The Summer Of Not So Super Cinema Sausages

Sorry this post is going to a downer.  I much prefer to write about things that brought me joy but sometimes one gets buried under a deluge of depressing dross and the occasional venting is needed to clear the palette.

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Seen any of this summer’s big blockbusters? Feel like if you seen one – you’ve seen them all? Remember any of them? Feel compelled to see any of them again?

Welcome to my world.

Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger, etc.  All feature scenes of mass destruction.  Most deal with an atagonist that turns out to be the front for a bigger one hiding in the shadows. All of them feel interchangeable. Like interconnected sausage links.

Movie studios have fully embraced comic book summer tent pole movies and the feeling of someone cranking a handle and churning out indistinguishable product has never been stronger than it has this summer. The products look great and sound great. Its all cinema sound and fury that assaults the senses for two hours only to drain away and leave no lasting impressions like an unexpected summer storm that wets the streets for a brief time. Only to be evaporated away under the light of an indifferent sun.

Most egregrious is the latest Superman reboot – Man of Steel.  When it was announced that this would be the most realistic Superman ever, a warning bell went off in my mind.  Most realistic how? In terms of characterization?  In terms of how Clark Kent would fit in to a world where nearly every big event moment is captured on video; how the artifice of simply putting on a pair of glasses is no longer a sufficient cover? Or would it be to use current SFX to showcase Superman’s powers?

The warning bell was for the third point – because it was a given that showing Superman’s powers with the latest SFX toolset was a no brainer – and that such depiction would overpower the other ones.  Which is exactly what happened with MOS. What was most disturbing about MOS is by the time the movie ended, the depiction of Superman’s powers came across as pornography given the mass destruction and collateral damage.

Another Summer Movie Sausage Of Mass Destruction

I’ve never been beholden to the Christopher Reeves movies because they played like cousins of the Adam West Batman TV series.  Both far too goofy for my tastes.  Both did create memorable music with John William’s superb Superman score the de facto Superman soundtrack.

I could go on with the myriad problems with the MOS but I’ll leave this link to an excellent article by Hulk Film Crit that applies not just to MOS but to movie – and story – analysis across the board:

Hulk Film Crit –

THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAMATIZING CHARACTER

I ‘ll add a few of my personal issues with the movie to what the article points out:

1)  MOS preaches actions has consequences through out the movie and then at the end of the climax with the biggest actions, there are no consequences whatsover.

2) This movie shows the world is a better place without Superman. His actions result in the crisis that the world has to face. In this movie if there is no Superman there is no crisis and the world continues on its own merry way quite nicely.  Thank you very much.

3) The other thing that saddens me about Man of Steel is that it brings Superman down to our level as opposed to the other movies which inspire us to try and reach his level.

I’m ready for the next reboot of Superman already.

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With that out of my system, I promise to return to writing about things that brought me joy in my next post.  And there are many such things!

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2013 – The Year Of The King Clan

This entry is sparked by a wonderful interview, where the logistics of getting all these very busy members of the King family in the same location must been immense, that appeared recently in the New York Times Weekend Magazine.

You can find it here – Stephen King’s Family Business

2013 may very well represent the apex of the Stephen King Writing Clan in terms of output.

By the time this year ends we will have had:

1) Stephen King:    Joyland
2) Owen King:       Double Feature
3) Joe Hill:             N0S4A2
4) Stephen King:    Dr. Sleep

and by extension of being Owen King’s wife:

5) Kelly Braffet:     Save Yourself

Will this alignment of releases in the same year ever occur again within one family?  Hard to say.  We know S. King has two more books nearing completion – Mr. Mercedes and Revival.  His output the last few years has been amazing!  Can the kids keep up?

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With the imminent release of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining – Dr. Sleep, I decided to reread The Shining since it had been over 20 years since I had read it least.  Partly because I want to reread some of King’s earlier books because it has been 20 plus years for a lot of those books.  And partly because the impact that Kubrick’s adaptation of the book has had within pop culture is so pervasive- how events played out in his movie versus the book have become blurred. Writer & King expert, Bev Vincent, made this observation and I agree with him.

And I am very glad I reread this book.

The Shining by Stephen King

Well I’m all set for Dr. Sleep.

It’s been over twenty years since I last read this book and as good I thought it was since then, it’s even more powerful than I remember.  No doubt because in the twenty intervening years I have become a family man and father myself. My focus on this story has shifted from the horror elements to the characters.

Twenty years ago the visceral thrills that the Outlook Hotel gave have been dulled due to the ever expanding boundaries of what horror books/movies etc have shown and told us.

What stands out more in The Shining are the ghosts we carry around inside of us.  These ghosts have the potential to be far more damaging and/or terrifying than anything a possessed hotel can throw at us.

The Cover Version of The Shining I First Saw And Still My Preferred Version

Jack and Wendy Torrance are damaged goods trying to cast off the ghosts of their parents.  Jack fails and with Wendy it is unclear how she fares moving forward from the end of the book.

And Danny?  Ah, poor Danny.  With his gift, or curse, of The Shining – the weight of his ghosts is ever so much heavier.  Will his ability ultimately help him conquer his demons or will he crash even harder than his father?

Come Sept 24 with the release of Dr. Sleep, answers should be forthcoming.

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Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

One feels guilty when you read in a day, a story a writer put a lot of work into. But it is also sign of a great book and Kelly Braffet has pulled off a particularly difficult feat.  She created a very sad world with characters beaten down by events out of their control. Yet Braffert writes the characters in a way that makes you empathize with them.  You may empathize with certain characters over others and that’s perfectly fine. There are enough characters in the story that more than a couple of them will probably get their hooks into you.

The subtext of the unquenchable human thirst for the hope of being a better person flitters on the edges of every page. The only caveat is the characters end up where you think they will. The surprise is the price they have pay to get there.

Serial Smorgasbord – Final Serving – Dexter Dessert + A Map

Dexter – Season 8 – Final Act

Season Seven was seen by many as a rebound for everyone’s favorite serial killer – I never found Season 6 as bad as the general consensus judged it to be.  The seventh season finale with Deb shooting LaGuerta to protect Dexter’s identity was a shocker indeed.

At this writing the show is halfway through the eighth season and the first big bad has been dispatched. Were those first six episodes of a stature one hopes for in a final season?  If you employ the metric that a hero is only as interesting as the villain he faces then those episodes were a bit of a bust.  The Brain Surgeon turned out to be a pale shadow behind the curtain.

On the other hand those episodes offered up great opportunties to explore Dexter and Deb’s background with the introduction of Charlotte Rampling’s Dr. Evelyn Vogel.  The show has done some retconning here bringing the Vogel character in the show mythology as a psychiatrist who helped Dexter’s dad – Harry develop the ‘Code’ that Dexter has based his kills on.  While it somewhat undermines Harry as a character, because we have been led to believe for seven seasons that he was acting alone, the plausibility of Harry seeking professional help makes sense. Plus the introduction of Vogel has allowed for some interesting exploration into Dexter’s and Deb’s early years.

It intrigues that Deb has had the more interesting arcs the last two seasons. Her discovery of Dexter’s Dark Passenger and then her decision to kill for him have led to some intense scenes between them.  Jennifer Carpenter has been given some meaty material to play with and she has definitely made the most of it.

Especially in Season Seven.

Charlotte Rampling has such interesting eyes – they give her the air of being in two different places at the same time.  This works especially well for Vogel because it invokes an air of uncertainty about her motives. Are her motivations proper and humane?  Is she really trying to help these sociopaths?  Or are these people irrelevant to her and nothing but guinea pigs that allow her to explore the darker side of the human psyche?

Now it appears that Vogel wants to continue the experiment by having Dexter become the mentor to a new serial killer.  Intriguing.

Hannah has returned and that looks like it will be the last major arc of the final season.  Not sure if that is the way I want the series to play out but with Hannah married and Dexter tutoring his heir apparent, Zack Hamilton, hopefully the last six episodes will bring all things to an unexpected conclusion.

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And that is enough serial killer postings for awhile.

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Time for something lighter!

The Map Of Time by Félix J. Palma – inspired by my Cemetery Dance Grab Bag in which was the second book in a series – The Map Of The Sky. Since the local library had the first book in the series, I decided to read that one first.

The concept is intriguing – late 19th England and a story that mixes historical fact with fiction.  In this book H.G. Wells plays the role of connective thread with three stories that are tied up with time travel.  Historical figures come in and out of the story – John Merrick aka The Elephant Man, James Joyce, Bram Stroker to name a few.  Also tied into this is a version of Jack The Ripper who is caught after just murdering his fifth victim.

The bulk of the book deals with alternate timelines that turn out to be false except for the one dealing with Jack the Ripper.  H.G. Wells turns out to be much more than just a writer about time travel but actually its father.

This is an interesting book on several levels beyond the ones just mentioned. Written in his native tongue of Spanish, I am very curious how much of the English translation brought the Old England tone to the prose.  The books also breaks several writing conventions including POV switches – sometimes several times in the same chapter – and on occasion invokes an omniscent third person viewpoint that knows and sees all -but is never identified. Perhaps that revelation lies in the sequels. It reminds me when Stephen King used the same conceit late in final volume of the Dark Tower.

I enjoyed it for all these elements – and despite some of them – and look forward to reading The Map Of The Sky which deals with The War Of The Worlds really happening and Edgar Allan Poe on an Antartic Expedition.

A very fun, genre bending book.