Archive for January, 2016


He’s back folks. After a number of novels that have left me wondering what in the world happened to one of my favorite contemporary authors; Dean Koontz is back to form.

Ashley Bell does what some of Koontz’s best work does; defies genre. One of the things that always excited me about Koontz was the genre hopping that happened throughout his novels. What started as horror would end up being science fiction but only after passing through a corridor of psychological drama. Or one would begin as what you thought would be a science fiction tale only to end up being grounded in reality. Ashley Bell does this wonderfully.

Dean supplies many of the tropes that are incorporated in many (if not all) his novels. We have a strong woman character, a precocious child who is wise beyond her years, dogs that are short of being angelic beings and a hope for humanity and the strength of love that conquers all. None of this should be a surprise for anyone who has read more than half a dozen Koontz novels. Yet it is in his wonderfully fecund writing is Kootz ableto transcend what one would expect to be treading over tired ground.

Koontz truly is an expert in words.  His characters, good and bad, while on the surface seem almost to be carbon copies of each other from previous novels are imaginatively original. Bibi, our main character has so many qualities of Koontz’s historically powerful independent woman as does the main baddie.  However they are written with such complexity and love that they are alive and wholly original.

Now as I gush with a renewed love for Dean, I will say that I still have some reservations.  Dean still has a slight disdain for science compared to a belief in heavenly magic but again it’s in his gorgeous writing that it is not too much of a negative experience.

Koontz’s normal wit and humor filled writing is still in play, but it’s reined in enough not to be exhausting.

This novel does an expectional job of expressing Koontz’s obvious love, and somewhat Mary Sue high opinion of the power of literature and imagination.  How a powerful im  can alter and/or define reality is the main through line of this most recent tale.

I can’t recommend this novel highly enough for anyone that has been as disillusioned by the last slew of underperforming Koontz novels.  It’s not necessarily at the level of Koontz’s hay-day (Watchers, Lightning, Phantoms) or even (the last great one in my opinion; Life Expectancy (2004) but like I said at the top, it’s a return to form.

Many years ago there was a biography written of Dean Koontz (if you’re a return visitor you know my love of Koontz).  The biographer chose to open her book with a selection of first sentences from Deans bibliography.  Showing how brilliant Koontz was at gripping the audience from the get go.

Probobly just as long ago, I read a review of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.  In it the author proposes that Eco warns readers that what is to follow is not going to be easy, it will require vigilance and some dedication.  You see most of the opening of The Name of the Rose is the, quite verbose, description of an Abby wall.  By describing such a enormous structure, Eco is building a wall between the novel and the readership essentially saying most readers will end up being unworthy to enter.

More ubiquitous would be the Star Destroyer that Star Wars opens with. A gigantic spaceship that devours the screen and dwarfs the small rebel alliance ship it chases.

All this to say, opening shots are used to define a film!  I took the long road but this is an essay; not a Twitter account.

Onto to the opening shot to a pretty awesome flick.  The Revenant opens on a long shot of a stream.  Water rippling through stones and small flora.  The sound of the forest light and still when compared to the water.  This shot foreshadows the long arduous journey our main hero will go on.  Simply shot yet gorgeous.  The tension is built by not showing us what is to come but what may be around the next bend.  The shot continues with a pair of boots, the camera swooping up to the barrels of guns and those whom are aiming for game.

The filmmaker and cameraman have the camera shooting from the bottom up giving us an expanse of the sky and forest, we are the dirt seeing what trods upon us; yet we are so close to the action we become part of it.

For much of the remainder of the film the camera retains much of this position, up close personal sometimes dizzying in it’s sweeping around. It’s used to such an extent that you’re both always aware of it but also so swept in the cacophony of the action that it’s probably the best use of 3D without the 3D.

What about the rest?  Acting?  Spot on.  Decaprio on every again uses his body more than his voice (other than some emotional grunting, but in character).  He has become quite a physical performer (see drunk scences in Wolf of Wall Street); many say this is “his” year (Oscar speaking).  I’m not sure of that; maybe a nod but a win?  It’s a great performance and maybe had his character had more to say I’d agree; but a great job nonetheless.

Tom Hardy?  I think I love him.  He has a wonderful way of disappearing into his roles (aside from an unmistakable drawl of sorts).  There is a scene about God that is going to be used for monologues for years to come.  Another possible Oscar nom for supporting actor.

Before we end I must speak to the screenplay.  If you know what the movie is about (and heaven forbid if I speak to something that may amount to a spoiler even though it’s the freakin’ plot) than you know what Decaprio’s (Glass) journey is for.  This film is based on a novel that is inspired by actual events.  Interestingly  enough in the book Glass’s gun is stolen not ……

This goes to to show how a screenplay can be adapted and how the original conceit of the source material ( the true story, the novel, the original movie) can be changed FOR THE BETTER.  This will be on my ever growing list of movies that are better than the book to battle that never ending argument.  By changing what Glass is after we gain a more emotional base and one most people can relate too as opposed to a rifle (no matter how important your guns are to you).

The characters in this film are human.  There is no perfectly good or perfectly bad arctype.  By the end of the film, you understand where both people can be viewed as both right and wrong, misunderstood yet pretty solid in their convictions.  Yes we know who the bad guy is and why; but it’s that last line ….. Oh it’s a bute!

Some people (my good friend and superior film critic L. Marcus Williams) pointed his issues with what he called “Terrence Mallick like dream scenes”.  I can see what he’s talking about, but while it may have lost a few “points” for me, it didn’t distract from the film enough to make me view this any less than one of the best films of the year.  Most assuredly on my top five.  Emotionally gripping and expertly filmed.