Crimson Peak: A Return to Dark and Shadowy Corridors

Of all of the horror subgenres that exist, the oldest of all of them is Gothic horror. Named in honor of an architectural style from the Middle Ages, Gothic horror was born in the late 18th century by writers such as Horace Wadpole and Ann Radcliffe. Within the pages of stories such as The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho, they presented a world that thrives upon the fear of the unknown. Even as critics derided the genre, other writers such as Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Bronte sisters added to the genre, helping to solidify how the public saw it. With the skilled stories of such writers, Gothic horror became a world of dark and shadowy corridors, lurking with brooding noblemen and cursed secrets. Not only that, but the Gothic horror genre would also feature plenty of works infused with other genres, such as romance, fantasy, and even science fiction. However, the genre has fallen away in recent decades, having become supplanted by modern horror. Of course, it is not completely forgotten. Universal Studios and Hammer Studios are two production companies whose films brought Gothic horror to the silver screen, with Universal ruling in the ’30s and ’40s while Hammer Studios dominated in the ’50s and ’60s. Now, film director Guillermo del Toro has come to bring his own tale of Gothic horror to the movie screen, in the form of Crimson Peak.

Set in the Victorian Era, Crimson Peak follows Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who seeks to write ghost stories. Her life is changed, however, when she meets the mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a penniless baronet seeking capital for an invention of his. Warmed by his appreciation for her writing, Edith ends up falling in love with Thomas and eventually the two become married. Once they do, they move back to Thomas’ home in England, a crumbling mansion estate known as Allerdale Hall. Also living at Allerdale Hall with them is Thomas’ tight-lipped and tightly-wound sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). Things begin to take a darker turn, however, as Edith finds they are not the only ones in the crumbling mansion. Lying within its halls are ghosts, spectres of the past who bare a warning to Edith: Beware of Crimson Peak.

I really liked what Guillermo del Toro went for with this film. He went full force on capturing the feel of Gothic horror, building up a foreboding atmosphere as the tale unfolds. He embraced the genre’s tropes, recapturing their classic spark with a modern touch. It is also a visually stunning film. Allerdale Hall looks like the quintessential haunted house, with its worn walls and darkened corridors. The architecture is stunning, yet also haunting. There is even the inspired touch of red clay seeping up through the floorboards, causing anyone walking through to leave what appears like bloody footprints. The ghosts also look incredible, presented as floating spectres who bare the marks of their death and whose bodies are at varying degrees of visibility. As always, Guillermo del Toro brings his unique viewpoint to the screen with his visual flourish. The performances are also strong, working well for this unraveling tale of horror and madness. Now, there is something that might turn away some viewers: it is not that scary of a film.

Now, this is an issue that I do not hold completely against the movie. To most of the public and with how the movie has been sold in trailers and commercials, it would look as if the style of film is that of a haunted house horror movie. Honestly, that’s not the sort of story that this is. It would be far better to treat this film as what it is, which is a Gothic romance. While there are ghosts in the story, they are not the focal point of it. The true focus of the film is on Edith, the Sharpe siblings, and the dark secrets that lurk within the past of Allerdale Hall. Also, the horror that does unfold in the film is very much from the same style as Gothic horror. This means that the film takes a slow burn approach in its story, leaning on atmosphere and tension to build up the scares before its grand climax. However, such an approach might sour some moviegoers, more used to the quicker pace and action-filled sequences that are more of a thing in modern horror. Thus, it may seem as if the film isn’t that scary. To tell the truth, it is a strong slice of Gothic horror. Sadly, Gothic horror is a form that has fallen out of fashion in the face of modern horror movies which can deliver a visceral punch as they deliver their scares. Basically, this means that Crimson Peak is a well-skilled take on a form of horror that might not chill as many people to the bone these days.

In the end, I think Crimson Peak is worth checking out. Though it may not be as scary as some horror movies in recent years, it is still a stunning film to watch in terms of its visuals and its ability to recreate one of the classic forms of horror. In a way, it is like some of Guillermo del Toro’s other horror movies, like Cronos or The Devil’s Backbone. These are horror films that offer chilling tales, with an atmosphere that builds to unnerve and a reminder of how even those creatures that seem terrifying, whether it is ghosts who roam dark halls or vampires who feast on blood, are not the real monsters to fear.


Goosebumps: Viewer, Beware, You’re In for a Fun Watch

Back in the 1990s, a series of books arose that caught the attention of young people everywhere. It was a series known as Goosebumps. Created by R. L. Stine, the series caught so much attention because it was something quite rare: a series of horror books aimed at children. With their striking covers and accessible stories, Goosebumps became a gateway to scares for a younger generation. It also became a pop culture force, with numerous spin-offs within the book series, a TV show, and even video games along with all sorts of merchandise. Though the books themselves may sometimes seem a little cheesy, there’s no denying it left a mark on a generation of young readers. Now, as time has passed, that series has now made its arrival to the big screen. Though it’s not based on any one specific book, the film is a fun mixture of monsters from throughout the series, with the film simply known as Goosebumps.

The film is centered around Zach Cooper, a teenager who has moved with his mom from New York City to the small town of Madison, Delaware. Though he is frustrated with this change of scenery, he finds some friendship from a girl next door named Hannah despite the protests of her mysterious and abrasive father (played by Jack Black). When Zach hears the sound of a scream come from Hannah’s home, he heads over to investigate with his friend Champ and fears Hannah may be in trouble at the hands of her dad. When they head over, they discovers two surprising truths: her father is actually author R. L. Stine and all the monsters from his Goosebumps books are real, kept contained within their manuscripts. However, due to a mishap, the manuscripts are opened, freeing such horrors as the Abominable Snowman, villainous lawn gnomes, and a living ventriloquist’s dummy named Slappy. As the monsters wreak havoc in Madison and set their sights on destroying R. L. Stine, our heroes set out in search of a way to recapture all of the monsters back onto the page.

This film actually turned out to be a lot of fun. Firstly, the plot is a clever approach to adapting the series of books to film. Rather than adapting one book or attempting an anthology, this meta approach allows them to pull inspiration from the whole series in terms of plot and in terms of monsters who show up over the course of the film. The performances in the movie also work well, helping to deliver a quick sense of humor along with the thrills. Particularly of note is Jack Black, who not only plays R. L. Stine but also voices Slappy, reimagined here as being Stine’s raging id. Along with that, there are plenty of fun action sequences throughout the movie, such as when our heroes are attacked by a whole horde of villainous lawn gnomes. Helping out these sequences is a fun music score by Danny Elfman, which captures a macabre but playful tone. Now, not everything in this film quite works.

When it comes to the humor, I do feel that the film does get a little too goofy at points. Now, I do understand that this is a family film, but the fact of the matter is that the appeal of the Goosebumps books was that they were horror stories for kids. True, they tended to have humor to go along with the scares, but they did also have attempts at scares. Personally, I would have appreciated if they had found a way to include some scares in this film. Maybe not something major, but moments that could offer a good spine-tingling chill to kids along with the laughs. That way, you have a good mixture of funny and scary, something that would be appropriate for the feel of Goosebumps.

This movie may not be a great film, but for what it is, it’s a delight. It’s a fun, breezy trip, capturing a mix of goofy humor and familiar monsters in what feels like the cinematic equivalent to a carnival dark ride. I think it will make for a good watch for the family this Halloween season, along with maybe striking a chord for nostalgic readers of the original Goosebumps series. In fact, the style and feel of the film overall reminds me of movies from the ’90s like Hocus Pocus or Small Soldiers. I suppose it’s rather fitting, then, that a movie based on a popular series of books from the ’90s should have a similar feel to movies from that time as well. For me, I’d suggest giving Goosebumps a try.

The Challenge of Adaptation: The Spirit or the Letter?

(Hello there, dear readers. I would like to apologize for having not written anything for the past few days. When I wrote my last few entries, I had thought I was past the worst of my cold. To tell the truth, my last few entries felt like weaker ones, like I was held back by something. Most likely the cold threw off my writing. So, I decided to spend this time focusing more fully on conquering my cold, to ensure that I was in the best form to offer you all better work. My apologies for the delays. I will be back to a standard Monday through Friday schedule.)

This past weekend had the bombing of another film based on an established work, this time in the form of Pan. Though its failure is understandable given the quality of the writing and ideas slapped into it, it is sure to spin the wheels once more of the argument against adaptations. There are plenty who bemoan the nature of adaptations in film, who believe that Hollywood these days saturates the theaters with unoriginal works that water down their source material. Now, to me, that is simply not true. For one, there has always been adaptations done on film. Even the earliest days of movies have adapted stories like A Christmas Carol or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the issue here isn’t how many adaptations there are, it’s how they are done. If no care is taken to the craftmanship of adapting one work to another medium, then the result is an audience that is soured due to a poor representation of a story they like. Flood the market with such terrible representations, and people will naturally grow weary of it. So, the challenge becomes this: how do you ensure that people do not automatically see an adaptation or reimagining as something terrible? To me, the answer lies in determining which is more important to preserve. Namely, the spirit or the letter.

First, let me lay out what I mean. For me, the spirit and the letter are two separate but key parts of any story. The spirit is its heart, the themes and feelings that it conveys through its narrative. The letter is the specific way that it is told, the passages and events that unfold over its course. Both are elements that influence and affect a story and how its audience responds to it. Perhaps it is the feeling that a story evokes, or the ideas that it explores, that causes an audience to latch onto a story. Sometimes, it might be how the story is told, whether the events presented or the method of how the story is offered, that ensures that the story is one remembered. Both elements are key to a story and should be considered when it comes to adapting it, whether as a pure adaptation or as a reimagining of some kind. If I were to pick an element to focus on for an adaptation, however, I believe that it would be worth focusing on the spirit of a work and trying to capture that spirit when translating it to another form. After all, not everything can work as a “one to one” adaptation. Sequences that might be engaging to read in a book or play in a game could be a slog in a film format, or perhaps the way of how a character reacts or feels about a moment is best conveyed from a more interior space than what a movie might offer. True, there are some that can achieve such an approach. Sin City, for example, pretty much just lifts Frank Miller’s graphic novels straight from the page to screen, bringing its pulp thrills in a pure form. Not many adaptations have such a luxury, however, which is why the spirit of a work is more important to pursue.

The spirit of a story is something that can transcend its original medium. Its something that can be captured, whether in its themes or its feelings, and given new life with a different approach. Plenty of movies help to show the power of the spirit, even if they might not always preserve the letter. Frozen, for instance, is based upon Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen yet is so different that it feels like a very loose adaptation of the story. It chooses to have pretty much an entirely new story, with a different set of characters that the narrative follows. The most present thing that does carry over is a female character who has command over snow and ice. However, Frozen still preserves the original fairy tale’s message of the power of love overcoming hate and fear. Another example of a movie preserving the spirit of its source material is Cloud Atlas. Now, the format of the book was like that of a Russian nesting doll. Each story, from its chronologically earliest, would deal out its first half. It was not until the reader reaches the chronologically latest story that they received the whole story at once. From there, the stories go back in time and offer their second halves. Instead of relying on the book’s structure, which would seem to be nearly impossible to capture in a satisfying way on film, the movie instead runs through all of the stories together. In this case, it jumps between them, cutting between moments that are united by action, emotion, or character. That way, it showcases the multiple stories while maintaining the overall work’s theme of extending ourselves beyond a tribe mentality and treating other human beings with dignity and respect. Even Marvel Studios, among the wave of superhero films that has arisen, has demonstrated their skill at capturing the spirit of their characters to film. They have offered movies that feel properly tailored to their characters, capturing the spirit in a close-knit fashion rather than trying to force a certain style upon all of them.

So, why did I specifically mention Pan at the start of this post? Among its flaws, Pan displays a disregard for the spirit of J. M. Barrie’s original play, Peter Pan. It takes the themes of growing up, of the conflict between youth and age, and chucks it all out. It tries to substitute it with a generic Chosen One storyline, the narrative of someone destined to take down some evil. Even if it tries to throw in all sorts of attempts at magic, none of it can hide the fact that it is missing that core spirit. Now, compare that to Hook. For those who have not seen it, Hook is a movie about Peter Banning, a man whose children are kidnapped by Captain Hook and who turns out to be a grown up Peter Pan. Though it is a sequel story made to continue Peter Pan, it still preserves the spirit of the original story. It maintains the conflict of time passing, the youthful magic of Neverland, and the theme of how growing up is not such a bad thing. As such, its heart shines through and offers a fun take on what might happen after the events of the original story. It’s an example of what happens when a storyteller understands the spirit of a story, and offers the right craftsmanship to capture that spirit in a new form or medium.

After all, what is a story, a work, without its spirit? Just a name. Just a face. Just something to be coated on a generic narrative to make a quick buck. Hopefully, Hollywood keeps this in mind and offers more adaptations that have the spirit of a work and not just its name.

iZombie: A New Life for the Undead

When it comes to television, sometimes it is the most surprising material that can spark a brilliant series. Sometimes, it is the right creative team that comes together and channels their prowess into creating an ongoing series worth following week after week. Sometimes, it’s just the right mixture of both that starts the fire. In the case of the first situation, Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics that is largely separate from their superhero universe and focusing on more adult stories) had launched a comic book series called iZOMBIE by writers Chris Roberson and Mike Allred. In the case of the second situation, there is the creative team of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright. Both are producers who gained a noted following for a television series they created known as Veronica Mars. Showcasing strong characters and story in a tale that feels like a sharp descendant of Nancy Drew, the pair proved their strength in developing and guiding a television series. Why are these two situations noted? Because they have come together, with Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright returning to television with a loose adaptation of the titular comic book for the CW, with the show known as iZombie.

The series follows Olivia Moore (most commonly known as Liv), a medical student who has her eye focused on her work and an engagement with the charming Major Lilywhite. However, her whole life changes when she decides to cut loose for once at a boat party, only for this party to erupt in a zombie outbreak and for Liv to become a zombie herself. Mind you, she hasn’t lost any of her intelligence or personality as a zombie. She only reverts to a truly monstrous state if she goes without eating brains for a while. Still, the result is that she gives up her residency to get a job at a morgue (so as to supply herself with brains) and loses her engagement to Major. Now, it turns out that one of the side effects for a zombie eating brains is that they not only temporarily get parts of the brain’s personality, they also receive some of the memories resting within it. This comes into play when a police detective named Clive Babineux stops by to check in on an autopsy and Liv ends up giving a useful piece of info that could only come from the deceased. To cover for her, Ravi (Liv’s boss and the only one who knows of her secret) claims that she is psychic. Though skeptical, the fact that her information works convinces Babineux to humor the claim and he starts bringing Liv along to use her “psychic” skills to help solve cases. Thus begins their partnership, solving cases while Liv launches her own investigation into what caused the zombie outbreak and what a mysterious man named Blaine has to do with it.

Just like with their previous show Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright have crafted an excellent series right out of the gate. The writing is sharp, with characters already feeling like they exist in this world. Along with that is how they develop over the course of the series. Liv, for example, grapples with and realizes the challenges of living live as a zombie. Her path becomes a tug back and forth between the ways of her old life and old commitments with the new issues such as finding love. Major is also a good example of the show’s strength in writing. At the start of the first season, he seemed like a nice if somewhat generic character, still offering some support for Liv while working at a halfway home for runaways. However, when he starts investigating the disappearance of some teenage runaways, his path grows darker and he grows into a more fleshed-out figure as he tries to make sense of a world that has lost sense to him. The mystery is also well-paced and handled with ease, with each new revelation offering both a help towards realizing the source of the zombies as new hurdles form to be overcome. Of course, the writing isn’t the only strength to this show.

The performances in this show are very well-done, lending themselves well to the material. Of particular note is the series’ star, Rose McIver. She does a good job with her performance as Olivia Moore, showcasing her as she navigates her new life as a zombie. She also works well in showing the “temporarily absorbing personality traits” element of being a zombie, with these borrowed aspects filtering into her and guiding some of her actions and words. Most of all, she helps captures her strength as she stands in the face of adversity, challenging all those linked to the zombie outbreak who dare to threaten her and those closest to her. She is another great, strong female heroine gracing the television screen. Of course, this is fitting from the same creators who introduced the world to Veronica Mars, a teenage private detective who sought the truth when her best friend was murdered. It makes sense that they could follow up one strong series with another.

iZombie is shown on the CW on Tuesdays at 9 PM. The show is also featured on Netflix and Hulu. It’s currently on its second season as of this post, so Hulu is where you can follow new episodes as they air. For those who want to catch up on the first season, Netflix will have you covered.

Hawkeye: A Comic That’s On Target

(Apologies for missing yesterday’s post. I ended up catching a bit more rest than expected to battle the final legs of a slight cold. Don’t worry, I am over the worst. Consider this a reminder to stay safe and stay healthy, dear readers.)

The Marvel Universe is one that has been home to plenty of iconic characters. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. Captain America. These names are ones that light up an image quick in the public eye, especially now with Marvel’s grand success in crafting a Cinematic Universe with their characters (well, at least those they own the film rights for). Indeed, these are the sort of superheroes that the average moviegoer or comics reader would know by heart. However, there are plenty of other Marvel heroes who offer great stories to read and enjoy. Perhaps they are heroes who are new additions to the Marvel Universe. Perhaps they have always been more niche characters, with odd elements to their personality or backstory. Maybe they’re just heroes who have always been around, but overshadowed to some degree by other heroes. Such is the case with Clint Barton, better known by his superhero alias of Hawkeye. Now, Marvel has had a new series devoted to the character that has made for a fun read.

For those unfamiliar with the character’s comic book origins, Clint Barton started life as an orphan who ran away from an orphanage to start a new life in a traveling carnival. Training under a skilled swordsman named Jacques Duquesne and a marksman named Buck Chisholm, Clint developed an uncanny skill in archery. Eventually, he became a star performer under the name of Hawkeye. However, his life as a circus performer wasn’t enough. Witnessing the heroics of Iron Man, Clint decides to take a crack at becoming a hero. Circumstances put him on the side of crime for a while, however, before Clint is finally able to clear his name and prove to the Avengers that he is serious about being a hero. Now, this series is not about Hawkeye’s time as a frequent member of the Avengers. In fact, this series is specifically centered around what he does when he is not busy being an Avenger. In this case, it means taking on special assignments for S.H.I.E.L.D., clearing out his neighborhood of criminals, or even taking on the odd supervillain. Helping him out is Kate Bishop, a skiller archer and rich girl who had once taken on the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was active under the alias of Ronin. With her help, Clint takes on these assignments armed with his bow and arrows and a slight sense of snark.

Written by Matt Fraction, the current Hawkeye series is a title that is definitely worth picking up. The series is a fun read, exploring Clint’s work when he is not busy spending his time as an Avenger. The action is quick-paced, delivering striking visuals that help to high-light the risk and danger that Clint faces. The writing is also sharp, showcasing Clint as a streetwise hero who also grapples with having grown up and been trained to be a living weapon. It explores the rough world he works in, battling not the sort of high-level world conquerors who challenge the Avengers. His is a world where he fights street gangs and crime bosses, such as Madame Masque and the Ringmaster. Along with that, the series features a lot of clever touches that seem to nudge and acknowledge the comic book medium. Text that is in the background or generally not key the story can sometimes offer a joke or surprise, such as a newspaper headline that read Everything Awful Oh God Somebody Do Something. Whenever a foreign language is spoken, rather than the standard approach of a translation of their speech in parentheses, it simply notes the language being spoken in such forms as (French) or (Maybe some Spanish stuff). Touches like these offer a fun, reflexive element to the proceedings, while most humor that does crop up in this series comes from the characters themselves and the breezy tone that Fraction captures with ease.

On the whole, the series is worth checking out. It serves well as a story of a non-super superhero, one who isn’t battling grand supervillains with incredible superpowers but instead fighting gangs and mobs with a bow and arrows. It’s a great look as well at a hero who has always been known as part of the Avengers but frequently overlooked due to a roster that includes such major figures like Captain America and Iron Man. This series high-lights the skills, the charm, and the appeal of Clint Barton, the greatest marksman known to man. After all, there’s a reason a guy like him serves on a team that includes such impressive heroes. If you want to catch up on this series, there are four paperback volumes of Hawkeye available in stores.

The Walk: Two Sides of the Same Tightrope

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, adaptation is something that is prevalent in film and television. Something else that serves as material for media, however, is history. Whether it is recent events or ancient history, real life has offered all sorts of stories that help remind us that reality can be stranger than fiction. It becomes particularly interesting then when two different methods of telling a real-life story emerge on film: one is the path of a dramatized retelling, while the other is a documentary that examines a life or event. Such is the case with the tale of Philippe Petit, a French street performer and wire-walker who made his mark in 1974 by rigging an illegal high-wire between the towers of the World Trade Center and then successfully walking it. in 2008, his story was brought back to the public consciousness with the documentary Man on Wire, which chronicled the story by featuring interviews with Petit and his associates while showcasing reenactments that structure this tale in a similar fashion to a heist movie. Now, in 2015, director Robert Zemeckis has brought to the screen a dramatic telling of this daring feat, with his movie known simply as The Walk.

For those unfamiliar with the real-life story, Philippe Petit was a French street performer who had developed a skill for wire-walking and juggling. One day, when he went to a dentist to deal with a toothache, he saw an image in a magazine of the planned look of the World Trade Center in New York City. Struck by the picture, he found himself with a crazy plan: to rig a high-wire between the Twin Towers and then walk it. It was to be his coup, his greatest achievement. As such, he brought his girlfriend Annie Allix and photographer Jean-Louis in on the plan. From there, they gained allies in France and in New York, bringing them together as they gained valuable intel on the construction of the World Trade Center. Once they learned all they could, they set about preparing the high-wire during the dead of night. Though many obstacles and surprises arose that would challenge them, they managed to get everything set up. Then, a little after 7 AM, Petit began his daring walk between the towers, a feat which lasted 45 minutes and grabbed everyone’s attention.

The film itself is good, with a lot of delightful visual flourishes which help to add to the detail. Before getting into the visuals, however, it is worth noting the film’s star. Playing the part of Philippe Petit is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and this is absolutely his film. He captures a great feel for Petit, capturing the duality of the wire-walker. He captures his clownish charm, a twinkle in his eye as he convinces others of the impact that can come from such an acrobatic feat. He captures his megalomaniacal obsession, with his stubborn commitment to his dream that can frustrate those closest to him. He even captures the right physicality, his move and grace flowing naturally for one who has trained his body for precise movement. To go along with the great performance, the visuals of this film are stunning. Not only does Zemeckis use a number of neat tricks to add to the story and offer stunning sights made for 3D and for IMAX, he pulls off an incredible reconstruction of the World Trade Center. Whether in long shots with the buildings in the skyline or up close outside or in, the look of the buildings is nicely captured. Especially of note is the titular walk. Using his technological wizardry and directing skill, Robert Zemeckis captures the feel of the wonder and danger of his walk. Long shots that look down drive home the incredible height and danger that Petit courted, while Gordon-Levitt’s performance captured the skill and beauty which came with his walk. However, while there is plenty that is good with this movie, there are a few flaws.

Though Philippe Petit is well represented and Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a wonderful performance, the rest of the characters feel short-changed. Even Annie Allix, who was Petit’s girlfriend and thus close to him, feels a bit pushed to the margins for this film. Most of the other actors do their best with the material, but the result is that it feels like they’re set on the sidelines somewhat to give more room to Petit. Also, there is an aspect of this film that serves as a double-edged sword: namely, the film is a valentine to the World Trade Center. With its well-done recreation of the building and the exceptional presentation of the titual walk, the film captures not only its place in the public eye but also frames Petit’s high-wire walk in how it changed the perception of the Twin Towers. Prior to his walk, the World Trade Center was criticized and seen as a utilitarian-designed eyesore. After his walk, people began to like the towers and develop a certain fondness for the buildings. While it does show how people were struck by his walk, there’s a certain degree of the movie’s valentine presentation that works if you know of the towers prior to their destruction on 9/11. Without that context, it feels like there might be something missing to some of the audience. The film doesn’t specifically mention their destruction so as to keep the focus on the wonder and delight of Petit’s walk, but by making the movie as something of a valentine to these buildings without noting why they are to be remembered with that fondness or interest, it is as if there is a key component gone. Thus, while the movie is fun and a delight, one may be left noticing that something feels missing.

So, should this be avoided and Man on Wire seen instead? Personally, I feel that both this film and that documentary work with their respective choices. Man on Wire examines Petit’s daring walk on a personal level, looking at the mechanics of achieving this stunt while examining the experiences and toll on Philippe Petit and his accomplices. The Walk, meanwhile, looks at the same moment from a grander perspective about how Petit’s walk had left an impact and a new appreciation for a pair of buildings once derided as looking like giant filing cabinets. As for whichever you may like, I believe that you are a better judge of your personal tastes. Man on Wire is available on DVD and Blu Ray. The Walk is currently showing in IMAX theaters, with a general theatrical release starting on October 9th. If you do see The Walk, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX.

The Adventures of Robin Hood: Old-Fashioned Thrills From an Old-Fashioned Star

When it comes to the media of film and television, there are plenty of original ideas that arrive to the big screen with their own stories to tell. However, something that is very prevalent as well is adaptation. Now, while some may complain about there being lots of movies that adapt other works, it is not something unique to film alone nor does it automatically mean that a movie will be bad. In fact, there are plenty of classic films that are based on already-established works. One particular story that is adapted time and time again is the story of Robin Hood. Telling the tale of a rogue fighting to protect the weak from the cruel ways of Prince John, its story has clearly touched upon the cultural consciousness and has endured through the ages in numerous forms. In fact, movies alone offer plenty of versions of the rogue’s adventures, some traditional and some more revisionist. For me, my favorite movie adaptation of the classic tale hails from 1938, in the form of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Set in England in the year 1191, the familiar story starts with Sir Robin of Locksley opposing Prince John’s oppressive treatment of the Saxons. Forced to give up his lordship and take refuge in Sherwood Forest, Robin gains allies who support him in fighting for an England free of tyrannical rule. As their numbers grow, they become known as the Merry Men, with Robin now taking on the name of Robin Hood. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, their efforts even manage to win over Lady Marian, who is initially skeptical but shaken when she sees firsthand how the Saxons are oppressed. From there, it becomes a battle against time as they try to overcome Prince John’s tricks and schemes, as his potential coronation looms in the horizon. The story is still a classic, one which this film chooses to stick to in a traditional style, and the movie delivers on it. It serves it upon a plate of thrills and swashbuckling, the sort that is remembered from action films of the 1930s and early ’40s. More than that, however, it stands out for me thanks to the delightful performance Errol Flynn delivers as Robin Hood.

Remembered for his swashbuckling roles, Errol Flynn starred in numerous action films during the 1930s. Delivering on athletic action along with a charming charisma, Flynn was a major star in his day whose performances in films such as Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk have ensured that he is among the stars most associated with what some call “The Golden Age of Hollywood”. His skillful acting can be seen on full display in The Adventures of Robin Hood. He is by turn devoted to justice with an earnest desire and playful with a good joke or witty remark. He captures the spirit of the character, especially the version most popularized by Howard Pyle’s book, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Though the character and his legends originate in British folklore from long ago, it is Pyle’s book which really presented the heroic version of Robin Hood that people know the character as today. It is that version, the rogue hero who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, which Errol Flynn portrays with ease. He captures the warmth, the humor, and the devotion to justice that have forever become entwined with the figure. Though there have been other movies and adaptations of this familiar story, Flynn’s performance feels like it captures the core spirit of the character strongest. Of course, his performance isn’t the only reason that this is worth watching.

The film itself is a fun slice of swashbuckling and adventure. The action is well-done, delivering on a more old-school approach to action with top-notch direction and presentation. The score is bouncy and delightful, conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold with a rhythmic beat to help drive and reinforce the film’s sense of adventure. The performances work well with each other, not only from Flynn’s turn as Robin Hood but also with the work of such actors as Olivia DeHavilland as Lady Marian and Claude Rains as the treacherous Prince John. The visuals are good, having a strong punch thanks to the Technicolor process used to breathe stunning colors into the movie during an age where most films were in black and white. The result is a film that serves as a prime example of a fun action adventure, particularly of the sort from when the silver screen was populated by swashbuckling heroes who would cross swords with dastardly villains. If you’re curious to give this particular iteration of the classic story a try, The Adventures of Robin Hood is available on DVD and Blu Ray.