Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From a Buick 8

I've gone through all the stages of Stephen King fandom. Reading books like The Shining and 'Salem's Lot and stories like "The Mist" were what got me hooked on horror in the first place. Then there came the time of discontent. This occurred contemporaneously with the publication of Gerald's Game and Delores Claiborne. These books were just not good, but even worse, I became convinced that the King had lost it. I still read him, but not with much enthusiasm.

Here is where I would ordinarily write"Until" and then relate the story of his great redemption and my re-entry into a glorious stage of admiration. Unfortunately, I can't. He did lose it. His books have come around some since then (Bag of Bones inspired me enough to take up writing), but they have not and will not reach the same heights that his early books did. In my mind, all reviews of his books have to maintain that frame of reference. That old standard can't be used, much as it would be unfair to compare Jonathan Franzen's work to Charles Dickens.

From a Buick 8 summoned these thoughts because it was a book I could imagine the old King making a tour de force. Instead, the new King created a serviceable read with some flashes of brilliance. As always, the characters are distinctive and fun to spend time with. I think that is King's greatest gift and what makes some of his books transcend genre-writing. Who can forget Jack Torrance in The Shining or Annie Wilkes in Misery? The book also had a lot more story than I thought it could have, given that it is mostly about a stationary car. I won't spoil anything, but there are some pretty chilling moments as he reveals exactly what that car really is.

The principal flaw of the story, and this can be gleaned from the book jacket, is that the story is told mostly in flashback form. This device eliminates most of the suspense from a lot of scenes that could have been real white-knucklers. I'm not sure that he could have fixed this, given some of the advantages the format provided, but it did tend to make the book a slog. An interesting slog, but a slog nonetheless.

Ultimately, I do recommend this book. It's not a page turner, but it's original. It helps that the characters are enjoyable, because you don't mind spending the extra time with them. Plus, I got a cool new (probably actually very old) saying out of it: "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back."


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Are we alone?

That's the question posed by Iain Murray in this fascinating, if depressing, article. His discussion about the odds of there being many other potentially life-supporting planets out there seemed to me to overlook one interesting point. We have another planet in our own solar system that may have supported life at one time: Mars. I'm talking about single cell life, not Marvin the Martian, but the very fact of Mars' existence has to undermine an argument about how the odds are against there being other Earth-like planets out there. After all, the odds of there being two life-supporting planets in the same solar system can't be good. Am I missing something? It's at least something to think about.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Grindhouse Update

Kurt Russell will star in Quentin Tarantino's half of Grindhouse, according to this article. This is another one of those movies that I'll probably watch even though I have very little enthusiasm for doing so. At least Tarantino makes a reference to John Carpenter movies in the story. Still, it'd be a lot cooler if Sam Neill had some sort of involvement.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More Shyamalan

I think Roger Ebert's review of Lady in the Water is worth reading. He brings up some points that bothered me when I saw it, especially in regard to how claustrophobic the scenes were, in a bad way. There were so many strange cuts and camera angles that you could never figure out where anything was. I still don't know if Heep lived in an apartment or the little side building (this is not a spoiler).

Check the review out here.

UPDATE: As pointed out by the amusingly harsh commenter, the review I linked to is actually by Jim Emerson, who is the editor of However, my emphasis was on the content of the review and not the identity of the reviewer, so I still think it's worth checking out.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova, Random Thoughts

-The show got markedly better this week. I thought Phil raised his performance level dramatically. "White Rabbit" was a surprising choice, but it really rocked.

-Speaking of "White Rabbit," it was nice to see Newstead head-banging again. Metallica nostalgia. He's still kind of a dork in his judge-mode, but a likable one.

-With Phil rising up, there's still only three decent guys on the show, with Toby and Lukas rounding out that trio. Dilana is the only girl I could see being picked.

-Ryan's only good moment so far: the observation that Dana belongs on a "pop show." She could have been a contender on American Idol.

-Josh apparently has no familiarity with the song "Come As You Are" or the band "Nirvana."

-Zayra is ridiculously bad, despite the fawning over her this week.

-Jenny deserved to go after her butchery of "Drive," but Ryan and Dana shouldn't assume they're out of the woods either.

-When are they going to have a song heavier than the Nirvana and STP grunge anthems? It's hard to get "dirty" when you're singing "Let's Spend the Night Together." Although Lukas did a great job of staying away from a pop version of the song.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lady in the Water -- A Review

I wanted to like this movie. Going to a movie knowing that it will be different (and not in the "This time the gay cowboys will be transgendered, and fighting the Nazis in space!" way) is exciting. And I like both suspense and fantasy movies. Yet, I still found myself coming down on the side of Scott Brown's "Suck Watch." "Lady" is just not a good movie, and it borders on very, very bad.

The plot, for all of the tortured descriptions I've read, is really quite simple. A fairy tale unfolds at an apartment complex in Philadelphia. That's pretty much it. The idea is actually kind of neat, but Mr. Shyamalan really doesn't come close to fulfilling its potential. First off is the problem of the names: "narf" and "scrunt." It's difficult to take something scary seriously when it's called a "scrunt." And "narf" kept reminding me of "Snarf" from the Thundercats. Snarf!

Also back in this movie for Bryce Dallas Howard's character is that archaic, contraction-less way of talking last seen in The Village. With all the "do nots," "will nots," and "scrunts," the dialogue is very distracting.

On the positive side, this felt like Mr. Shyamalan's quickest paced movie, and there was no twist to be disappointed by.

However, these positives are not enough to outweigh the above negatives combined with the myriad of other problems with the movie (poor casting in several roles, poorly timed jokes, ridiculous plot turns, etc.). It's too bad that this movie is probably going to flop -- I can't see word of mouth doing many favors for this one -- because I like Mr. Shyamalan's creativity. I think he needs to team up with someone (I'm available, ahem) who could act as a sound board and rework some of his ideas. As for Lady in the Water, I hear that Pirates of the Caribbean is pretty good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Giant Yellow Jacket Nests

Check out the picture at this link. Intense.

Hat tip: The Corner.


Here's a cool little profile of Disturbed from this weekend's Detroit Free Press. They're co-headlining Ozzfest with System of a Down. With a picture!

Monday, July 17, 2006


Frankly, I wasn't expecting much from Hostel, but I was pleasantly surprised. That's not to say it was a good movie -- as many others have commented, it takes far too long for the actual story to get going. Of course, I'm aware of the reason for including a multitude of nude young women other than to advance the plot.

Still, this movie had a lot to like about it. First, the main character, Paxton, was human enough to allow the viewer to actually care for him. Second, the gore was not as bad as I was expecting. Third, and finally, the last half hour or so of the movie really hummed along as a gripping suspense/thriller. I do think this movie is a lot better than many have given it credit for. I wouldn't watch it again, but it's pretty close to a movie like Saw II, and it's certainly better than Wolf Creek.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Night 1

Potential general spoilers in this post.

It was a mixed night for the premier of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

"Battleground": The first half of the night started the series off with a bang (heh, heh). It was a really high quality show, and the performance from William Hurt was top notch. He was even more impressive given that he didn't speak during the whole episode. The story here was pretty simple, and it really didn't go for the big scare. The effect was more menace combined with dark humor. Given that, it will be interesting to see how the others play.

"Crouch End": This one did go for the big scare, or at least a series of little scares, and it fell flat on its face. Part of it was the effects. In fact, it was hard to believe this was part of the same series as "Battleground." For instance, the cat with the weird eye thing couldn't have looked any more fake. It was definitely an example of CGI being used where good old latex and fake blood would have worked just fine. Even aside from the effects, the story just didn't quite work. I liked it a little just because it was so weird, but it wasn't coherent enough to really entertain. I'm not entirely sure this is the fault of the TV version, though. I seem to remember having the same reaction when I read the short story.

Overall, though, this was still a very promising start to the series. I especially like the fact that they've brought good actors on board. Nothing ruins horror movies or TV more than poor acting. In that vein, next week will bring us another very solid actor: William H. Macy. I'm looking forward to that one.

Supernova Results

Because of a cold and the baseball All-Star Game, I ended up watching both the performances and the results last night. I would rate the singers as decent overall at this point. Barring drastic improvement, most of them have little realistic chance of actually being made the lead singer, including pretty much all the women aside from Dilana. Most of the men probably too. I could see Toby or Lukas winning from the guys. Phil might have half a chance if he could manage to look less awkward on stage.

The results were kind of amusing, in that we get to see Zayra and her mangled singing one more week. I can't blame them for sending Chris home, though. He did seem to lack something authentic, and in its place was something that made him unlikable. There's too many contestants left to predict who will go home next week, but I would have to imagine it would be one of the girls. It's been two weeks, and two guys have gone home. I guess the early favorite for next week's booby prize would be Zayra.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Lady in the Water

I've scored tickets to a pre-screening next Tuesday of the new M. Night Shyamalan movie.

I'm really hoping this one will be good, because it looks like it has a ton of potential. In spite of all the criticism of Mr. Shyamalan, I'm still a huge fan of his stories and the way he presents them on screen.

I'll put up a review that night.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"I never met, and hope I will never meet, such a monster"

So says a German scientist who studies "rogue waves," quoted in this fascinating article. I first wrote about this phenomenon here, recalling how unsettling it was to read about these monsters right before I went on my honeymoon cruise. According to the article, scientists have now come to accept rogue waves as a fact and have measured many exceeding 80 or 90 feet. Chilling fact: the 90 footers may be the small ones. Apparently the theoretical maximum scientists have calculated is 198 feet. That is taller than the Statue of Liberty. Yeah. The article mentions a seven story wave that plowed into a cruise ship off the coast of Georgia in 2005. No one was killed, fortunately, but some of the passengers, after surviving a wave that reached the tenth deck of their cruise ship, vowed that they would never sail again.

Would you?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rock Star Results

Duran Duran, huh? I knew as soon as those four syllables left Matt's mouth that he was toast. Unless he was going to do an Orgy/Blue Monday version of the song, there was no way these guys were going to accept Duran Duran as being heavy. I mean, Newstead played bass for Metallica! Matt, that was an unforced error, buddy.

I actually think Chris is worse, and he probably won't last too much longer. His unwillingness to back down was admirable, to a degree, but he's just not very good.

Phil certainly deserved his spot in the bottom three, but his singing isn't quite as bad as Chris's. He really needs to work on his stage presence. A giant, somewhat dopey tree swaying around up there is not what the frontman for a heavy band should look like. He should find a way to look a little more menacing when he sings. The way he carries himself is something that can be changed, though, much moreso than Chris and his not singing well. So there's hope yet for ole stretch.

Promising start to the show overall.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova

Good first episode. I've never been a big fan of INXS, so I didn't watch last year. But I like the potential for some good heavy rock from Supernova. Some of the song choices were pretty bizarre. Iris? Roxanne? Even if he hadn't butchered it, it was a stupid choice. What were they thinking? Far too many slow/weak song choices from the guys. I think that's part of the reason the girls looked so good in comparison.

Dilana rocks!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fun with Lists

Here's a good one:

"11 Bad-Good Horror Movies You Need To See"

After a first look at the list, I thought I'd only seen The Evil Dead, but something about the "Braaaiinss" line from The Return of the Living Dead sounds familiar. I think that movie may be lurking somewhere in my past. Enjoy