A Dark Twist on an Old Story? Not Even Close

Okay, I know how I started writing about a 2010 movie based on a 2001 novel but I am not sure why I am posting an entry in my blog about them.

I guess it all started when I watched the Brit TV series based on the Jack Taylor novels by Irish writer Ken Bruen (an appreciation of Mr. Bruen’s unique – to me – prose style appears elsewhere in this blog.)

London - book

I noticed a second hand copy of London Boulevard at a book sale and since I had become an aficionado of Mr. Bruen’s works I picked it up. Okay, it wasn’t a Jack Taylor novel but the protagonist, a wary, volatile ex-con named Mitchell, his run-ins with former criminal associates, his relationship with mentally unstable sister, Briony, his reluctant affair with the aging but still alluring  reclusive actress Lillian Palmer and her enigmatic butler, Jordan. held my attention.

Then I became aware of a movie adapted from the novel.  Since it was written by William Monahan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who adapted the Asian box office hit Infernal Affairs for the Martin Scorsese-directed North American cinematic success The Departed (one of my favorite films) I had high hopes when the acclaimed screenwriter chose London Boulevard as his directorial debut. 

London - movie

Imagine my surprise when I looked closer at the back of the DVD dust cover and saw that Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley had been cast in leading roles. While reading the novel I kept picturing Liam Neeson and Helen Mirren or Charlotte Rampling in the roles. (On the other hand, the casting of Anna Friel as Briony and Ray Winstone as Mitchell’s criminal nemesis, Gant, was spot-on.)

I understand the need to attract “name” stars to secure investors. However, the casting – and rewriting – completely destroys Mr. Bruen’s original intent: to write a British version of Sunset Boulevard, or, as it says on the front cover of the novel, “a dark twist on a classic story.” Imagine a version geared to a youthful demographic directed by Zack Snyder and starring, say, Scarlett Johansson as Ms. Palmer (renamed “Lily”) and one of the Hemsworth boys as Mitchell (MC Mitch?)  

Mr. Monahan’s second attempt at directing, the dismal Mojave. didn’t fare much better (24% Audience Rating). Perhaps Peter Howell of Toronto’s Globe & Mail (quoted on RT) says it best:  “Writer/director William Monahan won an Oscar for penning The Departed and he obviously needs the discipline Martin Scorsese brought to that picture.”

London - sign


KWIK KWOTES: I Wish I’d Written That …

Into the Badlands shamelessly borrows from so many sources, I began to respect its diligence. A lazier show would have been satisfied with swiping far less ….”

Willa Paskin SLATE

I knew it was a strange hybrid.  I figured maybe it was created to cash in on the popularity of Hong Kong-style action pics (thus the many -almost balletic and certainly athletic – fight scenes) and the royal intrigue of HBO’s Game of Thrones (one actress in particular seems to be channeling Margaery Targaryen.) However, Ms. Paskin is paid to spot the influences so I will let her do the heavy lifting. 


Dirk Goes Gently Into that Good Night

Samuel Barnett (right) plays Dirk Gently and Elijah Wood is his “assistant


So this happened …. I watched the first few episodes of DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY and I still couldn’t figure out what was going on. Something about it, though, reminded me of the sublime madness that piloted the now ancient BBC radio series “The Goon Show” to heights of absurdity. The plot of Dirk Gently eventually makes sense (well, sort of) but that really isn’t the point. I’m talking/writing/posting about the recent American version here, not the British adaptation.

Series creator (and chief writer) Max Landis

Series creator Max Landis (son of filmmaker John Landis, of An American Werewolf in London fame) based the show on the novels by Douglas Adams. Although people that have read the books claim the current series (available in North America on Netflix) has little in common with the original works, that rarefied air of whimsy that seems to be an English specialty is in keeping with the spirit of the author’s work.

The late Mr.Adams (who died of a heart attack at the age of 49 in 2001) was the author of A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a rabid fan of the venerable British TV series Doctor Who (in fact, Adams wrote several episodes) and once collaborated on a script with future Monty Python star Graham Chapman.

It’s a safe bet that if you appreciated any of the above, you’ll be hooked by Dirk Gently. Others have been cast in the role but Brit TV actor Sam Barnett (Penny Dreadful) is such a natural in the American version that I can’t imagine another actor as the title character. And Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood, as his “assistant”, Todd  Brotzman, has the same bemused expression as viewers  will probably wear during the first few episodes of this oddball series. The cast also includes the delightful Jade Eshete, the delectable Hannah Marks and the amazing Fiona Dourif (daughter of memorably offbeat actor Brad Dourif.)

Fiona Dourif – Carrying On The Family Tradition

Kwik Kwotes: Unemployment and Paranoia

Matt Danon as Mark Whitacre - Just Because You're Paranoid ....
Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre – Just Because You’re Paranoid …

“Paranoid is what people who are trying to take advantage call you to get you to drop your guard. I read that in an in-flight magazine.”

Mark Whitacre (a real life character played by MATT DAMON in an award calibre  performance) in The Informant

George Clooney and Anna Kendrick - "This Is What We Do, Natalie."
George Clooney and Anna Kendrick – “This Is What We Do.”

This is what we do, Natalie. We take people at their most fragile and we set them adrift.”

Ryan Bingham (GEORGE CLOONEY) travels across the States firing people for employers who are too cowardly to do the jobs themselves.

In a scene from Up in the Air, he explains to newcomer Natalie Keener (ANNA KENDRICK) the hard cold facts of what seemed to her to be a dream job.  

Another one of those dumb “looks like” posts (if you can’t beat ’em ….)

d4Is it just me …  or does Ewa Frohling (as she appears in  Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s early 1980s Oscar winner Fanny and Alexander) and Emilia Clarke (as she appears in Season 1 of  Game of Thrones)  look like sisters and/or mother and daughter?


Or  am I the only one who has seen (and enjoyed) Ingmar Bergman’s 1980s Oscar-winning film and HBO’s current television hit (based on the novels by fantasy master George R.R. Martin)







Golden Globes Nominations Strain Credibility (Even More than Usual)

"Aw c'mon, you gotta be kidding me. They nominated THE TOURIST for Best Picture/Comedy or Musical? Even I think that's funny!"

You think the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the folks responsible for handing out the Golden Globes, would have learned.

I mean, the Globes seem to have been treated with something less than awe by Hollywood insiders for years.

In fact rumor has it that the reason the ceremony is so well attended is that it is arguably the biggest Hollywood party of the year.

Unlike the Oscars, celebrities are allowed (encouraged?) to imbibe alcohol during the ceremonies leading to some, um,  bizarre acceptance speeches.

A few years ago, in one of the more memorable moments in Globe history JACK NICHOLSON soberly thanked all the nominees and then, well, click on the link and you’ll see why the Globes are the Rodney Dangerfield of award ceremonies. They just don’t get any respect.


The Globes hit an all time low in 1981 when HFPA chose PIA ZADORA as Best Newcomer for an obscure film called Butterfly over nominees like ELIZABETH McGOVERN in Ragtime and KATHLEEN TURNER in Body Heat.

In “A Cynic’s Guide to the Golden Globes” Steve Persall writes: “Turns out Zadora’s billionaire husband, Meshulam Riklis, feted HFPA members at one of his luxurious hotels while their ballots were still blank.”

According to Persall, the resulting scandal cost the Golden Globes its television contract with CBS and the show was banished from network TV for 14 years until NBC picked it up.


Now the HFPA are raising eyebrows again with a Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) nomination for … The Tourist?

That’s not all … the critically savaged flick, which scored a lowly 21% on rottentomatoes.com (107 rotten reviews, 29 fresh) also landed nominations for stars JOHNNY DEPP (Best Actor/Comedy or Musical) and ANGELINA JOLIE (Best Actress/Comedy or Musical)

Veteran showbiz trade paper The Hollywood Reporter speculates that “to skeptics, the choices appeared to be a particularly blatant play to line the red carpet with celebrities — in this case, two of the world’s biggest — at the Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 16.”


Golden Globes nominees get a lot of press. Marketing types love them.  What is not mentioned so often is who actually picks out these awards. Who is the Hollywood Press Foreign Press Association anyway and are they really – to borrow a phrase from a headline in examiner.com “one big joke”?

“The organization started doling out awards 66 years ago,” explains Examiner Pop Culture reporter Kimberly Bogin,  “The HFPA consists of roughly 90 foreign journalists and they accept less than five new members a year. They sound like an esteemed group of film aficionados, but if you believe Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers, the HFPA ‘has for sixty six years now been perpetrating a scam that would make Bernie Madoff blush. Very few members are full-time journalists. The skinny is that they’re in it for the parties and the movie stars and, of course, the annual network TV show which nets them a tasty $6 million.’ ”


Hmmm , you have to wonder whether NBC will be hosting the awards again next year.

“Is It Strange for a Female Urologist To Deal With Men?”

JESSICA HECHT plays Doctor on HBO's "Bored to Death"

“I’ve always been intrigued by the male anatomy. As a girl I loved horses.”

Dr. Kenwood (JESSICA HECHT)  explains to magazine editor George Christopher (TED DANSON) why her choice of careers is a perfect fit.

Still, George can’t help feeling awkward. There are those stirrups, for example …

Ted Danson plays NYC magazine editor (and aging swinger) George Christopher in HBO's "Bored to death"