Philipp Meyer’s The Son to be adapted for AMC

PhilippMeyer

When Philipp Meyer quit his job on Wall Street to pursue writing, I’m sure he never expected his sophomore novel would not only be a Pulitzer Prize finalist, but also that it’d be adapted to the small screen with his intimate involvement by one of the hottest channels in television, AMC.

I first wrote about Philipp Meyer in 2009, after reading his excellent debut novel, the rustbelt Pennsylvania set American Rust, which at the time had been optioned for a big screen adaptation that is currently stuck in development purgatory.

Last month though, exciting news was announced by Deadline: AMC is developing a show based on his second novel, The Son, and Philipp Meyer himself will serve as executive producer.

Last summer, when I read his Texas-set, ambitious, brutal, and sometimes horrific sweeping epic The Son. I was blown away. I burnt through the 700+ pages in two sittings. The novel is not merely good… it’s a masterpiece. An instant classic. An important book in American literature that’s only going to continue to grow in significance as the decades pass. And while comparisons are silly, if you need one, it’s sort of like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian as interpreted by John Steinbeck before being edited by William Faulkner.

When reading it, I thought the novel, like Blood Meridian, would be nearly impossible to adapt to the big screen. Even on television, which will provide the filmmakers with much more freedom than Hollywood would, it will be difficult as the story follows three distinct generations and time periods of a rising Texas oil empire: the ruthless Eli McCulloch, Eli’s son Pete, and Eli’s great-granddaughter Jeanne.

Meyer himself described it as a “partly historical novel about the rise of an oil and ranching dynasty in Texas, tracing the family from the earliest days of white settlement, fifty years of open warfare with the Comanches, the end of the frontier and the rise of the cattle industry, and transitioning into the modern (oil) age.”

What I find even more interesting, The Dallas Morning News ran an article yesterday describing how Meyer and writers like him are getting on board projects as executive producer.

Writers including Meyer, Brian McGreevy of Hemlock Grove, and Smith Henderson of Fourth of July Creek have formed a writers collective called El Jefe which, according to Meyer, was created to “help interesting, high-quality literary writers adapt, produce, and retain meaningful ownership of their own work for television and film.” Perhaps this was in response to the mess surrounding the American Rust adaptation that fizzled out.

The Son for AMC will be El Jefe’s first production. There is no word yet on casting or filming dates.

If you’ve read The Son, do you think even with Meyer’s involvement they’ll be able to effectively adapt it for television? Who could you envision in any of the lead roles? Chime in below!

Even if God existed, to say he loved the human race was preposterous. It was just as likely the opposite; it was just as likely he was systematically deceiving us. To think that an all-powerful being would make a world for anyone but himself, that he might spend all his time looking out for the interests of lesser creatures, it went against all common sense. The strong took from the weak, only the weak believed otherwise, and if God was out there, he was just as the Greeks and Romans had suspected; a trickster, an older brother who spent all his time inventing ways to punish you. -Philipp Meyer, The Son

Hot Docs 2014: Love and Terror on The Howling Plains of Nowhere Review

Hot Docs 2014

In a sparse corner of Nebraska, as far as possible from the state’s cities of Lincoln and Omaha sits the high-elevation prairie town of Chadron, population 5600. The town, described as ‘politely hanging on’ after peaking somewhere in the 19th century is host to the State College and was the hometown of NFL wide receiver Don Beebe, but is now quite remarkable for its motley collection of characters unearthed and endeared by author Poe Ballantine (himself one of those characters) in his memoir-slash-true-crime novel, “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere: A Memoir.”

It has been adapted, wrangled, and condensed into documentary form by Dave Janetta in the same tattered, rascally spirit as the book – equal parts pragmatism and poetry. Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is morbid, hilarious and whipsmart film-making that belies strained budget and open-ended narrative. It will never look as good as The Imposter or offer the closure of The Thin Blue Line, but its humour is mighty. The Chadron Record’s ‘Police Beat’ newspaper column which features heavily here (more on that in a minute) alone is a treasure of treasures.

In deep dark winter of 2006, the college’s resident PhD theoretical mathematics professor, Steven Haataja, withdrew $100 from the local cash machine and bought a large bag of charcoal from the Safeway before trundling off onto the wilderness in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. The townsfolk and the local police are baffled that the introverted professor, who appeared to be settling into the community just fine, left just before the end of the semester without offering any closure to his occupation, family, or colleagues. Chadron has always been a town of transience, a way-station for drifters (or footballers) to Denver or Omaha or any other American city, so someone up and leaving for greener pastures was a common enough event and an eccentric exit from a nebbish math professor was chalked up as just that. Already a source of gossip and amateur sleuthing, when Haataja’s corpse was found in the spring by a rancher on his property a few miles from campus, in copse of trees bound with electrical cords and burned right down to the bones, it becomes the towns biggest mystery.

Would you like to know more…?

Book Review: The Man Who Seduced Hollywood

Title: The Man Who Seduced Hollywood: The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown’s Most Powerful Lawyer
Written by: B. James Gladstone
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1, 2013)
Page Count: 352 (hardcover)



Google his name and there are nearly 200,000 results. That’s a significant amount of modern interest for a Hollywood lawyer who died before the internet, as we now know it, spread across America.

Then again, when a lawyer had connections to Hollywood elite such as Howard Hughes, Ingrid Bergman, Frank Sinatra, Rock Hudson, Kirk Kerkorian, and Bugsy Siegel, as well being as a Hollywood ladies man confirmed or rumored to be involved with beautiful actresses as diverse as Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, and Peggy Lee, maybe it’s not much of a surprise.

So goes to story of Hollywood lawyer Greg Bautzer. The biography is written by B. James Gladstone, who is the executive vice president of business and legal affairs for Lionsgate Entertainment. He is a talented and technical writer who likely used his connections to research and weave together the extraordinary tale of this extraordinary attorney.

Like much of the Hollywood lifestyle, the story of Bautzer appears glamorous on the surface and is portrayed as such in the biography. There is the Brown Derby and Hollywood stars. Sex and alcohol. Gangsters and courtrooms. Yet, whether intentional or not, there is a sadness to the story of Bautzer, whose relationships, both romantic and platonic, are more often than not centered around money, greed, ego, and self-interest.

In many ways, this books seems a perfect fit for a film adaptation. One can imagine Martin Scorsese behind the camera capturing the romanticized life of Bautzer while not shying away from his complexity while recreating all the glamorous highs and tragic lows of his life. I think DiCaprio resembles him enough that it could work. Clear your schedule, Leo. And hey, if this happens, Mr. Scorsese, all I ask for is a Special Thanks in the credits.

If you’re interested at all in old-school Hollywood, this book was written with you in mind.

You can purchase the hardback or e-book on Amazon or, as always, check your local library.

Guy Ritchie Merges Indie with Hollywood Again

In recent years Guy Ritchie has swapped his indie film making roots for mainstream. With a successful slew of Sherlock films in the bag, he has somehow managed to not be too heavily influenced by Hollywood and continues to bring his own unique brand of directing and producing to the big screen. Now it seems that Ritchie’s relationship with Hollywood big guns, Warner Bros, is ongoing as it has been announced that he will produce the film adaptation of Thomas Kelly’s 2006 novel, “Empire Rising.”

Once famous for being married to Madonna, Ritchie struck gold when he released Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels followed by Snatch, both of which became cult classics and were met with rave reviews. His subsequent attempts at shifting his filmmaking to focus on his then-wife failed dismally and the feature film, Swept Away was panned globally by critics. Subsequent movies RocknRolla and film work on prestigious ad campaigns with “Nike” helped rebuild his reputation and his smash, 2009, box office hit Sherlock Holmes saw him regain some good press. Since 2009, Warner Bros. has released every movie Ritchie has made, successfully combining his gritty indie style with a more glam Hollywood production angle.

For Ritchie, this latest Warner Bros. collaboration is like hitting the jackpot at MobileSlots.net as it features an epically staged love triangle set during the construction of New York’s Empire State Building in the depression era of 1930’s. It’s exactly the fodder Ritchie loves to sink his teeth into and it’s made even more attractive by the fact that the novels writer, Thomas Kelly will provide the screenplay.

Ritchie’s current project is also a Warner Bros. feature and filming for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has yet to commence. It looks like filming for Empire Rising will begin only after the spy series hits theatres next year. Warner Bros. obviously has a lot of faith in Ritchie’s ability and his talent at keeping the box office hits coming.

The transition from indie producer to relevant Hollywood film maker is not an easy one and I think Ritchie has managed to find an ideal balance whilst still staying semi-true to his roots. He’s creating solid films which offer a great cinematic experience and he keeps the indie buzz going whilst capturing the mainstream audience’s attention.

Trailer: The Monuments Men

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Dare I say instant classic?

I know, I know. Sometimes I get a little carried away. I get a little swept up in the moment. It’s a bad habit. But the evidence here just might support my case. With The Monuments Men, director, writer, and star George Clooney decided to focus on a less glamorous aspect of World War II: the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program enacted by the Allied Powers. It’s likely a story that left studio heads shrugging and asking, “But where are the battles?” (See Clooney’s epic rant from earlier in this week). In more ways than one, this seems like an updated take on John Frankenheimer’s 1964 The Train, starring Burt Lancaster.

Clooney has brought together a top-rate cast that includes himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, and Jean Dujardin. Lest we forget, he has a pretty good track record behind the camera: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck were near masterpieces and Leatherheads and The Ideas of March both were solid.

And the trailer has me sold. The Monuments Men looks downright awesome and appears to be a really fun movie, which is not usually something that can be said about a movie set in WWII.

The film hits theaters on December 18, 2013. Check out the trailer below!

Trailer: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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What a remarkable trailer. That was my first thought after watching the preview for Ben Stiller’s adaptation of the 1939 short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Evoking plenty of emotion with its not-so-subtle use of the song “Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters and Men, the trailer does an excellent job of showing, rather than using a bunch of dissected and rearranged dialogue and cheesy voiceovers as a means of telling. Perhaps like Walter Mitty’s story, this film will be more about the journey than anything.

Ben Stiller has also stepped behind the camera for this one. From Reality Bites to The Cable Guy to Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, Stiller has never disappointed me as a director. He has a unique eye, with a deliberate blend of humor, drama, and the absurd – which admittedly rubs some people the wrong way, but has always worked for me.

The movie’s screenplay was adapted by Steve Conrad (The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness), of which the seems to have the same sort of melancholy, introspective tone. It also co-stars Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty hits North American theaters on December 25, 2013.

What do you think of the trailer? Does it work for you?

Trailer: Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet, written by some dude named Shakespeare (from my in-depth research for writing this article, I’ve discovered that this Shakespeare cat was actually a guy named Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, according to a 2011 movie by Roland Emmerich), has been adapted for the big screen so many times, it actually has its own Wikipedia page describing them all.

The 1968 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli is probably the best known, followed by the ultra-zany 1996 version from director Baz Luhrmann (where he replaced the “and” with a “+”), but there are countless others for those who just can get enough of these two naive and, frankly, stupid teenagers who thought they were in love because they couldn’t get their raging hormones under control.

For those who have been turned off by the complex sentence structure in Shakespeare’s writing, there are plenty of films that draw their inspiration from it, including West Side Story, Romeo Must Die, Tromeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies, and High School Musical. A personal favorite is the animated 1979 Romie-0 and Julie-8, about two androids from rival robotics firms who fall in love (you can watch this masterpiece of animation right here – no need to thank me).

With all that said, do we need a new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? Well, nobody cares what you think anyway, as long as the masses pay the ticket price to see it and high school English teachers purchase the DVD to show their classes. Either way, frankly, it’s been quite some time since a traditional take on the story has been made.

I don’t really have much interest in the movie itself, but I am extremely interested in seeing Hailee Steinfeld in her first role since True Grit, in which she gave an astonishing performance which secured her an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast is worth noting also: Paul Giamatti, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Natascha McElhone, and plenty of young fresh faces round it out.

So while I have very little interest in a story that I’ve seen played out over and over and over (and I think the 1968 version holds up very well), I am eager to see Steinfeld back on the screen. By the looks of the trailer, she will continue to impress.

The movie hit theaters on July 26, 2013 in the UK with a September 6, 2013 release in the states.

Which version of this classic tale of young and dumb love is your favorite? Are you looking forward to this new version?

Chuck Palahniuk writing a sequel to Fight Club.

FightClub

This isn’t really movie news, but it could eventually lead to some. Today, Chuck Palahniuk announced at ComicCon (and on his Twitter) that he is writing a sequel to what is probably his most popular novel: Fight Club. He also announced that it will be a graphic novel, rather than a traditional one, and he has been meeting with artists from Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse.

Here is how Palahniuk described the story of this surprising sequel:

It will likely be a series of books that update the story ten years after the seeming end of Tyler Durden. Nowadays, Tyler is telling the story, lurking inside Jack, and ready to launch a come-back. Jack is oblivious. Marla is bored. Their marriage has run aground on the rocky coastline of middle-aged suburban boredom. It’s only when their little boy disappears, kidnapped by Tyler, that Jack is dragged back into the world of Mayhem. It will, of course, be dark and messy.

Love it or hate it, Fight Club is a massively important American film of the 90s. In 2008, Empire Magazine ranked Fight Club as the tenth Greatest Movie of All-Time. While that’s a stretch, it was an enjoyable movie and a particularly important one to me as a teenager.

Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, the film grossed over $100 million dollars worldwide, was adored by critics, and in the years since it’s initial release, it’s gained quite the cult following. Frat boys all around the U.S. started telling their friends to hit them as hard as they could and rednecks around the world started their own fight clubs which the subsequently told everyone about. Both groups, of course, seemingly missed the not-so-subtle messages of the film.

It will be interesting to see where Mr. Palahniuk takes the story of the Narrator and Tyler Durden with this graphic novel and if there will be talks of adapting it for the big screen, especially considering Fight Club’s success. I’m not personally excited for this story. While there was a time that I enjoyed Palahniuk’s writing, mostly when I was a teenager, the older that I get, the less that I care for his stories and writing style. The last book of his that I read, 2011’s Damned, was infuriatingly awful.

What do you think of this news? Are you excited for a sequel? What do you think of the choice of making it a graphic novel? Would you like to see a Fincher-Norton-Pitt reunion? Chime in!


Ron Howard in talks to adapt Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Back in April, it was reported that Disney acquired the rights to Neil Gaiman’s fantastic children’s novel The Graveyard Book. When it was announced, Henry Selick – the stop-motion director behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Coraline – was set to direct what would be another stop-motion film. Somewhere along the way, the project fell apart or Disney lost confidence.

But the project is seeing new life, according to the Hollywood Reporter, this time with Ron Howard in negotiations to direct what will be a live-action adaptation.

This is great news, of course. The Graveyard Book is the best children’s novel I’ve read since Harry Potter – and in many ways, it was a much more enjoyable read for me. The book follows a young boy named Nobody Owens who is taken in and raised by the inhabitants of an old graveyard after his family is brutally murdered by a man named Jack. Ghosts from all centuries, vampires, werewolves, and a variety of ghouls make up the rich cast of characters where it is the supernatural who fear the humans – not the other way around. It’s thrilling and scary and genuinely touching, hitting on some very mature themes and beautifully exploring the trials and tribulations that come with growing up.

The book also won both the Carnegie and Newbery medals for best children’s book.

Have you read the book? If so, what do you think of Howard behind the camera? And are you relieved or bummed that the film will be live-action rather than stop-motion?