Notes from the back row. 

Elmore Leonard’s stories worth reading, watching

Speaking of popcorn, do you know why they don’t sell potato chips at movie theatres? Because everyone loves potato chips and the sound of all those people happily munching and crunching would drown out the movie. Betcha didn’t know that did ya?

There’s only one new movie opening this week but at least it’s based on Elmore Leonard’s first crime novel, 1969’s The Big Bounce. Leonard writes the snappiest dialogue and his twisty plots translate well to the big screen. The Big Bounce stars Owen Wilson as a charismatic drifter who gets seduced by a hot girl in a bikini (Sara Foster) into ganking 200 Large (that’s $200,000 for all you non-criminals) from her greasy boyfriend/land developer. As well, Morgan Freeman looks and acts wise (for a change) and good old Willie Nelson is in it too. Of course there’s lots of twists and great scenery, the story takes place on Oahu.

The Big Bounce was made before, in 1969 as a vehicle for then-heartthrob Ryan O’Neal and cutie Leigh Taylor-Young. This original, scripted by Leonard himself, was set in a resort town in Michigan, as was the novel. By all accounts it sucked the first time around, and this one isn’t getting high praise from anyone. However, Owen Wilson ( Zoolander, Royal Tenenbaums) is a fine actor who has a lot of fun with the picture and captures the sincere- drifter-at-terms-with-his-inequities role perfectly.

The supporting cast is not as on top of things, but as a big fan of Wilson, Elmore Leonard and director George Armitage ( Grosse Point Blank was funny) I think this is worth checking out, especially considering this week’s weak selection ( Cheaper By the Dozen again? Are you kidding me?).

Of course, you could just rent three really good movies based on Elmore Leonard novels.

1: Get Shorty (1995). Remember the second time John Travolta was really cool, just after Pulp Fiction but before Phenomenon ? That’s when he absolutely killed it as Chili Palmer, a Miami gangster who loves movies and, while on a job in LA., decides to become a Hollywood player. Co-starring a very sexy Rene Russo and hilarious Danny DeVito, this movie was so good it made mini-vans seem cool.

2: Out of Sight (1998) . Long before Ben Affleck (not an action star) and the crap-fest Gigli , J-Lo actually made a hip, fun, amazing movie. Directed by contemporary master Steven Soderbergh ( Kafka, Traffic, Ocean’s 11) this flick puts Lopez in the role of an FBI agent kidnapped by escaped convict George Clooney. He lets her go eventually and the chase ensues, culminating in an unlikely relationship. Clooney is phenomenal, J-Lo rules (you won’t hear me say that often) and Out of Sight is the best adaptation of a Leonard novel yet.

3. Jackie Brown (1997). The third film from Quentin Tarantino, based on Leonard’s Rum Punch, Jackie Brown stars ’70s blacksploitation favorite Pam Grier as a flight attendant who makes a little extra cash running "stuff" for sleazy drug dealer Samuel L Jackson. Until she decides to make a little extra on top of her little extra and rips him off. She then plays everyone around her, including two cops and a bail bondsman that seems to be falling for her. Tarantino weaves an excellent tale although he once said this was more a "Character study." When the characters are written by Elmore Leonard and acted by the likes of Grier, Jackson, Ving Rhames, Robert DeNiro, Robert Forster and Bridget Fonda, well it makes for one hell of a good flick. Get it now.

On a side note, Be Cool a sequel to Get Shorty is supposed to come out later this year.

And for all those few who know how to read (you’d be surprised in this town) go to the library, get a card and start with these Elmore Leonard novels. La Brava, Killshot, Fifty-two Pick-up, and Swag . If reading’s not your thing they’ve got DVD’s at the library too, they’re free for a week and the late charges aren’t a joke like everywhere else.

At Village 8 Jan. 30-Feb. 5: Big Bounce, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Last Samurai, Something’s Gotta Give, Big Fish, Cold Mountain, Lord of the Rings, Cheaper by the Dozen, Along Came Polly, Butterfly Effect.

At Rainbow Theatre Jan. 30-Feb. 5: Chasing Liberty, Torque.

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