Archive | June, 2010

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Jackson In Negotiations To Direct HOBBIT Films

Posted on 25 June 2010 by Rich Drees

Peter Jackson is apparently sliding into the director’s chair for The Hobbit after all.

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that the Lord Of The Rings director is currently discussing with Warner Brothers/New Line to take the reings of the film, following Guillermo del Toro’s leaving the project last month. Del Toro walked in the face of further delays on the part of the film’s distributor MGM’s continuing financial problems.

Jackson had stated previously that he was only interested in producing and co-writing the planned two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s classic fantasy novel The Hobbit. Some observers have stated that Warners was always going to try and woo Jackson in to the director’s position and that they have not been doing much in the way of searching for another director over the past several weeks.

But really, is anyone surprised by this turn of events?

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New Releases: June 25

Posted on 24 June 2010 by William Gatevackes

1. Grown Ups (Sony/Columbia, 3,534 Theaters, 102 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I am torn as to what the impetus for this movie was. Did Adam Sandler want a reunion with his Saturday Night Live buddies (with Kevin James standing in for Chris Farley) or did David Spade and Rob Schneider keep bugging him to put them in a major role in a summer blockbuster at least once before they died? Lending credence for the first theory: Norm MacDonald, Colin Quinn and Tim Meadows are also in the film. Lending credence for the second: would they have a chance otherwise?

The plot involves five high school friends who reunite for a Fourth of July vacation after their old basketball coach dies. Implausibly, Salma Hayek portrays Adam Sandler’s wife. Even more implausibly, Maria Bello plays Kevin James’ wife.

While I have liked much of what Sandler has done before, I can’t say I have much hope for this film. When the payoff joke in the trailer involves peeing in the pool, that doesn’t instill confidence.

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Fillion And Longoria Up For AVENGERS

Posted on 24 June 2010 by William Gatevackes

It looks like the line-up at The Avengers is getting even more shored up, as rumors indicate that Ant Man and the Wasp are close to being cast.

Cinema Blend is one of many sources reporting that Nathan Fillion is up for Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man and quoting Comic Book Movie that Eva Longoria is also in negotiations to play his love interest, Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp in the 2012 film.

Rumors surrounding Fillion as Ant-Man have been around since at least April, when MTV’s Splash Page spoke to the actor about the role. At the time, he seemed very receptive.

“I appreciate that,” said Fillion of suggestions that he’d be perfect for the role of Pym. “Maybe it’s because of my diminutive size?”

“I’m familiar with the character,” said Fillion. “I think Hank’s powers come in really handy when you have to slip into a crack to defuse a bomb somewhere that no one else can reach. … Or spying in girls’ locker rooms.”

“But knowing Joss, he’d give him something very clever, and very cool to do — something that no one can do without,” he laughed.

Fillion said he hadn’t spoken with Whedon since the “Avengers” news, and at this point in his career, the “Buffy” creator has already done so much for him that he wouldn’t feel right asking for a role in the Marvel movie.

“There comes a point in time where one single man does so much for you that you can’t ask him to do anything more for you,” he said.

But what if Whedon offered him a part?

“Boom!” he shouted. “I’m in!”

This lends credibility to ComicBookMovie’s source who say the actor is “all-but-confirmed” in the role.

If Fillion is cast, it raises an interesting question about who had a say in the decision. Fillion is part of The Avengers‘ director Joss Whedon’s repertory of actors, having worked with the director on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, so it’s natural that Whedon would choose Fillion for just about any role.

But Ant-Man is scheduled for his own film set to arrive, presumably, after The Avengers hits theaters. That long delayed project is directed by Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s Edgar Wright. You would assume that Wright would have some sort of say in the choice of his lead actor, but the delays in getting his Ant-Man into production might have taken the choice out of his hands.

But, if this is the case, Wright shouldn’t worry. Fillion is a fine actor with a load of geek cred and would be absolutely perfect as Hank Pym.

If Fillion is cast, this would mean that the TV show Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place was a breeding ground for comic book film actors.Fillion joins fellow stars of the TV series Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern) and Traylor Howard (Son of the Mask) in the world of comic book films orspin-offs. If I was the show’s other co-lead, Richard Ruccolo, I’d get on the phone with my agent to capitalize on this action.

Longoria has been rumored for a role in a Marvel film for a long while now, ever since she was seen leaving Marvel Studios’ offices with a stack of comic books in her hand in 2008. In September of that year, we here at FilmBuffOnline were one of the first websites to theorize that Longoria might be up for the role of the Wasp in The Avengers. Okay, so we hedged our bets by saying she could be the Black Widow as well, but our being partially right should count for something.

Longoria and Fillion have worked on the Desperate Housewives TV series for a number of seasons, and should at least bring that sort of familiarity with each other, which would help in playing the roles of the romantically linked characters they are rumored for.

One would assume that if Longoria is cast for The Avengers, she would also be contractually mandated to reprise her role for Ant-Man. So, in essence, Marvel would be locking up casting for two films at the same time.

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Posted on 24 June 2010 by Rich Drees

Sure, we saw Neil Patrick Harris in Harold And Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay being gunned down by an irate bordello owning Beverly D’Angello and left for dead by the film’s titular stoner heroes. Don’t worry. A scene after the credits showed that he was alright. And besides, do you think that a few pesky gunshot wounds are enough to keep him from returning for the currently in production sequel, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas? had a chat with the actor who is currently working on the live action Smurfs in New York City, who confirmed his involvement in the threequel. Presumably, once the actor is done in Manhattan he’ll immediately join up with John Cho and Kal Penn before having to head back to Hollywood to begin work on the sixth season of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

The new film will see best buds Harold and Kumar estranged after nearly ten years. Harold is drug-free and married, pulling down big figures as a Wall Street exec. Kumar is still smoking pot and has just lost his medical license because of that. The duo get reunited when a package for Harold arrives at their old apartment and Kumar takes it to Harold’s new home. One accidentally set-on-fire Christmas tree later and the two are out looking for a replacement when hilarity ensues.

Series writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg have penned the script for the film, though their duties preparing to helm American Pie 4 from their own screenplay for Universal later this summer have kept them out of the directors’ chairs for this film. First time feature director Todd Strauss-Schulson is directing.

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Is Moving The Oscars To January A Good Idea?

Posted on 23 June 2010 by Rich Drees

If rumors coming out of last night’s board meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are true, there is a movement afoot to relocate the Academy Awards from their current home at the end of February to a month earlier at the end of January.

Deadline is reporting that the move is being contemplated as a way to shorten the award season as a whole and specifically the period of time spent campaigning for the Academy Awards, in which studios spend large amounts of advertising dollars to get voting Academy members to pick their product for an Oscar.

A potential move of the Academy Awards to January would position the awards show in advance of some of the major guild awards and the Golden Globes, all of which have traditionally been seen as the warm-up to the Oscars. The Director’s Guild of America has already staked out January 29th as the date for their awards ceremony and the Screen Actors Guild is holding their event the following day. The Golden Globes are penciled on to the calendar for February 13. This would certainly put a crimp in the plans of those who use the various guild awards as an indicator of who was a frontrunner to win the corresponding Academy Award categories. (Example – Since it was first handed out in 1948, only six winners of the Director’s Guild Award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film have failed to go on to receive the Best Director Oscar.) This could affect everyone who uses those indicators from Vegas odds makers to those who want to win their office Oscar pool to professional prognosticators.

But is moving the Academy Awards forward really a good idea?

It would definitely achieve the rumored goal of cutting down the amount of time and money in which studios would have to spend on their Oscar campaigns. But much of that money is spent in advertisements in the two major trade dailies –Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. So much money, in fact, that the Academy Awards advertising brings in a significant part of each paper’s yearly revenue. In a time when both trades are seeing income falling, I don’t think they are welcoming this proposal with open arms.

However, there could be another reason for the move going unsaid – As a possible way to secure the ceremony’s position as the top rated awards show of its kind. Through the 1990s and the early part of this past decade, the Oscar telecast has been watched by an audience in the low to mid-40 millions each year. However that number dipped to the mid-30 millions between 2006 and 2009.

The Academy has moved around the date for the show in the past as a way of increasing the ratings of its live telecast. In 2004, the show was migrated from March to February in an attempt to avoid what the Academy perceived as “awards fatigue” in the potential television audience, as well as the NCAA College Basketball Championships. The result was an extra 10 million viewers, though the runaway win of Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King may have brought out many of those people.

Other attempts to restructure aspects of the Awards ceremony with an eye towards increasing viewership have also been met with varying, though never overwhelming, degrees of success. This past year’s increase of Best Picture nominees from five to ten did little to attract the curious, though that might be more due to Avatar‘s expected dominance at the awards more than anything else. Viewership was only up 12 per cent.

And if the Academy’s prime concern is in fact their television ratings, than I think that they’re barking up the wrong tree. I don’t think that there is anything that will give a big boost to the Oscar telecast ratings. Surely the Academy realizes that television has changed in the last three decades and people don’t have just three or four channels to pick from anymore. People who may have watched the Oscars years ago because it was the best or most interesting thing available to watch now have dozens of choices that may cater more directly to their interests, be it sports, news or even actual movies. I think that, at least for now, the Academy Awards has reached a level viewing audience and no amount fiddling with the formula will change that.

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Lithgow Signs For RISE OF THE APES

Posted on 23 June 2010 by Rich Drees

We can add John Lithgow’s name to the cast of the Rise Of The Apes. The actor has just signed to the Planet Of The Apes prequel where he will play the Alzheimer’s-stricken father of James Franco, a scientists whose experiments may lead to a significant change in the leadership of the planet. Don Cheadle is also rumored to be part of the cast, though it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.

Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) is set to direct from a screenplay by The Relic co-writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa.

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New Releases: June 23

Posted on 22 June 2010 by William Gatevackes

1. Knight And Day (Fox, 3,042 Theaters, 110 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I have to admit, I kind of grew apart from Tom Cruise during his hole jumping on couches, yelling at Matt Lauer period several years back. Not that I was ever a rabid fan of his, but I usually saw whatever he was in when the opportunity arose. But after that I had no interest. The only film I saw that he was in since then was Tropic Thunder, and even then I was put off by his overindulgent performance (Yes, I know everybody else loved his Les Grossman. I thought it was good at best).

However, I think this film might actually have him earn my trust back. From the trailers I’ve seen, the character seems to almost be a quasi parody of himself. The guy is high strung, yet charming, funny yet with an edge. What I’ve seen of his performance works for me.

Cruise plays a spy who gets involved with a normal woman (Cameron Diaz) during one of his assignments. When it turns out that the he was set up to be killed, they must go on the run if they are to survive.

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And Now, The GREEN HORNET Trailer

Posted on 22 June 2010 by Rich Drees

Well, this is a bit more like it.

Last night I was not that impressed with the brief glimpse we got of the upcoming Green Hornet film starring Seth Rogen. I felt that it played up the expected Seth Rogen screen personna at the possible expense of what the film is really about.

But now we have the film’s first official trailer and it feels as if it has a much different mission than the Entertainment Tonight clip. Here, the trailer is introducing the character to audiences who are probably unfamiliar with him. It sets up Britt Reid’s motivations in becoming the Hornet as well as the hero’s fairly unique modus operandi of posing as a criminal to bring down organized crime. It sells both the action and what appears to be a light tone for the film without dipping into camp territory.

There have also been two new photos from the film released. The first is Christoph Waltz as the villainous Chudnowsky while the second shows Rogen and Jay Chou as Kato in a mock up of what will become the Hornet’s car, the Black Beauty.

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CONAN Writers Tapped For DR. STRANGE Film

Posted on 22 June 2010 by William Gatevackes

Who will be the next Marvel character to hit the big screen? Which one will be the first to be produced under Marvel’s partnership with Disney? It looks like it will be Doctor Strange.

Deadline: New York is reporting that the writers of the Conan revamp, Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, have been hired to develop the good doctor for the big screen. The pair also wrote a draft of another comic book adaptation, Cowboys and Aliens.

Dr. Strange is Stephen Strange, once an egotistical, high-profile surgeon whose practice was ruined when his hands were injured in a car accident. Losing the one thing that made him special, Strange descends a spiral of self-destruction. As a last ditch effort, he travels to a remote Himalayan village to visit a mystic to get his life back. The mystic instead train Strange to take his place as the world’s sorcerer supreme.

Of all the thousands of untapped Marvel characters, I always believed that Dr. Strange would be the best fit for the silver screen. Not only due to his origin, which I think is very interesting and cinematic in its own right, but his adventures can lead to so many different interpretations. They can be in horror–either psychological of “jump out and grab you”–or a trippy, psychedelic mind warp of a film like The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus or Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. But the property would be best served as some combination of all the above.

But who should play the doctor? Well, according to Bleeding, Patrick Dempsey supposedly is interested in the role. The image to the right was created by Hollywood-based comic artist Arne Starr and presumably has been shown to Marvel execs to sell them on Dempsey as Doctor Strange.

Dempsey does have a relationship with Disney, having starred in their recent hit Enchanted, so his casting might not be that absurd if Disney takes a hands-on approach to Marvel’s film offerings. However, if I was the one casting, I’d go with another TV doctor. I think House‘s Hugh Laurie would be an excellent choice for the role. He is more of a physical match for the character and can definitely play that kind of role.

And where would Dr. Strange fit in with the Iron Man/Thor/Captain America: The First Avenger/Avengers shared universe thing? Well, he probably wouldn’t. Not that he couldn’t–those films are distributed by Paramount but controlled by Marvel so it’s assumed they will come over to Disney after their distribution agreement is finished. But Dr. Strange, until recently, was never a big part of the Avengers mythos in the comics. So, the best I’d think we could hope for would be a passing reference, if that.

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Nine WIZARD OF OZ Projects In The Works

Posted on 22 June 2010 by Rich Drees

It seems that in the wake of the financial (though debatably not artistic) success of Alice In Wonderland, every studio is scrambling to find a public domain children’s fantasy classic to turn into big bucks at the box office. Right now there are nine possible Wizard Of Oz-based projects in the works –  some prequels, some sequels and some retellings of L. Frank Baum’s original fantasy classic. Here’s a scorecard to help you keep track of them.

Dark Oz – Caliber Comics Oz series was optioned back in 2008, with Pearry Teo set to direct and Pras Michel of The Fugees lined up to star. Teo’s ambition to give the film a steampunk look sounds promising, if at least different from other iterations of The Wizard Of Oz. Storywise, Dorothy returns to Oz to find that it is under the thrall of three evil kings- the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man! It is unknown if the project has gotten further than just being announced and having a teaser poster released.

Dorothy Of Oz – Probably the Oz project in development closest to actually being realized is this entry from the indie animation studio Summertime Entertainment. The studio has already assembled an impressive voice cast including Lea Michele of the popular television series Glee as Dorothy, Dan Aykroyd as the Scarecrow, Kelsey Grammer as the Tin Man and James Belushi as the Cowardly Lion. (See character sketches below.) Based on a story by Baum’s grandson Roger S. Baum, Dorothy once again returns to Oz to help her friends stop the menace of someone known only as the Jester. Canadian pop star Bryan Adams is writing songs for the project, which is hoped to be completed by the end of next year.

Oz – One of two Wizard of Oz films being developed at Warner Brothers, this project is actually under the Warner-owned New Line umbrella. Beyond the fact that Shrek Forever After writer Darren Lemke is scripting, there is nothing really known about this project.

SamRaimi2Oz, The Great And Powerful – Certainly the Oz film with the most amount of public action happening right now. Last week, Disney signed Spider-Man franchise maestro Sam Raimi to direct this prequel telling the story of a carnival worker who gets swept to the magical land of Oz and mistaken for a wizard. Robert Downey Jr. is currently attached to star in the project and Mitchell Kapner’s screenplay is being tailored to him. However, Downey’s commitments to Sherlock Holmes 2, The Avengers and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity may either delay the film getting in front of cameras or cause the production to go with another lead.

Oz: Return To The Emerald City – The second of Warners’ two Oz films in the works, and one we know a lot more about. In this version, Chicago lawyer Dorothy Neil, the granddaughter of the original Dorothy, is transported to Oz with her boss’s daughter where they team up with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion to stop a new witch who threatens to destroy all the magic in Oz. Reportedly, this take originated back when comics artist Todd McFarlane pitched the production company Thunder Road on an Oz film based on his “Twisted Land Of Oz” toy line. Thunder Road passed on McFarlane’s take but where still interested in the basic idea on an Oz-update when A History Of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson pitched them a similar idea in a meeting. Thunder Road approached Warner Brothers, who snapped up the project. It is currently being rewritten and has no director attached.

Surrender Dorothy – This has been knocking around since 2002, when it was announced that Drew Barrymore had been attached to star. Much like Oz: Return To The Emerald City, Barrymore would play a descendant of the original Dorothy, in this case her great, great grand-daughter, who has to stop the original and not nearly as dead as we thought Wicked Witch of the West from taking over both Oz and Earth. Time passed and everyone thought that this project had died quietly in development hell until last month when it was announced that Barrymore was now looking at directing the film as a follow-up to last year’s Whip It. It is not known if Barrymore is still planning on starring in the film or if she’ll be casting a new lead.

Wicked – A musical adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s best-selling novel that looks at how the Wicked Witch of the West became the most hated and feared person in Oz, the show has been playing to packed houses since it opened on Broadway in late 2003. Universal is one of the investors in the show, so I would imagine that at some point the studio will be the ones to make the film. All there was some talk about it making a transition to the big screen back in 2008, Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda in the stage show, was of the opinion that everyone would want to make sure that they milked all the stage productions for as much cash as possible before a film version is attempted. With both Chenoweth and Wicked star Idina Menzel having made appearances on Glee, now might be the time to capitalize on their high visibility and get them together on screen.

The Witches Of Oz – Another original sequel to the first book, The Witches Of Oz sees successful children’s book author Dorothy Gale discovering that her stories about a magical land are actually repressed childhood memories. Sean Astin, Christopher Lloyd and Lance Henriksen star opposite relative newcomer Paulie Rojas as Dorothy. Principal photography on the film has already wrapped, though it has no distribution deal set. Writer/ director Leigh Scott is a veteran of many of those direct-to-video knockoff films from Asylum like Transmorphers, but the preview/behind-the-scenes video below makes it look to be at least a bit more ambitious than those low budget, cash grab affairs.

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz – Considering that The Wizard Of Oz directly inspired the title and some of the visuals of John Boorman’s trippy 1974 film Zardoz, it should come as no surprise that he is currently overseeing development of a CG animated, non-musical version of Baum’s original book. Although currently set for release in 2012, there hasn’t been much heard about the project for some time, though presumably it is still in active development. At left is some old concept art of Dorothy.

Out of all of these projects I would guess that at best we may see four, maybe five, of them at some point in the near or far future. As Witches Of Oz has already completed filming, it is a definite. Though with no distribution deal set for it already, I have a feeling that it will probably go direct to video and then show up on the SyFy Channel. Wicked is a dead certainty to get a cinematic adaption, though the question remains as to when that will happen. Out of the two animated version being prepared, Dorothy Of Oz certainly seems to have the edge over Boorman’s Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. In a way, that’s a shame, as I’m really interested in seeing what a Wizard Of Oz film from the director of The Exorcist II would look like. Surrender Dorothy and Oz The Great And Powerful are the two live action projects that I think have the most chance of materializing. In fact, as one is a sequel and one a prequel, I don’t think it too far outside the realm of probability that both versions could find their way to your local cineplex.

That’s a lot of Oz coming at us over the next couple of years.

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