Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stephen King Short Stories of 2011

With the Master's newest novel still burning up the bestseller charts, an impending new volume in the Dark Tower series, and persistent rumors of multiple big-budget Hollywood adaptations which may or may not ever actually be produced, the end of 2011 marks a pretty fine time to be a Stephen King fan.

For this Stephen King fan, it was an interesting year.  The highlight of it was unquestionably the release of 11/22/63, but there were also fun times to be had in the ongoing Marvel comic books (The Dark Tower and The Stand), and the Turner Classic Movies documentary The Horrors of Stephen King made for a delightful Halloween treat.  The lowpoint...?  The release of YET ANOTHER Children of the Corn movie; this one is not only completely unrelated to the short story upon which it is "based," it's also got almost nothing to do with either children or corn!

For me, though, I suppose I ought to hold a bit of fondness in my heart for 2011 simply because it's the year I started blogging.  It's been fun.  It's also been frustrating, because I keep running into cases of my ambitions outstripping my reach.  Hopefully, 2012 is going to be a bit of an improvement in terms of time-management considerations.

Before 2011 scoots out the door, though, I wanted to call some attention to the the short stories King published during the year.  His longer fiction is always going to overshadow his shorter work, and perhaps that's as it should be.  However, the short fiction is almost always worth shining light upon, and King's short-form output was quite good this year.

I'd like to talk about the stories in some depth, and in order to do that, I have to venture into spoilery territory.  However, since most of these stories were available only in somewhat specialized formats, I assume that a great many King fans probably will not read them until they make an appearance in his next story collection.  Therefore, it would be poor form on my part to simply dive right in and ruin the plot details of these stories.  I won't do that.  Instead, I'll first offer up some general thoughts on each story, and save the more in-depth analyses for separate posts on each story, all of which I hope to produce within the next couple of weeks.
  


Friday, December 16, 2011

Movie Review: "Bag of Bones" (2011)

Q:  How's it going, Bryant?

A:  Pretty good, Bryant.  'Sup?

Q:  Ah, you know; the usual.

A:  Cool.

Q:  You know why I'm interviewing you today?

A:  I suspect you want to pick my brain about the A&E movie version of Bag of Bones?  Am I close?

Q:  Dead on, my friend.  Dead on.  Did you watch the movie?

A:  I did.  Why do you keep calling it a movie?  It's a miniseries, not a movie.

Q:  Nope.  It's a movie.  Sorry, but in order for me to think of it as a miniseries, it's got to be longer than two nights.  Hell, add both parts together and it's not even as long as The Return of the King.

A:  Almost as good, though ... right?

Q:  .....

A:  Hurm...

Q:  Anyways ... yeah, just because it aired in two parts doesn't make it a miniseries.  That's a movie.  And call it what you want: movie, miniseries, or whatever, it was crap.

A:  Did that surprise you?

Q:  Nope.

A:  I didn't think so.

Q:  Did you like it, Bryant?

A:  I did not.  I liked it slightly more than I expected to like it ... but overall, it was awful.  But before we get too far into playing pinata with this piece of crap, can we talk about what I liked for a while?

Q:  Sure.  Example...?

A:  Here's a visual hint:
  


Friday, December 9, 2011

Joe Hill's "Horns" Getting Closer to the Big Screen

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting -- which makes sense, what with the name and all -- that Mandalay Pictures has hired Alexandre Aja to direct the feature-film adaptation of Joe Hill's novel Horns.

I'm going to take a good-news/bad-news/decent-news stance on this.

Alexandre Aja filming Mirrors
First of all, let's get the bad news out of the way.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bryant Says "Vote NO to Politics!" + The "11/22/63" That Never Was

I'm not particularly interested in politics.  I pay only a marginal amount of attention, and most of the news stories I encounter come either from someone sharing them on Facebook or from one of the podcasts I listen to on a daily basis (Cort and Fatboy and The Rick Emerson Show, both of which are terrific).  Because of this, I have occasional opinions about things.  Those opinions tend to lean -- sometimes quite strongly -- to the left, but not exclusively.

I'll give you an example.



The recent spate of accusations about the philanderings and harassments allegedly perpetrated by Herman Cain -- a gentleman who, frankly, never had a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected President anyways -- have gotten a lot of conservatives up in arms about how the (sigh) liberal media has invaded his privacy.  This, in turn, has prompted a lot of smugly self-satisfied liberals to play the Clinton Card: i.e., to crow about how hypocritical the right is being, given the shellacking poor Slick Willie took over Monica Lewinsky's jizz-stained dress a few administrations ago.  These liberals are failing to realize that by taking pleasure in seeing Cain's campaign brought down by these allegations, they themselves are guilty of being thoroughly hypocritical.  Furthermore, what the right seems to be forgetting currently is the same thing the left forgot back then: that character and integrity DO count, and that Americans ought to be able to hold their political leaders up to high standards of conduct.  Sorry, guys; comes with the job, and you all know it in advance.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Brief Review: Dark Score Stories

Say, are you a Bag of Bones fan?  Are you looking forward to the Mick Garris-directed movie coming up on A&E this December 11-12?

If you answered yes to those questions, then you need to check out a website: Dark Score Stories, which contains a lot of photo-essay material, as well as some audio clips of characters from the movie.
  


  
If you're familiar with my site, then you're also probably aware that I've been somewhat opposed to this movie.  I'm not a Mick Garris fan at all: I feel like the movies he's made from Stephen King books and stories have been, on the whole, fairly poor.  The Garris/King association began with the wretched Sleepwalkers, and has gone on to include The Stand, The Shining, Quicksilver Highway (the "Chattery Teeth" segment was based on the King short story of the same name), Riding the Bullet, and Desperation, all of which have been problematic.  I'm aware that Garris has a lot of fans in the King community; I'm not one of them.

Period.

So, naturally, I've been dreading Bag of Bones.  This was not helped by the apparent miscasting of the lead role (Mike Noonan doesn't exactly scream "James Bond," and while I know that Pierce Brosnan is more than a former 007, it's hard not to see the suave spymaster anytime he's on screen), or by the apparent major changes to the plotline involving Mattie Devore.

I'll say this, though: Dark Score Stories has turned my opinion slightly back toward the positive.
   
The photo essays are fictionalized, by which I mean that they are a part of the narrative within which the movie itself takes place (not photo essays about the making of the movie).  Here, the essays are written (and the photos taken) by an unnamed character who was sent to Dark Score Lake by his/her publisher, Zenith House.  The essays are nothing special; they're just a prop to hang the photos on, and many of the photos -- there are roughly eighty in all -- are beautiful.  They were taken by Joachim Ladefoged, who appears to be rather talented.  I know very little about photography, but I know when I see a purty picture, and there are a lot of purty pictures here.
 
  
   

As several other sites, including Lilja's Library, have pointed out, there is a lot of fun to be had here in scrolling through the photos and checking out the many amusing homages to other Stephen King stories.  Bag of Bones (the novel) has a great many tie-ins, including ties to Insomnia, Gerald's Game, The Dark Half, and It, so it's completely appropriate for the movie to follow suit.  It's hard to say how many of these will end up in the movie, of course, but examining the photos, I found references to the following:
  • "Secret Window, Secret Garden"
  • "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"
  • "Big Driver"
  • "The Sun Dog"
  • "Quitters, Inc."
  • Carrie
  • It
  • The Dark Tower
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  • "Umney's Last Case"
  • "1408"
  • "The Library Policeman"
  • The Plant
  • "Mile 81"
  • Rose Red
  • The Dark Half
  • The Shining
  • Misery
  • The Tommyknockers
  • Lisey's Story
  • Desperation
  • Duma Key
  • The Regulators
  • The Dead Zone
  • The Stand
  • Insomnia
  • The Colorado Kid
  • Cujo
  • Hearts In Atlantis
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • Thinner
  • Needful Things
  • and a host of real-world King-related things like The Rock Bottom Remainders, Dollar Babies, and Lilja's Library itself!
There are probably tons more that I didn't recognize.  Lots of fun.  Here's one of my favorite shout-outs on the site:
  

 
  
There is a TON of love for the Stephen King universe evident in the set design of these photos, and a lot of artistry on display in the photos themselves.  If the movie overall manages to have this passion and artistry, then we might be in for something special.
 
  
   

For now, I'm going to remain dubious.  Garris isn't a particularly gifted director, and screenwriter Matt Venne's highest-profile work to date is the (highly unsuccessful) sequel to White Noise. The credits simply don't inspire confidence.

But Dark Score Stories, the website, does, after after spending an hour or so poking around on it, I feel a lot more excitement mounting for the movie than I would have thought possible.  Regardless, the site itself is a beaut.
  
Go check it out, won't you?
 
  


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Passage of the World's Last Gunslinger: "11/22/63" Reviewed, Part 2

In the second part of my review of 11/22/63, I'd like to focus on the ways in which the novel crosses over with other stories in the King universe.
 
Obviously, 11/22/63 spends a fair amount of time playing in the same stomping-grounds as did another famous epic novel: Derry, Maine, in 1958, which was the setting for about half of It.  That novel, which has major themes involving the intractable nature of time's passage, is my favorite by King; revisiting it might well have proven to be disastrous, and in the hands of a lesser writer probably would be.  King, of course, often cross-pollinates his works (e.g., having Ralph Roberts from Insomnia pop up in Bag of Bones), and I cannot off the top of my head think of an instance in which he's done so to the detriment of his work.

Here, what happens to the story of It as a result of the events of 11/22/63 is that it concretizes the notion of time as an active force in our lives; this was a major element of It in the sense that the characters of that novel are keenly aware that their childhoods have ended, and that while they might hold on to some aspects of their past, they can never truly regain them.  They are engaged in their own peculiar sort of time travel; it is figurative rather than literal, but they are both successful AND unsuccessful in their attempts, just as Jake is.  Furthermore, the structure of It -- which bounces back and forth between past and present -- makes time an even more active element of the novel; for our purposes as readers, the past and present are both active, and toward the end of the novel the two begin to merge.  It would have been troublesome for 11/22/63 to work against those themes, but it doesn't; it deepens them.

As such, the appearance of both Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier -- whom we meet maybe a month after the 1958 portion of events from It -- is an absolute delight.  They sound just right: it seems as if they walked straight out of that novel and into this one.  No mean feat on King's part, that; he's revisiting a 25-year-old novel, and doing so with complete success.
  


Monday, November 14, 2011

At the Bottom It's Always a Woman: "11/22/63" Reviewed, Part 1

The broker offered a dark smile.  "On Greenville Avenue you can never tell what's gonna happen.  Man blew his own head off just a block and a half from here a few years ago."
"Really?"
"Yessir, outside a bar called the Desert Rose.  Over a woman, accourse.  Don’t that figure?”
“I guess,” I said.  “Although sometimes it’s politics.”
“Nah, nah, at the bottom it’s always a woman, son.”
-- 11/22/63, Chapter 21

Here's the first thing you need to know about this review: unless you have already read 11/22/63, you shouldn't read any further than this sentence.  The reason for that is simple: I want to write a bit about some of the things that I think make the novel work so well, and I can't do that without being free to talk about the story in its entirety.

You don't want to be spoiled to that degree.  Even if you think you do, you don't: this novel deserves to be read with as little foreknowledge of its contents as is possible.  I knew too much about it going in (although some of what I thought I knew ended up being false info), and while that didn't hamper my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest, I still wish I had had a completely unburdened first read.

So, if you're planning on reading the novel -- and if you aren't, why on Earth are you reading this review? -- do yourself a favor: go read it, and then come back here.

In order to provide a bit of a transition before I get into the review, I offer this:
  



Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Brief Review: "11/22/63"

11/22/63 is awesome.  It is, in my opinion, the best novel Stephen King has written since Wizard and Glass way back in '97. If you're bothering to read a fan blog like this one, I'd say there is almost no chance that you won't enjoy the novel.

A word of caution: if you have managed to keep yourself in the dark about the novel's plot developments, then please try and find a way to keep that lack of knowledge intact.  Avoid reading reviews; avoid reading interviews with King, or watching his recent television appearances.  Most of these that I've read/seen haven't been too spoilery on their own, but added up, they gave me way more knowledge about the novel going in than I would have preferred.  It did not by any means ruin my experience of reading the book, but I do wish I'd known a bit less.

So, if you can keep yourself from being spoiled, I'd urge you to do so.

Speaking of which, you definitely want to stay away from the next review of the book I'll be writing, which will spoil the entire plot in the interest of getting at the heart of this extraordinary new novel.  Nosir, that review, when it materializes a few days from now, will be strictly for people who've already read this whopper of a tale.

Until then, just remember: Wetmore a good name for you...!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gallery: "Salem's Lot" (1979)

Here's a cool thing I discovered: that key on my laptop which says "prt sc" is useful, especially when a DVD is playing.

As proof, and as a Halloween treat, I offer this gallery of screencaps from Salem's Lot.  Not much rhyme or reason to the selection process; I just grabbed stuff I thought was cool.

David Soul as Ben Mears

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Review of "Horns" (by Joe Hill)


Earlier this year, I decided to finally pull the trigger on reading something by Stephen King's son, Joe Hill.  (I'd already read We're All In This Together, the excellent story collection by King's other son, Owen King, so I figured it was high time to do my diligence and give Hill a shot, too.)  I started with the first volume of his excellent comic book, Locke & Key, then moved on to his own story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, which blew me away.

Frequent readers of this blog will by now probably have figured out my customary attack pattern when it comes to writing about novels: I prefer the old multi-part-post method, wherein I take three or more posts and spend some time living with the novel at hand, trying to work through the various facets of it which stand out to me.  I've only done that with Misery, The Tommyknockers, and The Dark Half so far, as well as to the Marvel Comics version of The Little Sisters of Eluria ... but trust me, more is on the way.  This is an ongoing project, one I don't anticipate ending in a year the first three numerals of which are "201."  And I've got longer-range and vastly more ambitious plans that that, too; whether I can bring any of them to fruition is another matter altogether, but plans are most definitely in the works.

With that in mind, allow me to explain why I'm not giving the multi-post treatment to Horns.  Trust me when I tell you that it ain't because Joe Hill's novel doesn't deserve it; it deserves it.  No, it's for two other reasons: firstly, it's because I've only read the novel once, and therefore don't feel like I'm familiar enough with it to write about it at more than a cursory level; and secondly, it's because it's still a relatively new novel, and I'd therefore like to give my audience more time to read it without me spoiling it for them.  After all, my lengthier essays are always written with the assumption that anyone reading them is familiar with the books/movies/etc. that I'm discussing.

This, then, is more along the lines of the type of review which is designed to sway you one way or another in answering the question of whether to read the book in the first place.

And here's a spoiler for the rest of the review: you should read Horns.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Review of "Marriages" and "Under Venus" (by Peter Straub)

In a lot of respects, I'm a lucky person.  Not as lucky as I'd wish to be, but luckier than a lot of people.  For example, I have a job that I enjoy most of the time (not always, but at least four days out of five).  Lots of folks don't even have jobs, and lots of people who do probably don't enjoy them as much as I enjoy mine.  Heck, even the ones who make significantly more money than I make are probably, in many cases, also significantly less happy with their jobs; fun jobs and great paychecks do not always go hand in hand, after all.

That doesn't mean, however, that I wouldn't abandon my job in nine seconds flat (that's the amount of time I figure it would take to chuck my keys at someone and make it to my car) if, somehow, an opportunity arose to write this blog for a living.  I would.

And IF such a thing should ever come to pass, one of my goals for the blog would be to expand its scope to include other authors whose work I love: Larry McMurtry might be tops on that list of runners-up (although his subject matter might simply call for a separate blog), but there's also Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, Alan Moore, etc.  In all of those cases, I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable as I'd like to be.  And then there are the Richard Mathesons, Isaac Asimovs, and Neil Gaimans of the world: people whose work I'm almost sure I would love, but have somehow never found the time to read.

And don't even get me started talking about how many things there are that I'd like to write about in the world of movies and teevee.

However, I DO want The Truth Inside The Lie to include at least a few side-trips away from the Stephen King universe, and to that end I've started reading the novels and stories of Peter Straub.  I'm not totally unfamiliar with Straub: obviously, I've read The Talisman and Black House (co-authored by Stephen King [he said, as if you didn't already know that]), but I also, at the time of my initial devouring of King's works twenty years ago, read several Straub novels such as Ghost Story, Shadowland, Floating Dragon, and Koko.  I remember liking all of them -- and LOVING Ghost Story -- but I never made keeping track of Straub a top priority.

I've decided to change that, though, and to start by working my way through his bibliography, chronologically, beginning with his first novel (1973's Marriages).  This is not going to happen all at once; in fact, I'd be surprised if I got to more than three or four of them a year, which puts my completion date somewhere in the 2020s, I think.  But that's okay; I'm not planning on going anywhere, and who knows ... maybe some Bill Gates-esque mahfah'll stumble onto this post, feel charitable, and wing a few mil at me in a gesture of fool benevolence, at which point in time I'll get to accelerate my schedule considerably.  Unlikely, but not quite impossible.

Until then, though, we're stuck with the time I've got, which has been sufficient to allow me to finish Straub's first two novels, Marriages (a rather self-consciously Serious work from a young writer who had not found his voice) and Under Venus (a considerably better novel, albeit one which did not see publication for over a decade after its composition, by which point in time Straub's fortunes as a novelist had changed quite a bit).

So let's dive in for a look at these early novels by a man who is one of the few people who can legitimately claim to be a creative peer of Stephen King.






Thursday, September 29, 2011

Worst to Best: The Films of John Carpenter

Well, October is here, so to celebrate Halloween season -- and who here doesn't want to do that? -- I decided to put together a retrospective on the career of John Carpenter.  Carpenter, of course, directed the film version of Stephen King's Christine, but more importantly, he's one of the major figures of horror film during its '70s/'80s renaissance.

He's also one of my favorite directors, and I try my best to never let Halloween season -- which is also scary movie season in the Burnette household -- pass by without spinning a few Carpenter flicks through the DVD player.  During October of 2010, I sat down and watched the entire John Carpenter canon chronologically.  That was a blast, and I plan to do it again next year (and possibly to write a series of reviews for this blog).

This year, however, I felt like doing a basic worst-to-best listing of Carpenter's films.  This is, obviously, just one dude's opinion, and what I find to be weak sauce others may well find to be manna, and vice versa.  That's fine by me; I'd be glad to hear dissenting opinions on the matter.
 



So, let's get started, shall we?  In the eyes of one B. Burnette, what is THE worst John Carpenter movie of them all?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Review of "King of Bangor" [Lee Gambin]

Australian playwright Lee Gambin -- who appears to be less a playwright than an aspiring playwright -- has published, via Overlook Press, a slender print version of his recent one-act play King of Bangor, which was staged down under earlier this summer.

I bought the book.

I'm here to tell you about it.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Movie Review: "Contagion" (2011)

One of the big stories in Stephen King world this summer was the announcement that director David Yates and writer Steve Kloves -- both fresh off multiple triumphs with the last few Harry Potter films -- had signed on the line that is dotted with Warner Bros. to bring a multi-film adaptation of The Stand to cinemas.  No details have been forthcoming since the announcement several weeks ago, which I -- being a realist on the subject of Hollywood these days -- tend to think is perhaps a bad sign.  You know that old chestnut about no news being good news?  Not true in Hollywood; no news equals bad news way more often than not.

However, I definitely hope the project ends up coming to pass; as I've indicated in past posts, I think it's an idea rife with potential, both commercial and artistic.

It was with that thought in mind that I sat down earlier tonight to a screening of Steven Soderbergh's new film Contagion, which is about a epidemic working its way around the globe at what appears to be an unstoppable pace.

I thought it might be worth my time to sit down at the old keyboard and hammer out a review, and see how Contagion compares with The Stand.  There will be spoilers, so if you're planning on seeing the movie, you might want to do so before reading the rest of this.
   



Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Review of "Shock Value" [Jason Zinoman]

Earlier this summer, New York Times critic/reporter Jason Zinoman published a book called Shock Value, the subtitle of which is as follows: "How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, And Invented Modern Horror."





The book is, ostensibly, the behind-the-scenes story of how a new breed of horror film emerged out of the New Hollywood movement of the late '60s and the 1970s. This environment is a big part of what enabled Stephen King's rise to mass popularity.  I thought it might be useful to write a review of the book from the standpoint of a King fan, examining the book's worth as a document of part of the King story.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Movie Review: "Children of the Corn: Genesis" (2011)

Hello.  I, your humble blogger, am going to review the new movie in everyone's favorite film series, the Children of the Corn franchise.  In an attempt to keep myself interested in doing so, it will be in the form of a self interview.


Q:  Hello, Bryant.  Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today.

A:  You're welcome, Bryant.  It's my pleasure, honestly.

Q:  My first question would be this: did you steal the idea for a self-interview from Stephen King?

A:  Yes.  Yes, I did.  Also, from Alexandra DuPont.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Review of "Mile 81"

Stephen King is at it again, making noise in the world of e-publishing by debuting a new novella online.  "Mile 81" was released today, and thanks to Amazon.com's shiny new Kindle interface for PCs, alls I had to do was shell out $2.99 and pay some tax, and a copy beamed itself onto my laptop in the middle of the night.
  



Here's the pertinent question: is it any good?

Movie Review: "The Dark Half" (1993)

"We all have something of the beast inside us.  We can either suppress it or encourage it.  In your case, you encouraged it too much. In your subconscious, you wanted it to live. You wanted it so badly, it actually came to be." -- Reggie to Thad in The Dark Half


Stephen King and George Romero have had a long association, although that association has resulted in only a few movies actually getting made: Knightriders (I'm being generous there, since King's only involvement was a cameo appearance), Creepshow, Creepshow 2 (which Romero wrote and produced), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (Romero wrote the screenplay for the "Cat From Hell" segment), and The Dark Half .

What fell through the cracks: Romero-directed adaptations of The Stand, Pet Sematary, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, all of which were deeply in development as Romero films at various points.  I'm by no means an expert on Romero's filmography, but my perspective as an outsider is that he's a legendary director who has, despite the legend, really only managed to put together a small handful of truly notable films.  He's a bit like John Carpenter in that regard, I suppose.

In 1991, while filming The Dark Half -- a movie based on a massive bestseller from only a couple of years previously -- it must have seemed as if Romero's fortunes were in the midst of changing.  Two years later, when the film was finally released after lengthy distribution woes, the result was indifference from both audiences and critics.

So: what happened here?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

That Awful Woman From the History Department: "The Dark Half" Revisited, Part 3

Earlier this year when I did a multi-post retrospective of The Tommyknockers, I had a lot of fun writing the one wherein I discussed the crossovers that novel has with other works in the King canon (such as The Talisman and The Dead Zone).  I began this blog by writing about Misery, and the reason I started there was simply because that was the point I was at in chronologically rereading all of King's books.  That means that eventually, I'll read -- and blog -- my way all the way through to whatever the then-current novel is whatever he publishes in about 2017, at this rate!); and probably at that point I'll go back and work from Carrie back to The Drawing of the Three just so the blog has covered everything.

I mention this mainly so I can pledge that as long as I keep doing this, I'll make a point out of setting aside one post for every book wherein I discuss that book's ties to the larger King storytelling universe.  I'm hardly the first person to tackle that project, but that's fine by me; I ain't in this to blaze no trails.

There isn't a huge amount in The Dark Half to talk about in terms of crossovers with other King books, so I'll use the final part of this post as a grab-bag to dispense with the remaining thoughts I've got that I couldn't -- or didn't -- work into the first two posts.

First of all, a confession:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It Takes a Hero to Keep On Squeezing: "The Dark Half" Revisited, Part 2

“You’re a ghost,” he said.  “A weird kind of ghost.  We’re all standing here and looking at a ghost.  Isn’t that amazing?  This isn’t just a psychic incident; it’s a goddam epic!”  -- (Chapter Twenty-five)
One of the most problematic elements of The Dark Half is the (seeming) lack of clarity on the subject of what, exactly, the corporeal version of George Stark is.

The above statement from Thad -- uttered to George himself -- is probably the most definitive information we get ... but should we assume that Thad knows what he's talking about?  I don't know that that would be a safe assumption at all.

So let's spend a bit of time trying to figure out what's up with Mr. Stark.


Whoops!  Wrong Stark.  (We know what's up with that Stark: an overdose of awesomeness.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

It's Good to Have Him Dead: "The Dark Half" Revisited, Part 1

A few weeks back, I threatened promised to post an essay dealing with The Dark Half, which I'd recently finished rereading, and guess what?  The time has come.  It is here.  I've finished taking notes, I've got the day off from work, and I'm sitting down at the computer to type it all up.  I'm sure it's going to be fun to write, it's just that ... well ... I keep hearing these rustling sounds outside, and these little chirps.  I think there might be some birds outside.  Usually, this makes my cats go sit with their faces in the window, making these little frustrated noises, like they're trying to tell the birds, "Oh, you let us get out and see what happens to you."  But today, they're all hiding, almost as if they're afraid of the birds.  Hmm.  I hope it's nothing for me to be worried about.

Anyways...



The Dark Half has never been one of my favorite novels by Stephen King.  I enjoyed it reasonably well when I first read it, but never had much urge to read it a second time.  In that fashion, over time I began ranking the novel near the bottom of my list of personal favorite King books.  And yet, upon rereading it, I found it to be a considerably better novel than I'd been giving it credit for over the past couple of decades.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remakes Gone Wild!; or, Attack of the Killer Remakes!; or, The Idea Well Done Dried Up, Ma!

If you bothered to go to a multiplex this weekend -- and if the box-office figures from Friday are any indication, you didn't -- then you might have noticed that at least three of the movies currently showing are remakes of older films: Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian and Rise of the Planet of the Apes all fit that bill to one degree or another.  For that matter, Captain America counts as a remake, too, in a kinda/sorta sorta way.

Later this year, there are remakes/semi-remakes/reboots/etc. of Footloose and The Thing coming out, and there's a remake of Red Dawn floating around out there, too.  Last year, we got a surprisingly good redo of The Karate Kid, and an unsurprisingly good redo of True Grit, and an unsurprisingly lame redo of The A-Team.



I could continue listing these things, but you get the point: Hollywood seems to be more or less out of ideas.  Luckily, they are NOT necessarily out of talent, as the new versions of Fright Night, The Karate Kid, and True Grit help to illustrate.  And with that in mind, I'm going to pose a question to myself and then answer it:

Which Stephen King movies ought to be remade?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Review: "Fright Night" (2011)

Here comes some nimble justification:

The Truth Inside The Lie is a blog that is (mostly) about Stephen King books/movies/etc.  The remake of Fright Night has nothing whatsoever to do with Stephen King.  I am the author of The Truth Inside The Lie.  I liked the remake of Fright Night and want to write a review of it ... but how can I spin it so as to make it seem appropriate for a King-centric blog?

Well, dig this: the original Fright Night was written and directed by Tom Holland, amongst whose later work would be two Stephen King adaptations: The Langoliers and Thinner.

Bam!  How ya like them apples?!?

AND -- as if that wasn't enough -- it stars Anton Yelchin, who formerly starred in Hearts In Atlantis as Bobby Garfield.

Double bam!!

...

What's that you say?  It's my blog, so I don't have to make excuses to post things that aren't (strictly speaking) related to S.K., I just have to do it and shut up about it so nobody has to read intros like this?

Well, jeez, why dontcha just take all the fun out of things?

Grumblegrumblegrumble...



Oh, right; I was going to review a movie.  Allons-y!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Afterlife Was Always On His Mind: Joe Hill’s "20th Century Ghosts"

As you might have guessed, I am a bit of a nerd on the subject of Stephen King. I guess we’re all gonna have to agree to just be okay with that, and odds are good that if you’re reading these words, you’re already okay with it.

However ... sometimes I think I might have taken my obsession too far. No, no, don’t misinterpret me: I haven’t set any traps in the road so that the next time Big Steve comes driving by I can topple his car into a ditch and then spend the next few months nursing him back to health at an isolated farm all so I can force him to finish writing The Plant. No, no, that’s not something I’ve been planning; why, that’d be crazy.

Instead, I have occasionally wondered if I haven’t taken my obsession a bit too far by moving from collecting S.K.’s books and stories to collecting the various books written by his family members. I’ve got most of Tabitha’s novels, and while I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of them, I plan to read Small World soon. I’ve also got Owen King’s excellent collection of short stories, We’re All In This Together.

But today, however, I’m here to chatter at you about Joe Hill. Having just finished reading his collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, I find that the urge to chatter about it is almost entirely irrepressible. I can say without any reservation that I am now roughly as addicted to reading Joe Hill as I am to reading Stephen King, and let me tell you, that realization comes paired with a big ole sigh of relief. See, my S.K. obsession dictates that I buy all of Hill’s stuff anyways; even if it was awful, I’d have to buy it. So finding out that not only is Hill’s writing decidedly not awful – that not only is it good, but awesome – is a relief somewhat akin to the jubilance crackheads might feel if the Surgeon General were to issue a press release tomorrow revealing that smoking rock is actually an aid to good blood pressure, whiter teeth, and a sunnier all-around disposition.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

When Should I Stand, Exactly?

I was thinking -- because I've got nothing better to do (you'd be shocked at the extent to which that's a true statement) -- last night about the supposedly-upcoming films based on The Stand, and I got to contemplating something specific about them:

When will the movies be set?  Will they be set in the seventies to try and capture the flavor of the original novel?  Or will they be set in the eighties, to match the timeline of the original novel?  Perhaps the nineties, to follow the timeline of the uncut version of the story?

Or will we see the story be updated to modern times, to try and make the films seem like something more current?

My money is on the latter, and I'll tell you why that doesn't bother me in the slightest.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Asassination of the Lambs? The Silence of the Kennedys?

Well, the news continues to pop on the S.K. movie front.  Today's bit of saliva-inducing news is that this guy has scored the rights to produce, write, and direct the adaptation of King's upcoming novel 11/22/63:


That, by the way, is Jonathan Demme, whom you might know better as the director of The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and ... well, did I mention that he directed The Silence of the Lambs?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Media Violence, Stephen King, and You!; or, The Schwarzenegger/Spielberg Connection

Over at the The King Cast, Bob LeDrew recently did a couple of very interesting podcasts on the subject of media violence.  If you haven't heard them yet, you should go to iTunes and check 'em out, but the short-short version of the story goes something like this:

A child psychotherapist in New Zealand recently made a bit of controversy by coming out and stating that she had treated no fewer than five patients -- all between the ages of 12 and 18 -- who had been traumatized by having read books by Stephen King.

LeDrew initially attempted to get the psychotherapist to come onto his show and do an interview; she politely declined, and he decided instead to delve into the general topic of media violence by talking to a couple of experts, one a media psychiatrist and the other a lecturer who specializes in pop cultural studies.  He got two entertaining podcasts out of the topic, and they got me to thinking about where I stand on the issue of violence in the media and the effects it might potentially have on individuals and on society as a whole.

Then I remembered that I'm not qualified to speak to such topics . . . but decided to go ahead and do it anyway.
 
Here's the thing: I'm not an expert on any subject.  The sole exception to that is that I consider myself to be an expert on the subject of myself.  So, what I'd like to do here is take a bit of an autobiographical sojourn, peering back through the shimmering veils of time at the ancient days of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Through that mist, we might be able to see a young man named Bryant Burnette, trying to learn how to live in a world that sometimes frightened him.  Can we extrapolate anything from the lessons we might learn by peering into those long-gone times?  Can we use those extrapolations to come to any sort of determination as to what extent individuals and society can be affected by media violence?  

Probably not; but it's worth a try.
  
  

I can't remember from where, but I stole this from someplace on the 'net.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Brief Review: "Super 8"

I watched Super 8 twice in one night earlier this week, and the mere fact that I wasn't bored at all during the second viewing (in IMAX!) obviously indicates something positive about the movie.

That said ... I wish I could report that I loved the movie.  I wish I could honestly say that it was automatically my favorite movie of the year to date and a strong, immediate candidate to still be my favorite movie of the year by the time the year was over.  I wish I could say that it lived up to the promise of its awesome trailer (the full one, not the teaser from months and months and months ago) and truly rekindled the Spielberg-suburbiana majesty of his films circa 1977-1985.




I wish that were the case, but, sad to say, it isn't.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Robin Furth's "The Dark Bells"

Here's the thing.  I'm not exactly the smartest guy in the world.  You're never going to catch me doing things really intelligent people do, like reading Bill Bryson books, or not eating an entire box of Crunch-n-Munch in a single sitting, or "vacationing in the Hamptons" (whatever the hell that means), or correctly spelling the word reccomend.  It's just not in the cards for me.  It's cool; I'm okey-doke with that.  In fact, I think I've even figured out why I'm a bit of a dullard: it's due to a poor memory. 

My memory isn't horrendous; I don't have to leave notes all over the place like that one dude did in Memento ... you know who I'm talking about, that Pearce guy, whose first name I can't quite bring to mind.  I remember things way better than that dude did.  But sometimes, I just can't get the file to save, you know?

This is why I don't always trust my first-impression opinions when it comes to movies and books and music and the like.  When I read a novel or a story, I typically just can't hold most of the specifics in my brain, and more often than not if I need to summon up those specifics to put them to use in some way, I just can't do it.  Kinda like I imagine being the case with this feller:


My point is this: even though it only came out, like, a few months ago, I didn't remember much of anything about Robin Furth's short story "The Dark Bells" except that I'd very much enjoyed it.  So, when it came time to write -- cogently and accurately, one hopes -- an essay about that story as the finale to my series of reviews of Marvel's "The Little Sisters of Eluria," I did what any responsible blogger with a poor memory would do: I reread the story.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Robin Furth's "The Little Sisters of Eluria and the Language of the Unformed"

Howdy, folks.  Apologies for the delay in posting.  I took a slight break from The Truth Inside The Lie to do my latest entry over at my other blog, the James Bond-centric You Only Blog Twice.  Over there, I've been slowly working my way through the Bond films again and trying to rank them according to this nutso grading scheme I came up with.  It's grand fun, for me if for nobody else, and I spent the better part of the day writing about Goldfinger, which, of course, is one of the better entries in the series.

But you didn't come here to read about that, now didja?  No!  You came here to read some more about Marvel's "The Little Sisters of Eluria."  Specifically, today, I'm going to talk for a bit about Robin Furth's prose contributions to the issues, which are even better than usual this time out.

For the back of issue #1, Furth contributed an essay entitled (somewhat misleadingly) "My Most Memorable Dark Tower Moments," and for the back of issue #2, another essay; that one is called "The Little Sisters of Eluria and the Language of the Unformed."



I don't have a huge amount to say about either of these essays (apart from suggesting that you read them because they are very, very good) ... but both contain some nuggets that help to illustrate some interesting things, about both this arc of the comics and about the larger tale -- in both its prose and graphic iterations -- of the Dark Tower.  What I'm going to do is just present my thoughts on various matters in the essays, in roughly the same order they would spring up as I was reading them, with quotations from Furth's essays to help give my own comments the proper context.

So, why not let's us get into it.  Whattaya say?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Such Ones to Speak of Damnation: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" #5


Well, we've come to it: the final issue in Marvel's "Little Sisters of Eluria" arc.  Does the final issue stand fast and remember the face of its father?



Well, I'm just a lowly blogger, so maybe my judgment isn't the be-all-end-all, opinion-wise, but yeah, I'd say it does; I'd say it with caveats, but I'd still say it.

Let's have us a palaver about it, shall we?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We Can Still Drink His Pleasure: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" #4

Here ya go, have some nightmare fuel:


If that isn't the worst thing you've seen today, then brother or sister, I don't wanna know what you been lookin' at.

Actually, here's something entirely unrelated, but even worse:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yer Ties to Reality Are a Might Shaky: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" #3

I'd hoped to have this review posted earlier in the week, but sadly, blogging about Stephen King comics don't pay the internet bill, much less for food and gasoline.  Sad when work keeps you from doing what you'd like to be doing, but that's life, I guess, and mine ain't too shabby compared to the lives a lot of people get stuck leading, so the complaining officially stops ... now.

Actually, the complaining will be starting up again real soon, because I don't much care for issue #3 of "The Little Sisters of Eluria."  Hmm; hypocrisy is no good, so let's think of what's about to happen less as complaining and more as explication of dissatisfaction.  Yeah ... that sounds better ...




Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time Belongs to the Tower: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" #2

The first issue of "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger -- The Little Sisters of Eluria" (sheesh, what a title...) was all about getting Roland into the vulnerable position he is in when the second issue opens: badly injured, immobile, and dependent for his life upon a crucifix-bearing medallion he has fortuitously taken from a dead body.

But it isn't the medallion alone that is saving him from the vampiric Little Sisters, the "healers" under whose "protection" he has found himself.

If you've a copy close to hand, go back to issue No. 1 and check the panels in which Roland, in an act of blind kindness, takes the medallion from James.  Pay attention to where he puts it: in a pocket on his jeans.  He is shortly thereafter waylaid by the green folk, and does not remove it from his pocket.

How, then, does it get out of his pocket and around his neck?


Sister Jenna, of course; and she is the primary focus of this issue.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Place Has A Reddish Odor: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" #1

Fact #1: I am a Stephen King nerd.

Fact #2: I am a Dark Tower nerd.

Fact #3: I am a "Little Sisters of Eluria" nerd.

Fact #4: I am a Marvel Comics "Dark Tower" nerd.

Fact #5: I am a Marvel Comics "Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria" nerd.

Enough facts.  Let's move on to opinions, which are like facts, only slightly more prone to serve as troll-bait.  You might not think so, but YOUR WRONG LOL!



Marvel Comics, along with the core creative team of plotter Robin Furth and scripter Peter David, have been toiling away on these Dark Tower comics for over four years now.  It's been an interesting run, too, and while I haven't enjoyed every decision they made along the way -- I still think the story of Roland and Susan Delgado (the story that comprises the bulk of the novel Wizard and Glass) was told in far too rushed a fashion -- I have definitely enjoyed the series overall.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jae Lee Announced As Artist For "The Wind Through the Keyhole"

Proving that it's a good idea to visit Talk Stephen King at least twice a day if you're a King fan, I learned from that site today that Jae Lee -- who was the primary artist on the first several arcs of Marvel's Dark Tower series -- has been chosen to provide the illustrations for The Wind Through the Keyhole.

In the humble opinion of this 'yere blogger, Jae Lee is an awesome choice, and I salute whomever made it.  Whomever?  Or is it "whoever"?  Doesn't matter; pressing on.

Look, can I be honest for a minute here?  I'd be an irresponsible blogger if I didn't fess up to something: what with all the talk over the past half-week or so about the Dark Tower movies grinding to a halt and teetering on the verge of being scuttled altogether, I feel like I've neglected the only Dark Tower news of late that is genuinely, crucially important: there's a new novel in the series coming out next year!!!!!

I mean, hey, don't get me wrong, I want to see the movies; especially if Roland is going to be played by someone as badass as Javier Bardem, and especially if someone of the caliber of Ron Howard is going to be directing them.  But at the end of the day, I can live without them.  It's the books that really matter, and I keep managing to all but forget that Stephen King has written a new one, and that it is only about a year away from publication.  That's pretty darn exciting, and I feel bad for getting wrapped up in the current negativity cetered around the possible fact that the movies won't be happening; with a new novel on the horizon, the rumors about the movies should be of mild distress at worst.


The news about Jae Lee being brought onboard as the illustrator has jolted me back to reality a bit, though.  Lee did pretty doggone stellar work on the comics, and I'm curious to see what he does for the novel.  I do not know his work at all outside the confines of the Dark Tower comics, so I don't know if he has done lots of non-comics work or if it is something relatively (or entirely) new to him; I don't know what to expect, apart from something of quality.  You know, something like this:


Friday, May 6, 2011

They See Us: "Nightmares in the Sky"

Published in October 1988, Nightmares in the Sky is a Stephen King book that many Stephen King fans may not be aware of.  It's a book of photographs of gargoyles, as taken by someone going under the amusing pseudonym f-stop Fitzgerald; its primary function was as a book of photography.  However, to gussy the thing up a bit -- and to give sales a jolt during the first year since 1976 when King had not published a book (the last such year, so far) -- the publisher enticed King into providing an essay to accompany the photos.  The essay runs about thirty-five pages, though a great deal of the page space is taken up by photos; the book itself clocks in at about 125 pages.

The book is out of print, and I get the feeling that it's almost entirely forgotten by anyone other than King fans, and then only the more obsessive ones.  Possibly, it is also remembered by fans of f-stop himself, about whom I know nothing; he may have tons of fans, or none whatsoever, and I'd never know the difference.  Maybe it's also a big deal to photography or sculpture enthusiasts; I don't know, and I'm not too worried about it one way or another.

What I'll worry about is this: is it any good?



The answer to that question is: well, it's not bad, but it's no blue-ribbon winner, either.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Movie Review: "The Tommyknockers" (1993)

Momma always said life was like a box of ... wait, no, that's not right.

Momma said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like ... nope, uh-uh, that's not right, either.

Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be ... well, that sure as heck ain't right!



Ah!  I remember now: momma said if you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' a'tall, Mahfah.  Well, momma, I don't have a whole heck of a lot of nice things to say about the 1993 movie version of The Tommyknockers, but I think I might have just enough that I can avoid breaking that good old rule.

Let's find out, shall we?

Monday, April 25, 2011

She Used to Make All Kinds of Stuff Up: "The Tommyknockers" Revisited, Part Three

So far, in looking back at The Tommyknockers, I've focused almost exclusively on Jim Gardener and Bobbi Anderson, the two lead characters.  That seems fitting.  However, it'd be a shame to ignore certain other aspects of the novel, such as its large cast of supporting characters.

That does, in fact, mean that what I've got for you tonight is another grab-bag, and that seems like as good a reason as any to post the following photo:




Moving along...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Time to Defuse: "The Tommyknockers" Revisited, Part 2

Jim Gardener, erstwhile friend and lover of Bobbi Anderson, has been on a reading tour with several other poets, and in the course of it, he has fallen off the wagon -- viciously -- and created a very ugly scene at the home of a sponsor.  Coming to -- not waking up, precisely, but coming back to consciousness -- several days later on a beach in New Hampshire, Gardener considers flinging himself into the ocean and allowing his cramping legs to finish his life:

"He swayed forward, very close to doing it.  The part of him that still wanted to live seemed to have no arguments left, no delaying tactics.  It could have said that he had stayed sober -- more or less -- for the last three years, there had been no blackouts since he and Bobbi had been arrested at Seabrook in 1985.  But that was a hollow argument.  Except for Bobbi he was now completely alone.  His mind was in turmoil almost all of the time, returning again and again -- even sober -- to the subject of the nukes.  He recognized that his original concern and anger had rotted into obsession ... but recognition and rehabilitation were not the same things at all.  His poetry had deteriorated.  His mind had deteriorated.  Worst of all, when he wasn't drinking he wished he was.  It's just that the hurting's all the time now.  I'm like a bomb walking around and looking for a place to go off.  Time to defuse."  (The Tommyknockers, p. 87)



Yes, I think it's fair to say that ole Jim Gardener is a profoundly messed-up dude.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Those Days Were Also Old Days: "The Tommyknockers" Revisited, Part 1

"She began to giggle and he kissed her soundly and later took her to bed and they slept together like spoons.  He remembered waking up once, listening to the wind, thinking of all the dark and rushing cold outside and all the warmth of this bed, filled with their peaceful heat under two quilts, and wishing it could be like this forever -- only nothing ever was.  He had been raised to believe God was love, but you had to wonder how loving a God could be when He made men and women smart enough to land on the moon but stupid enough to have to learn there was no such thing as forever over and over again."  (The Tommyknockers, p. 52-3)
The Tommyknockers was by no means one of my favorite Stephen King novels when I first read it.  I don't want to get too deep into writing a history of my King fandom right now -- that's a subject for another post -- but it's worth mentioning that that fandom began with The Stand in 1990 and rapidly progressed to my scouring used book stores and reading every book by King that I could get my hands on.  I tore through his entire bibliography in something like a year, and it was with Four Past Midnight that I began buying the books as soon as they were published.  In devouring that whole canon, I loved almost all of the books that I read.  The only real exceptions: I didn't like Cujo, Thinner, or The Tommyknockers.

When I reread Cujo a couple of years ago, I found it to be a terrific novel; and when I reread Thinner not long after that, I enjoyed it reasonably well, too (I still don't rank it very high on my personal list of King favorites, but I wouldn't say I dislike it).  So, with those reversed opinions in mind, I was curious to see what I would feel about The Tommyknockers when I revisited it.

The verdict...?

I kinda loved it.  It's a shaggy beast, one that could have used some prudent editing in a few places, but the central ideas are terrific.  The novel starts well and finishes well, and if some of what comes between is a little shaky, that's okay by me.

So, why did Bryant '91 dislike this novel?  Not being of Gallifreyan origin, I don't know that I have the proper means at my disposal to answer that question definitively.  However, I can take a guess.  The three novels listed above share one thing in common: they are extremely downbeat, and border at times on being out-and-out depressing.  Their themes are very adult ones (this is also true of Pet Sematary, which I recall liking, but being very disturbed by), and I suspect that Bryant '91 -- who turned all of seventeen that year -- was just not capable of processing a lot of what they had to offer.

The degree to which I've grown up is debatable, but Bryant '11 is a different fellow in at least some regards, and as such, The Tommyknockers had some resonance that really struck home for me when I reread it.  I've got several different essays I'd like to write to try and get at some of that, and let's let the following photo -- thanks, Google! -- serve as a clue as to what the first of those is going to be about: