2017 Upcoming Flicks

Where is the time going. February is nearly half done and I’m late to getting to the movies of 2017. So, here is the list of what I’m looking forward.

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Justice League Dark – February 7 – I just finished Volume 1 of the Justice League Dark New 52 and I’m a fan of Constantine which is the draw here.

John Wick: Chapter 2 – February 10 – Well, the first one was good and there have been plenty of good reviews for the follow-up.

Patient Zero – February 17, 2017 – Super virus. Highly intelligent infected with a special language and a search for patient zero. Add in some decent casting with Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer and Clive Standen and it may have potential however, I’ve heard very little about this movie including where it is available to see.

A Cure for Wellness – February 17, 2017 – Creepy wellness centres. Mixed reviews so far but I’m still interested.

giftsThe Girl with All the Gifts – February 24, 2017 – Read the book, which I enjoyed so I’m curious to see how it translates to film.

Logan – March 3, 2017 – Grizzled old Logan. This looks like it will be the best one of the bunch as far as Wolverine movies go.

T2: Trainspotting – March 3, 2017 -21 years after the original was released, it’ll be interesting to see how they mature these characters and if the follow-up maintains the gritty edge of the original.

Kong: Skull Island – March 10, 2017 – Not usually my kind of movie (something about giant, talking, thinking gorillas bugs me) but the trailer for this makes it appealing. Have to see what the reviews say.

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The Belko Experiment – March 17, 2017 – People locked in at work, forced to kill one another….office work is a bitch. Violence bred by the instinct to survive and the bending of people’s morals and conscience. Would you kill to save yourself?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5 – Probably more of the same as the first movie but there’s nothing wrong with that plus, little Groot.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – May 12 – A King Arthur flick directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Charlie Hunnan should be a great. Add in an impressive cast and Charlie Hunnan shirtless, nothing wrong with that. Let’s hope the best part of this isn’t the trailer.

The Dark Tower – July 28 – It’s unclear which books of the Stephen King Dark Tower series are going to be in the first movie but from what I’ve seen, it kind of looks like it will meld The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three. I’ve read the first 4 books of the series and am in the process of going through the series completely. Really like the casting of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and I this is one of the rare good Stephen King adaptations.

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IT – September 8 – Another Stephen King based movie. Loved the book and while the TV movie tried to bring the story to life it hasn’t held up over time (just realized that I have it on DVD). Hopefully the movie is as good and creepy as the book.

Murder on the Orient Express – November 22 – An updated adaptation of an Agatha Christie classic. Love her books and most of the previous film/TV adaptations that I have seen have been good.

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A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Ghosts

There has been a lot of hype and praise for this book (Stephen King apparently tweeted that this book scared the hell out of him) and many critics and readers have praised it. I don’t see it. For a book that comes in at 284 pages, it took way longer for me to finish then it should and I’m surprised I finished it. The writing is fine, Paul Trembly is a good writer but the story…bland. I didn’t realize that a majority of the book was going to be told from the perspective of 8-year-old Merry (my fault I guess) and I didn’t enjoy that view-point. To his credit, Trembly wrote Merry’s viewpoint well. So the story focused on Merry jumping from her 8-year-old self to 20 years later as an adult telling her story to a writer. And what is that story? 20 years previously Merry and her Mother, Father and older sister Marjorie were the subject of a short-lived reality show detailing the supposed possession and exorcism of 14-year-old Marjorie. There is much speculation as to whether or not Marjorie was actually possessed or suffering from mental illness and the reader gets to view her illness, how her parents deal with it and what it was like for Merry to be in the background while all of this is happening, plus the added strain of having the family’s struggled filmed. All of these events cumulate in a surprising twist ending…not really. I did not like the ending and honestly I’m not sure what it was suppose to imply or if there was supposed to be some sort of conclusion that I am missing.

Overall there was very little to truly keep my interest in this book. It too 100 pages for me to be able to pick it up and read for more than 15 minutes at a time and the best parts lasted for about 20 pages near the end. The build-up was slow and the climax was not satisfying. I found nothing about the book scary. For some reason I just couldn’t visualize the parts that were supposed to be chilling. The main character Merry is the most unreliable narrator (which I guess is the point) and the story is left, in my opinion, to the reader to decide what is true and what is simply Merry’s own false version of events. There is nothing really wrong with the book -the writing is good and all – but the story is slow and anti-climatic. Just when it starts to get interesting it is nearly the end.

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Scary Shorts

Horror Fiction

Now that American Horror Story has ended and I am contemplating what series to review next -The Walking Dead is back soon, Hannibal, Bates Motel, Vikings – I’ve decided to start writing reviews of horror/thriller short stories.  I love a good short story and there are many, many good writers who have perfected this difficult writing task of creating and telling a compelling and fulfilling complete tale in a short form.  I figure this will also give me the opportunity to practice writing reviews of, well, writing.  For some reason I struggle with book reviews and this will help me get better. So, stay tuned for some short story goodness.

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Children of the Corn (1984)

Children-of-the-Corn

They don’t cotton to outsiders 

The Gist: A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.

Creepy Kids & Sacrifices: Peter Horton (Burt), Linda Hamilton (Vicky), Courtney Gains (Malachai), John Franklin (Isaac), R.G. Armstrong (Diehl)

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My Take: I have never seen this movie before and I haven’t read the short story so I went into this flick not really knowing much about the story. I liked the beginning with the kids butchering the people in the diner but from there it went downhill. The monologue by the kid was annoying but I suppose it kind of established some of the story.  After the children return from the corn one Sunday afternoon, they take out all the adults in the town of Gatlin Nebraska at the behest of a young preacher boy, Issac with his main henchman Malachai gleefully leading the charge.

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A couple of years later a couple heading for a new life, Burt and Vicky, are driving through Nebraska when they hit a boy in the middle of the highway.  Fortunately for them the kid had his throat slit before the accident; maybe not so fortunate for the kid.  Anyway, they pack him in the trunk and look for help eventually making it to the seemingly deserted town of Gatlin where shit gets weird.  They separate, Burt leaving Vicky with Sarah, the one with the sight (her drawings foretell the future) while Burt goes into town. Malachai and his boys take Vicky while other psycho kids go after Burt.

There is a church with a weird ritual of drinking blood, they tie Vicky to a cross and Malachai turns on Isaac only to be tied to the cross then devoured by some really badly digitized bugs? A swarm maybe.  I honestly have no idea what it is supposed to be.  Burt shows up in the field and bitch slaps Malachai good.  Isaac comes back looking a little dead and kills Malachai.  Burt then proceeds to take charge bossing around Vicky (who just looks bored at this point) and the other kids.  Telling them to stay out of the way. No wonder they killed all the adults; Burt is a dick.  They set a giant fire, more bad special effects, and destroy the thing in the corn that Isaac was worshiping. Huh?

Isaac

Final Thoughts: This was not a very good movie.  The dialogue was atrocious, the special effects were indeed special and the acting was not good with the exception of the kid who plays Isaac.  I think I’m going to read the short story just to see how it compares to the movie and because I would like to actually see if the story is better as written by King.

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Carrie (1976)

Carrie

The Gist: Carrie White, an abused and timid 17-year-old girl discovers she has telekinesis and gets pushed to the limit on the night of her school’s prom by a humiliating prank.

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Mean Girls, Bad Boys & Carrie: Sissy Spacek (Carrie White), Piper Laurie (Margaret White), Amy Irving (Sue Snell), William Katt (Tommy Ross), John Travolta (Billy Nolan), Nancy Allen (Chris Hargensen), P.J. Soles (Norma)

My Take: Another King classic that has been remade. I can’t speak to the remake as it isn’t out for a few more months but after watching the original again, for the first time in many years, I was actually impressed.  Some of the acting is laughable and some of the dialogue is just as bad but all in all, the movie is pretty good. The bad 1970’s clothes and hair aside, William Katt’s hair is so puffy, this flick is enjoyable.

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The story is twisted and filled with abuse and many things that I can’t believe were the norm 37 years ago: teachers hitting students and not being sued, fired or arrested and teachers smoking in the school.  Carrie is kind of pathetic, meek, abused and hammered with biblical rhetoric but she transforms into a beautiful girl who is slowly gaining more and more confidence as the story progresses.  Along with her personality transforming, she is also accepting and understanding how to use her telekinetic abilities.  Carrie is not only the victim of abuse at the hands and words of her crazy ass Mother but she is bullied and hated by the bitches, err…girls at school.  Out of guilt, one of the bullies, Sue, talks her boyfriend Tommy into taking Carrie to prom but the other bitches are plotting to humiliate her.  Pig’s blood, eww.  Carrie’s telekinetic abilities come to the fore front and she slaughters everyone, believing that they all plotted to make her look like a fool, even those who actually liked her.  Blood, fire and general mayhem ensue culminating with Carrie getting back her Mother after year’s of abuse.

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Final Thoughts: Aside from the poor music, bad 1970’s vibe and some weak performances, I really enjoyed this movie. I do think the opening sequence seems like something from a soft core porno, half-naked teen girls walking around and showering, I could get past that and enjoy the flick.  It is the ultimate revenge tale for the bullied and the outcasts. And Sissy Spacek does the don’t fuck with me walk through fire very well.

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It (1990)

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The Gist:  Seven childhood friends are summoned back to the town of their youth as the evil entity that terrorized them has returned 30 years after they thought they had killed It.

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The Kids & The Clown: Jonathan Brandis & Richard Thomas (Bill Denbrough), Brandon Crane & John Ritter (Ben Hanscom), Emily Perkins & Annette O’Toole (Beverly Marsh), Marlon Taylor & Tim Reid (Mike Hanlon), Adam Faraizl & Dennis Christopher (Eddie Kaspbrak), Seth Green & Harry Anderson (Richie Tozier), Tim Curry (Pennywise)

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My Take:  It has been many years since I’ve seen this mini-series and I remember it fondly and now, it is still enjoyable.  Some of the acting is not great and feels forced and most of this comes from the adult actors portraying the 7 main characters.  The kid actors are really good and their performances are superior to those of the adults. Tim Curry’s role is pretty light but when he is on the screen he is brilliant as the creepy Pennywise; all clowns are creepy anyway.

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The story is another King classic and it is among my favourites; the first time I read the book, I finished it in 3 days.  So, the kids are terrorized by a clown in a town that is not quite right and knows that something wants its children but no one will acknowledge the secret.  The kids face the beast in the sewers and think they have beaten It but 30 years later, It is back.  The kids are grown-up and have no memory of what happened the summer that the space spider came to town. The longer they are in the town of Derry, the more the memories of the horror come back.  The actual creature kind of looks weird with it’s human eyes and when the remaining group members tear out its heart, well, it’s as cheesy as it sounds.

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Final Thoughts:  This was a pretty good mini-series as far as King tales go.  The adult actors are not the greatest (even with some of the more well-known ones) but the kids do a good job in their roles.  Pennywise is well portrayed by Tim Curry and the overall production of the show is quite good.  This is one that I would recommend seeing after reading the book.  The book is better and there weren’t any of the annoying interludes where the group is hanging out and music from the 1960’s is playing, obviously since it’s a book.  Like so many other Stephen King adaptations, go for the book first.  On a last note, there is apparently a remake in the works.

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The Shining (1997)

The Shining

The Gist: Recovering alcoholic and struggling writer Jack Torrance takes his family to the Overlook to spend the winter in the luxury hotel as the caretaker.  The snowbound family soon begins to experience paranormal phenomenon or it is the isolation that is making Jack go something, something…go crazy…don’t mind if I do. (Marge & Homer Simpson, The Shinning).

Torrence

The Snowbound: Steven Weber (John Torrance), Rebecca De Mornay (Winifred Torrance), Courtland Mead (Danny Torrance), Melvin Van Peebles (Richard Hallorann).  Stephen King did the teleplay and was an executive producer and the mini-series is directed by Mick Garris (Bag of Bones, The Stand, Masters of Horror)

Danny

My Sentiments: Let me preface this by saying -and this may not go over well – I did not like the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining.  There are iconic moments in the Kubrick classic such as the bloody elevator and the creepy twin girls, but I didn’t like the casting which tainted it for me.  I felt Jack Nicholson was too old (or just looked that way) and not suited for the role of Jack Torrance and I can’t stand Shelley Duvall normally and to have her as Wendy was all wrong, to me at least.

I was hoping that with the casting of the mini-series being more in line with the book, The Shining would be a good and more true representation of the King classic.  Which it was however it was still not great.  There were good things but it was a flawed attempt at making King’s work come alive on the screen, like so many before it.  The story is well-known: Jack, Wendy and their physic son Danny head up to the Overlook hotel in the Colorado mountains to live as caretakers for the winter in isolation.  Once the snow comes they are trapped and Jack, an alcoholic with no booze and writer who can’t get writing, snaps and goes on a rampage to kill his wife and son at the behest of the ghosts of the hotel.  Danny uses his Shining to call Dick, the cook who also has physic abilities, to save them but he gets attacked, the hotel blows up and Wendy and Danny go on to live another day or two or more.

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Final Thoughts: The casting was good and appropriate for the story, the story is good, of course but the execution was flawed.  It was way too long and could have been condensed into 2 hours.  It felt like they used filler to draw it out into a mini-series.  The hotel looked beautiful and grand which is unlike the Kubrick version where the hotel was done up with god awful 1970’s/1980 colours and decor (ok, it was 1980 but it is still unpleasant to the eye). One big gripe I have with this version is the floating Tony character.  What the happy hell was that?  It was terrible, just terrible.  And yes, I saw that the floating Tony was Danny on his grad day but come on.  I can’t get over hearing lines from The Simpsons version of this in Treehouse of Horror V (1994), so that may have marred any incarnation of this story for me but in the end, don’t bother watching the movie or mini-series, read the book.  And on that note, it will interesting to the read the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep coming out later this year from Mr. King. 

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‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

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The Gist: A small Maine town is overrun by the undead when a vampire moves into an old haunted house overlooking the community.  It’s up to a writer, a doctor, a kid and an alcoholic priest to banish the evil and try to save those infected by the vampire and what remains of their town.

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Townies & Vampires: Rob Lowe (Ben Meares), Samantha Mathis (Susan Norton), Andre Braugher (Matt Burke), Donald Sutherland (Richard Straker), Rutger Hauer (Kurt Barlow), Dan Byrd (Mark Petrie), Robert Mammone (Dr. James Cody), James Cromwell (Father Donald Callahan)

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My Take: From what I recall, this is one of only 2 Stephen King tales that were previously adapted from a novel, made into a mini-series/movie, then remade and updated.  The Shining is the only other one that I can think of right now (and that mini-series will be reviewed soon).  As for this version of my favourite King novel, it was lacking. Lacking depth, interest and scares.  I remember watching the original one when my parents were on holiday back when I was 15 and it scared me.  The creepy little kids, the Nosferatu looking vampire Barlow and just the whole atmosphere of it.  Sure the effects weren’t great and the make-up was not the best but it scared me.

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This adaptation didn’t have any scares and while the cast is impressive and seeing Rutger Hauer as a vampire is a treat (well many 20 years ago he would have been more impressive) the characters felt hollow and uninteresting.  And I didn’t like how it had Rob Lowe reading parts of the book as a voice-over to tell the viewer what is happening because the film couldn’t keep the story going.

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Yah or Nah: I love the novel and mark it as my favourite King book with The Stand and It coming closely behind but this adaptation just didn’t live up to his tale of vampiric terror.  I say Nah to this mini-series, even with the good cast and good production value it is dull and lacking substance.  Give this one a pass and watch the original version or better yet, read the book and enjoy the story without being influenced by either version.

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The Mist

The Gist: A small Maine village is cleaning up after a brutal storm only to be enveloped by a mysterious fog that hides all manner of mysterious and deadly creatures. Trapped in a supermarket, a group of people must decide whether to wait out the fog or venture into the mist in hopes of escaping it.

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The Shrouded:  Thomas Jane (David Drayton), Marcia Gay Harden (Mrs. Carmody), Laurie Holden (Amanda Dunfrey), Andre Braugher (Brent Norton), Jeffrey DeMunn (Dan Miller), William Sadler (Jim), Toby Jones (Ollie Weeks), Frances Sternhagen (Irene Reppler).  Director, screenwriter Frank Darabont

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My Take:  This is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations so far. The movie is based on a short story that was featured in the Night Shift collection and was eerie, unnerving and claustrophobic.  The movie doesn’t quite have the same feeling of tension as the characters are left essentially blind with the dense mist hiding everything but it is still well done and well told.  The strong male lead is portrayed wonderfully by Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) taking on the classic King hero type – likable, unassuming loyal husband and good Dad and the creative type. Joining Jane is Andre Braugher (‘Salem’s Lot, Homicide) as his disliked lawyer neighbor who visits from the city and is not a local; Marcia Gay Harden (Damages, Whip It) as the religious fanatic inciting God’s wrath as the reason for the killer fog and pushing the other refugees to punish those who don’t believe her.  Thrown in to the mix is Jeffrey DeMunn (The Green Mile, Storm of the Century, The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead) and the leading lady is Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead, The X-Files).

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It wasn’t so much the characters in this story that made it enjoyable but more the fog and mystery and fear of what is hiding in the hazy depths.  When the creatures start to emerge and their ickiness is revealed, we see that they are well crafted and totally creepy, especially the spider critters below. I hate spiders and spider-like beasts.

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For anyone who watches The Walking Dead (Season 3 is so good and better than Season 2) you will recognize 3 of the actors from the series in this movie (Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn and Melissa McBride; Mcbride was credited in The Mist as Woman with kids at home) which is directed by Frank Darabont, one of the show runners of TWD.

Yah or Nah: Ok, so I didn’t say too much about the movie but it is a great flick and this is a Yah. I really enjoyed it and the end is such a punch in gut and different from the short story but it works very well on film.  Also, on the Blu-Ray edition the movie is offered in black & white which is a nice variation.

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Rose Red (2002)

Rose Red

The Gist:  A Group of paranormally gifted people and a college professor head to a reportedly haunted mansion named Rose Red in the pursuit of awakening the spirits and getting physical proof of the supernatural.  The hope of connecting with the other side lies in an autistic girl with extraordinary abilities.

Ghost Hunters of Seattle: Nancy Travis (Prof. Joyce Reardon), Matt Keeslar (Steve Rimbauer), Kimberly J. Brown (Annie Wheaton), Melanie Lynskey (Rachel Wheaton), Matt Ross (Emery Waterman), Julian Sands (Nick Hardaway), Kevin Tighe (Victor Kandinsky), Emily Deschanel (Pam Asbury)

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My Take: Another King miniseries written as a script for production and not taken from an existing novel or short story.  Parapsychology Professor Joyce Reardon is determined to prove the existence of ghosts and the supernatural with a weekend jaunt to the sprawling and haunted Rose Red mansion in Seattle.  She brings with her a group of psychics and supernaturally charged people (and her boyfriend Steve Rimbauer, the owner of Rose Red who is selling it) and an autistic girl, Annie Wheaton, whom Joyce believes is the key to unlocking the houses secrets and permanent residents.

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I love the house in this show; grandiose and beautiful.  That is pretty much the best part of the miniseries.  The story is a good old haunted house yarn with psychics thrown in to activate it but because it’s a haunted house with those uber people, there is nothing new here.  There’s variation on characters and locale and a history of the former residents and why the mansion is spooky but it really was like too many other stories that have traveled this path.  I didn’t really care for the characters or the acting, both were weak and hollow with the exception of the brilliant Julian Sands.  And it is clear that this tale was inspired by the Winchester Mystery House with the lady of house insisting on the building of the home to continue with no end and the strange rooms and quirky attributes.

Yah or Nah: Sadly, this is Nah.  I love the house but for me, that is all that this mini has going for it.  I’ve included a link to some info on the house that was used for Rose Red: Thornewood Castle.

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