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Stephen King's hits and misses

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Though it’s been years, I still remember how shocked I was when, after taking my wife to see Forrest Gump, she told me she hadn’t liked it. I couldn’t understand how it was possible to dislike such a good-natured movie. Her response was that Gump was based on a faulty assumption. ”He says life is like a box of choklits, and you never know what you’re gonna get. But everything in a Whitman’s Sampler is sweet.” She paused, then added: ”That is not my experience of life.”

It’s not mine either, actually, and I never looked at Forrest Gump the same way. Maybe my dear one would have liked it better if Forrest had said, ”Life is like a box of surprises, many of which are choklits.” I certainly feel that way about pop culture: Sometimes when you reach into the box, you get your fingers snapped by a mousetrap — but often, you get something sweet. Here are a few notable things I’ve pulled so far from my 2010 box of surprises.

Eminem’s Recovery album: Choklit
I started off thinking Eminem was a flash in the pan, a kind of hip-hop Hanson brother. How wrong I was. Recovery is sometimes funny, sometimes terrible, always painfully honest. The matching of Eminem and Rihanna on “Love the Way You Lie” is pure genius. “Not Afraid” is pretty great too.

Inception: Choklit
Did I understand all of it? No, sir, I did not. Did I dig the amazing effects and Leonardo DiCaprio’s intense, haunted performance? Yes, I did. I’m also majorly crushing on Ellen Page (in a platonic Uncle Stevie way, of course).

IMAX: Mousetrap
Inception was my first IMAX movie, and my reaction was ”Uh…is that all?” I mean, it’s basically a big movie screen. On the other hand, the sound was amazing. I’d like to see Metallica or AC/DC in IMAX, with that same kick-ass sound system.

Persons Unknown: Choklit
A limited-run NBC summer series that apparently nobody watched except for relatives of the cast and crew. And me. It starts out as Under the Dome lite, with strangers trapped in a desert town they can’t leave. But thanks to the guiding influence of Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), it develops into a crazy-cool exercise in paranoia. Twin Peaks meets The Prisoner.

The hardcore honky-tonk band Red Meat: Choklit
I heard a cut called “Thriftstore Cowgirl” (off their 2007 album, We Never Close) on the radio and was electrified. It’ll get you out of your seat and on your feet.

The A-Team: Mousetrap
Should’ve been great, sucked like a Dirt Devil instead. I’m happy to suspend my disbelief in a movie theater, but you’re not allowed to douse it with gasoline and set it on fire, okay? Read my lips: YOU CANNOT DROP A TANK FROM AN AIRPLANE AND SLOW ITS FALL BY USING THE TURRET GUN AS A RETRO-ROCKET! Have we got that straight? Thank you so much.

Winter’s Bone: Choklit
This spare, gritty tale of a mountain girl trying to find her meth-makin’, bail-jumpin’ daddy is the anti-A-Team, a small film that generates its suspense with honesty rather than special-effects steroids.

The Liar’s Lullaby: Choklit
The new Meg Gardiner novel featuring ”deadshrinker” Jo Beckett. This rocker features not one or two but three edge-of-your-seat suspense set pieces, beginning with the death of a country singer in front of 40,000 fans (the follow-up: a helicopter collision over the baseball stadium in San Francisco).

Never Look Away: Choklit
Where has Linwood Barclay been all my life? His is the best thriller I’ve read in five years. Once I was 30 pages in, I literally couldn’t put it down. The writing is crisp; the twists are jolting and completely unexpected. Think Rebecca and you’ll be in the right neighborhood.

Rubicon on AMC: Choklit
Not as luxuriously nutzoid as Persons Unknown, but James Badge Dale is a magnetic leading man, and, well…we know they’re out there, don’t we? Watching us. Let’s all put on our tinfoil hats.

”California Gurls,” by Katy Perry: Mousetrap
She’s a terrific singer (and gorgeous), but I found this disappointing — isn’t it every summer single you’ve ever heard, only less hummable? Snoop’s cool, though, gotta admit.

The EW Must List: Choklit
Always.

More choklits than mousetraps, did you notice? That’s what keeps me coming back. And the best thing of all: The box is never empty.

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