Monday, October 31, 2011

"Carrie" 1976


This is the first published novel by Stephen King.  He had written a few other novels that didn't make it at that point.  He was working as an English teacher and writing in the closet of a trailer.  He started what he thought would be a short story.  He reportedly threw it in the trash and his wife Tabitha pulled it out and encouraged him to keep going. 

As a novel it is interesting.  It is part story and part documentary.   Newspaper clippings and quotes from an investigation are patched in between the narrative. 

The novel examines goes from the point of view of Carrie White, Sue Snell and Chris Hargensen. 

Carrie is tortured at home and school.  She desires nothing more than to feel normal.  Her mother has a hand in the awkwardness.  She has lived in virtual isolation made to believe that her very existence is sinful. 

Sue Snell is the all American future prom queen.  She has her dress hanging in the closet and her perfect football playing boyfriend.    

Chris is also popular but has a cruel streak.  She is the original mean girl.  Something inside her becomes angered by differences.  It makes her feel better to keep others down.  Fifteen years later she would have been one of the "Heathers".   

The movie is a really good adaptation.  It was difficult I am sure because so much takes place inside the characters' heads.  But it really captures high school in a nut shell. 

Girls are really mean in high school.

One thing that never rang true for me in this movie is the shower scene.  Not what happens.  Sissy Spacek is amazing.  Her reaction to her first period is incredible and real.  The rest of the girls starting to spontaneously go crazy and pelt her with feminine hygiene products is realistic. 

But the girls walking around in various states of undress is not.  Don't get me wrong.  There are those girls who don't have a problem with the naked.

But most teenage girls are not proud of their bodies.  Even though it may be the best shape they will ever be in for the rest of their lives.    They are in a constant state of judgement by themselves or others.  One of the first things you master is the art of changing your clothes without ever showing any skin.  Trust me it can be done.  Three years of swimming in gym taught me well.  That and the fact that if you didn't get your hair wet you didn't have to shower. 

The movie is excellent.  It has a powerful emotional core that elevates it beyond the typical horror movie.  Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both nominated for Academy Awards. 

There are some things other than the nudity that don't work.  I really don't like William Katt as Tommy.  It is as if he and his friends are there for comic relief.  In the book you get the sense that Tommy falls a little bit in love with Carrie.  Not enough to do anything against Sue.  Just enough to make her feel special.   In the movie he is a little smirky, as if he's in on the joke.

There is a ridulous scene of Tommy and his friends trying on tuxedos that has no place in the film, right down to the goofy fast forward.  It just doesn't fit.  It personally makes me care a little less when Tommy bites it in the movie. 

Also, if you pay attention, I know where Larry the Cable Guy got his signature line.  John Travolta's Billy Nolan is encouraging his friends to kill the pigs for their blood.  At one point he yells "Git R Done!". 

If you get a chance, watch the orginal trailer.  They spell Stephen King's name wrong!  It also gives away almost the entire movie. 

But I do love this movie.  It is one of my favorite adaptations and the ending is incredible.  To get through everything and think it is over then that final shocking scare.  It has been redone many times over and has become a signature of horror movies since.  But "Carrie" did it first and best.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Interview With The Vampire" 1994

“Interview With The Vampire”

I understand the fascination with vampires. It is cool to think of living forever. It would also be great to have the special powers. As a kid I spent more than a few Halloweens as a vampire. I had mastered the phrase, “I’m going to bite yon on zee neck”.

I read Anne Rice’s “Interview With The Vampire” and fell in love with the angst ridden Louis. He was unlike the ruthless vampires I had known before. I read the next few books in the series, but they didn’t have the same impact.

When I heard they were making a movie I was anxious to hear who they would cast as Louis and Lestat. The first name to come out was Tom Cruise. I shrugged but thought he might be able to pull off Louis. Imagine my surprise when I heard he was playing Lestat. I just couldn’t wrap my head around itas my husband has no interest in vampires.

Brad Pitt is excellent as Louis. He is appropriately somber and spends much of the movie abhorring his very existence. Not enough to kill himself. I think he enjoys his misery a little too much for that.

Louis: 1791 was the year it happened. I was 24, younger than you are now. But times were different then, I was a man at that age: the master of a large plantation just south of New Orleans. I had lost my wife in childbirth, and she and the infant had been buried less than half a year. I would have been happy to join them. I couldn't bear the pain of their loss. I longed to be released from it. I wanted to lose it all... my wealth, my estate, my sanity. Most of all, I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it. A release from the pain of living. My invitation was open to anyone. To the whore at my side. To the pimp that followed. But it was a vampire that accepted it.
They become companions, traveling the world. Louis is upset one night, Lestat has been particularly cruel with his dinner, and he wanders the streets of London. There is a great plague and he sees a sad little girl crying over her dead mother. Going against his personal ethics he feeds on her, thinking he doing her a mercy.

But Lestat surprises him later with his new protégé.

Claudia: Where's mama?

Lestat: Mama... mama has gone to heaven, Chérie, like that sweet lady right there. They all go to heaven.
Louis: All but us.
Lestat: Shh. Do you want to frighten our little daughter?
Claudia: I'm not your daughter.
Lestat: Oh, yes, you are. You're mine and Louis' daughter now. You see, Louis was going to leave us, he was going to go away, but now he's not. Now, he's going to stay and make you happy.
Claudia: Louis.
Louis: You fiend.
Lestat: One happy family.

Tom Cruise does a pretty good job as Lestat. Not great. Not what I imagined. But he does seem to be having fun.

Lestat: Have you said your good-byes to the light?
[bites Louis]
Lestat: I've drained you to the point of death. If I leave you here, you die. Or you can be young always, my friend, as we are now, but you must tell me: will you come or no?

They are happy for a while but soon Louis and Claudia decide that they can’t live with Lestat anymore. Like any abuser he won’t let them leave quietly, so Claudia takes matters into her own hands. She is quite the perceptive child. In the book she is younger, only six or so. In the movie they aged her to about twelve. I can understand the change.

Claudia: Locked together in hatred. But I can't hate you Louis. Louis my love, I was mortal till you gave me your immortal kiss. You became my mother, and my father, and so I'm yours forever. But now it's time to end it, Louis. Now it's time to leave him.

Of course Lestat is a bit of a cockroach and proves difficult to kill.

Lestat: Listen Louis. There's life in these old hands still. Not quite Furioso. Moderato? Cantabile, perhaps.
Claudia: How can it be?
Lestat: Ask the alligator. His blood helped. Then on a diet of the blood of snakes, toads, and all the putrid life of the Mississippi. Slowly, Lestat became something like himself again. Claudia... You've been a very, very, naughty little girl.

They do manage to get away. They even find other vampires and Louis meets Armand. He is an ancient vampire played by Antonio Banderas. Of course the Armand of the book was a fourteen year old, so this was different casting.

A lot happens in this movie. It is a good one, really showing the old New Orleans, before the devastation of Katrina. Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst are very good. Tom Cruise and Christian Slater are OK.

It ends with a good shock and a good laugh. I will watch it when I come across it. But the book is better.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"The Stand" 1994

"The Stand"

This is one of my favorite books.  It is among a few that I read every year.  I can remember my sister giving it to me and starting my love affair with Stephen King that continues to this day.  She threw an old paperback copy at me and told me, "You'll like this one, the whole world dies of a cold."

She was right. 

I read the original novel over and over.  Then the uncut version came out and I was at the bookstore on the day it came out.  I made my husband drive so I could start reading it in the car.  It is long and detailed and most of all felt incredibly real. 

The mini series came out in 1994.  Four nights of King goodness.  As an adaptation, it is both good and bad.

I love Gary Sinise as Stu Redman.  This is the first time I really noticed him.  He would really break out the same year as Lt. Dan Taylor in "Forrest Gump" .  He is the perfect Stu.  You really believe the transition from a good ol' boy that hangs out at the local gas station every night to a leader in a new world.  Plus I can totally understand Frannie falling in love with him on sight.  He does look nice in a pair of blue jeans.  If you haven't seen it, do pick up his version of the classic "Of Mice And Men" with John Malkovich.  He is incredible there too.

I like Molly Ringwald.  I have written about one of my favorites, "The Breakfast Club".  She is completely wrong as Frannie Goldsmith.  She is just so weak.  This may be the issue of the writers for changing her fundamental nature.  She does things in the mini series that Frannie in the book never would have done.  One of the most powerful parts of the book is when Frannie's father dies.  She is grieving and decides that she needs to bury him in his garden.  It is harrowing as she sews him in his burial shroud and tries to respectfully bring his body downstairs and to the back yard. 

She is sweating but determined.  This is a young woman who knows that she was the center of her father's world.  She was a late in life child and after her brother was killed she became more treasured.  In the book, Harold Lauder shows up.  Frannie doesn't tell him what she's doing and sends him away.  She finishes the job alone. 

In the movie there is the singing of "Amazing Grace", strange choice for a Jewish girl.  Then she gets her father half way down the stairs when Harold shows up.  She falls apart and begs him to help her.


That is not my Frannie.  I could write a whole post about how they screwed Frannie up, but I won't. 

Speaking of Harold Lauder, this wasn't how I imagined Harold either. 

Corin Nemec was harsh.  I didn't buy his love of Frannie, but then I didn't love her either.  He put on the evil, but it wasn't threatening.  And he didn't have the brashness of youth.  He seemed too old.

Rob Lowe is Nick Andros.  He is great in the role.  He is a little older than the Nick in the book, who was in his early twenties.  And he was a little prettier than I think Nick should have been.  Nick had a rough life, raised in an orphanage and deaf/mute to boot.  But he really exudes the spirit of Nick.  At this point in his career this was a huge departure for Rob Lowe. 

Bill Fagerbakke, or as my husband refers to him "Dobber" is excellent as Tom Cullen.  He really embodies the character as I imagined him.  M-O-O-N that spells good job!

Adam Storke is Larry Underwood.  I am kind of mixed on his performance.  He does a good job but he isn't the Larry of the book.  In the book, Larry is "no nice guy".  He has had a selfish run when his song climbs the charts.  Drugs, alcohol and party friends start him down a spiral until a friend intervenes and sends him home.  His trip home is an escape.  You don't get the back story for Larry in the movie and his role is weaker for it. 

Laura San Giacomo is Nadine Cross.  They really screwed this one up.  First of all by combining her character with the fragile Rita of the novel.  This is wrong.  I understand needing to combine some minor characters, there are dozens of named characters in this book.  But they did it wrong here.  San Giacomo's Nadine is not sympathetic in any way.  And having her start out as a defensive drug addict is off putting. You don't feel her struggle.  The hair is completely wrong.  It looks like she has a skunk trapped on her head.

Ray Walston is Glen Bateman. He is a little older than I imagined.  He is effective and fun.  He seems to be enjoying his adventure through the post apocolypse.  You buy him as an intelligent former professor of psychology.  He is excellent in the scene where he baits Lloyd into killing him in his jail cell. 

Miguel Ferrar is Lloyd Henried.  Did you know he is George Clooney's cousin?  Anyway, he is good as Lloyd.  I would have liked to see him a little hungrier looking.  But he shows the loyalty of a man who, for the first time in his miserable lie, has someone trusting him.  Even if it is the Anti-Christ. 

Jamey Sheridan is Randall Flagg.  I have mixed feelings on this one as well.  In the book they describe Flagg as a man that you wouldn't notice unless he wanted to be noticed.  Jamey plays it up and comes off comical.  He is too large in the part.  When he shows his demon side, it isn't that different.

No complaints about the Trashcan Man.  He is good. 

Ruby Dee is excellent as Mother Abigail.  She is feisty and you can buy her as an old woman who has a tough job but is emboldened by her deep faith in God. 

There are so many other characters in this film.  Including Stephen King's larger than usual cameo as Teddy Wiezak.  There are a lot that they don't give any screen time to that I missed.  But I know even a six hour mini series has serious limitations. 

They are working on remaking "The Stand" for the big screen with Ben Affleck as the director.  I almost wish they were doing it as a series on HBO.  It would be interesting to see these characters really fleshed out.  It could easily be a four or five season series with the story really fleshed out.  But that is a dream. 

If you are reading this Mr. Affleck, here is my dream list for the remake. 

I think Ben would be great as Stu Redman.  And since he is the director, he would have a good chance of getting the job.  He has the working class vibe.  He is also realistic as a man who grows when thrown into a new situation.  I can see him in the fight in the plague center.  He also does the love thing really well. 

For Frannie, I would love to see Emma Stone.  I can see her as the Frannie from the book.  She is tough, smart and not afraid to fight for what she wants. 

I want Jonah Hill for Harold Lauder. He has the wonderful akwardness and sarcasm that Harold exudes in the book. . He can play lovesick and I would like to see him show an evil side.  I know he is a little old for the role, but he has a baby face.

OK Ben, here is the role for your good friend, Matt Damon.  He has a great expressiveness and a wonderful smile.  Plus if he isn't talking, he should be nice to look at.  I know that kind of goes against what I said about Rob Lowe being too pretty, but shoot me.  It's my blog.

I like Jason Segal as Tom Cullen.  He is big and kind of goofy.  He has the physicality the role needs.  Maybe it's a subliminal choice, since the original Tom Cullen played his dad on "How I Met Your Mother".  But  I think he would be good.

For Larry Underwood, I am thinking Justin Timberlake.  He has shown he has the acting chops.  I really liked him in "Social Network".  He is hilarious on "Saturday Night Live".  I think he can show the depth the role needs.  
Nadine Cross is tough.  She has to be beautiful and slightly brittle.  In the book she is 37 years old, a teacher and spinster.    This is where Ben can give the wife some work.  I know she doesn't need the help,  but I would love to see it. 

James Garner would be great as Glen Bateman.  He has that sage wit and inate intelligence.  I know he is older too, but I think he would be fantastic. 

For Lloyd, bear with me here but Steve Buscemi.  You buy that he's had this rough life and been in and out of prison.  He can act too.
Randall Flagg as played by Tom Cruise.  He has shown his range with "Tropic Thunder".  In the book he is dark haired and handsome.  But cold.  I think this describes Flagg to a tee. 
For Mother Abigail, I like Cicely Tyson.  She is has that magical vitality.  I would buy her as God's earthly assistant. 

I realize I have cast a very expensive movie and that isn't even including the production and special effects budget.  But that is the dream part of a dream cast.  

Do you agree? 


Who would you pick?

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Poltergeist" 1982


This is one of the few movies that creeped me out as a kid and still creeps me out today.  It starts with a nice suburban family.  They are living a nice quiet life.  Then some funky stuff starts to happen. 

Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are Steve and Diane Freeling.  They have three kids and live in a nice house.  Steve sells houses in the development.   Diane is busy with the kids.  Their youngest child, Carol Anne played by Heather Rourke is adorable and also very imaginative.  Or is she?

[first lines]
Carol Anne: Hello? What do you look like? Talk louder, I can't hear you! Hey, hello! Hello, I can't hear you! Five. Yes. Yes. I don't know. I don't know.

One night the parents are woken up by the television and their daughter in front of a snowy screen.

 Carol Anne: They're here.
Before you know it, Carol Anne is sucked into another dimension and they can hear her through the television.  They call in help. 

 This woman is freaky.  She still to this day, with her Minnie Mouse voice, is just plain odd. 

A lot of stuff happens in this movie.  There are gross moments, emotional moments and a seriously creepy clown.

I did learn that you can tell how far away a storm is by watching for lightning and then counting until you hear the thunder.   I also learned that you shouldn't bury houses on a graveyard and then try to dig a pool. 

There is a bloody rescue.


This movie spawned a home phrase.  We are often known to shout, when appropriate, "Don't Go Into The LIGHT!".  We are also fond of a squeaky little "This house is clean!".

It is a different kind of creepy and scary as an adult than it was as a kid.  When you have a child, suddenly everything seems terribly fragile.  The thought of a defenseless child trapped and no way to rescue them makes it terrifying.

I love the ending.  The family has been through hell.  They have watched their house get sucked off the face off the earth.  They go to a motel and shuffle wearily into a room.  The door closes. 

Seconds later the door opens and the television is pushed out of the room.  Great movie.