June 29, 2006

Of Birds and "Boer"dom

Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Ian McKellan are starring in "The Colossus," an adaptation of Ann Harries' novel, Manly Pursuits. Set against the backdrop of the Boer War, Firth plays an ornithologist hired to transport 500 birds to South Africa where an ailing colonist (McKellan) believes his health can only be restored by the sound of an English songbird. Along the way, Firth's character falls for a political activist (Weisz) who is trying to avert the impending war. Authors Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling apparently factor into the book's cast of characters, but no word on whether they'll make it into the movie. Filming begins this fall. -- Amy

Own a Piece of Pemberley!

Roof slates from the estate that was supposed to belong to Mr. Darcy in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice miniseries may be sold as souvenirs to help pay for the building's restoration. -- Amy


June 28, 2006

"She Has QUITE a Reputation!"

Mon Dieu! The new feature length trailer for Marie Antoinette is here. --Kim

Forget Nicole and Keith...

Venice, Italy -- Patricia Arquette and her random, kilt-wearing hubby (actor Thomas Jane) get the Romancing the Tome thumbs' up for wedding of the week. It's like a Merchant/Ivory film in the making! (I wonder if Patricia's transvestite bro, Alexis, was maid of honor?) -- Amy

Casting Couch: Mysteries of Pittsburgh Revealed!

Last week we got a sneak peek at casting picks for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This week we hear that Sienna Miller (yawn), Max Minghella, and Maggie Gyllenhaal's baby daddy Peter Sarsgaard will star in Chabon's first novel Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Rawston Thurber (Dodgeball??) will direct. Minghella will play Art Bechstein, the son of a money launderer who becomes embroiled in a love triangle with Miller and Sarsgaard's characters. Mysteries is often thought to be loosely autobiographical with some readers fixating on Art's bisexuality. You can make up your own mind: Read Chabon's fascinating NYRB essay about writing Mysteries here. More on the adaptation here. --Kim

Something Adapted This Way Comes

Variety reports that Sean Bean (pictured) and Tilda Swinton will star in "Come Like Shadows," an adaptation of Macbeth described as "a period piece designed for a contemporary audience." The film will be set in Scotland and directed by The Jacket's John Maybury. Steven Soderbergh is the executive producer. Great casting choices, if you ask me -- Bean played Macbeth on the London stage in 2002 in a performance several reviews described as "raunchy." Hmmm. Incidentally, my friend, Meg, just saw the Scottish play performed in Central Park, with none other than Jennifer Ehle (P&P's Elizabeth Bennett) as Lady Macbeth. Here's what she had to say about it.

Also filmbound: Marley & Me, John Grogan's uber-bestselling account of 13 years spent with a very bad dog. -- Amy

June 27, 2006

How the West was Done

HBO may be washing their hands of one of my favorite series on television, Deadwood, but at least the studio's film peeps still have "west" on their compass. The Book Standard reports that HBO films is joining forces with Dick Wolf (he of the Law & Order epidemic) to adapt the bestselling nonfiction book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown. -- Amy

Cowboy Classic?

"Well, I'll tell you the truth. I ain't no real cowboy, but I'm a hell of a stud." -- Joe Buck, Midnight Cowboy

It only just dawned on me this weekend while watching Midnight Cowboy for the second time in my life that it's actually an adaptation of a novel by James Leo Herlihy. While I'm not much for reading a novel after seeing the film version, I may make an exception for this one. Not exactly your conventional "buddy picture," it's the account of a naive male prostitute who meets both rotten luck and, ultimately, a best friend on the unsavory streets of New York City. In the film, Jon "Shiloh's grandpappy" Voight plays the wannabe cowpoke (no pun intended), while Dustin Hoffman is his down-at-heel sidekick, "Ratso" Rizzo. Has anyone out there read Midnight Cowboy or any of Herlihy's other novels? Just curious. -- Amy

Tea For Two

Although Kim and I continue to debate the merits of downtown Los Angeles, we're both in agreement that high tea at the Millenium Biltmore hotel is a bright spot in the metropolitan melange. We partook of the "Empress Afternoon Tea" at the hotel's Rendezvous Court on Friday afternoon, and here's how it measured up. -- Amy

Ratings scale: One sugar cube = tepid; Five sugar cubes = tea-rrific

TEA: Although the selection was limited, we both enjoyed our tea choices. Following a glass of champagne each, we forgot to make note of exactly which tea we ordered. Afterwards, the sugar buzz had zapped our memory completely. So excuse the lack of specifics.
Rating: Four sugar cubes

SANDWICHES: Egg salad, smoked salmon, cucumber and ham & cheese. Though not exactly bowled over by originality, we wouldn't have wanted anything too avant-garde. The classics never disappoint.
Rating: Five sugar cubes

SCONES: We had to wait for a new batch of scones to come out of the oven, but it was worth the wait. Though preciously diminutive, we were generously allowed five, AND offered more after we polished them off. (We had enough discipline to decline extras.)
Rating: Five sugar cubes

SWEETS: Believe it or not, we're often put off by afternoon tea services that offer too many sweets. (Because after gorging on sandwiches and scones, one still feels obligated to eat every last delectable dessert, thus feeling like a penitent porker by the time one is finished.) In this case, the Biltmore wisely kept the dessert plate to an appropriate three items per person: White chocolate mousse topped with fresh fruit in a crisp, edible cup, a lemon bar topped with slivered almonds and, the chaser -- a chocolate truffle.
Rating: Four sugar cubes

ATOMOSPHERE: The room itself was beautiful: High, intricately painted ceilings with wooden beams, a fountain and a grand staircase leading to the second floor. There was no harpist (but we certainly survived without a flourising rendition of the Titanic theme song...) On the downside, the hotel lobby restroom was appallingly institutional (read: high school lavatory). Still, the hotel has loads of cool history. There are old black and white photos from Academy Award ceremonies of yore, and legend has it, the Black Dahlia's ghost still lurks in the lobby. (A hotel doorman was the last person to see Elizabeth Short alive.)
Kim found the photo of a dapper Jimmy Stewart accepting an Academy Award for Philadelphia Story particularly swoon-worthy.
Rating: Four sugar cubes

June 22, 2006

Keira Sticks With Her Blokes...

I've been known to fall for a limey or two in my day (a byproduct of my love for Masterpiece Theater and for men who start sentences with "I say,...." spell color with a "u" and have a vocab that includes the word "serviette.") The accent, as we all know, is, in a word, hot. (I even know a dude from New Jersey who faked a British accent to get a date with my friend. It worked!) Conversely, the American accent doesn't have the same "kiss me, you fool!" effect for the English ladies -- at least not for Keira Knightley, who tells In Style magazine that she prefers dating Brits to Yanks. Knightley, who is still dating her P&P co-star, Rupert Friend (Mr. Wickham), says she prefers guys who smell like Guiness to "vain" American men who put too much effort into their appearance. Clearly, Miss Knightley has not ventured far enough into our great country to find the real buzzards. -- Amy

June 21, 2006

Casting Update: More Helpings for the "Feast"

Radha Mitchell (who played Mrs. J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland and a seriously freaked out mom in Silent Hill) joins Greg Kinnear and Morgan Freeman in the adaptation of Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love. -- Amy

June 20, 2006

A "Period" Pause...

Ioan Gruffudd looks wholly unsure, nay, almost "wigged-out" as he and a stylist stare skeptically at the hair piece he is to wear as abolitionist Wilber Wilberforce in the forthcoming Amazing Grace. He seems to have regained his smiley composure once a cravat completes his look. -- Amy

photos courtesy of ioanonline.com

Romancing the Tomb

While not exactly a tribute site, Romancing the Tome did inspire my friend Brad to spawn his new zombie blog Romancing the Tomb. --Kim

Natalie Portman's Amazing Adventures

Natalie Portman "is a strong likelihood for the part of Rosa" in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, reveals the book's author Michael Chabon on his blog. Also it looks like the marvelous party with Salvador Dali will make it into the movie (yay!), but the scene at the ruins of the World's Fair got the axe (ouch!). --Kim

Googling Shakespeare

"And thus I search it with a sovereign kiss." -- Two Gentlemen of Verona

After pulling that whole "censoring themselves in China" thing, it didn't take long for Google to worm their way back into my heart, especially now that I've found their Shakespeare search site. It lets you canvas the bard's plays for quotes on any subject imaginable (Forsooth, how this technology might have saved my ass 10 years ago as an undergrad English major, fumbling through the index of that honkin' Riverside Shakespeare anthology....) -- Amy

June 19, 2006

Way East of the Mark

I read John Steinbeck's East of Eden for the first time a few months ago and loved it. Great characters, terrific backdrop, enticing plot twists, wicked she-bitch from hell... So I decided to watch the movie version over the weekend. Wasn't it supposed to be a classic?

As I waited through the boring, five-minute musical overture of waves hitting against a rocky coast (not smart enough to hit fast-forward until I'd viewed most of this vast nothing-ness) I should have taken it as a sign for the boredom to come. But no...I saw "James Dean" and "directed by Elia Kazan" in the credits and waited with tingly anticipation.

Of course, I knew I wouldn't get a complete retelling of the epic novel. After all, it spans three generations and is simply too long to fit into a two-hour movie. Still, I figured that even if they began the story with Cal and Aron (generation three) there would still be enough juicy stuff to make for a good flick.

I was disappointed right away when I realized that one of my favorite characters from the novel (the Chinese cook, Lee, who is in many ways the voice of wisdom in the tale) isn't even represented in the movie. "Oh well, at least I have Cathy," I thought. But sadly, I didn't have Cathy...at least, not the way Steinbeck depicted her. Instead of being pure evil -- the book's symbol for satan, she was just sort of boring and weak and occasionally even downright tender with her grown sons. Did Kazan even read the book??!!

I'd say 80 percent of the movie has pretty much nil to do with the important elements of the novel (Where in the book did Cal climb down off a ferris wheel or swing from the rafters of a gym????). Except for James Dean (Cal), who offers the one semi-captivating portrayal, this book is trying and tedious. I am beside myself with guilt for making my boyfriend watch it with the constant disclaimers, "I think it should get more exciting...".

In the novel, there is this long-running debate between three of the characters (including the MIA Lee) about biblical semantics regarding free will in the Cain and Abel story of Genesis. The last deathbed scene of the book brings this discussion full circle. Naturally, the movie didn't even attempt to take on this level of profundity and instead ended with a really lame substitute that left me utterly aghast at its stupidity.

In summation, I feel like I could direct finger puppets to create a better adaptation than this one.

Incidentally, however, I just realized there is a 1981 miniseries version of the book starring Bruce Boxleitner, Lloyd Bridges and Jane Seymour (?!?!) as Cathy Trask. This version does include Lee and won two Golden Globes, so maybe it's worth checking out. Can anyone recommend it? -- Amy

June 15, 2006

Shadow of the Wind

Having just read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, I couldn't help but wonder if it's been optioned for a film yet. Surprisingly, here's what the author had to say about seeing his work adapted for the big screen in a Q&A at barnes&noble.com:

B&N.com: There is talk of a movie based on The Shadow of the Wind: rumors about whether or not the rights are up for sale, speculation about whether it will be filmed in Hollywood or in Spain, and questions as to whether you, being both an author and screenwriter, would allow others to write the screenplay. What's your view? What would your choice be?

CRZ: Since I have some experience in this area, I am especially cautious regarding the possibility of a film adaptation. If it is to happen, it will be because I feel the right elements are brought together and I'm persuaded that the adventure is worth a try. But at any rate this is not a priority for me at all. I think it is good that novels stay novels, and that there's no need at all for everything to become a movie, a TV show, a video game, a kiddie meal, or a licensed toy of the month. Nothing can tell a story, convey a world, and render characters with the intensity, depth, and magic that literature allows. The Shadow of the Wind will be always first and foremost a book, and proudly so.

Guess we shouldn't hold our breath for a movie version, however, it won't deter me from casting Diego Luna as the protagonist, Daniel -- at least in my imagination. -- Amy

June 14, 2006

Dickens...Sort Of

I realize this blog has reached new lows when the Garfield sequel merits a post. However, I did a double-take when I realized the film's subtitle is "A Tale of Two Kitties." Apparently, this one's set in the UK, where that creepy CGI version of the bulgy-eyed, lasagna-loving feline stumbles across a dopey-looking cat who looks exactly like him. I'm not sure how much this flick actually mimics the saga of Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, but somehow I suspect that borrowing a Dickensian plot isn't going to help raise this movie from the rank depths of crappiness. -- Amy

June 13, 2006

Enimem Has Gun, Will Travel

I'd heard Eminem was shopping around to find just the right script for his next feature film. Variety now reports that the Detroit rapper is set to star as bounty hunter Paladin in an adaptation of the 1950's CBS series "Have Gun Will Travel." (Remember the kids in the '80s classic Stand by Me singing the theme song?) Have Gun Will Travel is also the title of a book about the record label Death Row Records. (I know that we're all about Darcy and Horatio around here, but strangely enough I have a thing for Eminem too, so I couldn't resist.) --Kim

June 12, 2006

Murder by Numbers

Sometimes I hate Southern California for its lack of decent history. Sure there are some missions (yawn) and Hollywood Schmollywood, but when it comes to decades-old, ghost-in-the-graveyard caliber lore, Los Angeles (the strip-mall center of the universe) comes up desperately short.

Or so I thought. On Saturday, I had the pleasure of hitching a ride on the 1947 Project's most recent Crime Bus Tour: The Nightmares of Bunker Hill. Donning period costume, a genuine passion for the historical macabre and a healthy sense of humor, Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak (pictured) regaled 40 passengers with a century's worth of mostly obscure crime stories centered in and around downtown Los Angeles.

For five hours we toured dozens of sites of highly unusual crimes and accidents, some gruesome, some downright hilarious. Sadly, most of the crime scenes in question have been torn down and rebuilt beyond recognition, but our intrepid guides had compiled a DVD of historical photographs that we could reference via TV monitors on the bus. They also read contemporary police and newspaper reports of the incidents which proved extremely entertaining if not always politically correct. I applaud Cooper and Marsak for sleuthing to unearth loads of intrigue and drama under L.A.'s disgustingly stuccoed facade.

For more info on the 1947 Project's upcoming tours (there's a Pasadena tour in the works for July) as well as a Black Dahlia tour later this year, check out www.1947project.com. Or, check here to peruse some of the more infamous crime stories and photographs . -- Amy

June 8, 2006

Jane does "Jazz Hands"

Buckeyes rejoice! The Ohio Light Opera in Wooster, Ohio is staging the world premiere of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice: The Musical!

Written by Amanda Jacobs and Lindsay Baker, the show will incorporate both the world of Jane Austen and the world of the Bennet sisters as Jane interacts with the characters she's created. Show dates, ticket info and a more detailed synopisis here. In the unlikely chance you happen to be visiting the thriving metropolis of Wooster next month, check it out. -- Amy

Some Pig....

But will it be "Some Movie?" Here's a trailer for the live-action version of E.B. White's classic, Charlotte's Web, starring Dakota Fanning as Fern and Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. (It'll be out at Christmas.) Judging from the trailer, it's got some fairly obnoxious moments. Call me crazy, but I prefer the 1973 animated version, with Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat crooning "A fair is a veritable smorgasbord (orgasbord, orgasbord...)." -- Amy

June 6, 2006

Blockbuster Secrets

What separates a good literary adaptation (oh, let's say "To Kill a Mockingbird") from a bad one (oh, let's say "The Cat in the Hat")? I'm way too lazy-minded to offer up a lengthy pedantic analysis. Luckily, the Guardian's Mark Lawson is not. -- Amy

June 5, 2006

Brits and Yanks Battle It Out Over Boleyn

The latest issue of Film Comment reports that here, there, and everywhere actress Keira Knightley will play Anne Boleyn in the second adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's novel The Other Boleyn Girl (slated for '07), but apparently there's more to the story. American actresses Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman may play the two Boleyn sisters and Brits aren't happy about it, says London's Daily Mail. Justin Chadwick (Bleak House) will direct.--Kim