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 SPOILER-FILLED review, I look at Zack Snyder's reboot of the Superman legend and try to place it in the larger context of moviemaking today. Comics fans need to stop looking for their Lord of the Rings in the mind of Christopher Nolan. I'll come back to that idea later, but first let's look at Zack Snyder's grim, bloody…
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.
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.
In this classic book review, Tony Lazlo sounds an extended dirge for the disappointing final chapter in the Harry Potter book series. SPOILERS AHEAD! The empress is naked.After 10 wonderful years of books whose release dates arrived with the anticipation of fresh boxes of Wonka bars, we're left with the disheartening reality that J.K. Rowling couldn't write a Harry Potter…
Imagine Marvel’s Doctor Strange, with all of its trippy imagery, cool psychic battles, and supernatural-bordering-on-super-science worldbuilding. Now imagine that story written by a master novelist with protean-powerful command of first person, and you’d have David Mitchell’s Slade House. Needless to say, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!
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…