The Walking Dead…and Dull

If you can’t figure out that spoilers are forthcoming on your own, you’re an idiot. So we came to the season three finale last night. After an incredible season of remarkable episodes full of twists and turns (and ingenious scriptwriting), the last bada-boom was all lined up in preparation for the season four premiere this October! We were on the edge of our seats; the governor was coming, he was angry, and the war was on! And then…well that lit stick of dynamite fizzled out and failed to explode.

The entire season hung precariously balanced on Andrea’s back and forth teaming switch hitting. She hated the governor, she loved the governor, she hated the prison group, she loved the prison group, she was suspicious of the governor, she slept with the governor, she realized the governor was a complete and total psychopath and she wanted to be with the prison group, she wanted to kill the governor but couldn’t, she tried to escape and the governor stole her back. Will she won’t she do we care? Let’s get one thing clear first: Andrea should have died at the end of season one when the CDC building blew up. She has been a mostly worthless character. She wanted to die in season one, then for most of season two everyone in the group carried her deadweight. Then she wanted to learn how to shoot. So we thought, yeah, maybe she’ll be alright. But then she got detached from the group and found Michonne (by and far the best female character of the series), but then Andrea got sick and was a pain in the ass. When Michonne and Andrea eventually got to the governor’s town, we are sick of Andrea and it was only the beginning of the season.

At any rate, the big “draw” was that she was dying this episode. Who cares. She was dumb enough to take almost the entire episode to pick up a pair of pliers. Then she allowed herself to be bitten by Milton. Speaking of that bite, it was on her collar bone. Umm what? She was wearing a long sleeve shirt, fully buttoned. And above the spot where she was bit was about an inch of white fur. She even had to pull the shirt back to show Rick and Company the bite. So how the fuck was she bitten there? Nevermind, it’s fine script writers, don’t explain anything logically. Yeah, so Andrea dies. Boohoo. Moving on.

Next let’s talk about the governor storming the prison. At the start of the episode it appears that Rick and Company are leaving. Okay, fine. The governor comes and the place is empty. Or is it? Surprise! Ambush! Gas bombs and zombies oh my! Glen and Maggie shoot guns and it just scares the beejesus out of the governor and twenty fully grown, armed men. They scatter like the wind in a scene that makes no sense at all. Glen and Maggie are standing behind wooden platforms that would-not even in the best of circumstances- stop large caliber automatic firearm bullets. The men have a mounted .50 caliber gun on a truck that magically jams. And they just all scream and run for the hills. (Let us not forget that they have been training for weeks on how to shoot and fight.)

Half way down the road the governor is reminded of what a giant bunch of pussies they are being so he pulls them all over and proceeds to SHOOT ALL BUT THREE OF HIS GROUP TO DEATH AND THEN HEADSHOTS THEM FOR ADDED MEASURE. Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. After that the governor gets into a truck with his two most trusted henchman and then….IS NOT SEEN AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THE EPISODE. Brilliant. A four year old child could have written that. Well done. Maybe we’ll find out if he just went on a crazy bender and had sex with corpses and kept zombie vaginas in a glass case this upcoming October!

Carl had one of the more memorable scenes of the finale. Basically shooting a teenager in cold blood. Carl is going full dark side and we can’t wait to see what his character has in store next season. It’s quite possible he may choke a bitch, but that’s to be determined. He was about the only character on the show that seemed about as pissed with the season ending as the viewers were.

The finale ends with Rick being some type of Gomer Pile do-gooder and bringing all the old, infirm, and small children from the governor’s camp to the prison on a big friendly bus. Nevermind that his small group spent the entire season desperately searching for supplies and just barely scraping by. Now there is a whole busload of people to keep! The only good step to come from this is that the Big Black Badass Tyrese is now with Rick’s group. And there you have it. That’s how it ends. Not with a fiery bang, but with a ho-hum-drum deflation. There was no war between the governor and Rick. There was no retaliation or gunfight. All the tension that had built over the entire season was stabbed to death and left to turn into a zombie and wander the woods forever. All the dialogue of the season (much like most of the foreshadowing script writing) was just hot air. Nobody really did much of anything and as an avid watcher and huge fan of the series, I was extremely disappointed with the lack of importance the writers chose to air this episode. It felt like a midseason episode at best. And the final few minutes had you thinking that they were coming back from the commercial with more to show. At the very least, they could have ended with a scene of Rick and Daryl throwing malatovs on the buildings of Woodbury and burning it down. The final shot is the governor’s eyepatch through his truck window catching the reflection of the flames. But, nope. We basically got a boring finale that leaves us sitting on our hands for the next seven months with no anticipation of things to come. You can do better, AMC, and we all expect much more from you this fall.

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The (Miles Away From Being) Good Doctor

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Alright, let’s just get this out of the way: this is mostly an awful, awful film. Orlando Bloom is a great actor, and you would think “weird, self-destructive doctor as played by Bloom” is a shoe-in for a good performance but honestly this entire film just falls flat on its face. The plot is so slow and there is no climax at all. The cast flows nicely together, but the flow is a muddy current that leads nowhere. JK Simmons makes an appearance; Wade Williams makes an appearance; but at no point did anything resembling a coherent storyline make an appearance. Spoilers forthcoming.

So Orlando Bloom is this really bizarre little doctor who’s doing his first residency. He has this ideal in his head that doctors should be respected and drive Porsche’s and just be able to deal with anything. But the nurse’s shit on him and he screws up a patient’s treatment who doesn’t speak any English. Bloom, as Dr. Martin Blake, is annoyingly obsessed with acceptance. He bothers his boss constantly and goes home at the end of the day to his mostly empty apartment. He starts a weird interaction with an orderly and each scene they are in together is forcibly awkward and not at all interesting in any way, shape, or form. Bear with me, it gets worse.

Then Dr. Blake gets a new female patient. She looks sickly and pale, but for some reason he instantly falls in love with her the moment he walks in the room. She has some weird disease. He prescribes her medicine and sends her home. But then the girl’s mother asks him to come for dinner. So he does and meets her aggressive father and somewhat mildly retarded brother (played by Evan Peters, American Horror Story’s Kit Walker). The girl he treated isn’t there, but her bothersome sister is. She takes off her clothes for NO APPARENT REASON and leaves her door open so Orlando Bloom sees her. But he’s obsessed with the sick sister. So he goes to the bathroom and with no explanation whatsoever, switches her medicine with artificial sweetener. Then he steals a very unflattering, horribly unattractive photo of that sick girl he’s obsessed with. At this point, abandon all hope.

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The girl is readmitted to the hospital sick again because she was taking Splenda when she should have taken antibiotics. Orlando Bloom is so excited and expresses that excitement by no longer dressing up, but wearing blue scrubs to work. Then he starts pumping all kinds of weird stuff into her IV. Before that, he finds the orderly guy trying to bang a drugged out patient in the supply room. Then the sick girl gets even uglier, but this just makes Orlando Bloom want her even more. So he poisons her some more and switches her blood slides with someone else. His boss and colleagues have no idea what is wrong with her. They hire in a specialist that is there for two scenes and, as far as the movie watcher is concerned, offers no credible purpose for being in the film. But there is a weird scene where Orlando Bloom goes out to the specialist guy’s car and listens to classical music. And they keep showing Bloom eating lunch by himself in the cafeteria, so there’s that. Oh and before I forget, Bloom’s boss in the movie has these impossibly cool glasses that wrap completely around his head but open up at the bridge of his nose. I know, right?!

The girl keeps getting sicker and has to have surgery. She has the surgery and Orlando Bloom kisses her on the lips. Then a black nurse yells at him and he tells his boss that she messed up. But it was really another nice nurse who gets fired because of it. So now Bloom’s character is stuck with a shitty nurse who does not respect him at all (and he hates that). So then the sick girl dies because, ya know, Orlando Bloom has been pumping her full of toxic drugs for the entire movie and never treated her original condition, but forget all that becomes damnit he loves her. He is pretty upset. And the girls dad comes to the hospital and screams. And then Orlando Blooms talks with the shrink and acts standoffish. But the entire cast of the movie is just like, well these things happen people die, so let’s move on with the so-called “plot.”

Then the orderly finds the sick girl’s diary that she conveniently hid under her hospital bed mattress and she wrote all these weird things about Orlando Bloom but we don’t really find out what she wrote. The orderly uses the supposed “bad stuff” to blackmail Dr. Blake into getting him drugs. So first Blake/Bloom gets stomach medicine at a drugstore and paints the pills yellow and gives the orderly those. Then he decides that’s not exciting enough so he just fashions a chemistry set in his kitchen and makes cyanide capsules out of thin air. He gives these to the orderly thinking he’ll take them at home but instead the orderly pops the pills right there in the hospital (Oh my god! Plot twist!). He dies in a dramatic scene that really had the only acting in the entire movie. There’s an investigation during which Orlando Bloom acts 100% guilty, but they just let him go home. He tells everyone that the orderly was a sexist pig and sort of a jerk and all these other personal details but then makes sure everyone knows that he barely even knew the guy so what’s the big deal. Then he breaks into the orderly’s locker and steals the diary because somehow he just had a giant set of janitor keys with that exact locker’s key on it. He reads it and then the cop comes to his house. He leaves the diary on the floor and acts like he has killed everyone who has died thus far, which he has. JK Simmons, the cop picks up on this but then pretty much disappears for the remainder of the movie. Orlando Bloom awkwardly explains that everyone around him keeps dying and he’s sort of having a rough go of it all, but does this while smirking and staring at the bare walls of his apartment.

When Bloom notices he left the bright diary on the white carpet literally two inches from the cop, he panics and tries to flush an entire diary down the toilet. It backs up and floods the bathroom. Then he climbs out the window and walks into the ocean and drowns. But wait, that didn’t really happen he just wishes it did. He really just spaced out on the beach. He climbs back in the window and throws the diary in the trash can, dries up the floor with a towel and throws the towel away as well. Then he tells the cop he’s needed at the hospital and leaves. The entire time he is acting suspicious and guilty but nothing is done about that. Also there’s another cop standing outside his house drinking coffee and talking on a walkie-talkie but that is never explained or introduced as anything meaningful. But it’s okay because Orlando Bloom’s apartment is, like, really nice albeit missing furniture, décor, and a general sense of being lived-in.

The final scene is Orlando Bloom giving a kid a shot and a nurse walks up and says. “Doctor?” and then Orlando Bloom says, “Yes?” and it fades to black and the credits roll. Absolutely nothing is resolved and no explanation is given. I even rewound the movie twice thinking the disc skipped. Nope. Just a really shitty ending to a completely shitty movie. What was the point? What a waste of 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back. Here’s an indication: The Good Doctor’s Wikipedia page says the budget was $6 million, but the film only grossed a little over $5,000. What a pile of cheap shit. Please if you have any desire to not waste your life away watching bad movies, avoid this one like the plague. It is really, truly, honestly one of the most worthless films I have ever had the displeasure of watching. The best part about this movie is the review I just wrote. I’ve seen much worse movies, to be sure. But when you bill Orlando Bloom in the title role playing a doctor, I assume it will be good. That is not the case. If you are even remotely interested, watch the trailer. It sums up everything I said up above and you only have to waste two out of the ninety minutes. Cheers.

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Night of Champions Delivers…Mostly

     Last night was suppose to be big. Night of Champions is one of the premiere pay-per-views of the year in which the entire landscape of the WWE can change in an instant. And despite the fact that only two titles changed hands, it’s safe to say that there was upheaval aplenty. The face of the champions may not have altered, but the dimension we’ve been perfectly fitted in all year has dramatically shifted, leaving us all with our jaws hung loosely on the floor as we try to understand just what exactly happened. Night of Champions delivered arguably the best pay-per-view since Wrestlemania, and easily surpasses all others. Below is a review of each match, leading up to a shocking ending. Spoilers forthcoming.
     First, with a heavy heart we all wish Jerry “The King” Lawler a speedy get-well-soon. Good news reported last night that he is well on his way to making a full recovery and will soon be heading back home to get some much needed rest. We could blame CM Punk for the heart attack, but we won’t, because he probably already feels guilty enough about it. The WWE fans were treated to a surprise when JBL came out to do commentary with Michael Cole. The pair were amusing throughout most of the night. Hopefully Lawler is back in ringside action soon, with a healthy beating heart. We came very close to losing a legend, and we are all grateful for the quick response of the ringside medical team that saved his life last week.

     There was a lot of pink around the WWE Universe last night. Teaming with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the WWE took a very respectful approach to the fight against breast cancer. The ring ropes were white on top/bottom and pink in the middle. The ramp WWE logo was underlined in pink. And John Cena wore a very cool Rise Above Cancer pink shirt that will be a big seller and hopefully raise a lot of money for Susan G. Komen. It was a wonderful partnership and really showcased just how diverse the WWE can be. Don ‘t believe that? Well, the Night of Champions theme song was sung by Fred Durst and Lil Wayne, so case closed.

     The Night of Champions pre-show showed a barrage of jobbers in a battle royal all vying for an opportunity to face United States Champion Antonio Cesaro. This match was filled with a who’s-who of less than interesting bit players. The highlights being Santino and Brodus Clay. Zack Ryder ended up winning by tipping Tensai over the top rope and became the number one contender. Later on in the evening, Zack would put up a convincing, albeit losing, effort against Cesaro. The United States title stays with the Italian Stallion for the time being. Night of Champions officially kicked off with a really energetic and exciting fatal fourway between The Miz, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, and Cody Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship. This match was a really terrific start to the pay-per-view and got the crowd fired up for the evening’s festivities. After a long battle, The Miz ended up face planting Cody Rhodes to retain his title.

     Next up was the match we can assume everybody in the WWE Universe was overjoyed to see. Kane and Daniel Bryan (or is it Daniel Bryan and Kane?) versus R-Truth and Kofi Kingston for the Tag Team Championships. This match was beautifully scripted and played out. Lots of laughs and amazing moves. The usual Kane and Bryan bickering which eventually ended in another hug-it-out in the middle of the ring. On a surprising note, Kane and Daniel Bryan won. And now we have a hilarious duo holding the titles. They have unanimously been dubbed Team Friendship. We can only hope they keep the titles for many months of great matches and amusing antics. The Kane/Daniel Bryan anger management storyline is definitely one of the highlights of the 2012 year. Right after this match came the aforementioned USA title match.

     The air was buzzing for the next bout. For the past month there has been a big build up of Randy Orton versus Dolph Ziggler. Amazingly the crowd spent the entire match booing Orton and pushing Ziggler for the win. At one point, Orton even flipped off the crowd. This match was brutal and both men laid it all on the line. In the end, Orton hit Ziggler with a modified jumping RKO and won the match. It seems they are making Ziggler the new heel version of John Cena, whereas they let him be a crowd favorite, put on a hell of a match, but continuously lose. Ziggler still has the Money in the Bank briefcase and we can only hope he cashes it in before the end of the year. The WWE Universe fans are really behind Ziggler and it’s high time he gets thrust into the spotlight with a title around his waist.
     Earlier in the evening, Kaitlyn was suspiciously injured backstage. She was set to wrestle Layla for the lousy Divas Championship. Eve Torres took her place and won the title (one of only two title changes in the evening). Eve put on a smiling face and tried to assure everyone that Kaitlyn would get a shot at the title. But the WWE Universe (and Teddy Long) aren’t fooled. We know Eve was the one who took Kaitlyn out of action, and this will probably lead to a new rivalry over the next few months. The Divas Division needs a complete revamp because it just isn’t working. The impressive ladies like Beth Phoenix, Kaitlyn, and Tamina are jobbers; while the skinny, no talent hussies all get the limelight.
     Next came Sheamus versus Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Just before the match began Booker T came out to reinstate the Brogue Kick. Most of the WWE Universe was left wondering why it was even banned in the first place. A forty-eight hour ban just to lift the ban seems pointless and really added nothing to the story. In the end, Sheamus used the Brogue Kick to plant ADR for the  three count, retaining his belt. Throughout the match, the crowd chanted “We want Ziggler!”, but we were all left disappointed. It’s unclear when Ziggler plans to cash in his briefcase, but the sooner the better. The Sheamus/ADR storyline is stretched so thin we can almost see through it. It would be great to see Ziggler get the belt and then have a long feud with Orton that eventually results in the Apex Predator once again being on top of the WWE.

     Up until this point, the WWE Universe was all expecting a Ryback push match before the main event. But sadly, Ryback was absent from this pay-per-view, a really big missed opportunity by the WWE to push an up and coming star. Why there hasn’t been a Ryback versus Big Show match yet is beyond anyone’s comprehension. We can only hope that when Mark Henry makes his final career run, we get to see Ryback lift him over his head and march him straight down to the mat.
     The last match of the night will be argued as one of the highlights of Night of Champions. CM Punk and John Cena delivered a hell of a battle in front of the sold out Boston crowd. They left every ounce of sweat in the ring last night. John Cena showed just why he has been the company’s face for a decade with a heartfelt performance, basically kicking out of any and all that CM Punk threw at him. CM Punk even acted like the lost little puppy he is and tried using The Rock’s signature move The Rock Bottom. But Cena kicked out again. Eventually Cena hit CM Punk with a German Suplex right after the crowd started chanting “This is awesome!” and Cena got the one-two-three count. His music dropped and the crowd erupted. Cena raced out of the ring, grabbed the WWE title and started celebrating. It was a long time coming and Cena was an 11-time champion in front of his home crowd. But wait…what’s this. The ref is taking the belt away? And giving it to…CM Punk? What? According to the referee, John Cena’s shoulders were also down and so the contest results in a draw which means CM Punk retains the title. This ending was such a shock and such a surprise that it wasn’t even clear that John Cena understood what was going on. CM Punk clocked Cena with the title and then preceded to inform everyone watching that he was the best in the world.
     The WWE Universe has got to feel bad for John Cena at this point. For the past year, he has been shitted on time and time again. He lost to The Rock at Wrestlemania, got his ass kicked by Brock Lesner, and has been unable to win either the Heavyweight Championship or the WWE Championship. In what was an incredible build in the past few weeks and an intense matchup in the last few pay-per-views, the match at Night of Champions was an instant classic. And although the ending was controversial, it might have been necessary to turn the WWE landscape into a new direction, much like CM Punk did a year ago after walking out of the company. The Paul Heyman angle was interesting on Raw, but at the pay-per-view he just stood around grinning like a creepy uncle who just wants to get you in the basement alone. Tonight’s Raw should be emotionally charged and it’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here. All in all, Night of Champions has been a highlight in an otherwise dismal few months of pay-per-views. Overall rating, the event scores eight stars out of ten. It might have gotten nine stars if Ziggler had cashed in his briefcase. We can all look forward to Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series. The last few months of 2012 should be a very exciting time to be a WWE fan.

 

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10 Reasons The Dark Tower Won’t Translate Well To Film

         The epic writer fled across the pages, and the Constant Reader followed. And with that, the series that crosses multiple worlds, dimensions, time, and more than three decades of Stephen King’s life, was born. Constant Reader to the Dark Tower came, and we have followed the tale of Roland and all his folken for many a time. And now, much to our heart’s delight (or ultimate horror?) the internet is running rampant with Dark Tower film rumors. As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t want to see this brought to the big screen. Not now and perhaps maybe not ever. I am a lifelong Stephen King fan and have fallen head over heels for The Dark Tower, but I can’t bear the thought of how badly this film could and probably will be. Here are my ten reasons why The Dark Tower film trilogy will not work.

 

         10. Clint Eastwood Is 82 – Roland Deschain, last gunslinger of Gilead that was, is and always has been Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name, played famously by Clint Eastwood. Stephen King has stated in interviews and alluded to this fact many times throughout The Dark Tower series. And despite the numerous options out there to choose from, the fact remains that not seeing Clint Eastwood play Roland would really just be a joke. He’s too old to do it and anybody else that would try to wear his shoes is not going to fit the part at all. The internet is rampant with choices. Javier Bardem is one; and his apparent twin Jeffrey Dean Morgan is also favored. Both are good choices; talented actors, look the part, but unfortunately they are not the Last Gunslinger of Gilead. They just aren’t. The blue bombardier eyes, the face stubble, the squinted eyes. These things belong to one man and one man alone. And he’s far too old to be chasing Towers. Maybe if they CGI a young Eastwood through the movies I will be more excited. And yes, I would pay top dollar for a CGI Clint Eastwood over any other actor.

         9. Cutting 7 Down To 3 – The entire Dark Tower series is seven books; eight, if you count The Wind Through The Keyhole (which you should because it’s a fantastic addition to the series). But even King stated it’s more like Wizard and Glass 4.5 so it could just be plugged in at the end of that book or the beginning of Wolves of the Calla. Even so, if we just go with the original seven books, we are talking 4,650 or so pages–The Wind Through The Keyhole is another 320 pages–not to mention an entire graphic novel line with Marvel that spans ten books so far. How is it even possible to cut that down to three workable scripts without butchering the entire story? I’ll give you hint: it isn’t. Even the biggest of King’s works couldn’t be done on the big screen. The Stand (his largest book to date, unabridged) was made into a mini-series, made-for-tv-movie that ran more than 6 hours. The infamous IT ran a three and a half hour miniseries as well. So how in the bloody blue hell are they even going to come close to covering roughly 18 book sources of material?

         8. Changing R Rated Content To PG13 – One common theme with bringing entertainment from other sources into the mainstream is the dumbing down of elements and the censoring of material. The Dark Tower features sex, murder, demons raping women, children being slaughtered, vampires roasting people over a spit, drug use, extreme violence, really fucking bad language, people burned alive, babies eating their own mothers, and… need I go on? The point being, there are far too many dark elements for the film to change everything from a violent, bloody R rating down into a mostly family friendly PG-13 picture. If that happens, the entire atmosphere is lost and you might as well just not even go see it.

         7. Lost In Translation – This is a big one on the list. Because here’s what’s going to happen. We get one of two outcomes. 1) The folks behind a Dark Tower movie stay mostly true to the source. They stay true to the story and diehard Tower junkies get a mostly competent, albeit mediocre, film. In which case 90% of the people who see the movie are going to be lost as to what is going on because they never bothered to read the book series. Or we get Option 2: The story is altered to make it “movie friendly” and the real fans–the ones that actually bothered reading the series and waiting around patiently for 30 years–are alienated so that mainstream media can market off the Dark Tower. I can see it now: horrible plastic toys of cowboys and women in wheelchairs, a giant plush of Andy the Messenger Robot (and many other functions), maybe even a Dark Tower lunchbox. One way or another someone loses out on this film. Either the common movie goer or the diehard fan. But ultimately everyone loses because as noted the films will do the books zero justice.

         6. Casting – Let’s just get this statement out of the way: there are too many characters within The Dark Tower universe to cast properly and still stay within the film’s budget. The casting for Roland as previously discussed is impossible. The four main ka-tet characters would be painfully hard to cast for. And Oy would have to be made from CGI, which would greatly diminish his humanoid mannerisms. The Dark Tower character landscape is just too big, filled with too many amazing, complex characters to even cover them all.

         5. Still Too Soon – Let’s face it, it might just not be the right time for this sort of film. We aren’t ready for such a grand scope of awesome. The film industry and the average consumer just aren’t familiar enough with Stephen King’s magnum opus. Sure, Peter Jackson did fairly well with The Lord of the Rings, but this is not that. The story is too rich and the enormity of King’s world is too vast for it to be tackled at this time. Ideally? Get the wonderful folks over at Bethesda Softworks to first make a grand scale video game of The Dark Tower (think Skyrim meets New Vegas). That would introduce some of the story and characters and somewhat do justice to Mid-world.

         4. Too Much Content – Let’s face it: for hardcore Dark Tower fans, those of us fortunate enough to be the beloved Constant Readers, there is just too much content to cram into a trilogy of films. There are going to be too many edits and scale backs. We all have our favorite parts, and they are going to be either briefly skimmed over or ignored altogether for the “good” of the film. Each book covers so much, and in typical King detail, that there is no possible direction the movie scripts can take to accurately portray everything. Unless of course they make each film in the trilogy four hours long. That might work. The rumors are that there will be a film trilogy and then a television series in order to get all the content out there. Which sounds like a brilliantly idea, if you have a sack of marbles for a brain. Who is going to stay interested enough to follow an entire season of TV and then three films besides the Dark Tower diehard fans who will probably hate it from the get-go? The Dark Tower book universe is about as infinite as the Dark Tower itself.

         3. Bad Directors – Originally JJ Abrams was attached to this. Amazing. Brilliant. Mind-blowing. But he backed out because “MAKING THE DARK TOWER INTO A MOVIE IS FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE“. (This may or may not be an actual quote.) Now the rumors are that Ron Howard is helmed to direct this trilogy. I cringe at the thought. No offense to Howard, but I don’t want Richie fucking Cunningham from Happy Days directing what is arguably one of the most epic book series of all time. Don’t get me wrong, Howard can carry his own (Willow, Backdraft, Apollo 13, Ransom, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, all of them tremendous films), but I’ve seen Tom Hanks’ hair in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, so dare I say that Ron Howard is a product of outstanding actors carrying his film as opposed to being a standout director? Look back at the list of his greatest hits; not a single one is anywhere close to the scale of The Dark Tower. So what studio exec thought Ron Howard would even remotely make it happen?

 

See, even he’s confused by it.

         2. Wizard and Glass – How do you account for arguably one of the best books out of the seven? This story needs an entire film dedicated to it. Instead, we would probably get a badly done flashback. Either that or they’d throw it in the movie for fifteen minutes and ruin it. (Think: Spider-man 3 with Venom’s storyline.) If they do decide to give it its worth in gold, then they will need an entirely new cast of actors. Or were they just planning to cut that entire story from the series? Wizard and Glass is a pivotal novel that humanizes Roland and sets up so much about the entire story. It tells of Roland’s origins and the fall of Gilead and gives further details on why Roland is such a hard ass. It talks about the Wizard’s Rainbow, and gives new clues about the Man in Black. We learn about the thinny, about ways the world moved on and yet somehow things stayed the same, and we meet Roland’s original ka-tet, his parents, and the Big Coffin Hunters. How can that be left out of the story?

          1. Cross Genres/Timestreams – Just the sheer magnitude of time that this story goes through is too much to encompass in a movie. The sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, Roland’s 1000 year journey before the series even begins, and not to mention the immense distances traveled. Plus we are spanning across cowboys, wizards, vampires, half man-half animal beings, precogs, robots, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, the Civil Rights movement, drug smuggling, demons, werespiders, homicidal talking trains, oracles, talking dogs, gigantic part android guardian bears, super flus, witches, other dimensions, dream worlds, etc., etc. How could they possibly do the time jumps, character stories, and massive mixture of genres any possible justice? On top of all that, The Dark Tower series touches on so many other Stephen King books that you could do a whole movie just based on the other characters that are not a part of Roland’s ka-tet. To put it bluntly, it’s basically impossible to do right. Too many elements, side stories, and main plot developments to try and cram into 3 two and a half hour movies. Can Hollywood make it? They can and probably will. Is it going to be done right? All signs point to no. For anybody involved this is too much food to chew. Proof is seen in the fact that JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot team tried sitting down for more than a year working on a plot and script and they told the studio it was impossible. Yeah, the same people that brought us Lost and Fringe wiped their hands of it. If they can’t do it, who could?

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          Jamie Curtis Baker is an author, blogger, and commentator; he does not consider these things interchangeable. He is a published author and poet. Father, husband, and self-professed food engineer, he’s an adventurous lover of life in general and ready to face what comes. He dabbles in amateur photography. Often sarcastic, but genuinely honest and forthcoming about beliefs and opinions. Open to discussing anything worth merit and embracing the right of anyone to speak their mind. Does not hold faith in any governments or politicians; regularly questioning the orders and decisions of those deemed “leaders” of the free-world. An atheist with a twisted sense of humor and an easy-going temperament. Enjoys good food, delicious alcohol, and warm company. A writer looking for his notch in a sea of words. Interested in the macabre, the beautiful, the solitude of darkness versus light in a mysterious world. For more information, check out his website at www.jamiecurtisbaker.com.

 

His novella, Not Well, is available via Amazon.com.

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Ducks At The Pond

© Copyright Jamie Curtis Baker 2012
All Rights Reserved
No Copying or Redistribution Without Written Consent.

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Spider-man. Amazing?

          Last night after some fairly soulgasm delicious sushi at Wasabi, I treated my wife to a viewing of the newly released The Amazing Spider-man. I went in at least half expecting it to make Tobey Maguire sit in a dark corner and weep with his head in his hands. Comic book films in general have grown in leaps and bounds since the original X-Men trilogy, Spider-man trilogy, and the ever infamous and slightly aneurysm inducing Batman & Robin. Where once we were treated with campy, comic-like plots and cheesy fan easter eggs to get the occasional “ohhhh” from the uber-nerd, we are now treated with thoughtful, plot driven, and extremely well selected cast ensembles. The Amazing Spider-man was no exception.

((SPOILER ALERT)) You’ve been warned.

          The film starts off with a young Robert Parker, Peter’s father, playing a game of hide-and-seek with his young, still innocent son. We quickly learn that Peter’s father is a mega-genius-alter-genetics-and-ultimately-destroy-the-world-by-accident kind of guy. His parents mysteriously vanish and Peter is left to be raised by his iconic Uncle Ben and melodramatic Aunt May. First off, the cast for high-school Peter Parker, flawless. The casting of Uncle Ben, flawless. Although I was originally skeptical from the previews, Martin Sheen gave a very subtle yet powerful performance as the pivotal character death that drove Peter Parker do become his sticky alter ego. We see the usual Spider-man storyline: alot of suck, bullied at school, nerdy and socially awkward. But since Andrew Garfield can actually act, we see something on screen that has never happened before.

          Peter’s infatuation with fellow high-schooler Gwen Stacey (the beautiful Emma Stone) sets the perfect portrait of how daunting talking to a girl in high-school can be. Peter discovers a briefcase left by his father that includes an algorithm and a photo of Robert Parker working alongside Dr. Curt Connors. Peter sneaks into Oscorp to meet with Dr. Connors and wanders around to meet his destiny. He is then bitten by a genetically altered spider and, well, you know the rest. He then manages to wrap Gwen around his finger, save Dr. Connors job by assisting with the algorithm, and lives happily ever after. Wait, that’s not what happened.

          Instead, Dr. Connors uses the animal cross-DNA on himself to grow back his missing right arm. It goes brilliantly! He grows his arm back and they all live happily ever after. Wait, again I got that wrong. Instead Connors continues mutating until he grows into a super fast, super strong, super intelligent lizard who proceeds to wreak general mayhem and squeal with glee at the amount of destruction he can cause. Eventually Gwen Stacey finds out that Peter is Spider-man, the Lizard finds out Peter is Spider-man, and Gwen’s father the chief of police finds out that Peter is Spider-man. Okay, he’s not very good at keeping a secret.

          Peter, a senior in high-school that lives in the city learns how to sew spandex and makes a really cool blue and red outfit with a giant spider logo and sunglasses for eye pieces. No really. Then he Google’s “Oscorp super rope” and creates webshooters that don’t really shoot web but instead a ridiculously strong piece of metal. This is not explained in detail or very believable. But it looked cool and I can’t really complain about it. We are left with “well Peter is really smart so he can make all this stuff in his basement.” So Peter battles the Lizard several times, clearly outmatched and loses badly each time. Connors decides that the human race is weak and stupid and pointless and wants everyone to be evolved super animals. He makes a serum to spread the toxin throughout the city. Gwen Stacey makes an antidote. Spidey and Lizard fight and again Peter is outclassed, but just like in the comic books he uses his wit and cunning intelligence to undo vastly superior enemies. The antidote is released instead of the toxin and everybody goes off happily.

          Oh except Gwen because the Lizard killed her father. And Peter because he has to break up with Gwen after promising her father to stay away. And Aunt May cause Uncle Ben was murdered. So Sally Field is forced to carry scenes by herself and completely fudges it up. Hopefully they recast for the sequel. In the end we are treated with a slow motion John Woo like scene where Spider-man web-slings in slow motion with pigeons flying behind him. No really. The end. But wait, just before the scrolling credits, we see Dr. Connors escorted into a jail cell. A mysterious man appears and gets hostile and then vanishes. It’s very cryptic and I don’t think even diehard Spider-man fans would understand. After a Google search, no straight answer is given. Director Mark Webber left it intentionally mysterious. My vote is for Mysterio. A lot of folks think it was Norman Osbourne himself. Interesting thought, but the man literally vanishes in a shadowy corner that is only wall.Soooo who knows? Not this guy.

          All in all, Spider-man was a breath of fresh air in the series. It was a well done reboot. But they left us with a lot of unanswered questions. It could have been more, they could have cut certain scenes, hell they could have not fucking killed Dennis Leary; but overall I think it was a great film. Andrew Garfield is a legitimate Spider-man. My biggest complaint is Sally Field. She acted like shit and did not, at all, fit the part of Aunt May. I’m glad they didn’t kill off the Lizard and I’m also glad they didn’t have Peter kill or beat up the guy who shot Uncle Ben. They left it open for a sequel and I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait long to see more on this classic red and blue character. Needed for the next film: Gwen Stacey’s death, spider trackers, Peter’s photography gig for taking pictures of Spider-man, and JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jamison. I repeat JK FUCKING SIMMONS AS J. JONAH JAMISON. That is all.

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A Simple Letter

Dear Hate,

 

         Hello my old friend. How’s it going? Alright? Been a rough couple of years for me. Seems like the world is in a big damn hurry to up and forget about me. I was away and did they notice? Doesn’t seem like it. But I can’t fault them; can’t even be remotely mad at them. Anger is not in my nature. You know that, don’t ya? Of course you do. We’ve had some battles, you and I. You were there when the first club swung against the unsuspecting caveman. You were there when the Nazis rounded up those they deemed unworthy and forced them to march to their death. You were there for every pain, every tear, every lie, every tragedy.
         But I was there too. I was alive in the memory of a life untainted. I was basking in the warmth of a face that somehow still remembers how to smile in spite of the hardship the wearer of that smile has endured. And we do endure. I help with that. In my own special way. You have all the bombs, and all the prisons, and all the abusive tendencies. You have the violence, and the disgust, and the lack of empathy. You have the fear, the stupidity, the racism and bigotry. You have the guns and the explosives; the knives and the rapes. You have the power to destroy worlds. But I have all the things that really matter.
         When the night is darkest and only a sliver of hope can be found, I am that sliver. When the day looks bleak and there’s barely an ounce of strength to get by, I am that strength. When you take her away, I keep her in my heart. When you let him slip into twilight, I remember him in my dreams. And when all the stars fall from the heavens in one final, brilliantly lit flash of existence, I am that fire in the sky.
         I may take a vacation from my responsibility sometimes. I may collapse on myself and sit around pouting. I might feel like quitting and letting you takeover completely. You might even slip the cold, hard blade into my back when I’m not looking. But I’ll always send these letters. I’ll always call to see if you’re okay. I’ll always sing a song as I sail through the sky. And I’ll always hope you’re listening. You can toss away my postcards, you can block me on social networking, and you can lock yourself away in a dark room dwelling on all the negative things that make you special.
         You can shake hands with loners and degenerates. You can high five rapists and murderers. You can smile at the violent and the misguided. But you always look over your shoulder afraid that I might be there, don’t you? You always wonder what it would be like to be me. You might sit on the hood of your car drinking hooch and thinking of ways to ruin me. But the strongest stuff you can drink won’t dull the pain of knowing that you aren’t being more than you are. I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m just saying thanks for humbling me on a daily basis. I applaud your deeds, even welcome them, because it’s after hate that I am able to shine my brightest.
         We are entwined forever. A duality of spirit, that’s what we are. I’ve been waiting, as patient and as kind as I can. I just want to hear from you, old faithless lover. Drop a line, shoot an email, ring the old rotary dial. You’re the one I long to be with because without you I am nothing. I embrace you in my arms just like all the ones who don’t know you. I’m yours forever, and I hope you remember that. No matter where you sneak off to, no matter where you try to hide, I’m always just around the corner whenever you’re ready to talk. We can change this world. But I can’t do it without you. So, what do you say? Friends?

 

Sincerely yours,

Love

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Derek (Pilot)

This is by far the greatest work Ricky Gervais has ever done. I was going to write a review. But instead, I think I’ll just let it speak for itself. Here’s the Pilot in two parts. It isn’t coming to the US anytime soon, but it has been commissioned for new episodes. Enjoy.

 

 

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John Mayer: Already Born, Finally Raised

Born And Raised Cover Artwork

 

          John Mayer is all grown up. Yes, I realize this is a ridiculous thing to say about a 34-year-old man. But it’s very much true. And it’s within the walls of his latest 12 track record where we can really see this maturity blossom. Back in 2010, the argument could easily be made that John Mayer was a womanizing douchebag who put out amazing records and ripping guitar licks. In a Playboy interview, Mayer dropped sexist and racist remarks that landed him in hot water and led to a self-imposed exile to the aesthetically barren lands of Montana. Fast forward two years and we stumble upon a calm, reserved, and ultimately manly John Mayer. The kid has come a long way. Finally realizing it’s better to speak from your heart than your mouth, Mayer -who recently was diagnosed with a granuloma that forced him to go months without speaking and cancel his upcoming tour- put out the well woven masterpiece Born and Raised. Fortunately for John Mayer, the granuloma leaves him virtually speechless. So instead of running any risk of putting his own foot in his mouth, he can merely sit back and let his legend grew before him. Maybe this granuloma happened at exactly the right time. Perhaps it’s best that Mayer for once keeps the sound bytes strictly related to his music.
          As he did with Continuum, John Mayer has once again raised the bar for himself by changing his musical style with complete disregard for critics. Whereas Continuum was a switch from the pop culture to a heavy blues laden album, Born and Raised is a mixture of country twang, folk contemporary, and classic rock. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air from the man who once sang about candy lips and wonderland bodies. Mayer’s complex ear for music has him vying for the folk torch passed on by others such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Joni Mitchell. Not only is the sound purer, thicker, and far reaching compared to his previous works, the lyrics and arrangements show a man who settled down and became comfortable in his new folk enterprise. Simple it is not, but too over the top it is also not. The balance of pacing yourself and expressing yourself is met flawlessly.
          The album starts off with a knockout punch on the deliciously smooth track Queen of California. It’s Mayer’s declaration that he’s “headed out west with my headphones on” and he leaves his childish ways behind. The music and vocals on this track are really clean. I mean, like, really, really clean. Especially for John Mayer, who is often criticized for doing things vocally he has no business doing. Giving nods to the 1970′s, Queen of California is a bit of modern nostalgia that leaves a sweet taste in the listener’s mouth. This one will remind the listener of a classic Eagles song. Right from the get go, you understand that John Mayer is trying to be taken seriously. And you offer him the fullest attention of your ears.
          Track two, the strumming, high wire ballad called The Age of Worry, is a surprising song from Mayer. It has the air of an Irish drinking song that one might hear the patrons of a smoky bar bellowing out after they’ve had one too many. Almost at once, there’s an air of hope offered to you. A song about hard times and about saying “To hell with it.” The thing to be noted on this track is Mayer’s vocals which range all over the board, but in no way inaccurate. He finds his comfort zone and treats us to a very well balanced guitar melody. The opening riff is amazing and will probably give various YouTube users trouble as they try to learn it and then teach it on some mediocre tutorial.
          The third song, and Mayer’s first official single from the album, is a song of redemption. Somewhere hidden in its core, Shadow Days has an open-ended apology to every girl that Mayer has ever left heartbroken. But more importantly, the apology extends to Mayer himself, as he seems determined to own up to his actions and tell himself it’s okay to move on. Mayer has always been good at lyrically complex songs that tug at the heartstrings. The difference on Born and Raised is that nothing seems forced. It’s genuine and every note is sincere. Instead of saying it all for the people’s sake, he is saying it for his own sake and peace of mind. Finally, we see Mayer stop saying “What do you want from me?” and instead saying “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” With Shadow Days, Mayer shows us he has come a long way from the troubled boy who caused a media firestorm. He is a good man, and he does have a good heart. But maybe he did just go through a rough time and a bad start. And now he is paying his penance.
          Speak For Me, the album’s fourth track, embodies all the things we love about John Mayer. It stings us a bit at first, as the sorrow in Mayer’s voice is unmistakable. He sings, “I don’t want a world of broken things. You can tell that something isn’t right when all your heroes are in black and white.” It’s a reminiscing track that reaches back to a better day. But Mayer, clearly frustrated with the way of the world, seems to find himself speechless. He is asking for someone else to take his voice and say what he feels he can’t. For those who hear Speak For Me, though, it’s apparent that Mayer doesn’t need anybody to speak for him. He can do that just fine all by himself. A simple drum tap and a swarming guitar (oh, the wonderful things he can do with a six string) lend subtleness to Mayer’s tragically beautiful words.
          The fifth track, and one of my personal favorites, is Something Like Olivia. If ever Mayer was honing his inner Jimi Hendrix, it is on this track. Think Gypsy Eyes, but with more style and composure. This track is bubbly, but very disciplined. The musical accompaniment is superb. In the background, you can hear a very high pitched organ and rhythm guitar. And the backing vocals (Mayer, singing behind himself in a much higher voice) as well as the female gospel-like harmony make you want to smile and nod your head along to the beat. The lyrics are simple, and yet they powerfully convey a woman of a beauty; one that Mayer can’t have, but would like a similar replacement for the time being. Rumors persist that this track is about celebrity hottie Olivia Wilde, but that is merely speculation. Mayer on his A-game for sure, either way.
          On Born and Raised, the album’s sixth title track, John Mayer hones in his best Bob Dylan imitation. For the first time in his career, Mayer adds the harmonica to his musical repertoire. His vocal comes through sorrowful and thick; it stands in the foreground and eclipses the sun. And in that bittersweet rasp, you can visualize John Mayer sitting around with an old dusty shoebox and sorting through old photographs. The music is nothing outstanding, however the harmonica makes you wince at the pain in Mayer’s voice. There’s something about a harmonica on a John Mayer track that just… fits. And you question why he never used it prior. This song is an instant classic that long time fans and new listeners will adore. Again, we travel back to the reminiscent days of classic folk music. With Born and Raised -the album AND this song- Mayer stakes his claim for legitimacy. And we never doubt it for a second.
          Mayer often invents new styles and methods to picking his guitar. And there’s a reason for that. He’s a damn skilled musician. But on the seventh track, If I Ever Get Around To Living, we discover that Mayer is more than a guitar player. He is a musical arranger and a phenomenal composer. And lest it fail to be mentioned, Mayer has some chops. He reaches a new peak of high falsetto on this track. Lyrically he’s running on all cylinders. And of course, the guitar playing. A fully threaded, no frill track that is all the things you love about good music. More of this, please.
          Occasionally, Mayer quips that he was really pissed about the studio releasing Daughters as a radio single. He feared being stymied as “that” guy. The one that does the cheesy panty dropping love ballads. On Love Is A Verb, Mayer seems comfortable to be that crooning, Frank Sinatra type. In fact, he has since traded in his complaints for fathers and mothers, and started speaking directly to the girl. Telling her, “You gotta show, show, show me, that love is a verb.” He will always be able to tug the heart strings, and Love Is A Verb is another classic example of why there will always be screaming teenagers at John Mayer shows. It’s a short track, but one full of bite.
          The next song is probably my favorite not only of this album, but of Mayer’s entire career. It’s called Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967. At first you don’t understand what is going on or why. It took a couple of listens for me to grasp what Mayer was trying to connect with. Much in the same way that Don McLean sang about the death of music in his timeless American Pie; much in the same way that Bob Dylan sang about tumultuous times and government failures in Subterranean Homesick Blues; in that same respect, John Mayer has captured the timeless American saga in his song about a simple man who was determined to build his own personal submarine and pilot it around the world. Spoiler alert: Walt Grace winds up in Tokyo. But not before Mayer takes us on a heartfelt journey with the man. This song is out of place in 2012, but in a surprisingly comforting and welcoming way. In an age of tragic media stories and a suffering world, it’s nice to take a look back at a better time. Mayer outdid himself with this song. And in more ways than one. Everything about it is flawless.
          Then we get the drinking song. Which, if Mayer was going to write a ballad about the trouble of alcohol and dealing with life in all its inevitable sums, Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey sounds exactly like what John Mayer would write. We get treated to more harmonica. Cut the lights, pour a whiskey sour, and just listen. Most guys will get it, a lot of girls won’t. And that’s okay. It was intended that way, I think. To be a secret message to guys that sometimes it’s okay to reminisce about that mythical “one that got away” and to drown your sadness in booze. Besides, what is whiskey good for if not forgetting? And what is John Mayer good for if not stating things in ways we can’t exactly wrap our tongues around? In this song, he captures some whispered story we try to bury and brings it out in full light. It’s eloquent, refined, and a class above anything that could ever be considered pop music. In fact, to his credit, pretty much nothing about this album is attune to pop standards. And that’s just about fucking a-okay by me.
          We get another ballad love song in A Face To Call Home. However, in this one, we aren’t held down and tortured with a repetitive hook and a flat rhythm. Instead, this song slowly builds in a fuse burning melody that eventually explodes in a meaty climax that seems to be slowly becoming more and more of a Mayer staple. (And yes, that’s a good thing.) Instead of bitching about love and relationships, we are given a story. That goes up and up and practically jumps into our ears at the end. It’s the business as usual Mayer that suddenly showed up to prom in a neon pink suit. And in this one single track, we see all the years and lessons learned that have turned the now mature Mayer into an icon to be followed. At the 2 minute and 56 second mark, Mayer becomes something more than the little boy who watched a girl who was entirely out of his league buzzing like Neon. In the last two minutes of this track, Mayer metamorphosis into a man. The man I described at the start of this article. The quick progression to this point has taken an astonishingly short ten tracks. The album could have easily ended right there and then, but instead Mayer gives us another token reason of why he is one of the most well-rounded singer/songwriter’s active today.
          The last track, Born and Raised (Reprise) might sound like a country song. Well, that’s because it is. And it showcases the greatly expanding musical library that Mayer has in his head. A touch back to the previous track Born and Raised, that is suddenly upbeat. Where before Mayer is tip-toeing with denial, or maybe even dealing with the sad ordeal of acceptance, we now see that Mayer has come full circle. He has accepted that life moves on, we all grow up, and hot damn if that’s just about the finest thing he’s ever heard of. His bravery to do a track like this should be rewarded with applause. Because not only was he daring enough to put it out on his album, he did so convincingly and once again we can thank him for coming and be glad he came.
          From first track to last twangy guitar strum, this album packs a wallop. It’ll take your breath away, a lot. Sometimes even multiple times a song. Mayer has stepped into a new realm and we are lucky as hell to get to go on this journey with him. We may not have been there to grow with him personally, but through his music (this album especially) he helps us to grow personally through him. Hopefully John Mayer will be around for decades to come, continuing to evolve and presenting us with increasingly detailed and thought provoking work. I for one can’t wait to see what comes next. And I think, for the first time in his life, Mayer is excited about the next chapter too. As he sings in A Face To Call Home, “Maybe I can stay awhile / Maybe I can stay awhile / I’m talking about all of the time / You’ve got a face to call home”. And perhaps that’s what this entire journey has all been about for Mayer. Coming home. Or rather, reestablishing what home means to him. One thing’s for sure, when Mayer finds that ultimate place of comfort, when he finally embraces the quiet calm of the world around him, we, as the listeners, are the benefactors of incredibly well done music. I give Born and Raised an emphatic five out of five stars. It’s courageous, it’s new, it’s fresh and vivid; and for Mayer, it’s something we’ve never seen before. We can only hope that the album ended not with a period, but with a cliff-hanging To Be Continued…

All Grown Up

‘Better learn how to turn the page / Cause time is strange / When you’re born and raised’ – John Mayer

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