Monday Morning Critic – Societal Changes, Bullying and Stephen King’s Carrie (1976 vs. 2013) – Finishing the Game and Bruce Lee’s Legacy

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The big movie of the week coming out this weekend is Carrie, another adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel “Carrie.” Brian De Palma did one in 1976, of course, and it made a star of Sissy Spacek with a number of epic scenes. So it wasn’t all that shocking that it would be remade; Hollywood loves taking different stabs at old material with regularity.

Now I know what you’re thinking … I’m totally ignoring Escape Plan and the awesome pairing of two of my favorite actors. But that’d be the 13 year old in me going “this is awesome, durr” and those columns are usually awful from typical web writers. And Carrie being remade by Kim Peirce with Hit-Girl in the lead is a significantly more important film in my mind than a pair of actors doing something they should’ve done 20 years when they were more relevant.


Escape Plan would be Lebron James returning to the Cavs and Cleveland for his final season in the NBA in his late 30s, after a career spent winning titles and being awesome elsewhere. It’s a nice consolation prize for Cleveland, much like Escape Plan is a nice consolation for action film fans, Carrie will wind up being more relevant and more interesting to ponder. Why? Because of the relevance of Carrie for a modern audience with the way society has change in the four decades or so that have passed since the original graced theatres.

We live in a much different era than in 1976, of course, and the story of a bullied girl who has the power to fight is a much different one now than it was in 1976. We live in an era where a film like Bully, and other things as well, has led to a profound change in the challenges facing educators and parents alike in how we’re raising children and monitoring their interactions with one another. Carrie wasn’t written as an anti-bullying parable, of course, but there’s an undercurrent to it because of the nature of the film. It’s the ultimate in revenge fantasies in a way.


Carrie is a shy girl who comes from a super religious family, of course, and the film’s progression is the horrible things children do to one another during the process of maturation. This one ends up with the victim going off the deep end and punishing everyone and everything in her path; I’d put up a spoiler tag but the book and film have been around 40 years. The trailer for the new film shows the aftermath of the rampage; it’s not like it’s a secret that Chloe Moretz gets to commit graphic violence than Hit Girl.

The first teaser tells you everything you need to know: bad stuff’s about to happen, yo, and it’s going to be committed by a teenage girl for some reason. Watch it below, of course.

We wonder why some adults can be significantly more screwed up than others, etc, and I think a lot of that has to do with the ways we deal with each other as children. The younger we are the crueler we can be, I think, and the nature of children’s cruelty towards Carrie is interesting in a lot of ways in this film. The tragedy of Carrie has always been that she lashes out at everything she sees once the pig’s blood is dropped on her; they’re all mocking her and she will get her payback.

It’s why a film that deals with bullying, and a girl with telekinetic powers just coming out, in an era where bullying is looked at as a serious problem (and not just another thing children deal with) interests me. It would’ve been a more controversial film to make right after the Columbine massacre, of course, or that window of time when it seems some kid shot up his school for a variety of reasons every other month. Right now it seems like the opening chapter to a discussion on much bigger topics of the moment.

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We’re in an era where anti-bullying efforts are significantly more profound and prolific than they ever have been. Professional athletes and celebrities have come out with campaigns, etc, about not bullying and the effect it had on them. Carrie is an interesting film in an interesting moment of time.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This Week’s DVD – Finishing the Game

For a while Justin Lin looked like he was going to be the next great director. Better Luck Tomorrow was one of the great underseen films of 2000s. I thought it was one of the best crime films of thedecade. After a trio of studio films seemed to dispel the notion that Lin was a serious film maker, he turned to a passion project that flopped fairly hard: Finishing the Game.

The film follows the process of a studio trying to finish The Game of Death, Bruce Lee’s final film, by casting a new star. It’s a mockumentary, of course, as we see the entire process of trying to cast someone new to become the next Bruce Lee in comic fashion. It’s a good piece that fans of Bruceploitation will definitely have a good chuckle over.

It’s an interesting choice of a film for Lin, who has only done Fast and the Furious sequels ever since. It shows some daring, even in a failed effort, for someone like Lin to take on this project. He shows a great ability to let the camera linger; this is about longer takes and a much less polished effort than the hack work he’s done since. There’s a genuine story being told, with some great comedy scattered throughout, and Sung Kang has a great performance as a small town kid from the South trying to become a famous actor.

Lin has a great touch with this film. He’s not aiming for a hard satire, like Spinal Tap … this is a softer, gentler version. It’s much more farce than anything else but it has one thing Lin’s big budget work hasn’t had; a sense of artistic style. It doesn’t feel like it fell off an assembly pattern for the bro-friendly summer blockbuster. There’s an actual craft to it; it’s the difference between drinking a craft beer and a Miller Lite.

It’s the one thing that bothers me when I see the Fast films and try to reconcile that the same guy who did those films did this and Better Luck Tomorrow. The director who did the former is a Michael Bay clone, following the blockbuster formula and producing disposable cinema. The director who did this film is one who should be making better films with better actors than Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

It’s a shame because Lin has genuine talent behind the camera. I’d love him to cash all his chips in and go for another film that has a higher purpose.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Carrie – Chloe Moretz is a teenager who gets picked on … but has telekinetic powers. When they cover her in pig’s blood … well … life won’t get too pleasant.

See it – They’re aiming more for the novel than the 70s version … the original was quite good and this has a chance to be interesting, at a minimum.

Escape Plan – Arnold and Stallone get thrown in an escape proof prison.

See It – It’s the ultimate action hero team up … 20 years after it would’ve been relevant. Still … the 13 year old in me is down for this.

The Fifth Estate – A fictionalized version of the Wikileaks scandal with Khan as Julian Assange.

See it – It’s getting Oscar Buzz and Benedict Cumberbatch is on a roll.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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