Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Did-A-Chick, Friendo?

If you don't get the references above, then you may not get the full impact of this post. It's being reported that Academy Award winner (and acording to my wife, muy caliente) Javier Bardem has been cast as Roland Deschain in the upcoming gargantuan adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series of novels. 

The book series, which stretched over seven novels, will be adapted into a trilogy of films, with two TV miniseries airing to bridge the gaps between novels. Bardem was long time favourite for the role, and while he currently has only signed for the first film and the miniseries, it is intended that he will appear in all of the films. Ron Howard is expected to direct the first film, at least, with Akiva Goldsman and Mark Verheiden writing the screenplays.

I've read all the books, and while I'm hardly a super-fan, I did really quite enjoy them. At least until the final book, which does make some choices that are a little unsatisfying. Bardem is a fantastic actor, and he certainly will bring a lot to the role, but I can't say I really picture him as Roland. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he'll be great, but whenever I pictured Roland some of the other front-runners fit better; Hugh Jackman or Daniel Craig.

Still, it's an inspired choice, and one that makes sure that at least Roland will be memorable.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Long Goodbye to Movie Theatres?

The interior of Manhattan's Zeigfeld Theatre
There's an article over at Entertainment Weekly talking about how a group of A-List Hollywood directors have recently released a letter decrying the recent deal struck between some studios and DirecTV.

The deal basically allows DirecTV to release films for viewing to its VOD customers as soon as eight weeks after the films' release in theatres. Currently, most films are available to VOD services four months after their theatrical release. Yesterday, the National Association of Theatre Owners sent out an open letter blasting the studios involved in the deal, and the letter was signed by a group of film makers that included James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, Guillermo del Toro, Kathryn Bigelow, Robert Rodriguez, and others.

The letter says, in part: Major studios are struggling to replace the revenue lost by the declining value of DVD transactions. Low cost rentals and subscriptions are undermining higher priced DVD sales and rentals. But the problem of declining revenue in home video will not be solved by importing into the theatrical window a distribution model that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales.

It goes on to warn that this action may force the closure of movie theatres: The competition for those screens that remain will become that much more intense, foreclosing all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release. Specialty films whose success depends on platform releases that slowly build in awareness would be severely threatened under this new model. Careers that are built on the risks that can be taken with lower budget films may never have the chance to blossom under this cutthroat new model.

I think this a fairly stunning act of solidarity. The film makers, form what I can see, are trying to not only prevent a move away from theatres that could see a great many of them go under, but they also are taking a stand regarding the ideal way they want people to experience their films. They are talking about the value of exhibiting films in theatres, not just in dollars, but in terms of the experience of being an audience member.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

RIP - Elisabeth Sladen

Some incredibly sad news today, as word is coming out that Elisabeth Sladen, beloved to Doctor Who fans all over the world for her role as Sarah Jane Smith, has died. She was just 63.

Sladen played Sarah Jane Smith on the classic series from 1973 - 1976 and would return to the role twice in the 1980s. After the series revival, she returned in the 2006 episode School Reunion. Her appearance proved popular, and she soon was starring in her own spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, aimed at children.

Sladen began acting as a child in school, eventually heading to drama school and beginning her professional career in repertory theatre. By 1971, she was making guest appearances in such television series as Doomwatch and Z-Cars.

In 1973, longtime Doctor Who companion Katy Manning was leaving the series, and producer Barry Letts was scrambling to find a replacement. Sladen was recommended  to Letts by the producer of Z-Cars, and when she auditioned for Letts and current Doctor Jon Pertwee, it was clear she was the best possible choice.

Sladen and Tom Baker
Sladen would appear alongside Pertwee during his final season, and help viewers adjust to the new Doctor as played by Tom Baker. Her remarkable chemistry with Baker, combined with her portrayal of Sarah Jane as an intrepid and resourceful best friend to the Time Lord, completely redefined what the role of the companion could be. As a testament to her popularity in the role, when she left the series in 1976, it was front page news.

Sladen reprised the role in a pilot for a failed TV spin-off called K-9 and Company, and once again in the 1983 anniversary special The Five Doctors. She would reprise the role for charity specials and audio productions, but it was not until 2006 that she again "officially" played the role in Doctor Who proper. That appearance led to her successful spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which debuted in 2007, and recently began airing its fourth season.

Sladen remained a popular figure to Doctor Who fans, consistently ranking at or near the top of polls to list fans' favourite companions. It has been revealed that she had been battling cancer for some time, and eventually succumbed to the illness. She is survived by her husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter, actress Sadie Miller.
Sladen and current Doctor Matt Smith

Monday, April 11, 2011

RIP - Sidney Lumet

A legendary filmmaker passed away over the weekend; Sidney Lumet died at the age of 86 after a battle with lymphoma. Lumet was one of the great American directors, having been behind such classics as 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict.

Mr. Lumet was born in Philadelphia in 1924. His parents were veteran performers of the Yiddish stage. His father Baruch was an actor, director, producer and writer, while his mother Eugenia was a dancer. As a young boy, Lumet began making appearances on stage, and soon made his Broadway debut. He had a successful career as an actor on stage, which continued up until World War II began.

Returning from military service in 1946, he joined the newly created Actor's Studio and created a theatre workshop. it was at this point he began his directing career. He started doing some Off-Broadway and summer stock work, while also teaching.

In the 1950s, he began working in early television, gaining a reputation as one of the most proficient and brilliant young directors in the medium. He directed episodes of Danger, Mama, You Are There, Playhouse 90, and Studio One. In 1957, he directed his first feature film, an adaptation of a teleplay that had been produced for Studio One. The film was set almost entirely within a jury room during the deliberation of a murder case. Henry Fonda played the lone juror who votes to acquit the accused, and the story follows his attempts to sway the votes of the others. The cast was one of the all-time great collections of character actors ; Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsalm, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and John Fiedler to name just a few. The film was a critical triumph, and was nominated for 3 Oscars.

From there, Lumet returned to television, and also began directing feature films in earnest. He was incredibly prolific, completing a film per year throughout the 1960s. Not all of them were successful, but during this time Lumet made several classic films such as Long Day's Journey into Night, The Pawnbroker, Fail-Safe, and The Hill.

But it was the 1970s where Lumet had his greatest successes, both commercially and artistically. He started the decade with some minor successes in the form of The Anderson Tapes and The Offense. But, in 1973, he directed Serpico, a film that was a huge success in every way, and helped secure Al Pacino as a major box office draw. Lumet capitalized on that success with a remarkable run of films that were both commercial hits, as well as some of the best films of the decade; Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Equus.

Lumet began the 1980s with strong, challenging work. He released Prince of the City, Deathrap and The Verdict, all of which were successes. But the rest of the decade proved mixed for Lumet. He made some flawed films with moments of greatness, such as Power, Running on Empty, and Q&A, but there were more weak films than he ever had previously.

In the 1990s, he continued to make films, but they were smaller in scale. Some remain hidden gems well worth checking out, such as Night Falls on Manhattan. In the last decade, he seemed to find his footing once again, releasing two films that rank among his best, Find Me Guilty and the stunning Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The latter would be his final film.

Lumet was a director who favoured a naturalistic or realistic style, preferring a technique that didn't call too much attention to itself. He was a master of combining social commentary into films without making them preachy or distracting from the story. He was highly regarded for his speed, as well as for his versatility in taking on all kinds of genres. He was also renowned for his ability to collaborate without ego, as well as his genuine love for, and rapport with, actors. This explains why so many actors he worked with went on to be nominated for or win major awards for their work in his films.

Sidney Lumet surely must be counted among the greats of American film making, even if his modest ego never permitted him to blow his own horn too loudly. He was nominated for an Oscar five times, four for directing (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict) and once for writing (Prince of the City), but he didn't win an Oscar until 2005, when he was presented with an Honorary Award. But it's his body of work that is the true measure of his skill, and few filmmakers can boast the sheer amount of classic work that Sidney Lumet produced. He will be missed.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beastie Boys FTW!

Below you'll find the truly awesome and star-studded trailer for the Beastie Boys' upcoming album, Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2. I'm not a huge Beastie Boys fan, but I have loved their stuff in the past. And this is awesome. Let's play count the celebrities!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

He Said/He Said - Source Code

Welcome to a new recurring feature here at The Nerd Report. This one is going to be called He Said/He Said, and it features a co-writer; none other than the man called Scofe.

He Said/He Said is basically going to be duelling reviews of movies and anything else that comes into our collective head. What separates us from other similar reviews, you may ask? Well, a superfluity of awesome, first of all. Also the fact that, spelling corrections aside, we'll do it live in chat form. We'll try to bring the funny, but the conversation goes where it goes, and if we devolve into a screaming match, it will usually be because Scofe just won't do the sensible thing and agree with me.

We begin with each of us writing a short bio for the other. Here's Scofe's bio for me:

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Nerdlinger is his fear of heights. “He must be terrified”, I find myself thinking, “or why else would he be so short?” I don’t know how many times when looking for him, I’ve had to turn my gaze down. It’s really sad, and I feel sorry for him, much like we all feel for the little people of the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reaction to Season Debut of "Doctor Who" Pours In

The first two episodes of the new season of Doctor Who had its first press screening last night, and reaction has started to pour in.

Patrick Mulkern of the Radio Times had this to say:

We sat pinned to our seats for 90 minutes or so of electrifying, bamboozling television, which might just be also the most unsettling since the series came back in 2005...The chills are leavened with laughs (the Doctor flits through history, upstages a timeless comedy duo, and dubs his chums "the Legs, the Nose and Mrs Robinson"). River makes two spectacular entrances. There's a new use for dwarf star alloy (conceived 30 years ago in Warriors' Gate, it enchained one of The Family of Blood in 2007). And the number 1,103 may be significant.

(Show Runner Steven) Moffat ladles mystery upon mystery, so that by the end we're gagging for answers. The second instalment concludes with a mouthwatering cliffhanger.

Tom Phillips of Metro wrote this:

It’s about five minutes into the first episode, The Impossible Astronaut, when the first jaw-dropping thing happens - and before the second episode, Day Of The Moon, is over, we’ve had at least two more series-changing revelations and a dizzyingly twisty, tightly-packed story that contains so many future plot threads, red herrings, teases and unsolved puzzles that there’s a chance its broadcast will actually make the internet catch fire...Make no mistake, this isn’t easy, switch-your-faculties-off entertainment - it’s big, dark, impressively ambitious, dazzlingly executed entertainment that demands and repays your full attention.

And finally, here's what the Guardian had to say:

In truth the opening episode of the two-parter took a while to warm up, but a fiendishly complicated plot – it is probably not a spoiler to suggest it involves time-travelling – required no end of exposition. But by the end of the first episode it had drawn gasps and applause in almost equal measure...

It looks like Moffat and company have delivered a fantastic opener that could lead to one amazing season. I can't wait for April 23rd.