Both as a writer and director, Frank Darabont seems to have an affinity for adapting Stephen King’s stories to the screen. He’s only performed both those functions for three feature-length films—The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), and The Mist (2007)—but all three have met with well-deserved general and critical acclaim. I would agree, however, with those who’ve argued that The Mist, based on a King novella, is not at the level of Darabont’s previous two directorial efforts.
It’s an ugly truth: so many marriages ferment into shams, particularly as the couples that enter into them pass out of the luster of youth and into shriveled old age, realizing that their scraggly loins no longer burn with desire for their partners. In Hope Springs, Kay Soames (Meryl Streep) is determined that her marriage to her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) isn’t going to become one more connubial geriatric case. To try to get the marital juices flowing again, Kay purchases a getaway package to a small village where marriage counselor Bernie Fields (Steve Carrell) is in residence.
A film about the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington, D.C., could so easily turn into a shlocky exhibition of emotion. Paul Greengrass’s United 93 never succumbs to this temptation. From boarding to crash landing, it’s a harrowingly realistic account of the heroic passenger plot that foiled the hijacking of the eponymous flight and prevented it from destroying its intended target, the U.S. Capitol Building. Yet even more remarkable than its intensity is that the film conveys the human side of the disaster without stooping to mawkishness or chauvinism.
Forget the future. I wish I could travel to the past so that I could avoid watching this faceless drone of a sci-fi flick based on the 1990 title by the same name. Not that its predecessor was much better, but at least it featured Arnold and his campy Austrian accent. This bland remake, despite its firestorm visuals and epic futuristic landscapes, had far too little plot interest and character to hold my attention for its two-hour running time.
At some time or other, most of us have probably wanted something so desperately that we’ve contemplated selling our souls for it, only to think twice before entering into a pact with Old Nick. Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), a four-eyed techie dweeb who turns into a googly-eyed lovesick puppy, initially has his reservations, too, but then finally succumbs. The girl of his dreams is coworker Allison Gardner (Frances O’Connor), and he desires her so passionately that he hands his spiritual essence right over to the Queen of Darkness (Elizabeth Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes.
No, it’s not about horse betting or thieves divvying up their spoils. The subject of 50/50, a dramedy directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Will Reiser (and based on Reiser’s own battle with cancer), is confronting mortality. How would we (and our loved ones) find the strength to persevere if life handed us a cancer diagnosis and a one-in-two chance of surviving? Like Adam Lerner (Joseph-Gordon Levitt), we’d probably be wavering between despair and denial and be smoking medicinal grass (some of us anyway), wanting to experience any new pleasures that life had to offer.