Month: September 2008

“Blaze” of Glory: Review for “Blaze” and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King

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I mentioned in one of last posts how great a writer Stephen King is. I just finished two of his recent novels, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Blaze, which was written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. The first of the two is probably the most realistic. 9 year old Patricia McFarland is walking on the Appalachian Trail with her mother and her bickering older brother. When she leaves the trail to go to the bathroom, she loses her way and goes on a harrowing journey to finding her mother. Impossible as it may seem, but King manages to keep a child-like feel to his writing while still using great words of description. The book is also pretty scary. What’s hiding in the bush? kind of scares, the ones all of us feel when alone and vulnerable. The end of the book isn’t laughable per se, but unbelievable. Though I must say that King is such a master that he makes us believe. He makes a completely unintelligible ending into one that makes sense. It makes into one heck of a satisfying read. But would a 9 year old really use such harsh profanity?



Blaze was actually written about thirty or so years ago under Stephen King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman. It was lost and not recovered until recently, whereas King rewrote parts of it and published it last year. Clayton Blaisdell Jr. is a petty criminal who works his “friend” George. After a series of small robberies from local places, George decides to kick it up a notch by pulling of a huge crime: kidnapping. And not just any kidnapping, George’s plans are to kidnap a baby and ask $1 million for ransom. But three months before the deal goes down, George dies. In his head, Blaze continually talks to George, sort of as a comforting companion who calls him “dummy” and “a**hole”. Nevertheless, the history of Blaze is fascinating and extremely well written. This book doesn’t have the same style as most of King’s books. But then again, that was why Stephen King began to write novels under another name. He apparently wanted to recreate his success. If success is based on literary style then he wins again. A surprisingly heartwarming book, Blaze is one of King’s greatest books, along with Dolores Claiborne, The Stand, and others. Blaze and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon are the perfect argument for why Stephen King enthralls us every time.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: B+

Blaze: A-







I, Spy: Review for “Burn After Reading”

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                                          The Coen Brothers are back from their Best Picture winning No Country for Old Men, one of the darkest films of 2007.  The brothers are famous for such black comedies as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and Fargo and their newest film, Burn After Reading, is one of their funniest. When Osbourne Cox (a fantastic John Malkovich), a CIA analyst, is demoted, his life takes a roller coaster turn. His wife (Tilda Swinton), he finds out, wants a divorce and is sleeping with an unshaven, rugged CIA man named Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). But as the wife wants out, she also needs the account information. She burns it onto a disc and accidentally leaves it at the gym, where a self-conscious gym worker (a brilliant Frances McDormand) and a trainer (a hair-raising performance by Brad Pitt) stumble upon the disc. They assume that the disc is full of CIA secrets and tries to blackmail Osbourne for $50,000.  But when Osbourne threatens the two, and the Russians want more information than they have, Chad goes back to the house to find more on the computer. Harry unexpectedly comes hom, so Chad is forced to hide in the closet. The next thing that happens is as shocking as it is funny. J.K. Simmons plays a CIA Superior, and he gets some of the kost laughs, portraying him as a somewhat lazy man who wants to cover things up at all cost. Linda, played by McDormand (who won an Oscar for the Coen Brothers’ Fargo), is very reminiscent of Marge Gunderson. She has almost the exact same hairstyle and a very similar tone of voice. Brad Pitt’s Chad is a character that could be summarized as one of those high school jocks who never really grew up. His head bobbing to the music on his iPod gets some of the funniest laughs. John Malkovich plays the foul-mothed analyst with precision and Tilda Swinton as the cheating wife is brilliant. George Clooney is surprisingly funny as a womanizer, a kind of comedy that hasn’t always worked for him (like in Leatherheads). The script, whether a send up of security and greed or not, shows off the trademark dialogue that the Coen’s are famous for. The subtlety of the comedy is what I like most. I never cared for the really obvious comedy that is all too often showcased in dumb sitcoms. A really funny spy movie it is. Even if it doesn’t become the next Oscar win for Joel and Ethan, it sure is one of the funniest of the summer.

Grade: A- 


Take One: The “King” of Horror

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One of my favorite writers is Stephen King. Yes, he writes lots of scary stuff, but 1. what’s wrong with writing in a certain genre and 2. he doesn’t just write horror. Or, if you think about it, everyone writes horror to some extent. But my point is that King is a good writer period, no matter what genre. He mystifies the reader in The Eyes of the Dragon, he brings sympathy to laborers with lousy jobs in the short story Luckey Quarter (published in Everything’s Eventual), and gives us a woman with a rapid mouth to root for in Dolores Claiborne. He creeps us out when we’re lost in the woods (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon), tells us if we ever become famous, stay clear of stalkers, or in Annie Wilkes’ words “number one fans” (Misery), and to be aware of everything you’re told and to not listen blindly to people ( the novella Apt Pupil). He brings us stories of our youth (The Body) and our lack of sleep cycles (Insomnia). Any good writer can transform a touchy subject, like domestic violence, which King touches upon a lot, into a mind blowing story for the ages. I personally enjoy scary stories, and I don’t really see King’s stories as “scary” per se. More suspenseful or terrifying I would say. I recently finished The Girl Who loved Tom Gordon  about a young girl who gets lost in the woods, and for comfort, imagines her favorite Red Sox baseball player with her. That is a story that many people can identify with. My favorite book of his is Dolores Claiborne, the story of a woman who is accused of killing the owner of the house she cleaned for twenty-two years. This woman is not fancy, but merely a woman who does her  job well, even though she hates it. My mother is very similar to the character. Both care for people as a job, both have foul mouths, and both are strong women with kids. Please comment on your reasons for enjoying Stephen King or disliking him.

War Games: Review for “Tropic Thunder”

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Tropic Thunder is the story of stereotypes in the movie nusiness. Robert Downey Jr. does a terrific job as method actor Kirk Lazurus, this time playing a black guy. Before production, he went under skin pigmentation. Kirk is like Daniel Day-Lewis on crack. Kirk has five Oscars and is from Australia. Jack Black plays an actor who has gained his fart-une from the comedy franchise The Fatties. Due to his films lacking in any real significance, he often gets high off heroine. Ben Stiller plays the action hero actor Tugg Speedman, whose Scorcher franchise (six films in all) is burning out. All these character represent wonderful stereotypes in Hollywood. As I have just written, you have the Method Actor, the Comic, and the Action Hero. Their next film is Tropic Thunder, the story of a brief battle in Vietnam written by a mysterious and handless guy named Four Leaf, who is played by a hilarious Nick Nolte. During the first couple weeks of production, news is making that the director (Steve Coogan, Hamlet 2) can’t handle the responsibilities of a big budget film. Access Hollywood has a brilliant mock news story that appears. So to make things easier, he just sends out his main actors in the woods on location, where they stumble upon drug “factory” somewhere in Asia. What they believe is a set filled with actors and extras turns out to be their worst nightmare. The film is a homage to those Vietnam war films of the 1980s, like Apocalypse Now and Platoon. It’s also a loving message to the film industry, complete with whiny actors, impatient directors, and evil studio executives (a spectacular Tom Cruise). It even has fake movie trailer for the lead actors! It’s a really great film with funny dialogue (“I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude!”) and top notch acting. Robert Downey Jr. is awesome as the method actor so closely resembling Day-Lewis, who is a very serious method man (Fun fact: Day-Lewis mastered knife throwing for his role in Gangs of New York). A very funny film with a great cast!

Grade: A-