Cineast Movie Previews: ‘Listen Up Philip,’ ‘ Kill the Messenger,’ ‘Book of Life’

Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman in "Listen Up Philip."
Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman in "Listen Up Philip."

Listen Up Philip
Listen Up Philip is a film about a talented, newly successful writer, Philip, who has all of the egotism and arrogance associated with talented writers and all of the big-headedness associated with the suddenly successful. For the first time, people are finally really paying attention to what Philip does. Philip gets to meet his heroes and speak to them as equals (almost). He quickly finds his longtime friends and lovers, who have served him well up till this moment of newfound fame, to be somewhat lacking. It’s the age-old story of the famous writer who basically treats everybody like crap. But can he get away with it? One note: it may be just a fluke, but the main character shares a first name with the renowned writer Philip Roth, and the publicity for Listen Up Philip uses the same fonts which were used on Roth’s breakout book Portnoy’s Complaint. Could this film be a veiled portrait of Roth? Food for thought. The film stars Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss and Jonathan Pryce.

Kill the Messenger
“Some stories are just too true to tell.” Talk about a killer line! Jeremy Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb in Kill the Messenger, which is indeed based on a true story that hasn’t really been told. Webb was working for the San Jose Mercury News back in the early ’80s when he was turned onto the explosive story that the CIA was actually engaged in cocaine smuggling as a way of getting money to pay for weapons to arm the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. Despite huge pressure from the CIA and threats to himself and to his family, Webb continued to investigate the story and continued to turn up evidence that the CIA was moving unprecedented amounts of cocaine into the U.S., where it was reaching the streets in the cheap form of crack and helping lead to an epidemic of addiction in American cities. The whole sorry episode of the U.S. meddling in Nicaragua has been somewhat swept under the rug—maybe this film will help remind people of the catastrophic decisions, made by “leaders,” that led, more or less directly, to widespread addiction of Americans.

The Book of Life
Halloween is right around the corner, and The Book of Life is a kid-friendly, animated feature about the coinciding Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead. That’s when some people believe that the souls of the dead return to earth to walk among us—spooky, right? In The Book of Life, it’s all wrapped up in a love story, and there’s a princess, of course. Plus, the animated characters all look like they’re actually toys. Coming soon to a happy meal near you.

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