Carrie Review

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Many people are going to walk into Carrie ready to hate it. In fact, it was probably doomed to be hated by many right from the get-go. The newest version of Carrie is not just a horror movie, but a remake of one of the very few horror movies that is almost universally agreed to be excellent. The 1976 Brian De Palma version of Carrie is a masterpiece. A stylish, deftly paced, tension filled look at the consequences of high school cruelty. It strays from the original Stephen King novel which, lets face it, was shlocky and kind of dumb so that was clearly for the best. The newest remake of Carrie is not more faithful to the novel as some have said, instead it is a practically scene for scene retread of the De Palma film. Despite almost outright copying the original film, make no mistake, the new Carrie is just as awful as you imagined. A terribly written, ugly, poorly acted mess that not only completely misunderstands its source material, both the novel and the original film, but also completely fails on its own merits as any kind of stand alone film.

For the few of you who haven’t read the Stephen King novel or seen the De Palma film, though if you’ve seen the trailer for the new film then you know exactly how it goes, the story goes like this. Carrie White (in this version played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a lonely high school student who is viciously bullied by her peers and suffers at home under the hand of her psychotic, obsessively god fearing mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). After an ordeal in the locker room where she gets her first period, Carrie discovers her latent telekinetic abilities. After a particularly cruel prank is pulled on her at her senior prom, Carrie snaps and uses her new-found powers to trap her fellow classmates and brutally murder each of them.

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The thing about remakes is that generally they only work if the original film was not very good to begin with. There are a few exceptions to that rule, for example the Evil Dead remake that came out earlier this year, but remakes of already good films tend to suffer by comparison. Director Kimberly Pierce, however, clearly has a lot of love for Carrie and I was interested in seeing her substantial talent bring some unique energy to what sounded like just another horror remake slog. But for whatever reason, Carrie is every bit as routine and empty as you would expect from a typical Hollywood horror remake. The build up to the infamous prom scene was what held the De Palma film together but this remake rushes through all the main aspects of the story with abandon. The callous efficiency with which it passes by each plot point is clearly the films way of reaching the prom scene as effortlessly as possible. Here lies one of the major issues, aside from updating the prom climax with revamped effects, there is literally no reason to do a remake of Carrie, especially if you’re just going to blow through the story with no attempt to even put a different spin on the material.

Not only is the writing a total mess but Carrie also happens to be completely technically inept as well. In terms of visuals, this is an ugly film. It contains some of the worst looking special effects I’ve seen in a long time. Particularly the horrible gore effects and some egregiously obvious uses of green screen. If there was any possible tension to be had in the prom scene, though I doubt it’s possible considering just how boring the movie is, it would be undermined by just how fake it looks. The most hilariously bad effect comes when one of Carrie’s tormentors ends up with her face smashed through a car wind shield with big shards of glass in her face. Carrie desperately needed some energy but unfortunately the cookie cutter cinematography adds to the generic feel of the film, making the overall lifelessness of the proceedings even more apparent.

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Another huge issue with them film is the casting and the performances. Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the better actors of our generation but she is horribly miscast here. Whether it is because she is unable turn off her natural charisma or just poor direction, this version of Carrie just does not work in the context of this movie. The film attempts to frame Carrie similarly to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, an emotional wreck that has been beaten down and systematically degraded by her peers, but Moretz never acts in a way that is consistent with that characterization. Everything centered around Carrie in this film tells us that she is pathetic and freakish but physically she is almost indistinguishable from her tormentors and she is very clearly capable of taking care of herself. All of the issues surrounding her character are issues of tone and framing. The film’s climax is still framed as a harrowing and uncontrollable outburst of rage but Moretz plays it up like she is a of super hero enacting righteous vengeance.

The rest of the cast is weak but entirely forgettable, though the male lead (Ansel Elgort) is pretty damn bad. But this is a small problem in a film filled to the brim with giant ones. The one bright note, however, is Julianne Moore and Carrie’s insane, religious fanatic mother. She is quite good, though not particularly fantastic, and manages to bring a certain amount of creepiness to a horror film that is otherwise entirely devoid of any kind of horror. Though again when it comes to her character, there are big problems with the way the film frames her. Margaret White is still framed as the main antagonist of the film but this is undercut by the way the narrative clumsily attempts to make us feel sympathy for her due to her very out-of-place self-mutilation.

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Aside from everything else wrong with it, the biggest issue with Carrie is how horribly boring the whole thing is. For me this makes it worse than something that is outright terrible like The Rage: Carrie 2 since at least that had some semblance of passion behind it. This is just nothing, a big narrative mess with wild tonal and framing problems. It’s a dead on arrival catastrophe and an enormous waste of time for us as the viewers and the anyone involved in its creation. Keep as far away from Carrie as possible.

Gravity Review

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Gravity really is as great as everyone says it is, I mean I knew that it would be good but that it is a damn near perfect film which succeeds on nearly every level is a genuine shock. A rare movie that works both a critically acclaimed, extremely well made film with genuine artistic aspirations and an exciting, visceral action movie. It is destined to be a huge box office hit and a favorite among film critics and contemporary audiences alike. Gravity is really like nothing you have ever scene before. It is not really an action movie in the traditional sense but more like one wonderfully thrilling, intense and breathtaking action scene which stretches across the entire run time. It presents space as something truely terrifying as the indifferent, black expanse is always threatening to pull the characters in. Adding to this effect is the way Earth is always seen in the background, lighting up the movie with a glorious visual effect.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are two astronauts on a routine space walk to preform some kind of maintenance. Stone is the rookie trying to assimilate to the new zero gravity environment and Kowalski is a veteran astronaut who is able to keep his cool in just about any situation. They receive word that Russia destroyed one of their own satellites causing a chain reaction with nearby satellites which sends space debris hurdling towards them at deadly speeds. The destroys their shuttle and knocks out their communication with NASA leaving them drifting alone is space with no hope of rescue. With oxygen supplies running dangerously low, their only hope of survival is to somehow make is to make it to the International Space Station in hopes of putting together a way of making it back to earth in one piece. So the majority of the movie is essentially comprised of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney plummeting from the sky all while everything continues to get more insane as one thing after another tries to ruin their plans.

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Director Alfonso Cuaron, known for similar critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing blockbusters such as Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is a masterful director of action. His clever use of extended tracking shots, dizzying camera angles and creative CGI visual tricks work together to make a seamless and engaging experience unlike any other. I say this completely without hyperbole, Gravity is the best looking movie I have ever seen. From the gorgeous CG effects to the brilliant cinematography, Gravity is flawless on a visual level. It’s a testament to the incredible power of the film making that Gravity manages to have such an enormous scope while still being a uniquely intimate experience. The horrifying beauty of space is evident as we are immediately immersed in the detailed enormity of the the visuals. Gravity is a film so emotionally powerful and unrelentingly gut wrenching that for the majority of the run time I was on the verge of tears while struggling to catch my breath. It is the kind of edge of your seat, teeth clenched, hands tightly gripping the arm rests of your seat film that big budget Hollywood blockbusters sparsely produce. Gravity also has only of the best sound designs of any film in recent memory on top of the spectacular soundtrack.

The most surprising thing about Gravity would have to be Sandra Bullock’s performance. Bullock, whose real strength as an actress lies with comedic roles, is usually wretched in dramatic roles but she gives a bravura performance as a medical engineer with a tragic back story on her first space walk. It becomes clear that she accepted the mission as a way of coping with her crippling depression back on Earth. When thrust into a situation of unimaginable peril, Sandra Bullock expertly portrays Dr. Stone’s sheer force of will allows her to preserver and eventually find redemption. Bullock’s triumph shines even more when she is forced to carry large stretches of the film by herself, expressing so much emotion through deep breathing, subtle facial expressions and speaking to herself. This is career best work for Sandra Bullock, certainly deserving of an Oscar nod far more than her performance in the unwatchably awful The Blind Side. For most of the film it is only Sandra Bullock and the audience as she confronts every new challenge forced upon her. Similarly, George Clooney gives an admiral performance as Matt Kowalski, the hyper-confident veteran astronaut but its Bullock who is at center stage.

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Gravity is not a movie about George Clooney saving Sandra Bullock from the empty void of space and it is not just Sandra Bullock drifting for 90 minutes, but rather Bullock staring adversity in the face and rescuing herself. Gravity features a strong, survivalist and heroic female character and in a genre where interesting and memorable female heroes are almost non-existant, the is incredible. Ryan Stone is a complicated and multi-faceted woman who is capable of holding her own in danger, all while carrying the weight of a grim past on her shoulders. The fact that Gravity was greenlit at all with a female main character is extraordinary. It gives me hope for the future of women in the sci-fi genre. The script is so powerful and the characters so innately compelling and likeable that you become even more invested in their fate making the intense action that much more enthralling.

Gravity has been elaborately constructed and remarkably pieced together right down to the last detail so it’s worth recommending based on the skill of the craft alone. But Gravity is a thrilling, rousing spectacle of a sci-fi film with tons of emotionally gruelling moments. The beautifully rendered visuals and the expertly composed nature of the sound design and soundtrack all add to the emotional intensity of the film. It refuses to let up on the tension for a single second of the run time. Perfectly choreographed in times of both horror and calm, Gravity is an unforgettable movie going experience and one that you should absolutely check out. Bullock and Clooney carry the film with their performances, Bullock in particular shows such a perfect range of emotions which must have made the extended takes brutally difficult during filming. Gravity is by far the best movie of the year so far and is a definite must see.