Sunday, December 7, 2014

(A Partial) Movie Review: "Needful Things" [1993]

Today, we'll be looking at the 1993 feature-film adaptation of Needful Things, and rather than take the path of least resistance -- a straight-ahead review -- I'm going to opt for the "commentary track" approach.  Why I'm doing this, I do not know; it is extremely time-consuming, and runs the risk of annoying anyone who is resistant to plot summary.

But, that's what the muse (who, in my case, looks a bit like this) is commanding me to do, so who am I to ignore him?
My initial plan was to do a side-by-side comparison of the theatrical cut with the extended television cut.  I previously did a similar post about the aborted television series Golden Years, comparing its original episodic versions to the truncated home video release; and I enjoyed the way it turned out, so I wanted to follow the same format here.  However, the editing of the extended television cut of Needful Things shifts several scenes around, and also makes some major allowances to remove profanity, and those elements would make doing this as a side-by-side comparison much more difficult than it was with Golden Years.

So, instead, I'll cover the television version at the end of the post.
In any case, the write-up of the movie itself shall now proceed.  And lest you think we'll only be dealing in plot summary, rest assured that there will be plenty of the trenchant commentary you've come to expect from this blog.  Maybe even a little analysis.
I dig that poster.  I should try to locate one of those.
Before we get underway with the summarizin'/commentatin', a few words about the filmmakers seems in order:
The movie was scripted by W.D. Richter, who was a fairly prominent name during the eighties.  He'd written the remakes of both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dracula in the late seventies, and then moved on to big-star vehicles like Brubaker (Robert Redford) and All Night Long (Barbra Streisand and Gene Hackman) before taking a crack at directing with the cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.  He also had a hand in writing Big Trouble in Little China, so he's okay in my book no matter what.
The director was Fraser C. Heston, son of Charlton.  He's only directed two further films in the intervening 21 years, which seems like a bit of a shame to me.  His work on Needful Things may not be Oscar-calibre or anything, but it's certainly competent, and that's more than can be said for some schmucks in that industry.
The producers were Jack Cummins, associate producer Gordon Mark, and executive producer Peter Yates.  Of them, I would only characterize Yates as being particularly notable; he's best known as the director of Bullitt (and, around my home, Krull), and his credit here may indicate that he was at one point attached to direct the film.
Most of the other key positions were filled out by people whose careers are sort of middling at best.  And hey, nothing wrong with that; they were/are Hollywood professionals, whereas I am a chump trying to keep his cat off his keyboard at 4:07 AM.  So when I sort of dismiss the idea of discussing them individually on grounds of non-noteworthiness, let's bear in mind the relative circumstances and remember that comparatively, I am a complete dork.
That said, the nearly-complete lack of big-time behind-the-scenes players is moderately surprising.  The movie was a Castle Rock property, by which I mean not the fictional town in which it is set, but the production company that made it.  The name had come from Rob Reiner's involvement in Stand By Me, which at that point in time was arguably the pinnacle of Stephen King on film.  Castle Rock, by 1993, had made films such as When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, and In the Line of Fire.  Their track record was by no means perfect, but they had major commercial and critical hits under their belts, and much of that reputation was thanks to Stand By Me (not one of their movies, but theoretically the origin point for the company) and Misery, two of the most successful of all King adaptations.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"The Bazaar of Bad Dreams" Prognostication

As you may or may not have heard, Stephen King recently announced that he would be releasing a new short story collection (titled The Bazaar of Bad Dreams) in late 2015.  This will be King's sixth collection of short stories (I'm choosing to not count books like Full Dark, No Stars that primarily collect novellas), and while we do not yet know what the contents will be, we do know a few facts:
  • There will apparently be twenty stories included.
  • None of the included tales will be King's recent collaborations with Joe Hill ("Throttle" and "In the Tall Grass") and Stewart O'Nan ("A Face in the Crowd").  That's a shame, from where I'm sitting, but evidently, them's the breaks.
Apart from that, we simply do not know.
We can, of course, engage in wild speculation, and that's exactly what I'm about to do.
First, however, this: it brings me near-physical pain to post a blog entry that has no images, so now -- in real time! -- I am going to Google the phrase "the bazaar of bad dreams," and post the five most interesting images from page one of the results.  I have no idea what this will yield; for all I know, it could be nothing but genitals.  I hope not, but we're all going to find out together.
Here goes:

I . . . don't know.

Well, hello....

You tell me: is that a portrait of a monkey?

And finally, a wee cheat...

...but I couldn't bear to post only one side of the Breaking Bad "tread lightly" conversation, so I went with six images instead of the previously-stated five.
Now, with that out of the way, let's get to the meat of this post: a story-by-story examination of all of King's uncollected short prose, along with prognostication from yours truly as to what the eventual contents of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams will be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A (No-Spoilers) Review of "Revival"

2014 is winding down toward its end, and yesterday brought a nice late-year treat: a new Stephen King novel.  As has been the case the past few times Uncle Steve released a new book into the wild, I took a couple of vacation days so I could digest it promptly.
And now, here I am, sharing my opinion of it with you fine folks.
I wish I could tell you I loved it.  
And I could.  I could lie to you.  And while we're on the subject, say . . . did I ever tell you about the time I was an astronaut?  Yeah, it was pretty wild.  See, the Earth had started to wilt, and so NASA decided to send a mission to another galaxy to hopefully find a new planet for us all to go live on, and guess who captained that mission?  That's right: me.  Yeah, sure enough: it was pretty wild.
That sounds a bit like the setup for the movie Interstellar, doesn't it?  Guess what?  It is.  That's not MY story at all.
But that didn't stop me from lying about for the duration of a few sentences.

Monday, November 10, 2014

For the First Time in Years He Could See a Future: "Needful Things" Revisited, Part 3

We are scarcely more than twenty-four hours away from the release of a new Stephen King novel, Revival, and the mission for The Truth Inside The Lie is clear: get Needful Things out of the way before the new book arrives.

I'm almost certainly doomed to failure in that regard, given that I still want to write about the movie and the audiobook; but hey, you never know.
In any case, this third and final post about the novel itself is going to approach Needful Things from a slightly different angle than my first two posts about it did: I'd like to go micro for a bit, and hone in close on a concentrated section of the book. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Worst to Best: Stephen King Films [2014 edition]

We're getting very close to the release of a new Stephen King novel (Revival, November 11), and I thought that was a good occasion to unleash the 2014 version of my Worst To Best rankings of Stephen King movies.  October alone saw three new movies join the ranks, so an update was certainly warranted based on those, if on nothing else.

Truth is, though, my thoughts on all these things shifts and changes over time.  "Evolves," I sometimes think, although "devolves" might be equally true.

I won't belabor the introduction, except to offer a word about the way I went about compiling the list.  I started totally from scratch.  So if you've ever read one of the previous versions of this post, what you're getting with this version is a wholly fresh set of rankings; I did not consult the previous editions at all in terms of checking to see what had ranked where in previous years.

So if this version seems inconsistent with last year's, that's okay by me; I set it up to allow for that.

In addition to the new films released since the last time we did this, I've also added individual television episodes into the rankings.  Not in the case of ongoing series (like Under the Dome and Haven) or even single-season series (like Golden Years and Kingdom Hospital), though, because that'd be too much work.  But adding one-offs and episodes of anthology shows seemed entirely doable, so they've been added into the mix here for the first time.

I did, however, carry over a good deal of the text from last year's post.  Most of it still seemed thoroughly usable.
Before we get started, I'd add that this is just a harmless bit of fun.  So if you're a die-hard fan of some of the pieces of shit films we'll be ranking here, I apologize in advance.  I'm sure you probably hate something I love, too, so let's just call it even, okay?

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

Just so we're clear on this, let me note that I am not saying that the final two seasons of The Dead Zone belong on the absolute bottom of the heap.  They probably don't belong very high, if the fourth season is any barometer; 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...
Creepshow III

Here's what I wrote last time: "This is a genuinely awful, inept film in every way, and I'm angry with myself for not placing it last on the list.  However, I am going to give it a very slight edge over The Mangler Reborn -- which is similarly awful and inept -- because of the two fauxquels, Creepshow 3 does actually manage to at least somewhat follow the concept of the series to which is ostensibly belongs.  By which I mean that this is at least an anthology of horror stories that could be said to be in the EC mold of morality tales.

That is the only good thing I have to say about the film, but it's juuuuuuust enough of an advantage to keep it out of last place."

I decided this time that even that mild edge isn't enough to keep the dreck that is Creepshow III out of the bottom spot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Reviews: "Big Driver" and "Mercy"

I work most Saturday nights, so I was not home to see Lifetime's movie version of Big Driver this past weekend.  But that's why God made DVRs, babe; that's why God made DVRs.
So when I got home, I plopped down in front of the teevee and gave it a look, and then decided to turn things into a double feature and check out Mercy, as well.
This was far from being the best double feature I've ever experienced.  We may as well get that established right up front.  But despite that, we may as well discuss the movies, because that's what we do around here.
Big Driver began at something of a disadvantage.  I'm not a huge fan of the novella (which appeared in Full Dark, No Stars) to begin with; it's got a sort of not-quite-finished feel to it, and what I mean by that is that the prose struck me as being a bit less distinguished than is typically the case with King.  If it were a baked potato, it'd be that sort of slightly-harder-than-desired texture that tells you to put that sucker back in for another half hour.
This is not to say that it's a bad novella.  It isn't, and in order to discuss that more fully, we're about to go into spoiler territory.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Needful Things" Revisited, Part 2

As I mentioned during part 1, putting this retrospective on Needful Things together has proven to be more of a challenge than is typically the case for me.  So rather than belabor the issue, I'm going to conclude my look at the novel by vomiting a bunch of notes onto a blog post.
That sounds dismissive, but don't take it that way unless you take it as me being dismissive about my own talents as a blogger.  I'm definitely not dismissive of the novel, which I found to be quite a bit better than I remembered.  I think there's lots to discuss, so let's just get to discussing it.
Here's the UK hardback, which I actually have a copy of.  It's pretty cool, but I prefer the American hardback art.
A word about format seems in order.  Since I'm doing what amounts to a commentary track here, it makes sense to have a standardized method of referral.  Ideally, we'd all just use the same edition of the novel, but that, of course, would be a hopelessly naive expectation.  So instead, I am going to refer not to page numbers, but to chapters and subchapters.  For example, if I refer to something in subchapter two of Chapter One, I will designate it like this:  Ch.1 (2).
Simple enough?  Good, let's proceed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It Might Be Just As Well If There Was a Witness: "Needful Things" Revisited, Part 1

It's about damn time.

I've been looking forward to revisiting Needful Things for quite a while.  The novel will always hold a special place in my heart due to the fact that it was one of the first King books to be published after I became a fan.  (The second, actually, after Four Past Midnight.)  I'd burned my way through his entire bibliography in just a few months, and those first few new publications which came next revved me up: I was no longer catching up on King's work, I was experiencing it as it happened.
I read it as soon as I could get a copy.  I remember the bulk of this reading being done in a biology lab in my high school, which was where I had homeroom; I'd spend as much time as I could prior to school beginning in there, reading away contentedly.
Despite that huge wave of excitement, Needful Things never became one of my favorite King novels.  I can't remember ever reading the book a second time.  I know that at some point a few years later I found a used copy of the box set that contained all three volumes of the audiobook (on cassette!), and bought it.  I know I listened to it, so if we count that, that makes two read-throughs.
But other than that, I never returned to it the way I did with stuff like The Waste Lands or 'salem's Lot or The Stand or It.
If this sounds familiar, it's almost certainly because I wrote a version of the exact same sentiment when I reread and reviewed Four Past Midnight.  (Like many hacks, I am prone to repetition.)  And I'm sure I said the same thing about it that I shall now say about Needful Things: because of the lack of revisits, my memory of the book had grown quite dim over the years, meaning that the revisit would be almost like reading a new King book for the first time.  Not quite; but close.  Close enough to be excited about, at any rate.
I came away from my revisit with Four Past Midnight somewhat underwhelmed by the experience.  I enjoyed reading the four stories contained therein, but none of them really enthused me.

I enjoyed revisiting Needful Things quite a bit more.  The last time I ranked all of King's books, I placed this one at #43, and this is what I had to say about it:
Lots of terrific characters here, and while it’s comedic in a dark way, it’s also frequently horrifying.  As with Under the Dome, the chills are mostly human-induced, too, rather than monster-induced.  That might make for an interesting critical essay one of these days.  Are there other King tales that also feature that element?  I bet there are.
Looking back on it, I'm not entirely sure I understand why King felt the need to "destroy" Castle Rock.  It wasn't hurting anybody, Steve!  Except maybe for itself...
If you're asking yourself how I could fairly rank the novel at all given my shoddy memory of the novel, well, you've asked a good question.  Answer: subjectivity and a willingness to run on instinct.
So, looking at those tellingly brief comments, how would I assess their accuracy in terms of the way they reflect my feelings upon finally rereading the book?
  • "terrific characters" -- check; not as strong as in 'salem's Lot, but (among similar works) stronger than Under the Dome and maybe stronger than The Tommyknockers
  • "comedic in a dark way" -- eh . . . occasionally, but not really; King has asserted in interviews that he intended the novel as a satire, and I was probably thinking of that
  • "frequently horrifying" -- absolutely
  • "the chills are mostly human-induced" -- that's how I remembered it, but the novel makes it fairly clear that people are acting the way they are acting mostly because Leland Gaunt is exerting some sort of supernatural influence over them; maybe not quite mind-control, but certainly mind-poisoning of a sort


Before we get continue, I have a confession to make: much of the rest of this post is shit.  Shit, shit, shit; shitty-ass shit.
I don't know why, but writing these posts about Needful Things has proven to be ridiculously difficult for me to pull off.  I've been reworking the remainder of this particular one for what seems like weeks now, and it never gets less shitty.  I'm not sure if that's because I'm simply failing to connect with my own ideas or if it's because those ideas are fundamentally incorrect.  It might even be both. 
But whatever the case, I'm tired of wrestling with myself, so what we're going to do is this: I'm going to just post what I've got on this first part.  Shitty though it may be, I'm ready to be done with it.
Then, for part 2, I'm going to round up all of my notes from the rest of the novel and post them in chronological order.  Sort of like a commentary track for the novel, if you will.  From there, I'll move on to the movie and maybe the audiobook, and after that, maybe this sorry mess will be behind me.
And just so we're clear, this is in no way the novel's fault: this is my fault, and my next task will be to figure out how to avoid repeating the mistakes I've made here.  Once I figure out why I made them, that might even be doable.
So, let's talk about perspective.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Review of Marvel's "The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner" #3 (aka Bryant Has Issues #55)


Marvel has really been pumping out the Dark Tower lately, haven't they?  This newest issue of The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner marks the third to be released within the span of six weeks, which is excessive by comics-shipping standards.  Not that I'm complaining; not much, at least.  I'm pleased for there to be King-based comics in the marketplace.  So must Marvel be, hence the accelerated schedule.


Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner is waning rapidly.  I was very impressed by issue #1, but found that #2 presented me with some questions which cast the whole endeavor in doubt to some degree.

Issue #3 does nothing to alleviate those concerns; and in fact, it deepens them.

When last we visited with the Dean brothers, they were reeling from a massive explosion.  It has been caused by a bomb they had unwittingly dropped off on behalf of Jack Andolini, and my read on the bomb was that it was designed so as to kill Eddie.  After all, it was clear that the mob had been hired by agents of the Crimson King to kill Eddie, so as to prevent him from fulfilling his role in Roland's ka-tet.  I was a bit confused as to why they would permit literally years to elapse between assassination attempts on the younger of the Dean brothers.  Does that make any sense?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Reviews: "A Good Marriage" [2014] and "Horns" [2013] (plus a bit of "Gone Girl")

Two of my friends once got into a mild dispute over some movie (don't remember what) that one of them had loved and the other had hated.  The former accused the latter of going into the screening with knives sharpened, expecting to dislike it and therefore tailoring an experience to fit his prejudices.
"Why would I ever want to not like a movie?" was the simple, irrefutable answer that came back.
I find myself in the somewhat unfortunate position of having (A) expected not to like the movie version of A Good Marriage and (B) having indeed not liked it.  Months ago, when the project was announced, I furrowed my brow a bit and said, "Well, Joan Allen is awesome casting, but I'm sort of worried about the director and I don't like Anthony Lapaglia as Bob at all."
That said, please understand that when I tell you that my two major problems with A Good Marriage are, indeed, Anthony Lapaglia and Peter Askin, this is not a case of me tailoring the experience to fit my expectations.  Why would I ever want to not like a Stephen King movie?
And yet, here we are.  There can be no doubt that indeed I did NOT like the movie.  In fact, I thought it was kind of terrible.  My feelings about it may have been influenced somewhat by another movie I saw earlier in the evening (more on that later), but I don't think that was the case to a large degree.  I'm not immune to influences of that sort, but I'm fairly self-aware as a(n amateur) critic; I take such things into consideration.

So when I tell you that in my opinion, A Good Marriage is a complete misfire, I speak with confidence.  I wish it weren't so, but I also wish that buffalo wings were healthy eating.  They aren't, because wishing doesn't make it so.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #54

Just a trio of titles to look at this week, but they're solid ones, beginning with:
Don't stare at that cover for too long; it might freak you out.
One thing the above image is missing is a price.  Now, I may as well level with you, kids: that image came from a torrent.  Yes, I torrented Saga #23.  Guess what?  It was only so I didn't have to scan the entire issue.  Scanning an entire issue of a comic takes way longer than it seems like it should, and I have only so much patience for things of that nature.  So, yeah, sometimes I take the easy way out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #53

Bryant here, back again with another look at some comics I couldn't squeeze into the previous post.
It's a simple two-fer this week, beginning with:
That cover is by Eric Powell, who is also the writer of this particular series.  He's credited as the writer, and also has a co-story credit alongside (and behind) John Carpenter himself.  Your guess is as good as mine as to how much involvement Carpenter has here; my guess is that he's occasionally speaking to his agent, who checks the bank statements to make sure the payments from Boom! are being deposited on time.  Apart from that, my guess is that Carpenter's involvement is nil.
But what do I know?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Under the Dome 2.13: "Go Now"

Another season of Under the Dome has come and gone, and if you thought the second couldn't possibly be worse than the first, then you, sir, are a rank optimist.
stolen from:
Not only was the second season worse, it was worse by a considerable margin.  There were times this summer, over the course of these thirteen episodes, when the series showed glimmers of potential; but that potential was, by the end of tonight's episode, so utterly squandered that thinking about the amount of time I spent watching -- and then blogging about -- this second season makes me feel more than a bit embarrassed.  All told, we're looking at thirteen hours for the initial watches, and then close to another thirteen rewatching the episodes (I missed out on rewatching a few of them), plus -- let's be extremely conservative -- another thirteen or so writing the posts.

That's a minimum of thirty-six hours.  A day and a half of my life, gone; never to return, just . . . gone.
And, in and of itself, that's fine.  I'm devoted to the concept of being a Stephen King fan, and also of being a sort of amateur chronicler of the boundaries of that fandom.  So in that sense, it isn't wasted time.
It sure does feel like wasted time, though.
I don't have the heart to spend much more of it tonight, either; if I let myself do it, I could spend the next six hours enumerating the ways in which this specific episode assaulted me with its stupidity.  Illogical, ridiculous, ham-fisted dreck; nothing worthwhile happened the entire episode, apart from what could feasibly be said to be a few good moments of acting from Dean Norris.
The show's ratings declined during its second year, but unfortunately, they didn't decline enough to actually put the series in danger of being canceled.  I'm sure we'll all be back for a third year of the same old bullshit in 2015, and the idea just kind of makes my shoulders slump a bit.  I'm committed to my Stephen King fandom, and that is because it generally rewards me.  This "adaptation" of Under the Dome is dispiriting, though.  It depresses me a bit to think that there are millions of people potentially watching this and walking away from it thinking that it is actually indicative of Stephen King's work.  I recently reread Needful Things (about which I hope to have some posts in the near future), and while that is generally considered to be a somewhat weak King novel, it is, in terms of its quality, SO superior to the television version of Under the Dome that comparison seems ridiculous.  The one is competent and engaging storytelling at its worst; the other is mildly engaging shlock at its best.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Review of Marvel's "The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner" #2 (aka Bryant Has Issues #52)

It's only been two short weeks since we returned to the universe of Marvel's Dark Tower series, but thanks to some good, old-fashioned Marvel-style double-shipping, we're already getting The Drawing of the Three: The Prisoner #2.

I enjoyed the first issue of this new series quite a lot, and while I enjoyed the second one as well, I have some serious reservations about it.  We'll get to those in a bit, but first, I feel the need to point out something which I've mentioned before in Bryant Has Issues: that cover.  Damn that cover!

It's a good cover; the art by Julian Totino Tedesco is excellent.  Thing is, at no point during this comic do Eddie and Henry encounter a taheen.  So, in that sense, the cover is a complete lie.  This is nothing new; comic have been doing that for years.  The end result is often a good piece of standalone art, which theoretically means that I'm okay with it.  Still . . . dagnabbit, fellers: couldn't you create a good piece of art that actually had something to do with the content of the comic?!?

No point in worrying about it overmuch, though, as it's an aspect of the comics industry which is unlikely to ever go away.

Instead, let's dive in to the issue itself and pick it apart.  Spoilers ahead; clear out now if that is a problem for you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Haven 5.01: "See No Evil"

The new season of Haven began last Thursday night, and while the idea of reviewing the episodes weekly appeals to me, I'm not sure I can actually pull it off.  See, the thing is this: I work every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, which means that bloggin' time is at a minimum for me during the few days after the episodes are premiering.  I didn't even find time to watch the season-opener until early Tuesday morning.
What I'm getting at is that blogging about Haven, in terms of the way the schedule falls, is not conducive to me not feeling as if it's something hanging over my head rather than something enjoyable to which to look forward.
So, will there be weekly reviews?  Ehhh . . . don't know for sure yet, but I'm leaning toward no.
A few words about the season premiere seemed in order, though, so here they come in the form of screencaps with random thoughts attached to them:
This is Molly Dunsworth, who plays Vickie, the coroner's intern.  She's been in a few episodes of the series, and I'll be honest with you (as almost always): I'd never have known this if not for IMDb.  But I'll also say this: she's a good actress, and she's the daughter of John "Dave Teagues" Dunsworth, and she seems as if she ought to have a solid career in front of her.
The episode opens with Vickie and Gloria (the coroner, played by the redoubtable Jayne Eastwood) sitting in a gazebo, while the latter tries to comfort the baby she was left by the events of the previous season.  Before long, the lighthouse collapses in a fairly good use of television CGI.  The various characters who were present in the lighthouse at the end of last season find themselves mysteriously dispersed: Dwight and Duke on rocks near the shore, Vince and Dave in the woods, Nathan and Audrey Mara in a different spot in the woods, and Jennifer . . . well, Jennifer is nowhere to be found.  More on that in a bit.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Under the Dome 2.12: "Turn"

Luik . . . I cannae lie to yeh, laddie; ahm no gonnae be in a pairfect pasition tae revue thahs wake's aipisode o Onder the Dohm.  I dozed mah way thru a greht choonk oov it, ya ken?
Oops.  Sorry about that.  I watched two episode of Outlander today, as well as one Doctor Who (with the very Scottish Peter Capaldi as The Doctor), so about half of my thoughts since have been thought in a mental Scottish accent.  Whether that's more of a Groundskeeper Willie or a Sean Connery I leave to your imagination.  (Spoiler: it's neither.  It's Begbie from Trainspotting, ya doss cunt!)  
[Is that the first c-bomb in this blog's history?  I suspect so; I've got no aversion to being a potty-mouth, but I know that particular swear is a bridge too far for a lot of people.  I'm paraphrasing Begbie, though, so I figure it's permissible.  
Quick side note about the word "cunt": my mom would not let my dad take me to see Predator when it came out in 1987, so my dad bought me a copy of the novelization instead.  It contained many utterances of the word "cunt," which I had never seen.  I thought it was a Spanish word, and decided to ask one of my parents what it meant.  Happily for all concerned, some voice in the back of my mind spoke up and said, "DO NOT DO THAT!!!" in time to prevent me from following through on the question.]
Anyways, we're not here to talk about Begbie, or about any other Scottish concern; unless they are huge Under the Dome fans in the highlands.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Under the Dome 2.11: "Black Ice"

Pop quiz time, kids:
"Black Ice," the eleventh episode of the second season of Under the Dome, is: 
(A)  A pretty good episode of the series
(B)  An average episode of the series
(C)  An even-worse-than-normal episode of the series
(D)  All of above
(E)  None of the above
Don't look to me for guidance; I honestly don't know how to answer the question.  If you put a gun to my head and demanded that I answer, and answer truthfully, I'd probably end up bidding adieu to life.  This scenario hinges on you having a Lying Cat like in Saga, the excellent comic book from Dome alumnus Brian K. Vaughan.
I don't know that I could accurately answer the question for myself, which means that I'd probably be toast.
Anyways, what sort of weirdo goes around executing people based on whether they know what to make of "Black Ice" or not?  You've got issues, pal.
So do I.  And right at this very moment, the foremost among them is that I just don't have anything cogent to say about this episode.  It's debatable as to whether I ever have anything cogent to say about Under the Dome, but it's a damn certainty that I haven't this week.
With that in mind, we are going to simply do this: I'm gonna rewatch the episode, screencap whatever I feel like screencapping, and talk about whatever crosses my mind.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #51

It's only been a couple of days since we last did this, but I had some stuff I couldn't fit into the last post; so here ya, go, leftovers!
Let's take a sideways step from the wide world of Stephen King into the somewhat less-wide (but steadily growing) world of Joe Hill, where we've got three hardbacks I want to mention.  The first is:
This lovely 136-page book serves as a showcase for the covers created for the series by artist Gabriel Rodriguez.  There are covers, variant covers, pencil sketches, ink sketches, and so forth.  
I suspect that most Locke & Key fans would probably be interested in this.  To sweeten the deal ever so slightly, Joe Hill has provided a two-page introduction.  And a good one it is, too; it reminds me more than a bit of some of the better introductions Hill's father Steve King has written, and if you ever needed a forceful reminder that Joe is his father's son, then this intro ought to do the trick.  More than that, though, it is a lovely reminder of what a comic artist's work must sometimes mean to the writer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Review of Marvel's "The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three -- The Prisoner" #1 (aka Bryant Has Issues #50)

It always feels special when Bryant Has Issues gets to actually cover something by or adapted from Stephen King, and so it is today, which brings the resumption (see what I did there?) of Marvel Comics' Dark Tower adaptation, the first issue in their take on The Drawing of the Three.
This cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco is terrific, and the preview images I've seen of his covers for the next three issues are great, too.  It's very strong work, especially given how lackadaisical Marvel's attitude toward Dark Tower covers has been for the past few years.
There is a lot to discuss here, and I'll start by issuing a spoiler warning.  Not necessarily one which applies only to the comics, either.  My typical approach to these comic-book reviews is to be a bit on the spoiler-phobic side and speak only in generalities.  My rationale for that is that since comics are so much more a specialty item, fewer people will have taken the opportunity to read them, as opposed to reading the novels or seeing the movie.  It's beginning to feel to me as if that approach is a failure, though, so I'm not going to continue it; if you want to avoid spoilers, you're on your own recognizance.
So in this review, I'm going to talk about the issue in its entirety, and that is almost certain to lead me down avenues where I'll going to talk about the novel specifically and the Dark Tower series generally.  So, be forewarned: if you've not read the series, you'll be spoiled by reading this post.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Review: "Graveyard Shift" (1990)

Before we even get going, let me establish one thing: Graveyard Shift is not a good movie.  When last I ranked all of the King-based films, it came in at #54 out of 83, behind The Lawnmower Man, Children of the Corn, and (why, Bryant?) Dolan's Cadillac but just ahead of Children of the Corn IV and the first two seasons of Haven.
Lists like that are highly subjective, of course, and I find when I make them that they depend as much upon my mood of the moment as they do upon any idea of critical objectivity I might be nursing.  And in fact, it probably outweighs that critical objectivity more often than not.
Here's what I had to say about the movie at that time, a bit less than a year ago:
I kinda love it.  It's a terrible movie, but for whatever reason, I have an affection for it.  So sue me.
Some of the acting is ludicrously bad, but I like Stephen Macht as the villain, and I thoroughly like Brad Dourif in his small role.  He plays an exterminator who takes his job so seriously that you get the feeling he would be better off in a lineup of other dudes who are applying for a job with Darth Vader to locate and detain the Millennium Falcon.  Dude: chill; they're just rats. 
So, do I stand by those words now?
Yeah, sort of.  Especially the last two sentences.  Here's the thing, Graveyard Shift IS a bad movie, but despite that, I've got some affection for it.  I cannot explain why that is.  I didn't see it until I was an adult, so there's no nostalgia factor at play.  The best I can figure is that it . . .
Sorry, I've got nothing.  I just typed the first part of that sentence, assuming the sentence's resolution would present itself to me (that's how these things usually work), but then I sat there just staring at the screen for what must have been a solid sixty seconds.  End result: I've got nothing.
So let's dive into the actual review and see if I can figure it out along the way.
The first idea that presents itself is that the screenplay by John Esposito, while being sloppy and illogical, is at least somewhat faithful to the short story.  I'm judging the screenplay in terms of how it is represented in the final product, of course; I've not read it in isolation from the film.  So, to be fair, I am making assumptions about it.  For all I know, it may be a masterpiece that was ruined by the production.  Somehow I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Sudden Premonition of a Strange Thing Coming: A Review of "Graveyard Shift"

This blogging stuff is, among other things, a self-reflexive process of discovery.  As such, it stands to reason that I would occasionally be surprised by how I react to things when I put them under the (somewhat) cold and analytical microscope of these reviews.
Such is the case today, because if you'd asked me if "Graveyard Shift" was a great story prior to me rereading it for the purposes of this review, I'd have said it was.  In the process of analyzing it, though, I have concluded that it is instead a rather seriously flawed story, albeit one with some memorable moments.  So: good, yes; great, no.  Not in my opinion.
The story first appeared in the October 1970 issue of Cavalier, beginning a decade-long association with that skin mag for budding young author Stephen King.  It was also his first post-graduation professional sale, and in some ways it marks the beginning of King's career as an authentic pro writer.  I, of course, do not have a copy of this original magazine appearance, as it goes for about $125 on the secondhand market; so I'm reviewing the story as it appeared in 1978's Night Shift.  As always, wealthy readers of this blog -- who almost certainly do not exist -- are encouraged to purchase a copy for me and send it my way.  Their reward: my immense gratitude, plus an autographed copy of this blog post that I shall print out, sign, and mail to them.  It will never be worth anything; in fact, when things that are lame become negatively valued after the New World Order takes over, you might have to pay some sort of tax to hang onto it.

So maybe we'll just settle for my immense gratitude.  (I might be able to hook you up with a genuine theatre-quality movie poster from some upcoming movie you fancy, but we'd have to keep that on the down-low.  But things can be arranged, is what I'm sayin' to you...)

Moving on:

This image comes from the August 1974 issue of Cavalier, which included "Night Surf" and a self-interview by King, as well as thumbnail images from some of his previous stories for the magazine.

Running a bit less than twenty pages, "Graveyard Shift" is a relatively simple tale that focuses primarily on the conflict between a mill-worker and his foreman.  The mill is infested with rats, and the lower you descend into its sub-levels, the bigger the rats get.  That's essentially all the setup you need.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Under the Dome 2.10: "The Fall"

I was strongly tempted to have this week's Under the Dome review consist of a single sentence:
Fuck this show.
But, no, let's power through it and see if we can find something a bit more illustrative than that to say.  We'll begin by acknowledging something: I sent in some comments to the podcast Under The Dome Radio last week, comments which more or less echoed the sentiments I expressed in my review post about how I thought that "The Red Door" might have been the best episode of the series and how it might point the way toward a new sophistication for the series.  And so forth.
Listening to their discussion about my comments, I got the feeling that Wayne and Troy sort of felt I was off my rocker.  And they might not be too off-base there.  I stand by what I said about "The Red Door," but I would have to say that "The Fall" refutes -- or, at the very least, delays -- the idea of Under the Dome developing any sort of newly-sophisticated feel.
"The Fall" was a lousy episode through and through, one which will almost certainly -- albeit without your knowledge -- reward those of you who decided to stop watching after the end of the first season.  Your lack of faith has been rewarded.  Darth Vader does not find it the least bit disturbing; he gives you a thumbs-up and, in a beautifully basso-profundo voice, tells you that you have chosen well.
Me?  Not so much.  I am rewarded for my several-weeks' growing interest with a runny turd of an hour of television that not only fails to work on its own merits, but also seemingly closes the series off from some of the promising developments we'd seen in recent episodes.
Anyways, I just can't bear to put much more thought into this, so let's go into screencaps-with-commentary mode:
Were you intrigued by the final scene of last week's episode, in which Big Jim sees Pauline?  Me too.  Know ye, then, that this week's episode tries to do something with that idea, but mostly fails at it.  Even Dean Norris isn't very good; he mostly just makes Jim-face a lot and then goes off to do other things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Under the Dome 2.09: "The Red Door"

Am I crazy, or was that maybe the best episode of the series to date?  Could be both.  The demons are telling me it's both.  They're also telling me to "kill," which I take to mean they want me to do a good job with this review.  Chill out, demons, I can't make you no promises about that.
What an odd series Under the Dome is.  I'm about halfway convinced that the whole thing is a Truman Show-style experiment designed to gauge my reactions on a week-to-week basis in an attempt to figure out what the range of my potential reactions is.  Might be they're testing you, too; but if I found out they had engineered this whole thing only to fuck with my head, I'd be merely a little surprised.
That's exaggeration, of course, but the unexaggerated fact is that I'm not sure I've ever watched a series that has gotten this sort of roller-coaster of shifting reactions out of me.  By all rights, I should have given up on the series after about two episodes.  Instead, I was determined to stick with it as long as it aired, no matter what.  That's the King-phile in me coming out, of course; and also, I suppose, the amateur blogger.  I mean, I've given up on King-based shows before (never did make it all the way through The Dead Zone), so it isn't purely brand loyalty.  That's part of it, but not the entirety of it.
The rest might simply come down to the nagging suspicion that the series was capable of better, and therefore might theoretically DO better eventually, if only I stuck it out long enough.
This week?  By damn, this week's episode is strong enough that it almost feels like the entire production has been rejuvenated.  The acting is suddenly better; the editing seems crisper; the score by W.G. Walden (which has actually been quite good all season) has more heft to it; there's less of the "CBS cheese" that faithful commenter Chris C. has (quite rightly) complained about.  We're not talking about an episode of True Detective all of a sudden, where everything clicks to an almost super-artistic degree.  But we ARE talking about a series that all of a sudden seem to be showing signs that it might have another gear to shift into.  Let's admit it: hadn't we all given up thinking that such a thing was even possible?  I admit that I had, even when I was hoping I was wrong.
And yet, here I am, making surprised-face and blogging about it.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Under the Dome 2.08: "Awakening"

I would say this week's episode was a fairly decent one.  Much of it revolves around Barbie meeting a guy who works for Aktaion Energy, and who also, on the side, runs the site that is evidently dedicated to counteracting disinformation about the dome.
Do we care about this?
In fact, do we care about any of this outside-the-dome business?
For me, the answer, increasingly, is yes.  Under the Dome hasn't turned into The Wire, exactly; hell, it hasn't even turned into a Dexter-quality show yet.  But there does somehow seem to have been a sense of energy and mystery imparted during these last couple of episodes that are, at the very least, making it a more interesting series than was once the case.  
Hopefully, that means we've seen the last of dumbo "Chester's Mill experiences __________ catastrophe this week and gets saved in ten minutes flat by __________" plots.
The question is, can the show build a mythology that is compelling enough to justify straying this far from the novel?  That remains to be seen.  There are five episodes remaining in this second season, and given how fast things tends to move on Under the Dome (in terms of bouncing from one plot element to the next), I'd say that we'll get enough story between now and the season finale to have a solid gauge on the answer to that question.
There is at the very least some attempt at depth being made.  Barbie's father works for a company called Aktaion Energy, and this appears to be a reference to the Greek myth of Actaeon, who saw Artemis bathing and was put to death by the goddess for his frank awe at her naked beauty.  He was turned into a stag, and was torn to pieces by his own hounds.
We've been seeing references to for several weeks now, and it is obviously turning into a major plot element.  "Diana," of course, is the Roman equivalent of Artemis.  It is unclear what significance the mythological references might have, but there is at least a chance of something interesting happening in the course of all this.  This feels like Stephen King at work, to me.  I'm not sure yet if it's King bringing his A-game or not; hell, I'd settle for his C-game.  But it feels like King's hand guiding things, and if that proves to be the case, I'm curious to see what destination he has in mind.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #49

Tonight, we'll be covering a bunch of comics that I'd intended to cover in #48.  However, that post was overstuffed, so I decided to split it in two.  And now you've got an origin story for how #49 came to be.  Aren't you glad?
We begin with two feet firmly planted in Alan Moore-ville, and since this month brings us a brand-new comic from the Master himself, what better place to begin than that?
Specifically, Moore's new story for this month is a ten-page short titled "Grandeur & Monstrosity," which appears in the above-pictured anthology book God Is Dead: The Book of Acts -- Alpha.
I'm not familiar with God Is Dead, but evidently its conceit is that it takes place in a world where all the gods humans have ever worshiped have come back, and are all walking the Earth at once.  Sounds pretty rad, but the reviews I've seen indicate that that is perhaps not the case.  Granted, I have not researched the matter fully.  I've not read the series, and I've got no particular plans to do so; time constraints and all that jazz.
Alan Moore came close to changing my mind about that, but just when I was on the verge of doing so I reminded myself that he's not writing the series.  All he did was write this hilarious and oddly touching ten-pager, and while I'd definitely read a comic like that every month, I see no evidence that God Is Dead actually IS such a comic.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #48

The big item on the agenda for today is IDW's recent release of Walter Simonson's Lawnmower Man: Artist's Edition Portfolio, which will set you back about $60 and is almost guaranteed to thwart any and all attempts to stand it up straight on a bookshelf.  If you've got a shelf that can accommodate this thing, then you may be one of those giants from Game of Thrones.
What we're talking about here is a hardcover binder which holds frameable individual pages.  The binder is about 18.5" tall and 13.25" wide, and the pages themselves are 18" X 13".  So, needless to say, this sucker is huge.
I've got some size-comparison photos I'll share with you in a bit, but before we get to that, let's take a look at the history of this comic.
Its first appearance was in the December 1981 issue of Bizarre Adventures, which was a magazine-sized anthology series published by Marvel.  Here's the cover:
That's a terrific cover, and if you like the art, then I've got good news about the rest of the adaptation (which runs 21 pages), and I've got bad news about it.  Which do you want first?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Under the Dome 2.07: "Going Home"

Having watched tonight's episode, I find that I don't know how I feel about it.  Which is partially a lie: I do know how I feel about it.  I feel numerous things about it all at once, and some of them are flat-out contradictory.  I like this show, and I loathe it; I am invested in this show, and I feel virtually no attachment to it.  Reconcile those things, if you can.  I can't.
So, in an attempt to do so, I'm going to rewatch it, take a few screencaps, and try to work it all out as I type.  We'll see how it goes.
Barbie wakes with a start from a dream of Sam falling into the darkness in the cave.  Julia has been reading Pauline's journal, and can't sleep.
The next morning, Julia and Barbie tell Junior, Joe, Norrie, and Melanie about Sam's death, and about Barbie's discovery that it was Sam who killed Angie and not Lyle. Junior doesn't take it well, and more or less accuses Barbie of lying to cover up the fact that he murdered Sam.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Under the Dome 2.06: "In the Dark"

Well, for the second consecutive week, I find myself in the position of having to spend the latter half of my off day not as I wish to do -- blogging (probably very snarkily) about Under the Dome -- but going to friggin' work.  Which means I have precisely half an hour to write a review of this week's episode.  And given that I kept falling asleep during it (probably thanks to me begin up entirely too late putting the finishing touches on my Golden Years review), I'm not sure how effective a job I'm going to be able to do.  But hey, this blog is a time-capsule for me as much as it is anything else, so it'll just have to be what it'll be, I guess.
It was an okay episode.  Not one of the better episodes of the season, but neither did it manage to make me roll my eyes more than about once or twice.  Two times that I can think of: Big Jim lurching back toward villainy AGAIN by telling Barbie that people shouldn't be allowed to vote; and the big Joe/Norrie breakup scene.  But even those threads ended up being relatively inoffensive.
The episode revolved around four primary plotlines: (1) Barbie and Sam exploring the recently-discovered tunnels which run beneath the school; (2) Big Jim trying to construct a windmill to alleviate some sort of dust storm (the explanation for which must have happened during one of my micro-naps); (3) Julia and Rebecca trying to unblock a bunch of rocks that collapses in the tunnel thanks to an explosion, seemingly rigged by Lyle; and (4) the Four Hands trying to retrieve the egg from the lake.
Of those, I guess the Barbie/Sam plotline was the most intriguing, mainly because it actually gave Mike Vogel a chance to act a little bit.  That's a semi-rarity on this series.  Hell, even Eddie Cahill got a chance to do something other than stare blankly into space.  We found out -- assuming we can believe what we saw (which I think we can) -- that Sam (A) did indeed kill Angie; (B) plans to kill the other Hands; and (C) is indeed doing so because he believes it will bring the dome down.  However, he's obviously conflicted about it.  Actually, scratch that; he's not conflicted at all, he's downright remorseful over what he's having to do, to the extent that he plans to kill himself once the deed is totally done.  That turns Sam into a much more interesting character than he has ever even approached being before.
One other semi-notable occurrence: John Elvis make his first appearance of the season as Benny the skate-kid.  He looks as if he's been on the reverse of the Atkins diet, and I'm not sure how Benny picked up all those extra pounds in just a few weeks of story time, but I think we might have our explanation for the food-shortage problem of a few episodes ago.

Half-hour's up, y'all!  See you next week, hopefully in a less-abbreviated fashion.

Monday, August 4, 2014

After A While, They Always Stop: A Review of "Golden Years"

I've got a treat for you today, folks, assuming your idea of a treat involves reading 25,000+ words on the subject of Golden Years.  If it doesn't, you're out of luck.  Go buy yourself an ice-cream cone, and have one for me while you're at it.  My apologies for the tease.

Everyone else, strap in, because this one will take a while.

Before we proceed, I've got to mention the format we'll be taking.  Typically with my reviews, I just sort of do whatever feels right.  Sometimes that takes the form of proceeding along the lines of theme and subject; other times, I just sort of yammer for a while and then slap a title on things.  What I don't tend to do is plot summary.

The reason for that is simple: I assume you've read the book (or seen the movie), and have no particular need of a summary.  It makes more sense to me to discuss the ramifications of the events rather than the events themselves.

With this piece, though, I had some difficulty deciding whether to limit my review to the DVD version (which at one point was the only commercially-available edit of the series), or whether I ought to also discuss the original, uncut television episodes.  (I'd already done so once, here, but felt there might be room to expand and revise that approach.)  Those have evidently become available via Netflix in the past few years, so they are relevant again whereas before they were not.  However, those versions themselves are seemingly somewhat compromised: the final episode has been edited to incorporate the tacked-on "ending" that was included on the VHS and DVD releases.  Or at least, that's my understanding; I'm not currently a Netflix subscriber, so I cannot verify that.

So, what version to tackle?

In contemplating the issue, a solution presented itself: do a "side-by-side" plot summary, and find a way to offset the scenes that were cut out for the feature edit.  That way, anyone who is interested enough in Golden Years to care about the differences between the television and home-video versions will have a fairly comprehensive resource at their disposal.  From there, the piece developed under its own powers, and when I say "developed," what I mean is that it turned into what amounts to a running prose "commentary track" written by yours truly.  Lots of snark, lots of profanity; this should surprise nobody who has ever read my blog.  I'm pretty hard on the show when I think it deserves it (which is often), but I'm quick to praise it when I think it deserves praise.

There are tons of screencaps, too, so what you've got here is a very lengthy plot summary with multiple visual aids, accompanied by observations from yours truly.  It's a very different piece than what I normally do around here, but the results may be one of the lengthier articles ever written on the subject of Golden Years, so I guess there's that.

Without further ado, let's just dive right into it. [A word about formatting: scenes omitted from the "feature" cut are set aside in brackets, like so.  That ought to be sufficient to help us remember which  scenes are in the feature edit and which are not.

I can't help but point out that my old VHS version begins with the CBS lead-in.  The premiere two-parter was actually aired as a "CBS Tuesday Movie."  Check it out:

If anyone knows who wrote the cool music that accompanied this, let me know. It sounds like, but is not, John Williams.
Modern networks would rather do just about anything than air thirty seconds' worth of stuff like this.  I can't honestly say that I blame them.  Still, I kinda miss garbage like this, personally.]
We begin with the opening credits, set to the David Bowie song "Golden Years." 


[The television version does not include the opening-credits sequence; it begins with an abbreviated version of the Bowie song, but then launches straight into the first scene.]

Monday, July 28, 2014

Under the Dome 2.05: "Reconciliation"

It occurs to me that what we're dealing with on Under the Dome is, essentially, soap opera, wherein the characters need not remain particularly consistent from one week to the next.  All that matters to the producers and writers is that there be conflict between the characters.  Is it necessary for that conflict to make actual sense?  Not apparently.  They just argue and argue and argue, and if one character ends up arguing something that seems to contradict something they argued a week ago, well, what of it?
So, what's the argument about this week?
Image stolen from:

Yep: food.  Because, see, food is getting scarce in Chester's Mill.  Patience is also getting scarce, and the town is starting to divide along lines of those loyal to Big Jim and those loyal to Julia.  I'm not sure the series has done an adequate job explaining this, but evidently Julia is currently in charge of Chester's Mill.  This may or may not have happened prior to Big Jim getting arrested last week.  You'd think this would be a good time for somebody on the show to refer to Julia as "the monarch," but does that happen this week?  Nope.  We're over a third of the way into the second season, and the very concept of there being a "monarch" has been utterly ignored.  
Part of doesn't mind this, because it was kind of a dumb idea to begin with; then again, you can't really spend as much time as was spent on that concept in the first season only to then totally ignore it in the second season.  Except that I guess you can, because hey, lookit these folks doing it.  They're proving me wrong on a weekly basis.  So what I ought to say is that you shouldn't ignore it.
Anyways, I'm a bit pressed for time this week, so I'm not going to do what I've been doing this season; I've been watching the episodes a second time and writing my reviews as I rewatched, pausing as needed to wax philosophical and to take a crapload of screencaps.  There's no time this week; yr. hmble blogger has to go to work for a few hours, so blogging's got to take a back-seat tonight.
Which is kind of a shame, because I did like this episode.  It's still dumb as a sack of donut holes, and it's a step backward from the actually-not-bad philosophizing of last week's episode.  But, despite that, I enjoyed watching it.