Setter’s ‘Spectives: ‘The Truth’ According to Michael Palin … and Its Movie Potential

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Ever read a good book and wonder what kind of film it would make?

That’s how I felt about The Truth, Michael Palin’s recent novel about a middle-aged British journalist’s quest to write his own tome about a famous globetrotting crusader for human rights. On the surface, this work is quiet, serious, unprepossessing … unusual for Palin, known for his hilarious turns on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But underneath, the story is all about doing what’s right, even if it means uncovering wrongs from the past, and that’s a deceptively simple concept.

I think it might work well on the big screen.

Not sure if that’s a possibility, but anything can happen, right? There’s good dialogue, strong descriptive content, a powerful story and a celebrity writer behind the pages. Why wouldn’t this be a good option for the cinema, I ask?

Fine: There’s not a lot of sex … at least, nothing graphic. That could potentially be a turn-off to Hollywood, especially in this age of Fifty Shades of Grey. Still, it has a lot to like, and the bloodlines are impressive. Maybe one day someone will look at this as a strong cinematic project; it’s still a relatively new novel, and it’s quite topical. And it’s a lot more interesting than FSoG, that’s for sure.

It would be nice in the future to see The Truth playing in the theaters. I’d go to see it, definitely. Perhaps one day that will happen.

Sooner, I hope, rather than later.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: A Paean to Luise Rainer

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Today, Tuesday, December 30, 2014, the great actress Luise Rainer reportedly died at the advanced age of 104.

She was a terrific thespian, one of the important Jewish performers in Hollywood, and a standout for roles such as O-Lan in The Good Earth, a classic of the cinema. In that film, she played opposite Paul Muni, who distinguished himself as well. Surprisingly, she isn’t as well-remembered as other celluloid stars, and I’m not sure why. Her body of work is excellent, her performances consistent. This is someone who should be on the tongues of anyone interested in the movies and the history of motion pictures. She was a good one.

I wonder if the lack of immediate recognition her name elicits in some circles is because she wasn’t a traditional Hollywood beauty. She was certainly striking, no doubt about that, but the real glamour was in her acting, not her features. I hope that leads to her name being recalled with fondness in the future.

I will do that, for sure.

Skip’s Quips: Nothing Funny About ‘Penguins of Madagascar’

Blog Sketch 082813I didn’t find the original Madagascar amusing. It was broad, forced, in love with its own smugness.

Now we have a spinoff: Penguins of Madagascar. To that, I say: “Humph.”

Those not-so-adorable penguins. Full of comic mischief. And little to no humor.

I realize this kind of thing isn’t geared to grown-ups with elevated tastes and sensibilities, but why must Hollywood insist on spouting out sequels to movies that weren’t very good to begin with? It’s a rhetorical question; I know it’s to make money. But the industry could at least try to put forward a strong project … not one that’s easy to dismiss.  And I suspect Penguins will be the latter.

Some things you don’t have to see to know they’re of low quality. This film is one of them. And as I’ve already suffered through Madagascar, I have no doubt that the avian addition to its dreary family will be just as bad.

I’m gonna miss its debut. On purpose. My prediction is: I won’t be missing much.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Lamenting the Career Path of Johnny Depp

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Once in a blue moon, I wonder why certain actors have made professional decisions that have taken them away from one career route and toward another.

Take Johnny Depp. About 20 years ago, he starred in the intriguing, Jim Jarmusch-directed independent film Dead Man. Now, however, he stars in big-budget spectaculars such as the forthcoming Into the Woods, as well as Tim Burton-helmed duds such as Alice in Wonderland.

Was Dead Man an anomaly? Is Depp really just a Hollywood actor who doesn’t take cinematic risks anymore?

This is a talented performer we’re talking about here, but I’m concerned that celluloid experimentation is no longer of interest to him – that he’s riding on the coattails of his eccentric, tiresome performance in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and, as such, doesn’t feel the need to try something new and inventive. I lament that.

Hopefully, there will be more challenging roles in his future. Although in seeing that he’s reprising his role as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, I am not convinced that’s the path he’s traveling down.

Sad.

Skip’s Quips: It’s High Time We Get a Remake of ‘The Illustrated Man’

Blog Sketch 082813I never thought Jack Smight’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic science-fiction short story collection The Illustrated Man measured up to the standards of the book, and I lament that.

The pace was plodding, the direction was uninspired. It didn’t work, despite a fine cast that included Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

Someone should remake it.

Yes, I do believe it could be a success if redone today. The technology exists to provide the kinds of special effects needed for some of the stories, which deserve a better treatment. Steven Spielberg, methinks, would be a great fit for this kind of project. So would Peter Jackson.

I don’t know if it’s the type of thing that would appeal to directors nowadays, but the tales that have dated more than others – like the one that take place in a rain-soaked landscape on Venus – could be avoided in favor of greater stories in the collection. The entire film could focus on, say, only about four or five pieces in all and still be successful. It might make a fun project.

We need more thoughtful, perceptive sci-fi pictures in theaters today. Hollywood has mined so much already … why not go after more of the classics to improve on previous iterations? I’d watch them. So would legions of Bradbury and genre fans.

Just an idea.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: I Like ‘Planet of the Apes,’ But …

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613… is there really a need for a new series of films based on the original sci-fi “what-if” movie?

Every now and then, Hollywood seems to revisit the old to put out something new … which brings up feelings of nostalgia among those who remember the old and thoughts of “what the heck is this?” among those who are too young to do so. Now I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it came out a few years ago; it wasn’t a masterpiece like its 1968 progenitor, but it definitely did the trick.

I’m just not all that enthralled about the prospect of going back to the origins of this story. It’s not necessary. Plus, didn’t we already do that with the spate of flicks in the early 1970s? I mean, really. Been there, done that.

So now we have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Oy gevalt. When will this end? When will this … OK, I’ll stop whining. It’s just that I feel this isn’t new territory. Let’s explore another sci-fi landscape. Please. We’ve trodden over this one too much already.

Did They Make These Movies Yet?

From Skip and Setter’s Creator: My Next Opus on CURNBLOG … This Time With Susan Seidelman

Blog Sketch of Me 092213Hi, folks! My new interview on CURNBLOG is up, and it’s a good one: I talk to Susan Seidelman, director of films such as Desperately Seeking Susan, about balancing comedy and drama, Hollywood’s treatment of female talent, and her own cinematic influences. You can read more here:

http://curnblog.com/2014/03/07/interviewing-susan-seidelman-madonna-menopause/

I hope you like it.

If Hollywood changed history …

Skip’s Quips: Mahlerpropisms and Other Music Miscues

Blog Sketch 082813Today—in response to his most recent post expressing concern that Hollywood would start using Mahler symphonies in its films—my colleague Setter was reminded by one of our many astute readers that director Luchino Visconti used the Adagietto from the composer’s Fifth Symphony in the movie Death in Venice. I also referred my colleague to Ken Russell’s little-known film about Mahler in an effort to outline the industry’s familiarity with his works.

Setter’s reaction was typically defensive: “Those aren’t Hollywood movies. I’m talking about domestic, commercial films using his music. Why are you all ganging up on me?”

This is why I try not to talk to him.