Archive for the Adaptation Category

Review: Mr. Holmes (2015)

Posted in Adaptation, Movie, Reviews on June 20, 2015 by Barrie Suddery

Mr-Holmes-Movie-Poster-Teaser

 

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Sir Ian McKellen and director Bill Condon reunite for this superb capstone to the Sherlock Holmes legend.

Set in 1947, 30 years after Holmes’ retirement and self-imposed exile to the English West Country, the film focuses on Holmes’ fading memories of his last case and his efforts to come to terms with how and why that particular case forced him to retire as a private investigator. It’s a slow moving film that delves into the mind of the great detective, revealing some of his flaws and weaknesses as well as reminding us all of his intellectual genius and the price he’s paid for it.

In this, McKellen is superbly supported by Laura Linney and Milo Parker  as his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her son Roger with whom Holmes forms a paternal bond, recognising in the boy a like mind and keen intellect. This bond deepens during the film as Holmes comes to terms with the reasons for the failure of his last case and the loneliness he has felt throughout his life as he starts trying to guide Roger into not focusing solely on logic and facts, but to always include the Human elements of compassion, empathy and kindness, which Holmes realises have been absent in his own life. This is a point of focus as, through Holmes’ reminiscing with Roger, we are shown glimpses of his relationship with John Watson and the almost contemptuous tolerance he feels towards Watson’s dramatic retelling of Holmes’ cases. We also see the his somewhat arrogant aloofness from the rest of Humanity who he feels need to embrace logic and fact the way he does. This arrogant assurance in his own intellectual superiority is the main point in Holmes’ character that leads to his fall from grace and is the cause of his prickly relationship with Mrs. Munro who is feeling increasingly threatened by his relationship with her son.

Through McKellen’s subtly brilliant performance, we see Holmes’ struggle to overcome a lifetime of reticence and his horror at the slow loss of the memory and intellect he values so much at the hands of senility and his almost desperate efforts to write down the details of his last case before what he thinks is his imminent death. We are also able to witness Holmes’ change as, at last, the details all fall into place and he realises what has been missing from his life.

There are no really dramatic points, no action set pieces, no long winded monologues and no twists and turns in this film. We are treated instead to a nice story that reminds us all of how a good cinematic piece should be done and is a nice counterbalance to the seemingly endless stream of superhero films, reboots and remakes coming from Hollywood.

And, to top it all off, there’s a nice Holmes in-joke with the casting of Nicholas Rowe as a cinematic Sherlock Holmes that the real Holmes sees in the film adaptation of his last case showing the warm humour that is evident throughout.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Posted in Adaptation, Comic Book, Movie, Reviews on July 22, 2012 by Barrie Suddery

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Director Christopher Nolan brings his Batman trilogy to a stunning, 10 out of 10 conclusion with this movie. Although the script is not entirely original, borrowing heavily from the DC Comics “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land” story lines as well as Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, it takes the themes and ideas in those stories in a slightly different direction, creating a story that is fresh, and very relevant to the modern world.

The story picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight with Batman still being blamed for the death of Harvey Dent. As per the deal made at the end of The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has stuck to the deal made and has ensured that Dent is held up as the pinnacle of law enforcement and justice. A new act denying serious criminals parole has been drawn up and named the Dent Act and, as a result, crime has dropped to manageable levels in Gotham to the point that Batman has now retired and hasn’t been seen in almost the entirety of those eight years.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now living as a recluse in Wayne Manor having lost half of his fortune in trying to develop fusion technology to solve the worlds’ energy crisis and is still grieving for the loss of Rachael Dawes who died at the hands of Two-Face in The Dark Knight. He is slowly drawn back into the world when Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), breaks into a safe in Wayne Manor simply so she can take Bruce Wayne’s finger prints which, we later discover, are used to fraudulently make bad deals on the stock exchange during an attack on the stock exchange building by Bane (Tom Hardy).

The result of all of this is that Wayne ends up broke, Wayne Enterprises gets bought out by a competitor and the weapons and technologies that Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) had developed for use by Batman and had been keeping off the books in the Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences Division are now in danger of falling into the hands of Wayne Enterprises’ competitors. The theme of trust, or in this case Bruce Wayne’s lack of it, is explored quite heavily in this movie as we discover that the fusion technology does in fact work and that Wayne kept in hidden for fear it would be turned into a weapon.

In addition, the events surrounding Harvey Dent’s death come back to haunt Wayne in the form of rookie Gotham cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has figured out that Wayne is Batman and doesn’t believe that he killed Dent. Commissioner Gordon is also having a crisis of conscience as he believes the time has come to tell everyone the truth about Harvey Dent and his death.

Fearing that Gotham has been lulled into a false sense of security by the relative peace they’ve enjoyed, Batman comes out of retirement to take on Bane and ends up being soundly beaten as it turns out that Bane is a former member of the League of Shadows, the organisation founded by Ra’s al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) that trained Bruce Wayne in the first place. As a result, Bane has always known Batman’s identity and, in revenge for the death of Ra’s al-Ghul, breaks Batman’s back and sends him to the sinkhole prison in Mexico that Bane himself was born in.

With Batman out of the way, Bane seizes all of Wayne Enterprises weapons and the fusion reactor and then cuts Gotham off from the rest of the U.S. by blowing up all but one of the bridges to Gotham island. Under the guise of a people’s revolution, Bane frees the prisoners in Blackgate prison and turns the city over to the people of Gotham encouraging them to take revenge on the wealthy and seize their share of the wealth of the city. This ties the movie in brilliantly with the current world-wide economic crisis and the general ill feeling the public has toward the banking/business community.

Throughout all of this, Alfred (Michael Caine) finds himself unable to continue working for Bruce Wayne as he fears that Wayne is pushing himself on a deliberate path of self-destruction and is troubled by his inability to keep his promise to Thomas and Martha Wayne to keep Bruce safe. In acting terms, this is Caine’s movie as his performance is easily the best out of the whole cast and he demonstrates his range to good effect during some very emotional scenes.

In order to get the best out of this movie, you really should re-watch the  first two parts of the trilogy before going to the cinema as The Dark Knight Rises references both quite heavily and really links in with Batman Begins to tie off this trilogy in an exciting and emotional way. The ending gives Bruce Wayne the satisfaction of seeing his goal of inspiring the police and people of Gotham to stand up on their own against crime and injustice finally fulfilled as well as giving the audience a sense of both closure and a new beginning as a Wayne passes his secrets to John Blake who, by this time, has quit the police force.

This movie, and the trilogy itself, is what Hollywood should be producing on a regular basis. It is intelligent, complex, it requires the audience to pay attention, remember the stories of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to some degree and has been written, produced, filmed and acted all with an assumption of audience intelligence, as opposed to what we usually get these days, which is lowest common denominator movie making which leaves me feeling really insulted and disappointed at the lack of scope and vision.

No-one will ever be able to say that about The Dark Knight Rises.

If you see only one movie this year, do yourself a huge favour and make it this one.

Review: Captain America – The First Avenger (2011)

Posted in Adaptation, Comic Book, Movie, Reviews on July 30, 2011 by Barrie Suddery

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Hollywood shows up its inability to always successfully transfer comic book heroes to the big screen with this messy and unfulfilling effort.

Having been deemed unfit for military service, young patriot Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has a chance encounter with Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who, impressed by his desire to serve, recruits him into a top-secret project to create the oft-mentioned “super soldier”.

Those familiar with the character will know what happens next. Erskine is killed by a Nazi plant played by Richard Armitage (continuing the Hollywood tradition of British actors playing villains) and the formula for the super-serum dies with him, leaving Rogers’ a one-of-a-kind soldier.

It’s at this point that the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely starts to go wrong because rather than make use of Rogers’ enhanced abilities, his C.O. Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), chooses instead to head out to the Italian front without him. Thus deprived of his ability to serve, Rogers is talked into joining a nationwide tour to promote war bond sales for the U.S. government. As part of this tour, the character of Captain America is created for Rogers to play and the tour becomes a massive success.

Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has taken the Nazi top-secret scientific research division, Hydra, independent of the High Command with a plan to, you guessed it, conquer the world. It turns out, that Schmidt had forced Erskine to give him the super-serum first before it was ready and his skin was burned off as a result, leaving him severely disfigured and being nicknamed the Red Skull.

Rogers just happens to be in Italy trying to entertain the troops when the unit his friend from Brooklyn is in is captured by Hydra. Sergeant James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Rogers go way back and when Rogers learns of his capture, he disobeys orders and goes to rescue him with the help of Phillips’ assistant Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) the soon-to-be father of Tony Stark who goes on to become Iron Man.

Naturally, Rogers, clad in his Captain America costume, pulls off the rescue and, naturally, no charges are brought against him or Carter for disobeying orders. Finally convinced of his abilities, Phillips promotes Rogers to captain in the U.S. Army and Stark creates a new costume for him complete with his recognisable shield. Assembling a crack unit made up of Barnes and some of the other prisoners he rescued, Rogers leads them though a series of battles against Hydra, slowly destroying their bases until only their base in the Alps remains.

Rogers goes up against Red Skull beats him and, in an effort to save New York from being bombed, diverts the plane he’s on to crash in the Arctic where he remains frozen for nearly 70 years until revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here as the story doesn’t really matter as it’s pretty much what we’ve seen before in these kinds of underdog-makes-good kind of movies. However, one of my biggest gripes against the script is that the equipment used by Hydra is beyond even todays technology, let alone that of the 1940’s and saying that it’s powered by an ancient device left behind by the Gods simply makes it even less believable. Now I know that the key to enjoying a super-hero movie is the suspension of disbelief, but energy pulse weapons, modern-day looking APC’s and a massive bomber that looks like a B2 batwing, but has rotors on it for extra thrust, is just plain ridiculous.

What is really disappointing is that the whole movie is spent in WWII rather than the modern-day and this annoyed me as one of the more intriguing things about the Rogers character is his 1940’s innocent belief in the infallibility of America coming up against the modern-day world opinion of his country which makes his role as the embodiment of the best of the American way even harder and, for the U.S, much more necessary and relevant.

Watching him deal with that as well as the fact that everyone he ever knew is now dead, would have made for a much better character drama, which is what Marvel characters are really known for; real life people dealing with extraordinary abilities and/or circumstances.

All in all, a very dissatisfying movie and a waste of a really good character in what is little more than an extended teaser for the upcoming Avengers movie.

Review: Priest (2011)

Posted in Adaptation, Movie, Reviews on June 5, 2011 by Barrie Suddery

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

This movie is a rather intriguing take on the Man vs. Vampire story that has been a staple product of both Hollywood and British movie making for the last half century.

Starring Paul Bettany as the Priest of the title, it’s a story set on an alternate Earth where the war between Humans and Vampires has raged for centuries with Man taking ever-increasing losses until the Church, which by now has risen to rule the world, creates a class of warrior-priests to hunt down and destroy the Vampires in their hives. This they do so successfully, that within a few years the few remaining Vampires are confined to underground reservations and Humans have retreated into massive walled megalopolis’.

The surviving Priests are so feared by the Church, they are stripped of their authority and forced to eke out a living as manual labourers (because they have no other applicable skills) in a society that fears them.

The trouble for Priest begins when his brother’s farm, in the wastelands where the clergy have no real authority, is attacked by a Vampire pack. The brother and his wife, played by Stephen Moyer and Madchen Amick, are both brutally slaughtered and their daughter Lucy, played by Lily Collins daughter of musician Phil Collins, is abducted by the packs’ leader Black Hat who is played by Karl Urban in another superb performance.

Priest is approached by Hicks(Cam Gigandet), the local town sheriff who asks him to help rescue Lucy. Priest goes to the clergy backed by Monsignor Chamberlain (Alan Dale) and asks to be restored to duty, but is dismissed by Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) who wants to believe the Vampire menace is over and won’t allow anyone to cause a panic.

Obviously, he goes rogue and hunts down the villain and saves the girl etc etc, but for me, the appealing thing about this movie is the realisation of Vampires as an entirely different species of life. Depicted here, they are clearly not Human and move with a Cheetah’s speed and grace.

On the downside, this film does preach quite a bit about how our power “comes from God not the Church” and how the Church is corrupt and out-of-touch with ordinary people as evidenced by the Monsignors living in clean, luxurious comfort while the masses live in an overcrowed steam punk nightmare.

Plot wise, there’s nothing really original here and the movie isn’t what I would call thought inspiring. There are a few surprises and frights for the horror fans, but this is more an action-adventure movie than a horror one.

All in all, a worthwhile investment of 90 minutes if you have nothing better to do.

Review: The Green Hornet (2011)

Posted in Adaptation, Humour, Movie, Reviews on January 18, 2011 by Barrie Suddery

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Yesterday I saw the much-anticipated Green Hornet movie. For those who don’t know, the Green Hornet is Britt Reid (played by Seth Rogen) whose father, James owns and runs the Daily Sentinel newspaper. After his death, Britt and his fathers’ mechanic and assistant Kato (played by Jay Chou) team up to form a crime fighting team.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, that’s where the good times end because what we get is a bad attempt at a crime fighting comedy buddy movie along the lines of Ben Stiller‘s Starsky and Hutch but poorly executed.

Seth Rogen’s Reid is an infantile loser living off his fathers’ wealth and partying well into his thirties. There’s an early scene between him and his father, played by Tom Wilkinson, in which the tired old idea of “my dad was always too busy to love me so now I hate him” is played out with Wilkinson coming across as a harsh disciplinarian trying to help young Britt to come to terms with his mothers’ death by using tough love. We then jump to Britt in his thirties partying away and falling back to his dads’ palatial home with a bimbo on his arm whose name the next morning he can’t remember. Ha Ha. Very original.

A movie like this is carried by the actor playing the central role. Unfortunately Rogen isn’t an actor, he’s a comedian who makes movies; big difference. I’m sure he tried his best but he just doesn’t have the chops to pull off the few and far between dramatic scenes in the movie and during the comedy sequences (which aren’t funny. I didn’t laugh once during the whole movie) he’s just plain irritating. I was hoping Chudnofsky would kill him.

Jay Chou on the other hand was on a hiding to nothing to begin with. He handles the dramatic stuff well enough but, like Rogen, he fails completely on the comedic front. Further more, his martial arts skills pale in comparison to those of Bruce Lee. What’s worse is that we don’t get to see all that much of it thanks to director Michel Gondry‘s constant use of jump cuts during the fighting scenes. We don’t get to actually see Kato’s martial skills except for a few bullet time sequences used to highlight Kato’s speed and rapid reactions.

The script is another problem. Having never seen the original 60’s Green Hornet I can’t really comment, but the idea that Reid and Kato form a crime fighting team after having stumbled across a mugging and liking the feeling of being bad ass for having prevented it, strikes me as somewhat puerile and unconvincing. Also, Reid in this version is a lecherous child who thinks everything is a laugh and will only do something or take it seriously (such as a gas gun that Kato invents for him because he’s such a useless fighter) if he thinks it’s “cool”. In addition, Rogen’s performance is so cringe inducing that it’s difficult to take the character seriously as a crime fighter and the script was so poor that I never really bought into why this thirty-something lay about would suddenly feel motivated into becoming a socially conscious citizen; at least not until the near end of the movie when we learn the circumstances of James Reids’ death.

On the upside, the design of the movie was excellently done which is hardly surprising given that John Eaves was involved with it. Anyone who’s interested should visit his blog. You’ll be amazed. Also there were some very good performances from Christoph Waltz as Chudnofsky, Edward James Olmos as Axford (doing the best they could with such poorly written characters and some woeful dialogue) and there were a couple of brilliant cameos from Edward Furlong as Tupper and James Franco whose performance is a complete scene stealer and easily the best in the movie.

Basically, like the 60’s version, the story is forgettable. You only watch for the action sequences and, as stated above, Chou is no Bruce Lee. I haven’t mentioned Cameron Diaz‘s role because, while well acted, it seems as though she was included simply as some eye candy even though her character is the smartest one in the whole movie.

In short, The Green Hornet was a good idea badly executed and the fact that Rogen was one of the screenplay writers makes me think he wrote this as a vehicle for himself. If so, the producers should really have stepped in and either had the script rewritten or the role of Reid re-cast.