Adaptation

The Invasion

I love Nicole Kidman, though I think that most people do. Which was the main pull to watch this film. I enjoyed the other film adaptations The Body Snatchers that I’ve seen. Which is limited to the 1978, and 1993 versions. Though even with the addition of this version, my favorite is still the 1978 version. Because Donald Sutherland. The Invasion is close though, through the power of Nicole Kidman’s performance and the films many great moments.

The Invasion opens with a shuttle crashing and falling to earth during reentry. The debris from the crash is infested with an alien virus that can survive the freezing environment of space and the burning reentry. The virus infects people and taking them over when they enter REM sleep. One of the first people infected is the CDC director Tucker Kaufman (Jeremy Northam). Tucker’s ex-wife Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) is a practicing psychiatrist, who has patient that thinks her husband is no longer her husband. Having a complete change of temperament. Slowly Carol starts noticing strange behavior in those around her. Including Tucker’s sudden interest in being a father to his son Oliver (Jackson Bond) and asking for visitation. As her fears mount and after the discovery of a strange skin is discovered at a party. Carol turns to her boyfriend Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig). He in turn goes to his friend Dr. Stephen Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), and they learn of the spread of virus. Which is being spread by Tucker through a flu vaccine. After realizing that Tucker is infected she goes to rescue her son, who she has also learned is immune due to being sick as a baby with a specific strain of the chicken pox. But as Carol searches for her son, things get more complicated after she becomes infected by Tucker. Forced to stay awake and find her son, before the infected learn of his immunity.

I liked the build up. The slow start of the familiar that builds upon itself as the film progresses. Layering upon itself. As it like its predecessors address the concept of a world with out violence is a world with out humanity and anyone is capable of anything in the right situation plays out beautifully.

My favorite parts were the quieter moments after the Carol has realized of the invasion. When other non infected warn her on the subway and later when she escapes. To avoid emotion as they dont have any. Something that’s used against us by them. The work great and add a great deal to the tension of the film.

It was the cast that really stood out to me. With exception of Daniel Craig, who felt dry and unemotional. Nicole Kidman of course did an outstanding job. But like he’s done before my favorite performance was from Jeffery Wright. Who, while only a smaller supporting role uses his screen time the most effectively.

Final thoughts, Overall I really enjoyed this version and while not my favorite I can still admit that it’s well done.  The acting is solid though not as well done in the 1978 version and the story is solid. I like the undercurrents of the film, though the get very heavy handed with them. But if your a fan of invasion films or the other versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers I would recommend giving this film a watch. 7/10

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

n8itxirFirst of all I feel the need to bring up that I’m not a fan of Jane Austin. I’m not saying she wasn’t a talented and influential writer, both of which she was. I’m not a fan of any real works of that period as I find that language arduous to get through and you need to have a firm understanding of the social structure of the time. Which is something I do not possess. That said, I am aware of her works and the cliff notes version of a meager handful of her novels. Mostly from friends who are more devoted fans than I could ever be. I went into this film with my head full of the bad reviews and internet trash talk that I had come across since its release. So when I got a steaming bowl of pretty OK, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The film recaps the rise of zombie apocalypse across 19th century Europe, before getting to the Bennet sisters, Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), and Mary (Millie Brady). The five sisters have received martial training in China, rather than in Japan as is considered fashionable among the wealthy at their father’s (Charles Dance) behest. A decision that the girl’s mother (Sally Phillips) disapproves with as she feels that it makes them less desirable for marriage. We also get quickly introduced to Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley), who hunts and fights the zombie menace with the aid of carrion flies. Mrs. Bennet’s worries of proper suitors are soon alleviated when the rich Mr. Bingly (Douglas Booth) moves into the nearby estate. While attending a ball there, Mr. Bingly and falls for Jane, while Mr. Bingly’s close friend Colonel Darcy falls for Elizabeth and her for him. Though through hardheadedness and miss conceptions neither is willing to admit their feelings for the other. Things get worse when Mr. Bingly breaks off his relationship with Jane and leaves the area abruptly. Elizabeth later learns he had done so on the advice of Wickham (Jack Huston), a soldier that shares history with Darcy. But dark times are ahead as Elizabeth keeps seeing visions of the Four Horsemen of the Zombie Apocalypse…

I honestly don’t get people’s complaints that this film isn’t that great of zombie film, or that it’s not that faithful of an adaptation of Jane Austin. Since it’s not intended to be either as it’s based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. It feels more like a tongue in cheek joke on both, and for me it hits a real good blend. The action scenes are spaced out to keep the focus more on the relationships of the characters. With their marriage opportunities being the forefront over zombies.

Not that zombies ever fade from the film long enough to even begin to forget about them. As there is enough zombie action in this film to sate my appetite. My only issue with the zombie end of things is the battle scenes not being gruesome enough. Not that I require a vast amount of viscera in my zombie films. But the lack of gore during a the larger battle scenes is felt.

My one main gripe is that I was never worried for any of the principal characters. Given that it’s a spoof on Pride and Prejudice, all the main characters have solid plot armor. I wish that this film would have gone against the grain and killed off one of the sisters at least. Maybe even one of the suitors or even Mr. Bennet. Since knowing that they will survive on the grace of being established characters feels cheap.

Final Thoughts, I will admit that this film is no modern masterpiece. It is fun and entertaining, though. Which is a films primary goal. OK, maybe not fun. But most certainly entertaining. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never tries to be deep, which is good since it would lack the chops to do so. Instead it goes for a cheeky zombie romp through classic literature. Some I’m more than happy to sit through. 8/10

Dreamcatcher

dreamcatcherI remember the first time I watched this film, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. I was hung up on some pretty shallow problems with the film. After watching it again, in a different point in my life I found Dreamcatcher far more enjoyable. But still, it’s not even close to King’s best adaptations. That would of course be The Green Mile. Though what I found delightful were the performances of the film’s main protagonists played by Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, and Timothy Olyphant. All actors that I’ve come to love in the years since I last saw this film.

Dreamcatchers opens with a group of childhood friends Henry (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant) planning a trip to go see Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg), another childhood friend. This time also establishes that all four of the friends share special abilities ranging from finding things that are lost, telepathy and precognition. Though other than telepathy not all the abilities are shared among all of them. While leaving work after finalizing plans to visit Duddits, Jonesy walks into the road seemingly in a daze. Which results in him being hit and badly injured. Though he manages to make a near full recovery to attend the group’s annual trip to a cabin in the woods six months later. Though due to the damage to his hip and legs, he walks with a limp and gets fatigued quickly. We learn the that four boys meet Duddits, who is seemingly mentally handicapped while investigating an old building in search of a dirty picture. Duddits was being tormented by three older boys, who are trying to force Duddits to eat a dog turd after they stripped him down. The four boys stand up for him, causing the bullies to back down and forging a lasting friendship with Duddits. It’s also revealed that it was Duddits who had given the boys their mental powers, while searching for a lost girl. In present day Jonesy comes across a lost hunter in the woods Rick McCarthy (Eris Keenleyside), while hunting in the woods with Beaver. He takes Rick back to the cabin and tries to help him. Shortly after settling Rick down and noticing his swollen chest, Beaver returns. Beaver notes the red rash on the mans face, who casually dismisses claiming that it’s an allergic reaction to something. After a few moments Beaver and Jonesy help the man to bed, and while doing so Jonesy notices the swelling has moved from his chest to his stomach. The two then witnesses the animals of the forest fleeing something, many covered with a strange red rash. Much like the one on Rick’s face. A military helicopter flies over head telling them that the area is under quarantine. Meanwhile, Henry and Pete are making a supply run back in town. While making the return trips the two crests a snow-covered hill and nearly strike a woman sitting in the road half-frozen. The two manage to avoid hitting her, but wreck their car and Pete’s leg gets injured. After starting a fire to warm the woman and Pete, Henry leaves on foot back to the cabin to get help. At the cabin, when Beaver and Jonesy reenter they find a bloody trail leading from the bed where Rick was sleeping to the bathroom. After refusing to open the door for them to check on him, Beaver and Jonesy break it down. Inside they find a horror show, as the bathroom is covered in the red rash, growing along the walls floor and completely covering Rick’s face. They hear a “Clinker” drop into the toilet from an unresponsive Rick and when Beaver tries to rouse him, he falls over into the tub dead. Inside the toilet is a large slug like creature, Beaver quickly traps the creature by closing and siting the lid. After arguing about it, Jonesy goes to the shed to find duct tape to keep the lid closed. While gone Beaver is unable to keep the lid closed and is killed after fighting the creature. Jonesy returns to the bathroom and finds Beaver dead, but manages to close the door before the creature and kill him too. Though that does nothing to protect him from the large alien that possesses him. These events haven’t gone unnoticed by the government as Col. Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman) is the man who established the quarantine to keep the infection along with aliens that cause it contained. He’s aided by his protege Owen (Tom Sizemore), who’s set to take over his command. Though he’s deeply conflicted over Curtis heavy-handed measures, such as killing all infected, including children. Having gone slightly mad after spending a lifetime fighting the aliens. The alien, Mr. Grey possessing Jonesy uses his body to escape the quarantine. Pitting him against the remaining friends with the fate of the world in balance.

There’s a lot I didn’t cover in the synopsis, as this isn’t a short film clocking in at over two hours. The later part is much faster paced than the first sections as there’s quite a lot that needs to be established. Though you don’t really feel Dreamcatchers length as it never dawdles. Moving quickly to cover as much ground as efficiently possible.

The true strength of the film lies with the core group of friends as the actors who portray them do a great job. Their interaction is believable that these men are life long friends. Bound together not just by shared history, but also by the abilities gifted to them.

My issues with this film are small. My first one with actually with Morgan Freeman’s character as he feels out-of-place. Taking up time for crazy sake. The character does little but try to add extra tension, but in the long run adds little to the actual plot of the film. Much like Owen. In fact, most of the military scenes feel superfluous.

The second is Duddits, who all the men talk about in high regard constantly. With never a bad word shared about him. But all men admit to falling out of contact with him. Even becoming surprised when they learn that he now has late stage leukemia when he’s searched out to help with Mr. Grey. So my issue is how come these men, who owe so much Duddits have fallen so far out of touch that he doesn’t even come to the annual trip? One that partly held in his honor?

Final thoughts, other than a few glaring plot holes this is an OK movie. Though nothing special, well beyond the on-screen friendship. The effects are kind of bad as the CGI hasn’t aged the best. But, Dreamcatcher isn’t a film you should be watching for the effects. It’s the one you watch for the story and overall Dreamcatcher has a pretty good one. 7/10

The Night Flier

stephen-kings-the-night-flier-movie-poster-1998-1020744678This a personal favorite of a good friend of mines. So when he heard I was doing another round of Stephen King adaptations for the Christmas season again, he heavily suggested this film. Though I knew little of this beyond it containing a vampire. So when I realized that Miguel Ferrer was front and center for the whole film. Who I just loved as Lloyd Henreid in The Stand. The Night Flier also has Dan Monahan, who is impossible to remove his roles in the Porky’s films.

The Night Flier opens with a black Sky-master airplane with red piping landing at night in a desolate air strip. The sole attendant goes out to check on the plane and finds it empty. Though he quickly set upon by an unseen attacker and is killed. In New York at The Inside View, a trashy sensationalist tabloid, Richard Dee’s (Miguel Ferrer) the paper’s chief reporter is upset that a picture was cut from his story and storms into his bosses office. Inside Katherine Blair (Julie Entwisle) is being welcomed to the paper by the chief editor Merton Morrison (Dan Monahan). Morrison offers a story to Dee’s, involving a serial killer that flies into airports and kills the attendant. Dee passes on the story and goes out drinking. He’s followed by Blair, who wants to pick his brain over the inside view of Inside View. She’s met with Dee’s short temper and scorn. The following morning when he arrives to work Dee is brought into Morrison’s office, he’s presented with more evidence to support the serial killer’s existence, information dug up by Blair. This new evidence hooks Dee’s interest and agrees to do the story, stealing it from Blair who had already got it. Dee begins tracking the killer flying the same airports and questioning anyone who will talk to him. As he draws closer to the killer, whom he names the Night Flyer, Dee becomes more and more drawn in. Though eventually the trail goes cold, but he gets help from Blair, eventually catching up to the Night Flyer…

Having not read the short story this based on I was able to enjoy this film on its own merits. Night Flyers biggest strength is actually how little the Night Flyer is involved. He’s only alluded to and talked about by those who Dee interviews. The Night Flyer is shown just enough to stay at the forefront of the film, but is always cloaked in shadow until the films final moments.

What really carries this film though is the atmosphere, which remains dark and imposing. The sense of dread cast by the Night Flyer ebbs and flows, but is always there driving the narrative. Though his mental connection to Dee is oddly out-of-place and serves no real purpose.

The acting is mostly really good. Which has a style that I find remarkably similar to Pet Cemetery. Though it does pass the line to cheesy on more than a few occasions. Though it’s really the strength Miguel Ferrer’s performance that carries the film. As his slow decent in obsession and madness here is solid and easily my favorite role of his now.

Final thoughts, like any good adaptation The Night Flyer wants me to read the story on which it was based. I loved the sly references other King stories. Mostly in the scene in Morton’s office as the past headlines. Standing on its own, divorced from King, Night Flyer is still a solid vampire. It has a dark, oppressive mood and ties to the old Dracula films. 8/10

Dolores Claiborne

64615cf8ad884695c7ac2a96717df7bcI remember this film being around when I was younger, though I have no recollection of seeing it before. My father was a huge fan of Stephen King, something that I undoubtedly inherited from him, so he was always watching the movies and I remember talking highly of this film. Which makes sense since Dolores Claiborne is a great film that’s incredibly well acted. Though I can’t think of anything Kathy Bates has been in that she didn’t do a fantastic job and here is no different. Though this a bit off from what I normally view as horror. But Dolores Claiborne did leave me with lingering feelings of unease and the film does hold true to my definition of horror. Though here it’s more a family drama with horror being muted, but still present as this is a very dark story.

Dolores Claiborne opens with Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates), a domestic servant having an altercation with her elderly employer, Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt) off-screen. Vera takes a fall down the stairs and lays there badly injured as Dolores ransacks the kitchen for a rolling pin. As she stands over Vera with the pin the mailman comes in and stops her from finishing off Vera, just for Vera to die anyway. Back in New York, Dolores’s estranged daughter Selena St. George (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a journalist receives a clipping from the local paper alerting her to what’s transpired with her mother. She returns to town to help defend her mother, though she doubtful that her mother is innocent after the mysterious death of her father twenty years prior. After the two women meet, the story of Vera’s death along with the death of Joe St. George (David Strathairn), Vera’s father unfold in a series of flashbacks. Dolores is being investigated by Detective John Mackey (Christopher Plummer), the same Detective the investigated Joe’s death and while unable to prove it has always believed that Dolores killed her husband. He’s aided in his investigation by Constable Frank Stamshaw (John C. Reilly).

I like the dark tone of film. Which is matched perfectly by Kathy Bates performance. I always love Kathy Bates and I have since I first saw Misery and the Stand, both of which she was in. Here her performance is both grounded and entertaining. She isn’t over the top crazy like in Misery, but is just as forceful and memorable.

I liked the switch of color during the flashbacks. The current events are all gray and washed out making the world look cold and less hospitable. While the flash backs a bright and green. As if they’re viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. That all the bits, even the ugly ones look better in hindsight.

Final thoughts, there isn’t much more I can say other than I liked it. Not what I was expecting, but a pleasant surprise all the same.  All the actors deliver believable and solid performances. The pacing and tone are both pretty good as well, with the film never feeling slow or inconsistent. I would heavily recommend this film, though not if you’re looking for scares. But if you want a great story that leaves you feeling a little uneasy. This is a great film for that. 9/10

Needful Things

needful_things_poster_01Once again we find ourselves in another December, which means it’s time once again for Kingmas. To start it off I wanted to watch a King adaptation to start with and I wanted to be something that I was both aware of, yet had never watched. After digging through a small pile of films I settled on Needful Things from 1993, based on the 1991 novel of the same name. This was a delight to watch as I have never, at the time of writing this at least, I have never read the novel. So I was able to go in to this film blind, and judge it more or less on its own merits.

The film opens with the opening of Needful Things in the small town of Castle Rock. The business owner Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow), sells trinkets and assorted items in the town. Everything he sells has great value to the person he’s selling too, though he never sells them for much. Just a small fee and a small favor. The first person he sells to is Brian Rusk (Shane Meier), how he sells a rare baseball card for nothing more than a few cents and the promise to pull a prank on Wilma Jerzyck (Valri Bromfield). Gaunt continues to sell items to the town for small fees and “smaller” favors. Until he comes across Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris), who tells him that he doesn’t need anything. Something that Gaunt see’s as true. The two become at odds as Gaunt continues to sell his items with his favors becoming more and more malicious, turning the town against itself. Until the town degrades to violence with only Sheriff Pangborn standing between the town and damnation.

I love the simplicity of the plot. A man selling his wares with malicious intent. Though after looking into the novel I wish the ending would have been a little more ambiguous with whether or not Gaunt was the devil himself or just a demon like the novel. Yes, I spoil things for myself constantly.

Though Stephen King is always more about the journey than the destinations. Needful Things is a good journey to take. Mostly this is on the strength of Max von Sydow, who delivers an amazing performance as Gaunt. Both warm and menacing, mostly menacing with increasing frequency until the final moment of the film. Which I think as great as I love nothing more than a good villain and Gaunt is a great villain.

Though, I will admit that this film does have weaknesses. My main, well sole issue is that support cast isn’t the best. The quality performances that Max von Sydow and Ed Harris, both deliver performance equal to their caliber. The rest though, Shane Meier, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer, J.T. Walsh, Ray McKinnon and Duncan Fraser all do… passable jobs. Standard fare for a King adaptation, but they do leave a bit to be desired.

Final Thoughts, while not the best horror film it is still a solid King horror film. I would place Needful Things well below the Mist, but above Cat’s Eye.  The performances are excellent to passable with the scale tipping towards passable. The pacing is also only OK, never truly engaging, but never so slow it viewing it becomes tedious. I would recommend this film to fans of King adaptations and to fans of films with memorable villains. Even if the film offers little else. 8/10

Phantoms

phantoms.26225There’s something to be said for the kind of horror movie that while not actually scary, at least in my opinion anyway, remains incredibly re-watchable. Maybe Phantoms is scary, but lost some of the chills somewhere around the twentieth viewing. Strangely I feel that Phantoms may be more well-known from the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, rather than for its own merits. Though I do have to agree that Ben Affleck is pretty bomb in this film, he’s not the best performance. That doesn’t even go to Peter O’Toole, but rather Liev Schreiber. Who does a fantastic job and simply nails it. Phantoms is part of a personal stable of horror films that always get dragged out when I watch to watch a film, something that is familiar. So I don’t have to give it my full attention and it has been since I first saw it. Because honestly for a nearly twenty year old film, it’s held up incredibly well.

Phantoms opens with Doctor Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going) bringing her little sister Lisa (Rose McGowan) to the small tourist town of Snowfeild, Colorado, where she works. When the sisters arrive, they find the town empty and after finding the body of Jennifer’s housekeeper, then a few other bodies. The pair then find the heads of the local bakers in their oven, before running into Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck) and his two deputies, Deputy Stuart “Stu” Wargle (Liev Schreiber) and Deputy Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt). The group is led by an unseen presence to a hotel where they find no one alive. But do find a note scrawled on the mirror “Timothy Flyte, The Ancient Enemy”, in a windowless bathroom, locked from the inside. Sheriff Hammond manages to contact headquarters to call for back up, but is basically only able to relay Flyte’s name before communications once again breaks up and becoming impossible. Flyte (Peter O’Toole) is contacted by the government, who are responding to the events of Snowfeild in a big way, and explains his theory of The Ancient Enemy, citing famous disappearances of small populations throughout history. Before being dragged off to Snowcloak…

Phantoms biggest advantage is that unlike a number of films from its era is that it doesn’t really use that much special effects. Sure the last act has a mixture of CGI and Practical thrown in, but by and large the film just relies on tension. The not seeing being what scary. Though this abandon during the last section of the film, when the film quickly devolves into a creature feature. A good one though.

Liev Schreiber is by far my favorite part of this film and I really like Ben Affleck in this movie. Same goes with Rose McGowan, Peter O’Toole though I’m about fifty-fifty on. Schreiber is creepy and off-putting in every second of screen time he graces. Heck, I find Stu scarier than The Ancient Enemy. Which upon reflection, was probably the point.

Final Thoughts, I really love this film and is certainly among my personal favorites. But honestly does feel rocky in the later half of the film. It’s not that the film dips in quality, there’s just a tone shift that I find jarring. There’s also a handful of CGI Effects that have aged poorly, especially in comparison the rest of the film. Still both those flaws are a matter of taste than substance. 10/10 Also Phantoms is based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name.