"The Rum Diary" is not a very good book.
It's an early piece of work by Hunter S. Thompson, but anyone who picked it up looking for the voice that distinguished his classic work was likely disappointed. He wrote it in his early 20s, and it went unpublished until 1998. More than anything, it serves as a fascinating glimpse at a raw, unpolished talent, and it offers up some autobiographical details hidden amidst the twists and turns in the story of Paul Kemp, a reporter who moves from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico in order to kick off his career as a writer.
As a film, "The Rum Diary" is far more interesting, due in no small part to the collision of talent that it represents. First, there's Johnny Depp, whose performance as Thompson in Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" is positively inspired, a spooky case of near-possession where an actor absolutely channels a real-life figure. The idea of seeing him play Thompson, or a Thompson stand-in, at an earlier point on his slow slide into self-medicated madness is undeniably appealing. Then there's writer/director Bruce Robinson, whose "Withnail & I" is one of the greatest films of the '80s, and one of my very favorite British films of all time. He hasn't made a movie since "Jennifer 8," a Hollywood misfire that killed his career dead, and from the moment he was announced as the man behind the camera, this became one of those films I almost refused to believe really existed. The idea of Depp reaching out to Robinson, who was always Hunter's first choice to make a "Fear & Loathing" film, and somehow coaxing him out of retirement would be interesting enough even if it were just a straight adaptation of the book.
"The Rum Diary" is not a very good book.
One of the pleasures of the new film "Puss In Boots" is the almost preposterous amount of sexual tension that builds between the lead character Puss (Antonio Banderas) and his partner in crime Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).
And don't worry if you're a parent. This isn't something overt that your kids are going to have to ask you uncomfortable questions about, but it's impossible to miss. Banderas and Hayek seem to have an indecent amount of fun together, and it's one of the most infectiously silly things about the film.
Sitting down with the two of them together, that same chemistry is totally evident. Ever since they worked together in "Desperado," they've had a very special onscreen relationship, and the filmmakers behind "Puss In Boots" took full advantage of that. When I joined them during the press day for the film, we talked about how director Chris Miller made a very unusual choice as far as the recording process was concerned, and what benefits there were to that decision.
As films show up at the house, the boys like to open all the packages, something I've had to decide against thanks to some of the more extreme movies that have been sent to me over the years. I'll glance inside before deciding if they can open something.
There are times when the boys are excited not because they know anything about a movie, but simply because they recognize that they heard someone talking about the title. It's sweet, and I'm sure they take their cues from me. No matter how hard I try to make sure that what they watch is about laying out choices and letting them make those choices, they get excited if I'm excited at all. They're just trying to learn about the world that way. "Hey, mom likes this so I'm going to like this!" "Dad said this movie's title ten times, and so we want to see it!"
Marketing is pervasive, and as Toshi's been learning to read, one of the big joys for him is reading the titles of movie posters as we drive around. Living in LA, there is a constant barrage of roadside imagery selling movies. And they ask about EVERYTHING we go by. There are times when they become excited about something for bizarre reasons, and one of my recent favorites was when they became fixated on the release date of "Crazy Stupid Love."
By now, you are probably pretty sure of how you feel regarding the "Shrek" franchise. I think it has been a lovely example of the law of diminishing returns as they've milked it way past the point of dry. I forget the name of the last movie, and I'm so uninterested in it that I don't even feel the urge to look it up. It struck me as a lazy cash-grab, and as a result, when I walked in to see "Puss In Boots," it was with dread more than anything.
Thankfully, "Puss In Boots" is not a "Shrek" film. At all.
It's so disconnected from the series that I have no idea where it takes place in the timeline of the "Shrek" series. Before? After? Doesn't matter. "Puss In Boots" stands on its own, and it's better for doing so. It is a very silly film, a big adventure movie, and surprisingly effective. It's not easy to spin off a popular supporting character into his own movie, and yet this feels completely natural. It helps that Antonio Banderas seems to fully understand the ludicrous nature of the film, and his performance is nuanced and hilarious, a charming riff on his own bigscreen image.
Late Saturday night, a few hours after we finished watching "Revenge Of The Sith," about an hour after both of the boys had fallen asleep, I was sitting in my office when the door opened and a sleepy-eyed Allen walked in.
"Dad, I think it's sad that Anakin's a bad guy."
"Did you just wake up to tell me that?"
"Yeah. I hope he gets better."
I picked him up, carried him back down the hallway to his bedroom, and he was asleep again by the time I tucked him in surrounded by his stuffed animals. That one thought was weighing on him enough that he needed to get up and come tell me. And as I sat back down, I realized what showing the films in this particular has done narratively that is underlined in a very different way now. More than ever, the notion of having to stand against one's father to punish him and, maybe, to redeem him is written in GIANT GLOWING LETTERS now. The last thing they saw was the birth of Luke and Leia.
Which blew their minds, by the way.
Like, off the charts, oh my god, running in circles. Blew. Their. Minds.
And that wasn't the biggest moment of the night.
There's nothing I love more than coming home from a night out with the kids to find angry half-literate e-mails from people calling me names over something they don't understand. So you can imagine this has been a gorgeous Friday night.
After all, we were the ones who told you that David Yates and Steve Kloves were going to be the creative team in charge of Warner's big-screen treatment of the Stephen King epic novel. And when we reported it, offers had been made and deals were in motion. It was accurate at that moment.
Then things went radio silent. And while I'm not in a position to tell you what went on behind the scenes, I can tell you that following the success of the last four "Harry Potter" films, both Yates and Kloves are expensive, particularly when working together, and one of the keys to getting any giant tentpole film off the ground right now is finding creative ways to bring costs down. When your writer and director together are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 - $20 million before you make any other deals on the film, that is not an inexpensive place to begin.
There are certain filmmakers who have earned a permanent spot on the list of people whose work I will always approach with an open mind and a sense of optimism, and the Wachowskis are absolutely on that list.
Sure, there's "The Matrix," that bolt-out-of-the-blue hit that made them into A-list names, but as much as I admire that movie, I'm equally fond of both "Bound," the indie thriller that was their directorial debut, and "Speed Racer," the much-maligned but genuinely inspired kaleidoscopic adaptation of the Japanese cartoon. I think they have great energy as filmmakers and I also think they have contributed to a serious expansion of the vocabulary of science-fiction and action on film.
I'm very curious about "Cloud Atlas," the film they're shooting now, and I think it sounds bold and experimental and unusual. After that, though, it looks like they're going to be making a big-ticket science-fiction film for Warner Bros, not based on anything else, and thanks to Deadline's story today, we know now that "Jupiter Ascending" is the title. Beyond that, we know nothing else right now. The film is out to actors, which is how the story broke.
Looks like Akira and Tetsuo are set to battle it out again after all.
It also looks like the time Garrett Hedlund spent learning how to ride those lightcycles for "TRON Legacy" is going to pay off as he signs a deal to star in the film.
I can think of few films that make less sense for a Westernized live-action remake than the original animated "Akira." It is, like "Godzilla," literally born from the ashes of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, an anxious SF parable about living with the unexpected consequences of the nuclear age. There is a strange surreal paranoia to the original, which is a massive compression of the manga series, and the youth of the main characters is important because the story deals with young people inheriting the horror that resulted from the generation before them. The storytelling in that film is oblique, and the iconography is very Japanese.
It seems like 2011 has been a pretty good year to be Joe Cornish.
After all, he released his first film as a writer/director this year, the instant cult classic "Attack The Block," and he's also got a co-writing credit on the new Steven Spielberg animated film "The Adventures Of Tintin." Add to that the work he's been doing with Edgar Wright on the still in-development Marvel movie "Ant-Man," and this is pretty much as good a year as you can have as a filmmaker.
When I introduced the film at its first screening this year and then held the Q&A with Cornish afterwards, it was the kickoff to what has apparently been a non-stop media parade for him, and when he called last week, I told him how much I've enjoyed seeing everything unfold for the film in the meantime. "I appreciate that. Thank you. The support from the, as you'd call it, blogosphere has been the absolute lifeblood of this film, and I'm very appreciative of all the support."
That's the point, though. When I love a movie, the only thing I can do to help is to keep talking about it as much as possible. I told him it was strange seeing the movie at home for the first time because I missed hearing all the reactions that were part of each public screening I went to for it. "Well, hopefully, if people haven't seen it, they can have friends over and make an event of it and turn the lights out."
Yes, Max Landis is related to that Landis. Now get over it.
It really is a double-edged sword growing up with a famous last name, because it may well open doors for you, but it also means people constantly assume that you don't have to do any real work, and that's ridiculous. Max Landis may have grown up with John Landis as a father, and he may have been around film sets since he was a baby, and he may have met many of the people who can hire him socially because of that, but in the end, if the films he writes are going to work, they're going to have to work because of talent, not because of his name.
I wasn't a huge fan of "Deer Woman," the "Masters Of Horror" episode he wrote for his dad, but I liked the ambition and the attitude of it. I thought it had a really strange and novel sensibility, and I'm curious to see what his voice is over the next few movies, starting with "Chronicle," which looks like a sort of found-footage superhero riff. But dark. Maybe real dark.