Hatfields Ring Bag of McCoys Fire Bones

When I was a kid, I loved miniseries. Of course when I was a kid there was no HBO, no VCRs, and you could play any TV series out of order as, other than soap operas, there was no sequential storytelling. How fares the TV miniseries now? Apart from the BBC and Ken Burns (both of whom do miniseries exceedingly well), we have:

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire (2012) – Not Rated

Stemming from a small town, a volcanic eruption triggered by an oil rig ignites a domino effect of eruptions that extends across the world, dooming all of humanity if the devastating string of explosions can’t be stopped.

Ring of Fire isn’t awful. That’s about all I can say for it. They wisely hide their budgetary limitations but shying away from CGI as much as possible. Characters often talk of events that would be shown in a big budget blockbuster. Acting is better than an Asylum movie but not by much.

If they jettisoned a few unnecessary subplots, Ring of Fire would have easily fit in a single movie slot. Also, a note to filmmakers, you don’t have to make your catastrophe global if ALL of the action is local, it comes off very silly. Shaky cam is DEAD, please let it stay that way.

Hatfields & McCoys

Hatfields & McCoys (2012) – TV-14

Close friends Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy return to their neighboring homes after the Civil War — Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy across the river in Kentucky — to building tensions and resentments that soon explode into warfare.”

Hatfields & McCoys is a very good miniseries covering the highlights of the infamous feud. The Hatfields come off as the clear aggressors in the early stages but later the McCoys are unable to put the feud behind them, mostly because they don’t feel as though they’ve gotten even.

The general storyline is fairly factual though the miniseries does up the actual body count during several of the more celebrated incidents. Hatfields & McCoys does succeed at evoking rural life in the late nineteenth century, interfamily relations, and ultimately the pointlessness of the feud.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

Although the miniseries is often the ideal format for Stephen King adaptations (It, The Stand), Bag of Bones does not work very well. It is not a bad miniseries and Pierce Brosnan is always welcome but there is not much here to recommend. Bag of Bones merely hits the highlights of the novel and we never get invested in the characters. It either needed to be three parts or have portions of the story trimmed and altered to make it more cohesive and coherent.

Storage 24 & Bag of Bones

Storage 24 and Bag of Bones are currently available on instant Netflix.

Storage 24Storage 24 (2012) – Rated R

“In this creepy thriller, an emergency power shutdown in London leaves four friends trapped by random circumstances in a cavernous storage facility. Before long, the group realizes that something lethal is inside the darkened warehouse with them.”

I love monster movies and I rarely get any these days. Over the last couple decades, horror movies have moved to make the villains either human or ghostly. The few monsters we get are almost invariably vampires or zombies (not that I mind those but they are overdone).

I’m not having much luck lately. Storage 24 is another not good film. It is a British horror movie and, as such, has a very small budget. The monster isn’t the worst that I’ve seen but they are wise to keep it under wraps for a bit.

Being trapped in a storage facility gives them a chance to use ducts a la Alien albeit at a far cheaper rate. Storage 24 follows fairly standard plot tropes but there are some nice humorous touches, mainly involving a particular toy. The ending, while telegraphed earlier in the film, is also a nice touch.

I think Storage 24 suffers most from coming right after the enormously fun British alien invasion film, Attack the Block. Still there is some fun to be had here if you don’t mind the cheap special effects and silly plot devices.

Bag of Bones

Stephen King’s Bag of Bones (2011) – TV-14

“Reeling from the sudden death of his wife, author Mike Noonan moves into his backwoods writing retreat, only to be swept up in a supernatural conspiracy that involves a custody battle over a young girl and a vengeful ghost that haunts his house.”

I looked forward to catching this as soon as it showed up on Netflix. My wife cannot handle intensely scary material but we have watched most of the Stephen King adaptations together. They satisfy my craving for the supernatural without unduly disturbing her. We began watching this and just a few minutes in, there was something under the bed. My wife screamed and that was the end of Bag of Bones.

Bag of Bones, like the novel, is very heavy on exposition. I think perhaps it needed to be filmed in three parts instead of two as things are very swiftly told in conversation, rather than unfolding over time. You also don’t get a feel for any of the characters except Mike Noonan.

The best I can say about Bag of Bones is that Pierce Brosnan is quite likeable. Annabeth Gish and Melissa George are wasted in throw away roles. Matt Frewer, despite fifth billing on imdb, has what amounts to a cameo appearance.

Watching Bag of Bones is essentially reading the Cliff’s Notes – you’ll get the gist of the story without any idea of what made the novel good. This was a really missed opportunity.

Stephen King’s The Stand

Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) – Not rated

“When a super-flu decimates most — but not all — of the human race, the lonely survivors divide into two civilizations which are destined to clash. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.”

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – Yeats but quoted by Ed Harris in the show

Stephen King’s The Stand runs for six hours and still feels a little rushed in the storytelling department. I have no idea how they originally planned to make it into just a movie. It is also currently being thought of for a reboot because apparently American memories were wiped during Y2K. That said be aware that this is a long haul (albeit with a good payoff).

Mick Garris has made a good living from Stephen King. He directed 1992’s trashy but fun Sleepwalkers and somehow became the go-to guy for Stephen King adaptations. Perhaps this is because he is one of the few directors to have actually read the books but that is just speculation on my part. After The Stand, Mick would go on to direct The Shining mini-series, Quicksilver Highway (which adapts King’s “Chattery Teeth”), Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and the just aired Bag of Bones. He also wrote the screenplays for Quicksilver Highway and Riding the Bullet.

Stephen King wrote the screenplay based on his own magnum opus so this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the novel. He does an excellent job of juggling a huge and disparate cast of characters. King can’t resist appearing in his films and here he plays Teddy Weizak in the last two episodes.

Gary Sinise is fantastic as Stu “Country don’t mean dumb” Redman. Also excellent are Ray Walston (Glen Bateman), Ossie Davis (Judge Farris) and Ruby Dee as Mother Abigail. They are ably backed by Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan and a host of others. Regrettably a few of the actors are not so good, either too over-the-top (Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man, Rick Aviles as Rat Man) or just plain off the wall (Laura san Giacomo’s Nadine is not exactly a model of sanity so I suppose I should cut her some slack).

The episodes break down into fairly neat story arcs. The first episode is the best movie/TV depiction I’ve seen of an apocalyptic outbreak (until this year’s Contagion anyway). The second episode is all about the journeys of various characters after the apocalyptic events. The third episode is about community and the fourth is all about faith. It doesn’t break down perfectly but pretty close.

People Watch: Look for Ed Harris and Kathy Bates in uncredited cameos as a General and radio jock respectively. Yes that is former NBA superstar Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the doomsayer. The cane used by a character in the fourth episode is the same cane from Storm of the Century.