>> Walk Hard (Brandon’s Review, 3.5/10)

>> Walk Hard (Brandon’s Review, 3.5/10)It pains me to say, but doesn’t necessarily surprise me, that “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is a first-rate disaster. I stopped being amused by the trailer before I saw it for the fifth time then I would groan when I saw the trailer (still a part of me thought the trailer just kept company with bad trailers on bad movies; turns out it is guilty of all that spirit deadening nonsense too). Judd Apatow and his crew are a pretty tightly knit bunch and just about all of them make a cameo appearance, but it has never before had a cheapening effect on the film, in fact, such moments have been welcome in other comedies but here it is a miscalculation on par with Adam Sandler (whose new film “Don’t Mess with the Zoltan” boasts an Apatow screenwriting credit and all the ear-markings of a trainwreck) and his entourage who have made it their mission in life to destroy the comedic form.”Walk Hard” takes it’s biggest cues from “Walk the Line” and “Ray” as Dewey is literally and figuratively haunted by the stigma of being the survivor in a pair of brothers and also a drug addict and genius who has loved many women but really loves only one.

“Walk Hard” takes an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to it’s comedy (not unusual, pretty smart actually until you consider that somebody making this movie takes the sink part of that statement literally as Dewey decimates three bathrooms and rips more sinks out of the wall than I have fingers). Every joke the film tries to make is on a par with the “You Can Do It!” schtick from “The Waterboy” and “The Animal”, easily wearing out its welcome long before it even establishes whether or not it’s funny enough to repeat. The Beatles cameo is easily the most smug and self-indulgent joke in the whole movie because everybody dons their best British accent, says their respective character’s name then something like “There’s no limit to what we can…imagine” or “Let’s do some LSD.” I get that it’s supposed to be stupid and superficial and thin but what in the hell exactly is wrong with fleshing out what sounds like a really good joke into an actual good joke.

John C. Reilly while being musically inclined is hardly equipped to shoulder the picture. He’s better when he plays into someone else’s insanity and he doesn’t have a sidekick to match this time out– it’s just a revolving door. I may have gone so far as to cast Will Ferrell or Reilly’s “Prairie Home Companion” singing partner Woody Harrelson in the role instead. John C. Reilly just lumbers along blindly I think the others could have brought a spark of madness or genius. The only person who seems to strive to make the material better (if only by their conviction) is Tim Meadows, whose strong suit most likely is not improv but I feel like he feels the need to not let sucky material let him suck so much. Everyone else seems to blindly adhere to the script (I have a suspicion after his cameo here that Jonah Hill is also flawless in the company of Apatow).

It bears mentioning that Jake Kasdan is the helmer of this film and that he also directed the equally bad “Orange County” which showcased another talented “Freaks and Geeks” scribe, Mike White, at their current nadir. I suppose Kasdan’s contributions to “Freaks and Geeks” remains an anamoly. I would like to take a moment to encourage Jake Kasdan and his brother Jonathan (writer/director of “In The Land of Women”; not so bad with characters, not so good with stories) to step away from typewriters and video cameras until they either learn something from their father or start selling those items for a living.

3.5 on a scale of 1 to 10

>> I Am Legend (John’s Review, 6/10)

>> I Am Legend (John’s Review, 6/10)“Familiarity breeds contempt,” goes the old saying, and the makers of I Am Legend seem dedicated to reinforcing that idea.  Not only has Richard Matheson’s survival novella been brought to the screen twice before this (Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man), but it’s also influenced a varied handful of knock-offs from Night of the Comet to 28 Days Later.

This time it’s mega-star Will Smith in the central role, the sole survivor (or is he?) of a virus that’s wiped out most of the population, and left the rest as bloodthirsty “night seekers” (a name that actually pains me a little to type).   In the film, Smith’s Neville splits his time between hunting for food and hunting for a cure, but always heads home at night to avoid the vampiric urges of the night seekers.  The film differs greatly from the novella, as did its film predecessors, but instead of finding a new take on the material, like those other films did, Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman’s script cobbles together ideas from those existing films, instead of going straight to the source material to find some inspiration.  I don’t mind a film being different from a book, but I do mind when a film isn’t different from other, better films.

The rubbery, awkward 100% CG night seekers don’t help either.  They’re introduced in a very cool way, then quickly reduced over the film’s short running time into a threat akin to those slack-jawed, howling mummies that we’ve seen Brendan Fraser fight.  Smith is game to carry the film, in the way that A-list leading men can do with zero effort, but Smith, as an actor, lacks dark places inside, and this is a role that needs those dark places.  Neville comes across as angry when he should be haunted; frustrated when he should be fearful.  Add this to a pretty disappointing and pedestrian anticlimax, and you have a bunch of coal lumps wrapped up in a very shiny, expensive package for the Christmas movie season.

I Am Legend is mediocre entertainment–not a bad diversion on a rainy afternoon, but it’s rather toothless for a film about a vampire apocalypse.  Hopefully, in another 20 years, we can get one more adaptation–one actually that captures the loneliness and suspense of the book, forges some of its own ideas, and isn’t afraid to call the vampires vampires.

 6 on a 1 to 10 scale

>> “Clash of the Titans” Remake Back On

>> “Clash of the Titans” Remake Back OnSteven Norrington is back. After butting heads with two of Hollywood’s most notorious head-butters (Wesley Snipes on Blade and Sean Connery on LXG), the lure of remaking the 1981 film Clash of the Titans has apparently drawn Norrington back into the limelight for another go at a major motion picture. The guy is talented, and, from the sound of it, not someone who enjoys actors getting their say in the final product. I hope they cast someone he can actually work with, in the role of the hero Perseus.

–John

Steve Norrington will direct “Clash of the Titans,” the remake of the 1981 mythical adventure that is best remembered for Ray Harryhausen’s special effects.

Warner Bros. and Legendary are plotting a production start next year.

Basil Iwanyk will produce through his Thunder Road banner. In his first such effort since “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lawrence Kasdan rewrote a script by Travis Beacham.

Norrington hasn’t directed a film since 2003’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

Variety

>> “Jackass 2.5” Premieres over the Internet

>> “Jackass 2.5″ Premieres over the InternetBlockbuster Inc. will present “Jackass 2.5” free of charge at Blockbuster.com beginning Dec. 19 through Dec. 31; on Dec. 26, DVDs of the film will be available for purchase on the site and at major retailers, as well as for rent at Blockbuster stores and the company’s Web site. The film will also be available for download at iTunes, Amazon.com and other sites at a price.In lieu of box-office sales, the venture expects to make money from DVD sales, downloads and embedded ads online the latter being exactly the kind of new-media revenue stream that Hollywood writers are striking to get a piece of. While that wouldn’t necessarily apply to “Jackass 2.5” because it didn’t require writers, the marketing strategy is an example of what writers expect to see more of in the future.

Lesinski said the nature of “Jackass 2.5” made it a natural to try out on this new form of distrubution.

“When this idea first came up, it was clear that `Jackass’ had a lot of potential on the Internet,” Lesinski said. “First of all, the demographics are just right. And, if you go on to Youtube today, you can see there’s lots and lots of (people) doing stunts … a lot of those people are just copying what the `Jackass’ guys developed a long time ago.”

Lesinski said the movie’s online distribution has potential to be “a game-changing model for Hollywood.” But will those used to watching 5-minute YouTube vidos sit still for a longer film?

Lesinski thinks so and, at some point, he says, clips of various scenes will be ripe for viral video sharing.

Yahoo! Movies/Associated Press

>> Reubens Offers Pee Wee Role to Depp

>> Ruebens Offers Pee Wee Role to DeppSome completely made-up sounding bunk from Daily Stab today:

“Paul Reubens, who played Pee-Wee in TV shows and films until 1990, has completed two scripts he hopes to bring to the big screen in 2009. Until now, Reubens planned to reprise the role himself, but admits he has spoken to Johnny Depp about taking on the part instead. Reubens says, “(He said) Let me think about it.”

Maybe, while we’re at it, we can get Orlando Bloom to don the Ernest P. Worrell vest and cap and bring us that Pee Wee Versus Ernest film we’ve been dreaming about for decades? Ok, that I’VE been dreaming about for decades.

Will this new Pee Wee film ever get made? I have no idea, but I can tell you that you have as much chance of seeing Depp playing Pee Wee as you have of seeing Paul Ruebens headline a mega-budget pirate trilogy for Disney. Take that as you will.

–John

>> “Golden Compass” Numbers Point South

Golden Compass

New Line’s The Golden Compass opened to $26 million over the weekend, an opening number that indicates that it not only won’t make back its estimated $200 million budget, but that we won’t be seeing the second two books in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Reviews are mixed, so I doubt this will have long Christmas legs, but there are some basic “DUH” things that probably kept this from being a hit.

1. Pullman wrote the book as a sort of “anti-Narnia”, a fantasy filled with philosophical opposition to C.S. Lewis’s classic. New Line decided the best way to sell the film was to make it look as much like Narnia in the trailers–a scrubby little Brit befriends talking animals in a winter wonderland. Their very early marketing, which pandered to the Tolkien crowd, was probably a better idea, but an even better idea would’ve been to sell the film as a trilogy that takes the audience to places they have never seen before.

2. New Line released a movie whose source material questions God and organized religion during the CHRISTMAS SEASON, when even non-believers are feeling extra religious. If, by some miracle, New Line decides to produce The Subtle Knife (the second installment), let’s keep its “let’s invade Heaven and kill God” storyline as far from December 25th as possible.

3. Nicole Kidman is too icy cold a personality to open a film for adults with good box office numbers. Try to sell a “kid’s” movie with her face being the Number One image, and you really have your work cut out for you.

4. Trust your audience. New Line hedged their bets at the last minute, and director Chris Weitz did a final edit to the film that truncated the storyline as it appears in the book. The major complaints against the film are that it is too vague when it shouldn’t be. I haven’t seen the film, but I saw the first minutes of it online, and I winced at the opening narration that sets up the world–a pat answer to the complexities of the story, and one that removes much of main character Lyra’s characterization. In the novel, we, the readers, learn things as Lyra learns things. If the film gives you the Cliff Notes version of her world in the first 2 minutes, what motivation do we have to get sucked into Lyra’s world and her adventure?

>> Park Cast as Snake Eyes

Parks Cast as Snake EyesSlashfilm reports the following:

I have just confirmed that Star Wars Episode 1 star Ray Park has been cast as Snake Eyes in Stephen Sommer’s big screen live-action adaptation of GI Joe.

Snake Eyes is one of the original members of the GI Joe series. Hasbro has released over 30 figures of the character since his debut in 1982. Not much is known about the ninja master’s real identity, as it has remained classified throughout the series. The U.S. Army Sergeant First Class (E-7) is known for his stealth like movements and extensive knowledge of multiple forms of martial arts. Snake-Eyes is romantically involved with fellow G.I. Joe member Master Sergeant Shana M. O’Hara, a.k.a. Scarlett.

Slashfilm may or may not have a scoop here, and this might be complete bunk. Interesting, logical bunk, but bunk nonetheless. The reason I bring this up is that it’s not being confirmed (yet) by other movie sites. Time will tell.

–John