Friday, June 28, 2013

A Review of "Hard Listening"

Tonight, for your reading pleasure: a review of Hard Listening, a recent e-book anthology from members of The Rock Bottom Remainders.  Stephen King, of course, was one of the charter longtime members of that outfit, and so it seemed mandatory that this blog devote some time to the book.

Which, quite frankly, I have a difficult time thinking of as a book.  I have no fundamental objection to reading digitally: I own an iPad, and I have the Kindle app for my laptop.  On occasions when an author I follow releases an e-book exclusive, I am more than happy to use one of those devices.  But the fact is that I prefer a book in my hands, not a hunk of plastic and metal; and the fact is also that I prefer to have something I can put on my shelf alongside all my other books.  Because, like...I enjoy arranging them and whatnot.

So sue me; those are my preferences.

And because of that, I simply don't think of something like Hard Listening the same way I think of Joyland, or even the same way I think of the previous Rock Bottom Remainders anthology, Mid-Life Confidential.  Those, to me, are books; this is...something else.

It's an irrelevant distinction for many (if not most) people, and as time continues to fly by, it will only become more irrelevant.  I only mention it because I felt like mentioning it.  Sometimes I do that.

For example, here is a list of all fourteen of Pixar's movies, from worst to best (in the opinion of this blogger):

#14 -- Cars 2 (Hated by many; not hated by me.  I think it's a hell of a lot of fun.  Still, inarguably their worst.)
#13 -- Brave  (Good movie; feels more like a Disney film than a Pixar film, but good movie.)
#12 -- Cars  (Why do people hate this, again?  I think it's because they are vehemently opposed to Larry the Cable Guy.  Me too, but he's awesome in these two movies.)
#11 -- Monsters University  (Time may move this one farther up the list.  One of the best prequels ever made.)
#10 -- A Bug's Life  (I had a terrible experience watching this movie the first time, and still managed to enjoy the hell out of it.)
#9 -- Ratatouille  (From this point on, every movie on the list is a masterpiece, and you could change the order around almost at random and satisfy me.)
#8 -- Monsters, Inc.
#7 -- WALL*E
#6 -- Toy Story  (Dare I suggest it...?  A perfect film...?)
#5 -- Finding Nemo  (Can't wait for the sequel.)
#4 -- Toy Story 2
#3 -- Up
#2 -- Toy Story 3
#1 -- The Incredibles  (Best superhero movie ever made.)
What's that got to do with Hard Listening?
Not a flippin' thing, y'all.  I just felt like mentioning it.
Here's another thing I feel like mentioning: whether you want to call it a book, an e-book, a PDF, a file, or a watermelon, Hard Listening is a lot of fun to read.

Follow me, and I'll give you a breakdown on its contents.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Truth Looks So Far Away: A Review of "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County"

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is a bit difficult for me to approach from a critical perspective, because it presents a few problems which must be solved prior to even beginning a review.

For example: how do you review a play without the benefit of actually seeing it?  That's like reviewing a movie based on the screenplay and the trailer; you can do it, theoretically, but only if you're willing to make a whole lot of assumptions.

Ghost Brothers is a musical, so we've at least got the benefit of being able to hear the music.  It'd definitely be possible to review the soundtrack based purely on the songs; but doing that would require purposely ignoring the context within which the songs are meant to be placed.  Doesn't seem very responsible for me to do that.

The fact is this: I have no means of consuming Ghost Brothers of Darkland County in the way it was intended to be consumed.  So, I'll instead do the next best thing:

Say "fuck it," and write whatever I feel like writing.


That feels so much better...

Let's do this: begin with a simple not-so-simple look at the different editions of the soundtrack that are currently available.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Under the Dome 1.01: "Pilot"

I have occasionally had people accuse me of being overly critical when it comes to movies and tv shows and books and whatnot.  I've never felt as if it was a fair accusation, nor an accurate one, and in my defense I would paraphrase something a friend of mine once said: "hey," he said, "I never sit down to watch a movie hoping it will suck..."  Me neither; I always want to see something good, especially when it's based on a book by my favorite writer.

Let's bear that thought in mind over the course of this review.

First of all, let me clarify: I am not saying that the first episode of Under the Dome sucked.  That was an unfair trick for me to play.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #33

Boy, oh boy, how I'd love some cookies and whoppin' big glass of milk right now.

Instead of that, let's talk about some comics!

Or, in this case, some comic, singular.  That's right, I've only got one title tonight.  And since Stephen King once wrote an episode of The X-Files, this is at least vaguely King-related.


What was that...?

I signed up for this comic under the assumption that it was going to suck.  But I was curious, and I decided heywhatthehell, letsgiveitashot.  Or something like that.

The result?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #32

It's been quite a while since the last time I pumped one of these comics columns out, which means one thing: I am a lazy sack of crap.  It means another thing, too: I've been swamped at work.  And for extra-special-bonus points, it means yet another thing: that I've got a whole pile of comics to cover.

Enough shilly-shallying, let's get right down to it.

The first clown out of the clowncar this time is the second issue of the two-part Evil Ground story from Marvel Comics, Robin Furth, and company.  You may or may not recall that I was none too thrilled by the first issue of Evil Ground, which I described as being one of the worst issues of the Dark Tower comic that had been produced.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Burning the Lot: A Review of "Joyland," Part 3

This -- in case you missed the title of the post somehow -- is part three of my Joyland review.  If you're inclined to do so, you can read parts one and two, but be warned: like part three will be, they are chock full of spoilers.  As for the novel, it's a terrific piece of work from Mr. King; I continue to be extremely impressed by the way the current era of his career is unfolding.  He shows no signs of letting up, and Joyland stands proudly beside some of the best novels he's ever written.

I'm less impressed by a recent decision that King made regarding the way Joyland would be published, and that's how I'm going to opt to begin this post.

We'll dive in momentarily, but first, some pulp paperback covers:

that's an awesome tagline up top

not real, but still real cool...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Today I Am a Man of Many Hats: A Review of "Joyland," Part 2

Part one of my Joyland review focused mainly on my emotional reactions to the novel, and that felt, to me, like the right tack to take: it's an emotional novel, blatantly and unashamedly so, and I really can't imagine that Stephen King would want you to take it any other way.

There are certainly other aspects of the novel that deserve attention, though, and chief among them has got to be the murder-mystery element.  After all, this is a mystery novel, one published by Hard Case Crime, and King was invested enough in the idea that he opted to forgo an e-book publication in favor of having people enjoy the novel in a pulp-paperback format, like crime-novel readers of yore would have done.

We're going to cover that decision in part three of this review.  (Spoilers: I think it was a miscalculation, but also kinda don't care one way or another.)

Speaking of spoilers, since this post is going to focus on the murder mystery, there are going to be spoilers aplenty.  Yes, I will be talking about whodunit.  Yes, I will be talking about other things you don't want to know unless you've read the novel.  Let's be clear about that.

So if you want to remain unsullied, here's your chance to bow out.

To provide some cushion, I shall now post amusing cat GIFs, which I saw on Joe Hill's Tumblr (he reblogged it from Wil Wheaton's, and Wheaton got it from Olenna Redwyne's; the original post can be found here.  By the way, I don't think that's the real Olenna Redwyne; if it is, it certainly makes my use of the word "unsullied" richer with added meaning.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some Days Are Treasure: A Review of "Joyland," Part 1

When I first sat down to write this review, I intended to do a three-part review, the first part of which would be entirely devoid of spoilers.  I'm keenly aware that a lot of people turn to reviews of books and movies and whatnot merely to get a gauge on whether the reviewer is giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  This is particularly true when the book in question has been on shelves for less than a week.

Thing is, I've got no real interest in writing a spoiler-free review.  I'm in this blogging business to amuse and edify myself primarily, and so my number one rule is that if I sit down and start writing something and realize that I'm not enjoying the process of doing it, I pull the plug.  Maybe I come back to the idea at some later date; maybe I don't.
When I sat down on Thursday night to write part one of the review, with an eye toward keeping it entirely free of spoilers, I just sorta sat there and stared at the screen, trying to motivate myself to actually type something.  I gave it about half an hour and then said, "Nope, that's that; time to watch an episode of Arrested Development.  I think I've got plenty to say about Joyland...but not without getting into the thick of it."
For the benefit of those of you who have tuned in hoping to find out a surface-level reaction that will keep the novel's twists and turns intact, I apologize for failing you.  In a couple of sentences, here is a short version of what that review would have looked like:
I loved Joyland, and when the time comes to revise my Worst-To-Best ranking of all of King's books later this year, I'd say there's a strong chance that this one is going to be in the top twenty.  I think that, along with Duma Key and 11/22/63, this is the third masterpiece novel King has written in the last decade (the fourth, if you count "1922," and the fifth if you like Book VII of The Dark Tower as much as I do).

I apologize again for not being able to find an entry point to deliver a longer, more meaningful version of those two sentences; but hey, I play the cards I've got, and this time out, that's what I seem to have been dealt.

So, for you spoilerphobes, this is your cue to duck out.  Go read the novel, and if'n you've a mind to, come back here and let me know if you agree with my thoughts or not.