They Lived Happily Ever After: Our Farewell to Films Based on Books
As promised, we're making our monthly recap articles in to a regular thing, and with the end of August upon us, it's time to explain our choices for the best and worst parts of our Page to Screen month. Put on your reading glasses and settle back in front of a warm fire while we tell you to tale of the most memorable moments of the month.
Everything about this movie oozes style, and that’s because Michael Mann is the director. It also features some of the best versions of the iconic characters, especially Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde and William Peterson as Will Graham. While the TV show Hannibal has eclipsed the movies in terms of character development and story, Manhunter stands as my choice for best adaptation of any of the Hannibal Lecter stories, even besting Silence of the Lambs. Watch it for the performances, stay for the awesome 80’s soundtrack.
John: Going Postal
Going Postal is a colorful, vibrant, entertaining, and warm world that feels as though it’s pulled right out of the mind of author Terry Pratchett. With it’s 3 hour run time it has plenty of room to fit in all the tiny aspects of the in depth world that Pratchett created in his Discworld novels, and since Going Postal is one of the better selections in an all around great list of books, the made for TV film manages to be the best of the month. It’s also helped along by a series of exceptional performances from talent and crew that have taken great care to provide a respectful visual retelling of a best selling book.
Ben: The Warriors
There’s a reason this stylish ‘79 gang fighter became an enduring cult hit - The Warriors really is that damn good. From the outlandish styles of each clan, to the witty dialogue, all rolled into a simple, yet effective plot, it proves that a strong amount of heart and focus can propel a movie to untold heights.
Chris: The Green Mile
Ugh, this film was such a letdown in so many ways for me. The main performances are rote at best, with the film resorting to cheap tropes to tell a by-the-numbers story. The supporting performances, namely Michael Jeter, are way better than the main ones, yet get half as much screen time. It’s disappointing to me that it’s one of the better regarded Stephen King adaptations, as opposed to some of his better works. Just another missed opportunity to tell an interesting story that devolves into melancholy and melodrama.
Where Going Postal is a vibrant, visually stunning film with dedicated performers, Hannibal is a drab, slow rehashing of a concept done much better in its predecessor, Silence of the Lambs. With what feels like four story arcs cobbled together, an over exposed titular character, and supporting characters that aren’t up to snuff, Hannibal managed to be the least entertaining film in the franchise, and my pick for worst film of the month.
Ben: Killer Elite
On one hand, The Warriors managed to tell a compelling story by keeping it simple. On the other hand, when you overburden your story with impotent attempts at “intrigue” and hope that a square-jawed action hero can make up for your lack of passion, doom comes quickly to your creation. Killer Elite lacks both style and substance, instead squeezing out a two-hour film with virtually no good fight scenes, nothing to say about the world, and performances so bad that they only serve to highlight the under use of the few hapless actors of note to have been roped into this charade of a film.
Chris: Lee Marvin as Major Reisman in The Dirty Dozen
I’m not the biggest fan of war movies, but The Dirty Dozen is something different entirely, and that’s partially due to Lee Marvin’s performance as Major Reisman. He is a take-no-shit Major, who doesn’t want to play by the Army’s rule, but is tasked with molding criminals into killing machines. He is gruff and stern, but also kicks ass in the finale of the film. Lee Marvin made me like war movies, and I’m a huge non-fan of them.
John: Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
Despite American Psycho not getting my pick for best movie of the month, it was certainly a contender, and Christian Bale’s performance in the flick is a real eye opener. He buys the role and sells it right back to the audience with a gusto that is often lacking from many hollywood performances. The character of Patrick Bateman, combined with Bale’s enthusiasm, and the film’s unique tone come together to create a performance that’s well worth my vote for this month.
Ben: Roger Hill as Cyrus in The Warriors
Even though he only appears in the movie for less than ten minutes before being killed, Roger Hill’s performance as Cyrus, the would-be gang kingpin, completely steals the show. His booming and emotive voice grabs your attention and never lets go, as he works the cast and the viewer into a whooping frenzy. Has anyone ever made “Can you dig it?” sound so cool? No, and they never will. Because Cyrus was the man.
Chris: Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal
I said it on the Hannibal Lecter Franchise Kulturecast, Anthony Hopkins, past Silence of the Lambs, provides diminishing returns. There was something so great about his performance in that first film, whether it the lightning in the bottle of the first movie, or just Jonathan Demme’s expert direction. Everything past it was just lackluster at best. Hopkins seemed to be going through the motions, there only to collect a paycheck. Couple that with the fact that Ridley Scott directed him as Lecter, and it's just a glaring standout as the worst performance of the month due to all the wasted potential.
John: Julia Ormond as Jessie in Animal Farm
Right away I have to mention that this award may not be entirely Julia Ormond’s fault. Animal Farm was a cinematic nightmare of combined CGI, puppeteering, and live animal training. During CGI’s early days, it’s no surprise that a film made about animals leading a revolution on a farm would be a difficult visual to accomplish, and the results are not as satisfying as they might be today. Jessie the dog is a living dog with a mouth sometimes animated by computer graphics. The character is then voiced by Julia Ormond, standing in a sound booth, alone, saying the lines again and again. It’s a difficult role to portray with any real conviction.
Unfortunately, Jessie is the primary character of the film version of the classic book, and also functions as the movie’s narrator. With this level of importance on the character’s performance, there is no way to forgive the stilted, dry, almost bored affectation with which Jessie is voiced. This disconnect between the visual representation of Jessie and the auditory performance by her voice actor gains Julia Ormond my worst performance award for the month.
Ben: Andreas Katsulas and Terri Hanauer as the Alex and Sarah in Communion
Communion was not meant to be a comedy. It is one of those wonderfully bad movies that transcends its own lackluster creation to become an amazing titan of terrible-ness. Just like its fellow heavyweight, Trolls 2, it comes with its fair share of hilariously bad deliveries of awfully written dialogue. Andreas Katsulas and Terri Hanauer, who play the Streiber family’s friends Alex and Sarah, live up to just this pedigree. Alex gets too invested in his role to the point of becoming hammy, while Sarah literally sounds like a high school drama student reading her lines for the first time. They’re terrible. They bring down every scene they’re in, but, hey, at least they start things early so you know what to expect from this masterpiece of madness!