Tuesday, November 04, 2014

What I Watched In October

The 90’s were a terrible period of time for originality in film and the standout evidence to prove that point should be the number of TV series that were dragged squealing onto the big screen. I am of the general opinion that attempting to turn an older television show into a movie is a bad idea. I can’t think of many that were either impressive artistically or even very commercially successful even if the Brady Bunch films and the Maverick redux were considered hits. I couldn’t make through ten minutes of the Brady Bunch crap and although MAVERICK (1994) was passable it felt more like a typical Mel Gibson film of the 1990’s than a real reworking of the classic series. So why did I go to the theater to see a big screen adaptation of the solid 1980’s action show The Equalizer? Two things – the reteaming of director and star from the sharp and harsh TRAINING DAY (2001) and the fact that Denzel Washington is actually a fine choice for this type of character. Yes, I might still prefer the clipped accent and more austere bearing of Edward Woodward as Robert McCall but Washington brings his own kind of gravitas to the role that works quite well.

THE EQUALIZER plays as a kind of origin story for the job McCall eventually designs for himself in the world. He is a retired, widowed secret agent with the desire to live a simple, spare and quiet life working a menial job. As we get to know him we see that he is a very good man who goes out of his way to help co-workers with both positive words and encouraging actions but it also seems that he is a man just biding his time until his own death. He doesn’t seem to want to hasten his own passing but it’s clear he will welcome the chance to be with his wife again in her heaven. During his insomniac nights spent drinking tea in a diner McCall strikes up a friendship with young Russian prostitute and when she runs afoul of her pimp/owner he can’t stop himself from getting involved. After this initial confrontation things spiral out of control and McCall’s life and the lives of his co-workers are in danger.

This is the are modern action movie that takes the time to let you get to know the main character and his life before the violence starts. Because of this the film is engrossing and meditative in ways that I found exciting  - maybe even more exciting than the scenes of hand to hand combat. Not that the fight scenes are bad- they are very well done and thrilling in their energy. But the characters both good and bad are the real draw in THE EQUALIZER and that is nice to be able to say.

GONE GIRL is David Fincher's latest offering and in many ways this is his most satisfying film ZODIAC (2007). Adapted from a novel with a script by the novelist the movie is both the perfect Fincher film and a completely impressive example of paring a book down to the screen. This is the first movie in years that I have seen that has an ending that is both final and open ended in a way that causes dread and sorrow. This is a tale about the traps we set for ourselves and the nasty extremes to which we will go to escape those traps. No one comes out of this story looking good or kind because we are shown over time their every dark thought and dishonest motivation Even good actions often have bad consequences and resentments can fester over time to make the most unthinkable possible. I won't spoil the many surprises for those that have managed to avoid learning too much but suffice to say that this one of the best movies I've seen all year. 

THE EQUALIZER (2014) - 8 (excellent character driven action tale)
HIGH MOON (2014) - 7 (fun, Sci-Fi TV movie pilot for a failed series)
GONE GIRL (2014) - 9 (excellent)
THE RIFT (1989) - 3 (terrible with only a bloody mid-section making it tolerable)
THE GRUDGE 3 (2009) - 6
THE FOG (1980 )- 9 (rewatch)
BODY PUZZLE (1992) - 6 (Lamberto Bava thriller/horror) (rewatch)
SEE NO EVIL (2006) - 3 (terrible attempt at horror)
JACK THE REAPER (2011 )- 2 (amazingly bad low budget horror tale)
OCULUS (2013) - 8 (rewatch)
JU-REI (2004)- 5 (slow moving Japanese ghost story)
THE MUMMY'S CURSE (1944) - 6 (rewatch)
SHADOW PEOPLE (2012) - 7 (interesting combination of fact and fiction)
THE SMILING GHOST (1941)- 6 (rewatch)
THE CREATURE WALKS AMOUNG US (1956)- 7 (rewatch)
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)- 8 (Rewatch)
SCHIZOID (1980)- 6 (interesting slasher)
THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)- 8 (rewatch)
TALES OF TERROR (1962) - 8 (rewatch)
DEADLY EYES (1982)- 4 (pretty terrible giant rat movie) 


Nick Rentz said...

What do you think are the best movies adapted from old tv shows?

Rod Barnett said...

Strange Brew, Miami Vice was quite good and the Twilight Zone film has high points. Tales From the Darkside turned out well.

Nick Rentz said...

I agree with those. What did you think of dragnet?

Rod Barnett said...

Actually Dragnet was a very funny film. Good call.