Gerald’s Game (2017) Review

Welcome to Day 3 of Stephen King Movies & Day 1 of Mike Flanagan Movies! I love King & recently did a Stephen King Week on my blog and last year I did a Mike Flanagan Week for October Horror Month. And now they’re together! How cool is that?!

The last two days I’ve posted reviews of It (2017), Cell & 1922. Today I’m reviewing Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of King’s Gerald’s Game. I’ll continue with Mike Flanagan movies the next few days with reviews of
Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, and reblogs of Absentia & Hush (but not Oculus, since I didn’t like that one so much). 😉

Let’s talk about Gerald’s Game

Gerald’s Game (2017)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Based on Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

Starring: Carla Gugino, Chiara Aurelia, Bruce Greenwood, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.

My Opinion:

I think I kind of loved this movie. Oh man, it makes me so happy when a Stephen King film adaptation is done well since there are quite a few dodgy ones. I did a ranked list of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (all 43 that I’ve seen) in September. I’ve just added Gerald’s Game & 1922 to that list. You can have a look at their placement if you want but I’ll say that 1922 is pretty low while Gerald’s Game is ranked much higher than I thought it would be before watching it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much since my expectations are usually quite low for King films?

I did read Gerald’s Game but it’s one I read years ago so didn’t remember all the smaller details. I prefer it that way – I remembered it as the movie unfolded but didn’t know beforehand some of what would happen. From what I remember of the book, I liked it fine but it was a bit long. That’s the genius of Stephen King, though – who else could write a full length novel where the main character is handcuffed to a bed for 95% of it?! For a 1 hour & 43 minute movie, it worked perfectly and I was gripped the entire time. I didn’t even mess around on my phone once during the whole thing! I only do that at home, FYI – People who use phones in cinemas are wankers.

The plot synopsis probably doesn’t sound all that appealing but it’s really a great psychological character study of someone facing their inner demons & with a far more feminist theme than I realized when I read the book years ago (I was probably too young). Or maybe the movie just does a great job getting its themes across? I do think this is easily one of the best King film adaptations as far as staying faithful to the book’s central idea and really bringing these characters to life. I know King doesn’t like some of the films (such as Kubrick’s The Shining) but I’d imagine he’s very happy with this one? As for Mike Flanagan movies, I’ve now watched all his biggest ones but I wouldn’t say I’ve absolutely loved any of them. Gerald’s Game is now my definite favorite of his. Way to go, Mike Flanagan! You’ve made a fantastic Stephen King movie.

I won’t go into the film’s story too much for anyone unfamiliar with it. If you’re planning on watching it, I think it would be best if you know nothing beforehand. I think this movie has been a pleasant surprise for those wondering how they’ve made an entire story of a woman stuck to a bed. I’ll talk about the acting instead. Carla Gugino is brilliant! I’ve liked her ever since that Son In Law movie she did with Pauly Shore. Haha! There goes my movie blog street cred. I’ve just said “Pauly Shore” on my blog! Seriously, though – this had to be a very tough role and she carries the whole film splendidly. Bruce Greenwood, whose role is bigger than you might think considering that he dies right away, does well with a character we can’t quite trust while Henry Thomas is creepy as f*^k (I’m trying to not connect this film in my mind to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial! Dammit – why did they have to make Elliott so creepy?!). The young girl, Chiara Aurelia, is also very strong. I remembered very little of her role & that backstory from the book. I really liked her character & her important connection to Gugino. Okay – I just looked into it & they made Aurelia’s role bigger in the film. Wise choice, Flanagan! Especially the ending bit involving her. I’ll say her story is a theme that upsets me and one that King addresses quite often but it’s very relevant at this point in time as it’s being openly discussed more than ever. For the film to come full circle in that way was a brilliant change to make. You know what? I think this may be one of those rare occasions where the movie is better than the book, at least based on what I’ve just read online of the “book to movie comparisons” in order to refresh my memory.

I do wonder if I should re-read this book as well as Dolores Claiborne, which came out the same year & which I now barely remember at all. I read this about Gerald’s Game at Wikipedia:

“Originally the book was intended to be a companion piece to King’s novel Dolores Claiborne, with the connecting theme of two women in crisis caught in the path of an eclipse, though this aspect was greatly reduced by the time the books were published.”

I can confirm this for King fans: there’s a Dolores Claiborne reference in the film as well as several other nods to other works by King. Thank you, Mike Flanagan! You know how to keep King fans happy. I loved the references. And I admit that I love when King does his “strong women” stories. I wonder why he so often revisits these sort of themes? He must have had some good female role models in his life. It’s not something I can say I even noticed when reading his books starting from the age of about 13 but it’s something I appreciate now as a grown-up (well, physically grown-up… maybe not mentally!). In fact, I don’t think it’s something I even gave much thought until after watching Gerald’s Game and noticing the Dolores Claiborne connection. It got me to thinking about other King stories involving strong women who often have to deal with various forms of abuse. A similar favorite of mine was Rose Madder, which doesn’t seem to get mentioned often. Lisey’s Story is another one I liked a lot that didn’t seem to be one of King’s more popular books. And I can think of quite a few King short stories, such as A Good Marriage, with the same themes & strong female characters. Yeah, I think I need to revisit Dolores Claiborne as I’d probably appreciate it more at my age now.

I obviously liked Gerald’s Game a lot. Is it perfect? I suppose it has its flaws plus I think the somewhat jarring ending, if you haven’t read the story, may not work for everyone as it sort of seems to be from out of left field. It probably worked better in the book (I think it’s difficult to put some of the weirder aspects of King’s stories on screen). Or maybe it didn’t work better in the book – it seems to be a contentious ending from what I read online. Either way, all the inner torment leading up to the finale was done perfectly by Flanagan & by Gugino. I must say that this is a King story I never really expected to be adapted and am pretty amazed that such a good film has come out of it. I’m not entirely sure how non-King fans would feel about it & I admit that I may be rating it slightly too highly since I’m a huge King fan. But good King movies make me so happy! Oh, and for the faint-hearted: prepare yourself for one big gross-out moment. Yiiiiikes. And I knew it was coming! But don’t let that scare you off – It’s just one small moment that’s part of a strong psychological horror movie that delves into some disturbing themes.

My Rating: 8/10

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Chalet Girl, Austenland & Endless Love Movie Reviews (A Chick Flick Special)

Look at me, watching chick flicks! WHAT?! Well, it happens occasionally – I am a girl, after all. 😉 I just watched Chalet Girl a week ago but the other two were at least a year ago & I never got around to reviewing them so it made sense to do three “chick flick quickies” together. Chicky Flicky Quicky??

Anyway, regulars here will know that I’m not really a chick flick type of girl. My type of chick flick usually involves women kicking ass. Give me Ellen Ripley & Furiosa over romantic bullshit! (Okay, or Drew Barrymore – I watch all of her stuff). So what did I think of these three girly movies? Let’s see!

Chalet Girl (2011)

Directed by Phil Traill

Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tamsin Egerton, Ken Duken, Sophia Bush, Bill Bailey, Brooke Shields, Bill Nighy

My Opinion:

I LIKED THIS! There. I said it. Is it good? No. Is it cheesy & predictable? Oh god yes! I don’t care. Screw it. Sometimes it’s nice to just have fun with a movie and not be all judgmental & snobby. I enjoyed this one quite a bit for something that’s not normally very “me”.

I might as well start right away with saying that adorable Felicity Jones is 100% to thank for this movie working & being at all watchable. With another actress, it could have been a disaster. I know she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for The Theory Of Everything (which I have yet to see) and that she has a lead role in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a Star Wars role! Lucky girl!) but this is the only film I’ve seen her in. It was a bit weird watching this knowing that she’s gone on to much bigger & better things but it’s easy to see why as she’s so damn likeable in this & has that special “thing” that only a handful of actors have (I’m so crap with words. The only other way I can think of to describe that “thing” is “the X Factor” but that makes me think of those stupid singing competitions with Simon Cowell. Puke!). Anyway, she definitely has that here and if I hadn’t liked her, I would have been bored with this movie.

As for this movie, I don’t know how to talk about it without making it sound bad. I mean, it’s not a good movie but I really liked it so don’t want to trash it. It’s very odd in that it’s a British film that couldn’t be more “American”. I moaned the other day in my review of A Long Way Down that too many British movies are bland dramedies so now I’ll be praising a British film that doesn’t feel at all British. I feel bad about that! I have to say, though, if it had actually been American, they’d probably have cast some horrible actress in the lead role so it wouldn’t have worked. So…. Um, hooray for British people! 😉

I think what worked for me, being a girl who likes strong female movie characters, was the fact that Felicity Jones’ Kim fit the bill. She’s young & she’s a bit unsure of herself after the tragic death of her mother but she’s determined to help her father to pay the bills (which is why she takes a job as a chalet girl in the Alps) and, best of all, she’s a former skateboarding champion. That’s cool! (Not that you ever see her riding a skateboard…). But, inevitably, she takes up snowboarding while in the Alps and it turns out that she has a natural talent for it thanks to her skateboarding years. Shocker, huh?! Oh, and there’s of course a big snowboarding competition coming up with a big cash prize! HUH. What are the odds of that?!?!?! lol

Shit. I’m sounding snobby. Hey, what can I say? This movie is cliché every step of the way. We have the snobby, slutty chalet girl who is pissed off at having to work with “poor girl” Kim, we have the rich boy and a forbidden romance with “poor girl” Kim as well as that boy’s rich-bitch mother who doesn’t approve and, finally, we have the tragic past and a fear that must be overcome in order for Kim to get her life back on track. But, hell – it works. There are just enough laughs and annoyingly “feel good” moments that I found it very hard to not like this movie. I didn’t like the rich boyfriend (soooo not my type but I’m sure some girls will like him). However, some really likeable lesser characters, such as the guy who teaches Kim to snowboard as well as my favorite comedian, Bill Bailey, as her father make up for some of the movie’s mistakes (such as Brooke Shields as the disapproving mother of the rich boy – her character is so damn annoying). The movie has lots of fun moments but doesn’t ever get too silly (although these young kids do know how to party & enjoy a bit of naked hot tub fun…).

Most of all, though, Felicity Jones is just seriously loveable as Kim and you’ll want to see her succeed in every clichéd way possible. Unless you have no soul.

My Rating: 7/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Possibly. I think it’s definitely the one that men would find the most bearable of these three.

Austenland (2013)

Directed by Jerusha Hess

Based on Austenland by Shannon Hale

Starring: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Jane Seymour, Georgia King

My Opinion:

This movie is weird & utterly ridiculous. Keri Russell plays a lonely American woman obsessed with Jane Austen novels. She saves up her money for “the trip of a lifetime” – a bizarre English retreat run by Jane Seymour where women dress up & partake in Jane Austen-y role play with attractive male actors. Seriously – this movie is bonkers. But, like Chalet Girl, I LIKED THIS ONE TOO!

This has to be the girliest girly movie I’ve watched in years. I should point out that I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel as they just don’t really appeal to me. So, this will have been missing that little extra element of enjoyment for me that I’m sure Austen lovers probably got out of it. I know enough, though, and have watched some period dramas (I actually love the movie Sense & Sensibility) so I was able to enjoy this just fine – I don’t think it’s totally necessary to be an Austen novel reader to like this.

I find Keri Russell to be a pretty likeable actress in what I’ve actually seen her in (she was in one of my absolute favorites of recent years, Waitress, which I plan to praise to high heaven when I do my planned Adrienne Shelly Week at some point). So, I have no complaints there. But, more importantly, my girl Jennifer Coolidge was in this! LOVE her. Yes, she’s once again playing a loveable idiot. Who cares?! It’s funny! I’ll happily watch her play that same idiotic character over & over again. In this, she plays one of the guests at the retreat and, unlike Russell, appears to not have read a Jane Austen novel in her life. She’s just horny & wants some sexy role play with the men. It’s hilarious to see her attempting an English accent and being treated to all the best things at the retreat as she’s paid for the full experience while Russell could only afford the most basic package. A lot of the laughs come from this as Jane Seymour is an evil bitch to poor girl Russell while Coolidge is completely oblivious but totally sweet in her idiocy.

There’s not a lot more that I can really say about this one. It’s the true definition of “chick flick”. I liked that it was quite quirky in its own way, though – the overall concept isn’t really one that we’ve seen in a romcom before. As for the romance, it’s of course there and it’s predictable yet not quite as predictable as some. The movie was a pleasant surprise in that it had more humor than I was expecting and an interesting setup that took some balls to make into a film as this story could have ended up a disaster onscreen (it’s apparently a book but I know nothing about the book). Yes, I said this chick flick has some balls to it! But people with balls would be unlikely to watch this one.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Oh HELL no! lol. But it’s at least a lot more fun than an actual Jane Austen period drama.

Endless Love (2014)

Directed by Shana Feste

Based on Endless Love by Scott Spencer

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick

My Opinion:

I love how Chalet Girl is linked to my two other movies today. A girl in a small role in Chalet Girl was also in Austenland. And… Brooke Shields was in Chalet Girl as well as the superior 1981 adaptation of the Endless Love novel. Oh dear – I just said “superior adaptation” and everyone knows that the 1981 Endless Love is complete & utter shit! Well, so is the 2014 version. But I liked it! Just not an ALL CAPS “I LIKED IT” as with the other two movies I reviewed. Just a lowercase “i liked it” with no formatting.

The two lovers in this 2014 version are so very pretty. So pretty and BORING AS FUCK. Now, I’m of the age where I should love the original Endless Love. However, I was too young for it at first & then didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties so I don’t have the nostalgia thing going on for it. Goddamn it’s bad. It’s seriously shit. But I kind of liked it. I think it’s the law for a girl my age to like the 1981 film. What that film has, at the very least, is passion. The story is a bit pathetic and Shields & whoever the hell the guy was couldn’t act for shit plus the mother of Shields lovingly watches her daughter having sex with the guy (which was beyond weird & creepy) but at least the guy in 1981 had a believable, obsessive passion. The 2014 film has none of that. What’s the point? I don’t know the book so can only compare this to the 1981 film but that film was about an obsession. Alex Pettyfer’s poor boy loving rich girl Gabriella Wilde in 2014 is all well & good but we’ve seen that story a million times. Take out the dangerous obsession & you just end up with two really pretty people who probably have really pretty but really boring sex.

Alex Pettyfer’s poor “bad boy” isn’t a “bad boy” at all. In fact, he’s a sweetheart. He’s in love but not obsessed – he’s not going to go set things on fire or some crazy shit like that. And I praised Gabriella Wilde in that pointless remake of Carrie but, man oh man, her character in this is so DULL. Talk about zero personality! It’s not necessarily her fault – it’s more likely the script. They’re both so sweet & so cute together, though, which makes for a good enough love story. You can’t exactly hate them as they’re SO FUCKING NICE. Too nice. Just…. Ugh! I don’t know. It’s just pointless to call it Endless Love when it’s a completely different film from the other one (other than a tiny bit of tension from “girl’s dad not approving of boy who isn’t good enough for his daughter”). Give me the crazy 1981 obsession, please! Their acting was worse but at least you know they probably had much better sex!

But I still liked this 2014 film in its own right for some reason I seriously can’t explain. Maybe I just like watching really pretty but really dull people making out.

My Rating: 6/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Unlikely. But they may find Gabriella Wilde very pretty in a safe & boring kind of way.

Now here’s that sappy piece of shit Lionel Richie & Diana Ross song from the original movie. Complete with clips full of shitty acting from the original movie! God, I really do like that shitty movie…

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) Review

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Directed by JJ Abrams

Starring:
John Cho
Benedict Cumberbatch
Alice Eve
Bruce Greenwood
Simon Pegg
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
Zoe Saldana
Karl Urban
Peter Weller
Anton Yelchin

Plot Synopsis:

After devastating attacks on Starfleet, the USS Enterprise is sent on a mission into enemy territory in order to find the man responsible for these terrorist acts.

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My Opinion:

I won’t go into how much I know about all things Star Trek – I already did that here when I reviewed Star Trek (2009), which I re-watched this past week, and The Motion Picture & The Wrath Of Khan, which I’ve just watched for the first time: Star Trek Reviews

Basically, I loved The Next Generation and then watched the original series after TNG & have just now started on the movies with the original cast. So, this review is from someone who likes Star Trek but is not exactly a Trekkie (or is it Trekker?).

I really enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness. I thought the 2009 movie was a decent enough intro to a new series of movies but it didn’t really blow me away. Plus, I fell asleep both times I tried to watch it all the way through. Well, I can say you’re not likely to fall asleep during Into Darkness. 😉

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I enjoyed the main characters more in this one as they were able to just kind of “be themselves” as opposed to in the first movie where they had to spend time setting them up for those in the audience new to Star Trek. It also meant they were able to spend more time focusing on the story and the action in this one – and there’s A LOT of action. It was pretty non-stop from beginning to end. I liked the opening scene (even if it was maybe a bit silly). The bits set in London and in San Francisco looked great. The emotional bits felt more “real” in this one than in the 2009 one (perhaps as we’re more used to the main actors now). Alice Eve is sexy, especially in all the different uniforms. And Benedict Cumberbatch is an EXCELLENT villain. He’s by far the best thing about this one. The only slight downside is he’s so good that it shows off the weaknesses in all the other actors in the film.

I’m reading mixed reviews of this movie now and see that some die hard Trekkies (Trekkers?!) are hating it. That’s unfortunate – I thoroughly enjoyed this but now, after seeing the first two Star Trek films, I can see why they’d take issue with certain things. To those who don’t hold the original movies so dear, I think it’s a lot easier to just sit back and enjoy the new films without overanalyzing them. To those who are pretty new to Star Trek, I can see them really liking the new films. Especially Into Darkness – I thought it was quite exciting (and much better than the first one).

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My initial reaction was that Into Darkness was “fantastic” and I called it the best Star Trek film yet. Well, I stand by what I said about it being fantastic. It’s probably not the “best” one, though. I haven’t watched First Contact since it first came out but I do remember how much I loved it at the time. And I don’t think Into Darkness would EVER top The Wrath Of Khan for any big fans of the original Star Treks. So I think Into Darkness is “one of” the best films of the entire series. But, okay, yeah… I think, for its time and what it will have meant to fans when they first watched it, The Wrath Of Khan is still the “best”. It just didn’t have the emotional impact for me watching it for the first time all these years later.

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Summary:

Star Trek Into Darkness is a thoroughly entertaining & action-packed film with a great villain played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is the highlight of the film. It’s a worthy addition to the Star Trek universe and, in my opinion, one of the best in the entire series. However, after the adrenaline wore off and I thought about the film a little more the day after seeing it, I can see some of the faults. There are minor things (Like the way Alice Eve ends up in her underwear. Yes, she’s hot. But the scene was silly). But there are a few major things as well, which I unfortunately can’t discuss without major spoilers. All in all, this film had the chance to possibly end up (almost) as much of a classic as The Wrath Of Khan. But it doesn’t manage it. None of the Star Trek films, for me, manage the depth needed to make any of them truly stunning films. And now that I’ve thought about things a bit more – Yes, The Wrath Of Khan is the one that actually came the closest to achieving the greatness that, hopefully, we’ll someday get from a Star Trek film. Star Trek Into Darkness was great fun but they’re going to need to get much more bold with the next film if they wish to ever achieve true greatness.

My Rating: 8/10

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Okay okay – Here’s Alice Eve in her underwear:

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