Movie File: Usher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zach Braff, Sly Stallone

Usher says he's going to 'chill on the abs' for a while — but they'll be back for his next flick.

“This is one of the last times this year you’re gonna see the abs,” said singer/actor Usher by way of warning fans about a self-imposed washboard exile after his film “In the Mix” hits theaters next month. “Usher the entertainer is taking the position to just chill on the abs,” he laughed. When it is time to bring his celebrated stomach back to the big screen, however, the multi-Grammy winner will unveil them for “The Ballad of Walter Holmes,” a film about an R&B singer whose music helps lift him up out of the gutter. “It’s still in the process of being written, but we have associated with ['Lackawanna Blues' director] George Wolfe, which is very, very exciting. We’re making great progress — we haven’t done the casting, we’re really working on the story. I’ve identified some people that I think would be good for the movie.” Don’t go thinking that fellow musician/actor Sean Diddy Combs is among those names, however, even if you’ve read such rumors. “It takes place between Atlanta and New York City, so you never know who you’re gonna run into. There might’ve been maybe an insert of [Diddy's name into a document that was leaked] or something like that, but I haven’t put the entire cast together. We’re still working on the script, and it’ll be done hopefully within the next few weeks.” Usher added that he will “definitely be performing in this one,” and hopes that the audience’s attention will remain equally focused on both the concrete stomach, and the silky-smooth voice. …

The thought of “Donnie Darko” star Jake Gyllenhaal matching his dark, brooding stare with “Fight Club” director David Fincher‘s nihilist visions and hatred of happy endings may sound like a very, very dark dream, but it is indeed coming true. That’s why anticipation is sky-high for next year’s “Zodiac,” which puts Gyllenhaal alongside Mark Ruffalo and Chloë Sevigny. The film, which is currently being shot, will recount the real-life terror caused by a serial killer who turned ’60s and ’70s San Francisco into his playground — and who still hasn’t been found. According to Gyllenhaal, the director has developed an obsession with reinventing the genre. “He’s going pretty dark with this one,” the “Jarhead” star said of Fincher. “He’s doing stuff on this film that I’ve never seen done before. Technically speaking, he’s extraordinary. He’s shooting on this Viper camera, this [digital video] camera, so we don’t have any slates or anything like that — we just blow through takes and start over again. There’s no clapping of the sticks or anything like that; we just keep going. And he’s done these murder scenes unlike any murder scenes I’ve seen before. He’s true exactly to, like, the inch or centimeter of what actually happened. So it’s going to look and feel exactly like it happened in real life. It’s going to be terrifying.” …

” ‘Mission Impossible 3′ — May, 2006,” actress Michelle Monaghan gushed, thrilled with the high-profile project that could turn her into a superstar. “J.J. Abrams has written it and directed it, and if you’re familiar with ‘Lost’ or ‘Alias,’ he created both of those shows.” This time around, she said, Abrams’ script and new co-stars Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup and Philip Seymour Hoffman will bring a very different tone to the Tom Cruise action franchise. “It’s funnier, but it’s also a lot more character-driven as well. We’ve really got some elements of drama in it as well as action. It’s different than the ones you’ve seen before.” …

The tagline for “Rocky V” was “Go for It!” — and Sylvester Stallone just may be taking the invitation a bit too seriously. A decade and a half after we last saw Rocky Balboa taking on Tommy Gunn in a street brawl, Stallone has made plans to reprise his most famous role again. Skipping the roman numerals this time, Stallone will write, direct and star in “Rocky Balboa,” the sixth film in the franchise, which he plans to shoot in Las Vegas and Philadelphia next year. This time around, the near-60-superstar will be a depressed, widowed (sorry, Talia Shire!) ex-brawler who returns to the ring. Burt Young, meanwhile, will once again remind the world that he is very much alive while dusting off the classically rumpled frown of Adrian’s brother Paulie. … And in case you just can’t get enough news on the Italian Stallion, his “Rambo IV” project continues to develop, while his dream job of writing and directing “Poe” (a biopic of shadowy poet Edgar Allen Poe) is also moving along, albeit at a pace so leisurely that it might make its star want to scream “Nevermore!” “In Hollywood, people [continually ask if] you’re doing this next one, all right?” Robert Downey Jr. commented while discussing his meetings with Stallone, who wants Downey to be his Poe. “We’ve had dinner and talked about it. I like him, and he wrote a great script. It could be great.” …

You may best remember Jon Favreau for attacking little bunnies in “Swingers” alongside Vince Vaughn, but within Hollywood circles the chronic second-banana has carved out a nice dual career for himself, directing the hit comedy “Elf” and the upcoming “Zathura” on the side as he continues onscreen in films like “Daredevil.” Now that he’s a dad, the double-threat is bringing both talents to the world of animation with two computer-generated films, beginning with next September’s “Open Season,” in which he voices Riley — “A beaver — that was a real stretch for me. I play a beaver from New Jersey,” he laughed. After that comes a film with an “Ice Age”-type aesthetic, set in the same era. “It’s a project called ‘Neanderthals.’ I’m gonna write and produce for them. So I’m looking to get heavily into animation, I really love it. God knows I watch enough of it with my kids: I’ve got a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so I live and breathe CG movies.” Prodded for more info, Favreau revealed that the film will be “about cavemen back in the Neanderthal days. It’s a comedy. We’re just sort of breaking the story together right now,” he added, insisting that he plans to do a voice in the family film as well. …

You may know him as J.D. from “Scrubs,” or you may identify him as Andrew from “Garden State” — and next month, millions will get to know Zach Braff as “Chicken Little.” But if the 30-year-old actor has his way, his fans will also soon know Braff as Mr. Babar, John Cocktoston, Dr. Rosenpenis and, of course, investigative reporter Irwin Fletcher. “The script isn’t written, but I know it’s based on one of the books, ‘Fletch Won,’ and I think they want something that’ll be faithful to the book,” Braff said of his part in the renewal of the “Fletch” franchise. “As I understand it, [movie mogul and rights owner] Harvey Weinstein wants to make a truly traditional ‘Fletch’ movie like the great Chevy Chase one.” Braff acknowledged that “Clerks” mastermind Kevin Smith has abandoned the project (he had hoped to have Jason Lee play the part), which is old news — but he then revealed a new name that would keep him in touch with an old friend. “Kevin Smith’s not doing it anymore; I don’t even really know what happened,” Braff insisted. “[They are] talking to Bill Lawrence, the creator of ‘Scrubs,’ to do the script, who’d be the perfect candidate for it.” As for the inevitable comparisons to Chase, Braff could only speak with speculative reverence: “They’re huge shoes to fill … if people see any similarities, he was a goofy guy who wasn’t your stereotypical magazine poster boy, but he had the ability to be a great everyman. If I can set out to do anything in my career, it would be to play people that the people can relate to. Those are the parts I’m most interested in doing.”

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