Kelo v. New London is Coming to the Big Screen as the Little Pink House

ReasonTV’s Nick Gillespie sat down with writer/director Courtney Moorehead Balaker to discuss the adaptation of Jeff Benedict’s book Little Pink House into a major motion picture scheduled to begin filming this fall. It’s been 10 years since the SCOTUS decision decided in favor of the city of New London over homeowner Susette Kelo in an eminent domain abuse case that sent shockwaves throughout the country.

See the interview below and read more here.


Sin City’s Not-So-Triumphant Return

unnamedIn an interview on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Robert Rodriguez revealed his desire to have the final product be more of a graphic novel than a film. In theory, this idea is fine. In practice, it conjures up the tireless shuffling on whether book-to-film adaptations always favor books or films or neither. There is a precedent for the successful graphic novel-to-film jump: Rodriguez is fresh off the recent success of the first Sin City. And by recent, I mean 2005. A lot can happen in how we view narratives in that time (a lot did happen) and pretty soon what was novel is now not. Because of the relative uniqueness and the films it influenced (Renaissance, anyone?), this issue is especially pertinent for a film like Sin City. Most of the characters in both Sin City and this year’s Sin City 2 remind you the city never changes. Ten years later, it hasn’t changed. That’s not a good thing.

Following with the same spectacular visuals and anthology format as the first movie, this film is divided into three smaller stories following Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Nancy (Jessica Alba); Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); and Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) and Ava Lord (Eva Green). Getting into the details of each story wouldn’t be fair here so I will say this: they all chronicle betrayal, gritty redemption, and reluctant vendettas. They are variations on a theme. Of course lots of blood, booze, sex and, well, sin fill in the gaps.


The problems start with the stories. They never really connect the way other anthology movies have-the city or “a dame to kill for” hardly cut it as the overarching theme-and so the whole package is confusing. Why now? This is the question with which I’m left. Why do these misfits and losers decide to tackle the seediest players in town at this point in their lives? What makes them snap? The three main stories following the three dames are arranged so that any answer we might come up with is never satisfying. Part of the blame lies with the actors. All the females play a variation on the sultry, sexy temptress and all the males play a variation on the cool, pained killer. This is a race to the bottom (or a race to the top, depending on your optimism) to see which actor works this monochromed archetype the best.

unnamedOn the ladies’ side, the answer is decidedly not Eva Green. Her most serious and intimate scenes, threaded by an accent intent on masking the small bird lodged in her throat, had me on the verge of laughter. Normally, I think she’s a great actress (Vesper’s dead-on counterpoint to Bond’s machismo is one of the biggest reasons I loved Casino Royale). This time, she phones it in. Part of me thinks she felt her nude scenes would drive the action. And there are a lot: it seems her topless torso had as much screen time as Joseph Gordon-Levitt. No matter how lovingly the filmmakers light and shoot it, skin is not character or good writing.

On the male side, the best player is Marv, the one character who really does the film justice. He plays his variation better than Brolin or Gordon-Levitt. He just needed more screen time. If the other characters were given the same humanity as Marv, A Dame to Kill For might not have bombed. As it is, the flashy look can’t save the film from its more substantive woes.

Veronica Mars Lives On… In Books

Fans of the late Veronica Mars television series wanted a continuation so badly, they were willing to shell out money through Kickstarter to help fund a movie.

unnamedGiven that it only made about $3.3 million at the box office, according to imdb.com, that’s probably the only Veronica Mars film anyone’s ever getting. (At least it was great fun.)

But that’s not the end of the franchise. Shortly after the movie came out, the story continued in a novel released March 25.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line was written by series creator Rob Thomas, along with Jennifer Graham, and it’s only the first of a new series of mystery novels. A second novel by the same authors, Mr. Kiss and Tell, is available for pre-order and will be released Oct. 28.

So how does a television series translate into a novel series? In this case, exceptionally well.

Sure, it lacks Kristen Bell and the rest of the exceptional cast, but the reader can easily hear all their voices in the dialogue and can picture them playing out the scenes as if this were the next movie that will never be.

The basic plot involves a couple of girls going missing during spring break in Neptune, and the local Chamber of Commerce hires Veronica to investigate.

unnamedThat sounds like just a throwaway storyline, but, without giving away any details, it becomes rather personal for Veronica. Her character growth (or perhaps it’s regression to some extent) continues right where the movie left off, and we see her father Keith trying to get her to confront what it means to be an adult P.I.

The closest comparisons in the pop culture world might be the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books currently published by Dark Horse that picked up where that television series left off, beginning with “Season Eight,” and they’re up to “Season Ten” now.

The Buffy continuation also features direct involvement from its series creator, Joss Whedon, but the jump to comic books was initially used as an excuse to do all the special effects that would have ruined their television budgets, such as a giant Dawn and a flying Buffy. Plus, no matter how talented the artist, seeing the characters essentially turned into cartoons takes a little getting used to. I’ve read Season Eight, and it’s fun, but it’s definitely not the TV show.

Veronica Mars, however, doesn’t feel at all tainted. This book is the Veronica Mars fans have come to expect. The characters are all there acting in-character. The rules of the world remain the same, though circumstances reflect the passage of time (and adult language is now allowed, apparently). This very well could have been a storyline in Season Twelve.

The beloved first two seasons felt like televised novels, anyway, so it shouldn’t be surprising that prose is such an excellent fit.

Really, the only major flaw as a Veronica Mars story is that we don’t get to see Kristen Bell acting it out—though she does narrate the audiobook.

Works for this Veronica Mars fan.