Triple Scoop Review: Doctor Sleep, Underwater, and Tigers Are Not Afraid

Doctor Sleep

Year: 2019
Director: Mike Flanagan
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Some
Grade: Vanilla

Let’s get this out of the way for anyone who doesn’t already know: I’m not a huge fan of The Shining. (Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Kubrick’s work in general: I tend to like the cinematography and not much else.) Many adaptational changes annoyed me, especially as I saw the film soon after reading the novel. Admittedly, that was all roughly 15-20 years ago now, so I might feel differently if I were to ever try it again. Point is, unlike many horror fans, I didn’t come into this weird hybrid of a sequel with much in the way of expectations, high or low. It was pretty easy to judge Doctor Sleep as its own thing. And fortunately for me, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Unlike The Shining, which is straight-up horror, Doctor Sleep has more of a dark fantasy vibe. Like, there are creepy moments, absolutely (I fucking loved it when Abra turned the tables on Rose), but the overall flavor of scare is different, kinda like the transition between the quiet, claustrophobic horror of Alien to the action-fueled horror of Aliens. It seems like a natural progression, but I can also see how fans of the original might have been disappointed. What’s really impressive, though, is how much I enjoyed this film, despite its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Horror movies, especially, have to work hard to earn that length without losing tension or momentum, and Doctor Sleep does a pretty good job with that: there are problems in the third act–which we’ll get to shortly–but overall, the slow, steady pace of the film works well for me.

The cast is great, especially Kyliegh Curran (who’s absolutely fantastic as Abra) and Rebecca Ferguson (who makes for a pretty iconic villain, one who I’d like to cosplay immediately.) Ewan McGregor does solid work as grown-up/fucked up Danny Torrance, and I like pretty much the entire supporting cast: Carl Lumbly is a stellar choice as Dick Hallorann, Cliff Curtis is instantly likable as Billy, and Zahn McClarnon is an excellent right-hand man/second banana bad guy. All of McClarnon and Ferguson’s interactions are pretty great; in fact, the whole villainous family dynamic is awesome and makes these guys much more compelling as antagonists.

Unfortunately, that third act is where things start to falter, which is frustrating because most of the problems here could easily be solved by just not returning to the Overlook. Physically, that is; half the Final Battle takes place in Danny’s head, anyway, so why not just make the entire thing one big mental showdown? We could still get all those iconic references and flashbacks without Danny and Abra literally driving to Colorado for no goddamn reason. (There is a reason: Danny is convinced that they can’t beat Rose on their own, but that’s sorta nonsense because at this point, their batting average against her is pretty goddamn phenomenal.) This would also eliminate the awkward sense of Abra just chilling alone in the car for ten minutes, while Danny has an emotional catharsis inside the hotel with his dad. Like, I genuinely enjoy that scene, but also . . . maybe don’t leave the kid alone outside when a monster is literally hunting you down?

Random Notes:

1. Actually, maybe we could scale back just a bit on those iconic references? Cause I do want them, but also, it feels like Mike Flanagan is vomiting The Shining at you for the last 20 minutes? Like, hey, here are the twins, here is the blood, here is the bartender, the axe, the door, the boiler room, etc., etc., etc. Give me these moments, but not one for every goddam minute, please. Space them out or whittle them down.

2. Snakebite Andi might be the most Stephen King name I’ve ever heard in my whole fucking life. I really liked Emily Alyn Lind in the role, though, since I forgot to mention her before. Also, MR. HOMN!

3. I wish Rose the Hat’s hat was, like, more important? Especially after the grocery store scene, I kind of expected something else. Still, I’m never gonna complain too hard about fashionable millinery. I will complain about Danny hitting rock bottom, however, because I definitely interpreted that scene as “baby starved to death after Danny left him alone with his dead mom,” which . . . yeah, didn’t sit well with me. Apparently, though, there are multiple different interpretations of what actually happened to Mom and Baby? Still. If you’re trying for a redemptive story, IDK, I think everyone should be real clear on exactly what your MC is being redeemed for. Especially if it’s dark ass shit like that.

4. Now that I’ve read the differences between book and movie, holy shit, I’m kinda glad I never read this. The 9/11 subplot? The “we’re related” nonsense? What the actual fuck?

5. I’m just gonna say it: “steam” is a little hard to take seriously.

6. Finally, there is a RWBY poster in Abra’s room. I haven’t watched that show in years, but still, I found this small detail surprising and delightful.


Year: 2020
Director: William Eubank
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: VERY MUCH SO
Grade: Strawberry

This was fun enough, but it also could’ve been better. Some scenes are successfully creepy and tense: whenever our characters are crawling through Way Too Tiny Shit, for example, or when poor Mamoudou Athie fucking implodes. (I was disappointed by this; I really thought he was going to last longer.) Most of the cast is pretty great, although I’d probably recast and rewrite Paul (TJ Miller). Still, I’m here for Kristen Stewart’s whole aesthetic, am happy that Smith survived, was amused by last minute Cthulhu, and really enjoyed that Jessica Henwick was our surprise Final Girl. Holy shit, that’s two Western horror movies now with Eastern-Asian women who live. 2020, this is actually something I like about you.

So, that’s the good. As far as the bad, well. The voiceover shit completely fails, like, I honestly have no idea what it’s even doing in this movie? The beginning is especially weird because the first few minutes have this strange, in medias res quality to them that makes the whole scene kinda feel like a dream. It doesn’t fit at all; in fact, I seriously wondered if they were trying to set up some kind of unreliable narrator here. But the rest of the movie is a pretty straightforward action-horror movie (with just a bit of a Lovecraftian twist).

Not all the action scenes work for me, either, because some of them are so muddy it’s impossible to tell what’s happening to whom. Like, I get it: Underwater is underwater. Chaos, poor visibility, all that. Still, when a monster drags two characters away, I wanna be able to tell who they are. I might’ve been more inclined to forgive this if these scenes were strictly from Norah’s POV, as she sadly loses her glasses early in the film and presumably can’t see for shit; unfortunately, that’s not really how they play. Which is a bummer, actually: if I ever lost my glasses in any kind of horror movie scenario, like, it would very much impact my day and/or likelihood of survival. It might’ve been kind of neat, seeing Norah actually dealing with this during the film.

Also, the character work needs, well, work. Norah (Stewart) and Smith (John Gallagher Jr.) both lost someone–the same someone–prior to the events of this movie, but for some reason, they barely have any interactions throughout to build their dynamic and/or lay in the groundwork for this reveal. More space, too, could’ve been given to the Captain and Norah’s relationship, or to Smith and Emily’s. Instead, we spend too much time with TJ Miller, who’s supposed to be the funny, weird guy, and generally lands harder on the latter than the former. (Although I will admit to laughing when he fake-volunteers Emily (Henwick) to investigate something, all, “This is your moment.” That shit was funny.)

Random Notes:

1. I love that Emily saves Norah, and Norah saves Emily, and they both save Smith together. Also, kinda love that Norah punches Emily in the face. Not because she deserves it, but because it’s a good “who will sacrifice themselves for the other” moment.

2. I’m considerably less impressed by how the women have to get way more naked than the dudes. Except TJ Miller, of course, but this is purposefully meant to be comedic, rather than sexy, presumably because he’s fatter than anyone else in the cast. #RAGE

3. The hands-down funniest thing about this movie: Paul carries around this stuffed bunny, right, like, he cradles it, strokes it, makes sure it’s okay as he’s going through dangerous, water-logged parts of the station, etc. He is 100% acting like it’s a real bunny, and I was seriously wondering if we were gonna get some kinda high-pressure nervous syndrome/space dementia subplot shit going on, especially because of all the Alice in Wonderland references. But apparently, there actually was a real bunny while filming, until the director got a stuffed one instead because of safety concerns. Only for whatever reason, he never bothered telling Miller that the stuffed rabbit wasn’t a stand-in. So, dude acted like the rabbit was real because he thought it would be post-production. I can’t begin to tell you how much this all delights me.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Year: 2017
Director: Issa López
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Shudder
Spoilers: Mild
Grade: Chocolate

I’ve been meaning to watch this Mexican dark fantasy film for a while now, and I’m so glad I finally did, because it’s pretty fantastic. Admittedly, I probably could’ve picked a better week for it, like, if you need an escapist upper, uh, this isn’t it. (I literally held my breath when two of the kids walked up to a police car, and was utterly relieved when the cops just took off without killing them.) The violence here isn’t particularly gratuitous; in fact, it’s not a very gory film at all. But children do die, and die violently, on screen. Best to know that going in.

All of the kids are fantastic, especially Estrella (Paola Lara) and Shine (Juan Ramón López). I’m amazed that none of them had any prior acting experience because they’re all so good in this movie. One of the things that works best about Tigers Are Not Afraid: the quiet, funny moments when the kids are just hanging out: play-acting some American Idol shit in an abandoned building, telling ghost stories about this dude who eats kids with his pepperoni, etc. And while I can be hit or miss on stories that walk the line between “literal magic” and “is it, though?” I think the ambiguity serves this dark fairy tale well. Which probably isn’t so surprising, as it’s definitely a Monkey’s Paw kind of story.

I honestly don’t have many criticisms with this one. There are a few moments with this stuffed tiger that I found sorta hard to take seriously, but . . . yeah, that might kind of be it. While I’d hoped for a few specific things that didn’t end up happening, the actual ending itself fits the story well and isn’t wholly, needlessly bleak. And since I am, for once, trying not to spoil too much here, let me leave you with a vague list of some other things I really enjoyed:

The trails of blood
The goodbye scene
Morro is adorbs
The chalk
When the bodies are found

Also, the movie was both written and directed by a woman. YES!!!! I’m always excited to see more horror crafted by women!

“No One Wants To Play With The Clown Anymore.”

Two years ago, Mekaela, Lindsey, and I all went to see It in theaters; I reviewed it here. (TLDR, it’s a fairly creepy horror film that–with just a little more work–could’ve been an amazing horror film.) I, of course, am a giant Pennywise freak who fell in love with both the novel and the original miniseries as a teenager, so yeah, I was always going to see this latest adaptation on the big screen.

And while I can’t say I was expecting to love It, Chapter Two–a 2 hour, 50 minute horror movie has to work to earn that runtime–I figured I’d still probably enjoy it for the most part. Like, I was definitely expecting pacing problems and/or a few unnecessary changes from the book, but at the very least, I’d assumed I’d find it delightfully creepy.

What I did not expect, however, was to laugh my ass off at all the wrong scenes.

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“Welcome To The Loser’s Club, Asshole!”

I’ve said this before, I know, but It is my very favorite Stephen King book. There are problems, of course (the scene, THE SCENE), but the novel will always and forever have a place in my heart. Likewise, The 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry will also always have a place in my heart, for as I’ve described both here and here, it is an incredible four-hour mash-up of genuine creepiness and so-bad-its-good hilarity.

It was only natural that I would watch Andy Muschietti’s take on It, too.

And, well. I definitely liked parts of it. Probably not a forever spot in my heart, though.

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Coming Soon-Ish: Blondes, Clowns, and Apocalypses (Including Ragnarok!)

Thor: Ragnarok

You’ve all seen this, of course. The whole teaser is fun, like, there’s so much going on: holy shit Mjolnir, and all the goddamn iconic hats and headpieces, and the teeny-tiny glimpses of Idris Elba and Karl Urban. Not to mention, I can’t decide who I’d rather cosplay: Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, or Jeff Goldblum.

But it’s Thor’s absolutely perfect reaction to seeing Hulk in the ring that completely sold me on this movie. I figured I’d probably watch it in theaters, having seen the prior two Thor movies there . . . but I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Now I’m like, “Wait, HOW long do I have to wait for this movie? I NEED JOY IN MY LIFE.”

Atomic Blonde

Speaking of joy in my life.

This trailer looks immensely fun. Beating someone in the back of a car with a shoe really oughta be on my list of life goals. There are so many awesome looking fight scenes here, and Charlize Theron seems particularly badass. I’m all for her and James McAvoy having a comedic dynamic, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t actually take a romantic turn: she seems way too badass for him, and I’m much more interested in the Atomic Blonde/French Operative ship. (Please don’t actually die in that scene where it totally looks like you die, Sofia Boutella.)

I could definitely watch this one in theaters. It looks pretty great.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Warnings: Red-band trailer, mostly for a bunch of curse words that I’m absolutely sure you’ve never heard or spoken yourself before.

This is . . . interesting. It appears someone had the idea to pair Peak Samuel L. Jackson with Peak Ryan Reynolds and wrap them together with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard. It’s . . . actually kinda spectacular, really, although I’m probably only so-so on the trailer itself. Some of the jokes made me laugh (particularly at “I hope they kill him; I really do” and “this guy single-handedly ruined the word ‘motherfucker'”), but I’m not entirely convinced that the joke won’t run out of steam in the first 20 minutes. Interested, but probably as a rental.


On first blush, it looks pretty decent. Hard to judge Pennywise, considering he doesn’t actually talk in this clip. I don’t mind them going a more traditionally scary clown route–like, you aren’t going to surpass Tim Curry, so don’t even try to imitate him–but Pennywise absolutely must have an actual personality, so it can’t all be dark makeup and super quick monster crawls in the sewers. Little Georgie’s pretty creepy, though.

One way or another, I’ll see this. It is my favorite Stephen King novel (except for, you know, THE SCENE) and I get endless joy out of how simultaneously both brilliant and atrocious the 1990 miniseries is. But I’m not quite pumped about this just yet. Mostly, I wanna compare the terrible adults from the miniseries to the adults in this remake . . . but sadly, I won’t get to for a while, since we’re saving them for the sequel, a decision I completely understand but am a little bit disappointed by regardless.

Finally . . . The Bad Batch

I have virtually no idea what the hell this is about, but it’s colorful and weird and I’m interested. (I still need to watch A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I’m so behind on all the must-see horror films.) I don’t think I know the actress playing the MC, but I do recognize Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves and Giovanni Ribisi, and hey apparently Diego Luna’s in here somewhere, and–holy shit, that’s Jim Carrey?!

Meanwhile, IMDb is giving me this synopsis: “a dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.”

Yeah. I can’t pretend I’m not curious.

“Mornings Are For Coffee And Contemplation.”

Man, I’m behind on so many things for this blog: I’m way off schedule for my Disney Princess Movie Challenge, and I definitely should have watched Revenge of the Sith by now for my ongoing Star Wars Re-Watch. But today, at least, I’m finally getting around to reviewing a show that I did have the opportunity to check out (forever ago): Stranger Things.


There are, admittedly, a few things I’d like to change. Overall, though, I’m pretty into it.

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Coming Soon-Ish: Cowboys, Babysitters, and The Joker’s Crappy Origin Story

The Magnificent Seven

So, this looks cool. It’s not the all-girl version of The Magnificent Seven I was dreaming of, but Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Matt Bomer, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio,     and some big ass guns? Could be fun. Plus, while this appears to take place in one of those universes that are populated by 40-men-for-every-1-woman, it also seems that our sole main female character will have some action-y stuff to do, so, yay! I doubt she’s one of the titular seven, and it’d be really nice for a western or action film to have more than one (or even two) important female characters, but still, one woman is one more than I seem to remember from the original Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai. So, er, progress? (Unless I’m misremembering, of course. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen either film.)

Also, “I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge” is a pretty great line.


Well. That looks spectacularly bad.

Here’s the thing about Cell: I read this book back when it first came out in 2006, and it was super creepy (until it suddenly wasn’t–I had problems with the second half) because I was late to the cell phone game and didn’t get one until, oh, maybe the following year? So I’d look up from my book on the bus and everyone would be on their phones, and I’d be like, Shit, the zombies are here, THE ZOMBIES ARE HEEEEEERE. By 2016, though, pretty much everyone and their grandmother and their grandmothers’ dogs have cell phones, which in theory would make the story even more scary but somehow makes it feel obsolete instead. There isn’t really any lingering ‘cell phone causes brain cancer or whatever else’ dread going around these days. The whole premise just feels a little silly.

More importantly, though, this just looks like a terrible movie. My only real interest in watching it is as a possible candidate for next year’s Bloody Hearts.

The Killing Joke

I actually just read this comic for the first time the other night. It’s generally considered to be one of the best Batman graphic novels ever. Naturally, I hated it.

I want to be interested in this. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are involved, so that’s a huge plus. I’m all about R-rated animated movies, and the attention to detail in this is exquisite. I mean, damn. This looks to be a spot-on recreation of the comic. But I guess that’s the problem because I really, really did not like this comic. Between the abhorrent treatment of female characters, Joker’s sad sack backstory, and Gordon’s S&M gear at the circus . . . yeah. I liked one of the ideas (if not the execution) and the last page. That’s about all.

Probably going to skip this one and watch Under the Red Hood again instead. Oooh, or Batman vs. Robin. I’ve been meaning to get around to that.

Approaching the Unknown

This looks interesting. It’s hard to know exactly where it’s going to go, and I’m guessing it’s the kind of movie you don’t want to know too much about before going in. Mark Strong, Luke Wilson, space, and mysterious, mind-trippy stuff are enough to catch my eye . . . but I have a couple of concerns.

One: my tolerance for ‘am I going crazy’ stories is pretty minimal, so while some mindfuckery is fine, I can’t have that be the driving question for the entire movie. (Also, I’d deeply prefer it if the answer wasn’t yes.) Two: I’m having a real hard time buying the idea that one guy would be sent alone to Mars, especially if it’s not supposed to be a routine, ‘we’ve done this a billion times already’ kind of trip. I can generally buy all sorts of ridiculous premises, as long as I know about them up front, and admittedly, I don’t know much about NASA that Packing to Mars and Armageddon didn’t teach me–but a lone wolf astronaut in space? Pretty much stretches my credulity to the limit.

Still. I have to admit I’m way more curious about this one than, say, Snowden or the next Jason Bourne movie. (I watched trailers for both but couldn’t manage to drum up enough reaction about either of them to bother jotting down.)

And finally . . . Adventures in Babysitting

Oh, what the shit is this?

Apparently, the Disney Channel has heartlessly decided to mine the depths of my childhood by remaking Adventures in Babysitting, and I mean “remaking” in the loosest possible sense. Godamn vultures.

Look, it’s been forever since I’ve seen the original Adventures in Babysitting, and fine, it probably doesn’t hold up all that well, but this . . . this . . . travesty just makes me sad. Come on, Disney Channel! Does your TV movie have Elizabeth Shue rocking this dress while dancing to “Then He Kissed Me,” or Bradley Whitford as a sleazy boyfriend with terrible excuses, or Vincent D’Onofrio playing Thor (well, sort of)?

I think not, Disney Channel. I think not.

13 Most Disappointing Adaptation Changes

In a way, I’ve been lucky. A lot of the books I love — either recent reads or ones I grew up on — haven’t been made into movies. (Or I’ve never seen the movies — at some point, I feel like I should probably watch The Black Cauldron, considering that The Prydain Chronicles was actually my first epic fantasy series. But my interest is limited.) Because while it can be totally awesome and exciting when something you love is adapted into another medium, it can also be hideously painful as well.

Today, I have a list of some of the more disappointing adaptation changes I’ve seen, mostly on the big screen but occasionally on the small screen as well. This is NOT a list of the worst film adaptations — though that list may be created at another time and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will almost certainly be on it — but of alterations to characters or scenes that were incredibly disappointing, even if the work as a whole is actually quite good.


(Also, the order of this countdown is, as always, tentative at best.)

13. The Anticlimactic Destruction of the Library – The Name of the Rose


I wasn’t expecting to love The Name of the Rose, not after having so-so feelings about the novel. Still, I was a bit disappointed by several of the changes, specifically with how little I cared when The Library to End All Libraries burned down. The movie spends very little time establishing the importance of this library or how this vast wealth of knowledge has been coveted and denied to so many of the monks. So when the library is destroyed, it’s hard to get particularly worked up about it. Particularly because William manages to save at least an armful of the texts, whereas in the novel, he doesn’t save shit.

I wanted to feel every bit of the bitter loss — because it really is one, when you read it. Instead, the destruction of library is treated with the same amount of emotional significance that is given to the cave of treasure in Aladdin, or the tomb of treasure in The Mummy, or the whole of Ahm Shere in The Mummy Returns, or even The Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. (Hell, even the pirate ship in The Goonies fits this trope. I might actually feel the most sad about the pirate ship — and that’s just silly because surely the Coast Guard can track that shit down.)

12. Wendy is a Worthless Human Being – The Shining


All the gorgeously creepy cinematography in the world couldn’t help me when I realized how awful each character had become in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. (Well, Halloran was okay, I guess, which is probably why he died — another annoying change.) But I could have gotten past Danny, who I found surprisingly annoying for a small child, and I could have gotten past Jack, who had a great deal more dimension and nuance in the original novel. But Wendy, man. I liked Wendy in the book. She seemed to be a completely competent human being — only for the movie to turn her (its only female character) into the weakest, most annoying stereotype of a woman. I wanted her to die and die badly.

The Shining is a beloved horror classic, but I’ve never able to get past this. Though, admittedly, I haven’t tried all that hard, as I still haven’t been able to make myself give it a second chance.

11. Vera and Phillip are Innocent and Make It Off the Island Alive – And Then There Were None

and then

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, partially because I haven’t seen the movie in full and partially because the film is technically adapted off the play, not the novel. But the play is adapted from the novel and, also, I don’t care. The twist ending is the very best part of this story — to give And Then There Were None some bullshit happy ending where the leading man and lady are actually good guys who survive? NO. Just no. (Of course, this movie was made during the Production Code, where Vera couldn’t have killed herself because even the mention of suicide was a big Not Happening. I still don’t care. I am offended by the very idea of this ending and will not be mollified until someone makes a proper remake.)

10. Hansel and Gretel’s Parents Abandoned Their Children to Save Them – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters


I’m not going to complain about this being a bad film because I knew what kind of movie I was getting into when I rented it. Actually, it’s far more entertaining than I thought it would be, fully committed to its campy ridiculousness, and not anywhere near the worst fairy tale adaptation I’ve ever seen. (I’m pretty sure that’s still Red Riding Hood, although Snow White and the Huntsman gives it a run for its money.)

Still, I was pretty disappointed with the change in Hansel and Gretel’s origin story because, for me, it’s just not the same story if their parents didn’t selfishly abandon the kids in the middle of the forest for their own survival. Making Mom and Dad secret good guys is boring, not to mention predictable. (Especially when the chief antagonist of the film ends up being responsible for their deaths all along.) It’s also particularly shitty because the mom essentially martyrs herself, gets her husband killed, and dooms her children to a lifetime of trauma for no good reason at all. Oh, white witches can’t use their magic to hurt anyone? Please, lady. You are a terrible person. I hope your idealism comforts you in Hell.

9. Ozymandias is Spectacularly Miscast – Watchmen


I didn’t hate Watchmen the way a lot of people did, and in fact, was quite happy with some of the changes they made — I hold firm to the idea that making Dr. Manhattan the scapegoat was particularly clever. (Sorry, guys. I’m aware I’m failing you all right now.)

Unfortunately, Ozymandias doesn’t work for me at all. He’s supposed to be this superhero archetype, this perfect specimen of WASPy physique — like Captain America, but with Batman’s brain. (Also, German.) Instead, they cast a slender brunette with a wishy-washy accent, and terrible hair dye aside, Matthew Goode just completely fails to be intimidating, charismatic, or interesting in any way. I’ve liked the actor in other things before, but found him utterly disappointing as the superhero/mastermind here.

8. Henry is the Worst – Dreamcatcher


This movie is an abysmal failure. And, admittedly, the novel has multiple problems and was never going to adapt particularly well into a feature film anyway. But I actually like Henry in the novel — he’s easily my favorite character — and in the movie, he is the most incompetent asshole I’ve ever seen. I normally enjoy Thomas Jane’s work, but this performance is just bad, like, there is no redeemable quality to it at all. There are pancakes that are less flat than this performance. It’s like he’s actively trying to do the worst job he can.

I don’t know if I expected Dreamcatcher to be great, but I did figure I’d enjoy watching Henry at least, since I liked him so much in the book. I was NOT anticipating him to be the worst part of a movie that also had Morgan Freeman’s Eyebrows of Destiny and an alien pretending to be a guy with Down’s Syndrome and cancer.

7. Why Should I Care About Shinji Again? – Battle Royale


Battle Royale is kind of a devastating book to read. You thought The Hunger Games was sad? HA. I mean, I really do like The Hunger Games, but gut punch for gut punch, it’s not even in the same league. One of the hardest deaths to read is Shinji’s, who’s a major player in the book, one of Shuya’s closest friends, and hard at work at hacking the BR Program when he’s killed by the book’s chief antagonist, Kazuo. And Shinji, man, he fights hard to live. When he finally dies, it’s just — dude, I stopped reading to cuddle with my stuffed animals. (Okay, I don’t remember if stuffed animals were involved. There could have been. There were Far Side comics, though. I grew up reading those, and I needed the silly nostalgia to clear my brain of sadness.)

In the movie, though, Shinji probably has about six minutes screen time total. And I get it — huge cast, time constraints, etc. — but he never really gets the chance to shine much personality at all and his death scene is veryy underwhelming. No stuffed animals necessary. As an audience member, you just sort of shrug and move on, and while it’s far from the weakest part of the film — which probably has to go with whatever the fuck is happening between Noriko and Kitano — I did feel like it’s one place where the movie really fails to adequately translate the horror of the novel.

6. The Apocalyptic Rock Fight Is Bullshit – IT

rock fight

IT is a deeply unbalanced miniseries. On one hand, it has Tim Curry. On the other hand, it also has so, so many problems. I won’t list each one here, but one of the most downright disappointing translations from page to screen is definitely the Apocalyptic Rock Fight.

It’s just . . . it’s bullshit. That’s all there is to it. It lasts less than a minute and only one of our heroes is actually injured. Six boys, one girl. Can you guess which one gets hurt? Well, of course you can. And once the girl is injured, the shy boy who has a crush on her gets his primal masculine rage on, and it’s all just crap. This was supposed to be WAR, damn it. This was supposed to be EPIC.

I want to hope that the upcoming remake (split into two movies) will do this scene justice . . . but I’ll admit, the casting of Will Poulter as Pennywise has made me less than optimistic.

5. Rogue is Stripped Of Her Personality (Not to Mention Age) – X-Men


This also could be considered a cheat because X-Men is obviously an adaptation of the comics, whereas my source material is the animated series I grew up on as a child. But fuck it, this is my list, and I’m counting it anyway.

X-Men isn’t a perfect movie, but I still enjoy it well enough — but fifteen years after it first came out, I am still disappointed by the fact that Rogue’s sassiness and spunk is all drained away in favor of vulnerability and teen angst. Anna Paquin’s performance is fine, as far as it goes, but this is a completely different version of the character, so much so that it doesn’t even really seem like Rogue at all, save for the actual abilities and the white streak she gets in her hair. And damn it, I loved Rogue as a kid. I basically wanted to grow up to be her. I could’ve been okay with the de-aging, but why, why couldn’t she retain at least a little bit of flair?

4. Coraline is a Spoiled Brat – Coraline


I loved Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. It is such a deeply creepy children’s book — I’d cosplay The Other Mother in a heartbeat. I think she’s quite genuinely one of the scariest villains I’ve ever seen or read.

But unfortunately, I couldn’t stand the film adaptation because I abhorred the changes they made to Coraline’s character. And guys, I wanted to like this movie — I really, really did. But in the novel, Coraline is a great heroine — smart and adventurous and resourceful. I want more heroines like her. In the movie, though, she’s just a spoiled brat who I couldn’t sympathize with at all. I didn’t care if she made it back to her real mother or not, and for the life of me, couldn’t really imagine why anyone else would.

3. Adult Richie is a Cowardly Asshole – IT


Yeah, we’re going back to IT again. Because even worse than the So-Called Apocalyptic Rock Fight is Richie. Fucking Richie.

As Henry is my favorite character in Dreamcatcher, Richie is my favorite character in IT. But not only is IT my favorite Stephen King book of all time, Richie might very well be my favorite Stephen King character in any of his works. I love him. I love basically everything about him. And, shockingly, he gets to live! How rarely does that happen?

But Adult Richie in the miniseries is nothing like his counterpart in the novel. In the miniseries, he’s this sleazy asshole guy pretty much only concerned about his own skin, and I kinda wanted that stupid looking giant spider puppet to eat him. It’s bad enough when an adaptation leeches a character of his or her personality, but when they change that personality to something fundamentally opposite and/or worse? It’s worse than frustrating. It’s enraging. And while IT has many regrettable moments, it’s easily Richie that pains me the most.

2. Lady Stoneheart is Cut From the Show – Game of Thrones


I think Game of Thrones is an astonishingly good adaptation, and I’ve understood — or, in some cases, even loved — many of the changes they’ve made. But nothing has quite disappointed me like the absence of Lady Stoneheart.

A Storm of Swords must have been one of the most shocking books I’ve ever read in my entire life. The Red Wedding. The Purple Wedding. Lysa out the Moon Door. Tywin kicking it on the john. Fucking Oberyn Martell. That book was gut wrenching and powerful and you never knew where it was going. But that ending — when you find out that Catelyn Stark has been resurrected and is coming back for blood? HOLY SHIT, it was one of the most boo-yah moments I’ve ever SEEN. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I read that ending, or how pumped I was to see it on HBO . . .

. . . only to find out that they were cutting it entirely. And, guys, that was just depressing. Wholly depressing. It is literally one of my favorite moments in the entire series, and it’s just . . . gone. I still want Lady Stoneheart so much that I find myself hoping they’re secretly planning to resurrect a different character instead. (I won’t say who yet, in case I wildly and miraculously end up being right.) Or, better yet, that it’s all smoke screen and Catelyn IS still coming back — but the actress and producers have seemed pretty clear that she is dead for good. And while it’s not a show-killing offense for me, I am still really disappointed about it. (Also, kind of bewildered: you don’t resurrect a main character from a horrible death unless she has an important part to play, do you? Either Lady Stoneheart really isn’t pivotal to the ongoing plot — in case, WTF, George R.R. Martin — or the Game of Thrones creators have some serious gaps they’ll have to fill.)

1. Fred Weasley is Killed Off Screen, Leading to a Hugely Underwhelming Battle Between Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II


This moment — or technically, couple of moments — is probably the most disappointing to me because so much led up to it. Seven books, eight movies. Years and years of time. And when the final film came to a close, yeah, I was pretty disappointed. It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, probably not even the worst film in the series, but I was definitely underwhelmed by Deathly Hallows Part II, and a lot of that had to do with this.

Fred Weasley — yup, favorite character in the whole series — is killed off. I totally cried while reading it, even though I expected his death for several hundred pages. And for me, it was obviously the saddest part in the whole book. I loved that kid. But in the movie, they just killed him off screen and spent approximately .07 seconds on everyone’s reaction. Fred Weasley is an important supporting character who has been in every single film, and they give his death about as much attention as they give to Ron Weasley’s jilted ex-girlfriend. Nope. So much nope.

And it’s not just because he’s my favorite character, either — Fred Weasley’s death should be fueling the infamous “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” scene. This scene is, like, one of the most notorious in the whole series. Mrs. Weasley kicks ASS in it. People quoted it forever. But in the movie, there is no pathos to the fight at all, no actual emotion — the translation is rote and lifeless. The whole thing lasts about thirty seconds. Both characters deserved more. Both actresses deserved more. We deserved more.

Please leave your Most Disappointing Adaptation moments in the comments. I’d really like to hear them.

7 Stephen King Books That Are Special To Me (For Whatever Reason)

Apparently, it was Stephen King’s birthday over the weekend. Considering he’s one of my biggest writing influences (and considering I own approximately forty books by him), I figured I should write up a list of his works that have stood out to me for one reason or another over the years. (I could work on a ‘Best Of’ or even just a ‘My Favorite’ list, but let’s be honest: he’s kind of written ALL THE THINGS, and narrowing those into some kind of ordered countdown would be way too much work.)

And yes, I’m aware many people made similar lists over the weekend when it was actually time-appropriate. I, however, prefer to think of it less that I’m behind the times and more that I’m extending Mr. King’s birthday further, so that it’s now his Birthday Week or even Birthday Month. I’m sure he appreciates it.


Beware of SPOILERS, for ye may find them in your travels. And by ‘may’, I mean, yes, yes you will.

7 Stephen King Books That Are Special To Me (For Whatever Reason)

1. Needful Things

needful things

My introduction to King. I read this book when I was twelve and fell in love with it. If Hearts in Atlantis had been the first S.K. book I read, I doubt I’d own all these giant ass tomes now — I liked Low Men in Yellow Coats, and not much else — but thankfully, such was not the case.

It’s been some time since I’ve reread the novel, but I think one of the things I really liked about this story was the scope of it. I come from a small town and I’m drawn to small town stories — particularly horror stories, I guess, because I’ve got mixed feelings about The Tiny Place in Which I Hail From. And I found it fascinating to read about these people who’d known each other for their whole lives, only to completely turn on one another, to watch a town more or less rip itself apart. I also liked the brutality of the book — one of the main characters is an eleven year old boy who eventually commits suicide because of everything that happens. Which I know sounds like a pretty terrible thing to bring up as a positive, but I do like when books surprise me, and I was fully expecting the kid to make it simply because he’s a Kid. At twelve, especially, I liked when kids weren’t treated as Innocent Snowflakes With No Real Personalities Who Always, Always Made it Out. (And I was particularly pissed when he survived in the movie, but let’s be real here — Needful Things is one of the very worst film adaptations for many, many reasons more important than that.)

I’ll admit to being pretty sad about the dog, though. I also once had a dog named Raider, so I definitely had a “Jimmy, NOOOO!” moment when Book Raider bought it.

2. ‘Salems Lot

salems lot

Here’s the thing: as big of a Stephen King fan as I am, I don’t actually find his writing particularly scary. Sometimes I’ll talk to people, and they’ll be like, “I can’t read those books. They’re too creepy.” And I’ll be like, Really? Because I am significantly more likely to be frightened by normal murder mystery whodunits than by Stephen King’s horror epics. (And that’s not me being snotty. I do get creeped out by whodunits. Perhaps this is just like when I was a kid, never afraid of the monster in the closet, only the serial killer under the bed. Unlike most serial killers, though, he always had a sword, which he improbably managed to stab upwards through the mattress, despite the total lack of room he’d have to maneuver said blade.)

However, I vividly remember reading one scene in ‘Salem’s Lot which completely freaked me out. It goes like this: a dude tries to walk down the stairs to the basement, only because the light switch isn’t working, he doesn’t see that the vampires have helpfully removed those stairs and left a bunch of knives on the ground instead. The knives, mind you, are all facing blade up.

Once again, I don’t fear the vampires themselves. I only fear their elaborate booby traps and, also, death by impalement.

3. The Dark Tower series

dark tower

It feels kind of like a cheat, picking the whole series instead of a specific book, but I’ve decided I’m okay with that. The Dark Tower series was unlike anything I’d ever read before. The giant mechanical animals in a secondary fantasy world. The crossover characters from basically every single Stephen King book ever written. Stephen King writing himself as an actual character into the series. It was a bajillion words of what-the-flying-fuck, and I enjoyed the hell out of that crazy ass ride.

Interestingly, I never cared for the first book in the series. The Gunslinger has one of my favorite opening lines of all time, but I had a very hard time making it through the story itself, even though it isn’t particularly long. I would never have continued with the series if I hadn’t been desperate for something to read and found The Drawing of the Three in a used book store for something like fifty cents.

God love you, used bookstores. What would I do without you?

4. The Stand


One of my favorites, despite the fact they kill my favorite character (which is hardly surprising, considering almost ALL of the main characters die) and the rather literal deus ex machina ending (which bothers me less than you might think, although I still kind of wish I could change it). I said that Stephen King books didn’t scare me, and I meant it, but I’ll admit this one is a tiny bit unnerving if you pick up a cold while you’re reading it. Double bonus points if it’s during the summer.

You know how when you’re a teenager, all your stories are ridiculously derivative (if not outright rip-offs) of other people’s work? Yeah, this was totally one of those books for me. I remember starting a story once that was about a mysterious illness that killed off most of the world’s population, but mine was TOTALLY DIFFERENT from The Stand. Because, you know. There were a lot more adolescents.

(It’s a side note, but I wish YA had been as big of a thing when I was in middle school. I had this whole fantasy series planned out — and in fact, I finished writing the first novel/novella — but even then, I remember thinking to myself, Will adults even read books about fourteen year old girls with magic powers? Mind you, I was not some miraculous child writing prodigy, and nobody would’ve ever bought that book because I was thirteen and the writing was terrible. But I think I would have been encouraged just by knowing there was a market out there, looking for the kinds of things I was interested in writing.

5. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

dif seasons

Like most people, I saw The Shawshank Redemption long before I read the novella. And like most people who have a SOUL (Henry, I’m talking to you, buddy), I loved the movie. But the reason I specifically mention the novella (published in Different Seasons) is because I was surprised to discover that the film is one of the closest adaptations I think I’ve ever read. There are changes — they gloss over some of the more explicit prison brutality, which I’m totally okay with, and we don’t find out the horrible specifics of Red’s crime, which is probably the smart choice — but not only are the movie and novella plots identical, the script pulls a lot of its lines directly from the source material. Maybe I’m just jaded after having seen too many horrifying movie adaptations (seriously, Needful Things), but reading the book was a pleasant surprise, right up to the last lines: “I hope Andy is down there. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

It’s a surprisingly upbeat ending for Stephen King, and while I’m often a bittersweet ending kind of person, sometimes it’s nice to end on a happy message. Also, on a not-entirely related note, I think Zihuatanejo would be an awesome name for a cat. Zooey (like Zoo-ee, not Zoe) for short.

Mek? Can I have another kitten? Please?

6. On Writing

on writing

I am not a giant fan of the ‘I’ word — which, if you didn’t know, is inspirational — but in this case, it’s actually pretty appropriate: I felt nothing short of inspired after reading this book. For one thing, reading about Stephen King’s many rejection letters (which he nailed to a wall) was great because if it’s one thing every new writer has to learn, it’s that EVERYONE gets rejection letters. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. Rejection letters are just a fact of life when you’re a writer. Also, I was waging war — mostly silent, internal, furious war — against all my English teachers who wanted stories to be About Something Important, and I wanted stories to be fucking stories, and this book felt a little like validation on that philosophy.

On Writing gave me some useful advice about writing techniques, but more importantly, it gave me hope that someday, I was going to write stuff that would actually get published. I’ve been writing for such a long time that I can’t see myself ever having stopped, but I can totally envision a life where I gave up trying to publish shit and just wrote in my spare time for no one’s eyes but my own. I’m glad that’s not the way my life has turned out.

7. IT


Finally, my very favorite Stephen King book of all time. Despite a scene in the sewers that’s just cringeworthy (and not in the good way), I love and will always love IT. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’m a sucker for friendship stories, for child magic stories, for stories about growing up and returning home and facing the monsters you left behind. I already mentioned my small hometown, and during my more “I-Hate-This-Town-Get-Me-Out-of-it-For-The-Love-of-God” years, I sometimes likened Middletown to Derry, which wasn’t a terribly flattering comparison, since the whole town of Derry basically was IT.

The ending does one of those things I usually can’t stand, where the heroes basically forget the entire story, but Stephen King does it so perfectly that I just couldn’t bring myself to hate it. IT has an excellent beginning and a hugely bittersweet end (which I’d quote, if my copy of the novel hadn’t mysteriously gone missing) and is always on my Desert Island Book shortlist. Stephen King’s written a ridiculous amount of stuff and I like a lot of it, but I have a hard time believing anything is ever going to replace this as the top prize.

Cause, come on. It’s got an evil clown. And, at the end of the day, wouldn’t most books be better off if they had an evil clown in them?


If only Pennywise had been in Rebecca . If only.

Coming Soon-Ish: Stephen King, More Stephen King, Ghosts, and Ryan Gosling . . .


I posted a teaser trailer before, but this is the first full-length trailer for Carrie, and . . . I’m kind of interested, despite myself. I still don’t think I’ll see it in theaters, but I’m definitely more intrigued than I was yesterday. Maybe I should reread the book. I think the last time I read Carrie was in middle school.

If you’ve somehow gone your whole life without knowing what happens in Carrie (doubtful), don’t watch this trailer. It basically shows you the whole movie.

Only God Forgives 

This red-band trailer tells you virtually nothing about the plot, yet I’m kind of sold, regardless. The visuals are exquisite — I’m loving all the reds and yellows — and combined with the creepy music and Kristin Scott Thomas’s opening VO . . . the overall effect is a little disturbing in an awesome way. I could watch this trailer over and over for some time, I think.

Only God Forgives is the second collaboration between Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn. I’ve really got to watch Drive someday.

You’re Next

This . . . also looks disturbing, albeit in a slightly different way. A nice little family reunion at this house — I can’t really call it a cabin — in the woods is interrupted by some scary people with crossbows and creepy animal masks. Violence ensues.

I could try this.

The Conjuring

Hm. Well, on one hand, this actually looks kind of creepy. I like both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga a whole lot, and they look so beautifully 70’s, the both of them. Also, I have to be amused that Lili Taylor — who was in the remake of The Haunting — is in this.

On the other hand, nothing makes me less interested in a movie than the label “based on a true story” being slapped upon it. And I’m a little tired of paranormal investigators right now. So, I don’t know. It’s a maybe.

Finally . . . Under the Dome

This is just a teeny-tiny, twenty second promo for a TV show, but start with Stephen King, end with Stephen King, right? I haven’t read Under the Dome yet — there are so many books I want to read, and it’s SO LONG — but it’s got a really interesting premise, so I know I’ll get to it eventually.

And despite how problematic SK adaptations can be, I’m sort of looking forward to this. I don’t know if it will be any good, but hey, a girl can dream.