Posts Tagged ‘stephen king


Movie Review: All Reviews Lead to the ‘Tower…’

Starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Jackie Earle Haley, and Tom Taylor.

Directed by Nicolaj Arcel

Every now and then you have to divorce what you know of the source material from the movie that you are watching. “Total Recall?” Not incredibly difficult. “Minority Report?” The movie fares better than original story. “I Am Legend?” Aside from the first part of the novel it’s fairly divorced. Like the movies of old where a director (like, say, Hitchcock) would by a novel just on its premise, not bother reading it, hand it off to the screenwriter to churn out a screenplay, then release the movie as a “based on the book by…” ‘The Dark Tower’ does that but goes about an extra half-mile. To sum it up: imagine having a friend take notes on the ‘Dark Tower’ series of novels. Then, you hand those notes to another friend who wants to answer the question, “What would this be about told from a supporting character’s point of view?” That would be the basis of this film.

If you have not read the novels, the movie isn’t entirely to be missed; it does have some entertainment value and it wasn’t done badly. If you have read the novel and its series, then this may reaffirm your fears. NOTE: I will try my best to “divorce” myself from the book series as much as possible in this review.

Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a kid growing up in modern day New York City. His father was a firefighter who was killed on the job and he’s being raised by his mother and stepfather, both of whom are somewhat concerned about Jake’s current preoccupation: a giant Tower. A Man In Black (who isn’t Johnny Cash). A Gunslinger. Jake sketches and draws these dreams and visions that he’s been having for the past year. But what do they all mean?

Cut to a place called Mid-World. It’s a place that is part fog-covered forest, part desert, and part-wasteland (there’s an abandoned amusement park with overgrowth). Wandering this expanse is the Gunslinger (Elba) who is looking for vengeance for the death of his father (Dennis Haysbert) who was killed by Walter O’Dim, aka the Man In Black. Walter O’Dim is a sorcerer with tech-assist – he can transport himself anywhere, make people obey his commands, and see everything that’s going on except he has no sway over the Tower. The Tower is a hulking monolith with multiple wires that protects all the “good” in the Universe. It is said that it can be torn apart by the mind of a child which brings us to Walter’s preoccupation of using children’s “shine” (read: psychic powers) to assault the Tower with their energy. Shots are fired but nothing can seemingly take it down.

Via a homeless guy Jake finds out he may just be the kid that can accomplish that. Following failed meetings with a psychiatrist (Jose Zuniga) Jake’s parents are planning on sending him away to a place where he can be CAT-scanned, interviewed, tested, etc. only problem is that the ones wanting to take him are “skins” – mutants from Mid-World sent by Walter himself to find the one kid that can help destroy the Tower and bring a fiery destruction to not just our world, but all worlds. Chasing his “dreams” (and evading the “skins”) Jake finds a house that has a portal straight into Mid-World. Jake steps through, wanders the vast nothingness, then happens upon the Gunslinger.

What follows is essentially the structure of “man on a vengeance” meets “the kid who is The One.” This, ultimately, is what undoes the movie for us die-hard Tower junkies. Those wanting a movie about Roland Deschain are left with the scraps that they gave Elba to play. Don’t get me wrong – Elba did a way better job than I imagined he would but they kept his character in a box only to be used in event that Jake needed help. If you’ve read any of the series you know that it’s not about Jake, but Roland. Try imagine a Batman movie centered on Robin and you’d get the picture. McConaughey shines as the Man in Black/Walter O’Dim however the character in the book was more about treachery, illusion, and trickery than being technologically savvy, using kidnapped children’s psychic powers to destroy the Tower.

Therein lies the problem with the film – what audience should it have catered to? With a more massive following among Tower junkies this film comes up way short. Sure, there are references to “Christine,” and other horror novels King has done as well as the number 19, the Ka-tet symbol, “All Hail the Crimson King,” the “skins,” etc. Again, it’s like someone wanted to throw the entire book series into a blender and make the best of what was poured out first.

When I heard about this film being done, first with J.J. Abrams then with Ron Howard, I was onboard. Seeing what they’ve done to it… I don’t know if I can forgive them of it. There are multiple movies that can be made from the series, for sure, but boiling down the main story from elements in the series (the house in “The Drawing of the Three,” sketching from “The Dark Tower” itself, the black crystal ball from “Wizard and Glass,” etc.) this isn’t even a “greatest hits” of themes from the Tower series, just laziness structured into a “child who is the One who can save us all” story arc. If I were Roland, I would give up on Walter and seek vengeance on that.

My grade: (all things considered) C


Horror Movies on DVD Review: Christine



It’s a love story about a boy… and his demonic car.

Starring Keith Gordon, Alexandra Paul, John Stockwell, Robert Prosky, and Harry Dean Stanton. Directed by John Carpenter. Based on the novel by Stephen King.

Arnie (Gordon) and Dennis (Stockwell) are best friends despite their roles in the high school caste system. Arnie is your high school nerd brought up being part of the chess team, forced to study a lot, wimpish personal character, etc. Dennis is the jock; the high school number one football player. Dennis puts up for and helps Arnie out because they’ve been friends since childhood.

Enter Girl #1: Leigh (Paul). The new girl in school. Dennis is suddenly interested in her and try as he might, fails on delivery; she already has a date for the dance after the big game.

Enter Girl #2: Christine. At first sight she’s a definite fixer-upper. She’s rusted-over, out-of-shape, and a little beyond general disrepair. For Arnie it’s love at first sight. The crotchety old man selling it (Roberts Blossom) said that his brother, six weeks dead, loved the car and that he’s selling it to get a condo. Dennis thinks Arnie is crazy and tries talking him, and the old man, out of the whole deal. No dice. Arnie buys the car on the spot and takes her to meet the parents.

Mom and Dad Cunningham disapprove of her and Arnie is forced to take her elsewhere, ending up at Darnell’s Auto Shop where owner Darnell (Prosky) throws his weight around, threatening Arnie in the event that there should be any mischief. Arnie agrees to the terms.

The football game provides the crux of future events: Arnie is going out with Leigh, a group of guys pissed at Arnie plan to exact revenge on his car, and Dennis zigs when he should’ve zagged and wakes in the hospital, an inch away from paralysis. Arnie comes to visit Dennis and they talk. Apparently, Arnie has been spending more time with Christine than his girlfriend, parents, or even best friend. Arnie concedes that Christine is almost finished and looking better than ever, and Arnie is reflecting that change in himself.

Thus begins Arnie’s slow descent into heavy metal madness with the help of Christine. His girlfriend refuses to get into the car after almost choking on a burger and Christine locking the doors, not letting anyone in. The guys who assaulted Arnie earlier in the film and even destroyed Christine are subsequently hunted down and dealt with. Christine is one mean machine.

Detective Junkins (Stanton) comes to question Arnie. It seems that Darnell was found dead inside Christine and the guys who harassed him were all murdered. Arnie shows his new attitude, protecting Christine. Meanwhile Leigh gets with Dennis and the two plan a way to get rid of Christine and hopefully save Arnie.

From the 1957 open with the “birth” of Christine on the factory line and “Bad to the Bone” playing in the background to Arnie’s introduction to the car to the car fixing itself or driving around engulfed in flames to the end at a junkyard, “Christine” is a great adaptation of Stephen King’s loves: cars, horror, and rock ‘n roll. If you’ve read his work, not just this novel, this movie is a great marriage of his themes with a story without necessarily being a 100% dead-on take on the novel the movie is based on.

The only real drawback to the film is that it’s interesting. Not overly-engrossing but better than amusing. To Carpenter’s credit the film has aged decently and the story can still hold-up without feeling completely stilted or stuck in its time. While our current culture thrives on more emotion being in a film, this one does a good job at mixing action and emotion without sacrificing too much of either.

Is it scary? There are a few parts that the easily scared can probably freak-out at, but for the most part it’s more a dissertation on the descent into metal hell than “this car will kill everyone.” That job was for the truck in “Duel.” It is an entertaining film, and the scene where the car is on fire running a kid down should be in the Hall of Greatest Scenes Ever Filmed.

My grade: B

Hor-O-Meter Level: 2 – “Eight dollars for beer nuts? This room is evil.”


Movies on DVD Review: The Mist

The Mist poster

Best. Horror. Movie. Ever.

Starring Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, and William Sadler. Directed by Frank Darabont. Based on the story by Stephen King.

This Darabont likes people being held captive, doesn’t he?

“The Mist” is about a small New England town (where King’s stuff always happens) that is taken over by a mist that comes from the lake. The setting for much of the story is the Food House supermarket where artist David Drayton (Jane) and his son, along with lawyer/neighbor Brent Norton (Braugher), new teacher Amanda Dunfrey (Holden), mechanic Jim Grondin (Sadler), and others are holed-up while the mist surrounds them. After a tentacled “something” drags Norm (Chris Owens) into the mist (“lunchtime”), sides are chosen and the pressure builds. Will the mist clear? Will they make it out alive?

What I really enjoyed about this movie was that it was about the true nature of horror: the psychology of personalities in conflict. Drayton doesn’t want to lead, but he’s the only one who is seemingly “sane.” Ollie (Jones) goes from being a “nobody” to answering the “heroic call-to-action.” But, there is the other side of the coin as well: Brent doesn’t believe in the “creatures” that Drayton talks about, and decides to lead a group of people in the mist. And there’s Mrs. Carmody (Harden), a god-fearing religious fear-monger who begins converting others in the store, one after another, to the “fact” that she is a “vessel”; a psychic tuned into God’s Wrath.

I will also give credit to Greg Nicotero, who helped create the monsters for “The Mist.” One looks like a dragonfly mated with a scorpion that can “shoot” a string from its tail that will burn through anything. There’s also a spider that looks like it was mated with a porcupine that has the same type of “string.”

And yes, Frank Darabont did a great job. This is easily one of the best horror movies of the past decade. While “Shawshank” and “Green Mile” may get more press and interest, that doesn’t make this any less of a movie. I really wish that I had seen this in theaters…

Of note I watched this film 3 times this past weekend; once for myself, and twice with friends. I do recommend seeing it if you’re into the “terror” part of horror movies. Yes, there is some gore, blood, and violence, but this is horror done correctly. Also, I watched it in black and white, with the introduction where Darabont goes on about offering the initial color version, and the same in b&w. I like both.

Either way, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for a good hour.

My grade: A.