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TV Shows That Got Their Own Movies


A successful TV to film adaption is generally one that translates the feeling of the show, but is able to expand it in scale, and give well known characters an outing befitting the new run time. This, however, is a rarity. Let's take a tour of some of the more notable of these adaptations, broken up into categories, to make the task a bit more feasible. Note that these films must be directly connected to the shows they are adapting, with the same characters in mostly the same world. So, movies like 21 Jump Street, which is more of a reboot, or the Transformers series, are out.

First things first, some loose ends: El Camino, which follows Jesse from Breaking Bad, is by no means a bad film, but does feel like an unnecessary tack on. Absolutely Fabulous and Mr. Bean both benefitted from the grander scale antics the big screen gave them. Downton Abbey comfortably gave you more of what you like from the motley crew, but hear this; avoid the Entourage and Sex and the City films at all costs. Each follow the most vapid and despicably, voracious, self-obsessed, consumerist stereotypical examples of men and women ever to stain the reputations of film, men and women.

Next, Animation, for kids: There are the never-ending stream of Veggie Tales, the head on the Hydra that is Kids Christian entertainment, and plenty of direct to video Scooby Doo specials (On Zombie Island is a standout, but maybe a little bit too spooky for younger kids). Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension maintained the show's irreverent slyness and wonderful creativity, and Spongebob got a great adventure for his first movie that was originally meant to complete the series (the explosive, rock ‘n roll finish is absurd, goofy and wholesome). The universal silent slapstick of the adorable Shaun the Sheep is a favourite the world over. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki's first film, holds signs of the brilliance to come, and also of his obstinate confidence in his vision (he altered the characters somewhat to make them more agreeable for himself, infuriating some fans).

Animation, not for kids: The Simpsons Movie corralled the show's original writers to rehash some of their best ideas, making for a pretty satisfying upscale of the show where everything is a bit edgier and the family dynamic seems to really be on the line. Beavis and Butt-head Do America was fittingly underachieving, whilst South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut is exactly what it claims to be, and that means it's more biting, crass and obscene then viewers could have hoped for (fitting since the movie is a satire of the discussion surrounding obscenity in popular culture). There looks to be a Family Guy movie in development, but that show is way past relevancy and even if this had come at the height of its popularity, I somehow doubt it would have ever been any good.

Live Action, for kids: Way ahead of the rest, the campy '60s Batman movie, where one of Batman's biggest threats is a group of ducklings who won't get out his way so that he can dispose of a bomb, is good for a laugh. But the practice of adapting live action kids' shows is more common these days with Nickleodeon and Disney typically capping off the run of each new wave of juvenile stars with their own movie (including Drake & Josh, Hannah Montana, Suite Life, and the Wizards of Waverly Place, which is a bit better than its contemporaries). Best of all though are the Muppet movies, which arguably have become more culturally relevant than the show ever was. A Muppet Christmas Carrol brings together the most of the many, many films, Michael Caine is a fantastic choice for Scrooge, playing serious across from these bright and chipper actual puppets.

Sketch/Spoof Comedy: Da Ali G Show features four Sacha Baron Cohen characters who got their own movies. Borat is obviously top dog, but don't skip out on his great indictment of superficial America; Bruno). The Jackass movies are basically extended and expensive episodes of the show, a.k.a. unreviewable. There are far too many SNL movies, which build entire plots around characters from 5-minute sketches (the worst therefore has the most annoying character: It's Pat, and the best: Wayne's World). Finally, the hilarious Naked Gun movies, thankfully stepping up to serve a deluge of visual gags, best described as cleverly stupid.

Star Trek has a long line of films which follow up their series', starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This entry bores some, but it is intelligent sci-fi, powered almost entirely by intellectual curiosity and spectacular sights (more 2001 than Star Trek 2009). Subsequent movies, like the Star Trek the Next Generation films, whilst being crowd pleasers, were more standard fare, shifting the focus of the series towards sci-fi action, which is perhaps the quickest genre to age in all of film or TV.

So we come to the best of the best; Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. To this day, this is an extraordinarily divisive prequel. Many viewers, used to the show's quirky and involving characters and mysteries being able to face the disturbing truth at the heart of the town in frightening but palatable ways, were put off by Fire Walk with Me, which did away with all pretence of innocence. This is best exemplified by taking the beacon of hope that was the late Laura Palmer, so radiant that her death inspires the passionate pursuit for her killer which unravels the façade of the rest of the town, and revealing her to be, as is everyone in Twin Peaks, a deeply troubled soul. Some audience members were uncomfortable that a film about murder, incest, molestation, drug abuse and under age prostitution was joyless. They felt it didn't capture the spirit of the show. Rather, it takes you to its logical conclusion. It is a doubtless fact of the show that Laura suffered horribly, and this film, maintaining the strangeness of its predecessor, examines her entirely. It is uncompromising.

 
The Weird Stuff Crispin Glover Has Been Up To


Crispin Hellion Glover was born into an already eccentric Hollywood family, following in the footsteps of his character actor father (probably best remembered for his turn as hench-villain Mr. Wint in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever), and entering the industry at age 13. Similar to his contemporary/multiple time co-star Nicolas Cage, his manic energy was noticeable even in these early days. Like a lot of child actors, he would grow up to be... quirky.

He got his first bit of real attention for a convulsing, awkward dance he performed in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (it was not the final chapter). Since then, the public mostly gets to see him in typically bizarre, but committed supporting roles. These include: Back to the Future as Marty McFly's hopelessly weird and nerdy dad, the Thin Man in Charlie's Angels who screams bloody murder into a tuft of Drew Barrymore's hair, and Andy Warhol in The Doors. He seems, at least in his most popular roles, to have a clear type, but no-one could say he isn't fantastic at it. His presentation for all of these characters is like a car crash, disasters calculated so precisely you can't take your eyes off of them. These are not performances that can be ignored, but Glover earned his peculiar reputation not only for his film roles, but his off-screen antics.

There was his only album (actual title: THE BIG PROBLEM ≠ the solution. The Solution = LET IT BE), suing Steven Spielberg for using prosthetics to disguise another actor as him, reinterpreting public domain books by rearranging or blacking out passages and adding images or prose, buying and maintaining a historically significant Czech chateau, and his infamous appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, featuring an apparent meltdown and karate kicks. There is an explanation for that last one, sort of. Glover appeared in character as the deviant shut-in Rubin, from an upcoming film that would only be released four years later; Rubin and Ed. Letterman did not know, the audience did not know, and everyone who witnessed the show was convinced that tales of Glover's antics had been undersold. When asked about it, he has had the same answer for years: “I can neither confirm, nor deny, that I was on the David Letterman Show.” Still, he continued and continues his tradition of nut job roles, most recently in American Gods, but, as he'll have you know, despite his dedication to them, he only takes these gigs to raise money for his real passion: Surrealist art films. Of course.

Crispin firmly believes that due to the corporate structures involved in the making and distribution of films, the industry squashes the potential of anything with content that would make an audience uncomfortable, or asks difficult questions. This not only limits the potential for artists to explore, but also for audiences to be moved to question the validity, value, honesty, etc. of the films they are watching. This has spurred him into directing the aforementioned experimental films; What Is It?, It Is Fine, Everything Is Fine! and the yet to be made It Is Mine. What Is It? concerns a young man with Down's syndrome and a disturbing, racist inner persona, starring actors who really had down syndrome. Similarly, It Is Fine, Everything Is Fine! stars its writer, who has cerebral palsy, as a version of himself in Freudian and sexual visions. Both films incorporate heavily surreal imagery and received mixed reactions. Although those reactions are few and far between, because Glover insists that the film only be screened in his presence, so that he can conduct Q & A's, and often give slideshows involving material from his books. If nothing else, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City programmed a showing of his films, describing him as a “vital and singular talent of American cinema”.

And regardless of how into Glover's more unconventional outings you are, in his art or in his life and views on film, his talent remains undeniable. He's a magnetic presence, there's no one else like him (with no hyperbole), and we can only hope that the budgets of his directorial efforts skyrocket, so that we might see a bit more of him on camera.

 
Turning 100...


This year, two more classics of cinema will be entering that most scantly populated of clubs: Over a century old! And yet, as far as 1921 goes, you'd be hard pressed to find two examples more dissimilar.

The first is the Charlie Chaplin comedy drama, The Kid. Chaplin's first feature length film as director, it's credited with inventing the dramedy genre, and remains one of the most iconic and popular films of the entire silent era.

The Tramp takes in orphaned child, and the two run a scheme: The Kid chucks rocks through windows, and the Tramp offers his services to repair them, getting the both of them into trouble along the way. The bond between these two is beautiful, and the entire film approaches its subject with tenderness, likely due to its semi-autobiographical nature (Chaplin grew up in poverty and lost a son only two years before). If you ask a general movie goer what impression the film had on them, outside of telling you how funny they find it, you'll most commonly hear them talk about their own kids, or fathers. That is an emotional authenticity so palpable, it works just the same today as it did when it was conceived.

Charlie is unsurprisingly great as the doting father figure, but what the 5-year-old Jackie Coogan pulls off is nigh-on-impossible. He never seems out of place, bored, or staged (as one might expect a toddler to be at least once), and when he cries out for his “father”, having been separated, it is absolutely heart-breaking. Never more will you want to enter the screen and let someone know; “It's okay, it's only pretend.”

Uniquely dramatic and comedic for its time (opening with the title card: A picture with a smile, and perhaps, a tear), whilst it isn't Chaplin's absolute best, it and City Lights do hold the distinction of being his most emotionally affecting efforts. It also houses an absolute standout sequence from his work; one of the great chases in film history. A group of manhandling welfare officers have apprehended the Tramp, and are taking the Kid, clutching to his leg and then crying out from the back of a wagon, away from him. The Tramp makes a frantic clamber over the rooftops, pursued by an officer, and follows the wagon down the streets. Of course it isn't necessarily the filmmaking itself that makes this such a great chase in the traditional sense, it is the unbelievable sense of involvement it commands over an audience. You desperately want them to be reunited.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the early Swedish horror fantasy from prolific director and star Victor Sjöström, The Phantom Carriage, low on sentimentality and full of fantastical effects which allow spirits to phase through walls and walk on waves, and souls to leave their bodies.

The film is a Dickensian allegory, wherein an abusive, monstrous drunkard, who has infected his wife with TB and lead his family to ruin, is taken for a ride by the Grim Reaper in flashback to see how it all went wrong, and what is still at cost. Though it wasn't the only cinematic personification of death to come out of 1921 (Fritz Lang's Destiny), this particular incarnation of the strict master, a deceased friend of the drunkard cursed to reap souls for one year until the drunkard is meant to replace him on New Year's Eve, had a profound impact on Ingmar Bergman. The Swedish filmmaker would go on to have his Death face off against man in a game of chess. As a show of appreciation, he cast Sjöström in Wild Strawberries, with its own phantom carriage.

The film is a spiritual predecessor to The Shining; they both interpret alcoholism and corrosive self-centrism symbolically through horror fantasy, and feature unnerving sequences where men viciously break down doors with axes to get to their cowering families. While it certainly has room to pontificate, the film is first and foremost a moody, dramatic morality play, punctuated by (forgive the pun) haunting imagery. The Phantom Carriage today is amazingly forward thinking, and a marvel for its ingenuity in atmosphere and candid exploration of distressing subject matter.

Two very different films. Different goals, different legacies, different continents, and so on. What they do have in common is a mixing and melding of genre elements, the likes of which the public had never seen up to that point, and which keep them refreshing and invigorating watches to this day. Here's to the next 100.

 
How Do You Like Your Music Biopics?


We’re experiencing something of a renaissance for music biopics. The tropes have been firmly in place since Walk the Line and Ray, but popularity hit its peak only 3 years ago when the Queen (by way of Freddie Mercury) biopic made nearly a billion dollars. We now have about 18 music biopics in the pipeline, and I hope that means we can expect 18 distinct films, but I'm not too sure. The parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story played out all of banalities of the genre, extenuating how terribly on the nose these films can get, and in the 14 years since, few have taken the hint.

Even worse than overly familiar stories, at their worst, these films let the music and creativity of the artists down. The saving grace of almost all of them are the stars, who typically knock it out of the park, in likeness, style and persona. Tilda Cobham-Hervey in I Am Woman, Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead, and the spectacular Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up come to mind. But the two most notable modern examples of the genre are undoubtedly Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. So whose lead would I prefer the upcoming films take?

Bohemian Rhapsody is a very solid production and it does a good job of getting people swept up in Queen's success story, going through the motions when it comes to painting band frontman Freddie Mercury's personal growth. I would say it trades the lively fantasy of traditional musicals for a realistic take on Freddie's life, but that's not really true. The film plays fast and loose with the facts, mostly to reframe the Live Aid performance as the climactic victory of the band over their squabbles, and Freddie over his problems with the band, drugs and having to come to terms with his AIDS diagnosis.

In reality, at the time of the concert, the band had not broken up, they enjoyed and encouraged each other to do solo work, Freddie continued taking drugs well into his illness; and wouldn't find out about his HIV-status until April 1987. It's all to invest the audience in the, admittedly rapturous, concert finale. It's an engrossing sequence, not the least because it communicates the titanic importance of witnessing that moment in history (either as someone after Queen's time, longing for their missing untouchable Rock God status, or to relive it). The music, the moves, the sense of community is all so palpable that it leaves a sweet taste in your mouth, and disguises an otherwise serviceable movie. Rather watch the real thing.

Other than the concert, the best moment of the film comes when Freddie has to come out to his wife, while his performance of Love of my Life, written earnestly to her, plays on the television. Also undeniable is the draw of Rami Malek's performance, which accomplished the impossible by largely satiating the masses who felt that there is only one Freddie, and no substitute. That remains true, but Malek takes a phenomenal crack at it, imitating Freddie's mannerisms without falling into parody, and capturing his slinking, bouncing, charming theatricality.

Rocketman, Elton John's biopic, is thoroughly entertaining the whole way through, wonderfully original and so propulsive that you never notice the film crescendo-ing to its conclusion (it's just too involving). Freddie is corrupted by fame into hedonism at the cost of his true family; the band. Elton also climbs the dangerous ladder of pop stardom, but his problem is feeling that no-one in his life truly loves him, as he wants to be loved. Having to be whatever everybody else wants you to be, because you think you won't have anyone if you try to be yourself. It's a far more relatable feeling being communicated, and more difficult to solve. Freddie just has to get over himself and value the people who matter in his life. Elton has built so many ways to give the people what they want, so that he won't feel unloved. Stopping, understanding that he needs to work on himself, not being everything to everyone, means abandoning his coping mechanisms for no certain substitute. It makes the significance of self-love clear, and it doesn't make it soppy.

The film marries this improved drive with inventive sequences that beautifully speak to Elton's state of mind, paired seamlessly with his music, and gets to be almost as camp as Elton himself at points. It seems a little by the books in the first 20 minutes, but it hits its stride and only gets better as it goes on.

As for its best scene? I don't think I will ever forget the image of Elton, having downed a cocktail of pills, floating weightlessly above his vulnerable young self, in a space suit, sat at his piano at the bottom of the vast emptiness of what, a moment ago, was his pool, as the echoes of Rocketman begin to play. It's a perfect microcosm of the film; a flash of divine inspiration and beauty, striking at the darkest moment in Elton's life.

I wholeheartedly prefer the Rocketman slant. It distils the life of its subjects into an expression not unlike their music, and I think that makes for a more fulfilling experience for fans of the musician. The next big music biopic slated for release (not that anything keeps its release date these days) is Respect, chronicling Aretha Franklin’s life. I’ve got a feeling that South African born director Liesl Tommy won’t be taking a fantastical approach.

 
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