Now Playing: ‘The Unknown Known’

Don Rumsfeld faces the past (or not) in 'The Unknown Known'

Don Rumsfeld faces the past (or not) in ‘The Unknown Known’

Late last year, possibly in an attempt to garner an Oscar nomination, the Weinsteins’ Radius-TWC outfit gave Errol Morris’ newest documentary The Unknown Known a short pre-holiday run. Now, this riveting, feature-length interview with the Bush era’s greatest poetic dissembler, Donald Rumsfeld, is getting a proper release.

The Unknown Known is playing in limited release again starting this week. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

In The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld shows time and again why he’s a perfect subject for another of Morris’s documentary investigations into American military adventurism and hubris. For one, he’s the sharpest verbalist of the three. For another, he’s willing to tangle with other points of view; though not necessarily concede an inch of ground. If the film can’t compare in the end to 2003’s The Fog of War, that’s because Rumsfeld doesn’t appear to have had the come-to-Jesus moment about Iraq that Robert McNamara had about his role in the disaster that was the Vietnam War. Given the placidly combative figure presented here, that moment will probably never come…

Here’s the trailer:

 

Coming Soon: ‘The Unknown Known’

Rumsfeld: 'The only things that are lasting are conflict, blackmail, and killing.'

Rumsfeld: ‘The only things that are lasting are conflict, blackmail, and killing.’

The_Unknown_Known_posterErrol Morris’ riveting new documentary is a feature-length interview with none other than the Bush era’s greatest poetic dissembler, Donald Rumsfeld. The Unknown Known has been playing festival dates recently and is going to hit theaters on December 13.

My early review is at Short Ends & Leader:

In The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld shows time and again why he’s a perfect subject for another of Morris’s documentary investigations into American military adventurism and hubris. For one, he’s the sharpest verbalist of the three. For another, he’s willing to tangle with other points of view; though not necessarily concede an inch of ground. If the film can’t compare in the end to 2003’s The Fog of War, that’s because Rumsfeld doesn’t appear to have had the come-to-Jesus moment about Iraq that Robert McNamara had about his role in the disaster that was the Vietnam War. Given the placidly combative figure presented here, that moment will probably never come…

Here’s a look at the trailer:

 

Screening Room: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

hobbit_desolation_of_smaug_poster

So, granted, the first installment of The Hobbit was something of a letdown even for those who weren’t a little exhausted with Peter Jackson by the time The Return of the King ground to an end. But, the trailer for Jackson’s second—and most likely just as bloated episode—has thrills and beauty aplenty.

In the plus column: Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Smaug, and a Mirkwood that looks as much of a thrilling mythological darkland as Tolkien described it.

In the minus: romance for Legolas, the fact that there is still one more film to come.

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Books: A Documentary’

booksdoc

This is the killer Kickstarter pitch for a new proposed film project with the can’t-go-wrong title of Books: A Documentary:

This past August over 300,000 antiquarian books from Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up were sold at auction: This is the story of those Books.

Color us intrigued.

For those not already in awe of the man, Lonesome Dove and Brokeback Mountain author McMurtry also owns one of the nation’s great used-book emporiums. He told the tale of last fall’s great blowout sale at the New York Review of Books.

booksdoc2

According to Publishers Weekly, the filmmakers (husband-and-wife Sara Ossana and Mathew Provost) have already shot about half of the doc and need $50,000 to finish it up. Ossana notes that the film, which uses McMurtry’s sale to explore the modern book landscape, might be expected to be a downbeat tale about an industry and way of life in decline:

“We weren’t sure if the film would be a moratorium, or more uplifting,” Ossana said. “It’s turning out to be more uplifting.” That, she thinks, is due to a larger cultural shift afoot in America—brought on by the country’s economic need to develop a stronger foothold in the production of goods and in manufacturing—that is driving more people to ask where the objects they have come from, whether it’s the food on their table, or the hardcover novel on their shelf. “There is a cultural awakening happening now,” Ossana explained, “around what people find valuable. I think the book is a large part of that,” she said. And, with that, Ossana thinks physical bookstores are becoming more important as “cultural centers” on the community level.

Here’s to hoping that she’s right.

Department of Adaptations: Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Slaugherhouse Five’?

Guillermo Del Toro ponders one of his 'Pan's Labyrinth' beasts.

Guillermo Del Toro ponders one of his ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ beasts.

After many years of nothing much, horror/fantasy wunderkind Guillermo Del Toro is finally getting back into the game. His long-in-gestation R-rated take on H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness never quite came to fruition for the usual reasons (detailed in a 2011 New Yorker profile of Del Toro here) and he ultimately left The Hobbit to make room for Peter Jackson; an arguably poor choice either way.

Now, Del Toro’s got a massive monster mashup movie coming out, Pacific Rim, wherein alien monsters battle giant Robotech-like mechas for the survival of humanity. Could be like Godzilla (the lamentable remake) meets The Transformers or it could be honest-to-God bang-up summer fun. There’s also Crimson Peak, a The Shining-esque British haunted house story starring Benedict Cumberbatch, coming out later this year.

slaughterhouse5-coverIn even more intriguing Del Toro news comes this tantalizing note via an interview with The Daily Telegraph, that not only is Del Toro looking to film Slaughterhouse-Five  but he’s interested in having Charlie freaking Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Kaufman write the thing.

Granted, Kaufman is more exciting to hear about here than Del Toro (Vonnegut’s concept of being “unstuck in time” would appeal perfectly to Kaufman’s sensibilities, while Del Toro’s maybe too creature-feature for this tonally complex a book), but this is still potentially great news.

Not knocking George Roy Hill’s 1972 version (trailer below), but this is one book that might be worth knocking the dust off and introducing to a new generation, and Del Toro would hopefully take some risks on it that other more award-ready filmmakers wouldn’t.

Trailer Park: ‘Salinger’

SALINGER_FINALThe theories that have swirled around the reclusive J.D. Salinger over the decades since his disappearance are many and mostly ridiculous (a personal favorite being that he actually still walks among us … writing as Thomas Pynchon). It’s what happens when you write a defining novel like The Catcher in the Rye and then just drop off the face of the earth.

It will be interesting to see what Shane Salerno’s award-potential documentary Salinger is going to be able to come up with when it opens this fall. What pops up in the trailer looks to be a mix of biography, adulation from various literary types and actors, and wildly imaginative speculation—the most enticing of which being: Is there a new book in the offing?

You can check out the trailer here: