More than a few people read Cormac McCarthy's The Road and thought it was the finest work of the novelist's long and laudable career: a somber but ultimately life-affirming allegory about a father's determination to give his son the tools for survival as an adult. Advice to fans of the book: Steer far away from John Hillcoat's bleak, unrelenting and altogether poisonous film adaptation, a movie that transforms McCarthy's delicate concoction into a zombie freak show. Set in a future where the planet has been reduced to rubble, The Road introduces us to a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they journey south through this apocalyptic nightmare. But in this excruciatingly literal film version, Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall get so bound up in translating McCarthy's grim panoramas to the screen that they end up suffocating the audience.
Dear John, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, stars Channing Tatum as John Tyree, a Charleston youth who is shot in combat and flashes back to his spring-break romance with Amanda Seyfried's Savannah. Director Lasse Hallström ( Chocolat) and his low-heat stars can't find the pulse of this corpse.