Category Archives: Best and Worst

What was the best movie of 2013?

I enjoyed compiling my 10 favourite films of 2014 so much, that I thought I would step back one more year and do the same with 2013. It is only when you look back at the list of great movies that you realise there are some that are classics already. Hope you spot one or two of your own favourites, if not, then shout at me in the comments!

Warm Bodies

NICHOLAS HOULT stars in WARM BODIES Ph: Jonathan Wenk © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC.  All rights reserved.
Release Date: 8th February

It’s not easy to create a truly original take on a horror sub-genre such as zombies, but Warm Bodies delivers a touching and heart felt romance within the absurdity of the undead. Hoult is superb despite the restrictions of his role and although I had major problems with the consistency of its story, the film cleverly avoided the cliché- ridden basement of the horror house and opens the door to the spare room instead.

Iron Man 3

Release Date: 3rd May
Release Date: 3rd May

It isn’t perfect and even murdering the Mandarin and underusing Kingsley aside, it is still a step down from the slick first instalment. But I firmly believe that Iron Man 3 is really underrated as a Marvel movie and suffers from the same scepticism that Revenge of the Sith faces due to its poor predecessor. Above all else its surprisingly funny and arguably has better Downey jokes than the first film, delving into the post-trauma of Avengers. Plus Pepper is looking hot throughout.

Pacific Rim

Release Date: 12th July
Release Date: 12th July

Boy has this movie grown on me from when I first watched it! Once you get past the woeful acting and over-dramatic cinematography you quickly realise that it has much more to offer. Del Toro it seems knew exactly what he was doing when he went all out to replicate the sense of fun and awe that really classic monster movies had at the cinema when he was growing up. It’s simply already a classic for many movie fans and I always stick it on now and again for a Friday night movie.

Rush

Release date: 13th September
Release Date: 13th September

Howard’s surprisingly gripping biopic was a real break from the norm in 2013 and deserved all the plaudits it garnered. Hemsworth and Bruhl battle to outshine each other both on screen and on the racetrack, as they go wheel to wheel in some brilliantly realistic race scenes. The film’s achievement to balance entertainment with revealing the necessary truths found in racing’s past, is testament to its downright greatness.

Prisoners

Release Date: 27th September
Release Date: 27th September

This is probably my favourite film of 2013. The casting is mindbogglingly good and it drives itself forward with relentless speed. Harrowing performances from all involved, the cinematography matches the film’s dark tone and sinister motives. Gyllenhall is especially watchable as he wrestles with emotion and investigation amidst a father’s anger.  It may not have turned many heads at the time, but it has to go down as one of the best psychological thrillers of the twenty first century.

Captain Phillips

Release Date: 16th October
Release Date: 16th October

Hanks’ performs the role of his life in Greengrass’ indisputably realistic tale of Somali pirates. It’s all about the characters in this movie and the viewer finds their assumptions torn apart as the cast do battle in hauntingly gritty scenes. Serves as a necessary lesson about these dangerous waters whilst also showcasing Greengrass’ determination to capture more than just a bunch of bad guys stealing a boat. Brilliant film.

Ender’s Game

Release Date: 25th October
Release Date: 25th October

Not many people saw this movie when it came out, which is simply a shame as it captures a sense of cheesy sci-fi fun with a fairly serious undertone lingering underneath. Blending some mature themes with a mostly adolescent cast, is something the eighties did so well, and I only hope that kids of today look back at Ender’s Game with the same fondness I do to other coming-of-age classics like Last Starfighter. Worth a watch if you haven’t already.

Gravity

Release Date: 8th November
Release Date: 8th November

I have watched this on blu-ray at home after seeing it for the first time in the cinema in 3D and I was quite taken aback by how much more of an aural (that’s hearing you dirty lot) experience it was than before. Perhaps I wasn’t distracted by the stomach-flipping sense of vertigo this time, but it enhanced the whole experience to a different plane. A strange and ethereal movie that has not only remained one of my favourite films of 2013, but a real game-changer in terms of cinematic scope.

Lone Survivor

Release Date: 12th November
Release Date: 12th November

Absolutely brutal. Lone Survivor is literally there to prove how far the human body can go when unfaltering spirit is instilled in the most elite of soldiers. The film rolls down the hills, picking up pace as the bones break and the bullets fly. Whalberg is only outshone by Ben Foster, who is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. A visceral and stirringly realistic portrayal of war. Must watch.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Release Date: 25th December
Release Date: 25th December

It was a rare thing to find someone, especially a guy, that didn’t absolutely love this movie. How much that had to do with the boobs and midget throwing is anyone’s guess, but it became the most talked about movie in the workplace for months. Its lesson of the perils and power of greed is partly lost in the whirl of drugs, drinks and inspiring speeches. While not Scorcese’s greatest work, teaming up with Dicaprio has proved a winning formula once again. I f**king love you Jordan!

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The Best and Worst of Marvel Cinema

After reviewing Thor: The Dark World, I felt it might be a great idea to look back over nearly three decades of Marvel-based movie action. Starting with Howard the Duck way back in 1986 (I know, I still can’t believe that was Marvel), through to the present-day bombardment of sequels, prequels and spin-offs that have inundated the cinemas in recent years. Not that this is a bad thing. I enjoy nearly all the attempts at capturing our favourite heroes, if only for their originality and invention. I also believe that despite all the negativity that surrounds the use of CGI in 21st century cinema, comic book adaptations proudly display the benefits of this technology and show some true creativity by blending live action with graphics in a way that can tingle the senses and leave you hungry for more.

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As you can probably tell by now I am a big fan of this well established, yet still young, genre that has taken hold of this generation. It has such a grip in fact, that the next few years are already mapped out with comic-book entries for the cinema goer in a way never seen before. This can either leave a bitter taste of predictability in your mouth, or have you gnawing at your nails in anticipation.

Although Marvel films have given us some great moments over the years, with over thirty movies in total there were bound to be some absolute stinkers, hanging on to the coat-tails of the Marvel name like a beggar on Wall Street. In fact, Marvel movies range from the pretty disastrous to the well-loved and respected. I therefore thought I would run down a few of each, just to jog the memory banks and get some of you salivating for the upcoming releases:

The Best: Iron Man (2008)

Rotten rating: 93%

Directed by Joan Favreau / Starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges

iron-man-downey-jr

A film that catapulted Robert Downey Jr’s career and transformed the public’s perception of him as a talented supporting actor, to infectious and likeable lead, almost overnight. Although there is no doubt the film would not be the same without the wit and quick delivery of Tony Stark, self-proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy and philanthropist all rolled in to one, credit must be also given to Favreau’s ability to never allow the film to falter, delivering relentless twists and turns that are a joy to watch. This film has become a template for Marvel origin stories and proves that the perfect recipe can often come from the least expected places.

The Worst: Ghost Rider (2007)

Rotten rating: 26%

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson / Starring Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes

Movie_-_Ghost_Rider_SoV

You know a film is bad when Nicholas Cage is arguably the best thing about it, and probably makes it about watchable. Ok, so that is slightly harsh on Cage, but at the same time Ghost Rider stands out as a wasted opportunity to bring to life one of comic books’ most revered characters. A bad-ass skull in constant flames, riding an even more bad-ass motorbike, what could possible go wrong? Try wooden dialogue, predictable plot-lines and almost no character development, that’s what. Ghost Rider proves that using CGI correctly has become a modern art form in film-making and it fails in every way to deliver.

The Best: Thor (2011)

Rotten rating: 77%

Directed by Kenneth Branagh / Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman

beard_chris_hemsworth_thor

I have watched this film more times than any other Marvel movie, despite it being clearly inferior to several of its counterparts. Why? Because I have never seen a cast enjoy their fictional roles so freely and colourfully as the array of talent on display in Thor. From the stalwart Anthony Hopkins, owning the stage and bellowing theatrically at his sons, to the extremely gifted young duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, locked in a ancient struggle for power and glory. As a viewer, the earth-bound scenes, laden with comedy, cuteness and conspiracy are interlaced so creatively with the action, theatre and magic of the Asgaard scenes it is almost painful to watch. This film has everything a Marvel movie needs, including Natalie Portman.

The Worst: Dare Devil (2003)

Rotten rating: 45%

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson / Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell

daredevil

Before the disappointing Ghost Rider, and the even more disappointing Elektra, Mark Steven Johnson made his name as the unreliable Marvel-movie-maker when he dressed up Ben Affleck in a red suit and turned him into Dare Devil. Not only does this film let down the fans, but it is also the main reason behind the mounting scepticism surrounding Affleck’s appointment as the new Batman in the upcoming DC instalment. It is unambitious, littered with continuity errors and is instantly forgettable. One can only hope Affleck does a better job at playing the hero with a different director at the helm.

The Best: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Rotten rating: 92%

Directed by Joss Whedon / Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johnasson

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Some franchise instalments, especially sequels of any kind, often fall victim to their own success and unwisely clutter the film by introducing too many main characters or supporting actors. But in this Marvellous assemble, most background and origin stories have already been established through the respective previous films. This meant that Whedon was able to allow the characters to clash heads and rub their already inflated egos against each other to make some of the funniest and tensest moments in Marvel movie history. Each character injects the screen with their own unique values, beliefs and motives, making it pivotal to the film that their cohesion succeeds. This itself makes the film great. But throw in some of the best action sequences ever involving our Marvel heroes and you have a movie that without doubt has raised the bar on what is possible in the comic-book genre.

The Worst: Howard the Duck (1986)

Rotten rating: 15%

Directed by Willard Huyck / Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins

Howard_The_Duck

Perhaps if more people had noticed that George Lucas was executive producer on this film, or in fact had anything to do with it, then maybe we would have seen those infamous Star Wars prequels coming. Howard the Duck, although in some perverse way enjoyable, lacks any real direction and instead reverts to diving into the deep end of the sleaze pool with crass jokes and regular exposure of female flesh (which probably explains why most men remember this film more fondly than they should). Although based on a Marvel comic, the film makes very little effort to create a real hero, and instead we are treated to a string of typical eighties comedy tropes. Howard the Duck succeeds so well at being poor, it almost deserves some credit.

The Best: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Rotten rating: 87%

Directed by Matthew Vaughn / Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fasssbender and Kevin Bacon

x-men-first-class-movie-photo-07

It was always going to take some very talented individuals to better the original casting of Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen as Charles Xavier and Magneto. Thankfully, McAvoy and Fassbender go beyond just stealing the show, they make the film what it is. Fassbender especially, strikes a surprisingly emotive tone to the Magneto persona that really makes his saga-defining motives understandable and translatable. Although the film has a sprinkling of cheese, montages and super-hero clichés, it never stops surprising and has some of the best action sequences in any X-Men film. Not only did this film re-invigorate the franchise, but it also put some much needed meat on the bones of the already established heroes and villains of the X-Men franchise.

The Worst: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Rotten rating: 38%

Directed by Gavin Hood / Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston

X-Men Origins Wolverine movie image Hugh Jackman

Although X-Men Origins: Wolverine has its moments, there is something very uncool about this film. From the predictable plot-lines and nauseatingly repetitive fights, through to the “walking away from an explosion whilst looking angry” shot, which is unforgivably unoriginal in the scheme of things. Jackman and Schreiber cannot be blamed however, as they both undoubtedly give their all to portray the fierce rivalry that defined the origin of this most iconic of heroes. I actually quite enjoyed the final fight sequence with the engineered superhero villain and much of the acting is top notch. But unlike the other X-Men films, this film lacks any real drama, intensity or supporting cast, and instead falls flat on its face scene after scene.

Honourable mentions

The Best:

 Iron Man 3 (2013), Blade (1998), Spiderman 2 (2004), X2 (2003), The IncredibleHulk (2008), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The Worst:

 Iron Man (2010), The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Fantastic Four (2005), BladeTrinity (2004). Hulk (2003)

If you liked this, check out my Best and Worst of DC Cinema!

The Best and Worst of DC Cinema

As the two heavyweights of DC Cinema are seemingly destined to converge in the slightly anxiously awaited Batman vs Superman clash, it seemed a good idea to look back over the DC-based movies that have graced our screens over the years. Apart from the mostly successful Nolan trilogy, the twenty-first century has been dominated by the rise of the Marvel movie franchise. But this was not always the case. The twentieth century was in fact almost completely dominated by DC’s caped duo, whom gave us some of the greatest of comic book memories.

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Starting all the way back in 1966 with the unsung satire of Batman the Movie , the DC universe has given us quite a selection of weird and wonderful heroes, from Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing  to the gun-toting  Jonah Hex  . As with my Marvel post, I have picked a handful of my favourites to reminisce over, as well as choosing some films from DC’s generous collection of poor flicks. These disastrous instalments have the power to single-handedly stall the development of a comic book hero and turn them into a poisoned chalice overnight. You may spot one or two of these franchise-killers below, which remind us all that every hero takes a wrong turn now and again:

The Best: The Dark Knight (2008)

Rotten rating: 94% 

Directed by Chistopher Nolan / Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal

darkknight2

Could it be said that The Dark Knight’s popularity is completely reliant on the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the infamous villain The Joker? Or would Nolan’s vivid style and almost trailer-like plot speed have been enough to make this arguably the most loved out of all of Nolan’s films? I guess we can never know. But one thing is for sure, despite Batman Begins being an excellent origin story with great characters, it was The Dark Knight that really gave audiences what they craved, and launched the popularity of both Nolan and the whole rekindled Batman franchise.

Even The Dark Knight’s frustrating coincidences and plot holes (a problem taken too far in the Dark Knight Rises ), gave the movie a distinctively comic character, which was as unpredictable as it was exciting. The film oozes such a clinical style that it easily allows the fascinating array of characters on display to shine through and dominate the film. But let’s be honest, it was Ledger’s Joker that stopped everyone in their tracks and created a truly memorable moment in comic-book cinema.

The Worst: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Rotten rating: 9% 

Directed by Sidney J. Furie / Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Mark Pillow

Nuclear-Man-Superman-IV-The-Quest-For-Peace

This film had the unerring ability to look older than the original film, despite being nearly a decade newer. Even Gene Hackman, whom defined the role of Lex Luthor, struggled to cope with a lazy script and an unconvincing motive. This ridiculous goal is to defeat Superman by creating a villain with equal strength and power…Nuclear Man! Unfortunately, this transparent anti-war message never made it out of the screen. Instead, we are treated to an uncomfortable Mark Pillow, in a horrible gold outfit, frowning and pacing around trying to look threatening. Which all leads to the question: why would Lex Luthor, the self-proclaimed greatest criminal mind of the twentieth century, be stupid enough to create a villain who is completely reliant on solar power?

The movie is so tragically bad, the special effects so poorly executed and the acting performances so lacklustre, that it made 1983’s Superman III look much better than first thought. At least Pryor’s wit and enthusiasm gave the film a heart beat, and it stuck to its guns of favouring fast-paced humour over science fiction. But Quest for Peace displayed a complete lack of respect for the most revered of comic-book heroes, and leaves an unforgivably bitter taste in the mouth with every watch.

The Best: Watchmen (2009)

Rotten rating: 64% 

Directed by Zack Snyder / Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode and Patrick Wilson

2009-watchmen-2

Do not let the fairly modest rating fool you, Watchmen is expertly crafted, acted and the imagery and style is unforgettable. Fans of the comic will also find the layering and character depth very appealing in its adherence to lore and literature. Unfortunately, those used to the quick firing nature of The Dark Knight and company, will find it a slight chore to sit through, and it borders on the anti-climatic. Admittedly, it does lack the action and succinctness needed to make it a comic-cook great, but as an adaptation, it succeeds where others have failed.

It goes without saying that the heroes themselves tell their own story, and the blurred lines between good and evil are epitomised in the violent comedian. Dr Manhattan and his loss of human nature is also one of the more fascinating plot-lines in the movie, and we only get a tantalising glimpse of his potential as a comic-book hero. But Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is by far my favourite character, with his metaphoric, menacing mask and skewed morals. His gravelly and slightly witty narration also tells a gripping detective story so well, that it ties the film together.

The Worst: Batman and Robin (1997)

Rotten rating: 12% 

Directed by Joel Schumacher / Starring George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell and Uma Thurman

batman robin

If Joel Schumacher intended this film to be ridiculous, camp, pun-ridden, uncomfortable and almost impossible to watch, then mission accomplished. It could almost be understandable for someone to make a vague connection between the original series and its tongue in cheek humour with this disaster, if it wasn’t for the heap of cheap characters and shoddy script overloading the screen.

The film was so bad, it discredited the Batman franchise leaving it crippled for years. Clooney himself admitted that the movie did not work and on screen, he constantly looks as if he would like the earth to swallow him up. Even Schwarzenegger, who gives his all as Mr Freeze, cannot bring to life a laughable villain, who would look more at home in a Disney movie. I cannot help but feel that in some way we all owe Schumacher some gratitude, as he showed the world how not  to make a comic-book movie, and perhaps we are all better for it.

The Best: Superman II (1981)

Rotten rating: 89% 

Directed by Richard Lester and Richard Donner / Starring Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman

zod-and-dude

Why do I prefer this sequel to the original and epic landmark film, which had set such a high standard for comic book films for years to come? In a word, Zod. Terence Stamp completely steals the show and gave the man of steel his first real challenge in the defence of his foster planet. Lester and Donner’s film also kept the original casting and Gene Hackman is both fascinating and hilarious as he attempts to lever himself in-between the fuelling kryptonians.

The attack of the three criminals on earth comes at such a crucial time in the movie. Just as Superman has abandoned his powers, and gotten his ass handed to him in a fight, Zod appears on television and declares rule over the earth. This becomes the moment that our hero realises that he can never stop being Superman. Although not perfect by any means, Superman II is still one of those comic-book movies that has everything you want and more.

The Worst: Catwoman (2004)

Rotten rating: 9% 

Directed by Jean-Christophe ‘Pitof’ Comar / Starring Halle Berry, Sharon Stone and Benjamin Bratt

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After a seven year wait for another DC-themed movie since the disastrous Batman and Robin , it seemed like a fresh and dynamic start was needed to spark a new era. Unfortunately, it would be another year before the huge relief that was Nolan’ s brilliant origin story. In the meantime, Jean Christophe Comar would unwisely attempt to retell the tale of the infamous comic book feline, and use up all nine lives in the process.

Apart from the leather outfit, which is by far the best thing about the film, there is very little to fall in love with. Berry does her best to disguise the awkwardly sexualised moments of direction and Sharon Stone makes an empty villain despite being a fairly intriguing antagonist in the plot. Catwoman proves that if you are going to make the brave move of treading familiar ground, then you had better get it puurrrfect. Sorry. 

The Best: Batman (1989)

Rotten rating: 71% 

Directed by Tim Burton / Starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger

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There has never been a comic-book identity so well imprinted in cinema history than Tim Burton’s vision of a dark, yet somehow colourful Gotham City. The haunting soundtrack just accentuates the brooding vision and Keaton’s quiet and intelligent performance is only outshone by Nicholson as the joker. It is full of excellent character-based dialogue that etches classic lines straight from screen to movie lore. It also catapulted the Dark Knight’s journey to become the most frequently revisited DC hero in movie history.

Some will consider Batman Returns to be better and understandably so. Keaton is even better as Batman and the introduction and integration of so many characters simultaneously actually works for once. But for me the original film quite literally stamped a mark for both Burton and the caped crusader, and had all kids my age gathering in small groups in the corner of the playground swapping Batman stickers for the next twelve months.

The Worst: Green Lantern (2011)

Rotten rating: 26% 

Directed by Martin Campbell / Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard

Green Lantern

Ok, so Green Lantern is not the worst film in the world, and I was very close to putting 1984’s Supergirl in this spot. But whereas Helen Slater’s super-sister is just a poor film throughout, Ryan Reynolds and company get fairly close to making it work. There is just no time spent on developing any of the characters and it turns flat, noisy and repetitive quicker than you can say Parallax.

Personally, I find a wasted opportunity like this much more disheartening than an all-round terrible film, as it is such a shame. Especially since Reynolds is clearly having a lot of fun, and the action is enjoyable when it gets it right. Above all, it is sad to see a film with such potential and fan base, turn into another example of a hero falling at the first hurdle. That is until a decent Justice League assemble, at which point I think Reynolds will have enough to rise again as the Green Lantern. 

The Best and Worst Stephen King Adaptations

Losing myself in one of Stephen King’s books has always been one of my favourite pastimes. Whether it is one of his classic short stories from Night Shift , or the epic adventure that is The Dark Tower series, I feel the visual and cinematic style that Mr King writes with makes it even more enjoyable as a fan of film, as I easily picture the horrifying characters and delightful images in my mind. It is no surprise then, that so many of his ideas and stories have been translated to the big and small screen. The source material for these adaptations can be everything from an entire novel, to a tiny seed of an idea caught in the wings of a short story, which can occasionally flower into something really special.

His mainstream prestige aside, King’s famous ability to project images and ideas directly into the mind of the reader, is arguably one of the main reasons that his novels and short stories have been used as the basis for so many films and mini-series. I can hold my hands up and say I have not seen them all, but looking down the list of just under 150 to date, I was reminded just how many have been adapted over his long history of storytelling. Often, the movies that have got it right detract themselves intentionally from some key elements of the story, sometimes avoiding potential banana skins. Others have gone all out to be as true to the book as possible, which can either work tremendously well, or get lost in translation.

As there is such an insurmountable list of films, some of which we all know too well, I have tried to throw a few curve balls in there as to my picks. After all, it is always an interesting surprise to find one of your favourite films was originally just a few pages in a Stephen King short story collection. But watch out for those movies that completely tore the original story apart and did it not even the slightest bit of justice. Not that King can wash his hands of all of these, as you will see. Enjoy, and as always please comment with your ideas.

The Best: The Shining (1980)

Adapted from :The Shining (1977)

Rotten rating: 92% / Directed by: Stanley Kubrick / Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd

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Kubrick is one of only a handful of directors to have tackled different genres of film successfully, and his stylistic vision of Jack’s descent into madness is one that has and will live long in film memory. Instead of simply transposing the script and characters from book to film like so many other adaptations, Kubrick focused more on imagery to create a vision, one of loneliness and fear. After his stark portrayal of a patient in One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest , Jack Nicholson was a natural choice to capture the twisted and tortured mind of the character so pivotal to the success of the film.

As with his 2001: Space Odyssey , the lack of dialogue at crucial moments enhances the viewers other senses, so that when we see those lift doors opening, or turn the corner to see those those twin girls standing motionless in the corridor, we are pulled into a world uncannily similar to the one created so vividly in King’s book. A masterpiece of horror, and many people’s first choice, and mine, for best Stephen King adaptation.

The Worst: Thinner (1996)

Adapted from: Thinner (1984)

Rotten rating: 16% / Directed by: Tom Holland / Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna and lucinda Jenny

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Adapted from a novel published under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman, Thinner is a story that describes a curse placed on an unsuspecting obese lawyer. The book wasn’t great to begin with, but the film was even more devoid of structure and characters. At times, the film feels closer to Big Momma’s House than it does with the original novel, laughably lacking any real suspense or more importantly, horror.

It does have its moments (the gypsy lifting her skirt being one of them), but as with all King adaptations, it is not enough to simply repeat the plot, as there is so much more to it. The morals and lessons learnt in the film are as shallow as a puddle. For me, it does not do enough to translate the atmosphere of regret and hopelessness found in the original text. Ironically the film is, what its title suggests, much too thin, and needed a smarter way of portraying the evils of greed.

The Best: Dead Zone (1983)

Adapted from: The Dead Zone (1979)

Rotten rating: 90% / Directed by: David Cronenberg / Starring: Christopher Walken,Tom Skerrit and Martin Sheen

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As with Kubrick’s The Shining , Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone proves that the really great directors, despite the popularity and success of a novel, are not afraid to stamp their own identity onto the adaptation. Walken is outrageously good as Johnny Smith, a schoolteacher who awakens from a coma to find he has powers of foresight just through the touch of a person’s hand. It all comes together so well, and the vision sequences are both striking and horrifying, pulling you out of your seat and into the mind of Smith.

There is an overriding and ominous tone to the film, of the ilk of Omen , which combines with Walken’s haunted expression to suggest an unseen threat that hides behind the screen. An atmosphere is generated by the bitter cold and dark setting, which mixes with the jovial, political tropes that juxtapose it so well. It is perhaps slightly lacking the insight of internal dialogue so easily portrayed in a novel, which would help the viewer understand how the power of foresight can change the morals of Smith. But any film that has Walken shouting, “the ice…is gonna break!”, has to up there as one of the best adaptations.

The Worst: Needful Things (1993)

Adapted from: Needful Things (1991)

Rotten rating: 27% / Directed by: Fraser Clarke Heston / Starring: Max Von Sydow, Ed Harris and Bonnie Bedelia

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I really wanted this film to be great, and when I saw Von Sydow and Harris were playing the two main roles I thought it just might happen. But whereas King’s novels pivots around and explores the psychology of the town-folk, and straddles the line between the supernatural and mere manipulation, Heston’s film simply moves its way through the actions without implementing the necessary symbolism that King so delicately suggests in his novel.

There are some great moments, and Bedelia plays the role of vulnerability well. But the real disaster hits home at the end. All the residents of this sleepy town happen to be conveniently tearing each other to pieces in the middle of the street when Harris’ mediocre speech seems to be enough for them to realise the manipulation. Not only does this incorrectly undermine the intelligence of the characters, but proves that what is between the plot lines in King’s book, is what must be explored in order to translate a novel of this calibre onto the screen.

The Best: The Mist (2007)

Adapted from: The novella The Mist in Skeleton Crew (1985)

Rotten rating: 73% / Directed by: Frank Darabont / Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden and Toby Jones

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I have always loved short story and novella collections, especially from the master of horror. When I read The Mist, in his collection Skeleton Crew, detailing the story of a group taking shelter from a mysterious fog, it did not really stand out as a great story for cinema, as it felt very similar to several other siege scenarios that you would find in many horror stories. This similarity to what has come before may explain why Darabont’s excellent film is so modestly rated, despite its chillingly violent imagery and that unforgettable ending.

Not only does Darabont direct a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere, but his writing intertwines superbly layered characters and dialogue that intelligently creates political microcosms within the space of a small supermarket. Marcia Gay Harden for example stands out as the quintessential religious nut, who drives a stake through reason and creates unwanted hysteria in such a cramped space. What Darabont does above all else, is to recognise that in Stephen King adaptations, it is inevitably the humans that become the real monsters to fear. 

The Worst: Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Adapted from: Short story Trucks from the collection Night Shift (1978)

Rotten rating: 17% / Directed by: Stephen King / Starring: Emilio Estevez, Laura Harrington and Pat Hingle

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Despite this film being terrible, I have watched it several times, enjoyed the experience and will probably do it again. This might seem to make no sense, but when you consider the premise is a group of people under siege from demonic trucks, hiding out in a pit-stop cafe, it is easy to understand why. King’s directional début was a commendable, but ultimately poor attempt to expand on his short story Trucks , which, as a seed of an idea was very intriguing and I can understand why it was chosen.

As an 80s’ horror flick Maximum Overdrive is funny, exciting and displays a great use of imagery and sound throughout, including the infamous Green Goblin truck, and a kick-ass AC/DC soundtrack. But the lack of character development and the rushed cinematography, delivers the feel of a writer getting a bit carried away with the idea, instead of focusing on the needs of the cinema viewer. King even admitted he was “coked out of his mind” during much of the filming, but maybe knowing that just makes watching the film that little bit more interesting.

The Best: The Running Man (1987)

Adapted from: The Running Man (1982)

Rotten rating: 61% / Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser / Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso and Richard Dawson

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Based on another novel written under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman, this classic Schwarzenegger movie is another example of how taking the basic idea of a novel and stamping your own mark on it is normally much more effective than attempting to completely replicate the style of King’s writing. Saying that, it is a cheesy and slightly predictable guilty pleasure, which is probably remembered more for Arnie’s hyperbolic death-lines than any real presence of acting.

Co-written by Steven E. De Souza, who also wrote other classic 80s action films such as Commando and the first two Die Hard movies, The Running Man is loved for its mix of cheesy charm and dystopian science-fiction. I had to choose this film because despite its lack of real adherence to the literature, it proves that the art of adaptation is not as black and white as first seems. It is so crammed full of hilarity, shock and fun characters (including a great turn by Richard Dawson as Damon Killian), I think King would enjoy it as much as every other fan of science-fiction.

The Worst: Graveyard Shift (1990)

Adapted from: The short story Graveyard Shift from the collection Night Shift (1978)

Rotten rating: 13% / Directed by: Ralph S. Singleton / Starring: David Andrews, Kelly Wolf and Brad Dourif

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Another short story adaptation from King’s collection Night Shift . Set in a formerly abandoned textile mill, the story is set around the investigation and concern of mysterious deaths that occur during the “graveyard shift”, which runs parallel to the foreman’s determination to send the workers to their deaths. This is where the similarities to King’s original story ends, as too much focus is placed on the giant creature that lives in the tunnels, when King’s real intent was to explore the limits of fear and greed.

The highlight of the movie has to be Brad Dourif as the exterminator, and I never tire of seeing his pale and haunted expression on screen. But despite this, Graveyard Shift goes down as one of the worst King adaptations ever made and displays how easily such a simple idea can be mistranslated onto the big screen.

Honourable mentions

The Best: Misery (1990), Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Stand (1994), The Langoliers (1995), The Green Mile (1999), IT (1990), Stand by Me (1986).

The Worst: Sleepwalkers (1992), Cujo (1983), The Tommyknockers (1993), The Night Flier (1997), The Mangler (1995).