This Weekend At The Movies (Oct. 14-16)! Plus My Thoughts On The Thing Prequel!

THE THING

(MP’s Pick of the Week)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.  Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.  While Dr. Halvorson keeps to his research, Kate partners with Sam Carter, a helicopter pilot, to pursue the alien life form.

I saw this film at a midnight screening and went into it with fairly low expectations.  I absolutely love John Carpenter’s The Thing and knew going in that this prequel would have its work cut out for it if it wanted to be able to sit beside its predecessor as a genre staple.  I was worried that this film would just end up being a futile retread.  I’m happy to report that this prequel isn’t that, but it’s also not a great movie.  This is the roller coaster version of Carpenter’s film.  It’s designed to thrill the audience and to connect the story points to that of the original.  What it doesn’t do is live up to Carpenter’s classic, which kind of makes the existence of this prequel feel a tad unnecessary.  I have to wonder that if I had never seen Carpenter’s version, would I have enjoyed this prequel more than I did?  Probably so.  Would I have wanted to be ignorant of the original to have a better experience watching this new film?  Hell no.  I honestly don’t think this is a terrible movie but I also think that steps could have been made to make it a lot better.  Knowing that Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) originally wrote a script for the prequel, I have to wonder what this movie would have been like if his script had become the movie’s shooting script.  I think my biggest complaint of this film lies with the overuse of digital effects.  In Carpenter’s original, the alien was all physical effects (done by Rob Bottin) and they were freaking amazing.  The alien in the prequel is mostly CG and, while its not the worst CG I’ve seen, it shows.  There were a few moments where it didn’t look too bad but the reliance on a digital creature just seems lazy to me.  If there’s one thing that I’m appreciative of with this new film, it’s that it will lead new audiences to Carpenter’s classic.  The end of this film literally ties into the 1982 original and it might make some people want to know what comes next.  John Carpenter’s The Thing will continue to be celebrated as a sci-fi horror classic for many years to come but I’m not so sure this prequel will enjoy the same longevity.  Regardless, if a horror film is what you are after this weekend, you certainly could do worse than go and see this film.  It honestly isn’t that bad of a movie but just realize that the real movie you want to see is the one that comes after the events of this one.

THE BIG YEAR

Directed by David Frankel.  Starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, Rashida Jones, Rosamund Pike, Brian Dennehy, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest, Kevin Pollak, Joel McHale, Anthony Anderson, Tim Blake Nelson and JoBeth Williams.

Three men are at a crossroads – one is experiencing a mid-life crisis, another a late-life crisis, and the third, a far from ordinary no-life crisis.  They are tired of being ruled by obligations and responsibilities and dedicate a year of their lives to follow their dreams.  Their big year takes them on a cross-country journey of wild and life-changing adventures.

This movie came in under my radar and this is literally the first time I’ve heard of it.  It boasts quite a big cast, though I imagine most of them are in smaller supporting roles, but I like seeing JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist) mixed in there.  After watching the trailer, I can’t say that I’m all that enticed by the movie.  It doesn’t look terrible but it’s easily something that I can skip at the theater and maybe catch it when it hits blu-ray.  The film is rated PG so it looks to be a pretty safe option for families wanting to go see something together.

FOOTLOOSE

Co-written and directed by Craig Brewer.  Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Ray McKinnon, Andie MacDowell and Dennis Quaid.

Ren MacCormack is transplanted from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont where he experiences a heavy dose of culture shock.  A few years prior, the community was rocked by a tragic accident that killed five teenagers after a night out and Bomont’s local councilmen, and the beloved Reverend Shaw Moore, responded by implementing ordinances that prohibit loud music and dancing.  Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizing the town and falling in love with the minister’s troubled daughter Ariel in the process.

I hold no affinity for the original Footloose so a remake doesn’t really bother me, nor does it interest me.  Craig Brewer’s previous films, Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow, both received critical praise and a lot of people seemed to be impressed with his work.  I’ve only seen Black Snake Moan and thought that it was just okay.  I’ve heard good things about this remake but I just have an issue with a movie where people break out into big choreographed dance numbers.  It feels incredibly unrealistic to me and immediately kills my suspension of disbelief.  Granted, I have no problem with wizards, monsters or various things you’d find in a fantasy or sci-fi movie but choreographed dancing and singing just take me out of the reality of a movie pretty quickly.  There is a part of me that is interested in seeing what Brewer does with the film but then I watch the trailer and I lose any desire to try to sit through it.  Perhaps, I will check it out eventually but there are a lot of other movies I’d rather see.  That being said, I have a feeling this will take the top spot at the box office this weekend as it seems to have a wide appeal to a variety of audiences.

BRIGHTON ROCK

(Limited Release)

Written and directed by Rowan Joffe.  Starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, Helen Mirren and John Hurt.

Pinkie, a desperate youth who is hell bent on clawing his way up through the ranks of organized crime, sets out to seduce Rose, a young and innocent waitress who stumbles on evidence linking Pinkie to a revenge killing, in order to secure her silence.  The film is based upon the 1939 novel of the same name by Graham Greene.

Rowan Joffe makes his directorial debut with this british noir crime thriller.  Joffe has previously written quite a few films, including The American starring George Clooney and 28 Weeks Later.  This film sounds really interesting and it helps that Joffe is a huge fan of the original novel.  I read an excerpt from him in which he stated that when he was approached to do the film, he thought it would be personal suicide for him to remake a classic, well-loved british film.  But then he went and read the original novel and fell in love with it and stated that when you’re in love you behave irrationally.. insanely sometimes.  This led him down the path to finding a reason to do his interpretation of the novel.  His passion for the material as well as the well-fashioned trailer makes me really want to see the film.

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