The stretch of highway from the Nashville airport to Manchester, Tennessee — which, if you’ve ever, even once, even accidentally, heard a Phish song, you might recognize as the home of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — is, for the most part, as standard as they come. There are a couple of deviations: for one, instead of just your regular McDonald’s and Burger Kings, roadside Krystals and Chick-fil-As beckon as well. Oh, also: Say you think, at first, you’re listening to a radio station that’s soberly analyzing Middle Eastern geopolitics. What you’re actually hearing, it turns out, is a conversation about whether or not recent clashes in Damascus mean the biblically prophesied end of days are nigh. And they will break out the appropriate Book of Revelation verses to compare and contrast. Welcome to the South!
Before I actually arrive at the campgrounds, I get a phone call from a Bonnaroo rep: Would I like to check out rehearsals for a Superjam? If the term sounds familiar, it might be thanks to one of last year’s iterations, when Questlove lured beautiful recluse D’Angelo onto the Bonnaroo stage for an instantly legendary set of Hendrix and Zeppelin cuts. This year, Bonnaroo has put together its first hip-hop Superjam. On hand will be: RZA, Solange, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Schoolboy Q, Pharrell’s partner in crime Chad Hugo, and, serving as the spine of the operation, the long-serving funk band Lettuce. Of course, I answer "yes" immediately, turn the car back toward Nashville, and find — tucked between Civil War–era Fort Negley and the local Dianetics Center (“How does Scientology work? Come in and find out!”) — SIR Studios.
"Our crew had lots of meanings for the words Wu-Tang — ‘Witty, Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game,’ ‘We Usually Take Another N****’s Garments’ — in China, I learned another, the original one: ‘Man who is deserving of God.’ So in that sense, we are all Wu-Tang. You are Wu-Tang." RZA writes those words in The Tao of the Wu, his stew of memoir and spiritual philosophy, penned with Chris Norris and released in 2010. It’s one part 150-page koan, one part gripping reflection on almost dying every day in Brooklyn. Fun book, you should read it. It’s an unlikely dichotomy. But then, RZA’s had an unlikely life.
Ever since a beautiful afternoon in July, when we were first treated to the life-altering sight of a steel-gauntleted RZA punching out some dude's eyeball — an eyeball that proceeded to fly right into the camera, as per the Second Law of Ultraviolent Ocular Aerodynamics — there have been few movies we've anticipated with more bloodthirsty desperation than The Man With the Iron Fists. And so today's debut of the video (slightly NSFW? Maybe?) for the soundtrack's "The Baddest Man Alive," a collaboration between RZA and The Black Keys, holds particular interest for us. "How can they top the eyeball thing?," you are probably asking. They can't.
Silver: I see the folks at Paramount took my advice and sprinkled some Werner Herzog into this trailer. Why hold any of his scenes back? It’s not like his brilliance as a performer gets stale like an overused joke in a comedy trailer. But more than this, what I like — a lot — about this trailer is that it shows us Christopher McQuarrie’s sardonic and sharp sense of humor. The hang-up-and-call-back bit at 1:00 is tonally reminiscent of some of McQuarrie’s best moments from The Usual Suspects and The Way of the Gun.
But back to Herzog for a moment. I’ve often advocated for a Liam Neeson–Jason Statham pairing in his post. But I feel I’ve found a new film that could be just as amazing. A shot-for-shot remake of My Dinner With Andre starring Christopher Walken and Werner Herzog. There’s no doubt that would be the funniest and most compelling movie ever made. Hey, Hollywood, I claim no ownership over any of these ideas. I’m just a fan who wants to see a great film. So please, just make these movies.
While profiling RZA ahead of his directorial debut The Man With the Iron Fists, the New York Times asked the dude to speak on the perpetual swirl of Wu-Tang reunion chatter. And instead of handing back a canned, generic answer about how everyone really wants to do it but everyone's really busy, Bobby Digital got nice and blunt and honest. Basically: With the first few Wu-Tang classics (and that includes the first few rounds of Wu-Tang solo albums), everyone listened to me. If we want to make more classics, everyone has to listen to me again.
Back in July, Grantland Trailerologists Dan Silver and Rembert Browne broke down RZA's Russell Crowe–starring kung fu opus The Man With the Iron Fists: "There have been rumors of RZA's directorial debut for years, but I never believed this film was real. Well, consider me a believer if the blood splatter on the lens wasn't enough, then the eyeball flying toward the camera [see here, but only after you've had your breakfast] should be." So that's what we're dealing with here: At one point, just the fact it actually came to fruition would have been enough; now, though, this thing is barreling into theaters (it's out November 2) with some steam. Now here's some more good news for Bobby Digital's first flick: The track list for the soundtrack has been released, and it pretty much slays.
We told you aboutHomeland's Comic-Con panel this morning — but oh, dear friends, there's so much more popping off at San Diego's annual collection of nerds and movie stars. To the breakdown!
M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith Are Giving You Literature
Guess what's coming to a bookstore near you? Why, prequel novels based on the mythology surrounding M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith's new movie, of course. The flick is called After Earth, and it's got a pretty solid sci-fi premise: One thousand years after Earth has been destroyed by some unknown apocalypse or another, humans live on a planet called Nova Prime. Big Willie plays a guy named Cypher Raige who, no, is not a shitty battle rapper, but rather a soldier coming home to his child the Karate Kid — no, not Hilary Swank, but Jaden Smith. Blazay blah blazay blah, and the two have crash-landed back on Earth, which is all messed up and scary and abandoned now. Mr. Raige is injured and dying because of the aforementioned crash, and the young boy has to save them both. Wait, so this now sounds like it mostly stars Jaden Smith? OK, so there are going to be prequel novels based on a Jaden Smith movie? Alert the Man Booker committee!
The New York Times took a trip down to Nashville to profile Jack White (his solo album, Blunderbuss, is out this month) and, in the process, revealed all manner of delightful J.W. factoids. Most of this stuff — his perfectionism, his Protestant work ethic, his slavish devotion to old shit — you likely already knew. But a peek into his day-to-day- life, which currently involves a coterie of nutso projects tied around his all-purpose Third Man Records (there’s “a record store, his label offices, a concert venue, a recording booth, a lounge for parties and even a darkroom”), points exactly at his level of commitment to the Jack White Persona.
RZA, a man with such a long history of accomplishments and occupations that it's almost embarrassing to list them, came through Paris this weekend to launch his latest endeavor — a new pair of headphones in collaboration with WeSC. If one had only seen glimpses of him at the launch party, surrounded by admirers and an entourage, one might be tricked into assuming that he is a standard-issue celebrity who just slapped his name on a semi-decent product and called it a day. In fact, in person, RZA is almost disarmingly down-to-earth and sincere about everything he's doing — no matter how many things that may be. This year, aside from his many music projects, he's also wrapping up his first directorial feature, The Man With the Iron Fists, starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu — which he also cowrote. Between producing, recording, directing, and designing, he found some time to sit down with us and talk about what he's been up to.
Full disclosure: I hate live music. Too loud, too crowded, too hard to have a conversation, and just generally too much yelling for my taste. However, my love of all things Wu-Tang so surpasses my distaste for live music that when I heard that the Clan was bringing their Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game to a venue mere yards from Grantland HQ, I had to attend. OK, fine, I didn’t have to. I planned on attending, then didn’t feel like it, then only came around when I considered how livid 17-Year-Old Me would be if he knew that he would grow up to be Now Me.
The Clash of the Titans sequel, Wrath of the Titans, opens March of next year, but Warner Bros. is already planning a third installment. Two of Wrath’s co-writers, Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson, have been hired to whip up a treatment that will again focus on Sam Worthington’s Perseus. A name for the movie is far from being confirmed, although producers are rumored to really be leaning toward Kitty Litter Tray of the Titans. Grade: C [HR]