Some books are classics, but in the modern era they serve better as blue prints for adaptations. Louisa May Alcott’s 1869 novel Little Women is a landmark novel, but to the eyes of today it is fragmented, moralistic, and bigoted against the Irish. In her own version of Little Women, writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) takes most of the greatest elements of the novel — and at least part of one of the dumbest — and fashions them into something vibrant and new.
It is true that cars used to be more aesthetically pleasing than they are now, but equally true that they would kill you for even so much as thinking about getting behind the wheel. Ford v Ferrari, known internationally as Le Mans ’66, hearkens back to a golden age of engineering, when the most important thing an American man could do was make a car that could go for 24 hours without exploding to stick it to the Italians. It’s a simple concept and a simple film, but Ford v Ferrari brings such talent to bear that it’s never far off exhilaration.
The Shining is one of the most iconic films of all time, in horror or any other genre. It is also iconic for how much Stephen King hates it, to the extent that he eventually had to sign a document to the effect that he would no longer publicly excoriate it. But The Shining was only King’s third novel; Doctor Sleep, which would come thirty-six years later, was his 52nd. In 2019, nearly every movie and TV show is based on a Stephen King property, and it is safe to say that he has more clout than he did in 1980. The main thing about King’s The Shining versus Kubrick’s is that they had completely different priorities and, despite their commonalities, they told different stories.
Along comes writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan’s (The Haunting of Hill House) Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, which acts to bridge the gap: it is a sequel to both the book and the film of The Shining. It does well when it sticks to King and flounders a little bit when it comes to Kubrick, but it is a daring film, and more striking than almost any other recent King project this side of TV’s Castle Rock.
It has been only four years since the Terminator series tried a new direction with the under-appreciated but terribly named Terminator: Genisys. 2019 brings Terminator: Dark Fate, a film that fashions itself as the new third Terminator film. In a series that is so heavily predicated on time travel and timelines, production can create any continuity that they want and get away with it. The main point of difference for Terminator: Dark Fate is that Linda Hamilton (Curvature) and producer James Cameron (Alita: Battle Angel) are back in harness for the first time since 1991, but it is never more ambitious than that.
The current vogue in many films, and not just horror, is how evil the super rich are. Despite the numbers these movies do, the super rich still haven’t got the memo. Ready or Not is your classic girl falls in love with a rich boy, rich boy’s family attempts to murder girl story. Timeless. Ready or Not is well executed, tense but with a sense of humour, and blood. Gallons of blood. All over the camera lens.
There have been enough Stephen King adaptations in recent years that the man doesn’t need to be introduced anymore. It, the second longest of his 61 novels to date, performed remarkably well in its secretly titled Chapter One instalment of 2017. Two years later, the Loser kids are back, they’ve brought their adult counterparts with them, their film is 34 whole minutes longer, and everything is like a well worn pair of slippers.
In 1994, the animators working on The Lion King thought that they were toiling in obscurity on a movie that no one was going to see. They lived in jealousy of the Pocahontas crew, who they thought were on to the big thing. The Lion King, of course, went on to become a massive hit, breaking VHS sales records and making literally billions of dollars through ancillary properties. Pocahontas was considerably less successful, although at least two of its songs are all time greats in the Disney canon.
It is hard to conceive that Spider-Man, one of the biggest heroes in the world, was once not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now that Peter Parker is an integral member of the pantheon and the MCU is one of the most lucrative franchises at the global box office, it feels natural. Spider-Man: Far From Home officially closes out the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a sort of epilogue. It’s a fun movie, but most importantly it understands what makes its hero work.
The super rich are better than everyone else. It goes without saying. Writer director Bong Joon-ho (Okja) has different ideas, however: perhaps blind worship of the upper echelons at the expense of our fellow man is not the way that society should work. It’s just an idea he’s throwing out there. In Parasite, Bong looks like he might be turning out a Trading Places kind of caper, but there are darker forces at play. Bong has put out a very politely worded letter asking that critics not reveal too much of its inner workings. He was nice enough about it, and so batrock.net will do its best to honour his request.
A movie’s concept means nothing without execution. The dumbest ideas can become strongest films, and something that sounds amazing on paper can fizzle out on the screen. There’s a third combination: a dubious idea can become an incredibly dubious film. Cue Yesterday: a man wakes up from a coma into a world where the Beatles never existed, but almost everything else is the same. Any drama that springs from this idea is contrived at best, and there’s no twist to be seen.