Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Under the Dome

Hello Readers,
A brand new TV series is set to premiere on June 24th on CBS at 10 PM EST called Under the Dome.  Fans of mystery-driven dramas and Stephen King's faithful fans are sure to be glued to their high def home entertainment centers all over the country for this event.  Count me among those who have already set their DVR's to prevent missing a single moment of what could be the best event series since Lost. 

Fans of King, who have already read the novel, know that the story has a huge cast of characters.  The choice to bring this story to the small screen was a wise one, as the strength of this novel is in the various sub-plots that weave through the huge ensemble cast.  Playing the role of the lead protagonist, Dale "Barbie" Barbara is Mike Vogel (Bates Motel, The Help).  The character he plays is an ex-Army vet turned short order cook who decides that life in this particular small town is coming to a quick close.  But the over-arcing events of the story prevent him from taking his leave in a most unexpected way.  The chief antagonist is town selectman James Rennie, played by Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), who is a power hungry politician that proves he is capable of just about anything as panic spreads.

As I am not a professional critic, I have seen no advance copy of the TV pilot or the episodes that follow, so my thoughts are merely based on the book I have read.  And with that comes the hope that series creator Brian K Vaughan stays true to King's source material in his presentation. 

Too often, screen plays and directors have served only to strip the humanity and charm from the characters that King has created.  It really is a source of King's strength that he creates people and places in his stories that evoke a familiar or identifying feeling in the reader's mind.  Bringing the reader into such territory primes the subject for maximun effect when his stories eventually hit that twist in the plot that brings us to the place of wonder, terror, sorrow, or hope....whatever emotion it is that the author truly wants his readers to experience.  Small screen television provides an opportunity for screenwriters and directors to allow their audience to build a relationship with characters and cultivate emotional investment into their stories.  This is something much harder to do in a two hour big screen adaptation, though we do have some cases of glowing successes pertaining to King's yarns.  Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Stand By Me were all fantastic films that succeeded in bringing out the best aspects of the source material.  Of course, all of these movies were based on novella-length works without the sprawling cast of characters that are prevalent in more than a few of King's epics.  I am not sure I have ever heard anyone argue that the small screen version of King's masterpiece The Stand could hold a candle to its source material.  Such stories require more attention, time, and patience on the part of filmaker and audience.  Other small screen adaptations like Rose Red and Bag of Bones produced decidedly mediocre results.  Storm of the Century, which has been reviewed on this blog previously was a great success, but King wrote this specifically as a screenplay for television.  The Golden Years was dead on arrival as a Stephen King original television series (not based on any of his books), meanwhile the Anthony Michael Hall version of USA's The Dead Zone was a great success, though the episodes held only a loose connection to the original book who kept the apocalyptic premise as a long-play story arc with constant departures into characters and stories that were exclusive to the screen version.  King's The Colorado Kid has spawned a four season and running Scy Fy original show, Haven.  But this is again only loosely based on King's work. 

I, just like many other Stephen King faithful, will await with breath held in anticipation for the release of Under the Dome to audiences shortly, and it is my hope that it can do his work justice, and be a commerical success that justifies a continuation beyond this season.  If it doesn't, we can all still hope for Rob Reiner to get his Dark Tower project lifted off the ground and out of developmental H E double hockey sticks.  ;)

Have you read Under the Dome, and looking forward to the series premiere?  Or maybe you were not a fan of King's epic?  We, at Great Stories, would love to hear from you!

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fresh Popped Corn #3: June 2013 Theatrical Trailers

Great Stories' new column for our movie trailer preview series is here.  Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.

June 7th
This week features a battle between the comedic duo of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship and the deadly serious Ethan Hawke thriller, The Purge.  In the former, Owen and Vince star as salesmen who have been left behind by technology and decide to hit the re-start button by becoming over-aged interns at Google!  And the Hunger Games-themes The Purge has a family battling for its life against a home invasion on the one 12 hour period a year when rule of law is made obsolete.  Also in limited release are the Morton Downey Jr, docu-crama, Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr Story, Craig Robinson (who is all over the place these days) starring with Anna Kendrick in Rapture-Palooza, about a young woman who is left behind after the rapture only to become the object of the Devil's affections in another slice of comedic fare, and the foreign thriller entry Wish You Were Here, which has three friends dealing with the disappearance of a fourth friend after a vacation to the far east.  Dirty Wars chronicles an investigative reporter's search for the truth in America's covert wars across the globe, while Joss Whedon takes time away from super-heroes to bring us the artsy Much Ado About Nothing, Alexis Bledel and Saorise Ronan are two teen hit women taking on organized crome in the quirky Violet & Daisy, and Judy Blume's novel Tiger Eyes gets the theatrical treatment with Willa Holland and Tatank Means in the leads.  For us, The Purge is looking like just the type of intense thriller I have been waiting for.  And I must admit to being a pretty big Ethan Hawke fan.  Check out the trailer below!

June 14th
The second week of June boasts the much anticipated release of Man of Steel.  The Superman franchise is looking to correct all of the faults of the last reboot attempt and I, for one, could not be more hopeful for this film.  Henry Cavill is the new guy filling the shoes made famous by George Reeve and Christopher Reeves.  Also on tap is the promising This is the End, starring a bunch of Hollywood actors who play themselves including Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, and more as they face the apocalypse from the Hollywood Hills.  20 Feet from Stardom is a documentary chronicling the life of back-up singers to some of the top artists in the industry.  The Bling Ring follows a group of California teens who, obsessed with the glamorous life of celebrities, tracked and robbed them of millions in a movie based on real events.  Hatchet III leaves nothing to the imagination in this third movie following the legend of Victor Crowley....horror fans rejoice.  The choice is obvious here for me, and I encourage you to check out the Man of Steel trailer below as ample evidence of a justifiable excitement for the new relaunch!

June 21st
A lighter release schedule for the third week of June brings us a kid-friendly sequel, Monsters University, which reunites the characters voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal along with Hellen Mirren and Steve Buscemi.  Competing for a different group of cineplex dollars will be the much-anticipated Brad Pitt apocalyptic action/thriller World War Z.  Appearing in more limited fashion will be the foreign A Hijacking about a boat being taken by Somali pirates, and the small independently produced This is Martin Bonner, about a man who moves to Reno to take a prison job and is befriended by an ex-con who helps him to adjust to his new surroundings.  As much as the zombie thing is beginning to be a bit passe for me (Walking Dead still rocks it), World War Z promises a little different spin on the subject matter and certainly makes it appealing to me.  If I had to drop my bottom dollar, it would be on this one.  Here is the trailer below!

June 28th
As we come to the end of June, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy come roaring back to the big screen with a cop buddy movie done for the women in The Heat.  Channing Tatum and Jaime Fox star in a movie we just saw done a few months ago in White House Down.  Somebody really needs to tell these movie studios that they don't have to rush out their own version of the next big idea.  Go create your own ideas for crying eye!  Olympus Has Fallen was a decent movie in spite of some flaws, but this one looks downright laughable.  But I digress....Byzantium tells the story of two women who claim to be vampires move into a British town, where they meet a decidedly skeptical community until strange things occur.  Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan star.  And finally we have the historical drama, Copperhead, which tells of a community torn apart by the politics of the Civil War in Northern New York.  I am truly hoping that this movie gets wide enough release to not require too much travel as it is the pick of the week.  No big names, but it looks to be a gem amidst the big summer blockbusters!

Please excuse our absence over the past few weeks, as some very wonderful personal things have been occuring of late including the exchanging of marital vows and new homes.  We are back on our creative horse now, however, and looking forward to blogging on more topics weekly!  Check back with us again very soon!

Chris (and the Great Stories Team)