Monday, January 21, 2008

Stone V. Bush? Absolutely

It pains me to be too hard on a movie as well-intentioned as "Honeydripper" on MLK Day or, for that matter, any other, so I'll try to get that portion of this report out of the way quickly.

"Honeydripper" was, in short, just a tremendous disappointment to me. It's truly lethargic film making, filled with corny, often unbelievable stories and dialogue that's even worse (yes, within the first 10 minutes or so you will get to see a bar patron actually utter the words "grits ain't groceries.")

Much like OutKast's "Idlewild," this was a movie supposedly about music that really only featured any at its very beginning and end, the only times the movie really surged with any life. The ending, when young Gary Clark Jr. finally plugs in his axe at the Honeydripper, really is electric, but still not enough of a payoff to justify all the emptiness that came before it.

Which is a real shame, because this is a flick just packed with people I like who we don't get to see nearly often enough on the big screen, most notably Charles S. "Roc" Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Vondie Curtis Hall.

But enough of that ... on to some good news.

Stone and Brolin to take on Bush

How fitting that, on the day that President Clinton himself will be in Macon (and I'll be there, though my time and support are solidly behind Barack Obama), the news comes that Oliver Stone is about to jump at least indirectly into the fray.

Even if he's not returning to Vietnam, Stone is definitely about to get back in "the shit," this time with his sights directly on George Bush.

Stone has announced his next directing project will indeed be "Bush," focusing on the life of W. and, even better, set to star Josh Brolin. With his work in "No Country for Old Men," "In the Valley of Elah" "American Gangster" and "Planet Terror," 2007 was a banner year for the younger Mr. Brolin, and things don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Either before or after "Bush," which with a pre-WGA strike script already done by "Wall Street" co-writer Stanley Weiser could begin shooting as early as April for a Fall release, he'll play Dan White, the man who assassinated Harvey Milk, in Gus Van Sant's "Milk."

And though Stone has been extremely critical of Bush in the past, he's promising to take a broad look at the man's life, with his own view sheathed as much as possible.

"It's a behind-the-scenes approach, similar to 'Nixon,' to give a sense of what it's like to be in his skin," Stone told Daily Variety. "I'm a dramatist who is interested in people, and I have empathy for Bush as a human being, much the same as I did for Castro, Nixon, Jim Morrison, Jim Garrison and Alexander the Great."

Perhaps, but what he had to say next shows he's indeed taking some preformed ideas about W. into this project.

"How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world? It's like Frank Capra territory on one hand, but I'll also cover the demons in his private life, his bouts with his dad and his conversion to Christianity, which explains a lot of where he is coming from. It includes his belief that God personally chose him to be president of the United States, and his coming into his own with the stunning, preemptive attack on Iraq. It will contain surprises for Bush supporters and his detractors."

He also took a parting shot at Tom Cruise's United Artists, who used the pretense of the writers' strike to kill Stone's return to Vietnam, "Pinkville." As Stone revealed to Variety, he definitely thinks there were other factors (chiefly the tanking of UA's "Lions for Lambs") that diminished hunger for the project:

"On 'Pinkville,' I had a great script and one of the best casts on any of my films, with 40 young actors and Bruce Willis," Stone said. "It's a shame they lost faith in the film, and that they unemployed 500 people right before Christmas. We were three weeks from shooting."

A shame indeed, but with this news one can only hope the real muckraking Oliver Stone will now be back in a big way.

What's next on "The Wire"?

I know from talking to fellow fans of "The Wire" that the admittedly bizarre downward trajectory of McNulty from beat cop to renegade vigilante has been a bit much for many fans to take, but I've loved every minute of it so far.

Along with that, the newsroom scenes through last night's episode 3 have rung true for me as an employee of a newspaper which has undergone its own share of belt-tightening and in fact had its own serial plagiarist to deal with. And, as this rapidly boiling story comes to a close, we should get to see more of Amy Ryan as McNulty's latest enabler-in-chief, which is always good news to me.

Here's a look at what's to come in the next five episodes, which will include scripts from semi-regular "Wire" contributors Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, plus the return of Agnieszka Holland as director.

Episode #54: "Transitions"
Campbell (Marlyne Afflack) tries to smooth out the transitions in the police department. The newspaper scrambles to confirm surprising news from City Hall, but lose out to the TV media in scooping a high-profile grand jury appearance. As Marlo tries to win favor with the Greeks, Proposition Joe pays his last respects to a fallen colleague and prepares to make himself scarce in anticipation of a showdown. Freamon enlists the help of a past partner to help with the investigation. Teleplay by Ed Burns; story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Dan Attias.

Episode #55: "React Quotes"
Marlo (Jamie Hector) forges an alliance with a drug connect, who shows him a new communications trick. McNulty's (Dominic West) case gets increased attention from the newspaper, in large part thanks to the addition of Templeton (Tom McCarthy) to the reporting team. Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) turns to Cutty (Chad L. Coleman) and Michael (Tristan Wilds) to hone his self-defense skills; Clay Davis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) finds a new ally; Bond (Dion Graham) raises his public profile; Levy (Michael Kostroff) and Herc (Domenick Lombardozzi) prepare for litigation; Elena (Callie Thorne) confronts McNulty about his behavior; Bubbles (Andre Royo) fears new opportunities; Greggs (Sonja Sohn) gets some overtime work. Omar (Michael Kenneth Williams) shows patience as Marlo throws out his bait. Teleplay by David Mills; story by David Simon & David Mills; directed by Agnieszka Holland.

Episode #56: "The Dickensian Aspect"
Mystified by Omar's disappearance, Marlo and Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) ramp up their efforts to locate their nemesis. After attending a sparsely attended waterfront ceremony, Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) fires away at a larger press event - and recasts himself as a champion for the homeless. Bunk (Wendell Pierce) revisits some old leads in the rowhouse cases, but is frustrated in his attempts to get bloodwork from the crime lab. Templeton looks for a perfect follow-up to his latest, nationally covered story, which has replaced the city's educational crisis on the paper's priority list. After the detail gets more manpower, Freamon (Clarke Peters) presses McNulty to get new surveillance equipment, but the resources aren't as deep as both hoped. Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy) discovers new clues pointing to corruption in City Hall; Marlo makes new appointments at the latest co-op meeting; McNulty takes a peculiar interest in a homeless man.Teleplay by Ed Burns; story by David Simon & Ed Burns; directed by Seith Mann.

Episode #57: "Took"
An unexpected call puts Templeton back in the spotlight - and gets McNulty more attention than he expected. Bunk bucks at Landsman (Delaney Williams) when ordered to help with the force's most recent red ball. Omar sends Marlo a message; Carcetti proves he's still an adept fund-raiser; Carver (Seth Gilliam) gift-wraps a witness for Bunk; Bubbles shows a reporter the ropes; Freamon tries to crack a clock code; Greggs prepares for a visit from her son; Michael has a close call; Haynes (Clark Johnson) can't shake his suspicions about Templeton; assisted by the top-drawer lawyer Billy Murphy (Billy Murphy), "cash and carry" Davis makes his day in court a memorable one. Teleplay by Richard Price; story by David Simon & Richard Price; directed by Dominic West.

Episode #58: "Clarifications"
Baltimore's renewed police commitment brings fresh recruits to Daniels (Lance Reddick) and McNulty, starting with Carver. Facing a new political challenge, Carcetti is forced to make dangerous political deals. As the Pulitzer season winds down, Haynes approaches Templeton about his sources. Bunk returns a McNulty favor; little Kenard (Thuliso Dingwall) makes a big score; Dukie finds work; Fletcher (Brandon Young) continues his interview with Bubbles; Freamon presents his latest plan to a prosecutor; Sydnor (Corey Parker Robinson) uncovers the missing piece to a puzzle; McNulty comes clean. Teleplay by Dennis Lehane; story by David Simon & Dennis Lehane; directed by Joe Chappelle.

So, if you're keeping track, that makes eight episodes of the final season of "The Wire," a k a the greatest show in the history of television. That means either only four or five left after this latest batch, and it will be truly sad to see it go, even if it will be exiting on top of its game. Peace out.


Chalupa said...

Wow - a movie about George Dubya Bush. For some reason I imagine that somehow falling under the Patriot Act. It'll be interesting to see what Stone comes up with. Bummer that Pinkville got axed. I can kinda understand why UA did that after Lions for Lambs, but not really at the same time.

Shorty said...

actually there will only be two more episodes of the Wire after the batch you listed since this season is only 10 episodes in total. I can't believe it's coming to an end. You don't watch the episodes a week early On Demand, right? That's too bad...I'm chomping at the bit to find out what everyone else thinks about episode 4...oh well...keep up the gr8 work...

Mercurie said...

Not having HBO, I haven't seen any of the latest season of The Wire. I know that there has been buzz amongst fans about this season. At any rate, it's sad that it is coming to an end.

Sad to hear Honeydripper was such a disappointment. I was actually interested in seeing it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I had no idea that there were only going to be 10 episodes of "The Wire," Shorty, so thanks for the warning ... I do indeed wish I could see the next episode right way, cause the return of Omar just sets things perfectly for the next act

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