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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I've been reading this excellent new book by Joe Aisenberg that delves deep into Brian De Palma's Carrie, providing a wealth of details about its creation, its critical reception, how it compares with Stephen King's novel, and so on. Aisenberg has done an outstanding job, looking thoroughly at each scene from the film chapter-by-chapter, and peppering his analysis with insights via original interviews from several members of the Carrie cast and crew, as well as quotes from the many articles written about Carrie over the past 35+ years. The book is part of Centipede Press' "Studies In The Horror Film" series. The 100-copy, limited edition hardcover, signed by author Joe Aisenberg and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, is currently available for pre-order from the Centipede website. A trade paperback edition is aiming for publication in March. The book's appendix includes Aisenberg's full interviews with De Palma and Cohen. I'll post a more in-depth review soon, but if you love Carrie, you'll love this book.

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 4:42 PM CST
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Friday, February 17, 2012

The MCC Theater's new Off Broadway musical version of Carrie officially opens March 1st, and has been in previews for the past couple of weeks. Betty Buckley, who played the gym teacher Miss Collins in the Brian De Palma film, also played Carrie's mother in the 1988 Broadway musical version that has become the stuff of legend. Buckley is pictured above with the stars of the new version, Molly Ranson, who plays Carrie, and Marin Mazzie, who plays her mother. Buckley told the New York Times' Patrick Healy that she "completely enjoyed" the new production, and is thrilled for the team that put it together: composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford, and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen, the latter having previously adapted Stephen King's novel for De Palma's film. "I always felt their work in this show was ahead of its time, really provocative and very passionate theater,” Buckley told Healy of the team that also worked on the 1988 version. “I’m really proud of the work we did back then, and I’m a huge fan of these guys. I always wanted the score and the story to be seen for its intensely, emotionally moving qualities, and I think you can see those qualities in this production.” Healy's article continues:

The major difference between the new Carrie and the Broadway production, in Ms. Buckley’s view, is that the current director, Stafford Arima, has created a “homogeneity” in tone, design, and performance that makes for “focused, consistent, understandable storytelling.”

“The problem with the original production,” she continued, “was that the directorial concept was very abstract, and the director Terry Hands thought the piece resonated as Jacobean drama. He achieved that through some very, very bloody scenes. Linzi [Hateley] and I presented a psychologically accurate portrayal of a deeply, emotionally disturbed mother and daughter.”

Ms. Buckley described the Off Broadway revival as “the PG-13 version of the original,” then added: “I would love this production to be more dangerous. I think that’s what we had going on that made it resonate for all these years. It’s not about adding camp to this production, but about adding even more truth. The show is perfectly timed right now, because we’re so aware of the sort of bullying in schools that Carrie experiences.”

Healy begins his article with an account of the 1988 show's opening night:

When the lights went black at the end of the first Broadway preview of Carrie, on April 28, 1988, the actress Betty Buckley recalled hearing something she had never experienced in her 20 years in theater: Boos from the audience. Ms. Buckley, who had won a Tony Award in 1983 for Cats, played the fanatically religious mother Margaret White in the musical, and her character had just been killed by the telekinetic powers of her daughter, the title character. Both Ms. Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who played Carrie, lay on the stage in the dark, hearing the boos; Ms. Buckley recalled that Ms. Hateley, making her Broadway debut, whispered, “What do we do?”

“We get up,” Ms. Buckley said in reply. They stood, the lights came on, and the boos turned to cheers and applause for the performers in the show, which would go on to close after 21 performances, one of the biggest flops in Broadway history.

Another New York Times article by Healy from earlier this month looks at the two versions of the musical, with picture comparisons, as well as quotes from Cohen, among others. "The three of us did not exactly have the best time with the Broadway production," Cohen told Healy. "We had a dream 30 years ago for a show about outsiders,” and “now every day the three of us look at each other and we’re like, ‘We’re getting closer.’"

Meanwhile, Mark Kennedy at the Associated Press interviewed Ranson, who told him that she loved De Palma's film, and thinks the story is particularly relevant today. "Really, at its core, it's the story of a girl who's trying to fit in," Ranson told Kennedy. "It's the story of an outsider, which I think everyone can relate to in one way or another. Especially now, with all this bullying. It's kind of a great time to be doing this." Ranson, 22, was not yet born when the original Broadway version happened in 1988. The new version tones down the blood, especially during the prom scene. Regarding the blood, Ranson says, "It'll look good. It'll look real. It's going to be done really beautifully and subtly — artistically, kind of abstract."

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:54 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Lana Del Ray graces the cover of the February issue of the British music magazine Q. According to Famous Monsters Of Filmland, the singer/recording artist "asked to be shot in tribute to one of her favorite films, the 1976 Brian De Palma classic Carrie." Five of the six photos inside the magazine show Del Ray in various bloody Carrie poses, including the one shown here in the middle. The Famous Monsters site also has some behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, including the one at the very bottom below.
(Thanks to Ryan!)

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:12 AM CST
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Posted by Geoff at 11:14 PM CST
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Looks like Chronicle isn't the only movie opening this weekend that pays homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie. Promoción fantasma (Ghost Graduation) opened Friday in Spain, and features the scene above, in which two boys pour fake blood over a girl as she showers in the school locker room. That clip can be caught briefly in the film's trailer, and it's not the only moment in Ghost Graduation that has Carrie on its mind. The film is a comedy about a paranormal professor who tries to help a group of dead boys (ghosts) graduate high school. According to CINEMANÍA, Ghost Graduation spoofs high-school moments from the likes of The Breakfast Club, Carrie, Back To The Future and Glee, with a little Ghostbusters thrown in for good measure.

In another Carrie reference, the article states, one of the young protagonists becomes the laughingstock of his classmates when he is kissed by a ghost at a big dance. The film's director, Javier Ruiz Caldera, told CINEMANÍA about yet another: "The scenes in which the students play volleyball has a lot to do with Carrie: on a formal level, it's a film that has been much in my head." A bit of the volleyball scene (as well as a bit of the scene at the dance) can be seen in the trailer linked to above. De Palma's Carrie, of course, opens with a scene of the high school girls playing volleyball during gym class.

With all of these recent homages, Rado, the webmaster of The De Palma Touch, has put together a page he calls De Palma's Brutal Legacy in the 2010s.

Posted by Geoff at 3:57 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 5, 2012 4:03 PM CST
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chronicle is a new film that opens tomorrow, written by Max Landis (son of John Landis) and directed by Josh Trank. According to several critics, the film calls to mind Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie, as well as a blend of other influences. In January, Landis explained to Comic Book Movie's Ed Gross that he wrote Chronicle "very much intending to be an antidote to all of the other superhero movies. We've sort of forgotten in this slew of comic-based superhero movies that what made those characters iconic is not the giant set pieces or the action that happens in comics. All of those movies feel like the same film by the second act; they all blur together.

"I wrote Chronicle specifically to show people that a movie about people with powers doesn't have to be the way it's been presented so far. It can be something character based. Chronicle is closer to Carrie than Captain America. It's definitely not Stephen King, but it's definitely got an edge to it that these movies don't usually have. It doesn't exist in a fantastical world. Ultimately the consequences aren't Spider-Man has to save the girl from falling off the bridge; there's a more serious set of consequences than that."

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis explains that one of the main characters is seen at the beginning of the film recording himself in his bedroom mirror on a digital camera, and that later, after breaking that camera, he gets a new, more expensive one that he begins to operate via newly found powers of telekinesis. Dargis states that the visual polish derived from this plot turn "truly lifts the movie."

Dargis calls Chronicle "a slick, modestly scaled science-fiction fairy tale with major box-office aspirations... It’s a classic pop creation in that its hook — three teenage boys mysteriously acquire fantastic powers — seems fresh even if the whole thing feels inspired by someone’s Netflix queue: a revenge-of-the-outsider tale like Brian De Palma’s Carrie; the first-person perspective of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield; and average Joes turned super-Joes as in the television shows Heroes and No Ordinary Family.”

Later in the review, Dargis writes, "For a while the mysterious hole and its cave hold out the promise that Chronicle will be as creepy-freaky as Carrie, and that the filmmakers will mine the cavity’s depths for all its psycho-sexual terror instead of settling for a boy’s super-neato adventure. No such luck."

Meanwhile, TIME's Richard Corliss' review has the headline, "Chronicle: It's Carrie Plus X-Men, With Found Footage." Corliss, who finds Chronicle "simultaneously diverting and annoying," concludes his review with a wry discussion of how the film plays with the current trends of the "Found-Footage Faux-Doc" (FFFD):

The obvious liability of an FFFD is the requirement that the main character lug a camera everywhere, like Sisyphus with his damned rock, no matter how mortal the peril. The convention turns Chronicle sillier than it needs to be at times, as when Matt and Steve are trying to save a man’s life and Andrew can’t help because he’s filming. Things will be so much simpler when someone markets a camera that can be inserted in the customer’s forehead — the iBrain.

The movie does offer two innovations in the form. First, Andrew can make his camera levitate, giving moviegoers an occasional God’s-eye view of the action. And it happens that Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), a school friend of Matt’s, is also a compulsive videographer; when Matt visits her, we see her reflected in a mirror as she talks to him.

The second camera! This could be a breakthrough in found-footage movies, similar to but not quite on a par with the moment in ancient Athens, when Aeschylus introduced a second character — the deuteragonist — to Greek tragedy, thus turning the theatrical art from monologue to dialogue. (Voilà: drama!) Chronicle‘s second camera opens up dizzying possibilities: the footage of Andrew and Casey’s cameras could be edited into reaction shots, or into coverage of the same action from different vantage points. Or Casey could become the sleuth-heroine in a movie deficient in essential females.

Alas, she proves a minor character, and her camera doesn’t figure important in the story, as Andrew and Matt climactically reprise the two-man air battle from the end of the first Iron Man movie. Landis and Trask — preoccupied with aping and synthesizing other films into an ultimately ordinary one of their own — don’t exploit the opportunities they created with their second camera. It’s as if Edison thought his light bulb had no other function but to inspire jokes about how many people it took to screw it in.

The Boston Herald's James Verniere calls Chronicle "surprisingly insightful, terribly titled." Verniere says the film's found-footage conceit is more like Cloverfield than The Blair Witch Project. He concludes his review by writing, "You might describe Chronicle as The Office of teen superhero movies and say it owes a debt to Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) and The Fury (1978). But it’s also remarkably resonant and, yes, smells like teen spirit."

Finally, FEMPOP's Alex Cranz states, "Take Carrie. Now rub it up against the seminal Japanese film Akira. Now take out all the cool 'superpowers as allegories for teenager junk' stuff. And add a ton of fight scene that are really really fun. That is Chronicle." While Cranz was put off by some of the film's "incredibly dogdy" special effects, he also loves the shots produced by telekinetically-operated cameras. "Shots that are impossible in most found footage films are liberally used," Cranz writes. [Minor SPOILER] "If the characters are controlling the cameras with their minds then yes we can see all of them at once without worrying about whose holding the camera and yes we can do cool crane shots and yes we can get multiple angles on a scene because they’ve stolen a dozen cameras and are controlling them all with their minds."

Posted by Geoff at 7:54 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 11:47 PM CST
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Saturday, January 21, 2012
A Carrie reunion will take place Friday, May 4th, when the Texas Frightmare Weekend, a horror convention sponsored by Anchor Bay Entertainment and Rue Morgue magazine, holds Prom Night from 9pm to 1am at Hyatt Regency's Filmmakers Hall. Set to attend are Nancy Allen, Piper Laurie, Betty Buckley, and P.J. Soles. The latter two were just announced as guests last week, so there may be more announced later, although the fest's web site gives no indication of that. Also in attendance will be Anthony Michael Hall. Here's the official description from the festival:

We have a special evening planned for you. Music. Dancing. Costumes. TERROR!Prom photos will be available for purchase with Anthony Michael Hall and other special guests along with a cash bar, music provided by GGC Productionsand dancing. Costumes are strongly encouraged as celebrity hosts will close out the evening by crowning King and Queen to the best costumed attendees!

WHEN: Friday May 4th, 9:00pm – 1:00am
WHERE: Filmmakers Hall, Hyatt Regency DFW
COST: Free for VIP, $5 for Weekend Pass holders, $10 for all others (pay at the door)

The festival itself runs May 4-6 2012 in Dallas. Also in attendance at the festival will be Barbara Crampton, who appeared in Brian De Palma's Body Double. I'll have a post about her tomorrow...

Posted by Geoff at 6:36 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012
In the January 6 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Mark Harris takes a look at what went into the re-creation of Lisbeth Salander for David Fincher and Steven Zaillian's American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But before he gets to that point, he discusses the seeming antecedents to the character created by the late author Stieg Larsson. "By the time Larsson conceived her a decade ago," states Harris, "there were plenty of forerunners he could scavenge and strip for parts. In a way, Salendar's two godmothers are Sissy Spacek as the telekinetic wallflower-turned-destroyer in 1976's Carrie and Daryl Hannah as Pris, the cartwheeling death doll in 1982's Blade Runner. Like Lisbeth, Carrie is an outcast whose abusive treatment by both her family and her society (a.k.a. high school) triggers the surge of her special power into something dangerous. And like Lisbeth, she never seems more emotionally remote-- removed even from herself-- than when she's unleashing hell."

Harris names a number of other "stone-cold female badasses" that were possible influences in creating Lisbeth: Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Neil Gaiman's Death, and Luc Besson's Nikita. "Recently," he writes, "we've seen variations embodied by Angelina Jolie (Wanted), Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Saoirse Ronan (Hanna), and Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse)."

Posted by Geoff at 10:30 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:37 PM CST
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Monday, January 16, 2012
Hollywood News' Roger Friedman talked with Kimberly Peirce Friday, and says that she told him "all about her remake of Carrie." According to Freidman, Peirce said, "I’m the biggest Stephen King fan. And Brian De Palma, believe me."

Posted by Geoff at 5:47 PM CST
Updated: Monday, January 16, 2012 5:51 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Deadline's Mike Fleming reported today that Kimberly Peirce is in talks to direct the MGM/Screen Gems remake of Carrie. Peirce is best known for her feature debut Boys Don't Cry. Since that picture in 1999, she has directed one other feature, the effective Iraq war-themed drama Stop-Loss, which was released in 2008. In between, she directed several episodes of Showtime's The L Word.

Peirce tends to be a hands-on director, meaning she is heavily involved in the screenplay development of her projects, usually co-writing as well as directing. Last February, Fleming reported that Peirce had set up a gang drama at Universal called The Knife. "We spent about four months working for free to put this together," Peirce told Fleming at the time, "because directors and writers have to go in with a movie like this totally figured out. Many of my filmmaker and screenwriter friends tell me they’ve had to do the same. You just have to look at it as the answer to the question, what do I have to do to get a good movie made? A two-minute pitch isn’t good enough, and is there anything more mind-numbing than reading an outline? I fell in love with the two characters and immediately saw a classic buddy movie with this rookie gang-banger and a hard-nosed FBI agent who have to overcome a mutual distrust. The agent wants to infiltrate the gang at a time when the FBI had no understanding of gang structure. They were effective but there are so many conflicts that play out, like can you be an informant without being a rat, to can you trust an informant if his reason for cooperating isn’t that you will otherwise send him to prison for another crime he committed? I love true undercover crime stories like On The Waterfront, The Departed and Donnie Brasco, but Hollywood is moving away from films like these. We walked in and said, here’s the movie, it will cost under $30 million. And we walked out with much more than a development deal. It also helped that The Town and Takers came in at $30 million or less and grossed over $100 million. The studio told us to move as fast as we can and that’s what we’re doing.”

With that project seemingly stalled, Peirce may be jumping onto the Carrie remake as a way to have a potential hit and get some of her other projects made. Fleming states that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has already written the new adaptation of Stephen King's novel, but if Peirce signs on, she will undoubtedly reshape it to fit her vision.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:21 AM CST
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