Cell (2016) Review

Welcome to my final day of Stephen King Week. King turned 70 yesterday so I posted something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (My Top Ten Stephen King Movies & My Top Ten Stephen King Books). Today I’m reviewing the film adaptation of his novel Cell.

Cell (2016)

Directed by Tod Williams

Based on Cell by Stephen King

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Clark Sarullo, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Stacy Keach

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.

My Opinion:

Okay, what I’d heard about Cell is true: the movie isn’t good. However, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its rating on things like IMDb (4.3 out of 10. Yikes). I’ll say that I quite liked the Stephen King book (it just makes it into My Top Ten Stephen King Books list) although it certainly doesn’t seem to be a favorite for most people. And it’s likely to drop out of my Top Ten over time as it’s admittedly not one of his best pieces of work. I’ve just always had a thing for anything at all post-apocalyptic and this story of a “zombie-like” plague of sorts is so my type of thing that I’m probably more forgiving of its flaws than I should be. Story: Good. Execution: Not so good.

The movie starts out okay. As always, things were changed from what I remember of the novel now but the overall story stays close enough. The problem with both the film and book, however, is that the story falls apart at the end. I like King when he’s at his most bizarre & supernatural but not everyone is going to buy into that sort of thing and this novel’s ending was one that was never going to translate well to film. On the written page, it’s easier to suspend disbelief & King has a way of writing which makes you accept some weird ass shit. On screen, it rarely works well. And it unfortunately didn’t work well for this movie.

I spent a long time reviewing It (the 2017 version) the other day as I liked that one a lot & I get all excited and chatty when I see a movie that I truly enjoy. Boring, predictable, poorly made movies just kind of suck my will to live and forcing myself to “review” them is a struggle. I’m sad to say that’s the way I feel about Cell. I can’t be bothered. It was only about three weeks ago that I watched this and I can barely remember the damn thing. I believe I got bored & started f*^king around on my (cell!) phone, meaning I certainly wasn’t giving this my full attention. At least I didn’t turn into a cell phone “zombie”. But aren’t we all cell phone zombies already anyway?!?! Hmmmmmm. Is that the moral of this story? You’d like to think so! But what could’ve been a thoughtful social commentary is nothing more than yet another zombie story.

I like both John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson but I can’t say they were trying to win any acting Oscars for this one. 1408 is a better movie if you’re specifically wanting a King movie starring Cusack & Jackson. I remember liking the girl & young boy in the book (I’m too lazy to look up their names) but the movie manages to make us not give the slightest shit about the fate of any of these characters. Heck, the most enjoyment I got from this was seeing Stacy Keach as it reminded me of the last thing I saw him in: Class Of 1999a movie probably even worse than Cell, in which he looked like THIS…

What’s up with the banana? I don’t know. And I’m not sure what exactly made this movie so bad. I suppose it’s mainly due to the lack of decent character development. As I said in my It review on Wednesday, it’s the characters that really made that film so enjoyable. Horror movies are the worst for giving us underdeveloped characters. It IS possible to have a good story and good characters within the horror genre. Why are there so few??

Meh. Cell isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen but it’s just another forgettable one to add to the huge pile of bland films in this genre. Both the book & film are guilty of missing the opportunity to really say something about our smartphones destroying society & all that. But, to be fair, the book is over ten years old now so it’s already starting to feel a bit dated. If I remember correctly, you have to actually be talking on a phone to get the virus in this movie. I mean, who the hell actually uses their smartphone as a phone?!?! I’ve typed this entire review on my phone but I can’t remember the last time I talked into it other than to say “Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man!“. People don’t talk to each other. Social media is the opposite of social. That’s the problem. Oh well – not every movie has to have deeper meaning, I guess. I found the book a fun read. It’s too bad the movie isn’t a bit better. Oh, and I still f*^king love my cell phone. I just wish they’d changed the title to Mobile in the UK because it’s such a horrible title that it would’ve been kind of amusing.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Advertisements

My Top Ten Stephen King Books

Happy Birthday to Stephen King, who turns 70 today!

Welcome to Day Four of Stephen King Week. I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m posting my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Books.

I love Stephen King’s books, which I’ve been reading ever since the age of about 12 when a friend let me borrow his Night Shift short story collection during study hall. I was immediately hooked. That version had the hand with the eyeballs on the cover (from the creepy short story I Am the Doorway):

It’s funny how the brain works: I remember the short stories in Night Shift as if I read them yesterday while I have trouble remembering some of King’s stuff that I read in later years. I suppose it’s a combination of it being a damn good book & the fact that we often seem to have a good memory for the things we loved in our formative years.

Anyway, I’ve always loved King’s short stories & novellas just as much as his full length novels so I don’t want to ignore the collections in this post. As they’d be too difficult to “rank” alongside one-story novels, my below list is a ranking of only King’s full-length fictional novels. But I’m going to talk a little about each of his short story collections at the end of this post too (Well, hell – there are ten so I suppose I can “rank” the collections as well. Oh I do love making lists!). 😉

First, here are My Top Ten Stephen King Full-Length Novels. As always, though, I’m doing a full ranking from least favorite to favorite book and I’ve read way more than ten. Here we go!

The Rest That I’ve Read

38. Dreamcatcher
37. The Regulators
36. Desperation (I honestly can’t remember which is which of The Regulators & Desperation – I barely remember either of them)
35. The Tommyknockers
34. Bag Of Bones
33. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
32. The Outsider
31. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-reading)

Top Thirty:

30. Finders Keepers
29. From A Buick 8
28. The Dark Half
27. Under The Dome
26. Blaze
25. Gerald’s Game
24. Thinner
23. Revival
22. Lisey’s Story
21. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Top Twenty:

20. Duma Key
19. Doctor Sleep
18. Cujo
17. Insomnia
16. End Of Watch
15. Rose Madder
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. Needful Things
11. The Running Man

Top Ten:

10. 11/22/63

9. Cell (I know I have this too high & will probably change my mind over time. I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow so will talk a little about the book too.)

8. Joyland

7. Mr. Mercedes

6. The Long Walk

5. The Shining

4. It

3. The Green Mile

2. ‘Salem’s Lot

1. The Dead Zone

Need To Re-Read:

Rage & Roadwork (I don’t remember them at all) & The Stand. I must have read three quarters of The Stand in my twenties then got too busy in life & took so long to get back to it that I’d have to start from the beginning again. It’s… long! It was great so I still regret not finishing.

Not Read:

Carrie, Firestarter, Christine, Cycle Of The Werewolf, The Talisman, The Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower Series (other than Book 1), The Plant, Black House, The Colorado Kid, Sleeping Beauties (book coming soon)

Now here are My Top Ten Stephen King Short Story & Novella Collections (ranked from least favorite to favorite). I’ve included my favorite stories from each collection as well:

10. Full Dark, No Stars: Big Driver & A Good Marriage. It’s weird that I don’t remember this collection that well when it’s not that old. I liked A Good Marriage but somehow didn’t even remember I’d read it until I was halfway through watching the film

9. Everything’s Eventual: 1408 is the only story I really remember from this collection. It’s a good one (and decent movie adaptation, as well).

8. Hearts In Atlantis: The story Hearts In Atlantis was very good but I somehow don’t remember the slightest thing about the other stories in this book…

7. Just After Sunset: Willa, The Gingerbread Girl, Stationary Bike, The Things They Left Behind, Graduation Afternoon. Looks like I remember quite a few, so obviously a pretty strong collection.

6. Skeleton Crew: The Mist (could do with re-reading), The Monkey, The Raft & The Jaunt (this last one haunts me to this day).

5. Four Past Midnight: The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden & The Sun Dog (this creeped me the hell out). These stories were great but perhaps my absolute least favorite story of King’s is also in this book: The Library Policeman. Urgh.

4. Different Seasons: The book where only The Breathing Method didn’t become a movie because, seriously, that would NOT work as a film…! The Body became the brilliant Stand By Me, Apt Pupil was turned into an okay film, and it’s obvious what movie came from Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption. I worship that film. Is it time to confess that it’s the only story in this collection that I can’t bring myself to read as I love the film so much? There. I’ve admitted it.

3. Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End Of The Whole Mess, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band, Sorry Right Number, Crouch End. Another really strong collection I remember well despite it being fairly old now. It might help that several of these were made into shorts for the TV series.

2. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: The Dune, Ur, Under The Weather, Drunken Fireworks, Summer Thunder. A really recent book I was very happy with after King’s collections from more recent years have been a bit weak compared to his oldest stuff. And I reviewed every single story in full (I’m a nerd).

1. Night Shift: Jerusalem’s Lot, The Ledge, Children Of The Corn, The Last Rung On The Ladder. I love this book so much. My introduction to King & still possibly my favorite book overall. I think he writes fantastic short stories (as does his son Joe Hill, FYI – I highly recommend 20th Century Ghosts). Children Of The Corn is really good (I think it was a hard one to translate to film without it ending up as cheesy as it did). The Last Rung On The Ladder is heartbreaking and possibly the one that most got me hooked on his work (odd, considering it’s a non-horror). Actually, it was Last Rung as well as Jerusalem’s Lot that got me hooked. Jerusalem’s Lot is a story set in the same town as in Salem’s Lot, which I have very high on my novel list. I remember actually almost enjoying the shorter story even more. Sometimes less is more.

People skip these short stories & novellas sometimes but they really shouldn’t be ignored. I think there’s almost more skill to making a short story really good (which is why my posts are always too long. I’m no writer! Blah blah blah. I need to get to the point).

Phew. I think I’ve covered everything? I’ve read none of King’s Nonfiction but Danse Macabre does sound interesting.