Saturday, March 28, 2009

"The Office" hits the big screen? Well, close enough for me

Having returned from a great week driving around to my favorite spots in the Southeast, please indulge me in a brief plug for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis' Soulsville neighborhood.

I had heard they opened such a glorious thing in 2003, but had resisted going for a long time simply because it's about a nine-hour drive from my house. Well, having finally given in, I'm certainly glad I did. If you like old soul music (and if you don't, why the heck not?), this is really a must-see.

When it comes to museums, I can normally only spend an hour to 90 minutes tops before I have to hit the streets again. Without knowing it (since, along with not owning a cell phone, I also don't bother with a watch), however, I spent more than four hours at this great museum built where the original Stax studio once stood and was never bored (though, knowing all too well how that story ends, I just had to skip the portion dedicated to the death of Otis Redding because it's just too damn depressing to hear again.) As a bonus, all within walking distance are the National Civil Rights Museum (located, for rather equally depressing and obvious reasons, at the Lorraine Motel), Beale Street and the Four-Way Restaurant, where I can attest they serve just about the finest version of soul food you can find anywhere.

But enough of that. As promised, here today it is indeed about what sounds a lot like as close as you can come to the UK version of "The Office" coming back to life. Though veryfunnyman Ricky Gervais has the first movie he co-wrote and co-directed, "This Side of the Truth," coming to theaters in September, what he's cooking up after that will mark a reunion with "Office" writing and directing partner Stephen Merchant.

And if you've watched "Extras," the post-"Office" series the duo came up with for HBO, you know that Mr. Merchant is an extremely funny dude in his own right. The two of them just mine misery for the finest brand of comedy, like in that completely useless "agent" that Merchant played in "Extras."

For their new project, Gervais and Merchant are returning to the working world, this time with a flick tentatively titled "The Men from the Pru," which is a coming-of-age tale about a group of men selling insurance door-to-door in the 1970s. Two interesting tidbits: This was originally set to be a series for BBC2 before the network passed, and the movie is set in Reading, where Gervais grew up. Just for a little more enticement, here's a quote from Gervais about it that appeared in the UK's Observer:

"Its a period piece for a couple of reasons. We wanted to show, for instance, that the sexual revolution was only really going on in Carnaby Street. Not Swindon. Not Reading."

This will be the second U.K. production to come out of the Sony International Motion Picture Production Group, with the first being based on the best book I've read in the past five years or so (though I'm about to start on "Let the Right One In," so that may change.) "The Damned United" (not, apparently, "The Damned Utd," like the book) just came out in the UK and will hopefully come to a theater somewhere near my little corner of the world very soon. It stars Michael Sheen as the British football manager Brian Clough, who had many successes in his life and at least one grand failure captured here, the 44 days he spent as manager of Leeds United. The novel is both an amazing piece of historical fiction by David Peace and an extremely funny and fast read. Pick it up if you can.

And I'll leave you today with something that may have already appeared all over the place in the past week, but is still very, very dear to my heart. "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak was easily my favorite book as a tyke, so I obviously can't wait to see what Spike Jonze has come up with in bringing it to the big screen (assuming it finally does get there in October or so.)

If you go see "Monsters Vs. Aliens" today, which I'm going to do in spite of the extremely mixed reviews because - like Lorelai Gilmore - I like watching all kinds of movies, good, bad and indifferent, you'll probably get to see this trailer writ much bigger, but just in case you don't, here it is. I just love that shot of Max peeking around the corner in his wild thing costume, but there's a lot more to enjoy in this (including most of a great song by the Arcade Fire.) Peace out.


Bob said...

You know when I saw the headline I was very intrigued. Then when I saw you were talking about the original version I became manically stoked. Gervais and Merchant together again! Those two are an unstoppable force. I can't wait!

Reel Fanatic said...

If you haven't seen Extras, Bob, I recommend it very highly ... The cameos get to be a bit much, but the three main characters (Gervais, Merchant and Gervais' sidekick, played by the simply stunning Ashley Jensen) are all a riot

Bob said...

Oh, I'm a huge "Extras" fan! I think Merchant was actually even funnier on that than Gervais. One of the few shows where big guest stars worked every time.

"I've seen everything. I've seen it all." - Patrick Stewart

timatstax said...

So glad you liked the Stax Museum!I work there and I notice something new every single day that I hadn't noticed before. Tell all of your readers to check out and come see us!

Tim Sampson

Mercurie said...

Having seen the entire run of the original Office and then Extras, I have to say i am looking forward to The Men from the Pru. I am thinking it has to be good.

Cullen said...

I so want to know what you thought of Monsters vs. Aliens. Me and the kids loved it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm afraid I was completely the wrong audience for that one, Cullen, because I'm afraid I didn't care for it much at all ... The kids all around me clearly did, as did many of their adult escorts, but I was just bored with the story from the start, and I thought the 3-D effect, in this case, just added very little to the movie's overall feel .. But like I said, I know I'm certainly in the minority on this one