THE TRAVIS MCGEE BOOK CLUB #1
"The Deep Blue Good-by"
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE
WHO'S IN IT
The Alabama Tiger
There is only one place this series could begin.
That's onboard the Busted Flush, Slip F-18, Bahia Mar, Lauderdale. A 52-foot barge-type houseboat, a long-term berth. The home of Travis McGee.
THE TRAVIS MCGEE BOOK CLUB #1
There's a hunger out there right now, and I'm curious to see what happens when someone manages to satisfy it in just the right way. It's coming. It's just a matter of when and which film and what timing. I had one conversation recently with a friend who was talking about how much he wants to have an experience with a SF film that comes out of nowhere and blows his mind, something that is about ideas instead of effects. Another friend and I were debating about why some films get grass roots support and others don't and whether a "no-name" film can ever really get that kind of push.
The truth is, no film succeeds on its own, and there's no such thing as a "no-name" film once you start showing it to audiences and press. Films can be engineered as carefully as you want, but the truth is that they end up having lives of their own once they're out there in the wild, and all a filmmaker can do is hire the right publicist, cut a great trailer, enter the right festivals, and pray.
I feel like I'm publishing a photo of Bigfoot or an interview with JD Salinger here. When I woke up this morning and saw that there was allegedly a trailer online for the new film "Red Tails," I laughed at the mere idea of it. There can't be a trailer for "Red Tails" because there's no way George Lucas will finally wrap up work on "Red Tails" at any point in my lifetime. He's been talking about making this film since sometime in the early 1900s, it seems like. Okay, maybe it was the '80s when he first started talking about it, right around the same time he produced "Tucker: The Man And His Dream," and the script was in development for about 20 years.
I'll let you consider that for a moment. 20 years to develop a script.
In other words, "Red Tails" must be the greatest produced work of screenwriting of all time if they took that long nailing it down, right? Anthony Hemingway is the director who finally got picked to bring the film to life, and he's a TV vet with a pretty impressive background. "Treme." "Community." "True Blood." "Battlestar Galactica." "The Wire." He's done his time, and he's worked his way up from 2nd AD to AD to director, and "Red Tails" looks like his reward at the end of that trip.
"What a beautiful fookin' day."
With that greeting, Brendan Gleeson kicks off the dry-as-a-bone wicked Irish comedy written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, a film that lays its traps quietly, expertly performed and with a strong sense of voice and location. "The Guard" gives Brendan Gleeson one of the best roles he's ever had, and he plays it perfectly. "The Guard" is one of the highlights of the year so far, and the sort of thing that could easily get lost in a weekend like this one.
That would be a shame.
Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a guy who has found his place in life and who enjoys what he's carved out for himself. He likes his community. He likes his place in it. He likes who he works with, and he likes the work itself. When there's a murder in his town on the same day he's breaking in a new guy, Garda McBride (Rory Keenan), it's the kick-off to a strange, twisted string of collisions and misunderstandings and calculated betrayals, and the way McDonagh orchestrates it all is masterful. His brother Martin McDonagh was the writer/director of "In Bruges," and he's a gifted playwright.
Miranda July has become a polarizing figure among the film fans who know her work, and I understand why. She is eccentric, both as a writer/director and as a performer, and it's such an organic, complete part of her personality that I can't imagine her ever shutting that off and making more "conventional" films, and I think that's just fine. The voice she's developing as a filmmaker is sweet and funny and odd, and it feels like she's grown in the six years since she made her first film, "Me and You and Everyone We Know."
The film opens with a voice-over by a cat named Paw-Paw who is wasting away in a shelter, dying, praying for someone to take him home. Her salvation comes in the form of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a couple who have been rolling along in a state of inertia for years. They're determined to change things, experience new things, and try to accept some new responsibilities. They haven't accomplished much, and they're at that point in life where they have to start thinking that maybe they won't, and it's obvious that the thought scares them.
There is no denying that the dual performances at the heart of "The Devil's Double" are impressive, and Dominic Cooper will, I'm sure, be duly rewarded with more work and acclaim, and he deserves it.
But aside from those performances, I'm not really sure what the point of "The Devil's Double" is. It's based on the true story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier who went to boarding school with Uday Hussein, where the tremendous similarity between the two of them was noticed by everyone. Years passed, and Uday finally sent for Latif, ordering him to undergo plastic surgery and dental work to make the appearance even more similar so that Latif could appear in public as his fiday, his double. Latif tried to resist, but when his family was threatened, he finally agreed and spent several years in the role, horrified by Uday's cruel and brutal excesses. He finally escaped in 1992, and became an author, eventually writing about his experiences.
Yep. There is a movie called "The Smurfs" and it exists.
Is there really nostalgia out there for these characters? If you grew up in the '80s watching the cartoon on Saturday mornings, are you really hoping to see a new film with the little blue creatures? Somehow, I doubt it. This has struck me as one of the strangest miscalculations of this era of nothing but pre-existing properties since it was first announced, and now, finally, the film will be in theaters this Friday and we'll see what kind of appetite people actually have for the Smurfs.
One thing is clear, though, having taken both of my children to see the movie last night: this is not a movie that is aimed at grown-ups. It was written young, it plays young, and for a six year old and a three year old, it seemed to play just fine. I'll give it credit for making the two of them belly laugh every time Hank Azaria, chewing scenery with aplomb as Gargamel, evil wizard foe to the Smurfs, got hurt in some dramatic fashion. Listening to them laugh like that is exactly why I took them, and it worked well enough on that level.
When I was approached about publishing an exclusive clip from the new film "The Perfect Age Of Rock'n'Roll" here on the blog, I was interested because of the cast. But then the events of the last week, as we were looking for a place to schedule the clip, made it a little bit more interesting and, frankly, difficult, and we had some conversations about how to handle it before we agreed to premiering it this morning.
I suspect you'll understand why once you read the following synopsis for the film:
According to rock ‘n’ roll lore, age 27 is a fateful milestone. From Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison to Kurt Cobain, all stars we lost at this very age.
World famous rock star Spyder (Kevin Zegers – Transamerica, Frozen) has achieved fame and fortune with a smash hit debut album. This blinding success however, is built on the Faustian pact that capitalized on the genius of his long lost childhood best friend and band mate, Eric Genson (Jason Ritter – NBC’s The Event, Good Dick). Now Spyder retreats to his small hometown after his sophomore effort flops. Reconnecting with Eric after a seven year estrangement, the two recall their youthful ambitions and reexamine the choices they’ve made. Accompanied by the band’s ambitious, fiery manager (Taryn Manning – ABC’s Hawaii 5-0, Hustle & Flow, 8 Mile), the legendary music impresario August West (Peter Fonda – Easy Rider, 3:10 to Yuma) and a raucous crew of musicians, they set off on a cathartic journey along historic Route 66 that brings them closer to each other, their history and their destiny. Fueled by a stellar rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack that includes songs by Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Iggy & The Stooges, Alice in Chains, Muddy Waters, The Violent Femmes, Howlin’ Wolf, Jane’s Addiction, and many more, The Perfect Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll fully captures the energy, rebellion, and thrills of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
Last week, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27, and as soon as that number got reported, I braced myself for it to trend on Twitter. And it did, as did Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. It is a sad and unfortunate coincidence, but as with any artistic field, there are superstitions and folklore that build up, and for this film to make that a jumping-off point is one of those strange synchronicities of timing that happens occasionally.
Daniel Craig was gracious enough to sit down with me in a field in Montana a few weeks back to talk westerns, sci-fi and the latest combo of the two, "Cowboys and Aliens."
The man is no stranger to physically demanding roles. His James Bond has been by far the most bare knuckled, down and dirty, body slamming Bond we've seen on screen. He's built like a pit bull, and has a steely gaze that can stop a truck, and/or blue eyes that melt your heart.
This made him perfect to play Jake Lonergan, the cowboy who wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory and a piece of mysterious alien technology strapped to his arm in "Cowboys and Aliens."
I sincerely hope that Mike Fleming's report is correct and that JJ Abrams is finally ready to commit to directing "Star Trek 2."
Now that Paramount has dealt with the reality that the film won't be ready for the June 29, 2012 date they originally claimed for it, Jon Chu's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (which is evidently not called "Cobra Strikes" as previously reported to my endless amusement) will be moving up into that spot. I have no idea what to expect from that sequel as they've basically thrown out most of what made me cackle about the first film, like Joseph Gordon Levitt as Cobra Commander or Chris Eccleston as Destro.
On the other hand, having Abrams onboard as director for "Star Trek 2" makes me feel like the film is off to the right start. The first film works because it has a tremendous sense of energy and because that cast is so great together. The script had the unenviable task of both setting up a franchise and figuring out a way of folding the original series into it seamlessly. It's impressive how much heavy lifting they pulled off without ever forgetting to entertain.