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.

  

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Trailer time: Still “The Beaver”

One news item that Nikki Finke broke this week was that the long-delayed Jodie Foster film, which she costars in and directs, “The Beaver” looks to be getting a Spring 2011 release date. Confirming the news, Summit released a trailer yesterday, and here it is. To my surprise, this seems to be less of the black comedy I expected, and more of a straightforward psychodrama with some comedic elements.

Of course, the issue here is the film’s star, Mel Gibson, who you may have heard saying a few very impolite things. Of course, the eternal question is will audiences forgive said impoliteness. As Russ Fischer noted, there are some parallels that might help wary audiences over the hump. Who doesn’t love a redemption story? In any case, I think most people who say they’ll never see X star’s movies after X episode of misbehavior, alleged or proven, are people who weren’t fans to begin with. If the movie is something audiences think they’ll like, they’ll show and, though I’m not sure Mel Gibson is a guy I want to have the proverbial beer with anymore, I don’t believe that should be the first criteria for film attendance.

On the other hand, I seriously wouldn’t hold my breath regarding that Oscar qualifying run, at least as far as Gibson is concerned.

  

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Midweek movie news — the fatigue edition!

I’m overtired and miles from home in a West L.A. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and I probably should have just thrown up another embed and gone for home and some sleep, but the movie news is just not waiting tonight…

* Johnny Depp is apparently wanting to star in a new version of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” or perhaps the series of really fun movies starring the great William Powell and Myrna Loy that the original 1934 movie adaptation spawned. I’ve no particular clue why he’d want Rob Marshall — not a bad director at all, but also not a great one and prone to ADHD editing — when he could have his pick. Of course, selecting a Nora Charles to go with his Nick will be half the fun — the possibilities are pretty endless though for some reason the only person I can think of right now is Cate Blanchett. She’s great, but don’t ask me why she comes to mind. It’s probably the fatigue. One big problem: Nick and Nora are a couple of merry alcoholics — or at least huge problem drinkers. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that aspect of the property in today’s more abstemious world, although I suppose Nick Charles isn’t that far removed from Jack Sparrow or Keith Richard.

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* They worked mostly in other media, but they all had their moments in the movie sun: RIP Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley and, er, Bob Guccione.

* Cinephile’s cinephile uber-blogger David Hudson, who is based in Germany, gives us a fascinating post-mortem look at a writer and filmmaker I’ve never heard of until now, Thomas Harlan. The key fact here: Harlan’s father directed “Jew Suss,” the most notorious narrative antisemitic film produced by Joseph Goebbel’s Nazi UFA, and had been actively dealing with the legacy.

* Sometimes an actor blends so seamlessly into a part you wonder whether she is really even acting at all.

* In the battle of Hobbit-man Peter Jackson versus the NZ/Oz/U.S. unions, it sure looks like the unions blinked. This is probably the first such battle where I’m glad of it.

* “Giallo” is the name for the subgenre of bloody horror flicks from Italy that predated American slasher films with more mature characters and a heck of a lot more style from directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Apparently wanting to get in on the whole self-awareness thing, Argento, who unbelievably is only just turning 70, made a movie actually called “Giallo” starring Adrien Brody. Brody says the producers didn’t pay him and is suing them and blocking the release of the movie for the time being. That’s always a mistake — not paying your star, I mean.

* Ben Affleck is considering switching from character-driven crime fiction adaptations to a character-driven fantasy-drama adaptation, “Replay.” I gather the book by the late Ken Groomwood is an old favorite of my highly esteemed colleague Will Harris and won a World Fantasy Award in 1987. Why have I never heard of it before?

* “Heckraiser“?

* Today’s tie for the “is this really news” prize: Robert Downey, Jr. “eyes” playing a really intense guy who gets involved in paranoid wackiness. Also, crazed lunatic Mel Gibson follows the path of reformed ear-biter Mike Tyson and will appear in “The Hangover 2” according to the totally awesome-in-my-book Jodie Foster, who seems to be doing whatever she can to try and salvage her widely discussed movie, “The Beaver” by trying to help repair his insanely in-shambles image. Talk about strange bedfellows.

  

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Walking into a trap

Whilst I dither over just what kind of “Bruno” related pun to put in my headline for tomorrow morning’s box office preview, Steven Zeitchik has an item that sort of defies belief in the possibilities it offers for of the potential for ribald and/or truly offensive jokes and puns, and not just the innocent fur-bound animal and classic TV sitcom-based gags Zeitchik mentions.

The script has been floating around for some time and been associated with such funnymen as Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell, but now it looks as if Mel Gibson may play the not-quite title role in “The Beaver.” It’s an edgy comedy about a man whose (presumably imaginary) friend is a beaver hand-puppet. Gibson might be a walking disaster area in many respects, but does have an underused gift for antic comedy. This could work.

Written by newcomer Kyle Killen, the comedy will team the sometimes blatantly homophobic Gibson with another director-actor, Jodie Foster, who will also costar. Did I mention I have tremendous amount of respect for Ms. Foster, as well as lifelong crush. (I like my film star infatuations on the unattainable side.) I now respect her sense of humor more than ever.

  

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