If Stephen King was your dad and you wanted to prove you could make it without riding on his coat tails what would you do? Just ask Joe Hill. He’s done exactly that.
“I lacked a lot of self-confidence as a teenager,” Hill told The Telegraph in 2016. “When I went into writing, I had to know that if someone bought one of my stories they’d bought it for the right reasons–that it is a good story–and not because of who my dad is.”
Mad respect to Hill, the author of some truly awesome horror novels. Horns is great. Now, he has a Netflix series, Locke & Key. Haven’t seen that one yet, but will probably check it out. If it’s really good, I might even review it here. It’s based on the graphic novel by Hill about an ancestral home with magical keys hidden inside.
The problem with Joe Hill is his physical appearance is very similar to a younger Stephen King. Beard and all! So, even if you didn’t know he was Stephen King’s son somehow, you can see the resemblance and would guess.
There is something to sharing a last name though. I worked with one of my sons for awhile and we didn’t advertise we were related. People saw we had the same name and made the connection pretty quickly. So, the best think Hill could do is not use his last name.
I totally get why Hill didn’t want to go by the byline of Joe King. It’s very honorable and respectful to want to have your talent measured by your work, not because you’re the son of one of the most famous living authors ever. Hill doesn’t have to worry about that any more. He’s earned his writing street cred. If you doubt that, just buy and read some of his work.
Locke & Key the entire first season of 10 episodes is now bingeable on Netflix.
After you’ve written as many bestsellers as Stephen King and have legions of fans, you can easily defend yourself with the mightiest keyboard in your arsenal. When he was flamed on Twitter, where 140 characters to Stephen King is like trying to fill a giant’s belly with a single green pea.
This is the same writer who gave us Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, It, Misery and a ton of incredible novels, novellas and short stories that generated awesome films like Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and others.
Twitter is table scraps for wordsmiths like King. He’s not going to take a beating over his views on the lack of diversity without writing a more meaty, pensive article for a major publication that can’t wait to publish anything with his name in the byline.
“My overall attitude that, as with justice, judgments of creative excellence should be blind,” King wrote. “But that would be the case in a perfect world, one where the game isn’t rigged in favor of the white folks. Creative excellence comes from every walk, color, creed, gender and sexual orientation, and it’s made richer and bolder and more exciting by diversity, but it’s defined by being excellent.
It’s good to see that the academy is getting more diverse in its membership. It’s good to see more women, minorities and LBGTQ involved in filmmaking. It’s also good to see the abuse of men against/toward women on high alert in Hollywood. All good. Progress being made.
We need to see more high quality movies being developed by these groups of people and this year would be the time to see them in greater numbers so that come next Oscars season we can see more of these movies nominated for awards.
I would respectfully caution that there could come a time when the pendulum swings the other way. Where the minority becomes these same “white folks” that the game Stephen King mentions is rigged against. We need to be mindful not to discriminate against any group of people, including these “white folks” (I’m one of them) and that is my only word of caution in this rising tide of improving diversification for all.
Disclaimer: Stephen King is my favorite author. Has been for years. I am not a sycophant, not someone who likes everything he says and does — especially all the politics he too often gets wrapped up in — and I haven’t enjoyed every story he’s ever written, but the majority of his work is at least entertaining and, some of it, amazing.
Love him or hate him, the man is one of the most prolific and greatest living writers on the planet.
My second favorite movie of 2019 was a King adaptation by talented director Michael Flanagan which somehow threaded the needle with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining masterpiece and a sequel. It blew me away.
Even as great as King is, though, and again I’m merely one of his many Constant Readers, he can still be flamed on Twitter over stepping into thorny issues.
Case in point: diversity in the Oscars.
the “Carrie” author posted. “For me, the diversity issue — as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway — did not come up. That said … I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
What King says in the quote above is logical. The problem is when we talk about quality from filtered, biased sources quality is already being impacted. King realized this mistake and backpedaled with another tweet a few hours later:
He wrote, “The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.
Kudos, well said.
I never checked who was behind the Oscars nominations until this year. Just assumed it was some body of secret voters. Encyclopedia Britannica provides the answer:
The rest of the academy members are not listed, but we can guess who a few are by looking at some of the requirements to join the institution. To qualify, an individual must work in the film industry. This means that neither individuals who work exclusively in television nor members of the press may join. Oscar nominees are often considered for membership automatically, while other candidates must be sponsored by two active members of the branch they wish to join. Each branch also has its own specific requirements. Directors, for example, must have a minimum of two directing credits, at least one of them within the past 10 years.
In this case, we know the source of nominations comes from the members themselves, including Stephen King it sounds like — although he admits only being able to nominate in writer-related categories. I can vouch for King’s diversity in book recommendations. I’ve seen him recommend all kinds of varieties of authors and I believe Mrs. Harry Potter J.K. Rowling is one of his favorite writers.
So, the answer to the problem of diversity in Oscar nominations starts with the people who are doing the nomination. If it’s the same group of mostly Hollywood actors and actresses they have their own elite club that needs more women, minorities in there.
It isn’t going to matter if more movies are made by women, minorities and LGBTQ, it means more of these people need to become members of the academy.
Until the academy voting collective itself becomes more diverse, the overall diversity in Oscar nominations will continue to be suspect.
Every year since President Kennedy’s assassination in November, there is a resurgence of interest in articles, blogs, films and TV shows dissecting what happened and why.
The film JFK ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ directed by Oliver Stone analyzes the trial of Clay Shaw, the only man ever put on trial for the assassination. He was acquitted, but numerous possibly related conspiracies were discussed. This is my favorite movie on the subject to date and I sort of vacuum up the topic whenever I come across other books, movies and TV shows.
Enter the novel 11/22/63 by Stephen King that I read when it first came out in 2011. That is the best novel I’ve read by King post turn of the century. I’ve read probably 75% of everything he’s ever written to date, so I’m definitely a Constant Reader. This novel belongs with his early works (Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Pet SemetaryIt, etc)
I’ve known for awhile that Hulu commissioned and created a mini-series adaptation of 11/22/63 in 2016 and planned to check it out. Finally, I’m starting to get out of the weeds watching a bunch of Disney+ (still more to watch), that I decided to re-subscribe to Hulu and check this out. Helps that they sent me another free month trial, yay(thank you!)
The total run time is around 450 minutes (7.5 hours). The novel was one of King’s longer works, clocking in at 849 pages, but again, it is an outstanding story. I was excited that there wasn’t an attempt to try and sandwich all those pages into a single movie. Mini-series for some of King’s longer works (IE. The Stand) are a better solution.
All 8 episodes are below.
Episode 1 -“The Rabbit Hole”⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½
We are introduced to Jake Epping (James Franco), who is encouraged by a friend at a diner to travel through a discovered time portal inside a closet back to 1960 with the ultimate goal to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Jake is apprehensive, but is encouraged to test out the portal by carving something into a tree. Jake tries a quick test and discovers that indeed the tree has his initials there in the future.
Now Jake’s mission is return and stay inside the past until that fateful day in 1963. Jake’s friend has prepared a list of supplies including a list of sports scores (nice to see King borrowed this money-making idea from Biff Tannen in Back To The Future Part II⭐️⭐️⭐️½)
This is a compelling pilot episode, that compels the viewer into the story. It is fairly faithful to the novel, to my memory anyway, as well. Off to a good start!
Episode 2 – “The Kill Floor” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
One of Jake’s students in the present had his entire family murdered except him by his father in Kentucky in 1960. Jake contemplates changing the past. This is a very Stephen King subplot about a man who takes a hammer to his family. What caused the man to snap?
This comes off like an episode of Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone TV show. It was good and reminded me how that show blazed this type of territory first.
Episode 3 – “Other Voices, Other Rooms” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Jake moves to Jodie, Texas and gets a job as a substitute teacher so he can continue with the planned surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald when he returns from Russia. He has a partner named Bill now helping him from the last episode, the brother of a victim of the hammer killer. He also meets the radiant Sadie Dunhill.
This just seems more like a setup episode than anything else. Was happy to see Jake and Sadie starting to have some romantic connection developing. Nothing too exciting happens in this episode, more setup pieces for later story.
Episode 4 – “The Eyes of Texas” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Oswald practicing quick assembly of his gun and then captured on film in that historic shot of him with the rifle. This chilling opening scene is a stark premonition of where history is headed. More Jake and Sadie. And then Sadie’s ex comes back to town. Bill develops feelings for Marina Oswald who is being abused by Lee. Sadies stumbles on a secret.
Another entertaining, but not great episode. More drama and setup stuff, mainly. Jake and Bill still trying to decide if Lee Harvey Oswald is the bad guy.
Episode 5 – “The Truth”⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sadie confronts Jake about the secret life he seems to be living. Jake tells her he can’t tell her because he wants to keep her protected. This is playing out almost like a soap opera. It brings me back to reading the book and remembering that some of my most favorite parts were the Jake and Sadie romance twisting subplot. Meanwhile, there is the whole what is Lee Harvey Oswald up to? Is Oswald going to shoot General Walker? If Oswald does, then that is the proof they needed to ensure he would carry out the assassination of JFK.
There is a nasty twist involving Johnny (played skillfully by T.R Knight from Grey’s Anatomy), who is Sadie’s Ex, that makes Jake reconsider his plans. The tension ratchets back up in this episode considerably. This was my second favorite episode to this point.
Episode 6 – “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
Six months later, October 1963, and opens with Oswald getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository. Marina has left Lee and she’s staying with a friend. Lee begs her to come home and live with him again. Marina tells him she’ll think it over. Cut to Jake and Bill still in surveillance mode of Lee. The last six months Jake has been taking care of Sadie. They still don’t know whether or not Lee is a patsy or involved in the assassination.
Heavy tensions between Jake and Bill over Bill’s closeness with Marina. Bill has gone rogue! Good, entertaining episode with a engaging scene during Oswald’s birthday party with Jake and Bill (the upstairs neighbors, how convenient) in attendance.
There is a major twist in this episode that could jeopardize Jake’s mission. This one starts slower, but it finishes strong on a cliffhanger.
Episode 7 – “Soldier Boy” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
11/5/63: 7 days until the assassination. Oswald shows up at the F.B.I looking to give a report and makes a scene at November 12, 1963 intended for Agent Hosty. Meanwhile, Jake struggles with a convenient amnesia macguffin (not part of the novel) to add tension and increase drama around the closing in on November 22, 1963. Jake has a revealing moment with The Yellow Card Man. Sadie is by Jake’s side as it turns into the fateful day, 11/22/63.
This is the lead-up for the finale and it feels very much like. It ends a mere few hours before the assassination, setting up the last episode. Will Jake complete the mission? What will happen with Sadie and Jake? So much up in the air for the finale.
Lee Harvey Oswald walking, armed with his “curtain rods”, which is really that famous rifle, heading into the Texas School Book Depository, whistling as he walks around the boxes in the sniper’s nest and then unpacks his rifle, sits and stares down out the window, down at the street where in a mere couple hours the presidential motorcade will be passing by.
History is waiting.
Episode 8 – “The Day in Question” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’m going to skip summarizing what happens in this episode because that would spoil the fun. If you’ve come this far, then you need to watch this episode and come to your own conclusion, because it’s dynamite in an hour package.
It isn’t predictable.
However, I’ll recount my feeling when I got to the end of the novel. There were tears in my eyes, because I remembered a phrase between Jake and Sadie that King expertly returned to. It seemed at the time in the story like an unimportant event and yet it boiled the entire 800+ pages down into one brief phrase. I’ll never forget those words. You have to read the novel, to get those words, because I’m not going to spoil that here either. Tease, tease, tease, yeah, I know.
This is on Blu-ray. I might pick it up. I think it was an excellent job at capturing the spirit of King’s novel. It doesn’t stay 100% true to the source material — let’s face it, few novel adaptations do — but it is a strong adaptation.
This isn’t better than Oliver Stone’s JFK, but it’s the best alternative history fictional story on JFK that I’ve ever seen. I think once you start mixing in time travel into stories, there are just so many problems with the logic, that it dampens the overall narrative’s credibility. Still, this doesn’t dwell on the technology it just tells a good story.
It says something when you finish watching that you immediately want to go back and watch the ending episode again. Wow. Great stuff!
Waited eagerly until midnight PST to post this. Even though it’s Halloween somewhere in the world, I just wanted to say I posted it on Halloween. Plenty more goodies coming today. I sooooo love Halloween!!!
Thanks to the Fandango Early Access program that is open to anybody, not only film critics and amateur movie reviewers and whatever you want to classify me as (ardent moviegoer? constipated blogger? fan of films?), so long as you purchase a ticket, you can see movies early. The second I learned about this, I went for my wallet. Seriously, I can see one of my five most anticipated movies of the Fall 2019 season early?!?! I’m sooo there.
For those who don’t know the history of this movie, author Stephen King had been hounded by fans and his own thoughts to write a sequel to The Shining. He resisted because Stephen King is not known for churning out cash grab sequels. He has done some series work, notably The Dark Tower, but sequels are different. He didn’t just want to cash in on the greatness that was The Shining. unless he had a good story to tell about what happened to young Danny Torrance.
So at the beginning of this decade, King got the idea worked out in his mind and then had to write it down, generating the novel published on September 24, 2013. It currently has almost 10,000 ratings on Amazon with a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. King has rabid fans, but you don’t get 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with that many reviews unless the book is good.
Before seeing Doctor Sleep, I decided intentionally not to re-read (not something I do very often with any work, actually, but have done with a few Stephen King books) or rewatch The Shining. It’s been well over 20 years since I originally watched The Shining (1980) which was Stanley Kubrick’s vision and adaptation. Stephen King was not a fan of Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, The Shining, but everybody else pretty has been. (Rotten Tomatoes: 83% critics / 95% audience, IMDB: 8.4). In fact, there is an awesome set of integral scenes for The Shining in Stephen Spielberg’s Ready Player One.
So, I was going into my screening of Doctor Sleep fairly cold from the past of The Shining. Sure, I remember parts of it, but I didn’t want to freshen up my entire memory of the original movie before seeing the sequel.
I have started reading the novel, Doctor Sleep, but did not finish it — also, intentionally — before seeing the movie. Just didn’t want to ruin the ending of the movie (and therefore won’t know if the book ending and movie ending are different) and/or be caught up in over comparisons of the book and the movie too much in the review.
I am enjoying Doctor Sleep, the novel, but to me it’s not as gripping as The Shining. King’s writing style has evolved over the years. I don’t find his writing as taut as was the first 10-20 years. That isn’t necessarily a knock on him — as he’s clearly still one of the very best at his craft (he will probably go down historically as the best modern day storyteller ever), but I liked more of Stephen King’s writing when he was more laser focused. Books like The Stand, all of his early short story works and the staples: Carrie and, of course, The Shining, Dead Zone, Christine, Pet Sematary (perhaps the scariest book I’ve ever read!) and so on. His storytelling for me started to get headier around the mid 90s. I have read and enjoyed some of his work a lot since then like 11/23/63 (fantastic story, haven’t seen the mini-series on Hulu .. yet).
So, I’m what you would consider a huge fan of all works by Stephen King, but a little more biased to the bulk of his work earlier in his career.
Now that you know the setup for my state of mind and memory of the first film and novel — both which I enjoyed — that sets the stage good for how I felt about the filmDoctor Sleep. If you already clicked through and read the text review at Letterboxd, you know the rating and why. Also, I provided a video review (again. no spoilers) of my feelings immediately after leaving the theater.
And now at least I’m compiling this blog post to give my final, final review thoughts. After seeing the movie, after writing the review, after recording the video … what is left for me to say about Doctor Sleep?
I loved it.
It’s going to seem like hyperbole, but it’s quite possibly my favorite horror film sequel that I’ve ever seen. Damn, I want to see it again! When you get the chance in a week to see it, you’re strongly encouraged to do so.
Wednesday Oct 30 Doctor Sleep is having advanced screenings (November 8 is the opening date) in various theaters. Luckily, I found a local theater participating and reserved a seat (the theater was about half full at the time I ordered about a half hour before making this post).
All you have to do to ensure you see the movie nine days before anyone else is purchase your tickets through Fandango here.
This will be my first ever advanced screening and it was accessed through an advertisement on Rotten Tomatoes (thank you!). Sure, it cost me $14.11 when if I waited until it came out it would be at no additional charge. The early access price for a movie I want to see (and am reading the book right now) is worth it.
Hurry, if you are interested in seeing Doctor Sleep early, then click the link and reserve your ticket. I don’t know how long this offer will last and seats will be available. Good luck to you!
(Note: I am not making any affiliate revenue from this post, am just passing along an offer I’m personally excited about and purchased myself)
Call me a sucker, but I love these collectible popcorn tubs and soda cups. They usually cost somewhere between $20-30 and are refillable one time the same day for free. Even when not a collectible, we almost always buy large popcorn and soda which, when refilled, more reasonably cuts the price in half.
AMC is selling a spooky black cherry Icee for The Addams Family movie. The cup sure looks cool, but I’m not sure about drinking Icee’s in the fall. Maybe in the heat of summer. AMC also has an all year long refillable popcorn bucket for $4.99 each time. I wish Regal would offer something like that.