Film Adaptation. Done Right.

You know how people say: “You should’ve seen it on the big screen“? I have discovered recently this also applies to The Silence of the Lambs, one of my favourite movies of all times.

The Silence of the Lambs is one of those movies which I have watched enough times to have memorized not only all the lines, but also the way those lines are delivered as well as facial expressions of characters as they deliver them. I guess this tends to happen when a movie is directed masterfully, the casting is freakishly good and the script kicks ass. So, not very often.

I’ve seen the movie a billion times and I thought I appreciated it for all its worth. However, I was wrong. Only on big screen can you appreciate the sheer genius of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Demme. For the first time I was able to fully appreciate how good Jodie Foster is as Clarice Starling.

Aside from the obvious reasons for loving this movie, I also love it because it is the best film adaptation I have ever seen. It is the epitome of film adaptation. It’s film adaptation, done the right way. You take the source material (which is awesome, requires no tweaking and needs not be tampered with) and you give it a dimension only the medium you’re adapting it to can give it.

You give it a voice, you give it a face. You use a simple thing as a look to convey a thousand words that a book cannot communicate. You use the camera and sound the way a book uses words and descriptions – to draw in the audience, make it a part of the scene, make it feel the story, make them live it and suffer it. The Silence of the Lambs is proof that Demme understood his medium and had respect for the source material.

It’s a fucking masterpiece, this movie. It’s also one of the rare film adaptations that I actually like more than I the source material.

The only thing that would make me appreciate it more would be hearing the lambs scream as they are being slaughtered. But I think the current level of appreciation will have to suffice.

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When Stars Align in Marvel Universe

I was fifteen when the first X-Men movie came out. I think it’s no wonder that Wolverine has had a special place in my heart ever since. I was young and impressionable, and Wolverine was well… I was fifteen.

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Two days ago, before I’ve watched Logan, I still loved Wolverine. I might not be fifteen anymore, and I might be on the old side of the cosmetics-industry timeline, but hey, I’m still alive.

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And then Logan happened. And, lo, I’m not so crazy about Wolverine. But I sure as hell love Logan.

I think Logan is a result of some serious celestial alignment. When James Mangold talked to the Marvel people, they were probably too busy counting the millions they’ve made and they just told him to do whatever the hell he wanted with the story.

And he did an awesome thing. He made a great movie, which is, coincidentally, based on a comic book character.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it was painful watching Logan. My two favourite superheroes were not only reduced to mere men, but reduced to feeble, old men, fighting their last fight which wasn’t even a big fight. I had to look away from the screen more than once because what the story was doing to Logan and Charles was just a bit too much to bear.

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The fact that Hugh Jackman decided he was done with Wolverine was probably the best thing that could have happened to this movie. Because Logan is done with Wolverine. Fact and fiction are perfectly reflected in Jackman’s acting, in his physique, and the script uses this mercilessly.

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A great movie, indeed.

Featured image taken from Animus Vox.

GotG Vol. 2 – or let’s talk about plot, baby

Three things that saved GotG Vol. 2 from total bust:

  1. The characters and their relationships – namely, the first movie;
  2. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac;
  3. Nebula and Yondu.

I also have to give them credit for avoiding a giant hole in the sky and opting for a subterranean climax.

Twice as many things due to which it sucked:

  1. The unbearable pointlessness of the Sovereign;
  2. Forced humour;
  3. Yes, we get it. Little Groot is cute.
  4. Angst overload;
  5. Drax as a comic relief character;
  6. The James Bondian “let’s pause so I can explain my evil plan to you”.

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Let’s Talk About Plot

Recently, there has been an influx of “big” movies without plot. This post was in my head after the remake of the Fantastic Four. It was there after Dr Strange. Suicide Squad, anyone? I’m really really sorry that it was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that has prompted me to finally write it.

We really do not need to refer to Aristotle to know that every story needs to have three parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. Logic entails that the beginning serves as an introduction to the story and its characters, the middle is in fact plot development which introduces the conflict and where the story reaches its climax, while the end gives us resolution and conclusion (we should be so lucky).

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Boys and girls who are writing superhero movies as of recently have decided to forgo introduction and plot development for something I will call a reminder. For approximately one hour (if we’re lucky, it’s just one hour) we are reminded about how cool the characters are, how familiar we are with them and the “universe” and how much we love it all. The reminder is also full of WHAM! BAM! KAPOW!

And then WHAM! BAM! KAPOW! – the climax of the movie. The end.

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Pretty much like the structure of this post.

So, what is wrong with Ghost in the Shell…

….aside from all the painfully obvious things such as:

  1. Not enough ghost, a lot of shell;
  2. Two-dimensional characters;
  3. Explaining of things that are obvious to a 2-year old;
  4. Non-existent villain;
  5. 1995 view of the future
  6. Pathetic attempt at exploring the discorporation of consciousness?

All those things fade in the wake of the fact that 21st century has no fucking imagination whatsoever.

Cyberpunk is not a novel concept, but still it is a concept (or genre if you will) that can be perfectly set into modern society because we are in fact living it.

  1. Mega-corporations rule the world (and control our lives)? Check.
  2. Seamless merging of life with information technology? Check.
  3. Unbelievable technological and informational advancement? Check.
  4. Artificial intelligence? Check (more or less).
  5. The lines between real life and online life blurred? Check.
  6. Big Brother’s watching us? Check.

And what does Hollywood do? It takes a 1995 classic Japanese anime and makes a live action movie without adding absolutely nothing to it. I don’t think any of us here, in 2017, perceive that in the future we will be driving our own cars (made in the 80s, from what I could tell).

Mind you, I did enjoy the movie at several points, most of which included Michael Pitt and Takeshi Kitano. It is not total bullshit. There were  moments in the movie which made my time (and money) worth the while.

However, the movie has left me with two very important questions:

1. If I were to make a cybernetic soldier, would I make it/she/him 160 cm tall?

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2. Can we somehow stop them from ruining Akira?

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Jason Bourne or David Webb?

Driving in a car.
Matt Damon without a shirt.
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Fight. Anguished Matt Damon/flashback.
JESUS CHRIST IT’S JULIA STILES.
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Computer mumbo jumbo.
Fight. Fast walking.
Some conversation. Driving in a car.
Fight. Fast walking. Flashback.
The Greek love Molotov cocktails.
Computer mumbo jumbo.
Fight.
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Matt Damon without a shirt.
High speed chase.
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Fight.
CIA is useless. It’s not even clear how they keep on existing.
High speed chase.
Tommy Lee Jones looking old and bored.
Fight.
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Attempt at raising the issue of privacy vs security. Failing.
Creative use of weaponry.

A boring, never-ending high speed chase which finally gives you an opportunity to think about the movie and realise Jason Bourne is not much of a movie. It really isn’t. The plot, non-existent as it is, is flimsy, unnecessarily sappy and very convenient. They invested minimum effort in the story.

Jason Bourne is a wild ride (no pun intended, but still – that’s what she said). Until the very end, It doesn’t let you think about the plot and about what’s actually happening. Until that car chase which seems even worse than the one in the Dawn of Justice (yaaaaaaaaawn).

Still, if you expect nothing more than a movie with Matt Damon in it, you’re not gonna be disappointed.

Frowny Faces, Sparkly Eyes and Grey Stuff

The first movie I remember watching in the cinema is The Fisher King. It wasn’t a really sound decision my mother made when she decided to take my brother and me to see it. I had nightmares about the headless rider for years.

Being a cinema-goer for 25 years I’ve pretty much seen it all. When I was watching The Mummy, at one point the reel skipped a half an hour of the movie and simply went on. Then the movie was started again. Took us three hours to see a two-hour movie. I’ve seen a movie during which my cinema-going partner fell asleep three times (Skyfall – can you blame him?).

During Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I’ve witnessed three fellow cinema-goers whip out Tupperware filled with deep-fried chicken and assorted side-dishes. I suffered through Deuce Bigelow (secret première).

With two of my friends, I’ve managed to convince a reluctant cinema manager to play a movie just for the three of us. I went to the midnight première of Miami Vice. Alone. I sat in the first row between two love seats. That was fun.

One time, it took the cinema people half an hour to realize they were playing the wrong movie.

Once an employer made a phone call during the movie to curse and swear at some colleague telling him (or her) that the movie was too loud and that the air-conditioning sucked.

I have never spaced out during a movie. Never. Not until Dawn of Justice (or as someone renamed it – Yawn of Justice). I was staring at the screen, not seeing what was going on. I have also never taken the time to count all the ceiling lights in the hall. Which is, as I have learnt, rather tricky in the dark. Also there were air vents on the ceiling, round like the lights. It was an arduous task, especially having in mind that I did not sit in the last row so I had to crane my neck. I also never thought about Matt Damon and Jason Bourne during a superhero movie, thinking how I would love to see that fight from the first movie and whether I could watch the teaser trailer for Jason Bourne 5 for 150 minutes consecutively and if that would bore me as much as Batman v Superman. I did not test that one, but I did watch the trailer as soon as BvS finished.

There are a lot of bad reviews of BvS. Understandably so. I’m not going to repeat what has already been said. I will however tell you that if you go see this movie, there is a good possibility you will be shocked, confused, bored, unimpressed and that you’ll probably experience all that on a wholly new level.

P.S. Why THE HELL did Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill spend all that time buffing up for the movie, when they even didn’t try to use that to make the movie bearable?

Oh, Joy!

I wasn’t exactly a social animal as I was growing up, meaning I’ve watched a lot of TV. At one point in my life I have become a real connoisseur of “true story” TV movies. A mother’s battle with illness. A wife’s battle with abusive husband. A girl’s struggle through multiple foster parents. A family’s struggle with sudden poverty. I’ve seen them all. Some of them weren’t half bad, others sucked major ass. But then again, that’s the case with all movies, not just the ones of TV variety.

If you’ve seen the honest trailer for Jurassic World, you’re probably familiar with the thesis that it’s nothing but a SyFy channel movie with a big budget.

Something similar can be applied to Joy, the movie which earned Jennifer Lawrence her Oscar nomination. It’s a TV movie about a mother’s/daughter’s struggle to fulfil her potential with a big casting and marketing budget. The TV-movie-feel was much aided by the fact that Joy’s half-sister is embodied by a TV movie/Law & Order actress Elisabeth Röhm.

It is possible that they wanted to make Joy reminiscent of TV movies. If they did, good for them. They almost made it.

There are elements in the movie which suggest that they tried to do something a bit different, but gave up along the way.  There are moments which are very stylized, but they evaporate so quickly that they are easy to forget. There are attempts at creating Lynch-like atmosphere and characters (mostly thanks to Isabella Rossellini and Virginia Madsen) but somewhere down the middle they decided this is not the way they want to go.

Joy is a jumbled mess. Creating a motif at the beginning and then abandoning it altogether pissed me off. I really liked the idea of presenting life as nothing but a never-ending soap opera. However, the makers of Joy liked it only occasionally, and not very frequently. The idea of stylized reality appealed to me. I’m sorry they didn’t insist on it.

All in all, nothing impressed me about Joy. Not even Jennifer Lawrence.

The Force, Awake it is

I’m not a die-hard fan of the Star Wars. I wouldn’t even call myself a fan. It’s a bit beyond classification because Star Wars has shaped the way in which my mind works, having been one of the first (if not the first) SF movie I have ever seen. When I think of a spaceship, I think of a Star Destroyer. When I think of droids, I think of C3PO.

Even when I watch the abominable prequels, the opening credits make me feel like a little kid about to see its dreams come to life.

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Unlike the prequels, the Force Awakens delivers. It has everything a good Star Wars move should have:

  1. Great action scenes
  2. Black and white morality with poor attempts at nuance
  3. Strong female character (not a princess or a queen this time)
  4. Dude in a black cloak with a cool voice
  5. A fight scene in a place high atop a thing
  6. Adorable droid

Add to that amazing special effects and a decent screenplay, a bit of 3D, Han Solo, and Voldemort, and you have a movie which deserves all the heaps of money it will earn.

Much as the original Star Wars, the Force Awakens is not perfect, because it’s pretty much the same movie. New Hope Reloaded. Really, it’s the same, with a few adjustments.

A few other flaws:

  1. Kylo Ren should have kept his mask on
  2. The fact that millions died (I think) should have caused at least a minor emotional response from at least one character
  3. Two minutes are two minutes, if you cannot abide by the deadline you set in your script don’t set it – false suspense is crap
  4. The last scene was more ridiculous then dramatic

The best part of the movie is definitely the cast.  It always seemed to me that the actors in the franchise thought the Star Wars story was preposterous, and that no one really approached it with dedicated gravity. Let us look back at what Alec Guiness wrote:

 … new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper – and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April …

While Ford’s and Fisher’s  willing suspension of disbelief is noticeable in their performance, Boyega, Ridley and Isaac have taken their roles seriously, making the repetitive quality of the movie seem almost irrelevant. I’m still amazed at how convincing Ridley was in everything she did on screen, and she did it all with a vengeance. No matter what Rey did, I had no problem believing that she was perfectly capable of doing it, no questions asked.

Conclusion: Fury Road is the best movie of 2015.

Credits for the featured image go to lightsabered deviantart.com

Other credits go to allengrimes and spirit–of-adventure @ deviantart.com

Why Does the Universe Hate Aaron Sorkin?

I really don’t know, I hope someone knows the answer, so I decided to put it out there. But this isn’t a post about Aaron Sorkin (not entirely). This is a post about Steve Jobs. Not the man. The movie.

The movie is truly amazing. Loved every moment, was sorry to see it end. I loved its structure and its symmetry. I loved the fact that Sorkin’s dialogue still plays out like the best fucking action scene you’ve ever witnessed, making you sit a little closer to the edge of your seat. I love the fact that Sorkin’s dialogue always leaves victims.

The fact that the life of a complex man was summed up into four words blows me away.

I don’t care about the truth about Steve Jobs. I don’t care about which part of the movie was true to the life of the man. It shouldn’t matter. You do not need to recreate someone’s life to tell a story about the man who lived it.

There is one thing wrong with this movie. Michael Fassbender. Don’t get me wrong. He was good. But he could not turn the sexy off. He tried. He failed.

And there’s another thing wrong with the universe:

Who is Jeff Daniels?
It’s the guy from Dumb and Dumber who’s not Jim Carrey.” – still the easiest way to answer.

It’s my mission to make it: “He’s that guy from the only show  Sorkin managed to finish.

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Grey & Steele Do Hollywood

To say that I am not a fan of the 50 Shades of Grey (book) would be an understatement. Still, I’ve watched the movie. Call it masochism or using every opportunity to get self-righteous, but there, I did it.

The movie transfers the book to the screen almost perfectly. Dialogue swerves left and right with no rhyme or reason (reminded me of The Room on more than one occasion). The motivation of the characters is completely mysterious and baffling and the effect does not seem to have absolutely anything to the with the cause.

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Dakota Johnson is perfect as Anastasia Steele. She has that clueless look about her and she stares stupidly at Christian just the way I’ve imagined it while reading the book. Dakota’s Ana is flustered, all over the place. At one point she’s all for some power play, and then she’s this empowered woman who will not be pushed around.

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Y so funny?

Jamie Dornan is a decent Christian Grey because throughout most of the movie he lacks definition (not talking about his muscle tone, that’s acceptable) and he seems to be a guy controlled by an invisible string and not by any recognizable human desires or emotions. He fails at a couple of instances and exhibits smidges of a third dimension, but not enough to diminish the adherence to the book. He’s also good in showing that one of the most important parts of Grey’s personality is actually a joke to him, even though it causes great social and emotional pain. For instance whenever he asks Anastasia to obey him, he slips in a smirk or something, showing that he doesn’t really mean it that way.

One thing that the movie does better than the book is sex. But that really isn’t difficult. However, even in the movie there’s no chemistry between the protagonists and the hotness level is pretty much down there with the one in the book (minus the need to answer the question: What he fuck? Does she have three legs or something?).

Maybe the biggest fault with the adaptation is the fact that we don’t get an opportunity to experience the rich internal life of Anastasia Steele where things like Holy crap! and Holy cow! come into play during intercourse. I think that they should have introduced a third character (the movie just pretends to have more than two characters, just like the book) called Inner Goddess. Imagine that! Anastasia and Christian are talking and …. PUFF! Inner Goddess appears and does some idiotic dance.

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All in all, 50 Shades of Grey, the movie, is all it can be. If you don’t agree, consider this:

It was based on a book which was based on an AU fanfiction (partly written on a mobile phone) about the characters from young adult novels about glittering vampires and werewolves, whose main protagonist has a blank stare and is unable to close her mouth.  

Blackberry is mightier than the sword
The Blackberry is mightier than the sword

So, haters gonna hate, but if you were given a job to make a movie which was supposed satisfy millions of fans, this is how you would do it. Myself, I’d have probably hired James Spader to play Mr. Grey, having in mind that me being in charge of making any movie is as likely as James Spader rejuvenation.

One good thing came from this experience – I remembered that I haven’t seen The Secretary in a while and I remedied that immediately. You should too.

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