A trunk novel, in my own words, is a novel written by an author that they were not particularly happy with so they put it in a trunk and move onto their next project. When that author eventually becomes famous they pull the novel out and publish it. Blaze, a novel by Richard Bachman (a Stephen King pen name), is one such novel. A character driven tale about a man who shares his name with the title. Blaze was a simple story with a simple plot (compared to other King/Bachman novels). What made this a compelling and entertaining read was the characters, specifically the title character Blaze.
The novel’s plot revolves around a single action: a kidnapping. The novel opens on con artists and thieves Blaze (real name Clayton Blaisdell Jr.) and George Thomas Rackley stealing a car. It becomes quickly apparent that George is the brains of the group and Blaze is the gopher and muscle. As Blaze works to steal a car we learn that the two have been planning their one big crime, the crime that will allow them to stop doing petty crimes and live off the spoils forever. The two have spent time researching a rich family, a rich family that has recently had a child. The theory is if they kidnap a baby and ransom it the baby won’t be able to remember their faces so they won’t have to kill anybody. The plan seems foolproof until we realize that George is no longer alive, the George we think is talking to Blaze is in Blaze’s mind.
Mentally, Blaze is a somewhat unstable character. A giant, Blaze is always described as having a dent in his head. Blaze is a terrifyingly large and strong man but has a mind more like a child’s as opposed to a grown man’s. With abusive parents most of Blaze’s childhood was spent in and out of foster homes. Blaze does not have the mental capacity to create a real life for himself. Now Blaze is attempting to kidnap a young child, take care of it and himself, ransom it to the family and not get caught while doing so. As the novel unfolds and these events take place it becomes clear that it is about more than just the kidnapping. The novel is about Blaze as a character and Blaze’s life.
Stephen King/ Richard Bachman is an incredible writer, good enough that even his trunk novels are compelling, great reads. Sure this was not the most polished novel I had ever read and there were some small plot holes but ultimately this was a great read. You can’t help but become a fan of Blaze. Big and dumb, the man ends up becoming quite lovable. His interactions with the child are heartwarming, showing how soft the seemingly hard Blaze can be. You watch as he comes out of his shell and actually starts to trust himself. The story of Blaze’s fractured mind and past is told through a series of flashbacks, jumping from present day to different points in Blaze’s past. It is amazing how quickly the story focuses on Blaze’s life, letting us watch the character grow and develop.
What starts as a novel about a kidnapping turns into a character piece about a very unique, likable and unexpected character. This is a C novel for me. It certainly is a trunk novel and has some issues but there are also many outstanding aspects to it. If you’re like me and keep a pile of books to read next to your bed I would not necessarily put Blaze on top but if your pile is getting shallow toss this one in there.
There is honestly only one thing that drew my attention to the film Smoke: Harvey Keitel. My obsession with Harvey Keitel is a side effect of my much larger obsession with Quentin Tarentino and a much appreciated side effect at that. While flipping through the possible films I could watch my eyes managed to find Keitel’s face on the poster for Smoke and this week’s Netflix film was decided.
The film Smoke is the story of a group of characters that have one thing in common, they all have something to do with Auggie Wren’s smoke shop. As these characters meet and interact they begin to find connections between themselves and their lives.
• Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel)- Auggie is a wholly interesting man. Owning a smoke shop, Auggie has spent years trying to save up enough money to be comfortable. With some money in hand Auggie risks everything when investing in an expensive shipment of Cuban cigars. Augie also takes a picture of the exact same spot at the exact same time every day.
• Ruby McNutt (Stockard Channing)- A woman from Auggie’s past who has obviously played him before. Showing up because she needs help with her daughter who has gone astray, Ruby begs Auggie for help.
• Paul Benjamin (William Hurt)- Paul is an author who lost his wife. Stuck with writer’s block, Paul seems to be stuck in life until he meets a young man whom he can help.
• Thomas ‘Rashid’ Cole (Harold Perrineau)- A young man who has run away from home after getting in trouble with a bad thug. A twist of fate leads Paul and Thomas to meet. Paul gives Thomas a place to stay and helps him get a job at Auggie’s smoke shop. As Paul and Thomas start to become friends, it becomes clear that Rashid is not as innocent as he seems in his involvement with the thug. He is also doing more than just hiding, he is looking for his father.
• Cyrus Cole (Forrest Whitaker)- a man with a wife and child, Cyrus had a rough past and has made a point to try and turn his life around. Owning a garage, Cyrus is forced to return to his past when Rashid comes to visit.
This was an odd film. I have always liked films that take a number of different characters and stories and weave them together but the acting in this film had its ups and downs. Some scenes were absolutely outstanding while some left me wanting more effort and emotion. The story was good with a number of different twists but the writing was also lacking in some scenes. When it comes down to it this was a well done film but I’m not going to rave about it. I give this a C+. It was worth watching but nothing you have to look up right now.
I’m still trying to figure out how a master of horror, Sam Raimi, got paired up with Disney’s Wizard of Oz Prequel. Oz the Great and Powerful is a green screen filled, 3D geared trip back to the land of Oz. With a killer cast and a brilliant director, Oz should have been a better film than it was. A weak script and a lack of aggressive acting created a film that lacked the power and greatness Oz deserves.
Oz takes place well before Dorothy’s visit that we are all so familiar with. The film begins at a circus where we meet Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a somewhat smarmy, chauvinist who uses the same ploy over and over to get women. Forced to flee when the boyfriend of a woman he has tricked comes to attack him, Oz hops in a balloon and a whirlwind whisks him away to the land of Oz. Oz promptly meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who tells him of a prophesy. If Oz can defeat the wicked witch he will be make king of Oz and be awarded unlimited riches. The prospect of riches sends Oz on a journey actors the land where he meets the a talking monkey named Finley (Zach Braff), a walking and talking china doll (Joey King), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). In the process Oz breaks Theodora’s heart, learns the truth about the land of Oz and ultimately saves it.
I have always been a fan of origin stories. I have always though it was fun to see how all the pieces fit together and in this vein Oz did not disappoint. Throughout the course of the film we meet witches, including Evanora (Rachel Weisz), see the Wicked Witch of the West come to be, understand why the wizard lives how he does in the Wizard of Oz and get to see early versions of all the witches and Munckinland. It was fun to see the Wizard’s origin story but there were a lot of flaws in the film. I liked the whimsical feel of it but ultimately I found it to be infantile. I know this is a story that is geared towards children but some parts of this film were over the top infantile.
The main problem I had with this film was an overall sense of timidness. Sam Raimi is an outstanding director, in fact he is the main reason I saw the film. There were very few scenes that I would call classic Sam Raimi scenes. The director’s signature flair and style was all but nonexistant in the film. Instead Raimi relied too much on green screen and 3D effects. With a cast as outstanding as this it shocks me that there were no outstanding performances. James Franco seemed preoccupied by other things, Rachel Weisz was just kind of there and Mila Kunis seemed scared of herself. The only people I’d really compliment were Zach Braff and Joey King who served as the wizard’s companions and the film’s comic relief. Other than that I found this film to be overwhelmingly average.
Maybe I had gotten my hopes up too high for this film or maybe I just expected too much from a film geared towards children. With such a star studded cast it was difficult not to get my hopes up. A lot of my issues with this film stems from my problem with films that are overly 3D driven. For most films I don’t like 3D so I saw Oz in 2D and it was obvious that much of the film relied on 3D effects. I have harped on this film a lot but do not take that to mean I hated it. This was a fun film, especially for children, but as fun as it was this was perfectly average, a C grade for me. The Wizard may be great and powerful but the film was just fun and mediocre.