I’m about 13 years late on this one, but it turns out there’s a reason Charlize Theron got an Oscar for MONSTER. Jeez. Playing Aileen Wuornos, “the first female serial killer,” she not only transforms herself, she transforms Wuernos.
That first part got all the attention. Theron was a well known actress by that point, but in movies like 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, REINDEER GAMES and THE ITALIAN JOB her acting chops usually took back seat to her hotness. Here she wore fake teeth, bleached her eyebrows and had her skin looking freckled and rough, a pretty decent likeness of the real woman and (though it looks natural in the movie) extreme enough to get a bunch of attention. I actually think the most drastic part is the hair, though. The way the movie tells it she has the hair of a butch lesbian before she even discovers that she is one.
This is a love story. Aileen, going by Lee, decides rather than kill herself one rainy day she’ll take her last five bucks to a bar and get a beer. And this lonely young woman Selby (Christina Ricci, CASPER) approaches her, talks to her, buys her a pitcher. Aileen protests at first – “What is this, a gay place?” she had snorted to the bartender earlier – but she can’t really pass up a person being nice to her. Too rare. (read the rest of this shit…)
Disney’s 1967 animated version of THE JUNGLE BOOK was pretty much a hangout movie. A bunch of animal dudes kickin it in the jungle, occasionally singing songs. Like HOUSE PARTY but with snakes and shit. The tiger Shere Khan plays the part of Full Force.
Now modern Disney and director Jon Favreau (executive producer, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS) have brought in more of the world and narrative of Rudyard Kipling’s stories for an excellent live action(ish) version that captures plenty of the spirit of the old one while also being totally different. It uses versions of the original songs and even evokes Disney animation with a painted version of the castle logo, but never feels redundant. It’s like putting on glasses and seeing that version in more detail, from the visuals to the story.
I have to admit, after COWBOYS & ALIENS I kinda thought maybe we got too excited about Favreau as a director because of IRON MAN. Clearly I was wrong. This is a movie I can’t imagine many directors pulling off. Like with IRON MAN he finds a perfect balance between nerdy love for the source material and clear vision of how to tell the story in a dramatic way we haven’t quite seen on screen before.
And it can’t be easy competing with the memory of Stephen Sommers’ 1994 version.
Like THE RAGE, the 2013 remake of CARRIE is directed by a woman. This one comes courtesy of Kimberly Peirce of BOYS DON’T CRY and STOP-LOSS fame. The screenplay is credited to two men, Lawrence D. Cohen (GHOST STORY) and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN remake). The weird thing is that Cohen wrote the DePalma version, and this is his first credit in 9 years, so I don’t know if that means they started from an old-screenplay base. It kinda seems like it. It doesn’t do its own thing as much as I’d like. It’s not DePalma, but it’s not a drastically different take either, so I’m not sure how much the female perspective was able/allowed to add in this instance.
Part of the fun of a remake or re-adaptation is seeing who they have playing the different roles. There are some familiar actors in the leads here. Chloe Grace Moretz (TODAY YOU DIE) plays Carrie, and she’s the first actual teenager to ever play the character on screen. At 15 I believe she’s actually younger than Carrie was in the book, and there’s something to be said for authentic youthfulness in this role. Julianne Moore (ASSASSINS) is Margaret White, because of course she is. It would have to be her. Judy Greer, known for thankless roles in every major movie of the last few summers, actually gets things to do in the Betty Buckley role as the sympathetic gym teacher.
I was not familiar with the young actors playing the do-gooder couple of Sue and Tommy. Sue is Gabriella Wilde, a tall blond model who was in the Paul W.S. Anderson THREE MUSKETEERS, and Tommy is boyish Ansel Elgort, a rookie actor who has since been in the DIVERGENT series of trailers that seem to come out every few months, was the boy lead in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and reportedly on the short list to play Young Han Solo in I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS: THE ADVENTURES OF ALL NEW HAN SOLO. Both actors won me over after initial skepticism. Meanie blood-dumper Chris Hargensen is played by Portia Doubleday, who I know from looking like Amanda Sieyfried on that tv show Mr. Robot. (She was also the surrogate date in HER, and her older sister Kaitlin plays Rhonda, the only major white character on Empire.) Chris’s bad boy boyfriend Billy Nolan (Travolta’s character) is Alex Russell, who I guess was in CHRONICLE and later Angelina Jolie’s UNBROKEN. (read the rest of this shit…)
Some years back I got an inkling to watch the 2002 TV version of CARRIE directed by David Carson (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS). I was thinking that of course it was gonna pale in comparison to DePalma’s version, but I liked Angela Bettis, who plays Carrie, in that movie MAY, and it might be cool to see another take on a classic story.
Then I put it on and the cheesy early 2000s TV aesthetic and laughable portrayal of high school turned me off so thoroughly I don’t think I even made it 10 minutes. Even Bettis seemed silly. I read that she was 27 at the time (2 years older than even Spacek was) but my math says 29. And we have to accept that she’s having her first period. If we even get to that scene, that is, which I didn’t the first time.
But now that I’ve read the book it’s interesting to watch different versions and compare and contrast the choices in adaptation, so I made it through and got what I wanted the first time. I even appreciated some aspects. (read the rest of this shit…)
Okay, I agree. They shouldn’t have made a sequel to CARRIE. But what if I were to tell you that it’s not bad? That’s what I would tell you if the subject came up, because that’s what I believe. If you have it in you to be a Sue Snell and try to give CARRIE 2 a chance you might be able to see the nice, pretty girl underneath.
It’s a movie of the ’90s so the protagonist, Rachel (newcomer Emily Bergl, now a veteran of TV shows including Desperate Housewives, Southland, The Knick and Shameless), is a different type of outcast than Carrie White. She’s not raised in seclusion, she just had her mother taken away to an asylum when she was young, and she lives with shitty foster parents. She’s not socially stunted. She’s just a girl who likes to wear black and no makeup and has a Marilyn Manson poster and a cheesy matching tattoo with her best friend Lisa (Mena Suvari right before AMERICAN PIE and AMERICAN BEAUTY). It is not specified, but in my opinion she owns THE CRAFT on VHS or at the very least PUMP UP THE VOLUME.
Rachel can stand up for herself but does have some vulnerabilities. Her other best friend is her basset hound Walter, and she’s embarrassed when it comes up that she’s a virgin. Although she gives lip service to the band Garbage, we hear her listening to Billie Holliday more than once. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before we address the other adaptations of CARRIE, let’s look at one of the movies its success made possible.
A few years after CARRIE was a hit, producer Steve Krantz whipped up this totally different movie called JENNIFER. Instead of just living in a decrepit house, Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan [LIONHEART, the TV version of TRUE GRIT with Warren Oates]) lives in a decrepit house that’s also a pet store. Instead of being raised by a single mother it’s a single father (Jeff Corey [SURVIVING THE GAME, the movie version of TRUE GRIT with John Wayne]) and instead of thinking her powers are the Devil’s work he thinks it’s Jesus. Instead of whatever form of Christianity Margaret White practiced, Jennifer’s father raises her as a snake handler. Instead of a sympathetic gym teacher there’s a dreamy science teacher (Bert Convy, host and producer of Win Lose or Draw) who is real cool and asks her to call him Jeff. Instead of a public high school where she doesn’t know how to fit in it’s a boarding school where everyone treats her like shit because they’re spoiled rich kids and she’s a poor kid on a scholarship. Instead of killing a pig and pouring its blood on her they hang her favorite kitten in her locker, and then say she did it and use it as an excuse to kidnap her.
When one of us says “Carrie,” I bet we all think of the same thing: Brian DePalma’s iconic 1976 film, an American classic. It’s the first and still-second-best movie based on a Stephen King book, so of course we could also be talking about that 1974 novel (the fourth that King wrote, but first he got published). Or we could be talking about the 2002 made-for-TV version, or the 2013 remake, or I suppose the 1952 William Wyler movie which in my opinion is not based on King’s book. Anyway this week I’d like to take a look at the different incarnations of King’s story. (Not the failed Broadway musical though. I never saw it.)
I’m assuming I don’t have to tell you the story. And then I’m telling you the story just in case. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, PRIME CUT) is a shy, awkward girl who already doesn’t fit in at her high school before she has her first ever period in the locker room shower after gym class and thinks she’s bleeding to death, much to the amusement of all her classmates. Yeah, thanks for the heads up on that menstruation stuff, abusive and mentally ill Christian fundamentalist mother (Piper Laurie, RETURN TO OZ, THE FACULTY).
The other girls get in trouble from their gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley, THE HAPPENING) for pelting Carrie with tampons and chanting at her. One of the girls, Sue Snell (Amy Irving, THE FURY) feels guilty about it and convinces her greatest-American-boyfriend Tommy Ross (William Katt, SUPER) to take Carrie to the prom and show her a good time. Another girl, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen, ROBOCOP), goes the other route, she’s not allowed to go to the prom, and plans a cruel prank to avenge Carrie. Meanwhile, womanhood has unlocked in Carrie a freak power to control objects with her mind. So if she gets humiliated again, perhaps on stage at the prom to name one possible scenario, she’s not gonna cower in fear this time. There will be Hell to pay. (read the rest of this shit…)
Sometimes you’re watching a movie and you’re not really getting anything out of it, but you power through it just so you can say you watched some weird thing that nobody ever heard of. Or at least that’s what I do sometimes. Maybe that explains some things.
The culprit this time was BILLY BOY, a 1978 low rent South African boxing drama. I watched it because I’m on a long term quest to go alphabetically through every movie in this section at Scarecrow Video that’s English language martial arts movies like BLOODSPORT and ENTER THE NINJA and stuff like that. If you are familiar with alphabetical order at all you can see I have a long way to go. I’m still on the first shelf. Anyway, I suspect this one was put in there by mistake but I didn’t want to skip it because what if it was some amazing undiscovered treasure?
Duane Bobick stars as amateur boxer Billy Boy Lamont. His father (Willie van Rensburg, also the screenwriter) is a former fighter who is suddenly paralyzed, and Billy Boy can’t find any work to pay for his treatments, so he says he has to fight. Of course his mom (Trix Pienaar, THE COLOR OF FREEDOM) is against it (like Phylicia Rashad in CREED) and also he somehow knows that he’ll get a bunch of money for it. (read the rest of this shit…)
SPL 2: A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES (or KILL ZONE 2 in the U.S.) is not truly a sequel to SPL/KILL ZONE, the great 2005 martial arts/police thriller that Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and director Wilson Yip did together before the IP MAN movies. Instead it’s an even better movie with Tony Jaa (THE PROTECTOR), Louis Koo (DRUG WAR) as the villain and Zhang Jin (THE GRANDMASTER) as the main henchman. Wu Jing (WOLF WARRIOR) and Simon Yam (MAN OF TAI CHI) both return in lead roles, but not as the same characters from the first one.
Director Cheang Pou-soi (DOG BITE DOG, MOTORWAY, THE MONKEY KING) and action director Li Chung-chi (team leader of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team who also choreographed GEN-X COPS 2, VENGEANCE and IP MAN: FINAL FIGHT) have come up with some next level shit that’s pretty much everything I could hope for in a serious Hong Kong action movie: an intense, involving story with a strong, dramatic tone, building carefully to powerful explosions of violence including large scale shootouts and vehicle mayhem but primarily martial arts with a wide variety of styles that express things about the characters and situations. (read the rest of this shit…)
Not long ago I wrote about director Jamaa Fanaka’s last film, STREET WARS (1992), and before that his first one, WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES, aka SOUL VENGEANCE (1975). You could sum him up as a director of idiosyncratic blaxploitation, but he wasn’t some cynical Hollywood guy going where the money was. He really was a young filmmaker with a voice. He managed to do three feature films while he was still in film school: BROTHER CHARLES, EMMA MAE (1976) and the one he’s best known for, PENITENTIARY (1979).
This is a movie about a guy who gets screwed over by the racist system, goes to prison and makes his way by boxing. We’re talking eight years after SHAFT, seven years after SUPER FLY, three years after ROCKY.
Our hero is Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone (Leon Isaac Kennedy, HAMMER, LONE WOLF MCQUADE), who we first see as a homeless man sleeping in a little tent near a highway. He’s woken up by white dudes off-roading on motorcycles. Hitchhiking, he gets picked up by Linda (Hazel Spear, DISCO GODFATHER), a dream girl with a flower in her hair, driving a cool van. She explains that most people wouldn’t pick up hitchhikers on this highway because there are both men’s and women’s prisons nearby. (read the rest of this shit…)