How many of you have been shipwrecked?
My father missed his era. He was born to be a cowboy. He would have had a tremendous life riding the range, working the land for a living, his rifle and his six-gun doing the talking when need be. I think he would have been happy. Like many people, he has experimented with hobbies and passions over the years, and when I was young and my family lived in Florida, there was a time when boating was given some time and attention.
It did not end well.
I can't say for sure how many boats my dad sank. It's somewhere between two and fifty. What I know for sure is that when one of your formative memories as a child is being rescued by the Coast Guard after you spent the night on an island because your boat sank, it teaches you a healthy respect for the idea that the ocean, when it wants to, will kick your ass.
How many of you have been shipwrecked?
Brian De Palma wasn't just hired to direct the film version of Stephen King's monstrously successful first novel "Carrie"; he collided with it, and the result basically manhandled audiences, creating iconic imagery, loaded with indelible performances. "Carrie" is not a subtle film, but it is a fairly undeniable film. It is a fever dream, overheated and overwrought and impossible to shake. De Palma's film means it. There is nothing halfway about it, and it practically burns the edges of the screen. It runs hot from the moment it starts.
When they made a weak sequel to the film in the '90s and when they remade the movie for television, those were easy to tune out. I think the world of Angela Bettis, and she seems like near-perfect casting for the role of Carrie White, but I didn't even bother to see that film. I have no opinion of it beyond "I'm not sure why you'd bother."
Midway through "Escape Plan," the agreeably cheesy new thriller that stars both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, I found myself cackling as I imagined Arnold sitting in his agent's office, asking them to find him a project where he could do a whooooooooole lot of acting.
"I know you've found me a few starring roles since I made my comeback, and I did that 'Expendables' gig, but what I really want is a role where I get to do a lot of voices and improv comedy and I'm a mastermind who is constantly playing characters. Like I said. Lots and lots of acting."
I'm not sure I'd necessarily call all of that acting good, but it sure is fun to watch Arnold throw this much effort at anything. I'm not sure I believed he still had it in him, but he looks like he's having a blast here as Rottmayer, a convict who is locked away in The Tomb, the highest of high security prisons. He doesn't show up until about a third of the way into the film, but once he does, he can barely stop smiling.
It almost seems too easy a choice to hire Kimberly Peirce to make a new version of Stephen King's "Carrie." After all, her film "Boys Don't Cry" is an excellent look at how an outsider desperately tries to fit into a high school world, and the film positively vibrates with genuine pain.
Her second film "Stop Loss" is less successful overall but it still has a palpable sense of what it feels like to not quite fit. The unease in her work makes her a preposterously on-the-nose choice for "Carrie," and I don't mean that as any sort of insult. It's just one of those things where as soon as you hear the choice, it's an automatic "duh."
Sitting down to talk to her, I didn't want to talk about it as a horror film. I know this is the story that launched King's career as the master of modern written horror, but "Carrie" has always struck me as a tragedy, and it seems like Peirce saw this as a very human story, driven by very human problems.
From the opening shot of the wallpaper with the familiar white-clouds-on-blue-sky motif to the exactly-right-genre-parody storytelling in the opening sequence to the way the story builds to a tremendously well-plotted payoff for both story and character, "Toy Story Of Terror" is a "Toy Story" story in every way, and should delight Pixar fans perennially now.
I love that this is now the Bonnie continuity, and I love the detail of watching TV in the car during a rainy drive. Awesome modern detail. Jessie is claustrophobic. That makes perfect sense after what we know from "Toy Story 2," but handled well here. It's easy to forget that she was completely and utterly insane in that film, mentally broken in a very scary way. Joan's work in the special is very, very good, and I always love the moments where things go very subtle.
The way the story unfolds and the way the toys talk about horror convention is fun and simple and makes sure that things don't get too scary for kids. Pricklepants gets to make an impression here since he's the one who knows how things are supposed to work. Timothy Dalton has never met a plate full of ham that he has not gleefully devoured, and I love him for it. He seems to relish the absurdity of playing a character named Pricklepants who speaks in such positively Shakespearean diction.
Why would you hire Darren Aronofsky to make a Darren Aronofsky film unless you were ready to have the full Darren Aronofsky experience?
During a recent appearance on the podcast "How Did This Get Made?", I talked about how often we see long-time dream projects finally get realized on film only to turn out to be terrible. I'm not saying that will be the case with "Noah," but any studio that signs on to a film like that has to understand this isn't some mere case of work for hire. This is something that a filmmaker has lived with for decades now, and there are things he's going to have to do, test audiences be damned. When you agree to make a film like that, you have to assume it's going to be a wild ride, and when we hear reports of struggles in this situation, it baffles me because it seems like everyone involved should have seen that coming.
With the announcement that Marvel has four more dramatic series and a mini-series that it is developing, it is clear that television is the next beachhead for them. They are planning to make a major impact, and so it is fair to look at "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." as a first indication of how they think about TV.
One of the main complaints so far is that it feels like a TV show from the '80s, before the recent push towards a greater sense of realism and character writing, and it's true… no one is going to mistake this for HBO's version of a Marvel Comics show, but it seems like they're trying to build something that fits, in terms of tone, neatly alongside the movies. That can't be easy when you realize how much less money they have in general. So far, it is a conventional TV show with just a bit of sass to it, and if they can turn it into something even better than that, I'll be excited. So far, it doesn't transcend that description at all, but I'm not sure I expected it would.
The fourth episode, called "Eye-Spy," kicks off in Sergel's Square in Stockholm, Sweden, when a group of men in red featureless masks and identical suits calmly march into the square, all carrying briefcases. A young woman wearing headphones seems to get some sort of read off of them when they walk by, and she falls in behind them as they head for the subways. When they all file onto a train, she gets on after them. She's openly watching them by this point, and slowly, they all seem to become aware of her.
When you discuss "movie stars," the real definition has to do with both commercial bankability and overall appeal, and it's a term that can be abused wildly. I also think it's too restrictive, because there are tons of actors who may not be the name that you put on a poster or the name that gets something financed, but audiences who love them love them wildly because, film after film and show after show, they make choices that stand out, or they take ordinary dialogue and spin it in just the right way, or because we just plain like to see what they do.
That's Judy Greer all over. From her breakthrough role as Fern in "Jawbreaker" to memorable smaller appearances in "Three Kings" and "What Planet Are You From" and "What Women Want" to bigger appearances in "13 Going On 30" and "Adaptation" and "The Village," she built a reputation as someone who could take even a thankless role as "the best friend" and turn it into something that stands out. I've been a fan for so long now that it seems crazy to me that even as recently as 2008, in "27 Dresses," she was still considered something of a discovery for many viewers. It was her work in "The Descendants" that seems to have kicked open some bigger doors for her, and I'm always rooting for filmmakers to give her something great to do.
"His daddy had been a scary man, and how that little boy had loved him."
- Stephen King, "Doctor Sleep"
There is something deeply broken at the heart of "Doctor Sleep," Stephen King's sequel to one of his single greatest works, "The Shining." In the early part of King's publishing career, there was a sort of white-hot intensity to it all, like he had to get it out of his head, onto the page, into the minds of his readers.
When I just recently spoke with Kimberly Peirce about her new adaptation of "Carrie," we talked about the voice of that book and the insistent, urgent nature of it. King seemed like these voices were pouring out of him, and when you read "The Shining" today, it is amazing how white-hot passionate it is. There are few books to ever deal more effectively with the way anger and addiction can rot away a marriage, and even without the involvement of the supernatural, "The Shining" would be a powerfully disturbing read.
I just recently reviewed "The Dirties," a film by Matthew Johnson, and I thought it was a smart and even-handed look at how easy it is, even in today's more aware environment, for the seriously broken and the deeply angry to plan and execute an attack on others. We love to tell ourselves that after 9/11 and Columbine and every other breach of our public safety in the last fifteen to twenty years that we have changed and we are safer and we are being more careful now. Nonsense, of course, and "The Dirties" was very good about showing the way people play into these breakdowns and the way bullying culture is allowed and even enabled.
To call him an unconventional choice to write "Encyclopedia Brown" is an understatement. I'm not actually sure what name recognition value there is in "Encyclopedia Brown" these days. My third grader reads a similar series assigned by his school called the "Jigsaw Jones" mysteries. Makes sense. Kids still do jigsaw puzzles, so the idea of a puzzle being something you have to piece together is a reference they'll get. An "encyclopedia," though, is pretty much an unknown idea to them. While I enjoyed the Donald Sobol books when I was young, I never really had any illusions about them being great stories or particularly character-driven.