British director Kevin Macdonald is bringing Elvis Presley back from the dead for a new biopic produced by Sir Mick Jagger. The Last King of Scotland filmmaker has signed up to take charge of Last Train to Memphis, based on Peter Guralnick's 1995 biography of the same name, which documents the King's early years.
Jagger, who is also working on a new James Brown movie with The Help director Tate Taylor, will co-produce with Victoria Pearman through their Jagged Films company, while Crossroads screenwriter John Fusco has been hired to adapt the script, according to industry publication Variety.
Bosses at Fox 2000, the studio behind the new movie, have issued an open casting call for actors between the ages of 18 and 22 to portray a young Elvis, who was most recently played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in 2005 TV movie Elvis.
This smart remake/update of a 70 year-old play and movie may not win any Oscars but it turns out to be as gorgeously entertaining as its title indicates. Based on the play and 1939 movie of the same name that skewered upper society women of the era writer/director Diane English has kept the bones intact but updated it all to include women of various places in life. Women who are still trying to find love and happiness and above all else female friendship. In their world life seems to revolve around Tanya (Debi Mazar) the gossipy manicurist at the Saks Fifth Avenue Beauty Salon who spills the beans to magazine editor Sylvie (Annette Bening) that her best friend Mary’s (Meg Ryan) Wall Street tycoon husband has been catting around with voluptuous perfume “spritzer girl” Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). Deciding in tandem with Mary’s other pals--the housewife Edie (Debra Messing) and writer Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith)--to tell Mary Sylvie sparks an incident that sets off fireworks in all their lives with betrayals career crises pregnancy retreats revenge and forgiveness all figuring into the male-less proceedings. The Women’s entire ensemble cast is pure pleasure and it’s exclusively made up of some of the best comedic actresses around. Even all the extras are women but then that’s sort of the joke of the whole premise. Estrogen flows freely in this group led by Meg Ryan as the victimized wife and mother whose husband plays around on her and whose own father fires her from her job. Talk about a tough week! With money lines like her declaration of sexual prowess “I can suck the nails out of a board ” Ryan has some of her best moments in recent years playing nicely off co-star Bening. As Mary’s best friend she’s the workaholic but aging editor of a women’s magazine that’s on the edge of change she can’t seem to keep up with. Bening beautifully reflects the quandary of a career woman who has to watch her back at every moment. Messing and Pinkett Smith round out the fearsome foursome and each gets some choice comic material to play particularly Messing’s histrionics as the pregnant Edie. Suffice to say the inevitable but riotously funny delivery scene is well worth waiting for. Mendes plays the vamp bit for all it’s worth stunning in all her cunning. Mazar though is a bit too laid back as the manicurist with all the secrets. Cloris Leachman delivers some prize one-liners as Mary’s loyal housekeeper and Tilly Scott Peterson is very funny as the Uta the nanny. Carrie Fisher as a gossip columnist and Bette Midler as a tough-talking Hollywood agent make the most of their brief screen time as well but it’s English's Murphy Brown star Candice Bergen who steals the show as Mary’s wise but plastic surgery-addicted mother. A post face-lift scene with Bergen counseling Ryan is priceless stuff. Writer/director Diane English says she spent 14 frustrating years trying to bring this sassy update of Claire Booth Luce’s creation to the screen. Timing is everything and now with female bonding films all the rage The Women circa 2008 could be just the ticket. Certainly it’s strength is the comic savvy of English who spent several seasons on Murphy Brown honing her skills. It pays off here with a talented cast delivering her snappy lines with expert comic timing. Sure even updated as it is The Women still has the creakiness of a vehicle that peaked in 1939 but for whatever reason the old-fashioned craftsmanship still works even in an era where women have gone on to achievements not dreamed about when Luce wrote the play. As a director English is all about protecting her script and it’s the tight pacing of one amusing sequence after another that makes this little trifle sail by right down to the final sight gag. See it.
The Stones previously employed such esteemed directors as Hal Ashby and Jean-Luc Godard to capture their raucous studio and onstage exploits on film. Martin Scorsese edited Woodstock directed The Band’s landmark concert film The Last Waltz and used Stones classics in Goodfellas and The Departed. So it was inevitable that Scorsese and the Stones would eventually collaborate. Why they choose to name their concert film--shot in 2006 over two nights at the Beacon Theater in New York--after the Exile on Main St. track remains a mystery. There’s little attempt to reveal anything new about how the Stones have laughed off “Steel Wheelchairs” jokes and accusations of irrelevancy to prevail for 46 years as “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.” Shine a Light is just your typical concert film--albeit one shot for a five-story movie theater. Only it’s not in 3D like recent concert films by Miley Cyrus and U2. And so we're denied the opportunity of having the tongue from the Stones' iconic logo being wagged inches from our faces.
Still as Scorsese effortlessly reaffirms old age hasn’t slowed down Mick Jagger Keith Richards Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. They work a stage harder than any of the current pop idols who weren’t even born before At the Max began its run in 1991 (yes you Ms. Cyrus).
The lines that were very much evident on Jagger’s face in At the Max now appear to be as deep as ravines in Shine a Light. But the lanky sexagenarian still possesses the vim and vigor to strut like a peacock during mating season. And his voice is as potent today as it was when he first requested “Sympathy for the Devil.” As for the other Glimmer Twin Richards looks like he’s just staggered off the set of the last Pirates of the Caribbean what with his black eyeliner and headscarf. Still it’s entertaining to watch Richards play up--and poke fun at--his “living corpse” persona. Oh and if you find yourself in need of a bathroom break wait until the guitarist croaks his way through “Connection” and “You Got the Silver.” As usual Watts and Wood leave the spotlight to Jagger and Richards. There are some special guests: President Bill Clinton introduces the Stones. A tinny Jack White ruins “Loving Cup.” Bluesman Buddy Guy steals a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” from Jagger. But pity Christina Aguilera who holds her own against a lecherous Jagger on “Live With Me.” X-tina’s no prude but that doesn’t make it any less creepy watching Sir Mick bump and grind with a pop tart young enough to be his granddaughter. In the days and hours leading up to the concert an agitated Scorsese begs for the set list. He gets it seconds before the Stones take the stage. The opening song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash ” isn’t a sign of things to come. The Stones seem uninterested in satisfying those who bought Forty Licks for “Satisfaction”--at least until they start to wrap things up. Expect a dusting off of such lesser-known oldies as “All Down the Line ” “Connection” and “Far Away Eyes.” Scorsese pieces together the performances in a clear-cut and polished manner with his attention firmly fixed on the energetic Jagger and the lumbering Richards. The Beacon Theater which seats 2 880 provides a stark contrast to the stadium setting of At the Max. While its predecessor was all about pure spectacle Shine a Light is a welcomed attempt to show what the larger-than-life Stones can do when squeezed into such an intimate setting. The interviews and archival footage are good for a laugh but their inclusion proves to be superfluous. We know the age-defying Stones will roll on until they die. Scorsese would have been better served replacing them with more songs (like “Shine a Light ” which is only heard over the end credits!). Then again as Jagger’s reminded us for years we can’t always get what we want.