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The Weekend Watchlist: Indie Comics Adaptations

In honor of the release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we wanted to create a weekend watchlist that focuses on film adaptations of comics. And although Marvel has been killing it in the superhero adaptations game, indie comics adaptations in recent years have been fantastic, regardless of whether they feature masked heroes or just average people. This list counts down some of our favorite indie comics adaptations, outside of the superhero genre.

Shelby Cadwell

Ghost World (2001) - One of my absolute favorite films from my teenage years, Ghost World still holds up for me (and I'll admit that I actually enjoy the film more than the Daniel Clowes graphic novel from which it was adapted). Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson star as best friends Enid and Rebecca, two recent high school graduates who basically hate everyone and everything except each other. That changes when they meet Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a social outcast who collects old records. The film boasts not only great performances and fantastic writing, but possibly the coolest and weirdest fashions the early 2000's had to offer. To this day, Enid is my style icon. Available to rent on iTunes and Amazon Video.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) - I've written about this film extensively (both in an article recently published here, and as part of my graduate research), and I'm still not entirely sure what to say about it. Kingsman is a crazy, over-the-top amalgamation of Bond films, superhero films, rags-to-riches films, and probably at least 3 other genres that I'm forgetting. The sequel (Kingsman: The Golden Circle), released just yesterday, promises to be even more intense, as the trailers and new cast members indicate. And although I'll fully admit I'm not a huge fan of Mark Millar's comics, this movie is one of my favorite comic adaptations in recent years. Available to rent on Vudu, Youtube, Amazon Video, and Google Play.

Snowpiercer (2013) - Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer is an interesting film for many reasons: 1) it is adapted from a French graphic novel, directed by the Korean Bong-Joon Ho, and stars a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual cast (including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Kang-ho Song), 2) the whole story takes place in a single physical space - a high-speed train carrying the last survivors of humanity following a global freezing event, and 3) the end of the film is incredibly ambiguous and endlessly debatable. I don't want to give away any more than that, but trust me when I say this film is worth the watch. Available to rent on Vudu, Youtube, Amazon Video, and Google Play.

Diairy of a Teenage Girl (2015) - Based on the graphic memoir of Phoebe Gloeckner of the same name, this film is equal parts hilarious, disturbing, and heart-wrenching. Relative newcomer Bel Powley is absolutely stunning as a young, sex-obsessed teenage girl having an affair with her alcoholic mother's creepy boyfriend (played by Kristen Wiig and Alexsander Skarsgard, respectively). The film deals with teenage sexuality pretty unflinchingly, without overtly moralizing the emotions and needs of the women in the film. Available to rent on Vudu, Youtube, Amazon Video, and Google Play.

Matt Linton

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010) – Have I mentioned how much I love this movie? I have, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone into why that is. I love every performance, especially Kieron Culkin as Wallace, Scott’s roommate, Allison Pill as Kim Pine, Scott’s ex and the drummer for Sex-Bob-omb, and Ellen Wong as Knives Chau, Scott’s girlfriend (she’s Chinese). The soundtrack, as mentioned earlier this week, is amazing. Beyond that, the film has a lot of heavy lifting to do, functioning as a comic book adaptation, an adaptation of video game form and tropes, a comedy, a love story, an action movie, a musical (complete with Bollywood-style number) and it somehow manages to pull all of that off. It’s brilliant.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime and other streaming services

Red (2010) – Right off the bat, let me say that this is not an especially faithful comic book adaptation. The original three issue miniseries by writer Warren Ellis and artist Cully Hamner is non-stop action, beginning with an assault on retired secret agent Paul Moses’s house and ending with a full-on one-man assault on CIA headquarters. This film adds comedy and a ridiculously talented supporting cast (including Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban) to back up Bruce Willis. It gets right what a film needs to do if it’s going to diverge from the source material, by leaning into being an entertaining film.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime and other streaming services

Constantine (2005) – And that’s the perfect segue to this film, as well as my only real defense. Taking the bitterly acerbic British asshole magician John Constantine and casting a (thankfully, given his previous attempt) not-British, kind of dour Keanu Reeves and setting the film in Los Angeles should have been a deal-breaker. But, if you can get past all of that, it’s a dark and entertaining horror movie. Rachel Weisz is great as the tortured client/love interest, and Tilda Swinton is as Tilda Swinton as she could be in her role as the archangel Gabriel. Shia LaBeouf is also there.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime and other streaming services

Mystery Men (1999) – Of the films on this list, this is the only one that I’ve never read the original comic book version. The characters stem from the 1980s indie comic Flaming Carrot Comics, which stars a man who becomes brain-damaged after reading 5000 comics in one sitting and takes up a career as a superhero who wears a giant carrot mask with a constantly burning flame on top. Having typed that, I really, really want to read it now. The film, which stars Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Jeanine Garafalo, Paul Reubens, Eddie Izzard, Geoffrey Rush, Hank Azaria, Greg Kinnear, and Kel, of Kenan and Kel fame, as a team of utterly sincere and utterly inept superheroes out of their depth as they battle the evil Casanova Frankenstein. It’s goofy and hilarious, features my favorite Ben Stiller performance, and is well-worth checking out. [WARNING: THIS FILM CONTAINS “ALL-STAR” BY SMASH MOUTH]

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime and other streaming services

New in Theaters This Week...

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