Saturday, August 27, 2011

Favorite Films: The Thing

This is probably the greatest remake I've ever seen. When you consider the original film The Thing From Another World, it's barely even comparable to John Carpenter's masterpiece. After all, a space potato just isn't nearly as interesting as the horrifying crab-like anamorphic creature John gave us.
I was referred recently to a piece trying to rationalize everyone's positions in the film... who turned and when, etc. And though I did not find myself particularly blown away by the attempt made, it did cause me to look at the film in a very different way. I just re-watched it and found myself, more than ever before, enamored with the specificity of each character (something I rarely ever paid attention to before). Once I took the time to actually understand each character's reason for being out there in the first place it revolutionized my viewing experience. Not that The Thing could ever tire me, but it sure was nice to find something new in it after so many viewings. I've probably seen it more than ten times by now, so the fact that it can still surprise me is incredibly noteworthy. This is the kind of horror I'm referring to whenever I rant about what "good horror" should be.
It's rare, but the few that do exist leave an invaluable impression on my moviegoing experience.

(SLIGHT SPOILERS) So let me get down to the dirt, once Blair reads the numbers, he loses his grip.
He goes out and destroys everything. Because he knows this is the only way to SAVE THE WORLD. His descent later on is only due to his comrades' fears of the truth. While he could have done well to explain his findings, to him it was more rational to just "fix" the situation himself. The fact that he eventually becomes what he fears is honestly just a beautiful bit of story telling.

Childs is probably the most entertaining character in the whole piece.
He's ire-filled and too quick to act. But somehow these traits serve him well as he manages to get some of those final, excellent moments of the film... He's the wild card.

Mac is the badass who somehow, even though he's just the pilot, figures everything out. He's a man of action. He makes mistakes (frequently) but manages to fix them.
His ability to improvise and command respect deserves attention. (END SPOILERS) After all, he's Kurt Russell. How badass??
And he wears a very fashionable hat.
There's a great deal more, but I'm just giving a few quick examples of the three most recognizable characters in the film. If you ever get an extra chance to see the flick again, you should really do so. if you haven't seen it... I hope you didn't read the above... go see it.

The Thing is one of those few, perfect horror films. They only come along once in a blue moon. But there was a period of time when John Carpenter held the genre in the palm of his hand and made films work that probably wouldn't have if helmed by anyone else. Look at the original. That being said, I have to comment on the upcoming prequel.
I don't think I've ever been this excited and nervous about somebody new touching an established property. I have hope. I think there is potential in going back to that first camp... but only if the filmmakers are very very careful. I hope and assume they are just as in love with Carpenter's film as I am and know how to pay it respect. After all, it is brilliant... and you don't fix brilliance.

Anyway, thank you John Carpenter for being partially responsible for making me such a film snob.

The List So Far:
1927 - Metropolis - Fritz Lang
1928 - Steamboat Willie - Ub Iwerks
1931 - M - Fritz Lang
1932 - Tarzan, The Ape Man - W. S. Van Dyke
1933 - King Kong - Merian C. Cooper +
1934 - It Happened One Night - Frank Capra
1936 - Modern Times - Charles Chaplin
1957 - Funny Face - Stanley Donen
1966 - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - Mike Nichols
1982 - The Thing - John Carpenter
1984 - Brazil - Terry Gilliam
1986 - Labyrinth - Jim Henson

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wet Floor: Disappoint Me Once...

This is a random group of films. As summer winds down to a shuttering halt I'm realizing how little I've actually written about the season and the "big movies" that came out. Some of those are in here. Others just didn't leave an impression, and a select few have made it into happy happy reviews. But let's get started with the schlopp:

Cowboys & Aliens
This simply sucked. No need to go into details... though let me just say, I honestly didn't care about a single thing that happened in this movie. I really like most of the actors, but they had nothing to do. The story was pointless and unentertaining. And look, it's all good and fun to get giddy at weird crossovers like this, but they need to actually be crossovers. The cowboys were cowboys, sure. But those aliens just weren't even remotely interesting. The fun of this idea comes from getting both genres in one. But this felt like somebody said "How can we get aliens involved in the west?" then some douchebag responded "I dunno... the goldrush was around that time. Maybe they want gold." "Why?" "I dunno. Who cares?" Then they got to make the thing. Balls. That's just lame guys. This whole movie is just lame.

The Help
Totally lived up to the hype. I definitely felt a few tears during that flashback scene near the end... if you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't seen it, stop surfing and go see it.

Crazy Stupid Love
I wish this was the focus of the movie. These two characters do really work.
Aptly stated, "Two of those words are right." This was so disappointing in that the trailer made it honestly look amazing. And while it did touch greatness for a few very brief moments it mostly lingered in a bogged down studio "enhanced" stupor. Apparently someone at the studio thought a major decision at the end was wrong and thus forced the filmmakers to add on an extra half hour of shite... and you feel that extra half hour let me tell you. Good performers. Mostly good writing. But somehow a camel.

30 Minutes Or Less
Not incredibly funny but not a bad time either. I had fun. It wasn't too long which certainly helped. Nick Swardson is almost always wonderful. So this is mostly a thank you to him. Thank you Nick Swardson for bringing me so much joy over so many years. Still, it's weird that this is a comedy based on true events that actually ended quite horribly. What can you do? It's Hollywood.

Friends With Benefits
Actually not a bad flick. Surprisingly so. I liked the performances and enjoyed a good deal of the humor. Though it does fall into a few cheesy moments and seems to have trouble getting out of that pit. Whatever the case, I still had fun.

Sarah's Key
A great movie. And oddly the only one on this list that I had to see alone. I guess people aren't all that interested in Holocaust stories anymore. And I get that. But sometimes it's worth it to see one when it's not the same recycled stuff. This one actually surprised me. Once I understood the significance of the title... and it doesn't take long to get there... I fell right in with this movie. Everything honestly worked for me. And I left the theatre feeling a need to live. Isn't that a good way to leave a theatre? ...or anywhere?

The Devil's Double
Despite Dominic Cooper's pretty swell performance, the overall movie here just doesn't work very well. It's awkward and disturbing and pointless all at the same time. But when it's good it is good. I'm not gonna say "Don't see it" but I will say it's okay to wait for Netflix.

Captain America was fine and you know how I felt about Attack The Block and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. So that pretty much wraps me up for the time being. I intend to catch Fright Night and Conan soon... but I don't know, neither one gets me too excited. Now it's just a waiting game for The Muppets, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Dangerous Method. Hope you're having fun at the movies.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Adaptation Telovasion

Here's a thought, more and more frequently we've been seeing television shows coming from novels, graphic novels, and the like. While motion pictures have always had their hands in the cookie jar of librarium television has up until fairly recently remained pure. Sure there are exceptions; Poirot, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman... any kids superhero show. But that's a different story too. If comics are the closest medium to film, it's only natural to take those frames and use them as a storyboard for something moving... it's a key process in filmmaking anyway, so if someone else has done that work for you anyway (and so well) you may as well use it. Huh.

But lately we've been barraged with a very popular number of adaptations in television... Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, True Blood, Dexter, The Pillars Of The Earth, The Vampire Diaries... it seems every major premium network (and the CW) has at least one. What's weirder is I don't mind the trend. In some small way it excites me. Think about it. We'll always have books adapted into films that are too short to get the point across. Hollywood will always allow that to happen. Earlier this year I was forced to discover that one of my favorite novels had been adapted into a shameless heap of a film. I'm talking about Atlas Shrugged, a novel that clearly deserves at least a mini-series and more rightly a three season full on series. The content in a novel like that is so massive in scope there's no reason not to put together three 10-part seasons. There's an audience for it. And the day some exec finds they've missed the opportunity, they will be reeling in their seat.

I bring this all up because I've been watching and reading Game Of Thrones in tandem. It's a very cool experience. I'm learning about this lush world and at the same time being given a visual idea of the way it all really comes together. And maybe there are elements they could have adapted better, but I'm still pretty happy up to this point. If I were show runner (I find myself thinking more and more regularly) then I know I'd try to focus on a few key things that these guys don't seem to think are necessary. But c'est la vie.

If that Dark Tower movie and series set up comes together I will be very excited. However, that's a story that calls for a great deal of attention. The specifications are written surely in Stephen King's blood and I see why the projection is being considered and reconsidered because it's true about adaptations... you always run the risk of alienating the readers who so truly love the novels they're watching be shaped into visual mutants. And you know what, I don't want to see a PG-13 Dark Tower... and I don't want to see any televised version of it on anything other than a premium network... because the events rely so heavily on violence and language amongst other things that we may find another massacre of filmdom like The Stand.

Anyway, I've rambled long enough. It's cool to see your favorite works put up on a screen wether it be large or small. But the hope and excitement is only rarely worth the final cut. What do y'all think?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Great Month Of Sci-Fi

Anybody who knows me even a little knows I love a good Sci-Fi flick. Well in this last month I have been treated to two exceptional works of Sci-Fi.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
While there were moments in which I found myself less than impressed, when I came out of the theatre I couldn't hold back this feeling of legitimate elation. If the movie had nothing else to offer, the work done on the character of Caesar alone would have been enough to to make me giddy... Andy Serkis (Gollum, King Kong) so masterfully folded what could have been just another Mo-Cap stick figure into a living breathing thing. The technology was brilliant. And I can't believe I get to say this right now, but for once in a Mo-Cap film I honestly believed the characters were feeling genuine emotions...
those eyes, those eyes. They breathed life. But luckily it was more than just Caesar. I can think of at least four distinct ape characters I enjoyed meeting and getting to know throughout the film... and not to spoil anything, but I was tearing up during the bridge scene. Man was that cool. Sure some of the human acting was sub par... but some of it was really quite good as well. And I feel a sense of responsibility from the filmmakers. They really care about this franchise that we've all grown up on, and if Rise manages to get a sequel (which I very much think it will) my eyes will be firmly pasted to the screen. So glad this was my birthday movie this year. So excited to see actual apes in this franchise rather than people in creepy monkey suits. I love the original and most of the sequels, but this is a beautiful reboot to what was a waning series.

Attack The Block
Possibly my favorite movie of the year. Attack The Block is both intelligent and eye-poppingly cool. The aliens were weird and different, and the premise just worked. It's so much cooler to watch a bunch of kids fight off an alien attack than, say, the military (Battle: Los Angeles sucked). Because when it comes down to it... even these characters who are nothing like me or my friends still manage to peak my interest. They didn't plan to be in this situation. They stuck themselves here completely by accident. When you watch the military take action, you're watching people who have mentally prepared themselves. Even if they break down it's not as powerful because they made a choice to be a part of this. But I'm rambling. Attack The Block so effortlessly melds the different levels of cool into a film experience I honestly had given up on this year. So here's to overcoming expectations. And that score... Perfect!

Go see both of these as soon as you get the chance. I highly recommend them for superior film enjoyment.