What We’ve Been Reading
Clint’s Reading List:
Ring – Koji Suzuki
Koji Suzuki wrote the original book that all of the films are based on. Did anyone know this? I only found out a week ago or so, much to my surprise, when a random Reddit user recommended the original book trilogy. The only one I could find in local bookstores was the first one and after burning through it I have to say that I’m very much looking forward to the rest of them. The film Ringu took many deviations but the biggest is that the main character is actually a man, a journalist in Japan, who goes on this journey with his best friend. This redesigns the main relationship in the plot significantly, from an ex-husband-and-wife with sexual tension to a near-buddy-comedy with horror tropes surrounding it. Much more is given to the lore and history of Sadako, the ghostly girl who haunts Japan, and to the idea of a virus spreading instead of sitting in its tape, waiting to be discovered. The novel translation is a bit rough at points and I wish that had come through better, but overall it is definitely worth reading for any fans of horror out there.
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
Sometimes you just want to feel happy. Life can be complicated, it can be hard, but you push through and make the most of every moment. The Hobbit is that sensation for me, received as a gift for Christmas when I was 6 (from my Uncle, who passed away a little over a year ago), and there’s something wonderful about sipping iced tea from a Tolkien pint glass while reading one of the most charming novels ever written for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth time. Before the apocalyptic doom and gloom of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we got to see a fun side of Tolkien that was obsessed with giant spiders, eagles, racial interplay between hairy little men and tall, pretty elves, and the fact that one little man of no knowable value could make the biggest difference in the lives of all the rest. Bilbo’s story is uplifting in stressful times and is a great reminder that everyone can make a difference and everyone, everywhere, should be ready to go on an adventure.
Noah – Darren Aronofsky
Aronofsky does comics too, and they’re pretty awesome. The film seems to have been hacked down from this story, expanded and much better in execution, and Ari Handel brings the world to life much better than any camera ever could. The textured art ties into the bleak world that Noah and his family occupy, the cities of man harsh and cruel against the gorgeous backdrop of where the Ark is being built. This story is still treated as a fairy tale and, well, it should be. The odd controversy that always comes when a religious story is retold baffles me as most of them are only a couple of pages long, no real details can be found. What Aronofsky does is create a world that serves the plot, the Christian sensibilities, and the reality of things like survivor’s guilt and cabin fever all in one idea. It really is magnificently pulled off and, given the choice, I would much rather revisit the graphic novel than the film.
Christopher’s Reading List:
Punisher: Franken-Castle – Rick Remender
No one thinks quite like Rick Remender. His runs on Uncanny X-Force and Venom changed the way those characters will be viewed forever, and although his run on Punisher is less impactful, it’s hard to get more status-quo changing than killing your protagonist and literally rebuilding him in to an undead murder machine. After a thorough dismemberment at the hands of Daken, the son of Wolverine, Punisher awakes to find himself among monsters: Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf, Man-Thing, N’Kantu the Living Mummy, and Manphibian. They’ve established an underground society where monsters are free to live from judgement and fear of humans, but recently they’re being hunted and they require the help of a recently revived Frank Castle to put an end to their plight. It’s a bizarre, absurd, ultra-violent fun romp from a writer who has yet to disappoint.
What We’ve Been Watching
Ringu – Anyone ever actually sat and watched this? I know we all watched The Ring in high school because, you know, Naomi Watts, but this is actually pretty good stuff. Taken from a book by Koji Suzuki (which you’ll find in my “what I’m reading” segment), the film follows all the same plot points as the American remake but manages to avoid plot holes added for jump-scare reasons alone, sticking with it’s own lore. The American remake expanded on this and, admittedly, allowed for more world-building but at the sacrifice of a consistent plot whereas the Japanese film is tightened, compact, and spends the entire time winding tension instead of peppering freaky moments here and there, deadening the climax as the American film did. This is why America went through a period of remaking Japanese horror films and I can see why it happened.
John Wick – With the sequel coming out tonight (or last night, for those of you devoted enough to make Thursday night showings) I wanted to revisit the original and see if it held up, if it really did deserve the adoration we all gave it. The answer is a resounding “yup”. John Wick, also known as Baba Yaga or the Boogeyman, headshots his way through nearly 100 villains with no restraint and all for the sake of his dead dog (well, and the connection to his wife but…the joke is funnier if it’s over his dead dog). Keanu Reeves may have finally found the thing he was born to do and he pulls it off marvelously. After revisiting this I am even more hyped for the sequel.
The Dark Knight – That’s right, with Lego Batman coming out this weekend (to already raving reviews) I wanted to revisit the other most beloved entry in the character’s film history. Christopher Nolan has gotten a lot of blowback with his last few outings but this is one film that gets almost no flack, a near perfectly executed example of what a Batman film should be. Gadgets, Gordon, and gripping schemes all help his story but what this really is about is one thing – the Joker. Ledger’s portrayal of the character is anarchy incarnate, a completely competent villain with (admittedly) near superhuman powers of foresight that manages to put our hero completely off-center as he struggles to fight back. It’s fun to look at this one, knowing that we’ve now gotten three more Joker performances within the last year (Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, Mark Hamill’s return in The Killing Joke, and Zack Galifanakis in Lego Batman) and yet this is the one that defined the character for nearly a decade, cementing the role as one of the best portrayed onscreen in a blockbuster film. While Nolan has issues with action sequences, he certainly has no issue on any other front behind the camera. This film is masterfully shot and gorgeous to look at, an absolute pleasure to revisit.
Manchester By the Sea – Continuing my game of catchup with the Best of 2016 is Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. The story follows a man returning to his hometown after a death in the family. What transpires is an authentic look at the ways people deal with grief. It could easily have become one-note, or repititious in it’s moroseness, but instead the film opens up on the entire process of grief. From the tedious details of arrangements, the wounds that reveal themselves at the most unexpected times, and the humor used to deal with life’s challenges. Manchester by the Sea is an exceptional slice of life that runs the gamut of emotion without feeling put-on.
Legion – Created by Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, Legion is the latest television adaptation of a comic book franchise. Based loosely off of the character Legion, son of X-Men’s Charles Xavier, the show does superheroism different. Only one episode in, the show is cinematically shot, with mind-bending visuals, and time-hopping story-telling. It’s hard to say where the show is going after only a premiere, but with the talent involved and the potential of the comics to draw from, I can’t wait to see where it goes.