Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Most Anticipated Films of 2010

Around this time of year, critics and movie fans tend to make lists of their favorite films of the past year. While I am a big fan of those lists, this time around I’m going to look forward to next year’s releases, rather than look back on this year.

Most of these movies you may have heard of, some you night not have, but they all have interest to me and they're what I'm looking forward to most in 2010.

The Remake:

"The A-Team"
Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, Quinton Jackson

When it comes to remakes, sometimes the biggest question is whether the filmmakers should keep the original setting or update it for contemporary times. Director Joe Carnahan chose the latter, and thus gives the classic '80s television series an updated look. The film finds a group of Iraq War veterans who go on the run as they look to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed.

Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton Jackson and Jessica Biel star in what appears to be one of the most fun releases of 2010. The casting is near perfect, especially with Cooper and Copley. The two actors gave some of the best performances in summer ’09 (“The Hangover” and “District 9”) and hope to capitalize on that success in summer 2010. “The A-Team” arrives in theaters on June 11, 2010.

The Comedies:

"Hot Tub Time Machine"
Director: Steve Pink
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson

Just hearing the title alone makes me want to see the movie, but after finding out that the cast includes John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson, that seals it--this movie is definitely a must-see in 2010. The plot: After a crazy night of drinking in a ski resort hot tub, four best friends who've become bored with their adult lives wake up in the year 1986. This is their chance to change their futures for the better, and in one character's case to ensure his existence. While the title and concept are ridiculous, I think this has the potential to be the sleeper comedy hit of the year.

Both of the trailers have been very funny and the '80s mockery seems to work very well. A good sign is that director Steve Pink was the screenwriter for "Grosse Pointe Blank" and "High Fidelity," each of which starred Cusack. Here’s hoping that the studio will opt for an “R” rating, which could give the film free reign to be as hilarious as it should be. Look for “Hot Tub Time Machine” on March 19, 2010.

"Due Date"
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, RZA

This is one film that I absolutely cannot wait to see. “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips re-teams with breakout star Zach Galifianakis for a road trip comedy that also stars Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx. Downey plays an expectant father who finds himself on a road trip with a mismatched partner (Galifianakis) as he races to get to his wife before she gives birth to his first child.

The script was written by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland, who also made the acclaimed “Blacklist." A great sign for the film is that Phillips has said that Galifianakis' character and style of humor is completely different than his performance in “The Hangover,” which should be fun to see. I think Downey and Galifianakis will have great chemistry while Phillips tries to follow “The Hangover” with another hit. “Due Date” hits the road November 5, 2010.

The ?:

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard.

"Inception" easily is one of the most anticipated movies of 2010, but it’s also the year’s biggest question mark. From director Christopher Nolan (“The Prestige,” “The Dark Knight”), this mysterious film follows the story of a CEO-type executive (Leonardo DiCaprio) who finds himself becoming involved in a blackmailing scandal. The story is said to explore the architecture of the human mind.

Additional story details for Nolan's film--his first since "The Dark Knight"--are pretty much impossible to come by. Shot in various places around the world, it's astonishing how little has been revealed about the movie--aside from only some basic cast descriptions. The teaser trailer and trailer add to the confusion, with each showing a corporate action-drama with a sci-fi hook, all of which is book-ended by two guys in business suits fighting in a hallway while gravity shifts. A tagline that notes "Your mind is the scene of the crime" also had fans asking questions. But I think all this mystery is a great thing for the project, which also stars Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard. “Inception” will be released July 16, 2010.

The Indies:

Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Mark Duplass, Brie Larson

For serious film fans, the name Noah Baumbach is pretty much a household name. For the casual fan, not so much. I think Baumbach easily is one of the best filmmakers in the business today. His feature debut, “Kicking and Screaming,” was a truthful, witty and intelligent take on life after college. His critically acclaimed “The Squid and the Whale” was one of the best films of the past decade.

In Baumbach's newest film, Ben Stiller plays Roger Greenberg, a man at a crossroads in his life who ends up housesitting at his brother's home in Los Angeles. There, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his brother's assistant, which leads to an uncertain and wonderfully vulnerable courtship. This film probably won’t score at the box office, but based on his previous body of work, this looks to be right up Baumbach’s alley and could be a great film. “Greenberg” opens March 12, 2010.

"It's Kind of a Funny Story"
Director: Ryan Fleck
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, and Lauren Graham

After seeing “Half Nelson” in 2006, I knew that any project that filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden were involved in would be a must-see for me. Written by the duo and directed by Fleck, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is an adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s novel. It follows 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who is so stressed out from the demands of being a teenager, he checks himself into a mental health clinic where a fellow patient soon becomes both Craig’s mentor and protégé. Meanwhile, Craig is romantically drawn to another 16-year-old.

Also starring Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis and Lauren Graham, the film has serious potential as an awards contender. Boden and Fleck’s last film was “Sugar," a realistic portrayal of the struggles of a Dominican baseball player trying to make it to the big leagues. It was fantastic, and this new film also seems perfect for the duo. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” hits theaters in November 2010.

"Black Swan"
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder

When it comes to Darren Aronofsky’s films, nothing is conventional. “Requiem For A Dream” was one of the most creative and haunting films I ever have seen, and last year’s “The Wrestler” showed off Aronofsky’s restless mind and his unique talent as a director. His newest project, which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, is shrouded in mystery. The film’s storyline finds a veteran ballerina (Portman) locked in a competitive situation with a rival dancer (Kunis), with the stakes increasing as the dancers approach a big performance. What's unclear here is whether the rival is a ghost or whether the ballerina herself is delusional.

While the storyline may sound fairly ordinary, Aronofsky has shown he can take that type of material and put a new, interesting perspective on it. I’m anxious to see what he has in store, and also to see if Portman can continue her current streak of great performances, such as the terrific turn she gave in 2009’s “Brothers.” “Black Swan” opens in Fall 2010.

The Sleeper:

"Love Ranch"
Director: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Joe Pesci, Helen Mirren, and Gina Gershon

I hadn’t heard anything about this film until just recently, but what really caught my eye was that Joe Pesci was starring in it. The actor has been out of the industry for a while, and this marks his first lead role in 12 years. The film is a drama that centers on a couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada and the violence that resulted when their relationship was tested by infidelity.

Over the recent holidays, I was watching “Casino” on HBO, and Pesci is just ridiculous in that movie. Hopefully, a return to the Nevada desert will help resurrect his career. Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “Devil’s Advocate”) directs the film, which also stars his wife, Helen Mirren, as well as Gina Gershon. The film has yet to pick up a distributor, but hopefully “Love Ranch” will be out by Fall 2010.

The Contender:

"The Fighter"
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale star in this biographical drama about boxer Irish Mickey Ward and his unlikely path to become the world lightweight champion. Bale is Ward's half-brother, a talented fighter turned criminal who turns his life around by helping his underperforming brother (Wahlberg) on the road to the world championship.

This project originally was in the hands of Darren Aronofsky, who was slated to direct Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon (who was later replaced with Brad Pitt), until the writer’s strike pretty much put a hold on the project. Aronofsky turned to "The Wrestler" instead, while Pitt left the project, opening the door for Bale. In April 2009, Bale and director David O. Russell Russell ("I Heart Huckabees," "Three Kings") joined the production. Given the talent and the premise, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of next year’s biggest award contenders. With a supporting cast of Academy Award nominees Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, here is a film to keep an eye on. “The Fighter” will open sometime in Fall 2010.

"Cop Out": Movie Trailer Review

The trailer for Kevin Smith’s upcoming “Cop Out,” formerly titled “A Couple of Dicks,” stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. It finally has arrived.

In “Cop Out,” Willis and Morgan play two veteran cops who are tracking down a stolen vintage baseball card. On the chase, they rescue Gabriela (Ana de la Reguera) while dealing with gangsters and their money laundering.

The trailer shows off that the film has the makings of the usual "Buddy Cop" movie, with Willis and Morgan bickering at each other like Riggs and Murtaugh. There are a few pretty witty moments in the trailer, but nothing here is amazing. The trailer also has a lot of Seann William Scott, which to me might be a good thing for once.

This is the first feature film that Smith has directed from a script that isn't his own (it was written by the Cullen brothers), and it shows. While the trailer is funny, there is something missing from it--an edge, perhaps?--which I think has to do with the fact that Smith didn’t conceive this project on his own.

I still have high hopes for this project--pairing Smith with the super-hilarious Tracy Morgan is inspired. Anyone who watches “30 Rock” knows that Morgan can deliver laughs, and let’s not forget that Bruce Willis started his career in comedy (“Moonlighting”).

Earlier this year, Smith described why he wanted to direct the film: “The Cullen brothers are dialogue crazy--the whole movie is like cops who are practically married but not actually, and, I mean, that's right up my alley. It's like Dante and Randal as cops.”

Hearing that from Smith makes me a little more confident in the project.

“Cop Out” will be released February 26, 2010.

Eli Roth and Summit Team Up to Plan an “Invasion”

Summit Entertainment has acquired the spec script “Invasion,” which could be a possible project for director Eli Roth (“Hostel), reports ShockTillYouDrop.

According to ShockTillYouDrop: Summit Entertainment has acquired Ben Magid's script “Invasion.” Although plot details are being kept under wraps at this time, the film "opens with a wicked subway accident in Los Angeles in which the survivors (the film's protagonists) climb from the wreckage to find the now "snowy" city in ruins. What they encounter topside are bodies, mobs of people in a state of panic and acidic "goo."

“Invasion” is being described as ‘Cloverfield’-esque. Roth and Summit’s Eric Newman are producing the film according to TrackingB.com.

Roth is also rumored to be involved with a project called “Endangered Species," which also is about aliens. Magid was one of the writers who wrote a draft of Rogue's adaptation of “Hack/Slash.”

At this time, it isn’t clear if Roth will direct the film or maybe act in it after his turn in “Inglourious Basterds,” but having him involved automatically makes it buzzworthy. He is attached to a few upcoming projects including “Cotton,” and “Man With the Iron Fist."

Look for “Invasion” sometime in 2011.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Clash of the Titans" Gets Reshoots, More Gods

At a special screening of "Avatar" on Friday night in Los Angeles, actor Sam Worthington told The Envelope that Warner Bros. is so pleased with the work done on the upcoming "Clash of the Titans" that they've been granted additional money.

Said Worthington: "We're going to be going back and shooting more scenes for it, they cut loose with some money so we can add to it. We're going to be shooting more scenes in January, so we're going to be right up against it--the movie comes out in March."

Last minute re-shoots aren’t usually the best sign and could make some fans wonder exactly what’s going on with the much-hyped remake. But Worthington added this about the re-shoots: "There were some creaky parts, but they are the parts that we knew were creaky and that we knew were going to be creaky going into it. The studio is also letting us add some gods and scenes. And they're talking about making the movie a 3-D film."

The addition of more Gods isn’t much of a surprise and could actually help the film in the long run. Some of the gods like Zeus (Liam Neeson), Poseidon (Danny Huston), Apollo (Luke Evans) and Athena (Izabella Miko) may get some of their scenes extended and possibly some new ones as well. Some other notable names may be brought on for a day or two of shooting to both help sell the movie and give Mount Olympus a more populated look.

The article also describes how enthusiastic Worthington was when talking about the film, which to me is a good sign. He is very strong actor and so far has shown that he can handle being the main star of a huge franchise film.

The film is one of the biggest releases in 2010 and hopefully the re-shoots will just help make a good film even better.

“Clash of the Titans” will be released March 26, 2010.

Mike Myers In "Marvin the Martian" Film?

Alex Zamm ("Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2") has been set to direct the film adaptation of Looney Tunes classic character Marvin the Martian for Warner Bros. Pictures, says The LA Times.

According to the site: Warner Bros. and producer Alcon Entertainment are bringing aboard director Alex Zamm to oversee the misadventures of the cartoon alien. Zamm is an up-and-comer who is also signed on to direct "Hong Kong Phooey," the film version of the 1970s Hanna Barbera cartoon.

Paul Kaplan and Mark Torgove (TV's "Spin City") are penning the script, which finds Marvin coming to Earth to try to destroy Christmas, only to find his plans are foiled when he gets trapped inside a gift box.

Marvin will be a CG character surrounded by live-action actors such in the manner of "Alvin & The Chipmunks," and "Garfield. The producers are talking to a number of stars but one name that's come up is Mike Myers, who is no stranger to voice roles given his work on the “Shrek” franchise.

Marvin the Martian was of course a nemesis of Bugs Bunny, but there’s no word on whether Bugs will make a cameo in the movie

I’m not sure why, but there’s something about computer-generated cartoon characters running around a live world that get people out to theaters. The first “Alvin and the Chipmunks” made a boatload of money, and prompted the studio to release a sequel.

With "Marvin the Martian," the studio is hoping that they can achieve that same level of success. I always thought he was a pretty cool character, but the story seems like it might be lacking something.

"Marvin the Martian" is currently aiming for a holiday 2011 release.

Kevin Bacon Goes Bad For "Super"

Kevin Bacon will play the villain in the upcoming action-comedy "Super" for This Is That and Ambush Entertainment reports Screen Daily.

According to the site: Miranda Bailey’s LA-based Ambush Entertainment has joined Ted Hope’s This Is That as producing partner on “Super,” which has just attached Kevin Bacon and is shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana, through January.

Ambush’s Amanda Marshall will co-produce alongside executive producers Matt Leutwyler of Ambush and Rainn Wilson, who as previously announced will star alongside Liv Tyler.

In the film, Bacon will play Jacques, a smooth-talking drug dealer who steals the wife (Tyler) of an average guy (Wilson), causing the latter to become a one-man crime-fighting force known as The Crimson Bolt. Ellen Page also stars in the project.

Said director James Gunn: “Kevin Bacon is one of the few actors nimble enough to give life to Jacques, our supervillain with a nice streak. We need to love Jacques even while he’s doing horrible things--Kevin is one of the only actors I know who can pull that off.”

Adding Bacon to a role is a great idea--he has shown in the past couple years he has some real acting chops including a supporting role in last year's “Frost/Nixon.” But the reason this film really looks promising, is due to the fact that Wilson has a starring role.

I know “The Rocker” wasn’t that great, but for anyone who watches “The Office” on a regular basis knows that Wilson is one of the funniest actors working today. I think this role suits him, and hopefully it will turn out to be a quality superhero comedy.

Look for “Super” in 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Laurence Fishburne Takes On "Predators"

Laurence Fishburne has joined the cast of “Predators,” according to Collider.

According to the site: Fishburne will play the pivotal role of ‘Noland’ in the upcoming film. Story details are being kept under wraps but the film is said to act as a direct sequel to the original Arnold Schwarzenegger hit and will ignore the events of the "Alien vs. Predator" films.

The project is helmed by Nimrod Antal (“Armored”) and will center on disparate group of people who land on the Predator home planet only to discover unspeakable horrors.

Robert Rodriguez is producing the project, which began filming this week in Austin, Texas. Fishburne joins a cast that already includes Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Derek Mears, and Walton Goggins.

Many “Predator” fans were a bit weary when they heard that the film would have ‘not-so-tough guys’ Brody and Grace in starring roles. But with the addition of Fishburne (and the already cast Trejo), the film now boasts some actors with some great action experience. If Fishburne brings even half the intensity he did in “The Matrix,” the project should be in good shape.

“Predators” will be released July 7, 2010.

Peter Segal Joins A "Neighborhood Watch"

Peter Segal ("Get Smart") is in negotiations to direct the comedy "Neighborhood Watch," reports Variety.

According to the site: Twentieth Century Fox is in talks with Peter Segal to direct "Neighborhood Watch," the Jared Stern-scripted comedy that Shawn Levy is producing. Segal, who last directed "Get Smart," had been developing the sequel, but the film is being pushed back by Warner Bros. That made him available to direct the supernatural comedy.

Previously, David Dobkin was attached to direct and Will Ferrell to star but that pairing fell apart over the summer. Stern's script focuses on a newcomer to a community who joins the neighborhood watch and discovers supernatural elements are afoot.

If Fox can get Segal, it would be great for the film (think about “Tommy Boy” and not “Anger Management”), but I think the fact that Will Ferrell won’t be starring in it is a positive for the project.

While I appreciate Will Ferrell and think he can be funny, over the past few years some of his films haven't turned out nearly as good as they should have. It’s almost as if the filmmakers are saying, "Let's have Will Ferrell as an aging basketball player," "Let's have Will Ferrell as a paleontologist," or in this case, "Let's Have Will Ferrell on a neighborhood watch." By doing so, they take away from the actual movie and just showcase Ferrell’s mostly ridiculous antics.

I think the premise of the film is good, and by not having Ferrell in the part, it might move in a different direction and be better for it. Of course that depends who they cast in the role, which remains to be seen.

Look for “Neighborhood Watch” in 2011.

Paramount Plans A "Doc Holliday" Franchise

Paramount Pictures is developing Chad St. John's spec script "The Further Adventures of Doc Holliday," reports Variety.

According to the site: Paramount Pictures has snapped up Chad St. John's action-adventure script "The Further Adventures of Doc Holliday" in the hopes of turning it into a Western-style tentpole. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced the studio's "Transformers" films, is onboard to produce.

The studio is keeping the plot under wraps, but the project is described as a history-based action adventure tale in the vein of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The famously tuberculosis-ridden gunfighter, Holliday is best known for his friendship with Western lawman Wyatt Earp and for his role in 1881's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz.

Val Kilmer memorably played the character in 1993's "Tombstone" and a year later, Dennis Quaid starred as Holliday in Kevin Costner's "Wyatt Earp."

The site also said that St. John is attached to an array of Warner Bros. projects, including "The Days Before," "Sergeant Rock," "Motor City" and a remake of "Outland."

His script, "The Days Before," was listed at No. 10 on this year's Black List, which compiles the film industry's best-unproduced screenplays.

Western’s haven’t fared too well at the box office in recent memory, but Paramount is hoping that the high-concept script can right the course.

Look for the first film sometime in 2011.

Taylor Lautner Gets Action In "Cancun"

Eric Champnella and Grant Thompson's action spec script, "Cancun," is being retooled by Summit Entertainment into a starring vehicle for "Twilight" star Taylor Lautner, says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the site: The project is acting as starring vehicle for Lautner and is the first project from the newly established production company he shares with his dad, Dan Lautner.

The story follows an out-of-place college kid who travels with a girl to Cancun on a break. While there, the girl and her friends are taken hostage by a drug cartel and he is forced to save them. The action will be designed to take advantage of Lautner's extensive martial arts skills.

The premise of the film actually sounds like a pretty good action flick. As for Lautner playing ‘an out of place college kid’? I'm not sure if he fits that part of the equation, but it won’t matter since his performance mostly will about beating up bad guys rather than acting anyway.

‘New Moon’ fans everywhere rejoice.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Steve Carrell & Tina Fey To Team Again for "Mail-Order Groom"

"The Office" star Steve Carell and "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey are loosely attached to star in the comedy "Mail-Order Groom" for Warner Bros. Pictures, says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the site: The duo, who will be seen opposite each other in next year's "Date Night," are loosely attached to star in "Mail-Order Groom," a Warner Bros. comedy about a naive single woman who can't find love and ends up with a husband from Eastern Europe, bringing him home to the States.

Robert Carlock and Scott Silveri penned the script based on an idea by Fey's husband Jeff Richmond, while "Bad Santa" scribes Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have come onboard to do a rewrite.

The Hollywood Reporter also mentions that the project has no director, and the only window for Carell and Fey to shoot would be the hiatus of their TV shows. Fey doesn't wrap "Rock" until March 23, then goes into PR mode during the month of April for "Date Night."

Both actors are at the top of the comedy game right now, starring in two of the most original and funny sitcoms on television. Any project involving them together would be something worth seeing.

The trailer for “Date Night” showcases both Carell and Fey’s chemistry together, but as the site mentioned, timing may de-rail the project.

“Date Night” will be released April 9, 2010.

Bryan Singer Returns To "X-Men" Franchise

On the "blue carpet" at last night's Los Angeles premiere of James Cameron's "Avatar," MySpace spoke with director Bryan Singer, who let it slip that he's returning to the franchise that made him a household name--"X-Men."

According to the video on the site, Singer said: "I'm ramping up to do a movie called 'Jack the Giant Killer' at Warner Bros., and I just yesterday signed a deal to do an 'X-Men: First Class Origins' picture, which is kind of cool. I'm very excited.”

"First Class" looks at the early days of Cyclops, Jean Grey and others at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Josh Schwartz (“The O.C.”) also is involved in the project; Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg will produce.

Singer was the director on “X-Men” and “X-2”, both of which scored positive reviews with critics and were box office giants. After “X-2” Singer split with the franchise, and both sides seemed to suffer from it.

Although Brett Ratner's third "X-Men" film was a financial success, it was not favorable with fans or with critics. At the time, Singer’s career also seemed to have hit a low spot--his two films following “X-2,”--"Superman Returns" and "Valkyrie"--received mixed reviews and disappointing box-office returns.

By reuniting Singer with the franchise, the hope is that he can help right the ship after the negative reviews of Ratner’s film, and the mixed acclaim for Gavin Hood’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

I think the move is a fantastic idea. With Singer behind the camera, the first two “X-Men” films were some of the earliest and best big-budget comic films. Also, it seemed like Singer cared a lot about the franchise and the characters, so it will be interesting to see what he does with this type of “origin” story.

Look out for “X-Men: First Class” sometime in 2011.

Mark Strong Talks "John Carter of Mars"

If you haven’t heard of actor Mark Strong yet, don’t worry, soon enough, you will.

The English actor has found himself in a multitude of villainous roles throughout the years including “Syriana,” “Tristan & Isolde,” “Revolver” and “Sunshine.” He also will introduce himself into the mainstream when he portrays the villain Lord Blackwood in “Sherlock Holmes” on Christmas Day.

Cinema Blend spoke with the actor while he was promoting “Sherlock Holmes” and got some information on the upcoming film “John Carter of Mars,” in which he naturally plays…a villain.

“John Carter of Mars” is centered on Carter, the lead character in much of Edgar Rice Burroughs's 11-volume Barsoom series. The film will be based on the first story to feature John Carter, “A Princess of Mars,” which was first published as a novel in 1917.

Carter is an American Civil War veteran who goes to sleep in a cave after being chased by Apache Indians and wakes up on Mars. Formerly an Earthlike world, it became less hospitable to life due to its advanced age. The planet devolved into partial barbarism with the inhabitants hardened and warlike, fighting one another to survive.

Strong says that the film doesn’t involve much CGI and he thinks extremely highly of director Andrew Stanton. Says Strong, “He's a genius. He's such a good storyteller. When I met him and he showed me the storyboards, the ideas for the sets and the designs for the characters, it's just absolutely mind-blowing. I can't wait to get involved with it.”

Strong also mentions that filming has begun in Utah, but most of his part will be filmed on soundstages outside of London. He noted, “My character doesn't actually get involved in any of the motion-capture stuff. All the stuff is live action. Although I can shift my shape, so I have to be photographed by a 360-degree camera. I can adapt into anything. That's going to be my particular talent.”

Joining Strong on the film are Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Dominic West, Polly Walker, Thomas Haden Church and James Purefoy.

The project currently scheduled for a Summer 2012 release.

David Mamet Pens Depression-Era "Come Back to Sorrento"

Firefly and Bla Bla Bla Productions are teaming to produce a Depression-era script by David Mamet entitled "Come Back To Sorrento," says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the site: The $10 million budgeted movie will be directed by Michael Worth ("God's Ears") with Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon all in negotiations to star.

Based on a novel by Dawn Powell and set during The Great Depression, the script details the story of a music teacher with a mysterious past. The teacher finds more than he expected when he travels to a small town in Ohio to teach music and comes to love a housewife seeking a long-forgotten dream.

Mamet is known for writing some of the most controversial and original plays and films over the past couple of decades, and this project seems to be the right fit. He wrote the play and the film adaptation of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and has been nominated for two Academy Awards for “The Verdict” and “Wag the Dog.”

The film is slated for production in 2010.

"Family Guy" to Spoof "Indiana Jones" and "Back to the Future"?

Later this month, “Family Guy” will release their second "Star Wars" spoof “Something, Something, Something Dark Side,” just in time for the holidays. Creator Seth McFarlane spoke with the LA Times Hero Complex blog about plans for a third spoof of “Return of the Jedi,” and possibly others.

While McFarlane said that “Jedi” will be the last "Star Wars" spoof, if we’re lucky that won’t be the last one they do. "Indiana Jones," "Back to the Future" and "Star Trek" were some potential spoofs the creator mentioned.

He added: "The difference is that Lucas gave us the rights. Lucas agreed to let us do this, and that's a rare thing. Most legal departments are much more overprotective."

Considering that the “Back to the Future” and “Indiana Jones” series are some of my favorite movies of all time, if the show spoofed those, it has the potential to be hilarious. I can only imagine which characters they would call to play each other. Peter equipped with a whip and the iconic green hat? I could see that happening.

I’d be particularly curious to see what they would do with “Back to the Future,” which is my favorite film. Stewie as Biff? Or perhaps he could do a strange take on Marty McFly? Either way, I hope these spoofs come soon, because judging from the one’s the show have already done, they will be very funny, indeed.

Look for “Something, Something, Something Dark Side” on December 22, 2009.

Writers Guild Awards for Television Nominees Announced

With so many awards and nominations being handed out at this time of year, it's sometimes hard to distinguish which groups made the best choices or even the right choices.

Award campaigns can be more about politics than about what is really best. But one thing is certain around awards time is that the Writers Guild of America nominates some deserving candidates. This year is no different with the release of the WGA’s nominees for television writing.

I have no problems with the drama category, which is utterly stacked this year with “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Lost,” and “Mad Men.”

Any of these shows would be deserving of the award, but I would love to see “Lost” win for its trippy, time-traveling fifth season. It also is great that "Friday Night Lights" is nominated for a season that found the show debuting on DirectTV and re-airing on NBC. Based on this, the show could be lame, but instead it manages to bring out some emotional drama from realistic situations that the characters cope with every week.

In comedy there’s the critical darling, "30 Rock," along with "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Glee," "Modern Family" and "The Office."

This category is stacked as well. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is creative and absolutely hilarious, while “Modern Family” is the best new comedy on television. Don’t even get me started on “The Office,” which in my opinion should bring home this award. The writers on that show (including stars B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling) are just genius and write some of the best episodes on television. Hopefully, someone other than “30 Rock” wins the award, because although it’s a great show, it’s time to share the wealth.

The WGA also has an great category for Best New Series, with "Glee," "Modern Family," "The Good Wife," "Nurse Jackie" and "Hung" battling it out.

I could easily see “Glee” walking away with this award, because it must be quite a task to write a show that involves so much singing. Having said that, I’m still hoping either “Modern Family” or “Hung” pulls the upset, because both of those shows were great this season.

The Writers Guild Awards will be handed out on February 20, 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 Golden Globe Nominees Announced

Awards season is now in full swing, and there’s no turning back.

Released early this morning were the 2010 Golden Globe nominations, and like every year there are surprises, well-deserved nominees and, of course, snubs.

Voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, the awards usually are a good barometer for predicting the Academy Awards, but can sometimes miss out on some well-received performances.

The Best Picture for Drama category is solid, with "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious" and "Up in the Air" receiving nominations, but I find a few snubs here a bit glaring. I was hoping to see a film like “District 9” or “A Single Man” slide in for a nomination, but that spot seemed to have been taken by “Avatar.” “The Hurt Locker" has some momentum coming off its victories of the New York and L.A. film critics in recent days, but any of the other films could win this award.

In Best Picture for Musical/Comedy, I’m surprised the Coen brothers’ "A Serious Man" was left out, but it's wonderful to see “The Hangover” nominated. Say what you will about the film, but I think it’s one of the freshest, funniest comedies to come out of Hollywood in recent memory. Also great to see "(500) Days of Summer" nominated. The quirky romantic comedy was original, and had some great acting performances by Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.

The Best Actor (Drama) race appears to be a close contest between Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and George Clooney ("Up in the Air"). There's an outside chance we could see an upset by Colin Firth ("A Single Man") or Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), but Tobey Maguire ("Brothers") is out of it. Two of the year’s finest acting performances were left out, Viggo Mortensen in "The Road" and Jeremy Renner for "The Hurt Locker." Both actors give the performances of a lifetime, and it’s crazy that neither got nominated.

One of the most interesting races is in the Best Director category, which finds James Cameron (“Avatar”) and his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), vying for the same award. The two are nominated along with Clint Eastwood (“Invictus”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”). Female directors are far and few between in Hollywood, especially in action films. I’ll be pulling for Bigelow, who did an amazing job with “The Hurt Locker.”

There are so many categories, I could argue about them all day, so here are some snippets about a few of the other major categories:

It’s great that Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for Best Actor (Musical/Comedy) for “Sherlock Holmes," but if he got a nom, where’s Bradley Cooper's for “The Hangover”?

Best Screenplay has full list of quality nominees, including Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”), Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”), and Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”). I loved Tarantino’s script, but I’m hoping Blomkamp gets some award love for his inventive science-fiction script.

On the television side of things, “Modern Family” picked up a nomination for Best Comedy, helping solidify it as one of the best new shows on television. But “Entourage”? I love that show, but this season wasn’t good enough, in my opinion, to warrant a nomination over shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Thankfully, “The Office” scored yet another nomination, as did lead actor Steve Carell, who is nothing short of genius on the show.

One thing awards do is spark debate, so what did you think? Who were the biggest snubs? Who are the favorites? We’ll find out the answers on January 17, 2010, when the Golden Globes will be awarded.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mariners Land Lee in Blockbuster Trade

Not content with signing 3B Chone Figgins, the Mariners have reached an agreement to take part in a three way trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelhia Phillies to land former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee.

Details are still unclear, but the Mariner's were able to swing the deal without parting with young pitcher Brenden Morrow or promising outfielder Michael Saunders.
Although they did have to give up their top picthing prospect, Phillipe Aumont, adding Lee gives the Mariners arguably the best 1-2 starting pitchers in baseball along with Felix Hernandez.
Lee quickly became Philadelphia's ace one acquired from Cleveland last season. He posted a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts for the Phillies and then went 4-0 with a 1.56 mark in five postseason outings, including 2-0 in the World Series.
Let's go M's. Another great move.

Todd Phillips On "Due Date," "Hangover 2"

Director Todd Phillips has divulged details on the sequel to his massively successful film, "The Hangover," and says that editing is underway on "Due Date," his next project, reports Coming Soon.

According to the site: Phillips is in the process of cutting down “Due Date” from 125 minutes to about 100. Said Phillips: "I always subscribe to that number--it should be 100 minutes. So, that's always around where it lands. I love editing. Editing, you have to be ruthless on yourself. Sometimes you look at a scene, it took three days to shoot, it costs so much money, it was all these things. You have to forget all that when you're editing. This slows the movie down… bye. Or this isn't working… bye. It's time to get ruthless when you're editing. I love that part actually."

The director also added that everyone on the set, including star Robert Downey Jr., were in awe of scene-stealer Zach Galifianakis. “He's totally different (in "Due Date") than he is in 'The Hangover,” said Phillips.

In “Due Date” the story centers on a high-strung father-to-be (Downey Jr.), who is forced to hitch a ride with a college slacker (Galifianakis) on a road trip in order to make it to his child's birth on time.

The director also says he's currently working on the script for "The Hangover" sequel, which will start shooting this summer for a Memorial Day 2011 release. Fans hoping for a return to Sin City shouldn’t hold their breaths: "What's really ultimately appealing about 'The Hangover' is these four guys and their interaction. It's not even Vegas. It's not so much the device as it is the characters… you can take those guys and put them somewhere else and go through a new set of situations and circumstances, and hopefully it's just as interesting.”

But the director didn’t add where the new film will take place. Said Phillips: "I've been instructed by Warner’s not to, but I think you'll be surprised by the setting and the circumstances of how they end up there."

Phillips has been making hilarious movies for years, including “Old School," “Road Trip” and “Starsky and Hutch,” but until the mega-success of “The Hangover,” he hadn’t received all the recognition I felt he deserved. But now that’s changed, and with these two projects on the horizon (both looking to be very funny), he appear to be on course to continue that streak.

Pairing Downey Jr. and Galifianakis is a genius move, and surprisingly I find myself more excited for “Due Date” than I am about the “Hangover” sequel.

“Due Date” will be released in November 2010.

Kevin Smith's "Dicks" Is A "Cop Out"

Kevin Smith’s upcoming Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan comedy "A Couple of Dicks" has a new name according to the Film Stage.

According to Film stage: Smith has been Tweeting for days about how unfortunately the title "A Couple of Dicks" cannot be used due to lack of marketing approvals but a new title had been selected that would be better than the previously considered "A Couple of Cops." Reports from Warner Bros. web site have revealed that the likely new name for Kevin Smith’s upcoming film will be "Cop Out."

The site also reports that there finally will be a trailer for the new film and that it will premiere with "Sherlock Holmes" alongside a new trailer for Christopher Nolan's "Inception".

I really think sometimes the controversy of title changes can be overblown and take away from the actual project itself. Having said that, it’s understandable why the studio would want to change the name, and it’s also good they chose “Cop Out” over “A Couple of Cops,” which was the title they were working with.

The combination of Smith, Willis and Morgan could turn out to be hilarious. Smith is such a huge film fan himself, a very original director, and this project could be his next "great" movie after the mixed reaction to “Clerks 2” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

“Cop Out” will be released February 26, 2010.

J.J. Abrams To Make The "World Spin"

J.J. Abrams is working on a deal to produce a feature film version of Colum McCann's award-winning novel "Let the Great World Spin" at Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot, says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the site: J.J. Abrams is working out a rights deal to spin a feature from McCann's sprawling period piece. Abrams would produce, with McCann adapting the screenplay, at Paramount, where his production company, Bad Robot resides. "Spin” is McCann's fifth novel and was published in June by Random House.

The story is built around Philippe Petit's real-life "artistic crime of the century"--when the Frenchman illegally walked a tightrope strung between the World Trade Center towers in August 1974. The event was covered in the award-winning documentary "Man on Wire" in 2008.

It follows an ensemble cast of characters struggling throughout New York including a young Irish monk living among prostitutes in the Bronx; a group of mothers mourning their sons, killed in Vietnam, in a Park Avenue apartment; and a 38-year-old grandmother walking the streets with her teenage daughter.

The project is a departure from Abrams more recent work such as “Fringe” and “Star Trek,” which are in the science fiction genre. It more closely resembles his early work on the television show “Felicity,” which also was set in New York City. It is unclear exactly what role Abrams will have or if he will direct the project.

In July, Paramount will release the original Bad Robot comedy "Morning Glory," which stars Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton.

Look out for "Let the Great World Spin" sometime in 2011.

Ali Larter Sought For "UFO" Remake

Ali Larter (“Heroes”) is a frontrunner for the role of Virginia Lake in the upcoming film adaptation of British cult 1970s TV series "UFO" reports Forbidden Planet.

According to the site: Director Matthew Gratzner said, "We've talked to Ali Larter, who's very interested. I've actually met with her, and I think she would be a great addition to the picture. Lake is very strong and obviously also very feminine, and Ali Larter definitely encompasses that."

Gratzner adds that loose plans for a trilogy are already in place. "There are three movies planned. The first script is completed, and number two and number three are treatments--and numbers two and three are even more spectacular."

The $130 million adaptation of Gerry Anderson's 1970s UK sci-fi series was announced last July. "Fringe" star Joshua Jackson plays Paul Foster, a test pilot who joins S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization), a covert organization built under a Hollywood studio that defends Earth against a race of aliens who have been abducting humans and using the body parts.

Gratzner is a visual effects veteran who has contributed to some big budget films, including "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," "Hancock," "Superman Returns" and "War Of The Worlds."Although I’ve never seen the original British series, the project sounds like it could be pretty interesting. With Jackson showing some quality acting chops on “Fringe,” this project also could be his ticket to more success and possible super-stardom.

The film seems like it will probably have some extensive visual effects, which tips in favor of Gratzner, who has plenty of experience in that department.

The project will be released in 2011.

Gibson, DiCaprio Team For Viking Epic

Mel Gibson will direct and Leonardo DiCaprio will star in a Viking culture-themed untitled period drama for Icon Films, reports Variety.

According to the site: "Kingdom of Heaven" and "The Departed" scribe William Monahan pens the script though plot details are being kept under wraps. Graham King will produce with Gibson and Tim Headington in a co-production between King’s GK Films and Gibson’s Icon Productions. Shooting is expected to begin fall 2010, meaning that if everything falls into place, it would be the next directing effort for Gibson.

Said King: “This will be an awe-inspiring story, created with some of the industry’s finest cinematic talent and I am just over the moon to be making this film with Mel, Leo and Bill.” The producer teamed with DiCaprio and Monahan in the Oscar-winning drama “The Departed,” and just worked with Gibson and Monahan in the Martin Campbell-directed drama “Edge of Darkness.”

DiCaprio will likely take a film before this project. He just completed the Christopher Nolan-directed “Inception” for Warner Bros., and will next be seen in the Martin Scorsese-directed “Shutter Island,” which Paramount releases February 19, 2010.

This is the first time DiCaprio and Gibson will team on a project. Having the two Hollywood giants in the same room is a promising idea, and the subject matter seems perfect for both. DiCaprio has long been fascinated by Viking culture, and Gibson’ has directed other period pieces including “Braveheart,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “Apocalypto.”

Look out for the project sometime in 2011.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Paramount to Produce More Micro-Budget Films

Hoping to capitalize on the success of “Paranormal Activity," Paramount Pictures is launching an initiative that will spend $1 million annually to develop and produce microbudget films, reports Variety.

According to Variety:
“Paramount is reacting to its success with 'Paranormal Activity' by budgeting $1 million annually for the production of 10 to 20 small films, none costing more than $100,000. Paramount Film Group’s Adam Goodman cooked up the plan in the successful wake of "Paranormal," made for $15,000 and grossing more than $100 million domestically.

Goodman indicated the funds, which will come out of the studio's overall production budget, will be targeted at both unknowns and established filmmakers, with the goal of increasing the studio's ability to find new voices and ideas.

In addition, the initiative's aimed at giving Paramount a more diverse portfolio of titles at a time when Hollywood's devoting most of its resources to megabudget pics, such as Par's "Transformers" and "Star Trek" franchises. The studio hasn't set a target of how many projects would receive a theatrical release. The microbudget projects could also conceivably be remade with conventional budgets.”
This move really is not the norm for the major Hollywood studios, and that is one reason why I think it’s a great move. As we have seen from films with large budgets, such as “Revenge of the Fallen” and “G.I. Joe” (and many more), story and quality filmmaking can be lost among the heaps of dollars spent on making those films. By diverting resources to this initiative, Paramount will be promoting high-quality ideas, which hopefully will turn into high-quality films.

Some of the most critically acclaimed films of all time have been made with extremely low budgets, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies and videotape,” and Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking and Screaming.” I could add additional films that fit this category, but the point is that by focusing on the filmmaking aspects of things, these projects will involve quality artists and high-concept ideas.

For a good example of this, keep an eye out for “Paranormal” director Oren Peli’s second effort, “Area 51,” which is set for release in 2010.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Josh Brolin to Co-star in 'Men in Black 3'?

Josh Brolin is being considered for a role in the upcoming third installment of the "Men in Black" series, according to the Hero Complex.

According to the site: "The actor is being considered for a role that would have him donning the black suit and shades for the third installment of the sci-fi comedy franchise. His exact part is a matter of discussion, but in recent days there's been chatter in Hollywood development circles of a few possibilities: He could play a new single-monikered government agent, with Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K passing the baton to Brolin's character. Or he could play Agent K as a young man. Or something else entirely. Will Smith is also expected to return for the film."

Sony is currently planning a production start for the picture in 2010 (though it has yet to be greenlit). The film, which is based on a script by "Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen and which has Barry Sonnenfeld possible coming back to direct, could shoot at least partly in New York.

Adding Brolin to the cast is a great idea. The past few years the actor has had a sort of a late stage career renaissance, which started in 2007 with “No Country For Old Men” and “American Gangster.” He followed in 2008 with starring roles in “W.” and “Milk,” for which the latter he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Brolin has a very busy slate ahead of him, with the comic book adaptation “Jonah Hex,” Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” sequel, which is set for release in 2010. The success of any of those films could surely expose Brolin in his late stages much as “Iron Man” did for Robert Downey Jr.

"Men in Black 3" likely will be released in 2011.

"Modern Family" Midseason Review

Families can be funny. Sitcoms about families? Sometimes not so much.

Either way, that’s been the case ever since they pulled “Arrested Development” off the air. Since then, audiences have been forced to sit through shows desperately trying to match the cleverness and wit of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but just fail miserably. Viewers have become so bored with networks' new idea of a “family sitcom,” that most of the successful comedies on television now are set in the workplace (“The Office," “30 Rock”).

Thankfully, this year, ABC has brought us “Modern Family.” The show borrows a few ideas from the shows I mentioned above--a single-camera format, the mockumentary style, and the frequent slip into ridiculous situations. Having said that, this sitcom about dysfunctional families is it’s own unique, brilliant brand of comedy, and easily the best new show of the season.

Created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd--the guys behind Fox's newsroom sitcom "Back to You"--"Modern Family" follows three distinct but connected family units. Set in a nameless suburbia, each represents a specific submission or challenge to contemporary domestic convention.

Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) have been married for 16 years and have three kids. They're a suburban, yuppie family. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have been a couple for five years and return from Vietnam with an adopted baby.

Jay (Ed O'Neill) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara) have only been married six months. It's a second marriage for both--he is much older while she is a young immigrant from Colombia with a sixth-grade son, Manny (Rico Rodriguez), who's more interested in pitching woo to a high school girl than he is in playing on his soccer team. Jay is the father of Claire and Mitchell, which in turn makes him connected to everyone on the show.

The entire cast is fantastic, which is one reason why the show has had so much success. Burrell, Stonestreet and Vergara get the bulk of the punch lines, but no one on the show is a weak link. Even the kids, who sometimes can be that weak link on family shows, are excellent comedians.

Rodriguez, who play’s Manny, is a natural scene-stealer, and he has fantastic timing and delivery. In one episode, after his friends prank him by drawing a beard on him in marker, he says: "So, that's why they were laughing. I thought it was my funny take on current events.”

But by far the funniest actor and character on the show is Ty Burrel’s suburban father, Phil. He is completely whipped by his wife, but also horny for a neighbor (a curvy divorcée) and literally contorts himself with mixed-message body language whenever he's around both Claire and this temptress to hilarious results. Phil tries way too hard to be a cool dad. He mangles online jargon (he thinks WTF stands for "Why The Face?").

Another great example of Phil’s style is when a teen-age boy comes over to see his daughter. Burrell is perfectly deadpan when he says, "Let me meet this, playa." He growls at the boy, who just stares at him, dumbfounded. "Phil Dunfee, yo!" Then in a voice-over Phil explains: "It's like that. You just stare down at them, let the eyes do the work. Your mouth might be saying, 'We cool.' But your eyes are like, 'No, we not.'"

It’s almost impossible to describe well enough in words how ridiculous this scene becomes when Phil pulls a muscle in his back, falls down the stairs, and ends up being carried like a baby to the couch by the kid he's trying to intimidate. Either way, the point is that Burrel is the show's comedic star. I think he is just as good on this show as Steve Carell is on “The Office,” and that is saying a lot.

That is only one example of how hilarious this show can be. Another thing that the show has going for it is that it is very light hearted, and there are a lot of tender moments mixed in the ridiculous situations. You actually feel that the family on the show is a real family. That is a testament to the writers, but even more so, to the actors, who all seem comfortable with each other.

“Modern Family” works because it does something network sitcoms haven’t managed in years--it’s a family comedy with characters you actually care about (and are actually funny). You will not be disappointed by tuning into this new comedy.

“Modern Family” airs Wednesday’s on ABC at 9 p.m.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

'Capote' Director in Negotiations to Direct Brad Pitt in 'Moneyball'

Bennett Miller, the Academy Award nominated director of “Capote,” is in negotiations to direct Sony’s thought-to-be-dead “Moneyball” project, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Hollywood Insider blog.

According to Nicole Sperling: “The studio announced today that Bennett Miller is in negotiations to helm the “Moneyball” project, starring Brad Pitt, that was dismantled after Steven Soderbergh exited the project in June 2009, a few weeks before production was to begin.”

The project, based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis, tells the story of Billy Beane (Pitt), general manager of the low-ranked Oakland A’s. Beane defies baseball convention to recruit an eclectic bench of players in extremely unorthodox ways. The screenplay is from Steve Zaillian (“American Gangster”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”).

News broke in June that Columbia Pictures president Amy Pascal halted production on the film after reading the final draft of the script by Oscar-winners Soderbergh and Zaillian, deeming it too different from earlier versions. After that, it seemed as though the film was on its way into development hell, or would be scrapped completely.

The movie began its rehabilitation when Sorkin was brought on to write a draft, drawing on Zaillian's earlier take. Since then, Columbia, Pitt and the producers met with directors in recent weeks to get the movie back on track after pulling the plug on the project in June.

Bringing in a director like Miller on the project is a smart and beneficial idea for the studio. With a story like “Moneyball,” you need an unconventional director equipped with a sharp mind. Sure, you could make the movie as a straight biopic of Billy Beane, but that wouldn’t be capturing the essence of the book at all. It’s about much more than that, including statistics and the tradition of baseball itself. Only a director with a unique vision could do something like that.

That was one reason why I felt Soderbergh was a good choice, but the producers got scared off when his script called for interviews of real-life players and other methods untraditional to sports movies.

Miller also has proven that he is part of that same category with his documentary “The Cruise,” and 2005’s “Capote.” Miller is best known for directing the latter film, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. The movie earned Hoffman an Oscar and also netted a nomination for Best Picture.

The director could propel “Moneyball” to future awards success if he is given the creative freedom he enjoyed on “Capote.”

Barring any additional set backs, "Moneyball" should be released sometime in 2011.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Paul Thomas Anderson Sets Next Project

Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood," "Boogie Nights") has lined up his next film at Universal Pictures, a period drama to star Philip Seymour Hoffman as a founder of a new religious organization in the 1950s, reports to Variety.

According to Variety: "Hoffman plays "the Master," as in "master of ceremonies," a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952. The story will focus on the relationship between the Master and Freddie, a 20-something drifter who becomes the leader's lieutenant. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor."

Variety also says that: "The drama does not so much scrutinize self-started churches like Scientology or the Mormons, as much as it explores the need to believe in a higher power, the choice of which one to embrace and the point at which a belief system graduates into a religion."

The $35 million project has not yet been green lit, Anderson has yet to deliver a finished script.

Whether green lit or not, that fact that Anderson is working on a new project is wonderful news for film addicts. Anderson has made some of the most unique and interesting films in the last twenty years including “Boogie Nights,” and “Magnolia.” His last film, “There Will Be Blood,” was a cinematic masterpiece and one of the most beautifully shot movies I’ve ever seen. Anderson proved on that film that he is one of the best directors in Hollywood today.

The idea for the story sounds like it is right up Anderson’s alley, and it is also extremely promising that he has Philip Seymour Hoffman cast in the film. The two have collaborated on four films together, including “Sydney,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” and “Punch Drunk Love.” Hoffman, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for “Capote,” is a great actor, no matter the project. He was even masterful in “Mission: Impossible III” while playing a villainous character with a penchant for sarcasm.

The teaming of Anderson and Hoffman is a pragmatic formula for the success of this film. No release date has been speculated, with the project still in its early stages, but keep an eye out for updates in the coming year.

DJ Booth: Kid Cudi, Cudderisback

Although he’s currently on tour with the always eccentric Lady Gaga, Kid Cudi is still finding time to turn out tracks. His new freestyle Cudderisback, featuring rhymes about weed, clothes and girls, is familiar territory for the man, but he’s got the skills and bravado to make these seemingly insignificant things sound fresh.

Produced by Rostam Batmanglij, Cudderisback mixes in hipster favorites Vampire Weekend and their song Ottoman for a strange, melodic beat that at first seems out of place but ultimately meshes perfectly with Cudi’s flow.

No one in the rap game makes stonerism sound cooler than Cudi, and although the track is short he gets right to the point in the first line: “Stay home a lot, no TV, just thoughts, and a heap of good weed.” Cudi fans rejoice.

Not a part of any official release, Cudderisback appears to be an attempt by Cudi to make sure we don’t forget his name.

DJ Booth: Idle Warship, Bedroom Lites

When you think of a typical rap group, usually the last image that comes to mind is one male emcee and two female singers, but Brooklyn bred Talib Kweli is not your ordinary rapper, and Idle Warship is not your typical group.

Comprised of Kweli, Philadelphia singer (and frequent Kweli collaborator) Res and Canadian singer Graph Nobel, Idle Warship has a unique sound and flow, to say the least.

On their new single, Bedroom Lites, the group takes turns rapping about a steamy night over a retro sounding beat produced by Co-T, who creates a real ‘80s vibe by combining vocals and heavy percussion to create a truly distinctive sound.

The group has great chemistry, as evidenced by how easily Kweli flows in and out between the two singers - whose smooth, occasionally robotic vocals are the icing on the cake - although I have to admit the track did leave me wanting more from Kweli, whose verses seemed short.

Bedroom Lites
is off the Party Robot mixtape, which dropped late last month.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Office" Duo Have "Low Self-Esteem"

“Office” writers Brent Forrester and Mindy Kaling have sold their romantic comedy pitch “The Low Self Esteem of Lizzie Gillespie” to Mandate Pictures, reports Variety.

According to Variety: "The story centers on a woman whose lack of self-worth has limited her choice in men to losers. Just as she is about to hit the bottom of the barrel, her life takes an unexpected turn when she is pursued by the hottest guy ever."

Kaling will play a supporting role in the film while John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith will produce. Nathan Kahane from Mandate Pictures is a big fan of Kaling and Forrester's writing talents and said that they are some of "the most comically endowed writers out there."

If you’re a fan of “The Office,” you already know that Kaling is a hilarious actress, but also an extremely talented writer. Her character Kelly Kapour routinely steals every scene she is in, and some of the episodes that Kaling has written have been some of the shows brightest moments.

Forrester has also shows his talents as a writer, having worked on “The Simpsons,” “Mr. Show” and “Undeclared.” He has also scripted some of the best episodes of “The Office,” including the Andy Bernard-heavy “The Merger” and the absolutely hilarious “Business Trip” from the fifth season.

Anytime anyone involved with “The Office” is involved with a project, it’s impossible not to catch my eye. The show is easily one of the best comedies on television, if not the best, and everyone involved with the show is talented.

Although sometimes when good sitcom writers transition to films the results aren’t always great, I have confidence that both Kaling and Forrester can deliver.

"Night at the Museum 2" DVD Review

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" is a cute, kid-friendly, wacky comedy equipped with monkeys, pharaohs and enough historical characters to make your head spin.

The sequel to 2006’s successful “Night at the Museum” ($574 million worldwide) reunites director Shawn Levy and Ben Stiller, and picks up a few years after the first film left off. Larry Daley (Stiller) is now a successful businessman. He has a knack for infomercial-type inventions and is doing very well--financially anyway.

He returns to his museum to visit his old friends and museum director Dr. McPhee (Ricky Gervais), who explains to him that the Museum of Natural History is going hi-tech and sending many of the exhibits off to the Smithsonian to be stored and only a few of the more popular exhibits will remain. These include Rex and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams).

Problems arise when Larry is called by cowboy Jebediah Smith (Owen Wilson) and it is explained that the troublesome monkey Dexter has stolen the Tablet of Ahkmenrah on their way to storage at the National Archives. The call sends Larry to action and he must get past security guard Brandon (Jonah Hill) by flashing his terrific flashlight combative skills.

At the Smithsonian, Pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) has realized the power of the tablet and joined forces with Napoleon (Alain Chabat), Al Capone (Jon Bernthal) and Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest) to hold Larry´s friends captive and unlock the secrets of the tablet to enable them to rule the world.

With all of the major players returning for the production, it doesn’t feel like a quick attempt at making money from the first successful film. It feels like a franchise picture where everybody involved cares for the product and how it turns out.

One of the best parts of the film are the cameos--without some solid performances, the Smithsonian exhibits would be just that, exhibits. Instead, they are lively and hilarious. The cameo by Oscar the Grouch and Darth Vader was a very clever use of pop culture and I also enjoyed how Al Capone was in black in white coloring. Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader also was fantastic as the rambunctious General Custer.

I also liked the chemistry between Ben Stiller and Amy Adams. Both Adams and Stiller are quite good in the film and Adams actually would have been a good choice in the recent biopic about the ill-fated aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart.

There were a few things about the film that didn’t quite rub me the right way. Having the Jonas Brothers sing was just out of place and felt forced. I am not a Jonas Brothers hater--in fact, I have no opinion of them, except that they didn’t belong in the movie.

But my biggest criticism of the film is that I felt the filmmakers grossly underused Jonah Hill. He could have been the perfect sidekick throughout the film and I think they missed an opportunity here. He is by far one of the funniest and most talented comedians in Hollywood today and I think the movie would have been better if he had more screen time.

With plenty of new faces introduced, the film felt fresh and Azaria’s latest reuniting with Stiller after the underrated "Mystery Men" was great to see. Of course, it won’t ever be recognized for wonderful storytelling, but the film is fun and at times whimsical as the recognizable items from the Smithsonian’s collection come to life.

You could spend plenty of time picking on the film’s shortcomings, but if you look past those and enjoy the film, it is hard to not be entertained.

On DVD and Blu-ray, "The Battle of the Smithsonian" is filled with bonus features about the special effects, as well as features on the cast and crew who brought the characters to life.

Grade: B

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Joshua Jackson In Remake Of "UFO"

Joshua Jackson ("Fringe") will star in a new film adaptation of the 1970's British sci-fi TV series "UFO," says Variety.

According to Variety: Jackson will star as Paul Foster, a test pilot who joins S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization), a covert organization built under a Hollywood studio that defends Earth against a race of aliens who have been abducting humans and using the body parts.

Scribes Ryan Gaudet and Joseph Kanarek are penning the new "UFO," on which "Iron Man" visual effects supervisor Matthew Gratzner will make his directorial debut.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of the British series, but with the casting of Jackson along with an awesome storyline, I think this adaptation has a chance for success. The show was a big success in the '70s, and as everyone in Hollywood knows, you’re only as good as your last adaptation. Also, Jackson has shown on “Fringe,” he can handle the pressure of being in a starring role, and that he is comfortable with science fiction.

This film could potentially be an under-the-radar type science fiction film that could turn into a hit, much like this past summer’s “District 9.”

Filming kicks off this Spring in the UK with a release date aiming for 2011.

DJ Booth: Chip Tha Ripper, Fat Raps

It’s almost impossible to listen to a Chip Tha Ripper track and not be immediately reminded of Kid Cudi. Chip’s deep voice aside, both have their own unique sound, both rap about clothes, weed and girls, and, perhaps not coincidentally, both are from the city of Cleveland.

Further proof of Chip’s Cudiness (or vice-versa) can be found on his new track, Fat Raps, featuring Curren$y & Big Sean. Similar to his last mixtape leak Movie, Fat Raps combines a slow moving, mechanical and almost trippy beat from Chuck Inglish (of The Cool Kids fame) with Chip’s smooth, always witty lyrics.

Unfortunately, Curren$y and Big Sean don’t bring much to the lyrical table, although the latter’s “New York to L.A. I beat the sunset,” is one of the track’s best lines. Regardless of guest features, Fat Raps shows why Cleveland might just be the new spot to watch for quality hip-hop.

Fat Raps
is the third leak off The Cleveland Show mixtape, due to hit your speakers in December.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

DJ Booth: Obie Trice, I Am

After leaving Shady Records as the highest selling solo artist not named Eminem, Obie Trice is now looking to catapult himself to the top of the rap game on his own.

On his newly-leaked album cut, I Am, the second leak off his new album following the vengeful Got Hungry, Trice sounds motivated to achieve solo greatness and proves it by coming out with fast and ferocious rhymes.

Produced by newcomer MoSS, the beat mixes in vocals and instrumentals to form an awesome sound, enhanced by DJ Grouch, whose cuts and scratches flow great here.

Trice doesn’t take many cheap shots at Shady Records here, although he does rhyme that Shady, “Took Obie Trice for granted.” As intense as he is on the track, Trice also takes the time to return to his humorous side, dropping clever lines like “I never lose fat, like Subway Jared.

I Am will appear on Trice’s forthcoming project Special Reserve, due out December 15.

Francis Lawrence Takes On "Small" People Film

Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend," "Constantine") is tipped to direct a film adaptation of the comic "In the Small" for Warner Bros. Pictures reports Pajiba.

According to Pajiba: Michael Hague's graphic novel concerns a strange explosion that leaves all humans six inches tall, yet nothing else is affected.

Those who survive the transition are forced to create a new social order and adjust in a world where man is no longer at the top of the food chain. As they attempt to find out what happened, humanity is faced with a new and existential threat.

Earlier this month Lawrence replaced Guy Ritchie as the director on the WW2 comic adaptation "Sgt. Rock." Akiva Goldsman is set to produce both projects.

After “I Am Legend,” it’s hard for me to say that I think Lawrence will do a great job on something that will require extensive special effects, but the story seems interesting enough.

Having said that, I still can’t forget how terrible and fake the ‘vampire’ type creatures looked in “I Am Legend.” That film really did have the potential to be an amazing science fiction film, but instead was just Will Smith running around in an empty Manhattan.

Lawrence has several projects in development that could be his next picture. Besides “Sgt. Rock” he also has Michael Chabon's "Snow and Seven" and an adaptation of "Water for Elephants."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DJ Booth: Kelis, "Acapella"

Earlier this year, after splitting up with husband Nas, singer Kelis found herself single and very pregnant. A new album was probably the last thing on her mind, but what a difference a few months can make.

On her new single, Acapella, Kelis talks about love and life and shows her range and talent as a singer. Producer David Guetta, whose last DJBooth feature Memories earned him reader approval, proves he is a master at mixing up sounds, and knows just when to slow the beat down for dramatic effect.

Even though the track has an energetic, upbeat feel, vocally Kelis is working through some real emotional pain, sounding much more mature than she did in her chart topper Milkshake, from way back in 2003. Her lost love and emotional pain is perfectly described in a metaphor, as she sings, “Before you my whole life was acapella, now a symphony is the only song to sing.

will be off Kelis’ currently untitled fifth studio album, set for a release in early 2010.