Hidden Netflix Gems – Magic Trip

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Fans of Tom Wolfe‘s seminal 1968 non-fiction novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test have been waiting a long time to see Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood‘s Magic Trip, whether they knew it or not. Though a narrative adaptation of the definitive book on hippie culture is reportedly in the works from director Gus Van Sant and his Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, this is the closest thing to an adaptation we’re likely to see anytime soon. In fact, it’s even better, because the documentary, subtitled Ken Kesey‘s Search for a Kool Place, is assembled almost entirely from the footage Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters shot during their LSD-fueled cross-country road trip beginning in 1964.

This is not to say you have to be a fan of Wolfe’s book to enjoy Magic Trip. Fans of Hunter S. Thompson‘s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and/or Terry Gilliam‘s film adaptation of it, the Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg, or Kesey himself will also get a lot of enjoyment out of it, along with anyone who appreciates wild, anarchic adventure. Narrated by Stanley Tucci, the film tells the story of Kesey (best known as the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and a group of friends who set off for the 1964 New York World’s Fair in a hand-painted school bus and then just kept going, traveling all around the country in an effort to expand the consciousness of the entire United States. Along the way, they threw parties with the likes of Thompson and Timothy Leary, and gave a then unknown band called the Warlocks (who later became the Grateful Dead) their start as an unofficial house band.

Kesey is an extraordinarily charismatic figure, a champion high school and college wrestler who turned his back on athletics in favor of writing and exploring the landscape of his mind. He first began experimenting with psychedelic drugs as a volunteer in a CIA-funded experiment, so it could be said that the U.S. government inadvertently sponsored the madness shown in this film. Another fascinating character is Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters’ bus driver, a wildly energetic figure who served as the model for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac‘s revered 1957 novel On the Road, which was itself a source of inspiration for Kesey and the Pranksters’ trip. Gibney, who won an Oscar for his amazing 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, and first-time feature director Ellwood, took on the daunting task of crafting a 107-minute film out of the Pranksters’ days of footage, and they succeeded admirably. Magic Trip perfectly captures the unbridled spirit of a once-in-a-lifetime era, and offers a hell of a good ride to anyone who views it.

  

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The Golden Globes nominations — gee whiz

Okay, so we know the Golden Globes are strange.

Nikki Finke will give you a vision of low-rent corruption that, for all I know, is entirely true. It sure seems to match the often bizarre-to-inexplicable nominations and awards at times. One thing is sure, few of us will ever let the Globes live down that infamous 1982 award to Pia Zadora when she won “New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture” award for a movie called “Butterfly.” People make fun of the fact that the less than superb actress won the award, but it’s a lot more shocking when you consider that her competition was probably two of the more exciting movie performances of the entire 1980s, Howard E. Rollins in “Ragtime” and, more famously, Tim Hutton in “Ordinary People.” I guess they split the pro-talent vote. The category was dead within two years.

Meanwhile back here in 2010, the dramatic “Best Picture” list is mostly in line with the movies that are generally getting a lot of awards and nominations, though I’m sure people will have the usual disagreements. (I know I do). Also, no big surprise, “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech” did very well in the nominations. “The Fighter” and “Inception” also got a bit of a boost that might Academy voters keep them in mind as Oscar dark horses.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in

This year’s “Comedy or Musical” Best Picture category is, however, a real doozy. It really looks like the foreign press thinks that comedies don’t really have to be good to be nominated; it’s a sort of twisted semi-reverse snobbery. I know reviews and awards are not the same, but the critically drubbed “The Tourist” got a “Fresh” rating of 07% from “Top Critics” and 20% from critics overall at Rotten Tomatoes. Could the reactions of Hollywood Foreign Press members be that different from domestic press?

I know there’s been some quibbling about whether it qualifies as a “Comedy.” That doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure it’s trying to be funny and probably has a happy ending. That makes it a comedy in my book, though not necessarily a good one. Also, I have nothing against contrarians who laud movies others deride, but the Hollywood Foreign Press isn’t some group of freethinking cinephiles in the tradition of Pauline Kael and Manny Farber.

Cher and Stanley Tucci dish about awards in As for the other films in the category, only “The Kids Are All Right” has been generating the kind of overall appreciation that makes it awards material. “RED” is a reasonably well-liked, successful film, but this will probably be it’s only award nomination outside of genre-specific groups. “Alice in Wonderland” did very well but got a “meh” critical reaction overall and will probably get some technical Oscar nominations. “Burlesque” is a movie that people barely liked as a sort of guilty pleasure and pretty clearly is only on the list because the Golden Globes people really want Cher and Christina Aguilera to drop by.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Trailer time: Dumb knows no gender

I’m behind and quite busy and there’s really not anything all the compelling going on to my mind in terms of movie news. You know what that means…trailers, trailers, trailers all weekend long. And maybe a clip or a mash-up. The theme for this post: stupid.

Via Movieline, when you’re talking “Jackass: 3D” stupid is matter-of-factly the name of the game. I understand this movie fully exploits the gimmicky side of 3-D and I actually enjoy that stuff, though I don’t call it filmmaking. Nevertheless, being Mr. Squeamish, I’m not really up for fecal material and urine and God-knows-what-else they’re semi-literally likely to throw at me. That’s probably why I’ve never even seen the show on TV, much less plunked down money to watch at the local multiplex. On the other hand, I’ve got to admit that this trailer made me laugh and, as far as it goes, this would probably be a blast to watch in 3-D, especially after a beer or two.
Jackass 3D

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video

And now for something completely different, except in terms of gray cells. An apparent musical of sorts, “Burlesque” seems to borrow heavily from everything from “42nd Street” to “Flashdance” and with an emphasis on the sheer dumbness that made the latter movie work for millions and the combination of streetwise brass and complete naivete that still makes the Busby Berkeley classic tick along for movie geeks. Anne Thompson says I should never underestimate the savvy of Screen Gems “topper” (I prefer the term “prexy”) Clint Culpepper. When you’ve got Cher and Christina Aguilera being anchored by Stanley Tucci and Kristin Bell, she may be right. This movie looks as dumb as a doorstop to me, but we all know that in show business, dumb can be smart.

  

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A slightly lighter than usual end of week movie news dump

Well, at least I hope can get this done nice and quick because I’m really looking forward to making a Manhattan very soon. Forgive me if I miss something huge.

* As per Nikki Finke, the early box office returns for “Inception” are looking good.

* Though I was a big fan of “The West Wing” while he worked on it, my one complaint with Aaron Sorkin’s abandoned TV classic was that it was a bit rosy in how it viewed politics and politicians. Currently flying high as the screenwriter of the upcoming docudramas, “The Social Network” and “Moneyball,” he was almost the Gene Roddenberry of political drama in imagining a relatively ideal world that could be, but probably never would be. I don’t think excess positivity is going to be an issue in his movie directorial debut, as he’ll be covering the John Edwards mega-debacle. To think I contemplated voting for/volunteering for the egocentric jerkwad who, had he succeeded, would have sunk a party and a nation on the altar of his ego.

John-Edwards-NYC

* I don’t think I’ll really know what I think of Ryan Reynolds’ CGI-aided Green Lantern costume until I see it in the movie.

* Things have been hopping over at our sister site, Bullz-Eye.com. Earlier in the week Will Harris, with a little assistance from one or two other people who will remain nameless, took a look at 25 cinematic swan songs from film acting greats. Very cool (except for seven of them, which I’m unable to judge). Also, today, Will had a chat with his friend and rising young star, Dileep Rao, currently being seen in “Inception.”

* There may be no justice in the world, but Roman Polanski’s next movie is already being prepped, and it sounds good. It’s the film version of the London/Broadway hit play “God of Carnage.” Being as it’s a dark comedy/drama, it sounds right up Polanski’s alley. Also, Polanski’s 1994 film version of Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” was one of the most seamless stage-to-film translations I’ve ever seen.

* My high school history teacher, who was also a saxophone playing jazz fan on the side, always used to say that of all the rock music figures, the one he was sure wouldn’t last beyond another couple of decades in terms of popularity was Janis Joplin. Her super-gritty style was just too of the late sixties moment, he theorized. Indeed, she seems to be one of the less popular of the rock superstars of that era today. Well, director Fernando Meirelles of “City of God” and Amy Adams — a top-flight actress who is way cute to be playing the weather-worn Joplin  — will be hoping to disprove that theory with a new biopic.

* Okay, so we’ve got “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” so why not Cain and Abel with Vampires (and Will Smith)?

* I like the sound of this: Stanley Tucci, who obviously gets along very well with Meryl Streep, will direct her and Tina Fey in a mother daughter comedy.

Grindhouse
* The Playlist apparently wants to make me happy. First, they report that the long-awaited DVD of the pre-prepared exploitation double-bill, “Grindhouse,” as it was originally presented in theaters is coming this October. Second, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is apparently planning to appear in some kind of a musical. Interesting.

I’m just annoyed that I missed his rendition of the Donald O’Connor “Make ‘Em Laugh” number from “Singin’ in the Rain” on SNL last year and it’s gone from Hulu for some reason. Moment of rank and utterly baseless speculation here: Could a team-up with fellow three-namer Neil Patrick Harris be in the cards? “Dr. Horrible and Dr. Horribler” perhaps? Forget I said that.

  

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So I guess Jamie Foxx is playing the strong and silent type.

Another day, another trailer.

Via THR, this one is from Warner Brothers and Todd Phillips, who directed “The Hangover,” and stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis and is called “Due Date.” Don’t get your hopes too high.

So, am I missing something was that all just a big ball of not-humorous? Obviously, “Due Date” is going for a bit of pathos along with the road trip a la “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” but, if you’re trying to be funny, it’s awfully important that people laugh. I didn’t even smile. The movie could still be good — one of the flattest comedy trailers I ever saw was for the actually really funny 1996 comedy “The Impostors” with Stanley Tucci, who also directed, and Oliver Platt. Of course, that flick didn’t do very well. A better trailer wouldn’t have hurt.

  

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