When is the news of an actor you really like joining the cast of a high-profile new movie bad news? When you wish that actor were doing other things with his time, that's when. In the case of Thomas McCarthy -- whom you may remember from his masterfully detestable performance as weaselly reporter Scott Templeton in the final season of The Wire -- I wish he were writing and directing another film as brilliant and deeply moving as The Visitor, which at this halfway point is my favorite movie of 2008. I'd even settle for something with the wry, quiet charm of his lovely 2003 debut The Station Agent.

Instead -- ::sigh:: -- he's gone and taken a supporting role in Roland Emmerich's disaster flick 2012, playing Amanda Peet's boyfriend. C'mon, Tom: anyone can do that. Only a handful of people have your behind-the-camera chops. Quit messing around.

I'm being mean, and in this Hollywood Reporter piece McCarthy makes a valiant effort at defending the choice in terms of how working with directors who make different kinds of films helps him with his own work. (The article also mentions that McCarthy moonlights as an uncredited studio script doctor, which I didn't know, and which makes perfect sense given the natural, effortless flow of the films he's written.) Okay fine. But direct something else please.
Incidentally, raise your hands if you never realized that indie writer-director Thomas McCarthy was also familiar character actor Thomas McCarthy (who also has roles in Tony Gilroy's upcoming Duplicity and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones). It somehow didn't register for me after The Station Agent, and I was blindsided to learn that The Visitor had been directed by freakin' Scott Templeton.