After a long and troublesome development road courtesy of the financial strife its parent company MGM ran into, Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is evidently gearing up to begin lensing this November in New Zealand.
We say "evidently" because whenever a date is listed for this project, it seems to get bumped, denied or pushed back a few months. Last we heard there was still no green light for this project and with MGM's ongoing problems it doesn't feel like the project is going to get a thumbs up anytime soon.
So take it with a grain of salt if you like, but both Deadline Hollywood and the newest issue of Production Weekly are reporting a November start date. Deadline also says both scripts are done. If this start date is legit, how will it affect the Christmas 2011 and 2012 release dates? It's hard to tell at this point and it's best not to speculate until the November production is confirmed.
Before any cameras begin rolling though, del Toro, Peter Jackson and company will be getting serious with the gestating casting process, which began late last year and has seen any and every actor and their grandfather audition for. Perhaps we should brace ourselves for a crazy few months of 'Hobbit' casting rumors. So far, Ian McKellen is the only thespian who has already assured a place in the film, recently noting that his contract negotiations had just begun.
Discussions are also continuing to take place regarding a potential 3D shoot for the picture, something Deadline touts as an inevitability. Del Toro had noted on the OneRing.net forums in March that he "wouldn't read much on [rumors of 3D] just yet" and that New Line had not enforced any pressure about the idea. However, even though the helmer didn't sound like he was entirely interested in the concept, he seemed to leave the door slightly ajar — probably knowing that it's going to end up being in 3D whether he shoots it that way or not.
It'll be interesting to see which way del Toro and Jackson will lean in that regard, but it's tentatively looking like there is hope to finally seeing the highly anticipated adaptation and prequel to 'Lord Of The Rings.'
After a long and troublesome development road courtesy of the financial strife its parent company MGM ran into, Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is evidently gearing up to begin lensing this November in New Zealand.
IFC Films Acquires Gregg Araki's Sex Comedy Thriller 'Kaboom'; SPC Picks Up Xavier Beauvois' 'Of Gods And Men'
There's a strange, but not surprising disconnect going on at the Cannes Film Festival. Once known as the Olympics of filmmaking, the prestige of the festival hasn't diminished (although this year was clearly even weaker than last year), but it's evident that the only North American buyers acquiring films at one of the most illustrious film festivals in the world are indie studios.
Arguably, that's always been the case, but it's even more pronounced this year. Case in point, IFC Films are on a tear and have been buying up film left, right and center. But when was the last time a major studio or even a mini-major acquired a big picture that bowed at Cannes and yet, films like "Robin Hood" make their world premieres there too. Odd...
Either way, IFC Films, the company that is making the world safe for indie films in North America — even though their distribution arm throughout the U.S. doesn't seem huge — just picked up Gregg Araki's latest film, "Kaboom."
Called a comical thriller, the film centers on an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman (Thomas Dekker) who stumbles upon a monstrous conspiracy in a seemingly idyllic Southern California seaside town. The picture was on our Cannes 2010 most anticipated list, and reviews were mixed (a lot of love or hate), but we have to say clips from the picture made it look sort of awful (and this writer loves this guy's comment).
Back to IFC Films, they've been buying Cannes 2010 pictures like they've been going out of style. So far they've bought (to our count and we may be missing a few) Xavier Dolan's sophomore directorial effort "Heartbeats" (read some collated reviews), they made a deal with the Sundance Channel for the theatrical release of Oliver Assayas' "Carlos" (read our review), they've nabbed Bertrand Tavernier's "The Princess of Montpensier," and also bought Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" starring Juliette Binoche (read our review).
The film also stars Juno Temple (we're big fans of her, keep an eye out for her), Haley Benet, James Duval, Chris Zylka, Andy Fisher Price, Kelly Lynch and Roxanne Mesquida. The aforementioned clips do look... ungood, but hell, we'll give it a shot regardless.
Also, this just in from a press release, Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods And Men" was just acquired by Sony Pictures Classics (read our review), so while the majors aren't biting, the indie market seems to be a bit healthier than it was last year.
We briefly mentioned this, but now it's official — Morgan Spurlock will be a part of a Comic-Con documentary. The film, smirkingly titled "Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope," will be a joint project between Spurlock, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Ain't It Cool founder Harry Knowles, and producers Thomas Tull and Jeremy Chilnick. Shooting begins in June, and it will track seven different people from around America as they prepare for the geek-beauty of Comic-Con. The convention is known for its overcrowded congestion, but maybe the documentary will prove to be amusing.
Akiva Goldsman is officially directing family loving assassin picture "Man and Wife." Toldjahhh, errr, we reported already.
Genre division of Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing, has picked up the U.S. rights to "Rubber," a comedy-horror film which features a murdering, telepathic tire. No date has been set, and the filmmakers are keeping quiet on a proposed Michelin Man cameo.
Todd McCarthy-approved Cannes film "The Princess of Montpensier" has been picked up by IFC Films. The film is directed by Bertrand Tavernier, who made the Tommy Lee Jones crime-drama "In the Electric Mist," which saw little screen time and had nearly no box office buzz. This writer saw "Capitane Conan" a few years ago and thought it was a relatively fresh take on the World War I picture. "The Princess of Montpensier" has no U.S. date, but will be released both theatrically and on IFC's VOD. -- compiled and written by Christopher Bell
"Covert One" will be turned into a film series by Captivate Entertainment. The book series is overseen by Robert Ludlum (and actually seeded out and written by several other hacks, err, writers) and it's about a team of political and technical experts that fight corruption in high society. Auteur Frank Marshall of "Congo" fame (you remember that gem, right?) will direct the first, titled "The Hades Factor." Chances are it will feature frantic cutting and maybe even an ape from "Congo" will make an appearance. This will hopefully be better than the 2006 TV movie version starring Stephen Dorff and Mira Sorvino. Obviously this is just an excuse to try and cash in on the Ludlum/"Bourne" franchise name.
The upcoming film version of "MacGyver" will be written by Jason Richman, who wrote "Beverly Hills Cop 4" and did some uncredited rewrites on "Black Hawk Down" and "Rush Hour 3." We guess nobody told New Line we were laughing at the titular handy-man. Or that "MacGruber" is in theaters. How is that picture possibly going to be relevant once it's already been spoofed? Oh, Hollywood...
Remember "The Help," an Emma Stone Civil Rights film set in 1960s Mississippi? Chris Lowell from "Up in the Air" is in negotiations to appear in the film, playing Stone's boyfriend, the son of a senator who becomes uncomfortable with Stone's progressive writing and breaks up with her. But dude, she's an easy A.
Trailers: Drew Barrymore's 'Going The Distance,' Taylor Hackford's 'Love Ranch' & An Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Nike Commercial
Nanette Burstein, known for the documentary "American Teen" and earning an Oscar doc nomination for "On the Ropes," has a trailer for her first narrative film "Going the Distance." Aside from being a fairly odd choice to start off your narrative film career with a romcom, does anyone else find Justin Long and Drew Barrymore awkward together? Maybe Charlie Day will make this worth seeing, but probably not.
The trailer for Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci drama "Love Ranch" is up on Apple, and it's nice to see Pesci so energetic. The film follows the running of the titular brothel and the love triangle between Pesci, Mirren, and newcomer Sergio Peris-Mencheta. Directed by Taylor Hackford of "Ray," we're still wondering why the trailer moves so gosh darn fast.
The trailer for Will Ferrel and Brad Pitt's animated super hero/villain film "Megamind" has been released. We guess it will mildly tide us over until "The Incredibles 2" (we wish). Creators of the "Ice Age" trilogy are back with "Rio," which follows a bird taking the adventure of his life. This one's for the kids only, as the trailer's for the birds.
Finally, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu follows his depressing and long slog "Biutiful" with... a Nike advert. It's surprisingly positive and well, rather spectacular to say the least. Oh and check the Gael García Bernal cameo too.
-- with assistance by Christopher Bell
Fresh off of putting down nearly every female director to get behind a camera — he certainly won friends at Jezebel for that one — "American Psycho" author Bret Easton Ellis has revealed that he is writing the script for "The Golden Suicides" —about the life and death of artists Jeremy Blake and Theresea Duncan — all by his lonesome.
At one point in 2009, Gus Van Sant was slated to co-write, but it seems Ellis is now evidently working alone. So far anyhow, Van Sant will definitely be producing, but currently he's not scheduled to direct.
Maybe he's taking a wait-and-see approach? Ellis' screen adaptations, aside from the hilarity that is "American Psycho," have been pretty godawful ("The Informers," "The Rules of Attraction"). But Van Sant seems so perfect for this tragic story (the couple committed suicide, one after another). Frankly, we're only interested if GVS is involved. Currently he's putting the finishing touches on "Restless," starring Mia Wasikowska, which we're hoping will be at the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall.
Update: Someone has noted our handiwork (we always like that, keep it coming). Evidently the trade report was overstated. From day one the idea was that Van Sant had been brought on as a consultant on the script, with a potential eye do direct if all went well, and Easton Ellis has always been writing it solo. Sources very close to the project are happy with its development so far.
James Jagger, son of Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger (who looks from some angles exactly like his mum, and from others exactly like his dad) has auditioned for and is apparently in talks about portraying Colin Clark (Marilyn Monroe’s chaperon before and during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl”) in Simon Curtis' “My Week With Marilyn.” The role is presumably a large one, as the film is based on Clark’s own memoir of the same name, and details the trips he went on with the star, skinny-dipping in the Thames and visiting Windsor castle, showing a vulnerable, private side of Marilyn. In the book, Clark maintains that his relationship with her went as far as a kiss and a friendly grope beneath some blankets, but no further. Monroe was married to playwright Arthur Miller at the time.
The key question, of course (quite apart from how much of this is just trouser-rubbing speculation on the part of the Daily Mail who do rather like to sauce up their stories, especially when they concern celebrities and their offspring), is whether Jagger’s screen acting skills would be up to snuff (apparently he got good notices for a theatrical turn a few years ago but that's, you know, theatre), considering he will share most of his screen time with Michelle Williams, an actress we pretty much adore and one who is a hotly-tipped early awards contender for her Cannes film with Ryan Gosling “Blue Valentine” (review here). Jagger’s only previous celluloid appearance is fairly far down the billing in “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” not a favorite of ours, with a role in “Gangster Kittens” opposite (his mother) Jerry Hall, Julian Glover and Jeroen Krabbe, currently filming. And seeing as the milieu of “Sex & Drugs” mustn’t have proven any great stretch for the son of a Rolling Stone, we have to say that, as a film actor, he’s pretty much untested.
Oh dear. Terry Gilliam just broke the curse of La Mancha - did he not? - by casting Ewan McGregor as Johnny Depp's replacement in the long-gestating, passion project, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote?" (which of course was infamously scuttled due to several acts of god, bad luck, hex's, etc. and all of it was heartbreakingly documented in the 2002 documentary, "Lost In La Mancha").
Mmm, seemingly like all announcements these days, it may have been slightly premature.
"If ['The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'] comes about, which it may -- and I certainly hope it does, because I've wanted to work with [director Terry Gilliam] for a long time -- to play that part would be very, very exciting," McGregor told MTV this week.
That does sound a little tentative. Maybe it's a funding/money issue that hasn't 100% been locked in? At least McGregor's not saying, "Yeah, I might wanna do it," and he does sound very gung-ho so that's a a good sign. Let's just hope it's not another bad augur.
Frankly, Gilliam has had waaay to many tragedies befall his productions in recent years -- hello, Heath Ledger passing away during the middle of shooting, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" -- and Gilliam could use a break for once (every project is seemingly Sisyphean in nature). Movie gods, how about shifting the clouds over Michael Bay or a useless summer tentpole like "Prince of Persia" for once? We hear there's a superfluous "Pirates of the Caribbean" being shot this summer....
Let's quote our prescient selves here.
["Megan Fox's] replacement has already been announced — or at least the frontrunner for the next :90 seconds or so until five other publications report seventeen other frontrunners."
Now it's time for an installment of my
dick sources is are better than yours!
To recap, unless you've lived under a rock for the last 48 hours. Megan Fox was dropped from "Transformers 3." Allegedly, director Michael Bay and Paramount decided against renewing her third film option and of course Fox and her publicists are on a rampage to say that Bay is a tyrant, a misogynist and was "verbally abusive" to the star. Hmm, as much as Fox's publicists love damage control, those claims do feel pretty on the money.
Either way, she's out and Gemma Arterton was linked to the role almost immediately, along with supermodels Bar Rafaeli, Miranda Kerr and Brooklyn Decker, which was followed by a whole rash of potential candidates being bandied about including Emmanuelle Chriqui ("Entourage"), Jessica Lowndes ("90210"), Zoe Saldana, Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes"), Camilla Belle ("Push"), Ashley Greene ("Twilight"), Amber Heard ("Pineapple Express"), Vanessa Hudgens ("High School Musical"), country singer Julianne Hough and British supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whitley.
But "Clash of The Titans" star Gemma Arteton is still the frontrunner, no? Now on Michael Bay's message boards -- where all good things are discussed of course -- and producer Don Murphy's boards, (via Movieline) someone claiming to be someone important is saying, Arteton as the replacement is, "not even close."
Pretty speculative, of course, that any of that is legit (take it with a grain of salt as Movieline says), however we buy it if only because: Megan Fox to Gemma Arteton? That doesn't scream like a Michael Bay move at all. Now hot supermodel? We're sure one of the Sports Illustrated half-naked girls has a better shot. Can't we all just wait until the person is actually cast? Hopefully there's only half a dozen more reports about this before the final announcement is made, cause all things considered, that wouldn't be so bad considering how out of control it's going to become.
If we asked yesterday do we need another Iraq war drama, today we're asking if we really needed two of them In Competition at Cannes, screening on the same day. A last minute entry to the festival, Ken Loach's "Route Irish" is not a straight dramatization of actual events like Doug Liman's "Fair Game," but instead explores the damaged psyche of the men who return from the Middle East and are left on their own to try and heal the wounds left by what they've seen and the friends they've lost.
The film opens with the funeral for Frankie (John Bishop), a contractor for a Blackwater-esque type group who did work in Baghdad, killed on the most dangerous road in the world, Route Irish. His best friend Fergus (Mark Womack), is shattered by his friend's death. A former member of the SAS, he had encouraged his friend to join the mercenary-for-hire group as the pay ($10,000 per month) would be too good to pass up even in the dangerous conditions of Iraq. The other advantage would be that they would be working alongside professionals, not kids with guns as they did in the national army. However, when Fergus hears the official story of his friend's death, he has doubts and begins to investigate, and soon the troubling circumstances leading up to his friend's death point to foul play.
The first discovery Fergus makes is that, a few weeks prior to Frankie's death, he captured on a video cell phone members of his unit ruthlessly murdering a family traveling together in a taxi. Disturbed by what he witnessed, and anxious to do the right thing, Frankie began to talk about filing an official report about the incident. The leader of the unit, Nelson (Trevor Williams) obviously wanted the incident kept quiet and it wasn't long before threats against his life began to surface. In tracking down the cell phone and the contents it contains, Fergus is horrified and believes more than ever that Nelson, described as an asshole renegade with a thirst for blood, is behind Frankie's death. As Fergus begins to dig deeper and contacts people who knew Frankie and can shed light on the days leading up to his death, word reaches the top levels to the contracting company as well as Nelson himself.
Brian Koppelman and David Levien's sophomore effort, "Solitary Man," starring Michael Douglas is soulful, sharp, moving and seems like a rarity these days; a modest little drama with a small budget that still resonates as loudly and emotionally as any gigantic set piece (if not more). The picture stars Douglas as a former used car sales magnate who slowly watches his life self-destruct due to his ill-conceived and misguided romantic and business indiscretions.
It all begins with a routine heart check-up that seems irregular that leads the main character Ben down a brutally selfish path of self-immolation. It's also funny, mature and intelligent look at an irredeemable man trying to find some redemption in his life with few easy answers.
We spoke with Koppelman and Levien recently about new projects (an adaptation of Levien's novel, "City of The Sun", a deep-sixed one (writing "Bourne 4") and writing two projects for Leonardo DiCaprio (the hitman turned medical intern thriller, "Beat The Reaper"), but of course we also wanted to ask them about, "Solitary Man." Not only is a great film — see yesterday's review — it might just have the best indie ensemble cast of 2010 so far. Check out this list: Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jenna Fischer, Mary-Louise Parker, Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Thirlby, Danny DeVito and Imogen Poots among many other great character actors you'll recognize (Richard Schiff from "The West Wing," Bruce Altman and David Costabile from "The Wire"). The picture comes out this weekend in limited release. Go see it.
The Playlist: Let's talk basics. What was the motivation to make this picture?
Brian Koppelman: The impetus was a long fascination that David and I shared — we grew up together, we grew up in Long Island, watching these business titans hold themselves out as real masters of the universe. It was fascinating. As kids, we sort of believed their act and believed that their business acumen lead to their sort of having knowledge about rest of the world. Growing older and watching them age, we saw that the same sort of character traits that led them to their success also very often led to their downfall. Hubris, their reliance on charm, ego, greed sometimes. I watched this one particular man, I was walking in a park on the west side of Manhattan in Riverside Park and I saw this man talking to his daughter and he said — she was in her early 30s — he said, "don't call me dad in public because it makes it hard to pick up girls." We put that as the first or second scene of the movie, and that just started me writing and David shared the same interest in these kind of guys so it seemed the logical thing to make a movie about.
That's pretty damn specific, I would have never have guessed.
David Levien: Just a desire for "Iron Man"-type box office, right Brian?
BK: Yes, and absolutely to capture the "Iron Man" box office, as Dave says, "Counterprogram in a successful kind of way" (laughs).
The first thing that came to me was fathers and fatherhood come into play for you guys. Any personal stuff there?
DL: The way these guys reconcile their business knowledge with what can sometimes be a lack of fathering and personal relationship knowledge definitely struck a chord with me. My dad and my grandfather were businessmen, my uncles — this is the sort of genius walking around Long Island.
Bruce McDonald's Broken Social Scene Film 'This Movie Is Broken' Gets Trailer, Poster, Images & June 25 Canadian Release Date
Canadian indie rockers Broken Social Scene recently released their first album in five years, Forgiveness Rock Record. And while you'll be able to check them out on an upcoming extensive tour schedule, you can also check out some of their concert experience in a less conventional way in the upcoming film,"This Movie Is Broken."
Directed by Bruce McDonald ("Hard Core Logo"), Canada's hardest working indie-filmmaker, the picture is a sort of docu-drama compiling actual crowd-sourced audience-shot concert footage of the band with a fictional narrative — written by well-known Canuck scribe/filmmaker Don McKellar — revolving around two lovers (played by little known young actors Greg Calderone and Georgina Reilly from McDonald's last picture, the aural-zombie movie, "Pontypool") trying to make their way into a Broken Social Scene concert.
We praised the unique film in our SXSW review, calling it "marvelously chaotic" and featuring a love story that moves "from conventional to unconventional at unexpected moments." Here's your first look at the poster to the right, several photos from the film, and the studio-supplied synopsis:
Unbelievable! Bruno (Greg Calderone) wakes up in bed next to Caroline (Georgina Reilly), his long time crush. But tomorrow she's off for school in France, and maybe she only granted this miracle as a parting gift for her long time friend. So tonight -- tonight is Bruno's last chance. And tonight, as it happens, Broken Social Scene, her favourite band, is throwing a big outdoor bash. Maybe if Bruno, with the help of his best pal Blake (Kerr Hewitt), can score tickets and give Caroline a night to remember, he can keep this miracle alive.Now if that doesn't sound like a date movie tailor-made for an indie crowd, then I don't know what does. No word on when the film will be released in any form in America, but "This Movie Is Broken" will see a Canadian release on June 25th.
Incidentally, the uber-prolific McDonald is already three/four films beyond this one. The inexhaustible filmmaker has finished his, "My Dinner With Andre"-esque story of two estranged female friends who reconnect after years of resentment called "Trigger;" he's completed principal photography on a New Orleans-set prison documentary called "Music From The Big House;" he's completed principal photography on his sequel to "Hard Core Logo;" he's about to shoot a B-movie women's prison martial arts project titled "Lucky Ho" this summer; and... if that's not enough, he's contemplating more projects including a sequel to "Pontypool," and a Chet Baker-esque jazz film that he hopes will star Stephen McHattie, the aforementioned star of the zombie picture he hopes to sequelize. The filmmaker is pretty much excused if he decides to take the next year off, but while he's gunning in the fast lane, we hope he continues on his march.
Meanwhile, check out the trailer for "This Movie Is Broken" below and the film's website for some stills which you can also see here.
More Young, Dumb Hot Teens To Be Killed For 'Scream 4': Ashley Green, Lake Bell, Hayden Panettiere, Even A Culkin
Not even a $3 million dollar lawsuit against The Weinstein Company from a former producer cannot slow down the impending doom that is "Scream 4." No one was clamoring for it, but it's happening whether we like it or not. So be prepared for casting updates, storyline tidbits, and the inevitable 3D news story (or wait, it's already in 3D, right? Does it even matter anymore?).
Heat Vision brings us casting information which basically tell us more dumb, young, hot teen actors have been cast for roles that will likely see them die after a few minutes of screentime. THR reports that "Twilight" thesp Ashley Greene, the finally grown up Rory Culkin, and now-defunct "Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere will round out the cast of the new film. Chaperoning the young cast will be Lake Bell from "How to Make It in America." Pretty tame, but predictable casting, it's pretty obvious that they're bringing in the relatively unknowns for a fresh trilogy.
Greene will play Neve Campbell's cousin, Panettiere will play her friend (who is a film geek, be prepared for awkward references — god, kill us now. Just be glad she's better looking than Jamie Kennedy.), and Culkin will play a possible love interest. Bell is in talks to play a police officer that knew Campbell from high school.
Chances are the veterans will play a mentor role in the new film, and most likely be killed off throughout the duration of the film to make room for the new cast. After all, nobody wants their parents hanging around all the time. Can't everyone just die though? And as gruesomely as possible, please? (including the people who greenlit this nonsense).
Casting is also reported to be moving "slowly," because director Wes Craven and studio Dimension are sending vague casting descriptions around rather than the full script to prevent leaks. We're not really sure who is salivating for plot info, but maybe that guy who is always the Scream killer for Halloween has a blog. We wouldn't put it past him.
The picture is slated for an odd April 15th release. Why "Scream 4?" The same reason The Weinstein Company begged Robert Rodriguez to make "Spy Kids 4," aka "Spy Kids: Armageddon." They are all about franchises these days, the box-office appeal of which they hope will balance out their shaky business in the last twelve months. Let's hope for their sake it pays off so they can go back to making the Miramax-like indie dramas we actually enjoy. "Scream" the original film was a nice injection to the horror genre, but the franchise immediately went south, so we'll just say best of luck to you all.
Cannes 2010 Review: 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' Is A Very Difficult, But Deeply Rewarding, Watch
After his breakout hit "Syndromes And A Century" (well, as much as a severely niche arthouse film could be called a breakout) Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul returns with "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." We saw this film on the tail end of a long four-movie day, which probably wasn't the best way to experience Weerasethakul's meditative film, but regardless, it quietly emerged as one of the most distinctive and pretty much unreviewable films of the festival (Jean Luc-Godard's "Socialisme" aside).
Firmly placing the "art" in "arthouse," judging 'Uncle Boonmee' in terms of "good" or "bad" is simply irrelevant. Much more than the sum of its parts, it's a film that exists completely in layers and metaphors. Punctuated with dry humor and expressive cinematography, the picture unfolds exquisitely but requires and demands an audience willing to meet it halfway. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the titular uncle who, suffering from kidney failure, is visited by the ghost of his dead wife and by his long lost son who returns in a monkey-man like form not unlike Chewbacca with glowing red eyes. With Uncle Boonmee contemplating the end of this life, and wondering if his illness is the karmic result of killing communists and bugs, he decides to travel back to the place of his birth.
But again, the plot here is merely just a very loose thread for Weerasethakul to contemplate the state of his country. But don't be misled; this isn't "Fair Game" by any stretch. With the politics only referred to obliquely, 'Uncle Boonmee' stretches out with a multitude of beautiful, confounding, fascinating long shots and sequences: a car driving down the road; a catfish mating with a princess; a monk taking a shower; people sitting in a restaurant as karaoke music blasts; an ox tied to a tree freeing itself -- Weerasethakul evokes feeling and mood but it does require any potential viewers to be up to the task at hand.
Look, we're not really tentpole people, but we checked out the schedule for summer 2010 and expected to at least find some enjoyable popcorn blockbuster, but it's one of the slowest summer seasons on record.
For example, 2011 boasts "Pirates of the Caribbean 4," "The Hangover 2," "Captain America," "Thor," "X-Men: First Class," "Green Lantern," "Battleship," and "Cars 2" while 2012 brings us "The Dark Knight" sequel, "The Avengers," "Men in Black III," "Spider-Man 3D," "Star Trek 2" and a rebooted "Godzilla." Not to say a lot of these films will be good, but they're certainly at least huge, some of pretty decent interest and at least likely bountiful for the economics of films. This year? Apart from a few rare projects, there's not a lot out there. Which is why we've isolated five films we absolutely cannot wait for this season, with another ten we caution you about spending your money on.
5 TO SEE:
Probably the one movie this summer we'd consider a must. From the success of "The Dark Knight," Chris Nolan was able to nab a blank check from Warner Bros., resulting in this, a $200 million mind-tripper about a corporate thief who steals secrets by entering the mind of his victims. The cast is crackerjack good, with Leonardo DiCaprio supported by Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy and Michael Caine, but we're most excited to see Nolan returning to his puzzle-box motif employed in each of his movies before "The Dark Knight," where perception and conventional chronology is challenged. Some of the secrets of "Inception" have been revealed, but unlike most summer blockbusters, most of us are looking to stay as unspoiled as possible.
"The Other Guys"
We're not necessarily going to start praising Will Ferrell as a defacto genius, especially considering, like most SNL talents, he really only has two or three actual characters in his repertoire, but we will honor the Ferrell-Adam McKay trilogy, which proved to be the most concise critique of American Bush-era over-achievement in the studio system over the past decade. Here, McKay is working with a full deck, and normally we'd be happy to accept Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (who's better at comedy than drama, with his constantly confused furrowed brow and forever-cracking voice of anger) as the leads in a parody action film. But we'd also be ignoring the potential in seeing their ineptitude mirrored against Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, guys who still take on star vehicles, but seem to understand they probably work best in small doses. Throw in perennially-underestimated Michael Keaton as chief of police and Steve Coogan as a villain and there's a strong recipe for something a little stronger than your average action comedy.
"Toy Story 3"
Has there been such a thing as a perfect movie trilogy? We'd argue Kieslowski's "Three Colors" is up there, while the 'Bournes', the 'Lord of the Rings' and the 'Godfathers' all come close. All being well (and Pixar have only failed us once, and even "Cars" had its charms in places), we may have another come the end of June, with the third "Toy Story" film hitting theaters over ten years since the last entry. With a plot involving every one's favorite playthings being separated from Andy, their now college-bound owner, it promises a lump in the throat at least as big as that resulting from "Toy Story 2." But we're also promised more than enough of the world-class gags and action that the series and studio are known for; word from early screenings is predictably strong. We're a little bummed out we have to wait another two years for a Pixar original ("Cars 2" follows next year), but we'll more than take this in the meantime.
"Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World"
Regular readers know we've been looking forward to this one more or less since its announcement, but our excitement only grows the closer we get to release. Brian Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series (which also comes to an end this summer with the sixth volume) improved with every installment, and in Edgar Wright, we think they have the filmmaker best suited to balance the source's absurd comedy and breakneck action. The cast, toplined by Michael Cera but also featuring the likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin and Aubrey Plaza, are impeccably well-suited to the roles (we're on the Cera train now, it should be said), Wright looks to have pulled out all the stylistic stops, and the soundtrack (produced by Nigel Godrich and featuring new music by the likes of Beck, Broken Social Scene and Metric) looks like it will be a strong memory when we discuss our favorite movie music at year's end. Whether or not it makes any money is another question, however...
"Get Him To The Greek"
As Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Russell Brand stole most of his scenes and made us fall for a lecherous, drug addicted rock star. His return to the big screen as Snow in “Get Him to the Greek” should provide another sleeper hit courtesy of Nicholas Stoller, who penned 'Forgetting' and 'Greek.' In the film, Snow is setting up for a return to mega-stardom with a performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, but not before tormenting record company intern Jonah Hill, here playing a wannabe high roller trapped in the wave of Snow's excess. As comedic matches go, we like the juxtaposition of the jittery, slightly coke-y Hill and the mellow, flighty Brand, and the Judd Apatow trademark (he's onboard as a producer) has a high rate of success, so we're definitely hoping this one is another strike (even if we've heard a lot of cool reactions to it so far).
Hey, Don't Say We Didn't Warn You:
"Shrek Forever After"
There seems to be a kind of desperation that has set in with marketing this, the fourth film in the abysmal "Shrek" franchise. Even though it's called "Shrek Forever After," commercials and trailers are proclaiming it "Shrek: The Final Chapter," as if to hammer home the point that there won't be another one of these unfunny bores in a couple of years. Except that, you know, there'll be a "Puss in Boots" movie (based around Antonio Banderas' Zorro-like feline) next November. So as much as we'd all like to never see these annoyingly "edgy" fairy tale characters (among them Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Justin Timberlake) again, you can't stop a gravy train, and we find it hard to believe this is the end of the road for Shrek. Huzzah.
"Sex and the City 2"
We think it was Jeff Wells who said that the original film was like a Taliban recruitment video. So of course the trailer shows us that the foursome is headed to the Middle East, with Dubai re-imagined as some commercial-ready cesspool of vanity and materialism, the perfect vacation spot for the absolute worst humanity has to offer. We've heard the defenses of the show, and we've sampled it, and the damn thing is only a vapid, illusory peek at the life of people who care little about anyone other than themselves. Hey, that kinda makes it sound like "Entourage." Morality aside, the first film was as TV-ish as movies get, and it looks like this next installment, which seems aimed towards gay male stereotypes more than actual women, looks like something that, even while firing on all its supposed cylinders, would never ever ever be worth a $10 ticket.
Another sequel enters the ring in attempts to knock out the reigning champ "Iron Man 2" this weekend. "Shrek Forever After" returns the green ogre to the big screen after the musical failed to ignite Broadway a couple years back. In an inspired bit of counter-programming, R-rated comedy "MacGruber" attempts to translate the goofy SNL sketch into full-length comedic gold. On the indie front, there are several interesting releases including the surprisingly strong Michael Douglas led "Solitary Man," as well as a couple of other high-profile comedic dramas "Perrier's Bounty" and "Holy Rollers."
In Wide Release: Thankfully for most of us, SNL has not produced an original film since 2000's "The Ladies Man." Aside from the first "Wayne's World," Lorne Michaels and Co. can not seem to make a film that actually warrants the big screen treatment, but this weekend's "MacGruber" is determined to be the exception. Will Forte polishes up his mullet-sporting action hero for the 80's obsessed comedy, which ingeniously features Val Kilmer as the villain, Dieter Van Cunth, whose thieving of a nuclear warhead propels the retired MacGruber to return to the crime-fighting business (Ryan Phillippe and Kristen Wiig are also quite great in the picture). We got an early peek at the film back at SXSW, finding it to be absurdly stupid and pleasurable fun; the rare SNL film that outdoes the skit. Critics seem to be on-board as well, as the film has an 85% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
The fourth and supposedly final entry into the ludicrously successful franchise, "Shrek Forever After" comes ready to punish the box-office this weekend. This new installment predictably adds 3D to the mix, which should help drain patient parents of a few more dollars in addition to already skyrocketing ticket prices. The first Shrek film had a real sense of off-kilter fun, but between all the cynical cross-promotion and lack of creative inspiration the series has been quickly running dry. We missed our screenings of this one, but we can't imagine we would be convincing anyone to spend there money here this weekend. RT: 43%, Metacritic: 57.
In Limited Release: Screenwriting team Brian Koppelman and David Levien ("Rounders," "Ocean's Thirteen") jump back into director's chairs for their sophomore effort, "Solitary Man." The indie dramedy stars Michael Douglas as a worn-out automobile magnate, who lost his fortune in a price-gouging scheme. His life is falling to pieces around him as he can't afford to pay his ex-wife's alimony and has to hit up his daughter for cash. This is the kind of low-key character study that Douglas really excels at and it helps that the supporting cast assembled is first-rate. Susan Sarandon and Jenna Fischer play the ex and daughter, respectively, with Danny DeVito, Mary Louise Parker, Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg also supporting. We posted our review yesterday, finding it funny and quietly moving with an excellent script. RT: 83%, Metacritic: 71.
As you might have noticed from our brief excursion into food-blogging during our shut-down, there's a few closet foodies here at The Playlist. As such, we kind of love it when the cinematic and culinary world cross over, even if there are relatively few classics of the subgenre; Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci's "Big Night" stands first and foremost, with "Babette's Feast," "Ratatouille," "Eat Drink Man Woman" and, if we were feeling generous, "Julie & Julia," all being worth a watch.
This writer's personal culinary hero is the British food writer Nigel Slater; a cook, rather than a chef (he doesn't have his own restaurant), and author of seminal cookbooks like "Appetite" and "The Kitchen Diaries." Now, BBC Films has announced that Slater's memoir, the award-winning "Toast," is to be adapted into a film, in association with Ruby Films (the upcoming "Jane Eyre").
Slater's book is something of a bildungsroman, following him growing up, and discovering his sexuality (Slater is openly gay), in a difficult family environment, all the while recounting the development of his tastebuds -- it's almost Proustian in its link between food and memory. Freddie Highmore ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") will play the 15-year-old Slater, while Helena Bonham-Carter will play his step-mother.
The script's by the great Lee Hall ("Billy Elliot") and TV director S.J. Clarkson ("Heroes," "Dexter") takes the helm. The soundtrack will apparently be made up of Dusty Springfield songs, which sounds about perfect. While the film will air on the BBC in the U.K, The Works are selling it for theatrical distribution abroad, so hopefully it'll see a big-screen release in the States. Definitely one to keep an eye on, anyway. [Screen Daily]
"I went away to see an old friend of mine/his sister came over/she was out of her mind" -- Sonic Youth, "Schizophrenia"
Coming in at a crisp ninety-three minutes with not a single wasted shot or extraneous moment, Fabrice Gobert's directorial debut "Lights Out" was a refreshing palate-cleanser late in the Cannes schedule, providing relief to the seemingly endless stream of Very Important Movies. With a score composed by Sonic Youth and a mystery that doubles as an insight to the tenuous and intangible qualities of those late sex-obsessed teenage years, "Lights Out" is a clever drama masquerading as a murder mystery.
Set in the early 1990s, though thankfully not thuddingly referred to (giveaways are a t-shirt worn by one of the characters for Sonic Youth's 1992 album "Goo," and another lead character using a Walkman), the film's structure is certainly nothing new. As it opens, two kids leaving a party decide to cut through the nearby woods when they stumble upon a dead body. Cue opening credits. Afterwards, we follow the events leading up to the body in the woods with a chapter devoted to four main characters: Jeremy, Alice, Rabier and finally Simon (the victim and titular character in the original French title for the film "Simon Werner a disparu"). What emerges over the course of each of these entries is a portrait of a high school's inner workings, social structure and the mysterious actions between students and staff.
What Gobert does so well in this picture is capture the oddities of high school life and the personas that circle it that so often randomly shape the perception any one student receives. When the film opens, Gobert plays things out almost like an Agatha Christie novel. It isn't long before everybody is a suspect, each with their own curious reasons that may have wanted Simon dead. But as the film goes on, and Gobert peels back the onion layers of his film, the mysterious meetings, enigmatic glances and out of context moments (there are several key scenes which play a different perspective in each chapter) are logically, realistically explained. In doing so, Gobert's depiction of high school is probably one of the most accurate put to screen: egos bruise easily, sexual desire runs unrestrained and any deviation from the norm is viewed with both suspicion and derision from the gatekeepers of the acceptable and status quo.
Sony Pictures Classics Picks Up Susanne Bier's New Danish-Language Movie 'In A Better World' (Formerly Known As 'Hævnen (The Revenge)'
Here's a slight brain tickler. Wasn't Susanne Bier's next picture supposed to be "Hævnen (The Revenge)" rumored to play at Cannes and now the Venice Film Festival?
The Danish director behind "Things We Lost In The Fire" (an underrated drama starring Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry, featuring her best work since "Monster's Ball"), "After The Wedding" (with Mads Mikkelsen) and "Brødre" (which Jim Sheridan Americanized last year with Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal),
Titled "In a Better World,"
The synopsis is thus:
IN A BETTER WORLD revolves around the lives of two Danish families who cross each other, and an extraordinary, but risky friendship comes into bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait. Soon, friendship transforms into a dangerous alliance and a breathtaking pursuit in which life is at stake.The script is by Anders Thomas Jensen who wrote most of Bier's films, including "Brothers" and her 2002 dogme film, "Open Hearts," which -- no joke -- Zach Braff has been trying to adapt for American audiences.
While it may appear that Bier has left Hollywood after one attempt (obviously having shot two Danish-language films in a row), that's actually not the case. Last year she signed on to helm a romantic comedy called "Which Brings Me To You." Sounds like she's vacillating between two worlds as she's also set to direct a four part mini-series biopic about the life of legendary film director Ingmar Bergman. When we get more casting info on "In A Better World," we'll let you know.