More midweek movie news — it bleeds so, alas, it leads

* It’s probably just the aftermath of a quiet holiday week or two, but there’s been an awful lot of movie news I haven’t mentioned this week. Tonight, however, all of the usual casting tidbits and what not are being overshadowed by an extremely dramatic new development in the murder or Ronnie Chasen. Chasen, you’ll recall, was the highly respected and well-liked industry publicist who was shot five times in her car with hollow point bullets in a murder that seemed senseless, yet not random. Tonight, the big news if you turn on any local news station out here is that police went to serve a search warrant, one of a few, on a “person of interest” in the case but before they could talk to the man, he committed suicide with a handgun. Not surprisingly, Nikki Finke has the latest on what has to be the strangest and saddest Hollywood story of the year.

* Speaking of Finke, she claimed another “toldja” tonight. Channing Tatum will be Jonah Hill‘s costar in the upcoming comedy rendering of “21 Jump Street” written by Hill and Michael Bacall.

* A ballet comedy with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Bell and Jackie Earle Haley? Works for me. Moretz makes a lot of sense here. As we discussed when I interviewed her last summer, she has a background in ballet. She was also fairly gaga over the portions of “The Black Swan” she’d been able to see.

* A sweet tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen by David Zucker.

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* Anne Thompson has a rundown of the selections for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is just about six or seven weeks away already, if you can believe it.

* Speaking of Anne Thompson, she posted an early review of the Coen Brothers new version of “True Grit” tonight. She was very positive about the movie herself but seemed to feel  that younger viewers don’t “get” westerns because they happened a long time ago. (Does that mean they dislike all films taking place more than a hundred years in the past? I find that a sad thought.) She also said the response at the screening she went to was “mixed.”

Well, at least so far it’s not so mixed with the geek elements of the film blogosphere because Drew McWeeney, Harry Knowles (who, yes, tends to be excitably positive), and Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend posted flat-out raves. This fan of Westerns, who recently read the Charles Portis novel and is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the 1969 version really soon, is excited. Only blogo-blowhard Jeffrey Welles has labeled it a “misfire” in what I’ve read so far, and I can’t help but consider the source. At least he didn’t spend the review calling Jeff Bridges fat or something. It seems like every time I read Welles, he’s criticizing someone for being overweight.

* Left over from last night. Christopher Nolan makes sense and tells us to embrace the ambiguity. Actually, the deliberate little bit of doubt at the ending was one of the few things I liked unreservedly about “Inception” which, overall, was a big, cold, glittering disappointment for me.

* Michael Douglas is apparently doing well in the health department and, from a totally selfish point of view, the best part is that it really does look like the Soderbergh Liberace movie is going forward.

* Whedonesque reveals a non-story as Entertainment Weekly manufactures a dubious scoop on the Joss Whedon-less “Buffy” movie.

* I’m sure Peter Jackson knows exactly what he’s doing, but it blows me away that a big scale fantasy epic like “The Hobbit” is going to be shot with RED Epic digital cameras. I know I have huge retro tendencies, but somehow, I’d feel better if he were using those massive old 3-strip Technicolor cameras.

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The Whedon-free “Buffy” and some small triumphs for smart PR

Way back in May of ’09, I wrote about a geek-storm caused by a possible movie reboot/remake of the “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” franchise not involving the creator of the original TV series and writer of the original film of that name, Joss Whedon. The response from Whedon fans at the time — a group that includes myself and, to a great or lesser extent most of the other writers here at Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye land — was pretty much catcalls.

It seemed such an obvious and hamfisted attempt to cash-in on the success of “Twilight,” “True Blood,” etc., even though it was actually the “Buffy” TV series that milked the concept of vampire-human interspecies romance and the rights holders behind it didn’t have the rights to anything from the television show, just the original, likably mediocre, movie.buffy_the_vampire_slayer_1992-thumb-550x321-18443

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Monday night movie news: filmmakers gone wild, again

It’s crazy-time in Tinseltown.

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* I’ll get to some actual criminal matters below, but to me Kevin Feige of Marvel Productions is being criminally weird and unintelligent in how he’s handled the issue of the re-casting of the Hulk for “The Avengers” superhero-team flick being written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Whether or not the issue that led to the parting of the ways was strictly the failure of financial negotiations or some kind of fight between Feige and Edward Norton, there was simply no earthly logical reason for Feige to allude to that in a statement given to Hitfix with some rather nasty coded language, to wit:

We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H., Chris E., Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.

Given the fact that writer-director Whedon has a famously strong creative vision and is not known for loving it when his stuff gets rewritten, and Norton’s status as a strong-willed actor who often rewrites his films (and is pretty good at it), it would be easy to imagine that there was some kind of creative tussle predating this. However, that only creative conflicts appear to be mishegas that happened on Norton’s Hulk movie. According to an understandably angry response from Norton’s agent, the meeting between him and Whedon was a success and, as far as I know, no one has contested that point.

Edward Norton is beautiful when he's angryRegardless, even if the meeting had gone very badly indeed and even if Norton had made unreasonable demands, you still don’t talk about that stuff in a public statement. You simply say that an agreement was not in the offing, but that Norton is a fine actor and film-maker and you’re very sorry you won’t be working together this time around.

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No fooling, it’s Thor’s-day at the movies

I don’t usually do these kind of posts on Thursdays, and it’s April Fools’ Day. However, there’s simply too much apparently non-joking, actual movie news to leave for Friday. So, here we go.

* Of course, in Hollywood, it’s not always easy to spot the April Fool’s story from the real thing. That’s why IESB frontloads their big possible, eventual scoop today with all sorts of promises that they’re not joking. Anyhow, it appears that #1 cult creator Joss Whedon, most recently of “Dollhouse” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” fame, is supposedly on the short list to direct “The Avengers,” currently being penned by Zak Penn.

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If you’re skeptical about this, you’re far from alone. Just check out the slightly quizzical reaction from Whedon’s robotic and slavishly devoted cult — of which I am a known member — over at Whedonesque. (I’ve even forgiven Whedon for listening too much to Rahm Emmanuel and selling out to big pharma and not fighting hard enough to keep the public option in the health care bill….Oh, wait, wrong blog.) Still, Whedon’s known for staying in touch with his fans. I strongly suspect that, if the story were completely unfounded, he’d have posted something about it by now.

One creative point. Some fans seem skeptical that a collaboration between Penn and Whedon could work. Well, of course, Whedon has actually done any number of rewrites and polishes on other people’s scripts — a lot of folks give him credit for most of the wittier portions of “Speed” — and though Penn has been involved with some pretty conventionally dull flicks in his day, he’s not completely lacking imagination and humor. His little seen 2004 comedy-thriller mock-documentary, “Incident at Loch Ness,” has some remarkably hilarious moments,  most of them courtesy of Werner Herzog, playing himself and also taking a cowriting credit. If Penn’s good enough for Herr Herzog, he’s perhaps good enough for Joss Whedon.

* Speaking of “The Avengers,” the movie about the only actual deity in the group, “Thor,” is currently in production and director Kenneth Branagh talked about the film and his affection for the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/et al comic books in today’s L.A. Times. This was not some random publicity glad-handing but a deliberate effort to squelch some unpleasant — and, to my ear, unlikely — rumors being reported in the tabloid press which allege open on-set criticism/anger directed at newcomer-lead Chris Hemsworth from venerable master thespian Anthony Hopkins, presumably relating to the 26 year-old star’s relative lack of experience, at least compared to Hopkins.  Hopkins, who’ll be playing Thor’s even more venerable dad, Odin, and Branagh have strongly denied the rumors and painted a picture of a happy set.

I was fairly impressed with Hemsworth’s work in the opening of “Star Trek,” so I tend to lean towards the official story here. He’s also a veteran of an Aussie soap, “Home and Away,” and history teaches us that soap vets tend to become pretty good actors when actually allowed time to learn their lines properly and develop characters. I don’t know much about Hopkins on a personal level except that he’s gotten this far in his career without these kind of incidents being an issue that I can think of. I suspect it would take a titanic lack of talent/ability to visibly annoy him at this point.

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BadAzz Mofo Geeky Quick Hits

Other than the very sad and disturbing passing of David Carradine, very well noted by Will Harris a bit earlier (I’ve got more at my own bloggy digs, Forward to Yesterday), it’s kind of a slow news day in the movie world…

* In a bit of very inside baseball, with his upcoming “Avatar” 3-D extravaganza already getting a lot of ink many months before its X-Mas release, James Cameron has broken with his past practice and has signed with an agency. And not just any agency, but the mighty CAA. I know, your life will never be the same. Variety has the scoop, such as it is.

* 79-year-old lifelong cinema enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard (“Breathless,” “Contempt” — a great film you really ought to see) is looking to do a film inspired by a Holocaust memoir, says THR. I know, your life will really never be the same, but this is interesting. Godard, a truly radical leftist, criticized Israel implicitly in his 1967 comic masterpiece, “Weekend,” when the middle-east nation’s battles were still very much a liberal cause. I’m not at all one to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, but the film itself, and the worldwide response from Jewish groups, should be worth watching for those of us interested in this kind of thing.

* And finally, Nikki Finke devoted all of 24 words this morning to the passing of David Carradine (and turned off comments for some reason), but after adding that she doesn’t “do geek,” she did find time to devote some space to covering Total Sci-Fi‘s “25 Women Who Shook Sci-Fi” list, with a definite emphasis on bad-ass mofo type females. It was topped by Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley from the “Alien” franchise (including “Aliens” from the aforementioned J. Cameron). The list also covered fantasy for whatever reason and #2 on the list was Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller) of “Buffy” fame. (My personal Buffsession, Willow Rosenberg, aka Alyson Hannigan, came in at #21.) With the possible exception of the first choice, which I really can’t argue with as long as you’re talking about actresses and not, say, writers, my list would be entirely different — if I didn’t tend to avoid lists. Since we really do “do geek” here at Premium Hollywood, allow me to link to fan site Whedonesque‘s comment thread on the topic, where the discussion eventually includes the terrific SF (not “sci-fi”!) writer, Roger Zelazny. Now that’s geek.

  

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