On this week’s episode, I’m carrying on with It’s All Connected Part 3! If you want to see where I went after the first and second episodes, you’re in luck! This latest batch finishes up my Mike Flanagan run, digs into the wild world of Stephen King adaptations and takes a few tangents in all the best ways!
I really dug Coraline even though I fell asleep for a few minutes towards the end which was a bummer because I missed part of the ending, but I got the gist of it, so didn’t go back and rewatch it. The movie is based on a Neil Gaiman novel that I haven’t read yet, but I’m a huge fan of his work on Sandman and his other novels like American Gods, Good Omens, Neverwhere and his short story collection Smoke And Mirrors. The movie version is a stop-motion animated flick directed by Henry Selick who also did The Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie that I seem to be the only one in the world who isn’t absolutely in love with.
The story revolves around the titular character who just moved into a new house that is broken up into four apartments. Her parents are jerks wrapped up in their work (kind of a terrifying look at a potential future for someone who spends all day working at home on a computer), so wanders around exploring the house and talking to the other tenants. Eventually she finds a door that was wallpapered over that leads to a mirror universe where everything’s pretty much the same, except better and the people have creepy button eyes. As you might expect, things aren’t as great as they look and the fantastic world turns quickly into a crap hole.
Well, quickly’s not the best word. The movie’s about an hour and forty minutes which according to the IMDb Trivia page makes it the longest stop motion movie of all time. I’d say it could probably use to lose about 10 minutes to make things a little snappier and more taut. As it is, it crawls along at times which probably is what put me to sleep. A lot comes out towards the end that could have been seeded earlier throughout the movie (like the ghost kids), but overall it was a pretty good view. Maybe I’ll give it another view when I’m feeling less sleepy.
The DC Universe Animated movies are amazing. I’ve seen Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman which I really dug, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and New Frontier which was okay and then Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Gotham Knight which sucked. I’d firmly place Justice League Crisis On Two Earths in the higher echelon of the the flicks. IMDb’s Trivia page for the movie tells me that this was originally written as a bridge movie between the Justice League and JLU series, which explains why it’s the core seven Leaguers (though Hal takes John Stewart’s spot and Martian Manhunter has his old new look) and why they’re repairing the satellite and seem short handed for no apparent reason. This JLA gets put in direct conflict with Earth-2’s Crime Society which gave us pretty cool bad guy versions of random heroes like Vibe and Halo.
The story’s pretty solid, but like with JL and JLU, the fights really take center stage and there are some real doozies that made me actually set my computer down and pay attention which is no small feat. My only problem with this movie, which was also one of my problems with Superman: Doomsday is that when the characters look so much like the cartoon versions I want them to sound like the cartoon versions. Frankly I thought Superman and Batman sounded pretty lame in this one played by Billy Bladwin and Mark Harmon. James Woods as Owlman was solid though.
Unfortunately, I saw this on Netflix which means I didn’t get to see the Spectre short which is a bummer because I’m excited they started doing that. Maybe I’ll put it on the actual queue just to watch that. Next up is Red Hood which came out today so I’m jazzed about that to see if the good streak will continue.
There were two reasons I checked out Stephen King’s anthology horror flick Cat’s Eye. First off, this horror magazine I read called HorrorHound wrote about it in their latest issue which was anthology themed. A quick note on HH before moving on. I love this mag, but the lack of editing drives me CRAZY. As an editor myself and a big fan of upstart magazines (that’s definitely not an easy mountain to climb right now), I want the writing to be as crisp and consistent as possible to it won’t turn off people like me who are driven crazy by such things. As an example, depending on what kind of style guide you use, you either italicize a movie title or put it in quotes. Sometimes they italicize, sometimes they do quotes and sometimes they do both! I don’t know if this bothers you normal folks, but it bugs me. I guess it’s not all that bad because I’m still reading it, but I’d love to create a style guide for them.
The other reason I checked Cat’s Eye out is because Rickey thought that it might be the mini monster movie I remember from my childhood, but still haven’t been able to track down. And that lack of success has continued with Cat’s Eye even though it does have a gremlin monster of some kind and the bouncing ball. But, I had a blast watching it so who cares?
So did my cat Milo. Before getting into the movie review, here’s a few pics I took of him watching the cat (the connector of the three stories) run away from a dog. He loves watching animals on TV.
So, the three stories are like this. First, James Woods joins this crazy-strict mob-run program that helps you quit smoking on the threat of harm to your loved ones. It’s over the top and has great moments of dark humor and I didn’t see the end coming. The second story focuses on a rich guy torturing the guy who plans to run away with the rich guy’s wife by making him walk around the outside of a skyscraper. And the final, my personal favorite, brings the cat into the hero role as he defends a little girl (Drew Barrymore) from a mini monster, even though her mom swears the cat is causing all the problems.
What I like best about the final segment is the practical effects they used to convey the mini monster running around Barrymore’s bedroom. I didn’t see any behind-the-scenes stuff, but it looks like the dressed a regular dude up in the costume and then put him in a room where everything was built huge to make him look tiny. Just think about how much fun that would be? I would love to do something like that. The whole idea made me smile every time they showed those scenes. Here’s a video of the scene. If you’re worried about spoilers you might want to skip it, but if you think anyone, even Stephen King would kill Drew Barrymore, you’re nuts. Just saying.
Aside from the FX, though, all three stories are really solid and fun while still feeling scary. They play out like EC horror stories, which I love in all their non-comic forms (the few I’ve read, read really slow to me, but the art is awesome). So, I may not have found my mini monster, but I checked another movie off in my copy of Creature Features book
So, remember when I said that I didn’t read books too often? Well, after finishing Slam I looked at the growing stack of novels I have next to my bed and picked one kind of at random. It was Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides (1993). Someone had put it on the free table at work and I snatched it up, not really knowing anything about it.
So I started reading it and was hooked instantly. It only took me about three dedicated days of reading to get through it (so about a week, real time) and it was one of the most moving, ghostly reading experiences I’ve ever had. The story follows the Lisbon Family as all five of the daughters kill themselves over the span of a year, the first of which Cecilia, predates her sisters by a full year. What really grabbed me about the telling of the tale was that the narrator speaks in the “we” and comes from the point of view of one of the boys in the neighborhood who fell in a sort of love with the girls and desperately wanted to help them. After they killed themselves, the boys spend the rest of their lives (at least to the point we find them in the book), trying to figure out why these five young women took their lives.
Another element of the book that got me was the way that Eugenides packed each page with so many characters, either actually involved in the story or just mentioned by name. Almost all of them seem incidental at first, but come back into play later on. The great thing about it, though, is that I never felt lost. Maybe I didn’t take much stock in such casually mentioned characters, but they all came back in one way or another, which really makes the reader feel like a part of these boys’ (and later mens’) club of failed avenging heroes.
The sense of not being able to penetrate another person is one that I’ve often thought about. Even the girls’ own father who lived under the same roof as them had no idea what was going through their heads as they planned an elaborate suicide plan that involved a number of the neighborhood boys. No matter how hard you try to decode someone’s thoughts and actions, you just can’t get inside their heads. The best you can do is gather accounts to try and put the puzzle together.
Sophia Coppola’s adaptation (1999) is pretty faithful to the book, but not necessarily to the version in my brain. But I think a lot of that comes from the basic differences between books and movies. For instance, in the book, you don’t really get a sense of the girls as individuals until the narrator does which is well into the book. Of course, in a movie, you can obviously see the differences. Though, I do have to give props to the casting folks for making the non Kirsten Dunst sisters all look pretty similar and easily confused.
Aside from Dunst who nails the promiscuous and evocative Lux to a T, the casting didn’t quite do it for me. I didn’t get the same feel from Kathleen Turner’s mother character as I did in the book, even though she looks almost exactly like how I pictured her. The way its conveyed in the book, it’s hard to not feel like she’s majorly to blame for the girls’ suicides. Again, I’m thinking this is because we actually see her reactions to things like her first daughter’s suicide.
I was really most curious to see how Coppola and Co. handled the first person plural narrator of the book in the film (he always uses “we” and never deviates). She got Giovanni Ribisi, an actor I’ve liked since I randomly rented Suburbia at the age of 16 and developed a pretty deep man crush on. Anyway, he does a great job, but isn’t utilized enough to really set the same tone as the book. The lack of entrenchment along with the neighborhood boys leads to more focus on the girls, which almost completely removes the element of being an outsider looking in on them which is central to the novel. Heck, it’s hard to be an outsider when you’re right in their living room as they play Chinese checkers and watch wildlife shows.
One of the downsides to watching such a faithful adaptation so soon after reading the book (I finished it Saturday in between and after errands I didn’t want to run) is that you know when everything’s coming and what’s going to happen. I didn’t feel that way watching Virgin Suicides. I was mostly curious to see how Coppola translated such an artfully crafted novel onto the screen. And kudos to her for doing such a great job. The movie never lags (it’s just over an hour and a half) and, while you’re nowhere near as firmly entrenched with the neighborhood kids as you are in the book, you still develop an attachment for these girls and desperately want to help them, even though it’s a forgone conclusion from about the second line of the script that they’re not going to make it.
All in all, I enjoyed both works, though obviously I liked the book better. I can’t recommend the book enough to people. Heck, if it only took me a few days to read, you should be able to get through it quickly. But, if books aren’t your thing, I also give the movie my thumb’s up.