Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: the Movie

Tommy as the green ranger
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the television show, is something I grew up on. I had action figures, posters, and a red ranger Halloween costume when I was younger. I don't have any of them anymore and that's kind of a shame. I should have at least kept just one item because they probably are worth something now. My favorite power ranger was Tommy back when he was the bad guy green ranger. Later on he would become a good guy and the white ranger. But I thought he was the coolest as the bad green ranger.

So when this movie was made I was so excited and I couldn't wait to see it. My dad took me and my brother to the theater and we watched it. I believe I greatly enjoyed it.

Recently, I decided to watch the movie again for the first time since I was probably ten. I knew it would be cheesy, but I told myself I wouldn't call it a bad movie no matter what. I view this movie as a "legacy movie" in that this movie and the series it is based on is more a part of my childhood and judging it as an adult kind of seems like heresy.

So no, I'm not going to drag this movie into the dirt and make fun of it. Plenty of other people seem willing to do just that.

But I will say that the special effects really jumped out at me because of how bad they were. Sure, the series had some phenomenally bad special effects because all of the giant zords were really just guys in costumes. But in this movie it's CGI (or whatever passed for CGI at the time this movie was made) that make up the zords. As a kid I thought the zords looked so much cooler in the movie, but now I think they probably should have just gone with guys in costumes.

Anyway, I haven't said much about the story so let me get to that now.

Lord Zedd
The evil Lord Zedd (the most killer-looking Power Rangers villain ever) and his companion Rita Repulsa wish to revive Ivan Ooze (portrayed by Paul Freeman) so he can destroy Zordon (portrayed by Nicholas Bell) and the pesky Power Rangers (portrayed by Johnny Yong Bosch, Jason David Frank, Karan Ashley, Steve Cardenas, David Yost, and Amy Jo Johnston). Well, Ivan willingly destroys the home of Zordon and leaves him to die a slow death. The attack leaves the rangers drained of their formidable powers and zords and they are transported elsewhere with the little energy left in Zordon's home with the hope that they can find the mystical "great power." Meanwhile, Ivan Ooze betrays Rita and Zedd and begins to terrorize the world with no one to stop him.

This movie is primarily for the folks who grew up watching the movie or those that used to watch the show with their kids and actually enjoyed it. Others might enjoy it, but I'm not sure many would or why they would.

It's cheesy. Ridiculously cheesy. It makes The Spirit look like an absolute work of art. But... a movie meant for kids should never be judged for what it isn't. There's no sex, violence, or profanity. There are a handful of annoying characters like the pig-looking creature or Alpha 5 that are present for the purposes of  making kids grin. But I don't believe any of them come close to being as annoying as Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

There is a semi-sequel called Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, but it is not recommended for anyone who has not seen the actual series because Turbo acts as the introduction to the Power Rangers Turbo series whereas Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie is more independent of the series on which it is based and can be viewed without really following the series.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Spirit (2008) - A Review

I bought this movie as a cheap double feature. The other movie was Sin City and I mostly bought it just for that movie (and no, I haven't seen it as of this blog post). I'd heard about The Spirit, but I didn't know much more. It had Samuel L. Jackson in it so that had to be a start, right? Well, I checked the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes rankings and saw that The Spirit wasn't quite a blockbuster in the eyes of many folks. So I decided to watch the movie anyway.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love movies. Good, bad, or ugly, I can always find something watchable in a movie. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space and Gigli had redeeming qualities about them. Not many, mind you. But just enough for me to say that I remember at least one scene that wasn't completely terrible.

I found a lot of things I liked about The Spirit. It's no work of art. But it's not too bad. I will say that I liked it more than 300.

But to watch this movie I believe you should be in the right mindset. Go in with few expectations, don't expect a serious superhero movie like Batman Begins, and expect Samuel L. Jackson and his goofy cohorts to lay on the cheese. Especially when it comes to eggs.

The story opens with Denny Colt (portrayed by Gabriel Macht), a man whose alter ego is the red-tie wearing Spirit. Denny Colt just happens to be dead, but for some strange reason he rose again. Colt's arch enemy in the movie is a criminal called The Octopus (portrayed by Jackson) and The Octopus is after a package that contains something called the Blood of Heracles. The Octopus (a combination of the Octopus and Dr. Cobra from the comics) and The Spirit can both take a lot of pain. They seem to share something in common other than being enemies, but the Spirit doesn't know what. And how does the Blood of Heracles fit in? Well, that's why a movie was made. Along the way an old flame of Denny Colt's, named Sand Saref (portrayed by the smokin' hot Eva Mendes), pops up and seemingly is in cahoots with the Octopus. It's up to the Spirit to find out everything and stop the Octopus from getting away with his diabolical plans.

I thought this movie was kind of like the ugly cousin of The Crow meets Mystery Men. So I guess that makes it a bad movie, but I think it's all a matter of perspective. This is a goofy movie and not all of the gags hit the mark, but I still find it entertaining and enjoyable. Samuel L. Jackson helps a lot, though. Beer would probably make the movie even better.

But, as it is, I'd recommend this movie to anyone who likes movies like Mystery Men, Judge Dredd, RoboCop 2, or Punisher: War Zone. It's really not too terrible and I'd be willing to watch this movie a few more times. If you're a stickler for details and you've read the comics then you'll probably be extremely disappointed. I haven't really read the comics so I can't say for sure, but that's typically the way these things work.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (aka Knockin' On Heaven's Door) (Kaubōi Bibappu: Tengoku no Tobira)

Reviewing the Trigun movie made me want to review Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (also known as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door). Cowboy Bebop is a very short series like Trigun with only 26 episodes and this movie (like the Trigun movie) takes place somewhere in the middle of the series.

Both shows are "space westerns," but Cowboy Bebop manages to include a "film noir" feel to it. Each of the episodes can be viewed independent of the other, but subtle details about the backgrounds of each character are given throughout the series. An average watcher would miss certain clues or not understand why they are important, but avid fans appreciate each morsel of information and then fill in the blanks on their own.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie feels very much the same as the series. Nothing that will contradict the series or spoil it (as the Dragonball Z movies are notorious for) is in the movie. It doesn't tell you anymore about the characters than you need to know to enjoy the movie. Newcomers watching the movie might not understand a certain character's motivation at first so that might be considered drawback. But I think the characters are so well-rounded that they can speak for themselves. Most of the series doesn't provide answers so it would be understandable that the movie wouldn't either. Just watch it, enjoy it for the trip, and if you want to know more then you should seek out the series.

But I'll give you a brief introduction to the characters like I did with the characters from Trigun: Badlands Rumble and then I'll give you an overview of the movie, okey dokey?

The main character of the series is Spike Spiegel. Spike is a bounty hunter born on Mars in the year 2044. He's a man with a checkered past and a penchant for sleight of hand and sarcasm. He's a great pilot and a constant smoker.

Spike's bounty hunter partner is Jet Black, a former cop. Together the two of them ride through space on the Bebop (the name of Jet's ship) looking for bounties and often not getting any. Instead they collect people like Faye Valentine and Edward. Faye is an amnesiac with an even more peculiar past than Spike. She also has an attitude that drives everyone crazy and a lust for money. Good thing she has found her way into the company of two bounty hunters, huh?

The other fellow I mentioned, Edward, is a supposedly teenage girl who happens to be a hacker. She is quite peculiar and she often refers to herself in the third person. Also in her company is a Corgi named Ein. How they find themselves in the company of Spike, Jet, and Faye is for the series to explain. But for the purposes of the movie, they are already together.

The movie takes place just before Halloween in the year of 2071. A deadly virus has just been released on the capital city of Mars. A 300 million woo-long reward (the largest bounty ever) is offered by the government for the capture of the culprit. Naturally, the crew of the Bebop want to be the ones to get him. But the strange man behind the attacks is a man with a hidden past, an unknown agenda, and a belief that there is no future for him. His name is Vincent. And Vincent's life is one that doesn't seem to be bound by the rules of reality. How can Spike and the gang stop him before Vincent's next attack can do even more damage?

This movie was released in Japan just ten days before the attacks of 9/11. As a result the film's American release was postponed by two years. The title of Knockin' on Heaven's Door was dropped by that time to avoid a possible law suit, too. The series typically had each episode named for a song and it's a shame the title for the movie had to be changed. But the postponement of the American release is understandable.

But it is available now and it is a fitting movie for a time that was very scary indeed. The animation is fantastic and an improvement on the series. (I just love when anime films get big budgets!)

Any time spent with these characters is a good time. Trust me.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Trigun is one of my favorite anime series ever. Comprised of only 26 episodes, it is as amazing as it is brief. The story follows the character of Vash the Stampede (also known as "the Humanoid Typhoon") as he often finds his way into trouble even when he's not looking for it. Vash is a sharpshooting enigma with a few problems. One of the problems that he has is a $$60,000,000,000 (sixty billion double dollar) bounty on his head. Of course, it's all a very big misunderstanding. Vash just wants two things out of life: love and peace. Vash hates violence and refuses to kill anyone.

Whoever heard of a gunman that doesn't kill people? Well, that's what makes Vash who he is.

Following Vash around are two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are assigned with the unfortunate duty of evaluating claims regarding the Humanoid Typhoon. Naturally, they do not believe that Vash is actually the one they are following when they first meet him. He just doesn't fit the bill of a bloodthirsty human disaster. Well, he isn't. They believe him to be a goofball.  Well, he's not quite the goofball he seems to be, but bad things do tend to happen him and he is often blamed for other peoples' wrongdoings.

Eventually another character finds Vash. His name is Nicholas D. Wolfwood and he is a traveling man of the cloth who just happen to carry some serious firepower. Wolfwood's reasons for being around Vash are as mysterious as Vash's reasons for being... Vash.

It is these four characters that feature in the movie Trigun: Badlands Rumble and the movie is that much better for it. Coming twelve years after the end of the series (although taking place somewhere in the middle of the series), this film is a welcome revisit with my favorite characters. All of them look like how I remember them with one exception: the animation is so much sharper.

The movie begins 20 years before the start of the series. A robber named Gasback is about to be betrayed and killed by his gang until Vash the Stampede steps in to save him (and Vash is considered to be an accomplice of Gasback for doing so even though he had nothing to do with the robbery).

20 years later Vash is still being Vash and Gasback is planning revenge on those that tried to kill him. Coincidence would have it that Vash and Gasback end up going to the same town. Gasback has somehow enlisted the help of Wolfwood while Vash has befriended a woman named Amelia who bears a grudge against the robber and wants to kill him. If only she knew that it was Vash that saved Gasback 20 years ago...

The two tag-teams face off and it is anybody's guess who will win. But it's tough to take sides against Vash.

This movie is great for fans of the series or for newcomers. There are no spoilers or any newly discovered facts that will go over the heads of any newbies or shock any Trigun veterans. That doesn't mean the movie is redundant, either. It's an extra chapter to the series that may not be necessary for inclusion in the Trigun series, but it is welcomed and appreciated. It feels both new and old to me. I feel like I'm watching the series again except this just happens to be an episode I've never seen before. That's what it feels like.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Deep Purple from Worst to First

Deep Purple has had four vocalists, two keyboardists, four guitarists (one being Joe Satriani who only toured with the band and didn't actually record an album), three bassists, and one drummer. Their overall material has included everything from the blues to psychedelic to progressive rock. This is easily the hardest list I've tried to compile. Just when I think I have the order just the way I want it I go back and listen to a specific release and I arrive in the land of indecision again. But after days of struggling, I've finally come up with a list that I'm willing post.

18. Stormbringer (1974) - Stormbringer has an incredible title track, but I find the rest of the album to be sorely lacking. Well, I suppose there are a few decent songs like Soldier of Fortune and Lady Double Dealer. But it's no Burn, that's for sure. There's a bit more funk and soul on this album, but Ritchie Blackmore doesn't do funk and soul well. Although Blackmore has long been considered to be a musical tyrant, I can understand how he became so frustrated with the musical direction that Deep Purple was taking that he left to form his own band. Had Blackmore's heart been in this project it might have turned out better.

Stormbringer (4:03)
Love Don't Mean a Thing (4:23)
Holy Man (4:28)
Hold On (5:05)
Lady Double Dealer (3:19)
You Can't Do It Right (With the One You Love) (3:24)
High Ball Shooter (4:26)
The Gypsy (4:13)
Soldier of Fortune (3:14)
Holy Man [Glenn Hughes remix] [35th anniversary bonus track] (4:32)
You Can't Do It Right (With the One You Love) [Glenn Hughes remix] [35th anniversary bonus track] (3:27)
Love Don't Mean a Thing [Glenn Hughes remix] [35th anniversary bonus track] (5:07)
Hold On [Glenn Hughes remix] [35th anniversary bonus track] (5:11)
High Ball Shooter (instrumental) [35th anniversary bonus track] (4:30)

Line-up: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

17. Shades of Deep Purple (1968) - Deep Purple's first album is a psychedelic curiosity for anyone unfamiliar with the beginnings of the band. Consisting of one instrumental, four cover songs, and three decent  original songs, I don't think there are many people that would consider this to be an all-time classic. Ritchie Blackmore sounds more like a Jimi Hendrix clone than the neo-classical genius he would later become. So I guess it's no coincidence that Hey Joe is one of the songs they decided to cover. Mandrake Root is the best song on this album (even if the cover of Hush is the most well known), but the song screams of Hendrix's Foxey Lady during the verses and I guess that's no coincidence either.

Well, I guess every band has to start somewhere.

And the Address (4:38)
Hush (4:24)
One More Rainy Day (3:40)
Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad (7:19)
Mandrake Root (6:09)
Help (6:01)
Love Help Me (3:49)
Hey Joe (7:33)
Shadows (album outtake) [re-issue bonus track] (3:39)
Love Help Me (instrumental version) [re-issue bonus track] (3:30)
Help (alternate take) [re-issue bonus track] (5:24)
Hey Joe (BBC Top Gear Session; 14 January 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (4:06)
Hush (live US TV 1968) [re-issue bonus track] (3:53)

Line-up: Rod Evans, Nick Simpler, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

16. Deep Purple (1969) - The final album to feature the first line-up of the band, Deep Purple's self-titled release features more of the same material that they did on their first and second albums: curious psychedelic rock with a cover song or two. In this case the only cover song on here is Lalena, a Donovan song. Why didn't Rosemary? (supposedly inspired by watching the movie Rosemary's Baby) and Bird has Flown are two of the better songs on the album. Ritchie Blackmore's guitar still sounds a bit too much like Jimi Hendrix for my taste. Luckily, Blackmore would find himself in time for Ian Gillan's arrival. Vocalist Rod Evans would briefly go on to make better music with Captain Beyond before dropping off the face of the earth and bassist Nick Simpler pretty much just dropped off the face of the earth.

Chasing Shadows (5:34)
Blind (5:26)
Lalena (5:05)
Fault Line (1:46)
The Painter (3:51)
Why Didn't Rosemary? (5:04)
Bird Has Flown (5:36)
April (12:10)
The Bird Has Flown (alternate b-side version) [re-issue bonus track] (2:54)
Emmaretta (single a-side) [re-issue bonus track] (3:00)
Emmaretta (BBC radio session; 16 January 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (3:09)
Lalena (BBC radio session; 6 June 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (3:33)
The Painter (BBC radio session; 6 June 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (2:18)

Line-up: Rod Evans, Nick Simpler, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

The Book of Taliesyn (1968) - Featuring three odd cover tunes and four original songs (one being an instrumental), The Book of Taliesyn is another typical early Purple release. The cover of Kentucky Woman is the most well known song from this album, but Shield is a much better song. It's the kind of song that would be great to drop acid to. Jon Lord's keyboard riff is certainly creepy. The ten-minute cover of River Deep, Mountain High is the centerpiece of the album and it shows what early Purple did best: taking other people's songs and bloating them up to where they were almost unrecognizable. 

Listen, Learn, Read On (4:05)
Wring That Neck (5:13)
Kentucky Woman (4:44)
Exposition/We Can Work It Out (medley) (7:06)
Shield (6:06)
Anthem (6:31)
River Deep, Mountain High (10:12)
Oh No No No (studio outtake) [re-issue bonus track] (4:25)
It's All Over (BBC Top Gear session; 16 January 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (4:14)
Hey Bop a Re Bop"(BBC Top Gear session; 16 January 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (3:31)
Wring That Neck (BBC Top Gear session; 16 January 1969) [re-issue bonus track] (4:42)
Playground (remixed instrumental studio outtake; 18 August 1968) [re-issue bonus track] (4:29)

Line-up: Rod Evans, Nick Simpler, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

14. Come Taste the Band (1975) - Heavier than Stormbringer, the first Deep Purple album to not feature Ritchie Blackmore is a peculiar album. I suppose it could be called a relatively decent rock album, but it's nothing too memorable. And it's clearly not a Deep Purple album to my ears. It sounds more like a Coverdale/Hughes solo project under the Deep Purple name (much like Seventh Star was an Iommi/Hughes solo project under the Black Sabbath name). It just doesn't fit the Deep Purple mold (and yes, I know there are a few that can fit this claim... I'm pretty sure you'll find all of them at the bottom of this list, too). But again, I still consider this to be a decent effort and much better than Stormbringer. It would have been interesting see if this line-up could have done something better, but Purple called it quits in early '76 and then Tommy Bolin died from a drug overdose only months later.

Comin' Home (3:54)
Lady Luck (2:48)
Gettin' Tighter (3:36)
Dealer (3:53)
I Need Love (4:24)
Drifter (4:05)
Love Child (3:07)
This Time Around/Owed to 'G' (6:13)
You Keep on Moving (5:22)
You Keep on Moving (Single Edit) [bonus track] (4:32)

Disc two (2010 Kevin Shirley Remixes)
Comin' Home (4:08)
Lady Luck (2:46)
Gettin' Tighter (4:23)
Dealer (3:55)
I Need Love (5:16)
You Keep on Moving (5:18)
Love Child (3:05)
This Time Around (3:24)
Owed to 'G' (2:56)
Drifter (3:59) 
Same in LA [previously unreleased] (3:19)
Bolin/Paice Jam [previously unreleased] (5:47)

Line-up: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Tommy Bolin, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

13. Slaves and Masters (1990) - Call this Purple Rainbow if you want because that is exactly what it is. It's a Rainbow album under another name. Now I will say that I like this release more than I like any of the other post-Dio Rainbow albums. In fact, I probably like this album a lot more than I should because I just know it had to be a blatant attempt by Ritchie Blackmore to finalize his concrete control over Deep Purple. Well, I guess Blackmore failed because the next album would have Ian Gillan back on vocals. But, for whatever reasons, I consider this album to be a real gem. The only reason I rank it so low is because it's a Rainbow album, damn it.

King of Dreams (5:28)
The Cut Runs Deep (5:42)
Fire in the Basement (4:43)
Truth Hurts (5:14)
Breakfast in Bed (5:17)
Love Conquers All (3:47)
Fortuneteller (5:49)
Too Much Is Not Enough (4:17)
Wicked Ways (6:33)

Line-up: Joe Lynn Turner, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

12. The House of Blue Light (1987) - This is the first album on this list that, to me, is a genuine Deep Purple album. Although this is 80's Purple and not the classic Purple of the early 70's. It sounds like Purple is trying to blend into the time and that's not necessarily a good thing. I mean, why the hell is Jon Lord playing synthesizers? Ritchie Blackmore still sounds like he's trying to get over a Rainbow hangover because every song on this album screams of trying to get a hit-single. I'd expect that from Rainbow, but not from Deep Purple. Honestly, there are moments when I think I'm listening to a Journey song and not a Deep Purple song. That's because this is 80's Purple and the songs are exactly what they are meant to be: catchy as hell. Bad Attitude, The Unwritten Law, Call of the Wild, and The Spanish Archer are the better songs on the album. 

I can never so no to an album that features Ian Gillan. He's the voice of Purple for me and he's the main reason I enjoy listening to this album, 80's sound or not. 

Bad Attitude (5:04)
The Unwritten Law (4:54)
Call of the Wild (4:48)
Mad Dog (4:36)
Black & White (4:39)
Hard Lovin' Woman (3:25)
The Spanish Archer (5:32)
Strangeways (5:59)
Mitzi Dupree (5:05)
Dead or Alive (5:01)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

11. The Battle Rages On... (1993) - The final album from the classic line-up, The Battle Rages On... doesn't quite sound like the blatant money-grab its predecessors The House of Blue Light and Slaves and Masters are. A lot of the overtly-melodic crap is gone and we are left with what is largely a rock album. Although there still is a bit of an eighties feel to it. The fantastic title track, Ramshackle Man, Solitaire, and Anya are the real meat of this album. The other songs are decent rockers, but the album as a whole isn't quite as strong as should be considering that it's the final album of the classic line-up. But then that's why it's the final album. They just couldn't write well together anymore and you can sort of hear the strain through the song. You can certainly hear the strain in the title track because it's such an angry song.

I should probably note that this was Ritchie Blackmore's second to last rock album. After this he would re-form Rainbow with Doogie White on vocals and put out one album called A Stranger in Us All. After that Blackmore would forsake rock music entirely and play only medieval folk music with his new band Blackmore's Night.

Blackmore's Night has put out eight total albums, one of them being a Christmas album.

The Battle Rages On (5:57)
Lick It Up (4:00)
Anya (6:32)
Talk About Love (4:08)
Time to Kill (5:51)
Ramshackle Man (5:34)
A Twist in the Tale (4:17)
Nasty Piece of Work (4:37)
Solitaire (4:42)
One Man's Meat (4:39)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

10. Perfect Strangers (1984) - After Ian Gillan's all too brief stint in Black Sabbath ended, the vocalist came back for what would be the first Deep Purple album in nine years and the first one to feature Gillan in eleven years. Blackmore and Glover were coming back from Rainbow. Jon Lord was coming back from Whitesnake. And Ian Paice was coming back from Gary Moore's band. I believe the time away from Deep Purple did every one good and the members came back to Purple with an intent to write a strong record. And they succeeded. The 80's sound that would haunt The House of Blue Light and Slaves and Masters isn't quite there yet and that's a good thing. It makes the album sound that much stronger. Knocking at Your Back Door is a fantastic album opener, but it's the subject matter that really grabs. Who ever thought that a song about anal intercourse would make for such a great Purple song? Perfect Strangers is a great song even though it doesn't feature a single guitar solo or a keyboard solo. It just has a Kashmir-esque groove to it. Blackmore and Lord play off each other very well on this album and it's a sound that was missing from many of the prior Purple releases. Perfect Strangers really should be appreciated for that reason because it would largely vanish on the releases that followed. It's not quite on the  same level as the releases from what this line-up did the first time around. It's more of a seed that could have grown into something greater, but never really did.

Knocking at Your Back Door (7:09)
Under the Gun (4:40)
Nobody's Home (4:01)
Mean Streak (4:26)
Perfect Strangers (5:31)
A Gypsy's Kiss (5:14)
Wasted Sunsets (3:58)
Hungry Daze (5:01)
Not Responsible [re-issue bonus track] (4:53)
Son of Alerik [re-issue bonus track] (10:01)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

09. Rapture of the Deep (2005) - You ever wonder what Deep Purple sounds like when the members don't hate each other and they are not concerned about being popular or trendy? Well, Deep Purple's most recent release is a good example of that. It's the fourth album to feature Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse and the second album to feature former Whitesnake and Colosseum II keyboardist Don Airey. The band really meshes and the material shows it. Rapture of the Deep and Clearly Quite Absurd are two of the best songs Purple have put out in two decades. Wrong Man, Money Talks, Back to Back, and Don't Let Go are steady rockers. MTV is a rather funny song about the current state of all things Purple. MTV and classic rock radio won't play any of their new stuff even though there is nothing wrong with the material. No one wants to talk about the new albums, but apparently everyone wants to hear the story about Smoke on the Water even though it has been told a million times over. I mean, how many people know that Deep Purple have more than two songs?

Ian Gillan can't wail like he used to and he really doesn't need to. Of course he gives it the old college try every now and then and it works most of the time. But it's not quite Child in Time. Just enjoy the music because it's fun modern rock music from a bunch of old hands who have been there and done that. The Deep Purple of the 80's is long gone and the Purple of the 90's and 00's is so much better.

Special Tour 2 Disc Edition (Released June 2006)

Money Talks (5:32)
Girls Like That (4:02)
Wrong Man (4:53)
Rapture of the Deep (5:55)
Clearly Quite Absurd (5:25)
Don't Let Go (4:33)
Back to Back (4:04)
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (4:19)
MTV [limited edition bonus track] (4:56)
Junkyard Blues (5:33)
Before Time Began (6:30)

Disc Two
Clearly Quite Absurd [New Version] (3:39)
Things I Never Said [Japanese-only track on original CD issue] (4:49)
The Well-Dressed Guitar [Instrumental outtake from Bananas sessions] (2:52)
Rapture of the Deep [Live] (5:15)
Wrong Man [Live] (4:29)
Highway Star [Live] (8:09)
Smoke on the Water [Live] (6:50)
Perfect Strangers [Live] (6:41)

***Live tracks recorded October 10, 2005 at London's Hard Rock Cafe***

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse, Don Airey, Ian Paice

08. Abandon (1998) - The second album to feature newcomer Steve Morse and the last album to feature founding member Jon Lord, Abandon is another strong entry in the Purple catalog. The first song Any Fule Kno That is explicit for a Purple song (it features the word "shit") and Ian Gillan's vocal delivery is what could almost be described as rapping. It's a great song though as long as you don't take it too seriously. It's meant to be fun. Don't Make Me Happy is a bluesy song in the vein of When A Blind Man CriesSometimes I Feel Like Screaming, and MistreatedFingers to the Bone is a great ballad and another example of the great musicianship that the departure of Ritchie Blackmore has revived within the band.

The final song on the album is a reworking of Bloodsucker, a song from Deep Purple In Rock. I'm not saying the cover is better than the original, but it's clear that the ghost of Ritchie Blackmore doesn't hover over Steve Morse's shoulders. Of course, Ian Gillan can't hit those high notes like he used to so he has to sing it  a bit differently.

Any Fule Kno That (4:29)
Almost Human (4:26)
Don't Make Me Happy (4:56)
Seventh Heaven (5:25)
Watching the Sky (5:26)
Fingers to the Bone (4:47)
Jack Ruby (3:48)
She Was (4:19)
Whatsername (4:26)
'69 (4:59)
Evil Louie (4:56)
Bludsucker (4:27)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

07. Bananas (2003) - Perhaps the most curious of Purple's album titles (next to The Book of Taliesyn, of course), Bananas builds on the strength of its predecessor and continues to explore what this new Purple can do. Haunted, Picture of Innocence, Walk On, and I Got Your Number are new classics. Never a Word is a curious song that feels like a Blackmore's Night song. Very Jethro Tull-ish kind of thing. Not a bad song, but certainly different. Razzle Dazzle has "goofy" written all over it. Maybe I'm crazy, but I love the song for the same reason I love Any Fule Kno That from Abandon. The final song Contact Lost is a beautiful instrumental Steve Morse wrote about the Columbia astronauts.

The final verdict is that this album is about a coin-flip better than Abandon. Or maybe I like them equally and I just don't want to have a tie. Seriously, it's tough to judge them separately because they go so well together. Could have been a double album.

House of Pain (3:34)
Sun Goes Down (4:10)
Haunted (4:22
Razzle Dazzle (3:28)
Silver Tongue (4:03)
Walk On (7:04)
Picture of Innocence (5:11)
I Got Your Number (6:01)
Never a Word (3:46)
Bananas (4:51)
Doing It Tonight (3:28)
Contact Lost (1:27)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse, Don Airey, Ian Paice

06. Purpendicular (1996) - After Ritchie Blackmore left the band, Deep Purple hooked up with Joe Satriani for a tour. Apparently, working with a guitarist who wasn't neurotic gave the band a brilliant idea. What if they actually made an album with a guitarist who wasn't a complete asshole? What if they actually tried having fun? It's a stretch, right? Well, Purple made it work. Although Joe Satriani wouldn't be the guitarist of the future. Joe had to fulfill a multi-album solo deal with Sony that he had just signed. (Don't you just hate those contract things?) Well, all was not lost. Purple drafted Steve Morse. Considering that the Pruple of the 80's had done everything they could to tarnish the memory of the classic Purple line-up (well, maybe I'm over-stating things a bit)... I don't think the pressure on Morse was what it could have or should have been.

The album starts off heavy and groovy with Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic. Right away something is clearly different about Purple: there are pinch harmonics. The solos have more of a "virtuoso" feel. Similar to Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. And just when you think you know what Morse can do he surprises you with songs like Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming and The Aviator. Just simply amazing songwriting and playing. After listening to The Battle Rages On... it wouldn't be hard to wonder if the Purple ones had been abducted by aliens. Because these songs are just so freaking good. A Touch Away and Loosen My Strings are great songs to relax to. Much like The Aviator although not in terms of sound. Just in terms of the "feel." I could sit in the grass, watch the dog walk around, and listen to those songs without a care in the world. For some reason I keep wanting to say that The Aviator could be the soundtrack to an Irish march. It just sounds right to me.

Soon Forgotten is a herky-jerky song that could be the soundtrack for a schizophrenic breakdown or sea sickness. It just has that sense of raft float on unsteady waters, ready to tip over at any moment. Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover is a great rocker. At first you think you're in church with the way the keyboards sound and the peculiar unintelligible speaking, but the rug cuts out from under you are thrown into one great song. This song certainly contains one of the best keyboard-guitar duels in all of Purple-dom.

Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic (4:16)
Loosen My Strings (5:57)
Soon Forgotten (4:47)
Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming (7:29)
Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover (4:43)
The Aviator (5:20)
Rosa's Cantina (5:10)
A Castle Full of Rascals (5:11)
A Touch Away (4:36)
Hey Cisco (5:53)
Somebody Stole My Guitar (4:09)
The Purpendicular Waltz (4:45)
Don't Hold Your Breath [U.S. and Japanese Edition only hidden track] (4:39)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

05. Who Do We Think We Are! (1973) - The most criminally under-rated release from the classic line-up. You just can't go wrong with this album. Never even mind Woman from Tokyo. That's a great song, no doubt, but there are other great songs to be found here. Mary Long? Fuhgedabout it! I could listen to that song all day. Smooth Dancer is a classic. It's got the feel of Speed King meets Black Night. How can anyone go wrong with a combo like that? Place in Line recalls Lazy in parts and B.B King in others. During the verses Gillan gives his best blues voice and it is a surprising performance. Not quite classic (and perhaps a bit jarring like the almost-rapping in Any Fule Kno That), but still a good quality work. Our Lady, the song that ends the album, feels like a combination of In the Court of the Crimson King and I Am the Walrus.

Perhaps not quite on the level of its predecessors, but it shouldn't be considered to be just another footnote in the long Purple catalog.

Woman from Tokyo (5:48)
Mary Long (4:23)
Super Trouper (2:54)
Smooth Dancer (4:08)
Rat Bat Blue (5:23)
Place in Line (6:29)
Our Lady (5:12)
Woman from Tokyo ('99 Remix) [re-issue bonus track] (6:37)
Woman from Tokyo (Alternate bridge) [re-issue bonus track] (1:24)
Painted Horse (studio out-take) [re-issue bonus track] (5:19)
Our Lady ('99 Remix) [re-issue bonus track] (6:05)
Rat Bat Blue (writing session) [re-issue bonus track] (0:57)
Rat Bat Blue ('99 Remix) [re-issue bonus track] (5:49)
First Day Jam (instrumental) [re-issue bonus track] (11:31)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

04. Burn (1974) - The departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover could have marked the end for the band, but they soldiered on as they had before and created a masterpiece. David Coverdale and Glen Hughes fit the mold of Purple well and they bring a bluesy and soul feel that wasn't quite present on earlier albums and would be more prominent on Stormbringer. It works on this album, though. Burn, Mistreated, Might Just Take Your Life, and Sail Away are amazing songs. Certainly on par with anything the classic line-up did before they broke up. The only thing missing from this album is the song Stormbringer. It should have been on this album.

Burn (6:00)
Might Just Take Your Life (4:36)
Lay Down, Stay Down (4:15)
Sail Away (5:48)
You Fool No One (4:47)
What's Goin' On Here (4:55)
Mistreated (7:25)
A' 200 (3:51)
Coronarias Redig (2004 remix) [re-issue bonus track] (5:30)
Burn (2004 remix) [re-issue bonus track] (6:00)
Mistreated (2004 remix) [re-issue bonus track] (7:28)
You Fool No One (2004 remix) [re-issue bonus track] (4:57)
Sail Away (2004 remix) [re-issue bonus track] (5:37)

Line-up: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

03. Fireball (1971) - For whatever reason most of Deep Purple doesn't consider this album to be a classic. Except for Ian Gillan. But apparently Ian Gillan has stated that he has problems with the album. The main one being the song Anyone's Daughter. He calls the song "A good bit of fun, but a mistake." Well, I like the song. Yeah, it's different. It's got a country-blues vibe and it is fun. That part Gillan wasn't wrong about. Fireball, Strange Kind of Woman, Demon's Eye, and No No No are all Purple classics. Fools is a tremendous atmospheric song that most folks probably haven't heard. No One Came is a groovy, heavy song. That's what this entire album is about really. It's heavy, but it has a groove and a swagger to it. 

Fireball (3:25)
No No No (6:54)
Demon's Eye [European release only] (5:19)
Strange Kind of Woman [not on European release] (4:07) 
Anyone's Daughter (4:43)
The Mule (5:23)
Fools (8:21)
No One Came (6:28)
Strange Kind of Woman (a-side remix '96) [re-issue bonus track] (4:07)
I'm Alone [re-issue bonus track] (3:08)
Freedom (album out-take) [re-issue bonus track] (3:37)
Slow Train (album out-take) [re-issue bonus track] (5:38)
Demon's Eye (remix '96) [re-issue bonus track] (6:13)
The Noise Abatement Society Tapes [re-issue bonus track] (4:17)
Fireball (take 1 - instrumental) [re-issue bonus track] (4:09)
Backwards Piano [re-issue bonus track] (0:56)
No One Came (remix '96) [re-issue bonus track] (6:24)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

02. Deep Purple In Rock (1970) - The first classic Purple release. Well, unless you a huge fan of the Rod Evans era or the live album Concerto for Group and Orchestra (aka the first album with Ian Gillan). It's heavy. It's fast. It helped lay the foundation for what would later become heavy metal. What more do you need to know?

Speed King (5:52)
Bloodsucker (4:11)
Child in Time (10:16)
Flight of the Rat (7:53)
Into the Fire (3:29)
Living Wreck (4:30)
Hard Lovin' Man (7:10)
Black Night (original single version) [re-issue bonus track] (3:27)
Studio Chat (1) [re-issue bonus track] (0:28)
Speed King (piano version) [re-issue bonus track] (4:14)
Studio Chat (2) [re-issue bonus track] (0:25)
Cry Free (Roger Glover remix) [re-issue bonus track]  (3:20)
Studio Chat (3) [re-issue bonus track] (0:05)
Jam Stew (unreleased instrumental) [re-issue bonus track]  (2:30)
Studio Chat (4) [re-issue bonus track] (0:40)
Flight of the Rat (Roger Glover remix) [re-issue bonus track] (7:53)
Studio Chat (5) [re-issue bonus track] (0:31)
Speed King (Roger Glover remix) [re-issue bonus track] (5:52)
Studio Chat (6) [re-issue bonus track] (0:23)
Black Night (unedited Roger Glover remix) [re-issue bonus track] (4:47)

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

01. Machine Head (1972) - Yes, I know Smoke on the Water is so overplayed that you could just go insane. But it seems like all anyone knows about it is the main riff. And Highway Star is a close second to overplayed. But what about Space Truckin'? That great keyboard riff at the beginning? And what about Lazy? Or Maybe I'm a Leo? Why doesn't classic rock radio play those from time to time? Or what about any of the lesser known songs from any of these great albums I just mentioned? Okay, I better simmer down. This is a Deep Purple list and not a radio rant. I was tempted to put In Rock at number one and I suppose any argument made about it would be a real good one. But there isn't any real right or wrong answer. They are both so good that it doesn't matter. Consider them tied for first place if you want to. 

Highway Star (6:08)
Maybe I'm a Leo (4:52)
Pictures of Home (5:08)
Never Before (4:00)
Smoke on the Water 5:42)
Lazy (7:24)
Space Truckin' (4:35)
When a Blind Man Cries (b-side) [re-issue bonus track] (3:32)
Maybe I'm a Leo (Quadrophonic mix) [re-issue bonus track] (5:00)
Lazy (Quadrophonic mix) [re-issue bonus track] (6:57)

Disc Two (The Roger Glover remixes)
Highway Star 6:39
Maybe I'm a Leo 5:25
Pictures of Home 5:21
Never Before 3:59
Smoke on the Water (contains an alternate guitar solo) 6:18
Lazy 7:33
Space Truckin' 4:52
When a Blind Man Cries 3:33

Line-up: Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (A Review)

***Spoilers ahead***

This is not a book I've read recently, but it's one I remember vividly. If anyone ever asks me what the most disturbing horror book I've ever read is I'll tell them that it is The Girl Next Door. Of course, there are plenty of books that I've heard about that are disturbing, too. Books like Succulent Prey by Wrath James White, Survivor by J.F. Gonzalez, and Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite are ones that I've heard about but have never gotten around to. I do not believe there is a horror novel that could be more disturbing than the one I'm about to review, but if any of the books I mentioned are then I'll have to put them down or not even bother to seek them out. I don't think I could take them.

The attraction I have to certain hardcore splatterpunk (or whatever it's called) is a peculiar one. I suppose some folks call it "torture porn," but I'm not reading this because I'm getting off on the disturbing stuff. Hell, no. I'm just as disturbed at certain things as other people are. But that doesn't mean I'm squeamish or that I believe something is real when I know it isn't. But there does come a point where the comfort level I have with a piece of entertainment is tenuous at best. And that's when it ceases to be entertainment and becomes something else. Depending on the level of the craftsmanship it becomes either filth or a gut-wrenching work of art. Well, maybe not art, but it's something akin to it.

Movies like Irreversible and Deadgirl are good examples of what I'm talking about. Anybody who watches Saw and calls it torture porn honestly needs to watch these movies. Saw is the Wizard of Oz compared to those flicks. But the movies aren't entirely bad. The original Last House on the Left is borderline filth because the direction is poor and the quality is poor. I can't speak for the remake because I haven't seen it.

But no movie, regardless of how gory or disturbing, can quite catch the horror of a well-crafted book. Even the movie adaptation of The Girl Next Door is diluted just a bit. Not by much, mind you. The movie is still pretty disturbing and follows the book too closely to be enjoyed by the average film-goer, but the movie is not quite the book's equal.

I read Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door in three or four days, I think. Probably three. I literally could not put it down. I enjoyed it.  Well, as much as I possibly could considering the subject matter. It's incredibly fast-paced. It has to be. No one wants to read a slow-paced book about child abuse and torture. I don't believe anyone can, either. The book is about 340 pages. My version contains two bonus stories (Returns and Do You Love Your Wife?) and an interview with Ketchum and the screenwriters of the movie version. If you want the book then that is the version I recommend.

Now this book could easily have turned into an exploitation tale. And it could easily be interpreted as one. But it is not. Jack Ketchum didn't just throw a whole bunch of blood and shit against the wall to see what stuck. No, no, no. He remembered the true story of Sylvia Likens and he gave her life again in the form of Meg Loughlin. And we see every horrible thing that happens to her through the eyes of the narrator, David. More than some horror exploitation book, this is a very dark tale of morality and childhood. It's The Body from Hell.

To be honest, I've often compared The Girl Next Door to the movie The Passion of the Christ. Meg Loughlin gets the shit beaten out of her. She's raped and then maimed. But at the end she still puts her sister's life above her own. She still has a heart to care about others. And I consider David to be like all those who just watched Christ get crucified in the movie. No, David didn't participate in any of the deeds. He didn't beat her. He didn't rape her. He didn't do anything. That is just the point. He just watched. He didn't try to help her until it had escalated far beyond control.

I, as the reader, felt a strong sense of guilt for just turning a page. I think Jack Ketchum wanted me and everyone else who read the book to feel that way. Pretty sure he said so in the interview at the end of the book. He wanted us to be like David. He wanted us to be voyeurs. We aren't doing anything. We are just watching. Just reading. But why do we feel like we are doing something wrong? Because Jack Ketchum didn't cut us any slack. He's showing us everything. He's putting us in the room. This isn't some crime documentary where the atmosphere seems so cold and clinical. No, here everything is alive and breathing. You can see it all and you can feel it. Even touch it and taste it. If you want to. If you don't you can just stand back and watch it all like David.

As a novel, the telling of this story is peculiar. Because the narrator doesn't do anything. Who ever heard of a narrator barely involved in his own story? Well, that's why the book works so well. That is why the guilt factor is cranked up so high. If this book was written from the third person then the story would lose its potency. If it was written in the first person from one of the characters who performed any of the dark deeds then it would be unbearable and far too much to take. The way that this book is written makes for the perfect delivery. You can see it all, but it is like you are not there. You are a villain by association, but you try to be the hero at the end. And you almost succeed. When you can't save the unfortunate heroin you kill the bitch who caused all the turmoil. But are your hands clean?

That is what is at the heart of The Girl Next Door. It's like that quote about how all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. Or in this case, a good boy. Because David is just a boy and no one gets scared quite like a child.

I do recommend this book for extreme horror fans. This is the pinnacle, really. If you think you can take it then give it a shot, but it will leave you shaken and scarred. I promise. If you think you can't then don't even bother because you can't. Take my word for it.

I loved this book, but I don't think I can ever attempt a re-read.

NOTE: I know a movie was made that is based more on the actual events that inspired this novel. I believe it is called An American Crime. However, it doesn't have the emotional punch that this book has and it skimps on the true nature of the crime. Even if all the things in this books didn't truly happen (remember that this book is based off the true story and inspired by it, but it is not the actual story itself), I don't believe An American Crime really gets to the heart of the matter. Ketchum's book does, though. More than any movie could, too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stephen King's 11/22/63 (A Review)

***Arrrrgghhh, there be spoilers ahead, me matey***

The last two and a half years have been a bit of a reading funk for me. I don't think I've read more than thirty books in that span of time. From late 2009 and 2010 I read tons of books. Largely because I was without internet or television. The air conditioning unit was also on the fritz for most of the 2010 summer. So I was miserable. I read when I didn't want to. I read some books I didn't want to because I had nothing better to do. I was getting a bad case of insomnia. There was one bad night where I didn't sleep a wink. I was getting chills. So I just wrapped myself in my robe and sat in my bed until morning. My mom's sisters and their damn chihuahuas were visiting at the time, too. So I let the chihuahuas out once my mom and her sisters left to do whatever, sat down with Richard Laymon's The Traveling Vampire Show, and tried to read it through the egg shells dancing around my eyes. That whole period of time completely sucked for me. Except for the books. Well, mostly. 

I read. I read until I literally (pardon the pun) got burned out on reading. I'd finish one book and the very next second I'd pick up another. I didn't care what the books were about. As long as they were good. I had nothing better to do and little patience for bad books. 

Last year I tried to get a good string of books going, but I stalled out after reading 15. Didn't read much of anything for the remainder of the year. 

When I heard that Stephen King was putting out 11/22/63 in November of 2011 I wasn't necessarily thrilled. Under the Dome was the last time I'd picked up a new SK book (I still don't have Full Dark, No Stars or Blockade Billy) and it wasn't one of my favorites. I didn't want to read about how depressing the times were. If I wanted that I'd watch the news more often. And of course I couldn't watch the news because I had no TV. 

After a few months passed my dad bought a pair of rabbit ears and we picked up local channels. (Only for the TV in the living room, of course. My TV got nothing but static or whatever movie I chose to watch on VHS or DVD.) One of the channels specialized in shows from the seventies. So in the late afternoon I would go into the living room with my mom and dad and watch Kojak, Magnum P.I., Delvecchio, and The A-Team. It's a scene out of a different decade, isn't it? Who does that anymore?

On the weekends there would be Buck Rogers and The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries. Woo hoo.

Earlier in the week days Rockford Files, Adam-12Emergency!, Barney Miller, and Quincy M.E. were on and I sort of watched them while I tried to entertain myself by writing something using my handy dandy Microsoft Word. But the heat, the lack of sleep, and the lack of many things to do (reading and yard work comprised the majority of my time when I wasn't trying to sleep) made me irritable and and what began as a distraction turned into an annoyance. So I quit writing anything and just played Bejeweled on the computer or Madden once my brother gave me his PS2. I kind of quit listening to music, too. The songs were keeping me awake at night and I didn't need any help in that department. 

But eventually the A.C. was fixed, we got internet and TV back, and I had TV reception in my own room. Thank you, DirecTV. Just in time for the 2010 football season, too. (Don't worry. I didn't miss much of the 2009 season. I have my uncle's generosity to thank for that.)

None of this has much to do with 11/22/63 in itself, but it has everything to do with why I was hesitant to pick it up. I wasn't sure if I could enjoy it. Or any book anymore. I was burned out and wondering if maybe reading was a fad for me. Kids go through fads, right? Maybe this was mine. 

But I decided that I would try it out. I didn't read any reviews. I just went with my gut. I loved the cover. The red and the black on the side was quite eye-catching. I'd had enough of the seventies for a time and a visit to the sixties would be a welcome break. Even if that visit didn't really happen. But I like to think it did. 

Am I glad I did? You bet your bottom dollar. Did it live up to my expectations and to King's reputation as a storyteller? Yup.

To borrow a phrase from the movie Operation Pacific, "It's still got that same old zing." 

I've never read a time travel story before. Well, I guess you could count The Dark Tower, but I don't. Time travel is a part of the story, but the story isn't time travel. It is the pursuit of the tower. 11/22/63 is about nothing but time and how one man seeks to change it. The Kennedy assassination is Jake Epping's Dark Tower and he must travel through a field of time instead of a field of roses. 

The harmonic situation presented and explained at the end of the book is taken from the Dark Tower and lays little doubt as to whether or not this book is in fact another Dark Tower related entry in the King canon. And I believe Tower-ites can deduce that Epping was acting as a beam-breaker by all of his drastic time-meddling. At least, that's what I deduced. Although Epping didn't have any psychic powers. Or maybe his travel through time left residue on him and transformed him metaphysically (if that is the right term) the way it transformed him emotionally and physically. 

But I'm glad the book didn't veer straight into Dark Tower land too far at the end because that would have hurt the overall impact of the novel. After all, the subject was time and not the Tower. And the explanation for all things Tower has pretty much already been given. 

I will say that I don't think I've ever called a main character crazy so many times before. I can't remember when the first exact time was, though. It might have been when he finally decided to go to the past. I knew it couldn't end well. Plus this was a Stephen King novel. Who the hell would choose to do something potentially life-threatening in a Stephen King novel? I wouldn't. Which is why he'd never write a book about me. But the first real moment I remember where I called Jake Epping crazy was when he started to get involved with people's lives in Jodie, Texas. Then when he started falling in love with Sadie I kept wanting to scream, "You're not even born yet, dude!!!!" Of course, the final time I called him crazy was when, at the end, he was rambling like a character from an Edgar Allan Poe story wondering what he should do. Should he risk destroying everything (even if only on his level of the Tower... or perhaps we are talking about the entire Tower. What really would have been the extent of the damage?) in order to find Sadie all over again? Well, he didn't. And I was glad he didn't. I was cheering. Although I was sad, too. Sad cheering, I guess. 

But in the end everything became undone and poor Epping was left alone with a heavy heart. Everything he went through was in vain. At least, in a manner of speaking. He did save the world. Even if he almost destroyed it.

One thing I'm curious about, though... If every trip to the past leaves residue on the past and then that past's future, won't every alternate future leave residue even if it is "undone" by the so-called reset? Hell, I'm getting myself confused. 

The trip to Derry at the beginning of the book was fantastic. Meeting up with Bev and Ritchie from It was great, but the meeting was all too brief. Meetings with old friends usually are. Of course, the meeting ended up being undone. Sort of. Got to remember the "residue" thing. 

After the trip to Derry and before Jodie the novel got a little bogged down to me. The action wasn't really there for a while and I felt like I was reading in neutral. I was down from fifty pages a day to five or ten. Of course, that didn't last for long. The beginning of the love story and the stalking of the Oswald family quickly perked my interest. After all, that's why I was reading the book. Well, I wasn't reading the book for the love story, but it sure made things more interesting. I kept wondering if Sadie could have been related to him or something. Wouldn't that have been funny as hell? 

King's alternate future (or alternate past, considering that it is now March of 2012) was interesting, too. Maybe he should write a book set in that time. I'd like to know who that constable was that the lady was talking about.

The book's ultimate ending was perfect and very fitting. Bittersweet. Sad. Poignant. The only ending that should have been. Unfortunately. I do wish Jake and Sadie could have made it out better.

But this is a Stephen King novel. The good guys may win in King's books, but usually not without a heavy cost.

As far as the whole "lone gunman" question... Well, I got a few suspicions. But Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marine. Even though he barely made it as a marksman... I wouldn't say it's not possible that he could get off a shot or two .

I'd love to know how this tale would have turned out if King had been a believer of conspiracies like his wife Tabitha. It probably would have been twice as long.

Anyway, this has been my review. I highly recommend the book to anyone who will listen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The NFL teams from the Most Hated to the Colts

I could talk about stats and championships until I'm blue in the face, but this list isn't about that. This list is all about me and the amount of tolerance I have for some teams. The teams I hate most will be the bottom feeders, the teams I really don't care about will be somewhere in the middle, and the top will be reserved for teams I like/tolerate and teams I love. Now the reasoning behind a teams's ranked position is a bit skewed, I admit. I hate the Steelers and I ranked them higher in than the Saints, but I'd have to root for the Saints if they were playing each other in the Super Bowl. Not that I want the Saints to have another title ever again. Quite the contrary, in fact. I want Saints fans to wear bags on their heads for all eternity. In fact, I want them to pack their bags and go to the Canadian Football League. So why would I root for the Saints over the Steelers in the Super Bowl? Well, the Steelers already have too many Lombardi trophies, damn it. If the Steelers didn't already have a gazillion championships then I'd root for them over the Saints in a heartbeat.

But, for the purposes of this list, the Saints are ranked below the Steelers.

32. New England Patriots
31. New Orleans Saints 
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. New York Jets
28. Dallas Cowboys 
27. Philadelphia Eagles
26. Washington Redskins
25. San Diego Chargers
24. Houston Texans
23. Tennessee Titans
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
21. Oakland Raiders
20. Cincinnati Bengals
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

18. Minnesota Vikings
17. Carolina Panthers
16. Seattle Seahawks
15. Denver Broncos
14. Chicago Bears
13. Green Bay Packers
12. Kansas City Chiefs
11. San Francisco 49ers
10. Baltimore Ravens

09. Cleveland Browns
08. Buffalo Bills
07. Atlanta Falcons
06. St. Louis Rams
05. Arizona Cardinals

04. Detroit Lions
03. Miami Dolphins 

02. New York Giants
01. Indianapolis Colts