I’ve got those midweek movie news blues

Leonardo DiCaprio* It’s not really new news and I even posted about it before, but Mike Fleming has returned to the possibility that Leonardo DiCaprio may eventually be undertaking the role of John D. MacDonald’s great gumshoe, Travis McGee. However, there’s more this time around. If DiCaprio strikes a lot of us as a counter-intuitive pick for the laid-back, heroic tough guy, the choice of possible director seems even stranger: Oliver Stone. Stone’s often hyperactive style simply strikes me as wrong, unless he can turn himself into Howard Hawks or Clint Eastwood or someone more in that vein.

Still, my discomfort is nothing compared to Drew McWeeney, who is obviously a huge, huge fan of the books and who read a script that he was none too fond of — though it’s been so long since I’ve read the books that I’m so sure why introducing McGee on a surfboard is all that terrible. However, I do remember McGee as being more a fishing-with-his-buddy-Meyer-while sipping-whiskey kind of a guy. By the way, if they don’t cast Paul Giamatti as Meyer, the world just doesn’t really make any sense.

* If some people are made nauseous by the camera work in the Bourne movies, how many more will be made ill if the approach is set in some guy’s bloodstream and in James Cameron-style immersive 3-D? It appears we may be finding out because director Paul Greengrass, whose high-budgetted “Green Zone” has been a commercial and critical disappointment, is “in talks” to be the director on the Cameron-produced 3-D remake of “Fantastic Voyage.” I’m thinking about buying shares in whoever manufactures Dramamine.

* Screenwriters, playwrights, aspiring TV scribes — are you ready for Script Frenzy? I just found out about it. Remember, there are only thirty days in April and the goal is 100 pages.

* Big news for this movie mad, West L.A. bred Bruin boy. Regency chain has purchased the endangered, historic twin single-screen movie theaters that anchor UCLA-adjacent Westwood Village, the appropriately named Fox Village and Bruin theaters. The chain recently let go of an important neighborhood theater a couple of miles east which was turned into a triplex back in the eighties or early nineties, the Fairfax, which anchors the traditionally Jewish neighborhood that is home to Canter’s Deli. Win a few, lose a few, I guess.

Bruin_Theatre,_Westwood,_Los_Angeles,_CA_,_at_night

http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/201001/william-shatner-captain-kirk-interview?printable=true

* GQ’s Andrew Corsello has a very cool piece up about William Shatner and his battles with irony. But if anyone out there has seen him in Roger Corman’s sole non-genre film, “The Intruder,” they know there was a time when he was a very good actor who could it keep it fairly simple, even playing a villainous antihero, back in 1962.

* I’m a little late on this, but Steven Spielberg absolutely does not, repeat, does not, have Asperger’s Syndrome. In other news, I can now announce that I am 100% free of ovarian cancer.

* Bryan Cranston, star of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and also the upcoming “John Carter of Mars” is a popular guy around these parts. He’s currently “eying” a part in “Larry Crowne,” the upcoming Tom Hanks starring/directed by dramedy co-starring Julia Roberts and written with Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The character in question is  Roberts’ husband, whose a blogger who spends way too much time “looking at” porn. I wouldn’t know anything about that.

  

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What they should do, what they will do

The Deep Blue GoodbyeAfter the geek movie bloggers finish mulling over the possible return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men films — none of which have particularly wowed me in the first place — another topic for discussion is Mike Fleming’s post about producer Peter Chernin’s plan for an upcoming Bible-epic about Moses to be made in the style of “300” and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted,” “Nightwatch“). Since Bekmambetov seems to have the same degree of difficulty with basic storytelling as I do with pronouncing his name, and I didn’t much care for “300” in the first place, this does not excite me.

I could go on and on about how the green-screen technique might be appropriate for some films, but not really for a classic biblical tale, but I don’t really care about that. It will be what it will be. However, buried in the same item is this:

Chernin adds the project to several pre-existing Fox projects he has joined as producer, including the John D. MacDonald novel series adaptation “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the Appian Way-produced drama that’s a potential star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Now, this probably won’t get much reaction from most of you. How many old books by successful authors get optioned and then attached to big movies stars for a time? Lots. Also, this item ran a couple of weeks ago, but escaped my notice.

Here’s the thing that you’ve missed if you’re not already familiar with MacDonald’s work. “The Deep Blue Goodbye” is the first book about Travis McGee. That’s a big deal, to me anyway. In his earlier article, Fleming does a pretty good job describing the series:

DiCaprio is in line to play Travis McGee, a self-described beach bum who lives aboard 52-foot houseboat the Busted Flush [which he won playing poker] and alleviates his cash-flow problems by hiring on as a “salvage consultant.” He recovers property for clients, taking a hefty percentage and getting into a lot of danger and romance in sun-drenched Florida. “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the first in a 21-volume bestselling Travis McGee series, was originally published in 1964.

The series has mostly been ignored by Hollywood, though there was a long forgotten 1970 movie with Rod Taylor and a 1981 TV film with Sam Elliot, neither seen by me. MacDonald supposedly also scotched a planned TV series because he feared it would hurt books sales if fans could see McGee on TV every week.

Blood DiamondWhat Fleming left out was the appeal of the books, a sort of bridge between Raymond Chandler/Ross MacDonald style medium-to-hard boiled gumshoe tales and “The Rockford Files” — and also probably “Magnum P.I.” which I never really watched much.  To me, this seems an obvious attempt for DiCaprio to find the conflicted inner macho-man he did a good job of capturing in “Blood Diamond,” which I personally otherwise kind of hated. To be fair, pretty or not, he is a first-rate actor. Moreover, in his less skinny near-middle-age, he actually more or less fits the physical description of McGee given on Wikipedia.

Still, MacDonald’s Magee was a more old fashioned kind of a character and, as in Leonardo DiCaprio‘s well-acted yet just somehow wrong performance in “The Aviator,” this is a part that cries out for the kind of old-school “real men” type actors who today only seem to come from Australia or the African-American community. If it were up to me, and if no Aussie wanted the gig and black stars didn’t care for the seriously nontraditional casting — I’d personally go with Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” fame.

Indeed, the ultra-commitment phobic Don Draper really does want to be the eternally footloose, Peter-Pan-Knight-Errant Travis McGee, who’s basically a tougher Jim Rockford, or a less ruthless James Bond. I know I do. In fact, I think all guys do. But will this movie or what sure sounds like a ludicrously amped-up Bible movie actually get made?

Coming eventually, maybe: Why Paul Giamatti must be forced, against his will if necessary, to play Magee’s brainy, hirsute economist sidekick, Meyer.

  

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