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Posts Tagged ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

I have strange relationship with the writing of Stephen King.  I have always found his plots and world building to be really good, but don’t like his writing style.  This is why his stories can be so perfect for adaptation.  With The Dark Tower coming out last month and IT due out later this month, it seems like a good time to remember King is about more than horror and take a look back at my favourite big screen adaptations of his stories:

  1. The Shining (1980 – based on novel from 1977) – King famously doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation, WHY? I first saw it when I was a kid and was understandably creeped out by it, as much by Jack Nicholson’s performance as by the movie itself.  A couple of years ago I got to see it at the cinema in a sold out Halloween screening, it was even better shared with an audience.the shining
  2. Stand by Me (1986 – based on the novella The Body from 1982) – The geniuses of Rob Reiner is the way he has always been able to convey nostalgia without sentimentality, Stand by Me is his masterpiece.  It also helps that the young cast are all brilliant.Stand by Me
  3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994 – based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from 1982) – #1 on the IMDb’s top 250 for as long as I can remember.  A totally faultless movie, with perfect acting and direction, it could easily have been higher on this list.The Shawshank Redemption
  4. The Mist (2007 – based on novella from 1980) – The second Frank Darabont movie to make my list.  A tense horror thriller that reminds us that humanity is more frightening than monsters.  An already great film is elevated by a perfect and devastating ending.  the mist
  5. Carrie (1976 – based on the novel from 1974) – There is something dark and seedy about Brian De Palma’s direction that is perfect for this story, as are the performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.Sissy Specek as Carrie
  6. The Dead Zone (1983 – based on the novel from 1979) – If you want a creepy and unnerving movie is there a better combination than David Cronenberg and Christopher Walken? Probably not.  Some of the political themes seem strangely relevant at the moment.   The Dead Zone
  7. Misery (1990 – based on the novel from 1987) – Rob Reiner again but with a very different film to Stand by Me.  You will remember the film for a couple of moments of real horror, but there are other things that make it great.  James Caan and Kathy Bates are both brilliant.  Reiner’s direction  manages to create an uneasy sense of dread without losing the ability to shock. Misery
  8. The Running Man (1987 – based on the novel from 1982) – I had the VHS of this when I was a kid, it was one of my most watched movies for a few years.  Successful on its original release but quickly dismissed as dumb action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In the light of reality TV, The Hunger Games, and the current political climate it’s time to re-evaluate.   The dialogue is clunky, but the story is good and the direction is solid.The Running Man
  9. Apt Pupil (1998 – based on the novella from 1982) – Three of the four stories that made up Different Seasons have been adapted into movies, this third movie isn’t as good as Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption but is still a compelling movie.  Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro are both brilliant. Apt Pupil
  10. Cat’s Eye (1985 – anthology horror film based on the short stories Quitters, Inc. from 1978 and The Ledge from 1976 and one written specifically for the film).  Anthology  of three short films linked by a cat.  The best of the three features James Woods as a man who wants to quit smoking. Cat's Eye

To give context, the other Stephen King movies I have seen that didn’t make the list are:

Creepshow (1982 – five short films; based on the short stories Weeds from 1976, The Crate from 1979 three written for the film by King) – Christine (1983 – based on the novel from 1983) – Children of the Corn (1984 – based on the short story from 1977) –  Firestarter (1984 – based on the novel from 1980) – Silver Bullet (1985 – based on the novella Cycle of the Werewolf from 1983) –  Maximum Overdrive (1986 – Directed, very poorly by Stephen King, based on the short story Trucks from 1973) – Sleepwalkers (1992 – original screenplay) – The Dark Half (1993 – based on the novel from 1989) – Dolores Claiborne (1995 – based on the novel from 1992) – Dreamcatcher (2003 – based on the novel from 2001) –  Secret Window (2004 – based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden from 1990) – Carrie (2013 – Supposedly adaptation of the novel from 1974, but they clearly had one eye on the superior 1976 movie) – The Dark Tower (2017 loosely adapted from the novel series 1998 to 2012).

My most notable blind spot is The Green Mile (1999 based on the serial novel published in six parts in 1996) Directed by Frank Darabont who makes the list above twice. 

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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I’m not sure the 90’s is the best decade for movies but it is certainly consistent! Without any padding to make up the numbers every year of the decade has at least five great films to be in contention.

1990: Nikita, Wild at Heart, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Miller’s Crossing, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

1991: Point Break, The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cape Fear, Delicatessen

1992: Reservoir Dogs, Unforgiven, Batman Returns, Army of Darkness, Hard Boiled 

1993: Army of Darkness, Three Colours: Blue, Schindler’s List, Dazed and Confused, True Romance

1994: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Leon, Three Colours: Red, Ed Wood

1995: Heat, Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Before Sunrise, The City of Lost Children

1996: Bound, Crash, The English Patient, Pusher, Romeo + Juliet

1997: L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, The Ice Storm (forget Wushu and gay cowboys, this is Ang Lee‘s best film), Cube, The Fifth Element

1998: Saving Private Ryan, Run Lola Run, Blade, The Big Lebowski, American History X

1999: Fight Club, The Matrix, Go, Eyes Wide Shut, The Straight Story

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