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Loves Music, Loves to Dance (2001)
Good book, bad movie
I was honestly surprised someone said Loves Music Loves to Dance was one of Clarke's weaker novels. I thought it was one of her best. The who done it cliffhanger was executed to perfection, there are plenty enough curveballs thrown to keep you guessing. The characters are much more believable and compelling.
However, this movie was far inferior. Key characters who made the plot much more interesting were left out, most notably a couple of men who could have easily been the killer themselves, along with the man who it actually turns out to be. Its not nearly as obvious who the killer is in the book. Even many of the characters who were included were changed from the novel, sometimes in unappealing ways. Even the villain himself is far more compelling and far more dangerous in the novel.
I won't go into all the differences between the novel and the movie, there is no room or time. But don't let this third rate film discourage you from reading the book if you haven't. Its much better. Pass the film up.
All of Clarke's books with the possible exception of While My Pretty One Sleeps were done poorly on the screen. Its ashame because I feel all of them could have been good box office films in competent hands, including Loves Music Loves To Dance. I would like to see them redone someday by more competent directors and screenwriters. Doubt it though.
The Shining (1997)
Excellent story and underrated cinematography
In my view this is the superior version of the Shining, not just because its closer to the book but because its a better overall and more compelling story than the Kubrick version. I really think the best way to do this review and let people know what to expect is to address a couple of the complaints with it: First of all many people complain about Steven Weber being to nice to be the villain, they totally miss the point, because the Overlook Hotel, not Jack Torrance, is the true villain of the story. If the final ten minutes or so doesn't convince you of that, then I don't know what would.
Second of all, the people that stated that they almost hoped Danny would get caught in this movie, to me that's a reflection on our society just becoming darker and more brutal. When did we enter a state where anything sweet and innocent is irritating? Whats the matter with people? Last of all, they complain about the CGI too. Truthfully this is such a small part of the story I didn't even deem it relevant. I mean, seems to me those who say this is just a watered down story just don't even perceive the deeper more emotional elements. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is a flawless adaptation, or that I dislike the Kubrick version I don't. But I fail to see whats so deep about it, to me a flawed but overall nice and loving family being beset by an evil hotel makes for a more compelling story than a dysfunctional family of weirdos having their problems merely enhanced by the evil hotel.
Comanche Moon (2008)
Compared to what it could have been, paltry
Comanche Moon may have been one of the most anticipated films ever for me, as well as the most anticipated stories. When you think about it, this novel and movie should have been amazing. Call, Augustus, Deets, Jake, and Pea Eye all in their prime, the West still even more wild than Lonesome Dove, young Blue Duck, not to mention the great warriors Buffalo Hump and Kicking Wolf whose characters were built up greatly in Dead Man's Walk. With a setting like this how could it miss? If this had been done right it could have easily outshone even the original Lonesome Dove, the setup was just that good.
But it was mostly a disappointment. It was way to rushed, did not truly recapture the characters we came to love so much in Lonesome Dove, was inconsistent in many ways from the history outlined in Lonesome Dove, and strayed away from the original characters to much. It was almost like an unfeeling and unemotional documentary of the lives of Gus and Call prior to Lonesome Dove, and an inconsistent one at that. I'm not going to go into to much detail about how it failed to truly establish and develop the characters to being what we knew and loved in Lonesome Dove, but it will be obvious as you watch it. Overall, Zahn and Urban probably did the best jobs of playing Call and McCrae since Duvall and Jones, but the problem was far more with the source material. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible, but it fell well short of what it could been. You almost get the sense McMurtry was trying to just get this over with, and as a result did a great story a terrible injustice.
A Time to Kill (1996)
Over the top and mostly unrealistic for the times
First of all I want to say I've seen a number of good films which are great illustrations of racial injustice, and that I was moved by. It is without a doubt a stain on the history of our nation. However, this wasn't one of them. I think its entirely over the top for the times that it was set in. To me it promotes racial division rather than harmony, as well as vigilante justice. I can't envision any prosecutor in the 1990's seeking the gas chamber and first degree murder charges against Carl Lee, nor the reprehensible acts of the two lowlifes who raped his daughter to spark the rebirth of a KKK to defend them or want to avenge their deaths. Yes there will always be idiot racists and lunatic fringe groups, but the fabric of society in this movie would have been a lot more believable had it been set in the 60's. Matthew McConaughey overacted and like many of the others seemed afflicted with a case of sort of over the top white guilt, Sandra Bullock's character was completely pointless and just seemed to be forced into the movie for eye candy purposes, Samuel L Jackson was good portraying a sympathetic character....... but overall it was more everyone's response to the situation that derailed this movie and made it an overdone and overdramatized picture of race relations in 1990's America.
Carolina Skeletons (1991)
I agree with the other person's review that this would have done well at the box office and on the big screen. Its a shame that it was not. Its dark and disturbing, but very entertaining. The opening scene is a flashback scene thirty years before most of the movie took place, and its one of the most chilling and dramatic I ever saw. Witnessing one of the most heinous acts that could take place on planet Earth gets you into the movie from the start, a mysterious figure comes and destroys three young lives and shatters innocence. Lou Gossett Jr is in great form here, and his character's quest for the truth has all the classic entertainment of the who done it type mystery, brilliantly enhanced by the chilling opening scene. Not only that but it also instills empathy in the audience for the woes faced by the black community in the early years of the civil rights movement. In my humble opinion much more so than a film like A Time To Kill, which to me was entirely over the top. This is a superior film and much more realistic set in a time when this stain on American society was much more real and not the exaggerated exploitation it is today. Bruce Dern does his usual competent job in support, as does the rest of the cast. A must watch for anyone in any walk of life.
Return to Lonesome Dove (1993)
Look past the controversy and see a great mini series
When you get right down to it, could a mini series really have worse circumstances surrounding it and carry the burdens Return to Lonesome Dove does? Not only is it a sequel to a timeless classic like Lonesome Dove thus having a hard act like that to follow, but its also not written by the original author and is disliked by the original author to boot. That's a tall order for any story.
But amazingly, Return to Lonesome Dove is up to that challenge. That is if you look past all the controversy and the fact that its not written by McMurtry, if you do you will see a very rich and entertaining mini series. It stays true to McMurtry's characters, Captain Call, Clara Allen, and Pea Eye are all the same. Newt's growth as a character evolves nicely and believably for a young man growing up on his own. The new characters are compelling and believable and they interact seamlessly with the familiar ones from Lonesome Dove. The storyline itself is believable and riveting as well. Its not Lonesome Dove, but its well worth watching and a worthy successor.
Its a great pity that McMurtry denounced this movie as being non canon, for in my humble opinion it is superior to his own sequel offering of Streets of Laredo, a book that was depressing almost to the point of being unreadable. Don't get me wrong, I'll always be grateful to McMurtry for Lonesome Dove and have the utmost respect for him, great author, but he does the fans of his story something of a disservice by denouncing the sequel mini series. I suggest overlooking him just this once. You will miss out on another great story if you don't.