Monday, November 9, 2015

Ten More Movies That Need to Be Made

When I last did a list like this, I mentioned I had more ideas.  As it turns out, I had a lot more, so this will most likely become a recurrent post.  Here's what I had to say before, and it still holds true:

I don't know about you, but I'm a little fatigued by all of the sequels and series reboots we get year after year these days.  There's a bounty of characters, works, and topics that have either yet to see the silver screen or haven't seen it in quite some time.  Below are a selection of ten I'd love to see get picked up by a studio with the right script, director, and cast. 

I'm discounting any source that I've seen recent announcement of it being developed into a film, so obvious choices like SandmanGood OmensOld Man's WarSnow CrashThe Diamond Age, and The Lies of Locke Lamora are not included (even though chances are we'll never see most of them actually made). 

1. The Black Company

What's it about?  The Black Company is a band of mercenaries in the employ of the evil empire of The Lady, commissioned to wipe out a rebellion led by the last remaining good wizards in the land.  As captured by their physician/historian Croaker, the Black Company win many battles against poor odds until they, too, begin questioning their mission.  What will happen when they finally decide to break away and earn The Lady's fury?

Why it could work!  In an era where Game of Thrones has shown that mystical politics and war can succeed as popular entertainment, The Black Company series by Glen Cook is ripe for adaptation as either a movie franchise or as a replacement miniseries once Thrones ultimately concludes in a couple years.  It is a large scale epic featuring character turns, unexpected deaths, and grand crescendo battles, which today's audiences pretty much expect from such tales.

2. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy

What's it about?  Starting July 4, 1908, the Chicago Cubs played an epic 40 day long game with All Stars from the semi-pro minor league Iowa Baseball Confederacy at Big Inning, Iowa that eventually led to the collapse of the Cubs as a championship club and the destruction of the town of Big Inning.  Or maybe this didn't happen.  The only person who remembers this game is Matthew Clarke, who had been struck by lightning and may be making up all of this.  However, when Matthew dies in a bizarre foul ball incident at a game in Wisconsin, his son Gideon suddenly acquires this knowledge of the game.  But he does his father one better, actually managing to travel back in time to witness the game and its manipulations by the native magics wielded by the local Black Hawk Nation tribe in an attempt to recover their lost lands.  Along the way, President Theodore Roosevelt stops by to pinch hit (he strikes out with a big stick) and Leonardo da Vinci shows up to claim he was the one who invented the game of baseball.  Eventually the game ends after 2,614 innings (though saying how would be spoiling it).  Needless to say, the second game of the planned double header was canceled.

Why it could work!  Maybe you missed the parts above about the Chicago Cubs, Black Hawk tribal magic, Teddy Roosevelt, time travel, and da Vinci.  This was W.P. Kinsella's followup novel to Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into Field of Dreams, a movie you may have heard about.  A skilled screenwriter will need to tame the more fantastical elements of Kinsella's lyrical writing, but just as with Field of Dreams, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy offers an exploration of multi-generational family dynamics set against a backdrop of baseball and mysticism that can be utterly rapturous if done correctly.

3. The Greater Journey

What's it about?  Over the course of almost a hundred years, generations of American artists and thinkers travel to Paris to find their art, their vocation, and themselves.  Samuel Morse paints The Gallery of the Louvre and crosses paths with James Fenimore Cooper before returning to the US and inventing the telegraph.  Elizabeth Blackwell trains to become the first female doctor in the US.  Mary Cassatt perfected her craft and participated in the beginnings of Impressionism.  Throughout, the city of Paris marches forward through history.

Why it could work!  This would probably be best as an HBO miniseries rather than a theater-released movie.  In any event, Greater Journey is an incredible tale capturing the evolution of Paris throughout the decades, but told through the eyes of Americans, making it much more easily accessible to a modern US audience.  In addition, the individual stories of the people who made Paris their home temporarily are compelling in themselves.  With a stellar cast and good production values, this could be a great piece of art on a weekly basis.

4. An Ada, Countess of Lovelace/Grace Hopper biopic

What's it about?  In the 1830s and 1840s, Ada, daughter of Lord Byron, strikes up a working relationship with Charles Babbage after becoming fascinated with Babbage's work on computational machines.  Her notes on a method of calculating Bernoulli numbers on Babbage's unbuilt Analytical Engine has caused her to be named history's first programmer.  In the 1940s, Naval Reserve Lt. Grace Hopper, PhD, joined work on the Mark I electro-mechanical computer, eventually joining the UNIVAC team after the war, where she wrote the first programming language compiler.  By the end of the 1950s, she helped define the COBOL programming language that shaped business applications for decades.  She would advocate for the US Department of Defense to shift from large mainframes to networks of computers and pioneered formal testing of software.  She would eventually make the rank of Rear Admiral.

Why it could work!  We've seen biopics of Alan Turing and Mark Zuckerberg and Hollywood keeps going to the Steve Jobs well, but we've seen scant mention of the contributions of women to computing, so why not combine the stories of two of computing's best known female pioneers?  It seems odd to try to combine the two time periods into a single movie, but if a movie about Julia Child and a whiny blogger can earn Oscar buzz, surely this can be done well.

5. Cryptonomicon

What's it about?  In a two-generational story, mathematicians at Bletchley Park and a unit from the US Marines go about finding creative ways to cover up the fact that the Allies have broken Axis codes while in modern times, their descendants work to lay communications lines in the Philippines and search for buried gold.

Why it could work!  As dense as the book is, it's simultaneously taut and sweeping.  The characters are engaging, and both the intellect-oriented Waterhouses and the action-oriented Shaftoes are well-drawn characters.  The settings and contexts of both generations will be familiar to most movie-goers (though the modern storyline will need updating, as technology has passed it by somewhat).  Overall, it's the work be Neal Stephenson that best lends itself to screen adaptation.

6. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

What's it about?  Dirk Gently is a detective who believes in the interconnectedness of all things, so when he runs into Richard MacDuff while searching for a cat, Gently takes MacDuff's case, despite the fact that MacDuff didn't realize he had a case to take.  Along the way, time travel, the ghost of a long-dead alien responsible for life on Earth, and a religious robot all come into play.

Why it could work!  Hollywood has already attempted The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with middling success, why not try this out?  Seriously, it's just demented enough to work if given the right writer and director.  For some reason, Edgar Wright comes to mind.

7. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

What's it about?  Two thieves, one a giant barbarian, the other a small former mage's apprentice, stumble into each other while pulling the same robbery.  They hit it off and decide to partner up.  After an initial tragedy puts them on the run, they share many an adventure, always getting themselves into scrapes that their wits and their swords must get them out of.

Why it could work!  Warner Brothers has already optioned The Lies of Locke Lamora, a modern day series that hearkens back to Fritz Lieber's twosome, so why shouldn't someone make movies out of the originals?  There's enough material for an entire movie franchise, but without the serial nature that would require a studio to commit to a specific number of movies.  And given the books were a true buddy adventure, the franchise could be attached to almost any pairing of youngish actors with good rapport.  Chris Helmsworth and Tom Hiddleston would be amazing together in it.

8. Either: An All-Star Heist Flick Featuring the Greatest Actors of Our Time OR a Documentary on How Production of That Movie Imploded

What's it about?  De Niro!  Pacino!  Hoffman!  Washington!  Day-Lewis!  Hanks!  These are some of the most beloved and well-nominated actors of recent decades.  Why not put them all into the same movie, give them a taut script featuring a team of elite experts attempting to pull off an amazing theft before retiring, and let them go at it!  How could it fail?

Why it could work!  The beauty of it is, so what if it does fail?  Roll cameras while they're rolling cameras!  Interview the cast about the film process throughout production.  Understand who doesn't like whose interpretation of The Method.  Is someone seemingly not pulling their weight?  Egos getting in the way?  Are fists and shot glasses about to fly?  Great!  It can be an Oscar-winning documentary instead of a box-office heist movie.

9. Niebla

What's it about?  Boy meets girl.   Boy asks girl to marry him.  Girl leaves boy at altar.  Boy decides to kill himself.  Before committing suicide, boy seeks out advice from the writer of an article on suicide.  Turns out the writer is the author of the story that the boy is a character in, and he says the boy is not allowed to kill himself.  Boy says, "You're not the boss of me!"  Then things get weird.  

Why it could work!  This would never be a Hollywood blockbuster, but based on the novel by Miguel de Unamuno, Niebla would have the chance to earn the right director (both Spike Jonze and Terrence Malick come to mind) the obligatory Best Picture nomination.  Especially if they leave the eulogy given by the dog at the end of the book.\

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude

What's it about?  Seven generations of the Buendía family pass since their patriarch founded Macondo, the utopic city of mirrors, on a riverbank in Colombia.  Every member of the family appears destined to find grave misfortune at some point.  An encrypted text may hold the secret to the family's travails, but can the family break the code before it's too late?

Why it could work!  Gabriel García Márquez's novel is stunning, combining magical realism with a sweeping generational saga.  The only reason it's not already been made into a film is that the author never gave anyone the rights to adapt the book.  It would take a deft hand to guide the adaptation of the book, but in the right hands, this could be a Best Picture winner.  Think Life of Pi except as a soap opera set in the jungle.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Quick Look at New Fall Shows

The Muppets

When the show is introducing a bacon and frog legs love triangle, it's not a good sign.
I was excited about The Muppets.  I truly was.  The characters are near and dear to my heart and represent a significant part of my childhood, but what I was most excited about was the prospects of the Muppets reintroducing their elements of unabashed farce and absurdism back to prime-time television.  Unfortunately, while the new show does bring back those cherished characters, it hamstrings them with an all-too pedestrian (for this age of television) format.  

Instead, we have a slow-moving show that is trying too hard to be The Office, Arrested Development, or Modern Family, this time a workplace "comedy" about the goings-on behind the scenes at Miss Piggy's late night talk show.  Rather than over the top parody and complete non sequitur, we instead are subjected to yet another show taking its comedy from ironic juxtaposition and subtext rather than direct action.  While this works fine for the human members of the cast, it's a clumsy comedic mechanism for puppets.

So much wasted potential of great classic characters.
The result is a toned down Muppet show that pales in comparison to past efforts.  Most of the characters are muted. Gonzo now pitches lame sketches rather than attempting outrageous stunts and all-chicken musical numbers.  Animal plays a puppet version of Denis Leary's over-the-hill rocker character from Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.  Sam the Eagle is still a tightass, but is limited to brief appearances as a network censor.  Only Kermit, Piggy, and Fozzy get much productive screen time, and even Kermit's and Piggy's are mostly wasted on a terrible breakup subplot, as if we could or should find their love lives interesting.  Fozzy has some good moments in a traditional sitcom role of a guy dating out of his culture and attempting to impress his bigoted future in-laws, but even then the laughs are of the low-hanging fruit kind and mostly work because of the number of humans involved to add some (scant) subtlety to the interactions.
That's a celebrity sex tape no one is waiting for.
Verdict: If this were any other show, I'd probably dump it now.  But I care about these characters, and I will stick around to see if they can find their stride.

Minority Report

I'm glad they consulted Stark International for upgrades to their smart hologram technology.
I hate to say it, but I think Minority Report is my favorite of the new fall shows, and it's the one primed for a quick ax, posting dismal ratings for its season premiere.  Picking up from a little down the road from where the movie left off, Minority Report features a world in which the PreCog program has ended, police are back to trying to figure out who committed crimes after the fact, and the freed precognitives try to find a place in the world for themselves while fearing recapture and imprisonment.

While finding adventure.  And cleavage!
This mixture results in a police procedural with sci-fi trappings, and in that sense it works well. Future Washington, DC is interesting.  The impossible happens and DC gets an updated Metro system that looks actually efficient.  Many of the memorials are lit up and may harbor giant LED screens.  The Nationals have finally made it to a World Series after more than 50 years of existence.  The Simpsons are celebrating their 75th season.  And the Washington football team have been renamed the Red Clouds which is only slightly insensitive (seriously, a logo of a rain cloud with war feathers?).
Redclouds?  It's like they asked themselves, "What could make folks wish they still had the old racist name?"
Stark Sands is very engaging as Dash, one of the three precognitives freed from government control at the end of the PreCog program.  There's something a little off with Dash, but not enough to make him unrelatable, and he's so earnest that it's hard not to like him.  Meagan Good stars as Lara Vega, a detective who desperately wants to prevent crime and who wears her cleavage like a badge.  Most of the rest of the cast are ciphers still, though Wilmer Valderama surprisingly doesn't suck as bad as one would think playing a police lieutenant bucking for captain no matter who he has to screw over in the process.
Seriously, is she auditioning to play Power Girl?
The pilot checks all the classic pilot episode boxes.  Some modern shows like Lost or How to Get Away With Murder play around with the pilot format by steadfastly refusing to check one of more of the boxes, but not this show.  Introduce the characters and give each of them a little room to show their personalities and motivations?  Check.  Explain the world that the show takes place in?  Check.  Establish the status quo relationships among the characters?  Check.  Provide an example of the standard kind of storyline and episodic plot sequence we'll see each week?  Check.  Set up the overarching uberplot?  Check.  Everything's there.  It's really too bad no one was watching.

Verdict: I'm definitely tuning in, but I don't know how long they'll give me.


I don't think that will fit in the overhead luggage bin.
Blindspot's conceit as a show orbits solely around its big mystery (just who is this amnesiac woman, and why was she tattooed, made to forget everything, and dumped in Times Square?), because it certainly can't lean on the personalities of its characters, only one of which (Rob Brown's Ramirez) really shows much of one.  Jaimie Alexander, who breathed life into the potential cipher that was Lady Sif, is not nearly as interesting here as the scared amnesiac with a hero complex and the skill set to match.  Sullivan Stapleton (who for some reason gets top billing in the IMDB cast listing) plays a gruff, stoic FBI agent as if he were a poor man's Liev Schreiber (and no one needs a poor man's Liev Schreiber, not even poor men).
Seriously, doesn't he look like he should be narrating a documentary or trying to free The Hurricane?
This is a show which is already triggering very unhelpful questions in my head.  For example, it's clear both from the pilot and the previews of the rest of the season that the FBI unit will be attempting to stave off disasters at the last second frequently led by clues found in Jane Doe's tattoos.  But she's covered in them, and each tattoo appears to be a clue to a separate impending disaster -- how are they managing to unravel the clues in the right order?  Are they just getting amazingly lucky?  The show appears to be built on a house of cards, but I'm willing to give them an episode or two more before making that call.

Verdict: Hanging around for at least another couple episodes.

Scream Queens

Work faster, damn you!
I was willing to give this Ryan Murphy show a shot because I have a soft spot for Glee and while I never got into American Horror Story, I had heard good things.  Oh, how I wish I had given this a miss.  This was easily the worst of the shows I sampled this week.

The first problem with the show is that 90% of the characters are completely unlikable while the other 10% are boring to the point they could be replaced with houseplants.  I get that there's a certain pleasure to making characters in horror tales awful so that you don't feel too broken up when they die, but the trick is to not make them so insufferable that you're rooting for the killer to strike more quickly.  I'd paint these one-dimensional characters as caricatures if it didn't ignore the fact that most caricatures have some depth of truth behind them.  Instead, we have a gaggle of postmodern Mean Girls with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, a deaf woman who shouts at everyone to speak up (because that gag didn't get instantly old when used on Glee), a geeky girl in a neck brace who out-weirds everyone, the Glenn Beck of militant lesbians, a host of ultimate dimwitted bros, and, as proof that Ryan Murphy's never met a black person he couldn't turn into a walking stereotype, a black girl who starts every sentence, "Giiirrrrll, ....".  I had to check to see if Keke Palmer's character was named Shamiqua, but it's instead Zayday, because that's much better.
Look!  It's a TLC lyric!
Even that mess of a cast of characters could be managed if the show itself was interesting, but it moves slowly, the scares are non-existent, and the comedy is bland and unintelligent.  Ariana Grande dies in the pilot in a scene that I'm sure was meant to be cute but was so poorly thought out that it should have anyone in the "Don't go into the basement!" crowd throwing heavy objects at the screen.  The killer actually shows up at one point on a riding lawnmower when all of the pledges are conveniently buried up to their necks (why?  because plot!), but chooses to kill only one.  And not to play with his food -- there's zero explanation given in story or visuals as to what the killer is doing, other than skulking around and seemingly taking advantage of only one out of every ten to twenty opportunities to kill.  About 70 minutes of the two hour premiere had passed when I finally pronounced the show dead and deleted it from my DVR.

I still lasted longer than she did.
I'm sure this was meant to be a pastiche of the Scream movies, but the execution just goes to show there's only one Wes Craven and one Kevin Williamson, and without a doubt they're both rolling over in their graves despite the fact that only one of them is currently dead.  

Verdict: Kill it!  Kill it with fire!

Heroes Reborn

Ah, the teen years, when even having super powers doesn't keep the bullies at bay.
I enjoyed the first season of Heroes, lost interest part way through season 2, and then watched maybe a couple of episodes from season 3 and skipped season 4, which I just discovered exists.  Still, I've enough affection for the early days of the series to give Heroes Reborn a try.  

Much like the original series, Reborn twists several storylines that are at least separated in space around an axis of "Hey look!  Super people!"  In this case, all of humanity has been clued into the existence of evos (short for evolved humans, which isn't going to make small-minded normals hate you at all).  And because of a huge disaster at a peace rally (shades of Star Trek VI!), evos are hated and hunted.  If the metas of Heroes all thought they were screwed in the original series, they hadn't seen anything yet.

Perhaps most interesting of the storylines in this series revolves around Miko, a young Japanese woman whose father is missing but who can warp into a video game using the katana he left her in a secret compartment of her home.  Becoming a video game character is not exactly a logical superpower nor a good fit with the rest of the storylines, but I found that I could probably just watch a show based entirely on this without any of the other plots hanging around. 
This plot should have its own show.  Or movie.  Probably starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Other plot lines involve Noah Bennett trying to figure out what happened at the peace rally and mourning the death of his daughter who, despite having Wolverine-level healing powers, sure does seem to be in danger of dying an awful lot.  Robbie Kay (Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time) is a high school kid who can  teleport things who tries his hardest to keep his powers hidden, which of course means he accidentally exposes himself to someone in almost every scene he's in.  There's also a family of Latin American evos living in Los Angeles who don't know that any of the other family members are evos until one brother exposes his identity as LA's luchador evo avenger to another brother just as he dies.  Zachary Levi also plays a normal who lost his son at the Odessa peace rally catastrophe and has become an evo hunter/killer, though in the pilot he starts to learn more about what happens to evos and may at some point become sympathetic.  
But for the moment, he has facial hair, so villain.  I've watched this series before.
At the moment, Heroes Reborn has the right amount of energy.  Here's hoping it doesn't lose its way like the original series did.

Verdict: Giving it a few more episodes.


At least they spelled FBI right.
Quantico is clearly cribbing from the How to Get Away with Murder cheat sheet.  Take a group of largely unlikeable characters, mush them together into a situation where they have to interact with each other all the time, then wrap it up in a mystery where one of the cast members is a bad guy all the while pulling back enough onion layers to show not everyone is hopelessly evil.  The problem with this tack is that it's really easy to dislike lawyers, but it's a little jarring to be asked to dislike everyone in the FBI.

The real reason to watch Quantico has nothing to do with plot or script.  Priyanka Chopra, who stars as FBI recruit Alex Parrish, is mesmerizing to watch.  Her character swings wildly from sensationally competent to overwhelmed with a moments notice, but throughout it's hard to take your eyes off her.  Whether that's enough to keep the show afloat while the creators figure out how to produce a show that's not brain dead, we'll have to find out.
It's at least enough for me.
One has to guess that the FBI didn't officially sanction the show, because it paints them in a less than stellar light.  It appears that every single recruit at the academy has a dark, damaging secret, none of which appear to have been found out by the folks whose job it is to investigate and detect.  Besides Parrish, you have the gay guy who probably isn't really gay for some reason, the woman of Arabic descent who's actually two women sharing her dorm room (don't ask), the Mormon missionary who ends up killing someone in the pilot because he thinks he's about to be outed for getting an underage native girl pregnant and subsequently dead (don't ask), the recruit who's actually an agent pretending to be a recruit so that he can "investigate" one of the other recruits (though so far this investigation has entailed having nasty sex in the back of his SUV), the blonde girl who lost her parents on 9/11 and carries around a chunk of their plane (because that doesn't send up any red flags at all), and the legacy recruit (do they really have those like they do in fraternities?) who manages to fail at everything as a recruit other than get one of his classmates killed (he was really good at that).  For some reason, the FBI suspect one of these people as the mastermind behind the biggest terrorist attack on domestic soil since 9/11.  I'm sure the FBI was just jumping with joy over this show.
Spoiler Alert: at least one of these characters is dead by the end of the first hour.  And you really won't care.
Verdict: I have little hope of this getting better, so as soon as watching Priyanka Chopra becomes dull, I'm gone.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Short Look at Ant-Man

Ant-Man chronicles the recruiting of all-around good guy/burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) by legendary grump Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to recover Pym's technology from being misused by the musical villainy of Darren Criss.

Wait, that's not right.  The villain is actually Darren Cross, a nefarious businessman who looked like this in the comics:

but looks like this in the movie:

That's Corey Stoll, who has achieved That Guy status in supporting roles across a bunch of mid-level films and television shows.  But hey, who needs a star villain when your film is fronted by Michael Douglas, Paul Rudd, and Michael Douglas's enormous penis?

In keeping with Marvel tradition, the bad guy is an evil businessperson.  I mean, look at the MCU villains in order:

  1. Iron Man: an evil CEO
  2. Incredible Hulk: the US Army gone wild
  3. Iron Man 2: a loony Russian scientist abetted by an evil CEO working to sell stolen technology to the US Armed Forces
  4. Thor:a god
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger: a Nazi (what else?)
  6. The Avengers: a god, backed by an alien army
  7. Iron Man 3: an evil CEO backed by a personal army
  8. Thor: The Dark World: a group of extremely white guys who wear masks and want to wipe out all life in the universe
  9. Captain America: Winter Soldier: an evil government functionary
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy: an evil government functionary
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron: technology gone wild
  12. Ant-Man: an evil CEO
This doesn't seem the most imaginative slate of comic book villains, instead kind of reading like a liberal's version of the Legion of Doom.  Hand this to a die hard Democrat, and they may think it's a list of 2016 GOP presidential candidates at first.

In any event, Darren Cross is Hank Pym's former assistant and hand-picked successor, except he's greedy, is just a little nuts, and happens to be a colossal dick (though probably not as big as Michael Douglas's).  Cross looks at Pym's technology (the legendary Pym Particles that allow one to shrink to ant size) and sees dollar signs, where Hank saw danger if it fell into the wrong hands.  Hank wants to make sure Cross can't sell his technology, and so here comes Scott Lang.

The movie can be thought of in three acts.  The first act sets up all the characters and their situations, resulting in the recruitment of Scott to Hank's plan.  During this time, we're introduced to Michael Pena's Luis, who pretty much steals the movie and is the source of much of its comedy.

The second act involves Scott's training to become the Ant-Man, aided by Hank and his daughter Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly, continuing her string of roles that didn't exist in the original material.  Throughout the training, you learn how the Ant-Man powers work, which you should immediately forget, because the movie violates its own rules several times throughout, and there's no point getting yourself distracted.  Also during this act is a scene that was clearly tacked on to help set up a subsequent movie (like the Thor scenes from Age of Ultron).  However, it's entertaining, so don't worry yourself about its implausibility.

The third and final act involves the heist itself and the inevitable Boss battle that you have to have in these types of films.  And it is an entertaining, extremely well-choreographed battle indeed.  It relies a bit much on breaking its own rules of physics as well as some well-timed poor decision-making and behavior on the part of critical characters, but it jumps off the screen nonetheless.  And the size-changing effects and perspective-altered environments are largely very well done and easy to follow, keeping you engrossed in the action.

Throughout, the movie keeps the laughs coming at a reasonable pace.  I was somewhat nervous that the laughs might come by lampooning the comics characters, but I was glad to find that both Hank and Scott were treated with respect throughout.  Marvel's not going to depants their characters (at least not without Harry Dean Stanton there to help them out).  Instead, the comedy flowed primarily from the characters' personalities and how they mixed.  And the omniscience and omnipotence of Baskin Robbins.  Again, Pena's Luis jumps off the screen when it comes to that.

There are two mid- and post-credits scenes to stick around for.  In one, the movie previews the introduction of another character for the inevitable sequel.  In the other, the suspicion that the second act scene that seemed tacked on was done to set up one of next year's movies is confirmed.

Is Ant-Man a great film?  Of course not.  None of the Marvel movies are.  But like its brethren, it delivers a solid, well-crafted couple hours of high-quality escapist entertainment, and that's what you should expect from these movies by now.  After all, you don't hit a James Bond movie hoping for a deep exploration of the human condition, and you shouldn't here either.

The opening weekend box office was one of the lowest for Marvel's slate to date, and that's too bad.  Ant-Man should rank up there among the best of the studio's productions so far.  I highly recommend.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Patriotic Movies Don't Have to Be About War

I started thinking about this when a friend posted on social media that in honor of Independence Day she was watching a recent war movie.  Why, I asked myself, did it have to be a war movie?  Don't get me wrong -- anyone who knows me knows how much I appreciate the men and women who keep this country safe, whether on the front lines or behind the scenes.  My question was why, when desiring to celebrate America, would one immediately jump to a war movie?  There are other options: movies that celebrate aspects of our great nation other than our bravery in battle.  And so this exploration of non-combat patriotic films was born.  I've chosen to categorize them based on what they're celebrating.

American Statesmanship


Based on the Tony-winning musical, 1776 envisions a world in which the Continental Congress sang and danced their way to American Independence.  William Daniels portrays the obnoxious and disliked John Adams who preens and cajoles his fellow patriots to formally declare independence from Britain.  Ken Howard, yet to become The White Shadow, plays a rather horny Thomas Jefferson who'd be fine with someone else writing the Declaration of Independence if it means getting the opportunity to be with his wife.  Formerly blacklisted Howard da Silva plays Ben Franklin, who rounds out the starring trio.  1776 is incredibly silly much of the time, but it does take its ultimate subject matter seriously and produces several poignant moments, such as when a courier from General Washington remembers his two fallen best friends, both lost during the Battle of Lexington.


While primarily sold as a biopic of our sixteenth president, Lincoln follows the push to get the 13th Amendment passed, outlawing slavery throughout the United States.  Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his compelling portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.  Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln) and Tommy Lee Jones (abolitionist and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens) were also nominated for their supporting roles.  For primarily featuring speeches and political negotiations, Lincoln is riveting viewing.  You almost find yourself worried that the amendment won't pass until you realize that of course it had to.  Lewis's Abraham Lincoln was one who was a cool strategist who was a self-taught genius that hid behind a gregarious storyteller facade.  At one important turning point, the President ponders on what Euclid would have to say.


You can almost think of Dave as a counterpoint to Lincoln.  While Lincoln showcased some supreme politicking to achieve a major goal, Dave asks what might happen if someone were to throw away politics altogether when running the country.  Kevin Kline pulls double duty as slimy President Bill Mitchell and as Dave Kovic, a temp agency owner and Mitchell doppelganger hired to impersonate the president while the leader of the free world sneaks off to spend an evening with his mistress.  President Mitchell experiences a stroke and Dave finds himself asked to keep up the deception by corrupt White House staffers.  They soon find that they can't control Dave like they think they can.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

A Frank Capra-James Stewart classic, Mr. Smith follows Stewart's Jefferson Smith to the U.S. Senate, where the junior senator finds himself at the mercy of machine politics when his bill to use federal funds to finance a boys' camp runs afoul of a graft scheme involving the building of a dam at the same site.  This leads Senator Smith to his famous filibuster (and this is a true filibuster, not one of those lame "no one has to talk without end" filibusters the Senate currently entertains) in an attempt to delay the passing of the appropriations for the dam and to clear his name. 

American Creativity and Ingenuity

Yankee Doodle Dandy

A biopic of the legendary composer George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy features James Cagney showing why he wanted to be thought of first and foremost as a song and dance man.  Cohan, who was technically born late on July 3rd but who always claimed to have been born on the Fourth of July, wrote many popular patriotic songs, from the title number to "Over There" to "Grand Old Flag".  While Cagney portrays him as a bit of a hothead when he was young, the movie overall is a love song to "The Man Who Owned Broadway", providing a fitting epitaph to his career, as he died from cancer mere months after the film's release.  While the film tells Cohan's life linearly, it does feature a framing sequence in which Cohan, out of retirement to portray President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Rodgers and Hart's I'd Rather Be Right, is asked to the White House to meet FDR himself and finds himself telling the President his life story.  Cagney is amazing throughout, showing dance moves and agility you don't see much of these days, including a quick tap dance down the stairs at the White House.

Bottle Shock

Starring an engaging cast that includes Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, and Eliza Dushku, Bottle Shock tells the story of The Judgement of Paris, a 1976 event in which American wines beat French wines in a blind tasting.  Bottle Shock is part fish-out-of-water comedy, part family drama, and of course, America as underdog.

The Right Stuff

I've read the book and seen the movie, and they are two very different animals.  Still, The Right Stuff works as an ode to the brave pilots who broke the sound barrier and put us into space.  It features a who's who cast, with Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager and Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Scott Paulin, Lance Henriksen, and the not-as-successful Charles Frank as the Mercury 7, along with such actresses as Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, Kim Stanley, Pamela Reed, and Kathy Baker.  The cinematic Right Stuff honors the bravery and intelligence of America's pioneers into advanced flight and space travel, even if it omits mention of The New Nine (discussed so much in the Tom Wolfe book), who would go on to be probably the most impactful set of astronauts in America's space program.

October Sky

Another space-oriented film, this tells the story of Homer Hickam, who grew up in a coal-mining town in West Virginia but managed to escape a future of working in the mines himself, instead joining NASA as an engineer.  Based on Hickam's memoir Rocket Boys (October Sky, an anagram of Rocket Boys, was chosen as the film's replacement title after the studio didn't think women would go to a movie with the original title), the film follows Jake Gyllenhaal's Homer and his friends as they learn to build rockets, eventually going to the National Science Fair with a chance to earn college scholarships.  The movie provides a rich tale of kids struggling to leave their small town surroundings to make a better life.  The evolving relationship between Homer and his father, played gruffly by Chris Cooper, is particularly moving.

Akeelah and the Bee

A fictional story of an eleven year old girl from Crenshaw (Keke Palmer) working her way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Akeelah addresses the gulf between socioeconomic classes, particularly when it comes to education, but provides some hope for bridging that gulf.  Akeelah at first makes strides due to her natural talent, but requires the help of her community to fully succeed.  Palmer is supported by Angela Bassett as her mother and Laurence Fishburne as the former professor who becomes her primary coach and mentor.  Doug Atchison's script (which he also directed) looks at why exceptional inner-city youth often find themselves doubting their own talents and points to ways a community can help its young break out of the same old patterns.  In any event, it's a celebration of one of America's few popular intellectual competitions.

Exploration and the Opening of the West

Guardian of the Wilderness, aka Mountain Man

Though now difficult to find, Guardian of the Wilderness is worth catching when it periodically appears on television, primarily on TCM.  Starring Denver Pyle, it tells the story of Galen Clark, an Eastern entrepreneur who ventured west in search of gold and instead found the wonders of what would become Yosemite.  Guardian tells the story of Galen's work (along with his friend John Muir) to protect Yosemite and its giant sequoias from being harmed by loggers and others attempting to exploit the area's natural resources, eventually leading up to Yosemite being proclaimed America's first National Park, with Clark as its guardian.  The movie Galen has several animal friends to help him on his adventures, letting everyone know this was a Disney production.  It's rare enough that I could not find any clips, so instead enjoy this brief TED talk about Galen.


Directed by Lawrence Kasdan and featuring a stellar cast including Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, and Jeff Goldblum, Silverado can be considered either the first modern Western or the last of the great old fashioned epic Westerns.  Telling a sprawling tale of adventure and revenge, the film's true stars are the amazing locations throughout New Mexico that serve as the movie's backdrop.

American Sports

Field of Dreams

Baseball is America's national pastime, so of course a baseball movie should by default be patriotic.  But Field of Dreams adds to it an element that touches on why baseball is so central to the American character. There's something universal about the game and its ties to both cities and small town America.  This is underscored in James Earl Jones's famous speech, replayed today at so many ballparks across the nation.


I'm personally more fond of the HBO documentary on the 1980 US Men's Hockey team, but in any case, any movie about the Miracle on Ice (at least any told from the American perspective) ranks up there in patriotism.  This was a team of true amateurs that bonded together to face the best international competition money could buy.  Part of Coach Herb Brooks's approach was to get his players to recognize that playing for their country was far more important than their individual accomplishments or the college teams that they played for and to whom many of them would return after the Olympics.  The shocking triumph over the Soviets and the subsequent gold medal game win would help restore America's confidence after it had been shaken by, among other things, the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis.


Rocky IV

It's far from a work of art, but you can't get a more literally flag-draped sports movie than this.  After Russian behemoth Drago kills a red, white, and blue-clad Apollo Creed (who enters the ring to the sounds of "Living in America"), Rocky comes out of retirement to avenge his friend.  The contrast between the cold Soviet sports machine and the idealized spunky American underdog is not subtle.  The ending is never in doubt, despite how hard Stallone might try to make it.  Rocky IV does not score high on the taste-meter, but it certainly belongs on this list.

American Heroes

Superman, Superman II, Superman Returns, Man of Steel

We'll just forget that Superman III or IV ever happened.  There are no perfect Superman movies, but each of the four listed above do make sure to remind everyone that Superman is probably the most quintessential American superhero that doesn't wear the flag as part of his costume, fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.  As he reminds General Swanwick in Man of Steel, he did grow up in Kansas, after all.

Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier

Well, duh.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ten Movies That Need to Be Made

I don't know about you, but I'm a little fatigued by all of the sequels and series reboots we get year after year these days.  There's a bounty of characters, works, and topics that have either yet to see the silver screen or haven't seen it in quite some time.  Below are a selection of ten I'd love to see get picked up by a studio with the right script, director, and cast.

I'm discounting any source that I've seen recent announcement of it being developed into a film, so obvious choices like Sandman, Good OmensOld Man's War, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and The Lies of Locke Lamora are not included (even though chances are we'll never see most of them actually made).  I actually have a list of 20, but will save the other half for a later post.

1. Hawkman

What's it about?  Hawkman is a comic book character, so his history has changed through the years, because comic book publishers like to do that.  The version that I would suggest features the story of Khufu, a prince of ancient Egypt, who is betrayed and killed along with his consort Chay-Ara by his longtime rival, the priest Hath-Set.  Hath-Set sacrifices the pair in a ritual using a mystical dagger made of a mysterious substance called Nth Metal, which has many properties the ancient pharaohs found useful.  Khufu and Chay-Ara are reincarnated throughout the ages, but always meet an untimely demise at the hands of a reincarnated Hath-Set.  

Eventually, though, an American archaeologist named Carter Hall, who's curating an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts, touches the Nth Metal dagger and is enlightened with the knowledge that he's the latest incarnation of Khufu and that his girlfriend Shiera Saunders was once Chay-Ara.  Carter uses his recovered knowledge of Nth Metal to craft a belt that will let him fly, crafting a set of wings to allow him to control his flight.  Carter finds himself in adventures that get him dubbed the Hawkman by the media.  Eventually, Shiera gets her own belt and wings to become Hawkwoman.  They find they have to arm themselves quickly with weapons on hand at the museum to stop the evil machinations of scientist Anton Hastor, who they find out is the reincarnated Hath-Set.

Why it could work!  Hawkman can have some stunning flight visuals, is a fairly gritty character that lends himself well to the kind of dark storytelling that in particular Warner Brothers likes to tell, and has a relatively tidy self-contained mythos.  Plus, setting aside just how huge super-hero movies are these days, one has to consider that the reincarnation angle and the timeless love of Khufu/Carter and Chay-Ara/Shiera has a romantic drama element that few comic book properties can claim.  Imagine a final scene where Carter and Shiera, having just defeated Hastor and his plot, find themselves both mortally wounded and struggling to drag themselves to each other in the hopes of dying in each other's arms.  The film closes with them lying lifeless on a cold floor, their hands outstretched toward each other but not quite close enough to touch.  Played correctly, there's not a dry eye in the house.

But wait, what's this after the credits?  The camera zooms into space where we find the planet Thanagar, its denizens using winged suits and vehicles to navigate in floating cities high in the clouds.  There a woman is giving birth.  "I think we'll name him Katar," she tells her husband afterward.  The camera zooms into the baby's eye, and we're sure we're looking at the latest version of Khufu.  Sequel established!

2. Camelot 3000

What's it about?  Ancient prophecy states that King Arthur will return when England needs him the most.  In the year 3000 CE, England has need of him, as a race of aliens has invaded.  Arthur will need to retrieve Excalibur, regather the Knights of the Round Table (all reincarnated into the world of 3000 CE), and seek out Merlin if he's going to save England (and the rest of the world) from these aliens, who have a very familiar backer.

Why it could work!  It's King Arthur!  With a sword in one hand and a blaster in the other!  Fighting aliens!

Okay, a little more depth.  Camelot 3000 was surprisingly rich in story layers.  You have the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle, made that much more complicated by the fact that everyone remembers the original betrayal and consequences.  You have Sir Percival reincarnated as a lab-grown genetically manipulated giant worker drone.  You have famed lover Sir Tristan reincarnated as a woman and all the gender issues that allows one to explore.  You have Sir Gawain as the only family man among the group, always just wanting to get the job done so he can get back to the wife and kids.  And you have Sir Galahad reincarnated as a completely bad ass samurai of the future.  The story from the comic book maxi-series had Arthur and his Knights revisit practically every major story in the legend, from the Lady in the Lake to the Holy Grail, as part of the plot.  And all of this while fighting aliens.

3. Justice, Inc. (aka The Avenger)

What's it about?  Richard Henry Benson is essentially The Most Interesting Man in the World, trotting the globe from adventure to adventure.  His wife and child are killed during one of his trips, and the shock renders his face paralyzed and highly malleable, his skin and hair turned completely white.  Benson vows to avenge the loss of his family, taking advantage of his fortune, his legion of skills, and his new ability as a master of disguise to right wrongs along the way.  To aid him, he gathers a team of assistants, and together they are Justice, Inc.

Why it could work!  Surprisingly, despite spawning off 42 original stories and novels, several follow-up books, multiple comic book series, and a radio show, The Avenger and Justice, Inc. has never been the subject of a film adaptation.  This strikes me odd, as the concept could be set in almost any time period post-1920.  And the cast is ready-made for a modern film, with a diversity unheard of among Justice, Inc.'s pulp brethren.  Among the team are Nellie Gray, who was Emma Peel 20 years before Emma Peel was invented.  Also on the team are Josh and Rosabel Newton, an African-American couple who would often go undercover to gather more information for The Avenger.  Add to them Mac the chemist, Smitty the electronics expert, and Cole the junior adventurer, and you have a well-rounded cast that can surround a strong leading character.  Imagine a movie that's part Mission: Impossible, part Fast and the Furious, and part Nolan's Batman, and you basically have Justice, Inc.

4. The Muppets Get Rebooted

What's it about?  This is a story line of my own devising, but a timely one and, in my opinion, perfect for The Muppets brand of satire.  The idea is relatively straight forward: after the Muppets' new show... inevitably cancelled (whether after one season or after a longer run), Disney decides to reboot the franchise, because that's what everyone does these days.  They decide to replace Miss Piggy with a thinner model, of course (great shades of Amanda Waller).

And they get The Roots to replace Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem (they do have to honor Animal's lifetime contract, though).

Chris Pine plays the new Kermit, of course.

The only one not replaced is Gonzo, because no one can figure out what he is or how to get a new one.  The original Muppets, of course, don't take this lying down and hatch a plot to get their old jobs back and reclaim their legacy.  High jinks ensue.

Why it could work!  First off, it's a Muppets movie, and those tend to be great.  Second, it's riffing on an overused trend in Hollywood, something that is dying to be made fun of.  And the Muppets, working on their 61st year of existence (40th if you only count back to the first episodes of The Muppet Show), would be perfect to take on the subject.  Yes, this ground was tilled lightly in The Muppets given Fozzie's Reno performances with The Moopets, but that was lampooning a different phenomenon altogether.  It's timely, it's a good fit for the Muppets in particular, and it would be refreshing for a studio (Disney in particular) to poke fun at itself rather than continue to navel-gaze.

5. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (Remake)

What's it about?  It's 1942, and Captain Ted Lawson is a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber pilot, and he and his crew is picked to participate in what would become famously known as the Doolittle Raid.  Lawson and his fellow B-25 pilots train extensively to take off from an aircraft carrier (which is difficult and dangerous, given that the bombers aren't designed for short takeoffs and carriers aren't designed to hold bombers) so that they can take part in a Hail Mary response to Pearl Harbor, an aerial attack on the Japanese homeland itself.  In all, 16 bombers, including Lawson's Ruptured Duck, take off from the deck of USS Hornet, bomb targets in Tokyo and a few other industrial cities, then crash into or off the coast of Japanese-occupied China, where the Chinese resistance attempts to shelter them and spirit them out of the country.  The downed crews face the never-ending threat of capture and/or execution while navigating an escape while many of them face life threatening injuries themselves.

Why it could work!  Lawson's memoir is a riveting read -- I checked it out from our library annually while in elementary school and middle school.  It spawned off a solid 1944 film starring Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy, but needs significant updating, in particular when bringing a modern, decades-removed perspective on the mission.  The laughably inaccurate Pearl Harbor attempted to show the Doolittle Raid but did so in laughably inaccurate ways.  This story, featuring warfighters facing severe risks and knowingly moving forward anyway, deserves a strong retelling.

6. Old Ironsides (Remake)

What's it about?  Almost ten years after a debt-ridden United States disbanded the Continental Navy and sold off the last of its warships, increasing piracy by Algerian ships on the Atlantic Ocean causes President George Washington to request the creation of a United States Navy.  The result is six frigates, one of whom, USS Constitution, would go on to achieve fame and glory in the Quasi-War, the war against the Barbary Pirates, and the War of 1812.  During a famed battle against HMS Guerriere, shot after shot bounced off her thick planked hull, causing someone to remark that her sides were made of iron.  Throughout her most active years, Constitution and her crew experienced several close shaves and epic battles.  At one point, she is chased by a squadron of five British warships into calm seas, only escaping after a 57 hour chase in which her captain sent out rowboats to manually drag the ship forward and sacrificing much of the ship's drinking water in the blazing July heat to lighten the ship for faster towing.  Attempts to scrap her years later were thwarted by a groundswell of public support for the ship, and Constitution remains the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy.

Why it could work!  Surprisingly, there's not been a remake of Old Ironsides since a silent film premiered in 1926.  I could discuss in detail about how high seas adventures are severely lacking in modern cinema or how American could use its own version of Master and Commander (which stole heavily from Constitution's history), but I think I'll let Oliver Wendell Holmes make the case for me in his protest against decommissioning and forgetting her:
Aye tear her tattered ensign down
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;--
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee;--
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!'

7. Undaunted Courage

What's it about?  It's 1803 and the U.S. has just purchased a whole bunch of land from France.  President Thomas Jefferson wants to know what's out there, particularly whether there's a passable water-based route across the continent.  After several months of preparation, an expedition by the U.S. Army, led by friends Captain Meriwether Lewis and 2nd Lieutenant William Clark, sets out from St. Charles, Missouri.  Along the way to the Pacific, they struggle through sickness, near-starvation, and the natural hazards of the terrain.  They encounter dozens of Native American tribes, most very helpful, some difficult or outright hostile.  Their journey established an American presence on the Pacific Coast, verified there was no all-water route across the U.S., and increased by many times America's knowledge of the western half of the continent, including its native inhabitants.

Why it could work!  Surprisingly, there hasn't been a major film on the Lewis and Clark Expedition since Fred MacMurray and Charlton Heston (along with Donna Reed as -- ahem -- Sacagawea) made a 1955 Hollywood version of the journey in The Far Horizons.  Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage is a riveting read on the expedition, and adapting it to film would be a natural fit.  It's an important part of American history, and an era that is little understood in this day and age.  And the expedition's travel across the continent and back went through some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.  A skilled cinematographer could make a majestic film in the process.

8. A Real Dungeons and Dragons Movie

What's it about?  Imagine Lord of the Rings except with periodic cutaways to a framing narrative a la The Princess Bride or Forget Paris.  In the game world, our adventurers are busy navigating mysterious dungeons and dangerous terrain, fighting monsters, evildoers, undead, and maybe even a dragon.  In the real world, the players who control those adventurers in their exploits squabble over rules with the dungeon master, work through personal issues, and have knock down, drag-out fights over what toppings to order on the pizza.

Why it could work!  There have been several Dungeons and Dragons movies, all of varying levels of embarrassing quality, over the years.  But none of them truly capture the magic (pardon the pun) of playing a role-playing game, including the all-important story outside the story that the players go through.  Some web comics have done a spectacular job of capturing this dynamic, but aside from some horrendously awful videos on YouTube (I'll spare you the link), no one seems to have attempted this on film.  In the hands of the right scriptwriter, such a movie could be a lot of fun to watch, both by gamers and nongamers alike.  There's even a plethora of perfectly good movie titles out there to use, from Roll Initiative! to d20.

9. Maus

What's it about?  A Pulitzer-winning graphic novel, Maus tells the story of Art Spiegelman's interviews with his father Vladek, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.  Vladek describes his stint as a draftee into the Polish army prior to the German invasion, his subsequent stint as a prisoner of war, and his release.  Vladek then tells his son of the actions the Nazi occupiers took against the Jews in Poland, starting with forced moves into ghettos and then round ups to take them to concentration camps.  Both Vladek and members of his extended family went to great lengths to hide from and/or escape the Gestapo, but ultimately Vladek is captured and sent to Auschwitz, where the prisoners suffer greatly, many of them dead from the conditions or executed, then on to Dachau, where he fortunately survived to see the war's end and his rescue.  Throughout, Spiegelman symbolizes the players in the story in animal form, the Jews taking the form of mice, the Nazis cats, and the gentile Poles pigs.  The story frequently cuts to Art and Vladek and their interactions throughout the interviews.

Why it could work!  There's a reason why this became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer.  It is powerful, not only for the tragic firsthand account of the horrors experienced by millions during the Holocaust, but also for the interactions between father Vladek and son Art, who has trouble at times relating with his Old World father and realizing how much both of them hurt from the suicide years prior by Art's mother.  Art, as he portrays himself, is highly neurotic, an angry man who has difficulty relating to his father even as his father tells him his story of suffering at the hands of the Nazis.  Vladek has been deeply scarred by his experiences, as one would imagine, and is unsure if dredging up such painful memories and publishing them is the right thing to do.  It's a complex dynamic that those of us who have had strained, distant relationships with parents will find all too familiar.

When I told some friends about my thoughts on how Maus should become a movie, they cautioned that it can't just be made by anyone.  They're right.  Maus will require a scriptwriter and director for whom this will be a labor of love, where devotion to the source material trumps any ego or desires to attempt to "fix" anything.  I personally think that the style of art in the book would translate spectacularly to animation on the screen if there is a conscious decision to style the movie visually after the book's art style (like how Warner Bros. Animation styled the Justice League: The New Frontier animation after the art of Darwyn Cooke, below).  It's just waiting for someone with the right amount of passion to bring it to life (as opposed to adapting it).  It's far too important a story not to put into motion.

10. Domesticity

What's it about?  Bob Shacochis is an award winning author and journalist who also for many a year wrote the Dining In column for Esquire.  Domesticity is a collection of his columns, almost all reflecting in some way on his decades-long relationship with his common law wife, Miss F, before launching into a recipe for an evening's meal.  Shacochis talks about the adventures he and Miss F have had, the troubled times, and the ties between both food and love as well as food and sex.

Why it could work!  On the face of it, this seems like a very odd selection to try to make a movie from.  To that I'd point out that they managed to take a blog in which a self-pitying woman attempted to make all of the dishes in Julia Child's cookbook into a film that earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination (though I guess that's not that hard to do).  But the real reason I suggest this as a movie is that I spent a year in the acquaintance of the actual Miss F, and she is quite frankly the most amazing woman I've ever met.  Whether regaling stories of her time spent fueling boats in a marina she ran, offhandedly commenting on the weekend she'd just spent with her friends the Hemingways, or using her lawyerly wiles to raise the blood pressure of legislators, Miss F was a force: a female answer to The Most Interesting Man in the World.  And Bob is no slouch himself.  In the hands of the right director and cast (for some reason, David O. Russell and the pair of Christian Bale and Amy Adams comes to mind), this could be a sweet tale of love and adventure between two intellectual adventurers.