Tag Archive: Stephen King


Oh, goodness. It’s been WAY too long since I posted.

I blame it on TV! There are so many terrific shows on these days, that I have become as addicted to the boob-tube as I am to the silver screen. Maybe more about that in a later post …

MV5BODU4MjU4NjIwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDU2MjEyMDE@._V1_SX214_AL_For now, I want to revisit an old favorite which just turned 20 years old. Despite a daunting lineup of TV shows, I still insist on watching films either that I own or that are available on the premium channels. A recent choice was The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

Director Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” is epic, spanning a 20-year period and encompassing such motifs as stunning patience, preservation of humanity, deserved redemption, and ultimate justice. Stars Tim Robbins (as Andy Dufresne, a convicted murderer who professes innocence) and Morgan Freeman (as old-timer inmate Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding) are perfect in their roles, and the supporting cast is stellar.

There are many touching moments in the film, such as when various characters muse about things like the reasons for their life choices. There are also uncomfortable moments, usually involving major injustices and heartbreaking tragedies. shawshank-redemption-1And then there are the moments we cheer: when someone’s intelligence and patience are rewarded, when human kindness shines through bureaucracy, and when the “good guys” get the upper hand on the “bad guys.” And that’s another interesting twist—in this story, the goods guys are not who you’d expect.

The Shawshank Redemption has become a quiet classic in the 20 years since it was made. If you have not seen, check it out. It’s truly worth watching!

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Review: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe Hill is a terrific, imaginative writer. I read Horns a while back and was blown away by the bizarre nightmare-like quality of the events. It’s easy to see the beginnings of that in this, his first book. He certainly excels—and the story is at its best—when the odd and surreal are at the forefront.

What I love about Hill’s style is that he paints intricate portraits. He provides the reader with vivid descriptions of what’s going on, how it looks, and what direction its going. You needn’t guess how big an apparition is or to which side of it the protagonist is standing, because the author tells you. He has a keen sense of place and continuity, the lack of which can be incredibly annoying and confusing for readers. (This detailed quality of narrative is also something I have always loved about his dad, Stephen King. Maybe Joe inherited it! It’s certainly hard to teach—I know from years of teaching composition and rhetoric…)

The only thing that lacked for me was the ending. “After all, that’s the most important part of the story, the ending” (Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King). Here’s why I was slightly disappointed with it:

[SPOILER ahead]

While dark and violent, the book as a whole is quite hopeful—it’s all about fighting something that seems indomitable, love conquering all, and that kind of shmaltz. Well, the ending got a bit too wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow for me: Jude and Marybeth live happily ever after, travel the world, and can even be friends with a girl who tried to kill them and is related to the demented dead dude that they narrowly escaped. Hmm.

Another issue with the ending that is that it was wrapped up in that neat bow too quickly and tersely. For example, we get told that Jude has some more musical success, and that he rebuilds another car—all portraying the return to normalcy. I’m not a big fan of being told; I’d rather SEE. It would have been great to witness instead a few scenes of that return to normalcy.

Finally, something seemed incomplete … the story is seeped in the triumph of the human spirit, grounded love, and hope for the future; what better symbol could there be of that than if Marybeth were pregnant at the end? Instead, she and a rapidly aging Jude take a trip once in while and otherwise live in seclusion. Is that all there is after all they went through? But, of course, that’s just my opinion; others might think their life is bliss.

Overall, this is a satisfyingly creepy thrill-ride (on the nightroad) for fans of the macabre. Enjoy!

Review: 11/22/63

11/22/63
11/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Preface
(Ever read a book review with a preface before? Well, now you will…)

I’ve been a fan of King’s work since Carrie, the first book he published and the first one I read. Since then, it’s been tough keeping up with him, since he writes so darn fast and furiously! But I have tried. I’d stack up his earlier work against any contemporary author: he’s an amazing storyteller, he weaves a great plot with interesting and believable characters, and he has an incredible imagination, especially for the bizarre and inexplicable. But in recent years (really starting with the Dark Tower series), it’s as though both his internal and external editors have been turned off. His books have become interminable. This does not make them BAD, by any means, but most could be half to three quarters the size they are, without losing anything in the story if edited well.

And now, the actual review.

11/22/63 is a case in point. The premise is fascinating and the narrative of the time traveler’s late fifties/early sixties experiences is wonderful: it truly immerses the reader in the scene. But it goes on for way too long. For me, reading some of the mundane day-in-the-life bits conjured up the frustration of following people on Twitter or reading updates on Facebook: we really don’t need to hear that you went to the grocery store today or that you bought new shoes. Had the pages been used to delve into the protagonist’s relationships or motivations, I could see the need for the bulk of this tome. But too many pages are spent watching him pass the time until he can intervene in pivotal points of the past. A few events prove important later, but since they are lumped in with so much idle time, it is difficult to recall them once they are mentioned again. Much of the trivial material could have been summed up with the revision skills of which I know King is capable — I know because he used to edit himself (or his editor did the job); now, it’s as though he prefers to do a brain dump and take nothing out, and the publisher has said, “Hey, if it’s longer, we can charge more. People will still buy it — it’s Stephen King!” They are probably right.

Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps with having less time to read these days, I am not as patient with books anymore. But I don’t seem to be getting as frustrated by the work of other authors as I am by King’s. Maybe I just miss his old, more compact style. I still love King’s work, and I’ll keep reading (when I have time for a long book). I just wish the editor would get turned back on.

And the Winner Is…

It’s Academy Awards day.  Guess you know what this movie freak will be watching this evening. 

Stephen King, in his Entertainment Weekly column, made the excellent point that it’s the films we movie-lovers like to watch, not the goofy award shows—and I agree.  But for me, the spectacle of the Oscars has been a long-time institution connected to the film industry, and for good or ill, decisions made here about the year’s best influence upcoming projects, careers, and theater runs for months and years to come. So, like King, I’ll be watching with some snacks on tap, and I won’t be falling asleep before the end!

Everyone and his second cousin makes Oscar-winner predictions, so it feels rather silly to add to that melee, but I promised I would chime in, even though I have waited until the last minute to do so.  I don’t really want to predict as much as offer a few comments and some sincere hopes—most of which are not news to those who have talked to me over the past couple of months.

Best Picture

The commercial favorite is, of course, Avatar, and I do think chances are very good that this entertaining and technically advanced film will win.  I won’t be heartbroken (or surprised) if it does win, as it is wildly entertaining and groundbreaking in some ways for its effects.  However, it doesn’t have the depth of story that I’d like to see triumph.  What does? My personal favorite is District 9 for overall storyline and performances plus its genius combination of genres, and eye-popping action and effects on a small budget. People have argued that it won’t win because it’s a science-fiction movie … so, what is Avatar?

I’d also be quite pleased if The Hurt Locker took home the Best Picture statuette. It is deserving for its amazing performances, flawless pacing, fantastic cinematography, and more. The subject matter may be a bit narrow for the top prize, though many are hoping that if the film can’t take Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow will snag Best Director (I’d love for that to happen especially if Avatar gets Best Pic!).

I’ve watched all three of these movies twice now, and I can say unequivocally that one of them should win. Any other choice from the ridiculous ten-strong category will be a travesty.

Actors

Unfortunately, I have not seen some of the films that feature the Best Actor nominees, so I’m all good with frontrunner Jeff Bridges winning.  I also haven’t seen some of the Best Actress performances, but I pray and hope that a serious actor like Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep takes it.  I like Sandra Bullock, especially in fun movies, but she is just not of the same caliber as many of the nominees. Neither are the films in which she appears, including this year’s The Blind Side. I’ve always said I’m no film snob, but I’m feeling like a bit of one in this case. Nonetheless, I will be sorely disappointed if the Razzies winner (or rather, loser) also takes home and Oscar.

Other Categories

There are not many categories this year that I feel very strongly about, so it will just be fun to watch who and what wins. There’s one exception, though.  For Animated Feature, I’m fervently hoping that Up, which I failed to see why everyone liked so much, doesn’t win.  My favorite of those animated films I’ve seen is Coraline (hooray, Neil Gaiman!), but I fear it may be too dark to prevail in its category.

Well, that’s it for me. Everyone have fun at your Oscar parties, or watching in the comfort of your easy chair, of ignoring the festivities altogether.  I’ll be back in a day or two with some reflections after the fact.

Cheers!

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