Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Terry Gilliam in Lost in La Mancha

The release of any Terry Gilliam film is a big deal. More so than any living filmmaker of lauded repute, Gilliam’s work has been unusually burdened by outsized circumstances that render it astonishing that he’s even accomplished the work he has, from Universal’s re-cutting of Brazil to his lead actor dying during the production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to his doomed “Don Quixote” project, documented in the film Lost in La Mancha. Not since Orson Welles (who famously pursued his own uncompleted Quixote film) has a respected filmmaker had such an endlessly difficult time bringing his ideas to screen. That makes the announcement of a late summer release date for Gilliam’s newest feature, The Zero Theorem, all the more remarkable. The film looks like prime Gilliam territory, with its dystopic representation of a certain future burdened by blinding consumerism and Kafka-esque bureaucracy reminiscent of the director’s most notorious battle for artistic autonomy, 1985’s Brazil. As notable as Gilliam’s work is for its visual inventiveness, its wry humor and its trenchant political themes, Gilliam’s career is just as famous for the unceasing uphill battle through which his inimitable filmmaking is achieved. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only American member of Monty Python who is actually no longer American.



The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t a remake. Well, not exactly. It definitely isn’t a remake of the other movie titled The Wolf of Wall Street, from 1929, which stars George Bancroft as a man who gets rich in the copper trade and then loses it all through a misunderstanding with his partner, whom he believes is having an affair with his wife. That sounds like something Martin Scorsese would make, or something we’d want to watch after seeing the latest work by him. Unfortunately, the old film is almost entirely lost. Just a little bit of surviving montage material can be exclusively found on a DVD called Unseen Cinema. WoWS is also not a remake of Scorsese’s early short film It’s Not Just You, Murray!, which I posted yesterday and called a template for this new feature. The true story that WoWS is based on has been made into a movie before, though, and you can read about that and 11 other titles I recommend you check out after you’ve seen Scorsese’s latest. As always, the following list may contain SPOILERS for the plot of WoWS, as it is intended to be a discussion of the new movie’s plot points as well as similar precursors and earlier works from people involved.


singing ringing tree

After all the thrill and adventure of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re going to wish there was more to watch. Well, there is, only it’s not necessarily more of The Desolation of Smaug (not until the extended editions on video, anyway). Instead, it’s other movies that I’ve selected as necessary viewing for those who’ve seen the new Hobbit movie. It doesn’t matter if you liked Smaug or not, because many of these titles are preferred predecessors and alternatives, anyway. Others consist of early movies starring prominent members of the cast or just movies that I was personally reminded of and have now made the excuse to share. From the very well known to the very obscure, the long and the short, there’s bound to be at least one title here for you to enjoy in however much time you have leftover following another lengthy trip to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson. This weekend’s list includes 13 titles, one for each of the 13 dwarves in the movie — though not every selection is necessarily tied to a dwarf. That was just my idea of being clever, plus the fact that such a long movie with a lot going on naturally got me thinking of more movies than usual. Check out my recommendations below and share any others you believe are relevant to mention. There are plot SPOILERS for Smaug after the jump, of course, since many of these picks are relevant to various parts of the movie.



Biopics are always praised for their lead actor or actress’ realistic or unique portrayal of the subject, but what of the supporting cast? Sure, we do recognize their efforts, they might even receive an Academy Award, but rarely are they honored with something as prestigious as an online comedy list. It’s time to rectify that. Here are some of the more talented, memorable, or uncanny portrayals of people who were important enough to be featured in a movie, but not important enough for that movie to be about them.


For All Mankind

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.


10 Classic Movies That Were Originally Hated

When you boil it all down, it’s all subjective. Movie critics are really just people who are better at communicating their opinions clearly, but they aren’t perfect all of the time. Nor are they psychics in any way. Sometimes time (and audiences) won’t going to agree with them, and that’s okay. As the following ten movies show us, there are times when a film isn’t an instant classic. Some require a bit more time to be broken in. Today’s trash might be tomorrow’s classic.



This week, in place of the usual triptych of found items and a T-Shirt of the Week, Merch Hunter is dedicated entirely to the mighty tee, the single most versatile member of the wardrobe family. Why 12? Well, science has proven that 12 is the magic number in terms of tee ownership (don’t look it up, it was published in a science journal you probably won’t know of…), allowing the owner to rotate nicely across two weeks, while taking a three day slot for whichever design is the Featured of the Week. After a few months of this rotation, throw in a few wild cards, thanks to supplemental purchase, and you’ll have a winning formula for T-shirt success. And yes, it really should be that mathematical. I seriously had to resist the urge to just make a list of the 100 Star Wars T-Shirts You Need To Own Now, but that will no doubt appear in the future, given how many incredibly impressive designs there are out there (and hardly any of them lining George Lucas’s pocket). For once, my inane wafflings are not needed at all to sell the inclusions below, just look at the pictures and see how many of them you can resist. I’d advise buying them all obviously: but try to only wear one at a time.



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.



Despite being the least efficient mode of transportation available today, people can’t get enough to these damned amusement park rides. I myself enjoy being flung around by steel monsters quite a bit, but truth be told I much prefer rides as they are depicted in films. The reason for this is simple: since they aren’t going to build a whole amusement park ride just for the film they go find one that already exists, then they proceed to make it look 10 times more awesome than it really is by adding cool elements or characters to it. The result is a ride that is just too fun to exist. The following are those rides that set the bar up high, as well as their less-awesome real world equivalents.


The Rum Diary

Getting The Rum Diary to both page and screen has been a real trip. Hunter S. Thompson wrote the book back in the 1960s, chronicling his adventures writin’ and boozin’ and livin’ down in Puerto Rico (as told through the eyes of his alter-ego “Paul Kemp”), but it was not published until 1998. A film adaptation has been kicked around since 2000, with the film ultimately lensing in 2009, though the film won’t be released until later this year. Johnny Depp plays Kemp in the film, marking Depp’s second attempt at playing Thompson (or, more accurately, a Thompson-based character from the author’s own work), after turning in one of his best performances as the gonzo journalist in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998. Depp again takes on his Thompson twang for another dip into the life of the icon. This time, drugs have been swapped for rum, the deserts of Vegas for the oceans of Puerto Rico. The Thompson follies will likely not abate, however. The film also stars Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, and Amaury Nolasco. Kick back, take a sip, and check out the trailer after the break.



This Week in Blu-ray we take a look at some new educational material from the BBC in the form of Human Planet, but it’s not without some high drama. We also take a walk with Terry Gilliam through the mind of Hunter S. Thompson. Again, not without some high drama. And there’s a quick sidestep into the world of South Park. High drama ensues. And finally there’s no high drama in the crime thriller Blood Out, not to be confused with the far better Brian De Palma film Blow Out, which also streets this week. It’s a lot of drama and a few laughs this week as we comb through the best and worst of this week’s Blu-ray releases. Human Planet There will be a much more in-depth review of this title coming soon, as I have so much to say about what the BBC has done with Human Planet. For now lets work with the short version. Narrated by John Hurt, Human Planet takes the idea of filming our big blue planet in all the glory of high definition and combines it with the study of man. How do we, the only animal to inhabit every terrain on terra firma, interact with the abundance of nature that surrounds us at every turn? From the wild rivers to the deep oceans to the sky-reaching concrete and steel cities we’ve erected from her upper crust, humanity has a unique relationship with our home planet. And this documentary series captures it brilliantly. […]



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


Hold Onto Your Breakfast. It's the Seven Greatest Cinematic Puking Scenes.

Hold onto your breakfast. With Neil at Sundance, I can do whatever I want with the site, and I’ve decided to keep it classy by presenting this list of the Best Cinematical Barf Scenes.



Another brief and confusing week for the Blu-ray Report, my friends. Once again I’ve been stuck waiting on review material, sifting through useless extras and pounding away at the eggnog.



We have put together this list of must-see films before any Vegas trip. Trust me, it will keep you out of trouble.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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