Stand By Me (1986) Written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon Directed by Rob Reiner
Stephen King’s name is mostly associated with horror, rightfully so, as that’s the genre he primarily works in. However, he’s written some realistic dramatic fiction that has resonated with readers as much as his horror books. The Body was one of four novellas in the collection Different Season, published in 1982 as a way for King to present some of his non-horror work. Included in this book alongside The Body was Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, and The Breathing Method. The last novella is set to become a film in 2020, meaning that the entirety of Different Seasons will be adapted at that point. The Body has a complex structure, being told as the memories of an adult, but with chapters about characters separate from the narrator’s point of view present information he likely never knew. There are also short stories written by the narrator in the middle of The Body, presented as if they have been published later in his life.
It: Chapter Two (2019) Written by Gary Dauberman Directed by Andy Muschietti
I was never a massive fan of the first film in this duo. It is a decent horror flick, with lots of mystery and some genuinely scary moments, helped by featuring a cast of children, those who believe in horror more easily and are the most vulnerable to it. Right away, I want to say I did not like this sequel and I think it comes down the absence of Cary Fukanaga’s involvement. Fukunaga had initially been set to write and direct It but left the project when it became clear that Warner Bros. didn’t appreciate his creative vision. His script was tossed into the mixer with a new writer’s ideas, and thus we ended up with the 2017 hit. I tracked down a draft of Fukunaga’s original screenplay and read it two years ago and wish we could have that vision of the Stephen King novel on screen.
Pet Sematary (2019) Written by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler Directed by Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
It’s hard to pinpoint where the nostalgia begins, but Stephen King’s current film renaissance started somewhere between the homage of Stranger Things Season One and the recent IT adaptation. One of the remakes it has led to is this recent Pet Sematary film, which is just as much taking on the novel as it is reworking the 1989 Mary Lambert film. The book and original movie have found an essential place in the hearts and minds of the general public and especially horror/King friends. I wonder what the long-time fans think of this picture and its decisions to change and not change certain elements.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner Directed by Jake Kasdan
The children’s literature of Chris Van Allsburg is mysterious. If you’ve ever read The Stranger, his picture book about a mysterious vagrant whose arrival at a farmhouse signals a pause in the seasons, you’ll know how powerfully haunting his illustrations can be. His work exists on a line between photo-realism and surreality. Faces look real, yet the world around these characters feel as if it emerged from a dream. The original 1995 film adaptation of Jumanji does a reasonably good job of telling its story with those visually softened edges of Van Allsburg’s illustrations but is forced to expand significantly upon the source material. The film would be followed by an animated series by Everett Peck and resembled the look of his work, Duck Man and Rugrats. A little-seen film sequel Zathura would be released in the early 2000s, based on a book that is a spiritual companion to Jumanji more than anything else. This brings us to the current state of Jumanji as a media product.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015) Written & Directed by Alberto Vázquez & Pedro Rivero
On an island in a seemingly endless sea, where a factory in the industrial zone exploded, leaving this place a decaying hell, lives Birdboy. Birdboy is a teenager possessed by a demonic force that makes its home in the lighthouse just off the shoreline. Despite his dark nature and dependency on meds to keep this demon at bay, Birdboy is loved by Dinky, a mouse girl from a troubled family. Dinky is a runaway who, with her friends Sandra the rabbit and Little Fox, have pooled their money to try and buy a boat so they can finally escape this place. This animated Spanish-language picture is very dark and most definitely a mature adult-oriented film dealing in themes of mental illness, addiction, and abuse.
Don Diego de Zama was sent by the Spanish crown to a remote colony in South America to serve as a functionary under the governor. When we meet Zama, he is standing on the shore, staring off into the ocean anticipating a vessel to carry him back to his family, a ship that will never arrive. This is the living nightmare that Zama exists in, a place where the governors come and go but where he is trapped. He suffers the temptations of the flesh, has belongings stripped from him, and has to reside in a haunted shack. Finally, Zama volunteers to be part of a doomed expedition to capture the infamous Vicuña Porto.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Alita is a movie almost 20 years in the making. In 2000, James Cameron registered website domain names that involved this property as a film. In 2003, he confirmed he was going to direct a movie based on the early 90s manga. And then delays began, and Avatar went into production, and other projects came about. Eventually, Cameron stepped aside, taking credit as screenwriter and producer. Robert Rodriguez came onboard in 2016 with the film set to be released in July of 2018. That didn’t happen, and the movie was delayed to a primo January release in 2019. All this is to say that this film has had so much time to be worked on tweaked and improved so it should be great. But there is a common theme in Hollywood where a film has a window between enough pre-production and too much that it overbakes. Alita was burnt to a crisp.