Film Review: The Thing (2011)

Also known as: The Thing: The Beginning (working title)
Release Date: October 10th, 2011 (Universal City premiere)
Directed by: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Written by: Eric Heisserer
Based on: Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Eric Christian Olsen

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Strike Entertainment, 103 Minutes

Review:

“You think they’re gonna pay a bonus for bringing home an alien instead of core samples?” – Colin

While this prequel to 1982’s The Thing, also titled The Thing, is not a bad movie, it is a perfect example of why I will never like CGI monster effects as much as physical, real, practical effects like its predecessor.

If you watch both Things back-to-back, you will see the stark difference between this CGI festival of love and the much more impressive, real feeling effects of John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece.

Where the 1982 movie, regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, is still terrifying and a complete and total mindfuck, this 2011 prequel’s special effects look like they’re from a video game. Because of that, they pull you out of the film and its potentially terrifying impact because you’re reminded that this isn’t real and in fact, it’s kind of cartoonish by comparison.

The story here is good, as is the acting, the direction and just about everything else. Well, except for the pacing. Frankly, it’s oddly paced and doesn’t slowly build and escalate in the same way as the 1982 version, which they honestly should’ve just followed because it’s a perfect template on how to build tension at the right speed, in the right way and how to smack the audience in the face with a perfect finale.

Maybe the writers and the director didn’t want to do a complete rehash but they should have. While this is neither a remake nor a reboot, who cares. The reason why The Thing is a perfect movie is because of its flawless narrative framework, as well as its incredible effects that still look good almost forty years later. This Thing doesn’t seem to understand that, so it doesn’t utilize either of those winning techniques and we’re left with something promising on paper but executed like someone was designing cut scenes for a Resident Evil video game.

While I generally liked the story and how it explored the creature a bit more than what we already knew, it kind of goes too far with the battle on the crashed UFO finale. It’s not a big battle and it just follows the two remaining survivors as they decide to go there for some odd reason. They burn the alien and we think the story is done. But we already know that if it were truly dead, we wouldn’t have had a story for the 1982 movie.

So there’s a twist at the end that isn’t all that surprising and for some dumb reason the female lead of the movie survives. Honestly, this is a movie where everyone should’ve died. We shouldn’t have gotten the final girl riding off into the tundra in a snowcat like The Shining.

During the credits, we cut to a sequence that sets up the opening shots of the 1982 film. This part was done pretty well and honestly, at least this movie did a pretty good job of connecting the dots that we only just peaked at in the 1982 version. We see how every victim discovered in the 1982 version died where they were found, as well as seeing how the alien carcass had two faces merged together. I liked that they actually gave enough of a shit to work this stuff into the plot and none of it really felt forced.

Ultimately, this is a decent companion piece to the ’82 picture but it certainly isn’t necessary and honestly, didn’t need to be made. The fan service stuff was neat but the film completely missed its mark due to its failure of understanding the elements that made John Carpenter’s The Thing a perfect horror movie in the first place.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: 1982’s The Thing, which this connects to directly with its post-credits scene, as well as other body horror flicks.

Film Review: Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Release Date: September 2nd, 2017 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Written by: Simon Beaufoy
Music by: Nicholas Britell
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Eric Christian Olsen, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Wallace Langham, Fred Armisen, John C. McGinley

Decibel Films, Cloud Eight Films, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“I’m the ladies number one. I’m the champ. Why would I lose?” – Bobby Riggs, “Because dinosaurs can’t play tennis.” – Billie Jean King

I wanted to see this in the theater last year but there were so many top notch indie movies coming out around the same time that this one got lost in the shuffle. It also didn’t help that it came and went in the cinemas near me pretty quickly. I think it was gone within two weeks.

Luckily, we live in a time where you can stream almost any movie in less than three months after it hits theaters. So when this popped up to rent, that’s what I did.

For the most part, this was entertaining and I cared about what was happening. The film felt like it was lacking some weight though. There wasn’t a lot of depth to it. It focused a lot of its time on Billie Jean King’s personal life in regards to her sexuality and that’s perfectly fine, as it may have really effected her game in the way that it did in this film but the actual “Battle of the Sexes” element seemed to be on the backburner through large portions of the film. It certainly didn’t feel like the real focal point until it happens on screen. Mostly this felt like two pictures pushed into one film without enough care and balance given to the script. Also, and I rarely say this, this is a film that would have benefited greatly with a longer running time.

I like both aspects of the story but things felt sacrificed on both ends, as this was a film that didn’t establish its identity well enough or at least given us both sides with more organic fluidity. It honestly feels like there was a half hour lobbed off of this movie late in post production. Like the studio decided that no one would sit through a 150 minute movie without superheroes blowing up cities.

Regardless of the disjointed narrative, the performances by Emma Stone and Steve Carell were great. Stone was absolutely believable as King, especially in showing her emotional struggle with her sexuality and with fighting for respect for women.

Carell’s take on Bobby Riggs reminded me a lot of his most famous character, Michael Scott from The Office. He didn’t play Riggs exactly like Scott but he had that same sort of presence where he was highly comedic and could still touch your heart dramatically in very subtle ways. He played Riggs with respect and didn’t just make him a sexist oppressor, which is so common in Hollywood movies these days. He was just as much a comedian as he was a tennis giant. And really, you’re sort of left wondering if Riggs was a genius and a hero in his own right because maybe, just maybe, he was trying to help women by being the chauvinist archetype that needed to be conquered. Granted, I don’t think he fixed the match, I just think that his anti-women stance was a show to create the perfect climate for the event to happen.

I also loved seeing Natalie Morales in this, as I’ve been a fan of hers since Parks & Recreation.

Furthermore, I adored Alan Cumming’s role, as he was an almost fatherly figure to King in regards to helping her accept her sexuality and reassuring her that she is going to be okay because times are changing and she’s a big part of that. It almost makes up for Cumming annoying the hell out of me as Boris in GoldenEye.

This film handles the issue of gender equality very well. Stone’s King sums it up best when she tells reporters that she isn’t doing this because she wants to show that women are better than men, she’s doing it for respect. That’s something that seems lost with the sentiment of a lot of modern feminists and social justice warriors. It’s about respect and coexisting for everyone’s benefit, not warring over who is better or trashing those who aren’t your gender.

At its core, this film was respectful to the historical figures it represented and to the culmination of their conflict. It’s also nice to know that everyone did go on to live happy lives and there was a real respect and appreciation between King and Riggs after the dust settled.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Sadly, there just aren’t a lot of good tennis movies. Almost none, actually. At least where tennis isn’t just a minor element. But for 2017 and for being a historical sports biopic, I’d put this with I, Tonya.