Category Archives: adaptation

Rabid Rewind: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emmat Watson, and Rupert Grint
directed by David Yates
written by Steve Cloves; based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros. (2010)
I was quite resistant to the whole Harry Potter phenomenon a decade ago. What a difference ten years can make.
It’s coming to the end now, and at the end of the summer there won’t be any more Harry Potter movies–lord willin’. I have enjoyed them all, mind you, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
With Deathly Hallows, we’re to be treated to two movies, which is reasonable considering the sizable nature of the source material. The books seem to grow by an extra hundred pages with each installment. This time, Harry is on the run, as Voldemort and his roving band of evil wizards impose their will on the wizarding world and seek to kill the bespectacled “chosen one.”
As the movie played out, I found myself swept up yet again in the adventures of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. And it really was their movie this time around, as they took up the vast majority of the screen time. As I recall from past films, there was plenty of room to feature the long-standing supporting cast. This time, however, much of those familiar characters fell to the wayside, as the teenage trio spent much of the film on the run and on their own.
I think I criticized the book the same way, but I’ll state again that Deathly Hallows abandons a lot of that childish mystery and wonder, complemented by a mosaic of characters, and instead focuses on a narrowly focused cat-and-mouse chase that really only acts as distraction and time-killing before the ultimate face-off between Harry and Voldemort–you’ll have to wait for Part Two for that gem.
I liked this movie, but the climax isn’t nearly as monumental as past Harry Potter films. That’s to be expected, I suppose, when you chop a book in half and offer up all the stage-setting of the first half as its own movie. It’s worth watching, yes, but I think I should have waited until I could have watched Part One and Part Two back to back.

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Filed under adaptation, Daniel Radcliffe, Deathly Hallows, Emma Watson, fantasy, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Rupert Grint

Rabid Rewind: R.E.D.

R.E.D.
starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, and Richard Dreyfuss
directed by Robert Schwentke
written by Jon & Erich Hoeber
based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Colly Hamner
Summit Entertainment (2010)
While Hollywood has been raiding the comic book shelves for superheroes over the last decade, they’ve also been churning out a surprising number of movies based on graphic novels and comic books that don’t involve men in masks and spandex. If not for the DC Comics logo appearing in the opening credits of R.E.D., I would never have known this was based on a comic. And, once I became aware of that, I immediately started comparing it to another movie based on a comic book about guys with guns up against the C.I.A. That movie was called The Losers and it wasn’t all that great.
R.E.D. is helped a good deal by a remarkably high-caliber cast. Getting just a couple of these actors in a movie is quite a get, so I have to wonder how many incriminating photos the director, Robert Schwentke, or whoever, has on the likes of John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. The movie’s got explosions, snappy one-liners, gun fights, fist fights, and a car chase or two for seasoning, but I wonder how much of this would wow me if it was a cast of derelict actors. My guess: not much.
The movie starts out with a bit of an odd duck feel, as Bruce Willis plays Frank, a retired C.I.A. black ops agent whose only joy in life comes from a monthly phone call to a customer service rep, as they lament their boring lives and casually flirt with each other. Ten minutes of this and I was wondering if I’d picked up the wrong movie, but the action ramped up fast as the henchmen with guns go after Frank, dying in quick fashion as the old guy is as good as he ever was apparently. But, he believes they found him because of his phone calls to the cute customer service rep, so he hauls as to her house and saves her. She’s understandably freaked out by his unannounced arrival, but he explains that she’s a target and then more guys with guns arrive to back up that claim. At this point, I wondered if Frank was simply paranoid and she was not a target at all, but then it turned out she was. It kind of stuck in my craw a bit–didn’t even know I had a craw–but I went with it and enjoyed the rest of the movie.
With a seemingly limitless number of bad guys, and a couple bad girls, after him, Frank discovers there are others being targeted for termination, and it all revolves around a botched mission in Guatemala. And with the C.I.A. after him too, he has to evade capture, being killed, and still figure out who is behind the killings. This mystery might look better on paper, but for me, it served as mild distraction from what this movie did best: blow stuff up.
I was unconcerned with the intricacies of plot, as far as this movie goes, though. What I wanted to see, and relished every second of, was the likes of Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Brian Cox playing bad-ass action stars. Helen Mirren was especially awesome rocking the firearms with a Martha Stewart haircut. As for Bruce Willis, he delivers what he’s known for, and his donnybrook with Karl Urban was one of the best parts of the movie for me. The ending was rather ho-hum compared to the eighty minutes that preceded it, but I wasn’t really expecting this movie to hit it out of the park.
The Bourne Identity this is not. Thankfully, however, it’s not The Losers either.

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Filed under action, adaptation, Brian Cox, Bruce Willis, DC Comics, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Red, spy thriller

Rabid Rewind: The A-Team

The A-Team
starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copley, and Jessica Biel
directed by Joe Carnahan
written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, & Skip Woods
based on the TV series created by Frank Lupo & Stephen J. Cannell
20th Century Fox (2010)
When I was a kid, The A-Team was one of my favorite shows. Watching the big screen remake as a grownup, I see there is no accounting for taste.
I’m not entirely sure why there is such a demand for TV shows of the 70s and 80s to be remade into summer blockbusters, but when I saw Miami Vice and Charlie’s Angels exposed as vapid pieces of detritus, I didn’t hold any optimism towards The A-Team.
As it turns out, it’s as good as the old TV series in terms of story. Take that for what it’s worth.
It’s an origin story of a ragtag quartet of U.S. Army Rangers framed and imprisoned when a mission goes horribly wrong. From there, they go rogue and attempt to clear their names, while gunning down as many bad guys and blowing up as many things as possible.
The cast works well for the most part, with the exceptions of Liam Neeson and Jessica Biel, each of whom appear out of place and ill-equipped to star in a testosterone-fuelled action movie. Liam Neeson did okay in Taken, but he was always good at playing the tortured soul. Here, he has to play a gung ho alpha-male, once played to a tee by George Peppard, and falls flat. As for Jessica Biel–like Jessica Alba and just about every actress named Jessica–I’m waiting to be impressed.
I didn’t see McG’s name in the credits anywhere, but I would not be at all surprised to learn he was involved somehow. Things blow up, people get punched, special effects are used to a point of making the movie look like a cartoon, and dialogue is comprised mostly of snappy one-liners.
If you loved the show, you’ll at least like the movie. But, I’m not a kid anymore, and I wound up wanting more from this movie. After all, I love it when a plot comes together.

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Filed under A-Team, action, adaptation, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Liam Neeson, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Ridley Scott, Sharlto Copley

Book Vs. Movie: Surrogates

The Book:

written by Robert Vendetti
illustrated by Brett Weidele
published by Top Shelf Productions (2006)

The Movie:
starring Bruce Willis, Rhada Mitchelle, Ving Rhames, and James Cromwell
directed by Jonathan Mostow
screenplay by John Brancato & Michael Ferris
released by Touchstone Pictures (2009)

I read and reviewed the two graphic novels (The Surrogates and The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone) by Robert Vendetti and Brett Weidele back in the spring. So when I finally got around to watching the film adaptation, I thought I’d do a little contrast-and-compare.

In the graphic novel, the lead detective is a kind of hard-boiled kind of cop that epitomizes the gritty art style that defines him. Bruce Willis, however, looks very polished as that character. Almost cosmopolitan, dare I say. Granted, he’s classic hard-nosed Bruce when his surrogate is damaged and he has to continue his investigation by walking the streets the old fashioned way. Personally, I thought his surrogate looked a bit like his psychiatrist character from The Sixth Sense, while his real-life counterpart looked like an even more grizzled version of Die Hard‘s McClain.

The story goes that a couple of people have died–murdered–while operating surrogates, which is something that has loss been deemed impossible by everyone in the know. So, the cops have to not only work with the monopoly that manufactures surrogates in order to find out how it’s possible to kill someone via a surrogate–a notion they dismiss outright–and deal with the anti-surrogate movement that is where their lead suspect resides.

The book tackles a lot of the philosophical questions related to living life through an avater. Things like vanity, reclusiveness, classism, racism, and a slew of other issues are approached at different points. In the movie, however, the focus really leans towards the mystery and the potential conspiracy behind who would want to sew seeds of doubt concerning the security of surrogates. On the other hand, the action scenes are so much more potent on screen than on paper. Seeing man versus man-in-surrogates was a sight to behold.

Winner: The Book. I say check out the book first, especially if you’re interested in those underlying questions about a technology that would allow you to look how you’ve always dreamed (if you have the cash), and live life while sitting in a pod and treating real life like an elaborate video-game. If you just want some sci-fi action with cool special effects and a couple of explosions, then go with the movie, as it has its own benefits.

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Filed under adaptation, book vs. movie, Brett Weidele, Bruce Willis, comic book review, movie review, Rhada Mitchell, Robert Vendetti, sci-fi, Surrogates, Ving Rhames

Rabid Rewind: Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass
starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, & Nicholas Cage
directed by Matthew Vaughn
screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
based on the comic book series by Mark Millar & John Romita, Jr.
Lions Gate (2010)

I remember hearing some controversy over Chloe Moretz’s involvement with this film in the weeks leading up to its theatrical release. The whole children-and-violence thing wasn’t sitting well with the more anally retentive among us. I gotta say, after finally having a chance to watch this movie, I doubt any tween has been traumatized–least of all Moretz.

That’s one of the things though that sits in the middle of this movie: the violence. It’s not really a glorification of violence, but it is stylized so that I can see how folks would see it that way. When thugs and gangsters are having limbs chopped off and brains blown out, all to peppy and high octane soundtracks, the sensational aspects of those scenes are a bit entrancing. But to say that the movie is little more than that is really just a declaration of ignorance.

I read and reviewed the graphic novel earlier in the year (click here). I had a couple of reservations concerning the violence within the book, but I just had a preconception of what to expect, then had it disintegrated. I think the thing about the comic book and the movie is that each approaches the violence in a very different way than just about any popular superhero fiction that I’ve previously seen.

And that’s the key to this movie’s success, I think. It gives a comical, yet stark, view of what it might be like to emulate a superhero. When the bad guy punches you in the face, it’s going to hurt–a lot. Which is precisely what happens to Dave (Aaron Johnson) when he dons a scuba suit and mask and calls himself Kick-Ass, New York City’s first real-life superhero.

But it’s Moretz’s turn as Mindy (aka Hit Girl) with Nicholas Cage as her father, Big Daddy, that really steal the show. Maybe the startling sight of a little girl with a sword spewing profanity left and right, and beaming a satanic smile as she lays waste to bad guys is hard to compete with, but there are the quieter scenes in which her character has to deal with what the violence has wrought on her family that shows Moretz can actually act quite well for a kid her age. And seeing Cage channel Adam West in a couple of scenes while in costume is plain fun to watch.

The movie gets a bit ridiculous towards the ends, as did the comic books, but the action is easy to get into. And aside from a glaring addition to the superhero arsenal that is over-the-top to an insulting degree, the movie plays it pretty close to the bone and tries to keep it firmly entrenched in a real world atmosphere. The slavering audience, which includes Dave’s best friends, who eat up the YouTube clips of Kick-Ass doling out vigilante justice is all too real. And one scene in particular really made me like some of those spectators less when the film takes a dark turn.

If you like action, superheroes, blood and bullets, and some comic relief rolled into a very colorful and glossy package, this is a good movie for you. And the featurette that shows the collaboration of the comic book’s creators and artists is very enlightening.

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Filed under Aaron Johnson, adaptation, Chloe Moretz, comic books, Kick-Ass, movie review, Nicholas Cage, Rabid Rewind, superheroes

Rabid Rewind: The Losers


The Losers
starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Seldana, Idris Elba, Chris Evans, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, and Jason Patric
directed by Sylvain White
screenplay by Peter Berg & James Vanderbilt
based on the DC/Vertigo comic book series
Warner Bros. (2010)

I remember hearing good things about the comic books when they first came out, though I never read them. Contrastingly, when the movie hit theaters I heard nothing but jeers. Still, I wanted to give it a chance. Turns out the detractors of the film were half-right.

The main problem I had with the movie was the tone, or rather the abrupt shift in tone. For the first half to two thirds of the film, it’s guns ablazin’, catch-phrase aspewin’ fun. Then it turns rather dark and decidedly unfunny for the last act when the final showdown gets started. This shift should have been apparent to me when the opening sequence of the movie involved the Losers rescuing a group of children from a dictator only to watch them shot out of the sky by a missile. If a movie is willing to kill a bunch of kids in the first ten minutes of the movie, there’s definitely going to be a dark bent to the rest of the movie.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the leader of this rag-tag band of mercenaries–who are most certainly not the A-Team. There are five Losers, there’s only four A-Team members. Big difference. Another big difference is Zoe Seldana as the federal agent who recruits the Losers out of hiding in order to hunt down the man responsible for their fall from grace following that botched mission with the dead kids. She’s a more formidable female presence than is normally afforded to male-centric shoot-em-ups, but her backstory is a big disjointed.

The bad guy, played by Jason Patric, oddly enough plays more of a comedic role than any of the Losers–including Chris Evans. He’s a great villain, but the development of him as a bad guy seems to outweigh any backstory and attention paid to the Losers. That lot is a fairly generic brand of antihero with Morgan doing most of the heavy lifting through their scenes.

The action sequences were fun, but please don’t ask me to apply any correlation between them and the plot. By the end of the first act, I really didn’t know the intricacies of any plot, nor did I really care. I just wanted to watch more things blow up and maybe see Zoe Seldana prance around in her underwear a couple more times. High end spy thriller, this is not. It’s a star-spangled action flick that carries itself better than anything you’ll find in the genre lately, though most shoot-em-ups wind up being direct-to-DVD nowadays.

I’m waiting to see how I like The A-Team, The Expendables, and Red. I have a feeling Red will wind up as my favorite shooter for 2010 for the simple fact is has Helen Miren mouthing off and packing heat. As for The Losers, it’s average, which I suppose is the best one can hope for from the genre right now.

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Filed under action movies, adaptation, Chris Evans, comic book movies, DC Comics, Jason Patric, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, movie review, Peter Berg, Rabid Rewind, The Losers, Vertigo Comics, Zoe Seldana

Rabid Rewind: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick
directed by Edgar Wright
screenplay by Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall
based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’ Malley
Universal Pictures (2010)

There was a macabre delight for me when, after weeks of hype surrounding the Scott Pilgrim movie–even going so far as to call it a game-changer and the single best movie of 2010–when the opening weekend box office results rolled in … the movie came in a dismal 5th place. That’s the problem when you make a movie about and for slacker twenty-somethings: they’re going to download the movie through torrent sites rather than actually spend money to support their darling film.

I suppose there are those who say they didn’t buy a ticket to the movie because it wasn’t a good movie, but after watching it on DVD this month I don’t buy that. Scott Pilgrim is definitely a good movie–maybe the best movie about twenty-somethings since the last time Michael Cera starred in a movie.

Scott Pilgrim is a self-absorbed, 22-year-old bass player relishing in the fact that he’s dating a 17-year-old Chinese girl named Knives. But now he’s met the girl of his dreams. Her name’s Ramona Flowers, and he first sees her in one of his dreams. Literally. And when he manages to get a date with her, he finds out the hard way that she’s got seven evil ex-boyfriends–and they all want to kill him. So with the help of his bandmates, his gay roommate Wallace, and his sister, he has to find ways to defeat all seven of the boyfriends (one’s a girl, even), get his band noticed by producers, gently dump Knives, avoid his own ex-girlfriend Envy Adams, and maintain a comfortable level of obliviousness.

If you’re not a gamer though, the references to Super Mario Bros. and other popular games from the last twenty-some years are probably going to fly right over your head. And the sight gags, one-liners, and graphic effects are frenetic. Non stop. The slowest points of this movie are still whipping by at a fast clip. I mean, at one point there is a Battle of the Bands going on, and it jumps with hardly any segwe into a superhero caliber fist fight. Unless you’re at least partially acclimated to the Scott Pilgrim universe, you’re gonna be scratching your head I’ll wager.

Is it a game-changer? Doubt it. Not in this jaded age. Is it the movie of the year? Doubt it. Not with Inception on the ballot (I haven’t seen that movie yet, but so many folks who have still drool over it).

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Filed under adaptation, Bryan Lee O' Malley, Edgar Wright, Michael Cera, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Scott Pilgrim