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June 5, 2007 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | June 5, 2007 |

If you haven’t read it yet, Marisha Pessl’s debut novel, Special Topics of Calamity Physics, is one of the better debuts to come out of the book world the last few years — the best way, I think, to describe it is as a literary rich, densely smart novel that is similar, but much better than, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It’s about Blue Van Meer, her mysterious father, a bunch of elitist high school kids, and the big secret behind a teacher’s murder. It’s an enthralling book, modeled after a college syllabus course and full of enough slowly unfolding secrets to make it a solid mystery, but it’s also cleverly laced with about a half a trillion allusions to great works of literature, which makes it a solid novel for bibliophiles, too. It’s definitely worth the read — in fact, it deservedly made quite a few folks’ five novels lists a few week ago (that Guide will be out in a couple of weeks, by the by).

Anyway, as is inevitable with all great novels, Special Topics is being adapted for the screen. Scott Rudin bought the rights (he buys the rights to damn near all the good books —(Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Hours and even the never-made A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, to name a few), so he’s as trustworthy as you’re going to get among Hollywood producers. Even better, he’s hired Ryan Fleck to direct. Fleck, as you recall, was the man behind the camera on Half Nelson, who sort of got lost in all the hoopla over Ryan Gosling’s sublime performance. He and his producing partner, Anna Boden, will adapt the novel, an almost impossible feat — whittling 514 pages down to a two-hour film. Undoubtedly, most of the literary stuff and the endless digressions that made the novel so goddamn good will be lost, as I’m sure the film version will throw out everything that doesn’t closely pertain to the great mystery. Still, I have high hopes. Nobody has been cast as of yet, but if she can still tackle the role of a 17-year-old, Kristen Bell certainly fits the Blue Van Meer mold. I’m just sayin’.

Elsewhere, Jim Carrey — who has perhaps learned that his mainstream movies perform about as well as his indie features at the box office now — has decided to say fuck it and take another career risk, which usually tends to be the only times that the man’s not entirely insufferable. In fact, in dramatic mode, he’s one of better actors out there — it’s his goddamn attempts to sell out that are hard to stomach. Anyway, he’s now been attached to I Love You Phillip Morris, which, judging by the title alone, initially sounded to me like a sequel to Thank You for Smoking. It is not. It’s a dark comedy based on Steve McVicker’s fact-based book about a married prisoner (Carrey) who falls in love with his cellmate, Phillip Morris. After Morris is released, the prisoner makes several attempts to escape so that he can be reunited with Morris. Comedic hijinx ensue. It’s a decent premise, made all the better by the fact that Glen Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote the soullessly hilarious Bad Santa, are attached as the directors. The entire movie will be bankrolled on a paltry $20 million, which used to be what Carrey commanded per film. So, props to Carrey for wallowing in the muck of decency. Unfortunately, before he tackles that role, he’ll be starring in a big-screen version of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” though I have no idea how that will work.

Now that all the decent video game titles have been turned into shitty films, Hollywood has apparently seen fit to start adapting shitty video games — at least there’s some symmetry to it. Anyway, Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Combat, Alien vs. Predator) is dipping his toes back into the gaming excrement and directing a feature film based on Spy Hunter. Granted, I haven’t played the game in 15 years (or any video game, really, for that matter), but the last I heard of it, I think I was playing it on a Colecovision console, so I don’t remember much about it — I think there was a car (The Interceptor), and some James Bond/Inspector Gadget hybrid kind of fella. I’m guessing that the special effects are better now, but I very much doubt it matters — it’s a video game film, so it will suck. They all do. It’s in the New Testament. Jesus commands it. There’s not much that I, or Paul W.S. Anderson, can do about it. John Woo, who was originally attached to the project, knew that, which is why he wisely ditched the flick a few years back when The Rock was signed on as the lead. Maybe Anderson can now find someone better to take the role, like the guy at the end of my street who lives in a van. In fact, Anderson can even steal this bit of real-life dialogue:

Me (driving): Hey, look — there’s van man, still hanging out in his van.

Mrs. Pajiba Hyphenate: If he kills us in our sleep, I’m going to be so mad.

On DVD this week: The insightful documentary Maxed Out!; the movie I had to look up because I’d forgotten of its very existence, The Messengers; and sadly, Norbit. Do yourself a favor and never, ever watch Norbit. If you see it on a plane on a cross-country trip and you’re unable to avoid eye-contact with the little monitor, ask your stewardess if she’ll kindly shove you out the cockpit door. You’ll be better off for it.

Finally, Ben Stiller and the Farrelly brothers, last seen working together on There’s Something About Mary have reunited to remake The Heartbreak Kid. Isn’t that awesome? Fantastic? Are you spilling your seed all over your cubicle floor? Are you weeping dandruff flakes? Isn’t it just the best news you’ve heard all goddamn week?

No. It’s not. Here’s the proof:

Special Topics in Calamity Pajibas

The Daily Trade Round-Up / Dustin Rowles

Industry | June 5, 2007 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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