Tag Archives: adaptations

Batman Begins

mv5bmje3njqyodexmv5bml5banbnxkftztywnzyxmti3-_v1_As you can see, I’ve been kinda busy this weekend, with all the movies being watched and whatnot. The thing is, the whole moving thing has pushed me way behind. Even now, there are two theatrical releases I’d like to hit, and two more just days off. So, it’s nice to take a few moments of breathing space and enjoy myself. Which I did do, and the result is all this.

To wit, Batman Begins, the apparent start of a new DC movie franchise to finally compete with 5 years of Marvel supremacy. It’s tempting to claim that the franchise had small shoes to fill, what with the oddity of Batman Returns and the horror of the two later sequels to the original, but this was a genuinely good superhero movie in its own right, in the same quality tier as Spider-Man.

With so many quality stars in supporting roles, of course the acting was great. The leads did well too; Katie Holmes hit her usual eye candy marks with ease, and I’m not very sure what the complaints I’ve heard about her acting were based on. She did perfectly fine in every scene I watched. Nothing that cried out for an award, but not everything has to.

As with all origin stories that are completely familiar to the viewer, a big part of the fun was in watching the characters come together. Jim Gordon’s first meeting with Batman, Alfred transitioning so smoothly into the parental role, the very first Bat signal: all as iconic as they should have been.

Thematically is where it was a giant, though. In the opening act, the movie did a better job of explaining the Jedi/Sith dichotomy than George Lucas ever has, no matter how hard I’ve tried to read between the lines. The League of Shadows’ method of improving the world one fallen city at a time despite the individual cost in lives perfectly nails everything that Anakin Skywalker never had a sufficiently good script to say in the second and third prequel films. So, that made me fairly sad for my fandom, but happy for the potential future Batman movies, as long as they keep the same team working on scripts and direction.

Also: Serenity trailer. Shiny.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What better time, I figure, to see a lot of movies than when you’re supposed to be doing something else entirely? This weekend, for example, I was supposed to be putting all the non-essential bits of my life into boxes, so as to then move the boxes to storage spots, and therefore have less to take care of over the next few weeks. All of which I did, you see, but I also saw movies.

First, I got to the head of a line that only ended up forming a few minutes before start time, because of how I cleverly picked a movie that started before most people got off work, and thereby avoided the opening day mega-crowds. Which there may well not have been, though I hear it did the best of the weekend, a victory for sci-fi movies everywhere, says I. In particular, because it has a horror movie to contend with next week and so cannot possibly maintain first place two in a row.

The upshot of all this meaningless preface is that I saw The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy unreasonably early in the release cycle to only now be reviewing it. Except, see, for the packing and loading and moving and unloading that I had to accomplish. Plus, there was tiredness. In any case, my bad.

I’m going to say, Good Movie. It didn’t quite nail the bureaucratic morass hilarity of the opening scenes, but it proceeded to lampoon it thoroughly throughout the rest of the movie, so that was pretty cool. It certainly welcomed the unfamiliar viewer with open arms, but had enough new jokes to provide more than just comfortableness for the initiated. The romantic subplot was expanded, which I didn’t mind on the face of it, but I also didn’t find that either lead could really pull it off.

Additional thing: Adams wrote in a new villain character. This did not bother me as much as it was supposed to as a loyal reader/viewer/listener/player/whatever, I think. Really, I liked it a lot, because it added another facet to the whole ‘each “book” should end with tremendous ease-of-use toward having a sequel’ thing that Adams has always had going for him. Which sequel I’d like to see, because when you get down to it, watching everyman Arthur Dent react to the galaxy in all its myriad insanity is fun. I do have a concern over the whole Douglas Adams died and will not have writing credits on future sequels aspect, though.

The problems: It was merely good. Probably this is true of the books as well, and I just don’t know by having avoided them lately. Certainly it’s not a problem for going to see it, because, well, things that are good are worth seeing. But it’s not good for longevity, either in the individual sense or as the basis for a series of movies. That said, lots of not-at-all-good movies have spawned sequels, so. And also, the opening and closing dolphin song was kinda terrible, in the made me want to claw out my eardrums if only that would end the pain sense. But I can avoid it on any future viewings. I will avoid it on any future viewings, unless I’ve been strapped down like a prisoner being forced to listen to Vogon poetry.

On a completely irrelevant note, I was not shown the expected Serenity trailer before the movie. How dare they?

Constantine

When I first saw the preview for Constantine, with the hot Mummy chick getting pulled through a building and Keanu chasing after her, I really thought they were making another Matrix movie for some reason. This guess is not as far off the mark as you might think. It made about as much sense as Matrix Revolutions, but I feel better about it because of differing expectations.

Keanu’s acting worked pretty well for me in the John Constantine character, bearing in mind that I come to the movie untainted by the comic. Basically, his acting in any role (leaving aside the Theodore Logan aberration) works well, as long as the character is a cipher who never gets angry. He can emote detachment quite well, but detached shouting is oxymoronic. You may claim that ‘detached’ is not an acting skill, but there are a lot of characters in Hollywood with that as the defining characteristic, and actors have been filling those roles for all the years they’ve been written, some of them quite well. See also Charles Bronson.

Except for the part where lots of things were stated but not really backed up (Why is Constantine of so much interest to hell? What’s so special about this particular time that the neutrality thing is being breached?), the story was sufficiently comic-y to make me happy on that count. Also, Keanu has that look. Really tall, really thin, he just looks like a comic character. I’m sure a big part of that was the cinematography and wardrobe choices, but it was well-done enough that I want to emphasize it. For your comic movie to work, at least someone should look like a comic character.

Anyway: story, schmory. It had a good look, the Hell sets were really cool, and lots of demon-fighting. This is plenty to keep me happy with a February movie. Also, in a bow to gratuity, hot Mummy chick stayed soaked for the final half of the movie. That’s just good directing.

Alone in the Dark

The first good thing I can say about Alone in the Dark is that, not ever having played the games it’s rumored to be based on, I can only see the faint outlines of the travesty that has been visited on the series, rather than being forced to embrace it in all its horror.

The next good thing I can say about it is that it doesn’t have a whole lot of needless plot getting in the way of the story. In fact, whenever plot does crop up, it is handled by Exposition Lad, a spirit that roams freely throughout the movie, initially possessing a museum security guard but willing and able to leap into any warm body as needed. This leaves Christian Slater free to brood, Tara Reid free to pout and take off her sweater, and Stephen Dorff free to shoot at things which are, as you might expect, in the dark.

The final good thing I can say about the movie is that it was absolutely snarktastic. Exactly bad enough to make mocking easy for the whole family, while at the same time just engaging enough that it’s more fun to wait for the next snark than turn it off and go on about eating your popcorn in the dark.

Problems: The two lead males did fine, but the rest of the acting was terrible. Terrible. Laylah speculates that Slater only took the role for a free grope at Tara Reid, and… well, it would explain a lot. The directing was also bad. Uwe Boll, who brought you the absolute worst sequence I’ve seen on celluloid in his first video game adaptation, House of the Dead, … I need to pause and paint this picture.

The House of the Dead
is the first of a series of arcade and now console games where you have a gun instead of a joystick and shoot at zombies on the screen. You know the type, with the “reload” warning sound and you shoot off the screen to get more of an endless supply of bullets? So, there they are, the characters that haven’t had sex yet, shooting at all the zombies on the cursed island. This Boll guy, he thinks that, maybe in order to emphasize the game roots to his movie, he thinks that a good idea would be to edit in multiple animated screen shots from the game to intersperse with his actors woodenly marching forward and shooting at the camera. Seriously.

So, yeah. Mr. Boll has bettered his skills only by comparison here. The fact that he’s made a trademark out of blaring techno music while characters with guns shoot at hordes of evil things in incomprehensibly edited montages would be really funny, if he wasn’t listed for three more video gamemovies over the next two years.

Really, though, without that two minute sequence, the rest of the movie was about as good as any other generic horror, not good enough to convince people to see who wouldn’t have gone anyway, bad enough to be fun without being depressing. My remaining complaint may be a spoiler, but it’s the kind of spoiler that people need to know when making up their minds, so here it is.

At no point in the film (and believe me, I was watching for it) was Christian Slater alone in the dark. It was a middle finger raised to the genre. Like setting Deep Blue Sea in the pool at the YMCA or Halloween in mid-April. Uwe Boll is fired.

P.S. If anyone actually sees it after reading this, a couple of things to watch for: The broken generator scene that was clearly put in as an example to film students of when a sequence serves absolutely no purpose, and the big scary payoff scene where the much-scarier-than-what-we’ve-been-fighting-all-along monster is revealed to be… well, I shouldn’t ruin it completely.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

mv5bmtc1ntuxmzk0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwndq1mdizmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006721000_al_Mmmm. Zombies.

I’ve been waiting for this movie since the end of opening day for Resident Evil, when they left a big blatant hook for a sequel. And I waited. And I waited. Then there was a teaser preview that literally jerked my head toward the screen when I realized what they were advertising, but that was over a year ago. So naturally, when the time came, I ended up having to wait three days before I could finally go see it. Then again, this is a movie about dead people getting up and walking around, so maybe three days is appropriate.

I’m obviously a fanboy for both this kind of movie and for the Resident Evil console game series, so I’ll try to temper that. One thing I’m not a fanboy of is videogame-to-movie adaptations. I mean, I invariably go and see them, but then I almost as invariably bitch about how awful they were. (See Mortal Kombat or Super Mario Bros., say. Or more to the point, don’t. Really.) So I went into the original movie with lowered expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by it being both an excellent zombie film in its own right as well as a pretty good adaptation; they avoided the trap of basing things too heavily on the game.

This time, as above, yeah, I had high expectations. And this time, they didn’t avoid the based on a game trap. Particularly, Jill Valentine and the Nemesis creature looked like they had been lifted straight out of the game. (The saving grace is that both looked perfect, not just like an attempt gone awry.) On the bright side, this is almost my only complaint with the movie. There was too much hand-to-hand combat for a scenario where being wounded by a zombie turns you into a zombie, and the combat they had was choppily edited.

Everything else about the movie was gravy, though. Good (if unoriginal) plot: Everybody is trapped in the city by the evil multinational pharmaceuticals corporation that fucked up and released an unstoppable viral zombie outbreak. The few survivors make alliances inside and outside the city in an attempt to find a way out. Meanwhile, an unstoppable mega-zombie (excuse me, biological weapons project) armed with a rocket launcher is stalking the people skilled enough to survive all the zombies and zombie Dobermans. Good acting, which is to say it was never quite overwrought with farcical camp drama, but also not overwrought with laughable attempts at real drama. And let’s not forget the randomly zombified topless dancers.

Basically, it comes down to the genre. If you like zombie movies, you should see this one. It’s a nice break from the remake mania that has plagued the last couple of years, even if it isn’t quite as scary as the first Resident Evil. If you don’t go for the particular zombie subgenre of horror, this is nowhere near enough horror movie to pull you in on its own. See Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead instead, as those are both brilliant character study pieces, with zombies merely as the backdrop. (Only original Romero will do.)

And if you don’t like horror movies at all, well, that’s just crazy talk. Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with information like that.

Added note for fetishists: No zombies were frozen in the filming of this picture.