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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Under the Dome 2.04: "Revelation"

No time for preamble this week; let's get straight to it (he said, unaware that saying so was itself preamble).
We begin with Big Jim sitting at his desk, reviewing a stack of the census forms he and Rebecca collected last week.
Hey!  Look!  You can see a photo of Carolyn under Joe's form!  Get a good look: that's all you'll see of Carolyn this week, which makes this the third consecutive episode that Aisha Hinds has been absent.  This is not exactly unprecedented: Hinds' Carolyn was missing from four straight episodes during the first season.  So clearly, this show's producers have no problem being Hinds-less for extended periods of time.
Which begs a question: why not simply kill Carolyn off?  Wouldn't doing that be preferable to having her disappear for several episodes at a time?  I don't know if it's some sort of scheduling issue with Hinds, or a failure on the producers' part to find anything for the character to do, or what, but it's weird, and it's very noticeable, and it seems like writing the character out would be preferable.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Under the Dome 2.03: "Force Majeure"

Son of a bitch.
I've got a friend who, when he was a younger man, saw a guy beating a woman in a parking lot.  He jumped on the guy to get him to stop, and for his gallant efforts was rewarded by the woman with a two-by-four upside the back of his skull.  The lesson to be learned here is simple: some men can beat some women and not only keep the woman coming back for more, but actually have her come to his defense when and if he himself gets attacked.
In psychological terms, I believe this is referred to as "fucked-up bullshit."
I'm not quite ready to take a proverbial two-by-four to anyone's head in defense of Under the Dome, but I do keep coming back for more, and I'd be more likely to take to the streets with a two-by-four in search of dissidents tonight than I would have been one week ago.  To give you an idea of what that might look like, here's me circa 1988.
I looked a lot like Hacksaw Jim Duggan, didn't I?  Ahem...
Anyways . . . yeah . . . as much as it grieves me to admit it, I liked this week's episode of Under the Dome.  In the midst of my enjoyment of it, I came to a realization:
The series is, overall, lousy, and is unlikely to ever be anything but lousy in terms of the big picture.  But, within that big picture, there is still room for good episodes, and for individual scenes that work.  With that in mind, I have decided to try my best to simply let go of the notion that the series is ever going to be good in the way that I would like for it to be.  I'm going to just let that go, and focus on enjoying it for what it is, to whatever extent that is possible.  He's going to beat me from time to time, I know he is; but maybe he'll say something nice to me sometimes, too.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Review of "That Bus Is Another World"

On the agenda today: a super-duper brief look at "That Bus Is Nother World," a brand-new King short story that was published in the August issue of Esquire.  Yes, I know; it's still July.  It's one of those weird things where the cover date and the on-sale date seemingly have about a month's difference.  I don't get that, but whatever.
Regardless of such obfuscation, my local Publix was more than happy to sell me a copy of this today:

The cashier took one look at this, and said, in a tone that indicated what I assume to be semi-immodest envy (but which might theoretically have actually been sapphic appreciation; even, possibly, both), "Boy, she's got some bod, huh?"
Know ye that I am a man.  Yes, it is true.  I like a good-lookin' woman.  Know ye also that while it might be a reasonable assumption for a Publix cashier to make to assume that Cameron Diaz's luscious physique was the reason for my purchase, this was not actually the case.  I really WAS buying it for the articles.  Or, at least, for the short story.
My reply to the cashier was, "She sure does.  I'm the weirdo who's buying this for the Stephen King story, though."  Followed by what hoped to be a winning smile, but probably wasn't.  This was greeted with skepticism, or pity, or (again) maybe a bit of both.
So be it.  She wasn't the first cashier to give me such a look, and she won't be the last.
The story, then.  How is it?
Know ye (he said again, not sure where such weirdly formal language was coming from) that I will divulge no spoilers.  As such, I'd like to tell you as little about the story as possible.  That isn't unusual in my reviews of new King stories, because I assume most King fans will not read it until it is collected.  And also because, due to the way many short stories function work, the less the reader knows the better.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Under the Dome 2.02: "Infestation"

Q:  Bryant, do you think it's time to resurrect the self-interview format for this particular episode review?
A:  Bryant, I think it is.  Can I ask the questions this time?

Q:  No.
A:  Aww...
Q:  Let's get moving.  I don't want to spend any more time on this than is absolutely necessary.  How did you like last week's episode?
A:  "Heads Will Roll"?  Written by Stephen King?
Q:  That's the one.
A:  I thought it was okay.  I thought it hinted at a new direction...
Q:  Please don't say "nude erection."
A: a different direction for the series.  I didn't think it was a great episode, but I thought it had potential.
Q:  How do you feel about that potential after seeing this week's episode?
A:  I feel like it is nearly nonexistent, and I feel as if whatever potential IS there is almost certain to be squandered by the show's producers and writers.  This was a terrible episode.  Absolutely terrible.
Q:  That's harsh.
A:  You disagree?
Q:  I do not.  I believe harshness is warranted.
A:  Oh, goody!  We are in agreeance.
Q:  That isn't a word.  We are in agreement.
A:  Whatevs.  This show makes me dumber lol.
Q:  What was the plot this week?
A:  The science teacher, Miss Pine, discovered that the reproductive cycle of the butterflies had been thrown out of whack, and that they'd all just laid a bunch of eggs or something, meaning that pretty soon there are going to be a LOT of caterpillars everywhere, eating up all the grain and whatnot.  The end result of this: devastation for the town's crops.
Q:  That's a pretty good idea for a plot development, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Under the Dome 2.01: "Heads Will Roll"

Well, folks, Under the Dome has returned for a second season, whether you wanted it or not.  I briefly toyed with the idea of not doing weekly reviews this year.  In a way, it's no fun; I think that most modern television now works (or doesn't) as much on a season-by-season basis as it does on an episode-by-episode basis.  As such, I think it's a big old whopping mistake to lose sight of that fact, and I've found a great many modern television fans to be guilty of that weird crime.  (Don't believe me?  Go back and read some of the ludicrous reviews of True Detective and its first eight episodes; the ability of some of its fans to misread it became kind of staggering at some point.)
I was tempted to avoid becoming a part of that din by simply not writing the reviews.  But, when it came time to have the mission-control guys in my brain issue a go/no-go call, they all came down firmly on the "go" side of things.

So, what are we waiting for?
I think it's safe to say that the season premiere, "Heads Will Roll," will do nothing to alter your status as an Under the Dome fan.  If you are a non-fan, it's not apt to change that, either.  In short, it's up to the same tricks as last season.  But it's also seemingly holding out signs that things might be going in a different direction from this point forward.  Only time will tell; but it seems like a possibility, at least.
Before we proceed, a little background info is called for.  "Heads Will Roll" was written by Stephen King himself, who also evidently helped to design the course the rest of the season would take.  He was (apart from doing a lot of press appearances to help promote the series) very much hands-off during the first season; this show was the baby of producers Brian K. Vaughan and Neal Baer.  At some point, Vaughan left the series, saying that he wanted to spend more time focusing on his comic-book work.  (Given how good his two current series -- Saga and The Private Eye -- are, I support him in that 100%.)  Either due to this shakeup or not due to it at all (who can say?), King ended up coming onboard to not only write the premiere episode, but to help steer the course of the season overall.