Monday, August 14, 2017

A Review of "Studies in the Horror Film: Brian De Palma's Carrie"

If I had the ability to do so, I'd spend about eighteen hours a day blogging about Stephen King.  Not every single day; I'd do that on about ten of the fourteen days of the week, and set aside the others for
some of the other topics near and dear to my heart.  But yeah, for sure on ten of those days, I'd get out of bed, have a spot of breakfast, go exercise, read King books/stories (or view movies) for nine hours or so, have some food, go exercise some more, and then write a blog post of some sort for about nine hours.  Eat me some dinner, catch up on my shows, sleep for twelve hours, get up, and do it all over again.  Not sure how many hours the day'd need to be, but that's mere details.
Yessir, that's the life for me.
Unfortunately, I'm stuck with this one.  What that means, in terms of The Truth Inside The Lie, is that I'm perpetually backlogged with things I'd like to be writing about but can't find the time for.
Among those: I've got a number of books about King's works (or about adaptations of that work) that I have not yet made time to read.  I hope to knock a bunch of those out before the end of the year, and it seems natural to review each of these as I go.
In that regard, the first domino has fallen:

Published in 2011 by Centipede Press, Joseph Aisenberg's Studies in the Horror Film: Brian De Palma's Carrie is a not-entirely-uncommon breed among books of film criticism: a book I enjoyed greatly despite frequently disagreeing with it.
The book, I regret to inform you, is long out of print.  If you're a big fan of the movie, it might be worth your while to track one down.  Copies can be pricey, but Amazon has one in what seems to be good condition for $15.  It's certainly worth that if you're a fan of the movie; Aisenberg is very passionate on the subject, and devotes well over three hundred pages to analysis of its every nook and cranny.  His method is to match through the entire film, one scene at a time, talking about basically any aspect of it that seems worthwhile.  The emphasis is on the psychological content and on De Palma's masterful grasp of cinematic language, but Aisenberg also delves into behind-the-scenes issues of casting, filming, etc.  He's interested in it all, and it shows.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I Will Not Be Watching "Mr. Mercedes"... least, for now.

Here's why.
It's available only via DirecTV, their DirecTV Now streaming service, or AT&T U-Verse.  Of those options, I don't have the former or the latter.  Like millions of Americans, I don't have cable service because it's not cost-effective.  It's not that I think it isn't worth what it costs; it is.  I just can't find the time to watch more than a few hours of television a week lately.  So for me, it makes more sense to pay for things in a manner targeted to what I know I will be watching.
Currently, that consists of two shows: Game of Thrones and The Mist.  I pay $15 per month for HBO Now, and consider it money very well spent; when Game of Thrones ends, I will likely cancel that service until HBO puts something else on that I feel is essential.  I had it for The Leftovers earlier this year, and will have it again when Westworld starts back up.  It makes no sense to me to have it and not use it; that's money that could be put to use buying old Stephen King paperbacks, ya kennit?
With The Mist, I simply bought a season pass for that via Amazon Prime.  Cost me about $20, I think, so $2 per episode.  Worth it?  Not even vaguely.  But hey, I'm a King completist, so it had to be done, and it is worth $2 an episode from that perspective.
This brings us to Mr. Mercedes.  I really want to watch it; it looks good, and there's the aforementioned King-completist angle to consider.  But it isn't available through Amazon, or through iTunes, for that matter.
The only option left to me was to subscribe to DirecTV Now and stream it through my Amazon Fire Stick (or on my PC).  DirecTV Now is happy to offer me that option...
...for $35 per month after my one-week free trial is over.
given that the series is 10 episodes, that's a minimum of three months that I'd have to pay for in order to watch it weekly.  Lemme do that math, so, okay, times three, hmm, that's ... $105.  Or, in other words, nearly $12 per episode (not counting the first episode during my free trial).
Even if it turns out to be great, it's not worth that to me.  I wouldn't pay that for Game of Thrones.  I wouldn't pay that for Mad Men or Breaking Bad, guys.
And yes, I get it: there's more to DirecTV Now than just one series.  But since one series is all I'd be using it for, it's all I'm getting out of it.
Not worth it, even to me.
It's very likely, of course, that the only reason Mr. Mercedes the series got made is so DirecTV could drive people toward its Now streaming service.  This sort of thing is becoming more common with every passing month.  And I'm not opposed to that; if you make a thing that I'd like to see, I'm interested in giving you money for it.  For that reason, beginning next month, CBS All Access will begin getting money from me on a monthly basis so that I can watch Star Trek: Discovery.
They are only charging about six bucks a month for it, though.  Big difference.
As this war of streaming services continues, with content deployed as the weaponry, it will become absolutely essential for a guy like me to pick and choose his battles.  I'm an Amazon Prime customer, so that one is year-round for me.  I pick Netflix up when they've got an original I want to see; so when The Defenders launches in a few weeks, I'll be onboard their train again.  I subscribed to Hulu when 11/22/63 aired, and Castle Rock will pull me back.
But, again, those services are inexpensive enough that even if I end up using them only for a single specific show, I won't feel I've overspent.
Nobody will be able to get $35 per month out of me for a service like that.
And so, reluctantly, I'm going to have to bow out of the Mr. Mercedes experience until it comes out on Blu-ray or DVD.  And I'm only assuming it will; there's no guarantee in that regard.
Anyways, in case anyone was wondering, that's my stance on this new series.  I am excited by its existence, and I am willing to pay to see it.
Not at that price, though.  DirecTV might well win the war; but they've lost me.
Now, here are some promotional photos I borrowed from their website:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

It's Really Not That Complicated...

Time for an exercise.
Before we begin, let me answer a question some of you might have: no, I will not be reviewing The Dark Tower.  Not, at least, for now; you can look for that review at some point in the future, though, for sure.  It might be as late as whenever the Blu-ray comes out, or as soon as whenever the movie exits cinemas; but for now, I won't be speaking to it here.  I won't be entertaining comments about it, either, which might seem frustrating to some of you; trust me, I get it.  There's a reason for it, though; it's got to do with my job (I'm a movie-theatre manager), and for the time being, I just don't think it's a good idea for me to talk about the movie.
In lieu of that conversation, I'd like to offer a few thoughts as to why I don't think it was necessary for anybody to be afraid of actually adapting The Gunslinger (a thing the movie certainly does not do).  That novel gets criticized by King fans and by Dark Tower fans alike (albeit not all of them) for being too weird or too boring or too offensive or some combination of those qualities.  I try to keep myself in check anytime this issue comes up, and I'm mostly successful; I mean, yeah, sure, it baffles and aggravates me that some people look at The Gunslinger -- which is my favorite King novel of them all -- that way, but hey, whatever, you do fandom your way and I'll do it my way, and we'll all be okay in the end.
So my aim today is to show you how a movie based on The Gunslinger could have played out.  Bear in mind -- as I would be well-advised to do (he said to himself, warningly) -- that I have never made a movie, have never even tried to make a movie.  I don't really know what I'm talking about, so take all of this for what it's worth.
I've been watching movies my whole life, though.  And I've been reading books my whole life.  Specifically, I've been reading books like The Gunslinger (an epic combination of science fiction, fantasy, and horror), and I've been watching movies that aspire to be the kind of crowd-pleasing hits that a series of Dark Tower films ostensibly wanted/needed to be.  I'm a critical-minded thinker who understands that if one wishes to draw a line from books like that to movies like that with the aim of turning the story of one into the experience of the other, one cannot draw a straight line; it is necessary to curve the line, to loop it back on itself as needed to avoid the pitfalls that come with such an effort.  What matter is getting from point A to point B while bringing as much of the book with you as possible.
If you don't have that intent, it means you were only ever interested in point B, in which case, why are you even bothering with point A?
In order to conduct this exercise, I will be spoiling certain aspects of the series, including the very ending of Book VII.  So if you haven't read the books, I'd advise against reading this post.
The main charge against The Gunslinger, as far as I can tell, is that it's boring.  I think that's ridiculous, but I've heard it from too many people to shrug it off.  That being the case, I'd be a fool not to take it into account when proposing this film version.
Let that be lesson #1, then: divorce your ego from the project as much as possible in service of accomplishing the intended goal (i.e., to translate these books into a mass-audience-friendly cinematic context and thereby make billions of dollars).  Part of that means letting go of certain aspects of the novel in favor of making an enjoyable movie; but it also means keeping the end product recognizably similar to the novel.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Interview With Paul Suntup of Suntup Editions

I've got some exciting stuff to share with y'all today.  As you may know, I've got some real love for a lot of the cover art for Stephen King's books.  I've been saying for years that somebody ought to market posters of the art to those covers, and doggone if somebody hasn't come along and started doing exactly that.  Who has done the King-fan community that service?
Suntup Editions, that's who.  They've got a lot more going for them than that, though; they also have a gorgeous portfolio of David Palladini's art for The Eyes of the Dragon available for sale.  The company's owner, Paul Suntup, was turned into a King fan by that very novel. 
At age nineteen – 19!!! – Paul Suntup wandered into a bookstore and discovered The Eyes of the Dragon.  This led him to become a massive Stephen King fan, which in turn led him to become a dedicated collector of King books.  Suntup lived in South Africa, which made this a bit more difficult than it would have been for an American or British Constant Reader, but his persistence eventually paid off.

He fell out of collecting King for a while, but had his love for it awoken around the time Doctor Sleep came out.  He eventually discovered that he had a desire to become a publisher, and this led him to an ambitious project: a custom-rebound edition of The Eyes of the Dragon.  It was a success, and led to an even more ambitious rebinding project that did wonderful things with Firestarter.
This, in turn, led to a project on which Suntup collaborated with David Palladini, the illustrator of the original Viking edition of The Eyes of the Dragon: a portfolio showcasing Palladini's exquisite art for the novel.  (Suntup discussed this in episode #70 of The Stephen King Podcast in March, and I recommend giving that a listen; his enthusiasm shines through, and it's a lot of fun to hear how a project like that portfolio comes together.)
The Lettered and Numbered editions with a 1st trade edition for perspective.  More images can be found at
All of that is exciting, but Suntup's next venture was the one that got me excited: The Covers Collection, a series of fine-art prints (and posters) celebrating the cover art of King novels such as The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Misery.  There is a monthly subscription service that sounds wonderful, and single-print options are also available to customers.