Monday, September 30, 2013

All Bad Things Must Come to an End…


I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't write at least something about the end of "Breaking Bad" last night. I had tried to watch the opening episode when it first aired, and just couldn't get into it. A man running around the desert in his tighty whities? Come on. A couple years later, at the urging of friends and other folks online whose opinions I respect, I tried again. Once I got through that first episode, I was hooked, and from there I stripped the rest of the series, watching the final two seasons as they aired.

The show ended last night, and mighty props go to creator Vince Gilligan and his staff of writers for molding an ending that was precise and complete in tying up loose ends and completing the story begun five seasons ago. Justice is served in an anti-hero kinda way, good and evil balanced, and in a way, the good guys win and the bad guys pay. Brilliance.

Comparatively, it doesn't let the viewers decide as "The Sopranos" did, and it didn't do what "Dexter" did much to the sour reprisal of fans. It's ironic that when "Dexter" ended last week, it was almost at the same point as "Breaking Bad" was last week. Maybe "Dexter" just needed one more episode? In my opinion however, if that last scene with Dexter alive had been cut, that ending would have pleased me. Dexter alive ruins the symmetry. And getting back on subject, symmetry is what "Breaking Bad" was all about.

I was really pleased with the ending. If you want to hear more about the show, my friend and podcast partner Ray Cornwall did a pre-finale episode about "Breaking Bad" last week. You can hear it here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Writer's Chatroom Presents C. Hope Clark


C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters, a well-known writer's reference for grants, contests, markets, publishers and agents for the serious writer. The website and newsletters have existed for fourteen years, and been recognized by Writer's Digest Magazine in its 101 Best Websites for Writers for thirteen of those years. 42,000 writers receive her newsletters each week.

She's published in Writer's Digest, Writer's Market, Guide to Literary Agents, The Writer, as well as multiple trades, glossy mags and numerous Chicken Soup books. She's been interviewed often by both writing and business websites, and speaks to writing conferences throughout the United States. Her book, The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success, continues to sell steadily.

She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Lowcountry Bribe is the first in the series published by Bell Bridge Books. The mysteries describe federally employed Carolina Slade's sleuthing abilities throughout rural, rarely seen South Carolina settings, facing crimes not found in your typical mystery. Her follow-up, Tidewater Murder, is now available too, and absolutely rocks. The third book in the series will be released in 2014.

Read more about Hope and Carolina Slade at here website.

I will be interviewing Hope and moderating the chat, as I have for over a decade now, tomorrow night (September 29, 2013) at 7 PM EST. Just go to The Writer's Chatroom and click on "Enter Chatroom," no password is needed. Hope to see you all tonight night!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Planes


Planes ~ I was hesitant to jump back into the 'World of Cars,' because of the revelation I made while watching Cars 2, you know, that the 'World of Cars' is actually occurring in the aftermath of Stephen King's short story "Trucks." I know, scared the crap outta me too. But The Bride wanted to see it, so I went along.

This one is similar to Cars 2, in that it's about racing, and in this case, planes. Dusty Clodhopper - voiced by Dane Cook, who is much less annoying when all you hear is scripted and you don't have to see him - is a small town cropduster who wants to be a racing plane in the big leagues and enters a race around the world. Underdog makes good, that kind of thing.

We have seen this before. Good voice cast, lots of clich├ęs with fresh takes, and jokes for the kids and the adults, Planes is a good hour and a half of harmless entertainment. There's nothing really new, nothing to make us go wow, or how did they do that? A good Pixar flick, originally made for direct-to-DVD, so to do so well in theaters, it must have something. Enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Great Gatsby 2013


The Great Gatsby ~ Every time I think of this Baz Luhrman flick, I can't help thinking about the "Entourage" fictional version Gatsby. Maybe if I keep thinking that, I can also manifest another fake movie from the show, Aquaman, 'cause that one I really want to see.

At first, I wasn't so sure I wanted to see this new version of Gatsby. I remember vaguely reading it as a teenager, and then being made to read it in college. I remember watching a TV version as an ABC movie of the week back in the seventies and being bored to tears.

The Great Gatsby is a lot of tell vs. show, along with subtext and metaphor that if you don't get, your English teacher or professor will have a seizure. It's also full of unlikable characters. It serves its purpose, like say Catcher in the Rye, don't get me wrong, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Then there's the problem of the director. Baz Luhrman, for me, is a creator of extremes. I think his Romeo + Juliet is a work of brilliance, yet his critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! revels in the mud of my bottom five. I hated it. And because of it, I approach any further Luhrman work with contempt, derision, and caution. The Great Gatsby, seemingly in a similar vein to those two previously mentioned films, is definitely no exception.

I did not hate this version of Gatsby, but I didn't love it either. It falls somewhere around my impression of the 1970s one, less than impressed, and bored. The leads are strong and perfect had this been in hands of any other director. Luhrman resorts to camera tricks, fast motion, modern music, and even 3-D trickery, and all any of it does is sour and dilute the classic story. Don't waste your time, unless you're a fan or morbidly curious.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Re-Reading The Shining


I am reading "The Shining" again for the first time in thirty-five, thirty-six years. Amazing how far author Stephen King has come, and so odd to see simple wording and point of view errors he would never make today. It is also something to marvel to read a simpler King, but also what may be a more sinister King.

Back in 1977, I started reading the big hardcover version of "The Shining" first, which my mom had borrowed from my book enabling big sister. It seemed like a historical romance from that cover, almost giving off a "Dallas," "Dynasty" or sweeping John Michener vibe. There was the big hotel on the front (and back) cover looking almost similar to Tara from Gone with the Wind, painted images of the man, the woman, and the child, and the hedge animals. My sister needed her copy back, so then I bought the paperback at the local grocery store. That was a gray book with a blank boy's face on it, and that's the copy I still have today.

I remember plowing through it rather quickly, on the front porch swing during the days, and in bed before sleep, which defiantly came. This was King's third book, chronologically at least, and I'm pretty sure I knew he was something special even then, that he was subversively teaching me writing skills and techniques. All that and he was a joy to read.

And what attracted me most of all, was that he wrote about writers. There's the interviewer in "Carrie," Ben Mears in "'Salem's Lot," and now Jack Torrence. I could relate, and now I was hooked for a lifetime. Both my own and King's, as writers would continue as protagonists and even antagonists for dozens of novels to follow, notably the nebulously aligned Harold Lauder in my favorite King novel, "The Stand."

The young Stephen King plays fast and loose with perspective and point of view I've noticed. As an editor (and yes, I know how presumptuous this is), there are more than a few things I would have corrected in the book regarding POV. Let's just say, he did get better. Much better, or at least as good as one of the best selling novelists of our era can be.

Young Danny's perspective and understanding of things is a puzzle of complexity. Does he know and understand because of his psychic abilities? Or does he for the sake of storytelling? King walks a very fine line here, most times opting for the latter, and weaving a tighter more terrifying tale for the reader.

There is one difference I noticed in my Nook copy of "The Shining" however. The word REDRUM written in a graphic in my original paperback copy of the book, but not in my Nook copy. It was missed. Back in the day, tricks like that, raised and/or cut out covers, or the multiplying flies above chapters in "The Amityville Horror," made books in the late 1970s a little bit more special.

There is also the matter of Jack Torrence's alcoholism. At the time "The Shining" was released the public was unaware of King's own struggles with old devil drink. This fact in retrospect lends a frightening realism to what was already horrific in the book. We knew King was a teacher, spent time in Colorado, but now, we can't help but wonder… was he abusive as well? Dare I ask - did he harm his wife and family? Just how autobiographical is "The Shining"?

King has always made the distinction with Stanley Kubrick 's film version, that he had written a book about a haunted house, but the director made a movie about domestic violence. What if he protest-eth too much? What if King insisted on that because Kubrick hit too close to home? My intent is not to make accusations, mind you, but to report the extra dimension facts about the author's life bring to the work. It certainly made some of it uncomfortable to read.

The sequel to "The Shining" has been a rumor that has floated around for years. It became just a little bit more real when Kung finally gave it a name, "Doctor Sleep." When he wrote it and announced a release date, then things got hot. "Doctor Sleep" is scheduled for release today, and there's also a preview at the end of my Nook copy of "The Shining" as well.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lost Hits of the New Wave #29


"Bop 'Til You Drop" by Rick Springfield



There was a time when Rick Springfield was cool, we may all want desperately to want to forget it, but it's true. Memory is a tricky thing. We may want to remember Rick Springfield as bubble gum pop, but there was a time he was considered not only rock, but even a little tiny bit new wave. I heard "Jessie's Girl" for the first time on WMMR, and follow-ups "Affair of the Heart," and the two videos featured here, all on WYSP during their new music hour.

Rick Springfield was impossibly huge in the early 1980s, between his music career, appearances on "General Hospital," and even a feature film Hard to Hold, before vanishing into semi-obscurity.

The truth is that he had been around a long time before his 'overnight success,' was a minor pop idol and even had his own Saturday morning cartoon in the 1970s. And after, he was the original "Forever Knight," the original "Human Target," and released what I think his best album, Tao.

I fully agree with my online friend DJ Marilyn Thomas, "Bop 'Til You Drop" is a New Wave song, no matter what you say, you selective memory music heathens.

And then there's this one...

"Human Touch" by Rick Springfield



Rocker trying desperately to be new wave in a music video, trying to capitalize on the odd music video fashions of the time, pretending it's the future, and looking uncomfortable the whole time - check. For a long time, this was what music videos looked like. At least it's not...

"You Got Lucky" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers



Wow, the future looked kinda bleak in the early 1980s...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Now You See Me


Now You See Me ~ I kinda wish I hadn't seen this movie. Had we left halfway through the movie, or two-thirds in, or even three-quarters, I might have had a completely different opinion. The last twenty minutes is where this mindless but fun and entertaining flick takes a left turn into the toilet.

Here the thing. You have a wonderful cast starring Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common, and even Woody Harrellson, who usually just gets on my nerves, giving excellent entertaining performances. You have a movie that seems to walk the thin line between flashy heist flick and magician fantasy, full of wonder and charm. And then it turns to crap in the final act. I suspect they started filming without an ending.

I have a rule that many of my friends question. I don't leave a movie until it's done, no matter how bad it is. It could have a terrific ending that makes the rest of it seem brilliant. It has happened. Now You See Me is the opposite of this rule. It's a good movie with a crap nonsensical ending that just sours anything in the first three quarters of the flick. Twenty minutes in, I loved Now You See Me. When the credits rolled, I hated this movie.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Super Heroes Unite


Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Super Heroes Unite ~ I am always wary of movies, books, and even potato chips that have long titles and subtitles, and this one is a doozy. I shouldn't have worried though, because it's Lego, and Lego is always cool, even when I can't play their video games.

From the get-go, this was good. The opening is a Lego take off on the opening credit sequence of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, and even uses Danny Elfman's great score (and later John Williams' Superman music). And if that's not cool enough, it has Clancy Brown wonderfully reprising his role as the animated Lex Luthor. What's not to like?

The story is simple enough, and accessible to new viewers perhaps not savvy to the DC Universe continuity. Luthor joins up with the Joker to defeat Superman, Batman and Robin, destroy Gotham City, and win the Presidential election. Throw in guest stars from the Justice League and Batman's Rogues Gallery, along with that clever Lego sense of humor, and you've got a very entertaining flick for all ages.

Of course it has all the charm and wonder of the animated Lego stuff, that coolness of hey-I-could-build-that and a wink-wink slyness that the characters know they and their world are made of Legos. The cityscapes and sets of Gotham and Metropolis are stunning. The best part is Luthor's weapon, which is a gun that literally takes Legos apart.

Watching this I can't help thinking that this could probably not only be better than Warner Bros' upcoming Batman/Superman movie, but quite possibly could serve as an excellent script or template. If only...

Monday, September 09, 2013

Lost Hits of the New Wave #28


"Wot" by Captain Sensible



Honestly I had never really thought of this one as lost, but as more of a classic, but it's been pointed out to me recently by someone who really knows his music - this was something new to him. New, but properly loved, as it should be.

"Wot" is one of my favorites of the new wave era, and could be listened to on a loop for maybe hours, grooving every moment. I love it. And the fact he namedrops and disses Adam Ant in the song just makes all that much cooler.

Captain Sensible goes way back in the punk and new wave movements. He founded The Damned, was in the supergroup Dead Men Walking, and was the first of many to record "Jet Boy, Jet Girl," which I am sure we'll cover here at some point. Last I heard, the Captain had formed his own anarchist political party over in the UK. Still punking after all these years.

Friday, September 06, 2013

RIP Neil Armstrong


We have lost another great man. Last week, astronaut, explorer, hero, Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82. He was the first man to walk on the moon way back in 1969.

Wait a second. Didn't he die last year? Groan. Is anyone else tired of these Twitter and Facebook delayed and fake deaths? How about those folks who read something on the internet and don't check the date? Yeah, exactly. That said, Neil Armstrong was still a good man, a great man, and he should be remembered.

While I don't precisely remember the event, Armstrong walking on the moon, as I was quite young, I was glued to the TV for all of the Apollo missions that followed. NASA, Apollo, space, the moon, astronauts - it was an American past time, it was hysteria, it was like Beatlemania, or Batmania, only real.

Some of my first and most beloved toys were space and astronaut themed. We were all drinking Tang and eating Space Food Sticks, and racing home from school to see the splashdowns. And to many of us, Neil Armstrong was the guy who started it. Godspeed. A year later, and forward.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Arrow Season Two Preview


In a season which also promises The Flash, and possibly Black Canary, Speedy, and Ras al Ghul, this looks like it's going to be a good one!



"Arrow" season two starts Wednesday, October 9th.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Author Frederik Pohl Passes at 93


There was a time in junior high school when I was devouring all the classic science fiction at the local small town library, or at least trying to. I was fascinated by Bradbury, found Asimov and Clarke far too obtuse, loved Ellison to death, dug Heinlein and Dick, and also really liked Frederik Pohl.

Besides Harlan Ellison, Pohl was one that entranced me into reading more of his work immediately. I spent some time exploring Gateway, Jem, and the secrets and stories of the Heechee. Fantastic stuff. I should give it another read after all this time. Two days ago, Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He'll be missed.

PrinceLess on The GAR! Podcast


The latest episode (#21) of The GAR! Podcast features a special interview with writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Emily C. Martin of the awarding winning comic PrinceLess from Action Lab Comics.

In the episode we discuss PrinceLess, inspirations, publishing, art styles, teaching, Breaking Bad, Death, Prince, Batman, and the upcoming releases from Action Lab Comics - all that and more!

Check out the podcast here, and you buy PrinceLess online here, in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area at All Things Fun!, or at your local comics shop.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Idol's Last Hurrah


Even with Syria the top story in the news (and no, I still won't be writing about it), today was a relatively slow news day, and still keeping a low profile amidst the lack of news was the final announcement of the judges on the upcoming thirteenth season of "American Idol."

To make it official, Ryan Seacrest will continue to host the Fox series, and along with returning judges from last season, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban, he will be joined by the returning Jennifer Lopez from season ten, and longtime "AI" friend and fan Harry Connick, Jr. So no Dr. Luke as rumored, no Mariah Carey, and saddest of all, for me at least, no Nicki Minaj.

Without Simon Cowell, the show lost most of its punch and charisma as far as I was concerned, and Nicki Minaj made it worth watching for me. Even the contestants were bland last season, Idol's lowest rated season ever, and Nicki made it entertaining for me, and really she was the only reason to watch. With the new/old crew set for season thirteen, I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling it, and I might not be watching.