So let’s talk about sequels. When is a sequel not really a sequel? It’s a good question. Sequels typically are used as a continuation of a story that (generally) has been successful. Sometimes in anticipation of success, the studio may pre-green light a series of movies despite seeing the box office numbers for the initial installment (Episode one). A really good example of this was the Hunger Games ripoff Divergent, with Shailene Woodley to replace Jennifer Lawrence. It was a flop. What was meant to have multiple sequels was eventually halted after Epiosode 2. Typically there are sequels that follow along fairly quickly from the initial episode 1. For example, famous sequels would include Godfather and Godfather II. Some would argue that this is one of few situations that the sequel was better than the original. For me they are a 1 and 1A, but that is a story for another day. So why start the conversation? Well it addresses a movie review for this week; Doctor Sleep. Starring Evan McGregor (Obi Wan Kenobi), and Rebecca Ferguson (who incidentally is rising fast among my thoughts on hottest and intriguing actors) in the “sequel” to the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. The original was an interesting take on the Stephen King novel starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. For me, I found it confusing and slow. There were strange things going on throughout and odd conversations with the characters in this secluded hotel in Colorado in the middle of winter. One of the characters was the little boy, Danny Torrence, who has a gift not fully explained. As the father character became more unhinged, Jack Nicholson went on a murderous rampage with his famous axe through the bathroom door sequence shouting “Heeeeere’s Johnny!!!” Fast forward forty years and Stephen King had penned a “sequel” called Doctor Sleep in 2013. The movie is next to come (it is Stephen King after all, and he’s a pretty bankable writer to Hollywood). For me, he is more miss than hit. But the hits are really good – like Shawshank Redemeption, Green Mile, or Carrie. The Doctor Sleep story for me is different because for the vast majority of the early stages it only tangentally deals with the plot from the first movie. I understand wanting to address themes not fully addressed in the original, but there are large segments that are just really new. The whole explanation of “shining” is more fully discussed as an older Danny (now played by McGregor) is having discussions with the (new actor) but older character played by Scatman Crothers, who has a unique voice and presence that cannot be duplicated. They try. They also try with Shelly Duvall and some other characters with mixed success. But in truth the whole Rebecca Ferguson character is a completely new concoction. Her and her crew. She has some unique abilities, like flying through the air with no shoes on as she looks to find some new prey. Then of course there is the whole concept of how she gets energy for herself and that of her crew. There are also some tie-ins with The Outsider and the ability for someone to have this paranormal gift. In the end, it doesn’t really work. It is really only near the end that the tie-in takes place with Colorado and the old hotel. It is a stretch really, and leaves me scratching my head. The movie wasn’t a success and I see why. It’s not overly compelling and it’s hard to follow up an original story forty years later when your core viewers of the original are much older and likely not going to theatres for a psychological horror. To me it was never a horror to begin with, but certainly psychological. The whole lifeforce thing too didn’t really click. Finally it was too long, and maybe that’s because of the forced tie-in at the end, which only somewhat made it a sequel. So however much I like Rebecca Ferguson, I can’t really say that this one is worth checking out, but don’t call it a sequel.
I was looking forward to seeing Clemency. I do like Alfre Woodard, who is similar to Viola Davis in quality of acting and quality of roles selected. I knew little about the story, but it turns out that it focuses on the issue of capital punishment. This time the focus of the story is on the warden of the prison. That is a perspective that I don’t think I have ever recall seeing. It’s an odd one, truth be told I think, but a different perspective. Alfre plays the warden, and she in a Green Mile type way has an execution go badly that she had a front row seat to experience. It was a shit show, and there is another inmate on death row that is next. His lawyer is actively looking for a temporary stay while they figure out what went wrong with the previous one. Meanwhile Alfre at home isn’t sleeping and is having some marital challenges. All this to say that she is suppose to garner sympathy because she is the person doing her job in the process of State sanctioned murder. The inmate has his own story, but when I think of this story versus Dead Man Walking, it just doesn’t draw the viewer in as much. I wasn’t as sympathetic towards him even though they did their best to bring forth some evidence about his guilt or lack of evidence against him. Focusing on the warden in a story like this is misplaced because they have less at stake; one’s life is much more weighty than one’s job. I think the discussion points about the the value of capital punishment have been beaten to death. It really isn’t a deterrent. The story about how it might negatively impact those who work in prisons has been told better in movies like The Green Mile. In the end, I found this slow and not meeting up on the expectation meter. Unfortunate enough to say but there it is. Alfre deserved a better story to showcase her talent.
On Crave they are showing some “oldies but goodies” and some other “just oldies”. In that vein, this past week Giant was on with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and a new face by the name of James Dean from 1956. It is a 3 1/2 hour story from Texas and a massive family ranch for the Rock Hudson character. He early on heads to a farm to purchase a horse. There he meets Taylor as the daughter of the horse breeder. They get married in short order, and head back to the ranch (500,000 acres). There is a farm hand, Dean, who helps out and is close to the sister of Hudson. Ultimately the Dean character and the Hudson characters get to be in competition with one another. Time passes. The characters slowly but surely move on with their lives. WWII begins, and some of the members get involved. I was struck by physically just how much taller Hudson is than Taylor. She was short. He was around 6’4″ while Taylor was just over 5 foot. I wish there was more to this story. Ranch hand manages to find a way to obtain wealth and yet even with the riches the flaws remain the same. Taylor meanwhile tries her best to show a stronger woman capable of making business decisions and contributing to the ranch. She pushes against the old boys, including Hudson. Hudson’s son (a young Dennis Hopper) wants to be a doctor rather than a rancher and he marries a Mexican woman. There are issues about racism, all the while there are black and hispanic workers on the farm. Life was very different in 1950s USA. I always remember the very large painting with cowboys and horses on the wall in the main ranch house, but that is about it that was memorable, maybe except the poor job of aging the main actors that takes place. I can’t say that I recommend this one either, except perhaps as a time capsule for movies with big Hollywood actors.