I don’t know why, but over the years, the best films based on the works of Stephen King have been those based on material that didn’t fit into the stereotypical mold of the horror-meister, like Stand by Me, Misery and David Cronenerg’s adaptation of The Dead Zone. The straight spook-and-slash flicks have been cranked out by hacks who lean entirely on the gooey red stuff and toss King’s characterization and texture over the side. On the other end of the spectrum was Stanley Kubrick’s arid interpretation of The Shining, where the director’s distance from the material could be measured in light-years.
Contact is a nobly intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying adaptation of Carl Sagan’s only novel. It details the circumstances surrounding the first clear sign of intelligent life in outer space and their effects on the life of a young and idealistic radio astronomer named Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster).
Anyone who pops in their DVD of Robert Altman‘s movie adaptation of Richard Hooker‘s novel expecting to see a two-hour version of the TV show is in for a rude shock. The long-running series starring Alan Alda is related to this movie only by title, character names and setting. Stylistically, they are very different animals altogether.
The CBS sitcom, for its groundbreaking subject matter, is still a traditional “workplace” comedy at heart, very much in the tradition of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The TV Frank Burns has far more in common with Ted Baxter than with the religious fanatic portrayed by Robert Duvall in the movie.
The movie version is a choatic, anarchic and hilarious celebration of insanity as an antidote for insanity. Continue reading →