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May 31, 2006 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | May 31, 2006 |

Item #1: I’m sorry, folks. But I can’t do it. I will not shit on Ben Affleck. I am perfectly aware of how he has desecrated the big-budget action feature with Pearl Harbor, Reindeer Games, Daredevil, and Paycheck and the giggly torture he inflicted on us with Gigli, but I’m a forgiving man. He has paid his penance, people. He has suffered an affair with J. Lo, he has been demoted to low-budget Mike Mitchell comedies and, at 33, he has already experienced Hollywood near-obscurity. But, most importantly, with the horrific Jersey Girl he has killed Kevin Smith’s ability to live outside of his Jay and Silent Bob oeuvre, so we can all thank him for the resurrection of the Clerks franchise, and that, y’all, is enough to elevate Affleck’s status back above third-class punching bag. And besides, yo, Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms. So, let’s cut Shannon Hamilton some slack, all right; there is a lot to be said for Affleck’s brand of self-deprecation, even if it does come at the expense of Armageddon and Bounce, and let’s just all admit that, were someone to offer us $20 million to make out with Liv Tyler and pretend to blow up shit for a few weeks, it’d be awfully hard to turn down (well, unless you’re Matt Damon and you have a modicum of discretion).

Whatever. Point being, Morgan Freeman has joined the cast of Gone Baby Gone, Affleck’s directorial debut, which he personally adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel. And, as popular fiction goes, you can do a lot worse than Lehane. Undoubtedly, Freeman will play the omniscient, flackey police captain who puts the white man (Ed Harris) in his place but, with Michelle Monaghan and Casey Affleck also attached, Boston as the backdrop, and Affleck not actually appearing in the film, Gone Baby Gone has a lot of big-screen potential, which will no doubt be ignored by the legions of naysayers who are more interested in discussing Affleck’s diaper-changing responsibilities. More power to you. — Dustin Rowles

Item #2: For all of you who just couldn’t get enough of Bruce Willis in a dirty wife-beater adding swear words to popular children’s idioms and meeting the demands of swarthy ethnic types, you’ll be so pleased to know that Die Hard 4.0 is in the works, and one-note action director Len Wiseman (Underworld and Underworld: Evolution) has been attached to direct. So, what can we expect with Wiseman on board? Kate Beckinsale in tight leather, lighting so poor you can’t tell what the hell is going on, some incoherent McClane family mythology, and Bruce Willis donning fangs and hiding out in an underground cave wearing a sandwich board deploring Death Dealers. And word is Justin Timberlake is even up for the part of McClane’s son, who will undoubtedly be forced to wear a competing sandwich board and coerced into singing, “Bring it on over to Omeletteville.” — DR

Item #3: Apparently sensing that he should do something to publicly and spiritually atone for The Cat in the Hat, Mike Myers has announced his intentions to co-write, produce, and star in a new feature involving his latest character creation. Now, it should be known that I like Mike Myers. He’s one of the few former cast members of “Saturday Night Live” who seems to have actual comedic skill (unlike, say, Sandler). He’s made some decent comedies in his time, resulting in way too many teenage boys across two generations yelling everything from “Schwing!” to “Head! Pants!” to “Yeah, baby!” But after the modest cult success of the first Austin Powers film came the blockbuster status of its sequel and the brutal letdown of the third installment, after which Myers detoured into declining Jim Carrey (uh oh) territory to make The Cat in the Hat. So what is this unholy new being Myers will be foisting on us? A new-age guru named Pitka, who chants and does various other things that will probably be cute the first time and annoying each of the successive thousand times we’re forced to endure it. Myers has been workshopping the character at various theaters and bars around New York, preying on captive audiences who have no idea they’re seeing the early stages of a once-great comedian’s next crappy movie. I miss you, Mike. Please make this movie good. For now, I’m off to cry myself to sleep on my huge pillow. — Daniel Carlson

Item #4: Well the final network ratings for the 2005-2006 television season have come out, and there aren’t a whole lot of surprises. The “American Idol” behemoth took the top two spots, averaging over 30 million viewers an episode (31.2 million on Tuesdays and 30.2 on Wednesdays). The rest of the top 10 is eaten up almost exclusively by ABC and CBS. ABC had “Desperate Housewives” at fourth, “Grey’s Anatomy” at fifth, and “Dancing with the Stars” (Thursday airing) at seventh, while CBS had “CSI” at third, “Without a Trace” at sixth, “Survivor: Guatemala” at eighth, and “CSI: Miami” at ninth. Fox did manage to sneak “House” into the 10-spot, but poor NBC couldn’t crack the top 10 and barely crept into the top 25, with only three appearances. And two of those were airings of the craptastic-yet-mesmerizing-if-you-start-watching-it “Deal or No Deal” (the Monday airing came in at 13th and the Wednesday airing came in at 21st).

CBS is definitely the big winner for the year — it not only had the most top-10 shows (four, compared to ABC and Fox’s three a piece) and the most top-25 shows (10), but it had the highest rated new show (“The Unit,” at 14th) and five of the top six highest-rated new shows. Meanwhile, the networks-that-are-now-The-CW don’t show up until the 111 spot, with the last-season-psyche-out “7th Heaven.” But don’t feel bad for the former UPN and WB — they made up for their failure to appear on the upper part of the list by eating up virtually all of the low spots: From 132nd (“Charmed”) through last-place 156th (“Get this Party Started”), only Fox’s “Head Cases” was able to sneak into the UPN/WB mix. So remind me again why The CW decided to have its new fall schedule consist almost exclusively of these winners, with only two new shows in the fold? Should be a great freshman season for those guys. — Seth Freilich

Item #5: It’s been quite a week for niche Asian directors of art-house hits that cater to esoteric American audiences. Wong Kar Wai’s English-language debut, My Blueberry Nights, continues to boost its cast with Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey in final talks to star. The film will star dulcet-voiced nonactor Norah Jones as a woman traveling across the U.S. in some kind of life-lessons-learned kind of trip, one hopes with plenty of chances to perform some unassuming piano numbers or even some surprisingly enjoyable classic country covers. Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Rachel Weisz are already attached; Wong is definitely bringing his A-game by mixing talent and looks. … Fresh off his best director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee has realized that gay cowboys and unpopular superheroes just aren’t doing it for him anymore. Not to be outdone by Wong’s awful title, he’s reteaming with collaborator James Schamus and Focus Features to make Lust, Caution, a Chinese-language espionage thriller set in Shanghai during World War II. Schamus says that “Ang is going to make a very exciting film that’s unlike anything he’s done before.” Given the way Ride With the Devil turned out, that’s probably wise. — DC

Item #6: In Exploitive Music-Related Films News: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, who are contractually forbidden from working in separate films as part of the deal Williams cut with the devil to move from “Dawson’s Creek” to Brokeback Mountain, have announced their joint intentions to join the cast of the upcoming Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. Ledger is replacing Colin Farrell, which guarantees a minimum 900 percent jump in the film’s quality, as one of the seven actors cast who will play Dylan at various stages of his life. Williams will play Coco Rivington, who has an affair with “an androgynous folk star,” played by Cate Blanchett. Christian Bale, Julianne Moore, and Richard Gere are already cast, though there’s no word yet on which one will play Briefly Christian Dylan or who will tackle the equally challenging Lingerie Ad Sellout Dylan. … Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer has opted to stay with Paramount for his upcoming Maggie Lynn, another Tennessee-set film, this one about a woman who gets her heart broken and returns to her home state to perform in honkytonks. Brewer’s proven himself an accomplished storyteller who’s able to weave regional music into his films, as he did with Hustle & Flow and the just-wrapped Black Snake Moan, an impressively titled drama about the blues starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin “Omeletteville” Timberlake. Maggie Lynn probably won’t have any pimps working tricks out of the back of an old Pontiac, but I can always hope. — DC

Item #7: In this week’s box-office round up, Brett Ratner inched ever closer to world domination over the weekend as X-Men: The Last Stand scored the largest Memorial Day weekend of all time with $122 million, virtually assuring a fourth installment titled X-Men: Introducing 67 Percent More Mutants in Half the Running Time. Elsewhere, after only one week, The Da Vinci Code has already been relegated to the second-run theaters with substandard popcorn and lukewarm Icees, as it only managed $30 million and a 55 percent drop off from the previous tally. Finally, Over the Hedge stuck around long enough to provide a hiding place for the high-school dropouts to leave their newborns while they attended X-Men, earning another $27 million.

Again, like last weekend, this Friday introduces only one new wide release, the unofficial sequel to Dodgeball entitled The Break-Up in which Jennifer Aniston walks around her apartment naked while Vince Vaughn pelts her with red bouncy balls and wrenches. And because Vaughn is starring, it also offers me the opportunity to introduce my umpteenth variation of his popular catchphrase, “Go Get Yourself Some Strange Ass,” into the headline (I’m thinking “Go Get Yourself a Fucking Life.”) Tuesday (6/6/6) also brings us the unanticipated remake The Omen starring Julia Stiles as a hip-hop ballerina who is possessed by the devil and forced to live on the nasty South Side of Chicago. There are also a number of limited release movies this weekend, most of which we will ignore and hope that Brandt, our unofficial overseer, doesn’t call us on it. — DR

Pajiba, You Were the Bomb in Phantoms, Yo!

The Weekly Trade Round-Up / The Pajiba Staff

Industry | May 31, 2006 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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