A Box Full of Surprises: My Review of Gwendy’s Button Box

So, we are almost halfway through 2017.

And what a hell of a year it has been.;.

Well, the above is part of it, although this has really been a hell that has been a long time in the making…

But let me get back to the topic:  Hell!

And the good kind of hell.

Not talking about the kind that involves Cenobites, either!  I am not sure that I have the stamina to take that kind of hell!

No, I am talking about…

Wait for it…

Stephen King!

I mean, duh, right?  Is there any other kind of hell to talk about in this blog?

So yes, it is a hell of a year to be a Stephen King fan.

The television series The Mist will premiere soon.

The miniseries based on the novel Mr. Mercedes will also premiere this summer.

In August, our favorite gunslinger will finally come to life!

And September will see my childhood nightmare  a certain famous (or is it infamous) homicidal clown will star in his own movie, along with the gang of bad ass kids tasked to fight this clown.

We even get a second season of the show Stranger Things on October 31st (well played Duffer brothers, well played.)  I mean, it’s Stranger Things, which is a bonus King story, amirite?

In other words, we are in the era of Stephen King 2.0.

Is it 1987, or 2017?

I mean, the hair may be smaller, but that is about the only way I can tell the difference (well, the home decor is less tacky, maybe) between the two.

Once again, King is ubiquitous.  But then again, he is The Master, and that is what Masters do, when they aren’t doing other Master-y stuff, like getting blocked on Twitter by leaders of the free world who turn orange from the overdose on covfefe.  Or eating chocolate candy at an alarming rate.

(Wait, scratch that last part.  I put a little TMI about myself in this blog again, dammit!)

But anyway, it is the era of Stephen King 2.0.  And of course this nerdy blogger could not be happier!

Because, movies and TV shows!  And merchandise!

And oh, right…books!

We still have those coming out!  Books!

Like the latest King book, aka Gwendy’s Button Box.

But this is no ordinary King book (as if his books were ordinary anyway!)

This book is actually a collaboration between The Master and…

Another Master?

I think so!

Richard Chizmar teamed with King to write this novel…a gruesome twosome!

Seriously, a double threat much?

And this is one collaboration that is hellishly awesome, and one of my favorite short works in King’s extensive library.

So, without further ado, let us get down to business, so we can review and dissect Gwendy’s Button Box.

And, as always:

 

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My Top 10 Horror Movies

For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.

And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…

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Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers.  However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.

No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.

I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old.  Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!

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Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet.  I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day.  And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)

So, I read other writers.  Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch.  And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)

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And of course, Clive Barker, Michaelbrent Collings, Joseph Duncan and quite a few others supplement my literary diet quite nicely, so I don’t have to worry about any deficiencies.

I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too.  In other words, there’s always movies and television.

I will be an X Phile for life.  I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.

And horror movies.  Who can forget horror movies?

Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?

Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway.  Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead.  Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away.  REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!

Watching horror movies is fun.  The adrenaline rush is fun.  And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too.  Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.

And there are so many horror flicks to choose from.  You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It

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And classic slasher films.  Who doesn’t love Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the escapades of goofy old Michael Myers?

Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!

At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there.  And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies.  It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!

Reminder:  this is one blogger’s opinion only.  I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care.  And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?

And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.

Lots of people died, in fact.

And in really inventive ways.

And klowns were responsible.  Killer Klowns.  And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!

killer klowns 3 - Copy

If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched.  And it set the stage for me.

Yes, the movie is just ridiculous.  I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!

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And acting?  What acting?  Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.

Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films.  I became a Stephen King addict.  I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.

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And, as they say, the rest is history.

Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie.  Because it was, at least for me.

It was a gateway.  A gateway into the horror genre.  And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.


9.  Candyman

Often, horror movies deal with morality…

Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.

Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies.  There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.

But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.

One of these movies is Candyman.

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The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist.  However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose.  He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook.  The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.

Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.

Since this is a horror movie, there is someone stupid  brave enough to do just that.  And lots of people get murdered.  Lots and lots of people.  So that’s disturbing.

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But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people.  It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered.  And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders.  Some of these victims are children.  All of the victims are African American.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point.  Maybe.  Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country.  If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family.  However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored.  Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.

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Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society.  Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.


8.  Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.

School shootings are tragically common in this country, and some shooters have stated that the Richard Bachman book, Rage, was their inspiration for the crimes committed, for example.

But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?

I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown.  So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!

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But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe.  Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!

Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real.  We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member.  Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.

Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…

Like Freddy Kreuger.

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The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010.  But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!

The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough.  After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately.  And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie.  The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.

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It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen.  And no one is safe, including her family.

Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art.  This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores.  The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”


7)  Freaks

It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.

As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this.  I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked.  In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old.  And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked.  And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.

In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time.  But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing:  I rented the movie Freaks.

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Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing:  man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover.  Oh, and karma is a real bitch!

This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities.  However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner.  However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.

I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got.  However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…

Again, karma is a bitch!

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6)  Carrie

While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie.  For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.

I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels.  Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material.  Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books.  And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.

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Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category:  it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie.  The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it.  Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.

Margaret White

The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with.  I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie.  And I understood why Carrie “snapped”:  there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough.  Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come.  And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.

One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending.  Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced.  Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue.  Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.

That scene gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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5)  Jacob’s Ladder

My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam.  We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life.  I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.

In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno.  I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory:  there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be.  And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.

The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory.  The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities.  Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain.  Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.

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Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul.  See the part about Purgatory.  In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right:  Jacob is already dead.  He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death.  So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.

It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on.  He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is.  It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.

Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.)  It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.

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4)  Horns

Sometimes, we create our own monsters.  And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.

Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth.  Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.

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One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns.  These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.

We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior.  Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent.  For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name.  Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.

Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more.  It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory.  In other words, a little something for everyone.

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3.  Burnt Offerings

Move over, The Amityville Horror  and The Conjuring.  There’s a new (well, not really) haunted house movie in town, and it goes by the name of Burnt Offerings.

Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie.  And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.

In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie.  There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.)  The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true.  The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.

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However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie.  For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants.  The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.

Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur.  In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult.  He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

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2.  Phantasm

In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain.  After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.

For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature.  Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?

Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)

Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm.  Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.

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Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time.  I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!

As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain.  The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.)  However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear.  I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening.  Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway.  Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)

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It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies  (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.


And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…

drum-roll-please

Poltergeist (1982)

Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time.  This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?

Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie.  There is no violence.  There is no sex.  There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs.  In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.

In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!

However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie.  I will mince no words:  this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.

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Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie.  At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing.  Chairs move on their own accord.  Drinking glasses break.  Furniture cannot stay still.

But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister.  Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies.  And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…

Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…

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Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.

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But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family.  And Carol Anne is rescued.  Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.

Case closed, right?

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Well, no.  The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.

Turns out, there is a technicality.  So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!

In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!

Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one).  But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win?  And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…

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The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling!  There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list:  CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.

Oh, and a side note:  I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.

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Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies.  It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off.  What it is it that they say?  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?

So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already.  I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

And with that note, adios!  Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

Every Gunslinger Needs a Companion: An Interview With Bev Vincent

In life, sometimes you take journeys.  Sometimes these are physical journeys (I have had a few myself).

Sometimes, there are other kinds of journeys as well…

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Well, I am sure most of us (me included) don’t take a journey like that often ever but that game last night sure was was ride, at any rate…whew!  And this little old blog sends you love, Ser Peyton!

Or, if you are more like me, you take literary journeys.  Oh, too nerdy for you!  Well, sorry, guess someone forgot what blog this was again!

And I have traveled alone, and I have traveled with others.  Now traveling alone is not a bad thing.  But sometimes, having a companion has its advantages.  A Sam Gamgee, maybe.  Or if you are Peyton Manning, a Von Miller (and it doesn’t hurt to perhaps throw in a Chris Harris, or maybe an Aquib Talib or two, for that matter).

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In other words, great journeys are not usually accomplished alone, whether they are to destroy a pesky ring, or to obtain a pesky second (Super Bowl) ring.  Even this guy can testify to that!

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Yes, you are definitely reading this blog and forgot to heed all the previous warnings!

Reading the Dark Tower series is a journey.  And I have taken that journey on my own.  And it was great, of course.

But I have taken it with friends, too.

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Well, I wasn’t talking about these guys, per se.  If I was relying on them for friendship, well that is a recipe for guaranteed heartbreak, and I will leave it at that.

Nor am I talking about the followers on my blog and social media account, who were with me every step of the way in my latest re-read and review of the entire series.  I do appreciate both all of you very much though, and much love to everyone!

Rather, I am talking about works such as this one:

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And this one:

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Well, they may be books, but to any Constant Reader who is also obsessed with the Dark Tower series, they are almost as invaluable as a Sam Gamgee or Vonn Miller.  They aid in the journey, so that journey becomes that much richer.  These books have also made me become a much better reader, as I have picked out some details I missed on previous re-reads, which made me feel like the kid who found the Easter Egg that everyone else missed because everyone else did not know where to look.

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Recently, I have the please of talking to one of the creators of my companions, aka Bev Vincent.  I was curious as to what goes on when creating works like these to aid in this journey that I have taken so many times.  And Mr. Vincent was gracious enough to talk to me, and given me a little more insight into his work, the Stephen King universe in general and the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  So, read below for the complete interview.

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And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

 

Please, tell us a little about yourself. This can be anything, including education, background, etc. Also, when did you first become a Stephen King fan and why?

I come from eastern Canada. I grew up in a small community in northern New Brunswick, where I lived until I was eighteen. I then went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I studied chemistry. I got a B.Sc in 1983 and finished my PhD in X-ray crystallography in the fall of 1987. I did a postdoc at the ETH in Zurich and worked as a staff crystallographer until 1989, at which time I moved to Texas, where I’ve lived ever since.

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I started writing seriously at the end of the previous millennium and it has been part of my daily routine ever since, although I still have a day job.

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I discovered Stephen King when I was living in Halifax. I picked up a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot in a used bookstore and I’ve been hooked ever since. I sought out his other books (there weren’t many in 1979!) and have followed along with him for over 35 years. I read a lot, and far more than just King’s books, but he’s been one of the constants. I guess you could call me a Constant Reader.

'Salem's Lot 1


 

What is your favorite Stephen King book, and why is it your favorite?

I have a hard time picking absolute favorites — I have affinities for certain books at different times for different reasons. I have a particular fondness for ‘Salem’s Lot because it was the first, the one that got me hooked. The book has a lot going for it, for a “second” novel (of course, we know it was not his second written book), and it stands up quite well.

Salem's lot 2

Bag of Bones is one that would appear in my top five list. It was the first of his books that I read in first draft manuscript long before it was published. That was a fascinating experience, and I especially appreciated the way he subsequently rewrote the book, layering in things that weren’t present in the first draft.

bag of bones 1

I used to like to tell people about The Gunslinger for a long time, when people didn’t know much about it. It was my entry point into the Dark Tower series, but for a long time it was the only book in the series for me. I loved its mood. I had no idea where the series was headed — or even that it was headed somewhere, but I reread that one a number of times. I could list others that are high on my list. But I’d have an easier time picking my two least favorites. No trouble there at all!

Roland 2


 

Oh, what is your least favorite SK book?

I have two: Needful Things and The Tommyknockers. I didn’t like any of the characters in the former and I liked Bobbi and Gard a lot in the latter and hated that King abandoned them for a huge chunk of the book when all I wanted to do was to get back and find out how they were doing.

Needful things 3


 

I am really excited about the upcoming Hulu adaptation for 11/22/63, and I have high hopes for the series. However, I know that movie adaptations of King’s books are mixed, at best. Some work, some don’t. Out of all the King movies, which one do you feel works the best, and why? Which one do you think does not work, and why?

I’ve already seen the entire miniseries of 11.22.63 and I think people are going to like it a lot. It is significantly different from the novel in many ways, yet it captures the sense of the book perfectly. The actress who plays Sadie is wonderful and it is her more than James Franco who gives this adaptation its heart. The production values are extremely high and the cast is terrific.

card-1963

I’ve never been someone who saw the adaptation as a necessary part of the life cycle of a book. Slavish adaptations aren’t always the best. The problem with Dreamcatcher, in my opinion, is that it tried to cram too much of a very big book into the movie, which made it almost incomprehensible to people to people unfamiliar with the novel.

Quality: Original. Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003). Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

On the other hand, the adaptation of Dolores Claiborne took significant liberties with the book, deleting characters, changing the emphasis on others, but it absolutely captured the novel.

Dolores C

A lot of the adaptations are forgettable or laughable. I have no use for The Mangler or Children of the Corn (I through XII) or any number of other B grade films.

Disney SK

I did like The Mist, despite the controversial change to the story–and I was thrilled to get to visit the set during production.

the-mist-mons__big

I also visited (the set of) Haven for a day with my daughter, which was great fun. There’s a case of an adaptation that took a core idea and then ran off in a vastly different direction from the source. The same people did the same thing with The Dead Zone TV series.

Haven TV series starring Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour, Richard Donat, John Dunsworth, Adam Copeland, Glenn Lefchak, Nicholas Campbell, Kate Kelton, Emma Lahana, Bree Williamson, Christopher Shore and Colin Ferguson - dvdbash.com

There are some great ones — Shawshank, Stand By Me — and some surprisingly effective ones, like 1408 — and a whole lot of turkeys.

ka caw


 

I have read your book, The Dark Tower Companion, and wow! Can you tell us how this book came to be, and exactly what went in to writing it and putting it together?

DT companion 1

I previously wrote The Road to the Dark Tower around the time King was finishing up the last three books in the series. People had frequently asked me when I was going to write a book about King and his work, but I had resisted the idea because it seemed like such a huge project.

the road to the DT 1

Then when I heard that King was going to write the final three Dark Tower books all at once, I had the idea that I could explore the series and, in doing so, say something about all of King’s work in general. King gave me the manuscripts for the final books a couple of years before they were published, which allowed me to have my book ready around the same time as Book 7 was published.

never just a book

The Road to the Dark Tower was written for people who had already read the entire series and wanted to revisit it with me. I would be the tour guide, and I would point out the things I had noticed while reading and rereading and studying the series.

Dark Tower 3

Then, a number of years later, the first serious indications that there would be a film adaptation emerged, with Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman. I thought it was time to update my book with all the things that had happened in the Dark Tower Universe since my first book was published. However, my publisher suggested that I do a new book, completely different from the first. So, The Dark Tower Companion was written for people who haven’t necessarily read the series. I thought there would be people who came to the Dark Tower via the movies or the Marvel graphic novels. People who might want to know more about something — a reference book. I had to read the series several times for each book, with different things in mind on each reading. My copies are marked up with so many different colored highlighters that they look like the Bends o’ the Rainbow!

Maerlyn's rainbow

I especially enjoyed getting to interview all these great people for the book, from King himself to Ron Howard (from the set of RUSH) and Akiva Goldsman, and then all of the creative people involved in the Marvel series. That was a series of terrific experiences. I also had a great time coming up with the two maps — the one that showed the known region of Mid-World, especially when certain details came together, and the one of the Dark Tower locations in Manhattan.

DT movie 3


 

It looks like we may finally get our Dark Tower movie(s). I know that if Roland doesn’t do the finger twirl in the movie, I will not watch it…at all! (Joking, joking.) All kidding aside, what do you need to see in the movie(s) from the books (since we all know that there will be changes, which are necessary) to make sure that the movie does not stray too far from the source material?

I’m open to a complete re-imagination of the series. If you’ve read my interviews with Howard and Goldsman, you’ll see that their ideas for the first movie are quite radical, and I was fine with that. I’m also fine with possibly having Idris Elba as Roland — in fact, I think that would be terrific.

Idris Elba 1

A movie isn’t made first and foremost for the readers of the source material, I believe. They are made for a movie-going audience, so a lot of accommodations have to be made, and can be made.

Some people have suggested that the movies should feature Roland’s NEXT version of his quest, the one where he starts of with the Horn of Eld. To my mind, that means that anything could happen. Anything. If Roland is a different person (arguably a slightly better one), then maybe he needs different companions to get the job done. I’m not saying I want to see that happen, but once that suggestion is made, it shows that people are open to change.

Roland and horn 1

I don’t know if the movie can work if it is too literal an adaptation. A lot of people were upset by how the series ended on the page — can you imagine going to see a handful of movies over a span of years only to end up back at the beginning again?

DT ending

I’m perfectly content for them to do whatever they see fit with the adaptation. There are some pretty smart people in the movie business. And if they end up making a hash of it, oh well.

Roland 1


So many thanks to Bev Vincent for this interview.  And remember, if you need a companion to help guide you on the Path of the Beam, whether it be be your first journey or your 19th journey, please check out The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance (written by the lovely Robin Furth).  These friends  works are available wherever books are sold.

And, as always, happy reading!

RoaldDahl

Since Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion 1.9

Well, looky what we have here…

Seems the internet has bent a little more as of late…

And this time, neither the Kardashians nor a certain ugly dress were responsible for it!

ugly dress

 

In other words, we have further news on something that we have all been anticipating…

No, its not an official announcement that Donald Trump has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate!  I mean, if I wanted scary, I would watch a Stephen King movie…you know, scary motherfuckers like Stephen King (at least according to a certain former pimp)?

Donald Trump 1

Oh wait…

I believe this news does have something to with The Master, actually…

stephen-king-cover-ftr

Oh, that’s right…how could I have forgotten! Oops…

It appears that we have more news in regards The Second Coming  the upcoming Dark Tower movie!

ermahgerd 1

Sony Pictures has provided us with a release date.  Yes, an actual release date (fingers crossed).

DT wheel of fortune

In other words, the beast has been reawakened.  And boy, is the beast loud!

Well, maybe just a dull roar, actually.  The beast was pretty loud, though, when the intent to make a movie was announced.  Broke the sound barrier, actually.

So yes, people are talking.  And debating.  And contemplating.  And rightfully so, as King considers this series of books to be his magnum opus, and so do many of his readers.  People want to see a movie, and to see that movie done right.  Books can be tricky to adapt to screen, and although some recent adaptations have been good (The Hunger Games is a prime example), there have been many bad on-screen adaptations (many of which are attached to The Master’s name.  That one was directed at you, 2002 Carrie.  And don’t think you are getting off either, Running Man!)

And yes, I will admit to being one of the speculators.  And a pretty vocal one, at that.  I believe that a good movie(s) can be made out of these books, and I will stand by that statement until (which hopefully does not happen) I am proven otherwise.  More detail can be found on that opinion here.

DT door 1

But, as they say, opinions are like a certain body part none of us can function without…I believe it has to do with the gluteous maximus (I think).  In other words, we all have opinions, and some of us are not shy about expressing them.  I would be in that category, although social media and this blog are my preferred mediums, since none of my loved ones or the awesome man I married have the faintest idea of what I am blathering on about.

So, time to get down to business, and perhaps have a little fun!  I want to talk about casting for a couple of more major characters that I did not discuss in the previous entry.  The Dark Tower series also has a lot of supporting characters.  Some may only be present in one book or only a few pages, but these characters are important to the story, and deserve great casting choices.  And last, but certainly not least, I would like to discuss the music for The Dark Tower movie(s), as that is almost as important as the casting.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler

(Oh in case you were curious about the title…just go ahead and move that decimal one place to the right, say thank ya.  See what I did there?  You are very welcome!)

19 1


Casting

In this section, we will discuss the casting for the movie.  I will be including several characters, both “major” and “minor.”  This is almost at random, with names that I have pulled out of Roland’s cowboy hat, so please bear with me and do not take offense if I have not included a favorite character of yours…so many blog entries, so little time (or something like that).

Roland 2

Eddie Dean

I have already made my casting choice pretty clear for our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.  And while I still have much love for Roland, Eddie Dean has always been my favorite (sorry Roland, hope you aren’t hurt by this).  Eddie Dean is the book’s resident smart ass (his quips are currency, I think) but he also has a dark side, as he is a recovering heroin addict.  So we need someone a bit edgy to play this character…

Eddie 1

Aaron Paul has always been a popular casting choice, for obvious reasons (his role on the show Breaking Bad being a huge one).  Plus the guy has flat out volunteered to play Eddie and has expressed an interest in being in these movies.  So he is a decent choice…

However, my first pick for the role of Eddie Dean is Steven Amell.  Yes, Arrow/Casey Jones as Eddie Dean.  Amell is an immensely talented actor, and is about the right age for the role.  And he has proven acting chops in playing a dark, gritty role, as evidenced by the title role on the show Arrow.  Amell has made a beloved comic book character come to life, and I have complete faith that he could do the same with a beloved Stephen character.  Oh, and he is definitely not hard to look at either!

Steven Amell 1

Randall Flagg

Now, this role is an interesting one to cast.  It has been played before by Jamey Sheridan Billy Ray Cyrus’ twin brother on crack in the 1994 mini series adaptation of The Stand.  Matthew McConaughey has also been cast in the upcoming The Stand reboot (squee).  So, pretty simple, right?  Just stick McConaughey in the Dark Tower movie, and call it good?

man in black

Well, not really.  While this may be the same character in The Stand, the Dark Tower series and a multitude of other King books (the very definition of an uber villain), it is NOT the same incarnation.  In The Stand, Flagg is charming, a bit like a sleazy car salesman.  And very…American is the best word I can think of.  Matthew McConaughey can pull that off.  In fact that’s what he does.  So good casting choice.  For The Stand, that is.

The Stand mashup

But let’s talk about Dark Tower Flagg.  Dark Tower Flagg is the embodiment of an evil wizard.  And he is cruel and arrogant.  It seems like most people know he is evil and do their level best to avoid him.  In other words, almost a polar opposite to the incarnation of Flagg in The Stand, who almost seems more “human.”  As wonderful as Matthew McConaughey is, I have my doubts on whether he can pull that role off or not, so I think we need a different casting choice.

My nomination for the actor to play Randall Flagg in the Dark Tower movie is Walton Goggins.  Again, this is another actor with proven acting chops for a particular role in these movies.  Goggins played an excellent villain in his role as Boyd Crowder on the TV series Justified.  In fact, I think I looked up arrogant in the dictionary and found a picture of Boyd Crowder!  In all seriousness, Groggins is a character actor, which is exactly what is needed for the role of Randall Flagg, and I hope that the casting gods hear me, and pick well for this role.

Raylan and Boyd 1

The Crimson King

This is an interesting role to speculate, as the Crimson King is a villain that is actually not visible very much in the books, until the final book in the series.  His presence is implied and his name mentioned, but he is, for the most part, not visible, much like the great wizard behind his curtain.

CK 3

However, just because something is true in the books does not necessarily mean it will be true in the movies.  In other words, I think that the Crimson King will be enjoying an increased bout of visibility, and therefore a larger role.  After all, film is a different medium, and sometimes adjustments need to be made in order to convey a story.

And the Crimson King is a worthy role.  It is implied that he is the boss of all evil in the King universe.  So therefore, we need someone distinguished to take on this role.  My vote is for Donald Sutherland.  You can’t get much more distinguished than Donald Sutherland.  Again, more proven acting chops, especially given his role of the bearded Oompa-Loompa of President Snow in the Hunger Games movies.

President Snow 1

Blaine the Mono

Really, I thought that the Joker was bad news. And I am not backing away from that statement any time soon, either.

Joker 3

But then, I encountered Blaine the Mono…

Yes, a talking, evil, insane monorail has made me rethink my definition of bad news.  The Joker still ranks up there (or is it down there) but a talking monorail who releases poison gas on entire cities may give the Clown Prince of Crime a run for his money…

Joker 1

And who better to play one of the best villains in the Stephen King universe (and possibly in literature, period) than Mark Hamill?  After all, Blaine does make me think of the Joker, and Mark Hamill owned that role in the Batman animated TV series of yore (although he is reported to be reprising the role in the upcoming animated Batman movie The Killing Joke.  Whoever said life is not good has obviously not heard this bit of news).  Blaine will consist entirely of CGI, but the voice acting will be almost as important, if not important as, the CGI.  And Mark Hamill can make Blaine happen…that’s right folks, you heard it here first!

Blaine 2

Stephen King

So is is possible to write a series of books that you think is so awesome that you include yourself in them?

Well, with the Dark Tower series, the answer is yes.  Stephen King is a character in the series, and an important one at that.  Despite the divisiveness among fans that this move has provoked, King continues to remain a vital part of the series, and this part should not be ignored.

The easy answer would be to just have King play himself.  After all, he has been known to dabble in acting, and has appeared in several of his movies, and even made a guest appearance on one of his favorite TV shows (yeah, this was a wet dream come true for me…just deal with it).  However, King should not quit his day job (aka writing books I can’t put down), and leave the acting up to the big boys.

Cleaner 1

So who does that leave?  Well, one of my picks would be John Cusack.  Cusack already has a relationship with King, and an understanding of the material (he starred in 1408 and will star in the upcoming movie adaptation of Cell).  Cusack has the ability to play a nerdy writer, which is actually what King is (don’t worry, Sai, that is a compliment of the highest order).  Cusack can bring the life to this role, and would be an excellent choice.

John Cusack 1

The Low Men

I firmly believe that comedy is actually an essential part of horror.  It appears that Stephen King would agree with me, as there is a lot of comedy gold in his books, even the Dark Tower series (yes, really!).

Taheen 2

One of the funny parts to the Dark Tower series are the Low Men.  The Low Men are actually humanoid creatures, but have animal heads.  And they talk.  Creepy, in other words.  So maybe not actually funny, unless you have a dark sense of humor, like yours truly.

And one actor who can do the darkly comedic really well is Kim Coates, who played the character Tig on the show Sons of Anarchy. Somehow the idea of Tig er Mr. Coates donning an animal head and doing really horrible things is not as far fetched as it sounds.  I believe that he would be a viable choice to play one of these characters.

Tig 1

Another actor who has a definite dark side is Wentworth Miller, as evidenced by his role as Leonard Snart (if that doesn’t sound evil, I don’t know what does) on the TV show The Flash.  Miller has shown that he is capable of being cruel and vindictive, which is perfect for a character such as Pimli o’Prentiss.  This is another “can’t miss” casting  choice.

The Flash -- "Going Rogue" -- Image FLA104B_0108b -- Pictured: Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

While we are on the subject of creeps, let’s talk about Rick Springfield.  Yes, the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl.  And the guy who sang Jessie’s Girl also happens to play an incredibly creepy psychiatrist on the TV show True Detective.  This would translate very well to a character such as Richard Sayer, or Dr. Scowthers.  Springfield would have these roles in the bag, in other words.

Pitlor 1


 

The Music

Now, I would like to talk about an aspect of the upcoming Dark Tower movies that I think is very important, but one that I have not seen get a lot of press.

Caves 1

That’s right, the music for the movies.  While I have seen more casting threads on certain unnamed social media outlets than I care to count, I have not seen too many threads discussing any music for the movies.  And this is a grave oversight, as the music is one of the most important parts to any movie, but especially so for the Dark Tower movies!

Obviously, there are references to several songs in these books.  In fact, some of the music referenced in the books really gives the series its charm…

Johnny Cash 1

Somehow, Johnny Cash is fitting…wasn’t he nicknamed something, possibly something referencing clothing of a dark color?

All kidding aside, Johnny Cash’s version of the song Hurt would fit perfectly in the series.  The song is already quoted at the beginning of the last book in the series, and attributed to its original creator.  This is fine by me, I love both versions.  However, Cash’s version just fits in so well with the series…perhaps it is the version of the song that belongs to Roland’s level of the Tower.

Rose

And luckily, there is a wealth of material to chose from if we want to include any other songs by Cash.  Ghost Riders in the Sky would fit in very well with the theme of the Dark Tower.  Out Among the Stars is another song that brings visions of Mid-World to my mind.  I could go on and on, so I hope that the producers and directors choose to pay homage to this level of the Tower’s Man in Black.

As a certain great sage and eminent junkie so wisely reminded us:  Johnny Cash is everything.

Roland and Flagg

Paint it Black is another song referenced in the the books (in The Wastelands, to be specific).  Not including it in the movies would be criminal, and I will leave it at that.  And hopefully the producers and directors collectively remember the faces of their fathers, and agree with me on that statement.

Another band that I feel that fits in well with the Dark Tower series is Imagine Dragons.  Many of their songs (especially this one) has a post apocalyptic feel.  Roland’s world is post apocalyptic, so a marriage between Imagine Dragons and the Dark Tower series could end up being a match made in heaven (or possibly hell, depending on how you look at it).

Leonard Cohen is another one who can do darkness well (notice a theme here?).  Perhaps the producers could use existing songs (Hallelujah is a song that is a pretty good description of what Roland’s obsession with the Tower has done to him), or perhaps Cohen could grace us with some new songs, just for the movies.  Either way, this may be another match made in hell  heaven.

Roland 1

One thing to keep in mind is that the members of our favorite ka-tet were drawn from different time periods.  So any music used in the series should reflect this.  Susannah was a sort of hippie from the 1960’s, so it would be nice to pay homage to that with some well placed Bob Dylan songs, or perhaps some Phil Ochs songs.  Jake was drawn from the 1970’s, so perhaps some Rolling Stones, or maybe some soul music along the lines the lines of James Brown.  And of course, there is my heartbeat Eddie Dean, who is drawn from 1987.  So perhaps some well placed Aerosmith?  Maybe Madonna?  Run DMC anyone?  Of course, music from the time period is not a necessity for these movies, but it would be nice to add a touch of authenticity, and would also allow the audience to make an emotional connection with these characters.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

 


Well folks, that’s it for this week’s speculation and pipe dreams.  For that it is exactly what this is:  speculation and pipe dreams.  Could some of them come true?  Well, anything is possible.  Could some of these ideas never see the light of day?  Again, its all possible!  Or could the folks behind the movie come up with some even crazier ideas that are so crazy that they just might work?  Well, that wouldn’t be the first time something as happened, nor would it be the last.  And of course, this blog will be your go to place for dissection and discussion (pretty please, I love readers!)  But until then…

that's all folks 1