Misery – More movies from the King

Misery (1990) – Rated R

“Former nurse Annie Wilkes saves her idol, romance novelist Paul Sheldon, after he crashes his car during a blizzard. But when she learns he plans to kill off her heroine in his next volume, Annie morphs from nurturing caregiver to sadistic jailer.”

“And don’t even think about anybody coming for you. Not the doctors, not your agent, not your family. Cause I never called them. Nobody knows you’re here. And you better hope nothing happens to me. Because if I die… you die. “

If you have not seen this, Kathy Bates is absolutely fantastic. How good is she? She played a psychopath so convincingly (and wincingly – you know the scene I mean) that she beat out Meryl Streep for an Oscar. Interestingly Anjelica Huston was originally offered the role but had to turn it down because she was working on The Grifters. Huston was nominated for an Oscar for her work in that film but lost to Bates.

This is not to say that the other performances are bad. It is wonderful to see Lauren Bacall in any movie even if this amounts to little more than a cameo. Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen do quite a bit with their limited roles and are always a pleasure. James Caan does quite well as Paul Sheldon, our Stephen King substitute. Caan is overshadowed by Bates in almost every scene but is great as a foil.

As with his previous adaptation of a Stephen King story (Stand by Me), director Rob Reiner shows that he knows that what makes King stories work are the characters. William Goldman, hot off his collaboration with Reiner on The Princess Bride, does an excellent job of adapting King’s novel.

If you have already seen this film then watch it again knowing that King wrote this as a metaphor for his battle with substance abuse. There is a key scene in the film that is toned down from the book and yet the toning down makes it seem all the more gruesome – much like not seeing Frankenstein’s monster toss the little girl in the lake is actually scarier.

People Watch: Look for Rob Reiner as a helicopter pilot and J.T. Walsh as State Trooper Sherman Douglas in uncredited cameos.

Outland – Help! We are Surrounded week

This is Help! We are Surrounded week. Outland is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Outland (1981) – Rated R.

“Director Peter Hyams transplants High Noon to outer space in this sci-fi thriller starring Sean Connery as William ONiel, a cosmic lawman on a Jupiter moon outpost who conducts an inquiry after three miners go mad and die in rapid succession. But his probe does not sit well with the mine manager (Peter Boyle), who is boosting worker productivity through dangerous drugs … and he promptly dispatches a pair of thugs to get rid of ONiel.”

“Such a smart piece of equipment, and a wreck like me trying to run it.”

Obviously no discussion of Outland can start without pointing out that it is High Noon set in space. Well High Noon is certainly a good template for a movie and it works well here.

Peter Hyams both wrote and directed this movie. In a very interesting move that pays off, although the movie is science fiction, Hyams keeps it grounded in reality. There are no ray guns, aliens, or even incredible technology. The whole story takes place on a mining station and the actors, when needed, wear bulky spacesuits.

This grounding without flashiness allows this to be more of a character-driven drama than an action film. There are good action pieces here along with many demonstrations of what happens when a person is exposed to space but primarily this is a showcase for the actors.

Sean Connery overwhelms with charisma here and puts in a highly watchable performance. This is easily one of his best post-Bond roles. Peter Boyle plays the slimy boss of the mining operation. He is good but put in better performances in Joe and Young Frankenstein.

Wonderful character actor Frances Sternhagen actually gets the female lead here and steals many a scene from Connery. This is my favorite Sternhagen performance. It is a real credit to the screenplay that her doctor character could have been a man without there being much of a difference to the story.

Outland was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound. It used the extremely short-lived Megasound system, yet still another attempt at boosting the movie experience through improved surround sound. The Oscar went to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Outland does owe a bit to Alien. Part of the genius of Alien was that it showed that eventually regular Joes and Janes would be traveling in space. Primarily Outland is a mining operation – secondarily it is in space. Even the poster riffs on Alien, “Even in space, the ultimate enemy is man”. The art and set design is also reminiscent of Alien.

I recommend this intriguing blend of mystery, western, and science fiction, mostly for the performances of Frances Sternhagen and Sean Connery.

Trivia: The evil corporation here, Con-Amalgamated, also features in Peter Hyams Capricorn One.

People Watch: John Ratzenberger plays Tarlow here. His most famous role is of course Cliff in Cheers but did you realize that Frances Sternhagen plays his mom in Cheers?