Stephen King

It (2017)

I really caught the fever for this one. As a huge Stephen King fan I spent the summer looking forward to The Dark Tower only to be deterred by the overwhelmingly bad reviews. I made my own journey to the top of the tower a few years ago and I couldn’t bring myself to make a trip to the theater for a version that would disappoint. So I’ve had an itch that needed to be scratched. All the anticipation left me with an unfulfilled fix I needed for Stephen King. As this movie approached I felt that itch grow more menacing, all my hopefulness and anticipation funneled from The Dark Tower and into It.

I have had really strong feelings about IT since reading the book about ten years ago. It left me so appalled that I even swore off King for a year or so before having my arm twisted into giving him another chance. If you’ve read the book I’ll just say it was that thing in the sewer when they were kids, it was too much for me. If you haven’t read the book then brace yourself before jumping into it, in fact I’ve told people for years that they shouldn’t read the book at all because it was all garbage.

I feel differently now. I realized in all the hype that was building in my mind that lots of things happen in a book ranging over 1000 pages and I shouldn’t discredit the entirety because of one thing that happened. So in the days approaching this film’s release I found myself giving the book a second chance. At less than a quarter into it now I find I have really enjoyed it this time around, I hope that thing in the sewer doesn’t happen this time…

The reviews that came out for this movie were really strong so I went into the theater with great expectations. So much so that I couldn’t even wait to see it and when plans to see the Thursday night premier fell through I was determined to see it at the first opportunity. I tried desperately to find a friend to see it with me at first showing on opening Friday but like most responsible adults they were all going to be at work at 1 PM on a Friday. I settled for going down to the office and basically kidnapping one of my co-workers so I didn’t have to sit in the theater by myself.

I wanted this movie to be amazing, I wanted a real and excellent adaptation of a Stephen King book, and above all I wanted this R rated version to scare me at least a little bit. I think the movie succeeded at all these things. I thought it was terrific and I can’t wait to see it again and really imprint it on my brain and memory.

The movie wasn’t entirely perfect and they made a few changes I didn’t like but it overwhelmingly exceeded all my lofty expectations enough for me to gladly overlook any shortcomings it had. I felt like the movie was a little rushed and would have been happy for it to have been longer for more depth. I also didn’t like most of the story changes but find them all acceptable in the bigger picture. Specifically what bothered me was the changing of Mike and Ben about who actually researched Derry’s past. Nevertheless the movie managed to get that back story into the film despite the limitation a 2 hour and 15 minute running time put on the story.

I loved this cast of young actors and marvel at what they were able to do. I only know Finn Wolfhard by name, because of Stranger Things, but they were all great. Wolfhard in particular as Richie Tozier was nothing short of fantastic any time he was on screen. He played such a different character than we saw on Stranger Things too, showing impressive range for his age. I really liked the kid who played Eddie and the girl who played Beverly. All the kids did a really great job though.

I thought Bill Skarsgard was excellent as Pennywise. I heard it criticized that he didn’t talk enough in the part but I didn’t think the character needed to talk much. I think he had large shoes to fill after Tim Curry’s iconic rendition in the role and it was important that he make it his own. Curry was a very vocal Pennywise while Skarsgard was a more visual. I think the version was particularly great because he had such a playful and horrific quality to him simultaneously. When he comes out of the cabinet all contorted or when he is literally bursting onto the scene he is very scary. He has a very childlike quality to him that makes him scarier.

I like that this movie tried to scare me without simply trying to make me feel uncomfortable. So much that passes for horror these days is simply what can be most shocking and/or gross. I saw plenty in this movie that was scary and didn’t have to resort to such gimmicks as torture porn and gore. This movie earned its R rating with language and content but not necessarily with violence or gore.

I really need to see this movie again before I can really sum it all up and discuss it properly. All I can say now is that I thought it was excellent and I want to see it again. If you find yourself on the fence about it then hop over to the yes side and check it out as soon as you can. I am incredibly excited to see how this movie performs at the box office as it ushers us into Halloween season. This movie is definitely worth your time to go see and it actually lives up to the hype.

 

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The Shining

Year: 1980
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stephen King (novel) Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie really features the best of both worlds. It’s a movie directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time based on a book written by one of the most popular horror writers of all time. This turned out to not be such a perfect marriage between Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King but it’s still hard to argue with the final product.

This movie was made by a true master of his trade and you can see that from the very onset of the film. The panning shot of the horizon as the car drives toward the hotel is both breathtaking and eerie with the musical overtone. This is largely hailed as one of the greatest horror films ever made and I think this intro sets the tone for a scary film. The stillness of the camera as it rolls over the scenery is particularly impressive. The perfection of Stanley Kubrick really shines through this movie from beginning to end. It’s an aesthetically pleasing movie with it’s incredible set designs and contrasting colors. Nearly every shot of this movie is filled with color almost like it was painted for the screen. Kubrick was an artist and you can see that in all his films; a truly one of a kind filmmaker.

While this movie is considered one of the best horror films ever made there is one strong opinion to the contrary. The author of the book, Stephen King, absolutely hated the movie and spent years bashing it before he was contractually silenced in order to make his own version. He has a lot of problems with the movie and is on record saying he has no idea what people find scary about it. The truth is that it was his baby and a new step daddy raised it into something different than King had in mind. He did not like the casting of either Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall. He specifically hated Duvall as she was the exact opposite of the character he wrote and he felt like Nicholson’s Jack was crazy from the get go rather than having a slow descent into madness as in the book. As far as King is concerned it’s far scarier for a Jack who is actually a loving and caring father to go crazy rather than a Jack who seems sort of already crazy when the movie starts. The hotel itself is the real villain, and Nicholson’s performance makes Jack the primary villain as opposed to merely a weapon of the evil hotel.

Jack Nicholson is truly magnificent in this movie, the true face of a madman. It’s easy to see why King hated the part because in the Jack is obviously a little crazy from the beginning. It seems a bit obvious in the scene on the ride to the hotel with his family. Nicholson really comes off as if he is suppressing rage throughout the whole scene. It may not have been how King envisioned the part for the adaptation but it is hard to argue with Nicholson’s performance. He does appear a bit crazy from the get go but when he starts delving farther into madness he is truly terrifying.

On the other hand I don’t understand why they ever cast Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. Not only did she not even come close to resembling the original character but she is simply awful. Her acting simply isn’t on par with the others in this movie and she is legitimately annoying throughout the entire film. Kubrick wanted her for the part because he wanted a weak and vulnerable Wendy, and to ensure he got one he bullied her relentlessly during filming. She appears so on edge throughout the film because she actually was on edge in real life working under Kubrick. I find her to be too weak and vulnerable though. It’s off putting, she is the weak link in this otherwise fantastic movie.

This was practically the only thing that Danny Lloyd ever did as an actor. He made one appearance in a TV film before retiring as an actor at the age of 9. It is unfortunate because he did such a compelling job in this movie that it would have been interesting to see what else he was capable of. He came up with the finger thing for Tony on his own and I think it was a really effective tool to have stumbled across. I have always thought that this little kid talking to his finger in that creepy voice was part of what made the film so scary. Due to his young age Danny wasn’t actually privy to what the movie he was making was about and Kubrick managed to get him through the film without him ever realizing that he was making a horror film. He remained under the impression throughout filming that he was filming a drama about a family that lived in a hotel.

One of my favorite performances in the movie is that of Scatman Crothers, who just embodied everything I had imagined for the character when I read the book. This was a hard movie on him at age 70 and his friend Jack Nicholson actually had to smooth things over with him multiple times. Kubrick is notorious for taking several takes of everything and he at one point nearly brought Crothers to tears after an unreasonable amount of takes in which Crothers seemingly could not please the director. If I’m not mistaken it was the airplane scene in which he simply asks the stewardess when they will be arriving. After an insane amount of takes Crothers looked at Kubrick and asked him what he wanted, to which Kubrick replied “I want you to do it right.”

Of all the movies we have reviewed this October this is the only one so far that fits with the season. The other horror movies have all been disappointing or flawed in some aspect but this one is legit. Whether King liked it or not it’s still a great movie that offers plenty of entertainment. He might have not found it scary but there are plenty of people who disagree with him. Personally I don’t find it too scary but entertaining none the less and it has the feel of a horror film. Horror films simply aren’t made with this quality of filmmaker and cast. It’s what makes this movie exceptional. King’s version of the film has it’s merits but it will never stand up against what Stanley Kubrick was able to do. I would easily recommend this movie to watch during Halloween season, it’s worth your time.

As a side note there is an interesting conspiracy theory attached to this film that is enough to make you question things. Check it out below and leave a comment with your thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Did Stanley Kubrick film the moon landing? I don’t know but while the whole the conspiracy theory surrounding this movie has been debunked I still find it to be quite interesting. I do not know if the moon landing was real or not and truthfully I have never cared. I’m not big on conspiracy theories because they simply encourage the foolish, and things are never quite so theatrical in real life. Yet there are certain differences in this movie from the book that have always befuddled me. Specifically the 237 room number makes me wonder. The number 217 was used in the book and it is specifically a Stephen King thing to use numbers that add up to 19. It’s change in the movie was apparently a request by the hotel so people didn’t get spooked by a real room within the hotel but if it actually correlates with the distance to the moon then it is a fascinating coincidence. While I have no interest in the conspiracy theory I do think if a director was hired to do it Stanley Kubrick would have been the one chosen. Kubrick was arguably the greatest filmmaker of all time and he was so intelligent that the theory makes me wonder. Is it a coincidence or was Kubrick actually trying to tell us something? I’ll let you decide, check out the video below and take a trip down the rabbit hole.

 

 

The Running Man

Year: 1987
Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser
Written By: Richard Bachman (Stephen King) and Steven E. de Souza (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve never realized before but this movie is set in 2017. So I first have to question how could they be so wrong? Not only are we not executing our prisoners on network television in 2016 but the world seems to be more PC than ever. At the very least we could be collaring our prisoners with exploding devices to prevent escape. My second question would have to be for myself, and why it’s been so long since I last saw this movie.

It’s been probably as many as 15 years since I have seen this movie. I added it to the collection a few years ago around the time The Hunger Games was coming out. I distinctly remember joking on a regular basis that I wasn’t seeing the movie because “I had seen The Running Man.” While I did eventually see that movie and found it to be OK I still think it was simply a rip off of this movie, and a version with kids can never match up to the one with Schwarzenegger.

This movie is campy and cheesy but I loved it when I was a kid and I love it now. It kind of takes me back a little to those days when I was 15 and still thought Pro Wrestling was cool. This movie is like Pro Wrestling only with killing, and a mob mentality on the outside that rivals the French Revolution. Both the thematic element of the show as well as the reaction by the public are stolen ideas by the Hunger Games books.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the elderly lady puts her money on Schwarzenegger getting the next kill despite him being the should be victim and not a stalker. She says “He’s a mean motherfucker!” and coming from that sweet looking old lady that line is just golden. This movie also features an awesome fight scene between Schwarzenegger and his old buddy Jesse “the Body” Ventura. Two men who would both eventually go into politics with great success. Ventura serving as GoverBody in Minnesota and Schwarzenegger serving as the Governator of California. The latter actually used this movie as an inside joke during his campaign, labeling his campaign bus “The Running Man.” I would love to go back to 1987 and catch people coming out of the theater to see there impressions on this possibility in the future.

The Running Man book was written by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym created by Stephen King so he could publish more books. King literally wrote too many books for his publisher and had to create a new author he could publish under the guise of. It was a big deal and a very secret pseudonym for some time. Eventually hardcore fans started figuring it out and Richard Bachman suddenly “died.” However, when the rights to this story were bought it was unknown King was the actual author. I am a big fan of King but have never read this particular book so can’t offer any insight into how it compares.

There is probably a really interesting story in this movie involving Richard Dawson and his part in the film. Unfortunately I don’t know the story and know little of the man who was a popular game show host long before I was born. A real game show host playing an evil game show host in a movie has to have interesting real life comparisons behind the scenes.

This is far from a perfect action movie but it was memorable if nothing else. It has a cheesy screenplay from a guy who specialized in these types of films and it’s based on a story from a legitimate Wordslinger. I have to give it a thumbs up if for no other reason than somebody modified the idea and made millions on it with Jennifer Lawrence. There are better movies out there more worthy of your time but should you spend yours with this one it wouldn’t be completely wasted.

NEXT MOVIE: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

 

Stephen King’s IT

Year: 1990
Directed By: Tommy Lee Wallace
Written By: Stephen King, Tommy Lee Wallace, and Lawrence D Cohen

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a rare situation where I actually think the film was better than the book.  Making things even more bizarre is the fact that this was a made for TV movie and it still manages to be better than the book.  This was a household favorite when I was growing up but I had never read the book until a year or two ago.  The book is different, in many ways it is a better different but in the end there was one specific thing that brought it all crashing down and I am haunted by the memory.  Haunted not in the sense that I was scared but in the sense that I simply can’t get back the innocence I had before reading it.

I have always heard this book was one of King’s best but I didn’t feel that way after finishing it.  In fact I felt that Stephen King must have been drunk when he wrote the damn thing and whoever read it and decided to publish it should be ashamed of themselves. If you have read the book then you should know what I am talking about, it’s so shameful and disgusting I can’t imagine anyone ever forgetting it. If you haven’t read it then I strongly suggest you never do.  The book isn’t all bad, it’s just that one damning part but that part is just too bad for me to stomach.  In the end of the book after the children dispatch IT for the first time in the 50s they get lost trying to find their way out of the sewers.  For whatever reason, to solve this dilemma, Beverly decides the only thing to do is to have sex with each of the boys in turn.  Let me say it again, to find their way out of a sewer the ten year old girl allows six ten year old boys to practically run a train on her.  Now I have heard that there are explanations for this online and plenty of people have written about why it was necessary and blah blah blah.  I don’t give a shit.  I don’t think there is any justification for it.  All I know is I read 1,000 pages into this damn book only to get to the most ridiculous and despicable thing I have ever read.  There is absolutely nothing in the world that will make what happened in that book sit right with me and I do feel scarred for life to an extent because I read it.  It’s doesn’t just say what happened either; the sex is uncomfortably graphic and I actually quit reading Stephen King for quite a while after reading it. King is a very successful writer and I am still a fan, but in this case I don’t know what his problem was and I think he should be ashamed of what he wrote.

Aside from that one awful scene the book isn’t bad but it’s really out there.  My favorite part is the turtle.  There is a great turtle responsible for creating the universe and he actually apologizes to one of the characters for it saying he simply had a stomach ache.  When he threw up the universe came out of him and there it was. For whatever reason I really like this explanation for the creation of the universe. Not that I think there is any validity to it but simply because I think if we knew how it really happened it would be something weird like that.  Something nobody in their right mind would ever be able to even consider and ultimately probably the product of an accident. IT was an evil being that counteracts the turtle but I’m certainly not remembering it right.  The movie tends to focus on him mainly as the clown but I don’t remember it like that in the book.  The clown was a shape he took but there was really no limit to what he appeared as.  IT is a being with the ability to invoke madness in others simply by being around but also able to directly invoke that fear himself with physical force.  IT is really complicated to be honest and it’s been too long since I read the book to be able to explain it with any accuracy.  I know that IT somehow ties into the Dark Tower series like pretty much everything King writes but I haven’t read the series so don’t know much about it.  I think King is a really talented writer despite what he did in the end of this book but some of his stuff is just really out there, specifically this book and the Dark Tower series.

I think this movie stands on its own well and that usually isn’t the case.  I think a lot of that has to do with the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown.  I would call it his best performance but would undoubtedly spark the outrage of Dr. Frank-N-Furter fans.  I have never been one to get behind The Rocky Horror Picture Show so I can’t compare the two but as Pennywise Curry was great.  The clown is the strength of the film and what makes it popular despite being a cheap made for TV film. My favorite scene is when the kids are looking in Mike’s scrapbook and Pennywise approaches them with menacing words before literally reaching through the page to get them. In that scene he has an evil look in his eye and a tone that could strike fear into anyone.  Great performance by Curry and my favorite part of the movie. You can see the scene I’m talking about below.

I’m not going to go into all the actors in the movie but I will discuss a few of them.  It’s cool to see a really young Seth Green playing Richie. I’ve never been a big fan of Green’s but I don’t dislike him and he has had a lot of success at different things.  I was a fan of John Ritter and I feel his presence gave this movie more credibility.  Jonathan Brandis played the most important of the younger cast in the role of Bill.  I remember seeing a lot of Brandis when I was a kid and he was a seemingly up and coming young actor.  I had forgotten all about him till watching this movie a couple of years ago and found out that he had died in 2003.  I was shocked to find out that he had actually committed suicide because he seemed to have such a promising future when I was a kid. Apparently he was really depressed because his career had declined significantly and he turned to drinking before ultimately taking his own life.  It’s a sad and unfortunate story.  I think he did a good job in this movie and was the best of the young actors in the film.

This is a cool movie and I like it but I don’t know how well it fits into the Halloween theme we are doing this month.  It is a horror film so it qualifies but I just don’t think it does much to set the tone for the season.  This is a horror film that can be watched any time of the year and for whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to fit with the other movies we are watching. It was a really long book and it made for a long movie.  This was actually a TV mini-series when it came out so I imagine it was four one hour episodes or something like that.  It’s a low budget film but that doesn’t take anything away from the film.  I chose to do this one mainly because I’ve wanted to write down my outrage over the book for some time. I don’t suggest this film as one to watch in preparation for Halloween but I would recommend it if you haven’t seen it.  So long as you don’t read the book, it will take way too long only to scar you for life.

AMBER’S REVIEW

What a creepy movie. Clowns are just so creepy and nobody does a creepy clown like this guy. Sometimes, when I see a balloon I will randomly just catch myself saying “They all Float.” How strange is that? Somebody in Party City has probably seen me and called me that crazy psychotic lady.

it-poster

I think this is a great one. It has the creepy clown front and center and it is surrounded by white. It’s ironic and it works. You see what you are supposed to see and you should automatically know this is going to be a horror flick. (In case seeing Stephen King’s name didn’t do it for you already.) The typography for the time was probably pretty cool and ahead of its time, but now the grunge look has been so over played. I will give this designer some kudos about the cast. They didn’t Photoshop them all together from different scenes that end up muddying up the piece, they decided to box them in across the bottom. MUCH better than the ones we have looked at in the past. I like this one. Halloween approved!

Apt Pupil

Year: 1998
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Stephen King

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is based on the novella by the same name written by Stephen King.  It’s part of a collection of four novellas in the book titled “Different Seasons.” The other novellas were “Shawshank Redemption,” “The Body” (made into the movie Stand By Me), and “The Breathing Method.” I have read them all and they are all good, but this one is far and away the best.  It’s an incredible story, such a fantastic idea, and this is what Stephen King does in his free time after finishing a bigger novel. I can’t remember specifically but in the afterword I think King says he wrote this story in merely a few weeks and it was maybe after “The Shining.” One of these stories at least was written after “The Shining”, which short of “The Breathing Method” were all made into very successful films.  “Apt Pupil” is an amazing story, its about madness, obsession, manipulation, and murder.  I love the story, and I have read it several times.

Since reading it the movie doesn’t quite pack the same punch, which is typically what happens but I still enjoy the movie.  I am a big fan of Bryan Singer, despite his post X2 career.  Ian Mckellan is perfect in this film, as would be expected.  Ian McKellan is one of those actors that makes any movie better, much like Michael Caine.  He has had a lot of success teaming with Singer as they also collaborated on the X-Men movies with Mckellan playing a great Magneto. I think the part of Todd Bowden could have been cast better, nobody specific comes to mind but I am not impressed by Brad Renfro’s performance.  A major difference in the book is that the story takes place over a period of several years so Todd is much younger in the beginning.  I tend to see Renfro as too old when I watch the movie now, and I don’t think he has the range to play such a complex character.

This movie is great but if you want more madness from this story then definitely get yourself a copy of “Different Seasons.” I actually have “Apt Pupil” on audio book and listen to it as I work sometimes, it’s recorded by Frank Mueller who does a great job voice acting. The book goes much deeper and it takes you much farther, but this is typical when movies are based off of books.  This movie is worth your time and you should check it out if you have a chance to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoy this film. I am a sucker for Ian McKellan, excuse me…Sir Ian McKellan. This film is interesting and isn’t like other movies that tend to follow similar past stories. This is really original. I know that it is based on a Stephen King novel, but it is still such an original movie and book. The parts that the two guys play are so perfect and to the tee. You could totally believe that Ian McKellan is actually German.

If you can’t find anything else to watch this is worth it. You have to be interested in a movie like this, I don’t think that it is really meant for everyone.

NEXT MOVIE:  A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

1408

Year: 2007
Directed By: Mikael Håfström
Written By:Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander
Based on the Steven King story

RYAN’S REVIEW

I bought this movie on a whim when I was actually staying in a hotel room alone one time, it served me well.  It isn’t a great movie but it’s creepy, it’s effective, and it has Samuel L. Jackson.  1408 is based off a short story I didn’t read by Stephen King.  I am a big Stephen King fan but I didn’t really like his first novel about an evil hotel and I think a short story about an evil hotel room means he was running out of good ideas.  I’d have to check to say this with any accuracy but I would bet this is only loosely based on a Stephen King story and his name was added to increase interest in the film.  I think this was effective because I bought this movie spontaneously, I bought it new.  Typically I only buy a movie new if I really loved it or I absolutely knew it would be awesome even though I hadn’t seen it.  This was neither but I took a chance, and if I was on the fence at all it was Stephen King’s name that won me over.

Now, since this is the first opportunity I have to talk about him, let’s cover the great Samuel L. Motherfuckin Jackson.  He may always be the same character, Jules from Inglewood, in the majority of his roles, but what movie isn’t enhanced by that character? I think we all know that while the wallet may have belonged to Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson was, is, and always will be the “Bad Motherfucker.” If he had said nothing else in this movie other than “it’s an evil fucking room man” the movie still would have been that much better.  He plays this role so well that you start to wonder if his character is supernatural and not just a hotel manager.  He really read all the books by the author John Cusack was playing? If it was anybody else you would be asking yourself “what are the chances of that?” but when it’s the Bad Motherfucker you just think “whoa, maybe he isn’t just a hotel manager, maybe he just…knows things, maybe he has…powers.”

I see this being a forgotten film in the end, but I enjoyed it.  I took a chance on it and wasn’t disappointed, it may have played into my circumstances and had an unfair advantage, but the movie is worth your time and I would recommend it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This film has all of the elements of a successful horror film. I thoroughly enjoy it. I am not the biggest John Cusack fan, but I do think that he realistically portrays his character in this film. A writer that used to smoke but doesn’t anymore yet carries the cigarette behind his ear for superstition’s sake. I also love the line he uses when Samuel L. Jackson asks if he drinks, “I said I was writer.” Speaking of the great Samuel L. Jackson, I think he was the best part of the movie. They even stuck in some “fucks” here and there, and the movie wouldn’t have been the same if Jackson didn’t say his signature word. I love him. I won’t go into too much detail here about him though, as we have a plethora of movies that will feature his awesomeness.

All in all this a great movie where you don’t have to think too much into and you can just sit back and watch it for what it is. It will make you jump here and there and it will make you feel for the main character and his pain of losing his daughter. Check this one out if you are in the mood for a scary flick.