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I’m not surprised these exist and I’d bet that many pieces of Swanson inspired craziness are out there. I’m still waiting for his own line of bacon. Or in the very least, some sort of self help or survival manual inspired by the pyramid of greatness, which you can see behind Ron’s head in the picture, aglow in flames.
Like I wrote here, I think Parks and Rec is the best thing on TV right now, hands down. And this season, so far, has not been a disappointment in the least. I was afraid they’d hit a wall, but instead its been brilliant. Last week’s episode about Leslie’s true origins might have been the best episode of the series, and that’s saying a whole hell of a lot.
Like I wrote previously, Dean Koontz has a formula that serves his talents and his readers very well. If you’ve read a Koontz book, you’ve read them all, in a sense, but that’s a good thing and has kept me coming back again and again. I really like Koontz and I know what I’m going to get.
Color me surprised, then, when 2003’s “Odd Thomas” shuffled out some pretty big twists that caught me off guard and sort of re-energized how I thought about and perceived Koontz as a novelist and story teller.
Here’s the set-up: Odd Thomas, a 20-ish short order cook in the small, fictional desert town of Pico Mundo uses his “gift” of being able to see and communicate with the dead to help people, and in the course of the story his talent leads him to a pretty fiendish plot designed to kill loads and loads of Pico Mundo-ins.
If someone used that basic description on me I would likely want to read the book, being familiar with Koontz or not. But as a Koontz fan, the description would establish a certain expectation in my mind and I’d be waiting, in a sense, to see how the various blanks are filled in as the story progresses.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I like that about Koontz. Like it a lot. I enjoy that no matter what craziness his characters find themselves in, they’ll come out on the other end okay, strengthened by the ordeal and ready to move on to a highly realized and self-aware period of their lives.
Koontz’s characters also generally come out of the adventure as different or changed people; no matter if they’re fighting wizards, genetically engineered monsters, or time traveling demi-gods from the beyond the stars, the people that populate Koontz’s southern California universe are better when it all wraps up, their convictions reinforced, their beliefs vindicated.
Also, great harm rarely ever comes to those characters or the ones they love. They might get their asses kicked or go through some really heavy shit, but in the end, you know that everything is cool for everyone. Any tragedy has already happened. And those tragedies almost always shape the character’s decisions throughout the story.
Odd is a different creature, one of the surprises that made me pick up the next book in the series, Forever Odd. He is already self-aware, already resigned to his fate, which is to commune with the dead and try his best to help the living. Odd is not different at the end, he is only Odd, stuck in Pico Mundo for fear of being overwhelmed by the dead that roam the earth, and weary of being sought after as a sage, a spiritual leader, or a demon.
And, not to ruin anything, but Odd suffers a pretty terrible loss, also a first for me in a Koontz book, that really cemented the character as being truly tragic. I’m not sure if Koontz has ever written such a tragic character before (the mad scientist/monster in Shadow Fires come to mind, but not really), especially since Odd is such a caring and smart person.
Also, the film version is due next year and like I wrote about here, movie adaptations of Koontz’s work don’t often come together and I’m really hoping they pull this one off. Anton Yelchin is cast as Odd and that’s a good choice, as is Willem Defoe as the Sheriff, a sort of, father figure and protector of Odd, who knows about his gift and aids Odd in helping to protect people and solve crimes. He’s like Jim Gordon to Odd’s Batman.
My only concern about the movie is that it’s being written and directed by Stephen Sommers, a guy that usually known for high concept action/fantasy movies like “The Mummy” series and the recent GI Joe flick from a couple years ago. While it has its action beats, the first Odd Thomas book is more of a mystery, quiet at times and frightening at others. I’m hoping they pull it off.
As for the book, High Recc’d, for Koontz fans and the uninitiated alike.
Note: Defining the most influential movie of the 90’s is not a science. It is just opinion. The only criteria I came up with was that the movie could have influenced the decade, or beyond, or both. The influence could be defined in a number of ways and could be as obvious as ripping off ideas, dialogue or setups; or it could something less significant as influencing the “feel” or “look” of other movies. Regardless, I just wanted to highlight the 90’s, which were very important for movies and movie fandom.
The first time I ever stuck around to learn the name of a screenwriter was after watching Se7en and while the credits rolled I kept asking myself: Why? Why, in the name of all that is right and holy in this world, would you write a movie like that Andrew Kevin Walker? The final five minutes of the movie hits the viewer in a way that, to be honest, shouldn’t have come as that big of a surprise considering what came before. But it packed a whallop and provided the kind of twist ending that the Sixth Sense got more credit for four years later. It was simply devastating.
But, more importantly, the movie established a pattern that has been aped numerous times.
It brought the “procedural” into the minds of modern moviegoers and TV watchers in a way that was new. The movie not only provided a blow by blow account of two detectives struggling through the investigation of ghastly crimes, but it did so in a way that was devoid of hope and no one, not even our hero detectives, had the sense that everything was going to be okay in the end. Gwyneth Paltrow was the only one who knew what time it was.
Silence of the Lambs explored similar territory but allowed you into the mind of the killer via Lector. Here, the detectives have no such luck, and like them, the viewer is forced to slog through the depravity and grime as they tumble toward the inevitable conclusion.
Morgan Freeman would go on to play a host of wise, older guys that mentor or lead the brash, young white guys. And the setting, a non-descript, dingy city plagued with constant rain and rampant crime, has become a mainstay in these kinds of flicks ever since. But in the fall of 95, it was new and crazy.The Phantom Menace, 1999
I know, I know, I know. But if we’re honest with ourselves, then we can admit there would be no Ceasar in the new Apes, no Gollum in the Rings and damn sure no Navi on Pandora without Jar Jar, which, as far as I can remember, was the very first fully integrated main character that was entirely CGI. The movie is flawed, obviously, but I think George’s only real mistake was making Jar-Jar into a buffoon. If the character had been conceived differently, I think the movie isn’t as hated as it is.T2 1991/Jurassic Park 1993
Two movies that not only pushed the envelope of visual effects, but literally made you say “Damn! How did they do that?” It also helped they were exciting, fun, well written, acted and begged for repeat business.
Pulp Fiction – 1994
Believe it or not, there was a time, long ago, when gangsters didn’t spout pop culture references and have cool dialogue, or have their deeds play out in a non-linear way that confused and excited the viewer. Then Pulp came along and every other damn crime movie had to do something like it, from hip dialogue to intersecting storylines and it burned out pretty much by the end of the decade. Honestly, I didn’t think Tarantino would write anything better than Pulp, but Inglorious Basterds is not only the best things he’s written, he turned the Pulp formula on its head by incorporating different languages into his dialogue and real world events. Udaman, QT.The Lion King – 1994
Realistically, The Lion King took just the Disney formula established by Beauty and the Beast, released earlier in the decade, and made it soar. The story was pretty straight forward, but the combination of the right celebrity voices, the right song writing team of Elton John and Tim Rice and the right timing for a Disney resurgence just took it over the top and made it the last truly great hand drawn piece from the studio. The studio would try to recapture the same magic again and again through the rest of the decade, but Pocohontas, Hurcules, Tarzan and Hunchback of Notre Dame could never live up to Simba’s quest to get his hakunafuckingmatata on.Toy Story – 1995
The passing of Steve Jobs reminded me how integral he was in the development of Pixar and without the success of the first Toy Story, we likely wouldn’t be praising these people once a year for the last decade or so. It’s obvious why Toy Story was influential, the story they told was so damn good, showing that CGI animation was more than just something cool to look at. Watch Toy Story, then watch the opening of Up, or WALL-E in succession, and I think you’ll be amazed. The company has come so far as storytellers in such a short period of time, its really astonishing, considering the point at which they started. Up will make you fucking cry if you haven’t seen it.
Birds of War! Or, my son is making freedom free by dressing like a chicken and wrestling Rowdy Roddy Piper
The one thing that “It’s Always Sunny…” does better than any other show that I’ve come across is shine a mega-watt spotlight on the kind of jingoistic flag waving and patriotism that we’re guilty of in this country. They usually do so with spot on accuracy, but it’s just vaguely hidden within the hyper-hijinks the gang finds themselves involved with.
Last night’s rerun of “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops” might be the best example of that, as the gang decides to host a wrestling match for the troops as a way to inspire and say thank you for their service. Results were, as usual, hilarious and flawed. But the one thing they really hit on the head was this idea that saying something is “for the troops”, somehow makes you not only a better American, but also have a deeper understanding of what it is to be an American.
I live and work in a community where this type of attitude is not only the norm, but expected, in a way. A large retirement community like where I live no doubt attracts retired military personnel and this place, which will remain nameless, has to have some of the highest per capita ratio of retired vets of anywhere in the state of Florida, if not the country. It’s magnified here, to say the least.
There are many car washes for the troops, pig roasts for the troops, concerts for the troops featuring local bar bands, fundraisers for troops, poker runs for the troops, basketball games for the troops and a lots of other events that are supposed to show how much you appreciate and respect the men and women who are fighting for this country.
And don’t get me wrong. Those people who have dedicated part of their lives to serving have stones I will never have or want to have. They are wired differently from me and that’s fine. But I have a sneaking suspicion that most of those folks are serving because they are paid to do so and in a country whose working population is still struggling, a job is a job is a job.
Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t think the same kind of WW II or Post 9/11 surge of patriotism is still relevant and the sense that we’re united under one cause is, at best, a pipe dream for those who look upon an 18 year old headed to basic training as a “Great American”.
It’s all subjective anyway and there are no two troops who are treated the same. Some are lavished with gifts, houses, cars and handshakes with the president; while others come home to no job, no fanfare and a family to feed, although both soldiers have similar injuries. I’ve seen it firsthand.
But that brings me back to Sunny because at least they have sense enough to laugh at it when people like me get bogged down in the heaviness of it all.
The focal point of the show was the “Birds of War” wrestling troop formed by Mac, Dennis and Charley, who more or less look like giant chickens when suited up in their costumes. They also have painted on abs and an intro song that goes like this:
Stomp, clap. Stomp-stomp, clap.
Stomp, clap. Stomp-stomp, clap.
Stomp, clap. Stomp-stomp, clap.
The eagle’s born out of thunder
He flies through the night
Don’t you mess with his eggs now
Or you’ll see him fight
Yes, we have feathers
But the muscles of men
‘Cause we’re Birds of War, now
But we’re also men!
Birds of War!
Now, I have not seen the beginning of the episode so I have no clue how Rowdy Roddy Piper becomes involved, but he plays some old school wrestler who may or may not have murdered his children, lives in his stationwagon and keeps a giant jar of chestnuts, which for some reason fascinates and disturbs Charley.
He’s eventually hauled away by the police and the gang finds they have to wrestle the Tali-bum, played by none other than Rickety-Cricket, who proceeds to kick all of their asses, including Sweet Dee, until the Trash Man hits the scene and slits Cricket’s throat with a serrated trash can.
Now, I’m not sure who decided to dress Frank like Andre the Giant, but it’s fucking genius, especially since his whole shtick is to throw garbage all over the ring and eat it. Which, in the grand scheme of Frank’s existence, sounds about right, but has nothing to do with Andre the Giant.
Also, Dee tries to romance a soldier who she thinks is crippled, only to have him stolen by Artemis. Dee gets her nose broken by Cricket, after he smashes her face with a folding chair while she attempts to sing “Kiss from a Rose” at the start of the match, which she presumes will win back the soldier’s heart from Artemis.
It all comes together pretty nicely with the Trash Man victorious and the rest of the gang bloody, beaten and blind after having sand thrown in their eyes by the Tali-bum. The crowd goes nuts and the one soldier in attendance presumably goes home with Artemis and not Dee.
There is also an attempt, I think, to mock The Wrestler, with Roddy Piper mimicking Mickey Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” Robinson, which was Rourke’s attempt to mimic the lives and careers of people like Piper. Sunny rarely, if ever, goes Meta, but I think they did on this one, however subtle it may be.
There’s a lot crammed into this episode, with the main focus being the “for the troops” attempt of the gang to show their appreciation.
And who knows, I may be totally off on my interpretation of the episode and the associated feelings on the matter. I’m fine with that, too. But it just seems so easy to be Pro-America by being Pro-Soldier, when I think being a patriot, of any country for that matter, is a lot more than waving a tiny flag and getting high school girls in small shorts to wash imported cars in a 7/11 parking lot “for the troops”.
Great episode. A lot to think about. And funny as hell.
Go Birds of War! Caww! Caww! Caww!!
Actually, fuck that. GO TRASH MAN!!!
The Incredible Hulk, who is now a film critic. Or Drew McWeeny at Hitfix. Both reviews really, really, hit the nail on the head.I saw this two weeks ago and I’ve wanted to write my thoughts but the truth is, I don’t think I could bring any new observations, at least not better than
I can say that I was entirely surprised by the movie, by Chris Evans, and how effortlessly Marvel was able to weave together elements of the pre-Avengers movies, yet make this its own experience. Its one thing to have the Red Skull collect the Cosmic Cube early in the movie, but to have him collect it in Norway, from a guardian of Nordic artifacts, was a masterstroke, as was having Tony Stark’s dad, Howard, be an integral part of the narrative. You even get the sense that the weapons and technology that are part of HYDRA’s growing army will one day influence the work of Bruce Banner, but maybe that’s just me looking too deeply into it.
Either way, great job. It was well written, well acted, and very patient. That’s a weird thing to say about a superhero movie, especially one that has this much riding on it for Marvel, and on some level, Disney.
I’ve been meaning to write something about not only this year’s forthcoming prequel, but also my unabashed love for Carpenter’s classic, for quite some time. I’ve been sidetracked, but quite honestly, I’m not sure what I could say that hasn’t already been said before. If you love Carpenter’s original, you likely don’t need me to tell you how to feel about the flick, or the sequel/prequel, but the trailer doesn’t look like a total travesty. It looks like they tried to do it right. It will never be the original, but then again, what could?
Have a gander at the trailer below. Doesn’t look half bad at all. I’m pretty freakin’ excited about it. Sorry bout any commercials, don’t know how to skip those.
I have just finished “The Husband” and will start “Cold Fire” today or tomorrow. After that I’m stepping away from Dean Koontz for a while because I’ve read a dozen or so of his books since I first happened upon “Watchers” (which I first wrote about here), and I need a break.
I wanted to write something about Dean Koontz because for once I asked myself why I’ve torn through the work of a best selling author. And I don’t mean why I like sci-fi or horror or mystery or action elements, all of which Koontz uses to great effect. But I asked myself why I was drawn to his characters, and what about them that keeps me coming back.
To be honest, if you’ve read one Koontz book, you’ve read them all, in a sense. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either. But he’s discovered a formula and it serves him well, serves his message well, and serves the reader.
I can’t remember a single protagonist ever coming to great harm in his work, nor can I remember a truly bleak ending. Everything seems to wok out for his characters, despite whatever crazy hell they may be experiencing, and that’s okay with me. Koontz doesn’t believe in evil triumphing over good, despite conjuring some truly evil people.
I’ve started to believe, while reading his work, that Koontz is a man who is compelled to write about the things he has in his life or things he appreciates about life in general. Overall, I believe Koontz to be a positive, forward thinking person who wants what we all want in life: a sense of purpose, of discovery, and a belief in true love, of two people finding each other amid the chaos of daily struggle. That approach can seduce a reader, I think, because while we all want to escape with a good story I think when we put the book down we want something else beyond those written words, however interesting the stories might be.
To be honest, I often feel jealous of his characters and that’s weird. They have all the accomplishments and achievements they’ve set out for. Not just professionally, but in total, with their lives representing a perfect little island where all is right. Bombs are exploding, evil scientists are mutating and killers are traveling to different dimensions, but the heroes have something to fight for and get back to, once the adventure finally wraps up.
Children, family, love, support, home – these are all things that Koontz has in his life, or really wants. That’s what he writes about. Good things being challenged, being tested. Sometimes his characters discover those elements in the course of the story, but one way or the other they end up on the right side of things, and as a reader I appreciate it. There’s all the other little story ticks: Golden Retrievers or other dogs, high end weaponry, a strong female character, characters running away from their past and reinventing themselves, southern California or other western locales, and a host of other things. But in the end, it all comes back to that underlying sense of hope and love and family, which the majority of his characters are willing to die for.
Truth is, most of us don’t have those things in our lives, probably never will. We’re resigned to our own fates, whatever they may be, and they don’t include true love or triumph over adversity or even a feeling of better days ahead.
Koontz gives me that hope, as a reader. And that’s why I need to stop reading him. That’s a funny thing to say I realize, but life isn’t like that and I have little hope of it ever getting there. That’s just a phase for me and that’s okay. Besides, if I read them all now I’ll have nothing later. And you should never run out of positive things to read.
Koontz doesn’t only write cool, interesting genre mash-ups, but he also writes about good things. And that’s the best recommendation I could give. Koontz believes in life and the opportunity afforded to us and I’m not sure what else you can ask for as a reader.
I want to get into some of the books, individually, but for now I just wanted to tip my hat to Koontz and his approach. Some of those books are more entertaining then others but in the end they’re all cut from the same cloth.