Universal WILL Produce The Dark Tower


Illustration: Michael Whelan

Now that it’s official that Universal will produce three films, interspersed with two seasons of a television series on NBC, and that this will be helmed by Ron Howard and scripted by Akiva Goldsman, I must first of all breath a sigh of relief. And that is, of course, followed by a shriek of WTF. Hopefully, this is the project that will return the Grazer/Howard/Goldsman team to its true potential, but they will have to travel the Wastelands and more to prove it.

I’m glad this recipe of film/tv/film/tv/film was concocted, as it seems the best way to do it. Even Lord of the Rings was supposedly impossible to bring to cinema, but Peter Jackson managed it with three long films (and a lot of commitment from production). Mr. Howard and Mr. Grazer are not without huge obstacles in their quest, either.

For one thing, the part of Jake needs to be especially tended to in the planning, writing, and shooting stages. If this project is to go on for many years, Jake needs to be someone who doesn’t age/change much physically during that time. Even if he does during the last phase, Jake is key to the entire Gunslinger theme, and needs to be a solid child actor. Eddie and Susannah are also key roles, and while many will speculate on casting of those two, I wish those two to be unknowns.

As for the Gunslinger, there may be hoots and hollers for Josh Brolin or some other marquee star, but for my money, the one actor I see fitting the bill as a badass with a heart of stone, but a scrap of compassion, and who has proved himself in a successful TV series with a Stephen King fanbase… is Josh Holloway.

Bad Robot


He has the potential to pull off all of Roland’s traits, from stoicism to sarcasm to dancing the rice dance. And looking like a hardcase the whole time.


Which Came First, Under the Dome or The Simpsons?



Irrespective of how well Stephen King’s latest epic (I thought he retired) was received, there was an immediate backlash I had overlooked until now. In The Simpsons: The Movie, a dome is placed over Springfield due to another casual day when marine life sprout multiple eyeballs. It’s interesting to note that King has been rockin’ and rollin’ with a collaborative band for some time now, and none other than Matt Groenig is a member of that ersatz band.

This Independent article sums up the furor and explanations made in the aftermath. Wow, I was pretty unimpressed with the book, but this is much more interesting. For instance:

King may argue that “stories can be no more alike than snowflakes” as “no two human imaginations are exactly alike”, but Stephen King novels and Simpsons movies are similar in that they are big pop-culture events aimed at roughly the same sort of audience – and with such events, the concept is as important as the execution.

The Simpsons Movie came out before King’s novel, so he may have executed a shrewd move to get more attention from that “sort of audience.”

But furthermore, I must opine that King might have mentioned his story idea to Groenig, who then used much of the premise in his script. Perhaps. I guess if you told anyone to imagine a situation like that, many things would be the same. It just seems obvious there was some sharing going on, and to answer my own question, I call: Simpsons Did It.

Even if King leaked his idea, Groenig did it first, and did it better.

In the Movies: Drive-In Movie Theaters


Image Credit: Flickr user bound_4_freedom

I miss going to the drive-in, a movie experience unlike any other yet a quickly disappearing icon of early American car culture. The differences between going to a drive-in and a regular theater are numerous. I remember looking around at other screens when the movie I was watching grew slow, the obligatory repeat visits to the concession stand, even sneaking in via the trunk to save a few bucks.

When real estate became too valuable, these operations were forced out for development, and they just started vanishing. Even improving the audio experience -by replacing those awkward, often broken speakers with a signal beamed to the local AM/FM band- hasn’t stopped the extinction. Even the film world is somewhat devoid of scenes involving one, but there are a handful that I can think of.


Warner Bros.

The Centinela Drive-In in Los Angeles was already closed up when Michael Mann filmed this scene for Heat there. The rows of small inclines, placed there so patrons could angle their cars up for premium viewing experience, make for some exciting driving as the characters react to a violent double-cross. The land is now a middle class development. (More Heat filming locations at the link.)

Back to the Future III

In order to send Marty back this time, Doc sets up at a drive-in movie theater with a decidedly western theme. How appropriate. As the DeLorean accelerates to 88mph, it’s headed right for a wall mural featuring a tribe of Old West Indians riding fiercely on horseback. After he jumps, Marty is instantly surrounded by the same thing, only it’s real this time. How clever!

Blue Thunder

In this Roy Scheider/Malcolm McDowell helicopter thriller, there’s one scene where Scheider’s girlfriend has to retrieve evidence left in a dumpster at an L.A. drive-in (probably not the same one as Heat).

The Outsiders

Zoetrope Films

Drive-in theaters weren’t strictly a park-and-view experience. Many, especially in the 1960s, included playgrounds, patio dining, and a bandstand type seating area for pedestrian moviegoers – or greasers who sneak in under the fence, like in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic.


In 1985, the Spotlight 88 drive-in theater in Pennsylvania was destroyed when an F3 tornado ripped through it. Afterwards, before it closed and became a flea market, the management changed the marquis sign to say “Now Playing: Gone with the Wind.” In Jan de Bont’s 1996 action movie, a twister of similar magnitude surprises a late night screening by chewing right through a screen showing The Shining. As a somewhat ham-handed tribute, de Bont has the screen and funnel meld together just as Jack Nicholson delivers his “Here’s Johnny!” line.


In the Broadway production of Grease, the scene is the same, but the song Danny Zuko sings is actually called “Alone at the Drive In.” It’s a more bebop-ey, era-accurate song than “Sandy” could ever hope to be, but updating is nothing new. Also, nice inclusion of the animated snack bar ads. Everyone loves it when the hot dog jumps into the bun.



via The Internet Movie Car Database

This gruesome gem was director Peter Bogdanovich’s first movie, edited by Jaws‘ Verna Fields, and starred Boris Karloff in a kind of self-reflective role. He plays a former monster movie actor whose style is outdated; the people need scarier monsters now. So another character decides to go on a shooting spree, at one point shooting people from behind the drive-in movie screen they’re all staring at. Whoa, deep.

Jesus’ Son

Another fairly unknown movie that gets a lot of repeat viewings at this household. Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Jack Black, Denis Leary, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper. How’s that for a “Who’s in it?” Anyway, great cast and a life-affirming journey. In one crazy scene, after Crudup and Black have ingested some sort of hallucinogen, they come across an old drive-in, weeds growing tall and just the posts left where the speakers used to hang. Crudup’s character thinks he’s walking through a graveyard, then beholds his love up on the giant screen. And someone’s feet is playing an organ. It’s weird. Cool, but really strange.

Herbie Fully Loaded

Yeah, well that’s what I’ve heard.


Columbia Pictures

It was wise of John Carpenter to alter the scene in the book where Leigh almost chokes to death on a hamburger, and place it at a drive-in instead of outside of a fast food place. It just feels more natural to have a car like that 1958 Plymouth Fury at a drive-in theater. Right? And instead of a hitchhiker, we just get someone who was in the next car over to save her, at Arnie’s expense.

As with many of the aggregate posts I write, I’m sure I missed some. Any ideas?


Don’t miss my other In the Movies topics, Elevator Shafts, and Dams.

A Remake I Could Get Behind: Coma


Image: MGM

1978’s Coma is a great story, based on bestselling author Robin Cook’s novel, and spearheaded by Michael Chrichton. Litter Box favorite Michael Douglas plays a minor leading man, and there’s tension throughout the film. The above shot is the centerpiece of this creepy tale of purposely putting people into comas to milk insurance money (or organ harvesting, or something). Thereby being a huge draw for anti-healthcare crowds and moviegoers who’d like to see bodies dangling mysteriously by wires.

I think if Hollywood wants to remake older films, this (along with previously opined Starman) should be one of them. Here, see for yourself with the entire movie online:

(YouTube Link)

Here’s the Money Sequence, complete with a convincingly comatose Tom Selleck.

(YouTube Link)

It has potential to be a really creepy update on a theme not touched on much anymore.

She didn’t like the word coma. It had a sinister, stealthy sound. Wasn’t it Latin for “sleep of death?”

-Stephen King (The Dead Zone)

Hmm, come to think of it, The Dead Zone… remake?

And Now… My Favorite Sentence From Stephen King’s Epic Novel Under The Dome


Are you ready?  After what John’s Kindle (echoes of Kindergarten Cop ~I’m detective John Kimble!) says is 29% of the story, and the only body count so far is the number of extraneous characters, here’s the sentence that stood out, and made me realize where Mr. King is coming from.

Like ten thousand times.

Unfortunate News: No Dark Tower Movies Anytime Soon


Jake and Oy wait for a new director

Seems J.J. Abrahms is “terrified” of creating a film series of  The Dark Tower that could become an abortion, ultimately doubting his own genius. He and writer Damon Lindelof (who both borne LOST into the public consciousness with ease) have officially said “nah” to adapting the seven-novel, ultimately “Meta-fiction” story to cinematic life.  I’m kinda happy that JJ won’t be doing it, but sad that it’s postponed.  Abrams says he’s too much of a fan to take it on, afraid he’ll screw it up.

As a fan of both Stephen King and Frank Darabont, I have to wonder why this project wasn’t offered to the guy who faithfully directed three adaptations of King’s work (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist).  Check those links, they are the work of a true fan of both film and King’s take on interesting fiction.

Hope For A “Long Walk” Movie


Forget The Road, the upcoming Viggo Mortensen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel.  The bleak, dark story with a somehow life-affirming movie-from-book I want to see is The Long Walk.


As I finish reading this book for the third time, I notice there are others out there who are rediscovering it, too.  Others who also see what I see in this, one of Richard Bachman’s most brutal tales (and that says a lot, since Bachman is the dark side of successful novelist Stephen King, whose mainstream horror at least always has the good guys winning something in the end)…and that is a metaphor for life, and the relationships we forge on our individual, selfish walks through life.


Frank Darabont, the One Guy In The World That Can Make Great Stephen King Movies, bought the rights to the book years ago.  You might remember the trifecta of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist as all being simultaneously faithful to the books, and cinematically gorgeous.  As a fan of both, I sincerely hope he’s just waiting for the perfect cast before going through with filming this story.

It’s a parallel reality.  Germany bombed the Eastern seaboard of America in 1945, and now it’s some distant, unnamed time in the future from that.  America is still America, but there is a highly influential military government.  Each year, they hold The Long Walk, in which male volunteers between the ages of 14 and 18 hope to be picked as one of 100 Walkers.  The Walk starts with 100 young men, and ends with 1, who is then awarded whatever he wants for the rest of his life.

Soldiers in half-tracks monitor the walkers, and if one drops below 4 mph he is warned.  Three warnings and then the walker “buys his ticket” courtesy of the soldier’s gun.  Our hero is the odds on favorite, and he makes friends with many of the other guys, sometimes to his benefit, occasionally to his dismay.  It’s dark, serious stuff, but underneath it all is the realization that we’re all on a Long Walk, and while we may think we’re going to cross that finish line, anything may happen.

via Logopolis

via Logopolis

Bachman/King even includes a line in the book where a character feels like he’s in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, which is most likely the inspiration for this social dynamo of a story.  I especially love how the Crowd became a sort of villain in the last third of the book.  I’m looking forward to this movie becoming a reality, but as for now, it sits on Mr. Darabont’s To-Do pile.