November 2006

Liz Miller

hollywood madam

2006 Holiday Movie Guide

It's weird, going through this fall's upcoming releases and pinpointing the ones that are adapted from books -- mainly because when you weed out the unremarkable and dull, you end up with a strange season indeed. Dragons! Germans! And two times the Dench!  No clue how many of these movies are actually going to be any good. But that's the fun of November. Still so much potential in the air.

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
RELEASE DATE: November 10, 2006 (NY, LA; expansion: November 17)

THE SOURCE: The biography by Patricia Bosworth, which seems to be a fairly standard sort of life story retelling.

THE MOVIE: Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus, Robert Downey Jr. as the mysterious wolf-man upstairs, directed by the guy who found new ways to make Spader seem pervy (oh, Secretary, you are a weird, weird movie).

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Well. There's not a lot of information available online about exactly how imaginary this portrait is. But all indications seem to lean towards it being a bit strange -- at least, as far as the fur-covered people in the trailer would indicate. Is this a metatextual, "in the spirit of her work" sort of mood piece? Or is it just fucked up? Who knows.  Loosely Inspired By is what's cited on the poster, though. I'm down with that.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I waited to see Secretary on DVD. That was a fine, fine decision. After all, perversion is best enjoyed in the privacy of one's own home.

A Good Year
RELEASE DATE: November 10, 2006 (NY, LA; expansion: November 17)

THE SOURCE: The novel/wine-country-porn by Peter Mayle, best known for the wine-country-porn memoir A Year in Provence.

THE MOVIE: Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott team up for another adrenaline-pumping epic. Just like Gladiator! Except that instead of going on a blood feud to avenge the death of his wife and son by the hands of the power-mad emperor, General Maximus returns to his sun-dappled farm... and makes wine.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Adapted From, by all indications. At least, the wine country porn elements of the novel certainly seem well-represented.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? Five years ago, two hours of sun-dappled Crowe would have seemed like the perfect filmgoing experience. Funny how the world changes.

Fast Food Nation
RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2006

THE SOURCE: Eric Schlosser's nonfiction expose of the fast food industry's many naughty nooks and crannies.

THE MOVIE: An ensemble cast, directed by Richard Linklater, attempts to make fiction out of non via the magic of show, not tell.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Based On. They seem to be using the book mostly as source material, but Schlosser appears to be an actual character in the story (played by Greg Kinnear!) and some dialogue seems ripped right from the pages.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I've been excited about this movie for a while -- great cast, good book, fairly solid director -- but the buzz has been a little sketchy. It's hard to believe that Greg Kinnear would make a bad movie, though... Wait, that's sarcasm.  Anyway, the book is great and the topic is important. Worth the ol' college try.

Casino Royale
RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2006

THE SOURCE: The 1953 novel by Ian Fleming, about this guy in a tux. He stomps some dudes.

THE MOVIE: Hot like burning. Man oh man is Daniel Craig gonna stomp some dudes.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? The newest Bond -- and the newest Bond film -- is touted to be a return to the busted-knuckle, bit-of-a-dick Bond days, truer in spirit to Fleming's novels than past CGI-heavy Brosnan flicks. And it's actually based on one of the technically unadapted Bond stories (there was a Casino Royale produced as an episode of the British series Climax in 1954, and the book was also used as source material for a 1967 Bond spoof). So, even though they're playing Texas Hold 'Em instead of baccarat, it's a tentative Adapted From.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? Oh, hell yes. My expectations are lower than some, because I don't care very much for Paul Haggis, who did a rewrite on the script. And the fact that Martin Campbell directed Goldeneye does not erase the fact that Martin Campbell also directed Vertical Limit. But I'm willing to bet some moneydollars on it. Opening night, even.

RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2006

THE SOURCE: "Tolkien only wrote three Rings novels? Well, fuck. Go look on the Internet; maybe some seventeen-year-old's written some fanfic we can swipe."

THE MOVIE: It's a movie about dragons starring Jeremy Irons. But totally not at all like Dungeons and Dragons. Right?

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Based on? I don't know. I'll admit that I haven't read the novel...

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? ...Which corresponds with me not caring about this movie at all. If the reviews indicate that I've been hasty in my judgment, maybe I'll reconsider. But Dragonheart cured me of any girlish dragon love a long time ago.

The Good German
RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2006

THE SOURCE: The 2001 novel by Joseph Kanon, all about post-World War II Berlin and the vaguely Casablanca-esque intrigue that occurred during the Potsdam Conference.

THE MOVIE: You know what's pretty? Black and white. You know who's pretty? George Clooney. How to create ultimate pretty: George Clooney in black and white.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Sounds like a Based On. If there's anyone I'd trust to get an adaptation right, it might be Paul Attanasio (you really can't blame him for Sphere).

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? Sure, it's been a while since Soderbergh dealt America the one-two punch of awesome that was The Limey and Out of Sight. But I'm still reeling from that blow, to the point of forgiving Ocean's Twelve and not quite remembering Full Frontal. Put me first in line.

Charlotte's Web
RELEASE DATE: December 20, 2006

THE SOURCE: E.B. White's classic children's novel, from a proud tradition of Books That Teach Kids About The Cold Certainty Of Death.

THE MOVIE: Just as the memory of Babe has totally faded from conscious memory, comes a live-action-with-CGI-elements story about a magical adorable pig. Now with added Jesus (thanks, Walden Media)!

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Based On, I suppose -- it's not like it's a hard story to get wrong. Then again, the tagline is "Help is coming from above." Not that I was particularly sharp as an eight-year-old, but I don't recall White's novel being so Judeo-Christian-y?

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I mean, that Dakota Fanning sure is precious. But I'm saving all my moneydollars for...

Children of Men
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2006 (limited)

THE SOURCE: The dystopian thriller by P.D. James. Who, aside from being a writer of crime fiction, is also a member of the House of Lords! And a Baroness!

THE MOVIE: Sometimes, a movie comes along that breaks the brain with its potential for awesome. Clive Owen! In a movie about a dystopian not-too-distant future! With present-day social commentary! And that teenager from the British Queer as Folk! Directed by Alfonso Cuaron! The release date is perfect; it's all I've ever wanted for Christmas.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? Split the difference and call it Based On? I'm trying to avoid learning too much beforehand. But while Cuaron's previous literary adaptations have occasionally played fast and loose with the source material (the 1997 Great Expectations was just a bit of a misstep), Children of Men seems solid enough in concept to prevent too much crazy-talk.


Notes on a Scandal
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2006

THE SOURCE: What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.

THE MOVIE: The twisted Cate Blanchett/Judi Dench romance for which we've all yearned. Well, not so much romance as "Judi Dench uses Cate Blanchett's illicit sexual exploits to artificially cement their friendship and force a greater sense of intimacy." Judi Dench seems to be playing a demented cat lady. Cate Blanchett is not-married to Bill Nighy. This movie is STRANGE.

"ADAPTED FROM", "BASED ON", OR "LOOSELY INSPIRED BY"? The trailer focuses on the relationship between Dench and Blanchett, focusing less on the scandal itself -- a trailer is hardly indication of anything, but shifting the focus to Dench's character, rather than dwelling on the teacher-student scandal, seems to be a shift from the source material. Not that that's a bad thing. Give me Blanchett/Dench any day.

IS THE MADAM GOING TO SEE IT? I do like Closer a lot, in large part because of Patrick Marber's raw writing. The movie is rated R for "some aberrant sexual content." And if that's not what the holidays are about, I don't know what is.