Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dark Places movie vs book ... Day by Day

Ben Day (Tye Sheridan) center with Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz)
and Trey (Shannon Cook) in Dark Places    Photo credit: Just Jared

I'm frantically aware I should have created a list of films for my Movies Based on Books 2014 page - oh God is it New Year's eve already? - if you're a procrastinator like me, check out the page for 2013. I can't blame the book completely but lately I've been distracted by one of the titles I'm looking forward to seeing on film;  Gillian Flynn's Dark Places. I'm about halfway through the novel; the movie comes out September 1st. It's the story of a woman - Libby Day played by Charlize Theron - whose testimony sent her brother to prison for murdering their mother (Christina Hendricks) and two sisters years ago. Now Day, out of cash, teams up with a ghoulish group called the Kill Club who pay her to help re-investigate the still traumatic crime. Flynn really knows how to write flawed characters doesn't she?  No one is innocent in a Flynn book. The author excels at revealing humanity with all our ugly failings; self-serving, weak and disreputable. There were no heroes living at the Day house. Libby herself, the protagonist, is a self-proclaimed liar and a thief. I find I'm feeling very much like I did when I read Flynn's Gone Girl; I hate everyone but there's no way I can stop reading! 


6ft 2in Corey Stoll plays the incarcerated Ben Day

And no character is quite as creepily flawed as Ben Day. I'm so conflicted. Again, I'm only halfway through the thriller so God knows what turns lay ahead but for now we're led to believe that Ben is innocent of the murder charge. But he's far from innocent. Is there something wrong with me that I'm feeling weirdly sympathetic to young Ben? Because he has done wrong, and I definitely don't approve but I find myself looking at the nuances. Which makes me feel, well yucky. Typical of Flynn; let you without sin, cast the first stone.
That's probably overstating it but you get my drift. 

Tye Sheridan plays 15 year old Ben Day 
photo by Jeff Vespa
" Trey was still walking around shirtless, sprigs of black chest hair and dark nipples the size of fifty-cent pieces, muscles lumping everywhere, a treasure trail down his belly Ben would never get. Ben, pale and small-boned and red-headed would never look like that, not five years, not ten years from now." Dark Places, p. 164
My conflict with young Ben's casting comes in part from the image I've conjured of the gentle, sensitive, trampled upon character. That slight soft spot may be harder to earn now that I've had a look at who's playing the creepy young 15 year old Ben. Tye Sheridan, who I only know as one of Brad Pitt's sons in Tree of Life, looks more sullenly thuggish than the Ben I see as I read. Director Gilles Pacquet-Brenner has done a pretty good job matching Corey Stoll as the older Day with Sheridan as the younger but neither actor physically resembles the fair skinned, red-haired, small boned Ben Day that Gillian Flynn created. Does it matter? 

Oh, and for you list lovers, I'm working on it. Labor Day will head up the list 2014's movies based on books. Due out January 31st, the film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin has received mixed reviews but my filmmaking son loved it; that's all the recommendation this blogger needs.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

First look at Ben Affleck as Nick in Gone Girl: An innocent man or guilty as sin?


In the first image from David Fincher's screen adaptation of Gone Girl, we finally see Ben Affleck as Nick. Seeing that he's wearing a Find Amy button on his lapel, the scene probably takes place a couple of days after Amy's gone missing. It could be the police station conference room although the space looks a little large; it could be the ballroom at the Days Inn, or it could be a composite;both are places where Nick addresses the cameras and the volunteers, and both are places where Nick's revelations have us regarding him suspiciously. There's just something about the guy.

In Nick's own words from the Gillian Flynn novel -
At the police station...
"When I saw the broadcast later, I didn't recognize my voice. I barely recognized my face. The booze floating, sludgelike, just beneath the surface of my skin made me look like a fleshy wastrel, just sensuous enough to be disreputable. I had worried about my voice wavering, so I overcorrected and the words came out clipped, like I was reading a stock report. "We just want Amy to get home safe ..." Utterly unconvincing, disconnected. I might as well have been reading numbers at random."                   Gone Girl, p 82 

The Days Inn ... 
"The Days Inn had donated an underused ballroom to serve as the Find Amy Dunne headquarters. It was unseemly - a place of brown stains and canned smells - but just after dawn, Marybeth set about pygmalioning it, vacuuming and sani-wiping, arranging bulletin boards and phone banks, hanging a large head shot of Amy on one wall. The poster - with Amy's cool, confident gaze, those eyes that followed you - looked like something from a presidential campaign. In fact, by the time Marybeth was done, the whole room buzzed with efficiency -- the urgent hopefulness of a seriously underdog politician with a lot of true believers refusing to give up."                                      
Gone Girl, p 110  
What do you think, does Nick look the right kind of worried? Does he look appropriately concerned - therefore innocent - or glib and guilty as hell? If anything I'd give it to the 'concerned' column. Rosamund Pike is the missing Amy on the poster in a photo flashback to better times -  and that's the efficient Marybeth Elliot looking on with her husband Rand as Nick addresses what I assume is a crowd of volunteers and reporters. Portrayed in the film by David Clennon and Lisa Banes, the oh-so-happily married shrinks wrote a best selling series of Amazing Amy books, based on their own daughter and what Amazing Amy would do to solve one sticky adolescent problem or another. Hmmm, how's the Amazing Amy going to get out of this one?

The bigger question is what do you think of Affleck as Nick? Is he growing on you yet? I started talking about my own, um, discomfort with Ben as Nick back in this July 2013 post "Will Ben Affleck wear his cockiness like an ironic t-shirt" where I joined in the chorus of bashing Ben for not being quite boyish enough.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: Composers stay calm and score on!

Thomas Newman, Composer Saving Mr. Banks

One of the many things I loved about Saving Mr. Banks - (I'm still working on my take on the movie, thinking about it anyway) was the music. Full of the Sherman brothers songs for Mary Poppins, how could the familiar refrains from my childhood not deliver the predictable warm cushy response? Those Disney folks know what they're doing, they've got the buttons down and know just when to push them, just like Walt Disney himself did, back when he came into my family's living room every week when I was growing up. But how to marry those Mary Poppins moments with the meat of Travers' own childhood story which figures prominently in the film? 

BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman play Mary Poppins music men the Sherman brothers

Thomas Newman (Skyfall,The Help, American Beauty) the many times nominated composer behind Saving Mr. Banks joined composers behind several of the year's most memorable film scores to talk about the processes and challenges for this week's featured Hollywood Reporters video roundtable. It's a very distinguished panel - Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave, Rush), Christophe Beck (Frozen), Henry Jackman(Captain Phillips), Steven Price (Gravity) and Allan Silvestri (The Croods) - who share some of their inner fears and frustrations. I was struck by how often their work falls short of their own expectations or the director's intention and means going back to the drawing board and beginning again! Composers have to stay calm and score on! The only disappointment in the panel is the absence of the magnificent Monsieur Alexander Desplat who I neglected to mention was the composer for Philomena in my take on Philomena yesterday.

If you don't have time to watch the full 45 minute panel, here's the THR link so you can skim through the text. I really would like to know what you think; are you finding the background glimpses interesting? So many people stop and visit but I wonder why more of you don't share a thought or too. I always worry that you ended up here accidentally and were deeply disappointed to find my little mish mosh of movie junk, instead of what you were searching for. But what were you searching for anyway? Clearly, I can't worry about that, I'll keep posting what piques my interest in the world of bookish movie news and hope other readers curious about the book to movie process find their way here.




Saturday, December 28, 2013

Philomena: My Take on the Movie ... It's a Pheel Good Philm


Have you seen Philomena yet? It's such a lovely mush; warm and cozy, a bit weepy but wickedly funny with a really rather exciting quality of adventure about it. Judi Dench, sporting poorly permed mousy brown hair and looking every inch of Philomena's seventy years rather than the over airbrushed version of her shown in the poster above, gives an immensely touching and open-hearted performance. As the woman on a 50 year search for the son she was forced to give up, Dench manages to capture a mother's fierce and unwavering determination, all the while oozing a sweet simplicity and enthusiastic spirit that's simply irresistible. Philomena as a teenager was played by Sophie Kennedy Smith, who did a beautiful job of laying the emotional groundwork for what comes later.

'I'd like to know if Anthony ever thought of me because I've thought of him every day'

Steve Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith the journalist who somewhat begrudgingly helps Philomena in her hunt. Coogan continues to surprise me; I really liked him as the deadbeat dad in What Maisie Knew  and he's got a nice understated manner here that builds perfectly as the stakes escalate. The film has earned a plethora of noms and nods from various critics associations mostly for the excellent script co-written by Coogan and Jeff Pope, and Dench's performance. The script, Judi Dench and the film itself have all earned Golden Globe nominations; a trench which will continue when the BAFTA nominations are announced January 8th - they're being live-streamed at 7:35am (do the math for your timezone). The Stepen Frears-directed movie covers quite a bit of ground - Irish nuns forcing young unwed mothers to give up their babies, the AIDS crisis, politics - territory that might feel a bit stretched if it weren't based on a true story!  All of which was recounted in a book by the real life journalist Martin Sixsmith entitled The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. None of which yours truly knew before seeing the film. I'm glad really, that I was so littled prepared. I was positive I had this film figured out in the first ten minutes; it was such a delight to be wrong. 



A 'feel good' movie is about as cliche as it gets but that's what Philomena is; watch the trailer and see if it doesn't make you feel good too. The only way to feel even better is watching an entire film of Dench speaking in a warm Irish brogue and hearing 'shite' coming out of the legend's mouth.



Friday, December 27, 2013

12 Years A Slave; The Poster Controversy


File this under WTF; take a look at these posters for the Italian release of 12 Years a Slave.


Notice anything odd? Like the fact that the star of the film, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is relegated to a small image in the bottom right corner while Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt's faces are HUGE?  Because make no mistake, this is Ejiofor's film and he's in almost every, if not every single solitary scene.  Not Steve McQueen's muse Michael Fassbender, who plays a major but supporting role, and certainly not Pitt who plays a minor role and is in the movie for all of five minutes.

Brought to light by "Carefree Black Girl" on her Tumblr, Variety reports the posters have the distribution company being called out for racism. Here's what the young woman who lives in Italy wrote- 
“I’ve been following the press for months and I can’t wait to watch it but REALLY? I don’t remember Brad Pitt being the protagonist of the film or having such a pivotal role in the story to stay in the middle of the poster,” the blogger wrote.  ”I sure don’t know anything about marketing strategy to appeal audiences but isn’t this going too far?”

Both Lionsgate and the distribution company have issued apologies basically saying the materials were unauthorized and will be withdrawn. 

The shameful truth is that white audiences haven't historically flocked to films featuring a predominantly black cast, whether you live in Rome, Italy or Rome, Georgia.  I wonder if as many of us white folk would have seen the film - the movie has grossed almost $38 million here in the states - were it not for the comforting cast of caucasian supporting players?  In addition to McQueen's main muse Michael Fassbender (they gave us both Shame and Hunger), and Pitt (who also produced) 12 Years a Slave also features Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulsen, Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy. 

Variety is also reporting that Golden Globe nominee Lupita Nyong'o (Patsey) has backed out of attending the Italian premiere of the movie at the Capri Hollywood Film Festival although it's not completely clear if the poster is the cause.  To fully immerse yourself in the controversy, follow the link to Variety, but let me know what you think in the comments section before you wander off. It's a wild world out there; I'm scared you may not find your way back!

Oh by the way, here's what I thought about the deeply compelling 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. And here's the poster one more time just in case you missed the tremendous difference between the marketing materials for most of the English-speaking world and what some marketing mavens in Italy put out.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are you 'The Wolf of Wall Street? The Rolling Stone video review.


Phew! There's nothing like the magic of Christmas but, oh what a relief it is when it's over!
I know one of the pleasures of the season for many of you is seeing one of the much touted big movies of the year. And I know for many of you that big movie was The Wolf of Wall Street.  

I'm linking to Peter Travers' video review - it's a quickie - but wanted to highlight a couple of points the Rolling Stone film critic makes. Travers suggests that The Wolf of Wall Street is the end of a trilogy, with Goodfellas and Casino being parts one and three.
"All are about chasing the money," he says, adding with a chuckle that the murderers in Goodfellas might be a bit more appealing than the awful Wall St. tycoons.
"Does Scorsese say you should love these people? Is that what it's about?" asks Travers. "Of course not. He's looking at the American character; he's looking at us all." 
"It is hilarious, it is scathing, it is a picture of America that offers no sentiment," Travers says. "Scorsese tells the truth about America, and if you can take it, boy do you get it in The Wolf of Wall Street."
Do you agree with Travers? And what does it say about our society that guys like Belfort are glorified in the media, with tons of young men hankering to be just like him? 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Is your favorite Christmas movie based on a book?



Edmund Gwen and Natalie Wood/Miracle of 34th Street 1947

My Christmas shopping exceeds my remaining Christmas shopping days so for right now, I'm gifting myself with a wee bit of extra time by reposting this holiday missive. I'm stunned to see I put it up on Christmas eve a couple of years back; I'm impressed at my former super-organized self! A rarity I can assure you.

12/24/2011 Merry Christmas everyone! Just about to start baking before heading over to my husband's family for Christmas Eve supper and present opening. Tomorrow we'll celebrate Christmas here, Mark will cook the turkey and the roast and my whole crazy family comes here. Just enough time for a quick Christmas post before I go!



One of my all-time Christmas classic favorites is Miracle on 34th Street.The version with Natalie Wood as the little girl of course, not any crummy remake done in the 70's or 80's or 90's.That film still brings tears to my eyes. The movie was based on the book by Valentine Davies and starred Maureen O'Hara and John Payne and Edmund Gwenn as Santa. Or more precisely, Kris Kringle. 


He was spectacular as Santa but don't take my word for it, he actually won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Father Christmas. That's what my own parents - being British - often called Santa when I was growing up. What I love about the movie is how it resolutely shoos cynicsm down the chimney. Watching the movie, long past our own believing-in-Santa days we ache for those simpler and innocent times. Innocent enough that a little girl is allowed to visit with a strange old man alone! We want to believe. We want to feel innocent and hopeful. We want to believe in the magic of the man from the North Pole. Watching that movie, we do. 

Miracle on 34th Street brings out the Believer in Beiber in this Macy's commercial from 2013.


I hadn't even heard of A Christmas Story when I met my husband, Mark, who introduced me to this funny funny film. My taste, as you can see, runs more to the sappy side. I might not even have cared for it much as a Christmas classic on first viewing but over the years it has become a must see in our house. 



Ralphie, and his gun, his friend's tongue sticking to the pole, his mother warning him "You'll shoot your eye out", the dogs eating the turkey, the sexy leg lamp, Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant, and of course, and the foul language all first appeared in two short story collections by Jean Shepherd. In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash  first published in 1966 and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories published in 1971 are the works of the comic writer and radior personality who delved into his own midwestern childhood memories as a source of great humor. 





The stories that shaped the film have since been gathered into one collection called accurately enough, A Christmas Story. Go to Barnes and Noble to purchase HERE



I also love A Christmas Carol — especially this British version of the Charles Dickens classic starring Alistair Sim; it's the one I saw on television when I was growing up. I was the narrator of the play back in 7th grade in Niagara Falls, my first behind-the-scenes job. The drama teacher said I could sit on a stool at the side of the stage — where everyone from Princess Elizabeth School could see me as I read my part — or behind the curtain at the sound booth. I chose behind the curtain!  There have been so many retellings of the classic tale, I've been a fan of the many manifestations like Scrooged - based, however loosely on the Charles Dickens classic. 

Two more on my all-time fave movies for Christmas. Love Actually. Heart-searing and so romantic and funny, no it's not based on a book but who cares. And It's A Wonderful Life; a movie so perfect and beautiful, I wish it were based on a novel so I could get to know all the characters even better! Well, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles! I just found out the movie is based on a short story, The Greatest Gift by Howard Van Doren. The story didn't sell so Van Doren sent it out to a couple of hundred people as his annual Christmas Card which is how it finally found it's way to a studio! And no, just because the poster is in color, doesn't mean the movie is. Like Miracle on 34th Street, it's best to see this classic Christmas movie in its original black and white.



Check out this expanded trailer for Miracle on 34th Street.  I love this glimpse into how they used to promote Hollywood movies. How about you? What do you think of the trailer? And do you have a Christmas movie you just have to see every year? Tell me or I may just have to tell Santa you've been very, very naughty this year.




MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
AND
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!!

Enjoy the holiday and thanks for sharing a few minutes of your time with me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Fault in our Stars; One Sick Love Story or One Sick Poster?


The first poster for The Fault in Our Stars was released this week. What's not to love about the image of Hazel and Gus, face to face, on the grass? I like the head to head pose, somewhat reminiscent of iconic lovebirds Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward on the poster for A New Kind of Love (below); actors Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley look young and beautiful and sweetly in love. With Hazel's cannula clearly in place, in plain view, you know this is no ordinary love story ... 'It's one sick love story.' 
Woah! 
The tagline for The Fault in our Stars is really "One Sick Love Story"??? 
Is the Onion in charge of the marketing of this movie? 
The darkly funny vibe seems completely out of character with tone of the book and the film. Unless this is the story of Sid and Nancy, and not Gus and Hazel? 

I heard through the twitter vine that plenty of TFIOS fans are disappointed, while others are embracing the line. 

Buzzfeed reported author John Green's own reaction - 
        1. I did not write the tag line. To the many of you       who love it, I say, "I did not write the tag line." To     the many of you who don’t, I say, "I did not write the     tag line." 
2. These things are not my decision. It’s not my movie, or my poster. I don’t know how to make movies or movie posters. 
3. That said, I like the tag line. I found it dark and angry in the same way that Hazel is (at least at times) dark and angry in her humor. I mostly wanted something that said, "This is hopefully not going to be a gauzy, sentimental love story that romanticizes illness and further spreads the lie that the only reason sick people exist is so that healthy people can learn lessons." But that’s not a very good tag line. I like the tag line because it says, literally, the sick can also have love stories. Love and joy and romance are not just things reserved for the well. 
3a. That said, I might be wrong. I’m wrong all the time.
Shailene Woodley, our Hazel Grace doesn't much like it -
I had a really strong response to it,” Woodley told EW in an interview. “It’s definitely — it’s not a tagline that I probably would have chosen by any means. But I think that there’s so many people who are so passionate about this book that there’s nothing that will ever satisfy everyone. So I think it was just up to the discretion of the marketing mavens. For me, it was — yeah, not something I would have chosen. But it seems like half the people love it and half the people don’t like it.”
I'm with the half the people that don't like it, how about you? One thing is certain, Green and Woodley weren't consulted by the 'marketing mavens'; I wonder how director Josh Boone feels about it? I don't know how much say the studio gives directors when it comes to marketing; my feeling is next to none.

One thing that really is certain ... marketing is meant to get people talking and paying attention. On the off-chance the young adult (and old) fans of the book weren't paying attention, they most definitely are now. Marketing mavens; your mission is accomplished.




Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Labor Day' of Love: Director Jason Reitman on Adapting Joyce Maynard's novel


2013 has been such a great year for bookish movie fans - nope, I'm not doing a Best Screen Adaptations of 2013 list, just making a point - it's cheering to know that 2014 has its share of books we can't wait to see on screen. The Fault in Our Stars, and Before I Go To Sleep are way up at the top of the list of my personal must-sees along with Jason Reitman's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's Labor Day due out January 31st. Variety spoke with the director of Young Adult and Up in the Air for their Directors on their Teams series. The whole piece is worth reading for Reitman's take on working with the actors, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, and his frequent collaboration with his cinematographer and production designer. Reitman scripted the adaptation himself, here's what he told Variety about adapting Maynard's novel. 




"It’s a very new thing for me to make a movie where there’s so little dialog. My characters usually talk a mile a minute; two of my characters actually spoke for a living. So to have characters that are quietly falling in love through glances and touches is a whole new language for me. And that’s two things these actors do brilliantly. Josh and Kate can sell things through looks. The scene that pulled me into the book, which I think works similarly in the movie, is when he ties her up and makes chili and feeds her. There’s such a complex set of ideas going on there: Does she want to be tied up? Is he tying her up for any reasons other than the ones he’s saying? What does it say that he is an amazing chef? How does the boy feel about seeing his mom get tied up? What does it feel like to the boy watching his mom get fed? The ideas set off so much in my brain, that was a biggie. And the pie-making scene, that was another big one. That is the theoretical sex scene of this movie. Those were the two big things that pulled me in. It was intended to be my followup to “Up in the Air.” I asked Kate and Josh to do it, both said yes, but Kate was unavailable. So in the meantime, I did “Young Adult.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The FAE are coming ... to a screen near you.

Do all of you YA fans know about FAE from author C.J. Abedi?  Published digitally this past summer, the fantasy - now available in paperback - was an instant hit, a twitter, facebook and pinterest phenomenon - that cover is pretty pin-worthy - and is being hailed as the next Twilight. That kind of buzz must be what lead Ridley Scott to option the novel's film rights. According to Deadline, the prolific producer/director has added Fae to his humungous roster of upcoming films and television shows including the adaptation I can't wait for - S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep - starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong.

No details yet on who will write and direct the film but C.J. Abedi has scripting experience so perhaps they'll do the adapting themselves. C.J. Abedi, you see, isn't 'an' author; C.J. Abedi is the nom de plume for a pair of writers, sisters Colet, a writer and executive producer, and Jasmine, an entertainment lawyer, writer and entrepreneur. Learn more about the pair and their books at their site, The Fae Are ComingThere are two more books planned, the second in the series The Dark King, is set to come out May 6 of 2014. Who knows? With the kind of success FAE has garnered so far, the trilogy could play out on screen as several films ala what Peter Jackson is doing with The Hobbit, and the filmmakers are planning for Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games.
Here's the lowdown on FAE, Book One from their publisher, Diversion Books - 
"Caroline Ellis' sixteenth birthday sets into motion a series of events that have been fated for centuries. A descendant of Virginia Dare, the first child born in the lost colony of Roanoke, and unaware of her birthright as the heir to the throne of the Light Fae, it isn't until Caroline begins a tumultuous relationship with Devilyn Reilly that the truth of her heritage is revealed.Devilyn is the only Fae who is both of the Light and of the Dark, and struggles to maintain that precarious balance to avoid succumbing to the power of the Dark within him. He is the only one who can save Caroline from those who would destroy her and destroy all hope for unity among the Fae. He promises Caroline that he will protect her at all costs, even when it means protecting her from himself.
Told from the alternating perspectives of Caroline and Devilyn, FAE draws on mysteries, myths and legends to create a world, and a romance, dangerously poised between Light and Dark.

I wonder if the sisters have started thinking about who they'd like to see as Caroline and Devilyn? Since they're Hollywood pros I'm betting they have very specific ideas. How about you, who in 'young Hollywood' do you see playing the parts? 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Five Casting Directors: The Hollywood Reporter's Video Roundtable


Curious about casting? This LA Times piece is too short but still recommended reading, going into how the astonishing Lupita Nyong'o was cast in the search for Patsy in 12 Years a Slave - director Steve McQueen has said he looked at over a thousand actresses  - plus casting the quirky characters that people Alexander Payne's Nebraska and more.

The female dominated area of the film and television industry has been getting more attention of late, quite a bit of it due to Casting By, the HBO documentary about the legendary Marion Dougherty (Batman, Full Metal Jacket) who passed away in 2011. 

And continuing my Sunday slacker habit, I've posted a THR roundtable below. This one features five casting heavyweights who followed in Dougherty's footsteps. 



The casting directors talk about ...
Why females dominate the world of casting
How the electronic age has changed the industry
The blurred lines between casting directors, actors and directors
"Discovering" stars 
Advocating for actors
Working with directors like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze

Hoping you find it as interesting as I did -


Casting by Ellen Lewis

Casting by Juliet Taylor and Patricia DiCerto


 Casting by Jennifer Euston


Casting by Laura Rosenthal













Saturday, December 14, 2013

House of Cards trailer for season two looks dark and delicious

Waiting for season two of House of Cards? Me too. Which is why I think you'll enjoy the trailer for the second 'season' of the Emmy winning Netflix hit. Funny to call it a 'season' when so many of us will binge on it back to back. 

If you haven't seen the show you may want to catch up on season one before February 14th, 2014. That's when the complete second season will be available to downstream.  Not exactly my idea of a Valentine (make mine a good old fashioned box of See's Bordeaux, please) but plenty dark and delicious.

Are all my fellow bookish movie fans familiar with the books from Michael Dobbs? And the award winning UK television series? Check out Mr. Dobb's site for his response to the success of both adaptations.

Okay, Netflix, bring on season two and "bring on the butchery!"  Watch the House of Cards season two trailer and tell me, can you wait?


Friday, December 13, 2013

John Green on the writers of The Spectacular Now and The Fault in our Stars

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) with Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley)
The Spectacular Now

As promised in my last post - what Harlan Ellison had to say about 12 Years a Slave - here's the portion from the Variety piece Eye on the Oscars/Writers on Writers featuring John Green on The Spectacular Now writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The writing partners, with a Spirit award nomination for their screenplay based on Tim Thorpe's novel, have a very busy dance card filled with ever more bookish movie adaptations. In addition to the highly anticipated adaptation of John Green's own The Fault in Our Stars directed by Josh Boone and starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, Neustadter and Weber wrote the scripts for the upcoming Rosaline (based on Rebecca Serle's When You Were Mine) Me Before You (Jo Jo Myers) and Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (Maria Semple).  While I'm eager to see more women represented in the film industry, these young men who gave us 500 Days of Summer are undoubtedly bringing some of fiction's most interesting young women to the movies.  Here's what Green said about the pair's work on the James Ponsoldt directed The Spectacular Now - 
"This is probably not the venue for such a confession, but I don't much enjoy reading screenplays, even great ones. I rarely find myself truly immersed in a script, because you can usually see the strings (character development, three-act structure, a recognition and reversal) moving the puppets. As well you should, I suppose, since everyone actually making a movie needs to know what strings to pull and when to pull them. 
The astonishing genius of Michael Weber and Scott Neustadter's “The Spectacular Now” is that it manages both to be a great blueprint for a film and a great read. In Aimee Finecky and Sutter Keely, we have two of the most complex and nuanced teen characters the movies have seen in decades, kids whose mixed-up fears and desires propel them through a story that in lesser hands might've been too quiet or too melodramatic. “The Spectacular Now” is neither: It refuses to flinch and it refuses to judge. The dialogue is precise and compelling, with each character's voice fully realized, and it's the kind of loving and generous adaptation that novelists never even dare to wish for.
It's easy enough to shout carpe diem from the rooftops, but with “The Spectacular Now,” Weber and Neustadter show us what it actually means to live only for the day. 
Young adult author John Green won the Michael L. Printz Award for his first novel, “Looking for Alaska.” His book “The Fault in Our Stars” reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Harlan Ellison on Golden Globe nominee '12 Years a Slave'

Golden Globe nominees Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor
12 Years a Slave 

The Golden Globes were announced this morning with Steve McQueen's  "12 Years a Slave," garnering seven nominations in all: Best Motion Picture, Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Best Screenplay (John Ridley), Best Score (Hans Zimmer), and Supporting Actor and Actress nods for Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o. I'm thrilled but not surprised, you can see the complete list at the Golden Globes official site

Read my most recent '12 Years a Slave' post


One of the great pleasures of the award season is the magnifying glass that gets turned on the talent behind the movies making waves.  Variety's Writers on Writers has two dozen writers weighing in on some of this years most interesting films including this piece by sci fi icon Harlan Ellison on '12 Years a Slave.' Rather than talk about screenwriter John Ridley's nominated script, Ellison concentrated on the movie as a whole. I've included his piece in its entirety below; read the rest of the piece here

Rarely, in a lifetime of endless filmgoing and decades of serious cinema criticism, is one honored, privileged, rewarded by having seen a motion picture that is memorable down to one's core. Having seen “12 Years a Slave,” I cannot remember being as mesmerized, as touched, as stopped stock-still since the night I first saw Stanley Kubrick's anti-war film “Paths of Glory.” It is that nonpareil a film.

Even the dullest among us, chained to jobs and lives we detest, cherish the word and the evanescent concept of freedom. Above all else, what “12 Years a Slave” burns into our awareness — as no other film has achieved — is the absolute power of the slavemaster over every moment of the blacks' existence. It is a tyrannical and capricious power greater than any monarch's. For these yearning, brutalized chattel, freedom is a goal that will never be reached: Pain and death stand in the portal.
This is a superbly reenacted chapter of a 200-year-long stain on American honor. Today's celebrity-drunk culture of bitch-ho rap and wannabe gangsta homies not only do not comprehend that stain, but disgrace the courage of their forbears when they pull it as “the card.” It miraculously manages to combine the “Gone With the Wind” pastel mendacity still extant in parts of our land, with the shocking Grand Guignol gruesomeness of reality.
The direction, by Englishman Steve McQueen (whose previous films frankly gave me the creeps) is a bit finicky. But such carps are beyond notice in a film as praiseworthy and memorable as “12 Years a Slave.”
Fantasist Harlan Ellison has written or edited 75 books; more than 1,700 stories, essays, articles and newspaper columns; two dozen teleplays and a dozen movies. His best-known works include “Deathbird Stories,” “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” and “Memos From Purgatory.
What do you think of Ellison's comment about our 'celebrity drunk culture of bitch-ho rap and wannabe gangsta homies '? He's not one to mince words. 

The Variety piece includes John Green on The Spectacular Now writers Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, the dynamic duo that is also behind the adapatation of The Fault in our Stars. I'll be posting that in its' entirety too; I LOVE these guys, the hottest book to movie scripters working right now. Besides The Fault in our Stars, Neustadter and Weber also have Coraline, Me Before You and Where'd You Go Bernadette in the works!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What does the author of 'Ten Thousand Saints' think of Hailee Steinfeld as Eliza?

Oh, I'm excited about this! Deadline is reporting that Oscar-nominated writers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, The Nanny Diaries, Wanderlust) are set to both script and direct the screen adaptation of Ten Thousand Saints, Eleanor Henderson's multi-layered coming of age novel set in the punk rock world of the 1980's. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Romeo and Juliet, Ender's Game) is in talks to star as Eliza. I wonder if that's what she was referring to in her tweet 
Steinfeld hasn't quite got into her groove since her outstanding Oscar nominated turn in True Grit; this sounds like the challenging role that could change that up. While it's a period piece, Eliza is definitely a contemporary young woman with contemporary issues to deal with; teen pregnancy being one of them.

Here's the story from Barnes and Noble

"Adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, restless, marginal Jude Keffy-Horn spends much of his youth getting high with his best friend, Teddy, in their bucolic and deeply numbing Vermont town. But when Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude's relationship with drugs and with his parents devolves to new extremes. Sent to live with his pot-dealing father in New York City's East Village, Jude stumbles upon straight edge, an underground youth culture powered by the paradoxical aggression of hardcore punk and a righteous intolerance for drugs, meat, and sex. With Teddy's half brother, Johnny, and their new friend, Eliza, Jude tries to honor Teddy's memory through his militantly clean lifestyle. But his addiction to straight edge has its own dangerous consequences. While these teenagers battle to discover themselves, their parents struggle with this new generation's radical reinterpretation of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll and their grown-up awareness of nature and nurture, brotherhood and loss.
The leading question, what does author Eleanor Henderson think of the possiblity of Steinfeld as Eliza? Celebrating her 17th birthday today, Steinfeld should be thrilled with Ms. Henderson's twitter response to the news. "...Loved her in True Grit and would love her as Eliza."

The next question is who would you cast as Jude? I'm all ears.






Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shailene Woodley is Sundance Bound with White Bird in a Blizzard

Sundance has announced its' 2014 line-up, a whole slew of enticing titles for those lucky enough, and well-heeled enough to snag passes, tickets, transpo, food & lodging. Plus cold weather gear; the winter fest gets underway mid January in Park CIty, not exactly springtime in Utah. See that picture of Shailene Woodley standing in the middle of a blizzard? I'm pretty sure they shot that at Sundance so go ahead so don't forget the hat and gloves too.
Tops on my list of movies to see would be the premiere of White Bird in a Blizzard starring Shailene Woodley along with Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandes, Gabourey Sidibe, Jacob Artist and Sheryl Lee. Based on Laura Kasischke's 1999 bestselling thriller, the movie was adapted for the screen and directed by Gregg Araki, the edgy indie filmmaker who has been putting out a film every two years or so since the 80's.


Filmed pre her The Fault in Our Stars Hazel haircut, Woodley plays Kat, a sixteen year old girl whose mother suddenly disappears. Woodley is among my favorite of today's young actresses; I haven't seen The Secret Life of An American Teenager but I loved her honesty in The Descendants, and this past summer's The Spectacular Now. She's also got Divergent based on Veronica Roth's bestseller coming out next year;  you've gotta love an actress who specializes in characters based on books. 




Have you read the book yet? It's currently out of print and I'm not sure if they'll do a movie tie in edition for such a small picture. If not you'll have to buy it used or check the stacks at your local biblioteca. Here's the story - 

"When Katrina Connors' mother walks out on her family, Kat is surprised but not shocked; the whole year she has been "becoming sixteen" - falling in love with the boy next door, shedding her babyfat, discovering sex - her mother has been slowly withdrawing.As Kat and her impassive father pick up the pieces of their daily lives, she finds herself curiously unaffected by her mother's absence. But in dreams that become too real to ignore, she's haunted by her mother's cries for help. Finally, she must act on her instinct that something violent and evil has occurred - a realization that brings Kat to a chilling discovery. 
Wish they'd release the trailer; I'll post it when they do.
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