Thelma and Louise

Considering the controversy that surrounded its initial release, an action-packed plot line involving impulsive crime and platonic love-on-the-run, and its iconic ending, “Thelma and Louise” once seemed well on its way to the status of a genre-creating classic along the lines of “Bonnie and Clyde.” Today, it plays like a glossier, more sentimental, and politically charged variation on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but there’s nothing wrong with that. Written by Callie Khouri and directed by Ridley Scott, the story is as simple as any western. Tightly-wound waitress Thelma (Susan Sarandon) and too-sweet housewife Louise (Geena Davis) hit the road, ducking her ridiculously chauvinist husband (Christopher McDonald). Their plans for a relaxing fishing vacation die alongside a probable serial rapist (Timothy Carhart) who is impulsively murdered by Thelma after attacking Louise. In no time, the two women are playing cross-country cat-and-mouse with a sympathetic police detective (Harvey Keitel), surviving via some help from Thelma’s smitten boyfriend (Michael Madsen) and armed robbery.

Khouri’s Oscar-winning screenplay feels slightly glib, though its humor, emotion, and some moral complexity remain. Scott’s showy, ultra-confident direction looks great on MGM’s 20th anniversary Blu-ray and involves the usual barrels of ersatz rainwater and a shot of Thelma applying make-up at a crowded ladies’ room mirror that was copied three years later by a famed admirer of Scott in “Pulp Fiction.” Still, it’s Sarandon’s and Davis’ show. When they hold hands at the end as they make their final leap of faith, we’ve got to kind of love these two women and believe they love each other, and we do.

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Once more with whinging

It has yet to spawn a full on blogosphere geek tantrum though that may be just a matter of time, but the news is out tonight via Mike Fleming that “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy is “eying” a remake of, you guessed it, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Now, it’s anyone’s guess how much this story may be a cannily opportunistic exaggeration to pump up the ratings of the upcoming 10/26 “Glee” episode paying homage to Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien’s odd little musical. Russ Fischer is certain an actual film would be a “fool’s errand.” I don’t want to reiterate my standard defense of remakes in theory (though not always in practice, lord knows) for the millionth time, but I will say there’s absolutely nothing holy or perfect about this particular original. I actually think that “Rocky Horror” in a funny way became enormous not so much because it was partly great, but because it was also badly flawed. The first 30-45 minutes of the film are a complete hoot and really did touch a huge socio-political-sexual nerve, but the second half becomes increasingly morose and dull. Hence, the need to dress up, yell funny stuff back at the screen, throw stuff, etc. I certainly wouldn’t mind a version that actually worked without audience participation — like an actual movie.

On the other hand, there is one thing that any remake by anyone will find impossible to top, and that’s Mr. Tim Curry.

What a performance. Not that Barry Bostwick or especially Susan Sarandon were exactly chopped liver  — I’m also a pretty big fan of the late Charles Gray, who played the narrator about as perfectly as you could imagine. Meat Loaf wasn’t bad either, and I had a bit of a crush on Nell “Little Nell” Campbell’s tap-dancing Ruby Keeler homage, Columbia. (On the topic of redheads — I’m for them.) Where was I? Ah, never mind.

  

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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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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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Why do you think they call them “Titans”?

There really doesn’t seem to be any way around it, “Clash of the Titans” will almost undoubtedly win the box office race this Easter and Good Friday weekend. Just anecdotally, I can see that interest is high for a remake of a swords-and-sandals fantasy flick that is a sentimental favorite for lots of guys, even if the original film is not really seen as the strongest movie in the cannon of the great stop-motion effects man, Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 this summer. I’ve been hearing and seeing fairly enthusiastic chatter about this film from French-export action-guy director Louis Leterrier everywhere for months, including at my local Food 4 Less a couple of nights back.

Clash of the Titans

Critics like our own David Medsker may excoriate it for not even having impressive effects, and the Rotten Tomatoes crew as a whole may give it an unimpressive 34%, but you can’t really stop a titan, can you? Moreover, critics seem to agree that, especially in the post “Avatar” world, the retrofitted 3-D is not worth the extra money and audiences will get just as big a kick — if kick, there is, to be had — in cheaper 2-D. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suspect, will be the way of things and the roughly 2,170 3-D screens will be mighty crowded this weekend.

Indeed, a returning jolly Carl DiOrio over at THR informs us that the consensus among the box office guru types is that the film could well bring in over $60 million. He also mentions in his weekly video that Easter is traditionally a rather strong weekend at the box office. So, on the weekend that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, hundreds of thousands of theoretically Chrisitan people all over the country will be seeing a movie that celebrates ancient pagan deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I don’t really have a dog (or a god) in that particular spiritual fight. Still, maybe I should get a bit more worked up because Warner Brothers’ distribution Dan Fellman told DiOrio that: “We own males over and under 25…” All I can say as someone who falls into one of those categories, neither Warners nor Mr. Fellman own me and I think that’s actually kind of illegal. But, yeah, his movie will make some money and most of it will come from guys.

There are two other new movies coming out, but they both most definitely qualify as counter-programming and are primarily aimed at woman. Adult woman who are also African-American and the men who love them are pretty much the target demo for “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” — a sequel from the Tyler Perry ethnically targeted juggernaut.

Black Dynamite shows his softer side.I will point out, however, that alongside start Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White is in the cast. As everyone who saw him in “Black Dynamite” knows, if the Man wasn’t busy working overtime keeping him down, he’d already be a superstar. So, maybe I hope this does the usual Tyler Perry business and makes between $25-$30 million on a relatively low budget. The film hasn’t been screened for critics it appears. Why bother?

The PG-rated teen-centric weepy romance “The Last Song” starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and guest hunk Liam Hemswroth and adapted from a novel by the ever-popular Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has actually been in theaters since Wednesday — what, you didn’t know that? The film has already done decent business from Ms. Cyrus’s devoted young fans and their moms despite predictably miserable reviews. Still, especially when Disney’s early take is discounted, it will still probably be fairly low on the b.o. totem pole come the Sunday estimates.

There’s no theater count up for it over at Box Office Mojo, and only a handful of critics have eve seen it yet, it appears (of them, currently 58% are favorable at Rotten Tomatoes) but the R-rated “The Greatest” open this weekend in apparently very limited release. Reviewer Jason Newman sure makes it sound like a solid, if heart wrenching, drama. It’s certainly got an outstanding cast with the eternally underrated Pierce Brosnan, the impossible to overrate Susan Surandon, mega-up-and-comer Carey Mulligan, and another potential superstar to be, Aaron Johnson of, dare I say it, “Kick-Ass.” Isn’t it weird that the spill-over notoriety from that couldn’t-be-more-different sure-thing hit will probably help this one move a few DVDs, at least?

Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson in

  

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