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Posted on August 5th, 2008 by admin | Leave a Comment (1)
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This blockbuster was actually based on a short 50’s sci fi novel by cult writer Richard Matheson, which has been adapted to film three times now, though upon comparison you may never have known.

The Book:
A great, quick little novel that puts a unique spin on the age old vampire story. In Richard Matheson’s world, vampires are the product of a virus that’s been around for centuries, spawning all the myths and fables. The virus experiences a surge in its spread, aided by the fall out from a nuclear war, and seizes the entire population, save for Robert Neville, a lowly office drone who becomes the “last man on earth.” Every day he searches for supplies and survivors, every night he sits in his house, listening to the vampires calling out to him, beckoning him to come out. Neville begins to study the virus, taking blood samples from test subjects during the day when the vampires are comatose, and seeks a cure. The inner dialogue is key in this novel and Matheson writes Neville with a great familiarity. His burning sexual desire is that of a man who hasn’t touched a woman in 3 years and his curious will to live, despite the deterioration of the world around him, is uplifting as the reader roots for him to make it home before sunset each night. The novel captures human nature in such an interesting setting, as Neville teaches himself how to be a scientist and learns everything he can about the virus infesting the Earth’s population, because he believes he is the only one out there who can. I found Neville so relatable and interesting, as he tests and debunks old vampire myths (the garlic works, the mirrors do not, and the crosses only work on those who were Christian when they were alive…a Jewish vampire cowers from the Torah!) and rids the surrounding area of vampires once he finds out he doesn’t need stakes to kill them and can simply drag their bodies into the daylight. Eventually he comes upon a dog without the virus which gives him hope that there may be others out there. His plight comes to an end in the form of a woman named Ruth, whom he finds walking in the sun during daylight hours. At the end of the book, he is a legend that will go down in history, though in a completely different way then how it is portrayed in the film.

The Movie:
It is ironic that this is the third incarnation of this book on film, yet the first one to use the book’s title, since the title is nearly the only thing the book and film have in common. There is the main character still, Robert Neville, who seeks a cure to the virus that has spawned what he calls “The Dark Seekers.” Neville spends his days driving around the deserted Big Apple with his German Shepard Sam, conversing with mannequins that he has set up all over town (presumably to keep his sanity somewhat intact, though he looks a bit crazy eyeing up the mannequin in the video store every day and never getting up the courage to speak to her), and experimenting on test subjects to no avail. He also waits by the Brooklyn Bridge every day at noon to see if anyone will answer his distress broadcast. By night, he sits in his bathtub with his gun and Sam, hoping that the “dark seekers” will never discover where he lives. When one day he falls into a trap, he spirals into an angry rampage against the dark seekers that leads him to meet Anna and Ethan, a mother and son who have been beckoned to New York by his broadcast. During the last half of the film, the quiet, solitary life we have seen Neville lead turns into an action-packed crusade to find a cure and avoid the “dark seekers.”

What’s Missing:
One of my favorite parts of the book, the character Ben Cortman, a once dull neighbor who has turned into a rather clever vampire whom Neville often finds amusing, is completely gone from the film, replaced by a nameless “dark seeker” leader. Another great part of the book, where Neville figures out what vampire myths work and don’t work by trial and error is gone since the movie never refers to the infected as vampires. Finally, in the book there are two different kinds of infected people- those who were alive when they were infected and turned into vampires, and those who died, and then were reanimated by the virus. This difference becomes very significant in the book, but simply doesn’t exist in the film.

What’s New:
The movie takes place in New York, the book in Los Angeles. The virus was spread by nuclear aftermath in the book, and by a cure for cancer in the movie (explained by Emma Thompson, in a really random cameo). Neville is conveniently a scientist in the film, whereas in the book he has to teach himself science and biology in order to start seeking a cure. Sam the German Shephard was Neville’s dog before the virus hit in the film, and in the book he simply comes upon an unaffected dog one day. Neville’s past and family differ greatly from the book to the film. There is no mention of vampires in the film, and the “dark seekers” don’t go comatose during the day, they simply hide in dark places and are just as deadly. There are a thousand other differences, but most notably the second half, at the point where Neville meets the woman (in the film’s case it’s Anna and her son Ethan, in the book’s case it’s Ruth), things change drastically. The biggest difference, perhaps, is the reason why Neville “is legend,” as the title suggests. This change affects how each version ends; the book being a far more eerie and poetic ending, while the film opts to take the Hollywood route.

Overall Adaptation:
If I hadn’t read the book at all, then I may have enjoyed the film a little more. Will Smith has certainly proven himself as the type of actor who can hold his own for an hour of just him and a dog. And while the end turns a bit towards mindless, jump-out-at-you, action, the first hour or so of the film is pretty engaging. However, having read the book first, I was annoyed by how little justice the film did to it. Why bother taking the title if you’re going to take just one element of the plot, one surviving man against a virus who seeks a cure, and change everything else? I’d love to see a film that honored this book, as it is a truly wonderful story, but this is not that film.

 

I love Sin City and I love Frank Miller’s comics, but I’m still not sold on The Spirit. It really irritates me when people talk about “Frank Miller movies” and his “film style” when they fail to realize that he has no style yet. Sin City was only co-directed by Miller; the actual directing was done by Robert Rodriguez. He brought Miller on as a co-director in order to preserve the style of the comic books. Miller had previously never allowed his work to be filmed, but when Rodriguez offered him co-director credit and an opportunity to be on the set to be certain that Rodriguez wasn’t screwing up his work, he agreed to let him make Sin City. Miller had little to no part in the actual directing of the film and the style is literally his comic book brought to life.

Photo by Phasekitty.

The Spirit is Frank Miller’s actual first film, as he is directing someone else’s material in his first solo effort. So far, it all looks like a cheap Sin City to me, as though he hasn’t actually developed his own style and is simply aiming for the praise that Sin City earned. I’m nowhere near being sold on The Spirit yet, especially since there’s just no reason to give it that Sin City style. I will give Frank this though, this is the third Comic-Con I’ve seen him speak at and this was the most vocal I’ve ever seen him. He’s normally very quiet and introverted during panels with short answers, yet he seemed very enthused to show some Spirit footage for us. He brought out some of his cast: Gabriel Macht (The Spirit himself), Jamie King (Lorelei Rox), and Samuel L. Jackson (The Octopus) and showed us various clips from the film.

The first clip showed The Spirit with one of his many women, Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson) as they have an intimate conversation. The second clip was prefaced with a long explanation of this new technology that they used in order for the actors to look like they were underwater though they actually weren’t…however it didn’t look to me as though they were underwater at all. The clip showed Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) looking for something in a lake when The Octopus shows up. The final clip was a campy fight sequence between The Octopus and The Spirit, and the closest thing to the actual source material.

The problem with all these clips was that they all looked like they were from different films. The first conversation appeared out of a 50’s noir flick, the second underwater sequence out of a cheesy sci fi flick with bad effects, and the third appeared to be a campy super hero flick, which is what I think the rest of the film should look like. It all makes me just a little nervous that Miller’s trying to do too much in his first outing. If anything though, it certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself.

Photo by Phasekitty.

I started off my panels at Comic-con with the Fox panel which promised both Keanu Reeves and Mark Wahlberg, and then threw a cherry on top with a surprise visit from Hugh Jackman! Keep reading for a rundown of the 20th Century Fox Panel.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Director Scott Derickson came out with cast members Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Keanu talked about what it’s like to play an emotionless alien (heh) and Derickson talked about modifying, but still doing justice to the original 1951 film. They assured us that there would be a Gort (though there previously hadn’t been a sign of him in the released footage), but they had taken liberties in updating the space ship. To be honest I can’t get on board with this film. The original is a classic and there was more violence in the three clips they showed during the panel than the entire original film.

Max Payne
This movie looks like it’ll be this year’s Shoot Em Up. It’s got intense and stunning action, but with a little tongue in cheek. I’m not quite sure where the demons fit in (I guess I didn’t get that far in the video game), but Mila Kunis is hot and Mark Wahlberg makes an awesome Max Payne. The film looks like it’s shot very uniquely and they mentioned that they were implementing technology of a new-to-the-industry slow motion camera called Phantom to recreate the “bullet time” of the video game. Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis and Ludacris were all there to talk about the film. Whalberg was really funny, but was also majorly into the self promotion. I think he mentioned every single film he’s been in during that panel throughout different stories and references.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Everyone was getting up to leave the panel when…surprise! Hugh Jackman came bounding out onto the stage saying he literally just stepped off a plane from Australia. They’d just wrapped Wolverine, and he’d walked off the set with a handful of footage and hopped on a flight to Comic-con. Before he showed it, Jackman hopped off the stage, high fiving the crowd as he made his way through to shake the hand of Len Wein, creator of Wolverine, for starting his career. Jackman seems so humble, gracious, and like an all around awesome guy. He was so enthusiastic about the film and he really built the crowd up. Then he showed some amazing footage that gave us a great look at the Wolverine/Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber) relationship, as well as a glimpse of other mutants in the flick such as the Blob, Deadpool, and Gambit. The crowd went absolutely nuts for it.

At this years San Diego Comic-Con, Summit Entertainment showcased three upcoming films in their panel; Push, Knowing and the highly anticipated Twilight. Keep reading to find out what was revealed.

Photo by Phasekitty

Push

They started off their panel with a trailer for a film called Push, about those with super powers that live amongst us. They brought out cast members Chris Evans, Camille Bella, and Djimon Honsou, plus director Le to talk about the film and show some more clips. Poor little Dakota Fanning was stuck in a massive traffic jam on the I-5 and couldn’t make it to the panel, but in the first clip we were all able to see how much she’s grown up in an action sequence with herself and Chris Evans running from the villains of the film. She plays a “watcher” (those that can see the future), while Evans plays a “mover” (telekenetic) and Camille Bella and Djimon Honsou are “pushers” (those who can put thoughts into others heads). The problem with this film was that Comic-con should be its target audience, yet the crowd didn’t seem too enthused, myself included.

Knowing

Here’s the next Nic Cage flop a la Next, amongst others. The concept is actually pretty spooky: a code is unearthed through a school time capsule that predicts every disaster and the death toll that will accompany it. These disasters seem to follow Nic Cage around as he goes crazy cracking the code. They showed the trailer and the director came out to discuss it a bit, but all in all it looked pretty forgettable.

Twilight

I didn’t know what a “Twilighter” was until a few weeks ago when I read an article in Entertainment Weekly. Despite this, there was no amount of reading that I could have done to prepare me for this panel. I had seen young girls in “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” t-shirts standing in line that morning (and the night before for that matter), but the deafening screams that came from the crowd when this came onto the screen were absolutely insane:

I’ve had Twilight sitting on my bookshelf for a few months now and have been putting off reading it until the movie gets closer. I knew it was popular, and it seems like I’ll love it, but I had no idea that there was such a gigantic following of young girls. This was something Comic-con has never seen before. The girl to guy ratio at this panel was at least 5:1. The Q&A attracted shaking 12 year olds walking up to the mic and professing their love for Stephanie Meyer and the hunky Robert Pattinson who plays the impossibly beautiful vampire Edward. The panel consisted of director Catherine Hardwick, author Stephanie Meyer, and actors Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward), Cam Gigandet (James), Rachelle Lefevre (Victoria), Edi Gathegi (Laurent), and Taylor Lautner (Jacob). Every time Robert Pattinson came on the screen, tried to speak, or was addressed, the crowd erupted in girlish screams and shrieks. The poor guy couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He was a far cry from Cedric Diggory, with his spiky gelled hair, seriously fanglike teeth (which is funny because supposedly Twilight’s vampires don’t have fangs), and spacey attitude. Kristen Stewart was cute, punky, and incredibly nervous and intimidated by the crowd. They showed a clip of a fight sequence between Edward and James with Bella and it looked incredible. It looks like this film will both please the fans and be easy for the non readers to watch as well.

Just before the panel ended, the mod announced that someone just wanted to say hello. Little (or not so little anymore) Dakota Fanning came out and graciously thanked the audience for coming to see the Push panel and apologized profusely for being stuck in traffic and not being able to attend the panel. She was such a cutie.

I’m assuming everyone’s seen this and if you haven’t, you should watch it at least 3 times. Watchmen is more than just a graphic novel, it changed the face of comics by proving that something mind blowing, intelligent, and meaningful can come out of the medium. Until Watchmen, the general population assumed comic books were for children; exclusive to tales of super heroes and monsters. Then Alan Moore came along with his critically acclaimed, award winning graphic novel that changed everything.

Photo by Phasekitty.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maybe you should brace yourself, because most people will hate what I have to say…

The Book:
Hugely popular and considered one of the best books of 2006, this is the story of Amir, who witnesses something horrific happen to his best friend, Hassan, and does nothing, then tries to redeem himself by returning to Afghanistan many years later to help Hassan’s son. I know that I’m hugely in the minority here when I say that I really disliked this book. But hear me out for a second. It’s a riveting story and it’s great for those who are looking for a quick and easy read (easy like it flows well, but that won’t make it any easier to stomach the material). However, I got to a point about halfway through the book where I became annoyed with how many things were going wrong. I don’t want to spoil it for the few people out there who have yet to read this, but everything was just too coincidental, too horrifying for the sake of being horrifying. It’s written to pick you up with glorifying images, then knock you down with a traumatic incident, then pick you back up…and knock you down again, over, and over, and over. I realize that there are many hardships to those in Afghanistan and that traumatic events happen every day to children and adults alike over there, but everything in this book happening to one person is just too depressing to be real. For example (this is by no means a spoiler), Amir meets with someone in the embassy at one point to travel back to America and that person is rather short and rude to him. On his way out, he says “Your boss could use some manners” to the secretary, and she replies back with, “Yes, he hasn’t been the same since his daughter killed herself.” Really? Seriously? Why did that have to be so shocking!? Why can’t this character, who literally exists in all of 3 or 4 pages of the book, just be a crabby guy? Does he have to have such a tragic background? He can’t just be in a bad mood? Apparently not. And that’s why I hated this book, because about halfway through I got sick of everything being so damn sad and started laughing at the ridiculous circumstances that make it this way. This book has a great story in there, if you just subtract some of the bad coincidences and give it a reality check. However, it seems as though it was written to be a Hollywood film, complete with twists and tragic turns and in my opinion, that is no way to write the sad story of two Afghani boys.

 

The Movie:
The movie captured a lot of the book, in both beautiful and haunting images, yet something felt as though it was missing. While the book is twisty and tragic, the film is all off on the deliverance. When it reveals the book’s biggest twist, it’s a fact that’s simply stated to Amir and takes just moments for him to accept. It relies too much on the audience to fill in the emotional blanks, and I just couldn’t do it. Even the few parts that choked me up in the book did nothing for me on film. I did enjoy the kite flying and racing competitions. As silly as it may sound, the sound effect that accompanied the cutting down of kites was really neat. I never realized that the point of flying kites was to cut down other ones (personally I would have been pissed if someone did that to my kite when I was a kid), but to see it executed on film was pretty cool. Other than that, I really had a hard time enjoying this film and it wasn’t because it was so sad to watch (though it is), it was because it was lacking any engaging performances or plot lines.

What’s Missing:
The film manages to cram a lot of the book’s material into it, but of course there are some losses. We don’t get much of Ali, Hassan’s father and the missing mothers are cut out altogether (most noticeably Hassan’s gypsy mother who reappears in the book). When Amir arrives in Pakistan, there is less of him and Rahim Khan and no fake American family living in Pakistan taking in orphans. There’s a lot less of Farid, the driver who takes Amir from Pakistan to Afghanistan and we don’t meet his family at all. There’s no embassy issues, no hospital stays, and finally, the most notable absence is the last tragic event of the book that befalls Amir and Sohrab.

What’s New:
Not a lot. The film is almost a direct adaptation that cuts characters and plot lines out, but never adds to it. Even most of the dialogue is ripped directly from the pages of the book.

Overall Adaptation:
I didn’t like the book, and therefore liked the film even less. While I can see how the book would be very emotional to some, the film felt like it lacked that heart. They were just going through the motions of adapting this tragic story, rather than embracing it and making it their own. There are cases when a direct adaptation is not necessarily a good thing, and I believe this is one of them.

Okay, commence the insults because I know they’re coming. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like the book, so I imagine all the ones who love it will be a bit upset by this review. But bear in mind, I’m in no way belittling the hardships that have fallen on those who still live in Afghanistan or have managed to escape. I know that it’s not easy, and these tragic things happen every day, but this book just does it too neatly for me to truly believe it. I’m generally against the norm in my opinion, and this is no different.

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