It’s been somewhat surprising, even given my own innate skepticism about practically everything, that for the last week or so there’s been very little compelling movie news — really very little that I could bring myself to even mention here. To be honest, I kind of liked that way. Much less time consuming and more fun to just throw trailers and stuff at you guys. The last 24 hours or so, however, have been a very different story.
* I often wonder where George Lucas went wrong in a number of departments. Today he’s King Midas in reverse with actors — who else could actually make Samuel L. Jackson boring? — but he directed the very well acted “American Graffitti.” His first two “Star Wars” movies were imperfect but great, great fun — and he had the great good sense to bring in the best writers available, and a very strong director, for the second one. He insisted on doing the three prequels himself, however, and in my opinion and lots of other people’s, showed how borderline unwatchable a space opera could be.
What went wrong? I don’t know but one thing that did happen to Lucas was the departure of producer Gary Kurtz, he of the Abe Lincoln beard who I honestly haven’t thought about in decades.
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It’s Yom Kippur in Los Angeles today and that means a few people will be fasting (no water, either!) and going to temples and synagogues, some will be using the day as an excuse to play hooky, and even more will be enjoying the smaller amount of traffic. Still, it’s not the kind of town that ever takes a complete day off. Intriguingly, for a day of atonement, issues of crime and punishment are definitely on the table.
* Parts of the ‘net are already in hyperdrive about the suddenly revivified Roman Polanski case and even I’ve been drawn into a couple of ‘net flame wars already at other sites. There does seem to be definite split between Europeans and Americans and also between those connected with show business and not. The short version is that a lot of people still want Polanski’s head on a platter. Never mind the only crimes that were proven was the Californian equivalent of statutory rape, “unlawful sex,” and giving drugs to a minor. Anyhow, Polanski is reported to be resisting extradition. Apparently I’m not the only one in a “fighting mood.”
* This legal morass probably won’t get people’s blood boiling nearly as much, but Anne Thompson points us in the direction of a New York Post story stating that peripatetic celebrity film critic Elvis Mitchell has a $500,000 IRS lien put on him. This follows a 2008 incident in which he was caught at the Canadian border with $12,000 in undeclared cash and some contraband Cuban cigars. Nice to know someone in this movie critic business has made enough to justify that level of IRS interest.
* Kim Masters wonders if John Travolta’s admission that his late son had autism could signal his impending departure from Scientology.
* In the wake of a second strong #1 week for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” Steven Zeitchik comments on a fiscal milestone for animation.
* Amy Kaufman has more on the fiscal problems and solutions of the group that owns the rights to the “Terminator” franchise, which is seemingly as hard to kill as an actual Terminator. As Nikki Finke reminds us, they also have a “first look” deal on the works of science fiction great Phillip K. Dick. What I don’t get is why you need a “first look” at the works of a writer who’s been dead for 27 years.
* Because I’m a few episodes behind (life in the DVR age), I’m also deliberately behind on Jason Zingale’s blogs on “Entourage,” lest I be spoiled. However, the aforementioned Nikki Finke couldn’t resist turning the gag about her in last night’s show into a headline.
On the surface, this week’s selection of Blu-rays may not look like much, but there’s something here for everyone, including the latest from Seth Rogen, the debut of a couple cult classics, and a few box sets that most movie nerds already have on their radar. There may not be any really major titles being released today, but I’d much rather have the option to choose from a solid list like this any day of the week.
“Observe & Report” (Sony)
A curious mix between “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Taxi Driver,” Jody Hill’s sophomore effort isn’t the usual Seth Rogen laugh-a-thon, but rather a pitch-black comedy that only gets darker and more sadistic with each passing minute. This is the kind of film that usually divides moviegoers, and though I didn’t love it or hate it, I will admit that it’s Rogen’s strongest (and most mature) performance to date. It usually takes a while for a comic actor to branch off into more serious roles, but Rogen has been so overexposed lately that it’s nice to see him try something new. “Observe and Report” is hardly the kind of film that benefits from high definition, however, so Warner Bros. has made a point of distinguishing the Blu-ray edition from its DVD counterpart by making all of the extras – like a picture-in-picture commentary, deleted scenes and a gag reel – exclusive to this release. It isn’t exactly the smartest business practice, but HD fans won’t complain. At least we’re finally getting a little extra bang for our buck.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection” (Lionsgate)
People may think of Tim Burton when they hear the words “stop motion animation,” but for my money, Nick Park is the king of the genre. His “Wallace & Gromit” shorts have earned a nice little following over the years, and though the feature-length “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” failed to take the franchise to the next level, it’s still a darned good film in its own right. Still, Park’s bread and butter (or crackers and cheese, if you will) has always been the shorts, and along with collecting his three previous films (“A Grand Day Out,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave”), the new compilation also features Wallace and Gromit’s latest madcap adventure, “A Matter of Loaf and Death.” To sweeten the pot, Lionsgate has also included a bevy of bonus material like commentary tracks, making-of featurettes and a hilarious episode of “Shaun the Sheep.” At only $20 bucks for the Blu-ray edition, it’s hard to imagine even the most casual fan not succumbing to such a great deal.
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Things may be somewhat winding down as the con’s final day unspools, but there was plenty of big movie stuff yesterday.
* I attended part of a live event that was basically the equivalent of a nifty Blu-Ray disc feature for the “Watchmen” director’s cut Blu-Ray disc, in which director Zack Snyder (“300“) performed a live commentary that was really more of an Q&A with users of the “BD Live” feature for the disc and audience members. What I saw didn’t quite rock my world in terms of the level of discussion. When asked whether the Comedian is a good guy or a bad guy, his answer was words to the effect of “I don’t know. That’s kind of the point.” Things were also light in terms of techno-geekery, slightly to my disappointment and slightly to my relief.
Here’s what bugs me, rightly or wrongly: Snyder has basically finished making two huge comic-book adaptations from opposite sides of the political spectrum — not necessarily overtly, but very clearly in their background — and he hasn’t seemed to notice. I’m a political animal by nature, so that kind of baffles me. Not everybody has to be super-political, but morality and politics is very much at the heart of “Watchmen” at least, and I don’t know how you can make the film without having more of a position on it. Also, Snyder says he hasn’t decided whether or not Veidt/Ozymandias is gay or whether Rorschach might have issues there as well. I’m not saying he had to publicly out any fictional characters, but it’s sort of conventional wisdom (and wise wisdom, I think) that a writer or a director should know that kind of detail for himself about major characters in his film, much as the actors also need to , though sometimes they can make differing calls on those matters. It has to do with committing.
There was also some mention, and free XL polyester t-shirts, for Snyder’s new project, “Sucker Punch.”
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You’ve exercised your right to vote through the first four rounds of Bullz-Eye’s TV Girlfriends, choosing your favorites from the Hot and Smart, Pretty, Vacant, Girls Next Door, and Coworkers with Benefits categories…and now it’s time for round five: Married to the Job.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to survey our shapely (and professionally driven) lineup of potential TV Girlfriends — a list that includes more recent hotties like Nancy Botwin of “Weeds” and Veronica Mars, as well as classics like Mary Richards — and pick the one you’d most like to spend your weekends with. Will it be Chloe O’Brian of “24”? Sarah Connor? Elaine Nardo from “Taxi”? Or another of our fine choices? Take a look and cast your vote!