Thursday, January 24, 2008

What will become of Heath's other movie?

You won't hear anything from me, even when any definite word comes down, about what exactly killed Heath Ledger because, frankly, it's just really none of my damn business.

But what is my business (as much as volunteer work can be labeled such) is talking about movies, and Mr. Ledger left behind two potentially great ones in the works, and a third that was yet to really begin.

First and foremost, of course, is "The Dark Knight." Warner Bros. had been putting together the next phase of a marketing campaign that would have focused on Mr. Ledger's work as The Joker (and if you've seen that trailer, I'm sure you know why; it's pretty friggin' amazing.) I can only assume this approach will be either scrapped or at least modified, but we'll have to wait and see.

Of more interest to me is "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," which could either turn into another epic failure for snakebit director Terry Gilliam or maybe be salvaged to make a pretty compelling flick.

As many might know, this isn't the first time that Gilliam has run into trouble on a fairly big-budget flick ("Parnassus" had (has?) a surprisingly large $30 million behind it.) Gilliam's quixotic attempts to film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" with stars Johnny Depp and the great Jean Rochefort (who, I found through a quick IMDB check, is indeed alive and still working at age 77) never got too far off the ground, but it did result in a fairly amusing Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe documentary about the process titled "Lost in La Mancha" (definitely recommended if you haven't seen it.)

And now, at least according to an anonymous source in Us magazine (via, the worst may happen to Gilliam yet again.

"I just got the call [Tuesday] saying everyone was being let go," the on-set source said. "We were supposed to start this weekend, but obviously they fired everyone today. They don't know yet what they are doing with the footage that was already shot," the source added.

Who knows if that's true, but I'd have to imagine at least 90 percent of the people who put up that $30 million did so for a movie starring Heath Ledger, who was the film's only extremely bankable star.

The pic wrapped the London leg of its shoot last Saturday. The production team has moved to Vancouver, Canada, where blue-screen work was due to start next week and continue until early March.

So, what in the world would this flick be about? Well, it certainly sounds like pure, perfect Gilliam, so here's hoping they're somehow able to salvage this project.

Here's what I know of the plot: 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Christoper Plummer) leads a traveling theater troupe and offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror in his possession, a talent he has acquired through a deal with the devil (Tom Waits, natch.) Beelzebub, as is his wont, eventually comes to collect on his debt, targeting the doctor's daughter (model Lily Cole). The troupe, who is joined by a mysterious outsider (Ledger), embarks through parallel worlds to rescue the girl.

I'm not sure you could make this sad story any worse, but along with starring in the Gilliam flick, Mr. Ledger was apparently, as every actor seems destined to do, also about to start working on directing his first feature film, "The Queen's Gambit," based on a novel by Walter Tevis. Oscar nominee Ellen Page had been offered the lead role of a young female chess prodigy, but any work on this has obviously ground to a halt.

And, except for any further talk about "The Dark Knight" or the possible salvaging of "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," this is hopefully the last you'll ever from me about the late Mr. Ledger. It's just not a subject I enjoy writing about, so I'm gonna move on now to much better news ...

There's a new Drive-By Truckers' album!

The world's greatest rock band, Athens, Georgia's own Drive-By Truckers, has this week released a rather epic, 19 track album called "Brighter than Creation's Dark," and though it's clearly going to take me a lot more than the two listens I've given it so far to digest it all, I can thankfully report that it's pretty damn good.

Though with that many songs it's of course all over the map, the songs this time, still primarily from Patterson Hood and the Stroke Ace Mike Cooley, are a lot more intimate than most of what appeared on "Dirty South." Bassist Shonna Tucker even steps up to pen three tracks and sing the lead on a fourth.

If you use Itunes, which I just recently started doing so I'll never in my life have to give another damn dollar to Best Buy for CDs, you can download the whole mess for like $11.

My favorite track so far is Cooley's "Self-Destructive Zones," with Hood's closer "Monument Valley" a close second. As best as I can tell, "Zones" might be an autobiographical tale about the duo's attempts to start a band in the era of grunge, and it features nuggets like this: "Caught between a generation dying from its habits, and another thinking rock and roll was new." Definitely check this one out for yourself.

The trailer for Tyler Perry's "Meet the Browns"

In what's surely much more than a coincidence, there are two black family reunion movies coming out at just about the same time fairly soon.

Martin Lawrence will surely be hamming it up as a successful talk show host who leaves Los Angeles to reunite with his family in the Deep South in Malcolm Lee's "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins." Lawrence, a very funny guy, is sorely due for a solidly funny and entertaining movie, so I'm hoping against hope that this is it.

A much better bet, however, is the rather similarly plotted offering from Tyler Perry, "Meet the Browns," set to come out in March. In it, Angela Bassett (a hearty, hearty huzzah!) plays the single mother of two who returns to Georgia from Chicago when she gets a letter informing her that the father she never knew has died. In the ensemble you'll also get Perry stage regulars David and Tamela Mann, and even former L.A. Laker Rick Fox. This being a Tyler Perry movie (which is always fine by me), expect a lot of laughing, crying and, of course, drama. Enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly bearable Thursday. Peace out.


Ian said...

You have to feel sorry for Terry. His film-making career just seems to be dogged by bad luck, despite his very obvious talent.

Let's hope the latest turn of events doesn't put him off film-making for good. He must be wondering what it is he's done to upset the powers that be that keep sabotaging his efforts.

Reel Fanatic said...

Indeed, Ian, but along with having incredibly bad luck he does seem to bring at least a little of the trouble upon himself by being very headstrong (or at least that's what I've read, which, of course, you can't always believe anyway)

DCMovieGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DCMovieGirl said...

"You won't hear anything from me, even when any definite word comes down, about what exactly killed Heath Ledger because, frankly, it's just really none of my damn business."

You know what? You're right. In my own post, I did assume what the cause was and that's just not right.

No one has confirmed what happened.

As for Ty-P I can't hate the player. Really, there should be room for all kinds of "black" movies. I just wish Kasi Lemmons got as much play. Frankly, though when it comes down to it, it's the audiences' fault.

Reel Fanatic said...

You know, DC Movie Girl, I just adored Kasi Lemmons' first two movies, but I'm extremely ashamed to say that I have yet to see "Talk to Me" ... When I saw that stat that she was the first black woman to actually direct three at least semi-major feature films, I was just stunned and really depressed

Mercurie said...

I was wondering about The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. I am guessing Terry Gilliam must really be wondering about his luck right now.

J. Marquis said...

I got the new Truckers cd yesterday. They really are one of the best bands around. My favorite cut so far is "Bob" but I'm sure I'll end up loving most of all of them.

Terry Gilliam is like a fascinating accident. One minute I'm loving his stuff (Brazil, the Fisher King, Brothers Grimm) and the next I can't stand it (Tideland, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to say I'm with you on "Tideland," Mr. Marquis .. I love most of Terry Gilliam's movies, but that one just left me scratching my head and wondering what the hell I had just seen

Bob said...

I gave up on "Tideland" half way through. Just turned it off. It pained me 'cause I love Gilliam.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts on Mr. Ledger. I have to say I'm glad they've found it wasn't a suicide or drug overdose. That's got to be of some comfort to his family and his friends. It just makes me ill to see the media try to turn him into a drug addict just because it makes the story "juicier." Rotten awful people.

Reel Fanatic said...

Amen to that, Bob ... By the way, I have been thinking about your questions about writing, and will hopefully get around to crafting a response today, so please don't think I'm just blowing it off

Anonymous said...