Political turmoil always breeds strange artistic phenomena, and the movies are no exception. As the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue reclines in the West Wing, bone spurs resting beside the crumpled Wendy’s bag upon the Resolute Desk, one such phenomenon we’ve witnessed recently is that of Art as Response. In this scenario a filmmaker — like, say, Steven Spielberg — will work quickly to produce a movie — say The Post — as an active comment on whatever’s happening (or not happening) in the Oval Office. A second phenomenon involves us, the filmgoers and cinemalovers, and the way we inexorably view almost any new movie in the context of today’s political climate. A given film — like, say, Joker — might not actually hold inherent wisdom about that climate, but it’d be impossible for us to read it any other way.
Yet a third consequence of that intermingling of art and politics is even more inevitable than the second, despite it not concerning new art at all: a film — like, say, All the President’s Men or The Candidate or Charlie Wilson’s War or V for Vendetta or Dave or Idiocracy — reaches out from the past and seemingly connects with today in a way that defies explanation. It’s an experience somewhat related to the prescience of the sci-fi genre, and certain practitioners like George Orwell or Michael Crichton definitely had a penchant for it. I’d never considered Stephen King among that crowd of writers whose works could achieve time travel, politically speaking, but that was before I encountered The Dead Zone.
Continue reading The Dead Zone (1983)
Parasite is consistently surprising at every turn. Even if you don’t go in cold, knowing nothing about the plot or themes of Bong Joon-ho’s latest, the sprightly storytelling still does its job in keeping you on your toes. If you’ve seen Bong’s English-language efforts Snowpiercer and Okja, you might assume Parasite to be structured over themes of class disparity and the dangers of technology. While you’d technically be correct, those themes are far less obnoxious than they were in Snowpiercer, more cohesive than they were in Okja, and overall the plot- and character-based twists make Parasite into a far superior film.
We won’t dive into those twists, because coming in blind is likely the best way to experience this (any?) film. The plot, in its barest summary, follows the impoverished Kim Family as they grow increasingly resourceful in trying to make ends meet. Their collective path crosses with that of the Park Family, one of Korea’s wealthiest, and from there… Continue reading Parasite (2019)
When author Thad Beaumont decides to go public with his pen-name “George Stark” in an effort to get back to meaningful writing after churning out a few commercial bestsellers, strange things start happening. After Stark’s “death”, people — real people — start actually dying, largely in brutal fashion and largely in connection to Thad himself. It’s a conundrum of a case to everyone but Thad himself, who’s slow to give in to what he knows must be the truth: George Stark, his pulp fiction pseudonym, is somehow real, walking around, back from the dead. And he’s not going back to the grave quietly.
It’s an awesome premise, one which gels with Stephen King’s knack for what if…? setups that are mind-bending and yet pretty damn simple. What if an author’s pen-name comes to life and kills people? — that’s the whole pitch for The Dark Half. It also gels with his occasional preoccupation with writing about writers, which typically ends up as a fascinating meta-commentary on the art itself. Sometimes this niche of King’s makes for a great movie, like with Misery. Other times…well, yeah. You know where this is going. And I don’t mean Secret Window, although that one’s a slog, too.
Continue reading The Dark Half (1993)
Looking back now, it’s almost hard to believe that John Carpenter’s career was in such a rough state back in 1983 that he needed to take on a project like Christine just to keep it afloat.
Carpenter was coming off The Thing, which while rightfully regarded now as one of the best horror films ever made, was a massive critical and financial bomb upon release. He needed his next film to turn a profit and find a larger audience or else, and at the time, no one commanded more attention in the horror genre than Stephen King. His popularity was so immense that production on Christine began before the novel was even published. When the film finally hit theaters in December 1983 — less than eight months after the novel’s release — it was already the third Stephen King film adaptation of that year, following Cujo and The Dead Zone, respectively.
Christine was by no means a passion project for Carpenter, and in the years since, he’s referred to it as his worst film. Strictly speaking, it’s kind of clear why: the premise is gimmicky and by the numbers, a total retread of some of King’s already better known works. In many ways, Christine is like a spiritual sequel to Carrie (1976), but for tortured teen boys.
Continue reading Christine (1983)
- Idris Elba is rumored to be circling the role of Roland Deschain’s Gunslinger in the long-stewing adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. This is good news for fans of both Elba and King, as Tower will inevitably turn into a massive franchise.
- Another casting rumor is swirling around the inclusion of Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which would be the latest in a string of casting coups for Marvel if proved true. Who would he play? Star Lord’s daddy?
- Yet another cinematic universe in the works: G.I. Joe will lead the Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM into battle, and before you know it you’ll actually have some idea what any of those things are. Thanks, Hasbro!
Continue reading Film & TV News: December 16
This review appeared shortly after the initial premiere of True Detective in early 2014 — slight edits have been made since the original posting.
Everything leading up to last night’s conclusion to True Detective’s first season has been pretty stellar, setting the bar higher for the show as a whole than any other first season you care to name. The finale was so sought-after, in fact, that the HBO GO server overloaded and crashed due to such high demand, sending millions into despair over whether Rust and Marty would finally get their man. Last week’s episode “After You’ve Gone” served up a nice volley for the finale to knock down — and the eighth and final installment did just that. Needless to say, spoilers follow for the season one finale “Form and Void”.
Writer and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto dug himself into a hole in several ways with True Detective, foremostly by turning out a phenomenal, pitch-perfect pilot and a five-episode arc that brought with it the most intriguing hour “The Secret Fate of All Life”. I didn’t hear any major complaints after the first three episodes, and only when the fourth episode “Who Goes There” indulged in an action sequence did reviewers post fears about the show becoming “just another procedural”. Now, it seems, we have something of the reverse: “Form and Void” was inarguably, inescapably, and at times frustratingly revelation-free, instead providing a straightforward “resolution” where most fans pined for a major twist involving the unveiling of the Yellow King.
Continue reading True Detective 1.8 – “Form and Void”
- The limited revival of The X-Files begins shooting this coming week. A strange casting announcement came in the form of Joel McHale, who will apparently be playing a popular news anchor in a guest role. I’m a fan of X-Files and I’m a fan of McHale, but I’m finding it hard to imagine how they’d taste in the same recipe.
- Stephen King’s The Stand is set for an eight-part miniseries at Showtime followed by a feature film, which at this point is really only dredging up the heretofore-repressed memory of the abysmal 1994 Molly Ringwald version. Thanks, Showtime!
- The second season of Daredevil is allegedly courting Jason Statham for the role of the assassin Bullseye, which is one of the most perfect comic book casting rumors I’ve heard in a while.
- Speaking of comic book films, James Wan has been officially announced as the director for DC’s Aquaman.
Continue reading Film & TV News: June 7
- Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is getting “fast-tracked” — whatever that means nowadays — at Sony Pictures. The fantasy series has long been rumored for a film adaptation and had Ron Howard attached as director at one point, but now it sounds like it might actually get made.
- As his latest film Furious 7 continues box office domination, director James Wan is now rumored for DC’s Aquaman film. According to a consortium of critics known as Me, if the DC Cinematic Universe has a more cohesive storyline then they should be able to stray in tone and mood from Zack Snyder’s pout-fests without seeming out-of-place. The more unique the directorial vision, the better.
- The complete Star Wars saga is now available for the first time in Digital HD, just in time to watch all six movies a dozen more times before The Force Awakens comes out.
Continue reading Film & TV News: April 13
According to my mom Misery was the first movie I ever watched start to finish, late one night in one of my first few weeks when I just didn’t want to sleep. Apparently all I wanted to do was watch an utterly insane Kathy Bates hold James Caan against his will in her snowy, isolated Colorado home. A lifetime of watching movies later, I returned to that first movie that started it all for me as a viewer (full disclosure: I can’t seem to find my notes on it from a couple decades back).
My first thought upon re-watching my first film: it’s no wonder I couldn’t sleep! I probably couldn’t sleep for weeks. Kathy Bates is so terrifyingly good as the psychotic Annie Wilkes — writer Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) “biggest fan” — that bipolar does not even being to describe her. One second, she is exactly as self-advertised: Sheldon’s biggest fan, in pure admiration. However, one slip up by Sheldon, such as killing off the main character in his “Misery” series of novels, and she becomes a different person all together — violent, inconsolable, and capable of anything. Regardless of which mood Wilkes happens to be in, though, it is always clear that she will not let her favorite writer go, ever. They are meant to be together, or at least that’s what she thinks.
Continue reading Misery (1990)