Our semi-regular compendium of movie, TV and DVD news of general interest.
Something we didn’t realize when this blog started up a year ago: it takes more time to research and keep up with what’s forthcoming than it does just watching and reviewing films. That makes us think sometimes that we should narrow our focus. But where’ s the fun in that? Trailers, after all, are the only good reason (besides good seats) to get into the theatre early.
Every month or so we make a list of items and news stories that maybe don’t warrant a full blog post of their own. Some excite us, some bore us, one or two irritate or even piss us off a bit. But they’re all worth mentioning at least for their conversational value.
1. Though there’s not much going on by way of new releases lately, the good news is that the summer movie season starts three weeks early this year, with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on May 1, followed by Star Trek just a week later and Terminator: Salvation only two weeks after that. That’s three blockbusters before Memorial Day, traditionally the kickoff of the summer blockbuster avalance.
2. Speaking of the Wolverine movie, we can see both sides of the flap about its illicit appearance online this week, but on the other hand it’s not that hard to predict some things about it. Based on what we know, we can assure viewers that 1. Hugh Jackman will give a very good (but not great) performance, 2. Ryan Reynolds will have all the best lines and 3. Liev Shreiber will act circles around everyone else. And the ending will remain open for a sequel.
3. Rescue Me, FX’s series about a New York City Fire Department crew and the families that love but often fall victim to their angst, premiered this week after an eighteen-month hiatus. The episode was entertaining but not quite exceptional, about as good as the show ever was during its uneven first season. Still, it had the fesity energy that later seasons lacked, abetted in no small part by charismatic performances from Robert John Burke as an alcoholic ex-priest falling off the wagon and a show-stopping turn by Michael J. Fox as a new boyfriend for Janet Gavin (Andrea Roth), the oft-separated wife of main character Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary).
4. Recent news stories show that movie theatre attendance has risen significantly since last October, when the worldwide economy more or less went to Hell in a bucket. To quote the Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey, it’s all just a little bit of history repeating: the movie business has traditionally thrived during hard times, and no wonder. People looking for diversions from their circumstances have lots of time to kill, and movies are nothing if not an escape. With a summer loaded with science fiction and action franchises just around the corner, Hollywood could be in for a banner year.
5. Some of the most vivid examples of films that both reflected and capitalized on the nation’s Depression-era restlessness got a DVD release this week with Universal’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection box set. Turner Classic Movies has already released several similar box sets celebrating Hollywood before the sanitizing Hays Code, though we’re tempted to get this newer package just for its films’ lurid titles: The Cheat, Torch Singer, Hot Saturday, Murder At The Vanities, Search For Beauty, and (our favorite), Merrily We Go To Hell. The various films include performances by Fredric March, Tallulah Bankhead and Cary Grant.
6. From the “lurching into self-parody” desk comes news of Sam Raimi’s latest, which if nothing else boasts a title that would right in with the aforementioned set: Drag Me To Hell dusts off the “gypsy curse” conceit for a thriller about a loan officer (Matchstick Men‘s Alison Lohman) stalked by bad juju after foreclosing on an old woman’s mortgage. The stunningly cheesy trailer below seems to include its entire first act. Now, wait and see if somebody doesn’t trot out the old “zeitgeist” and “cultural barometer” arguments to validate the film’s existence. It opens nationwide May 29.
7. Two shows that fought continuous battles for survival came to a conclusion over the last couple of weeks, with at least one serving its definite coda. Life, a hypnotically offbeat cop drama starring the singular Damian Lewis, aired its second season finale (and likely series conclusion) that efficiently wrapped up (almost) all its open plots and subplots while bringing closure to Lewis’ tortured Detective Charlie Crews. By total contrast, a week before ABC’s Life On Mars aired a series finale that packed an explanation for its time-lost Detective Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) so out-of-left-field, so contrived, that the show’s creators might just as well have walked on camera and given their audience the finger. Look for details in articles with names like “Worst Show Finales” in the years to come.
8. There’s a logic that goes you can remake a film only if the original wasn’t very good. But what about films we love for their weaknesses? A remake of 1981′s Bullfinch’s Mythology-via-Star Wars cult classic Clash of the Titans is up for remaking, this one reportedly co-starring no less than Liam Neeson as Greek god patriarch Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as his villainous brother Hades. Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) will star as the heroic Perseus, and Alexa Davalos (Defiance) plays his true love Andromeda. The film is slated for release next March.
9. If you’re not already familiar with DC Comics’ long-running hero Green Lantern, get ready to hear a lot more about him over the next twenty months. The comics company plans a massive summer crossover, ominously titled The Blackest Night, about Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the far-ranging Green Lantern Corps (a kind of interstellar police force) waging a “war of light” against the reanimated dead heroes of the DC Universe (And that body count is a lot higher than you’d think). July sees the release of Green Lantern: First Flight, a straight-to DVD animated feature film about Jordan’s recruitment into the Corps, with voice talent by Law & Order: SVU‘s Christopher Meloni and Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer. Finally, a live-action feature directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) is slated for a December 2010 release.
10. Finally, something that actually rates at least one blog posting of its own. A couple of weeks ago we ran a long article hoping for, among other actors, a career rebirth for Michael Keaton. May 1 sees the limited release of The Merry Gentleman, a moody neo-noir with religious overtones that marks the errant leading man’s directorial debut. Keaton also stars as Frank Logan, a contract hitman who moonlights as a tailor while contemplating suicide. He becomes involved in a low-heat romance with Kate Frazier (No Country For Old Men‘s Kelly MacDonald), a woman fleeing her abusive husband (Bobby Cannavale, The Ten) and pursued by a cop with bad intentions. The trailer’s evocative atmosphere and deliberate tempo look promising for fans of such films (like us), as well as its premise, which reminds us an odd bit – in a good way – of John Dahl’s dark comedy You Kill Me.
We’ll be back next week with previews of some of those summer blockbusters. Have a good weekend.