It’s another end of week movie news dump

It’s oh so tempting to slack off with more trailers and videos, but a few items too interesting to ignore…

* Regular readers, both of you, may remember a number of interview pieces here and elsewhere by me dealing with a film called “Middle Men.” Well, my interview with the film’s producer and presumed model for the lead character, Christopher Mallick, has become a lot more interesting over the last few days. It has drawn some unusually strong comments from netizens, and not for no reason. The Wrap’s Johnnie L. Roberts sums up how funds deposited by Mallick’s current company, ePassporte, have been effectively frozen — leaving some people truly in the lurch — and also that this isn’t the first arguably suspicious crisis that Mallick has weathered.

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I will say that if you have over $240,000 pre-loaded on a card which I gather is mainly for use on porn sites these days (not online poker as I once assumed) — I’m no one to judge on this matter, but I think you’ve got a bit of a problem.

* A much more positive story, especially for hardcore movie fans, is Roger Ebert’s announcement that he is returning the format he and Gene Siskel perfected back to its original PBS home, with a few interesting new twists including the presence of the one of the universe’s more photogenic of cinephile bloggers, Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun, alongside headliners Christy Lemire and Elvis Mitchell, Omar Moore and Ebert himself.  Nikki Finke, via TV Deadliner Nellie Andreeva, provides the turd in the punchbowl. (Please, Mr. Mitchell — don’t give Ms. Finke the pleasure of a “Toldja!” here.)

* Speaking of the amazing Mr. Ebert, be sure to check out his TIFF swag.

* William Monahan, who did such a great job turning the engaging-but-slender Hong Kong thriller, “Infernal Affairs,” into a full-bodied near masterpiece for Martin Scorsese in “The Departedwill be working with “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski on something called “Oblivion” for Disney.

* Alamo Drafthouse will be getting into the film distribution game with a bang in more senses than one with their release of the ingenious, ultra-dark British comedy, “Four Lions,” which really does do for terrorism what “In the Loop” did for needless wars. A parking snafu created by the organizers of the Los Angeles Film Festival caused me to be 20 minutes later for the screening but, even so, I can’t imagine that the film will be anything less than one of the year’s best, even if its premise scares many away.

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Edge of Darkness”

It’s hard to know what to expect out of a Blu-ray these days when the cover art detailing the included content fails to do just that. For instance, while the two-disc release of “Edge of Darkness” initially appears to be light on bonus material, there’s actually much more than Warner Brothers is letting on. None of it is particularly memorable stuff, but there’s still enough here to suggest that, even though it underperformed at the box office, the film had a big enough fan base (or at least the possibility of one) to warrant the added effort.

Focus Points

Much like last year’s release of “The Dark Knight,” “Edge of Darkness” rounds up a series of nine mini-featurettes covering everything from working with Mel Gibson and Martin Campbell, to adapting the miniseries for the big screen. Composer Howard Shore also discusses how he uses music to connect the audience to the protagonist, Campbell reminisces about directing the BBC miniseries, and writer William Monahan talks about his contributions to the script. Though none of them really stand out on their own, there’s enough good material here that they would have been better off putting together a single making-of featurette.

Deleted & Alternate Scenes

Mostly throwaway stuff, like Craven grieving over his daughter or threatening Danny Huston’s slimeball businessman. There is one substantial scene where Ray Winstone’s fixer is given all the details behind his new assignment, although it’s hard to imagine where this would have fit into the movie. It’s a major piece of exposition that would have undoubtedly ruined the mystery behind Craven’s investigation, but it also helps give Jedburgh a little more purpose. In the end, it was probably a smart decision to just cut it, as it’s more damaging than helpful to the film.

Though it would have been nice to have included an audio commentary by Campbell or Gibson, Warner’s two-disc release is still a far better showing than expected. The inclusion of a digital copy remains one of the most pointless “special features” around, but at least you can put it to good use and give it away to a friend. After all, if you’re buying Blu-rays for anything other than the movie, you have no one to blame but yourself.

  

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Why do I even bother to write new headlines for the box office previews?

When the same frickin’ movie tops the box office office charts every single week for seven damn weeks in a row, I mean, why even bother to make movies if you’re name isn’t James Cameron? Okay, that may be taking it way too far, but jolly Carl DiOrio has once again stated that “Avatar” is once again on track to top the weekend’s box office with something in the neighborhood of $25 million. Who am I to argue?

Still, in a world where old fashioned movie star status still seemed to mean something commercially — and where Mel “Sugar Tits” Gibson (see yesterday’s post), hadn’t eroded his appeal through some bad/hypocritical behavior and an acting hiatus of several years — “Edge of Darkness” would, at least, be giving the Na’vi a run for their blue money. It’s a movie version of a BBC miniseries originally directed by busy helmer Martin Campbell, who also directed this outing and the screenplay is co-written by William Monahan, who did such a brilliant job adapting the strong but somewhat thin Hong Kong hit, “Infernal Affairs,” into the outstanding “The Departed” for Martin Scorsese.

Mel It’s worth noting, however, that in that case Monahan was allowed to flesh out a stripped down shorter script into more of an epic length tale and, in this case, he and fellow scribe Andrew Bovell are pairing down a miniseries into a vastly shorter feature length film. The reviews so far are acceptable but unexciting. It’s at 59% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and the general vibe I’m getting is a slightly more positive than usual “meh.” Not exactly the huge comeback MSTG could really use if he wants to be a big time movie star again, rather than just a controversial director.

Now, if there’s anyone new out there who deserves to suddenly become a big time movie star, it’s Kristen Bell. However, there’s something about “When in Rome” that has critics sharpening their most negative adjectives despite their affection for Bell as TV’s “Veronica Mars,” among other terrific performances. Certainly our own David Medsker dislikes the film as much as he likes Bell, and that 10% Rotten Tomatoes rating indicates he’s not alone, and the film’s strong supporting cast doesn’t seem to have helped any. The director is Mark Steven Johnson who is really proving t be no directing genius. He made “Ghost Rider” and, though our own Jason Zingale had some kind words for it, the utterly lacking “Daredevil.” As Stan Lee would say, “’nuff said.”

Jolly Carl DiOrio predicts that both the K-Bell and Sugar Tits Gibson films will do something in the “low to mid-teen millions” though from very different audiences. Sure, why not?

K-Bell deserves better!

  

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Movie news for a dying decade

It’s the very last day of the aughts, the noughties, or the 2000s, whichever term you prefer, and there’s some movie news to pass along.

* It’s a funny day to have a stockholders meeting, but that’s appears to be what Marvel Entertainment did and, yes, they approved the widely heralded Disney merger. Russ Fischer at /film has the details.

* With, as far as I can see, no major wide releases or, as I far as I can tell, even large expansions to talk about and not much other information available, I’m dispensing with this week’s box office preview. However, Jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that this weekend is going to look a little something like last weekend.

That’s not to say there aren’t some new movies out that you can see this week — though you’ll possibly have to live in New York or L.A. to see them. Since I dig Tennessee Williams, I’m sorry to see the bad reviews for “Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. South Korea’s “The Chaser” was a hit at home for director Na Hong-Jin and looks intriguing to me. It has also been optioned for a high profile American remake, possibly involving Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan of “The Departed.”

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* Speaking of box office, I’m not sure this is exactly news, but, get this, “Avatar” is doing really well — it just passed the $800 million mark worldwide — and looks likely to continue to do extremely well for quite a long time. Even the busiest man in the world apparently couldn’t wait to see it in the White House movie theater (I wonder if it can show digital 3-D?) Also note that eight year-old Sacha and 11 year-old Malia were allowed to see it even though it has a PG-13 rating . Expect this to be discussed at length on the Sunday shows.

* I had to update yesterday’s post to correct this. Apparently, The Weinstein Company is going to leave “Nine” in the roughly 1,400 theaters it’s in, despite last week’s poor showing.

* It’s now “Sir Captain Picard” to you. Alongside Patrick Stewart, film and theater director Nicolas Hytner (“The Madness of King George”) just got an excuse to be extra snooty.

* Neil Blomkamp of “District 9” wants to make original films that aren’t based on older franchises and, so, has said he’ll stay away from large budgets. He’s not dumb.

  

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What Else Ya Got? “Body of Lies”

Movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe are usually expected to do big business at the box office, so how did “Body of Lies” only manage to earn $40 million during its domestic release? Chalk it up to post-9/11 fatigue, as Ridley Scott was clearly late to the party when choosing a political thriller set in the Middle East as his next project. Still, even though the movie didn’t do well stateside, it made nearly twice as much overseas, proving that both actors still have major star appeal. And as a result of its overall performance, Warner Bros. has produced a well-balanced collection of special features for the film’s Blu-ray release.

Body of Lies

Audio Commentary

Director Ridley Scott, screenwriter William Monahan and author David Ignatius all sit in on this audio commentary to discuss the film, but unlike your typical track, each participant has recorded their thoughts separately. At first, it may seem a little strange to have the commentary jump back and forth between those involved, but it actually works better than most tracks because you don’t have to worry about people getting cut off or having the discussion pushed in another direction. Scott ends up dominating a majority of the commentary anyway, but sadly, he has very little to say about the actual making of the film, and instead just explains everything that’s happening on screen.

Actionable Intelligence

The Blu-ray version allows you to access this collection of nine mini-featurettes as you watch the film, but they can also be viewed individually via the special features menu. Running 79 minutes in total, this is the closest you’re going to get to a making-of featurette, including a behind-the-scenes look at production and costume design, stunts and special effects, and profiles on the lead actors. The best of the bunch, however, are two in-depth featurettes dubbed “Field Operation” that go into greater detail about the making of two crucial action sequences.

Interactive Debriefing

Scott, DiCaprio and Crowe sit down to discuss their thoughts on the film’s story, collaborating with one another, and the CIA. I’m not exactly sure what’s “interactive” about the feature aside from the ability to choose what order you view the interviews, but they do provide great insight into the film. Crowe’s interviews, in particular, are worth checking out, as it’s the only time he appears anywhere in the bonus material.

Deleted Scenes

Of the five deleted scenes included, only one is worth checking out – a lengthy sequence where Golshifteh Farahani’s character discovers what Roger Ferris really does for a living – while Scott’s optional commentary proves just as frustrating as the movie track. The fact that none was recorded for the alternate ending is only more maddening – especially because it’s superior to the one that appears in the theatrical version.

That may not seem like a lot, but trust me, by the time you’re finished with the single-disc release of “Body of Lies,” there’s nothing more you’ll want to know. Plus, as always, a digital copy of the film has also been included for your convenience. Just a quick note to Warner Brothers: you guys have done a great job on your Blu-rays, but in the future, can you please take us to a static menu instead of auto-playing the movie? It’s pretty annoying.

  

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