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November 29, 2006 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | November 29, 2006 |

Item #1: So, get this: Rainn Wilson has been tapped to not only write the screenplay for but also star in Bonzai Shadowhands, which will be directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking). Fox Searchlight has picked up the comedy, and though plot details are sketchy, it is known that the film will be about a once-great ninja now living a life of mediocrity. On first blush, the concept sounds bewildering — Reitman clearly has some talent for dark satire, but Wilson could never be taken seriously as a ninja fighter. It smacks, initially, of a feature-length version of a bad “SNL” skit run amok, with Wilson parading out an iteration of his Dwight Schrute character and stumbling into victory as a ninja fighter much like he did as a motivational speaker on the “The Office.” But both he and Reitman are seemingly too smart to stoop to that level. Obviously, I have no idea what direction he and Reitman intend to take, but it occurred to me that the concept would work brilliantly if, and only if, Wilson’s ninja fighter were a modern-day version of Don Quixote, living in Des Moines. After years of social isolation and hundreds of hours of watching Satsuo Yamamoto films, a delusional Wilson would conclude that he, himself, was a once great martial arts warrior. He would procure his Sancho Panza (a video store clerk, played by Paul Giamatti) and seek out his Dulcinea (Zooey Deschanel), who would be an attendant at a local suburban arcade. Wilson, of course, would defeat other ninja warriors, who are actually holograms in a 3-D video game (the Windmills!). Oh man … if Reitman doesn’t do this, somebody give me a call — there really aren’t enough modern-day Quixotes in today’s multiplexes. Where are the Query Letters I Love (2) Folks to proffer analysis? — Dustin Rowles

Item #2: As someone who grew up on the rerun television adventures of Maxwell Smart but also grew out of them a long time ago, I find myself in a curious position when it comes to the big-screen adaptation of “Get Smart,” which ran on NBC and later CBS from 1965-1970. I want the film to be somewhat respectful of the original series, but I also want the film to tank drastically. Radically. Horribly. I want it to make the Hindenburg look like a good day at the park. Modern adaptations of classic shows either pervert the original premise by juxtaposing conflicting time periods (The Brady Bunch Movie, Starsky & Hutch) or they simply erase all but the basest similarities (The Dukes of Hazzard). Aside from The Fugitive, there hasn’t been a good cinematic update of a classic TV show, and Get Smart looks to be no exception: Despite the stellar casting choice of Steve Carell in the lead, it’s being reported that Anne Hathaway is close to signing on as Agent 99. If Hathaway’s work in The Princess Diaries and Havoc is any indication, Get Smart could be a heartwarming look at gritty drug-fueled urban sex. Regardless, I’m curious to see what happens to the Cone of Silence. — Daniel Carlson

Item #3: I’m going to try to withhold my distaste for Peter Jackson while covering this — so far as I’m concerned, he’s made two decent films — The Frighteners and the outrageously hysterical Meet the Feebles — otherwise he’s a special-effects genius with no discernible talent for storytelling on an emotional level (making him a directorial Halfling). But depending on what report you read, he’s either in or out as the director of The Hobbit. Last week, reports suggested that New Line Cinema dumped Jackson, on account of his lawsuit alleging that the studio withheld royalties. This week, however, the producer Saul Zaentz — who owns the rights to Tolkien’s works — said that he will bring Peter back next year, after the rights revert to his production company. During the week-long interim, speculation brewed that Sam Raimi — an infinitely better director, even if you don’t count the Spider-Man franchise — was set to take over the LOTR prequel. Personally — not that the fanboys and girls out there give a shit what a Coen-brothers-lovin’ disbeliever thinks — I was a much bigger fan of The Hobbit than any of the almost insufferable chase-fight-run LOTR books, so it’d actually be nice to have a fresh perspective on the superior installment. Of course, at this point, I’d almost take Robert Smigel at the helm and David L. Lander (TV’s Squiggy!) as Bilbo if it meant a movie without a Sisyphean running time. — DR

Item #4: Remember when Pierce Brosnan did that totally awesome thing that was in no way related to spies or private investigators? Yeah, neither does he. After “Remington Steele” and a series of increasingly dumb James Bond films, Brosnan took a role as a lonely hitman in The Matador to prove he could play against type, a decision he apparently regrets. This week it was announced that Brosnan will once again play a spy in New Line’s Spy vs. Stu, in which Brosnan will attempt to woo away the girlfriend of an average gomer, who will presumably be played by, I dunno, Will Ferrell. Or David Koechner. Or a chimp. — DC

Item #5: While I’m still a touch of a comic-book geek, I was a major one back in the ’90s. And many of my favorite comics at the time were put out by Vertigo, an imprint of DC (think of it like the heyday of the Miramax/Disney relationship). Well, now comes word that one of the old Vertigo comics is going to be turned into an HBO show. Preacher was about a small-town priest traveling the country to find God, so that he could give God shit for apparently quitting His job. And the priest is joined on his travels by an ex-girlfriend. And an Irish vampire. Oh, and the priest has been possessed by a half-angel/half-demon kinda thing. The series was mature and funny and dark, and delved into various political and religious themes. Which makes it sound like a great fit for HBO, particularly when one learns that the original creators are exec-producing the show. But then one gets to wondering whether the it’s-not-TV network will be able to learn from the mistakes of “Carnivale” and make a winner out of this. And then one looks into the man set to write the pilot, one Mark Steven Johnson. Which is when one learns that Mr. Johnson is responsible for such other comic adaptations as Daredevil, Elektra, and the impending Ghost Rider, i.e., debacle, uber-debacle, and impending crapfest. So, yeah, my excitement is more than a little tempered, and at this point I’m expecting that at least one future review of the show will describe it as “Holy Shit.” — Seth Freilich

Item #6: Over the long holiday weekend, Happy Feet held the top position, while Casino Royale came in a close second, as both films are set to cross $100 million this week. Déjà Vu performed respectably, earning upward of $30 million over the five days, despite an Alanis Morissette-level understanding of the term. Somehow, there were also $16 million worth of people in this country willing to see Deck the Halls, though I suspect there was a minor uptick in DWI arrests last weekend (I’m guessing we know what Tracy Morgan was watching over the holiday). Bobby opened at number nine, which makes some sense — most people who have any interest in Bobby Kennedy would have none in Lindsay Lohan/Sharon Stone, and vice versa, canceling out all demographics except for sorority girls with majors in American history. The Fountain also stunk it up at the box office, and I wonder if part of its problem was just an awful marketing campaign. Finally, the Tenacious D flick absolutely bombed, raking in a paltry $5 million, most of which came from people who recently came out of seven-year comas.

Just three new releases this weekend, as holdovers compete for most audiences. Judging by films on tap, they shouldn’t have much competition: The Nativity Story is the big new release, on 2,800 screens, so we’ll see how the Virgin Mary holds up against James Bond. Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj hits 2,000 screens; for some ungodly reason, someone thought it was a brilliant idea to produce a sequel to Van Wilder, without freakin’ Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds), thinking — I suppose — that there’s a lot of value in a failed four-year-old title (granted, Reynolds brought a lot of appeal the otherwise horrid original). Finally, now that Thanksgiving has passed, the studios are once again comfortable introducing a film chockfull of attractive beachgoers getting the Hostel treatment, as Fox Atomic’s Turistas bows on 1,500 screens. Mmm, leftovers. — DR

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Industry | November 29, 2006 |

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

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