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Frankly My Dear...

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    Movie Preview: Piranha 3DD

    Posted: 24 Oct 2011 04:27 AM PDT

    OK, maybe two laughs in this “Piranha” sequel teaser.

    First, that Ving Rhames survived the first film and now has “Grind House” Rose McGowan legs. High caliber.

    And the whole “3DD” explanation, which, um, we had all guessed. No, the first wasn’t all that, and it wasn’t a hit. Was anybody calling for a sequel? Other than Ving? But “Piranha 3DD” is on its way next month.

    Buffy’s Joss Whedon films a secret Shakespeare movie

    Posted: 24 Oct 2011 04:00 AM PDT

    First it was Ro-Ro “Godzilla” Emmerich, dizzy blockbuster maker turned Shakespeare debunker in “Anonymous.” That one, staring Rhys Ifans, opens Friday (my chat with Rhys about it here).

    Now “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon has filmed a low budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” the Bard’s lightest romantic comedy (excepting maybe “Midsummer Night’s Dream”), totally on the sly. This could be fun. It appears he shot this pretty much concurrently with “Cabin in the Woods,” after he wrote “The Avengers” script. Taking a page out of the J.J. Abrams playbook? Smart move.

    My first thought, on looking at the website post, is that maybe this  is how he’s referring to the much-buzzed “Cabin in Woods” — “much ado about nothing.” But credited actors like “Avengers” series regular Clark Gregg and “Serenity” star Nathan Fillion are in it, and aren’t in “Cabin in the Woods,” and they have Joss connections.

    Sarasota’s Carla Gugino likes giving moviegoers whiplash with her choice of roles

    Posted: 23 Oct 2011 06:30 AM PDT

    Is there an actress working in the movies who's harder to pin down than Carla Gugino?

    One day, she's the "Night at the Museum" love interest or Mr. Popper's loving ex in "Mr. Popper's Penguins," the next she's running a bordello in "Sucker Punch" or sexing up a "Watchmen" or "Elektra Luxx." It's family friendly vs. family unfriendly with this Sarasota native.

    "You know, maybe it's the two halves of me," she says with a laugh. "It's been like that since childhood. I'd be in Sarasota, or traveling Europe with my father, or living in a teepee in California with my [divorced] mother.

    "But in all seriousness, I do find myself finishing up one movie and looking around for something that's the complete opposite."

    "It's fascinating to see how she manages that," says Antonio Banderas, her co-star in three "Spy Kids" movies. "I am always amazed by the sorts of films I see her in."

    The last thing any of us saw her in was the penguins movie 2011 with Jim Carrey. So it stands to reason that her next one we see her in would be pretty racy, right? But "The Mighty Macs," a family picture about the woman who coached tiny Immaculata College to women's basketball glory, changing her sport and her society as she did, was filmed in 2009. And she did follow that with the edgier "Righteous Kill."

    "I thought, 'that's a weird juxtaposition.' But it's not the first time!'"

    She tackled the low-budget "Mighty Macs," which opened Friday, "because most people who change the world don't set out to change the world."

    Coach Cathy Rush, her character, " [Coach] Cathy Rush [her character]just had players who were really good, and the size of the school didn't matter, the place of women's sports in America didn't matter. She wanted all these girls to go as far on the court or in life as they could. There were all these doors that opened for them and for women after this team came along."

    Gugino, 40, was drawn to Rush's "no nonsense attitude," and saw in her something she looks for when she takes on a movie or a play.

    "You want the same thing in a coach that you want in a director: somebody who pushes you further than you're comfortable going," Gugino says. "They see in you what you can't see in yourself. Cathy had that. Look at her teams. All of these players went on to become interesting, strong women. Some of them went on to be great coaches in their own right."

    Gugino is about to return to the New York stage for Athol Fugard's "The Road to Mecca," co-starring Jim Dale and Rosemary Harris. She has a film noir, "Girls Walks into a Bar," she's finished. And a sunny turn in the "Valentine's Day" sequel, "New Year's Eve." And a TNT movie, "Hide," which has her playing author Lisa Gardener's detective heroine D.D. Warren.

    "Something a little sweet, then something a little dark," she promises. As always.

    Movie Review: Johnny English Reborn

    Posted: 23 Oct 2011 05:14 AM PDT

    One thing we can conclude conclusively from Rowan Atkinson’s second big screen outing as Johnny English. He would have been a FAR superior revived Inspector Clouseau to Steve Martin’s embarrassing take on the guy.

    But “Johnny English Reborn,” already a hit overseas, already an epic flop here in the US, makes one wonder if this kind of quaint comedy — crotch shots, physical shtick, parodying a genre that has been Austin Powered to death — can work in the “Night at the Museum/40 Year Old Virgin” age.

    Atkinson revives the comic secret agent that he first introduced in a series of TV ads in the UK, but this thin script gives him nothing remotely like a rebirth. A few laughs, gadgets, a gadget guru who will remind Atkinson fans of his delicious ’80s TV series “Blackadder,” and a lot of eye bugging pratfalls that attempt to match the dippy, childish lunacy of his other TV creation, “Mr. Bean,” there’s  not much here that sticks with you the instant the credits roll.

    Johnny English has been on a spiritual martial arts retreat in Tibet for the past five yers, ever since his “shame” in Mozambique — a mission gone horribly, fatally wrong. But he is summoned back by the head of MI-7, Pegasus (Gillian Anderson), because contact with a secret he needs to share will only talk to Johnny.

    There’s a plot to carry out assassinations and seize power, hither and yon. Johnny is assigned a 20 year old black sidekick whom he unfortunately keeps addressing as “boy,” is eyed with curiosity by the woman who does psychological profiles for MI-7 (Rosamund Pike at her most gorgeous) and struggles in the shadow of the agency’s most famous spy (Dominic West).

    Johnny gambles (badly), golfs (badly) and drives a talking Rolls Royce (nothing like an inconspicuous spy) and hunts for and loses pieces of a secret key. Whatever director Oliver Parker’s other gifts (“Othello,” “The Importance of Being Earnest”), broad comedy comedy isn’t his bag.

    Seeing this, one is reminded of how poorly Atkinson has fared in the years since he parted company with the screenwriter turned writer-director Richard Curtis, who used him in “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”  The gags don’t turn him into the English Jacques Tati and the dialogue/one-liners etc. don’t do justice to the one-time Blackadder, whose famous Olde English/Elizabethan English/Georgian English put-downs included “He rides a horse rather less well than another horse would.”

    “English Reborn” isn’t terrible and is certainly seriously harmless, with its references to “From Russia, With Love” and other Bond films. But it does remind one of the glorious past and the potential Atkinson never realized in his movies, even the hit ones.

    MPAA Rating: PG for mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality.

    Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike, Tim McInnerny

    Credits: Directed by Oliver Parker, written by William Davies and Hamish McCall. A Universal release. Running time: 1:41