Goodreads Give-Away Winner Announced

A winner has been chosen (by Goodreads) for the Harbor Moon give-away.  825 people entered… and our winner is N.J. Tyler from St. Louis, MO.  Congratulations and thanks to everyone for entering.

Just a reminder that the book is currently available through DCBS, the nation’s largest comic retailer, for almost half-price – PLUS a signed book plate from myself, Dikran Ornekian (writer) and Pawel Sambor (artist).  Since Pawel lives in Poland, he has yet to sign anything.  So this is a crazy offer.

TV Review: Walking Dead

Frank Darabont, why do you this?  Why do you make one great thing, then a bunch of shitty things, then another great thing?

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead came in with a lot of hype, as it is the biggest non-superhero title in comics today. I have seen it shopped around as a feature and then tv show for the last five or six years, with some nibbles but never a bite. Fortunately, it found a home with Gale Anne Hurd and Darabont.  From there they were able to get AMC to take it on. AMC has been taking some big risks lately and it seems to be paying off for them, which is great to hear. If The Walking Dead’s ratings are any indication, they have a bonafide hit on their hands. It was the highest rated premiere on cable television. Ever. And even crazier is that those ratings held over the season (which was only six episodes). And I’m not alone in thinking it is a really well-made.

Only six episodes, the 90 minute pilot is the clear stand-out. Besides having the production value of a feature film (albeit a lower budget film), it sets up a lot for what is to come… but even better for a show to suck you in – leaves you with a lot of questions. I think that the problem is that the remaining five episodes do little to answer those questions or make you care that much about the characters. Although I was along for the ride, it wasn’t always smooth.  A few moments here and there that were interesting or exciting was mostly tempered by a lot of nothing.  There are a few characters we have been following since the pilot who enter the pearly gates at the hands of zombies, but they didn’t do much other than cry and complain anyway. In fact, I was hoping they were vanquished. That said, the books are great and I’m interested to see where they go with the show, but I can definitely wait for next season.

Bit of a sidenote, it was just announced that Darabont fired the writing staff of the show.  Which means that he’ll be writing most of the episodes, along with Kirkman. Or episodes will be farmed out to select writers. I understand the benefits of a writer’s room/staff – but I honestly don’t understand why more shows don’t do this. It is cheaper and makes for more of a consistent voice throughout the show’s run/season. A show I think would benefit greatly from this would be Dexter, which just ended it’s fifth season with a neatly wrapped bow (nothing like last season which blew this season away).

Movie Review: The Road

I had no interest in seeing The Road in theaters when it came out, and it wasn’t even a Netflix title for me.  I happened to DVR it on HBO and watched it in chunks… because it was absurdly long and draining.  It gets the award for most depressing film of the last few years.  I can see why no one went to see this.  It is so drab and gray and desolate – but with no upside for the viewer.  I understand the painstaking detail in the cinematography and it was beautiful in the way it was shot, but it was just too much… and since nothing actually happens in the film it was ultimately pointless.

TV Review: Boardwalk Empire

This was one of the pieces of entertainment I was looking forward to the most this year.  Scorcese is one of my heroes and I’m a sucker for gangster-fare, especially prohibition era.  There is just something less criminal and alluring about what they were doing back then.  Even the bad guys had a code, and the only ones that got hurt were other bad guys.  They were essentially bootlegging what is found everywhere now.  It’s not as insidious as heroin, crack or meth.

The show started with a bang, coming out the gates like a thoroughbred – as one would expect from this big budget HBO show directed by Martin Scorcese.  It introduced a handful of colorful (and real-life) characters that were all intriguing. It set some high stakes… but then for a few episodes at the beginning didn’t deliver on any of that. It seemed like a lot of soul searching and exposition.  As if they were trying to work in actual facts, rather than worry about actually being entertaining.  Michael Pitt’s Jim Darmody spent a lot of time in Chicago with Al Capone, doing nothing (save for one great hit).  There was an entire episode with a whore who had her face cut open preceding that hit that was a giant waste of time. The same can be said for the ongoings in Atlantic City with Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson. It was dull and boring. The only interesting things going on were seeing Gretchen Mol’s hot mom (to Darmody) getting banged by Lucky Luciano, who was supposed to be finding Normady to kill him.  I stuck it out, and for good reason.  The show is a visual treat, and they although it seems trite to load it with  so many facts/factual characters, they do an awesome job of it.  But once Darmody gets back to Jersey, things really take off and the show finished extremely strong.  I didn’t want the season to end and am now really looking forward to season 2.

The standouts of the first season, to me, were Al Capone (Stephen Graham who was also great in Public Enemiesas Baby Face Nelson) and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) as the veteran without a face.  He is such a bad ass, and the actor who plays him breathes such unique life into him.  He is by far the best character on the show. And he’s the biggest badass. Everyone is pretty top-notch, from Michael Shannon’s prohibition officer to Shea Whigham’s sheriff Eli Thompson.  I was a Buscemi apologist for a while, saying the show was good enough it didn’t matter (there were a few people who were arguing that he was the wrong choice to play a ruthless and cunning politician, who was also a ladies man).  They were right.  It works, but with the long list of actors they could have cast it is a shame they didn’t.  Buscemi seems better suited for a lesser politician… That isn’t me saying he is bad, he has always given off a weak/weaselly vibe. He’s not Tony Soprano, he is his misfit cousin who winds up dead.  It works – but a good show could have been great.

Movie Review: Prince of Persia, Sands of TIme

In the films I’ve seen her in, I can’t say I was a huge Gemma Arterton fan.  She was cute and a decent actress in Quantum of Solace, but wasn’t overly attractive.  Not next to the well-bronzed Olga Kurylenko (who I just talked about in Centurion). And I barely remember her in Rock n Rolla.  But she is absurd in Prince of Persia.  When she tells Prince Destin ‘because you haven’t been able to take your eyes off of me’ she wasn’t lying.  They do a pretty amazing job of making her look like a bronzed goddess, and every second she’s on screen you’re drawn to her.  And from what I remember, she was pale and pasty in Quantum of Solace. I immediately put Quantum of Solace on my Netflix to make sure I didn’t miss something the first time around (and it is a pretty dope movie).  And I moved Clash of the Titans to the top, to be fair it was coming up soon anyway. She may have been the best looking human being I’ve seen on screen since Megan Fox in Transformers.  Thankfully, this movie was a lot more entertaining.

A lot was made about Jake Gyllenhaal being cast as Dastan, and it is rather jarring having a caucasian play a Persian.  Especially one so cornbread as him.  To his credit, he is good. A bit smug, but it plays well. They disguise his casting by surrounding him by pretty much all caucasians, and I don’t know if that soothed the blow or made it worse.  I still have yet to decide.  It did allow them to cast Arterton, so I guess I’m leaning to the former.

Director Mike Newell holds the film together well, as one would expect – but he tries to do too much. His use of bullet-time (during moments when the dagger wasn’t in use) seemed suited for a lesser director. And we all know from his past work (Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) that he’s got some serious talent and shouldn’t rely on such outdated and lame tricks. It’s a shame Newell isn’t more involved in trying to get Elfstones of Shannara off the ground.  I  know this film got knocked a bit, but he’s capable of some great work and I do believe that with the right script he would do a good job of turning that into a powerhouse franchise.  I’m a bit biased as I’m attached as a producer to that one… Prince of Persia underperformed stateside, but was a monster overseas and there is talk of doing a sequel. I am just glad they did not kill the princess off.