Great Actors in Small Roles: Madalyn Horcher as Sgt. Leach

011 Madalyn Horcher as Sgt. Leach_joesmoviestuffdotblogspotdotcom

I watched Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a few nights ago and I liked the movie.  In particular I like both the character and the actor playing Sgt. Leach, Madalyn Horcher.

“Helper”

The character of Sgt. Leach is one that is a “helper” character to the main character, meaning that this character finds out information and gives it to the main character in order for the plot to advance.  In function, this character is on-stage to provide exposition and/or plot complication for both the audience and the main character.  Dr. John Watson from Doyle’s Sherlock stories is probably the best known helper, but it can range to much smaller parts such as Sgt. Leach in this movie.  In many cases, the helper is put in physical peril, and sometimes dies, so this can be a thankless role for some actors.

Sgt. Leach: Understated

I think the reason why I noticed Madalyn Horcher’s performance is the “understated” nature of how she plays the character.  While I’ve not served in the military, my uncle and grandfather did and they explained that while on duty, there is a certain detached “decorum” that soldiers are expected to follow (sort of like Spock from Star Trek), but if you know how to read what’s being said and the tonality of how it is being said, there are a whole range of emotions that you can pick up from a soldier.  Horcher’s performance captured all of the nuances that I’d imagined in my mind’s eye every since my uncle told me about his military experiences.  This is why it is so important to look for (and cast) actors who can bring the right emotional intensity to a specific role.

While the movie wasn’t necessarily a critical success, nevertheless it was a pretty interesting story made better by the actors in both small and large roles.

 

 

Dark Tower Redux

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You know, I’m almost sorry that I posted that I was conflicted about the failure of the Dark Tower movie to connect with fans.  I mean, this very blog takes its name from a line that Jake speaks in the first book (paraphrasing): “Go then, Gunslinger.  There are Other Worlds Beside this one).  My point being simply that Stephen King DID NOT invent the Dark Tower or the mythos that has grown up around it.  His story is but ONE of MANY out there–yes, it is the most popular, but it is NOT the only story that has been told or will be told about the Dark Tower.  He doesn’t own the Tower anymore than J.K. Rowling owns “Magic.”

However, some really ugly arguments and memes have sprung up around the failure of the movie and just want to take a moment to address some of the most problematic ones.

SCRIPT
So this is where most of the critics and fans have expressed most of their disappointment.  The movie is only approx. 90 minutes long, but tries to infuse 7-8 books worth of material (from my understanding–haven’t seen the movie yet) into this (very) short time-frame.  However, the element that really concerns is the fact the movie writers are essentially “work-for-hire” contractors and considered the lowest on the totem pole for the creative endeavor of the movie.  This is where the problem lies–a movie is a creative endeavor, true, and you need all parts to work, but the script (the story) is the most important part.  Without a solid script, even the best actors and directors are going to struggle.  Yet, writers of screenplays get no version of royalties if the movie does really well nor is their input sought (usually) for rewrites as in many cases they are replaced with other writers and movies become written essentially by committee.  Another thing that hurts writers is the fact that it is a closed system that privileges only a few.  Even in today’s internet connected world, you still have to move to Hollywood if you really want a serious chance at writing a screenplay–how is this even still a requirement in 2017?  If there’s an awesome screenwriter in Wisconsin, the internet is MORE than robust enough to allow that writer to write wherever works for them.

IDRIS ELBA AS ROLAND
This one is the most troubling.  Yes, King based Roland on the “gunslinger” archetype made popular by actors like Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner.  However, nothing precludes Roland from being portrayed by an actor of another race, even though King’s description may have indicated/favored another race.  There is a tendency on the Internet today to label a person, or group just to be able to belittle said person or group.  Everyone wants a winner, or wants to be associated with a winner.  However, in a capitalistic structure such as the American movie industry there HAVE be winners and losers–there’s no way around it.  You can do things to help swing the pendulum in either direction, but there are no guarantees in a creative endeavor.  If it doesn’t “win,” then there’s this need to find a scapegoat and the Internet is currently on this kick where a diverse person/group gets the blame irregardless of whether or not its fair (I direct your attention to the 2016 Ghostbusters movie as prime example of this).

SONY
Speaking of Sony, I should probably note that Sony also has taken blame in this from many circles.  Sony, as a huge faceless conglomerate, tends to get a lot of blame for things that are beyond their control.  We (probably wrongly) think of the director as the most important component of a movie (I would argue it is probably an equal weight between writer, director, and movie talent), but I haven’t seen or heard anyone criticizing the director, but the studio.

We all hope for our favorite properties to “hit it out of the park” (a la The Lord of the Rings), but at the end of the day–is it the studio that failed to deliever on the story you wanted or was it the script?  Which of the two is more intricately tied to “story” and “story” formation, ideation, and creation?  For me, opening up the system and allowing it to be based on merit (good writers) and not location (living in Hollywood) or more importantly, networking (good a “pitching” a story instead of good at “writing” the story) would be a far more equitable system that might result in a rise in quality in the stories being told, and as a result, increased satisfaction from fans who just want their stories “done right.”

 

 

The Dark Tower

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came_Goodreads

The Childe (Apprentice Knight) Roland holding up a sword.  Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads.com

The_Dark_Tower_teaser_poster_Wikipedia

The Man in Black vs The Gunslinger (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Movie Poster. Image Source: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A movie version based on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series releases this weekend and the reviews are not favorable.  It currently stands (Aug. 4) at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m actually ambivalent and conflicted about how I feel about this development.

On one hand, I’d like to see this movie be successful because it stars a Person of Color (Idris Elba) in a lead role playing someone other than a “drug dealer”/”gangster”/”any other stereotypical roles” that people of color are generally relegated to in movies.  Also, I’ve read quite a few books of this series and I know how the story ends, so even though this series isn’t one I’m invested in, I do have familiarity with the material, so I’d like to see a good adaptation of it just for that reason.

On the other hand, everyone seems to forget that Stephen King didn’t “invent” the “modern” conception of the Dark Tower.  That honor goes to Robert Browning in his poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”  And even he wasn’t the first as the title appeared as a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  And even though we don’t where it originated, we can assume that Shakespeare borrowed it from an even older source.  My point is that the Robert Browning poem is old enough to be in the public domain and ANYONE can write stories based on it.  Stephen King didn’t invent the Dark Tower, he only popularized it and moved it from the realm of English Literature classrooms out into the general public.

Yet, whenever someone mentions the Dark Tower, immediately the discussion turns to Stephen King’s universe.  For me, as a lover of the Dark Tower mythos (remember, I even had a board game called the Dark Tower as a child), this is more than aggravating.  It would be as if Disney’s Snow White was the ONLY version of Snow White being talked about, when we know that there are a multitude of versions out there.  Yes, Disney’s version gets the lion’s share of attention, but there is still space for other stories based on the fairy tale to exist and thrive, which is NOT the case with the Dark Tower.

I guess I’m writing all of this to say that a part of me is glad that the Dark Tower failed as a movie.  Not for any malicious intent or even to make Stephen King any less rich (it won’t), but rather that now, perhaps, other stories based on the “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” can find purchase in the public consciousness and that Stephen King’s version of the Dark Tower doesn’t become the only version of the Dark Tower that exists in the world.  “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a remarkably rich and varied poem–other writers should be allowed to formulate successful stories and worlds with the Dark Tower as a backdrop just as King was allowed to do by the publishing industry.

(Belated) Comic-Con Post: Blade Runner 2049

bladerunner2049_YouTube

This was the post I was planning to write on Saturday before the world went all topsy-turvy on me.  It will finish out the Comic-Con announcements that I was most interested in.  I will return to a couple of Comic-Con based news items that I want to touch on briefly, but I will save those for later posts.

Blade Runner 2049Blade Runner 2049 Trailer–features a new “detective” and a return by Harrison Ford as the old “detective” in a world of Replicants (human-like androids).  Featuring a new villain, this is a sequel that will probably also serve to bring the “Blade Runner” story to a new generation.

I saw the original Blade Runner on cable as a child.  I liked it, but it wasn’t a favorite.  Although it achieved cult status as one of the first visions of what a “cyberpunk” society might look like on the big screen, it was never more than just a simple Sci-Fi movie to me (just as LadyHawk was a typical Fantasy movie of the time).  I was much more into the more mainstream franchises of Star Wars and Star Trek and the Alien/Aliens duology out at the time.

It will be interesting to see the reception to the film.  Outside of quirky films like The Fifth Element, cyberpunk as a genre doesn’t seem to really do all that well in the film media (as evidenced by the lack of success of the movie version of Ghost in the Shell earlier this summer).  However, where cyberpunk really shines is in the realm of anime. Many of today’s generation grew up on anime shows, while I, unfortunately, was about 5 years before the boom of anime–I saw some early anime, but the real revolution happened while I was in college and during the first years of my first job, so I missed out on a lot of shows that contained a heavy amount of cyberpunk influenced narrative.  It will be interesting to see if movie-goers embrace this new attempt or if it, like it’s predecessor, will also only be cult hit.

 

 

Comic-Con Week: “IT” (Stephen King movie)

pennywise_pinterest

Pennywise from IT (Image Source: Pinterest)

Okay, so I’m cheating a little with this one.  “IT,” the upcoming movie based on the Horror novel by Stephen King did make an appearance at Comic Con, but it was in a panel session and did not release a trailer to the public over the weekend (I think they called it the “IT” Experience).  However, yesterday they released a super-creepy official trailer to go with their super-creepy teaser trailer from earlier in the year.  So I’m going to feature it in Comic-Con week even though the trailer released afterwards.

So this movie–IT Movie Trailer–looks to be a full-on horror movie.  I don’t really like horror movies, but having said that, I may try to see this in the theaters.  I’m still undecided.  The thing that I like about this one is that, like Stranger Things, it follows a cast of children trying to overcome the “Big Bad” in the small town of Derry where they live (in this case a clown).  Stranger Things was influenced a lot by the works of Stephen King and I really enjoyed the themes and way that ST turned out.  From the trailers, this movie seems to have been inspired by ST, but wants to amp up the scare factor.  And that’s where I may have to “tap out.”  I may have mentioned it before, but I’m more into suspense than pure horror in that I prefer a mystery (it can be a creepy mystery), but I like there to be a problem to be solved rather than feeling horror and dread for characters.  I can’t quite tell which way this movie is leaning as there are aspects of both the creepy mystery angle and horrific jump-scares in both of the trailers.

Another thing is (again) the nostalgia factor.  I have read the novel (it’s been some time ago, however) and I have watched the TV movie version from the 1980s(?).  So I’m fairly familiar with the characters, plot, and conflicts, but I’d like to see the 2017 take on the work to see how it stacks up to the other forms that the story has taken.  And even if I don’t see it in the theater, I will probably see it at some point just for “completeness” sake.

Comic-Con Week (Ready Player One)

ready-player-one-book-cover_collider.jpg

Image Source: Collider

Okay, okay, I know I’m behind the times on this one.  This project made the rounds about 1-2 years ago (maybe longer) and everyone one was talking about it.  It is a book by Ernest Cline entitled Ready Player One (RP1) and it apparently is a “pop-culture” phenomenon in that it references a ton of things from “my” generation (those growing up in the late 70s, 80s, and early 90s).  So, yes I knew about this project before the movie trailer debuted at Comic-Con.  And yes, I knew about the pop culture references and in-jokes that it was supposed to contain.  But here’s the thing: Game of Thrones. Now I’m going to catch heat (i.e., be flamed) for this, but RP1 had the same level of “hype” associated with as did Game of Thrones and I am NOT a Games of Thrones fan (I’ll do a deep dive into why at a later date).  So I figured this is probably just a Games of Thrones clone with VR as just The Expanse (another show I tried to watch) was just a Games of Thrones clone in space.

However, the trailer–Ready Player One Trailer–convinced me otherwise.  This is one of those where I had to “see it in order to believe it.” Steven Spielberg is the director and it seems (to me at least) a return to form.  It has an interesting world and the action seems like it is going to be amazing just from the brief look at it that we get from the trailer.  Also, try playing the “see what pop icon you can find in the trailer” game–I saw two obvious references–The Iron Giant and the DeLorean from Back to the Future.  Actually, I did see others, but that would be spoilers–see if you can spot them (hint look closely during the Iron Giant scene & during the robot fighting scene).  To steal a line from a 1970s commercial for the board game Connect Four: “Pretty sneaky, sis.”

I’m probably going to watch the movie first and then read the book–that tends to be the way I do things unless I’m ahead of the curve (rare, but does happen sometimes).  If the movie (& book) is as good as the trailer makes it appear, this is one project that I will be happy to have been wrong about.  I’ll take fun over depressing any day and this looks fun!

Comic-Con Week: Thor Ragnarok

thor-ragnarok-photo-chris-hemsworth_indiewire

So, just like DC, Marvel also released a trailer for Comic-Con.  Their big focus this year, now that Spider-Man: Homecoming has been released, is Thor.  Thor Ragnarok seems like it is going for fun over a dark gritty storyline (which was the mistake that Thor: Dark World made).

As you can see in the trailer–Thor Ragnarok Trailermuch of the action is peppered with quips and fun set-pieces.  This trailer seems to bring back the fun characterization that made the first Thor movie such a surprise.

The only problem (if you can call it a problem) is that it releases in November (the same month that Justice League releases) so both of these movies are going to be fighting for much of the same audience.  Assuming that school and classes go well, I’m most certainly going to try to see both movies.

.