Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Mist

Frank Darabont has had great skill when adapting Stephen King’s stories to film. His first widely successful outing with The Shawshank Redemption was a great film with terrific performances throughout. The second try with The Green Mile was equally, if not more, successful than his first major motion picture. Both of these films truly captured the stories perfectly, perhaps may have surpassed the feel of the books with the acting chops of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in Shawshank and Tom Hanks in Mile.

When it was announced that Darabont was directing yet another King adaptation, I was psyched. When it was publicized that the movie was based on the short story, "The Mist," I was even more elated. However, when articles started showing up in magazines that the budget wasn’t very big and even Darabont himself was saying there won’t be much in special effects, I started to doubt that this film would be much to care about. In fact, I started getting angry that studios would hold back and not let the genius of Frank Darabont shine. The guy had had two great Oscar-worthy movies under his belt; give him the budget he needs!

Even with all this, I still looked forward to the film. I read the short story while vacationing in Mexico around nineteen years ago and I found it very riveting. I remember thinking to myself that a movie should be adapted out of this. But I figured too many people would associate it with the John Carpenter film some twenty years earlier called The Fog.

Stephen King is such a great story teller and Frank Darabont has been able to clearly put his stories to film perfectly. Usually, King’s monster or supernatural stories don't fare well on film (Dreamcatcher definitely falls under this category), but this one hits the nail right on the head.

The Mist such a simple story of how a storm hits a little Maine coastal town and leaves a little destruction in its wake. Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, the local movie poster artist (King fans will love the poster he’s working on as the storm hits) who lives there with his wife, Steff (Kelly Collins Lintz), and son, Billy (Nathan Gamble). They take note of the devastation around the house the next morning and observe the mist rolling in over the hills. Paying it no mind, Drayton takes his son and neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher), to the local grocery store to get supplies, leaving his wife at home. After getting to the store, a local (Jeffrey DeMunn) comes running into the store, blood on his face and screaming about something in the mist. Everybody in the store freaks out, takes refuge and that’s when the fun begins.

The story centers around this group of people, people that know each other but soon start taking sides and instead of coming together during this turmoil, they vilify and turn against one another. Playing a religious zealot flawlessly is the great Marcia Gay Harden. In fact, just about all the actors and actresses that are featured in the cast play their parts believeably. I only have one problem with that and it’s the young United States Army private (Sam Witwer) that has the thing going with the clerk, Sally (Alexa Davalos). Those manscaped eyebrows were very distracting and I’m pretty sure the Army would have a problem with him doing that, if not his U.S. Army brethren.

The monster effects and CGI work seamlessly throughout the film and you’re able to feel the tension in the air as the characters don’t know what’s going to happen next. The creature designs were out of this world, I’d never pictured them to look that way when I read the book. I always thought of pterodactyls, giant squids, huge spiders and brachiosaurs when I read the book. But these monsters were truly terrifying. A lot of people have complained about the CGI work—and, yes, it’s not the greatest—but I felt it worked and looked pretty terrifying at times.

I recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen The Mist should read the short story first and then venture out to buy or rent this gem of a DVD or Blu-Ray. The book never gives a reason for the monsters and how they came to be. Also, the story never resolves itself in the book. In the film, the question of how the creatures came to be is answered and the film comes to a conclusion, one that Stephen King himself wishes he came up with (as Frank Darabont mentions in an extra on the DVD).

One other neat extra on the disc is the full movie of how Darabont intended it to bein black & white. Frank Darabont says in the extra featured on the disc that he wanted to release the movie this way, but the studio executives balked at that.

My final “bit” on The Mist? Truly an awesome film that hasn’t been visualized in a while; it’s a true monster movie that’s reminiscent of the horror movies of the 1950s.

You can contact me on Twitter, @CinemaBits, or email me at Cinema Bits.

Welcome to Cinema Bits!

Welcome to my blog, Cinema Bits, my thoughts about movies that I’ve seen lately, both on the big screen and here at home on my Blu-Ray player. I watch movies constantly and drive my wife and co-workers crazy when I talk about them after viewing. So I figured creating a blog would be the best outlet for me.

My life’s goal is to watch as many movies as I can during my time here on earth, including my favorite genres (horror movies and sci-fi) and award winners. Although I have this goal, I really can’t bring myself to sit down and watch a foreign film with subtitles. Enjoying an actor’s performance during a movie is a must for me so if I have to read what they’re saying at the bottom of the screen, I’ll miss the show and it’ll bum me out. If I wanted to read, I’d just sit and enjoy a novel.

I had always thought I’ve watched a lot of movies in my time, but I recently glanced at my Netflix queue and realized I’ve only scratched the surface: I’ve got over three hundred movies to watch.

Anyway, throughout my posts I can touch a little bit more on my likes and dislikes. But for now, let me give my first review on Cinema Bits.

The other day, I had some time to myself and decided to drive over to the local movie theatre to see Watchmen.

Now, I love a good comic book movie and I think I’ve seen them all, from Richard Donner’s original Superman to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Additionally, I’ve seen and enjoyed the critically bombed Spawn, Batman & Robin, even Superman III & IV. I always go into these films knowing it’s a superhero film and that all logic goes out the door.

Watchmen, I understand, was a twelve-part comic book series by DC Comics released a while back. It’s since been printed into a graphic novel and is available at your local bookstore, but I didn’t think to pick it up before deciding to watch the film. So going into this movie, I had no prior knowledge of these characters or their story. I didn’t think it would matter because I heard critics, both conversant and unacquainted with the comic book/graphic novel, give this a great review so I went in with high hopes.

First off, throughout the opening credits, it establishes that the group of crime fighters was put together a long time ago as the Minutemen. I didn’t catch the names of the heroes, but I recognized there were Night Owl, Silk Spectre and The Comedian. The opening is actually pretty cool, the way they have the stopped and slowed down action shots, ascertaining the characters and what they’ve done.

The off-putting part of the film was how it takes place in the mid-eighties, with the eighties’ music tracks playing throughout. But right as a understand that it’s a period piece, albeit only a mere twenty years ago, it takes a turn for the strange as it displays our president at the time as President Nixon. But even this eighties alternate universe aside, I really thought the story lagged and took forever to get anywhere. The only redeeming quality of this film was the character of Rorschach played by Jackie Earle Haley (he’s the hoodlum punk homerun hitter from the original The Bad News Bears film).

In a nutshell, the story was a long drawn out who-done-it story as Rorschach investigates who kills the retired Comedian at the beginning of the film, during which we get an origin story of each character.

Maybe I needed to read the comic book before going in, but to me, this was a boring tale of a pish-posh, mixed bag of superheroes who really don’t seem to get along or that it was ever possible they were a team. And really, can they be called superheroes? The only one of them that had any super powers was Dr. Manhattan…all the others had skills which unfortunately they didn’t cover how they acquired them in their origin flashbacks.

The surprising thing about this comic book film was the fact it was rated R. You’d think that Warner Bros. would balk at this since comic book movies usually attract children as the going audience. I’m really shocked that they allowed the parts to be in the film because they could’ve been easily edited out. Mainly it was the cussing and sex scenes that gave it the R rating. And speaking of the sex scenes, why is it that every film I see Malin Akerman in (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, The Heartbreak Kid) she gets naked?

My final "bit" on Watchmen? I’ve seen enough blue penis to last me a lifetime. If you watch this movie, you’ll understand what I mean by that.