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Josh Reviews It!

September 20th, 2017
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Stephen King’s lengthy novel It is a masterpiece, a rich, expansive saga that is horrifying and deeply moving in equal parts.  It is one of the finest novels I have ever read.  I was dubious that a film adaptation could satisfactorily distill this complex novel into a two-hour movie, but somehow Andy Muschietti’s film manages this near-insurmountable task with an impressive degree of skill and grace and class.

In the summer of 1987, a group of seven twelve-year-olds in the small town of Derry, Maine, discover a terrible evil within their town.  These seven kids each struggle with difficult home lives and vicious local bullies.  But those terrors pale before the monster that seems to be a part of their town, a creature that can take the form of their greatest fears and that often manifests itself in the form of a horrifying clown.

The fantasy and horror elements of the novel It are compelling, but what makes the novel such a riveting page-turner is the way Stephen King brings each and every one of the book’s large ensemble of characters to such rich, fully-realized life, most particularly the six boys and one girl in the “Loser’s Club” who find themselves the only ones capable to fighting this terrifying evil.

The film adaptation works because of how well it is able to do the same thing.  You need to love these kids, and I was impressed by how well the film accomplished that goal.  All seven young actors are phenomenal.  Absolutely phenomenal.

Jaeden Lieberher plays Bill” Denbrough, whose younger brother’s murder at the hands of It is the story’s inciting incident.  Mr. Lieberher was terrific last year as the super-powered boy in Midnight Special, but this is a far more involved role.  He’s perfect as the honest, sensitive but haunted Bill.  Jeremy Ray Taylor plays the heavy, lonely Ben Hanscom.  The idea of the sweet, fat outsider kid is somewhat cliche at this point, but Mr. Taylor brings such warmth and genuine open-heartedness to the role that he is perfection as Ben.  You cannot help but love this kid.  Sophia Lillis is amazing as Beverly Marsh, the one girl in the Losers’ Club.  It’s hard not to fall in love with Bev in the book, as Bill and Ben both do, and Ms. Lillis’ performance inspires the same feelings of affection, as I found myself rooting for Bev more than even any of the boys.  Bev in the book and the film is different from the boys not because of her gender, but because she is the one of the group who is first aware that she is beginning to leave her childhood behind.  This leaves her feeling even … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is an extraordinary achievement, a work of breathtaking genius that represents one of my absolute favorite fictional sagas of any medium.  The series consists of seven main novels plus an eighth follow-up novel (The Wind Through the Keyhole), plus a novella (The Little Sisters of Eluria), plus a series of illustrated prequel stories published by Marvel Comics (The Gunslinger Born).  Plus, of course, the Dark Tower novels connect to many, many of the other novels and stories written by Mr. King, from The Shining to The Stand to ‘Salem’s Lot and more.  Many have described The Dark Tower books as unfilmable, impossible to adapt faithfully to the screen.  But I have always disagreed.  I think this marvelously rich, sweeping saga could be extraordinary if adapted properly on TV or in a series of movies.  I continue to believe that The Dark Tower is one of the best-kept secrets of fiction, filled with incredibly original ideas and wonderfully engaging characters.  This series would BLOW PEOPLE’S MINDS if adapted with the same care, attention, love, and budget given to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Sadly, that’s not what has happened.  The movie adaptation of The Dark Tower, directed by Nikolaj Arcel and with a screenplay credited to multiple writers (Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Mr. Arcel), is a disappointingly small-scale, mediocre affair.  The film isn’t horrible.  It has a strong cast, and a few memorable moments.  But it takes this humongous, sprawling story and makes it feel very small.  It takes Mr. King’s wonderful characters and original situations and makes them feel flat and familiar, pale echoes of characters and stories we’ve all seen before in vastly superior movies.

The film is not a direct adaptation of Mr. King’s first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger Instead it’s a mishmash of characters and plot points from all seven of the main Dark Tower novels.  This is the type of approach that was, for decades, standard for a Hollywood adaptation of a beloved genre property.  But in 2017, in a post-Harry Potter world (in which all seven novels were faithfully and lovingly adapted into individual movies), in a world in which we have seen how creatively and financially successful the Marvel Cinematic universe has been in faithfully adapting the Marvel characters to the screen, this is a crushingly disappointing decision.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t immediately object to not beginning a Dark Tower film series with a direct adaptation of The Gunslinger.  That novel is the shortest and weirdest of the series, and many of the ideas that … [continued]

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Updates to the Site and News Around the Net!

Do you like the new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon on the homepage?  We’ve made a few updates to the site, most notably finally getting some social media buttons back on the individual pages, so feel free to share away on-line and spread the MotionPicturesComics.com goodness!  I’ve also added a “portfolio” section to the site, with samples of some of my illustration work.  Go ahead and take a peek and let me know what you think.

OK, what else is happening around the interwebs?

Let’s start things off with this extraordinary, in-depth interview with David Letterman.  Sit back and enjoy this great read.  You’re welcome.

Let it be known that I believe in the Oxford comma.  Here is a great reason why.

Oh man, a new film from Edgar Wright is coming out this summer?  I cannot wait.  Look at this cast.  This looks like a lot of fun:

Here’s a trailer for Becoming Bond, which tells the story of George Lazenby and his one Bond movie (the vastly underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) through what looks like a combination of documentary footage and reenactments with a great cast.  I am intrigued:

Holy cow check out this new trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes:

I cannot wait for that!!

How great is this new Spider-Man: Homecoming poster??  I love it!  There’s also a new trailer, but I’m not going to post it here because unfortunately gives away far too much of the movie’s plot.  I hate trailers like that.  I wish I hadn’t watched this one.  So click on the above link at your peril.

Meanwhile, in DC-land, this new Wonder Woman trailer looks great.  Is this film going to break the DC movieverse’s losing streak?  Here’s hoping:

This new trailer for the Justice League (the DCU movie following Wonder Woman) is a little less encouraging.

There’s nothing bad in the trailer, but neither is there anything thrilling.  For the most part, this looks like more of what we got in Batman v. Superman — dark, loud, and messy — and if that’s truly the case, then we’re in trouble.  (Though I do love that snippet of J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.  J.K. Simmons can do no wrong.  Is there any possibility that we can get him to reprise his role as J.J. Jameson in an upcoming Spider-Man movie??)

I didn’t know anything about this movie Atomic Blonde before watching this trailer, but now I am desperate to see it.  The trailer makes this look like a Matthew Vaughn type of mix of mayhem and fun; if the actual movie delivers on this promise, this one is going to be great:… [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Some momentum on two exciting Stephen King fronts!  There’s been a little bit of movement on the planned adaptation of The Dark Tower.  I’m not holding out too much hope, but I’d love to see it.  Meanwhile, looks like another Stephen King adaptation might take the idea that has been floated about The Dark Tower adaptation combining a TV show with a movie and beat it to the starting line: the latest announcement about The Stand is that it will be an eight-episode miniseries for Showtime, followed by a movie.  OK, that is an interesting and sort-of bizarre idea.  Curious to see where that goes.  In less-great Stephen King news, True Detective director Cary Fukunaga has left his planned two-film adaptation of It just weeks before the start of production.  That’s a huge disappointment.  I was excited to see what Mr. Fukunaga’s distinct voice would do with It.  Oh well.

Love this new trailer for Stephen Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies.  Spielberg and Hanks making another film together?  I am in!

I am very excited to see Inside Out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not too early to start anticipating Pixar’s NEXT original film!

Oh man, this new trailer for Macbeth, with Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard, is amazing!!

Macbeth has always been one of my very favorite Shakespeare plays.  I cannot wait to see that.

To my enormous surprise, Marvel Comics’ new Star Wars comic books have all been kind of awesome.  (I’ve been particularly interested in their depiction of just how Darth Vader discovered that the rebel who blew up the first Death Star was his son, and of Vader’s reaction to that important piece of information, thus proving that the Emperor lied to him about Padme’s death.  That’s a great story and something I’m frankly shocked hasn’t been tackled before now.)  Their latest issue of Star Wars had a pretty major twist that is, apparently, now completely part of Star Wars canon.  I’ll be interested in seeing where that story goes…!

It is really starting to look like a fifth season of Arrested Development is actually going to happen!  Huzzah!  Yes, Netflix’s fourth season was a far cry from the greatness of the show’s original three seasons on FOX, but still, further stories of the Bluth family is cause for rejoicing.

They’re making a Layer Cake sequel (click here for my review of the original film), starring Jason Statham???  That is such a weird idea, I’m not quite sure what to make of that!

I would love to someday see a really good Tron film, so for that reason I am bummed that Disney has pulled the plug on Tron 3.  But … [continued]

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“Any Object Can Be Magic” — Josh Reviews Stephen King’s New Dark Tower Novel: The Wind Through the Keyhole

September 7th, 2012
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“Stories take a person away.  If they’re good ones, that is.  Is it a good one?”

After concluding his Dark Tower magnum opus in 2004 with the publication of the seventh and final novel, The Dark Tower (click here for my review), I suspect that Stephen King did not intend to ever return to that series.  Certainly the story had come to a very definitive conclusion.  But I wonder if perhaps his involvement, over the past several years, with Marvel Comics’ comic book series (set during the youth of Roland of Gilead) didn’t spark something in Mr. King.  Whatever the origin, Mr. King surprised his readers last year with the announcement that he was working on a new Dark Tower novel.  The Wind Through the Keyhole was published last spring, and  after re-immersing myself in the world of the Dark Tower via the Marvel Comics this summer, I was extremely excited to read Mr. King’s new novel.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a terrific novel, but let me say from the outset that I think it’s a mistake to consider it a Dark Tower novel.  Well, it’s set in the world of The Dark Tower, that’s true.  We get to spend a little more time with the ka-tet from the original novels: Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy.  We also get to spend some time with the youthful Roland (who has been the chief protagonist of Marvel’s Dark Tower comics), and the novel is replete with little references and nods to various Dark Tower characters and phrases.  But the story doesn’t really have much to do with Roland’s quest that was so central to Mr. King’s original novels.  The events in The Wind Through the Keyhole are interesting, but they don’t really impact Roland or his ka-tet in any significant way.  Frankly, the events of the much-shorter novella The Little Sisters of Eluria (click here to read my review) are much more significant to Roland’s over-all story.

But while I can’t say that The Wind Through the Keyhole is a tale of great significance in the larger Dark Tower epic, it is nevertheless a marvelously entertaining story.  The book has an interesting structure, in that it is three stories nested within one another.  We open with Roland and his companions from the Dark Tower novels.  This sequence is set immediately after the events of book IV, Wizard and Glass, and before the start of book V, Wolves of the Calla. But after only a few pages with our old friends, they find themselves trapped waiting out a terrible storm, and Roland begins telling a story of his youth.  Not long after having earned his guns, … [continued]

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Marvel Comics’ Adaptation of The Gunslinger

August 31st, 2012
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After pausing in my reading of Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower short-story, “The Little Sisters of Eluria” (click here for my review), I was ready to resume my reading of Marvel’s Dark Tower comics.

The Little Sisters of Eluria — Adapting a short-story into a five-issue mini-series makes a lot more sense than squeezing an adaptation of a lengthy novel into a seven-issue mini-series (as happened when this Marvel Comics series of mini-series began, with the publication of The Gunslinger Born, an adaptation of much of Stephen King’s fourth Dark Tower novel Wizard and Glass).  The pacing of this adaptation works well, and the art by Luke Ross is extraordinary (particularly in the exterior “cowboy” sequences in the first issue).  They make a curious mis-step by revealing, right away at the start of issue #2, the true nature of the sisters (something Mr. King wisely kept in reserve until later in his short-story).  Spilling the beans on that mystery so early in the tale takes away a lot of the energy and drama of the story.  Since we know Roland will survive this story set in his youth, one of the most compelling aspects of the original story was the mystery of the sisters and the mounting dread felt by Roland as he begins to discover their true nature.  Giving all those answers right away to the reader, as this comic book adaptation does, spoils all of that suspense.  It’s a perplexing choice.

The Battle of Tull This might be my favorite of all the Dark Tower mini-series, primarily because of the absolutely perfect artwork of Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano.  Michael Lark is one of the finest comic book artists working today, and his gritty but incredibly detailed artwork is absolutely perfect for the rough-and-tumble “world that has moved on” of The Dark Tower. His depiction of the now-adult Roland is absolutely perfect, presenting Roland exactly as I had imagined him.  I love his choice to leave Roland’s face in almost-constant shadow throughout the mini-series.  This gives Roland an air of mystery and menace that is critical to the character, even though he is the “hero” of the tale.  The one thing that gives me pause is that there’s a weird jump between the Roland we have seen in all of the prior mini-series, and the Roland we see in this one.  This Roland is not only visually different — even in the previous mini-series, The Little Sisters of Eluria, Roland was still a boy, whereas here in The Battle of Tull he is unquestionably a man — but also a different character, much harder and tougher.  In Eluria,[continued]

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“If There’s to Be Damnation, Let it Be of My Choosing” — The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria

August 20th, 2012
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Between the publication of the fourth and fifth Dark Tower novels, Stephen King wrote a short story that was set in Roland’s younger days, after the Battle of Jericho Hill but before the events of the first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger.  This short story is called “The Little Sisters of Eluria.”  It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a while now, a lingering piece of unfinished business.  After recently getting re-engrossed in Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series, I decided to finally read this story.

I don’t know what possessed me to wait so long!

“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a fine addition to the over-all Dark Tower saga, and a terrifically entertaining story in it’s own right.  It puts Roland right in the middle of a horror story of the type that I have always associated with Stephen King.  What a clever idea!

The story finds Roland, alone, riding a sickly horse through difficult terrain.  The ka-tet of Roland’s youth are all dead, and he has not yet fully seized upon the purpose that would eventually grip his life: the pursuit of the Man in Black and, beyond that, the quest for the Dark Tower.  Though his life has been shattered and his heart hardened by tragedy upon tragedy, this Roland is not yet the stone-cold killer of The Gunslinger who we will meet in the opening pages of Mr. King’s first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger. As a result, Roland finds himself defeated by a group of slow mutants, and he is only saved from death by a group of nun-like healers.  No surprise, these healers wind up being far from altruistic, and Roland finds himself in an escalatingly horrific situation.

No one can tell a monster story quite like Stephen King, and “The little Sisters of Eluria” finds the master in top form.  I loved the slow reveal of the sisters’ true nature — we know immediately that they’re up to no good, but we don’t know exactly what they are or what they are doing — as well as the slow tightening of the screws on poor, injured Roland, unable to move.

The story stands on its own, but there are some powerful callbacks to the events of The Dark Tower novels, particularly to Wizard and Glass. The most powerful sequence in the novel is when Roland finds himself drawn, as he always is, to the painful memories of his doomed true love, Susan:

He thought, as always, of Susan.

If you love me, then love me, she’d said… and so he had.

So he had.

It’s a short, simple, section, but one that powerfully draws upon the epic story Stephen King has … [continued]

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“Ka is a Wheel” — Returning to The Dark Tower

August 13th, 2012
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Over the course of the last two summers, I made my way through Stephen King’s magnus opus: the seven-book Dark Tower saga.  It was magnificent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  But somehow I knew when I finished book seven that I wasn’t quite done with the Dark Tower series.

My original entry-point into the world of The Dark Tower was Marvel Comics’ prequel series, The Gunslinger Born. I read and enjoyed Marvel’s series of miniseries, chronicling the tragic back-story of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger who was the central protagonist of Stephen King’s novels.  After reading the books, I was eager to go back and re-read the comic series, to see what I made of it after now knowing the full story that Stephen King had written.  But somehow I never quite got to it this past year.

When summer arrived, though, I started to get a Dark Tower jones (since I’d spent much of the past two summers reading the Dark Tower novels), and so I decided to pull out those comic books and dive back in.  It was certainly fun to read through these stories now knowing the full picture of the saga.  I enjoyed being able to identify the disparate scenes, story-threads, and references from Mr. King’s seven books that the Marvel team (including Mr. King himself, Robin Furth, and Peter David) were able to pull together for this chronological re-telling of Roland’s youth.

I still feel that the first mini-series, “The Gunslinger Born,” is way too crammed with material (adapting such a long chunk of Mr. King’s hugely-lengthy fourth Dark Tower novel, Wizard and Glass), while several of the other mini-series (particularly “The Long Road Home”) are far too leisurely paced for my tastes.

I also remain disappointed by the story’s conclusion in “The Battle of Jericho Hill,” as ten years are packed into six issues, making me feel like we skipped a lot of good stuff.  I also felt that, after surviving for a decade on their own after the fall of Gilead, Roland and his men are far too easily defeated at the end.  And that no real explanation is given for Roland’s miraculous survival of the slaughter is a real jaw-dropper.  (The novels implied that he was wounded but mistaken for dead.  But the comics show him getting shot up all to hell, and the bad guys seeing that he is dead, before he somehow awakens/resurrects.  Really weird.)

Still, I love the idea of weaving different scenes/moments from the books into a chronological presentation of Roland’s youth, and I admire the ambition of telling the full story of what Stephen King merely hinted at in his books: the Fall of Gilead and the … [continued]

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“Well Met in the House of the Rose” The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

October 11th, 2011
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“We’ll go,” he said.  “We’ll find the Dark Tower, and nothing will stand against us, and before we go in, we’ll speak their names.  All of the lost.”

“Your list will be longer than mine,” xxx said, “but mine will be long enough.”

(Name withheld to prevent spoilers!)

And so, at last, I have arrived at the end.  The clearing at the end of the path.  The conclusion of Stephen King’s monumental magnum opus, The Dark Tower.  Seven books written over the span of over thirty years, which I have spent the last year-or-so reading.  (I read the first three novels last summer, book four last fall, and the final three novels over the course of this past summer.)

Long-form stories like this (whether one is talking about novels, movies, or TV shows) rise or fall, ultimately, on the strength of their ending.  (For five wonderful seasons, I would have told you that Lost was one of the greatest television series ever made.  Then that disastrously terrible final season destroyed almost every ounce of my affection for the show.  Conversely, for five seasons I felt that Babylon 5 was an entertaining but fairly mediocre sci-fi TV show.  But the incredible, heartbreaking final episode was so good that it somehow elevated, in my mind, all that had come before.)

I will admit that, as I approached the seventh and final book in the Dark Tower series, I was a bit nervous.  Book VI, Song of Susannah, while still enjoyable, had nevertheless been my least-favorite book in the series to that point.  It felt to me like the narrative was spinning its proverbial wheels, and with so much story as-yet unresolved as I began book VII, I wondered how Mr. King could possibly tie up all of the myriad dangling story-threads.  I also couldn’t quite conceive of what the resolution of the Gunslinger’s life-long journey towards the Dark Tower could be.  At the start of book VII I, as a reader, had not much more idea than Roland himself as to what exactly the Dark Tower was, and what Roland might find there should he actually be able to enter the tower and climb to the highest room, as was his proclaimed goal.  The tower was so mysterious, and the source of so much speculation on my part (and, I’m sure, the part of every other reader ever to make his or her way through this saga), that I began to fear that any resolution couldn’t possibly live up to all of that anticipation.

Well, Mr. King, I cry your pardon.  I should never have doubted.

The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower is a magnificent conclusion … [continued]

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“O Discordia!” The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah

September 9th, 2011
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Only a few hours after finishing Wolves of the Calla (click here for my review of that novel), I dove right into Song of Susannah, the penultimate novel in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Song of Susannah is far shorter than books IV or V, or the finale, book VII.  Perhaps that contributes to the small sense of dissatisfaction I felt when I reached the end of the novel.  The book is a compelling, engaging read, no doubt.  But it doesn’t feel like a complete meal the way all the previous novels did.  I felt like something was missing.  Song of Susannah doesn’t feel like a complete tale, and that’s because it really isn’t.  It’s the middle chapter in the three-book trilogy that is bringing this series to a close.  Now, in a way, none of the previous Dark Tower novels have been complete stories.  Some (particularly book III, The Waste Lands, and book V, Wolves of the Calla) ended on cliffhangers.  Even the ones that didn’t end on such “to be continued” moments clearly left huge swaths of story and back-story as yet untold, to be filled in by the future novels.  But in some intangible way, all of the previous books felt complete, each in their own right.  Song of Susannah feels like the great middle section of an awesome, lengthier novel.

And, I suppose, that’s exactly what it is, and if I look at it that way, I really shouldn’t be disappointed!  Things are really coming to a boil, and long-simmering plot threads are finally coming together.  It’s funny that I should write “coming together,” because throughout Song of Susannah, Roland and his ka-tet (his band of comrades, including Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy) have been separated from one another.  (Perhaps the fact that the book ends with the ka-tet still separated is part of why I felt the narrative to be less-than-complete.)  Susannah has been possessed by the creature called Mia, daughter of none, and trapped in New York City in 1999, only hours away from giving birth to her child.  Eddie and Roland find themselves in Maine in 1977, hoping to obtain ownership of the lot of land that contains the rose that just might be the very center of the universe.  And Jake, Father Callahan, and the bumbler Oy are in New York on the trail of Susannah/Mia, but hours behind their quarry.

Throughout the series, Mr. King has played with alternate worlds and alternate timelines, and that comes to a head in this novel as Eddie and Roland find themselves ambushed in 1977 by the gangster Jack Andolini and his men.  Despite the fact that Eddie and Roland … [continued]

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“Come Come Commala!” The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla

August 24th, 2011
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Stephen King waited a long time — six years — between writing the fourth book in the Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass, and writing book five.  I didn’t take that long of a break, myself, but after reading the first four novels in the series last summer and early fall, I decided to stop for a bit, so I could give myself time to read some other books that interested me.

But once summer arrived again, I knew it was time for me to return to the Dark TowerIn my review of book four, Wizard and Glass, I wrote that I felt that novel was my favorite of the series to that point.  That opinion still stands, but Wolves of the Calla made it a VERY close call!

I’d heard some complaints, over the years, from folks who felt that when Stephen King returned to the Dark Tower series after a lengthy hiatus to finish the saga (books five, six, and seven were published in very short succession between 2003 and 2005), that those later books weren’t quite the same as what had gone before.  I can’t say that I agree with that assessment, at least not so far.  Wolves of the Calla is a ripping page-turner and an extremely strong installment of the series.

I will admit to having been a bit worried, though, going in.  Something about the cover art to the edition I read, and the title of the book, made me suspect that this was going to be something of a stand-alone adventure.  (“Wolves of the Calla” just seemed so RANDOM to me — What was this story about?  Werewolves?  What did that have to do with the gunslinger and his quest??)  I worried that the book would just be killing time before we got to the “good stuff” and the climax of the story in the final book.

No fear.  Wolves of the Calla is completely of a piece with the novels that preceded it, and the action of the book is not only exciting in its own right, but compelling in the way it moves forward the stories of Roland and each member of his ka-tet: Eddie, Susannah, and Jake.  (And Oy!)  The events of this tale affect each character in critical, pivotal ways, and one can feel the story moving at a rapid clip towards the end-game.

But while all that is happening, Wolves of the Calla also gives me what I’ve been asking for since the start of the series: an exciting adventure story set firmly in Roland’s world.  Part of the fun of the Dark Tower series is the way in which the characters and story-lines constantly … [continued]

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My friend Ethan e-mailed me this terrific article from Salon.com, entitled “Will Future Generations Understand The Simpsons?” It’s a great piece analyzing how pop-culture references might date once-great shows like The Simpsons, Seinfeld, etc., rendering them incomprehensible only a few years later.  I’m not sure I entirely agree, but it’s a really interesting read.

As regular readers of this site might recall, I read the first four books of Stephe King’s magnificent magnum opus the Dark Tower series earlier this year.  I’ve taken a little break to read some other things, but I’m eager to begin book five some-time soon.  I thought I only had three books left in the series but now, to my delight, it looks like I have four!  That’s because Stephen King has just announced that he’s written a new Dark Tower novel, to be published next year!  Very exciting news.

I have written before, many times, about Mike Mignola’s amazing comic book series Hellboy, and also about the phenomenal spin-off series B.P.R.D.  So I was shocked to learn that long-time B.P.R.D. artist Guy Davis is departing the series!!  Very sad news.  Mr. Davis is one of the greatest comic book artists working today, and his idiosyncratic style has defined the B.P.R.D. series for almost a decade.  To honor his departure, the fine folks at comicbookresources.com have assembled seven great moments from Mr. Davis’ B.P.R.D. run.  Take a look.

Have you, like me, been reading about the phenomenal events every year at the Paley Center for Media, jealously wishing that you could be there?  (Want an example?  How about the recent Undeclared reunion panel, followed by a Freaks and Geeks reunion panel??)  Well, huzza!  The Center has FINALLY begun to make DVDs available of some of their panels!  There are many great panels that remain unavailable, but 44 popular panels are now available on DVD.  I will definitely be ordering some of these!

There’s a HUGE interview up with Kevin Smith at The Examiner that is a terrific read, if you have a chunk of time.

Have you seen the glorious new trailer for J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Spielberg-homage film, Super 8? Check it out here.  That’s a terrific trailer.  I am VERY intrigued and excited for this film.  How fun is it to finally see that Amblin logo again??

Have you seen Conan O’Brien’s idea for a replacement for the color-coded National Alert system?  It would be the Nic Cage Terror Alert System.… [continued]

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“If you love me, then love me.” The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass

November 12th, 2010
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So here we come, at last.  Since first discovering the world of The Dark Tower with Marvel Comics’ The Gunslinger Born series of mini-series, I have been eager to reach this fouth volume.  That’s because I knew that the Gunslinger Born comics were mostly adapted from material found in Wizard and Glass, the novel that, from what I’d heard and read, finally revealed much about Roland’s past and the devastating events that set him on the path of his lonely journey towards the Dark Tower. 

Though I was familiar with the basic thrust of those events from having read the Gunslinger Born comics, I was excited to read the original source material which, I was sure, contained a lot more detail than the abbreviated (though still entertaining) Marvel comics.  I must confess that I was also, though, a bit anxious to begin, not only because of my high hopes but also because Wizard and Glass is a fairly lengthy tome.  It’s been looming on my bookshelf for quite a while now (as I’ve recounted before, I bought the first four Dark Tower novels after beginning the Gunslinger Born comic-books, but it took me about two years to actually begin reading them), and I knew it’d be something of an undertaking to begin.

Luckily for me, The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands, ended on a ferocious devil of a cliffhanger — the likes of which I’ve seldom encountered in a series of novels.  (I wrote “luckily for me,” because I can only imagine the torturous wait that fans at the time had to go through, as they watched the long years pass before the publication of Book IV.)  Luckily for me, I barely had to wait a day between finishing Book III and diving into Book IV. 

The beginning of Book IV: Wizard and Glass picks up exactly where Book III left off, with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy trapped in a deadly game of riddles with the insane Blaine the Mono.  It only takes about fifty pages, though, before that story is concluded, and Mr. King moves on to the real meat of Wizard and Glass, the narrative that will occupy the bulk of the novel’s page count.  This is the story that Roland finally tells to his friends: of how he became a gunslinger at the young age of 14; of how he and his ka-tet of younger days were sent off to the sea-side village of Hambry so that they’d be away from the danger that Roland’s father sensed was coming to their home of Gilead; of how the three young men encountered even greater danger in Hambry — the … [continued]

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“He just didn’t trust that smile.” The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands

October 8th, 2010
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I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I began reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  Could Mr. King’s “magnum opus” live up to all that I’d heard about it?  With three (of seven) books down, I can now tell you that I am unreservedly hooked.  (Click here for my thoughts on Book I: The Gunslinger, and here for my thoughts on Book II: The Drawing of the Three.)

With each of the first three installments, the novels have grown longer and the stories have grown more complex, as Mr. King gradually builds and deepens the strange and wonderful and horrifying “world that has moved on” which Roland Deschain and his new ka-tet (group of fellows) inhabit.  (Looking at the enormous Book IV which is sitting on my bookshelf, it looks like that trend will continue!)

Book III: The Waste Lands, has an unusual structure in that the novel is basically split in half.  Book One of the novel (subtitled Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust) deals with a major dangling plot-line left by the conclusion of The Drawing of the Three.  In that novel, the third door into another world brought Roland once again in contact with Jake, the young boy he had encountered in The Gunslinger.  Except this was Jake in the past, before he had ever met Roland.  Although it’s easy for a reader to miss in the intensity The Drawing of the Three‘s climax, while in Jake’s past Roland makes a critical change to Jake’s life.  As The Waste Lands opens, we see that the ripple effects of that one change have devastating effects on Roland — and on young Jake — and the two must once again find one another in order to set things right.

That synopsis makes it sound like The Waste Lands has a story in common with a great many Star Trek episodes, but trust me that things are really must weirder than that.  Mr. King’s story has little to do with the butterfly-effect changes to a timeline caused by time travel.  Rather, this story is a vehicle for us to learn more Roland and Jake — and also about Eddie and Susannah — as all four must set their doubts aside and go to incredible lengths in order to make their ka-tet whole once again.  As a back-drop, we also gain fascinating hints about the nature of the parallel worlds in the Dark Tower universe, how they are structured and how that structure is breaking down due to the as-yet-unrevealed malady that has apparently affected the Dark Tower.

This half of the novel is absolutely stuffed with … [continued]

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News Around the Net

I am speeding ahead with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and loving every page.  (Click here if you missed yesterday’s review of Book II: The Drawing of the Three.)  Now comes word that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have acquired the rights to the series, and are planning a trilogy of films AND A SIMULTANEOUS TV SERIES.  Here’s the juiciest quote from Deadline.com:

The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature cast—and the big star who’ll play Deschain—also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey.

WOW.  That is an awesomely ambitious idea.  I hope this comes to pass, and that Ron Howard is up for tackling this dense, dark saga.

Here’s an intriguing rumor that Judd Apatow might be returning to television!  It’s hard to know, at this early stage, just how involved Mr. Apatow would be in this proposed show — surely nowhere near as centrally involved as he was in Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.  But nevertheless, this is cool news.

Sooo… in celebration of the 75th anniversary of 20th Century Fox, the studio is sponsoring a series of one-night-only screenings, in different cities, of some of their most well-known films.  That’s neat.  Except take a look at which film is showing in Philadelphia.  What did those poor Philadelphians do to deserve that???  And what numbskull at Fox considers that one of the the studio’s best films??

OK, so I might need to make a trip to London.

Some cool pics have recently leaked from Captain America: The First Avenger.  I am really excited that Marvel has made the bold choice to set the film during WWII rather than the present day.  I hope we have some great Indiana Jones-style Nazi-stompin’ in our future.

[continued]

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“Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum?” The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three

September 13th, 2010
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Click here for my description of the beginning of my journey to the Dark Tower, and here for my thoughts on The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger.

Although all of the Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower prequel comics (The Gunslinger Born and subsequent mini-series) were set entirely in the Wild West meets Lord of the Rings fantasy world (and I am aware, by the way, that I’m doing an enormous insult to the vastness of Stephen King’s fully-realized creation to try to encapsulate it in such a gross oversimplification) of Gilead and the Gunslingers, I knew from pop-culture osmosis that eventually the Dark Tower series connected in some way to the modern world.  I wasn’t sure how or when in the series it happened, but I knew it was coming.  (Actually, even the very first novel of the series, The Gunslinger, had a connection to the modern world in the form of Jake, who grew up in New York City before mysteriously appearing in Roland’s world at the Way Station.)

To be honest, I was sort of dreading that coming cross-over with modern-day characters.  Through the Marvel Comics series and through Book I: The Gunslinger, I had quite fallen in love with the world of Gilead and the men and monsters who inhabited it.  I was desperate for more of the history and back-story of this strange and wondrous and terrifying fantasy “world that had moved on,” and didn’t see the need for this fantasy series to connect in any way to modern-day characters or locations.

So I was disappointed, at first, to discover that in the early pages of The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three, a grievously injured Roland Deschain (the Gunslinger) begins assembling a new ka-tet via mysterious doors that lead to the U.S.A. in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.  Urgh, I thought, here we go, so much for this fantasy series I had been enjoying so much.

I really shouldn’t have doubted Mr. King, and I cry his pardon that I did so.  The Drawing of the Three is a wonderful novel, gripping from beginning-to-end, and one that opens up the developing saga in intriguing ways.  (Being a newbie to the Dark Tower series, I have no idea where any of this is going — but for now I am really enjoying my ignorance!)

The first door that Roland encounters leads him to Eddie Dean, a junkie in the process of smuggling heroin into the U.S.  The second door leads Roland to Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes, a crippled African American woman who also happens to be a dangerously split personality.  The third door leads Roland to Jack Mort, … [continued]

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“In a World That Has Moved On…” The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger

August 20th, 2010
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The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

So opens book one of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. It’s a terrific opening line, and the rest of the story that follows ain’t too shabby, either.

The titular gunslinger is Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger in a world that has moved on. When we meet him, he has been on the trail of the mysterious man in black for many years. We don’t know who exactly this man in black is, or what exactly he did that caused Roland to begin his lengthy pursuit, or just what happened to Roland’s former and the rest of the gunslingers that left him the last. (Those answers, one hopes, lie in the later books in the series.)

We are given many hints – small fragments of information as Roland recounts moments from his youth. Here is where I really appreciated having read Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower prequel comic book series (which began with The Gunslinger Born), before beginning this novel. I got to know the world of Roland’s youth through those mini-series, so when he refers to Cort or to Alain in the novel, those references have great weight and meaning to me, and I’m able to place images (Jae Lee’s beautifully illustrated images) to those names, names which wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me had I been reading this novel cold. These glimpses into Roland’s past were some of my favorite parts of the novel, and I found myself eagerly anticipating the later installments that will further flesh out Roland’s back-story (particularly, from what I’ve heard, book four: Wizard and Glass). It will be interesting to see how well what we learn in those later books matches with the comic book series.

The Gunslinger is a very short book – by far the shortest of the Dark Tower series. It’s a quick, engaging read. The story, while entertaining, is pretty slight. Many intriguing characters are introduced and questions are raised, but we’re given precious few answers. The back-story that we’re given to the situations and characters in the novel is sketchy at best. Those hints, scattered like crumbs throughout the narrative, are extremely intriguing, and the sense of mystery that pervades the story definitely draws the reader into the tale and makes one want to read more. But The Gunslinger is barely a story. It reminds me of one of the cliffhanger episodes of The X-Files, when in part one we’d see all sorts of intriguing and mysterious goings-on that would definitely capture an audience’s interest.Yet it would be near-impossible to figure out what was actually happening, because we didn’t yet have … [continued]

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On the Road to the Dark Tower…

August 16th, 2010
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Back in 2007, Marvel Comics released the first of a series of comic books based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.  Called The Gunslinger Born, that first seven-issue mini-series chronicled the back-story of the Dark Tower novels: specifically, the youth of Roland Deschain, the titular gunslinger.  From what I have read, the events of the comic book series were pieced together from various hints and references throughout the Dark Tower novels, especially from information in the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass.

 

I had never read any of Mr. King’s Dark Tower novels, though lord knows I’d heard about them.  I knew many people who considered the series Stephen King’s magnum opus.  I also knew some who had loved the series but who felt let-down by the later books in the saga.

 

Despite my having not already been a Dark Tower devotee, I was intrigued enough by the idea behind the comic book series to purchase the early issues.  I was immediately hooked.  Jae Lee’s artwork (ably assisted by the digital coloring of Richard Isanove) was jaw-dropping, and the story was powerfully gripping.  I am a sucker for GREAT BIG epics (be they in movies, novels, comic books, etc.), and this story looked epic indeed.  Having never read any of the Dark Tower novels, I wasn’t sure where the work of Stephen King ended and where the work of plotter Robin Furth and scripter Peter David began, but I was instantly taken by the scope of the fully-realized fantasy world into which the reader was thrust.

 

After that first mini-series, The Gunslinger Born, ended, I immediately went out and purchased the first three Dark Tower novels.  I had relished my taste of some of the back-story of this world, and now I wanted to dig into the main course.

 

But the books sat unread on my bookshelf.  Hard to say why, exactly.  Mostly I guess the time never seemed quite right to start such a lengthy series of novels.  I didn’t want to begin until I could be reasonably sure that I’d have the time to make my way through the series without any lengthy interruptions, and that magic moment never quite arrived.

 

In the meanwhile, though, I continued to follow Marvel’s continuing Dark Tower comics.  Four more mini-series were published: The Long Road Home, Treachery, The Battle of Jericho Hill, and The Fall of Gilead.  I enjoyed them all, though I must confess that my enthusiasm had waned somewhat by the end.  The series was hurt by the choice of doing without artist Jae Lee for the penultimate miniseries.  That really broke the story’s momentum for me as a reader, and things didn’t pick up for … [continued]