In The Thing a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film of the same name a team of paleontologists Norwegian diggers and rugged helicopter pilots unearth an alien creature with the ability to disguise itself as the organic material surrounding it i.e. feeble humans. Ironically the movie itself also a deceptive shapeshifter impersonating its chilling horror predecessor with the same beats same characters and same scares—but completely void of soul.
A great remake brings something new to the table either in the form of plot twists design or fresh performances but The Thing begs to be compared to the original by cowering in the face of innovation. The movie forgoes character building wasting no time flying us to the familiar Antarctic setting: Girl-who-examines-unfrozen-animal-corpses Kate (played by the movie's saving grace Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced by her friend Adam (Eric Christian Olsen) to sinister scientist Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who quickly convinces her to throw away her life for a trip to the icy continent. When she arrives Halvorson reveals his team has discovered an alien life form trapped inside a block of ice and he needs Kate to watch him thaw it out.
Anyone with knowledge of the 1982 Thing (or horror movies in general) knows that the beast is far from dead and what unfolds is a flaccid translation of the first film's monster mayhem. Yes the movie has plenty of jump scares insane flesh effects and an increasing sense of paranoia throughout the group—but only because the first movie dictates that it must. Thanks to the charm of Winstead and her Kurt Russell-esque co-star Joel Edgerton the copy/paste script occasionally entertains (who doesn't love a gal who can wield a flamethrower?) but without characters to invest in the alien's rampage of violence is mostly a bore. By the time the group points fingers attempting to sift the real persons from the fakes by checking their teeth (their foe can't recreate metallic material so everyone with fillings is safe!) the movie's floundered its chance to get you to care.
If the titular "thing" was slick enough in its bloodthirsty frenzy perhaps The Thing could redeem itself as a creepy popcorn flick but sloppy CG creature effects end up separating the beast from his prey and obliterating any sense of danger. If they could pull off a guy's head erupting with tentacles using puppetry and prosthetics back in 1982 why not in 2011? When the movie does employ practical effects the results are terrifying—but the moments are few and far between. That speaks to the bigger picture: director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. attempts to mix the original Thing's slow burn terror with modern filmmaking and intriguing sci-fi concepts but can't seamlessly weave them together. Every time Heijningen Jr's Thing defaults to mimicking the previous version the movie craps out.
The Thing's nondescript title once represented the fear of the unknown but for the contemporary rehash it's an indication of a generic lifeless 100 minutes. Buried underneath layers of icy homage is a decent flick but unlike the film's otherworldly opponent it's DOA.
More than 10 000 people are smuggled into the United States for sexual exploitation per the nonprofit organization Free the Slaves. Inspired by a New York Times Magazine article Trade focuses on the attempts of traffickers to smuggle a group of women and children across the U.S.-Mexican border. Director Marco Kreuzpaintner wastes no time introducing us to the two victims he intends to follow from their kidnapping in Mexico to their auctioning off in the United States. Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is snatched from the street as she rides the bicycle she just received from her brother Jorge (Cesar Ramos) for her 13th birthday. Single mother Veronica (Alicja Bachleda) arrives in Mexico City from Poland believing she’s there to meet with the people she’s paid to arrange her with safe and legal passage to the United States. Only she’s been duped by the traffickers. Adriana Veronica and a handful of other abductees then begin their terrifying journey to the United States under the watchful eye of trafficker Manuelo (Marco Perez). On their trail is Jorge who feels responsible for Adriana’s kidnapping. He risks life and limb to follow the abductees across the border. Once on U.S. soil Jorge crosses paths with Ray (Kevin Kline) a Texas cop who’s trying to break up the trafficking ring for personal reasons. Ray reluctantly pairs up with Jorge to track down Adriana before she and Veronica are sold off to the highest bidder via the Internet. More gentleman than action hero Kevin Kline’s not the obvious choice to portray a police officer hailing from the Lone Star State. Ray’s the kind of law-enforcement bloodhound Tommy Lee Jones can play in his sleep. Heck Kline only halfheartedly attempts a Texas drawl and even then he drops it minutes after his late entrance. This could be overlooked if Kline lent Ray some intensity. For someone on a crusade Kline strolls through Trade without a care in the world. As Trade reaches its inevitable showdown between the traffickers and their pursuers Ray’s faced with a life-or-death choice that would compromise all he stands for. Kline though looks about as conflicted as someone trying to decide what he wants for lunch. Luckily Kline’s presence doesn’t negate the fine work done by Ramos Gaitan and Bachleda. Ramos perfectly captures the guilt of a troubled young man—one embarking on a life of crime—whose ill-gotten gains has cost him dearly. If Ramos offers a study in redemption Bachleda goes to great pains to show the ease with which someone with so much grit and determination can bend and break under the most extreme of circumstances. Gaitan doesn’t endure as much abuse but she’s still one tough cookie. Perez refuses to allow Manuelo to be a mere profit-minded monster—he provides Manuelo with a conscience or what passes for one in his business. Trade is a tale of two countries. While in Mexico director Marco Kreuzpaintner examines the sex-slave trade in an incisive and uncompromising manner. He sheds light on how these trafficking rings acquire their slaves and smuggle them across the border. He puts us on edge the moment Adriana and Veronica fall in their captors’ hands. We’re never sure as to what will happen to them. We know they need to be kept alive. But in what condition? Many of the abductees are drugged beaten and raped. The violence isn’t exploitative—Kreuzpaintner just needs to show the cruelty inflicted upon these victims of the modern-day slave trade. And it only makes us fear more for Adrian and Veronica’s safety. Once Trade reaches the United States Kreuzpaintner and screenwriter Jose Rivera start pulling their punches. Yes there are some moments that make you sick to your stomach. But the moment Kline arrives on the scene Trade gets weak at the knees. There are too many coincidences for Trade’s own good. The sudden death of one character is forced and absurd. And Kreuzpaintner doesn’t know how to extricate Kline from the untenable situation he’s placed in during Trade’s climax. This all leads up to a pat ending one that even the Lifetime TV crowd would find unbelievably spineless.
Top Story: The End of the Road for "Raymond"?
Say it isn't so! Comedian Ray Romano is dropping hints that the ninth season of his hit CBS comedy Everybody Loves Raymond may be its last. Romano, who attended a concert Saturday in Las Vegas to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation, joked about how he keeps the series fresh and original: "You stop after one more year." The comedian credited his writers for always drawing on their own lives and bringing new material to the show, but said it's hard work. "You start to repeat yourself," Romano, 45, told The Associated Press. "The trick is to get out when you're still wanted--not too soon, but not too late."
Juliette Lewis Files for Divorce
Natural Born Killers star Juliette Lewis has filed for divorce from her husband of nearly four years, professional skateboarder Steve Berra. Lewis' publicist told the AP Thursday "the divorce is mutual and amicable." It was Lewis' first marriage. The 29-year-old actress was nominated for an Oscar for playing a teenager stalked by a deranged convict in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear.
Buscemi Protests Close of NY Firehouse
Actor Steve Buscemi joined about 50 demonstrators in New York Saturday to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg's cost cutting proposal to close eight firehouses. Buscemi, who starred in films such as Fargo and Reservoir Dogs, was a New York City firefighter from 1980 to 1984. Bloomberg said last week at least 30 more might have to be closed if the city does not receive state or federal to close a $3.4 billion budget deficit, the AP reports.
Dangerfield Moved From ICU
Rodney Dangerfield was moved from the UCLA Medical Center's intensive care unit to a private room Friday, the AP reports. The comedian's publicist said he might be allowed to go home in the next few days if he continues to recover. Dangerfield, 81, underwent a 12-hour brain surgery April 8 to improve his blood flow for an upcoming heart valve replacement, tentatively planned for late May.
Grammys, American Music Awards Change Dates
The 2004 Grammys are switching from its usual late-February date to Sunday, Feb. 8 to avoid a head-on collision with the Academy Awards, which will move next year from March to late February. Billboard reports that next year's Grammys are also expected to return to L.A. after this year's stint in New York. The American Music Awards, meanwhile, are set to move from early January to Nov. 16, 2003 so the show can air during sweeps. In its January slot, the AMAs found itself competing with too many awards shows.
Pop Stars Unite for Iraqi Children
Pop stars including Paul McCartney, George Michael, David Bowie and Avril Lavigne released an album Monday to raise money for child war victims in Iraq, Reuters reports. Profits from the album will go to War Child, a relief and development charity set up after the war in former Yugoslavia. The charity said the album, Hope, was not political. "The plight of children transcends politics. These songs are a plea for hope without which the children of Iraq have nothing at all."
New Museum Dedicated to Science Fiction
A museum dedicated to the art, literature and film of science entertainment is set to open in Seattle thanks to billionaire Paul Allen. Tentatively named the Science Fiction Experience, the exhibit is slated to open in the summer of 2004 in Allen's Experience Music Project (EMP). Visitors can expect to see science fiction props, including Captain Kirk's original command chair from the Star Trek TV series, a complete set of autographed first editions of the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov and a collection of Astounding Science Fiction magazines and artwork depicting the future.
Blacklisted Actress Karen Morley Dies
Actress Karen Morley, who starred in early 1930's movies such as Mata Hari and Dinner at Eight, died of pneumonia on March 8 at the Motion Picture Country House in Woodland Hills, Calif., the AP reports. She was 93. Morley's film career was cut short in 1947 when she testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and refused to answer questions about her possible enrollment in the Communist Party. Afterward, she continued promoting left-wing causes and, in 1954, ran unsuccessfully as a New York lieutenant governor candidate for the American Labor Party.
Quintessential Western "Shane" Turns 50
Paramount Pictures premiered the Western Shane starring Alan Ladd 50 years ago this week in New York, the AP reports. The cowboy pic, based on a 1949 book by Jack Schaefer, went into general release over a five-month period and garnered six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. It only won one for cinematography (Loyal Griggs). Shane follows a disillusioned gunfighter who becomes an unwilling participant in a feud between an old ranching family and new homesteaders. It is told through the eyes of the son of a family that takes Shane in and famously ends with Shane riding off after he's been shot in the climactic gunfight with the boy hollering "Shane ... Shane ... come back!"
Role Call: Silverstone Joins "Scooby-Doo" Sequel
Alicia Silverstone, best known as Cher in the 1995 hit Clueless, will star opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Seth Green in Warner Bros.' Scooby-Doo sequel for director Raja Gosnell. Silverstone will play a relentless reporter named Heather. The sequel begins shooting April 14 in Vancouver and is slated for release March 26, 2004.