Movie Review: The Stand (2020-2021 Miniseries)

Title: The Stand (2020-2021 Ministeries)
Producer: ABC
Godfrey's Rating: 1 star
Starring: James Marsden, Owen Teague, Henry Zaga, Jovan Adepo
Summary in a Sentence: A modern take on Stephen King's classic apocalyptic/post apocalyptic novel about a superflu, that ends up being a disjointed mess of continuous flashbacks and characters recast as different genders and races ... because 2021?

Stephen King's novel, The Stand, has for some time been one of my favourite novels. It tells not just the story of the disintegration of society over the course of a "super flu" that wipes out 99% of the world's population in a matter of weeks, but also tells a compelling story of good versus evil as two groups of survivors coalesce around two powerful figures.

There was a solid made-for-TV miniseries produced in 1994 starring Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe which, notwithstanding the low production values of made-for-TV shows in that time period was very good, with excellent acting and remaining very true to not just the letter but the spirit of the novel. I had heard good things about the 2020 remake and it was with some excitement that I noticed it available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

I watched two episodes and then skimmed another two before finally giving up. The production value is great, and I think that re-situating the story in modern times (versus the late 80s/early 90s) was fitting and well-executed. Some of the acting/casting was very good ... I thought Gary Sinise could never be replaced as Stu Redman, but James Marsden actually pulled it off. The problem is the manner that the story is presented -- I suppose they did this to try to be "fresh" and "new" but decided to tell the story as a series of flashbacks that jump around between right before the super flu, to shortly after. The "current time" appears to be after all of the "good" people have gathered in Boulder Colorado. As someone very familiar with the novel I could barely follow what was going on. In short, it's an incoherent, disjointed mess.

Aside from being confusing and disjointed, I found that this manner of story-telling really robbed me of the ability to develop empathy and investment in the characters as I follow them through their trials, as in the chronological presentation of the tale in the original novel and 1994 miniseries.

The 2020/21 miniseries creators also decided to change several of the characters to non-white and female possibly because they deemed Stephen King's novel not diverse enough. Changing of characters can work and I don't take issue with it in and of itself, but changing characters just for the sake of changing them doesn't always work especially when the characters are completely reworked. Changing Ralph Brentner, for example, was not just re-gendered, the character was completely changed to turn a humble, bumbling farmer into some sort of hard-bitten warrior woman type. Pretty much the opposite of what that character was and I thought it went against the spirit of the story and the sorts of humble people that God called to His service in the novel.

I don't know what the miniseries was trying to do with existing very strong female characters. Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith just came off as perpetually pissed off. Just did not seem remotely like the character of the novel. I know not everyone liked Molly Ringwald in 1994 but I just couldn't like the new take on her at all. Just not a sympathetic character at all, when she's supposed to be one of the main protagonists. To me, rather than changing male characters to female, they would have been better off keeping the strong existing female characters true to the book. It may be that my dislike of the characters is a result of the style of presentation (again, the "disjointed mess").

It felt forced and propagandistic rather than mere artistic license to recast almost every character as nonwhite and/or female. I think it would have worked better if the characters still felt true to the original character ... it did work in some instances, I thought Larry Underwood played by Jovan Adepo worked.

Overall, the incoherence of the story, and the lack of connection to the characters created by all the confusing jumping back-and-forth in time had me tuning out very quickly and giving this 1 star. I would much much rather just re-watch the 1994 miniseries.



 By Godfrey Blackwell

The 6th Edition Bretonnian Questing Knights are among my favourite miniatures of any range, so it was a treat to complete another one last week.



By James Blackwell (March 2021, age 9)

 Inspired by recently watching David Lynch's 1984 film adaptation of Dune, James created this diorama depicting Gurney Halleck and an Atreides trooper fighting a Sardaukar and Harkonnen Captain of the Guard Nefud on the steps of the palace at Arakeen.



 By Godfrey Blackwell

    “Master Vincent,” Harold said, “what are you doing? We must get inside the walls! The barbarians —“

    Vincent sent a stream of tobacco juice to the bottom of the dry moat and regarded his apprentice with languid disaffection. One never expected a gong-farmer-in-training to be an impressive fellow, but Harold was a special sort of disappointing — fat, stupid, a hypochondriac, and always, ALWAYS, exaggerating, panicking or otherwise getting himself into a tizzy.

    Vincent slowly shifted his gaze to the moat that hadn’t so much as a drop of water in it, the ground at the base of it cracked with heat and aridity, thanks to the longest drought Ancoux had seen in many a year. And the garderobe chutes all over the royal castle sluggish if not completely clogged.

    “Barbarians!” Vincent scoffed, spitting another gout of tobacco. “There’s always rumours of barbarians. If I left my work undone each time some crone said she’d seen a war band these chutes would be jammed right back up to where the lords and ladies sit upon the tower tops to relieve themselves!

    “And this one’s especially bad … Yep, this is definitely one of the chutes that feeds into that addlepated cross-system that’s supposed to be flushed by aquifers on the top of the keep! Bah … it only works in spring when it rains every other day. Bloody engineers.”

    Vincent turned back and saw that Harold was gone. He frowned, but he didn’t have time to hunt down and punish that layabout now. He’d be sure teach him a lesson in the morning though. But now, there was important work.

    As he knew he would (because the work of a gong farmer was never, EVER easy — the Almighty had a special place in His heart for gong farmers and intended that they spend not an instant in Purgatory when they went to their judgement) , he had to climb right up into the garderobe chute to unclog it.

    Slowly he moved his way upwards towards the upper portions of the central keep of the royal castle. So intent was he on his work that he heeded not the roar of war machines, the screams of horses, and the clangour of weapons striking shields that raged all around the castle from shortly before midnight.

    Only when he reached one of the horizontally running channels that was supposed to flow with water to flush the (normally) slimy pipe he’d traversed, did Vincent pause for a rest. He adjudged he was about halfway up the keep, not far from the great hall. The pipe he was working on likely ended not far above.

    He fished out a candle from his handy pack (which also held the tobacco — his one consolation in a joyless life) and lit it to check his calculations. Indeed, he was correct, for he could see above, perhaps ten feet up the chute, the garderobe opening. His work on this chute was basically done, and there was no collection up there. He now paused and noted odd, muffled noises from the other side of the stone.

    He pressed his ear up against the wall of the flushing channel. He knew the sounds of battle well enough to discern them from those of a particularly late and raucous party (he was a veteran himself, and after all, the King and Queen were actually in the castle not afield to leave the Crown Prince to his devices this fortnight). The clash of swords and screams of the wounded did not last long before a great cheer went up which quickly gave way to chanting of a most uncouth sort.

    That was no victory cry of the king’s knights! Vincent heaved a sigh. The kingdom was beset by incompetents and laggards on all sides, not merely in the gong farmer apprentice department! Had the scoundrels who held themselves out as knights actually let the keep fall? Vincent reached into his pouch and jammed a huge wad of tobacco into his cheek. Well, it wouldn’t be a day keeping the cess pits sweet if he didn’t have to do EVERYTHING himself.

    He extinguished the candle and with his long-handled scraper in one hand, he shimmied up the rest of the chute and emerged into the royal privy just down the passageway that led to the dias whereupon the king and queen were wont to sup.

    There were two barbarians right in the very room. By gum, these creatures would ransack anything. They’d not had time to pick their jaws up off the floor before Vincent caved one of their empty skulls in with his scraper and sent the other one headfirst down the chute all the way to the refuse pile at the bottom where he most likely (and most deservedly) broke his pagan neck.

    Vincent relieved the cloven-skulled one of his cruelly barbed sword and shook his head at the rust on it. Back in his army days he’d have had a trooper flogged for failing to maintain his weapon like that. Well, they were barbarians, but that the strutting popinjays who called themselves lords would let these defeat them filled Vincent with scorn.

    He padded down the hall in none-too-clean bare feet. The chamberlain wouldn’t like that, but he’d have to come out from hiding under a table to do anything about it, Vincent reckoned. When he peeked out of the door that led to the king’s dias, he saw that the great hall was in disarray, strewn with bodies, smoking braziers on the floor, tapestries torn from the walls and trampled. Rugged men in furs with axes and jagged swords capered about. Some were dragging screaming ladies in waiting out of the room, others were putting the cowardly surrenderers of the castle to the sword. The latter Vincent figured wasn’t totally undeserved, but the ladies being taken by such as these was an outrage.

    Most outrageous of all, a massive black-skinned man with silky black hair sat sprawled on the king’s throne! And some sort of shamen or witch-doctors were chanting over him and bowing and Lord knew what else.

    “Aight, enough of this!” Vincent bellowed, crashing through the door with great indignation.

    He beheaded the great big snake the witch doctors were fawning over, and ran the fanciest of them through with the sword. He grabbed the heathen’s great club-like staff as the wretch gurgled and stared with eyes wide full of shock and indignation. He spun to see the hulking black man heave himself off the throne, wielding a great battle axe.

Vincent spat tobacco into the man’s eye and waded in. The gong-farmer’s accustomed stench smote the barbarian king and the man staggered and left a huge opening through which Vincent swung the pagan medicine staff. This caused the ruler to drop his axe, with which Vincent beheaded him.

    He fulled expected to die in the next second or two after that under a flurry of blows to his back, but the hall was silent. He turned, and picked out the King and Queen from among the captives who had not yet been dragged off or butchered.

    “Yer grace,” Vincent nodded. “Now then, are you bloody barbarians going to fight me one-at-a-time or what’s your game?”

    “Good Lord, who are you, man?” Vincent’s lord king shouted. “What heroism! Do you not know what you’ve done?”

    “Eh? I mean, begging your pardon, your Grace, but I’m Vincent the Gong Farmer. I don’t suppose you’d know me since I work mostly at night —“

    “The gong farmer?” The Queen almost shrieked with hysteria and shock at the whole situation. The King, however, maintained his composure.

    “Vincent, these barbarians … by their pagan faith a man owns whatever belonged to the man he kills — you’re now the great Khan of the Varlak Horde! Their lands spread … why …”

    “Huh!” Vincent found the barbarian Khan’s head at the bottom of the stairs and took the great unvisored horned crown-helmet off it. He put it on and sat down on the throne of his own kingdom. “And I thought I had problems before! I really do have to do everything, don’t I?”




By Anna Blackwell (November, 2020 - age 13)

    Once upon a time in a the kingdom of Londolum, during the peaceful reign of good king Jake, there lived a gong farmer named Giles Furney.

    He was known through out the land, and almost every ear was alert to the sound of his squeaky cart. But it must be noted that in more far away kingdoms, Giles Furney was simple known as the gong farmer. He was however very much respected through out the land, and was never called mean things like stinker or He-who’s-cart-smells or farmer-got-stinky (though some naughty children were fond of these names). There was one thing however that every one must know about Giles Furney, it was that he took his job very seriously (even though he first day of work was a complete disaster) he never paid much attention to any one else’s business and it was not uncommon for him not to here the latest news.

    It even is said that during the reign of Wise King Job when he was fighting off of the neighbouring enemy land, that Giles knew not of it and only carried on with his work. King Job took this as a advantage and making sure the moat got extra full ( I will not mention how he made sure that happened) till Giles had no choice but to fill his cart, which was pulled by a run down, mud-coloured mule, and make off to the dumps. But Wise King Job told Giles to empty it out in the dumps were the enemy army was close to. Not knowing of the rivalry that was going on Giles went off at the king's bidding. Even though he got quite near the enemy lines, they got no nearer to him. They smelled his stinking cart miles away and retreated back. No blood was shed that day or the next, King Job only sent Giles farther and farther into enemy territory until they had enough of avoiding Giles and his evil-smelling cart, and sent as fast as they could a peace treaty. And with that the war ended and Giles had no idea what a great deal of help he had just done to the inter kingdom.

    But now let us return to the present. Everything was well, the fields were flourishing, robbers and bandits were being hunted out of there layers, the woods were plentiful with wild animals, the people were happy and so was the king, Giles was being paid well and wasn’t fussing about the unusual amount of guest visiting the castle so you might say everything was set fair. Until the dragon came.

    Up high in the far away mountains there lived a skinny but still large red dragon, he had gotten rather tried of his small liar of cold gold mixed in with few rare gems and pearls. And also he was getting tired of the rough mountain goat meat, they were getting scarce anyway, he longed for sweater meats and most of all more treasure to fill his dreary cave with.

    Oh! The thought of gold made him shake with greed. Now it had not been too long when a distant cousin had pasted by and told of the land of Londolum and how there were fat sheep and cows scattered on every field, and lots of wealth in the lands.

    The dragon (Tumult his name was) had almost gone out of his mind now feasting on the thoughts of wealth and meat. So beginning a very unheeding dragon, not thinking once about knights or brave men who slew dragons, opened his wings and flew off to the lands afar.

    You can imagine the damage he did, crops were flattened, dozens of sheep, cows and horses were devoured, the towns were crushed, the people of the land had to rush the archbishop of TrotBerry to safety and save the Duke of Bold from Tumult.

    Many people were rushing to King Job’s castle, StowerHold, for protection, but did Giles know of the threat? NO! Heavens no! He had far too much work now that the castle was filled to the brim and not to forget the moat with muck! It wasn’t too soon when Giles had to fill up his cart and head of to the dump mumbling “ Good nigh what a stink the dwarves always leave behind!”

    The people from he castle watched in horror “The fool! Doesn’t he realise the dragon is near! He will be eaten!”

    Many people begged King Job to send out his knights, but he knew he couldn’t risk his knights for one man (and I am not so sure how much the knight might have wanted to got out any way)

    Now the dragon of course was very near. Hovering just a little far off from the castle. But suddenly the dragon noticed some thing.

    “Smoked fish! What a horrid smell!” He gasped. He ( the dragon) looked down to see Giles and his stinking cart. The dragon began to dive down to devour Giles but the smell got even worse.

    Giles however only saw the shadow of the dragon and mistook it for a crow.

    “Ah, rotten scavenger, ugh, I’ll show him.” He muttered not even looking up but stopping his mule to turn around and get his shovel. “Ok, let’s see here," hHe said as if studying carefully before filling his shovel with muck to throw at what he thought was a crow.

    He got ready to throw but he suddenly fell off balance and slipped just as he threw.

    “Oh my goodness! I mean..aaarrggghhhhh.” he shouted as he fell, muck flying every were.

    The dragon roared as the muck hit its mark “Yuck!What is it?” The dragon cried. “I’m not coming back to this stinky place again no matter how many sheep and cows there are!”

    Giles was just as lucky as the dragon: muck had landed on his nice leather hat and on the road, but just then shouts and cheers arose from the people in the castle “Hooray now he will go home and die and it will serve him right!” they cheered. The dragon had taken flight and the kingdom was safe.

    On that day a great feast was held in Giles' honour, that night was later in history known as the night of a thousand fireworks. Giles was paid given a large amount of money for his erm….gallantry or pluck as it was known later on.

    So as it is certain, the dragon never came back, the kingdom flourished again, gong farmer Giles continued being a gong farmer, even though he was quite wealthy now and not that any one minded, in fact many thought that no one could replace him (not that any one would, well not any time soon)

    So with that we might as well say they all lived happily ever after.




 By Barbara Blackwell (November 2020, age 10)

    It was morning, and Mr. Jhon's wife was having a baby. Jhon had not enough money to buy land, animals, and a dog to run a farm. So Jhon had no choice but to work as a gong farmer.

    Jhon kissed his wife goodbye, took his wagon, and was on his way to work. As soon as Jhon reached the mess of poop there was a cloud of flies. They did not bother him as they feasted on the smelly mess of all messes. 

    "Well, they will leave me alone so I can work in peace," said Jhon.

    But just then a huge lump of poo fell on Jhon's hat and some of his and and the flies came and bothered him the rest of the day. At the end of the day when Jhon came home he saw his wife cooking his favourite underwear and said "I'm sorry dear but there was no money for bacon so I had no choice."

    Jhon loved his wife and would never be cross with her so he ate what was given. But as soon as Jhon went to eat his food, the poo fell of his hat and fell onto his fork.

    "PHA-ugh, yuck!" Jhon said.

    "Oh, dear Jhon," cried his wife.

    "Calm down, it was just poo from my hat," Jhon said.

    For months Jhon persevered in his disgusting job, but finally one came home to tell his wife that he was not going to spend another day being a gong farmer. But when he came home he saw her holding their newborn son. And she told Jhon that a messenger came with a bag of money from the lord for his work as a gong farmer. So Jhon had enough money to buy a farm and they lived happily ever after.




By Godfrey Blackwell

 Probably my favourite model that has never actually been used in a game! I think maybe we need to do one this weekend just so it can see some use.



 By Albert Blackwell (November 2020, age 14)

    War. War was unceasing in the kingdom of Predolva. For over 2 months the war against the Dominion of Redaroth. Neither side seemed to gain the advantage until the Battle of Agin Court, were skilled Predolvian Knights routed Redothian archers and infantry. As the Prelovians advanced to take the Castle le Noter, they ran into a problem. They were short on manpower. To solve the dilemma the Predolvians began to conscript peasants into the army.

    Garm the Gong farmer, unlike his neighbours gave little protest of being drafted into the military, after all it was probably going to be a better job than standing neck high in poo cleaning out the the clogged drains. And with a war in their hands, people had bigger problems than worrying about plugged toilets.

    It was not long when Garm arrived at the front, just in time for the siege of Castle le Noter. From the begin the Predolvian attack was full of setbacks as the Redothian garrison fought back with arrows, spears, stones, boiling oil, and even their own messes.

    Now after a few days Garm was starting to wish he never had joined the army as he had caught dysentery and was having horrible diarrhoea problems. Then he had an idea, if he was able to lower the drawbridge of Castle le Noter, maybe he would be rewarded and sent back home.

    Garm jumped with joy but stopped himself. He had to get inside the Castle, how? Then it hit him. He could climb up the guard robes! He was after all a Gong farmer.

    Under cover of darkness, Garm leaped into the moat and began to climb up a pipe of one of the guard robes.

    He was only in for a couple of seconds when he heard a fffffffttt sound. Poo came tumbling down the pipe onto his face but he continued. Two minutes later he heard a ppppphfft sound and even more number 2 came falling, SPLAT onto him. After grumbling to himself he continued. He was not more than 10 feet near the top when he heard someone groaning then a pppppppppsfffft sound. This time a ridiculous amount of diarrhoea fell onto him.

    Now you must understand that he was a Gong farmer and was used to that stuff and didn’t flee like any other sane person would do. However this was far too much for Garm who lost his temper.

    “Is that the best you got wimpy boy!” He yelled climbing out of the guard robe. “Is that the best you got!”

    The soldier who had been relieving himself raced out of the room yelling “Help! Help! Sound the alarm! Help!”

    Garm drew his muck covered sword and cased after the fleeing soldier. He raced out of the guard robe only to come face to face with three Redothians.

    Although the outnumbered him they were hesitant. Garm was covered in that slimy ooze and even his touch would be deadly as no one wants to touch that… stuff. Despite this they threw them selfs at him. Garm clumsily swung his sword, sending poo flying in all directions, most of it landing on the three Redothians, who screamed and retreated down the hall to find something to clean themselves.

    As Garm walked down the hallway, felling pleased with himself, he found a sealed barrel full of the stuff he was covered with, obviously meant to be used against the Predolvians. Thinking it would come in handy, Garm took it with him.

    Garm reached the gate house with little difficulty, as everyone he encountered fled from him. Garm waisted no time raising the drawbridge.

    “I did it!” He thought to himself, but we all know of speaking too soon. And is exactly what happened to Garm.

    Two dozen soldiers started to charge up the stairs toward Garm, ignoring the stench. One over confident Redothian lunged forward, tripping on the barrel of steew. The soldier yelled as he tried to balance on the barrel as it rolled down the staircase. The other Redothians fled but in vain, as soon as the barrel hit the floor it shattered into a zillion pieces, spraying the soldiers with the mess. The soldiers yelled and fled.

    Garm thought of(or at least he thought) another bright idea. Since everyone feared him, maybe he could take over the Castle himself.

    Captain Ramathon was furious when he heard of the failure to secure the gatehouse. He quickly called forth his archers, and gave them their orders.

    “Hunt the intruder down and shoot him dead!”

    It wasn’t long before the the archers found Garm and began to shoot at him, with some well… bad aiming (they were in a rush after all).

    Now remember how Garm had dysentery, well when he left the Gate house he needed to go bad and did his business in a quiver full of arrows. Garm, thinking it would be useful, brought it with him along with a bow.
 When the archers sent their arrows flying towards him, he pulled out an arrow and sent his distasteful regards at them. Garms shot was so weak it would have been unable to penetrate leather. However it sent diarrhoea flying toward the archers splattering all over them. The archers who were hit let out a scream and fled, the others followed suit as they observed Garm putting another arrow into his bow.

    Ramathon turned redder then a tomato when he heard of this. Ramathon decided that this time he would lead the attack himself. The soldiers which he lead marched in a neat column with hearts a-glowing feeling that the day was won. Until they saw Garm, who (feeling confident) rushed them. The soldiers attempted to withdraw but Ramathon pushed them from behind.

    A fierce struggle ensued were Garm randomly sung and punched into the masses of troops who ran from the muck he was covered in. Eventually the fight lead into a room were a dozen soldiers took their chance to flee. The others were running up curtains out of widows, anywhere out of reach of the stinky mess.

    Garm grabbed a hunk of poo and threw it at Ramathon. The Redothian Captain decided to lower his visor to avoid getting hit in the face, not knowing that the stuff Garm had thrown had hit his open visor! Too late! SPLAT! The slimy ooze hit Ramathon in the face! To make matters worse a soldier knocked him over and stepped on his helmet, busting it, leaving the Captain unable to open the visor or take the helmet off.

    Meanwhile the remaining soldiers began to surrender.

    Garm told Ramathon that the would take off the helmet if he surrendered the Castle. Ramathon quickly agreed, and so the mighty Castle le Noter was captured by a single Gong farmer.



Gong Farmers

Starting this Friday, we'll be running another series of stories from a "themed writing challenge". After doing some "heavier" themes like the "#2 Hits The Fan" series, we wanted to go with something a little lighter and maybe a bit comedic. And there's nothing young writers find more hilarious than toilet humour so we settled on stories that involve a "gong farmer".

What is a gong farmer you ask? Here's Wikipedia's definition:

Gong farmer (also gongfermorgongfermourgong-fayergong-fower or gong scourer) was a term that entered use in Tudor England to describe someone who dug out and removed human excrement from privies and cesspits. The word "gong" was used for both a privy and its contents.

I am noticing a pattern involving eschatology ... I suppose it is unavoidable. We got the idea from the wonderful book Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess.

This should set the scene for our dear readers. So brace yourselves for Friday!
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