Monday movie news

The Deadline crew has really been working overtime these last few days, so there’s much to talk about as a new week begins.

* I’m not kidding about the pace of news from Deadline today. Just as I was starting to finish writing this, Mike Fleming broke the news that we have a “Superman” director who’ll be working with producer Christopher Nolan, and he is one Zack Snyder of “300,” “Watchmen,’ the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and that owl movie that’s out right now. Expect a fightin’ Supes. Should you expect a good Supes movie? Dunno. I never understood the grief that “Superman Returns” got. It was a nice, fun movie in the best senses of the words “nice” and “fun.” Will this one be all grimness and unnecessary darkness? I hope not.

*  Fox landed the film adaptation rights for apparently the hottest book of the moment, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which is being produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmanbetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted“), who purchased the rights with their own money. And it’s not like they were afraid to show they really wanted it:

When Tim and Timur and their entourage of reps came to the Fox…they were met with a huge banner at the gate. It had the title treatment of the script and was emblazoned, “Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov present Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. At their parking spot were signs saying “Parking For Vampire Hunters Only: park at your own risk,” and so forth. There were bloody footprints lining the walkway and stairs leading from their cars to the meeting in Building 88 with images from the book and lines from the script. As if that were not enough, there also were bloody axes strewn about, and a bugle player in a Confederate uniform playing “Taps” as the filmmakers walked to the meeting..

Yes, like Camelot, Hollywood is a silly place, and I sort of like it that way. I just wished I enjoyed Bekmambetov’s movies, because I didn’t.

* Re: silliness. Check out this promotion for “Jackass 3D”

* I seriously dislike writing about stories that say that so-and-so is “about to be” “offered” a part. There are simply too many items like that and too many “ifs” (maybe the studio will change their minds; maybe the star will say “no,” etc.) and I prefer to wait until the story is further down the road. Nevertheless, Mike Fleming has reported that Emma Stone is about to be offered the part of Mary Jane Watson in the Marc Webb-directed 3D “Spiderman” reboot opposite Andrew Garfield.

awsmmj

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What they should do, what they will do

The Deep Blue GoodbyeAfter the geek movie bloggers finish mulling over the possible return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men films — none of which have particularly wowed me in the first place — another topic for discussion is Mike Fleming’s post about producer Peter Chernin’s plan for an upcoming Bible-epic about Moses to be made in the style of “300” and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Nightwatch“). Since Bekmambetov seems to have the same degree of difficulty with basic storytelling as I do with pronouncing his name, and I didn’t much care for “300” in the first place, this does not excite me.

I could go on and on about how the green-screen technique might be appropriate for some films, but not really for a classic biblical tale, but I don’t really care about that. It will be what it will be. However, buried in the same item is this:

Chernin adds the project to several pre-existing Fox projects he has joined as producer, including the John D. MacDonald novel series adaptation “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the Appian Way-produced drama that’s a potential star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Now, this probably won’t get much reaction from most of you. How many old books by successful authors get optioned and then attached to big movies stars for a time? Lots. Also, this item ran a couple of weeks ago, but escaped my notice.

Here’s the thing that you’ve missed if you’re not already familiar with MacDonald’s work. “The Deep Blue Goodbye” is the first book about Travis McGee. That’s a big deal, to me anyway. In his earlier article, Fleming does a pretty good job describing the series:

DiCaprio is in line to play Travis McGee, a self-described beach bum who lives aboard 52-foot houseboat the Busted Flush [which he won playing poker] and alleviates his cash-flow problems by hiring on as a “salvage consultant.” He recovers property for clients, taking a hefty percentage and getting into a lot of danger and romance in sun-drenched Florida. “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the first in a 21-volume bestselling Travis McGee series, was originally published in 1964.

The series has mostly been ignored by Hollywood, though there was a long forgotten 1970 movie with Rod Taylor and a 1981 TV film with Sam Elliot, neither seen by me. MacDonald supposedly also scotched a planned TV series because he feared it would hurt books sales if fans could see McGee on TV every week.

Blood DiamondWhat Fleming left out was the appeal of the books, a sort of bridge between Raymond Chandler/Ross MacDonald style medium-to-hard boiled gumshoe tales and “The Rockford Files” — and also probably “Magnum P.I.” which I never really watched much.  To me, this seems an obvious attempt for DiCaprio to find the conflicted inner macho-man he did a good job of capturing in “Blood Diamond,” which I personally otherwise kind of hated. To be fair, pretty or not, he is a first-rate actor. Moreover, in his less skinny near-middle-age, he actually more or less fits the physical description of McGee given on Wikipedia.

Still, MacDonald’s Magee was a more old fashioned kind of a character and, as in Leonardo DiCaprio‘s well-acted yet just somehow wrong performance in “The Aviator,” this is a part that cries out for the kind of old-school “real men” type actors who today only seem to come from Australia or the African-American community. If it were up to me, and if no Aussie wanted the gig and black stars didn’t care for the seriously nontraditional casting — I’d personally go with Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” fame.

Indeed, the ultra-commitment phobic Don Draper really does want to be the eternally footloose, Peter-Pan-Knight-Errant Travis McGee, who’s basically a tougher Jim Rockford, or a less ruthless James Bond. I know I do. In fact, I think all guys do. But will this movie or what sure sounds like a ludicrously amped-up Bible movie actually get made?

Coming eventually, maybe: Why Paul Giamatti must be forced, against his will if necessary, to play Magee’s brainy, hirsute economist sidekick, Meyer.

  

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Box office can be bad all by itself (updated)

2009_tyler_perrys_i_can_do_bad_all_by_myself_002

And by “bad” I might actually mean “good” for at least one, perhaps two, of the four new major releases coming this first weekend of the traditional movie fall season.

First off, jolly Carl DiOrio of THR is bullish as he anticipates about $20 million for the latest from Tyler Perry, the hyphenate auteur whose major appeal to African-American audiences, and major lack of appeal to critics, has been proven several times. His latest film version of one of his hit plays, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” is not being screened for the nasty folks of the press. The latest appearance of Madea, Perry’s chunky female alter-ego, is nevertheless thought to be attracting interest with his usual blend of melodrama, broad comedy, and music. (Having both Mary J. Blige and the great Gladys Knight in the cast won’t hurt this one.)

For cinephiliacs and geeks, the most interesting release this week by far is the computer animated dystopian science-fiction fable, “9” — which is not to be confused with the upcoming musical stage adaptation, “Nine.” This may seem a bit odd, but it gets downright weird. I just did little searching on IMDb and found two other films named “9” (not counting director Shane Acker’s original short subject). I also found a total of six films entitled “Nine,” including the upcoming musical version of Felini’ s “8 1/2” starring Danel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard and directed by Rob Marshall. That makes six films named “Nine” and three films named “9” which, of course, comes to nine films called “9” or “Nine.” That either means the apocalypse is nigh this November 25 when the musical “Nine” comes out or, the moment of its release, I should go to Vegas, head straight for the crap tables, and bet everything on hitting 9. How can I lose?

Nine
As for Shane Acker’s, “9,” though it’s been the beneficiary of some buzz, I personally wouldn’t bet everything on the dark tale finding a huge foothold with audiences. With a PG-13 rating, a vision clearly too scary for small children, and characters who a friend of mine — who really wanted to see it — likened to a jock strap, this film would be risky even if it was tremendous. However, David Medsker’s mixed review seems pretty much in line with the unspectacular 60% “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating; the consensus being that this expansion of a short film is weak on story though strong on compelling visuals. “9” actually opened Wednesday and made about $3 million. Expectations are fairly high, with DiOrio suggesting the film could reach $15 million, even though the theater count is a relatively modest 1650+.

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Bullz-Eye’s Best and Worst Movies of 2008: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

With mere weeks to go, I had no idea what my list for favorite movies of 2008 was going to look like. More accurately, my list contained several movies that my inner critic told me had no business whatsoever in a year-end top ten list. There were a lot of movies that I liked (as you’ll soon discover), but not a whole lot that I loved. Starting about December 1, though, that changed dramatically. Whew.

Oh, and if you just read fellow BE critic Jason Zingale’s list before checking out mine, your eyes do not deceive you. Unlike, say, EW’s Owen Glieberman and Lisa Schwartzman, who seem to go out of their way to run lists as dissimilar as possible, JZ and I are pretty much on the exact same page this year. A meeting of the minds, or a lack of options? A little of both, I suppose.

Best movies of 2008

1. The Dark Knight
I’m not sure how Christopher Nolan is going to top this. This is so much bigger, smarter, darker and bleaker than any other superhero movie ever made that it’s insulting to lump it into the superhero category.

2. WALL·E
Repeated viewings of this since its release on DVD have elevated it towards not just the top of my list of 2008, but on the list of Pixar’s finest work. The dancing-in-space sequence is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
As a longtime David Fincher fan (his video for Madonna’s “Oh Father” still gives me chills), I’ll be the first to admit that his reputation has loomed larger than the quality of his work. He puts his money where his mouth is here. The last ten minutes are devastating.

4. Frost/Nixon
The only man who can give Samuel L. Jackson a run for his money at saying the word “motherfucker”: Richard Milhous Nixon.

5. Iron Man
Let that be a lesson to you: always take the Humdrum-vee over the Fun-vee.

6. RocknRolla
My pet theory: the name of Gerard Butler’s character One Two is a reference to the Specials’ song “Little Bitch.” Can anyone confirm this?

7. Slumdog Millionaire
Do you think that guy that won all those “Jeopardy” episodes was tortured like this movie’s hero was?

8. Let the Right One In
If you see one vampire movie this year…it ain’t “Twilight.” This Swedish import combines the lure of the undead with the hell that is junior high school. The ending to this movie is sadder than any I’ve seen all year, even the one with the dead dog.

9. Revolutionary Road
Only Leo and Kate could make a movie about two miserable suburbanites so watchable.

10. Tropic Thunder
“Now let’s make a movie!” *Clank* “Oh.” *BOOM* Nothing all year made me laugh harder.

Honorable mentions:
The Wrestler
Choke
The Wackness
Burn after Reading

I Was a Middle-Aged Teenager, Part Deux

I’m 40 years old, but some of my favorite movies – or scenes – came from movies that were aimed squarely at my inner 20-year-old.

Step Brothers
If we were to update our Movie Tunes piece, the “Sweet Child o’ Mine” scene would easily be in our Top 20.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
It had what most Apatow-related movies sorely lack: balance. And hot damn, how awesome is Mila Kunis?

Sex Drive
Rumspringa! WOOOOOO!

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
If anyone is thinking about seeing if this will work in real life, we beg you, STOP. The world has enough bad amateur porn as it is, and your friend isn’t a tenth as hot as Elizabeth Banks.

Wanted
I’d debate whether Morgan Freeman’s character was telling the truth in the movie’s final bloodbath, but does it really matter? This was big, dumb, silly, and an absolute blast.

Pineapple Express
Between this and “Choke,” I’ll never think of anal beads the same way again.

Role Models
Finally, a Seann William Scott movie that didn’t make me want to drown kittens.

Docs that rock

Man on Wire
Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

The Kids Movies Are Alright

Kung Fu Panda
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Horton Hears a Who

Appealing to a man, but made for a woman

What Happens in Vegas…
Definitely, Maybe
Baby Mama
27 Dresses

Worst movies of 2008 (that I saw)

1. The Love Guru
Not even Justin Timberlake could save this from being the unfunniest movie of the year, if not all time. It’s like a bunch of teenagers came up with dick joke punch lines, then worked their way backwards for setups. Painfully bad.

2. Meet Dave
It’s over, Eddie. The next time you have a thought about a family movie comeback vehicle, let it go.

3. Over Her Dead Body
The only Eva worth watching this year is the one in “WALL·E.”

4. Untraceable
Screen Gems makes “Saw Lite,” tries to equate gawker’s block on the highway with willingly contributing to the death of another human being. Uh, sure.

5. Mad Money
Note to self: get job at Federal Reserve. If Diane Keaton can steal from them, so can I.

6. Deception
Hearing Michelle Williams say “fuck and suck” might be the funniest thing I heard in a movie all year.

7. Nim’s Island
Someone once asked Elijah Wood why he did the movie “Flipper.” His answer: to swim with dolphins for six months. Now we know why Abigail Breslin did “Nim’s Island”: to play with sea lions. We forgive you, sweetie. Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, on the other hand, have some ‘splaining to do.

8. Made of Honor
Made all the more sickening by the fact that this will stand as Sydney Pollack’s final performance. He steals the movie, but the movie he’s stealing isn’t worthy of his presence.

9. Married Life
A black romantic dramedy that’s neither dark, nor funny, nor romantic.

10. The Spirit
“NO EGG ON MY FACE!” Um, I don’t know how to tell you this, Sam, but this movie is one giant piece o’ egg on your face.

Well made, but repulsive in every other regard

Funny Games
Few movies will make you angrier than this self-serving cheat of a film. It’s basically two hours of director Michael Haneke saying, “Fuck you America, you violent, brutish thugs.” America responded by (rightly) ignoring his film. I guess we’re not as brutish as you thought, Michael, and what does it say about you that you tried to profit from our supposed misery? Douchebag.

My co-workers saw them so I didn’t have to

Meet the Spartans
Strange Wilderness
Disaster Movie
88 Minutes
Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins

Bonus points to that last movie when cast member Mike Epps gave us quite possibly the worst interview ever.

“Snakes on a Plane” award for Movie Title of the Year

“The Midnight Meat Train.” And surprise, it actually wasn’t that bad.

  

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