(In French, On TV, July 2016) Stephen King’s Misery is a memorable novel (even and especially now, touching upon the themes of fannish entitlement that have grown so tediously familiar latterly), and its movie adaptation (partially thanks to screenwriter William Goldman) manages to be as good, in its own way, as the original book. James Caan ably plays a best-selling author who, thanks to an accident, comes to rest in an isolated farmhouse under the supervision of his self-professed “number one fan” (a terrifying Kathy Bates in a career-best performance) who turns out to be completely crazy in dangerous ways. What follows is so slickly done as to transform King’s writer-centric thriller into a horrifying experience for everyone. Director Rob Reiner is able to leave his comedic background behind in order to deliver a slick thrill ride, gradually closing off the protagonist’s options even as it becomes clear that he’s up against a formidable opponent. While the film does soften a few of the book’s most disturbing or gory moments, it does not lack for its own unbearable scenes. A solid, competent thriller, Misery easily ranks near the top of King’s numerous adaptations, and remains just as good today as it was a quarter of a century ago.
(Video on Demand, January 2015) The modern drive to transform movies into non-stop spectacles means that middle-of-the-road character-based comedies such as And so it Goes are often forgotten among so many other viewing choices. And that’s too bad, because they often offer satisfying acting performances by well-known names, gentle humor, quiet pacing and heartwarming conclusions. There isn’t, to be clear, anything new or challenging in And so it Goes: Michael Douglas stars as an embittered real-estate agent drawing back into his shell after a series of setbacks. Fortunately, there’s Diane Keaton as a lounge singer widow to draw him out of his shell, alongside a number of other supporting characters including an estranged granddaughter. We all know where that kind of story is going, and that’s part of the charm. Veteran director Rob Reiner isn’t interested in flash, and the unspectacular result might have been better, but it goes down nicely given appropriate exceptions. The focus of And so it Goes on older leads, addressing similarly-older audiences, is not a bad change of pace, even though there’s a pervasive feeling that the film should have been quite a bit more than what it is.