Friday, December 17, 2010

Time to Stalk Your Local Comic Retailer

December is here and the vividly painted graphic novel HARBOR MOON has arrived in this month's Previews. Officially hitting shelves in February through Arcana, the title is getting a ton of early buzz and positive reviews.

So print this out, march down to your local comic shop and make sure they have your copy ready and waiting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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.

Monday, December 13, 2010

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).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Amazon Page

I'm trying to add more reviews to Amazon, and it seems to only cap my reviews. Does anyone have a clue how to add more?

Also, I'm testing out running the blog so it goes through my Amazon Author page. This post is sort of a test. All that means is this blog will also post there. It currently posts at my Goodreads Author page as well.  Taking over the blogosphere.

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 Enemies as 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.

Movie Review: Restrepo

As far as any filmmakers having to earn their footage, I'd say that Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington far surpassed just about any others in shooting their documentary Restrepo, a moving piece about a platoon embedded in a deadly part of Afghanistan. Junger and Hetherington must have braved some serious shit to catch what happens on camera, but not nearly as serious as what these soldiers go through.  Although an intimate portrait of an entire, Junger and Hetherington never get the viewer engaged enough with any particular characters they are covering. And thus the piece loses weight and doesn't have the impact it should.  You would think it was more intense than say Black Hawk Down, but it just wasn't.  Even when bullets were flying. But it was definitely a rare glimpse into what is happening overseas and makes you appreciate what these guys go through and what we have over here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can Gold Coast Film Festival Become Meaningful?

It was just announced that The Gold Coast International Film Festival will launch in June through the Great Neck Arts Center. The festival's executive director will be  GNAC founder Regina Gil. Senior programmer will be Sean McPhillips, the former Miramax acquisitions executive who most recently programmed the 10th installment of the Great Neck Arts Center's Furman Film Series. Former Miramax communications head Matthew Hiltzik will handle media strategy.

This makes a lot more sense than the Hamptons Film Festival, which actually takes place after the summer season and suffers from the fact that the Hamptons has poor accommodations for the weekend traveller (and the cinemas are awful). This sounds great for Long Islanders, such as myself, who have to trek into the city and get a fractured festival for Tribeca (there is no headquarters and the screenings are all over the place). Tribeca takes place in the spring, Sundance is in January, Toronto is in the fall, along with the New York Film and Hamptons Film festivals. The timing of the Gold Coast Festival creates an opportunity to draw films on the rebound from the Cannes Film Festival. But that seems like a stretch, as there isn't much to do in Great Neck. (In fact, the true North Shore, or Gold Coast, would be further east a few miles). The big question is: what is the draw for anyone outside of locals?  Particularly filmmakers.  

Movie Review: Centurion

Centurion is a title that passed out of theaters very quickly, but I'm always interested in movies about Roman warfare.  I can't explain that, it just is.  And I've been on a Michael Fassbender marathon lately.  Hunger, 300, Inglourious Basterds... and I just added Jonah Hex and Blood Creek to my queue.  Neither of which I think will be good, but I'm excited to check his performances out. He blew me away in Hunger and it has been all Fassbender since.

In Centurion he plays a Roman soldier who basically goes through hell at the hand of the Picts.  He was good, but to be honest it was Dominic West who really shone in this one as the Roman general who is one with his men.  Built for battle and nothing else.

This film actually has the same problems as the other Neil Marshall films I've seen (all of them) - a cool premise, but a murky plot with even murkier lighting making it hard to decipher what's going on and the occasionally awesome sequence. Thankfully, most of this film takes place during the daylight.  And the cast of this film is better than the others.

I guess my biggest problem with the film is that, although West and Fassbender are awesome, it is hard to root for Roman soldiers.  They are way out of Rome, invading the homes and land of the Picts.  They try to dehumanize the Picts, by dressing them up like savages and having them speak in a foreign tongue... but Olga Kurylenko's hunter character (she would be so awesome if she never spoke like in this film) was raped and had her tongue cut out by the Romans, right after her parents were raped and killed. And the only child in the film is a Pict child, who is killed by the Romans.  None of this is actually a 'problem', it is probably more like real-life.  Both sides of a battle have their heroes, and their reasons. But here the Picts are depicted as the villains, unlike a film such as Battle of Algiers where both sides are portrayed evenly.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Movie Review: From Paris With Love

For what could have been a pretty forgettable 'spy/action' movie, From Paris With Love is saved by one thing - John Travolta's performance.  I have always maintained that he is at his best playing the bad guy.  For some reason, I think he excels at this.  From Pulp Fiction to Face/Off - he chews the scenery better than anyone else - while at the same time being believably over-the-top.  He's even good in the remake of Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, which was a pretty lame movie.

And he does it again here with his character 'Charlie Wax', who isn't really a bad guy - but he's a foul-mouthed, sharp-tongued, charming, coke-snorting, killing machine special ops good guy - who just happens to have a first-time handler - Jonathan Rhys-Meyer.  The plot was fairly predictable, but it was Travolta's presence and relentless Wax that kept you engaged for a pretty quick ride.  What I loved was that we were rooting for him the whole time, and could feel good about it because he was one of the 'good guys'.  

Like I said, everything else was fairly derivative - even the climax... actually, especially the climax.  And the 'delegation' seemed like a throw-away, particularly for an AIDS summit.  But it didn't matter, because no one will remember what this movie was about anyway.  They'll just remember Travolta's performance.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Movie Review: Predators

Been watching a lot of this year's movies on DVD, trying to catch up on the films I wanted to see before the year ends.  So you will see a lot of reviews from now until January.

A film I wanted to check out, but wasn't rushing to see in theaters was Predators.  I loved the original and hated all subsequent versions.  I like Adrien Brody, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo and Topher Grace and respect Nimrod Antal (the director) because he had Dan Farah banned from set and later excommunicated from Screen Gems.  That gets him an automatic awesome in my book, as Farah is the biggest piece of human shit lurking in the gutters of Los Angeles.

Based on pure fun factor, this movie is great.  It starts off at full speed and doesn't really let up - right up until we meet Laurence Fishburne's character.  The entire section of the film with his character was completely unnecessary.  He was there to give exposition and intel on the creatures, but it ultimately didn't matter.  The don't necessarily 'win' in the end anyway.  And Alice Braga's character had all the intel they needed.  It was obvious the Predator-type from the first film was enemies with the bad ass Predator, as it was chained up at their base camp.  There is a bit of a twist toward the end with one of the characters and I thought this could have been played a bit earlier so there was more gravity to the situation.  But if you want somewhat mindless fun, done really well, then this film is sure to deliver.

Bulderlyns: The First Pages

A few weeks (okay months) ago I put up a post with the first designs from Bulderlyns, which will be my third graphic novel after Harbor Moon and R.E.M. (which should be done this spring).  Today Karol sent me the first few pages from the book, being pencilled by Polish artist Igor Wolski. Some tweaks need to be made here and there, but they look pretty damn killer. We are moving at a snail's pace, but hopefully once he gets in a rhythm things will pick up.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Movie Review: The Killer Inside Me

This is another title I had heard the premise for and really wanted to see.  You tell me 'serial killer' movie and I'm pretty much in.  Also, I like Michael Winterbottom.  So it made it to the top of my Netflix the day it was released on video.

I was also pretty excited to see Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba in the same movie.  Now, I must admit I think Alba is a terrible actress, but there is no denying she is absurdly hot.  What surprised me is that she was much better than Hudson in this movie.  In fact, I didn't even know it was Kate Hudson until the end.  She looked awful, was awful and played a pretty bizarre character.  Alba was actually pretty good as the whore who wants to get out of town.  Casey Affleck was good as the creepy deputy... but this movie had some serious problems otherwise.

It was hard to tell exactly what was going on and why.  Especially in terms of who knew what about which murders - and how everyone was reacting to Affleck's character.  This would have been fine if the movie was solely from his perspective, because it would have been warped - but it wasn't.  He hate fucks Alba at the beginning and then a few scenes later they are in love and talking about running away.  Hudson's character has known him her whole life (I guess?) and is in love with him - why?  Is this all one small town?  Does Hudson's character know Alba's character?  When all of this is happening and the tide seems to be turning against Affleck's deputy, is Hudson the only one who doesn't know or does she just not care?   There were just too many questions like this throughout that made the movie splinter at the seems.

I'll give it credit for the scene where he has just gotten back from banging Alba and Hudson is waiting for him, she takes off his clothes and goes down on him and immediately flips out because she can taste another woman on him.  Kudos for that.  But overall it didn't live up to what I was hoping for.

FX cancels Terriers

Hot off my review of FX's freshman series Terriers, the network has canceled the show due to low ratings (and obviously a higher budget than they can financially be responsible for).

There is a lot of finger pointing at FX for a terrible marketing campaign.  While I do agree that the marketing of the show was horrific, it ultimately didn't draw the numbers it needed to.  Good shows fall by the wayside, it sucks.  FX has a ton of great shows on the air and it is hard to blame them for letting this one slip.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Future of Comics: Sunshine or Sunset?

Harbor Moon is getting ready to launch on digital publisher  Although there is a lot of ‘what do we do now?’ gloom and doom talk out there for publishing and even independent film, I strongly believe this is an exciting time to be a creator.

Right now, digital distribution is the only area of the comics market that’s currently experiencing any substantial growth. Digital comics revenue quadrupled year over year from $500,000-$1 million in 2009 to $6-8 million in 2010. Meanwhile, sales of periodicals are up only 1%.  That said - they are UP 1%.  Not down.

As things go digital, it seems to me that the power lies with the creator - at least with the creator who knows how to market themself in this arena.  That, to me, is the biggest question mark right now.  How do you reach your audience?  I see a future where book 'publishers' are acting more as gatekeepers, sort of the way they do now (particularly in the comic world).  You usually know what you are getting with a Marvel book, and so on.

Although I do realize that digital distribution is where we are going with this, comics, for the most part, are best read in physical form.  I know firsthand that response to Harbor Moon has been much better when holding the physical copy rather than reading off a pdf.  You can enhance a book’s quality and therefore the perception of the reader about that quality with certain elements, like paper thickness, enhancements such as UV or matte, and size.  But to ignore where the medium is heading and not doing your best to make your digital comic the best digital comic it can be would be a huge mistake for any creator.

Movie Review: Winter's Bone

I know next to nothing about the Ozarks in Missouri.  I know these are good, country people in the heart of America.  I also know that I never want to live there.  Thanks to Debra Granik's riveting Winter's Bone.

Ashamed I didn't get to see this on the big screen, I had been clamoring for the DVD release of this film for months.  I tried not to know too much about the film (although I did listen to the Creative Screenwriting podcast with Granik), because I had heard the film was very good and didn't want any preconceived notions about what was going to happen.

I really don't think knowing what was going to happen would have mattered.  It was getting to that resolution why the film was so great.  And it was great.  The cinematography was the first time I have seen a film shot on the Red that looks like film.  The production design (Ozarks themselves) was amazing.  The score and music were outstanding and sucked me into this tale about a girl with a lot on her plate and very little help.

I had gone into this film thinking Carey Mulligan was the best young actress around, with the best female performance of the year (sorry Noomi Rapace).  But after seeing this, how anyone can think there is a better performance than Jennifer Lawrence's Ree Dolley would really amaze me.  And she is going to give Mulligan a run for her money as best young actress - and she was 17 years old when this was made.  She was completely absorbing.  Strong and vulnerable at the same time.  Granik and her team hit the jackpot with Lawrence.  The other cast were all good too, particularly John Hawkes as Teardrop, Lawrence's crank dealing uncle.  There was a dark edge to his familial bounds that kept you on edge the entire time he was onscreen.

Seek this movie out.  It is currently battling The Social Network for my favorite film of the year so far.  We'll see how I feel on December 31.

TV Review: Terriers

Somehow, FX's Terriers was able to bull through sluggish ratings to a full series.  I believe it is because they shot most of the show before the pilot and because numbers on FX don't need to be as high as a network.  Thankfully, because it quickly established itself as my favorite new show this year (yes, more so than The Walking Dead).

All of the casting is great... Donal Logue is good as Hank Dolworth, but Michael Raymond-James really shines as his partner Britt Pollack, the former thief turned Private Eye.  I don't have any experience with Raymond-James, but he was a standout.

Ted Griffin and Shawn Ryan did a great job of pulling multiple (interesting) storylines through the season and then tying them all together.  The production value on the show was top notch as well.

If you haven't seen it, definitely check it out when it comes out on DVD/Netflix.  Well worth your time.

If I had one knock, it would be how Britt and his finance Katie's relationship played out in the final episode.  She does something shitty to him, he breaks up with her, he does something shitty - but goes groveling back to her.  Then she says she can't trust him.  It made no sense to me - because she did something much worse to their relationship.

Also, rather than let each storyline play out with a resolution, they sort of wrap things up in a 5 minute 'wrap-up'.  It seems like time ran out on them and the finale could have been 90 minutes rather than 30, although only for fans so we can have some satisfaction.  I say that knowing it is only because I was a fan and wanted to be hit over the head with the resolutions.  They would have been the same, I just wanted more - this wasn't a bad thing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Harbor Moon Art Print Giveaway Winner - Martin Mulrooney!

After a ton of really great submissions, I have finally narrowed it down to one winner for the Harbor Moon Extra Content Art Print Giveaway - MARTIN MULROONEY. 

Marty is an actual journalist with Alternative Magazine Online, based out of the UK. I had a lot of fun reading through everyone's submission and wish we could include them all. I have another piece of extra content we were going to write in-house, but after such a great showing I may have to open it up again. 

Look for all of this extra content as part of the digital editions of Harbor Moon, which will be out on (in the immediate future) and Comixology