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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 commercial 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)

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Divided Attentions

Greetings Everyone,

I am writing today to admit that I have a problem to you all.  I suffer from an acute form of ADD when it comes to my reading habits.  No, it is nothing that I have been to a doctor about.  It is not a problem for which I seek any medicinal treatment.  It is just one of those self-diagnosis issues for something that I simultaneously revel in and get frustrated about.

 

You see, I have this inability to read one book at a time.  My reading assignment list is reminiscent of that of a college student engaged in multiple classes with a heavy workload.  It is a personal chaos within which I seem very comfortable yet not as efficient as I would like when there is so many incredible works and worlds to become a part of.

 

Of course, there are rules within the chaos.  I can never read two books that have themes that run too close to one another.  This would lead to cross-pollination of characters and confusion.  Another rule is that the book I choose to read at any given moment is geographically driven.  I have a book that I read at work, one that I read when I am at my fiance’s home, one that I have in my bedroom, and one random book that I will read “anywhere else”.  Yes, you could call that some kind of OCD issue, but I would prefer you didn’t.  Haha.  I already feel odd enough about my reading habits! 🙂

 

At this time, here is a look at what I am reading:

 

On my bedroom nightstand is

 

At my fiance’s house is

At work, I am reading

 

And the book I am reading at random times and in random places is

 

 

And with my personal life being so busy these days (as you can see I am getting ready for a gigantic event in my life), I have not been very good about finishing any of the books that I am currently engaged in reading.  House hunting, house selling, wedding planning, and packing have been dividing my attentions in a way that has not been conducive to my reading agenda.  Please don’t read this as much of a complaint.  I am thankful for all of the great things that are happening in my life and a more normal routine will return at some point soon.  But I wonder at how much more enjoyment would be reaped  from my moments of literary escape had I a more focused set of habits.

Is there anyone else out there who has similar quirks, or even other unorthodox rituals when it comes to reading?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Great Stories will be back with another blog this week, so check back with us soon!

 

Chris (and the Great Stories team)

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Storm of the Century

Greeting Everyone,

I’d like to apologize for the extended absence, as it is my intention to update this blog at least once per week.  Some weather patterns that moved into the New England area caused some changes in our update schedule as we worked to unbury ourselves and our neighbors.  That being said, we are right back to it, and thankful in some ways to this recent storm and the additional snowfall we are getting at this very moment to inspire the next topic of discussion here at the Great Stories blog.

 

For me, these winter days make me want to find some warm and comfortable place in the house and open a good book.  In between the shoveling, frostbite, and watching the neighborhood kids laugh and play, there really is nothing better than to grab some hot chocolate and some peaceful reading time…at least for me.  In keeping with the theme of winter storms, Stephen King has provided us with a great haunting tale sure to keep your eyes glued to the page and pull your family a little closer to you.  “Storm of the Century”.

 

 

 

King originally wrote this story back 1999 and it was released as a screenplay with a TV movie released to viewing audiences directly after.  The book form is actually in screenplay form, which is exactly how King wrote it, which makes for a vastly different reading experience.  The premise of the screenplay centers on the community of Little Tall Island, off of the coast of Maine which is in preparations for the biggest storm to hit in 100 years.  With access to the island being blocked off by the impending blizzard, the town suffers a tragedy as one of their residents is brutally murdered by a mysterious stranger named Andre Linoge, who seems to know all of the dark secrets of the town and makes a promise to spare the town if given a young child in exchange.  You see, Andre is an emissary of Satan himself, and he needs to train another soul to take his place in this unholy mission.  As King reveals the true nature of the antagonist and the hold he has over the town, we the readers are left with only shock, amazement at the plight of this town, and a shiver in our bones as if the cold of the Storm of the Century was ours to experience.

 

I cannot recommend this decade plus old story enough to you all the next time you are snowed in, and feeling warm and cozy in your favorite chair, under your most comfortable blanket, and sipping at your mug.  Escaping into the imagination of a great storyteller can be just the thing to pass the time.

 

What story can you recommend to those of us, who don’t mind feeling a bit of a chill in the comforts and safety of our own homes?

 

Until next week,

Chris & The Great Stories Team

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Super Episode 7?

A long time ago in a galaxy not far away by any means, a young boy joined by his loving parents took a journey into the darkness of a movie theater in 1978 and witnessed the spectacle of Star Wars.  His world changed along with many other children, young and old alike as they witnessed the birth of one of the most storied and successful franchises in Hollywood history.  With the release of that movie, a generation of loyal fans followed.  Three movies, full toy lines, lunch boxes, clothing, and just about every other merchandising scheme you could dream up was used to Lucasfilm’s advantage.   The Empire was indeed strong, and a commercial juggernaut.

Fast forward almost two decades, and the loyal fan base was energized to hear that George Lucas was set to resurrect the cinematic legend with three more movies would serve as a prequel trilogy to the original.  Taking total creative reigns with the scripts, Lucas released The Phantom Menace to massive success but very mixed reviews.   What followed from that were two more Lucas “solo” creative efforts that also received very mixed reviews leaving the fan base decidedly split on the results.  While some of the luster seemed to have worn off from the Star Wars legend, a new generation of young fans was introduced and what cannot be denied is that in spite of it all, Lucasfilm had continued it’s amazing record of financial dominance.

Now, about eight years removed from the last film release, word is that the franchise will live again with Episode VII scheduled for release in 2015.  Lucasfilm has since sold the rights to future Star Wars releases to Disney, truly giving the franchise the shot in the arm that I believe it needs.  Disney, one of the few film studio juggernauts that could match Lucasfilms’ success, also owns major properties such as Marvel.  And I can’t think of too many people who have been displeased with the creative efforts of the films they have churned out in the last few years.

Without George Lucas monopolizing the creative direction, who might take this franchise into the future….or should I see a new “ frontier”?  Enter the rumors that JJ Abrams has been offered the directorial chair for the next installment.  The man who created what is in my mind the most inventive, interesting, and entertaining TV show in my lifetime (Lost)….the man who took a sci-fi property that I personally did not like (Star Trek) and actually caused me to enjoy its relaunch….the man who has given us some of the most mystery-shrouded marketing campaigns for films like Super 8 and Cloverfield.  Yes, this man who just might be (for me) the biggest creative shooting star in Hollywood today.  What could JJ Abrams do for the Star Wars franchise?

Color me excited.  Of course, this assumes that the rumors are true.  Well, this wannabe Star Wars fan can hope.  “A new hope” for a better Star Wars future, if I may coin another phrase, with apologies to you readers.   Disney and JJ Abrams could be the winning formula to puts Star Wars back on my personal radar, and maybe even win back some of those old fans who have felt the diminishment of a legend.

Are you intrigued by the prospects of a JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars film?  If not, why?  And who would you like to see bring the franchise back to the big screen?

Until, next week!

Chris & the Great Stories Team

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Icon or Identity?

Christmas went by in a blur as 2013 dawned on us all, and we were reminded that even though we may have checked out of hobby-land for a couple of weeks, a very major event was happening in the world of Marvel…..the death of Peter Parker as the iconic Spider-Man.  Yes, another comic hero passes before our eyes ushering in a new era.  Is Spider-Man gone?  No….just the man behind the mask.  Fan spoiler coming up here in the next sentence, so beware!  The man who was Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) is the new man behind the mask and spandex.  You can read the book to find out all of the nitty gritty details and theorize on how Peter Parker may once again be resurrected in the future.  After all, that is what is bound to happen.  Comic books are famous for such plotlines with major characters.  Shock and awe is good for business!

Pop culture has seen its share of identity-changing stunts for some of its biggest icons.  Obviously, Spider-Man is not the first.  It has happened with Batman (see Azrael), Captain America (Steve Rogers out and John Walker, who later became U.S. Agent, in), and even Hulk (Grey, Green, or Red).  Outside of the comic book world, we have seen cultural icons like James Bond, Obi Wan Kenobi, Peter Pan, Willy Wonka, and Dracula portrayed by multiple actors to much success in the world of film.  All of these actors have had the gift of fame which begs the question of who we love more.  Is it the people behind the mask or the characters they play?

We live in a very disposable world where the flavor of the month has sunk the biggest pop stars the music industry has served to a ravenous public, yet others have carried on past the expiration date and remain gigantic even as their performances wane.    We have seen political stars rise and fall at a whim, while some endure regardless of the tarnish they bring to their legacy.

How can it all be explained?  What is the difference between those that burn bright and those that fade away without a whimper?

Truth be told, every successful individual in the public eye needs a good role, a good character, or a good story to build around them.  Without these ingredients, talent and good intent is sadly not a recipe for longevity.  In the end, the mystique that surrounds the individual is what transcends!

Madonna created a brand, image, and a personality.  She was no longer Madonna Louise Ciccone.  She made herself into a character that has become the story.  The Kennedy name has brought with it guaranteed political success through a series of great tragedies, no matter the individual or the deeds.   And Arnold Schwarzenegger will always have a following regardless of personal troubles and time because people have fallen in love with his fictional roles (such as Conan and the Terminator).  Stories give life to our memory.  And we cannot deny these effects on our psyche.  We are as bound to them, as we are to our families and friends in many ways.

Spider-Man will survive without Peter Parker.  Dracula has outlasted the great Bela Lugosi.  James Bond is still saving the world without Sean Connery.  The legend and lore are enough to carry us all on the many more journeys of fascination and adventure.  We are ready for 2013 to be another year of Great Stories, great characters, and making great memories.

We, at Great Stories welcome your thoughts on this topic, and we would also love to hear who your favorite cultural icons are!