Posts Tagged ‘television’

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book

Posted 08 Dec 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film.This is one of the most persistent clichés of film criticism: that the book is always better than its film adaptation. More often than not, it’s true, as the novel is generally able to provide a richer, more nuanced character study, not limited to only two senses the way films are. However, in some cases, less is more. Here are seven films that I would argue are even better than the books on which they are based.

7 Movies That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Book1. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – Dashiell Hammet’s original 1930 detective novel is a masterpiece of stylistic economy, so faithfully adapted by director John Huston that reading the novel is almost like reading an exceptionally detailed treatment for the film. However, eight simple words improvised by Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade make all the difference. When asked what the titular bird sculpture is at the end of the film, Spade says, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.” This classic, oft-quoted line of dialogue has become the most memorable moment of the film, a subtle commentary on filmmaking itself, especially of the Hollywood “Dream Factory” variety, of which The Maltese Falcon was itself a part. The line is nowhere to be found in the book, and that alone is enough to warrant the film’s inclusion on this list. Read More

POP-U-larity!

Posted 21 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

POP-U-larity!, USA, 2012

Directed by Michelle Ehlen

POP-U-larity! is a reasonably enjoyable light comedy that satirizes modern singing competition shows such as American Idol and The Voice.Michelle Ehlen’s POP-U-larity! is a reasonably enjoyable light comedy that satirizes modern singing competition shows such as American Idol and The Voice. It is filled with strange, amusing characters and moments of genuine humor, but unfortunately most of its best material is used up in its first half. By the time the inevitable competition happens, the film and its characters have worn out their welcome and, for the most part, become somewhat grating. More than anything, it feels like an extra low-budget take on Christopher Guest’s largely improvised mockumentaries, such as Waiting for Guffman (1996) and Best in Show (2000), with the small-town quirkiness of Guffman at the forefront.

POP-U-larity! is at its best in its first act, when it introduces its wildly varied characters and their respective quirks and self-delusions. Ehlen, who also co-wrote the film with J.C. Peterson, stars as the film’s ostensible protagonist, a cowgirl named Charlene Hornsby who feels a deep affinity for one of her horses, Beth; she says of the other horse she tends, “We’re not close.” The writing and delivery of lines like this provides some of the film’s best humor, and many of the scenes involving two other competitors, Darque (Krys Fox) and Ness (Thessaly Lerner), are even better. Performing together as “Darkness,” the two bring a pot-addled, pseudo-nihilistic edge to the competition with their unlistenable melange of noise created by banging on random household objects while shouting a bizarre, stream-of-consciousness rant about the meaninglessness of life over the cacophony. A second act argument between the two of them about their artistic direction is undoubtedly the movie’s best scene.  Read More

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Posted 02 Jul 2012 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, USA / United Arab Emirates, 2011

Directed by Brad Bird

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol stands well enough on its own, and as part of the series. It’s worth noting that Tom Cruise performed all of his stunts in this film, as well as the other three Mission: Impossible films. Sure, there are bits of CGI, though seamless, and I’m sure a large team of medics and nets and other things were around to make sure he was alive at the end of the day, but that’s really the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, it really is the tallest building in the world, and that really is Tom Cruise dangling off its side, thousands of feet in the air. And that’s not even the most impressive set piece in the film.

You don’t necessarily have to see the first three M:I films to get this one and enjoy it, but it can’t hurt. Here’s a brief recap just in case you missed them:

Mission: Impossible – they make the hero from the TV show the bad guy in the film.

Mission: Impossible 2 – they do some stuff with motorcycles and Thandie Newton.

Mission: Impossible 3 – There’s an actual story involving Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his now late wife, involving her death, and a couple other intricate missions. Probably the only important story of the three, even if it’s not the best film at that point. Up until now, the first adventure remained the most startlingly well-made of the series, but, with the inclusion of Ghost Protocol into the canon, those three seem a mite irrelevant in the world of filmmaking.  Read More

Six Months On A Regimen Of Woman Filmmakers – Out The Gate With Diablo Cody

Posted 20 Jun 2012 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Member Movie Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Alice Shindelar

Diablo Cody has come a long way since Juno, her 2007 debut about a pregnant teenager who decides to give her child up for adoption. About a month ago, I made the dramatic decision to limit my film and television consumption to only women writers and directors. This isn’t out of distaste for male directors and writers. I love movies of all kinds, for countless reasons. I would never allow my opinion of a film or TV series to be influenced by the gender of the creative force behind it. That said, women writers and directors are few and far between. Their struggle for recognition in the industry and the funds to make their films is well-known (although, not well-known enough). Still, even the most ingenious amongst them tends to fade into the background before they’ve weathered a full career.

As an aspiring writer-director myself, I’ve always kept my ear closely trained on the life events that lead people in this field to success, or even just a career that pays the bills. I look for myself in their stories. I imagine how my flat feet could follow their huge strides. Or, at least, I try. It’s next to impossible to picture myself following in the footsteps of any Kubrick, or Coppola, or Scorsese. My inability to grow facial hair puts a stop to that. So I watch for the women, and this project is an attempt to do that more acutely. Read More

Gorgeous Camp, Campy Gore – Three Films By Dario Argento

Posted 14 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Phantom of the Opera is a film Dario Argento was born to make. The Phantom of the Opera, Italy, 1998

Jenifer, USA, 2005

Pelts, Canada / USA, 2006

Directed by Dario Argento

Italian filmmaker Dario Argento is widely known among horror fans as a distinctive, sadistic auteur, a director who has found beauty in terror and mutilation with films such as Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Opera (1987). It is often forgotten that he also helped write one of the greatest Westerns of all time, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), but that makes sense, as he has devoted his career as a director to the creepily atmospheric and macabre, delighting in tales of the supernatural and visions of brutal but creative murder. Suspiria is generally considered to be his masterpiece (and it is certainly one of the prettiest horror films I’ve ever seen) and I actually like Opera even more in many ways, but this entry in my ongoing Halloween Movie Month (HMM … yeah, I like that acronym better) series will focus on three newer films with which I recently caught up, including his two contributions to Mick Garris’s always intriguing Masters of Horror series. Read More

Horrible Bosses

Posted 05 Sep 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Horrible Bosses is a hilarious new film from King of Kong director Seth Gordon. Horrible Bosses, USA, 2011

Directed by Seth Gordon

Cheap and (especially) predictable as they sometimes are, the jokes in Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses work, and at its best, it made me laugh harder than any movie I’ve seen so far this year. A good example is a scene early on in which Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), who has been working so hard to get a promotion that the only thing still in his home refrigerator when he actually has a moment to check is an old lime (“Could have been a kiwi; no way to tell”), has said promotion brutally ripped out of his hands by his evil boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) so that Harken can take the position for himself, along with its attendant salary boost and the office Nick has been coveting. When Nick screams a profanity and drags Harken across the floor by his own necktie, any halfway-educated film viewer will immediately realize that this is a fantasy sequence, but the sheer brutality and enthusiasm of its execution manages to garner laughs despite the cliche. Read More

Tabloid

Posted 25 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Tabloid, USA, 2010

Directed by Errol Morris

Tabloid, though it is a documentary, is also one of the funniest films of the year. Anyone reading this, and certainly any student of comedy, is sure to be aware of the well-worn axiom, “It’s funny because it’s true.” Regardless of exactly what parts of its wild, often unbelievable story are actually true, in the most objective and unquestionable sense, legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s latest, Tabloid, is likely one of the funniest films I’ll see all year. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the assertion of its dubious protagonist that it was nothing less than “Christ-like love” that led her pit bull, Booger, to save her life at one point; equally hilarious is Joyce’s proclamation about the tabloid media, “If you tell a lie long enough, you learn to believe it,” uttered without any apparent awareness of the irony inherent in that statement being delivered by someone of her pedigree.

I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who don’t know, Tabloid tells the story of Joyce McKinney, a former beauty pageant queen and Miss Wyoming who allegedly kidnapped and raped a Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson in 1977, after following him across the globe from California to England, where she believed the Mormons had brainwashed and enslaved him. The tabloids of the time, particularly the competing British Daily Mirror and Daily Express, had the proverbial field day with the story, dubbing it “The Case of the Manacled Mormon!”  Read More