Terry Gilliam was J.K. Rowling's first choice to direct the movies based on her books. How would he have handled the material?
Near the beginning of Chris Columbus' film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, hulking cockney giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) takes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) into Gringott's, the wizarding world's most secure bank, where Harry's vast inheritance is kept. Deep inside the dungeon-like caverns of the bank, Hagrid unlocks Harry's vault, and the camera jumps inside the vault's door to show us the sole flash of creativity in Columbus' lackluster movie.
When Hagrid turns the key, an elaborate, arachnid mechanism springs to life behind the door – hundreds of spindly tumblers and latches slither, creep and crawl away and apart from each other until the door swings open to reveal the horde of booty that Harry's parents left him. I mention this image because it was the one moment in both of Columbus' first two entries in the Potter franchise that not only gave me the heebie-jeebies, but it also made me think of Rowling's first choice to direct the movies based on her books: Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam.
I'd love to meet and talk with a WWII-generation Japanese citizen who saw Gojira (aka Godzilla) for the first time in 1954.
It's no secret that Japanese pop-culture – from Manga comics to big-robot/big-monster sci-fi – has acted as a pressure-release for the anger and anxiety built up from America's bombing of Japan in World War II. (The great anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion explored another big theme – the conflict between eastern and western religions – but that's another essay.)
In part two of a three-part series, I look back at The Wire's strongest seasons.
Let’s talk about The Wire's magnificent third and fourth seasons, which feature the most satisfying examples of thematic layering, echoing and character graduation. Season three introduces a theme so potentially boring it would have sounded death-knell for any other show: management.
Here's my review for the original Expendables, which I sort of liked.
SPOILERS AHEAD!SPOILERS AHEAD!SPOILERS AHEAD!
I don't want to think of Sylvester Stallone as a simpleton, but he keeps forcing me to with movies like The Expendables.
Here's the thing: I like Stallone. He strikes me as an earnest movie-maker with decent storytelling instincts. I thought Rocky Balboa was great, and I could really sense his desire to get back to the roots of the character that made him famous.
But even in Rocky Balboa, I got a sense of Stallone the simpleton. The movie's plot hinges on a video game that pits the aging Rocky against the current heavyweight champion -- and you know what? I bet that's where Stallone got the idea. A video game. By comparison, in the leadup to the release of Rambo (the fourth in the series that began with First Blood), Stallone (if memory serves) revealed that he got the idea for the fourth Rambo from a magazine article, as well as from the Saw movies, although the horror franchise only guided Stallone's hand in pumping up the volume of the violence he depicted. (The splatter-gore aesthetic, while less intense in The Expendables, is still with Stallone.)
In the first of a three-part series, I look back at The Wire and try to figure out why season five is the weakest entry of this brilliant series.
I first watched The Wire, David Simon’s seminal portrait of the city of Baltimore in five acts, a few years ago. I recently plowed through the series again, this time with the foreknowledge that its final season was generally regarded as its weakest. When I first watched the show, I remembered admiring the newsroom scenes, and especially the performance of Clark Johnson as the Sun’s city editor. So did my rewatch confirm or disconfirm the inferiority of season five?
In this article, originally written in conjunction with ScriptPhD.com, I pick my favorite eureka-bellowers of all time.
An astute cartoonist once observed that most so-called mad scientists are actually just mad engineers.
You can see the original comic here, but the gist is this: A mad scientist proclaims that he’s invented a death ray. A nameless troublemaker asks him if he’s testing any mad hypotheses with mad experiments and mad control groups. Good stuff. That comic served as the inspiration for this list, in which I assemble the best mad scientists from pop-culture who actually act like scientists. They conduct experiments. They record data. And they’re fucking bonkers.
Now I’ve done it. I went and accidentally watched the whole three-hour extended cut of Batman Versus Superman, the stupid title I won’t write out. In case anyone cares, I liked it better than Civil War, though both movies had the consistency of tapioca — pure mush, pure cinematic gibberish. Mild SPOILERS ahead for BvS, and the Netflix series Stranger…
Despite some excellent performances, Julie Taymor's take on Shakespeare's swan song doesn't quite work. SPOILERS AHEAD!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! I love Julie Taymor. I don't always love her movies. Watching her lavish new adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest brought me back to a lot of things -- my adoration of the play, my impatience with the play, my early…
John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a southern-gothic masterpiece that borders ever so slightly on gonzo journalism—though it falls short of passing into that bizarro realm. Reading it spurred me to contemplate the border between the two major realms of nonfiction writing; the DMZ between the ordered lands of subject-first traditional journalism and the wild…
One of the myriad pleasures of the classic TV series Twin Peaks is sensing the artistic tug-of-war between showrunners David Lynch and Mark Frost. By now it’s received wisdom that Frost—an alum of more traditional story-driven shows like Hill Street Blues—was a necessary correction for Lynch, the dreamy abstractionist.
Bob here. I met Andi Cumbo-Floyd through Twitter, where she holds weekly discussion with other writers. She's one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I've interacted with, and her writing reflects that. Besides her ongoing pursuit of creative nonfiction, Andi is also a teacher and editor. She recently launched a new online community for writers, and she maintains an artistic…
In competing narrative voices (mostly first with a dash of third), author Mayer ably explores the turbulent headspace of Quinn, a teenager with a condition known as congenital analgesia—he can't feel pain.