SHINING! – a musical based on Stephen King’s classic chiller?

Published March 31, 2012

Now that the infamous musical version of Stephen King’s Carrie has come and gone yet again (apparently the revised stage show wasn’t much better than the 1988 version), I was conversing recently about this with David Squyres – who writes the excellent Stephen King blog: talkstephenking – and the subject came up of other King titles that could be reworked as musicals.

My suggestion: The Shining.

After all, this is a classic story of isolation set in an iconic Bad Place (the claustrophobic setting could be easily replicated on the stage), has over the top themes like malevolent ghosts and a murderous father (the better to go all operatic on your ass), and deals with dysfunctional familial relationships (always good musical fodder).

I could see it going something like this:

SHINING! – a musical in 3 acts
based on the novel by Stephen King
written and directed by Andy Williamson (HA!)

JACK (singing soft and sincere to his son)
“I would never hurt you, Danny – nor slap, nor hit, nor sever.
We’ll be safe right here in The Overlook – forever and ever and ever!”

I can imagine many song titles and production numbers, like:

Ode to Mr. Ullman (Officious Little Prick)
You Gotta Watch Her, She Creeps (The Boiler Song)
Stay Away, Danny (Tony’s Lament)
Closing Day
What’s Up, Doc?
It’s a Long Way to Topiary
Come and Play with Us, Danny
Snow! Snow! Snow!
All Work and No Play (Makes Jack a Dull Boy)
White Man’s Burden (aka Drinks on the House)
Gimme the Bat, Wendy (The Bash Your Brains In Song)
Let Me Out! (The Pantry Song)
Bring us Your Son
Take your Medicine (you damned little pup)!
Redrum, Redrum
Oh, Danny Boy! (pictured above)

I am only half kidding. (Or am I?) Like I stated above, given the over the top, operatic themes of this story, this might could actually work. What say you? Good idea? Or do I have bats in my belfry?

Are there any other King stories which would lend themselves to the musical stage?  I’m thinking Misery is a no brainer … if only to hear Annie Wilkes belt out songs like Number One Fan, You Dirty Bird!, Hog Heaven, They Cheated Us (The Cockadoodie Car Song), and I Wanna Be Your Sledgehammer!

Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

For much more on The Shining, and ALL of its incarnations, read my article King, Kubrick, and The Shining.

They’re all going to laugh at you! Chloe Moretz cast in remake of Stephen King’s Carrie

Published March 28, 2012

MGM’s remake of Stephen King’s Carrie has finally found its lead in talented ingenue Chloe Moretz.  Chloe has been quite in demand of late with starring roles in Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Hugo, and Dark Shadows – not bad for someone who only recently turned 15.

Carrie tells the story of a shy and picked on teenage loner, Carrie White, and her mother, Margaret, a religious fanatic whose insanity is matched only by her zeal.  As adolescence brings changes to her body, Carrie also realizes that something is changing in her mind: she has the power of telekinesis.  A cruel prank at the prom brings tragic results.

Say what you will about whether or not Carrie needs to be remade, this casting sounds perfect.  This will be the third film version of Stephen King’s first novel.  Brian De Palma’s classic 1976 movie earned Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie Oscar nods for their roles as Carrie and Margaret White.  A not uninteresting version was made for television in 2002 with Angela Bettis as Carrie, and Patricia Clarkson her mom (Bettis was terrific, Clarkson unwisely underplayed her role).  Both Spacek and Bettis were in their late 20s when they played teenage Carrie White and, if this remake moves forward, this will be the first time that an age appropriate actress will tackle the part.  Kimberly Peirce (Boy’s Don’t Cry) will direct.

Within hours of her officially being cast, Chloe tweeted the following:

“Never been so happy in my life! Thank you Kim Peirce and thank u MGM for the chance of a lifetime i will never forget!”

Some have opined that, given Chloe’s age, the opening “shower scene” (wherein Carrie learns that her first period is not Home Economics) will have to be cut.  I disagree.  After all, though De Palma’s take on the scene was filled with steamy, slo-mo nudity, the TV version was able to dramatize the same incident without showing anything.  The same will surely be done here as that “incident” sets the entire story in motion.

Others have commented that Chloe is too pretty to play homely Carrie White.  To this I also disagree.  Chloe’s unique features (dare I say she got that pretty tomboy thing down pat) are perfect for Carrie White.  Simply imagine her with stringy/greasy hair, no make-up, and some of the fire we saw in her eyes during Let Me In … I can already see her orchestrating a symphony of hellfire from that prom stage.

Being considered for the part of Margaret White are Jodie Foster and Julianne Moore.  Both sound great, though Foster earns points in that both she and Chloe were cast in their teen years by Martin Scorcese: Jodie in Taxi Driver, Chloe in Hugo.

PIPER LAURIE AND SISSY SPACEK AS MARGARET AND CARRIE

Between this new version of Carrie, Ron Howard’s Dark Tower project (which recently found new life at Warner Bros.), Ben Affleck’s take on The Stand (please let it be a trilogy), Warner Bros. IT remake (no updates in awhile), the anthology film The Reaper’s Image (featuring the King tales The Reaper’s Image, Mile 81, N., and The Monkey), and Jonathan Demme’s version of 11/22/63, our cinemas will soon be having a full-on King renaissance.  We haven’t had one of those in our theaters since the 1980s, when seemingly every month brought a new King film.

Go Uncle Stevie!  And congratulations, Chloe – you deserve it!

What say you?  Is Chloe a good choice for Carrie?  Is this remake a good idea?

Sound off below.

WORDSLINGER UPDATE 2/20/17

It sucked. 2012’s remake of Carrie was a completely unnecessary project that added absolutely nothing new except some references to cell phones and Facebook. Stick with Brian De Palma’s classic original from 1976. Shoot, even the miniseries version from 2002 was better than this. Chloe was good … albeit too pretty for the part. As for those other King film adaptations? The Stand … on hold. The Reaper’s Image? Dead in the water. 11/22/63? Hulu, JJ Abrams, and James Franco did a very good 8-part miniseries in 2016. The Dark Tower, IT, Gerald’s Game, and Castle Rock are all coming soon.

THE HUNGER GAMES – movie review

Published March 24, 2012

Having finished reading The Hunger Games only hours before seeing the film version, I’m not sure I am qualified to accurately assess this film.  Yes, this was quite the immersive experience, but having just screened a beautiful version of the story in my noggin, how could any film hope to live up to the theater of my mind?  Especially since this cult-hit novel, the first of a trilogy, is written in the first-person narrative of its heroine Katniss Everdeen, and MUCH of the plot and character motivations are explained through this brave girl’s inner monologue.  Since books and films are apples and oranges (and they are), how am I to make sense of either with this fruit salad in my head?  Well, here goes anyway …

The Hunger Games (as if you didn’t already know) takes place in a dystopian future of unspecified date, in a country, Panem, that used to be the United States, made up of the Capital and 12 fenced-in Districts.  Every year, two “tributes,” one boy and one girl, ages 12-18, are chosen from these Districts to compete in a television show called The Hunger Games.  This “reality show” – created by the government to remind the people of its ultimate power, and to discourage any “uprisings” – is actually a brutal fight to the death with only one contestant named victor.

Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, is horrified when she sees that her little sister has been chosen for The Hunger Games, and instead offers herself as Tribute.  This annual lottery (referred to here as a “Reaping,” lest any Shirley Jackson fans cry foul) is also televised, and Katniss’ unheard of self-sacrifice is seen by countless masses.  Her influence on those masses begins even then.  The other contestant chosen from District 12 is a boy named Peeta, who has (of course) had a crush on Katniss since they were children.  That they will soon be thrust into an arena where they will become mortal enemies makes for no small amount of suspense.

I will not spoil any more.  I loved the book (as of this writing I am halfway through Book II), and I really liked the movie.  But – and here we go again – I’m not sure I can be completely unbiased writing this review.  As I said, Suzanne Collins’ novel is written in the first person narrative of Katniss, and this immediacy (made all the more so by its present tenseness), makes for an incredibly vivid mind movie.  More importantly, much of the actual “Games” in the book fly by with no dialogue whatsoever.  This would, seemingly, make an adaptation even easier, as “pure cinema” can do its work.  Yet this is not the case.  It is Katniss’ silent reasonings which lend a great amount of intelligence to these otherwise visceral proceedings.  That uneasy balance of acumen and agility is one of the novel’s major strengths.  It moves at a clip, but always keeps you thinking, not to mention emotionally invested in the characters.  How often do novels pull off that triple threat?  If the movie, directed by Gary Ross (screenwriter of Big, and writer/director of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit), has any major fault, it is losing that inner monologue.  But aside from having Katniss do a voice over (which would not have worked), I’m not sure anything else could have been done.  Books are generally a 10-20 hour experience.  Movies, a 2-3 hour one.  Something’s got to go.  In the case of The Hunger Games, it’s just a shame that what has to go is our main character’s inner dialogue as it was absolutely a huge part of the novel’s charm, and the method by which ALL of the plot was delivered.  I knew while reading that any film would have to lose this, and that the loss would be hard to overcome, but …

Okay, one glaring example of why this loss hurts the film:

BEGIN SPOILER

When Katniss is in the cave with Peeta, and kisses him, the novel makes it absolutely clear that she is only “putting on a show” for the cameras, giving the audience what they want so she can earn their sponsorship and their gifts, like food and medicine.  In the film, Katniss doesn’t even look around for cameras, she just plants one on Peeta, which seems quite out of character.  Sure, after a pot of broth is soon delivered via parachute with a note from Haymitch which says, “You call that a kiss?”, we are meant to assume that Katniss knows she is always being watched, but … a little glance around the cave for the hidden cameras would have cleared up a lot.

END SPOILER

All that aside, The Hunger Games DOES work on film.  From the extreme poverty of the Districts, to the shimmering gaudiness of the Capital, everything old seems new again.  As for the cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class) is pitch perfect as Katniss.  Even missing that aforementioned inner monologue, Lawrence does much with simple, silent, old fashioned emoting.  While being groomed and trained for these deadly Games, Katniss is lavished with food, clothes, and other riches by the producers.  Her horror and disgust at such opulence in the face of such disregard for human life are subtly written on her features, yet not so much as to give herself away.  There IS a show to put on, after all, and a game to be played – a game of wits as much as a game of brutality.  The penalty for not playing along will endanger not only Katniss, but all those from her District.  Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is a big part of why this film works.

Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia) plays Peeta, and does fine with what little he has been given to work with.  He is certainly given more character development than the other 22 contestants, whose backgrounds (save for Rue) are as disposable as their lives.  Make no mistake, people DO die in this movie.  Kids are brutally murdered in as explicit a manner as a PG-13 rating will allow.

Before I continue with the rest of the cast, I must stop here to point out the extreme irony (and perverse joy) that I find in the fact that a story THIS dark, a story this Orwellian, has resonated with today’s young people.  Kudos to author Suzanne Collins for not only seeing that it could be done, but for just doing it.  What the novel lacks in originality (MUCH more on that shortly), it makes up for with raw emotion, visceral action, intelligent plotting, and good old chutzpah.

Anyway, on with the supporting cast.

Elizabeth Banks is unrecognizable as Games escort Effie Trinkett, whose garish costumes and make-up perfectly mirror the horrific superficiality of the Capital.  Stanley Tucci is equally over-the-top as blue-haired, bright-toothed Games host Caesar Flickerman – imagine Dick Clark on acid.  Lenny Kravitz, the most normal of this bunch, plays it straight as Katniss’ stylist Cinna – his genuine concern for the girl speaks volumes about his true loyalties.  Donald Sutherland is deliciously creepy as the duplicitous President Snow – he is as smooth and charming as a snake.  Finally, and my personal favorite of the supporting cast, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, mentor and trainer to Katniss and Peeta.  Haymitch, who also hails from District 12, was a Hunger Games victor 25 years earlier.  In the years since, has become a cynical recluse – a hermit who likes his drink as much as he does his solitude.  Though Haymitch initially seems to have nothing but contempt for this most recent batch of Tributes, his heart eventually shows through the guile.

I’m not sure how a story can seem original and derivative at the same time, but The Hunger Games, both novel and film, pulls off this trick nicely.  Many other similar stories come to mind: Stephen King’s The Running Man and The Long Walk (both written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman) each deal with dystopian societies – the former about a futuristic game show with a fight to the death, the latter about teenagers involved in a walking contest where the winner is the last one standing, and the losers (who can’t keep pace) are shot dead.  Logan’s Run, The Lord of the Flies, 1984, Blade Runner, Fahrenheit 451, Rollerball, V for Vendetta, The Lottery, THX 1138 (the government guards in the film version of The Hunger Games look like they stepped right out of George Lucas’ first film), The Truman Show, The Most Dangerous Game, and (back to Stephen King again) The Dark Tower.  All these classic stories and more come to mind whilst reading and watching The Hunger Games.  Well, I guess I could add reality TV fare like Survivor and American Idol into that mix.  Given such a mulligan stew of influence, that The Hunger Games, both book and film, can be so grandly entertaining is pretty remarkable.  That young people (perhaps not so familiar with these other sources) find it so captivating is … quite encouraging.  Perhaps they will seek out these other works and learn to appreciate them as well.

Make no mistake: this is dark material, made light by the humanity of our plucky heroine.  Katniss Everdeen is a much better role model for teenage girls than Twilight’s Bella Swan, simply because, even at age 16, she is her own person, she is not defined by the men in her life, is smart, crafty, a helluva good aim with that bow, and is willing to lay down her life for her family.  Walking contradiction though she is – warrior and pacifist, revolutionary and teenage girl – Katniss Everdeen (and the legions of young people who have embraced her) have given me a renewed hope for the future.  Funny what a little dystopia, and the uprising against such, can do to pick up one’s day.

MOVIE GRADE: B+

THE BIONIC WOMAN Season 3 DVD review

Published February 16, 2012

It’s been four years since I wrote an article entitled Bionic Blunder – Where are those Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman DVDs?  And just over a year since that question was answered by Universal Television with the release of wonderful box sets of both of those series.  While I have not yet reviewed that 40-disc SMDM set ($240 is still a bit steep for that), I have reviewed Season 1 and Season 2 of The Bionic Woman, and am now here to cap it off with my thoughts on Season 3.

In 1977, after two successful seasons of The Bionic Woman, the execs at ABC decided that the show’s legs, bionic though they were, had grown a bit wobbly, and dropped the series from its schedule – this despite the fact that it was still in the top fifteen of the Nielson ratings.  In an unheard of move, NBC stepped up and offered to pick up The Bionic Woman for a third season.

And thus marked the first time that a series and its spinoff were on two different networks, with supporting characters like Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks) bouncing back and forth between shows.  While this was handled easily, it was rather irksome that the character of Steve Austin was only mentioned once in the first episode, and thereafter never mentioned again.  To avoid further complications, the producers tried to give Jaime different love interests throughout this final season, as if Steve Austin had never existed.  As a boy watching during this period (nursing a serious crush on Lindsay Wagner), I found this disturbing.  Yes, I knew about the network conflicts, but saw no reason why that should dictate story.  Also, the number of potential boyfriends that Jaime kisses on and cuddles up to here seems out of character.  This problem was, to a great extent, “solved” with the introduction of Christopher Stone as Chris Williams, but still … to expect audiences to warm to idea of a Steveless Jaime simply because of network issues was a burden the show could not shake.  SMDM suffered too – both shows were canceled in the spring of 1978.

Series creator and producer Kenneth Johnson was absent for this final season as he already had his hands full producing The Incredible Hulk.  While his underlings did the best job they could, Johnson’s absence is palpable.  Other season 3 changes include: Jaime is never seen teaching school anymore, and Steve’s parents, who own the ranch where Jaime lives in that awesome carriage house, are never seen or mentioned.  While these don’t seem like major changes, the tone of the series was quite different.

Season 3 of The Bionic Woman starts off a bit silly with a two-part episode called The Bionic Dog.  As always, the charisma of series star Lindsay Wagner makes all the difference.  Maximillian, the aforementioned German Shepherd with the bionic legs and jaw, was supposed to get a series of his own but, after an episode entitled Max,  in which Lindsay Wagner barely appeared at all, smarter minds prevailed.  (I must admit, I laughed pretty hard during the opening minutes of The Bionic Dog Part 2, when, after recapping the events of Part 1, Richard Anderson says, “And now the conclusion of The Bionic Dog on The Bionic Woman.”  Oh, what Beavis and Butthead would have had to say about THAT … uh, huh huh huh.)

While this was not a terrible way to open the third season, things did pick up a bit with another two-parter: Fembots in Las Vegas.  The title says it all.

Other notable episodes from this season include –

Motorcycle Boogie, in which Jaime enlists the aid of Evel Knievel (playing himself – see the photo below) to get her out of West Germany … though she refuses to believe that he is who he claims to be.

The Pyramid – Jaime and Chris are trapped in an underground pyramid with an alien sentinel.  (Given the alien/ Mayan overtones, there is a bit of a Crystal Skull vibe here … 30 years before that Indiana Jones sequel.)

Sanctuary Earth, where 14-year-old Helen Hunt plays visiting alien Princess Zorla, who is being pursued by intergalactic assassins who look uncannily like the Hagar twins from Hee Haw.

Given that this season was made in late 1977 and early 1978, the influence of Star Wars can certainly be felt – especially with those last two aforementioned episodes.

This five disc set breaks down like this (episode descriptions are jacket copy):

DISC 1

The Bionic Dog
When Jaime learns of another bionic prototype – a German Shepherd named Max – who”s suffering from many of the same setbacks she and Steve Austin experienced, she makes it her mission to rehabilitate the animal.

The Bionic Dog Part II
Jaime and Max take refuge with a former flame of hers, forest ranger Roger Grette, but it”s Max who puts his life on the line to save the woods from an overwhelming threat.

Fembots in Las Vegas
While Jaime and Oscar try to negotiate with a reclusive and terminally ill scientist over the fate of an energy ray weapon, the son of the Fembot”s creator, Carl Franklin, remotely activates the killer female robots.

Fembots in Las Vegas Part II
After launching the weapon into Earth”s orbit, Franklin demands that Washington turn over Jaime, Oscar and Dr. Rudy Wells to him as ransom for not destroying the planet.

DISC 2

Rodeo
Jaime”s mission to protect OSI computer expert Billy Cole from a deadly foreign power is complicated by the daredevil”s overwhelming passion to become a rodeo champion.

African Connection
Jaime”s mission in Africa to stop a potentially rigged election takes an unusual twist when she hires Harry Walker and his WWII tank to help her traverse through treacherous jungle terrain.

Motorcycle Boogie
While on the trail of a stolen computer tape in West Germany, Jaime relies on the assistance of Evel Knievel to get her across the border … even though she steadfastly refuses to believe he is whom he claims.

Brain Wash
Someone”s playing dirty at OSI when Jaime overhears industry secrets spilled, but Oscar refuses to believe it has anything to do with his trusted secretary, Peggy.

DISC 3

Escape to Love
Romance complicates rescue when Jaime is assigned to help Dr. Arlo Kelso and his son, Sandor get across the Iron Curtain, and Sandor begins to develop feelings for his gorgeous rescuer.

Max
Everything quickly goes to the dogs when a bionic check-up incapacitates Jaime and Max is kidnapped by opportunistic foreign agents.

Over the Hill Spy
Jaime and retired OSI agent Terrence Quinn reluctantly team up to catch Oscar”s long-time Soviet nemesis, Vilmos Vanovic, in a heart-racing international game of cat- and-mouse.

All for One
It”s back to school for Jaime when she enrolls as a college student to find out who has been stealing thousands of dollars by connecting the campus computer into the OSI system.

DISC 4

The Pyramid
Jaime finds herself trapped in an underground pyramid with an alien sentinel who claims that a ship from his world is headed to Earth … and that the consequences will not be good for mankind.

The Antidote
Man”s best friend becomes especially important to Jaime when she and a Russian diplomat are poisoned and Max must find the doctor who can provide the antidote and save her life.

The Martians Are Coming, The Martians Are Coming
When Oscar sees what appears to be a U.F.O. abduct a scientist who is working on a top-secret project, Jaime sets out to find the man and has her own encounter with the spacecraft.

Sanctuary Earth
Jaime is first on the scene when a satellite crashes into a lake, and she meets a girl who claims to be a princess from the planet Zorla and says that she is being pursued by trackers from another planet.

Deadly Music
A doctor isolates a sound frequency that makes sharks attack anything he wants, and Jaime becomes the first human test subject when she joins a diving team that is deploying a submarine detection system.

DISC 5

Which One is Jaime?
Oscar learns that Jaime is under some kind of investigation and takes her to OSI headquarters for protection, but then the culprits mistake Callahan, who is dog- sitting Max, for Jaime and kidnap her.

Out of Body
During a break-in at the OSI labs, a Native American is electrocuted and falls into a coma, but his spirit remains intact and desperately tries to save Jaime from being destroyed by the most deadly bomb ever created.

Long Live the King
Posing as the social secretary for a Middle Eastern king who is visiting New York, Jaime works to stop an assassination plot … but soon finds herself in the cross hairs.

Rancho Outcast
On a mission to find stolen currency plates, Jaime assumes the identity of a crook known as Blondie Malone and heads to Central America with a convicted criminal who is working with OSI in the hopes of getting paroled.

On the Run
Terrified of becoming more machine than human, Jaime retires from OSI, but Oscar”s superiors move to put her in a special compound because they believe her bionics are government property and that she knows too much confidential information.

(One item of interest: All for One, The Pyramid, and Rancho Outcast all feature actor and stuntman Henry Kingi, whom Lindsay Wagner would be married to from 1981 to 1984.)

The Bonus Features here are okay, but nothing to cheer about.  Other than some audio commentaries on select episodes by various writers and directors (one of whom is Steven E. de Souza, who would go onto cowrite the scripts for 48 Hrs. and Die Hard 1& 2), there is a photo gallery, a podcast, and a Q&A with Lindsay Wagner, which, while interesting, plays like leftovers from the previous two featurettes on the Season 1 and Season 2 box sets.  Oh, well … considering how long we have waited for these shows (35 years!), this is still a wonderful package.

While I would love to review the three bionic reunion movies that were made in the late 80s and early 90s, those are not available in this Season 3 set.  They ARE available in that 40-disc SMDM box, which I promise I will get to as soon as the price drops.  Season One of SMDM was released individually last year at around $30 but, as I believe there are hours of bonus content available in that big set that may not be released on the stand alones, I think I will hold off.

For all its story problems, network troubles, and 1970s cheese, this third season of The Bionic Woman (Amazon $19.99) shines for the exact same reason that the first two did: it stars Lindsay Wagner.  While she is still quite lovely, this series captured her in her late 20s, in all of her tall, leggy, beautifully tomboyish glory.  For some reason, that long, straight, dark blonde hair, parted in the middle and worn loose, just killed me when I was a boy.  Rewatching these episodes decades later … the effect hasn’t changed.  No amount of CGI or digital trickery can match what lovely Lindsay did during the three years she got to play Jaime Sommers and the world fell in love with her.

But if you are a fan of this show, you already knew that.

SEASON 3 GRADE: B
BONUS CONTENT: B-

WORDSLINGER UPDATE – 2/6/2012

Published February 6, 2012

Greetings all.  I’m sure many of my faithful readers here have noticed that this Wordslinger hasn’t slung many words of late.  There is a reason for that: during the last week of October of last year, after enduring the worst abdominal cramps I’ve ever had – and spending about 30 hours mistakenly convinced that I had food poisoning – I finally called 911.  I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I was diagnosed with a ruptured colon.  Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are the official names, but what it basically boiled down to was burst pockets on my large intestine, that were spilling foulness into my body.

After having major abdominal surgery, I spent two weeks (two weeks!) in the hospital, and was then sent home with an open wound that needed to be cleaned and dressed twice daily.  To say this was traumatic is a gross understatement.  I do not want to go into gory detail, save to say that I have never seen anything like the horror show that was my abdomen.  I was told this incision (incision? Ha!  It looked like the Grand Freaking Canyon to me!), would heal in 4 – 6 weeks.  Three months was more like it.  While that wound has closed up and is much smaller than it was, I’ve still got a pretty damn big scar on my stomach, that is like a (sometimes painful) seam on the moderate paunch I’ve got down there.

For a good little while, I could barely get around, and could not eat very much at all.  During those two weeks in the hospital, I dropped 20 pounds – about half of which I have put back on.  I also could not even sit at my desk, much less write.  Well, now that I am mobile again, and getting back into the swing of things, I am here to simply fill you in on my progress.

I was just starting to get serious about promotion on the book last year when this happened.  I had done a couple of big shows and was scheduled to do a couple more when I was struck down.  By springtime I intend to be back on the promotion trail.  By that time it is also my intention to have the Kindle version of BROODING for sale online.  I know I’ve been promising that for awhile, and I want to thank those of you who have been waiting patiently for it.

Other than that, I have been questioning a lot of things recently.  This event was what many call “a life changer.”  And yet … I haven’t really changed that many of my old habits.  In fact, this event was SO traumatic and overwhelming, that at times, I have relied even more so on some of those old … crutches.  I wasn’t ready for it.  Is anyone ever ready for something like this?  I was told by the doctors after arriving at the hospital that if I had waited much longer to call 911, I might not have made it at all.  What does one DO with information like that?  By all means, I SHOULD be embracing life even more, and thanking God for sparing me, and yet … instead of doing that … I think I’ve been PISSED!

At what? you ask.  That’s a good question.  One for which I don’t even have an answer.  While this big scar on my stomach is healing, it sometimes angers me.  Then I remember that if I DIDN’T have that scar, I would be DEAD.  This thought does nothing to ease my confusion about the whole matter.  Sometimes I wish that my number HAD been up.  After all …

Life is pain – when you die, the pain is over.

How’s that for a mantra?  How’s that for a warm and fuzzy thought?  While even I could argue both sides of that statement – with both worldly and biblical wisdom – I can say that for the majority of my life, the first part of that statement has been true.  Life IS pain.  Writing that novel of mine has been my attempt to make sense of that pain.  Love and hate, trust and fear, sin and redemption, heartache and self-medication … these are themes upon which I am continually meditating, and which make surprisingly good fodder for my fiction.  Good thing I’ve got Book II to work on, for I’ve surely got a helluva lot more where that came from.

I think I’m rambling here.

Anyway, in fine, I am doing much better, I will be hitting the promotion trail on the book again soon, and will hopefully see some of you while doing so.

Take care, have fun, and … don’t take any shit from anybody!

 

Steven Spielberg’s lost film SOMETHING EVIL

Published December 24, 2011

As I have stated elsewhere on this site, I have a passion for the works of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg.  More than any other storytellers, these two gentlemen have not only provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment, but greatly influenced my own writing and kept me sane during a youth spent around crazy people (… some of whom could have stepped out of a King novel).

While I have probably written more about King here (the man does have his own category), this post deals with Spielberg, and one of his lost works.

As I write this, on Christmas Eve 2011, Spielberg has two movies coming out to theaters: War Horse and The Adventures of Tin Tin.

After directing the acclaimed TV movie DUEL in 1971 – a thriller which put Spielberg on the map – the man worked a bit more in television before making his theatrical debut with The Sugarland Express in 1973, and, of course, JAWS in 1975.  But what of that TV work?  Spielberg made two more TV films during this period, Something Evil and Savage, neither of which have ever received any kind of home video release.

After wondering about these films for years, I recently watched Something Evil (1972) on YouTube, and I must say I was pretty impressed.  No, it is not as good as DUEL, but it is better than most of the offal that is passed off as telefilms.  The movie stars Sandy Dennis and Darren McGavin as a couple who buy a Pennsylvania farmhouse, and soon discover that the house is haunted by either ghosts, or demons, or … well … something evil.  Johnny Whitaker (Jody from Family Affair) plays their son (ironically named Stevie), who may or may not be influenced by these forces.

For a looooow-budget telefilm made in ‘72, this thing still packs a little wallop.  Especially considering that it was made before The Exorcist.  Also on display here are many deft Spielbergian touches – including a shot of Sandy Dennis (quite good here) as she stares through her kitchen window, and we see what she is staring at reflected in the glass.  Spielberg has used this shot quite a few times in his films, but this could be the first.  A decade later, Spielberg would expand on this story with Poltergeist.

So, in fine, rather than wax cinematic on what this all means, I will simply let you watch the film yourself.  It is posted below.  You didn’t think I was gonna write about this and not embed the thing, did ya?  Take a look – it only runs about 73 minutes – and let me know what you think in the comments section when you’re done.

STEPHEN KING’S 11/22/63 – review

Published November 27, 2011

After publishing 60+ books over nearly 40 years, one would think that Stephen King – “the world’s bestselling author” – would have run out of steam, ideas, or ambition.  While he has, on rare occasion, “phoned it in,” with his latest opus, 11/22/63, he has once again fashioned as compelling a pager turner as he ever has … which is saying something when those pages number around 850.  I finished it in less than a week.

As this novel should be started with as little foreknowledge as possible, this review will be spoiler-free, save for a brief set-up.  You will know no more going in than I did.

Regarding a recently divorced, thirtysomething school teacher named Jake Epping, the plot has this wounded man receiving an urgent call from an old friend, Al Templeton, who owns a local diner.  When Jake visits Al, he is shocked to discover that the man has seemingly aged years over the course of a day.  It seems that Al, whose rapidly-accelerating cancer has given him only hours to live, has a secret to share, and Jake is the only one with whom he trusts it.  Al’s secret is this: in the back pantry of his retro diner, is a time portal to the past.  Each trip delivers the traveler to the same time and place – Lisbon Falls, Maine, September 9th, 1958 – and, no matter how long the traveler stays, if he returns, it is only two minutes later in 2011 time.  Still with me?

The reason Al has aged so much in so little time, other than his cancer, is that he recently spent over four years in the past trying to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating John F. Kennedy on 11/22/63.  Due to his illness, Al failed, and returned to 2011 a dying man.  As he tells his tale to Jake (one brief trip to 1958 is all it takes to convince Jake of this impossible story), Jake eventually decides to take on Al’s mission himself (after a trial run or two regarding other lesser matters), knowing full well that messing with such a historically watershed moment might make things worse … much worse … butterfly effect and all.  Especially when the past doesn’t want to be changed.

While one might think that such a story would be full of clichés, predictable scenarios, and political pontificating, this is not the case.  In fact, Jake doesn’t even reach the titular date until page 800.  Most of the book is spent chronicling Jake’s five year stay in the past, where the food tastes better, the music is more innocent, and racism is barely concealed.  While keeping tabs on Oswald to make sure the man acted alone before he makes his move, Jake returns to teaching and falls in love with a tall blonde named Sadie.  Oddly enough (at least to those who only know Uncle Stevie as America’s Boogeyman), the central love story here is the very heart of this novel.

Touching, suspenseful, and damn near unputdownable, 11/22/63 is Stephen King firing on all cylinders, and proving even after four decades that he is still master of his craft.  While some horrific things do occur in this book, this is not a horror novel, and will probably win the man hordes of new fans.  While I, and others, have referred to King as our modern-day Dickens, he is also like a much loved uncle who is returning to spin another fantastical yarn.  One feels like a child reading this book, cuddled up in wide-eyed wonder.  Does praise come any higher than that?  Not from me it doesn’t.

GRADE: A