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February 18, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Good Actors Still Drawn to Crappy Flicks

Four very so-so sounding films in the works that have attracted the likes of Birch, Brosnan, Burns, Fox, Hamm, Kinnear, Lahti, Parker, Urie, Watson and Wiig.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS – A group of friends whose lives are changed as the couples in the group start to have babies. Jennifer Westfeldt (KISSING JESSICA STEIN) writes, produces, directs and stars in this indie film alongside Jon Hamm, Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig, Edward Burns and Maya Rudolph. Began shooting in New York last month.

@@ – STEIN wasn’t good enough to give this girl another chance to write, produce, direct and star in another vehicle. She clearly has control issues and all her work will suffer for it. The topic is worth addressing. Friendships are essentially over once babies enter the picture, unless you have babies, too. It’s kind of like how David Letterman has gotten boring since all he wants to talk about now with his guests is babies. However, based on Westfeldt’s first film and her too on-the-nose title, she doesn’t have the talent to say anything interesting about it. But kudos to her for pulling in those names.

PETUNIA – Dark indie comedy about weaving together stories of three brothers in an offbeat New York family who come to terms with their own misgivings about life and love. Oh, yeah, and one of the brothers has a sex addiction. Shooting started in January with Thora Birch, Christine Lahti, Michael Urie, Brittany Snow and newcomer Tobias Segal.

@@ – LOL. I like how this already wants to be some meaningful angsty artsy fartsy film about quirky people “coming to terms with their own misgivings about life and love,” but they realized they needed to throw in something that’s going to attract an audience so they decided to give one of the characters a sex addiction so the trailer will be misleadingly hilarious. What a joke.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER – Coming of age story adapted from a 1999 young adult novel, published by MTV, told through a series of letters written to an unnamed friend. The narrator is a shy and unpopular teen played by Logan Lerman. Also starring Emma Watson in one of her first post-Harry Potter roles. John Malkovich is producing.

@@ – Snooze. Shy and unpopular? How interesting of a movie will that be? I’d rather watch the un-shy characters on MTV’s “Skins.” This one’s gonna need Watson to get very naked to attract some interest.

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES ITSarah Jessica Parker is a working mom juggling a busy professional and personal life. Talk Soup guy Greg Kinnear plays her husband. Original SNL cast member Jane Curtin will be taken out of mothballs to play Kinnear’s mother. Based on a 2002 novel that was adapted by THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA screenwriter for a spring 2012 release. Also starring Pierce Brosnan.

@ – I don’t know either. And I don’t really care. The only information is a good cast list and a description of a protagonist. It’s not even a premise. The PRADA screenwriter tells me the most here, that it will be complete garbage. Pass.

February 16, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Playing Games in the 70s and 80s

Three movies in development in 2011 that are all set in the 1970s, plus one based on a video game from the 1980s.

THE PLAYROOM – Set in 1975, four suburban children create a make believe world in their attic hideaway while their parents act out a sordid story below. This year’s surprise Oscar nominee John Hawkes (WINTER’S BONE) and Molly Parker star in this indie drama.

@@@@ – Something about this scenario kind of grabs me. Somehow the description makes me feel the filmmakers have a grip on how to tell a dysfunctional family story that’s going to be shocking.

YOUNGSTOWN BOYS – Indie caper film based on the true story of a gang of Ohioans in 1972 who pull off the biggest bank heist in US history in 1972 when tapped by the Teamsters to steal $30 million in President Nixon‘s illegal campaign contributions and blackmail money.

@@@@ – Here’s a story from modern US history I’ve never heard about that sounds fascinating. How do you make bank robbing protagonists likable? Have them steal for a good cause, like from the most corrupt president in modern times. I’m very anxious to find out more about this one.

BLOCKBUSTER – Three best friends spend the summer of 1975 in Martha’s Vineyard getting into trouble and trying to see the movie JAWS. Being developed by the same company that’s producing the 1972-set YOUNGSTOWN BOYS.

@@@ – This is a little less exciting than BOYS because there’s one obvious thing about it that confuses me. I would think it would be more interesting to see them trying to get onto the set to see the filming of JAWS, which was shot on Martha’s Vineyard in 1974, rather than to just see them trying to go to a theatre. Granted, there were long lines to see JAWS everywhere and I could see some marginal entertainment out of the frustrations of three kids who can never seem to make it to the front of the line. That story could take place anywhere. It wouldn’t need to be where JAWS happened to be filmed. Although, maybe there was even more pandemonium there because it was filmed there. I don’t know. Like I said, the concept confuses me. Confusion is not a good selling point.

MISSILE COMMANDAtari and 20th Century Fox team up to turn the 1980s arcade game into a big budget action film. The story will have something to do with a cold war scenario and people defending their cities from being destroyed by a rain of missiles. Not to be outdone, Universal has acquired the film rights to ASTEROIDS and Sony Pictures is adapting 90s arcade game RollerCoaster Tycoon.

@ – TRON was a shitty movie that spawned an above average arcade game, so it almost made sense to reboot it 30 years later. But the reboot wasn’t as successful as Disney had hoped. So why would 20th and Universal strive to repeat that mistake? Because THEY’RE ALL IDIOTS!

February 14, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Four Young Girls Go to the Movies

Four movies in the works centered around two teenage girls, one tween girl and one prepubescent celebrity daughter.

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES – A twelve-year-old girl is haunted by the tormented ghost of a little girl. “Ghost Whisperer” star Jennifer Love Hewitt makes her feature directing debut. Based on a children’s novel. Starts shooting this summer.

@ – Jennifer, really? After five years on “Ghost Whisperer”? I guess she has a comfort zone. Since she’s also proven to be comfortable on Lifetime, I don’t see this material transcending MOW quality schlock. The concept sounds like a rehash of the non-twisty part of THE SIXTH SENSE mixed with THE LOVELY BONES. The title is just horrible. It tells the ticket buyer nothing and sounds like a Lifetime title.

ANNIEWill Smith’s daughter is going to star in a desecration remake of the beloved Broadway musical about a Depression-era orphan adopted by billionaire Daddy Warbucks for Sony Pictures. They haven’t said yet whether they’re going to keep the original setting or make it more contemporary. Rapper Jay-Z is on board as co-producer and will be involved in the music end, but it’s also unknown if he’s writing new songs or just sampling the old ones like he already did with “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” in 1999.

@ – When Will Smith wants to give his pre-pubescent kids their own vehicles, he doesn’t just get them a Volvo. He gets a major motion picture studio to let them rape star in remakes of classic catalog titles. Granted, the 1982 film version totally screwed up this property and a better film version is deserved. It would be nice if they’d get the original material right once before they try to “improve” it. If this is going to be about some new orphan in modern times with completely different circumstances and characteristics, singing completely different songs, so that it barely resembles ANNIE anymore in anything but the title and recognizable comic strip logo, I would have more respect for the project if they changed her name altogether and called it original but “in the vein” of ANNIE.

STOKER – A teenager mourning the death of her father must deal with an uncle who mysteriously appears. Script was on the 2010 “black list” of best unproduced scripts. Stars Jodie Foster (who directed another black-listed script, THE BEAVER) and Carey Mulligan. Mia Wasikowska (ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT) might play the lead if a scheduling conflict can be resolved.

@@@ – First they need to change the title. My first thought was this is a biopic of DRACULA author Bram Stoker, which I’m still waiting for someone to do already. This has nothing to do with Stoker, but it does sound somewhat promising, if a bit murky. If Wasikowska does do it, I’ll almost definitely see it.

FAMILY WEEKEND – A sixteen-year-old girl is fed up with her family’s lack of attention so she decides to take her parents hostage. Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Modine, Olesya Rulin (from the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL franchise) and Academy Award winning Partridge Family mom Shirley Jones star. Started shooting in mid-January.

@@ – This sounds pretty cute. If it goes theatrical, it means it’s probably on par with Disney flicks like FREAKY FRIDAY (2003). If it ends up being a dinky piece of kids trash like RV, it will likely — or hopefully — go directly to the Disney Channel or ABC Family as one of their “original” movies-that-weren’t-good-enough-to-get-theatrical-distribution.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 12, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Update: I’m.mortal is Now Now

The in-production sci-fi pic originally titled I’M.MORTAL, which I first reviewed last July, has finally decided how to deal with a title I guess they thought was too weird for us plain folks. Instead of changing it to I AM MORTAL, which they were using for a while, they’ve come up with something even simpler. The film now has the ever-descriptive title NOW.

“I’d like two tickets for NOW.”

“Okay. What movie?”

“Now.”

“Hold your horses, sir. You have to tell me which movie so I can give you the right ticket.”

“Now.”

“I know you want to see a movie now. Which one?”

“Now.”

“We have ten movies starting now. Which one do you want to see?”

“I want to see the movie NOW.”

“You can see your movie now, but first you have to tell me which movie you want to see now.”

“Forget it. I’ll wait for the DVD.”

“Y’all come back now, you hear?”

NOW stars Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde and Amanda Seyfield.

February 11, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

A Gaggle of Guns and Singing Monkeys

Only one of these four movies currently in production or development excites me a lot.

THE GAGGLE – A feature film in development at New Line based on a website called wtfisupwithmylovelife.com where chicks bitch and moan about their crappy dating lives. The site defines a “gaggle” as “the select group of guys in your life who compel you to put in that little bit of extra effort because they are, or potentially could be, romantic prospects.”

@@ – My first reaction was: WTF? A movie based on a web site? Then I wondered if that Shatner show based on a Twitter feed is still on the air. Then I took a look at the web site in question. For what it is, it is well maintained and I can see the site’s appeal to other whiny bitches. As for turning it into a movie, it’s either gonna be some dumb chick-flick like SEX AND THE CITY or a relationship comedy like HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. I’m just not that into this one.

MONKEYS OF BOLLYWOOD – DreamWorks is making their first animated feature musical, about a pair of monkeys who try to stop and ancient demon from conquering the world. Based on the epic Hindu poem “The Ramayan.” Oscar winning SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE composer A.R. Rahman and Broadway lyricist Stephen Schwartz have signed on to write the songs.

@@ – It’s finally happened. Someone in Hollywood actually tried to execute that experiment about throwing fifty monkeys in a room with typewriters to see what they come up with and this is it: Singing monkeys!

TWO GUNS – Unbeknownst to each other, an undercover DEA agent and a Naval intelligence officer investigate each other for stealing money from the mob. Adapted from a comic book. Vince Vaughan attached to star. David O. Russell (THE FIGHTER) was in negotiations last month to direct.

@@@ – Could be fun in a Spy vs. Spy sort of way. The mob elements turns me off a little. Since it was a comic book, I would have preferred some kind of comic book villain instead of the boring old mob.

DEATH NOTE – A college student finds a “death note” that gives him the power to kill by adding a name to the note while visualizing their demise. Based on a Japanese manga series that has already been franchised into three films in Japan. Shane Black to direct.

@@@@ – I love the concept and I’m very anxious to see how it’s executed. I didn’t see Black’s only other directorial effort and this doesn’t sound like his usual bag, but I’ll give the guy a chance to branch out.

February 9, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Paul Weitz Admits Goats and String Quartets Suck

Today we’ll look at two indies in production with great casts but weak stories, plus the next two projects from AMERICAN PIE director Paul Weitz.

GOATSGraham Phillips stars as a 14-year-old boy who transfers to an East Coast prep school where his father, played by MODERN FAMILY’s Ty Burrell, made his mark as a student. The indie comedy featuring an all-star indie cast including David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Keri Russell, Minnie Driver and Will Arnett started filming this month.

@ – First of all, THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS already proved the word “Goats” in a movie title is a bad idea. This movie sounds like many of the reasons I stopped getting excited about independent films. The story description doesn’t tell me anything about why I would want to see this movie. It’s a shame to think of a cast like this being wasted, but I just don’t have any hope for this material.

A LATE QUARTET – A world-renowned string quartet struggles to stay together for their 25th anniversary when one of them is forced to retire due to Parkinson’s disease. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Jeremy Northam and Christopher Walken play in this indie drama.

@@ – They struggle and it’s an indie drama. Isn’t that redundant? As if a bunch of old violinists struggling to keep their band together isn’t tedious enough, we get Parkinson’s on top of that. Take a look at the box office receipts for Anne Hathaway’s Parkinson’s rom-com and the question becomes, should I watch this on Lifetime or Hallmark? Top loading the cast with indie cliches Hoffman and Keener seals the fate of this trifle.

ADMISSIONTina Fey is in talks to star as a Princeton admissions officer involved in a relationship with a 17-year-old prospective student who isn’t up to the university’s standards. From AMERICAN PIE and LITTLE FOCKERS director Paul Weitz, based on a 2009 novel.

@@@ – Sounds like there’s some comic potential here but it’s all going to depend on the tone. Weitz has been all over the place with tone.

ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY – Paul Weitz is directing and adapting Nick Flynn‘s 2004 memoir about a guy working at a homeless shelter when his long-lost father comes in seeking a bed. Paul Dano and Robert De Niro star. The title is expected to be changed to the more marquee-safe ANOTHER NIGHT.

@@@@ – You hear that log line and you think, can you imagine what that would be like running into your estranged father in those circumstances. And with De Niro and Paul Dano, this could be the kind of movie we’ll be talking about at Oscar time. I’m glad Weitz is doing this one first.

February 7, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Witches and Runners and Hitmen, Oh My!

Two true stories about runners, a fairy tale mash-up and a mob heist movie are in the works. I review them before they even start shooting.

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS – Fifteen years ago they killed the witch who kidnapped them. Now they’re full time bounty hunters in pursuit of witches. Two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner plays Hansel, with Gemma Arterton as his sister, Gretel. Starts shooting in March in Berlin. Will Ferrell and his buddies are producing.

@@@ – Coming on the heels of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, the title makes me want to cringe and lop some points off for unoriginality, but I actually like the plot description. I think it could work. Then I get to the part about Will Ferrell producing and I shudder with cringeworthy memories of the LAND OF THE LOST misfire. The idea doesn’t sound like it will work as a comedy at all.

UNBROKEN – True story of Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympic athlete and WWII Air Force bombardier who survived a crash only to be captured by the Japanese and put in a POW camp. Universal acquired the film rights to “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand‘s best selling book.

@@@ – Reviews and buzz about the book are what interested me the most, but not enough to motivate me to actually read the thing, so now I get to sit back and wait for the movie. Score!

THE ROBBER – Sony’s English language remake of Austrian thriller about a real-life marathon runner Johann Kastenberger who made a hobby of robbing banks.

@@ – Nothing more than a minor item of human interest on a local news telecast. Runner robbed banks. Don’t see how that’s supposed to be thrilling. Doesn’t thrill me. And what an unimaginative and nondescript title.

COGAN’S TRADE – A “professional enforcer” investigates a heist that takes place during a mob-protected poker game. Brad Pitt stars as the man behind the hitman, reteaming with his ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES writer-director Andrew Dominik.

@@ – Everyone will act tough, there will be guns, betrayal, gruesome murders, nothing we haven’t seen before. The pacing of their Jesse James opus doesn’t fill me with confidence that this won’t also be a yawner.

February 4, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Septuplets, Knock-Offs, Morticians and Bertolucci

One movie in production I’m looking forward to seeing and three others not so much.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY? – Futuristic thriller follows identical septuplet brothers struggling to stay alive in an overpopulated world with a “one child” policy that makes siblings illegal.

@@ – I’m usually willing to suspend disbelief to go to worlds like this one. But already I have questions. Are these brothers grown up? If not, then the story must really be about the parents struggling to hide their litter to keep them alive. If they’re grown up, was the law in effect when they were born? I can’t believe a law like that coming into being retroactively. Doesn’t their identicalness give them an edge in being able to keep their secret? Only one goes out at a time. And wouldn’t a law like that have to make an exception for twins? You can enforce a law prohibiting couples from getting pregnant more than once, but you can’t very well enforce a law controlling whether an egg splits or whether more than one egg gets fertilized from the same, shall we say, injection of sperm. This premise just doesn’t jibe.

UNTITLED “KNOCKED UP” SPINOFF – Fresh from the failure of FUNNY PEOPLE, Judd Apatow goes back to the well, hijacking two supporting characters from his most successful film similar to the way he promoted Russell Brand from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL to GET HIM TO THE GREEK. The leads of the new film will be Leslie Mann, who played Katherine Heigl’s older sister, and Mann’s character’s husband, played by Paul Rudd.

@@ – Really Judd? That’s the best you could come up with? How sad. Face it, your brand of humor has run its course. But I can’t blame you for trying. Here’s a title suggestion: KNOCKED OUT, as in: I Knocked Out This Script Without Really Trying.

BENEATH THE DARKNESS – A teen (Tony Oller) in a small Texas town struggles to expose grim secrets of the house owned by a mysterious mortician, played by Dennis Quaid.

@@ – Doesn’t sound like anything outstanding in the story department. More like it will be a filmic exercise in tension, which there seems to be room for, where the secret will end up being an excuse for the rest of the movie. Imagine something like DISTURBIA but without the hook of the kid being confined to house arrest. A unique hook is what this story description is missing.

IO E TEBernardo Bertolucci‘s first movie since 2003’s THE DREAMERS is based on a classic Italian novella about an adolescent boy who tells his family he’s going on a ski trip, then hides out in the basement. He gets an unexpected visit from an older half-sister he barely knows who is strung out on heroin and needs his help.

@@@@ – Normally I would say this is two different stories competing for attention. You have a boy hiding out in his basement, which could go anywhere. Then you have the drug addict sister whose story doesn’t seem to require a boy hiding in a basement. I don’t get the connection. But because it’s Bertolucci, it will be worth seeing where it goes.

February 3, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Three New ABC Family Members

The ABC Family channel announced three new additions to their original series programming lineup on Tuesday.

SWITCHED AT BIRTH – 1 hour drama. Two teen girls from vastly different backgrounds discover they were switched at birth. Daphne (newcomer Katie Leclerc) is wealthy, Bay (Vanessa Marano from “The Gilmore Girls“) is poor and deaf. Wait, what? Also stars Lea Thompson, D.W. Moffett and Lucas Grabeel.

@@@ – Talk about a freaky Friday! Interesting cast makes it worth a definite look, but a meningitis-induced loss of hearing? Really?

THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING – 1 hour drama. Teenage girl develops heightened abilities and discovers she’s part of an ancient race which has been hunted by human assassins for millennia. Based on a young adult book series by Celia Thompson. Starring Skyler Samuels.

@@ – Sounds like a second-rate KYLE XY or a third-rate HEROES. I might give this one chance and one chance only. I don’t expect this one to last unless the books have a big enough fan base.

THE GREAT STATE OF GEORGIA – Half hour comedy toplining Disney Channel star Raven-SymonĂ© as Georgia, an aspiring actress with a larger than life personality and her science geek best friend who try to make headway in New York City.

@ – Sounds too outside ABC Family’s niche, like it’s aiming more for its sister station, The Disney Channel. Doesn’t sound unique. Doesn’t hook me at all.

While I’m on ABC Family, a quick word on their highest rated show, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. I met a chick in a bookstore last month. Her 12-year-old daughter was raving about the PLL books and the TV show. Mother and daughter watch it together every week. I hadn’t heard of it, but the kid did a really good pitch. Made it sound like MEAN GIRLS meets TWIN PEAKS.

I checked it out and I think that’s a pretty accurate description. (The show’s okay, although a more accurate title would be “Pretty Little Secret-Keepers.”) Initially the show’s creators set out to develop a kiddie version of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. The Bionic Woman’s hot younger sister Lucy Hale plays a minor whose having a torrid affair with her high school English teacher. Another girl comes out as a lesbian. Girl number three bangs her sister’s boyfriend. And the leader of the clique is murdered after she catches a neighbor boy having an incestuous affair with his stepsister (PS: steps are not blood relatives, so it’s not really incest), burns their house down and blinds the stepsister (making the deaf girl in “Switched at Birth” a little less groundbreaking).

Mind you, I’m not complaining about any of that. I’m just surprised that a mom is watching this with her twelve-year-old daughter. This is far more mature than MTV’s SKINS and it’s targeted at a much younger audience.

February 2, 2011 / TerranceTheTrailerTrasher

Streisand Plays Jacks on Ouija Board with Kin

More bad news about Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy.

OUIJAMichael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes teams up with Hasbro and Universal Pictures for a supernatural action-adventure feature film that will center around the occult-based toy. To be written by the writers of TRON: LEGACY.

@ – My Ouija board says: if you go to this movie, there’ll be nothing to stop Michael Bay from making summer tentpole movies out of Silly Putty, the Slinky, Jacks, and Solitaire. Stop the madness.

MY MOTHER’S CURSESeth Rogen plays an inventor who goes on a cross-country trip to sell his new product and reunite his mother with her long-lost love. Oh, and his mother is played by Barbra Streisand. Starts shooting this summer.

@ – Sounds like the same dumb mainstream sitcom-ish movie we’ve seen a thousand times. And who worse to play the mother? No cinema will get my hard-earned dollars to sit and watch that gargantuan, ugly face on a screen for two hours. Curse you, Ben Stiller, for reviving Streisand’s acting career with those crappy FOCKERS movies.

THE TWO JACKS – A legendary filmmaker returns to Hollywood in 1992 after a lengthy absence to try to secure funding for a new movie. He boozes, seduces a beautiful woman and fights with studio executives. Director Bernard Rose (IMMORTAL BELOVED) adapted Tolstoy‘s short story “The Two Hussars.” Sienna Miller, Danny Huston and Jacqueline Bisset star.

@@ – As much as I like movies and filmmaking and IMMORTAL BELOVED, movies about filmmaking tend to be too self-indulgent to stick to a satisfying narrative. Already this sounds episodic, like a filmmaker saying, “Look at all these wild adventures this filmmaker gets into just to make his movie!” Doesn’t have enough promise for me to get excited about it.

KIN – Two sibling fugitives on the lam collide with the holiday homecoming celebration of an ex-boxer. Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde in talks to star in the crime thriller. To be directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, who made the Oscar-winning foreign film THE COUNTERFEITERS.

@@ – This sounds like a really confused story. It’s supposed to be a crime thriller, but the set up comes of as more comedic, like it will have the tone of STATE AND MAIN or maybe FEELING MINNESOTA. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be rooting for the fugitive sibs. What did they do? And what are an ex-boxer or his homecoming or a holiday supposed to tell me about this? Weak.