* Somewhere between a rumor an an actual story, the ‘net geek movie item of today has to have been the flurry of speculation around the notion of Harry Potter director David Yates taking on the two-film directing gig on “The Hobbit” recently vacated by Guillermo del Toro. The Playlist claims to know that Yates has actually been offered the position though, even if true, in Hollywood there are a millions slips twixt cup and lip, so to speak, and the fun debates over who would be available and appropriate for the job continue. My first response was that Yates, a highly competent craftsman, wasn’t really enough of a visionary for the gig but, considering that del Toro and Peter Jackson remain pretty deeply involved, perhaps they’ve got visionaries enough on that project.
* On a somewhat similar note, Robert Rodriguez has possibly been offered a shot at directing a Deadpool movie. Since I missed the Wolverine movie and haven’t read Marvel Comics in a very long time, I have no idea what this actually means. I’ll learn.
* <Shock!> Fox superhoncho Rupert Murdoch has confirmed there will be an “Avatar 2,” though it won’t be arriving terribly soon. Just as predictable: his Fox News commentators and viewers will complain about its politics — assuming James Cameron doesn’t have any road to Damascus conversion to conservatism from someone like, say, “24” creator Joel Surnow.
* 3-D mania continues. Nikki Finke confirms that the final 2 Harry Potter films and, as previously mentioned everywhere, “Clash of the Titans,” will be released in the process as an assortment of less well known films. And that’s not all, how did I miss this story from a couple of weeks back? Highbrow 3-D porn…now that’s the future.
* Nikki Finke has been on fire (metaphorically, I mean) the last 24 hours or so. La Finke has the scoop on the latest about the sale of MGM and the suspense over whether Leo the Lion will be roaring in an independent fashion in the fure. She also the muckrakey details of the departure of the now former head of the Motion Picture and Television fund earlier today and its relationship to the closure of an acute care hospital and elder care facilities.
* For his part, Finke’s new partner, Mike Fleming, covers the latest on the fascinating niggling info regarding which producers of Oscar Best Picture nominees are real enough producers to actually collect Oscars should their films win.
I’m a bit pressed for time/writing energy right now, so this will be a somewhat abbreviated edition.
* We have revised final figures on the first weekend take for “Avatar” and I suspect it’s the start of a trend. The original call was for $73 million, but Sunday turned out to be a bigger day than expected — word of mouth, I’m thinking. The new total is $77 million. For contrast, the dismal take of the weekend’s other new release, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?,” was $400,000 less than expected. Box Office Mojo has more.
* I agree with Jay Fernandez about why the weekend grosses for the Cameron mega-flick were not ultra-mega-huge and why that may not even matter much over the long term.
* Newsflash: While most folks seem to be digging it, not quite everyone in the universe loves “Avatar.” Some on the left and the right even have political issues with it. Just in time, Avatarian/3-D contrarian Jim Emerson has some handy rules for arguing about movies that I wholly endorse. As the mighty Ebert would say, clip and save!
* And in non-“Avatar”-related news, the negotiations by Ruper Murdoch’s Fox-owning News Corp. to buy the once mighty MGM have gone on hold, says Nikki Finke. Wither Leo now? Actually, I lied, Fox is releasing “Avatar.” It’s all “Avatar” all the time!
* And while we’re on the subject, also from la Finke, Johnny Knoxville on the upcoming “Jackass 3”:
We’re going to take the same 3D technology James Cameron used in AVATAR and stick it up Steve O’s butt. We’re taking stupid to a whole new dimension.
Oh, joy. But, since we’re going there, how long before someone uses this technology for what it was clearly designed for? And, by that I obviously mean porn.
* In a move that could have an enormous impact on pretty much all media, Comcast has officially announced its long-expected, and highly complicated, deal which — if understand it correctly and its possible I don’t — will make NBC/Universal a joint venture between General Electric and the cable TV giant, with Comcast holding a 51% stake in the deal. Arguably, this is a more of a TV story and I’m the movie guy, but the dividing line between movies and television grows ever thinner and this surely will impact the movie world. After all, TV is still probably the single most dominant delivery system for movies.
I will say that, as someone who has been worried about media consolidation for a very long time, this deal makes me incredibly suspicious. For starters, a cable company will now be involved with one of the main providers of content, and there are not only consumer ramifications but also political factors here that could go to the heart of our democracy and, no, I’m not really exaggerating. Though I don’t expect Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow to be frog-marched out of 30 Rock tomorrow, giving any company this much power could actually allow them to mold and shape the limits of debate in this country. Actually, corporations already do a pretty good job of that, but this could make it all that much worse.
Anyhow, a couple of days back, Josh Silver made a cogent, if wonkish, argument that I hope people will read. Serious stuff, but the good news, for what it’s worth, is that it will be subject to federal scrutiny. But there’s may be a turf war over which agencies will do it. Great.
I’ll feel a lot better if this marriage gets annulled.
* On a much lighter, and more typical note, the eternally mysterious one hundred year old National Board of Review — which I suspect gets all its power from its quasi-governmental sounding title (it started as essentially a censorship organization supported by the studios as a sort of preemptive act) but which is always seen as an Oscar harbinger — gave out it’s awards today. The awards where rather spread around, but the much touted George Clooney/Jason Reitman comedy, “Up in the Air” won for Best Picture and Clint Eastwood picked up a Best Director award for “Invictus.” Gee, who’d ever expect that guy to win a major award?
It’s that time of the week when we offload the week’s last few stories.
* In the wake of his “Land of the Lost” debacle, Will Ferrell is going back to “Stranger than Fiction” territory with a more low-key form of comedy, writes Mike Fleming. “Everything Must Go” will be from first-time feature director Dan Rush and is based on a story by Raymond Carver — not an author frequently connected with hilarity though the script is apparently primarily a comedy and the premise (a newly unemployed guy’s wife locks him out and deposits his stuff on the lawn…and the guy responds by trying to sell all of it) sounds potentially pretty funny.
It’s important to remember that, once upon a time, not all comedies were expected to be laugh-riot farces and, ironically enough, they were often funnier anyhow. (The classical definition of comedy, by the way, is less about being funny and more about having a happy ending. By that definition, many black comedies are not comedies at all.)
* More from Fleming: Robert Redford’s new Lincoln conspiracy film started shooting on Monday and he has quite a cast assembled. This one could be good.
* American liberals like me complain a lot, and for very good reason, about the actions of media mega mogul Rupert Murdoch, particularly in regards to how his TV news network is essentially an arm of the Republican Party. But, it could be a lot worse. Italy’s scandal-ridden, far-right movie and TV mogul Murdoch-equivalent actually runs the freaking country and I bet Italian rightwingers cry about the “liberal media” and the evils of the Rome film-making establishment too. But, hey, at least they have health care,.
* Speaking of media moguls, Nikki Finke believes that GE may ultimately divest itself of NBC Universal, which may please ecologically minded and antiwar folks while depriving “30 Rock” of one of its best running gags. Still, Finke says it may be seven years before it’s complete, so Tina Fey & company should be able to milk it sufficiently. Also, Finke wonders about Ted Turner’s mental health in regard to Time-Warner.
* It may be last summer’s news here in the U.S., but “Up” continues to land on top of the global box office.