My latest in The Star
Occasionally, I read books that deal with movies or movie-related themes, and I think “Gee, other people might want to know about these!” So, this page will feature information and brief reviews of books of special interest to aficionados of cinema.
First up, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film.
When the daughter of cult filmmaker Stanislas Cordova commits suicide, journalist Scott McGrath is certain there’s more to the story. Disgraced after making unproven accusations against Cordova years ago, Scott is determined to uncover the “truth” about this mysterious character, whose films are so disturbing, they literally change the lives of those who view them.
Cordova is sort of a cross between David Lynch, Lars Von Trier and Michael Haneke, and his fans give new meaning to the word “fanatic.” As he investigates, Scott is pulled deeper and deeper into a world that messes with his sanity, and Pessl uses faux newsclippings and film stills to provide a spooky backdrop throughout (get the print version, not the e-book).
Night Film isn’t give-you-nightmares scary, but it is plenty creepy, a neo-Gothic mystery that may or may not have supernatural elements. Pessl is cagey about that last point, dragging the story out to a vague conclusion that I’m still not entirely sold on. Up until that point, reading Night Film is a harrowing, ultimately cathartic, experience, not unlike Cordova’s movies are reputed to be.
Read It If You Like: Freaky cult filmmakers, freaky cult fans, heavy atmosphere, partial resolutions.
Would It Make a Good Movie?: Absolutely. Some Cordova-like director should get on that.
I review Gravity, Prisoners, Enough Said, Don Jon & Inequality for All
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s triple-threat debut:
Director: Klay Hall
Writer: Jeffrey M. Howard
Voice Cast: Dane Cook as Dusty Crophopper, Stacy Keach as Skipper, Brad Garrett as Chug, Teri Hatcher as Dottie, Roger Craig Smith as Ripslinger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Rochelle, Carlos Alazraqui as El Chupacabra, Priyanka Chopra as Ishani, John Cleese as Bulldog
Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1691917/
Plot: Lowly crop duster Dusty dreams of flying in an around-the-world race, and enlists a retired fighter plane to help him prepare.
I can just imagine the pitch meeting for Planes. “You know how Cars is nobody’s favorite Pixar movie? Let’s make another one just like it, but with airplanes and less famous actors!” Dane Cook’s Dusty Crophopper isn’t nearly as arrogant as Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen (maybe it’s the difference in star power), he still follows the template of oh-so-many cartoon heroes before him. In fact, all the characters are pretty much interchangeable – with previous variations and with each other.
Despite its flaws, Cars engaged in the inventive world-building that has always made Pixar’s efforts such a joy to watch. Even Cars 2 continued that thrilling visual style, as muddled and overblown as it was in every other respect. Planes doesn’t bother making the effort, except to give eyes and voices to every vehicle. The animation is only impressive when it’s moving, especially in the POV aerial shots, which will make you want to get a pilot’s license. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend paying extra for the 3D, but those scenes are damned impressive in the format.
As far as the plot goes, Planes is the movie Cars 2 should have been. It has an admirable efficiency, sticking to the race storyline with few distractions. That doesn’t make up for the lack of imagination, but it does make the blandness go by a little faster.
I got to review Now You See Me, The East, Monsters University & Much Ado About Nothing
THE KANSAS CITY STAR. THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2013
Timelines Are on Their Side
Writer/producer uses an alternative universe to spice up ‘Star Trek.’
By Loey Lockerby
Special to The Star
When Alex Kurtzman was growing up, he loved a franchise with the word “Star” in it, but it wasn’t the one with Captain Kirk.
“I was much more of a Star Wars guy,” he said in a recent phone interview.
That changed when he saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Only “marginally aware” of Trek up to that point, Kurtzman began to
appreciate what Gene Roddenberry’s long-running sc-ifi creation had to offer.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce; based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson, Jason Clarke as George Wilson, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker
Running time: 2 hours 23 minutes
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343092/
Plot: In 1920s New York, Nick Carraway relates the story of his friendship with the mysterious, lovelorn Jay Gatsby.
If the Jazz Age was all about excess, then what better director to adapt its greatest novel than Baz Luhrmann? The man behind Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet is all about the shimmy and sparkle. Adapting The Great Gatsby, he gets to indulge his wild visual style while finally approaching something like a serious drama. Well, sort of.