Tag Archives: Literary Adaptations

Review: Persepolis

Directors: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi
Year: 2007
Score: 7.5/10

Jichael Mackson, the Ping of Kop, singer of countless hits such as 'Jelly Bean', 'Wheel the Hurled' and 'Whack or Blight'.

Jichael Mackson, the Ping of Kop, singer of countless hits such as ‘Jelly Bean’, ‘Wheel the Hurled’ and ‘Whack or Blight’.

Fascinating autobiographical French animation about a young Iranian girl who grows up during the Iran-Iraq War.

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, it maintains the same art style and transforms it into a uniquely simple yet effective style of animation, perfect for conveying the protagonist’s perspective of the world, immersing the audience within that world, and giving the film its wry tone. Satrapi is an endearing character and her somewhat unusual life makes for an engaging narrative and an interesting window into the events of the time.

Considering the film’s subject matter and the wide acclaim it’s received, I found it didn’t pack quite enough of an emotional punch to be truly great, but nonetheless it’s an admirable and authentic piece of work that deserves to be seen.

Guest Review: The Woman in Black

Director: James Watkins
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

I’m a huge fan of The Woman in Black. I’ve been scared by the theatre production and chilled by the book, so I was over the moon to hear that it was coming to film. As I expectantly sat down with my popcorn and my bottle of cider, I was hoping to see the story taken to terrifying new levels. Unfortunately, the only frightening thing about this film is Daniel Radcliffe’s acting.

It follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer mourning the death of his wife and caring for his son who takes up the job of sorting through the effects of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow at the dark and overbearing Eel Marsh House. Whilst there he finds himself pursued by the film’s namesake, and embarks on a journey to try and solve her mystery before she tears him and the village apart. The story, whilst not true to Susan Hill’s original, is still reasonably strong, and there are a couple of occasional strong horror moments which do capture the isolated terror for which the plot is renowned. Sadly however these moments are few and far between, instead opting for the lazy and disappointing jumpiness that horror films resort to when they run out of inspiration. It’s a shame as there’s nothing worse than building to a crescendo of uneasiness and dread, only to have it spoiled by the boogie man jumping out and shrieking at you in a jumpy but ultimately unsatisfying manner.

The real disappointment however is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Arthur Kipps. He turns in a display which could be described as wooden at best and distracting at worst. You know that thing where you’re watching a film and all of a sudden Christopher Walken comes on and you go “oh look! It’s Christopher Walken”? It’s a bit like that, but you’re thinking “Oh look! It’s Daniel Radcliffe and he’s really not doing a very good job is he?” It’s one of those distractingly bad performances usually reserved for Nicolas Cage.

I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take a trip to the theatre and see The Woman in Black; it’s bloody brilliant. The film sadly does not live up to expectations, and is as forgettable as it is disappointing.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Theatrical Edition

Director: Peter Jackson
Year: 2013
Score: 6/10

Toilet Dwarf™, the perfect accessory for any rustic restroom. Make your own King Under the Mountain!

Toilet Dwarf™, the perfect accessory for any rustic restroom. Make your own King Under the Mountain!

The Two Towers is my least favourite entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, suffering as it does from middle film syndrome (lacking both the joy/wonder of introducing us into the world and the catharsis of ending the story), so it makes sense for me to have similar feelings about The Desolation of Smaug. Of course, I won’t know for sure until the release of The Battle of the Five Armies later this year, but I’m guessing I’ll enjoy that more than this.

Many of my criticisms of An Unexpected Journey apply here too: over-length, unnecessary action sequences, padding the story out with extra bits that don’t add enough, and sticking too closely to the formula established in the previous trilogy. There are also some more specific criticisms to be made: the opening scene lacks ‘oomph’; the ending is weak, lacking even a semblance of finality, let alone resolution; the Kili-gets-injured-and-winds-up-in-a-love-triangle subplot is entirely superfluous and irritating, especially since the two other members of the triangle (Legolas and a female elf created for the movie and played by Kate from Lost) aren’t supposed to be in the movie at all; in the motion-captured-character-redeems-movie’s-final-act stakes, Smaug is no Gollum; the entire Lonely Mountain sequence is muddled; and Thranduil’s arseholishness, with no real redeeming features, quickly grates.

Having said all that, there are still some fairly enjoyable parts (the barrel sequence, for instance), and all the usual elements worthy of praise in a Peter Jackson Middle-Earth movie (action, visuals, music, casting, etc.) are still there too. As for acting, Orlando Bloom continues to think that squinting is the sole form of emoting available to him, Stephen Fry overdoes it a bit as the Master of Laketown, Sir Ian McKellen is solid as ever but seems to be overusing the move-bags-under-one’s-eyes-to-indicate-drama technique, and everyone else is fine.

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Extended Edition

Director: Peter Jackson
Year: 2012 (theatrical version) / 2013 (extended edition)
Score: 7/10

The real reason for the extended edition, of course, was so we finally get naked dwarves. The fans... go... wild.

The real reason for the extended edition, of course, was so we finally get naked dwarves. The fans… go… wild.

I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and my initial viewing of the theatrical (non-extended) version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in 48fps 3D, left me quite impressed but a tad concerned. It was an immensely fun ride, with Jackson’s familiar brand of humour-infused action, constant winks at the fans, a largely excellent cast (both new and returning), and a brilliant adaptation of the novel’s crucial ‘Riddles in the Dark’ chapter in the final act. Mostly it was just great to be back in Jackson’s immersive world; it isn’t quite Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, but it’s equally impressive in its own ways.

I did, however, have reservations about the film’s length, the sense that many of the action sequences were shoe-horned in to pad it out as the first part of a trilogy (case in point: the entirely unnecessary rock-monster boxing match scene), the decision to split a fairly short children’s book into three lengthy films, and the often slavish beat-for-beat recreations of moments/sequences/arcs from the original trilogy. In a sense all of these concerns come down to the fact that this isn’t just a film adaptation of the novel; it’s very specifically JACKSON’S adaptation, in the style, vein and scope of his Lord of the Rings. That means we lose the childish frivolity and lightness I remember from the novel, and instead get a dose of Sauron-y seriousness and a bunch of extra bits, all designed to create parity with the original trilogy so this (together with the next two movies) will serve as a stylistically and narratively cohesive prequel trilogy.

I can't decide if the Great Goblin's chin testicles are as bad as or worse than Peter Griffin's.

I can’t decide if the Great Goblin’s chin testicles are as bad as or worse than Peter Griffin’s.

Watching the extended edition in preparation for the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I had roughly the same response but if anything my concerns grew: this is, after all, an even longer version – 13 minutes of additional footage! – of a movie I already regarded as bloated. For some reason I disliked the Great Goblin character (portrayed by Barry Humphries) more this time round. On the other hand, I found the emotional climax (Bilbo finding his courage and being accepted by Thorin) considerably more affecting, though I don’t recall any changes to the scene in this version that would have made it so. I also noticed and enjoyed the dwarves’ theme music, within Howard Shore’s excellent-as-always score, more than I previously recall.

For anyone choosing between the theatrical and extended versions, the bottom line for me is this: when I watch the trilogy in the future, I’ll be putting aside my concerns about length and unnecessary action set-pieces and ill-advised movie-splitting, so I might as well take the completist route and watch the extended version; the extra bits aren’t by any means fatal to the overall length, and they tend to play OK in a home cinema environment. Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

Review: The Color Purple

Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 1985
Score: 8/10

Ye olde porn.

Ye olde porn.

Moving tale of hardship and redemption in the Deep South, directed by Steven Spielberg but unlike anything he had made before it. There are some wonderful performances, most notably from Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut, future cult leader Oprah Winfrey, and Margaret Avery; all three received Oscar nominations but none won. There’s also a strong sense of the time and place, and a feeling throughout that these characters and their communities are grounded in reality. It’s hard to make it through the ending without shedding a tear or two (in my case, around about the same time I arrived at work… helpful!). I do have a few gripes, of course: the time jumps tend to be somewhat jarring; there’s some exaggerated slapstick humour that doesn’t gel well with the serious drama elsewhere (you can tell that Spielberg just can’t help himself!); and Danny Glover’s character is too bastardly for too long, with a comeuppance that isn’t satisfying enough.

Review: Solaris (2002)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Year: 2002
Score: 6/10

Who wants to play 'Is this still from Gravity or Solaris?'?

Who wants to play ‘Is this still from Gravity or Solaris?’?

A hard film to review, this. Do I attempt to judge it on its own merits, or compare it to the Tarkovsky version I watched the day before? The difficulty of the former is that many of its merits are entirely derivative (though it’s touted as a new adaptation of the Lem novel rather than a remake of the Tarkovsky film), so how much praise do they really deserve? I’ll aim for somewhere in the middle.

While it’s well made by Steven Soderbergh and well acted all around, in many ways this feels pointless since it brings very little to the table that’s new. On the other hand, it trims the running time by more than an hour, which is a plus given that a key problem with the original is its length and pace. It still manages to hit on most of the original’s key plot points and meditate (if not to the same degree) on most of its philosophical questions. It’s similarly cold and lacking in action, and the relationship between the protagonist and his dead wife (cue Robyn Hitchcock) is a bit more heavy-handed.

If I’m recommending one or the other to someone who’s seen neither, I think I’d point them to the Tarkovsky version on the basis of its place in film history and the fact that it’s slightly more interesting and considerably more innovative. However, if the recommendee’s time is limited or they prefer less ambiguity, perhaps I’d point them to Soderbergh.

As a result of this film I’ve come to a realisation about Jeremy Davies: he’s great (in this as well as the TV series Justified and the films Spanking the Monkey, Rescue Dawn, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, etc.) but he pretty much plays the same character in the same way every time I see him so he must lack range.

Review: Solaris (1972)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Year: 1972
Score: 6.5/10

The Soviet Union certainly had a strange approach to wet t-shirt contests.

The Soviet Union certainly had a strange approach to wet t-shirt contests.

At 167 minutes and with a pace that makes it feel like twice that, Andrei Tarkovsky’s version of Stanisław Lem’s novel is a real slog to get through. It’s philosophical and psychological drama in the guise of a science fiction film, with a heavy dose of tragic love story (or, more accurately, an exploration of the human desire to recover lost love) thrown in too. There’s something haunting and hypnotic about it, in spite of or perhaps because of its confusing and mysterious nature. Given the sci-fi trappings, the lack of action – especially when amplified by the slow pace – is challenging to say the least. So, ultimately, is it moving and does it amount to a successful exploration of the deep questions and themes it attempts to tackle? I say no to the former, as the protagonist’s plight and the love story elements had little emotional impact on me, but mostly yes to the latter. In that regard I judge it a partial success. It’s boosted by a killer ending, one of those shocking final moments that force you to reevaluate much of what you’ve just seen. Random thought: the underlying love-conquers-science message must go down well with climate change deniers.

Guest Review: Alex Cross

Director: Rob Cohen
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Seriously, don't look – there's a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Seriously, don’t look – there’s a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Where Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls bravely went first, Alex Cross stumbles clumsily behind. Gone are the days of Morgan Freeman’s deep and atmosphere-creating character as the piercing sunlight of Tyler Perry’s new hard-man character glares painfully into the hungover eyes of the detective thriller genre.

This is a reasonably entertaining thriller, rescued from the depths of cinematic obscurity by a frankly superb performance from a steroid-pumped former Lost cry baby Matthew Fox as the crazed bad guy Picasso. There is actually a fairly strong roster of acting talent; John C. McGinley (of Scrubs’ Dr. Cox fame) and Jean Reno both take reasonably large roles but unfortunately both fail to sparkle to the extent that we’ve seen so many times before.

The problem for Alex Cross is the film’s namesake’s association with the character’s previous outings, and not least because of the change of actor. There’s a change of pace to the film from its predecessors, leaving behind clinical and calculating detective work and embracing a new world of cage fighting and rocket launchers. Were this film called Tommy Knox: Detective Badass then it would be enjoyable in its own right, however sadly for most it will be forever cast into the bargain bin labelled ‘difficult third album’.

As with all ‘film of the books’, Alex Cross is at the behest of the plot laid out before in another medium. Sadly it hasn’t made the transition as effortlessly as many others have, but Rob Cohen’s new vision of the character is still worth a watch.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Year: 2013
Score: 4/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Welcome to a brand new feature on Movies and Bacon: guest reviews! Today’s guest reviewer is Drew Pontikis from Obscene Gaming. Here’s his take on The Great Gatsby, a film previously reviewed by Movies and Bacon here.

You sit there and think about the terrible film you've made!

You sit there and think about the terrible film you’ve made!

A Baz Luhrmann film is the girl equivalent of a Michael Bay film, and The Great Gatsby follows this format as much as Moulin Rouge does. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, sporting the ropiest accent this side of Janet Street-Porter, the story is told through the eyes of Spider-Man Toby Maguire; a man so infatuated with Gatsby it is hard to build any rapport or empathy with the characters without feeling just a little bit sick.

The set and scenery are overly decadent and grandiose, buried elbow deep in the art deco styling of the time the film is set. Unfortunately after the first five minutes this becomes blinding, and as the film goes on it lacks the ability to impact you in the way it is apparently intended.

From start to finish the film lacks any suspense, clarity of plot, and the twist at the end is so telegraphed that it could have been dreamed up by the World Wrestling Federation. It strikes me as the sort of film that is targeted specifically at girls in their early teens whose mothers have let them watch Titanic as an example of what love looks like, and who now need a further hit. Like I said, the girl equivalent of a Michael Bay film.

I’ve never read the book, so I may be doing Baz Luhrmann a great disservice. This is, however, the film that ‘they said could never be made’ – frankly, I wish they hadn’t bothered.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.