ABC Film Challenge – Horror – N – Needful Things (1993) Movie Review

Director: Fraser C Heston

Writer: W.D. Richter (Screenplay) Stephen King (Book)

Starring: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer, J.T. Walsh, Ray McKinnon, Duncan Fraser, Valri Bromfield, Shane Meier

Plot: A mysterious new shop opens in a small town which always seems to stock the deepest desires of each shopper, with a price far heavier than expected.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: One of King’s Most Interesting Stories

Story: Needful Things starts when Leland Gaunt (von Sydow) opens up an antique shop in the small town of Castle Rock, the shop known as Needful Things, see the locals visit, with them getting an unusually attachment to certain items in the shop, items that are clearly meant for each individual person, one that strikes a memory.

As the town starts flocking to the shop, it becomes clear that Leland has alternate plans for the town, with Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Harris) needing to investigate a new increase amount of small crimes, which slowly start to build in seriousness before the town turns to chaos.

Thoughts on Needful Things

Characters – Leland Gaunt is the mysterious shopkeeper that arrives to Castle Rock, his shop has everything the people of the town want and he knows everything about everyone in the town. He trades their desires for favours, which mostly involve going against people in the town, he knows how to remain calm through the conversations, knowing just what they want to hear. Sheriff Alan Pangborn left the big city for a quiet life, he is enjoying his life in the town, with his new fiancée, until the crime levels start to rise, which sees him going from dealing with cats in trees, to murders, can he stop the power Leland has over the town before it is too late. Polly is Alan’s fiancée, she runs the local diner opposite the new shop, she doesn’t run in like some of the other residents, which sees her witnessing the changes from the locals. Nettie is a shy former abuse victim that becomes one of the first customers of the shop, showing how easily people can like what he is willing to offer. We do get a string of people that start to get caught in his ideas.

PerformancesMax von Sydow is wonderful to watch in this film, he gives the character the mystery and charisma he needs to seem like a friendly person. Ed Harris is always good to watch, here he does the small town cop routine with ease, playing a good man who must help his people. Bennie Bedelia is strong without getting enough important early scenes to make us understand how disturbed her character’s life is.

StoryThe story here follows a small town that gets a new visitor in a shopkeeper that soon starts giving the locals everything they ever wanted, for a price, which sees the town turn to chaos and the sheriff needing to solve the problem before it is too late. This is one of the most interesting of the Stephen King stories, it looks at human desires taking control over our own sanity, how one town can be turned upside down by the ideas of what could be ours, rather than giving us what we need. The story is shown to unfold at a delightful pace because it shows how the deals are put in place with each deal, slowly starting to growing from disruptive behaviour right up to murder. The story does rely on the idea of town working together to prove themselves.

Fantasy/HorrorThe fantasy side of the film shows just how Leland can bring about whatever the person in the town wants, he can make the impossible, possible, which only plays into the horrors of just what he can do to this world, when people get everything they ever wanted.

SettingsThe film is set in the small town of Castle Rock, this is one location where everybody knows each other, which is one of the trademarks for any Stephen King novel.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are very simple, they do play into the idea of fantasy elements, when we see just what will happen with the power given to the people.

Scene of the Movie – He is a monster.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It does feel like it could have gone a lot darker.

Final Thoughts This is easily one of the more underrated of Stephen King’s adaptions, it gives us a perfect moral dilemma and keeps everything feel a lot more grounded for a horror one.

Overall: Entertaining throughout.

The Trial (1993) Movie Review

Director: David Hugh Jones

Writer: Harold Pinter (Screenplay) Franz Kafka (Novel)

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Anthony Hopkins, Jason Robards, Juliet Stevenson, Polly Walker, Alfred Molina, David Thewlis

Plot: Joseph K. (Kyle MacLachlan) awakens one morning, to find two strange men in his room, telling him he has been arrested. Joseph is not told, with what he is charged, and despite being “arrested”, is allowed to remain free and go to work. But, despite the strange nature of his arrest, Joseph soon learns that his trial, however odd, is very real, and tries desperately to spare himself from the court’s judgement.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Just Confusingly Bad

Story: The Trial starts when Josef (MacLachlan) wakes to find two police officers Franz (Thewlis) and Block (Kitchen) waiting for him, telling him of his arrest, only to let him continue with his day, as they wait for their inspector to call for him to be taken to the station, they don’t announce what he is being charged with, leading to Josef being left wondering just what he is wanted for.

As Josef starts trying to learn about the case, he only learns just how unusual everything about the case is, nothing is playing out like it should do for any other criminal case and he must find a way to prove his innocence.

Thoughts on The Trial

Characters – Josef is the bank clerk that is being arrested and sent straight to trial for something he doesn’t know he has done wrong, he tries to handle everything with his intelligence only to learn that not all the people involved know what is going on. He looks completely lost through most of the events in the film. The Priest is the man Josef turns to for answers. Doctor Hudd is trying to figure out what is wrong with Josef and whether he can be fixed before the trial. This film does have a string a colourful characters that leave everything feeling more confusing that piecing anything together.

PerformancesKyle MacLachlan in the leading role tries to carry this film the best he can, because of the overly confusing storyline, it is hard to get the best out of any of the actors, with everyone in the supporting roles doing all they can and Anthony Hopkins barely getting any screen time.

StoryThe story here follows a man that has been accused of a crime and is getting ready for his trial, only not everything is quite as it seems. Now this is a story that is completely difficult to understand, it seems to be poking fun at the culture that is quick to accuse somebody without them having actually committed a crime or even having an investigation about them. If this isn’t the case, it is even more confusing to watch because very little seems to make any sense otherwise, which does make the story feel very weak all around.

ThrillerThis is meant to be a story that is sold on the idea of a trial, which on paper should be thrilling and interesting, this isn’t what we get and nothing much really happens.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to spin what we would be expecting for the most part, this only adds to the confusing in the film.

Scene of the Movie – The first arrest.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The overly confusing nature of everything else.

Final Thoughts This is a way to confusing film that is poorly advertised, it does try to turn what you are expecting on its head, only to leave us left wondering why things changed.

Overall: Too messy.

Alive (1993) Movie Review

Director: Frank Marshall

Writer: John Patrick Shanley (Screenplay) Piers Paul Read (Book)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton, Bruce Ramsay, John Newton, David Kriegel, Kevin Breznahan

Plot: A Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash.

Tagline – They survived the impossible…by doing the unthinkable.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant Survival Story

Story: Alive starts when the plane crashes in the Andes, the surviving passengers, including Nando Parrado (Hawke), Antonio Balbi (Spano), Robert Canessa (Hamilton) and Carlitos Paez (Ramsay) look to help keep people calm and deal with injuries as they look to plan for rescue.

Antonio does take control of trying to keep the survivors alive, which includes making sure the food and drink lasts until rescue and people could survive the freezing nights, at this time, 26 people made it through the first night. As the time starts passing by, the realization that they are not being looked for sets in, which sees them having to make a drastic decision in their attempts to survive.

Thoughts on Alive

Characters – Nando is one of the few survivors that wasn’t awake after the crash, once awake, he starts to help with the survival attempts and is one of the few that pushes through the idea of needing to eat the dead to survive. Antonio is the captain of the rugby team and takes the leadership position, trying to keep everyone calm and alive for as long as possible, planning on making sure the food supply and other essentials is being supplied for the survivors. Roberto and Carlitos help with the medical problems after the crash, proving to understand how to survive the injuries they have received. These men and women are based on the real survivors of the accident, not everyone made it out alive and going into character details, might seem unfair to the people.

PerformancesEthan Hawke and Vincent Spano are both excellent in their roles in the film, they do show both sides of survivors as well as understanding how important they both are meant to be. The whole cast is great, showing how difficult it was to survive and instead of just turning to the accents, they keep it looking like an American version of the film, with the Uruguayan names

StoryThe story here follows the true story of the survival of members of the Uruguayan rugby team and other passengers of a plane crash in the Anders mountain range, which sees how they must survive over a 2-month period, while they are waiting for rescue. This is a truly amazing story of survival, it showed us just how difficult each day would be for the survivors and shows us how they faced a horrible decision, but one that saved their lives. It is one that does rely on how people did do anything to survive and how we wouldn’t be telling this story if some of the people hadn’t survived.

Adventure/BiopicThe adventure side of this story follows the survivors as they plan on surviving until rescue, which does play into the biopic side of the story, because this event did change the lives of the survivors.

SettingsThe film is set in the Andes mountain range, it shows the cold conditions, the fact they can’t just walk away from this location along with the brutal plane crash to start the events off.

Scene of the Movie – The crash is a brutal and honest watch.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – They all seem so perfectly shaved considering they are here for 2 months.

Final Thoughts This is an amazing story of survival, one that couldn’t even be written by a writer, it shows the impossible and has wonderful performance from the whole cast.

Overall: Must watch survival story.

The Pelican Brief (1993)

Director: Alan J Pakula

Writer: Alan J Pakula (Screenplay) John Grisham (Book)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, John Lithgow


Plot: A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger.

Tagline – Two Supreme Court Justices have been assassinated. One lone law student has stumbled upon the truth. An investigative journalist wants her story. Everybody else wants her dead.

Runtime: 2 Hours 21 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Tense Political Thriller


Story: The Pelican Brief starts when two Supreme Court Justices are assassinated, bring the country to a stand still in shock. Law student Darby Shaw (Roberts) puts together a theory of who was behind the assassinations, which she presents to her boyfriend and professor Thomas (Shepard), one theory that has turned his head.

After the theory is presented to the people investigating, Darby and Tom start getting targeted, when journalist friend of one of the victims Gray Grantham (Washington) start investigating a bigger conspiracy going on within the government, one that will put both their lives in danger.


Thoughts on The Pelican Brief


Characters – Darby is a law student having an affair with her professor, after the assassinations, she comes up with a theory about who was behind them, which sees her become a target for the people behind it, she doesn’t know who to trust seeing anybody she does get killed, her last resort is Gray. Gray is a journalist that has worked with the victims in the past, he is willing to dig for the truth, he does become Darby’s last resort and works with her to expose the truth which will become the biggest story of his career. Thomas Callahan is the connection between Darby and the people involved, he is a professor, with her theory interesting him at his own risk. We do go through many different political figures in search for the truth here, each one has their own agenda and could be involved.

PerformancesJulia Roberts in the leading role is strong as she gives us a strong independent figure that has been running for her life trying to expose the truth. Denzel Washington was a growing star at the time of release, here he makes us believe that he is a star in the role which is filled with the determination and skill to start ahead of the game. The rest of the cast are all strong with them each getting the moments to shine with them all having the importance to the story.

StoryThe story follows a law student and journalist that must team up to investigate the assassinations of the two members of the supreme court that puts both their lives in danger as it could bring the political system down. This story does give us plenty of swerves along the way as it does keep us guessing just to where everything will be going, it does show us how a political system will be used to gain an advantage and can be used to cover up anything that will incriminate them. The idea of the cover up shows just how corruption can effect so many lives and is ready to be exposed.

Crime/MysteryThe crime side of the film shows just how the laws can be bent to help the people who want to make the most money, how much they will do to cover up their secrets and how corrupt they will become. The mystery side of the film show just how the corruption needs to be investigated, how far up the chain it could go too.

SettingsThe film is set in a couple of major cities in America Washington and New York mostly, which show just how the big companies will use the political power to make the most money.

Scene of the Movie –
The video.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is too long, with too many characters at times.

Final ThoughtsThis is a political thriller that does keep you guessing, it shows how far up the chain corruption can go and how covering it up can be the only option.


Overall: Political thriller 101




ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – T – Tombstone (1993)

Director: George P Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre

Writer: Kevin Jarre (Screenplay)

Starring: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston


Plot: A successful lawman’s plans to retire anonymously in Tombstone, Arizona, are disrupted by the kind of outlaws he was famous for eliminating.

Tagline – Justice Is Coming

Runtime: 2 Hours 10 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Not as Good as Wyatt Earp


Story: Tombstone starts when the successful lawman Wyatt Earp (Russell) has hung up his gun moved with his brothers Virgil (Elliott) and Morgan (Paxton) to Tombstone to follow in the silver boom. Wyatt does get his hands in plenty of pots, helping the town turn to their successful ways.

When the Marshall is killed by the cowboys the mayor turns to the Earp’s with Virgil and Morgan try to bring order to the town Wyatt reluctantly agrees to join them, which will see them come face to face with the deadly cowboy gang who want control of the town.


Thoughts on Tombstone


Characters – Wyatt Earp’s reputation precedes him as he cleaned up the town of Boulder, now he wants to put his gun away and head to Tombstone to start a business life with his brothers, he knows how the get a deal done, which will see him need to get rid of the cowboy gang running through the town causing chaos. Doc Holliday is the gambler that will and has stood by Wyatt’s side in combat, he will drink a lot even if he does face health problem that will slowly make his life harder. Virgil and Morgan are the brothers that take the roles in the law enforcement which will see them put their own lives at risk.

PerformancesKurt Russell does do a solid job in the leading role, the action scenes are where he shines the best. Val Kilmer does well making his character feel like he is standing out more in the film at times. We do get plenty of actors in this film, most do what is needed without being on the top of their games.

StoryThe story follows Wyatt Earp in his time in Tombstone only which does show how he was trying to live a non-conflict life only to be drawn back into the old ways which saw him become the legendary lawman. The story is difficult to watch after recently seeing the ‘Wyatt Earp’ film, which does cover a larger amount of his life, including the Tombstone time, we just don’t seem to get enough focus on the life outside of the battle in the town, which fails to give the wives required screen time in the story or show us what led to Wyatt becoming the famous lawman. This will give us the simple look at the battle with the cowboys which is good to see, but we would always want to learn more about the character involved.

Action/BiopicThe action in the film does see bullets fly around like we are used to, for a western, the biopic side of the film only shows us the Tombstone stage of Wyatt’s life which does focus more, only it doesn’t explain why he is such a famous figure.

SettingsThe film does create the authentic setting for the western genre, which is does make us feel like we are watching the story unfold with the characters.

Scene of the Movie –
Stand off.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not learning enough about Wyatt’s life before Tombstone.

Final ThoughtsThis is the weaker of the two Wyatt Earp biopics that hit the cinema in the same year, it might have more entertaining action, but it just misses too much of his life out.


Overall: Disappointing biopic.