Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recent Movie Notes 

First, a recommendation for a very limited release arthouse film called The Nines (IMDB entry), which opened Labor Day Weekend in LA and NY only, but got front-page reviews in both cities' major newspapers and so attracted my attention. It's a three-part film, directed and written by John August (who wrote the somewhat similarly structured 1999 film Go), starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy (in extraordinary performances) in three inter-related stories about actors, screenwriters, and video-game designers whose lives tell or include the stories of the other stories, with a conclusion (of sorts) that amounts to the film being the most metaphysically religious SF film since 2001 -- sorta, in a way; I don't want to oversell it. It's opening in Austin the end of this month, and I've alerted Locus Online's crack reviewing team Howard & Lawrence, but whether they get around to seeing it, or liking it, or actually submitting a review, I have no way of guaranteeing.

Second, I endorse the current release The Bourne Ultimatum, a dazzling spy thriller, one of those films that as you're seeing it impresses you as being surely the best film of its type ever released, even if afterward you can't quite piece together all the plot threads. (But at the time, every scene seems perfectly clear...)

And third, just today I saw David Cronenberg's latest film, Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen (who also starred in Cronenberg's previous film, The History of Violence) and Naomi Watts, in a complex and subtle (one or two excruciatingly violent scenes aside, including the much-discussed 4-minute knife fight in a Russian bath house with Viggo in the nude) drama about the Russian mafia in London and the hospital mid-wife who delivers the baby of one of its victims. The coolest part of seeing the film was seeing it at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood -- a state-of-the-art multiplex with ushers, assigned seating, and *no commercials*, built around the famous Cinerama Dome -- which seems to have become the prestige theater for new releases in LA. To wit-- the lobby today had a display of costumes and props from the film, including Naomi's motorcycle outfit and 3 versions of the prop diary whose translation is a key plot point.

Fourth, I was perusing the upcoming film schedule and noticed the Will Smith version of I Am Legend -- whose trailer I've already seen at least once -- based on a book I hadn't read, and whose previous film versions I hadn't seen. So... Did I have a copy of the book? Why, yes I did -- a 1979 Berkley paperback, in fact, sitting on my shelves all these years, unread. So when I should have been reading other things this past week, or catching up on e-mail and posting updates the site, I read through Richard Matheson's short novel, and finally understood what the title means. And then I Netflixed The Omega Man, the Charlton Heston "cult film" (according to various descriptions) based on the novel, from 1971, and watched that. I can only report the extraordinary lack of fidelity between the film and source novel (not that I was surprised), though the scenes at the beginning of Charlton screeching his cars through a deserted downtown LA were cool. After that, the film was unbearably cheesey, especially the the music, vaguely militaristic and recognizably pre-disco, overlaid at random, it seemed, regardless of the dramatic significance of any particular scene. About the white makeup and black hoods of the 'family', nothing need be said...

Except that I was impressed by Matheson's original novel -- which explicitly calls victims of the plague vampires, and goes to a considerable extent to rationalize the idea of vampires, the historical plagues that might be attributed to them, in scientific terms. Of course, none of that was evident in the 1971 film. I wonder what the Will Smith version will do...

Rambling as I watch the Emmys. But I should wrap up; there seems to be some breaking news...
As for Will Smith's "I am Legend" I think question is, will it be based on the original book or on the previous film versions?

And of course the burning question: Who will write the novelization of the film (insert snark here)

Michael Walsh
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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