Blog Archives

What I Watched In… August 2017

ducktalesrebootposter-1-600x900

Favorite of the Month: DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. The Land Unknown (1957), C-
  2. The Dark Tower (2017), B
  3. Calling Dr. Death (1943), C
  4. Curse of the Undead (1959), C+
  5. Shin Godzilla (2016), B+
  6. The Thin Man (1934), B
  7. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), B+
  8. Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1979), D
  9. The Big Sleep (1946), A-
  10. Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1986), D+
  11. It Ain’t Hay (1943), C+
  12. DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017), A
  13. Zootopia (2016), A
  14. Brave (2012), B
  15. Finding Dory (2016), A-
  16. Frozen (2013), A+
  17. The Monster Squad (1987), B+Initiation (2016), B-
  18. Megaforce (1982), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  19. Commando (1985), C+
  20. Meet the Robinsons (2007), B
  21. The Punisher (1989), D
  22. The Silence of the Lambs (1991), A
  23. RiffTrax Live: Doctor Who-The Five Doctors (2017), A-
  24. Death Note (2017), C
  25. Crawlspace (2012), B-
  26. Murder in the Rue Morgue (1932), C+
  27. Adaptation. (2002), B+
  28. Power Rangers (2017), B-
  29. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977), D
  30. Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
Advertisements

What I Watched in… June 2017

Wonder Woman Movie Poster

Favorite of the Month: Wonder Woman (2017)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Batman & Bill (2017), A
  2. Them! (1954), B-
  3. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Edition, 2016), B
  4. Wonder Woman (2017), A
  5. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985), D-; MST3K Riff, B
  6. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989), D+; MST3K Riff, B+
  7. The Wasp Woman (1959), C+
  8. The Mummy (1932), B
  9. The Mummy’s Hand (1940), B+
  10. The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), C+
  11. The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), C
  12. The Mummy’s Curse (1944), C+
  13. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), B-
  14. The Mummy (1999), B+
  15. The Mummy Returns (2001), B
  16. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), C-
  17. The Giant Behemoth (aka Behemoth, the Sea Monster, 1959), B-
  18. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), A
  19. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016), B
  20. Carnival Magic (1981), F; MST3K Riff, B
  21. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966), C-; MST3K Riff, B
  22. At the Earth’s Core (1976), C; MST3K Riff, B+
  23. Cell (2016), C-
  24. Chillerama (2011), C+
  25. Night of the Creeps (1986), B+
  26. Escape From New York (1981), A-
  27. Critters (1986), C
  28. Christine (1983), B
  29. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), B-
  30. Central Intelligence (2016), B+
  31. Contagion (2011), B
  32. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), D
  33. RiffTrax Live: Summer Shorts Beach Party (2017), B+
  34. Resident Evil (2002), D
  35. Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed (2014), B+
  36. Superman Vs. the Elite (2012), A
  37. Superargo and the Faceless Giants (1968), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  38. This Island Earth (1955), B
  39. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), A-
  40. Get Out (2017), A-
  41. Predator (1987), B+
  42. Predator 2 (1990), B+
  43. This is America, Charlie Brown (1988), B
  44. Pollyanna (1960), A-
  45. The Most Dangerous Game (1932), B
  46. Predators (2010), B

Looking ahead to 2017…

We’ve got 12 months of movies ahead of us. Now that we’ve looked back at 2016, let’s see what’s coming out this year that’s got me excited…

  • The LEGO Batman Movie (Feb. 10). The first LEGO Movie was one of the most unexpected gems of the last few years. The trailers for this first spinoff look to be unfettered fun.
  • John Wick Chapter 2 (Feb. 10). Another unexpected hit was the first John Wick movie. I can’t wait for the sequel.
  • Logan (March 3). Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine looks like it’s going to be a much darker, more intense take on the character than we’ve seen before.
  • Kong: Skull Island (March 10). With Legendary planning an MCU-style connection between this and their Godzilla franchise, I’m really looking forward to the new take on King Kong.
  • Beauty and the Beast (March 17). Disney’s rash of live-action remakes of their classic animated films has been hit or miss for me, but Emma Watson as Belle is perfect casting. I’ve got high hopes for this one.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5). After a thrilling, joyful first film, I’m hoping director James Gunn can do the same with this one.
  • Wonder Woman (June 2). It’s almost a crime that it’s taken this long for there to be a live-action Wonder Woman movie. Gal Gadot stole every scene of Batman V Superman, and I can’t wait to see this one.
  • The Mummy (June 9). Universal is hoping to revive its classic monster franchise with (again) an MCU-style shared universe. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7). Marvel and Sony coming to an agreement for Spider-Man is the best thing that could have happened for the character. Tom Holland rocked in Captain America: Civil War, and I’m hoping for more of that in this film.
  • War For the Planet of the Apes (July 14). The first two films in the new Apes franchise were phenomenal — deep, thoughtful films with mesmerizing performances. I feel very good about this next one.
  • Dunkirk (July 21). Christopher Nolan doing a World War I epic. How can you not be excited?
  • The Dark Tower (July 28). Stephen King’s self-proclaimed “Magnum Opus” is a work that has a need personal meaning for me. I want this movie to be great. The casting is spot-on, although the information that’s come out so far leaves me wondering exactly what angle they’re intending to take on the material.
  • It (Sept. 8). Another Stephen King adaptation. Although not as personal to me, it’s still a great book that had an okay TV adaptation. Can any film truly capture the novel?
  • Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3). Although the Thor movies gave the MCU its most charismatic villain, they aren’t quite as memorable as the rest of the franchise. This time out, having Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange along for the ride may finally give us a great Thor movie.
  • Justice League (Nov. 17). I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was a kid, and the promotional materials have looked fantastic. I can’t wait.
  • Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec. 15). Little independent movie. You probably haven’t heard of it.

What I’ve Watched In… November 2016

doctor-strange-poster

Favorite of the Month: Doctor Strange (2016)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Hardcore Henry (2015), B-
  2. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2016), A
  3. The Neon Demon (2015), C
  4. Doctor Strange (1978), C
  5. Time of the Apes (1987), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  6. Thinner (1996), C
  7. A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (2015), A
  8. Doctor Strange (2016), A
  9. Mascots (2016), B
  10. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), B+
  11. Star Trek Beyond (2016), A
  12. Spectre (2015), B-
  13. Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), F
  14. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988), B
  15. Teenage Caveman (1958), D; MST3K Riff, B
  16. My Fair Lady (1964), A
  17. Gunslinger (1956), D; MST3K Riff, B
  18. Fun in Balloon Land (1965), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  19. The Dwarvenaut (2016), C+
  20. The Addams Family (1991), B+
  21. Addams Family Values (1993), A-
  22. I Accuse My Parents (1944), D; MST3K Riff, A
  23. The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), D-; MST3K Riff, B
  24. Young and Beautiful (2013), C
  25. Mouse on the Mayflower (1968), C+
  26. Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989), B+
  27. BC: The First Thanksgiving (1979), C
  28. Intergalactic Thanksgiving (1979) B-
  29. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), A-
  30. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1974), B+
  31. Planes Trains, and Automobiles (1987), A
  32. Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse (2001), B
  33. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999), B+
  34. Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004), B-
  35. Magic Christmas Tree (1964), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
  36. Gaslight (1944), B+
  37. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F; RiffTrax Live Riff, B+

What I Watched In… September 2016

rope

Favorite of the Month: Rope (1948)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. Pit and the Pendulum (1961), C+
  2. Superman (1978), A+
  3. Superman II (1980), B+
  4. Superman III (1983), C
  5. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987), D
  6. Arachnia (2003), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  7. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), A
  8. Blazing Saddles (1974), A
  9. Maggie (2015), B+
  10. Sex in the Comix (2012), B
  11. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), A
  12. Contracted (2013), B-
  13. Contracted: Phase II (2015), C
  14. Coherence (2013), B+
  15. Sabotage (1936), B
  16. Trumbo (2015), B
  17. Deathgasm (2015), D
  18. The Phantom Carriage (1921), B+
  19. Black Swan (2010), A-
  20. Burying the Ex (2014), B
  21. Ex Machina (2015), A
  22. Lilo and Stitch (2002), B
  23. Psycho (1960), A+
  24. Psycho II (1983), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  25. DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year (2016), B
  26. Hitchcock (2012), B+
  27. Horror of Dracula (1958), B
  28. Riding the Bullet (2004), C
  29. Ruby (1977), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  30. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), B+
  31. The Fly (1986), B+
  32. Ghostheads (2016), B
  33. Holidays (2016), B-
  34. Monster House (2006), B
  35. Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006), B+
  36. Wayne’s World (1992), A-
  37. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), F; RiffTrax Live Riff, B+
  38. The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009), C
  39. Murder Party (2007), B
  40. Rope (1948), A
  41. Dreamcatcher (2003), C
  42. Trollhunter (2010), B

What I Watched In… September 2015

Favorite of the month: Black Mass (2015)

Favorite of the month: Black Mass (2015)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Swamp Thing (1982), D+
2. The Maze Runner (2014), B-
3. Clue (1985), A
4. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Attack of the Legion of Doom (2015), B
5. Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (2009), B+
6. The Goonies (1985), A+
7. Mad Max Fury Road (2015), A
8. Incredible Hulk (2008), B
9. Julie and Jack (2003), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
10. White Zombie (1932), B-
11. Phantoms (1998), C
12. Children of the Corn (1984), B-
13. Breeders (1997), D
14. Rollergator (1996), F; RiffTraxRiff, B
15. Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), B+
16. The Babadook (2014), B+
17. Zombeavers (2014), D
18. Horns (2013), B+
19. Black Mass (2015), A-
20. Titanic (1997), B+
21. American Experience: Walt Disney (2015), B+
22. The Iron Giant (1999), A+

What I Watched in… February 2015

Favorite of the Month: Chef (2014)

Favorite of the Month: Chef (2014)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

(For some reason, Februaries always seem to be a low-viewing month for me. I don’t know why.)

1. Headhunters (2011), A-
2. Chef (2014), A
3. A Good Marriage (2014), C+
4. Thor (2011), B+
5. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), B-
6. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Vs. Bizarro League (2015), B
7. Sherlock, Jr. (1924), B+
8. Jim Gaffigan: Beyond the Pale (2006), B

What I watched in… May 2014

Favorite of the month:  X-Men: Days of Future Past

Favorite of the month:
X-Men: Days of Future Past

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A+
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), C
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), A
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), B+
5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940), A
6. The Great Gatsby (1974), A
7. Time Piece (1965), A-
8. The Rescuers (1977), B
9. Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011), B
10. Son of Batman (2014), B
11. +1 (2013), C+
12. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), C-
13. Zeta One (1969), D
14. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), D; MST3K Riff, B
15. A Trip to the Moon (1902), B; RiffTrax Riff, B+
16. Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster (1966), C; MST3K Riff, B
17. Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991), C+
18. Maximum Overdrive (1986), D
19. The Frankenstein Theory (2013), B-
20. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), B
21. Godzilla (2014), B+
22. Dragon Wars: D-War (2007), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
23. Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension (2011), A
24. Dear Mr. Watterson (2014), B+
25. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), B
26. Super Mario Bros. (1993), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
27. The Way, Way Back (2013), A
28. Don Jon (2013), B-
29. The Croods (2013), B+
30. X-Men: First Class (2011), A
31. Sisters of Death (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, A-
32. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), A+
33. The Bermuda Triangle (1978), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
34. Goon (2011), D
35. Stalled (2013), C
36. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), B-
37. Escape From Tomorrow (2013), C
38. Gabriel Iglesias: I’m Not Fat… I’m Fluffy (2009), B-

What I Watched In… June 2013

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

(June being the first month of Summer vacation and me being a teacher, I had a bit more time than in previous months to watch a lot of movies. I usually do. Expect July’s tally to also be extensive.)

  1. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), B
  2. Warriors of the Wasteland (1983), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
  3. Creepshow (1982), B+
  4. Cat’s Eye (1985), B-
  5. Sherlock Holmes (2010 Asylum “Mockbuster”), D
  6. Brainiac (1962), F; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  7. Dark and Stormy Night (2009), A-
  8. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008), B-
  9. Superman: The Last Son of Krypton (1996), B+
  10. Batman/Superman Movie: World’s Finest (1997), A-
  11. Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006), C-
  12. Superman/Doomsday (2007), B
  13. Superman (1948 Serial), B+
  14. Superman and the Mole-Men (1951), B+
  15. Superman Unbound (2013), B
  16. Superman (1978), A+
  17. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006), A
  18. Superman III (1983), C-
  19. Supergirl (1984), C
  20. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987), D-
  21. Superman Returns (2006), B-
  22. Man of Steel (2013), A
  23. Bill Cosby, Himself (1983), A
  24. Carnival of Souls (1962), D; RiffTrax Riff, B
  25. The ABCs of Death (2012), B
  26. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), C
  27. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), C-
  28. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (1993), C-
  29. TMNT (2007), B+
  30. The Shawshank Redemption (1994), A+
  31. The Green Mile (1999), A
  32. Upstream Color (2013), B+
  33. The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005), C+
  34. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), B-
  35. Adventures in Babysitting (1987), B
  36. Clue (1985), B+
  37. The Aristocrats (2005), B
  38. The Princess and the Frog (2009), A
  39. Starship Troopers (1997), B
  40. The Mummy (1999), B+
  41. The Mummy Returns (2001), B
  42. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), C+
  43. The Purge (2013), C
  44. Unforgiven (1992), A
  45. Futurama: Bender’s Big Score (2007), B
  46. Run Lola Run (1998), A-
  47. Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs (2008), B-
  48. Unbreakable (2000), A-
  49. Futurama: Bender’s Game (2008), B-
  50. Wonder Boys (2000), B+
  51. Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (2009), A-
  52. Shrek 2 (2004), B-

Mutants, Monsters, and Madmen Day 31: Misery (1990)

miseryDirector: Rob Reiner

Writer: William Goldman, based on the novel by Stephen King

Cast: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Francis Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall

Plot: Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a novelist feeling weighed down by the success of a series of bodice-rippers featuring the character Misery Chastain. Celebrating a new work, unrelated to Misery, Paul is driving down a remote mountain road in a snowstorm and winds up crashing his car. A woman named Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) finds and rescues him, telling him the phone lines are down and she’s been unable to go for help. She also happens to be a big fan of Misery Chastain. Paul’s legs are severely damaged and he’s unable to walk, but Annie – a nurse – is slowly nursing him back to health. Annie asks if she can read the new book he had in the car with him, to which he graciously agrees. After beginning the book, Annie finds herself uncomfortable with the swearing, and almost spills scalding soup on Paul.

Paul’s agent (Lauren Bacall) has called the local authorities about his disappearance, and the Sheriff (Richard Farnsworth) and his wife (Francis Sternhagen) begin a search. Annie comes in from town with Sheldon’s newly-released Misery’s Child and tells him she spoke to a doctor and his agent, and that an ambulance will be sent for him as soon as the road to the hospital is dug out of the snow. When Annie realizes that Misery dies at the end of the new book, she goes berserk and nearly bashes Paul’s head with a table. Instead, she smashes it against the wall and reveals she lied about calling for help – nobody knows where Paul Sheldon is. She later forces him to burn the only copy of his new novel as a sort of sick penance, then returns with paper and a typewriter, insisting Paul write his “masterpiece”: Misery’s Return. When he requests a different kind of paper – a ruse to make her leave the house – she smashes the box of paper down on his injured legs, but leaves. Alone, Paul explores the house in his wheelchair, finding an unnerving shrine to his work and Annie’s stash of medication. He steals some pills to go along with pills he’s been hiding in his mattress, but is almost caught sneaking around when she returns.

The Sheriff finds Paul’s smashed car, which has been buried under the now-melting snow, and the state police assume he has died, but the Sheriff realizes from the dents on the car door that someone pried him out of the wreck. Back at Annie’s, she forces Paul to start over Misery’s Return, claiming the way he brings her back is a cheat (something she feels particularly angry about, going on a wild tangent about how an old movie serial once cheated her in a similar way). He goes back to work, turning out page after page of Misery’s Return… and getting his hands on a knife. The night before he plans to strike, Annie drugs him and straps him to the bed, revealing she knows he’s been wandering the house and has found his knife. As punishment, she hobbles him, breaking his legs with a sledgehammer. A chance encounter with Annie leads the Sheriff to suspect her, and he comes out to her house; she drugs Paul and dumps him in the cellar. He wakes up and calls for help, and Annie kills the Sheriff. Strangely unaffected, she tells Paul she plans to kill him, then herself, but he manages to delay her by tempting her with the end of Misery’s Return. At the final moment, just before she can read the end of the book, he sets the manuscript on fire and attacks her with the heavy typewriter. The two grapple and, in a bloody standoff, Paul manages to kill her. Eighteen months later, we see him back in New York, with a new novel about to hit. His agent suggests he try a book about his ordeal with Annie, and Paul tries to shrug it off… but he’ll never be rid of her entirely.

Thoughts: This is one of my favorite Stephen King novels and, in fact, is also one of my favorite film adaptations of his work. (To this day I’m not sure if I love the movie because I love the novel or in spite of the fact.) Admittedly, the story hits home for me as a writer. The scene where Annie makes Paul burn his new book (to his way of thinking, the best thing he’s ever written) is more terrifying to me than any legion of slashers, zombies, madmen or monsters you can create. I did find myself screaming at the screen on occasion – “It’s the 1980s, Paul! To hell with superstition! You have the technology to make a copy!”

This is, again, one of those rare instances where the Academy Awards really got it right. Kathy Bates got an Oscar for this movie – to date the only major Oscar a Stephen King adaptation has won, although they’ve been nominated for a few more – and you can tell why from the earliest scenes. She goes from creepy to dangerous slowly, gradually, eventually becoming terrifying in the process. By the time she’s casually sloshing lighter fluid around the bed and insisting Paul burns his book, you’re really starting to fear her. The transformation is remarkable and subtle and really the work of a master thespian, and it’s made even more effective by keeping the core of the character consistent. Even at the very beginning, where she’s gently taking care of him, something about the character just seems off. As that odd “off” feeling slowly takes over her persona, the sort of naïve quality she has at the beginning is never entirely eliminated – no matter how furious she gets, she still speaks in an almost childlike manner, refusing to use profanity and sticking to homespun colloquialisms that you’d expect coming from somebody’s grandmother.

James Caan, meanwhile, plays off Bates perfectly. He comes across as someone who’s a little self-involved, a little narcissistic, and to a degree he can even see his time with Annie as a sort of punishment for that. Even before Annie truly starts to scare him, there’s a level of discomfort he displays that really goes far beyond that of a humble writer who doesn’t know how to deal with a gushing fan. As Annie grows more dangerous, the relationship between the two of them transforms from that of a nurse and patient to a pair of adversaries in a truly lethal chess game. Annie grows to see Paul as hers, as something that belongs to her, and he has to find unexpected wells of ingenuity to get out alive. Perhaps the bravest move Stephen King made in crafting the story, though, is that he never particularly tries to make Paul into a hero. Even by the end, there’s no real undercurrent of nobility to him. Sure, he’s the victim and you sympathize with him (it would be impossible not to sympathize after you see the incredible, impossible angle his foot goes in when she smacks it with that sledgehammer), and you even root for him in those last blood-soaked moments of revenge, but he’s still kind of a jerk.

To a large degree, this is a two-person show (and in fact, in the live action stage version that was produced, only Paul and Annie’s characters are ever seen on-stage). The subplot about the Sheriff’s search for Paul, while included in the book as well as the novel, isn’t really that essential – in fact, the way the Sheriff dies without really affecting the plot reminds me very much of Dick Halloran in The Shining – and it would have been fairly easy to lift the whole thing right out had the screenwriter so desired. But William Goldman is a better writer than that. (If you recognize his name, he’s also responsible for the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and, one of my personal favorites, The Princess Bride.) Goldman knew just how to balance the two to prevent Annie from ever going so far that the audience couldn’t take it. In fact, in the original novel, Annie chops Paul’s legs off instead of just breaking them. In his 1995 book Four Screenplays, Goldman explains that he changed that scene because it would have been too much for the audience to take, that they would never be able to forgive Kathy Bates the Actress as opposed to Annie Wilkes the Character. And y’know, I do believe he was right.

The relationship between Paul and Annie echoes Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in a few key ways. Although Paul isn’t related to Annie and has no allegiance to her, he’s stuck in a wheelchair and cut off from the outside world, leaving himself totally dependent on her for his survival for as long as she remains sane enough to not slice him open like a fish and leave his guts in a steaming pile on the floor. King even picks up a little 1,001 Arabian Nights, with Paul playing Scheherazade, using the finale of Misery’s story to extend his own life.

Annie is a great villain, perhaps the best, most fully-realized one Stephen King has created. Although it strikes me that, for all her lunacy, I don’t know that I think Annie was completely crazy. Those old movie serials did cheat an awful lot.

Tomorrow we move forward in the 90s, as the man who changed horror twice before changes it again. It’s 1996, and Wes Craven brings us Scream.