Friday, August 27, 2010

Nerd News Returns

Well, following Comic-Con the plethora (Jefe, what is a plethora?) of nerd news seemed to dry up a bit, but I felt there was enough recently to justify the return of Nerd News. Let us begin.

1. John Cusack to play Edgar Allan Poe in James McTeigue's (V FOR VENDETTA) THE RAVEN -

So, this film has been rumored for a while. It's supposed to be a bit of historical fiction that finds Poe tracking the steps of a crafty serial killer. Two actors' names have been attached to the film previously; Ewan McGregor and Jeremy Renner. I can only assume that Renner was in talks to play Poe himself because it would have been just too perfect. No one yet knows what Cusack's surprise casting will mean for the involvement of either aforementioned actor, perhaps they will take on different roles in the cast. I actually think this sounds like a fantastic idea for a film, but I think Cusack's casting is a misstep. I was once a big supporter of the actor, but I can't remember the last time he had a really good performance, but I suppose that's neither here nor there, I just don't think he'd be good for the part. Cusack has a very distinctive style that I think will be very hard to shake. Has he ever even done a period film before? McGregor or Renner would have made for better choices in my humble opinion. I'm certainly curious to see how this all pans out though.

2. Speaking of Renner: He will take point in the next MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film -

Renner's dropping out of THE RAVEN likely has something to do with his (seemingly) very busy impending schedule. As announced at SDCC (and on this blog several months prior), Renner will be taking on the supporting role of Hawkeye in Marvel's THE AVENGERS. He also has THE TOWN coming out next month and is rumored to have a role in the next P.T. Anderson film THE MASTER. The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE gig is huge for the actor as he's likely been cast to draw the anti-Tom Cruise audience. It's very apparent to me that Cruise lacks his once-mighty drawing power and a fourth installment of the franchise featuring the actor would likely be disastrous. Renner has been brought in to shoulder the M:I series into the next generation (apparently). Early reports indicate that this film will be a reboot of sorts and forgo the numerical suffix and indeed be a new start with Tom Cruise in tow for the purpose of passing the torch. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE just got a lot more interesting.

3. Albert Brooks cast as badass in Refn's DRIVE:

I'm not sure if DRIVE casting news would normally qualify as Nerd News, but this is Albert Brooks! An accomplished comedian, Brooks has voiced numerous memorable characters on "The Simpsons", most notably Hank Scorpio. He also had a stint on "Weeds" a couple years back as Nancy's father-in-law. It was then that I noticed a certain intimidating presence in the funnyman, which is why this announcement fills me with such joy. I've been hearing a lot about DRIVE lately and each bit of news makes it sound even better. Nicolas Winding Refn (PUSHER, BRONSON, VALHALLA RISING) is set to direct, which is a plus and Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are already cast, which isn't bad either. The film follows a stuntman, played by Gosling, who moonlights as a getaway driver (not a bad premise). Brooks will play a badass mobster, a mob boss even. With this news, the project has skyrocketed to the top of my most-anticipated list. Unfortunately, it won't be out until 2012.

*A quick note on Refn - While looking up info on DRIVE, I came across the plot of another one of his upcoming projects, apparently filed under the genre "Thai-western" called ONLY GOD FORGIVES. The plot is as follows: :A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match." Awesome, right? Refn is such a diverse director, he also co-wrote and directed a TV movie called "Miss Marple: Nemesis" a couple years back. That I gotta see.

4. Some details emerge about X-MEN: FIRST CLASS -

There's been a lot of talk about the next X-Men installment/prequel and each tidbit paints it in an even more positive light. Initially, I thought the project would just be about the most popular X-Men as kids, which sounded lame. Apparently, that's not the plan at all. Cyclops won't even appear in the film because it's set before he ever became relevant - the 1960's. The intention is for the struggle between Xavier and Magneto to take place against the backdrop of the Malcolm X - King Jr. divide. I'm really liking the fact that this film seems to be mostly about their relationship, I can see it being a fairly decent movie if they pull it off.

5. Some sci-fi trailers:

This one looks like an interesting concept. It's called ALTITUDE and features a plane full of young people flying into a dark cloud where Lovecraftian horrors await. If I wasn't so sure the young people are going to render this film unwatchable, I'd be interested.

I heard about this next one in an article I was reading earlier. I don't know how long this trailer has been around for, but I felt it was worth showing. IRON SKY is about the Nazis laying low on the moon, preparing for their eventual return to Earth in the year 2018. Nazis and sci-fi is just such a great pairing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trailer Time

1. 127 HOURS

This film gets special attention because it's Danny Boyle's directorial follow-up to his Oscar-winning SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. I liked SLUMDOG, but I'm an even bigger fan of Boyle's other films, namely TRAINSPOTTING, SHALLOW GRAVE, 28 DAYS LATER and SUNSHINE. I'm glad he's now getting attention from the big Hollywood awards as it's been a long time coming and I'm confident 127 HOURS can outshine his last effort. Starring James Franco in the true story of a man forced to incredible extremes when trapped in the wilderness alone. Look for this film in November.


INSIDE JOB is a documentary examining the economic collapse of late 2008 that we're still feeling the effects of today. Who is responsible? Why did it happen? These are the questions every American needs to know.


This Doug Liman film follows in the same vein as the above documentary in that it involves a story of political corruption that has not received the proper transparency. FAIR GAME tells the story of a mother and CIA agent who was outed and slandered by the Bush Regime in an act of petty revenge against her husband, a journalist who questioned their WMD evidence in 2003. Naomi Watts plays the CIA agent and Sean Penn plays her husband.

4. "The Walking Dead"

Finally, a high-quality version of the comic-con trailer. No more bootlegs for the AMC series, which debuts in October.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


In the next couple years we'll be seeing a ton of popular graphic novel characters hitting the big screen. Batman, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, The Avengers (including Thor and Captain America in their own films), and potentially Superman will make their triumphant returns/debuts to cinema. With all of these films in overlapping production, there's bound to be one sacrificial year; one year where all the heavy-hitters take a bit of a break. 2010 is that year. The compromise of the year was IRON MAN 2, though it did feel like its primary purpose was to build toward the AVENGERS ensemble picture. The rest of the graphic novel adaptations in theaters this year are of a more modest variety. Some are b-list titles like JONAH HEX or THE LOSERS, and others have more specific audiences like KICK-ASS or SCOTT PILGRIM.

The latter category has had mostly favorable results. KICK-ASS was a lot of fun if just a little annoying. The same thing could be said about SCOTT PILGRIM. The film is pretty solid all around with some eye-catching visuals and enjoyable performances, but it does such a good job building up the conclusion that it's not surprising when it falls a little flat in the third act. Character motivations get confused and the lengthy final duel lacks the punch of its predecessors, rendering it fairly anti-climactic. However, there's still some good comedy and an appropriate ending to cap things off on a good note.

SCOTT PILGRIM is something new for director Edgar Wright, whose previous films both hint at a particular style. This film does not share the same connection. It takes on a graphic novel and video game aesthetic, which results in some really interesting sequences. My favorite is when Scott takes on an evil ex with vegan powers played by Brandon Routh. His throwing around of Scott with white light is pretty stunning. All of the effects were pretty ambitious and I have to take my hat off to Wrights for how successful he was.

Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, and Jason Schwartzman all provide a lot of laughs.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

"The Amazing Screw-On Head"

I can say this without even the slightest hint of hyperbole - "The Amazing Screw-On Head" is one of the most entertaining things I've seen in years. I know I'm a few years too late, but I just wanted to spread the word about this amazing piece of animation. I guess you could call it a failed pilot for a television series. Based off the Mike Mignola ("Hellboy") one-shot comic, it was produced a few years ago and was part of a Sci-Fi Channel contest to see what would become a new series. The winner was determined by viewer votes and "Screw on Head" fell short. It's pretty weird, so I guess I understand the lack of support, but still it's a disappointment, wondering about what could have been. Below is the pilot split into three parts, featuring the voice talents of Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, Patton Oswalt and Paul Giamatti as the titular character.

10 Shows I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

7. "The Walking Dead" -

This AMC show based off the Robert Kirkman graphic novel series will premiere in October, but that might be too long of a wait. I'm very excited for the series, which debuted footage at last month's Comic-Con. However, I'm still waiting for a legit trailer or TV spot to be released. Right now, we have to settle for the bootleg preview, but that's still pretty cool,

8. "Sons of Anarchy" -

SOA is a hell of a show. Sometimes it's a bit audacious, but the story arc is solid and the whole cast is very believable (when you get over Charlie Hunnam speakin' American). In the past two seasons, the SAMCRO crew have battled with a rival Latino gang, overzealous ATF agents and evil white supremacists (one played to perfection by Henry Rollins). This season it's the IRA (that's right, the Irish Republican Army) and after last season's shocking culmination, one has no doubt as to why. Apparently, most of the season is set in Ireland and according to Hunnam (Jax) the whole season takes place over the course of only a week. I'm betting this is going to be some very intense television.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trailer Time

Trailers seem to come in waves. The past couple weeks have been pretty dry, but things are starting to pick up again much to my delight. Here are a few films of interest:


This film by Darren Aronofsky stars Natalie Portman (Nina) as a dancer for a New York Ballet Company. Nina has been picked for the lead in the company's season opener, but she ends up facing competition from a new standout in Lily played by Mila Kunis.

I'm very much looking forward to this film. It's been on my radar for a while. The plot sounds interesting enough, but I knew the involvement of Aronofsky would make for something special. It seems as though his particular style has followed with him to this project and, if the trailer is any indicator, it lends itself quite well. I don't know much about the world of dancing or dancers, but if there's something I'm pretty sure about - it's an incredibly intense vocation. Like I said, I'm not really a fan of dance, but I respect the constant struggle and stress that must go in to becoming even remotely good. This film seems to be exploring the unpleasantness that creeps through those inevitable psychological cracks that emerge because of the intensity of the situation. Maybe there's even a supernatural element to the film? I don't know and I'm perfectly happy not knowing because it aught to make for a better viewing. What really seals the deal for me on this film is the main cast which consists of Portman, Kunis and the always unique Vincent Cassel (EASTERN PROMISES). I'm not always a fan of Portman's films, but she's a great actress I will admit and I bet she's dynamite in this role. I'm also a fan of Kunis, who I've been hoping would take on a more dramatic role (though she does very well in comedy). The film screens at both the Toronto and Venice International Film Festivals in the coming months, eventually hitting theaters in early December.


I posted a teaser of this film some time back around comic-con, here's a full trailer.

Basically, the film is of the alien invasion/monster/post-apoc genre. The buzz around the film stems from its relatively low-budget and homemade effects. If I hadn't been told that, I wouldn't have guess because the footage looks topnotch.


Is Joaquin Phoenix really in the throes of a downward spiral? Was it all an elaborate ruse? Insiders refuse to say or go as far as to claim every moment as truth. Either way, it's a very interesting story. I'm still banking on it being a hoax because I'd prefer that Phoenix return to normal some day in the future. I'M STILL HERE tells the story of this recent chapter in his life, directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck. I'M STILL HERE has a limited release coming up next month.


This was a pretty popular book for a while. I never read it, but my girlfriend did and she told me all sorts of interesting stuff from it, so I'm interested to see how it plays as a documentary. It has some pretty heavy hitters on board co-directing that get listed in the trailer. The film gets a limited release this November.


This film gets mention on here because it will be playing at the Milwaukee Film Festival next month and I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's a uniquely animated film about an old man and his unexpected companionship with a crazy German Shepard named Tulip. I can only imagine that this will be a very very sad movie; One or both of these characters is bound to die, but I love dogs so I'm willing to watch through the sorrow.

I'm Sold!

It's pretty often that I hear bad film ideas, probably a daily occurrence. Often enough, those bad ideas become bad films, which are rampant in today's industry. This isn't a shocker. What I always enjoy though is when I hear a film pitch and it sounds terrible until I take a closer look and it's actually awesome.

J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions is making a film called SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN, based on the popular (still?) teenage party game. Sounds pretty dumb, right? Well, the actual brief synopsis for the film is as follows (I imagine some nerd pitching me the idea):

"Two teens go into a closet together to engage in the titular game, when they come out all of their friends are dead."


Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 Shows I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

5. "Bored to Death" - HBO

This show was a lot of fun and a nice little surprise last fall. It took me an episode or two to get into it, but it only got better as the season moved along. The show is based off the works of acclaimed comedic writer Jonathan Ames. Jason Schwartzman actually stars as a caricature of the author (also named Ames), but in the series he moonlights as a private detective. His cases are often small and insubstantial, which is where much of the hilarity ensues. Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis head a powerhouse supporting cast that really solidify "Bored to Death" as a legit new comedy. The first season was criminally short with only eight episodes; here's hoping the new season extends that a bit. Watch for it September 26th.

6. "Dexter" - Showtime

I've already written a bunch about "Dexter" on this blog, so I won't repeat myself too much. However, season 5 is going to be an emotional roller coaster. The series is prone to certain lulls in action and excitement (not a bad thing), but I have a hard time believing this season will continue that after the way season 4 ended. I'm so excited for this that I switched my HBO subscription to Showtime. Julia Stiles, Johnny Lee Miller and Peter Weller (ROBOCOP) join the cast this time around. "Dexter" premieres September 26th.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

10 Shows I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

3. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" - FX

Anybody who watches this show knows how great it is, so I'm not going to harp on it. If you haven't watched it then I really suggest you do, it'll only take up 20 minutes of your time and you can really pick up the series at any point (though it's more enjoyable if you've seen the whole run). For my money, this is the funniest show ever made and it only continues to get funnier.

4. "Parks and Recreation" - NBC

"Parks and Rec" is another show who's greatness I've long been preaching. The show was good in its first season, but really took things to another level in the second. Amy Poehler might be absent for part of the season due to just giving birth last week, but the rest of the cast is solid (particularly Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson/Duke Silver) and should keep the show at the current level of quality. Rob Lowe has also officially joined the cast. His hyper-positive health nut character debuted near the end of last season and actually provided a lot more laughs than expected. Last year, this show proved to me that it's the best NBC has to offer, I'm hoping next season proves that same thing to everyone else.

10 Shows I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

Over the past few years I've progressively become more and more of a television person. I never really cared for it all that much because I only had about a half dozen channels growing up and I didn't get a chance to see the medium at its best. The more premiere programming I've been exposed to, the more interested I've become. I also speculate, for numerous reasons, that television is just getting better. Lots of people hypothesize that TV is struggling to stay relevant in the face of the internet and new media options. If this is indeed true, then I believe it's hanging in there just fine.

"The Venture Brothers" - Adult Swim

This show has been on a tear since it's first season. Not only is it ridiculously funny, but the storyline is also as interesting as it is intricate. The more you watch, the more you understand about this strange world that somewhat resembles Johnny Quest or Hanna Barbera. The one issue I have with the show is its peculiar season schedule. Because of the amount of work that goes into the animated show, there are often lengthy lapses between seasons, which only gets its fervent fan base (myself included) more worked up. I feel like there were years between both the 1st and 2nd seasons and the 2nd and 3rd (which aired over the course of a summer a few years back). This time around, the creators decided on a lengthy season split into two parts. Season 4.0 aired last fall with 4.5 set for this summer, only that got delayed until September (the 12th to be exact), putting the season's installments a full year apart; a major bummer, but at least the wait is almost over.

Here's a trailer for the upcoming half-season. If you haven't watched the show (and even if you have), you're not going to understand what's going on.

2. I'm also pretty excited for "30 Rock". It's not as good as it was a season or two ago (perhaps it peaked a bit early), but it's still a solid show, which is more than I can say about its lead-in "The Office". Alec Baldwin is still spot-on as is Tina Fey. I know I can count on this show for a lot laughs every Thursday. "30 Rock" will return on September 23rd and on October 14th it will be performed live.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I keep imagining a TV spot for this film in which critical praise is intercut with tense action from the film. You know the type. My contributions to such a commercial would be "a rarity" and "the best film of the year". The last film I saw, INCEPTION, was previously the best film I'd seen this year. The fact that WINTER'S BONE has usurped that spot so quickly confirms my suspicions that the second half of 2010's cinema might save the entire year. Now back to the matter at hand. I know I just wrote it, but WINTER'S BONE is a rarity. The scenery (shot in Missourah) is haunting in both its ugliness and its bare beauty. The film moves slowly and deliberately toward an inevitable conclusion, but there's never a dull moment. Even during minor scenes showcasing the lead's family unit, the ever-present gloom and electric performances keep things interesting (fascinating even).

The plot concerns Ree Dolly, the primary caregiver to her Ozark family of two siblings and an ailing mother. They don't have much and struggle to get by, but they're okay as long as they have their home and their land. Unfortunately, their convict father put both those things up on bond and went missing. Now Ree, with little to no help from her family and intensely guarded neighbors, must find her father and bring him back before they lose everything. There's a sense of urgency to this task that propels Ree on mission throughout the countryside to question the various shady individuals who might be aware of her father's whereabouts. She is often met with hostility and threats, but she trudges on because there is nothing else for her to do.

The portrait of this dark world, far removed from regular society, is what I enjoyed most about this film. Simple country folk cooking up illicit substances in the woods has been a source of much romanticism and humor in years past ("Andy Griffith" comes to mind), but times are a-changin'. Running booze has turned into churning crank and with that comes much ugliness. These hillbilly criminals are dangerous, suspicious and willing to do just about anything to avoid jail-time. They have their own rules and codes and their own judicial methods. Getting through to people like that proves nearly impossible for Ree. Our desperate hero has to get through to them the fact that she doesn't care what's become of her father, only that she find some way to keep her home.

Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular in the lead role. Even though she is young, a great strength emanates from her befitting of her mature character. (Lawrence recently signed on to X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and will be playing the young Mystique, so her career is just starting to take off.) I would shocked and very disappointed if she didn't end up with some Academy recognition. The supporting players in this film were also top-notch. John Hawkes (of "Deadwood" fame) gives the performance of his career as Ree's uncle, Teardrop. He's unstable and unpredictable and you can almost see the internal struggle tearing away at him. If I had my pick, Hawkes would also get an Oscar nom, which isn't asking too much considering the generally weak supporting categories.

I would be remiss not to mention the film's beautiful and incredibly appropriate soundtrack. Without it, I can't imagine feeling the same way about the film.