[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 18 – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde

Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

100 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.

 

Many people know the love I have for the novel Carrie. There have been three adaptations of the classic novel (the original film even had a sequel), most recently in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss). That’s the one we are talking about today.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, November Criminals) is a troubled girl with a difficult life at home. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, The Hours, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) is a religious fanatic who believes the very birth of her daughter to be one of the most sinful acts in her life. At school, Carrie is not popular. When she experiences her first period, she is tortured and ridiculed by her female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt, TV’s Mr. Robot). Many of the girls later feel terrible about their actions, including Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers, TV’s Poldark), who devises a plan to make things right with Carrie. Chris, though, devises a plan of her own, that will push Carrie to the breaking point. What the girls don’t know is that Carrie White has an amazing gift, one that she cannot control. This gift has incredible and horrifying potential that will forever alter all their lives.

This is a film that brings to life a classic argument among film criticism. The crew, including director Peirce, claim that this incarnation of Carrie is a re-imaging of the classic Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, this film is very little more than a scene-by-scene remake of the original film. It even uses the original screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with added updates and a few tweaks by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa. It just feels hollowly made. It’s difficult to blame the studio for interfering (the film was notoriously heavily re-edited after poor test screenings, cutting somewhere around 45 minutes from the finished product) because of just how much the movie feels like a retread of the original.

Moretz and Moore are terrifically cast as daughter and mother White. Peirce fills the rest of her cast with the hottest young stars of 2013, including Ansel Elgort in his first film roll as Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend. Elgort does a pretty nice job as Ross as well.

The film is well shot and features some truly impressive camerawork. What muddles the final product is the atrocious CGI (it didn’t look very good in 2013 either). Some of it is truly cheap-looking. The movie didn’t need some of the more stylish CGI, so I don’t understand the need to use it, especially in the last third of the film.

Carrie is fine, but it beckons to be compared to Brian De Palma’s superior film from decades back. It features some fine performance work but there are some technical issues with marr the film’s watchability. It’s too bad, because there are shades of incredible here, but it just feels too similar, and in that way, unnecessary.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2018oscardeathrace] Baby Driver (2017)

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza Gonzales, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

Screenplay: Edgar Wright

112 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [Pending]

 

I missed out on Baby Driver last year. I made the attempt several times to get to the theater to catch it, but each time, I ended up missing out on it. It hit home video and I picked it up, and for months, it sat on my watch pile. Thankfully, I needed to check it off my Oscar Death Race. So here we are.

Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars, Allegiant) is a getaway driver who works somewhat freelance for Doc (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, TV’s House of Cards). He suffers from tinnitus, and he plays music to drown it out. He is working his way toward paying off a debt to Doc and finally being free when he meets Debora (Lily James, Cinderella, Darkest Hour), an attractive diner waitress he falls head over heels for. Baby sees a future for him and Debora that is without crime, but when Doc pulls him back in, Baby finds himself in a situation where he is forced to betray everything he knows to escape.

This is the first film from writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) since completing his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, and it’s a hell of a way to break out of the wheelhouse. Wright’s direction is strongly tuned to the music (he reportedly wrote each scene with a specific song in mind and sent an iPod with a playlist out with each copy of the screenplay) so that the film feels like a big concert action film. His writing gives the feeling of larger-than-life characters existing within a realistic landscape.

Ansel Elgort shines as Baby with a performance mostly physical. Elgort uses his body language as dialogue here to react to the building tension, especially in the final act of the film, but everyone in this film feels so strongly placed, from Lily James’s Debora to Jon Hamm (Marjorie Prime, TV’s Mad Men) as Buddy (Buddy was written with Hamm in mind, and rightfully so). I also really liked Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Pilgrimage) as Griff, though I would have liked to see more of him. To be fair, though, Jon Bernthal should be in every film.

I wasn’t all that taken with Jamie Foxx (Ray, Sleepless) as Bats, though. It just felt like he took his character from Horrible Bosses and reused him here. He isn’t terribly interesting and I would have liked to see someone else embody that psychotic thief.

But the real star of the movie here is the soundtrack and Wright’s expert handling of the action set pieces. This movie got my toes tapping more than once throughout the runtime. Wright’s focus on practical driving over CGI as much as possible helps to maintain a good pace for the film, one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Baby Driver is one of the best action films of the last decade. It’s an enjoyable romp with terrific performances and a lot of heart both in front of and behind the camera. A passion project from Wright, the movie is similar to the director’s previous work in that it’s wholly rewatchable and endlessly fun. This is one to seek out if you missed it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Divergent (2014)

Divergent-2014

Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet

Screenplay: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor

139 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

 

I wanted to like Divergent. I’ll repeat myself, I wanted to like Divergent, but the movie gave me nothing with which to like. I’m going to start my review today with a quick analysis of the plot, and then list all of the reasons why it isn’t the film I wanted it to be.

Divergent is the story of Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendents, The Fault in Our Stars) a teenage girl who exists in a dystopian landscape of the near future. In this interpretation of the future, there are five factions each defined by literally one trait. There is Abnegation, a group of those who practice selflessness (of which Tris is born into). There is Amity, those who choose peace over all else. There is Candor, the truth-tellers. Let me repeat that, there is a group of people that tell the truth, and that is it. There is Erudite, those of intelligence. There is finally Dauntless, the strong and brave (of which Tris envies). The Dauntless are presented as apparently a mixture of parkour and West Side Story. There are also the factionless, who have been sent away from their group from disobeying or failure. Then, there is Divergent, someone who embodies multiple factions over one. The people of future Chicago do not care for Divergents as they are unpredictable. Tris is, at the start of the film, about to perform in a test that will determine where she should be placed. It is basically a big sorting hat, with one major exception: the test doesn’t really matter because you can just choose whichever faction you would like to join permanently. Tris takes the test and discovers she may be a Divergent, so she chooses Dauntless just because. There she meets Four (Theo James, TV’s Golden Boy, Underworld: Awakening), a Dauntless leader who may just have a few secrets of his own. As she becomes more accustomed to Dauntless life, she also becomes more susceptible to being discovered as a Divergent, and the entire story is about the testing she will do to prove herself a worthy Dauntless.

So anyway, that is the movie.

My first problem with this movie was the whole test thing having virtually no effect on the story in the way that anyone can choose any faction. I just found it an extra-convoluted way of fashioning a plot point.

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Then, there is this faction breakdown, how can there be only five traits worthy of having a group of people and why would you want to keep these groups separate? I just don’t get the gravity of the situation and how this helps whatsoever.

Four’s character is kind of stupid. So if you haven’t seen the posters, avert your eyes, because [SPOILER ALERT] Four has a giant tattoo on his back of the five factions, which essentially tells us that he is a Divergent as well. Perhaps he would’ve been better off with a tattoo of a big bulls-eye, since that is pretty much what he announces to the world with it.

This isn’t really a complaint, but I did find it odd that this film is like a whos-who of people who have gotten it with Shailene Woodley in other movies, with Miles Teller (from The Spectacular Now) as an adversary, and Ansel Elgort (from The Fault in Our Stars) as her brother. Blech.

I want to point out the pacing as well, this movie drags on like a son of a bitch. By the time revelations start coming on, I had completely stopped caring and I just didn’t want to hear any more about these factions.

The performances are good (or merely as good as this poorly written script would allow) but none in particular stand out because the characters are too flat and one-dimensional. Now, I haven’t read the book series, but I should hope we get to flesh these characters out in another installment.

The look of this film is pretty much the unused sets and costumes from The Hunger Games movies. I could go on and on about the superiority of that franchise at this point, but you probably can already tell that.

Now, I did enjoy the Lord of the Flies vibe I got from the Dauntless faction, if they would just spend less time bickering and trying to kill each other and more time fleshing out these nameless bodies before bickering and trying to kill them.

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All in all, Divergent is a disappointing and underwhelming beginning to this franchise, which has already set markers for a remaining three films (the final book will be split into two films, because fuck, why not?). Perhaps all of these confusing and convoluted plot points make more sense in the book, so I won’t trash the novel because, as I said before, I haven’t read it yet, but as far as films go, this is a very boring and lazy fantasy.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Neil Burger’s Divergent? Did you pass the test or choose to be factionless to get out of the theater? Let me know!

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