Monthly Archives: November 2009

Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Please enjoy this clip of Cleveland touring with Black Box.

“If you died I would want to die too.”

Just in time for the Holidays is John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road. Which, at its heart, is an incredibly touching story about the love between a father and son. Still, it’s incredibly depressing and should be avoided at all costs. Just kidding. Well, except for the depressing part. That’s all true.

We don’t know much about what’s happened to the world. Everything is covered in a blanket of ash. Very few people are still alive. Those who are are forced to eke out a living, scrounging for food, which sometimes includes the unlucky others they run across. In the middle of all this are a father and son who make their way across the ruined landscape, desperately searching for something better than this. Better than where they are now.

If there was ever an author who’s work lent itself to adaptation, it’s McCarthy. Whether your reading The Road or No Country for Old Men, you almost get the feeling that his novels are one giant storyboard, strung out in front of you. The hopelessness and despair are translated perfectly in The Road. Actually, it’s translated a little too well. The film’s message seems to be that love endures. But after watching Viggo Mortensen (who I think is beginning to approach that Daniel Day-Lewis level of immersing oneself in their role) and Kodi Smit-McPhee run out of a basement full of people who are being harvested as food, I ask myself, who the hell would want to endure this?

That’s the question asked by Charlize Theron, who plays Mortensen’s wife in a series of flashback sequences. I remember being annoyed by her character in the book. In the movie, I felt I understood where she was coming from. Theron is one of a very small cast. Aside from the Man and the Boy, there are only a handful of characters, none of whom spend very much time onscreen. This means that Mortensen and Smit-McPhee are carrying a lot on their shoulders, and both do it very well. Mortensen makes you believe that the only reason he’s carrying on is because of his son.

One reviewer described The Road as a story about a kid who doesn’t understand the situation he’s in. It seems like that would be obvious, considering this is the world he was born into and the only one he’s ever known. That’s exactly how Smit-McPhee plays his character. He’s sheltered but slowly coming into his own. He looks to his father as a seeing-stone, someone who can interpret the world around him and put it all into perspective. He puts forward a very good performance and I think he’s setting himself up for some good stuff in the future.

Like I said before, the issue explored in The Road is whether or not love can survive in the face of complete hopelessness. Obviously it isn’t anything that’s going to be settled anytime soon, and I’m not sure McCarthy himself feels settled on the issue. If The Road‘s message is that love endures, the message of No Country for Old Men seems to be that, sometimes, evil screws you over, and that’s it. Well, food for thought.

The Road is one of the most powerful movies we’ve seen this year. It screams out, “Oscar!” but I’m worried that, in the end, it’ll be skipped over in favor of something more mainstream. You don’t see many post-apocalyptic dramas win awards these days. Then again, you don’t see many post-apocalyptic dramas with such a touching and pure story at its heart, after you’ve peeled away all the dreary scenery and special effects. A

Back again for the first time

You may have heard that there’s money to be made in pointless sequels to classic movies. That’s the idea behind Predator: The Sequel, which is currently filming here in Austin, Texas. Although the movie will feature the classic, be-dreaded alien, the story looks to be much different than the original. For one, the roughnecks you see in the picture above won’t be there. The movie stars Adrian Brody, Topher Grace, and Walt Goggins. Apparently, the three play brothers who’s father has just died. They embark on a voyage of self-discovery on a train through India, and, on the way, learn something about each other, and themselves, and each other. Also, the movie is called The Darjeeling Limited.

Robert Rodriguez has done some great stuff in the past, so who knows, maybe Predators will be great too. But, after the news that he was turning his faux trailer for Machete into a full-length feature, I’m wonder if he’s just looking for excuses to cut stuff up.

Happy Birthday! (+1)

Yesterday, Working Title (formerly Move It Move It, formerly Banking in the 21st Century: How Credit Default Swaps Will Save Our Economy) turned two years old! So please grab yourself a piece of milk and peas and move quickly past this post as you look for something more interesting to read.


“I’ve got a vampire to kill.”

This isn’t a review so much as it is a rant. When I heard that they had started filming New Moon, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities the movie had to my own screenplay, New Moon, in which a group of werewolves go around seducing young girls by showing off their hindquarters. Anyway, when I started production on that film, I was called things like “sick,” and “disgusting.” It just goes to show that some people are in the right place at the right time. So, you win this round Stephanie Meyer. After giving it a lot of thought, I won’t be seeking legal action. I’m just happy that someone’s made pornography for 14-year olds socially acceptable.


“In case you feel like offering a hug or something, don’t.”

Oscar season is upon us, so The Messenger is a movie you’re probably going to hear about more and more. Oddly enough, it won’t be from commercials, as this seems to be one of those movies that just shows up one day. Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson play Will Montgomery and Tony Stone, two casualty notification officers for the US Army. While being taught the ropes of his new job, Foster becomes involved with the wife of a fallen soldier.

The first few minutes set the movie up to be very different than it turns out to be. When they first meet, Foster and Harrelson walk around, silent and brooding, generally pissed off. Foster feels as if landing this assignment is some sort of punishment, and Harrelson is more than happy to oblige his preconceptions. Slowly, they learn to work with each other, and Foster discovers what it is he thinks Harrelson is doing wrong.

How is this different from what I was expecting? I thought I was in for two hours of these guys yelling at women and hitting things. I was wrong. What develops is a friendship that is probably one of the most real we’ve seen on screen in a long time. Both characters have their shortcomings and help each other through a job that in many ways is worse than the war itself. You really expect that to happen, but the movie moves into it a lot faster than you’d expect.

What worked for me: The relationship between Foster and Harrelson. After just seeing him in Zombieland, man, Harrelson’s got range. Foster’s the star – and really leads here like he hasn’t done before – but you keep your eyes on Harrelson. Once he’s able to break through the front he’s put up, you get a good look at how these guys keep their heads while doing what is undoubtedly one of the worst jobs on the planet. The movie’s funny when you aren’t expecting it to be, and more touching than you’d think.

What didn’t work for didn’t exactly not work for me, if that makes any sense. Foster’s relationship with Samantha Morton was underplayed. Which is good or bad depending on how you look at it. There’s nothing inappropriate about it, but then again, there’s nothing inappropriate about it. Because of that, it never really feels like it’s a dilemma that Foster’s facing. And that sort of non-problem translates to the rest of the movie. Foster hates the job. He and Harrelson fight. They both have conflicting feelings about duty and the price you pay for doing it. And in the end, things just sort of work out. At the risk of overstating it, it’s a little anticlimactic.

The Messenger is easily one of the best movies of 2009. A nice addition to a Fall that, with the exception of just a few movies, hasn’t been incredibly memorable. With the release of The Road, Up in the Air, and Sherlock Holmes, that may change in the next month, but we’ll see. In the meantime, this one is definitely worth your time. Foster and Harrelson make you want to feel the pain they feel, if only to understand it. A

February 2, 2010

I want to go to there.