Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Academy Awards Are Tonight!


Best Picture

"The King's Speech," "True Grit," "Inception," "The Social Network," "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The Kids Are All Right," "Toy Story 3," "127 Hours," "Winter's Bone"

Breakdown: It's really hard to argue against any of these nominees, but it's clearly a two-horse race between "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network," although it wouldn't be a major surprise at all to see box-office favorite "True Grit" pick up the award.

Who Should Win: "The Social Network." There's just something about this movie that I can't shake. David Fincher's directing, Aaron Sorkin's writing, Trent Reznor's score, and the acting of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake all combine together to create what in my opinion is the best all around movie of the year. While some people have called the film "The Facebook Movie," it's really about much more than Facebook. It's about culture and the generation we live in now.

Who Will Win: "The King's Speech." At the beginning of awards season, it looked as if "The Social Network" could not be stopped. It seemingly was winning every critics award imaginable and was starting to have the feel of an Oscar lock. But the race got interesting late in the game as "The King's Speech" started to rack up awards and after winning the award for director Tom Hooper from the DGA, the historical drama looks to be the front-runner.

Snubs: "The Town." While I think "Winter's Bone" is completely deserving of its nomination, Ben Affleck's Boston crime drama easily could have slid in to (what was most likely) the tenth slot.

Best Director

David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), Darren Aronofsky, ("Black Swan"), David O. Russell ("The Fighter"), Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit")

Breakdown: It's hard to argue with any of the five nominations in this category, but it's a two-horse race again, this time with Fincher and Hooper. Both films, "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech," have enjoyed high praise everywhere, and if one of these two didn't win the award, I would be surprised. While the Coens have past pedigree in the category, I think it's between Hooper and Fincher.

Who Should Win: David Fincher has directed some truly great films in the past, including "Seven," "Fight Club" and "Zodiac," and I think he made the best picture of the year in "The Social Network." It should be his award.

Who Will Win: Fincher has it. His film and his work on it have earned widespread praise and although Hooper won the DGA Award (making him sort of a frontrunner), I still think Fincher will pull away with it.

Snubs: Christopher Nolan! "Inception," In one of the most glaring snubs in recent memory, Nolan was shut out of this category again (after another snub for "The Dark Knight). Conspiracy theories abound, but I think the reason for the snub is because some voters just didn't understand "Inception" (which means they are dumb), but whatever the reason, he deserves to be miffed. Hopefully with "The Dark Knight Rises," Nolan will get his due.

Best Actor

Colin Firth ("The King's Speech"), Jeff Bridges ("True Grit"), Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network"), James Franco ("127 Hours"), Javier Bardem ("Biutiful")

Breakdown: While all five actors gave amazing performances, this feels like its Firth's award to lose. He won the Golden Globe and his performance has been unanimously praised for its realistic portrayal of a character suffering from a stammer. Both Franco and Eisenberg were fantastic, and if not for Firth, either of them would be deserving.

Who Should Win: Whenever an actor is nominated two years in a row for Best Actor, I think that is truly an amazing accomplishment. Both Firth and Bridges pulled it off this year (Bridges won for "Crazy Heart" last year, while Firth was in "A Single Man") and while I think Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn, it's Firth's year.

Who Will Win: Firth is the frontrunner and he will take it home.

Snubs: You name it. From Robert Duvall of "Get Low" to Ryan Gosling of "Blue Valentine" to Mark Wahlberg of "The Fighter." All three have legitimate beef with the Academy, but I can't argue with any of the five nominated. That said, Gosling was exceptional.

Best Actress

Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right"), Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Nicole Kidman ("Rabbit Hole"), Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine")

Breakdown: Another category that seems as if it's down to two nominees: Annette Bening and Natalie Portman are the frontrunners. Portman was previously nominated as a supporting actress for 2004's "Closer" and Bening has been nominated four times without winning.

Who Should Win: I thought both Bening and Portman were fantastic, but I think it's Portman who should win this year, because "Black Swan" totally fell on her shoulders and she was great in it. It was a physically and mentally demanding role, she took it head on--and she nailed it.

Who Will Win: While I think Portman could easily take this, I actually think the Academy will finally call on Bening for the first time.

Snubs: Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit." I should call this the "Sort Of Snub." While I think it's great that she was nominated for Supporting Actress (which she has an actual chance to win), her character was more of a leading role, and I think she deserved a nomination for Best Actress, although I understand the voters reasoning.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale ("The Fighter"), Geoffrey Rush ("The King's Speech"), Jeremy Renner ("The Town"), Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are All Right"), John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone")

Breakdown: While obviously every Oscar category is "deep" in the sense that the nominees are all deserving, this category is probably the strongest of any from top to bottom this year. While Bale was a knockout in "The Fighter" and is the front-runner, in any other year each four of these actors could take home the award. Ruffalo gave an amazing performance in "The Kids Are Alright,"and while I don't think he'll win this year, he was fantastic.

Who Should Win: I do think Bale was amazing, and he should win the award, but for the sake of it, and because I am a huge fan, I'll say John Hawkes should win. He has been spinning great performances for years (including in "Deadwood" among many others) and after seeing "Winter's Bone," I was floored by his performance.

Who Will Win: Bale is the frontrunner and after a slew of great career roles, he deserves this award.

Snubs: Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network"). Each snub shows just how much voters liked "Winter's Bone," which I admit I was a fan of, as well. Although I loved Hawkes in the film, I think both these actors could have received a nomination. Timberlake was great and Garfield was even better--he played the emotional and sympathetic center of the year's best film.

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo ("The Fighter"), Amy Adams ("The Fighter"), Helena Bonham Carter ("The King's Speech"), Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom")

Breakdown: When a film has two nominations in one category, it says a lot. While Carter gave an amazing performance, as did Weaver, it seems to be Leo's award to lose (apart from her strange Oscar campaign photos).

Who Should Win: Steinfeld was amazing in "True Grit" and based on pure performance, she should win.

Who Will Win: Leo most likely will take home the award for her loud and realistic portrayal of boxer Micky Ward's mother.

Snubs: Mila Kunis ("Black Swan") and Julianne Moore ("The Kids Are All Right"). Both were absolutely deserving but were shut out in a strong year for the category. Kunis was great in "Black Swan" and has a definite gripe here.

Other thoughts and observations:

-Snub: Lee Smith - Editing - Inception. Come on, that last act when the movie is jumping through three different levels of dreaming isn't Oscar worthy? Please.

-I hope Christopher Nolan wins for Best Original Screenplay for "Inception." The film was fantastic and do you get a script more original than that? Don't think so.

-Snub: Daft Punk - Score - Tron: Legacy. I'm probably biased because I am a Daft Punk fan, but their electronic and transy soundtrack to the new "Tron" film definitely deserved a nomination. But if Trent Reznor loses the award, it's an injustice.

-I don't care if they thought the film wasn't that great overall, but "Tron: Legacy" getting shut out of an Effects Oscar just doesn't make sense.

The Academy Awards air tonight on ABC.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paul Walker Sold At A "Pawn Shop"


While many people remember Fred Durst best for his work as the front man of the band Limp Bizkit, more recently he has proved he has a knack for directing films. In 2008, he directed the Ice Cube film "The Longshots," which was nothing special, but in 2007 Durst completely shocked me with his excellent work on "The Education of Charlie Banks."

Starring a pre-Oscar nominated Jesse Eisenberg in a pitch perfect role, the film was a tale of friendship, secrets and higher education that showed that Durst had a feel for cinema and was a skilled director. For his next project, Durst is aiming for something more along the lines of "Banks" rather than a comedy like "Longshots," and it has just added a leading man.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Walker will star in the Durst-directed thriller "Pawn Shop Chronicles" for Lionsgate.

The article describes the project as "hillbilly Pulp Fiction" and follows interconnected stories centering on a missing wedding ring, which leads to a wild-goose chase involving meth addicts, skinheads and an Elvis impersonator.

Actor-turned-writer Adam Minarovich penned the script while Jordan Schur, David Mimran and Steven Schneider are producing along with Durst.

I'm not sure exactly why, but there was always something I liked about Paul Walker. Sure, his acting could be a bit stiff, but he was solid back in the day in "She's All That" and he was pretty good in the mediocre "Running Scared." I think he could be a good fit here, but the reason I look at this project as a potentially successful one is due to Durst.

If you're a fan of good movies or Jesse Eisenberg, seriously do yourself a favor and get your hands on "The Education of Charlie Banks" because it really is worthwhile. This new project seems suited for him, and I'd expect it to be a solid film all around, especially from the director's chair.

Shooting aims to kick off this spring in Michigan.

Wentworth Miller Goes "Analog"


Back when "Prison Break" first premiered, lead actor Wentworth Miller looked like a superstar in the making. The badass shaved head, the solid acting--it just seemed to me like he had the chance to break out in a big way. That never happened for Miller, although "Prison Break" did end up lasting for four seasons, which is something to be proud of, I guess.

Either way, Miller didn’t do much with his star chance, so it's great to see him headlining a new project, even if it is a small one. According to Variety, Miller is attached to star in the $3 million indie dramedy "Analog."

The story follows an introverted genius who tries to find a love connection in an increasingly digital world. Mike Million ("Tenure") directs from his own 2005 Black List screenplay.

Maybe I have a soft spot for Miller because he went to high school in my neighborhood, but either way, I really think he is a solid actor and perhaps this film could lead him to doing more movies in the future. The simple premise of the film sound very unique and the fact that the script was on the Black List is a huge plus for the project.

Brendan McDonald is producing with shooting potentially ready to start this summer in Michigan.

Binoche, Amlric Enter The "Cosmopolis"


David Cronenberg hasn't directed a feature film since 2007's "Eastern Promises," which makes his next feature "Cosmopolis" all the more exciting. On top of the fact that it's based on Don DeLillo's excellent novel, the film's cast is shaping up extremely nicely.

According to C7nema, French actors Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Amalric ("Quantum of Solace") have joined the cast of Cronenberg‘s upcoming adaptation.

Based on the novel by Don DeLillo, the story follows a day in the life of newly married billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he cheats on his wife, is pursued by a stalker (Paul Giamatti), gets attacked by a protester and gradually loses his entire fortune over the course of a single day.

DeLillo's book is really interesting and while I thought the story would be very hard to adapt to film, I think Cronenberg is a director who is totally up to task. While he hasn't helmed a film in a few years, his past few films have been nothing short of excellent, especially Cronenberg's 2005 film "A History of Violence," which starred Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen.

The supporting cast of "Cosmopolis" is superb and deep, with Giamatti and now Binoche and Amalric, who was amazing in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" a few years ago.

Production on the film is aiming for a start on May 24th in Toronto.

"Tron" Scribes Talk "Once Upon a Time"


Based on the work they did on "Lost," Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz proved they are one of the most talented science-fiction screenwriting teams out there. They wrote many episodes for the series, including such memorable ones as "Something Nice Back Home," "Every Man for Himself," "Dave," "Fire and Water" and "Greatest Hits," which was one of the most emotional of the series.

They followed up their work on the show with a little film called "Tron: Legacy" and while not all die-hard fans liked the film, I thought it was pretty good considering how high expectations were for the project.

The duo are currently working on a TV series for ABC titled "Once Upon a Time" and they spoke to Vulture in an interview about the show, revealing some interesting details about it.

The part-fantasy story revolves around "A young boy who lives in Storybrooke, Maine, where he's convinced things aren't what they seem, and we also get glimpses of a fairy tale land where familiar evil queens and dwarves with sharply drawn personalities are quite real."

Horowitz said in the interview: "We want to take the iconography that we've always loved and find a new way to look at what makes these fairy-tale characters tick."

Kitsis said that "there will be self-contained stories in each episode. [And] there will be a larger mythology at work. But it's not like if you miss an episode one week, you can't catch up."

Just based on their past work, I would watch the show, but after reading more details about it, the series sounds like it could be something very unique, which often is not seen on network TV. The show begins by jumping between two different world's--the fairytale and the Storybrooke, which sounds very "Lost" influenced, and that's not a bad thing.

While the project is still early in development, it could be a surprise hit for the network.

Richard Kelly Visits "Corpus Christi"


Whether you loved it or hated it, if you saw "Donnie Darko," you have to admit that Richard Kelly has a distinct and unique skill and vision when it comes to film. He isn't conventional and while some of his films were a bit muddled, like "Southland Tales," for example, his projects at least make audiences think outside "The Box."

Kelly, in fact, last directed the previously mentioned "The Box" and for his next project, he will work on something a bit more conventional. According to Variety, Kelly will next write and direct the contemporary thriller "Corpus Christi," which will be co-financed through his own company, Darko Entertainment.

The Texas-set project will be a foray into a more traditional narrative for the "Donnie Darko" director, with the story concerning a mentally unstable Iraq war veteran who forges a strange friendship with his boss, the wealthy and politically ambitious owner of a supermarket chain.

While the plot of the film sounds a bit strange, this will be Kelly's first film without heavy science-fiction effects or elements. I was a big fan of "Donnie Darko," I thought it was a strange and totally original idea, and I thought what Kelly did with time travel was fresh and pretty intelligent. Although I wasn't as big of a fan of "Southland Tales" or "The Box," I was always curious at what Kelly could do on a more conventional film, and it looks like we'll all have a chance to see that.

Kelly's unique skill set should be well suited for this film and it will be interesting to see how he tackles the idea of having the main character be a mentally unstable war veteran.

Kelly, Eli Roth and Sean McKittrick will produce and shooting will kick off on location in July. Casting is under way and an announcement is expected within the next month.

Danny Boyle Tries "Sharp" Werewolves


The director/writer team of Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy has proven to a successful formula in recent years. The two scored Oscar gold for their work on "Slumdog Millionaire," and this past year they lent their talents to the Oscar-nominated "127 Hours," so it's not a surprise that they would want to work together again.

According to the site InContention, who spoke with Beaufoy, the writer said that he's working on a film adaptation of Toby Barlow's werewolf-themed poem “Sharp Teeth,” which Boyle may direct.

The story follows a trio of werewolves in East Los Angeles. Characters include a lawyer with ambitious plans to takeover the city, a dogcatcher and loner who falls for a beautiful and mysterious woman, and a detective investigating dog-related murders.

In the article, Beaufoy explains that he has been taking ridealongs with LAPD officers in Compton and Watts for research. Boyle himself is currently working on a soon-to-open stage adaptation of "Frankenstein."

If only because of their track record, anything these two work on together is something worth being interested in, but beyond that, I think the story would be something Boyle would love to tackle.

He has worked on numerous types of films in his career, including the drug-fueled "Trainspotting," the horror/survival film "28 Days Later," and the science fiction film "Sunshine." This type of film would be another way for Boyle to show off his signature creativity and style.

No release date is set yet, but look for news in the coming weeks.

Levy Helms "Fantastic Voyage" Remake


Director Shawn Levy is still putting the finishing touches on his robot boxing film "Real Steel," but that hasn't kept him from lining up his next possible job. According to Deadline, Levy has been tapped to direct the James Cameron-produced 3D remake of the sci-fi classic "Fantastic Voyage" for 20th Century Fox.

Based on the 1966 film, the voyage revolves around a team of scientists who are shrunk to atomic size and sent in a miniature submarine inside the body of a scientist to save his life.

The film has been in development for awhile with director Paul Greengrass attached last year, but when he left, it became one of the most wanted open spots in the industry. A whole crop of names, including Darren Aronofsky, Timur Bekmambetov, Jonathan Mostow and Louis Leterrier met with Cameron about the gig, but it looks as if Levy is his man for the job. Shane Salerno penned the script, which Laeta Kalogridis performed re-writes on it.

While Levy doesn't seem like the most obvious choice of the crop for an action film due to his background in comedy with films like "Cheaper By the Dozen" and "What Happens in Vegas," Levy has recently shown he is looking to broaden his horizons. His upcoming film "Real Steel" is a science fiction/action/sports story and Levy also has signed on for another action/adventure picture with Fox.

This film could be a huge success due to the subject matter and James Cameron's involvement. We all saw what he could create with 3D imagery and technology in "Avatar," so I can only imagine what he'll do with the inside of a human body.

With Levy at the helm this could play well to general audiences and turn out to be a big hit down the line.


Redford To Act In "Gold in the Snow"?


Robert Redford hasn't stepped in front of the camera for an acting gig since 2007's "Lions For Lambs," and it's not like that film was great or anything. It's been quite a while since the aging film star took to the screen, but it looks as if that might just happen.

According to The Playlist, Redford might be making a return to star in Nicolas Vanier‘s next directorial effort, "Gold In The Snow."

An English-language adaptation of Vanier‘s own 2004 novel, the film would find Redford playing an old trapper who helps a young American man seeking gold along the Klondike river in Alaska in 1897. Three well-known actors are said to be in contention for the younger role.

Although Redford's role in the film will most likely be small, I'd be thrilled to see him in front of the camera again. I recently watched "All the President's Men" again for the first time in a while, and I marveled at how great Redford was in the film. On top of that, "Spy Game" always has been a personal favorite and it made me hope that Redford would do more acting work in his later years.

Redford directed the upcoming historical drama "The Conspirator" starring James McAvoy, which will be released in April.

Shooting for "Gold" would take place over the course of a year to capture the Yukon territory as it passes through the various seasons.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classic Album Reivew: The Roots, "Do You Want More?!!!??!"


Throughout the years artists, critics, writers and musicians have drawn tons of comparisons between hip-hop and jazz, and no group has combined the two genres better than The Roots.

Since the group is so successful now and currently serves as Jimmy Fallon's house band on "Late Night," it's almost hard to remember that there was a time when mainstream success eluded the group.

The origins of the group began when rapper Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) and drummer Questlove (Ahmir Thompson) met and became friends at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts in the late '80s. As the next few years went by they began to do shows around Philadelphia and New York City with bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard and rapper Malik B, the Roots and eventually recorded a debut album, titled "Organix."

The band produced the album independently and originally sold it at shows in Europe. The group earned itself a very loyal following and as time went on, the album earned a great deal of buzz around the industry and led to the group finally getting some studio recognition.

After releasing "From the Ground Up" EP in 1994, the group went to work on their first official studio album, which showed off how truly skilled they were at combining elements of hip-hop, jazz and live instruments. Unlike some other artists, the group didn't use the combination as a commercial gimmick, instead they fuse the two together to great a new genre in itself and a sound that is truly intoxicating.

Their first true studio album "Do You Want More???" was released in January of 1995 and was extremely well received by both fans and critics. The album is long, clocking in at over 70 minutes, but in this case quantity equals quality. From top to bottom, every track is solid, especially "Lazy Afternoon," the title track "Do You Want More?!!!??!," "Distortion to Static," "? vs. Rahzel," and "Mellow My Man."

The thing that makes the album work so well is how the group takes a completely original approach to the hip-hop genre, with their jazzy instrumentals and socially conscious lyrics. One track in which this really shines through is on "Distortion to Static," which features a provocatively smooth beat and some of the best verses on the album.



Malik B is supremely confident on the track as he raps: "Yo, I'm every MC, it's all in me/That's the way it is, when ya gotta be/Indeed as I distort I proceed, I need / Gettin hotter than sacks of boom, in my room at the Ramada/Four tanks in your memory banks to fill up/I provide the static, with scratch to match, while you catch the vibe/Most can play high post, but yo that don't mean shit/Because my click'll make a motherfucker sick."

Black Thought has one of the truly unique flows and voices in the hip-hop industry and his work on this album is one reason why it holds up so well after all these years. On the title track "Do You Want More?!!!??!," Thought takes center stage, spitting some great lines over a truly amazing beat, which uses perfectly placed Scottish bagpipes mixed in with a hard drum from Questlove.



Thought opens the track with a hard sound that hooks you in and keeps you until the track ends. He raps ferociously as he spits: "Like I'm a medical doctor, watch the damage/I inflict properly, ain't nobody risin on top of me/I be droppin more plot in my mic monopoly/Got to be, got to be reality, Stevie Wonder see/Black Thought be me, I groove ba-by/Or I clue they say baby/Would you get with this? Not even maybe."

Although it isn't exactly a conventional track, I couldn’t write this without mentioning "? vs. Rahzel," which is my one of my personal favorites from the album. While it is mainly instrumentals and a beat and doesn't feature any verses, the track is a favorite of mine because it has two of my favorite hip-hop artists showing off their skills front and center. The track features Questlove banging out the drums while Rahzel mixes in his patented beat-boxing techniques, combining for a unique sound not found on many other hip-hop albums.



The track epitomizes The Roots' jazz influences, with Rahzel's beats and Questlove's drums forming an improvisational loop of just pure music and jamming. Another track that really shows off those influences as well is "Mellow My Man," which features heavy electric piano grooves and realistic lyrics.



With their offbeat delivery and live instrumental sound, The Toots literally were like no other group out there. The group was extremely musically talented, that was clear, but they also possessed a skill at linking the experimental nature jazz with the gritty life of the streets and hip-hop. Due to its jazzy influences, "Do You Want More?!!!??!" sometimes sounds more like an album bred from old-school hip-hop rather than contemporary rap.

The group lets the music breathe throughout the album, letting tracks build as they go one and creating a funkadelic hip-hop sound that is impossible to copycat. The album was a blueprint for combining hip-hop and jazz; it emphatically put The Roots on the map, and is definitely a classic.

WELCOME TO NY CARMELO



Welcome to the Mecca of Basketball.

The Garden is Back.

Can't wait to get Chris Paul or Deron Williams in a year.

Let's rejoice and put that decade of futility behind us!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Some Academy Awards Thoughts and Predictions...(in case you were wondering)

Ah the Academy Awards. Everyone has a prediction, and while I don't claim to be an expert, here are some predictions for the big night.

Best Picture



Nominees: "The King's Speech," "True Grit," "Inception," "The Social Network," "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The Kids Are All Right," "Toy Story 3," "127 Hours," "Winter's Bone"

Breakdown: It's really hard to argue against any of these nominees, but it's clearly a two-horse race right now between "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network," although it wouldn't be a major surprise at all to see box-office favorite "True Grit" pick up the award.

Who Should Win: "The Social Network" There's just something about this movie that I can't shake. David Fincher's directing, Aaron Sorkin's writing, Trent Reznor's score, the acting of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake all combine together to create what in my opinion is the best all around movie of the year. While some people have called the film "The Facebook Movie," it's really about much more than just the website, and it says a lot about culture and the generation we live in now.

Who Will Win: "The King's Speech" At the beginning of awards season it looked as if "The Social Network" could not be stopped. It seemingly was winning every critics award imaginable and was starting to have the feel of an Oscar lock. But the race got interesting late in the game as "The King's Speech" started to rack up awards and after winning the award for director Tom Hooper from the DGA, the historical drama looks to be the front runner.

Snubs: "The Town," While I think "Winter's Bone" is completely deserving a nomination in this category, Ben Affleck's Boston crime drama easily could have slid in to (what was most likely) the tenth slot.

Best Director



David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), Darren Aronofsky, ("Black Swan"), David O. Russell ("The Fighter"), Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit")

Breakdown: It's truly hard to argue with any of the five nominations in this category, but it's a two horse race again with Fincher and Hooper. Both films, "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech," have gotten high praise everywhere, and if one of these two didn't win the award I would be surprised. While the Coen's have past pedigree in the category, I think it's between Hooper and Fincher.

Who Should Win: David Fincher has directed some truly great films in the past, including "Seven," "Fight Club," and "Zodiac," and I think he made the best picture of the year in "The Social Network." It should be his award.

Who Will Win: Fincher has it. His film and his work on it have earned widespread praise and although Hooper won the DGA Award (making him sort of a frontrunner) I still think Fincher will pull away with it.

Snubs: Christopher Nolan! "Inception," In one of the most glaring snubs in recent memory, Nolan was shut out of this category again (after another snub for "The Dark Knight). Conspiracy theories are abound, but I think the reason is because some voters maybe just didn't understand "Inception" (which means they are dumb), but whatever the reason he deserves to be miffed. Hopefully with "The Dark Knight Rises" Nolan will get his due.

Best Actor



Colin Firth ("The King's Speech"), Jeff Bridges ("True Grit"), Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network"), James Franco ("127 Hours"), Javier Bardem ("Biutiful")

Breakdown: While all five actors gave amazing performances, this feels like it's Firth's award to lose. He won the Golden Globe award and his performance has been unanimously praised for it's realistic portrayal of a character suffering from a stammer. Both Franco and Eisenberg were fantastic, and if not for Firth, either of these two would be deserving.

Who Should Win: Whenever an actor is nominated two years in a row for Best Actor, I think that is truly an amazing accomplishment. Both Firth and Bridges pulled it off this year (Bridges won for "Crazy Heart" last year, while Firth was in "A Single Man") and while I think Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn, it's Firth's year.

Who Will Win: Firth is the frontrunner, and he will take it home.

Snubs: Robert Duvall of "Get Low" and Ryan Gosling from "Blue Valentine" to Mark Wahlberg of "The Fighter." All three have legitimate beef with the Academy, but I can't argue with any of the five nominated. Gosling was truly exceptional though.

Best Actress



Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right"), Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Nicole Kidman ("Rabbit Hole"), Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine")

Breakdown: Another category which seems as if it's down to two nominees: Annette Bening and Natalie Portman are the frontrunners for this award. Portman was previously nominated as a supporting actress for 2004's "Closer" and Bening has been nominated four times without winning.

Who Should Win: I thought both Bening and Portman were fantastic, but i think it's Portman who should win this year, because "Black Swan" totally fell on her shoulders and she was just great in it. It was a physically and mentally demanding role, and she took it head on.

Who Will Win: While I think Portman could easily take this, I actually think the Academy will finally call on Bening for the first time.

Snubs: Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit", I should call this the "Sort Of Snub". While I think it's great she was nominated for Supporting Actress (which she has an actual chance to win), her character was more of a leading role, and I think she deserved a nomination for Best Actress, although I understand the voters reasoning.

Best Supporting Actor



Christian Bale ("The Fighter"), Geoffrey Rush ("The King's Speech"), Jeremy Renner ("The Town"), Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are All Right"), John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone")

Breakdown: While obviously every Oscar category is "deep" in the sense that the nominees are all deserving, this category is probably the strongest of any from top to bottom this year. While Bale was a knockout in "The Fighter" and is the front runner, in any other year each four of these actors could take home the award. Ruffalo gave an amazing performance years ago in "You Can Count On Me" which was Oscar-winning-worthy, and while I don't think he'll win this year he was fantastic.

Who Should Win: I do think Bale was amazing, and he should win the award, but for the sake of it, and because I am a huge fan, I'll say John Hawkes should win. He has been spinning great performances for years (including in "Deadwood" among many others) and after seeing "Winter's Bone" I was floored by his performance.

Who Will Win: Bale is the frontrunner and after a slew of great roles in his career, deserves this award.

Snubs: Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network"), the snubs of either of these two shows how much voters liked "Winter's Bone," which I admit I was a fan of as well. Although I loved Hawkes in the film, I think both these actors could have received a nomination. Timberlake was great and Garfield was even greater, playing the emotional and sympathetic center of the year's best film.


Best Supporting Actress



Melissa Leo ("The Fighter"), Amy Adams ("The Fighter"), Helena Bonham Carter ("The King's Speech"), Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom")

Breakdown: When a film has two nominations in one category, it sure says a lot. While Carter gave an amazing performance, as did Weaver, it seems to be Leo's award to lose (apart from her strange Oscar campaign photos).

Who Should Win: Steinfeld was amazing in "True Grit" and based on pure performance, she should win.

Who Will Win: Leo most likely will take home the award for her loud and realistic portrayal of boxer Micky Ward's mother.

Snubs: Mila Kunis ("Black Swan"), Julianne Moore ("The Kids Are All Right"), Both were absolutely deserving but were shut out in a strong year for the category. Kunis was truly great in "Black Swan" and has a definite gripe here.

Other stray thoughts and observations:

-Snub: Lee Smith - Editing - Inception. Come on, that last act when the movie is jumping through three different levels of dreaming isn't Oscar worthy? Please.

-I hope Christopher Nolan wins for Best Original Screenplay for "Inception." The film was truly fantastic and do you get a script more original than that? Don't think so.

-Sunb: Daft Punk - Score - Tron: Legacy, I'm probably biased because I am a Daft Punk fan, but their electronic and transy soundtrack to the new "Tron" film definitely deserved a nomination. But if Trent Reznor loses the Award that is an injustice.

-I don't care if they thought the film wasn't that great overall, but "Tron: Legacy" getting shut out of an Effects Oscar just doesn't make sense.

The Academy Awards air on Sunday February, 27, 2011.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gerard Butler Goes Surfing In "Mavericks"


Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I've always thought that Curtis Hanson was one of Hollywood's most underrated directors. Hanson won an Oscar for his writing-work on "L.A. Confidential," which is easily one of Hollywood's best films in the past 20 years, and he has directed some excellent films in the past including "Wonder Boys," "8 Mile" and "The River Wild."

Hanson doesn’t work all that often (he hasn't directed a feature film since 2007's "I'm Lucky"), so whenever he does direct something, it has my attention. His next project is a surfing film that sounds quite interesting, and it also has just added a leading man.

According to Deadline, Gerard Butler ("300") is set to play Rick "Frosty" Hesson in Hanson's upcoming surfing feature "Mavericks" for Walden Media.

The fact-based story follows the late Jay Moriarity and his quest to ride the iconic Northern California break known as Mavericks, where winter swells bring in treacherous waves the size of five-story buildings. Moriarity trained for over a year under Hesson, a friendship that transformed both their lives. Moriarity, who died in 2001 in a diving accident in the Maldives, remains an inspiration to surfers around the globe.

While Butler has lent his talents to a bunch of awful romantic comedies, his work in "300" and "RocknRolla" was solid and this could be a good chance for him to show off his dramatic talents. Hanson recently directed the HBO financial crisis drama "Too Big To Fail" and should be very enthusiastic about his first feature since 2007.

Hanson's work on "L.A. Confidential" truly was something great and I think this film could be a surprise hit.

Shooting is expected to kick off in October.

"Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome" Gets Underway


"Battlestar Galactica" fans around the world rejoice.

According to MovieWeb, production has officially begun in Vancouver on Syfy's anticipated two-hour pilot "Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome."

The show follows in the footsteps of "Battlestar Galactica," which ran from 2004 to 2009 and "Caprica," which premiered last year.

The show's official synopsis describes the story as having "the action set in the 10th year of the first Cylon war. As the battle between humans and their creation, the sentient robotic Cylons, rages across the twelve colonial worlds, a young, talented fighter pilot named William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) finds himself assigned to one of the most powerful Battlestars in the Colonial fleet--the Galactica.

Full of ambition and in pursuit of the intense action that the Cylon war promises, Adama quickly find himself at odds with Coker (Ben Cotton), the battle-weary officer to whom he reports. With 47 days left in his tour of duty, Coker desires an end to battle just as much as Adama craves the start of it. Though they clash at first, the two men forge an unlikely bond when a routine mission turns dangerous and becomes a pivotal one for the desperate fleet."

Universal Cable Productions will produce the series "utilizing cutting edge CGI and virtual technology" according to the official release.

I thought "Caprica" was solid, but that series was a bit more of a soapy drama compared to the original "Battlestar" series and I'm happy to see that "Blood and Chrome" is more in the latter's vein. On top of that Pasqualino, I think will be an excellent choice for the young Adama. Those that have seen the British version of "Skins" knows for sure that Pasqualino is a great young talent and I think this could be a big breakout role for him.

"Blood and Chrome" is created by the same crew that worked on the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" series, so this one has potential to be something special.

The pilot should debut later this year.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Classic Album Review: Ghostface Killah, “Supreme Clientele”


After the release of their debut album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" back in 1993, Wu-Tang Clan was literally on top of the rap world. The album was hailed as an instant classic and allowed the members of the group to branch out and record their own solo albums.

With the success of "36 Chambers" obviously expectations were high for the first round of solo projects from the Wu-Tang Clan and for the most part they didn't disappoint. Both "Tical" from Method Man and "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version" from Ol Dirty Bastard are considered hip-hop classics and Ghostface Killah's "Ironman" was easily one of the best of the solo albums released by the group.

But as with many artists, sometimes the sophomore effort doesn't quite stack up the debut version. After releasing "Wu-Tang Forever" in 1997 the group separated for a second round of solo albums, but this time around many weren't as acclaimed as their original counterparts.

While albums from RZA, GZA, Method Man, and Raekwon were all commercially successful, they were not quite as close to critically acclaimed as their debuts. But one member of the group bucked this trend, emphatically improving on his second effort, the album "Supreme Clientele" from Ghostface Killah.

Released on January 25, 2000 the album features guest appearances from RZA, Raekwon, GZA, Method Man, Cappadonna, Redman, and Masta Killa and is considered to be one of the best solo albums to come from a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

The album was hit with critics and fans alike after its release and was certified Gold in sales two months after its debut. The album is a long one, with 21 tracks, but in this case quantity equals quality. From start to finish there are few dull moments. The entire lineup is great but "Malcolm," "Apollo Kids," "Child's Play," "Cherchez LaGhost" and "Wu Banga 101" stand out above the rest.

Throughout the album Ghostface employs some excellent samples on the tracks, including on the first single released "Apollo Kids," which has a sample of "Cool Breeze" by R&B singer/songwriter Solomon Burke. The track also features Raekwon and has one of the most gangsta music videos of all time. The video was directed by Chris Robinson and showcases Ghostface as Tony Starks CEO of Starks Enterprises, located in the heart of Staten Island.



The beat, produced by Hassan, is hard biting and non-stop and is one of the best on the album. Ghostface is equally as intense as he raps on the track: "Yo, check these up top murderous/Snowy in the bezzle as the cloud merges/F.B.I. try and want word with this/Kid who punked out bust a shot uip in the becon/Catch me in the corner not speakin/Crushed out heavenly, U.G. rock the sweet daddy long fox minks/Chicken and brocolli, Wally's look stinky/With his man straight from Raleigh Durham, he recognized Kojak."

RZA produces numerous tracks on the album, my favorite of which is "Child's Play." The beat is fantastic (as usual from RZA) and has an old school-style, piano melody to it that is hard to forget about. The beat fits in perfectly with the track which is a sort of retrospective on the past and childhood itself.



Ghostface spits some of his best verses on the track, including towards the middle of the track as he spits: "Beautiful in lightshows, having no intentions on love/But having strung eyes of oppose, here we go/It's not the way she bubbed the gum, shooked her ass/I'm not the one, double dus, waiting for the bus/The faggot Nore son, now year later/Lady 7th floor, building 7-80/Fancy fox, booties for her socks, nothing else can change me/Young Nefertiti, knowledge seed with no jewelry on/Tahitian fresh berry tree, she's a Capricorn/I really liked the girl, had dreams about her."

"Malcolm" is one of the more serious tracks on the album, but it's also one of the best. The track has two of the most perfectly placed samples on the album in "Going In Circles" by Isaac Hayes and also Malcolm X's "After the Bombing" speech. Ghostface proves on this track how he can turn from something silly or less serious on the album (like "Child's Play) and then take on something that's more significant here.



The track is very symbolic and Ghostface has a flow on this track almost better than any other on the album as he spits: "Yo he sucked his thumb smooth for the kid laced with the big guns/Stain to my Baltimore niggas that he on the run/Plus he ill in the drums, heartburn for life, calcium man/Watch him grab the Tums, he's a front/Pigeon totalist sister with the fat ass/Show hash behind up the block plus he smashed her/Big Bub did him somethin deadly, act premedidtated/Buck 60 strike was the medley/Nice like Van Halen, seen him at the tunnel with his skin peelin/Did two days thought he was jailin."

With all its guest stars and producers one might mistake this album for a Wu-Tang one, but at its core it truly is Ghostface's show. Lyrically he is a force on every track, using some fantastic imagery and his dense rhyming skills to give the album an energetic, almost cinematic feel to it.

"Supreme Clientele" has a distinct sound and feel to it and emphatically proved that Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan were forces to be reckoned with. The album was some of Killah's best work and is definitely a classic.

Judi Dench, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Garner Have "Better Living Through Chemistry"


In a short period of time Jeremy Renner has proved to be one of the industry's best acting talents. Anytime you are nominated for Oscars in consecutive years, there is no doubt that you are one of the Hollywood elite. Last year, he lost Best Actor to Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart" for his work in "The Hurt Locker," and this year he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Ben Affleck's "The Town."

Renner is keeping himself busy as well, starring in both "The Avengers" as Hawkeye and as the new face of the "Mission Impossible" franchise in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." As if that weren't enough, it looks as if he just added another job to his busy schedule.

According to Variety, Renner, Judi Dench, Jennifer Garner and Michelle Monaghan have all joined the cast of the indie drama "Better Living Through Chemistry."

The $8 million dollar project follows a straight-laced small-town pharmacist stuck in a loveless marriage who rediscovers himself through an affair with a wild, drug-experimenting trophy wife. David Posamentier and Geoff Moore penned the script and are co-directing.

This film sounds like a classic independent drama and that's a good thing. The cast is great--Dench is an acting legend and Garner, Monaghan and Renner are some of Hollywood's best young talents. While Monaghan doesn't have the pedigree of Renner, she has given some excellent performances herself through the years, including in "Gone Baby Gone" and "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang."

Garner has been a personal favorite of mine for years because I was such a big fan of "Alias," but she has proved over the years to be a solid actress.

The cast makes this film a project to watch and could be one of those largely under-the-radar indie hits.

Felipe Marino, Joe Neurauter and Keith Calder will produce the film while shooting will start in August.

Abigail Breslin, Julianne Moore Bite Into "Innocence"


With "Twilight" so successful, there has been an influx of vampire-themed films the past few years in Hollywood. While many of them haven't been great, such as "Daybreakers" and "Vampires Suck," the films have potential to take a tried and true genre and turn it on its head, much like "Let Me In," the remake of the Swedish film "Let the Right One In."

According to Variety, another vampire novel is getting the adaptation treatment, with Abigail Breslin and Julianne Moore teaming up for the gothic vampire thriller "Innocence."

The story follows a recently bereaved teenage girl who finds herself the focus of everyone's attention at her elitist private school, which is home to a nest of vampires. The story is adapted from the original novel of the same name by Jane Mendelsohn.

While this film could easily turn into a "Twilight" copycat, the fact that Breslin and Moore are attached is a huge positive sign for the project. Both actresses have been nominated for Academy Awards (Moore multiple times) and Breslin, along with actresses like Chloe Moretz and Haliee Steinfeld, has proved that some of Hollywood's most talented actors are just kids.

"Innocence" could turn out to be a surprise hit considering it's talent and interesting plot. Shooting will kick off late this summer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charlize Theron Set For "Prometheus"


When Ridley Scott announced his intentions to film a prequel to "Alien," I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, just because of how epic the original was. But as time went on, the project morphed from a straight prequel to a related story that takes place in the same world as the original "Alien" film. It could turn into something pretty great all in itself.

"Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof is writing the project, which is being described as an original sci-fi movie titled "Prometheus."

Noomi Rapace ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "Sherlock Holmes 2") is already attached to star and now it seems as if the project has added another big name. According to Variety, Charlize Theron is in final talks to co-star in Ridley Scott's upcoming sci-fi epic "Prometheus" for 20th Century Fox.

Theron and Noomi Rapace will be the leading protagonists in the film in the roles of Elizabeth Shaw and Vickers. While the story will not be a straight "Alien" prequel, there is still some connection to that film and it's "world."

Actor Michael Fassbender, who plays an android in the film, spoke about the film with MTV and explained a little more about its connection with "Alien."

"There's a definite connecting vein. You realize you're part of something else, but it's definitely in keeping with the old ones. When I read it, I was like, 'Well, okay, another Alien. Where do you go with this idea?' And then I sort of read the script, and it's new, yet it's in keeping with the old traditions as well. But there's a whole new revelation within this film. The first 'Alien' [movies], they were thrillers. Something's going on. It's creeping, it's sinister. Things are happening, it's building, [and there are] different sorts of intrigues and politics going on between the different relationships on board. There's action in (this new film), but the intelligence is what struck me when I read it. It's more sort of like the original ones. There are things happening and building, and the intelligence of the first two-thirds of the film gets you ready for the action."

As a science fiction project by itself the film sounds great and adding the connection to "Alien" makes things even more exciting for this film. Fassbender has been one of the "go-to" guys in Hollywood after his amazing performance in "Inglourious Basterds." He will also star as Magneto in the upcoming summer blockbuster "X-Men: First Class."

Adding Theron is also a pretty big deal as well. This project falls on the shoulders of its two female leads, and if they weren't two strong-willed and talented ones, the film could falter. Theron is an Academy Award winner and Rapace showed off her talent in the Swedish versions of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" films.

Shooting should begin later this year on the film with a possible release for 2012.

Anton Yelchin Joins Koontz' "Odd Thomas"


In the past few years, Anton Yelchin has taken on the roles of some iconic figures, including as time-traveling hero Kyle Reese in "Terminator: Salvation" and as Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek." I thought Yelchin was excellent in both films, and although one of his next upcoming projects isn't for a character as well established, the actor should have no trouble stepping into his shoes.

According to Shock Till You Drop, Yelchin is the first to join the cast of the $47 million adaptation of Dean R. Koontz's 2003 novel "Odd Thomas" for Fusion Films.

The story follows Odd Thomas, an optimistic twenty-year-old short-order cook who can see both dead people and the shadowy figures called 'bodachs' that appear around death and disaster. When bodachs seem to be swarming around a diner customer he nicknames 'Fungus Man', Odd is convinced the man is connected to a terrible catastrophe about to occur. Stephen Sommers is directing the movie from a script he adapted.

While the fact that Sommers wrote and will direct the film may not be the best news in the world (umm see "G.I. Joe"), having Yelchin top the cast may be what helps make this film something special. The story sounds fascinating and original and looks as if it should translate to the silver screen pretty well.

Yelchin has some acting chops; the naïve and truthful performance he put on as the main victim in "Alpha Dog" a few years ago really impressed me and I think this role should suit him quite well.

Howard Kaplan and John Baldecchi will produce but no production start date has yet been set.

Gere Replaces Pacino In "Arbitrage"


One old man steps out, another old man steps in.

Although it seemed that Al Pacino was set to play the lead in Nicholas Jarecki's financial drama "Arbitage," according to Deadline, it looks as if Richard Gere is close to a deal to star in the flick.

The story follows a troubled hedge fund magnate desperate to complete the sale of his trading empire before his fraud is exposed. He soon makes a costly error that forces him to turn to an unlikely person for help.

At last report Pacino was slated to star in the lead role but is no longer attached to the film as of last month. Eva Green and Susan Sarandon also star in the film.

Laura Bickford, Kevin Turen, Bob Salerno and Justin Nappi are producing while Jarecki also penned the script.

Rapper Drake is also reportedly set to star in the film, which even with the absence of Pacino should be an interesting one. While Gere clearly isn't the caliber of an actor that Pacino is, he is still a top-notch talent and even though one of his recent film, "Brooklyn's Finest," was uneven, Gere was great in the film.

Shooting is set to start mid-April in New York.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tom McCarthy Pens "Million Dollar Arm"


Back in 2000, while still toiling around public school somewhere, I had my first interaction with filmmaker and actor Tom McCarthy.

He had a small role in "Meet the Parents" as the soon-to-be son in-law of Robert De Niro and for some reason I can't quite understand till this day, I thought he was the funniest thing in it. Maybe it was something about the timing in a couple of his lines, but either way, the point is that afterwards I looked up his name in the credits, and from then on I was a McCarthy fan.

I soon learned that on top of acting, McCarthy was quite a writer and director as well, with his 2003 film "The Station Agent" and then later on in 2007 with "The Visitor." He also lent his talents to the development of the screenplay for "Up," so clearly the man has talent.

His upcoming film, "Win Win," is getting good early buzz, so it's great to hear that McCarthy has just picked up another writing gig. According to The Hollywood Reporter, McCarthy is set to pen "Million Dollar Arm" for Walt Disney Pictures.

The story is based on the inspirational tale of how sports agent J.B. Bernstein discovered professional baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel from over 40,000 contestants through an Indian reality show. Patel and Singh became the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts when joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.

McCarthy’s is set to pen the project next, but as of yet there's no word on a director or whether he would be up for the job himself.

Whether McCarthy writes or directs the film, it sounds as if it should be an inspiring one, much like Disney's other sports films, such as "Secretariat." The story behind the two players is truly fascinating, even for people who aren't baseball fans.

While I think this type of story would be a great project for McCarthy to direct, just the fact that he is contributing the screenplay is a huge step in the right direction.

Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan Say "He Loves Me"


Last time directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris actually helmed a film, it was on a little indie comedy called "Little Miss Sunshine." That film obviously exploded, scoring a Best Picture nomination and Oscars for Alan Arkin's acting and Michael Arndt's writing.

Since that film was such a surprise success, whatever project they decided to work on next would obviously be greatly anticipated. Well, five years later it's that time, and their next project is a film titled "He Loves Me."

On top of the fact that the film has the same "independent comedy" vibe to it, making it rife for "Sunshine" comparisons, it has another reason for that as well, since it just added a member of that cast to this new film.

According to The Los Angeles Times, actor Paul Dano ("There Will Be Blood," "Little Miss Sunshine") and his real-life girlfriend Zoe Kazan ("It's Complicated," "The Savages") will be teaming on the comedy "He Loves Me," which Kazan wrote.

The story follows a young novelist who achieves success early in his career but begins to face struggles. In a bid to overcome writer's block, he is told to write the woman he thinks will love him. He winds up willing her into existence.

Aside from the fact that the story sounds extremely interesting already, having Dano star in the film adds another layer to it, just because he's involved with the writer. He's a great actor and I think the role is pretty perfect for him (perhaps because his girlfriend wrote it?).

But having the "Sunshine" directors on board is what makes this film really something to watch for though. "Little Miss Sunshine" was a fantastic film that could have been something so ordinary but with Dayton and Faris's unique vision, the film truly was something amazing.

Dayton and Faris are tweaking the script now with hopes to shoot later this year.

Sony Invited To Jason Sudeikis' "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy"


Jason Sudekis is having quite a year.

No longer just "that guy from SNL," Sudekis starred in 2010's "Going the Distance," did a guest spot on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "30 Rock," and oh yeah, he dated "Mad Men" star January Jones (they've since broken up). He also has "Hall Pass" coming up with Owen Wilson and now comes news about another one of the actor's projects.

According to Variety, just before the start of the Berlin Film Festival, Sony Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films announced that they picked up the domestic rights to Sudeikis' comedy "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" from Essential Entertainment.

The story follows a group of 30-somethings who spend every summer weekend throwing elaborate theme parties and eventually they throw one final bash – an orgy. Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory ("King of the Hill," "Frasier") make their co-directorial debut on the project, which is being looked at for a late summer release.

I'm glad Sudekis has been making his way up the star ladder recently--I think he's one of the more talented comedians working on "SNL." Another thing that this project has working in its favor is the late summer target date. Just a few years ago a film got released towards the end of the summer, maybe a little overlooked, remember "Superbad"?

"A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" could really appeal to the Judd Apatow-crowd and with Sudekis in one of the lead roles, it could be a summer surprise.

CBS Picks Up Drama Pilot From J.J. Abrams, Jonah Nolan


While I'm super-excited to see J.J. Abrams' upcoming film "Super 8," I have to admit that ever since "Lost" ended, I've been dying to see him fully delve back into a TV project. The show was unlike anything else on TV and had me hooked from start to finish and I always hoped he would bring another series like "Lost" to the screen.

Luckily for me, my hope for a new series is looking pretty good.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS has given the greenlight to Abrams’ new drama pilot, "Person of Interest."

What makes this even better (if that's possible) is the fact that the show is written by "The Dark Knight" co-writer Jonah Nolan. I've been a fan of Jonah Nolan (Christopher Nolan's bro) ever since I found out his short story was the inspiration for "Memento," one of my all time favorite movies.

The new series will follow an ex-CIA hitman and a scientist who team, not to solve crimes, but to prevent them before they happen. The story sounds similar to "Minority Report," but knowing Abrams and Nolan, this film will have a very different feel to it than that film.

"Person of Interest" is the second pilot order for Abrams' production company Bad Robot this year, following Fox’s pickup of "Alcatraz."

Although there are numerous police and crime procedurals on TV today, the science fiction element allows for this to possibly be something truly unique and may stand out once it comes to pass. The fact that Nolan and Abrams are working together is enough for me, this project should absolutely be something to keep an eye out for come next TV season.

Bale Drops Weight Again For "Concrete"


Before actor Christian Bale bulked up to 200 pounds of pure muscle to play Bruce Wayne in 2005's "Batman Begins," the actor transformed his body in the opposite way, slimming down to 90-something pounds to play the lead role in "The Machinist."

Bale was literally almost unrecognizable, but anyone who has followed the actor over his career knows that he is dedicated to method acting and will shed or gain weight whenever needed.

According to We Got This Covered Bale will apparently do that once again and re-team with his "The Machinist" director Brad Anderson for the project "Concrete Island."

Based on the novel by J.G. Ballard ("Empire of the Sun"), the story follows an architect who finds himself stranded on a man made island in the middle of a highway intersection after a car crash. Surviving only on what is in his car, his mind begins to deteriorate before realizing that he wants to spend the rest of his life on his concrete island.

The site describes the film as: "A twisted adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, the story’s protagonist, Robert Maitland, a wealthy architect, finds himself stranded in a manmade ‘island’ (a section of fenced-off wasteland in the middle of a motorway intersection) between the Westway and M4 Motorway in West London, forced to survive on only what is in his crashed Jaguar and what he is able to find. As his condition degrades, it soon becomes difficult to determine whether Maitland is finding sanity or watching his mind fall apart as he finds companions on the island and eventually decides to remain there and forsake his former life."

Bale is already familiar with Ballard's work, having starred in "Empire of the Sun" many years ago, which was an adaptation of one of the author's novels. The project sounds very interesting and Anderson seems like someone who could turn an obscure story like that into something great, ala "The Machinist."

Over the years Bale has proven to be one of the best actors in Hollywood and I'm thrilled to see him finally receive his first Oscar nomination this year. He probably will win the award for his role in "The Fighter," which was another instance of the actor having to drop weight for a role.

The writer of "The Machinist," Scott Kosar has adapted the script for "Concrete," which will shoot later this year.

Jennifer Lawrence Up For Stone's "Savages"


When I sat down to watch "Winter's Bone" recently, I wanted to closely watch the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, because they both received Oscar nominations for their work on the film.

I didn't know much about Lawrence beforehand, but after seeing the film I can emphatically say that she deserves her nomination and I really wouldn't be all that surprised if she won (shocked maybe, but not surprised – little different). It's clear that she's a rising young star, she will appear in this summer's "X-Men: First Class" and according to Deadline she's in line for a new project as well.

According to the site Lawrence is in talks to join the cast of Oliver Stone's latest project "Savages."

The film is based on the bestselling novel by Don Winslow, and follows a love triangle between two best friend pot growers and 'O', the wild child girlfriend they share. Lawrence will play O.

"Despite their sharing, the friendship between brainy botanist Ben and Chon, a hardcore ex-Navy SEAL who returned from Afghanistan with top-quality pot, is unaffected. Together they live a quiet lucrative existence in Laguna Beach, growing and distributing said product."

Stone has been meeting with top actors to play the lead roles including Leonardo DiCaprio, Aaron Johnson, Tom Hardy, James Franco and Garrett Hedlund. He's also after Benicio Del Toro to play a Mexican drug cartel enforcer sent to muscle Ben and Chon out of business and who kidnaps 'O'.

Although I thought "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" wasn't quite up to par with the original, I thought it was ambitious and smart for Stone to show the effects of the financial crisis through that perspective. He has always been a controversial but top quality filmmaker and this type of story seems suited to his style very well.

Lawrence truly was great in "Winter's Bone" and whomever she stars in this film with should make for a compelling love triangle.

Rodriguez Is Bosley In "Charlie's Angels"


While "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was a muddled mess, one thing that was as consistent through the film as the explosions was the comic relief coming from Sam Witwicky's college roommate, played by Ramon Rodriguez.

I thought Rodriguez played his part perfectly in the film and now it looks as if he's brining his comedic chops to another project, this time on the small screen.

According to TV Line Rodriguez ("The Wire”) is set to play the role of Bosley in ABC’s new take on “Charlie’s Angels.”

David Doyle played the role in the original series, while Bill Murray and Bernie Mac starred in the role in the two film versions. This new take on the character is described on the site as a “charming and funny guy with GQ looks and Peter Pan smile who has great hacking skills and technical knowledge.”

Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh star as the "angels," while Robert Wagner is providing the voice of the never-seen Charlie.

The three lead stars are all extremely beautiful and should make for some good comedic chemistry with Rodriguez. Both Bill Murray and Bernie Mac brought their own personas to the character, so it will be intriguing to see exactly how Rodriguez plays it.

The series will shoot later this year.

Ryan Gosling In For "Logan's Run" Remake


After earning widespread praise for his performance in "Blue Valentine," actor Ryan Gosling isn't thinking of slowing down one bit.

According to Deadline Gosling and filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn ("Bronson," "Valhalla Rising") are looking to team-up again for the new adaptation of "Logan's Run" for Warner Bros. Pictures.

William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson penned the original 1967 novel, set in a utopian future where anyone over the age of 21 is euthanized in order to maintain a balance over the consumption of resources.

The story follows Logan 5, a 'Sandman' who serves as an enforcer who pursues those who try escaping as they approach their 21st birthday, and ultimately ends up on the run himself.

The 1976 cult classic starring Michael York raised the age level to 30 and a remake has been in the works for years. Bryan Singer was once developing the new film adaptation and several other filmmakers were linked to the project over the years including Robert Schwenke, James McTeigue, Joseph Kosinski and Carl Erik Rinsch.

Gosling would be a great choice for the leading man role, adding some quality talent to yet another remake. Clearly he liked working with Refn, the two recently finished working together on the chase thriller "Drive." Though this film has been in production for some time, having Gosling attached signifies they really want to make this project happen.

The studio hopes to start shooting in the fall.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Classic Album Review, Mobb Deep, "The Infamous"


When the group Mobb Deep first landed on the hip-hop scene they didn't make much of an impression.

After meeting at the High School of Art and Design in New York City, group members Havoc and Prodigy started rhyming together and eventually put out their debut album "Juvenile Hell" in 1993 when they were just eighteen years old. While a couple of the tracks were successful, album sales were low and critical acclaim was sparse, leaving members the duo at a sort of crossroads.

But like many other groups and artists over the years, the duo came together for a sophomore effort that emphatically put them on the map as a force in the East Coast rap game.

Two years after releasing an album critics deemed basically meaningless to the hip-hop genre, the group released "The Infamous" to widespread acclaim and helped fuel the reemergence of East Coast rap. While the album has some great guest appearances, including from Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Q-Tip, it's the skills of the duo themselves that makes the album influential.

"The Infamous" is filled with illustrative lyrics and gritty beats, and is easily one of hip-hops most realistic and straightforward commentaries of life on the mean streets of New York City. The whole album is filled with excellent tracks, but in my eyes "Temperature's Rising," "Survival of the Fittest," "Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)" and "Shook Ones Pt. II" stand up above the rest.

"Shook Ones (Part II)" was the first single released from the album and was considered to be an instant classic when it came out. The track takes the viewpoint of youngsters fighting over territory in their neighborhood and the lengths they will go to make a buck. The track shows the darker side of the city they hail from and the verses are some of the best on the entire album.



Prodigy is fierce on the track as he raps: "I got you stuck off the realness, we be the infamous/you heard of us, official Queensbridge murderers/the Mobb comes equipped with warfare/beware of my crime family who got nuff shots to share/ for all of those who wanna profile and pose rock you in your face/stab your brain wit' your nosebone/you all alone in these streets, cousin/every man for theirself in this land we be gunnin'."

The chorus of the track is instantly recognizable and helps make the track one of, if not the best song released by the group.

"Survival of the Fittest" is one of my favorite tracks on the album and it has a feel and sound similar to "Shook Ones Pt. II." The track's beat is mesmerizing with its dark piano breaks and is another example of the group's exploration of gritty and realistic themes.



Prodigy is spot on again in this track and paints an illustrative picture of life on the street using some fantastic rhymes and symbolism: "There's a war goin on outside, no man is safe from/You could run but you can't hide forever/from these, streets, that we done took/You walkin witcha head down scared to look/You shook, cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks/They never around when the beef cooks in my part of town/It's similar to Vietnam/Now we all grown up and old, and beyond the cop's control/They better have the riot gear ready/Tryin to bag me and get rocked steady/by the mac one-double, I touch you."

"Temperature's Rising" is hands down one of the best tracks on the album and was the third single released off "The Infamous." The track was produced by Q-Tip and is one of the group's best examples of examining the consequences of street life. The track is interesting in itself as it takes the form of a letter to a friend who was recently locked up behind bars.



The lyrics form a story as the track unfolds as the narrator explains how he is covering up evidence of his friends' criminal behavior. As the track moves on the lyrics reveal the narrator's feelings of paranoia, fearing that the police are closing in on him. The track feels truthful and portrays the true-life reality and emotions involved in crime and its consequences.

One of the best and most illustrative verses comes in close to the end of the track: "But worse, son, you got the projects hotter than hell/Harder for brothers to get their thug on but oh, well/Son, they know too much, even the hood rat chicks/Oh, you heard who did what and why I don't this shit/So stop askin', then I know I'm not goin' crazy/From windows, I see lights flashin' and maybe/Somebody's takin' pictures, you know who that be/Police lovers and neighborhood snitches/They put up pert ice, so everybody's pointin' fingers/And lyin', aiyo son, the temp is risin."

With it's dark production and illustrative lyrics, "The Infamous" helped redefine the sound of hardcore rap and transformed Mobb Deep from virtual anonymity to a commercially and critically successful group. The album is a realistic portrait of New York City and will be remembered as one of the most influential albums to come from the East Coast rap scene.

The album is Mobb Deep's signature work and is a definitive hip-hop classic.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Boyle and Beaufoy Team Again


The director/writer team of Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy has proven to a fairly successful formula in recent years. The two scored Oscar gold for their work on "Slumdog Millionaire," and this past year they lent their talents to the Oscar-nominated "127 Hours" so it's not a surprise that they would want to work together again.

According to the site InContention who spoke with Beaufoy, the writer said that he's working on a film adaptation of Toby Barlow's werewolf-themed poem “Sharp Teeth” which Danny Boyle may direct.

The story follows a trio of werewolves in East Los Angeles. Characters include a lawyer with ambitious plans to takeover the city, a dogcatcher and loner who falls for a beautiful and mysterious woman, and a detective investigating dog-related murders.

In the article Beaufoy explains that he has been taking ridealongs with LAPD officers in Compton and Watts for research. Boyle himself is currently working on a soon to open stage adaptation of "Frankenstein."

Anything these two work on together is something to be interested in, just because of their track record, but beyond that, I think the story would be something Boyle would love to tackle.

He has worked on numerous types of films in his career, including the drug fueled "Trainspotting," the horror/survival film "28 Days Later" to the science fiction film "Sunshine." This type of film would be another way for Boyle to show off his signature creativity and style.

No release date is set yet, but look for news in the coming weeks.