Animated 'Star Wars': Same old toon for Lucas?
It smacks of flogging a dead Jedi, but we suppose it was inevitable that the first project from George Lucas and Lucasfilm Animation would be a return to a galaxy long ago and far, far away, rather than something fresh and original.
The question is, can this perpetual cash cow of the cosmos still moo?
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" will be released theatrically by Warner Brothers on Aug. 15, something curiously omitted from the studios' 2008 preview packages dispatched to the media. How big a deal could it be? Well, big enough for the core fandom, one gathers, and tied to the debut of a "Star Wars" TV series slated for fall on the Cartoon Network and TNT.
"I felt there were a lot more Star Wars stories left to tell," said Lucas in a press release. What a shock. "I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of animation forward."
Pixar pushes the art of animation forward. Lucas just keeps repeating himself. Will this man never grow up?
The principal purpose of "The Clone Wars" movie is to launch the TV show, which will showcase a series of 30-minute "filmlets" that are said to feature a "new look and feel" to the "Star Wars" universe. Web-only documentaries that chronicle the development of the film and series can be found at www.starwars.com.
Those inclined should break out their light sabers.
The cast for "Star Trek XI," which chronicles the meeting of the young Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) at Star Fleet Academy and their first adventure together, has added some heftier (if rather curious) members to its cast of relative unknowns: the fine Australian actor Eric Bana ("Munich," "Troy") as the putative villain of the piece, the unlikely choice of New Zealander Karl Urban (the baddie of "The Bourne Supremacy") as Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Ben Cross as Spock's father, Sarek (ably played in the past by Mark Lenard), Winona Ryder in Jane Wyatt's old role of Spock's mother, Amanda, and Canadian star Bruce Greenwood as Enterprise commander Capt. Christopher Pike.
Rounding out the playbill are Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott ("Scotty") and Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov.
Leonard Nimoy also makes an appearance. Now, if only director J.J. Abrams ("Mission Impossible III") can only dispense with his usual comic book sensibilities.
Will this revive the faltering franchise or simply find Paramount Pictures giving up the ghost at last?
Meantime, look for the brief teaser video, now playing, for the planned summer, 2009, release.
When a pair of Irish hitmen (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) start looking for a place to lay low in the aftermath of a botched job, the last place that might have predicted to touch down is a quaint, medieval town in Belgium. Safe and sound, eh? Not so fast. Suddenly, it's Murphy's Law: Everything that could go awry, does. And that's just the opening of the tale.
"In Bruges," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is an eccentric meld of movie genres that marks the feature film directing debut of playwright Martin McDonagh ("The Lieutenant of Inishmore," "The Pillowman"), whose 25-minute short "Six Shooter" corralled an Oscar last year.
Expect gobs of comic noir patter from the gunsels, and savor a scene-stealing Ralph Fiennes as the real bad guy of the piece.
The burly, versatile Gleeson ("The General") always has been one of our favorite character actors, and it seems that Farrell finally has learned the wisdom of not signing on to do every single film he's offered.
Bits and Pieces
Many have asked us what's become of Sandy Purro, the cinema owner who soldiered on valiantly trying to save the South Windernere Twin theater. Know that the lady has landed on her feet as the owner of Kronic Coffee on James Island. ... Amazon.com has announced the debut of its Indie & Art House Store (www.amazon.com/indies), a specialty online shop highlighting independent and foreign films. Actor, director and producer Jon Favreau will be the store's first Independent Voices curator, offering reviews and recommendations on pioneering and/or undiscovered independent films. ... A powerful and disturbing documentary, "Nanking" chronicles the horrific events that occurred in the Republic of China's then-capital in late 1937 and early 1938. Directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, the film recounts the invasion of the city by Imperial Japanese forces primarily from the perspective of a community of Westerners who remained behind when others left, together with some of the Chinese survivors to whom they provided sanctuary. One of the worst massacres of the 20th century, the events largely were forgotten until Iris Chang's controversial 1997 bestseller, "The Rape of Nanking," returned them to public consciousness.