Big news Tuesday for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and "Lord of the Rings."
New Line Cinema has patched up its differences with director Peter Jackson. The result is a two-picture deal for "The Hobbit," plus a sequel. Jackson will executive produce the films with partner Fran Walsh, just as he did on the gazillion-dollar Oscar-winning "Rings" trilogy.
Getting "The Hobbit" to this point was a huge effort, because Jackson and New Line were really at loggerheads over "Lord of the Rings" money. New Line co-chief Bob Shaye told me Tuesday morning he conceded a lot of the trouble had to do with his "personal rancor" over Jackson's comments.
But he also said, "When there's a lot of money involved, there are a lot of intermediaries who say things. We had to be responsible to the millions of [Tolkien] fans."
So will Jackson direct? So far Shaye and Michael Lynne are sticking to the story that Jackson will executive produce. But the Oscar-winning director of the "Rings" trilogy has creative control over all of "The Hobbit."
"We're going to sit down in January and talk about possible writers and directors," Shaye told me. "He's not going to hire just anyone. This way Peter can oversee this and all his other projects," such as "Tin Tin" and "The Lovely Bones," which he's shooting.
But my guess is that Jackson and Walsh will wind up writing and directing. The stakes are too high, and the legacy after the "Rings" is too important. Shaye and Lynn didn't deny it when I asked, they just diplomatically skirted the issue.
By the way, why is MGM involved? It turns out its United Artists division had the rights to "The Hobbit" following Saul Zaentz's 1978 animated Ralph Bakshi feature.
"Once we resolved our issues with MGM, and then Peter, we were set to go," Lynne told me.
It’s the same amount of money Madonna spends on, let’s say, mascara.
Guy Ritchie's latest movie — he’s her husband — has taken in $75,000 at the box office after 10 days or so in release.
"Revolver," which was a flop in the U.K. in 2005, grossing $6.5 million there, was re-edited for American release but couldn’t find a major distributor. It went out with IDP, a company that, nevertheless, is very adept at releasing good indie films such as "The Squid and the Whale" and "Raising Victor Vargas."
Alas, "Revolver" is a terrible film in its new state. It was roundly panned by every reviewer who had a chance to see it. Madonna and Ritchie attended the mostly ignored mini-premiere here in New York, but that didn’t help, either. "Revolver" died on the vine.
Guy Ritchie may be a lovely person, for all I know, but a great director he is not. His list of flops includes the spectacular disaster "Swept Away," a remake of Lina Wertmuller’s classic film.
Still, thanks to Madonna’s efforts, he persists in getting work. Ritchie’s next effort is called "Rocknrolla," yet another heist movie set in London with Russian mobsters. Jeremy Piven, Gerard Butler and Ludacris are aboard this time.
Warner Bros. — where Madonna may have had a lingering connection thanks to her now-ended long-term recording contract of days gone by — will release it this fall.
It’s not like the studio can withstand many more failures after "The Assassination of Jesse James" was a total write-off, "The Invasion" was a hundred million-dollar embarrassment and "The Bucket List" and "August Rush" will only be offset by the eleventh-hour success of "I Am Legend."
But by the time "Rocknrolla" is hurried through the system, the Batman movie "Dark Knight" should have been a big enough summer hit that no one will care.
Meanwhile, Madonna’s career as a children’s book author — with proceeds going to Kabbalah — may have reached its end. Her most recent series, launched in September by Puffin/Penguin, has been a disappointment.
Aimed at "tweens" ages 9 through 12, the four new books mostly have stayed out of the top 20 in children’s books lists and rank below 4,000 or so on Amazon.com.
It may be time to reissue the "Sex" book from 1992; kids born that year would be much more interested in that!
No one’s seeing the best movies of 2007. That’s not good, especially when it comes time for the Academy Awards on Feb. 24.
As of now, Tamara Jenkins’ superb sibling drama, "The Savages," which the Hollywood Foreign Press misinterpreted as a comedy, has taken in just over a half million dollars playing at 10 theaters. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney could not be better as a brother and sister forced to take care of their ailing father (the very good Philip Bosco).
Something tells me "The Savages" would resonate with audiences if marketed a little differently. What happens to the Hoffman and Linney characters is pretty typical now of adult kids who must confront their own mortality as they deal with their parents’.
It’s funny that the Golden Globes people thought this was a comedy, since most of them are the age of the Bosco character and often have been accused of suffering from dementia. Maybe they found it ironic.
In any case, "The Savages" is one of the great gems of the last few years and deserves an audience on the scale of "Terms of Endearment." It’s that good.
Sidney Lumet’s "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" is also getting short shrift. So far, the Globes and the National Board of (fans who pay a membership fee to feel like critics) Review have ignored it. A press package from distributor THINKFilms that went out on Monday didn’t even mention it.
Again, it’s a Hoffman triumph, but his Oscar push is with "The Savages." This leaves Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei ready for Supporting Actor honors. And Lumet should be the Best Director this year. With a little luck, the Directors Guild will rescue him and the film.
"Devil" has a tough plot. Hoffman and Hawke are ne’er-do-well brothers who scheme to make money by robbing their parents’ suburban jewelry store. To get to this point, you first must encounter Hoffman and Tomei in a sexual grapple that few will forget. It’s the stuff of Tarantino or the Coens, yet 83-year-old Lumet has almost reinvented the word "edgy" and made a masterpiece.
THINKFilms is a great little company. It should borrow some money and screen this puppy for every Academy member it can find, advertise it like crazy in major markets. It’s not to be missed.
Julian Schnabel’s "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" has gotten a lot of award attention, but so far it’s in a roll-out so slow that it could collapse a la last year’s "Little Children." I hope not.
Mathieu Amalric’s performance is sensational and deserves a nomination. Schnabel, the famous artist, is exceeding himself as a film director. In so many ways, "Diving Bell" is a perfect movie. But I’m afraid it’s threatened with extinction even before we get to the Oscars.
When Amalric takes off in the next James Bond movie as Daniel Craig’s nemesis, everyone will say, "Who’s that guy?" I say, Why wait that long?
Joss Stone’s new holiday single, "All I Want for Christmas," hits iTunes and other venues Tuesday. It’s written by Dan Mackenzie, who penned it for a fundraiser last year. On a whim he sent it to Stone, who fell in love with it. Mackenzie’s work next will be heard in the film "Basmati Blues." …
The Killers are in court trying to stop their original manager, Braden Merrick, from getting $3 million in unpaid commissions. Luckily, Merrick has a "killer" lawyer, Howard King, and a good contract. …
Here’s the annual report from last Friday night’s Z100 Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden by our teen stringer from New Rochelle, Maris Ryger-Wasserman, age 13.
As usual, the astute Maris puts the whole Jingle Ball phenomenon in perspective. This year’s acts included Boys Like Girls, Jordin Sparks, Avril Lavigne, Backstreet Boys, Alicia Keys, Timbaland with One Republic and Keri Hilson, Colbie Caillat, Fall Out Boy and The Jonas Brothers.
"This year’s Jingle Ball was definitely Z100’s best of past years. They had a great line-up of artists, some lived up to the reputation of Jingle Ball and some crumbled.
Boys Like Girls … were a terrific opening act! You could tell they practiced a lot, with their synchronized head-bopping and cute moves…The next act of the night was Jordin Sparks, the winner of 'American Idol.' Her song set-up was horrible, she sang songs that no one knew, no one liked, and people left to get food. The only good thing about her performance wasn’t her voice or her performance, it was her dazzling blue dress. It focused all attention on her; I would die for that dress! All in all I would give her performance a B-.
Avril Lavigne completely rocked it out! She mixed her old rowdy punk girl "Sk8ter Boi" songs with her new, more mature woman persona Girlfriend songs and combined them together to create a rocking concert performance. She knew what to do and how to act. She has Jingle Ball down! Avril completely deserves an A++++++++++++!
The Backstreet Boys: I couldn’t help but wonder, what are they doing here, they didn’t have a #1 hit this year. Other people like Chris Brown, who has had numerous hits this year, deserved their place. Something is wrong with this picture, why are they here? Do they have some sort of 10-year plan? They definitely put more effort into their killer dance moves than their songs.
Next was the amazing Alicia Keys! She was the only singer to bring a live band on with her. When she started to sing her single 'No One' every girl jumped up and every boyfriend jumped with her. Her voice is just fabulous -- even my mother loves her; she is one of the few artists that even the parents love. You can’t help but love her and her music! She was amazing at Jingle Ball. She is an A++++++++++++++++!
All in all, Jingle Ball was a success and entertaining! I can’t wait 'til next year!"