Adaptation

Moonstruck Nic Cage

Few names conjure up as vivid an image of wildly over-the-top, scenery chewing acting than that of Nicolas Cage. In fact, YouTube hosts multiple compilations with worn titles like “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit” featuring dozens of clips from a slew of different movies, spanning his whole thirty-year career. While it’s certainly true that watching Cage do flamboyantly odd things is quality entertainment, it’s also true—if all-too-oft forgot—that the man is a talented, legitimate actor. It’s nice to have a reminder. Here, then, are six performances where Nicolas Cage displayed subtlety and nuance:

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I was disappointed this week when Philomena was not named among the WGA Award nominees. It turns out that it wasn’t eligible (Steve Coogan and/or Jeff Pope must not be in the Writers Guild of America), nor were a number of other noteworthy films (including 12 Years a Slave and Short Term 12), which hopefully followers of the Oscar race are both aware of and share if they’re also entertainment writers. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think Philomena is falling behind. After all, it might just be the most original adapted screenplay of the year, and if originality were the primary quality for that category then Philomena would deserve to take home the Academy Award on March 2nd. How exactly adapted works are judged has never been clear, and it doesn’t help when the nominees may include sequels with purely original stories and dialogue, such as this year’s strong contender Before Midnight, as well as any films based on books, TV shows, plays and other films, including shorts by the same filmmakers that were basically like practice runs for the features. When it comes to those based on books, do the voters merit faithfulness or interpretation or clever strays from the source material? It probably isn’t the last, because otherwise past nominees like Adaptation, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and There Will Be Blood would have won for their looseness as adaptations to the point that they almost ought to have been in the original […]

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It’s got to be difficult enough to simply stand there in front of all those people and equipment and play costume make-believe. So that must go double the moment you’re asked to interact with anything that isn’t there, such as a big CGI dinosaur or any given Andy Serkis role. Worse than that, there are also times when actors have to play both sides of a conversation. Not only do they have to pretend to interact with an imaginary role – but also play that imaginary role interacting right back at them. It sounds complicated, so here are some of the best instances.

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Oh, look, Joe Wright went and directed a historically-set film based on a novel that stars Keira Knightley! I am positively shocked! This time around, Wright and Knightley are taking on no less than Tolstoy (after already going after Austen with Pride and Prejudice and McEwan with Atonement), with Wright directing his frequent muse as the eponymous character in Leo Tolstoy‘s enduring work, “Anna Karenina.” Wright’s Anna Karenina hews close to the basic story – Knightley’s Anna, a high society aristocrat, gets caught up in a consuming affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson, sporting one hell of a mustache) that has repercussions far beyond just her unsatisfying marriage to a smarmy-looking Jude Law as Alexei Karenin. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s Russian. So let’s see what Wright can do with it with the film’s first full trailer and an overly Moulin Rouge-d poster.

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Perhaps the news that Robert Downey Jr. would be taking on the role of Perry Mason in a big screen reboot should have clued us in, but the announcement that Vince Vaughn is taking a stab at his very own cinematic adaptation of a classic television series that continues to live on in syndication (and in your grandparents’ living room) is still a bit of a surprise. Are there really no original ideas left? Deadline Calabasas reports that Universal Pictures is currently developing a feature based on NBC’s 1974-80 series The Rockford Files that is shaped as a “star vehicle” for Vaughn, who will take on the role James Garner played in the original series. Screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppelman will pen the feature, and there’s no word yet on possible directors. Koppelman and Levien are certainly having a great couple of days – their script Runner Runner got the green light from New Regency just last week, with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake to star in the film about offshore gambling.

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Boiling Point

AMC’s The Walking Dead and I have a strange relationship in that I watch it but don’t particularly care for it. I can’t really tell you why I tune in every week, but it has something to do with my great love for the comic books and a desire to see horror on television, mostly regardless of quality. The books by Robert Kirkman have always had a bit of melodrama about them, but the show has often taken that to obvious, soap opera levels. “The Walking Dead” comics feature a great cast of characters with complex motivations and relationships. Many of those characters made it to the television show – well, at least characters with the same names made it in. Things have changed so drastically from comic to screen that one has to ask – when does an adaptation stop being an adaptation?

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While you’ll see that I’m giving myself a lot of leeway in the following list (one of the ten isn’t even technically a film), the general idea is that the list that follows singles out films that go beyond simple narration, but rather identify themselves as stories being told either in the universe or even at times outside of the universe. Narration to a film is like a frame to a painting, and while all frames hold their painting in place, there are some that do it with a little more style than others. These are some of my favorites.

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It’s not often that word of a large-scale adaptation of an existing theatrical property thrills me to my absolute core, but I am willing to forget all the weird Les Miserables Starring Country Pop Star Taylor Swift talk if this next project works out as well as it should. Word about a cinematic adaptation of the Tony and Grammy-winning hit musical Jersey Boys (originally produced by Dodger Theatricals, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, directed by Des McAnuff, with music by Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe) has been brewing for awhile, and it’s such a welcome concept for a film that I might actually be dancing in my chair right now. The musical centers on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and their incredible rise to fame in the 1960s, and it’s one of those rare musicals that deserves all the heaping and glittery praise it has received. Dancing in the aisles? Check. Smiling from ear to ear? Drama laced in with a great story and fantastic music? Check, check, check! In case it’s not yet readily apparent, I love this musical. It’s my favorite musical. The way people feel about Les Miz? That’s how I feel about Jersey Boys. So the news that two-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter John Logan has been picked to adapt the film has excited me so much that I’ve very nearly passed out six times while writing this.

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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Robert Levin takes aim at the popular hobby of hating Nic Cage and asks that we appreciate great trash.

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The true-ish story of Chuck Barris, who wrote pop songs, hosted games shows, and killed people for a living. (And the movie where Michael Cera tries to convince a girl his penis tastes like strawberry).

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Attention, New York Rejects! In anticipation of this weekend’s release of Where The Wild Things Are, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has created the first ever retrospective of Spike Jonze’s work. Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years.

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With this weekend’s release of Angels & Demons, Culture Warrior looks at what types of books make good movies and why.

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The Weinstein Co. has just optioned one of her better biographies, “Get Happy – The Life of Judy Garland” by Gerald Clarke. The book is a pretty detailed look at the singer and actress’ life and loves, chronicling her early years up to her dying day in 1969.

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Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner at Comic-Con

Our very own Cole Abaius sits down with Stephenie Meyer, Catherine Hardwicke, Robert Pattinson from Twilight. No, he didn’t make a fool of himself. That bad.

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Badass for Hire

New Line films have recently optioned the screenplay “Dan Mintner: Bad Ass for Hire” by writer Chad Kultgen (Average American Male).

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Taking Pelham 123

Now Denzel Washington brings us the latest in a long line of imitative films, Die Hard, but on a Subway!

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Twilight Movie

Although news of Twilight has swept across the internet, there are many still out there who have no idea what this movie could possibly be. So, in order to get people up to speed, we here at FSR are pleased to offer an introduction to what could possibly be the next big adaptation.

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We’ve got a few copies of Steve Niles’ graphic novel adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic story that inspired the upcoming Will Smith flick ‘I Am Legend’. All you have to do is play a little game…

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Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp both equate it to some good, old school horror, but they don’t talk much about the song-and-dance. I wonder if this is intentional on the part of Paramount’s marketing department.

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