Hastings variant. Marvel Comics.
No, I obviously don’t remember “The Lone Ranger” during its initial run between 1949 and 1957. (At least I hope that’s obvious — I’m a couple of full decades younger than that.) But I absolutely do remember this show’s reruns from when I was a baby … maybe around 1976, if I had to guess? I would have been about four years old. (I was five when my family moved out of that house in Queens, New York, to rural Long Island.)
I know that people who claim early childhood memories are often viewed with skepticism — I get it. (And I think many of us are more prone to confabulation than we’d like to admit.) But I’ve actually got a few memories from when I was a toddler — and this is one of them.
I can remember my Dad putting “The Lone Ranger” on in the tiny … den or living room or whatever, to the left of our house’s front door and hallway. You see the part in the intro below where the horse rears up at the .31 mark — and again at the 1:53 mark? That was a verrrrrry big deal to me as a tot.
Go ahead, tell me I’m nuts. I can take it. You and I live in an age in which conspiracy theories have gone completely mainstream. If I share something online that seems implausible to others, I figure I’m in a lot of company.
Anyway, I pretty much forgot about The Lone Ranger after that. There was a 1981 television movie, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” that was remarkably well done — especially for a TV movie at the time. I remember being pretty impressed with that — its plot-driving scene where the good guys get fatally ambushed was unexpectedly dour.
But I never bothered with the infamous 2013 film. I occasionally enjoy movies that everybody else hates — something that earns me a lot of ribbing on Facebook — so maybe I should give it a shot. Hell, the trailer makes it look decent. And HBO’s “Westworld” has really whetted my appetite for westerns … which is weird, because “Westworld” is decidedly NOT a western — that’s sort of the point of its central plot device. But still.
Hey, I got one really terrific early Christmas present — Illumen will publish a poem of mine, “Smiling Among Inert Shipwrecks,” in its Spring 2020 issue. This will be the second time that the print-only publication has featured my work — the first was when Illumen published my “Three Dreamers” set of poems back in 2013.
Illumen is a speculative poetry journal that is released quarterly by Alban Lake Publishing. Its editorial focus is to “describe other worlds in poetic prose, challenge heroes and villains with eloquent words, show the nightmare of real life in all its disgusting mud and muck.” It’s a wonderful place for a writer to see their creative work appear, and I’m grateful to Editor Tyree Campbell for allowing me to share my voice there.
“Doctor Sleep” (2019) was ABSOLUTELY ****ING FABULOUS. I had high hopes for this movie after seeing the trailer — yet it exceeded my expectations. I’d easily rate this a 10 out of 10.
This is a story-driven horror film just brimming with blackly creative ideas and weird world-building — I haven’t read Stephen King’s source material, but I feel certain this was a loving adaptation of the 2013 novel. It is also genuinely touching at times. (I was trying to explain to a dear friend recently about how King’s work can surprise the uninitiated — the monsters and devils typically occupy only a portion of his imaginary landscapes. The remainder is inhabited by good people who are bravely doing the right thing.)
All of the movie’s story elements are painted vibrantly by Mike Flanagan’s beautiful screenwriting and nightmarishly trippy directing. The film’s action and often incongruously bright visuals are reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s visions in “The Shining” (1980), to which this film is truly a worthy successor. (Flanagan was the director and screenwriter for last year’s fantastic “The Haunting of Hill House.” The qualities that you loved about the Netflix show can also be found in “Doctor Sleep” — in some ways, they are very similar stories.)
Rebecca Ferguson is mesmerizing as the story’s antagonist, Kyliegh Curran is pitch perfect as the young anti-hero, and Ewan McGregor is predictably terrific.
The only quibbles I had were minor — there was one plot device (presumably from the novel) that didn’t translate well to the screen. It concerns how the bad guys replenish themselves … I’ll bet it worked well in King’s prose, but it seemed corny and cliche when visualized on film.
You could also argue that “Doctor Sleep’s” constant references to “The Shining” were pretty heavy-handed. But that didn’t bother me too much … I arrived at the conclusion that “The Shining” and “Doctor Sleep” were really two halves of an epic supernatural road trip. Your mileage may vary.
One final caveat — this film does portray violence against children. It isn’t extremely graphic, but it’s still especially disturbing. (It technically isn’t gratuitous, I suppose, because there is an in-universe reason why Ferguson’s tribe of villains targets the young.)
This is easily the best horror film that I’ve seen in years. Go see it.
So I checked out the first episode of AMC’s “NOS4A2” last night, after the ubiquitous ads successfully piqued my interest. (I frequently get turned off to shows or movies when they’re overexposed by a bombardment of marketing, and resolve not to watch them out of spite. Seriously. But “NOS4A2’s” creepy trappings and the promise of Zachary Quinto as a child-abducting vampire were enough to get me to sit down with the first episode.)
This was decent! I’d rate it an 8 out of 10. The writing, directing and acting were all quite good, the protagonist’s troubled family drama was a lot more compelling than I expected, and this looks like a horror-fantasy series with some creative stuff going on. I had a little trouble buying the 26-year-old Ashleigh Cummings as a high school student, but she’s great in the role. And Quinto chews the scenery just fine as the vampire who apparently feeds off of the life force of the kidnapped children while they sleep. (The character becomes more interesting when he grows younger — and the talented Quinto then infuses his interpretation with a manic, evil energy.)
The jury is still out with me, however, on this show’s horror elements. They’re creatively conceived, but they might be a bit too campy and stylized for me. (You know what I mean if you’ve seen the ads.) “NOS4A2” was adapted from an immensely successful 2013 young adult novel by Joe Hill, and I suspect that the fantasy-horror mashup here is exactly what made the book appeal to fans of the YA genre. It remains to be seen whether it will be too corny for more mainstream horror fans.
I don’t understand how “Black Summer” can be as good as it is. It’s produced by The Asylum, the makers of low budget, direct-to-video ripoff films like “Atlantic Rim” (2013) and “Triassic World” (2018). It’s a prequel to the horror-comedy “Z Nation” (2014-2018) — a show that was so bad I couldn’t make it through its first episode. Yet “Black Summer” is inexplicably a great, albeit imperfect, TV show. I’d rate it a 9 out 10.
I might be in the minority here; a lot of people are severely panning this show online. And I do recognize its weaknesses — there is very little detail in its plot or character development … there is often even very little dialogue at all. And even I recognized some plot holes. (I’m typically a little slow on the uptake where these are concerned.)
But this bare-bones zombie story still manages to screen some likable characters, and then put them through a thrilling succession of hyper-kinetic chases and melees. I was on the edge of my seat, and I consequently didn’t miss the methodical, detailed plotting of shows like “The Walking Dead.” The season’s finale is crowned by an extended, eye-level, real-time action set-piece that ought to be considered a classic in the zombie-horror subgenre. It was mind-blowing. I just can’t dislike a horror property that genuinely scared me.
I could simply be out of step with everyone else; I often have different tastes in zombie fare. I love Zack Snyder’s 2008 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” which this series reminds me of. And I also love similar overseas productions like Spain’s “[REC]” films (2007 – 2014) and Britain’s “Dead Set” miniseries (2008), while those amazing entries are hardly known among my friends. I also cannot understand why many people who love George A. Romero’s and Robert Kirkman’s productions must always compare other films and TV shows unfavorably to them. We can love both. Why not?
Hey, if you don’t want to make my word for it, here is what Stephen King tweeted: “No long, fraught discussions. No endless flashbacks, because there’s no back story. No grouchy teens. Dialogue is spare. Much shot with a single handheld camera, very fluid.”
I obviously recommend this.
Have fun! Be safe! Enjoy!
Make sure you have a designated driver! Or, better yet … why not be the designated driver? What better way to spend the first hours of 2019 than as a hero to the people around you (maybe not the hero that Gotham deserves, but the hero it needs right now)?
I’m not sure how I’ve gotten to become such a mother hen in my old age … Maybe it’s because, in my younger days, I was the one who needed mother henning.
Whatever, just don’t wind up like Gatsby, floating face down in the pool at the end of the night. (But go ahead and totally be him up until that point.)
Postscript — the quote below, which I rather like, doesn’t appear in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” or its 2013 film treatment with Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m told that the line actually originates from “Sex and the City” (1998 – 2004).