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Thursday, March 3, 2011

God Save the King, Book IV

In conclusion of this series, taking a look back at the contributions that Stephen King has made to the world of cinema, in four parts, from Carrie on down, in anticipation of The Stand being adapted for a feature film... we're at the end. We've covered the good, the bad, and the wtf, and that's just the feature films. We're on to his mini-series, in part four.

"Be gentle."

More after the cut --

Book IV - The Rest

It. 1990.
It is an interesting film. On one hand, it's a complete success. It's a faithful adaptation of a brilliantly realized novel, with a masterclass of a performance from the always reliable Tim Curry. It has scared people for the last twenty years, and will most likely continue to be my generation's excuse as to why they're afraid of clowns. But, on the other hand, in my eyes, it is a complete failure. Obviously, one film can not be both. So, it's a fair mix, we'll say - where it fails is the aftertaste. Every good "tentpole" horror film has its reputation built on the aftertaste it leaves in the viewers' minds - consider how Psycho made people scared of their showers, or how Jaws made people afraid of the ocean. It made people afraid of clowns - I laughed, though, through most of it. Not because of the clown; Pennywise is actually quite terrifying. But, it's the direction - it only works in the moment, and doesn't leave anything to be desired, or feared, after the fact. But, I'm most likely wrong about this one, as everyone I know is horrified by It. 

The Tommyknockers. 1993. 
John Power is a solid director. I'm not basing that on too much, as my knowledge of his work is kind of limited, and he's mostly done obscure television films... but, here, he exhibits a solid handle on the material and a decidedly good handle on his actors, including Jimmy Smits - who is usually better than people ever expect him to be. But, while this isn't exactly any sort of ground breaking achievement, it's a good mini-series and is worth a watch if you ever run across it. Nothing great, but definitely good enough. 

The Stand. 1994.
1994 was a hell of a year for film. The Stand dominated TV, and pushed Gary Sinise into the forefront (as did his performance in Forrest Gump that year), and two of the best films I've ever seen came out (Pulp Fiction, and Shawshank). With The Stand being adapted for the big screen, it makes me a little bit happy to write about the mini-series now. All I want to say about it though is that it's a miraculous achievement. Brilliant performances, especially from Gary Cole, Sinise, and Molly Ringwald, and an absolutely gorgeous story from Stephen King. This is among his best work. Please see it soon.

The Langoliers. 1995.
Pretty much, the only thing I can recommend about this film is Bronson Pinchot's performance. He is the shining light of a boring, one-note mini-series. Everything else? Dreck. I remember seeing this when I was younger, and thinking to myself "this is a Stephen King film?" Not even that, but so soon after The Stand, too... it's a dumb story, matched with a dumb film. Again, the only thing of note is Bronson Pinchot. 

The Shining. 1997.
Legend has it, as does plain reported fact, that Stephen King abhorred Stanley Kubrick's filmic adaptation his most famous novel. So, seventeen years later, both he and Mick Garris sought out to set the record straight on the book - in a four hour mini-series for USA. But, the response from audiences was less than stellar. Personally, as much as I loved Kubrick's version (though, it is a thematic rape of King's novel), I do prefer elements of the television version. Steven Weber's performance, the recognition of Jack Torrence's alcoholism and how it effects the rest of the story, etc. The kid is a bit... obnoxious, but the strength of King's screenplay makes up for the hokeyness of Garris' direction. Still, though, this is no replacement of Kubrick's film, and both King and Garris know this. 

Storm of the Century. 1999.
By far, this is the strongest mini-series work of King's text - it is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. The direction, the performances, the adaptation of the story, the sound editing, the film editing... much like, though antithetical, all I can say about The Langoliers, all I can say about Storm of the Century is that I consider it essential viewing for the horror genre, as well as essential viewing for 1999 in general. Beautifully realized and conceived, and directed with meticulous care. Take eight hours, watch this and The Shining, and you can most likely avoid any other King mini-series. Maybe It, too.

Rose Red. 2002.
You can probably avoid this one, too. Especially in the shining light of cinema of 2002, the major complaint I can make about this series is that it feels so less urgent than it should. King's text has his usual dark wit, and his usual horrific flare, but Rose Red is too straight forward for its own good. However, standing on its own, Rose Red is excellent. Compared to the original text, it could be considered flat, but as a film, it is remarkably well done. The performances, especially Nancy Travis, are all exceptional to the film's lack of need and assertiveness. But, this is still something that should be seen, probably, even though it could probably be avoided, too. It falls directly in the middle of apathy, though I do heavily recommend it for the performances, even if it's only for that. 

A few notes...

As for the aforementioned Needful Things, in an earlier part... if you watch this film, take a little bit of extra time and money and find the directors cut. It elongates the film by about an hour and a half, but it makes the adaptation of King's novel flawless. It shows on USA in its entirety almost every year, but it's a rare find on home video or DVD or anything like that. So, if you want to see the film, wait and see this version. 

There are a few films I've left out of this series simply for the fact that they aren't fresh enough on my mind to make an accurate criticism and determine them "good" or "bad" or "wtf"... films like Dolores Claiborn, or Riding the Bullet, or even Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot. So, I'll be seeing them as soon as possible and maybe entering a part five. But, for now... 

Thank you all for following the series and making this something successful! I always appreciate the readership. 

Now, let's get Charlie Kaufman to adapt "On Writing" and make the 2012 Oscars something fresh and new!