With the evolution of special effects, it’s always tempting to give classic horror and sci-fi films a makeover. But sometimes it’s just ill-advised – especially when nothing new is being added to the overall cinematic experience aside from new effects. Looking back at the original, it was the first Stephen King novel adapted for the screen. It made Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving household names. It solidified director Brian De Palma’s status in Hollywood. It was equal parts a statement of female empowerment and creepy as hell. When viewed today, it’s a kitschy piece of cinematic history. What purpose does it serve to remake a classic like this? Granted Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore deliver convincing performances as the title character and the mom (played to perfection by Piper Laurie in the original). Kimberly Peirce’s direction should be noted. Peirce, who began her career with the powerful “Boys Don’t Cry,” opted to turn the tormented character of Carrie into a melodramatic Jedi who can throw things around by waving her hands. This remake carries no water – pass.
This is the second-to-last film by James Gandolfini. His untimely death last summer not only took away all questions about that “Sopranos” reunion, it also took away a special talent that could use a grin to either set an audience at ease or foreshadow some terrible act of violence. In this one, it’s all ease. Julia Louis-Dreyfus continues her stellar career that began as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” back in ’82. The two of them light up every scene with an unexpected chemistry. These scenes are funny and touching and the characters feel real. Catherine Keener adds her trademark quirk and complications, and writer/director Nicole Holofcener does a great job of developing self-conscious, fragile characters. This is a simple, good movie that’s simply good. And that’s enough said – worth a watch.
“The Smurfs 2”
The second installment of this resurgent franchise handles a bit of a twist. It deals with the idea of what makes parents, and how children’s identities are formed in the nature versus nurture debate. Well, maybe those little cute creatures don’t come out and say it, but the theme is pretty obvious. Some real people return for the sequel – Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria as Gargamel. And they add the versatile Brendan Gleeson to play Harris’ stepfather. Raja Gosnell returns to direct and producers brought back the writing team. Even most of the Smurfs return, including the legendary Jonathan Winters, who lends his voice to Papa Smurf for the last time. Winters died in April. Along with Papa, the Smurf cast highlights John Oliver as Vanity Smurf, Katy Perry as Smurfette and Anton Yelchin as Clumsy Smurf. They also introduce Christina Ricci as a female Naughty – a Smurf-like creature. There are times when the whole thing gets a little smurfing tiresome, but give them a few smurfy points for trying something new – barely smurf a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge