Back in the Saddle, The Mist and Beowulf

Good to be back on the web. I hope the festivities treated you and yours well. We had a very nice holiday with friends. Lots of pictures upcoming on the website.

Beowulf was pretty good. I think Zemeckis and his gang of engineers (how many could that have been? man...) did a nice job with the animations. The characters' eyes were expressive, their mannerisms believable enough not to become a distraction. And the third act was truly exciting--a solid climax for an interesting film. Strangely, I found myself sympathizing with Grendel and I would have enjoyed looking at it in 3-D. The fly-away shot of the Danish partying in the mead-house and agitating Grendel was a beauty that I think would have been nice with the 3-D. Solid story (though a thorough deviation from the epic verse), neat animations and a tortured protagonist with a classic character flaw warrant a B for this sucker. That said, I hope this remains a novelty and never the norm.

Stephen King's The Mist was pretty good. Critics have been utterly fractured in their view of the film, and I fall somewhere in between. Made for a song (Frank Darabont said he did it for "seventeen and change") and rushed to production, the film had only a few slow spots. "The Mist" is one of the finest novellas I've read. It stands as one of King's finest creep-out pieces, and the film version was a little more politicized (a flaw) than the story. It skewers the military-industrial complex, fanatical religion (the crowd clapped wildly at one very pivotal point in the film when the "prophet" gets her just deserts) and the racist machinery of small-town America (tired, tired topic).

But the tone of the cooped-up survivors is well established. It oscillates between misery and hope--bravado and cowardice. The effects are fine, including one stunning scene when the survivors are on the road and get passed by an eight-legged beast that makes a brontosaurus look like a pet dog.

And the conclusion? Hoo-wee! It's been a long time since I've seen such a bummer of a final act. I didn't believe it at first. I sort of still don't. I can't wait to hear from those of you that saw that sucker to hear what you thought. Frank Darabont made it on the cheap to gain creative control and man, he sure used it.

Tomorrow we'll discuss The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. And lots has happened in the last week, so when we get back to chatting about the world of publishing and books we'll get caught up.

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