Adaptations


Fright Night 2011 PosterAs a huge fan of the original campy horror movie that came out in 1985 I knew I had to see it.  Then I learned David Tennant from Doctor Who was taking the role of Peter Vincent it was a done deal.

It seems like either you love or hate 3D and I have to say that I loved it for Fright Night‘s new remake  — or rather I loved it after I told the theater workers to fix the projection since it was off during the previews.  I firmly believe 3D is best served when used in horror movies.
That said, it isn’t the kind of movie you can only watch in 3D.

The basic plot is the same as the original.  Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) believes his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.  He seeks out the help of a supposed vampire expert, Peter Vincent, to kill said neighbor.  The humor fell flat for the most part, but I did giggle some (not nearly as much as the original).  That said as funnier as the original was I loved the new direction of this film and was glad they went darker.  It was a heart-pounding adrenaline rush.  I am glad I didn’t watch the trailer for the film.  Do yourself a favor and skip the trailer.

Colin FarrellSeeing Colin Farrell was a happy surprise for me as I didn’t look into the film that much before going.  He could have made or broke this film, but he blew me away.  Having someone that good-looking in the film also a nice change from the original.  Instead of it being campy or cliched Farrell gave one of the best performances of someone truly disturbing that I have ever seen.  He was not so much a vampire as much as he was a serial killer that happened to be a vampire, a thing far more terrifying than any creature alone could be.  Jerry is insanely attractive and charming so knowing what he is doing and that he can still pull off being attractive is frightening in and of itself.

Tony Collette was also amazing as the single mom.  She gave a bit more depth to the story that added a level of terror just due to the believability of her performance.

As always David Tennant was fantastic and brought range to what could have been a pretty static character.  Peter Vincent in the 2011 version is a bit of a Chris-Angel-esk Vegas act.  Tennant brought some humor to what could have been an unfunny movie (although that Ebay line was horrible and forced, I think we all can admit that) and was able to manage to make this role his own.

All in all, I would recommend this movie as long as you expect it to be darker than the original.  While it wasn’t as funny as Zombieland, if you were a fan of that film you should check this out.  And if you haven’t seen the original Fright Night just don’t expect it to actually be frightening…at all.

Fright Night (2011): Official Website

Fright Night (1985): Get it at Your Library!

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Librarians agree:  Alice in Wonderland in 3-D is well worth the money and the entire country has Alice on the brain.  On opening week I organized a group of librarians and library students to attend a screening of Tim Burton’s latest film in the relatively new Real-D.  While I am certain this film will be amazing either way, it is truly a masterpiece in 3-D.  Without giving in to creating shots blatantly for the use of 3-D, it still manages to take full advantage of this feature.

This is clearly Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland.  For one Alice is older, and the film takes a much darker tone than the classic Disney animation (is anyone really surprised that this film might be too much for young children) and there are many twists and surprises along the way.  That said, it does not lose the sense of Wonderland for older fans of early imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s work.  I am certain that fans of Tin Man will be delighted to see this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland.  I know I am.

I was a bit nervous that it would be too Mad-Hatter-centric.  It was not, however.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) did play a large role and I understand why Disney would throw their money behind the star.  However, I felt the advertising for the film overshadowed the other amazing performances, none so much as Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  She is perfect as 19 year old Alice, who is expected to accept the marriage proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill), but thankfully gets distracted by a silly white rabbit.  It is not surprising that Tim Burton also cast Helena Bonham Carter in her role as The Red Queen, but it is not just favoritism.  Ms. Carter is amazing as the large headed and violent queen.  Anne Hathaway is no less brilliant as the flighty and hilarious White Queen.  Of course, the best part of the movie are the amazing creatures and world Burton and his team has created:  the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Red Queen’s frogs, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat!  My favorite moment being when he is kneading (as cats do).  Lovely!

Fans of this film also might like to check out The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It has a very similar dark take and I am excited to reread the original to compare. In this first in a series of books, we learn that Alice is from Wonderland.  She was heir to the thrown until her aunt, the Red Queen, waged war against her family to cease control of Wonderland.  Alice escapes Red, her army of card soldiers, and an assassin with the help of her friends (including a Mad Hatter that is a skilled fighter himself), but she is cast out from Wonderland lost and alone.  Another related book that is on my to-read list was recommended to me by Laura Rancani.  She recently wrote about the historical fiction Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, so please visit her website for the full review.

In related news, to celebrate the release of the film, I visited the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where there was an exhibit of rare Lewis Carroll items including original photographs taken by the author (my personal favorite), games owned and/or invented by him, books, and memorabilia.  They also held a tea party for children and had games that Lewis invented that visitors could try out.  I was very bummed out to have had to miss out on tea, but I was late for a very important date!  Still, I managed to quickly snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

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Tin Man Cast

Oz will never be the same. Tin Man, a SciFi Channel mini-series production, is one of the best interpretations of L. Frank Baum’s magical world that I have ever seen (and that is saying something). It is hard to beat a cast that includes the likes of Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Neal McDonaugh, Raoul Trujillo, and Richard Dreyfus; but it is Kathleen Robertson that steals the show as the best villain that the O.Z. has ever seen, Azkadellia. Not one of the performances is less than stellar in this epic story. This is not the fluffy, feel good Oz. This is the harsh and cruel world of the O.Z.

DG (Zooey Deschanel) is a waitress “of 20 annuals” that doesn’t feel at home in her small Midwest town where she and her parents live, but it isn’t long before a storm comes. It isn’t just any storm. It brings with it soldiers sent after DG. She is taken away in the storm and wakes up to find herself in a strange and beautiful land (that looks a lot like Endor), and sets out first to find her parents who were also lost in the storm. Later her quest deepens as she tries to find herself and unlock the secrets of her past. While eluding the evil sorceress that controls the O.Z. (or “Outer Zone”), DG bans together with a small band of resistance fighters, and comes to realize she might just be the key to stopping Azkadellia’s reign of terror and torture.

DG and Azkadellia

DG and Azkadellia

Along the way, there are many references and twists on the old Oz. Of course instead of Dorothy Gale we have DG; the hip, charming, and cute as a button rebel fighter with a good heart. You have the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard, and many more; but they are new interpretations. For example, there is reference to the scarecrow in Glitch (Cummings), a man that has had his brain removed by Azkadellia. And instead of a man literally made of tin with no heart, you have a good man that has had his heart hardened by the O.Z. and seeks revenge (McDonough). Where you once had a cowardly lion, you now have a lion/human psychic (Trujillo), whose entire species has been used and tortured by Azkadellia. The Mystic Man (Dreyfus) replaces the Great and Powerful Oz (and so on). Azkadellia, the new wicked witch, commands an army of mobats and storm troopers. The mobats, monkey bats, are reason enough to watch Tin Man. Especially cool is the fact that when they aren’t flying around the mobats are on her body as super-sexy tattoos.

The Collector’s Edition boasts many special features including a must watch behind the scenes called Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, and interviews with the cast and crew of Tin Man. You can go even further and watch a special on the set with the director, but the behind the scenes is the better of the two. Also, there is of course a gag reel if you are into that sort of thing.

You can find this item at a library near you!

Additionally, the website for Tin Man is worth a look-see (especially if you have a good, fast connection). The official website is at http://www.syfy.com/tinman/ and you can browse the cast, a gallery, a forum, and general about information, but you also can get a tour through the O.Z. (http://www.syfy.com/tinman/oz/).

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Tim Burton clearly is one of the kings of Halloween. So, for the 3 Days to Halloween blog I have selected a few Tim Burton movies.

Sleepy Hollow

One of my favorite movies is Tim Burton’s retelling The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It is one of the most visually stunning and scariest Halloween films and certainly showcases Burton’s talents. Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is an investigator sent from the city to investigate the mysterious murders that have taken place in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. There he not only finds murder and mystery, but the love of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). The special effects and general mood of the film are an absolute must for Halloween. Ichabod’s contraptions are fantastic and the gore in this movie is not over the top, but exactly right (as long as you like blood and guts in your movies). Christopher Walken’s teeth alone are the stuff of nightmares…and that tree! If you have seen the movie, you know I’m right. It is a perfect tale for Halloween and certainly not for the faint of heart.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disk Collector’s Edition)

Getting this edition of the film is a smart choice. Not only does it feature the movie and a few others (see below), it also has special features of deleted scenes, behind the scenes, and trailers. The movie itself is about Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. Jack is sad and then he comes across the land of Christmas. He decides that all the ghouls and goblins should be in charge of Christmas this year. Of course they get it all wrong, because they just don’t understand holidays other than Halloween. Music, creepy fun, and even a little bit of romance are all part of this story about a skeleton that has good intentions, but gets it all wrong.

Vincent

Vincent is a short film about a boy who dreams of being Vincent Price. It is one of the many extras on The Nightmare Before Christmas 2-disk collector’s edition DVD. It is a clever little poem and stop motion animation piece that I find a delight to watch again and again. Also in the extra features, the original poem is read by Christopher Lee. If you like Vincent, you should also check out illustrator Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, as I feel you would also get a kick out of his twisted alphabet.

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

This short film is also featured on this edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas and will eventually be done as a feature length film. The story is about a young boy who brings back a beloved pet, but of course the creation is misunderstood by the neighbors. I was a bit unsure about the story when I was younger, but I gave it a go again once I was older and watched the whole thing and found it to be excellent as long as you watch the entire movie.

Tomorrow: 2 Days to Halloween, Halloween Black and White Classics


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Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is an example of a rare case where the movie is very different from the book in some key ways, but both are insanely good.  What they do have in common is the main premise — the excitement of being young and looking for affection and great music — without the usual corniness of Hollywood.

Nick is the only straight member of a queercore band.  He has just been dumped by his girlfriend Tris, and by dumped I mean crushed into a squirming pulp of emo boy.

Norah would do anything to avoid talking to Tris and has been trying to get over her quasi-ex-boyfriend Tal, so, when Nick asks her if she will be his girlfriend for 5 minutes she plays along (in the movie Norah makes the first move).  This first kiss soon leads to a night of falling in and out of love, laughter, angst, and of course music that captures the frantic energy of this night (also heightened by being in NYC). If you are not young, it will make you wish you were again.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist book

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: book

Nick and Norah are straight-edge (label or not). However, I would be remise not to point out that there are many references to underage drinking and sex, but it is a story about teenage love after-all.

The book, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, switches back and forth between the title characters’ points of view (a chapter at a time). Unlike the pair’s “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List,” which takes a similar approach, but fails miserably, this technique in “Nick and Norah” allows the reader to have a sense of intimacy with the characters and avoids it becoming a book that only one gender will enjoy (the “No Kiss List” is a sad disappointment in contrast). This back and forth is especially effective in the sexy scene later on in the book (no spoilers from me!). I will say that while both book and movie have versions of this…um… climactic scene, the book is much more saucy (see it pays to read kids!).

The movie has a wonderful cast that infuse the script with humor (including a running joke about a piece of gum…trust me). While clearly Michael Cera and Kat Dennings shine in the lead roles, it is also the supporting cast that make this film a must have. In the book Tris is more relatable, but movie Tris (Alexis Dziena) is deliciously hate-able. The book shows her in more of a humanized way. Speaking of humanized characters, one of the shining points to both reincarnations are the gay characters. Instead of being token, they are just characters (key characters). Their sexuality is obvious, but not anymore-so than the straight characters. Rafi Gavron (Dev), Aaron Yoo (Thom), and Jonathan B. Wright (Beefy Guy) are fantastic (and not too bad to look at either). Despite her troubles throughout, Caroline (Ari Graynor) also still manages to look smoking hot…most of the time. Her comedic instincts took the film to another level. Jay Baruchel is convincing as Norah’s ex. All I have to say is Tal “brings the Jew fire” and I can totally see where Norah was coming from dating him.

The movie rocks — as evident by the soundtrack that features artists like Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists, and Bishop Allen. I would also suggest purchasing the soundtrack. It is a fantastic trio of materials for a YA collection.

Check out extras and read the first chapter of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan at:

  • http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/nickandnorah
  • Then watch the trailer, make a playlist, and search NYC for Where’s Fluffy at:

  • http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/nickandnorah
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