terms of film biz transactions, the Toronto International Film Festival surprised everyone and did rather well with numerous indie films being purchased for release. What doe it mean? Mike Fleming sees a modified return of the indie market, though with a thriftier than ever edge.

* The first casting news has come for the J.J. Abrams’ science fiction Steven Spielberg homage/collaboration, “Super 8.” Naturally, one of the stars is a young person — Elle Fanning. The other is closer to my age and is best known for his TV work. No, it’s not Abe Vigoda, but Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”

* Speaking of people in my general age cohort who can’t escape their youth, Keanu Reeves is apparently getting colleauges like Alex Winter ready to do a middle-aged edition of the “Bill & Ted” epic. As actors go, Reeves may not be a Philip Seymour Hoffman-level thespian, but he really excels at certain kinds of comedy and I’m board for this. He does a pretty good Werner Herzog, besides.

* Tim Burton is going back to where he started as a director with a stop-motion version of his career-starting live-action short, “Frankenweenie.” The voice cast has just been announced and it will include Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, and SCTV alums Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.

* Did anybody out there ask for a “Timecop” reboot? Simon Brew is game.

* Re: l’affaire du Hulk back in July, Edward Norton continues to kill Marvel’s Kevin Feige with perhaps not kindness, but civility. Ouch.

* I beg to differ with Sarah Silverman, her “full frontal” nude scene will be pretty. Very pretty.

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* I’ve seen movies in some mighty small “shoebox” multiplex theaters and screening rooms, but if you’re wondering how small a movie theater can be, this promotion for “Buried” answers the question.

* As I write this I’m getting ready to watch the multi-director documentary “Freakonomics” for free. You however, may pay as little as a penny and as much as a $100 to see it this Wednesday. It’s your choice. Still, we know there’ s no such thing as a truly free, or almost free, anything and, as with writers like myself, some effort is expected in return. Details here.

  

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Saturday morning news dump

A very busy day and technical problems conspired to keep me from posting last night, so I’m back with what I hope will be the Reader’s Digest condensed version of one of my more typical Friday news dumps…okay, maybe not so much.

* Taylor Lautner, who is apparently playing second fiddle these days to his own abdominal muscles, is nevertheless being thought of as the next big action star and he’ll start out in a video-game adaptation. I’m so excited, my mind is already wandering.

* The popular comic heavy-metal documentary, “Anvil!,” has picked up an award.

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* Believe it or not, I once tried to write a screenplay set in Las Vegas using Dante’s Divine Comedy. Now, a film with a cast of outstanding indie stalwarts led by Steve Buscemi and Sarah Silverman, is just taking Dante’s Inferno (the first third of the long work) to Vegas. Better to keep things simple, though I’m totally up-in-the-air about what I think of JoBlo’s trailer.

* I’m not a particular fan of Roger Friedman‘s reporting, and I think it’s a bit less than intelligent to try to make a scandal of a “Precious” being left out of the National Board of Review’s top 10 without some kind of actual evidence or even an indication. As our own Jason Zingale shows, not everyone loves or even likes the movie. Mileage will always vary. On the other hand, any look into the somewhat shadowy organization’s membership is always of interest. The only member I ever met or even heard about before recently, was this man.

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Silverman balks at Comedy Central’s budget cuts

The economic downturn is widespread. It’s even having an effect in the world of Sarah Silverman.

The show’s executive producers — Silverman, Dan Sterling and Rob Schrab — have threatened to quit after the cable network told them the budget for their series would be slashed by more than 20%.

At the center of the holdup is the proposed budget for Season 3. Citing cuts imposed on the network by parent company MTV Networks, Comedy Central had proposed that the trio bring back the Writers Guild of America Award-nominated show at about $850,000 an episode, sources said, down from the $1.1 million an episode for the show’s second season.

In broadcast, single-camera comedies are produced for about $1.5 million-$2 million an episode, and the budget for any series normally climbs from year to year.

Concerned they won’t be able to maintain the integrity of the show at the discounted price, Silverman, on behalf of the three executive producers, informed the network late last week that they can’t proceed with a third season. The move reportedly sent shock waves through Comedy Central’s executive offices, with top brass jumping into action to find a budget compromise that would keep the flagship live-action series on the air.

As of Friday night, the situation remained at a standstill. Both sides continued their back-and-forth during the weekend.

A 20% budget cut would be hard for anyone to swallow, but times are tough across the country. Everyone is having to do more (or at least the same) with less manpower, and Hollywood is no different. Let’s hope that they can come to some resolution that both sides can live with.

  

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Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget

This should have been explosive. Bob Saget, who made nine figures pimping some of the blandest television ever created, is in fact one of the filthiest comics on the planet. Comedy Central lines up nothing but comedians – and Cloris Leachman, who steals the show – to roast him, which means there are theoretically no dead spots in the lineup, right? Wrong. The comedians on the dais are the weakest batch that Comedy Central has ever assembled for a roast, to the point where Carrot Top’s bit during Flavor Flav’s roast looks better and better in retrospect. Jon Lovitz tanked, Brian Posehn just isn’t wired to roast, and Norm McDonald, arguably the funniest guy on the dais, deliberately tanked his routine, going old-school clean to counter Saget’s inherent foulness. Lastly, the grand roastmaster Lisa Lampanelli is not present, and she is sorely missed. John Stamos actually does a great job as host, and Saget’s rebuttal is second only to Leachman (to Brian Posehn: “Man, look at you. Did any lesbians survive the fire?”). Still, this had the potential to be much funnier than it is. Pity.

Click here to buy “Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget”

  

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