Under the Dome (the television series) is based on a novel written by Stephen King of the same name. The teleplay was scripted by Brian K. Vaughn (of Y: The Last Man fame). Seeing that the script was written by someone other than Stephen King himself, and knowing (loving) Y: The Last Man, I was excited for the possibilities that could be brought out in an adaptation of Under the Dome.
Synopsis (per IMDB):
An invisible force field descends upon a small town in the northeastern part of the United States.
Synopsis (per Goodreads):
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when - or if - it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens - town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing - even murder - to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just shot. It's running out.
I would say that spoilers are about to be mentioned, but guess what, there's a dome in Under the Dome and all that stuff mentioned in the synopsis begins to happen. This is more-or-less an introduction to the townsfolk of Chester's Mill, and little besides the dropping of the dome happens.
I was excited for the possibilities... then I saw this photo. Stephen King on the set of the show. If you are familiar with other adaptations of Stephen King's works (The Langoliers, The Stand, Storm of the Century, Bag of Bones, etc.) you are aware of how campy the stories become. But Szever, The Shining - Jack Nicholson - awesomesauce! Stephen King had nothing to do with that version of The Shining, and has publicly stated his distaste for the adaptation - decided to remake it on his own. Guess what. Not as good. Whether or not Stephen King actually had involvement in writing/directing/etc. Under the Dome, I have no idea, but my expectations were drastically lowered at the thought of the possibility.
So, let's look at the cast, as the series stars some household favorites.
Mr. Clean as Big Jim Rennie
The Offspring of Andy Sandberg and Clark Kent as Junior Rennie
Merida as Julia Shumway
Kid-Who's-Probably-Supposed-To-Be-Younger-Than-He-Actually-Is as Joe McClatchey
Guy-From-Everything as Sheriff
Princess Peach as Lady With Virtually No Screentime
Mr. Clean as Big Jim Rennie
I make light of the casting decisions, but overall I have no major qualms with any of the cast. I read the novel two and half years ago. I don't remember the physical descriptions of any characters. That information doesn't really stick with you unless it is absurdly out of the ordinary (Tyrion Lannister). I had some doubts about Dean Norris as Big Jim Rennie if only because I picture a guy called Big Jim as a big dude. But Dean Norris kills it with equal parts concerned citizen and evil politician (sorry about the Mr. Clean comment Dean - you rock in Breaking Bad).
However, the remainder of the acting ranged from the acceptable to the depths of the dreaded Stephen-King-campiness. We get to see Junior Rennie's descent into madness - a great addition to the script - and it is played adequately well (maybe a little over-the-top, but not quite to the point of ridiculuos). Barbie is played a little darker than the boyscout (though this could just be selective memory - maybe he had that darkness to him in the novels and I just don't remember?). Julia... no complaints.
Merida as Julia Shumway
The children and smaller parts really demonstrate the poorer end of the acting spectrum. Take the Kid-Who's-Probably-Supposed-To-Be-Younger-Than-He-Is. His reaction to the Dome, the plane crash, his communication with Barbie and the authorities, it all felt contrived - like an adult trying to act like a child. This may or may not be the actor's fault, as an actor has to work within the limitations of the script he is given, but these moments pull you from the intensity of what happening. A mysterious dome just trapped an entire town, planes are crashing, cars are crashing, people are missing and/or are dying - everything needs to maintain a level of intensity to keep that feeling of fear and panic and isolation with the audience.
The casting of quasi-known actors also doesn't help maintain connection with the story as (atleast personally) I am hit with a sense of "hey, I know that guy from somewhere" (*keys Under The Dome into IMDB*).
Enough about casting. Shall we move on to action and plot. The episode is filled with some of everyone's favorite scenes including:
That moment when you can't quite touch your loved one (if I put Rose there instead of the Doctor I might cry - sorry Under the Dome, you need more development before you can make this effective).
And how can we forget diving away from falling wreckage at the last possible second (this just looked absolutely horrible, but alas, Prometheus has shown us that it could have been much, much, much worse)?
All griping aside, the pilot of the series was not awful. There was enough suspense and intrigue to draw me back for more (I suppose knowing all that is to transpire helps - though I do hope the explanation of the dome is better in the show). It is what I expect of a Stephen King adaptation, and maybe slightly better than that even (I will never forget the jumping celebration freeze-frame at the end of The Langoliers - you should all suffer this image of campiness too (see below) - mind you, this was a Stephen King story).
Long story short (too late), Under the Dome had an adequate if not slightly underwhelming pilot that feeds you just enough mystery to tune back next week.
This post contains spoilers for the 6/23 episode of The Next Food Network Star
I've made it abundantly clear that I have a quasi-addiction to elimination-type shows. I've managed to get this disease into a state of remission, whereby I've limited my dalliances with the genre to a specific subset - mainly cooking shows. These include (but are not limited to) MasterChef, The Next Food Network Star, The Next Iron Chef, Top Chef, etc. I've already made it clear that I believe these "reality" shows are in some respects scripted - possibly including plants in the cast, so I will forgo the continued rant on that subject.
The Next Food Network Star adds another layer of intrigue to the cooking challenge existing in MasterChef, Top Chef, et. al. - that being the person must also display the qualities of a potential television host. Watching the other cooking challenges, my propensity continues to be to root for the person who I find aesthetically appealing and/or is ethnically diverse from the "normal" contestants (mostly because I find ethnic foods to be interesting and often delicious). The Next Food Network Star justifies my admittedly superficial inclinations by adding that "star" quality as a requisite.
That being said, I was happy to see Lovely go. I mentioned earlier that I typically root for the minority contestants - but the sassy attitude mixed with use of the pseudonym turned me off from day one.
Which brings about the question... why use the pseudonym to begin with? The answer is likely "the twist." There always needs to be a twist, something to isolate you from the other contestants. I frankly don't even remember the names of the pie guy or the barbecue guy, but I don't need to. They're The Pie Guy and The Barbecue Guy, and that makes sense on the FOOD NETWORK! Lovely? Not so much. So, rule number one for pseudonym use should be - Know Your Target Audience. Andres was already eliminated for failing to recognize who the Network is pandering to.
The odd part about any of this is the fact that I rarely follow the winners of the show afterwards. The Hearty Boys, Guy Fieri, Amy Finley, Aaron McCargo, Jr., Melissa d'Arabian, Aarti Sequeira, and Justin Warner; all the winners of their respective The Next Food Network Star season. I may have seen a few episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I was convinced I would follow Aarti Party when I was rooting for her to win, but alas, I have no real interest in those shows. So, why do I get invested in any of this? I don't have an answer, but I'm open to suggestion.
As far as I am aware, it all started with True Blood. Some HBO executive had read the Sookie Stackhouse novels and thought "I can sell this to the public." And he did. I can't remember any other serial television show that delved so far into "serious" fantasy territory (sitcoms (The Munsters and The Addams Family, etc.) don't count). This helped in opening the door to Game of Thrones, and for that, we should be thankful (but that's beside the point).
I want to like True Blood if only because it is the fantasy television we have. The concept of vampires coming out of hiding and attempting to acclimate into human culture was intriguing. The potential of clashes between vampires stuck in "the old ways" and those willing to meld with human ethos, clashes between humans accepting and revolting, power struggles in political arenas; there is so much potential in the show (I understand much is derived from novel, but I have not read any and likely never will, so will be referring to all plot, etc. as "the show"). I even accepted Sookie's telepathy, giving the lead character a twist without making her indestructible. The series had potential to succeed where the Blade series failed, encompassing political, religious, moral drama. Instead they gave us faeries.
Deus ex machina.
I wanted to like True Blood because, let's face it, vampires are interesting. With the current popularity of vampire fiction, they are also an archetype you cannot escape in some form.
I must warn you, I have hidden my "man" card where you will never find it, so you cannot take it away when I say that I have seen all of the Twilight movies (I'm married, I think it's a requirement). Not my cup of tea. Stephenie Meyer took vampires and gave them her own twist. I can respect that, and maybe I would appreciate it more if I was 20 years younger and female (or perhaps 10 years older and female). I understand at their roots, vampire stories were love stories. If I am not going to have monsters, at least give me politics. But alas, Twilight is nothing more than a weak romance.
On a side note, why do so many vampire-centric shows/movies/books need to include werewolves?
Oh, Lestat. Anne Rice wrote love, religion, moral dilemma. She wrote vampires from the 18th century through modern times. She wrote vampires in love with vampires, vampires in love with humans, humans in love with vampires. No one sparkled. Did I love Interview? Not necessarily. I find it still holds as one of the better portrayals of vampires in modern media. Plus it's "still a better love story than Twilight."
So, Szever, what vampires do you prefer?
30 Days of Night (the comics, not the subpar movie adaptation) changed everything for me.
Synopsis: In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn't rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, husband and wife, who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.
The synopsis doesn't do the story justice, which includes love, morality, vampire politics. However, this is horror. Ben Templesmith's art is frightening, and the vampires are ruthless.
I continue to be speechless. More than that. I continue to have an utter lack of motivation to think about how to avoid being speechless. More than that. I continue to lack the motivation to do much of anything requiring voluntary use of brain function (hence the dry spell in posts). I wanted the Game of Thrones season to end well. There is ample excitable material in the remainder of book three for the writers to have chosen from. Fail. The wait for season four feels less urgent now. Not sure that's a good thing. Sati over at Cinematic Corner was better able to convey the disappointment adeptly than I am capable of at the moment. I am struggling to put grammatically correct sentences together. How I feel when the thought of "maybe it will be better the second viewing" comes to mind...
Behind on my movie-going (still haven't seen Iron Man - *hangs comic book nerd head in shame*) and now the reviews for Superman are abysmal. Our AMC Stubs plan is up for renewal, which means it's time to determine if we have the babysitting capacity and energy to see the six movies it takes to have the plan pay for itself in reduced fees. I would hope we could manage six in a year. I have a feeling my next movie may end up being Monsters U. for CrabCakes first movie theater experience. I fear the experience may result in something like...
Only about 10% into Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey (book three of The Expanse series). I'm typically not a huge sci-fi book person (or is it SyFy these days?), but this series reads like an action movie. I am looking forward to continuing the series, but note the motivational piece in paragraph one.
To make matters worse, another round of "The Cold" has taken residence in the household.
Posts should pick up again as TV brings a few shows I've been looking forward to.
Dexter series finale (should have ended with the John Lithgow season) and adaptation of Stephen King's Under the Dome.
Until then, I've been piecing together (had been before this length of the doldrums) what to use for rating purposes when the motivation to consume and review movies, tv and books comes back. Nothing finalized yet, but I think this is fitting for the GoT season finale.
Spoiler: Discussion (rant) on Game of Thrones season three finale.
Season finales typically follow one of a few basic structures; and generally there is a build to a cliff-hanger or a slow-down to a moment of catharsis. There is merit to either structure (there is merit to any structure if the writing / acting / etc. is done well). Game of Thrones decided to do a gradual deceleration after hammering the audience with what is being described as one of the top 10 most shocking moments on TV (listed by NY Daily News at #2 behind an episode of Maude (in which Bea Arthur's character has an abortion - aired in 1972). The list also includes Downton Abbey and a bunch of other old timey shows before my generation - so maybe not the best reference).
Mhysa started strong with the fallout of The Red Wedding. The Stark bannermen camps on fire as The King in the North makes his last ride. However, the conversation between Walder Frey and Roose Bolton was a bit contrived, a bit over-the-top. The commentary is meant to be sarcastic and sharp and demeaning, but it comes across as slightly cartoonish, but at least now "the Boy" has a name.
Ramsay has not been portrayed as I had imagined him when I read the books (this is not entirely bad, as I am also happy with TV Ramsay). Part of it is aesthetics (I had pictured him as Michael Wincott from The Crow), but it's also mannerisms and diction. And much like Ygritte has a bit of a tag line ("you know nothing, Jon Snuh"), Theon Greyjoy is given his own. The culmination of the scene upon scene upon scene of torture for Theon has finally lead to his naming - Reek ("my name is reek, it rhymes with..."). We don't get the full spiel, but we get a Reek. Perhaps next season will start with Reek being more Reek-y.
When, after sitting in silence as the credits rolled and trying to tell my body it needs to do things like breath, the preview for Mhysa showed we would have a Greyjoy scene in the episode, I had imagined there would be a bridge in Pyke involved. I am fond of Asha Greyjoy, and Yara (her TV show counterpart) is played a little too seriously for my taste. Here is where I want my over-the-topness. The ironborn are pirates.
But we do get a new storyline. Yara is taking the toughest men and the fastest ship and she's going to save her little brother. Ok. Pillage away. Maybe the scene is designed as a setup to give the Theon story-line some more weight, but if things progress as written there should be a Queensmoot soon (if you haven't read on in ASoIaF just skip that sentence and don't look into it... slightly spoilery).
Back at the Red Keep, Joffrey is being Joffrey and we have a council meeting on the aftermath of the RW. Any scene including a) Tyrion, b) Tywin, or c) Olenna (I'll throw a d) Varys on there, but that's less reliable than the first three) is bound to be witty and wonderful. Having the joint scenes of Tywin and Tyrion have been remarkably humerous. "You just sent the most powerful man in Westeros to bed without his supper."
Davos comes on screen and the episode hits the brakes. The dialogue slows, the action ceases. Backstorybackstorybackstory. Sentencing the onion knight to death should elicit something, no? I enjoy Davos' POV in the novels. I feel tired at the Dragonstone scenes now. Things should pick up again when they go North - and that's really all the scene was about.
Jon Snow used to be an adventurer like you. Then he took an arrow in the knee. The scene with Ygritte should have been included in his escape last episode.
Elsewhere with the Nightswatch, Jon Snow falls off his horse. "Sam?"
I can't be the only one who couldn't get whiney Frodo out of his head with that. As a side note the LionEyes edition of Lord of the Rings is fantastic and can be accomplished in two simple steps. Step 1) play Lord of the Rings. Step 2) if Frodo is on screen skip to the next scene.
Jaime is back in the Red Keep for some walking and staring (hey, Jaime, long time no see, let me shake your... ohhh...), and Dany has slaves (well, she has no slaves, but she has slaves).
I should have more to say. The ending should have felt cathartic. It should have felt like something was being accomplished, and watch out next season because this changes everything (season 1 - dragons, season 2 - white walkers, season 3 - mommy!). But the end was underwhelming and instead of "oh, man is it next March yet?" I feel more "what else is on now?" (not to say I'm not going to start getting excited as casting news and plot rumors and March comes). The problem with the deceleration is that if you hit the brakes too hard, the vehicle stops.
NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
Victoria McQueen has a secret for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it's across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing - and terrifying - playground of amusement he calls "Christmasland."
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble - and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx's unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He's on the road again and he's picked up a new passenger: Vic's own son.
LionEyes and I disagree on numerous things (the most recent of these is her thoughts on painting - relaxing, versus my own thoughts on painting - work). There's countless instances of these differentials including musical tastes, movie preferences, and so on, and so on. Why wouldn't you marry someone more like yourself, Szever? Well, there's a word for doing something with yourself. Differences spark conversation, and help create balance. Daddy is more fun, Mommy is more strict. Both of us have read NOS4A2 (LE significantly faster than myself) and our opinions differ (our opinions have coincided on more books than not lately, so this is a particularly interesting bit for me). In the end, LE wanted her two days back after having read this. In goodreads star terminology, I would rank this more in the three range than a one. Perhaps one of these days I can have LE guest-post on here so as to portray both sides of our difference of opinion without me having to put words in her mouth (likely not to happen in this instance, but this post should at least sow the seeds of future possibility).
Perhaps we should start the actual review by getting the inevitable out of the way.
Joe Hill was born Joseph Hillstrom King. He is the son of Stephen King. Writing horror, in the footsteps of his father - some short stories published are co-written by the father/son duo, it is inevitable that the works of Joe Hill will be compared to his father's. This is by no means fair to Joe, but is also not a knock on Joe's writing. In the ways they are similar - mostly genre - they are also different. Joe is more modern, more supernatural, and more willing to blur the line between good and bad (see below). Stephen King (do I really have to say anything here? Let's just leave it at "Stephen King"). Joe Hill was born with a ticket onto the train traveling between madness and reality, where Stephen King not only conducts, but has laid the tracks. Joe has commandeered his own car and veered it into the consciousness of modern horror culture.
Szever, you've already used this picture in a post before. That I have, and the discussion point was on characters that are not necessarily "nice" but become likable regardless. Joe Hill loves to straddle that line between the good and the bad, the likable and the despicable. In Joe Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, Judas Coyne is quite the ass, and even to the end I wasn't necessarily rooting for him to survive. But the story was entertaining enough that it carried the weight of the nearly unlikable character. However, regardless of their likability, Joe Hill has a propensity to write his characters with such quirkiness where, like them or not, you want to see what they will do next.
NOS4A2 suffers a little from the unlikability of the lead characters - however (and this is really my barometer for the likable vs. the unlikable) it never reached the point of Quentin Coldwater (protagonist of The Magicians by Lev Grossman). Further, as noted above, the characters have some quirks that just make them interesting - like them or not.
The plot, while interesting and obscure - the central idea being the connection of "inscapes" (places created by the imagination that are made real - such as Vic's bridge and Manx's Christmasland) to the real world was more or less predictable. LE had finished the book long before I did, and with several hundred pages to read, I "asked" if the story would end via x, y, z (I quickly stated I didn't really want an answer, but was just putting my prediction out there). I was essentially correct. This is not to say I was disappointed...
What detracted from the satisfaction at the end was some disconnect, some inconsistency with the story. Some instances of "why would the character do l-m-n-o-p now?"
So, as noted above, in Goodreads I will be rating this 3 of 5 stars. Here, we will give the story an emotionless Agent K. While I would not necessarily add NOS4A2 on my "recommended" list, I maintain high regards for Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
Looking forward to the major motion picture of Horns, which will be starring Harry Potter as Ignatius Perrish.
I will be developing an actual ranking system at some point to replace the use of random images (though the ranking system will likely maintain the use of movie/comic imagery).
Spoiler: Must have read book three of A Song of Ice and Fire and/or watched Game of Thrones episode nine "The Rains of Castamere"to proceed.
Billy Idol (who knows a thing or two about weddings, but had the color wrong on his 1982 hit) was one of two things running through my head throughout the weekend, leading up to Sunday night's "shocker" episode of Game of Thrones (his facial expression above is apt for this post methinks). No surprise the other was "The Rains of Castamere" in a low baritone (I imagine it as sung by Leonard Cohen - Listen to "Waiting for the Miracle" on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack... go ahead, I'll wait).
WinterIsComing.net created two versions of recaps of the episodes; one for those who have not yet read the books (those who have not read the books are aptly called "the Unsullied"), and one for those who have read the books ("Sullied"). I would fit into the latter category, thus explaining the quotes around the word "shocker." There was little doubt the episode would contain the long-awaited "Red Wedding." In each season, episode nine contains the "big reveal" of the season (Ned's head, Blackwater), and season three is no different (will Season four wait until episode nine to off @)(#*()32@#? (doubt it).
As a Sullied individual, I went into this episode with certain expectations. This was derived from the gut-wrenching impact the Red Wedding had upon the first reading (even that first line of the chapter, "The drums were pounding, pounding, pounding, and her head with them" elicits such uneasiness). I expected to be brought on the emotional roller coaster of anticipation, dread, shock, and sadness. As I've mentioned earlier, I am prone to outbursts of book snobbery, but accept certain changes as necessary for the change in medium. There were a lot of changes in this episode.
So, did "The Rains of Castamere" deliver?
At the beginning of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace is delivering a package disguised as an H.D.S. delivery man. This of course is an elaborate ruse to rescue (dog-nap) a pilfered pooch (we don't learn that until later... which is mostly after my point - yes, I promise there is one of those in here somewhere). So, he's carrying the package, like a delivery-person is apt to do, by more or less destroying the package and it's contents (I think Ace delivered the swing set I ordered for CrabCakes and Peanut based on the difficulty to assemble said set... but that's a story for another time). However, upon delivery, the box is intact enough for acceptance - and here is where the woofy wackiness ensues.
Game of Thrones was like the delivered package. The box was damaged and everything inside was shifted or broken and not exactly in the order I was expecting things to be, but the overall contents of my order were present. This is not painting the best of pictures, so before going further I will state that I did enjoy the episode.
One of the most controversial changes in the series was the replacement of Jeyne with Talisa, a character with a background and feelings. This change became most prevalent at the RW, wherein Talisa was present (Jeyne did not attend the wedding - leading many to speculate that Jeyne is carrying a wolf pup who could later sit the Iron Throne). But Talisa attended the wedding, with the proverbial bun in the oven, and it is with Talisa that the massacre begins (stabbed in the baby - who was potentially to be named Ned Stark, repeatedly - and Ned Stark is killed again!). There were theories that Talisa was a Lannister spy and would wind up as a conspirator in the RW. Reading that theory, even though I didn't really believe it, made this scene all the more hurtful.
The massacre continues as in the book; crossbow bolts, knives, "the Lannisters send their regards" (though it was "Jaime Lannister sends his regards" in the book). Jinglebells or whatever Frey's lackwit son was called is replaced with Walder's wife - acceptable; one less minor casting decision/explanation needed - throats are slit. Cat's reaction changes from mania (in the book, concerned about her hair as Ned loved her hair) to catatonia (stillness done well can show loss of all hope - and Michelle Fairley ran the emotional gauntlet through the affair).
So, there was one band that played well and not a ton of terrible musicians (because they were really marksmen), and The Rains of Castamere is played clearly, not mixed in with the rabble, and Robb died for love - not honor like his father, and maybe the affair was a little rushed - there's a lot of other story lines to get to! The RW wasn't perfect - but will the portrayal in a new medium ever meet the expectations you create when the entire scene is visualized your own way, as happens when you read it? So, the packaged wedding was a little dinged up, maybe a piece or two broke, but everything was there. And as the silence of the credits rolled, I still had that gut-wrenched feeling of FUCK (wonder if that's the first curse I've written on this - quite possible - and it fits).