I am a big, big fan of the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars. I was checking out some on-line Ship of the Line images the other day and came across this magnificent creation by Doug Drexler, entitled “No Bloody A, B, C, or D.” (The title, of course, is taken from Scotty’s line in the TNG episode “Relics.”) Gorgeous.
Click here for a full-screen version.
Here’s another awe-inspiring image of the Big E. Why couldn’t the Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film have looked more like this??
Click here for a full-screen version.
Moving forward along the Trek time-line, check out this amazing depiction of the Enterprise-D by long-time Trek concept artist/illustrator Andrew Probert. (He’s the man who designed the refit-Enterprise from the Star Trek films, as well as the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.)
Click here for a full-screen version.
Cool stuff.… [continued]
1993 was a banner year for Steven Spielberg. That year saw the release of two films that he directed: Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park. Both were phenomenally good, though two more different films I can scarcely imagine. To my younger self, those dual accomplishments in 1993 embedded Steven Spielberg in my mind as a director at the top of his game who could pretty much do no wrong. If he could succeed at making both a potent, emotional historical drama, as well as a nail-biting sci-fi action spectacle, then the man could do anything.
I remember very clearly when I first saw Jurassic Park on the big screen. It scared the hell out of me! That seems sort of silly now, but I wasn’t prepared at the time for how intense a film it was. Seeing it projected on the big screen, I was totally blown away by the visual effects, and also by the incredible sound. Jurassic Park is one of the first films that really made me think about the sound design. I think it was the incredible sound-scape that contributed to the intensity of the film as much as the amazing imagery.
Watching Jurassic Park, today, on DVD, the film doesn’t have anywhere near that intensity. It does, however, hold up rather well. The CGI effects that were so ground-breaking at the time still look great. That’s a pretty amazing achievement — I’m sure you don’t have to think too hard to come up with a lengthy list of films whose visual effects were groundbreaking at the time but are pretty laughable today — and it’s a testament to the quality work done by all the artists involved with the film. It’s pretty amazing to me how well-made the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park are. There wasn’t a single shot that jumped out at me as being silly or fake-looking. This is important in allowing the film to retain its effectiveness, even almost twenty years later. It’s critical that the dinosaurs work as believable creatures — otherwise I think you’d be plucked right out of the story.
But the reason why Jurassic Park still works today isn’t just about the dinosaurs — it’s also about how carefully and successfully Mr. Spielberg (and screenwriters David Koepp and Michael Crichton, adapting Mr. Crichton’s novel) establish a believable, interesting ensemble of characters to hang the story around. It takes almost a full hour of the film before the dino-mayhem really begins. That time is well-used, as we get to know and care about the folks who are about to be terrorized.
Sam Neillhas never been better than as Dr. Alan Grant, the paleontologist hero of the film. He’s ornery … [continued]
I saw a lot of movies in 2009, but one of the films that I missed was An Education. I’ve been meaning to remedy that for a while, ever since the film was released on DVD, and I finally had a chance to watch it earlier this month. It’s a great film, which I thoroughly enjoyed right up until the final 3-4 minutes. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, a sixteen year-old girl who lives with her parents outside of London in the 1960′s. She is studying hard at an all-girls school in the hopes of being accepted to Oxford the following year. One rainy day, while walking home from school, she meets David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a charming, wealthy man who is a great deal older than she. Jenny is impressed by his lifestyle, and his interest in and knowledge of art and music. David’s charm seduces Jenny’s parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) almost as much as it does Jenny — her mother and father are so excited at the prospect of their daughter marrying such a well-off, intelligent and cultured fellow that they allow themselves to be blinded to the potential downsides of the relationship.
An Education is a fairly small-scale, intimate character study (that’s a compliment, not a criticism), and as such it is carried on the strength of its ensemble cast. (Though a strong script from the great Nick Hornby helps too!) That the actors assembled are SO strong is probably why the film was met with such acclaim upon its release last year. Carey Mulligan knocks it out of the park in her first major leading role. She brings a fierce intelligence as well as a believable vulnerability to the role of Jenny, a young woman on the verge of a larger education about life than she was expecting. Peter Sarsgaard is equally compelling as David. Anyone who’s ever seen a movie before can probably surmise that there’s more to this seemingly charming man than meets the eye, but Mr. Sarsgaard’s compelling performance makes one understand why Jenny (and her parents) can fall for him.
Speaking of Jenny’s parents, Alfred Molina is stupendous as her father. As with all the actors in the ensemble, he avoids cliche or over-simplification in his performance. He’s a comic stick-in-the-mud at many points in the film, particularly in the early-going (complaining about listening to Jenny’s practicing her cello, or protesting that he doesn’t want to drive so far to hear a concert), but he also clearly cares for his daughter and is concerned for her well-being. As his wife, Cara Seymour has the far-less showy role, but she also brings great strength … [continued]
I’ll admit, I had been starting to lose hope about the continuing series of DC Animated films, but Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was a step in the right direction, and the latest installment, Batman: Under the Red Hood, is even better.
Under the Red Hood is based on the story-line that ran through the Batman comic books in 2005-2006 (and was eventually collected in a two-volume collection called Under the Hood), written by Judd Winick and illustrated by a variety of artists but primarily Doug Mahnke. In the story, Batman must confront a new nemesis: The Red Hood. The mysterious character at first appears to be a new crime-lord, vying with The Black Mask for control of Gotham City’s criminal element, but he turns out to be a vigilante aiming to destroy those criminals, albeit using much more violent (and deadly) methods than Batman ever employs. That’s troubling enough on its own, but when evidence points to the Red Hood as being a mysteriously resurrected Jason Todd (once Batman’s second side-kick Robin, murdered by the Joker in the infamous A Death in the Family storyline from back in 1988), Batman finds himself painted into an impossible corner.
At the risk of repeating the point I have made in my last several reviews of these DCU animated films, I’m much happier seeing direct adaptations of famous comic book story-lines, rather than all-new stories (like the mediocre Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight films, or even the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths film which I found more enjoyable). So Under the Red Hood had that going for it, in my book, right off the bat. The problem is that, with the exception of the graphic novel New Frontier (which is a phenomenal piece of work by Darwyn Cooke), I haven’t been too wild about the choice of comic story-lines these films have adapted. Superman: Doomsday adapted the sprawling, months-long Death of Superman storyline, and while that story-line was a smash hit at the time it came out, it has aged very poorly. I thought Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman storyline (adapted for Public Enemies) was over-rated at the time — all flash and dazzle without too much actual meat to the story. And Judd Winick’s Under the Hood story-line was, in the comics, fairly mediocre in my opinion. It had a killer hook, bringing back Jason Todd, but rather than building to a powerful climax I felt the story was abandoned. There was no clear resolution as to what happened to Jason/Red Hood, and when we finally got the answers as to how he was resurrected (in Batman Annual #25) it seemed like a convoluted mess. Also, read … [continued]
Not long after the release of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (which I reviewed here), Varese Sarabande released Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).
I have been a big fan of Michael Giacchino for years now. I love his TV work (for Lost, Alias, etc.), and I think his score for The Incredibles is one of the most perfect film scores ever crafted. So I was very excited by the news, back in 2009, that he’d be scoring J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. I have mixed feelings about the finished film, and I can’t say that I was totally in love with the score either. Still, when news of this CD release reached me, I was excited by the prospect of experiencing Mr. Giacchino’s score on its own.
Sadly, as I listened to this double-CD set, I felt as luke-warm about the score as I had when first experiencing it with the finished film. Mr. Giacchino is a terrific composer, there is no doubt, and he’s certainly created a fast-paced, energetic score. But it all feels a little bland to me. There aren’t a lot of distinct, dramatic themes for the viewer/listener to hold on to (as there were, for example, in James Horner’s phenomenal scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III).
Mr. Giacchino did create a dynamic new main Star Trek/Kirk theme. This music (which plays over the opening titles, and which builds to strong crescendos as the film progresses and young James Kirk begins to become the man he is destined to be) is pretty great – it’s eminently memorable, and provides a strong back-bone for much of the film’s action sequences. Mr. Giacchino also created a lovely, quiet new Spock/Vulcan theme. It’s hard to out-do Mr. Horner’s iconic Spock/Vulcan music, but I quite enjoyed Mr. Giacchino’s take on this material.
Other than those two themes, though, I found most of the rest of the score to be – while pleasant to listen to – rather generic. I was particularly disappointed by the lack of the famous Alexander Courage Star Trek theme from the score. Mr. Giacchino makes us wait all the way to the end credits until we get to hear any of those familiar themes. True, when that moment comes, we get a wonderfully rocking re-orchestration of the full classic Star Trek TV theme (presented on this CD set on disc two, tracks 15 “To Boldly Go” and 16 “End Credits”). But there were so many moments during the film – such as Kirk and McCoy’s first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Kirk’s first … [continued]
In the quiet, tense new film The American, George Clooney plays Jack (though we have no idea if that’s his real name, and he assumes the name Edward for much of the film). Jack is involved in some Bad Things, though what exactly those Bad Things are is never specified. He is perhaps a gun-for-hire, and he is definitely a gun-maker-for hire, as that is the job we see him involved with for the bulk of the film. Jack has been hired, through his nameless employer, to craft a specific type of gun for a beautiful woman named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten, who played Sayid’s doomed girlfriend Inga in “The Economist” episode of Lost). While Jack clearly seems to be a master of his craft, the loneliness and isolation of his life has begun to affect him — not to mention the fact that he is being pursued by several Swedish assassins. When he forms a connection with a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido), we can see that Jack has become desperate for a real, substantial human connection — though he is also skilled enough at his profession that he is well aware of the dangers of “making friends.”
Mr. Clooney is a compelling lead, dramatically downplaying his charm in his depiction of an almost-broken man who is nevertheless believably magnetic to Clara. There is very little dialogue in the film — the story is carried along mainly by looks and gestures. We spend much of the film watching Mr. Clooney quietly at work, and he gives Jack a strong inner life without ever having to resort to lengthy monologues to tell the audience what he’s thinking or feeling.
The film is gorgeously shot. The vistas (the film is set in Sweden and Italy) are amazingly beautiful, and director Anton Corbijn shows a keen eye for composition and a confidence in keeping his camerawork stable and slow-moving. In many ways his camera-placement is as “quiet” as the rest of the film. This works well, I think, in focusing our attention on the drama happening in Jack’s head.
The American reminds me, in aspiration if not quite in accomplishment, of The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece starring Gene Hackman. Both films center on a protagonist involved in not-quite-legal doings, one who is a master at his game but who has also begun to chafe at the isolation that his mastery of his profession demands. In both films, the tension rises as the protagonist attempts to connect with a woman, while also finding himself to be under constant threat of death from outside forces.
Where The American fails for me (in contrast to The Conversation), is in the sketchiness … [continued]
Let me say right up front that I found Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to be an enormously fun, engaging, original movie, and I am really bummed that the film has been so poorly received at the American box office. After a summer filled with so many lazy, lowest-common-demoninator money-grab movies, here at last is a movie stuffed to overflowing with wit and creativity and heart. Too bad so few people have seen it!!
Based on the series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley (which I’ll admit that, despite my love of comics, I have never read), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World tells of story of Scott, a young, lonely twenty-something kid looking for someone to love (who will hopefully love him back). The film is bold in making Scott to be rather unlikable when we first meet him. We quickly learn that he’s been in a number of failed relationships, and that he doesn’t seem to have been too gentle to the girls he broke up with once he decided that they weren’t his one true love. There’s been some back-lash against Michael Cera in recent days, and several of his films have crashed-and-burned (Year One was a mess, and did anyone see Youth in Revolt?), but he’s very well cast in the lead role of Scott Pilgrim. He has the acerbic edge that allows us to see how he could easily be a jerk to the girls he’s dated, but he also has enough warmth and humor and gentleness that we still wish him well and want to follow him on his adventures in the film.
And Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is certainly more of an adventure than the Juno/Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist type opening might have you believe. When Scott meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he immediately finds himself deeply infatuated with her, and the two begin to date. This is when Scott learns that, to date Ramona, he must battle and defeat her Seven Evil Exes.
If that synopsis is starting to sound like the premise of a video-game more than a movie, then you’re right! Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is positively drowning in a clear love for video-games. The film does contain the increasingly elaborate and energetically staged superhero vs. supervillain fights (mirroring the increasingly challenging levels of a video game) that the premise seems to promise, but there’s much more to it then that. Starting with the ingeniously revamped opening title-cards (in which the studio logos are presented in a pixellated version that looks like what you’d see after dropping a few quarters into an arcade game), practically every frame of the film is filled with creative … [continued]
Boy, it’s hard to believe this movie really exists! Originating as a fake trailer from the start of Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse (FINALLY coming to DVD/Blu-Ray! Thanks the gods!), Mr. Rodriguez and his team at Troublemaker Studios have expanded the trailer into a full-length film. Machete is just as much crazy, silly, violent exploitation fun as the original trailer promised.
In a pretty fascinating game of connect-the-dots, Mr. Rodriguez and co-screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez have created a story that somehow includes pretty much every shot and scene from the original fake trailer. For me, a big part of the fun of the film was watching to see how and when all of those scenes, that were never originally intended to connect, have all been incorporated into the movie.
Danny Trejo kills in the title role as a tough Mexican who shouldn’t be f–ked with. Trejo’s Machete is one of the most unflappable characters I’ve ever seen on film — the man seems to take everything in stride, whether that be a confrontation with a crowd of armed bad-guys or an opportunity to sleep with the wife and daughter of an evil politician. The performance is hilarious in its complete dead-pan affect. Jeff Fahey and Cheech Marin also reprise their roles from the Grindhouse trailer. Fahey plays the politician who hires and then foolishly double-crosses Machete, while Marin is Machete’s priest brother who’s not afraid to pick up a shotgun and kick some ass when necessary. Both are phenomenal. Fahey is all smarm and sleeze, whereas Marin brings a surprising amount of warmth to his small role.
In fleshing out the story from the original trailer, Mr, Rodriguez and co. created a number of new characters, and they filled those roles with a wonderfully ludicrous assemblage of actors. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez play the two tough-and-amazingly-beautiful women who find themselves in orbit of Machete. Alba is Sartana, a cop whose job is to bust illegal aliens, whereas Rodriguez is Luz, the head of “the Network,” a secret organization set up to help Mexicans enter the country and find work. I’m not a huge fan of Jessica Alba. I think Rodriguez uses her well in his films — she was perfect in Sin City, and certainly has some opportunities to look stunning and crack some heads here — but the scenes where she’s called upon to deliver some serious, heart-felt dialogue fell a little flat to me. (I do blame the script for some clunky lines, as much as her performance.) But Michelle Rodriguez is just phenomenal (perfectly cast) as Luz — she’s fun and tough and vulnerable all in one. And let me just … [continued]
I am speeding ahead with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and loving every page. (Click here if you missed yesterday’s review of Book II: The Drawing of the Three.) Now comes word that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have acquired the rights to the series, and are planning a trilogy of films AND A SIMULTANEOUS TV SERIES. Here’s the juiciest quote from Deadline.com:
The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature cast—and the big star who’ll play Deschain—also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey.
WOW. That is an awesomely ambitious idea. I hope this comes to pass, and that Ron Howard is up for tackling this dense, dark saga.
Here’s an intriguing rumor that Judd Apatow might be returning to television! It’s hard to know, at this early stage, just how involved Mr. Apatow would be in this proposed show — surely nowhere near as centrally involved as he was in Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. But nevertheless, this is cool news.
Although all of the Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower prequel comics (The Gunslinger Born and subsequent mini-series) were set entirely in the Wild West meets Lord of the Rings fantasy world (and I am aware, by the way, that I’m doing an enormous insult to the vastness of Stephen King’s fully-realized creation to try to encapsulate it in such a gross oversimplification) of Gilead and the Gunslingers, I knew from pop-culture osmosis that eventually the Dark Tower series connected in some way to the modern world. I wasn’t sure how or when in the series it happened, but I knew it was coming. (Actually, even the very first novel of the series, The Gunslinger, had a connection to the modern world in the form of Jake, who grew up in New York City before mysteriously appearing in Roland’s world at the Way Station.)
To be honest, I was sort of dreading that coming cross-over with modern-day characters. Through the Marvel Comics series and through Book I: The Gunslinger, I had quite fallen in love with the world of Gilead and the men and monsters who inhabited it. I was desperate for more of the history and back-story of this strange and wondrous and terrifying fantasy “world that had moved on,” and didn’t see the need for this fantasy series to connect in any way to modern-day characters or locations.
So I was disappointed, at first, to discover that in the early pages of The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three, a grievously injured Roland Deschain (the Gunslinger) begins assembling a new ka-tet via mysterious doors that lead to the U.S.A. in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Urgh, I thought, here we go, so much for this fantasy series I had been enjoying so much.
I really shouldn’t have doubted Mr. King, and I cry his pardon that I did so. The Drawing of the Three is a wonderful novel, gripping from beginning-to-end, and one that opens up the developing saga in intriguing ways. (Being a newbie to the Dark Tower series, I have no idea where any of this is going — but for now I am really enjoying my ignorance!)
The first door that Roland encounters leads him to Eddie Dean, a junkie in the process of smuggling heroin into the U.S. The second door leads Roland to Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes, a crippled African American woman who also happens to be a dangerously split personality. The third door leads Roland to Jack Mort, … [continued]
On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” In celebration of Star Trek‘s 44th anniversary, here’s a wonderful video (that was actually created for the 40th anniversary in 2006):
Pretty great, huh? (I LOVE the orchestral suite from “The Inner Light,” and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it gets played regularly on my ipod.) Bravo to the fellow who created this retrospective. And happy birthday to Star Trek! I eagerly await the next adventure.… [continued]
The fine folks at Retrograde and Film Score have followed up last year’s release of James Horner’s complete score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Mr. Horner’s complete score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Since I am a) an enormous Star Trek fan, and b) very into film scores, I immediately snapped up this two-CD set when it came out at the beginning of the summer.
I think James Horner’s scores for Treks II and III stand as two of the finest film scores ever made, and this new complete presentation is phenomenal. Just as Star Trek III continues the story begun in II, so too does Mr. Horner’s score reprise many of the key musical themes that he originated in Trek II. Most notably, the rousing Enterprise theme, as well as the somber Spock theme, form a key back-bone to the Star Trek III score.
There are a lot of new musical motifs created for the Star Trek III score as well, the most significant being the percussion-based music for the Klingons. I love Horner’s Klingons theme and wish that it had been used more in future Trek films and TV shows. (The Trek productions that came after favored, instead, Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingons theme which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That’s a terrific musical theme as well, but I do have a soft spot for Horner’s Trek III Klingons music.)
Mr. Horner’s score for Star Trek III is filled with iconic musical moments that have always thrilled me when I watch the film. These are moments when the music is so wonderfully distinct and evocative that, when listening to the score, I can clearly see the images from the film in my mind. These moments powerfully demonstrate the critical role that effective film scoring can play in creating an iconic scene or image in a movie.
My favorite moments from the score include the bit at the end of track one, “Prologue and Main Title,” in which the opening credits end and Kirk’s Captain’s Log entry begins. Horner’s melancholy cue (played on celli, according to the liner notes), perfectly establishes the somber, dark place in which we find our characters at the start of this film. Speaking of melancholy, I also adore the moment found half-way through track two, “Klingons,” when the film cuts away from our introduction to Kruge and we see the Enterprise’s approach to spacedock. There’s a powerful moment in the sequence, in which we see Janice Rand (in a cameo appearance) shake her head sadly as she looks out from the spacedock windows to see the terribly damaged Enterprise. Mr. Horner’s music for … [continued]
Although my life is as hectic as usual, I did have a little time off after the summer that allowed me to catch up on a whole host of great comic books that had been sitting unread on my shelf! Here’s some of what I’ve been reading lately:
Batman #700 – “Time and the Batman.” Loved this one. It’s a great mind-bender of a story, set in three different eras. This issue had all the Grant Morrison weirdness that I love, but contained in a one-shot story that had a strong resolution. Great art, too, by Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Andy Kubert, and David Finch.
Streets of Gotham – I am continuing to love this series. Fun mystery/adventure stories by Paul Dini and great art by Dustin Nguyen equals a winner for me.
The Marvels Project — I caught up with this whole miniseries by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, depicting the early (WWII-era) days of the Marvel Universe. Brubaker and Epting are enormous talents, and great collaborators, but I wasn’t bowled over by this series. It felt like pretty familiar ground (covered pretty thoroughly by Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s seminal series Marvels), and while the story was engaging and entertaining I didn’t feel like I learned any dramatic revelations about the origins of the Marvel Universe.
Nemesis — Another hyper-violent series from Mark Millar, but I’m loving every juvenile minute so far. Glorious art by Steve McNiven. I’m really eager to see where this goes.
Powers — Boy, after singing the praises of this long-running (over a decade!) series in the spring, I’m sad to say I’ve been disappointed by the first five issues of volume 3. The issues all seem rushed — the usually stupendous art feels scratchy and unfinished, and the story feels half-baked. (We’ve seen that Walker has been a good guy ever since the dawn of time — yet suddenly we learn he was a prick back in the ’50s? Doesn’t really work for me.) I hope things pick up soon.
Avengers and New Avengers — I know he has his critics (and I just said I’m not loving Powers these days), but I get enormous enjoyment out of the vast majority of Brian Michael Bendis’ writing, and I love how things have kicked off with his re-launches of these two series. In Avengers, he and the phenomenally talented John Romita Junior are telling a big, huge, cosmic time-travel storyline that is rollicking along, while in New Avengers he and the equally phenomenally talented Stuart Immonen are crafting a slightly more down-to-earth tale that nevertheless involves an upheaval in the magical aspects of the Marvel Universe and the possible destruction of … [continued]
In this summer of bad movies, I suppose The Other Guys must be considered a great comedic success — and, I will freely admit, there is a lot of fun to be had in this film — but it’s not quite the home run I’d been hoping for from a cast and filmmakers of this pedigree.
Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble, a quiet, bookish police officer who is more accountant than cop. He’s been partnered with Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), a tough guy who’s been demoted and humiliated after accidentally shooting Derek Jeter during the World Series. The two men both must live and work under the shadow of super-celebrity cops Highsmith and Danson (the perfectly cast Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). While those two Lethal Weapon-type cops get all the glory (no matter how much chaos, violence, and property damage they might cause in their movie-style city-wide chases), when compared to them, Gamble and Hoitz are just “the other guys.” But when Gamble’s eye for details notices some discrepancies in the financial reporting of Wall Street big-wig David Ershon (Steve Coogan), Hoitz sees a chance for glory if they can successfully make the big bust.
The Other Guys has a great cast. I love the pairing of Ferrell and Wahlberg — that’s an inspired team-up, and watching the two of them bounce off one another is the greatest pleasure of the film. There are some wonderful digressions over the course of the film (particularly during the first half) in which the story takes a back-seat for a minute for the two to engage in some sort of ridiculous debate, and those scenes are hysterical. Steve Coogan is all smarm as the surprisingly pathetic Ershon, and he can wring a laugh out of a flummoxed look like nobody’s business. I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Keaton as the put-upon police captain. Mr. Keaton hasn’t had a lot of strong roles in the last decade or so, but the man is a riot. It’s nice to see that he can still bring the funny when well-used in a film.
For the first hour, I was really loving The Other Guys. The film was filled with zany scene after zany scene, but it was all anchored by a believable story about two good cops having to live in the shadow of the showboating super-stars of their department. I’m not sure quite what went wrong, then, in the film’s second half, but in my opinion things seemed to peter out. It might be that the story doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. As an example, I felt that the momentum of the film grinds to a halt during … [continued]
I was extraordinarily taken with Adaptation when I first saw it in theatres back in 2002, but I hadn’t seen it since. I had been waiting for there to be a follow-up to the initial bare-bones DVD with nary a single special feature (save the film’s theatrical trailer) — if ever there was a film that left me desperate for a behind-the-scenes peek at just how the film came to be, it’s this one — but no special edition DVD ever arrived. Shame! Still, when I saw the disc in the five dollar bin at Newbury Comics a few months ago, I couldn’t resist.
Adaptation centers on screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s struggles with adapting Susan Orlean’s novel, The Orchid Thief. How can he possibly make a movie out of the plot-free novel about flowers, without selling out by employing tired Hollywood cliches of action sequences and characters falling in love and learning important life lessons?
The above two-sentence summary really fails to do the film’s weird, complex, sprawling narrative justice. The film swims deliriously in-and-out of real life events. Adaptation is of course written by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who really was hired to adapt The Orchid Thief only to find himself totally stymied in his attempts, and he did decide to write himself into his screenplay (Adaptation is the film that resulted), as does the Charlie in Adaptation. Still with me? And yet much of Adaptation is pure fiction — Charlie Kaufman doesn’t really have a twin brother Donald (despite Donald’s name being listed in the film’s credits, a clever touch), and of course none of the insanity at the end of the film with Susan Orleans and her subject Laroche (in which drugs and murder come into play) has any basis in reality.
I can only laugh and wonder what the real Susan Orleans thought of this sort-of adaptation of her novel, or of her depiction in the film. Former executive Valerie Thomas (played in the film by Tilda Swinton), told Variety: “I’m 10 pages in, and suddenly realize, ‘Oh my God, I’m in this.” That Variety article goes on to comment that Ms. Thomas got off easy in the film, though perhaps they’re forgetting the scene in which Charlie masturbates to the thought of her having sex with him.
Nicolas Cage turns in one of his finest performances ever (well, two of his finest performances ever, actually), in the dual role of Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald. It is astonishing to me how completely Mr. Cage is able to create and inhabit two entirely different characters despite their identical features. Cage’s Charlie is depressed, anxious, and self-loathing, whereas Donald is happy, outgoing, and … [continued]