Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Road

I read McCarthy's novel THE ROAD when it came out and when I heard it had been optioned I was not at all surprised though I was concerned as many are with the upcoming adaptation of BLOOD MERIDIAN. The problem seems to rest with the theory some books simply are not meant to be put to film and I was of the mind THE ROAD was one of them. Yes, there is enough of a story to warrant such a project but even with a narrative much of the feel and significance of the work is lost and this is where John Hillcoat's film pretty much fails. Viggo Mortensen does his best to carry it but never manages to bring forth the allegorical import of his character and sadly Kodi Smit-McPhee is so bloody annoying you spend most of the 112 minutes waiting for a band of marauders to grab him. I did not remember the character being this way in the novel. In fact, there were many things in this film I did not recall in the book.
First off, I don't recall Cormac using brand names and if I'm right about this the blantant product placements will drive most folks right around the bend. The second major issue has to do with starvation. I've gone days without food and the last thing I'll do if stuff my face the second I come across the elusive substance for the simple reason I'll promptly throw it all back up. There is one scene involving Robert Duvall which MAY have been an attempt to deal with the subject and if this is the case it was poorly executed as he appears to merely not have the strength to swallow hence the fruit coctail (Del Monte no less and if they paid to have their good plugged here I imagine some genius got his ass canned!-pun intended) dribbles from his mouth. I should take a second to discuss's a small but important role and once again I suspect the metaphor he presents will be lost on most, just the same he may get another Oscar nod for the role. Now, for the most important problem I had with THE ROAD is it never struck me as a zombie story when I was reading it but the film comes off as one in spades. One scene involving a field is lifted straight from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with a basement scene from DAWN OF THE DEAD right on it's heels. If this is a homage to Romero or not is open to debate but the similarities are unmistakable.
With all of this said I still think THE ROAD is worth seeing. There is enough substance there to validate the effort and the acting is superb with some great visuals but I will be shockingly surprised if it has any commercial success which brings us to my final pointm the ending. For the life of me I do not remember the novel closing the way the film does. Perhaps I should have read it again before seeing the movie though I imagine if I had I'd be on a serious rant right now. The story is one where we know there is no true happy ending in sight, the material forbids it and when we are given such in the film it makes you want to hurl your Big-Gulp and popcorn at the friggin' screen! Perhaps the worst sin of all if I left the theatre indifferent which is not what I expected.Still, grab the DVD and judge for yourself and let us all say a prayer for Tom Field. May he please dear Lord do a better job with BLOOD MERIDIAN than Hillcoat, who must me commended for trying to do the near impossible, did with THE ROAD.

White Christmas

I suppose you are expecting me to say something like there had best been some serious Holiday grub, industrial eggnog and some exceptional pussy on the couch to make me sit through this sentimental dribble and in most cases you would be right. Not in this case. Celebrating 55 yers of bringing smiles to the more serious minded "children" of North America WHITE CHRISTMAS does stand out as a true classic. Not so much in story or acting (though the contributions of art director Hal Pereira sure help) but on the broad well loved shoulders of Bing Crosby does this film excel. Of course the title song can be heard everywhere at this time of year but remains one of the few Christmas jingle never to suffer from overplay. Point is......Perry Como in a sweater....not cool.....ol' Bing in a sweater....tres cool and you can smell the Old Spice from here. Hell, he even did a Christmas duet with David Bowie before going to the big fireplace in the sky and you simply don't get mcuh cooler than that....we will of course forget the whole Mich Jagger DANCING IN THE STREETS fiasco but I gather you get my snow drift. TCM is runnig this through December and you'd be well done to give a look. especially if you can match the previously mentioned shopping list to go with it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Night Digger (The Road Builder)

I can't quite put my finger on why this film didn't work. Perhaps it was because it was stuck up my nose through the whole thing. Early on there is promise with an out of left field discussion of sex changes and then it just withers off in a boring mess as if a Brit was trying to do a poor man's WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?. Shame too as there was some great talent involved. Roald Dahl adapted the Joy Cowley novel (Nest in a Falling Tree), Bernard Herrmann provided a fine if somewhat minimalist socre and the great Patricia Neal fills the lead but in the end it all comes across as just anothher pay cheque for the lot of them.


It never fails to bewilder me how many people who claim A CLOCKWORK ORANGE to be their favorite film yet have never read the Anthony Burgess novel and are completely unaware Andy Warhol and Ronald Tavel adapted it way back in 1965. Mind you, like Kubrick's vision of the work there is nothing in VINYL other than a few bare elements to let you know they were working from a Burgess concept and truth be told the Warhol "version" will be of interest only as a curio or rabid fans of his media mutations thougj I did find it great to see my favorite KINKS song, SO TIRED used. It is important to followers of The Factory as it marks the debut of Edie Sedgwick but any aspirations of genius here are grossly exagerated at best.

The Sicilian

Not sure which is worse, trying to sell a Belgian (via New York) as a sword wielding Scottish immortal or an Italian revolutionary. Doesn't much matter as poor Christopher Lambert was seriously miscast as the legendary Salvatore Giuliano. This is the third time his story has been brought to the big screen, this time based on the Mario Puzzo novel which I gather was supposed to have somehow tied Michael Coleone to the mythology of Giuliano. I've not read the book so I don't know what's missing from the film but I don't imagine it would have helped this much. So, that being said the film sucks mighty hard yet it remains a fave of mine. Part of this has to do with Lambert who I'll watch in anything but we also have some interesting if wasted performances from Terence Stamp, John Tuturro and Barbara Sukowa as "the rapist". With talent like this even a bad film becomes enjoyable and then we have Joss Ackland who is superb and bring a character to life which should have had a film all by itself. Fans needing a poor GODFATHER fix will enjoy this but I can't say it would be much use to anybody else.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Deadlands: The Rising

Not much I can say about this zombie film which was made for about $15,000 and is in serious need of some actors and a script. Mind you, there is a whole cult out there who follow this stuff, myself being one and I at least salute Gary Ugarek for going ahead and making the thing and he did follow it up with a sequel called TRAPPED which wasn't bad at all but you'd never know the guy could make a film from this one so skip it and go for the second.

Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman

With years of experience in the animation world, Kathi Castillo finally made her directorial debut in 1999 with ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS MEET FRANKENSTEIN. She followed this up with the delightful MEET THE WOLFMAN in 2000 and both are fantastic films. Of course the Chipmunks have a place in the hearts of any North American born in the '60s and these homages to the old ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET pictures are an absolute treat. Funnny gags, above average animation and a surprisingly good story make either of these perfect family viewing. The great Frank Welker provides the werewolf sounds, accomplished vocal artists Rob Paulsen and E.G. Daily are on board and though uncredited this marks the final film for Dody Goodman who we all know as Blache from GREASE.
Take my word for it, these flciks are a lot of fun!

Thralls (Blood Angels)

Ron Oliver started his life as a director with PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS back in 1990 and has been working like a fiend ever since. THRALLS is pretty much of the same ilk and those who enjoy the low budget sort of nonsense will be well served here. A few interesting twists ofn the whole vampire thing but I found Lorenzo Lamas to be the most fun as his acting is simply wretched here and good for a wonderful laugh as he hams it up. Always great to see Sudbury's Sonya Salomaa and B.C.'s Leah Cairns. Standard stuff but good for the die-hards.