Monday night at the movies

* We’ve been pretty enthusiastic here about both trailers for “The Wolfman.” Still, there’s been some disconcerting news about the promising looking remake of the 1941 Universal monster classic. Composer Danny Elfman, who has a terrific way with slightly over-the-top genre material going back to his earliest work with Tim Burton on “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” has left the project due to “scheduling conflicts.” Word that a score has actually been composed makes it seem even a bit odder. It’s true that there’s a lot more to scoring a film than composing the music, but there is more than one way to deal with that short of dumping a largely finished score if all there really is is a time problem, I’d guess.

More worrisome is Elfman’s replacement, Paul Haslinger, whose resume includes the rock scores for two of the “Underworld” films Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Death Race.” To be fair, Haslinger was a member of synth group Tangerine Dream from 1986 to 1992 and participated in the scores to films like “Near Dark.” However, I’m usually of the opinion that a period picture requires a period sound and the vague Euro-synth of the “Underworld” music does not inspire me. Hopefully, he’ll go for more of an orchestral sound.

Even more worrisome still, Renn Brown over at CHUD makes a strong case that this is a generally troubled production. At the same time, movie history is filled with troubled productions that turned out great and fun-to-make films that turned out to be horrible-to-watch. We’ll see when we see.

* New York film critic David Ansen will be artistic director of the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF), writes Anne Thompson.

* Alex Ben Block declares Peter Jackson producer of the year. His methods and approach sound almost Pixar-like in his openness to collaboration. It’s a complicated method: hire good people and listen to them.

* Apparently, Jackson lost all a bunch of weight a few years back simply by swearing off junk food while maintaining a punishing work scheduled during the making of “King Kong,” and he’s kept it off since. Good for him. Judging from the picture in today’s Variety, however, Winona Ryder might consider a regime that includes the occasional milkshake and order of chili cheese fries. Okay, none of our business and, in any case,  the role she is “circling” in Darren Aronofsky’s all-star oddball thriller, “Black Swan,” calls for her to play a veteran dancer, but, my god, those protuberant cheek bones. Part of me just wants her to mainline my mom’s brisket or something.

As for the movie itself, what I’m hearing reminds of just a little bit of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes,” and not just because of the ballet setting. There’s also the underlying psychoses.

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Underworld / Underworld: Evolution

Here’s a pair of movies that are so relentlessly tedious in their presentation that it only makes perfect Hollywood sense that a franchise was born out of the simple notion that vampires and werewolves would make a kick ass combo if they were beating the crap out of one another. Admittedly, the idea has a sort of kitschy appeal on paper; in practice, however, it leads to one repetitive fight scene after another, broken up by some of the absolute worst dialogue to be heard coming out of center channels in years. There isn’t an insightful or clever word uttered from even a single fanged mouth, which is a huge shame when you’ve got fantastic actors like Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi and Michael Sheen thrown into the mix. There’s also Scott Speedman as the male protagonist, who is the blandest leading man ever to stream through a movie projector, and yet the dialogue manages to sound quite right as it tumbles from his lips (go figure). The real star of the “Underworld” movies, however, is Kate Beckinsale’s ass covered in tight black leather, since it’s the only thing that you can’t take your eyes off of during the proceedings. That ass will unfortunately be absent from the upcoming prequel, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (probably to be replaced by Rhona Mitra’s posterior, and all things considered, that isn’t such a terrible trade-off). If someone is going to drag you kicking and screaming to what’s sure to be yet another misfire, you might impress them by beefing up on your “Underworld” history by picking up this affordably priced repackaging of previous releases (or, alternatively, use your experience with the set as the reason you don’t want to go).

Click to buy ” Underworld / Underworld: Evolution”

  

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AskMen and Ye Shall Receive HotWomen

AskMen.com has announced its 9th annual list of the “Top 99 Most Desirable Women,” and, man, did their readers come out in droves to make their opinions known. More than ten million votes were cast in this, the site’s ranking of women who best represent the qualities of the ideal girlfriend or wife, but since this is Premium Hollywood, we thought we’d take a gander at a handful of the list’s actress inclusions and offer up a few of our favorite film and TV appearances by these women.

(#7) Scarlett Johansson

Best Work: The obvious pick here is “Lost in Translation,” of course, since it’s generally considered to be Johansson’s breakthrough performance, but she also received a great deal of praise for her turn in Peter Webber’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” With that said, however, let’s not forget about her work for Terry Zwigoff in “Ghost World,” which was strong enough to earn her the long-term career that her co-star, Thora Birch, was unable to maintain.
Guiltiest Pleasures: “The Perfect Score.” It’s a spiritual descendant of “The Breakfast Club,” but while it’s in no way as good as that John Hughes classic, it’s a pleasant teen comedy with a nice ensemble cast. Also worth catching on a rainy Sunday afternoon is “Eight Legged Freaks,” a slight but fun throwback to ’50s sci-fi monster flicks.
A Must to Avoid: “The Spirit.” 50,000,000 movie critics can’t be wrong.

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