Frank is a movie I’m pretty psyched for this year — the UK comedy casts Michael Fassbender in what seems to be a quirkily comedic role (you know, like his gig in Prometheus) alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson. The picture sets Gleeson as Jon “a young wannabe musician who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins a band of eccentric pop musicians led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Fassbender) and his terrifying sidekick Clara (Gyllenhaal).”

The photo above is a bit of the first still from the film, and you can see the full shot below.  Read More »

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Briefly: This is a pretty small story, but it could lead to something fun: Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan, and Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter films) have been signed to star in a UK comedy called Frank.

The Film4 production is written by Jon Ronson (who wrote the book The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (who scripted the film The Men Who Stare at Goats, and co-scripted Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and will be directed by Lenny Abrahamson. That’s a pretty good talent lineup, and the idea of seeing Fassbender play in an a comedy is so appealing.

Oh, and the film might be kind of a musical, as Variety says “Gleeson will play an aspiring musician who finds himself in over his head when he joins an eccentric rock band led by Fassbender.”

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Part of the story angle behind Grant Heslov‘s directorial effort The Men Who Stare at Goats is that the film is based on a true story. Usually I ignore that sort of background when first approaching a movie — I want a film to work on its own merits, rather than as an adaptation or recounting of history — but after the fact it’s always fun to look at the real material that inspired a story. In this case, there is a Channel 4 documentary called The Crazy Rulers of the World, the first episode of which is actually called The Men Who Stare at Goats, which leads to the book of the same name that, in turn, inspired the film. Watch (some of) the original documentary after the break. Read More »

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While journalist and documentarian Jon Ronson is currently undergoing a metamorphosis into a screenwriter, the first film to bear his name is not from one of his own scripts but has been fictionalized, and rather heavily so, from his non-fiction book The Men Who Stare at Goats by Newcastle scribe Peter Straughan. What Ronson set down on paper as a darkly comic and increasingly scary investigation into the American military’s more fanciful, or eventually insane, experimentation and research has become an oddball comedy with a tinge of the surreal. Many of Ronson’s ideas run between the lines of Straughan’s invented plot, though I don’t think I personally could have found the film to feel any more different to Ronson’s book or in-parallel TV documentary.

It’s a win-win, though, as far as the book is concerned because those who love the film (and as you’ll find out after the break, that’s an awful lot of people) are bound to find the extra information every bit as engrossing and possibly even more surprising, while those who find some of the film’s seemingly contradictory attitudes towards the paranormal and supernatural or it’s unexpectedly upbeat tone to be off putting will find the book more satisfyingly shaded. I do think, though, that adding sweetness for palatability seems like a curious misstep when you already know your recipe appeals to those with a taste for the bitter.

I’m a very big fan of Ronson’s writing and TV work, so I took great pleasure in interviewing him about Goats. We spoke for over an hour in total but almost immediately, I think, he sensed my disappointment in the film. Neither his enthusiasm or candor were curbed by this and, anyway, as Ronson told me I’m definitely in the minority and the film has been going down superemely well so far.

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The Brit List 2009

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We’ve often referred to The Black List, the annual countdown of favorite scripts compiled by canvassing the opinions of film industry folk, but never before, I believe, The Brit List. The principal with this one is exactly the same, it’s just limited to films out there on the British market. In 2007, the list was topped by The Men Who Stare At Goats, now revving up for release with George Clooney and Ewan McGregor in the leads. The new list is a surprising and most newsworthy affair, not least because of the way it sheds new light on a curious old Sacha Baron Cohen rumour.

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Jon Ronson is a journalist probably best known for his columns in The Guardian; guest appearances on This American Life; and the non-fiction books Them, which includes a series of reports about Ronson’s misadventures with deluded conspiracists and similar crackpots, and The Men Who Stare at Goats, detailing the various lunatic-sounding ‘psychic’ operations, or PSYOPS, of the US military. Both books are genuinely hilarious and deeply frightening, and both have been optioned for feature film adaptation.

On top of this, however, Ronson has now tweeted that he himself is making his virgin excursion into fiction writing with two new screenplays for Film 4. Exciting stuff, because Ronson is definitely an interesting character with a very amusing world view.

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If you’re a moviegoer who doesn’t generally dislike George Clooney but reacts to movie news about him like an allergic reaction to salt-and-peppered dander, you’ll want to make an exception here. The actor is set to star in an adaptation of Jon Ronson‘s book, Men Who Stare at Goats, a wily nonfiction account of the U.S. army’s history of dabbling in the supernatural that leads up to the current quagmire in Iraq. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon…

“As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating “Warrior Monks,” soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. …But Ronson soon learns that the Battalion’s bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur’s song, “I Love You,” and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways…”

Cool subject matter almost lending itself to a Coens-esque romp, no? The film will be directed by multitasker Grant Heslov, a partner in Clooney’s Smoke House imprint, with a script by Peter Straughan (the upcoming adaptation of Toby Young’s How to Win Friends and Alienate People). After the prototypically classy Michael Clayton and Leatherheads, it’s time Clooney put on a nappy wig and went a little batshit like Nic Cage in Raising Arizona or Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Between this project, foregoing too much current event storyline, and September’s dark and quirky Burn After Reading, it would seem he’s headed on a similarly looney, and successful, trajectory.

via Variety (oh yeah, and shame, shame)

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