Posts Tagged adaptation

Clash of the Titans

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I am a huge, slavering fan of the 1981 original movie – it wasn’t a good movie, in fact it was very silly, but it was a lot of fun and gave birth to my stop-motion animation obsession. I knew there would be no stop-motion in this reincarnation and made peace with my disappointment and went in with rock bottom expectations and a beer in my hand.

That said, this movie was actually lots of fun! The plot is obviously nonsensical, but who  watched this movie to learn more about the Greek myths?  Seriously, though don’t try to follow the plot; it will just give you a headache like the one Sam Worthington is clearly battling throughout, with furrowed brow instead of a sword.

Sam Worthington is a very good actor, in his way; his range may be microscopically small, but he genuinely looks as though all this is really happening to him. Although maybe his headache came from his leather miniskirt. That costume was so short, I worried that there was going to be some uncomfortable upskirt action in the fight scenes.

All the actors in this movie are slumming it something fierce; seriously, Pete Postlethwaite? Liam Neeson? Oh my lord, Ralph Fiennes. The Greater Fiennes is a thing to behold as our villain, Hades. He devours the scenery, and it’s wonderful!

The special effects are decent – nothing remotely realistic, but these people are marching through volcanic mountains in pristine white tunics draped casually over their shoulders; realism isn’t even an option. More importantly, the special effects are FUN! Giant sand scorpions made of rocks or whatever! It’s no stop-motion skeleton army, but it’ll do.

The various creatures and monsters are all wonderful to look at. Archie the clockwork owl has only 2 seconds; apparently Sam Worthington hated the little contraption as much as he hates America and Freedom. The Pegasus is there, but this time in black. Because white horses are for pussies!

Maybe if I had honestly expected a serious, sweeping epic invested in its ancient source material, I would have hated this. I would also have been stupid to have expected that! A serious Clash of the Titans would be a phenomenal movie, no doubt, but even the posters let you know exactly what you will be receiving – this movie is loud, fast, pretty, and dumb. Nothing wrong with that.

Careful with that miniskirt; we can all see your sword.

The Ghostwriter

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Roman Polanski is a nasty old rapist, but he can make a hell of a movie.This film was taut, extremely well-acted, never pretentious or noisy. It was just good.

Pierce Brosnan, I knew you had it in you. My hope is that now that he’s getting on in years, Brosnan will get the opportunity to act in his movies instead of just holding up his handsomeness. Here as a thinly-veiled Tony Blair, you absolutely forget Remington Steele. Olivia Williams remains fairly typecast, but dammit, she’s good at that brittle, seething intelligence, barely suppressing hysteria character she does. Ewan MacGregor can basically do no wrong. Kim Cattrall is very distracting but does her job; apparently she is slightly British in real life, but it’s a bit confusing here.When Tom Wilkinson shows up, you know you’re in a good movie.

Anyways, good, grown-up movie. Simple, elegant, no delusions of grandeur or overwrought action sequences. Nice job, Nasty Old Rapist, although not good enough that it should keep you out of jail.

A Single Man

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Not a lot in common with A Serious Man, other than the extremely compelling suffering of an attractive white man in the 60s that you definitely need to watch.

Directed by first-time director and famed fashion designer Tom Ford, obviously the clothes and sets were going to be sublime and elegant-yet-manly. He is working with top-notch talent from exquisite source material, of course, but Ford really needs a round of applause for the sheer quality of this film.This does not feel like a first-timer’s movie.

The cast is tiny and perfect; Colin Firth, beautiful and grave as always. I hear he’s really a goofy, rumpled, dirty-minded imp in real life, and that makes me enjoy his tortured, repressed typecasting all the more. Nicholas Hoult you may remember as the boy in About A Boy with Hugh Grant, but he is all grows up, my word. I look forward to him in the upcoming X-Men prequel spin-off. Julianne Moore, exactly as she often is: shrill but absorbing and vulnerably gorgeous. Matthew Goode, in flashbacks as Firth’s dearly departed, is breathtakingly pretty but…I dunno, there’s something sort of poisonous about him that I think is the actor, not the role. Right here and now, I’ve decided that I dislike Matthew Goode. So there.

I knew what the story was about, so I was expecting something much, much sadder than it truly was. True, it is a very sad story – we’re carrying the weight of this man’s grief with him for only a day, and it’s overwhelming. But his story is more about the many ways life and happiness keep trying to reach out to him, and his ultimate success saves it from being depressing.

Alice In Wonderland

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Tim Burton will never turn out a movie where people drawl in monotones among blank, white rooms and thank god for that. Sadly, this effort is quite a bit more Sleepy Hollow than it is Edward Scissorhands. I would have loved this movie when I was 11, but it takes more than killer costumes and hair to earn my ardor nowadays. Oh, and the outfits and the hair are magnificent; I wanted to pet Mia Wasikowska’s hair and dresses so much it was distracting. I did for once enjoy the 3-D (I was wearing my glasses instead of my contacts, and it was a different type of 3-D glasses, so not sure where to lay the blame but I dug it); it’s a good mix of things popping out at you ostentatiously and the background deepening subtly. If visuals were all a movie needed, this thing would be on the Oscar shortlist. But, turns out, you actually need a story and characterizations that are compelling, even if your name is Tim Burton…

What I found most surprisingly about this movie was how bad several of the acting performances were! Crispin Glover, sweetheart, I am looking at you most pointedly. He appears in movies so rarely (or at least, movies I see) that I get over-excited for a minute when I do find him on the big screen. After the initial 30 seconds of Glovershock wore off, I was dismayed to find him not good in any way.  Well, there was a moment where he tries to put the moves on Alice that just about made my skin crawl off my body and under the theater chair, bravo, but for the most part he just stunk. I expected a little more from a varsity letterman.

Anne Hathaway, as well – some great facial expressions and high notes, but ultimately a one-dimensional performance further hampered by terrible, distracting makeup. Helena Bonham Carter actually imbues her character with some depth and sparkle, and pretty much all of the voice actors are superb (although, really, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock? Is it a requirement that all evil things be voiced by him?). Johnny Depp grabs your attention as always, but I couldn’t figure out where he was going with his accent. I’m fairly sure his accent fluctuated with the moods and intentions of his character, but I didn’t care enough to think about it long enough to figure it out. Which is really the main problem with the whole show – I couldn’t have given two shits about any of it. All the characters are flat and unengaging, and the plot is far too simple to take so long. It slogs along with so little verve that The Mad Hatter’s crazy freaky dance at the end, when there’s meant to be a celebration, is just plain creepy and jarring. This is Alice In Fucking Wonderland, people, we should be sitting here with smiles on our faces and laughter in our fucking hearts!

Quite pretty, though, and not nearly as bad as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so there you go.

Repo Men

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This movie blows. It makes very little sense, and although its tone and pacing are consistent throughout (at least it isn’t choppy), it is slow and boring. I started spacing out like a 3rd grader in church – DURING A FIGHT SCENE. The “twists” are obvious and mostly lame. Most of the characters’ motivations are totally opaque – I have to wonder how much of this is poor filmmaking, and how much is crap source material. Jude Law is an artificial organ reposesser, until an accident lands him with an overpriced artificial ticker and he has a CHANGE of HEART – literally!!  HA HA HA! GET IT?!   It feels like it’s an adaptation of a terrible pulp sci-fi novel ripped off from Philip K. Dick – I liked this movie better when it was called Minority Report and was coherent and compelling.  Jesus Christ, this movie is an insult.

Alice Braga is pretty good, and I’m interested in seeing her in the new Predator reboot, and that is pretty much all the good I have to say about this movie.

Ghost Dog, how could you?!


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They should really change the title to “Hit Girl” and be done with it. Chloe Grace Moretz is somethin’ else – that little girl has a way with a stunt wire. I want there to be a movie of just Moretz and Eliza Dushku beating the shit out of people. They’re both just so natural with their fight scenes, it’s a thing of beauty (to clarify, Dushku isn’t in this movie; she’s just the best ladyfighter I happen to have seen).

I have it on good authority that for the most part, this movie is utterly UNfaithful to the comic, which is a pity because from what I hear, the comic’s story is much, much darker and more compelling. Luckily, for once I have not had the movie ruined because I haven’t read the comics yet!

But I still did not have my world rocked, although I did enjoy it. I got a little bored and distracted every time Hit Girl wasn’t in a scene, and I was not impressed with Nic Cage (I’m sure he thought his Adam West impression was hilarious, but I found it pointless). Still, everyone is sweet and Matthew Vaughn, the director, has always had a great feel for the emotional range of violence – sometimes it’s light and awesome or funny, sometimes it’s upsetting and sad or scary. Aaron Johnson brings the right mix of naiveté and horrified gumption. Although, seriously, slapping a pair of glasses on a pretty person does not magically render them Nerdy And Unattractive – have we learned nothing from Superman? McLovin does a nice job, although I’m beginning to consider him a one-trick pony. Mark Strong and his snaggletooth continue to be a consistently competent go-to villain (can’t wait to see him as Sinestro in Green Lantern) – also, his stereotypical Italian mob accent is delightful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go start penning my screenplay for Chloe and Eliza Fuck Shit Up: 3D.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

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I was curious how Wes Anderson would make an animated children’s movie, and the answer is very clear: exactly the way he makes all his movies. If you don’t like his movies, if you find them painfully awkward and self-consciously weird, you probably will not like this because, first and foremost, it’s a Wes Anderson flick. If you are fond of his films in all their geeky hipster glory, you will clap your hands like giddy schoolgirl at this one.

The stop-motion animation is a bit choppy and strange, and I say that as a devotee of the art form. It’s something about the knees that just isn’t right, but the urge to reach out and touch the animals surely means something is being done well. The dialog is snappy and adorably quirky, and the whole thing is just a super fun time. Where does George Clooney get off being charming and attractive when he isn’t even on the screen?!


Sherlock Holmes

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When a movie’s trailer features an underclothed Robert Downey Junior, I think it’s fair to assume that is a movie I will enjoy very much. This film is so much fun! RDJ is perhaps not capable of sucking, and as always gives his character a depth and complexity that isn’t even required. My firm conviction about superheroes is that, were they real, they would not be okay, emotionally speaking; they would be damaged and conflicted and perhaps not very nice at all, because I don’t really believe you can excel (or be motivated to) to that intense a degree without lacking significantly in other areas. A person, no matter how fictional, would not want to give up healthy, satisfying relationships and lifestyles if they were able to have them, in my considered opinion. So these are the superheroes I find most compelling and realistic, and Sherlock Holmes is most definitely a superhero.

The digitally recreated Victorian London is a dirty, smoggy wonder so glorious and historically accurate it does actually wreck my suspension of disbelief. Jude Law as trusty Watson is terrific and sharp and seemingly accepting of the obvious homoerotic undertones to the literature’s greatest bromance. I have one complaint, and that complaint’s name is Rachel McAdams. She isn’t given much to do, sadly, and so this part requires an actress who can telegraph intelligence and force of spirit, and McAdams cannot do that. You’re left wondering what Holmes could possibly see in her and not really buying that she is some kind of criminal mastermind. Somebody more…Cate Blanchettish would have fared better.

The plot is suitably labyrinthine and exciting, and it’s very important that you not think too hard about it. Guy Ritchie’s movies generally move at a breakneck speed, this being no exception, and for once I actually found that a liability. It is literally dizzying at times how quickly it moves, and it seems to be upsetting poor Watson. There is a delightful visual trick introduced in the beginning, whereby we see Holmes choreographing a fight in his head in slow motion immediately before it takes place, mentally ticking off the best moves and most likely outcomes to engineer success, which then gives way to the fight scene in real time, mere seconds. It’s the best use of slow-mo I’ve seen in, oh, ever and also makes Holmes’s fighting ability much more realistic and fascinating. It’s only used a couple of times, though, and I did really want to see more of it.

All in all, a terrific good time that may not plump up your brain cells, but you won’t fall asleep.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

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I call the ridiculously compelling and addictive trilogy of Swedish mystery novels this movie is based on “Swedish crack”, so it goes without saying that I’m going to be very hard on this adaptation. I try hard, but ultimately I can’t usually get the book out of my head while I’m watching a movie. How much I like a movie adaptation is directly proportional to how faithfully it serves the spirit of the source material, and although I may support changes to the narrative or characters, I do notice every. single. departure from the text and that can mess with my suspension of disbelief. Even more so than usual, I am totally unable to see how this movie would hit a viewer unfamiliar with the book. I am blinded by my particular devotion to the novel, so consider this a review for those who are already hooked on the Swedish crack, and skip it if you are not.

This movie is, by and large, almost slavishly faithful to the book. The opening scene of the movie is a meticulous reproduction of the opening scene of the book, for instance. Much of the dense background of the story is elucidated in a well-done montage that covers a lot of ground very quickly. The cinematography is quite excellent, as well, although I had hoped to see more of Stockholm. My only criticisms come down to the individual performances, and certain aspects of the editing, and how I don’t feel they are true to the spirit of the source.

Noomi Rapace is a thing to behold in this role, and it was a hard, hard role to fill. She could not possibly look the part more, and is incredibly authentic in it. That said, she has missed (or was forced to miss) what I feel is a central element of the character. Lisbeth Salander is a vividly compelling character, but only if you know her. To strangers or the untrustworthy, she comes off as at the very least stupid and weird, more likely actually developmentally challenged in some way. At the heart of why she is often victimized is that at first glance (or even second and third), she seems like an easy target: a strange little retard who couldn’t possibly fight back but doesn’t inspire sympathy in others.  Of course, this belies an inner steely bad-ass genius, but the whole point is that almost no one knows that, and that’s the way she likes it. Noomi Rapace has a full handle on the bad-ass, but plays Salander like that at all times, so that it doesn’t much make sense when she’s continually underestimated and attacked.

As an extension of that, I found that many scenes were reworked in a way that I felt minimized Salander’s capability and calm, and depicted her as much more the victim than she was written. This is a woman who always gives more than she gets in a fight, but this director shows her getting mugged by teenagers on the subway (in the book, it’s one person, and she kicks him in the motherfucking HEAD). I’m guessing the director wants us to feel more immediate sympathy for a character that, as written, definitely does not want our sympathy. The real sympathy she engages is more because, as the audience, we want to be in her inner circle because she’s infinitely more awesome than we could ever be, and maybe if we feel protective or fond of this fictional character, we somehow can claim a piece of that badassery.

The dude who plays Michael Blomkvist, our protagonist, is so forgettable that I can’t even be bothered to look up his name. This character is supposed to be rakish and intelligent, rumpled yet still attractive and charming enough to literally nail every single female character in the book and still have you enjoying his company and never thinking less of him. This actor, to quote a better writer than I, has a face like  a catcher’s mitt,  and absolutely no pizazz. I’m not completely certain he even has a penis. The director eliminates most of Blomkvist’s conquests, although a moment’s reflection suggests that Movie Blomkvist can pretty much only land autistic rape victims. Did Stellan Skarsgård want too much money?

Complaints aside, this adaptation is very faithful, and ultimately the story itself is so taut and compelling that even its missteps are lost in the flow. Much has been made of the fairly graphic rape scenes in the movie, but really, those scenes are fairly tame compared to the book. The whole picture was somewhat awkward and I might go so far as to accuse the director of ham-fistedness, which makes me apprehensive of the coming American remake by the same man, but all in all I am forced to admit it’s pretty goddamn good.

The Wolfman

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I dig monster movies, if done well, and I feel I’m fairly generous when it comes to my definition of “well”. I have special love for monster movies that are serious, but my heart is big enough for gory, goofy extravaganzas. I was stupid excited about this movie. Every time I saw a trailer for it, I would frantically grab at my husband if he were unfortunate enough to be in reach, out of my mind with excitement. I love werewolves like Tom Cruise loves pretending to be straight! Unlike my predilection for post-apocalypse movies, however, werewolf movies are almost never any good. An American Werewolf In London, that’s about it (and even that is mostly borne aloft by Griffin Dunne’s peevish hilarity and Rick Baker’s effects genius, only slightly dated). But Benecio Del Toro! And Anthony Hopkins! A Victorian werewolf story, you say? With a blue filter? Sign me up!!

Alas…something went terribly wrong in the making of this movie, and not in any of the places I expected. Firstly, the super-hot and usually dedicated Del Toro swung wide of the mark here. His acting is really pretty terrible. He is stiff, but not in a Victorian way – in a reading-off-cue-cards way. All the British actors somehow seem to make their dialog poetic and earnest, but Benecio phones it in. I read that although a producer, he had some major disagreements with the director who was brought in to replace his first pick, specifically about the nature of his character. In retrospect, it feels as though he lost his own suspension of disbelief, and ultimately torpedoed the whole picture. This pains me, because I do normally love every thing he does and believe that Benecio Del Toro is made of rainbows and marzipan.

There are, however, two reasons that this movie was not a total waste of my time. The first is Anthony Hopkins, who devours the scenery so perfectly and commands every single scene he’s in with such delicious force that he nearly redeems the whole project. The second reason is the unexpectedly and perfectly over-the-top gore. This may in fact be a negative point to many people, but if you can realistically decapitate something with shameless glee, you have my heart.