Monday, March 24, 2008

Whatever happened to David O. Russell?

The last time I ever remember seeing or hearing about director David O. Russell was when that clip of him going nuts on poor Lily Tomlin hit YouTube, so he's definitely in need of a new gig to wipe away that memory. And now, in what would be - rather amazingly - his first feature film in five years, that's taking shape in the form of "Nailed."

And speaking of "I (heart) Huckabees," the flick which generated that infamous clip, it fits for me in that odd category of movies that I "appreciate" rather than "like." Though I think I have an idea of what he was going for there, I'd still much rather see flicks that fall into the latter category. But he did also make two movies I love in "Three Kings" and "Flirting with Disaster," so any news of a Russell comeback is good news to me.

And, believe it or not, he's making that comeback with a romantic comedy co-written with Kristen Gore (yes, the daughter of that man obsessed with Manbearpig.) I had originally heard it would be based on Gore's Capitol Hill chick lit novel "Sammy's Hill," but the flick - now called "Nailed" - seems to have become a little more interesting (with quite a cast developing too.)

Catherine Keener (hearty huzzah!), James Marsden and Tracy Morgan are about to join the already-announced Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel.

In what's now described as a D.C. satire (set for release in 2009), Biel plays Alice, a waitress who starts behaving erratically (in the form of "wild, sexual urges" according to the IMDB) after getting shot in the head by a nail. Determined to fight for better health care, she heads to Washington, where she (of course) falls for a congressman (Gyllenhaal) who says he will fight for her cause. Marsden will her hometown boyfriend, Keener will play a Congresswomen, and Morgan will most likely play an injured compatriot of Alice's.

That all sounds more than a bit meh to me, but if it's sharp enough satire it just might work. Besides, a return by David O. Russell in just about any form is welcome to me. Now, if he can just manage to stay on his meds this time ...

Brewer on the comeback trail too

It's really hard to exaggerate how much I love Craig Brewer's movie "Hustle & Flow." I've probably seen it 10 times by now, and in it's own odd way, it never fails to be inspiring and entertaining.

On the flip side, I have almost as negative a feeling for Brewer's second feature flick, "Black Snake Moan." I've seen it twice now (just to see if I had somehow missed something the first time - I didn't), and I still can't tell what in the world he was going for with that more than slightly offensive mess.

I had heard he was going to rebound with what would be a surefire hit - a music biopic (I know there are too many of those already, but bear with me) about the black country singer Charley Pride, to star the great Terrence Howard, but it would seem that's dead for now.

Instead, Brewer has signed on to work with someone else script, in this case "Sopranos" scribe Michael Caleo, for an adaptation of Columbia professor Sudhir Venkatesh's book "Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets." Even if didn't come directly from the mind of Mr. Brewer, it sounds right up his alley.

The book apparently recounts years that Ventakesh spent with a crack-dealing gang in Chicago for a research project. After befriending the Black Kings, he found a close-knit group whose corporate culture was much like that of a successful legitimate business, and was eventually given the job of calling the shots of the criminal enterprise for a day.

Sounds pretty cool to me, and if I may digress a bit, Terrence Howard (who indeed seems to work all the time) appears to have landed the role that will win him the Oscar he surely deserved for "Hustle & Flow." In a 2009 flick titled "The Crusaders," which was written by former "West Wing" scribe Lawrence O'Donnell, he'll play Thurgood Marshall in the story of the drive to outlaw segregation in the U.S.

But getting back to Mr. Brewer, I'm happy to see him getting this rather cool-sounding project, and hoping for a big comeback from the dreck that was "Black Snake Moan." I'll leave you today with this video for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," which will hopefully brighten up everyone's Monday morning just a bit. Peace out.


Chalupa said...

I saw Sudhir Venkatesh's as a guest on The Daily Show. His book seemed pretty interesting.

Bob said...

It's funny because I found I "appreciated" "Flirting with Disaster" and liked "I Heart Huckabees." As for Lily Tomlin, she was goading him repeatedly. I'm not defending his explosive reaction at all, but she knows better than to belittle a director on his set, which is what it seemed to me she was doing.
I have to agree that the new one does sound "meh." Why not just make a movie about Manbearpig?
Also, I saw "Run Fatboy Run" at a sneak preview and I posted a review of it.
Have a good one!

J. Marquis said...

For me, "Huckabees" falls into the category of movies I dislike a lot...

Fletch said...

I'm mixed up with you here. I love Huckabees (any movie that starts with 10 seconds of profanity is starting off right in my book), but only appreciate Hustle & Flow as a work of unintentional comedy. Sure, you can tell that hard work was put into it, but I found it mostly laughable.

Three Kings, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. Asshole or not, Russell is a talented filmmaker and I'll be in line for whatever comes next.

Reel Fanatic said...

We definitely agree at least on "Three Kings," Fletch .. I know a lot of people who agree with you on "Hustle & Flow," but try as I might, I just can't see it that way ... The potential for unintentional comedy is certainly there, but the solid performances throughout (especially by Howard and Taraji Henson as Shug) just make it a real winner for me

Anonymous said...

Clooney punched him out on the set of Three Kings. Tomlin cussed him out on the set of Huckabees. Caan, Gil and and what's-her-name all just told him to screw off and walked off the set of Nailed. And those are only three of O'Russell's typical low wattage flicks.

See a pattern there? All that similar stuff happening over the years wasn't exactly because there's any mysterious vast conspiracy against some poor innocent Irish director.

It's because he's a rude, talentless little twerp. Hollywood needs to ban the bum, plain and simple.

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