>> Romero Rolls Out “Diary of the Dead 2”

RomeroAlthough “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead” won’t be released until next year, the horror filmmaker is moving ahead with plans for a sequel.The new film will pick up where the first one ends. Fighting their way out of a mansion through a horde of ravenous zombies, the survivors of “Diary” escape to a remote island only to be plunged into another battle with the dead.

Principal photography is set to begin in the spring. Romero will direct from his screenplay.

“Diary of the Dead” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The Weinstein Co. bought the North American rights.

You can read my original review of Diary of the Dead (when it screened at Austin’s Fantastic Fest) here. I didn’t care for it, and I don’t think I’d pay to see another installment.

–John

Yahoo! Movies

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>> “Spider-Man 4” Picks Up “Zodiac” Scribe

Spider-Man 4?The writer of the serial-killer thriller “Zodiac” has been hired to write the screenplay for “Spider-Man 4.”James Vanderbilt takes over from David Koepp, who worked on the first two installments of Columbia Pictures’ billion-dollar franchise, and returned to write a draft of “Spider-Man 4.”

No deals have been made to bring back series director Sam Raimi or stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

Plot points are being closely guarded by the studio, though the intent is to scale back the story to include only two villains instead of repeating the “Spider-Man 3” model. The third installment, which grossed $336.5 million domestically this year, saw Spidey battle a busy triumvirate of evildoers in the forms of Venom, Sandman and Goblin. It was widely reckoned as overly cumbersome with one too many plot lines.

Several writers were being considered for the fourth installment, and Vanderbilt apparently was chosen for his character-driven approach to the story rather than a focus on special effects.

Yahoo! Movies

>> DC Superhero News Overload!

DC Heroes

MTV spills the beans on “The Flash” feature…

“Wedding Crashers” and “Fred Claus” director David Dobkin revealed to MTV News that he’s signed with Warner Bros. to bring the fleet-footed super to the big screen in a solo project, taking over for Shawn Levy who left for undisclosed reasons.

Dobkin’s film won’t be the character’s first appearance in cinemas, of course, with the Flash a major part of the upcoming “Justice League of America” film. But while fans wait for “JLA” story and casting announcements with bated breath, Dobkin can’t help but hold his – confirming that his movie will exist in the same universe as the upcoming flick as a direct spin-off.

Which made his next comment all the more revelatory: Asked which version of the Flash would be the hero of his flick, Dobkin didn’t hesitate. “Wally West,” he said. This would seem to mesh perfectly with recent rumors that “JLA” opens with Barry Allen’s funeral.

From Levy to Dobkin, “The Flash” movie has certainly courted directors primarily known for their comedic work. But that doesn’t mean they’ll treat the character like a joke, Dobkin said. Asked about his vision for the Flash, Dobkin teased us with a somewhat melancholy tagline: “You can’t outrun yourself.”

Variety reports on a new “Green Lantern” project, finally putting to rest that awful idea that re-imagined the ring-bearing superhero as Jack Black ala Jim Carrey’s The Mask

Warner Bros. has set Greg Berlanti to direct “Green Lantern,” a live-action take on the DC Comics superhero.Berlanti will write the script with Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green. Donald De Line will produce; Andrew Haas is exec producer.

Berlanti hopes to make the jump to big-budget fantasy fare after serving as writer and exec producer on character-driven TV series “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Everwood,” “Jack & Bobby” and “Dawson’s Creek.” He previously directed 2000 feature “The Broken Hearts Club.”

Guggenheim, who works with Berlanti as a writer-producer on “Brothers & Sisters,” wrote the Marvel comicbooks “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Wolverine” and “Blade.” Green, the “Heroes” co-exec producer who worked with Berlanti on “Everwood” and “Jack & Bobby,” wrote the Marvel Comics title “Superman/Batman” and was a writer-producer on “Smallville.”

Could George Miller have found his Wonder Woman for the upcoming “JLA” film?  Moviehole thinks it’s Wolf Creek star Teresa Palmer…

The director of one of actress Teresa Palmer’s most recent movies dropped us a line to say the foxy blonde starlet has won the much coveted part of Wonder Woman in George Miller’s “Justice League”.

Palmer was one of a handful of actresses – including Minka Kelly and Mary Elizabeth Winstead – who tested for the part a week ago, with both studio and director reportedly crushin’ over the “December Boys” star’s audition.

Ain’t It Cool News has a detailed list of “JLA” spoilers, based on a screenplay leak, including what villains we’ll see in the highly anticipated film.  No Joker and no Lex, but Justice League fans will be treated to Batman comic love interest Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ras Al Ghul, the OMAC’s, powerful robots designed to kill super-heroes, and Maxwell Lord, who should only be played by Sam Neill if anyone is listening.  Most of the conflict in the film will be between DC’s Big Three–Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman–and their philosophical differences lead them into a Kingdom Come-type argument/fist-fight.

–John

>> Who will play Superman in Miller’s “Justice League”?

Rupert Evans SupermanThis is an odd bit of casting, but keeping with the rumors that they are skewing very young in the casting for the big screen JLA adventure…

With both Brandon Routh and Tom Welling confirmed to not be slipping into the blue tights, and confirmation that George Miller is skewing young with the cast, today came this unconfirmed rumour from ‘Russian Blue’ which mentions an entirely new name:

“About three weeks ago some casting sessions took place in London’s SoHo area for a movie called Justice League. I didn’t know what it was until I saw the character list later. I would have figured it out earlier but with a movie like that one they don’t let them actually read from the proper script until they’re officially cast.

Anyway after going through a whole bunch of British actors, I heard today that one of them has been cast as Superman. Anyway, the guy everyone is talking about is called Rupert Evans.”

Most remember Rupert Evans as the rookie agent in Hellboy.  That is, if they remember him at all.

–John

Dark Horizons

>> Roth Readies Phony Coming Attractions for “Trailer Trash”

Eli RothEli Roth is one of those guys like Guillermo DelToro, who attaches their name to about a dozen projects at a time, but it seems like Roth is pretty concrete as to what his next film will be…

“When I made that fake trailer for “Thanksgiving,” it was the most fun I’ve ever had shooting anything. It was just off-the-hook for two days … I thought, ‘God, there are so many ideas that I have, that I don’t think I could stretch out to a feature film, but that would make a fantastic trailer or even a fake movie,’” he explained. “You could take your most terrible, terrible idea that you’re so embarrassed to tell anybody, and turn it into a trailer for a terrible film – and it would be an awesome comedy.”

“[It comes out on] August 22nd [2008], and I would start shooting probably in February,” he said of “Trash.” “Originally I was going to do it with a bunch of other directors, but now as I’m writing it, I don’t want to share it. I want to shoot them all myself. I’m going to be directing the feature – in certain cases, we might make a rare exception, like Edgar Wright … But really only in one or two cases; otherwise I’m going to be directing the film.”

After insisting that he “cannot reveal” any of the specific fake trailers, a question about zombies made Eli accidentally cough one up. “… also, don’t give the zombies pot, because then they’ll get stoned and that’ll make them even hungrier … I’m going to be doing that idea,” he confessed.

“Now I gave away something from ‘Trailer Trash,’ damn it!” he grinned. “Okay, you got it out of me. There’s going to be a scene where a guy gives [a zombie] weed, and the zombies get the munchies.”

The writer/director is already soliciting stars for his next flick, and said you might just see an A-list star as that pot-smoking zombie. “Well, ‘Thanksgiving’ has gotten such an incredible response that a lot of people are like, ‘If you’re ever doing one of those fake movies, keep me in mind’,” he said. “If it only requires a day of work for an actor to look like they starred in a fake movie they’ll do it – so there’s going to be all kinds of cameos.”

Roth also revealed that he’s putting some sort of narrative plot into his script, which will run between the fake mini movies. “There is a story. You can’t just put a bunch of fake trailers back-to-back; that would just get a little repetitive,” he reasoned. “I want to make a film like ‘Kentucky Fried Movie’ or ‘Groove Tube,’ but really something like ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ something that’s just ridiculously balls-out funny.”

This sounds like a blast, which means, of course, that no one will go see it.

–John

MTV 

>> We Own the Night (Brandon’s Review, 7/10)

We Own the NightNe’er do well brother Bobby Green/Grusinski (Joaquin Phoenix), the manager of a local Russian owned hotspot (and son of a family of cops) finds himself in a tight spot when a drug raid on his place of business (led by his brother, Johnny (Wahlberg)) earns them the wrath of a drug dealer named Vadim (whose uncle happens to look upon Bobby like a son). When Vadim and his men begin targeting the cops involved in the raid for elimination, whatever tentative allegiances existed between the brothers Gru are solidified by the blood they share. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Hell, it sounds great but…

There are very few things as simultaneously simple and complicated as loyalty which pretty much explains why I feel guilty over my shoulder shrugging reaction to the film. I have no reason to be loyal to James Gray as this is the first film I’ve seen by him but Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall are durable, time tested workhorses of the highest order and I do feel loyal to them. Mark Wahlberg can be a pretty effective psychopath when called upon to do so, he’s practically a one-man army and even, at times, a force of nature but this time out as the prodigal (read: generic) son he hardly registers. I understand not every character can be Dignam or Bobby Mercer and sometimes you have to let the show belong to somebody else you could probably do something more than sulk around in your scenes. Robert Duvall gets to do big cliched talk about protecting his sons and being proud of them but he also falls into the “and a special appearance by…” void that Wahlberg seems to fall into. Only Joaquin Phoenix rises above the fray in this one, he’s quietly intense and nervous and he is even at the center of the film’s best visual moments.

Gray has a couple of extraordinary visual moment of storytelling, a smoke shrouded field where the film ends finds Bobby brandishing a shotgun as he searches for Vadim and as he walks through the smoke after the climax, he looks like a cowboy or Charles Bronson. There is also a car chase in the rain where all you can hear is the sound of raindrops and windshield wipers while everything else sounds as if it’s happening from afar, it’s a nice way to get the nerves jangling but Gray doesn’t bring enough of that invention to the table. Everything about the film that works pretty much revovles around Hurricane Joaquin, who infuses something ordinary with a lot of greatness, if everyone else had brought their A game then the desire to own the night could have laid claim to something greater.

7 on a 1 to 10 scale

>> Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Brandon’s Review, 6.5/10)

Elizabeth the Golden Age(Note: I never saw “Elizabeth” so I have no idea how different Blanchett’s portrayal is from the last)

This was a heck of a movie. I was deeply entertained by it but I find myself hard pressed to call it one of my favorite films of the year. It’s certainly a good looking movie and also not boring, which is in my experience the first time director Shekhar Kapur has not done that to me.

The film lives and dies by performances. Cate Blanchett tackling the role of Queen Elizabeth for the second time plays the character like she is old hat (which stands to reason if this is familiar territory) imbuing her with a playfulness and flirtatiousness, she comes across as a very reserved sexy at times as well. Even still there is more range to the performance, she would like to appear unflappable but she is capable of being scared and vulnerable and rocked to the core. Sometimes it even causes her to lash out at the people she values the most and they in turn find solace in one another. There is one occasion where Blanchett ventures into histrionics where Elizabeth is so overcome by her own neuroses that I began to wonder if I hadn’t somehow ventured into a sixteenth century romantic comedy, but there were other times when I wondered whether or not Forest Whitaker and Cate Blanchett took a page out of the same book when it comes to playing paranoid, angry, alienating members of the ruling class. I suppose that no matter how ugly that moment might have played on-screen a woman can only do so much when she has to entertain suitors, worry about assassins and place the needs of the people above her own, the pressure is bound to make her crack.

Jordi Molla as King Philip II is given a pretty wonderful moment where he declares war on the Godless, childless Elizabeth and her country, they give him one of those nice moments on the soundtrack that is the theme for a walk of determination but it starts and stops two separate times after about three seconds so that he can say something else. I doubt it was meant to be funny, but it was. I don’t know if the film was so deliberately going for a playful attitude, but it managed to supplant itself in there pretty firmly without damaging any sort of credibility. Rhys Ifans is also effectively chilling as Robert Reston, an Englishman sent by Spain to expedite the assassination of the Queen. Ifans is typically playing some sort of a goofball but here every time you see him you just know that somebody is going to die. He’s brutal and effective without saying much at all.

In keeping with that particular fact of Ifan’s performance, the allotted gore for the PG-13 rating is effectively shot and displayed. We don’t see the aftermath of a knife to the throat or a bullet to the head, but we are allowed to see some nifty cage thing put on a guy’s head and see that when the door is closed it punctures his cheeks, there’s also some missing limb action to be had. Based on “The Four Feathers” I had pegged Shekhar Kapur as a man who makes pretty, but boring pictures and now I find him to be a man after my own heart. His film not only makes good on the promise of the trailer but with every word I type about this movie I grow fonder of it and there aren’t many film or individuals who can lay claim to that.

6.5 on a 1 to 10 scale