Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

What can you say about Stephen King? Like a fine wine, he gets better with age. And King's latest tome of a novel is one of his best. Under the Dome is a brilliant story that unfolds over a week or so in the tiny Maine town of Chester's Mill, where on a bright sunny day in October, a mysterious dome settles over the town, cutting off those within from the outside world.

The story brings us into the lives of those under the dome and we discover many secrets along the way. We share the fear, the heartache and the general pissed-offedness of Chester's Mill's residents. We follow Dale Barbara, the ex-lieutenant from the war in Iraq, Julia Shumway, the town's scrappy newspaper editor, James Rennie, Chester's Mill's Second Selectman (and one downright evil cotton-picking son of a buck) and a hundred or so others.

Yes, at over a thousand pages, the novel is large. But King writes this story like it's no big deal, and that's where the beauty lies. Start reading Under the Dome and you will become a townie. You will feel as if you are there. And that's the hardest trick of all for a writer to pull off, but this is why King is one of the greats.

In my opinion, Stephen King is the literary world's George Romero. Like Romero's zombie movies, King's tales have an underlying message relating to current-day, real-life issues. Sure, it may be covered by blood and guts, but the message is there. At its core, Under the Dome sheds a light on the all-too real horrors that are of growing concern in this country, such as the damage to the environment and power-hungry politicians with one hand on a gun and the other on a bible. King shows us how bad things can get, and how quickly, when the situation allows it. As entertaining as Under the Dome is, it is equally a sobering and contemplative piece of work. No, there are no monsters, but King shows us that sometimes, humans can be quite horrific if the situation is right, and in his work, Stephen King never lies, my friend, he never lies.

Read Under the Dome. It's a literary work of art that may change the way you view the world and those around you. Believe me, you'll never look at ants the same way again. Under the Dome gets ***** out of *****.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Movie Review: The Road

What will the world be like when the end comes? When life as we know it ceases to exist and all we're left with is a barren wasteland and very few survivors? The Road gives us an extremely realistic vision of what's probably sure to be our future if Sarah Palin ever gets in the White House.

Based on Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel, The Road follows the plight of a father and son as they make their way across the dead land to get to the sea. Every day is a struggle to stay alive. Cannibals roam the land, people have become even more self serving than normal and the physical toll on their bodies alone proves to be overwhelming. While the screen is filled with amazing images of destruction and isolation, at its heart, The Road is a love story. It tells the story of a father's love for his son and the lengths he will go to to protect him.

As for the film itself, I was amazed at the job accomplished by director John Hillcoat. This film looked like the end had come. The settings were just incredible. In fact, it's my opinion that the environment was the film's star. The barren woods, the ruined buildings, the rusted-out vehicles -- it was incredibly realistic, and to be quite honest, sobering. And Viggo Mortenson's portrayal of the father lends an unrelenting truth to the story being played out on screen. It was also nice to see Robert Duvall put in just an incredible performance as the old man, Eli. His time on screen was brief, but he was mesmerizing to watch.

The soundtrack for The Road was perfectly scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, masters at creating moody, melancholy music that is truly a musical representation of what's happening on the screen. Their work, as usual, fits the emotion of the film perfectly and I don't think there are any other composers working today that could have done a better job with this material.

As you can probably tell, I liked The Road a lot. The only thing I really didn't care for, unfortunately, was the ending. I felt came a little too quickly and in regards to the story, I felt it didn't really fit.

The Road
is not the feel good movie of the year, but it does represent a startlingly realistic vision of what lies ahead for us if we don't get our heads out of our asses. I give The Road **** out of *****.