Johnny Depp and Ralph Steadman
“FOR NO GOOD REASON” My rating: B (Opens June 13 at the Tivoli)
89 minutes | MPAA rating: R
For many of us it is impossible to separate the savagely witty, nightmarish, splattery cartoons and illustrations of Ralph Steadman from the gonzo journalism of the late Hunter Thompson.
In 1970 the American Thompson and the Brit Steadman formed a partnership to write and illustrate a story about their trip to the Kentucky Derby. They hit the big time two years later with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson’s drug-saturated novel inspired by his Rolling Stone assignment to cover a convention of police chiefs in Sin City.
Steadman’s bizarre, jagged, horrific illustrations were the perfect visual counterpart to Thompson’s words. The pair seemed to have been made for each other.
There’s a bit of vintage footage in Charlie Paul’s “For No Good Reason” showing Thompson’s indignant reaction to Steadman’s assertion that his jump-off-the-bookshelf cover art is the main reason Fear and Loathing became a best seller. The public only began reading the book, Steadman teases, after being attracted by his art.
It’s a moment that in many ways encapsulizes the relationship. Steadman and Thompson (who committed suicide a few years back) needed each other. The artist calls the writer “the one man I needed to meet in America.” Together they were an unbeatable team. Then they spent decades as near rivals, trying to establish their own independent identities.
As you’d expect, that love/hate partnership takes up a good chunk of Charlie Paul’s documentary. But the film also shows that Ralph Steadman is a man of many parts: a political satirist in the spirit of Daumier, Nast, and Goya; a social activist; a visual experimenter. He also seems like a genuinely nice fellow.
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“THE RUM DIARY” My rating: C- (Opening wide on Oct. 28)
120 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“The Rum Diary” is such a drab affair it bears mentioning only as an example of how great movies stars can squander their popularity.
“Rum” marks the second time actor Johnny Depp has played famed gonzo journalist Hunter M. Thompson (actually here he plays a Thompson-like character). One can only assume that Depp finds inspiration or at the very least an acting challenge in portraying the chemically-addled, terminally sardonic writer/wastrel.
His first outing as Thompson was 1998’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” a surreal pigout that was fairly faithful to the book but still unremarkable.
“Rum” is based on Thompson’s autobiographical novel about his early career as a newspaperman in the Caribbean.
The trailers make it look like a laugh-heavy dip into debauchery beneath the palms — all drink, drugs and beautiful women.
In truth, this is a sour, joyless tale of idealism run aground. And that would be acceptable if the film were better made.
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“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” My rating: C
137 minutes | PG-13
“On Stranger Tides,” the fourth entry in Disney’s phenomenally profitable “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, is at least an improvement over the last two sequels.
It’s still not a particularly good movie (though it remains hugely impressive from a technical standpoint) but at least it didn’t make me want to pound a handspike into my forehead.
“Pirates” 2 and 3 were runaround movies in which the principal players would first run over here, then run over there without a whole lot of reason. Basically director Gore Verbinski was mounting special effects extravaganzas in which plot and characters were a distant afterthought.
Now helmed by Rob Marshall (who followed up on his smash “Chicago” with the dismal “Memoirs of a Giesha” and “Nine” and badly needs a commercial hit), the franchise has jettisoned (more…)
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