SLASH, Jason Mraz, Richard E. Grant and Terry Gilliam have added music and memories to Johnny Depp's new movie about artist Ralph Steadman. Depp signed on to narrate documentary For No Good Reason about the life and work of the British cartoonist last year (13), and the finished film also features many other famous friends.
Created over 15 years by filmmaker Charlie Paul, For No Good Reason includes footage of Steadman at work and anecdotes from late writer Hunter S. Thompson, who formed a bond with the Brit in the 1970s and used his illustrations in books like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, which was adapted for the big screen and starred Depp.
Gilliam, who directed the 1998 film, and Grant offer tributes, while Steadman fans Slash, All American Rejects, Mraz, James Blake, Ed Harcourt and Crystal Castles created music for the film's soundtrack.
For No Good Reason opens in limited release in America later this month (Mar14).
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Being at San Diego’s Comic Con for the first time is quite an experience. Thousands upon thousands flock to the city’s convention center to gawk at those dressed in their fanboy, geekdom best. I mean, who knew Edward Scissorhands was still a major player? But there he was (actually, I think it was a she) dressed in the whole getup, scissor hands and all.
But I’m not at Comic Con to stare--well, not completely. I’m here to see the first-ever preview of the highly anticipated Watchmen, the film adaptation of the dense graphic novel by Alan Moore, coming to theaters March 2009.
Watchmen is a film that nearly didn’t get made. Several directors had been attached, including Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky--even United 93’s Paul Greengrass, who held onto the property the longest. But eventually it landed in the lap of young buck Zack Snyder, the creative force behind the visually rockin’ 300--and judging from the clip, he really is THE only choice they should have gone with. Sitting in this massive preview hall, I feel incredibly hip and in the know, experiencing this amazingly stunning footage from a movie that has some serious hard-core fans. Wow. Let’s just say the Watchmen trailer, playing right now on Hollywood.com, only scratches the surface.
“It’s watching this crowd and blowing their minds that does it for me,” Snyder says about premiering the clip at Comic Con. “You can go anywhere in the world, but you’re never going to get this type of group in a room that understands what you are trying to do. It’s a special thing.”
Part of what we saw was the film’s wild title sequence: “It goes back to saying there’s a lot of supplemental material in Watchmen”, Snyder explains. “I wanted to explore a little of that. So having the title sequence be this little crazy adventure through the 20th Century allowed me to get into some of that material and help the audience along.”
Tackling this material, Snyder keeps very much to Moore’s story, which centers on a group of superheroes long forgotten who come out of retirement to solve the murder of one of their own. The eclectic cast includes: Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy) as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl; Jeffrey Dean Morgan (TV’s Supernatural) as Edward Blake/The Comedian; Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) as Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre; Matthew Goode (Match Point) as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias; Billy Crudup (Mission: Impossible III) as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan; and finally Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach--who were all in attendance to give n it’s proper introduction to the Comic-Con crowd.
Even for the actors in the movie, this was the first time they were able to see some finished product--and they, too, were completely blown away. “F**k me!,” Goode exclaims. Morgan adds, “We were all up on stage, going ‘Holy s**t! This is insane.’”
Some of them give a little insight into their characters:
--Billy Crudup on playing the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan: “I’m blue and I’m naked. [Laughs]. But the most relevant thing for me is how to be someone who has been eviscerated by some kind of particle accelerator and allows their consciousness to remain intact so they put together the constituent parts of their bodies back together as a super human. I don’t have a template for that, but it’s not so black and white that I can’t use my imagination.”
--Jeffrey Dean Morgan on The Comedian: “What I found fascinating about The Comedian is that his actions are completely immoral. He does some of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen, ever. But after reading the novel, I didn’t hate The Comedian, which fascinated me. That fine line he balances; he almost becomes a sympathetic character.
--Jackie Earle Haley on extreme vigilante Rorschach’s sadistic behavior: “In my head, I can justify pretty much everything this guy is doing.” [Morgan: “Wow, that’s kinda creepy!”]
--Malin Akerman on the humanistic qualities of Silk Spectre: “She is just this wonderfully vulnerable woman, so lovely to play, who could also kick ass!
--Patrick Wilson on why Nite Owl isn’t at all fat: “The whole weight issue with Dan, he’s really not as fat as everyone thinks he is. He’s gone soft, as I like to say--a linebacker who’s just gone soft.”
And don’t worry, folks, Zack Snyder has no intention of keeping anything really juicy out of the film--even it goes three hours. “The truth is I can only cut out so much before it stops being Watchmen and I’m not going to do that.”
I am not a Watchmen fan, but I feel compelled to become one after watching snippets of the movie. (Note to self: Go to Borders and buy book.)
Actress Jane Greer, who co-starred with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in 1947's classic Out of the Past, died Friday of complications from cancer, according to Associated Press reports. She was 76.
Greer, a native of Washington, D.C., was born Sept. 9, 1924 and grew up in Florida. She was a onetime beauty contestant who caught the eye of Hollywood after appearing in Life magazine.
"I always wanted to be an actress, and suddenly I knew that learning to control my facial muscles was one of the best assets I could have as a performer," Greer once said in an interview.
Greer is survived by her twin brother; sons Alex, Lawrence and Steve; and two grandchildren. Her common-law husband, acting coach Frank London, died in January.
A private memorial service will be help Sept. 9 on what would have been Greer's 77th birthday.
Contrary to U.S. media reports that Cuba may not allow some of its stars to travel to the 2nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards, the city of Havana said Friday that it would allow artists to travel to the ceremony taking place in Los Angeles on Sept. 11. Rebecca Viera, vice-president for the state-run Music Institute in Havana, told Reuters that "Cuba never put obstacles to stop nominated artists on the island from participating in the Latin Grammys." Cuban nominees include salsa star Isaac Delgado, jazz pianist Chucho Valdes and singers Omara Portuondo and Celina Gonzalez.
The Latin Recording Academy has announced the 17 honorees to inaugurate the newly launched Latin Grammy Hall of Fame. Among the recordings inducted are: Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema)," Carlos Santana's 1970 remake of the Tito Puente classic "Oye Como Va," Don Azpiazu's version of "El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor)," João Gilberto's album Chega da Saudade, Javier Solís' 1960 version of the classic love song, "Sabor a Mí," and the original 1948 version of Concierto de Aranjuez.
Baretta star Robert Blake put his 4,909-square-foot Los Angeles home on the market on Thursday for $1.09 million. The actor intends to move closer to his adult daughter in the San Fernando Valley, Blake's attorney, Harland Braun, told The L.A. Daily News.
Beatles fans will be able to stay at the Hard Day's Night Hotel after it opens in Liverpool, England, in 2003. Each of the hotel's 120 rooms will feature a mural based on a member, song, or place associated with the group. The hotel will occupy a restored downtown building near the site of the Cavern Club, where the Fab Four played some of their earliest shows.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled an R-rated trailer for its upcoming comedy Not Another Teen Movie from the Sony.com Web site fearing underage kids could view it. The ad reportedly featured profanity and partial nudity, said Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America. Sony officials plan to produce a sanitized version of the ad for the site. Not Another Teen Movie is scheduled for release in December.
Director Joe Camp wants to cast all 26 canine roles from an animal shelter for the newest Benji movie. "It's got to be a dog that's very confident in himself and works and wants to do this," he told the AP on Sunday. Camp's original Oscar-nominated Benji debuted in 1974 and earned $40 million in theaters. His latest, Benji Returns--The Promise of Christmas, is set for the 2002 holiday season.
Eon Productions denied that it has been looking for Pierce Brosnan's replacement for the role of James Bond in an upcoming movie, the AP reported Friday. A report in the British press said Scottish actor Gerard Butler had been promised the role whenever Brosnan gave it up. The title of the next film, due to start filming early next year, has not been announced.
Speaking of Bond, Famke Janssen, who got her big break in the 1995 Bond flick Golden Eye, will take the female lead in I Spy opposite Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, Reuters reported. Janssen can currently be seen in Jon Favreau's Made, and co-starred in last year's X-Men. I Spy begins shooting in mid-September in Budapest.
Karen Kramer, widow of director Stanley Kramer, is upset about the comparisons being made between Jerry Zucker's recent Rat Race and her late husband's 1963 comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World," People magazine reports. "The truth is that Mr. Zucker tried to build a better mousetrap and failed--exploiting a brilliant classic that was the daddy of its kind to create an inferior, unauthorized imitation," she told the Los Angeles Times last week.
Since the sequel to Matrix, Matrix Reloaded, won't be released until May 2003, Warner Bros. will introduce a 2½ hour documentary on the movie and its sequels this fall and also plans to produce anime episodes of the stories, Reuters reports. The Matrix Revisited will debut on DVD and VHS Nov. 20 and will include interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and sneak peaks at Reloaded and a third Matrix film now in pre-production.
The video game-based movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider will be released on video Nov. 13. The rental-priced VHS will include a 25-minute Digging into Tomb Raider bonus feature, Reuters reports. Other upcoming special edition DVD/ VHS releases include Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Oct. 23), featuring 90 minutes of extra material and audio commentaries by directors Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones; Warner Bros. five-film Dirty Harry collection and a three-film "Rat Pack" collection (Nov. 23).