Red Balloons (It, 1990)

It_1990_posterStephen Kings has had many stories brought to the screen with varying success.  In 1990 he had a good year.  We saw the release of Misery and the birth of the “Stephen King Mini-Series Event” on ABC.

The film begins with a young girl being attacked and killed.  We the audience, of course, know it is Pennywise…but while the police are doing their work, Mike Hanlon, Local Librarian, shows up.  He finds a picture from his past, and he knows it is time to bring all his friends back home to make good on a promise.

As Mike calls each friend, they seem almost confused as to who Mike is, but we get treated to extended flashbacks to their childhoods thirty years prior.

The kids discovered an evil that feed in the town every thirty years.  They believed they were able to defeat the creature, but promised to return home if the creature ever came back.  And now that it has, the now grown group of friends return to Derry to try and destroy it forever.  Of course, Pennywise tries to prey on their fears and use as many tricks to stop them as he can.  but they refuse to back down and run away.

The cast is pretty solid.  John Ritter is Ben, former fat kid  Ben who is now a hard drinking and partying architect.  Annette O’Toole is grown up Bev who married a man as abusive as her father.  Harry Anderson is a little over the top hamming it up as comedian Richie Tozier (young Ritchie is played by Seth Green).  Really, the whole cast is pretty good.

Of course, what really make the mini-series memorable is the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise.  It is a highly memorable turn and a highlight of Curry’s career.

Veteran horror director Tommy Lee Wallace does pretty good with his budget.  He makes sure to focus on the skills of his stars to sell the intensity of moments.  And that is a good thing.  Why?

Probably the biggest sore spot for It is it’s visual effects.  Some are good low budget effects.  And you do not forget look of Pennywise.  But the creature design for the final battle of the film is…uh,..  disappointing.

It is a bit more successful than many of the film adaptions of King’s horror work because it has room to breathe.  It is carried more by it’s performances than anything else.  And while some of it can feel almost hokey today, it still is a fun watch.

Cut Rate Superman (Superman III, 1983)

superman-3-posterSuperman three came three years after Superman II, riding high on it’s success, but behind the scenes things looked bleak.  There was a divide between some of the cast and the Salkinds over how they had treated Richard Donner.  Kidder was not really feeling up to participating.  To address this, Perry sends her off to the tropics, while sending Clark to do a story in Smallville at his High School Reunion.

Rally, this seems like a plausible idea.  There is a rich cast of characters to draw from.  And they draw from Clark’s past with introducing Lana Lang, played by Annette O’Toole (who was later brought on Smallville to play Martha Kent).  O’Toole makes a fetching Lana Lang.

The other big addition to the cast was computer genius Gus Gorman.  Played by comedy legend Richard Pryor, he gets a lot of blame from folks for this film.  He plays his traditional nervous twitchy type of character.  Except, I have a hard time pinning this on Pryor.  Richard joked to Johnny Carson about wanting to be in a Superman movie.  He felt the script was terrible…but the five million dollar paycheck was to good to pass up.  Gorman is a computer super-genius who starts working for Ross Webster’s company.  He writes a program that pays him fractions of cents that the company loses daily due to mathematical rounding up of numbers.  He makes millions and is brought to the attention of Webster (played by Robert Vaughn).  Webster and his sister Vera are schemers and want to take over the world.  Ross also has his own Miss Tessmacher, Lorelei (Pamela Stephenson).  Her primary purpose is some impressive cleavage.  They use Gus to create a supercomputer and also work to get Superman out of the way.  They manufacture Krytonite and use tar in place of an ingredient they cannot fine.  The result is that Superman goes dark.  He starts causing damage, being means, getting drunk.  And then he fights Clark Kent in a junk yard.  This is without a doubt the high point of the entire film.

Webster is like a second hand version of Lex Luthor, and the character has for less weight.  You can see the giant hole left by not having Lex Luthor or a larger scale villain (such as Braniac, one character they thought about using in Superman III).

The smaller character moments are okay, like when Clark sees Lana’s son being bullied in a bowling alley and sneezes to shoot her son’s bowling ball into the pins.  But for the most part, the film falls flat.  It is not a very good film and Reeve swore off the role of Superman.

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