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Archive for November, 2009

The only fair way to judge a film based on an exceptional book is to rate the big screen treatment as its own entity; pretend that the novel doesn’t exist, and that there was actually a screenwriter and/or studio executive inventive enough to conceptualize such an intriguing premise.

The biggest strike (and, belive me, there’s a gaggle) against John Irvin‘s 1981 adaptation of Peter Straub‘s multifaceted horror novel Ghost Story is that, as a stand-alone piece of cinema, it’s an absolute misfire. Has not one thing working in its favor; laughable when it’s not dull. With visual effects as poor as they come, Ghost Story would’ve left me as unimpressed back in ’81 as it does today.

Having just finished Straub’s great novel, now knowing what the author’s original vision was, and just how far off Irvin’s film lands in the paperback’s context, this film is an ultimate disaster. Continued after the jump:

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I’m reserving elaborated comments on Rob Marshall’s Nine until I actually see the film, understandably. Lavish musicals and yours truly rarely get along; Chicago and Moulin Rouge hold no interest around these parts, and the only reason why I enjoyed Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, I presume, is that it’s essentially a horror film in slick, marketable dressing. The odd thing is, I’m actually pretty excited for Nine; the leading presence of Daniel Day-Lewis is largely to blame, as is the deep cast of talented hottie actresses (I can be shallow with the best of them; it’s true). Just look at this, one of the film’s three new posters; tell me that Penelope Cruz and Kate Hudson don’t leave you all hot and bothered by the notion that you’re not anticipating a musical (I know that’s the sensation I’m experiencing). Don’t mind Fergie here, though; I’m not Tyra Banks co-host or anything, but that hair on Fergie’s dome is rather unbecoming (yes, I just said that, in the same breath as “I want to see this new musical”….. Gag me with a spoon). She looks like Michelle Pfeiffer in her worse older days:

Bonus shot of Nine co-star Sophia Loren after the jump, to remind you all that she’ll forever remain one of the all-time great beauties: (more…)

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There’s a slew of authors I need to catch up on (Raymond Chandler, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker…. the damn list is neverending); the one that I’m most likely approaching next is Ira Levin, the scribe responsible for both Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. Up until this weekend, I’d only seen the former, the wonderfully paranoid Roman Polanski classic that I’m guessing works even better in its written word, though I’ve read that Polanski’s film is one of the best book-to-film transitions out there. That’s not a surprise, since Polanski made the picture at the height of his horror-dominance, in 1968. It was obvious, based on my already-there simple knowledge of what The Stepford Wives is about, that Levin was firmly in touch with his sensitive-to-women side back in the ’70s. The fears and helplessness that ladies endured through during a time of gender anxiety. In Rosemary’s Baby, the protagonist—-a well-meaning gal who’s scared that the older tenants in her Manhattan apartment building are all minions of Satan—-struggles to overcome the underestimation of others; the impression that she’s submissive enough to willingly allow those around her to “impregnate” her with evil. I can’t wait to read how Levin tells in in prose-form; apparently it’s even more claustrophobic.

This weekend, I finally got around to sitting down with director John Forbes’s adaptation of The Stepford Wives, and, like Rosemary’s Baby, the film churns a great me-against-the-world vibe for its main character, Joanna (Katharine Ross), a New York City-bred, strong-minded woman surrounded by soulless female drones that are subservient to their husbands and do little more than cook and clean. All pretty and well-coifed, the ladies of Stepford (where Joanna and her family have moved to, against her own wishes) are idyllic male fantasies—–they don’t talk back, share their own beliefs, or challenge anything their hubbies say or do. There’s something much more sinister than mere obedience at work in Stepford, of course, and how Joanna uncovers the mystery is what gives The Stepford Wives its horror. 

Now, I’m unsure as to whether I should read The Stepford Wives or Rosemary’s Baby first; I’m leaning toward Stepford, since the film is still fresh in my mind. I do have one fear, and that’s that too many people associate The Stepford Wives with the shameful, let’s-make-it-a-zany-comedy-and-suck-the-lifeforce-out-of-Levin’s-vision 2004 remake, with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick. That version is junk; the 1975 original is the way to go, as evidenced by the following scene compilation. It’s the latest installment of Scenes of Mine, and, while full of Spoilers (so be warned), it’s easily the best teaser imaginable for Forbes’s underrated little success. To best appreciate the film’s quiet ballsiness, pay close attention to where Ross’s character stabs her altered friend (the then-quite-sexy Paula Prentiss, who went on to play the mother in a passionate watch of mine, 1981’s uneven yet endearing horror-comedy Saturday the 14th) in the kitchen. Scene compilation, after the jump: (more…)

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I almost feel bad for having down-talked Nicolas Cage throughout recent years. But then I remember that Will Smith has also made a career from big-budget spectacles without tarnishing his own name, and that sympathy is forgotten. If Cage wasn’t such a talented actor, I wouldn’t ever concern myself with such pointless thought; watching films such as Leaving Las Vegas and Wild at Heart, though, adds an extra layer of misfortune to the dreck of National Treasure, or the visual repulsion of Ghost Rider. For a film lover, there’s little worse than seeing a solid actor slum it to the point of undermining everything that he or she has done before. There’s a certain sadness to this; revisiting the better work of yesteryears is forever tainted. It’s never easy trying to separate modern-day disasters from a performer’s past efforts, and Cage’s filmography is one of the toughest to appreciate on its own high-mark merits. Remember, this is the guy who donned a bearsuit and sucker-punched a bunch of crazed women in arguably the worst horror remake ever, 2006’s The Wicker Man

That Cage’s performance in Werner Herzog‘s new bonkers crime dramedy Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is fantastic feels like a weight lifted off the shoulders of those who share this opinion. A Jay-Z/Timbaland-like reminder that the man hasn’t lost his abilities; they’ve just been lying dormant, locked away on the outskirts of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s money-pile. Skills that are now the equal to the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t holiday groundhog; 2010 will see Cage starring in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a Bruckheimer-backed cash-cow that looks quite perfunctory. By the time that one hits screens, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans will likely be a distant memory. Unfairly so. Herzog has conjured the best Nicolas Cage performance since 2003’s Matchstick Men, as the druggie, corrupt lawman ‘Terrence McDonagh,’ he’s turned in a safety-off rampage that’s just damn entertaining. Not necessarily a look-at-me-Academy job; just a free-wheeling, fascinating job. He’s always on screen, yet he keeps attention in check.

It’s a shame that Cage recently saw his riches go down the tube, thanks to misguided spending (dinosaur skulls) and a reportedly sheisty business manager; now he’ll have to do more blockbuster tomfoolery, when he should be making more intimate showcases the likes of Bad Lieutenant. Continued after the jump: (more…)

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Random but awesome lists such as this are why I love Topless Robot. One of their nerd-savant writers put together a list of “The 10 Best ’60s Batman Villains Who Should Make the Leap to Comics,” and it’s brought me back to my grammar school days, a time when my older brother and I would watch these Batman episodes together, with enthusiasm. I went as far as buying a book that catalogued every single episode; this wonderful text (which has since been lost in the black hole that is my parents’ attic) even had a comprehensive list of all the “Holy ____” that Burt Ward’s ‘Robin’ said. “Holy Bat-thermal underwear!” “Holy Davey Jones!”

Initially, I had one major complaint against Topless Robot’s list, but a little research showed that one of my favorite baddies, Falseface, did in fact appear in one Batman comic issue.

So, I stand corrected. That little unfounded indiscretion forgotten, this list deserves your eyes, without question. 

Are these Batman episodes on DVD? I gotta get on that. 

Some choice clips from the show, after the jump: (more…)

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Kristen Stewart, the one thing about this franchise that I actually like.

I have no intention to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon this weekend, or any future weekend; I still haven’t even seen the first film, nor do I want to. Call me close-minded or whatever slur you’re insult-ometer is turned toward—–it doesn’t matter. Nothing about the franchise (books or movies) interests me. What does excite me about these films, however, is the experience of clawing through reviews for the funniest, meanest jabs. Typically coming from the older, more esteemed critics. Such as, Roger Ebert, who really tossed the gloves to the side when writing his review. The way it’s written, it should really be a Zero Star rating, not One Star; with jewels like the ones pasted below, who gives a rat’s bum?

 

The amazing lead:

The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud.

All the way down to the wonderful closer:

The movie includes beauteous fields filled with potted flowers apparently buried hours before by the grounds crew, and nobody not clued in on the plot. Since they know it all and we know all, sitting through this experience is like driving a pickup in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.

Whenever veterans the likes of Roger Ebert trash horror films that I myself enjoy, I’m quick to use the old “Critics like him shouldn’t even review these kinds of horror films; they look at them too seriously, rather than the genre-audience-satisfying entertainment that they really are.” The same defense could be used in this New Moon case, but you won’t hear it coming from my lips. Hypocritical, sure. It’s not like New Moon isn’t going to make a truckload of cash this weekend without my help.

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Of course not. But, yeah…. This makes one hell of an argument for the show:

From: Leighton Meester’s fierce GQ photoshoot

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