It’s the end of the month. This is what we do.
October wasn’t much of a month for movies, not counting The Social Network - known to millions of lazy people as “The Facebook Movie” or the kinda cool, “Grumpy Old Hitmen” vibe of Red. The month included quite a few box office disappointments, however, most of which look like under-cooked prestige pictures dumped before the holiday season: Life As We Know It, Secretariat, and especially Hereafter are all still playing, yet none of them are lighting up cash registers or critics’ polls.
With the winter movie season just around the corner – and more intriguing movies set to start arriving at a pretty brisk pace – here’s the news that caught our eye this month, presented in no particular order of importance.
1. The television networks are at this moment braced for the onset of November sweeps, the crucial period in which the nets determine their ad rates for the coming new year. Virtually by tradition, shows pull out all the stops to garner viewers, with even the most established shows growing to great – often absurd lengths – to build their audiences. NBC in particular needs to pull a rabbit out of its hat, since virtually none of its new shows this year have become bona fide ratings hits.
If you’re not watching the peacock’s Community, the best comedy currently on network television, you’re only hurting yourself. Years from now, you’ll want to tell people you watched it when it was still on. Don’t make yourself a liar.
2. The third installments of trilogies are seldom the best – just ask fans of Star Wars, The Bourne Identity, The Terminator or (if any still exist) The Matrix. Yet if any franchise could break that glass ceiling, it’s likely Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. This week the director gave the L.A. Times’ Hero Complex blog some tantalizing bits about the third film: it will be titled The Dark Knight Rises and include many returning characters from the first two films. Further, it will not be shot in 3-D, and it will not include The Riddler as an antagonist.
The Riddler, a kind of road show Joker who teased Batman with elaborately cryptic crimes, was portrayed by two previous actors: Frank Gorshin had the part in the 1960s television series, and Jim Carey chewed up the scenery as mastermind E. Nigma in 1995′s Batman Forever. By the way, Nolan has already scotched rumors that bad guy Mr. Freeze will appear, either. Still, there are plenty of villains left from which to choose.
3. In more immediate comic book news, Entertainment Weekly unveils Chris Evans as Captain America in their latest issue, displaying the more military-cut uniform and gear the hero has taken to wearing in recent years. Evans, for his part, looks the part; we were skeptical of his ability to pull off a role we felt for years belonged to Mark Valley, but the physical transformation is unmistakable, and after seeing The Losers we’re willing to believe he can give the patriotic hero a human dimension.
The film opens next July, and whether it’s great or terrible it likely won’t be worse than several of the character’s previous transitions to film and television. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how low the bar is currently set.
4. After several years in which it seemed Guillermo Del Toro would helm the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit, New Line announced two weeks ago that Peter Jackson, who produced and directed the trilogy, will now direct the tw0-part spinoff. Both films will be shot in 3-D, with production set to start next February. Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz) will play the younger, feistier Bilbo Baggins (played in the trilogy by Ian Holm.)
Jackson was originally set to serve as executive producer on the films, but stepped in following Del Toro’s departure. We’re all for his taking over, even if his post-LOTR projects, including King Kong and The Lovely Bones, haven’t exactly proven impressive.
Now to explain The Hobbit‘s story with music, here’s Leonard Nimoy:
5. It’s strange to say this after thinking otherwise for most of our lives, but we wouldn’t trade places with Eric Stoltz right now. The 25th anniversary home video releases of the Back To the Future trilogy include featurettes explaining why the young Stoltz, originally cast as Marty McFly, was replaced after five weeks by Michael J. Fox – in short, because he wasn’t funny enough. As if that weren’t bad enough, Stoltz’s current project, the Syfy-produced Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica, was just pulled from the network’s schedule for lack of ratings.
The clip below includes footage from his work on Back to the Future:
Keep your chin up, Mr. Stoltz.
6. Another, less famous relic of the 80s also celebrated its silver anniversary as Rock & Rule arrived on Blu-Ray and DVD at the end of September. Set in a postapocalyptic society in which evolved household pets have replaced people, the story centers around a struggling rock band brought into the machinations of a satanic rock star (with the awesome, probably legally actionable name Mok Swagger) intent on raising a demon to Earth.
The soundtrack includes original songs by Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry, Lou Reed, and Earth, Wind, and Fire, with Paul LeMat and Catherine O’Hara also supplying vocal talent. Produced by Nelvana – the studio responsible for the Star Wars spinoffs Droids and Ewoks - the film nevertheless belongs in the same 80s adult cartoon subgenre that includes Heavy Metal and Watership Down.
7. We’re fascinated by the Vault Collection on Turner Classic Movies’ website, which features DVD releases of lesser known films from Warner Brothers, Universal, and RKO studios available on a press-upon-request basis. The WB collection is especially impressive, with hundreds of movies and television shows available from throughout the studio’s history. Even the prices, by and large, remain reasonable, if sometimes perhaps unrealistic. Good stuff for the film buff looking for that maddeningly hard to find DVD, especially with the holidays coming.
8. Finally, we want to end by promising to update more often with more content. Our staff has been pulled in several different directions by various careers and other responsibilities, but it hurts to see the blog languish with a dearth of material (even as our audience grows thanks to some basic SEO techniques deployed in various locations.) Anyway, we’ll be back next week with both some fresh material and a reprise of our drubbing of The Girl Who Played With Fire. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Kabel