“groundhog day” goes international.

Happy Groundhog Day, imaginary Intertubes pals!

Those of you following me on Twitter will have seen these, but I figured I’d pull them into a single post for the non-Tweeting audience. It’s a quick list of what I think the various national remakes of Groundhog Day would look like.

  • In the German adaptation, a guy in a black turtleneck stands in a starkly-lit white room and yells “Murmeltier! Verboten!” at the camera for 89 minutes. Then he takes a dump on the coffee table.
  • In the French version, the main character Philippe spends the day chain-smoking Gauloises and discussing Camus with the groundhog. It rains throughout the entire movie.
  • The Swedish remake takes place entirely at night and chronicles the groundhog’s decline into insanity. ( NC-17 for violence, graphic sex.)
  • The Uwe Boll version features Burt Reynolds as a humanoid Punxsutawney Phil. Also, he’s a wizard. Then Jason Statham kills him. There are boobies, and something with tree elves on trapezes. (In 3D.)
  • In the Russian version, the groundhog’s village is burned down by the invading Nazis, and he spends the rest of the movie drinking vodka and singing depressing folk songs. Then his own countrymen kill and eat him. (Categorized under “Light-hearted Comedies”.)

Did I miss any good local or regional remake ideas? Japanese anime? Bollywood? Made-for-TV telenovela?


old man’s war, the movie.

John Scalzi, who instructionated me greatastically at Viable Paradise XII, just sold the movie rights to his “Old Man’s War” military SF series of novels to Paramount Pictures.  Wolfgang Petersen, of “Das Boot” fame, will direct the first movie.

Good for him!  I hope he remembers his former students when he builds that solid gold mansion in Ohio with all the millions from the 10% of gross receipts his wife undoubtedly negotiated for him.

winter’s bone, and plot vs. character.

I finally watched Winter’s Bone last night.  What a haunting, well-acted, unsettling movie.

The subject matter of the film is not something that makes people go “Hey, honey—let’s rent this one for a fun evening.”  It’s about a 17-year-old girl living a hardscrabble life in the Missouri Ozarks—out in the poverty-ridden sticks, where crank has replaced moonshine as the central part of the local economy.  Her meth-cooking father goes missing after putting up the family property for his bond, and Ree, the protagonist, sets out to find him.  The local culture of honor and silence means that she runs the risk of (as her meth-using, violent uncle puts it) “ending up as hog feed, or wishing you was.”

It’s not a fast-paced action flick by any stretch of the imagination, but it drew me in right away, and lingered in my mind for quite a while.  The lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence, who got an Oscar nomination for the role) is unbelievably good.  Whatever honors the movie collects, I’m pretty sure she has a stellar career ahead of her.  The actor who plays Teardrop, the uncle, also deserves to win one of those golden dudes.  His character isn’t muscled or otherwise physically intimidating, but he’s so believably hard and dangerous that you completely understand the locals’ fear of him.  (I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a scene that takes place between Ree, Teardrop, and the local Sheriff on a rural road in the middle of the night that is the best piece of understated, powerful acting I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time.)

“Winter’s Bone” was also a nice refresher in what I think is the primary rule of good storytelling.  You need to have a protagonist worth caring about.  By that, I don’t necessarily mean that your protagonist has to be likeable, but he or she has to be interesting enough for the reader or viewer to care about what happens next.  A strong character can salvage a book with a weak plot, but if we don’t give a crap about the protagonist, the best plot can’t save the story.  When you put your hero or heroine in peril, and the reader says, “Why the hell should I care?”, then your story is pretty much dead.

cry your pardon, gunslinger.

They’re doing a film adaptation of King’s (IMHO impossible-to-adapt) “Dark Tower” heptalogy, and word has it that Javier Bardem has been offered the lead role of Roland Deschain.

Now, when I imagine Roland, I don’t really see Anton Chigurh, but I guess it could be worse.  I tossed around a few ideas how they could be making the worst possible adaptation of King’s Fantasy Western Sci-Fi Horror magnum opus:

  • Ashton Kutcher is cast as Roland, Eddie is rewritten to be a woman and played by Jessica Alba, and the whole thing is retooled as a romantic comedy.
  • Susannah is played by Halle Berry, and now has a flying wheelchair with gatling guns.
  • Oy is now a talking Golden Retriever.
  • Every time someone says “Thankee, sai,” there’s a laugh track, and everyone does a round of tequila shots.
  • The Dark Tower is now an amusement park, and the main narrative thread  involves our posse making it across the U.S. for the grand opening.

I’m a big fan of the novels, but I fear they’re too dense and expansive at the same time to really translate well onto the screen.  It’s just too much material that has to be shoehorned into a commercially viable format.  Whatever comes out will be a truncated compromise, a Cliff Notes sort of experience, much like the movies based on another heptalogy.

Although I’d love to be in charge of the merchandising tie-ins for the Dark Tower series and have a totally free hand.  It would be epic…we’re talking a pair of live sixguns with sandalwood grips in every Happy Meal, and lobstrosity specials at Captain D’s.




the anti-twilight.

I took my weekend Dadcation on Friday and went to see a movie.  Friday was the release day for Let Me In, the Matt Reeves-helmed remake/adaptation of the Swedish movie Let The Right One In.  Both movies are adaptations of the excellent novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. 

(Nominally speaking, it’s a vampire story, but if any novel or movie ever bucked a neat classification, this story is it.  It’s more about adolescent loneliness, bullying, and being an outsider.)

Generally speaking, American remakes of European movies tend to suck big rocks off the ground, but this one of the rare exceptions.  I had read a lot of positive pre-release buzz on this particular remake, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Let Me In is an amazingly effective movie in its own right, and one of the best remakes I’ve ever seen in any genre.

Because it’s a smart, well-acted, and moody flick with tween protagonists (Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played the boy in The Road, and Chloe Moretz, who played Hit Girl in Kick-Ass), and because it’s not a splatterfest or vampire shagging action, it’s probably going to be widely ignored at the box office, which is a shame.  The slickly packaged shit that is the Twilight trilogy, on the other hand, is making so much money that Stephenie Meyer will be able to have Utah gold-plated if she wants.  It’s a sad state of affairs, it is.

If you haven’t read the novel or seen the Swedish movie yet, I highly recommend them as smart, genuinely unsettling, and wholly original takes on the vampire mythos.  I usually tell people to read the book first, but in this case, I’d recommend the reverse order—watch the American remake first, then the Swedish version, and then read the novel.  There’s a ton of stuff in the novel that didn’t make it into either of the films, so the narrative in the movies is more streamlined.  (The novel also has some twists and reveals in it that would make you look at the movies differently.)

Let Me In accomplishes a rare feat—it manages to be a cultural translation of a foreign movie that doesn’t dumb down or gloss over stuff for domestic audiences.  The cast is excellent, especially the two leads, who at their tender ages already have more Thespian mojo in their little fingers than the entire cast of the Twilight trilogy have in their shirtless and/or sparkly bodies.

My rating for Let Me In: A-.  The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the unnecessary and unconvincing use of CGI in a few instances, and the equally unnecessary make-up job on Abby/Moretz in the basement scene.

tuesday randomosity.

Stuff I did last weekend:

  • Caulked the new logs on the side of the house.  We had eight logs replaced due to rot, and the cracks needed to be filled.  (Side note: Log home caulk is mighty sticky.)
  • Finished the Alternate History/Fantasy short story I started two weeks ago, and edited it to within an inch of its life.  This one takes place in an alternate 1890s Germany, and I’m toying with the idea of writing a whole novel in that setting.
  • Went out on Dadcation for some caffeine and a few pages of writing.  I’ve been shunning the coffee shop at the bookstore lately, because it’s always crowded.  They have a very large table in the Languages section that can be reserved for book clubs, and it’s always empty when I show up, so I’ve been setting up shop there.  It’s quiet, I have space to spread my stuff out a bit, and few people venture into the Languages corner even on busy days.  Working in public is fine until you have people basically rubbing elbows with you, and parents dragging their entourage of four preschoolers into the cafe for a raucous round of afternoon sugar infusions.  That’s when I grab my stuff and search for quieter pastures.
  • Played a bit of World of Warcraft.  I’ve been spending all my spare time on the Telling of Lies for Fun and Profit, so my WoW characters haven’t seen much action, but my main is finally close to hitting level 80.
  • Watched “Kick-Ass”, which has officially supplanted “Zombieland” as the greatest movie in the history of motion pictures.  Nicolas Cage is pitch-perfect as Big Daddy, and every single one of Hit-Girl’s fight scenes is just one long Crowning Moment of Awesome(Link Warning: tvtropes.org is an acknowledged Internet Black Hole, where you can wander in and lose hours in a blink.)
  • Started reading “Let The Right One In”, the acclaimed Swedish vampire novel they turned into a movie recently.  I saw the movie a few months ago and loved it.  Turns out they’re about to release an American remake, called “Let Me In”.  I dislike the idea of remaking what is essentially a perfect little gem of a movie, but the remake has a pretty stellar cast, so I hope they’re not going to screw it up too much.  (The vampire girl in the remake is played by Chloe Moretz, who plays the aforementioned Hit-Girl in the aforementioned “Kick-Ass”.)
  • Got a new round of agent queries ready, submitted a nonfiction article proposal, and sketched out a few more possible articles to turn into currency.  I do love currency, I really do.

The rest of the week will see me rebuilding that 70% complete pre-WWII Nazi Germany urban fantasy short story to put in more Awesome and trim out the fat.  Then I have to write another chapter for That Damn MilSF Sequel, and think about a few more non-fiction articles to shop around.  Oh, and my little employers will want to do the regular round of playground visits, story readings, and other diversions.  Plus, they want to be fed two or three times a week.

And that’s my exciting life at the moment.  This year has been mostly like wading through a hip-deep lake of half-congealed sticky toffee, and being out of commission for just about a whole month due to ZOMG BACK PAIN didn’t help my creative output.  Now I’ll be playing catch-up for a little while.