Half Baked

(Photo by Gramercy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection; Universal/courtesy Everett Collection.)

25 Favorite Stoner Movies Ranked

If your movie nights could take a few more hits, check out our guide to the best stoner movies! These are essential and favorite movies to the marijuana experience, ranging from counterculture classics (Up in Smoke, Easy Rider), top-shelf mainstream films (Pineapple Express, Friday), and cult comedies (Grandma’s Boy, Super Troopers), all featuring icons like Jeff Spicoli and The Dude. Then we took all the movies and sorted them by Tomatometer, highest first of course.

If you’re seeking a trip guide, something to pair with whatever state you’re in, check out the 25 Favorite Stoner Movies! (And don’t forget the 20 best movies to watch high.) —Alex Vo

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 95766%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
Synopsis: This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#2

This Is the End (2013)
83%

#2
Adjusted Score: 91585%
Critics Consensus: Energetic, self-deprecating performances and enough guffaw-inducing humor make up for the flaws in This Is the End loosely written script.
Synopsis: In Hollywood, actor James Franco is throwing a party with a slew of celebrity pals. Among those in attendance are... [More]
Directed By: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

#3

The Big Lebowski (1998)
83%

#3
Adjusted Score: 88640%
Critics Consensus: Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges.
Synopsis: Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski who insists on being called "the Dude," a laid-back, easygoing burnout who happens to have... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen

#4

Easy Rider (1969)
84%

#4
Adjusted Score: 89302%
Critics Consensus: Edgy and seminal, Easy Rider encapsulates the dreams, hopes, and hopelessness of 1960s counterculture.
Synopsis: Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), two Harley-riding hippies, complete a drug deal in Southern California and decide to... [More]
Directed By: Dennis Hopper

#5
Adjusted Score: 82212%
Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn's legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.
Synopsis: Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend,... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

#6

Friday (1995)
76%

#6
Adjusted Score: 76231%
Critics Consensus: What Friday might lack in taut construction or directorial flair, it more than makes up with its vibrant (albeit consistently crass) humor and the charming, energetic performances of its leads.
Synopsis: It's Friday and Craig Jones (Ice Cube) has just gotten fired for stealing cardboard boxes. To make matters worse, rent... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#7
Adjusted Score: 78801%
Critics Consensus: The likable leads and subversion of racial stereotypes elevate Harold and Kumar above the typical stoner comedy.
Synopsis: Nerdy accountant Harold (John Cho) and his irrepressible friend, Kumar (Kal Penn), get stoned watching television and find themselves utterly... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

#8

Inherent Vice (2014)
74%

#8
Adjusted Score: 83799%
Critics Consensus: Inherent Vice may prove frustrating for viewers who demand absolute coherence, but it does justice to its acclaimed source material -- and should satisfy fans of director P.T. Anderson.
Synopsis: In a California beach community, private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) tends to work his cases through a smoky... [More]
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson

#9

Ted (2012)
68%

#9
Adjusted Score: 77848%
Critics Consensus: Ted's "romance versus bromance" plot is familiar, but the film's held aloft by the high-concept central premise and a very funny (albeit inconsistent) script.
Synopsis: When John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was a little boy, he made a wish that Ted (Seth MacFarlane), his beloved teddy... [More]
Directed By: Seth MacFarlane

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 75554%
Critics Consensus: Both funny and scattershot, this loose-knit action/buddy/stoner comedy bridges genres and keeps a steady tempo of low-ball laughs.
Synopsis: Stoner Dale Denton's (Seth Rogen) enjoyment of a rare strain of marijuana may prove fatal when he drops his roach... [More]
Directed By: David Gordon Green

#11

Smiley Face (2007)
66%

#11
Adjusted Score: 65789%
Critics Consensus: Although many of the jokes have been done before, Anna Faris's bright performance and Gregg Araki's sharp direction make Smiley Face more than your average stoner comedy.
Synopsis: Jane (Anna Faris), a struggling but perpetually stoned actress, has a busy day ahead. She has several important tasks on... [More]
Directed By: Gregg Araki

#12
Adjusted Score: 57935%
Critics Consensus: Fans can expect a good laugh as the cast from Smith's previous films reunite for Jay and Silent Bob's last bow. The loose plotting and crude language may be too much for others though.
Synopsis: When Jay and Silent Bob learn that a "Bluntman and Chronic" movie is being made featuring their comic book counterparts,... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Smith

#13
Adjusted Score: 57056%
Critics Consensus: Tenacious D fan will find this movie hilarious; everybody else will see only a low-brow concept movie and a small assembly of jokes stretched past the 100 minute mark.
Synopsis: Musicians JB (Jack Black) and KG (Kyle Gass) begin a friendship that could lead to the formation of the greatest... [More]
Directed By: Liam Lynch

#14

Scary Movie (2000)
52%

#14
Adjusted Score: 54971%
Critics Consensus: Critics say Scary Movie overloads on crudity and grossness to get its laughs.
Synopsis: Defying the very notion of good taste, Scary Movie out-parodies the pop culture parodies with a no-holds barred assault on... [More]
Directed By: Keenen Ivory Wayans

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 54418%
Critics Consensus: We're the Millers squanders its potential with an uneven, lazily assembled story..
Synopsis: Small-time pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished; trying to help some... [More]

#16
Adjusted Score: 52204%
Critics Consensus: Visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development.
Synopsis: Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) drive a red convertible across the Mojave desert... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#17

Up in Smoke (1978)
47%

#17
Adjusted Score: 48226%
Critics Consensus: Oft-quoted but undeniably flawed, Up In Smoke is a seminal piece of stoner cinema thanks to the likability of its two counterculture icons.
Synopsis: An unemployed pot-smoking slacker and amateur drummer, Anthony Stoner (Tommy Chong) ditches his strict parents and hits the road, eventually... [More]
Directed By: Lou Adler

#18
Adjusted Score: 25494%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Superlative stoners Cheech (Cheech Marin) and Chong (Tommy Chong) realize that one of their pals is developing a strain of... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Chong

#19

Reefer Madness (1936)
39%

#19
Adjusted Score: 43081%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: High-school principal Dr. Alfred Carroll (Josef Forte) relates to an audience of parents that marijuana can have devastating effects on... [More]
Directed By: Louis J. Gasnier

#20

Super Troopers (2001)
36%

#20
Adjusted Score: 37561%
Critics Consensus: A more-miss -than-hit affair, Super Troopers will most likely appeal to those looking for something silly.
Synopsis: Always looking for action, five over-enthusiastic but under-stimulated Vermont State Troopers raise hell on the highway, keeping motorists anxiously looking... [More]
Directed By: Jay Chandrasekhar

#21

Half Baked (1998)
29%

#21
Adjusted Score: 29462%
Critics Consensus: You'd have to be high to dig Half Baked's half baked production and scattershot sense of humor -- although maybe that was the point of this Dave Chapelle-led joint.
Synopsis: When a member of their crew gets arrested for killing a New York City police horse by feeding it junk... [More]
Directed By: Tamra Davis

#22

How High (2001)
26%

#22
Adjusted Score: 27618%
Critics Consensus: How High is a sloppily constructed stoner movie filled with lame, vulgar jokes.
Synopsis: Multi-platinum rap superstars Redman and Method Man star as Jamal and Silas, two regular guys who smoke something magical, ace... [More]
Directed By: Jesse Dylan

#23

Soul Plane (2004)
18%

#23
Adjusted Score: 20639%
Critics Consensus: A raunchy sendup of Airplane! that never really takes off.
Synopsis: Following a ridiculously awful flight that leads to his pet's death, Nashawn Wade (Kevin Hart) files a lawsuit against the... [More]
Directed By: Jessy Terrero

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 18486%
Critics Consensus: The movie isn't funny, the plot is too thin, and the production values feel more like a TV sitcom than a movie.
Synopsis: Last night, two party-hearty Dudes had an unbelievably sweet time. Too bad, they can't remember a thing, including where they... [More]
Directed By: Danny Leiner

#25

Grandma's Boy (2006)
15%

#25
Adjusted Score: 15977%
Critics Consensus: A gross-out comedy that's more gross than comedic, Grandma's Boy is lazy and unrewarding.
Synopsis: When he and his roommate can't pay their rent, video game creator Alex (Allen Covert) finds himself homeless and moves... [More]
Directed By: Nicholaus Goossen

Never bet against Jamie Foxx, who plays a Las Vegas cop on a search-and-destroy mission to save his kidnapped son in new thriller Sleepless. Beware criminal crooks, or you’ll craps your pants! Yep, it’s just another day in the wild ways of Vegas, inspiring this week’s 24 Frames gallery: an all-you-can-watch buffet of best and worst movies (with at least 20 reviews) set mostly to wholly in Sin City!

Movies can transport you from your life for a little while, but did you ever let the movies transport you in life? Every country and virtually every way of life has been captured on film, so it’s rather irresistible to catch the travelling bug from the silver screen.

Today, let Rotten Tomatoes be your travel guide, as we present 10 places whose architecture, landscape, and beauty have given life to some famous movies in history. Navigate the cities below and fire up your wanderlust!

What is your top movie vacation spot?


Black Mass explores the real life unholy alliance between the FBI and Irish Mob, namely that of gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger who’s played by Johnny Depp. Depp is known as the actor with a thousand faces, a title earned after the end of his star-making TV show 21 Jump Street led to his obsession in seeking out bizarre and dynamic roles he could fully disappear into. His part in Black Mass — which manipulates his voice, eye color, and hairline — is no exception.

In this week’s 24 Frames gallery, we stare straight into the faces of Depp with some of his craziest acting transformations.


If British writer-director Bruce Robinson had only made one film — 1987’s inimitable comedy Withnail & I — he would have been assured a place in the annals of cult movie history. And it very nearly became the case, too. Having finished his follow-up, 1989’s overlooked but frequently brilliant satire How to Get Ahead in Advertising (again starring Withnail‘s Richard E. Grant), Robinson took his talent to Hollywood and had such a wretched experience on his first studio picture, Jennifer 8 (1992), that he vowed never to direct a film again.

When the combined forces of Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp came calling, however, Robinson found himself being made an offer he couldn’t refuse. The result is The Rum Diary, a long-gestating passion project for Depp instigated when he and Thompson unearthed an unpublished manuscript from the late gonzo icon’s early years as a writer. Functioning as a companion piece — and a prequel, of sorts — to Terry Gilliam’s (screw the critics) classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary explores Thompson (via his proxy, journalist Paul Kemp) in his formative period as a journalist, as he begins to find his authorial voice in a haze of barmy booziness.

We sat down with Robinson to talk about the challenge of bringing Thompson’s novel to the screen, the weirdness of being back in Hollywood, and how Depp — who previously tried to bait Robinson to direct Fear and Loathing — finally lured him into taking on this job. But first, kick back with some lighter fluid and enjoy Robinson’s five favorite films.

The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925; 100% Tomatometer)

The first one is The Gold Rush, by Charlie Chaplin. It’s the apogee of his genius. I saw that film when I was 11 or 12 years old in a cinema in Ramsgate, Kensington, and there were three people in there with me. Nothing has ever made me laugh as much as that. I remember, literally — in those days they used to have a velvet kind of cover over the balcony — and I remember hanging over and laughing at the sheer f–king brilliance of the comedy in that film. The one I saw was just black-and-white, too; this was before Chaplin put a voice-over on it, which I don’t enjoy — I don’t think it serves the film well. There are certain things in there, you know — around cooking and survival and stuff — that kind of are in my soul now, as someone who tries to tell stories too.

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Seca, 1948; 96% Tomatometer)

The second one is Bicycle Thieves, by De Sica. That was the most moving film I’ve ever seen. The scene in there where the dad has lost his bicycle and he takes his kid out for a pizza in 1948 Rome, and the kid is eating it but he’s not ’cause he can’t afford to pay for it, is one of the all-time most moving scenes I’ve ever seen in a cinema. It’s an amazing film.

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960; 99% Tomatometer)

The third is Psycho. The reason that Psycho is the most extraordinary film to me is the mood in that movie and the fact — and it’s kind of a cliché to say it — that we’re following this woman’s story and suddenly it’s ruptured and she’s dead: What the f–k have we got left? I don’t know a moodier or better kind of horror film. It’s the darkest movie ever made, for me. It’s quite remarkable.

Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975; 97% Tomatometer)

The fourth one, which is kind of a weird one, is Dog Day Afternoon. Because of Al Pacino’s performance. He has a line in there — maybe it’s his line, maybe it’s the screenwriter’s line — he says “Kiss me, kiss me,” to the cops, “I liked to be kissed when I’m getting f–ked.” It’s one of the all-time great lines in cinema.

All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976; 100% Tomatometer)

All the President’s Men, because of my hero, William Goldman, who wrote that film. Here we’re sitting in the dark watching a movie and we all know what the denouement is — we all know how this film’s going to end up; they’re going to bust Nixon’s ass — and yet we’re on the edge of our seats all the way through that movie. Of course, it’s Pakula’s fantastic direction and these fabulous actors at the height of their career — Hoffman and Redford — but primarily it’s William Goldman, who managed to write a film where we all know what’s gonna happen, and yet we’re compelled to watch this process. Imagine if, in Psycho, the title sequence was Perkins putting on his wig and robe, so we all know it’s him — that’s the problem Goldman had to deal with. We all knew it was Nixon. And yet he managed to pull it off. Blew me away, that film. The performances, and the writing… who was that actor who played the editor? Jason Robards. He tells them to go after it. I wish the press would behave like that today, you know: “Go after these f–kwits, and nail them.”

Next, we have a wide-ranging chat with Robinson about The Rum Diary, adapting Thompson’s book, his return to directing and working with star-producer Depp.

 

Bruce Robinson: Would you like a beer?

RT: I would but this could get swiftly out of hand. But please, by all means enjoy yourself.

Well I will. And I don’t care if they f–king carry me down [to the press conference], frankly. I’m so jet-lagged. It’s such a weird process [doing interviews] but I know you’ve gotta do it. It’s just, you know, if someone asks you to describe your movie you only know so many things, and I’m gonna start speaking Korean very soon to explain this movie. [Laughs.]

Fair enough. [Laughs] You talked about your love for All the President’s Men and those journalists going after the “bastards” — was that a theme that drove you in writing and shooting The Rum Diary?

Well, not entirely. When Hunter wrote The Rum Diary he had no idea he was going to become “Hunter Thompson” and gonzo and all the rest of the stuff, but subsequent to that one’s able to read all of Hunter’s stuff and the way he did go after them. He was a rageful man. He didn’t use bullets, he used words, which is a fantastic thing to be able to do — and he had the talent to do it. So there’s a line at the back of the film where Johnny has essentially found his voice, and he says, “I make a promise to the reader… I’m going after them, and it’ll be a voice made of ink and rage.” And when he loses, which he does at the end of the film — they f–k him up — he says “I smell ink.” That, to me, was something to do with Hunter, in the best way I could do it, anyway, with all faults.

Hunter and Johnny apparently took delight in hauling you out of retirement. So once they’d gotten you to write the script, how did they lure you into the director’s chair? Was Hunter still alive at this point — did you meet him?

I met him once around 20 years ago, and we didn’t have anything to say to each other.

Why was that?

I don’t know. I went into the [Chateau] Marmont hotel and he was there and we sat in a room, like you and me, for two hours and we never said a word to each other. He had a wet towel on his head.

Were you daunted?

Pretty much. I was a fan and he was an icon. He had all of his equipment — the coke, the grass, the Chivas Regal, the smokes and stuff. And anyway, I sat there for two hours, as close as I am to you, and we never said a word to each other. And then I said, “Okay Hunter, I’m off.” “Okay.” And I left. So that was the end of that. But Johnny has told me that Hunter was a big fan of Withnail & I and he liked watching that, which is the reason that he and Johnny chose me as the writer for this film. I don’t write like Hunter but I do write in the same kind of vernacular, you know, no jokes, but hopefully comedic rage — which is one of my motors, ’cause I’m f–king angry about so many things but I like comedy. That was the reason Johnny said, “Will you write it?” I wrote it, and then he said, to my astonishment, “Will you direct it?” My answer was “No.” And then he sort of went after me. [Laughs]

Because at the time you were still very—

Tender.

And Johnny had been after you to do Fear and Loathing before that.

That’s right. I said “No.” It was in the Sunset Marquee Hotel. He said, “You’re gonna direct this.” “No, I’m f–king not!” And I didn’t, and wouldn’t, and couldn’t.

Are you glad you didn’t make it?

It would have been a very different film if I had done it. It would have been a very different film. Terry Gilliam is someone I admire tremendously, but I wouldn’t have done it like that. I’d have made it much dirtier and wouldn’t have tried to make it look like a Ralph Steadman. Terry made a great film, you know, and people love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But there wasn’t enough time, when Johnny was talking to me there wasn’t enough time for me to have a look at the script. I can only do what I can do.

How did Johnny sell you on directing The Rum Diary?

He bullied the sh-t out of me. [Laughs] He bullied me, and he also wooed me. He bullied me in the sweetest imaginable way, and he bullied me with really good quality wine. And finally I just thought, well here’s the world’s number one film star, if he wants to take that kind of risk he can have who he wants. If he wants that kind of risk, f–k it — I’m 65-years-old, you know, I don’t give a f–k. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

Did you enjoy returning to directing?

I loved it.

Because it was the right environment?

Because of him [Depp]. He’s a very powerful figure in this industry, and if Johnny is looking after you — if Johnny is saying, “Hey, stay off — he’s alright” — then you’re in the most protected and prestigious position you can be in as a film director, because you’ve got this major f–king star looking after you. If it hadn’t worked out very well, god knows it might have been a f–king bloodbath. [Laughs]

 

Are you happy with how the film turned out?

Have you seen it?

I have. I’m a fan of the book and I was unsure going in to it — the trailer gives it an uneasy sense of it being a “wacky” sort of bender.

Which it isn’t. It’s a serious film.

It must have been a hard book to adapt, especially streamlining Hunter’s characters as you did.

Yeah, we had to do that. We had to throw Yeamon overboard, because there were two leads in [the novel]. So I made a couple of changes. Johnny’s the reason the film’s being made, and you can’t have two people playing Hunter S. Thompson — and Hunter cut himself into two characters [Kemp and Yeamon, in the novel]. Did we want two Hunters for the film? No. And I shifted the girl [Chenault, played by Amber Heard] from Yeamon, who’s gone, onto Sanderson [Aaron Eckhart], which ups the dramatic ante of the film I think. I’m very pleased with it. I think it’s funny. There are some very funny sequences.

It’s funny, but not in a way that the trailer leads you to expect it to be funny. It’s comedy that evolves not from jokes but from—

From the environment.

Right. I mean, Giovanni Ribisi was just in that world.

He’s fantastic. Giovanni was taking — in a sense we all were — incredible risks, ’cause he was right on the edge.

There seems to be a hint of Withnail in his performance.

Quite strongly, actually. I remember saying to [actor] Ralph Brown when we did Withnail — I knew this hairdresser, who was a hairdresser of a girlfriend that I was living with, and [affects Brown’s dopey geezer drawl] “she used to talk like that” and she’d say to me, “Do you understand? Do yoooooooou? ” She was the thickest f–king idiot I’ve ever met. When Ralph came along to play Danny the Dealer, I only said it to him once, that “Do you understand, maaaaan? Is it cool with you?” and he picked up on that instantly. It was the same with Giovanni. He’s kind of like that, you know — he got it, and made it his own.

Did you and Johnny discuss how Hunter’s “Paul Kemp” voice, or lack thereof, would evolve into hints of his “Raoul Duke” persona over the course of the film?

Well, I mean Johnny kind of did it organically, in that the only time he starts kind of getting into a Hunter voice is… I needed a catharsis in the film, so I cooked up that f–king acid scene, to say this was five, six years of Hunter coming through that religious lobster that was [saying] “god, now I’ve found the voice!” Of course it isn’t the f–king lobster talking, it’s Johnny/Hunter talking — when he talks about god and “Does the world belong to no one but you?” And then Johnny spontaneously, because he’s a f–king amazing actor, puts it into the typewriter: “I make a promise to the reader.” And if you see his fingers — in Fear and Loathing he’s typing like this [gesticulates with exaggerated fingers], which is insane, but nevertheless it’s a caricature — but here he kind of [moves fingers somewhat less wildly]. “I make a promise to the reader, it will be a voice made of ink and rage,” and Hunter’s starting to come out of his mouth. I thought it was f–king magic when he was doing that. That’s nothing to do with me, that’s him.

I don’t think it’s remarked upon enough, but Johnny Depp is one of the great finger actors of all time.

I know. I was constantly trying to shut that down. [Laughs]

You had to curb those fingers?

Only a tiny bit. I wanted him to be still and keep the faith of his power on screen. Why is he a film star? He sticks to the celluloid like f–king glue, Johnny Depp. You could stay there for 10 minutes, you know, just on his face, and people would watch it. We had this running joke and he actually used it in that Pirates film. I work in the middle of nowhere in England, this 16th-century house, and I came out of my writing room one night at about midnight when my family were away; and as I came out of the door I saw this huge black boot come down on the top step, and I went like that [flails hands in front of him], running up and down — I thought it was Jack the Ripper. I’m writing a book on Jack the Ripper, have been for 10 years. And I did that and it really amused Johnny, so he used it in Pirates. But there are a couple in [The Rum Diary]; he does one or two of those.

It does conjure that sense of what his “Hunter” would become.

Yeah. He moves through that film. I wanted him to become more… he becomes an active motor drive of the narrative in the third act, but he’s [initially] an observer in this film; I mean you get that, when you’re watching it. He’s observing this weird f–king life that he?s slowly becoming absorbed into. And that’s quite a tender thing; slowly making him into the power. “I smell ink,” he says. [Pauses] Am I talking bullsh-t?

No, of course not. You feel that he’s taking it all in.

And he becomes the power at the end of the film. When he says it’ll be a voice of ink and rage, he says you’ll smell it: “It’ll be the smell of bastards and the smell of truth.” For me, and for Johnny, there Hunter Thompson was now born.


The Rum Diary is in theaters this week.

It’s finally happened: this week on home video, we don’t have any notable DVDs of recent films that saw a theatrical release. Sure, there are plenty of standard reissues of movies, like The Crow, Cinema Paradiso, Shakespeare in Love, Amelie, and the Scream movies, but there’s nothing particularly special about them. So this week, we’ve chosen just a handful of the more interesting ones, including Criterion Blu-Ray releases of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Blow Out, as well as a couple of Jodorowsky cult favorites, a couple of recent anime films, an old Bob Dylan documentary on Blu-Ray, and a new BBC nature series. So have a look, and if nothing suits your fancy, you’ll just have to wait until next week.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

49%

Earlier this year, Johnny Depp portrayed a neurotic, Hawaiian-shirt sporting chameleon trapped in the desert in Rango, and it was clear to many that the character was an outright reference to one Depp played in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Based on the semi-autobiographical Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name, Fear and Loathing recounts the drug-fueled misadventures of a writer named Raoul Duke (Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo(Benicio Del Toro), who travel to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. The film is filled with cameo appearances by the likes of Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, and Harry Dean Stanton, but they more or less wander in and out of Raoul’s constant hallucinations. Though it only managed a 47% on the Tomatometer, Fear and Loathing is something of a cult classic, with its casual handling of rampant drug use and manic montage of wild scenes. The film’s already gotten the Criterion treatment, but this week it arrives on Criterion Blu-Ray for the first time in a director-approved special edition with all the goodies, so fans of Thompson, Gilliam, and the film should find plenty to love.

Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back – Blu-Ray

91%

Bob Dylan is undoubtedly one of rock’s greatest songwriters, but his filmography veers wildly from the sublime (Martin Scorsese’s brilliant documentary No Direction Home) to the bewildering (the four-hour concert doc/home movie Renaldo and Clara, directed by Mr. Tambourine Man himself). Considered by many to be the first great rockumentary, Don’t Look Back captures Dylan at a point when the times really were a’changin’ ? specifically his 1965 tour of

England, just before the young folkie and “voice of a generation” went electric and transformed rock ‘n’ roll forever. Don’t Look Back is revolutionary as cinema ? its cinema verite style influenced virtually all backstage docs to come ? but Dylan is (famously) a bore, talking smack to journalists and generally acting too cool for school while a gaggle of 1960s royalty (including Joan Baez and Donovan) pop in and out of the frame. A sparking new Blu-Ray features the film (which opens with the proto-video of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in which Dylan holds up, and then tosses, a series of cue cards with the lyrics to the song), and also features audio tracks, audio commentary from director D.A. Pennebaker and Dylan road manager Bob Neuwirth, and a bonus disc, 65 Revisited, featuring even more footage and performances from the tour.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Blu-Ray

83%

Anime director Mamoru Hosoda had modest success (a relative term for the few Japanese animation films that actually see a US theatrical release) last year with his sci-fi romance Summer Wars, but he really turned heads with his prior film, 2006’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Though the film was the anime equivalent of a limited-release indie, word began to spread and soon theatergoers in Japan were even standing in the aisles to watch it. The story revolves around a high school girl who discovers she has the ability to leap backwards in time and begins to use her power frivolously, often with unintended results. When she later learns that she can only activate the power a limited number of times, she attempts to correct all the problems she inadvertently caused. After its success in Japan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time traveled the festival circuit and got a very limited release in the US, but it was never a box office success. This week, it arrives on Blu-Ray for the first time, and as it currently enjoys a healthy 87% Tomatometer (admittedly based on just 15 reviews), it should be a solid pickup for any fan of the genre.

Human Planet

Back in 2006, the BBC produced what might be called a blockbuster nature documentary series called Planet Earth, which explored several of the planet’s most exotic habitats and their indigenous animal populations. After following that up with another similar nature series, Life, the good people of the BBC decided to focus on the human side of things, and this brought forth Human Planet. Human Planet is an equally astounding 8-part miniseries that, naturally, focuses on various peoples found around the world and the ingenious ways in which they’ve learned to adapt to their environments. Narrated by John Hurt (in lieu of BBC legend David Attenborough), the series explores various habitats, ranging from life in the mountains to survival in the arctic, and documents fascinating events like narwhal hunting in Greenland to discovering prefiously uncontacted tribes in Brazil. It’s a noteworthy addition to the BBC documentary canon, fascinating to nature enthusiasts and those interested in eclectic cultures, and it arrives on home video this week.

Blow Out – Criterion Collection

85%

With nods to Hitchcock, Antonioni’s Blow Up, and Coppola’s The Conversation, Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is both an expert homage and a bracing, paranoid thriller. In one his finest post-Saturday Night Fever performances, John Travolta stars as an audio engineer who’s recording atmospheric audio for a low budget horror film when he witnesses a horrific car crash. Soon, he discovers that the car was driven by a presidential hopeful, and a prostitute (Nancy Allen) was also in the car. He also finds that the audio he recorded at the crash site sounds a lot like a gunshot; was the crash induced by an assassination attempt? This underrated suspense-fest finds De Palma on top of his game, and a new director-approved Criterion disc makes the case that Blow Out is worthy of another look; special features include an hour-long interview with De Palma by Noah Baumbach, an early De Palma feature, Murder à la Mod, and on-set photographs from the making of the film.

El Topo & The Holy MountainBlu-Ray

80%

For the unfamiliar, Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the godfathers of cult cinema, having directed some of the most bizarre and heavily allegorical avant-garde films of the 1970s. It’s said that his experimental western El Topo was the birth of the “midnight movie,” as it was initially only shown in the US at late night screenings, and his work has been admired by the likes of David Lynch, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, and John Lennon, just to name a few. The latter on that list, in fact, loved El Topo so much he even convinced The Beatles’ company president to donate $1 million to Jodorowsky for his next film, which ended up being The Holy Mountain. Now, to summarize either El Topo or The Holy Mountain in one paragraph would be futile, as anyone who’s seen either of them knows. Suffice it to say that Jodorowsky intended both to be the equivalent of a cinematic acid trip (and he indeed was no stranger to LSD), and they accordingly feature all kinds of bizarre themes and surrealist imagery in service of epic plots woven from the fabrics of various philosophies and religions. Jodorowsky’s films aren’t for everyone, but those with open minds may just find themselves rewarded for the experience. Both El Topo and The Holy Mountain arrive on Blu-Ray for the first time this week, and the special features include commentaries and interviews, as well as deleted scenes (for The Holy Mountain) and some photos and trailers. Good stuff for Jodorowsky fans.

5 Centimeters Per Second

Another anime film in the weekly home video roundup? You could argue that our choices were just that limited, but you would be wrong. Keeping in mind that the animation industry in Japan is just as robust, if not more so, than its film industry, there are always anime auteurs wiling to push the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from our “cartoons.” It’s true, Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is the Japanese equivalent of Pixar in its success and popularity, but Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second is a contemplative, beautifully crafted melodrama that touches on some of the same human emotions that make Miyazaki’s works so accessible. The story is broken into three segments, each chronicling a period in the life of a boy/man named Takaki Tono, who first falls in love with a childhood friend, then moves far away and reminisces about her, then nearly experiences a breakdown as an adult, due to his lifelong love for the same girl. Since its release, 5 Centimeters Per Second has earned tons of critical accolades from those who have seen it, and though some may find it to be a bit on the sentimental side, it’s also a lush, visual treat to behold, and fans of anime will appreciate its attention to detail.

Benicio Del Toro is perhaps Puerto Rico’s most well-known acting export, having starred in some of the 90s’ most memorable films. Through The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Traffic, Del Toro’s performances have been powerful, emotional and surreal at turns.

But perhaps his greatest acting challenge faced him when he took on the role of Ernesto “Che” Guevara for what would become a four-hour epic tale of the iconic revolutionary’s struggles in Cuba and Bolivia. At its premiere in Cannes, the result of Del Toro’s work landed him a Best Actor nod, and as the season progresses, tongues are wagging in his favour for Oscar glory.

On the promotional trail for the movie, RT caught up with Del Toro to learn more about taking on Che, and what it was like slipping into Rick Baker’s makeup to play The Wolf Man in this year’s upcoming blockbuster.

In the UK, Che Part One is out now. Che Part Two arrives on February 20th. In the US, both parts are released on 24th January.

Documentarian Alex Gibney, whose last film Taxi to the Dark Side was an Oscar winner about US army torture practices in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq, returns to screens this week with a new feature about the life and times of Hunter S. Thompson. The noted but controversial journalist, who pioneered the Gonzo movement, died in 2005. He wrote the book that became the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the movie’s star, Johnny Depp, narrates passages from Thompson’s writing in the documentary. RT caught up with Gibney to learn more about the movie.

Was there any hesitation from you about trying to explore the mind of a guy like this?

Alex Gibney: Not really. One of the things I thought I could do that hadn’t been done — or at least hadn’t been done in a long time — is explore the work. That’s why I put Hunter at the center — he narrates the film himself. We put together a number of his words so that they would form a kind of narrative. That was important because he was this wild and crazy guy who was a drug-taking action hero, but I think we wouldn’t really care about him unless he’d been a really great writer.

How much did you know of him beforehand? Did you have a chance to meet him?

AG: I never met Hunter but I certainly knew of him and knew a lot of people who knew him. And I certainly knew the legend. What’s that line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance? “When you have the truth and the legend, print the legend.” I had fun printing the truth and the legend, I think. I came from the outside so I had an advantage in some ways. I wasn’t allied with anybody, or part of any clique, so I could come in and ask a lot of questions and just say, “Tell me about him.” I found out a lot of stuff that I didn’t know.

Gonzo

Is that part of the joy of being a documentarian; that you have the opportunity to explore?

AG: Yeah, you get paid to learn — how good is that? I feel lucky in that sense — you wade into someone’s life and you get to learn a lot of stuff that you didn’t know before; that’s exciting. There’s something wonderful about the contradictions of everyday life that’s impossible to resist. I started out as a fiction filmmaker and may do some fiction films yet in the future, but I also see a lot of fiction films which look beautiful but seem dead. They don’t have that weird, quirky vitality that the best documentaries have. There’s something about that which I really like.

Do you ever worry that you won’t be able to come out of the other side though? That the story you’re discovering doesn’t have an end?

AG: I do, I always worry about structure and the end point. I haven’t a clue what the structure is going to be when I go in and it’s a terrible feeling. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over time it’s that it will come. I think there’s always enough interesting about almost any subject that if you get stuck you can just take a turn into a different direction. There’s always something there, it just takes time to find it and then come back and structure it in a way so that it becomes a story. Even though I love documentaries, there are a lot whose structure is just too aimless for me — I like to construct documentaries in the cutting room so that they feel like movies and they have that sense of momentum.

Presumably you can be a little less conventional when you’re working on a documentary about someone like Hunter.

AG: I think the whole life of Hunter S. Thompson, and his art, is “don’t be afraid to mess around.” Gonzo journalism is gonzo. The name comes from a Hammond organ tune from James Booker and it’s just got a weird, funky vibe that’s wacky. You never know quite what to expect from the song. That’s the way Hunter’s writing was and that’s what I hope comes across in the film, too.

Gonzo

As familiar as Fear and Loathing is, the film is the most interesting when it’s sharing the lesser known details of Hunter’s life.

AG: Right, it was fun to really dig at the stuff that I didn’t know much about. The letters are fantastic and we included some bits and pieces from manuscripts that are yet to be published, including a full book he wrote on the NRA. In the book, Hunter ends up being too intense for the National Rifle Association. He terrified them because he walked into the offices with a gun and started shooting things and they were like, “No! Anything but guns!”

What surprised you most about him?

AG: I think what surprised me most was learning from people who knew him that he had very high highs and very low lows. He had a manic side but he also had a cruel and vicious side. That’s, I think, one of the reasons he was so good at championing and chronicling the American character, which is so deeply contradictory between this great sense of idealism and possibility and this dark, brooding violent streak — what Hunter called fear and loathing. That was interesting to me, there was something in his personality that may have allowed him to channel the larger character of the American character.

American cinema worships an array of iconic landscapes: Monument Valley; the streets of New York; Niagara Falls; the car-chase hills of San Francisco; and last, but certainly not least, Las Vegas. Vegas, with its neon haze and endless tales of lost hope and fortune, has provided a gaudy back-drop to many great films. With the upcoming release of the Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy, What Happens in Vegas, RT thought it might be time to brush-up on the Las Vegas canon with our Top Ten Vegas Films.

The Godfather: Part II 1) The Godfather: Part II
98%

In one of the greatest sequels ever made, the story of the Corleone family continues. A chilling moment in this chapter of Coppola‘s saga is the Hyman Roth “There was this kid I grew up with” speech. “That kid’s name was Moe Greene, and the city he invented was Las Vegas”. Rotten Tomatoes has goose bumps just thinking about it!

RT’s favourite review: “The performances, Gordon Willis‘ memorably gloomy camerawork, the stately pace and the sheer scale of the story’s sweep render everything engrossing and so, well, plausible that our ideas of organised crime in America will forever be marked by this movie.” Geoff Andrew, Time Out. More reviews

Leaving Las Vegas 2) Leaving Las Vegas
90%

This is not the most upbeat pick for a Friday night but it will hold you riveted right to the end of the bottle. It has got bright lights, addiction and a hooker with a heart of gold but that is where the Vegas stereotype ends. It is relentless and while many describe it as a cautionary tale, the reality is that it is dark enough to drive you to drink.

RT’s favourite review: “The plot goes nowhere, but under the pornographic circumstances Figgis, Cage, and Shue all do fine jobs.” Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader. More reviews.

Casino 3) Casino
83%

Yeah yeah, he did it all before in Goodfellas but no-one does a mobster like Scorsese and this time it is under neon lights. Where better to set a story about the destructive force of greed but in the ‘morality car wash’ that is Vegas?

RT’s favourite review: “People talk and talk about how Vegas works, and Scorsese’s camera sprints to keep up. He’s like an energetic tour guide making sure we understand everything.” Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic.com. More reviews.

Ocean's Eleven 4) Ocean’s Eleven
80%

It is not often that a re-make outshines an original but the 1960s rat pack vehicle is quite shambolic beside the slick, uber-sexy perv fest that is this little slice of Clooney/Pitt/Damon/Garcia heaven. It is fun, serviceable eye candy.

RT’s favourite review: “One expertly made piece of pure, unpretentious popcorn entertainment.” Michael T. Grace, Film Threat. More reviews.

Viva Las Vegas 5) Viva Las Vegas
79%

Elvis WAS Vegas. Combining the two was an act of cinematic genius.

RT’s favourite review: “Hallucinatory but fabulously entertaining.” Nell Minow, Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies. More reviews.

The Cooler 6) The Cooler
77%

In the true tradition of the Vegas genre, The Cooler is about luck and who has it and who is so far out of it that it takes some serious work to be that down. William H. Macy carries his hang-dog expression to great effect as a man running away from lady luck.

RT’s favourite review: “A curious mix of thug violence, romance, and whimsy.” Steve Crum, Kansas City Kansan. More reviews.

Swingers 7) Swingers
76%

Before Jon Favreau went all blockbuster with the likes of Iron Man, he was making cool, independent films that made us all want to grab a martini, say cool things and hit Vegas with our equally cool friends. In retrospect it may have been a little too cool for its own good but it sure gave good vernacular.

RT’s favourite review: “The first and best outing from Favreau and Vaughn. Trendy, but hilarious. VEGAS, BABY – VEGAS!” Brian Mckay, eFilmCritic.com. More reviews.

Diamonds Are Forever 8) Diamonds Are Forever
68%

Don’t try to keep up, just enjoy the smooth sophistication of Connery, the greatest of the Bonds. Debonair in the face of ludicrous surroundings, this Bond movie may be the perfect Vegas metaphor.

RT’s favourite review: “30 years later, Connery is STILL Bond!” Michael A. Smith, Nolan’s Pop Culture Review. More reviews.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 9) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
46%

This is not everyone’s cup of tea with a peyote chaser. Depp‘s performance is not unlike sitting in a centrefuge at a heavy metal concert or, for that matter, going on a drug binge in Las Vegas with Hunter S. Thompson. It may be teeth clenchingly frenetic but so was the original book by Thompson, and this is a gripping adaptation of both the book and the man.

RT’s favourite review: “About as enjoyable as a bad trip.” Dennis Schwartz, Ozus’ World Movie Reviews. More reviews.

Showgirls 10) Showgirls
14%

Smut, nudity and some of the bitchiest slanging-matches to hit the screen. There is no question that this is a truly dreadful film, but dreadful films can bring so much pleasure. Best watched in a pack.

RT’s favourite review: “Tasteless, tawdry, and guaranteed to leave you rolling in the aisles… the best bad filmmaking Hollywood has to offer.” Michael Dequina, Mr Brown’s Movies. More reviews.

What Happens in Vegas opens in Australian cinemas on May 8 and US and UK cinemas on May 9.

It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like Johnny Depp will finally get his wish to turn Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary into a movie. And of course he’ll be playing the legendary author. (Again.)

Fans of Depp, Thompson and Terry Gilliam will no doubt remember that the actor "sorta" played the ‘gonzo journalist’ in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And say what you will about the movie itself, but Depp was pretty darn amazing in it. Producer (and frequent Depp collaborator) Graham King recently acquired the screen rights to The Rum Diary, and it looks like it could be Depp’s next project after Mira Nair’s Shantaram. Bruce Robinson will adapt the book as well as direct. (He directed Jennifer 8, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, and Withnail and I.)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story "is loosely based on Thompson’s experience working as a freelance journalist in Puerto Rico in the late ’50s. Depp will play a reporter who works alongside a motley crew of self-destructive staffers at a struggling San Juan newspaper, where an erotic love triangle emerges." Cool.

In years past, actors such as Nick Nolte, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Hartnett had been attached to the project in one way or another. Looks like King, Depp, and Robinson might be starting from scratch this time.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

He night not be as famous as H.G. Wells or Isaac Asimov, but ask a sci-fi enthusiast what they think of Philip K. Dick, and get ready for a lengthy conversation. The late and legendary author is earning himself as posthumous biopic, and it looks like Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti will be playing the central role.

From Variety: "Paul Giamatti is in negotiations to star as sci-fi author Philip K. Dick in an untitled biopic… Authorized biopic also is being produced by the Philip K. Dick Estate through its Electric Shepherd Prods. Tony Grisoni ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") will write the screenplay.

Dick, who died in 1982, penned more than four dozen books and numerous short stories, with at least seven being adapted for the bigscreen … The nontraditional biopic will interweave the prolific author’s life with his fictionand incorporate elements of his last unfinished novel, "The Owl in Daylight."

The films based on Mr. Dick’s work are "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," "Screamers," "Impostor," "Minority Report," "Paycheck," "A Scanner Darkly," and the upcoming "Next."

Billy Wilder‘s 1957 film "Witness for the Prosecution" is rather excellent, which is why most (old) movie fans will take exception to the news that … a remake is coming. But at least it’ll have an interesting pedigree. In addition to Al Pacino and Nicole Kidman, the new "Witness" will come with director Michael Radford ("Il Postino," "The Merchant of Venice") attached.

Courtesy of ComingSoon.net: "Italian Newspaper "Il Giorno" told yesterday, that Director Michael Radford, while opening Italian "Global Film & Music Fest" in Ischia with the first screening of his film "Flawless" starring Demi Moore revealed also his next movie: the remake of Billy Wilder’s 1957 masterpiece "Witness for the Prosecution" starring Marlene Dietrich, with the new involvement of Nicole Kidman and Al Pacino in the starring roles."

The 1957 classic was based on an Agatha Christie play, and one can only assume the remake will stick closely to the original film. No point in remaking an Agatha Christie story if you’re just going to monkey around with it, right?

At the movies this week, there’s an undercurrent of collectivism in the face of adversity. “The Brothers Grimm” features two con men in the 1700s who get in over their heads. In “The Cave,” a group of attractive spelunkers find some pretty scary stuff. And in “Undiscovered,” a bunch of aspiring artists deal with the pratfalls of climbing the celebrity ladder. What will the chorus of critics have to say?

In an age where remakes and rehashes reign supreme, it’s nice that Terry Gilliam remains as wildly imaginative as ever. But there’s a distinction between imagination and discipline; while Gilliam’s best work has tiptoed the line between the two, critics say his latest, “The Brothers Grimm,” is a muddle. The film stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as brothers and con men who spin tall tales for fun and profit. The scribes say that Gilliam needs to contain his wild flights of fancy, as there are many great ideas but nothing to unify them. At 37 percent on the Tomatometer, this is Gilliam’s worst reviewed film yet. But it’s not wrecking his Tomatometer average, which is solidly fresh at 80 percent. It’s also Matt Damon’s worst reviewd film since 2000’s “All the Pretty Horses,” which was sent to the glue factory with a 32 percent.

“The Cave” features a group of attractive spelunkers, an unknown species of monster, lots of rock climbing, and, naturally, the portal to Hell. Believe it or not, critics say the movie, starring Cole Hauser and Morris Chestnut, is a tad on the silly side. At 36 percent on the Tomatometer, things are looking dark for this “Cave.”

“Undiscovered” tells the story of some aspiring musicians and actresses hoping to make it. It’s such a completely original, daring idea that it’s surprising that Terry Gilliam didn’t write the screenplay. Critics are saying to leave this film, starring Kip Pardue, Pell James, and Ashlee Simpson, ahem, undiscovered. So far, it’s notching a big zero on the Tomatometer.

Most Recent Terry Gilliam Movies:
——————————————-
39% — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
87% — 12 Monkeys (1995)
86% — The Fisher King (1991)
87% — The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
93% — Brazil (1985)