Sunday, December 29, 2013

That Dog Won't Bark: A Review of "The Langoliers" (1995)

"That dog won't bark," says David Morse frustratedly during a crucial scene during The Langoliers; his character, Brian, can't get any response on a radio frequency that, under normal circumstances, would be jumping with traffic ("like frogs on a hot sidewalk," he says).  It's a nice turn of phrase -- no surprise, that: it comes straight from the novel -- and it's one that could be used in more or less any circumstance to indicate that something is unwilling or unable to fulfill its primary objective.

In the specific case of Brian's ominously silent radio frequencies, the dog's unwillingness or inability to bark is surprising, unlikely, and extremely mysterious.  I'd argue that the movie itself is a dog that won't bark, too; in searching for a reason why that is, I'm tempted to simply channel my inner Roger Ebert and say it's because it's too busy gobbling like a turkey, since a turkey is what it assuredly is.  In that version of this review, I go ahead and end the blog post right there, feeling that all that needs saying has been said.  It's the blogger equivalent of throwing the microphone down after the punchline and walking off the stage.

But dadgummit, I spent several hours last night harvesting screencaps for this post, and if I don't use them, I'll feel like not only was that time wasted, but that it was hella wasted.  Can't have it.  Won't have it.  Gotta use 'em, and if I gotta use 'em, there may as well be more of this priceless text accompanying them.

When last I ranked all of the King movies, The Langoliers came in at #59.  That's pretty damn low, and part of me thinks it might be too low.  Is this movie really worse than Bag of Bones?  Or Children of the Corn IV?  Or the first season of Haven?  I could go either way on it, to be honest.  Lists like that one are 75% hokum at best; only a fool pretends otherwise.

Regardless of the specific placement, though, I stand by my assertion that it is a pretty damn bad piece of work.  And yet, I know it has fans.  Some of them may be reading these very words . . . right now.  Sometimes, it makes me feel a little bad to rip something apart in a review, because I know there will be people who theoretically might have their feelings hurt by it.  I'm not fool enough to think that the director of the movie is going to read this, or anyone associated with the project . . . but stranger things have happened, oh yes indeedy they have.

With professionals, though, I tend to assume and hope that they have developed enough of a thick skin to simply look at a bad review -- which is what this one is assuredly going to be -- and just sort of shrug at it and say, "Ahhhhh, fuck that guy.  He's just a schmuck on the Internet, anyways."  Which is true.  So I don't much worry about that.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

There Is Always a Tail to the Tale: A Review of "Four Past Midnight"

As I've stated before several times in the course of my blogging (apologies to those to whom I may sound like a semi-broken record), I'm slowly re-reading my way through all of King's books.  Some of them are books I'm very familiar with, but others are books I've only ever read a time or two.

One of those is Four Past Midnight, which I read once or maybe twice in 1990, and then again via audiobook toward the end of that decade.  And thanks to the movie versions of the first two stories in the book (The Langoliers and Secret Window, Secret Garden) I remembered half of the book relatively well.  The remaining two stories, however, were near-complete blanks to me.  I remembered one element of The Library Policeman; I remembered almost nothing of The Sun Dog.

As such, Four Past Midnight was one of the books I was most looking forward to revisiting.  After all, re-reading a book you barely remember is a bit like reading a book you've never read before, so in a way, re-reading about half of this book was like reading a new book by King.

Not really, of course . . . but as far as rationalizations go, that one isn't too shabby.

In any case, the only important question is this one: did I enjoy the return visit?  And the answer is "yes."

It's a qualified "yes," however.  Let's get into the specifics of why that is.

Four Past Midnight begins with a six-page essay titled "Straight Up Midnight: An Introductory Note."  I tend to assume that a great many readers skip right past introductions to the meat of the story, and while I understand the impulse, I also put on my squinty-eyed disapproval face at the thought of readers skipping King's introductions.  So much of his personality shines through in those occasional pieces that they are, for me, nearly as essential a part of the text as the fiction itself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Worst to Best: Walt Disney Feature Animation

This is obviously going to have nothing to do with Stephen King.  Let's all agree to just be okay with that.

But, just because I feel like doing it (and because a brand-new Disney animation just opened in theatres), here is a Worst to Best list of the 53 animated feature films produced by the Walt Disney Studios feature animation division(s).  

We begin with a series of Honorable Mentions, for movies that are not, technically-speaking, counted as Disney Feature Animation releases, but include segments animated by the Studios.

But before that, we actually begin with a Dishonorable Mention:

Dishonorable Mention -- Enchanted (2007)
Obviously, Enchanted is courting nostalgia for classic Disney animated fairy tales, and to prove it, there is about 13 minutes of animation.
None of which were animated by Disney Feature Animation, on account of how the entire department had been disbanded by Michael Eisner before he was forced out of the company.
So . . . yeah.  Great movie; but for those in the know, it can't help but leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Haven 4.10: "The Trouble with Troubles"

The conceit behind this week's episode is that somebody's Trouble causes the Troubles to go away.  Or, more precisely, to have never existed.  The result is that the town becomes a sort of alternative-universe version of the series, wherein Nathan is a family man and a doctor, Duke is the sheriff, and so forth.

Sci-fi/fantasy shows love to pull a trope like this out on occasion, and there's a good reason for it: it's fun.  It gives the actors something interesting to do, and typically results in hilarity of some sort.

I don't know that I feel like Haven did a heck of a lot with the concept, sadly.  It isn't a bad episode, though; it isn't one of the better of the season, but it has its moments.

Read "NOT HER" (instead of "NOTHER," which is how both Nathan and I initially read it)

The logical assumption -- and the one Audrey (who, you will possibly recall, is unaffected by the Troubles) -- is that this weirdo It's a Wonderful Life-type scenario is being caused by William, but that turns out to not be the case.

Massive spoilers lie ahead, so proceed at your own risk.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #41

It's been several weeks -- nearly a month, in fact -- since I last wrote about comics.  The reason for the delay is simply that there hadn't been much of anything come out during that time that was worthy of serving as the lead-off batter.  There are no Stephen King comics being published right now, and I do like for this column to have at least some King-centricity.

This past Wednesday brought us a new Joe Hill comic, however, so finally, something to jump-start a Bryant Has Issues has arrived.

regular cover

"retailer incentive" cover

"subscription cover," although how you subscribe is a mystery to me

"Phantom variant" cover

the "Hastings cover" (and, for my money, far and away the best)

The Joe Hill comic in question is the first issue of Wraith (or Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, which it is also being called in some places, although I'm going to stick to the shorter name, since that's what the cover says).  It is a companion piece to Hill's novel NOS4A2 that tells us more about that book's villain, Charlie Manx (and his villainous abode, Christmasland).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haven 4.09: "William"

Well, well . . . another solid episode this week.

There will, of course, be mucho spoilers in this teeny-tiny review -- "teeny-tiny" because I've got to go to work in a little while, and I really want to go pick up some buffalo wings on the way.  In the "buffalo wings vs. Haven" competition, Haven will lose virtually every time.  So will most shows, though, and let's not let this impending repast of mine seem like a referendum on the series.  It isn't.

In fact, I continue to be impressed by just how much better the series has gotten this season.  This week, the cliffhanger from "Crush" gets resolved immediately, as we see that Audrey has failed to get out of the cockadoodie car fired her weapon not at Nathan, but at the huge man from the Barn.  Did I expect Audrey to shoot Nathan?  No, not really; so this sort of thing doesn't bother me.  There was -- for me, at least -- never much suspense in whether or not Nathan would be killed; the suspense lay in the means by which it would be averted.  And for me, this works relatively well.

And let's face it, if you had a gun and found Robert Maillet in your apartment, wouldn't you shoot him, too?

Dude looks like he means business; I'd plug him, and right quick.

Audrey misses, though, so he scampers away on whatever creepy business he is conducting.  Soon enough, we find out that his squirrelly associate has kidnapped Dwight.  The two of them are looking for a box of some sort.  Our heroes free Dwight, but find that Sinister Man and Heavy -- this is how the characters are billed on IMDb, and who am I to disrespect IMDb? -- have another prisoner: William, the guy who helped Lexie escape the Barn.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Review of "Small World" (by Tabitha King)

By now, it is fairly common knowledge that Stephen is not the only member of the King family who has an aptitude for writing fiction.  His oldest son, Joe King, has become a bestselling author in his own right (under the name Joe Hill); Joe's younger brother, Owen, published his first novel in 2013, and received strong reviews for it.  And if we open things up to in-laws, we can also add Owen's wife, Kelly Braffet, to the list; she, too, published a well-reviewed novel this year.

Receiving a bit less attention of late is Tabitha King, mother of Joe and Owen, wife of Stephen.  Since 1981, she has published eight novels, beginning with the novel I'm reviewing today, Small World.

Sorry this scan looks so smudgy, but the used hardcover I bought has obviously not been well-kept the past few decades.

I'd been aware of Small World for years, and had always been curious about it.  If I'd been able to locate a copy, I'd've read it in high school, during the dawn of my Stephen King fandom; but none of the stores I shopped in ever had a copy, nor a copy of any of King's other books.  (Tabitha's, that is; henceforward, when I mention "King" in this review, know that it is she to whom I am referring.)
I had no specific knowledge of those other books, but Small World, I knew a bit about: it was the tale of a tiny woman living out a life in the normal world, somewhat in the style of a reverse Gulliver.  It was an intriguing premise, and I remembered it for years.
And so now, finally, I've gotten around to reading it.  This gives me at least some vague hope that I might , someday soon, do one of the many other things I've been failing to do for decades now: visit a foreign country; discover that I am the inheritor of a vast fortune; "save money" (whatever THAT means); spontaneously develop a craving for vegetables; read a novel by Isaac Asimov; et cetera.  Some of those are achievable goals; others are likely to remain tantalizingly out of reach.
In any case, "read a novel by Tabitha King" can now be removed from the list, and it may not be much as far as achievements go, but hey, I'll take it.
So, the question: was it worth the doing?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Haven 4.08: "Crush"

The title of the episode is "Crush" because a Trouble is making things implode due to deep-sea-diving-style pressure changes.  Get it?  It's CRUSHING things.  Get it?

I'm being snarky because once upon a time, that was something of a fallback position for me when writing about Haven.  The truth is, though, "Crush" is another solid episode in a season of solid episodes.  So get outta here, Snarkosaurus Rex!  You're drunk; go home!  (Alternatives for that piss-poor attempt at wit included a reference to a snarktopus and a snark-rador retriever. Casa Bryant, things have taken a turn for the lamer.)

If you are looking at that screencap and thinking that it looks an awful lot like a horseshoe crab with seemingly-human eyes, then do not fret: you are on a Roger Sterling-style acid trip, nor are your eyes mistaken.  That is, in fact, a horseshoe crab with seemingly-human eyes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oh Dear God, I Think So Too: A Review of "Strawberry Spring"

Stephen King published nine short stories while in college, and when the time came in the late '70s to compile his first story collection, Night Shift, only two of those made the cut: of those two, "Strawberry Spring" is the earliest to see publication.

One way to interpret this would be to say that as his stardom began to truly sink in, King viewed "Strawberry Spring" as being perhaps the earliest example of his fiction really working, and being able to exemplify what his short-fiction work was all about for a readership that had quickly become very large indeed.

I think a case can be made for both "Cain Rose Up" and "Here There Be Tygers," which had appeared in the Spring 1968 issue of Ubris, but if someone were to argue that "Strawberry Spring" was the moment in which -- in terms of talent, if not readership -- Stephen King was born, I don't think I'd put up much of an argument.

the Fall 1968 issue of Ubris (image borrowed from, which seems to be the collection of some lucky King fan)

"Strawberry Spring" was, like "Cain Rose Up" and "Here There Be Tygers," published in King's college literary magazine, Ubris.  It appeared in the Fall 1968 issue, a semester later than the previous two stories, and the jump in King's skill between the Spring and Fall publications is significant.  (I say this based on the story as it appears in Night Shift, of course; any revisions King made for its collection in that book will not be accounted for in this review.)  Not as significant as the jump had been between "The Glass Floor" and "Cain" and "Tygers," but significant nevertheless, and reading the four stories in sequence, one cannot help but be struck by the extent to which King seems to have grown in the year spanning the four stories.  It is somewhat dizzying to contemplate, and I would indeed argue that the end of that year found King in possession of the raw talents he would develop over the next few decades.

Which is to say, I guess, that "Strawberry Spring" is an important story.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Haven 4.07: "Lay Me Down"

I've been blogging up a storm this week, so I'm going to try to keep this review brief.  Which is pretty much standard operating procedure for these Haven reviews, anyways; even though the series is actually pretty good these days, it really does have NOTHING to do with Stephen King's work.  They've mostly even given up on the wink-'n'-nods (or, as I like to call it, "the pandering").  However, since it does nevertheless have Stephen King's name on each and every episode, I feel obliged to at least say something on the subject.

So, let's get to it.

You might suspect, based on that image, that this is a high-comedy episode of Haven.  You'd be wrong about that.  The scene depicted in, indeed, amusing; but it's the only comedy in the episode.

This week, the Trouble causing our gang (...uh...) trouble is one involving a woman whose dreams have the tendency to come true.  In a sense, at least; if something happens to her in her dreams, she wakes up with the physical evidence of it.  Unlike most of the dolts populating this show's guest cast, she already knows about her Trouble; it has been in her family for generations, and she has developed techniques for managing it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Worst to Best: Stephen King on Film [Revised 2013 Edition]

Having recently seen (and mostly liked) the new remake of Carrie, I figured it was time to update the old Worst-to-Best list of King movies.  As with my revised rankings of King's books, this is mostly a cut-'n'-paste from the previous version of the same post, so if you read that, there's probably no need to do anything other than skim this.

I've tried something different this time out, though; I've attempted to incorporate some of the television series into the rankings.  I've avoided ranking individual episodes -- that would be a madman's task -- and have adopted the half-measure of treating each season of shows like The Dead Zone and Under the Dome as a single entity.  I'm not entirely sure that's a good idea, but it seemed like one at the time.

Let's see how the rankings stacked up this time:

#DH (Dishonorable Mention) -- The Dead Zone Seasons 5 and 6

Just so we're clear on this, let me specify that I am not saying that the final two seasons of The Dead Zone belong on the bottom of the heap.  They probably don't belong very high; but the fact is, I can't say for sure, because I haven't seen the final two seasons.  I think I saw maybe two or three episodes of season five before pulling the ripcord and bailing out of the flaming wreckage that was that series by that point.

I'll get around to seeing them eventually, but until I do, here they reside.

But I feel absolutely certain that they are better than...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Worst to Best: Stephen King Books [Revised 2013 Edition]

With two new King novels having hit shelves this year, I figure it's about time for another revision of my trusty old rankings-of-King's-books post.

So, here it comes.  I re-ranked them without consulting the previous version of the list, and some of the differences are significant.  Any list like this is always a work-in-progress, though, as far as I'm concerned, so let's treat it as such.

Incidentally, if you happen to have read that earlier version, I've mostly cut and pasted the text from it to here, and simply rearranged accordingly, so much of the text itself is identical.

Google Images wasn't a huge amount of help in finding an image to match the phrase "worst to best," so this will have to (continue to) do.

Before we begin, a quick note: I omitted a trio of titles that I included the first time around.  The Bachman Books -- which are included individually, so including the omnibus seems a bit pointless -- got shafted, as well as the two unauthorized collections of interviews, Bare Bones and Feast of Fear. Those are both excellent, but to be honest, I remember their contents well enough to rank them individually.  So, out they go!

#69 -- The Dark Man

Not only is this the worst Stephen King book that I own, it's the worst by a large margin.  The art by Glenn Chadbourne is good, but the poem the book is built around is mediocre at best, and as far as I'm concerned the book exists only to milk a few dollars out of hardcore King fans.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Movie Review: "Room 237"

When I first heard of Room 237 a couple of years ago I thought, "Oh, great; a bunch of guys in tinfoil hats sitting around spouting conspiracy-theory bullshit about what The Shining supposedly means," and I decided that I was not going to watch the movie.

Problem is . . . I've got every other movie ever made that was based on Stephen King's work.
Granted, Room 237 is about a Stanley Kubrick movie and is not technically based on a Stephen King book; nevertheless, my collection would (I told myself) feel incomplete if I didn't buy it.  And if I bought it, it would be wasteful not to watch.  Anyways, what's the worst that could happen?  If it sucked, it sucked; so be it. And so I ordered a copy from Amazon.
When the Blu-ray came in the mail I unwrapped it, looked at it balefully, and put it in the player.

And boy, am I happy that I did.  This movie is frickin' fantastic.

Not everyone agrees with me on that score.  Many reviews (professional and amateur alike) have been negative, and much of that negativity centers on the fact that a lot of reviewers cannot support what the people interviewed during Room 237 are saying.  The outlandish theories of those interviewees are being met with a great deal of eye rolling and WTFs and are-you-kidding-mes.  And hey, that was my reaction when I first heard about Room 237, so who am I to criticize reviewers for having the same opinions?
What if I told you that Room 237 isn't asking you to believe what its interviewees are saying?  What if I told you that your belief in their opinions and interpretations is utterly irrelevant to what Room 237 itself is actually about?  Your reactions to what they're saying is important, and probably have great import to your own feelings about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
I would argue that whereas those reactions are important to your feelings about The Shining, they are considerably less important to your feelings about Room 237.  Rodney Ascher's movie, in my opinion, is NOT a documentary not about The Shining, but a documentary about the way in which we view and interpret movies.  It may be about even more than that; it may be about the way the mind views and interprets the world altogether.  However, I'm not quite bold enough to take that idea on, so let's restrict ourselves a bit.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Movie Review: "Carrie" (2013)

The Kimberly Peirce-directed remake of Carrie has been in theaters for over a week now, and if you've wondered why I've kept my silence on the subject so far, let me clear things up: it's only on account of me being busy.  Also, I wanted to see the movie more than once before writing a review.  I've seen it twice now, though, so review time is here at last.

Judging from the cold-shoulder the film is receiving at the box office, America got together and decided collectively that it had no need for a(nother) new version of Carrie; "the one with Sissy Spacek is still just fine with us," the consensus seems to be.  "Gaahhh!!!!  Another remake?!?  Pointless!"

Call me crazy, but for the most part, the idea of remakes simply does not bother me.  What's the downside to them?  The worst-case scenario is that you get a bad movie, in which case it is eminently ignorable; the best-case scenario is that you get a good one, in which case, hey, you just got gifted a good movie.  Does it negate the original in any way?  Uh...let me  It doesn't.  I'd argue that the John Carpenter version of The Thing is twice as good a movie as the Howard Hawks version.  But guess what?  That doesn't make the Howard Hawks version any less awesome.  Similarly, the shitty remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still does nothing to make the original any less great.

The one simply does not impact the other.  If anything, it creates awareness of the original, and causes new audiences to find it.  I know at least two people who were intrigued by the new version of Carrie enough to seek out the Brian DePalma version and give it a look.  Granted, this is a mere two people, but I think I'm on the safe side in assuming that globally, there will be plenty of others doing the same thing.

So folks, let's just knock it off with this nonsense about remakes being unnecessary and pointless.  EVERY movie is unnecessary; and just as surely, every movie has a point of some sort.  If the extent of your film-criticism abilities lies in, as a default position, being unable to accept a new telling of an old story, then you have no business pretending to be a film critic.

You feel me?


Ah, but this does not address the most important question: is the new version of Carrie any damn good?

For me, the answer to that question is a definite "yes."  It is not a slam-dunk, unfortunately; there are several key places where I feel like the movie goes awry, and while the effect of these moments is not enough to ruin the movie, I do find them to be sufficient to hold it back a bit.  We'll get into those in detail, so before we proceed, I feel obliged to mention that there will be tons of spoilers.  So if you've got no clue what happens in Carrie, this might not be the review for you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dubious Luxury of Normal Men and Women: A(nother) Review of "Doctor Sleep"

We stood at the turning point.  Half-measures availed us nothing.
-- The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.  [It is] the dubious luxury of normal men and women.
-- The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
It is with this duo of epigraphs that King begins Doctor Sleep.  King's epigraphs are usually interesting, and they're also typically of thematic significance to the novel which they precede; Doctor Sleep is nothing new in that regard.  However, I think these might be the most thematically tied-in of any epigraphs King has ever used, and I would argue that the second of the two is a big key to putting this particular novel in its proper context.  It's a context that is a very different context than that of The Shining, the novel to which Doctor Sleep is a sequel, and some fans of that first novel have expressed disappointment with Doctor Sleep on the grounds that it doesn't hew closely enough to the legacy of its forebear.

It's a valid argument in some ways, but not one that interests me, particularly.  I'm more interested in what Doctor Sleep is than in what it isn't.  I don't always have that ability (as we'll see tomorrow when I put up a review of the Kimberly Peirce version of Carrie), but in this case, I managed it with no sweat at all.

Follow me, and let's if we can figure out how I did it.

By the way, since I haven't mentioned it so far, this review will be chock full of spoilers.  It's intended for people who have read the novel; so if that isn't you, be warned.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #40

I was sitting around today and thought, "You know, it's been a while since I had fried chicken."  So I went and got some fried chicken.  Then I thought, "You know, it's been a while since I wrote a Bryant Has Issues."

In fact, it's been well over a month.  Unacceptable!  So: time to make amends and talk some comics.
First up is a title you won't see on the shelves at your local comic shop:

Haven: After the Storm is a thirteen-page mini-comic that is included with the Blu-ray set (and the DVD set) of the show's third season.  It takes place immediately after the third-season finale, and involves Dwight being angry at Nathan for having seemingly prevented the end of the Troubles by way of killing Agent Howard.

The comic doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot, to be honest.  Dwight yells at Nathan; Nathan mopes; the two of them deal with a Troubled guy whose Trouble is threatening to level the town.  Dwight talks to other members of The Guard, two of whom -- from the shadows, so we can't see them (natch) -- insist that none of that matters...that Nathan must nevertheless die.  The implication is that these shadowy figures will be important to the fourth season, but we're about halfway through that season and they haven't shown up yet.  So, yeah...not so much.  Not yet, at least.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haven 4.06: "Countdown"

October 22.  Shortly after midnight.  Have finished watching past Friday's episode of Haven.  Have determined that blog review of said episode be written only in broken sentences.  Reason for this odd determination unclear even to self; no matter.  Pursue plan regardless of outcome.

Skeptical as to ability to write entire post without mistakenly creating minimum of one complete sentence.  Reading of post therefore becomes suspenseful -- hanging in balance: bizarre act of whimsy, enacted by blogger.  Focus required; too late, realization of having forgotten to take notes during watching of episode.

Post likely to contain spoilers; if not caught up, perhaps best to not read.  Risk never knowing result of Incomplete Sentence Fest 2013; price tag to all things.

"Countdown," in end, perhaps favorite episode of season to date.  Plot advance significantly, on multiple fronts.  Haven hit or miss in this regard; success welcome this week.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bryant's Thoughts on Some of Stephen King's Thoughts on "The Dark Tower"

Wow.  That is one of THE worst titles for a blog post I have ever come up with.  I may as well have titled it "Bryant Is Dumb and Has No Good Thoughts Tonight LOL."  Technically, it's not too late to do that, I guess, but let's soldier on, bravely, like people did in olden times.

Speaking of olden times, back in April I reviewed Bev Vincent's book The Dark Tower Companion, which I found to be a delight.  One of the book's many highlights is a brand-new six-page interview with King in which Vincent asks several terrific questions.  In that initial review, I promised that I would at some point write a sort of review of that interview, and give some thoughts on some of the revelations that came up in the course of that interview.  

So here we are!

Now, my inclination would be to just sort of post the whole thing and go through it point by point, but I can't in good conscience do that.  I suspect I also cannot legally do that, but it's a moot point, and therefore not worth worrying about.

Instead, let's just hit some high points.  Where possible, I'll summarize, rather than quote directly.

The very first question Vincent asks is one he may as well have plucked directly from my brain: the extent to which the author is involved with the Marvel Comics based on the Dark Tower novels.  King answers that at the beginning, he "monitored them really closely."  He goes on to say that "after they went off on their own," he "didn't want to junk up my head with their story lines."  He specifies that the comics are Robin Furth's take on the Dark Tower mythos, and speculates that there could theoretically be more books after the next one [The Wind Through the Keyhole, which had not been published at the time of the interview]..."but if there are, they won't be influenced at all by whatever's going on in the comics and indeed might run contradictory" to Furth's stories.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Haven 4.05: "The New Girl"

Before we get into this week's episode, I have something to say.  It's embarrassing, frankly, but I think I need to say it: I dropped the ball in reviewing last week's episode.  I dropped the ball big-time.

One of the things I'd intended to talk about in that review is the fact that the episode's screenplay was credited to someone named Speed Weed.  I made a note of it and everything, but somehow -- and this alarms me -- I forgot to mention it when actually writing the review.  I'm pretty sure I intended to produce a good 3-4 paragraphs of snark on the subject.  How could I not?  It is a ridiculous nickname, and even though I found certain moments of last week's episode to be effective, I cannot take seriously the work of any writer who uses that name, or one like it.  So, to answer your question, Goflex Pajamadaddy: no, I do not take what you do seriously.  Same goes for you, Crack McFasten; and you, Anusoda.  I will tentatively accept that this is something rappers and rockstars are allowed to do -- so Slash, Buckethead, and Snoop Dogg get a pass -- but I simply will not extend that courtesy into the realm of screenwriting.

So take that, Speed Weed.

And before any of you point it out: no, I have not forgotten that I once billed myself as "Honk Mahfah."  I gave that up, though; one can hope Speed Weed will similarly come to his/her senses at some point.

And now, for this week's episode of Haven!

Lexie looks skeptical.  Me?  Not as much.  I liked "The New Girl"; it was a solid episode, and one that I'm going to talk about with some very specific spoilers in mind.  So if that's the sort of thing you can't abide, then you won't be able to abide the rest of this post.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Haven 4.04: "Lost and Found"

This week on Haven:
A little girl goes missing from her bedroom.  The girl's mother had put to bed, and heard the sound of laughter coming from the room; she assumed it was her daughter, playing, but no.  Not so much.  It was something more like this:

That is a douen (pronounced du-WIN), which, according to Wikipedia, is a creature from Trinidadian folklore.  Give the producers of Haven credit for coming up with a monster that hasn't been done to death; conceptually, this is a strong idea, one of the better, more X-Filesesque ones the show has ever had.

The execution is another story.  When we finally see the creatures -- not in security-cam footage (as above), but actually present -- they look ridiculous.  They are -- along with three kidnapped children and an adult who is at the center of this business -- dancing in a circle, singing "Ring Around the Rosie."

Have we learned nothing from television and film of the past fifty years?  Do we not know that trying to make one child seem creepy is one thing, but trying to make multiple children seem creepy simultaneously is another?  Do we not know that singing -- especially singing kid songs -- is the wrong way to achieve this?  And by "we," I mean the producers of Haven.

These scenes wreck what is otherwise a decent little episode.  Check out this screencap of the incredibly rubber-looking hands on feet on one of the douen (seen in the aftermath of the "we all...fall...DOWN" part of "Ring Around the Rosie":

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bryant takes a time-machine to 2002, or: Notes from the last time I read "Carrie"

With the upcoming remake of Carrie hitting cinema screens in a couple of weeks, it seems like a good time for The Truth Inside The Lie to turn its attentions toward the novel and the first movie (and to the "sequel" and the first remake, as well).

Thing is, I just don't have time to do it.  So instead, I'm going to do something a little on the lazy side, and a little on the fun side, and a lot on the "nobody is actually going to want to read this, but the hell with it, post it anyways" side.

In the early years of the century, back when I was trying to figure out What I Want(ed) To Do With My Life, a pet project continually popped into my head: I wanted to write a definitive book about the work of Stephen King.  It was hubris for me to believe that I had the capability to do so, but that's okay; I eventually disabused myself not only of that particular notion, but also of the notion that that was even something I ought to be aiming for.  Eventually, I decided that maybe a more achievable -- and an altogether more appealing -- goal might be for me to simply work toward creating some sort of a definitive statement on the subject of how I perceive the books of Mr. King.  It seems like only a slight difference, but it's a crucial one, and the difference is vast.  The book I had in mind initially would have been the sort of semi-dry critical tome that gets published by a university press and has all the hallmarks of academia; and also has pretension toward universality.  

Critical works of that sort tend to talk TO you, not with you; I was still close enough to college to feel that that was a goal worth aiming for, and so that's the sort of thing that was in my mind.

I had a lot of ideas along those lines; the Stephen King one was merely one.  But I'm great at managing to not actually follow through on any of my best ideas, and so the first few years of the century saw me in prime "I'll work on that next year" mode.  Circa 2002, though, I decided that the time had come to at least put a few tentative steps forward.  So I grabbed a copy of Carrie (feeling that it was best to start at the beginning), reread it, and then re-reread it, highlighting passages that seemed interesting and taking notes on the various things that interested me.

I followed that with similar viewings of the three movies (the 1976 original, The Rage: Carrie 2, and the recently-aired 2002 television remake), which I considered in turn.

So what I'm going to present here is the set of notes I typed up on all of this once I was finished.  There's a pretty good bit of it, especially on the novel, and I'm going to just put it all up, warts and all.  Revising it would sort of defeat the purpose, and anyways, like I said, I don't really have the time for it.

Looking at it, though, reminds me of how much I enjoyed that initial foray.  I'd done plenty of critical writing before, virtually all of it for one class assignment or another; when I began, I wasn't sure I'd have anything to say about Carrie, so when it turned out that not only did I have things to say, but that I had a LOT of things to say, I got a real rush out of it.  I had a hell of a lot of fun sitting there with a yellow highlighter and a red pen, making little observations that I later turned into bigger ones, which I in turn intended to edit into an essay of maybe ten pages in length (more, if you count the movies).

The latter part of that never happened.  I took three runs at it, and one of them actually ended up being about ten pages.  There is good stuff in it, but it's also, to be blunt, not what I wanted it to be.

And so I gave up.  I just gave up totally on the whole thing.

I always regretted that.  I kept that regret in mind, too; this was active regret, not the kind you bury and forget.  Whereas I didn't keep the critical-analysis end of things going, I did keep the chronological reread of King's work going, though.  It was slower than I might have liked, but it was a 2-3 books per year thing, at least.  By the time I got to Misery, I was in the mood to revisit my idea for writing some sort of large-scale critical work on King.

That's what led to the creation of this blog, which in turn explains why Misery was the first book I tackled as a blogger.  I didn't do so as in-depth as I'd done with Carrie years earlier; I was a bit too rusty to do so, and it's also such a time-consuming process that I decided to try and meet myself in the middle, and be expansive, but in a restricted sense.

The tension between those two modes is, in some ways, what this blog is all about.  It's a question.  A series of them, really; questions I'm posing to myself on a constant basis.  What do I want to do?  What can I do?  What should I do?  How long can I spend on this?  If I spend less, am I cheating myself?  If I spend more, am I being self-indulgent?  I'm good at posing them, and I'm decent at answering them; I'm lousy at sticking to the answers once the answers have been given.  But this blog is also about trying to teach myself to be disciplined enough to solve those always-present problems.

And in looking back on the notes I took over a decade ago, I am amused to discover that the subtext reveals something: I was already, even then, a lot less interested in the idea of writing from a standpoint of critical universality than I was in simply expressing what interested me.

It's the right approach.  I guess it just took a while for me to actually figure out that it was right.

With that messy, self-important, and -- let's face facts -- largely incoherent preamble out of the way, let's just dive into the notes.  The notes were taken in the 1999 trade paperback from Pocket Books, the cover of which looks like this:

All page-number references in the notes will refer to this edition.  For any of you following along at home, I apologize in advance for the fact that the page numbers may not match your edition.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Haven 4.03: "Bad Blood"

Not much time tonight, folks, so this is gonna be a quick one.  Mainly, just a formality, in the sense of "what's the minimum amount of time I can spend writing a Haven review that still feels like a Haven review of SOME sort?"

So be it.

The Trouble of the Week this time was a decent idea: there's this dude, see, and if he accidentally spills any of his own blood, that blood takes on a life of its own and begins seeking out the man's worst enemy, which it will then kill.  In this case, that's Nathan, who the man hates because he prevented the Troubles from ending.

Problem is, several other people get killed over the course of the episode, too, and despite having watched the entire thing, I do not recall there being an explanation as to why that happens.  Is my memory at fault, or is the screenplay at fault?  This must remain a mystery for the time being.

This is, according to Wikipedia, at least the fourteenth episode of a television series to be named "Bad Blood."  Others include True Blood (makes sense), Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break, Degrassi High (!), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

But I will only ever think of the episode of The X-Files from its fifth season that bears that title.  Written by Vince Gilligan and co-starring Luke Wilson, this tale of trailer-park-dwelling vampires is arguably one of the best -- and funniest -- episodes of that entire series.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Half-Measures Availed Us Nothing: A Review of "Doctor Sleep"

First: have no fear.  There will be no spoilers in this review.  Not even itsy-bitsy ones.  I have every intention of writing a gloves-off review, but I think I'll give it a week or so, and let a few more people play catch-up with me.  (The interim seems like an excellent time to bounce back over to You Only Blog Twice and hammer out a review of Licence to Kill.)  But for now, if you've merely come here looking for a thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down from me, that's exactly what you'll get from this.

But first, time for me to be self-indulgent and write about myself for a while.  Sorry about that, but it's what self-involved people do, and so it's what I'm going to do tonight.  Not at length, though; and if you want to just skip to the opinionating, scroll down until you find the photos, and start reading from there.

There was a time when I wasn't as zealous a King fan as I am today.  These days, what happens when a new King book comes out is this: when I found out the release date, I put in for PTO (that's Paid Time Off, for those of you who might not know) for that day, and typically for a day or two afterward.  On occasion, I end up not getting to take the time off (that happened with Joyland), but typically, I do.  So, when the release day rolls around, I will get up in the morning -- I say "morning," but since I am nocturnal, it sometimes turns into afternoon -- and go to Barnes & Noble or Target or (shudder) Walmart, wherever seems most convenient to the day at hand, and buy a copy.  Then, I'll go home, start reading, and generally continue reading until I can't keep my eyes open.  
I'll squeeze a meal or two in there somewhere, and probably a shower, and probably a few brief internet sessions.  Last night, I interrupted things for over an hour so as to watch the series premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC.  (It was a little on the underwhelming side, by the way; not so much so that I won't be back next week, but underwhelming nevertheless.)  My cats love it when this happens.  Reading time is PRIME lap-time for cats, and so King-release days always equal hours of lap-time.

It hasn't always been like that.  I've been trying to mentally track the evolution of what seems like mildly -- and you can possibly scratch the "mildly" -- compulsive behavior, and I can't quite figure out its genesis.  Now, just so we're clear, when I indicate that I feel it is compulsive behavior, I'm not claiming to have OCD in any sort of clinical sense.  I don't.  At least, I don't think I do.  Either way, I don't see it as a problem.  Fannish behavior of that nature is often looked at askance by people who don't quite get it.  These are often the same sort of people who insist that their lawn be mowed once a week whether it (strictly speaking) needs it or not, or who insist that everything in the house get dusted once per week.  Or who will put life on pause when their favorite football team is playing.  Why do they do those things?

Because doing those things makes them happy.  The reasons for that being the case are their own, and maybe they care about the specifics and maybe they don't, and maybe we care about them and maybe we don't...but in the end, I think that's always what it amount to.  Such things happen because they are happiness-generators.

My stance is this: Stephen King is my favorite writer.  He has released a lot of books, and I've read all of them, and I can count on maybe the number of fingers Roland has left after meeting the lobstrosities the number of those books that I didn't enjoy reading.  And even those, I enjoyed at least a little bit.  The rest of them, I enjoyed quite a lot.  So when a new Stephen King book comes out, why on Earth would I not want to start reading it immediately?

But in trying to trace the history of it becoming a formalized thing as it has, I can't quite figure out the when of it.  I think I can say with reasonable certainty that I was buying and reading them on release day as early as Dreamcatcher, but I think it might go back even a bit farther than that.  Either way, I know definitively where it wasn't happening: Hearts In Atlantis was released in September of 1999, and I did not read it until Christmas of that year.  I can't remember why that would be the case, but 1999 was not a good year for me, so it almost certainly had to do with the reasons why that was the case.  (I'm being vague here, and that's because there's no need for this post to devolve in melodrama.)

And now, a suspicion begins to present itself, one which looking back on 1999 helps to clarify.  King released three books that year: the screenplay of Storm of the Century came out in February, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon in April, and Hearts In Atlantis in September.  The first, I got (and read) more or less immediately upon release; I got the Book-of-the-Month Club edition, the only hardback version to be published.  The second, I picked up somewhere locally, and I believe I remember reading it more or less immediately upon release, too.

A lot happened between those releases and Hearts In Atlantis, though.  I had some melodrama, and King himself had some flat-out drama, nearly losing his life in the process.  I can remember being upset by that accident, but I also remember being too preoccupied with my own garbage to get really upset about it.  Or, it seems, to read the new book when it came out late that summer.

Casting my mind back to Christmas of 1999, I begin to dimly remember that that Christmas -- spent at my grandparents' house -- took on an air of me returning to myself.  I'd gotten over most of the melodrama, to the extent I ever would; and I'd gotten away from it proximity-wise, in any case.  I'd taken Hearts In Atlantis with me, and I remember sitting awake with it while everyone else in the house was asleep and reading by Christmas-tree light, munching on peanut brittle, feeling more myself than I'd felt in months. that it?  Did that few days bring home in some way a fact: that when I'm reading a Stephen King book, I am, in some odd but essential way, more in some way?  I think that could be it.

But lest that sound weird, consider that it's possibly the same for the guy who wants to get Grand Theft Auto V the day it comes out and play it for hours on end; or for the guy who has a specific date that we wants to take the tarp off the pool every spring and refill it; or for someone who goes to the grocery store every Thursday afternoon like clockwork.

It's an addiction, see.

But not all addictions are bad.  Some of them, I think, are pretty great.

Doctor Sleep is all about some of the less beneficial forms of addiction.  I don't think it's a spoiler to inform you that the novel is about Danny Torrance, who is now all grown up.  Dan Torrance is the result of that aging process, and Dan Torrance has some of the same problems his father, Jack, had.  And as it turns out, the shining doesn't do a whole hell of a lot to help with that.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 6: The Night Has Come"

We're nearing the end of our walkthrough of Marvel's The Stand, and as the series of reviews has progressed, I've had less and less to say.  That's not because there's nothing to say about The Stand as it reaches its conclusion; certainly not.

Instead, it's probably a sign of a certain amount of ambivalence on my part toward the adaptation.  I stand by my assessment that it is a solid adaptation, but I've got a less made-up mind on the subject of whether I should recommend the comics to fans of the novel.  That question has been lurking in the background of these reviews, and I've avoided answering it.  But here, close to the end, I think there's no need.  If you've read the reviews, I think you've probably made your mind up one way or the other.  What need is there for me to add to that?

art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Why Marvel would opt to use that Trashcan Man image for the cover of this graphic novel is something I will never, ever understand.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 5: No Man's Land"

We're two-thirds of the way through our look at the Marvel Comics adaptation of The Stand, and the takeaway from the posts seems to largely be that I think the art is bad.

I do.  And I don't.  I think it works well frequently, and works really well typically at least once per issue.  Does that counterbalance the numerous times I feel the art fails?  For me, it doesn't quite manage to do so; but it gets maybe two-thirds of the way there, which means that while I do feel quite a bit of antipathy toward the art, I also feel nearly as much fondness for it.  Combine that with the fact that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's scripts are a generally strong adaptation, and I think your math would indicate that I am more positive than negative.

The fact is, though, that the negative is easier to write about for me in many cases.  Not always; I think I've made numerous good points about things in the comics that work really well.  But for whatever reason, the further into the series we get, the less inclined I seem to be to keep the scales balanced.  My review of Hardcases -- which is arguably my favorite volume of the series! -- was much more negative than I expected it to be.

But hey, it is what it is.  When it comes to writing these posts, I tend to just sort of start writing and see where it leads me.  Sometimes that's more fruitful than it is at other times, but either way, it serves its purpose for me, because I am (as much as anything else) simply curious to see where my mind wants to go.

What's the result of that going to be this time around?

Let's find out.

premiere hardback, art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Haven 4.02: "Survivors"

This week on Haven: Lexie continues to not know she's Audrey Parker (or whoever Audrey actually is), and -- this will surprise you -- someone in Haven is Troubled.  With Audrey not around, it falls to Nathan to be the guy to try and solve the Trouble of the Week.


One of my problems with Haven is that the Trouble of the Week episodes are almost always boring.  There have been occasional exceptions, but they have been few and far between, and what we mostly get instead is something that feels like a fifth-rate mash-up of The X-Files with X-Men.  So this week, what we get is a fireman who is inadvertently burning people to a crisp...but, for an extra wrinkle, only after people congratulate him on being a hero, thereby setting off a guilt complex.  It's simultaneously simplistic and overly complicated, and it comes with the typical Haven problem of having weak actors cast in the guest-star roles.

Meanwhile, Duke is continuing to try to help Jennifer feel at home in Haven, and is also trying to get his brother to pack up and go back home.  Some of that stuff is okay, because I like Eric Balfour, and because Emma Lahana is extremely attractive.  She's eased back on the throttle as regards Jennifer's quirkiness this week, too, which is good.  I think.  It didn't bother me in her first episode, but it probably would have begun to grate if stretched over the long haul.

Elsewhere, Audrey is still in the same bar, still talking to Colin Ferguson.  Let's discuss that.

First of all, this conversation between Lexie and Colin "Eureka" Ferguson has lasted, now, for the entirety of two episodes.  Is this just weird editing, or should we begin to wonder if their plotline is somehow taking place outside of the normal timestream in some way?  Neither answer would surprise me, and neither would bother me -- a little time-shift cheating in editing doesn't bother me -- but either way, I suspect we'll get an answer next week.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 4: Hardcases"

The second half of Marvel's adaptation of The Stand kicks off with "Hardcases," which is ostensibly focused more on the villainous side of things than has been the case so far.  Is that actually the case?  Yeah; sort of.  Not entirely, but sort of.

Let's get to it!

premiere hardback, art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

premiere hardcover, art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

The shard-eyed among you will have noticed that there is a new name in the mix: Tomm Coker stepped in as the primary cover artist on the series starting with Hardcases #1, replacing Lee Bermejo.  Bermejo did some unquestionably great work on the first three arcs, but don't be dismayed; Coker proved to be a more than adequate replacement, and he did quite a few of my favorite covers of the entire series.  We'll see a few of those in this very post, in fact.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 3: Soul Survivors"

Links to the first two parts of this series: Captain Trips and American Nightmares.

And now, with no further ado, Vol. 3, Soul Survivors:

premiere hardback, art by Lee Bermejo and Laura Martin

art by Lee Bermejo and Laura Martin

The title, obviously, is a bit of a sole/soul pun.  I don't dislike this as much as I dislike American Nightmares as a title, but it's close; I'm definitely not a fan.  But does it matter?  No, it doesn't.  Not much, at least, even to me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 2: American Nightmares"

For those of you joining us late, here is a link to the review of Vol. 1 of the comics.  But I mean, like, you don't have to go read that one first.  Look, I'm just glad you're here, so if you don't want to read that post, it's cool.  *kicks rocks and looks at the ground*

hardcover edition, cover art by Mike Perkins and Laura Martin

the premiere hardback was released on January 5, 2010

First, a confession: I am sick and fucking tired of titles which begin with the word "American."  As far as I'm concerned, American Graffiti gets a pass because it was awesome, but everything else is suspect at best and annoying at worst: you've got your American Psycho, American Idol, American Gladiators, American Horror Story, American History X, American Pie, American Beauty, American Gangster, American Me, and coming soon, American Sniper and American Hustle.  Flippin' 'eck, you Yanks; sod off with that barmy rubbish.  If I had the ability to do so, I'd write a movie called American Americans, and put the whole business to bed.  (Sidebar: I'd also like to launch a low-rent exploitation studio to produce knockoffs of these titles.  They'd be called, like, Mexican Horror Story and Samoan Psycho and Norwegian Pie and whatnot.  Damn...I'd actually really like to see Samoan Psycho now...)