The New Carrie: No Expectations Means No Problem

(WATCH OUT! This post contains spoilers, but there will be warnings signaling their approach)

If you walk into the theater to see “Carrie” (2013) with the idea that the 21st century would convert the story into a new-age masterpiece, you might be in for a rough night.

However, if you settle into your seat with the expectation that it’ll be a ridiculous remake as my friend and I did last week (or, even better, if you go in with no expectations at all), you will be guaranteed a good time.

I will admit that my friend and I may share a sense of humor that some would deem slightly peculiar, since we tend to find parts of the original “Carrie” (1976) rather hilarious as well (such as the locker room “Plug it up!” scene).

It took a great amount of effort for us to stifle our snickering throughout the entire movie. I won’t reveal too much, but let’s just say that, for example, Carrie (played by actress Chloë Grace Moretz) has a moment of aerial movement at Prom that had me cracking up into the scarf that I was wearing for a straight five minutes.

Moretz takes flight in "Carrie" (2013).

Moretz takes flight in “Carrie” (2013).

Honestly, it was astonishing to me that the rest of the audience took the film so seriously. Well, they did, and so on the serious poorly-drawn popcorn scale, “Carrie” (2013) earns a 1 1/2 out of 5.

"Carrie" (2013) earns a 1 1/2 out of 5 on the serious poorly-drawn popcorn scale. Ehhh...

“Carrie” (2013) earns a 1 1/2 out of 5 on the serious poorly-drawn popcorn scale. Ehhh…

To be fair, Julianne Moore played the part of the mother well, and Moretz did not disappoint. The downfall of this film was not the result of their performances.

So, what were some of the issues?

Well, the parts of the original “Carrie” (1976) kept in this remake do not seem to capture the same effect as those in the original, and the addition of technology really does not seem to make such a big impact on the film as a whole.

SPOILER ALERT

For example:

Moving the shower scene with Carrie away from its slot near the opening of the film and removing the steam enveloping the locker room in that scene was a big no-no for me. This is a moment that I respect in the original, and one that I detest in the remake. A scene in the original delicately highlighting the innocence of a budding young woman (and a scene that serves to open up Carrie’s withdrawn world to us) has transformed into nothing more than the drawn-out footage of a girl washing her face, hair and body with an unusual intensity. The original “Carrie” eases into the scene, and is filmed in an almost ethereal way. The remake attempts to recreate this gentle moment, but moves into it so abruptly that it comes off as silly (as in quite a few other parts of the film). The remake took away any real depth that could have been associated with the scene.

Actress Sissy Spacek in "Carrie" (1976).

Actress Sissy Spacek in “Carrie” (1976).

Regarding the new-age aspect of the film: yes, those nasty girls in that high school did create a potentially devastating fake profile for Carrie online. However, seeing as Carrie herself did not have an account, she couldn’t have been aware of what any of them were writing about her. Thus, the destructive force of online bullying is an aspect of the film partly left untouched. Really, the main reason that I wanted to watch this film was to see how they would bring social media into play. And here I am now, slightly disappointed.

END OF SPOILERS

As I said before, however, this film can still offer up an enjoyable experience. The portions of the film that are meant to be funny fulfill that goal, and the portions that are not meant to stir up laughter do it anyway (though, I’m not sure how much was intentional and how much wasn’t). Everything depends on the attitude that you, as an audience member, take on as you view this picture.

As such, the film earns a 3 out of 5 on the lighthearted poorly-drawn popcorn scale.

"Carrie" (2013) earns a 3 out of 5 on the lighthearted poorly-drawn popcorn scale.

“Carrie” (2013) earns a 3 out of 5 on the lighthearted poorly-drawn popcorn scale.

So, in the end, you have the power. It’s up to the audience members to decide whether or not the film can be considered entertaining.

If you have a relatively twisted sense of humor like my friend and I do, please go. You’ll enjoy it, for sure.

If you don’t really see things the way we do, you might want to wait for this film to come out on DVD.

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The Conjuring chills to the core

And just as I was starting to get antsy from the lack of horror hitting theaters, out comes a film that can raise a pulse and drop a heart deep into a gut. The movie?

“The Conjuring.”

Still of actress Lili Taylor in "The Conjuring" (2013).

Still of actress Lili Taylor in “The Conjuring” (2013).

From director James Wan (also the director of horror films “Insidious” (2010) and “Dead Silence” (2007), as well as the psychological “Saw” (2004)), “The Conjuring,”  a genuine haunted house movie guaranteed to give every horror fan a little something to appreciate. The film is based on the true story of a disturbing case explored by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970s, in which a couple and their children move into a country home that ends up being a less-than-hospitable location.

I can’t stress enough how much of a fan I have become of Wan‘s work, and this has to be the best I have seen yet of what he has brought into the world of creepy cinema. “The Conjuring” earns a 4 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale, the highest rating for any movie reviewed on this blog yet. I’ve submitted good 3 1/2 and 4 out of 5 ratings for other horror films reviewed on this blog, but none of those really hit the spook spot like this one.

"The Conjuring" earns a 4 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale!

“The Conjuring” earns a 4 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale!

“The Conjuring” delves as deep into the traditional haunted house film innards as possible while still retaining Wan’s unique and artistic imagery. If you didn’t enjoy “Insidious,” “Dead Silence” or “Saw” but you are a bit of a horror junkie, this film is still DEFINITELY for you. If you did go berserk over the other films he has directed, it’ll only be that much more gratifying to sit in that theater and watch his magic unfold on the big screen.

Still of actress Vera Farmiga in "The Conjuring" (2013).

Still of actress Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring” (2013).

So… go! Go see it! If you love to be scared senseless, get out to the theater immediately!

…unless you’re too scared, that is.*

* Not going to lie… I was too scared, which is why I went to a showing at 11:20 a.m. and was still trembling as I walked out of the theater and into the sunlight after it was all over.

Zombies at the Theater, Zombies on the TV, Zombies Everywhere

Cinemunchies is BACK! I must apologize for the lack of activity on this blog the past couple of months. If you’d like to know why, see my other blog, Sevillescape.

Now, before all of the “World War Z” (2013) hype decays into nothingness to make room for the upcoming blockbusters (“Pacific Rim,”  “Red 2” and “R.I.P.D.,” just to name a few), I’d like to approach the subject of the theme that I hope won’t dissolve away with it.

Zombies.

The vampire trend of recent years in film and television, spurred on by the dreadful “Twilight Saga” films, is slinking back into the shadows, making room for another undead terror. From the dramatic 2010 – present AMC television series “The Walking Dead” (which, by the way, is my favorite zombie-related creation of the 21st century…really, it’s worth a gander) to the unconventional romantic comedy “Warm Bodies” of 2013, these decaying and still swaying corpses are really making their mark.

Still of actor Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead" (2010 -).

Still of actor Andrew Lincoln in “The Walking Dead” (2010 -).

The most recent addition to the slew of zombie-related pieces, “World War Z,” hit theaters June 21 and immediately garnered attention. The film follows United Nations employee Gerry Lane (played by actor Brad Pitt) as he travels the world in search of the origin of a spreading disease threatening the lives of every person on the planet.

When I first started seeing the trailers and hearing all of the praises and excitement for this film, I really wasn’t too keen on the idea of going out to see it (especially since my aunt wanted to go the day it opened). The trailers just showed some scenes of protagonist Gerry Lane and his family, an aerial shot of a burning city, a few glimpses of distressed crowds scurrying around, and the image below.

Shot from "World War Z" (2013)

Shot from “World War Z” (2013)

I wasn’t enthusiastic. I wasn’t expecting much.

Of course, now I realize why they didn’t include any scenes that would give a depiction of their zombies, and why their description of the film on its website was so vague. Now I see the reason, and I can’t help but slap my forehead with my palm for being so birdbrained as to judge a film for not divulging its secrets.

I really enjoyed “World War Z,” and I can see now why audiences gave it the praise they did. The zombies weren’t shoved in our faces; even the word “zombie” was avoided. We, the audience, followed Pitt’s character across the world in a rushed search for the mysterious origin of this horror. We were searching for the cause, while narrowly escaping the effect.

"World War Z" (2013) earns a 3 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale.

“World War Z” (2013) earns a 3 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale.

For me, “World War Z” earned a 3 1/2 out of 5 on the poorly-drawn popcorn scale. The creative and hurried storyline kept our attention, and the zombies themselves were just so original. I’m not going to give anything away to those of you who still need to go see it (and please go!), but the zombies in this film sort of broke the mold for traditional zombie behavior.

So, what makes a zombie apocalypse so scary?

Well, for me, they’re absolutely terrifying. Consider…

1.) Only the most basic of instincts drives a zombie. Only the need to feed survives whatever kills off everything else. There is no rational thought. There is no sense. There is no sympathy. There is only instinct, and the most dangerous of creatures run on solely instinct.

2.) Everything you love about the ones closest to you can be affected, infected, eradicated and then resurrected as something else. Would you be ready to defend yourself against anything that threatens you? Even if it’s your mother? A neighbor? A friend? A child?

3.) Are you important enough to be saved? Are you worth a bullet that could protect someone else? Would you be the hero and see someone else as important enough to save? Or, would you be the coward with the better chance of living the longest?

There’s a scene in season one’s first episode of “The Walking Dead,” in which Rick Grimes (played by actor Andrew Lincoln) is protected by a father and son in their home. The son’s mother is outside, a zombie (or a “walker,” as the show labels it) like all of the others aimlessly roaming the streets at night. The mother slowly makes her way up the stairs of the porch and comes to the front door, grabbing and slowly turning the doorknob. We see the doorknob turning from the other side…just a doorknob slowly moving back and forth.

 

Still from "The Walking Dead," Season 1, Episode 1 (2010).

Still from “The Walking Dead” (2010- ) opening credits seasons 1 and 2.

Something about that scene chills me all the way down to the bone. There’s just something to be feared about a situation in which you are cowering inside your home, watching the knob on your front door turn slowly. You know someone is behind that door. There’s someone moving that knob, and it might have been someone you knew quite well long ago, someone you’ve grown up knowing. It might be the same bone and flesh, but whatever is standing behind that door isn’t what you have grown to care about, and doesn’t have the same harmless nature anymore.

Let’s pray that all of this stays on the big screen and in our nightmares, where it belongs.

Adding insult to injury with Eddie Murphy’s recent title of “Most Overpaid Actor”

No one actually enjoys being called out for a poor performance, but how would it feel to be called out in front of the entire world?

This year, only actor Eddie Murphy can really answer that question.

Still of Murphy in "The Haunted Mansion" (2003).

Still of Murphy in “The Haunted Mansion” (2003).

Forbes today released its 2012 list of Most Overpaid Actors, and Murphy climbed right to the top of the list. According to an article by Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes, for each dollar that Murphy was paid in the last three films he starred in, only roughly $2.30 was earned.

Not too bad, right?

Well, according to the article, a film that even slightly profits must earn double the production budget in its ticket sales (not including the amount of cash it should gather in marketing). One of Murphy’s most recent films, “Tower Heist” (2011), only earned about $153 million on a budget of $75 million, barely making a profit, according to the article.

So, yes. It’s pretty unfortunate.

I really can’t say that I am surprised. After suffering from disappointment while watching his film “Meet Dave” (2008), I shied away from “Tower Heist” (2011) and his most recent film, “A Thousand Words” (2012).

Maybe he’ll have a comeback. Maybe he’ll make us proud and bring back the Eddie Murphy we all flock to theaters to see.

Still of Murphy in "Meet Dave" (2008).

Still of Murphy in “Meet Dave” (2008).

It’s possible, and I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.

Anna Karenina and the Transition from Novel to Film

With the 2012 “Anna Karenina” film adaptation of the novel by Leo Tolstoy currently making an appearance in theaters worldwide, one can’t help but wonder how well the film captured the essence of the novel.

“Anna Karenina” (2012) focuses on ninteenth-century Russian aristocrat Anna Karenina (played by actress Keira Knightley) and the tension surrounding her affair with Count Vronsky, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Still of actress Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina" (2012).

Still of Knightley in “Anna Karenina” (2012).

So, can a film capture the essence of a novel? What constitutes a good film adaptation of a novel? What is lost or gained in the transition from word to image?

Rather than hold these questions inside, I wound up discussing them in a sit-down with Mark Sandona, English Department Chair at Hood College. Sandona, who teaches a course at Hood focusing on film adaptations of literature, said that the novel is lost in the transition from novel to film.

“We’ve got two very different media and the experience of reading a novel is an intimate one,” Sandona said. “It’s a matter of sitting down with a book and creating your version of the prompts that a good novelist will give you.”

So, what sort of experience might we gain from a film adaptation?

“The experience of watching a film is a communal or social one,” Sandona said, “in which you are presented with a pre-formed or…manufactured version from the director’s perspective of what the novel is about.”

Sandona said that in the transition between the two media, “almost everything is lost, but that’s okay because something else is built.”

So, Cinemunchies readers, what does that mean for “Anna Karenina?” If we pluck the story from the novel’s pages, what can we expect?

According to an article by Joe Tyrrell of newjerseynewsroom.com, screenwriter Tom Stoppard shortened the film while still preserving the novel’s satire. The film also exuded an aura akin to a musical performance with its overhead catwalks and hidden orchestras, according to Tyrrell.

Still of Knightley and actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson in "Anna Karenina" (2012)

Still of Knightley and actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson in “Anna Karenina” (2012).

Can we justly compare this film adaptation to the novel, a novel declared by writer William Faulkner to be the best novel ever written (according to a description of the book on amazon.com)? Or, should we sit back and view it as a separate work, a unique work?

We can’t compare the atmosphere of a theatrical performance in the film to the settings of the human imagination evoked by the novel, can we?

I suppose we’re left with quite the predicament.

Where “The Last Exorcism II: The Beginning of the End” Has My Attention

Well, it’s official. We’re getting a second part to the story for “The Last Exorcism” (2010).

“The Last Exorcism II: The Beginning of the End” will be released March 1, 2013. In the sequel, we follow Nell Sweetzer (played by actress Ashley Bell), who struggles against the satanic force she dealt with in the first film when it returns with even more atrocious intentions, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Still of actress Ashley Bell in “The Last Exorcism II: The Beginning of the End” (2013).

The first film was set as a documentary gone awry in which a southern preacher who lost his faith in God travels to a farm on the outskirts of a small town in Louisiana to perform the last exorcism of his career. He takes the documentary crew along in an attempt to show how much of a sham exorcisms are, and instead uncovers a disturbing truth involving 16-year-old Nell.

“The Last Exorcism” (2010) didn’t have a nauseating shaky camera effect, bad lines or cheesy special effects. It didn’t have a predictable ending or a bunch of clichés.

Why didn’t it have my love?

I don’t really know. Maybe it was the mixture of the Christian country home atmosphere and underlying pure evil that caught me off guard. Maybe it was actor Caleb Landry Jones who played Nell’s brother Caleb, since he tends to creep me out in general.

Whatever the reason, “The Last Exorcism” (2010) just didn’t give me that fuzzy feeling inside that I get with horror films such as “Poltergeist” (1982), “The Strangers” (2008), or “Sinister” (2012). I had no desire to ever watch that film again, though its ending did appear in my nightmares for the next two weeks following my viewing of it. Maybe that’s why it didn’t give me the stomach butterflies.

So, why do I want to see this second film, which, from the first image and synopsis, looks disturbingly similar to the first film?

Maybe I’m just crazy and have no protective nature directed toward my subconscious. We’ll see in March.

“Argo” and the combination of intensity and wit

Unlike when my friends and I decided to see “Premium Rush” a few months ago, there was no indecision involved with our trip to the theaters this time around. My friend, partly based on the music behind the movie’s trailer (a topic discussed in a previous blog post on Cinemunchies), was bent on seeing “Argo.” I agreed. It looked like it had the potential to be an electrifying film, packed with suspense.

Still of actors Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston in “Argo.”

Well, it absolutely was. Filled with intensity, the film did all but compel me out of my seat, though it did keep me trembling at the edge of the cushion.

“Argo,” set in 1979, centers around the CIA’s confidential mission to save six  Americans of the U.S. Embassy in Iran from a very serious situation. An uprising against the embassy (now known as the start of the Iran Hostage Crisis) brought about the capture of the American diplomats there, and the six Americans who escaped found refuge in the Canadian embassy. A plan developed by actor Ben Affleck’s character involving a mock science fiction film was set in motion, and the lives of those six Americans, as well as everyone they had come into contact with, were on the line.

Still of “Argo” (2012).

Not only did the film have a striking and thrilling plot, but it also contained some comedic elements that blended together with the suspense well. We saw both the threatening situation in Iran with the six American refugees and the witty workings of producers in the film business. In her article, Lisa Kennedy of Denver Post writes on the unstable scene in Iran and the comical one in Hollywood, complimenting Affleck on his success with the way the two intermingled.

Affleck, who also directed the film, might be thrilled to know that “Argo” earned a 4 out of 5 on the poorly drawn popcorn scale:

“Argo” earns a 4 out of 5 on the poorly drawn popcorn scale.

So, you’d better “Argo” and see this movie before it’s too late! (At least, then, you’ll be able to fully appreciate this reference.)

Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” connection?

What happens when Quentin Tarantino sits down and writes?

A masterpiece is born.

We witnessed it with “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), a film oozing a fantastic combination blood and humor. The film is set in Nazi-occupied France, where Hitler’s advances are being stunted by a band of Jewish-American soldiers (led by actor Brad Pitt’s character),  who kill and skin the heads of the Nazi soldiers they find. At the same time, an undercover Jewish woman (played by actress Mélanie Laurent. according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)) plots to kill Nazi leaders during an event at a theater she runs.

Still of Laurent in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009).

For those of us who fell in love with the combo of wit and gore in “Inglourious Basterds,” news that it is the first installment in a trilogy is absolutely welcome. In his article, Oliver Lyttelton of Indiewire’s The Playlist writes that Tarantino insinuated in an interview with the U.K.’s Total Film magazine that “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” (a film written and directed by Tarantino that will be released on Dec. 25) could possibly be the first two films of a trilogy.

Actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained.”

“Django Unchained” follows a former slave as he attempts to save his wife from the grip of a plantation owner in Mississippi, according to IMDb. The film’s connection to “Inglourious Basterds” may not be easily detectable, but, Tarantino explains the subtle ties between the two films in the article by Total Film.

Guess who wasn’t before, but is now planning to see “Django Unchained” in the theaters. If it’s in any way as amazing as “Inglourious Basterds” (and there’s no doubt that it will be), then it’s going to be right at the top of my list of favorite films of 2012.

Actors Brad Pitt and Eli Roth in “Inglourious Basterds” (2009).

Right on, Mr. Tarantino. Right on.

Has “Sinister” slithered into your subconscious yet?

The clock struck midnight two hours and 38 minutes ago, but you’re still awake, aren’t you? Your house exhales softly every few moments, creaking from deep within its hardwood floors, its drywall, its darkened windows.

Creak.

Creak.

Creak.

The floodlights from the backyard flick on, sensing some sort of motion outside. It’s probably a mouse or a rabbit. Probably. The glow slips through the glass panes and presses up against the table, the boxes, the coat rack, the stuff. Shadows are strewn across the hallway. So many of them look like fingertips stretched out across the floor or figures crouching in corners.

Creak.

What was that? No, really, what was that?

For the past two nights, I have been struggling with these bedtime anxieties. What is the reason for my torments, you ask?

“Sinister.”

The film, which premiered Oct. 12, follows a broken writer as he and his family move (literally) into the subject of his next book. The writer, played by actor Ethan Hawke, investigates the murder of a family of four, uncovering a disturbing trail of clues linking the murder and multiple others to a figure of the occult. With each moment of searching, Hawke’s character finds himself trekking closer and closer toward his family’s destruction.

Though I had never seen a trailer for the film on television, I was instantly drawn to it by rumors and a blog post written by writers of the blog, The Movie Brothers. “Sinister” definitely deserves more publicity than I observed it had; I was in no way disappointed by the film.

A still of “Sinister” (2012).

Every moment of that movie kept me on edge when I saw it Friday. The film haunted me in that theater, and continues to plague my imagination (as it will in the weeks to come, I’m sure). It might be the most disturbing film that I’ve seen in a theater, and it’s certainly the first one that forced me to leave the theater instead of watching the credits.

“Sinister,” for its eerie effect on the imagination, earns a 4 out of 5 on the poorly drawn popcorn scale:

“Sinister” earns a 4 out of 5 on the poorly drawn popcorn scale! Yay!

I’m not sure exactly why, but I had an impulse as soon as the credits started to roll that drove me to escape the theater as quickly as I could. It’s an amazing film, one that I will hope to own someday, but I just had to get out.

Still of Hawke in “Sinister.”

In his article, Andrew Mcclure of The Michigan Daily writes of the film’s genuine ability to strike fear in its audiences, while still critically analyzing aspects including its character development. I would have to agree with Mcclure about the character development, since I did wish that the film would bring more details forward regarding the night terrors of Trevor (played by actor Michael Hall D’Addario, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)), the son of Hawke’s character.

Regardless of the character development imperfections, the film exhibits terror like none I have seen in quite some time. It’s a truly unforgettable and unsettling work.

If you’re ready to be unhinged for the next few nights, trembling under your covers and frantically searching through the dark corners of your bedroom, this film is ready for you.

It’s ready and waiting.

Should “Carrie” be remade to match a new age?

*Warning* This has an introduction that is ever-so-slightly gruesome, so, squeamish folks, scroll down past the film still.

It’s not every day that you get pig’s blood poured on you.

In fact, for most people, it’s not any day. That foul shower has been reserved for actress Sissy Spacek in “Carrie” (1976) for almost 36 years.

Well, in March 2013, all that’s going to change. It’s actress Chloë Grace Moretz’s turn.

Still of Moretz in “Carrie” (2013).

The trailer for the 2013 remake of “Carrie” (1976), a new take on the novel “Carrie” by Stephen King, was released last weekend at the New York Comic-Con, according to an article by Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly. The film, as discussed at the Comic-Con by a panel of Moretz, actress Julianne Moore, director Kimberly Peirce and producer Kevin Misher, is an attempt to move closer toward King’s original storyline while also incorporating social media as an aspect of bullying, according to the article.

Usually, I avoid getting my hopes up for remakes of classic horror films, since I’ve already been disappointed by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003) and “Halloween” (2007), bloody and vulgar remakes of two truly terrific horror films. (Though, for some reason, I still find myself drawn toward the Rob Zombie “Halloween” remake. It’s a good film, but it pales in comparison with the original, in my mind.)

However, this trailer shows some extreme promise, and it might actually keep me optimistic until the film premieres in March. In wake of the tragic bullying incidents like that of Amanda Todd’s, the inclusion of social media as an influence on Moretz’s character really may enhance the terror for younger audiences, audiences who can connect and identify with a relationship between technology and social life.

Also, if it really does stay true to the novel, we’ll see more of King’s fantastic imagination, which is a welcome idea in my mind.

Speaking of film adaptions of Stephen King novels…

I’d be up for a remake of “The Shining” (1980). It’s a great film to be sure, but the storyline really deviates from the novel and, since reading the novel, I can’t watch the film without feeling like I’m missing out on something.

Let’s do it, Hollywood!

Let’s include all of those chilling moments in the King novel that are not included in the 1980 film: the topiary animals, the snow-covered playground, Danny’s nightmarish visions. Who’s with me?