Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hilary Swank To Fly High in Pre-Strike Earhart Project

By Katey Rich

I'm not sure how the news of this one has passed me by in the last few days, but Hilary Swank is set to star as Amelia Earhart in a biopic about the aviator. Not only that, but Obsessed With FIlm reports that Philip Noyce has signed on to direct the script by Ron Bass (yes, it has a finished script, which means it will be a pre-strike shoot.)

Here's the crazy part. When Josh at Cinema Blend ran these two photos next to each other, I honestly thought it could be Hilary's face photoshopped onto Earhart. Am I delusional? Is this an eerie similarity?


Hilary Swank seems to have cornered the market on the tough girl roles-- Charlize Theron is probably her closest competition. The project makes perfect sense for her, and it's really only surprising that no one has done an Earhart biopic earlier. OK, OK, there was a TV movie in 1976, and another one in 1994 starring Diane Keaton, but this would clearly have a higher profile than anything that's come before. It's exciting to see the biopic trend extend to women finally, especially since, even when there are remarkable women in history to make movies about, no one bothers. No word on whether Warner Bros. is making this, but hopefully the Earhart project will be successful enough to make Jeff Robinov truly eat his words (again).

Fred Claus Dashes My High Hopes

By Katey Rich

Call me foolish and naive ("You're foolish and naive!" I imagine the entire Internet shouting back at me), but this trailer for Fred Claus actually  made me excited to see the movie itself:

Something about the way Paul Giamatti and Vince Vaughn interacted with each other made me believe they would pull out some dry comedic timing and turn Fred Claus into more than, well, exactly what you expect from a story about Santa's black sheep brother coming to visit during the holidays.

Well, call me foolish and naive: it is, in fact, exactly what you expect. No more, no less. Vince Vaughn comes to the North Pole, shakes things up a bit, dances with the elves, and eventually has to put on the big red suit himself. Vaughn's trademark sarcasm cuts the saccharine a little bit, but not enough to make this at all appealing to his usual target audience.

Vaughn is such a weird fit for a holiday movie too. The immediate comparison is to Will Ferrell in Elf, but Ferrell's lovable idiot routine fit perfectly into that story about a human elf come to live with his family in Manhattan. Vaughn, on the other hand, seems exactly the opposite of what you're looking for in a family comedy: he's quick-talking, brash, young and single, with no kids to look out for or provide an example for. He's perfect, yes, as a slacker relative, and is really good at the "Why are you all getting on my case?" defense. As the lead in a holiday comedy about the importance of family and--even more crucially--presents? That's about as realistic as Billy Bob Thornton as Santa, but at least with that one they had the sense to make it an adults-only film.

I love Christmas movies-- love them-- and admit that when I walked out into Times Square I wished it were a little chillier and jingle bellier out there. There aren't too many other Christmas-specific movies planned for this season, at least in wide release, but I still wouldn't count on Fred Claus being the big holiday hit. After all, when you've got A Christmas Story re-runs on TBS, what else do you really need?

New Wanted Trailer Looks Great, But Is The Movie Any Good?

By Katey Rich


The latest trailer to hit the internet is Wanted, the comic book adaptation itching to take 300's release spot next spring, also known as "We'll open in the spring when there's nothing else to see and rule the box office for a month!" The trailer will officially debut before American Gangster this weekend. (There's a clearer version of the trailer at Yahoo! Movies)

As a fan of comic book movies who has never cared a lick about comic books myself, I feel a little different from some other bloggers out there, who have been following the film's every move. Apparently the movie is taking a different direction from the books, though both hinge on a young man (James McAvoy) who discovers his father was part of a secret cabal of supervillains, and is inducted into the society by two complete badasses (Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman). Well, that's what you can tell from the trailer at least. In typical action form the trailer is heavy on action and low on dialogue-- I had to go to the film's Wikipedia page to find out if Scottish McAvoy would even be using an American accent (he is).

Opening on March 28, Wanted seems poised to take advantage of the pre-summer lull in box office and capture all the action fans before Iron Man and Speed Racer open at the beginning of May (remember how Disturbia was the #1 film for three weeks until Spider-Man 3 kicked it out?) Interestingly The Matrix--a close comparison to the film, given the story about a cubicle drone given the keys to freedom in the form of an enormous gun--opened on nearly the exact same date, March 31, back in 1999, and we all know what happened next.

Wantedmoviestills02 Only problem is: what if this film is bad? Initial signs point to no: the director is Timur Bekmambetov, whose Russian-language Day Watch and Night Watch were commercial hits abroad: "Both films are fantastic in all ways," wrote our own Rex Roberts when reviewing Day Watch. The cast is full of big names who are also real actors-- you may not know McAvoy's name now, but if Atonement hits big the way it's expected to in December, you'll probably hear plenty about him come Oscar time. And the visuals in the film are impressive, particularly that one shot of the guy crashing through a glass plate in slow motion (yeah, the one at left).

Still, I can't shake the feeling that this is going to be awful.  Maybe it's the cartoonish-ness of the trailer--what on earth is Angelina Jolie wearing on her eyes?-- or the way it seems to be cribbing from The Matrix, regardless of how different the comic book may have been different. Maybe I just can't handle the image of James McAvoy wielding two giant guns-- I loved him in Starter For 10 and secretly plan to marry him. Also, I'm totally, totally sick of Angelina Jolie as an action star. She's done great work since abandoning the whole Tomb Raider/Gone in 60 Seconds thing, and it seems like a step backward for her to be playing some futuristic femme fatale. As for Morgan Freeman, his presence in any given film seems to be shorthand for "gravitas," and they don't seem to be doing anything new with him this time either.

I guess I'm daring Wanted to prove me wrong. At the moment all I'm looking forward to next spring is Tina Fey's comedy Baby Mama (April 18!), but seriously good advance reviews for Wanted could make me change my mind.

Ratatouille Fuels Pet Rat Craze

By Katey Rich

Remy the rat from the hit Ratatouille

Confession time: in my senior year of college I shared my house with five rats-- voluntarily. No, I'm not being mean to my housemates. Two of my real, human housemates kept pet rats, and though I initially squirmed at the idea of sharing a living space with those long-tailed, beady-eyed creatures, I kind of grew to love them. They're genuinely affectionate. They're smart--and rarely try to escape, thank God. Best of all, they only live about two years, perfect for a college student likely to move on to an apartment that will come with plenty of rats of its own-- the less-friendly kind.

When Ratatouille came out this summer I called each of my former housemates in excitement for them-- one is currently a culinary student, so it was particularly apt. Now it seems they were both prophetic, as pet rat sales have skyrocketed both in the U.S. and Europe thanks to Remy's success on the big screen. In the U.K., where Ratatouille opened Oct. 12, rat sales have jumped 50%; with the film sitting atop the box office for the last two weekends, that trend will likely only continue. In a press release at, the retailer noted that "Dumbo" rats have been most popular, given that their large ears closely resemble Remy's.

Not everything is looking up for the rats of the U.K. though. The British political blog Aftermath News noted that "The British countryside has been hit by an 'explosion' of rats after this summer's flooding, with a series of mild winters helping extend their breeding cycle." Anyone imagining the escape-by-river scene at the beginning of Ratatouille is probably cringing right now rather than wishing for a Remy of their very own.

Unlike the vogue for dalmatians that followed the 101 Dalmatians film in the 90s, the pet rat craze will probably not result in millions of children being saddled with pets they cannot handle and who don't particularly like them (dalmatians are notoriously difficult around children). Millions of kids get pet hamsters and gerbils, and rats are actually clean little devils who won't try to bite your hand off at any given chance. Plus, it genuinely warms my heart that Ratatouille has caught on so much overseas-- with the rest of us suffering through Saw, at least overseas they're still enjoying the best our summer had to offer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Writer's Strike Unleashes Chaos On Hollywood

By Katey Rich

Today, for perhaps the first time in my life, I'm sorry I'm not in L.A. Reports from Hollywood say it's madness there, with bike messengers toppling under piles of scripts to be delivered to studios, writers showing up with their entire bodies covered in Post-It notes in order to get all their ideas out at once, and Paul Haggis apparently having saved the cheerleader, saved the world by turning in his script for the next Bond movie.

Well, that's how I picture it at least. The above-linked Hollywood Reporter article lays out that kind of scenario, with teamwork between studio heads and writers trying to get their content--and paychecks--taken care of before the deep freeze settles in. But looking at the content they're so frantically rushing to finish in at least once case-- The Fast and the Furious 4? Seriously?--you have to wonder why they bother. OK, OK, millions of dollars in lost revenue would probably motivate me too.

Some of the tactics laid out in the Reporter article seem insane-- three different writers are currently pumping away at the G.I. Joe script, and Paramount may combine the best parts of all three to make the shooting script. At New Line, they're counting on Vince Vaughn to help polish up his starrer Four Christmases, since he's not a guild member and can write as much as he pleases. When you find yourself shouting "Help me Vince Vaughn, you're my only hope!" it's most definitely time for a reality check.

All this rushing around makes me wonder how the finished product can possibly be good. Akiva Goldsman, as talented a screenwriter as he is, is flying through Angels & Demons, based on a book that didn't tend to make a whole lot of sense to begin with. You wouldn't think next December's Angels could be any more critically panned than its predecessor, but the rush isn't exactly giving it a leg up. And though many scripts feel like they've been cobbled together by three different screenwriters, if G.I. Joe actually is, is there any way it won't be muddled and confusing? Of course, the other option is no screenplays at all, which could leave us this time next year stuck watching Harold and Kumar 2 in 4,000 theatres nationwide, with no competition. Still, the idea that 2008 will be filled with a bunch of rushed screenplays and/or hack jobs doesn't exactly make me eager for another year at the movies. And hey, look at the teaser poster below and tell me you wouldn't look forward to seeing that next September.


New Roles for Actresses are Deja Vu All Over Again

By Katey Rich

Julianne_moore There's just too many original roles for older female actresses out there! Today we've got two announced projects with totally unique ideas-- one in which a middle-aged woman (probably Julianne Moore) has a nervous breakdown when her husband, shockingly, cheats on her with another woman. And in another project, a thirty-something woman falls for-- get this!-- a younger man.

Sorry for such a heavy dose of sarcasm so early in the morning. The first project earning my eye-rolling is The Privates Lives of PIppa Lee, an Elevation Filmworks and Plan B Entertainment production starring Moore, Robin Wright Penn and Winona Ryder. The second is a spec script titled Upside/Down, written by Susan Brightbill and picked up by Kopelson Entertainment.

To be fair, these projects are probably not remotely on the same scale or even time frame-- Pippa Lee has already cast three big-name actresses, while Upside/Down is probably still undergoing rewrites. Still, on a slow announcements day-- only one day until the strike!-- they jump out at me in a particularly irksome clump. We've all seen Julianne Moore (or other capable actresses) have nervous breakdowns as a result of marital infidelity. And we've seen somewhat fewer, but heard plenty of talk about, May-December romances involving an older woman (Demi and Ashton being our living example of the appeal). With Oscar bloggers already seriously debating whether or not there are any real contenders for the Supporting Actress categories this year, do we need the upcoming projects to keep sticking women in the same old, same old ghetto? Jason Statham gets to reprise his role in Crank but women can't be anything but lovestruck or victims-- or lovestruck victims, for that matter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

X-Files Movie Back in Business...Again

By Katey Rich


'Twin Peaks' and 'My So-Called Life' are coming out on DVD, Jerry Seinfeld is back in the spotlight, and now there's going to be another X-Files movie-- 90s TV is back! David Duchovny has mentioned a potential X-Files movie for years, and today has confirmed the project will start on December 10 in Vancouver. Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are expected to star, and series creator Chris Carter will direct the script he wrote with Frank Spotnitz.

"I want us to go out and do what the show always did best, which is really smart, scary, ultimately ambiguous stuff," Duchovny said at Spotnitz gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly over a year ago that said he had locked the script down two years before that; "no conspiracy stuff," he promises. Bruce's Entertainment Tidbits links to a Chicago Sun-Times article from back in April in which Duchovny reveals that the story will take place five years after we last left Mulder and Scully. "It will be a stand-alone movie. You have to assume a lot of people don't know the show, so you need a plot that doesn't require that you've seen the TV series."

That's definitely a good move, given that the primary audience the studio will want to target was probably not even old enough to appreciate 'The X-Files' back in the mid-90s. I'm willing to admit that I didn't get into sci-fi on television until it was hip ('Heroes,' 'Lost'), but even I have to admit that we have 'X-Files' to thank for the glut of the spooky and the scary on TV right now. It seems like a particularly apt time for a comeback, with Duchovny back in the spotlight on 'Californication' and Anderson presumably ready to get her career jump-started again after most of her post-'Files' projects have failed to catch on.

Of course, sci-fi on TV and sci-fi at the movies are two totally different things. Name the last hits involving aliens. The Invasion? Hardly. War of the Worlds? Maybe, but it was quickly forgotten. These days it's superheroes, wizards and pirates, preferably those that come in mass-produced sequels. J.J. Abrams' Star Trek may come in the meantime to change the game, but for now, the distributor of The X-Files (most likely Fox) should hop on the TV geek bandwagon, lest the project get relegated to sci-fi specialty hell (remember The Last Mimzy? That's what I thought).

Hines Debuts as Helmer with Shelly Screenplay

By Katey Rich

Hines Though I appreciate the breakneck lunacy and perfectly timed comedic reveals of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I've always been irked by Cheryl Hines' character. Unlike Susie Essman's long-suffering wife on the show, who gets to scream her head off whenever Larry does something idiotic, Cheryl has scolded mildly and sucked it up with every ridiculous and insulting thing Larry has done-- at least until she up and left him a few episodes ago.

Maybe inspired by her character's sudden act of defiance, Hines will be directing a film about another woman who makes sure her husband gets his comeuppance. Serious Moonlight is about a woman who, when told by her husband that he is leaving, duct tapes him to the toilet seat to keep him at home. This gets even more complicated when robbers break into the home. Variety describes it as a dark comedy, and getting duct taped to a toilet is definitely something you could see happen to Larry David-- even if it wouldn't be Cheryl who did it.

Perhaps the best part about Serious Moonlight is that Adrienne Shelly wrote the screenplay before her murder a year ago. Hines starred with Shelley in this year's Waitress, which Shelly also wrote and directed; "I had such respect for Adrienne and the work she did. And I love her writing so much. That tone is really in my wheelhouse," Hines told Variety.

Cheryl Hines' input aside, it's wonderful to see Adrienne Shelly's voice continue to live on. If Serious Moonlight sees nearly the same success as Waitress, Shelly will surely be remembered as not just the quirky girl from the Hal Hartley movies, but a confident filmmaker with her own clear vision. And hey, in a world in which Cheryl finally leaves Larry, just about anything can happen.

Weekend Roundup: One Saw to Rule Them All

By Katey Rich


Ugh. I warned everyone, and I warned myself, on Friday, that we would  be seeing Saw atop the weekend's box office, and there was nothing we could do about it, and we ought to just get over it. And even though Saw opened on about 1,000 more screens than the next-widest release, Dan in Real Life, and even though it's got undeniable sequel power, and even though it's kind of Halloween-themed, I still can't get the bad taste out my mouth. Another Saw hit? Seriously?

My favorite part of the Box Office Mojo recap explains the limited appeal of the film: "Distributor Lionsgate's exit polling suggested that 90 percent of the audience had seen the previous three movies. The picture's main selling point was solely that it was the latest Saw. Other than the promise of more grisly puzzles, no new hook was presented in the marketing campaign and the slogan simply read "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw." Like sheep heading to the slaughter...

Dan6There was at least a little bit of good news underneath the Saw success, with the modest grown-up comedy Dan in Real Life earning $12 million on 1,900 screens, good enough for second place. And despite some weird grumbling (third item down) that George Clooney isn't a box office draw anymore, Michael Clayton is holding strong at #6 in its fourth week. Critically-praised Gone Baby Gone dropped only one place in its second week, to 7th, and even the quieter We Own The Night has managed to hang on in the top 10, coming in at #9. And my favorite success story of the fall, the 3D re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas, rounded things out at #10, continuing to net an impressive per-theatre average ($5,900 this week). I re-watched this movie for the first time in years over the weekend, and totally get the appeal of seeing it in 3D; my roommate still has her 3D glasses from catching it last year, so now it's time for me to round up a posse of my own to see it while the Halloween-y feelings last.

Also in the top 10 were the unbeatable The Game Plan, which is making a killing by being the only family-targeted film out there right now; it stayed strong at #3. Why Did I Get Married? is sticking around at #4, though it dropped nearly 50% from last weekend, and for some reason people are still paying good money to see The Comebacks, which came in at #8.

The full Box Office Mojo results are after the jump. It's also worth noting that Things We Lost in the Fire continues to self-destruct, with a $626 per-theatre average that sank it to #20.The Darjeeling Limited also earned little attention in its wider expansion, actually dropping from #13 to #16 despite adding 500 screens. And critical punching bag Rendition is hanging on at #11, but given that it comes in below Nightmare Before Christmas and is playing on four times as many screens, that's not much to be proud of.


NSaw IVLGF$32,110,000-3,183-$10,087$32,110,000-1
2NDan in Real LifeBV$12,081,000-1,921+1,525$6,288$12,081,000-1
3130 Days of NightSony$6,700,000-58.0%2,859+4$2,343$27,318,000$302
43The Game PlanBV$6,257,000-23.5%3,342+41$1,872$77,067,000-5
52Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get MarriedLGF$5,740,000-52.9%1,897-137$3,025$47,300,000-3
64Michael ClaytonWB$5,030,000-24.7%2,585-$1,945$28,774,000-4
76Gone Baby GoneMira.$3,900,000-29.1%1,713-$2,276$11,310,000-2
85The ComebacksFoxA$3,450,000-37.9%2,812-$1,226$10,004,000-2
97We Own the NightSony$3,400,000-37.3%2,402+40$1,415$25,070,000$213
108Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D (2007 re-issue)BV$3,347,000-37.2%564-$5,934$10,002,000-2
1210The Heartbreak KidP/DW$1,764,000-53.8%2,003-779$880$35,134,000-4
1316The Darjeeling LimitedFoxS$1,735,000+34.2%698+497$2,485$6,100,000-5
1412Across the UniverseSonR$1,700,000-35.9%964+4$1,763$19,309,000-7
1511Elizabeth: The Golden AgeUni.$1,611,000-48.9%1,603-403$1,004$14,019,000-3
1614Into the WildParV$1,599,000-25.2%658-$2,430$8,967,000-6
1813The KingdomUni.$1,211,000-48.0%1,053-677$1,150$45,930,000$705
1936Lars and the Real GirlMGM$952,000+404.8%296+275$3,216$1,356,000$123
2015Things We Lost in the FireP/DW$715,000-54.2%1,142-$626$2,832,000-2

Friday, October 26, 2007

Release Changes: Paul Rudd, Michelle Pfeiffer Head to Limbo

By Katey Rich

Every Friday, in addition to wading through all the reviews for new releases, I look over the list of changes in release dates for upcoming projects. A lot of it involves adding tiny little movies to our Bluesheets listing, and then trying to come up with a funny blurb to describe them. Sometimes, though, I get to second-guess the studios' motivation in pushing a certain film back, or removing another from their roster altogether. It's a remarkably good and candid look into a film's quality and the studio's hopes for it.

Icouldneverbeyourwoman The most notable change for me this week is the disappearance of I Could Never Be Your Woman from Freestyle Releasing's slate. The film has been kicked around forever, a classic example of a "trouble" project that no one wants to deal with releasing, and was slated for release on November 9 before being yanked. It's already debuted in several other countries, and got middling reviews in Spain (at least, what I can tell from the Google-translated, which is not that much). The trailer available on YouTube paints it as a fairly typical romantic comedy, with Michelle Pfeiffer as an older woman coping with dating a younger man (Paul Rudd), but entirely leaves out Tracey Ullman, who plays Mother Nature meddling in their lives. Maybe that indicates that Ullman's the marketing issue here? It's probably smart not to release a mediocre romantic comedy at the height of awards season (it would have been up against Lions for Lambs, No Country for Old Men, and oh yeah, Fred Claus), but who knows if this one's dropped off the planet for good. Pfeiffer is hot right now, Paul Rudd always is, and Saiorsie Ronan, who stars in December's Atonement, is on the rise. Can it really be so bad that star power won't at least draw some eyeballs?

Parishiltonpicture1Two new projects set for early spring release also made their way onto the calendar. First up is the pre-Valentine's Day release The Hottie and the Nottie, which is off to a bad start based on the title alone. Add in Paris Hilton as the star and, well, you don't really need to know anything about this one, do you? (In case you're still curious, Paris plays the "Hottie.") And Tyler Perry will be back on the big screen before we know it, directing and starring in another adaptation of one of his plays, opening March 21. This one is Meet the Browns, starring Angela Bassett as a citi-fied woman who travels to the South for a funeral with her father's side of the family. Perry, unlike his last two films, will be appearing in drag as Madea, the sassy matriarch of the family. After Why Did I Get Married? opened at #1 a few weekends ago, people seemed to be paying more attention than ever to Perry; my guess, though, is that Madea's appeal will probably stick within her defined demographic.

And finally, Juno is opening a week earlier than planned, on Wednesday, December 4, exclusively in New York and L.A. It looks like they'll be trying an even longer platform release strategy with this one, giving it more time to catch on before Christmas and duke it out with the huge number of big releases coming out that month. Not that Juno is any competition to The Golden Compass, or the other way around, but the battle for butts and seats will be pretty fierce once the Christmas decorations are up.

Carnahan Asks Readers to Weigh In on Scripts

By Katey Rich

Carnahan When Joe Carnahan walked away from his duties directing Mission: Impossible: III back in 2004, it was a pretty clear sign he wasn't beholden to the normal rules of Hollywood. Yesterday, though, he made what might be an even bigger faux pas: posting the scripts to his two upcoming projects on his website.

After George Clooney dropped out of Carnahan's upcoming White Jazz over the weekend, Carnahan was left deciding whether to begin production on that film or Killing Pablo, about the assassination of Colombian gangster Javier Bardem. To help him make his decision, he posted the scripts for both films on his website and invited his readers to weigh in. Carnahan apparently has some pretty opinionated readers coming to his site, as indicated by this vitriolic post aimed at one commenter. There's no telling what Carnahan's fans thought, though, since some clear-eyed publicist or studio rep forced Carnahan to yank the scripts from his site.

Slashfilm thought ahead, though, and has active links to both screenplays. Carnahan posted later that "I still might be able to put them back up in the next few days," but also noted that his poor publicist has been going through hell thanks to his "liberal blogging habits," so  "I've been asked to curtail it in the interest of both projects and not release any information that might do damage down the line."

For a director plagued by cast dropouts-- Reese Witherspoon bailed on Bunny Lake is Missing earlier this year-- and development issues, Carnahan is awfully outspoken. I don't have it in me to read either screenplay at the moment, but something about his candor makes me hope they're good. Carnahan wrote on Thursday from his White Jazz office, just days before Clooney's departure, "Maybe it lasts a year, five, ten, impossible to tell but I defintely [sic] feel as though I'm about to hit a stride." I, at least, will be keeping my fingers crossed on his behalf.

Box Office Outlook: Hopkins vs. Hoffman vs. Carell vs. A Man with a Saw

By Katey Rich

In sharp contrast to last weekend's demolition derby among prestige films, this weekend features a shockingly small number of wide releases and a handful of other quiet openers. Though Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, Anthony Hopkins, Ron Livingston and even Jimmy Carter are going head-to-head, none of their films open on more than 20 screens. They're probably all cowering in fear of one man (and no, it's not Steve Carell): Jigsaw, the horror meister from Saw IV.

Sawiv SAW IV. It's not being screened for critics, and really I'd rather pretend it didn't exist at all, but Saw IV is almost guaranteed to conquer the box office this weekend (those people who came out for 30 Days of Night will almost surely be back for more), so we have to at least acknowledge it. Just for comparison's sake, though, here are the Rotten Tomatoes sites for Saw, Saw II, and Saw III. A downward trend when you started at 46%? Not great news, guys. I'd rather put myself in one of those torture instruments in the film than see these movies, but alas, I'm out of touch with the general public once again. I'll put up some critical reviews on Monday, along with some begrudging acknowledgement of the scads of money it made.


DAN IN REAL LIFE. Peter Hedges wowed everyone when he made his directorial debut with 2003's Pieces of April, but given that he wrote the novel and screenplay for the sublime What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and successfully adapted Nick Hornby's About a Boy, it really shouldn't have been a surprise. Now he's back with what looks like a classic screwball comedy: Dan (Steve Carell) meets the perfect woman (Juliette Binoche) only to discover she's engaged to his brother (Dane Cook). Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney play the brothers' parents, Emily Blunt appears as a sexy neighbor, and Broadway actress Allison Pill plays Dan's teenage daughter.

Maybe the presence of Dane Cook threw me off, but I stil wasn't expecting this one to get the critical applause it did. "And at the center of it all is a vulnerable and understated performance by Carell," writes our own Kevin Lally, " which confirms that the former "Daily Show" madcap and current "Office" fool is also quite an accomplished movie actor." "Carell shows a whole new side to his talents," agrees Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. Kirk Honeycutt at The Hollywood Reporter bemoans the "labored and unconvincing" ending, but concedes, "No matter. Getting there was all the fun." Still there are some grouches out there: "We root for Carell even as he drifts through the movie in a minor key," writes the Philadephia Weekly. Reel Views cries "It's cloying, artificial, and not the least bit romantic," and actually says it's worse than The Family Stone (say it ain't so!)


BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. As unwieldy as it is, what a great title. This is Sidney Lumet's 45th (!) film, a dark crime thriller about two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) who scheme the "perfect crime"-- knocking over their parents' (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) jewelry store. The brothers get the goods, and get to pull off an inside job, and the parents get the insurance money. If we've learned anything from Hollywood, though, it's that crime doesn't pay, and everything goes inevitably, horribly wrong. Marisa Tomei also stars. The title gets its name from an Irish toast: "May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil know you're dead."

The film has been earning raves since its debut at the New York Film Festival, with critics crediting it for erasing the memory of Lumet's cinematic sins of the last few decades: "His touch in Before the Devil is so sure, so perfectly weighted, that it's hard to imagine him capable of making a bad movies," writes David Edelstein. Our Rex Roberts notes the film's "unrelenting perversity" but praises Hawke and Hoffman's "mesmerizing" performances that "reinforce the filmmaker's reputation as an actors' director." The New Yorker's David Denby chimes in on the acting as well: "While shooting his movies, Lumet grabs his actors and shakes them into giving more and more [...] In this case, his bullying panache feels right." J. Hoberman at The Village Voice sums it up neatly: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is less Sidney Lumet's comeback than his resurrection."

Manfromplainsposter_2 JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS. I love this title too, if only because of the defiant way it includes "Man from Plains" as part of Carter's title, the way political strategists will doggedly try to attach positive phrases to their candidates' names. Jonathan Demme followed Carter on the tour for his controversial book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which found the 39th President in headlines more than he had been in the previous decade. The film becomes as much about Carter as the controversy he created, featuring supporters from both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate as Carter encounters them on his travels.

Most critics seem glad to see Carter back in the spotlight. "To many, the Cassandra-like Carter makes more sense in hindsight than when he lived in the White House," wrote Variety , calling the film a "peerless portrait." Ed Gonzalez at Slant agrees, callling it "a poignant portrait of a great man" and crediting Demme for "chart[ing] the poetry of Carter's soul." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice is a little bored, though: "It's a measure of Demme's quiet desperation that he would cite, as one of the movie's "excitements," the opportunity to see NPR radio interviewer Terry Gross in the flesh." (Hey, you leave Terry Gross alone!)

Slipstreammovieposter SLIPSTREAM. Anthony Hopkins readily admits he's willing to "annoy people a little bit" with Slipstream, a film which he wrote, directed, stars in and even scored. The bare-bones plot description is that screenwriter Felix Bonhoeffer is losing his mind, and the characters from his screenplay find their way into his life, turning everything upside down in a highly non-linear, illogical manner. Christian Slater, Jeffrey Tambor, Camryn Manheim and John Turturro all appear, along with Hopkins's wife Stella Arroyave.

"Annoy" was probably a good choice of words on Hopkins' part, since a good number of critics have simply thrown their hands up in frustration at this one. Aaron Hills at the Village Voice wrote what might be my favorite complaint: "Sir Anthony Hopkins has raised the bar to batshit insanity with this maddening passion project." "Slipstream fails miserably as a film about moviemaking, writing, REM sleep and historical atrocities," writes Time Out New York, while the Hollywood Reporter considers itself in on the "joke" Hopkins has called the film: "The ending is a letdown only if you've taken any of the film seriously." Susan Granger went along with the joke too, giving it "A stream-of-consciousness, playfully surreal, satirical 7." Film Threat, too, found method in the, well, you know: "It is a carefully orchestrated madness that has its own logic."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ron Howard Doubles Up Before Strike Begins

By Katey Rich

Howard I've avoided reporting too much on the looming writers' strike in Hollywood, both because I don't quite understand all the details yet, and the segment of the industry I work in (exhibition) presumably won't be too affected by it--unless the strike continues for months. Regardless, Variety's top online story highlights one of the most interesting things about the strike--the way writers, directors and producers are scrambling to get scripts finished and projects set in motion before the walkout begins.

Ron Howard could practically be a poster child for all this rushing around. Having finished Frost/Nixon--an adaptation of the hit Broadway play by Peter Morgan-- just last week, Howard is immediately turning around to finish the Angels & Demons script with his frequent collaborators, producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. Angels & Demons, of course, is the prequel to the mammothly successful (but critically reviled) movie The Da Vinci Code, based on some book you've probably never heard of. The gang's all here for the sequel, with the above-mentioned creators and Tom Hanks all reprising their roles (no word on whether Hanks' hair, which was more heavily criticized than the film itself, will be returning in the same form as well).

Ron Howard is really gravitating toward his two poles with these projects, taking on the heavy prestige picture Frost/Nixon and the action-heavy Angels & Demons almost simultaneously. Both are set for release late next year, and while I'm not sure the Eddie Murphy curse exists for directors, you have to wonder if this timing might be unfortunate for Howard when it comes time for critical consideration of Frost/Nixon. Also, talk about spreading yourself too think. Now I'm worried we're going to see Richard Nixon considering the symbolism of statues at the Vatican, or Hanks' cryptographer Robert Langdon asking probing questions of disgraced political officials. If G. Gordon Liddy turns up in Angels, we'll know Howard was working too fast.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Efron and Mann Team Up in '17'

By Katey Rich

EfronI don't want to be embarassed about looking forward to Zac Efron's new project, and now thanks to Leslie Mann, I might not have to. The Knocked Up star (and wife of Judd Apatow) has joined Efron in 17, a comedy about a man who suddenly finds himself as a 17-year-old who must navigate high school. Mann will play the wife of Efron's adult character, who has not been cast yet.

This seems like a total retread of Big and 13 Going on 30 (which, lets be honest, are pretty great), except that Burr Steers is directing it. Steers has spent the last few years directing episodes of premium cable shows like "Big Love" and "The L Word," but made a huge splash with his directorial debut back in 2002, Igby Goes Down. Probably one of the harshest looks at family life and adolescence ever, especially to star a Culkin, Igby is about as far from bubblegum as it gets. I can't imagine that Zac Efron will suddenly do a 360 and go all sullen and matricidic on us, but there's a very good chance that 17 will be more than just a chipper flight of fancy.

I haven't seen any of the High School Musicals, though I know the plot in and out (I used to babysit) and can recognize the entire cast (I work in the media), but Zac Efron stole my heart in Hairspray. Those blue eyes! That slicked-back hair! Those moves! I could probably listen to "Ladies Choice" every day (and maybe have already). Efron seems more or less like the real deal, and if Lindsay Lohan could pull off playing a middle-aged woman in Freaky Friday, he's more than capable of pulling off the same feat.

Two New 'I Am Legend' Trailers Surface

By Katey Rich


All the movie blogs are in a tizzy today over the new U.S. trailer for I Am Legend, which was somewhat melodramatically released at midnight last night on MySpace (I don't pay a lot of attention to these things, but does this usually happen?) I kind of underestimated both the Internet's and my own interest in this film until I spent half an hour this morning trying to figure out exactly which was the new trailer; having seen what is apparently every trailer available, I'm downright excited. I'm a bit of a sucker for futuristic films in a recognizable setting (I blame it on Back to the Future II), so the shots of Times Square overgrown with weeds or the Brooklyn Bridge in tatters are pretty thrilling (also, imagine! Times Square filled with plants instead of tourists!) The concept is foolproof and spooky: Robert Neville(Will Smith) is the only survivor of a virus that transformed the entire human race into zombie-vampire people (or something like that). During the day he has the run of the city, but at night he and his German shepherd cower in the bathtub, hiding from the mutated people. Neville is immune to the virus, and wants to use that immunity to cure the disease, but it seems that the zombie vampires have other things in mind.

I spent so long figuring out which one was the new trailer because it seems the international version and U.S. version leaked within hours of each other. Below is (I hope!) the actual U.S. version.

I like the way this one sets up the atmosphere Neville lives in long before we see the beasties who come out at night. This is something you always see in films, spending time with a character and getting into his head before the real business begins, but to see it in a trailer is remarkably effective. Also they're showing off their set-pieces--the abandoned South Street Seaport, the stunning shots of a desolate New York City--without tipping their hand. It all makes me think is how excited I am to get a proper look at these.

After the jump is the international trailer, with some discussion.

It's a little odd how we get so much more plot explanation in this one-- the fact that Neville is immune, the way he's trying to solve the epidemic--even though it's intended for an international, not entirely English-speaking audience. It's obviously a lot more action-oriented-- big-budget explosions being America's greatest export, of course-- and more ass-kicking Will Smith, who, as described in this New York Times article from earlier this year, is one of few black stars who can perform well overseas.

Really, I like the way the two trailers play together. If each of the elements laid out here-- pensive atmospherics, adrenaline-laced action-- come together in the film, you can see how it is expected to play well smack-dab in the middle of December, surrounded by big-budget kid pictures (Golden Compass, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) and the middle of the prestige film season. Looking at its release date of Dec. 14, though, it's almost comical how little is opening against it-- Alvin and the Chipmunks (God save our souls), Juno (sure to be a hit in its limited bow, but still, limited), Youth Without Youth (exclusively in New York and L.A.), The Perfect Holiday (coming out two weeks after This Christmas, and I cannot tell the different between these films whastoever). Basically, it's Will Smith's party, and he'll kill zombie vampires if he wants to.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zobel Finds Indie Movie Success

By Katey Rich


I wasn't so crazy about Craig Zobel's Great World of Sound, but I'm apparently in the minority: not only did Zobel's film earn three Gotham Award nominations, but Zobel's latest project, Turkey in the Straw, is set to begin production at Plum Pictures. Barlow Jacobs and Zobel co-wrote the script, a dark comedy about a political race in a small Southern town.

Great World of Sound earned Gotham Award nominations for best feature, breakthrough director and breakthrough actor Kene Holliday, an actor who did mostly regional work before playing fast-talking music industry representative Clarence in Zobel's film. The movie really did have a lot going for it, and Holliday was by far one of the best parts, a live-wire counterpart to the film's main character, Martin (Pat Healy), who reluctantly gets into the song-sharking business and sees its downsides long before Clarence does.

As much as Great World of Sound left me unsatisfied, its sense of place and keen ear for dialogue indicated that Zobel is a real talent. A Southerner myself, I loved the film's true Charlotte-area accents and great expanses of pine-fringed highways. Zobel is sticking with what he knows for Turkey, which is good, and seems to have picked a story with a little more narrative force, which is even better. And best of all, Turkey in the Straw is shooting in my  home state of South Carolina! Given that the most recent SC-filmed projects to come out were Death Sentence and Who's Your Caddy?, we could use a little indie panache. Granted, no one will have ever heard of Craig Zobel when he gets down there, but with all that Southern friendliness, he might not even notice.


Diablo Cody, Megan Fox Team Up For Horror Comedy

By Katey Rich

Cody: stripper turned Hollywood power player

Just when it seems Hollywood doesn't create real-life fairy tales anymore-- or that they all end in rehab or flashing the paparazzi--here comes Diablo Cody to warm our hearts again. While she's not exactly Laura Ingalls-- she did, after all, make her name writing a blog about her experience as a stripper--she's the latest example of a small-town girl made good, having wowed audiences with her screenplay for the Toronto Film Festival hit Juno and subsequently signed a deal to write a TV show for Showtime and, it was announced today, a horror comedy called Jennifer's Body, starring Megan Fox (Transformers). Fox plays a perfect-seeming cheerleader who becomes possessed and starts killing the boys in her town.

Normally casting news that involved the random chick from Transformers wouldn't catch my attention, but I've kind of fallen in love with Cody in the last few days, from reading her new blog about her experiences promoting Juno and getting incredibly excited about finally seeing Juno for myself. Cody also makes a great point about Jennifer's Body, which on first read seems to be standard horror-with-a-hot-chick fare: "And now-- Hollywood's tiresome profusion of 'girlfriend roles' be damned-- she's going to literally get out there AND DESTROY SOME FUCKING BOYS."

I've developed a personal vendetta against the "girlfriend role" lately, thanks to Michelle Monaghan and Mary-Louise Parker's wasted performances in Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, respectively, and also Eva Mendes' elegant performance in We Own the Night, which proves that a girlfriend doesn't have to be a one-dimensional stand-in for a real emotional partner. Whether or not Cody will actually have any real power to change this trend--my guess is not, as much as I love her-- it's great to hear someone actually yelling about it, especially someone who's on the verge of making a serious  name for herself in Hollywood. It's outrageous that we're still struggling for real female characters onscreen, and I never would have expected Megan Fox to become one, but I'll take it in whatever form it comes.

Hopkins Shows His Claws, Goes A Little Psycho

By Katey Rich

Lon Chaney, Jr. as the original Wolf Man

In an interview last week about his independently-produced Slipstream, Anthony Hopkins brushed off a suggestion that he saw a lack of originality in Hollywood productions these days. "No, no. Some are not that good, but no. I get a bit tired of the same old formula, you know, but some wonderful actors are doing that."

Perhaps we should have seen it as a hint. MTV News confirmed yesterday that Hopkins will be joining the cast of one of the most anticipated big-budget projects in the works, a remake of the 1941 horror classic Wolf-Man. Hopkins will star as Sir John Talbot, the father of Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), a man bitten by and transformed into a werewolf.

Hopkins' role was originated by Claude Rains, with Lon Chaney, Jr. (not to be confused with his more famous father) playing Del Toro's Wolf-Man. It's tempting to decry this as another example of Hollywood relying on old ideas to make new films, but isn't it kind of refreshing to see something sci-fi that isn't a comic book adaptation? Hopkins and Del Toro obviously bring some class to the proceedings (not to say either of them hasn't been responsible for some stinkers), and if this one is a hit, might we see Tom Hanks as the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Blob? The possibilities are endless!

MTV had a big scoop day with Hopkins, it seems, since he also confirmed his participation in a project tentatively titled Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hopkins will, of course, play the titular director, in the film which documents Hitch's process of making Psycho. There's not too many details yet for the Ryan Murphy (Running With Scissors) project, but Hopkins did a great Hitchcock impression that seems promising for the movie to come.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Coens Question Cormac

By Katey Rich


Photo by Eric Ogden for Time.

Time magazine features one of the weirder bits of press that's come out regarding No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers thriller based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name. The film comes out November 9 but already won raves at the New York Film Festival, including from yours truly. Notoriously press-shy McCarthy had yet to weigh in on any of this until Time's Lev Grossman found a very unusual offer: he was allowed to sit in a room with the Coens and McCarthy, write down their conversation, but not participate in it. "If it were a reality show it would be called Eccentric Genius Island," Grossman wrote.

What follows is less of an interview of McCarthy than McCarthy interviewing the Coens themselves, asking about projects they've worked on that never made it and how the hell they filmed the scene in No Country in which Josh Brolin is chased down a river by a fearsome dog. It also features one of my favorite exchanges I've seen in regards to the Coens' work, in discussion of the category of great American movies:

C.M. But Miller's Crossing is in that category. I don't want to embarrass you, but that's just a very, very fine movie.

J.C. Eh, it's just a damn rip-off.

C.M. No, I didn't say it wasn't a rip-off. I understand it's a rip-off. I'm just saying it's good. [Everybody laughs.]

It's a short, excellent interview. Who knew the Coens are great at my job as well as their own?

Wahlberg Replaces Gosling in 'Lovely Bones'

By Katey Rich

Wahlberg_2 Gosling_2

Peter Jackson isn't exactly a director with a reputation for not being able to make up his mind�he spent years and years on one project, after all�but this weekend marked the second time Jackson replaced his leading actor on the eve of shooting. Ryan Gosling bowed out of Jackson's upcoming The Lovely Bones on Friday, after gaining 20 pounds and growing a beard for the role (as reported by Variety). The always-reliable Mark Wahlberg has stepped in instead, and will star opposite Rachel Weisz as a father grieving his murdered young daughter.

Jackson pulled the old switcheroo back at the beginning of shooting for the mammoth Lord of the Rings trilogy, replacing Stuart Townsend with Viggo Mortensen in the key role of Aragorn just before shooting began. Now, of course, it's impossible to imagine anyone but Mortensen playing the role. When it comes to The Lovely Bones, Jackson has once again replaced a younger actor with someone older--Mortenson is 20 years old than Townsend, Wahlberg 9 years older than Gosling. Given that Wahlberg and Weisz are the same age--36--their pairing makes more sense, especially since Gosling, at 27, isn't old enough to be a parent of a teenager anyway.

Still, odds are there's more than just age-tinkering going on here. Gosling quit due to "creative differences," which could mean anything, but must be serious given the commitment he'd made to the film thus far (and the high profile of the film, particularly for an actor whose star is still on the rise). Though Gosling has gotten plenty of critical attention lately, for turns in last year's Half Nelson and this fall's most bizarre romantic comedy, Lars and the Real Girl, he doesn't have nearly the same recognition as Wahlberg, who has performed well in the past as part of a well-known ensemble (Boogie Nights, The Departed). Still, Jackson doesn't need a big-name actor in the part; based on a best-selling novel and directed by one of the biggest names out there, The Lovely Bones will have all the attention it can handle when it is released next year.

Bottom line: something big has happened to result in this switch. Gosling's career probably isn't doomed, but it's hard to see how being in this film would have hurt him professionally. We probably won't hear tales of catfights and brawls on set--thank God--but it seems like a safe bet that there was bad blood somewhere. Wahlberg seems fully capable of taking on the role, but it's hard not to wonder what Gosling could have done with it.

UPDATE: Kim Masters over at Slate says that "a strong source" confirms a blowup between Gosling and Jackson. Maybe those grisly details will be coming forward after all!

Weekend Roundup: Vampires Rule

By Katey Rich


Nothing too surprising about this weekend's box office. As predicted, Josh Hartnett somehow became the #1 movie star in America, with 30 Days of Night earning $16 million to come in at number one. Tyler Perry continues his reign with Why Did I Get Married? slipping to #2, and The Rock remains inexplicably durable with The Game Plan, which slipped one notch to #3 with a gross of $8 million. Let's not even get into how unscreened-for-critics sports parody The Comebacks debuted at #6 and made nearly $6 million. It's just too dismal to think about.

Happily, two movies for grown-ups are hanging on, at least, with Michael Clayton sticking around at #4 for its third weekend, with only a 31% drop. Gone Baby Gone was the only one of the four "serious movies" (we'll get to the rest in a second) that made a name for itself, debuting at #5 with a $6 million gross.

Short round-up of those "others" I mentioned: Rendition tanked at #9 with $4,175,00 (on over 2,000 screens!), Things We Lost in the Fire tanked even harder at #15, bringing in just over $1.5 million, and Reservation Road, with a limited opening on 13 screens, managed a $2,830 per-screen average but didn't make much of a splash.

Rounding out the top 10 were last week's We Own the Night at #7 (another example of grown-up fare hanging on by a thread), The Heartbreak Kid at #10 with $3.9 million, and the first weekend of The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D, which is one of the more remarkable stories that no one seems to be talking about. A modest hit when it opened in 1993, the film has become a rerun classic (it seems to be on cable every Thanksgiving for some reason) and has been a huge success with its annual re-release in theatres. The film pulled off a phenomenal $9,122 per-theater average over the weekend, on 564 screens; I remember my parents telling me about the days before VHS, when you would wait every year for your favorites to come on television or back into theatres. It looks like 3D and the venerable power of a classic have somehow brought that tradition back to theatres. People still ringing the death knell for the theatrical experience (OK, maybe we have to go back to 2005 to find those people) should keep an eye on, of all people, Tim Burton.

Next weekend: Oh goodness, there's another Saw coming out. Enjoy these next few days, since soon we'll all be bemoaning the degradation of our culture once again. Full box-office numbers, thanks to, are available after the jump.

Rank                Title                      Studio      Weekend Gross          Drop        # of screens             Per-theater    Total gross        Week # 


N30 Days of NightSony$16,000,000-2,855-$5,604$16,000,0001
21Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get MarriedLGF$12,100,000-43.3%2,034+23$5,948$38,865,000-2
32The Game PlanBV$8,122,000-26.4%3,301+173$2,460$69,150,000-4
44Michael ClaytonWB$7,100,000-31.6%2,585+74$2,746$21,986,000-3
5NGone Baby GoneMira.$6,000,000-1,713-$3,502$6,000,000-1
6NThe ComebacksFoxA$5,850,000-2,812-$2,080$5,850,000-1
73We Own the NightSony$5,500,000-49.2%2,362-$2,328$19,784,0002
8NTim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D (2007 re-issue)BV$5,145,000-564-$9,122$5,145,000-1
105The Heartbreak KidP/DW$3,900,000-46.4%2,782-451$1,401$32,111,000-3
116Elizabeth: The Golden AgeUni.$3,139,000-49.0%2,006+5$1,564$11,213,000-2
128Across the UniverseSonR$2,700,000-29.4%960+6$2,812$16,767,000-6
137The KingdomUni.$2,379,000-48.4%1,730-1,106$1,375$43,950,0004
1416Into the WildParV$2,150,000+131.5%658+505$3,267$6,502,000-5
15NThings We Lost in the FireP/DW$1,604,000-1,142-$1,404$1,604,000-1
1615The Darjeeling LimitedFoxS$1,320,000+21.6%202+107$6,534$3,903,000-4
179Resident Evil: ExtinctionSGem$1,050,000-60.3%1,183-1,066$887$50,008,000-5
1811Good Luck ChuckLGF$670,000-67.0%852-1,099$786$34,206,000-5
1922Lust, CautionFocus$586,000-3.9%125+48$4,688$2,107,0004
2027The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordWB$560,000+29.5%301+138$1,860$2,208,0005